Categories
Homepage

Trump administration proposes new pipeline protesting punishments

The Trump administration has proposed legislation that will make any act “inhibiting the operation” of a gas or oil pipeline punishable for up to 20 years in prison. Current federal law already makes any attempt or action of damaging or destroying a pipeline punishable by prison. The administration now wants to expand on current legislation to any pipeline opposition that prohibits the productivity in construction of a pipeline. Some states have already been enforcing such strict laws on protesters; however, environmental activists question if the law is an encroachment on First Amendment rights. Read More.

Categories
Backyard Talk

Veto Ohio Senate Bill 33

If you live in a state with any type of oil, gas, pipeline, PAY ATTENTION! In fact, if we start seeing bills like the one before the Ohio legislature it doesn’t even have to be an oil/gas producing state.  The Ohio bill lists 73 different “Critical Infrastructures”. 
Below you will see a letter to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine from citizens of Ohio asking for him to veto SB 33 if it comes to his desk.  The letter will help you understand what is going on in many states.  
To Ohio Governor Mike DeWine:
The undersigned environmental justice, racial justice, civil justice, criminal justice, and other civil society groups and individuals urge you to veto Ohio Senate Bill 33 (SB 33). The bill would undermine and silence already marginalized voices. SB 33 is an unnecessary proposal that creates new draconian penalties for conduct already covered by existing criminal statutes and could have dire unintended consequences. SB 33 is part of a national trend of so-called “critical infrastructure” legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that is intended to neutralize citizen activism around oil and gas infrastructures. We urge you to oppose SB 33.
 
Critical infrastructure bills disproportionately affect some of the most underrepresented communities, criminalizing their right to protest. These bills target many already marginalized voices, in reaction to some of the most high-profile protests in recent history. Communities of color, low-wealth communities and our Native American population are most affected by unchecked environmental pollution; family farms have the most to lose by unfair land-grabs for large infrastructure projects. These communities have a right to peacefully resist environmentally unsafe and unjust policies and unchecked corporate abuse.
SB 33 is purportedly designed to protect critical infrastructure, but the definition of “critical infrastructure” is overly broad and would cover large swaths of the state in urban, suburban, and rural areas, creating the unintended consequence of ensnaring many in Ohio’s already overburdened criminal justice system.
Additionally, the bill does not distinguish between criminal damages of one dollar or a million dollars. At a time when many people, including lawmakers, have recognized the deleterious effects that mass incarceration has had on society and have attempted to rectify laws that have criminalized certain conduct or imposed unreasonable penalties, SB 33 is a giant step backwards. By creating a whole new class of nonviolent offenders who could serve serious prison time, it is antithetical to criminal justice reform.
Environmental advocacy, including civil disobedience, does not threaten physical infrastructure or safety. It threatens profits. Critical infrastructure bills are based on model legislation crafted by corporate interests to establish special protections for some private industries engaged in controversial practices that attract opposition and protest. These bills, including SB 33, are rooted in governments hostile attitudes toward environmental justice advocacy because it threatens the profits of these corporations. Whenever states enact legislation based on these hostile attitudes towards particular political speech, it has a chilling effect that will be felt widely.
We urge you to veto SB 33 if and when it comes across your desk. From a criminal justice reform perspective, this bill is damaging, as it creates new steep penalties for conduct that is already covered under existing criminal law. These new steep penalties and special protections for so-called critical infrastructure are rooted in animus towards anti-pipeline protesters. It is inappropriate for states to seek to legislate in order to penalize individuals for their First Amendment-protected points of view.

