Wendy Lynn Lee
0. John Oliver - the publics idea of a Privacy Debate (The Dick Pic Debate)
1. Fracking Far Out
New Federal Fracking Rules Rely on FracFocus Even as EPA Research Highlights Site's Flaws
It's a classic case of the government's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Days after the Bureau of Land Management issued new federal rules for fracking on federal land, relying heavily on an industry-run site called FracFocus, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a study mainly noteworthy for the shortcomings of the site that it revealed.
More than 70 percent of the chemical disclosure statements that drillers posted on FracFocus between January 2011 and February 2013 were missing key information because drillers labeled that data “confidential business information,” the EPA reported.
On average, drillers reported using a mix of 14 different chemicals at each well site. At sites where information was withheld, an average of five chemicals were not named.
In fact, FracFocus allowed drillers to conceal the identity of more than one out of every ten chemicals whose use was “disclosed” on the site, EPA researchers found.
This made it impossible for EPA's researchers, who received over 39,000 disclosure statements from FracFocus in March 2013 and published their study two years later, to definitively say what chemicals drillers used most often, how much of each chemical was injected underground, or even to simply create a list of all the chemicals used at the wells.
“The project database is an incomplete picture of all hydraulic fracturing due to … the omission of information on CBI [confidential business information] ingredients from disclosures, and invalid or erroneous information created during the development of the database or found in the original disclosures,” EPA noted in a fact sheet about the research.
All told, the EPA was able to identify 692 different chemicals — including hydrochloric acid, methanol and diesel fuel — that were used during fracking. But that number is almost certainly incomplete, EPA researchers said, in part because over 129,000 individual ingredient records were labeled secret.
The gaps immediately drew the ire of environmental groups.
“The fracking industry is hiding a lot of information about the chemicals they are using in our communities,” Kate Kiely, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg. “Even without that information, it is clear that there is widespread use of dangerous chemicals.”
Just seven days before EPA's results were released, the Bureau of Land Management announced new rules intended to manage fracking on over 247 million acres of public land managed by the federal government and the 700 million acres for which the government owned mineral rights as of 2013.
The BLM's newly-minted chemical disclosure rules are built around FracFocus, allowing drillers to make required reports through the industry-backed website.
Data, data, everywhere…
EPA researchers ran up against a major stumbling block in crunching numbers based on FracFocus' data, an issue that some warn may continue to cause problems even as the Bureau of Land Management adopts FracFocus as the mechanism for tracking fracking chemicals used on federal public lands.
FracFocus stored the information drillers provided in separate .pdf files for each disclosure, and every .pdf form can be different if drillers decide to edit the formatting. This meant that EPA researchers needed to spend enormous amounts of time simply transferring each bit of information into a spreadsheet, and then going back and making sure that each bit of information was in the proper place.
Some open-government advocates say that the BLM's reliance on FracFocus runs contrary to an executive order issued by President Obama that pledged to make data from the government “easy to find, accessible, and usable” by requiring it to be “machine-readable” — essentially in a format that lets researchers access it.
“Besides the fact that this decision flouts the President’s own Executive Order #13642 on Open Data, why are we so concerned about how the government manages fracking data?” David Manthos, Communications Director of the environmental organization SkyTruth wrote in a blog posting about the BLMrules. “The reason is because this decision will deprive property and homeowners, scientists, decision-makers, emergency responders, healthcare professionals, and the general public of effective access to information that is vital to investigating the environmental, social, and public health impacts of modern oil and gas drilling.”
FracFocus has promised to upgrade its site, having already done so once since it provided EPA researchers with the raw materials for their study. But SkyTruth's Manthos remains skeptical.
“I'm concerned that BLM is basing their decision on vague promises, and will have no leverage or authority to control the timetable, implementation, or functionality of these improvements,” he said.
For a while, Mr. Manthos' organization tackled the tedious task of scraping data from the FracFocus site and importing it into spreadsheets so researchers could use it. But in 2013, their work came to an abrupt halt when FracFocus froze SkyTruth's access to the site.
