In recent days, a draft of the bill — considered the product of more than two years of negotiation and collaboration between Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and both chemical industry and environmental groups — was circulated by Udall’s office ahead of the hearing. The draft bill, obtained by Hearst Newspapers, is in the form of a Microsoft Worddocument. Rudimentary digital forensics — going to “advanced properties” in Word — shows the “company” of origin to be the American Chemistry Council. Read full story here.
Campaign to Safeguard America’s Resources Today community groups in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia called for the establishment of local veto power over natural gas extraction, transport and use. At rallies, marches and other public events extending from Floyd, Virginia, across North Carolina to Valdosta, Georgia, people joined in a chorus of protests against pipelines, compressor stations, power plants, hydrofracking wells and waste dumps and for the restoration of property rights and local control over energy policy in the Southeast.
Lou Zeller, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said, “Today we launch the campaign to Safeguard America’s Resources because of our nation’s dangerous reliance on fossil fuel, including natural gas, which pollutes the air and water. But we also see a parallel danger to our communities, to our society and to our democracy from a dominant oil and gas industry.”
At press conferences in county courthouses, community buildings, a university and a small church, League chapters called for action to halt natural gas facilities in their communities. Following the speeches, they joined caravans and parades to focus public opposition at the local government level. Events across the region echoed the twin themes of danger and opportunity.
Kim McCall, Secretary of the Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, North Carolina, spoke against hydro-fracking and the expansion of Duke Energy’s natural gas power plant in Hamlet. She said, “We are petitioning local governments for the ability to veto projects that threaten our homes, our families and our neighbors.” The group has petitioned EPA to deny the air permit to increase toxic air pollution by 36% from the combustion turbine electric power plant in her backyard.
To launch their campaign in Lee County, North Carolina, members of EnvironmentaLEE held a prayer vigil and rally at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, which is located in front of the brickyard in Sanford where the dumping 8 million tons of Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash is proposed. Deb Hall, a member of EnvironmentaLEE, said, “We are already ground zero for fracking, and the North Carolina General Assembly stripped local governments of their ability to control fracking and coal ash dumping. This threatens our health, the environment, community self-determination, and property rights.”
Mark Laity-Snyder, a founding member of Preserve Franklin county, joined others carrying black coffins in a caravan to Floyd, Virginia. He said, “We chose a coffin to represent the loss of a basic American right, the right to be secure in our homes without private companies taking our land.” Jenny Chapman, from nearby Preserve Bent Mountain, said, “For a corporation like Mountain Valley Pipeline to override the rights of private citizens to their land, safety and quality of life is unacceptable.”
Pat Hill, co-founder of Person County PRIDE in Roxboro, North Carolina, said, “My husband and I live next to the Republic mega-dump. We want to have a voice in protecting our water and air quality because we live with it every day.” She continued, “The toxic wastes deposited here endanger our health and the health of our neighbors. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead and many other poisons. Because hydrofracking uses secret contaminants, it could have an unknown number of dangerous compounds.”
Michael G. Noll, President of Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy in Valdosta, Georgia, sounded a note of hope, saying, “This is the beginning of a new era, where we see the unified efforts of communities across the nation to safeguard America’s resources, to wean ourselves of fossil fuels, and to protect the unalienable rights of citizens to clean water and air. I am convinced that safe and renewable sources of energy like solar and wind will be the lunar landing of our generation.”
Mara Robbins, Virginia Campaign Coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and organizer of the Floyd March and Demonstration, said, “We chose to have this action here because we stand in solidarity with all the counties that are resisting the threat of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” She pointed to many different communities in three states that are calling for community-level veto power over fossil fuel projects. Referring to her success in pushing the pipeline route out of her home county, she said, “Though Floyd is not in the line of fire at the moment, we claim the right to say NO to dangerous proposals that utilize eminent domain over the wishes of the people. And we think all communities deserve that right.”
The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League was founded in 1984. The organization has a thirty-year track record of victories over polluting facilities.
