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Tue, 2015-04-07 17:46Mike Gaworecki
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The Only Legal Challenge To Local Fracking Bans In California Was Just Quietly Dropped

The only lawsuit seeking to overturn any of the local fracking bans in the state of California has been dropped.

Southern California-based Citadel Exploration filed a suit on February 27 against San Benito County’s Measure J, which voters approved by a wide margin last November despite the oil and gas industry outspending its opponents 13-to-1 in an attempt to defeat the measure.

Citadel had called Measure J an “illegal local statutory scheme” and argued that only the state has the right to regulate oil and gas development, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The company has not released any further statements or responded to requests for comment on why it chose to drop the suit.

But anti-fracking activists and others who have worked on the fracking bans have their own theories.

“It's pretty clear to me now that the oil industry was bluffing,” Andy Hsia-Coron, a retired schoolteacher who helped run the Measure J campaign, told the San Jose Mercury News. “As they examined their hand, they realized it was pretty weak.”

Sat, 2015-02-14 08:58Don Lieber
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After the Fracking Ban, What's Next For New York? An Interview with Sane Energy Project

On December 17, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York State. Citing the health risks associated with fracking, Cuomo said “I’ve never had anyone say to me, ‘I believe fracking is great.’ Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking.’” His decision has widespread public support across the state according to media reports.

What does the New York ban mean for the future of the national debate over fracking? Will other states follow Cuomo’s lead? DeSmogBlog discussed these and related questions with Clare Donohue, the co-founder of “Sane Energy Project,” one of the first anti-fracking grassroots organizations in New York.  

a - cuomo frackers_0.png
Anti-fracking activists thanking Governor Cuomo, on a street in Manhattan, on the day of the ban. Credit: AziPaybarah

DeSmog: What is your reaction to the ban on fracking by Governor Cuomo and what does it mean for the anti-fracking movement nationally?

Wed, 2015-01-07 17:00Mike Gaworecki
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California Court Rejects Misleading Language In Local Fracking Ballot Initiative--Twice

Residents of La Habra Heights in Los Angeles County, California want their city to become the latest to ban fracking and other high intensity oil extraction methods, and have placed an initiative on the March 2015 ballot to do just that.

The residents and activists seeking to ban fracking in La Habra Heights won a significant battle on New Year’s Eve when inaccurate and misleading ballot language backed by the oil and gas industry was rejected by the Los Angeles Superior Court. Now they've won a second victory against the oil and gas companies trying to game the citizen initiative system.

“The Healthy City Initiative,” also known as Measure A, seeks to ban fracking and would also prohibit any new oil and gas wells from being drilled within city limits, as well as bar dormant wells from being reactivated. The intention is to stop La Habra Heights from becoming the latest fracking boom town without shuttering current oil and gas development projects, so as to have as minimal an impact on the local economy as possible while ensuring the future health and viabillity of the community.

Earthjustice sued the city of La Habra Heights on December 1 on behalf of residents, La Habra Heights Oil Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity after the city included oil and gas industry language on the ballot that, according to an Earthjustice press release, “inaccurately summarizes the language that was circulated to and signed by voters in order to place the initiative on the ballot in the first place.”

Sun, 2014-12-21 11:25Sharon Kelly
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As New York Bans Fracking, Calls for Moratorium in Pennsylvania Grow Stronger

This week, New York Governor Cuomo announced that his state would ban fracking, due in large part to concerns about impacts on public health. But right across the border in Pennsylvania, one of the fastest-moving shale booms in the country still proceeds at breakneck speed.

While Governor-elect Tom Wolf campaigned on promises to tax shale gas extraction, evidence continued to grow that Pennsylvania has struggled to police the drilling industry or even keep tabs on its activities. A scathing report issued in July by State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found that record-keeping was “egregiously poor,” and environmental regulators do “not have the infrastructure in place to meet the continuing demands placed upon the agency by expanded shale gas development.”

For the past several years, Pennsylvania has had a history of lax regulation of the shale rush and its impacts on drinking water. For example, in 2011, the state made national headlines for allowing shale wastewater laced with toxic and radioactive materials to be discharged after incomplete treatment into rivers and streams that were not capable of fully diluting the waste, according to internal EPA documents. Even now, toxic waste from the fracking industry is only tracked via industry self-reporting, which a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigation found has led to major gaps in tracking and reporting.

“I think there is a strong feeling in Pennsylvania that what happened in New York is in large part because of the demonstrated damage caused by gas production here,” said Myron Arnowitt, State Director of Clean Water Action.

“It appears that the leadership in New York has been more responsive to what has been happening to Pennsylvanians than the leadership in Pennsylvania.”

Thu, 2014-12-04 15:52Steve Horn
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Environmental Groups File Motion to Intervene in Defense of Denton Fracking Ban

Just days after attorneys representing Denton, Texas submitted their initial responses to two legal complaints filed against Denton — the first Texas city ever to ban hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)  environmental groups have filed an intervention petition. That is, a formal request to enter the two lawsuits filed against the city after its citizens voted to ban fracking on election day.

Denton Drilling Awareness Group and Earthworks are leading the intervention charge, represented by attorneys from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and EarthjusticeThe drilling awareness group runs the Frack Free Denton campaign.

Those groups have joined up with attorneys representing Denton to fight lawsuits filed against the city by both the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Texas General Land Commission.

Fri, 2014-11-21 13:00Justin Mikulka
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New York Activists Turn to Civil Disobedience As Last Resort to Fight Regulatory Capture

Award-winning author and anti-fracking activist Dr. Sandra Steingraber is going to spend Thanksgiving in jail. And it won’t be her first stay there. She spent last Earth Day there as well. She is returning to jail in upstate New York after her arrest for being part of a human blockade at the gates of the Crestwood Midstream gas storage facility on the shores of Seneca Lake in New York.

