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Renewable Energy ‘Creates More Jobs Than Fossil Fuels’

By Anastasia Pantsios - EcoWatch, November 11, 2014

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.

A new study by the UK’s Energy Research Centre (UKERC) took a deep dive into job creation claims made by proponents of renewable energy and energy efficiency, looking at the figures and projected figures for the EU from a number of angles. It came to the conclusion that in the short run, moving to renewables and ramping up energy conservation would create more jobs than the fossil fuel sector, at a rate of about one job per gigawatt hour of electricity saved or generated by a clean energy source, with the long-term picture murkier because of factors in the economy and government policy that are hard to predict.

The report, Low Carbon Jobs: The evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said, “‘Green’ sectors account for as many as 3.4 million jobs in the EU, or 1.7 percent of all paid employment, more than car manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. Given the size of the green jobs market, and the expectation of rapid change and growth, there is a pressing need to independently analyse labour market dynamics and skills requirements in these sectors. What is more controversial is the question of whether policy-driven expansion of specific green sectors actually creates jobs, particularly when the policies in question require subsidies that are paid for through bills or taxes. Politicians often cite employment benefits as part of the justification for investing in clean energy projects such as renewables and energy efficiency. However, other literature is more sceptical, claiming that any intervention that raises costs in the energy sector will have an adverse impact on the economy as a whole.”

The report focused not simply on job creation, but on net job creation, subtracting the number of fossil fuel-based jobs that could potentially be displaced by spending on green infrastructure projects. It also employs “counterfactuals”: what other power generation sources would have been built instead without green policies. It says that over-optimistic green jobs figures don’t take this into account. But it also says that jobs skeptics tend to be overly broad in their application of counterfactuals.

Are Fracking Workers Being Poisoned on the Job?

By Michelle Chen - The Nation, November 10, 2014

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.

Last week's Republican election victories will set the stage for more stagnation in Washington, but might also grease the skids for some of the most controversial energy ventures at ground zero in the climate change debate: the long-stalled Keystone XL Pipeline project, and the booming hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," industry. But one thing that might put the brakes on the dirty fuel rush is the mounting research evidence linking oil and gas extraction to massive health risks for workers and communities.

A new study published in Environmental Health reveals air pollution data on major, in some cases previously underestimated, health risks from toxic contamination at gas production sites related to fracking. Air samples gathered around "unconventional oil and gas" sites by community-based environmental research teams contained unsafe levels of several volatile compounds that "exceeded federal guidelines under several operational circumstances," and that "Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels."

This suggests fracking may bring risk of cancer, birth defects and long-term respiratory and cellular damage to local towns and farms. Building on other studies on drilling-related water contamination, the air pollution research may stoke growing opposition from communities near drilling sites, who must weigh the industry's promises of new investment and jobs against the potential cost to the human health.

The findings also raise questions about the safety of fracking-site workers, who may have far less legal recourse over potential health damage than do local homeowners. Many work contract jobs under harsh, isolated conditions, in a volatile industry where pressure to pump profits is high and labor protections weak.

Wrong Again!

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 6, 2014

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.

Our regular readers know that we tend to be quite critical of the business unions and the big green NGOs for their continued slavish alliance with capitalism, and knowing this, they should not be shocked that--once again--the increasingly ineffectual and coopted Blue Green Alliance is in our sights.

In case you didn't know, the Blue Green Alliance is a coalition of business unions and environmental organizations that ostensibly advocates for building bridges between the labor movement and the environmental movement, with a specific focus towards "green jobs" and "sustainable development". Each year, the alliance issues a "Right Stuff Award" to "business, government, environmental, labor, and community leaders who promote a sustainable economy and environment". This year, they say, their awards will honor "leaders for their work on building a 21st century energy infrastructure."

