Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Letter from a "Fan"

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

Sometimes you have to let the opposition speak. 

I was recently confronted while out shopping by a rather animated gentleman (see pictures--sorry about the quality) who recognized me. In the interest of fairness, I agreed to post his opinion and I offered my email address. 

This is what appeared.

Dear Miss. Lee,

As a property owner and a proud American patriot I resent your constant opposition to the god-given rights of people to make money off the blessed bounty of natural gas that lies under our feet. My great- great grand-dad was amongst the first real Americans who came to this county to bring civilization and the ethic of hard work to an untamed wilderness. Before that this place was nothing - everybody knows that. My people built it into what it is today. As an outsider not born here, you probably would not understand that. I live on the same ground my hole life and know everything I ever needed to know without ever needing to go to far. Its outsiders like you who are hell bent on taking away our rights to live free and make money on our land as we see fit.

Why you libtards think you can come to our area, live here for 10 or 20 years and then tell us what the Lord gave us is not ours to use is beyond me. My family has been here since the beginning. If it was up to you my grand-dad would of never had a job cutting all the trees down during the lumber years.  And know what? You can look out your window and see that, no matter how many trees they cut, it all grew back. That is how the lord takes care of his people, but YOU atheists would not know that now would you? It is the same with natural gas – the lord provides a bounty for those with brains enough to use it anyway they see fit. To not use it is a waste and waste is a sin (everybody who reads the bible knows that). Maybe you should try reading the bible instead of other books written by commies and ignorant intellectuals.

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
I, for one, am tired of you tree-huggen Obama lovers crying about climate change. Climate change is in the bible, ever hear of the great flood?  THAT was climate change and it made the world better as it got rid of all the perverts and dumber animals like the dinosaurs who could not swim. So, if there is climate change it will probably get rid of people like you who are ruining our country and do not respect our rights.

If I want to put a gas well or a pipeline or nuclear power plant on my land THAT IS MY RIGHT! If you don’t like it than you can plant some trees or put up a fence so you don’t have to look at it. And if you don’t like the smell of a compressor station – TOO BAD! I might not like the smell of whatever you burn on your stove next door but that does not mean I can tell you what to COOK!!

My flag tells me this is still a FREE country and, if you don’t like it, you are FREE to MOVE. Perhaps you might want to try one of those countries like Iraq or Iran who hate us and hate our natural gas. They want us to be superstious like them and slaves to there oil. Natural gas will keep us free and protect our way of life – everybody knows that! Except maybe libtard enviro wackos like you who think they are smarter than everyone who was here first.


Benjamin Zene
Bloomsburg PA. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pipeline-Schmoozers, Micro-Brewskis, and FERC-Facades: The Atlantic Sunrise Scoping Hearing, Bloomsburg University, 8.6.14

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

Below is the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania Press Enterprise story--reporter Susan Schwartz--of the 8.6.14 Federal (not really) Energy (owns us) Regulatory (hardly!) Commission, FERC, "this is not really a hearing" scoping hearing at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. 

A couple of observations:

(1) It's no wonder the PE--whose editor Jim Sachetti is a veritable cheerleader for all manner of carbon extraction--offers little more than a "human interest" story that fails to capture the overwhelming opposition to Williams Partner's plans to construct the absurdly named Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Expansion of the TRANSCO.

Indeed, in the very same issue of the Press Enterprise is both a story about Minuteman Towing's ongoing criminal case for, among other egregious environmental crimes, the illegal washing out and storage of containers contaminated by well-drilling waste at their Milton company offices (just for starters, look here: UPDATE: Minuteman Environmental responds to raid » News » The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA), and a heart-wrenching--if truly absurd--Sachetti-editorial about the mean-ole' EPA's "war on coal"! What's, of course, absurd is that despite the indisputable fact that coal mining, fracking--and every other form of industrialized fossil fuel extraction--contributes mightily to accelerating climate instability, at least one rural hometown paper continues to tow the line for an agenda that's not merely in the tank for Big Corporate Moola, but requires a virtually pathological level of denial about the devastating ecological consequences, dangers to human and nonhuman health, loss of property value, and significant compromise of quality of life. 

Hence, what we're treated to is a rather lackluster story about a few folks who spoke out against a pipeline, and the Williams Partner's representatives insistence that their concerns are all much ado about nothing. Perhaps Schwartz' response would be that journalistic integrity requires "balance," but the truth is that "balance" too often acts as cover for "down-play," "diminish," and "render forgettable."But this hearing was far from forgettable. In fact, the impassioned, articulate comments of an increasingly well-schooled citizenry about all things fracking--including high pressure monster pipeline--should put Williams, FERC, and your local parochial newspaper on notice.

