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Score one for the bad guys

  • Another supporter of clean air has been ousted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District board, furthering the nightmare decline of the body responsible for regulating the air quality for 17 million people in one of the nation’s smoggiest regions. Despite an outcry by public health officials, Barry Wallerstein, the longtime executive officer of the district who pushed for strong pollution controls against the wishes of the oil industry, was fired from his position at a public meeting last week.
  • Wallerstein is the second clean air advocate to be pushed out of the SCAQMD after Republicans became the majority on the board. The rest of the meeting was focused on passing a plan to let polluters continue to spew emissions.

Risky Business

  • Damnnnn DOGGR, back at it again with the wastewater disposal! That’s right, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) applied to the EPA for an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act so oil company Freeport-McMoRan could drill hundreds of new oil wells and dump its wastewater into a protected aquifer near San Luis Obispo. While the California Water Board says the aquifer is separated from local drinking water sources by an “impermeable barrier,” many are skeptical that the separation will hold up, which could result in toxic wastewater flowing into groundwater supplies.
  • On a similar note, a report from Clean Water Action reveals how groundwater in California is at risk from hundreds of open pits containing toxic waste produced by oil and gas drilling. The report finds that the oversight of this dangerous waste is so flimsy the state should immediately prohibit the practice of disposing wastewater in evaporation pits.
  • Residents in a LA neighborhood got a rude awakening when they hoped to force an oil company to plug more than a dozen idle wells. The group pointed to a rarely used section of city code that gives the fire chief power to demand that the company, Freeport-McMoRan, either restart or abandon idle wells. In response, the oil company restarted the wells. Residents believe the company only did so to avoid paying the expense of plugging the wells. It is, however, a good day for irony, as the wells are across the street from an environmental studies academy named after Rachel Carson and Al Gore. 
  • It seems Oklahoma is finally looking to do something about the barrage of increasingly large earthquakes occurring across the state that are linked to fracking. Regulators are effectively ordering the state’s oil and gas industry to reduce the amount of waste injected underground in central Oklahoma by 40 percent, following a similar order in northwest Oklahoma earlier this year. That’s probably a good thing considering that last year the state had 907 earthquakes at or above a magnitude of 3.0 - a rather large jump from 2010, when there were three.
  • The regulation has come not a moment too soon for the Oklahomans, many of whom now track seismic data on their smartphones and struggle to sleep through long nights full of earthquakes.

Phillips 66

  • The opposition to Phillips 66’s proposed rail spur continues to grow. As this letter points out, the proposed route will travel through some of California’s most densely populated and ecologically sensitive areas, where there are significant gaps in emergency response capabilities. This isn’t about jobs, it’s about risks to public safety and health.
  • Phillips 66’s proposed rail project has garnered overwhelming opposition. A new report notes that 16 out of 17 elected officials who testified at the early February hearings were against the project. Talk about unpopular.
  • Interestingly, it seems some of the people at the Phillips 66's San Luis Obispo planning commission hearing on February 25th were bussed in from over 200 miles south. What’s even more strange? They got on that bus at 4:30 am not knowing where they were going or why. Check out the full story in our latest blog post.
  • Phillips 66 found itself in the news for another reason this week. The oil company agreed to pay a fine to California’s campaign finance watchdog after they secretly and illegally sent campaign mailers to Rialto residents opposing a local tax increase on oil companies.

Sign the petition to stop Phillips66
Climate change poses a significant risk to public health, threatening the life of hundreds of thousands of people. A new study from the University of Oxford in England shows that at least 500,000 extra people will probably die by 2050 from health effects related to warming temperatures and dietary changes.
An updated draft of the nation’s GHG inventory found that methane emissions were 27 times higher than previous estimates. Over 20 years, this represents a climate impact equivalent of 200 coal-fired power plants.
#Exxon(totally)Knew: After a request from two California congressmen for a federal probe, the FBI began an initial fact-finding investigation about whether Exxon violated federal laws by failing to disclose truthful information about climate change. Investigations are already underway in New York, and probes are being considered in other states, including California and Maryland.
There’s a bright future ahead for electric vehicles.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts a rise for EV’s from 1 percent of global annual vehicle sales today to 35 percent by 2040.
The oil and gas industry invested a whopping $107 million in Republican presidential super PACs last year - before a single vote was cast in the primary election. This unprecedented investment by fossil fuel millionaires raises serious questions about the influence of special interests in the GOP. In fact, about one of every three dollars donated to Republican super PACs from the mega rich came from those who owe their fortunes to fossil fuels.
A terrible climate milestone: For the first time in recorded history, and probably the first time in the course of human civilization, the temperature in the northern hemisphere hit more than two degrees Celsius above “normal.” That’s the same level that governments of the world have set as the must-not-cross red line. While the spike was only temporary, it’s a stark reminder that the future is hot, and that heat is coming much more quickly than scientists predicted. 
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