Two Years After Oil Train Disaster, Profound Scars Remain in Lac-Mégantic,Quebec

helltraintitle

A week of direct actions across Canada and the U.S. to stop so-called “bomb trains” began on Monday, the two-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, when an unmanned train with 72 tankers carrying 30,000 gallons of crude oil careened into a small town in the Canadian province of Quebec, where it derailed, exploded, and killed 47 people.

Decontamination work continues to this day at the crash site, but was suspended at noon for a moment of silence. Later in the day, church bells will ring out 47 times at Lac-Mégantic’s St. Agnes Church.

On every level, recovery in the small community has been challenging. 

The Globe and Mail reports: “Two years on, there’s still a pile of toxic dirt where the centre of Lac-Mégantic used to be.” Reconstruction efforts have moved quickly and without a lot of transparency, the newspaper reports—perhaps too swiftly for citizens who feel they’ve been sidelined from negotiations.

Meanwhile, as the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix noted in an editorial on Monday, “the psychological toll on residents has been profound. A report from the local health department in January revealed that while the community has become closer and more resilient, substance abuse and mental health issues have been major challenges.”

According to the Montreal Gazette, while a memorial mass on Sunday was well-attended, some residents left town for the weekend “to avoid the memories.”

Sunday morning’s ceremony was presided over by Rev. Gilles Baril, who became the town’s new priest in February. The Gazette explains:

The priest he replaced, Rev. Steve Lemay, was asked by the church to take six months off. Since the earliest moments of the tragedy, Lemay, only in his mid-30s, had been there to help people mourn, to listen to their stories and try to make sense of them.

An entire community had turned to him for answers as he handled many of the victims’ funerals. Drained after a year-and-a-half of doing so, the leave was needed.

“He took a lot on his shoulders and was exhausted,” Baril said of Lemay. “He had to step away before it was too late.”

On Saturday, about 150 people marched in downtown Lac-Mégantic to voice their opposition to the resumption of oil-train service through the town—scheduled for January 2016. The Gazette reports that they dressed all in white, to contrast the color of “dirty oil,” and chanted: “Say yes to a bypass railway, say no to another oil spill.” Demonstrators lined up elbow-to-elbow on the tracks, and together, symbolically crossed their arms.

Citizens and local elected officials are calling for a new set of tracks that would bypass Lac-Mégantic’s residential sector. “With every passing day, residents are more determined to see it done,” said Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche last week about the bypass railway. “As a municipal council, we consider it a must. Not a week goes by that it’s not brought up.”

Lac-Mégantic residents have good reason to be concerned. As CBC reported on Sunday, “Montreal, Maine and Atlantic—and the company that bought it after it declared bankruptcy—have experienced a number of train derailments since the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.” 

Furthermore, CBC added: “Since the Lac-Mégantic train crash two years ago, nearly three times as much oil crosses Canada by rail. And it will be a few more years before the DOT-111 train cars involved in that crash will be replaced.”

Jonathan Santerre, an activist and founder of the Le Carré Bleu Lac-Mégantic citizens’ group, told the Gazette: “It’s shocking that after everything that happened, people’s lives still come second to money.”

A $431.5 million settlement, accepted by victims of the disaster last month and involving about 25 companies accused of responsibility in the July 2013 tragedy, is being held up indefinitely because Canadian Pacific Rail has refused to participate in the settlement offer and is challenging its legitimacy.

According to the Canadian Press: “If CP is successful in its challenge, the families and creditors caught up in the disaster might have to go through years of expensive litigation before seeing any money.”

Advertisements

A 10-year joyride to energy security – the poisoned progress of Fracker Barons

helltraintitle

In January 2001, days after taking office as the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush convened a closed-door task force to confront the country’s addiction to foreign oil. Since the early 1970s, American motorists (and administrations) had ridden the loop-de-loop of peak demand: shortages, price spikes and the market manipulations of OPEC’s billionaire princes.

