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A Quick Whirl Around The Fracking World: 22 Aug 2014

By: KateCA Friday August 22, 2014 2:43 pm

 

*NE to rock. Willie Nelson and Neil Young will be performing at “Harvest the Hope Concert,” a benefit for Bold Nebraska and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance in their continued opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline. Date: September 27th, a tad over 27 years since Nelson and Young performed together at Farm Aid-3 in 1987. Hosts: Landowners Art and Helen Tanderup who live near Neligh, NE and have stood up to TransCanada by refusing to grant easement for the pipeline. Update: Aw, shucks, tickets already sold out!

*Fracking USA. The FracTracker Alliance provides a cool interactive map (among many others), showing fracking activity state-by-state.

*Safer oil railcars, for real? The US Department of Transportation wants to phase out the old, dangerous DOT-111 railcars, but “the oil industry and leasing firms,” who own almost all the cars, reportedly are slow-going the process  (costs too much, doncha know). In sharp contrast, environmentalists and others are demanding existing cars be banned straightaway in order to protect the public.

*Gulf of Mexico oil and gas exploration should be getting underway right quick like, with the feds selling “more than 400,000 acres in the Gulf . . . off the Texas coast for oil and gas exploration and development.” While adding $110 million to US coffers (yep, a paltry $110 million), and letting BP get back into the game, this sale also accelerates use of fracking which is needed to penetrate the ancient Lower Tertiary that is packed with dense rock.

*Los Angeles, CA City Councilmember Paul Koretz, noting the huge amounts of water fracking requires, the transformation of that water by fracking into “toxic sludge” which can contaminate the water supply, has called on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare an immediate moratorium on fracking. Particularly urgent during the state’s continuing historic drought.

*Over in Richmond, CAChevron looms large and is supplying a largesse of $1.6 million to put its candidates on the City Council and in the Mayor’s office. That’s $15 and some small change for each of the city’s 106,516+ residents. But there is a catch: candidates taking the money have to publicly acknowledge that fact–and not everybody in Richmond digs being a “company town.”

*NC’s Mining and Energy Commission is beginning public hearings on fracking. In June, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill legalizing fracking after a bitter two-year fight, but opposition continues—“State officials have fielded hundreds of safety concerns, ranging from water supply contamination to waste management.” Touted as a big boon for the state budget and jobs, turns out “the expected economic impact . . . is relatively small.” Ah, NC, “A Better Place To Be?”

*NY’s Albany County, home of the Port of Albany, has just engaged the services of Mintz Levin, environmental law firm of Boston, to help “battle against a Fortune 500 company that’s bringing in millions of gallons of crude oil every day.” That would be Global Partners, which wants to expand its facilities so it can accommodate Canadian oilsands crude oil but doesn’t want to share information that the county considers pertinent. Albany County also wants to more effectively communicate with the US Department of Transportation about safer oil railcars since Global Partners wants to continue to use the older, dangerous ones. And, as if on cue, approximately “100 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipeline” at the Global Partners’s facility at the Port Wednesday–but didn’t make it to the Hudson River.

*NY anti-fracking rally held on Governor’s Day at the State Fair in Geddes. A spokesperson said “Ban fracking now and let’s build an energy system that protects the things we love,” including agriculture which requires clean water. Gov Andrew Cuomo (D), in attendance at the fair, is deferring his decision on fracking until NY’s Departments of Environmental Conservation and of Health provide input.

*Uh-oh in OH: Putting up religiously-themed billboards against fracking in OH could get you sued. That’s what Michael Boals of Coshocton, OH did and that’s how Buckeye Brine of Austin, TX responded. “DEATH may come”, “POISONED WATERS” and other warnings on two Route 36 billboards led to the suit. But Boals, who paid more than $1,000 for the billboards, is standing his (apparently, non-fracked) ground.