“There was a little error message that was coming out saying, ‘Hey, you’re sending too many requests. You’re being blocked for 24 hours,’” SkyTruth's Paul Woods explained to StateImpact last year. “Then, they block you for 48 hours and then they block you forever.”
SkyTruth is not the only organization to find fault with FracFocus. In 2013, astudy published by Harvard University's Environmental Law Program gave the site a failing grade, noting that it “has limited quality assurance procedures” because “FracFocus staff does not review submissions” uploaded by drillers.
The BLM's new rules also allow drillers, not regulators, to decide when a chemical should be considered secret as they upload their disclosures to FracFocus.
“These trade secret provisions are much weaker than many states and ignore the advice of a Department of Energy advisory panel which unanimously recommended that 'any trade secret exemptions permitted by BLM in its regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands include a rigorous process of claiming trade secret exemptions and robust trade secret verification and challenge mechanisms,'” the NRDC's Amy Mall wrote in response to the new rules.
The relative laxity of the BLM's new rules has done little to deter protest from the oil and gas industry, who see the rules as chipping away at state-level oversight of the shale drilling rush.
“Under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened up a new era of energy security, job growth, and economic strength,” API Director Erik Milito said in a statement. “A duplicative layer of new federal regulation is unnecessary, and we urge theBLM to work carefully with the states to minimize costs and delays created by the new rule to ensure that public lands can still be a source of job creation and economic growth.”
Already, battles over the BLM's new rules are headed into the courthouse.
Two industry groups, the Independent Petroleum Association for America and the Western Energy Alliance, have filed lawsuits claiming that the BLM's rules overreach federal authority, as has the state of Wyoming. Environmental organizations have suggested that the rules could also be vulnerable to a challenge under the National Environmental Policy Act.
“The bottom line is,” the NRDC's Amy Mall told The Dallas Morning News, “these rules fail to protect the nation’s public lands — home to our last wild places, and sources of drinking water for millions of people.”
2. RoundUp invasive & Ubiquidous
U.S. consumer groups, scientists and food companies are testing substances ranging from breakfast cereal to breast milk for residues of the world's most widely used herbicide on rising concerns over its possible links to disease.
The focus is on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Testing has increased in the last two years, but scientists say requests spiked after a World Health Organization research unit said last month it was classifying glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
"The requests keep coming in," said Ben Winkler, laboratory manager at Microbe Inotech Laboratories in St. Louis. The commercial lab has received three to four requests a week to test foods and other substances for glyphosate residues. In prior years, it received only three to four requests annually, according to its records.
"Some people want to stay out in front of this. Nobody knows what it means yet, but a lot of people are testing," said Winkler.
Microbe has handled recent requests for glyphosate residue testing from small food companies, an advocacy group testing baby formula and a group of doctors who want to test patients' urine for glyphosate residues, said Winkler. The firms and doctors do not want their identities published.
Abraxis LLC, a Warminster, Pennsylvania-based diagnostics company, has also seen a "measurable increase" in glyphosate testing, said Abraxis partner Dave Deardorff.
Monsanto Co, the maker of Roundup, on April 1 posted a blog seeking to reassure consumers and others about glyphosate residues.
"According to physicians and other food safety experts, the mere presence of a chemical itself is not a human health hazard. It is the amount, or dose, that matters," Monsanto senior toxicologist Kimberly Hodge-Bell said in the blog. Trace amounts are not unsafe, she stated.
Company spokeswoman Charla Lord said last week that further questions could be directed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
There are numerous studies that have determined glyphosate to be safe, but several others have linked it to human health ailments. Critics say they fear that glyphosate is so pervasive in the environment that extended exposure even to trace amounts can be harmful.
Tests by Abraxis found glyphosate residues in 41 of 69 honey samples and in 10 of 28 soy sauces; Microbe tests detected glyphosate in three of 18 breast milk samples and in six of 40 infant formula samples.
