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Over 200 Cumulative Arrests including “Beyond Extreme Energy” Blockade

November 7, 2014

Environmental activists blockade FERC entrance to fight fracking plans

Activists shut down the road leading to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee from November 3-7, 2014. (Photo: A Jones/flickr/cc)

Activists shut down the road leading to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee from November 3-7, 2014. (Photo: A Jones/flickr/cc)

Over 200 people have been arrested in recent days carrying out nonviolent actions in four states and Washington, DC to resist fracking infrastructure: VT (60); RI (3); NY (25); MD (11); and Washington DC (now over 100). The total number of people arrested in the Beyond Extreme Energy daily FERC blockades in Washington, DC is not yet known.
       Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams, sums up the week’s Beyond Extreme Energy actions:

As the week of climate action known as Beyond Extreme Energy came to a close in Washington, D.C. on Friday, activists blockaded the entrance to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) building for the fifth day in a row in a final push to fight the commission’s approval of fracking projects around the country.

People also marched to the D.C. Department of Transportation building to demonstrate against policies that activists say will expand the use of coal, oil, and gas exports in Pennsylvania.

 

Activists locked themselves to each other to form a human chain in front of one entrance to the FERC building, while others linked arms or held up massive banners displaying the faces of families living in communities affected by fracking. A special team from the Department of Homeland Security was called in to cut off locks and make arrests, according to posts on social media.

“FERC doesn’t work!” protesters chanted.

View image on Twitter

@PopularResistance posted this photo on Twitter, captioned: “Homeland Security confused about how to handle protestors lying on the driveway of @FERC in #FERCblockade #BXE”

Actions Continue Next Week

While Beyond Extreme Energy was scheduled to end on Friday, other environmental action groups plan to keep the movement going, with at least one organization announcing an action to take place on Monday at Cove Point.

Stopping Extraction and Exports Destruction (SEED), a coalition representing mid-Atlantic groups fighting energy extraction and exports, called for protesters to join a sit-in at a Cove Point construction site owned by gas company Dominion.

Read the full post: “Week of Anti-Fracking Action Culminates in Blockade, Arrests Outside Federal Building” on Common Dreams.

Also on EcoWatch: “100+ Arrested at Beyond Extreme Energy’s Week-Long Protests at FERC” posted just one hour ago.

Protecting Our Waters congratulates all the demonstrators, organizers and supporters. The spirit, creativity and collaboration shown by these grassroots activists is tremendous! It embodies the rising tide of commitment to protect our climate and our communities.

 

Breaking: 124 Cumulative Arrests in Five Anti-Fracking, Pro-Climate Actions

November 4, 2014
(Source: PopularResistance.org)

Activists arrested while shutting down FERC headquarters in Washington, DC included Michael Zambrano (above) who was part of the Great March for Climate Action. Photo: PopularResistance.org

A cumulative known total of at least 124 people have been arrested in recent days while carrying out nonviolent direct actions to oppose fracking infrastructure. Police arrested 47 activists yesterday alone, in three locations.

UPDATE: Vermont state police said they arrested 64 people in Montpelier on Monday, October 27th. From “Dozens of Vermonters Arrested for Protesting ‘Road to Ruin’ Energy Policy“: 

“The Vermont civil disobedience action followed a mass rally, dubbed Time’s Up, Rise Up! Rally for Climate Justice, during which over 300 Vermont residents converged on the State House lawn to demand that Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, rescind his support for the expansion of a fracked gas pipeline, put an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure, and take ‘real action to protect our communities from the climate crisis.'”

The cumulative total includes the 25 activists arrested at Seneca Lake, in New York; 15 of those arrests took place yesterday. It includes three people arrested Friday sitting in at Senator Jack Reed’s office in Rhode Island opposing the SPECTRA pipeline. It includes the 25 activists arrested yesterday, Monday November 3rd, while shutting down the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, DC. It also includes 7 arrests yesterday at Cove Point, Maryland, where direct actionists blocked construction of a FERC-approved liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility on the shores of the ecologically sensitive Chesapeake Bay.

Activists are showing increased determination right now, the very week the IPCC released its fifth in a series of dire warnings about climate. The IPCC report may be summarized as, “we are out of time.” The IPCC report is here. Bill McKibben’s essay, “IPCC Report Says Climate Change is ‘ Severe, Widespread and Irreversible,” sums it up.

FERC is a particular target because the agency bows continually to industry pressure, rubber-stamping all permits for fracking infrastructure, including pipelines and LNG export facilities, regardless of environmental and public health impacts. Climate impacts are not taken into account by FERC’s permitting process.

Several actions are ongoing, with an action a day this week at FERC headquarters, and protests against TPP arising next week.  Activists are proclaiming: “the movement is moving.”

Twenty-five Activists Arrested Monday While Shutting Down FERC

View image on Twitter

Activists erected a symbolic model town. FERC workers had to destroy it in order to enter their workplace. Photo: Erik McGregor

About 100 activists from across the country participated in yesterday’s creative nonviolent direct action at FERC, building an impacted community, using art supplies and their knowledge of the harms from shale gas extraction, storage, and transportation by pipeline. Participants, 25 of whom were arrested, oppose FERC’s approvals for LNG facilities, pipelines and compressor stations which facilitate the climate-change-escalating fracking boom while causing severe environmental damage.

The activists are not alone in their estimate of the shale gas boom’s harms. The November 3rd, 2014 Scientific American carries an article by David Biello, “Fracking Threatens to Crack Politics,” including this excerpt:

Careless companies spill or dump some of the nine billion liters of contaminated water that flows back up fracked wells each day, allowing some of it to foul local waterways. Poorly encasing wells in steel and concrete can also allow fracking fluids to seep into drinking water supplies or natural gas to escape. Sending the undrinkable wastewater back down specially permitted disposal wells has been linked to earthquakes from Ohio to Oklahoma. And methane gas can slowly ad steadily leak from wellheads and pipelines, trashing the atmosphere.

The activists who shut down the FERC office yesterday included among their primary demands, “We demand that FERC withdraw its permit for the dangerous fracked-gas export facility at Cove Point, Maryland.”

On the same day, an activist locked herself down to a piece of equipment to directly block construction at Cove Point, MD:

Activist Halts Construction of Cove Point LNG Export Terminal

Peaceful Protest Highlights Officials’ Disregard of Natural Gas Export Terminal Risks

In a show of opposition to the recent federal approval of Dominion’s Cove Point natural gas export terminal on the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland mother Kelly Canavan has locked herself to a piece of equipment at a construction site in Solomons integral to the project. Canavan is the president of AMP Creeks Council, a small nonprofit organization that focuses on land use and zoning policy. She is also part of Stopping Extraction and Exports Destruction (SEED), an umbrella group of mid-Atlantic activists fighting energy extraction and exports.

“The AMP Creeks Council has been opposing this project through several lawsuits for about a year,” Canavan said. “Now that FERC is poised to preempt any further victories we might be awarded in Calvert County, and Maryland officials at every level continue to support Dominion instead of residents, we are forced to take this stand. This is a peaceful protest to call attention to the carelessness and injustice that have characterized the course of this project from the beginning.”

Full story at Energy Exports Action Camp.

Fifteen More Arrests at Seneca Lake Monday November 3rd

In New York State, 15 more people were arrested in the protests at Seneca Lake, where a dangerous underground storage facility for methane gas fracked from the Marcellus Shale threatens a large lake that provides drinking water for the surrounding community. In “The Connection Between Global Warming Peril and Grassroots Action, Chip Northrup wrote yesterday:

The UN just issued a dire warning about how greenhouse gases are cooking the planet. Some people at the grass roots are doing something about it . . . 15 more arrests at Seneca Lake. Bringing the number of passive resistor arrests to 25. Where were you when the planet got cooked? Sandra and her crew can proudly say: We were on the barricades.

