Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Fireside Chat Between Governors: Andrew Cuomo Instructs Pennsylvania's New Tom About the Value of Human Rights

Winter Vista, Adirondacks, New York State
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


12.17.14: Today New York Governor Cuomo announces that there will be no HVHF--High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing--in New York State.

As the New York Times reports:


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the controversial method of natural gas extraction.
State officials concluded that fracking, as the method is known, could contaminate the air and water and pose inestimable dangers to public health. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/nyregion/cuomo-to-ban-fracking-in-new-york-state-citing-health-risks.html?_r=1).
The hero of the day was acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker:
In a presentation at the cabinet meeting, the acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, said the examination had found “significant public health risks” associated with fracking.
Holding up scientific studies to animate his arguments, Dr. Zucker listed concerns about water contamination and air pollution, and said there was insufficient scientific evidence to affirm the long-term safety of fracking.
Dr. Zucker said his review boiled down to a simple question: Would he want to live in a community that allowed fracking?
He said the answer was no. 
Zucker said. “The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known.”
And that was that. As Cuomo put it himself, "it wasn't really his decision." No fracking in New York--possibly ever.

There's much to celebrate here, but first a couple of caveats:

First, this does not mean that the fight over Crestwood's bid to use Lake Seneca for LPG storage--at the immense risk to health, road safety and ecological integrity--is over at Watkin's Glen. Indeed, the struggle to preserve this magnificent chunk of the Finger Lakes may even intensify as Crestwood doubles down to make sure it's own dirty gambit is not threatened by the governor's decision. At 100 arrests for civil disobedience and counting, we have much to learn from these brave folks--teachers, doctors, professors,

Protest at Crestwood facility gates
10.24.14. Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee
wine-makers, retired folks, working people, students.



Second, Cuomo's decision does not mean that New York doesn't remain home to all manner of other frack-related infrastructure--including their own pipeline fights, sand production, etc. Indeed, that's what Crestwood is no doubt banking on--ban or no ban. So--we want to be clear about what exactly we're celebrating--but, we do and must celebrate every win.


Just as a reminder of that second point, here's a photograph from a protest at Horseheads--a frack sand transport depot:

Protest Horseheads, NY, late Summer 2012
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee






Imagine, if you will, a conversation--a Winter's eve fireside chat--between Governor Cuomo and Governor elect Wolf over the New York fracking ban. Imagine especially in light of the following:


1. No health or safety study of any kind preceded the Pennsylvania fracking boom. There were no gatekeepers, no one watching out for the health and welfare of the state's citizens, no one to defend the state parks, game lands, mobile home communities, your private property. No one with any sort of power from either party raised a single objection to the invasion of the gas companies. Before we knew what sort of anvil had fallen on our heads, they were already drilling out our brains.

2. With the election of Governor Corbett was game-on. In the name of the "free market," energy independence," and "national security, it became essentially unpatriotic to object to "drill, baby, drill." A nascent and fairly disheveled anti-fracking movement was beginning to take shape--but we could not get clear on a message, and we just didn't seem to get the fundamental difference between regulation--that gives the green light to the gas industries--and demanding a ban--telling the gassers to go take a hike. Still don't. Even as the anecdotal but horrifying evidence begins to pile up--243 established reports of contaminated wells, the list of the harmed, an uptick in traffic accidents near well pads, rashes, asthma, etc. etc., the Pennsylvania movement just can't seem to get up its collective Chutzpah to decry the corporatist state's complete abandonment of its duties to clean air and water. What role a culture of post-traumatic resignation due to the wholesale destruction by the coal industry and before that the loggers, I don't know. But what I do know is that we were raped by this industry before we knew what was happening, and we just did not get up and really fight. And, while I respect very much my allies and friends who caution me about about the use of the word "rape," I am going to keep it because it signals the profound and irrecoverable wrong done to us by this industry. Just as the rapist deprives his victim of the integrity of her body (something I know firsthand), so too the gas industry deprives living things the integrity of that body upon whom we all depend--that of the earth, its soil, water and air.

3. New York instituted a moratorium before the first frackers could set foot on the soil of the Empire State citing the unknown potentially hazardous effects on human health. This set the wheels in motion for (a) a populist movement that still burns bright on the renewable fuel called hope--a fact whose import cannot be overestimated--and (b) the massive and comprehensive survey of the studies Dr. Zucker cites in his report to Governor Cuomo, a report that is every bit as relevant to Pennsylvania, and Colorado, and Ohio, and Michigan, and Wyoming, and Texas as it is to New York.

