Posted in banking, clean renewable energy, divest, no fossil fuels, pipelines, solar, transition

Marcellus Shale – A Blessing or a Curse?

Our state has been blessed, some say. Possibly cursed, say some others. I’m talking about the abundant gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale. Cursed because of issues during Extraction, Transportation & Consumption.

Extraction is also known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. When chemicals are forced into the ground, they contaminate the water table, affecting the well water of rural townships. As the gas is forced out & captured, there are leaks. Leaks that affect the local air quality and detrimental to the health & property values. The same methane leaks are an important contributor to climate change, worse even than carbon dioxide. 

Transportation of fracked gas is typically by pipelines. Pipelines that are known to leak or explode, with cleanup expenses left to the taxpayers. Rights for these pipelines, going thru wetlands, woodlands and private property, are gained via eminent domain in the name of public utility.  but are really for private gain by fossil fuel companies. Permit applications are shoddy, and fragmented construction begins in communities with the least resistance. Communities are not compensated for the devastation, nor the liability.

There are several pipeline developments, all headed to or through the greater Philadelphia area – the Mariner East 2 pipeline slated to carry fracked gas liquids from west to east, ending up in nearby Delaware County, and destined for export, to be made into plastic bags in Europe. How does this qualify the pipeline builders to claim in the courts that they’re a public utility? 

Then there’s the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline destined to travel north to south, going through farmland in Lancaster County. And the PennEast pipeline thru Bucks County into New Jersey. And smaller segments across the Delaware River (which supplies the drinking water for 15M people), and into the Pinelands in South Jersey.

gas burning from a kitchen gas stove

Which leads us to …Consumption. The pipeline going thru the Pinelands is headed to a gas power plant, where the fracked gas will be burned to generate electricity. Much like the SEPTA gas plant locally in Nicetown that 350 Philly and others are fighting. Advertised as clean burning at point of ignition, the industry ignores the devastation left in its wake. 

Once you realize that natural gas is the same as methane, and that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide (86 times), you’ll agree, it’s no longer clean burning.

Who’s doing this extraction, transportation & building up the large scale demand for fracked gas? The same companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline:  

Sunoco Logistics, Williams Company, Energy Transfer Partners

Who’s funding these companies?

Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens Bank, HBSC Bank, TD Bank

And many of us thru our personal accounts, our investments and our retirement plans.

It’s time to #divest and #reinvest all of our funds into clean energy from #solar and #wind, and leave the Marcellus Shale reserves resting safely underground.


Initially presented at Indivisible NW Philly meeting on March 12 2017.

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Posted in no fossil fuels, pipelines

a perspective on Standing Rock

Transcript of the incredibly honest and moving segment by Lawrence O’Donnell that aired Aug 25, 2016 – Rewrite: the Protests at Standing Rock. In just over 4 minutes, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history America always tries to forget.


“Dakota means friend. Friendly. The people who gave that name to the Dakotas have sadly never been treated as friends.

The people whose language was used to name the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts and other states.

The Native American tribes, the people who were here before us, long before us, have never been treated as friends. They have been treated as enemies, and dealt with more harshly than any other enemy in any of this county’s wars.

After all of our major wars we signed peace treaties. And lived by those treaties. After World War II, when we made peace with Germany, we then did everything we possibly could to rebuild Germany. No Native American tribe has ever been treated as well as we treated Germans after World War II.

Donald Trump and his supporters now fear the country invaded by foreigners who want to change our way of life. A fear that Native Americans have lived with every day for over 500 years.

The original sin of this country is that we invaders shot & murdered our way across the land killing every Native American we could and making treaties with the rest.

This country was founded on genocide, before the word genocide was invented. Before there was a war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

When we finally stopped actively killing Native Americans for  the crime of living here before us, we then proceeded to violate every treaty we made with the tribes. Every single treaty. We piled crime on top of crime on top of crime against the people whose offense against us was simply that they lived where we wanted to live.

We don’t feel the guilt of those crimes because we pretend they happened a very long time ago, in ancient history and we actively suppress the memories of those crimes but there are people alive today whose grandparents were in the business of killing Native Americans. That’s how recent these crimes are.

Every once in a while, there is a painful & morally embarrassing reminder as there is this week in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation where hundreds of people have gathered & camped out in opposition to an interstate pipeline being built from North Dakota to Illinois.

The protest is being led by this county’s original environmentalists. For 100’s of years, they were our only environmentalists. The only people who thought that land & rivers should be preserved in their natural state, the only people who thought a mountain or a prairie or river could be a sacred place.

Yesterday a federal judge heard arguments from the tribes, against the federal government’s approval of the pipeline and said he will deliver his decision on whether the pipeline can proceed next month.

