Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reflection on 'Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge...'

There are about five weeks left before graduation. Graduation! With some exciting opportunities waiting for us at the end of the graduation stage, it can't get here fast enough...but for the countless papers yet to be written. With three of the nine papers under the belt [none of which have been graded yet] (not counting a small writing project that doesn't count as a paper) it felt time to post at least one, at least in interest of keeping the blog active and ready for when there is more time to write for personal fun and enjoyment.

The following isn't a paper that poses an argument. It's a reflection paper, much like those from the Truth, Knowledge and Reality Class last Spring semester (See: Critical Reflections on: 'Free Will' by Sam Harris, 'Why Truth Matters' by Michael P. Lynch, 'When Science Meets Religion' by Ian G Barbour, and 'On Being Certain' by Robert A Burton). It is for an independent reading and study course in Communications of which there are six (self-selected) books.You probably won't see all of the resulting papers here because...well...to be honest you can't put the same amount of effort in every paper when you have nearly 10 to write within about an eight week time frame.

Also. This isn't some of our better writing. It kinda feels like we're phoning it in this semester, so to speak. The heart isn't into it and every fiber just wants to get on with the next part of life....whatever that may be (travel, painting, writing, gardening, cooking, new job opportunities!)

Well. Anyway. Here it is. The first paper of the final semester...


The Life of Knowledge
A Reflection on Too Big To Know by David Weinberger

               The room is the smartest person, according to David Weinberger in ‘Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t theFacts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room’. Of course, once you being to understand what he means by the room, your whole concept of information, knowledge and expertise are restructured, as it should be in the world of interconnectedness.
The room is the smartest person, so it goes. However, the room is not exactly a room, and the room is made of networks not walls, and the network is made up of people not conduit. The room is made up of people who, in the new structure of knowledge, become individually insignificant. Rather, they gain significance as a whole in the new organization of knowledge: networks, which make up the body of information, or data. The knowledge is in the network of information (people) itself, the culmination of expertise and knowledge (people) that inhabit the room, which is the very structure of the room. It is in this network where information is transformed into what Skip Walter refers to as “actionable” knowledge which is simply information that is used for a purpose and therefore has significance (3).
The smartest room, this network of knowledge, exists on the internet, in social connections. These networks have developed as places of associations between “lots of people who are different from one another [where they are] not only finding expertise but also generating it” (57). This environment has taken the shape of knowledge, previously linear in nature, and transformed it into not just a circular form, but various forms involving symbiotic relationships.

Structure and Process of Knowledge Itself
Previous to Too Big To Know the idea that knowledge has a shape was, personally, a foreign concept. Weinberger manages to describe how the shape of knowledge has evolved from linear structure – such as one direction information like that presented in books – to a multi-directional web of information in which the seeker can discover information and knowledge in any number of ways  as well as add to it (100).
Despite this new structure of knowledge it has a life which is akin to the life of the old linear knowledge in that it has the same old problems and can be “misquoted, degraded, enhanced, incorporated, passed around through a thousand degrees of misunderstanding, and assimilated to the point of invisibility” (110).  Only previously, the editorial nature of knowledge and expertise prior to the Net was that of privilege, whereas now the editorial nature provided by networks is in the hands of the masses. Expertise has multiple voices thanks to the new structure, and that doesn’t always have positive implications (67).
It is in the hands of the masses that expertise on any one topic can have an array of implications. It is that trait where the network gets its diversity, where it “[…] enables a type of expertise just about impossible to actualize before the Internet existed” and gains “value only because that network contains many different types of people” (55).  The variety is not just in the mere connections of countless people through the network, it is the variety of ways in which they think and what they know (56).
The issue in the network is in the sifting of the large mass of knowledge created by it, to moderate it to a point of usefulness. It calls for a new method of filtering which is now done through methods of influence through social networks. Weinberg says this can be disruptive, especially when it comes to authority of knowledge where it is transferred from experts to people we know (10) – theoretically people who have no valid authority. When information and knowledge is shifted from central “authorities” to an array of influences, both in our social networks as well as the expanded networks connected to them, we are bombarded with fragmented information. This fragmented information shapes perceptions and attitudes. This information may be outside the scope of new authoritarian social networks who never the less are granted authority over the information transformed into knowledge. In this way the information is not so much reduced by filtering as it is should be, but it is compounded; this form of filtering “increase[s] information and reveal[s] the whole deep sea” (13). Weinberger says this mass of information “has consequences” (10), and he proceeds with outlining many of the pros and cons of this new “anything goes” nature of information generation and dissemination.

The Cons in the Pros
Perhaps one of the most interesting concepts Weinberger presented as a pro to the network is a new take on diversity, which is the cornerstone of the “smartest room” in question. The proposal is that the concept of diversity is growing away from that of an ethnic or racial structure, to that of a diversity of backgrounds, education levels, economic levels and experiences that flow through all, regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation or racial identity. This slow-growing concept, particularly in business, is an idea outside of the popular rhetoric of what traditional diversity is and means.
The kind of diversity Weinberg discusses works by creating a range of new perspectives with heuristic implications which in the workplace presents as innovation and creativity. This form of diversity builds on new ways of seeing and doing and battles against the group-think, which leads to mediocrity (77). This new understanding of diversity can be seen as having potentially ill effects if adopted to broadly, such as the reversal of anti-discrimination legislation. However, for the purposed of the network it can be a positive revolutionary force, as well as a carrying negative attributes.
As Weinberger is sure to point out at various steps, the revolutionary nature of networks does not mean they are all universally smart, or even that the network is universally used. As he points out, referencing the work of researchers Eszter Hargittai and Danah Boyd, “social class, age, and subculture affects [s] how we use the [network] and what it means to us (173). To further illustrate the psychological pitfalls of the usefulness of the network (i.e. the internet), Weinberger states that “for those who have no interest in intellectual rigor, or who lack curiosity […] the Net may well be an environment that degrades knowledge” (91). In these ways the diversity of global society does not translate directly to the diversity of “the room”.
When diversity is functioning properly in the network of “the room” knowledge is built vis-√†-vis shared expertise. When done on a mass scale, cognition “quickly migrate[s] to these networks of experts” (62). However, though “knowledge has always been social” in much this way, and the theory goes that we are “smarter when together” the fact is that this isn’t always the case with networked knowledge (51). Now that authority of knowledge is in the hands of the masses, Weinberg makes a claim that the lack of a privileged position introduces the worry that “we will be lost in a swirl of contradictory ideas” (90-91). It is difficult not to see how this plays out in everyday dissemination of information on the net. As Weinberger says, in some cases the network is dumber (67) for its mass cognitive blend, creating misrepresentations (66) and having an isolating effect on information (63).
Networks are subject to forming insulation from criticism and outside points of view, resulting in echo chambers (63). According to Weinberger, citing the work of Cass Sunstein, this type of insulated echo chamber can lead to the breeding of extremism (83). In the network, extremism birthed from isolation is counter intuitive to the positive creative nature found in the aforementioned diversity, a nature which promotes a more objective view than those of static ideologies. This problem is at the root of what Cass Sunstein calls “information cascades [where] false and harmful ideas […] gain velocity [and credibility by how easily] and frequently they are forwarded”, passed on, or shared (117). One not need be in the network of the internet long to recognize this outcome is not only real, but persistent.
To further the point in his parlay of cons of the network, Weinberger reflects on the work of techno-dystopian Nicholas Carr, who says that what the internet is doing is changing our cognitive processes for the worst. While on some level this may be an accurate perception for some, it is highly technodeterministic, as Weinberger confers, to conclude that “technology causes us to use and understand it in particular ways” (173). The idea that technology acts upon us, causes as if by force, and not the other way around, has implications regarding ideas of free will and control in relation to the technological world.
Other problems with information and knowledge transference in the network arise in interpretation, which, as Weinberger advises, is always subjective. Knowledge, in all of its structures, lives in the connection of life (119); and while it is accessible to all, sans the network in previous generations, it “shows itself to use depending on our starting point, viewpoint, and inescapably human sense of what matters to us” (180) and “all knowledge and experience is an interpretation” (89).
Interpretation is essential to the transference of knowledge, but in “real events are experienced by individual minds that strive to create an accurate inner representation which is then expressed in words presented to others” (112) and creates a world in which they approach their understanding “from a particular standpoint (113). As Weinberger states, “our experience is always from a point of view, looking at some features and not others” (89), experiences of which there are countless ways in which to interpret everything (90). These experiences must contain context in order to be made sense of (90). Each frame of context carries the standpoints of the past with it which impacts the effectiveness of how we convey information and knowledge, as well as how we interpret it.