Two-thirds of the crude being refined here for gas arrived on overseas freighters, and the industry’s bids for new offshore formations were blocked by an executive order from Bush’s father. A bold plan was called for, including “environmentally sound production of energy for the future.” Or so went the rhetoric in the announcement that heralded the group’s formation. But Bush named Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton, to lead the effort — “Can’t think of a better man to run it,” he said — and any hope for a rational, climate-sparing program went up in a flare of hydrocarbons.

The vice president sat down with supplicants from the fossil-fuel sector and gold-star donors to his campaign. For months, he or his small staff met in secret with the likes of James Rouse, the then-vice president of Exxon Mobil Corp.; Enron’s Kenneth Lay; Red Cavaney, the then-president of the American Petroleum Institute; and dozens of lobbyists and sen-ior executives from the coal, mining, electric and nuclear sectors.

What Cheney sent the president, four months later, was a policy essentially written by the barons themselves: a massive expansion of domestic drilling on federally owned lands; tens of billions of dollars in annual subsidies to Big Oil; and wholesale exemptions to oil-and-gas firms from environmental laws and oversight. In essence, Cheney’s program turned the Department of the Interior into a boiler-room broker for Big Oil, and undercut the power of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cheney’s plan was such a transparent coup for Big Oil that it took four years, two elections and the Republican capture of both houses of Congress to make it to Bush’s desk as legislation. Along the way, the bill gained a crucial addendum, known today as the “Halliburton loophole”: a carte-blanche exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act for an emergent technique called fracking.

A form of extraction dating back to the Civil War, when miners used nitroglycerin to blow holes in oil-soaked caves (a subsequent version, in the 1960s, used subterranean nukes to fracture rock), fracking has since evolved into a brute but nimble method for blasting oil and gas deposits that couldn’t be recovered by conventional derricks, at least not at a rate that made them profitable.

The process, perfected and marketed by Halliburton, shoots huge amounts of fluid at very high pressure down a mile or more of pipe to break the rock. That fluid, a trademarked secret called “slickwater” that has toxic solvents, is mixed with a million gallons of water, roughly a fifth of which come barreling back as wastewater. It’s a desperately dirty job, marked by horrors of all kinds: blowouts of oil wells near houses and farms; badly managed gas wells flaring uncapped methane, one of the planet’s most climate-wrecking pollutants.

Then there’s pollution of the eight-wheeled sort: untold truck trips to service each fracking site. Per a recent report from Colorado, it takes 1,400 truck trips just to frack a well — and many hundreds more to haul the wastewater away and dump it into evaporation ponds. That’s a lot of diesel soot per cubic foot of gas, all in the name of a “cleaner-burning” fuel, which is how the industry is labeling natural gas.

“Fracking moved the oil patch to people’s backyards, significantly increasing the pollution they breathed in small towns,” says Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Basically, it industrialized rural regions, and brought them many of the related health problems we were used to seeing in cities.”

Mall, who had just moved to Colorado when the frack rigs arrived, en masse, in 2006, soon began hearing anguished reports from communities overwhelmed by dirt and fumes. At first, it was all direct-symptom stuff: bloody noses, coughs and rashes, migraine headaches and such. Eventually, though, worse news came from Garfield County, where gas drilling exploded, figuratively and otherwise, in the rural western slope of the state.

Residents with cancers and neurological disorders; people passing out from exposure to chemical leaks; wells that blew out and would burn all day, while more than 100 million cubic feet of gas leaked into Divide Creek, which flows to the Colorado River.

“It’s the long-haul exposure that nails you — I watched people get progressively sicker,” says filmmaker Debra Anderson, who shot a documentary in Garfield County that recorded the devastation of towns with names like Silt and Rifle; her film Split Estate won an Emmy and became essential viewing in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as the frackers moved east. “As soon as it aired, we were deluged with calls from communities,” she says. “Same story, same symptoms, different town.”

