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Roundup: Bans in France, NJ; Misdeeds by Gas Industry, Massey

July 3, 2011

The news, from Fracksylvania to France, New Jersey, New York, and Washington could hardly be more dramatic this week.  Protecting Our Waters wants to make sure you didn’t miss much!

French senators voted to outlaw hydraulic fracturing, making France the first country to pass a law banning the technique for extracting natural gas and oil. Energy companies that plan to use fracking to produce oil and gas in France will have their permits revoked and its use could lead to fines and prison.

In a move to protect the Delaware River Basin, The New Jersey Senate voted 33 to 1 to ban fracking.  POW allies including Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Food and Water Watch, and Sierra Club did great organizing work on this.

The powerhouse “Drilling Down” New York Times series exposed the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is supposed to provide independent analysis but has been echoing unrealistically rosy industry predictions.  A typical quote, dug up by stellar investigative reporter Ian Urbina:  “A senior petroleum geologist who works for the EIA wrote that upper management…. used “incomplete/selective and all too often unreal data,” much of which comes from industry news releases.”

After New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation released guidelines designed to open the majority of New York State, setting aside the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, to high-volume horizontal hydrofracking, Catskill Mountainkeeper called for a statewide ban.

On Monday, eight lawmakers from gas-producing states wrote a letter to President Obama asking that he promote natural gas development “by any means necessary.”

On Tuesday, four federal lawmakers called on several agencies to investigate the natural gas industries’ claims about the profitability and productiveness of their wells. Congressional Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D. NY), Edward Markey (D, MA), Carolyn Maloney (D, NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D, NY) are calling on the S.E.C. to investigate industry reps’ accusations of illegality in providing inflated estimations on gas producing potential from wells, and are asking the S.E.C. to stop allowing gas drilling companies to avoid third-party audits.

On Friday, Protecting Our Waters and a coalition of statewide, regional and national allies launched shalegasoutrage.org, urging broad participation in Philadelphia this Sept. 7th & 8th: freedom from fracking rally, interfaith blessing of the waters, concert, and conference.

Finally, as we prepare to confront an industry which amassed over 1,200 environmental violations last year alone in Pennsylvania; countless instances of methane migration, and increasing complaints of illness in “shale country” among those directly impacted by contaminated water and air — the news about another extraction company, Massey Energy, startled even seasoned observers:

Massey Energy, the owner of the mine where 29 workers were killed in an explosion last April, systematically deleted required information about hazardous conditions from official records, skillfully reported by Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. While Massey was well known for safety violations and corruption, the news that they intentionally hid legally required safety information shows their murderous negligence to be criminal.

By the way, what were Massey’s lawyers doing the week before the explosion that killed 29 human beings?  Unbelievably, they actually found time to intimidate the publisher of the University City Review / Weekly Press, in which I had written an article mentioning that Massey CEO Don Blankenship had bribed a judge.  They were right; I was wrong; Massey had bought the judge, not bribed the judge.  The overall focus of the article was on Massey’s role in mountaintop removal and on Earth Quaker Action Team’s work to stop PNC bank financing of mountaintop removal.  But the fact that Massey lawyers  found the time to intimidate a small, free neighborhood paper which actually understated the scale of their corruption — the very week before the company whose reputation they were defending killed 29 workers; and even as their company cooked its books to hide evidence of grave hazards from investigators  — gave me a direct lesson in the degree to which PR spin outweighs life and death concerns for profit-crazy fossil fuel extraction industries.

So who’s got the last word this week?  Phil Smith of the United Mineworkers of America.  His quote is from Kate Sheppard’s piece in Mother Jones article.  He’s referring to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) — but the implications are broader:

“Phil Smith, the spokesman for the United Mineworkers of America, expressed hope that the MSHA can do more with its existing authority—”certainly more than they are doing now.” He’s not optimistic that the MHSA’s regulatory authority will be bolstered during the current Congress, in which Republicans have harped on the “job-killing” effects of government intervention. “We’re stuck between ‘Is it job-killing?’ or ‘Are we going to let companies go on people-killing?'” he said.

One Comment
  1. Marguerite permalink
    July 3, 2011 8:27 am

    Checkout today’s HuffPost on Exxon pipeline breech under Yellowstone River in MT leaking 1,000+ barrels of oil in a river at peak flow/fllod stage with more snowmelt coming. And the Marcellus industry (and our regulators?) is quite confident of going under the Susquehanna with a gas pipeline!

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