Protecting Our Waters, along with allies from across the region, have been organizing a fight for a statewide moratorium on fracking.
Now, the time to take action is upon us!
Please join us in Harrisburg next Tuesday as our coalition, with strong leadership from PennEnvironment, holds a press conference at 12:30. At 1, we’ll deliver over 100,000 petitions for a statewide moratorium.
Where: State Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
When: Tuesday April 30th: 12:30 Press Conference; 1 PM Petition Delivery
Who: PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center * Berks Gas Truth * Clean Water Action * Credo * Delaware Riverkeeper Network * Democracy For America * Environmental Action * Food And Water Watch * Keystone Progress * Mountain Watershed Association * Protecting Our Waters * 350.org
Iris Marie Bloom, of Protecting Our Waters, shares her account of why this moratorium is so timely and so necessary:
As Pennsylvania communities are fractured, residents and workers are suffering both the health impacts and the quality of life impacts which make life unbearable for many in shale country. The drilling and fracking is terrible, causing methane migration and a “roulette” in which some water is contaminated, some not; it kills animals through spills, illegal dumping, access to toxic frack waste ponds; it causes erosion, fish kills, and more. But the infrastructure — flares, waste pits, compressor stations, separators, dehydrators and many other toxic fume-emitting components of shale gas development — is even more overwhelming.
Economists find that dairy production is going down in shale country. Yesterday I met yet another farmer from Bradford County, PA who has relocated out of state because fracking surrounds her farm. Workers are getting skin lesions and going to the emergency room for little-understood illnesses; residents are being forced out of their homes at times with respiratory distress, nosebleeds, scorched throats from flaring, and other impacts. IT’S TIME TO CALL A HALT! - Iris Marie Bloom, Protecting Our Waters
We hope to see you there!
Earth Day, oddly, has never been a huge deal for me. I’m just a little too young to really remember its remarkable debut in 1970, when one American in 10 went out in the streets to demand action on clean air and water. That unprecedented activism laid the groundwork for the swift passage of legislation, and the almost-as-swift rehabilitation of lakes and rivers. But in the years after, many Earth Day celebrations drifted in a slightly more corporate direction; there wasn’t anything wrong with them, but they didn’t seem to be helping arrest environmentalism’s slide into relative impotence.
This year, however, the holiday really resonates, because there are two heroes reminding us of the sacrifices they’ve made to move the fight forward, and the way the rest of us need to step up our game.
One is Tim DeChristopher, who will be out of federal custody today after serving 18 months for an inspired act of civil disobedience. He participated in an auction for federal leases to drill for gas and oil even though he … wasn’t a rich oilman. The federal government was unamused—instead of charging him as an activist who’d pulled off a creative stunt, they treated him as a financial criminal whose intent had been to defraud. (This was the same Department of Justice that didn’t manage to find anyone to prosecute for bringing down our financial system with their greed.) And so he’s given up a year and a half of his life.
I got to visit Tim when he was in federal prison in the California desert, and then again when he was in a halfway house in Salt Lake City. I know he’s going to be fine — I know he’s going to be more than fine, since he is already signed up to start at Harvard Divinity School come fall. I also know his story is going to inspire many to join in withPeaceful Uprising, the group he helped found. A documentary about his fight, Bidder 70, is showing all over the country on Monday night.Find a local screening (and watch a trailer for the movie below).
As Tim got out of custody,Sandra Steingraber went in. She’s been a great leader of the fight in New York state to keep the frackers at bay. A scientist by training but a great leader by force of will, she has spearheaded the so-far successful battle to keep Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) from letting the oil and gas companies do to the Empire State what they’re doing to the Keystone State just across the border to the south.
Steingraber sat down in a driveway to block access to a storage site for fracked gas, then refused to pay $375 in bail, so she’s spending 15 days in jail. She wrote to me just before she went in, with, characteristically, a list of the tasks she hoped to accomplish while behind bars, mostly writing projects that will spread her penetrating analysis yet further afield.