15  More Arrested as Human Blockade to Protect Finger Lakes Region from Gas Storage Facility Continues Today, Entering Third Week

15 Arrests Today follow 10 Arrests Last Week as Residents tell Crestwood to Go Home!

SENECA LAKE, NY – Entering the third week, starting at 7:00 AM this morning protesters blocked the gates of Texas-based Crestwood Midstream’s gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake. 15 people were arrested at about 9:00 AM after Crestwood called the police. Last week, ten protesters were arrested in acts of civil disobedience blocking the gates, just as the 15 people did today. Protesters have held blockades at the Crestwood gate since Thursday, October 23; on Wednesday, October 29, they began blocking two of the gates to Crestwood. Notably, the ongoing protests also included a rally with more than 200 people at the Crestwood gate on Friday, October 24th.

Friday, October 24th marked the day that major new construction on the gas storage facility was authorized to begin. The ongoing acts of civil disobedience come after the community pursued every possible avenue to stop the project and after being thwarted by an unacceptable process and denial of science.

The unified action is called ‘WE ARE SENECA LAKE’. More information and pictures of the actions over the previous weeks are available at www.WeAreSenecaLake.com.

Continue reading the full post by Chip Northrup here.

 

The best coverage of the FERC action so far, including all demands, is re-posted here from EcoWatch: “Breaking: 25 Arrested Shutting Down FERC Office in DC”

November 3, 2014

By Stefanie Spear 

Nearly 100 people from across the country participated in a nonviolent direct action protest this morning shutting down the office of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, DC. Today’s action was led by some of the Great March for Climate Action marchers who arrived at the nation’s capital on Nov. 1 after a 3,000-mile cross country walk from Los Angeles, California to Washington, DC.

Police say 25 people were arrested this morning.

“We walked 3,000 miles across the country and heard firsthand from families and communities the hardships they are facing due to extreme energy extraction,” said Faith Meckley, one of the climate marchers who lives in New York state.

Meckley said she’s participating in these actions because FERC rubber stamped a methane gas storage facility on the shore of New York’s Seneca Lake that allows methane storage in unstable salt caverns that threatens her community.

Other people who took part in today’s action said they have had enough of FERC rubber stamping fracking infrastructure projects in their communities, including pipelines, gas storage under lakes, compressor stations and fracked gas export facilities.

Today’s action used a massive portrait of families from Maryland and New York whose homes and communities are threatened by frackinginfrastructure that has been approved by FERC. A model town was erected as part of the action which blocked the entrance to FERC preventing employees from entering the building.

“The object of the blockade art is to give FERC no other option but to destroy the town and families in order to get to work,” said Kim Fraczek of Sane Energy Project of New York. “The destruction of the art serves a metaphor of reality.”

More than 50 organizations have endorsed this week of action and support the following demands in the face of “ongoing threats to their health, communities, democracy, property values, environment and climate:”

1. We demand that FERC withdraw its permit for the dangerous fracked-gas export facility at Cove Point, as well as recent gas expansion permits at Myersville, Minisink and Seneca Lake. In addition, we demand a stop to the permitting of all fracked-gas export facilities and other fracked-gas infrastructure.

2. We demand that all future FERC permits:

• Consider as the top priority the rights of human beings and all life on Earth;

• Fully assess the cumulative harm from infrastructure projects on public health, local economies and the climate. FERC must consider the damage from fracking–the extreme extraction process that generates the gas for these projects–and from climate change. FERC must reject industry’s practice of disguising major projects by dividing them into separate, ostensibly unrelated ones.

• Adhere to the precautionary principle: in the face of uncertainty and the absence of scientific consensus, the benefit of the doubt will go to public health and the environment. The burden of proof that a project is safe falls with those proposing the project; communities will not need to prove that a project is harmful.

3. We demand that FERC commissioners meet with communities affected by approved and proposed fossil fuel infrastructure, including the Cove Point export facility, Myersville and Minisink compressor stations, and Seneca Lake gas storage project. This is a key step in changing FERC from an agency that protects only the interests of the fossil fuel industry to one that protects the public interest.

4. We demand a Congressional investigation into FERC’s rubber stamping of industry proposals.

Organizers say actions against FERC are planned to continue throughout the week in order to demonstrate that FERC’s actions are “incompatible with all that sustains life on Earth, including our climate system and clean water, air and land.”

Special thanks to Ray Wallace for providing a number of the links in this post, including the ever-popular “FERC is a Rubber Stamp Machine” youtube video.

Protect Our Climate: 1. Vote; 2. Write NPR; 3. Get Arrested This Week

November 3, 2014

1. VOTE

Not that the Dems are anywhere near where they need to be on climate. Both parties accept money from the fracking industry. We’ve got to get big corporate money out of politics and create fair elections in order to have anything approaching a saner political system. But, that said:

Everyone’s vote matters tomorrow when it comes to fighting fracking and protecting our climate. Because the Republican agenda is absolutely clear: approve as many LNG terminals as the industry wants, to export fracked gas overseas. Approve the KXL pipeline, guaranteeing a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta Tar Sands, the dirtiest oil on earth. Push back against or reverse the Obama Clean Energy Plan. Remove support for renewables.  So: vote. Please.

2. TELL NPR: COVER CLIMATE!

Not that NPR is doing the most fabulous job in the world already on covering climate. For example, just yesterday when NPR covered the IPCC’s release of their 5th urgent report on climate change realities, NPR failed to follow up with the science on shale gas impacts on climate, allowing the IPCC spokesman’s praise of the “natural gas” boom in the U.S. as causing “fewer of these emissions” to go unchallenged. In fact, the word “shale” and the phrase “methane emissions” were completely missing from the discussion, and the NPR reporter politely avoided asking any follow-up questions about this climate hot potato topic. Not surprisingly, words like “fracking” or “high-volume hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling” were also completely avoided, so the bridge fuel myth was reinforced yet again.

Even so, NPR’s reporting on climate and the environment is about to get worse: much worse, joining an ongoing trend in U.S. media in general. Please join your voice with this important CREDO petition

Because this is so important, we’re including the CREDO petition in full! From CREDO:

Sign the petition: Stop NPR from gutting its climate coverage.

National Public Radio just made the baffling decision to drastically reduce its staff dedicated to covering climate change and the environment, leaving just one part-time reporter on the beat.1

It’s unacceptable for one of our major sources of journalism in the public interest to essentially abandon it’s coverage of climate and the environment by reducing the staff covering it from four full-time journalists to one part-time reporter.

Tell NPR: One part-time reporter is not enough. Reverse the decision to slash your team of reporters covering climate change and the environment.

NPR pays attention to its critics, and is sensitive to criticism that it is failing to meet its duty to inform the public on the most pressing issues of the day. Let’s show NPR that Americans want more coverage of climate change and other environmental issues, not less.

Due in large part to deliberately misleading coverage from conservative outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report, and the corporate media that insists on presenting “two sides” of the debate even if one side is blatantly lying, the American public is actively misinformed about climate change.

As a result, public understanding of the crisis is heading in the wrong direction. In 2013, the percentage of Americans who don’t believe in climate change actually went up 7%. Only 47% of the American people believe that climate change is caused by human activities.2

NPR’s decision is part of a disturbing anti-science trend within the news media. According to a study released last year, the number of newspapers that included a weekly science sections has shrunk from 85 to just 19 in the past 25 years.3 That’s why it is so crucial for NPR to provide meaningful coverage of climate change that is honest with the American people about the scope of the problem and what must be done to address it.

Tell NPR: One part-time reporter is not enough. Reverse the decision to slash your team of reporters covering climate change and the environment.

NPR was created by an act of Congress in order to be an alternate news service that would address issues of national concern.4 NPR must devote more resources to covering climate change and other environmental topics, not less.

Tell NPR: Now is not the time to slash Don’t reduce your coverage of climate change and other environmental issues.

Thanks for fighting climate change.

  1. “NPR Reduces its Environmental Team to One Reporter,” Inside Climate News, October 24, 2014
  2. “Misinformation Is Winning – Doubt In Climate Change Climbing,” DeSmogBlog.com, February 1, 2014
  3. “NPR Slashes Number of Environmental Reporters,” Huffington Post, October 24, 2014
  4. “NPR Guts its Environment and Climate Reporting Team, Becomes ‘Part of the Problem,”ThinkProgress, October 24, 2014

3. GET ARRESTED THIS WEEK:

Beyond Extreme Energy: People Taking Action to Retire Fossil Fuels

This may be a little short notice if you weren’t already considering participating in this important action. And you missed the Sunday nonviolence training and issues training. Nonetheless we think this week-long action at FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) is so important that we’re adding the daily details below.

