Get off the fossil fuel train SA

In a statement, Dr. Pierre Friedlingstein from the University of Exeter said, “We have exhausted about 70 percent of the cumulative emissions that keep global climate change likely below two degrees. In terms of CO2 emissions, we are following the highest climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September.”

In light of this, why are we even looking at additional fossil fuels at this stage in the game?

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Global Carbon Emissions Set To Reach New High In 2013

By Ari Phillips on November 19, 2013 at 10:13 am


CREDIT: Shutterstock

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels are set to rise again in 2013, reaching a record high of 36 billion tons. According to a report released Monday by the Global Carbon Project, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production increased by 2.1 percent in 2012, with a total of nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere, 60 percent above 1990 emissions. Emissions are projected to increase by a further 2.1 percent in 2013.

The projected 2.1 percent rise over 2012 figures “is not a surprise at all,” Roisin Moriarty, a research scientist with the Global Carbon Project at the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Center for Climate Research, told NBC News. In fact, “it is a little lower than the value we predicted last year — 2.6 percent.”

Moriarty attributed the slowdown almost entirely to slower economic growth in China, saying it’s nothing to celebrate.

According to a statement released with the study, most emissions are from coal (43 percent), then oil (33 percent), gas (18 percent), cement (5.3 percent) and gas flaring (0.6 percent). The growth in coal in 2012 accounted for 54 percent of the growth in fossil fuel emissions.

The U.S. reduced emissions by 3.7 percent in 2012, while the E.U. made cuts of 1.3 percent. India and China are leading the way on emissions growth, increasing emissions by 7.7 percent and 5.9 percent respectively.

CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use change added eight percent to the emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Cumulative emissions of CO2 since 1870 are set to reach 2015 billion tons in 2013, with 70 percent caused by burning fossil fuels and 30 percent from deforestation and other land-use changes, according to the study.

In a statement, Dr. Pierre Friedlingstein from the University of Exeter said, “We have exhausted about 70 percent of the cumulative emissions that keep global climate change likely below two degrees. In terms of CO2 emissions, we are following the highest climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September.”

The highest climate change scenario sets the world on track for catastrophic warming of 3.2-5.4C (5.8-9.7F) by 2100.

Dr. Michael Raupach at CSIRO and an author on the report told The Conversation that the findings are “absolutely frightening.”

Raupach estimated that we have 30 years before the entire world has to stop emitting carbon “cold turkey.”

“If we want to meet the target it will mean rapid decreases from now of several percent per year until we get down to one third of current emissions in 30 years time. Then we’ve still got some of our quota left to use for carbon emissions we can’t avoid,” he said.

Canada’s Largest Private Sector Union Calls For Fracking Moratorium

“Global anti-fracking protests grow while SA pro-frackers just frack onward”

Unifor, Canada’s largest energy union, calls for Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking; the ignorant keep blindly pushing forward, harming families, communities, environment, infrastructure and existing businesses

Posted on November 16, 2013 by admin

Canada’s Largest Private Sector Union Calls For Fracking Moratorium, Unifor worried about ‘frightening’ pollution, worker safety, First Nations rights by Andrew Nikiforuk, November 16, 2013,
Canada’s largest private sector union has called for a national moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a brute force technology that has opened up shale formations for mining across North America and the world. Unifor, which has 300,000 members in the country, said the technology has raised substantive environmental and economic concerns across the country and needs greater scrutiny. … Unifor came into existence earliest this year after the merger of two of Canada’s most powerful and largest unions: the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. In a Nov. 14 press release, the union cited concerns about “frightening” groundwater pollution, methane leaks, “unpredictable impacts” on rock formations, “destruction of surface land” as well as safety issues for workers “toiling under haphazard, gold-rush-like conditions.” The union was also disturbed by the fracking industry’s impact on First Nations and unresolved treaty claims, a major issue in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. “First Nations activists in New Brunswick and elsewhere are highlighting, with determination and passion, their insistence that no resource exploration or extraction can occur on their lands without full informed consent and a generous sharing of the economic benefits.” A national moratorium should remain in place “until such time as the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking have been adequately addressed, and until First Nations communities have given full informed consent for fracking activity on their traditional lands.”