Hours before the jail door closed, she sat for an interview with Bill Moyers (watch a clip below). Her resolution and the great power of her love shine through every minute. They also shine through Facebook posts she’s been able to smuggle out of prison; read parts one and two of her Letter from Chemung County Jail.
It’s no accident that the emerging fossil fuel resistance has sent so many people to jail in the last few years. That’s because the overwhelming wealth of the fossil fuel industry means we can’t outspend them; we need other currencies with which to work. Passion, spirit, creativity. And sometimes we have to spend our bodies.
Others of us will have the chance soon to emulate the witness and courage of Tim DeChristopher and Sandra Steingraber. For us, today, it’s enough just to thank them for their gifts to the future.
Earth Day Actions Confront PA DEP Statewide: Demand Moratorium, Shale Justice, No More Toxic Secrets
Calling on PA DEP to Return to its Mission:
Today, Monday April 22nd, Six Demonstrations across Pennsylvania stretch from 11 AM – 5 PM:
Please join us on Earth Day as we call on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to fulfill its mission to “protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment” and to “work as partners with individuals, organizations, governments and businesses to prevent pollution and restore our natural resources.”
Join with us as we gather at DEP’s regional offices in Harrisburg, Norristown, Meadville, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport to demand:
• Appoint an environmental expert without industry ties as DEP Secretary to ensure DEP’s mission is fulfilled;
• Place a moratorium on permits for gas wells, compressor stations, pipelines, water withdrawals, coal mines, and other infrastructure related to fossil fuel extraction;
• Allow no more toxic secrets and full disclosure of water tests and other studies by DEP;
• Provide justice for those harmed by the oil and gas industry; and
• Reopen the DEP Office of Energy and Technology Deployment to develop solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies.
Protect Pennsylvania: Details of Each Event
Southwest: (Pittsburgh) Mel Packer: email@example.com and Patrick Young: 412 298 6361 firstname.lastname@example.org
2 – 5 PM: Washington’s Landing, Herr’s Island, in the middle of the Allegheny River; includes walking track and kayaks / small craft circling island. PA DEP Southwest Regional Office: 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Note: 2 pm March starts at 2 pm in the North Shore Trail Parking Lot closest to the Walking Bridge and a river march by boat across the Allegheny River.
Northwest: (Meadville) Diane Sipe: email@example.com and Michael Bagdes-Canning: firstname.lastname@example.org
STARTS 11 AM at Diamond Park: 902 Main Street, Meadville, PA 16335. Gather, rally before march to DEP.
11:30 AM – 1 PM: Protest: PA DEP Northwest Regional Office: 230 Chestnut Street, Meadville, PA 16335
12 noon – 2 pm: PA DEP Northeast Regional Office: 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711
North Central: (Williamsport) Russell Zerbo: 215-567-4004 x130 email@example.com and Deirdre Lally: firstname.lastname@example.org
12 noon: PA DEP North Central Regional Office: 208 West Third Street, Suite 101, Williamsport, PA 17701-6448
Southeast: (Norristown) Chris Robinson: 215-843-4256 email@example.com
3 – 5 PM: PA DEP Southeast Regional Office: 2 East Main Street, Norristown, PA 19401
12 noon – 2 pm DEP South Central Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110.
Schuyler County protesters get 15 days in jail
Members of ‘Seneca Lake 12′ blocked Inergy entrance
Sandra Steingraber, Michael Dineen, and Melissa Chipman were jailed last night, choosing to act in classic civil disobedience fashion and embody their resistance and its consequences in full. The civil disobedients, along with nine others, blocked the entrance to a shale gas storage facility in Watkins Glen, New York, to protect the health and environment of their community. We reported on that protest here as it unfolded on March 18th, 2013. Last night the Star Gazette reported:
READING — Three members of a group called the “Seneca Lake 12” pleaded guilty to trespassing and were sentenced to 15 days in jail Wednesday night by Reading Town Justice Raymond H. Berry after they refused to pay $375 in fines.
