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Backyard Talk

Homeowners Take Fight Against Gas Pipeline Land Grab To U.S. Supreme Court

By Sharon Franklin.
For nearly a decade, Michelle and Gary Erb lived on a rustic, 72-acre plot of land east of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and then it became a construction site for a pipeline that can move 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.  The Erbs soon found out that Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (Transco), a wholly owned subsidiary of the $8.6 billion energy-infrastructure titan Williams, demanded access to the their land  to enable it to build the 200-mile Atlantic Sunrise pipeline that expands the nation’s largest natural-gas pipeline system to the Marcellus Shale. As reported by Nick Sibilla Senior Contributor Forbes Magazine  https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicksibilla/2019/03/18/homeowners-take-fight-against-gas-pipeline-land-grab-to-u-s-supreme-court/#3e3e3a406fd5.
As with most eminent domain cases like the Erbs, Transco offered to pay for a six-acre easement. When they declined, Transco authorized eminent domain claim and forced the Erbs to hand over the property anyway.  Now after having their land dug up, and more than a year and a half later, the Erbs still haven’t seen a dime for their land from Transco.
The Erbs say“The system as it stands right now is very unfair and very unethical; it is very un-American,”   “Right now the gas line companies are just steamrolling over private landowners and taking whatever they want, whenever they want it and with no restrictions by the courts.”  The Erbs have felt this judicial steamrolling up close and personal.  Even though the  The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that because Transco “already had the substantive right to possession,” due to its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certificate, which granted Transco preliminary injunction for immediate possession “merely hastened the enforcement of the substantive right—it did not create any new rights.”  In other words, “the only question was ‘the timing of the possession.’”
The Erbs fought back with the assistance of the Institute for Justice, and countered in its cert petition, “An entitlement to possess land now is substantively different from an entitlement to possess land in the future.”  In a standard eminent domain case, “the condemnor or Transco has the option to either purchase the property at the adjudicated price or move to dismiss the condemnation.” After all, Transco may decide to walk away from the property if they’re unwilling to pay the just compensation determined by the court, and the court’s injunction did actually alter the rights of the Erbs in a substantial way:
The Erbs and the Institute of Justice cited, that prior to the entry of the preliminary injunctions, petitioners had the right to exclude Transcontinental and its agents from their land. After the entry of the preliminary injunctions, the company had the right to exclude petitioners from the land. The right to exclude is, as [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][the Supreme Court] has held time and again, one of the most important substantive aspects of property ownership.”
Many Circuit Courts throughout the United states have conflicting ruling on this issue, and ultimately, only the Supreme Court can resolve this important question. Protecting private property rights shouldn’t be a pipe dream.
Gary Urb sums it up “Transco is taking advantage of a broken system with the lower courts rubber-stamping what the pipeline companies are doing. “Our fight is about more than just our property. It is a fight for everyone that can’t fight.”
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Media Releases

United Nation’s Tribunal Recommends Worldwide Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing.

Contact: Lois Marie Gibbs (CHEJ/PAI) 703-237-2249
Teresa Mills  (CHEJ)  614-539-1471
 
United Nation’s Tribunal Recommends Worldwide Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is recommending a worldwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, the extreme oil and gas extraction technique known as  ‘fracking.’ The Tribunal found that the materials, and infrastructure of fracking inherently and necessarily violate human rights. The specific rights violated include the rights to life, to water, to full information and participation, and especially the rights of indigenous people, women and children.
“I hope the United States heeds the warnings of the UN Tribunal and puts a stop to any and all fracking related activities immediately given these findings,” said Lois Gibbs founder of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice/ People’s Action Institute (CHEJ).
CHEJ was involved in three of the United States field Tribunals in Athens’s, Youngstown, Ohio and Charlottesville, VA. Lois Marie Gibbs served as a Juror in all three field Tribunals. Teresa Mills CHEJ’s Ohio organizer was both on the overall advisory panel and assisted community leaders to understand the rules and help with logistics in all three field hearing.  The field hearings provided the basic information for the findings.
Gibbs recalled, “as a Juror I heard innocent people share their experiences living near fracking infrastructures. Children needing to dodge 100’s of trucks to get to school. Families who could light their faucets on fire due to the gas getting into their water supplies. Women, men and children made sick with asthma, cancers, skin disease and so much more who were not allowed to know what chemicals were being sent miles below their properties and evaporating into their air from fracking waste ponds.
This is an incredible victory for the people and provides clear impartial conclusion that communities can use to fight back against Fracking.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, based in Rome, is an internationally recognized Civil Society public opinion tribunal functioning independently of state authorities. It applies internationally recognized human rights law and policy to cases brought before it.
Governments have an affirmative obligation to protect the rights of their citizens, according to internationally recognized human-rights Covenants and Declarations. When governments fail to adequately regulate harmful oil and gas industry practices, they fail to meet their human rights obligations. And when governments fail to take measures to prevent the advance of climate change and its impacts on the rights to life, liberty, and security, they are failing to meet their internationally recognized human-rights obligations. Widespread government failures have created a global “axis of betrayal,” according to the international court, in which governments and fossil-fuel industries collude – at great cost to people and the planet – in human-rights violations to their mutual profit.
The Special Session was conducted for five days in May of 2018. Four Preliminary tribunals had been conducted in the months prior to the Plenary hearings. The Pre-tribunals included rich oral testimony from Australia, the US states of Ohio and Virginia, and other places, supporting documentation, and findings from those Pre-tribunal’s local judges. All materials and reports from those Pre-tribunal hearings, all the Plenary session’s oral testimony and arguments, all Plenary session reports, amicus curiae briefs and full documentation are available, in both video and text formats, on the website for the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change.
The full text of the Opinion is attached. It is also available on the website for the PPT Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change and on the Jurisprudence page of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal website at their headquarters in Rome.
 
