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Vigil, March, Forum: Uniting Against Bomb Trains, Pilgrim Pipelines and Barges

July 9, 2015

Public Forum Highlights Opposition to Crude Oil Fracking, Transport
March, vigil commemorates 47 killed in oil train explosion; advocates oppose proposed Pilgrim pipelines, unsafe oil trains, and Hudson River barges

Kingston, NYMarchers carried banners reading “Will We Be Next?” to the railroad bridge over Broadway in Kingston early Thursday evening. There, mile-long trains carrying flammable Bakken Shale crude oil pass within a few feet of residents daily. Fifty marchers rang a bell commemorating the 47 people killed when an oil train carrying Bakken crude exploded, incinerating much of Lac Megantic, Canada, in July 2013.

Kingston, New York: Marchers oppose the proposed Pilgrim pipelines as well as the crude oil “bomb trains” because the Bakken Shale oil fracking boom is destroying communities in North Dakota, damaging climate, waterways and health. Marchers commemorated 47 lives lost in Lac Megantic; then 175 people attended a public forum on crude oil by rail, pipeline and barge. Photo: Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman

Following the march, inside Kingston City Hall at a packed public forum, 175 people listened to ten leaders brought home the dangers of increasing crude oil transport through the Hudson Valley. In addition to opposing unsafe oil trains, and aiming to get oil barges off the Hudson River, the speakers and 17 endorsing organizations all oppose the controversial proposed Pilgrim pipelines. Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY organized the forum.

Words of warning came from Kandi Mossett, Indigenous Environmental Network, North Dakota: “New York has wisely banned fracking. It would be equally wise to exercise serious caution on the transport of volatile crude and other fossil fuel infrastructure so the state does not host the next big fracking-related disaster. Take it from us: act now, before your communities become a toxic playground for oil and gas companies.”

“Over 300,000 people’s drinking water is at risk within New York State from crude oil transportation by rail, barges and tankers,” said Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper. “The proposed Pilgrim pipelines would threaten people and the environment across New York and New Jersey and would lock us into decades of additional fossil fuel development. We call on our elected officials and state and federal regulators to reject the dirty of energy of yesterday and join us in supporting the fastest possible transition to renewable energy, which climate change demands.”

Alderman Brad Will, of Kingston Common Council’s 3rd Ward, introduced the successful Resolution Opposing Pilgrim Pipelines in Kingston. He commented, “The proposed Pilgrim Pipelines pose an unnecessary environmental threat, and represent an outdated paradigm of reliance on fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources have enjoyed tremendous increases in capacity over the past decade, and represent our best hope for a cleaner, greener post-fossil fuel future.”

“The exponential increase in freight rail oil, gas, and chemical transportation compels municipalities, rail companies, State and Federal Rail Administration officials to work with communities on comprehensive evacuation and emergency preparedness plans,” Will added. “Railroads that cross through densely populated areas, sensitive waterways, and on old rails, bridges, and trestles, most urgently demand inspections and repairs – and strictly enforced speed limits.”

Chris Amato, staff attorney for Earthjustice, commented, “Within the past two years, the Port of Albany has been transformed into a major crude-by-rail hub handling over 3 billion gallons of crude oil annually. This massive increase is impacting neighboring communities, yet no environmental justice analysis has been done.”

“New York is in the cross hairs of the oil industry .We have become a conduit for fracked oil coming by rail out of North Dakota,” said Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “The oil industry threatens the safety of 25 million Americans living in the blast zone. Kingston sits right in the blast zone along with many other upstate cities. Unsafe rail cars, proposed Pilgrim pipelines, expanded barge traffic, and the possibility of adding tar sands bitumen to this mess is not the future New Yorkers want.”

Sue Rosenberg of Saugerties said, “The Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines joins this Week of Action against crude by rail. Transporting oil fracked in the Bakken Shale puts our communities in great danger. Bakken crude is toxic and volatile. Escalating train derailments, explosions, and pipeline leaks have poisoned waters and harmed public health. From the shale fields of North Dakota to the Port of Albany and through towns and communities along the Hudson, fracked shale oil puts us at risk and contributes to climate change. Our sustainable energy future will not get here fast enough if we keep using extreme fossil fuels like Bakken crude. Keep it in the ground.”

The packed program also included words of welcome from the Mayor of Kingston; a short film about oil trains by oceans expert, author and filmmaker Jon Bowermaster; an update on renewable energy initiatives in the Hudson Valley from Rosendale Town Councilmember Jen Metzger; questions, discussion, and action suggestions.

Background: Pilgrim pipelines would be drilled under the Rondout, Wallkill, Esopus, Ramapo and other New York and New Jersey rivers, putting waterways directly in the path of a major spill. Drinking water aquifers would also be at risk. Air would be impacted by toxic emissions of benzene and other carcinogens from pump stations along the pipelines. In the past five years there have been 1000 spills from oil pipelines in the United States.

