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How a Judge Scrapped Pennsylvania Families’ $4.24M Water Pollution Verdict in Gas Drilling Lawsuit

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Source:  desmogblog.com

Ray Kemble

By Sharon Kelly and Steve Horn

For many residents of Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, it’s been nearly a decade since their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of Cabot Oil and Gas, a company whose Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) wells were plagued by a series of spills and other problems linked to the area’s contamination of drinking water supplies.

With a new federal court ruling handed down late last Friday, a judge unwound a unanimous eight-person jury which had ordered Cabot to pay a total of $4.24 million over the contamination of two of those families’ drinking water wells. In a 58 page ruling, Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson discarded the jury’s verdict in Ely v. Cabot and ordered a new trial, extending the legal battle over one of the highest-profile and longest-running fracking-related water contamination cases in the country.

In his order, Judge Carlson chastised the plaintiff’s lawyers for “repeatedly inviting the jury to engage in unwarranted speculation” and wrote that, in his personal estimation, the plaintiffs had not presented enough evidence to warrant the jury’s $4.24 million in damages. The original complaint for the case was filed in November 2009.

Nonetheless, Judge Carlson declined to throw out the lawsuit entirely, ordering Cabot to re-start settlement talks with the Ely and Hubert families. If those talks fail, the trial process will begin anew, extending the already years-long legal battle into months or even years to come.

“The judge heard the same case that the jury heard and the jury was unanimous,” Nolan Scott Ely, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “How can he take it upon himself to set aside their verdict? It’s outrageous.”

Retrials “Not as Rare”

Over time, Judge Carlson’s order noted, the plaintiffs’ legal complaints had been successfully winnowed down by Cabot, which was represented at trial by several lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright, the tenth highest-grossing law firm in the world in 2016. The case now centers around a nuisance complaint.

Ely, whose background is in construction work, and his family and neighbors were represented at trial by a solo practitioner, Leslie Lewis, assisted by one other attorney. During one brief stint in the years leading up to the trial, the two families had no lawyer at all, but represented themselves. When the case began, they had the assistance of the firms Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates and the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm (the former employer of Lewis), which ushered in a settlement agreement with some of the 44 original plaintiffs.

But Ely and others were not satisfied with the offer, which included a non-disclosure agreement, and decided to proceed with the lawsuit.

John-Mark Stensvaag, an environmental law professor at the University of Iowa, said that orders to re-try cases “are not as rare as one might think.”

“This does not mean that the plaintiffs have no case,” he added, “it only means that, in [Judge Carlson’s] opinion, they have not presented a case justifying the jury’s verdict and should be given a second opportunity to present an adequate case.”

The Ely family leaves the federal courthouse on the first day of trial in 2016. Credit: Laura Evangelisto © 2016

Carter Road Water Contamination

There’s little question that something is very wrong with the water on Carter Road, despite lingering questions in the legal battles centering around that contaminated water.

In 2016, shortly after the Elys and Huberts’ $4.24 million verdict, the Centers for Disease Control issued a report concluding that Dimock’s tainted waters carried dangerous levels of chemicals including arsenic, lithium, and 4-chlorophenyl phenyl ether (which is acutely toxic if swallowed). Further, the water was laced with enough methane that five of the homes on Carter Road had been at risk of exploding. Indeed, on New Year’s Day 2009, one of Dimock’s contaminated drinking water wells did explode.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

Get real, John Ruhs

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  John Ruhs, BLM Nevada State Director

                   

    Yosemite Sam, Ruhs’ doppelganger

Dadgummit!  After John Ruhs, Nevada’s BLM State Director, said that he wanted to round up 4,000 wild horses in Elko County last summer (supposedly in response to the continued lies blaming wild horses and burros for the “deterioration of drought-stricken rangeland”), we’re noting that many mines that will use billions of gallons of water are now on the verge of expanding in Nevada.

Ruhs recently spoke at the Elko Convention Center, and stated that “We are pretty proud of the fact that this last year we have worked with the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, the Nevada Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW to provide some public opportunities to talk about sage grouse land use amendments and what they mean to the grazing program. A lot of work still needs to be done.”

The BLM ALWAYS works with the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association.  And the National Cattlemen’s Association.  Actually, the BLM works FOR them.  Notice that the focus of talking about sage grouse land use amendments is all about what they mean to the grazing program?

Ruhs also lamented that wild horse and burro issues dominate a large part of the Nevada BLM and Ruhs went on to talk about the difficulties in wild horse management.