There are now over 90 tribes gathered in protest of that pipeline. That protest will surely continue even if the judge allows construction to proceed.

And so we face the prospect next month, of the descendants of the first people to ever set foot on that land, being arrested by the descendants of the invaders who seized that land. Arrested for trespassing.

That we still have Native Americans left in this country to be arrested for trespassing on their own land is testament not to the mercy of the genocidal invaders who seized and occupied their land, but to the stunning strength, and the 500 years of endurance and the undying dignity of the people who were here long before us. The people who have always known what is truly sacred in this world.”


What can you do?

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, pipelines

Break Free actions in Philly

The week of actions around Break Free from fossil fuels began in Philly with the Right to Breathe mobilization on Saturday May 7th. If you missed it, you must see it storyboarded here, just to see the giant sunflowers and the hundreds of people who participated. A Huffington Post piece explains the action quite well. Our Right to Breathe action was also reported on by Democracy Now.

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Two days later, the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force claimed eminent domain by forming a human pipeline at an industry conference. See the press release from this action, a video documenting this, and media coverage by Penn Live. Online, this action was seen by almost 10,000 people.

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To give you a bit of history… Having seen gas pipeline projects tear apart the Pennsylvania countryside, digging thru private property, oftentimes farmland and preserved green spaces, blatantly ignoring the protests of rural citizens, and all behind the shield of eminent domain, the People formed the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force, and had disrupted the Governor’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meeting in January, documented on this video. As you’ll see from the video, some People were arrested when they tried to state our perspective, and still need help paying for the ensuing fines & legal fees.

The People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force tactic of creating a human pipeline was used later in the week at another Break Free action in Washington DC.

Later, several members of the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force joined up with friends at Earth Quaker Action Team for their action outside the PECO headquarters, which was reported on by the Metro and Newsworks.

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A report by the Guardian deems the Break Free protests against fossil fuel expansion were the largest ever global disobedience. I think we’re all heartened to be in the company of people on the side of truth.

Coming up next, a Town Hall Meeting on Oil Refinery Expansion. It’s on Thursday, May 19th at 7pm at Kingkessing Park4901 Kingsessing Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143. For details and to join the online discussion, see this

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, pipelines, Uncategorized

Human Pipeline brings message to Gas Profiteers

I had a bit part in a direct action today. See news release and photo.


NEWS RELEASE
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Contact: EDGE Angela Vogel 206-579-9309 or Elizabeth Arnold 267-745-7041

HUMAN PIPELINE BRINGS MESSAGE TO GAS PROFITEERS:
WE DON’T WANT A FOSSIL FUEL FUTURE – RENEWABLE ENERGY NOW!

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Philadelphia – A group of Pennsylvania residents claimed eminent domain today for a right-of-way through the lobby of a Penn’s Landing hotel during two energy industry conferences. Using their own bodies and lengths of industrial tubing, they built their own pipeline to carry their message to industry and government officials who want to double down on investment in fossil fuels and fracking instead of shifting to  renewable energy sources.

The Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing is hosting two conferences this week: The Natural Gas for Power Generation (NGPG) Summit on the conversion of coal-fired electrical generation plants to gas, and the Association of Energy Services Professionals spring conference.

“Converting coal-fired plants to gas often really means building a new gas-fired plant. It’s another investment that justifies more fracking, more pipelines to Philadelphia and more pollution,” said Meenal Raval, a Mt. Airy business owner. “Using fracked gas for power causes a path of destruction from wells, pipelines, and compressor stations through thousands of communities.”

The chairman of the NGPG Summit is Michael Krancer, who served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and then returned to his partnership at Blank Rome, where he heads the law firm’s Energy, Petrochemical & Natural Resources Practice. Krancer is also a member of the Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team, a trade group that recently announced plans to seek public funding for a massive natural gas pipeline to Philadelphia.

“This is the revolving door in action,” said Angela Vogel of EDGE (Ending Dirty Gas Exploitation). “The same people go back and forth between government and industry, working together to keep profiting by poisoning us.”

On Monday an NGPG session called How to Overcome Environmentalist & Community Opposition and Accelerate the Approval Process included the topic “How to influence regulators and dominate the regulatory review and permitting process.” Tuesday morning featured pipeline proponent Philip Rinaldi, CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solu tions, whose refinery has suffered multiple fires in the past two years and produces two-thirds of the toxic air emissions from industrial sources in Philadelphia.

Built along two tidal rivers, Philadelphia is the city second-most at risk to power outages from climate-change-fueled storms. Members of the public who brought their message to the conferences say that reliance on fossil fuels undermines global efforts to slow climate change and locks the city and the state into decades of fossil fuel use while the rest of the world shifts to energy efficiency and renewables.

