Blogs | Food & Water Watch - Part 13
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December 9th, 2014

Climate Deniers Watch: Congress’s Climate Change Deniers (Brought to You by the Oil and Gas Industry)

By Mitch Jones

Global_Climate_Change_MapIn the 114th Congress, a shift in power in the Senate means that a group of climate change deniers, funded by the oil and gas industry, will be taking over key committees. Their goals: advancing an agenda to frack more for oil and gas, export more dirty fossil fuels, and attack an already weak EPA. We’re not going to let them get away with it.

We are launching a special feature on our blog – Climate Denier Watch – that will expose the ties between the oil and gas industry, the Koch Brothers, and other climate change deniers and their representatives in Congress. Because, let’s not be fooled, these climate change deniers are the representatives of the oil and gas companies, not of the voters.

Take, for instance, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the incoming Chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). Sen. Inhofe is a leader of the climate deniers in Congress, having proclaimed climate change “the greatest hoax.” In his role as chairman, we can expect Inhofe to continue his attacks on climate scientists, the EPA, and public interest groups working to prevent climate change. Why? Because the oil and gas industry has donated at least $1.7 million to his campaigns during his career, more than twice what any other industry group has given. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

Senator Inhofe isn’t the only climate denier serving in Congress on the oil and gas industry’s dime. As Ranking Member on EPW in the 113th Congress, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has used public money and staff resources to release malicious reports attacking Food & Water Watch and other public interest groups fighting to protect the environment. The attacks serve two purposes: First, to aid Vitter in his run for governor; and second, to try to intimidate Food & Water Watch and others into not standing up for the environment and the public interest. In the past, Vitter has voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and voted for protecting oil and gas subsidies. It shouldn’t surprise us that Vitter is aiming for us; he has said evidence of climate change is “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage”. Add to that the over $1.2 million in contributions from the oil and gas industry, and you can see Vitter is doing what he’s being paid to do.

All told, the Republican members on EPW have received over $5 million from the oil and gas industry throughout their careers. That’s a major investment, and we can expect those companies will want to see a big return on it. That’s why we can expect more climate denial, more attacks on EPA’s weak regulations, a bigger push to frack us and ship the oil and gas abroad, and more attacks on the groups that stand up to fight them.

But we aren’t going to be intimidated by their imitation McCarthyism. We’ll continue to expose their climate denial, expose the connections between the deniers and their paymasters in the oil and gas industry, and most importantly we’ll continue to push to ban fracking, to have real solutions to the emissions of greenhouse gases, and to protect our food and water.

December 5th, 2014

ALEC Targets EPA and the Planet

Conservative front group reveals their agenda to promote fracking, gut the EPA, and deny climate change

By Mitch Jones

ALECThe American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing organization that links conservative legislators to corporations better known as ALEC, is in Washington this week for their “Policy Summit.” They posted a copy of a 40-page memo for their “Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force” on their website. It’s as outrageous as you’d imagine, only more so.

This year ALEC has linked up with Rick Berman the corporate PR consultant known for setting up front groups to attack public interest organizations. He’s on the agenda to talk about his “Big Green Radicals” attack on groups such as Food & Water Watch. But that’s just the beginning of ALEC’s reactionary agenda.

ALEC is pushing a range of policies that will be bad for our country, our environment, and our citizens. They have draft proposals of resolutions for state legislatures calling for state regulation of fracking and for expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling. And, they have draft legislation to undermine the Endangered Species Act.

Probably the craziest proposal they have is a resolution calling for the dissolution of the Environmental Protection Agency. This is an old goal of major polluters and their paid hacks in Washington. What’s new and frightening about ALEC’s proposal is its call to replace the EPA with a 300-member committee made up of employees of the 50 states’ environmental departments. The committee would decide which regulations should be kept and which should be gotten rid of, and all enforcement of any environmental regulations would fall strictly to the states.

The plan would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that in 24 states next year Republicans – the major source of ALEC’s influence – will be in complete control of state government.

It’s clear, ALEC, Berman, and their friends in Congress like Sen. James Inhofe are gearing up to undermine our environmental protections. Whether through state resolutions, absurd attacks on public interest groups, or climate denial in Washington we know their agenda. But we aren’t going to back down or be intimidated by their attacks on us or our environment.

 

 

 

December 1st, 2014

United Water Living Large, Customers Stuck with the Bill

By Mitch Jones

Mitch_Jones_BlogThumbIn the wake of the defeat of its plan to build an unnecessary desalination plant in Rockland County, United Water New York finds itself under investigation by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC). The reason? Alleged financial impropriety. In other words: while United Water executives have been partying, ratepayers have been picking up the bill.

According to news reports, the company reported a “$7.1 million ‘misstatement’ of revenue” between 2010 and 2014. The “misstatement” led to three United Water New York executives losing their jobs.

