Today: Tar Sands Protests Across the East Coast 1/21/13

This Martin Luther King Day, our friends at 350 MA have reminded us that actions are planned along the US and Canadian costs protesting expanded distribution of tar sands crude. The bitumen derived fuel source has been widely criticized, as it results in higher green house gas emissions than conventional oil. Extraction from the Athabasca tar sands have received particular scrutiny, due to the impacts that the extraction process has had on indigenous communities in the area.

Export to the west is blocked by legal disputes. Export to the south has been somewhat hampered by legal disputes and protests (primarily in texas). Export to the North is blocked by the Arctic. Todays protests are focused on export to the East.  For a more in depth synopsis, see Susan Redlich’s post: On the Front Lines of  Tar Sands Resistance.

Also, check out the Occupy New England 3rd Regional Convergence in Portland Maine on January 26th. Working with 350 New England this gathering will have a strong focus on transitioning away from fossil fuels including the expansion of tar sands and natural gas derived from fracking (especially the Algonquin Pipeline).

Today’s schedule (via Vanessa Rule):

SOLIDARITY ACTIONS  — to sign up for a MA action.

United States


Amherst — ExxonMobil Station, No Tar Sands Picket, 399 Northampton Street 12:30 – 1:30pm, Contact: John Berkowitz,

Amherst – Human Pipeline demonstration, Amherst Common, 3pm Contact: Sarai Zelada and Lundy Bancroft at

Billerica – ExxonMobil Station, 441 Boston Rd 3-6pm Contact: Debbie Bernstein at

Boston – Mass Canvass and Human Pipeline across Copley Square Copley Square, MA 1/23/2013 4; 5:30 Dorian Williams 773-289-2240

Cambridge/Somerville – ExxonMobil Station, 816 Memorial Drive, 3-6pm Contact: Rachel Wyon at

Concord – ExxonMobil Station, 1089 Concord Turnpike Station, 3-6pm Contacgt: Jas Smith at

Greenfield – ExxonMobil Station, 142 Mohawk Trail, 3-6pm Contact: George Aguiar at

Mattapan – ExxonMobil Station , 1181 Blue Hill Road, 3-6pm Contact: Sierra Kahn at

Newton – ExxonMobil Station, 845 Moody Street, 3-6pm Contact: Eric Packer at



Lancaster, NH – Hands Across the Connecticut River, Lancaster Bridge at Route 2 and the Connecticut River, Noon Contact: Corry Hughes at



Bangor – Bangor Tar Sands Free New England Rally and Congressional office visits, 11am – 2 pm Contact: Read Brugger

Greater Portland – 1) 11:30 Rally/Protest in South Portland. 2) Possible Congressional Office Visits 3) Attendance @ the City of Portland Council Hearing @ 7 pm regarding anti-Tar Sands Resolution 1) notable Tar Sands target – to be identified 2) Portland 3) Portland Contact: Bob Klotz at


Rockland – TB Bank Informational Picket, TD Bank, 34 School Street, Noon Contact: Aimee Moffitt-Mercer at



Burlington – Flashmob: No Pipelines! Wall of Resistance and Solidarity, Church Street and Main Street 12:30- 1:00 CONTACT: Ruby Perry at


Burlington – Line 9 – No Tars Sands Oil across Ontario, Burlington Public Library, 2331 New Street 2pm-5pm Contact: Elysia Petrone at



Montreal, Quebec – THE TAR SANDS COME TO QUEBEC: A community forum to build resistance and alternatives to tar sands pipelines Concordia University – Hall Building 1455 De Maisonneuve W. 9AM – 6PM Amara Possian


Ottawa – Oil Sands-Free Ontario, Parliament Hill 3 pm Contact: Alex Guest at


Toronto – StopLine 9 – Hendon Ave at Yonge St (at Line 9) 1pm

Toronto – No Line 9! block at Rally for Rights and Democracy, Allan Gardens (Jarvis & Carleton) 1 pm – 4 pm by Rising Tide Toronto

Toronto – No tar sands in our communities – United Across Borders Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West 10:30:00 Contact: Sabrina


Reports of High Greenhouse Gas Emissions In Natural Gas Production

“Alarmingly high methane emissions” from oil and gas fields reported online by the journal Nature on January 2nd, raise questions about industry and legislative promotion of “clean” natural gas as a low greenhouse gas emitting alternative to other fossil fuels.

Reported in Nature News:

The researchers, who hold joint appointments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado in Boulder, first sparked concern in February 2012 with a study1 suggesting that up to 4% of the methane produced at a field near Denver was escaping into the atmosphere. If methane — a potent gas — is leaking from fields across the country at similar rates, it could be offsetting much of the climate benefit of the ongoing shift from coal- to gas-fired plants for electricity generation.

Industry officials and some scientists contested the claim, but at an American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, California, last month, the research team reported new Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage — an eye-popping 9% of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data — which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado.

For more check out:

Check out Occupy Boston and 350MA for civic organizing opposing the expansion of the Algonquin Pipeline.

~ Nuevaspora

More $$ for Fossil Fuels?

Last week a local climate organizer lamented that Occupy Boston had little concern for climate change. I told most people associated with the movement were very concerned. “Well then,” he said, “People should be out in the the streets!”

That’s exactly where Occupiers were on August 4th, holding a bake sale for fossil fuel companies with 350 MA. Yes, it was satirical. We were calling attention to the fossil fuel subsidies that already exist. No, it wasn’t covered by mainstream press. It was, however, covered by Steve R. on the Occupy Boston website. Thank you Steve.