Importance and the Culture of Knowledge
Being left to figure out what is important about the evolving structure of knowledge, with its mass contribution of variable information from multiple standpoints, it is not hard to recognize the fatigue that transpires through the overload of the system. Even more are the implications on how to navigate what is available and come to terms with the death of authoritative knowledge. Understanding how to navigate these new structures and processes of knowledge is important, and are subject to a culture of their own which is “guided by implicit rules and expectations” and become important to aspects of social structure (90). The underlying fact is that knowledge is essential to the process of creating identity and culture, to understanding the world and ourselves (4).
With a network of connectedness that inhabits many parts of the globe, bringing together a plethora of ideas, theories, and beliefs, “information overload [arises] as a cultural condition (9).
The information provided isn’t necessarily essential, and the overload feeds the insecurity of our own knowledge and instincts. For example, Weinberger briefly remarks on child raising experts who dispense “skill […] often with just a few cogent mottos” (49). The consumption of books such as these types of boiled down common-sense guides to life illustrates the insecurity of our own knowledge, authentic knowledge passed down generation after generation, basic instinctual knowledge. When we erroneously put into the hands of the masses the authority on basic knowledge, it threatens the authentic self. With any number of experts available we often forget that within us is our own knowledge. For this reason “learning to evaluate knowledge claims” and developing critical-thinking skills becomes more essential than ever before (192). Unfortunately it often seems that critical thinking skills fall by the wayside as those who consume knowledge, dispensed from those who have been afforded authority on the grounds of nothing, neglect their own instinctual knowledge.

So What, Now What
With all of the cons, Weinberger still notes that “a net richer in metadata [information] is richer in more usable and useful knowledge” (188). Despite the range of expertise and useful knowledge created in the diversity of the network, he acknowledges that “we are going to disagree about everything”, attributing it to the very nature of diversity which inhabits the network of information and knowledge (87). The fact that our perceptions, beliefs, ideas and attitudes are individually shaped by so many different voices means each of us approaches the same knowledge set with different ways of viewing it. However, this can be recognized as nothing new; humanity has have never really agreed on anything. If it had agreed on anything, things would have remained the same throughout history. No revolutions, no loss of attributes deemed essential by some and inconsequential by others – no growth or change.
Perhaps the networked world in which we now live in, in which everybody projects their voice into the abyss of knowledge and expertise, has simply been magnified by the network. Perhaps it was always like this, but through this new structure of knowledge, in the amplified connectedness of society, we now see how disconnected we really can be on various subjects such as those of human rights, politics, gender, religion, and any number of other less essential topics. Alas, Weinberger’s “pragmatic truth” sums it up, “what we have in common is not knowledge about which we agree but a shared world about which we will always disagree” (182).

Throughout the book Weinberger probes how media, communication and information shapes and influences culture and the implications the new structure of knowledge has for the future. The topics laid before you were merely highlights and musings as there is neither time nor space to plumb the depths of his text for the purpose of this reflection. The best way to conclude is with Weinberger’s own utopian aspirations of the potential for “the smartest room”, optimistic and hopeful, that “…perhaps our hyperlinked infrastructure will give us a self-understanding that makes it easier for our curiosity and compassion to overcome our self-centered fears.” (193).
xxxxx

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Here, Study This

First exam tomorrow. Media History. Dreadful names and dates to remember.

Luckily the professor supplies a number of questions that he'll choose three of, of which students will get to choose two of for the short essay portion of the exam, and to be included with 33 multiple choice questions.

This is the last semester you'll have to hear about homework and exams and tests (officially graduating in May!!). You'll probably come to miss it...because you'll have to read...whatever it is that used to be here before...

Schlock. Probably. 

Or maybe nothing will be here...June will be five years since starting this blog...and damn...we've come a long way, baby...(!)
Maybe it's time to retire from the blogging.

Anyway...
In the meantime, you'll get some final learnin' in, yeah?

Here's a sample of what the kids learn in media history the first five weeks (questions are the professors, answers are our own - by all accounts they should be correct. Bold, underlines and italics are for stressing important things to try to remember to string together coherent sentences in the exam).
...Learning is fun!

1. Explain the historical background and importance of the John Peter Zenger trial of 1753 and its influence on the First Amendment and Bill of Rights three decades later.
John Peter Zenger was the editor of the New York Journal who published subversive anti-British views of an (anonymous) James Alexander. At the time criticizing the government and its leaders was illegal under British law. Therefore, Zenger’s participation in the publication of Alexander’s critical views regarding arbitrary power by the government eventually resulted in a 1735 court trial for Zenger on the ground of seditious libel. 
The trial lawyer for the case was Andrew Hamilton. Hamilton helped establish the precedent that the words themselves must be false to be libelous, scandalous or seditious in order for Zenger to be guilty. This was the first time that such an assertion was made as the British law at the time, which applied to the colonists, outlawed seditious libel.
The principles behind the defense of Zenger, who was found to be not guilty by a jury, were regarded as a milestone in colonial religious and political freedom. The resulting judgment was eventually used in influencing laws regarding free speech and included in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
2. Explain the background and issues regarding the conflict between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists after the American Revolution. Also explain the related conflict with the First Amendment (Bill of Rights) protections of the press and prior restraint.
The Federalist, led by Hamilton and Anti-Federalist, led by Jefferson, issues revolved around a strong central government versus states rights. 
Federalists, the business class of society, supported the constitution and a strong national government, while using exaggerated financial and political problems to further their cause. Additionally, they thought Bill of Rights was unnecessary because they felt the powers would largely be held in the hands of the states if not granted or handled by the national government. They actively used the press, through a series of articles by Hamilton, Jay and Madison (The Federalist Papers), to persuade public and encourage ratification of the constitution. 
Anti-Federalists, comprised largely of farmers and artisans, were anti-constitution. They felt that the constitution would create an authoritarian government. Additionally, they felt that without a Bill of Rights there would be no guarantee of the freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and the right to petition. They opposed a national centralized government and strongly advocated that a Bill of Rights be included in the Constitution.