And that's what get's me to observation (2), the rather astonishing events after the hearing.

I just happened to be at the Turkey Hill Brew Pub (an excellent local micro-brewery and restaurant) right after the FERC dog-n-pony show. 

There sat the whole Williams Schmooze-Crew, yucking it up, downing their micro-brewskis, swilling away on the company dime (money extracted--quite literally--from folks who stand to lose their land)--right after an entire evening of listening to the absolutely wrenching stories of folks who Williams is about to screw. 

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that the Williams' paid Schmoozers were laughing AT these folks; but I AM suggesting that this behavior speaks volumes to the sheer callousness and utter disregard of Williams Partners--a company who hires these well-paid snake-oil sales men and women to lie straight-facedly to folks about their objectives, about everything from property values to potential water and air pollutants to property values. 

These are folks who  lie to your face, and then sit bored but pretending to listen to your  fears. They actively participate in the destruction of your land, your water, your quality of life--and that of your neighbors--and then go order a steak and a brewski, yucking it up like they didn't even know they just fucked you over. And they do it all for the money--like that somehow justifies extortion. And while they're yucking and drinkin,' some of their corporate kin are busy sneaking onto your land--trespassing--in order to complete the surveys they have to get done in order to get the fake-FERC environmental impact statement drafted so that they can get on with the theft of your property, the potential wreckage of your land, the contamination of your well, and perhaps most important the complete annihilation of your quality of life and peace of mind.

If you think this sounds like hyperbole, let me recommend the Williams' record of accident and environmental violation--with perhaps special attention to the human deaths:

1. 2008 – Natural gas explosion in Virginia [Transco] the blast ripped a 32-foot section of pipe from the ground and caused a 1,100 feet burn zone. Property
damage reported to exceed $3 million.

 2. 2010 – Transco Pipeline leak in Texas. Leak was not reported for 4 days. The 1/4 inch diameter leak caused a reported $57,000 in property damage. Aerial patrol did not see the leak. Found by an operator who saw some bubbles.

3. 2010 / 2011– FINED $275 Thousand over failing to implement and/or maintain storm water measures to prevent potential pollutants during plannedconstruction in Parachute, Colorado. State inspectors notified Williams (Bargath) inNov. 2010 of violations and told them to take immediate action. According toreport, Williams did not fix violation for 7 months.

 4. 2013 (Jan) – Williams discovers leak of NGLs in Parachute plant while working on construction to expand the plant. Reports say the leak was found by ACCIDENT. Leak stopped, but Benzene, a cancer causing agent, has contaminated soil. Williams says leak not affecting creek. (March 15) – Groundwater in Parachute is contaminated with Benzene from NGL leak. Spill finally announced to public. Benzene is cancer-causing agent that breaks down bone marrow.

 5. 2012 – Gas leak caused explosion at Natural Gas Compressor Station inPennsylvania. Williams restarts the station within 24 hours and started pumping fracked gas despite request from PA Dept. of Environmental Protection not to do so. DEP states they make it very clear on the above matter but because it was not an official order no fines were issued. 1 ton of Methane released.

6. 2013 (April) – Williams say faulty pressure gauge cause of leak in Parachute. Diesel found at gates of Parachute water supply. Benzene detected in creek. State Health Dept takes over oversight of leak. (8) (9) (May) – Benzene levels rise in Parachute, CO creek. State agency tells Williams violated it the law. (8). Williams announces it will not expand the Parachute, Co plant expansion NOT because of the NGL leak but due to low gas prices.

 7. 2013 (June 13) – Williams’ Natural Gas Liquid (NGL) cracker plant that process NGLs in Louisiana. Explodes and Burns. That chemical plant was in middle of $350 million expansion. 700 contract workers were present; 2 people killed (ages 29 & 47); 70 injuries; 62,000 pounds of toxic chemical released.

 8. 2014 (May 14)A probe into safety practices at pipeline operator Williams Cos. (WMB) is being expanded after a natural gas plant fire led to the evacuation of a town in Wyoming last month, the company’s third accident in a year… In December, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Williams for six safety violations at the Geismar plant and proposed a $99,000 fine.

In light of this record, and in plain view of the people who, as activist John Trallo pointed out at the FERC hearing, came not because they were paid but because they are terrified at this direct threat to their properties and welfare, it seems to me like the paid Williams' Schmoozers could at least have had the courtesy to slink quietly back to their hotel rooms at the local Hampton Inn and order take out. 