 

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International Human Rights Court Recommends Fracking Ban

CHEJ was involved in three of the United States field Tribunals in Athens and Youngstown, Ohio and in Charlottesville, VA. Lois Marie Gibbs served as a Juror in all three field Tribunals.  These field hearings provided the basic information for the large Tribunal held in Oregon. This is an incredible victory which provides yet a new tool in the tool box for communities to fight back against Fracking.
 
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal released its Advisory Opinion, recommending a worldwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, the extreme oil and gas extraction technique known as  ‘fracking.’ The Tribunal found that the materials, and infrastructure of fracking inherently and necessarily violate human rights. The specific rights violated include the rights to life, to water, to full information and participation, and especially the rights of indigenous people, women and children.  Governments have an affirmative obligation to protect the rights of their citizens, according to internationally recognized human-rights Covenants and Declarations. When governments fail to adequately regulate harmful oil and gas industry practices, they fail to meet their human rights obligations. And when governments fail to take measures to prevent the advance of climate change and its impacts on the rights to life, liberty, and security, they are failing to meet their internationally recognized human-rights obligations. Widespread government failures have created a global “axis of betrayal,” according to the international court, in which governments and fossil-fuel industries collude – at great cost to people and the planet – in human-rights violations to their mutual profit.
The Special Session was conducted for five days in May of 2018. Four Preliminary tribunals had been conducted in the months prior to the Plenary hearings. The Pre-tribunals included rich oral testimony from Australia, the US states of Ohio and Virginia, and other places, supporting documentation, and findings from those Pre-tribunal’s local judges. All materials and reports from those Pre-tribunal hearings, all the Plenary session’s oral testimony and arguments, all Plenary session reports, amicus curiae briefs and full documentation are available, in both video and text formats, on the website for the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change. The full text of the Opinion is attached. It is also available on the website for the PPT Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change and on the Jurisprudence page of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal website at their headquarters in Rome.
Deep gratitude to all who have taken this long journey with us to get this opinion finalized, and contributed in big and small ways along the way! Now the work of getting these important findings out to the world begins….
Peace and Blessings,
~Simona
      Simona L. Perry, PhD
      Cell 240 599 6655
      Google Phone USA +1 912 289 1158

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Homepage Water News

More than 50 million gallons of water polluted with toxic metals pours daily from US mine sites

Every day many millions of gallons of water loaded with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press has found. Read more.

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Irish High Court delivers killer blow to US Fracked Gas Imports by ‘New Fortress Energy’

The challenge by Irish environmentalists has proved that the ‘New Fortress Energy’ Shannon LNG consent process will take years and may now never come to fruition.
Read More.

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Homepage Water News

Investigation: Clorox Selling Pool Salt Made From Fracking Wastewater

Public Herald has discovered that Eureka Resources, a company based in Pennsylvania, has been treating wastewater from shale gas development — a.k.a. “fracking” — and packaging the crystal byproduct as “Clorox Pool Salt” for distribution since 2017.
Read More.

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MD Reject Permit for “Potomac Pipeline”

In what environmentalists hope is a major shift in state energy policy, Governor Larry Hogan voted to reject a permit necessary for a fracked-gas pipeline known as the “Potomac Pipeline.” During the Maryland Board of Public Works’ semi-monthly meeting, January 2nd Hogan and the other members of the board unanimously rejected a right-of-way easement for the project, which is proposed by a subsidiary of notorious energy company TransCanada.
Read more.

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Federal appeals court rejects permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

A panel of federal judges has rejected permits for the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline to cross two national forests and the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, finding that the U.S. Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility” and kowtowed to private industry in approving the project. <Read more>

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BREDL Calls for Investigation of VA Governor Around Environmental Justice

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League called upon Virginia Inspector General Michael Westfall to investigate the firing of two State Air Pollution Control Board members by Governor Ralph Northam.   The request also cites threats by the state attorney general to disband the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice.  The request centers on a proposed natural gas pipeline compressor station air permit.

