The US Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Thursday released its proposed update to hydraulic fracturing regulations, which would be the first update in three decades.The proposal would require companies to have a water-management plan for fluids that flow back to the surface. Fracking companies would be required to prevent toxic chemicals from leaking into groundwater.Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the new rules, calling them an initiative of a pro-energy Obama administration policy.“As the president has made clear, this administration’s priority is to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production,” Jewell said in a BLM press release. “In line with that goal, we are proposing some commonsense updates that increase safety while also providing flexibility and facilitating coordination with states and tribes.”The 171-page document requires companies to verify that wells are drilled properly so that groundwater does not become contaminated, submit plans for managing drilling wastewater, and disclose injected chemicals.But environmental groups quickly accused federal officials of creating weak rules that contain dangerous loopholes that may be a risk to water supplies across America.“The rules protect industry, not people,” Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke told the Denver Post. “This draft is a blueprint for business-as-usual industrialization of our landscapes.”The proposed regulations allow fracking companies to keep some of their chemicals exempt from disclosure, calling them ‘trade secrets’. Environmentalists have criticized the BLM for this, arguing that fracking companies could use dangerous chemicals near local communities that could pose an unknown risk, without having to report what they use. They also fail to require an evaluation of the security of cement barriers in individual wells. Oil and gas companies need only to have one of their wells tested for safety, and the government then assumes that the other wells are similar. “After reviewing the draft rules, we believe the administration is putting the American public’s health and well-being at risk, while continuing to give polluters a free ride,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told EcoWatch. “The draft BLM rules ignore the recommendations of the president’s own shale gas advisory committee, which called for transparency, full public chemical disclosure, environmental safeguards, and pollution monitoring.”Environmentalists are particularly concerned about the potential contamination of drinking water across the US, and have criticized Secretary Jewell for letting them down.The federal government last year proposed a set of rules that called for full disclosure of fracking chemicals, but these rules were heavily criticized by Republicans and the fracking industry. By taking away the provision requiring full disclosure, the rules have a better chance of going into effect, but they don’t address the most serious concern held by environmentalists.“Comparing today’s rule governing fracking on public lands with the one proposed a year earlier, it is clear what happened: the Bureau of Land Management caved to the wealthy and powerful oil and gas industry and left the public to fend for itself,” Jessica Ennis of Earthjustice told EcoWatch.“Our public lands – and the people who live near them – deserve the highest level of protection,” she added. “Today’s rule could have set the gold standard. Instead the BLM is settling for shoddy protections peddled by the oil and gas industry.” …
BP wants to halt payouts, amounting to millions of dollars, in what it calls “spurious” compensation claims to victims of the spill. The incident was the largest marine oil spill in history, killing 11 rig workers and discharging some 4.9 million barrels via an uncontrolled leak for 87 days. The ensuing settlement between BP and the US Department of Justice in November of 2012 meant that the oil company pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, as well as two misdemeanors and one felony count for lying to Congress. The company is also still in court for criminal and civil settlements, which have thus far cost the company $42 billion. At stake now, according to the new filing by the oil company, are unchecked payouts being permitted under presiding Judge Carl Barbier that could increase BP’s liability by $14 billion. According to The Guardian, BP has expressed in that filing that the additional billions, which the company has not budgeted for, could cause the company “irreparable” harm and make it the target of a takeover. BP was rumored to be a takeover target in late 2012 by Royal Dutch Shell. BP has absorbed large losses stemming from payouts for the massive Gulf spill and sold assets to compensate, taking most of the blame for the extensive damage to surrounding marine and wildlife habitats, as well as the loss of revenue for local maritime industry caused by both the spill, as well as cleanup efforts that involved controversial use of oil dispersant chemicals. In March, the company completed a deal to sell its half of the integrated Russian TNK-BP oil company to Rosneft, in return for $27 billion in cash and shares — $4 billion of which it intended to return to shareholders. Now, citing increasing payouts to Gulf spill claimants under an existing deal, BP has complained that it may have to review its dividend to shareholders. As a result, the company was reportedly considering approaching Prime Minister David Cameron to raise the issue with President Obama, who once called the BP Gulf spill “the worst environmental disaster in American history.”According to the legal injunction filed by BP, Gulf coast businesses in the US are pursuing multi-million dollar claims for “non-existent, artificially calculated” losses.In a filing with a New Orleans court last Friday, BP argues that “while the ultimate amount at stake is at present inestimable, awards