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Battle in Canada: First Nations v. Frackers

Mi’kmaq protestors in Rexton, New Brunswick faced violent Royal Canadian Mounted Police response.

The RCMP assault featured tear gas, rubber bullets, snipers stationed nearby, and the arrest of 40 First Nations people, including  Chief Aaren Sock of the Elsipogtog.  Protestors burned several police cars.  The police were enforcing an injunction against the on-going protest.

The Mi’kmaq oppose hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas.  See the video by the Indigenous News Project.

One protestor suffered serious burns when his sleeping bag was engulfed in flames.  Acting with callous disregard, the RCMP reportedly refused to allow an ambulance access to the burn victim.

A petition is circulating to end police violence against peaceful First Nations protests, sign at “Tell the RCMP: Don’t violently intervene in peaceful First Nations protests

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, has characterized the situation of First Nations peoples in Canada as a crisis (here is Anaya’s full report).

Greenpeace Piracy wins Noble Laureates’ Support

Greenpeace again has pushed the boundaries on eco-protesting. Greenpeace is no stranger to internationial environmental controversy.  In 1985 the French bombing of the Rainbow Warrior brought Greenpeace into the international limelight.

Greepeace Activists protesting Arctic Sea drilling now sit in jail in Russia, facing charges of piracy.

Eleven noble laureates have signed a letter to Vladimir Putin asking for these charges to be dropped.

Milena Sterio argues that the piracy charges could be valid from a strictly legal perspective.

This demonization of environmental activists is akin to prosecution of activists in the USA on terrorism charges.  In 2002 the FBI detailed the threat of eco-terrorism from organizations such as the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front (a split off from Earth First!) to the U.S. Congress.  Justin Solondz, of “the Family” in the Pacific Northwest affiliates of ALF and ELF was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for arson.   ELF is chronicled in the documentary, If a Tree Falls.


Brasilian Greenpeace Activist in Russian Jail
Of course, the Sea Shepherd’s Conservation Society is the pre-eminent sea-faring eco-terrorist group.  This group is famous for sinking whaling ships and combating the slaughter of baby seals.

IDEM approves BP wastewater permit requiring major mercury reductions

Refining Canadian tar sands is dirty business, as those following the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana already know.  Indiana does not have a great track record on curbing emissions from the refineries and other heavy industry in its northwest corner (including the cities of East Chicago, Gary, and Whiting), but in this instance the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has chosen to demand BP reduce rates of mercury emissions even though it is expxanding the capacity of the refinery.

Here is an Indiana-based news report:

written by Lauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311

the original publication is here

“The Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued its final ruling on a permit application for BP’s Whiting Refinery, requiring the company to cut its mercury releases into Lake Michigan by more than half.

Dan Goldblatt, spokesman for IDEM, said the company was allowed to release no more than 23 parts per trillion under the previous National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit modification issued in February 2012.

The company will now be required to release no more than 8.75 ppt. The federal Clean Water Act requires discharges not to exceed 1.3 ppt, but Goldblatt said provisions exist to allow a higher amount while still meeting requirements of the act.

The new permit goes into effect Nov. 1.

Scott Dean, spokesman for BP, said the company is “cautiously optimistic that our recent investment in new water treatment equipment will further reduce the Whiting Refinery mercury discharge, which is already less than one tablespoon per year.

“Having said that, the mercury limit in the revised permit has decreased by more than half and the refinery needs to gain experience operating the new equipment before we will know if the refinery can successfully and consistently meet this revised limit,” Dean said. “Although we can’t guarantee this stricter permit limit is achievable in real-world operating conditions, we are committed to trying.”

The permit also requires BP to continue working with the Purdue University Calumet’s Water Institute on technologies to reduce mercury emissions into the lake. In the past, BP was required to investigate new technologies, but had no obligation to implement them.

The new permit requires BP to implement new technologies as they become available, Goldblatt said.

In 2007, BP funded a $5 million grant to the Water Institute and Argonne National Laboratories in an effort to research technologies that would help the company meet lower standards.

Studies issued in March 2012 by the research teams show technologies do exist, but many are not cost-effective or use too much energy for a large-scale operation.

Fracking Class Action Won against Chesapeake Energy Inc.

Landowners in Pennsylvania who had leased land for fracking won a class action lawsuit against Chesapeake Energy, Inc. in early September, 2013.   See the news report.  The reported settlement amount is $7.5 million.

The law suit charged that Chesapeake cheated landowners of royalties from the natural gas mines.  This was achieved by charging for costs associated with bringing the gas to market even though the leases expressly prohibited such charges. Royalties paid on leases declined by as much as 90% due to such market charges.

PRI has a detailed interview with one farmer who was cheated. This interview is from before the settlement was announced.




Fracking Politics are complicated.  This article gives an interesting portrait of “fractivists” in Pennsylvania’s Delaware River Valley, and incidentally mentions the GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES paid TO GAS COMPANIES when they sign leases to drill for natural gas.  I guess these subsidies are part of  Obama’s “clean energy” agenda.


The news is out that Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) produces less leaked methane gas than previously thought.

The Heavy-Hitter environmental organization, Environmental Defense Fund (known as EDF), sponsored this study in alliance with nine petrochemical companies (Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; BG Group plc; Chevron; Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.; Pioneer Natural Resources Company; SWEPI LP (Shell); Southwestern Energy; Talisman Energy USA; and XTO Energy, an ExxonMobil subsidiary).

This is a cozy relationship for major polluters and a major environmental group. EDF lists the funders of its methane initiative as including, Fiona and Stan Druckenmiller, Heising-Simons Foundation, Bill and Susan Oberndorf, Betsy and Sam Reeves, Robertson Foundation, Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor, and Walton Family Foundation.

