Lafayette Council considers legalizing direct action to protect environment

By Rob Jackson - Boulder Weekly, January 19, 2017

Some citizens of Lafayette never accepted the State of Colorado’s claims of preemption or the court’s dismissal of their community’s groundbreaking 2013 vote to ban fracking within their town’s city limits. So now these creative citizens are looking for another way to protect their community from the industry they claim will contaminate their air and water while hastening climate change.

On Tuesday, January 17, they made their case before the Lafayette City Council for legalizing the right of every Lafayette citizen to use “non-violent direct action” to enforce their right to a healthy environment and community self-government.

In front of an overflow crowd, including representatives from the oil and gas industry, proponents of a proposed ordinance titled Climate Bill of Rights articulated that direct action is the last thing standing between the local environment and the hazards of fracking. After approximately three hours of impassioned public comments, the Council tabled a vote until an unknown future date due to three of the seven council members not being in attendance.

If the Council eventually votes in favor of legalizing “peaceful direct action,” Lafayette would be following in the footsteps of Grant Township in Pennsylvania, which passed a similar ordinance in May 2016. For Grant Township, it was wastewater injection wells and the state of Pennsylvania’s refusal to honor their desire to ban such injection wells that was the impetus for legalizing direct action. Such wells are used to dispose of the oil and gas industry’s produced water which contains fracking fluid contamination as well as numerous naturally occurring contaminants such as mercury and radioactive waste. Injection wells have also been proven to cause earthquakes.

The Lafayette City Council’s consideration of its similar ordinance comes at a time when the industry has acknowledged that as many as 1,800 new wells could eventually be horizontally drilled and hydraulically fractured in Boulder County’s shale formations.

Lafayette originally voted to ban fracking through a Community Rights Bill, which passed with 60 percent voter support in 2013. That effort was quickly met with a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA). Both Grant Township and the citizens of Lafayette have been aided throughout their ordinance process by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which has offered pro-bono legal services to the Lafayette City Council for any further legal action that could be required as the result of passing the Climate Bill of Rights ordinance.

For the members of the grassroots environmental and human rights group East Boulder County United (EBCU), which was founded in 2012 and has co-authored the new proposed ordinance with CELDF, opposition to fracking is viewed as a matter of defending human rights to clean air and water and a healthy climate. Cliff Willmeng, a founder and leader of EBCU, said after the meeting, “We look at these rights as inherent to the whole Front Range and all of these expectations will be placed firmly across the dais of the Boulder County Commissioners. It doesn’t make sense that Lafayette doesn’t have a well if Boulder County has 1,800 of them. Our intention is to protect both of them. When we started this in 2012, we knew that the laws were unjust and our efforts had to bring that fact to the light of day rather than bargaining or negotiating with that fact. We’ve never wavered from that and we knew that it would come to the moment that citizens would have to place themselves between those drills and the local environment and that’s the stage we’re at right now. The intent of the Climate Bill of Rights and Protections is to enlist the support of the local government in exactly that.”

If the ordinance passes, it would forbid any law enforcement personnel employed by the City of Lafayette from  “arresting or detaining persons directly enforcing this law” via direct action.

Willmeng also said that he has led three filled-to-capacity civil disobedience trainings in the past month with 40-plus people in each session. These trainings have been hosted on a volunteer basis by local businesses in Lafayette and Longmont. More trainings are being planned. Willmeng’s mother, Merrily Mazza, is a member of Lafayette City Council and supports the legalization of direct action to empower her constituents to protect their community and environment from fracking.

Other speakers at the meeting cited historical examples of peaceful civil disobedience as a critical legacy of the United States’ most significant fights for justice, including the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, African-American voting rights and LGBTQ equality. A Lakota man and veteran of the Iraq War, Doug Good Feather recounted the feeling of putting his hands in the air at the front lines of the movement at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation — where he grew up and returned to recently as a “water protector” protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline  — only to be shot at with rubber bullets, concussion grenades and tear gas. He said that, as a United States Army combat veteran, he feels that the Iraq War is here now.

Opponents of the ordinance cast its supporters as “radicals” and “hypocrites” and claimed the ordinance would be a potential threat to business and the rule of law. A representative and attorney for COGA condemned the bill. Lafayette City Attorney David Williamson suggested earlier this month that much of the bill’s language was “unenforceable” due to state law.

