Homepage News Archive

The Oil and Gas Industry Produces Radioactive Waste. Lots of It

Massive amounts of radioactive waste brought to the surface by oil and gas wells have overwhelmed the industry and the state and federal agencies that regulate it, according to a report released today by the prominent environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. The waste poses “significant health threats,” including the increased risk of cancer to oil and gas workers and their families and also nearby communities.
“We know that the waste has radioactive elements, we know that it can have very high and dangerous levels, we know that some of the waste gets into the environment, and we know that people who live or work near various oil and gas sites are exposed to the waste. What we don’t know are the full extent of the health impacts,” says Amy Mall, an analyst with NRDC who has been researching oilfield waste for 15 years and is a co-author on the report.
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Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP

Homepage News Archive Water News

Enlist the Ocean in Combatting Climate Change, Experts and Advocates Argue

Climate scientists and marine advocates are calling on governments worldwide to look beyond green policymaking when it comes to climate change. They say a critical shade is missing in the fight against global warming.


Countries must recognize the important role that oceans have in limiting climate change and enact policies to protect marine ecosystems, the U.K.-based Environmental Justice Foundation said yesterday in a report endorsed by environmental experts and advocates.

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Photo Credit: Jeffrey Greenberg/Getty Images

Homepage News Archive

More record-shattering heat waves are likely on the way due to climate change, scientists say

The probability of record-shattering heat waves is increasing due to climate change, according to scientists who are measuring temperature predictions in a new way.
Researchers that looked into rate of warming, rather than how much warming has occurred, found that record-shattering heat waves occur in spurts during periods of accelerated climate warming, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change.
Similar events as the back-to-back heat waves that have been occurring in the Western U.S., including triple-digit temperatures in the typically cool and wet Pacific Northwest, will become the norm if climate changes continue as business as usual, Erich Fischer, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich and the author of the study, told ABC News.
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Photo Credit: Kathryn Elsesser

Homepage News Archive

Study finds link between residential proximity to oil and gas drilling and lower birthweights in infants

A new study from Oregon State University found that infants born within 3 kilometers of oil and natural gas drilling facilities in Texas had slightly lower birthweights than those born before drilling began in their vicinity.
The study, published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that the type of drilling or resource being extracted did not change the result.
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Photo Credit: Eric Larson (FORGE Utah) via U.S. Department of Energy

Homepage News Archive

Why Indigenous Activists Are Driving a 25-Foot Totem Pole Across the Country

Earlier this month, Native American activists embarked on an epic, cross-country trek that began in Washington state and is slated to end on the front lawn of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. on July 29.
The group is carrying precious cargo: namely, a monumental totem pole strapped to the back of a jumbo tractor-trailer, reports National GeographicOrganizers planned the journey to pressure the federal government, under President Joe Biden, to take immediate action to protect endangered areas that hold environmental and cultural significance for Native American tribes across the country.
Measuring 25 feet tall and 43 inches wide, the multicolored totem pole weighs some 4,900 pounds, reports Dana Hedgpeth for the Washington Post. Over two weeks, the object and its caretakes will cross the country on a trip dubbed the Red Road to D.C., stopping at sacred Indigenous sites including Bears Ears National Monument in Utah; Chaco Canyon in New Mexico; Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota; and Mackinaw City in Michigan, where the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline threatens the environmentally sensitive straits connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. (Audiences can track the totem pole’s current location on the Red Road to D.C. website.)
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Photo Credit: Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group/Getty Images

News Archive

‘Burden falls on exposed people’ as EPA weighs PFAS rules

Breast cancer doesn’t run in his family. But that didn’t prevent Tom Kennedy’s diagnosis with the disease five years ago, and it won’t stop the cancer, now in his brain and spine, from killing him.
Kennedy, 49, blames the tap water he drank for more than a decade before learning it was contaminated with the chemical compound GenX. Now terminally ill, the Verizon consultant from Wilmington, N.C., says he hopes something can be done to get GenX out of the water his wife and two daughters still use to bathe, before they fall sick too.
“I think it should be regulated ASAP,” he said. “But I’m not going to hold my breath.”
Part of a family of chemicals known as PFAS, GenX has been linked to liver and blood problems, as well as certain types of cancer. But EPA, tasked with regulating contaminants in drinking water, has no action planned to immediately crack down on the compound. Rather, the agency’s efforts to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water are focused on just two chemicals: PFOA and PFOS.
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Photo Credit: EPA (text); Jenn Durfey/Flickr (faucet); Freepik (man with glass); Wikipedia (GenX chemical formula); PxHere (xrays)