Workers found dead atop separator tanks from exposure to wastewater fumes. Cows birthing stillborn calves on ranches near well-pad clusters. Children with cancers — leukemia, lymphoma — in places with no known clusters.

“For a while, all we had were anecdotal reports, which the industry bashed as ‘bad science,’ ” says Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior health scientist for the NRDC. “But in the past few years, there’s been a torrent of studies finding worrisome air pollution stemming from oil and gas sites.

The impacts of this pollution are regional, not just local, meaning it can make you really sick from miles away,” and that the people most susceptible to its toxic effects are the ones at either end of the life spectrum: “fetuses and the elderly.”

Except for the rare leaders who have said no to frackers — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin — Big Gas has been on a 10-year joyride unlike any in American annals. There are now more than 1 million active oil and gas wells in the country, and our oil companies posted profits of $600 billion during the Bush years. President Obama, who promised to cap and trade emissions while building out America’s post-oil future, instead has presided over the breakneck expansion of fossil-fuel drilling. Under his watch, U.S. production has risen each year — up 35 percent for oil, 18 percent for gas — and enabled the country to barge past the Saudis as the world’s lead producer of oil and gas. (He also broke his word to end tax cuts for oilmen; those subsidies are up nearly 50 percent since he took office.)

Whatever Cheney’s doing now, he must look upon his handiwork and smile. OPEC has lost its whip hand over oil prices, SUVs are selling off the lot again, and Obama takes victory laps because we now produce more oil than we import. Glad tidings for all – except the people in more than 30 states who wake up to the thump of fracking rigs. To them, the message from Washington has been tacit but final: You folks are on your own out there.

Boone Pickens Wants To Sell You His Water….

51WjXsjY6kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Look! Look down there!” Boone Pickens leans across the narrow aisle, pointing toward a window of his corporate jet as it banks over the rolling plains of the Panhandle on its final approach to Pampa. “There’s where the water fields will be,” he says, motioning beyond the wing. “And that’s where my place is.” He moves his finger ever so slightly to the right to identify the Mesa Vista Ranch.

That Pickens sees water, and not some traditionally exploitable mineral like oil or manganese, on those dry plains speaks volumes about what sort of havoc a booming population is wreaking in the state of Texas. He has what he says is a simple plan: He’s going to pump the water that lies under the more than 150,000 acres of land he either owns or controls in Roberts County, seventy miles northeast of Amarillo. And then he’s going to sell it to cities like San Antonio and El Paso that are running out of water. The water lies several hundred feet below the surface. It is part of the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground reservoir that stretches from the High Plains of Texas all the way to the Dakotas. The Ogallala is the largest single groundwater source in the United States.

The reason that the former oil tycoon and corporate raider is able to treat this water like a marketable commodity—just like oil and natural gas—is because Texas law says he can. Though surface water belongs to the state, a landowner can pump whatever water he finds below the land. It’s called the rule of capture. He can pump as much as he wishes and sell it to whoever wants it, wherever they are, no matter if he dries up his own water and his neighbors’ water along with it. And that’s the problem.

31203778

The more Pickens pumps, the more he threatens to deplete the Ogallala, which in 1998 produced 66.7 percent of all the groundwater used in the state. By exercising his rights, he is also prompting other property owners to use up a waning resource as fast as they can. He may well be starting the last great water war in Texas. The danger is obvious and confirmed by historical precedent: When water is pumped to the point that it becomes too expensive to pump deeper, the Panhandle will run dry and become depopulated.

Pickens says he has no choice but to pump the aquifer. What he means is that if he doesn’t do it, someone else will, in effect, rustle his water. So he’s got to pump now. He’s hoping to find enough customers along one of three pipelines he’s considering building to either Fort Worth­Dallas, San Antonio, or El Paso.

