Google promised to defund climate lies, but the ads keep coming

Read the full story in the New York Times.

In October 2021, Google promised to stop placing ads alongside content that denied the existence and causes of climate change, so that purveyors of the false claims could no longer make money on its platforms, including YouTube.

And yet if you recently clicked on a YouTube video titled “who is Leonardo DiCaprio,” you might have found a ramble of claims that climate change is a hoax and the world is cooling after a Paramount+ ad for the film “80 for Brady,” starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno.

Before another video that purported to detail “how climate activists distort the evidence,” some users saw an ad for Alaska Airlines.

These are not aberrations, according to a coalition of environmental organizations and the Center for Countering Digital Hate. In a report released on Tuesday, researchers from the organizations accused YouTube of continuing to profit from videos that portrayed the changing climate as a hoax or exaggeration.

They found 100 videos, viewed at least 18 million times in total, that violated Google’s own policy. They found videos accompanied by ads for other major brands like Adobe, Costco, Calvin Klein, and Politico. Even an ad for Google’s search engine popped up before a video that claimed there was no scientific consensus about the changing climate.

Exxon scrambles to save investments before Colombia bans fracking

Read the full story at Climate Home News.

Exxon Mobil is in talks with Colombia’s government in hopes of recovering its investment in a fracking pilot project as the U.S. oil major prepares to stop producing fossil fuels in the country where the government is pushing through a fracking ban, two sources close to the discussions told Reuters.

Forced conservation measures made Californians more ‘water-wise’: study

Read the full story at The Hill.

Mandatory cuts in water usage have had a long-lasting impact on Californians, who have continued to espouse “water-wise” values even after such restrictions have been lifted, a new study has found.

Although water usage crept up somewhat when 2015-2016 cuts ended, consumption in 2019 was still lower than it was in 2013, according to the study, published on Tuesday in Water Resources Research.

Here’s how Colorado plans to slow global warming using carbon capture

Read the full story in the Colorado Sun.

A fan-driven carbon sponge billed as North America’s largest carbon capture facility was unveiled Tuesday, with a potential global solution to climate warming arriving in a nondescript Brighton warehouse district. 

The shed-size machine draws carbon dioxide out of ambient air for reuse in industrial products or sequestration in underground caverns, a technology that could be replicated thousands of times around the globe to combat the buildup of CO2 from a century of burning fossil fuels. 

Craft beer has a recycling problem: Cans are not being recycled and shrink wraps are a big part of it

Read the full story at Craft Brewing Business.

It’s now been 20 years since the arrival of canned craft beer. I know because I helped launch it as lead singer/idea man for (at the time) little Oskar Blues Brewery and Pub in Lyons, Colorado. But two decades into craft beer smashing its glass-bottled ceiling, there’s a hefty shortcoming in the success of canned beer. Sadly, craft brewers bear much of the responsibility for it.

What’s the problem? The recycling rates for aluminum cans stink. Colorado’s recycling experts recently marked Recycling Day with an embarrassing statistic: Just 16 percent of aluminum cans are recycled in the state where canned craft beer began. Nationwide only about half of all aluminum cans are recycled.

How are craft brewers contributing to the problem? For starters, the recycling messages championed by the first wave of micro-canners have faded or disappeared entirely. An astonishing number of today’s craft beer cans — especially those from smaller breweries — include no recycling symbol or message on their cans. Nothing. Many of those that include such a message do so in the can’s tiniest, magnifying-glass-required font with an equally miniscule arrowed triangle.

Companies that frack for oil and gas can keep a lot of information secret – but what they disclose shows widespread use of hazardous chemicals

A deep injection well used for disposal of fracking wastewater in Kern County, Calif. Citizens of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

by Vivian R. Underhill, Northeastern University and Lourdes Vera, University at Buffalo

From rural Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, more than 17 million Americans live within a mile of at least one oil or gas well. Since 2014, most new oil and gas wells have been fracked.

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a process in which workers inject fluids underground under high pressure. The fluids fracture coal beds and shale rock, allowing the gas and oil trapped within the rock to rise to the surface. Advances in fracking launched a huge expansion of U.S. oil and gas production starting in the early 2000s but also triggered intense debate over its health and environmental impacts.

Fracking fluids are up to 97% water, but they also contain a host of chemicals that perform functions such as dissolving minerals and killing bacteria. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies a number of these chemicals as toxic or potentially toxic.

The Safe Drinking Water Act, enacted in 1974, regulates underground injection of chemicals that can threaten drinking water supplies. However, Congress has exempted fracking from most federal regulation under the law. As a result, fracking is regulated at the state level, and requirements vary from state to state.

We study the oil and gas industry in California and Texas and are members of the Wylie Environmental Data Justice Lab, which studies fracking chemicals in aggregate. In a recent study, we worked with colleagues to provide the first systematic analysis of chemicals found in fracking fluids that would be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act if they were injected underground for other purposes. Our findings show that excluding fracking from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act is exposing the public to an array of chemicals that are widely recognized as threats to public health.

Diagram of a fracking operation.
A schematic of a hydraulic fracking operation, with wastewater temporarily stored in a surface waste pit. wetcake via Getty Images

Averting federal regulation

Fracking technologies were originally developed in the 1940s but only entered widespread use for fossil fuel extraction in the U.S. in the early 2000s. Since the process involves injecting chemicals underground and then disposing of contaminated water that flows back to the surface, it faced potential regulation under multiple U.S. environmental laws.