Backyard Talk

Polluting Industries Profits Vs. Risks To Public Health

By: Tony Aguilar, Community Organizing Intern
Time and time again, it seems as though legislation always swings in the direction of big industries–especially the chemical, oil and gas, and pharmaceutical industries–rather than in the direction of the general public. A small number of pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to control the market on drugs and thereby control the prices, making it more and more difficult for Americans to get the drugs that they need. Toxic chemicals continue to pollute our environment and harmful drilling practices like hydraulic fracturing often go unchecked and unchallenged by our government. In a nation where the government is supposed to be of the people, for the people, and by the people, something seems to have gone awry.
The answer to why or how this has happened is probably clear to many by now. These industries have become so large and powerful that they seem to have a stronghold on the government. So, what exactly is at stake here for the American people? Well, in addition to all of the environmental damage that these industries are doing to the planet, they are also putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk in order to make more money. Not only are these industries putting lives at risk for the sake of money, but at the thousands of sites across the country where toxic chemicals are polluting communities, the government cannot seem to find it in the budget to clean up these sites and protect public health. Laws that hold polluters responsible for the cleanup continue to give these industries the benefit of the doubt.
Any work to clean up areas where people are being exposed to toxic chemicals is done at a snail’s pace and the government agencies that were created to help protect us from environmental harms often take the side of industry as well.  Recent evidence has been uncovered showing that the EPA, the nation’s defense against environmental dangers, has even approved some chemicals that have been shown to be harmful to humans and the environment to be used in hydraulic fracturing–again, giving the oil and gas industry the benefit of the doubt without taking every precaution to ensure public safety. Many chemicals that are released into our environment and our communities have been related to public health hazards yet they are approved by the EPA on the grounds that the evidence is incomplete or that a causal connection cannot be made between the chemicals and illnesses in humans. Rather than erring on the side of caution, the government gives polluting industries every opportunity to make a profit, while disregarding possible risks to public health.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 was created to hold polluters accountable for their pollution by charging a tax on polluting companies that would be used to clean up areas of waste and toxic contamination. Since this “polluter-pay” tax expired in 1995, the average number of cleanups completed per year fell from 71 to just 12, leaving more toxic chemicals in our air, water, and soil posing a threat to communities all over the country. 
Despite these grim circumstances, there is still hope in our future. These industries have a daunting power that seems insurmountable, but we as the People, have a power that is not to be taken lightly. Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan includes a provision to reinstate this “polluter-pay” tax which would result in more money for the government to clean up communities that have been affected by decades of industrial pollution. This is just one effort in the fight to shift the priority onto the people, where it always should have been, and away from profit-hungry industry. 
Although this signals a glimmer of hope, we as the people need to make sure we exercise our power as the chemical, oil and gas industries are sure to do everything in their power to ensure that the polluter-pay tax does not make it into legislation. This new bill will be yet another test of where America’s priorities truly lie.
Photo Credit: Stuart Villanueva/The Daily News file photo

Homepage News Archive Water News

EPA’s step toward regulating PFAS welcome news for local advocates

The EPA included PFAS in a draft of a list of contaminants that may be subject to future regulation, but local water-quality activists are calling for more action more quickly.
Every five years, the Environmental Protection Agency creates an updated list of water contaminants. The list released last week includes several dozen chemicals and microbes, as well as the entire category of substances often called PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
PFAS are a family of thousands of different manmade chemicals also sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally. The chemicals are used in common household items to make surfaces nonstick, stain-proof and waterproof.
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Photo Credit: Kimberly Haas/Union Leader File Photo
Homepage News Archive Superfund News

Residential zoning at former Monsanto site dangerous for future homebuyers

Rezoning any of the Monsanto Plant Property From M-2 Heavy Industrial District to A-2 Rural Residential is Dangerous to the Public Health & Safety for Maury County residents and future generations of the community.

More than 1,300 Superfund sites are littered across the U.S. These are the places that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed so contaminated with hazardous waste that they need long-term response plans. These sites are inconspicuous and their whereabouts aren’t always obvious to the unsuspecting public. There are thousands of Superfund sites across the United States and they include manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills and mines where hazardous wastes were dumped, left out in the open or poorly managed, posing a risk to the environment and human health.