Categories
Homepage

Philadelphia Refinery Explosion Yet Another Close Call With Hydrogen Fluoride

This past month, Philadelphia was rocked by a massive refinery explosion that released smoke and toxic chemicals into the sky. The explosion occurred at 4am and was visible throughout the city, and residents were warned to shelter in place until the fire was more contained.
Luckily, reports indicate that no one was killed, but five workers were injured in the explosion. The refinery in question, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, has been responsible in the past for 72% of Philadelphia’s toxic emissions. After this explosion, the refinery will close.
However, the explosion was nearly deadly, as the fires could have moved to burn tanks containing Hydrogen Fluoride, an incredibly dangerous chemical that can be lethal even if inhaled in small doses. Hydrogen Fluoride is a commonly used in oil refineries across the US, and these refineries commonly burn— like the Husky Superior Refinery in the Twin Ports area of Wisconsin in April of last year. In the Husky Refinery explosion, the HF tanks were about 200 feet away from the fires and narrowly missed being hit by debris. If the HF tanks had been detonated in the Philadelphia Refinery explosion, hundreds of thousands of people’s lives would have been at risk.
While the Philadelphia refinery is closing, the Twin Ports Refinery is not, nor are many HF using refineries across the United States. Even though many citizens have demanded that these refineries remove the chemical from there practice, it is not currently banned in the United States. Why, then, are oil companies continuing to risk disaster? <Read More>
[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”]

Matt Rourke // Associated Press
Matt Rourke // Associated Press
[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Categories
Homepage

Mining Lands in Nevada Top National Toxic Release Inventory

Nevada ranked first nationally in the release of toxic chemicals per square mile in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, and the state’s mining industry was the reason why. read more here.

Categories
Backyard Talk

What’s Up with the Green New Deal?

By Maia Lehmann. The ever-tenacious Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled her Green New Deal (GND) on February 7th amidst great anticipation. The non-binding resolution, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, sought to provide the United States with a comprehensive vision to combat climate change using a holistic approach. Excitement was widely felt by those who have been waiting decades to see public health, climate change, and environmental justice seriously addressed by federal legislation. But, what did Ocasio-Cortez’s plan actually lay out? And what’s happening to it now?
The goal of the Green New Deal (GND) was to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% renewable power use by 2030. This objective was met by broad support from the American public, with 87.2% of citizens polled saying that they strongly agreed with the statement. Adapting the U.S. energy portfolio is an essential step, seeing as in 2017 petroleum, natural gas, and coal accounted for 77.6% of U.S. energy—a direct disconnect from what Americans say they want from their energy sector.
The 14-page GND begins with a preamble that describes the policy issues as seen by Ocasio-Cortez: one-part climate crisis, one-part economic crisis. The preamble is followed by five goals, 24 projects, and 15 requirements that intend to lay a framework for how to address these problems. Rather than laying out concrete steps however, the GND uses a broad brush to advocate for an energy efficient electrical grids, updating infrastructure, and overhauling the transportation sector. While critics say that it is ignoring the most integral questions, it is strategically opening a space for disagreement and discussion.
The GND faces plenty of hurdles, especially since it includes several social and economic oriented projects, such as, “Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and disability leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.” Whether you agree with these issues or not, including them could make the reality of passing the bill even more difficult than climate legislation is already. And the difficulty of climate legislation is highlighted by the co-sponsorship of Senator Markey, who was a leader on the American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009. The 2009 bill had a much narrower focus but still failed to pass even when both houses of Congress and the presidency was held by Democrats. However, rather than letting that cast a shadow upon the GND, perhaps it speaks to the need for radical changes to the status quo. In fact, 69.8% of Americans polled supported the intertwined social and environmental goals. And due to the inseparable nature of these policy issues it may be advantageous to craft a vision of how they could be developed in tandem. If previous incremental policy efforts have failed, and the opinions of the public are not being reflected by our lawmakers, then it is time to embrace an innovative comprehensive approach.
On March 26th the Senate voted the resolution down in a vote of 57-0, with the majority of Democrats voting “present” in protest to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bringing the bill to the floor without hearings or debate. If anything, Senate Republican’s refusal to even discuss the most pressing issues of climate change demonstrate the necessity for dramatic policy change. The halt of the GND in the senate did not stall the zeal for the overall project of the GND. Representative Ocasio-Cortez is now refocusing her efforts by writing a series of small bills that will target both social and environmental issues in a more individualized method. The GND has successfully reinvigorated and rallied the efforts and public spirit for tackling the current climate crisis and provided a vision for what a sustainable and equitable America could look like. All of the Senate Democrats running for the presidency in 2020 have endorsed the GND, signaling that its vision will continue to permeate and inspire environmental legislation. This will not be the end of a green future that will support all of America.
Sources:
https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/2/7/18211709/green-new-deal-resolution-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-markey
https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/climate-change/flaws-with-a-green-new-deal-part-2-of-2/
https://www.investopedia.com/the-green-new-deal-explained-4588463
https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=us_energy_home
https://www.businessinsider.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-green-new-deal-support-among-americans-poll-2019-2
https://www.dataforprogress.org/green-new-deal-support
 