It was only a short while ago when the Ohio Legislature essential killed all efforts to bring clean green energy and energy use reduction to the state. Ohio Gov. John Kasich dashed the hopes of environmentalists, leading manufacturers and renewable-energy businesses in June when he signed a bill shelving requirements for utilities to ramp up the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Kasich welcomes fracking and other nasty industrial processes to his state while other states are taking a more proactive and protective direction.
Recently, New York Governor Cuomo announced a ban on fracking in NY sighting the many unknown health issues that have not been addressed and the potential impacts are too great to allow fracking to proceed in the state at this time.
Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said that in other states where fracking is already happening, he found that state health commissioners “weren’t even at the table” when decisions about the process were made.
Zucker add “I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” also noting that he would not live in a community that allows fracking and would not want his children to play in the soil in such a place.
We give the Governor of NY an A+ for his due diligence in protecting the citizens of NY and the Governor of Ohio a big fat red letter F for his lack of caring or concern for the residents of his state.
This January 2015 NYS Governor began pushing for investments in clean green energy.
Truer words have never been spoken. In CHEJ’s recent training on Lessons Learned from New York State, which recently banned fracking until it can be proven safe, Eric Weltman from Food and Water Watch told the group to demand what you want not what is feasible.
I find it frustrating and a bit troubling when I visit communities who are struggling to protect their health and environment from environmental threats and they ask for less than they deserve and need. When I ask leaders, “why short change themselves,” they often respond saying they don’t want to sound unreasonable or worse because their opponents said it’s too expensive. Leaders and community members are often bullied into believing that they must take less or they won’t get anything. This is just not true.
At Love Canal in 1978, our community was told that government does not evacuate families and purchase homes because of toxic pollution. If we didn’t stick to our goal we would never had been evacuated. When the environmental health and justice movement demanded that no more commercial landfills be built, we were all told it must go somewhere. Several years later up until today no new commercial hazardous wastes landfills have been built, although it is still legal to do so.
In one of CHEJ’s consumer campaigns around a multinational corporation, we were demanding they take certain products off their shelves. The corporations response was, we won’t be bullied by radical environmental group. Yet a short time later they did exactly what we and consumers across the country asked.
No one should ask or accept as the final decision, what is not right and fair. However, winning the big ask is more difficult and demands serious discipline. Everyone needs to be on the same page and demand the same goal. Yes, there are always those few who will say out loud and even in the media that they would be wiling to accept less. Yet if the loud vocal people, the base of the majority, the framers of the campaign stick with their larger goal for justice, they will dominate the campaign. Those with smaller goals will be essential drowned out by the voices and actions of this larger group.
This was the case in New York State around fracking. There were good people who would have accepted better regulations or only drilling in certain parts of the state. In every issue those working from various groups often have different goals. Sometimes their efforts help build toward the larger goal and other times they may be an irritation. The key to win it all is to build larger stronger, more visible opposition and demand for the larger goals. In this way you can win your goals without publicly fighting with others.
As Eric told us, “we were relentless. With op-eds, press events, using the public participation/comment period to submit a hundred thousands of “comments” that said Ban Fracking Now –not detailed line by line comments about regulations that were proposed. Hundreds of groups participated in bird dogging the governor who couldn’t go anywhere without a group, small or large in his face demanding he ban fracking.”
Secondly, Eric was clear that you need a single target, in NYS it was the governor. “You need to find the person who has the power to give you what you are demanding,” he said. I would add that it always needs to be a person not an entity, like regulatory agency or corporation. You need a human face on your opponent and your messengers to make it all work.
This is a time tested strategy and if you follow it you are more likely to receive a higher level of justice not a compromising solution.
A former official with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources writes a sizzling farewell letter about the burning Bridgeton landfill. He has issued an open letter claiming politics – not science – is dominating the state’s handling of the landfill crisis. Norris says within the DNR, scientists are “losing their minds because they are fighting their own management structure,” which seems more concerned with politics than public safety. He says there is “an overall cozy relationship between the landfill owner and the DNR.” Read more.
