by Tom Kenworthy
As controversy over the use of hydraulic fracturing mounts across the U.S., the Natural Resources Defense Council has produced a handy fact sheet on best practices that can reduce risks of pollution from the technique.
The four-page publication details the various risks to both surface and underground water from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is used in oil and gas drilling operations and has become more widespread with the development of large new reserves found in shale rock formations.
Fracking is used to stimulate oil and gas production and involves the injection of a mix of water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release the oil or gas.
Risks to surface water supplies include depletion of fresh water supplies, spills of fracking chemicals, and leaks of flowback fluids that can include fracking chemicals once the well is completed. Threats to underground water supplies can come when wells are poorly constructed, when fractures extend farther than planned, and when old oil and gas wells that have been capped serve as a migration corridor for fracking fluids used in new wells nearby.
In order to avoid those possible problems, NRDC recommends, among other things, that the public be fully informed of chemicals used in fracking, that fracking be regulated under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and that wastes associated with oil and gas development be regulated under federal and state hazardous waste laws.
In addition, NRDC lists many best industry practices that should be uniformly used, including better site planning and analysis, careful well construction, cementing and casing, and proper handling of wastewater.
This list of recommendations is a must-read for industry, policymakers, and environmental groups.
Tom Kenworthy is a Senior Fellow at American Progress.
Today, the anti-gay Liberty Counsel used the decision by Boy Scouts of America to maintain its ban on gay scouts and leaders to endorse two of the most archaic and harmful myths about LGBT people. Praising the move on Facebook this afternoon, the Counsel wrote, “Congratulations! Boy Scouts affirm natural family! They will continue to protect young boys from homosexual pressures and predators.” The paraphilia of pedophilia has no connection to the sexual orientation of homosexuality, and as in the Catholic Church, believing otherwise has not prevented sexual abuse from taking place within the scouting ranks. It is the ignorance, invisibility, and stigma that the Liberty Counsel promotes from which young boys truly deserve protection.
Dick Cheney’s re-emergence tour continued today with a visit to Capitol Hill to get Republicans “ginned up” to prevent automatic cuts to military spending that are supposed to take effect early next year. Politico reports that in a meeting with Senate Republicans this afternoon, Cheney provided some words of wisdom based on his experience as Secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration:
Cheney didn?t push a specific policy remedy for avoiding the automatic cuts, several senators said. Rather, he focused on his time as the defense secretary in the 1990s — talking particularly about the need to plan years in advance for major investments in the military.
?He just talked about some of the critical investments that have been made over time and the lag time that it takes for those things to happen,? said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) ?There was no policy issue; it was just the fact [that] sequestration is a blunt object, and it is.?
Whether Cheney talked about his time leading the Pentagon, the big elephant in the room here is that Cheney himself oversaw drastic cuts to the DOD budget during his tenure as Defense Secretary and even pushed for cuts to expensive weapons programs. George W. Bush administration Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, who served as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman during the elder Bush’s administration, pointed this out last year in making the case that the “defense budget cannot be sacrosanct” when figuring ways to cut spending:
“When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, when I was chairman and [Dick] Cheney was Secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent. And we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers, so it can be done. Now, how fast you can do it and what you have to cut out remains to be seen, but I don’t think the defense budget can be made sacrosanct and it can’t be touched.”
Indeed, as a recent CAP report pointed out, the budget authority for the Defense Department fell by nearly $100 billion during the George H.W. Bush administration, or Cheney’s time as Defense Secretary.
Also most likely left unmentioned in Cheney’s meetings with Republicans on the Hill is that overwhelming majorities of Americans in both Democratic and Republican congressional districts favor military spending cuts and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said this week that even the most drastic cuts would merely take the Pentagon’s budget back to 2006 levels.
The anti-gay American Family Association’s talking head Bryan Fischer has made his share of offensive comments, but recently he has repeatedly engaged in what may be his most deadly lie: that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. In January, Fischer featured AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg on his show and endorsed his bogus ideas that recreational drug use among gay men is what causes AIDS, not the HIV virus. A few weeks later, Fischer claimed that God would cure AIDS if gay men simply stopped using drugs and “poppers” (recreational stimulant inhalants) and stopped having sex. Fischer then clarified that he believes that it is poppers that break down the immune system; HIV is merely a scheme for scientists to get research funding.