FERC is a rogue government agency that is really operating as an oil and gas industry tool disguised as a government agendy. FERC is consistently rubber-stamping every LNG export facility and every pipeline, including and particularly fracked gas and fracked oil pipelines, that comes its way, ignoring the impacts. From BXE:

Pipelines = Fracking. There is no simpler way to put it. Every pipeline and export facility FERC approves is another nail in the climate coffin — not to mention public health, surface and groundwater, air quality, land rights, and habitat. Join Tim deChristopher and go Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) in DC this week:

Before we dive into the details, though, let us tell you how excited we are to be working on this project. We’ve brought together a large and diverse coalition of people and organizations to make this happen. BXE obviously won’t bring FERC and the frackers to their knees in a single week’s time, but we guarantee that together we’re going to be moving our collective issues forward.

Monday November 3rd

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Each day at FERC we’ll highlight a different group or issue. Monday has been adopted by the Great Climate March. We’ll begin Monday and all succeeding days at FERC bright and early. Arrests, if/when they occur, will probably happen before 11am. The action will continue, however, with leafleting, chanting, creative street art and theater, and all the other good stuff you’ve come to know and expect from hanging out with your ne’er-do-well activist friends.
We’re hoping that Tim DeChristopher, one of our BXE endorsers, will be on hand for the morning’s events. In any case, those of us not in custody will be joining Tim and the folks from PopularResistance.org for an action at 2pm at Democratic National Committee headquarters. More info on that will come soon, but we’ll help Tim make the point with the Democratic Party that merely being less bad on climate than Republicans is not nearly good enough.
Then at 5pm on Monday we’ll join in a flash mob that our arts team has planned for Union Station. More info on what that involves will also be coming soon.

Tuesday November 4th

We kick off with our daily morning action at FERC. There will be more in the afternoon, but it isn’t finalized yet.

Wednesday November 5th

Wednesday will be student day and it’s already shaping up to be a lively one. In the morning we’ll have our usual FERC action. Afternoon details TBA.

Thursday November 6th

Morning at FERC. In the afternoon we’ll be paying a visit to NPR’s national headquarters to creatively raise the issue with them of the pro-fracking spots airing constantly on the network.

Friday November 7th

It looks like Friday is getting adopted by Pennsylvania fractivists, so you know we’ll be going out with a non-violent bang.
Obviously, plans are still in flux. There is even more good stuff than this being cooked up, but talking about it would be premature. I’ll keep you supplied with up to date information as it becomes available.

Food

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We’re very lucky to have secured the culinary services of Seeds Of Peace who will be providing us three squares a day of nourishing and delicious food. The details of exactly when and where and how we’re going to eat it are still being worked out. But trust me, this is good news. I’m already getting hungry thinking about it.

Money (To Make BXE Happen)

You can check out our donation page here. As I write this, we’ve raised $3285 of the $15,000 we need. To move BXE forward, we need money immediately. As participants, we need to back this critical step to fight new fossil fuel infrastructure with our own cash. If you’re not able to spare anything, that’s Ok–your participation is important no matter what. But most of us will have resources to help out.
So we’re asking our participants to contribute a minimum of $25 to cover food and lodging, and if not for themselves, then for someone else. And if possible,we need you to dig a little deeper even than that. I wouldn’t ask you like this (highlighting the words, being all intense about it, etc.) if finding more money this week weren’t such a top priority, but, alas, it is. Please give generously as you are able. As you do, imagine yourself lowering the collective blood pressures of lots of stressed people whom you’re soon to meet. They and their significant others all thank you!
And we thank you, too. We know we’re trying to save the planet and everything, but we swear sometimes we think the best part of doing this is getting to meet and become friends with such awesome people. We’re going to shake things up together.
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©2014 Beyond Extreme Energy | Brooklyn, NY

For all other details, including lodging and updates, please visit the Beyond Extreme Energy website and/or contact the organizers.

PGW Sale is Dead. So Green Up, Philly!

October 31, 2014

HERE is some great news: The attempt to sell Philadelphia’s public gas utility, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), to the highest bidder is dead.

Philadelphia City Council announced on October 27th that PGW will not be privatized because the “risks outweigh the benefits.”

Philadelphia City Council announced on October 27th that its “exhaustive” assessment of the proposed $1.86B sale is that the “risks outweigh the benefits.”

A coalition including Protecting Our Waters, Food and Water Watch, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and other organizations joined in with labor leaders and workers in a campaign for over a year to stop the sale.

We emphasized the vital need to protect good-paying jobs, low-income residents in Philadelphia, and a positive asset for the city while also fighting fracking, pushing back against the terrible impact of methane on climate, and protecting communities throughout the Marcellus Shale region from fracking pollution.

In this case, protecting our people and protecting our waters literally came together. Labor organizers, both longtime allies and newfound allies, learned more about our coalition’s objections to shale gas development, and we enjoyed standing up for, and campaigning alongside, the PGW workers’ union.

City Council’s decision is significant in the fight against fracking. The PGW sale was explicitly coupled with an attempt to “sweeten the deal” by expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Philadelphia and otherwise ramp up the shale “energy hub” for Philly.
The Philadelphia Inquirer says as much in its major story this week about the deal-breaker.
In “$1.86B sale of Philadelphia Gas Works is Dead,” the Inquirer highlighted the fracking enthusiasm behind the privatization push:

“Business leaders had endorsed privatization as a critical part of the effort to build the region as an energy hub, connecting Philadelphia’s ports and businesses with the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom in Western and northern Pennsylvania.”

Green Up, Philly!

The people of Philadelphia have been well represented by our City Council in the crux of this decision, although we believe a more democratic process by City Council would have served the public interest better.

We hope the general public now has more of a grip on the link between keeping PGW public and fending off the voracious, polluting and climate-destroying shale gas industry. More workers and grassroots environmentalists got to know each other during this campaign; we hope those links stay strong.

Because we’ve got so much work to do together now, Philly! We need now to push for a sustainable economy transitioning as rapidly as possible away from fossil fuel extraction, transportation, processing, export, and use. That includes pushing for good-paying jobs in the transition economy, but it’s a lot more than that.

We face a mountain of work. To name just two vital areas, our goals include stopping Sunoco’s Mariner East Pipeline (which would export NGL, natural gas liquids fracked from the Marcellus Shale, overseas to Norway and Sweden from the Delaware River, if allowed); and stopping mile-long Bakken Shale oil “bomb trains” still coming through Philadelphia and endangering hundreds of thousands of people twice a day, every day.

The starting is as important as the stopping, we know.  Green Energy Transition: It’s Time! GET IT?

We can celebrate the death of the privatization deal all Halloween weekend. But come Monday, let’s push for jobs manufacturing triple-pane windows for energy efficiency, instead of plastics factories using fracked gas. Let’s push for the nonviolent path of energy audits, insulation, solar hot water heaters, and urban organic farms and gardens, instead of the violence of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and export.

There is absolutely no “silver bullet” or technocratic solution to the planetary crisis facing us. We can’t just plug in wind and solar to our existing economy, which is built on a dead model of permanent growth.

The change we need is much deeper. But as part of transition, we MUST start looking more like Germany, which generated 75% of its energy from wind and solar on some days last summer.

Let’s make Philadelphia an energy hub, all right — but not a shale energy hub! GET IT? Green Energy Transition: It’s Time.

We are grateful for the public’s outpouring of support, for over a year, for the coalition work which helped win the day for Philadelphia. Closing this door helps us open the doors to a sustainable future in which we do what we must do for the biosphere: learn how to flourish while living far more gently on this beautiful earth.
 
The death of this PGW sale is one death to celebrate. Happy Halloween!

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Fracking, Rape, and Resistance

October 13, 2014

From Huffington Post: “This Columbus Day… Time to Break the Silence” October 13, 2014

Today is the International Day of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of North and South America, and for good reason.

Columbus, we know now, was a greed-driven and brutal slave-taker who began the process of genocide against the Taino, Carib, and other indigenous peoples.

