Short public comment window ends January 15
On November 15, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), released its proposed regulations for fracking and other types of well stimulation, as stipulated by SB4. The regulations are the first in California to regulate fracking and acidizing.
Photo by Tim Evanson
Although hailed by regulators and the oil industry as the toughest regulations in the country, they are not. Far from perfect, the regs leave much to be desired in the way of public health and environmental protection.
The proposed regulations do have some steps that move California in the right direction. For example, they:
- Require a permit for the first time in California.
- Mandates disclosure of all chemicals used in the fracking and acidizing process. If a trade secret exemption is claimed, the information will still be available to state officials, emergency responders, and health professionals.
- Require a notice that a fracking job will occur to all property owners and tenant 30 days prior to the start of the project.
- Provides water monitoring, before and after the project, to be paid for by the operator of the well.
- Require well operators to report any seismic events that measure 2.0 magnitude or above.
Unfortunately, the proposed regulations are also loaded with giveaways for the oil industry. In many aspects, it seems that DOGGR has done the minimum required by SB4, and ignores the needs of the environment, and the rights of the Californians. Additionally, the regulations fail to address some of the most pressing concerns that will come from fracking and acidizing Decreased air quality, and increased greenhouse emissions from climate change.
Regulations based on science, that put the needs of Californians above those of corporate profits, will help protect people and the environment. The proposed regulations do not do this, and have written in ways that circumvent existing California law. For example:
Definitions, as written, regarding well stimulation, particularly acidizing, do not conform to accepted definitions used in previous reports, research, and data. DOGGR seems to be attempting to redefine the procedures so regulations don’t apply to some types of well stimulation.…more
Naval training exercises threaten local communities and environment
The United States military assumed control the Mariana Islands during World War II and has been waging war on the environment there ever since. Recent proposals to expand the range for Navy training exercises in this archipelago in the northwestern Pacific Ocean represent the latest frontier in this battle, and could be devastating to local communities as well as wildlife.
Photo by SSgt. B. Zimmerman/Wikimedia Common
By many accounts, military trainings have already had a tremendous impact on the region that’s composed of two US jurisdictions — the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the territory of Guam. Military bombing exercises have destroyed much of at least one island — Farallon de Medinilla — and naval exercises have impacted large tracts of open ocean.
In 2010, the Navy training range in the region was expanded to encompass roughly 500,000 square nautical miles of ocean. “Right now, it is the largest range in [Department of Defense’s] inventory,” says Leevin Camacho, a member of We are Guåhan, a cultural and environmental justice advocacy group in Guam.
The Navy still wants more, and is now asking to nearly double the training range, extending it to 984,469 square nautical miles. It has named this expansion — which is part of the “Pacific Pivot,” a strategy aimed at shifting the US military’s focus to the Asia-Pacific region — the “Mariana Island Training and Testing” (MITT) area.
“[The expanded area] would be larger than Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Montana and New Mexico combined,” Camacho says.
“The Navy’s whole approach to the Marianas is shoot first and ask questions later,” says Michal Jasny, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We know very little about the populations of whales, dolphins, and other marine life around the Marianas. Yet the navy is proceeding with a massive militarization of the islands and surrounding waters. It is grossly irresponsible to proceed in this way.”
What we do know doesn’t bode well. “We know marine mammals depend on hearing to find mates, to find food, to avoid predators, to situate themselves in the ocean — in short, for virtually everything they need to do to survive and reproduce in the wild,” explains …more
Environment and development groups protest at slow speed and lack of ambition at Warsaw negotiations
Environment and development groups together with young people, trade unions and social movements walked out of the UN climate talks on Thursday in protest at what they say is the slow speed and lack of ambition of the negotiations in Warsaw.
Photo courtesy 350.org
Wearing T-shirts reading "Volverermos" (We will return), around 800 people from organizations including Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, the Confederation and ActionAid, handed back their registration badges to the UN and left Poland's national stadium, where the talks are being held.
"Movements representing people from every corner of the Earth have decided that the best use of our time is to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate talks. This will be the first time ever that there has been a mass withdrawal from a COP," said a WWF spokesman.
"Warsaw, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. We feel that governments have given up on the process," he said.
Frustration with the climate talks has grown in the past two years but progress in this year's conference of the parties (COP) has seen negotiations deadlocked in technical areas, and rich and poor countries at loggerheads over compensation and money. Anger has also mounted over the perceived closeness of governments to industrial lobbies, and because several developed countries have reneged on their commitments to cut emissions.
"The Polish government has done its best to turn these talks into a showcase for the coal industry. Along with backsliding by Japan, Australia and Canada, and the lack of meaningful leadership from other countries, governments here have delivered a slap in the face to those suffering as a result of dangerous climate change," said Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International.
Hoda Baraka, global communications director for 350.org, said they were walking out because lobbying from fossil fuel companies was impeding progress at the talks.
"It has become quite flagrantly obvious that progress to reach any legally binding climate treaty is being obstructed by the lobbying forces of the fossil fuel industry. As we can see from this COP, …more
UK, US, and Norway to fund drive to save world's forests and encourage sustainable agriculture to cut deforestation
A new $280m initiative to help save the world's remaining forests was launched by the UK, the US and Norway at the United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw on Wednesday.
