The Banner, Vol. 6, No. 5 – The Art of the Plunder

February 18, 2020
This week we dive into the noxious atmosphere created by the all too successful game of privatizing the benefits of plundering the Earth’s resources, all the while working to make the costs ‘externalities’ to be dealt with by government —or the general suffering of the public.
But first the news.

Table of Contents

NY & Northeast Activist News

Regional Activist News

The Art of the Plunder

Indigenous Leaders News

Science & Climate

Government & Economics

International News

In Case You Missed It

The Lighter Side of Things


North Brooklyn community says no to fracked gas pipeline

Community calls for immediate, permanent halt of construction and on De Blasio, Cuomo to oppose project

Photo: Erik McGregor

East Williamsburg, New York – On Saturday morning, community members from across North Brooklyn rallied at Manhattan Avenue and Moore Street near the construction site of National Grid’s disastrous Metropolitan Reliability Infrastructure (MRI) project. The MRI project is a new 30inch high-pressure fracked gas transmission pipeline through Brooklyn destined for a National Grid depot on Newtown Creek, where the company also wants to expand its LNG facility and begin transporting LNG in and out by truck.

“We are standing together. East New York and Brownsville, Bushwick, Williamsburg and Greenpoint,” said Greenpoint resident Kevin LaCherra. “Every neighborhood in this city. Every community in this state. Join us. We’re gonna shut this down.”

The sheer possibility of encountering an enraged and engaged public was enough for National Grid to buckle and halt construction on Saturday.

The community called on National Grid to permanently halt construction of the pipeline. They also called on Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to stand with the community and oppose National Grid’s proposed rate hike to pay for the projects.

“While we have to pay for a brand new pipeline right now, it is the youth who will be paying for the pipeline for the rest of their lives, by sacrificing the possibility of a livable future in exchange for short term profit fueled by corporate greed,” said Maggie Berke with Sunrise NYC. “We know that a different future is possible, one rooted in renewable energy, a just transition and green jobs, and this is the future we deserve.”

National Grid is asking for 185 million ratepayer dollars to finish construction of the pipeline in Bushwick and continue it into East Williamsburg and Greenpoint. They’re also asking for an additional 108.5 million ratepayer dollars to expand their Greenpoint LNG facility and begin transporting LNG in and out by truck through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx to Massachusetts and Long Island.

“If Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo won’t be real climate leaders and stop this pipeline, the community will,” said Kim Fraczek, local Bushwick resident and director of Sane Energy Project. “This is just the beginning of community opposition to not only this pipeline, but all of National Grid and Con Ed’s fracked gas infrastructure expansions.”

“I was one of the many thousands of people National Grid used as pawns in their corporate manipulation campaign to extort the city into approving their massive infrastructure expansion,” said Sessa Tate with Democratic Socialists of America EcoSocialists. “This kind of thing would never happen if public utilities were publicly owned.”

At the end of the rally, community members stood in front of the empty construction site chanting “We say no”.

We saw today that the mere specter of the community’s collective action is enough to halt construction; today proved that the community’s tireless dedication to environmental preservation and justice will undoubtedly put a stop to National Grid’s destruction.…—”North Brooklyn community says no to fracked gas pipeline,” Lee Ziesche, Sane Energy Project, 2/15/20

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Protesters refuse to leave Chase Bank in Ithaca
8 adults arrested, 4 minors detained

Ithaca, NY, February 13, 2020— A dozen people, including four minors, were detained by police in Ithaca after refusing to leave Chase Bank during a protest Thursday. The adults were arrested and charged.

Ithaca police said protesters occupied the bank at 301 E. State St. around noon and remained until about 4:45 p.m., despite bank officials and law enforcement asking them to leave.

According to a release from the police department, protesters also occupied the bank Wednesday, when some also took to the street and blocked traffic at South Cayuga and East Green streets.

Police said the protest took to the bank again Thursday, and that the protesters disrupted those doing business at the bank.

“This was part of a national protest,” Sr. Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello said in the release.

Nationwide, people are showing up at banks such as Chase, in an attempt to persuade the company to stop investmenting in oil, natural gas and coal.

Further reading: Joaquin Phoenix arrested at Jane Fonda’s climate change protest

Eight adults were arrested and charged with third-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. They are to appear in Ithaca City Court on Feb. 26.…—”Protesters refused to leave Chase Bank in Ithaca, 8 arrested,” Ashley Biviano, Ithaca Journal, 2/14/20

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Rochester XR and Allies March to Chase Bank
in Support of the Wet’suwet’en People

Group creates Traffic swarms at bank and a demand the bank end its financing of fossil fuels

Rochester, NY, February 15, 2020— Extinction Rebellion (XR) Rochester and its regional allies joined the thousands of activists across the world answered answering the international call for solidarity from the Wet’suwet’en, who are facing an illegal takeover of their sovereign land for the construction of a fracked gas pipeline​. Last week, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began raids to evict the Wet’suwet’en people from their territory in open violation of Wet’suwet’en, Canadian, and international law.

Saturday morning, about 40 activists gathered in a corner of Washington Square Park and were addressed by indigenous activist Ronald Garrow, who gave the opening Akwesasne blessing then read a call to action by Mohawk Clan Mother Louise Bear. Councilwoman Mary Lupien call for climate reforms in the city of Rochester. Activists with decades of experience in nonviolent direct action spoke also, in the bitter cold.

The activists marched the mile to Chase Bank at 560 Monroe Ave, chanting “first Nations come first,” and “no No more gas, no more oil! Leave the carbon in the soil!” And then carried out “traffic swarms” – intermittent blocking of traffic for two cycles at a time – disrupting all business as usual in front of the bank.

