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 (

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 (

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:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Big New Greenwash Governor and the "Environmentalists" Who Sold Us Out

Despite the fact that I won't be looking to solar panel the Lt. Gov's digs in Harrisburg any time soon, I have to say that the incredibly kind messages and comments I received yesterday in support of a Green Party platform was nothing short of a bright burst of sunshine on a politically bleak day.

Thank you. Thank you Thank you

I have much to say about last night's expected victory  for the Democrat Tom Wolf--but perhaps the most important, to me anyways, is this:

However much Corbett was a disaster for Pennsylvanians, for education, for social and economic justice, and for the environment--and he surely was--Tom Wolf portends nothing short of an even greater one.

There are at least two compelling reasons why:

1. While Governor Elect Wolf may indeed restore some funding for education, he will do it by robbing Peter to pay Paul. That is, he'll fund education via dollars soaked in the iniquity of gas money--and he'll do it in a fashion that will insure his re-election:

a) Tax the gas industry just enough to make a show of it. The gas thugs will feign distaste--but in fact they'll get everything they want and more.

b)  The "more" are the pipelines. As these have been the frontline in the struggle for clean air and water, so they shall remain, and the gas thugs know that whatever pittance they are forced to cough up in some sham of an extraction or a severance tax, they'll make up for that handsomely once the gas is flowing through high pressure arteries to the LNG export depots.

c) We can count on Wolf to talk--for a minute or so--about "tight regulation." but this will quickly be eclipsed by his work to restore funding to all the agencies and programs that will require that regulation to be effectively nullified. We need to be very clear about this: regulation will reduce the number of dollars Wolf can skim from the gas thugs via his sham tax. Therefore, the pressure to regulate less--and produce more gas to pump through these pipelines-- will be enormous. We will see a pretense to regulation, a smattering bit of hang-wringing to make it look like he cares. But with his other hand, Governor Wolf will be shaking the oil-stained fingers of the gas thugs who will pad his re-election coffers for 2018. 

2. Even more menacing are the Fake Greenie organizations--PennFuture, Food and Water Watch, Berks Gas Truth, Pennsylvania Voters Against Fracking, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, The Responsible Drilling Alliance, COGENT, Save the Loyalsock Coalition, who--in the interest of insuring their own seats at the table of a Wolf administration--will work tirelessly to reassure us that the governor is not in the back pockets of the gas industry. 

They're already trying--some seem to really believe that they can move Mr. Wolf to a moratorium. But this is willful blindness of the worst sort--and while it might lure some folks into the complacency of believing that everything's gonna be alright, it is precisely that complacency that we cannot afford. 

Indeed, nothing could more endanger the movement to erect community ordinances that demand the recognition of the right to clean air and water than complacency. So if you are willing to settle for the pretext of "alrightness," Wolf and his faux-green advocates like Cindy Dunn of PennFuture or Sam Bernhardt of Food and Water Watch are your people:

"Cindy Dunn of the environmental group PennFuture says her group plans to hold Wolf to his promise.

“When Wolf is sworn in as governor, he will swear to uphold the state constitution, which includes the environmental rights amendment,” said Dunn. “And this is something that I think he will pay attention to.” Dunn’s group supports the 5 percent severance tax, because she says it will raise more money and benefit all Pennsylvanians" (

But if you're not prepared to be fracked and pipelined into ecological oblivion, be prepared to fight.

Dunn's inane comments are a a variety of trying to have your cake and it it too--except that it's not even that since PennFuture knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Wolf will not advocate for a state moratorium on drilling, is concerned not one iota with the environmental rights amendment beyond its value as a tool for getting re-elected, and will not act in any fashion that will endanger that prospect. 

Moreover, there will be virtually no pressure on him to press for a moratorium since he knows that these fake greenies will vote for him anyways.

Make no mistake about it

We will see a pretense to "holding Governor Wolf's feet to the fire." But behind this will be standing to one side the gas companies and to the other the fake greens who cannot be described in any other way--at least honestly--than as effectively colluding with the gas. I say "colluding" because they cannot NOT know better. Nonetheless, they'll also continue to be willing to stand by silently while those of us who have stood on principle instead of political expediency are surveilled, arrested, and demonized as much by them as by the gas thugs.