North Dakota State University agronomist Joel Ransom reported to the U.S. Wheat Quality Council in February that tests he ordered showed traces of glyphosate in several U.S. and Canadian flour samples.
4. Citizen Empowerment - Needs your help - Click to endorse
BIG YELLOW ENGAGEMENT BUS Needs your Support
5. Chelsea Manning thanks you for your support
Amnesty International has shared Chelsea Manning’s thank you note to them- and to all her supporters who have taken action:
I wanted to thank all of you so very much for your actions of support and solidarity.
I understand that over 200,000 actions were taken – that’s absolutely incredible!
...My days here are busy and very routine. I work at a vocational wood shop during the week – about the same number of hours as a full-time job. I am taking college correspondence courses for a bachelor’s degree...
Click here to read more of Chelsea Manning's thank you!
Click here to read more of Chelsea Manning's thank you!
With Warm Regards,
6. Vancouver Oil Spill Shows Why Trans Mountain Pipeline Should Not Be Built
British Columbian officials on Friday criticized the Canadian government's response to an oil spill in the waters around Vancouver, calling into question plans for new crude oil export pipelines in the Pacific Coast province.
Nearly 3,000 liters of oil spilled after an anchored bulk carrier began leaking bunker fuel in English Bay, just west of Vancouver's downtown core, on Wednesday.
Officials in the province said the coast guard responded but was slow to contain the slick, which spread towards beaches. They said the federal agency failed to notify the cities of Vancouver and West Vancouver until early Thursday, delaying public safety warnings by more than 12 hours.
"It took them six hours to get booms in place ... in the busiest port in Canada where they have all the resources," British Columbia's Premier Christy Clark told reporters.
"There will not be any expansion of heavy oil movement out of this port or any other port in British Columbia until we get world-class spill response, period."
Federal Industry Minister James Moore said it was "highly inappropriate" to criticize the response while the clean-up was unfinished.
Canadian regulators are weighing Kinder Morgan's plan to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver, which would dramatically increase the number of oil tankers traveling through the Burrard Inlet each month.
The project is opposed by environmental groups and some residents, who worry about the impact of a major spill.
A separate pipeline to carry crude from the Alberta oil sands to a port in northern British Columbia has been conditionally approved by federal regulators, though the province says the project has not yet met their standards.
The perception that the federal government bungled the spill response could prove politically damaging for the ruling Conservatives, who had hoped to make inroads in British Columbia in a federal election later this year.
A senior Canadian Coast Guard official said the agency did not initially realize how serious the spill was. Once it saw the magnitude, via aerial views, it took 3 -1/2 hours to place the booms.
"You don't contain 80 percent of a spill inside 36 hours and call that inadequate. I will not accept that definition," Roger Girouard said at a news conference.
The owners of the MV Marathassa, which was in Vancouver to pick up grain, will be on the hook for clean-up costs, the province said.
7. Drilling Company Owner Gets 28 Months In Prison For Dumping Fracking Waste Into River
The owner of a small Ohio oil and gas drilling company who ordered his employees to dump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River was sentenced to 28 months of prison on Tuesday, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report.
U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent also ordered 64-year-old Benedict Lupo, owner of Hardrock Excavating LLC, to pay $25,000 for unlawful discharge of pollutants under the U.S. Clean Water Act. Lupo pleaded guilty to the charges in March, admitting to having his employees dump fracking wastewater into the Mahoning River tributary 33 times.
According to the Dealer, the wastewaster consisted of “saltwater brine and a slurry of toxic oil-based drilling mud, containing benzene, toluene and other hazardous pollutants.” The recurring pollution had a devastating effect on the creek’s ecosystem, according to assistant U.S. attorney Brad Beeson.
“Even the most pollution-tolerant organisms, such as nymphs and cadis flies, were not present,” Beeson said in a court document. “The creek was essentially dead.”