His men also committed the first documented rapes by white men against women of color in the Americas.  In “Columbus Raped the Redskins… Time to Change the Name,” a team of Truthout writers note:

One of Columbus’ crewmen, Miguel Cuneo, described the scene when Columbus arrived in Hispaniola for a second time, and thousands of Tainos, or what were referred to as Indians, came out to greet his ships.

Cuneo wrote, “When our caravels…were to leave for Spain, we gathered…one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians…For those who remained, we let it be known [to the Spaniards] in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done.”

Cuneo went on to write that he took his own sex slave, a beautiful teenage girl, who in his own words, “resisted with all her strength,” leaving him with no choice but to, “thrash her mercilessly and rape her.”

….. Columbus eventually started up a global child-sex-slave trade, exporting Indians all around the world.

The trajectory begun by Columbus and his men will take far more than just changing the name of the Washington Redskins’ football team (though that’s a good idea and it’s about time!) to transform.

Respecting the lives of indigenous people right now in North and South America would be a great place to start. It sure hasn’t happened yet.

Fracking Impacts and Resisters Among First Nations

From the beginning of the fight against fracking, many tribal nations in North America have been impacted, have spoken out, and have resisted. To mention briefly just four examples of impacts and resistance, among hundreds:

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone people living in the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming were among the first to have their drinking water impacted. They were told not to take showers indoors without cracking the window because the risk of fire was so great due to the hydrocarbon content of their post-fracking water.

The Onandaga people have provided leadership in the fight against fracking since at least 2010, and Idle No More began providing full frontal resistance by 2012.

Blackfeet tribal members were impacted by evictions to make way for cheap housing for workers in the Bakken Shale boom by 2012: ““We were not even given a formal 30 day eviction notice and now that we have been kicked out of our home we are currently homeless,” said Heather Youngbird.

And in a dramatic, creative naval blockade using yarn, the Gitga’at Nation expressed their communal commitment to opposing the Northern Gateway Pipeline in “Spirit Bear” territory in British Columbia, last June: “First Nations Oppose Northern Gateway Pipeline: ‘We Will Take Our Fight to the Land, Sea and Courts.”

Rape, Misogyny and Fracking in Pennsylvania

It seems unrelated: in Pennsylvania there seems to be no end to “porngate,” and no end to fracking. But perhaps we can take heart from just how long the struggle against rape, against the enslavement of those who would defend their land, and against ecocide, has been going on. Five hundred and twenty-two years, at least, in the Americas.

The Pennsylvania DEP spokesman under Governor Rendell, William “Tom” Rathbun, pleaded guilty to sexual assault against two minor girls, one of whom had a mental disability, in August 2011. This is the same man who, shale country residents say, lied blatantly about their water contamination cases.

This is the same man who said we’d been “fracking for 60 years and we know what we are doing… ” when I first confronted him in 2010 over the issue of toxic fracking flowback being stored in plastic-lined earthen pits all over Pennsylvania shale country. He seemed to think that I would just believe him if he told me it was mostly salt and water… you know, that I would just relax and enjoy it. Get over it.

With Rathbun behind bars, plenty more misogynists took office under Tom Corbett, whose rise to District Attorney was funded by Chesapeake Energy and whose reign as DA included overt refusals to investigate Sandusky or to investigate porn rings in York and elsewhere.

As a friend of mine, Jim Cummings, put it in a conversation yesterday: “It’s ecofeminism 101: the men who rape the land, also rape women.”

While Pennsylvania politics are not always bumper-sticker simple, in this case it couldn’t be more obvious.

Even more conservative newspapers have noticed the atmosphere of “casual misogyny” in Harrisburg — a misogyny which certainly existed under Rendell’s leadership and before that; but a misogyny which has escalated out of control under fracking- corporation-funded Tom Corbett. While the head of PA DEP under Corbett — Chris Abruzzo, Krancer’s replacement — has resigned as part of the ongoing “porngate” scandal, what hasn’t happened yet is what needs to happen.

The public needs to howl relentlessly for integrity and justice, for an end to the atmosphere of casual misogyny AND for an end to the casual witnessing of the rape of the earth. We need to accept no less than total change in attitude and action from our leaders. This goes far beyond merely partisan politics. We don’t need to replace one old boys’ club with another.

We need bottom-up leadership that stands for justice, transformation, integrity and sustainability.

A basic tenet of feminism is that a feminist is someone who differentiates herself from a doormat.

We got news for Harrisburg: women are not doormats, and neither is our land, water and air a trash can for toxic poisons.

If we get tired in this struggle every once in a while, all we have to do is take a look at those who have been struggling for five hundred twenty-two years already, and get back to it.

 

 

Fight Climate Change: Comment Now on EPA Carbon Rule!

October 5, 2014

The public comment deadline for the historic Clean Power Plan is now October 16th.  The shale gas and oil industry, along with coal and traditional oil interests, are attacking this proposed plan, attempting to undermine and weaken it, with all they’ve got. You can help make history by supporting — and critiquing — the plan using the information below, and the short sample letter at the end, contributed by Ann Dixon. 

Carbon Rule:  We Can Do Better

By Ann Dixon

President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency have a Clean Power Plan. When this plan is enacted, it will be the first time in U.S. history that carbon emissions have been regulated!  It calls for a  30% reduction in C02 emissions from power plants below the 2005 level. This is significant because one third of domestic greenhouse gas is from power plants.  View the entire proposal here.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan fact sheet reads:

The power sector is a major contributor of CO2 in particular, but also contributes to emissions of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) … The Clean Power Plan will reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent in 2030…  Reducing exposure to particle pollution and ozone in 2030 will avoid a projected 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, 340 to 3,300 heart attacks and 2,700 to 2,800 hospital admissions.

After being ordered by the Supreme Court, and after doing almost nothing during the Bush years, the EPA issued rules for future power plants in September 2013.  Then, on June 2nd, 2014, a new proposal for existing plants was released. This Plan states many options for complying. States will then submit their own plans to the EPA by the end of June 2016.  If state extensions are granted, plans won’t be due until one or two years later. Actual compliance would be needed by 2020, 2025 or 2030.

Public Citizen made a helpful video explaining the back ground of this Rule. They also have an Action Alert to let you comment at the same link.  View the video here.

Stronger Standards Needed

Why was 2005 chosen as a baseline for emissions?  A May 29th article in The Wall Street Journal, “Industry Worries about Carbon Cuts Proposal” explains that this framework lets the utility industry off the hook:

The utility industry would like to work from a baseline set between 2005 and 2007 because those years were the highest ever for U.S. carbon emissions. Emissions started falling in 2008, so using a more recent time frame would set more aggressive carbon-reduction targets.

Given the urgency of our planetary situation – predictions of mass extinctions due to climate change by 2050; arctic ice caps melting more rapidly than predicted, and millions of people being displaced due to storms aggravated by climate change – this isn’t enough.

According to blogger Ben Adler’s June 2nd Grist article,  “The Nine Things You Need to Know about Obama’s New Climate Rules,”

Environmental experts generally agree that more ambitious targets are possible, especially if the EPA is going to make the rules extend all the way to 2030. Since technologies to produce energy more cleanly keep getting better and cheaper, the targets should grow significantly more ambitious over the course of the next decade.

Disturbingly, the proposal calls for an increase in nuclear power, gas drilling (natural gas combined cycle units, or NGCCs) and pipeline installation!  In 2020, natural gas-fired generation from existing combined cycle units is projected to increase nine percent, from baseline.  In 2030, there will be a smaller increase and in 2050, a slight decrease.  Methane, as we know from NASA scientist Drew Shindell, is 105 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon, over a 20 year time frame. Fracking also causes suffering due to contaminated water, air, and soil.

According to page 2 -13 of the EPA document:

Operators have already shifted significant quantities of generation from coal units to NGCCs, absent any federal CO2 requirements. …[There is] the potential to increase the amount of lower carbon intensity generation by expanding low-carbon and renewable generating capacity… Adding new nuclear or renewable generating capacity to the electric system would tend to shift generation to the new units from existing EGUs with higher carbon intensity. Such expansion is consistent with current trends.

