Fracking the American Dream: Drilling Decreases Property Value | EcoWatch

NAShaleBedsDrilling conflicts are almost always described in the context of their impacts on air, water and health. But increasingly, as the drilling boom sweeps the country, another part of the drilling story is starting to bubble up in drilling hotspots like Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, Wyoming and Texas.

Increasingly, oil and gas development is butting up against, and often trampling, the bedrock American principles of property rights and the value of one’s home. The map below shows all the shale gas in play in North America.

Industry estimates peg the number new wells that will be drilled across the U.S. over the next decade at more than 200,000. In this rush to tap once unreachable deposits, oil and gas development is pushing the boundaries of drilling. Innovations like fracking and horizontal drilling mean nothing is out of reach. Once the province of wide open spaces, drilling rigs now regularly inch up and even into communities that never anticipated having to address problems like round-the-clock noise, storage tanks, drums of toxic chemicals, noxious fumes, and pipelines near homes, schools, playgrounds and parks.

This clash of large-scale industrial activity and communities has surfaced a deep rift in the American landscape, where the legal doctrine of split estates allows one party to own mineral rights and someone else to hold the rights to soil and surface. With the oil and gas industry showing little self-restraint in where drilling happens, and almost no regulatory or legal precedents to protect them from having industrial activity in their back yards, communities are fighting back. Increased truck traffic, chemicals, lights, noise, heavy equipment, noxious air emissions and water contamination are liabilities for landowners, to the point that communities in Colorado, New York and other states have taken matters into their own hands.

Feeling unprotected by weak state and oil and gas regulations—most of which were developed never contemplating drilling in urban and suburban landscapes—towns, cities and counties are instituting moratoria and bans on drilling within their borders. There are fracking-related ballot measures in at least four Colorado communities this year.

But it’s not just “not-in-my-back-yard”-ism driving this reactive opposition. The financial risks posed by drilling are real and substantial enough, for example, that banks and insurers are adopting guidelines that forbid mortgage loans or insurance coverage on properties affected by drilling. It’s a battle between oil and gas and the nest egg of countless Americans.

The following examples begin to piece together the ways in which the threats posed by drilling and the deep pockets of the oil and gas industry quite literally hit home. Taken together, they are a call for decision-makers to start quantifying data and asking tough questions about drilling vs. the American Dream. Read more…

Source: EcoWatch

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Pesticide Companies Sue EU Commission for Protecting Pollinators | EcoWatch

CourtsandMoneyOn Nov. 6 BASF, a German agrochemical company, took legal action in the General Court of the European Union (EU) to challenge the EU Commission’s decision to restrict seed treatment uses of the insecticide fipronil. BASF joins chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta in challenging the EU’s decision to restrict the use of certain pesticides that are harmful to pollinators.

The EU Commission’s decision to restrict the use of fipronil in July came after the Commission’s landmark decision announcing a two-year continent-wide ban on the neonicotinoid pesticides clothianidinimidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The pesticides have been linked to the decline in bee populations. Twenty-three European Union Member States supported the fipronil restriction, two Member States voted against and three Member States abstained during the standing committee vote. BASF argued that its legal action against the EU is based on a disproportionate application of the precautionary principle. However, overwhelming scientific evidence supports the position that fipronil is highly toxic to bees.

Fipronil, a phenyl pyrazole broad-spectrum insecticide, was first introduced in the U.S. in 1996 for commercial turf and indoor pest control and is highly toxic to bees. A recent investigation reveals that fipronil is responsible for the death of  thousands of bees in Minnesota. Fipronil also has been shown to reduce behavioral function and learning performances in honey bees. A 2011 French study reported that newly emerged honey bees exposed to low doses of fipronil and thiacloprid succumbed more readily to the parasite Nosema ceranae compared to healthy bees, supporting the hypothesis that the synergistic combination of parasitic infection and high pesticide exposures in beehives may contribute to colony decline.

Fipronil is also harmful to humans and has been linked to hormone disruption, thyroid cancer, neurotoxicity and reproductive effects in mammals. Recently, a federal grand jury in Macon, GA, alleged that a pest company wrongly applied fipronil in multiple nursing homes in Georgia.

beeBy challenging the EU commission’s decision to ban pesticides that are suspected to be harmful to bee health, BASF joins Bayer and Sygenta, which are also challenging the new restrictions. This past August, Syngenta filed a legal challenge to the European Union’s suspension of one of its insecticides, thiamethoxan. In a press release, Syngenta claims that the European Commission made its decision on the basis of a flawed process.