JP Morgan Chase is the largest funder of fossil fuel extraction and exploration, and they are the primary financier of the TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink Pipeline responsible for the illegal military eviction of the Wet’suwet’en people from their own land.

The Local business “Food Not Bombs” organization brought coffee to the marchers and some passers-by joined in the protest.

All across the world activists have been acting in civil disobedience, costing the Canadian government millions of dollars by blocking intersections for days, railways, and ports. Closer to upstate NY, activists from XR Ithaca occupied a Chase Bank branch in Ithaca on February 13, United Nations Global Divestment Day. Dozens of activists were arrested, and the bank was forced to close for the day. Wet’suwet’en Land defenders developed the Unis’tot’en camp as a healing center, the last of a string of camps along the proposed pipeline. Their resistance to industry’s and government’s usurpation of their unceded ancestral lands has made both TransCanada’s and the Canadian Government’s actions much more difficult to execute and impossible to justify.

This has been a critical week for environmental justice as a whole. Other activists across the nation took to their institutions in protest for fossil fuel divestment day. Injustice is not an investment. Injustices against indigenous people, ecocide, & environmental degradation appear to become more and more inextricably linked to corporate investments from banks like JP Morgan Chase and other fossil fuel backers. As you read this email Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders are fighting at the Unist’tot’en Camp, Wet’suwet’en land within B.C. Canada. It echoes our own national indigenous fight at standing rock, and the local indigenous struggle of an expressway built on the sovereign land of the Seneca, that collects tolls for the State of New York, despite offering no upkeep and paying a nominal sum as rent to be there.

XR Rochester would like to thank the cosponsors of Saturday’s action: The Flying Squirrel, Metro Justice, the Rochester Rapid Response Network, and the Worker Justice Center of New York. Thanks to Food not Bombs for hot coffee, and to Cuse Action Medics for serving as medics and marshals.


XR Rochester Solidarity Supply Train to Wet’suet’en Unistoten Camp

M.K. Gandhi Institute
Tuesday, Feb. 25th, 7-9 pm
929 S. Plymouth Ave
Rochester, NY 14608

Join Extinction Rebellion Rochester and Rochester Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en in providing material support for Canada’s First Nations anti-pipeline movement, and watch a short film about the movement.

Through a partnership with local Mohawk activist Ronald Garrow, we will be collecting supplies for the Mohawk train blockade in Ontario. The Mohawk protestors are requesting donations of fire logs, caned goods, toilet paper, gatorade, tarps, self-heating meals, propane, beef jerky, signs, and letters of support.

Cash donations are also needed for gas to get the supplies to Canada. These are all supplies that will still be needed by the Mohawk Nation for future actions even after the current train blockade ends.

Whether you drop by or stay for the whole evening, supplies are welcome any time between 7-9pm.


As Extinction Rebellion, allies, and activists around the world continue the fight for climate justice and a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty, these haunting words of a Land Defender echo everywhere: “We are here for humanity, for life, we are unarmed, we are peaceful. You are killers, you are genocidal maniacs, you have your guns pointed at us.”—”Rochester XR and Allies March to Chase Bank in Support of the Wet’suwet’en People,” The Banner|Rochester XR, 2/15/20

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Canada: Protests Go Mainstream
Support for Wet’suwet’en Pipeline Fight Widens

Protesters have blocked railways and barricaded ports in wave of dissent – and the pressure on Justin Trudeau has increased

As armed Canadian police officers advanced through snow towards their camp, the group of Indigenous women was absorbed in a drumming ceremony to honour the spirits of missing and murdered Indigenous women across the country.

Rows of red dresses hung from a fishing line slung across the road, and from pine and spruce trees in the surrounding forest – each one a memorial to the thousands of Indigenous women killed or disappeared in recent years.

A pair of helicopters buzzed overhead, but on the ground, the women’s voices and drums drowned out the officers as they warned them to leave or face arrest.

“We remained in ceremony – even as the tactical officers surrounded us and began pick off individuals,” said one of the women, Dr Karla Tait.

Set amid dense evergreen forests near the bank of the Wedzin Kwah, or Morice River, the remote cabins at Unist’ot’en camp have become a place of healing for Indigenous youth, who take lessons on trapping and traditional medicines.…—”Canada: Protests Go Mainstream as Support for Wet’suwet’en Pipeline Fight Widens,” Amber Bracken and Leyland Cecco, Reader Supported News|The Guardian, 2/15/20

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Iroquois Expansion by Compression Project
Questioning the Physics

Click for full view

Mary Finneran: There is a huge concern to be considered in the Iroquois Gas proposal to expand the Iroquois pipeline compressor station, and the pressue in the whole sytem.

It is a project that will increase the transmission of gas not via a new pipeline but via the increase of compression of gas at the compressor station, new turbines and buildings will be built on the site. All for the benefit of NY city’s natural gas market.

The Iroquois Athens compressor station on Schoharie Turnpike, crosses the Central Hudson Supply natural gas supply line right next to Peckham/Parco bituminous asphalt melting facility (you all know the size of the gas pipelines surrounding that facility)! All this, the compressor station, Parco, and separate CH supply pipeline is less than a quarter mile from Athens Natural Gas Power Plant (ranked very badly for emissions in NYS). And rail lines with “bomb trains” running past it all very closely. (and the gas station on 9w isn’t very far). Potentially giving “Athens ruins” a whole new meaning. Forgive my hyperbole, but this is really something.