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Photo Credit: Mike Christen/The Daily Herald

Stories of Local Leaders

Georgette Gomez and The Machine

By: Anabelle Farnham, Communications Intern
Georgette Gomez grew up in the Barrio Logan area of San Diego, California, and has always been invested in helping this migrant community thrive, both through her work in grassroots organizing and, more recently, as a local representative.
Gomez is first-generation Mexican American, and this culture and history are a central part of her identity. A freeway cuts right through Barrio Logan, but instead of letting it divide their community, artists have painted large murals that depict important immigrant stories on the pillars that hold it up over the community park. Gomez describes the murals and the park as an epicenter of her identity and culture, both today and as a child without access to these Chicano/Latinx stories in school. Because of these murals, the park is now officially designated as a National Landmark. 
“There’s a lot, it’s not just a park with beautiful colors…for someone like myself, growing up I was really hungry for that, that belonging, that awareness of my own history, not the U.S. history, but the border history.”
The park was not only a location for this art and for family gatherings, but it was also the first place Gomez learned to have pride in her community. It serves as a central location for various rallies and protests, as a place where healthcare workers come to offer services, and where music and art are celebrated. Having grown up in a community so active in organizing and fighting for their own rights, Gomez was predestined in some ways to become a community leader: “I grew up being an organizer before even getting hired to be an organizer.”
While Gomez was in college, she learned of a grassroots organization, the Environmental Health Coalition. This non-profit was doing work in Barrio Logan and, motivated to be involved in the neighborhood and community that had raised her, Gomez found a job as an organizer with EHC shortly after graduating. After a few years of organizing work, she became more involved in EHC’s civic engagement projects encouraging folks in low-income, migrant communities to vote.
“I always wanted to figure out a way to go back to my community and do work; heal my community, make it strong, be able to provide the resources and infrastructure a community should have to live healthy, to really maximize people’s potential as humans.”
This work began to open new doors. A local candidate running for election in the neighborhood that Gomez was organizing in asked  her to help him to run his campaign. Gomez considered this choice carefully, but in the end she believed that he was running for the right reasons and with a focus on important issues so she decided to volunteer with him. The candidate, David Alvarez, won the election!
After this campaign, Gomez became more and more involved with the policy side of organizing. She jokes that often the big players in politics, those with a lot of money and power who are seeking more of the like, constitute “the machine.” Although holding this view meant that she had always been a critic of the government, Gomez began to see the power of having the right candidates in office. 
In 2016, a City Council seat opened up in a community adjacent to Barrio Logan with a similar resident make-up: low-income, Chicano/Latinx majority, and a dynamic age range. Gomez decided to run for office. The decision was not easy, and it took a lot of consideration for her to know what she wanted to do. With encouragement and support from the people she had worked with, she decided that it was important to take a stand for the issues that she cared about. 
“We do so much work electing folks thinking, hoping, praying that they’re going to do the right thing and then you have to do more work to hold them accountable. So then I just said, okay I’m taking one for the team and I’m going to put myself out there.”
            It worked: Gomez was elected for a four-year term in council and got to work immediately. She knew that reelection was not guaranteed and wanted to do as much positive work as she could. One of her major focuses was the transit system: having strong public transportation in this community is not only good for the environment, but also connects these families to better jobs and better healthcare  without the expenses of a car. It wasn’t long before she was named president of the Council and Chair of the Metropolitan Transit System. 
            As her four years in this office came to an end, Gomez knew that she could run for reelection. But with the encouragement of her constituents and those close to her, she decided to continue challenging her limits by running for congress. 
I believe that all tools are necessary to be active. And all tools means also government.”
            This was the biggest test of Gomez versus The Machine yet: she was up against a millionaire with funding multiple times larger than that to which Gomez had access. In addition, the Covid-19 outbreak hitting in 2020 took out the door-to-door strategy that a grassroots candidate like Gomez relies on in order to gain votes. She lost the election, but despite this loss Gomez remains full of hope for the future.
            The purpose of the campaign was not to gain power or  money. The purpose was to fight for the things she believes in and the potential of protecting and growing a community of people she cares about deeply. She says of the experience “I learned a lot.” 
            Today, Gomez is using her 15 years of formal organizing experience to advise non-profits on their strategies for effective action. Perhaps in the future we will see her running for office once again. One thing is for sure: she will continue to fight the odds against The Machine and to stand up for the issues that she believes in. 
Photo Credit: David Poller/NBC News