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Black Snakes on the Move: U.S. Pipeline Expansion Out Of Control

By Teressa Rose Ezell - The Bullet, February 9, 2017

Lakota prophecy tells of a mythic Black Snake that will move underground and bring destruction to the Earth. The “seventh sign” in Hopi prophecy involves the ocean turning black and bringing death to many sea-dwelling creatures. It doesn't take an over-active imagination to make a connection between these images and oil pipelines and spills.

It's troubling enough that the growing “Black Snake” has branched out at an alarming rate, forming a massive subterranean coast-to-coast web. But to make matters worse, the nefarious reptile seems to suffer from leaky gut syndrome, so that it functions as a toxic underground sprinkler system, spreading gas, oil, and poisonous by-products everywhere it goes – including into waterways and drinking water sources.

Protest actions against major pipelines such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) have called attention to the potentially devastating effects of pipelines, but much of the general public still doesn't understand the scope of the existing and proposed pipeline network in the U.S. and around the globe. Executive actions by Donald Trump just four days into his presidency practically guarantee expedited approval for DAPL, as well as for Keystone XL. This indicates, among other things, that the maze of oil and gas pipelines in the U.S. will continue to expand at an unprecedented and reckless pace.

DAPL Doesn’t Make Economic Sense

By Mark Paul - Dollars and Sense, February 2017

Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines. This should come as no surprise, as Trump continues to fill his administration with climate deniers, ranging from the negligent choice of Rick Perry as energy secretary to Scott Pruitt as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a man who stated last year that “scientists continue to disagree” on humans role in climate change may very well take the “Protection” out of the EPA, despite a majority of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—wanting the EPA’s power to be maintained or strengthened.

As environmental economists, my colleague Anders Fremstad and I were concerned. We crunched the numbers on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The verdict? Annual emissions associated with the oil pumped through the pipeline will impose a $4.6 billion burden on current and future generations.

First and foremost, the debate about DAPL should be about tribal rights and the right to clean water. Under the Obama administration, that seemed to carry some clout. Caving to pressure from protesters and an unprecedented gathering of more than a hundred tribes, Obama did indeed halt the DAPL, if only for a time. Under Trump and his crony capitalism mentality, the fight over the pipeline appears to be about corporate profits over tribal rights. Following Trump’s Executive Order to advance the pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to approve the final easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to complete the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux have vowed to take legal action against the decision.

While the pipeline was originally scheduled to cross the Missouri River closer to Bismarck, authorities decided there was too much risk associated with locating the pipeline near the capital’s drinking water. They decided instead to follow the same rationale used by Lawrence Summers, then the chief economist of the World Bank, elucidated in an infamous memo stating “the economic logic of dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” That same logic holds for the low wage counties and towns in the United States. The link between environmental quality and economic inequality is clear—corporations pollute on the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable; in other words, those with the least resources to stand up for their right to a clean and safe environment.

The challenge at Standing Rock

By Sara Rougeau, Ragina Johnson and Brian Ward - Socialist Worker, February 7, 2017

WATER PROTECTORS and supporters of the #NoDAPL movement have been rocked by a series of orders and press releases from the Trump administration and the state of North Dakota in recent weeks. The pronouncements appear to set the stage for the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

While some politicians backed by various oil and gas corporations overstated the implications of these announcements, water protectors are also debating what the pronouncements mean and the best way to continue the fight against the pipeline.

Some movement leaders are calling for continuing the struggle by rebuilding the protest camps, but others, including Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II, have called on protesters to stand down and limit the struggle to a legal battle in the federal courts.

Already on February 1, law enforcement carried out 74 arrests of water protectors establishing a new camp on land belonging to Energy Transfer Partners--and on February 3, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced it would send additional agents to assist local police in clearing the camps, according to the Washington Post.

Apocalypse postponed: the oil price crash two years on

By Brian Parkin - RS21, December 31, 2016

Between November 2014 and January 2015, oil prices on international markets fell by nearly 80%. Since then many of the smaller ‘unconventional’ shale fracking operations have gone bust while the deep water and Arctic circle developments by the oil and gas ‘majors’ have been put on hold or abandoned. Here Brian Parkin surveys the damage and finds that despite the most bruising experience since 1973 oil price crisis the world of hydrocarbons is still driven by the same speculative greed and climate crisis disregard as ever. But with the cancellation (at the time of publication) of the XL Keystone pipeline, an outstanding victory at Standing Rock and a rediscovered militancy in the UK North Sea offshore industry, things may be changing.