When will we stop poisoning our children? What is a child’s life worth? I can’t help but ask those questions today as I click through my e-mail box and see the story on fracking related health effects, around birth defects and infertility and another on cancer, respiratory disease and more. As I scroll down there’s a new story by the Center for Public Integrity focused on a study finding childhood leukemia related to the petrochemical industry.
“Children, developing fetuses, they’re especially vulnerable to environmental factors,” says Ellen Webb, the study’s lead author and an energy program associate at the Center for Environmental Health. “We really need to be concerned about the impacts for these future generations.”
The Center for Public Integrity story is almost a mirror image of the story about Woburn, Massachusetts. Parents in that community in the late 1970’s discovered a cluster of childhood leukemia while taking their children into the hospital for treatment. For those who are familiar with the Woburn story just read the paragraphs below for the article and see the similarities.
“It was December 29, 1998, six years after Jill McElheney and her family had moved next to a cluster of 12 petroleum storage tanks. Jill was escorting her son Jarrett, then 4, to the doctor again. He had spent the day slumped in a stroller, looking so pale and fatigued that a stranger stopped her to ask if he was all right.
It was an encounter Jill couldn’t shake. For the previous three months, she had noticed her once-energetic preschooler deteriorating. He complained of pain in his knee, which grew excruciating. It migrated to his shoulder and then his leg. His shins swelled, as did his temples. At night, Jarrett awoke drenched in sweat, screaming from spasms. Jill took him to a pediatrician and an infectious-disease specialist. A rheumatologist diagnosed him with anemia.
Doctors identified a common form of childhood leukemia. “I heard the words,” Jill recalled, “and I only knew the bald heads and the sadness.”
In the waiting room, family members heard more unsettling news: A neighbor’s child also had developed leukemia.
Days later, Jarrett’s doctor penned a letter to federal environmental regulators about the two cancer patients, highlighting their “close proximity” to Southeast Terminals, a group of 10,000-gallon tanks containing gasoline, diesel and fuel oil.
“Could you please investigate,” the doctor wrote, “whether high levels of chemicals could have contaminated the water, possibly contributing … to the development of leukemia?”
I can remember like it was yesterday, talking with mothers from Woburn literally telling the same story. Why are corporations allowed, now over thirty five years later, to continue to poison our children? These children have parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, names and personalities. They are not just numbers in a report or statistics in someone’s research they are little people and are helpless. It is well past time to stop this madness and protect the most vulnerable among us. Enough is enough our children matter.
Sign a petition or write a letter? It is true that many signatures on a petition is meaningful but such petitions also has its limits. Legislators look at the petition signatures and note the number but essentially ignore what activists see as their “powerful voice” they intended the petition to represent.
It’s a case of “the easiest way is also not the most effective.” Clicking on to a form letter ends up to be not only a very soft message to the targeted audience. Moreover, the person signing thinks that they have done their good deed of the day and takes no further action. For example, last year, almost 4,000 comments were submitted to a legislator in Pennsylvania and 95% of them were rejected as “form letters.” That doesn’t mean they didn’t represent some level of people’s voices but were not as meaningful.
When you look at what citizens did in NC around fracking regulations, where they worked to get specific comments from people who may have use a model predefined set of issues, but many comments were personalized, you get a very different story. According to an article in the NC paper News Observer the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission is plowing through a mountain of public comments on its proposed fracking standards with less than a month left to fine-tune the safety rules for shale gas drilling. State officials estimate that more than 100,000 comments flooded in by the Sept. 30 deadline and the finally tally could approach 200,000.
The number of submission was so large that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials are not sure they have sufficient memory space on the agency’s hard drives to post the comments online for public view. DENR have assigned at least eight extra staffers, including from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, to sort through public remarks and enter them into a database.
That action made a difference at a very high level. However the people power could have been even stronger if everyone said a little more than “don’t frack.” According to the commissioner, “about half of the comments are repetitive ‘don’t frack’ and they don’t really count, if you know what I mean.”