4. Despite a number of angst-ridden iterations of "Will the New York moratorium hold?" it did.

5. Hell-bent on electing some other "Tom," Pennsylvanians elected Tom Wolf, a Democrat whose affection for the gas not only rivals outgoing governor Tom Corbett's, but will potentially out-do it since, if Wolf gets his way with an extraction tax, the industry will become entrenched in the state's tax base. Education will become dependent on it 'til the boom goes bust, and then the industry will do what it was always going to do: leave. Leave a wasteland that will make the border between New York and Pennsylvania seem like that between a corpse and a living human being; and in many ways, that will be literally true. Wolf's environmental transition team reads like the board of directors of any Big Gas company, as I documented here: http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-big-gas-wolf-his-new-pack-of.html. While New Yorkers still stand a chance of getting to sip fabulous Chardonnays and watch the sunset on their gorgeous Finger Lakes, Pennsylvanians will be lamenting their contaminated  wells, their loss of property value, and the fact that they didn't stand up and take a principled stand--even if that meant re-enacting a scene from Selma Alabama in the 1960s. 

6. Lastly, the New York ban could actually portend an uptick in the urgency of gettin' the gas outta the ground in Pennsylvania. As it sinks into the industry that some folks--at least New Yorkers--may be catching onto the fact that this drilling infrastructure in incompatible with life, they'll want to get their frack on at an even more accelerated pace. Indeed, Wolf wasted no time responding to Cuomo's decision. As reported by PoliticsPA: 
“Governor-elect Wolf opposes a ban, and he will work hard to make sure the process is safe,” responded Jeffrey Sheridan, Press Secretary for Wolf’s transition team.
“Pennsylvania’s natural resources should help the commonwealth become an energy leader, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as a magnet for investment and job creation,” he continued. “Governor-elect Wolf’s priority is to ensure that Pennsylvania is an energy leader with all Pennsylvanians sharing in the prosperity. http://www.politicspa.com/pa-gov-wolf-reiterates-support-for-fracking-after-ny-ban/62505/

As I've argued elsewhere, this "have your cake and eat it too" strategy spells ecological doom for Pennsylvania since--as is now strengthened considerably by Zucker's findings--there is no safe HVHF. Add to that the pressure to regulate less in order to generate even more revue towards Wolf's second term election, that means Pennsylvanians may well be in for, even less oversight--even less time for PA-Citizens to get their act together for a collective and definitive--arrest me if you must--NO MORE.

So--what would this fireside chat look like?

Cuomo: My gosh--what a day I had! Settling that fracking business once and for all. Thank goodness Zucker is so on his game. Didn't really leave me any choice, and that's fine by me.
Wolf: Well, Andrew, that's all very nice for you, but I have to fix the mess my predecessor made cutting funding to education. After all, that's what we Dems do.
Cuomo: I hear you brother, but you know, some of those science studies really are pretty condemning. Don't you PA folks have some article attached to your Constitution about the right to clean air and water?
Wolf: Yes, yes--but, Andrew, the Frackity Mc'Frack horse is already out of the barn! We're at 8200 wells and counting our way to 400,000. Plus, the only "movement" against the industry we really have in PA doesn't actually do much of anything but stand on the steps of the Capitol occasionally--blocking access to the lunch cart down the street. They "demand," we yawn. We tell them to head on home. A few occasionally give us the opportunity to show off our state police, and heck, we contract out to surveil the rest. These folks are pesky--but harmless. Gosh Darnit if they didn't all vote for me anyways! And they'll do it again. Oh, ummm, that's article 27 you're talking about, I think. I'll have to check with my transition team--but I've got that covered. 
Cuomo: How so, Tom?
Wolf: Well, I'm not really sure--but I've got this crack environmental transition team straight from the gas industry, and they're going to tell me everything I need to know. Some of them--like Denice Brinley--have real government experience that they took with them right to the industry, so I'm sure they'll be helpful. 
Cuomo: Wow! Man, if I had let that study of the health effects from HVHF be done by anyone with any gas-related connections, they'd have run me right out of Dodge! 
Wolf: Yeah, well here in the Texas of the East, folks are very patriotic. Our country's energy independence and national security come first! And that means way before other "rights" like property rights, freedom of expression rights, Article 27 rights--hey, we can't let rights get in the way of our funding for education!
Cuomo: But... Tom, isn't that a little self-defeating? I mean, after all, doesn't Pennsylvania want citizens who are educated--so as to exercise their rights in smart sorts of ways?
Wolf:  Nah.
Cuomo: Well, ummm, ok. You know, we have the same battles going on over a lot of this stuff--like pipeline infrastructure--in New York that you have in PA--but we get it that the pipelines aren't really about energy independence and national security. That gas is headed right for LNG export facilities--you know that, right? Do Pennsylvanians get that?
Wolf: Oh, sure they do! We all know that. There are some very determined citizens here in PA working tirelessly to get township supervisors to vote for ordinances that would keep out, well, the whole nasty business.
Cuomo: So....you do see it as a "nasty business"?
Wolf: Well, sure it is--but what was I supposed to do? I inherited the industry from that other Tom. If I get my way, it's a cash cow!
Cuomo: Maybe, Tom--but are your Republicans really gonna let you have an extraction tax?
 Wolf: I doubt it--but hey we're politicians, right? It's not about what we're really gonna do; it's just about what we say we're gonna do--like make fracking safe. Plus....I think the science must just be wrong. That Zucker fella--he must be paid by some lefty health think tank.
Cuomo: Uh, well, no. Zucker's a medical doctor with a sterling reputation, and that report, well, here, you can read its 184 pages for yourself. http://media.syracuse.com/news/other/2014/12/17/NYS%20%20DOH%20fracking%20health%20report.pdf
Wolf: Nah. 
Cuomo: Well, OK. Does it worry you that "cashing in" could mean that the very students you'd use the money to educate could be facing frack-related disease before they can cash out their diplomas to the state's advantage? has anyone ever suggested to you that you're, as it were, torching the furniture to heat the house?
Wolf: Oh, come now, Andrew, that's a bit on the side of hyperbole, isn't it? I'm only going to let some folk's furniture burn--not everyone's.
Cuomo: Ummm, well, who get's to be the lucky sacrifice zone?
Wolf: The folks who already are! Folks who aren't likely to put up all that much of a fuss, who--like your Southern Tier people--would be happy to get a few bucks in royalties.
Cuomo: But Tom, a good number of our Southern Tier folks are sitting in jail right now for protesting Crestwood's plan to build an LNG storage facility on Lake Seneca.
Wolf: Yeah--but you don't actually think that will make a difference, do you?
Cuomo: Ummmm, well, it was the people who demanded a moratorium until a health study could be performed.
Wolf: What? You listen to your people?
Cuomo: Well, ummmm, yeah, actually, I do. It's uncomfortable to be sure, but it seems to be part of the governor's job description. 
Wolf: Nah.
And on this chat might go. The point, however, I think is this:

