Friday, May 2, 2014

When USA Means "United (Frack) Shills of America": The Marcellus Shale Coalition's Big Gas Parade, May 6th 2014, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee
I remember a time--not all that long ago-- when the Marcellus Shale Coalition promoted itself as a largely neutral  coalition of interests connected to the the Marcellus Shale formation under the farms and forests of Pennsylvania and New York. When I look back on that brief moment --when we didn't quite yet surmise the tsunami coming (we could call it BG--Before the Gas), I now realize just how naive we were with respect to the motives of MSC and their well-funded advertising agency analogues. Now we live in the AG--After the Gas--and even the most cursory gander at MSC's sponsoring corporations makes quite clear what their big fat rally is for--and it's certainly not Pennsylvania or Pennsylvanians. 

The MSC executive board reads like a corporate roll call of gas companies--and a cavalcade of environmental violation, liability avoidance, community destruction, property value decimation, and good old fashioned corporate-litigated denial:

Range Resources Corporation--most recent notice of violation "a “significant leak” at the John Day Impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County, a scary prospect given that Range Resources admits that it doesn't know what's in its frack fluids. As reported by Marcellus Monitor (DEP Issuing Notice of Violation to Range Resources for ‘Significant Leak’ at Washington County Impoundment | Marcellus Monitor) : 

Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of
both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.
Then there's EXCO--for whom the nation's Safe Drinking Water Act is simply an inconvenient obstacle to its profit objectives--and if that seems unduly harsh, wait to make that judgment after you take a look at the company's connection to the SAGO Mine
disaster:   THE WRENCH: Pretending to Forget What’s Right Under Our Feet Until the Ground Gives Way: EXCO’s Marcellus Gambit, the SAGO Mine Disaster, and the Price of Natural Gas.

Then of course, there's Williams--whose own recent gambit to construct a 42 inch expansion of the Transco natural gas pipeline absurdly named the Atlantic Sunrise" offers a cornucopia of misleading claims, misrepresentation, and potential disaster for ecologies, communities--and property values--all for the sake of global export to China: THE WRENCH: When Sunrise for the Global Gas Markets is Sunset for Pennsylvania: Williams Partner's "Atlantic Sunrise" Expansion of the TRANSCO. Williams--well, they're just a charmer:
Williams Companies, through three pipeline subsidiaries, paid the most in fines in 2013 for excess erosion and drilling mud spills into creeks during pipeline construction and underground boring operations. The subsidiaries, Laser Northeast Gathering, Williams Field Services and Laurel Mountain Midstream, paid a combined $388,694 in fines for 105 violations between March 2011 and September 2012. Williams Field Services and Laser paid one fine each for a host of problems at their sites in Susquehanna, Wyoming and Luzerne counties; they were the second and third largest fines of the year, at $169,648 and $164,622. Laurel Mountain Midstream paid three fines totaling $54,424 for operations in southwestern Pennsylvania. (DEP fined oil and gas companies $2.5 million last year | StateImpact Pennsylvania).
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

You get the picture.

The only interesting question is what--besides either greed or inexcusably willful ignorance would induce anyone to jump on the MSC bus to the United Shale Advocates rally? Well, here's what Tom Shepstone--gas cheerleader extraordinaire says: (USA...USA...United Shale Advocates | Natural Gas NowNatural Gas Now)

United Shale Advocates will set out the facts and the real shale stories of success so many supporters witness with their own eyes every day; how shale gas development is changing lives for the better, revitalizing rural areas and
delivering inexpensive energy to businesses and consumers. It will also unabashedly defend the natural gas record of cleaning our air, for example, and safeguarding our water.
In other words--greed

But if you're not convinced, you have two choices: either just wave your mouse over any of the items in the previous paragraphs, click, and read--or just continue on here to enjoy a look at the USA rally speakers, and see for yourselves just how interested these fellas are in the continuation of the frack--regardless the cost to you, your water, your air, your life (and I do mean fellas--fully invested members in the Good Old Boy Extraction Club, Wendy Lynne Lee at Susquehanna University - YouTube).

Speaker 1: Gene BarrPresident and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Executive Director of APIP, Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, and member of the law firm of McNees Wallace Nurick, the largest Harrisburg-based law firm, to start a government relations practice  (::: Pennsylvania Chamber Of Business And Industry :::). here's his schtick:

Increased natural gas production is helping consumers by delivering cheaper natural gas, such as the recent rate cut of more than 13 percent announced in the area by UGI. But the longer the oversight debate drags on and the longer drillers face rules that differ from municipality to municipality, the less investment, energy savings, jobs and revenue will be realized in the commonwealth. (Pennsylvania needs uniform Marcellus Shale rules |
Barr then refers to Washington County, touting its high rate of job growth, the 7th fastest growing metropolitan area in 2010. Trouble is, by 2013 things in Washington County are not so rosy for the residents who actually live there. As reported in The Nation:

DEP whistleblowers have disclosed that the agency purposely restricts its chemical testing so as to reduce evidence of harm to landownersA resident in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington County is suing the agency for failing fully to investigate the drilling-related air and water contamination that she says has made her sick...Theo Colborn, founder of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange and recipient of the National Council for Science and Environment’s Lifetime Achievement Award, identified 353 industry chemicals that could damage the skin, the brain, the respiratory, gastrointestinal, immune, cardiovascular and endocrine (hormone production) systems. Twenty-five percent of the chemicals found by the study could cause cancers. (Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania | The Nation).
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

Need a little more evidence for the suffering and death scale?

