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earthquakes

NIMBY Versus NIMIC

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Not In My Backyard vs Not In My Insurance Company

For many decades community leaders were called NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) when opposing a facility that would cause environmental and public health damages. They were told that they were reacting emotionally, stifling progress and or the waste/facility needs to go somewhere. Or local leaders hurting the economy, we need the jobs and so stop complaining about public health hazards or environmental destruction that community leaders are being just selfish.

There were full out attacks on innocent people trying to find a way to protect themselves from environmental chemicals and to convince corporations to look beyond the dinosaur aged technology and moved to other safer ways to provide the same goods or services.

Today the insurance agencies are working hard to stop, “to exclude” coverage from earthquakes in Pennsylvania caused by fracking. NIMIC stands for Not In My Insurance Company. The contrast in reactions from the public is striking with the exception of the State of Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID) who is opposing such exclusions. Those with money and don’t live near such destructive practices say the insurance industry must protect themselves from huge liabilities. It make sense that they would want to create an exclusion in their policies.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has become the first major insurance company to say it won’t cover damage related to a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground. Their memo reads: “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”

Yet when innocent people with no stake in the leasing or process say it is too great of a risk to frack in or around our community they are dismissed as NIMBYs. The insurance industry did their studies assessed the risks and said no. Community leaders including the community in TX who banned the process entirely from their borders. State legislation was introduced to allow local bans on fracking only to be overturned by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott who signed a law that prohibits bans of hydraulic fracturing altogether and makes it much harder for municipal and county governments to control where oil and gas wells can be drilled.

This is a blatant contradiction that once again demonstrates the bias against the American People and for the corporate polluters and their associated family of corporations. There was no law passed that says insurance companies must provide coverage for associated damages from earthquakes, poisoned water, air and public health impacts. Maybe just maybe we should make a rule, decision or law that says if an insurance company does their risk assessment and finds that the risks are too great for them to participate or provide coverage then the facility, process . . . thing cannot move forward at any costs.

Since the majority of our stae and federal health departments or departments of environmental regulations can’t ever find a risk they can’t explain away, then we should follow the risk assessments of the Lloyd’s of London. If Lloyd’s of London says it’s too risky then it is. A simple way to protect the American People.

incinerator

EPA Laws & Regulations Really Don’t Matter

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How can ordinary people win justice from an agency that seems to care little about their own laws and regulations? Take for example the recent report that the hazardous waste incinerator (WTI) in East Liverpool, OH. It stands tall next to the Ohio River and has released toxic substances above allowable limits 195 times over 175 days. This is not new for this facility. In fact CHEJ years ago went all the way to the Supreme Court in the state of Ohio to have the incinerators permit revoked. At that time the incinerator was only within compliance (legal limits) two quarters over a number of years.

The area surrounding the incinerator was defined as an Environmental Justice community, by the Environmental Protection Agency. As such the community should have seen tighter enforcement, more access to information and new polluting industries proposed would be weighed against the already high pollution in the area before allowed to be built.

None of that happen. In fact, a freedom of information request was made on several occasion for information because no one would provide the information through a simple request. Those freedom of information requests were able to be fulfilled but not without the low wealth community paying about $1,500. EPA refused to waive the fee for compiling the information. Fracking and injections wells were welcome in the area and operating today with little regard to the existing community toxic burden.

When CHEJ fought in court for the renewal permit to be revoked the local group Save Our County, filled the court room with local people. Three judges sat in the front of the room and listened to arguments from both sides. The community argument was clear, the company is breaking the law and have been for years and no one will do anything about it except collecting on a small number of fines and penalties. To WTI those fines are predictable and just the cost of doing business. The community is suffering from a multitude of adverse health impacts.

Ohio has this regulatory system that allows innocent people to be poisoned. The court ruled against the community when CHEJ helped them to appeal the permit. The judge said he had nothing to hang his hat on and said he understands why his court room is full of unhappy people. The judge said that because according to Ohio regulations, if a company is out of compliance – but has a plan to come into compliance – than they are considered in compliance.

