Symantec, Levi Strauss & Co., Mars, Dignity Health, and Autodesk Join Dozens of Companies Supporting California’s Sweeping Climate Change Bills

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SACRAMENTO, CA Aug 25, 2015

With barely two weeks left in the state legislative session, more than two-dozen California companies today announced their support for two major climate bills – SB 32 and SB 350 – that would set new ambitious state goals for reducing climate-changing pollution, boosting renewable energy and decreasing petroleum use over the next 15 years.

“Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality,” wrote the companies in letters delivered today to legislative leaders. “We know that tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century and we applaud the California State Legislature for taking steps to help seize that opportunity.”

Company executives also held in-person meetings with legislators and joined the bills’ lead sponsors, Senator Fran Pavley and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, at a news conference. The letters and meetings were organized by the nonprofit sustainability advocacy group Ceres.

SB 32, which builds on the progress made by Senator Pavley’s 2006 landmark climate bill AB 32, sets a climate pollution reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. SB 350, referred to as Golden State Standards 50-50-50, calls for Californians to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings by 50 percent, obtain half their electricity from renewable sources and reduce petroleum use by 50 percent by 2030.

“The power is in our hands today to make a difference in stemming the release of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that we know are already negatively impacting human health, the environment and our economy,” said Rachelle Reyes Wenger, Director, Public Policy and Community Advocacy for Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health care companies with 32 hospitals in California, speaking at today’s news conference. “SB 32 and SB 350 are common sense policies that our state needs now. That’s why Dignity Health is standing with Senator Pavley and Senator de Leon today in support of these measures.”

“Moving ahead with these bills will solidify California’s stake as a global leader in addressing climate change,” added Anna Walker, Senior Director for Global Policy and Advocacy for Levi Strauss & Co., which is headquartered in San Francisco. “SB 32 and SB 350 will not only help our state advance its climate change goals—which are critical to the long-term prosperity of California businesses, residents and the environment—they will also help our state continue to do one of the things it does best – innovate.”

“SB 32 and SB 350 create a positive environment for companies like Autodesk, and the design community as a whole, to develop innovative solutions around low-carbon technologies, buildings and vehicles that can empower industries and communities to address climate change,” said Ben Thompson, Senior Manager Sustainability at Autodesk.

For the full letters and complete list of companies supporting each of the bills, see: www.ceres.org/files/sb32-company-sign-on-letter and www.ceres.org/files/ca-sb350-sign-on-letter.

“These companies recognize that both SB 350 and SB 32 are vital next steps in California’s leading-edge plan to cut carbon pollution and accelerate low-carbon technologies at the pace and scale called for by climate scientists,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, whose group with its recently opened California office is mobilizing companies to support strong climate policies through its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Clean Energy Policy (BICEP), and the Ceres’ Climate Declaration. “Many of these supporting companies have set their own aggressive renewable energy and energy efficiency goals that will be more achievable with enactment of these two climate bills.”

About Ceres
Ceres is a nonprofit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainability challenges. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of over 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $13 trillion. Ceres also directs Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), an advocacy coalition of 34 businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation. For more information, visit www.ceres.org or follow on Twitter @CeresNews

 

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People Who Live Near Fracking Sites Suffer Higher Rates of Heart Conditions and Neurological Illnesses, Says Research

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People who live in fracking zones appear to suffer a higher rate of heart conditions and neurological illnesses, according to new research.

Although the US study was unable to determine a specific reason, it suggests there may be a link between drilling and ill health, scientists said.

Residents in high-density areas of fracking made 27 per cent more hospital visits for treatment for heart conditions than those from locations where no fracking took place, according to a new study of drilling in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2011.

“This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within counties with higher well densities,” said Reynold Panettieri, professor of medicine at Penn University.

“At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalisations.”

The findings revealed that cardiology and neurological in-patient prevalence rates were significantly higher in areas closer to active wells. Hospitalisations for skin conditions, cancer and urological problems also increased with proximity to wells.

Prof Panettieri cautioned that the study did not prove that fracking actually caused the health problems and said more research was needed to determine exactly what effect any pollution associated with the technique may be contributing to heart conditions or neurological illnesses.

But the significant increase in hospital visits observed relatively quickly after fracking began in an area “suggests that healthcare costs of hydraulic fracturing must be factored into the economic benefits of unconventional gas and drilling”, said the report, which is published in the journal PLOS One and also involved Columbia University in New York.

The highly controversial technique of fracking, that releases oil or gas from shale by blasting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into rock, is yet to be employed in the UK on a commercial scale. It is widespread in the US, however, where it has frequently been linked to groundwater and air pollution.