Oil trains now threaten the lives of 25 million Americans living within the blast zone. Bakken shale crude oil is the most flammable, volatile oil of any crude oil on the planet. The combination of rickety infrastructure and tin-can rail cars (DOT 111 and 1232) adds to the danger.

Endorsed by:, Esopus Creek Conservancy, Citizen Action Kingston, Midtown Rising, End the New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN), Protecting Our Waters, Citizens for Local Power; Frack Free Catskills, Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines – Saugerties; Riverkeeper; Catskill Mountainkeeper; Concerned Citizens of Esopus; Sierra Club Hudson Valley; Sierra Club Mid Atlantic; Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, Earth Guardians NY.

Background information is available on participating groups’ websites, particularly:
Citizens for Local Power
Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines
Protecting Our Waters

Also see:
Pipelines Blow Up and People Die (Politico)
Pick Your Poison for Crude: Pipeline, Rail, Truck or Boat (Forbes)
Unsafe and Unnecessary: Oil Trains Threaten 25 Million Americans (Ralph Nader on Huffington Post)

Contact: Leah Rae, Staff Writer, Riverkeeper, 914-715-6821
Iris Marie Bloom, Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-New York 845-687-7810,
Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper 845-901-1029,
Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines – Saugerties: Sue Rosenberg 914-466-0954,
New Yorkers Against Fracking: Jess Mullen 917- 500-8923,


Mass. Attorney General Announces Agreement For Great Barrington Solar Project

June 29, 2015

Mass. attorney general announces large scale solar project. Every new commitment to renewable energy reduces fracking and helps our climate. Reducing waste and energy efficiency help even more. Story from WAMC Radio:









TPP Breaking: Trans-Pacific Partnership Fast Track Blocked by People Power!

June 12, 2015

This news blast is written by Jason Kowalski of While hundreds of organizations worked on this issue, including tiny grassroots nonprofits like Protecting Our Waters and even smaller, unfunded grassroots organizations all over the country, we are proud to join in making climate front and central in our opposition to TPP. Stopping Fast Track is a human rights issue, a workers’ rights issue, a fundamental test of our commitment to justice and to protecting all that we love: air, water, health, communities, climate.

So, from Jason:

Here’s a rare bit of good news:

Just minutes ago, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, was dealt a very big blow in Congress. It’s not totally clear what happens next — but the road to fast tracking this massive corporate power grab is now much harder.

The TPP was pushed back today for for one, simple, beautiful reason: people power.

Labor unions, human rights organizations, internet freedom advocates, climate activists, and progressives of all stripes threw their weight behind stopping this deal, and it’s working. We’re starting to be heard.

Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader, made the connection between this deal and climate change too. She publicly bucked enormous pressure, voting against a key component of the deal over concerns about the deal’s impact on climate change.

The coalition that is working together against the TPP looks a lot like the group of folks who marched together during the People’s Climate March last September. There’s a reason for that: the movement for climate justice is starting to build critical bridges to other movements for justice.

Today, that coalition showed that organized people can still beat lots of organized money. Because of thousands of climate activists and 350 local groups across the country who stood up and linked arms with fellow progressives, the TPP is on the ropes.

The TPP is an example of the wealthiest 1% working together against the rest of us — and the set back today is a demonstration of the power we have when the rest of us work together to fight back.

The final results of this fight are still unclear. Key aspects of the deal go up for another vote next week and we will continue to call on you for help. As always, it will be a fight — but I think we have a shot.

100 Rally in Kingston, NY Against Pilgrim Pipelines, For Clean Energy

May 19, 2015

“Ladies and gentlemen, we will put an end to the Pilgrim Pipeline, and we will protect our children’s future forever,” said Ulster County Chief Executive Mike Hein, opening Monday’s Rally for Safe Clean Energy in Kingston, New York, organized by the Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-New York.

Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY in front of Ulster County Courthouse, Kingston NY Rally. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY in front of Ulster County Courthouse, Kingston NY. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

Ulster County Chief Executive Mike Hein speaks at Rally for Clean Safe Energy on May 18th in Kingston. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs.

Ulster County Chief Executive Mike Hein speaks at Rally for Clean Safe Energy on May 18th in Kingston, NY. Iris Marie Bloom center; Kathy Nolan right. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs.

Coalition to Pilgrim: “What part of ‘no’ doesn’t the industry understand?”

Elected officials, activists rally in Kingston, opposing controversial proposed pipelines for crude oil and gasoline transport: “There is no red or blue water.”

