Category Archives: health

This grim and unpleasant land

Anyone who wis or has been a local councillor knows the problem. Mine, may years ago, involved allotment gardens which had been “enhanced” with slurry from the local stage works. The result was vegetables high in toxic heavy metals. Adjacent was a scrap-yard which, some how, in days of yore, had gained planning permission — moreover, planning permission with very little in the way of conditions.

Righting these wrongs involves one commodity: money, and shedloads of it. That is precisely the commodity of which local government is chronically lacking.

So I am acutely aware of the griefs felt by all, residents and officialdom, at Moor Street, Brierly Hill:

rubbish

Six years of to-and-fro-ing, and one of the sites’s owners, Robert McNaughton, ordered six months in the chokey: only by awarding planning permission for 90-odd flats has the thing come closer to reconciliation.

McNaughton, by the way, didn’t offend Mr Justice MacDuff by causing a gross public nuisance. His succession of wilful delays and obstructions finally were deemed contempt of court. Not quite on the level of doing Al Capone for tax evasion, but still a nice try. As McNaughton and his moll remain beneficial owners of the site, they may yet clean up.

Anything the West Midlands can do, South Yorkshire can do bigger and more noxious. It’s at Great Heck, near Selby:

Great_Heck

This one burns, stinks, pollutes and probably can be viewed from low orbit.

Again we find an uncooperative owner, who conveniently went bust last summer.

What is different here is the lack of a substantial local authority, properly resourced. Briefly Hill is in Dudley Metropolitan Borough: Great Heck is in Selby District. The population and revenue base vary by a factor of eight or ten. The Great Heack site is sandwiched between concrete plants, a motorway, and a railway line — industrial land less desirable for profitable development.

This time the financial burden has to fall on the Environment Agency, which means the general taxpayer (or more specifically by a virement from other essential schemes).

Capitalism is a dirty business. 

Oh, and by the way, that anecdotage which started this post has another sting in the tail.

Government and hope-builders cast eyes on the Thames-side marshes. The 1974 Tower Bridge to Tilbury survey for the GLC might merit being dug out of the archives. It mentions how the marshes have been used for all sorts of tipping. Not excluding low-level radio-active waste.

 

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And a merry New Year to all our reader…

Angry. Now, there’s a word.

It’s a well-endorsed truth that all the things that come closest to us use good Anglisch. Those Norman-French and other imports are only for the poncy stuff. So the root here is angr– and that’s rooted deep in Old Norse and elsewhere.

It’s often a good thing. It get things done. It narrows one’s options, and focuses the mind marvellously on what matters. Anger in others tells us as much of their character as we need to know.

An example?

Despite the gloss the schoolmen try to put on him, Shakespeare’s Henry V is a bastard. Not genetically, but psychologically. Shakespeare keeps giving us hints (and the presentation of Hank Cinq stems directly from twisted Prince Hal). Consider the way Henry plays with the conspirators in Act II, scene ii; his cruel joke on the common soldier, Williams, in the fourth Act; his cynical wooing of Katharine. And this:

I was not angry since I came to France
Until this instant. Take a trumpet, herald;
Ride thou unto the horsemen on yon hill:
If they will fight with us, bid them come down,
Or void the field; they do offend our sight:
If they’ll do neither, we will come to them,
And make them skirr away, as swift as stones
Enforced from the old Assyrian slings:
Besides, we’ll cut the throats of those we have,
And not a man of them that we shall take
Shall taste our mercy. Go and tell them so.

No way can that be delivered with bombast.

So, to my own cold anger

It stems from the coincidence of two horror stories — one of the present, one implied for the future — i9n today’s press.

Here’s the one:

Hospital A&E units recorded their worst ever performance in the week before Christmas as NHS emergency care services struggled to deal with an unprecedented number of patients arriving, new figures released today show. 

What the NHS calls type 1 A&Es, emergency departments based at hospitals in England, treated and either admitted or discharged just 83.1% of arrivals within the politically important four-hour target in the week ending Sunday 21 December. 

The NHS Constitution says that 95% of patients should be dealt with within that four-hour timeframe, a deadline ministers have promised to meet. 

The 83.1% is the lowest performance against the target since records began in 2004. It came in the week that emergency departments faced a new record high number of A&E patients – 289,530.

