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This Year in Activism: Grassroots Movements against Industrial Pollution Around the World


By Samantha Stahl

Coming Together: Grassroots Organizing

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the victory at Love Canal, where Lois Gibbs awoke global consciousness of the harms of toxic pollution and led the relocation of over 800 families out of a toxic Niagara Falls neighborhood.  Since then, organizations have been forming all over the world to protest industrial contamination in their communities.  This year alone there are countless campaigns for a healthy future taking place under the radar and they deserve our attention.

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frack attack rally 7-28-12

Sierra Club Blasts New Plan To Improve Fracking


“We know that our continued reliance on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, like natural gas, will not solve the climate crisis, even with the best controls in place,” said Deb Nardone, a Sierra Club campaign director, who called the new plan “akin to slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.” Read more.

Toxic Dump

Health Study at Huge Toxic Spill


After forty years, the NYS Department of Health is finally launching a health study of people who lived in an area affected by a huge toxic chemical spill south of Rochester, NY. About 35,000 gallons of trichloroethene, or TCE, was released during a 1970 train derailment in Le Roy, Genesee County, creating a 4 ½-square-mile plume of contaminated groundwater.

People in several dozen homes drank and bathed in private well water containing TCE for two decades until officials finally provided public water. Others inhaled indoor air containing trace amounts of the solvent until recent action to alleviate that problem.

Two state health surveys done years ago found nothing out of the ordinary. But public attention has re-focused on the derailment spill site in recent months, and some residents have asserted that people who lived above the plume did suffer a higher-than-normal rate of cancer. The study will examine the Le Roy-area site and eight other lightly populated locations around the state where TCE have been found. Data for the nine sites will aggregated, so the sample size being analyzed is larger and thus more statistically meaningful.

The other locations are in Cayuga, Cattaraugus, Dutchess, Greene, Rensselaer, Ulster and Washington counties. The study will look at cancer incidence and also at birth weight, birth defects and pre-term births among people living at those sites as far back as the early 1980s. (Source, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 9/8/12)

lets make a deal

EPA Caving To The Chemical Industry-Election Year Posturing?


I can’t help but wonder if President Obama is posturing for re-elections trying to appease the all powerful oil, gas and chemical industries. It’s been over two years since the USEPA released their preliminary clean up goals for dioxin. These are clean up goals or levels that can be left in soil, and were based upon scientific studies that looked at non cancer effects. Health effects like birth defects, learning disabilities, miscarriages and more.

After EPA published the clean up goals they went to the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) where they sat for nearly two years. I had the opportunity to meet with OMB staff working on the dioxin goals and walked away angry and frustrated. I rename the agency the Office of Mannequin Bodies because no one would say anything–literally.

Today, EPA announced that they have withdrawn the clean up goals from OMB and will essentially abandoning them. This means that every state will use the scientific report, released in February of non-cancer dioxin effects to set their own guideline. Unbelievable, since today EPA has the scientific report (released in February) to support their proposed clean up goals. What this means is in each state the corporations will come to the table ready to play Monty Hall’s “Let’s Make A Deal!

So states with big corporations ruling the governance will deal a whole lot different than those with stricter regulations and public support. Some sites could be cleaned up to protective levels, and others well . . . who knows.

In the simplest format of Let’s Make A Deal, a trader is given a prize of medium value (such as a television set or in this case a almost good clean up), and the host offers them the opportunity to trade for another prize. But a poorer state with little money and political influence could get “Zonked” an unwanted booby prizes, which could be anything, fake money, fake trips or something outlandish like a fake clean up.

Communities deserve equal protection from dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet. We know the chemical industry has invested significant resources lobbying against EPA’s proposed cleanup levels. Is EPA caving into the chemical industry during an election year? What is going on here? All of a sudden EPA has withdrawn them from OMB review, without any public notice or participation.

We call on EPA Administrator Jackson to move swiftly to finalize and release final dioxin cleanup guidelines once and for all, especially now that the non-cancer health assessment is complete. Infants and young children are already being exposed to dioxin levels higher than what EPA considers acceptable.

nuclear plant.jep

Protesters Arrested Vermont Yankee Nuclear


Vermont Yankee Plant Dozens of protesters are being arrested for trespassing on the property of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in a demonstration against the continued operation of the reactor. Protestors and monks chant and protest at the gates of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The plant’s original 40-year operating license expires Wednesday. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a 20-year license extension, but the state of Vermont has moved to shut the plant down. A federal court judge has allowed the plant to continue operating while the legal battle over its future continues.

