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January 13th, 2015

The Research Is In: Regulations Alone Won’t Save Us From Climate Disaster

By Wenonah Hauter

We are convinced that any serious attempt to address climate change means that a large portion of the natural gas, oil and coal currently locked underground must remain unexploited. Unfortunately, rather than aggressively deploying renewable energy resources, the Obama administration has opted to allow polluters to continue burning these dirty, polluting fossil fuels. Case in point: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is due to soon release rules to regulate methane leaks from natural gas production and transportation. But two new reports released this week underscore the importance of keeping fossil fuels where they belong—underground.

Read the full article…

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January 9th, 2015

Brother Dave Andrews Left a Legacy of Good Will for a Good Fight

Brother_Dave_AndrewsFrom the Food & Water Watch Staff,

For those of us here at Food & Water Watch, the arctic chill that has gripped much of the nation this week brought with it the sad news of the passing of a beloved colleague, friend, and member of our family. It is with a heavy heart that we share with you that Senior Food & Water Watch Representative Brother Dave Andrews passed away on Monday, January 5. Brother Dave was an integral part of the mission here at Food & Water Watch, having devoted much of his life’s work to ensuring that communities both at home and overseas had access to healthy food and safe, clean, affordable water. In addition to being a remarkable ambassador for the critical issues that affect billions of people around the world, he was a gentle friend and mentor to many here among our staff.

While Brother Dave retired from Food & Water Watch last August, he was still very much in touch with many of us here and we will forever be grateful for his service and friendship. We thought the best thing to do would be to reach out to some of his colleagues on the food team who worked closely with Brother Dave throughout his time with us. We asked them to share a few thoughts about Brother Dave so that you, our readers and supporters, can get just a small idea about how important he was to us and to the goals of our organization. The quotes are followed by links to some interviews and articles Brother Dave wrote that might give you an idea of just how special he was. We now say goodbye to our friend who we will miss greatly. Read the full article…

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January 6th, 2015

Fracking Breaks the CO2 Budget

By Hugh MacMillan

The Obama administration is prepared to directly regulate methane leaks from the oil and natural gas industry, and may do so soon. But as we explained in a previous blog, directly regulating methane from the industry greenwashes the climate impacts of widespread and intensive drilling and fracking for natural gas. That’s because, just looking at carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, almost all of the natural gas has to stay underground, unburned, to stay within a CO2 budget that would avoid dangerous climate changes.

Read the full article…

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January 5th, 2015

New Congress, More Problems

By Wenonah Hauter

WenonahHauter.ProfileThe swearing-in of the 114th Congress this week spells trouble for our food, water and environment, and for all those who seek to champion healthy, safe communities for our families. We may be looking at the most hostile Congress ever in terms of protecting the environment.

Here are a few examples of what we could face over the next few years:

James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a notorious climate change denier and an unabashed champion for the fossil fuel industry, will likely chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Expect the committee to intensify its bullying of environmentalists, especially in light of the game-changing decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking.
We’ll also see attacks on the credibility of groups that do environmental work – in fact, we already have, and it will only get worse.

Last July, Inhofe released a report that targeted environmental groups and their funders in an attempt to silence groups working in the public interest. This should surprise no one, given that David Vitter (R-LA), who headed the minority staff at the time, receives a majority of his campaign cash from the oil and gas industry.

Then, in November 2014, a subcommittee released a report on fracking calling its opponents “extremists.” It’s chilling to see policymakers taking a page from industry-backed astroturf campaigns and front groups whose discredited attacks have no place in serious policy discussions.

Given the mounting evidence that fracking harms public health and the environment, we anticipate chilling attacks by the industry (via the politicians they support) on environmental advocates, academics and any other voice that raises concerns about fracking.

But we won’t be cowed by the bullying and McCarthy-like atmosphere. Environmental advocacy is not illegal.

Food & Water Watch will continue to support one good piece of legislation: the bill to ban fracking on public lands, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). With the help of our supporters, we will continue to fight for our right to clean drinking water and safe food; for our right to know what ingredients are used in our food; for our right to preserve our health and our environment; for our right to create a better, healthier world for our children and future generations.

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December 30th, 2014

Top 10 Misguided Climate Deniers’ Quotes of 2014

Mitch_JonesBy Mitch Jones

Every year climate deniers manage to say some truly misguided things in an attempt to appease their oil and gas industry sponsors. From breathtaking avoidance of the issue to outright denial; from magic Icelandic volcanoes to refusal to believe the experts, politicians find a variety of ways to spout climate denial nonsense.

