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Lieutenant Governor Northam Urges Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to Avoid...

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I'm very glad to see this from Lt. Governor Northam - thank you! Now we really need Gov. McAuliffe and our two U.S. Senators...

Why Isn’t the Tea Party Outraged About Fracking?

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Don QuixoteIf you're looking for evidence the Tea Party is a fake movement funded by polluters like the Koch brothers to distract voters into freaking out about fake threats while overlooking real ones, look no further than fracking. As Mother Jones reports, Tea Partiers in Kansas and Arizona are losing their minds not just about current made-up anti-sustainability and Islamophobic conspiracies, but the possibility of future residents deciding to solve aforementioned made-up problems. But what about the very real threat posed by the natural gas drilling technique known as fracking? While it creates huge profits for corporate drillers, nearby residents see few benefits and face potential health threats:
The report, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen. Other chemicals included heptane, octane and diethylbenzene but information on their toxicity is limited.

"Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells," the report said. "The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period." That's due to exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes, all of which have neurological and/or respiratory effects, the study said. Those effects could include eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing.

"We also calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away]," the report said. "Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios."

Much more data is needed on the threats posed by fracking to our air, water and public health. To learn more about fracking, tune in to NPR's series this week, The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers.

Fracking, Suspected in Virginia’s Quake, Linked to Ohio Tremors

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frack-ohioAfter Virginia's August 23rd earthquake, there was speculation about whether it was linked to nearby gas fracking. In the wake of a series of quakes in Ohio capped by a 4.0 rumbler on Saturday, officials aren't being so cautious - they're ordering nearby fracking wells to shut down:
The quake was the 11th over the last eight months in Mahoning County, all within two miles of the injection wells, he said. Saturday's quake was the largest yet. A quake on Dec. 24 measured 2.4.

There is "little doubt" that the quake is linked to injection wells that the state and the owner agreed on Friday to shut down, [state geologist Michael C.] Hansen said. [...]

The wells are among 177 in Ohio. Drilling wastes from Ohio and Pennsylvania are being pumped in increasing volumes into the wells for permanent disposal.

Geologists have long suspected that injecting liquids into underground rock formations can trigger earthquakes along fault lines. The liquids allow rocks to flow more easily past each other. Earthquakes have been linked to injection wells in Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas.

Learn more about fracking from the Environmental Working Group, and how it cause earthquakes from the Christian Science Monitor's Pete Spotts.

Tonight (Oct. 18th): Go See “Gasland” in Arlington

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Gasland PosterHere's a chance to see the award-winning documentary Gasland while supporting a great organization:
Gasland, The Movie
NRECA, 4301 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
October 18, 7-9pm

Delegate Patrick Hope, The Virginia Progressive Caucus, The Virginia Sierra Club & The Virginia League of Conservation Voters invite you to watch the thought provoking movie, Gasland. Tuesday, October 18, 2011 from 7:00 - 9:00 pm at National Rural Electric Cooperative Association 4301 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203. Proceeds will benefit the Virginia Progressive Caucus - Friend $25 • Donor $50 • Sponsor $100 • Patron $250 • Benefactor $500. To register in advance visit https://secure.actblue.com/ent... or call Mary 703-486-1010

I can't make the movie, but just contributed $25 anyway to show my support for the Virginia Progressive Caucus. You should too & ActBlue makes it easy, so go give $5, $10, $25 or more right now.

Warner’s Webb of Drilling Mania

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Nothing says I care about environmental health more than another big oil and gas rig planted serenely in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What beauty, you might be thinking! What elegance! Look as the infrastructure corrodes and this giant's legs rust and grow barnacles with each passing week. What visual splendor!

Of course, think of the view those marine animals must have. Aren't you jealous? I'd imagine the feeling is akin to having an individual Eiffel Tower being placed over my home. Wouldn't you be thrilled? Think of the economic benefits, after all!

The first two paragraphs were satirical. But what many of us turn a blind eye to everyday is no laughing matter. Senators Webb and Warner have not assured Virginians that safety issues aboard oil and gas rigs have been appropriately addressed (when that unimportant little incident in the Gulf of Mexico is even mentioned these days), and yet the gallant efforts for more oil and gas in the Atlantic continues.

I won't purport to be an expert on rig safety just as I won't allow myself to be played for a political foul. Safety measures cost time and money, in some cases, a lot of time and money. And we all know how the game of capitalism has worked in the U.S.: make profits and then make some more, even if it means cutting necessary safety corners.  

Maybe Virginians like to drill holes in the ground, period. Not only do Virginia's political "leaders" want to drill holes in the Atlantic, they want to drill holes in southern Virginia. And I'm not even mentioning the preexisting holes that have been drilled in Virginia's soil.