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

But they--like the construction crews that will follow if we don't stop the pipeline--don't have to care.

8.7.14: The Press Enterprise, reporter Susan Schwartz 

BLOOMSBURG — Federal regulators came to the area Wednesday to gather public input on a proposed new pipeline, but many of those who spoke called the session a farce.
“Don’t be fooled,” Wendy Lynne Lee told about 120 people who showed up for the meeting organized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at Haas Auditorium at Bloomsburg University. “This is a dog and pony show; it deserves to be treated as such.”
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
 The crowd applauded.
The commission must give its blessing before the $2.5 billion project can go forward.
 But several residents said they didn’t have enough information to make meaningful comments on the plans of Williams Partners, which is applying to build the pipeline.
Still, all the members of the public who took to the podium said they were opposed to the new 178-mile section of the Transco line, which would cut lengthwise through Columbia County on its journey from the gas-rich Marcellus Shale to Georgia and Alabama. 
‘Only here to advocate
Dave Laidacker started things off, angling the podium so it faced the crowd as much as it faced the officials.
 “They’re only here tonight to advocate for Williams, not the citizens of Columbia County,” he contended.
Not so, said Jennifer Kerrigan, FERC’s environmental project manager.
FERC has turned down applicants before, she said. But more often, she says companies drop out before completing the application process.
The Army Corps of Engineers, state agencies and the public will all have a chance to bring up problems, said Kerrigan. That includes everything from concerns about water and air safety, archeological significance, and social impact to whether the exact path of the pipeline will interfere with future plans for building a chicken coop — a concern brought up by one man during an earlier session. 

No public maps
 But several speakers said Williams’ reluctance to publicly release the exact path of the line made it hard to bring up specific concerns.
Montour Township Supervisor Joe Harvey said he called the company six times seeking a map he could take back to his board, but it was never turned over.
On Wednesday, the company put out books of detailed maps showing where the pipe would go, showing the landowners for each parcel along the way. But residents were told they couldn’t get copies, though they could photograph them. The plans were still in flux, and officials didn’t want to give the impression there was a final path, said Williams staffers.
 Water concerns
Peter Tipka of Bear Gap said the proposed path would split his 35-acre parcel, making it harder for him to subdivide it and sell it.
 The farming he does there now would be disrupted, he believes. So would the scenic beauty of the land.
He also pointed to the Aqua Pennsylvania water plant, located close to the proposed pathway. An accident would endanger the water for everyone supplied by the plant, he said. 
Marianne Zenyuch, who chairs Cleveland Township’s planning commission, said the rough plans cut through her municipality’s most densely populated area — precisely where officials want to encourage future growth.
 And that’s not the only problem.
“Our township is 100 percent well dependent,” said Zenyuch. If the gas line breaks or leaks, she said it could contaminate groundwater.
 ‘Stand in solidarity’
Bob Webber worried a pipeline 600 feet from his house would endanger him and his wife. It could also raise his insurance premiums while cutting his home’s value by up to 40 percent, he said.
 Williams says the project would provide enough gas for 7 million homes.
But resident Lee said the new line wouldn’t necessarily help local people; plans include hooking it up to facility at Cove Point, Md., where the gas could be liquefied and sent overseas.
 Rob Krenz, a project manager for Williams, said the way the line is constructed, no more than 20 percent of the gas could be sent to Cove Point.
That didn’t convince Dean Marshall of Benton Township. Gas companies are bragging to shareholders about new contracts with Asian companies, he said.
Several people used the forum to protest against fracking, the controversial drilling method being used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
Kevin Heatley, a restoration ecologist from Bloomsburg, said regulators should consider if the gas the lines would transport could be replaced with solar power or other environmentally friendly resources.
 He urged the audience to rally together to fight the line.
“Do not sign a lease,” he said. “Stand in solidarity. Make it so expensive, they can’t get this done.”
Residents have until Aug. 18 to turn in their comments to the commission, although FERC officials said they would accept statements afterward as well. A second public comment period will open after the commission issues its draft environmental impact statement.
Comments may be submitted online in the eComment site at www.ferc.govunder the “Documents and Filings link.” They can also be mailed to Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First St. NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.
All comments should include the pipeline docket number, PF14-8-000.

