Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of the Union: Terrifying. But at Least He's Honest Here

From tonight's State of the Union address, with responses:

"We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, [There is nothing else to call this but what it is: a blatant lie. It might as well be a propaganda piece put out by Chesapeake Energy or some other fossil-fuel pushing, environmentally damaging megamillion-dollar corporation, but from the president of the United States in his 2012 State of the Union address, it is a mockery of environmental or democratic or even fiscal responsibility. There is no scientific consensus on this -- not even REMOTELY. This is completely irresponsible. Other scientists (not industry-supported] say only a few YEARS of 'natural' gas is available and extractiable in the 49 states, including Alaska but excluding Hawaii] and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.

[To anyone who is paying attention, it is crystal clear that this energy source can NOT BE DEVELOPED SAFELY. We will ALL PAY an impossibly HIGH PRICE FOR SUCH DEVELOPMENT]

Experts believe [ONLY PAID INDUSTRY EXPERTS "BELIEVE" THIS, Mr. President. How outrageously pro-fossil-fuel-corporate interests can you be? What kind of payoffs are your speechwriters getting from industry? This is a beyond outrageous claim!] this will support more than 600,000 jobs [that's patently absurd, completely unsupported] by the end of the decade [there is absolutely NO credible evidence of this;' the only three peer-reviewed economic studies that have been done on the subject -- Barth, Rogers, Christopherson -- find something completely different -- that jobs are few and very short-term and NOT going to locals in the regions to which these jobs are promised but instead to "roughnecks" and other outsiders, generally from the Canadian oilfields, Louisiana, Texas, or Oklahoma].

And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. [WOW, HOW BIG OF YOU, Mr. President! YOU'RE REQUIRING COMPANIES TO DISCLOSE THE POISONS WITH WHICH THEY ARE POISONING US! THANKS SO MUCH!] America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk. [HOW DARE YOU lie to us who are suffering the ills of this disgusting corporate-industrial abomination known as FRACKING? HOW DARE YOU be so cavalier when talking about our health, our homes, our children's lives, our very way of life, our FUTURE! This is outrageously irresponsible and shows you are embedded with fossil-fuel corporations. No matter WHAT good you might have done/want to do, your outrageously corporate-embedded behavior on FRACKING and complete disregard for CLIMATE CHANGE make any support I might have offered you AN IMPOSSIBILITY.]

"The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock -- reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground."

But, lest we despair, the president is firmly committed to a regulatory system that really works:

"We've all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn't afford them. That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior. Rules to prevent financial fraud, or toxic dumping, or faulty medical devices, don't destroy the free market. They make the free market work better.

"There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We've already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years. . . . I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.

"And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules. . . . "

Whew! What a relief, Mr. President! Thank you soooooooo much!

For those of you who still believed Barack Obama was a decent human being who would stand up for the rights, health, and well-being of regular people versus corporate interests, I offer you my sympathies. I urge you to get active now that you realize there's nobody but you and the grassroots looking out for your interests.

Tbose who hoped Obama would eventually see the light have got to rethink. And we cannot simply say that "He's the best we've got, so let's support him."

I am feeling that I will put my energies behind STOPPING a presidential candidate who aligns so blatantly with Big Oil Big Gas Big Corporate Interests to the detriment of We the People. The corrupted U.S. two-party political system is bankrupt and spent. Perhaps you'll want to put your efforts elsewhere, my friends.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bill McKibben: Stop Playing Nice with Obama

Why is environmental icon McKibben playing footsies with Barack Obama, a president clearly in deep with polluting corporations? Direct action by the people is the only potentially successful way forward. My piece in Counterpunch is at http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/23/mr-mckibben-take-heed/.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The American Lung Association in Bed with a Big Polluter

I just sent this letter off to the following people after learning that the American Lung Association Denver chapter is hosting a big fundraising event, Fight for Air Climb, on February 26, that is sponsored by Encana Oil & Gas! I'm just disgusted.

Please use these e-addresses to send your own thought to the ALA. Feel free to crib from this and/or follow all links.
To: Liz Toohey, American Lung Association Denver Director of Development, ltoohey@lungcolorado.org
cc: American Lung Association CEO Charles Dean Connor, esward@lungusa.org, charles.connor@lungusa.org; ALA Board President Albert A. Rizzo, MD (via fax to Pulmonary Associates, Newark, DE at 302-368-5515); ALA Board President Ross P. Lanzafame, Esq., rlanzafame@hselaw.com
Via fax to ALA headquarters at (212) 315-8870 for distribution to all board members

Bcc: Shaleshock, Coalition to Protect New York, Interstate Coalition, and other grassroots activist groups
Posted on Facebook/Twitter

Dear Ms. Toohey, Mr. Connor, Dr. Rizzo, Mr. Lanzafame, and American Lung Association officers and directors,

I was approached for support by a friend who is participating in the Fight for Air Climb in Denver, which led me to learn more about it. I am beyond appalled to discover that this event, supposedly promoting clean air and healthy lungs, is being sponsored by Encana Oil and Gas, one of the worst corporate polluters of air, water, and communities in the country.