*Brightest spot in fracking news of the week comes from Clatskanie OR, on the Columbia River, where “the operators of an oil train terminal . . . promised to only accept crude delivered in tank cars that met the latest industry safety standards.” Claim is “oil companies shipping through its terminal near Clatskanie have almost always complied.” The Oregonian newspaper was able to verify that seems to be the case.

*PA’s Department of Health reacted to criticism that citizens’ letters of complaint about health impacts of fracking were simply being ignored. Not to worry, for the Department has now held many meetings (imagine that!) about the sitch, promises to send a letter acknowledging receipt of each complaint, will improve their website and work more closely with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

*Lac-Mégantic, Quebec report. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board this week released its report on the 6 Jun 2013 conflagration in Lac-Mégantic.   Jennifer Quaid (University of Ottawa law faculty) reacted, “the report shines a harsh light on the current approach to regulation and risk management”,  specifically the failure to enforce regulations. Major, underlying question: “To what ends will we go to protect human life from risky activity?” The Star’s coverage included two excellent videos, while CBC Canada focused on the “weak safety culture” theme, and the Ottawa Citizen opined the “Federal government tiptoes on response to Lac-Mégantic rail-disaster report.”

 

Gaza Conflict Killing: Now 2,078 Palestinians (about 1,788 Civilians), 67 Israelis (3 Civilians)

By: fairleft Saturday June 4, 2011 5:23 pm

Yeah, still happening, still heart-rending. Reuters reports:

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza on July 8 … Gaza health officials say 2,066 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed.

Israeli attacks have devastated many areas in the densely-populated enclave, home to 1.8 million people, with 425,000 of people displaced, according to the United Nations.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed in the conflict, as well as three civilians in the Jewish state.

(By the way, why does Reuters call a 25% non-Jewish country a “Jewish state”?) To the Reuters figure of 2066 Palestinians I added the 12 civilians that Israel killed during West Bank pro-Gaza protests. As I reported earlier, the UN states that 86% of identifiable victims on the Palestinian side have been civilians. If that trend has continued (the latest OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs) report inexplicably doesn’t say how many of the dead are identifiable as civilian or non-civilian
!) in Gaza, that means Israel has killed 1,788 civilians there and in the West Bank.

Here are three recent UN reports (PDF) on the specifics of what Israel is doing (with the support of our US tax dollars, of course):

At approximately 21:30 on 19 August 2014, Israeli planes attacked a three-storey house belonging to Rabah Shihda al-Dalu, in Sheikh Radwan,northwest of Gaza City. According to Israeli media, the target was Mohammed al-Deif, the Head of the Hamas military wing, and the ordnance used consisted of five one-ton bombs. The house was completely destroyed, four neighbouring houses were extensively damaged, as were the building and vehicles of a local transportation company. It is unclear if Al-Deif was killed, but his wife, son, daughter, and another woman and her two sons were killed. Fifteen others were injured. The body of Al-Deif’s daughter was recovered today.

At approximately 04:50 on 20 August, an Israeli plane launched a missile at a house in Deir al-Balah belonging to Mustafa Mohammed al-Louh. The house and a neighboring house belonging to the owner’s son were destroyed, and seven members of the family were killed; three men; the pregnant wife of one; and their children. Another family member, a 17-year-old girl died of her wounds today.

At approximately 02:30 today, 21 August, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the house of Nasser Kellab, west of the town or Rafah. The targets were three senior Hamas commanders who were killed, as were another five persons, including children; bodies are still being recovered. Two people were also killed in a neighbouring house.

For the bigger picture on what is being done to Gaza civilians besides killing them, read Fred Branfman’s cut-to-the-chase summary of what’s taking place. I like his fronting of the parallels between the U.S. in Vietnam and Israel in Gaza:

Missourians Fight ALEC Over Big Agriculture’s “Right to Farm”

By: Kit OConnell Friday August 22, 2014 3:36 pm

Grassroots efforts will likely push a recount on an amendment to Missouri’s bill of rights that favors the interests of corporate agriculture.

