Second-Hand Smoke

Tue, 2015-03-24 12:41Guest
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Lawyer Suing Neighbor for Smoking Is Defender Of Corporations Accused Of Toxic Smoke

This is a guest post by David Halperin, originally published at Republic Report.

There’s been recent media coverage of how two Washington DC lawyers named Brendan and Nessa Coppinger have sued and convinced a local judge to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting their neighbor, Edwin Gray, from smoking in his Capitol Hill row house, which adjoins theirs.

Gray has lived in his home for 51 years; the Coppingers moved into theirs last fall. The Coppingers say that cigarette and marijuana smoke is seeping into their bedroom and their child’s bedroom. The Washington Post quoted Nessa Coppinger, 38 and pregnant with the couple’s second child, as saying, “This is a health concern. We don’t smoke. We don’t allow smoking in our home.” They are seeking $500,000 in damages from Gray and his sister, who owns the house.

I don’t begrudge the Coppingers for seeking to be free of harmful smoke. And they say they tried to reach agreement with their neighbor to fix the ventilation situation before filing suit. (Gray’s sister says she didn’t like the terms the Coppingers presented.)

What interested me about the case was that the Post and other media sources described Nessa Coppinger as “an environmental lawyer.” In Washington, that could mean a number of things.  So I looked her up.  For Nessa Coppinger, a principal of the 95-lawyer firm Beveridge & Diamond, it means that some of her accomplishments are explained on the firm’s website like this:

Tue, 2012-11-20 15:27Steve Horn
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LA Times Covers "Sand Land," Ecological Hazards of Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin

On Nov. 19, The Los Angeles Times' Neela Banerjee, writing from Chippewa County, WI, explained what we covered here in June in our “Sand Land” investigation.

The skinny: mining for frac sand creates a whole slew of problems and must be taken into consideration in the “cradle to grave” equation when quantifying the ecological hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional oil and gas. 

“In time, 800 acres of farmland will be mined to feed an energy boom sweeping the United States,” explained Banerjee.

The crystalline silica sand currently being mined from this farm land is blasted into hard rock shale basins during the horizontal drilling process popularly referred to as fracking. This particular fine-grained, circular sand is the perfect shape to break open up pours for shale oil and gas to flow out from under the ground.

“Ground zero for industrial sand mining is western Wisconsin, in counties like Trempealeau, Buffalo and Chippewa,” wrote Banerjee, echoing our findings here on DeSmog. “At least 60 industrial sand mines are functioning or in the permit process in the area, up from five in 2010…[A] fracked well could use anywhere from 2 million to 5 million pounds of sand.”

The airborne dust eminating from mining for frac sand, a study published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently demonstrated, can lead to silicosis for miners working on site. Comparatively speaking, “little is known about its effect on people who live near mine sites,” Banerjee explained.

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