Sandra Steingraber, 53, of Trumansburg; Michael Dineen, 64, of Ovid, and Melissa Chipman, 55, of Hector were immediately taken into custody and transported to Schuyler County Jail.
The trio was arrested with nine others March 18 and charged with trespassing after they blocked the entrance to an Inergy natural gas facility on state Route 14 in Reading.
Of those other nine, five — KC Alvey, Dennis Fox, Jack Ossont, Crow Marley, and Katya Anderson — already paid $375 each in fines. A law student, Mahats Miller, had his case postponed.
On May 1, the remaining three — Jim Bora, Spike Jones and Margie Rodgers — are scheduled to appear in court.
The 12, along with another dozen people, blocked the gates to protest Inergy’s plan to store natural gas and propane in salt caverns under Seneca Lake and what they see as the company’s plan to turn the region into a transportation hub for natural gas and propane shipments.
The three read prepared statements at sentencing.
“I’d rather have bread and water now than no bread and toxic water later as a result of this flawed Inergy project,” Chipman said.
Steingraber said Inergy’s project would be “toxic trespassing” because of contamination and dangers of explosion from the storage of the propane and natural gas.
Prior to their court appearance, Steingraber, Dineen and Chipman spoke at a Watkins Glen rally attended by about 125 sign-waving, clapping supporters, many of whom filled the Reading courtroom.
See the Star Gazette story here.
Fracking activists in California have just won their first victory in the courts! This past Sunday, U.S. Magistrate Paul Grewal with the US District Court in San Jose, ruled that the Bureau of Land Management had broken the law in 2011 when they leased land in Fresno and Monterey counties to the oil and gas industry without considering the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
The 2011 lease sale provoked an outcry from local landowners, environmentalists and Monterey County officials, who feared it could represent the start of a fracking boom. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club sued the bureau, arguing that the federal agency had not performed the kind of in-depth environmental analysis required by law. – Center for Biological Diversity’s Press Release.
Brendan Cummings, the senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity commented on the importance of this precedent-setting victory.
This important decision recognizes that fracking poses new, unique risks to California’s air, water and wildlife that government agencies can’t ignore…This is a watershed moment — the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the monumental dangers of fracking. – Brendan Cummings, Center for Biodiversity
The Monterey Shale has recently been targeted by the industry as it has been said to contain two-thirds of the U.S.’s shale oil reserves, or 15 billion barrels of oil. In an article for IndyBay, Dan Bacher discusses the current trend of fracking in California:
The controversial technique is already being used in hundreds — perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells,” according to a joint statement from the two groups. “Oil companies are aggressively trying to frack the Monterey Shale, which stretches from the northern San Joaquin Valley into Los Angeles County, and west to the coast. Extracting this oil will certainly require more fracking in California -IndyBay
However Cummings has hope that this decision in the courts will serve as a moment of reflection and re-consideration.
In an era of dangerous climate change, the Obama administration should not sell off our public lands to be fracked for fossil fuel development that will only speed up global warming,” added Cummings. “We hope this court ruling acts as a wake-up call that steers the federal government away from sacrificing California’s public lands for dangerous oil development.
Phelim McAleer, the new darling of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and of the shale gas industry more generally, is the perfect master of spin. Specializing in personal invective delivered with such a charming Irish accent that some audiences are apparently taken in rather than being repelled by his viciousness, McAleer is on tour with his film, “Frack Nation.” Susan Phillips of StateImpact (WHYY/NPR) reviews Frack Nation here: “Dueling Fracking Films Battle for Pennsylvanians’ Hearts and Minds.”
In “Frack Nation,” McAleer works hard to make it appear “as if” it is just one person, Josh Fox, and not all the scientists, engineers, physicians, researchers and impacted people — residents and workers alike — who is galvanizing a large, increasingly well-developed and well-organized movement. His film makes it appear “as if” Dimock is the only place impacted by fracking, and provides a shameless rewriting of the history of impacts in Dimock. In reality, there are hundreds of places badly impacted by fracking and many films of many lengths, not just GASLAND, documenting those impacts. So the “dueling films” is not a duet but a chorus. ”Triple Divide” is another important, well-made film now available on vimeo. “Gas Rush Stories” is a series of short documentaries by Kirsi Jansa (several posted on this blog). ”Fracking Hell: The Untold Story” is a short, professionally produced 18-minute overview; more raw, powerful new interviews are available on the emerging “Fracking Our Future” series.
