Ditch the Myth

Let’s get serious about protecting clean water

This post addresses concerns and misconceptions about the proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect clean water. The proposed rule clarifies protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The following facts emphasize that this proposed rule cuts through red tape to make normal farming practices easier while also ensuring that waters are clean for human health, communities, and the economy.


MYTH: The rule would regulate all ditches, even those that only flow after rainfall.

TRUTH: The proposed rule actually reduces regulation of ditches because for the first time it would exclude ditches that are constructed through dry lands and don’t have water year-round. Tweet the truth

MYTH: A permit is needed for walking cows across a wet field or stream.

TRUTH: No. Normal farming and ranching activities don’t need permits under the Clean Water Act, including moving cattle. Tweet the truth

 The proposed rule to protect clean water will not change exclusions and exemptions for agriculture.

MYTH: Ponds on the farm will be regulated.

TRUTH: The proposed rule does not change the exemption for farm ponds that has been in place for decades. It would for the first time specifically exclude stock watering and irrigation ponds constructed in dry lands. Tweet the truth

MYTH: Groundwater is regulated by the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: The proposed rule specifically excludes groundwater. Tweet the truth

MYTH: The federal government is going to regulate puddles and water on driveways and playgrounds.

TRUTH: Not remotely true. Such water is never jurisdictional. Tweet the truth

MYTH: EPA is gaining power over farms and ranches.

TRUTH: No. All historical exclusions and exemptions for agriculture are preserved. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not require permits for normal farming activities like moving cattle.

MYTH: Only the 56 conservation practices are now exempt from the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: No. The proposal does not remove the normal farming exemption. It adds 56 beneficial conservation practices to the exemption, which is self-implementing. Tweet the truth

Download the interpretive rule signed by EPA and USDA

MYTH: The proposed rule will apply to wet areas or erosional features on fields.

TRUTH: Water-filled areas on crop fields are not jurisdictional and the proposal specifically excludes erosional features. Tweet the truth

MYTH: This is the largest land grab in history.

TRUTH: The Clean Water Act only regulates the pollution and destruction of U.S. waters. The proposed rule would not regulate land or land use. Tweet the truth

MYTH: EPA and the Army Corps are going around Congress and the Supreme Court.

TRUTH: EPA and the Army Corps are responding to calls from Congress and the Supreme Court to clarify regulations. Chief Justice Roberts said that a rulemaking would provide clarification of jurisdiction. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water keeps in place the current exemptions for farm ponds.

MYTH:  The proposal will now require permits for all activities in floodplains.

TRUTH: The Clean Water Act does not regulate land and the agencies are not asserting jurisdiction over land in floodplains. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The proposed rule will harm the economy.

TRUTH: Protecting water is vital to the health of the economy. Streams and wetlands are economic drivers because of their role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy, and manufacturing. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The costs of this proposal are too burdensome.

TRUTH: For this proposed rule, the potential economic benefits are estimated to be about TWICE the potential costs – $390 to $510 million in benefits versus $160 to $278 million in costs.  Tweet the truth

Download an economic analysis about the proposed rule

MYTH:  This is a massive expansion of federal authority.

TRUTH: The proposal does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule specifically reflects the more narrow reading of jurisdiction established by the Supreme Court and the rule protects fewer waters than prior to the Supreme Court cases. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not regulate floodplains.

MYTH:  This is increasing the number of regulated waters by including waters that do not flow year-round as waters of the United States.

TRUTH: Streams that only flow seasonally or after rain have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was enacted in 1972. More than 60 percent of streams nationwide do not flow year-round and contribute to the drinking water supply for 117 million Americans. Tweet the truth

See a map of counties that depend on these sources for drinking water

MYTH:  Only actual navigable waters can be covered under the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: Court decisions and the legislative history of the Clean Water Act make clear that waters do not need actual navigation to be covered, and these waters have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was passed in 1972. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The rule includes no limits on federal jurisdiction.

TRUTH: The proposed rule does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and specifically reflects the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of jurisdiction, and includes several specific exclusions. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not regulate puddles.

MYTH:  This rule is coming before the science is available. 

TRUTH: EPA’s scientific assessment is based on more than 1,000 pieces of previously peer-reviewed and publicly available literature. The rule will not be finalized until the scientific assessment is finalized. Tweet the truth

Download the draft scientific assessment (331 pp, 11 MB, PDF)

MYTH:  This is about little streams in the middle of nowhere that don’t matter.

TRUTH: Everyone lives downstream. This means that our communities, our cities, our businesses, our schools, and our farms are all impacted by the pollution and destruction that happens upstream. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The proposal infringes on private property rights and hinders development.

