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Spectra Construction Disrupted by Anti-Fracking Lockdown in Chaplin

By Renee Hamel - Capitalism vs the Climate, November 16, 2015

Web editor's note: The following article details the exploits of one or more IWW members.

Chaplin, CT: Early in the morning, Bernardo McLaughlin of Capitalism vs. the Climate (CvC) obstructed the start of the work for Spectra Energy, locking himself to equipment at a compressor station that Spectra is expanding as part of a massive expansion of fracked gas pipeline infrastructure.

“I placed my body here because we’re out of options. The political class has decided they can survive climate catastrophe and written the rest of us off as acceptable losses. Nobody is coming to save us. Our only hope is organized grassroots power and direct action,” said McLaughlin. Protesters explained that the nonviolent blockade took place as part of Flood the System, a national mobilization for climate justice called by Rising Tide North America.

Spectra’s billion-dollar “AIM Project” creates an incentive for increased fracking, a dangerous method of extracting methane gas from shale fields. Spectra plans to build part of the pipeline, which carries highly-flammable gas, just one hundred feet from New York state’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, running the risk of catastrophic injury to tens of thousands of people. The engineer Paul Blanch has said that a disaster at this part of the pipeline could cause the release of more radioactive materials than were released in Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Federal Regulatory Commission has said that the Chaplin area construction would directly impact Mansfield Hallow State Park, twelve streams, two wetlands and habitat for state-protected species.

So far, activists have been arrested 66 times in the campaign against Spectra’s pipeline expansion. The actions have had an impact. Last week, dozens willing to risk arrest in West Roxbury, Massachusetts arrived at a vacant construction site. Spectra had abruptly decided to pause construction in West Roxbury until the spring. Meanwhile, Spectra has been seeking $30,000 in damages from three protesters who nonviolently blocked construction in Burrillville, Rhode Island in September. Activists see Spectra’s extreme response as a scare tactic to deter future demonstrations and as an acknowledgement that the ongoing blockades and lockdowns are effectively disrupting the company’s construction plans.

Earlier this month, the climate justice movement won a partial though major victory by stopping the northern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Protesters in Chaplin said that although they welcomed President Obama’s rejection of the northern part of the Keystone XL pipeline, the fight against dirty energy infrastructure has barely begun. During this morning’s blockade against Spectra, CvC members and supporters stood outside the site holding a banner with a “To-Do” list:

  • 1) Stop Keystone XL ✔
  • 2) Stop Spectra
  • 3) End Capitalism

“After several years of blockades, arrests, and protests against the Keystone XL, Obama finally announced that he would not allow construction of the pipeline’s northern segment. While this was a victory for the climate justice movement, the fight is very far from over,” said Gabby Rodriguez of Capitalism vs. the Climate.

Capitalism vs. the Climate is a horizontally-organized, Connecticut-based group that takes direct action against the root causes of the climate crisis. Capitalism vs. the Climate invites people to join their Anti-Capitalist Contingent at the climate movement’s upcoming November 21 March for 100% Renewable Energy at 12 pm at the State Capitol.

After White House Rejects Keystone XL, Battle Against Larger Texas Pipeline Intensifies

Article and Image by Dahr Jamail - TruthOut, November 13, 2015

(Depicted: right) Coyne Gibson and Alyce Santoro are part of a grassroots resistance movement opposing a massive gas pipeline project between Mexico and the US. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

If a couple of billionaires get their way, a 143-mile-long, 42-inch high pressure natural gas transmission pipeline will be built right through the heart of Texas' starkly beautiful and remote Chihuahuan desert. Plans are currently in the works for the pipeline, which would be larger in diameter than the infamous Keystone XL.

Although it has garnered far less media attention than the Keystone XL, this West Texas project has already sparked a massive grassroots resistance movement that has unified ranchers, Tea-Partiers, artists, environmentalists and the vast majority of the residents in this sparsely populated corner of the country.

Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren, the head of the Dallas pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) which now boasts former Texas governor Rick Perry on its board of directors, and Carlos Slim of Mexico, who is reportedly the second-richest person on earth, are the core partners behind the Trans-Pecos pipeline project. The aim of the pipeline is to deliver natural gas from Texas to Mexico, where it is in high demand.

Transporting gas from a plant in Coyanosa, near Fort Stockton, Texas, down to the border, the line is supposed to be built underneath the Rio Grande River, after which it will connect into Mexico's gas infrastructure.

Slim and Warren promise that the pipeline will be both safe and environmentally friendly.

But Coyne Gibson, who worked for a decade in the oil and gas industry as an electrical and control systems engineer, vehemently disagrees with that claim.

"I used to do this kind of work, so I admit to past crimes, so to speak," Gibson told Truthout in Alpine, Texas, where signs of the pipeline's construction are already evident.

"I've seen firsthand what this [pipeline] does to the places it touches," he said. "It is horrifically environmentally impactful. The immediate impact is the absolute environmental destruction of every living thing in its path. And that's just to get started."

It is information like this coming from Gibson, coupled with what people are perceiving as an arrogant and bellicose attitude of Energy Transfer, that has created what has now become a battle for the land in Far West Texas.

ILWU and community coalition challenge dangerous crude oil terminal in Vancouver, Washington

Press Release - ILWU, October 21, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Members of ILWU Local 4 have joined forces with community and environmental allies to stop a scheme by big oil that could ruin their port, close the Columbia River and turn their city into a disaster area.

Power play

Documents show that officials from the Port of Vancouver reached a deal in secret with oil companies to build the nation’s largest oil-to-marine export terminal without first holding public hearings on the controversial and dangerous proposal.

Four trains a day

Big oil wants to bring four “unit trains” a day to the Port of Vancouver. Each of the mile-long trains would carry 100 or more tank cars filled with highly volatile and explosive crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. Each of the cars carry 30,000 gallons of highly flammable crude as the trains travel through dozens of towns before reaching the west coast.

Possible disaster

The possibility of a catastrophic disaster that could wipeout parts of Vancouver and other town became more real on July 6, 2013. That’s when a train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and exploded in a cataclysmic firestorm that destroyed much of Lac-Megantic, a town in Quebec, Canada. The disaster killed 47 residents and injured many others.

“Bringing this stuff into our town is just irresponsible and too dangerous,” says Local 4’s Cager Clabaugh  who has told Port Commissioners that “the risk isn’t worth the reward.”

He notes that Local 4 members opposed plans for an oil export terminal in their town before the 2013 disaster in Quebec, and have strengthened their resolve since.

“Before that disaster, oil industry lobbyists were assuring our Port Commissioners that this stuff was safe and there was nothing to worry about,” said Clabaugh. “They changed their tune after the Lac-Megantic disaster, but are still saying it’s safe enough and refuse to drop their dangerous plan.”

Many other incidents

A parade of crude-by rail calamities has hit communities in North America. Six months after the Lac- Megantic inferno, another fiery rail crash occurred in Casselton, North Dakota where a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train carrying Bakken crude exploded after a collision.

That North Dakota accident was the fourth major North American derailment of crude-carrying trains during a six-month period in 2013. A total of 24 serious oil train crashes have occurred in the U.S. since 2006, with five crashes so far in 2015, according to the Associated Press.

Gaswork, the Fight for CJ's Law

By Josh Fox; Introduction by Alex Lotorto - Vimeo, October 6, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This is a tremendous film by Josh Fox about worker safety issues in the oil and gas industry and CJ's Law, part of a concept of worker organizing that I've been talking about for years.

There was a retired steelworker who once told me in 2010 that the only way he foresaw worker organizing in the shalefields would be to run an issue-campaign for a Workers' Bill of Rights that enrolls workers and environmentalists into the same general membership union. In addition to safety, it would strengthen pay theft penalties, provide outplacement or re-training for workers who are laid off during downturns, paid time off, sick leave, personal days, etc.

