Tag Archives: 350.org

‘This Is a Scandal’: Documents Reveal Obama’s EPA Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking in 2011

“We still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations. Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without consequence?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2021

A fracking rig behind a housing development Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/CC

Between 2012 and 2020, fossil fuel corporations injected potentially carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or chemicals that can degrade into PFAS, into the ground while fracking for oil and gas, after former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency approved their use despite agency scientists’ concerns about toxicity.

The EPA’s approval in 2011 of three new compounds for use in oil and gas drilling or fracking that can eventually break down into PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” was not publicized until Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) obtained internal records from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing the files.

According to PSR’s new reportFracking with “Forever Chemicals, oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have since 2012 pumped toxic chemicals that can form PFAS into more than 1,200 wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming.

While the Times noted that the newly released documents constitute some of the earliest evidence of the possible presence of PFAS in fracking fluids, PSR’s report warns that “the lack of full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas operations raises the potential that PFAS could have been used even more extensively than records indicate, both geographically and in other stages of the oil and gas extraction process, such as drilling, that precede the underground injections known as fracking.”

“It’s very disturbing to see the extent to which critical information about these chemicals is shielded from public view,” Barbara Gottlieb, PSR’s Environment & Health Program director, said Monday in a press release. “The lack of transparency about fracking chemicals puts human health at risk.”

As the Times reported:

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, EPA scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The EPA scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The EPA identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” Dusty Horwitt, a researcher at PSR, told the newspaper.

In a statement released Monday, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, called the PSR report “alarming,” and said it “confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely.”

As PSR notes, PFAS—highly potent toxins that accumulate in the body and persist in the environment—pose a threat to human and environmental well-being. Negative health effects linked to PFAS include low infant birth weights, disruptions of the immune and reproductive systems, and cancer.

“The potential that these chemicals are being used in oil and gas operations should prompt regulators to take swift action to investigate the extent of this use, pathways of exposure, and whether people are being harmed,” said Linda Birnbaum, board-certified Ph.D. toxicologist and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Hauter added that “this says nothing of the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.”

According to the Times:

In a 2016 report, the EPA identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same EPA report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.

Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.

“The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago,” said Hauter, “and all these years later, President Joe Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.”

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country,” Hauter said. “Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight.”

Earlier this month, whistleblowers at the EPA accused the Biden administration of continuing the “war on science,” with managers at the agency allegedly modifying reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

As Common Dreams reported, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a formal complaint on behalf of four scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, demanding an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are safer.

Calling Monday’s revelations about the Obama administration’s decision to greenlight the use of PFAS in fracking “a scandal that should lead every nightly news program,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “we still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations.”

“Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without conscience?” he asked.

Hauter called on Biden “to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands,” adding that “his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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‘Bombshell’ Secret Footage of ExxonMobil Lobbyists Sparks Calls for Action by Congress

“We demand Congress immediately investigate Exxon and fossil fuel companies’ climate crimes, and make polluters pay for their destruction,” said a 350.org campaigner.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-30-2021

Keith McCoy, a senior director in ExxonMobil’s Washington, D.C. government affairs team, was secretly recorded by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm. (Photo: Screenshot/Unearthed via Channel 4 News)

While ExxonMobil’s decades of sowing public doubt about climate science and the impact of fossil fuels have provoked various lawsuits, secretly recorded videos released Wednesday expose how the company continues to fight against U.S. efforts to tackle climate emergency.

Published by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm, and the British Channel 4 News, the footage of ExxonMobil lobbyists sparked new calls for congressional action to hold the oil and gas giant accountable. Continue reading

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Global Just Recovery Gathering Kicks Off to Harness ‘Collective People Power’ and Create a ‘Better Future for All’

The event is being called “an invitation for us all to build a movement that is massive and that shakes the foundations of power and money and greed that seem to hold all the cards right now.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-9-2021

Organizers circulated a promotional image for the Global Just Recovery Gathering. (Image: 350.org)

A three-day event called the Global Just Recovery Gathering kicked off Friday and is aimed at being “a space to design new pathways for a better future for all.”

“There is nothing we can’t achieve if we pool our collective people power together, and create the forces of change necessary for a just recovery for all,” organizers declare.

The free and virtual event, scheduled with time zones around the world in mind,
features 200 interactive sessions and high-profile progressives including Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Greta Thunberg, and Nnimmo Bassey. Continue reading

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‘Revolutionary Moment’: Biden White House Announces Major Boost for Offshore Wind

“As our country faces the interlocking challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice, and the climate crisis, we must transition to a brighter future for everyone.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-29-2021

The Block Island Wind Farm- the first US offshore wind farm. Photo: National Renewable Energy Lab/flickr/CC

Climate action groups and ocean defenders issued strong praise Monday after the Biden administration announced its intention to boost the nation’s offshore wind capacity with a number of steps including preparing forfede leases in an area off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

“Today’s announcement marks a revolutionary moment for offshore wind. This powerful renewable resource has been waiting in the wings of our energy system for too long, and now it can finally take center stage,” Hannah Read, an associate with Environment America’s Go Big on Offshore Wind campaign, told Common Dreams. Continue reading

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With Deep Fossil Fuel Ties, Justice Barrett Called to Recuse Herself From Pending Climate Case

“Barrett posing as an impartial judge in this hearing for climate accountability is about as safe as the Big Bad Wolf giving Little Red Riding Hood directions to Grandma’s house.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-12-2021

Judge Amy Coney Barrett during her Circuit Court confirmation hearing. Screenshot: C-SPAN

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett—confirmed just ahead of President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in November—is being called to recuse herself from an upcoming decision regarding a potentially landmark climate case now pending.