In 1997, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that fracking should be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This would have required oil and gas producers to develop underground injection control plans, disclose the contents of their fracking fluids and monitor local water sources for contamination.

In response, the oil and gas industry lobbied Congress to exempt fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Congress did so as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

This provision is widely known as the Halliburton Loophole because it was championed by former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who previously served as CEO of oil services company Halliburton. The company patented fracking technologies in the 1940s and remains one of the world’s largest suppliers of fracking fluid.

Fracking fluids and health

Over the past two decades, studies have linked exposure to chemicals in fracking fluid with a wide range of health risks. These risks include giving birth prematurely and having babies with low birth weights or congenital heart defects, as well as heart failure, asthma and other respiratory illnesses among patients of all ages.

Though researchers have produced numerous studies on the health effects of these chemicals, federal exemptions and sparse data still make it hard to monitor the impacts of their use. Further, much existing research focuses on individual compounds, not on the cumulative effects of exposure to combinations of them.

Chemical use in fracking

For our review we consulted the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry, which is managed by the Ground Water Protection Council, an organization of state government officials. Currently, 23 states – including major producers like Pennsylvania and Texas – require oil and gas companies to report to FracFocus information such as well locations, operators and the masses of each chemical used in fracking fluids.

We used a tool called Open-FracFocus, which uses open-source coding to make FracFocus data more transparent, easily accessible and ready to analyze.

This 2020 news report examines possible leakage of fracking wastewater from an underground injection well in west Texas.

We found that from 2014 through 2021, 62% to 73% of reported fracks each year used at least one chemical that the Safe Drinking Water Act recognizes as detrimental to human health and the environment. If not for the Halliburton Loophole, these projects would have been subject to permitting and monitoring requirements, providing information for local communities about potential risks.

In total, fracking companies reported using 282 million pounds of chemicals that would otherwise regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act from 2014 through 2021. This likely is an underestimate, since this information is self-reported, covers only 23 states and doesn’t always include sufficient information to calculate mass.

Chemicals used in large quantities included ethylene glycol, an industrial compound found in substances such as antifreeze and hydraulic brake fluid; acrylamide, a widely used industrial chemical that is also present in some foods, food packaging and cigarette smoke; naphthalene, a pesticide made from crude oil or tar; and formaldehyde, a common industrial chemical used in glues, coatings and wood products and also present in tobacco smoke. Naphthalene and acrylamide are possible human carcinogens, and formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen.

The data also show a large spike in the use of benzene in Texas in 2019. Benzene is such a potent human carcinogen that the Safe Drinking Water Act limits exposure to 0.001 milligrams per liter – equivalent to half a teaspoon of liquid in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Many states – including states that require disclosure – allow oil and gas producers to withhold information about chemicals they use in fracking that the companies declare to be proprietary information or trade secrets. This loophole greatly reduces transparency about what chemicals are in fracking fluids.

We found that the share of fracking events reporting at least one proprietary chemical increased from 77% in 2015 to 88% in 2021. Companies reported using about 7.2 billion pounds of proprietary chemicals – more than 25 times the total mass of chemicals listed under the Safe Drinking Water Act that they reported.

Closing the Halliburton loophole

Overall, our review found that fracking companies have reported using 28 chemicals that would otherwise be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Ethylene glycol was used in the largest quantities, but acrylamide, formaldehyde and naphthalene were also common.

Given that each of these chemicals has serious health effects, and that hundreds of spills are reported annually at fracking wells, we believe action is needed to protect public and environmental health, and to enable scientists to rigorously monitor and research fracking chemical use.

Based on our findings, we believe Congress should pass a law requiring full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking, including proprietary chemicals. We also recommend disclosing fracking data in a centralized and federally mandated database, managed by an agency such as the EPA or the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Finally, we recommend that Congress repeal the Halliburton Loophole and once again regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As the U.S. ramps up liquefied natural gas exports in response to the war in Ukraine, fracking could continue for the foreseeable future. In our view, it’s urgent to ensure that it is carried out as safely as possible.

Vivian R. Underhill, Postdoctoral Researcher in social Science and Environmental Health, Northeastern University and Lourdes Vera, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Environment and Sustainability, University at Buffalo

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Venice is saved! Woe is Venice.

Read the full story in the New York Times.

After centuries of flooding, Venice has at long last raised seawalls to save itself from high water. They have already protected the city from catastrophic floods. But climate change and rising seas pose a gnawing question. Will Venice one day have to cut itself off from the waters that are its lifeblood?

American cities want to recycle their plastic trash in Mexico. Critics call it ‘waste colonialism.’

Read the full story at Grist.

A new recycling plant in Mexicali raises legal and ethical concerns.

What’s next if 20% of companies shift 2025 plastic targets?

Read the full story at Packaging Dive.

Gartner research anticipates that companies will abandon plastic recycling targets, instead opting for climate action such as greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Recycling groups disagree.

Portland Public Schools: Hybrid Funding for Energy Efficiency Projects

Read the full case study from U.S. DOE’s Better Buildings Program.

Portland Public Schools (PPS), realized the long-term benefits of energy efficiency upgrades, but was averse to completing projects because of the district’s limited capital budget which was reserved for emergency infrastructure needs. In addition, officials were concerned that the process of verifying and maintaining ongoing savings would be timely and complicated.