Fish deformities linked to selenium from mining operation on Wyoming, Idaho border

By Bonnie Gestring

February 9, 2012

A research team hired by the J.R. Simplot Co. has linked selenium discharged from the company's phosphate mine near the Wyoming border to high rates of deformities in trout, including cases of brown trout fry with two heads, missing fins and cranial deformities. 

Yes, you read that right. 

And, still these phosphate mines are not required to report their releases to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory - a publicly available database so communities can have information on the amount of pollution released in and near their homes.

And, what's worse, the company is asking for an exemption from water quality standards for two selenium polluted streams near Simplots Smoky Canyon Mine in Idaho.

The "phosphate patch" in this region is notorious for the number of livestock deaths associated with selenium pollution.

For more information, read this great piece.  And, to read our comments to the EPA to require phosphate mines to report its toxic discharges to the TRI, read here.

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Tagged with: epa, phosphate mining, idaho, selenium, simplot, toxicity

A case study in how industry influence squelches the science of gas drilling impacts

By Judy Jordan

February 9, 2012

Garfield County, Colorado was one of the country’s first publicized cases of water contamination resulting from oil and gas activities.

The files I read seemed to suggest there had been some debates over the purpose of a study of the issue, which was carefully worded along the lines of seeking an understanding of the “conditions” there, yet not explicitly stating the obvious question:

Did EnCana cause contamination that had not been fully defined, and were oil and gas development practices likely to cause more contamination?

Clearly, we were walking a fine political line, trying to ameliorate the tensions between the industry and neighbors affected by their activities without alienating the industry.

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Tagged with: colorado, garfield county, science, judy jordan, mamm creek, industry pressure

Another big gas giveaway: PA legislature guts zoning rights

By Nadia Steinzor

February 8, 2012

There are many tragic and terrible things happening in America’s gas patches. Often residents say that elected officials—ostensibly charged with protecting the public interest—seem to care more about gas industry campaign contributions than the lives of their constituents. Sadly, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, 101 State Representatives, and 31 State Senators just declared them right.

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Tagged with: marcellus shale, pennsylvania, community impacts, municipalities, zoning, governor corbett, hb1950

Attacking the Messenger: House Committee Accuses the EPA of Playing Politics

By Aaron Mintzes

February 2, 2012

The Associated Press today printed a story today entitled “Reps scrutinize EPA fracking link in Wyo.”  The article describes yesterday’s compelling hearing where the House majority called in to question the scientific credibility of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In December, the EPA issued a draft report linking the contamination of drinking water near Pavillion, WY to hydraulic fracturing activities by EnCana Inc.  Since this is the first time a federal agency has acknowledged the dangers fracking poses to drinking water quality, drilling proponents needed to quickly circle the wagons.

Attack the Messenger

The EPA drilled monitoring wells in Pavillion and took measurements for benzene, a known carcinogen.  Listening to the committee, we heard the House majority claim only that a second test at the monitoring wells revealed benzene levels half of what was discovered six months before.  I guess the implication is that additional testing might reveal even lower levels.  It took the minority to point out that the second test, though revealing benzene levels half the initial result from the first- still found benzene at 25 times its safe level.

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Tagged with: fracking, epa, hydraulic fracturing, pavillion

House Majority Slams EPA Report; Josh Fox Arrested at Congressional Hearing

By Lauren Pagel

February 1, 2012

Today, I attended a hearing of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Science, Space and Technology Committee on the topic of quality science at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  So, I’ll get in to the substance of the hearing, but clearly the highlight was watching Academy award nominated director and anti-fracking celebrity Josh Fox, handcuffed and escorted out of the hearing room by Capitol Police.  House rules don’t allow members of the media to take video during hearings.  Josh is filming a sequel to his popular anti-fracking documentary Gasland for HBO due for release this summer.  Ranking member Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) twice made formal motions to allow Josh to continue taping arguing that a properly credentialed ABC film crew also requested permission to video tape the hearing.  Both attempts were rebuffed.

The hearing considered the efficacy of an EPA report describing water contamination attributed to hydraulic fracturing activities in Pavillion, Wyoming.  In reality, this hearing served as another opportunity for the House majority to rail against the EPA.  Referring to the EPA’s work as “scientific innuendo” and “regulatory straight jacketing”, the Republicans criticized the report as lacking transparency, peer review, or sufficient consultation with relevant state authorities.

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Tagged with: fracking, epa, hydraulic fracturing, pavillion, water contamination, josh fox, wy

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