Bayer Crop Science filed a similar legal challenge with the Court of Justice of the European Union in mid-August. Bayer claims that its pesticides, imidacloprid and clothianidin, have been on the market for many years and have been extensively tested and approved. According to EU guidelines, approved products can only be banned if there is new evidence of their negative effects, Bayer Crop Science said. These actions taken by the agrochemical industry that challenge the ban on neonicotinoids ignore the increasing body of new science that documents neonicotinoid toxicity to bees and other pollinators.

As Europe has moved toward creating stronger regulations designed to protect declining bee health, the U.S. has remained woefully behind. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged that current pesticide labels do not adequately protect honey bees and announced new label language to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides when bees are present. The new labels will also include a “bee advisory box” and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. However, beekeepers and environmental groups question the efficacy and enforceability of the new label changes in curtailing systemic pesticides that result in long-term residues in the environment, contaminating nectar and pollen, and poisoning wild bees that the EPA seems to ignore in its decision-making process.

Due to the absence of strong regulatory safeguards for pollinators in the U.S., it is important for the public to become engaged in pollinator protection. Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign supports a shift away from the use of these toxic chemicals by encouraging organic methods and sustainable land management practices in your home, campus, or community and in food production.

Source: EcoWatch

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought | Quartz

By Todd Woody

beeinsectideAs we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.

Source: Quartz

Carbon Offsets Could Create Loophole for Industry to Pollute as Usual | EcoWatch

LoggingBy Maureen Nandini Mitra and Michael Stoll

One hot day this spring John Buckley scrambled up a dusty slope of a patch of deforested land in the middle of California’s Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada, five miles west of Yosemite National Park, and surveyed the bleak landscape: 20 acres of blackened tree stumps and the shriveled remains of undergrowth. On neighboring ridges, similar brown expanses dotted the green forest canopy. “This,” he said, spreading his arms wide, “is resource management.”

The denuded clearing is on a tract of private forestland owned by timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries that is close to being approved as a sort of carbon bank under California’s new cap-and-trade scheme. It will soon grow into a plantation of mostly Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and cedar.

Based on calculations of how much carbon the new and old trees in this forest area will remove from the atmosphere, the timber giant will soon be able to sell carbon credits, which regulators call “offsets,” to the largest California polluters so they can compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions. Looking to make a profit from their environmental practices, companies in forestry and other industries are rushing to meet the demand.

Buckley, an environmental activist from Tuolumne County, is dismayed that projects like these—that involve clearing out old, diverse forests and replanting the area with a handful of quick-growing timber varieties—are being considered as a means to enable California industries to emit more pollutants into the air.

Many environmentalists say that because it is notoriously difficult to prove that such projects actually reduce the state’s overall carbon footprint, California should proceed slowly in approving a vast expansion of the cap-and-trade market.

The plan is to start the Compliance Offset Program this summer. Sellers include some of the largest forestland owners in the U.S., dairy farms and companies that neutralize greenhouse effect-producing refrigerants. The program might also expand to other activities, such as methane capture from mining and rice farming.

Proponents say that by providing incentives to voluntarily reduce emissions and use new technology, the offset program could help California meet its legal requirement, set in 2006, to reduce its carbon footprint from all sources by about 16 percent by 2020, and even more in later years.

But critics call offsets a loophole that could undermine an effective cap-and-trade system. They say pledges of reductions that are not required by law often cannot be considered real, since companies might have made them anyway without the extra money from selling offsets. Left unchecked, the critics warn, poorly measured offsets could lead to an overall increase in California’s emissions. Read more…

Source: Earth Island Journal & EcoWatch

9th Circuit Court rules visitors to national forest don’t have to pay a fee | Pasadena Star News

By Steve Scauzillo

In a decision that could bring an end to the national Adventure Pass program, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Forest Service cannot charge for hiking, walking, picnicking or visiting undeveloped areas of national forest land.

In the unanimous ruling released Feb. 9 in favor of four hikers who objected to paying a fee to visit the forest, Judge Robert Gettleman wrote: “Everyone is entitled to enter national forests without paying a cent.”

The case involved four plaintiffs who objected to paying a fee to the U.S. Forest Service for visiting Mount Lemmon within the Coronado National Forest in Arizona. The court reversed a district court ruling, saying the federal authorities violated the 2004 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA).

While it remained unclear Wednesday if the ruling spells the end of the Adventure Pass program in the nearby Angeles National Forest, local activists and others involved in the long-standing battle against the fee program say it will be very difficult to charge folks who enter the sprawling forest, which forms the northern border of the San Gabriel Valley. Under the fee program, it costs $5 a day or $30 annually to enter many parts of the forest.

“This is the best news I have heard in years,” said Bob Bartsch, 72, of Pasadena. Bartsch, who still hikes the 10-mile roundtrip up to Henninger Flats and back, has been fighting the Adventure Pass program since it began in 1997.

