Posts Tagged ‘fracking’

Heidi Harmon

 

Yesterday, hundreds—perhaps thousands, but surely a dismally small number—of U.S. citizens went out to the polls to participate in this American experiment we call representative democracy. Today we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that another season of mudslinging is behind us. But more importantly, I’d like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to one of the few real winners in this election cycle.

Her name is Heidi Harmon, and she ran what was probably the cleanest, most honest and respectable campaign I’ve ever seen. For the first time in my life I had the privilege of casting a vote for a someone I genuinely believed in, someone I honestly believed to be a real person with a heart and soul, an artist, a mother, and a citizen of the planet, willing put the collective interests of her planet ahead of the political and economic interests that have always set the rules and defined the playing field.

At the end of the day, Heidi’s opponent, the incumbent Katcho “I-sell-gasoline-for-a-living-so-don’t-ever-expect-me-to-take-a-stand-against-big-oil” Achadjian (R) had more votes, and will thereby keep his Assembly seat for the 35th district. But anyone who’s ever spoken with Heidi, or attended any of her rallies, or met any of her team of grassroots supporters, or read any of their numerous letters to the editors that have been published in the local papers over the recent months, must know that regardless of vote tallies, Heidi Harmon will always represent the winning side.

Taking the gas station entrepreneur head on, Heidi ran as a self-identified “climate change candidate” and set herself apart from nearly every politician from either major party. In neighboring Santa Barbara County, Big Oil demonstrated its might by soundly defeating Measure P, which would have banned fracking and certain other form of oil exploration, outspending the ban supporters to the tune of $7.6 million to $284,000. On a brighter note, Northern California voters passed Measure S in Mendocino County, effectively banning fracking in that county and giving the citizens—not corporations—the final say in their local water use policies.

Let’s just hope Mendocino, and not Santa Barbara, will serve as the bellwether for future fracking controversies around California and the nation. And let’s also hope for a future in which we are less often forced to settle for the lesser of evils, and more often given choices we can be proud of.

 

San Luis Obispites, your neighbors to the south need your help! Oil and gas interests are planning to exploit the Monterey Shale deposits in Santa Barbara county. Dubbed the “Santa Maria Energy Project”, the scheme would create 136 drilling wells. If passed, the industry estimates that they will be able to extract 15.4 million barrels of oil, as much as would be pumped through the Keystone XL Pipeline over a 40 year period. In addition to wreaking havoc on the climate by pumping 88,000 tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere each year, the extraction processes would waste and pollute already stressed water supplies. The Santa Maria Energy Project would inject 300,000 gallons of water into the earth each day, taking resources away from farmers and infrastructure.

Take the time to sign a petition through 350.org to be presented to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and County Supervisors this month!

Across the US, hydraulic fracturing has been the source of a raging debate over domestic energy policy. While some tout “fracking” as a way to generate local power and provide jobs and money in a time of economic hardship, the act of  shattering shale to extract gas and petroleum have many worried. From exploding wells and flammable tap water to toxic chemicals contaminating aquifers and earthquakes, fracking has major consequences for the environment. California stands as the 4th largest gas and oil producing state, and even though new existing wells are already being exploited by fracking technology, the process is almost completely unregulated.

In response to the exploitation of land and natural resources, the Global Exchange has organized California Communities Rising Against Fracking, a speaking tour of the Golden State that exposes the realities of the extraction technology. The tour will largely target those areas that would most strongly impacted and stops include Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Culver City, and Los Angeles. Each stop will host a day of action preceded by a local media plan and outreach groups. Former Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania councilman Dough Shields will be scheduled to speak as one of the first to enact a “rights-based” ban on fracking in the nation.

The Global Exchange launched the Community Rights Program challenging corporate power five years ago to confront the unjust laws that value big business over the rights of citizens. The have partnered with organizations such as 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action, EarthWorks, and Transition Towns to fight for the health and well-being of Americans through grassroots efforts. Currently, they are working towards banning fracking in San Luis Obispo county, following the examples of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Mexico who have outlawed the process.

For more information on the tour, contact Shannon Biggs, Community Rights Program Director for the Global Exchange at (415) 575-5540 and shannon@globalexhange.org.

San Luis Obispo is a county of people who truly care about their surroundings.  Blessed with some of the most stunning scenery on the continent, we as residents of the Central Coast take great pride in our land.  Knowing that all beautiful and valuable things are open to exploitation by forces larger than any individual, concerned citizens, like those involved with SLO Transition Towns, gather together to identify and address the threats facing our natural heritage.

