Category: Government Corruption


No Fracking Way in NC

Opponents to Fracking Disclosure Take Big Money From Industry

by Abrahm Lustgarten | ProPublica, Jan. 14, 2011, 2:46 p.m.

5:28 p.m.: This post has been corrected [1].

Congress isn’t going to regulate hydraulic fracturing any time soon. But the Department of Interior might. [2] For starters, Interior is mulling whether it should require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells drilled on public lands, and already the suggestion has earned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar an earful.

On January 5, a bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress, who belong to the Natural Gas Caucus, sent Salazar a letter imploring [3] him to resist a hasty decision because more regulations would increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector, and hinder our nation2019s ability to become more energy independent.

A week later, 46 House Democrats followed up by signing a letter to Salazar [4] urging him to at least adopt the disclosure requirement because, as Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said, communities across America have seen their water contaminated by the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

“The public has a right to know what toxins might be going into the ground near their communities, and what might be leaking into their drinking water,” said the letter [4], which was sent by the three initial sponsors of now-stalled legislation to regulate fracturing, Hinchey, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

In the context of todays roiling political and energy debates, its not at all clear who will win. But if money is an indicator, the anti-regulatory group has the upper hand.

A back-of-the-envelope analysis of campaign finance dollars contributed to the members of Congress who are speaking out on the issue shows that the Natural Gas Caucus received 19 times more money from the oil and gas industry between 2009 and 2010 [5] than the group who signed Rep. Hinchey’s letter. According to data from Open Secrets, the 32 members against disclosure received $1,742,572. The average contribution from the oil and gas sector to individuals from that group was $54,455. Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren, who co-chairs the caucus, personally received more than $202,000, including almost $15,000 from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest natural gas producers in the United States.

By comparison, the Hinchey-DeGette-Polis group which has 14 more people than the Natural Gas Caucus received $91,212 from the industry [6]. The average contribution to those members was $1,982, 1/27th the amount donated to members of the Natural Gas Caucus.

Requiring disclosure of the chemicals used to drill on federal lands would affect only a small proportion of gas wells drilled in the country each year roughly 11 percent, by the Department of Interior’s estimates. In 2009, 19,000 new gas wells were drilled, adding to the 493,000 gas wells already producing in the United States. According to Hinchey’s office, disclosure on federal lands would set an important precedent, because that information would become part of the public record and, when combined with state-based disclosure rules, would provide a great deal of useful information for those concerned with the risks these chemicals may pose.

Traditionally, the exact recipes of chemicals used in the fracturing process have been kept secret by the companies to protect their competitive advantage, and the fracturing process itself is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The disclosure issue has become a rallying point against natural gas development in the United States because scientists have repeatedly said that they can’t thoroughly examine water contamination cases for links to drilling because they don’t know what to test for.

At least four states have already mandated some degree of disclosure of fracking chemicals: Wyoming, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado. If federal lands are added to those states, then public disclosure of fracking chemicals would be required on roughly 40 percent of the gas wells in the United States. (It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage because federal statistics don’t distinguish between oil and gas wells.)

The resistance to disclosure mandates on federal lands contradicts the public position of many of the oil and gas companies involved. Chesapeake Energy, the company that contributed so heavily to Rep. Boren, has repeatedly stated that it supports more transparency and believes the chemicals used in fracturing should be disclosed.

Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

Correction: The original version of this story represented a statement made by Rep. Maurice Hinchey about the letter he sent to the Department of Interior as a quotation from the letter itself. The story has been revised to make the distinction between his statement, and the letter.

Campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, 2009-2010

Source: Open Secrets [7]

To the: Natural Gas Caucus

Tim Murphy (R-PA)Co-Chair, Natural Gas Caucus $202,500
Dan Boren (D-OK)Co-Chair, Natural Gas Caucus $96,350
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) $57,500
Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) $0
John Shadegg (R-AZ) $12,400
Lee Terry (R-NE) $52,650
Dan Burton (R-IN) $2,600
Frank Lucas (R-OK) $48,350
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)     $19,500
Jim Costa (D-CA) $59,900
Christopher Lee (R-NY) $16,650
Jason Altmire (D-PA) $10,450
Kevin Brady (R-TX) $91,400
John Fleming (R-LA) $121,650
John Sullivan (R-OK) $124,800
Bill Shuster (R-PA) $25,000
Sue Myrick (R-NC) $21,000
Rob Bishop (R-UT) $17,750
Glenn Thompson (R-PA) $55,072
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) $89,550
Mark Critz (D-PA) $0
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) $7,000
Thaddeus McCotter(R-MI) $3,000
Denny Rehberg (R-MT) $35,550
Mike Conaway (R-TX) $132,100
Tom Cole (R-OK) $80,500
Gene Green (D-TX) $83,600
Wally Herger (R-CA) $7,000
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) $49,900
Mike Coffman (R-CO) $44,250
Ralph Hall (R-TX) $48,750
Mike Ross (D-AR) $125,850
Total $1,742,572

Campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, 2009-2010

Source: Open Secrets [7]

To the: Hinchey-DeGette-Polis group

Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) $0
Diana DeGette (D-CO) $2,750
Jared Polis (D-CO) $0
Gary Ackerman (D-NY) $5,800
Barbara Lee (D-CA) $3,250
Howard L. Berman (D-CA) $0
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) $6,062
Lois Capps (D-CA) $0
William Lacy Clay (D-MO) $0
Steve Cohen (D-TN) $0
Gerald Connolly (D-VA) $4,500
Keith Ellison (D-MN) $1,750
Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) $0
Sam Farr (D-CA) $0
Barney Frank (D-MA) $0
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) $2,500
Mazie Hirono (D-HI) $4,000
Rush D. Holt (D-NJ) $0
Michael M. Honda (D-CA) $1,000
Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) $0
James R. Langevin (D-RI) $0
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) $2,500
Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) $7,700
Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) $9,500
Betty McCollum (D-MN) $0
Mike Thompson (D-MS) $5,250
James P. Moran (D-VA) $1,500
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) $15,100
John W. Olver (D-MA) $3,000
William L. Owens (D-NY) $0
John P. Sarbanes (D-MD) $4,050
Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL) $0
Jose Serrano (D-NY) $0
Jackie Speier (D-CA) $0
Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA) $0
Paul Tonko (D-NY) $4,000
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) $6,000
Lynn C. Woolsey (D-CA) $0
Mike Quigley (D-IL) $0
Chellie Pingree (D-ME) $0
Jay Inslee (D-WA) $0
Bob Filner (D-CA) $0
Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) $0
Donna F. Edwards (D-TX) $1,000
Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ) $0
Adam Smith (D-WA) $0
Total $91,212

Read the complete article here

Source: by Jennifer Mueller | Causes

This weekend 60 Minutes aired an investigative story about the dangers of a largely-unregulated method of extracting natural gas from shale miles below the Earth’s surface – known as “fracking” – and the dangers it poses to drinking water, our health, and the environment.

If the BP spill taught us anything, it’s that exploring for energy has safety risks, but that can get lost in all the excitement,” begins Lesley Stahl of CBS’s “60 minutes” in her segment. Stahl explores the controversies surrounding this new drilling method, from the undisclosed toxic chemicals pumped into the ground to the extract the gas to the safety record of the industry. It’s not pretty.

Take Action: Support a repeal of the natural gas industry exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Secrecy and Toxins in Shale-Gas Extraction
“The industry doesn’t have to disclose what’s in the tens of thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals they use when they fracture the shale because of the so-called ‘Halliburton loophole’,” explained Stahl.

“The 2005 energy bill completely exempted the natural gas industry and fracking technology under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It’s an outrage!” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “The first thing the industry should do is disclose what chemicals are being used in fracking and then limit the toxic chemicals to the point of zero,” urged Brune.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just begun to study the effect of fracking chemicals on groundwater. They have requested that the major natural gas companies disclose their fracking fluid formulas; all but Halliburton complied. So last week, EPA was forced to subpoena the information.

Related Reading: 9 Out of 10 Natural Gas Wells Use Unregulated, Polluting Drilling Method

Take Action: The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act
Very simply, S.1215 and H.R. 2766, The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, would repeal the industry’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Use this Sierra Club online action form email your member of Congress in support of the bill.

Sources: NOW ON PBS | GASLAND

Will the boom in natural gas drilling contaminate America’s water supply? NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about ‘Gasland’, his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling.

In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a “lesser-of-evils”. While it does release some greenhouse gases, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply—parts of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth. But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called “fracking”, raises concerns about health and environmental risks.