White Plains, NY A group of 5 Vermont anti-nuclear activists calling themselves the Green Mountain Delegation (GMD) were arrested after attempting to occupy the Entergy Nuclear headquarters in White Plains, NY Thursday morning as an act of solidarity with the hundreds of citizens taking similar nonviolent action Thursday back home in Brattleboro, Vermont. Simultaneously another small group of New England activists attempted a similar solidarity move to occupy Entergy’s corporate offices in New Orleans, Louisiana. The GMD will be arraigned for criminal trespassing charges at 2PM at the White Plains City Court in White Plains, NY. The GMD group in White Plains delivered a 6 point list of demands focused on why the company should close its 40 year old reactor operating in southern Vermont. Entergy executive refused to meet with the group, however the group reached the twelfth floor offices of Entergy Nuclear and read their demands until police arrived and arrested all five of them.


Niagara Falls Won’t Treat Drilling Wastewater


Niagara Falls has gone on record against treating wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, with elected officials saying they don’t want the city that endured the Love Canal toxic waste crisis to be a test case for the technology used in gas drilling operations.
Read more.


Why the Environmental Movement Is Not Winning


The report makes the simple but profound argument that the current environmental funding strategy is not working and that, without targeting philanthropy at communities most impacted by environmental harms, the movement will continue to fail. Our funding strategy is misaligned with the great perils our planet and environment face. Read more.

fracking tower

Fracturing natural gas wells requires hundreds of tons of chemical liquids


Fracturing natural gas wells requires hundreds of tons of chemical liquids

Each site requires hundreds of tons of liquid additives

By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer

February 12, 2012 – 09:10 AM

There are two sides to the debate over the use of chemical additives to complete the process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The oil and gas industry says only small amounts of such chemicals are used and they are safe.

Critics say the additives used in drilling for natural gas are toxic and threaten drinking water.

One fact is emerging in Ohio as drilling becomes more extensive in the shale deposits deep underground: Fracking requires hundreds of tons of liquid chemical additives for each well.

A Beacon Journal review of data recently posted on a drilling industry-supported website shows the fracturing of one vertical-horizontal well in Carroll County required nearly 1 million pounds of liquid chemical additives.

That well, southeast of Canton near Carrollton, used 969,024 pounds — 484.5 tons — of chemical additives. It also required 10.5 million gallons of water and 5,066 tons of sand.

Water and sand make up the major ingredients going into wells to fracture the rock and free more natural gas. But the remaining tiny percentage of fracking material is not negligible given the sheer volumes involved.

“Many of the chemicals are benign, but not all of them,” said Jeff Daniels, a professor of geology at Ohio State University.

The chemical additives are used as iron-control agents, corrosion inhibitors, clay stabilizers, breakers, gelling agents, friction reducers, bactericides, scale inhibitors, pH adjusting agents, cross-linking agents, solvents and surfactants.

“There’s no doubt that there are some nasty chemicals going into Ohio wells, and no one disputes that,” said Dr. Jeffrey C. Dick, chairman of the geology department at Youngstown State University.

Ohioans are getting their first glimpse at what toxic chemicals are being used to frack wells via a national website, www.

To date, the FracFocus website has information about 12 drilled Ohio wells. That includes 11 Chesapeake natural gas wells: nine in Carroll County, one in Portage County’s Suffield Township and one in Jefferson County. The list also includes an oil well in Fairfield County by EOG Resources Inc.

Drilling opponents are shocked and concerned by the tonnage totals.

“Wow. I’m absolutely dumbfounded. … That number is far bigger than I ever expected,” said Teresa Mills of Columbus, a representative of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and of No Frack Ohio, a coalition of 70 Ohio grass-roots groups. “We never thought the numbers would be that big. … That’s extremely troubling.”

Dr. Donald Palmer, a geology professor at Kent State University, said he was not surprised by the total.

“It takes an incredible amount of chemicals,” he said.

It will take hundreds of truckloads of chemicals and water to frack each well, he said. “It’s a big, big operation.”

The FracFocus site also gives the first look at how much fresh water is needed to frack individual Ohio wells. The average Chesapeake well in Carroll County required 5.8 million gallons of water.

The Portage County well used only 471,000 gallons of water because Chesapeake used a carbon-dioxide foam in place of water for the fracturing.

Mangun well

The biggest volume of additives shows up at the Calvin Mangun well in Augusta Township that was fractured in May.

There are 24 listings for the fracking ingredients that went into the well. Some ingredients have as many as six constituents. The list of chemicals going into the well (some are repeated) totals 58.