The Zenger trial of 1735 was used to illustrate the need for a Bill of Rights in order to protect the press from punishment and censorship due to prior restraint. According to Anti-federalist views a national constitution, absent of a Bill of Rights, would allow the national government to supersede rights taken for granted and destroy the freedom of the press. 
The over-all appeals made by the Anti-Federalists to include a Bill of Rights, and the Federalists concession to grant the request and adopt the Bill of Rights, was an important catalyst in the ratification of the Constitution and the subsequent protection of the press. The Bill of Rights set a precedent for freedom of the press to enjoy no prior restraint, no censorship prior to publication.
3. Explain the background to the concepts of prior restraint and censorship in England beginning in the 16th Century - and their relationship to the development of movable type and the printing press.
The concepts of prior restraint and censorship prior to the 16th century were primarily regarded as laws opposing the criticism of the government, or British monarchy, and ruling religious factions. The published criticism became known as “seditious libel”. 
The development of movable type, which made publication easier and quicker than before, contributed to the widespread diffusion of information. This spread of information and uncensored opinion assisted in degrading the monopoly on political, moral and religious opinion enjoyed by the ruling class (largely the Catholic church, as well as the monarchy). The ability for more voices and more opinions to be spread throughout society threatened the government and religious ruling class, which led to actions of prior restraint censorship. 
Prior restraint as pre-publication censorship was enacted through a network of censors imposed by advisers of King Henry VIII, which included (in 1534) the requirement of royal permission to publish and in 1542 a law prohibiting the criticism of the government and Catholicism. The resistance to this prohibition included violence, arrests and restraint, and sometimes death, and other actions which essentially prevented some from obtaining royal license to operate at all.
4. Explain the rise of the National Intelligencer and its importance in America in the 19th Century. Give examples of innovations it introduced.
Started by Samuel Harrison Smith in the 1800’s, The National Intelligencers was developed to cover the activities of Congress. The tri-weekly paper was regarded as remarkable because it supported “liberal policies in a conservative manor”, a sort of bipartisan account of Congress for the time, never experienced before. 
Through his shorthand reporting, an innovation at the time, Smith was able to report on Congressional news in a new way not seen before by the public. This shorthand was a skill he passed on to his predecessor to the Intelligencer, Joseph Gales Jr.  
After Gales took over, congressional printing contracts, which had been a mainstay for the paper, were being granted to low-bidders which benefited the non-newspaper businesses and added extra struggle to established newspapers. As with Smith, Gales depended on the government print contracts to fund operations. This new method of government contact distribution therefore challenged the monopoly that the National Intelligencer had on Congressional news. 
Despite the challenge, the National Intelligencer remained a valuable service and “an organ of [at least three] presidential administration[s]”.
5. Outline the rise of the Penny Press beginning 1833 and explain the factors that contributed to its success. Use the explanations from both the textbook and content from the Zinn book: A People’s History of the United States.  
The first penny press was created in 1833 by Benjamin Day. Day produced a paper called the New York Sun, which through strategic economic methods. Some of his methods included patent medicine advertising, as well deals made with local merchants to set prices so that the consumer left the establishment with a penny in their pocket, which was the cost of his newspaper - much less than other newspapers. 
The growing democratic market society abled Day to sell his paper at a cost affordable to the masses. The audience of the penny press, such as the working class and growing immigrant populations was on the rise. As the shift in political and elite coverage moved more towards “entertainment news”, readership increased. Ben Days success inspired the growth of various other penny press papers such as James Gordern Bennette’s New York Herald, Horace Greenly’s New York Tribune, who expanded on the model to include innovative variations in news coverage that included perils of the common population, as opposed to the elite and expanded crime news and religious commentary. 
Factors that contributed to the rise of the Penny Press from 1833 to the 1840’s include increased literacy rates, and new printing technologies. New technologies were an important factor that made production easier, making distribution of news more widely available. Additionally, the desire for entertainment, such as crime news and local events, an “opiate for the masses”, the tired and exploited workers, was on the rise. The Penny Press papers met the needs using sensationalized news written by skilled writers and editors. Finally, the developments in manufacturing which led to the growth of consumer goods, gave rise to more advertising which supported and contributed to the need for funds to produce the publications, and increased the affordability of the papers.
6. Describe the development and introduction of the telegraph and its influence on the beginning of the Associated Press and suggest what made the telegraph such a major communication development?
The invention and development of the telegraph was innovative in separating the limits of communication from geography and transportation. The quick communication across great expanses enabled news from far regions of the United States to spread quickly. The telegraph also became seen as a democratic leveler of privilege through further dissemination of information. The telegraph system eventually evolved to be an important source for news regarding such events as the Mexican American war. As the telegraph services and technology expanded Westward, it gave rise to brokerage news services such as The Associated Press and the Abbot & Winans 
The Associated Press (1846), a news brokerage service still highly regarded today, developed through a series of contracts and agreements between editors and telegraph services. The system of the AP was used to share the cost of gathering news, but especially the sharing of valuable wire time, spreading out the costs among a number of newspaper establishments to decrease the expensive practice of obtaining the news from far distances. Telegraph services were in high demand due to limitation of time available and access due to limited amount lines which at the time was only between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The price and access issues that surrounded telegraph technology gave rise to the inverted pyramid style of reporting, which placed precedence on the pertinent information first. The speed of news through telegraph services also contributed to the attributes of better quality news service, such as more predictability in quality, schedule and form, which became important for the commodification of news.

Thanks for studying with us!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cooking With Frank: Gluten-Free Turkey Lasagna

Right.
One of these recipes.
If you're the type to turn your nose up at people who incorporate gluten free eating into their lifestyle, you can just put it where the sun don't shine.
Also, the recipe is damn good, so don't knock it 'till you try it.

"Gluten Free?! BUT WHY?!", you scream, "GLUTEN IS DELICIOUS!"
First, stop acting like you even know what gluten is.
Second, you're right, it is delicious. But it's also terrible, specifically for people whose bodies do them a disservice by not being able to process it. For many, eating even a bite of bread, a mouthful of pasta, is like playing Russian Roulette, except nobody dies when the shit hits the fan...
And that analogy is closer to reality than you might want to think about right now, sadly. Seriously. Don't think about it.

For a growing amount of people, gluten is a digestive issue, often serious.
For some, it's a deadly one. Specifically, celiac disease, which can actually kill people. It has many side effects, none of them pleasant.

This is a growing plethora of scientific studies regarding the "first world problem" of not being able to digest wheat (and barely and rye), mainly its little protein friend gluten.
The reasons are complex. Many might scream "GMO" right at the tip of the hat. You may be surprised this is not our stance on this issue, despite past writings regarding GMO in general.
This is because wheat is not a GMO crop...yet - but there are reports of a small testing field in North Dakota. In the past the rejection from foreign countries of potential GMO USA wheat, wheat being a big export crop, prompted the USA GMO companies from chemically messing with the genetic structure of said plant (except for that test crop and its undisclosed specific location).
However, having said that, recent research has linked this growing problem to pesticides, primarily Monsanto’s Glyphosate (Roundup).
Chemical pesticides are a very first world product, which is why it is a first world problem, the use dating back to about the 1970's. The use alters the genetic makeup of the plant, it is said.
So, sure, in the end it is the fault of GMO...naturally unnatural GMO.