Here’s the other:

Hague_Notes_1_3154981b

Haguenotes

Lay aside the macro-economic Big Issue, the Elephant-in-the-room, or (to deploy the ultimate cliché) David Cameron’s repetitious tripe about his long-term economic plan for hard-working families. Get this, folks: the “plan” extends all the way to Election Day on May 7th — after that you and your family are on their own.

What’s left is what has made Britain tick this last seventy years: Nye’s Health Service, free at the point of need from cradle to grave, and Rab Butler’s flawed-but-visionary education system, which delivered the shift from a predominantly working-class population to the bourgeoisification of suburban Britain.

Both are now being dismembered by the toff-class. As Kevin Maguire (I trust, in anger) declares:

Maguire

Conclusion:

Can the stupid party be this stupid?

The anger that attacks on the NHS and education can generate are just what is needed to motivate Labour grass-roots members to tramp streets, knock on doors, stuff envelopes, work on phone-banks. And the Tories (and their LibDem co-conspirators) are stoking up just that. They do offend our sight And not a man of them… Shall taste our mercy.

That’s a bit of good news, this dull, grey first week of January.

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A puff for Ireland

Yesterday’s post [Lethal vaping] was a moment of personal revelation — I hadn’t realised just what a deregulated, and dangerous madhouse the world of e-cigarettes is. As post it seemed to go quite well — the statporn was definitely up.

Today, there’s something of a “next episode”, found in today’s Irish Times:

A Harvard professor has called on the Government to show leadership in the EU by regulating electronic cigarettes as medical devices.

Prof Gregory Connolly, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at Harvard, argues that if unregulated, e-cigarettes could be the “panacea” for the tobacco industry’s woes by discouraging quitting and encouraging children to take up smoking…

“The reason why I came here is to tell this nation – you need to go in and show leadership within the EU. You’ve got to pass a law here regulating [e-cigarettes] as medical devices,” he told The Irish Times .

Which would be a way forward, not just in Ireland, either.

Let me recall a quotation from yesterday’s NY Times:

MEPs have rejected calls for a blanket ban on the sale of e-cigarettes across the EU.

However, under a compromise deal, strict limits will be placed on the amount of nicotine they contain, and individual EU member states will be able to introduce a national ban if they see fit.

If three or more member states chose that path, it could trigger an EU-wide ban.

By no coincidence, the Irish Times piece seems to incorporate, without acknowledgement, material from that NY Times one.

As I understand:

  • Denmark found e-cigarettes contained an unapproved form of nicotine, and banned them: that was eight years back.
  • The Dutch public health institute … published a policy paper claiming that electronic cigarettes are as harmful as ordinary cigarettes, warning they are addictive and contain poisonous substances. [Daily Telegraph, 28th November 2013].
  • Local authorities, where they have the power, have banned them. Even in Britain major chains, such as Wetherspoons, ban them.

The issue is not whether they help or hinder the reduction of smoking. It is that, as matters stand, it’s all a bit Wild West out there. Of which, no doubt, the nicotine narco-traders approve:

If unregulated, e-cigarettes could recruit a new generation of cigarette smokers for the industry. A recent Utah study showed that 9 per cent of children in the 12th grade (about 17 years old) were smoking e-cigarettes and 3 per cent cigarettes and they were “transferring over” to cigarettes, [Prof Connolly] said.

Bringing it back home

No government, no political party, seems to have wholly clean hands. It’s just that Tory hands are rather more nicotine-stained than most:

  • Lynton Crosby, the Tory guru, had (perhaps still has, through his firm of Crosby Textor) a strong paid interest in tobacco retailing.
  • David Cameron refused, repeatedly, to admit he had lobbied by Crosby on plain packaging.
  • Several senior Tories, the most famed being Ken Clarke, have close ties to the fag-pushers.
  • David Lidington and other Tory MPs were guests of Japan Tobacco International at the Chelsea Flower Show — then repaid their obligation by voting against smoking controls.

Last word to Professor Connolly:

“The reason why I came here is to tell this nation – you need to go in and show leadership within the EU. You’ve got to pass a law here regulating [e-cigarettes] as medical devices,” he told The Irish Times .

Because of the smoking ban, the State had the “moral virtue” and the “leadership” to do this, he said.

 

 

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Lethal vaping

UnknownWhy, when every sub-prime shopping street has specialists in e-cigarettes, when my favoured pub invites me to “vape”, did I have to go to the New York Times for this horror story?

Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes

By  MARCH 23, 2014

A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel.

The drug is nicotine, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.

These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.

I had assumed that UK or EU controls were adequate. The BMA, as of a January 2013 briefing, may not agree:

The legal status of e-cigarettes varies around the world. In some countries (eg Denmark, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Australia and Uruguay) the sale, import, or marketing of e-cigarettes is either banned, regulated in various ways, or the subject of health advisories by government health organisations. In others (eg New Zealand), e-cigarettes are regulated as medicines and can only be purchased in pharmacies. The UK has few restrictions on the sale and use of e-cigarettes.

In the UK, e-cigarettes are subject to regulation under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, the Chemicals (Hazard Information & Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009, and by trading standards. There are no regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes as age restricted products, including their sale to children. The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which is tasked with ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are safe – is currently considering how e-cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should be regulated. The MHRA have stated that a final decision will be made in Spring 2013, and in the interim, have committed to work with the e-cigarette industry to develop a self-regulatory code.

So these things have been available to children — though as of the end of January this year:

Under-18s in England are to be banned from buying electronic cigarettes, the government has announced.

 It would still seem the sale of e-cigarettes is unlicensed, so they are uncontrolled. A licensing system would mean they could be legally sold only in shops, not in car boot sales or markets. We will have to wait until 2016 when the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is expected to license e-cigarettes as a medicine in the UK.

All is not lost:

MEPs have rejected calls for a blanket ban on the sale of e-cigarettes across the EU.

However, under a compromise deal, strict limits will be placed on the amount of nicotine they contain, and individual EU member states will be able to introduce a national ban if they see fit.

If three or more member states chose that path, it could trigger an EU-wide ban.

 Controls are most certainly required, as we see from that NY Times piece:

Reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring. Since 2011, there appears to have been one death in the United States, a suicide by an adult who injected nicotine. But less serious cases have led to a surge in calls to poison control centers. Nationwide, the number of cases linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013, a 300 percent increase from 2012, and the number is on pace to double this year, according to information from the National Poison Data System. Of the cases in 2013, 365 were referred to hospitals, triple the previous year’s number.

Examples come from across the country. Last month, a 2-year-old girl in Oklahoma City drank a small bottle of a parent’s nicotine liquid, started vomiting and was rushed to an emergency room.

That case and age group is considered typical. Of the 74 e-cigarette and nicotine poisoning cases called into Minnesota poison control in 2013, 29 involved children age 2 and under. In Oklahoma, all but two of the 25 cases in the first two months of this year involved children age 4 and under.

It didn’t take me long to find UK sources for liquid nicotine, including at least one, with “free standard shipping”, that invites me to:

ENTER A NEW DIMENSION OF VAPING WITH OUR PLATINUM AND TITANIUM ICE HIGH STRENGTH NICOTINE E-MIXING LIQUIDS. MADE EXCLUSIVELY … TO HELP YOU CREATE THE BEST TASTING LIQUIDS ON THE PLANET.

That’s the whole point.

You have colourful, aromatic substances around the house, and children will be tempted to try them:

“It’s not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed,” said Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System and a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s a matter of when.”

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What could possibly go wrong?

The tone of the Tory press and commentariat, post-Osborne bean-counting, is little less than triumphalist. Four more quarters of uninterrupted economic “progress” guaranteed. The silver vote nailed. The Kippers smoked. Labour in the stew. All set fair for a walk-over in May 2015.

Hoo—bloomin’—ray!

And then there’s only a few small matters outstanding:

Hey, there’s a good excuse for some distraction-therapy:

But there’s still those lovely Opinion Polls!

However, even there Anthony Wells is a trifle dubious:

As ever when you get a couple of polls indicating a shift straight after an event it’s tempting to conclude the event has had a big impact. Be a bit cautious – the YouGov and Populus polls conducted Wednesday night and Thursday morning didn’t show a narrowing, it’s these two polls conducted from Thursday to Friday that show narrower leads. They aren’t necessarily contradictory (many people in those initial polls wouldn’t have seen the details of the budget or the media reaction yet), but it means the evidence isn’t all one way. Wait a bit to see if this pattern continues into the week.