This week, NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about “Gasland”, his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox’s film—inspired when the gas company came to his hometown—alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps.

Watch Out: The World Bank Is Quietly Funding a Massive Corporate Water Grab

Source: By Scott Thill | AlterNet
Posted on November 2, 2010, Printed on November 3, 2010
 

Billions have been spent allowing corporations to profit from public water sources even though water privatization has been an epic failure in Latin America, Southeast Asia, North America, Africa and everywhere else it’s been tried. But don’t tell that to controversial loan-sharks at the World Bank. Last month, its private-sector funding arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) quietly dropped a cool 100 million euros ($139 million US) on Veolia Voda, the Eastern European subsidiary of Veolia, the world’s largest private water corporation. Its latest target? Privatization of Eastern Europe’s water resources.

“Veolia has made it clear that their business model is based on maximizing profits, not long-term investment,” Joby Gelbspan, senior program coordinator for private-sector watchdog Corporate Accountability International, told AlterNet. “Both the World Bank and the transnational water companies like Veolia have clearly acknowledged they don’t want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve water access in Eastern Europe. That’s why this 100 million euro investment in Veolia Voda by the World Bank’s private investment arm over the summer is so alarming. It’s further evidence that the World Bank remains committed to water privatization, despite all evidence that this approach will not solve the world’s water crisis.”

All the evidence Veolia needs that water grabs are doomed exercises can be found in its birthplace of France, more popularly known as the heartland of water privatization. In June, the municipal administration of Paris reclaimed the City of Light’s water services from both of its homegrown multinationals Veolia and Suez, after a torrent of controversy. That’s just one of 40 re-municipilazations in France alone, which can be added to those in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and more in hopes of painting a not-so-pretty picture: Water privatization is ultimately both a horrific concept and a failed project.

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Source: By Silvia Ribeiro La Jornada | Pravda

A report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation (Blackwater’s Black Ops, 9/15/2010) revealed that the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (now called Xe Services) clandestine intelligence services was sold to the multinational Monsanto. Blackwater was renamed in 2009 after becoming famous in the world with numerous reports of abuses in Iraq, including massacres of civilians. It remains the largest private contractor of the U.S. Department of State “security services,” that practices state terrorism by giving the government the opportunity to deny it.

Many military and former CIA officers work for Blackwater or related companies created to divert attention from their bad reputation and make more profit selling their nefarious services-ranging from information and intelligence to infiltration, political lobbying and paramilitary training – for other governments, banks and multinational corporations. According to Scahill, business with multinationals, like Monsanto, Chevron, and financial giants such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank, are channeled through two companies owned by Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater: Total Intelligence Solutions and Terrorism Research Center. These officers and directors share Blackwater.

One of them, Cofer Black, known for his brutality as one of the directors of the CIA, was the one who made contact with Monsanto in 2008 as director of Total Intelligence, entering into the contract with the company to spy on and infiltrate organizations of animal rights activists, anti-GM and other dirty activities of the biotech giant.
Contacted by Scahill, the Monsanto executive Kevin Wilson declined to comment, but later confirmed to The Nation that they had hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and 2009, according to Monsanto only to keep track of “public disclosure” of its opponents. He also said that Total Intelligence was a “totally separate entity from Blackwater”.

However, Scahill has copies of emails from Cofer Black after the meeting with Wilson for Monsanto, where he explains to other former CIA agents, using their Blackwater e-mails, that the discussion with Wilson was that Total Intelligence had become “Monsanto’s intelligence arm,” spying on activists and other actions, including “our people to legally integrate these groups.” Total Intelligence Monsanto paid $ 127,000 in 2008 and $ 105,000 in 2009.

No wonder that a company engaged in the “science of death” as Monsanto, which has been dedicated from the outset to produce toxic poisons spilling from Agent Orange to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, hormones and genetically modified seeds, is associated with another company of thugs. Almost simultaneously with the publication of this article in The Nation, the Via Campesina reported the purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than $23 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which with this action completed the outing of the mask of “philanthropy.” Another association that is not surprising.

It is a marriage between the two most brutal monopolies in the history of industrialism: Bill Gates controls more than 90 percent of the market share of proprietary computing and Monsanto about 90 percent of the global transgenic seed market and most global commercial seed. There does not exist in any other industrial sector monopolies so vast, whose very existence is a negation of the vaunted principle of “market competition” of capitalism. Both Gates and Monsanto are very aggressive in defending their ill-gotten monopolies.