House of fools

Prior to the oil price collapse of late 2014, the sustained high price of oil, largely predicated on expectations of sustained high Chinese economic growth, as well as heroic predictions of world economic growth post-2008 credit crash, had given rise to a speculative boom in ‘unconventional’ oil and gas exploration and production ventures. This meant that hitherto high cost and ‘marginal’ production techniques in smaller and relatively low yield fields, in combination with record low interest rates, suddenly and overnight looked like safe bets.

Another key factor at work was the shared political and strategic consensus in the US, that after the Gulf (of Arabia) military clean-up of a ‘new American century’, the US would seek to become energy self-sufficient by the mid-2030’s, by which time it would have also largely completed its imperialist ‘pivot on Asia’ strategy for the economic and military containment of China[1].

Apart from the marginalisation of OPEC[2] and the securing of wider MENA[3] regional oilfields dedicated to the supply of the US’s strategic allies in Europe and East Asia, the decisive factor would be in the development of ‘tight’ oil (and gas) from hydrocarbon bearing shale ‘plays’ that make up much of the north American east, mid-west and southern states geological formations. Additionally, high production cost ventures in the Gulf of Mexico and Outer Continental Shelf deep waters as well as within the Arctic Circle augmented further by the Canadian tar sands would complete the future hydrocarbon supply mix.

Standing Rock Water-Protectors Waterboarded While the Cleveland Indians Romped

By Paul Street - CounterPunch, October 28, 2016

Three nights ago, 19.37 million television viewers watched the opening game of North American professional baseball’s so-called World Series pitting the Chicago Cubs against the Cleveland Indians (the latter team won 6-0). I made it through the second inning before I had to switch to radio out of disgust at the Indians’ jersey and ball-cap team logo – a wild grinning Native American caricature best understood as a modern-day Red Sambo. It’s bad enough that the Cleveland team retains (well into the 21st century) the name “the Indians.” First Nations people (the Canadian term) in the United States are more properly called Native or Indigenous Americans – not a name imposed on them by white conquerors who mistakenly thought they’d “discovered” “the Indes.

But the logo is really beyond the pale. Imagine a team called “The Baltimore Blacks” or “The New Jersey Negroes,” with a ball-cap showing a racist caricature of a “Black Sambo.”   Or imagine a German football (soccer) team named the “Buchenwald Semites” – or an Austrian team named the “Vienna Hebrews” – with a jersey bearing the crudely exaggerated caricature image of an old stereotypically hook-nosed Jewish man. That would be unthinkable in Holocaust-haunted Germany, of course.

Native Americans suffered their own Holocaust on the lands that were swallowed up as the United States. By some estimates more than 15 million First Nations people inhabited North America (most of them on land later seized as U.S. territory) before Columbus. Thanks to white-imposed disease, displacement, eco-cide, and murder, the number of “Indians” alive in the United States fell to less than 250,000 by 1890. But team names bearing images and/or names of Indigenous people who experienced genocide – the Washington Redskins (yes, “redskins,” which the Black comic Chris Rock once analogized to naming a team “The New York Niggers”), the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Blackhawks (named after a famous Sauk Nation warrior whose tribe members were butchered en masse by Andrew Jackson’s U.S. Army), the Kansas City Chiefs, the Fighting Illini, the Florida State Seminoles, etc. – live on with impunity in the U.S.

Meanwhile, up in the northern Great Plains, predominantly white and heavily militarized local and state police are attacking the civil rights and bodies of Indigenous people fighting heroically to help humanity (including the mostly white folks watching the World Series) avert environmental catastrophe. The remarkable prayer, protest, and resistance camp set up by North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux tribe is dedicated to blocking Energy Transfer Partner’s eco-cidal Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline is a “giant black snake” being laid to carry 470,000 barrels of hydraulically fractured (fracked) crude oil daily from the North Dakota Bakken oil field under and near the Missouri River (under twice), the Mississippi (under once), and numerous other streams, lakes, rivers, and aquifers.