More than 100 U.S. municipalities have now passed laws banning hydraulic fracturing in their jurisdiction because of concerns about water usage, groundwater contamination, air pollution and the industrialization of farmland. In early November, voters in three major cities in Colorado, an oil and gas state, approved bans on fracking. Voters in Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette all approved moratoriums by a wide margin. The government of British Columbia has banked its economic future on the development shale gas in Peace River region. These deposits, among the costliest and most water intensive in the world, would require the drilling of more than 50,000 wells. By some rough estimates, this level of shale gas drilling could use as much water as annual water requirements for bitumen mining in Alberta or enough water to support a city of two million people a year. To date, the government has performed no cumulative impact assessment on the industry’s heavy footprint on water and land, nor a financial risk analysis. … Environment Canada and Health Canada told the Auditor General in 2012 that they did not have a good understanding of the 800 chemicals and substances used for hydraulic fracturing fluid. Nor had they investigated the risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process. [Emphasis added]

Unifor Calls for National Moratorium on Fracking Press Release by UNIFOR, November 14, 2013
Unifor, Canada’s largest energy union, is calling for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking. Already the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have introduced moratoriums on fracking. Nova Scotia has banned fracking while undertaking a review. Unifor is now pushing for a national moratorium. Unifor is raising concerns about the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking as well as the lack of informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands. In the statement unanimously passed by the 25-person Unifor National Executive Board, the union expressed support for the non-violent protest efforts by First Nations to resist fracking activity on their lands. The Unifor National Executive Board is made up of elected representatives from across the country and a variety of economic sectors, including energy.

“Unconventional gas fracking has the potential to have catastrophic effects on our environment and economy. The safety risks are also a major concern for our union,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Just because we can carry out this activity does not mean we should. We must enact a national moratorium on fracking activity.” Dias also noted that it would be folly for Canada to reorient our entire energy infrastructure around a short-term surge in an unsustainable energy supply.

From the statement:

“Any resource extraction industry in Canada must confront the problem of unresolved aboriginal land claims, and the inadequate economic benefits (including employment opportunities) which have been offered to First Nations communities from resource developments. This problem is especially acute with fracking because of the widespread land which would be affected by the activity, and the heated, profit-hungry rush which the industry is set to quickly unleash. Many Canadians share these concerns with the potential economic, social, and environmental damage of an unregulated fracking industry. Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, Canada’s federal and provincial governments must develop and implement (in cooperation with other stakeholders) a national plan for a stable, sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here.”

The full statement: Unifor National Executive Board Resolution on Fracking November 12, 2013
The advent of new hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) technologies has dramatically altered the economic and environmental effects of the petroleum industry in recent years – around the world, but especially in North America.

Fracking technology relies on the high-pressure injection of a mixture of water and chemicals into numerous drilled wells, in order to fracture geological formations and allow the release of larger quantities of both crude oil and natural gas. This allows the profitable production of petroleum reserves located in “tight” rock formations (including shale) which were formerly unfeasible. The dramatic expansion of fracking in certain regions of the U.S. (including North Dakota, Texas, and elsewhere) over the last decade has had enormous implications for energy markets, and the environment. Profit-hungry companies are now eyeing other potential fracking regions for similar expansion – including many parts of Canada.

Various types of fracturing technology have been used in the petroleum industry for decades. The new generations of the technology, however, have raised substantial environmental concerns, including:

 Frightening pollution of water sources (as fracking chemicals and released methane seep into ground and underground water sources).
 Large emissions of greenhouse gases (including wasted flared gas, and large emissions
of released methane – which is 25 times more powerful in raising global temperatures
than carbon dioxide).
 Unpredictable impacts of pressure injection on the stability of rock formations and land surfaces (causing earthquakes and other damage in many locations).
 Destruction of surface land through intensive drilling, road construction, and
infrastructure (since wells in fracked petroleum fields must be much closer together
than in conventional fields).