As 2014 ends and we move into a new era of Climate Deniers in charge of both houses of Congress, we thought we’d give you our Top 10 Misguided Climate Deniers’ Quotes of 2014.

1) “The emissions that are being put in the air by that volcano are a thousand years’ worth of emissions that would come from all of the vehicles, all of the manufacturing in Europe.” Senator Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK) – Incoming Chairman, Energy & Natural Resources Committee, $733,144 from oil and gas industry in her career

2) “We have 186 percent of normal snow pack. That’s global warming?” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), $489,933 from oil and gas industry in his career

3) “Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country, and I believe a disservice to the world.” Ex-Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), $977,624 from oil and gas for his 2012 Presidential Campaign

4) “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), $1,463,788 from oil and gas industry in his career

4) (tie) “I’m not a scientist,” Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), $1,783,169 from oil and gas industry in his career

6) “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), $295,138 from oil and gas industry in his career

7) “Anybody who’s ever studied any geology knows that over periods of time, long periods of time, that the climate changes, mmkay? I’m not sure anybody exactly knows why.” Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), $129,305 from oil and gas industry in his career

8) “I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think science does, either.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), on whether human activity causes climate change, $508,549 from oil and gas industry in his career

9) “And the problem with climate change is there’s never been a day in the history of the world in which the climate is not changing.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), $932,568 from oil and gas industry in his career

10) “How long will it take for the sea level to rise two feet? I mean, think about it, if your ice cube melts in your glass it doesn’t overflow; it’s displacement. I mean, this is some of the things they’re talking about mathematically and scientifically don’t make sense.” Ex-Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), $118,100 from oil and gas industry in his career

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December 22nd, 2014

All Naughty, No Nice: 5 Worst Fracking Industry Moments of 2014

By Jo Miles

BlogThumb_PinkDrill

A pinkwashed fracking drill bit. Fracking company Baker Hughes claims to be fighting breast cancer, when fracking actually increases people’s risk of cancer.

There’s never much chance of fracking companies ending up on Santa’s “nice” list, considering that polluting our air and water and making people sick is a regular part of how they do business. But while the movement to ban fracking made great strides in 2014, most notably with the recent ban in New York, the oil and gas industry seemed to go the extra mile this year to get onto the “naughty” list. Even here at Food & Water Watch, we were surprised by some of the dirty tactics some fracking companies used to attempt to sway public opinion and win over lawmakers.

Here are a few of the most unbelievable fracking industry stunts that made the news in 2014:

5. Sorry about that explosion. Here, have a pizza.

When a Chevron fracking well exploded in the small town of Bobtown, Pa. this February, you can imagine how upset the residents were.  The fire from the explosion burned for days, and they couldn’t be sure whether toxins were released into their air. One 27-year-old worker was killed. But Chevron made it up to them… with coupons for a free pizza.

One pizza. That’s Chevron’s idea of fair compensation for an explosion that put homes, families and workers in danger. And what happened in Bobtown isn’t an isolated incident – just this month, 25 families in Ohio were forced to evacuate their homes due to potentially explosive methane leaking from a nearby fracking well.

4. This is not what they meant by “job creation”

Grassroots organizations like Food & Water Watch often work with concerned locals to pack hearing rooms and show decision-makers that the community opposes fracking. In September, a pro-fracking industry group called North Carolina Energy Coalition tried to do the same… but failed. Instead of bringing community members who actually supported them, it bused in a group of homeless people who knew nothing about fracking. Several of the homeless men admitted that they were paid to attend, and didn’t know why until they arrived.

It wouldn’t surprise us if the industry couldn’t find people genuinely supportive of fracking to attend a hearing, but paying people to pretend they support fracking is a cheap trick.

3. Getting cozy with Dr. Evil

Food & Water Watch and our activists must really be making the fracking industry nervous, because this year the industry partnered with Richard “Dr. Evil” Berman to attack us and other anti-fracking organizations. Berman is notorious for using underhanded tactics to make advocacy organizations look bad, going so far as to dig up information on the titles of board members’ cars. What’s next, going through activists’ trash?