What if that was the rule for everyday people and laws. For example, if you were found to be driving while drunk (DUI), but have a plan to go to alcohol anonymous, then you are not considered in violation of the law – worst you can continue to drive while under the influence, possibly killing innocent people—just like WTI.

EPA and the state of Ohio among other states need to right this wrong. It is the innocent victims that suffer the diseases and taxpayers who are burdened with the cost of those diseases and destruction of the environment and all living things.

Missouri Mothers Ask For Relief this Mother’s Day

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Community moms with sick children traveled from Bridgeton, MO to Washington D.C. to demand action from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Philanthropist Bill Gates – to use their power to save innocent families living adjacent to Republic Service’s Superfund landfill in St. Louis, MO that is burning out-of-control and contains radioactive wastes from the Manhattan Project.


Republic’s landfill has been burning due to an underground fire that has been spewing toxins for years – leaving nearby families physically harmed and financially trapped. The state of Missouri found that the community has a childhood cancer cluster, a high number of rare appendix cancers, and many other diseases which local families believe are directly related to the fire and radioactive wastes.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to protect and move families under the Superfund program. Bill Gates has the power to protect and move families using his voting power as the dominant shareholder of Republic Services. Donald Slager, Republic Services CEO, is the owner of the site has a moral responsibility.


“It is outrageous that EPA Administrator McCarthy is allowing this poisoning of American families to continue.  McCarthy has mismanaged this site for years. Additionally, she relocated (or “transferred” –  what the EPA does instead of firing) everyone – including EPA’s regional administrator Karl Brooks – while innocent people are trapped living in fear. The state of Missouri admitted that the fire will never be put out and it will be more than two years before the first shovel of dirt is moved to build a barrier wall between the fire and radioactive waste. This is unacceptable. EPA has the authority to move families away from the danger through Superfund. McCarthy must use her authority to protect innocent American families,” said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.


“My child is suffering with an autoimmune disease called alopecia and from asthma. Besides that, our community has a childhood cancer cluster – so I go to bed at night worried that my son will also develop cancer. I think if Administrator Gina McCarthy heard our story, she’d agree to move our families now,” said Meagan Beckermann, a resident and member of the community group Just Moms STL.


Dawn Chapman, another mom and Just Moms STL member who flew to DC from St. Louis, hoping for a meeting with McCarthy, said, “We are living next to an out-of-control burning Superfund site that just had a 500% increase in sulfur emissions over the past year alone.”


“Property values are declining in communities surrounding the site. We are imprisoned in our homes that we cannot morally sell with good conscience,” said Karen Nickel, another member of Just Moms STL.


A group representing Just Moms STL marched to EPA headquarters today to deliver a letter to Administrator McCarthy and hand out flyers asking those passing by to contact the Administrator’s office and urge her to meet with the victims of the out-of-control fire and radioactive dumpsite.


The group of protesters then marched to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in D.C. to deliver over 1,500 signatures on a petition to ask Bill Gates to use his voice and power as the dominant shareholder in Republic Services to ask the corporation to stop the suffering, and to purchase the homes of victims who need to be moved away from the toxic landfill.

Photos are available at:   http://chej.org/gallery/stl_justmoms/

Photo credit CHEJ



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Trevor vs. Republic Services 2015

Gina McCarthy Where Are You?

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In my 35 years of working in the field, beginning with Love Canal, I have never seen such irresponsible behavior by EPA headquarters. Yes, there has been many cases where EPA did not act responsibly but this is by far the worst.

In St. Louis, Missouri waste from the Manhattan Project has sat throughout the community for more than 20 years. The West Lake Superfund site contains tons of this highly radioactive wastes. Over 20 years not much has been done about cleaning up the wastes, except studies.

Today, the landfill adjoining the Manhattan waste site is burning and the fire is moving toward the radioactive wastes. What will happen when the fire and radioactive wastes meet? No one knows.

