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New York Says No to Fracking: State Bans Drilling Following Grassroots Outcry over Public Health

New York has become the first state in the nation with major natural gas deposits to ban the oil and gas extraction process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, citing potential risks to public health. Fracking involves blasting sand, water and toxic chemicals deep into shale rock to release oil and gas, a process which can poison water supplies and pollute the air. Following a two-year study, New York Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said fracking was too risky. We speak to biologist, activist and author Sandra Steingraber, co-founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking. Also joining us is Cornell University professor Tony Ingraffea, president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

Energy: 

Fact Check: Is Duke telling "The Truth About Toxicity?"

By Mark Binker

Raleigh, N.C. — As the CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" aired its segment earlier this month examining Duke Energy's coal ash spill on the Dan River, someone in the company's public relations office was busy tweeting.

On of those short missives read, "#CoalAsh: The truth about toxicity" and linked to a fact sheet posted online.

"It's a tool that we've used a community meetings and events," said Paige Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the company.

The sheet, she said, also also been used when addressing local government meetings. It has existed and been posted online for several months, she said, adding that it has had a few tweaks along the way.

Our interest here on @NCCapitol's fact-checking desk is always piqued when we see the words "the truth" about any particular subject, especially complex scientific and economic topics.

"Ash contains low levels of trace elements. Even if you do come into contact with ash, studies have shown you'd have to ingest large amounts to have the potential for experiencing adverse effects," says one of three main bullet points summarizing the page-long explainer.

Although that doesn't exactly make the case for coal as part of a balanced breakfast, despite comparing the amount of arsenic in coal ash to the amount of arsenic in apple juice, the fact sheet does run counter to the image of toxin-laced goop leaching into groundwater and rivers that has been part of the coal ash narrative over the past 10 months.

THE QUESTION: Are the "low levels of trace elements" in coal ash really nothing to worry about, or might this well-crafted piece of corporate communications be downplaying the toxicity issue?

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Water Use: 
Energy: 

Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State

By THOMAS KAPLANDEC. 17, 2014


Members of New Yorkers Against Fracking celebrated the governor’s decision outside his Manhattan office on Wednesday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of debate over a method of extracting natural gas.

Fracking, as it is known, was heavily promoted as a source of economic revival for depressed communities along New York’s border with Pennsylvania, and Mr. Cuomo had once been poised to embrace it.

Instead, the move to ban fracking left him acknowledging that, despite the intense focus he has given to solving deep economic troubles afflicting large areas upstate, the riddle remained largely unsolved. “I’ve never had anyone say to me, ‘I believe fracking is great,’ ” he said. “Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking.’ ”

In a double blow to areas that had anticipated a resurgence led by fracking, a state panel on Wednesday backed plans for three new Las Vegas-style casinos, but none along the Pennsylvania border in the Southern Tier region. The panel, whose advice Mr. Cuomo said would quite likely be heeded, backed casino proposals in the Catskills, near Albany and between Syracuse and Rochester.

For Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, the decision on fracking — which was immediately hailed by environmental and liberal groups — seemed likely to help repair his ties to his party’s left wing. It came after a surprisingly contentious re-election campaign in which Zephyr Teachout, a primary challenger who opposed fracking, won about a third of the vote.

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Water Use: 
Energy: 

Seeds of Truth: Vandana Shiva and the New Yorker


December 15, 2014

by Dr. Vandana Shiva

(A response to the article ‘Seeds of Doubt’ by Michael Specter in The New Yorker)

I am glad that the future of food is being discussed, and thought about, on farms, in homes, on TV, online and in magazines, especially of The New Yorker’s caliber. The New Yorker has held its content and readership in high regard for so long. The challenge of feeding a growing population with the added obstacle of climate change is an important issue. Specter’s piece, however, is poor journalism. I wonder why a journalist who has been Bureau Chief in Moscow for The New York Times and Bureau Chief in New York for the Washington Post, and clearly is an experienced reporter, would submit such a misleading piece. Or why The New Yorker would allow it to be published as honest reporting, with so many fraudulent assertions and deliberate attempts to skew reality.