Artwork of a young boy dressed as an ear of corn, carrying a Monsanto flag.

Did Missouri voters just grant constitutional rights to Monsanto & friends?

On Aug. 5, Missouri residents voted on the state’s Right-to-Farm, Amendment 1, a new addition to the state’s bill of rights. The results were extremely close: 498,751 voted in favor of the new amendment, while 496,223 opposed it. With a difference of less than half a percent, a recount is almost certain.

Though the Humane Society of the United States donated $375,000 in opposition, the amendment had the financial backing of Big Agriculture and its deep pockets as well as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the secretive organization which writes legislation on behalf of major corporations.

That the bill came so close to defeat is a testament to the efforts of grassroots Missouri activists like the members of People’s Visioning, a coalition of diverse progressive organizations led by Columbia, Missouri, resident Monta Welch. MintPress News spoke with Welch and other members of her coalition as they rested from what they described as an exhausting campaign and considered what their next steps might be if the recount fails.

Welch explained that the conflict was essentially between large agricultural factories and consumers increasingly concerned with the sustainability and ethics behind the food they eat.

“This amendment was really designed to preempt giving consumers what they want and preempt any possibility of addressing an unsustainable system whether it be factory farming — a confined animal feeding operation, or CAFO — or genetically modified food. There’s been a trend of customers and consumers saying they don’t want these kinds of products, but this is the ‘get bigger or get out’ style of factory farm’s response,” Welch said.

ALEC’s corporate “extremism”

For over 40 years ALEC members — corporations and wealthy backers like the Koch Brothers — have crafted model legislation which is then sponsored by the council’s specially selected legislators who are required to swear a loyalty oath to the organization. ALECexposed.org, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, features hundreds of model bills as well as lists of its corporate members, including agricultural giants Archer Daniels Midland and St. Louis-based Monsanto. Monsanto, along with Cargill — which has disputed its ALEC membership — were members of the Farmers Care PAC that formed to promote the bill.

Though all 50 states have existing legislation designed to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits, ALEC has been working to rewrite those laws to its specifications since at least 1995, when the importance of the Right to Farm Act model is mentioned in the council’s Source Book of American Legislation. That same language was incorporated into a longer model bill first voted on in 1996 and updated and re-approved by members as recently as 2013 (where it’s now openly posted on ALEC’s website).

It restricts farms from being found to be a nuisance as long as they conform to “generally accepted agriculture and management practices” as determined by state agricultural agencies. It also prevents farms from being found to be a nuisance if they adopt new technology, begin producing new products, or expand. Other clauses further complicate lawsuits by, for example, potentially forcing anyone making complaints to pay the defendant’s legal fees.

The Right to Farm model legislation is just part of ALEC’s overall support of industrial agriculture. In a memo released by Common Cause, ALEC reveals its “Agriculture Principles” and pledges to “remove barriers for agricultural production, trade, and consumption.” Further, the organization objects to “extremist attempts to establish animal rights as a public policy objective,” stating:

There are significant human costs to the animal rights movement’s attempt to destroy human exceptionalism and along with it our system of animal husbandry and tradition of pet ownership. Similar to ALEC efforts related to animal and ecological terrorism and environmentally corrupt organizations, ALEC’s principles include a commitment to transparency and honesty among these groups and their allies.

A commitment to transparency may seem surprising from an organization which shields its actions with secrecy and police violence. It might be a reference to the group’s support of so-called “Ag gag” laws that restrict the free speech of animal cruelty activists, including one which passed in Missouri in 2012 that forces activists to inform police of their efforts to gather evidence of animal cruelty.

A newer approach to the same goal is to amend state constitutions. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in January that in 2012 North Dakota became the first to amend its constitution to include the Right to Farm, and similar proposed amendments have appeared in Indiana, which will vote on it in November, and in Oklahoma, where legislators tabled the amendment until next session. In Missouri, the amendment included two sponsors who are ALEC membersTim Jones and Jason T. Smith.