Based on their choice of Obama's Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, one has to be wondering if the Blue Green Alliance knows what century they're in, or perhaps whether or not the Alliance has an oddball definition of what 21st century infrastructure is, exactly. You see, the last time I checked, Ernest Moniz has deep ties to the fossil fuel, fracking and nuclear industries. He has served on advisory boards for oil giant BP and General Electric, and was a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, a Saudi Aramco-backed nonprofit organization. In 2011, Moniz was the chief author of an influential study for MIT on the future of natural gas. According to a new report by the Public Accountability Initiative, Moniz failed to disclose that he had taken a lucrative position at a pro-drilling firm called ICF International just days before a key natural gas "fracking" study was released.

This doesn't sound very green to me. If anything, it's more like a greenwash. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the so-called Blue Green Alliance.

The last barrel of oil on Burnaby Mountain

By Anonymous - Beating the Bounds, October 26, 2014

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.

Sometimes the world narrows to a very fine point. A certain slant of light. The head of a needle you need to pass through. I don’t care right now about the National Energy Board of Canada (merely a corporate tool for shoehorning global energy projects into other people’s territories—a funnel for money from the public, to the private sector). I don’t care about this or that court of law, appeals and constitutional challenges. I don’t care about the drones, unmarked cars, or CSIS agents. I don’t even care that much about the rain.

I care about the people who have come together to stand in a forest, on a mountain, in the path of a pipeline. I care about them because of their passion and commitment, their awareness of the fact that they are standing at once against local destruction (a nature conservation area, the animals we meet here every day, right near the edge of a large city) and against global destruction (adding carbon to an already warming planet through new fossil fuel infrastructure—the last thing we should be doing, if we truly care about the continuation of life on this planet, in the near future). I care too, about the trees I can touch, the animals I can see, and the future commons we need to preserve for life to continue, for this planet to be a place of biological diversity and human sharing.

As has been our intention all along, we will occupy public land, a city park, and prevent Kinder Morgan from carrying out its destructive work—work opposed by local First Nations, opposed by the City of Burnaby, and opposed by the majority of Burnaby residents. While the case goes back and forth in the courts, out intention is to keep Kinder Morgan wrapped up dealing with us, either until a court somewhere sides with the people against this mega-corporation, or until the NEB’s December 1 deadline for KM’s complete application.

We are doing this to protect the local environment and people. And we are doing this because we know that people everywhere have to begin taking a stand against fossil fuel projects, and thus doing whatever we can to mitigate climate change. This is no time for new carbon projects. This is the time to build a new economy, based on new, renewable sources of energy, providing new, clean energy jobs. There is simply no benefit to the citizens of Burnaby to have this pipeline here—it benefits only the US-based Kinder Morgan, and the global market its oil will be sold on. And there is no benefit to our ailing global climate. The time to change course is now, and the many volunteers on Burnaby Mountain, and their many, many supporters in the community and around the world, have realized this, and they are taking direct action.

California Proposition 1 Passes: The Power of Big Money Overcomes the Power of the People

By Dan Bacher - Indybay, November 5, 2014

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.

Proposition 1, Governor Jerry Brown's $7.5 billion water bond, sailed to easy victory on November 4, as forecasted in a number of polls.

The election results show how the power of millions of dollars of corporate money in the corrupt oligarchy of California were able to defeat a how a grassroots movement of fishermen, environmentalists, Indian Tribes and family farmers opposed to Prop. 1.

The Hoopa Valley, Yurok, Winnemem Wintu and Concow Maidu Tribes, the defenders of California's rivers and oceans for thousands of years, strongly opposed Prop. 1. because of the threat the bond poses to water, salmon and their culture. (http://www.indybay.org/...)

Prop. 1 proponents, including a rogue's gallery of oil companies, corporate agribusiness tycoons, Big Tobacco, health insurance companies and greedy billionaires, dumped over $16.4 million into the campaign, while Prop. 1 opponents raised around $100,000 for the effort. In other words, the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign outmatched the No on Prop. 1 campaign by a factor of 164 to 1.

In a state and country where corporations have the same rights as people, the political game is rigged so that Goliath is usually able to defeat David. The state's voters, responding to the avalanche of pro-Prop. 1 ads funded by corporate interests, approved the measure by a vote of 66.77 percent to 33.23 percent.