So what, you might gab back? In the case of the Atlantic Ocean in particular, drilling holes stands to create a complex host of effects for marine animals living in the area, effects that are still unknown to many scientists and policy "experts." What's the value of disrupting and possible eliminating any number of marine species? Of course, this outcome may or may not happen, but are we really willing to chance it for questionable amounts of oil and gas resources?

Between Senator Webb's history writing adventures and Senator Warner's grand visions of becoming president, Virginia seems to have lost its progressive leadership. Maybe it was never truly there to begin with. Or maybe our politicians have themselves been worn down by the political process. Any way you spin the bottle, the results may be the same: a grim future for Virginia's environmental integrity and ecosystem sustainability.  

Warner & Webb Tag-team a Lift on Oil and Gas Exploration...

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Cross posted from Article XI

Who needs Sarah Palin when Virginia has its very own proponents of "Drill, baby, drill" in the form of Jim Webb and Mark Warner? Notwithstanding the fact that drilling today wouldn't start producing benefits for some time to come, the tendency to concentrate on fossil fuels distracts our political representatives from seeing the bigger picture: renewable forms of energy are the future. The argument often follows, among others, that renewable forms of energy aren't economical enough at present. If we take this claim to be true for the moment, it might well be because government subsidies have gone to environmentally devastating forms of energy like the fossil fuels instead of renewable forms of energy (as if Big Oil and Big Coal and Big Gas needed more money).

I can't think of one form of energy that's in widespread use right now that has not received some form of government subsidy to "get the ball rolling." But the tepid investments in energy sources like wind and solar are simply not enough to bring these renewables to scale in a timely fashion. It is as if there are some special interests who are opposed to the widespread use of renewable forms of energy in America!

Of course, there are such groups in America, groups who would rather poison the American people and exterminate the natural world as we know it (or used to know it) for a profit. But my concern isn't simply that of someone who loves the natural world intrinsically. It is a practical argument that takes into account the harmful economic consequences that environmental devastation has had, is having, and will have in the future for America, a form of devastation that has been fueled (sorry for the pun) by nonrenewable forms of energy.

Still we wait and hope for the best. Maybe our rational and scientific minds will find the magical solution to this dilemma. Maybe the "American spirit" will figure out an ingenious method to pour more poison into our rivers and atmosphere without the environmental and human health repercussions. That might be what Senators Warner and Webb think; otherwise their actions bear little rational justification.  

Who Benefits from Expanded Drilling & High Gas Prices?

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Expanded offshore drilling means more risk of spills. And just as the economy begins to recover, families are losing more of their disposable income to rising gas prices. But hey, not everyone's complaining!
Exxon Mobil said Thursday its quarterly profit increased 38 percent as oil prices rose in the first three months of the year.

The company reported a profit of $6.3 billion, or $1.33 a share, in the first three months of the year. [...]

Exxon's profit relied heavily on its exploration and production operation. Oil prices surged over the last 12 months, jumping from a low of $33 a barrel in the first quarter of 2009 to more than $80 a barrel this year.

It's about time Exxon Mobil's profits got back on track. After all, it's been a whole 16 months since it posted the biggest profit of the history of the planet. Good to see them back on their feet!

Oil Drilling: Virginia Gets All the Risk, But Has to Share...

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As Not Larry Sabato points out, this is what the McDonnell/Bolling/Cuccinelli administration is working so hard to bring to Virginia:
Survivors of a thunderous blast aboard an oil platform off the Louisiana coast were being reunited with their families at a suburban New Orleans hotel early Thursday as the search for 11 missing workers continued.
But there's more! Via The Deadrise, if some senators get their way, Virginians would get no more of the revenue from drilling off our shores than would go to Iowans:
Three key Senate Democrats are urging their colleagues to reject a proposal in the emerging climate bill that would give a cut of oil and gas production royalties to states that allow offshore drilling.

Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia called "revenue sharing" an ill-advised "giveaway" of money that belongs to all U.S. citizens.

All the risk, only a fraction of the rewards. I bet you didn't realize that when Bob McDonnell promised drilling revenue would fund transportation, he was referring to an expanded Route 20 to Sioux City, did you?

UPDATE: Brian at Too Conservative says it's outrageous that we keep using the deaths of workers to suggest maybe we stop doing things that kill workers.

UPDATE #2: Officials had been saying the explosion didn't pose much of an environmental risk. That was before the platform sunk:

The well could be spilling up to 8,000 barrels of crude oil a day, McNamara said, and the rig carried 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel. She didn't know whether the crude oil was spilling into the Gulf.

UPDATE #3: We could be looking at an oil spill washing up on Gulf Coast beaches.