Counterintuitive? North Carolina GOP Pushes Unprecedented Bill to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals May 21, 2014 by Molly Redden


This post first appeared at Mother Jones.

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2011 file photo, a drilling rig is set up near a barn in Springville, Pa., to tap gas from the giant Marcellus Shale gas field. In an unlikely partnership between longtime adversaries, some of the nation's biggest energy companies and environmental groups announced Wednesday, March 20, 2013 that they have agreed on a voluntary set of standards for gas and oil fracking in the Northeast. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)In this Oct. 14, 2011 file photo, a drilling rig is set up near a barn in Springville, Pa., to tap gas from the giant Marcellus Shale gas field. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

As hydraulic fracturing ramps up around the country, so do concerns about its health impacts. These concerns have led 20 states to require the disclosure of industrial chemicals used in the fracking process.

North Carolina isn’t on that list of states yet — and it may be hurtling in the opposite direction.

On Thursday, three Republican state senators introduced a bill that would slap a felony charge on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and health care providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison.

“The felony provision is far stricter than most states’ provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets,” says Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations.

The bill also allows companies that own the chemical information to require emergency responders to sign a confidentiality agreement. And it’s not clear what the penalty would be for a health care worker or fire chief who spoke about their experiences with chemical accidents to colleagues.

“I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement,” says Wiseman. “But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony.” In some sections, she says, “That appears to be the case.”

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http://billmoyers.com/2014/05/21/north-carolina-gop-pushes-unprecedented-bill-to-jail-anyone-who-discloses-fracking-chemicals/

Why the EPA Can’t Manage To Block This Gnarly Herbicide – —By Tom Philpott| Mon Feb. 10, 2014 10:13 AM GMT


CathyKeifer/ThinkStock

In the February 10 issue of the New Yorker, Rachel Aviv has an outstanding piece on Tyrone Hayes, the University of California-Berkeley biologist whose research found that atrazine, a widely used herbicide, caused extreme sexual-development problems in frogs at very low levels. Aviv’s article follows a superb Hayes profile by Dashka Slater published in Mother Jones in 2012. Aviv’s piece gives some key background on just why it’s so hard for the US Environmental Protection Agency to take action on chemicals like atrazine, which in addition to harming frogs, is also suspected of causing thyroid and ovarian cancers in people at low doses. Here’s the key bit regarding the EPA and its reliance on cost-benefit analyses to determine what chemicals the public can and cannot be exposed to:

In the U.S., lingering scientific questions justify delays in regulatory decisions. Since the mid-seventies, the E.P.A. has issued regulations restricting the use of only five industrial chemicals out of more than eighty thousand in the environment. Industries have a greater role in the American regulatory process—they may sue regulators if there are errors in the scientific record—and cost-benefit analyses are integral to decisions: a monetary value is assigned to disease, impairments, and shortened lives and weighed against the benefits of keeping a chemical in use. Lisa Heinzerling, the senior climate-policy counsel at the E.P.A. in 2009 and the associate administrator of the office of policy in 2009 and 2010, said that cost-benefit models appear “objective and neutral, a way to free ourselves from the chaos of politics.” But the complex algorithms “quietly condone a tremendous amount of risk.” She added that the influence of the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees major regulatory decisions, has deepened in recent years. “A rule will go through years of scientific reviews and cost-benefit analyses, and then at the final stage it doesn’t pass,” she said. “It has a terrible, demoralizing effect on the culture at the E.P.A.”

Hat tip: Kathleen Geier.

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/02/why-epa-cant-ban-atrazine

DonorsTrust—the Right’s Dark-Money ATM—Pumps Out Record $96 Million – By Andy Kroll | Tue Dec. 3, 2013 6:10 AM GMT


A big winner of last year’s conservative cash bonanza? Right-wing “journalism.”

kentoh/Shutterstock

DonorsTrust is the conservative movement’s little-known but hugely influential cash machine, a conduit for millions of dollars in anonymous donations to anti-union legal shops, climate change deniers, pro-life advocates, libertarian think tanks, media watchdog groups, and a panoply of other right-leaning causes. Wealthy conservatives use DonorsTrust as a surefire way to invest their money, fingerprint-free, with the assurance it will end up in the right hands. According tonew tax filings obtained by Mother Jones, DonorsTrust is growing increasingly popular among the bankrollers of the conservative movement.

Last year, DonorsTrust (and its sister group, Donors Capital Fund) doled out a record $96 million, making it one of the largest honeypots for right-leaning groups. That’s an increase from $85 million in 2011 and $78 million in 2010. DonorsTrust CEO Whitney Ball, who cofounded the group in 1999 and sometimes appears at the Koch brothers’ donor summits, says the increased giving stems from her organization’s growing profile and also conservative donors’ anger at the Obama administration. And despite worries about donor burnout within the conservative ranks, Ball says DonorsTrust is on track for another great year in 2013.

One of the biggest winners to emerge from the hundreds of pages of DonorsTrust tax documents is the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a Virginia-based nonprofit that trains conservative and libertarian think tanks to do investigative journalism, funds right-leaning news outlets, and hires reporters for those outlets. The Franklin Center received $9.2 million from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, which accounted for nearly $8 of every $10 in grant money received by the Franklin Center in 2012. (The Franklin Center did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

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http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/12/donors-trust-franklin-center-alec-mercatus-center-dark-money