With the topics of peak oil, climate change, and economic instability at the forefront of their agenda, SLO Transition Towns  will present an evening of information, discussion, and a call for action this Wednesday, May 16 at the Ludwick Center (864 Santa Rosa St.) beginning at 6:59pm.  The event will address issues of corporate personhood, fracking, water rights, and overall environmental protection.

Keynote speaker Shannon Biggs will discuss her current work which focuses on helping communities confronted by corporate power to assert their rights and enact binding law that places the well-being of people and landscapes above profit.  Her methods of organizing stem from an understanding of the origins of corporate power as developed by the Community Environmental Defense Fund (CELDF).   Biggs is the director of the Community Rights program at Global Exchange and is the copauthor of Building the Green Economy; Success Stories from the Grass Roots and The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.  Joining her will be Kylie Nealis, the Community Rights Program Associate from Global Exchange.

For more information, contact June Cochran at (805) 773-2847.

 

Generally speaking, I am not subject to fits of anger.  I tend to keep a level head in most situations, practicing meditative compassion during rush hour traffic and while standing in long grocery store lines.  Walking along gently flowing creeks and a hike in the woods is my idea of a wild time out, and I’ll raise my voice only to get someone’s attention in a crowd or accentuate the punchline of a terrible pun.

However, while watching Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland, I nearly had to pause the film on several occasions in order to march out into the street in a frothing rage to go and hit someone in the face.  Why the almost Hulk-like transformation from pacifist to puncher?  Hydraulic fracturing.

On the surface, harvesting natural gas from deep underground seems like a a good idea.  The United States contains a great deal of fuel-producing shale formations that trap potential sources of energy.  Proponents of natural gas extraction argue that we could wean ourselves off foreign oil by taking advantages of this home-grown alternative fossil fuel.  New York alone has enough natural gas to rival two Saudi Arabias, and extraction sites occur across the most of the south, midwest and parts of the west.

The infrastructure needed to drill, remove and process the gas has the potential to create new jobs and revitalize the communities whose land is leased to drill the fracturing wells.  Industry advocates assure the pubic that the harvesting process is safe, unobtrusive, and an overall benefit to the landowners participating in extraction. As Fox discovers after being sent a request to drill on his creekside Pennyslvania property, “fracking” holds some very hazardous secrets that affect the well-being and health of human lives, watershed ecosystems, and political transparency.

During Fox’s investigation of fracking, there are almost too many violations of decent human conduct to name.  Despite claims of fracking’s minimal impact on the environment, the process of drilling requires over 500 chemicals and millions of gallons of water to break shale deposits, keep the drill well open, and extract the gas.  Many of the compounds are known neurotoxins and carcinogens, and along with the gas they help remove, highly flammable.  Most of these chemicals are not biodegradable and sit in slurry pits, affecting the health of nearby residents, livestock and habitats.

Reports of cancer, brain lesions, fatigue, hair loss, infertility, and a veritable medial text book of other maladies skyrocket next to fracking wells.  Once clean wells become unit for consumption and water must be replaced with expensive alternative sources trucked in from miles away.  Promises to compensate landowners are either met with legal teams and empty guarantees or outright denials of the well’s detrimental effects.  Animals lose their hair or die outright, human beings suffer from permanent and irreversible illnesses, and the value of once productive agricultural land plummets.

As if corporate greed were not enough to stoke the flames of fury, the backdoor deals and creation of big business loopholes will set you ablaze.  Sidestepping the Clean Water Act,  legislation in 2005 known as the “Halliburton Loophole”  allowed the Bush-Cheney White House to let fracking industry forgo environmental impact reports and keep the identity and composition of their “proprietary” chemicals from public review.  The Act was also instrumental in the largest transfer of public BLM land to private interests in the country’s history.

Pieces of national heritage were opened to exploitation and almost irreversible damage without the majority of Americans being aware of the laws affecting their health and the appropriation of their tax dollars.  It may have been at this point in the film that I nearly had an aneurism.  (On second thought , it might have actually happened while watching people lighting their drinking water on fire.  WATER. ON FIRE.)

Now, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s consideration of lifting the fracking ban in New York state, it is time for the nation as a whole to take a closer look at the hydraulic fracturing industry.  How do we as a society want to power our infrastructure?  Where do we draw the line between consumption and safety, and what are we willing to sacrifice or change to be able to live in a healthy industrialized nation?

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