Wild horse and burro issues dominate?  Like, bigger than all of the mines and outnumbering all of the livestock?

And talk about difficulties?  How about all those abandoned mines in Nevada, John?

And management?  There is only wild horse and burro “MISmanagement.”

Ruhs then said “We are somewhere in excess of 37,000 horses on the rangeland that is a big priority for us and it’s one of the things that I hope in the new administration that we will see some changes that will finally allow us to get some work done on the ground.”

We hope that the work that Ruhs is referring to getting done “on the ground” will include getting an accurate count of the wild horses and burros, rescinding some livestock overgrazing permits and making sure the extractive industries don’t use every last drop of water.

Why even bother to imply that the BLM “manages” anything, except impending environmental damage from the “multiple uses” that make a buck?  Don’t stash the truth, John.

ENVIROS ATTEMPT TO BLOCK OROVILLE DAM REPAIRS

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Author,
Chuck Frank

 

An aerial photo released Saturday by the California Department of Water Resources shows the damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, Calif.     William Croyle/California Department of Water Resources via AP

During the first part of this month, there have been environmental concerns over fish that are trapped in pools which then alerted two federal agencies, namely, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requesting that the repair on the Oroville Dam be scaled back in order to protect threatened fish.

Yes, it’s the same old song being sung by enviro politicos who now place even fish above the safety of the people who live below the tallest dam in America. After 100,000 plus people were already evacuated last month and are now living in harms way since returning to their homes, fish are still a greater concern than repairing a damaged dam in a timely manner over the safety and welfare of the people? What next, will flora and fauna be added to the fish list?
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Is Anthropogenic Activity Despoiling the Planet? Or is it Mainly the Anti-Human Activity of Multinational Corporations?

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Duty to Warn

new-logo251_002By Gary G. Kohls, MD

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“The Pentagon and its military-industrial complex of weapons suppliers are acknowledged to be the worst and most plentiful polluters on the face of the earth, with hundreds of military bases and weapons production sites that qualify for the designation of SuperFund sites. Those sites contain the most toxic by-products of war-making and the environmental pollution is so bad that the government and the taxpayers are on the hook for doing the impossible clean-up!”

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Definition of Anthropogenic: an adjective used to describe the environmental pollution and pollutants that originate from human or corporate activity.”

Conscientious whistleblowers in the honor-the-earth, protect-the-water and assorted other environmental movements regularly point out the glaring reality that it is actually the amoral, conscienceless multinational corporations that are the main cause of local, regional and planetary environmental pollution.

But if an investigative journalist accidentally allows those assertions to be published or voiced, the media’s propaganda machine predictably goes into defensive mode or attack mode, first casting doubt on the whistle-blower’s assertions or else it issues an ad hominem attack upon the whistle-blower.

The corporation’s stable of lawyers and public relations department  – with the assistance of assorted media mouthpieces – start mis-directing the public’s perceptions by repeatedly using the “time-honored” phrase of human activity or “man-made activity” for causing the problem (even though all the credible truly scientific evidence implicates corporate activity” for the damage). More

Minnesota: The PolyMet Copper Mine Project and the Lethal Risks to Lake Superior

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new-logo251_002Gary G. Kohls, MD – 1-31-17

Duty to Warn

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“Northern Minnesotans, Native American Water Protectors ( like the heroes at Standing Rock), sportsmen, environmentalists, downstream businesses, wild rice harvesters, fish, game, birds and just plain working folks whose babies and other vulnerable beings with developing brains need non-toxic water to thrive or simply survive must understand that such relatively common catastrophes could destroy the aquifers in the BWCAW, Birch Lake, the Partridge River, the Embarrass River, the St. Louis River, the city of Duluth and ultimately, Lake Superior.”

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The PolyMet Project and the Lethal Risks to the St Louis River Watershed and Lake Superior

It’s an Acceptable Risk for Foreign Investors to Take, but What About Us?

ALL tailings “ponds” are a problem. If they don’t breach and spill massive amounts of toxic sludge into the environment like at Mount Polley, they leach that contamination slowly, poisoning the waters and lands around them.”  —

Last year, Duluth News-Tribune published a Local News article with the title “EPA signals its support for final PolyMet review”.

