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Paperwrenching Prisons and Pipelines

By Panagioti - Earth First! Journal, October 28, 2017

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If your the type who likes to cut to the chase, here it goes: There are two open comment periods for Environmental Impacts Statements (EIS) that you should know about. One for the Sabal Trail Pipeline and another for the Letcher County federal prison. So take a few minutes to submit a comment ASAP using those links embedded up there. For those who prefer some background and deeper analysis, read on…

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Last year I co-authored “From Prisons to Pipelines” with a former-prisoner and Lakota friend from the Pine Ridge Reservation. We were moved to write by the #NoDAPL and #PrisonStrike grassroots organizing efforts that were sweeping the nation, particularly in ways that hit close to home for us.

Since that was published, a prison in Appalachian East Kentucky and a pipeline through the springlands of North Florida both became hotspots on the unofficial map of eco-resistance. Right now, there are opportunities in both of these efforts to significantly broaden the base of support for these two fights and build the long-term foundation for effective resistance.

“Paperwrenching” an EIS approval is the one of the most effective strategies for securing environmental victories, and it is essential groundwork for campaigns that escalate to direct action (especially for folks who might try to use a necessity defense in court following an action, and want to show documentation of their efforts prior to facing criminal charges).

Community Resistance in the South is Throwing a Major Wrench in Pipeline Plans

By Skyler Simmons - Earth First! Newswire, September 15, 2017

In the past week the West Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced that it is rescinding the water quality permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to be built through their state, while North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper just announced that his DEQ will be delaying a decision on granting water quality permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until December.

While neither of these decisions are the final death blow for these destructive pipeline projects, they do represent major victories for the grassroots efforts throughout the South to fight dirty energy projects. It is important to understand that these decisions did not come out of the goodness of the hearts of state governments. They came because strong social movements have forced them to do so.

These decisions came as activists coordinated multiple protests in VA and NC against the piplelines. In VA, protests were held at every Department of Environmental Quality office in the state, culminating in a blockade of the DEQ headquarters in Richmond resulting in 19 arrests. Meanwhile in NC, a group of activists are conducting a two week long fast in front of the DEQ headquarters in Raleigh and held a large rally on Sept 20th. A solidarity rally was also held at the DEQ office in Asheville, NC, the second protest there against the ACP  in a month.

Back in VA landowners along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route have been successful in using direct action to repeatedly keep pipeline surveyors off their land. Despite dirty tricks by the survey company, community members have been able to come together to block the paths of the surveyors, causing costly delays for the pipeline builders.

Both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines would bring massive amounts of fracked gas from West Virginia into Virginia, with the ACP continuing into North Carolina. If built, the pipelines would result in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to building dozens of new coal plants, or adding millions of new cars to the road. These pipelines aren’t dead yet, but if strong community organizing and direct action continue, they are likely not long for this world.

For Many in Puerto Rico, "Energy Dominance" Is Just a New Name for US Colonialism

By Catalina M. de Onís - The Conversation, September 1, 2017

The Trump administration has made "achieving American energy dominance" a central policy goal. President Trump asserts that "energy dominance" requires expanding nuclear development, increasing coal and natural gas exports, building transnational pipelines and accessing offshore oil and gas deposits. These efforts, Trump contends, will maximize the nation's "boundless capacity" for energy production, including spreading US fossil fuels around the globe, to showcase its independence from foreign oil.

My research studies how expansionist efforts play out in the US unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico. For centuries, Spanish and US colonial governments and corporations have practiced what could be called "energy dominance" by harnessing human labor and fossil fuels to exploit local resources through mining, coffee and sugarcane development, and other industries. Puerto Rico's history makes clear that Trump's policy, which benefits corporations and their political allies to the detriment of local communities, promises more of the same.

Fueling Energy Colonialism

The United States seized control of Puerto Rico in 1898. Like other imperial powers, the United States justified exploiting other people and places by portraying them as backward and promising to modernize them.