New York's ban certainly has consequences for Pennsylvanians. But if we allow the governor elect to decide those consequences, we will see no change, no respite from the ongoing danger to our own health, properties, ecologies. Indeed, wasting time appealing to Wolf--who has made his position crystal clear in his transition team selections--is a waste. 

We have a primo opportunity to follow the lead of Watkin's Glen, and execute a strategy that in exemplifying courage will generate more courage. 

But, as I have said a thousand times, it's not going to change until we are prepared to put our bodies on the line. 

And that's more true now than ever

Why? Because the industry's already here--a point the significance of which cannot be overstated.

The drill pads, the pipelines, the compressor stations, etc are not just zits on the PA landscape; they're cancerous lesions scared into every hillside and field, every river and stream in one way or another. 

Getting the gas thugs out is more like having chemotherapy than a tidy surgical wart removal.

To extend the metaphor--it's as if New York read the Surgeon General's warning before they started smoking--and decided it wasn't worth the risk. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, went right our and bought a pack of unfiltered Camels as soon as they were on the market. And when folks started saying "Hey! That may be really bad for you!" Pennsylvanians launched into the usual litany of excuses:

"I can quit whenever I want!"
"The Surgeon general is lying!"
"Yeah, they're bad, but so's heroin!"

This, of course, no more describes all Pennsylvanians than it does all New Yorkers--as any cursory perusal of Energy in Depth's favorite child Vic Furman will attest.

Be all that as it may, the conversation between Cuomo and Wolf could have been very different:
  
Cuomo: Hey, Tom, we're banning fracking in New York effective today. The risk is just too great, and we're gonna pout our energies into renewables and conservation here in the Empire State.
Wolf: You know, Andrew, you're right. This fracking business is way too risky. I see that now. Time for me to change course for the sake of future Pennsylvanians.
Cuomo: The thing that really got me was when Dr. Zucker said he wouldn't want his kid playing next to a drilling operation. Yup--that did it.
Wolf: Damn straight--and too many PA kids have already suffered the consequences of my predecessors mistakes. Not on my watch. How about we do a joint press release that will rock the socks off those dang Republicans and their Democrat pals? 
Cuomo: What did you have in mind, Tom?
Wolf: Fracking stops in Pennsylvania right now. Not just permits in the offing--but all operations--they'll just have to pack up and head on home to Texas.
Cuomo: You know, you might get sued.
Wolf: Yup--I might. And I might not get re-elected. But it's high time we said that the Keystone State was no longer up for becoming a global extraction colony, don't you think?
Cuomo: Just one last question, then--who do we call first?
I don't, for what it's worth, think the difference between Cuomo and Wolf is anything as exotic as moral fortitude. After all, the real hero of Cuomo's story isn't Cuomo--it's Zucker. And since we know this fact--Wolf and Cuomo are both politicians whose party affiliations don't really matter all that much--isn't it time we simply do for ourselves what the New York health study has done for New Yorkers? 

Namely, take back our right to clean air and water?

Not ask nicely not to be forfeited to the gassers and the pipeliners.

Not make vacuous demands at our rallies not to be horse-traded for gas company profits.

Not send out one or two activists to be arrested as a show of our solidarity.

Not draft another petition.

Not write another letter pleading to be treated like human beings

Nope--none of that's gonna work.

Time to take the stand that we deserve what New Yorkers get just by living a bit North:

Human. Rights. 