 

Categories
Homepage

Is Radium Being Spread on Your Roads?

Radium has been widely spread on Pennsylvania roadways without regulation: Study

200 times more of the carcinogen has been released into the environment through legal road brining than has as a result of oil and gas industry spills.
 Wastewater from the oil and gas industry that’s being spread on roadways to control dust and ice in at least 13 states, including Pennsylvania, poses a threat to the environment and to human health, according to a study released this week. Read more.
Categories
Backyard Talk News Archive

Native Nations Rise March: A Powerful Uprising for Indigenous Rights

Indigenous people from around the world gathered to promote sovereignty, resistance, respect, justice and love at the Native Nations Rise March 10th. I was honored to walk along side of Indigenous women, children and men.  The weather was freezing with rain, sleet and snow. The wind howled as if joining the marches with a powerful message of protecting the earth and halting the harms.
The march began at the United States Army Corps of Engineers building and then moved past the Trump International Hotel. In front of the Trump Hotel a short demonstration was held to let guests and Trump hear the voices of the people. Now completely frozen, I continued to march to the White House.  Throughout the march there was a unified message aimed at President Donald Trump and his administration: Mni Wiconi, “Water is Life!” The chant has become a shorthand for tribes’ struggle to reassert tribal sovereignty and self-determination over their physical and spiritual spheres. The phrase was joined by many other expressions aimed at attracting the attention of the federal government: “We stand with Standing Rock!” – “Keep the oil in the soil, you can’t drink oil!” – “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Donald Trump has got to go!” – And, “Shame, shame, shame!”
A rally with extraordinary speakers joined at the end of the March at a park, in front of the White House. Powerful words were voiced by Native leaders. It was a march that I will always hold close to my heart. Although I was frozen to the bone – I felt fire in the belly and ready to take on the fight for justice.
Read more here.

Categories
Backyard Talk News Archive

What Does Standing Rock and Love Canal Struggles Have In Common?

Real democracy in action.  Both situations did not have the law on their side, regulations or much of anything. Yet both of those fights had real victories. There are real lessons that can be learned from these two high profile situations. Lessons that are important as we as a country enter the Trump era. Although there was science and legal work in both situations that was done to build a case to stop the madness that was not the magic answer.  It was people. Hundreds of people and at time thousands of people who stood up, took risks, spoke out in a united voice to say, “NO” that made the difference.
It was also using the media and a narrative that the average American person could understand.  It was value-based and widely supported. One of the differences was at Love Canal the residents had the mainstream media on their side. In Standing Rock it was the alternative media, Amy Goodman from Democracy Now, who refused to let the story go. It wasn’t until she was charged by police for breaking the law, that the story caught on with the mainstream media. There was also the difference of Love Canal families who were largely working class white people and at Standing Rock were Indigenous Peoples at the center of the struggle. That’s part of America’s racism that is real and again demonstrated at Standing Rock.
This is a story,  a comparison which needs more analysis and lessons learned. Yes, a longer article needs to be written. Unfortunately I can’t do that now, but  will likely in the future. My reason for raising this comparison at all, is for all of those who say under Trump we have no chance. Yes you do–yes we do– but only if we organize people, unite voices and build the political power that is needed to not only save what we’ve got, but win more. We can do it– but it takes stepping out of your place of comfort, take some risks like signing a petition that your friends might not agree with or giving something– a dollar, an hour, food, make a phone call, go to a meeting  and so much more. Today is the day for you to make a change so we — all of us — can live in a free, safe, healthy  and inclusive world.