Governor Elect Tom Wolf does offer us a celebratory cake--but its layers are saturated with drilling waste, its frosting tinged with benzene. 

So when its celebrants offer you a piece, say "no thanks." Then tell them that you value you health, your property, your neighbors, your community, and your climate too much to eat from a banquet laid out in iniquity. 

Then ask them why they sold you out.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Two "Toms," a Sheep Outfit, and a Drill Bit: The Lies that Win Elections for the Gas Thugs

A few observations about the elections on Tuesday, 11.4.2014:

1. This is simple, folks: We either decide to fight. Or we decide to concede. But a vote for either Tom Wolf or another round of Tom Corbett amounts to precisely the same. Mr. Wolf will embrace everything fracking. He already has. And even the thinnest most paltry pretense at a tax will not only entrench the industry even more deeply in the state's economy, it will guarantee even less regulation. Why? Less regulation will mean more gas production, and when you've banked your candidacy on restoring funding for public education, you're going to make sure you get some of those cents.

2. What we must get here: Mr.Wolf is already thinking about his re-election to a second term. That will require he make modestly good on his first term, and that is going to be all about the gas. Therefore, he is going to be entirely willing to sacrifice you. Make no mistake about it: a vote for Wolf is a vote for the Gas Thugs.

3. At least Corbett is a clear target, a clear enemy, and therefore highly useful as a point of departure for the resistance. This is not an argument for voting for Corbett. The point is to make clear that Mr. Wolf is a wolf in sheep's clothing--the guy who naively believes all the hype about safe regulated gas production. There is no such thing--but the one that's that's worse that the gas infrastructure itself is being willfully ignorant about the hype.

4. Some claim that a "new broom sweeps clean": that is simply absurd. That Wolf will appoint a "new" cabinet means nothing more that he'll bring in his likely to be corrupted pals instead of Corbett's. But the notion that these folks will somehow be less beholden to the gas companies is highly unlikely. Why? Because Wolf is so beholden. The reason the gas industry has poured at least $273,000--just since June is because they want to make sure their influence on decision-making is uninterrupted. 

And it will be.

5. Here are the facts: It doesn't matter for squat how many PR battles the industry loses so long as they can keep pumping out the gas. Whether a Wolf or a Corbett administration is irrelevant. We would be far better served turning our attention away from what are entirely deceptive party politics, and turning it squarely toward our communities and townships to draft ordinances that proactively promote and protect the rights of the communities and their members. Will these communities be sued by the gas companies? Very possibly. Is that worse than the concession a vote for Wolf exemplifies? Absolutely not. And there is no bad PR for these companies that could be worse than a movement across the country that seeks to establish those fundamental human and community rights.

It's time to think. 

It's time to think bigger.

The argument against taxing the gas industry:

1. A tax on natural gas extraction via fracking will institutionalize the industry by making social programs dependent on its revenue stream. However much the industry resists it, they know that any tax will have this positive effect for them--and so their resistance is feigned and simply aimed at the lowest tax possible. The amount of the tax has no real bearing on the extent to which it institutionalizes the industry as part of the state's internal revenue structure.

2. Wolf is the best thing that could happen to the gas industry--far better than Corbett--because while the duped are celebrating Wolf's imposing a tax, the industry will go about their dirty business as usual--but with the added bonus that they now have the cover of legitimacy behind a painless tax that will guarantee their presence in the state forever--or until they leave us a spent industrialized wasteland. Corbett could never have lent them this cover.

3. Taxing the industry will actively encourage even less regulation. The formula is simple" Imposing a tax=insuring dependence of social programs=pressure to generate more revenue=pressure for the industry to make more money=weakening regulations. In other words, the more dependence, the more pressure to generate greater tax revenues, and because the tax as a percentage of profit is never going to amount to anything substantial, the thing that's going to have to give is the regulations and their enforcement. When you add to this the fact that--as this article demonstrates once again--the regulations are meaningless and unenforceable now, just imagine what that will mean given the institutionalization of the industry. Welcome to Texas.