I have many times compared what this movement could be to the Civil Rights movement of the American 1960s.  I have reflected a good deal on the well-intended criticism that, for example, there can never be another Selma, Alabama. And of course, there can't. 

But what there can and must be is the willingness to be inspired by Selma, Alabama--to see that what we're struggling for in the 21st century is precisely the future that was and remains at stake in the 1960s. I don't pretend for a moment to comprehend racial discrimination. But I do comprehend discrimination with respect to sex and sexual orientation. And I do know what is at stake here. In the face of climate change--it's everything.

So, I will hold onto this comparison.

This is about human rights on a global scale.

This is about the rights of species and their ecologies to exist and develop along their own evolutionary trajectories.

This is about the future--because "sustainable" just ain't enough.

I don't know what Andrew Cuomo understands or doesn't. I do know that in ignoring the New York health report Tom Wolf is nothing but a mercenary politician whose fortunes depend on a system corrupt to its core and whose corruption he has already abetted. 

We need to treat him as naught but a symptom of that. 


Wendy Lynne Lee





Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Big Gas Wolf, His New Pack of Drillin' Dogs, and the "Environmentalists" Who Help Him Run Interference

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


Recently, Nathan Sooy, Central Campaign Coordinator for  Clean Water Action--one of the in-name-only greenies of whom I have been recently very critical (see list below)--posted on a Facebook thread (without citation) the list of Governor elect Tom Wolf's appointments to Wolf's transition review teams originally published here:

http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/12/250-plus_people_named_to_gov-e.html

When I remarked that this list--a wholesale capitulation to the gas companies--was "utterly predictable," and that "this was what standing on the steps of the Harrisburg Capitol with protest signs will get us," Sooy's response was "Wendy, I have barely gotten started" (Governor Wolf's Department of Environmental... - Nathan Richard Sooy).

Started--with what? 


So far as I can see, Clean Water Action (CWA) has prevented precisely not one minute's worth of the kind of destruction above. In fact, what's underneath that gutted swath of forest--and what's draining into the Muncy Creek just out of camera range is this:


Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


"Just getting started--with what? is a fair question. After all, CWA states on its website that part of their mission is to stand up for the Clean Water Act--and that would be great--if they actually did that consistently. But, while it may strike CWA folks as crazy, it turns out that clean water is intimately associated with clean air. And CWA's support as part of the faux-coalition, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking (PAF), of governor elect Tom Wolf simply puts the lie to PAF's commitment to the Clean Air Act.

As I showed here, THE WRENCH: I "Heart" Wolf: Why IREX Should send Pennsylvanians Against Fracking a Thank You! Card, Wolf has his hands about as deeply in the pockets of the fossil fuel energy industry as did Corbett--with one caveat:

Wolf is going to pretend to be on the side of clean air and water.

Corbett didn't bother.

And one aspiration:

Wolf believes fervently that he can be re-elected.

That makes Wolf even more dangerous since under his administration many among at least the Democrats (who seem to want to be told they can safely go to sleep) are clearly willing to provide him cover for the sake of keeping the party in power--all the while the gas industry and its affiliates among the pipeliners plan to just keep drilling the state into oblivion, and pumping out the gas to the export depots.

Here's a bit of problem-pipeline--in case you're wondering what that might look like--same location, buried under that topsoil and straw. Pretty nasty--and hazardous to exposure both for water and air. That's drilling mud, and it's both quite irritating to the skin and to the lungs.

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

If CWA's association with PAF isn't sufficient for you, fine. Here's CWA's own endorsement of Wolf:

The November 4th election saw the loss of pro-environment seats in both houses of the legislature, predicting further attacks on the environment.  
Fortunately, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf will have significant power to block those attacks and to move forward on crucial environmental protections, and has promised a cleaner future for Pennsylvania.   

Clean Water Action, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, PennEnvironment, PennFuture, and the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter congratulate Governor-Elect Wolf on his victory and look forward to working with his administration to protect Pennsylvania’s environment. (http://www.cleanwateraction.org/feature/5-simple-things-governor-tom-wolf-can-do-pennsylvania’s-environment).
That is called "making sure CWA has a seat at the table" even though its players, like Nathan Sooy, know that Wolf is in bed with W. Kirk Liddell, CEO of IREX to the tune of at least $12,000, and Sooy no doubt also knows that Irex has worked tirelessly to deregulate every bit as much of the Clean Air Act as possible--or profitable. And Sooy also knows that Wolf happily accepted at least $273,000 in energy sector donations. 

It is indeed richly ironic that among CWA's "Five Simple Things that Governor Tom Wolf can do for Pennsylvania's Environment" is this:

Pennsylvania ranks among the worst states in the nation for air pollution and illnesses like asthma. Currently, Pennsylvania does not directly regulate methane pollution from natural gas operations and lags behind other states in controlling air emissions. Governor-Elect Wolf should work with DEP to directly regulate methane emissions from natural gas operations. Additionally, Pennsylvania should enact a strong “Smog Rule,” to limit pollutants like nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds.  