Yet a series of reports in the UK have concluded that the problems arising from fracking in the US are down to weak regulations and poor techniques. Advocates say that any fracking in the UK would be done safely, meaning residents will be shielded from the difficulties experienced by locals in the US.

But opponents of fracking – including the Scottish and Welsh Governments – argue that still far too little is known about the effects of the technique, and say more research needs to be done before it is deployed in the UK.

This latest report will be seen as further evidence that more research needs to be conducted before fracking is allowed in the UK – even though it does not get to the bottom of the causes of the health problems.

 

Fukushima: Thousands Have Already Died, Thousands More Will Die

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Official data from Fukushima show that nearly 2,000 people died from the effects of evacuations necessary to avoid high radiation exposures from the disaster.

The uprooting to unfamiliar areas, cutting of family ties, loss of social support networks, disruption, exhaustion, poor physical conditions and disorientation can and do result in many people, in particular older people, dying.

Increased suicide has occurred among younger and older people following the Fukushima evacuations, but the trends are unclear.

A Japanese Cabinet Office report stated that, between March 2011 and July 2014, 56 suicides in Fukushima Prefecture were linked to the nuclear accident. This should be taken as a minimum, rather than a maximum, figure.

Mental health consequences

It is necessary to include the mental health consequences of radiation exposures and evacuations. For example, Becky Martin has stated her PhD research at Southampton University in the UK shows that “the most significant impacts of radiation emergencies are often in our minds.”

She adds: “Imagine that you’ve been informed that your land, your water, the air that you have breathed may have been polluted by a deadly and invisible contaminant. Something with the capacity to take away your fertility, or affect your unborn children.

“Even the most resilient of us would be concerned … many thousands of radiation emergency survivors have subsequently gone on to develop Post-Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders as a result of their experiences and the uncertainty surrounding their health.”

It is likely that these fears, anxieties, and stresses will act to magnify the effects of evacuations, resulting in even more old people dying or people committing suicide.

Such considerations should not be taken as arguments against evacuations, however. They are an important, life-saving strategy. But, as argued by Becky Martin,

“We need to provide greatly improved social support following resettlement and extensive long-term psychological care to all radiation emergency survivors, to improve their health outcomes and preserve their futures.”

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Untoward pregnancy outcomes

Dr Alfred Körblein from Nuremburg in Germany recently noticed and reported on a 15% drop (statistically speaking, highly significant) in the numbers of live births in Fukushima Prefecture in December 2011, nine months after the accident.

This might point to higher rates of early spontaneous abortions. He also observed a (statistically significant) 20% increase in the infant mortality rate in 2012, relative to the long-term trend in Fukushima Prefecture plus six surrounding prefectures, which he attributes to the consumption of radioactive food:

“The fact that infant mortality peaks in May 2012, more than one year after the Fukushima accident, suggests that the increase is an effect of internal rather than external radiation exposure.

“In Germany [after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster] perinatal mortality peaks followed peaks of cesium burden in pregnant women with a time-lag of seven months. May 2012 minus seven months is October 2011, the end of the harvesting season. Thus, consumption of contaminated foodstuff during autumn 2011 could be an explanation for the excess of infant mortality in the Fukushima region in 2012.”

These are indicative rather than definitive findings and need to be verified by further studies. Unfortunately, such studies are notable by their absence.

Cancer and other late effects from radioactive fallout

Finally, we have to consider the longer term health effects of the radiation exposures from the radioactive fallouts after the four explosions and three meltdowns at Fukushima in March 2011. Large differences of view exist on this issue in Japan. These make it difficult for lay people and journalists to understand what the real situation is.

The Japanese Government, its advisors, and most radiation scientists in Japan (with some honourable exceptions) minimise the risks of radiation. The official widely-observed policy is that small amounts of radiation are harmless: scientifically speaking this is untenable.

For example, the Japanese Government is attempting to increase the public limit for radiation in Japan from 1 mSv to 20 mSv per year. Its scientists are trying to force the ICRP to accept this large increase. This is not only unscientific, it is also unconscionable.

Part of the reason for this policy is that radiation scientists in Japan (in the US, as well) appear unable or unwilling to accept the stochastic nature of low-level radiation effects. ‘Stochastic’ means an all-or-nothing response: you either get cancer etc or you don’t.

As you decrease the dose, the effects become less likely: your chance of cancer declines all the way down to zero dose. The corollary is that tiny doses, even well below background, still carry a small chance of cancer: there is never a safe dose, except zero dose.