‘Seeds of Doubt’ contains many lies and inaccuracies that range from the mundane (we never met in a café but in the lobby of my hotel where I had just arrived from India to attend a High Level Round Table for the post 2015 SDGs of the UN) to grave fallacies that affect people’s lives. The piece has now become fodder for the social media supporting the Biotech Industry. Could it be that rather than serious journalism, the article was intended as a means to strengthen the biotechnology industry’s push to ‘engage consumers’? Although creative license is part of the art of writing, Michael Specter cleverly takes it to another level, by assuming a very clear position without spelling it out.

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Food Supply: 

Tropical Fish Moving Toward Poles Due To Climate Change, Could Affect Global Fisheries: Study

A tropical fish farmer holds a dead silver dollar fish. Reuters

By Kukil Bora @KukilBora on October 13 2014 6:03 AM

Climate change and warming of the world's oceans are prompting tropical fish to move toward cooler waters near the poles, according to a study, which predicts that a large number of fish will disappear from the tropics by 2050, if the current trend of changing temperatures continues.

USDA Grants Final Approval to Toxic New GMO


Seriously?!?! This move will increase toxic pesticide use up to sevenfold, according to the government's own estimates.
By LEAH ZERBE

Despite the objections of hundreds of thousands of Americans and more than 50 members of Congress, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted final approval to a new generation of genetically engineered (GE) crops on Wednesday.

Food Supply: 

Second Silent Spring? Bird Declines Linked to Popular Pesticides

Second Silent Spring? Bird Declines Linked to Popular Pesticides

Neonicotinoids are aimed at insects, but they're affecting other animals too, study says.

Pesticides don't just kill pests. New research out of the Netherlands provides compelling evidence linking a widely used class of insecticides to population declines across 14 species of birds.

Those insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been in the news lately due to the way they hurt bees and other pollinators. (Related: "The Plight of the Honeybee.")

This new paper, published online Wednesday in Nature, gets at another angle of the story—the way these chemicals can indirectly affect other creatures in the ecosystem.

Scientists from Radboud University in Nijmegen and the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology and Birdlife Netherlands (SOVON) compared long-term data sets for both farmland bird populations and chemical concentrations in surface water. They found that in areas where water contained high concentrations of imidacloprid—a common neonicotinoid pesticide—bird populations tended to decline by an average of 3.5 percent annually.

"I think we are the first to show that this insecticide may have wide-scale, significant effects on our environment," said Hans de Kroon, an expert on population dynamics at Radboud University and one of the authors of the paper.

Second Silent Spring?

Pesticides and birds: If this story sounds familiar, it's probably because Rachel Carson wrote about it back in 1962. Carson's seminal Silent Spring was the first popular attempt to warn the world that pesticides were contributing to the "sudden silencing of the song of birds."

"I think there is a parallel, of course," said Ruud Foppen, an ornithologist at SOVON and co-author of the Nature paper.

Foppen says that while Carson battled against a totally different kind of chemicals—organophosphates like DDT—the effects he's seeing in the field are very much the same. Plainly stated, neonicotinoids are harming biodiversity.

"In this way, we can compare it to what happened decades ago," he said. "And if you look at it from that side, we didn't learn our lessons."

How Neonicotinoids Work

In the past 20 years, neonicotinoids (pronounced nee-oh-NIK-uh-tin-oyds) have become the fastest growing class of pesticides. They're extremely popular among farmers because they're effective at killing pests and easy to apply.

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The Promise of the Commons

Cigarette makers can't market to kids. Why do tobacco farms employ them?

Author(s): Margaret Wurth
Published in: the guardian

Some companies even allow for lower standards of protection for children in their US supply chain than for those elsewhere.

Grace, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, doesn't smoke – at 15, she's too young to buy a pack of cigarettes, anyway – but she might as well have had a regular habit. At her job on a tobacco farm last summer, she handled tobacco plants for up to 12 hours a day, steadily absorbing nicotine through her skin.

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