The fracking boom in places like North Dakota has led to a rapid expansion of U.S. oil and gas production. However, evidence is mounting that this new production will be short-lived:
fracked wells tend to deplete much more quickly than conventional wells.

Safety issues related to fracking are also troubling, including questionable health and safety
conditions for workers toiling under haphazard, gold-rush-like conditions.Investigators now believe that the unique explosive properties of fracked oil played a role in the horrible Lac Mégantic tragedy in Québec this summer (the train was carrying fracked crude oil from North Dakota).

The expansion of fracking has also had dramatic and damaging economic consequences, too. The sudden surge of new U.S. supplies into the market has driven continental natural gas prices to historic lows. It has also displaced normal flows of energy. For example, Canada now imports significant quantities of fracked gas from the U.S., disrupting traditional gas flows from Western Canada and undermining the economics of our major east-west gas pipeline system. This surge of fracked oil and gas supplies is not likely to last; it would be folly for Canada to reorient our entire energy infrastructure around a short-term surge in a clearly unsustainable energy supply.

Another very troubling dimension of the fracking industry, in Canada and elsewhere, is its impact on relations with First Nations peoples. Of course, any resource extraction industry in Canada must confront the problem of unresolved aboriginal land claims, and the inadequate economic benefits (including employment opportunities) which have been offered to First Nations communities from resource developments. This problem is especially acute with fracking because of the widespread land which would be affected by the activity, and the heated, profit-hungry rush which the industry is set to quickly unleash. First Nations activists in
New Brunswick and elsewhere are highlighting, with determination and passion, their
insistence that no resource exploration or extraction can occur on their lands without full 
informed consent and a generous sharing of the economic benefits.

Many Canadians share these concerns with the potential economic, social, and environmental damage of an unregulated fracking industry. Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have both imposed a moratorium on new fracking exploration. Other provinces and regions are also now investigating the risks and effects of fracking.

For all these reasons, the National Executive Board of Unifor supports a Canada-wide
moratorium on unconventional fracking activity. This moratorium should stay in place until
such time as the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking have been adequately addressed, and until First Nations communities have given full informed consent for fracking activity on their traditional lands. We express our solidarity with non-violent efforts by First Nations communities to assert their title and resist new fracking activity in their lands. And we renew our call for a national energy and environmental strategy, that would utilize Canada’s extensive resources of conventional petroleum and natural gas to meet our energy needs and support value-added industries in Canada. Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, Canada’s federal and provincial governments must develop and implement (in cooperation with other stakeholders) a national plan for a stable, sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here. As one of its first priorities, Unifor’s new Energy Council will work to develop and communicate Unifor’s vision for such a national energy and environmental strategy. [Emphasis added]

New Brunswick’s Energy Minister hopes protests against shale gas development don’t stop SWN Resources from proceeding by Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press, November 14, 2013, The Globe and Mail
Craig Leonard’s comments came Thursday after the RCMP blocked Highway 11 in northeastern New Brunswick for a few hours because of a demonstration intended to stop the energy company from conducting seismic testing. “We hope protests remain peaceful and lawful and hopefully SWN will be able to get their work done in the allotted time that they’re looking at,” Leonard said. “Then we can determine if there actually is a resource there.” RCMP Constable Jullie Rogers-Marsh said several pieces of equipment and a truck belonging to a private company working in the area of the protest near Laketon, N.B., about 30 kilometres south of Miramichi, were damaged. She declined to say what company owned the truck. A 46-year-old woman was also arrested at the protest site for mischief, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, and traffic on the highway was rerouted for several hours due to safety concerns, she said. The road was reopened by late afternoon. Protesters have gathered in the area for the past few days in anticipation of a resumption of shale gas exploration by SWN Resources, which had placed equipment along the highway to conduct seismic testing. A spokesman for the company declined comment.

