Monday, November 23, 2015

Blockadia Gets Real! The AIM pipeline sparks multi-state resistance

Blockadia Gets Real! 

Sooner, or later, it will come to this. FERC, the EPA, DEP, DOE, and corrupt politicians are leaving people no other choice. When the government does not protect the people, it's the duty, and obligation of the people to protect themselves. - Citizen Sane

The AIM pipeline sparks multi-state resistance

When you think about the kind of person who would blockade a backhoe with their body, Nancy Vann might not be whom you’d picture. Mild-mannered to the point of needing frequent reminders to speak up, her fine-boned body is surgically pieced back together after a long-ago car accident that left her walking with a cane and merits a handicap-parking permit. The former financial services lawyer is a homeowner in the Reynolds Hills community near Peekskill, New York.

nancy tree
Nancy Vann of Reynolds Hills, NY, blocked tree cutting for the Spectra AIM pipeline out of concern over its proximity to Indian Point.
This bucolic bungalow colony had been a peaceful place until the recent arrival of tree cutting equipment, brought in by Spectra Energy to clear a route for their Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline. The pipeline path comes within fifteen feet of one of the Reynold Hills cabins and borders several of the backyards there.
Residents here have larger concerns than their own backyards: Nancy and other advocates are deeply concerned about the wider impact of the pipeline, which would cross two fault lines, the Hudson River, and on the west and east sides of the river, rail lines that carry, respectively, “bomb” oil trains and propane trains.
Compressor and pigging stations that are part of the project would spew emissions over a wide swath of residences, schools and playgrounds. The pipeline would run through New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to a Massachusetts hub that would connect shale gas supplies from Pennsylvania to an export facility in Nova Scotia.
The biggest worry, however, is that the high-pressure, forty-two-inch-diameter pipe would pass within one hundred and five feet of critical equipment that is part of the Indian Point nuclear facility. An accident there would devastate a wide area, including New York City.
The tree cutting taking place now at Reynolds Hill is in preparation for pipeline construction. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran a pro-fracking campaign against Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014, has allowed Spectra eleven months to cut trees on county parkland. Had Astorino opted to give the company twelve months, it would have triggered a legislative vote.

Jess Rechtshaffer climbs a tree to protect it from being cut.
Reynolds Hill Resistance
Just after dawn, on Thursday, Nov. 19th, Nancy saw a tree cutting crane making its way towards her house. Realizing there was no one she could call in time to stop it, she walked outside and placed herself in the path of the cutter, under one of the larger trees. She was later joined by her local city councilwoman, and several other advocates.
According to recommendations printed on the tree cutting crane, a distance of 300 feet should be maintained between the machine and people. Nancy remained on her own property, and therefore could not be arrested, but her proximity led to a work stoppage for the day.
On Friday, the crews returned, this time with chainsaws. Eight advocates who’d signed a pledge of resistance joined the protest, including Jess Rechtshaffer, who climbed one of the trees. For unknown reasons, on this day, the tree cutting crane did not maintain a 300-foot distance to the demonstrators.
A worker operating a chain saw began cutting trees within five feet of protesters. An arborist friend, someone who is familiar with how to take down a tree, urged them away, saying it was too dangerous to remain so close. Police at the scene did not interfere with the tree cutters and moved demonstrators back to a safe distance. Recounting the incident, Nancy said, “People got killed in the Civil Rights movement; you don’t stop because you could get hurt.”
photographer documenting the scene was struck by branches, captured on video by NBC News 4. The protest was also filmed by CBS News and Westchester's News 12, and ongoing coverage has been provided by
Resist AIM
After two-years attempting to engage FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), as well as town, county, state and federal officials, residents in Peekskill and other Westchester communities who feel that Creative Peaceful Resistance (CPR) is now their only remaining option, recently formed Resist AIM.
Resist AIM organized last week's early-morning blockade of a ware yard in Montrose, from which Spectra workers launch their daily tree-cutting activities. Nine were arrested, and all pleaded “not guilty” at their arraignment this past Friday. Like the fishermen who blockaded a New England coal ship in 2013, the advocates feel they are acting out of necessity; on the principle that their actions prevent a greater harm to the larger society. December 11th is the next court date for the Montrose 9, as they are now called, and a $10,000 legal fee must be raised (contributions may be made at the SenRG website––notate donations as “Fight AIM.”)
Like the We Are Seneca Lake (WASL) blockades, Resist AIM expects to run an extended campaign against the pipeline. The WASL model of themed blockades (mothers and grandmothers one day, faith leaders another) has been picked up by many allied groups fighting infrastructure.
11-9 blockResist AIM organized the November 9th blockade at a Spectra ware yard in Montrose, PA.

