Steve Horn - DeSmog Blog Fellow
River Kids - from today's Rally
Eula Clark - Stuart Mayoral Candidate
Marty Baum River Keeper
Debbie Jordan - Lee County Candidate
Dona Knapp - Water Rights Activist
1. By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
11:47 p.m. EDT, July 26, 2014 (Sun Sentinel)
State officials have driven a Texas wildcatter out of Florida, signaling tougher restrictions on oil drilling in the Everglades.
Prodded by environmentalists and community activists, the state yanked all drilling permits held by the Dan A. Hughes Co. seven months after it was caught using fracking-like methods to blast open rock near underground aquifers.
The company's banishment was a victory for protesters across the state trying to quell an intense search for oil near wildlife refuges and water supplies. It also indicates an increasingly tough stance by the state's Department of Environmental Protection, apparently in response to public pressure and criticism that it lacks the willingness and enforcement power to rein in new methods of drilling.
At the least, the Hughes episode indicates strong resistance in Florida to fracking-like methods — high-pressure injections of water and chemicals to extract oil deposits.
"Fracking in Florida is dead," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. "It's a toxic issue now. There's nothing like a company making a mess of things to help educate the public about how you can't trust these drilling technologies."
2. A Top-Secret Agreement to Carve Up Public Services
It was all to be done on the sly. Nothing was to seep out concerning the negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services that started two years ago in Geneva between the US, the EU and a score of other countries – a vast plan for the liberalization of even basic public services. Measures have been taken to ensure absolute secrecy during the negotiations, in a language that has the distinct flavor of a James Bond screenplay. The texts stating the progress of the talks have been “classified”, to use the jargon generally to be found in official secret files. They must be “protected from unauthorized disclosure” and stored in an equally classified computer system kept “in a closed building or container” under strict surveillance. The stated objective is that nothing should escape from the contents of the negotiations during the five years following the conclusion of an agreement or the end of the negotiations - should no agreement be reached.
3. Report Criticizes EPA Oversight of Injection Wells
Federal environment officials have failed to adequately oversee hundreds of thousands of wells used to inject toxic oil and gas drilling waste deep underground, according to a new congressional report.
The report, released Monday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, is critical of the Environmental Protection Agency's inconsistent handling of safety inspections, poor record keeping, and failure to adjust its guidelines to adapt to new risks brought by the recent boom in domestic drilling, including the understanding that injection wells are causing earthquakes.
The EPA generally agreed with the GAO's findings and characterization of the challenges the agency is currently facing.
Concerns have mounted recently about potential water contamination from injections wells. California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review of more than 100 others, out of fears that fracking fluids and other toxic waste are reaching drinking water aquifers there. Earthquakes from Ohio to Oklahoma to Texas have also been blamed on injection wells governed by the EPA's program.
The GAO's findings echo those in a 2012 ProPublica investigation which found that the nation's injection wells were often poorly regulated and experienced high rates of failure, likely leading to pollution of underground water supplies. ProPublica's investigation found that the EPA did not know exactly how many wells existed in the United States or what volume of waste was being injected into them, and that it did not possess complete records required to be collected under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Oversight of injection wells is currently delegated by the EPA to a number of state agencies. Part of the problem, the GAO found, is that the EPA has not consistently inspected those state programs to ensure that state regulators comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and EPA guidelines. The EPA also has failed to incorporate requirements it has placed on some of its state programs into federal regulations, making it difficult for the agency to take legal action against violators.
The EPA oversees more than 700,000 injection wells of various types in the United States, including about 172,000 that pump waste or other materials from the oil and gas industry underground. These wastes, often euphemistically referred to as "saltwater," commonly contain a mixture of water, hazardous chemicals and radioactive minerals. This subset of wells, called Class 2 wells, were the focus of the GAO report.
When waste material is injected thousands of feet underground, rock formations are supposed to prevent it from migrating into nearby drinking water sources. But this is not an exact science and regulators have been finding that fracturing natural rock formations and injecting liquids into them at high pressures can have real and troubling consequences. ProPublica's investigation found numerous instances in which waste had strayed from its target underground or spurted back to the surface, sometimes in residential areas.
Scientists interviewed by ProPublica said the wells were often located adjacent to fault lines which break the seal of rock layers, or old oil wells which also allow a pathway for contaminants to spread. The class 2 waste wells in question are not subject to the same rigorous geologic study, safety reviews, and regular monitoring that the EPA requires of other toxic waste injection wells from other industries, making it difficult for the EPA to enforce protections of underground drinking water supplies, ProPublica found.
According to the new GAO report, the EPA and state programs are also being hindered by budget constraints. Between 2003 and 2012, funding for state injection well programs stagnated at about $10 million a year, which — factoring in inflation — effectively meant resources had declined, the GAO concluded.
The report also blamed the EPA for not taking steps to collect complete, consistent and reliable data on injection wells to use for reporting at a national level, mirroring some of ProPublica's key findings.
"Unless EPA takes these steps, it will be several years before EPA can provide updated information at a national level to Congress, the public, and others on the [injection well] program, preventing them from understanding the program and the protection being provided to underground sources of drinking water at an important juncture in the development of oil and gas in the country," the GAO warned.
4. Frackers Spill Olympic Pool's Worth of Hydrochloric Acid in Oklahoma
By Ari Phillips, ThinkProgress
n acid spill on Monday in rural Kingfisher County northwest of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma could turn out to be the largest spill “in relation to fracking materials” in the state according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman.