Kingston, NY – Ulster County Chief Executive Mike Hein joined lawmakers from Esopus, Plattekill, Rochester, Rosendale, and Saugerties, with a diverse array of clean energy advocates including farmers, physicians, faith-based and civil rights leaders, standing together against Pilgrim, the company planning to build two controversial proposed oil and gasoline pipelines through New York and New Jersey.

The crowd of about 100 people gathered on Monday, May 18th in Kingston before a bold, colorful banner proclaiming, “No Crude Oil Through Our Towns: Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY.” The event celebrated 50 resolutions opposing Pilgrim pipelines, already passed in New York and New Jersey. However, those resolutions are not binding, and are seen as the opening salvo of a long struggle to stop Pilgrim pipelines. “Not one spill, not one drop, Pilgrim pipeline’s got to stop,” the crowd called out.

"Water is Life": signs at Rally for Safe Clean Energy 5/18. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

“Water is Life”: signs at Rally for Safe Clean Energy 5/18. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

The groups also called for an end to oil “bomb trains,” saying the combination of rickety infrastructure and tin-can rail cars is unsafe; and want to see oil barges off river.

Speakers listed harms to the region which they said would occur if Pilgrim pipelines are not stopped. Pilgrim pipelines would be drilled under the Rondout, Wallkill, Esopus, Ramapo and other New York and New Jersey rivers and streams, putting waterways directly in the path of a major spill. Drinking water aquifers would also be at risk. Air would be impacted by toxic emissions of benzene and other carcinogens from pump stations along the pipeline. Pipeline incidents such as leaks, spills, and ruptures happen about 1.7 times a day, according to federal data from PHMSA, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“Pilgrim is misleading our communities when it says that its pipelines would be a safe alternative to move crude oil through NY,” said Jen Metzger, who introduced the first resolution of opposition in New York as a Rosendale Town Councilmember. “First of all, it is a statistical fact that pipelines spill more crude oil per ton mile than any other mode of transport, and government oversight of pipelines in the U.S. is notoriously underfunded and understaffed. Second, even the company does not claim there would be one oil train less if their pipelines were to be built. Pilgrim would only add a triple threat to our towns and watersheds.”

Farmer Creek Iversen of ENJAN speaks out against Pilgrim Pipelines, greed and exploitation. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

Farmer Creek Iversen of ENJAN speaks out against Pilgrim Pipelines, greed and exploitation. Jen Metzger, Councilmember, Town of Rosendale, of Citizens for Local Power, to left. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

Ulster County lawmaker Carl Belfiglio commented, “As a County Legislator, I represent approximately 9500 Esopus residents along with all the towns affected by the pipeline. I’m calling on Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings LLC to cease the planning and development of this crude oil pipeline project in our County. My constituents are concerned that Esopus has barges along the Hudson River filled with Bakken Crude oil as well as miles of trains carrying Bakken crude through our town already. A pipeline would not decrease the shipping and rail transport of this dangerous material.”

Carl Chipman, Supervisor of the Town of Rochester, focused on home rule,  commenting: “Each community has the right under ‘Home Rule’ to determine whether or not to allow a pipeline such as this to run through it, as they must bear the brunt of dealing with the negative impacts caused by pipelines running within their borders. Many communities in our area have determined that the risks incurred by such a pipeline running through its boundaries outweigh any benefits they might receive. Their wishes must be respected.”

Creek Iversen, a sustainable farmer and ENJAN (End the New Jim Crow Action Network) member, said, “The Hudson Valley’s sustainable farmers and Indigenous Peoples’ groups, among the most caring and invested stewards of the land, say “NO” to reckless, short-sighted fossil fuel extraction and transportation, and the dangers it poses to the water, soil, and air upon which we depend. ENJAN sees the root cause as greed and exploitation to benefit a few corporate executives. We now join our efforts to end mass incarceration with the campaign to stop Pilgrim Pipelines.”

“Transporting Bakken Shale crude oil by pipeline puts at risk the health and safety of every individual and community along its path. We should be building wind farms and solar arrays rather than pipelines to transport dangerous carbon-based fuels that should stay in the ground. Saying ‘no’ to this pipeline is an important step in protecting our environment and our families, and weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels,” said Kathleen Nolan, MD, of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

The Kingston event was the tenth in a series of ten events in New Jersey and New Yorkopposing extreme energy and pushing for sustainable, safe clean energy. The May 17th rally against Pilgrim Pipelines’ end point in Linden, New Jersey is covered with abundant photos and quotes here: Opponents Rally in Linden: PHOTOS

18 Endorsing Organizations: CAPP-SNY (Saugerties); Catskill Mountainkeeper; Citizens for Local Power; Concerned Citizens of Esopus; Concerned Citizens of Plattekill; ENJAN (End the New Jim Crow Action Network); Esopus Creek Conservancy; Food and Water Watch; Frack Action; Frack Free Catskills; Hudson Valley Progressives; Mid-Hudson Sierra Club;  New Paltz Climate Action Coalition; New Yorkers Against Fracking; Protecting Our Waters; Riverkeeper. Rochester Defense Against Fracking; The Saugerties Democratic Committee