How greedy and stupid has the American Lung Association become? Would you also take money from RJ Reynolds? Have you grown so big and bureaucratic that you have lost all sight of your original vision and mission?

It seems more important to raise money from corporate sponsors who actually contribute to the ill health of so many lungs, hearts, minds, and souls in this country.

From your promotional materials, it is clear that the human participants who think they're doing something important and philanthropic are no more to you than "consumers," as witnessed in your slick pitch to potential corporate sponsors, who can "underscore [their] community commitment" by partnering with your organization at the same time they find new customers and attract new shareholders:

The Fight for Air Climb participant represents the following demographics: 62% are female, 59% are between the ages of 24-44, 55% are married, 70% have a 4 year college degree or greater, 75% report a household income of $60,000 or greater, and 50( own their home. Further 76% are employed of which many are participating in corporate teams representing Colorado's largest employers. Sponsorship packages include many tangible and actionable rights and benefits that will provide our sponsors with the opportunity to:
  • Connect with 3,000 climbers, family and friends plus an additional 300 volunteers
  • Achieve your marketing & communications objectives
  • Underscore your community commitment
  • Partner with the American Lung Association in Colorado, the nation's preeminent organization working to improve lung health. Attract customers & generate leads while engaging staff
Your president and CEO Dr. Charles Dean Connor's own December 21, 2011 Huffington Post column is laudatory toward the Obama administration and the EPA for introducing new federal standards on toxic pollutants and mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. "Step forward and work to maximize the pollution reductions and do your fair share to help those that breathe the air downwind from your smokestacks," Connor urges power companies that have not yet complied. "No one wants to breathe your secondhand smog any more."

The same is true for oil and gas companies. Dr. Connor and the American Lung Association should certainly know this. The American Lung Association's own Public Policy Position Paper on Energy, approved June 11, 2011, avers the following (paragraph 1):

The American Lung Association believes that protection of lung health and a sound U.S. energy policy are compatible goals that require an emphasis on energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of cleaner energy resources, including a transition from coal and oil to cleaner alternatives. Our overarching principles call for the implementation of effective air quality programs and standards, transitioning to a clean energy future, with a commitment to promote environmental justice.

What kind of clean energy future can there be when one of the nation's most respected and recognized health associations is in bed with a dirty oil and gas company such as Encana? How can there be environmental justice when such corporations are pillaging lands and communities in nearly 30 states via fracking for methane gas and drilling for oil in sensitive environments, endangering the health of humans, domestic animals, wildlife, and ecosystems?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft analysis December 8, 2011 of the data from its investigation into the groundwater quality in the gas fields in and near Pavillion, Wyoming. Encana Oil and Gas conducted hydraulic fracturing there from 2004 to 2007 while developing new wells. “The draft report indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing,” the EPA wrote in its press release. The report proves that gas industry assertions that "there has never been an incident of groundwater contamination by fracking" are, at best, obfuscating and misleading. At worst -- and to those of us who have studied the industry for some time, more likely -- outright lies.

In June 2008 the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance called EnCana the worst of the oil and gas companies operating in Wyoming:

The Worst of the Bad Actors

This list is ranked beginning with the worst. These are the companies that, due to their abysmal track record in Wyoming, have the greatest potential for improvement.

1. EnCana

–EnCana’s activities have become a poster-child for irresponsible development. In the Upper Green River Valley’s Jonah Field, EnCana initially drilled 16 wells per square mile, at the time the worst project of the last several decades. Then this Canadian gas giant sought – and got – permission to drill an additional 3,100 wells in the field at densities from 64 to 128 well sites per square mile. When completed, the well pads will extend almost unbroken by native vegetation across 33,000 acres of public land, and they’re now expanding from this initial area. EnCana officials dishonestly claimed that directional drilling wasn’t possible in the Jonah Field, even though more than 140 directional wells have been drilled in this field. EnCana also holds leases inside the Adobe Town proposed wilderness and is pursuing drilling there. To top it all off, EnCana’s oil and gas wells have caused groundwater contamination problems in the Pavillion area of the Wind River Basin.