Opposition is fierce throughout New England
The Westchester groups are only the latest to join a resistance that has already been active along the route of the AIM pipeline. To date, there have been sixty-seven arrests in the regional fight against Spectra. Groups such as SWRL (Stop the West Roxbury Lateral) in Massachusetts, CVC (Capitalism Vs. The Climate) in Connecticut; BASE (Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion) and FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas) in Rhode Island, have dogged Spectra for more than a year. CVC member Bernardo McLaughlin locked down to Spectra equipment at the Chaplin, CT compressor station on November 16th, delaying construction for three hours. And as of November 14th, Spectra has halted construction on the Roxbury Lateral until at least next spring, moving SWRL members to call for its members to support other Spectra fighters.
Like the Westchester groups, FANG started out leading letter writing campaigns and visiting elected officials, before launching a direct action campaign. FANG Member, Sherrie Andre, was arrested last May for a tree sit to block expansion of the Burrillville compressor station. A large-scale mobilization is planned in Rhode Island for December 4th and 5th.
Mutual support among pipeline fighters is spreading along the eastern seaboard: FANG Northeast is networked not only with Westchester groups and the Northeast Pipeline Alliance, but with groups in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. BXE (Beyond Extreme Energy), the DC-based group that most recently organized a hunger strike in front of FERC offices, is supporting the AIM resistance and other front-line community efforts. And mainstream organizations such as New England chapters of the Sierra Club and 350 are joining the battle against pipelines as well.
bernardoSWRL Win

The Empire Strikes Back

But homeowners and advocates aren’t the only ones turning up the heat:Dirty energy companies––finding themselves blocked at multiple points along a given project––have taken to claiming restitution, such as the $30,000 fine imposed on three FANG members after a lock down halted work crews for three hours this past September. (FANG’s legal fund can be found at their website.)
Pipeline builders often make "donations" to local police, fire and civic organizations, by way of engendering support for their projects. Rumor has it that Spectra has been making payments to the local Peekskill police force. Westchester and Peekskill police have been stationed at both ends of the Spectra construction area at Reynolds Hills since tree clearing began, with nighttime search lights so bright it is difficult for drivers to see the road. Last weekend, one officer appeared on private property, apparently "checking on" a community meeting. Senior Peekskill police at the scene promised that there would be no further incidents of that type. While it is proper that officers enforce laws that protect property, the question is whether the presence of a high-spending corporation affects the protection of free speech and assembly by law-abiding citizens.
Maura Healy
Whether such harassment tactics are abandoned could depend on how the public responds. Recent media coverage has brought plentiful negative publicity to Spectra for pursuing actions against ordinary citizens defending their homes. The builders’ tactic of eminent domain is highly unpopular, especially among conservatives.
Adding to Spectra's woes is the recent study released last week by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, which found there is no need for additional gas pipelines, and that less expensive, less carbon-intensive options–especially efficiency measures–would be more effective in ensuring energy reliability. The study contradicts builders’ claims that the pipe would bring cheap energy to New England and lays bare their ambitions to use the line to reach export terminals further north.
spectra system map
The Spectra system map showing their network of upcoming pipeline proposals, which are segmented into smaller projects, thus avoiding a cumulative impact review by FERC.
Where are we now?
The term “Blockadia,” made popular by author Naomi Klein in her book, This Changes Everything, was first coined by activists fighting the KXL pipeline in Texas who called their camps ‘Blockadia.’ Klein has said, “What I argue in the book is Blockadia is really this transnational space, roving space, where regular people are stepping in where our leaders are failing, and they are trying to stop this era of extreme extraction with their bodies or in the courts.”
This is a turning point. As awareness builds, and having been burned by a gamed system run by industry-friendly agencies such as FERC, citizens are losing patience working within regulatory boundaries. Like Nancy Vann, people who never considered it before feel compelled to offer a direct response.
Earlier human rights struggles moved society from a place where oppressive behaviors and policies were accepted and commonplace, to being looked upon as barbaric. Women, minorities and LGTB community members were once legally and socially ostracized as lesser human beings, a concept that civilized society now rejects. How then can it be acceptable to treat those who live near where energy is extracted, stored, or transported as collateral damage in the service of perpetuating the use of climate-destroying fossils fuels?
In the context of a world that has already warmed one degree, allowing the continued harms to human health, the taking of private property, and the harassment of resisters is not only barbaric, but insanely self-destructive. People like Nancy Vann and other advocates who engage in peaceful resistance against dirty energy are–like the suffragettes, civil rights marchers, and Act Up leaders–a vanguard of ordinary people caught in an historical moment not of their own making, who nonetheless stand up for their inherent rights, and push to change the whole of society for the better.