TRUTH: EPA, the Army Corps, and states issue thousands of permits annually that allow for property development and economic activity in ways that protect the environment. The proposed rule will help reduce regulatory confusion and delays in determining which waters are covered. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water actually decreases regulation of ditches.

MYTH:  Stakeholders were not consulted in the development of the proposed rule.

TRUTH: This is a proposal. Agencies are seeking public comment and participating in extensive outreach to state and tribal partners, the regulated community including small business, and the general public. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The federal government is taking authority away from the states.

TRUTH: This proposed rule fully preserves and respects the effective federal-state partnership and federal-tribal partnership established under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule will not affect state water laws, including those governing water supply and use. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  Nobody wanted a rulemaking to define Waters of the U.S.

TRUTH: A rulemaking to provide clarity was requested by the full spectrum of stakeholders: Congress, industry, agriculture, businesses, hunters and fisherman, and more. Tweet the truth   

See who requested this rulemaking

Humboldt County Democrats

Let’s get serious about protecting clean water

This post addresses concerns and misconceptions about the proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect clean water. The proposed rule clarifies protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The following facts emphasize that this proposed rule cuts through red tape to make normal farming practices easier while also ensuring that waters are clean for human health, communities, and the economy.


MYTH: The rule would regulate all ditches, even those that only flow after rainfall.

TRUTH: The proposed rule actually reduces regulation of ditches…

View original post 1,025 more words

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A Letter to Governor Sandoval

— originally drafted by Christian Gerlach and edited by Vickie Rock

Dear Governor Brian Sandoval,

Can you please explain why the Nevada Division of Water Resources has denied new water wells to farmers and ranchers due to drought in northern Nevada, yet that same Division has approved permits for oil companies like Noble Energy, a corporation that plans to use millions of gallons of our ground water to hydraulically fracture in a known seismic zone?

Farmers and ranchers actually return something of value to humanity.  Frackers, on the other hand, infuse our limited water resources with hundreds of nasty chemicals, including known carcinogens like benzene and glycol-ethers (precursors to plastics).  In that process, the water consumed by frackers is rendered unusable, except for more fracking.

Governor, you are allowing state agencies, that are supposed to protect our citizenry and natural resources, to disregard measures that ensure the public’s safety. SB390, as passed, makes it such that companies like Noble Energy can literally frack Nevadans, without any fear of recourse for any misdeeds or damage the create environmentally or ecologically.

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is being paid by Noble Energy to do studies on the areas that are going to be fracked.  And, according to the Nevada Division of Minerals, the results of DRI’s study can be kept confidential at the request of Noble Energy for potentially, an undisclosed amount of time. Studies are NOT being done independently of Noble Energy, and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection won’t be required until 2015 to come out with its own study of fracking’s impact.  How is this not a conflict of interest? Something that puts people’s livelihoods on the line? The people of rural Nevada don’t have the luxury of LakeTahoe or LakeMead. Northern Nevadans have water wells that could easily be poisoned through fracking processes.

On March 13th 2013,  KNPR’s State of Nevada had Rayola Dougher, a senior economic adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, as a guest. She misled KNPR’s listeners as to the safety of fracking.  Ms. Dougher failed to mention that the process is exempt from seven major federal regulations:

Really?  Please explain how SB390 which you signed into law will protect our municipal water supplies.  I’d love to hear or read that explanation.

Another fact, which was taken offline by Nevada Public Radio (@KNPR), is that a man by the name of David Focardi commented about the interview.  Mr. Focardi commented that he had worked on oil rigs in Nevada and that there was fresh water up to 14,000 feet deep. I reached out to Mr. Focardi, but he has yet to answer any of my correspondence.

According to Mr. Lowell Price of the Nevada Division of Minerals, fracking would take place in the 7000 to 9000 foot depth range.  And while our ground water aquifers may be at depths of say 14,000 feet, our “ground” is riddled with fault lines. Those fault lines mean that there may not be an impervious layer of rock between where hydraulic fracturing is proposed to take place and the actual aquifer feeding our communities with drinking water.  Those fault lines may also provide connections between subterraneous channels and the different aquifers of water supporting our communities.  Once that water is contaminated, what happens to our communities.  The only good that may come from fracking, if you really can call that “good” — is that I guess that would mean you won’t be grabbing any of that water from contaminated northern Nevada aquifers for use in Las Vegas and its suburbs.  But then, that’s a whole different letter for another day.

