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Giving thanks to those who stand up and speak out

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Wed, 11/23/2011 - 04:33

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I'd like to give a tremendous thanks for people and events this week in the Marcellus Shale region.

The Delaware River Basin Commission postponed a vote on gas drilling regulations. Organizations, activists, and concerned citizens said loudly and clearly (through thousands of phone calls and letters) that elected officials must put the protection of natural areas, drinking water, and communities first. The celebration at a rally in Trenton ushered in the next stage of the fight to save the Delaware—and hopefully other regions—from the mad rush to drill.

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New Mexico delivers big fat nothing on fracking chemical disclosure

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Fri, 11/18/2011 - 21:46

At least this guy gives you something. New Mexico just
promised disclosure and delivered nothing at all.

It's back to your granddaddy's oil and gas days in the Land of Enchantment. The state's oil and gas regulator is once again cozy with industry.

And when it comes to requiring the disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking, New Mexico is the laughing stock of America's oil and gas producing states.

Before the Governor Martinez roll-everything-back-era, the state had started crawling out of the dark ages by requiring some common sense safeguards like making sure toxic oil and gas waste pits were properly lined to protect soil and groundwater.

Yesterday, despite testimony that other states and the industry-friendly Department of Energy are trending toward the full and public disclosure of all the chemicals and additives used in fracking operations, New Mexico's Oil Conservation Commission delivered a big fat nothing. They adopted a rule requiring nothing more of industry than what companies already report on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

MSDS are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers. But even the DOE knows that

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Tracing Water Contamination to Fracking

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Thu, 11/17/2011 - 18:29

Yesterday, I attend a hearing hosted by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment. The hearing allowed members of Congress and government bureaucrats to discuss concerns about the potential for water contamination from fracking and the right regulatory regime to prevent it. The specter of contamination arises out of a concern that the high- pressure injection of a mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals might migrate in to underground sources of drinking water.

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Tell Kay and Jared Jewelers (owned by Signet) to say no to dirty gold from Pebble Mine

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Thu, 11/17/2011 - 07:33

The world's greatest wild salmon fishery - in Alaska's Bristol Bay - is at risk!  And, you can help.

Alaskans are asking Signet, the world's largest jewelry corporation to promise not to use gold from the proposed Pebble Mine - a massive copper gold mine that threatens the world's most valuable wild salmon fishery. Over fifty major jewelers have already promised.

In a full page ad in the New York Times, Alaska Native communities, commercial fishermen and Earthworks are asking Signet to help support protection of Bristol Bay.

Please join these efforts! Take a few minutes to click on this alert, and e-mail the company.

What better way for Signet to show it supports responsible gold sourcing principles than for the world's largest jeweler to promise that it won't buy gold from a mine that would jeopardize the world's greatest wild salmon fishery.


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The gas industry’s sleight of hand: drilling away local rights

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Tue, 11/15/2011 - 16:44

Apparently it’s not enough for the gas industry in Pennsylvania to turn a profit; receive hundreds of new permits a year; have special exemptions from U.S. environmental laws; and be fined for only a tiny fraction of violations committed. According to Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Klaber in the Philadelphia Inquirer, local zoning should also be eliminated for “posing a threat” to the industry.
But Ms. Klaber—along with Governor Corbett in a letter to legislators as they debate bills this week to gut local control in exchange for small drilling revenues—got a basic fact wrong. There is no patchwork of local regulation; the state has set, and will continue to be the entity to set, standards and rules for gas drilling.

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TELL THE NEW MEXICO OIL CONSERVATION COMMISSION: You want full and PUBLIC disclosure of chemicals used in fracking!

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Sat, 11/12/2011 - 22:04

Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project ACTION ALERT



Next week the New Mexico OCC will consider adopting a new rule requiring the oil and gas industry to disclose the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") operations.

Industry has proposed a very weak rule.

We have proposed a rule that would make New Mexico's disclosure one of the best in the nation.

PLEASE PARTICIPATE IN THIS HEARING and urge the OCC to adopt a strong rule!