Reynolds Hills photos courtesy of Erik McGregor
clarity | November 22, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Categories: AIMAIM pipelineFERCfrackingindian point,infrastructurenatural gassane energy projectspectra | URL:

Friday, November 6, 2015

National Community Rights Network Finalizes 28th Amendment Proposal

November 5, 2015 
The 12 member Board of Directors of the National Community Rights Network (NCRN) met at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO in October for their annual meeting during which they approved a proposed 28th amendment to the US Constitution. 

Following historical movements that brought about the 13th, 15th and 19th amendments, this 28th constitutional amendment will liberate communities to make laws protecting health, safety and well-being free from state, federal and international pre-emption. Using the principles laid out by our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence the amendment will codify our inalienable right to local community self-government free from regulatory commerce-based laws that provide only for corporate greed and the demise of sustainability.

“From the Declaration of Independence to the Articles of Confederation, securing the sovereignty of the people was the supreme goal. But from the adoption of the second constitution to the current day, the legislators, Supreme Court and the apathy of the people have taken us back past the tyranny we once took up arms against.” NCRN board president, Cindy Kudlik, stated, “This 28th amendment will codify the inalienable rights of the people to usurp and preempt corporate and political greed. For the sustainability of our communities, our lives, livelihoods and the very planet we live on we can no longer be complacent and accept the lies and distractions fed to us on a daily basis.”

The amendment was drafted by dedicated board members Lisa Kochheiser from Ohio, John Trallo from Pennsylvania and Tom Groover from Colorado with the expert assistance of Thomas Linzey, Esq., Founder and Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).

The amendment is divided into 3 sections. The first defines the core principle of the Declaration of Independence to alter, amend, or abolish current systems of government if they are failing to protect the liberty or well-being of the people living within the communities served by these governments. Under the existing law, the Declaration is not viewed as enforceable. The second section recognizes that the people, communities, and ecosystems have rights, and prohibits activities that violate these rights. The third section protects the local laws drafted by the people from being overridden by state, federal, or international laws if they do not restrict or weaken constitutional rights or statutory protections for natural persons, communities, or nature. The full text of the amendment can be found at

The NCRN is committed to providing education, outreach, and support for the development of additional statewide Community Rights Networks. The organization is partnering with state and local Community Rights advocates to build a grassroots, people-driven, Community Rights Movement that will democratize and humanize decision-making at all levels. The NCRN mission is to assist our state Community Rights Networks to educate people across the country on local, community self-governance and community rights; secure the inalienable rights of all people, communities, and ecosystems through local self-governance; assert community rights to empower and liberate communities from state preemption and corporate harm; and advance those efforts toward state and federal constitutional change.