Towards the end of the evening, John Lamb, a retired Boulder Valley School District teacher and musician from Lafayette, pulled out his harmonica and played the working class ballad, “Which Side Are You On?” He was joined by several women singing along with lyrics specific to Lafayette. Many in the audience joined in. Three of the four councilmembers acknowledged it was a moving moment.

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #160 (Special Parexit Edition)

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 7, 2017

The reactions to President Donald J Trump's reckless and unstrategic decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement are numerous and range from condemnation to disdianful. We present an extensive but far from exhaustive collection here:

Trump's Decision

Fact Check

The reversal of privatization and an urban coming of age

By staff - Rabble.Ca, June 23, 2017

A gentle revolution is underway in Barcelona, Spain. Until recently, prevailing wisdom has been that efficient, quality and cheap services are best provided by handing everything over to the private sector. These days are gone. From energy supply to kindergartens to funeral services, the municipality is providing more and more of the basic needs of its citizens at affordable and transparent prices. Following a city council motion in December 2016, Barcelona is now aiming to municipalize its water service. Since the progressive coalition Barcelona en Comú gained power in the Catalan capital, the city has introduced a wide-ranging policy of remunicipalizing outsourced public services and creating new ones.

Barcelona is not unique in this respect. Thousands of public officials, workers, unions and social movements are working to create effective public services that address the basic needs of people and respond to social, environmental and climate challenges. They do this most often at the local level. Reclaiming Public Services, a new report, found that there have been at least 835 examples of (re)municipalization of public services worldwide in recent years, involving more than 1,600 cities in 45 countries.

Cities and towns around the world are following different models of public ownership, with citizens and workers involved in a variety of ways. People are moving away from private options and developing new, public ways to deliver services. Far from being an anomaly, bringing services like transport, health care and energy back under public control is a worldwide trend -- and one that makes sense.

Privatization has been given ample chance to succeed and has come up short. The persistent myth that public services are by nature more expensive, inefficient and outdated, and that we, as citizens and users, should resign ourselves to paying ever higher tariffs for ever lower standards has not yet abated. Nor has the idea that service workers have no choice but to accept ever more degraded conditions. Because everything is seen to have a price, many politicians have lost sight of the common good, while "taxpayers" are sometimes only interested in their own individual pursuits.

The remunicipalization movement tells a very different story. While it is still in its infancy in Canada, the remunicipalization movement in Europe can be seen as a response to austerity policies and is being carried forward by an increasingly diverse array of politicians. Successful (re)municipalization experiences inspire and empower other local authorities to follow suit. We see it in the way municipalities and citizens have joined forces in Germany to push for energy democracy. In France and Catalonia, networks of public water operators pool resources and expertise, working together to deal with the challenges of remunicipalization.

There are many examples from outside Europe too. In India, the city of Delhi began the process of delivering affordable primary public health care in 2015 by setting up 1,000 Mohalla (community) clinics in 2015. Since then more than 2.6 million of its poorest residents have received free quality services.

These locally rooted changes are providing improved services as well as savings for local authorities and the public. The Nottingham City Council in the U.K., for example, decided to set up a new energy supply company in 2015 after finding that many low-income families in the city were struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills. Robin Hood Energy offers a cheaper service than private providers because it neither extracts profits nor confuses customers with complicated pricing schemes. The company, which offers the lowest energy prices in the country, has the motto: "No private shareholders. No director bonuses. Just clear transparent pricing." They have also formed partnerships with other major cities. In 2016, the city of Leeds set up the White Rose Energy municipal company to promote simple no-profit tariffs throughout the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. In 2017, the cities of Bradford and Doncaster agreed to join the White Rose/Robin Hood partnership. Meanwhile, campaigners with Switched on London are pushing their city to set up a not-for-profit energy company with genuine citizen participation. The motivations in these diverse cities are similar: young municipal companies can simultaneously beat energy poverty and play a key role in achieving a just and renewable energy transition.

Scuttle the Shuttle: Lyft, strikes and blockades

By staff - LibCom.Org, June 22, 2017

Saying "It's just a bus but without the regulation/without unions/only for people with smartphones" is very incomplete as well, and it's worth unpacking why.