That however, if the background of the situation. In the fore ground is USEPA’s mismanagement of the sites. Everyone right up to the regional administrator has been “transferred.”  Transfers is what government does instead of firing people.

In a recent meeting with local community leaders, EPA staff from headquarters and the region EPA refused to talk about the fire moving toward the radioactive wastes. EPA staff also refused to even consider the relocation of families downwind of the smoke that often bellow’s from the site. EPA staff was like those silly dolls where you pull the string and they say the same things over and over again.

This mismanagement of the site and situation is a direct result of incompetency and has created an even larger problem. It will be two years before the new cleanup plan and barrier will be defined and then it must go through public comments. Not a shovel will be moving around the site for two plus years.

Why is this important? Because toxic smoke rises from the site and into the neighborhood especially Spanish Village on a regular basis. No one can put the uncontrolled fire out.  That is what the state and federal government is saying. The fire will burn for years to come.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is only willing to transfer inept staff and won’t take a single step to assist the community. Today she is refusing to meet with local leaders who will travel to Washington, D.C. next week after raising travel costs from bake sales. They want to tell their story and plead for help. Their children are sick and their families are trapped.

Throughout my years of work in CHEJ I’ve been disappointed and frustrated by EPA but never have I been told that the community leaders will never get a meeting with the Administrator.  Never get this and never get that.  “We (staff below her level of authority) make the decisions not McCarthy.”  So according to these people who work under Gina they have the final say. I wonder if she knows that. So according to them there is nowhere to appeal the lower staff decisions.

Its past time for Gina McCarthy gets her Superfund program and staff in order.  If I as CHEJ’s Director received negative comments about my staff I would certainly talk to those who are unhappy about staff’s behavior and performance not just get rid of bad apples.

Trevor nightly breathing treatment

St. Louis burning: Atomic Legacy Haunts City

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by Ryan Schuessler @RyanSchuessler1 April 29, 2015 5:00AM ET

Karen Nickel had never even heard of lupus before she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease six years ago. Today she says she takes as many as 18 pills a day — “and that’s just to make me feel OK.”

Read part one of three part series.

Danger chemicals image 2

25 Organizations Petition EPA Fracking Waste Disposal Program

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NEWS RELEASE


For Immediate Release:  April 29, 2015

For additional information, contact Teresa Mills, Center for Health, Environment and Justice at:

(614)-539-1471

TWENTY-FIVE OHIO CITIZEN GROUPS PETITION U.S. EPA

FOR DRASTIC REFORM OF OHIO’S

FRACKING WASTE DISPOSAL PROGRAM


75% of Ohio’s Disposal Wells for Fracking Waste are in Low-Income Appalachian

Areas That Receive “Comically Inadequate” Public Participation Opportunities and No Meaningful Enforcement

COLUMBUS:  A large coalition of Ohio environmental and community groups sent a detailed, fifteen page demand to U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice today documenting that Ohio’s program for approving “injection” wells that dispose of highly contaminated wastewater from oil and natural gas “fracking wells” has an overwhelmingly disparate impact on low-income Ohioans in violation of a federal directive requiring that such impacts be identified and given specific safeguards.  74.9% of the 237 active injection wells in Ohio are concentrated in the state’s 32 officially recognized “Appalachian” counties due to their low-income status where just 17.4% of all Ohioans live.  Injection wells disposed of over 1 billion, 46 million gallons of highly toxic fracking wastes in 2014 deep underground where it is supposed to be isolated from drinking water – but the serious problems in the program detailed in the letter place the injection well program’s claims to safety into deep doubt.

The groups charge that Ohio’s injection well regulator, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (“ODNR”), is a “captive regulator” controlled by Ohio’s politically potent oil and gas industry and has neither the effective public input nor reliable enforcement programs that states with disparate impacts on low-income communities are required to have under a 1994 Executive Order signed by Bill Clinton addressing “Environmental Justice.”  The groups document that the Ohio program has not been updated since it was established in 1983 and has not been changed to address either the rapid growth in waste volume since fracking became common or the requirements of the 1994 Environmental Justice Order despite the obvious disparate impact.