Need for a Federal Amendment: Without a federally protected right of local, community self-government, rights-based laws adopted at the local and the state level can be overturned by preemptive federal laws and by federally-anchored corporate constitutional “rights.” Although the adoption of a federal constitutional amendment is still many years away, finalization of this amendment language allows the CRN’s to “frame” the conversation about the need for a federal amendment, and to capture support from both local and state rights-based organizing.

SECTION. 1. All political power is inherent in the people, all government of right originates from the people, and the people have the right to alter, reform, or abolish their governmental system whenever they deem it necessary to protect their liberty and well-being; therefore, the people of the United States possess an inherent and inalienable right of local, community self-government in each county, city, town, township, village, parish, and borough.
SECTION. 2. That right shall include the power of the people, and the power of their governments, to enact and enforce local laws that protect health, safety, and welfare by recognizing or establishing rights of natural persons, their local communities, and nature; and by securing those rights using prohibitions and other means deemed necessary by the community, including measures to establish, define, alter, or eliminate competing rights, powers, privileges, immunities, or duties of corporations and other business entities operating, or seeking to operate, in the community.
SECTION. 3. Local laws adopted pursuant to section 2 shall not be subject to preemption or nullification by international law, federal law, or state law if those local laws do not restrict fundamental rights of natural persons, their local communities, or nature secured by local, state, or federal constitutions, or by international law; and if those local laws do not weaken protections for natural persons, their local communities, or nature provided by state, federal, or international law.

New 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Recognizing a Federal Constitutional Right of Local, Community Self-Government
Section 1. Provides a broad declaration of the right of local, community self-government and transforms the core principle of the Declaration of Independence into binding, constitutional law. That core principle of the Declaration is the right to alter, amend, or abolish current systems of government if they are failing to protect the liberty or well-being of the people who live within communities served by those governments. Currently, under existing law, the Declaration of Independence is not viewed as binding or enforceable.
Section 2. Provides that the broad right established by the first section can be implemented through the adoption of municipal laws at the community level, by either the people of those communities or by their local governments. To be an exercise of that broad right, the laws must:
  • Recognize or establish rights for individual people, the community as a whole, or for nature and ecosystems; and
  • Prohibit activities or projects that would violate those rights.
Those laws may also limit corporate powers and “rights” as necessary to allow implementation and enforcement of the rights and prohibitions contained within the local law. The definition of “corporation” within this section includes all business entities.
Section 3. Protects local laws drafted in accordance with section 2 from being overridden by state, federal, or international law; and protects local laws drafted in accordance with section 2 from being overturned through the use of federal constitutional “rights”; BUT ONLY if the local laws:
  • Do not attempt to restrict fundamental constitutional rights as recognized by the state and federal constitution (or international law), for rights belonging to natural persons, their communities, or to nature; and those local laws
  • Do not attempt to weaken statutory protections for natural persons, their communities, or nature, as recognized by state, federal, or international law.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chief Oil and Gas: Their Numbers Don't Add Up - So I Did The Math

My Comment Regarding Project #2014-081 submitted to the SRBC August 6, 2015

Chief Oil and Gas Forksville 2M/gpd Water Withdrawal Application

According to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), their decision will be based on 1) the impact to the Loyalsock Creek, and 2) the needs of the applicant.

I am not an aquatic specialist, so I will not comment directly on water quality or aquatic life issues; however I will address the alleged “needs” of Chief Oil and Gas for the taking of this water – our water.

In Pennsylvania, Chief Oil and Gas has acquired 468 drilling permits and has to date, drilled 281 unconventional gas wells, 81 of which have been found in violation, and have accumulated 292 statewide violations, according to the PA/DEP.

*Sources: PA/DEP,, the Sullivan, Bradford, Lycoming County Prothonatary Offices, and FracFocus)

Of these 281 drilled wells, water consumption has ranged from 2 million to 9 million gallons of fresh water, averaging out to be approximately 5.5 million gallons of fresh water ‘consumed’ by each well.