The increase in GHG emissions will be enormous, along with other highly toxic emissions, plus the risk of explosion and impact radius will be exponentially increased, especially due to all the other infrastructure, think chain reaction, dominoes. I don’t report this to terrify you, (I hope you are full of fight —and not flight or freeze) but to inspire you to send comments of concern, and to call whomever you think should be called.

Iroquois finally filed their application to FERC online, two weeks after filing it with FERC (seems they were waiting the FERC Notice of application). Comments are due by 3/4 and any comments from anyone would be greatly appreciated. The website is here, the contact woman Kimberly Bose is actually very friendly and helpful but didn’t seem to think there’d be many comments. (hope to change that!).

Comment Resources A ‘compression Only’ Alternative To Provide Additional Capacity to NYC|Iroquois Gas
FERC Application Submitted – Docket No. CP20-48-000
FERC Issues Notice of Application
FERC Online eComment for Docket# CP20-48-000

William Huston, Pipeline Researcher:

The best tool I know of for estimating the impact radius of large natural gas transmission pipelines based on real-world data is my tool: TinyURL.com/BHBetterPIR

But we have to talk about some things.

To understand what people informally call the “blast radius” (“incineration zone” etc) we generally use the “C-FER formula” which is codified into law as the PIR formula (Potential Impact Radius)
@ 49 CFR § 192.903.

This formula takes 2 variables, the Pipeline Diameter, and the MAOP,

the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure. Techies may appreciate knowing that the MAOP is derived from Barlow’s Formula,which takes as variables

  • Thickness of the pipe diameter
  • Yield Strength of the material
  • Safety Factor

So now let’s go look at the docket and see what they are hoping to change as the result of adding all of this compression (See selected Iroquois Exc Project Documents, Docket# CP20-48-0000):

Enhancement by Compression (ExC) Project Resource Report 11: Reliability and Safety

11.3.3 Compressor Station Design, Construction and Operation Safety Standards
49 CFR Part 192 establishes design and construction standards for compressor stations. The proposed Project facilities will be designed and constructed to meet or exceed the safety standards established by the USDOT. Station and unit control computers will monitor the essential functions of the compressor stations and will trigger an appropriate sequence of remedial actions if an upset condition is detected. If the compressor stations’ computers detect an alarm condition, appropriate action within the station controls will be commenced automatically. The piping system at the stations will meet or exceed 49 CFR Part 192.

The Iroquois pipeline is already designed to safely handle the additional gas volumes that would be transported through the system by the proposed Project with no proposed increase in the maximum allowable operating pressure

Huh? What tha…?

Now you have to understand some physics of natural gas pipelines.
Even though you can’t see it, the gas has MASS which is affected by gravity and terrain.

Look at this diagram to understand the Pipeline Pressure Profile:

LEGEND:
• The gas flows FROM the Left TO the Right
• The Blue Line is the hydraulic pressure profile of the gas inside the pipe
(Click for full view)

Elevation impacts the pressure. So when the elevation goes up, it takes more work to pump the mass up hill, so the internal pressure drops. This effectively increases the relative MAOP, which fluctuations with terrain. Every time you see a sharp spike upwards, that is where there is an inline compressor.

As a general rule of thumb we can say that

  1. the LOWEST pressure in a pipeline tends to occur at compressor INLETs; and
  2. the HIGHEST pressure tends to occur at compressor OUTLETs.

SO WHAT ARE THEY DOING EXACTLY?

FACT: Iroquois Gas Transmission System, LLC. (IGTS)
IS NOT PLANNING TO (and moreover, CANNOT) INCREASE THE MAOP of a pipeline! (†)

(†) There is one exception, PHMSA’s “Alternate MAOP” program, which LOWERS THE SAFETY FACTOR in Barlow’s formula to allow higher pressures. NOT A GOOD IDEA

Remember, we already have a situation where the OUTLET of the EXISTING COMPRESSOR STATIONS is at or near the MAOP of the pipeline!!

So if you are scratching you head at all this and going “WTF?”, then you are joining me!!!

This is not something I completely understand, so if we have anyone better versed on the physics of gas flow in pipelines than I am, please speak up!

The only thing I can figure is that their SUPER FANCY CAT TAURUS 3000™
SOLAR® JET TURBINE (††) can increase flow rate (gas velocity?) without increasing pressure.

(††)YES they really call their gas turbines “Solar”!!!! solarturbines.com)

I admit this is possible. But modeling this precisely deals with really complex math, turbulent air flow, vs. laminar, etc, frictional heat losses, etc. etc.

But the bottom line is, since IGTS is not proposing a change in the MAOP, neither the C-FER PIR formula (or the “BH Improved PIR”) will change.

Now another thing my research has EXCLUSIVELY shown is that the risk for a pipeline explosion IS NOT UNIFORM along the entire length.

Click for full view

There is an area which especially prone to failure, and that is within 4 miles downstream of a compressor. (Now some pipelines are bi-directional, so this segment flips depending on the season).

The Yellow line represents the MAOP (Click for full view)

 

So nearest as I can figure, what they are doing is something like this:

So while the are not adding to the pressure, they are increasing the linear distance along the pipeline downstream of the compressor which is exposed to the highest pressures.

Adding compression may not increase the MAOP, but it will increase

  • HEAT due to the Joule-Thomson effect (heat from compression),
  • HEAT due to internal frictional forces
  • CYCLIC STRESS relating to start up and shut down, and also
  • GENERAL STRESS relating to increased turbulance e.g., and pipeline bends, valves, etc.