The pollution ultimately flowed into the Mahoning River, which is a source of public drinking water for the cities of Newton Falls and Sebring — a combined population of more than 9,000.
Lupo has publicly apologized to both residents of the Mahoning Valley and his family for the dumping, citing his deteriorating health as a reason for his actions. He suffers from chronic pain and diabetes, and has to have dialysis treatments daily, according to the Dealer.
“If this was 20 years ago, [the dumping] probably would have never happened,” Lupo said.
Lupo’s attorneys attempted to get Lupo out of his prison sentence because of his health, and instead put him on home detention, saying jail would be equivalent to “the death penalty.” But Nugent would not reconsider, citing the fact that Lupo had instructed his employees to lie about dumping the waste.
“Ben Lupo put his own interests ahead of everyone else’s, and he deserved to face a severe penalty for his actions,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “The recent water crisis in Toledo is a grave reminder of how important it is to protect our waterways.”
While it looks like Lupo will be going to prison, owners of big companies responsible for pollution rarely see jail time. BP CEO Tony Hayward isn’t facing jail time for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nor is Shell’s CEO being personally prosecuted for the estimated 550 million gallons that have spilled in Nigeria’s Niger Delta over the past 50 years. That’s because it’s difficult in court to determine individual responsibility.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, out of thousands of cases opened since 1990, fewer than 800 Clean Air Act cases have led to fines or prison time. Almost twice as many Clean Water Act cases have been opened, and twice as many have resulted in fines or prison time.
8. Don't FRACK YOU, Don't Frack me - FRACK the Guy behind the Tree
Florida will be the next fracking state if the oil and gas industry get their way and have their carefully crafted, FDEP endorsed, legislative bills become law this session. SB 1468 and SB 1582, regulations on fracking laws.
The BAN fracking bills will have to wait till next session as the Senate and House denied them to be heard in committee this session.
With all of your help, we are hoping for a groundswell rising to STOP oil and gas extraction by means of hydraulic and/or acid fracturing and extreme well stimulation in 2016. This type of extraction is NOT conventional drilling.
It is a slippery slope to put in place regulatory bills on fracturing when we, in Florida, really need to ban the practice outright. While, there are no regulations whatsoever at this moment, the question the legislators are answering for the constituents is whether to put these bad bills into law and have some regulations verse no regulations? These laws are useless for protection of our water supply, they are ripe with confidentiality in favor of the industry.
I have attended many meetings during the past few weeks and I am here to say there are many more questions than answers and they are moving these bills forward anyway. Our question is why not wait one more year to work to BAN it outright?
The only amendment that is acceptable is to have a moratorium and a 3 year study must be added to SB 1468.
Here is the latest action that we need your help with in Tallahassee. Please call, write or attend the meeting (we do not know the date and time, yet).
For the love of all of north Florida, when this thing comes, they will not be coming to cities, they will target rural areas, go miles deep and wide and risk our quality of life (noise, traffic, air pollution, 24/7) and our Floridan aquifer, our drinking water and our water for our natural systems.
EPA reports: 30,000 up to 7.2 million gallons per frack job, wastewater is contaminated forever, 692 unique chemicals such as additives, base fluids, proppants and kerosene, methanol and hydrochloric acid are used in this process and the industry has been known to withhold chemical names as a result of propriety and confidentiality. SB 1582 is written with secrecy inherent in it.
Thanks for all you do to protect Florida's waters of the state.
9. Fuke Radiation detected on the shore of British Columbia
VICTORIA, British Columbia (AP) - Radiation from the leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor has been detected on the shores of Vancouver Island, four years after a deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan killed 16,000 people.
University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen said Monday that it's the first time radiation has been found on the shorelines of North America since the quake and tsunami ravaged the Japanese north coast and disabled the nuclear reactor.
Low levels of the radioactive isotope Cesium-134, which scientists say can only come from Fukushima, were found in waters collected on Feb. 19 off a dock at Ucluelet, British Columbia, about 195 miles west of Victoria, Cullen said.
