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July 29th, 2014

Pa. Residents with Neglected Fracking-Related Health Complaints Urge Action from Attorney General

Residents Ignored by Department of Health Share Details, Call for Investigation and Announce Story-Collecting Initiative

Harrisburg, Pa. – Today, individuals from around Pennsylvania who had fracking-related health complaints ignored by the state’s Department of Health (DOH) shared their stories and called on Attorney General Kathleen Kane to launch an investigation into the apparent disregard for their complaints.

The call on Kane follows a series of reports that DOH had several procedures in place designed to neglect health complaints related to hydraulic fracturing, including circulating a list of “buzzwords” relating to either fracking or health impacts frequently seen near areas with fracking-related infrastructure. In the midst of the conference call, advocates received a request from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes unit to interview the impacted individuals.

“In 2008 my family and I began getting sick after a compressor station was built 780 feet from our home,” said Pam Judy, a resident of Greene County. “The first place I contacted seeking information and assistance was the DOH.  I was advised that they had received no similar complaints and they were unable to direct me to anyone who may be able to help us.  After doing some research on my own I located a gentleman in Texas who had experienced a similar situation and he provided me with a list of the blood tests we needed to have done to determine exposure as well and a wealth of additional information.  I should have been able to receive the same valuable information from the DOH.”

“I called two or three times to get information, while I was going in and out of the emergency room in Johnstown with migraine headaches, severe rashes, and blurry vision,” said Randy Moyer, a resident of Blair County. “Department of Health never got back to me, so I had to go on my own to figure out the details of my condition.”

Moyer and Judy are two of the 11 individuals impacted by fracking who have identified themselves as having experienced neglectful treatment from DOH. Advocates used the call to publicize an online form and hotline (717-467-3641 or 717-467-DOH1).

“We know these stories are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sam Bernhardt, Senior Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “These stories have been swept under the rug, and we are going to continue working to uncover them.”

“These stories not only confirm the allegations made by the whistleblowers, but demonstrate that the agency was unresponsive to fracking-related complaints since at least 2008 and as recently as last week. Nothing has changed. Pennsylvanians are not getting the answers they need from the agency tasked with protecting public health,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth.

Contact: Sam Bernhardt – 267.428.1903, sbernhardt[at]fwwatch[dot]org

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July 14th, 2014

On Eve of Cove Point Rally, O’Malley Administration Moves Forward on Fracking in State

Statement by Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director, Food & Water Watch

Washington, D.C. — “Late on Friday evening, while civil society organizations were preparing for a large rally opposing the Cove Point LNG export terminal, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submitted the interim final report of ‘Best Management Practices’ that will be used in drafting regulations for fracking in Maryland. Clearly, the Departments timed this move to draw as little scrutiny as possible. This move is further proof that state agencies have already predetermined that fracking is indeed going to happen in Maryland.

“We question how the Departments can complete an interim report before required risk assessments and public health reports have been completed. It is contemptible that the state agencies would act so carelessly and with such negligence for protecting the Maryland public.

“It has become increasingly clear that the purpose of the Governor’s Commission has been to greenwash fracking, presenting a front of deliberation, when in fact the decision to allow fracking in Maryland has already been made. We call on Governor O’Malley to end this charade and ban fracking now.” 

Contacts:         
Jorge Aguilar, 202-683-2529; [email protected]
Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]

 

 

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June 30th, 2014

Protecting Our Water: It’s Simply the Right Thing to Do

By Nisha Swinton

I have worked with Food & Water Watch – Maine on bottled water issues for almost five years, and I am always so excited when new people join our growing movement against corporate control of our most precious natural resource. I met Nina and her mother Molly, recently, and I was immediately inspired. Nina is nine years old, in third grade, and loves to swim. Nina was not shy at all about discussing her bottled water work at her local elementary school.

“I found out about global warming through nature shows and I realized that polar bears were endangered, so I wanted to do my part in helping the polar bears by helping people notice that plastic water bottles are NOT cool,” Nina explained one afternoon. “One of the reasons I want to keep the ocean clean is because I love swimming and I don’t want to swim in trash or have the fish be sick.”