He has already got plenty of competition. His most immediate competitor is the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, which Pickens says spurred him to action when it bought 42,765 acres to develop a water field near his land four years ago. In the fall the water authority will begin pumping and moving the water some 35 miles west to Lake Meredith, which provides water to eleven Panhandle communities, including Amarillo and Lubbock.

work.5831669.1.flat,550x550,075,f.blue-gold-drop

Pickens has other rivals as well. Two years ago the City of Amarillo bought a 71,000-acre spread adjacent to Pickens’ Mesa Vista Ranch to mine water, though officials say they won’t start pumping for another 25 years. A fourth water exporting group, with 190,000 acres under option, was formed last year by Amarillo lawyer Ronald Nickum. Pickens complains that at some point those straws will drain his own reserves. If he holds back, his land loses value. “I sure can’t wait twenty-five years,” he says.

How serious a threat is unregulated water mining to the Panhandle? To see what happens after the profits have been made and the water is all gone, consider two Panhandle counties west of Roberts, Dallam and Hartley.

Irrigated farming there in the past fifty years has been so intense that most of the Ogallala has been drawn down below the point where it is economical to pump the water out. Some farmers have reverted to so-called dryland techniques, relying on the region’s scant rainfall. Others simply left. Or look at Carson County, which is just southwest of Roberts County. Thirty years ago it had a booming farm economy. There were two farm-equipment dealers and two automobile dealerships. But the economy was based on irrigation farming, which caused the groundwater to dry up. Today, one farm-equipment dealer struggles on and there is no new-car dealership.

But the Panhandle is not the only place that’s going dry. Last summer Jacob’s Well, a massive landmark spring near the Hill Country town of Wimberley, stopped flowing for the first time in recorded history. It had continued bubbling through the great drought of the fifties without pause. But back then golf courses and shopping malls and thousands of newcomers on subdivided ranches weren’t sucking the aquifer dry. Wimberley must now deal, one way or another, with the effects of unregulated pumping.

bluegold-splsh

The town of Throckmorton in North Texas pumped its own nearby lake dry and was forced to build a fifteen-mile pipeline to a line that served the town of Graham. The community of Blanco, near Austin, which takes its water from the river of the same name, simply ran out. Water had to be trucked in. This past winter the Rio Grande dried up before it reached the Gulf of Mexico. Too many towns and cities and too many farmers on both sides of the border had pumped too much of it.

The United States says Mexico owes us water, but there is no water to give. Upstream, the once-massive International Falcon Reservoir is filled to less than 20 percent of its capacity. It is so low that the old Mexican town of Guerrero, which was submerged when the lake was filled in 1954, has reappeared. Even Houston, notorious for having too much water lately, is constantly fighting a phenomenon called subsidence—in which the ground level sinks—caused by water being pumped from under the surface.

In the water business the rule of thumb is that no one really cares about supplies until the moment he turns on his faucet and nothing comes out. That hasn’t happened yet. But the simple fact is that escalating growth is placing enormous demands on rivers, creeks, springs, and lakes, and stressing already overused aquifers such as the Ogallala and the Edwards. These demands are not, in the long run, sustainable.

Groundwater, the source of more than half the water Texans currently use, is being depleted so rapidly that it can supply no more than 20 percent of the state’s needs over the next fifty years, forcing almost every big city to do what Los Angeles did almost a hundred years ago—find water somewhere else, even if it means drying up a distant farming community.

Pollanassa_waterfall_Mullinavat

Goldman Sachs: Water Is Still the Next Petroleum

bluegold-splsh

In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water “the petroleum for the next century” and those investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom will reap huge rewards, during its annual “Top Five Risks” conference. Water is a U.S.$425 billion industry, and a calamitous water shortage could be a more serious threat to humanity in the 21st century than food and energy shortages, according to Goldman Sachs’s conference panel. Goldman Sachs has convened numerous conferences and also published lengthy, insightful analyses of water and other critical sectors (food, energy).

Goldman Sachs is positioning itself to gobble up water utilities, water engineering companies, and water resources worldwide. Since 2006, Goldman Sachs has become one of the largest infrastructure investment fund managers and has amassed a $10 billion capital for infrastructure, including water.