Sue Rosenberg of Saugerties speaks at rally in Kingston opposing Pilgrim. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

Sue Rosenberg of Saugerties speaks at rally in Kingston opposing Pilgrim. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

Video: Ulster County Chief Executive Mike Hein’s complete remarks are available in a 3 minute video, available on request. Photos of all speakers available. Contact: photographer / videographer Jodiah Jacobs

Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY (CAPP-NY) photo album of this event on facebook

Jodiah Jacobs’ photo album of this event on facebook


Press Contacts: Catskill Mountainkeeper: Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, (845) 417-6489;

Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines — New York:  Iris Marie Bloom (845) 687-7810,

Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines – Saugerties:  Sue Rosenberg (914) 466-0954,

New Yorkers Against Fracking: Jess Mullen (917) 500-8923,


Background information is available on participating groups’ websites, particularly:

Citizens forLocal Power

CoalitionAgainst Pilgrim Pipelines


ProtectingOur Waters

Also see:

Pipelines Blow Up and People Die (Politico)

Pick Your Poison for Crude: Pipeline, Rail, Truck or Boat (Forbes).

L to R, known: Jen Metzger, Iris Marie Bloom, Amy Trompetter, Creek Iversen, Kathy Nolan, Jess Mullen, Joanne Steele. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

L to R, known: Jen Metzger, Iris Marie Bloom, Amy Trompetter, Creek Iversen, Kathy Nolan, Jess Mullen, Joanne Steele. Photo: Jodiah Jacobs

Amtrak disaster in Philly happened feet away from oil train rail cars

May 13, 2015

Breaking: The Amtrak disaster in Philadelphia happened just a few feet away from oil “bomb train” tank cars. Two powerful photographs have just been published showing just how close this came to becoming an even worse disaster.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer: Amtrak crash occurred near tank cars.

And posted by Matt Krogh:
Matt Krogh ‏@MattKrogh 5m5 minutes ago
#Amtrak disaster in Philly happened feet away from #oiltrains tank cars.

Click on links to view photos.

What are we waiting for, bigger and deadlier disasters? Ban the bomb trains. In Philly, the oil by rail plague means rail cars that should be barred immediately, including DOT 111 cars and unsafe 1232s, are just feet from I95, I76, other major highways, Amtrak lines, hospitals, stadiums and more. The risk is completely unacceptable, as these photos show.

The Quakes of Wrath: Fracking Flowback Injection Shakes Oklahoma

April 6, 2015

Bigger earthquakes — caused, scientists say, by the re-injection of 1.1 billion gallons of toxic fracking flowback waste underground annually — are more frequently shaking Oklahoma. State officials appear unable to shake the sleep from their eyes, even as the warnings from scientists become more direct. The state of Oklahoma, despite already having experienced the Dust Bowl, one of the worst man-made environmental disasters of the 20th century, can’t be bothered to fully staff its seismologist’s office, the New York Times reported on Saturday:

The state seismologist’s office, short-staffed, has stopped analyzing data on tremors smaller than magnitude 2.5 — even though a recent study says those quakes flag hidden seismic hazards “that might prove invaluable for avoiding a damaging earthquake.”

The Times put significant research into their major expose, As quakes rattle Oklahoma, fingers point to oil and gas industry, using multiple sources, reputable geologists, and first-hand interviews.

Nobody’s fault? Is that supposed to be a pun?

Jennifer Lin Cooper, profiled in the opening paragraphs of the Times’ story, was shaken from her sleep by a big quake:

A 5.0-magnitude earthquake — the first of three as strong or stronger over several days in November 2011 — had peeled the brick facade from the $117,000 home she bought the year before. Ms. Cooper, 36, could not get out until her father pried a stuck storm door off the front entrance. Repairs have so far cost $12,000 and forced her to take a second job, at night, to pay the bill.

At a packed town hall meeting days later, Ms. Cooper said, state officials called the shocks, including a 5.7 tremor that was Oklahoma’s largest ever, “an act of nature, and it was nobody’s fault.”

Scientists disagree. Lots of them. Study after study, state, federal USGS, and university studies, point the incorruptible scientific finger at the oil and gas industry:

“As long as you keep injecting wastewater along that fault zone, according to my calculations, you’re going to continue to have earthquakes,” said Arthur F. McGarr, the chief of the induced seismicity project at the federal Earthquake Science Center in Menlo Park, Calif., who has researched the Prague quakes. “I’d be a little worried if I lived there. In fact, I’d be very worried.”