Nina started the Protect Our Land and Resources (POLAR) Kids Club at school. She and other club members have been speaking in classes, holding raffles for Take Back the Tap reusable water bottles, meeting with teachers and administration, and collecting student signatures to ban bottled water and plastics from their school. POLAR has collected more than 500 signatures already, from a school of 700 students!

Across the United States and the world, students like Nina are making headlines for their efforts to ban the bottle. People are realizing that bottled water is not safer than tap water. Increasingly, bottled water comes from the tap. Bottled water creates mountains of garbage and causes other major environmental problems. Bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water. Bottled water companies mislead communities into giving away their public water in exchange for dangerous jobs. 

Nina’s work is most important right here in Maine because we are facing a huge battle with the bottled water industry giant Nestle North America, which owns Poland Spring. Nestle is looking to go into a 45-year contract with a water district right here in Maine. We need more and more Mainers, young and old, to learn from Nina’s story and work in their communities to ban bottled water to protect our natural resources for Nina’s generation and beyond.

Molly is proud of her daughter’s hard work. “I’m really proud of Nina for being passionate about an important issue and working to share her ideas with her peers, and not giving up. She has put aside her own fear of public speaking for the sake of this cause about which she feels so strongly. For her, the ideas are simple and she is motivated to protect the environment. Her reasons are not political or economical, it’s simply the right thing to do.” I couldn’t agree more.

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May 23rd, 2014

Chesapeake Bay: Where MD Stores Its Fertilizer and Chicken Manure

By Mitch Jones

 

Photo by Jlastras.

In a new report the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science gives an overall health grade to the Chesapeake Bay of a “C” for 2013. The report claims that the Bay’s health has remained steady from 2012 to 2013, except for one major problem: there is “a continuing degradation of the Eastern Shore” due to runoff from agriculture.

 

Pollution caused by agricultural runoff is one of the reasons Food & Water Watch supported legislation in this year’s Maryland General Assembly that would have provided more funding for cover crop programs. Delegate Shane Robinson in the House and Senator Rich Madaleno in the Senate introduced the Poultry Fair Share Act that would have placed a 5-cent per head fee on the large poultry companies on the Eastern Shore. The birds owned by those companies produced about 1.5 billion pounds of manure each year. The new report notes that “it’s the fertilizer and chicken manure that’s causing the problems” for Eastern Shore waterways. Read more…

April 3rd, 2014

MD Fracking Health Study Narrow, Hasty, and Underfunded Say Health Experts

 Health Groups Call On Gov. O’Malley and Maryland Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission 

To Extend Deadline On Health Study

Baltimore—Today, a commissioner from Governor Martin O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Commission joined three leading medical advocacy groups at a press conference in Baltimore in critiquing the timeline and scope of a study on the possible health impacts of shale gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” that is scheduled for release in June.

Representatives from the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE), Maryland Environment Health Network (MdEHN), Concerned Health Professionals of New York  (CHPNY), Food and Water Watch and Ann Bristow warned that the study is poised to fall woefully short of meeting international standards and health study guidelines for protecting public health. 

They called on Governor O’Malley to commit more resources and to extend the health study deadline in order to fully assess the potential health effects to all Marylanders. They also noted that the study is limited to investigating possible impacts on public health only among residents of Western Maryland, even though exploitable shale gas reserves are located across the state.

“We are watching the emerging science from other states show increasing harms from fracking. We’re hearing about poisoned drinking water and radioactive waste, as well as smog in places that used to have pristine air.  So it is clear that an eight month study period, funded at $150,000 does not suffice to assess even the top tier of costly health impacts that fracking will likely have in Western Maryland, let alone the rest of the state,” said Rebecca Ruggles, Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network said.

“As it currently stands, the State of Maryland is conducting a flawed, rushed, and superficial study that will not help inform Maryland residents—nor their elected officials—about the full burden of possible health risks from the entire process of shale gas extraction,” said Katie Huffling, a registered nurse and the director of programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “As nurses, we are also gravely concerned that they will not be including a health cost assessment in their study. If the public is being asked to assume health risks from fracking, it deserves a comprehensive investigation of those risks and their economic costs, not a fig leaf.”