This was successful with the chairman of the commission saying, there is no question that we will recommend some adjustment to the rules, how much is not clear. It was the volume and the individual comments not just signing on to a model set of comments that made the difference and has moved the needle. So think about giving people talking points to actually submit individual comments that are not all exactly the same and you may see the difference, next time you want to move a person with authority or regulations. Some people will only act with a sign-on but encouraging one more step, making that step as easy as possible could increase your power. No one ever said that activism was easy, but it’s not all that hard either.
Republic Services sent several of their men – young men—to stand out in front of the hall where a community meeting was being held to hand out corporate propaganda. Imagine walking from your car, after leaving your young child who is suffering from brain cancer at home, to be met by men from the company that you believe is responsible for exposures. “Just clean up the waste, dig it up and take it out of our community,” was the response of one of the local moms.
Republic had a lot of nerve coming to this meeting and leafleting people as they entered the building. Their signs making it look like people were the barrier to EPA cleaning up the site, but its Republic Services that wants to leave the waste where it is, which was the EPA plan before the underground fire. How heartless can you be? Families just learned that there was a significant childhood cancer cluster in the community that surrounds Republic’s radioactive and burning garbage dumps.
One woman told the Republic thugs – what she called them – that she has had both breast removed from cancer and her best friend has lupus. The state health department believes there is a problem, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit because of a problem and the community has a registry that documents health and environmental problems with Republic Services wastes. She was angry, “How dare they send thugs to our meeting of moms, dads and seniors who are sick and tired of Republic’s refusal to do the right thing.”
This community located in St. Louis Missouri area have been fighting to obtain relocation for families living around this site. There are two dumpsites one with garbage that is burning underground and the other is a radioactive waste site. At the meeting one woman spoke up and said, “Do you know what it’s like to tuck your children in at night and then lay in bed waiting for a siren to tell you the fire has reached the radioactive wastes and likely radioactive materials are traveling through the air into your home. It’s terrifying. I can’t move, I can’t stay and I can’t protect my babies.”
Republic Services has enough money to buy the families homes and properly clean up the waste sites. Last year they earned $8.4 billion in revenues and $589 million in profits. If they did the right and responsible thing by moving people and properly cleaning up the wastes they would still have plenty of profits to go around. But instead they send their thugs to picket outside the meeting of Republic Services victims.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates owns 29 percent of the company’s shares through Cascade Investment, LLC – about $4 billion worth. This includes 16 million shares (worth $645 million) purchased in 2014 alone. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also owns 1.35 million shares of Republic stock. Gates chief investment officer at Cascade Investment, has been a Republic Services board director since 2009. When Republic pays a $0.28/share quarterly dividend in October 2014, Bill Gates and his Foundation will receive $27.6 million.
CHEJ working with the community are circulating a petition to push Bill Gates to use his power of the vote to move Republic to evacuate families who need to leave and clean up the two sites to remove the hazards. Please help us by signing the petition.
Yesterday, citizen groups on both sides of the Ohio River sent a letter to W.Va. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, requesting that he withdraw a proposal that would allow drilling for natural gas under the Ohio River. They also requested a meeting with the governor.
In late August, the groups alerted one another to a disturbing legal notice in area newspapers: Until September 25, the W.Va. Department of Commerce, Division of Natural Resources is taking bids that will allow the successful bidder to drill for Marcellus- and Utica-shale-derived natural gas beneath the Ohio River in Pleasants, Marshall and Wetzel counties.
Although a news report quotes W.Va. Governor Early Ray Tomblin as saying, “The proposed development is in the best economic interests of the state and will not unreasonably disrupt use and enjoyment of the Ohio River or the division’s opportunities to develop other mineral interests in the area,” the citizen groups are highly skeptical of the wisdom of drilling under the Ohio River.