4. Once the industry is institutionalized in the state's tax structure, they will be able to exert pressure like never before. They will be in a position to level substantive threats of withdrawal and whoever is governor will cave to the threat precisely because essential social programs--and (thanks to Wolf) funding for education will now be tied to gas tax revenue. The regulations will then be enforced even less, more and more Democrats will jump on board for horrendous bills like the gutting of the state's endangered species act--and representative like yourself will have paved the way for the future industrialization of the state including the further erosion of property rights, rights to clean air and water, rights to speak out against the industry. In short, an invitation to become part of the state's essential economic wherewithal in an invitation to corporate hegemony.

5. (1)-(4) can have only one conclusion: more fracking including all of its dirty and damaging infrastructure.

Why the Green Party is the Alternative:

Of all the issues confronting Pennsylvanians—health care, education, jobs, etc.—among the most important of these are the devastating ecological and human rights toll the fossil fuel extraction industry has taken on the Commonwealth, her neighboring states, and the planet as a whole in the form of its potentially devastating contribution to climate change.

Fracking must be banned.

There are many reasons why an articulate and uncompromising opposition to hydraulic fracturing, mountain top removal, tar sands extraction, other forms of unconventional gas drilling, the Keystone Pipeline, the construction of LNG export depots, is critical to the Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign. 

Here are just four:

1.The responsibility of the governor is to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution, including Article 1, section 27: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

2.The fossil fuel industry’s profit objectives are demonstrably inconsistent with the commitment to health care, education, and jobs.

A few examples:

a. Health care: given the hazardous health effects that follow from exposure to the carcinogens, biocides, and other toxins associated with the fracking process; given that a similar account can be given for exposure to toxins resultant from compressor station emissions; given the potential for explosions at every juncture of this process—frack pad, pipeline, truck accident, compressor; and lastly, given that these hazards make particularly vulnerable populations already marginalized by the state’s inadequate health care access, no case can be made in defense of the industry’s conversion of Pennsylvania into what amounts to an extraction factory for wealthy multinationals.

b. Education: in addition to the obvious hazards of locating extraction-associated facilities next to public schools, the effort of the Corbett administration to extort state universities into accepting extraction operations on their campuses is in obvious conflict with the missions of those public institutions, and inconsistent with the commitment to the health and welfare of their communities. APSCUF—the Associated Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty union—opposes any such construction, and I had the privilege of drafting that resolution for all 14 campuses. 

c. Jobs: as is made clear on the numbers, the shale boom has not generated lasting employment for Pennsylvanians. Instead, it has diminished the potential for future employment in industries connected to our once spectacular forests, rivers, and high value streams, exposed mostly non-unionized workers to toxic health hazards, and exported profits from frack pad to off-shore bank accounts of already obscenely wealthy CEOs. That a very few may become very wealthy via royalties or other associated enterprise at the expense of the very many is intolerable to a democratic union and a prescription for future disaster.

3. States are no more closed loop systems than are human bodies or frack pads. In a world increasingly confronted by the effects of global climate change, deforestation, desertification, and toxic pollution, governors and legislators must act responsibly not merely to their own constituents—much less to their campaign donors—but to the stability of the global ecology as a whole. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand about the impacts of an industry whose history so clearly shows that its mercenary drive to profit exceeds at every turn its commitment to human welfare or ecological stability.

4. States do not have the right to deploy their police forces to quash dissent—yet, our current administration not only acts legislatively to insure the smooth path to profit, but deploys its police resources against the people in an effort to suppress, fear-monger, manipulate, and intimidate those who expose this path as littered with toxins, political corruptions, and egregious forms of harm. Look for example to Adam Federman's recent account of the Marcellus Shale Operator's Crime Committee.

Extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction must be banned not only because the citizens of the Commonwealth cannot afford the consequences, but because no regulation can adequately prevent the harm. No matter what some argue are “best practices,” none keep the gas in the ground—the only strategy that will prevent the contribution of fossil fuel extraction to climate change.