Firstly, regulations and working conditions are all the eventual product of years of struggle and strike action: from the ‘Great Upheaval’ of 1877 and the 1894 Pullman railway strikes all the way to the transit strikes which hit Philly last year, strikes in the transportation of goods and people have been a staple of US labour relations.

Yet to say "That’s because workers organised into unions" also doesn't explain why transport is so prone to strike action. There are a few reasons why strikes (and unions) are so much more common in transport than they are in other sectors in the American labour market.

The first reason is this: stop mass transit and tens of thousands of other workplaces are disrupted when their employees turn up late (if they turn up at all) or their customers decide not to come out and spend money to avoid transport hassle. This creates an extra pressure on bosses to keep the service running.

The second reason: transit is mostly immune from spatial fixes. While bosses can move a car or garment factory to China, doing the same with a bus or train route obviously isn't viable. Thus, while factory workers in the US were mostly decimated in the 1970s, transit/distribution have kept going to some extent until now.

For the genesis of Lyft Shuttle, a good place to start would be the 2009 deregulation of the UK post service. This followed the massive 2006-7 strike wave in the postal service, where staggered official strikes were backed up by work-to-rules and the refusal of other postal workers to cross picket lines, leading to disciplinary action which then led to further wildcat strikes. Post just did not get delivered for weeks at a time in some cases.

The response was to allow private companies to handle some deliveries, piggy-backing off Royal Mail's central infrastructure. Firms were then able to shift postal provider if affected by strike action, weakening leverage of workers: disruption was disrupted.

Fast-forward ten years and the gig economy starts to see industrial strife as Deliveroo workers go on wildcat strike in London. The atomisation of the workforce is clearly still not entirely successful as collection points still afford places for riders to meet and discuss issues, swap contacts and organise their strike via WhatsApp. Still harder than it used to be at Royal Mail depots though.

The Democrats ‘Resistance Summer’ Is Really Resistance To Change

By Kit O’Connell and Eleanor Goldfield - It's Going Down, June 23, 2017

We’ve got a hot summer ahead, and I don’t just mean record-breaking temperatures thanks to climate change.

Assuming the fuck-ups in the GOP clown car, currently careening out of control across our nation, can get their act together, we’re poised to see devastating legislation targeting some of the most vulnerable people in America. People are angry, and ready to active against the system, in a way we haven’t seen in years.

And huddling in corner number two — are the Democrats. And despite their feeble attempts at both resistance and distinct alternatives, their proposed “Resistance Summer” is designed to attract new activists and bring a flood of new liberal voters to the polls in upcoming elections.

Despite the catchy, chic, goes-with-a-beach-tote name, we’ve seen this sort of thing before from the Democrats. Indeed, while the party claims to support progressive causes, Democrats have a long history of sucking the life out of grassroots movements, taking their momentum for revolutionary change and directing the energy back into the American status quo at the ballot box.

Today we’re going to take a closer look at this “Resistance” based on the tried and true history of the party in blue.

Dissidents Ramp Up Direct Action Against Climate Destroyers. Who Will the Courts Defend?

By Ted Hamilton - Truthout, June 21, 2017

This month a group of climate activists were convicted in district courts in Mount Vernon, Washington, and Wawayanda, New York, for committing acts of civil disobedience against fossil fuel infrastructure. Each defendant (one in Washington and six in New York) had attempted to present a "climate necessity defense," arguing that their nominally illegal actions were justified by the threat of climate catastrophe -- in other words, that the real crime is continuing to pollute the atmosphere, not interfering with corporate property. The courts weren't having it: The activists were convicted on June 7 on charges of varying seriousness, although they anticipate appealing their rulings.

The activists aren't hanging their heads, though. Instead, they're doubling down on their civil resistance mode of political activism. In doing so, they're joining a growing movement of direct action climate dissidents across the country who have taken to the streets, the pipelines and the coal trains to do what the government won't: confront an industry that poses an existential threat to human civilization.

The Washington trial began with an October 2016 protest in which Ken Ward -- a long-time environmental leader who pursued conventional climate policy avenues for decades before turning to civil disobedience in recent years -- entered a Kinder Morgan pipeline facility in Anacortes, Washington, and turned a valve to cut off the flow of tar sands oil entering from Canada. His action was coordinated with other "Shut It Down" activists in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, who were responding to a call for action from the Standing Rock encampment, and together succeeded in temporarily halting the flow of all tar sands oil into the United States. At the time of his protest (which was preceded by a warning call to pipeline operators), Ward called upon President Obama to make this interruption of tar sands oil permanent, citing the fuel's particularly carbon-intensive nature and the need for much more aggressive federal action to curb emissions.