In March 2012, Goldman Sachs was eyeing Veolia’s UK water utility business, estimated at £1.2 billion, and in July it successfully bought Veolia Water, which serves 3.5 million people in southeastern England.

Previously, in September 2003, Goldman Sachs partnered with one of the world’s largest private-equity firm Blackstone Group and Apollo Management to acquire Ondeo Nalco (a leading company in providing water-treatment and process chemicals and services, with more than 10,000 employees and operations in 130 countries) from French water corporation Suez S.A. for U.S.$4.2 billion.

BN-JC115_0625PK_G_20150624230318

In October 2007, Goldman Sachs teamed up with Deutsche Bank and several partners to bid, unsuccessfully, for U.K.’s Southern Water. In November 2007, Goldman Sachs was also unsuccessful in bidding for U.K. water utility Kelda. But Goldman Sachs is still looking to buy other water utilities.

In January 2008, Goldman Sachs led a team of funds (including Liberty Harbor Master Fund and the Pinnacle Fund) to buy U.S.$50 million of convertible notes in China Water and Drinks Inc., which supplies purified water to name-brand vendors like Coca-Cola and Taiwan’s top beverage company Uni-President. China Water and Drinks is also a leading producer and distributor of bottled water in China and also makes private-labeled bottled water (e.g., for Sands Casino, Macau). Since China has one of the worse water problems in Asia and a large emerging middle class, its bottled-water sector is the fastest-growing in the world and it’s seeing enormous profits. Additionally, China’s acute water shortages and serious pollution could “buoy demand for clean water for years to come, with China’s $14.2 billion water industry a long-term investment destination” (Reuters, January 28, 2008).

The City of Reno, Nevada, was approached by Goldman Sachs for “a long-term asset leasing that could potentially generate significant cash for the three TMWA [Truckee Meadows Water Authority] entities. The program would allow TMWA to lease its assets for 50 years and receive an up-front cash payment” (Reno News & Review, August 28, 2008). Essentially, Goldman Sachs wants to privatize Reno’s water utility for 50 years. Given Reno’s revenue shortfall, this proposal was financially attractive. But the water board eventually rejected the proposal due to strong public opposition and outcry.

What no air conditioners ? Dear me those Indians!

IndiaGirlDrinking

Ratna Devi is one of a dozen casual laborers working at a small construction site in the southern part of the Indian capital New Delhi, where her job is to help prepare a concrete mix. The work earns the 32-year-old a daily wage of 250 rupees or just under $4 — money that she uses to support her 7-year-old daughter. On Wednesday afternoon, as Devi went about her work on the site, her daughter fainted while playing nearby. The cause? A searing heatwave that has kept the maximum daytime temperature in the Indian capital above 100°F (40°C) for over a week now.

On Wednesday, the mercury topped out at 111.2°F (44°C). On Thursday, with temperatures hovering around 109.4°Fahrenheit (43°Celsius), Devi was back at work and her girl was once again playing near the site. For days now, authorities have been calling on people to avoid going out during the afternoon, when the heat wave is at its most extreme. 

good-news

Construction workers like Devi, along with the homeless and the elderly, have been the hardest hit by the heatwave that so far has led to over 1,800 deaths, the vast majority of them concentrated in the southeastern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Together, those states account for over 1,750 deaths. Deaths have also been reported in Delhi and other states, including Gujarat and Odisha, where temperatures earlier this week peaked at a sweltering 116.6°F (47°C). The heat is so severe that, on Tuesday morning, a local newspaper in the capital carried on its front page a picture of a pedestrian crossing on a main thoroughfare that had been disfigured, with its white stripes curled up, as the asphalt melted.