The article ended with what I regard as an intentionally deceptive and woefully insufficient sentence: “Critics say the project is likely to taint downstream waters with acidic runoff”. More

Clean Water Action’s Keith Nakatani & Matt Davis on fracking wastewater being used for crop irrigation, aquifer “exemptions” and more, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., 11/30/16)

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Protesters’ Peaceful Battle for Clean Water, Sacred Lands Met with Brute Force

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American Free Press

45_46_ss_indian_protesters-300x231Demonstrators from across the country have joined with American Indians in North Dakota to protest a private oil firm that plans to run an oil pipeline underneath the Missouri river, the only source of clean drinking water for thousands of people in the area. The pipeline is planned to transport about 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

By Ronald Ray

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of the Dakota and Lakota Nations of American Indians has been seeking peacefully to block further construction of the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access oil pipeline, which threatens the tribe’s water supply and sacred spaces. The tribe, recognized by the U.S. as a sovereign nation by treaty, thus has earned the wrath of Big Oil plutocrats and, consequently, law enforcement authorities.

In a separate article in this issue we recount the jury acquittal of seven defenders of private property rights, who earlier this year occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, including sons of rancher Cliven Bundy. But unlike that peaceful protest, as well as the famous defense of the Bundy ranch in Nevada two years ago, the Indians have chosen to remain unarmed, despite sometimes facing vicious brutality by police and private security firms, which has included siccing biting attack dogs on protestors, arrests of reporters, and strip searches of arrestees.

The effort to protect the Missouri River—the Standing Rock Sioux’s primary water source—and sacred burial grounds now includes the participation of more than 300 native tribes and thousands of “water protectors” occupying federal land near the pipeline’s route south of Bismarck, N.D.

READ FULL AFP ARTICLE HERE

The Flint Chess Game: The Politics of the Battlefield

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by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo

flintFlint: So far, only a few pawns have been sacrificed, and one minor knight has fallen, in the Machiavellian chessboard game that is being played with the lives of thousands who were poisoned by the water in Flint, Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder has not even been question by state or federal prosecutors. “It will only be through political activism and unrelenting protest that the actual political players will be charged and held accountable.”

Those protected by power have been excluded from the process that is now being exacted against their underlings facing indictments.

The game of chess is a complicated game employing zero sum, competitive Machiavellian strategies to protect key political or military principals. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king, and to protect the queen, the most powerful piece in the game, as long as possible.  One fallen knight on the political chessboard of the Flint, Michigan water crisis is Susan Hedman, the EPA Regional 5 Administrator whose callous disregard for the health and safety of Flint citizens triggered her forced resignation although she has escaped any criminal liabilities.

Hedman was sacrificed to protect the EPA Queen, Gina McCarthy who could have used her congressionally authorized emergency powers under to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to seize control of Flint’s environmentally dangerous designs created by the governor and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Congress has given the EPA Administrator under SDWA Section 1431 this authority:

“…upon receipt of information that a contaminant that is present in or likely to enter a public water system or an underground source of drinking water, or there is a threatened or potential terrorist attack or other intentional act, that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of persons, the EPA Administrator may take any action she deems necessary to protect human health.” [emphasis added]

“Gina McCarthy who could have used her congressionally authorized emergency powers to seize control of Flint’s environmentally dangerous designs.”

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WATER WARS

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Author Chuck Frank

Well water, in the photo, remains plentiful at Venetucci Farm, Colorado, but water law requires purchase of an almost equal amount of “allocated” water before they can pump. Sources for allocated water are becoming harder to find.

Since 1992, a systematic attack on agriculture and food production in the United States has been developing, however the West has bore the brunt of this highly purposeful agenda which began with President Clinton in 1993 and is currently being promoted in California by the courts and Governor Brown. Consequently, ranchers have had their long-existing grazing and water rights methodically stripped away on Federal land and now private lands as well. Agricultural interests have been relentlessly sued by environmental groups and then over-regulated by the government.

Here is an example:  The California State Water Board, recently invoked an emergency water allotment regulation without due process. Since January 2015 major changes have been made in the State of California with regard to private wells and ground water. There is now a new move by Governor Brown who recently signed a bill that changed water laws in the fall of 2014, which undermines the people’s property rights where private wells all over the state, will begin to be metered wirelessly by satellite. It is foreseen that the next step will eventually be mandated flow meters on pipelines coming from lakes, canals, creeks and rivers.

Already, state water agencies and/or community water districts have begun to implement allotment controls which allows the monitoring of well water meters and includes the use of fines and enforcement. I am familiar with someone in Northern California that was recently forced by P.G.& E. to put in a smart meter on his new well, and yes, it was mandated.