New gas drilling sparks fracking showdown in the UK

By Martin Watters - Equal Times, October 26, 2016

A showdown looms over fracking in the UK after a landmark ruling opened the door to the first drilling in five years.

Controversial shale gas projects at several sites in the north of England have received government support, sparking protests from communities, activists and workers.

Earlier this month, the UK government overruled a local council’s decision to block oil and gas company Cuadrilla Resources from test drilling in Lancashire.

Opponents of the controversial practice – whereby shale gas is extracted by pumping chemical-filled liquids deep underground using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” – said it could result in water contamination and a higher risk of workplace injuries and deaths from accidents and explosions.

Fracking across England was suspended in 2011 after Cuadrilla admitted its drilling activities at a site near Blackpool caused minor earthquakes. The moratorium was lifted in 2012, but since then many drilling applications have been rejected by local councillors or delayed by legal appeals. Moratoria remain in Scotland and Wales, while fracking is banned in Northern Ireland.

The decision by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to overrule Lancashire council will allow Cuadrilla to drill the first horizontal wells in Britain, despite more than 18,000 objections from local people.

Echoing the former prime minister David Cameron, who said that the government was “going all out for shale”, Javid pledged: “We will take the big decisions that matter to the future of our country as we build an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan sent a strong message to other shale gas companies struggling to convince communities and local councils.

“No doubt other people will be putting forward planning applications and this does demonstrate that they can and should be approved,” Egan said.

A week after the UK’s Labour Party vowed to ban all fracking if it came to power, the Shadow Minister for Energy Barry Gardiner said the decision “bulldozed” community wishes and risked locking Britain into old-fashioned fossil fuel energy.

“Cuadrilla’s own figures on jobs show they would be very temporary, and their claims that fracking will lower British energy bills have been discredited,” Gardiner said in a press statement.

Thousands of community objections were also swept aside earlier this year in May when North Yorkshire council approved fracking near Ryedale by the UK firm Third Energy.

Ninety-seven per cent of the fracking company is owned by multinational banking giant Barclays and this week activists are organising a series of protests targeting the bank for its involvement in fracking.

Meanwhile, the multinational petrochemical giant Ineos is planning 30 new drilling projects in the next 12 months with five mooted before Christmas. Ineos has faced criticism for planning to dump fracking wastewater in the sea and banning morning tea breaks for workers at its Scottish plant.

With more fracking on the horizon – and further petitions, marches and legal appeals almost exhausted – environmental protestors across the UK are calling for an “escalation in direct action tactics”.

‘Get A Life’: Clinton Bashed Anti-Fracking Activists During Private Labor Meeting

By Kevin Gosztola - Shadow Proof, October 15, 2016

At a private meeting with the Building Trades Council, Hillary Clinton bashed environmentalists who oppose natural gas fracking and insist the United States must keep all fossil fuels in the ground. She said these environmentalists need to “get a life.”

A transcript of a part of the meeting, which took place on September 9, 2015, was published by WikiLeaks. It was attached to an email from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s account, which he claims was hacked.

Clinton met with the Building Trades Council, which is part of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). She sought their endorsement, however, she wanted to be clear about what she was willing to support in the way of new pipeline construction. The labor organization is very pro-pipeline because its members work on pipelines.

“Bernie Sanders is getting lots of support from the most radical environmentalists because he’s out there every day bashing the Keystone pipeline,” Clinton stated. “And, you know, I’m not into it for that.”

“My view is I want to defend natural gas. I want to defend repairing and building the pipelines we need to fuel our economy. I want to defend fracking under the right circumstances,” Clinton added. She made it clear she was willing to defend new, modern energy sources.

Then, on environmentalists, Clinton shared, “I’m already at odds with the most organized and wildest. They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the rest of it. They say, ‘Will you promise never to take any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again?’ No. I won’t promise that. Get a life, you know.”

The Power Behind the Pipeline

By Krystal Two Bulls, Red Warrior Camp, Scott Parkin, and Patrick Young - CounterPunch, October 13, 2016

The “Dakota Access” Pipeline (DAPL) is a $3.8 billion, 1,100 mile fracked-oil pipeline that is currently under construction running from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Illinois. DAPL is slated to cross Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where it would be laid underneath the Missouri River, the longest river on the continent.

Construction of the DAPL would impact many sites that are sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and numerous other indigenous nations. DAPL would also, engender a renewed fracking-frenzy in the Bakken shale region, as well as endanger a source of fresh water for the Standing Rock Sioux and 8 million people living downstream.

This massive infrastructure project is being built and financed by a complex network of dozens of shady oil companies and banks with presences all over the world. Research into the pipeline’s ownership shows us that virtually every major bank in the world is financially connected to the companies involved in the project and numerous oil and gas companies will have ownership interests in the project. But who is driving the construction of the pipeline, and more importantly who has the power to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Capital Blight News #120

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 7, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Californians Deliver 350,000 Signatures Calling on State, Gov. Brown to Stop Irrigation of Crops With Oil Wastewater

By Julie Light and Patrick Sullivan - Center for Biological Diversity, August 9, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Pushing a wheelbarrow filled with 350,000 petition signatures, concerned Californians gathered outside the capitol today to urge Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Water Resources Control Board to stop the potentially dangerous practice of using wastewater from oil drilling to irrigate California’s crops. The wastewater, sold by Chevron and California Resources Corporation, is now being used to irrigate over 90,000 acres in the Cawelo Irrigation District and the North Kern Water Management District, and is slated to expand in the near future to other districts.

The group, which included Assemblymember Mike Gatto, UCSF nurse practitioner Lisa Hartmayer, Center for Biological Diversity scientist John Fleming and California consumers, delivered a petition with more than 350,000 signatures, gathered around the state and nation, calling for an immediate halt to the practice. The petition signatures were collected by CREDO, Care2, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, RootsKeeper, Center for Environmental Health, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Food Safety, Courage Campaign, and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment.

“Californians want to know what is in the water and the soil that is used to grow their food. This should not be a problem, especially if there is nothing to hide,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles).

California produces almost half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that feed the United States, and more than 100 farms in the Central Valley use oil wastewater for irrigation. Some of the United States’ most popular brands grow food in the Cawelo and North Kern water districts, including Trinchero Family Estates (makers of Sutter Home wines), Halos Mandarins (formerly known as Cuties) and The Wine Group (makers of Cupcake and Fish Eye wines).

At the same time, there hasn’t been a comprehensive, independent study to determine if the wastewater is safe for crop irrigation. The limited analysis done used outdated methods; regulators don’t screen for all the chemicals used in oil extraction, many of which are carcinogens. The Los Angeles Times reported that a test of the wastewater sold by Chevron to the Cawelo Irrigation District contained acetone and benzene.

Some of the chemicals used in oil operations are linked to cancer, kidney failure, reproductive issues and liver damage. No comprehensive and independent analysis has been conducted to assess the safety of the wastewater. Oil-industry wastewater can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. State oil officials’ own study detected benzene levels in oil wastewater at thousands of times the federal limits for drinking water.

“As a nurse, one of the simplest yet most important recommendations I can give a patient is to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Lisa Hartmayer, nurse practitioner at UCSF. “How can our governor and water regulators sleep at night knowing that the fresh foods that millions of people eat to stay healthy may actually be threatening their health? We don’t know if our tangerines, almonds and grapes are contaminated with water that could be carcinogenic.”

In addition to the dangers posed to consumers, agricultural workers are exposed daily to the oil and gas wastewater with no protection for their health and safety.

“Oil wastewater doesn’t belong on California’s crops. It’s irresponsible to take this kind of risk with our food supply,” said John Fleming, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We should take a precautionary approach to mixing oil with food and wait until there are studies proving this practice is safe before we even consider it.”  

“I’m here for my kids. It concerns me that Governor Brown would allow this practice without thorough testing. This is the food that I feed my kids every day. The thought that they could get sick from tainted food really worries me,” said Sue Chiang from Oakland.

Petition signers from around the state appealed directly to the governor and his desire to be perceived as an environmental champion. Rev. and Mrs. Don Baldwin from Nevada City wrote in their comments: "Dear Gov. Brown - If you are to truly go down in history as our 'environmental' governor, you MUST see this as one of the most significant actions you need to take."

A growing number of Californians are raising concerns about the use of wastewater for crop irrigation and organized Protect California Food, an affiliate of Californians Against Fracking, which is calling on Governor Brown and state water regulators to immediately ban the practice. Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter.

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