Recently, the EPA held public hearings about the Plan. While thousands traveled to testify in support of the plan, the United Mine Workers demonstrated outside a Carbon Rule hearing in Pittsburgh. They expressed concern about job loss.  I heard a lawyer representing the mine workers say, at a hearing in Washington, that he is also concerned about possible job loss. This is a legitimate concern.  Coal generation is projected to decrease between 16% and 17% in 2020.  Yet, according to EcoWatch’s June 2nd article, “Obama and EPA Release Historic Carbon Reduction Plan to Fight Climate Change,” coal and natural gas would still make up more than 60% of our energy grid.

An August 1st article, Dueling Rallies Pitts Jobs against Air in the Pittsburgh Post – Gazette, emphasized that millions of workers support the plan:

Kim Glas, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance, which counts 16 million environmental group and union members, said workers don’t have to choose between a clean environment or good jobs.  “Quality, family-sustaining jobs will be created throughout an economy that also addresses climate change,” Ms. Glas said. “We understand that workers need a fair shake. We will not leave workers behind as we transition to a more sustainable energy economy.

We need to be vigorous and vigilant to make sure that this commitment is honored; we must create a just transition to renewable energy.

Submit your comment about this plan to the EPA by Ocotober 16th of this year!  We only have ten days left!

Send e-mail to A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov   with    “Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602” in subject heading. For full instructions, visit the EPA site.

 You may use the sample letter below. It’s best to personalize it.  For example, if you or a loved one suffers from asthma, include that as a reason to support the Plan. You may also use information in documents about the Carbon Rule found under Public Testimony on this blog.

Sample Letter

 Dear EPA,

I am so glad that there is, at last, a plan to regulate carbon emissions. I support the reduction of carbon, sulfur, methane and other toxins.

The plan should call for more rapid reductions than it does. Please use a more recent time frame (2009 or later), rather than 2005, as the baseline for emissions.

I am disturbed that the Plan calls for an increase in gas use. We should stop fracking (shale gas development) and, instead, make a swift and just transition to renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal and biomass).

Sincerely,

The deadline is October 16th. So please comment now — and make sure at least ten of your friends comment in the next ten days.

You know the Koch Brothers and their legendary “think tank” fake-grassroots organizations are getting in their comments. This is historic. Please make your voice heard!

Crude Language: U.S. “Bomb Train” Regs Comment Deadline Sept. 30th

September 28, 2014

As the comment deadline on federal oil-by-rail regulations approaches — Tuesday, September 30th at 11:59 PM — you’ll want to make sure your voice is heard. Please comment right this minute while you think of it and then devote some time between now and Tuesday night urging friends, neighbors, colleagues and family to comment as well.  This issue affects not only everyone within the evacuation zone of “oil bomb” train routes, but also everyone impacted by toxic spills into wetlands and waterways, and by climate change — and that means everyone. Here is the scoop: first the basics, then the details.

Q. Where you can go to comment online?  A. You can send a letter quickly and easily from Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s link here.  You can send a comment just as quickly and easily from CREDO’s alert here.  To comment directly, without going to an organization’s alert first, read the regulations and comment on them on the federal government’s site here.

Q. Who can comment?  A. Every U.S. resident.

Q. To whom are comments directed?  A. U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT).

Q. What is the primary demand?  Immediate ban of DOT 111 rail cars for flammable liquids.

Why is this urgent?  Because oil trains threaten all of us!

Casselton, ND oil bomb train explosion, 2013

Bakken Shale oil “bomb train” explodes in Casselton, North Dakota (2013).

From the Delaware Riverkeeper Network Alert:

“As the transportation of crude oil and flammable liquids by tank cars on our railways expands beyond precedent, the nation is exposed to increasing safety risks, hazardous pollution, and the threat of catastrophe. A dramatic increase in derailments involving flammable liquids — crude oil and ethanol – has led to explosions, fires, oil and liquid gas spills, billions in damages, a host of injuries and even death. Yet the US Dept. of Transportation (USDOT) has proposed new regulations that are supposed to improve safety but largely let industry off the hook. And if you live anywhere near a rail line, you may be in the danger zone! (See the map at the link below).

We need you to send a letter to USDOT today to say we want ACTION. To start, we need: the immediate ban of DOT111 tank cars for flammable liquids; overhaul of tank car design, infrastructure and safety equipment; full disclosure and monitoring of what is being carried, where and when; and strict regulations that make public safety and environmental protection the priority, not the bottom line of oil and gas companies. Comment deadline is Sept. 30, 11:59 pm.

Please send a letter – find out how here: http://bit.ly/DRN-Tankcarstandards.”

Sen. Scarnati Turnaround on Shale Gas Drilling in His Home Watershed: “The Bore Hole Will be Abandoned”

August 13, 2014

State Senator Joe Scarnati (center) and State Representative Matt Gabler visited the Flatirons Marcellus Shale drilling site in the Brockway watershed in 2011. Photo: 1490 newsblog.

Big news. Good news. Remember when Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, the largest fracked gas producer in the U.S., decided to sue the frackers because he didn’t like their activities in his Texas backyard?

At the time, we thought perhaps we should deliver some pizza to Rex Tillerson’s legal team to show our support and solidarity. But we were too busy tracking workers’ deaths in the shalefields at the time, so we never got around to it.

Now in a similarly contradictory move, Pennsylvania State Senator Joe Scarnati, Republican from Jefferson County, has announced — proudly — on his own website, on August 11th, 2014, that the watershed in his own backyard will be protected from water contamination from fracking:

Flatirons Development, LLC, has agreed to discontinue Marcellus drilling operations of the Brandon-Day well which is located upstream of the Brockway Borough Municipal Authority Rattlesnake Reservoir.  The existing bore hole will be abandoned, sealed and reclaimed to eliminate the possibility of watershed contamination.

This is a huge turnaround for a Pennsylvania state senator who has denied the possibility of water pollution from drilling and fracking for the past five years, frustrating the bejesus out of his constituents.  Scarnati, the PA Senate’s President Pro Tempore, is a powerful and controversial figure.

Sen. Joe Scarnati actually authored the highly anti-democratic Act 13 — the law that imposed a gag order on physicians and which, if not overturned,  would have stripped municipal rights from towns all across Pennsylvania, preventing them from protectively zoning or regulating any aspect of shale gas operations. That includes well pad construction, drilling, and fracking right through compressor stations, waste impoundments, and pipelines.

It’s not as if Sen. Scarnati’s turnaround means he will become an approachable, community-oriented advocate for clean air and clean water. He shows no particular sign of caring about fracking-impacted communities beyond his back yard. In fact, he was furious when Act 13’s municipal rights-stripping clause was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Jenny Lisak of Pennsylvanians for Clean Water and Air (PACWA) reports:

Several of us in his district happened to have a meeting with him right after the Supreme Court announced their decision, and he was angry. 

Nonetheless, Senator Scarnati’s public statement this Monday, “Statement on Flatirons Ending Marcellus Drilling Operations at Brandon-Day Well,” expresses only pride and self-satisfaction at his contribution to convincing a fracking company, Flatirons, based in Commerce, Colorado, not to drill the Marcellus Shale well that impacts the watershed Scarnati draws from at his home and at his office:

“This recent decision by Flatirons Development to stop plans for drilling at the Brandon-Day well is a good and responsible decision for our community.  Earlier this year after taking part in numerous discussions and meetings regarding this well, I reached out to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to express serious reservations with permitting any further drilling at the proposed site or any nearby site which could potentially compromise the reservoir.

“Toby Creek Watershed Association President Bill Sabatose and members of the Toby Creek Watershed have done an outstanding job monitoring the process surrounding this well and working to make sure the watershed remains clean.  This decision is a strong testament to the successful teamwork of area residents, local leaders, DEP and Flatirons to do what is in the best interest of our community to ensure public safety and protect our natural resources.”

Anatomy of a Victory

Commissioner William Sabatose

Bill Sabatose. Photo: PA Fish and Boat Commission

Senator Scarnati has traditionally been so hard for his constituents to reach that even on the other side of the big, 67-county state of Pennsylvania, I’ve heard the breadth and depth of frustration experienced by those who steadily worked at educating him about high-volume slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing in deep shale, and its impacts on water, air, health, climate and communities. He seemed like Teflon. A wall. A fortress of denial. A loyal servant to the fracking industry. So, how did this turnaround come about?