If local government takes this a step further and mandates flow meters on irrigation pipelines coming from a variety of water sources, there will very well be a limit to the amount of water that may be taken. What is now transpiring more and more is a rogue and unconstitutional government that is on a mission to monitor and control water locally and this fact is already happening in other states. Presently, broad government overreach, in matters of personal needs, such as food, water, shelter, & electricity, is off the charts. And let’s not forget about the other issues such as saving the frogs and toads by eradicating thousands of trout in the Sierras. There are thousands of other “endangered” species that are all part of a massive, decades old agenda that includes a tidal wave of lost rights and jobs.

Is the sky the limit? More

THE PLAGUE

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new-logo25   Chuck Frank

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Tamarack Lake photo1                                                Tamarack Lake

As “we the people” entered into the year 2016 and beyond, were they aware of the plague that was consuming our country? It came at first as a black cloud creeping along the city streets and then entered through the crevices of our windows and doors and finally made its way into the very rooms of our houses. It began to sedate the masses into a near slumber but then retreated and continued following a path to higher ground. I followed the cloud as it rose above the hills and then began to touch the waters, the lakes and the rivers. It continued then to the higher elevations and to the utmost parts of the wilderness areas. There, the cloud stayed for a very long time over the vast Sierra Nevada Mountains until a mighty wind began to take it eastward.

Now, I was on a quest to find out a lot more about this strange phenomenon. Besides the cloud, there were other factors responsible for another findings that began to surface in my investigation.  A trail of total devastation had found its way to the deepest parts of the sea to where 1/3 of all living things had died. While this fact had been covered up by government and the mainstream news, another gigantic black cloud spread out for hundreds of miles and continued to engulf hundreds of cities, thousands of factories and countless places of business which were all then forced to close. As the plague reached the Central Valley, the massive network of waterways from the Sacramento Delta down to Bakersfield, began to trickle away and then thousands of orchard trees began to die. The devastation was overwhelming but then I made another observation.

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DAM REMOVAL IN AMERICA

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new-logo25Chuck Frank

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In spite of the seven year drought and future weather patterns that are not necessarily predictable, one would think that storing water for domestic use or agricultural needs such as growing food and raising livestock would be a priority for government. Not in California. Yet, fast track environmentalism in the last 20 years that caused the removal of 971 dams after Bill Clinton’s term as President, but at a later date, President George W. Bush, during his Presidency, opposed breaching dams in the Pacific Northwest.

fish 1Today, dam removal in the United States is now stronger than ever while the Western United States presently needs even more water than ever, but farmers in the Central Valley are fully cut off from their normal allotments. If we remember, years ago, the Auburn dam proposal was shelved because of the “potential” of earthquakes. Really, or was there something else going on under the radar?

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An Open Letter to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, the Minnesota EPA, the PCA, the DNR and Every Thinking Minnesota Citizen:

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new-logo25kohls

 

By Gary G. Kohls, MD

 

PolyMet and the Rest of the Copper/Nickel Mining Industry are Lying to Us About the Safety of its Proposed Operations in NE Minnesota
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Attention: Governor Dayton (and your staff):

Knowing your innate sense of fairness and your sincere desire to do the right thing for the people of Minnesota, please take a few minutes (disregarding all the corporate lobbyists that are bugging you 24/7) and read the following items. Be sure to view a couple of the short videos.

It has been slightly over a year since North America’s worst mining waste disaster occurred at Mount Polley, British Columbia.

It was on August 4, 2014 that the Imperial Metals mine had its massive tailings dam burst, polluting aquifers, many streams and lakes and ultimately the migratory Sockeye salmon-bearing Fraser River, the longest river in British Columbia. The Fraser flows for 854 miles emptying into the Georgia Strait and the Pacific Ocean at the city of Vancouver.

Typical for such catastrophic mining industry failures, the Harper government of Canada tried to cover up the disaster and most of us on either side of the border were made unaware of the event. Thus, this disaster was censored out of both Canadian and American consciousness by a co-opted media that utterly failed to adequately report on it.

Immediately below are the links to two dramatic videos that were readily available to news agencies, but which were essentially not reported on, published or shown on the evening news of either local or mainstream media outlets (including Duluth’s own WDIO-TV, which has regular promotional blurbs for the mining industry on its evening newscasts).
Imperial Metals of Vancouver admitted that they had been dumping the following toxic metals into the Mount Polley slurry (aka “slime”) pond in the years leading up to the failure of the earthen dam. The list of toxic substances immediately below is taken from Environment Canada’s website

The list of metallic contaminants that were dumped in the tailings pond includes: Lead, Arsenic, Nickel, Zinc, Cadmium, Vanadium, Antimony, Manganese, and Mercury.

