On May 25, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt proposed the delay of Obama-era effluent limitation guidelines that required coal power plants to use new and innovative technologies to reduce the pollution of waterways.
Many power plants had started implementing changes to reduce the amount of harmful toxins, such as lead and mercury, in the liquid waste released from their plants. But they now can continue to release toxic waste with few limitations.
While Earthjustice has already filed a lawsuit against the postponement, the final rules and regulations for the guidelines remain in question. — Meredith Abercrombie
An April 2017 peer-reviewed article published in the Journal of Environmental Protection suggests that drinking water contaminated by fracking for natural gas is driving significant increases in early infant mortality in the five most highly fracked counties in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The study shows that in these counties the number of infant deaths within the first 28 days climbed from 36 deaths between 2003 and 2006 to 60 deaths from 2007 to 2010. The number of fracking wells in Pennsylvania increased 6,500 percent between these two date ranges. The authors of the study also compared northeast Pennsylvania counties, which have a much greater reliance on water wells, to highly fracked southwest counties with lower rates of water well use. They found greater infant mortality in the areas most reliant on well water. — Zach Kopkin
On April 13, more than two million gallons of drilling fluid spilled into Ohio wetlands along the Tuscarawas River as a result of construction work for the Rover Pipeline. The drilling fluid contains large quantities of bentonite, a clumping agent, which makes cleanup difficult.
The Rover Pipeline is projected to begin transporting natural gas in mid-2017, but, in a letter sent May 10, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prohibited Rover Pipeline from beginning any new drilling activities until third-party contractors have fully analyzed drilling activities and FERC has approved a stronger plan for environmental compliance. Non-drilling activities have not been halted.
On May 17, approximately 100 organizations sent a letter to FERC asking that it halt all Rover Pipeline construction and reopen the environmental review process.
The $4.2 billion underground pipeline project is operated by Energy Transfer Partners, the same company involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is expected to span 713 miles, crossing parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania before terminating in Michigan. — Zach Kopkin