The Politics of Water Contamination in a Rigged Economy
From The Frontlines:
Just as in Flint Mi, watch powerful, well heeled corporate interests, conspire to persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to betray the public trust at a public hearing of the EPA's Science Advisory Board on June 14th and 15th, 2016
This time it's the titans of the Fossil Fuel Industry dispassionately testifying that widespread, irreversible water contamination in places like Dimock, PA is simply not a result of hydrofracking….
Environmental Activists provide stark testimony that the EPA has colluded with the Fossil Fuel Industry and arrogated their responsibility to protect citizens.
ASK YOURSELF - WHY? WHO BENEFITS!
Follow the money and you will see the rigged economy at work. - Jay Wilcox
Monday, June 20, 2016
PA State Representative Garth Everett, was "smacked on the knuckles" directly by the drilling industry!
Or was the "smack" delivered through their legislative shills like Gene Yaw, Joe Scarnatti, Mike Turzai, and Jeff Pyle? I was wondering, is this one of those pieces of legislation that gets introduced on behalf of the constituents - so the legislator could say "I tried", knowing full well it won't pass?
By the way, landowners being screwed out of royalty payments is merely one reason "everybody hates oil and gas companies". The abusive taking of land via eminent domain, the lies, the bullying tactics used to get people to sign a lease or pipeline ROW, the poisoning of their drinking water, the toxic air quality, the loss of their property value, the total disruption of their way of life, etc., etc.
A real legislative "champion of the people" would surely introduce legislation to address those issues as well to make sure royalty owners, as well as their impacted neighbors and communities are treated "fairly". Right?
Maybe State Rep. Garth Everett should take more aggressive action, rather then simply trying to "call attention" or just "raise the profile of the issue." (Sounds like your back-peddling.)
Perhaps State Rep. Garth Everett should introduce a bill that would require PA to conduct independent health impact studies in the Marcellus shalefields, too - like New York and Maryland did.
Or, maybe he's afraid that would subject him to an actual public "flogging" and not just a symbolic "smack on the knuckles"? - JT
Rift Continues Between Drillers & Landowners re Royalty Bill
Last year yet another new bill was introduced by State Rep. Garth Everett to guarantee landowners get a minimum of 12.5% royalties–regardless of post-production deductions (see New Bill HB 1391 Will Guarantee PA Landowners 12.5% Royalties). Organizations like the PA chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) fully support the bill. However, drillers make the counterargument that duly signed contracts which allow for certain deductions should not be swept away with the stroke of a pen. The industry is steadfast against this and other bills like it. This spring HB 1391 got a brief hearing in the House (see Landowners vs Drillers: PA Minimum Royalty Bill Gets a Hearing). But since then–nothing. That is, until Rep. Everett attached HB 1391 as an amendment to another bill. Everett quickly withdrew his amendment–the purpose was to “call attention” to it and reignite the discussion. Everett was quickly smacked on the knuckles by the drilling industry who is not happy with him for his action…
*Harrisburg & Philadelphia (PA) StateImpact Pennsylvania (Jun 17, 2016) – Royalties bill makes very brief appearance at State CapitolA bill aimed at ensuring oil and gas royalty owners are paid fairly made a fleeting appearance at the Pennsylvania Capitol this week.“I succeeded in bringing attention to the issue and to the bill,” says Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), who on Tuesday attached, and then quickly withdrew, his royalties bill as an amendment to another measure that ultimately passed the House and Senate.In the wake of the Marcellus Shale boom, leaseholders have been complaining for years that they’re getting cheated out of royalty money by some of the nation’s biggest gas drillers. Before withdrawing the amendment, Everett spoke on the House floor and urged his colleagues to support changes to the state’s royalties law. He says the maneuver was simply to raise the profile of the issue.“I got immediate feedback from the the governmental affairs folks from the Marcellus Shale Coalition and other gas producers,” says Everett. “They disagree with the premise of the bill and said, ‘Why are you doing this again?’ I said, ‘I’m doing this because royalty owners aren’t getting paid fairly.’”…“There’s a reason everybody hates oil and gas companies,” says NARO-PA president Jackie Root. “They got so outrageously greedy. If they can’t operate profitably, they should shut the wells in.”Neither the Marcellus Shale Coalition nor the Pennsylvania division of the American Petroleum Institute would comment. Drillers have previously argued the bill could violate the state constitution by changing the terms of existing contracts they have with landowners.Despite a failed attempt to get a different royalties bill passed last session, Everett says he’s pressing on with HB 1391, which has substantially different language. He is meeting with House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R- Indiana) next week to discuss it, but doesn’t expect it will advance before next fall.*
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Does anyone actually believe that the gas industry and their lobbyists spent this kind of money on PA's government without expecting - and getting, a significant "return on their investment"?
This is why "lobbying, bird-dogging, petitioning", elected officials and trying to work through the nightmarish and cleverly rigged "regulatory system" is a complete waste of time, energy, and resources.
This report is a "must read" for every Pennsylvanian to understand the depth and the extent of corruption in PA politics. - JT
How Gas Drillers Rented Pennsylvania’s Government
Click this link below to read the full report.
Top Executive Recipients in 2013-2014:
- Governor Tom Corbett - $794,884
- Republican Governors Association - $501,377
- Governor Wolf's Chief of Staff Katie McGinty - $72,500
- Governor Tom Wolf - $59,500
Top Legislative Recipients in 2013-2014:
- Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati* - $101,788
- House Majority Leader Dave Reed – Cosponsor of Act 13 - $81,250
- Former Senator Tim Solobay – $63,192
- Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa – $48,700
- Representative Jeffrey Pyle* – $44,745
- Former Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi – $43,000
- Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman – $40,750
- House Speaker Mike Turzai – $27,500
- Senator Don White* – $25,200
- House Majority Caucus Administrator Brian Ellis – Cosponsor of Act 13 – $21,550
- Senator Kim Ward* – $18,500
- House Minority Leader Frank Dermody – $18,000
* Serves on House or Senate Environment Resources & Energy Committee
Lobbying: 2007-2014 total: $46,869,515
Lobbying expenditures declined slightly to $9.1 million in 2014 from an all-time high of $9.6 million in 2012. The jump in 2012 spending likely reflected the efforts to pass and implement Act 13, but relatively stable levels in 2013 and 2014 demonstrate major ongoing attempts to influence policy.
Gas Industry Lobbying in Pennsylvania by year:
- 2007: $1,733,056
- 2008: $2,941,195
- 2009: $3,209,763
- 2010: $5,260,532
- 2011: $6,253,185
- 2012: $9,568,046
- 2013: $8,843,073
- 2014: $9,060,665
John TralloVice Chair, Shale Justice Coalition
Vice President:PA Community Right Network
National Board of DirectorsNational Community Rights Network
Opinions & editorials:Citizen Sane/blog"When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty." - Thomas Jefferson
Monday, November 23, 2015
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.
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.
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.”
A 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 Patch.com.
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.
Resist 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.
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.
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.
Where are we now?
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
Friday, November 6, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 5, 2015
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 http://nationalcommunityrightsnetwork.org/national-constitutional-amendment/