But, as observed by Spycher et al (2015), some scientists “a priori exclude the possibility that low dose radiation could increase the risk of cancer. They will therefore not accept studies that challenge their foregone conclusion.”

One reason why such scientists refuse to accept radiation’s stochastic effects (cancers, strokes, CVS diseases, hereditary effects, etc) is that they only appear after long latency periods – often decades for solid cancers. For the Japanese Government and its radiation advisors, it seems out-of-sight means out-of-mind.

This conveniently allows the Japanese Government to ignore radiogenic late effects. But the evidence for them is absolutely rock solid. Ironically, it comes primarily from the world’s largest on-going epidemiology study, the Life Span Study of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors by the RERF Foundation which is based in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The lessons of Chernobyl

The mass of epidemiological evidence from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 clearly indicates that cancer etc increases will very likely also occur at Fukushima, but many Japanese (and US) scientists deny this evidence.

For example, much debate currently exists over the existence and interpretation of increased thyroid cancers, cysts, and nodules in Fukushima Prefecture resulting from the disaster. From the findings after Chernobyl, thyroid cancers are expected to start increasing 4 to 5 years after 2011.

It’s best to withhold comment until clearer results become available in 2016, but early indications are not reassuring for the Japanese Government. After then, other solid cancers are expected to increase as well, but it will take a while for these to become manifest.

The best way of forecasting the numbers of late effects (ie cancers etc) is by estimating the collective dose to Japan from the Fukushima fall out. We do this by envisaging that everyone in Japan exposed to the radioactive fallout from Fukushima has thereby received lottery tickets: but they are negative tickets. That is, if your lottery number comes up, you get cancer [1].

If you live far away from Fukushima Daiichi NPP, you get few tickets and the chance is low: if you live close, you get more tickets and the chance is higher. You can’t tell who will be unlucky, but you can estimate the total number by using collective doses.

The 2013 UNSCEAR Report has estimated that the collective dose to the Japanese population from Fukushima is 48,000 person Sv: this is a very large dose: see below.

Unfortunately, pro-nuclear Japanese scientists also criticise the concept of collective dose as it relies on the stochastic nature of radiation’s effects and on the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model of radiation’s effects which they also refute. But almost all official regulatory bodies throughout the world recognise the stochastic nature of radiation’s effects, the LNT, and collective doses.

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Summing up Fukushima

About 60 people died immediately during the actual evacuations in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011. Between 2011 and 2015, an additional 1,867 people [2] in Fukushima Prefecture died as a result of the evacuations following the nuclear disaster [3]. These deaths were from ill health and suicides.

From the UNSCEAR estimate of 48,000 person Sv, it can be reliably estimated (using a fatal cancer risk factor of 10% per Sv) that about 5,000 fatal cancers will occur in Japan in future from Fukushima’s fallout. This estimate from official data agrees with my own personal estimate using a different methodology.

In sum, the health toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is horrendous. At the minimum

* Over 160,000 people were evacuated most of them permanently.

* Many cases of post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders arising from the evacuations.

* About 12,000 workers exposed to high levels of radiation, some up to 250 mSv

* An estimated 5,000 fatal cancers from radiation exposures in future.

* Plus similar (unquantified) numbers of radiogenic strokes, CVS diseases and hereditary diseases.

* Between 2011 and 2015, about 2,000 deaths from radiation-related evacuations due to ill-health and suicides.

* An as yet unquantified number of thyroid cancers.

* An increased infant mortality rate in 2012 and a decreased number of live births in December 2011.

Non-health effects include:

* 8% of Japan (30,000 sq.km), including parts of Tokyo, contaminated by radioactivity.

* Economic losses estimated between $300 and $500 billion.

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect


Catastrophes that must never be repeated

The Fukushima accident is still not over and its ill-effects will linger for a long time into the future. However we can say now that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima delivered a huge blow to Japan and its people.

2,000 Japanese people have already died from the evacuations and another 5,000 are expected to die from future cancers.

It is impossible not to be moved by the scale of Fukushima’s toll in terms of deaths, suicides, mental ill-health and human suffering. Fukushima’s effect on Japan is similar to Chernobyl’s massive blow against the former Soviet Union in 1986.

Indeed, several writers have expressed the view that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was a major factor in the subsequent collapse of the USSR during 1989-1990.

It is notable that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the USSR at the time of Chernobyl and Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan at the time of Fukushima have both expressed their opposition to nuclear power. Indeed Kan has called for all nuclear power to be abolished.

Has the Japanese Government, and indeed other governments (including the UK and US), learned from these nuclear disasters? The US philosopher George Santayana (1863-1962) once stated that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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See also Ian Fairlie’s blog, where this article was originally published.