None of this is going to happen while IREX CEO Liddell is on the donation list for Wolf's re-election--not to mention the big gassers responsible for the other $261,000. Moreover, here CWA explicitly concedes that it's only interested in regulating--not stopping (much less banning) natural gas extraction. ALL CWA is asking for (and ever so politely) is that Wolf work with DEP to regulate methane emissions--and that means from fracking operations CWA assumes will continue.

And Sooy of course knows that if Wolf gets his way (however unlikely) and gets an extraction tax, there will be even less regulation since fewer regs/less enforcement means more gas production and therefore more tax revenue (more of this below--see http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/11/two-toms-sheep-outfit-and-drill-bit.html).

All of this makes it even more richly ironic that CWA posts the following among their "Five Simple Things":


To implement these policies, Governor-Elect Wolf needs to build a team of agency leaders committed to environmental protection and independent of the special interests that these bodies oversee – new leadership for the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Public Utilities Commission, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.Leaders of these agencies should know that climate change is a problem; enthusiastically support renewable energy, clean air, and clean water; and understand that their first duty is to protect the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens.
Let's see what this cast of "leaders" for Mr. Wolf looks like so far. From the PennLive report's list of Wolf's "Environmental Protection Team"

Christina Simeone, Director at the PennFuture Energy Center--entirely pro-fracking on the long-rejected argument that natural gas is cleaner than coal: "Coal job losses are natural gas job gains. If coal plant retirements were occurring because people stopped using electricity, then that is net economic job loss. But that is not the case. Job loss from retiring coal plants is being coupled with job gains in the natural gas sector. In economics, this is called a transfer, not a loss" (Coal isn't dying - it just can't compete: Christina Simeone | PennLive.com). And, there's this gem, Simeone's view of the new EPA regulations concerning coal-fired power plants: "This is a great day for the environment,” said Christina Simeone, director of the PennFuture Energy Center. But Simeone noted that a surge of cheaper natural gas from the Marcellus Shale was already pushing power companies to shut down some coal plants. “The reality is coal is being outcompeted. Gas is cheaper, and gas is cleaner,” Simeone said (Pollution plan may have big impact in state - News - Citizens' Voice).

Rob Foxx, managing attorney at Manko, Gold, Katcher, and Fox, LLP: "Robb is the managing partner of the firm and has a diverse practice involving compliance counseling, litigation and transactional work for clients in the waste, chemical manufacturing and development industries and on behalf of cities and municipalities." Foxx, in other words, makes sure regulations are followed--regulations written by and for the extraction industries that donate to Wolf's campaign, and who will see even less regulation (since that will mean higher revenues) if Wolf wins his proposal for an extraction tax. That Foxx represents the interests of polluting industries is clear on his website: Robert D. Fox - Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox LLP | Best Lawyers




Denise Brinley, Vice President and Principal Consultant, TRC Companies: "Support TRC’s strategic initiatives in the fields of Shale Gas, Renewables, RE Power, and Brownfield redevelopment, as well as the expansion of TRC’s due diligence, permitting, remediation and Exit Strategy® service areas in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and surrounding states. Lead TRC's “Appalachian Shale Gas Initiative" - responsible for identifying market opportunities, generating sales, and leading a core team of business development professionals for Appalachian shale gas service growth (Marcellus and Utica Shales in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York) (Denise Brinley | LinkedIn). TRC:  "TRC is experienced in the permitting of all types of fossil-fueled combustion and power generation technologies including simple combustion turbines, combined cycle combustion turbines, coal-fired boilers as well as integrated gasification combined cycle technologies."And there's this: "TRC is a recognized, national leader in providing unparalleled consulting services to the natural gas industry, having permitted many of the largest pipeline, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and storage projects in the United States. Our professional staff has extensive experience in siting, permitting, and compliance services, including construction inspection and post-construction monitoring of pipeline facilities, for inter- and intra- state transmission, local distribution, and interconnects to new power generation facilities, ' "(TRC Companies, Inc. - Energy | Natural Gas/LNG). If this doesn't speak for itself about Brinley,  I don't know what does. Except this: she's a textbook example of the government's revolving door. She was Deputy Secretary and Bureau Director of Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields, DEP. 

Nick DeBenedictus, CEO Aqua America: Responsible for the eviction of the residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Community, Jersey Shore, PA to build a three million gallon water withdrawal for frack pads near Williamsport: L’Eau DeBenedictis: Aqua America, Water Insecurity, The Manufacture of Scarcity, and Fracking | Raging Chicken Press. There's much to say about Aqua America's stalwart work to corporatize and privatize access to clean water--not the least of which is its implications for folks who can't afford it, but suffice it here just to point out that few CEOs more transparently exemplify the appropriation--with government's blessing--of public utilities--public goods-for private profit ventures. This appointment speaks volumes about Governor Wolf's values.