Already, hospitals in Delhi are “overflowing with heatstroke victims,” Ajay Lekhi, the head of the city’s medical association, told the news agency Agence France-Presse. “Patients are complaining of severe headache and dizziness. They are also showing symptoms of delirium,” he said.

d9c92de6d3e245909914c615da312427_18

In the west, reports of the increased severity of the Indian & now the Pakistani heatwaves have been greeted with cries of, why haven’t they installed air conditioners? Which kind of underscores the reliance of the developed world on machinery, which functions perfectly well in reasonable temperatures, but will pack up & malfunction in countries where severe heat becomes a commonplace occurrence.

Has India had heatwaves in the past? Of course, but what is concerning is the severity of this year’s heatwave. This could be the most lethal year for heatstroke in India’s history. With 1,700 deaths from heatstroke reported in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana alone so far this year, the death toll in those two states alone has already surpassed that of India last year. Overall this year the death toll stands at nearly three thousand. Hundreds of mainly poor people die at the height of summer every year in India, but this year’s figures are already nearly double the annual average.

“How do we cope up with the heat? We have to raise kids and so we have to work even though it’s hot. Otherwise what will our children eat?” said 38-year-old bricklayer Sunder in Gurgaon, a satellite town near Delhi. People across India have been plunging into rivers, staying in the shade and drinking lots of water to try to beat the heat. Scorched crops and dying wildlife were reported, with some animals succumbing to thirst.

BN-JC115_0625PK_G_20150624230318

Dizzying temperatures have caused water shortages in thousands of Indian villages as a result thousands of water tankers were delivering supplies to more than 4,000 villages and hamlets facing acute water shortages in the central state of Maharashtra, state officials told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Cooling monsoon rains are expected in the south before gradually advancing north. However, forecasting service AccuWeather warned of prolonged drought conditions, with the monsoon likely to be disrupted by a more active typhoon season over the Pacific.

Is this a consequence of global warming? Some would say that actually it’s got to do with the shortage of air conditioners, but then what would we know?

mad-max-fury-road

One Punk Band’s Uncensored Campaign Against Fracking


As the lead guitarist and singer of punk band Anti-Flag, Justin Sane is known for advocating against war overseas. But in the band’s latest release, the war Sane wants to stop is happening on the borders of his own hometown.

“They sit inside the kitchen, broken, in despair, their livestock sick or dead, their water a toxic cocktail,” Sane sings on “Gasland Terror,” his depiction of the fracking boom in Western Pennsylvania. A Pittsburgh native, Sane sees the sudden influx of natural gas drilling as poison, an infiltration of what he calls “criminal corporations.”

“When they’ve made the money and there’s nothing else to take, they’re going to leave,” he said, drawing a parallel to the fall of Pittsburgh’s steel industry in the early 1980s. “They’re going to leave us with broken communities, with pollution, with all the kinds of problems that fracking brings in.”

Gasland Terror is not a new song, but it is part of a new album called Buy This Fracking Album, an anti-fracking compilation featuring tracks from wildly unsimilar artists like Bonnie Raitt, Michael Franti, and Natalie Merchant. Released Tuesday, the album also features the last-known live recording of Pete Seeger before his death in 2014.

In a phone interview with ThinkProgress, Anti-Flag’s Sane talked about the new album, along with his personal experiences with the fracking boom; his opinion on Pennsylvania politicians and President Obama; and, naturally, his views on the Confederate flag.

EA: You guys have been playing music for 20 years. But for the un-initiated ClimateProgress reader, could you tell me a little bit about Anti-Flag and the political statements you’ve made in the past?

JS: We came out of a punk rock scene and community that really stresses empathy, really stresses caring about more than just yourself. That includes people, that includes the planet — from my perspective that includes all living things.

Part of that point of view is looking around and seeing that the economic system of capitalism is completely unjust. It seems pretty obvious that we don’t live in a democracy. We live in a corporatocracy. We have corporations and a billionaire class that have pretty much bought our government. And that’s something that, particularly with this record, we were really rallying against.