As an aside, in rare support of GMO, in case you didn't know, "Mother Nature" takes part in the GMO game. "She" does it naturally, over time, as part of natural selection - which is how there naturally got to be so many different types of plants and animals. That's the cool kind of GMO, the time-tested healthy kind, in most cases.
It can also be done without chemicals, or the splicing of genes from an animal species to a plant species. Basically boil it down and blame the (natural) human intervention on Mendel.

Meanwhile, this post is not intended to be the place to decry, or support, this theory, or any others. The purpose of this intro, the before the recipe, is to spread a little awareness, and also provide a reason for this recipe, if only because about 5% of people in Europe and North America suffer from the digestive disorder. A sort of defense for the 5%, if you will.

Now.

On to the recipe!

Gluten-Free Turkey Lasagna
You'll need roughly an 8x12 cake pan, a blender (immersion or upright), a saucepan, a skillet or frypan, a knife, a cutting board, a wooden spoon, tin foil...oh, and an oven.



The Meat:
360 g turkey, ground (93/7 fat content works great)
85 g onion, yellow, diced small (1/2 a small)
1 clove garlic
1.5 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp sage, fresh, (how to cut: chiffonade)

In a pan over medium heat add olive oil. Wait until the olive oil is warmed and then add onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent and then add the ground turkey, continue to cook, seasoning as you go. Towards the end add the sage. Set aside.

Meanwhile...

The Sauce:
100 g onion, red, diced small (1/2 a medium)
150 g bell pepper, orange, diced small (1 medium)
150 g carrots, diced small (it's about 1 cup or so)
1 quart tomatoes, whole, canned
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp (or a splash) of white wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

330 g mushrooms, fresh, sliced (about 12-15 medium)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c sherry wine
Salt

Sauté the onions and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat for a few minutes, just about to the point of becoming translucent. Add carrots and continue to cook for about 4-5 more minutes. Add orange pepper and white wine vinegar and continue to cook for about 4 more minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until the ingredients are very soft. Season.
Nutrition Information generated using
myFitnesspal recipe calculator
Remove pan from stove and with an immersion blender or upright blender blend the sauce until smooth. Return to stove-top and add the ground turkey mixture and simmer over medium-love heat.
!! Now would be a great time to preheat the over to 350 °F. !!
In another pan, add the 1 tbsp of olive oil, wait until it's warm and then add mushroom. Continue to cook mushrooms until they being to soften and become darker. Splash in about a quarter cup of sherry wine and allow the alcohol to cook off. Taste a mushroom to see if it requires a little salt. Add the mushrooms with remaining liquid to the saucepan with the turkey and tomato sauce.

The Cheese
500 ml mozzarella (2 cups)
1 egg
250 ml cottage cheese, 2% (1 cup)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

The Pasta
6-8 sheets (depending on depth and size of pan) of DeBoles Rice Lasagna (or preferred brand)

THE ASSEMBLY:
In the bottom of the pan place about 1 cup of the sauce. Over the top of the sauce place three sheets of pasta. On top of that place a little over 1 cup more of the sauce. On top of that the cheese mixture, followed by three more sheets of pasta. Then, you guessed it, about 1 more cup of sauce and the remaining cheese mixture.
Cover with tin foil and bake for an 55 minutes to an hour. Remove foil and continue to cook for about 6-8 minutes. Turn oven off and let the lasagna rest with the over door propped open, or just take it out and let it cool on the stove. (Propping the oven open had the added benefit of adding some heat to a cold kitchen, if you have that type of house and kitchen).

Now you can eat and enjoy your gluten free lasagna!

[If you need clarification or guidance on this recipe, you can just ask here in the comments section, or ask here: @justcallmefrank]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The New Semester

The first week of Spring semester is over, so it can be officially determined that the classes are good. The two lecture classes are old school, however - very little student interaction, which is why they are "good", and not great. Interactive classes, that highly encourage student participation, have been the most interesting classes the last year and a half.

The two lecture classes this semester are on media history, and advertising and society. The "textbooks", that is to say, the required reading, seems really diverse. Luckily we've been able to avoid too many textbook-ie textbooks. You know, the kind that spew a bunch of terms and years at you to memorize instead of teaching you to understand the implications of those terms and the things that happened in those years. Critical thinking is fun. Each will require a final paper (yay!).

The only other classroom class this semester is ballroom dancing, which is great as a stress reliever and as exercise. Having taken it ten years ago (from the same instructor, mind you), it seems easier. Maybe it's the confidence, maybe it's the other dance classes taken [like hip-hop], whatever it is, it's fun. Hopefully there will be real-life opportunities to use the skill.

Of the six classes total this semester, the three remaining are a bit different; two are independent study (one in communications, one in political science) which means they are self-directed reading. The first (the PoliSci) requires a weekly "conference" with the professor (the one from last semester's PoliSci class, and a favourite) to discuss elements in the reading. The first book of three (self-chosen) is Culture War? The Myth of the Polarized America by Morris Fiorina (not to be confused with Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Hunter).  It's interesting, but perhaps a bit outdated, which means fresh new polls can be brought to the table for discussion. It's an easy read, and probably the easiest of the three. Jury is still out on whether or not, in 2015, the polarization is a myth. The other two are: Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences by John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, John R. Alford and Digital Disconnect by Robert W. McChesney. It should be a fun self-directed course with much learning.

The other independent study course requires twice the books, which...is fine. Each book requires a 4-5 page paper (not a "book report" or book review however). More like the critical reflections from the Knowledge, Truth and Reality class last Spring...but with different types of books related to communication topics. At the end a final paper is required that juxtaposes all of the reading...somehow. We've already blown through the first two, which were Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Both are really good books and recommended reads.
The papers related to them have yet to be written, but there's time, after all.
The four additional titles for this self-directed study course are: Advertising as Culture by Chris Wharton; The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture by Terry O'Reilly, Mike Tennant; Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman

As a quick recommendation of high caliber, this book: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, which is a text for media history, is stellar from the get-go. A pure pleasure to read. (hint: go out and buy a used copy! You can get them for less than $10 on Amazon if you're lucky)

Oh, by the way, all of the book links are to Goodreads, not Amazon. So feel free to check out what those titles are about without feeling pressure to purchase them. :-)

The last class for the semester is the internship, which is of digital graphic design nature. So far it seems fun and moderately challenging - and thankfully it pays, which is hard to find in an internship of any sort. It is a mere 12 hours a week, which is spread over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The thing that makes this semester a bit different is that the decision was made to stay in the city Tuesday through Thursday, rather than drive the 80 mile round-trip each day.
One reason for this decision was the Tuesday night class is scheduled to end at 9pm. After a long day {9:30 am - 9 pm} of classes and working (media history, ballroom [15 minutes to eat lunch on the move] internship, fitting in the second job [30 minutes to eat dinner on the move] then going to advertising class) driving in the dark, long distances, exhausted, is a bad choice.
Staying in the city = good choice.
Obviously saving money on gas was a motive too.
Yes, prices are low. But when you make next to nothing, and actually, nothing after the money you DO make goes to household bills...it doesn't matter how low the gas prices are...unless it's free.
And gas isn't free.
So, we're back at The Mother's house midweek until the end of the semester, for a savings of around $300. Score. The long days means there's not a lot of time for socializing. Nobody is complaining. Luckily James is okay with it all, and he stays home to tend to the (2) cats, and of course go to work, which is only about 5 blocks from the house.
It's interesting, and different. So far, so good.
Two nights away from home for four months isn't really that much anyway...