On Thursday, Unifor, a union that represents some workers in the energy sector, called for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking.In a statement, the union said it is raising concerns about the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking as well as the lack of informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands. “Unconventional gas fracking has the potential to have catastrophic effects on our environment and economy,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias. But Leonard said New Brunswick is forging ahead with the shale-gas industry. [Emphasis added]


Top climate scientists call for CA governor to ban fracking

Top climate scientists call for fracking ban in letter to Gov. Jerry Brown

(Meanwhile quasi-intellectual pro-frackers in South Africa, who don’t even live in the Karoo, say that all of the anti-fracking lobby’s major claims have fallen apart)

By Paul Rogers

POSTED:   11/12/2013 04:07:39 PM PST | UPDATED:   A DAY AGO

Twenty of the nation’s top climate scientists have sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, telling him that his plans supporting increased use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will increase pollution and run counter to his efforts to cut California’s global warming emissions.

The letter is the latest example of the increased pressure that environmentalists and others concerned about climate change have been putting on Brown in recent months. Their argument: The governor can’t say he wants to reduce global warming while expanding fossil fuel development in California.

Large hoses go from one hydraulic fracturing drill site to another as horses graze in the field Sept. 24, 2013, in Midland, Texas. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan) ( Pat Sullivan )

“If what we’re trying to do is stop using the sky as a waste dump for our carbon pollution, and if we’re trying to transform our energy system, the way to do that is not by expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University.

Caldeira signed the letter along with other prominent climate scientists, including James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Richard Houghton, acting president of Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts; and physicist Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Penn State University.

The letter called for Brown to place a moratorium on fracking, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done.

“Shale gas and tight oil development is likely to worsen climate disruption, which would harm California’s efforts to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” it notes.

Last month, in response to a question from this newspaper, Brown said: “As you know, I signed legislation that will create the most comprehensive environmental analysis of fracking to date. It will take a year, year and a half, maybe a little longer. And I hope that all the people, critics and supporters alike, will participate and offer their best thoughts.”

On Tuesday, the Brown Administration responded to the scientists’ letter in a statement:

“As the scientists note, California has among the strongest set of policies to combat climate change in the nation. These efforts are driven by sound science and so too will the new hydraulic fracturing regulations. … We look forward to continuing to work with the scientific community.”

The oil industry criticized the scientists’ letter.

“The authors of this letter, while clearly very respected in their fields, do not present an accurate or realistic picture of our energy needs and our energy future,” said Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association in Sacramento.

“California is going to need petroleum-based energy for a long time, even as it transitions to a lower carbon future.”

Brown has generally won high marks from environmental groups over his 40-year political career. He signed legislation requiring California utilities to generate 33 percent of their electricity from solar, wind and other renewable resources by 2020, for example. Last month, he appeared at an event in San Francisco to announce a pact with the governors of Washington state, Oregon and the premier of British Columbia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But he has come under increasing criticism — and public protests — this fall from opponents of fracking, the practice in which oil and gas companies inject water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture underground rock formations and release huge amounts of fossil fuels.

In September, Brown signed SB4, a bill by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, that requires companies that conduct fracking operations in California to notify all nearby property owners, obtain a permit from the state, conduct groundwater testing and disclose the chemicals they are using. The law takes effect in 2015. Opponents say that water pollution and increased air and climate emissions from fracking require a moratorium, particularly in the Monterey Shale, an area that stretches from Bakersfield to Monterey and holds billions of dollars of shale oil that could be recovered from increased fracking.

Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at

Coalition of Californians urge Gov. Jerry Brown to ban fracking – but SA Pro-frackers see only dollar signs

Media Advisory, November 14, 2013

Contact: Rose Braz, (510) 435-6809,
Peg Mitchell, (760) 224-3252 (onsite cell)

Anti-fracking Activists Confront Gov. Brown at “Elected Official of the Year” Award Event

Coalition Highlights Extreme Oil Production’s Harm to State’s Air, Water, Climate

SAN DIEGO— Sign-carrying activists with San Diego 350, CREDO, the Center for Biological Diversity and Californians Against Fracking will urge Gov. Jerry Brown to ban fracking at his appearance to receive an “elected official of the year” award in San Diego today. The protest is being organized on the ground by San Diego 350.