A new report by a local NBC affiliate uncovered even more odd expenses. The company paid close to $80,000 for private school tuition for executives’ kids. On top of that, it paid $16,000 a month to rent a house for its CEO, Bertrand Camus, despite the fact that Mr. Camus is both the CEO of United Water and of its parent company, Suez Environment North America. Surely he can afford to pay his own rent.

But what’s even more ridiculous is that the company spent about $6,000 for golf balls in 2012. Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you about the efficiencies of the private sector.

While the company was paying for these perks for its executives, it was seeking outrageous rate hikes for its customers. The company asked for a 28.9 percent rate increase this summer. Thankfully for its customers, New York PSC refused to grant such a large increase and approved one for 13.3 percent instead. During the proceedings on the rate increase, the PSC questioned expenses reported by the company for “holiday parties, award events, gifts, etc.,” as well as for a “wives breakfast” (seriously?) and for alcohol for corporate parties. Ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay more for their water service so that United Water New York can throw itself boozy parties.

Of course, United Water New York didn’t see any problem with including the parties in its request. It told the PSC that it would “provide more benefits than cost.” I doubt your typical Rockland County ratepayer benefits more from a corporate “wives breakfast” than it costs.

We shouldn’t be surprised at this behavior. We’ve chronicled United Water’s failures for years as it attempts to make a profit out of privatizing water service. But lack of surprise doesn’t mean a lack of outrage. For the increasing rates that they’re paying, United Water’s customers deserve better.

A Decision No Family Should Have To Make

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Every family deserves to be protected from fracking.

DONATE TODAY

By Ann, Food & Water Watch Supporter

Oil and gas companies are poisoning more and more communities in their mad rush to “drill, baby, drill.” After watching my family in Texas face this reality, I know for certain that I don’t want to see fracking expanded in backyards, schoolyards or in our national forests.

That’s why I am offering to triple your gift to Food & Water Watch to protect more families from fracking.

My nephew’s son was constantly getting sick – from chest colds to ear infections – and doctors couldn’t pinpoint the cause. My nephew began to wonder if the rumors of oil and gas pollution in their town were true. What would you do?

Because of his son’s health, he made the excruciatingly difficult decision to uproot his family from their small town and move across the state line to a frack-free part of New Mexico. My family was able to get away, but the fact of the matter is that not all families have the means to leave, and no family should have to make that decision.

Since moving away, the illnesses that plagued my nephew’s son have disappeared and he’s a happy, healthy second grader. My nephew hasn’t been able to find work in New Mexico, so he still operates his business in Texas during the week and drives four hours each way to be with his family in New Mexico on the weekends.

I can’t prove that the oil and gas industry was to blame, but I know my nephew’s son got healthy when he left the town and I’ve heard too many similar stories to discount them. As long as the oil and gas industry is allowed to expand fracking and make its own rules, more families will wonder if their water is safe to drink, if the air at the playground is safe to breathe and if they need to make a tough decision to sell their house at a lower price just to get out.

We know that fracking companies consistently cut corners to put profits before people, so it’s up to us to stop them. And I believe that Food & Water Watch’s approach is truly one of the best. That’s why I’ve decided to put my full-fledged support behind them. Donate today and I’ll triple the impact of your gift.

Food & Water Watch gives people the information they need to see through the smoke screens that big oil and gas companies put up, they have staff across the country in 16 states helping communities stop fracking locally, they advocate on behalf of people who don’t want to see fracking expanded and they hold our elected officials accountable for their actions — from small towns all the way to the White House.

Food & Water Watch has helped win victories against fracking that nobody thought were possible, like keeping fracking out of New York, passing more than 400 measures to protect communities from fracking, stopping Congress from fast tracking approval of a slew of new facilities to export fracked gas abroad and working to introduce a bill to ban fracking on public lands and in national forests.

I hope my offer will inspire you to give to help more communities fight fracking before it affects more families like mine. No family should have to wonder if fracking is making their child sick.

If you donate before December 31, I will match your gift to triple the impact you can have to protect more families from fracking. That means if you donate $50, I will make that gift $150!

I hope you will join with me today.

November 26th, 2014

O’Malley’s Fracking Problem

By Emily Wurth

Fracking_Maryland_ReportYesterday, the Washington Post reported that Governor O’Malley plans to move forward with fracking regulations in Maryland. Just as we were all starting to get excited about our Thanksgiving dinners, he announced that his administration will release the regulations next month and open up the Western part of the state to drilling and fracking. The news made me lose my appetite altogether, as it has become increasingly clear that fracking cannot be done safely, even with regulations.

The outgoing Governor’s regulations will not take effect until after he leaves office and pro-fracking Republican Larry Hogan, who defeated O’Malley’s Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in the election, takes over. At that point, the new governor can do whatever he wants and is under no obligation to adopt these rules.

So why did Governor O’Malley release these regulations now? He claims it would be irresponsible after the years of study not to propose regulations on fracking, and that “Maryland can’t afford to stick its head in the sand here.”