2. NIMBY-ist of the year

Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon and hypocrite extraordinaire, got involved in a lawsuit against fracking in his neighborhood. That’s right, he’s trying to stop fracking near his home. He still insists that people should be fine with fracking happening in their backyards – he just doesn’t want it in his backyard.

1. Fighting breast cancer… you’re doing it wrong

The world is full of feel-good pink products that do little or nothing to fight breast cancer. Fracking company Baker Hughes claimed to do their part this year by partnering with Susan G. Komen to create the most egregious piece of pinkwashing ever: pink fracking drill bits. The part that makes this disgusting instead of laughable is that fracking fluid contains carcinogens. Fracking increases people’s risk of cancer, and using pink drill bits won’t magically change that.

 

There you have it: a few of the many reasons why the fracking industry indeed deserves a big lump of coal this year. Or should we say, ahem, a big glass of fracking fluid.

December 19th, 2014

Ohio and Maryland Should Take a Hint from New York’s Fracking Ban

By Francesca Buzzi

FB_1412_CuomoQuoteRallySI-C2At the moment when Governor Cuomo revealed his decision to exercise caution and ban fracking in New York, a fracked well in Ohio was spewing natural gas into the air for the third straight day from a leak that well crews could not stop. This is the reality facing our air, water, climate, and communities as long as fracking continues in states without a ban.

Governor Cuomo’s decision was backed by the science described at length in the Health Department’s extensive study of the risks fracking poses to public health. New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker summed up the study simply: he wouldn’t want his child to play outside in a community that allows fracking.

Oil and gas companies claim that accidents are few and far between, but leaks, spills, and explosions are not uncommon. And when they do happen, they are often severe.

Ohio, a small shale gas producer compared to states like Texas and Pennsylvania, has seen a distressing number of serious accidents related to fracked wells. Last month, a worker was killed in an explosion and fire at a fracking site. Two weeks before that, Ohio saw three fracking-related accidents in three days, during which a worker was burned, a pipeline fire torched acres of forest, and a well blowout forced 400 families to evacuate.

In June, a massive spill and fire forced 25 families to evacuate and killed over 70,000 fish along a 5-mile stretch of a tributary of the Ohio River. The fire took a week to extinguish, with at least 30 explosions occurring over that week, driving dangerous shrapnel though the air. The state lets companies drill up to 100 feet from homes, but explosions at drilling operations are capable of blowing pieces of metal much farther than that.

The month before that fire, drillers were unable to prevent the excessive buildup of pressure in a well, which led to a leak of around 1,600 gallons of oil-based drilling fluids into a tributary of the Ohio River.

These accidents are unacceptable, yet they are only the most visible instances of pollution. We can’t see the long-term impacts of widespread drilling and fracking—damage to groundwater, the atmosphere, and the public health effects of long-term exposure to chemicals—but they stand to be a much more significant threat.

As Governor O’Malley prepares to open Maryland to fracking, we urge him to take a look at Ohio’s cautionary tale and New York’s safety victory and to seriously ask himself if he would let his kids live and play in a community that allows fracking, given the science. Governor O’Malley should join Governor Cuomo, and stand up for the long-term health of Maryland’s communities and watersheds.

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Water for the World Act: Victory!

Water_FaucetBy Darcey O’Callaghan

Earlier this week, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act unanimously passed a Senate floor vote, following passage out of the House last week. It now advances to President Obama’s desk for signature.

Since the first iteration of the bill was introduced over five years ago, Food & Water Watch lobbied to remove components of the bill that promoted public-private partnerships (P3s). We argued that U.S. foreign assistance shouldn’t be used to privatize the water systems in developing countries. Everyone at Food & Water Watch is thrilled that the final version of the bill in both the House and Senate emphasizes local ownership, rather than P3s. We believe strongly that water must remain a public good, managed transparently by communities and funded by governments.

While the majority of U.S. foreign aid goes to strategic geopolitical allies—many of which are middle-income countries—this bill takes a huge step forward by prioritizing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) funding for countries with the greatest need. The bill also improves efficiency by designating WASH point people at USAID and the State Department, and by codifying use of a Global Water Strategy that includes clear performance indicators.

Amazingly, the average American thinks we spend 25 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid when the reality is just a fraction of that—less than one percent. And the majority of this money does not go to nations facing extreme water and sanitation needs. Kudos go to the bill’s champions, Representatives Poe and Blumenauer and Senators Corker and Durbin, for advancing a version of the bill that not only protects public water, but also prioritizes humanitarian need over geopolitics.