I hope this is helpful!—”Questioning the Physics of Iroquois Expansion by Compression Project,” Bill Huston, Mary Finneran, The Banner, 2/16/20

Bill Huston provides services for the community in Public Service Mapping, Videography, Research, Education and Safety Advocacy. For further information and contact, email WilliamAHuston@gmail.com Find his online pages here: BlogFacebookTwitter YoutubePodcast Blog. Also find his Document Collections here: VirtualPipelines and BHDCSDimockArchive. As a full-time advocate and researcher, Bill depends on public support of his work.

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Indian Point decommissioning plan is unacceptable
and should be rejected

On December 20, 2019, Holtec improperly submitted a Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report for Indian Point. This PSDAR is insufficient in all aspects, including at its very inception as it was submitted by Holtec instead of the Licensee, Entergy. As such, the NRC has made the PSDAR a supplement of the License Transfer Application, which has the silver lining of providing the public the opportunity to comment on the report as part of the license transfer process.

Further reading New York AG: Indian Point deal ‘very risky,’ petitions feds to let state intervene
Holtec’s Plan To Demolish Indian Point Generates Many Questions

As we detailed in our request for a hearing, Holtec has repeatedly lied and misled government officials and in one instance has even bribed a nuclear power plant operator to get business. Holtec’s partner SNC-Lavalin has an even worse record and has recently pled guilty to fraud and been fined $280M.…—”Indian Point decommissioning plan is unacceptable and should be rejected,” Victoria Leung, Riverkeeper, 2/13/20

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Twin Pines Withdraws Applications
for Mining Project Next to Okefenokee—For Now

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC has withdrawn its application to operate on roughly 2,400 acres of land along the border of the Okefenokee Swamp, announcing they will reduce the size of the permit area before resubmitting their application. The news is a temporary reprieve for the swamp, which contains the nation’s largest national wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi River and attracts over 600,000 visitors annually. When the plan was first announced, many locals and visitors alike voiced their disapproval, as the mine is likely to damage the swamp’s unique hydrology. The change in tactics by Twin Pines to limit the size of their mine is likely related to wanting to skirt the environmental impact statement (EIS) process, an independent review that would quantify the mine’s damage to the swamp.

Further reading: Public concern over proposed titanium strip mine near Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge | FirstCoastNews

Christian Hunt, Southeast Program Representative at Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“Twin Pines withdrew its application for one reason: the company was told their project would require an Environmental Impact Statement and therefore a thorough independent scientific review. Transparency is the last thing this company wants.

“Further analysis will only reinforce what we’ve known all along: that mining poses an unacceptable threat to the Okefenokee.

“Twin Pines will no doubt return with a second application designed to skirt scientific scrutiny and further review. We will not be fooled by this strategy. The fight for Okefenokee is far from over and we will not let our guard down.”…—”Twin Pines Withdraws Applications for Mining Project Next to Okefenokee—For Now,” Jake Bleich, Defenders of Wildlife, 2/10/20

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The Art of the Plunder

Rollbacks, An Assault Against Life On Earth

The face of Greta Thunberg speaking out so clearly and confidently and with such urgency, both gives us hope and alarms us.

We have hope because there are many, among them many young people, who are stepping up to warn us further about the climate crisis and urging us to take action. We are alarmed, because such young people have had to take it upon themselves to lead the clarion call on climate action.

Our form of action was to produce ROLLBACKS: An Assault Against Life on Earth and make it available to you.

The 30 minute film is meant to be used as a tool for discussion and a resource for knowledge and action.

The impact of climate change is undeniable and catastrophic. The recent and ongoing fires in California and now in Australia are a heartbreaking demonstration of this. The Trump administration has met this crisis by systematically and efficiently enacting an alarming number of regulatory rollbacks, reversing past policy progress and putting our very existence at risk.

Because we are in a crisis and urgent action is essential, Old Dog Documentaries is offering the film FREE OF CHARGE to view and to share.

You may download a 1080p copy (834 MB) of the video made available on this website here.
You may also purchase a DVD version of the video here.

If you’d like to help spread the message of this documentary by hosting a screening in your home or community there is more information on the Old Dog Documentaries website here. If you require a higher resolution of the video for viewing on larger screens you can get it here and click on Download where the original version (24 GB) is available. There is also an eFlyer template available in both Pages and MSword format.

In addition to this video, Scientists Warning, has produced a video called “Rollbacks, The Menace of Donald Trump” which is a commentary on Rollbacks, An Assault Against Life on Earth and includes a discussion about the urgent need for US citizens to take action by VOTING in the primaries and election in 2020. This program was one of eleven programs that Scientists Warning produced at the 2019 COP-25 in Madrid.…—”Rollbacks, An Assault Against Life on Earth,” Stuart Scott, Old Dog Documentaries|UPFSI|YouTube, 2/6/20

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Industry, government pushed to abolish Aboriginal title
at issue in Wet’suwet’en stand-off

Documents obtained by The Narwhal reveal representatives of resource industries and government sought the ‘surrender’ of Indigenous land rights in the wake of the precedent-setting Delgamuukw decision, which affirmed Aboriginal title on unceded territory

The B.C. government and corporate lobbyists representing major resource industries sought the “surrender” of First Nations land rights immediately following the Delgamuukw decision, a precedent-setting legal ruling that established Aboriginal title to unceded land, according to Freedom of Information (FOI) documents obtained by The Narwhal.

The records, from B.C.’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, provide a glimpse for the first time of a corporate lobbying effort urging government to push First Nations to surrender their newly recognized title rights through modern treaties to achieve “certainty” for commercial interests.