EA: There are a ton of environmental issues out there. There’s vegetarianism, climate change, Arctic drilling — fracking seems to be the one that’s got celebrities up in arms. Why do you think that is?

JS: Fracking for me is a no-brainer. It’s another dirty source of energy. Our oceans are becoming acidic because of human-made environmental waste. It’s so obvious that we have alternatives out there that are clean. That’s the direction we need to move in. And fracking is just taking us from one dirty source of energy to another source. That is the polar opposite direction that humans need to be moving.

For me, that’s the main reason. Let’s get away from this dirty source of energy. It’s literally destroying our planet. There will come a time when the planet will not be able to take any more pollution, and people are going to have to decide: Do we want future generations to actually be able to live? Or are we okay with having this toxic world where eventually we’re going to kill off all the life out of it?

EA: To play devil’s advocate, there are people who say that, at least fracking helps us get away from dirtier sources of energy like coal. It’s lower carbon emitting. It’s a way to transition away from dirtier fuels.

JS: But it’s not clean. Whether it’s global warming, or polluting our water sources, or the oceans: There is a negative that comes out of oil, out of fracking, out of burning coal. There’s always going to be a negative with these dirty sources. Fracking is just a different negative. We’re stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

We don’t need any more transitional dirty fuels — we just need to go clean. Germany is a great example of a company that’s doing that. It’s a huge country. The United States has more resources than any other country in the world. It’s incredible what we could do — there just has to be a political will. And it has to be a will that comes from the people.

EA: There are a bunch of different tones on the album. For example, Michael Franti’s song talks about wanting to see the “flowers blooming” and “boom boxes booming” …

JS: I have to interrupt and say Michael Franti is the coolest dude in the world. I have such a man crush on Michael Franti. He is so cool. And he is a huge human being. He’s a giant guy! He’s got these big feet and his personality is massive, and he’s got this incredible, radiant glow about the guy. He’s just so posi-core. I want to hang out around that guy all day. Like, man, we need more Michael Frantis in the world.

EA: That’s awesome! I loved him when I was in college. Anyway, his song: Flowers blooming. Boombox booming. Yours, the tone is a little more … damning. Why?

JS: Well, we’re from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We’re located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale world. And I’ve just seen it — I’ve seen the environmental devastation that [fracking] creates. And I’ve seen how it harms people. And it’s completely unnecessary.

Anti-Flag started as an anti-war band more than anything. We get a lot of veterans come to our shows who served overseas, and they’re disillusioned. They realize that the people they were sent to fight and kill have much more in common with them than the politicians who sent them to do the fighting and killing. They feel like suckers.

I feel the same way about the issue of fracking, and that’s why the song is damning. I consider these corporations who pollute our planet, who literally ruin people’s lives, I consider them criminal. And that’s why the song has a feel of condemnation. Because I really believe that these people are criminals. I’m really hopeful that someday there will be a day when corporations and CEOs will be held criminally responsible for the actions they’ve taken that knowingly destroy the planet.

EA: Can you talk a little more about being from an area where fracking is prolific?

JS: Because I live in that area, I know guys who are welders working on the rigs. I know guys who operate heavy machinery, manufacturing the pads that they put the wells on.

Those people are just average working class people trying to put a dime in their pocket. I know some of them struggle with the fact that the work they do has the potential to lead to some environmental damage that could harm human life. I think a lot of people care about that.

But they’re living in the reality of the world, where they’re trying to feed their kids and put a roof over their heads. I’m not talking about those people [in the song]. The people I’m talking about are those who have the capacity to put enough resources in place that the whole industry can exist. The reality is, those same workers could be in the green industry. They could be working out in solar fields.

EA: The oil industry makes the morality and empathy arguments too, though. That fracking in Western Pennsylvania is helping farming communities that previously hadn’t been able to make money.

JS: I think you could make the same argument by saying they would much more welcome green energy on their land. They would more welcome a well that is not going to catch on fire, or pollute their water table and effectively destroy their home.