Chief Oil and Gas, like many other unconventional shale drilling operators, boasts about their “recycling of produced water” (as much as 80%) now used to drill new wells.

Over the years, Chief’s operations have been diminishing for various reasons: supply v. demand, low natural gas prices, and the lack of pipeline infrastructure needed to move Marcellus gas to markets – many of which are overseas markets.

Many of Chief’s earlier lease acquisitions have either expired, or been sold-off to other operators, most notably EXCO Resources.

Currently, in Sullivan, Bradford, and Lycoming Counties – the counties where Chief claims they need this water to develop their outstanding units, Chief presently has 105 outstanding permits for new wells.

Therefore, when you multiply the number of outstanding well permits by 5.5 million gallons (Chief’s average water consumption p/well) that indicates a “need” for 577,500,000 gallons of water.

However, when you multiply the proposed 2 million/gpd, that Chief is looking to extract from this watershed over a five year period, that totals 3,650,000,000 gallons of water.

That’s a difference of 3,072,500,000 gallons of water in excess of their current “needs”, and if the SRBC takes into account Chief’s intent on recycling, the discrepancy between their application request and their actual “need” is staggering and does not justify 2 million/gpd requested on this application.

That is, unless Chief is planning on “commodifying” this excess water – our water, which they would not be paying for, and selling it to other operators. (EXCO Resources, Anadarko Petroleum, and Southwestern Energy are three operators that immediately come to mind.)
*Chief claims that they have not discussed the possibility of selling water from the Loyalsock, however they have stopped short from ruling it out, or denying the possibility.  

Chief Oil and Gas needs to be transparent and forthright with their intentions for the “taking” of our water, and if their actual and verifiable “need” does not require this extreme volume of water, then it is the SRBC’s responsibility and duty to deny this application and not issue this permit.

I would also like to suggest that for all future water withdrawal applications, the SRBC require all applicants to agree not to sell and/or "commodify" this life-sustaining resource or allow it to be included as part of the sale, or selling off, of corporations assets.

I hereby would like to remind the SRBC that this resource is owned by the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and must be protected and preserved, as clearly stated in the Pennsylvania Constitution – which the SRBC as a “trustee” of these resources is bound to uphold.  

Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution:

"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."

John A. Trallo, Sr.
Sonestown, PA 17758

Chief Oil and Gas Forksville 2M/gpd Water Withdrawal Application
Project #2014-081
                                      Permits      Wells Drilled      Wells to be Determined        Sites
Sullivan County (All)        87                   50                                 20                                39
Bradford County             160                   92                                68                                 59
Lycoming County             23                    6                                   17                                  7
Totals:                               270                 148                               105                             105        

Sullivan County Townships
Cherry                                24                 20                                                                          7
Colley                                   0                   0                                                                          0
Davidson                              0                   0                                                                          0
Elkland                                40                 21                                                                       15
Forks                                    6                   3                                                                          5
Forksville                              7                   2                                                                          6
Fox                                      21                 24                                                                         6
Hillsgrove                             0                   0                                                                          0
Laporte                                 0                   0                                                                          0
Shrewsbury                          0                   0                                                                          0

·         Average water consumed for each well =  5,500,000 gallons
·         Estimated water needed to drill 105 proposed wells = 557,500,000 gallons      
·         Potential 5 year withdrawal @2M/gpd = 3,650,000,000 gallons
·         That’s 3,072,500,000 excess gallons than is needed for all of Chief's operations in Sullivan, Bradford, and Lycoming Counties.

Chief O&G PA statistics to date:
·         468 well permits issued
·         281 wells drilled
·         81 wells with violations

·         2010 inspections revealed 292 statewide violations.         

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Oil and Gas Industry Want it All...

The Oil and Gas Industry Want it All and they'll get it, only if we let them.