But it’s Governor O’Malley who is turning a blind eye to the mountain of scientific evidence showing fracking cannot be safely regulated. In fact, the public health study conducted by the University of Maryland found that fracking would pose significant impacts to public health in Maryland. In seven of eight research areas – including air quality, worker health, noise and crime, water quality and cumulative effects – the research team found a high or moderately high likelihood of negative public health impacts. Read the full article…

What Happens When You Greenwash Fracking

By Hugh MacMillan

Last week, the Obama administration heard from large environmental groups about the need to directly regulate emissions of methane –– a potent greenhouse gas and the primary component of natural gas. The Obama administration has not been listening, as evidenced two days later when it dropped its Fall 2014 Statements of Regulatory Priorities for this fiscal year. The administration’s shortcoming does not surprise us, but from our perspective, the prospect of methane regulations makes for a Trojan horse.

Read the full article…

November 24th, 2014

What I’m Thankful for this Season

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Halliburton acquires Baker Hughes and its ‘trade secrets’

Fracking-Rig-DTM-Blog

By Francesca Buzzi

This October, oilfield company Baker Hughes made a surprising announcement that the company would begin disclosing the contents of its frac fluid. Oilfield companies like Baker Hughes, Halliburton, and Schlumberger provide drilling and well completion support—including the creation of toxic frac fluid—to oil and gas companies. Last week, the company announced that they will merge with multinational giant, Haliburton – the very company after whom an infamous Safe Drinking Water Act exemption is named.

Read the full article…

November 21st, 2014

The Last Straw for Irish Citizens: The Struggle Against Water Charges

By David Sánchez

IrishRight2WaterA European country in crisis. Men in black come to the rescue. With the complicity of the national government, they impose painful measures on the population. Men in black never forget to be nice to their friends, so the measures include a provision to privatise public water services. As a reaction, massive citizen’s mobilisations take place. The story sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We have already experienced this situation in Greece, and just a few months ago, Greek citizens won the battle, and water will remain in public hands. Now history repeats itself, and the struggle against water privatisation and commodification is at boiling point in Ireland.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Irish Government and the men in black (also known as the Troika, formed by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) provides for the introduction of domestic water charges and the establishment of a new water utility, Irish Water, easy to be privatised in the near future. In a nod to their cronies, the men in black tapped former Irish Minister of Environment Phil Hogan, who led the implementation of these changes, as the new European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Following months of protests and resistance, on November 1, more than 150,000 people mobilised across Ireland to oppose the changes. Water charges in Ireland will discriminate against those with less economic means and the unemployed, adding another regressive tax at a time when citizens have been asked to make too many sacrifices to solve an economic crisis which they did not cause. Ireland’s public water system is already paid for through general taxation, which is progressive, and charges commercial users. The Irish people have already shown that they wish it to remain that way.

Once again, European citizens should raise their voice against water privatisation and commodification. Food & Water Europe, together with our allies at the European Water Movement, want to express our solidarity with Irish citizens. Resisting water charges means fighting for access to water as a universal human right, and against the commodification of water. And it means blocking future privatisation attempts.

When will the European Commission finally get the message? Its provisions to privatise water failed in Greece, and they will fail in Ireland if citizens continue with their mobilisation. People in the streets of Dublin, Madrid or Athens; citizens voting in Thessaloniki, Rome or Berlin; nearly 2 million Europeans signing the Citizens Initiative on the Right to Water. All of them are claiming water as a public and common good. Men in black should be nice, for a change, to their citizens — not to their friends.

You can support the Irish campaign on the Right to Water here.

 

November 20th, 2014

FDA and Pfizer Take a Trip to Spin City

By Wenonah Hauter

Chicken_Drum_StickUntil last year, small, yet significant levels of arsenic may have laced your chicken dinner, but Big Pharma really didn’t want you to know. And once again, industry influence over government prevailed over protecting public health.

In a classic case of the fox guarding the chicken coop, Alpharma, a former subsidiary of the major pharmaceutical company Pfizer, was recently found to be colluding with the FDA behind closed doors to delay and downplay public release of important information about risks of one of its livestock drugs. Those closed doors have now been thrown wide open.

After filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and having to sue the agency to get the documents, Food & Water Watch recently obtained internal documents ranging from formal letters to e-mails, between Pfizer and the FDA. The trail of breadcrumbs reveals just how far Big Pharma will go to protect its interests, and just how easily the FDA gave in—at the expense of public health and food safety.

Here’s the deal: Decades ago, FDA approved the use of drugs containing arsenic for use in chickens, turkeys and pigs. It says these drugs can be used for growth promotion and to treat and prevent disease. The catch is, the FDA recognizes the organic form of arsenic as safe, while inorganic arsenic is considered a carcinogen that may lead to health effects from lung, bladder or skin cancer, to heart disease, diabetes, neurological problems in children and more. Read the full article…

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