So, that's it.
You can probably expect something interesting soon.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Big Fracking Deal: Earthquakes and Other Environmental Concerns - Implications, Politics, and Policy in Oil Patch States


The final paper for fall semester.
This one is for the political science class on problems in political science, more specifically, environmental policy and politics.
The class was taken for fun, but also to satisfy an overall level 300 credit need.
The papers for political science class, this being the second, are now notorious for receiving lower than usual grades than those received for papers written within our major field of study (Communications).
The disappointment to get them back is now enough to be happy that switching majors never happened. However, the challenge the classes have presented, as well as the overall content, have been appreciated.

Honestly? The grade for the paper arrived the day before Christmas.
It took until now to get up the nerve to even post the paper because it ("only") got an A-/B+ *GASP*!
The professor didn't give the actual percentage...only saying the content was fine, but he didn't like the organization and there were "writing clarity issues".
It should be noted he was specifically asked to look for things like that, and during the review (which he doesn't generally do, only upon request), he said he doesn't normally rip the papers apart in such a way, because he himself doesn't like people critiquing his writing.

He did a bang up job of marking up the paper, even half way through (which as far as he had gotten the day of the meeting), and while the paper hasn't been returned yet to be assessed for further "damage"...the imagination burns with the potential scribbled scathing notes waiting in the margins and long red marks drawn under sentences.

During the "conference" regarding the paper he said "You are definitely in this paper"...not sure how to take that given he tore it apart...some of "me" in the paper was related to word choice that was not neutral by any standard (ooops). In communications classes the point of writing a research paper is to present a point and present it.
Subtle things like this: "With no concrete federal regulations on water or seismic activity to abide by, each state has what amounts to a raggedy patchwork of good-faith environmental standards to adhere to, rebuked and easily disregarded through litigation and fat wallets wielded to block regulations at the polls."
It's a given that a bit more objectivity could have been applied, perhaps. But it's hard to be put a positive spin, past economics, on a subject like the environment, and especially fracking.
Oh well. At least he probably had a good chuckle as he read it. Right?

Perhaps if he has read it like he usually reads the papers, instead of being instructed to critique it a bit heavier, it would have gotten a higher grade. Guess we'll never know.

In the end, after some sulking about the grade, and in light of the 'A' as a final grade in the class, it was decided that the information contained within is important to share.
So there you have it and here it is.

As usual, it is available via GoogleDrive PDF Document: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0L6-YMPxtu7bWhxX2NhWW05cXM/view?usp=sharing

...as well as right here.
Enjoy.


Big Fracking Deal: Earthquakes and Other Environmental Concerns - 

Implications, Politics, and Policy in Oil Patch States


There is no question that the energy debate in the United States is prevalent, and in some minds, ceaseless. While environmental research findings in any one area falls on both sides of the safety fence, those that live in the communities impacted by growing energy exploration have stories to tell, stories about air quality, water quality, overall health issues, public safety, and uncertainty regarding the future of their land and property values. As their neighbors become “Shalionaires”, members of the surrounding communities stand by and endure the impacts that big oil has had on their communities. While compelling scientific research related to the many issues linked to fracking exist, from basic environmental impacts as well as other issues such as seismic activity, there is growing momentum and push back from some members of the private and public sectors.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a natural resource extraction process by which mechanical stimulation is used to remove natural resources from below the earth’s surface. The construction of horizontal and/or vertical wells are used to inject or pump pressurized fluids and “propping agents” containing water and various additives, sometimes nearing 150 different chemical additives, into the ground to rupture rocks and rock beds. This high-pressure injection fractures rocks “liberating” said reserves from below the surface of the earth.[1]

In the United States, the method of capturing natural gas through hydraulic fracking dates back to the 1940s. A patent on the process was issued to the Pan American Oil Company in 1949. Exclusive license was granted to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company, marking the first industrial use of the process [2]. A few years following that, other oil companies began being granted licenses.

According to a 2012 report by the Post Carbon Institute there are approximately 63,000 shale oil (tight oil) and gas wells from West Virginia, to California, Texas to North Dakota, and everywhere in between, covering countless counties in thirty-six states. Within each state there are varying sizes of shale plays, with various levels of hydraulic fracking extraction methods, from primary to tertiary, being used.

Of the methods used for oil extraction, two involve artificially applied pressure to the earth. While primary methods involve natural pressures and gravity, secondary recovery of hydrocarbons involve pressurized water and chemical injection into the earth’s crust and mantle to displace oil. The tertiary level, known as EOR [Enhanced Oil Recovery], is a process which involves high pressure and temperature by one of three methods: CO2 injection, gas[3], and thermal[4] recovery*.[5]

Overall, hydraulic fracking has increased to account for 90% of the natural gas extraction in the United States since 1999[6] and is now a multi-billion dollar industry across the country, and spans the globe. The environmental implications of fracking persist in every area of the world.

Fracking Implications

While proponents claim the process to be safe, looking to the boon in employment and increase in GDP[7]*, there is evidence of many negative effects associated with oil fracking, from environmental to social. The growing focus of concern is contamination of water wells from flowback and waste disposal resulting in toxic, sometimes radioactive[8],[9] drinking water occasionally creating flammable well water[10]. Additional issues include above ground spills and general property damage. Finally, adding to the potential polluting of “shallower drinking water aquifers”[11], fracking operations can be linked to shortages in local water sources[12] where water is scarce, as approximately five million gallons of water are used by fracking wells[13] and the recycled water cannot be turned into safe drinking water.[14] Air population and air quality is also becoming a concern as open-air disposal pits used by fracking companies become linked to airborne volatile organic compounds such as benzene and hexane.[15] In addition, the negative impacts on livestock and farming can have devastating economic impacts in the regions.[16]

With the environmental concerns come economic and social factors, such as the devaluing of surrounding property value[17] and risk of inability to resell homes due to mortgage regulation and insurance issues[18]. Additionally, increased crime due to population growth puts stress on the people in and around some oil regions, such as is the case in North Dakota’s Bakken[19].

Fracking Earthquake Impacts

Finally, many regions have experienced earthquakes where there had previously been very few to none, and in some places a tripling in earthquakes have been recorded. As far back as the 1950’s there have been documented earthquakes associated with deep well fracking. Historical studies have indicated “strong potential for inducing earthquakes by deep well injection [as well as a] very close geographic association between the zone of fluid injection and the locations of the earthquakes.” Links between adjacent seismic activity due to an increase of wells across a larger expanse of land, were also made[20]. The injection pressure from fracking causes stress on the Earth’s crust, and burdens the physical and hydrological properties of the rocks into which the fluid is injected. At the time of the 1951 report, earthquakes linked to fracking activities were recorded in Colorado, Texas, New York, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Ohio, as well as Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi. [21]

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that earthquakes caused by fracking are small and inconsequential. However, even small earthquakes have a negative effect on water tables, disrupting groundwater sources; groundwater accounts for approximately 38% of water supplied by municipal utility departments, as well as 97% of rural* populations in the United States.[22] In addition to decreasing the movement and availability of groundwater, which is essential to all living things, there is the danger of a breach of the confining layers of waste-disposal reservoirs due to seismic activity, “permitting the possible upward migration of contaminated fluids”.[23]

