Category: History


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.

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Every once in a while a dialogue comes through (via comments) on a post that is worthy of further debate. Below is just the kind of dialogue I’m refering to. I hope you will agree.

 

Plum Island Animal Disease Center (Unedited) Satellite Image

 

Save_PIADC writes:

Thanks for your coverage.

The internal DHS Study Committee (SSRA) was about as close to an “inside job” as you could assemble and virtually all of the panelists had glaring conflicts of interest and personal stakes in seeing this project move forward.

Both of the USDA “independent experts” on the SSRA, Drs. Cyril Gay and Randall Leavings, were also members of the initial NBAF site visit team. Their efforts as site visit team members, largely informed the decision of siting NBAF in Kansas. They may have also met with Senator Pat Roberts during their 2007 site visits in Kansas.

SSRA members Steve Bennett, Dr. Michelle Colby, Dr. Bruce Harper and Dr. Joanne Jones-Meehan are all DHS employees. The notion that they would cast a skeptical eye towards a pet project of the DHS Secretary is laughable.

SSRA member Dr. David Brake is a contractor for DHS at Plum Island and his firm would have a vested financial stake in an expanded DHS countermeasure enterprise at NBAF.

SSRA member Dr. Josh Fine (SAIC) is also a contractor for DHS at Plum Island. His firm, SAIC, could potentially stand to gain a windfall if selected to provide SETA contract support at NBAF.

SSRA member Dr. Ted Schroeder is a professor at Kansas State. No conflict of interest there;) SSRA member Dr. Charles Hobbs is a “senior scientist emeritus” at the Lovelace Respiratory Reserach Institute. Lovelace’s President and CEO, Dr. Robert Rubin, was appointed in 2007 by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius to serve on the “NBAF in Kansas Task Force.” Of course, there is no chance that Dr. Hobbs would come out against a major policy goal of his instiution’s President and CEO.

Other than the two HHS members, the SSRA panelists were riddled with ethical, professional, personal and financial conflicts of interest.

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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.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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.

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

Video Transcript below:

MADDOW:  Tom Costello from NBC News got a one-on-one interview with Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer of BP, on board a BP helicopter.  And Tom asked a bunch of what I have been dying to ask BP.
Among his great pointy questions was one about the mythical Caribbean walrus and its role in BP’s oil spill response plan.  To refresh your memory, the regional oil response plan filed by BP, the one specific to the Gulf of Mexico, listed walruses, that only live in very, very cold water, they listed walruses among the species of wildlife you’d have on worry about in the event of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And that gave away the fact that the company had obviously not even bothered to make a Gulf of Mexico-specific spill response plan.  They just cut and pasted whatever they done from some place cold, some place with walruses, and then called it the Gulf of Mexico oil response plan.
My new hero, Tom Costello, asked Doug Suttles from BP about the walruses in the company’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill response plan, and here is the incredible response that he got:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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“Yes, you heard that right. Drilling projects in the entire central and western Gulf of Mexico have what the government calls a “categorical exclusion” from detailed environmental studies. The Gulf, by the way, is where most of the nation’s offshore drilling takes place. (Here’s a handy flow chart [3] from the government showing the approval process”. Source:  Ryan Knutson and Marian Wang, of the ProPublica blog

Um, if ProPublica’s Investigative piece: A Mystery: When Did Gov’t Exempt Gulf Drilling from Detailed Enviro Reviews? Isn’t enough to get you to demand accountability? Then watch the latest ABC news video showing underwater oil plumes 40 miles out in the ocean, BP says doesn’t exist.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Tell Attorney General Eric Holder  and President Obama , a BP criminal investigation must move forward quickly. Considering the environmental catastrophe at hand (which is only beginning), BP and Big Oil’s push-back to further comprehensive review, corrective Environmental legislative measures must be stopped. The question will be, is Big Oil & Halliburton “TOO BIG TO FAIL” or just  TOO BIG TO FALL?

Safety Rules Can’t Keep Up With Biotech Industry
Source: By ANDREW POLLACK and DUFF WILSON | New York Times

They are the highly trained, generally well-paid employees in the vanguard of American innovation: people who work in biotechnology labs. But the cutting edge can be a risky place to work.

The casualties include an Agriculture Department scientist who spent a month in a coma after being infected by the E. coli bacteria her colleagues were experimenting with.

Another scientist, working in a New Zealand lab while on leave from an American biotechnology company, lost both legs and an arm after being infected by meningococcal bacteria, the subject of her vaccine research.

Last September, a University of Chicago scientist died after apparently being infected by the focus of his research: the bacterium that causes plague.

Whether handling deadly pathogens for biowarfare research, harnessing viruses to do humankind’s bidding or genetically transforming cells to give them powers not found in nature, the estimated 232,000 employees in the nation’s most sophisticated biotechnology labs work amid imponderable hazards. And some critics say the modern biolab often has fewer federal safety regulations than a typical blue-collar factory.

Even the head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration acknowledges that his agency’s 20th-century rules have not yet caught up with the 21st-century biotech industry.

“Worker safety cannot be sacrificed on the altar of innovation,” said David Michaels, OSHA’s new director. “We have inadequate standards for workers exposed to infectious materials.”

The current OSHA rules governing laboratories, for example, were not written with genetic manipulation of viruses and bacteria in mind. “The OSHA laboratory standard deals with chemicals,” Mr. Michaels said. “It doesn’t deal with infectious agents.”

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In a Press Release this past week, Congressman Tim Bishop of New York stated that it is “highly unrealistic” that the sale of Plum Island (PIADC) at an “estimated value of $50-80 million could possibly cover the over $650 million cost of constructing NBAF”.

“Highly Unrealistic”? You think?  On what planet does the sale of a $50-80 million piece of  highly contaminated government property pay for the construction of a new $650 million facility?

First of all let’s not forget the  Congressional Research Service estimated back in 08′ that the clean-up of  Plum Island would top $100 million and that was their best estimate at the time.

Bottom line, DHS has toyed with the sale of Plum Island (PIADC) for almost two years now as noted in a previous post I wrote back in 08′, yet they (DHS) still have not completed a Congressionally mandated comprehensive risk assessment of the NBAF’s actual final design. Moreover, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has completed 4 oversight reports on High-Containment Biosafety Laboratories in the U.S.; two specifically analysing the methodology used to justify the research slated for Plum Island’s (PIADC) replacement the NBAF. Isn’t it past time for this Bush-era knee jerk, behemoth to disappear? It was and still is a bad  idea and;

Given our nation’s mounting budget deficits, many have questioned the wisdom of spending approximately $1 billion of taxpayer dollars to create a massive new research facility that would duplicate many of the functions currently served by Plum Island and other existing facilities.  

Congressman Bishop has the right idea, we should tell Price and the other members of the House subcommittee on Homeland Security we do not support this project. Why? Think of it this way, here we are three years into the project, now Kansas and DHS are pushing lawmakers for a biological TARP bail-out in the name of national security. Or is it really more about research grants and corporate profits? If you’re a critical thinker you already have the answer.

Just, where are those Teabaggers when you need them?

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