Another sponsor, Bill Reiboldt, the Agriculture Policy Chair in the most recent Missouri legislative session, is known for taking donations from businesses like Smithfield Foods. Smithfield Foods is one of the nation’s largest producers of pork products, and Missouri is ranked sixth nationally in pork production.

North Dakota’s amendment specifically mentions the right to engage in “modern farming practices,” but that language was dropped due to what Businessweek calls “concerns that it appeared too narrowly aimed at benefiting industrial farms.” Despite that change, the amendment’s supporters seemed to deliberately court voter confusion about its true goals with even the amendment’s very phrasing.

Deliberately confusing voters

After Oregon Rejects Coal Export Plan, Long Beach Votes to Export Coal and PetKoch

By: Steve Horn Thursday August 21, 2014 1:33 pm
Flag against a blue sky: Green Port Long Beach

The “Green” Port of Long Beach will now export millions of tons of pollutants per year.

Just a day after the Oregon Department of State Lands shot down a proposal to export 8.8 million tons per year of coal to Asia from the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon, the Long Beach City Council achieved the opposite.

In a 9-0 vote, the Council voted “yay” to export both coal and petroleum coke (petcoke, a tar sands by-product) to the global market — namely Asia — out of Pier G to the tune of 1.7 million tons per year. Some have decried petcoke as “dirtier than the dirtiest fuel.“

More specifically, the Council determined that doing an environmental impact statement before shipping the coal and petcoke abroad was not even necessary.

decision originally made in June and then appealed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Communities for a Better Environment, the Council shot down the appeal at an August 19 hearing.

“We are very disappointed about the decision, but that does not diminish the amazing victory in Oregon,” Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez said in a statement provided to DeSmogBlog via email. “The decision in Long Beach just highlights the grasp that the fossil fuel industry has on the City’s leaders.”

The Earthjustice legal challenge and the the subsequent August 19 hearing was not about banning coal or petcoke exports. Rather, Earthjustice and its clients requested that the City of Long Beach do an environmental impact statement for two companies given contracts to export the commodities for 15-20 years.

One of those companies, Oxbow Carbon, is owned by the “Other Koch Brother,” William “Bill” Koch. Like his brothers David and Charles Koch, he has made a fortune on the U.S. petcoke storage and export boom. Also like his brothers, he is a major donor to the Republican Party.

But the Long Beach City Council voted “nay” in unanimous fashion to do the environmental impact study. Earthjustice had argued it was required to do an environmental review under the legal dictates of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“It’s disappointing that the City would turn a blind eye to even doing some basic analysis of the impacts of this decision to lock into 15 years of exporting dirty fuels abroad,” said Martinez.

“More than 100 residents showed up at the August 19 hearing to support pausing this deal and are deeply concerned about how climate change and pollution from exporting dirty fuels impacts them and future generations.”

Adding insult to injury, Sierra Club endorsed Vice Mayor and City Council member Suja Lowenthal in her Democratic Party primary race for State Assembly, which she recently lost.

The floodgates have been opened, then, to export massive amounts of coal and petcoke from the self-styled “Green Port.”

It comes at a time when numerous California refineries are retooling themselves to blend more tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”), which gets to the Golden State mainly via rail.

Further, it happens at the same time critics say the Obama Administration is exporting climate change by exporting coal abroad — often to countries without any meaningful regulations — even as his administration regulates U.S.-based coal-fired power plants.

Union, Oxbow Representatives Oppose Enviro Review

While the majority of those who testified at the August 19 hearing before the Long Beach City Council voted spoke in favor of doing an environmental impact statement, several industry executives and union workers spoke out against it.

“First and foremost, you should know the facilities on Pier G are world-class operations that set the bar for environmental excellence in our industries. We are very proud of what we do here with the port,” Clayton Headley, Oxbow’s vice president of supply for the Pacific region stated at the hearing.