Pennsylvania’s governor must act not only in the interest of all Pennsylvanians—but for the future of Pennsylvania. What this means is that she or he must take seriously the adage that the local is the global—for this is no mere hyperbole; it is fact.

And as such, it is moral duty.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pictures the Gas Thugs at the Marcellus Shale Operators Crime Committee May Not Want You To See

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

Here are some pictures of mine you haven't seen:

Pictures the Gas Thugs at the Marcellus Shale Operators Crime Committee May Not Want You To See - an album on Flickr

They're the less photogenic, not exactly photographs, shots of the everyday, business as usual crimes against nature and humanity  committed  across Pennsylvania by the oil and gas industry.

These are not necessarily pictures of the spectacular--the drilling mud spills, the explosions, the truck accidents--and on and on.

Instead these are the pictures of the devastating and irreparable destruction that this psychopathic industry commits every single minute of every single day against the ecologies and their inhabitants, against precious and dwindling resources and  the communities that depend on them, against the future of all of our children and theirs.

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

The tremendous irony is that the Marcellus Shale Operators Crime Committee exists as a partnership between Pennsylvania law enforcement and the gas thugs.

You've got that right.

As Adam Federman shows, MSOCC is "a little-known intelligence-sharing network that brings together law enforcement, including the FBI, Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security, the oil and gas industry, and private security firms. Established in late 2011 or early 2012, the Marcellus Shale Operators' Crime Committee (MSOCC) is a group of "professionals with a law-enforcement background who are interested in developing working relationships and networking on intelligence issues," according to an email sent to group members by James Hansel, regional security manager for Anadarko Petroleum"(State police documents show intelligence-sharing network between law enforcement and Marcellus Shale drillers | News | Pittsburgh City Paper).

MSOCC's charge, in other words, is to

(a) keep us from exposing the crimes committed by the gas industry via, say pictures,
(b) use the police to intimidate us into silence when we do expose them--effectively criminalizing the exercise of our first amendment rights, and
(c) silence us.

Federman continues, "[t]he MSOCC has taken a keen interest in environmental activists and anti-fracking groups, according to documents obtained through a state Right to Know request. The collaboration raises questions about the increasingly close ties between law enforcement and the natural-gas industry in Pennsylvania, and whether law enforcement has violated the civil liberties of protesters and environmental groups in its effort to protect the state's most controversial industry."

That's putting it mildly.

When an officer like Mike Hutson can show up at the door of an activist who has exercised her or his constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom to travel public roads and document what she or he sees, and when that officer can simply appear without a warrant--there can be no other reason than that he has been co-opted and corrupted by a "partnership" whose reason for being is to suppress civil liberty.

But it's not just that Officer Hutson should be ashamed--as he surely should be. It's that he represents an agency--the Pennsylvania State Police--a state--The Commonwealth--private security firms (a polite name for paid surveillance mercenaries)--and an industry that operate collectively as a repressive regime against the people.

And "regime"is the right term.

The State Police, the state, the private security firms, the industry--are in fact populated by all the same people (virtually all white, virtually all male) who swap places in the ever upward game move of career advance. To say that this is all about money is an understatement.

It is, of course, but that's only because it's all about power and arrogance and entitlement and greed--a lethal cocktail that filters down through to the water table, to our wells, through our pores, into our lungs, tearing up our eyes, infiltrating the placentas of our developing babies--literally.

And yet they dare to call us the criminals.

Theirs' is a new definition of "crime."

From the point of view of power and arrogance and entitlement and greed, "crime" is "telling the truth."

To that crime, I plead guilty.

My pictures tell the truth.

What is that truth?

That the term "industry" is far too polite a name for an enterprise that, like the zombies on The Walking Dead, will eat anything, consume anything without conscience or foresight in order to survive.

Gas thugs are not captains of industry; they're rapists and charlatans; they're voracious and--once they have their precious pipelines--they are best cast as an invading army of vampires ready to slurp the last drop of gas-blood from every "sweet spot" and every "not-so-sweet"; spot until their thirst is slated.