And despite the upcoming holiday about giving thanks, Steingraber has a message for anyone who wants to thank her for her efforts to protect the waters of Seneca Lake, a source of drinking water for 100,000 people - “Don’t thank me, join me.”

Over the last four weeks, she has found plenty of people to join her. Activists working under the name We Are Seneca Lake have repeatedly blocked the gates of the Crestwood facility. Initially sentenced to jail along with Steingraber this week were fellow blockade members U.S.A.F. veteran Colleen Boland (retired) and 86 year old Roland Micklem.

Over the four weeks of the We Are Seneca Lake protests, there have been 52 arrests. The protests began after a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to allow the abandoned salt caverns on the shores of Seneca Lake to be used for gas storage.  As there currently is little recourse left for anyone opposing a FERC decision, We Are Seneca Lake has resorted to civil disobedience.

Steingraber explained at a press conference this week:

Fri, 2014-10-17 14:00Mike Gaworecki
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More Oil Companies To Disclose Risks Of Fracking, Climate Change To Investors

Last week brought yet more evidence that investors in oil and gas companies are waking up to the risks of fracking and climate change.

Two natural gas companies, Anadarko Petroleum and EOG Resources, recently struck a deal with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to disclose the financial and environmental risks associated with fracking to their shareholders, including “probable future regulation and legislation” that could impact their operations, according to a statement released by Schneiderman's office.

The agreement resolves a probe by Schneiderman into the disclosure practices of oil and gas companies begun in 2011.

Business media outlets like Bloomberg are framing the story very much as “oil companies doing the right thing,” but it's important to note that these companies would not be doing this if they didn't feel it was in their best interest—and generally whatever keeps shareholders happy is in a company's best interest.

Bloomberg notes that the oil companies are hoping “to ease public fears about fracking after legal setbacks and concerns over water pollution.” As is becoming increasingly clear, concerns over water pollution are all too valid.

Legal setbacks are probably keeping any fracker in New York up at night, as well, after the New York state supreme court ruled in June that municipalities have the right to adopt their own rules on fracking.

So far, 180 New York towns and cities have issued a ban or moratorium on fracking.

Wed, 2014-08-20 07:00Justin Mikulka and Steve Horn
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Big Rail Cites Bin Laden, Al Qaeda to Fend Off Oil-by-Rail Route Transparency

While many states around the U.S. have released information to the public about the frequency and routes of trains carrying oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin, holdouts still remain. 

Why the delay? Homeland security concerns, claim some companies. 

In an ongoing Maryland court case over the issue of transparency for in-state oil-by-rail routes, a July 23 affidavit from Carl E. Carbaugh — director of infrastructure security for Norfolk Southern — goes into extensive detail about the supposed risk presented by terrorism attacks on “Bomb Trains.” 

In so doing, Carbaugh mentions Al-Qaeda. 

The most recent edition of Inspire magazine, March 2014, the online, English-language propaganda publication of [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], presents a full-page collage depicting varied images…in order to construct an explosive device,” reads Carbaugh’s affidavit

Among these images are a derailed passenger train and a partly covered note paper listing cities in the [U.S.] as well as the terms ‘Dakota’ and ‘Train crude oil.’” 

Carbaugh also cited Osama bin Laden, the late Al-Qaeda international ring-leader, in his affidavit.

Among the materials seized in the May 1, 2011, raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, were notes indicating interest in ‘tipping’ or ‘toppling’ trains — that is causing their derailment,” Carbaugh wrote.

Osama Bin Laden Compound Diagram; Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wed, 2014-07-02 10:38Justin Mikulka and Steve Horn
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For Oil-By-Rail, a Battle Between “Right to Know” and “Need to Know”

Lac Megantic train explosion

Since the first major oil-by-rail explosion occurred on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, citizens in communities across the U.S. have risen up when they've learned their communities are destinations for volatile oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin. 

As the old adage goes, ignorance is bliss. It's also one of the keys to how massive oil-by-rail infrastructure was built in just a few short years — the public simply didn't know about it. 

Often, oil companies are only required to get state-level air quality permits to open a new oil-by-rail facility.

Terry Wechsler, an environmental attorney in Washington, recently explained to Reuters why there was no opposition to the first three oil-by-rail facilities in the area.

“There was no opposition to the other three proposals only because we weren't aware they were in formal permitting,” he said

The same thing unfolded in Albany, N.Y., where there is an ongoing battle over expansion of the major oil-by-rail facility set to process tar sands crude sent by rail from Alberta. The initial permits for the oil rail transfer facility, which would allow two companies to bring in billions of gallons of oil a year, were approved with no public comment

Tue, 2014-06-24 14:04Chris Rose
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Tackling Global Warming Would Increase GDP (And Save 94,000 Lives a Year): World Bank Report

High-speed train

Aggressively tackling global warming through better public transportation and increased energy efficiencies could increase global GDP by between $1.8 trillion and $2.6 trillion annually, a new report has found.

Released on Monday, the report by the World Bank and the ClimateWorks Foundation said tackling global warming now would also save as many as 94,000 lives a year from pollution-related diseases and reduce crop losses.

The report — Climate-Smart Development: Adding Up the Benefits of Actions that Help Build Prosperity, End Poverty and Combat Climate Change — shows the potential gains from scaling up pro-climate policies.

The report’s findings show clearly that the right policy choices can deliver significant benefits to lives, jobs, crops, energy, and GDP — as well as emissions reductions to combat climate change,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said.

Written in advance of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit in New York in September, the report looks at benefits that ambitious climate mitigation policies can generate across the transportation, industry and building sectors, as well as in waste and cooking fuels. It focuses on Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the United States and the European Union.

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