The Environmental Justice Executive Order is enforced by U.S. EPA’s Washington DC-based Office of Environmental Justice where the demand letter was sent.  The injection well program is the only component of oil and gas production where federal oversight exists through the U.S. EPA.  The Executive Order requires that all federal agencies address “disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects” of federal programs “on minority and low-income populations in the United States” through insuring 1) full access to relevant information, 2) meaningful opportunities for public participation in the permitting process, and 3) effective enforcement.

The groups list evidence that ODNR fails badly in all three areas.  It calls ODNR’s current public participation policies established in 1983 “comical but for the profound injustice they cause” due to eight separate defects including that the Department provides only fifteen days to comment on these complicated deep well proposals, routinely refuses to hold public meetings to discuss the permitting process and respond to public concerns, and even claims that citizens have no right to contest its injection well siting decisions in court.  Citizens making public records requests to ODNR routinely wait over two months for a response.  ODNR’s enforcement program is virtually non-existent with not a single fine collected and only a single example where ODNR authorized the state Attorney General to take an injection well to court.  When ODNR inspects injection wells, many violations are ignored while those cited are seldom followed up on to insure compliance.  The injection well program is severely understaffed with only four dedicated inspectors, most of whose time is spent insuring that the wells receive their permission to operate.

For proof of ODNR’s “regulatory capture,” the groups point to the disclosure in February, 2014, of a “communications plan” prepared by ODNR to promote fracking in state parks that proposed aggressively partnering with the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists to overcome resistance from what the Department scornfully called “eco-left pressure groups” which included many of the nation’s most respected environmental groups and even two state legislators.

“With ODNR, it’s everything for the oil and gas industry and nothing for the public. They act just as biased toward the industry as their own secret communications plan revealed them to be,” says Teresa Mills of Citizens for Health, Environmental and Justice who coordinated the letter’s release.  “They treat Appalachian Ohio as the fracking industry’s dumping ground whose people are too poor to resist taking the lion’s share of Ohio’s waste and that from surrounding states.”

The groups also take U.S. EPA to task for its inadequate oversight role over ODNR.  The last oversight report in 2009 was virtually a cut and paste of the previous 2005 report with no mention of ODNR’s severe staff deficiencies or lack of enforcement.  The groups also believe U.S. EPA is just as apathetic toward the public as ODNR citing a 2013 episode where, after ODNR refused to hold public meetings, Ohio’s citizens groups held their own to take testimony; the results were sent to U.S. EPA – who never responded.

The groups have asked U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice to conduct an investigation of both ODNR’s and U.S. EPA’s injection well programs to determine how they should be reformed to satisfy the 1994 Executive Order and to order that the necessary reforms be implemented to insure that the concerns and health of Appalachian Ohioans are taken into account in the injection well program.  “The industry has effectively blocked all reform in Ohio and in Washington DC,” concluded Ms. Mills.  “This petition is about the only step left to instill some basic fairness into this miserably corrupt system.”

See attached letter.Tejada 4-27-15

scale justice

Court Deems Lumber Liquidators’ Case a “SLAPP” Suit

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Court Throws Out Lumber Liquidators’ Lawsuit Against Environmental Group

Orders Flooring Giant to Pay Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

Yesterday a California environmental advocacy group won a resounding Court judgment against flooring giant Lumber Liquidators’ claims of defamation. In a 21-page decision, a judge ruled that Lumber Liquidators’ lawsuit against Global Community Monitor (GCM) was a strategic lawsuit against public participation and a clear violation of California’s anti-SLAPP law.

The court battle stemmed from a Proposition 65 lawsuit GCM filed last year against the company for high levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde found in Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by the company. Lumber Liquidators responded with a defamation suit, which was struck down yesterday.

“Lumber Liquidators tried to silence us and the court saw through it,” stated Denny Larson, Executive Director of Global Community Monitor. “The court recognized that we have a constitutional right to free speech. The public likewise has a right to know if any product they buy may be harmful to their families’ health.”