“I don’t have anything officially on that at this time,” said Sherry Rollman, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service in Arcadia. “It happened in another state and we haven’t assessed it yet.”

The strongly worded, 15-page decision says any member of the public who walks, hikes, rides a horse, picnics on the side of a road, camps at undeveloped sites, even parks in a national forest “without using facilities and services” is allowed to do so without being charged. Charging a fee, such as the Adventure Pass, even for someone who visits an area with amenities but doesn’t use them, violates the FLREA, according to the decision. Read more…

Oil Disaster Will Be End of Life As We Know It | InfoWars

This is it. It’s over. Get ready for the most insane year of your life. 5 years. 10 years. One day you will look back at your life right now and think about how easy it was, how innocent. We are on the cusp of total collapse, right at the precipice.

If you’re like most people you probably have already decided that I am exaggerating without knowing why I am saying this. Well let me make it clear that I also wish I was exaggerating. I don’t sell survival equipment or gold. My job is not recession proof. I have a family. I didn’t wake up today and randomly decide to declare that this is the end of life as we know it. But I do research. I make calls and tune into radio, scouring the internet for news clips and analysis. I make a concerted effort to only quote trustworthy sources. The information that has emerged over the past few days confirms fears that this is actually an “Armageddon” event. I am being completely serious.

The oil, spewing out at 20,000 to 70,000 psi, and the sediment within it has eroded the very walls of the well itself in several areas. This means that this is now an uncontainable gusher that is literally spewing oil up from dozens of sites across the gulf floor. The massive oil pocket tapped under immense pressure is now spewing out into the seabed. Capping the well does nothing.

The oil pocket is tapped, the pipe is eroded and the oil is now spewing up to the ocean floor with intense pressure. Plumes are being generated everywhere. They cannot stop this. Human technology cannot contain a liquid at that pressure, especially at that depth under the ocean. We simply do not have the technology or know-how to fix this. We don’t. The relief wells are essentially useless now because the original well cannot be plugged so oil will always flow out of it regardless of how many other wells they dig.

They needed to get into the pipe, fill the old pipe with mud and cement and then divert the oil into the new well. But because the tapped oil pocket is sand blasting itself routes to the surface that grow each day in diameter due to the eroding walls and passageways, there is no “well” to fill. That is because whats left of the well is already dissolving. And each day that passes until they drill their so-called “relief wells” will only see the oil finding new routes through the escapes it has carved through erosion of the pipes and rock. Thad Allen, the head of the US Coast Guard, has said that the oil isn’t all flowing up the pipe anymore but is now “in communication” with the seabed and the surrounding soft rock formation. It is now blasting its own wells.

Ya, that’s bad, but that isn’t even the scary part. Hydrogen Sulfide, Benzene, Methylene Chloride, and other toxic gases are also spewing out along with the oil. In concentrations hundreds and thousands of times greater than what is considered safe for humans. Lethal levels. When the hurricanes come they will absorb this toxic seawater and drop it as rain. Literally toxic rain. Let me guess, toxic rain doesn’t scare you. The biggest threat is already actualized with the chemicals entering the atmosphere and being carried around by the wind.

“The media coverage of the BP oil disaster to date has focused largely on the threats to wildlife, but the latest evaluation of air monitoring data shows a serious threat to human health from airborne chemicals emitted by the ongoing deepwater gusher,” the Institute for Southern Studies blog reported on May 10.

Any one of these chemicals in these concentrations would be lethal. Mixed together it’s truly unthinkable.

The fragile US economy, in the midst of a feeble attempt at a jobless recovery, overstretched by war and out of control spending is not equipped to handle a disaster of this magnitude. No country in the world could. Remember how well they handled the Katrina thing? This makes Katrina look like a grade school fire drill. Well I wonder how well they will do this time as they prepare to evacuate entire cities and states. See this and this. Once the evacuations begin the markets will tank. Once people are forced to grasp what is happening around them the global economy will come to a screeching halt as it’s engine, the USA, sinks into the throes of the worst environmental disaster in the history of the world. This will cause a dollar confidence crisis. Enraged citizens will riot and loot with no hope of a decent life ahead of them. Martial law will be declared.

They have no way to stop this, only a theory that maybe a nuke would implode the oil pocket. Ya, we’re talking about nuking the earths crust under the ocean. Eventually the oil will make it’s way around the world as the entire oil deposit is unleashed into the ocean.

Are you buying the crap coming from BP? The bogus press releases and the downplayed assessments? They’ve been lying through their teeth, censoring the media and destroying evidence. If you trust them, you have some problems.

Source: InfoWars