“Monday’s presenter on community opposition said, ‘Listen, listen, listen’ to what communities tell you. We are telling these industries that Philadelphia wants clean energy, not the fossil fuels that are making Philadelphia the asthma capital of the Northeast, poisoning our drinking water, scarring our state with pipelines, and destroying our planet,” said Elizabeth Arnold of EDGE (Encouraging Development of a Green Economy).

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Posted in pipelines

Pipelines for the gas rush awaiting Pennsylvania

The Villanova Law School recently organized a lecture titled PA Pipelines: Assessing the Infrastructure Task Force Report.

I learned that last May, Governor Wolf appointed a task force to assess our state’s pipelines.  This Pennsylvania Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) met between July & January, and recently published a state of our state’s gas pipelines, found here.

depJohn Quigley, who heads Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, and also chair of the PITF, was the featured speaker. He began by asking How to get their [gas industry’s] product to market?”  He raved about the exemplary transparency of the PITF despite video footage of PITF meetings telling a different story. Mr Quigley himself acknowledged that there are “persistent & vocal comments about climate and build out of fossil fuels”. Though talking about public safety being  paramount, and the need to protect water sources & streams so they’re not degraded by development, he spoke of streamlining the pipeline permitting process. The term forked tongue came to mind.

When asked about his vision 5 years out, Mr Quigley had dreams of electronic permitting, with pipelines along turnpike corridors despite a lot of angst in communities across the state. He described the current mood akin to the wild west.  The permitting bares this out as a sampling of 2600 applications submitted by the fracking industry showed that most were incorrectly filled out.

At the panel on Environmental & Safety Issues were Keith Coyle, Michael Gross & Michael Helbing, all attorneys who were on the PITF.

Keith Coyle used to work for the Federal agency PHMSA (Pipeline & Hazardous Material PHMSA4Safety Admin). He mentioned that oil & gas exploration are driving environmental agenda for PA; that we’re unaware what the industry has in store for us.

Mr Coyle explained that PHMSA defines minimum federal safety for FERC (Federal fercEnergy Regulatory Commission) defined infrastructure, including LNG; that the State could adopt more stringent standards. In Pennsylvania, it would be through the PUC (Public Utility Commission). But later, Mr aJs5dUy9Coyle mentioned that the PUC can’t be more stringent than PHMSA. This confusion between federal, state & local regulations was repeated by other speakers. 

 

We learned that that not all pipelines are the same. That there are

  • Gathering lines, which transport gas short distances from well head to processing site
  • transmission lines, which handle long-distance transport possibly interstate, and
  • distribution lines, which transport the gas from from pipeline to end use

Michael Gross spoke of the 20 to 30,000 miles of pipelines headed to energy hub in Philadelphia. He’s a member of the environmental protection working group, representing pipeline interests.

Michael Helbing of PennFuture was possibly the only one who referenced climate change and fossil fuel buildout; the need to focus, to avoid risk, to look at overall scope of damage of project, the cumulative impact, especially the wetland encroachment permit, that we need to simply enforce law. I sense he would agree that various stages of extraction are kept separate so overall damage isn’t visible.

The next panel, on Local Government Issues, had attorneys Mark Freed & Michelle O’Brien.

Mark Freed suggested the need for municipalities sit with DEP while industry in application process. He mentioned the need for pipeline mapping, but like others before him, reminded us that this was proprietary & threat to national security. In reference to gathering lines, lines from well head to long distance transmission pipelines, he said “we just don’t know where they are”.

Mr Freed referenced Act 13, and that the state cannot take away local government rights, that the local government has authority. He explained that if FERC regulates, eminent domain applies. If PUC regulates, PUC’s eminent domain applies.  He also highlighted that the Mariner pipeline is not FERC regulated, but instead, regulated by the PUC.

Michelle O’Brien represents land owners in Scranton, was on the local government working group, with clients who are dairy famers, hunters, family farms. Ms O’Brien supports responsible gas development, thinks closing the industry is not the smartest, that fracking opponents & environmentalists are the loudest, that her clients feel they have NO leverage, especially when it comes to pipelines and issue of eminent domain. She stated that her clients are very very upset, seeing the gas industry making millions, many would prefer NO pipeline.

For regulating the gas industry, she reminds us that we’re not alone, nor the first. That we should go to to Oklahoma, Texas, or Louisiana – places with pipelines, even New York where they’re banned fracking, and ask the community how they dealt with some of the regulations. 

One of the discussions led to water quality and a statement that there are many instances of  digging into pipelines; of leaking pipelines; that if built right, there should be no issues.

We didn’t get to hear or meet Marie Therese Domingues, Administrator of PHMSA. Her staffer Adam Philips mentioned that PHMSA is more concerned with safety than siting; that their mission was the safe transportation of energy. We learned that PHMSA headquarters are in Oklahoma City. Perhaps the earthquakes there will awaken them to the realities of fossil fuel extraction & transport. 