In addition to the danger of earthquakes on waste systems, is the danger to the pipes associated with oil operations ad the impact of earthquakes on those, as well as threats created by inadequate sealing of pipes used, which results in leaking toxic drilling fluids into the soil and aquifers.[24]

These breaches, from disrupted water flows to the leeching of toxic chemicals, can be caused by even the most subtle of earthquakes (< than 3.0 magnitude), which can present harmful implications to soil biodiversity that includes essential organisms integral to the health of soil and water.[25]

Fracking Politics

The lack of regulation can be heavily linked with the deregulation of environmental laws under the innocuous sounding Energy Policy Act of 2005. This act was created by a task force created under the George W. Bush Administration and assembled by Vice President Cheney. The portion of the act in question, commonly known as the “Halliburton Loophole”, reversed federal policy standards which had been in place for decades, revising regulations designed to protect the air and water, and granting exemption to gas and oil companies. Included in the exempt standards were procedures under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)*[26] designed to protect groundwater and drinking water from contamination. Under the act, the companies were no longer required to disclose when, where or what chemicals were being used in the fracking process. Additional exemptions took place in regards to the Clean Water Act - designed to protect surface waters such as rivers, streams, and wetlands, The Clean Air Act, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)[27]. Other exceptions to long standing acts were extended to the industry, such as The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (Toxic Release Inventory); the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which regulates the handling and disposal of waste; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and the Superfund Program[28].

With federal regulation and policy weak, impenitent, and overburdened, states are being left to their own devices. They must work to craft legislation in the face of resistance and pressure from oppositional fracking companies, industry leaders, lobbyists and public opponents, to protect the future of their air, water, animals and the health of their communities and its members.

Some state policy makers have drafted bills related to the testing of groundwater at the well sites, both before and after drilling, as well as testing of production water and drilling waste during initial fracking, and the flowback (wastewater) which results from the operations[29]. Some states also have standards in regards to the disposal of the wastewater and residual chemicals used in the process of fracturing. Currently, only a handful of states require the disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, as each company uses a different tailored concoction, but some states are experiencing heavy litigation brought on by oil companies trying to protect “their interests”. In addition, legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has successfully built in loopholes to the bills that would allow companies to mandate the chemicals they use as “trade secrets”, and therefore be exempt from disclosing some or many of the chemicals used in the process.[30]

State Regulations and Policy

Fracking regulations are constantly influx. The level of under-reported accidents and poorly implemented rules resulting in the lack of disciplinary action is growing, despite the (slow) evolution of policies and regulations. The Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) calls current safety regulations “insufficient” and states that the EPA cannot adequately protect water sources from the effects of fracking[31] or other environmental safety concerns due to a “backlog”. This leaves some states, such as North Dakota, to ineffectually depend on voluntary compliance, and leave the responsibility of cleanup, after the fact, to the companies themselves.[32] With no concrete federal regulations on water or seismic activity to abide by, each state has what amounts to a raggedy patchwork of good-faith environmental standards to adhere to, rebuked and easily disregarded through litigation and fat wallets wielded to block regulations at the polls.

Texas, one of the five largest of the producing states, has almost no regulations regarding the testing of water before or after drilling, nor does it have regulations on the handing of waste water produced by fracture injections. While what scant policy that may exist dictates the handling of the waste beneath “standard state or Clean Water Act requirements”[33], it should be recalled that the industry itself has immunity to many essential provisions under the Clean Water Act.

In North Dakota, there are no required water tests for pre-drilling or post-drilling to determine potential contamination due to fracking. However, liquid waste and fracking fluids “[must be] properly disposed of in an authorized facility” via “Normal NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] requirements”.[34] Liquid waste from fracking operations is monitored by Oil and Gas Division of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.[35] Despite regulations, reports have proved that spills are all too common and prevalent in the Bakken[36] and illegal dumping of the filters used to strain radioactive waste is also among the many issues in the state.[37]

Also among the top fracking states, Colorado’s water testing guidelines mirror those of North Dakota. However, waste disposal is either disposed of by injection wells and required to be disposed of per guidelines set by the Colorado Oil Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and EPA Underground Injection Control (UIC) programs, or disposed of in an E&P disposal facility.[38] Some have suggested a “home rule” approach to crafting regulation as it is “less broad” than standard land use authority. Colorado is just another of many states trying to grapple with balancing the need for environmental regulation with that of a broad range of perceived land use privileges.

In Pennsylvania, another of the big fracking states, drillers are required to test the water only if they want to be able to prove that the water was polluted prior to their drilling. In handling of the wastewater, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) requires the use of Form 26R – Chemical Analysis of Residual Waste. Form 26 necessitates the testing for 25 types of metals, which includes aluminum, lead and mercury, as well as pH, ammonia nitrogen benzene, bromide, chloride, sulfate, ethylene glycol, nitrites, nitrates, nitrogen, radium 226, radium 228, as well as a litany of other gases, solids and liquids.[39] While Pennsylvania is one of the states that is slowly increasing its regulations on fracking, state politicians are starting to question the effectiveness of the existing regulations[40] in the face of environmental concerns.

In Ohio, regulations require the sampling of the well sites prior to drilling. In regards to waste water, disposal takes place in an ODNR permitted Class II injection well where it is injected into “underground geological formations”[41], and sometimes used to “maintain reservoir pressure” and “displace hydrocarbons toward the wellbore”[42]. Displacing hydrocarbons is also known as secondary oil recovery.[43] While Ohio is trying to craft increased regulations on waste, it has proven difficult and controversial. So far it has left much of the regulatory power and responsibility up to the Department of Natural Resource (DNR).[44]

Wyoming requires pre-drill testing of water. And until 2010, there had been no regulations on any and all water and/or waste resulting from fracking operations.[45] Following a push by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) to increase transparency, Wyoming passed a law in 2010 requiring oil companies to test water before and after drilling. Halliburton, in response to a statute that required the disclosure of the chemicals used in their fracking practice, along with 10 other drilling companies, filed a petition to have 146 out of the 148 chemicals protected as trade secrets. Since 2012 they have been battling against environmental protection groups - Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch), Powder River Basin Resource Council, and the Wyoming Outdoor Council - in court, holding that the chemicals they use in fracking is protected as a “trade secret”. As of March 2014 the case was again transferred to another court.[46]

However, as illustrated by the “Halliburton Loophole”, in states with no state policies on waste water treatment and drinking water standards, fracking operations are technically exempt from such controls set forth by the EPA’s NPDES, and even in the states that require some form of treatment of waste water, the chemicals used in creating the waste does not have to be disclosed as it does with other industries whose operations impact drinking water, aquifers and surface waters, in part to additional loopholes put into place by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program, referred to in previous state regulation outlines, is applied by many states. The IUC program prohibits the discharge of oil, and the “dispersants or emulsifiers to oil” from being dispersed into waterways, including “intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, and wetlands”.[47] But as previously mentioned, fracking operations, apart from the use of diesel fuel, which requires a special permit, are exempt from UIC regulation via SDWA § 1421 (d)(1).[48] Despite diesel fuel being generally prohibited, some operations have illegally injecting tens of millions of gallons without obtaining proper permits.[49]

Fracking Legislation

While there have been bills related to state regulations of fracking introduced to the House and Senate, little movement has occurred. Among the bills in the House, of note, are the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation H.R. 1175 (FRESHER Act) and the Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effects H.R. 1154 (BREATHE Act), introduced in March of 2013, intended to close Clean Air and Clean Water (Halliburton) loopholes. Additionally FRACAct would repeal the exemptions to the SDWA put in place by the 2005 Energy Policy Act.[50]* In the Senate, the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act S. 1135 (FRACAct)[51] was introduced in June of 2013 by U.S. Representatives Polis and Degette (CO) and Hinchey (NY) requiring chemical transparency. Many states have some sort of chemical transparency standards, or are considering bills related to the issue of chemical transparency, or have bills slated to pass.

