Backyard Talk News Archive

Superfund Task Force Headed by Bank Chairman – Cuts in Budget- Appointing Lawyer Who Represented Polluters to EPA Enforcement

What a nightmare.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt promised to restore Superfund and the EPA’ s land and water cleanup efforts “to their rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.”  He made this announcement in April while visiting a site in Indiana where hundreds of families must relocate because it is unsafe to live there. When I heard the announcement, I was excited. Unfortunately, soon afterwards his action spoke louder. Pruitt is not being honest. But judge for yourself.
On May 12th Susan Bodine was nominated to be assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Qualified? Well in a way, if she was fighting for the polluters. She represented polluting industries as a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP a law firm.  Bodine represented the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA) from 2011 to 2014. Members of the AFPA have hundreds of EPA enforcement actions against them, including violations of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. She defended these industries against EPA.
This is the classic revolving door appointment. Since the enforcement office handles negotiations between the companies responsible for the pollution and the EPA, Bodine would be able to decide how extensive some cleanups are — and how much polluters have to spend cleaning them. Some of those enforcement action will be against her former clients.
How does she feel about poisoned communities? In testimony before a Senate hearing on Superfund in 2014, Bodine said she didn’t think most problems with the program were due to a lack of funding. Instead she blamed some of the delays in cleanups on community members who block access to sites.  “If the agency can’t get access to the site, they can’t do the cleanup,” she said, adding that she believed the agency was doing its best.
Superfund’s progress has slowed to a near standstill in recent years, not due to communities who want the best cleanup possible, after all they live there. No, the problem is due to a lack of funding. A tax on polluting industries originally paid into a fund for the cleanups expired in 1995, leaving regular taxpayers to pick up the tab when the government can’t identify a polluter — or when a polluter doesn’t have enough money to pay.
Since there are fewer clean up actions the number of people exposed to dangerous pollution has climbed. In 2010, there were 75 Superfund sites where the government had yet to bring toxic exposure to humans under control. By last year, that number was up to 121, according to the most recent EPA data.
This week there were two other significant announcements related to Superfund. The budget cuts and a new taskforce. Superfund budget was cut by a third, 330 million dollars. Enforcement efforts will be cut by 40%. How does Pruitt think he’s going to keep his promise to fulfill the program, move it front and center with less money and a lead attorney who has been on the other side of the table for years representing polluters.
Pruitt’s new Superfund Task Force is even more absurd. He chose Albert Kelly to chair the taskforce an Oklahoma banker who has no prior experience with the program or with environmental issues at all, according to his résumé. However, Kelly has donated twice to Pruitt’s campaigns in Oklahoma, has spent the past 33 years working at Spiritbank, served as its chairman, which is headquartered in Tulsa. The “core competencies” listed on his résumé, include motivational speaking, business development, and “political activity.”
Washington D.C. seems to get crazier every passing day. For all of you who care about our environment, public health and fairness, take the time to get involved. Together we need to talk with our representatives at the home offices and demand change. If you don’t think that representative is listening or supporting your core issues than find someone to replace them and work on that person’s campaign. We can’t whine our way through this insanity we must get out and take actions.

Homepage News Archive

Longtime Dunmore Mayor Ousted

Lackawanna, PA –
“Borough Councilman Timothy Burke defeated Mayor Patrick “Nibs” Loughney in Tuesday’s Democratic primary by a razor-thin three-vote margin…”
One important issue brought to attention during the race was the expansion of Keystone Sanitary Landfill. Burke opposed the expansion and won the election, ousting the incumbent who had been in office for 24 years.
This story highlights the importance of running your own candidate in local elections and how every vote counts.
Read more here

Homepage News Archive

OHIO’s 1st Human Rights Tribunal

The first human-rights and environmental-justice hearing ever held in Ohio took place in Athens Saturday. The hearing was part of a tribunal process on impacts of fracking as a human-rights issue.
Sixteen presenters from around Ohio testified to a panel of four citizen judges at the First United Methodist Church in Athens, providing more than six hours of testimony.
The event is part of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Fracking, which is gathering testimony from around the world to deliver to the Permanent People’s Tribunal and the United Nations.
The Athens hearing, one of two planned for Ohio, was initiated by the Buckeye Environmental Network , and organized with support from Torch Can Do!, the grassroots group founded by residents living in and near Torch in eastern Athens County, and a grant from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. Torch is the site of one of the largest fracking-waste injection facilities in Ohio. Read more.


