Your weekly news roundup on everything environment
Vermont Becomes First U.S. State to Ban Fracking
Vermont became the first state to ban fracking when Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed into law the nation’s first ban on hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — a natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground to split rock apart and release natural gas or oil.
Concern has grown over fracking after multiple reports and studies have shown a link between contaminated drinking water wells within close proximity of drilling operations. In the 2010 documentary film Gas Land, director Josh Fox features families in Dimock, Pennsylvania who were able to light their tap water on fire.
Shumlin said the increased amounts of natural gas obtainable through hydraulic fracturing were not worth the risk to drinking water supplies.
“Human beings survived for thousands and thousands of years without oil and natural gas. We have never known humanity or life on this planet to survive without clean water.”
Shumlin went further, stating, “The science on fracking is uncertain at best. Let the other states be the guinea pigs. Let the Green Mountain State preserve its clean water, its lakes, its rivers and its quality of life.”
Teens Sue Federal Government Over Global Warming Inaction
Giving further credence to the phrase, “you’re never too young to dream big,” five teenagers from Ventura, California are taking the federal government to court over global warming.
Led by 18-year-old Alec Loorz, the teens are represented pro bono by the law firm of Earth Day co-founder Rep. Paul “Pete” McCloskey (D-CA). The plaintiffs base their legal grounds on the “public trust doctrine,” which states that certain resources are preserved for public use, and that government has a responsibility to maintain these resources. It will be the first time this argument will be used to defend the environment, and given that it is our youth who bring the suit forward — they make a compelling point about the future planet we intend on leaving our children.
The idea to use youth as the public face for the lawsuit comes after a successful 1990 case in the Philippines, where an attorney representing 43 children successfully sued the government to stop logging the country’s last old-growth forests.
Loorz, who became a climate activist at the age of 12 after watching Al Gore’s award-winning An Inconvenient Truth twice in one evening, is not alone in his concern over global warming. A recent British survey found that children between the ages of 11 and 14 worry more about climate change (74 percent) than about their own homework (64 percent). Which begs the question— when are we going to take action and put their worst fears to rest?
11 Companies Drop Heartland and Counting
More bad news for the Heartland Institute over their ill-advised billboard campaign that likened global warming activists to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and other well-known terrorists. Eli Lilly, BB&T and Pepsi joined eight other companies in dropping the conservative think tank. In just the last few weeks, Heartland has lost at least $825,000 in expected funds for 2012.
But it isn’t just money that has resulted in the organization accepting donations from the coal industry and undermining Heartland’s claim of independence of fossil fuel interests; board members, conference sponsors and associates of long standing are jumping ship, with the entire DC office, barring one staffer, announcing their departure.
The Institute’s President, Joseph Bast, wrote in a blog post that defectors were “abandoning us in this moment of need;” which can mean only one thing — the campaign against Heartland’s extremist global warming denial is working.
In Surprising Twist, AZ Gov. Vetoes Public Lands “Take Back” Bill
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) surprised many when she vetoed a bill that would “take back” over 25 million acres of public lands from the federal government to the state by 2014 or face a lawsuit.
Brewer, who notoriously doesn’t announce a public position on bills until they reach the Governor’s desk, said in a statement that she was, “ concerned about the lack of certainty this legislation could create for individuals holding existing leases on federal lands. Given the difficult economic times, I do not believe this is the time to add to that uncertainty.”
Many have feared that turning over public lands could eventually lead to their privatization, opening them up to drilling and other industrial activity. Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed a similar bill into law last month.
Ties Between Sen. Inhofe and Big Oil Exposed in Leaked E-Mail
In a leaked e-mail acquired by the National Journal, a staffer for famed global warming denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) calls on the oil industry to utilize their partnership to coordinate attacks on the White House.
Apparently distraught over the oil industry’s collaboration with the White House over fracking rules, Inhofe’s aid wrote, “Moving forward, we — your partners — would kindly ask for better coordination and communication from you to prevent the Obama administration from pulling similar stunts in the future.”
Inhofe has received over $1 million from the oil and gas industries throughout his career and was one of 47 Senators to block a vote to repeal billions in subsidies to Big Oil.
Brazilian President Pressed to Veto Brazil Forestry Bill
In what is being dubbed as “one of the defining moments of her presidency,” Dilma Rouseff has just days to issue a veto against a bill that would open vast protected areas of forests to ranching and farming.
The bill would reverse Brazil’s major gains in slowing Amazon deforestation and could lead to the loss of as much as 190 million acres of forest, according to the government’s Institute for Applied Economic Research. Additionally, the bill would give amnesty to landowners who illegally deforested areas before 2008.
Rouseff’s decision will come just one month before Brazil is set to host the Earth Summit 2012, also known as the Rio+20, a United Nations conference on sustainable development.
DOC to Issue Tariffs on Chinese-made Solar Modules
Following a lengthy investigation of whether Chinese companies are “dumping” solar panels into the U.S. market below cost, the Department of Commerce issued a preliminary decision to apply tariffs to Chinese-made solar modules.
U.S.-based manufacturers have complained that they have been unable to compete with Chinese companies who benefit from subsidies — allowing them to sell below market cost, killing the competition.
The DOC will impose tariffs of about 31 percent on Chinese companies that participated in the investigation, and for those that did not, a massive preliminary tariff of 249.96 percent will be imposed.
The debate over whether the DOC should issue tariffs has been hotly debated amongst the America Solar Energy industry; with some arguing that US manufacturers are unable to compete against China’s price gouging, while the Coalition for American Solar Energy arguing that tariffs will dramatically increase the cost of solar installations in the U.S.