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Rep. Steve King wants to undo state laws protecting animals and the environment
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 11:54 PM

Iowa Rep. Steve King’s proposal would undo state and local laws protecting the environment, family farmers, rural communities, animal welfare, and food safety.

[News Source]

Pennsylvania Superior Court rules that fracking natural gas from a neighboring property is trespassing
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 8:25 PM

On Monday the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued

an opinion

that could have major ramifications for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the state: It states a company trespassed on a family’s land by extracting natural gas from beneath their property while operating a fracking well next door.


The Briggs family owns about 11 acres of land in Harford Township in Susquehanna County. When Southwestern Energy began operating an unconventional natural gas well on the adjacent property in 2011, the Briggs declined to lease their mineral rights to the company for development. In 2015, they filed a complaint that Southwestern was trespassing by extracting gas from beneath their property without a lease.

Southwestern didn’t dispute they’d removed natural gas from beneath the Briggs’ land, but argued they weren’t trespassing due to the

“rule of capture,”

which says the first person to “capture” a natural resource like groundwater, gas or oil owns it, regardless of property lines.

A lower court agreed with Southwestern and issued a summary judgment in their favor, but yesterday’s Superior Court opinion overturns that decision, stating that the rule of capture shouldn’t apply to unconventional natural gas drilling because of key differences in the method of extraction.

“Unlike oil and gas originating in a common reservoir, natural gas, when trapped in a shale formation, is non-migratory in nature,” the opinion states. “Shale gas does not merely ‘escape’ to adjoining land absent the application of an external force. Instead, the shale must be fractured through the process of hydraulic fracturing; only then may the natural gas contained in the shale move freely through the ‘artificially created channel[s].’”

Ultimately, the Court said, “In light of the distinctions between hydraulic fracturing and conventional gas drilling, we conclude that the rule of capture does not preclude liability for trespass due to hydraulic fracturing.”

The case has now been remanded to a lower court, which will rule on whether the Briggs are entitled to compensation from Southwestern Energy for trespassing on their property by taking natural gas without a lease. In the meantime, the family has been given the opportunity to further develop their trespass claim, including getting estimates of how far the subsurface fractures and fracking fluid crossed boundary lines into the subsurface of their property.

“I think this potentially has big ramifications for both drilling companies and property owners,” said David E. Hess, the director of policy and communications for Harrisburg-based government affairs law firm Crisci Associates and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

“If on remand the case requires compensation of the adjacent landowner for trespass as defined in the court decision, I think this could open the door to hundreds of potential similar trespass lawsuits filed all across Pennsylvania where unconventional gas well drilling occurs.”

Hess pointed out it’s hard to find an area in Pennsylvania’s shale patch where existing natural gas extraction leases don’t come up against property belonging to other landowners who didn’t sell their mineral rights. He also speculated that before this ruling changes the way hydraulic fracturing operates in the state, there would likely be an attempt to clarify the law.

“I think if people perceive this as a threat to the industry,” Hess said, “we’ll soon see legislative attempts to redefine the rule of capture in Pennsylvania.”

Monday’s Superior Court opinion differs from similar cases in other states.

Referencing a case in Texas where the fracking company won (


Coastal Oil & Gas Corp. v. Garza Energy Trust


), the Pennsylvania Superior Court noted in Monday’s ruling, “we are not persuaded by the Coastal Oil Court’s rationale that a landowner can adequately protect his interests by drilling his own well to prevent drainage to an adjoining property. Hydraulic fracturing is a costly and highly specialized endeavor, and the traditional recourse to ‘go and do likewise’ is not necessarily readily available for an average landowner.”

The Court also noted that applying the rule of capture to hydraulic fracturing is problematic, since it would allow companies to extract natural gas from anywhere without the need for a lease as long as they could set up a fracking well on an adjacent property.

Hess noted that Pennsylvania’s laws are unique, so what’s happened with regard to the rule of capture and hydraulic fracturing in other states is unlikely to impact how things play out here.

“I think this is going to be an important decision,” he said, “but I think people will be chewing on this opinion for a long time to fully understand what it means.”

[News Source]

Reserve Township finds high levels of lead in tap water supplied by Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 1:16 PM

Pittsburgh isn’t the only Allegheny County municipality facing a state alert over lead-contaminated water.

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Energy Hogs: Can world’s huge data centers be made more efficient?
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 11:52 AM

The gigantic data centers that power the internet consume vast amounts of electricity and emit 3 percent of global CO2 emissions. To change that, data companies need to turn to clean energy sources and dramatically improve energy efficiency.

[News Source]

How Rick Perry survives in Trump’s troubled Cabinet
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 11:35 AM

The no-drama Energy secretary has demonstrated a remarkable ability to avoid the negative headlines that have dogged other Cabinet members.

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Sunoco to residents near sinkholes: We’ll pay to relocate you during investigation
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 11:28 AM

The letter said the company will be looking for “any subsurface anomalies and additional areas that should be investigated further.”