Today, Fischer again spread his harmful lies about HIV and AIDS. Responding to the FDA approval of Truvada, a pill that helps reduce the risk of HIV infection, he tweeted, “New pill stops HIV virus. But won’t stop AIDS since caused by extensive inhalant drug use, not HIV.”
Rowena Johnston, Vice President of Research for amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, responded to ThinkProgress that denialism like Fischer’s contributes to the lost lives of hundreds of thousands of people with HIV:
JOHNSTON: The fact that HIV causes AIDS is about as controversial as saying the Earth orbits the sun. To say otherwise makes a person look ill-advised at best. The scientific research that supports HIV as the cause of AIDS has debunked every argument made by AIDS denialists. With extremely rare exceptions, the virus and/or antibodies can be found in every person with AIDS. Untreated HIV infection does consistently lead to the symptoms of AIDS. Being HIV positive does increase the chance of dying earlier than otherwise expected. Scientists can explain in detail how infection occurs and how it causes AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy ? which can only exert an effect if HIV is present ? does delay the onset of AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy does prolong the lives of those with HIV.
We?d all be happy to dismiss unfounded statements made by non-experts if it were not for the fact that AIDS denialism has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with HIV. The South African government for years subscribed to the dangerous fiction that HIV does not cause AIDS and that it could be treated by vegetables ? their intransigence resulted in at least 170,000 HIV infections and 340,000 deaths in that country alone. We have enough work ahead of us to fight HIV. We shouldn?t let AIDS denialists distract us from the important work of bringing about an AIDS-free generation.
Johnston encourages readers to visit AIDSTruth.org for further understanding “why the things AIDS denialists say are flat-out wrong.”
Fischer generally represents the fringe extreme of religious conservatives, but his impact cannot be underestimated. His voice was prominent enough to bring a swift end to Richard Grenell’s appointment as Mitt Romney’s foreign policy spokesperson merely because Grenell is gay. Given the extreme harm inherent in the mythology Fischer promotes, public figures of all political stripes should be quick to distance themselves from him.
Rep. George MillerRepublicans appear determined to dismantle programs of the New Deal, Great Society and every other bit of progressive legislation passed in the past century or so. Failing that, they work to hamstring attempts to upgrade various programs dedicated to the well-being of Americans not born into privilege and wealth. The arguments have scarcely changed over the decades. The latest chapter in this despicable saga is the GOP's benighted effort to kill a rule dealing with a resurgence in the coal-miners' disease?black lung.
Recent reporting by National Public Radio and the Center for Public Integrity has revealed that after a long period of decline, the current form of the disease is affecting younger miners, is more severe and advances faster than it used to. Data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) shows cases of the worst stages of black lung have quadrupled in the past 25 years in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. PBS has done an interview on the subject with NPR reporter Howard Berkes.
Government health and safety rules aren't achieving what they were intended for in this realm. Chris Hamby reports:
The system for monitoring miners? exposure to dust is riddled with loopholes, and regulators have sometimes failed to enforce even these rules. Mining companies have taken advantage of a self-policing system to manipulate dust sampling results for decades.The need to do something about this spurred the Mining Safety and Health Administration to propose a new rule in 2010 that would close some of the loopholes. Too much would still depend on voluntary, unmonitored actions by the mining companies, but the proposed rule is a step in the right direction.
Republicans don't think so. Last year, as part of the budget, they blocked further rule-making until publication of a Government Accountability Office report confirms the NIOSH study. But with that GAO study slated for arrival next month, Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee have inserted language in the fiscal 2013 budget bill that bars all efforts to "promulgate, administer, enforce, or otherwise implement the Lowering Miners' Exposure to Coal Mine Dust."
Committee Democrats opposed the move, which has strong support from the National Mining Association that represents large mining corporations nationwide.
Both Denny Rehberg, the Montana Republican who wrote the bill, and Hal Rogers, chairman of the appropriations committee, are up for re-election this year, and both count the coal mining industry among their top donors. Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, has long been a champion of the industry, and mining companies have donated more to his campaigns over the years?about $378,000?than any other industry.Rep. George Miller of California, one of the strongest labor Democrats in Congress, was furious over the Republican action. In a statement issued on his website, he said:
?Republicans are sending a message that profits for their wealthy campaign contributors are more important than the lungs and lives of America?s coal miners. The recent investigative report by several news organizations on the devastating impact of black lung and the lengths that some mine operations go to circumvent their responsibility to protect miners should have been a wakeup call. It?s clear that voices wealthier than coal miner families drowned out that message. [...]This one touches home. My grandfather, an underground miner for 12 years and then a union organizer in several states, died of black lung just 15 months after gaining compensation more than a decade after being diagnosed. But the overall fight to get a federal black-lung compensation and prevention program into place lasted a lot longer than 10 years. Republicans obviously have not surrendered yet.