Many US government officials, legal experts, researchers and artists assumed that colonized peoples were inferior. In their view, African and indigenous ancestries and prior colonization by Spain marked people who lived in the newly acquired "possessions" as primitive, childlike and weak.

In his 1899 book "Our Islands and Their People," writer and diplomat José de Olivares stated,

"Without our fostering benevolence, this island [Puerto Rico] would be as unhappy and prostrate as are some of the neighboring British, French, Dutch, and Danish islands."

During this same period, Supreme Court justices described US colonies as home to "uncivilized" and "savage" "alien races." Racist claims of US superiority and goodwill drove colonial policy and relationships of dependency.

The Search for Trans Mountain’s 15,000 Construction Jobs

By Robyn Allan - DeSmog Canada, August 28, 2017

When Prime Minister Trudeau announced approval of the Trans Mountain project he said the expansion “will create 15,000 new, middle class jobs — the majority of them in the trades.” 

Natural Resources Minister, Jim Carr, repeatedly points to this figure to justify Ottawa’s approval. He says, “the project is expected to create 15,000 new jobs during construction.”

Alberta Premier Notley relies on it too. “Initially we’re looking at about 15,000 jobs…” Former Premier Christy Clark said, “And then there’s Kinder Morgan, 15,000 new jobs…”

When the figure of “15,000” for new construction jobs emerged, I was confused. Kinder Morgan told the National Energy Board (NEB) that construction employment for the project was an average of 2,500 workers a year, for two years. It was laid out in detail in Volume 5B of the proponent’s application. 

Why would elected officials promote a construction jobs figure six times Kinder Morgan’s actual number?

I contacted the Prime Minister’s office. I asked his staff to explain how the figure their boss relies on was developed. They did not do so. I even wrote the Prime Minister directly. I received no reply. Natural Resources Canada said, “The numbers are from the proponent” and “believed” they were based on Conference Board of Canada estimates, while Premier Notley’s office said it came from the industry and directed me to Trans Mountain’s website.

There it was. “During construction, the anticipated workforce will reach the equivalent of 15,000 jobs per year…” Kinder Morgan provided no insight as to how that figure was derived.

I inquired directly and was told, “the figures come from two Conference Board of Canada reports.” Links to those reports were provided. 

I read both reports. Neither included reference to 15,000 construction jobs as Kinder Morgan said they would. What they did provide was a figure of 58,037 person years of project development employment—over seven years beginning in 2012.

I knew the 58,037 figure to be the same as that provided in a Conference Board of Canada report authored in 2013 and filed by Kinder Morgan as part of the discredited NEB hearing. The Conference Board based its estimate on an Input Output model which — because of its many design flaws — delivers highly exaggerated results.

Oscar-Nominated Actor James Cromwell Speaks Out Before Jail Time for Peaceful Anti-Fracking Protest

James Cromwell interviewed by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Democracy Now! - July 14, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell is reporting to jail at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time today in upstate New York, after he was sentenced to a week behind bars for taking part in a nonviolent protest against a natural gas-fired power plant. Cromwell says he’ll also launch a hunger strike. He’s one of six activists arrested for blocking traffic at the sit-in outside the construction site of the 650-megawatt plant in Wawayanda, New York, upstate, December 2015. The activists say the plant would promote natural gas fracking in neighboring states and contribute to climate change.

James Cromwell is well known for his roles in some 50 Hollywood films, nominated for an Oscar in Babe, as well as a number of TV series, including Six Feet Under. I spoke to him Thursday along with one of his co-defendants who’s going to jail today, as well, Pramilla Malick, founder of Protect Orange County, a community group leading the opposition to the fracked gas power plant. She ran in 2016 for New York state Senate. I began by asking James Cromwell about why he’s going to jail today.

Colonialism, climate change and the need to defund DAPL

By Amy Hall - Open Democracy, April 16, 2017

Back in 2009, when I was an undergraduate student, I went to a talk given by Eriel Tchekwie Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation which had a significant impact on my understanding of environmental justice.