At the core of the problem is fracking, the extraction of oil and gas from tight rock layers, particularly shale, using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, which produces millions of gallons of toxic waste per well, compared to thousands of gallons in the old days of vertical, shallow drilling:

From 2010 to 2013, Oklahoma oil production jumped by two-thirds and gas production rose by more than one-sixth, federal figures show. The amount of wastewater buried annually rose one-fifth, to nearly 1.1 billion barrels. And Oklahoma went from three earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater to 109 — and to 585 in 2014, and to 750-plus this year, should the current pace continue.

In the most absurd comment of all, an industry spokesperson warns that Oklahoma will turn back into The Grapes of Wrath times if the fracking industry is curtailed or stopped to prevent damage and deaths from the escalating, intensifying quakes. This turns the meaning of the John Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath, upside down.

Steinbeck’s famous novel chronicles the extreme suffering which resulted from a terrifying man-made disaster. When humans destroyed topsoil on a massive scale due to the wheat boom, that left the soil vulnerable during droughts. It was gathered up into towering, engulfing, death-dealing dust storms for a decade. Watch the Ken Burns special, “The Dust Bowl,” to learn more.

Only after years of intense suffering, failed crops, and exodus did the federal government, and farmers themselves, begin to listen to soil scientists and change their cultivation practices to plant cover crops to prevent the giant storms that had begun burying Oklahoma in sand dunes.

Now Oklahoma’s being buried in something even scarier: toxic, carcinogenic radioactive fracking flowback waste injected near faults.

Listening to the earth, the good earth: it’s something we learned before. Let’s learn it faster this time. Let’s learn it now.

Read the full story: As quakes rattle Oklahoma, fingers point to oil and gas industry.

Climate Victory of the Week: Syracuse Divests

April 1, 2015

Syracuse University Divestment Day. Photo: Divest SU and ESF Facebook page

An 18-day sit-in sure helped: Syracuse University announced on March 31st that it is dropping all fossil fuel stocks from its $1.2 billion endowment. Stanford University promised last year to drop coal stocks from its huge  $21.4 billion endowment. But Syracuse is now widely reported to be the largest endowment to “completely divest” from all fossil fuel stocks.

The students, while jubilant at the victory, nonetheless critiqued the New York Times for being less than completely accurate in reporting on the divestment announcement. From the Syracuse divestment campaign’s Facebook page:

“But the article is wrong about full divestment – Syracuse University put a prohibition on direct investments from fossil fuels, which they had none of in the first place. SU still has substantial investments in fossil fuels through external fund managers.”

Student protesters sit in the lobby of Crouse-Hinds Hall shortly after entering the building on Monday afternoon. The students slept over in Crouse-Hinds on Monday night and plan to stay until at least Thursday.

November 2014: Chancellor Syverud visits students staging Crouse-Hinds sit-in. Photo: Frankie Prijatel, The Daily Orange

In a throwback to anti-apartheid divestment campaign days, the university pats itself on the back without giving credit to the fiercely determined student organizers who actually won the victory. The New York Times reports:

The university’s chancellor, Kent Syverud, said the move was part of Syracuse’s “long record of supporting responsible environmental stewardship and good corporate citizenship.”

Student protesters staged an 18-day sit-in in November over divestment and other issues. Katie McChesney, a campus divestment campaign organizer with the climate action group, said the student action showed that “if you want results, turn up the heat.”

Turning up the heat: That’s what it’s all about. On the same day Syracuse announced its divestment, a major story came out about the huge increase in glacial melt: Massive Glacier Melt and Fresh Water are Pouring into the Gulf of Alaska.

The next day — today, April 1st 2015 — the Guardian Media Group announced it is divesting its 800M pound fund from fossil fuels.

It’s a race against time.

PA DEP denies hearings on Sunoco Logistics Mariner East pipeline pollution

March 24, 2015

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection denies public hearings for Sunoco Pipeline pumping stations despite 452 requests