Gov. Brown has been dogged by protesters from the 150-member Californians Against Fracking coalition at appearances across the state for his refusal to ban the highly polluting technique, which involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock formations and release oil and gas.

“Governor Brown needs to realize that water has become a scarce natural resource that must be protected,” said Peg Mitchell of “Fracking consumes huge amounts of fresh water for extracting a product that destroys our climate. Meanwhile our cities are struggling to find new sources of water while our citizens are left with costly energy-intensive alternative solutions for drinking water. This just doesn’t make economic or environmental sense.”

“Gov. Brown needs to realize that climate leaders don’t frack,” said Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The governor’s support for this dangerous form of oil and gas extraction could tarnish the Golden State, not to mention his legacy, forever. Fracking pollution contaminates the air we breathe and the water we drink. It will also blow a huge hole in California’s efforts to fight dangerous climate change.”

What: Protest calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to ban fracking outside governor’s appearance to receive an award as elected official of the year.
When: Today, Thursday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.
Where:  Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, 3777 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego CA 92122

Despite acknowledging the urgent need to fight climate change, Gov. Brown has refused to halt fracking in California. Fracking is tied to air and water pollution and releases huge volumes of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas.

A study published this year in the Journal of Geophysical Research found that the methane leak rate from Los Angeles-area oil and gas operations was 17 percent, a rate that makes these fuels far worse for the climate than coal. New fracking and acidization technologies are opening up huge new sources of dirty oil in California’s Monterey Shale formation to extraction and combustion, threatening the state’s leadership on climate.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of environmental, business, health, agriculture, labor, political, and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking in California.


Pennsylvania DA charges Exxon Mobil for fracking spill

While in South Africa, pro-frackers will tell you that the risks of fracking are ‘small and easily manageable’

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A fracking accident by Exxon results in negative environmental effects

by Toby Forstater The TEMPLE News

XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of the gas giant Exxon Mobil Corp., has recently been fined $100,000 for criminal violations and is forced to clean up a 2010 wastewater spill caused by hydraulic fracking in Lycoming County, Pa. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office announced  Sept. 10 that the company will be prosecuted.
XTO is subject to three criminal counts under the Solid Waste Management Act and five counts of violating the Clean Streams Law.

The Inquirer reported on Sept. 22 that Robert Marquardt, who lives in the Lycoming County area, said there has been “no lasting damage” from the 2010 spill of the Marcellus Shale wastewater at the well site on his cattle farm.

