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|Tuesday, July 22, 2014|
HOME RULE AFFIRMED, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
It’s over. New York’s highest court has ruled towns have the right to ban fracking. The seventy-nine towns with bans in place no longer have to worry about being sued. Town boards that once feared expensive lawsuits are now free to take action—and pro-fracking municipal officials who have used lawsuit concerns as an excuse for inaction now stand exposed. Some towns are already moving to adopt new bans—and you can be sure that citizens all across the state will be showing up at town meetings and demanding protective ordinances.
Map by Karen Edelstein and FracTracker. (Click Photo to Enlarge) In its decision, the Court of Appeals found that the state legislature has the right to pass a law that would invalidate local bans, but that seems unlikely in the current political climate. The big question is, what does the ruling mean for towns without bans? Well, that depends on who’s elected governor this fall. There is widespread concern that if Governor Cuomo is reelected he will use the Court of Appeals decision to open New York to fracking while claiming he’s respecting “the will of the people”—communities that want fracking can have it, and communities that don’t can ban it. Zephyr Teachout, who is challenging Cuomo in the Democratic primary, is calling for a statewide ban, as is Green party candidate Howie Hawkins. The Republican candidate, Rob Astorino, has promised to frack New York on his first day in office.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Demand a statewide ban now, before the elections, while we have maximum political leverage.
KEEPING FAITH: RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS DIVEST
Last week, the World Council of Churches, which represents 345 churches with a total of 590 million members, announced that it would no longer invest in fossil-fuel corporations and urged its member churches to follow suit. This is just the latest sign that faith communities are preparing to play a major role in combating climate change. In recent weeks, the Union Theological Seminary and Philadelphia-area Friends (Quakers) also announced they were shedding fossil-fuel investments.
© Erik McGregor [email protected]Faith leaders have also begun to speak out on environmental issues with the same moral fervor that is usually used to address human rights. In April, The Guardian published an op ed by South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu calling for an “apartheid style boycott” of the fossil fuel industry. Tutu wrote “people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.” And Pope Francis has also signaled that stewardship of the planet is likely to be one of his signal issues as head of the Roman Catholic Church. Speaking at an Italian university, he termed the ruthless exploitation of the environment “our sin,” and called sustainable development “one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
JOSH IS BACK!
Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director of Gasland and Gasland 2 is back with The Solutions Grassroots Tour, an interactive multimedia event designed to encourage communities to adopt renewable energy strategies. Catskill Citizens is proud to cosponsor the first performance workshop at 3:30 PM on Sunday, July 27th, at the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon, NY.
A second performance is set for 7:00 PM on Tuesday July 29th at the Hunt Union Ballroom at SUNY Oneonta. A national tour will get underway later his year.
For details and tickets, go to The Solutions Grassroots Tour.
PIERCING THE VEIL
Secrecy has always been at the very heart of shale gas production. The industry refuses to identify poisonous chemicals used in frack fluid, claiming the toxic brew a “trade secret.” When fracking destroys the health, property, and peace of mind of families living near gas wells, the industry routinely hushes it up by paying compensation only after victims have signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from ever talking about what happened—even when the facts that are kept hidden might help protect the community at large.
All too often, state agencies have been complicit in this conspiracy of silence. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation misled the public, claiming that nitrogen and “a diluted soapy solution” were the only chemicals in fracking, at a time when scores of toxic chemicals were being injected underground in dozens of wells around the state. Betrayals of public trust such as this routinely go unpunished, but when government employees or ordinary citizens attempt to warn the public of health risks, they face retribution. In June, North Carolina became the latest state to make it a crime to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluid.
No state has done more to prevent the public from finding out about the real risks posed by fracking than Pennsylvania. Last week, a state appellate court upheld a law that prevents doctors from warning the public about the health problems associated with shale gas extraction. In another notorious case, a judge approved a legal settlement that imposed a lifetime gag order on two children ages seven and ten years old.
Recently, NPR revealed that Pennsylvania health officials were ordered not to assist people with health complaints related to fracking. Retired community nurse Tammi Struck claims she was ordered not to return phone calls from people voicing their concerns, and her story is supported by another health department employee (also now retired) who says fracking was a “taboo” subject in his office. A spokesperson for the state Department of Health has denied the charges.
Almost twenty years into the shale gas “revolution,” and in response to a citizen’s petition, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is seeking input from the public about what the fracking industry should be required to disclose and how the information should be made available. Take action now by sending a letter to the EPA demanding full and complete disclosure of all chemicals used in the fracking process.
BUYING SILENCE UPFRONT
In a tacit admission of just how destructive shale gas extraction can be, one drilling company is offering every family living near its gas wells $50,000 if they promise not to sue—for anything. Ever. The onetime payment is supposed to cover health problems, property damage, and a degraded quality of life due to the air pollution, noise, light pollution, foul-smelling odors and constant truck traffic that characterize extraction operations. What’s truly unique about EQT Corporation’s offer to residents of Finelyville, PA, is that’s it also supposed to protect the company from lawsuits connected with drilling and pipeline operations that haven’t even gotten underway yet. Gas-lease attorney Doug Clark remarked, “You’re releasing for everything, including activity that hasn’t even occurred yet. It’s crazy.”
Read the full story at ProPublica.
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