This entire lecture was recorded, and can be found here.

Posted in no fossil fuels, pipelines

What are they afraid of?

There was upcoming event on our calendar for the last few weeks, titled Building the Nation’s Next Energy Hub – A Pipeline for Growth: Fueling Economic Revitalization with Marcellus and Utica Shale Gas, which I’d planned on attending with the sole purpose of observing and reporting back to the Philadelphia community.

Although the event organizers blocked the public from attending the event, we see the gas industry setting the stage to get the State of Pennsylvania to pay for pipelines to bring fracked gas to Philadelphia, whilst excluding the taxpayers from the conversation. Taxpayers that would shoulder the cost and the risk of investing in fossil fuel infrastructure at this late stage of the carbon-based economy. Notably, Phil Rinaldi (CEO of PES) is in discussion with Tom Wolf (Governor of Pennsylvania).

gpcc-2The event was organized by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Per their  website, we knew there was a registration fee of $45 for members, and $90 for non-members. A week before the event, not being a member, I tried to register but got a cryptic message stating

Based on your login information, you do not meet the criteria to purchase the following item(s).

When I submitted a web form about my inability to register for the event, and followed up with a phone call, I was told it was because I wasn’t a GPCC member.  When I asked about membership rates, I was advised that someone in membership would contact me. The website made no mention of membership rates, which would have made it easy to click, pay, register. When the weekend rolled past, it took a second phone call from my end. Even though I called for membership info, the response was repeatedly either “The event is sold out” or “You’re not a member”.

For an organization that’s “the premier advocate of the region’s business community, representing members in 11 counties across three states with one voice”, it sure was hard to determine if we wanted to become members.  Eventually, I was advised that we needed to become a member of GPEAT (Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team) for $5,000, to attend a morning talk!

A vibrant business active in the city of Philadelphia, offering great products & service, staying afloat with no bank loans or subsidy,  is excluded from membership because… yes, they told me, we’re too small.

Meanwhile, non-members that had registered well in advance were refunded.  We heard there was quite a lot of security entering the building this morning.

What are they afraid of?

Per quotes from coverage by Andrew Maykuth of the Inquirer (Energy-hub supporters intensifying the push for a natural-gas pipeline), looks likes the energy players are trying to get the state to pay for the pipeline.

Unstated in the report is that moves are underway to encourage even greater state involvement in the project, including government financing of the pipeline.

Early talks are underway with the Wolf administration about enlisting “some kind of authority” to underwrite part of the pipeline, which would shift some risk to the public, he said.

It’s bad enough they’re getting the state to police their blatant plowing thru private property, using the banner of eminent domain for private gain, but Pipeline for Growth sounds like an unsustainable business plan. To ensure current profitability, the gas industry is shifting the expense and future liability to the citizens.

Here’s how to reach Governor Tom Wolf, who needs to hear that we need him to ban fracking and commit to never subsidizing the pipelines.

Posted in no fossil fuels, pipelines

Stand by the people resisting the Mariner East pipeline

You may have heard of the Mariner East pipelines, pipelines proposed by Sunoco Logistics to transport natural gas liquids from fracked Pennsylvania gas, to a facility near Philadelphia, largely for export.

Along the way, Sunoco Logistics met the Gerhart family who have owned the land for decades, even signed a Forest Stewardship agreement with the state to maintain their land as a forest. Despite lack of permits, Sunoco Logistics has begun clearing this preserved forest. See press release: TWO ARRESTED AS SUNOCO CLEARS FOREST IN HUNTINGDON – Police Back Pipeline Despite Lack of Permits, Landowner Objections

12901021_10153544958125893_910655836944368919_oSee also this article (Energy-hub supporters intensifying the push for a natural-gas pipeline) written yesterday by Andrew Maykuth of the Inquirer, of note:

It is also a call to state political leaders to provide economic incentives to develop a pipeline.

Unstated in the report is that moves are underway to encourage even greater state involvement in the project, including government financing of the pipeline.

Early talks are underway with the Wolf administration about enlisting “some kind of authority” to underwrite part of the pipeline, which would shift some risk to the public, he said.

To me this reads as though Sunoco Logistics has no money nor the right permits to build the pipeline they envision, and are simply using their might to plow through obstacles like people who happen to live along the way.

What can you do? Call or write

You may get a response that “The federal government has eminent domain and there is nothing the state can do”. This is only partially true. While the many lawyers fight out the eminent domain issue, Sunoco Logistics’s permit from the DEP was to cut trees, but not on wetlands. The trees that were cut yesterday were indeed on wetlands and fell on stream beds. So we ask that the DEP step up to enforce this.

We must stop the pipeline and the devastation it wrecks along the way before it gets to Philadelphia.