In the New York case, the six activists blocked a construction site for a Competitive Power Ventures natural gas-powered electricity plant. Plans for the plant have gone ahead despite ample evidence of inadequate environmental reviews and the plant's obvious detriment to the climate. In his decision finding the activists guilty, the judge acknowledged that "the pollution expected to be caused by this power plant once it is operational would be significant and contrary to New York State's policies on global warming."

Why Union Workers and Environmentalists Need to Work Together with Smart Protests

By Les Leopold - Alternet, June 21, 2017

As Trump slashes and burns his way through environmental regulations, including the Paris Accord, he continues to bet that political polarization will work in his favor. Not only are his anti-scientific, anti-environmentalist positions firing up some within his base, but those positions are driving a deep wedge within organized labor.  And unbeknownst to many environmental activists, they are being counted on to help drive that wedge even deeper.

Trump already has in his pocket most of the construction trades union leaders whose members are likely to benefit from infrastructure projects – whether fossil fuel pipelines or new airports or ...... paving over the Atlantic. His ballyhooed support of coal extraction  has considerable support from miners and many utility workers as well.

But the real coup will come if Trump can tear apart alliances between the more progressive unions and the environmental community. Trump hopes to neutralize the larger Democratic-leaning unions, including those representing oil refinery workers and other industrial workers.  That includes the United Steelworkers, a union that has supported environmental policies like the federal Clean Air Act and California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, and has a long history of fighting with the oil industry – not just over wages and benefits but also over health, safety and the environment.  

To get from here to there, Trump is hoping that environmental activists will play their part -- that they will become so frustrated by his Neanderthal policies, that activists will stage more and more protests at fossil fuel-related facilities, demanding that they be shut down in order to halt global climate crisis.  

Oil refineries present a target-rich arena for protest. On the West Coast they are near progressive enclaves and big media markets in California and Washington.  Yet many who live in fence line communities would like the refineries gone, fearing for their own health and safety. Most importantly, they are gigantic symbols of the oil plutocracy that has profiteered at the expense of people all over the world.

But from Trump's point of view, nothing could be finer than for thousands of environmentalists to clash at the plant gates with highly paid refinery workers. Such demonstrations, even if peaceful and respectful, set a dangerous trap for environmental progress. Here's why: 

A Change of Heart—Revolutionary Ecology in a World of Climate Change

By Rob DiPerna - Wild California, June 22, 2017

“The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and the people responsible have names and addresses.”

— U. Utah Phillips

Combating global climate change and destabilization, and arresting the human-related causes of these are the greatest challenge of our time, perhaps the greatest challenge in human history. Global climate change and destabilization also bring home the fundamental conflicts between our industrial capitalist way of life and world view and the realities of ecological processes and the limits of the natural world.

As 2017 marks the 40-year anniversary of the inception of the Environmental Protection Information Center, we continue to see examples of how the basic underpinning of the world created by humans is in direct conflict with the world that created us, and how this conflict is leading us toward our own demise as a species as we continue to compromise the life support systems of our planet. Of course, none of this is new and the advent of global and bioregional climate change and destabilization once again has us searching for the root causes of what ails us as people and a societies.

May 24, 2017 marked the 27-year anniversary of the car-bombing of Earth First activists Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney on their road tour to promote Redwood Summer. This upcoming November 3, 2017, EPIC will posthumously award Judi Bari with the Semperviren’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her career of work for environmental and social justice.

#Flint to #GrenfellTower: The Elite Only Want to ‘Manage the Disaster’

By staff - It's Going Down, June 22, 2017

Last Friday, thousands of people flooded into the streets of London to protest government cause and response to the recent fire which engulfed the Grenfell Tower, home to hundreds of working-class residents in an upscale part of the city. Angry crowds marched on Kensington Hall, where council officials barricaded themselves inside the building and attempted to keep residents locked out. Even Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to remain inside a church and then was chased away while the angry crowd chanted, “Shame on you!” Between 100 to 150 residents are estimated to have perished in the fire, all in one of the richest neighborhoods in one of the most wealthy cities in the world.