For photographs of some of the maps available at the scoping hearing--particularly maps of the proposed compressor stations, please see: Williams partner's maps: Atlantic sunrise pipeline, columbia county, pa - an album on Flickr


Wendy Lynne Lee

I have a simple and clear message for landowners who’ve been approached by a landman contracted by Williams Partners for the construction of the Atlantic Sunrise Expansion of the TRANSCO: If you have not allowed a survey, don’t. If you have allowed a survey, but have not signed a contract, don’t. If you catch a Williams agent trespassing on your property, call the police immediately. You have nothing to gain by allowing Williams on your property—and very much to lose. Indeed, even if FERC grants Williams a permit to construct the 177 mile, 30-42 inch high pressure natural gas pipeline, and with it the option to utilize eminent domain toward the theft your property, you have no more to lose than if you took a principled stand and fought. 

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

I say “theft” because there’s no good argument to be made that the Atlantic Sunrise constitutes a public utility. It does not. Williams’ objectives include power plants and distribution lines—and ultimately LNG export to the global markets from points such as the highly contested Dominion facility proposed for Cove Point, Maryland.  

A public utility is defined in terms of its performance of a vital public service that is expensive to produce and requires the maintenance of its infrastructure. While it may be publicly or privately owned, it is regulated for the performance of that service. Williams can make no such claim for the Atlantic Sunrise.

Let me be very clear here: just because Williams can claim to have extensive investor commitments from shale gas producers does not imply that this pipeline is necessary to serve a public interest. Indeed, it is necessary only to the shale gas producers who need the pipeline to advance their own private profit ventures. So unless we are willing to redefine a public utility in terms of what serves the private interests of shale gas producers and their affiliated companies, Williams simply cannot defend this claim—particularly since many of these producers are themselves aimed at global export of LNG.

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
We also have very little reason to have confidence in FERC with respect to the Notice of Intent to which we are invited to comment here.

First, FERC has repeatedly refused to address the full cumulative impacts of expanding interstate transmission pipelines.  Quoting from the Delaware River Keeper: “On June 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FERC environmental review of Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s reconstruction project was impermissibly segmented and failed to adequately address the cumulative impacts of the project. The Court concluded that FERC thus violated federal law requirements governing environmental review.” But FERC has a history: August 4th, 2014, the EPA found FERC draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Corpus Christi Liquified Natural Gas facility, Sabine Pass, Louisianna equally remiss: “EPA’s review identified a number of potential adverse impacts to aquatic resources, air quality, environmental justice populations, and wetlands.” The failure is the same—inadequate evaluation of potential cumulative impacts.

In other words, FERC acts precisely in the interest if the industry that funds it—the fossil fuel extraction industry. By failing to aggregate impacts, by segmenting the natural gas extraction, transport, and liquifaction processes, FERC relieves itself the responsibility of having to consider the full weight of the impacts on the ecologies, nonhuman animal, and human populations affected by that industry. It’s no wonder that FERC finds itself rubber-stamping permits once the minimum EIS requirements are met.

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

But “minimum” does not mean adequate, and as restoration ecologist Kevin Heatley and I recent argued, FERC’s failure to aggregate impacts, conduct meaningful alternatives analyses, consider the full impacts of forest fragmentation, provide for adequate invasive species control, and FERC’s willingness sanction the industry’s claim to “temporary work space,” even when that work space drags on for years at great ecological and human cost is simply unacceptable.

My message to landowners:

You cannot trust an industry who is willing to take by theft what you will not forfeit to their efforts to manipulate, extort, and threaten you, your neighbor, tour community.

You cannot trust elected representatives who do not bother to take a public stand in the defense of their county and/or township constituents.

You cannot trust an agency—FERC—who is funded by the industry it purports to regulate—but demonstrably does not, who will grant the right of eminent domain to what is not a public utility, and whose consistent failure to consider the aggregate impacts consequent upon all fossil fuel extraction contributes to accelerating climate instability.

June, 2013, Fire Williams Compressor,
Branchburg, NJ, 13 injured, two killed.

 Don’t be fooled. This is a dog and pony show and it deserves to be treated as such.

With derision. And with resistance.

Wendy Lynne Lee, Professor
Department of Philosophy
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Transparency Is Not Accountability, More Comments Does Not Mean Anyone's Listening: Pennsylvania HB 2318 and the Ancient Greek Chorus

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
In the plays of Ancient Greece, the chorus helped to make transparent the motives and actions of the main characters on stage. 

Though undistinguished as individual actors, standing off to one side, the chorus offered comment and insight into the drama, helping the audience understand the tragedy unfolding and unpreventable. Indeed, while the chorus could sound lament, the message of its song was very clear: while you can know what is about to transpire, while you, like Cassandra, can call out the tragic future, you can change nothing.

