Tuesday, February 14, 2012

PA: Urgent Actions Thursday, but Don't Wimp Out

A bunch of people, including me, tried to get the word out to muster opposition to a heinous bill foisted hastily upon the Pennsylvania public and environment by the gas industry in collusion with its political cronies (and mainstream media).

But Governor Corbett signed the bill, HB1950 (attached as a Word document), almost the minute it hit his desk yesterday. The bill is purported to be about taxes on the gas industry, but it holds some very disturbing, precedent-setting language that bolsters the gas industry's exemptions from oversight and its lack of liability for harms it causes. The mere passage of such a bill should send chills down your spine, whether you live in Pennsylvania, in a downstream state (NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA, WV), a neighboring state (NY, OH), or a little farther away, because air and water know no state lines.

Just read this short section, buried on page 98 (my bold):
(10)  A vendor, service company or operator shall identify the specific identity and amount of any chemicals claimed to be a trade secret or confidential proprietary information to any health professional who requests the information in writing if the health professional executes a confidentiality agreement and provides a written statement of need for the information indicating all of the following:
(i)  The information is needed for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of an individual.
(ii)  The individual being diagnosed or treated may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical.
(iii)  Knowledge of information will assist in the diagnosis or treatment of an individual.
(11)  If a health professional determines that a medical emergency exists and the specific identity and amount of any chemicals claimed to be a trade secret or confidential proprietary information are necessary for emergency treatment, the vendor, service provider or operator shall immediately disclose the information to the health professional upon a verbal acknowledgment by the health professional that the information may not be used for purposes other than the health needs asserted and that the health professional shall maintain the information as confidential. The vendor, service provider or operator may request, and the health professional shall provide upon request, a written statement of need and a confidentiality agreement from the health professional as soon as circumstances permit, in conformance with regulations promulgated under this chapter.
(c)  Disclosures not required.‑‑Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a vendor, service provider or operator shall not be required to do any of the following:
(1)  Disclose chemicals that are not disclosed to it by the manufacturer, vendor or service provider.
(2)  Disclose chemicals that were not intentionally added to the stimulation fluid.
(3)  Disclose chemicals that occur incidentally or are otherwise unintentionally present in trace amounts, may be the incidental result of a chemical reaction or chemical process or may be constituents of naturally occurring materials that become part of a stimulation fluid.
(d)  Trade secrets and confidential proprietary information.‑‑
(1)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a vendor, service company or operator shall not be required to disclose trade secrets or confidential proprietary information to the chemical disclosure registry.

There's more; fracking can now legally occur near residences, and there are fewer restrictions than ever.

Delaware Riverkeeper is planning a day of resistance in several towns THIS THURSDAY, February 16. Please join. This cannot be permitted to stand. 

Delaware Riverkeeper's call to action is way too mild, though. 

Shouting "Shame on you" at people who have no shame is a waste of breath. Don't be fooled into thinking that such wimpy action will affect anything.

Instead, vow to learn and use "nonviolent direct action" -- what I call creative peaceful resistance (CPR), a term that is very appropriate in this life-or-death situation.

We need to tell these "legislators" that we will actively work to remove them from office, and some citizens and attorneys have to start figuring out how to remove this abomination as soon as possible from Pennsylvania law -- to recall it, rescind it, override it, throw it out, replace it with a law that actually protects people and nature rather than lining the pockets of a few crooks. And do some research and find the laws these crooks are already breaking -- they surely are committing crimes in standing Pennsylvania law, and if they're not, Pennsylvania needs a new law that makes fracking -- and the poisoning of people and the environment on which they depend for survival -- a crime. A growing number of New Yorkers support the draft of a law that makes fracking a crime, introduced by FrackBusters NY and Sovereign People's Action Network (full disclosure: I contributed to its writing); Pennsylvanians should waste no time in drafting their own.

It's especially urgent that all physicians and health professionals commit what I call CIVIL DEFIANCE (not "disobedience," because that would assume these creeps deserve our obeisance for some reason) and refuse to abide by this immoral, disgraceful "law." 


The following is from Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Protest HB1950 and the Takeover of Municipalities by Gas Development.

Three “lunch hour” protests being held at offices of elected representatives who voted for HB1950, selling us out to the gas industry. Please go to the one nearest you!

Thursday, February 16
Noon to 1:00 pm – Near Senator McIlhinney'sOffice (215-489-5000): North Main and Court Sts., Doylestown, PA 18901

Noon to 1:00 pm -- Sen. Ted Erickson’s office, 5037 Township Line Rd., Drexel Hill, PA (noon to 1pm on Thursday)

11:30 am -- Sen. Tim Solobay’s office, 68 E. Pike St. Canonsburg (at the Canonsburg Borough Bldg.)