This was the first time I had been awoken to the devastation of the tar sands in Canada. I knew that massive fossil fuel projects were bad news for the climate but what stuck with me was the impact of the tar sands on the people and their land. Why wasn't something being done to stop it? Aside from the relentless march of fossil fuel extraction and consumption, there's money to be made and the people in the way are poor and not white.

From Nigeria to North America, many of the people on the frontline of struggles against extraction projects are black, brown or from indigenous communities. Recently one of these, the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has been making headlines.

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline travels 1,168 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, where it will join up with a second 774 mile pipeline to Texas. It will carry up to 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day once it is up and running, which could be within weeks.

If the pipeline, which is laid underneath the Missouri River, fails it will pollute a vital water source for the Standing Rock Sioux people and thousands of others. This threat is very real. Sunoco Logistics, one of the companies behind DAPL has had more than 200 leaks since 2010, according to Reuters. DAPL was re-routed away from Bismarck, a mostly white community, partly because of water pollution fears.

People of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been joined in their resistance by thousands of other indigenous people from across the region, as well as allies. At its peak, an estimated 10,000 people joined the water protectors at spiritual camps: Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin and others.

Building Trades Activists Stand Up to Trump

By Dan DiMaggio - Labor Notes, April 05, 2017

When they heard President Donald Trump would address the Building Trades national legislative conference, activists from Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569 knew they had to do something.

“We couldn’t let him come and speak to us and just sit there,” said William Stedham, a “workaday Joe” and executive board member of the San Diego-based local. “If we hadn’t, everyone would think that the Building Trades was on board with him 100 percent, and we’re not.”

So a few minutes into his speech, six of them stood up with signs that said “Resist” and turned their backs on the billionaire-in-chief. The gesture flew in the face of a directive from Building Trades leadership that attendees should “be on their best behavior.”

Demonstrators included the political director and business manager of Local 569 as well as the president and political director of the San Diego Building Trades.

San Diego activists are hot about Trump’s decision to appoint a top lobbyist from the anti-union Association of Building Contractors to a key role on his incoming Department of Labor team.

They’re also furious that former Heritage Foundation staffer James Sherk is now the White House Domestic Policy Council’s labor and employment adviser. Sherk has written a seemingly infinite number of articles attacking union workers. A sample: frequent pieces attacking minimum wage increases, an argument in favor of requiring unions to be re-certified every two to four years a la Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, and a report titled “Right to Work Increases Jobs and Choices.”

“The things we’ve been fighting hard for—more project labor agreements, more local-hire agreements, and better training and workplace safety—none of them are being supported by the Trump administration,” says Gretchen Newsom, political director of Local 569.

'No Is Not Enough': Naomi Klein Writing Anti-Trump Blueprint for 'Shock Resistance'

By Andrea Germanos - Common Dreams, April 05, 2017

How did a man like Donald J. Trump get to be president? And how on earth can his dangerous agenda be fought?

For those burning questions, a forthcoming book described as "the toolkit for shock resistance" could well be an indispensable resource.

Authored by award-winning author and investigative journalist Naomi Klein, the book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, will publish in the U.S. on June 13, 2017.

"Trump is extreme, but he's not a Martian," writes Klein. "On the contrary, he is the logical conclusion to many of the most dangerous trends of the past half century. He is the personification of the merger of humans and corporations—a one-man megabrand, with wife and children as spin-off brands."

A website for No Is Not Enough says the book

reveals, among other things, how Trump's election was not a peaceful transition, but a corporate takeover, one using deliberate shock tactics to generate wave after wave of crises and force through radical policies that will destroy people, the environment, the economy, and national security. This book is the toolkit for shock resistance, showing all of us how we can break Trump's spell and win the world we need.

In the wake of Trump's election, Klein, while accepting the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize, also offered her thoughts on the factors that paved the way for the real estate mogul's rise to power and the strategies needed for a movement to rise against Trump (as well as other Trump-esque figures).

"If there is a single overarching lesson in the Trump victory, perhaps it is this: Never, ever underestimate the power of hate, of direct appeals to power over the 'other'...especially during times of economic hardship," she said.