Sharon Ponton, BREDL’s Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator, stated, “Governor Northam’s actions to replace Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bleicher are unethical and corrupt.”    The letter of request written by Ponton to the IG details events she observed during the last few weeks.  She concluded, “We believe that when the Governor sees a decision being made he doesn’t like, he puts his thumb on the scale to ensure Dominion Energy gets its way.”
Lou Zeller, BREDL’s Executive Director stated, “Governor Northam, throughout the pipeline permitting process in Virginia, has tried to straddle the fence, but his true position has been made clear in the last few weeks.  He is disregarding the environmental racism being perpetrated on the freedmen community of Union Hill.”  BREDL has a case on the compressor station now before the Virginia Supreme Court, with arguments set for December 4.
Ponton’s request to the IG also pointed to recent actions by Northam to dismiss the findings of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice.  She said, “We have asked the Inspector General to complete a thorough investigation into the Governor’s actions.  We believe the Governor abused his power, corrupted the permitting process, and broke with the public trust,” Ponton concluded.
The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is a Virginia corporation with members and projects throughout the state.  Its chapter in Union Hill, Virginia, Concern for the New Generations, was founded in 2016 to oppose the natural gas pipeline and compressor station proposed by Dominion Energy.

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Backyard Talk

Depression, A New Side Effect of Fracking — Pennsylvanians who live near fracking are more likely to be depressed

By: Sharon Franklin
July 29, 2018
Stress and depression are higher among those living closest to more and bigger wells.
People who live near unconventional natural gas operations such as fracking are more likely to experience depression, according to a new study, by Joan A. Casey, Holly C. Wilcox, Annemarie G. Hirsch, Jonathan Pollak and  Brian S. Schwartz  “Associations of unconventional natural gas development with depression symptoms and disordered sleep in Pennsylvania” .
Background:  The Study is the first of its kind published in Scientific Reports.  The University of California at Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University Researched reviewed the rates of depression in nearly 5,000 adults living in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region in 2015.
They found that people living near fracking-related operations are more likely to be depressed than the general population, and that stress and depression went up among people living closest to more and bigger natural gas wells. One of the study’s co-authors, Joan Casey stated “Previously we’ve looked at the links between unconventional natural gas development and things like asthma exacerbations, migraine headaches and fatigue. The next step was thinking about mental health, because we had a lot of anecdotal reports of sleep disturbances and psychosocial stress related to unconventional natural gas development.”
At the end of 2015, 9,669 wells had been drilled in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale.  By 2016, the region led the nation in shale gas production. There have been other small sample studies on the links between fracking and depression, however, this is the first to investigate a link between the two using a validated survey among a larger population. The researchers in this study compared data on the number of wells, the phase of extraction, and the volume of production in order to group residents into categories of “very low,” “low,” “medium,” and “high” levels of exposure to fracking operations.  To assess the severity of depression symptoms, the researchers utilized a patient health questionnaire that included questions such as, “How often have you been bothered by feeling down, depressed, hopeless?
The Study’s Results:  Dr. Casey noted that the greatest increases in rates of depression occurred among people with mild to moderate symptoms living near high-volume fracking operations.  She states “People in the highest group of exposure were 1.5 times more likely to have mild depression symptoms than those in very low exposure group.
Casey added “Based on our observations, it seems like living near unconventional natural gas development may not cause an increase in diagnoses of severe major depressive disorders but might exacerbate symptoms in those with mild or moderate depression and create some depression and stress in otherwise healthy people.”
The researchers minimized over reporting by not informing the subjects that the study was related to fracking.
While that strengthened the study’s results, Casey pointed out that it also limited their ability to examine the causes of depression in those living near fracking operations.
 “Some people in these communities might have positive associations with natural gas extraction.”

  • “Maybe they’re leasing their land and getting economic benefits, so it’s actually lessening their symptoms,
  • while others may only be getting exposures and have concerns about its health impacts, which could be worsening their symptoms.”

Additionally, the researchers reviewed electronic health records to determine whether there was an increase in physician-diagnosed sleep disorders or prescriptions for sleep aids in the region but did not observe an increase in those instances associated with proximity to fracking operations.
Unanswered questions  ???
The study addressed whether exposure to the chemicals being released into the environment could play a role in the increase of depression symptoms among those living near unconventional natural gas operations.
Casey said “I think we’ve probably now done enough epidemiological studies showing the links between unconventional natural gas extraction and health.”.

  1.  “The next step will be to tease apart what our exposure pathways are.”
  2.  “Is this being caused by air pollution and volatile organic compounds?
  3.  “Is it more about perception and psychosocial stressors than actual exposure?”

 Casey concluded that they don’t know the answers to these questions, and to be able to move forward, they will have to start unraveling those mysteries.
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