WE NEED YOU THERE: Please come join your fellow constituents to express your outrage and disappointment that the PA Legislature has now made HB1950 into law. This so-called "Impact Fee" law has gutted municipal controls of gas drilling and related operations by preempting municipal zoning, forcing municipalities to allow gas wells, frack waste pits, pipelines, and other gas-related operations anywhere in a municipality, even residential neighborhoods, next to schools and day care centers, reservoirs and parks. This complete takeover of municipal rights by the State and drilling interests was approved by a majority of the PA Legislature.

We’ve targeted a few elected representatives who voted for the Bill, some who pledged to vote against it like Senators McIlhinney and Erickson, to feel the heat of the public’s shock and disapproval. This travesty must be protested--join us to tell those who voted for this devastating law "Shame on you for selling us out to the gas industry!" Other events will follow wherever constituents want to speak up; please try to take your lunch hour with us at one of these protests on Thursday.

Please make and bring along signs to express your concerns: "Shame on you Sen ______", "PA Leg has sold our rights to drillers", "HB 1950 takes away rights", "polluters/frackers get free pass", etc.

Please also write a letter to your Representative - share your concerns with those who voted for this bad law and thank those who stood up for you and clean water and air: http://www.delawareriverkeeper...

You can see how your PA legislator voted here:
Senate roll call --- http://www.legis.state.pa.us/C...
House roll call --- http://www.legis.state.pa.us/C...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Industry Colludes with Pennsylvania Legislature

Pennsylvania's state legislature has effectively signed a death warrant for some number of residents, who knows how many. Corbett’s about to make it official. Pennsylvanians: Fight back — or suffer the consequences.

The fracking industry has written a bill that gives itself legal permission to poison Pennsylvanians—and keeps doctors who treat them once they’re poisoned from telling anyone else what poisoned them. The bill also essentially permits all gas drilling and processing activities anywhere, including in residential areas.
It’s all being sold as an “impact fee” bill. Counties that want the income will sign on — and that probably means most counties will.
The industry was helped in this covert operation by crooks in political office. Those political criminals should be held accountable (more on this below).
The 174-page bill, HB1950, was signed in both the House and Senate of the state’s General Assembly, and on Friday (2/10/12) the Senate passed it to  Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett for signature.
This is yet the latest egregious example of industry-state denial of municipalities’ right to protect themselves. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that this is the legal permitting of murder — and legalization of coerced suicide.
There can be no question that the legislators who signed it are in collusion with industry. They are corrupt. There can be no other explanation. These people have an obligation to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania, and not only are they not doing so, but they are also denying citizens the right to protect themselves—and denying physicians and nurses the ability to protect their patients!
And if this outrage does not get Pennsylvanians (and everyone) out in the streets, in Harrisburg at the governor's mansion demanding a veto, and at the offices of state legislators, demanding a reversal of the bill’s passage, I do not know what will.
As Berks-Mont News reported on January 25, Pennsylvania municipalities currently do “have the legal right to decide where and how gas development occurs. Both the Municipalities Planning Code and the State Constitution vest municipalities with the authority and responsibility to address local environmental and public resources. State Supreme Court rulings have also made it clear that the state Oil and Gas Act allows municipalities the right to use zoning codes to restrict the location of gas wells.”
This law negates those rights and completely strips communities of their rights to self govern. This is a blatant abrogation of the United States constitution and all the hackneyed assertions that We the People have any say any longer in crafting U.S. law. 
The Guilty Parties
The bill’s primary sponsor in the House (Assembly) was Brian Ellis (R-District 11). The 19 cosponsors included Samuel H. Smith (R-66), Mike Turzai (R-28), Stan Saylor (R-94), and Dave Reed (R-62). But take special note of the three Democrats who cosponsored: Ken Smith (D-112), Marc J. Gergely (D-35), and Paul Costa (D-34). (Contact info for some of them is below, but I hope someone will take the time to create an easy-to-navigate, easy-click way to call these creeps out all at once; I don’t have the time or technical expertise.)
If Corbett signs this bill into law, he will simply confirm what anybody who’s been paying attention already knows: He cares not for the people or future of his state.
If Corbett signs, Pennsylvania activists can kiss goodbye all the tens of thousands of hours of hard work done by countless volunteers working to stop fracking from further devastating their state, which until the recent arrival of this industry was quite beautiful and relatively unpolluted. All those hours spent in researching all aspects of fracking, from public health to physics, from environment to economics; in planning forums and community meetings; educating legislators; debunking industry lies; investigating and challenging  unscrupulous politicians; exposing corrupt NGOs (“Big Greens”); going door-to-door talking to neighbors; writing local laws to protect communities; and forming coalitions across townships, counties, states, and nations.
Dorothy Bassett Picks the Bill Apart
I learned about this from Dorothy Bassett (with my boldfaces and a couple parentheticals), who read the bill in its entirety and synopsizes thus:
“[The bill] includes verbiage that says that when a patient comes in, sick due to exposure to chemicals, doctors have to request in writing info on [the chemicals patients might have been] exposed to (think of the time — and treatment delays involved in this process!) and then have to keep it confidential.  Also, the industry doesn't have to reveal compounds that have formed when all these chemicals and materials from underground come together, nor do they have to report exposure to heavy metals, radioactive substances, etc., from below.
Given the problems with airborne and waterborne carcinogenic and neurotoxic substances from this industry's open pits of toxic wastes, compressor stations, and the like, this means that entire communities will still be exposed to chemicals that one or more people have had to see a doctor for, and that the doctors will have to keep it quiet while the communities are at risk.