Open Burning at Military Sites Angers Activists

Soon after Erin Card moved to within two miles of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia two years ago, she began to notice threads of smoke that occasionally rose above the heavily wooded site. She started asking about the source, and eventually was stunned by what she learned: Toxic explosives were being burned in the open air.
“It just seems crazy to me,” said Card, 36, who lives with her husband and their three young boys.
The open burning and open detonation of hazardous waste explosives is banned in many countries, including Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. Likewise, in this country, private industry long ago was forced to abandon the primitive disposal practice. Read more.


Ohio fines pipeline builder -water, air violations

Ohio’s regulators have issued a $430,000 fine against a company building a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Michigan. Energy Transfer is the company building the $4.2 billion pipeline. It will carry gas from West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Energy Transfer also worked on the contentious Dakota Access pipeline. Read more.

Backyard Talk

Small Victory for North Carolina Residents Fighting CAFOs: Governor Vetoes House Bill 467

The Bill:
“Elise Herring has been fighting for decades against the industrial hog farm that moved in beside her family’s Eastern North Carolina property in 1986 and began spraying the fecal material of +2,000 hogs onto the field that ends eight feet outside her kitchen window.
But last Friday, when the state’s newly elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would protect the hog industry from lawsuits like the one Herring and about 500 others have filed against a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, she breathed a sigh of relief- at least for the moment…
The North Carolina legislature, in which the Republicans hold a supermajority in both houses (35-15 in the Senate; 74-46 in the House), could override the veto with a 3/5ths majority vote if they take up the issue again. The House would need 72 votes to override the veto, and the Senate would need 30; during each chamber’s last vote on the bill, 74 representatives and 30 senators supported it.”
The Problem:
“In North Carolina, 6,500 industrial hog farms, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), house more than 9.5 million animals in the flat, hot eastern stretches of the state.
Together, the pigs produce 10 billion gallons of feces and urine each year, which the operations store in large, open-air pits, euphemistically referred to as “lagoons.” To make sure the pits do not overflow, the operations periodically lower their levels by shooting the fecal mixture over “sprayfields” of feed crops with high-pressure sprinklers.
Scientific studies confirm that discharging animal waste into the air damages human health in the surrounding areas. The foul-smelling chemicals the CAFOs release – namely ammonia and hydrogen sulfide – are associated with breathing problems, blood pressure spikes, increased stress and anxiety, and decreased quality of life, studies have found.”
Read the entire story about the North Carolina House Bill 467 and CAFOs here

Backyard Talk

Increases in Infant Mortality Linked to Fracking

A new study published last week in the Journal of Environmental Protection provides new evidence that the gas extraction process of hydrofracturing, known as fracking, is harming the health of people who live near these wells. This study found that counties in Pennsylvania with higher numbers of fracking wells had higher rates of infant mortality.
The authors compared early infant mortality for the years 2007-2010 in ten Pennsylvania counties that were heavily fracked to the rates for the rest of the Pennsylvania (excluding the 10 heavily fracked counties) for the years 2003-2006 which was considered a pre-fracking period. The results showed a statistically significant 29% excess risk for newborn infants of dying during the first 28 days of life if they were born in the ten heavily fracked counties during the 4-year period following development of fracking gas wells in these counties. The early infant mortality rate for the rest of the state decreased by 2% during this same time-period. The association with infant mortality was even greater in the five northeast Pennsylvania counties of Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming, Lycoming and Tioga where the early infant mortality rate increased by 67%. These counties had the greatest number of fracking wells. The early infant mortality rate was increased by 18% in the five southwest Pennsylvania counties of Washington, Westmoreland, Greene, Butler and Fayette where fracking also occurred but at lesser rates.
According to the report, about 50 more babies died in these 10 counties than would have been predicted if the rate had been the same over the study period as it was for all of Pennsylvania, where the incidence rate fell over the same period. Although the study could not prove what might be causing these increases in infant mortality, the authors did observe an association between early infant mortality and the number of drinking water violations in private wells in the five northeast PA counties. This finding led the authors to state that the increase risk of early infant mortality might be related to exposure to drinking water which may be contaminated. They further noted that this contamination might be due to the release of naturally occurring radioactive material, including radium, thorium and uranium caused by underground explosions set off by the natural gas extraction process.
In closing, the authors described early infant mortality as “a flag for genetic damage, and thus represents a “miner’s canary” for other ill health effects in children and adults, particularly cancer, though there is a temporal lag in cancer between exposure and clinical expression.” While this study has its limitations, it still raises serious questions about the safety of the natural gas extraction process called fracking. To read the full study, see <>.