Clearly the work of Toby Creek Watershed Association President Bill Sabatose, whom Scarnati himself credits for sounding the alarm about Marcellus Shale fracking in the Brockway watershed, is critical. But a victory on this scale is never the work of just one person or organization. We notice three elements contributing to the turnaround.

Turnout

First of all, turnout. Repeatedly, no matter the weather, no matter the frustration level, no matter the perceived hopelessness or powerlessness, people — ordinary people, smart people, dedicated and informed people — turned out to public hearings about Flatiron and the Brockway Watershed. As the Punxsatawney Spirit reported on February 24th, 2012, in “Brockway Residents Question Flatirons’ Proposal:

BROCKWAY — Wednesday night, more than 150 people attended a public hearing to voice their concerns about a gas company’s proposal to drill in Brockway borough.

Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-25), state Rep. Sam Smith (R-66) and state Rep. Matt Gabler (R-78), called the meeting to give Brockway residents the opportunity to get answers from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Flatirons Resources, the company whose proposal has caused dissatisfaction for local residents.

Turnout continued to build. Residents in at least four counties within Scarnati’s district protested at two of his offices in July 2013, as part of a statewide call for a fracking moratorium: 

One Senator received protesters from four counties at two different locations simultaneously. Senator Scarnati, who has accepted cash and gifts from the gas industry and ignored his own constituents harmed by gas drilling, was besieged by a rally in western Pennsylvania in Jefferson County, generating television coverage here: “Protesters Take to Senator’s Offices.” Scarnati staff also met simultaneously with moratorium advocates in Wellsboro, Tioga County, at a meeting organized by Protecting Our Waters.  From Channel 10:

BROCKWAY, JEFFERSON COUNTY –  About 30 people protesting fracking met outside of Senator Joe Scarnati’s office in Brockway. The protesters were from across Clearfield, Jefferson and Elk Counties.

“We came out to try to tell Joe Scarnati that we would like him to enact a moratorium on fracking for many, many good reasons, primarily for the protection of our air, water and land” said protester Mike Kamandulis.

Education

Second of all, education: hard-hitting, specific, science-based, repetitive. Here, Jenny Lisak is among several voices commenting on the long-term process:

There may be good reason to keep sharing information and educating, even though most times we feel quite inefficient and unsuccessful in this fight.

I often send Scarnati the same information I am compulsive about sharing on our local listserve, prefacing with ‘I’m not sure you are seeing the same information as I am but as a constituent I am seriously concerned about …’

I have also sent him the “List of the Harmed.” I think we should all share the news we are so appalled by with our legislators. I suspect they don’t see the news we see.

Sabatose, who is on the Fish and Boat Commission, sees and hears a lot of the drilling-related impacts. Sabatose also owns Brockway Analytical, [which] does water testing for nearby communities and industry.

BACWA (Brockway Area Clean Water Alliance), whose members belong to Brockway’s municipal water authority (as well as others), have been very active in educating Brockway citizens about the risk and impacts to their water supply. Some of them are on our local listserve. Our group (PACWA) helped BACWA have a showing of Gasland 1 at the firehouse in Brockway a few years ago and a few months ago we showed Gasland 2  in Brockway with the help of  Doug and Briget Shields and Elk County CARES (Scarnati did not attend either event).

Scarnati is also hearing from others in his district who are coming to him with their issues about traffic, fumes, noise, property rights, seismic testing, water contamination, injection wells, etc. Two injection wells (one in Elk, one in Clearfield County) in his district are being fought by his constituents.

Could Scarnati have watched the expose Triple Divide and learned of the contamination in Potter County, which is in his district? The infamous blowout and subsequent water contamination in Moshannon State Forest, Clearfield County, was in his district. So are the methane migration problems in Tioga County; the high levels of aluminum found in a local water source which began bubbling, foaming and drying into pure white flakes in Elk County; the extensive water contamination problems in McKean county; the road destruction in all of his district; the illegal dumping of flowback on township roads in Jefferson County, and on and on.

Local residents held at least one demonstration outside Senator Scarnati’s home office in the fall of 2013, with several organizations participating, demanding that Scarnati protect water and air from shale gas fracking operations.

Sandra Folzer, PhD, is among those who have made sure to visit Senator Scarnati at some of his other offices, not just his home office in Brockway. Folzer, a homeowner in heavily fracked Tioga County and recently retired from teaching at Community College of Philadelphia, plans to praise Scarnati directly for protecting Brockway’s Rattlesnake Reservoir from fracking:

I have been to Scarnati’s office in Wellsboro several times in past to protest fracking. I shall call, and possibly visit, to tell him of my support for this action.

Attitude

If the folks in Scarnati’s district had given up or given in, history might be different and that well bore might not be being abandoned and sealed as you read this. But folks didn’t give up and didn’t give in. Folks kept their assertive attitude, individually and collectively. Jenny Lisak, also a Protecting Our Waters Board member, again:

The more you think about it, how is it possible that Scarnati could come to any conclusion other than that this is a very dangerous and destructive industry? He should be protecting the water supplies for all of us. Will he do the right thing and protect us all?

I can’t take any credit for his announcement except as part of a larger community of concerned citizens but  I’d like to think the chipping away by all of us voicing our concerns is having the positive outcomes we’re striving for!

Stephen Cleghorn, PhD, a sociologist, farmer, writer, and longtime fracking opponent who also lives in Scarnati’s district, has also let Scarnati know his views, in person, in public meetings, and by email. Twitter adds another element of condensed communication potential: Cleghorn reports,

I tweeted as soon as I saw Scarnati’s announcement from his website:
@senatorscarnati Good decision, Joe. Thank you. Now please extend same protection to all Pennsylvanians.

TEA

There’s more to this story, of course, but that’ all for now. Add in your comments if you like, below. And the next time you find yourself tempted to contemplate what appears to be your own powerlessness or despair in the face of extreme energy extraction corporations, remember this victory and pour yourself a cup of old-fashioned TEA: Turnout, Education, Attitude.

 

 

 

Dr. Poune Saberi: “Fossil fuels are dead”

August 10, 2014

On July 30, 2014, Dr. Poune Saberi traveled from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to testify at a public hearing on the EPA Clean Power Plan. Others have traveled farther to testify at EPA hearings, like the retired coal miner who traveled 1,300 miles from Harlan County, Kentucky, to testify in Denver, Colorado, pleading, “We’re Dying, Literally Dying For You To Help Us.” Others earned headlines for testifying from a faith-based perspective: “At EPA Hearing, Religious Leaders Call Carbon Pollution ‘An Affront To God.’

Dr. Saberi’s quiet authority stems from her work as a doctor and public health researcher; it generated no headlines. But when a physician who has witnessed sudden death and the struggle for life connects that witnessing to the fight for our climate, the resulting testimony is powerful and cogent. Read on:

EPA Clean Power Plan Testimony

Pouné Saberi, MD, MPH

July 30, 2014

Washington, DC

There is a Dakota saying that goes like this: “ When you find yourself riding a dead horse, dismount.” (1)

My name is Dr. Poune Saberi and I am a physician in Occupational and Environmental Medicine and a faculty member at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am here to say: fossil fuels are dead and we must dismount.

The Clean Power Plan (2) is a key life-saving move and I want to thank EPA for their initiative. I want to tell you about a first encounter with a patient that I will never forget. The initial visit started out routine, but when I asked if she had any children, her eyes welled up and she began telling me the story of her 17 year old son destined for college with scholarship, raised as an only child by this single mother. One day she received a call that he had an asthma attack and was taken to the emergency room. This time the asthma attack proved to be fatal and she never even had a chance to speak to him before he stopped breathing.

Forty-four percent of all asthma hospitalizations are for children. (3)  I practiced primary care for ten years before specializing in Occupational and Environmental medicine. I have seen the wide spectrum of patients hurt by exposure to outdoor air pollution. Seeing the alarmingly rapid and shallow breathing of an infant is not an experience you would want to voluntarily take part in. It is heart breaking when the vulnerable among us unfairly take a large hit from our actions.