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December 18th, 2014

USDA Decks the Halls With…New GMOs?

By Genna Reed GMO_Farming_BlogThumb

In 2012, the USDA was considering 23 new GMO crops for approval. Since then, all but four have been approved. The most recent final Environmental Impact Statement and preliminary decision to approve a crop came this week for Monsanto’s “Xtend” dicamba-tolerant and Roundup Ready soybeans and cotton, yet another GMO crop engineered to tolerate multiple herbicides. Read the full article…

We Can Ban Fracking, New York Paves the Way

By Wenonah Hauter

CuomoBanFantastic news came from the state of New York this week when the Cuomo administration announced its decision to ban fracking in the state. This exciting decision is a tribute to everyone who has worked so hard in New York to protect the state from the ravages experienced elsewhere from fracking.

Here’s the full story: On Wednesday, the Governor convened a cabinet meeting where Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker presented the findings of the Department of Health’s review on fracking. He described the peer- reviewed studies showing that fracking contaminates air and water and harms health, and he highlighted that many of the long-term health effects are still unknown, as epidemiological studies have not been conducted. Comissioner Zucker ended his presentation by saying, “Would I live in a community that would allow fracking? The answer is no.”

Then in this real-time drama, Joe Martens, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation indicated the department would issue “legally binding findings to prohibit high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.” They will be included in the supplemental generic environmental impact study that will be released in the New Year, an approach that Governor Cuomo supports, and that will effectively ban fracking in New York.

This is particularly exciting because just three years ago, conventional wisdom in New York’s mainstream environmental community held that fracking was inevitable in New York and that strong regulation was the best we could hope for. But Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Water Defense, United for Action, Citizen Action of New York and several other organizations joined together to launch New Yorkers Against Fracking (NYAF) – with the audacious goal of winning a complete ban in the state of New York. For the next three years, thousands of people engaged in activities around the state, from massive demonstrations, to sending in comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation on the health risks of fracking. NYAF grew to over 250 national, state, and local groups.

For the last two years, it has been impossible for Governor Cuomo to go anywhere in the state without fractivists by the dozens, hundreds, or thousands rallying outside his appearances, delivering the clear message: ban fracking now. At his polling place this November, Cuomo recognized the movement as the most powerful protest movement in the state.

I’m proud that Food & Water Watch was the first national organization to stand with the grassroots organizations and to call for a ban on fracking. This hard won victory shows that we can win when we build political power. It also shows that we can win when we organize around a clear message and an unambiguous goal. It should inspire reflection among those mainstream environmental groups reluctant to take a strong stand against fracking or those who attempt to split the difference by supporting both a moratorium and stronger regulations at the same time. We need to be clear and uncompromising in calling for a ban on fracking and other extreme extraction practices.

Governor Cuomo heeded this call, and has positioned himself as a national leader in the movement to shift to an energy policy that is safe and based on efficiency and 100 percent renewable energy. New York is a bellwether state for fracking nationally, and is the first shale state to take such bold action against fracking. This decision has implications for other states considering fracking like Maryland, Pennsylvania, California and others.

In contrast to Cuomo’s decision today, Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley recently released regulations for fracking in his state. The Obama Administration’s EPA has refused to reopen investigations on instances of water contamination from fracking. Governor Hickenlooper in Colorado continues to oppose even communities’ ability to prevent fracking, Governor Brown in California continues to burry his head in the sand when it comes to the real health and environmental impacts of fracking, and Governor-Elect Wolf in Pennsylvania is floating a severance tax as a way for the state to make money off fracking, rather than taking on this dangerous practice.

Politicians with national influence or larger political aspirations should take note that support for fracking nationally has fallen, especially among Democrats and Independents, over the past few years. A PEW poll issued this November found that a 47 percent plurality of Americans, 59 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Independents nationally oppose increased fracking. This ban in New York comes exactly one week after Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced a bill to ban fracking on public lands, the strongest federal bill on fracking to date.

The decision in New York will have a ripple effect across the country and act to strengthen efforts against fracking nationwide. The story of how tens of thousands of fractivists fought and won in New York with their blood, sweat and tears is awe-inspiring and demonstrates that we should fight for what we want – not just the best that can be negotiated in a backroom deal or what others say is politically feasible. Instead we should work to change the political reality in order to win real improvements in people’s lives and protect our fragile planet for future generations.

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