Or until we are at war over the last drop of clean water, using weapons fueled by the gas thugs to get to it.

These are violent images to be sure.

But they are not one iota more violent than the every day business as usual devastations captured by these pictures.

If only we could see that.

Wendy Lynne Lee

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Letter to Every Citizen and Family in the Path of the Gas Thug Pipelines: Why This Insanity Must Be Stopped

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

Dear Pennsylvania citizen,

Whether or not you live along the right-of-way of  Williams Partners proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, and regardless whether you’ve been contacted by their aggressive landmen,  you need to be aware of several serious issues regarding this massive natural gas pipeline project. My message is simple: whether or not you live on or adjacent to the pipeline right-of-way, you could be impacted by this project in ways that endanger you property values, your health, and your community. Do you know that

·  the primary goal of the 42 inch, 177 mi. Atlantic Sunrise expansion of the TRANSCO is export to global markets via, for example, Dominion Energy’s planned 3.8 billion dollar Cove Point Liquefaction Project—recently approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over 650 registered comments, virtually all of them opposed?
·      the ecological costs—borne by taxpayers—of Williams’ pipeline project include forest fragmentation, soil compaction, escalated flooding potential, water and air pollution—including possible exposure to carcinogens as well as neurotoxins?
·      the Atlantic Sunrise expansion will require compressor stations attended by their own unique hazards—including the emission of ozone, volatile organic compounds and other toxins, as well as the potential for explosion? Do you know that the explosion radius of any one of these compressors can exceed a half-mile?
·      no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was required for issue of the permit at Cove Point?
·      Williams has a very disturbing record of pipeline leaks and explosions, several which have resulted in human casualties?
·      the natural gas industry’s own estimate is that –with this massive pipeline infrastructure in place—as many as 100,000 hydraulically fractured—fracked— wells could be on the horizon for Pennsylvanians?
·      the Department of Environmental Protection has finally released its report of at least 243 instances of drinking well contamination directly due to fracking since 2008? There are currently about 8200 operating unconventional gas wells in the state. Can you imagine the potential for contamination from 100,000?
·      FERC has approved three other LNG export projects, all in the Gulf of Mexico: the Sabine Pass Liquefaction Project, the Freeport LNG Project, and the Cameron LNG Project. Are you aware that fourteen LNG export proposals are pending, but expect approval?
·      the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) inspects only 7% of the 305,000 miles of the natural gas pipeline currently operating in the U.S.?

The Atlantic Sunrise poses unacceptable risks not only to the environment, but to human health and welfare. In addition,

·      Do you know that if you’re directly on the pipeline right-of-way, it could

Ø  Endanger your property values?
Ø  Endanger you and your children’s health?
Ø  Endanger your ability to secure homeowner’s insurance, second mortgages, and market value for your property?
Ø  Endanger your basic right to determine the use of your property by threatening its appropriation through eminent domain?
Ø  Endanger the clean air and water upon which your community depends?

·      Do you know that even if you’re not directly on the pipeline right-of-way, it could

Ø  Endanger your property values?
Ø  Endanger you and your children’s health?
Ø  Endanger your ability to secure homeowner’s insurance, second mortgages, and market value for your property?
Ø  Endanger the clean air and water upon which your community depends?

Do not let this happen.

For more information, including the EIS and the FERC documents, please see: 

For opportunities to action, please see:

For a printable copy of this letter, please contact

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Matters: Muncy Women’s Prison High School Graduation Remarks, September 18th, 2014

Wendy Lynne Lee, 3 yr.s old, 1963

Well more than a hundred years ago, the great philosopher John Locke argued that the unique identities of persons—of individuals like you and I—were woven out of our memories, sewn out of the stories we tell about ourselves. 

And while those stories may become, like tattered jeans, worn over time, or re-embroidered with a bit more sparkle and shine than their originals, what matters about them is that they’re ours—that no one else can tell them quite like I can tell mine—or you can tell yours.