Unacceptable Sacrifices

At the other end of the spectrum are the workers in the fossil fuel industry. I live and work in Pennsylvania where methane gas development has exposed many of the workers to volatile organic compounds, silica sand and radioactive material. A 26-year-old worker died in southwestern Pennsylvania when a methane gas well exploded. This is why I am here today. When industry focuses on profits over health, it is up to us to raise our voices against these unacceptable sacrifices.

August 6, 2014: DEP Details Cause Of Fatal Greene Co. Gas Well Fire. Photo: Pittsburgh CBS Local

I commend EPA for introducing this rule. However, this is just an introduction – an introduction to a promising direction as a society if we all agree to make the efficiency proposal much more stringent and the focus on non-combustibles much more robust.

Here are the strong points of the Clean Power Plan:

  • The co-benefits. That means when CO2 is reduced many other air pollutants are also reduced, like SO2, NOx and Hg. These outdoor pollutants are considered carcinogenic. Therefore, when there are less of them, there is less lung cancer, less bladder cancer, less memory loss.
  • Less carbon dioxide means lower utility bills. That is always good for everyone’s pockets.
  • Lowering CO2 equals lowering green house gases in the atmosphere and addressing the impacts CO2 has on global heating. Less ocean acidification helps fisheries; less extreme weather patterns help agriculture and commerce. And lastly, mitigating climate change will have its own health benefits by reducing the ferocity of floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.

There are many things in our world today we cannot fix. This one we can.

Here is what I believe this rule has ignored:

  • Focusing on downstream CO2 emissions from power plants and ignoring upstream impacts of coal and gas production is like a doctor just treating the bruises without acknowledging the domestic violence happening at home. There is a high risk of health exposure and environmental hazards at each step of extraction, production and transport. We must consider the entire life cycle of energy production.
  • Non-combustion sources of energy production like solar, wind and geothermal will help the states reach the CO2 reductions faster and earlier with less GHG production. Switching coal power plants to natural gas or nuclear is like switching from one addictive drug to another. The problem has not been addressed. Natural gas and nuclear are not viable alternatives to coal.
  • Non-combustible energy production is a labor-intensive economy and creates many jobs. The occupational hazards are minimal and the sun and wind resources are not siphoned off like fossil fuel leading to boom bust cycles. Conversely, coal miners and oil and gas workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the US. Switching away from these jobs to jobs that are much less hazardous, workers and laborers will benefit by staying healthy, as well as continue to be proud financial providers for themselves and their families.

 

In summary, we must phase out coal, not transition to natural gas or nuclear, and we must fully embrace non-carbon, non-combustible sources of energy.

 

I will end by pleading that this administration transition from being a world leader in pollution to being a world leader in energy solutions.

 

Thank you.

Pouné Saberi, MD, MPH

 

Notes:

1. Dakota people: The saying, “If you are riding a dead horse, dismount” is widely attributed by multiple sources both to the Dakota and to the Lakota people.  The word Dakota means “ally” in the Dakota language, and the Dakota also refer to themselves as Ikce Wicasas (“Free people”) and Dakota Oyate (“Dakota people”)[3]

2. EPA’s original document spelling out their Clean Power Plan:  http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-06/documents/20140602ria-clean-power-plan.pdf

3. “The Burden of Children’s Asthma: What Asthma Costs Nationally, Locally, and Personally” From pediatricasthma.org, downloaded  from http://www.pediatricasthma.org/about/asthma_burden

4. General source: Q&A: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Power Plants | Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, downloaded from http://www.c2es.org/federal/executive/epa/q-a-regulation-greenhouse-gases-existing-power

5. General source: Georgetown Climate Center Summary of the EPA’s Proposed Rule to Limit GHGs downloaded from http://www.georgetownclimate.org/

6. Retired Coal Miner To EPA: ‘We’re Dying, Literally Dying For You To Help Us’ downloaded from http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/31/3465941/health-concern-epa-hearings/

Impoundments Leaking: Breaking News Reinforces Three Major Reports on Fracking

August 7, 2014

Photo: KDKA Channel 2, from CBS Pittsburgh

Finally, possibly feeling some sting from the thrashing given it recently by Pennsylvania’s Auditor General, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) has done a little tiny something.
                                                                                                                                                                                  They have issued one (one!) Notice of Violation to Range Resources, one of the most polluting fracking companies known to Pennsylvania and Texas combined. Apparently, the persistent leaks from Range’s fracking wastewater impoundments became too much for even DEP to continue to overlook.
                                                                                                                                                                                  PA DEP’s response to constant leaks from the open pits DEP itself has approved to hold fracking flowback, is dismally understated. The pits typically contain biocides, carcinogens, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors, toxic levels of salt, and radioactive materials — a combination of toxic materials used in drilling and fracking, and naturally occurring materials from deep underground, such as the intense salt and the Radium 226.
                                                                                                                                                                                   If DEP was to uphold its mission to protect our ecosystem, thereby protecting public health, all open fracking flowback pits lined with plastic would be banned. Closed-loop systems would be required, and a moratorium would be put into place instead of one more impoundment being approved.
                                                                                                                                                                                   But the industry, PA DEP, and the EPA have failed to ban fracking flowback pits. The impoundments leak constantly in Pennsylvania and pose long-term risks even where acute impacts are not immediately observed. Due to this and other failures, the pressure to stop fracking Pennsylvania is again on the rise.

New report: Pennsylvania prioritizes fracking at expense of law, health, environment

Today, Earthworks released their report, Blackout in the Gas Patch, a year in the making, clearly documenting the degree to which Pennsylvania prioritizes fracking at the expense of law, public health, and the environment.
                                                                                                                                                                                  “Blackout in the Gas Patch” follows quickly upon the heels of the Department of Health scandal; the Auditor General’s Report; and the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction). The Compendium, published in July with 15 categories of harm and 300 references, is by far the single most complete catalogue of scientific studies documenting fracking’s harms to date.
                                                                                                                                                                                  As if to underline exactly what these reports are all saying, yesterday the news broke about three leaking fracking waste pits in Pennsylvania. As reported by CBS in Pittsburgh yesterday, “DEP: 3 Range Resources Frackwater Impoundments Are Leaking”

MARIANNA, Pa. (AP) – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued a violation to Range Resources because a fracking wastewater impoundment has leaked, contaminating groundwater and a nearby stream in Washington County.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella says the company plans to close the Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township, but says there’s no evidence the pollution has affected nearby homes.

Matt Pitzarella, repeatedly at the center of disputes himself — for example, the controversy in which he misrepresented his own education — may have forgotten that the New York Times published a devastating account of pollution, with health impacts and many animal deaths, due to a fracking waste pit in Amwell Township. That waste pit has the same name — Yeager — and is on the same road — McAdams — as the one reported yesterday to be leaking, yet Pitzarella went public claiming that there was “no evidence” that the frack pit had affected nearby residents.

Of course, Pitzarella worded his denial, above, in a very certain way. He said there’s no evidence the pollution has “affected nearby homes.” Maybe that means he thinks that no bricks have been harmed. Goats, horses, dogs, got sick, aborted their young, and died — but, homes weren’t affected. Household water turned black — but, the home itself stayed upright. Stacey Haney’s son got sick, neighbors experienced blisters inside their noses, nosebleeds, nausea and more — but still, the actual homes were not affected, right Pitzarella?

The Yeager fracking waste impoundment on McAdams Road. Source: Texas Sharon, “Customize Your Water Data Reporting

The New York Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and other sources do make it harder to hide the evidence Pitzarella says does not exist. Several Washington County, PA families sued Range Resources over contamination from the Yeager shale gas operation, including particularly the waste pit, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May 2012.

An even higher profile story, The Fracturing of Pennsylvania, from the November 20th, 2011 New York Times Sunday Magazine, reported that Stacey Haney, her neighbor Beth Voyles, and their families live in Amwell Township, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, near a Range Resources fracking waste pit:

A month later [after Voyles’s boxer had died after drinking from puddles related to gas drilling], Haney’s dog, Hunter, also died suddenly. Soon after, Voyles called Haney to tell her that her barrel horse, Jody, was dead. Lab results revealed a high level of toxicity in her liver…

Voyles’s boxers began to abort litters of puppies; six were born with cleft palates. They died within hours. Others were born dead or without legs or hair. Unsure what to do, Voyles stored 15 of the puppies in her freezer. (Range Resources says it was never notified about the puppies.) By December, Boots, the grand-champion goat, aborted two babies. Haney had to put her down the day after Christmas.