You wouldn’t learn any of this, or much of anything, from attending “Frack Nation” screenings anywhere, but we recommend you do go. And we recommend you go prepared to ask McAleer a few questions (though he will only let you ask, at most, one; he is an absolute control freak with that microphone, confident of his right to dominate any who disagree).
Q and A? or Performance Art?
During “Q and A” sessions with McAleer, questions of substance are generally not tolerated, nor (if someone manages to ask one) answered. Instead, McAleer changes the subject multiple times in the course of avoiding answering a question such as, “Mr. McAleer, Ireland has a moratorium on fracking, yet here you are promoting shale gas in the U.S. Can you explain why Ireland has a moratorium on fracking?”
While speaking at a Q and A session in Montrose, PA earlier this week, McAleer pretended the Ireland moratorium question had not been asked at all, preferring to make fun over and over of a Dimock resident whose water was contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas drilling… because the Dimock resident wore a baseball cap.
That’s right. A baseball cap, apparently, disqualifies a person from speaking about their own contaminated water, in the twisted world of Phelim McAleer.
Sound stupid? It is. Phelim also talks (and talks and talks) about how interested he is in accuracy, truth, and science. But when a scientific study is actually mentioned by a knowledgeable person in the audience — such as the SUNY Buffalo study that shows that fracking mobilizes uranium which naturally occurs in the shale — then he will not only change the subject at lightning speed, but actually cut off the questioner. In Bryn Mawr, he talked over a questioner, trying to make it look like the questioner was misbehaving for attempting to ask, “Phelim, the actual Marcellus cement casing failure rate in Pennsylvania for 2012 is 8.9% (up from 6.2% in 2010); why don’t you include any real facts or data such as that in your film, which is supposed to be all about accuracy?”
Coincidental Choreography: The Same Question Every Night
Phelim also manages his “performance art” — which is what his Q and A sessions really are — in such a way that coincidentally, towards the close of his performance, a person from the audience asks an identical question each night: “Phelim, what do you think the motivations of people like Craig Sautner and Josh Fox are?” This piece of touching choreography enables Phelim to pontificate in an ugly way and call Craig Sautner a greed-driven liar over and over again, knowing full well that Craig is legally bound not to answer back because the Sautners signed a non-disclosure clause with Cabot Oil and Gas as part of the legal settlement over the water contamination that turned his and his family’s lives upside down for years. Non-disclosure clauses are part of the corporate legal infrastructure that enable the Phelims of the shale gas industry, with its army of PR hacks, to spout lies and libel without consequence.
Asked the same coincidental question each night, Phelim moves on from the Sautners back to Fox again. He rants and raves about Josh Fox being a “true believer,” which somehow turns into painting Josh Fox as “un-American,” which shortly thereafter becomes “anti-American.” Phelim has collapsed in his own mind that most democratic of all roles, the whistle-blower, into its opposite. Apparently, in Phelim’s mind, it is “un-American” and possibly criminal to expose damage and to stand up for clean water, clean air, and a sustainable future. And it is all-American to blame victims, such as Craig and Julie Sautner, whose water first went bad on September 11th, 2008.
While I’d heard people saying that Phelim is a “charlatan,” and that his reputation in Ireland is not that of a journalist but rather that of a “limelight-seeking joke” to those who knew him there, it took first-hand experience to understand just how dangerous this spinmaster actually is. When you go to see Frack Nation, go prepared.
