That Smoky Air from the Wharton Forest Fire is as Unhealthy as It Looks

Categories: Environmental

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By now you've probably heard: that smoky smell you may have encountered in the city today is from New Jersey. Specifically, from a brush fire in Wharton State Forest.

Of course you may not have noticed the scent at all. New York City is a cauldron of weird and strong and ever-changing smells, and our nostrils gave up caring within three to four months of moving here.

But this smell is at least mildly more unhealthy than the rest of the vile fumes we inhale on a daily basis. At 11:45 a.m. the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality warning for the city.

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Daniel McGowan, Put in an Extreme Prison Isolation Unit for Writing Things, Loses Lawsuit Against Bureau of Prisons

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Photo courtesy of Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan
A New York environmental activist stuck in an extreme isolation unit for writing letters and publishing articles -- and then re-jailed for writing about being put in that isolation unit in the first place -- has had his lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons dismissed, a development he calls "gross and unjust."

We've written before about Daniel McGowan, a 39-year-old environmental activist from Rockaway Beach, Queens who was once affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front, a group he says he left in the summer of 2001. He spent five and a half years in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, convicted of arson and conspiracy to commit arson, for trying to burn down two Oregon lumber yards in 2001, actions for which the ELF as a group claimed responsibility.

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Mayor Bloomberg's New Public Health Target: Styrofoam

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In more ways than one, no one should really like Styrofoam. It has the half-life of most nuclear substances; it doesn't really keep your coffee that hot; it litters the streets of our beloved city; and, most importantly, it indirectly costs you money. How? Landfills.

Last week, the Sanitation Department requested a citywide ban on the material all together solely for the final reason. Besides the environmental aspects, the Department argued that the spongey substance is costing them bills to keep in landfills; all of which are filled to the brim. The legislation would target businesses that sell Styrofoam like hot cakes (read: Dunkin' Donuts) and put the responsibility of paying for its waste removal in the hands of the owners.

Also, it's not the first of its kind. The ban has been proposed to the City Council before but to no avail -- mostly because of the apparent economic strain it would potentially have on businesses.

However, the other day, the ban received a huge boost from a man who's never shy about his agenda: Mr. Michael R. Bloomberg.

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Setback for Spectra Pipeline Opponents as State Judge Throws Out Lawsuit

Categories: Environmental

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Eric Walton
Opponents have tried both legal challenges to the pipeline and less legal challenges, like this protester who climbed onto digging equipment to halt construction last autumn.
The juggernaut that is the NJ-NY Expansion Project, familiarly known as the Spectra Pipeline, has crushed another obstacle, bringing the operation of a 30-inch-diameter transmission line full of highly-pressurized explosive natural gas in the heart of the West Village one step closer to reality.

Opponents of the pipeline had challenged the legality of the pipeline in state court, alleging that the trustees of the Hudson River Park Trust broke the law when they allowed the Spectra energy giant to run the pipeline through the park.

But in a recently released ruling, New York Supreme Court Judge Eileen Rakower threw the suit out, finding that whatever state laws might be involved are trumped by the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve pipeline construction.

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Spectra Pipeline Construction Halted By Activist

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George Pingeon chained himself to construction equipment Wednesday, temporarily halting construction on the Spectra pipeline.
Eric Walton
Construction on a pipeline that will bring fracked natural gas under the Hudson and into the West Village was halted for two hours Wednesday when George Pingeon, a member of the opposition group Occupy the Pipeline, chained himself to a backhoe on the construction site.

Opponents have been fighting the pipeline since it received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in May, escalating their tactics once construction on the Manhattan side of the 16-mile pipeline began this summer.

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Naked Green People Fighting The Spectra Gas Pipeline Construction In The West Village [UPDATE: Video]

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Stacy Lanyon
Protesters painted themselves a toxic green to protest the construction of a new pipeline for fracked natural gas in Manhattan.
Activists protesting the construction of a new natural gas pipeline into the heart of Manhattan stepped up their efforts to draw attention to the issue this weekend by getting naked, painting their bodies green, and dancing along the West Side Highway.

See More: Naked Green People Fight Pipeline Construction (NSFW)

The NJ-NY Expansion Project, known familiarly as the Spectra Pipeline after the Texas-based energy company behind it, runs about 16 miles from Staten Island, through New Jersey, and under the Hudson before surfacing in the West Village.

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Sky High: How Are New York's Roofs Changing? (UPDATE)


If you've ever wondered what goes on above the city -- on New York's rooftops -- this new video series has some answers for you.

Mother Jones' James West and Tim McDonnell ascended the heights of NYC's buildings to track changes in the skyscape. What they found was that the Big Apple's roofs weren't just going green: They were going white and solar-paneled, too.


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Can The Department of Environmental Conservation Handle Fracking Comments?

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And now it's time for another fracking story!

At the Voice, we have been keeping up with hydraulic fracturing developments in New York and the rest of the U.S. As the Empire State weighs whether to lift a drilling moratorium, part of that process was the public commentary period.

A few months back, you see, concerned citizens had the opportunity to give the Department of Environmental Conservation their two cents; by law, the DEP must review and respond to all of those comments before telling Gov. Andrew Cuomo whether the practice should take place.

Though we pointed out that the DEP does not necessarily have to listen to public opinion, we still wanted to know: Can the Department realistically handle almost 80,000 comments?Compounding our curiosity are reports that the DEP is poised to released recs to Cuomo soon. (The DEC is officially mum on those rumors.)

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Bad Science? Peer-Reviewed Study Promoting Fracking Was Not Peer Reviewed (UPDATE)

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If you have been following the fracking controversy clusterfuck at all, you will know this: hydraulic fracturing, still under consideration by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has gotten a lot of flack for reportedly polluting water, as well as posing other potential health risks.

So when a peer-reviewed, university-backed study comes out promoting fracking -- and suggests that it's getting safer -- it's huge news.

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Fracking Dangers: Does Hydraulic Fracturing Cause Deadly Lung Disease?

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As fracking spreads across the Marcellus shale formation and the rest of America with the White House's support, a government researcher has announced today that sand dust emitted during hydraulic fracturing might be one "of the most dangerous threats to workers."

Citing a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health scientist, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that "four out of five" air samples from wells "in five states in the past two years exceeded recommended limits for silica particles."

These particles can get stuck in the lungs, and can lead to "potentially fatal silicosis."

It's still unclear whether the silica particles spread to the communities near these wells.

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