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Protecting Waters Across the Country

Issue 9 > November 25, 2008

Congress moves to protect drinking water from oil & gas development
Towards a more responsible mine in Idaho A victory formalized in Intag, Ecuador Mount Tenabo Update Mobile phones may get less toxic

Congress moves to protect drinking water from oil & gas development

Credit: Wikipedia
The Colorado River. Credit: Wikipedia

Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and John Salazar (D-CO) have introduced, with the strong support of EARTHWORKS, H.R. 7231. HR 7231 would end hydraulic fracturing’s exemption from the safety provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Bush Administration created this exemption through the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Hydraulic fracturing means injecting fluids into an oil or gas well at high pressure to crack the underground formation. The fissure is then propped open in order to facilitate the flow of oil and gas out of the well. The fluids often contain incredibly toxic chemicals, and hydraulic fracturing is suspected of endangering drinking water in many places across the country. This process is a danger to drinking water across the country, from Colorado to New York.

There are non-toxic alternatives to hydraulic fracturing that are used off shore, which are cheaper and safer. As long as we are using natural gas to transition from a dirty fossil fuel economy to a clean energy future, we must ensure that we are not intensifying the problems we currently face.

For more information, read our report Our Drinking Water at Risk? and the Natural Resouce Defense Council’s report, Drilling Down. The Denver Post has also written in support of H.R. 7231.

Towards a more responsible mine in Idaho

After pressure from EARTHWORKS and the Boulder White Clouds Council, the company behind the Idaho Cobalt Project (Formation Capital) has agreed to increased environmental protections in their efforts to develop a Cobalt mine in northern Idaho.

As a result of a settlement agreement with Earthworks and the local community group, Idaho Cobalt will now be required to:

  • meet a more stringent arsenic standard,
  • conduct increased monitoring,
  • post water quality monitoring results on their website for community review,
  • comply with more rigorous copper reduction and mercury management plans, and
  • undergo enhanced regulatory oversight.

The company has also hammered out an agreement with Idaho Conservation League to provide funding for a Conservation Action Program. This project will be used for a variety of purposes, including removing fish passage barriers, restoring riparian areas and reducing sedimentation.

A victory formalized in Intag, Ecuador

The residents of Jun n and the Intag valley have finally received what they had been promised for months and hoping for for years: the revocation of the mining concession in their cloud forest valley in Ecuador. On the 12th of November, after months of uncertainty on mining policy in Ecuador, the government terminated the main copper mining concession previously held by the Copper Mesa Corporation (formerly Ascendant Mining Corporation) in the Intag area.

This action follows decades of struggle by the communities and our partner DECOIN to protect their forests, water, and livelihoods from irresponsible mining in the face of human rights abuses and violent repression by companies and their contractors.

For more information on the Intag, see EARTHWORKS and DECOIN.

Mount Tenabo update

Thousands of EARTHWORKS and No Dirty Gold members sent letters to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opposing Barrick Gold’s proposed expansion of its Cortez Hills mine onto Mt. Tenabo, a sacred Western Shoshone site in Nevada. The mine expansion would threaten sacred Shoshone gravesites, disturb ritual grounds and would harm important water sources.

Earlier this month the BLM has given its go-ahead for the mine. But your letters have let the BLM know that there is opposition to the project. In fact, our partners Great Basin Resource Watch and the Western Shoshone Defense Project have filed a lawsuit in federal court this past Friday to stop the expansion. Please stay tuned for future developments! [Learn More]

Mobile phones may get less toxic

Researchers at the University of Maryland have successfully replaced the toxic lead found in cell phones and other electronics with a bismuth alternative. This is a major step forward in reducing the toxic chemicals that pollute landfills when people improperly dispose of their electonics.

Even with this advance, please recycle your phones!