What has happened in London is disgusting, and it is caused by a system of neoliberalism which has sought to cut costs at every corner for the sake of transferring wealth away from workers and the poor and into the hands of the super-rich. Moreover, the over 100 people that died most horrifically in the fire could have been saved if basic precautions would have been implemented and complaints from residents for repairs would have been listened too. Instead, the Conservative Council and the property management firm that ran Grenfell, refused to listen to requests from people who referred to the tower as a literal “death trap.”

The same horrorshow repeats itself across the Atlantic Ocean, where in the United States poverty and the wealth gap grows, living standards are attacked, and despite presenting itself as a force against ‘globalism,’ the Trump administration attacks workers, the poor, and the environment in order to make America great again for the billionaire class which it serves. Just today, the Republicans released their newly updated version of a health care plan that calls for the slashing of medicaid and basic safety nets and programs. 

In Flint, Michigan, which has been gutted, abandoned, and left behind by large corporations, thousands of residents face potential home foreclosure and still have to rely on bottled water, as elected officials which created the current water crisis are only now starting to face legal reprimand.

Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minnesota, a police officer is let free without any charges after murdering Philando Castile, a young African-American man who was pulled over in a traffic stop because the officer thought his nose resembled that of a possible robbery suspect. During the stop, Castile told the officer he was legally licensed to carry a concealed weapon and as he was reaching into his pockets, police officer Yanez shot him 7 times as Castile’s girlfriend recorded the entire incident. Before his death, Castile worked as a nutrition supervisor at a local school, and was reportedly pulled over by police 52 times.

Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado

By Phillip Doe - CounterPunch, June 22, 2017

After five months of doing nothing of value, although spending millions in the furtherance thereof, the Colorado legislature closed up shop last month.  The people should demand a refund for nonperformance, but instead they will have to ante up more money to pay legislators and other top state and county officials.  The wages of nothingness are great.  In 2019 the legislature will award itself a 41 percent pay increase; the governor a 39 percent increase.

Pay increases for top-of-the-pyramid public servants had already been realized in Weld County, the epicenter for the fracking wars in Colorado.  There, the county commissioners received a 37 percent increase in pay to $120,000, plus retirement and health benefits.  Later, as antidote to the red-faced disease, the salary was scaled back to $105,000, only a blushing increase of 17 percent.

The average salary of teachers in Weld is $37,000.

The generosity of Weld County taxpayers lavished on their commissioners was somewhat muted by an IRS audit to determine if the cash allowance the commissioners receive for driving to work each day should be considered taxable income.  An estimated $500,000 has been paid out to commissioners in untaxed driving benefits over the years.  Recently, the big winner in the driving-the-old-jalopy-to-work sweepstakes was Barbara Kirkmeyer, having received $22,000 in driving dividends over the past two years.  She, once an aide to former Republican governor and Texas oilman Bill Owens, is the Dragon Lady of fracking in northern Colorado.  An early defender of fracking in neighborhoods, she has long claimed the state regs are adequate for public safety.  After all, she lectures knowingly, fracking is good for business and government budgets. 

As for the state legislature, it did manage to do one thing of note.  It mortgaged public buildings to raise almost two billion for road repairs.  The governor says it isn’t enough, but an increase in gasoline taxes or any other use fee is verboten among Republican legislators, and the Democrats continue to blame all government failures on the citizen enacted Taxpayers Bill of Rights, TABOR, which requires a vote of the people to enact a tax increase.  Oddly, the Dems claim that it is TABOR that has made them impotent, that it is a threat to representative government where elected officials should be the tax deciders, not the people legislating directly via the initiative process.  One of the leaders in the misguided and failed endeavor to overturn TABOR, Andy Kerr, is now running to replace U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter.  The flawlessly undistinguished Perlmutter, relentlessly climbing the greasy pole, now wants to replace the term limited Hickenlooper.  He has plenty of undistinguished company.

Of course, the mortgages on public buildings for road repairs will have to be paid back with interest, further inhibiting state budgets.  Still, the mortgage razzle dazzle was regarded by the Denver Post, the state’s flagship daily, as a grand compromise, worthy of nodding recognition.

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