Everything in the garden is lovely! [E & OE]

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QTWTAIY, and St Aw/udrey

1. Is John Rentoul an unmissable columnist, an essential read?

2. Does John Rentoul’s unreconstructed, irredeemable Blairism grate and irritate?

3. Should we agree with his sane, sensible and shrewd analysis of all that is wrong with this benighted (and, increasingly, becalmed, not to say — marooned) ConDem coalition?

4. Are his blogs, tweets and Facebook updates essential daily reading?

5. Is his frisking around in linguistics and semiology unfailingly both fun and illuminating?

6. Should we not celebrate his war on clichés, which spawned the Banned List? —

It was “any time soon” that pushed me over the edge. No. No time soon. Or ever. Just get rid of it. It is not a different way of saying “soon”, just a longer one. That was when I posted on The Independent’s blog, saying that the phrase “has been added to the list of Prohibited Clichés. By order”. It was a passing remark, about a BBC television report about when British troops might return from Afghanistan, but it prompted enough comments for me to return to the subject and outlaw other verbiage. There was no list of Prohibited Clichés when I started, but within days the Banned List had become an established theme on the blog. Each time I returned to it, readers added their own suggestions of jargon, vogue words and over-used phrases that annoyed them. It turns out that pedantry is popular.
Three years later, there is a list of the top 100 banned words and phrases on The Independent’s website, atindependent.co.uk/bannedlist, and the feature is popular on Twitter. The hashtag is #bannedlist, although “hashtag” itself is in danger of being put on the list, because it is a horrible new construction used only by insiders.

Since too much similar verboten verbiage is preserved for posterity in the annals of Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service, we will pass swiftly on. And there are just two of them exemplified.

kirk-221x300

7. Did Rentoul seem to have reached a creative peak with his QTWTAINs, which derived from those insistently mock-querulous Daily Mail headlines?

8: Had the Master anything left to offer?

[Memo to self: only 992 to go.]

Answer to 8: well, of course.

Today’s squib: The top ten: Unexpected etymologies

Well, actually, Mr Rentoul, we were aware of Gerrymander:

A new voting district in Massachusetts  in the shape of a salamander favoured Governor Elbridge Gerry’s party.

What goes unremarked is he had (hard)-G Gerry as in “grab” or get”, not “Jerry”. He was also a Vice-President to James Madison, before he died in office in 1814. He had been a Governor of Massachusetts for just a couple of years previous to that; and served in the House of Representatives in the Second Congress, which produces another small wrinkle — his successor in the Massachusetts’s 3rd district was one Shearjashub Bourne, one of those Biblical names which must appeal to Rentoul, himself the son of the South Indian manse. So Shearjashub — who he? Well, it’s Isaiah 7:3:

Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;
And say unto him, Take heed , and be quiet ; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying,
Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal.

As for the meaning of Shearjashub, it comes down to “The remnant may remain”, which seems somehow appropriate when apportioning electoral districts.

There may be a bit of irony in Governor Gerry, who was no aficionado of definitive political parties, having his name forever linked to demographical skulduggery. The term makes even more sense when it is displayed graphically:

The_Gerry-Mander_EditAnd here’s another:

Tawdry:  Early 17th century: short for tawdry lace, contraction of St Audrey’s lace, after patron saint of Ely, where cheap finery was sold at a fair.

That, too, is worth a further scroot (contraction of “scrutiny”).

You will find “tawdry lace” in Shakespeare. Reach for C.T.Onions:

tawdry-lace: silk ‘lace’ or necktie much worn by women in the 16th and early 17th cent., cheap and showy ones being app. worn by country girls Wint. IV. iii. [iv.252. ‘So called from St. Audrey (Ethelreda) who thought her self punished [by a tumour in the throat] for wearing rich Necklaces’, Blount’s Glossographia, 1674; ‘bought at the fair held at the fane of St. Etheldreda’, Skinner’s Etymologicon, 1671

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Filed under health, History, Independent, John Rentoul, Literature, Quotations, railways, reading, Shakespeare

“Loophole”?

When Malcolm’s alter-ego was a Borough Councillor, Tories had a constant (and even honourable) line on compulsory purchase: they were against it on principle.

That got in the way of many worthwhile municipal schemes, or involved extra expense to “persuade” the sellers of the needed land.

Which makes him raise a wry eye-brow when he reads this, in today’s Times (£ — page 39 of the print edition):

Landowners are entitled to compensation from shale gas companies in return for allowing drilling. If they are still opposed, companies would have to acquire the land under a compulsory purchase order, but this can take several years and would be hugely expensive.