On the state level, there are 45 bills at carious stages related to fracking issues, the bulk is primarily related to environmental and safety measures when it comes to waste handling; some have crafted bills to ban fracking in their states. Since October 2010, at least 100 bills related to regulating hydraulic fracturing of natural gas have been introduced in at least 19 states including New York and Pennsylvania.[52] North Dakota has adopted a resolution (HCR 3008) which is urging Congress to clearly outline and delegate responsibility for the regulation of hydraulic fracturing in the state.

In addition to growing regulation related to environmental factors like keeping drinking water and air safe, is the growing desire for regulation regarding seismic activity said to be caused by the pressurized injections of waters and chemicals in to the earth’s surface.

Increased seismic activity has prompted states like Colorado to implement safeguards in monitoring well injection volume as well as the “pressure below the fracture gradient” to reduce “induced seismicity related to UIC Class II wells”. However, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) specified in a recent report to the governor that “hydraulic fracturing and underground injection [well operations] are not related activities”. Therefore, there is reason to believe that underground injection control (UIC) regulation does not apply to hydraulic fracturing nor does it apply to the disposal of flowback wastewater in Colorado, despite recommendations by the EPA of implementation of requirements for UIC Class II wells in relation to hydraulic fracturing.[53] It is unclear communication such as this that is burdensome to the understanding, creation and implementation of fracking legislation.

In a bold move, the Oil and Gas Division of The Railroad Commission of Texas, the regulating body of oil and gas exploration in Texas, has also decided to implement standards in monitoring for seismic activity. In a recent amendment, the Commission stipulated that a survey of a one hundred mile radius around proposed well sites should be investigated for historical seismic activity, in addition, “pressure front boundary calculations” should be provided. The amendment also grants staff the authority to deny or alter well permits if areas are found to be a likely contributor to earthquakes. [54] In Ohio and Pennsylvania, where previously earthquakes had been rare to nonexistent, regulators are also considering implementing guidelines to mitigate seismic activity in their states and across their borders.[55] As the number of earthquakes linked to fracking increase across the United States, it is likely that increasingly amounts of geological studies will be required in order to attain drilling permits.

In terms of geologically surveying sites and regulating man-made seismic activity by fracking techniques, there are some methods available, such as developing precise measurement of the “pressure required to create small fractures in the wellbore” - though there is indication that the process is very hard to control and may be inadequate.[56] The increased prevalence of seismic activity in many regions indicates a growing need for regulation and procedure in analyzing fracking sites for seismic factors such as tectonic stress measurements, and existing fault lines through geologic and geophysical surveys, as well as transmissivity and storativity analysis, from site selection to well operation, extending into monitoring pressure in the well heads and injection sites.[57]

Fracking Bans

Due to pressure from a 1994 petition by Alabama residents, the EPA conducted a study on the impacts of fracking activities to the environment. Following the nearly ten year study they issued a report in 2004 stating that fracking activities were innocuous, posing no or little risk to the environment or potential drinking water. Many have regarded the report as unsound[58], including members of the EPA. One such member was whistleblower, and environmental engineer, Westen Wilson. Following the 2004 EPA report, Wilson wrote a letter to Congress, including with it his own report outlining the dangers associated with the injection of fluids into the earth’s crust through hydraulic fracturing, as well as the misconduct in the investigation done by the EPA, calling their finding unsupported[59].

These alleged findings by the EPA, that fracking is not harmful to the environment, is what prompted the exemptions to environmental policy for the fracking industry (the “Halliburton Loophole”). Subsequently the general lack of regulations are often the catalyst to fracking ban initiatives by community members across the United States, as mounting evidence suggests a link between hydraulic fracking and several environmental hazards.

Banning of fracking activities in the United States first started in 2013 in Mora County, New Mexico[60]. In just over a year fracking bans have increased to include 213 communities in New York State[61]. A recent vote during the 2014 midterm elections resulted in a ban within the city limits of Denton, Texas[62]. A ban in Hawaii County, Hawaii was implemented in 2013[63]. After spending $7 million dollars in campaign money to block fracking ban initiatives in the 2014 midterm election, oil companies succeeded in preventing a ban in Santa Barbara, but failed in Mendocino[64] and San Benito County, California where fracking bans successfully passed on the ballot.[65] Upcoming measures to ban fracking are slated for the 2016 election for many other cities in California.[66] While unsuccessful due to a veto by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, there have also been attempts to ban fracking waste.[67]

Finally, bans have also been enacted in the 1.1 million acre George Washington National Forest. The action was taken in order to protect Washington D.C.’s drinking water which comes from the Potomac River, which flows through the George Washington National Forest, in Virginia and West Virginia. [68]

Overall, measures related to banning comes from the uncertainty and lack of confirmation of the safety of fracking in regards to the environment, and the mounting evidence that the activities are detrimental as it has been linked to earthquakes[69], birth defects[70], high levels of arsenic and other harmful chemical contamination exceeding safe levels for drinking water[71].

Fracking Litigation

Fracking lawsuits are expansive and cover a broad range of issues. The very first fracking-related litigation in the United States took place in LEAF v. EPA, 118F.3d 1467 (11th Cir, 1997). This federal lawsuit was related to alleged well contamination from coalbed methane hydraulic fracturing[72] on family property owned by the McMillian family in Alabama. The ruling from the court case determined the EPA was required to regulate hydraulic fracturing, which resulted in the aforementioned study and 2004 report. Ultimately, the outcome was a decision that regulation by the EPA was not required[73], and which eventually led to the exemption of hydraulic fracturing from environmental protection standards through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Lawsuits abound, they are increasing in number and coming from both ends, not just residents and communities taking action against oil companies.

A 2013 defamation lawsuit is of special note. In 2011, the EPA determined that nearby fracking wells had contaminated Texan resident Steve Lipsky’s water well with benzene, causing it to become flammable. While this resulted in a lawsuit against Range Resources, the company who owns the wells, Range Resources moved to counter-sue Lipsky for defamation, claiming he had/has mislead the public about his flammable water. Wrought with political problems, it is unlikely that the case will be settled soon.[74]

A recent case regarding land use, based on a 1961 “forced pooling” law, moved Hilcrop Energy to sue a landowner in Pennsylvania after he would not grant them drilling rights on his property.[75] The Pennsylvania law, which essentially gives oil and gas companies the right to drill beneath land without permission from the owners, is a good example of how defunct regulations can be used as a tool of exploitation in the burgeoning fracking industry. The legal action was subsequently dropped by the plaintiff in August of 2014.[76]

Recently, due to alleged improper environmental studies, The Environmental Defense Center moved to take legal action against the U.S. Department of the Interior, in conjunction with two additional agencies, for issuing 51 acid well stimulation permits to be used in the region of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, off of the Southern coast of California.[77]

As the industry continues to grow, and more environmental and policy problems arise, the industry is likely to continue to be rife with litigation such as these. How that will impact the overall costs of oil and gas in the nation is to be determined.