Further reading: Canadian court upholds Trans Mountain pipeline expansion approval

Internal emails, memos and confidential briefing notes also show that, immediately after the Delgamuukw decision came down from the Supreme Court of Canada on Dec. 11, 1997, B.C. government officials discussed tactics to fight land rights with legal challenges, to curb direct action or litigation by First Nations and to use federal money intended for the healing of residential school survivors to make treaty negotiations more attractive. …—”Industry, government pushed to abolish Aboriginal title at issue in Wet’suwet’en stand-off, docs reveal,” Martin Lukacs, Shiri Pasternak, The Narwhal, 2/7/20

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America needs to stop its natural gas pipeline mania

Stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline!

In April 2012, President Obama boasted that under his administration, “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.” He wasn’t wrong — indeed, under his watch, American production of oil and natural gas exploded, driving the United States to become today the largest producer of oil and gas in the world, surpassing even Russia and Saudi Arabia.

That is the context for yet another natural gas pipeline under development, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile-long, 42-inch-wide affair stretching from West Virginia to the Virginia coast, which began construction in late 2017 but has since stalled. This one is being pushed by a coalition of companies led by Virginia’s Dominion Energy (and its powerful CEO, Tom Farrell), and another main partner, North Carolina’s Duke Energy. Southern Company of Georgia has a much smaller stake.

But despite the gusher of Big Carbon profits, like all natural gas infrastructure proposed or under construction, the ACP is a risky project both financially and in its direct effect on the landscapes and communities through which it will run. Worse, it is doubling down on a losing hand — locking in huge investments in assets which will very likely be worthless long before they are exhausted. Far from being a relatively clean “transition fuel,” natural gas is a climate disaster that might even be worse than coal. The ACP and all other expansions of gas infrastructure should be stopped permanently.…—”America needs to stop its natural gas pipeline mania,” Ryan Cooper, The Week, 2/10/20

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The Corporation:
movie review & film summary

Land agent: “It ain’t anybody. It’s a company.”— The Grapes of Wrath

I was at a health ranch last week, where the idea is to clear your mind for serene thoughts. At dinner one night, a woman at the table referred to Arizona as a “right to work state.” Unwisely, I replied: “Yeah — the right to work cheap.” She said, “I think you’ll find the non-union workers are quite well paid.” Exercising a supreme effort of will to avoid pronouncing the syllables “Wal-Mart,” I replied: “If so, that’s because unions have helped raise salaries for everybody.” She replied: “The unions steal their members’ dues.” I replied, “How much money would you guess the unions have stolen, compared to corporations like Enron?” At this point our exchange was punctuated by a kick under the table from my wife, and we went back to positive thinking.

“The Corporation” is not a film my dinner companion would enjoy. It begins with the unsettling information that, under the law, a corporation is not a thing but a person. The U.S. Supreme Court so ruled, in a decision based, bizarrely, on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. That was the one that guaranteed former slaves equal rights. The court ruling meant corporations were given the rights of individuals in our society. They are free at last.

If Monsanto and WorldCom and Enron are indeed people, what kind of people are they? The movie asks Robert Hare, a consultant who helps the FBI profile its suspects. His diagnosis: Corporations by definition have a personality disorder and can be categorized as psychopathic. That is because they single-mindedly pursue their own wills and desires without any consideration for other people (or corporations) and without reference to conventional morality. They don’t act that way to be evil; it’s just, as the scorpion explained to the frog, that it’s in their nature.…—”The Corporation movie review & film summary,” Roger Ebert, Roger Ebert Reviews, 7/16/04

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Antarctic temperature rises above 20C
for first time on record

Scientists describe 20.75° C [69.35° F] logged at Seymour Island as ‘incredible and abnormal

The Antarctic has registered a temperature of more than 20° C (68° F) for the first time on record, prompting fears of climate instability in the world’s greatest repository of ice.

The 20.75° C (68°F( logged by Brazilian scientists at Seymour Island on 9 February was almost a full degree higher than the previous record of 19.8C, taken on Signy Island in January 1982.

It follows another recent temperature record: on 6 February an Argentinian research station at Esperanza measured 18.3C, which was the highest reading on the continental Antarctic peninsula.

These records will need to be confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, but they are consistent with a broader trend on the peninsula and nearby islands, which have warmed by almost 3C since the pre-industrial era – one of the fastest rates on the planet.…—”Antarctic temperature rises above 20C for first time on record,” Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 2/13/20

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ExxonMobil Got Congress to Trade Arms for Offshore Gas

An obscure provision in the bipartisan spending bill passed in December 2019 lifts arms restrictions to Cyprus and boosts an offshore pipeline in the Mediterranean Sea. Exxon used lobbyists in both the EU and US, and other modes of influence, to promote the legislation.

In a bitterly divided Congress, lawmakers still managed to come together to help ExxonMobil pass major legislation that could remake the geopolitics of the Middle East and Europe.