California’s anti-SLAPP statute provides for the “early dismissal of unmeritorious claims filed to interfere with the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.” As Judge Carvill noted in his decision, “The anti-SLAPP statute is ‘construed broadly’ to achieve its goal of ensuring that ‘participation in matters of public significance’ is not ‘chilled through abuse of the judicial process.’” The judge goes on to conclude that Lumber Liquidators did not present sufficient evidence to show that its defamation-based claims against GCM “have any likelihood of success.”

In addition, the Court found that GCM is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in defending the meritless SLAPP suit. GCM’s attorney, Richard Drury of Lozeau Drury LLP stated, “This is a good day for free speech and for the consumers of the State of California who are concerned that Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators contains cancer-causing formaldehyde far above levels allowed by law.”

Barack Obama

Greenpeace Starts Countdown Clock Asking: Why is Obama Letting the EPA Slow-walk Chemical Plant Safety?

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By Rick Hind, Greenpeace — When he was a Senator, President Obama championed legislation to prevent chemical disasters. On the Senate floor in 2006 he warned, “these plants are stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country.”

As a candidate for in 2008, Obama made it an issue in his campaign platform, Change We Can Believe In

As President he sent representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and EPA to Capitol Hill to testify in favor of the same prevention policies that he had championed in the Senate. After the legislation was blocked by the chemical lobby in 2011 a coalition of over 100 organizations urged the President to use EPA’s long standing authority under the Clean Air Act to prevent future disasters by requiring safer alternatives.

Two years ago on April 17th, following the deadly chemical fertilizer disaster in West, Texas President Obama spoke at the memorial service of the fifteen victims of that preventable calamity, most of whom were first responders, saying, “we’ll be there even after the cameras leave and after the attention turns elsewhere.” Obama video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARMMiH1UjSk

On August 1, 2013 the President appeared to put those words into action when he issued an executive order directing federal agencies to modernize their safety rules. Last May the EPA committed to finalizing new safety requirements by 2016. But two years after the disaster in West, Texas we’re still waiting for the EPA to begin the rule-making process. In the meantime there have been more than 350 additional chemical accidents. And there are still 466 chemical plants that each pose a catastrophic hazard to 100,000 or more people – 88 of which put one million or more people at risk.

Because the EPA rarely finalizes new rules in less than 18 months, our Coalition has urged them to start as soon as possible. If they don’t finish by June 2016 a new President or Congress could kill it by using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), as President Bush did to important workplace safety rules in 2001.

Unfortunately, the EPA has chosen to wait until sometime in September to start this process.

To track their progress Greenpeace created a Countdown Clock on our web site. If the President and the EPA are serious about prioritizing disaster prevention, they must move up their start time to June 1st of this year so they can finalize a new rule by June 2016. After that, any new rule will be more vulnerable to the CRA.

The safety of millions of people depends on the administration finishing what they started. The EPA has been “considering” this issue on and off for 20 years. We finally have a President who knows how and what to do.

If he’s serious and wants this to be an important part of his legacy, he needs to ensure that the EPA acts as soon as possible. He’s hearing from the chemical lobby so please let him hear from you today by clicking here.

——– ***Chronology of the EPA “Considering” Chemical Disaster Prevention***

1995 “EPA does not favor inclusion of a specific requirement in the initial program for an analysis of the inherent safety of processes…EPA is considering further study of this issue with all stakeholders and requests comment on this issue.”

2002 Following the 9/11 attacks, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman proposed regulations in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks but they were scuttled by the Bush White House. She has since urged Obama to issue new safety rules.

2009 Peter S. Silva, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, testified in favor of requirements to use inherently safer technologies (IST) also known as safer chemical processes.

2010 Cynthia Dougherty, EPA’s Director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water of the Office of Water testified in favor of requirements to use inherently safer technologies (IST) also known as safer chemical processes.

2011 Rand Beers, Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary testified in favor of requirements to use safer technologies (IST) also known as safer chemical processes.