Marquardt is not a geologist, hydrologist or an environmentalist. He is a farmer who leased out a huge plot of land for hydraulic fracturing. His land is also the site of a catastrophic wastewater leak, called “produced water” by fracking companies, referring to the myriad chemicals that contaminate it after the natural gas is acquired through fracking.
The numerical evidence reported by the Inquirer is alarming: More than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater spilled.More than 3,000 tons of soil were excavated and removed.This is the first criminal fine after 4,400 environmental infractions, according to the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, XTO discharged pollutants for 65 days. After an official from the Department of Environmental Protection discovered the leak on Nov. 16, 2010 the damage was already done. Public awareness of the spill hasn’t spread until this year, despite the damage that’s been present. Kane was heavily criticized for simply doing her job – by finding XTO guilty and bringing this to the public’s attention.
It seems business people in the state are more concerned with the ability to make a profit than to preserve the environment. Gene Barr, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry president, claimed that charging XTO has negative effects on potential local businesses, as he told the Inquirer on Sept. 13.
This statement should not come as a surprise, as he is a member of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Neither Barr’s nor Marquardt’s claims have academic experience in environmental protection.
Furthermore, there is a lack of ecological tests to disprove whether environmental harm was done to the area of the spill.
Contrary to Barr’s statement, businesses should always be liable for their actions. For far too long, the American public has been forced to pay for cleanups despite minimal funding for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, also known as the Superfund. Likewise, those who live near devastated areas are often burdened with cancer clusters and are sometimes even forced to relocate.
“The criminal charges filed by the attorney general are unprecedented and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion,” XTO said in a news release on its website. “There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO. The incident did not result in significant or lasting environmental harm.”
Curiously, this statement implies nothing of serious impact occurred at all. We can infer, however, that if more than 50,000 gallons of wastewater were unaccounted for, there had to have been an intentional, reckless or negligent cause. The claim is that XTO was a subject of vandalism. But XTO had no sensors, cameras, locks or security to prove otherwise or to prevent this from happening in the first place.
The Inquirer reported that XTO spent millions to excavate and remove more than 3,000 tons of the resulting contaminated soil, which was never repaced. Losing vital organic horizon, known as topsoil, can be devastating to an ecosystem.
As citizens of Pennsylvania, we should all thank Kane for standing up as a watchdog for the environment.
Exxon Mobil Corp. steadily reels in more than $5 million each month compared to the $100,000 Attorney General Kane charged in civil penalty to the federal government. This paltry fine offers little relief for future cleanups and is just a minute drop out of the dirty bank account of Exxon and XTO.
This is the first criminal charge the company faces – that fact alone should make any environmentally conscious citizen afraid for the future of the planet.
Toby Forstater can be reached at

New EPA administrator Gina McCarthy sets the standard

Note the emphasis on communication with the public and the role of science in informing policy. A marked departure from the norm in South Africa – especially with reference to the conduct of the Department of Minerals.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

November 14, 2013

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Testimony Before House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

As prepared for delivery.

Good morning Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Johnson, and other distinguished members of the Committee. I am pleased to be here to talk about the central role science plays at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Let me begin by stating that science is and has always been the backbone of the EPA’s decision-making. The Agency’s ability to pursue its mission to protect human health and the environment depends upon the integrity of the science upon which it relies. I firmly believe that environmental policies, decisions, guidance, and regulations that impact the lives of all Americans must be grounded, at a most fundamental level, in sound, high quality, transparent, science.

Because we rely so heavily on science to meet our mission on behalf of the American people, it must be conducted in ways that are transparent, free from bias and conflicts of interest, and of the highest quality, integrity, and credibility. These qualities are important not just within our own organization and the federal government, but across the scientific community, with its long established and highly honorable commitment to maintaining strict adherence to ethical investigation and research. That’s why the agency has established—and embraced—a Scientific Integrity Policy that builds upon existing Agency and government-wide policies and guidance documents, explicitly outlining the EPA’s commitment to the highest standards of scientific integrity. And that commitment extends to any scientist or organization who wishes to contribute to our efforts. All EPA-funded research projects, whether conducted by EPA scientists or outside grantees and collaborators, must comply with the agency’s rigorous quality assurance requirements.

To ensure that we have the best possible science, we are committed to rigorous, independent peer review of the scientific data, models and analyses that support our decisions.  Peer review can take a number of forms, ranging from external reviews by the National Academy of Sciences or the EPA’s federal advisory committees to contractor-coordinated reviews. Consistent with OMB guidance, we require peer review for all EPA research products and for all influential scientific information and highly influential scientific assessments.

Among the external advisory committees is the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB). SAB reviews are conducted by groups of independent non-EPA scientists with the range of expertise required for the particular advisory topic. We invite the public to nominate experts for SAB panels and to comment on candidates being considered by the EPA for SAB panels. The EPA evaluates public comments and information submitted about SAB nominees. The EPA reviews experts’ confidential financial information to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.

SAB peer reviews are conducted in public sessions in compliance with the open-government requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The public is invited to attend and to provide oral and written comments for consideration by the SAB. Public comments help to ensure that all relevant scientific and technical issues are available to the SAB as it reviews the science that will support our environmental decisions.