Wendy Lynne Lee and her Mother,
Gloria Frances Lee, 1959

Here’s just a little bit of mine:

Crazy but true, I was actually trained for some years to follow my Aunt Evelyn into the ballet.  This was not because my family was especially affluent—we were the middle of the middle class. It wasn’t because I was good at toe-shoes; I wasn’t. 

It was because my parents—like many of yours—aspired to give their kids more than they had had. While I’m sure I didn’t recognize it at the time, I see now that that aspiration is elemental to my own identity. 

Indeed, the lesson I absorbed at my father’s knee was that we must justify our existence through the contributions we make to others. So, by the time I was 10, I had decided to be a writer. Not dancing. Not music. Words

Wendy Lynne Lee
Christmas, 1961

Good, bad, or ugly, that thread of identity—that narrative about my own narrative—is the very air and water of my existence. It is the road for my own contribution, sketched out in words, paved in pencil.

Nonetheless, for whatever my high-fallutin’ aspirations, reality is not a patient place. By the time I finished high school in 1977, I was already working. My dad had died at just 49 from brain cancer, and my mom—to whom I remain close—could not support me. 

My dad, Jack Everett Lee
So I married at 17 and promptly went to work as an assembly line laboror—a job that anyone smarter than a gopher would quickly discover was mind-numbing and body-destroying.  

The minimum wage was $2.56 an hour, and the only thing that spared me from being fired for union organizing to improve wages and working conditions was pregnancy and an early labor that, as an unforgettable 20th birthday surprise, produced identical twin sons.  

Wendy Lynne Lee
18 yrs. old, 1978

Truth is, I was ill-prepared for so much responsibility, and like just too many women, I found myself imprisoned in a marriage where that lethal combination of tradition and ignorance made me one more domestic battery statistic. 

By the Spring of 1980, I had fled—suitcase and diaper bag—from Utah to Colorado. I’m sure I didn’t realize it at the time, but I am one of the luckiest women in the world. I had somewhere to go—a mother who could offer me council and safety, compassion and security.

My mom, Gloria Frances Lee, 2014
Fast forward to August, 1982. I have just given birth to my third son, am surviving—but just barely—on welfare, food stamps, and a grant to go to college, and I live in an old Summer vacation cabin at the base of Pike’s Peak. 

Lindsay Lee-Lampshire, 1983
I have miraculously managed a quarter at Pike's Peak Community College in order to enter University of Colorado, and I’m terrified that factory labor has atrophied by brains, that I’ll be exposed as a fraud, and that I’ll never raise my kids out of poverty. 

But what was also becoming as clear to me as this very moment is that education offers an opportunity like no other. 

My family counseled me to the practical—cosmetology or hairdressing, or secretarial work—all the province of women, and way beyond my motor skills. My mother worried aloud that too much education might render me unmarriageable.  

But I saw something else, and while I know this might sound ridiculous or just clichéd, what I saw in the sheer beauty, bigness, and riotous variety that is the humanities—philosophy, English, anthropology, theater, poetry—was a world I could not only embrace, but to which I could contribute in some way that my kids could be proud of me.

Lindsay Lee-Lampshire, 1984
Life in that cabin, ah—life in that cabin. Four rooms, including a walled-in cement deck passing for a bedroom, a bathroom with no sink, a finicky space heater, a camper stove, and a mini-frig. 

Every school day I had to hike up and down the hillside steppes with a baby, a backpack, and sometimes the groceries, often in the snow, and always with hefty books. 

It would be an understatement to say that I had no social life—but what substituted for that was a sense of purpose, the intoxicating ideas with which I was becoming acquainted, and that I lived somewhere always beautiful and ever-changing.  

Living on the side of a mountain is an experience that is etched into my soul; it informs my commitments to the environment in ways both deep and enduring. I stayed in school, and I alternately forgave and expelled my third child’s father for choosing Micky Big Mouth and Southern Comfort over me, but I would be a liar if I told you that self-reliance wasn’t sometimes accompanied by loneliness, or that staking a claim to my independence was some easy thing. It wasn’t. 