Although Bill Gates might try to say that the Foundation is not linked to his business, all it proves is the opposite: most of their donations end up favoring the commercial investments of the tycoon, not really “donating” anything, but instead of paying taxes to the state coffers, he invests his profits in where it is favorable to him economically, including propaganda from their supposed good intentions. On the contrary, their “donations” finance projects as destructive as geoengineering or replacement of natural community medicines for high-tech patented medicines in the poorest areas of the world. What a coincidence, former Secretary of Health Julio Frenk and Ernesto Zedillo are advisers of the Foundation.

Like Monsanto, Gates is also engaged in trying to destroy rural farming worldwide, mainly through the “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa” (AGRA). It works as a Trojan horse to deprive poor African farmers of their traditional seeds, replacing them with the seeds of their companies first, finally by genetically modified (GM). To this end, the Foundation hired Robert Horsch in 2006, the director of Monsanto. Now Gates, airing major profits, went straight to the source.
Blackwater, Monsanto and Gates are three sides of the same figure: the war machine on the planet and most people who inhabit it, are peasants, indigenous communities, people who want to share information and knowledge or any other who does not want to be in the aegis of profit and the destructiveness of capitalism.

Source: Washington’s Blog

The FDA is close to approving genetically modified (gm) salmon. See this and this.

We know that at least some genetically modified foods may harm the environment. See this.

And serious questions have been raised about whether some gm foods might increase allergies or cause other health problems in humans and other organisms. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.
Indeed, as Mother Jones pointed out last week, gm salmon may itself increase allergies:

Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen called the company’s food safety tests “woefully incomplete,” and the group pointed out that the FDA approval panel is mostly comprised of GE [i.e. genetic engineering] cheerleaders, with no fish ecologists or allergists. Why’s an allergist important? Because the company’s own tests suggest that the new salmon could be much more allergenic than regular salmon.

In order to understand the allergy tests, a bit of backstory on how AquAdvantage salmon are made is necessary. First, genetic engineers create a “diploid” fish, meaning like people, it has two sets of chromosomes. Then, to make the final market product, they add genetic material from other fish and breed a new salmon with three sets of chromosomes—a “triploid” female that can’t reproduce. AquaBounty researchers compared the allergenicity—or potential to cause an allergic reaction—of a control group of salmon to both the genetically engineered diploids and triploids. They found (PDF, see page 102) that the diploid salmon were 40 percent more allergenic than the control, while the triploid group was 19 percent more allergenic.

AquaBounty says that the triploids’ allergenicity level wasn’t statistically significant, and although the diploids’ level is significant, it doesn’t matter because only triploids will be sold. But Hansen of the Consumers Union finds a few problems with this argument. For starters, the test wasn’t double blind, meaning the researchers knew which fish were part of which test group. Second, the sample size of triploid fish was tiny—only six fish in all. Third, although AquaBounty is going to try to turn all its market-bound fish into triploid sterile females, the process isn’t perfect, and some 5 percent could end up as the more allergenic diploid. Especially scary when you consider that unlike the triploids, the diploids aren’t sterile. So if they escaped, they could breed with wild salmon.

The FDA simply doesn’t have enough information to determine whether AquaBounty’s salmon are likely to cause more allergic reactions than their non-GE counterparts. But there is good reason to be concerned about the potential allergenicity of all GE foods, says Margaret Mellon, director of the scientist Union of Concerned Scientsts’ Food and Environment Program. “You have this technology that allows you to essentially move proteins around from food to food,” she says. “You can move a highly allergenic protein into a new food, and no one will know to avoid the new food.”

Indeed, a 1996 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who were allergic to Brazil nuts were also allergic to soy beans that had been implanted with a Brazil nut protein. There is also some evidence that even proteins don’t usually cause allergies can become allergenic when they are moved to a new food. A 2005 Australian study found that mice who were fed peas containing a typically non-allergenic protein from kidney beans experienced allergic reactions.