Thursday, November 17, 2011
9:00 a.m. to approximately 5:00 p.m.

It is anticipated that public comment will be taken before lunch and at the end of the day. Lunch breaks and closing times vary widely so plan to come early.

If possible, plan to participate in the entire hearing. It is possible the hearing will last two days.


1220 South St. Francis Drive - Porter Hall
Wendell Chino Building
Santa Fe, New Mexico


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Take 3 minutes: Help Protect Oregon's Wild and Scenic Chetco River

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Fri, 11/11/2011 - 19:13

The Wild and Scenic Chetco River is legendary for the beauty and clarity of its waters. And, it has whopping salmon and steelhead runs!

Although Congress protected the Chetco in 1988 by adding it to the National Wild and Scenic River System, the 1872 Mining Law gives mining preference over all other values and uses. Now proposals to suction dredge along much of this extroardinary river threatens allt he values the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act seeks to protect.

The good news!  The Forest Service is asking the Dept. of Interior to provide interim protection for about 17 miles of the river by withdrawing it from mineral entry for 5 years, while Congress considers legislation from the Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer (The Chetco River Protection Act) for longer protection.

As the Oregonian editorial states, "The Chetco need attention -- and it needs it now."

Please take three minutes, and send an e-mail to the DOI in support of protection. 


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Energy Department Shale Gas Advisory Panel: Miles to go to clean up natural gas development

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Thu, 11/10/2011 - 22:52

Today the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board – formed at the request of President Obama – issued its final draft report. The report focuses on the implementation of the many positive recommendations made by the subcommittee in its previous report that came out in August.

When the initial report was released, I had hoped that it would be a wake up call to the Obama administration, moving them on a path towards more responsible oversight of gas drilling. While some positive steps have been taken to protect our air, land and water from the impacts of drilling, it’s clear from this new report that we still have a long way to go.

To quote the subcommittee report:

“…. if action is not taken to reduce the environmental impact accompanying the very considerable expansion of shale gas production expected across the country – perhaps as many as 100,000 wells over the next several decades – there is a real risk of serious environmental consequences…”

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PSYOPS: Range Resources official statement changes twice

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Thu, 11/10/2011 - 22:51

As you know by now, the Big Gas Mafia held a much ballyhooed media/PR conference to get their fracking story straight to combat all the bad press and their failure to convince the American public that they can frack safely. I paid to attend that conference and wore my name badge the entire time.

Transparency was a big theme–hiding/spinning wrongdoings just escalates the public distrust. Yet here they are with the media equivalent of a spill — admissions that they’re using and encourage use of military tactics against American citizens. Yet, rather than owning it and admitting wrongdoing and addressing the problem they are instead trying to divert and obfuscate.

Alleged to be from the CIA:

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On psychological operations: what it means that the fracking industry is using military tactics in communities

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Thu, 11/10/2011 - 00:24

Riffing off revelations by Earthworks' Texas Sharon that the fracking industry is using military tactics in shale gas communities, today DeSmogBlog posted an excellent story explaining what military psychological operations are and how they've been used in our communities.

You should read the whole thing.  But some highlights:

What if the same techniques that the Army used to weaken the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan are being used by the gas industry to intimidate U.S. citizens in Pennsylvania? Of course they wouldn't need the Black Hawk helicopters, the U.S. Postal Service can drop letters just fine. But the tactics of using financial incentives and disseminating propaganda designed to pit neighbor against neighbor?

They then document in detail a case study of them doing exactly that.

DeSmogBlog then goes on to discuss the implications of the use of these tactics:

Range [claims], “As one of America’s leading natural gas producers, we are committed to responsibly develop this resource and to being open, honest and transparent.”

Range’s rhetoric is admirable, but does it match the reality of its practices? It appears that Range’s use of psychological warfare tactics on U.S. citizens may mean that it is violating the [law].

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A response to an industry caught with their pants down.

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Thu, 11/10/2011 - 00:02

The fracking industry could save a lot of money
on media conferences if they'd follow some
simple advice...