This is just a snippet of what we can expect from the new governor. Let's add:

George Ellis, Executive Director, PA Coal Alliance
Shari Williams, Community Outreach Manager, Marcellus Shale Coalition
Steve Winberg, Vice President, Consol Energy


I'll add more later. But you get the idea. And, of course, there's precisely no representation from any of the genuinely grassroots anti-fracking organizations. 

And if you're still not sure about where Wolf stands, how about another picture of what all this means:


Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

So, it's super clear that Governor Wolf has no intention of paying any attention to CWA's 'Five Simple Things." So, knowing this, what could Sooy mean by "just getting started"?

Could he mean that he's working towards organizing real, arrest-able, aggressively non-violent protests where he's willing to be pepper-sprayed and water cannoned? 

Could he mean that he's prepared to denounce the governor and the governor's gas stooges in a substantial--arrest-able--display of public horror? The kind that would alienate him from the political aspirants at, say, PennFuture?

Could he mean that he's going to make public the fact that the laws are written to protect the extraction industry--and then denounce the Democratic Party for its conciliatory stance for the industry, and against the people?

Could he mean that he's about to make a pubic statement that the moratorium resolution is dead?

But then here's the million dollar question: If that's what "just getting started" means, why didn't Sooy do that before the election?

We all know why--that course would endanger CWA's spot in the Wolf Pack.

So, if you want change, steer clear of CWA and their politically expedient allies.

Or, just look once more at the pictures. 

If you want more of that, stay with the Wolf Pack and all of their stooges, including Clean Water Action. 

For more, please see:

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/12/weiser-state-forest-between-underground.html

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/11/normal.html

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-big-new-greenwash-governor-and.html

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/11/two-toms-sheep-outfit-and-drill-bit.html

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/09/selling-out-movement-to-guarantee-seat.html

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Beware the Rise of the Professional "Activist": Turns out the Color of Political Expediency is Green

Weiser State Forest, between the underground mine fires of Centralia
and the ongoing anthracite mining just over the next mountain.
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


Here's four very good ways to tell that professional "activists" like Karen Feridun of the politically expedient Wanna-Be Big Green Berks Gas Truth (BGT) and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking (PAF) are simply removed from anything authentically grassroots--and are far more interested in keeping their place at the holy table of the Democrat Party by doing what at this point in history can be described as nothing more than misleading, momentum-deflating busy work:

First--here's the robo-letter I got in my email this morning from the entirely fake "Say No to the Atlantic Sunrise" campaign: 


Dear Wendy, 
"Hope you're having a wonderful holiday season! I wanted to take a moment to thank you for speaking out on so many important issues this year. 
I need to ask your help once again. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline would cut a 178-mile path through eight counties in Pennsylvania. If it's approved, the pipeline will supply gas to the recently-approved Cove Point LNG export facility in Maryland where it would be shipped overseas. While the fight continues to keep plans for Cove Point from going forward, communities up and down the proposed route of the Atlantic Sunrise are working together to stop the pipeline from being built. Our friends at the Clean Air Council have started a petition on their behalf.  
By signing the petition, you're telling the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and our state and federal elected officials to say NO to the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Please support our friends fighting to spare their communities and natural resources the permanent scar this pipeline would create. 
Here's the url you can copy and paste into your browser if the link above causes you any problems. http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51176/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12086 
Thank you so much for your help, as always!
Sincerely,
Karen

How do I know the objective here is PAF's political fortunes and not putting a halt to this pipeline, that BGT and PAF are little more than devices to advance their operative's careers as professional "activists"?

1. Feridun didn't do any work with those of us on the actual ground in Columbia County--indeed, we weren't even contacted--to (a) organize folks on the pipeline ROW, (b) gain access to township supervisors, (c) organize township meeting with residents, (d) orchestrate signatures. Indeed, most of the folks who actually matter here--the ones who'll live with the consequences of this pipeline--won't even see this petition, and even if they did, their wholly on-the-dollar response is going to be "How will this help me?" Answer: it won't. Many of us have been working tirelessly on opposing this pipeline. Feridun neither consulted with us nor bothered herself to learn anything about how ASP is playing out out here in rural Columbia County, PA. She certainly didn't bother to come and see what ASP means to people on our stretch of the ROW. If she had, she have realized that...

2. Petitions are worthless. As a movement, we have completely, entirely, fully exhausted the value of petitions for anything other than getting names to solicit for--more petitions. Moreover, if Feridun had bothered to consult with any of the many real grassroots organizers in Columbia County along ASP's proposed path, she'd know that we are way beyond the value of a petition. We know who is on the right of way. We have the maps. We have been working on all of this for months. And petitions are now just a really great way for the police and the FBI to surveil us even more effectively. 

3. Feridun knows that petitioning to FERC is a complete waste of time energy and momentum. It does sustained damage to this movement to keep up the lie that FERC will do anything other than permit this pipeline. What we must be prepared to do is prevent Williams from building the pipeline after FERC permits it--that is the argument for township ordinances and the commitment to nonviolent but sustained and massive civil disobedience in defense of them. 