The Times revealed last month that the shale gas industry was talking to the Government about closing the loophole.

A bit more than a “loophole”, one might feel:

  • It certainly plays fast-and-loose not just with any concept of “property”.
  • Any Conservative should recall Margaret Thatcher (in her Reagan lecture of December 1997):

A totally planned society and economy has the ability to concentrate productive capacity on some fixed objective with a reasonable degree of success; and do it better than liberal democracies. But totalitarianism can only work like this for a relatively short time, after which the waste, distortions and corruption increase intolerably.

Does that define the ConDem unquestioning support for fracking as “totalitarian”, leading to “waste, distortions and corruption”?

  • It also plays hell with language, extending mightily the metaphor of “loophole”.

Consider meaning 3 in the OED:

fig. An outlet or means of escape. Often applied to an ambiguity or omission in a statute, etc., which affords opportunity for evading its intention.

 The Times, normally so “conservative” (a capital letter C is optional there), is gung-ho for fracking. We have today a singularly-misguided second leader:

Environmental Dogma

Opposition to fracking and GM crops is anti-science and harmful to the world’s poor

That sub-heading goes missing in the on-line version, unless one clicks past the “taster”. The whole piece is a paean of praise for Owen Patterson (who is not only Environment Secretary, but about as far-to-the-right as any member of this benighted administration).

After a couple of paragraphs on GM crops, we go off on a side-track for this:

Debates over government policy on agriculture and energy are right and inevitable. They should be founded on evidence, however. The environmental groups’ campaigning is instead based on an obscurantist hostility to science itself. Mr ­Paterson is right to call it what it is.

Fracking involves blasting shale rock with water at very high pressures to release the gas. Environmental groups maintain that this activity can cause tiny earthquakes and that the toxic chemicals used in fracking may contaminate ground­water.

In practice, any seismic activity that has been produced by the fracking boom in the United States has been negligible — indeed unobservable by anyone except geologists. Contamination of the water supply is not strictly impossible, in the sense that science does not rule absolutely preclude any scenario that meets the conditions of logic.

Yet there is no evidence that any such scenario has occurred. To issue such warnings with no evidence, or even a plausible explanation by which it might occur, is irresponsible. It is not part of any scientific debate: it is baseless superstition. The benefits of fracking, conversely, in limiting the ­environmental impact of energy exploration and in diversifying Britain’s energy mix are huge.

The biggest losers as a result of the anti-science thrust of much campaigning by Greenpeace and its equivalents, however, are the one billion people still classified as hungry.

The Times‘s dismissal of the many proven unpleasantnesses and dangers of tracking is disingenuous, to say the least.

Unobservable by anyone except geologists ?

To claim that seismic activity [read: earthquakes]has been negligible — indeed unobservable by anyone except geologists is patently untrue:

New research officially confirmed that ‘fracking’ caused the set of nearly a dozen mysterious earthquakes in Ohio in 2011. 

Scientists have spent the past two years trying to explain why Youngstown, Ohio- a town where there had been now reported earthquakes before December 2010- suddenly fell victim to 109 small quakes. [The Daily Mail, 5 Sep 2013]

They started small, but On Dec. 31, 2011, at 3:05 p.m., Youngstown was stirred by a 3.9 quake. For what it’s worth, a 3.91 quake is what was produced by a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, “touted as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed.” Non-geologists might notice that one.

Not just Ohio, either:

In 2010 and 2011, there were as many as 1,000 minor earthquakes in Arkansas. And scientists believe they were caused by fracking.

Seismologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say the disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater flowback as part of the fracking process can create “micro earthquakes,” which are rarely felt, and also the rare larger seismic disruption. Scientists say that’s what happened in Greenbrier, Arkansas, where the quakes damaged homes.

Yesterday, five local residents settled for an undisclosed sum of money after suing two oil companies. Those five residents aren’t the only ones suing Chesapeake Energy and BHP Billiton. Twenty other residents are expecting to file lawsuits in Arkansas state court, according to Reuters. [The Atlantic Cities, 29 Aug 2013]

And again:

The earthquake registered a magnitude 5.7*—the largest ever recorded in Oklahoma—with its epicenter less than two miles from the Reneaus’ house, which took six months to rebuild. It injured two people, destroyed 14 homes, toppled headstones, closed schools, and was felt in 17 states. It was preceded by a 4.7 foreshock the morning prior and followed by a 4.7 aftershock… Between 1972 and 2008, the USGS recorded just a few earthquakes a year in Oklahoma. In 2008, there were more than a dozen; nearly 50 occurred in 2009. In 2010, the number exploded to more than 1,000. [Mother Jones, March-April 2013]

And yet again:

A recent wave of small earthquakes in and around the Eagle Ford formation in Texas was probably the result of extracting oil and in some cases water used for hydraulic fracturing, according to a study.