Fracking processes require thousands of gallons of water-laden frack fluid PER MINUTE pumped under high pressures into deep horizontally drilled oil/gas wells.  Frack fluid could be released through a fault line or a fracture created by fracking into municipal ground water. When I spoke to someone at the Desert Research Institute they said that a geological study is being done and any “study” would remain the proprietary information of Noble Energy.  So, even if Noble Energy or the Desert Research Institute found fault lines they won’t be required to tell anyone about it.  Reliance on secret and proprietary studies conducted by organizations that would have significant incentive to conceal any information that might have an adverse effect on approval, is tantamount to malfeasance in governance on your part.

I realize that if Noble Energy had to release information as to where the oil is, that could allow other oil companies to come in and undercut Noble Energy.  But there needs to be a work-around to ensure our water resources are not placed at risk.  The risk to human health and life should matter more than any sum of profit for a single corporation.

So I ask you Governor why frack with us or allow others to do so? There is already oil drilling in Nevada done without Fracking. Why must we frack? I say bring oil jobs to Nevada if you must, but don’t frack!  Now the reason I post this is because of what you promote, Governor Sandoval.  You keep saying it’s about jobs and that Hydraulic Fracturing would bring jobs to Nevada. The truth is, these jobs won’t be widespread nor will they sustainable lest there are thousands of oil/frack wells, like there are in Texas or North Dakota.  But, Mr. Governor, we do NOT have the water resources to make that happen.  And what water we do have, won’t be usable for human consumption once Frackers are done with it.  So. Mr. Governor, when all is said and done, what jobs you create would be for naught, as without drinkable water, Nevadans will no longer be able to live anywhere near the wastelands created by the Frackers.

A Deadly Power Surge

Fracking might be profitable, but whether it’s good for anything else is doubtful.

— by Jill Richardson

Jill Richardson

Jacki Schilke was suffering from symptoms ranging from rashes, pain, and lightheadedness to dental problems and urinating blood. The formerly healthy, 53-year-old cattle rancher’s body was under assault from a list of toxic chemicals as long as your arm.

But Schilke’s lucky — so far — compared to five of her cows. They died.

Richardson-Fracking-Oly-Pentax

The rancher’s problems might become worse in time, since the chemicals causing her acute problems are also linked to chronic, deadly diseases like cancer.

What’s afflicting Schilke and her cows? The oil and gas drilling craze known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. As The Nation magazine and the Great Plains Examiner reported last year, Oasis Petroleum started fracking on land three miles from her ranch in 2010. Oasis got money, the world got more energy from the gas they drilled, and Schilke got sick. Now, she won’t even eat her own beef.

If the results of fracking were virtually unknown a decade ago, before it became a common practice in states like Pennsylvania and Schilke’s home of North Dakota, there’s no mystery remaining now.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, when you pump a cocktail of toxic chemicals into the ground to dislodge fossil fuels, there’s a cocktail of toxic chemicals in the ground. And some of those toxins don’t stay put. Those toxic chemicals make their way into the water, the soil, and the air, and they’re EXEMPT from regulation under the Clean Water Act.  You can thank Dick Cheney for that reckless action.

And the toxins flow from there — into the living things that rely on the water: the soil, the air, plants, animals, and us. We’re fracking our food.

Yet President Barack Obama is a big fracking supporter. He called natural gas a form of “clean energy” in the big address on global warming he delivered in June, touting the nation’s production of more natural gas “than any other country on Earth.” Then he said, “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”

Right. Compared to other forms of dirty energy, natural gas might reduce our carbon emissions. But at what cost?

If our only energy options were oil, coal, and natural gas, we’d be in a rotten Catch-22. Luckily, we have more choices than that. There are growing solar, wind, and geothermal options. Perhaps the most overlooked alternative is increasing efficiency.

I visited the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, two years ago. The school had made a big effort to reduce its energy use. In one building, I saw a hallway that used to have its lights turned on all the time. The builders had never even installed switches to turn them off.

Decades ago, energy was “too cheap to meter.” It seemed cheaper to just leave the lights on all the time than to wire them to be turned off. That’s changed. After some retrofitting, the lights can be turned off.

How many other buildings and homes have no light switches, insufficient insulation, or old, power-guzzling appliances? How many are still being built without taking advantage of the most up-to-date methods that curb energy use?

Obama proudly spoke of doubling America’s use of solar and wind power in the last four years, with plans to double them yet again. He’s right. We increased wind and solar energy from less than 1 percent of our energy in 2007 to less than 2 percent in 2011. (Meanwhile, our reliance on natural gas crept up from 28 percent to 30 percent of total energy consumption, and our total use of energy overall rose in those four years by 9.4 percent — with most of the increase coming from dirty sources.)