Last November, the first sample containing detectable radioactivity from Fukushima was discovered about 90 miles off the coast of northern California.
Over the past 15 months, scientists and citizen volunteers have been collecting water samples at more than 60 sites along the Canadian and U.S. west coasts and in Hawaii as they've looked for traces of radioactive isotopes from Japan.
"This is the first sample that's been collected in North America with this contaminated plume of sea water, which we've seen offshore, but it's the first time we've actually seen it at the shoreline," Cullen said.
He said the arrival of radioactive water on North American shores from Japan was expected this year. The distance from Japan to Ucluelet is more than 4,700 miles.
"The levels we are seeing are so low that we don't expect there to be impacts on the health of either the marine environment or people living along the coast," Cullen said.
"We're more than a thousand-fold below even the drinking water standard in the coastal waters being sampled at this point. Those levels are much, much, much lower than what's allowable in our drinking water."
Cullen said in a statement that if a person swam for six hours each day in water with Cesium levels twice as high as those found in Ucluelet, they'd receive a radiation dose that is more than 1,000 times less than that of a single dental X-ray.
Since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear disaster, there has been widespread concern about the potential danger posed by radioactivity from Japan crossing the Pacific Ocean.
Cullen leads a marine radioactivity monitoring network formed last August that includes scientists in Canada and the U.S., health experts, non-governmental organizations and citizens who help collect samples along the Pacific coast.
The InFORM Network, or Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring, received $630,000 in federal funds for three years through the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network.
Research partners in the network include Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Health Canada, the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
10. Pakistan court says former CIA station chief will face charges over drone strike
The former head of the CIA in Pakistan should be tried for murder and waging war against the country, a high court judge ruled on Tuesday.
Criminal charges against Jonathan Banks, the former CIA station chief in Islamabad, were ordered in relation to a December 2009 attack by a US drone which reportedly killed at least three people.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad high court also ruled charges should be brought against John A Rizzo, formerly the top CIA lawyer who gave the legal green light for drone strikes.
Banks’s name was first dragged into the public domain in 2010 when a tribesman called Karim Khan began legal action against the supposedly undercover spy chief over an attack by an unmanned aircraft on his home in North Waziristan which he said killed his brother and son.
The extraordinary unmasking of a sitting station chief forced Banks to quit his post and leave the country.
Banks went on to become the head of the Iran operations divisions at the CIA’s headquarters and currently works in the US military’s intelligence wing.
At the time, the outing of Banks sparked much speculation about how Khan and his lawyer Shahzad Akbar could possibly have known the identity of the CIA station chief. Many assumed Pakistan’s own spies leaked the name to punish the CIA at a time of fraught ties with the US.
There are few hard facts about the 2009 drone strike. The CIA never comments on an officially secret programme, and independent investigators face hurdles trying to work in North Waziristan, an area that for years was under the control of militant groups.
Press reports at the time suggested the target of the strike was the then-Taliban commander for North Waziristan, a militant called Haji Omar. Khan has always denied the claim.
With no chance of either of the two Americans travelling to Pakistan to face their day in court, the case is unlikely to go anywhere.
The issue of drone strikes has faded from public concern in Pakistan in recent years and is nothing like as prominent as it was in 2009, when the CIA campaign was running at a high tempo.
While US drone strikes have become far rarer in recent years, the relationship between Washington and Islamabad has also improved dramatically, with Pakistan lodging only pro forma protests when drone strikes do take place.
11. Oil dispersant used in Gulf Oil Spill causes lung and gill injuries to humans and aquatic animals, also identifies protective enzyme
Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham
New research suggests that Corexit EC9500A, an oil-dispersal agentl, contributes to damage to epithelium cells within the lungs of humans and gills of marine creatures. The study also identifies an enzyme that is expressed in epithelial cells across species that has protective properties against Corexit-induced damage.