Clusters of small-magnitude seismic events between November 2009 and September 2011 were “often associated with fluid extraction,” according to the study scheduled to appear this week in the online edition of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The study follows previous research that links earthquakes to the disposal of drilling wastewater by injecting it underground. [Bloomberg, 27 Aug 2013]

Contamination of the water supply is not strictly impossible ?

Pity the editorial writer at The Times didn’t consult the other end of the Murdoch operation, at the Wall Street Journal:

Chemicals found in a Wyoming town’s drinking water likely are associated with hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday, raising the stakes in a debate over a drilling technique that has created a boom in natural-gas production.

The agency’s draft findings are among the first by the government to link the technique, dubbed “fracking,” with groundwater contamination. The method—injecting large volumes of water, sand and chemicals to dislodge natural gas or oil—has been criticized by environmentalists for its potential to harm water supplies, which the industry disputes …

The EPA has responded to several instances of potential fracking contamination, including in Texas and Pennsylvania. In Texas, the EPA ordered a company, Range Resources, to provide fresh drinking water to residents who said their water was contaminated. The case is the subject of a lawsuit.

The agency ordered Pennsylvania to tighten its standards related to removal of drilling wastewater and recently said it would consider nationwide standards for disposal of such water.

Let’s bring that Pennsylvania reference up to date:

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has filed criminal charges against ExxonMobil for illegally dumping tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste at a drilling site in 2010. The Exxon subsidiary, XTO Energy, had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil.

… a July study found that the closer residents live to wells used in fracking, the more likely drinking water is contaminated, with 115 of 141 wells found to contain methane. [Thinkprogress, 11 Sep 2013]

If it’s in your coffee and shower water, what about the air you breathe? —

study by researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in late 2012 reconfirmed earlier findings of high rates of methane leakage from natural gas fields that utterly vitiate any climate benefit of natural gas, even when used as an alternative to coal.

Previous findings showed leakage of 4% methane leakage over a Colorado gas field and the new findings have more than doubled that to 9%.

Gas drilling operations release airborne contaminants that can have detrimental effects on our health.  Areas where there is gas production have reported significant increases in ozone, commonly known as smog, because some of the toxic precursors to smog, such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides are released during the process that brings natural gas from the ground to market.  Lisa Jackson, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admitted in an interview with National Public Radios’ Michele Norris at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June 2011, “You are going to have huge smog problems where you never had them before……These are rural areas. … There is a lot of activity around those wells and that has an impact on air quality — and we know it already.” [Catskillmountainkeeper]

Fracking sitesMoreover, in Britain, we are not talking of fracking out where there’s land, lots of land under starry skies above, as frack-off.org.uk’s map (right) shows.

Malcolm admits a personal interest here. Two of those sites are just down the road from his new home. Dart Energy have rights all the way from Easingwold, to Tadcaster, and all the way to the centre of the city of York.

Fracking Tories

In those days of Borough Councillorship, Malcolm’s alter-ego (see top of this posting) could see where the Tory side was on the matter of compulsory purchase.

Similarly, it is comforting to observe, as at the Manchester Conference, that many Tories today remain uncomfortable with George Osborne’s approach:

Chancellor George Osborne has sent a strong message to the Conservative rural heartlands, warning that he will fight any Tory backlash against fracking and saying that it would be a real tragedy if Britain allowed the shale gas energy revolution to bypass the UK.

Research conducted by Greenpeace has shown that 38 out of 62 MPs in the south have land with existing oil and gas drilling licenses – and 35 of them are Conservatives, including many cabinet ministers.

It raises the prospect that many Tory backbenchers in the run-up to the 2015 election will find themselves conflicted by the demands of the UK economy and business to exploit the reserves, and opposition from environmental groups as well as many of their anxious constituents.

ConHome and senior voices in the Tory Party have to be rounded up to keep the line.

For how long? 

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