Categories
Backyard Talk

We Are Winning With Renewables

The U.S. electric grid added more than 70 times as much renewable energy capacity as natural gas capacity from January to March 2016. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) reports no new capacity of coal, oil, or nuclear power were added in the first quarter of the year. I know there are many factors in addition to our efforts at the street that makes this possible but you – our grassroots field fighters – can take some credit for this accomplishment.
Today, renewables make up 18 percent of total U.S. installed generating capacity. This is a low number as FERC doesn’t include solar energy on rooftops across America. They only include large scale solar units.
According to an article in Climate by Joe Romm, “There is increasingly clear that we don’t need to add significant amounts of any new grid capacity that isn’t renewable for the foreseeable future. In part that’s because demand for utility power generation has been flat for almost a decade — and should continue plateauing for quite some time — thanks to rapidly growing energy efficiency measures (and, to a much lesser extent, thanks to recent increases in rooftop solar).  We also know that renewable power — both new wind and solar — is now winning bids for new generation around the world without subsidies.  Some bids are coming in at under four cents per kilowatt hour!
This is all good news. What isn’t is that the oil and gas industry still wants to drill, frack and export our fossil fuels. In New Bedford, Texas, Maryland, Oregon and other ports along our coasts are export terminals planned to take America’s resources and ship them overseas. What ever happened to our energy security? So that big oil and gas can increase their profits, the American people lose not only energy security but also the destruction of our water, land and the public’s health.
This is an election year and we – the people – have an opportunity to ask all candidates as they knock on our doors or rally in the park where they stand on destroying our environment and harming public health to export our resources and make big oil/gas richer. I personally think it is un-American hurt our families, environment and not keep the fossil fuels in the ground until just in case Americans need them.

Categories
Backyard Talk Homepage

Helping can hurt: Complications and consequences of remediation strategies

Environmental remediation often involves a) moving large amounts of contaminated material from one place to another, b) treating the polluted material with chemical compounds, or c) both. The Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council says it best in their guideline document on managing risks during remediation: “Investigation and remediation activities have their own set of risks, apart from the risks associated with chemical contamination.” These risks range from spending time and resources on an ineffective remedy, to the chance of causing adverse ecosystem and health impacts through the cleanup process.

[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”]

Project risks - from ITRC document

I recently read a report from a site where engineers were pumping methanol into the groundwater to aid in breaking down the compound of interest, TCE. They soon found that their shipment of methanol was contaminated by PCE – another toxic compound with which they were effectively re-polluting their treatment area. Introducing further contamination through remediation may be less common, but dealing with large amounts of polluted material can potentially cause existing contaminants to become more mobile. Especially when remediation projects deal with contaminated sediments, a question of critical importance is whether to remove the offending substance or to leave it in place. Dredging of contaminated sediment underwater must be done very carefully so as to avoid remobilizing contaminants into the water column.  There are surprises, too; sometimes, the EPA says,  “dredging uncovers unexpectedly high concentrations of contaminants beneath surface sediments.”

When contaminated materials are left in place, or before they are removed, the remediation process often involves introducing new chemical compounds to the polluted material. These “additives” help cause reactions that break down toxic chemicals into less toxic forms. However, Lisa Alexander of the Massachusetts Department of the Environment writes that these additives can cause contaminants to migrate into water, or release potentially harmful gases.

[/fusion_builder_column][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”]

Gulf Coast cleanup worker - from CNN

The complexities of remediation have been especially apparent in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Dispersants were released to break down oil in the Gulf, but years later the substances are still being found in tar balls washing up on the beach. The combination of oil and the dispersant Corexit has also proven to be more toxic to marine organisms than oil alone. Corexit, encountered primarily by cleanup workers after the tragedy, is also potentially toxic to humans, and its longterm health effects are unknown.

Cleaning up contaminated sites involves taking calculated risks of disrupting or polluting an already-damaged ecosystem. When even our most practiced remediation methods carry with them uncertain outcomes, how can we strike a balance between trying innovative treatment methods for contamination and avoiding unreasonable risk? I’ll explore one case in particular in my next entry: nanomaterials.

[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]