4. The letter was sent to me--which means that Feridun didn't even look at the list of email addresses on the petitions list. Had she, she'd have known that I'd draft this excoriating response in defense of my neighbors on this pipeline ROW.

So what is the real motive here? To appropriate the campaign to stop ASP for Feridun's own activist career portfolio? To exploit Stop the Pipeline for political gain?

Not going to happen. 

The folks who do actual work on ASP get to take that credit--and most of these folks are also holding down full-time jobs. Is it to look like PAF/BGT are actually a part of this struggle against the pipeliners? No--also not going to happen. This struggle does not get to become just one more opportunity for the wanna-be Big Greens to take advantage of the very real struggles of the folks who do the real work and suffer the very very real consequences to pad their fake activist resumes.

Not on my watch--and I strongly encourage the good folks at the Clean Air Council to review their alliances.

Indeed, why did we ever think that petitions, letters to our electeds, pleas to our county commissioners, comments to FERC, appeals to DEP, sparsely attended protests on the steps of the Harrisburg Capitol, or chatting with Governor Elect Wolf, were going to stop this nightmare called carbon extraction at any cost--so long as that can be outsourced to 
the public?

Our petitions ARE accessible to the gas industry AND to the police/FBI agents that surveil us.

Letters to our electeds fall on deaf ears.



Pleas to county commissioners and township supervisors are heard only by their lawyers--who say "Do not listen to those who elected you! You'll be sued!"

FERC works for the gas industry.
DEP...works for the gas industry.

And Wolf is as in bed with the gas thugs as his predecessor.

When we win a lawsuit against FERC we are instructing the gas and the pipeline companies about how to make their permit applications airtight on the next round of application.

When we let down our guard on the hope that DEP might be doing its job because we finally get to know about contaminated wells, we forget that DEP does nothing about preventing future contaminated wells.

And then we just keep doing the same things over and over--as if tomorrow's petition, protest, appeal, comment, luncheon 
with Wolf....will make a difference.

It won't.

And while we're dithering, THIS happens:


Isn't it time we recognized that for an industry whose counting on making BILLIONS before the boom goes bust--as it will far sooner than BILLIONS can be made--these strategies are less than the tickle of a May Fly?

We must empower our townships one at a time with ordinances that protect their right to self-determination consistent with the rights of all of its members to clean air and water--and then we must be prepared to defend those ordinances with our bodies.

Until we are ready to be water-cannoned like the brave folks of Selma, Alabama;

until we are ready to be arrested like the now 92 people at Watkin's Glen; until we are ready to be pepper-sprayed, hand-cuffed, and jailed for non-violent action in massive numbers, we are not going to turn this around.

The sooner we get clear about this fact, and grow some fortitude, righteousness, and genuine solidarity (as opposed to the "solidarity of political expediency"), the better.

While we're looking for ways to rationalize our cowardice, the planet is burning.

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/11/normal.html

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-big-new-greenwash-governor-and.html

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/11/two-toms-sheep-outfit-and-drill-bit.html

http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/09/selling-out-movement-to-guarantee-seat.html

Wendy Lynne Lee

Friday, November 21, 2014

I "Heart" Wolf: Why IREX Should send Pennsylvanians Against Fracking a Thank You! Card




What's just tremendously sad and tragic about the 11.18.14 Pennsylvanian's Against Fracking fake Harrisburg rally is that it was never and could never have been about a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing or any of its affiliate dirty ventures. 

The fake greens who organized this--Pennsylvanians Pennsylvania Voters Against FrackingFood and Water Watch, PennsylvaniaBerks Gas TruthClean Water Action - Susquehanna Office, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Governor elect Wolf is not only not going to impose a moratorium, he is going to act for the interests of the companies to whom he is beholden for his re-election in 2018. 
Whatever extraction tax he imposed will institutionalize the industry in the tax base.

And that could be the death sentence for any viable movement to end this nightmare of ecological destruction and the complete trampling of property and community rights i Pennsylvania.
 
Photo, Michael Badges Canning
That these fake greens should act to manipulate the support of people who believe that they have the slightest interest in ending fracking is morally reprehensible--and it must be called out. It drains the life-blood from the most important civil rights movement in the nation--and it trades that momentum for a seat at the table of the party they helped to elect--Wolf's Democrats.


Consider: Why on earth should Tom Wolf spend a minute listening to this call for a moratorium when he KNOWS that whether he grants any such thing or not, these folks will vote for him anyways?

What a boon for the governor elect--he gets to have a great big cake and eat it too--the gas companies who help to fill his campaign coffers AND the vote of an electorate who cares only that he's not the other Tom.

 But here's just one example of why "PA "Heart" Wolf" isn't just a cruel hoax played on unsuspecting anti-fracking activists by fake greenies, but a charlatan's exchange of moral principle for personal advantage:

One of Wolf's campaign donors is W. Kirk Liddell, President and CEO of IREX Contracting Group (President's Letter | IREX CONTRACTING GROUP ). As reported by the Washington Times, Wolf serves on the IREX board of directors (Democrat Tom Wolf reports $2.2M in 2012 income - Washington Times). 