Another takeaway, she continued, is that "four decades of corporate, neoliberal policies and privatization, deregulation, free trade, and austerity" have ensured ongoing economic pain and in turn, enabled the rise of faux-populists like Trump.

An additional lesson is that "only a bold and genuinely re-distributive agenda has a hope of speaking to that pain and directing it where it belongs—the politician-purchasing elites who benefited so extravagantly from the auctioning off of public wealth, the looting of our land, water, and air, and the deregulation of our financial system."

"If we want to defend against the likes of Donald Trump—and every country has their own Trump—we must urgently confront and battle racism and misogyny in our culture, in our movements, and in ourselves. This cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be an add-on. It is central to how someone like Trump can rise to power."

Klein, whose other works include No Logo, This Changes Everything, and The Shock Doctrine, also recently joined The Intercept as a senior correspondent. There, she is tasked with monitoring the "shocks of the Trump era." Days after Trump's inauguration, she wrote that his administration

can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.

All this is dangerous enough. What's even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.

This is the first time one of Klein's books will be published by the independent, Chicago-based Haymarket Books, which has delivered works by esteemed authors including Noam Chomksy, Howard Zinn, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Winona LaDuke.

From the Ashes of Standing Rock, a Beautiful Resistance is Born

By staff - Earth First! Journal, March 15, 2017

If you’re like me, you are probably feeling a deep sorrow in your heart over the news that oil will soon flow through that black snake of death, the Dakota Access Pipeline. Despite the largest gathering of tribes in over 100 years, despite the prayers and militant resistance, despite hundreds of water protectors facing trumped up felony charges, despite the occupations, blockades, lockdowns and sabotage; DAPL has prevailed. It is true, we lost the battle of Standing Rock, but there are signs that we are winning the war on fossil fuel infrastructure.

In the past year, as the resistance at Standing Rock grew from a trickle to a flood, at least seven new oil and gas pipelines have been defeated. These include: Pinion Pipeline – NM; Sandpiper Pipeline – MN; Enbridge Line 5 – WI, MI*; Northern Gateway Pipeline – Canada; Northeast Energy Direct – New England; Palmetto Pipeline – GA, SC; Constitution Pipeline – PA, NY. Many of these pipelines were defeated when, seeing the massive resistance at Standing Rock, companies simply withdrew their applications citing “market forces”. What is left unsaid in the corporate press releases is that our resistance to new energy infrastructure is now a major market force.

In addition to these victories, the past couple years have seen communities up and down the west coast defeat seven out of eight proposed coal export terminals and four proposed oil export terminals aimed at shipping Bakken crude from North Dakota to international markets.

It is important to understand that the fossil fuel industry needs these new infrastructure projects in order to expand. Without them they cannot. While it should have been clear under the Obama administration that the US government was never going to commit to any meaningful greenhouse gas reductions (the US became the #1 producer of oil and gas in the world on Obama’s watch), nobody is under any illusion of the government reigning in emissions under the Trump regime. It is plain to see that our only hope in defeating the fossil fuel industry will not be through government action, but concerted direct action campaigns against these fossil fuel projects.

As Their Trials Begins, Climate Protecting "Valve Turners" Say "Shut It Down" Is "Necessity"

By Jeremy Brecher - Common Dreams, March 10, 2017

Is there anything people can do about climate change in the Trump era? The new American president has asserted that global warming is a fraud perpetrated by the Chinese to steal American jobs; threatened to ignore or even withdraw from the Paris climate agreement; and pledged unlimited burning of fossil fuels. Whatever the details, Trump’s agenda will escalate global warming far beyond its already catastrophic trajectory. As we learn that 2016 was the hottest year on record, it sounds like a formula for doom.

On October 11 2016, with the presidential campaign still raging, five climate protectors traveled to five secluded locations in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and Washington state and turned the shut-off valves on the five pipelines that carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada into the United States. Their action – dubbed “Shut It Down” – blocked 15% of US crude oil imports for nearly a day. It will not in itself halt global warming. But it exemplifies a rising climate resistance that is challenging our thrust toward doom – and the temptation to succumb to climate despair.

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