Food Irrigated With Fracking Water May Require Labels In California

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A new bill proposed in California would require all produce irrigated with fracking wastewater to come with warning labels. 

The bill, which Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) introduced on Monday, would require any crops grown with water that had previously been injected into rock formations to free oil and gas reserves and sold to consumers in the state to be labeled. The warning would read, “Produced using recycled or treated oil-field wastewater.”

“Consumers have a basic right to make informed decisions when it comes to the type of food that ends up on the family dinner table,” Gatto said in a press release from his office. “Labeling food that has been irrigated with potentially harmful or carcinogenic chemicals, such as those in recycled fracking water, is the right thing to do.”

Federal officials, environmentalists and the petroleum industry remain intensely divided on how safe fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is. Debates over fracking largely revolve around whether the practice contaminates nearby groundwater, but an increase in farmers hydrating their crops with treated, previously injected water purchased from oil companies has aroused new concern. 

A report released last month by the California Council on Science and Technology did not discover strong evidence of dangerous chemicals in the recycled water — but it also found that state regulators did not have an adequate testing process and that there was “not any control in place to prevent [contamination] from happening.” 

It’s a risk Gatto believes people should be informed of. 

“No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater,” he said. “Studies show a high possibility that recycled oil-field wastewater may still contain dangerous chemicals, even after treatment.”

Tokyo Heat Wave Lasted Eight Days, Doubling All-Time Record; 55 Confirmed Dead in Japan

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A heat wave that has already killed dozens and sickened thousands in Japan reached another torrid milestone Friday as the nation’s capital, Tokyo, suffered an unprecedented eighth consecutive day of extreme heat.

Tokyo reached 37.7 degrees Celsius (99.9 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday, marking its eighth straight day of highs at or above Japan’s “extreme heat” threshold of 35 C (95 F). An analysis of Japan Meteorological Agency data, conducted by The Weather Channel, confirmed that the previous record was just four consecutive days sent on five different occasions between 1978 and 2013. Records began in central Tokyo in June 1875.

The torrid late-morning reading also marked central Tokyo’s highest reported temperature since August 2013. The city’s all-time record high remains 39.5 C (103.1 F) set July 20, 2004.

The toll from Japan’s ongoing heat wave accelerated last week, boosting the year’s official tally to 55 heat-related deaths and sending more than 11,000 to the hospital according to new government figures released Tuesday.

According to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 25 people died from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses nationwide during the week of July 27 through Aug. 2. It was by far the deadliest week so far this year in Japan, nearly equaling the death toll of 30 in the preceding three months combined.

Public broadcaster NHK said another 5 heat deaths were confirmed Wednesday in Japan, in addition to 7 unconfirmed heat deaths.

The toll seems likely to rise even further as more deaths are officially attributed to the heat. NHK, citing local authorities, said heat-related illnesses are suspected of causing 68 deaths in Tokyo alone between July 11 and Aug. 4. The official national count of 55 only includes two deaths in Tokyo through Aug. 2.

The number of people sent to hospitals for heat-related illnesses also skyrocketed, reaching 11,637 when excluding the 25 deaths. This was more than double the figure for the same period in 2014. Since April 27, more than 35,000 people have been hospitalized due to hot weather in Japan. Of those, 855 have required at least three weeks of hospitalization due to the severity of their illness.

The heat has spared no region of the country. Heat-related deaths have been reported in 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and each of the 47 prefectures has reported at least 100 heat-related illnesses.

The greatest concentration, however, has been in the nation’s urbanized areas – in part due to weather and in part simply due to larger populations. The Greater Tokyo area accounts for 19 of the 55 heat deaths this year, with Saitama prefecture suffering the highest death toll (nine) of any single prefecture. Tokyo proper leads the casualty count with 3,037 people affected by the heat, including two deaths.

Japan’s aging population is particularly vulnerable to the heat. Just over 49 percent of this year’s illnesses have involved people at least 65 years old. Children account for about 15 percent of the total, with adults ages 18 to 65 constituting the rest of the total.

The heat has expanded in recent days. According to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency, 223 of the nation’s 928 temperature observation sites recorded a high of at least 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday (Aug. 1), and more than two-thirds of the observation network hit at least 30 C (86 F).

Aided by abundant sunshine and a dearth of thunderstorm activity, more than 81 percent of JMA’s observation network hit the 30 C mark Tuesday, the highest figure since Aug. 22, 2012. The heat spread even further Wednesday, when 822 out of 928 sites reached 30 C, a level not matched since Aug. 6, 2010.