Residents immediately request that the DEP reconsider the decision

                                                                                                                                                                                                    For Immediate Release: March 24th, 2015

Betsy Conover, Londonderry Township resident, 505-470-0169;
Phillip Stober, Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County, 917-854-8200
Pam Bishop, Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County, 717-574-6453
Sam Koplinka-Loehr, Clean Air Council, 215-567-4004 x115;
Karen Feridun, Berks Gas Truth, 610-678-7726;
                                                                                                                                                                                                        The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) denied three public hearings for the Sunoco Logistics Mariner East 1 pipeline pumping stations last week despite over 450 requests for each station. The pumping stations—proposed for Shirley, Toboyne, and Londonderry townships—are three of eighteen stations that would be required in order to pump natural gas liquids through the Mariner East 1 pipeline across the state. Already, residents from the three townships have requested that DEP reconsider the decision and listen to the voices of impacted communities.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        In a letter sent on March 9th, DEP Permitting Section Chief Tom Hanlon stated, “DEP has concluded that there is not sufficient local interest in any of the three applications to merit holding public hearings.” This is contrary to residents’ own documentation of tremendous local interest in the issue. Area residents also reported that DEP failed to adequately inform them about the public comment period for the pumping stations.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        “I was present for Sunoco Logistics ‘Open House’ on the Mariner Pipeline projects. The firehall packed in a full crowd. I have yet to see such participation and engagement on a local issue,” said Betsy Conover, a resident of Londonderry Township. “The Middletown Press and Journal featured a lengthy front page article on the meeting highlighting local opposition from the surrounding area. I find it difficult to believe there was ‘insufficient interest’ unless explained by DEP’s complete failure to notify Londonderry Township residents about the comment period for the operating permit.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                        According to the Clean Air Council, 452 people requested a public hearing for each of the proposed operating permits through the Council’s online system, including many residents from affected communities. In the case of Londonderry Township, 16 residents from the area directly surrounding the proposed facility requested a public hearing through the Clean Air Council’s online system. It is possible that other people may have also requested a public hearing independently of the Council.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        “DEP still has the opportunity to reverse their decision and listen to impacted communities,” said Sam Koplinka-Loehr, shale gas organizer with the Clean Air Council. “By allowing a public hearing for the pumping station in West Cornwall Township last month and now denying public hearings for these three other stations, DEP is essentially saying that they only care what some communities have to say about this project. These pumping stations, and the Mariner East 1 pipeline project as a whole, will have tremendous impacts on residents of nearby communities. All that people want is a chance to be heard.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Concerned residents in Shirley, Toboyne, and Londonderry townships can contact the Department of Environmental Protection Air Quality Bureau directly to request that DEP reconsider its decision. The office is open during the week from 9 AM to 4 PM, and available by phone at 717-705-4702.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Kim Van Fleet is a resident of Lower Frankford township in Cumberland County, and helped to start Cumberland and Perry Pipeline Awareness. “It shouldn’t matter whether it is 4-5, 45, 450, or 4500 individuals who are requesting public hearings on the proposed pumping stations. Each and every person is important and should be given the opportunity to be heard,” said Van Fleet. “To deny any Pennsylvania citizen ‘due process’ while Sunoco Logistics continues to railroad their pipeline projects through the state with a blatant disregard for human health and safety is unconscionable at every level of the private and public sectors.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                        “DEP should honor the 452 public hearing requests for the proposed pumping stations in Shirley, Toboyne, and Londonderry townships. The Mariner East pipeline project will pass through the entire southern portion of the state through many communities, the unluckier of these will be subjected to the additional burden of a pumping station. DEP must improve upon its policies for public hearings to ensure that all affected communities are given an opportunity to comment regardless of man-made borders that divide them,” said Stephanie Novak with the Mountain Watershed Association.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        “DEP is supposed to protect the environment we live in,” said Shannon Watson of Hershey in Conewago township. “They are supposed to be on the side of the environment and the public. So why is DEP opposed to holding public hearings? I’m very concerned about a 24/7 Flare Stack being built near my house as well as the pipeline!”
                                                                                                                                                                                                        “The DEP needs to make clear its definition of ‘sufficient local interest’. What number of requests for a public hearing suffices? How does the DEP define local? Is it some number of miles? Since all fossil fuel projects contribute to climate change, doesn’t that make every pipeline project everyone’s problem? What level of interest do people need to express? Is it adequate to sign a petition or is the DEP looking for handwritten letters? This is just the latest in a long line of rejected requests by an agency which fails to understand that its mission is to serve the public it prefers to ignore,” said Karen Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        “DEP should hold public hearings in Dauphin, Perry and Huntingdon counties on the proposed air permits for Sunoco’s pump stations and flare stacks along the Mariner East Pipeline, just as DEP granted for the proposed air permit for the Cornwall pump station and flare stack in Lebanon County,” said Pam Bishop with Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County. “We live in a ‘nonattainment area’ where air emissions already exceed national air standards. The health and safety of citizens in Central Pennsylvania are at stake. They have a right to be heard. DEP should take the time to listen.”


Simply the Sun: Save Philly from Dirty Shale Energy Hub

March 13, 2015

Installing solar panels in Germantown: Anil of Sumintra, a local sustainable energy company, should be invited to testify today at City Council. Instead, City Council is in the process of embracing dirty shale energy. Photo: JJTiziou

Although Philadelphia City Council just yesterday unanimously passed a Resolution pressing the feds to ban the puncture-prone, dangerous tank cars carrying volatile Bakken Shale crude oil, today City Council is doing something entirely different.

They’re holding a hearing from 10 AM to 2 PM designed to promote, design and build public-private partnerships in order to transform Philadelphia from the “Next Great Green City” into a “Dirty Shale Energy Hub” instead.