During the holiday season legislative blitz in December, legislators tucked an obscure provision into the omnibus spending package that lifted arms restrictions and boosted a controversial pipeline deal in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The omnibus includes provisions from the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act, legislation introduced in the House and Senate last year. It promises a range of U.S. assistance for the development of natural gas resources off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus, including support for constructing pipelines and liquified natural gas terminals and the creation of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center in the region run by the U.S. Department of Energy.…—”ExxonMobil Got Congress to Trade Arms for Offshore Gas,” Steve Horn, Lee Fang, The Real News|The Intercept, 2/6/20

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Rare trees are disappearing
as ‘wood pirates’ log Bolivian national parks

  • Mara (Swietenia macrophylla), also known as big-leaf mahogany, is a threatened tree species found in western South America. Growing up to 50 meters (165 feet) tall, mara trees can live for more than a century. Its wood is sought-after for the production of high-end furniture and can sell for high prices at the country’s black markets.
  • Lured by profit, gangs of armed loggers routine infiltrate Madidi and Amboro national parks and harvest mara trees from deep within their forests. They transport the timber down waterways to cities in Bolivia and across the border to Peru.
  • After mara and other trees are cut down, coca crops – from which cocaine is made – are often planted illegally in the new clearings.
  • Spread too thin and threatened with violence, park authorities say they’re powerless to stop the onslaught.

SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA, Bolivia — “The day after tomorrow, a cargo of 8,000 board feet of timber must be shipped. As there is little water, they are waiting for the rain. It’s all piled up in the San Salvador area,” says the former logger. He’s referring to a shipment of mara wood (Swietenia macrophylla), extracted by so-called wood pirates who cut down these trees in Amboro National Park in central Bolivia.—”Rare trees are disappearing as ‘wood pirates’ log Bolivian national parks,” Eduardo Franco Berton, Mongabay, 1/29/20

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The EPA Keeps Approving Dangerous Chemicals

The EPA is expected to sign off on four new chemicals in the PFAS family, even as concerns mount about their devastating health effects.

In 2009, DuPont touted the chemical produced at its plant along North Carolina’s Cape Fear River as a new, safer alternative to the dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that were behind health crises in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and scores of other communities.

But in the decade after the Environmental Protection Agency approved the chemical, called GenX, for commercial use, high levels accumulated in the river, a drinking water source for about 250,000 people. Thyroid cancer rates in the region spiked along with reports of rare pediatric cancers, leukemia and bladder cancer, according to Clean Cape Fear, an environmental advocacy group. That has stoked fears and frustration among residents who believe regulators have failed to protect them in allowing the chemical to come to market.

Still, the EPA appears poised to approve four new varieties of PFAS in 2020. While the agency has redacted most basic information about the new chemicals in its public documents, New Chemical Notices on the EPA website that were reviewed by HuffPost show these chemicals also present threats to human health.—”The Environmental Protection Agency Keeps Approving Dangerous Chemicals,” Tom Perkins, HuffPost, 2/3/20

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California Lagged in Capping Century-old Oil Wells
Leaking Under Homes of LA Residents
Plagued by Illness and Odors

On November 28, 2015, Roger Majano, plagued by a noxious smell overwhelming his Los Angeles neighborhood, heaved a jackhammer onto the walkway in front of his property at 323 Firmin Street. It was the dead of night, but Majano had run out of patience trying to get to the bottom of the sickening and persistent smell.

What he found, two days later, would eventually confirm his fears and frustrations surrounding an environmental and public health risk haunting the City of Angels. Under his property, Majano had discovered an ancient oil well, leaking potentially toxic gases.

Firmin Street sits directly atop the Los Angeles City Oil Field, where, during the first half of the twentieth century, thousands of active oil wells dotted the four-mile stretch from Downtown to Hollywood. This oil field contains masses of explosive and toxic fumes, which experts link to long-term health problems, including cancer and severe respiratory illnesses. The old wells are conduits for these dangerous fumes and may be quietly affecting tens of thousands of Los Angeles residents in this densely populated area — including in Majano’s Vista Hermosa neighborhood.…—”California Lagged in Capping Century-old Oil Wells Leaking Under Homes of LA Residents Plagued by Illness and Odors,” Marissa Pianko, DeSmog, 2/13/20

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Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater

Much of the planet relies on groundwater. And in places around the world—from the United States to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America—so much water is pumped from the ground that aquifers are being rapidly depleted and wells are going dry.

Groundwater is disappearing beneath cornfields in Kansas, rice paddies in India, asparagus farms in Peru and orange groves in Morocco. As these critical water reserves are pumped beyond their limits, the threats are mounting for people who depend on aquifers to supply agriculture, sustain economies and provide drinking water. In some areas, fields have already turned to dust and farmers are struggling.

Further reading: Global Groundwater Is Threatened by Unsustainable Practices Amid Climate Crisis

Climate change is projected to increase the stresses on water supplies, and heated disputes are erupting in places where those with deep wells can keep pumping and leave others with dry wells. Even as satellite measurements have revealed the problem’s severity on a global scale, many regions have failed to adequately address the problem. Aquifers largely remain unmanaged and unregulated, and water that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is being gradually used up.…—”Vanishing Groundwater,” Ian James, Steve Elfers, Pulitzer Center, 12/10/15

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Rise in plunder of Earth’s natural resources

New UN report warns that the threefold increase in extraction of the Earth’s primary materials will intensify climate change, increase air pollution and reduce biodiversity.

Humans’ appetite for gnawing away at the fabric of the Earth itself is growing prodigiously. According to a new UN report, the amount of the planet’s natural resources extracted for human use has tripled in 40 years.

A report produced by the International Resource Panel (PDF), part of the UN Environment Programme, says rising consumption driven by a growing middle class has seen resources extraction increase from 22 billion tonnes in 1970 to 70 billon tonnes in 2010.

Further reading How Powerful Mining Corporations Flagrantly Plunder the Global South Without Consequence
World is plundering Africa’s wealth of ‘billions of dollars a year’
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling is next chapter in long history of plundering Arctic resources

It refers to natural resources as primary materials, and includes under this heading biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores and non-metallic minerals.

The increase in their use, the report warns, will ultimately deplete the availability of natural resources − causing serious shortages of critical materials and risking conflict.…—”Rise in plunder of Earth’s natural resources,” Alex Kirby, Eco-Business, 7/25/16

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Queensland government was warned about risks
of Chinese company’s water extraction

Concerns about groundwater security at Cherrabah overridden by Campbell Newman’s government

Queensland government experts raised repeated warnings about the long-term sustainability of groundwater extraction at a southern Queensland property which has since been approved to operate as a commercial water mine.

The approval for the 96m litre a year bottled water extraction operation at Cherrabah – in a severely drought-hit area where locals are on water rations and communities at imminent risk of running dry – has raised significant questions about the oversight and regulation of critical water resources in Queensland.

Documents obtained by Guardian Australia show how longstanding concerns about groundwater security at Cherrabah were overridden by changes to Queensland law enacted by Campbell Newman’s government in 2013.

Under the changes, the Chinese-owned company Joyful View Garden Real Estate Development Resort Pty Ltd was automatically granted a 94-year extraction permit at Cherrabah when a short-term allocation expired in 2017.… —”Queensland government was warned about risks of Chinese company’s water extraction,” Ben Smee, The Guardian, 1/2/20

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This Grasshopper Mouse Hunts Scorpions,
Howls at Moon

In the middle of the Sonoran Desert, this mother grasshopper mouse tends to her pups. While tiny and adorable, don’t be mistaken. This is not your common house mouse. From the day they are born, these mice are natural killers. Insects, lizards, scorpions, and even, other mice, are all on the menu. This mouse is distinguished from most other rodents in its reliance on a meat-based diet. It regularly takes on prey as large, or larger, than itself.

Making the grasshopper mouse even more of a stand out is its immunity to scorpion venom. Not only can it withstand the typically, deadly stings, its body has adapted to convert the toxins into a pain killer. Before it enjoys another fresh kill, the mouse proclaims its territory, by howling. The mouse throws its head back and lets out a high-pitched cry, into the night sky. Giving it the nickname of werewolf mouse.—”This Grasshopper Mouse Hunts Scorpions, Howls at Moon,” National Geographic

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World’s top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage

Report for the UN into the activities of the world’s 3,000 biggest companies estimates one-third of profits would be lost if firms were forced to pay for use, loss and damage of environment

The cost of pollution and other damage to the natural environment caused by the world’s biggest companies would wipe out more than one-third of their profits if they were held financially accountable, a major unpublished study for the United Nations has found.

Further reading US Does Not Have Capitalism Now: Stiglitz
Paying for the value of nature could set scene for true green economy
Putting a price tag on nature is meaningless

The report comes amid growing concern that no one is made to pay for most of the use, loss and damage of the environment, which is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils.…—”World’s top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage, report estimates,” Juliette Jowit, The Guardian, 2/18/10

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Xavante tribe digs in as Brazil reneges on vow
not to build a road in their reserve

For more than 50 years, the Xavante indigenous group has been fighting to regain sovereignty of the Marãiwatsédé Indigenous Reserve in Mato Grosso state. The most recent obstacle is the federal government’s plan to pave BR-158, the interstate highway that cuts through the middle of the reserve.

The grief that plagues the Xavante people of northeastern Mato Grosso state in Brazil seems far from over. For more than 50 years now, the indigenous group has been fighting to regain sovereignty of the Marãiwatsédé Indigenous Reserve, which covers 1,650 square kilometers (640 square miles) in the valley where the Araguaia and Xingu river basins meet. Their biggest obstacle today is an unfinished interstate highway, the BR-158, that cuts through their land. The tension in the reserve has been growing, and the federal government has failed to find a solution for the impasse. On the contrary, the ministry of infrastructure insists on keeping the current roadway, which has already given way to a series of threats to the indigenous people.

On Nov. 19 last year, the government included the 121 km (75 mi) of dirt road of BR-158 carved into the Marãiwatsédé Indigenous Reserve on its list of priorities for future concessions.

“How [can the government] make a decision over the interstate without talking with us?” Damião Paridzané, the cacique, or historic leader, of the Xavante, said in a statement to Mongabay. “You can’t cut down a tree here without asking us. It seems as if they want to do everything without consulting with the Indians.”…—”Xavante Tribe Digs in As Brazil Reneges On Vow Not to Build a Road in Their Reserve,” Caio de Freitas Paes, Mongabay, 1/30/20

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The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
The Shock Doctrine

Rebuilding is no longer the primary purpose of the reconstruction industry.

Last summer, in the lull of the August media doze, the Bush Administration’s doctrine of preventive war took a major leap forward. On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate “post-conflict” plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries “at the same time,” each lasting “five to seven years.”

Fittingly, a government devoted to perpetual pre-emptive deconstruction now has a standing office of perpetual pre-emptive reconstruction.… —”The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” Naomi Klein, The Nation, 4/14/05

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California Communities, Big Oil Go to Court
Over Future of Climate Lawsuits

Pasadena, California – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hold two oral arguments on Wednesday, February 5, 2020, to consider whether climate damages lawsuits brought against major fossil fuel companies by eight California municipalities should be heard in state or federal court, and whether lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Oakland should proceed if they are not sent back to state court.

“These cases are vital to making sure fossil fuel companies are held accountable for causing climate change, lying to the public about it, and leaving residents and taxpayers with a bill for billions of dollars in damages,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, which has filed amicus briefs in support of plaintiffs.

Further reading Amicus Brief of National League of Cities et al City of Oakland v. BP et al
Amici Curiae Brief, Center for Climate Integrity PDF
Big Oil, Calif. Municipalities Butt Heads On Climate At 9th Circ. – Law360 (Subscribers only)

“Fossil fuel companies knew 40 years ago that their products would lead to stronger storms, rising seas, larger wildfires, and other climate disasters,” Wiles said. “Now they want to escape all accountability for the billions of dollars in damages they knowingly caused. These local officials should be applauded for standing up and insisting that the companies who created the climate crisis pay their fair share of the damages.” …—”California Communities, Big Oil Go to Court Over Future of Climate Lawsuits,” Mike Meno, Common Dreams Newswire, 1/29/20

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Plundering Cambodia’s Forests

Cambodia has witnessed some of the most rapid deforestations in the world over the past decade.

But a brave local activist is desperately trying to save some of the country’s last remaining forests.

Leng Ouch has infiltrated logging syndicates across the country and recorded reams of damning evidence using hidden cameras, drones, GPS trackers and informants.

His data indicates an environmental apocalypse carried out by powerful syndicates who seem to operate with near-total impunity on a national scale.

Leng has repeatedly tracked huge convoys of trucks packed with timber, driving straight out of protected areas and across the border into Vietnam, through a network of easily found illegal crossings.

He has presented his evidence to the government but the timber trucks continue to flow out of protected forests right before his eyes.…—”Plundering Cambodia’s Forests,” Al Jazeera, 8/1/19

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A Few Minutes to Save the World

Stuart Scott quit his day job in 2008 to serve humanity and life on Earth full time as a climate change and eco-social strategist. Here is one of his first speeches at the UN climate talks, one of the ‘intercessional’ rounds of negotiations between the annual COPs, or Conferences Of Parties. Everything he said is as urgently relevant today as it was back then. But the climate talks have continued as a disingenuous ritual of ‘kicking the can down the road’, until now we are experiencing a climate emergency of huge proportions.—”A Few Minutes to Save the World,” Stuart Scott, UPFSI|YouTube, 2/14/20

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New Jersey Will Be First State to Require
Building Permits to Consider the Climate Crisis

“We’re going to look at future climate impacts, and that it’s going to be a driver of our decision-making”

New Jersey will be the first state in the U.S. to require builders to take the climate crisis into consideration before seeking permission for a project.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the new regulations Monday as part of the final version of the state’s master energy plan, which commits New Jersey to achieving 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050, according to NJ Advance Media. But while The New York Times pointed out that other states have adopted a 2050 100 percent renewable energy goal, New Jersey will be the first to require that projects seeking Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits consider both how their projects’ emissions will contribute to global warming and how climate change will impact their building plans.

“This is a big deal,” director of the water and climate team at the Natural Resources Defense Council Rob Moore told The New York Times. “For New Jersey to step to the forefront and say, ‘We’re going to look at future climate impacts, and that it’s going to be a driver of our decision-making’ — that’s exactly what all 50 states need to be doing.”…—”New Jersey Will Be First State to Require Building Permits to Consider the Climate Crisis,” Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch, 1/26/20

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Goldman Sachs becomes first major U.S. bank
to stop funding Arctic drilling, pulls back on coal

Goldman Sachs announces the strongest fossil-fuel finance restrictions of any major U.S. bank

Climate advocacy groups had calculated roughly $700 billion in fossil-fuel financing by the world’s largest investment banks just since the signing of the Paris agreement

Goldman Sachs has announced the strongest fossil-fuel finance restrictions of any major U.S. bank, a move conditionally embraced by advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club.

Goldman GS, +1.75% , with its Sunday announcement, becomes the first of the large U.S. banks to establish explicit restrictions on financing for any part of the oil-and-gas sector. The policy change stressed protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in particular. It is also the first major U.S. bank to rule out direct finance for thermal coal mines and plants world-wide, including a phaseout of financing for significant thermal coal mining companies that do not have a diversification strategy.…—”Goldman Sachs becomes first major U.S. bank to stop funding Arctic drilling, pulls back on coal,” Rachel Koning Beals, MarketWatch, 12/16/19

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Fungi That ‘Eat’ Radiation Are Growing on the Walls
of Chernobyl’s Ruined Nuclear Reactor

​In the eerie environment inside the abandoned Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, researchers remotely piloting robots spotted pitch black fungi growing on the walls of the decimated No. 4 nuclear reactor and even apparently breaking down radioactive graphite from the core itself. What’s more, the fungi seemed to be growing towards sources of radiation, as if the microbes were attracted to them!

More than a decade later, University of Saskatchewan Professor Ekaterina Dadachova (then at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York) and her colleagues acquired some of the fungi and found that they grew faster in the presence of radiation compared to other fungi. The three species tested, Cladosporium sphaerospermum, Cryptococcus neoformans and Wangiella dermatitidis, all had large amounts of the pigment melanin, which is found – among many places – in the skin of humans. People with a darker skin tone have much more of it. Melanin is known to absorb light and dissipate ultraviolet radiation, but in the fungi, it seemed to also be absorbing radiation and converting it into chemical energy for growth, perhaps in a similar fashion to how plants utilize the green pigment chlorophyll to attain energy from photosynthesis.…—”Fungi That ‘Eat’ Radiation Are Growing on the Walls of Chernobyl’s Ruined Nuclear Reactor,” Ross Pomeroy, RealClearScience, 2/4/20

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to editor@thebanner.news.