Deforested area in BhutanWorld Bank
The money is aimed at encouraging the sustainable use of land, including ensuring that fewer forests are lost to agriculture – the biggest cause of deforestation – and that there is a market for sustainably produced forestry goods, including food, fibre and timber.
Norway is earmarking up to $135m, the UK $120 million and the US $25m for the first year.
But the contributors to the fund acknowledged that the money was not new, as it came from existing climate aid budgets. The plan, called BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, is aimed at kickstarting the REDD+ scheme, for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which has been in the works for more than six years but is still not fully operational. The World Bank will be involved in its implementation.
Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate change secretary, told the conference: "Our global forests are the lungs of the world, and protecting them is fundamental for our survival. When we hand these forests to future generations, we must be able to say we exercised our stewardship wisely and responsibly. This century, tree-cover the size of Greenland has been destroyed by logging, fire, disease and storms. We have the opportunity now to pull forests back from the brink – reducing emissions and safeguarding the wildlife, agriculture and other livelihoods that depend on the forests. We must not let that opportunity pass us by."
John Kerry, US secretary of state, speaking by video link, said: [This is a] critical new tool to help us meet our responsibilities to future generations. It will help countries make progress on sustainable land use practices. The United States stands with willing partners in the fight against global climate change and I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure a more secure future, not only forested countries but for the entire …more
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Oil giant pursues a “scorched earth” campaign against its most dogged critic
Steven Donziger is getting smashed into the concrete like a spent cigarette butt.
Since Donziger is a lawyer — and lawyers aren’t always the most sympathetic of characters — you might be excused for not caring too much about his fate. There are other things to worry about, after all: accelerating climate change, the people suffering in the Philippines, the mass extinction of plants and animals. But if you care about the health of the planet, you should pay attention to Donziger’s plight, because it’s a test of whether and how citizens will be able to use the law to hold corporations accountable for their behavior.
The attempted crushing of Steven Donziger comes courtesy of Chevron, one of largest oil companies in the world. For 20 years, Donzinger and Chevron have been locked in a sort of legal cage fight that has leapt from courtrooms in New York City to the remote forests of the Ecuadorian Amazon and back again. For most of that time, Donzinger was the pursuer as he sought to compel Chevron to pay for the cleanup of an oil spill in the jungle and damages to nearby communities. Now the script has been flipped, and Donzinger is the one under trial as Chevron accuses the plaintiff attorney of waging a “campaign of deceit and distortion.”
As you can already tell, the litigation in this matter is byzantine, so I’ll try to keep the background to the basics. Between 1964 and 1990, the oil company Texaco and the state-owned Petroecuador dumped billions of gallons of toxic wastewater and millions of gallons of crude oil into the jungles around the town of Lago Agrio. In 1993, lawyers in the US (soon joined by a young Donziger, fresh out of Harvard Law School) brought a suit against Texaco in US court. When Chevron bought Texaco in 2001, the California-based oil giant became the defendant. Chevron continued Texaco’s legal strategy of trying to get the case moved to Ecuador, and in 2003 the dispute was taken up by a court in Quito.
Agri-biotech companies will now have to disclose pesticide use details and GMO field locations on island
After a tense, two-day delay, the Kauai County Council finally voted 5-2 on Saturday to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of a bill that seeks to regulate the biotech industry on the Hawai‘ian island. A tumultuous month after the council initially approved it, Bill 2491 is finally law.
Photo by Pesticides on Kauai
The new law, which will go into effect in August 2014, requires agricultural companies and large farms to disclose the type and volume of restricted-use pesticides they are spraying, and the location of the fields being sprayed. It also requires them to disclose genetically modified crop field locations and set up buffer zones between those fields and public spaces like schools, hospitals, and parks. Companies have to notify the public before spraying pesticides. Failure to comply will be punishable by fines and jail sentences. The bill also requires the county to investigate the impact of these pesticides on local residents and the environment.
The proposed legislation primarily affects the four big biotech companies that have operations in Kauai — Dow, Syngenta, BASF, and DuPont-Pioneer — which are among the largest employers on the island.
That the bill managed to make it through, despite the roller coaster of challenges it has faced over the past few months, is a miracle of sorts for its supporters. In fact, if not for some creative last-minute maneuvering by pro-bill councilmembers, the bill would have died on Thursday — the initial day the council was to vote to override the mayor’s veto. (Read my earlier report leading up to the Thursday vote.)
In what supporters call a last-ditch effort to derail the bill, a day before the initial veto vote on Thursday, Hawai‘i state officials announced a new program via which companies could voluntarily build buffer zones and disclose information about pesticide use. The program doesn’t give the county any enforcement powers, nor does it outline any penalty for non-compliance.
On Thursday, about 100 people testified before the council mostly in support of the bill. Speakers included several residents from the west side of the island — where most of the biotech companies have their fields — who spoke movingly about a their health issues, such as …more