Cassandra, seer--but disbelieved
HB 2318 reinvents the Greek chorus. 

It offers a similarly ineffectual function—greater transparence without any meaningful hope that transparence can become translated into change. 

According to the bill, DCNR shall provide to the public a comment period, a public hearing, and access to relevant environmental review. 

Audience, Democratic
Committee Hearing,
PA HB 2318
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
But absolutely nothing in this bill requires DCNR to take heed of that public comment—even outcry—any more than the actors in a Greek Drama are expected to heed the chorus.  

The chorus does not sing its lament for the sake of warning or informing the actors; they don’t even hear the lament, much less change their course of action at its warning. 

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

Neither is the provision of the extended comment period or the greater transparency of HB 2318 intended to be taken as warning to DCNR in the hope of preventing that tragedy called slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing.  
Richard Mirabito, 83rd District,
PA House of Representatives,
Sponsor HB 2318
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

No—the chorus exists only as a therapeutic device to placate the audience about a future they can do nothing to alter. HB 2318 similarly offers to allow the public to exhaust itself in comment, only to then be told to go on home by an agency—DCNR—that operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of the gas companies.

Were I a gas company executive reading HB 2318, I’d be laughing. I’d be thinking about how profitable a thing it was for my company that the public could be duped into thinking that just because they got to speak that somehow their lament of the ecological destruction and the sickness and the community erosion would actually matter to my company’s plans to convert their public lands into a gas factory. 

Greg Vitali, 166th District,
PA House of Representatives
Photo wendy Lynne Lee

I’d be amused at the prospect that this public could be suckered into believing that just because the permitting process might be slowed by their chorus of complaint, this would make a difference in the ultimate execution of my plan to drill. 

And compress. And pipeline. And export. And offshore the dividends. And then abandon the refuse. I’d say “Let them lament!” Because once they’ve had their say, they’ll go home, tell themselves they did everything they could, and go back to watching game shows and talent contests.

"Hiking" at Tiadaghton State Forest
thanks to PGE and the failed efforts
of our representatives to priotect it
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

HB 2318 is naught but a perversion of the democratic process. It pretends to offer us power—but it in fact strips us of our voices and leaves us like the Ancient Greek chorus—sounding an alarm all the while knowing there’s no one listening.

It empowers the gas companies by pretending to regulate them—making their actions seem more transparent—all the while doing nothing whatsoever to forestall their appropriation of public lands.

Audience, 7.28.14
Democratic Committee Hearing, HB 2318
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
We are left like Cassandra—knowing what is about to befall us on our own lands, in our own forests, on our own waterways, but able to do nothing but lament. 

That is a perversity, and we are morally obligated to offer it nothing but contempt.

Indeed, if we asked the question: how seriously does DCNR--the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources--take this bill?

Answer: they didn't even show for the hearing. How's that for listening?


1Amending the act of June 28, 1995 (P.L.89, No.18), entitled "An
2act creating the Department of Conservation and Natural
3Resources consisting of certain functions of the Department
4of Environmental Resources and the Department of Community
5Affairs; renaming the Department of Environmental Resources
6as the Department of Environmental Protection; defining the
7role of the Environmental Quality Board in the Department of
8Environmental Protection; making changes to responsibilities
9of the State Conservation Commission and the Department of
10Agriculture; transferring certain powers and duties to the
11Department of Health; and repealing inconsistent acts," in
12Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, further
13providing for forests.

Halliburton in Tiadaghton State Forest
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

14The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
15hereby enacts as follows:
16Section 1. Section 302 of the act of June 28, 1995 (P.L.89,
17No.18), known as the Conservation and Natural Resources Act, is
18amended by adding a subsection to read:
19Section 302. Forests.
20* * *
21(b.1) Unconventional gas development.--The department shall
22provide notice and seek public input before leasing State forest
1lands for unconventional gas development or otherwise
2authorizing any major unconventional gas development project on
3State forest lands. Specifically, the department shall provide
4for the following:
5(1) A public comment period.
6(2) At least one public hearing or meeting.
7(3) Public access during the comment period to detailed
8development plans, including locations of all well pads,
9impoundments, access roads, pipelines, compressor stations
10and other related structures and facilities.
Tiadaghton State Forest
PGE Well Pad, Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

11(4) Public access during the comment period to a State
12forest environmental review that:
13(i) Analyzes potential impacts of the proposed
14development on ecological, recreational, cultural and
15aesthetic resources and public health.
16(ii) Discusses avoidance and mitigation measures.
17(iii) Analyzes development alternatives.
18* * *
19Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.