Another worry is that potentially allergenic GE crops might “escape” into foods. In the late ’90s, the pharmaceutical giant Aventis introduced StarLink, a genetically engineered variety of corn. StarLink was approved for sale in the US, but only for non-food uses, since it contained a potentially allergenic protein. But then, traces of it started turning up in food (most famously, Taco Bell taco shells), and 28 people claimed they had suffered allergic reactions to foods containing StarLink. Although the CDC later found no medical evidence that any of those people had an allergy to the corn, an EPA advisory panel acknowledged that the CDC’s tests did “not eliminate StarLink…protein as a potential cause of allergic symptoms.”

The bottom line: It’s not that genetically engineered foods are inherently more allergenic than traditional foods, but transfering genes does make it more likely that allergens might pop up in unexpected places. “There can be a lot of unintended side effects when you do genetic modification, which means you have to test very carefully,” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the watchdog group Food and Water Watch. “In the case of salmon, one test on six fish just seems very insufficient for something that will open the floodgates to other GE meat and fish.”
Allergic reactions can – in a small percentage of people – be more severe than just a sniffle or stomach ache. Some people die from allergic reactions.

At least genetically modified salmon will be labeled as such, so people can avoid it if they wish. Right?

Wrong.

As the Washington Post notes:

The FDA says it cannot require a label on the genetically modified food once it determines that the altered fish is not “materially” different from other salmon – something agency scientists have said is true.

Perhaps more surprising, conventional food makers say the FDA has made it difficult for them to boast that their products do not contain genetically modified ingredients.

Unfortunately, stifling the ability of producers of traditional foods to tell consumers they are not using an additive is nothing new. For example, Monsanto has sued milk producers who labeled their product as not containing growth hormone.

Similarly, Scientific American notes that gm seed producers control research, so that independent scientists can’t study the effects of gm:

Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops.

Liberals and conservatives, progressives and libertarians should all be up in arms about this.

We have a right to know what we’re eating.

Postscript: Farmed salmon contains less of the healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and more pollutants than wild salmon. See this and this. GM salmon will be farmed (unless it escapes into the ocean). So eating wild salmon may potentially be one way to avoid gm salmon, reduce exposure to pollutants, and increase healthy Omega 3s.

The reason that wild salmon has more Omega 3s than farmed salmon is that wild salmon eat Omega 3 rich foods. It is the same reason that grass-fed beef contains more Omega 3s than beef from cows fed corn, meat or other “modern” feeds. See this and this.

Eating Omega 3 rich foods can increase gray matter in adults and boost neurological development in children. Conversely, low dietary levels of Omega 3s in mothers can reduce their kids’ IQ.

This is not entirely surprising, given that (1) our brains are about 60% fat, and (2) leading nutritionists say that humans evolved to consume alot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so

This case has been on going for 5  years (Delay was indicted in 2005)!  If it was one of us common folk, we would all ready be sporting an orange jumpsuit, not to mention what it has cost the taxpayers.

Source: RawStory|AP

DeLay heads to Texas court in money laundering case, days after DOJ ends probe without charges.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is moving to the next round in his fight against criminal indictments in Texas, where he faces money laundering and conspiracy charges.

DeLay and two co-defendants were indicted in 2005 in connection with efforts to elect Republican state legislative candidates in 2002. Since then, pretrial arguments have been making their way through appellate courts.

On Tuesday, remaining questions to be decided before trial — such as whether to try the defendants separately and whether there was any prosecutorial misconduct — are before Senior Judge Pat Priest. No trial date has been set, and it wasn’t clear whether Priest would rule immediately on the issues before him.

DeLay’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, says the former district attorney who originally pursued the case against DeLay, Democrat Ronnie Earle, was motivated by politics.

Full article here

I just ran across this story by Maya Rodriguez  of  WWL4 – Eyewitness News  in Louisiana, that peaked my curiosity.

Did you catch the response from the chemist, who is a local environmental consultant?

Wilma Subra, a chemist who heads up a lab and environmental consulting firm in New Iberia, said the numbers she’s been analyzing give her pause.

“They’re there at a little over the levels that you would expect to start getting those health impacts,” Subra said. “So, that is of concern, that the people understand what is there and understand if they start getting the health impacts, they should take precautions to move out of the area.”

Those who should pay particular attention are the young, the elderly or those who already have underlying breathing problems. Experts said anyone experiencing symptoms of exposure to those chemicals, should see their doctor.

After watching the video, I decided to see if any Mainstream News Media had picked up the story. Guess what I found? The usual tone-deaf  blah, blah and more blah.

So for the record here’s what the Environmental Protection Agency has to say on the subject:

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