"In the days leading up to an unreported spill of more than 21,000 gallons of flowback water in Washington County, Pennsylvania, by Red Oak Water Transfer, executives from Range Resourcesexpressed frustration with the company – one of its subcontractors – calling Red Oak employees “lying bastards” in a chain of emails detailing issues including three additional leaks of a water supply line flowing from an Amwell Township frac pond, public documents show.
The emails are part of a 31-page supplemental exhibit filed Dec. 19 to compel a response from Red Oak as part of a civil lawsuit that originated in 2012 after three Washington County families living near the frack pond sued Range and more than a dozen of its subcontractors, alleging that toxic exposure from the impoundment caused those residents to suffer various illnesses. It also alleges that those companies were responsible for contamination of their drinking water. While the original motion to compel Red Oak, now doing business as Rockwater Energy Solutions, to provide photographs of the spill included internal emails and personnel files from Red Oak detailing both the spill its “cover up” by an employee later suspended for three days without pay for the “serious incident,” exhibits included in the most recent filing reveal a tense relationship between the company and Range around the time of the unreported spill, which was never reported to the state Department of Environmental Protection, despite clear reporting requirements set forth in Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law."  (Range Resources Calls Subcontractor That Admitted Unreported Spill “Lying Bastards” – Suggests Fracking With Employees’ Bodies | Marcellus Monitor).

Now maybe we'd accept illness, suffering, and potential death if there really were lots of well-paying jobs to compensate for these albeit somewhat daunting problems. And we might feel better that at least one real Red Oak (now Rockwater) employee got a whole
three days suspension without pay for trying to cover up a toxic exposure that made folks sick. But the trouble still is that the whole "lots-a-jobs" thing is bull shit. Just plain unvarnished, you can't make this shit up bull shit.

From the Multistate Research Collaborative, 2013 report:

  • While shale-related employment has made a positive contribution to job growth, the number of jobs created is far below industry claims and remains a small share of overall employment in the region.
  • Between 2005 and 2012, less than four new direct shale-related jobs have been created for each new well drilled, much less than estimates as high as 31 direct jobs per well in some industry-financed studies.
  • Region-wide, shale-related employment accounts for just one out of every 794 jobs. By contrast, education and health sectors account for one out of every six jobs.
  • Job growth in the industry has been greatest (as a share of total employment) in West Virginia. Still, shale-related employment is less than 1 percent of total West Virginia employment and less than half a percent of total employment in all the other states.
  • Many of the core extraction jobs existed before the emergence of hydrofracking.
  • Together, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia had 38 percent of all producing wells in the country in 1990 and 32 percent in 2000.
  • Some counties with a long history of mineral extraction have experienced a shift in employment from coal to shale extraction.
  • Industry employment projections have been overstated.
  • Some industry supporters have equated “new hires” with “new jobs” and attributed ancillary job figures to shale drilling even when they have nothing to do with drilling.
  • Industry-funded studies have used questionable assumption in economic modeling to inflate the number of jobs created in related supply chain industries (indirect jobs) as well as those created by the spending of income earned from the industry or its suppliers (induced jobs).
  • Drilling is highly sensitive to price fluctuations, which means that job gains may not be lasting.
  • In some counties, employment gains have been reversed as drilling activity shifted to more lucrative oil shale fields in Ohio and North Dakota.
  • Direct shale-related employment across the six-state Marcellus/Utica region fell over the last 12 months for which there are data — the first quarter 2012 to the first quarter 2013.

What's the upshot? We are being poisoned. We are being lied to. We are being extorted--and the single benefit we were told over and over that we'd get out of this--jobs--as if "jobs" were itself some magical mantra that could dispel all of the other harms this industry delivers--even that was a lie. It was a lie during the first round of the gas boom. Will we see a few more jobs during the potential second boom--the one we're promised if the gas industry gets its big fat wish for pipelines galore? 

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


Right up to the BIG BUST, followed by the BIG INDUSTRIAL WASTELAND, followed by the creeping realization that the only purpose of shill parades like this one is to extort, manipulate, and "patriotize" us into thinking that guys like Barr--or any of the other USA speakers give a good goddamn about us. They Don't. 

Jim Kunz
Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers

Hank Rettew
CEO, RETTEW Associates, Inc.

Dennis Gilfoyle
CEO, Junior Achievement of Western Pa.

Beth Powell
VP & General Manager, New Pig Energy

Rawley Cogan
President & CEO, Keystone Elk Country Alliance

Brian Smith
Northeast PA landowner, Wayne County farmer

Les Houck
Supervisor, Salisbury Township, Lancaster County

Paula Jackson
President & CEO, American Association of Blacks in Energy

Scott Roy
Chairman, Marcellus Shale Coalition

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

The Pennsylvania Jobs/Pennsylvania Energy flag-wavin', bus-ridin', media-schmoozing, cavalcade is just another moment in this ugly human drama where you get to be treated like a sucker. 

Take a good look at this gorgeous picture of Loyalsock Creek.

Only a sucker could be duped into giving up this.

Don't be one.

Wendy Lynne Lee
The Shale Justice Coalition

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