Another example is the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) which provides independent advice to the EPA Administrator on the science that supports the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The CASAC reviews the EPA’s Integrated Science Assessments which deliver science in support of the Clean Air Act.

Thanks to the science behind the implementation of the Clean Air Act, we have made significant and far-reaching improvements in the health and well-being of the American public. In 2010 alone, EPA estimates that programs implemented pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 avoided 160,000 premature deaths millions of cases of respiratory problems such as acute bronchitis and asthma attacks; 45,000 cardiovascular hospitalizations; and 41,000 hospital admissions. These improvements have all occurred during a period of economic growth; between1970 and 2012 the Gross Domestic Product increased by 219 percent.

Through a transparent and open process, we have also committed to enhancing the Agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment program. A strong, scientifically rigorous IRIS Program is of critical importance, and the EPA is in the process of: 1) enhancing the scientific integrity of assessments; 2) enhancing the productivity of the Program; and 3) increasing transparency so that issues are identified and debated early in the process. In 2009, the EPA made significant enhancements to IRIS by announcing a new 7-step assessment development process. Since that time, the National Research Council (NRC) has made recommendations related to enhancing the development of IRIS assessments. The EPA is making changes to the IRIS Program to implement the NRC recommendations. These changes will help the EPA produce more high quality IRIS assessments each year in a timely and transparent manner to meet the needs of the Agency and the public. A newly released NRC report is largely supportive of the enhanced approach the EPA is taking to develop the IRIS assessment for inorganic arsenic.

As I mentioned in my opening statement, science is the backbone of our decision-making and our work is based on the principles of scientific integrity and transparency that are both expected and deserved by the American people. I am proud of the EPA’s research efforts and the sound use of science and technology to fulfill the EPA’s mission to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.  I am happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.


SA’s ‘Life in stone’ could be a thorn in the side for frackers

Another World First for SAHRA

Submitted by The Heritage Portal on Tue, 12/11/2013 – 19:02

The South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) has just released some very exciting news… they have pioneered the world’s first online palaeontological sensitivity map. The breakthrough will save developers tens of millions of rands in the coming years and become a priceless research tool. Proactive preservation at its best! Read the full story here

“The fossil sensitivity map is an important step forward in the proactive management of palaeontological and geological heritage resources. The map will guide and assist developers, heritage officers and practitioners in screening palaeontologically sensitive areas at the earliest stages of the development cycle.

PalaeoTechnical Reports

The successful development of the sensitivity map owes itself to a number of initiatives and partners. Since 2008, SAHRA, Heritage Western Cape and Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal have commissioned palaeotechnical reports from expert palaeontologists such as Dr John Almond, Dr John Pether and Dr Gideon Groenewald. These reports have been used by heritage officers across the country to assess the impacts on fossils by developments. However, this process has been extremely cumbersome and time consuming as the fossil bearing formations were not georeferenced so that footprints of applications could be overlaid systematically against the sensitive geological formations. This information was also not readily accessible by members of the public unless they explicitly requested copies of the palaeotechnical reports.

Council for GeoScience & SAHRIS

The successful development of SAHRIS in 2012 opened up a range of possibilities to automate access to and dissemination of the valuable information contained in the palaeotechnical reports. Furthermore, a number of provinces had only been partially assessed (or not at all). The extraction of the technical information onto a Geographical Information System (GIS) provided a means to eliminate gaps in the sensitivity maps where geological formations overlapped provincial boundaries.
SAHRA approached the Council for GeoScience (CGS) in order to access to their 1:250 000 geological shapefile data. The CGS were happy to collaborate and on 19 September 2013, SAHRA and the CGS signed a license agreement for the use of their data. Over the last few months, SAHRA’s palaeontogical heritage officer, Ms Jenna Lavin, has combined the Palaeotechnical Report information with the shapefile data on SAHRIS and has developed a Fossil Sensitivity Map for South Africa.

Continue reading…