for fictitious losses already are hundreds of millions of dollars and could reach billions.”In addition to overseeing payouts to claimants, Judge Barbier is also overseeing a civil claims trial that seeks to determine blame for the 2010 Deepwater spill, now in its seventh week.In response to BP’s claims against him, Judge Barbier accused the oil company of trying to move the claims process to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and beyond his jurisdiction. ”What you’re really trying to do – it’s quite obvious and there’s no subtlety here – is you’re trying to get this issue to the Fifth Circuit,” Barbier said.”If you believe you have a right to appeal, you can take that up with the circuit and then ask me to stay the order. I don’t know why we’re going through all these machinations,” Barbier added. In April both Florida and Mississippi announced suits against BP and oil rig contractor Halliburton under the Oil Pollution Act, just within the law’s three-year statute of limitation. Officials in Florida announced they would seek lost revenues as a result of the spill, as well as punitive damages “due to the egregious nature of the misconduct” leading up to the oil rig explosion and spill.On Thursday, British officials denied that BP had sought PM David Cameron’s intervention in reducing compensation claims. …
Residents of Mayflower, Ark., have reported difficulty breathing, sinus problems, burning noses and eyes, extreme fatigue, headaches, stomachaches and unexplained sore throats – often accompanied by a putrid stench.ExxonMobil, the owner of the Pegasus pipeline that ruptured on March 29, claims that toxic chemicals in the air are at safe levels and no risk to the local community.But resident complaints, health surveys and air samples tell a different story. Air samples from March 30 contained about 30 toxic chemicals in the small town of Mayflower, according to a press release by the Global Community Monitor (GCM), which conducted the independent tests.The air samples contained chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, n-hexane and xylenes. Many of these chemicals can cause cancer and reproductive health problems. Breathing n-hexene can cause permanent damage to the nervous system and cause numbness in the genital regions, muscular weakness, blurred vision, and headaches.The chemicals found in the samples are “regulated under the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act amendments as the most toxic of all known airborne chemicals,” according to the release.“The chemicals detected in the samples match the health impacts experienced both in the immediate neighborhood of the spill, and in the surrounding community,” Wilma Subra, an environmental health consultant, told The Huffington Post.Furthermore, the chemicals are most likely to affect young children, since they are much more sensitive to lower levels of toxins than adults. Even if the state considers air toxins to be at a legally safe level, it may only be ‘safe’ for adults. Mayflower resident Genieve Long told HuffPost that her 5-year-old son has been “wheezing and struggling to breathe” at night, starting a few days after the oil spill. She would constantly wake up panicked, fearing for her son’s health.And at the local elementary school, eight children were sent home last week due to breathing problems that were accompanied by a strong odor across Mayflower.“A lot of the released chemicals – benzene, hydrogen sulfide, toluene – are still extremely toxic, especially to children, the elderly and pregnant women, at very low levels,” said April Lane, who is in charge of health and safety at the school and has also been collecting health reports from local residents since the pipeline ruptured.“Even four weeks later, residents are still feeling symptoms from the chemical exposure,” she said in a GCM press release. “People have consistently talked about gastrointestinal problems, headaches, respiratory problems, skin irritation including chemical burns, and extreme fatigue.”Sherry Appleman, a resident who lives off of Lake Conway outside of the evacuation zone, said she herself has been suffering from deteriorating health conditions. She blames her symptoms on her proximity to the lake, which is now covered in thick, sticky bitumen. ExxonMobil previously alleged that the lake was not affected by the spill – but dead fish, ducks and wildlife indicate otherwise.“I couldn’t breathe,” Appleman told HuffPost, describing a night she woke up shortly after the spill. “My throat and nose and eyes were burning really bad. I could smell that horrible smell. I got really scared.”Appleman said she suffered headaches, stomachaches, and a sore throat for nine days. She also witnessed three men, equipped with a video screen and computer, pulling dead fish from the lake in the middle of the night.And although Exxon and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denied that the spill could sicken residents, National Resources Defense Council communications associate Rocky Kistner told KATV that they did little to investigate it.“I haven’t seen a lot of health authorities going into the neighborhoods and asking people directly, knocking on doors trying to find out well what are people experiencing in terms of their health,” he said.At a rally in front of the State Department last week, Long asked Secretary of State John Kerry to travel to Mayflower and take a look at the aftermath of the spill to see why transporting Canadian oil sands might be a bad idea. Even though Washington, D.C. is a large city in comparison to Mayflower, Long said the air smelled cleaner and purer than what she experiences at home in Arkansas. ”When I came back home, the putrid stench was still not gone,” she said. …
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Swedish fish firms have illegally sold around 200 tonnes of Baltic salmon to the European Union, ignoring an EU ban due to toxic chemicals in the fish.