What was going on with the animals? Where were the toxic chemicals in their blood coming from? Haney feared that the arrival of the gas industry and the drilling that had begun less than 1,000 feet from her home might have something to do with it.

The New York Times piece loops around through long passages describing the generally pro-drilling atmosphere at that time in rural southwestern  Pennsylvania. But then it takes the reader through the process the Haney and Voyles families had to go through to discover the huge Range Resources fracking flowback pit virtually in their backyards. Emphasis added:

About a year before Haney’s dog died, in the summer of 2009, she began to notice that sometimes her water was black and that it seemed to be eating away at her faucets, washing machine, hot-water heater and dishwasher. When she took a shower, the smell was terrible — like rotten eggs and diarrhea. Haney started buying bottled water for drinking and cooking, but she couldn’t afford to do the same for her animals.

Later that summer, her son, Harley, was stricken with mysterious stomach pains and periods of extreme fatigue, which sent him to the emergency room and to Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital a half-dozen times. “He couldn’t lift his head out of my lap,” Haney said. Early in November of the following year, after the animals died, Haney decided to have Harley tested for heavy metals and ethylene glycol. While she waited for the results, Haney called Range Resources and asked that it supply her with drinking water. The company tested her water and found nothing wrong with it. Haney’s father began to haul water to her barn.

A week later, on Haney’s 41st birthday, Harley’s test results came back. Harley had elevated levels of arsenic. Haney called Range Resources again. The company delivered a 5,100-gallon tank of drinking water, called a water buffalo, the next day. “Our policy is if you have a complaint or a concern, we’ll supply you with a water source within 24 hours,” Pitzarella of Range Resources said. He added that the company has “never seen any evidence that anyone in that household has arsenic issues.”

Company policy at Range Resources is clearly: Deny everything (always). Admit nothing (ever).

Although she was able to work 40 hours as a nurse and care for two kids and a small farm, Haney wasn’t feeling great, either. So a few months later, she had herself and Paige tested too. Their tests results showed they had small amounts of heavy metals like arsenic and industrial solvents like benzene and toluene in their blood. Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai said that the results show evidence of exposure, but that it was difficult to determine potential health effects at the levels found. But he added: “These people are exposed to arsenic and benzene, known human carcinogens. There’s considered to be no safe levels of these chemicals.”

…Soon Haney and her kids began to notice that even outdoors it smelled a lot like the shower — a combination of sweet metal, rotten eggs and raw sewage. Talking to neighbors, Haney learned that atop a hill, about 1,500 feet from her home and less than 800 feet from that of her neighbor, Beth Voyles, there was an open, five-acre chemical impoundment filled with chemically treated water.

Haney figured out how to navigate Google Earth on her son’s computer. (She doesn’t own one, nor does she have an e-mail address.) There was her gravel driveway and her house hidden under the canopy of maple trees. And there was the six-football-field-square black pond that dwarfed her neighbor’s silver-roofed house. The grass surrounding the pond looked dead.

The nightmare continued for the Haney and Voyles families. In fact it continued long past the publication of the New York Times piece, until Stacey Haney was forced out of her home altogether — a truly desperate situation for a working nurse and mother with so many animals to care for.

Fracked on McAdams Road

Back to the “Fracturing of Pennsylvania” from the New York Times: note the line, “next door on McAdams Road,” since yesterday’s WTAE reporting on the leaking waste pit operated by Range Resources is identified as being on McAdams Road:

When Voyles told Range Resources she had developed blisters in her nose, it offered to put her up in a hotel, as it does for all nuisance complaints, but she didn’t want to leave her dogs and horses behind. (Range later said that it had no record of the complaint.) Next door on McAdams Road, Haney and her kids began to have intense periods of dizziness and nosebleeds. Of the three, Harley was the worst off. Haney took him to their family physician, Craig Fox, in the nearby town of Washington. Like most local doctors, Dr. Fox had never seen such symptoms before.

Haney says that Dr. Fox’s advice to her was unequivocal: “Get Harley out of that house right away. I don’t want him anywhere near there, even driving by, for 30 days.” So Haney took Harley to a friend’s house in Eighty-Four, a town named for the lumber company. She took her daughter to her parents’ house in Amity. Each day, she spent about four hours in the car shuttling the kids from school, to and from friends’ homes and driving to the farm to feed the animals, which were O.K. some days and vomiting or collapsing on others. Haney found a cousin willing to take her pigs, but she had nowhere to house the other animals, so they remained at the farm. She stayed home for less than an hour at a time, long enough to put a load of laundry into the washer. Every two days, she spent $50 on gas. Their farmhouse stood abandoned…

Haney is no left-leaning environmentalist; she is a self-proclaimed redneck who is proud to trace her roots here back at least 150 years. This is not the kind of fight she usually takes on. “I’m not going to sit back and let them make my kids sick,” she says. “People ask me why I don’t just move out, but where would I go? I can’t afford another mortgage, and if I default on this place, we will lose it. ”

Beth Voyles is equally frustrated. Although the results of her medical tests are inconclusive, she complains of blisters in her nose and throat, headaches and nosebleeds, joint aches, rashes, an inability to concentrate, a metal taste in her mouth. Voyles filed suit against the Department of Environmental Protection in May. Range Resources chose to join the case, because its rights are also at stake. Documents from industry sources and the D.E.P. — now a matter of public record — support the suit’s allegations of a series of structural violations and hazardous incidents surrounding the pond. They include half a dozen tears in the pond’s plastic liner (at least one caused by a deer — its carcass had to be dragged out); at least four cracks in a temporary plastic transfer pipeline leading to an open field; two truck spills, one of which contaminated a cattle pasture; and a leak in an adjacent pond that held drill cuttings. Range admits that after this leak, the level of total dissolved solids, or salts, spiked in the water. Of all these violations, the D.E.P. issued a citation for only the last. The D.E.P. declined to comment, citing the ongoing case.

In mid-July, Voyles’s 25-year-old daughter, Ashley, was riding her paint gelding, Dude, behind the chemical pond. Ashley could hear a hissing and bubbling sound in the stream. There were pools of red foamy oil slick. “It was rainbow water,” Ashley said. The next morning Haney and Voyles called in the alphabet soup of government agencies they’ve contacted over the past year to test the water in the pools: the D.E.P., the E.P.A., the Fish and Boat Commission. They also called Range Resources. Sunday, the D.E.P. spokesman, said that it was most likely decayed vegetation that gave off gas. Later, test results of the area commissioned by Range Resources revealed the presence of acetone, toluene, benzene, phenol, arsenic, barium, heavy metals and methane.

Despite the years of intense suffering and displacement experienced by families such as the Haneys and Voyles, the companies causing those impacts rarely experience any consequence at all. As CBS reported yesterday about the Yeager fracking impoundment in Amwell Township in Washington County, Pennsylvania — the one next to the Haney and Voyles’ homes:

DEP spokesman John Poister says he doesn’t know how large of a fine Range Resources could face because the extent of the pollution is still being investigated.

The DEP is also working with the company on two other impoundments where chloride has leaked into the ground.

Range has been removing polluted soil from one of those, also in Amwell, while the DEP is monitoringanother site in Cecil Township after Range tests found polluted groundwater there last month.

The polluted soil being removed so far has amounted to 11,000 tons of contaminated soil, according to this report from WTAE in Pittsburgh.

Range continues to claim, through spokesman Matt Pitzarella, that no neighboring families on McAdams Road were affected.

And PA DEP appears to be attempting to treat the issue as if salt is the only contaminant in those waste pits.

Where is the truth, and what will Range’s penalty be?

Go ahead. Call PA DEP at 1-866-255-5158 to ask why any open, plastic-lined frack pits exist in PA at all. Ask what portion of Range’s income the fine will be. Exactly what is the price for clean water, clean soil, clean air, animals that live instead of die, and public health? Is a little tiny one-time slap from PA DEP just the price of doing business for Range, which claimed $1.5 billion in revenue for 2012? What will it take to make our water sacred to us again?

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