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OSHA Drops Fatality Data, Science Suppression Tracker and More

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SEJ WatchDog is a very interesting website, and I encourage you to read their articles. – Debbie

Source:  Society of Environmental Journalists

By Joseph A. Davis, WatchDog TipSheet Editor

1. OSHA Deep-Sixes On-the-Job Fatality Data

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration used to publish on its website a list of U.S. workers who died on the job. No more. Within days of a new Trump pick taking top office in August, much of it was gone.

OSHA fatality statistics matter to environmental reporters because the deaths sometimes result from exposure to toxic substances or other environmental hazards. For example, the toxic solvent methylene chloride is subject to EPA’s risk assessment program. It has also killed workers who use it.

During the Obama administration, OSHA published the fullest possible list of worker fatalities and related data. In August 2017, shortly after the Trump administration installed Loren Sweatt on a political appointment to a top leadership slot, OSHA started cutting back the worker fatality information it automatically published. That cutback had been requested by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Under the Trump data regime, workplace fatalities are listed only if the incident resulted in a citation (which causes a listing delay of about six months) and the workers’ names are not included. Moreover, OSHA only lists fatalities in states where OSHA oversees workplace safety (about half of the states do this for themselves). OSHA publishes the more limited listing of worker fatality information in a less prominent place on its website.

OSHA under Trump has also cut way back on issuing press releases noting OSHA enforcement actions.

Read the entire article HERE.

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Environmental Activist Sued for Libel Over Facebook Comment About Oil and Gas Company

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SOURCE: desmogblog

By Simon Davis-Cohen

On November 17, 2016, a Colorado environmental activist named Pete Kolbenschlag used Facebook to leave a comment on a local newspaper article, the kind of thing more than a billion people do every day.

However, most people don’t get sued for libel over their Facebook comments. (Although some do.)

The Post Independent story that Kolbenschlag commented on was about oil and gas extraction on federal lands near his home, in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley. It announced that the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management was canceling all oil and gas leases on the iconic Thompson Divide, a large, rugged swath of Forest Service land.

In retaliation, the article reported, a Texas-based oil and gas company called SG Interests (SGI), which owned 18 leases in the Thompson Divide area, was planning legal action against the federal government. The decision to cancel Thompson Divide leases was one of Obama’s last while in office.

SGI claimed it had obtained documents that “clearly show” that the decision to cancel the leases “was a predetermined political decision from the Obama administration taking orders from environmental groups.”

Kolbenschlag, who has opposed drilling in the region and engaged in environmental advocacy for some 20 years, responded to SGI’s allegations by posting the following comment:

While SGI alleges “collusion” let us recall that it, SGI, was actually fined for colluding (with GEC) to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers. Yes, these two companies owned by billionaires thought it appropriate to pad their portfolios at the expense of you and I and every other hard-working American.”

Shortly thereafter, SGI sued Kolbenschlag for libel (which generally refers to defamatory written statements).

SGI Investigation and Settlement

Kolbenschlag’s comment was in reference to a settlement SGI and Gunnison Energy Company (GEC), another oil and gas firm active on federal lands in the region, signed with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012.

According to court documents filed by SGI, the settlement followed a two-year investigation into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two oil and gas companies in which “SGI would bid on certain federal oil and gas leases … and … SGI would assign GEC a 50 percent interest in any leases for which it was the successful bidder.” In other words, rather than compete in the bidding process, SGI would do the bidding, and then give GEC half of the mineral rights.

According to these court documents, the Justice Department’s two-year investigation led it to determine “that SGI’s and GEC’s agreement to bid jointly pursuant to the MOU constituted a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman [Antitrust] Act.”

The original settlement “required” the companies to pay $550,000 for “antitrust and False Claims Act violations.” It was the first time the federal government challenged an “anticompetitive bidding agreement for mineral rights leases.” That settlement, however, was later rejected by a federal judge, who approved a new settlement of $1 million and did not require the companies to admit to wrongdoing.

Libel or Retaliation?

SGI argues that Kolbenschlag’s statement that the company was fined for colluding with GEC is libelous because it is “contrary to the true facts, and reasonable persons … reading … the statement would be likely to think significantly less favorably about [SGI] than they would if they knew the true facts.”

The company argues that it was never convicted of or admitted to wrongdoing, and the settlement agreement did not require it. SGI further argues that it was not “fined,” but rather agreed to pay the government money to settle the case.

Moreover, SGI claims that “agreements such as the ones entered into between SGI and GEC are common place in the oil and gas industry.” And therefore, presumably, there’s nothing wrong with what they did.