These 9 heavy metal contaminants in the slurry at Mount Polley are highly toxic and have no safe levels in drinking water or in the human or animal body. They are also lethal to plant life.
Imperial Metals also admitted to dumping the somewhat less toxic minerals into the tailings pond. That group included Zinc, Cobalt, Copper, Phosphorus and Selenium, minerals can be beneficial to living organisms, but only in nano- or micro- concentrations. All five are toxic in large concentrations.

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Call Governor Dayton: PolyMet would do more harm than good

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mining-truth-bannerYou’ve objected to PolyMet’s mine plan with regulators, now call Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and tell him that MiningTruth_SulfideAd2_300x250-20151105PolyMet’s proposed sulfide mine would do more harm than good.

Governor Dayton says he will make the final decision on whether to grant PolyMet a permit, and that it will be the most momentous and difficult decision he’ll make as Governor. We agree. That’s why it’s so important that you call and tell him how you feel about PolyMet’s sulfide mine proposal.

Call him right now at 800-657-3717 FREE. You can leave a message 24 hours a day.

Be sure to tell Governor Dayton that you’re concerned about the PolyMet sulfide mine proposal and tell him why you care. The most important thing is for you to pick up the phone and tell the Governor what you think – it doesn’t need to be perfect. Not sure what to say? Here’s a sample of a brief message:

My name is ____________ and I live in (city). I’m calling because I’m concerned about the impact that PolyMet’s proposed sulfide mine would have on Minnesota’s water. I think PolyMet would do more harm than good. Pollution from PolyMet threatens our clean water quality legacy and would pollute water for hundreds of years after the mine has closed. I think that’s a bad deal for Minnesotans. Thank you Governor Dayton for taking responsibility for making this decision – please put Minnesota’s water first when deciding on PolyMet.

The phone number is 800-657-3717 FREE. When you’re done, would you share this with your friends and family on social media? Use the share buttons below to get the momentum going.

By speaking up, we’ll protect Minnesota’s clean water from PolyMet’s pollution. Thanks again for taking action!

MINING TRUTH

Rally Against TransCanada XL Pipeline/ abuse of eminent domain

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On Monday morning, the brave collective of Nebraska farmers and ranchers who refuse to sign over their land for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will be in court to face down the foreign corporation’s threats of eminent domain — and we will be there to stand with them.

Join us and stand with landowners against TransCanada in court on Monday. Click here to sign up.
•WHAT: Citizens v. Pipeline—Keystone XL eminent domain court hearing
•WHEN: Monday, July 27 at 11:00 a.m.
•WHERE: Holt County Courthouse, 204 N 4th St, O’Neill, NE 68763 (map)

Before the hearing, Bold Nebraska will host a Meetup for all supporters at Westside Restaurant in O’Neill. Coffee and rolls will be served, and Jane Kleeb will provide an update on the case.
•WHAT: MEETUP before Citizens v. Pipeline court hearing
•WHEN: Monday July 27, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
•WHERE: Westside Restaurant, 49134 US Highway 20, O’Neill, NE 68763 (map)
•RSVP: Click here to RSVP so we know how many are coming.

If you can’t make it to stand with us at the hearing, please consider a donation to help cover legal expenses for the farmers and ranchers who are fighting TransCanada and eminent domain to protect our land and water.

This is the lawsuit that stopped Keystone XL in its tracks in Nebraska, and also has the potential to stop the status quo of eminent domain for private gain in our state for the future.

Can’t be with us in court on Monday? Stand with us in solidarity.

Click here to donate to help cover legal costs for landowners fighting Keystone XL.

Thanks for standing with us.

Jane Kleeb and the Bold Nebraska team
@BoldNebraska on Twitter
Bold Nebraska on Facebook

Bold Nebraska
208 S. Burlington Ave. Ste. 103, Box 325
Hastings, NE 68901 US

Would you drink it?

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This clip is from a March 24, 2015 Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission hearing on an out-of-state company’s application to export its toxic fracking wastewater into Nebraska, moving 80 truckloads carrying 10,000 barrels per day of pollution destined to be dumped into a disposal well in Sioux County — transferring all the risk onto Nebraska farmers and ranchers.

James Osborn, who commented below, is my new hero.  –  Debbie

SIGN the PETITION to the Nebraska Oil & Gas Commission “DON’T FRACK OUR WATER” HERE.

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