That union, if it grew to scale, could then leverage themselves against various drilling and supply contractors, and eventually against industry associations like the union trades have done with the pipeline industry association project labor agreements (PLAs). It would take a chunk of change to hire the staff to support a campaign like that and open offices in the shalefields, which is the most difficult piece of the puzzle.

What the Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About Fracking

By Josh Fox and Lee Ziesche - EcoWatch, September 12, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

TRAILER FOR GASWORK THE FIGHT FOR CJ's Law A NEW SHORT FILM BY JOSH FOX from JFOX on Vimeo.

When we hear politicians and gas companies extoll the virtues of fracking, jobs created by drilling is usually high on their list of talking points. But the jobs created by fracking are not the kind of quality jobs American workers deserve.

They are not the kind of jobs American laborers have fought and died for throughout our country’s history.

They are extremely dangerous, exposing workers to chemicals whose long-term impacts on human health are yet unknown. In fact, the fatality rate of oil field jobs is seven times greater than the national average.

In our new short film, GASWORK: The Fight for C.J.’s Law, we conduct an investigation into worker safety and chemical risk. We follow Charlotte Bevins as she fights for CJ’s law—a bill to protect workers named for her brother CJ Bevins, who died at an unsafe drilling site.

We interview many workers who have been asked to clean drill sites, transport radioactive and carcinogenic chemicals, steam-clean the inside of condensate tanks which contain harmful volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other chemicals, and have been told to do so with no safety equipment.

Time to Act! conference 2015

By Ken Montague - Rabble.Ca, September 10, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Ken Montague, Secretary of the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group, explains what's on at a major national conference in Sheffield on 19 September:

What is the conference about?

The immediate aim of the conference is to contribute to the national and international mobilisation ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris in December. It will also be reporting on, and encouraging involvement in, some of the ongoing campaigns formed in response to the threat of catastrophic climate change. For example, the developing movement for withdrawing pension funds and other investments from companies heavily involved in the production and use of fossil fuels, the national and international trade union campaign for government funded climate jobs, and local protests against fracking.

Why now?

Firstly because world leaders will be meeting in Paris early in December to draw up an agreement following the two-week long “COP 21”talks. It is the most important set of talks about dealing with climate change since the disastrous Copenhagen COP in 2009 and could be the last chance we have of reaching the kind of binding agreement needed to keep climate change within relatively safe bounds. Campaign groups and NGO’s around the world are planning demonstrations and protests on a scale comparable to those last September when 400,000 people took to the streets of New York. For us in Britain it means building for the protests in Paris and the national demonstration for “Climate Justice and Jobs” in London on 29th November.

Any other reason?

The conference will be reporting back on the international climate jobs summit in Paris on 14th and 15th September called by the UK’s “One Million Climate Jobs” campaign and the International Trade Union Confederation. This represents a big step forward for the climate jobs movement which in Britain now has the backing of ten national unions and is seeding itself in other countries, for example Norway, South Africa and the US. Over 160 trade union delegates will be attending from Europe, North America and the Global South. The Sheffield conference also includes a workshop on the prospects for the international climate jobs movement with contributions through Skype from some of the delegates to the Paris summit.

Who has organised the conference and who is it aimed at?

It’s been organised by the Trade Union Group of Campaign against Climate Change and the Sheffield Climate Alliance, which is one of the largest and most successful of the local climate networks. That means it’s for trade unionists who want to know how they can build support for the climate jobs campaign in their unions, but also for anyone who would like to get involved in, or help to develop, other aspects of the climate movement. Everyone is welcome!

Who will be speaking and what will the workshops cover?

Speakers include Asad Rehman, International Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, Dani Pafford from 350.org, Suzanne Jeffery, Chair of Campaign against Climate Change, and Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership.