The heat even spread to the normally cool shores of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main Islands. The city of Nemuro reached an all-time record high of 33.6 C (92.5 F) Wednesday, topping the previous record of 33.0 C (91.4 F) set Aug. 6, 1960. Records in Nemuro date all the way back to 1879, making this an especially significant record climatologically.

Arguably the epicenter of the heat has been in the northern suburbs of Tokyo, which are among the hottest regions of the country owing to their low elevation, long distance from the coast and southerly latitude – a rare combination in Japan.

The city of Tatebayashi in Gunma prefecture recorded its 13th consecutive day of temperatures 35 C or higher on Wednesday, reaching 39.8 C (103.6 F). That’s the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Japan this year, according to JMA, and ties for the 25th-highest daily high temperature ever recorded in Japanese history.

In Japan, a day with temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 C (95 F) is known as a mōshobi, written as 猛暑日 and meaning “extremely hot day.” It’s likely no coincidence that the first character of that term is also the first character of Japan’s highest category of typhoon – mōretsu, written as 猛烈 and meaning “violent.”

The latter term was applied to Super Typhoon Soudelor when it peaked in intensity Monday. The typhoon impacted Japan’s southernmost islands on Friday, but was too far south to bring any heat relief to the mainland.

 

Ghana’s Catholic Bishops hit the streets to protest….against condoms…..

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference hit the streets of Accra, after a two-day international Pro-life conference to protest against artificial means of birth control such as the use of condoms, abortion, sterilization and vasectomies.

Over 1000 participants including professional men and women in the fields of medicine, nursing, science, law, politics, academia and the media joined the float to fight against the Culture of Death through the teaching and promotion of the Gospel of life.

Excerpts of the placards read, “Every life is created in the image of God, protect it!,” “Abortion is a sin, stop it!” “Life starts from the womb, protect it!,” sex is for married couples only,” “protect the unborn child,” “eternal values-life and faith,” abortion is evil, stop it!,” don’t kill our future generation,” “not ready to be a mother? No sex,” international organizations stop promoting abortion in Ghana, “African governments stop promoting the culture of death.”

The Catholic Priesthood strongly held that such mechanisms promote the culture of death that has come to Africa in the form of population control measures imposed on us by multi-national organizations.

According to them, it is against the moral teachings of the scriptures and therefore, anything that hinders procreation must be disregarded.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the priests, religious bodies and laity of the Catholic Church in Accra ended a two-day International Pro-life Conference in Accra from 7th to 8th August under the theme, “Protecting Life and Family Values in the Continuing Culture of Death.”

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Speakers, leaders, advocates, activists, researchers from Europe, America and Arica where brought together to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to the issues of the dignity and sanctity of human life and the defence of marriage and family.

A communiqué issued at the end of the tow-day conference declared that the family is a cradle where life is welcomed, nurtured and protected.

Thus, every family, with marriage at its core, must create a conducive environment where the inestimable value of life is emphasized and upheld.

It noted that sacramental marriage is instituted by God as a permanent and indissoluble union between one man and one woman; open to live and love.

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Thus, other forms of unions such as homosexual unions and adulterous unions are inimical to the mind of the Creator-they undermine the integrity of the human being and the family and as such should never be promoted or supported in our society.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in a resolution, will continue to resist the persistent and pernicious attempts to impose population control on Africa by wealthy philanthropists, donor nations and international organizations who are pursuing this agenda subtly under the platform of sexual and reproductive and health rights.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops have resolve to work with government, other faith-based organizations and the civil society groups as well as the media to promote and sustain the importance of faith and family in human development, public education and in the social order.

By Abubakari Seidu Ajarfor, jarfemma@gmail.com

Conor Burns responds to article in Private Eye about Navitus Bay ‘bias’

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MP Conor Burns has responded to an article implying he has opposed the Navitus Bay wind farm for personal gain.

The article, which appeared in fortnightly journal Private Eye, notes that the Bournemouth West MP “receives regular payments” from Trant Construction Ltd, an engineering firm connected with the oil and gas industry – including Wytch Farm oil field in Poole Harbour.

The company is listed in Mr Burns’ register of interests.

The article says Navitus is proposed for beds “thought suitable for oil and gas drilling”, and that despite opposing the wind farm partly on the grounds of its potential impact on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Mr Burns has not “spoken up” against plans by Infrastrata to drill for oil and gas in Swanage.

Responding to the article, Mr Burns said: “I have seen a mischievous article related to my position on Navitus.

“Any financial interest any Member of Parliament has is openly registered and made public. The only interest I have to declare on Navitus is the interest of my constituents who are overwhelmingly opposed to it.

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