2012 EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council recommended that the “EPA use its authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act section 112 (r) to reduce or eliminate these catastrophic risks, where feasible, by issuing new rules and guidance…”

2012 EPA says they will address a petition from 54 organizations urging that they use their Clean Air Act authority to require inherently safer technologies (IST).

2013 President Obama issued Executive Order 13650 giving federal agencies such as the EPA, DHS and OSHA nine months to propose ways to modernize their chemical facility safety and security policies.

2014 In a multi-agency report to the President the EPA pledged to complete new regulations by 2016 including possible requirements for inherently safer technologies (IST)

2015 EPA plans to issue “proposed” regulations in September 2015 with the expectation of completing them in 2016.

Gibbs Ohio

Board of Directors Announce Lois Gibbs Shifting Energy To Field

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The Board of Directors of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) is pleased to s, our founder and Executive Director, has accepted the opportunity to shift the focus of her work to our newly created Leadership Training Academy program.

To maintain our momentum in supporting community-based environmental health and justice work, we have begun the formal search for the next grassroots leader with excellent training and management skills and a vision of powerful action – our successor Executive Director. To support the Board in the search process, CHEJ has engaged Democracy Partners. Our process of outreach and selection begins very soon. Questions or suggestions should be directed to Cheri Whiteman by e-mail at cheriwhiteman@democracypartners.com.

Lois Gibbs will shift her full-time attention away from her current day-to-day administrative responsibilities with the engagement of our next Executive Director, which is expected to occur this summer. “I’m excited to spend more time in the field to build the advocacy base for change!” said Lois, “and it’s a great opportunity for one of the emerging community leaders out there to take CHEJ to the next level!”

CHEJ has launched the Leadership Training Academy program to strengthen and sustain the infrastructure of fledgling environmental health and justice organizations in the United States.

CHEJ recently completed a strategic review and refocus of our work. We were aided as a Board in this process by a group of allies and advisors, and our retreat was facilitated by Jim Abernathy. In examining our work, the following important findings led CHEJ’s Board to take those steps to reshape the organization to meet the increasing demand from the field for Leadership Training Academy program services:

• There are more local, state and regional groups emerging than in the past. This is due primarily to energy-related proposals and activities such as pipelines, extraction wells, export terminals and associated waste disposal.

• Established groups are growing and looking for advice on long-term organizing, establishing collaborative efforts, Board development and establishing a three-year strategic organizational plan.

Lois describes the Academy program this way: “The Leadership Training Academy is a training center ‘without walls.’ It provides a distinctive brand of leadership skills-building training and mentoring of local group leaders around the country to build the base of the environmental health and justice movement. This program is based on a proven, time-tested methodological framework that is grounded in CHEJ’s 34 years of grassroots leadership and coaching experience, campaign strategy knowledge and the tactics of successful grassroots victories. A special focus of the training activities is with thousands of women leading grassroots groups on a range of environmental health and economic justice issues. People of color, young people and women together comprise what many call the ‘emerging American electorate,’ and it is they who will both determine environmental and economic policy, and live with the consequences of the decisions.”

I personally am excited to “free Lois” to spend more of her energy in the field, and the Board of Directors looks forward to working with new leadership. We’ve always known that success comes when we learn from the past and step boldly into the future. With a new CHEJ Executive Director and our legendary friend and teacher, Lois Gibbs, we will have the best of both worlds!

Thank you,

Peter B. Sessa
CHEJ Board Chair

no-fracking MD -bloomberg 304

Maryland Senate Pass Ban on Fracking – Nexr the House Vote

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The natural gas extraction method known as “fracking” would be banned in Maryland until October 2017 under legislation approved Monday night by the Maryland Senate.

By a 45-2 vote, senators sent the measure to the House, which has passed a version of the bill that environmental advocates believe is stronger. The House bill calls for a three-year moratorium and further study of the health and economic development impact of the practice. The Senate bill does not require a study.

It now needs to go back to the house who earlier this year passed a stronger bill so should be no problem.

Read the entire story here.