“The 981 miles of the Ohio River provide drinking water to more than five million people. Ten percent of the country lives in the Ohio River Basin. Considering the multiple dire water situations we are seeing nationwide — such as drought out west, coal-chemical contamination of 300,000 people’s water supply in West Virginia, drinking water at peril from fracking waste around the country — we should be doing everything possible to safeguard our water. Drilling under the Ohio River is a huge risk,” says Roxanna Groff of the Athens County Fracking Action Network.
Groff’s group and several others recently successfully worked together to convince the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the comment period on a fracking waste barge dock permit proposed for Portland, Meigs County, Ohio.
In coming together to question this latest threat to the Ohio River, the groups point out that since 2005, according to federal law (42 U.S. Code § 15941), “No Federal or State permit or lease shall be issued for new oil and gas slant, directional, or offshore drilling in or under one or more of the Great Lakes.”
“There are protections for the water in Lake Erie needed for drinking water in the northern part of the state — why not the same protections for the water in the southern?” says FreshWater Accountability Project Managing Director Leatra Harper.
“One state’s governor shouldn’t be able to sell off drilling rights at the peril of the millions who depend on the Ohio River for drinking water,” says Mary Greer of Concerned Citizens Ohio, based in Portage County.
“Fracking related activities have been causing earthquakes and there’s a fault line running under the Ohio River,” says Teresa Mills with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. (See http://www2.ohiodnr.com/portals/geosurvey/ohioseis/images/faultbig.gif.)
“We’ve heard before that some outrageous plan is ‘safe’ when it wasn’t. There needs to be a comprehensive environmental study done before drilling under the Ohio River is even considered,” says Patricia Jacobson with FaCT-OV.
“How can one division of state government rush into such an enterprise without consulting the people of West Virginia, or indeed anyone living in any downstream state, as well as the federal government? How can it be in the best economic interests of a state to jeopardize a major source of drinking water for millions of people?” says Robin Blakeman of the Huntington, W.Va.-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
In reporting on the proposal, the website FrackCheckWV.net wrote, “Drilling and fracking above or near the Ohio River will result in hundreds of acres of disturbed land, toxic chemical leaks, increased water pollution run-off and contaminated storm water, as well as significant air pollution from diesel trucks, pumps and/or compressors, gas leaks and flares. The chances of fires, explosions, fish kills, worker injuries, and public health exposures are very real.”
The Department of Commerce will hold a public opening of all bids on Friday, September 26, at 1:00 p.m. in Room 525, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, State Capitol Complex, Building 6, Charleston, W.Va.
Groups signing the letter: Athens County (OH) Fracking Action Network, Concerned Citizens Ohio, CHEJ, FaCT-OV, Fresh Water Accountability Project, OVEC, Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum, Wetzel County (W.Va.) Action Group and the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Greenpeace received word that the DC Court of Appeals has ruled against them in their lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Sasol, Dezenhall Resources, Ketchum, and the former operates of the now-defunct Beckett, Brown, Inc. corporate espionage firm. The court dismissed the case because Greenpeace rents its office space and the court ruled that as tenants and not owners, Greenpeace had no standing to sue the burglars for intruding on our premises.
Some of you that have been with CHEJ for a while might remember this is the same suit in which CHEJ and Lois Gibbs was targeted with both her home address listed in the espionage firm’s documents as well as photos of the front of her house. Too bad the case was dismissed but not surprising. CHEJ knows that they are watched and our phone and internet wires cut a few years ago also went unsolved. For a recap of the case read Ralph Nader’s recent article.
Like other firms specializing in snooping, Beckett Brown turned to garbage swiping as a key tactic. BBI officials and contractors routinely conducted what the firm referred to as “D-line” operations, in which its operatives would seek access to the trash of a target, with the hope of finding useful documents. One midnight raid targeted Greenpeace. One BBI document lists the addresses of several other environmental groups as “possible sites” for operations: the National Environmental Trust, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Media Services, the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization run by Lois Gibbs, famous for exposing the toxic dangers of New York’s Love Canal. For its rubbish-rifling operations, BBI employed a police officer in the District of Columbia and a former member of the Maryland state police. Ridgeway Mother Jones Article.