The website does not reveal volumes or concentrations. Instead, the site measures the chemicals as a percentage of the mass of the fracking liquids. That makes the toxic constituents look very tiny — down to five decimal places of 1 percent, in some cases. But those totals can be turned into pounds and tons.

The No. 1 toxic ingredient going into the Mangun well was 304 tons of hydrochloric acid. It is used to clean out cement and drilling mud before the fracturing fluid is injected. That well also got 41.7 tons of surfactants, materials to reduce the surface tension of fracking fluid and allow the liquid to flow more smoothly.

Water and sand account for 98.8 percent of the mass of the fracking liquid at the Mangun well. That meant the well got roughly 38,035 tons of water and 5,066 tons of sand.

Some of the chemicals are mixed with even more water. Eliminating that additional water reduces the total chemical load to the well to 203.5 tons.

Monitoring additives

The required tonnage of chemical additives will vary from region to region and from well to well, depending on underground geology, experts say.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mineral Resources Management gets similar information on fracking chemicals from drilling contractors, spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans said.

The information includes Material Safety Data Sheets for each chemical. The sheets outline the nature of a chemical and include safety, handling and first-aid instruction for emergency crews. 
The drillers and contractors also must provide the state with invoices from each well outlining the quantity of all chemicals used in the fracking process, Hetzel-Evans said.

That information has been mandatory in Ohio since July 2010, she said.

For information, check out

Process defended

The biggest threat is not the fracking that takes places thousands of feet underground, said Dick, the Youngstown State University professor, but rather the likelihood of spills, leaks, equipment failure and accidents at the surface that could pollute ground and surface water.

The industry says chemical additives are necessary and safe.

What goes into the natural gas wells in the hydraulic fracturing process is 99.5 percent water and sand, says Energy in Depth, a national pro-drilling group.

The additives — that last half of 1 percent — are typically the same chemicals found under kitchen sinks or in garages, and some are used in food and cosmetics, the group said.

The chemicals are needed to protect the well, spokesman Matthew Sheppard of Chesapeake Energy said, and the additives are largely used up in the well and don’t pose a major toxic threat.

Toxic substances

Critics of fracking paint a far different picture. Many fracturing chemicals are known to be toxic to humans and wildlife, and several are known to cause cancer. Very small quantities of some fracking chemicals could pollute millions of gallons of groundwater.

In a 2010 study, nearly 950 chemicals were associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing, many of which have not been tested for their effect on human health.

According to the eco-group Environmental Working Group, the biggest concern centers on the petroleum distillates in the fracking liquid. Such distillates are likely to contain benzene, a known human carcinogen.

Volatile organic compounds, including 1,2-
dichloroethane, can cause problems in water or by escaping into the air.

Other toxic substances include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene gylcol, glycol ethers and sodium hydroxide.

A federal health expert on Jan. 9 at a conference in Alexandria, Va., called for a moratorium on fracking because medical experts don’t know enough about the potential risks from fracking liquids, said Dr. Vikas Kapil of the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The industry disputed those comments.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a new look at fracking chemicals. It agreed in November to accept a petition filed by the national environmental group Earthjustice on disclosing fracking chemicals. It is not known when that review will be completed.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or

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Copyright © 2011

stop fracking

Protestors – Red Carpet in Trenton for “Fracky Awards”


“If there were an award for destroying rural communities and endangering drinking water supplies, it would certainly go to the American Petroleum Institute, which uses its clout to spread disinformation about the dirty, polluting practice.”

Today activists protested one of several planned regional workshops by the American Petroleum Institute in Trenton, NJ, countering the oil and gas industry association’s event discussing the development of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with a recommendation of their own: ban fracking entirely. Protestors handed media and passersby “swag bags” filled with information on the risks associated with fracking and staged an award ceremony for the Frackies. Read more …

Titan NC 131

Stop Titan Cement in North Carolina


Lois Gibbs visited with groups leading the fight to stop the building of a huge cement facility owned by Titan called Carolinas Cement Company.

Emit nearly 350 tons of particulate matter each year, a substance that contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths annually from heart attacks, strokes, and asthma attacks. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. North Carolina already has a higher than average rate of childhood asthma.

Expose an estimated 8,500 students enrolled within 5 miles of Titan’s property to pollutants known to cause increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Titan’s plant and mine would be less than two miles from New Hanover County’s newest elementary and middle schools.

There is strong opposition from more than 350 local health care providers—including over 200 area physicians, as well as more than 8,000 community members, countless business leaders, numerous local and state environmental groups, and UNCW professors in economics and marine science.

The group is well organized. Gibbs worked with leaders to explore new strategies and messages to attract and mobilize more citizens to protect this beautiful coastal area.