Health professionals across the country have argued that a Health Impact Assessment (HIA)—a specific National Research Council-sanctioned process developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization (among others)—must be conducted to inform any decision as critical as whether or not fracking should be permitted in states. 

“Drilling and fracking operations are inherently dangerous and pose demonstrable risks to health, especially for children, pregnant women and other vulnerable people living nearby,” said Sandra Steingraber, PhD and cofounder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York. “The proper tool for investigating these impacts is a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment with its vetted protocols and seal of approval by national and international public health institutions. A comprehensive HIA with full public participation, not a rushed study with a political deadline, is what the people of Maryland need and deserve. “

The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission is currently scheduled to make a final recommendation on fracking in August to Governor Martin O’Malley that will include the health assessment report. 

Ann Bristow, a current commissioner on the Advisory Commission, also joined the medical advocates in calling for more time.

“As a member of Governor O’Malley’s Safe Drilling Initiative Commission, I am very worried that we are moving too fast and not getting all the health data we need to make protective recommendations to the residents of Maryland,” said Bristow. “Several commissioners have repeatedly asked for more time and a more thorough scope of work on these critical health issues. If the health study team were on schedule, we would have received the baseline health assessment, with public commentary, last month. We need more time and a guarantee of transparency and public participation.”

Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director Jorge Aguilar added that the O’Malley administration should pay attention to the demands of the health community.

“After two years of a largely unfunded process, Governor O’Malley’s administration now seems to be rushing through the final year, when specific studies just got started,” said Food & Water Watch Regional Organizing Director Jorge Aguilar. “The health study team has already missed its first deadline and it’s not clear that the health community will have time to comment on the final report.  The writing is on the wall: this will be an inadequate study unless the time line is drastically modified to address the concerns of the health community.”

Contacts:

Jorge Aguilar – 202-683-2529; [email protected]

Rich Bindell – 202-683-2457; [email protected]

 

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April 1st, 2014

Anti-Frackers Hot on Cuomo’s Reelection Trail

By Seth Gladstone

In New York, it’s an election year. Slowly but surely, Governor Andrew Cuomo is emerging from his tightly managed and typically sparse pubic appearance schedule to attend an expanding roster of ribbon-cuttings and party fundraisers. Which means the anti-fracking masses are once again hot on Cuomo’s trail.

As noted – with a photograph – in the New York Daily News, more than 150 New Yorkers of all stripes turned up recently outside a swanky Manhattan hotel to remind Cuomo of exactly what his next eight months will look like (unless he bans fracking, that is.) Days later, the crowds were out on Long Island, with the same simple message for the governor: we’re not leaving until you do the right thing for our families and our future.

As the movement against fracking in New York continues to grow, new activists, new advocates, and new constituencies are joining every day. In a state still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy, climate change has taken increasing prominence in anti-fracking circles.

In what sadly should come as no surprise to anyone with an eighth grade education, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently confirmed the stark, terrifying reality of human-impacted climate change. “Water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying… and the world’s food supply is at considerable risk.” Lovely.

While the immense scale and complexity of the crisis seems daunting, the antidote to our stubborn fossil fuel addiction is actually quite simple: it’s political leadership.  This leadership can and must be exhibited by elected officials here in America that claim to be responsible, forward-thinking policy makers, but have yet to support such claims with actions.  Officials like Andrew Cuomo.

In this election year, New Yorkers will be leading the charge for a future beyond fossil fuels, and without fracking. Governor Cuomo will be getting an earful. Stay tuned.

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March 11th, 2014

Caught Between a Watershed and a Marketplace

By Fred Tutman, Patuxent Riverkeeper

For the life of me I cannot understand why anybody serious about reducing or stopping the degradation of our nation’s waters would consider that trading pollution is a realistic way to do so. So far, the only regulated interests that have expressed interest in trading pollution on my local river are those that cannot meet their current pollution caps, and so they would like to simply pay more money to keep on polluting. While some refer to it as cap-and-trade, we’d be more accurate calling it trade-and-pay.