EDF built its reputation as an environmental advocate that seeks “win-win” solutions.  A crucial part to evaluating “win-win” has been the technique called “cradle-to-grave” analysis.  That is,  gauging the impact of something on the environment by considering ALL phases of extraction, manufacture, distribution, consumption and ultimate discarding of the item.  In promoting this study and trumpeting the good-news about “completion technology”, EDF seems to be abandoning its famous “cradle-to-grave” mantra.

Some criticism of the study has emerged.  For example, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) is unconvinced because of the small sample size and relatively ideal conditions of the emissions survey.  Clean Technica laments the limits of this study noting that,

for the record that while some studies indicate that fugitive emissions are a manageable problem, studies at other gas fields, including a recent NOAA study, have indicated that fugitive emissions form a critical issue that is not easily addressed by new regulations.

For its limited scope,  the study appears to be a solid demonstration that so called “completion” technology required by  EPA regulations does allow the capture of escaped methane.

However, methane also escapes at other stages of gas production and distribution.  The New York Times notes that,

“The American Petroleum Institute hailed the study’s conclusions, saying in a statement that its own efforts to reduce methane emissions “are paying off.” But while E.P.A.-mandated measures appear to have reduced emissions during well completions, the study also concluded that leaks elsewhere in the fracking process were higher than the E.P.A. had previously estimated.

Estimates of leaks from chemical pumps, while small, were twice past estimates, while leaks from pneumatic controllers, or valves, were pegged at more than 639,000 tons a year, roughly a third greater. None of those components are currently subject to federal regulation.

EDF maintains that the EPA can use its power to create New Source Performance Standards to regulate emissions controls for these other aspects of fracking.  But even once such new standards are made mandatory, it takes time for industry to actually adopt them.  The “completion” technology, the focus of the study,  is NOT used industry-wide.

DISTRIBUTION of natural gas is also a LEAKY business.  In Massachusetts alone, according to a congressional study, consumers paid up to $1.5 billion in the past decade  for natural gas that leaked from pipes.

A recently released congressional study commissioned by Senator Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, estimated natural gas customers in Massachusetts paid up to $1.5 billion over the last decade for fuel lost to gas leaks.

  This summer Picarro, Inc. demonstrated a new leak-detection technology that is 1,000 times more sensitive than the standard equipment used by gas companies.  As reported in the Boston Globe, the detection of leaks from natural gas pipelines was astounding,

Even knowing how precise Picarro’s instrumentation is — given that he helped design it — company chief technical officer Eric Crosson said he was still amazed the first time he went out with Phillips to test the technology.

“We drive no more than a block and suddenly, there’s a huge amount of methane,” Crosson recalled. “Then we drove a little farther and there was another one, and then we drove a little farther and there was another one.”

Gas companies are used to detecting leaks that are hazardous.  However, the gas companies’ view of a “hazardous leak” is one that poses risk to life.  That is, one that is leathal or risks explosion.

The intense impact of methane as a green house gas, however, demands the re-evaluation of what constitutes  “hazardous” leaks.

EDF does have a program underway to study and control pipeline leaks.  EDF also promotes awareness of other environmental dangers associated with fracking (ground water contamination, waste water containment and pollution of watersheds, air pollution, air pollution).

Overall, however, EDF is an advocate of fracking and seeks only to manage the threats posed by the fracking industry.  For those who have already found those threats devastating to their lives and homes, this is small consolation.


Take to the Streets: NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION

Tired of sitting in your office all day?  Wondering how to reconnect your love of the environment with your day-to-day?  Try participating the NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION.

Find an event near you OR organize one with your friends and family.

Naomi Klein Attacked by “Climate Progress”

See Joe Romm’s repost to Klein:

No, Naomi Klein And Salon, ‘Denialism’ By Enviros Has Not Been ‘More Damaging Than The Right-Wing Denialism’

Romm has a handy image with which he dispute’s Klein’s claim that Green Groups are more damaging than right-wing climate change denial.  I’d opine: not more damaging, no, that is clearly an overstatement.  But Klein’s general criticism of the big corporatized environmental groups is on-target.


Fall 2013: Climate Change Preview

Thank-you to Marcia G. Yerman, who published this Fall Climate Change Preview on Daily Kos.

Naomi Klein: Blaming Environmentalists for Climate Change?

Did you read the  interview of  Naomi Klein, author of Shock Doctrine and collaborator with Bill McKibben in the 350.0rg protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline, in which she criticizes environmental groups for having a negative impact on efforts to reduce green house gas emissions?

Klein faults alliances between environmental non-profits and corporations for defeating environmental progress.

“I think it’s by building coalitions with people, not with corporations, that you are going to get those [win-win outcomes]. And what I see [in Green non-profits] is really a willingness to sacrifice the basic principles of solidarity, whether it is to that fence-line community in Richmond, Calif., or whether it’s with that Indigenous community in Brazil that, you know, is forced off their territory because their forest has just become a carbon sink or an offset and they no longer have access to the forest that allowed them to live sustainably because it’s policed. Because a conservation group has decided to trade it. So these sacrifices are made – there are a lot of losers in this model and there aren’t any wins I can see.”

Klein favors cutting emissions to carbon trading, because the action is local and the reduction in local emissions benefits the local grassroots community.

Klein repeats charges of genocide-via-climate change that negotiators from the global South have levelled against the North at climate governance negotiations.   In the habitual deference to a more placid language, one that lacks intent and that focuses relentlessly on the promises of economic development, she sees an inability or unwillingness to state the obvious,

“I feel one of the crises that we’re facing is a crisis of language. We are not speaking about this with the language of urgency or mortality that the issue deserves.”

Klein concludes, “I think the Big Green groups are becoming deeply irrelevant. Some get a lot of money from corporations and rich donors and foundations, but their whole model is in crisis.”