Eight Questions for Phelim McAleer
Scott Cannon, of Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, has written eight questions for people attending Q and A sessions or any kind of talks with Phelim McAleer to ask. We recommend not asking a question he can answer with a yes or no, because that gives him a quick out. Ask him to explain. For example, what is it that he thinks he is debunking regarding earthquakes? Activists have been explaining to the general public for years that re-injection wells cause earthquakes (in Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia) — and geologists clearly agree — which is a major issue. In addition, fracking itself has been documented to produce small man-made seismic events which Oklahoma geologists have measured, Pennsylvania residents have felt, and which are significant enough for the UK to call off fracking after measuring seismic events underground during shale gas exploratory drilling. What exactly is it that he thinks he is debunking, then?
Here are Scott Cannon’s eight questions for Phelim McAleer:
#1 Phelim, you have said that the water in Dimock has always been fine, but that statement is false. Could you please explain why PA DEP issued a Consent Order against Cabot Oil and Gas for Cabot’s contamination of 18 water wells, affecting 19 families, in Dimock? Here is the link to the final Consent Order on the PA DEP website.
You also say the water in Dimock is fine right now, but that statement is also false. There are problems that still aren’t resolved in 2013; read “Dimock Water Problems Continue,” by Tom Wilber.
Phelim, since you claim to value accuracy, truth, and science, what is your comment about PA DEP’s scientific evidence that gas drilling by Cabot Oil and Gas caused the contamination in Dimock? If you choose not to address that evidence, does that prove that you, like Cabot Oil and Gas, live on a planet where the facts don’t matter?
Phelim, you’ve said that “Fracking’s been done safely since 1947, if there were problems, we’d know about it.” (Fox Money TV Show). But the PA DEP’s Abandoned Wells and Orphaned Wells Program states that there are approximately 180,000 orphaned unplugged wells. Of the 8,000 that the PA DEP know about, 550 are considered problem wells. Approximately 129 are prioritized as extremely dangerous and leaking and polluting water and soil. That’s just in Pennsylvania alone.
Phelim, you say there hasn’t been one case of fracking causing groundwater contamination, but you don’t say what does cause most of the groundwater pollution problems, which are spills and methane migration from the drilling process. Could you explain why you omit the truth about shale gas development and its impacts on water?
Among the many reported cases of fracking causing groundwater contamination is this confirmed case of fracking causing ground water contamination in Edmonton, Canada by Caltex Energy Inc., Hydraulic Fracturing Incident,16-27-068-10W6M, on September 22, 2011.
A study of fracking causing groundwater contamination is ongoing in Pavilion Wyoming, where researchers have confirmed that fracking is the only explanation for the presence of fracking contaminants, such as benzene and 2-butoxyethanol, at high levels in the groundwater there.
Phelim, several Dimock residents have come forward claiming that you told them you were making a film to save Ireland from fracking, in order to obtain interviews with them. Is this true?
Phelim, you claim, early in your movie, that Josh Fox had one of your videos removed from YouTube and Vimeo and allege that was because he had something to hide. You failed to mention that you committed copyright infringement by uploading scenes of the HBO owned “Gasland” in your clips. YouTube copyright policy states that YouTube cannot determine what is considered “Fair Use.” It would have to be settled in a court of law. Did you have this settled in a court of law?
Phelim, you say that some water has had enough methane in it to be able to be lit on fire for centuries, (Fox Money TV Show), which is true. But you don’t say the methane migration from the drilling process is confirmed to produce concentrated methane in people’s water wells – at levels which make the water flammable and which create an explosion risk for those people’s homes — where there was no flammable amounts of methane before. Can you explain why you don’t mention this? You seem to accuse Josh Fox of these omission tactics, yet you do them yourself.
Phelim, you make the statement in your film that environmentalists say that “Fracking is completely unregulated.” That statement is false. We don’t say that. We say it is exempt from requirements in the underground injection control (UIC) program of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which is true.
We also point out that flaring, shale gas drilling flowback waste, drill cuttings; air emissions from well pads, separators, dehydrators and compressor stations, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, are vastly underregulated, which is true.