Beware of Exploding Gifts from Uncle Sam

By: codepink

In a brilliant August 17 segment of Last Week Tonight, HBO host John Oliver ripped into small towns that have equipped their police with war-like military equipment. One town was Keene, New Hampshire, where their military-grade armored personnel truck was acquired to protect critical targets –– like the annual Pumpkin Festival. Another was Doraville, Georgia. Oliver showed a wild video clip from the Doraville Police Department’s website, with a Ninja-dressed SWAT team going for a joyride in a souped-up armored personnel carrier, all set to a heavy metal song called “Die MotherF***er Die.”

In a visit to Doraville last week, I asked Officer Gene Callaway why his sleepy town of 8,000, which hasn’t had a murder since 2009, needed an armored personnel carrier (APC). “The vehicle provides Doraville with a scalable response and ensures the safety of police officers,” he answered. Scalable response? Safety of police officers? Doraville has never been a crime-ridden town. “We at Doraville are proud to be ranked 39th in safest cities in Georgia,” Callaway himself bragged. It seems the most useful task the APC performed was pulling 18-wheelers back onto the salted lanes of Route 285 during snowstorms. Oh, and let’s not forget that “the kids love playing on it” when it rolls up to the county fair, Callaway told me.

Doraville’s armored vehicle is a gift from Uncle Sam, as part of the billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment now flowing from the federal government to state and local police departments. Not only is it an incredible waste of taxpayer money, but it gets people–including children–accustomed to seeing military vehicles on their streets. Worst of all, it is causing police to act like soldiers, especially since one of the stipulations of getting this equipment is that it must be used within one year of receipt.

The Doraville Police, embarrassed by the negative publicity from their video, took it down (they insist that the theme music was unauthorized). Now on their website you can see much more benevolent images, such as three smiling police officers, one dressed as Santa Claus, with two young girls who are the recipients of the “Santa Pop Program” that pairs police with “less-fortunate children.”

But let’s face it. Military toys, constantly dangled before the police at law enforcement exhibits and fairs, are hard to resist. And with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security giving out this stuff for free, why not get some hand-me-downs? Doraville and Keene are just two of thousands of cities and towns throughout the nation that have successfully applied for surplus equipment from a federal government agency.

No incident report? NO INCIDENT REPORT!?

By: Elliott Friday June 15, 2012 3:58 pm

Zerlina Maxwell tells it

 
 

Why White Privilege is No Protection from Police Brutality

By: Nat Parry Thursday August 21, 2014 3:55 am

 

A survey released this week by the Pew Research Center has revealed glaring differences of views among blacks and whites when it comes to the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American youth killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, and the protests that have followed. Unfortunately though, the wording of the survey leaves some pertinent questions unaddressed, focusing on the racial aspect of the controversy while overlooking the public’s general perception about the problem of police brutality in America.

Nevertheless, the survey significantly found that blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that Brown’s shooting “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed,” with about 80% of African Americans agreeing with that statement and whites saying by a 47% to 37% margin that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Although the Pew survey neglected to ask, it’s possible that at least some of the white respondents objected to the focus on race because they feel that the epidemic of police violence cuts across racial lines. As anyone who regularly follows news pertaining to police brutality knows, the police are generally out of control across the country and the victims of their brutishness are not just African Americans – but in fact, Latinos, Asians, and yes, even white people.

In one recent case that received some national attention, police shot and killed a homeless white man in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sparking a wave of demonstrations in the city.

Police officers gunned down 38-year-old James Boyd on March 16 in the Sandia foothills following a standoff and after he allegedly brandished a small knife, authorities said. But a helmet-camera video showed Boyd agreeing to walk down the mountain, gathering his things and taking a step toward officers just before they opened fire.

Amid the popular uproar that ensued, the U.S. Justice Department issued a report on April 10 documenting that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has for years engaged in a pattern of excessive force that violates the United States Constitution and federal law.