One of the features of the conference is the large number of interactive workshops. In addition to workshops on climate jobs and divestment, others cover topics like:

  • Fracking and how to fight it
  • What is TTIP and how can we oppose it?
  • Communicating climate change – engaging and motivating people of all backgrounds and persuasions
  • The Arms to Renewables campaign
  • The Government’s war on renewables
  • Climate outreach with primary schools and families
  • Building locally for the London and Paris demonstrations
  • Where is it being held and how can I book a place?

The conference will be taking place at Sheffield College, a short distance from Sheffield station, so can be easily reached from many parts of the country. Directions can be found on the Sheffield Climate Alliance website. Registration is at 10.30. To book a place click here – admission £10, £5 concessions.

Governor Jerry Brown under fire for firing state oil regulators

By Dan Bacher - Elk Grove Citizen, September 6, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Jerry Brown continually attempts to portray himself as a “climate leader” and “green Governor” at environmental conferences and photo opportunities across the globe, but new court documents obtained by the Associated Press bolster the claims by many anti-fracking activists that the California Governor is in reality “Big Oil Brown.”

In these documents, two former senior level officials in California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration reveal that they were fired on November 3, 2011, one day after warning the governor that oil drilling would imperil the state’s groundwater.

In a declaration, Derek Chernow, Brown’s fired acting director of the state Department of Conservation, told the Brown Administration that granting permits to oil companies for oilfield injection wells would violate safety provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, reported Ellen Knickmeyer of the Associated Press.

“Chernow’s declaration, obtained by The Associated Press, was contained in an Aug. 21 court filing in a lawsuit brought by a group of Central Valley farmers who allege that oil production approved by Brown’s administration has contaminated their water wells. The lawsuit also cites at least $750,000 in contributions that oil companies made within months of the firings to Brown’s campaign for a state income tax increase,” according to Knickmeyer.

You can read the full story here.

The Committee to Protect Agricultural Water filed their civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit in Federal Court on June 3, 2015. On the following day, Mark Nechodom, the controversial director of the California Department of Conservation that replaced Chernow, resigned.

Eviction of Mobile Home Park for Fracking Water

By Alex Lotorto - Energy Justice Network, September 2, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Riverdale Mobile Home Park was located on the Susquehanna River in Piatt Township, Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. Residents were ordered to leave the park in March 2012 by Aqua PVR LLC, a project of Aqua America, a private water utility, and Penn Virginia Resources, a natural gas pipeline company.

The property was purchased in order to build a water withdrawal pump station and water line that would withdraw three million gallons per day for use in hydraulic fracturing by Range Resources, a Texas-based Marcellus shale drilling company. Each shale gas well requires five to nine million gallons of water to force open the rock, allowing the gas to flow out.

Aqua America's facility takes 6,000 water truck trips off the road each day, according to Aqua America, which displaced truck drivers, parts suppliers, fuel deliverers, mechanics, and service employees from their jobs in Lycoming County. The Marcellus shale industry hasn't proposed any relief, solution, or alternative to this loss of employment opportunities for Pennsylvania residents.

The facility's two permits were approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, a federal commission made up of Governors Corbett (R-PA), Cuomo (D-NY), O'Malley (D-MD), and President Obama.

The capacity of the park was 37 units and in March 2012, 32 families lived there. The initial offer from Aqua America included $2,500 for residents to move by April 1 and $1,200 for residents to move by May 1.

Immediately after the tragic story of Riverdale hit the press with the help of volunteers, Aqua America extended the deadline for $2,500 in compensation until June 1st.

A series of town halls, vigils, and picnics were organized by residents with some help from volunteers from around northeast and central Pennsylvania in opposition to the project. Residents and allies even held protests at Aqua America's headquarters in Bryn Mawr, at their shareholder meeting, and in front of Aqua's CEO Nick DeBenedictis' mansion in Ardmore.