Years ago I mentioned that there were as many as sixteen 'known shale layers' beneath the Marcellus that were potentially 'rich with oil' and that is what the industry was really going after. 

Among the known deep shale plays not mentioned in this article are: the Tennessee, the Matata, the Heron, the Horizon, the South Beach, and the Devonian. 

One industry operator candidly told me that eventually they are planning on drilling down into shale layers as deep as 43,000 feet! 

Now the oil and gas industry is aiming at going after twelve of them, and the PA/SEP is already issuing permits for about 900 new wells.   

This industry, with the co-operation of our corrupt legislature - [*now ranked the fifth most corrupt state legislature in the US,] will turn all of Pennsylvania into a third-world fossil fuel extraction colony.   

If the citizens of Pennsylvania do not find the courage and conviction to rise up en mass to stop this industrial insanity now, we will be left with only two options: 1) Adapt to living in a toxic, polluted, industrial extraction colony, or 2) move away. 

Once again, I'd like to pose the question to those who think this can be effectively managed/regulated - "Where is the regulatory model to support that thinking?"  

The time for half-measure, negotiations, and political solutions is past. 

*This article that first appeared in the Times-Tribune Scranton, PA was in the latest Shale Play Media online publication. 

Other shales than Marcellus drawing industry attention

The Marcellus Shale put Pennsylvania on the map as a gas-producing state, but other rock layers have the potential to keep it there far into the future.
Drillers have sought unconventional well permits for 12 geological formations other than the Marcellus, according to state records compiled and organized by The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued permits for about 900 wells, site developer Carl Hagstrom said. Most of those are in the western part of the state; about 520 of those have been drilled.
Other than the Marcellus, which has more than 15,000 well permits, the most popular target formations in Pennsylvania are the Utica Shale with 258 permits, the Burket/Geneseo Shale with 246 permits and the Point Pleasant Shale with 159 permits. Although sometimes listed separately, the Point Pleasant is technically considered part of the Utica, according to a presentation by the Pennsylvania Geological Survey.
“They are all classic formations that have new life due to horizontals with classic hydraulic fracturing,” Lackawanna College School of Petroleum and Natural Gas dean Richard Marquardt said in an email. “They are all basically silty shales.”
These black shales with high organic content were formed over hundreds of millions of years ago when organisms, most likely algae, died then settled to the bottom of the ocean, said Allegheny County petroleum geologist Gregory Wrightstone, who has more than 35 years’ experience with unconventional formations in the Appalachian Basin.
Over millenia, heat and pressure broke down this organic material and formed natural gas.
The amount of oil and gas in a rock layer is dependent in part on how much heat or pressure affected it, a trait known as “thermal maturity.” Gas companies have to drill exploratory wells to learn how thermally mature a formation is in certain sections.
Though the Utica/Point Pleasant and Burket/Geneseo formations lie under most of the state, including all of Northeast Pennsylvania, most of the recent exploration has focused on the west and southwest.
Still, companies such as Seneca Resources Corp. and Shell have drilled into them as far east as Tioga and Lycoming counties.
“The question is how far east can you push the Utica in terms of thermal maturity,” Mr. Wrightstone said. “That’s a multibillion-dollar question.”
Although persistently low gas prices have driven down profits and forced many gas companies to cut back on drilling new Marcellus wells, they may try exploring some of these other formations, Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association president Louis D’Amico said in an email.
“They would like to see what potential for the future lies with these formations,” he said. “It’s one way to justify not further reducing their staffs during these tough times.”
With massive amounts of gas locked up in the Marcellus, Utica/Point Pleasant and Burket/Geneseo, Pennsylvania has many decades of production to come, Mr. Wrightstone said.
The industry considers the threshold for a “supergiant” gas field to be 30 trillion cubic feet, he said. The Marcellus holds more like 800 trillion cubic feet, he said.
“We should really coin a new term for the Marcellus,” he said. “We should probably call it something like a megagiant.”
The Utica/Point Pleasant is also a world-class reservoir and, while the Burket/Geneseo is like the Marcellus’s “little brother,” it still likely holds more than 30 trillion cubic feet , he said.
“In any other time it would have been this absolutely incredible field, and it’s a yawner,” he said.
One secret to the productivity of East Coast shales relative to others lies in their brittleness, said independent completions consultant Larry Fulmer, who has worked on naturally fractured oil and gas reservoirs for 40 years.
“The East Coast is blessed with ancient, ancient rock,” he said.
While hydraulic fracturing does create new cracks in the target rock, unconventional well production is tied to existing fractures, he said. An old, brittle shale holds more existing fractures than the pliable shales seen in many other parts of the world.
“Shales are barriers in a lot of the rest of the world,” he said. “On the East Coast, shales are formations.”
Searching for wells by formation is now available on Mr. Hagstrom plans to add new information that will help users compare production from various layers.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Energy Independence or Profitable Export?