Limitations

Limitations to this paper is primarily found in the lack of availability of up-to-the-minute data coupled with too much conflicting data in regards to changes in fracking regulation. Additionally, the focus was limited to only a few of the over 30 states that currently have fracking well operations. While much can be said about environmental regulations outside of water and seismic-related water contamination, the scope of the paper in regards to state policies did not extend to solid waste, air pollution, or other environmental and social factors that are impacted by the industry.

Conclusion

Implementing fracking policies and regulations can save time and money, as well as mitigate negative impacts on the environment. As the recognition of the impacts on environment and safety uncertainty become more rampant, so will push back from the public to implement policy standards. Over the years there have been various legal actions taken against oil industries related to fracking activities, and they continue to be on the rise. Litigation is both an expensive and arduous process. Through crafting strategies and policies that help limit spills and contamination, reduce deliberate mismanagement, and increase enforcement of standards and environmental safety, the industry can be guided towards responsibility. It is through this responsibility that “standards of transparency, environmental protection, and safety” can transpire, which assists in building assurance through mutual recognition of the risks involved in fracking.[78]

 --------------------------------------------

Footnotes:
[1] "Hydraulic Fracturing Background Information." EPA | United States Environmental Protection Agency.
[2] Davis, Charles. "The Politics of “Fracking”: Regulating Natural Gas Drilling Practices in Colorado and Texas." Review of Policy Research
[3] 60% of U.S. EOR production
[4] 40% of U.S. EOR production (mostly in California)
[5] "Enhanced Oil Recovery." Energy.gov Office of Fossil Energy.
*As of 2010 there was 114 active commercial CO2 injection projects across the U.S.
[6] http://polis.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=229388
[7] Blackwill, Robert D., and Meghan L. O'Sullivan. "The Geopolitical Consequences of the Shale Revolution." Foreign Affairs
*A report by The McKinsey Global Institute estimates a boost of 2-4% in the United States' annual GDP (about $380-$690 billion) and the creation of approximately 1.7 million new permanent jobs, due to unconventional oil/gas production, by 2020.
[8] Lustgarten, Abrahm. "Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us." ProPublica
[9] Vengosh, Avner, Nathaniel Warner, Rob Jackson, and Tom Darrah. "The Effects of Shale Gas Exploration and Hydraulic Fracturing on the Quality of Water Resources in the United States." Procedia Earth and Planetary Science
[10] Lustgarten, Abrahm. "Scientific Study Links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking."ProPublica
[11] Vengosh, Avner, Nathaniel Warner, Rob Jackson, and Tom Darrah. "The Effects of Shale Gas Exploration and Hydraulic Fracturing on the Quality of Water Resources in the United States." Procedia Earth and Planetary Science
[12] Koba, Mark. "Severe Water Shortage in West Fails to Stop Fracking at Gas Wells." NBC News
[13] "Fracking: Laws and Loopholes." Clean Water Action.
[14] Stockdill, Patricia. "Managing Bakken Wastewater." Bismarck Tribune
[15] Moskowitz, Peter. "Communities Find Little Success in Resisting Fracking Infrastructure." AlJazeera America
[16] Minor, Joel. "Local Government Fracking Regulations: A Colorado Case Study." Stanford Environmental Law Journal
[17] "Drilling vs. the American Dream: Fracking Impacts on Property Rights and Home Values." Resource Media.
[18] Gral, Laurie. "Who Wants to Be a Shaleionaire? Hidden Concerns of Fracking." Journal of Property Management
[19] Horwitz, Sari. "Dark Side of the Boom." Washington Post
[20] Nicholson, Craig, and Robert L. Wesson. Earthquake Hazard Associated With Deep Well Injection: A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1951
[21] Nicholson, Craig, and Robert L. Wesson. Earthquake Hazard Associated With Deep Well Injection: A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1951
[22] "Frequently Asked Questions - The Hydrology of Groundwater." U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Department of the Interior
*Those who depend on well water
[23] Nicholson, Craig, and Robert L. Wesson. Earthquake Hazard Associated With Deep Well Injection: A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1951
[24] Davis, Charles. "The Politics of “Fracking”: Regulating Natural Gas Drilling Practices in Colorado and Texas." Review of Policy Research
[25] Galassi, D.M.P. et al. Earthquakes trigger the loss of groundwater biodiversity. Nature. Scientific Reports
[26] Except where diesel in concerned.
*However, illegal injection of diesel was still a concern as recent as 2011. The New York Times reported that the companies acknowledged the use but blamed the EPA for the lack of “rules and procedures”, taking no responsibility. At the time, Congressional investigators had reported that between 2005 and 2009 more than 32 million of gallons of diesel had been injected into wells. About half was injected in Texas wells, and the remaining contaminated fluids in Oklahoma (3.3 million gallons); North Dakota (3.1 million); Louisiana (2.9 million); Wyoming (2.9 million); and Colorado (1.3 million). - Gas Drilling Technique Is Labeled Violation, Tom Zeller Jr., January 31, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/business/energy-environment/01gas.html?_r=0
[27] "Fracking: Laws and Loopholes | Clean Water Action." Fracking: Laws and Loopholes | Clean Water Action.
[28] "Environmental Defense Center | Climate Change." Environmental Defense Center | Climate Change and "Superfund." SourceWatch. Accessed October 1, 2014.
[29] "Fracking Regulations by State." ALS Global
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[51] A similar bill was introduced into the House in May: H.R. 1921: Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2013
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[60] Cart, Julie. "New Mexico County First in Nation to Ban Fracking to Safeguard Water." Los Angeles Times
[61] Orr, Steve. "Canandaigua Joins Fracking Bans." Democrat & Chronicle
[62] Phillips, Ari. "Texans Vote to Ban Fracking." ThinkProgress
[63] Miller, Erin. "Council OKS Ban on Fracking." Hawaii Tribune Herald
[64] Diaz, John. "Dark Money Looms Large in 2014 Midterms." SFGate
[65] Cart, Julie. "Election Win Puts Rural San Benito County on Anti-fracking Map." Los Angeles Times
[66] Cart, Julie. "Election Win Puts Rural San Benito County on Anti-fracking Map." Los Angeles Times
[67] Johnson, Brent. "Christie Vetoes Bill Aiming to Ban Fracking Waste in N.J." NJ.com
[68] "D.C. Passes Resolution Prohibiting Fracking in George Washington National Forest” EcoWatch
[69] Behar, Michael. "Fracking's Latest Scandal? Earthquake Swarms." Mother Jones, March/April 2013.
[70] Arnsdorf, Isaac. "Fracking Link to Birth Defects Probed in Early Research." Bloomberg
[71] Meyer, Theodoric. "New Study Finds High Levels of Arsenic in Groundwater Near Fracking Sites." ProPublica
[72] Lathem, Dennis. LEAF v. EPA - A Challenge to Hydraulic Fracturng of Coalbed Methane Wells in Alabama. Rep. Alabama: Coalbed Methane Association, 2001. EnergyInDepth
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[76] "Conservation Law." Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
[77] "Feds Sued over Santa Barbara Fracking Permits." ABC News
[78] Blackwill, Robert D., and Meghan L. O'Sullivan. "The Geopolitical Consequences of the Shale Revolution." Foreign Affairs

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