Kolbenschlag’s attorney not only argues that his client’s comment was “substantially true” in the eyes of ordinary readers, but also that SGI’s lawsuit against him is in retaliation against his environmental activism. In legal briefs, his attorney writes that “this lawsuit is SGI’s transparent and blatant effort to punish Mr. Kolbenschlag for his public speech and advocacy that are not to SGI’s liking.”

For example, Kolbenschlag was part of a group called Citizens for a Healthy Community that focused on BLM rulemaking related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on federal lands. “SGI is misusing the judicial system as the means to silence its critics,” claimed Kolbenschlag’s attorney.

READ the rest of this article HERE.

Erik Molvar, Exec. Dir. of Western Watersheds Project, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Fri., 1/19/18)

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painy

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Decades of Political Meddling Threaten GYE Grizzlies

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Sam Jojola, USFWS Special Agent (retired)

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Research Illuminates Historical Threats for Grizzlies in the GYE

The 23 years covert experience in federal wildlife law enforcement always reminds me to look deep behind the curtain of puppet master politics that often manipulate the strands of negative decisions that hamper long term protection of key wildlife species in our country and around the globe. Recent research has further illuminated past and present political threats of oil, gas, with alliances from SCI and the NRA that appear to be a multi-prong threat. This detailed 2014 report describes these alliances and how they can work to compromise key biological and wildlife resources:

https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/IndustryInfluenceReport.pdf

Foreign mining interests are looming over the GYE. Google “mining opportunities in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem” and a host of articles appear. Gold mining interests have friends in “high places”. When states are left to take the lead in managing these interests, the “golden rule” will often apply. “He who hath the gold rules”, and ecosystems and wildlife will suffer by political meddling. Déjà vu all over again reminds me of my experience in the 1980’s in Nevada with foreign precious metal corporations and migratory bird deaths from cyanide heap leach operations.

Trophy hunting Grizzlies in the GYE could be the coup de gras with oil, gas and mining interests contributing to the “big picture” of multiple ongoing serious threats.

Recent court decision reveals flaws with delisting GYE Grizzly

The recent court decision based on a lawsuit by the Humane Society of the United States revealed serious flaws behind the Grizzly delisting in the GYE:

https://www.courthousenews.com/wolf-ruling-has-agency-wrestling-with-grizzlies/

I strongly believe the HSUS decision that affects the GYE grizzly bear final rule should require the Service to re-evaluate the delisting of the GYE grizzly bear population and examine this species as a whole across the remaining U.S. grizzly bear ecosystems. This court decision shows USFWS is acting in haste to separate listed species into distinct populations and delisting them. The GYE Grizzly delisting exposes the blatant hypocrisy of this bizarre and reckless strategy that goes against the long term protection of all grizzly bear populations. More

Standing Rock: The Documentary

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THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT

Black Snake Killaz: a No #DAPL Story

Unicorn Riot (2017)

Film Review

The main significance of Black Snake* Killaz is the continuous historical record it provides of the 2016 Standing Rock occupation and blockade of the Dakota Access  Pipeline (DAPL). The occupation drew participation from indigenous supporters all over the world, as well as environmental activists and veterans. It also inspired dozens of support protests in cities around the US.

By engaging in continuous direct action, either placing their bodies in the path of construction equipment, vandalizing it or locking themselves down to it, the Water Protectors succeeded in bring pipeline construction to a total halt.

The Full Scale Military Campaign Launched Against Standing Rock

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Please sign petition to rectify the heavy impact of livestock grazing on public lands

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photo: Western Watersheds Project

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION HERE.

SOURCE: Petitions.whitehouse.gov

We the people ask the federal government to Call on Congress to act on an issue:

Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Rectify the Heavy Impact

Created by T.B. on November 23, 2017

Reductions will address ecological problems caused by commercial livestock grazing such as:

● displacement of wildlife, reduction of wildlife populations;
● degradation is occurring to the land;
● transmission of pathogens;
● degradation is occurring to plant communities;
● native wildlife are killed to advance the interests of public lands ranchers;
● livestock are damaging to sensitive wetlands or riparian areas; or
● Ruminant grazing contributes to the nitrogen load in streams as well as nitrous oxide gasses also
a greenhouse gas.

George Wuerthner, author & Exec. Dir. of Public Lands Media, to talk about the impacts of the livestock industry on the West (Wed., 11/1/17 on Wild Horse & Burro Radio)

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painy

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