A Little Bake Sale for Big Oil

“Can you spare $11 billion for big oil?
Sorry, I didn’t bring my wallet …

On Saturday August 4th, activists from 350ma and Occupy Boston met in Dewey Square, to hold a little fundraiser for big oil. Why a fundraiser? Washington gives big oil, coal, and gas roughly $11 billion in subsidies and tax cuts each year, and there’s talk of trimming some of that back. Cutting these subsidies would be a (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) job killing travesty; so, we went out and canvassed the sidewalks, chatted up people on corners, and panhandled in the street.

But wait … oil is modern day miracle. It’s in everything
I own, right down to my shoelaces.

Don’t get us wrong, we’ve got nothing against people tying their shoes. In fact, we think that tying your shoes is a darn good idea. But we do take issue with petroleum spilling onto our coastline, pollution spreading across out atmosphere, and CO2 warming our planet. Yes, oil is cheap (and heavily subsidized), but it’s also a finite, non-renewable resource. Eventually we will have to find something else to help us get our shoes tied.”


Near the Museum of Science, other activists asked people for spare change for the corporations, eliciting more interesting responses:

Later in the day, other protesters protesters preformed a short public performance in Harvard Square, designed to illustrate the true costs of fracking and cheap natural gas. This was specifically in response to the proposed expansion of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Pipeline. The overall turnout was fantastic with people spread all over the city. However, the question of how to foster deeper dialogue regarding these issues, as well as how to bring them to a larger audience remains. Will we continue to subsidize the wealthiest corporations on the planet at our own expense?

Dear readers, that one is on you.

~ Nuevaspora

[Sorry for the two week gap in posts. Again this is 100% grass roots organizing and volunteering. There is no one to fill in when we are busy. Expect things old and new to come trickling in over the next few days. There have been more actions since then, and maybe some summaries of these will trickle in along with them.]

Looking at the Algonquin Pipeline

Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Gas Transmission Line (as it now stands)

Ever spent a couple days looking up hydraulic fracturing? It involves sifting through unpleasant, murky information that can ultimately leave you feeling a little sick to your stomach. Crucial information is simply not there, and if you trace the periphery around what is missing, and why it is missing, the outline draws a picture that is not quite right.

I’ll start with a story of my own. Several years ago, my mother caught my 3 year old brother lugging a big bright orange plastic jack-o-lantern full of water from our second floor bathroom to our third floor attic bedroom. Surprised, she asked him what he was doing. My brother, always fast on his feet, answered.

“Nothing. Um… Don’t come upstairs right now. OK Mom?”.

He quickly scampered up the steps, jack-o-lantern and all.

What did my mother do then? Every parent and every reader knows. Toddlers are not known for their well developed sense of consequence and responsibility. When a toddler says, “Don’t look over there”, a responsible adult has only one real choice.

Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline has already been built. It looks a a little like a spider vein running through New England, pumps methane to consumers ready for cheap energy, pumps their money to the Texas company that owns it, and relies on  the pumping of unknown chemical agents ultra deep into the earth. This is called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.

Proposed Algonquin Incremental Market Project

What are these agents? Where do they go?

At the moment, it is very difficult to say what happens. Colorado is the only state requiring companies that frack to divulge both the chemicals and concentrations used for injection, and the legislation was enacted only about a month ago. In 2005 Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). According to the EPA, this Act:

“is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking water. Under SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.”

It gives the EPA the authority to “control underground injection to protect underground drinking water sources”, and so is the legal basis for the EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program. Leaving the story of how this happened for another post, in 2005 the term “underground injection” was legally changed to exclude “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities”. Congress actually changed the definition of “underground injection” legally so that the EPA lost its authority to monitor fracking. It was a very convoluted way of saying, “Don’t look over here. OK?”.

So, we don’t. To the best of my knowledge, when contaminated water near gas wells is analyzed by the EPA, they don’t do any analysis to determine weather those contaminants are a result of fracking. No analysis means no credible documentation.

At the moment, Spectra Energy is planning to expand the line and all operations associated, in order to provide us with more cheap gas. Massachusetts includes a prime slice of the target consumer demographic. Over 30% of our electricity comes from gas  imported and domestic, and in 2010 we used 430 billion cubic feet of it. Implicit in their plans is the assumption that we, the people of Massachusetts, are consumers first and citizens concerned about the health of our neighbors second. The same assumption is made when politicians, even those sympathetic to environmental concerns, say its development would “allow all Americans to benefit from the low-price, abundant, and secure supplies of natural gas now being produced in the United States”. Perhaps, to an old political hand with a heavy plate, this all seems necessary. Still, to a novice it seems like a new spin on the old cohen:

If a kid falls ill in the forest, and no one is there to investigate, does it really matter?

Does it? We lack documentation that fracking has harmed anyone, but have we actually looked? Also, what are our other options?

When my brother was running water to the attic for no discernible reason, Mom looked. That’s what good moms do. We were in the middle of making a swimming pool…  in a cardboard box.

For those of us who are fortunate, childhood is a time when we feel safe and protected, sometimes even from the consequences of our own actions. My brother and I found ourselves in serious trouble over the “swimming pool” but, really, we were prevented from causing structural damage to our childhood home. Adulthood is a time when we recognize that the world can be quite dangerous. It is when we take responsibility for protecting ourselves, our community, and quintessentially our most vulnerable members.

In the absence of nearly any regulation, fracking presents a difficult situation, and it is very easy to turn the other way. Still, being a responsible adult, a responsible citizen, means that you look, even and perhaps especially when critical information is missing. From that perspective, whether and how we respond to Spectra’s proposal for the Algonquin pipeline expansion is not simply a question of what we will do, but ultimately a question of who we are.

You won’t find the answer to that one online.

My Accomplice
(a few years after the “swimming pool” debacle)