And again, that could be possible. That’s why we have to look, especially in Pennsylvania, at people like Ed Rendell, the former governor. We have to look at Tom Corbett, the former governor. We have to look at our current governor, Tom Wolf.

These people are owned by the fracking industry. They’re just a bunch of whores.

EA: Even Wolf?

JS: He supports it. He’s not against it. In New York state, the governor outlawed fracking. In Pennsylvania, Wolf’s not talking about that. He’s talking about maybe putting a little more of a tax on them. So, from my perspective, if they’re not against it, they’re for it.

You can’t only look at industry executives. You have to look at the politicians who support them as well. You know how I talked about the idea that some of these people I believe should be brought up on criminal charges — I would include those politicians right along with them.

EA: How do you feel President Obama has been handling these issues?

JS: It’s pretty painful. I don’t know if President Obama is well-intentioned or not. He might be. But I think he’s in the pockets of the corporations, and that’s who he represents. Look at this trade negotiation — what he wants, what’s in that.

When I look at Obama, I just see a corporate whore. What else can I say. He’s another corporate-bought politician, put into office by bankers on Wall Street and big money donors.

 

Cuadrilla Versus Lancashire Council On this one! Please sign the petition!!!!

Agent_Smith2

In Lancashire, a critical vote is taking place where county councillors could either slam the doors on plans to drill for shale gas, or give way and let the fracking industry in. 

And right now, it’s neck and neck! Seven councillors have voted for fracking, with seven others standing against.

Councillors are set to meet on Monday to try and break the deadlock, so it’s a race against time to win this.

We’ve just launched an urgent petition calling on councillors who voted against fracking to stay strong and to use their influence to talk others round. Please sign then share it far and wide!

https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/fracking-urgent

fracking-cartoon

Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a destructive and dirty process using a mix of water and chemicals to blast rocks and release trapped gas and oil. Not only have these chemicals been linked to water contamination [1], but burning more fossil fuels pumps more carbon pollution into the air, warming the planet further.

If Cuadrilla – the firm that wants to drill – wins in Lancashire it could pave the way for communities across the country to be opened up to a reckless dash for gas.

Cuadrilla’s throwing everything at this. They’ve already rolled out a massive leafleting campaign to try and influence the debate [2]. They’ve shelled out thousands to local businesses and sports clubs in an attempt to win favour [3]. And they’ve even gone as far as trying to silence protesters by taking out a court injunction against community groups [4].

The Democratic Party can't decide what it cares about most: its liberal base, which cares about the environment, or its campaign coffers, which receive major donations by energy companies.

The Democratic Party can’t decide what it cares about most: its liberal base, which cares about the environment, or its campaign coffers, which receive major donations by energy companies.

But here’s where it gets even worse: It looks like Cuadrilla could take Lancashire council to court, if councillors chose to vote down plans to frack.

With the risk of an expensive court case on the table, some councillors have spoken out about the incredible pressure they’re under. So at this crucial moment, we need to let them know that if they take a stand against fracking, we’ll be there to fight their corner.

I’ve signed the petition telling Lancashire councillors not to buckle to the fracking industry. With a final decision set to be made on Monday, this is as urgent as it gets. Can you quickly sign too? https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/fracking-urgent

morpheus

We don’t know which way this one’s going to go, it’s just too close to call. But we do know there’s one thing the fracking industry doesn’t have — and that’s people power. It’s people power that led to a freeze on fracking permits in Scotland and Wales. And it was people power that led to bans on fracking in France and New York.

These victories show that when we work together, we can win — even against the odds. So with just days to go before the final decision on fracking in Lancashire, let’s give this everything we’ve got!

With all my thanks,

Richard

PS. Yesterday, Lancashire council threw out one of Cuadrilla’s applications to frack for shale gas. Let’s make sure they throw out the second one too. Sign the urgent petition here:
https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/fracking-urgent

ChooseRedPillBluePill

UK Green Peace E-Mail June 2015