“Barrett posing as an impartial judge in this hearing for climate accountability is about as safe as the Big Bad Wolf giving Little Red Riding Hood directions to Grandma’s house,” said Lindsay Meiman, U.S. communications manager at the climate action group 350.org. “We demand Barrett immediately recuse herself of any and all cases concerning climate and the fossil fuel industry, starting with the upcoming Baltimore vs. Big Oil hearing.” Continue reading

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“Is There No End to Big Oil’s Evil?” Campaigners Condemn Industry Plan to Pour US Plastics Into Africa

Anti-pollution advocates responded with alarm to the American Chemistry Council’s reported efforts to influence a pending U.S.-Kenya trade deal.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-31-2020

The Dandora dumpsite, Kenya. Photo: Mike Sonko/Facebook

Green groups responded with alarm to Sunday reporting by the New York Times and Unearthed that a U.S.-based trade group for major chemical and fossil fuel companies has lobbied the Trump administration during the Covid-19 pandemic to use a forthcoming trade agreement to flood the African continent with plastics.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise Development Betty Maina launched trade negotiations in July. The new reports shed light on the lobbying efforts of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), whose members include the petrochemical operations of the oil giants Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell as well as chemical companies such as Dow and DuPont. Continue reading

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‘This Scares Me,’ Says Bill McKibben as Arctic Hits 100.4°F—Hottest Temperature on Record

“100°F about 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle today in Siberia. That’s a first in all of recorded history. We are in a climate emergency.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-22-2020

A graphic shows record heat in the Arctic Circle on Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Image: Screengrab\@ScottDuncanWX)

A small Siberian town north of the Arctic Circle reached 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, a figure that—if verified—would be the highest temperature reading in the region since record-keeping began in 1885.

“This scares me, I have to say,” environmentalist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben tweeted in response to news of the record-breaking reading in Verkhoyansk, where the average high temperature in June is 68°F. Continue reading

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A $3.5 Million Fine But ‘No Prison For Anyone’ After PG&E Pleads Guilty to Felony Manslaughter of 84 People

“As far as actual change, to save lives, that is not happening,” said the daughter of one victim killed in the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California.

By staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-17-2020.

Photo: AJ+/Twitter

The CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric pled guilty on behalf of the company Tuesday to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in a dramatic hearing regarding the devastating Camp Fire of 2018, but advocates for corporate accountability argued the nation’s largest utility should face more concrete consequences for the crime.

A county investigation after the Camp Fire, one of the most destructive wildfires in U.S. history, found PG&E let its power grid deteriorate and scaled back inspections of its equipment, allowing a hook connected to a transmission tower to break and start the blaze that killed 84 people and nearly wiped out the entire town of Paradise, California, leaving just 5% of buildings undamaged.  Continue reading

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‘Stop This Sale’: 11 NGO Leaders at Davos Warn Against Pending Private Equity Takeover of .Org Domain

“The security of civil society should not be entrusted to private equity.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-22-2020

Leaders of top NGOs are protesting the pending sale of the registry that operates the .org domain to a private equity firm. (Image: Andrew Stroehlein/Human Rights Watch/Twitter)

The executive directors of 11 major international nongovernmental organizations on Wednesday added their voices to a swelling chorus opposed to the pending sale of the nonprofit registry that operates the .org top-level domain to a recently established private equity firm.

The NGO leaders came together at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland to unveil a letter (pdf) they sent Tuesday to Andrew Sullivan, president and CEO of the Internet Society (ISOC), and Göran Marby, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Continue reading

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Demands for Bold Climate Action Mount as ‘All But Rainless’ Australia Faces ‘Catastrophic’ Fire Danger

The extreme weather comes as a new report on G20 nations reveals that “Australia is behind [on] climate action in nearly every dimension.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-11-2019

Photo: James ༀ Barrett/Twitter

Demands for bold government action to combat the climate emergency continued to mount in Australia Monday as the continent had hardly any rain for the first time on record while more than 100 fires burned across two eastern states.

The government’s Bureau of Meteorology on Monday “forecast Australia to be all but rainless for the day—aside from a tiny splotch off the Kimberley and western Tasmania,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. A bureau spokesperson said that “the team can’t comprehensively identify a day in our records where there hasn’t been rain somewhere on continental Australia.” Continue reading

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