You make a travesty of the good work done by many people in your organization when you choose to partner with a notorious member of the most polluting industry on earth -- an industry that through corruption of our legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government made itself exempt from such environmental and health regulations as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Superfund laws.

The problem is bigger than just Encana, however.

The American Lung Association obviously took an early stance on the subject of "natural" gas extraction. I hope that this is so -- that the ALA had not
  • seen the documentary films Split Estate or Gasland or All Fracked Up, or
  • read any of Dr. Theo Colborn's shocking work on the horrific numbers of endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and neurotoxins used in hydrofracking, or
  • learned of the naturally occurring radioactive materials and heavy metals and VOCs that come up with the millions of gallons of permanently poisoned wastewater that are a byproduct of fracking, or
  • read any of the other volumes of information that have been coming to light over the past couple of years,
-- and thus had no idea of the dangers of hydrofracking when it declared in the same June 2011 energy policy paper:

The American Lung Association supports public policies to minimize the human health, particularly lung health, impacts associated with the production of heat for residential, commercial, and industrial use, including impacts from fuel extraction to the disposal of wastes. The American Lung Association supports regulation and enforcement to protect the air, water and other environmental resources during the exploration, extraction, production and transmission of natural gas, propane, and oil. The American Lung Association supports programs and policies to assist communities and individuals to reduce their exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollutants and to reduce their energy use.

This indicates to me that you do not understand that a filthy fossil fuel extraction and transportation industry cannot be regulated well. And even if it could, it has made itself exempt from regulation! Surely with the number of terminal-degreed people on your staff and board, you can see that quite clearly.

AND THEN, again in the same document, you write:
The American Lung Association supports the expanded use of natural gas, and propane where natural gas is not available, for heating residential and commercial buildings, as a less polluting alternative to oil and other fossil fuels.

Perhaps at the time you wrote that, you were unaware of the peer-reviewed Robert Howarth, Ph.D. study out of Cornell University in which the researchers determined that the entire cradle-to-grave process of fracking for "natural" gas is as bad or worse a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than even oil or coal extraction (findings that were corroborated by two subsequent peer-reviewed studies).

I certainly hope so. I certainly hope that an august body such as your board of directors will look again at this terrible energy policy and rethink your recommendations. You should be running like mad away from the destructive, criminal practice of fracking, not embracing it and those who foist it upon a nearly helpless public and the totally helpless natural world.

I plan to share this letter widely via my many list serves and via social media, including the Coalition to Protect New York and interstate groups working to outlaw fracking before it perpetrates further harm on nature, communities, water supplies, air quality, croplands and food supply, properties, and our own lungs and other necessary body parts.

I hope to hear that ALA Denver and other ALA chapters decide that it is not worth it to accept blood money from a polluting company or industry that works in direct opposition to the ALA's stated values and mission. Doing so mocks the trusting people who work hard on behalf of ALA and sullies your reputation.

I eagerly await your response.

Maura Stephens

PO Box 403
Spencer NY 14883
607-274-3829 office
607-351-3766 mobile

Reference/a very short list of suggested further readings (happy to provide more if you request):
"Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing" (the "Duke study") by Osborn, SG, A Vengosh, NR Warner, RB Jackson. 2011, and related links therefrom (attached in PDF format)
"West Divide Gas Seep" (4/14/04). Extract: Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fined Encana Oil and Gas $371,200 (a record) for contaminating water supplies in West Divide Creek, Colorado. COGCC found methane, benzene, toluene, and m,p xylenes in water wells, and said Encana "inadequately cemented the well."
"Encana fined over harms to protected birds" (Denver Post, 8/28/2010). Extract: Encana fined the maximum fine of $15,000 for each of two counts plus $170,000 in community service payments for violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act in Colorado and Wyoming, killing 55 protected birds including waterfowl and owls, at its uncovered "natural" gas well reserve pits and wastewater storage facilities in Colorado's Piceance Basin and in Sweetwater, Sublette and Lincoln counties in Wyoming.
"$13,692 gallons of 'produced water' spilled" in Mamm Creek. Extract: Encana said it was from a pipeline rupture. Teh water traveled about a half mile before entering the creek (Glenwood Springs Post Independent, October 9, 2008)
"Methane increasing in water wells near Silt, Rifle, consultant says." Extract: Analysis of 700 water samples from 100 water wells and other water sources shows increased methane, which seem to be related to the 1,000 gas wells in the area.