ProPublica: Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling

Courtesy ProPublica/Getty

Citing health and environmental concerns, the Pittsburgh, Pa., city council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban natural gas drilling within the city limits. It is the first such ban in a Pennsylvania city.

The 9-0 vote received a standing ovation, according to the Associated Press.

Pittsburgh sits on the Marcellus Shale, the gas-rich rock formation that has triggered a drilling boom in the eastern United States. The drillers use a technique known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which shoots fluids underground at high pressures to release gas from bedrock. ProPublica has written more than 70 articles documenting the hidden costs of fracking . . . (more)

ProPublica: Halliburton’s Fracking Fluids

Courtesy ProPublica/PA DEP

On Nov. 9, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Halliburton had refused to give the agency a complete list of the chemicals it uses for gas drilling, resulting in a subpoena for the energy giant. But the battle to keep much of this information confidential is one that Halliburton is winning in Pennsylvania.

Halliburton did not respond to requests for comment on this article, but a company spokeswoman told that the EPA had approached Halliburton with “unreasonable demands” and that the company was working to supply the agency with the information it needs to complete its study of the relationship between water contamination and the controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Of the nine companies the EPA asked to supply the information, only Halliburton — the largest North American provider of hydraulic fracturing services — refused . . . (more)

ProPublica: Interview with Pete Grannis

Courtesy AP/ProPublica

Former state assemblyman Alexander B. “Pete” Grannis, 68, served as the state’s top environmental official for two and a half years beginning April 1, 2007. A graduate of Rutgers University, he received a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and helped organize New York City’s first Earth Day in 1970. During his tenure as commissioner, the Department of Environmental Conservation was criticized for underestimating the risks of hydraulic fracturing — a controversial gas drilling technique that is temporarily banned in the state — but also praised for creating the nation’s first fracturing chemical disclosure rules.

He was fired on Oct. 21 by Gov. David Paterson after a memo Grannis wrote criticizing the governor’s proposed budget cuts for the DEC was leaked to the press. In the memo he said the agency wouldn’t be able to perform its duties if the cuts went into effect . Grannis’ sudden departure sparked outrage from environmental groups and questions about the future of natural gas drilling regulation in New York. ProPublica reporter Marie C. Baca interviewed Grannis in ProPublica’s Manhattan offices on Nov. 5 and by phone on Nov. 10. The following is a transcript of those interviews, edited for clarity and length . . . (more)

ProPublica: Seeking Trade Secret Status in Wyoming

Courtesy ProPublica/Flickr

Two chemical manufacturers are seeking an exemption from new rules in Wyoming that require public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a controversial natural gas drilling process suspected of polluting groundwater.

ChemEOR, based in Covina, Calif., and CESI Chemical Inc., based in Marlow, Okla., have asked the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to grant their fracturing fluids trade secret status, according to state oil and gas supervisor Tom Doll. The designation would still require the companies to share their formulas with the state but would exempt them from making the information available to the public . . . (more)

ProPublica: Leaked Memo Depicts Bare-Bones Regulatory Environment


The leaked memo [1] that led to the dismissal of New York’s top environmental official last week depicts a severely understaffed agency that has struggled to adequately perform its duties over the past two years and is ill-equipped to supervise natural gas drilling.

“All of the meat has been snipped free of the bones, and some of the bones have disappeared,” wrote Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis in the memo. “Many of our programs are hanging by a thread.”

The Albany Times Union reported on the internal memo last Tuesday. Grannis was dismissed by Gov. David Paterson two days later. In the aftermath, environmental groups are rallying behind Grannis, and gas drilling companies are calling for a better-financed DEC that can more effectively regulate drilling . . . (more)

WSJ: The New Face of Day Labor

The face of day labor appears to be changing, with more women, non-Latinos and former white-collar workers taking up manual labor.

Amid continued high joblessness, employers say they are seeing more workers at curbside hiring sites, or seeking work through less traditional routes such as Craigslist, who before the downturn might have had full-time jobs.

Many lost desk jobs in the hard-hit auto, construction and financial industries. Some see manual labor such as housecleaning or hauling debris, where people are hired and paid per diem, as the only way to survive when jobs in their prior fields have become scarce. … (more)

Pool Safety Crackdown Stings Local Swimmers


Alameda County is cracking down on public pool owners for not complying with a new state safety law. While county officials say they are just following the rules, some pool owners say the actions don’t hold water.

Of nine Bay Area counties, Alameda County appears to be the only one taking a hard line in enforcing the new state law. The law requires owners of public pools and spas—including those in apartment complexes, hotels, schools and private recreation clubs—to provide proof that they use a drain system that prevents swimmers from being trapped underwater by suction. The regulation doesn’t apply to pools in private, single-family residences or duplexes . . . (more)

Old-School Power Lunches


Lion & Compass is an old-school Sunnyvale eatery that has long been known around the South Bay as a place where investors and entrepreneurs meet to make deals.

Since opening in 1982, the bar and restaurant has attracted customers from nearby technology companies such as Yahoo Inc., among other firms, says owner Robert Nino. Gina Dunleavy, a senior corporate counsel at Symantec Corp., a few miles from the eatery, says she is a regular at Lion & Compass because it has a central location and great food . . . (more)

WSJ Personal Journal: Reading with E-Readers


People who buy e-readers tend to spend more time than ever with their nose in a book, preliminary research shows.

A study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources Inc. found that 40% said they now read more than they did with print books. Of those surveyed, 58% said they read about the same as before while 2% said they read less than before. And 55% of the respondents in the May study, paid for by e-reader maker Sony Corp., thought they’d use the device to read even more books in the future. The study looked at owners of three devices: Inc.’s Kindle, Apple Inc.’s iPad and the Sony Reader.

While e-readers are still a niche product just beginning to spread beyond early adopters, these new reading experiences are a big departure from the direction U.S. reading habits have been heading. A 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts caused a furor when it reported Americans are spending less time reading books. About half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure, it found . . . (more)

Lunch for the Tech Set

Less than a mile from Stanford University and Sand Hill Road’s venture-capital row, Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park offers diners the chance to people-watch everyone from tech financiers to start-up entrepreneurs.

Much of the crowd-scanning takes place from the café’s European-style patio with a large fountain in the middle.

“It’s like the technology piazza of the Bay Area,” says Ken Ross, founder of online business community ExpertCEO, based in Menlo Park. Cafe Borrone, he says, is the go-to spot for casual interviews and client meetings among the technology set . . . (more)