[News Source]

Lake Urmia, Iran’s tarnished gem
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 11:13 AM

Lake Urmia was once a haven for birds and bathers. Now, its piers lead nowhere. What happened?

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Bankruptcy of FirstEnergy subsidiary could have wide-ranging impact
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 10:57 AM

The bankrupt entities operate three nuclear power plants, two in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania, two coal plants and two other fossil fuel plants.

[News Source]

BC government withheld information on dangers of unregulated fracking dams
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 10:52 AM

Despite risks, managers refused to provide information as election loomed.

[News Source]

Commentary: Coca-Cola’s “war” with the public health community
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 10:51 AM

In 2016, I obtained, via a public records request, an

internal memorandum

of The Coca-Cola Company proposing to launch a new scientific organization called the Global Energy Balance Network.


The premise for the network was to promote the idea that exercise, much more than dietary change, is the solution to the global obesity epidemic.

The organization collapsed after it was exposed as a front group by

The New York Times

and the

Associated


Press

. But Coke’s memo on the group lives on as worthy of attention and study.

My colleagues and I recently wrote about it for the

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

, presenting Coca-Cola’s unvarnished thoughts on the “public health community” and how to deal with issues surrounding obesity and responsibility for this public health crisis.

There is much for citizens and public health professionals to learn from the Coke memo as it lays bare how the company aims to control the conversation over public policy and consumer choices pertaining to obesity.

The memo was sent by

Rhona Applebaum

, then Coke’s chief science and health officer. It was sent amid increasing evidence that

sugary sodas are


in part responsible

for the

global obesity epidemic

, as well as its

death toll

.

I’m going to quote often from the memo, to let Coke’s words speak for themselves: “There is growing war between the public health community and private industry over how to reduce obesity.” The “most extreme public health experts have gained traction with the media, with many policy makers, and with an increasing proportion of the general public.” Such experts “have gained national and international exposure” by casting food companies “as the villain, even likening them to tobacco companies.”

The memo emphasizes the need to “to counter the voices touting extreme solutions to the obesity problem” such as “food is tobacco.”

The Global Energy Balance Network would address this problem by recruiting hundreds of scientists into a group that could act as a “credible honest broker in this battle” and “a reliable and trusted source for a balanced, science based view” – all while being covertly controlled by Coca-Cola.

The group would “promote collaboration [between industry and government] rather than regulation as the strategy most likely to be effective in reducing obesity.”

And while the group was intended to look science-based, it was actually “a multi-year advocacy ‘campaign’ that serves as a counterforce to one-sided, regulation-driven proponents” to “change the conversation” and to “promote best practices that are effective in terms of both policy and profit,” according to the memo.

This work is conceived of as “akin to a political campaign” as well as an effort to propel Coke’s academic allies into power by “actively nominat[ing] GEBN scholars for key government panels”.

One of the group’s proposed activities was to use supposedly independent scientists in “educating journalists.” The memo recounts that in 2012 the University of Colorado “hosted a 3 day educational event for 20 of the leading health & wellness journalist[s] in the country” which Coca-Cola believed was “an enormous success” and “needs to be scaled globally on an annual basis.”

This dovetails with other documents that describe

how Coca-Cola secretly funded such conferences

for medical and science journalists.

The worldview presented in the Coke memo is further explained in

an email between two former Coke executives

, which we wrote about for

Critical Public Health

. That paper explains how Coke and the food industry manipulate external organizations like pawns on a grand political chessboard to defeat public health forces, “by co-opting academic contacts, infiltrating major scientific bodies and medical associations, and influencing the generation of scientific evidence.”

These documents are useful because they inform us about the context of some public health work and how it might be more effective. They remind us that sometimes corporations see themselves at “war” with the “public health community.”

The documents make clear that Coca-Cola viewed its new front group and the group’s scientists as crucial to the deployment of effective messaging on obesity because these scientists would be more credible than corporate spokespeople. Coca-Cola was deeply concerned about analogizing its products to tobacco. And Coca-Cola viewed promoting alternate views of science – in this case, trumpeting exercise rather than drinking less soda — as the “most effective weapon” in the “war” to defend its profits.

Perhaps more than anything else, these documents suggest the perils of working collaboratively with companies that harm public health, because they may intend such collaborations as a form of manipulation, to detract from the effectiveness of public health initiatives, as well as a shield against legislation, regulation and accountability.


Gary Ruskin is co-director of

U.S. Right to Know

, a consumer and public health watchdog group.

[News Source]

Native activists halt new drilling near New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 10:50 AM

Protecting a handful of sacred sites isn’t enough when the whole landscape is sacred.

[News Source]

EPA to roll back car emissions standards, handing automakers a big win
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 10:49 AM

Administrator Scott Pruitt says the Obama-era decision on emissions was “wrong” and the standards were “too high.”

[News Source]