Unfortunately, many residents felt forced to leave the park for reasons including fear of losing the $2,500 offer, uncertainty of what Aqua would do on June 1, and termination of their leases.

The Politics of California’s Water System

By Will Parrish - Counter Punch, July 31, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In a decision bursting with symbolism, the California State Water Resources Control Board recently announced its intention to draw down the main water supply reservoir for a the half million people who live just outside of the state capital to only 12% of capacity by September 30.

Lake Folsom on the American River - the main water source for Roseville, Folsom, and other Sacramento suburbs - will plummet to 120,000 acre-feet by that date, according to a forecast by the water board, which announced the plan at an unusually lively Sacramento workshop on 24th June.

The artificial lake will therefore be only months away from turning into a dreaded 'dead pool', a state in which a reservoir becomes so low it cannot drain by gravity through a dam's outlet.

Such an outcome would leave area residents scrambling for water - if recent predictions of an El Niño weather pattern fizzle and rain fails to appear later in 2015. If that were to happen, then Folsom could be a harbinger for the rest of California.

Indeed, as the American West lurches through its fourth summer of an historic drought, numerous major reservoirs are at or near historic lows relative to the time of year. New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, which was only 16% full as of last week, appears likely to meet the same fate as Folsom this year.

A study by UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2008, three before the current drought began, warned that the nation's largest reservoir, Nevada's Lake Mead (which supplies much of Southern California), has a 50-50 chance of running dry by 2021.

Natural diasaster or human mismanagement?

So far, a consensus of state and federal officials is that this state of emergency has come to pass due to a natural disaster beyond their control. Water board member Steven Moore has called the drought "our Hurricane Sandy".

In April, after Jerry Brown stood on a Sierra summit barren of snow and announced the state's first-ever mandatory water restrictions, an official press release from the governor's office asserted that for "more than two years, the state's experts have been managing water resources to ensure that the state survives this drought and is better prepared for the next one."

But according to critics, the opposite is true. The main reason California's reservoirs have plummeted to nearly cataclysmic lows, they say, is that federal and state water managers sent enormous quantities of water in recent years to senior water rights holders, especially water districts that supply agribusinesses in the dry San Joaquin Valley.

Statement on the Milford Compressor Station Fire by Alex Lotorto, Shale Gas Program Coordinator for Energy Justice Network, Local Resident

By x362102 - Energy Justice Network, August 9, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Late last night (August 8), an explosion and fire occurred at the Milford Compressor Station construction site. We at Energy Justice Network are very glad that no one was hurt or injured.

Columbia’s security personnel told concerned residents on Fire Tower Rd that the fire was the result of a contractor leaving an arc welder on or plugged in inside a building. We hope investigators will pursue that lead before concluding it was an arson attack.

We believe a worker negligence scenario should be fully investigated by both the company and state police, especially because work continues at the compressor station daily. There may be a need to re-train or review safety procedures with pipeline contractor employees. This is important for the safety of workers, residents, and first responders.

It is plausible, at the end of the workday Saturday, in a hurry or a lapse of judgment, the workers did not shut the equipment down properly. Workers at that site have been working from dawn to dusk most days since the wintertime and it is possible exhaustion has numbed their awareness of workplace safety. If it is determined that exhaustion contributed to this incident, Columbia and its contractors should, at the very least, offer workers more paid time off.

This incident also highlights the urgent need for an emergency management plan for the compressor and the three interconnected transmission pipelines at that location. Residents living along Fire Tower Rd should never again have to hear an explosion, see emergency vehicles rushing to the location, and wonder whether they should shelter in their homes or evacuate. Phone calls to Columbia's emergency line either went unanswered, or were not helpful.

An emergency management plan is one of the four remedies that have been presented to Columbia during residents' ongoing Environmental Hearing Board appeal's technical settlement negotiations, although no formal agreement has been reached. We hope the company's deficient emergency response to this incident will inform the settlement discussions in a productive way.

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