The language they use sounds innocuous. “Energy Hub”: that could mean energy efficiency: deep energy retrofits, insulation up to R60 for severe winter weather, double and triple-pane windows, excellent public transportation infrastructure, and increased investment in sustainable agriculture, since the way we currently produce food involves irrational, poisonous large-scale use of petrochemicals. It could mean shiny solar panels, large-scale wind investment, and small-scale wind turbines that look solid (to birds) so they don’t kill birds.

Except it doesn’t mean any of that. Philadelphia City Council’s “Special Committee on Energy Opportunities” plans to expand PGW’s use of Marcellus Shale fracked gas, including dangerous LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) infrastructure and production. The plan includes building an insane 42″ fracked gas pipeline which would go under the Delaware River.

The plan includes attracting dirty, polluting industries like plastics and chemicals manufacturers to use the cheap Marcellus Shale gas. It’s cheap because it’s almost completely unregulated in the shalefields, from vertical drilling to fracturing and “completion” to waste dumping and spreading waste on the roads, to compressor stations and pipelines, which in case you haven’t noticed keep exploding like the brand-new fracked gas liquids pipeline did in West Virginia in January 2015.

The Philly plan includes more dangerous oil trains, which Philadelphia Energy Suicide (PES), the refinery which keeps flaring and sending toxic smoke and emissions into Philadelphia neighborhoods, relies upon to enact CEO Phil Rinaldi’s vision of expansion and everlasting profits.

So, is Philadelphia City Council getting credit for doing the right thing one day only to race in the exact wrong direction the next day? You bet they are! From Philadelphia Weekly Press:

The Special Committee of City Council on Energy Opportunities for Philadelphia has announced its inaugural hearing agenda for Friday, March 13, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The Special Committee will hear testimony on the viability of public-private partnerships (P3s) in Philadelphia, opportunities for expanding the role of the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) in Philadelphia’s energy future, best practices and proposals for energy-related P3s, and possible legislative frameworks for future P3 proposals.

The Special Committee is co-chaired by Councilman Bobby Henon (6th District; chair, Committee on Public Property and Public Works) and Councilwoman Marian Tasco (9th District; chair, Philadelphia Gas Commission), and includes Councilman Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District; chair, Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities), Councilman At-Large Ed Neilson (chair, Committee on Labor and Civil Service) and Councilman At-Large David Oh (chair, Committee on Global Opportunities and the Creative/Innovative Economy).
                                                                                                                                                                                     The order of witnesses expected to testify is as follows: Craig White, CEO, PGW; Scott Rubin, Esq., public utilities consultant; Philip Rinaldi, CEO, Philadelphia Energy Solutions; Boris Brevnov, Managing Member, Liberty Energy Trust; John Henry, CEO, Chariot Companies; Franc James, CEO, Penn America Energy LP; The Honorable Ed Pawlowski, Mayor, City of Allentown. Members of the public wishing to testify may email or call 215-686-2070.

Show up, of course, if you can: run over at lunch to City Hall (bring your photo ID!); witness, testify, and protest with small paper signs with messages like “No Dirty Shale Energy Hub” and “Clean Energy Efficiency Hub, Don’t Frack Philly!” and “Sustainability Now: Climate Change is Here” and “NO to Philadelphia Energy Suicide.”

More importantly, pepper Philadelphia City Council members with phone calls, today and over the next few weeks, with that same message. Call the Council President, Darrell Clarke; the Councilmembers involved in this hearing — Henon, Tasco, Johnson, Neilson, and Oh — as well as the at-large Councilmembers and your own Council representative.

Not from Philly? Call anyway! Philadelphia Energy Suicide (PES) is already the largest consumer of Bakken Shale oil. The fracking, flaring and transportation of Bakken Shale oil has already killed well over 50 people, in Lac Megantic and in the shalefields. It will kill many more both in the short term and in the long term.

So when you make your calls today and over the next few weeks, call for:

* A complete moratorium on oil “bomb trains” rather than an expanded role for PES. Invest in renewables instead!

* A complete moratorium on Phil Rinaldi’s testimony at City Council hearings. Bring in Anil from Sumintra instead!

* No 42″ fracked gas pipeline under the Delaware River. No expansion for PGW. Invest in energy efficiency instead!

* Environmental justice instead of environmental racism. No increase in asthma and COPD from new plastics, chemicals and other dirty manufacturers in the Philadelphia region. Invest in sustainable agriculture and public transit instead!

For inspiration, look at what’s going right in Philly! Read “Simply the Sun,” the beautiful, fact-filled photo-essay by renowned photographer JJ Tiziou. Here’s an excerpt from his photo captions:

This shot of Anil “uses the most unique lightsource available to photographers: a giant spherical fusion reactor in the sky. In other words, the sun.” Photo: JJ Tiziou.