Baltic herring and salmon can be sold to domestic consumers in Sweden, Finland and Latvia but only if the sellers give advice about safe limits for consumption.
Even so there is not much demand for the fish.
Fish salesman, Per Ahlgren said he’d had no alternative but to find a buyer outside Sweden:
“This salmon is impossible to sell in Sweden. People don’t eat this kind here. It must be red and look good, so this was the only way. France was the only one that was willing to buy it along with Denmark.”
With the Baltic Sea described as being heavily polluted the European Union back in 2002 banned Sweden from exporting salmon caught there after it was found to contain high levels of Dioxin.
French importer “Pecheries Nordiques” admitted to buying the fish but said it had acted in good faith and that tests it had carried out had not identified a dioxin presence.
The alert about the exports follows a horse meat contamination scandal in the EU which affected several countries.
Copyright © 2013 euronews
At least 15 workers at Crisalida Farms in Oxnard, California, found themselves struggling to breathe last week as the Camarillo Springs wildfire blackened the sky with smoke and ash. The blaze damaged more than a dozen houses, threatened 4,000 homes, and burned a store of highly toxic pesticides that caught fire at an agricultural property.Located just 11 miles south of the fire, workers at the Southern California strawberry farm had a difficult time breathing as they laboriously worked in the fields. Their boss had warned them that taking a break would compromise their jobs, and they were faced with a dilemma.“The ashes were falling on top of us,” one of the workers told NBC LA. “[But] they told us if we leave, there would be no job to return to.”On the evening of May 2, the Camarillo fire had reached about 10,000 acres and was only 10 percent contained. About 11,500 people had been evacuated at this point as hazmat teams warned locals not to inhale the smoke – especially since it contained toxic chemicals from the pesticides that had caught on fire.But this warning was ignored by the management team of Crisalida Farms. The workers ultimately had to choose between their health or their jobs – and a group of 15 chose to walk off of the fields on May 2 to seek shelter from the suffocating smoke and ash.When the workers returned to the fields on the morning of May 3, they found out that they had all been fired.“While it hurts to lose work, one’s health is more important,” said one terminated farm worker.Distressed about the situation, the laborers contacted the United Farm Workers union. Even though none of them were union members, the group tried to help them as best as they could. Lauro Barrajas, a UFW representative, met with the farm’s management team and argued that no laborers should be forced to work under dangerous conditions where health or safety is at stake.“The smoke was very bad. [There’s] no doubt about that,” he told NBC.A representative for Crisalida Farms argued that the workers left without permission and needed to file orders before walking off the job, according to the American television network Telemundo, which broadcasts in Spanish.After negotiations, the farm company came to an agreement with the union and offered to rehire all 15 of the laid-off workers – but only one chose to return to the company that put its workers’ health at risk. …
A goods train carrying a variety of chemicals and toxic raw materials en route to the Netherlands from Germany has derailed and caught fire near the Belgian village of Schellebelle.
Three of the train’s 12 wagons caught fire after half of them derailed due to a points failure. Residents within 500 metres of the blaze have been evacuated, while anyone within 1000 metres has been warned to stay indoors with their windows shut.
The authorities say 300 people have been evacuated, but there is no danger to public health despite at least one of the wagons containing cyanide. Firefighters are allowing the blaze to burn itself out as tackling it with water would allow the dispersal of toxic materials into the air and soil.
Copyright © 2013 euronews