Among a host of other things, IREX "offers a wide range of passive fire protection and radiant heat shielding solutions for the oil & gas and petrochemical industries" through one of its subsidiaries, Advanced Energy Protection (Reflective Metal Insulation, Radiant Heat & Fire Protection Contractor | IREX CONTRACTING GROUP). 


Liddell made a personal donation of $12,000 to Wolf's run for governor, and another $5,000 to Tom Corbett (Campaign Contributions in the Race for Pa. Governor).

Here's a sample of Liddell's environmental convictions from testimony he gave to the National Association of Manufacturers,7.14.2011:

On behalf of the NAM and the millions of men and women working in manufacturing in the United States, I wish to express my support for your efforts to reform the regulatory process and allow manufacturers in this country to do what they do best – make things and create jobs...The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embarked on a decades- long process to implement the Clean Air Act and its amendments. There is no doubt that our nation has gained enormous benefits from efforts to improve air quality. But the continued ratcheting down of emission limits produces diminishing returns at far higher marginal costs. This means that each new air rule will have a greater impact on job creation than those in the past.
 Costs of pollution abatement are capital intensive. In a time of economic recovery where capital is extremely scarce, every dollar diverted from productive use creates additional pressure to reduce labor costs. When the prices of commodities and other manufacturing inputs are increasing, as they are today, even more pressure builds to squeeze labor costs. In this environment, it is clear that unnecessary or cost-ineffective regulation dampens economic growth and will continue to hold down job creation. For some firms, it will be the final straw that destroys the whole business... That is why it is so shocking that the EPA proposed making an enormously costly Bush Administration rule, the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for Ozone, even more stringent and costly when a reconsideration was not required by law. One study by the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI estimates that the most stringent ozone proposal being considered would result in the loss of 7.3 million jobs by 2020 and add $1 trillion in new regulatory costs per year between 2020 and 2030.
 
Translation: Our profits are more important than your health, and even though ozone is specifically associated with, among other things, asthma, our rights as corporate ventures trump your right to breathe clean air. The testimony only gets worse from here, but what's patently clear is that Liddell is willing to do whatever it takes to insure that IREX--and iuts many affiliates--are subject to as little pesky environmental regulation as possible (http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/image_uploads/Testimony_CMT_07.14.11_Liddell.pdf).

Let's put this all together

Wolf sits on the board of a corporation, IREX, whose president W. Kirk Liddell, has worked tirelessly to kill the National Ambient Quality Standard (National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) | Air and Radiation | US EPA). 

Wolf takes money, $12,000 in disclosed campaign contributions,  from Liddell. 

Wolf has made repeatedly clear that he will not support a moratorium on unconventional gas drilling (http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50569154/Tom-vs.-Tom:-Where-they-stand-on-the-issues).

Wolf cannot support a severance tax--that will institutionalize the gas industry in the state's tax base and thereby increase pressure against regulation--and support a moratorium and insure additional campaign contributions from his frack-friendly friends, like Liddell.

Wolf will thus support a weak-kneed severance tax that, with a wink and a nod to his frack-friends, will be more than compensated for through lack of enforcement in what's already laughably poor regulation via the Department of Environmental Protection (Pennsylvania Finally Reveals Fracking Has Contaminated Drinking Water Hundreds Of Times | ThinkProgress).


He'll herald the tax revenue as a boon for education and other social programs--and his friends in the unions--including my own, APSCUF (APSCUF Endorses Tom Wolf For Governor) will turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy of a position that trades the necessary conditions of education--access to clean air and water--for the pretense to good policy.

And we'll see more fake rallies that drain valuable time and energy from a movement whose focus on the future has been its clarion call--until now.

The most disturbing thing about rallies like the fake Pennsylvanians Against Fracking event in Harrisburg is not merely that that they provide cover to a governor who is squarely in the pockets of the gas industry, but that they offer him the distinct luxury of getting to appear like he listens when he is in no way required to.

They hold up signs. Wolf gets to feel loved. They go home and get to feel like they "did something." 

And indeed they did: by providing cover to the GAS-Wolf, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking may do more to help entrench the gas industry in Pennsylvania than the industry could ever have hoped in their expensive big glossy commercials. 

IREX should send PAF a thank you card. 

Take-away: PAF and its fake-greenie friends know what they're doing. 

They know they're providing cover to a governor who will do nothing to end the ongoing catastrophe called fracking and will, in fact, act in the industry of the frack pads, the pipelines, the compressor stations, the LNG export. that makes his friends money.

What's worse is that PAF&Co. is willing to sell out you for that spot at the mic, that chance to look like a hero, that invite to the Wolf lunch line.

This kind of mercenary exploitation of a tragedy must be called out because the only thing that can potentially do more damage to Pennsylvanians than a psychopathically profit-driven industry (say, IREX) is the betrayal by those who pretend to speak for us--but who speak only for their own aspirations to fame.

For other relevant essays, please see: