October 30, 2018
We focus again on public outrage at the reckless career of extractive industry, its underlying pragma of corporate capitalism. And the havoc it wreaks on the whole planet.
But first the news.

Update on Fracking in Pennsylvania
and Impacts in New York

Wednesday, November 7, 2018
Potluck dinner at 6:30PM; Program at
St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church
122 Liberty St.
Bath, NY 14810

Paul Otruba and Karen Biesanz will speak about the current impacts of fracking and acid mine drainage in Tioga County, Pennsylvania on the Chemung River watershed to the Bath Peace and Justice Group on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, 122 Liberty St., Bath. The program at 7:00 pm will be preceded by a potluck dinner at 6:30 pm.

StateImpact Pennsylvania lists 661 active gas wells in Tioga County with 507 violations. Municipalities in Steuben County have sold and may still be selling water to fracking companies in Tioga County. The Town of Erwin is currently listed on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission website as an approved water source for SWEPI LP, a subsidiary of Shell Oil. How might continuing sales impact the Corning aquifer?

Paul Otruba, from Mansfield, PA, is the executive director of TRWRP Inc-Environeers, and a long-time environmental advocate. From 2003 to 2007, Otruba was member of the Upper Susquehanna Riverkeeper program. Karen Biesanz, from Corning, is concerned with Corning Aquifer water quality and quantity issues. As a member of Corning Aquifer Concerned Citizens she helped organize a presentation by hydrogeologist Todd Miller on evaluating local groundwater impacts of large water withdrawals and exports in 2016. The program is free and open to the public.

For further information, call 607-522-4356 or visit https://www.facebook.com/events/341765336580035/


Ithaca College Screening of UNFRACTURED Nov 2

Dear New York friends,

One of my happiest responsibilities as a scholar in residence at Ithaca College is to share my work with the community as part of an annual, all-campus public event.

This year, I’m bringing to campus an award-winning environmental and feminist filmmaker, Chanda Chevannes, to screen her new documentary film UNFRACTURED. Chanda and I collaborated for two years on this project, which brings to life the story of how New Yorkers banned fracking in New York State and halted gas storage at Seneca Lake.

This is our story, and this is your invitation to join me at the movies! This FREE event kicks off at 7 pm on Friday November 2 in IC’s beautiful Park Auditorium. Details here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/287395795445713/?ti=icl

At 7 pm, I’ll be introducing the film and providing some framing comments on women in science and the role of science, film, narrative, and mass media in a time of climate emergency. 

The film itself begins at 7:30.

After the credits role, I’ll introduce the filmmaker for a lively Q and A conversation. Local environmental leaders also will be on hand to tell you about ongoing fracking fights. One of these is the citizen campaign No Fracked Gas Cayuga that seeks to stop the conversion of the old Cayuga Power Plant in Lansing to burn fracked gas trucked in from Pennsylvania.

Please bring your friends and join me on November 2! And feel free forward, share, and distribute this email and this link:https://www.facebook.com/events/287395795445713/?ti=icl

Unfractured, now and forever,

An Evening with Ithaca College Distinguished
Scholar in Residence, Sandra Steingraber
feminist filmmaker, Chanda Chevannes

Friday, November 2, 2018

Roy H. Park School of Communications Auditorium

Ithaca College

The Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

Women and Gender Studies

and the Roy H. Park School of Communications 

Click to download flyer (PDF)

Screening of the new documentary film, UNFRACTURED, by the award-winning feminist filmmaker, Chanda Chevannes. Premiering in Ithaca last spring as part of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, UNFRACTURED is a hopeful documentary about speaking data to power. The story follows introspective biologist–and Ithaca College scholar in residence–Sandra Steingraber as she uses science in the service of social change and reinvents herself along the way. Sandra quickly emerges as a leader of New York’s biggest grassroots movement in decades as it fights for a statewide ban on fracking.

Park School of Communications Auditorium
Park Hall # 311
Ithaca College
953 Danby Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850
MAP: Park Auditorium

Friday, November 2, 2018
7:00 pm: “Science, Women, Civil Disobedience and Filmmaking in a Time of Climate Emergency,” short lecture and introduction to the film by Sandra Steingraber
7:30pm Film screening, “UNFRACTURED” followed by Q and A with award-winning filmmaker, Chanda Chevannes

Invite others using the event’s Facebook Page “Unfractured: Steingraber Lecture plus Film Screening


Campaign to Stop Meadowlands Power Plant Heats Up

Local elected officials join residents and activists at rally, unveil new billboard

Ridgefield, NJ – Opponents of a massive gas-fired power plant proposed for the Meadowlands are stepping up their campaign to convince Governor Phil Murphy to stop the project, citing the facility’s compounding of already poor regional air quality, and how its emissions – including a projected 3.5 million metric tons of C02 released per year – would exacerbate the climate crisis.

Over 50 residents and environmental activists rallied along with local political leaders in Ridgefield on Tuesday evening, unveiling a billboard telling Governor Murphy to put a halt to the project. The state has already issued several key permits, though the Governor has said it is “a long way from resolution.”

The proposed 1,200 MW gas-fired power plant would be built in North Bergen Township near the border of Bergen and Hudson Counties, and just one mile from an existing PSE&G power plant that is already one of the largest sources of air pollution in the state. The proposed facility would sit in an environmentally sensitive area on the banks of Bellmans’ Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack River, threatening the historic environmental recovery underway in the New Jersey Meadowlands.

The proposal is to send 100% of the electricity to New York City via submarine cables under the Hudson River. Last month, the New York Public Service Commission denied the company’s request to bypass an important needs assessment, insisting that it must prove that the power from the plant is actually needed.

“The proposal to pipe dirty fracked-gas through the Meadowlands for a power plant that isn’t needed is corporate exploitation, plain and simple,” said Matt Smith, Senior Organizer at Food & Water Watch. “If Governor Murphy really wants to protect our environment and fight climate change in New Jersey, he must start by rejecting this ill-conceived project.”

Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society added, “The Meadowlands region is in the midst of a historic recovery. This power plant would be a huge step backwards, and we cannot go back.”

The power plant has been opposed by nearby municipalities, and local elected officials are joining the calls to stop the project. “The Meadowlands Power plant proposal is a direct threat to our public health, safety and environment, not just in Ridgefield but for the whole region,” said Ridgefield Mayor Mayor Anthony Suarez. “It’s mind boggling that in the year 2018 we have to demand that we want something as fundamental as clean air” added Glen Rock Mayor Bruce Packer.

In a statement read at the Tuesday rally, Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson wrote:

“New Jersey stands at a crossroads. As a state, we have committed to making our grid 100% renewable by 2050. We have agreed to reduce our carbon emissions under RGGI. Earlier this year, we joined the United States Climate Alliance, joining other states in their commitment to abide by the Paris Agreement.

“But we have a long history of missteps when it comes to our environment. Too often, we have chosen the side of the polluter under the belief that the jobs or investments will be worth it. Such short sightedness has, time and again, exacted a high toll on our water and air quality. We have a choice to make. We can choose the quick buck today and choke on unbreathable air for decades. Or, we can say ‘No, not this time!’”

“This power plant is bad for the Meadowlands, and a bad deal for New Jersey. Senator Weinberg and Assemblyman Johnson are with you: Let’s stop this now.”—Matt Smith, “Campaign to Stop Meadowlands Power Plant Heats Up,” Food & Water Watch, 10/25/18


Action! Another destructive power plant: The DamScam

Call Cuomo today through Friday: Stop the DanScam Power Plant: 877-235-6537

Tell Governor Cuomo to stop a massive new proposed fracked gas power plant in the Town of Newburgh.

The proposed “Danskammer Energy Center” would transform an existing smaller power plant, which only operates during peak energy usage (like on hot days in the summer), into a full-time power plant running on fracked gas. This means full-time emissions and full-time climate destruction.

Fortunately, the Wall Street private equity firm behind the proposal hasn’t applied for permits yet, so this is the best time to make clear to Cuomo he must stop Danskammer.

Let’s make the Wall Street financiers pull this dirty, polluting proposal before they even get to the starting gate by getting the Governor to tell them it’s over.

Governor Cuomo has promised he wouldn’t allow any new fracked gas power plants — but it’s up to us to make sure he keeps this promise!



The lessons of Mariner East 2:
Pa. regulators braced for water woes, complaints.
But they didn’t expect all those spills.

The lessons of Mariner East 2: Pa. regulators braced for water woes, complaints. But they didn’t expect all those spills.

The Mariner East 2 pipeline project has had hundreds of spills of drilling mud since construction began last year. It has fouled drinking water, created sinkholes in backyards and left other neighbors unscathed. Sunoco Pipeline L.P. has been accused of setting the standard for “what not to do when constructing a pipeline properly.” But some pipeline experts have a different message: This is normal.

Since February 2017, a feat of audacious engineering has been unfolding across southern Pennsylvania. The Mariner East 2 pipeline, spanning 303 miles, crossing 570 wetlands and more than 1,200 streams — the largest project that state environmental regulators have ever dealt with — has put the Department of Environmental Protection in the crosshairs of what, from the sidelines, can feel like a moral judgment.

Among the 29,000 public comments that DEP reviewed were calls by citizens to reject the permits outright — because the pipeline would contribute to climate change; because they thought it unfair that a private company can claim land by eminent domain; because Energy Transfer Partners, which merged with Sunoco last year, is the same outfit that battled protesters at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and had a record of violations in Pennsylvania.

Others — union members, landowners, small businesses — wrote imploringly of jobs and innovation and energy independence. All development has risks that must be weighed against the benefits, they argued.

How regulators and Sunoco assessed that risk was a moving target throughout the permitting and construction process, which, because of delays, is not expected to be done until 2020.

When the DEP issued the necessary permits for Sunoco to begin construction in February 2017, the agency put out fact sheets for the public carefully explaining what it could and could not do:

The $5 billion project is not the first to cross the state or even the first to follow a similar route: The largely adjacent pipeline now known as Mariner East 1 was built in the 1930s to move oil in the opposite direction. Its reversal and expansion in 2014 foreshadowed some of the challenges that came into focus with Mariner East 2.

As future projects follow in this one’s choppy wake, pipeline companies and Pennsylvania regulators will inevitably be measured by the lessons they learned — or missed — this time.…—Anya Litvak, Laura Legere, “The lessons of Mariner East 2: Pa. regulators braced for water woes, complaints. But they didn’t expect all those spills.Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/23/18


Kentucky’s Anti-Fracking Movement
Deals Setback to Pipelines

Kentucky’s Anti-Fracking Movement Deals Setback to Pipelines

(From July 14, 2015)—Some recent victories against powerful energy companies have given environmental activists in Kentucky a reason to celebrate. In late May, Bluegrass Pipeline LLC was denied eminent domain by the Kentucky Court of Appeals following a legal battle against environmental lawyer and renowned activist Tom FitzGerald, whose efforts succeeded in blocking a natural gas transport line across 13 Kentucky counties.

FitzGerald, representing a group of concerned citizens called Kentuckians United to Restrict Eminent Domain, or KURED, managed to stave off a deal that would have transported gas fracked from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia through hundreds of miles of state farmland, and heading all the way down to the Gulf Coast.

Because the Bluegrass Pipeline would be of no use to Kentucky consumers themselves, the court emphatically stated that “the pipeline cannot be said to be in the public service of Kentucky,” and therefore the company could not declare eminent domain over the private property of Kentucky landowners.

The victory was only the latest for FitzGerald, who is the founder and director of the Kentucky Resources Council and has been hailed the “watchdog of the environment” in Kentucky for over 30 years. While offering free legal assistance on all kinds of resource and environmental matters, FitzGerald is now in the process of developing a leadership training program for the next generation of state watchdogs.

Beyond Bluegrass

The concerns shared by KURED and Fitzgerald about the feasibility of the Bluegrass Pipeline weren’t unfounded, and weren’t only concentrated around the legalities of private property.

Kentucky is home to great biological diversity, geological anomalies included. Beneath Kentucky’s rare mixed mesophitic forests lie vast Karst geography – a system of caves, sinkholes and drainage systems formed over time by the dissolution of sedimentary rock. In layman’s terms, most of Kentucky’s underground landscape resembles Swiss cheese.

…The court’s ruling also quashed another energy company’s attempt to unlawfully declare eminent domain against land-owning Kentuckians. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners began sending letters to citizens in Central Kentucky late last year, warning them that the company would be taking steps to enact eminent domain on private properties in order to “re-purpose” a 72-year-old natural gas pipeline into a vessel for transporting hydraulic fracking waste.

The pipeline, which experts say isn’t built to withstand the massive pressure needed to transport the waste from Pennsylvania to Louisiana, could cause immense damage to the surrounding counties were a leak to occur. Natural liquid gas and fracking waste are highly flammable – meaning even a small leak would pose a serious threat to people and the environment.…—Kelley Davidson, “Kentucky’s Anti-Fracking Movement Deals Setback to Pipelines,” Truthout,  7/14/15


Water ceremony kicks off protest
against shale gas and petrochemical industries

Water ceremony kicks off protest against shale gas and petrochemical industries

Click for video

Environmental activists and Native American leaders from across the nation marched through Downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday morning to highlight threats to area waterways and the climate posed by expanding shale gas drilling, pipelines and petrochemical facilities.

About 100 joined the “Defend Our Water — Day of Action” event, which began in Point State Park with a tribal water ceremony at the headwaters of the Ohio River. Members of the Seneca Nation, Ojibwe, and Standing Rock Sioux tribes participated in the ceremony, march and rally.

After hiking up Liberty Avenue, the group gathered along the Allegheny River next to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center where U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler had just finished telling industry leaders at the “Shale Insight 2018” conference that the Trump administration will continue deregulating their industry.

“The insight I have,” Terrie Baumgartner, an Aliquippa resident, said addressing the rally outside, “is that this shale gas madness must end.”

Ms. Baumgartner, who lives six miles from the petrochemical complex that Shell is building in Potter, Beaver County, and 2 ½ miles from where Energy Transfer’s Revolution pipeline exploded last month, said area residents could expect a proliferation of facility construction problems and health impacts if the petrochemical industry is allowed to continue its buildout.…—Don Hopey,”Water ceremony kicks off protest against shale gas and petrochemical industries,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/18


Rebelling Against Extinction 2
Who profits from climate change?

Who profits from climate change?

Now that the sea levels are rising, I’m sure someone out there is already thinking of ways of making a few quid/bucks (not that I’m interested myself, you understand). Who will profit—or indeed profiteer—from this sea change? —Chris

I SUBMIT to you, Chris, that given the various depredations of our modern era, the distinction between profiting and profiteering is, like the Louisiana coastline, rapidly eroding. In the olden days, profiteering involved an emergency, such as war, motivating an enterprising fella to rush in and make an easy buck. Now, of course, we face a prospect of constant emergency, from steadily rising sea levels to increasingly extreme storms to lethal heat waves. It’s a good time to be in the air-conditioning business, is all I’m saying.

Further reading: How Harvard’s investments exacerbate global land and water conflicts

But there’s profiting and there’s profiting, if you know what I mean. So in the spirit of Old Testament-style judgment, I thought I’d arrange various ways one might cash in on climate change from least to most evil. Those wanting to make a profit in this arena are advised to stick near the top of this list if they want to keep their souls.…—Cecil Adams, “Who profits from climate change?Savannah News, 11/22/17


Why is the U.S. government so motivated
to avoid the kids’ climate case?

Why is the U.S. government so motivated to avoid the kids’ climate case?

Although their case remains on hold while the Supreme Court reviews a last-ditch, extraordinary motion by the Trump Administration, the 21 young plaintiffs in the landmark climate suit Juliana v. United States have already taken climate litigation into previously uncharted territory.

The plaintiffs, who come from communities around the country already dealing with debilitating effects of climate change, allege that the federal government is violating their Constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by promoting a fossil fuel-based energy system that exacerbates climate change. Their suit, filed in 2015, successfully convinced a U.S. District Court judge to order the case to trial and until two weeks ago, had dodged every effort by the federal government to halt the case.

The trial had been scheduled to begin on Monday. The Supreme Court still has not ruled on the Trump administration’s request for a writ of mandamus, a rarely granted legal maneuver that overrules a lower court before a trial has even occurred.

Further reading Young People Are Suing the Trump Administration Over Climate Change. She’s Their Lawyer.
UN urged to recognize a livable climate as a human right

That request was part of a persistent government effort to stop the case’s momentum to trial. It was its sixth mandamus request and second to the Supreme Court.

Why the government appears so frantic to avoid the trial has been an overriding, and unanswered, question. But part of the reason could be that the case puts the government in an uncomfortable legal position. Much of the evidence used by the young people to prove they are being harmed by climate change comes from the government itself.…—Karen Savage, “Why is the U.S. government so motivated to avoid the kids’ climate case?Climate Liability News, 10/29/18


As the fracking protesters show,
a people’€™s rebellion is the only way to fight climate breakdown

As the fracking protesters show, a people’s rebellion is the only way to fight climate breakdown | George Monbiot

It is hard to believe today, but the prevailing ethos among the educated elite was once public service. As the historian Tony Judt documented in Ill Fares the Land, the foremost ambition among graduates in the 1950s and 60s was, through government or the liberal professions, to serve their country. Their approach might have been patrician and often blinkered, but their intentions were mostly public and civic, not private and pecuniary.

Today, the notion of public service seems as quaint as a local post office. We expect those who govern us to grab what they can, permitting predatory banks and corporations to fleece the public realm, then collect their reward in the form of lucrative directorships. As the Edelman Corporation’s Trust Barometer survey reveals, trust worldwide has collapsed in all major institutions, and government is less trusted than any other.

As for the economic elite, as the consequences of their own greed and self-interest emerge, they seek, like the Roman oligarchs fleeing the collapse of the western empire, only to secure their survival against the indignant mob. An essay by the visionary author Douglas Rushkoff this summer, documenting his discussion with some of the world’s richest people, reveals that their most pressing concern is to find a refuge from climate breakdown, and economic and societal collapse. Should they move to New Zealand or Alaska? How will they pay their security guards once money is worthless? Could they upload their minds on to supercomputers? Survival Condo, the company turning former missile silos in Kansas into fortified bunkers, has so far sold every completed unit.

Most governments, like the UK, Germany, the US and Australia, push us towards the brink on behalf of their friends

Trust, the Edelman Corporation observes, “is now the deciding factor in whether a society can function”. Unfortunately, our mistrust is fully justified. Those who have destroyed belief in governments exploit its collapse, railing against a liberal elite (by which they mean people still engaged in public service) while working for the real and illiberal elite. As the political economist William Davies points out, “sovereignty” is used as a code for rejecting the very notion of governing as “a complex, modern, fact-based set of activities that requires technical expertise and permanent officials.”

Further reading Brazil’s Political Crisis Demands Renewed Global Solidarity
Capitalism can crack climate change. But only if it takes risks
German government faces lawsuit over its failure to meet climate goals

Nowhere is the gulf between public and private interests more obvious than in governments’ response to the climate crisis. On Monday, UK energy minister Claire Perry announced that she had asked her advisers to produce a roadmap to a zero-carbon economy. On the same day, fracking commenced at Preston New Road in Lancashire, enabled by the permission Perry sneaked through parliament on the last day before the summer recess.…—George Monbiot, “As the fracking protesters show, a people’s rebellion is the only way to fight climate breakdown,” The Guardian, 10/18/18


These Voters Could Approve the First U.S. Carbon Fee.
Big Oil Is Spending Millions to Defeat It.

These Voters Could Approve the First U.S. Carbon Fee. Big Oil Is Spending Millions to Defeat It.

If the Washington state measure wins, it could begin a U.S. movement to make the price of fossil fuels reflect their cost to the planet.

Washington state voters will decide this November whether to approve the nation’s first carbon fee in what has become the most expensive ballot initiative fight in the state’s history and a referendum on the oil industry’s political clout.

If the measure passes, it will show that even as the federal government turns its back on the climate crisis, one state’s voters can make a difference.

If it is defeated, that will affirm the oil industry’s ability to marshal money for advertising and support to deflect challenges to its continued dominant role in fueling the nation’s economy.

The fee would be charged to large carbon emitters and fossil fuel sellers based on the carbon content of the fuels sold or used in the state. The costs would come back to residents, mainly at the gas pump, as companies pass those charges on to their consumers. Estimates of the annual cost to each Washington state household range from $159 to $440 in the first year of the fee.

By itself, that’s not enough to wean the nation, or even the state, off fossil fuels. But Washington’s Initiative 1631 could begin a movement in the U.S. to make the price of fossil fuels reflect their cost to the planet—a step economists believe would be the most effective market mechanism to reduce greenhouse gases.…—Marianne Lavelle, “These Voters Could Approve the First U.S. Carbon Fee. Big Oil Is Spending Millions to Defeat It,” InsideClimate News, 10/29/18


A Pipeline, a Protest, and the Battle
for Pennsylvania’s Political Soul

A Pipeline, a Protest, and the Battle for Pennsylvania’s Political Soul

Mariner East would carry explosive chemicals dangerously close to people’s homes. Can the fight against it turn a heavily conservative region blue?

Mariner East isn’t a typical suburban line, carrying gas to heat people’s homes. When completed, the pipeline will carry highly explosive natural-gas liquids—compressed ethane, butane, and propane—three hundred and fifty miles from the Marcellus shale gas fields in western Pennsylvania to a port in Philadelphia. From there, the chemicals will be transported to Scotland, formed into pellets called nurdles, and made into plastic. The project is owned by Energy Transfer Partners—the parent company of Sunoco, which also owns the Dakota Access Pipeline—and it is part of an ongoing multibillion-dollar effort to monetize the state’s natural-gas resources. The company claims that the pipeline will create nine thousand jobs, and will have an economic impact in the state of more than nine billion dollars.

…The company also has a dismal safety record: its pipelines experience a leak or accident every eleven days, on average. In Pennsylvania, there is no state agency tasked with deciding where pipelines carrying hazardous liquids can be placed. As a result, E.T.P. can lay the line wherever it wants, without constraints, including through people’s property. If there’s a leak, the company instructs residents to “leave the area by foot immediately and attempt to stay upwind,” but there’s no guidance for people to determine whether they are in a safe area. Within the blast zone, ringing a doorbell, making a phone call, opening a garage door, turning lights on, or running an engine could ignite a fatal explosion. “It makes it hard to imagine how the forty-one schools that sit within the blast zone would manage with small children,” Friel Otten told me. The company did not respond to requests for comment, but it claims that it has recently reduced its rate of accidents per thousand miles by thirty per cent, bringing it into alignment with the rest of the industry. “It is our priority to maintain and operate our assets to the highest safety standards,” Lisa Dillinger, a company spokesperson, told NPR last month. “Not just because it makes good business sense but because it is the right thing to do.”…—Eliza Griswold, “A Pipeline, a Protest, and the Battle for Pennsylvania’s Political Soul,” The New Yorker, 10/26/18


20 U.S. states, major cities  urge Trump:
drop fuel efficiency freeze

20 U.S. states, major cities urge Trump to drop fuel efficiency freeze

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 20 U.S. states and several major cities on Friday urged the Trump administration to abandon a proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards after 2020 and strip California of the ability to impose its own vehicle emissions rules.

The states, including California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, called the Trump administration proposal “unlawful” and “reckless” in a 143-page document reviewed by Reuters ahead of its filing later Friday. The states have vowed to sue if regulators move forward with the proposal.

Further reading Freezing fuel economy standards will slow innovation and make U.S. auto companies less competitive
Automakers and utilities want EVs. But who leads?

Also joining the effort are the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco which argue the proposal “would deal a substantial blow in the fight against climate change.” Separately, a group representing major automakers on Friday including General Motors Co (GM.N), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) said it urged “the federal government to set achievable future standards that continue to advance environmental and energy goals while recognizing marketplace realities.”…—David Shepardson, “20 U.S. states, major cities urge Trump to drop fuel efficiency freeze,” Reuters, 10/26/18


French communities demand climate action
from oil giant Total

French communities demand climate action from oil giant Total

More than a dozen communities and environmental organizations in France are challenging the French multinational oil and gas company Total for its failure to adequately respond to the climate crisis, and are threatening legal action if the company does not address how its business is contributing to global climate change.

In a letter addressed to Total’s chief executive on Monday, representatives of 13 cities and four organizations said the company is not meeting its legal obligations under a recent French law that requires the biggest French companies to assess and prevent impacts from their operations on human rights and the environment.

The French Duty of Vigilance Law, adopted in March 2017, requires large multinational companies that operate in France to establish a plan that identifies and prevents human rights violations and environmental damage or health risks. Total submitted a vigilance plan that is included in its 2017 Registration Document.

…Total is responsible for more than two-thirds of France’s greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the 20 biggest contributors to worldwide emissions, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project and Carbon Majors database.…—Dana Drugmandm “French communities demand climate action from oil giant Total,” Climate Liability News, 10/25/18


It’s Official: Injection of Fracking Wastewater
Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake

The largest earthquake ever recorded in Kansas—a 4.9 magnitude temblor that struck northeast of Milan on Nov. 12, 2014—has been officially linked to wastewater injection into deep underground wells, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The epicenter of that extremely rare earthquake struck near a known fracking operation.

The Wichita Eagle noted from the study that this man-made quake, which hit 40 miles southwest of Wichita and felt as far away as Memphis, likely came from just one or two nearby wells. The publication ominously noted that, “one of those two wells, operated by SandRidge Energy, is still injecting water at the same level as when the earthquake occurred two years ago.”

The USGS scientists believe that the 4.9-magnitude earthquake was triggered by wastewater injection for the following reasons:

  • There had not previously been similar earthquakes in the area.
  • There were waste-water injection wells nearby.
  • The earthquake activity started after the amount of water injected in the wells increased.
  • There’s a piece of earth that could be activated by changes in pressure.

Kansas has had a long history with fracking. In fact, the first well ever fracked in the United States happened in 1947 in the Sunflower state. The process is now used for nearly all of the 5,000 conventional wells drilled in Kansas every year.

Further reading: Fracking at Lancashire site paused after seismic event detected

But just like Oklahoma, Kansas is seeing an alarming uptick of “induced” earthquakes connected to the underground disposal of wastewater from the fracking process. Kansas is a region previously devoid of significant seismic activity, however, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from only four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, The Washington Post reported.…—Lorraine Chow, “It’s Official: Injection of Fracking Wastewater Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake,” EcoWatch, 10/6/18


Driven by Trump Policy Changes,
Fracking Booms on Public Lands

Driven by Trump Policy Changes, Fracking Booms on Public Lands

CONVERSE COUNTY, Wyo. — The parade of trailer trucks rolling through Jay Butler’s dusty ranch is a precursor to a new fracking boom on the vast federal lands of Wyoming and across the West.

Reversing a trend in the final years of the Obama presidency, the Trump administration is auctioning off millions of acres of drilling rights to oil and gas developers, a central component of the White House’s plan to work hand in glove with the industry to promote more domestic energy production.

Seeing growth and profit opportunities at a time of rising oil prices and a pro-business administration, big energy companies like Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, and Anschutz Exploration are seizing on the federal lands free-for-all, as they collectively buy up tens of thousands of acres of new leases and apply for thousands of permits to drill.

In total, more than 12.8 million acres of federally controlled oil and gas parcels were offered for lease in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, triple the average offered during President Barack Obama’s second term, according to an analysis by The New York Times of Interior Department data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that advocates budget discipline.…

Not just environmental groups are concerned. In Utah, the National Park Service, itself a division of the Interior Department, tried to stop the sale of a collection of leases next to the Hovenweep National Monument, known for its mesas, ravines and recovered ruins of prehistoric villages. Its pleas were ignored, and the department sold those parcels for as little as $3 an acre in March.

Even Gov. Matthew Mead of Wyoming, a Republican who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from energy companies, admonished interior officials this year for excluding Western states in changes the agency was making to sage grouse protection efforts.

“We ask that you involve the Western governors in these initiatives at the earliest point possible,” Governor Mead wrote in January in a letter that Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado also signed.…—Eric Lipton, Hiroko Tabuchi, “Driven by Trump Policy Changes, Fracking Booms on Public Lands,” The New York Times, 10/27/18


New York sues ExxonMobil,
saying it ‘misled’ investors about climate change risks

New York sues ExxonMobil, saying it ‘misled’ investors about climate change risks

New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood sued ExxonMobil on Wednesday, accusing the oil giant of defrauding investors about the financial risks of climate change and lying about how it was calculating potential carbon costs.

Unlike other lawsuits against big oil companies alleging the concealment of scientific studies confirming climate change, the New York lawsuit accuses ExxonMobil of assuring its investors that it was using a theoretical price for carbon in evaluating projects when in fact it often used a different price or none at all.

Further reading Listen to the eerie song of Antarctica — melting
In North Carolina, hurricanes did what scientists could not: Convince Republicans that climate change is real

The lawsuit said that “this fraud reached the highest levels of the company,” including former Exxon chief executive and former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who the lawsuit said knew for years that the company “was deviating” from public statements and was using two sets of calculations about future regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The attorney general is effectively charging them with keeping two sets of books — one for internal purposes, one for external,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, which conducts research on energy and the environment. “The result is a distortion of the value of the company.”…—Steven Mufson, “New York sues ExxonMobil, saying it ‘misled’ investors about climate change risks,” The Washington Post, 10/24/18


How power profits from disaster

Naomi Klein: how power profits from disaster

There have been times in my reporting from disaster zones when I have had the unsettling feeling that I was seeing not just a crisis in the here and now, but getting a glimpse of the future – a preview of where the road we are all on is headed, unless we somehow grab the wheel and swerve. When I listen to Donald Trump speak, with his obvious relish in creating an atmosphere of chaos and destabilisation, I often think: I’ve seen this before, in those strange moments when portals seemed to open up into our collective future.

One of those moments arrived in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as I watched hordes of private military contractors descend on the flooded city to find ways to profit from the disaster, even as thousands of the city’s residents, abandoned by their government, were treated like dangerous criminals just for trying to survive.

I started to notice the same tactics in disaster zones around the world. I used the term “shock doctrine” to describe the brutal tactic of using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock – wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters – to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called “shock therapy”. Though Trump breaks the mould in some ways, his shock tactics do follow a script, and one that is familiar from other countries that have had rapid changes imposed under the cover of crisis.

This strategy has been a silent partner to the imposition of neoliberalism for more than 40 years.…—Naomi Klein, “how power profits from disaster,” The Guardian, 7/6/17`


Document shows Shell aimed to profit from melting Arctic

Document shows Shell aimed to profit from melting Arctic

A newly revealed research document is adding to the growing body of evidence showing that while Royal Dutch Shell was internally acknowledging the global risks of climate change—and fossil fuels’ pivotal role in it—the company was also exploring ways to profit from a melting Arctic.

The document, a 1987 research proposal and contract posted earlier this month on Climate Files, exposes Shell’s keen interest in predicting “long-range forecasts of weather and ice” in the Arctic.

Taken together with earlier research funded by the company and a patent for an offshore Arctic drilling structure, the document brings into focus the oil giant’s quest to use what it knew about fossil fuel-driven climate change to inflate its bottom line.

“These documents demonstrate that at a time where we have clear and compelling evidence that Shell and other companies were well aware of the rising risks and the rising potential impacts of climate change, they continued to have a vested interest in opening new frontiers for oil exploration,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, which posted the patent in its Smoke and Fumes collection.…—Karen Savage, “Document shows Shell aimed to profit from melting Arctic,” Climate Liability News, 10/24/18


VOTE! As if your rights depended in it!
The midterms have the power to usher in an era of climate action

The midterms have the power to usher in an era of climate action

Here’s the most important thing to know about climate politics in this critical election year: How fast we act decides the future we get.

Of course, climate politics seems to be about many things, things that this administration has been hell-bent on sabotaging: strong emissions rules, carbon pricing, fuel economy standards, international treaties, cuts to fossil fuel subsidies, and respect for science and scientists in federal decision making. Yet at its heart, climate politics is simple. It’s all about speed.

I don’t mean that the climate fight is urgent, though of course it is. I mean that the climate fight is itself a fight about tempo, about how fast high-carbon industries will fall apart. The question is not whether we’ll see bold climate action but when, and how much more it will cost us in blood and treasure if we wait.

Action on climate is inevitable, and momentum is already far stronger than most of us understand.

That suggestion seems absurd to many Ameri­cans. Fossil fuels are everywhere in this country, and what is ubiquitous always feels permanent.

It’s not. Powerful forces strain against this status quo, and torque is building for a snap forward in climate action. November’s election, it turns out, could be the breaking point. To understand why, we must consider the shifting global politics of the climate crisis, the unprecedented acceleration of the clean economy, and the carbon bubble we live in.…—Alex Steffen, “The Midterms Have the Power to Usher in an Era of Climate Action,” Mother Jones, November/December 2018


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.