The fact that the industry has included verbiage in this bill that prevents doctors from revealing the chemicals their patients were exposed to:

1. indicates that the industry knows that much of the substances they
are using are a threat to public health - enough so that emergency
room and other physicians would see cases of toxic exposure to
fracking and related chemicals and substances on a regular basis, i.e.
that this is not a safe process;

2. indicates that the industry wants to keep it quiet - they know that
if the health risks of their activities due to chemical exposure (in
air and water) were to become public there would be such enormous
outcry that they would be - appropriately - shut down;

3. [shows that industry knows fracking/ms] is a human rights and a civil rights violation to the residents and workers affected, and would ultimately contribute to a public health catastrophe;

4. would guarantee that other individuals [and] families in the area would not be warned that they are being exposed on an on-going basis to highly hazardous chemicals that have made other individuals ill  — often seriously and irreversibly ill.

The bill also says that the industry will NOT provide information on compounds created by the chemicals or the interaction of the chemicals with things below ground or any of the substances that come up from underground.

This means that they'd provide info only on the frack fluids — which the doctor has to keep confidential — NOT on what's sitting in frack pits, for example. Considering that strontium. barium and arsenic are common problems, along with naturally occurring radioactive substances, and brine, doctors won't know that the health problem could be coming from these substances from below ground. If they don't know this, they won't be able to test for or treat for exposure to hazardous compounds formed by this soup of chemicals, heavy metals, NORMs, brine and bacteria from far beneath the surface.

The bill requires that local ordinances “Shall allow well and pipeline location assessment operations, including seismic operations and related activities.” Localities “may not impose conditions, requirements or limitations on the construction of oil and gas operations . . . ” The bill makes sure that not only can municipalities not ban fracking, but they can’t even regulate how the poisonous operations and their harmful side effects will be situated and rammed down our throats.
Make Corbett Realize His Political Future Is at Stake
Now there is one option available under current law: GET TOGETHER AND STOP CORBETT FROM SIGNING THIS HORRIFIC BILL.
Should he sign this bill, the governor of Pennsylvania joins all the legislators who voted for this heinous "bill" as party to murder — because people will die from fracking (in fact, quite a few already have). 
If he does sign, I see only one alternative: civil defiance from as many people as can be mustered in Pennsylvania, to occupy Harrisburg and dog these criminal politicians — especially the three Democrats and 17 Republicans who cosponsored this bill and Corbett — for the long haul. It must not be just a one-day event, but an ongoing demonstration of our rejection of our government's collusion in our own poisoning.
We need to tell all of these crooks in no uncertain terms that they have lost the support of Pennsylvania voters and will never get another term. And will be brought up on criminal charges. And we need people to start building the legal case against them. Start with the Pennsylvania Crimes Code Section 25, Section 2502, in which “Murder of criminal code, in which “Killing by means of poison, or by lying in wait, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing, is considered “Murder of the third degree.”  
And that is a crime in any civilized society. Slow poisoning or quick: The only difference is that it will be impossible for you to prove the link between frackers and your kid’s cancer when it develops five or seven or twelve years from now, and the frackers and politicians who colluded with them will be off the hook.
Don’t let that happen, Pennsylvania. Your very lives are at stake.