Blocking efforts by the Mine Safety and Health Administration to modernize miner protections will only cost lives, careers, and family income for those who go underground every day.?
Shorter McCain: In reporting exactly what I said, media are taking me out of context....[...]
Read The Full Article:
Four years later, and we're back to starbursts.
John McCain wants you to know that there wasn't something devastating hidden in Mitt Romney's 20 years of tax returns that stopped McCain from picking Romney over Sarah Palin. The reason McCain didn't pick Romney, McCain says, is simply because Sarah[...]
Read The Full Article:
Mitch McConnell (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)While managing to vote nearly three dozen times to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the Republicans haven't managed to pass any measures to create jobs. They haven't managed to come up with any plans that actually would create jobs. And they have voted down President Obama's plans to create jobs. So this should come as no surprise:
One of the top items on President Barack Obama's to do list - a 10 percent tax break for small businesses that make new hires - got tangled in an election-year tax debate as Republicans lead a filibuster to block the measure.The Republicans killed a tax cut that would have benefited small businesses and created jobs. Something they claim to want to support.
The legislation would have provided the tax credit to companies that hire new employees or otherwise expand their payrolls this year, a typically popular approach among the GOP. Republicans in the Senate did not necessarily object to the measure, but they protested Thursday after Democrats refused to allow votes on other amendments.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, sought votes on other tax proposals, specifically one that would extend for another year the tax breaks from the George W. Bush administration that expire in December.President Obama wants to extend those tax cuts on everyone making less than $250,000 a year. The point of contention is on tax cuts for the very wealthy. The Republicans therefore killed a jobs-creating tax cut for small businesses because they couldn't also get a tax cut extension for the very wealthy. That tells you how much they care about small businesses and the unemployed. But the politics is even more revealing.
Remember Thomas Friedman and the rest of the Third Way critics of partisanship? Here we had a small business tax cut that would have created jobs, and that both parties supposedly supported. But rather than work together on this supposed common ground with Democrats, thus helping the economy and the American people, the Republicans instead decided once again to hold necessary legislation hostage in an attempt to get more of their own petty partisan agenda. And you can be sure that Friedman and his ilk will be up in arms about this, right?
Quarterly fundraising reports for federal candidates, covering the period of April 1 through June 30, were due at the Federal Elections Commission on Sunday night. Below is our roundup of fundraising numbers from key House races across the country:
? "Raised" is the amount the candidate has received in donations from donors during the quarter, not including any loans.For various reasons (generally having to do with primaries), some reports reflect time periods that start before April 1 or end after June 30. You can check those out in our full spreadsheet by looking at the "Start" and "End" columns.
? "Self Fund" is the amount of direct contributions a candidate has made to his or her own campaign. Note that this number, if any, is also counted in the "Raised" column.
? "Self Loan" is the amount of any loans a candidate has made to his or her own campaign.
? "Spent" is the amount of money the campaign has spent during the quarter.
? "CoH" stands for total cash-on-hand at the end of the quarter.
? "CTD" indicates a candidate's contributions raised cycle-to-date, as of the end of the quarter.
Please let us know in comments if we are missing anyone notable. You can also take a look at our prior roundups from this cycle: 1Q 2012 | 4Q 2011 | 3Q 2011 | 2Q 2011. We'll also be bringing you a list of challengers who have out-raised incumbents (or have more cash-on-hand) in a separate post.
2:37 PM PT: One thing I should add is that many states have conducted primaries, conventions, and runoffs during the last few months. Because of that, many second quarter reports only cover part of the quarter. To offer a better apples-to-apples comparison, we've consolidated all fundraising reports between April 1 and June 30 to give an accurate picture of each candidate's total fundraising for the period. For instance, Democrat Joe Miklosi in CO-06 filed both a pre-primary and a quarterly report. Adding his fundraising together for both of those reports gives a total of $337K.