The investigation, launched in November 2012, specifically identified three general patterns of police abuse in Albuquerque:

  • APD officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose a minimal threat;
  • APD officers use “less lethal” force, including tasers, on people who are non-threatening or unable to comply with orders; and
  • Encounters between APD officers and persons with mental illness and in crisis too frequently result in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary.

While these findings specifically pertained to law enforcement practices in Albuquerque, largely vindicating the grievances of demonstrators protesting the shooting death of James Boyd, they could just as easily apply to any number of police departments across the country that engage in similar practices of excessive force. The national epidemic of police violence has even caught the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which earlier this year issued a scathing report raising serious concerns about human rights abuses in the United States, including police brutality.

In a section on “Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials,” the UN found that across the country, there is an unacceptably “high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces,” as well as “reports of excessive use of force by certain law enforcement officers including the deadly use of tasers.”

Over Easy: Chemical Weapons in the War on Protest

By: msmolly

Tear gas is banned in warfare.

Tear gas is technically banned for use in warfare as a chemical weapon. But as the Washington Post (and other publications) point out, Ferguson police shoot it at protesters rather freely.

From Wikipedia

Tear gas, formally known as a lachrymatory agent or lachrymator (from lacrima meaning ‘tear’ in Latin), is a chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain, vomiting, and even blindness. Common lachrymators include pepper spray (OC gas), CS gas, CR gas, CN gas (phenacyl chloride), nonivamide, bromoacetone, xylyl bromide, syn-propanethial-S-oxide (from onions), and Mace (a branded mixture).

Lachrymatory agents are commonly used for riot control. Their use as chemical warfare agents is prohibited by various international treaties. [My emphasis]

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention doesn’t apply to domestic law enforcement.

Because the U.S. was concerned that the C.W. Convention could be interpreted to prohibit lethal injection, we were a vocal supporter of this exemption (my emphasis below):

1. ‘Chemical Weapons’ means the following, together or separately:
(a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;

9. ‘Purposes Not Prohibited Under this Convention’s if means:
[snip]
(d) Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes.

The most common lacrimator used for riot control is a compound called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, or CS, which is a powder that when mixed with smoke creates an airborne agent with frightening, although not usually lethal, results. But do notice the foregoing Wikipedia list of common lachrymators also includes pepper spray, which Lt. John Pike used as a chemical weapon against peaceful protestors at U. C. Davis in 2011.

Why Isn’t Tear Gas Illegal?

When deployed in open spaces, the effects of tear gas are indeed temporary. Victims may experience crying, uncontrollable blinking, burning in the throat, sneezing, coughing, retching, and sometimes temporary blindness—but all that should subside within hours. In enclosed spaces, however, the chemical agent can have much more serious effects.

According to Sven-Eric Jordt, a Duke University scientist who researches tear gas, speaking with Vox’s Sarah Kliff,

The way these gases work, and this is what we do research on, is that they activate pain receptors — the pain sensing nerves in our body. The cornea is densely covered with these receptors. When tear gas activates these pain receptors, that leads to body reflexes like profuse tear secretion and a muscle cramp in the eyelid that causes them to close. These are all protective responses that the body has to pain, and with the gas they become extremely exaggerated.

There are situations where this can be very dangerous or lethal. If somebody has asthma, for example, or a hypersensitivity or an airwave disease that can be very dangerous.

[snip]

Tear gas can also lead to profuse mucus production, and that can lead to the feeling of suffocation. That’s especially true if it’s used in closed environments, like what you saw in Cairo. That’s not the case here in Ferguson.

Jordt concludes,

I’m very concerned that, as use has increased, tear gas has been normalized. The attitude now is like, this is safe and we can use it as much as we want.

Regardless of the lengths to which law enforcement will go to justify it, the fact remains that police in the United States – in many cases with inadequate oversight or control – use a chemical banned for use in war, in a domestic “war” on protesters.

And courtesy of Vox, here’s a look at how we would cover events in Ferguson if they happened in another country (satire, maybe, but…).