“Since the panels that Anil installs kick out so much power, they can not only power the home, but also send excess energy into the utility grid.”

“Anil runs a local sustainable energy business called Sumintra. With a little bit of know-how and some technology that is becoming more and more affordable.”

“That very blast of sunlight that’s overexposing the left side of this image is the same one that could power your home. For free.”

“The panels used are modular, so you can build an array that suits your space.”

What Philadelphia does is not just about Philly. It’s about death and life in the shalefields; it’s about the extreme flooding in our near future if we don’t turn around our greenhouse gas emissions right now; it’s about our democracy.

What Philadelphia decides in the coming weeks and months — to embrace wholeheartedly the expanded profits in polluting industries to massively expand the “market” for fracked gas and oil, or to turn towards sustainability wholeheartedly — impacts the region, the nation, and the globe. Remember we must keep 4/5ths of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid going beyond 2 degrees of global warming, triggering the type of climate change which would render the planet mostly uninhabitable, according to scientists.

Philadelphia City Council Adopts Resolution on Dangerous Oil Trains

March 12, 2015

Calls for substandard tank cars to be prohibited, highest safety standards for new tank cars, public disclosure of train traffic and emergency response community forums

Philadelphia, PA – Today Philadelphia City Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for action by the federal government, rail companies and Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management to address threats posed by the train transport of Bakken crude oil through Philadelphia.

The resolution calls for substandard DOT111s and other presently used tank cars that carry Bakken crude to be stopped and urges the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to issue specifications for tank cars that meet the highest safety standards for crude by rail. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced the resolution that was fully supported by the Council today.

The resolution also calls for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to publicly disclose train schedule and route information and for the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to share with the public the emergency response plans specific to oil train derailments at community workshops.  Testimony at City Council today was made that hundreds of thousands of people are within the evacuation zone of the train route in Philadelphia and that people don’t know anything about the threat and need to know what to do should there be an accident.  The resolution calls for OEM to work pro-actively to update the City’s emergency response plans.

“City Council has taken a stand to protect Philadelphians from these dirty and dangerous oil trains. We look to the companies that are profiting from this enormous and rapidly expanding oil transport to take their cue from City Council and voluntarily stop using DOT111s and CPC1232s for the sake of the people who live and work here.  Philadelphia Energy Solutions (the refinery, PES) and CSX must recognize the profits they make are not worth endangering public safety, our water supplies, and the City’s economic well-being. A derailment catastrophe can be avoided here but not while these explosive oil trains roll through Philadelphia,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“We hope OEM starts to take crude by rail more seriously by engaging the public and showing transparency and for the federal government to pass strong tank car regulations when the Department of Transportation releases its final rule in May. Public safety and the environment have been sacrificed by industry and the federal government for economics and the expediency of delivering crude by rail, for too long,” said Brooks Mountcastle, Eastern PA Director for Clean Water Action.

Testimony by several residents and organizations pointed out that two to three oil trains of 100 cars or more, each carrying about three million gallons of highly volatile and flammable domestic crude oil, course through the City every day in tank cars deemed unsafe by federal agencies.  The tank cars that are used – DOT111s and CPC 1232s – are prone to puncture, explode, and catch fire when derailed, even at very low speeds (DOT 111s puncture at speeds in excess of 8 mph).

Speakers pointed out that most of the oil trains go to the PES refinery in South Philadelphia, which is expanding its operations, meaning more oil train traffic. Today PES is the largest single customer of Bakken crude in the nation, operates the largest oil train rail yard in the U.S., and is the largest oil refinery on the Eastern Seaboard.

Several speakers referenced the four fiery oil train derailments that occurred in just the last month in the U.S. and Canada, heightening fears along the oil train routes. Oil train derailments have sharply risen since Bakken crude oil began to be fracked in North Dakota in the last two years. The Associated Press reported that a USDOT report predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of ten times per year over the next two decades, killing hundreds of people and racking up damages exceeding $4 billion nationwide.

Speakers reminded City Council members that Philadelphia had two near disasters when CSX train cars derailed on January 20, 2014 and January 31, 2015 in the City. Some stated it was just a matter of time before a disaster occurs here unless something is done. There are hundreds of thousands of people within the blast zone of the train tracks in Philadelphia.

Councilman Johnson was thanked repeatedly by speakers for his leadership and City Council members were recognized for standing up for public safety.  Speakers said they see this as a crucial first step in addressing the enormous risks and pollution that crude by rail brings to the City and the look forward to working with the City to put public safety and the environment first.


Contacts:  Tracy Carluccio, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, 215-369-1188 x 104

Brooks Mountcastle, Clean Water Action, 215-545-0250 x 203