Spokesman Matt Skinner said 480 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric (HCL) acid, nearly enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, emptied out of a tank where it was stored. Acid is used in the fracking process to both clean wells and stimulate the flow of oil and gas. The cause of the spill, which occurred in an alfalfa field, is under investigation.
Skinner told ThinkProgress this is the largest frack-related spill he is aware of in the state’s history. He was unable to comment on the cause of the spill because it is currently under investigation, but said they “think they know the cause.”
“Our main concern is to get the area back to the way it was before the spill happened,” said Skinner. While there are no water wells in the immediate vicinity, there were concerns if not properly taken care of the acid could taint the nearby town of Hennessey’s water supply. A nearby creek flows into the town’s water system and a a rainstorm could result in contamination. However, Skinner said the area was bermed off and the remediation company was able to contain the chemicals through any rain so far. A berm is a small hill or wall or dirt or sand separating two areas.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is overseeing the cleanup of the well, which was operated by Blake Production, an independent oil and gas producer operating wells in four states. The company’s owner, Blake Vernon said the company will compensate the landowner for the next six years for the loss of his alfalfa crop. The landowners’ lawyer Matthew R. Oppel said this may not suffice.
“The spill occurred in the center of my client’s alfalfa field and while the property is currently used for agricultural purposes the Hawks hoped to build a home on their Turkey Creek property,” said Oppel. “Unfortunately the spill will not only affect the Hawks immediate use and enjoyment, but future development may be impossible.”
Recent studies have also revealed a probable link between the wastewater injection process of fracking, in which leftover water used during fracking is injected deep into the ground, and earthquakes. In Oklahoma, these so-called “frackquakes” may be linked to the more than 2,500 small earthquakes that have hit the state in the last five years.
Other nearby states including Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas have also seen a distinct rise in small- to medium-sized earthquakes over the last few years just as the fracking boom has escalated. As of early July, Oklahoma had experienced more than twice the number of earthquakes as California, making it the most seismically active state in the lower 48. Just ten years ago it was ranked 17th.
Oklahoma is also one of the top states in overall oil spills, having experienced 951 reported oil spills in 2013 — more than every other fossil-fuel producing state except North Dakota according to an EnergyWire investigation. However in North Dakota companies have to report any spill larger than one barrel, or 42 gallons, whereas in Oklahoma the threshold is 10 barrels.
5. Its about the Lying
By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept
01 August 14
I don’t want to understate how seriously wrong it is that the CIA searched Senate computers. Our constitutional order is seriously out of whack when the executive branch acts with that kind of impunity — to its overseers, no less.
But given everything else that’s been going on lately, the single biggest — and arguably most constructive — thing to focus on is how outrageously CIA Director John Brennan lied to everyone about it.
“As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brennantold NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in March. “We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the, you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we do.”
Earlier, he had castigated “some members of the Senate” for making “spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts.” He called for an end to “outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers.”
And what compelled Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to make a dramatic floor speechin the first place, bringing everything out in the open, was that Brennan had responded to her initial concerns not by acknowledging the CIA’s misconduct — but by firing back with an allegation of criminal activity by her own staff.
Not coincidentally, the document the CIA was hunting for, that Senate staffers were accused of purloining, and that Brennan was now lying about, was a big deal precisely because it exposed more lies.
Known as the Panetta Review (evidently prepared for Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director from 2009 to 2011), it became relevant last year, when the CIA started pushing back against many of the scathing conclusions in the several-thousand page “Torture Report” the Senate staffers had finished up in December 2012.
6. Obama: 'We Tortured Some Folks'
President urges Americans to remember 'how afraid people were' after 9/11 but says CIA director has his "full confidence" amid controversy over Senate report
In remarks made during a White House briefing on Friday, President Obama summarized the history of CIA abusive practices in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by asking people to remember "how afraid people" were at the time after he acknowledged plainly, "We tortured some folks."
The comments come amid growing anticipation and new controversy surrounding the upcoming—though only partial and highly redacted—findings of a Senate investigation into CIA abuses during the Bush years.
"I have full confidence in John Brennan," Obama said in response to questions by reporters who noted that leading Senators in his own party have called for the CIA chief's resignation over admissions that his agency did, in fact, spy on the investigative panel tasked to explore CIA torture practices following September 11th, 2001 and during the crucial leadup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The president said that Brennan has "acknowledged and apologized" for CIA personnel who, as Obama termed it, "did not properly handle an investigation" in which "certain documents were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff."
"It's clear from the [Inspector General's] report that some very poor judgement was shown in terms of how that was handled," Obama said, though he went out of his way to defend the man he appointed to lead the agency last year. "Keep in mind... John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report and he's already stood up a task force intended to make sure lessons are learned and mistakes resolved."
Obama then stepped back from the Brennan controversy to do address more broadly the torture policies authorized and carried out under his predecessor, George W. Bush.
"In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did somethings that were wrong," Obama stated. "We did things that were right, but... We tortured some folks."
We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it's important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know if more attacks were imminent. And there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement, on our national security teams to try and deal with this. It's important for us not to feel to sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard, under enormous pressure, and are real patriots.
But, having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that's what that report reflects. And that's the reason why after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report. And my hope is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard. And when we engaged in some of these 'enhanced interrogation techniques' -- techniques that I believe and any fair-minded person would say are torture-- we crossed a line. And that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to as a country take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don't do it again in the future.
It didn't take long for Obama's specific phrase, 'We tortured some folks,' to hit social media sites.