I've spent most of the day talking to reporters about the PSYOPS story that broke yesterday and has now gone viral. This is the most fun version of the story.

I'm not a good note taker which is why I thought I would record parts of the conference. After the first panel, I decided to record the entire thing.  And Matt Pitzarella of Range Resources (audio files in wmv & mpg) and Matt Carmichael of Anadarko (audio files in wmv & mpg) got caught with their pants down -- recommending using military tactics on communities.

Their attempts to spin out of the mess they created has been tragicomic.

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Too Much Natural Gas? Let's Give it to China!

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Wed, 11/09/2011 - 23:50

Once upon a fairly recent time, as our nation struggled to find the right path toward energy independence, industry and policy makers devoted a great deal of time and money developing the infrastucture capacity to import liquefied natural gas (LNG).  Hailed by many as a clean and viable solution for weening us off of dirtier sources of energy, the promise of LNG seemed limitless. In many places, like my hometown of Baltimore, furious debates raged between concerned community activists (or "insurgents" in the modern parlance of industry fracking officials) and industry representatives on everything from landowner rights, to water quality, to homeland security implications. That was 2007.

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Newmont's Conga mine brings major clean water problems

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Wed, 11/09/2011 - 16:26

The proposed Conga Mine project, located in the Cajamarca and Celendín provinces in Northern Peru, sits just to the Northeast of Latin America’s largest gold mine, Yanacocha. As with most mines in this region, water is a major issue with the Conga project. [For more about the project, see this previous blog post.] The campesino communities and larger more developed centers rely heavily of the water sources of the region. It is because of this reliance, and gold mining’s checkered history of contaminating clean water sources, that many communities near the Conga project are protesting the mega mining project.

The project sits at the headwaters of multiple river basins(ES): Jadibamba, Chirimayo, Chugurmayo, Rejo Punre, tributaries of Sendamal (Celendín); Chaullagón, a tributary of Chonta (Cajamarca); and Quengorío, a tributary of Llaucano (Bambamarca). It is impossible to qualify all of the services this ecosystem provides, and communities have long called for this area to be protected.

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Not a good neighbor: fracking industry admits to waging war on communities

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Tue, 11/08/2011 - 23:24


For a long time, the hydraulic fracturing-enabled drilling industry has been fighting a war to be accepted in communities around the country.

They've been losing the war.

That is, the more they've operated, the more they've polluted, and the worse name they've received.  Thanks to the good work of community groups, Josh Fox, DeSmogBlog, ProPublica, the New York Times, and many, many others, the word has gotten out that you allow the drilling industry into your community at the peril of your drinking water, clean air, and the very fabric of your community.

So industry was (and still is) faced with a choice:

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The Story of Broke: revenge of the dinosaurs

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Tue, 11/08/2011 - 19:09

NOTE: this post actually authored by Hilary Lewis, our international fellow

I just watched Annie Leonard’s latest short film, The Story of Broke: Why There’s Still Plenty of Money to Build a Better Future, and I loved it!

This time around Annie explains how the government could possibly be broke after taking in a trillion dollars a year from taxpayers. Let’s just say the problem isn’t a gold shortage.

Watch the video after the jump.

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Conga: Peru's communities won't trade clean water for Newmont's mega gold mine

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Tue, 11/08/2011 - 00:56


Government Ministers visit Laguna Petrol -- one of the lakes that will not exist if Conga mine is built.
Credit: La Republica

Peru is once again front and center in Latin America’s new gold rush. Gold is trading at record prices, and multinational mining corporations are developing at record speeds to firm their grip on the precious metal. This blitz, however, is bringing with it a renewed wave of social conflicts and community resistance to these mega mines. It is, in it’s simplest terms, between clean water and dirty gold.

One project making major headlines is Newmont’s Conga project is Northern Peru.