In a variation of the same approach, there are a few such interests that have managed to acquire surplus capacity to discharge into a waterway and so they hope to get paid to sell their surplus capacity to somebody else who can use it. For the years I have been sounding the alarm about the evils of trading, at least some environmentalists have argued that it is pointless to oppose this because the “train has already left the station.” But, isn’t the point to reduce pollution, not make sure everybody pollutes up to their regulated limits?

Even if the math and the concept of market incentives like trading somehow make sense to you in the context of conservation, then how about moral problems? How does it square with basic fairness that somebody can pollute in one place and then compensate for it elsewhere with cash? The answer is that it is outrageous, and deferring pollution onto others is a recipe for fundamental injustice. Consequently, those with the most attractive “marketplaces” will get the very best environmental quality money can buy. Everyone else will get only trades as the gap between environmental haves and have-nots will just get wider. Read more…

March 10th, 2014

The Backroom Out Front in Annapolis

By Mitch Jones

It was slick business as usual last week in the Maryland Environmental Matters Committee. If you blinked, you might have missed your chance to count the votes on HB 409.  

On Friday, March 7, a bill that would have banned the treatment, storage, discharge and disposal of fracking wastewater or “flow back” in Maryland was up for a vote in the committee. The bill was sponsored by Del. Shane Robinson and had 33 additional cosponsors, including eight members of the committee. Yet, even with that level of support, leadership dismissed the bill as if it were an unserious piece of legislation.

The legislation is necessary because the state’s wastewater facilities are not equipped to handle or process many of the chemicals that would turn up in fracking fluid, so the bill was designed to protect Maryland’s wastewater systems from fracking associated risks. And while there is currently no fracking wastewater coming into Maryland, fracking wastewater was treated in Baltimore in 2010 and there is no law in place to prevent this happening again when there’s a new administration in 2015. Read more…

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March 7th, 2014

Del. McIntosh Kills Fracking Wastewater Bill, Leaves Maryland Vulnerable to Contaminants From Out-of-State Fracking Waste

Statement by Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Annapolis, MD — “Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee lost a valuable opportunity to provide protection for Marylanders against the dangers of fracking when it blocked legislation to ban the treatment, storage, disposal, and discharge of fracking wastewater in Maryland. It’s regrettable that the committee wasn’t allowed to pass the legislation.

“It’s outrageous that instead of asking for a simple yes or no vote, Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh asked ‘Who needs to vote for this to get re-elected?’ The fact that she then told a legislator that he didn’t need the vote ‘down there’ in his district shows her intent to not let the legislation through no matter how much support it had in committee.

“Since fracking wastewater is exempted from federal-and state-level regulations pertaining to hazardous waste, thanks to the oil and gas industry, there is no reason why Maryland legislators shouldn’t at least provide protections for water and public health, as the state continues to debate on fracking.

“Currently, Maryland is not equipped to safely manage the hazardous waste produced by fracking and drilling, and the state’s wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to handle the contaminants typically contained in fracking wastewater.”

Contact: Rich Bindell, 202-683-2457, [email protected]

 

 

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December 19th, 2013

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Acknowledges Dangers of Fracking in Decision to Empower Communities

Statement of Food & Water Watch Pennsylvania Organizer Sam Bernhardt

Philadelphia, Pa. — “Today’s decision by the State Supreme Court is a huge victory for communities throughout Pennsylvania that have been fighting desperately against the devastating realities of fracking that big oil and gas corporations – and our bought-off governor – have thrust upon them. This decision is a stark acknowledgement from our top court that fracking is indeed hazardous to public health and the environment, and should therefore be regulated by communities that don’t want it. As we’re seeing from a growing fracking moratorium movement in the State Legislature, there are more and more Pennsylvania communities turning against fracking every day. We are sure to see many of them acting immediately to protect themselves with local legislation against drilling.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – sgladstone(at)fwwatch(dot)org, 718.943.8063

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