Sunset, Pike's Peak, 2013
All the same, the stories you’ve heard or lived about how necessity is the mother of invention are mostly true, and at least for me that uniqueness of identity Locke talked about grew more out of the need to figure out things like food, heat, and more food than out of anything else.

Philosophy gave me a thousand ways to think about all these things. Among the best, hardest, bravest things I have ever done was to choose it not merely as a discipline but as a life worth living. It took a leap of faith to load my kids, my cats, and my then partner into a 1972 oil guzzling Chevy truck with everything I had in the world and $1500.00 dollars and drive it to Milwaukee for graduate school. 

There is no guarantee that such big gambles will pay off. But what there is is the promise that even if they don’t, we won’t get to old age wondering whether we should have taken that chance, made that leap, taken that road. 

Whatever else you do, don’t let that happen. 

Women make up less than a quarter of academic philosophers in the United States—but we are among its most vibrant and creative communities. Working my way through to the first undergraduate degree in my family, and then the first Ph.D. was at some points so hard I nearly quit in tears. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation less than 10 ft. from a Super Nintendo. I gave birth to my fourth child less than two days before I taught my very first class. 

Carley Aurora
Lee-Lampshire, 2 yrs old
That first teaching day, however, was one of the most insightful of my life. I was so tired. She’d been the first I had delivered without a cesarean section, and she was still at the hospital awaiting a potential transfusion—but 10 minutes into that class I knew two things: first, that if I could weather that day this “academia thing” would likely never get any harder, and second, that being up in front of a room full of fresh faces—just like yours—was a blast. I don’t know that I have ever had a day better or harder than that.

However clichéd it may sound, what education has given me are choices I would never have had, a chance to be a role model to my kids, my students, my nieces and nephews that might never have come my way, and the opportunity to act for the public good that we should all have—but of which too few take advantage. 

Coming to Bloomsburg University in 1992—another truck drive—was both a real risk and a new adventure. But by then, I was up for it, and by the time I had taught and written and worked my ass off for tenure—and my first tattoo--I knew something about risk, namely, that failure really just is an opportunity to try something different, and that success isn’t an event—it’s a state of mind that gets you up on the good days and the bad ones.
Carley and Wendy, 2008

Although my administration might be happier were I a little less vocal, a little less demanding, the truth is that the more protected are our jobs, the more responsibility we have to speak out on issues that matter. 

Among those closest to my heart are issues that affect women, children, and nonhuman animals—those most vulnerable in our society whose voices are the least heard. Taking a stand on some of these is not necessarily a prescription for popularity, and as I have spoken out strongly for gay rights, women’s reproductive rights, animal welfare, and environmental integrity, I am sometimes the target of harassment and hate mail. 

Jack and Wendy, 1967
But the thing is that, once you’re equipped with the critical thinking skills a humanities education offers—once you can think and you come to see even just a little of what all there is to think about—you can’t go back.  

You won’t want to. 

Education is the most valuable and dangerous thing in the world. It equips you to see through the Bull Shit and the beautiful, the hype and the reality, the fleeting and the stuff that’s worth fighting for.  

But with that education comes the responsibility to be better, to do more, to contribute. 

No better example prepared me for this than Socrates’ “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and Marx’ “The purpose of philosophy is not merely to know the world but to change it for the better.”

These two ideas—that critical self-reflection is essential to actions we can live with, and that we have some duty to contribute—inform virtually everything I do. The most obvious of these, I suppose, is teaching—not a job as much as a privilege—no matter with what challenges my students present me. Every day, I get to “corrupt youth.” 

I get to introduce dangerous ideas to young folks, and I get to challenge their assumptions. I also get to write about all the things that matter to me, a few of which even matter to other people. 

If I have any single message for you as you move forward in your own precious lives, it’s this: listen to yourselves. 

Listen to the very best, foresightful versions of yourselves. Then read—everything you can. The world is messy, frustrating, contradictory—but it is never dull.  Then think. Hard.  What is your contribution? 

What do you have to say?

Thank you sincerely for having me today. I have given many speeches—but to date, this is surely the most important.