Governor Tom Corbett's contact info: 

phone (717) 787-2500 fax (717) 772-8284
online form to reach Corbett
            Passed (House of Representatives) on Nov 17, 2011
            First Reading (Senate) on Dec 7, 2011
            Second Reading (Senate) on Dec 12, 2011
            Referred to Committee (Senate) on Dec 12, 2011
            Third Reading (Senate) on Dec 14, 2011
            Referred to Committee (House of Representatives) onDec 14, 2011
            Sent to Executive on Feb 10, 2012
STAN SAYLOR (sponsor)
414 Main Capitol Building Post Office Box 202094
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Ph: 717-783-6426
15 South Main Street 2nd Floor
Red Lion, PA 17356
Ph: 717-244-9232

Dave Reed
128 Main Capitol Building Post Office Box 202062
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Ph: 717-705-7173
550 Philadelphia Street
Indiana, PA 15701
Ph: 724-465-0220

Ken Smith (D-112)
28B East Wing Post Office Box 202112
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Ph: 717-783-1359
1414 Monroe Avenue
Dunmore, PA 18509
Ph: 570-342-2710

Marc Gergely (D-35)
325 Main Capitol Building Post Office Box 202035
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2035
Ph: 717-783-1018
1540 Lincoln Way
White Oak, PA 15131
Ph: 412-664-0035
1705 Maple Street Suite 110
Homestead, PA 15120
Ph: 412-476-3046

Paul Costa (D-34)
323 Main Capitol Building Post Office Box 202034
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Ph: 717-783-1914
519 Penn Avenue
Turtle Creek, PA 15145
Ph: 412-824-3400

Here’s the whole list of House cosponsors:
3 Democrats

Ken Smith 112

17 Republicans

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Josh Fox Arrest at House Hearing

Yesterday, documentary filmmaker Josh Fox was arrested at a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment (stop to breathe here, don't give up) that was ostensibly hearing testimony about the EPA's three-year supposed study on the pollution of people.

The hearing was called to "review the EPA's approach to ground water research."

That research -- on the contaminations in Pavillion, Wyoming, that have been wreaking havoc on the lives of animals and "ordinary Americans" like those Josh Fox documented in his 2010 film Gasland -- was "called into question" by a bunch of crooks or idiots in the House who couldn't tell a scientific study from a can of industrially produced beer.

The committee published a statement that didn't even acknowledge Josh's name, let alone his fame or the fact that he testified on fracking before the Senate at Senator Greg Ball's public hearing last August, and at other governmental hearings: "Section 9(j) of the Committee’s rules expressly states that 'Personnel providing coverage by the television and radio media shall be currently accredited to the Radio and Television Correspondents' Galleries.' The individual removed was not accredited by the House Radio and TV Gallery and had refused to turn off his camera upon request by Capitol Police.”

Crock of crud. Josh Fox had attempted to receive credentialing to film the proceedings -- and received no response. No doubt he was ignored because those who have the power to grant such credentials fear him and those with whom he is allied.

That means they fear Us. We the People.

Josh Fox should not have even had to bother with getting "credentialed" beyond the obvious precaution of a weapons check. Any citizen who wants to film the proceedings of our governmental legislative deliberations should be permitted to do so.

Let's just take a look at the name of the institution from which Josh Fox was ejected -- in handcuffs, for heaven's sake. We are talking about the HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES.

The HOUSE is supposed to be the House of THE PEOPLE. The representatives are supposed to represent WE THE PEOPLE.

It is unacceptable to not allow journalists -- be they mainstream, independent, or citizen in this age of social media and instant transfer of information -- to videotape and otherwise record the proceedings in that House that is OURS.

If our "representatives" operate in secret, that is hardly democracy, or any other form of representative government.

Perhaps the ejection of Josh Fox from OUR house will help to wake up the remaining somnalent U.S. public to how much this nation has become entrenched in oligarchy, and spur people to start reading about ALEC and how corporations in bed with corrupt politicians are adversely affecting every aspect of our lives.

Fortunately, people in Occupy movements around the country have connected the dots and understand we must wrest back control of everything -- from the "rules" that deny us access to information critical to our well-being, to the municipal laws that permit poisoning of our homes and bodies, to our ability to get health care when that poison hits our cells and mutates into cancer.

The laws that have been crafted by ALEC and other corporate-state partnerships are not legitimate. We the People need to start writing laws and demanding those who ostensibly represent us vote to pass them. Or create a government that really is Of, By, and For the People.

Good for Josh Fox and others who risk arrest and worse to bring us the truth about those who run this country. We need more citizen journalists. And we need to demand access to all governmental proceedings. Or withhold taxes. Taxation without representation is unjust and unAmerican, I seem to recall having heard somewhere.