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
  MASSACHUSETTS

1/23/2013

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

Amherst – Human Pipeline demonstration, Amherst Common, 3pm Contact: Sarai Zelada and Lundy Bancroft at srzelada9@gmail.com

Billerica – ExxonMobil Station, 441 Boston Rd 3-6pm Contact: Debbie Bernstein at djbernstein2@gmail.com

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

Cambridge/Somerville – ExxonMobil Station, 816 Memorial Drive, 3-6pm Contact: Rachel Wyon at r.wyon2010@gmail.com

Concord – ExxonMobil Station, 1089 Concord Turnpike Station, 3-6pm Contacgt: Jas Smith at jasssmith@yahoo.com

Greenfield – ExxonMobil Station, 142 Mohawk Trail, 3-6pm Contact: George Aguiar at geogruven@gmail.com

Mattapan – ExxonMobil Station , 1181 Blue Hill Road, 3-6pm Contact: Sierra Kahn at sierrakahn@hotmail.com

Newton – ExxonMobil Station, 845 Moody Street, 3-6pm Contact: Eric Packer at epacker@fwg.com

NEW HAMPSHIRE/VERMONT

1/23/13

Lancaster, NH – Hands Across the Connecticut River, Lancaster Bridge at Route 2 and the Connecticut River, Noon Contact: Corry Hughes at stoptrailbreaker.nh@gmail.com

MAINE

1/23/13

Bangor – Bangor Tar Sands Free New England Rally and Congressional office visits, 11am – 2 pm Contact: Read Brugger read@350Maine.org

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 350maine@gmail.com

1/25/2013

Rockland – TB Bank Informational Picket, TD Bank, 34 School Street, Noon Contact: Aimee Moffitt-Mercer at aimee@midcoast.com

VERMONT

1/23/13

Burlington – Flashmob: No Pipelines! Wall of Resistance and Solidarity, Church Street and Main Street 12:30- 1:00 CONTACT: Ruby Perry at ruby@350vt.org

1/26/13

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

Canada

1/19/2013

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 a.possian@gmail.com

1/23/2013

Ottawa – Oil Sands-Free Ontario, Parliament Hill 3 pm Contact: Alex Guest at alexcguest@gmail.com

1/26/2013

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 Bowmansbowman@environmentaldefence.ca

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:

http://www.nature.com/news/methane-leaks-erode-green-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123

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.]

Perspectives From Burlington VT

There were actions addressing environmental concerns all over the country last weekend. Many people from the Boston area headed up to Burlington, Vermont to join in a human oil spill. Michael Levitin at Thruthout and Chloe Maxmin at First Here Then Everywhere have both covered the event, the latter writing from a first hand perspective. A dispatch from one of our own Boston area OB CASEJ organizers will be out in a few days!  ~ Nuevaspora

 

An excerpt from Levitin’s America’s Green Summer: From Vermont to Appalachia to Texas, Citizens Say Not to Dirty Power:

“The 500-person turnout and smartly choreographed “human oil spill” made Vermont the latest staging ground in what is quickly developing as a green summer of activism and resistance across America. Also over the weekend, thousands marched in Washington, DC to oppose the toxic impacts of fracking. On Saturday, activists shut down a mountaintop coal removal site in Lincoln County, West Virginia, drawing increased attention to the human and environmental costs of corporate strip mining in Appalachia.

And that is just the tip of things. Protesters in Texas have initiated a tar sands blockade, vowing to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through their state. Other blockades are getting underway at ports along the West Coast to prevent further construction of coal-shipping facilities. And in August, activists nationwide will descend on Helena, Montana, to engage in an unprecedented coal export action aimed at protesting and blocking coal shipments west to the Pacific and Asian markets from the Powder River Basin, which holds 40 percent of America’s coal supply.”

From Maxmin’s Hey Govenors! Come On Out. We’ve Got Something to Talk About:

“That is what 500 people chanted as we stood outside the Hilton Hotel in Burlington, VT where the New England Governor’s and Eastern Premier’s Conference was taking place. One thing was missing from their agenda: tar sands. There was no plan to talk about Trailbreaker, the massive proposal to pump tar sands oil from Montreal through VT, NH, ME, and down to Casco Bay in South Portland.

As the Maine Sierra Club intern, I helped organized a bus of 50 Mainers to drive from Portland to Burlington early Sunday morning, a 4.5 hour trip. We were Sierra Club members, 350 Maine organizers, concerned citizens, reporters, students, and activists. Everyone was committed and enthusiastic; we all were ready to make our voices heard.”

Pilgrims, Nukes and Refugees

A belated weekly rundown…

10 families in PA barricade themselves to avoid a fracking eviction, reports of 14 people arrested in MA for protesting Pilgrim Nuclear power plant, and it’s just the start of the week.