This past July Newmont (US) and Buenaventura (PE) committed together to invest between $4 and $4.8 billion, with the IFC kicking in the last 4% or so. This gold project is Peru’s largest single mining investment ever. It sits just down the way from Latin America’s largest gold mine, Yanacocha, and the highly controversial Cerro Quillish (both Newmont concessions). This record breaking mining project now sits as President Ollanta Humala’s first major challenge in “Peru's paradox of stellar economic growth and growing social unrest.”
Newmont claims that communities are all supportive of the company coming in and turning THIS (Laugua Perol) into THIS (existing Yanacocha mine), but in fact there has been major resistance to the Conga project for over 7 years(ES). The crux of the opposition is water.

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Pebble Mine: another bad example!

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Mon, 11/07/2011 - 20:32

The Flambeau Mine in Wisconsin has been
reclaimed since this picture, but it still pollutes
the Flambeau River.

The Pebble Limited Partnership profiled the Flambeau mine as a reclamation success story in its latest newsletter article.  What they don't mention about the mine is its on-going copper pollution.  But, it's all over the recent news.  "In the most recent tests, state records show that copper and zinc levels have exceeded state toxicity standards for surface waters, potentially threatening fish and other aquatic life." 

The Flambeau mine is an open pit copper gold mine in Wisconsin.  Although it operated for only four years (1993-1997), it resulted in water pollution that continues today.  "The Flambeau mine site continues to be a source of contaminants to waters of the state and efforts by Kennecott to fix the problems have been unsuccessful." - 2006 press release from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

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Supercommittee: Follow the Money

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Fri, 11/04/2011 - 21:15

There are tons of ideas out there to help out the Supercommittee decide which services to cut and revenues to raise. Their report is due on November 23 when we expect that Congress will get to have an up or down vote (that is, no amendments allowed) on their recommendations. Some of the ideas are better than others. The better ones look at the low hanging fruit: government subsidies of incredibly successful industries-especially the oil, gas, and mining companies. Here are a couple of the good ones.

Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to the Supercommittee describing fourteen separate oil, gas, and mining tax breaks or subsidies totaling $20 billion over ten years. Another letter, authored by Congressmen Welch (D-VT) and Blumenauer (D-OR), describes policies that would save $122 billion over ten years. Not a bad start, really. The Supercommittee is looking for around $1.2 trillion in cuts; the Welch/Blumenauer plan alone gets them better than 10% of the way there without having to look toward ending food stamps or Medicaid or closing our National Parks. 

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House Majority seeks to Mine the Grand Canyon

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Thu, 11/03/2011 - 22:54

Today, I attended a hearing of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. The subcommittee was considering four bills. Three of them had to do with establishing national monuments. The fourth (HR 3155), ironically, had to do with opening up one million acres of lands surrounding the Grand Canyon to uranium mining. Obviously, EARTHWORKS opposes mining around the Grand Canyon and we encourage you to join us.

On June 20, Secretary Salazar chose to remove 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from mining development for twenty years. This proposed withdrawal had been in the works for a couple years and underwent extensive study and public comment. A final decision on this withdrawal may occur as soon as the end of this month. HR 3155 would abruptly end the Administration’s decision-making process and instead open the door to an estimated thirty uranium mines in the area.

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Deals with the Devil, Pennsylvania style

EarthWorks Earth Blog - Wed, 11/02/2011 - 02:49

Over the weekend, I blogged on efforts in the Pennsylvania Senate to make a devil's bargain through a bill that would establish an impact fee on gas drillers--but greatly restrict the rights of municipalities to take measures (like zoning) to protect communities from the damage caused by drilling. Thanks to widespread push-back, including from the PA Campaign for Clean Water, the Senate has postponed the vote.

But today, the House declared its own willingness to sell the souls of Pennsylvania's communties for some quick revenue--introducing a bill that would strip local governments of any say over any aspect of drilling. Apparently House leaders are far more willing to take orders directly from Governor Corbett, who is so committed to doing away with any "restrictions" on gas development--say, protection of health, air and water quality, and communities--that he's even ignoring some recommendations from his own Advisory Commission.

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