National briefs: Fracking rules to be unveiled

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WASHINGTON -- The rush to capture natural gas from hydraulic fracturing has led to giant compressor stations alongside backyard swing sets, drilling rigs in sight of front porches, and huge flares at gas wells alongside country roads.

Air pollution from fracking includes the fumes breathed in by people nearby, as well as smog spread over a wide region and emissions of the greenhouse gas methane.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce the first national rules to reduce air pollution at hydraulically fractured -- fracked -- wells and some other oil and gas industry operations.

The White House in recent weeks has been reviewing the EPA plan to consider possible changes, the normal procedure for regulations. Industry groups have lobbied for exemptions that would reduce the impact of the rule, saying the original requirements are too costly. Environmental and health advocates have been talking to White House officials as well, opposing the industry's proposed changes.

President Barack Obama supports fracking because it yields vast amounts of natural gas, a fuel that burns cleaner than coal. He also has said that it should be done "without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."

One final shuttle mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Discovery has one last mission to complete.

The oldest of NASA's retired shuttle fleet was to leave its home at Kennedy Space Center for the final time this morning, riding on top a modified jumbo jet.

Its destination: the Smithsonian Institution's hangar outside Washington, D.C.

The plane and jet will make a farewell flight over Cape Canaveral before heading north. The pair also will swoop over the nation's capital, including the National Mall, before landing in Virginia.

NASA ended the shuttle program last summer after 30 years to focus on destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

Obama raises $53 million

President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised $53 million in March, part of a joint fundraising operation that started last spring and has already staged more than 100 major fundraisers.

That figure, which includes money the Democratic committee raises on its own, was announced in a video posted Monday on the campaign's website.

Donors said in the video that 567,000 people donated to the campaign in March, and the average contribution was $50.78.

More complete figures -- along with detailed records of how much the campaigns and parties spent in March -- are due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission by Friday.

Media seeking court files

Lawyers representing more than 20 media companies Monday asked the Florida judge overseeing the trial of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed teenager Trayvon Martin, to unseal the court file.

The Seminole County judge who presided over Mr. Zimmerman's court appearance Thursday agreed to a request by Mark M. O'Mara, Mr. Zimmerman's lawyer, to keep documents related to the case private. State Attorney Angela B. Corey did not object to Mr. O'Mara's request during the hearing.

In an eight-page motion, the lawyers for the media companies, which included The New York Times Co., argued that the records were improperly sealed because Mr. O'Mara did not submit evidence showing that closing them was necessary to prevent a "serious and imminent" threat to the administration of justice.

-- Compiled from news services


First Published April 17, 2012 12:00 AM


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