Energy Independence
or Profitable Export?
by John Trallo, aka: Citizen Sane
You've seen the TV commercials and heard the sound bite ad nauseam:  "Natural gas offers American energy independence." It stands to reason, therefore, that a resource developed to offer energy independence to the United States ought to stay within U.S. borders. So why is the industry pushing so hard to liquefy America's natural gas and ship it overseas? Increased profits, of course. Right now, consumers in China, Japan and elsewhere are paying 400% - 500% more for natural gas than Americans. The industry wants to keep investors happy by making the most of the higher global prices, and par for the course, the industry is talking out of both sides of its money-hungry mouth.
On one hand, the oil and gas industry states that domestic natural gas prices in parts of New England have risen because of "stranded resources" due to the lack of pipeline infrastructure. Kim Watson, Kinder-Morgan's eastern pipeline group president, went as far as to say: "New England has paid more than $7 billion in the last 2 years than what it would have with access to supplies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio." Yet opponents have been saying that pipelines shouldn't be built because consumers would be paying too much. The industry also claims, "America's newfound abundance of natural gas is powering a remarkable manufacturing renaissance, which to date has generated more than $110 billion of announced investment in over 120 different manufacturing projects, and is already responsible for an impressive 68,000 manufacturing jobs this year."
On the other hand, the oil and gas industry is pushing for more LNG exports to Free Trade Agreement countries (FTA) and non-FTA countries as well. The push is enough to raise concerns among U.S. consumers and manufacturers.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the agency that oversees and permits interstate pipelines. (NOTE: FERC receives zero dollars in congressional funding and 100% of its funding from the fossil fuel industry.) With FERC approval comes the power of eminent domain, defined as authorization "for the government or the condemning authority, called the condemner, to conduct a compulsory sale of property for the common welfare, such as health or safety. Just compensation is required, in order to ease the financial burden incurred by the property owner for the benefit of the public." This definition begs the question: How is exporting a natural resource to foreign countries a "benefit of the public"?  In reality, it isn't.
Corporations accomplish this is by minimizing operating costs via deregulation and a host of cost and corner-cutting measures, and by selling the product/service in the highest paying market. Currently, the overseas price for natural gas is four to five times that of the current U.S. domestic price.
The law of supply and demand
Economics 101 tells us that as supplies decrease, consumer prices rise. Since overseas exports increase demand, which puts more pressure on supply, exports will cause the price of gas in the U.S. to rise. As long as domestic prices are below overseas prices, oil and gas corporations are feverishly trying to sell as much product overseas as possible, thereby forcing domestic prices to rise toward overseas prices.
So, on one hand you have the industry claiming that domestic prices are "too high due to lack of infrastructure," and on the other hand, you have the same industry calling for more export facilities because the domestic price is too low and investors are not getting the highest return on their investment.
In commenting on the New York state fracking ban vs. gas drilling in PA, Governor Tom Wolf said he wanted to "have his cake and eat it too". The oil and gas industry is doing the same thing, but neither Wolf nor the industry can have it both ways. What'll it be, U.S. energy independence or exports for profit?