10 Families in Jersey Shore PA Refuse To Be Displaced for Fracking Operation

In Jersey Shore PA, over 30 families were told that they would have to vacate Riverdale Mobile Home Park to make way for the construction of a water withdrawal site to support hydraulic fracturing. 10 families refused to leave, and are now standing their ground. At least some of these families lack the means to move their homes. Construction was scheduled to start on Friday. What started as a vigil on Thursday night has extended through and past the weekend as people from a myriad of groups and organizations (including OWS) have gone to the park to stand with them. The protest has been peaceful and they have set up barricades preventing vehicle’s from entering. Aqua America, the company that bought the land and initiated the evictions can be reached at: (610) 527-8000.

Riverdale Mobile Home Park, Jersey Shore PA

Fortune has begun to shift at least a little, and the company is scheduled to go into negotiations with residence today.

The water withdrawal its self was permitted in March by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, a water shed management agency. More information can be found on the Save Riverdale blog.

An update on our own Charles River via Michael:

 

 

The New England Regional office of the EPA released its annual report card on the Charles River. EPA water quality data shows that during 2011, the Charles River had an acceptable water quality for boating and swimming. The grade issued this year is a ‘B”. The grade reflects that the river met bacteria-based water quality standards for boating 82% of the time and for swimming 54% of the time. The EPA launched its Charles River Initiative in 1995 when the river received a D for meeting boating standards 29% of the time and 19% for swimming. The EPA has been measuring the cleanup of the Charles River against the objectives set in the Clean Water act of 1972.

The New England Regional Office of the EPA is designated as Region 1 and includes all of New England and the ten tribal nations recognized by the Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs. The ten tribes include the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in Massachusetts, The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Indian Tribe in Connecticut, The Narragansett in Rhode Island and five tribes in Maine. The tribes in Maine include the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Malaseet, Passamaquoddy (Indian Township), Passamaquoddy (Pleasant Point) and the Penobscot.

Source:epa.gov news release 4/21/12

CASEJ:

CASEJ met last night deciding plans for the Summer. This will likely include joining a rally in protest of the re-permitting of the Pilgrim Power Plant on June 7th and another advocating for clean sustainable energy on June 14th.  Details:

Pilgrim Coalition protest at NRC hearing on nuke plants Thursday June 7 at 9:15 a.m. (yes, this Thursday!) at Post Office Square. Bring signs. Why? According to the invite: “While the hearing will be held in Boston, the content pertains to all Mark 1 boiling water reactors in the U.S., which have the same faulty design as the Fukushima reactors.”

On a related note, fourteen people were arrested in Plymouth on May 20th as part of a protest to close the unsafe Pilgrim plant. Some of them will be at the rally. Check out the story in the Boston Occupier.

Lobby Day for Renewables Bill Senate 2214 at State House on Thursday, June 14 (next week).  Meet on State House steps at 11 a.m. next to big banner for Climate Action–Connect the Dots, followed by visits to key legislators with support letter. This is part of an entire week of events with Energy Week Boston. (*Those of us who speak with legislators will be introducing ourselves simply as concerned and active citizens, not as Occupy, Occupy Boston or OB CASEJ.) Whether you want to support it or say that it’s not enough, lets make the clean energy discussion loud!

The full text for Renewables Bill Senate 2214 can be found here.

We will also be training more of our members to tweet, wiki and blog, so watch out!

Young Protester Refusing Eviction From Riverdale Mobile Home Park. Jersey Shore, PA

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)

May 18: Vermont Bans Fracking; Green Party In French Cabinet

There are a couple of things to add to the last post. First, for anyone wondering, Gary estimates that if the Save Our Climate Act were enacted, individuals would receive approximately $172 the first year, $933 on the 5th and $1298 in year 10. Clearly, the reason to enact this bill is not to provide people with more cash, but gives an idea of what the offset would be for any price hikes. Second, the program is Civil Science on Occupy Boston Radio (Wed. 6pm).

Sorry for the scant posts, we are still getting organized and some of our most active bloggers were in transit (and we are actively looking for contributions!). For now I’ll leave readers with some breaking news…

Vermont has just become the first state to ban fracking. Vermont governor Peter Shumlin was quoted as saying the following as he signed the ban into law:

“Human beings survived for thousands and thousands of years without oil and without natural gas…We have never known humanity or life on this planet to survive without clean water.”

Next week, we’ll delve into the appointment of a Green party leader and clean water advocate as Minister of Territories, Equality and Housing in the French Cabinet, and our own complex relationship to fracking here in Massachusetts as the plans to expand Spectra Energy’s Algonquin pipeline continue.