Fracking might be profitable, but whether it’s good for anything else is doubtful. Emissions during the fracking process outweigh any benefits of reduced emissions when the fuel obtained is burned. Besides, how does fracking American land make sense if it’s poisoning our food and water supply with chemicals that give us cancer?

Let’s solve our energy problems by increasing efficiency and by turning to truly clean sources of energy: renewable options like solar, wind, and geothermal power.


OtherWords

columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.  OtherWords.org.  Photo Credit:  Oly-Pentax/Flickr

Tell the Bureau of Land Management: Ban fracking on federal lands

Tell the Bureau of Land Management: Ban fracking on federal lands

The Obama administration just released its first major fracking policy–the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed rules for fracking on 600 million acres of public land. And it’s even worse than we feared.1

In a major concession to the fracking industry and its lobbying efforts, the proposed rules are even weaker than previous drafts of the rules.2 3 And they do nothing to close Dick Cheney’s infamous “Halliburton loophole,” which exempts fracking from key parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act.4

Of course, it’s become clear that there is simply no safe way to frack. So even worse than the specific concessions made to industry in the draft regulations is the assumption that fracking should be allowed to continue on federal lands despite overwhelming evidence that it endangers our air, water and climate.

The BLM is accepting public comments on its proposed fracking rules for 30 days. We need to let the administration know that these rules are totally inadequate. The administration needs to ban fracking on public lands – not cave to the industry and endanger our health and safety.

Submit a public comment telling the Bureau of Land Management: Ban fracking on federal lands.

An area of federal land larger than the entire state of Florida is currently under lease for oil and gas extraction, so this is one of the most important fracking policy decisions the Obama administration will make.5

Unfortuanately, every indication is that the White House is still putting the interests of oil and gas companies before the health and safety of American communities. The proposed regulations let the industry keep secret the toxic chemicals it injects underground by designating them as “trade secrets” without oversight from the BLM. The rules allow the industry to store contaminated waste in massive open pits, which can release dangerous air emissions and leak toxins into groundwater. And the rules do nothing to prevent the industry from fracking wells right next to homes and schools.

And of course, the harm fracking does to local communities is compounded by its significant contribution to the climate crisis.6 As the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passes 400 parts per million–well beyond what many scientists say is safe–the Obama administration should be working to keep its promise to confront climate change, not encouraging the extraction of vast new reserves of dirty oil and gas.

Submit a public comment telling the Bureau of Land Management:
Demand that they BAN fracking on OUR federal lands.

Take-Action

1. Steven Mufson, “Obama administration issues draft fracking regulations,” Washington Post, May 16, 2013
2. Matthew McFeeley, “Obama Administration Caves To Fracking Industry in New Proposed Rules,” NRDC Switchboard, May 16, 2013
3. Mike Soraghan, “White House huddled with industry before changes to BLM fracking rule,”EnergyWire, April 12, 2013
4. Lauren Pagel and Lisa Sumi, “Loopholes for Polluters,” Earthworks, May 16, 2011
5. Amy Mall, “More than six percent of U.S. already leased for oil and gas: new NRDC analysis,”NRDC Switchboard, February 26, 2013
6. Joe Romm, “IEA’s ‘Golden Age of Gas Scenario’ Leads to More Than 6°F Warming and Out-of-Control Climate Change,” ThinkProgress, June 7, 2011

Tell Me Again How Corps Have Our Best Interests at Heart and that Fracking is Good

Just as a fracking operation is starting up in Elko County, and … just as President Obama is getting ready to nominate a new Secretary of Energy to run the Department of Energy, a post on Truth-Out reminds us ‘why’ this appointment is so important.  The rumored name for the appointment just happens to be a proponent of fracking … so … if he were to be appointed, how likely do you believe it would be that regulatory action would be taken against Energy Corporations doing verifiable damage to our environment?  Here’s an excerpt, but please take a moment to click the link below and read the full article.

“Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial drilling technique that is facilitating an oil and gas boom in Ohio and nearby states. Fracking produces large quantities of chemical-laced waste fluids and mud.

Ben Lupo, owner of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating, pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal felony charges under the Clean Water Act.

On the night of January 31, state investigators acted on an anonymous tip and caught Lupo’s employees dumping oil and gas drilling waste – fluid, mud and oil – into a storm sewer that empties into a tributary of the Mahoning River, according to the Justice Department …”

Read the full article here

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