Phelim, Loren Salsman, the resident of Dimock who shows you the Sautner home in your film, shows up in the film Truthland produced by Energy in Depth. He holds a crystal clear glass of water with the star of the film and says “Let’s drink some Dimock water” and they drink. The film doesn’t show the elaborate water filter system it went through provided by Cabot Oil and Gas because they were found guilty of contaminating his well by the DEP. Can you comment on that? Here is the video link.
Your Questions and Observations
Phelim has been at it for a while; for a tidbit from recent history, a pro-Tea Party blog called “ecosense” raves about Phelim’s masterful arguments against slowing down climate change here.
Please feel free to report your experiences with Phelim McAleer, and write your own questions, in our Comments section below this blog post. Thanks.
Ties That Bind: Ernest Moniz, Keystone XL Contractor, American Petroleum Institute and Fracked Gas Exports
Moniz has come under fire for his outspoken support of nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas and the overarching “all-of-the-above” energy policy advocated by both President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent in the last election, Mitt Romney.
Watchdogs have also discovered that Moniz has worked as a long-time corporate consultant for BP. He has also received the “frackademic” label for his time spent at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At his MIT job, Moniz regularly accepted millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry to sponsor studies under the auspices of The MIT Energy Initiative, which has received over $145 million over its seven-year history from the oil and gas industry.
MIT’s “The Future of Natural Gas” report, covered by many mainstream media outlets without any effort to question who bankrolled it, was funded chiefly by the American Clean Skies Foundation, a front group for the shale gas industry’s number two domestic producer, Chesapeake Energy. That report concluded that gas is a “bridge fuel” for a renewable energy future and said that shale gas exports were in the best economic interests of the United States, which should “not erect barriers to natural gas imports and exports.”
As first revealed on DeSmogBlog, Moniz is also on the Board of Directors of ICF International, one of the three corporate consulting firms tasked to perform the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) for TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. KXL is slated to bring tar sands – also known as “diluted bitumen,” or “dilbit” – from Alberta to Port Arthur, TX, where it will be sold to the highest bidder on the global export market.
Moniz earned over $300,000 in financial compensation in his two years sitting on the Board at ICF, plus whatever money his 10,000+ shares of ICF stock have earned him.
Moniz’s American Petroleum Institute Ties to Shale Gas Export Advocacy
Another controversial oil and gas industry export plan exists for fracking.
In this arena, the DOE – via the consulting firm National Economic Research Associates (NERA), a firm with historical ties to Big Tobacco – said exports of the U.S. shale gas bounty (LNG exports) were in the best economic interests of the U.S. in its long-awaited Dec. 2012 report.
In a Feb. 2013 follow-up report the American Petroleum Institute (API) sang the same tune, agreeing with the NERA assessment. In actuality, that report was not even done by API itself, but instead was outsourced to ICF International.
If he receives congressional confirmation, this means Moniz will jump ship from his ICF Board of Directors position and have the final say over DOE LNG export decisions.
While heading the MIT Energy Initiative, Moniz also worked alongside John Deutch.
Deutch headed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under President Bill Clinton and now serves as head of the Board of Directors of Cheniere Energy, a corporation that owns many proposed LNG export terminals along the Gulf coast.
Cheniere was the first corporation to sign a deal to export gas from its Sabine Pass terminal and it recently filed a request to the DOE to expand that terminal’s holding capacity. He also headed the DOE fracking subcommittee convened by President Obama in May 2011, which consisted entirely of oil and gas industry insiders.
Further, the Vice President of ICF International is Karl Hausker, the husband of Kathleen “Katie” McGinty, one of the members of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel and also a member of the DOE fracking subcommittee. She recently threw her name into the ring as a Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate for the 2014 election in Pennsylvania.
On top of her public sector appointments, McGinty is also an Operating Partner alongside former PA Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell at Element Partners, a Philadelphia, PA-based firm that has capital investments in several firms operating in the Marcellus Shale. McGinty also serves on the Board of Directors of NRG Energy, an electric utility that owns natural gas-fired power plants (and coal and nuclear ones, too – aka “all of the above”) throughout the U.S.