Work Is Killing Workers: Americans Are Working So Hard It’s Actually Killing People; The jobless recovery means massive speedups for many workers you depend on

By Esther Kaplan - The Nation, November 2, 2014

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.

Jessica Wheeler works the night shift as an oncology nurse at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in northeastern Pennsylvania—but her patients are usually wide awake. “When they have a new cancer diagnosis or they’re going to have a biopsy in the morning, they don’t sleep,” says the 25-year-old Wheeler (which is not her real name). “They’re scared.” Other patients are in their final hours of life, surrounded by grieving family. What she wants is to be there to comfort them, to talk them through those difficult hours, to hold their hands and attend to their pain. But, mostly, she can’t.

According to hospital policy, night nurses on her floor should care for no more than six and a half patients, but they typically have ten. When things go bad with one or two, the floor quickly tips into chaos.

Wheeler recalls one night when she had a patient who couldn’t breathe and several others under her care. “I called the supervisor to ask for anybody—a nursing assistant, anybody! And I didn’t get it, and my patient ended up coding.” Another night, Wheeler had a post-op patient who required constant attention; the patient was confused and sick, and she soon escaped her restraints and pulled out her drains, spraying fecal matter all over the wall. Early the next morning, her heartbeat became irregular just as another patient was dying. “Those nights are scary,” Wheeler says. “I think I’ve seen everybody on our floor cry.”

Another young nurse describes a shift when she had only been on the job a few months and was saddled with ten patients, including one whose incision was leaking badly, requiring her to administer blood all night long. “I was drowning,” the nurse says. She called for help multiple times, but it never came. At the 7 am shift change, she confused two patients’ blood-sugar numbers and medicated the wrong one.

Wilkes-Barre was not always this out of control. For decades, it was a nonprofit community hospital serving the onetime coal town. It was bought in 2009 by what is now the nation’s largest for-profit healthcare chain, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which operates 207 hospitals in twenty-nine states. The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the nurses’ union, counts fifty-one fewer nurses since the CHS acquisition, a reduction of more than 10 percent—and that’s on top of the elimination of dozens of nursing aides and secretaries. The nurses are not only juggling more patients, says Fran Prusinski, a critical-care nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty years, but “they have to change the linens, empty the garbage and answer the phones.”

Some of the job’s intensity is due to broad national trends in healthcare. The rise of HMOs and cost-cutting in the 1990s mean patients who are stable and ambulatory—some nurses call them “walkie-talkies”—are now quickly released, so those left in the hospital tend to be sicker and harder to care for. “The patients we’re taking care of on a general medical floor now were the patients twenty years ago we took care of in an ICU [intensive-care unit] with a 2-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio,” says Elaine Weale, an ER nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty-three years. “Now that nurse may have five patients, six patients, seven patients.” And as technology has advanced, gravely ill patients who once would have died are now being kept alive, requiring constant care.

But the crush of work these nurses face also exemplifies a hidden side of the recent economic recovery: in industry after industry, speedups are turning work into a hazard, with increasing numbers of injuries and dangerous levels of stress. While 18.6 million people remain underemployed, millions of others are working more hours, and more intensely, than ever. This is especially true in certain industries, from oil refineries to retail to publishing, where federal data shows labor productivity has risen at double or more the national rate. A 2010 survey of people registered with Monster.com found that 53 percent of respondents had taken on additional duties since the start of the recession because co-workers had been laid off—almost all of them without any additional compensation. A 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Hastings Center for WorkLife Law found that overwork was a particular problem among professionals: 14 percent of women and 38 percent of men were working more than fifty hours a week. But it has become common in industrial occupations as well. “When time and a half for overtime was established by federal law, that was really a job-creation measure, so it would cost less to hire a new worker,” says Mike Wright, the United Steelworkers’ director of health and safety. “But starting in the late 1970s, the cost of benefits exceeded that extra pay cost, and it became cheaper to work your existing workers harder.”

* * *

American workers do work longer hours than we did a generation ago, according to some analyses, and hundreds more per year than our counterparts in France or Germany—the equivalent of six to eight extra weeks a year. We top the Eurozone nations in productivity by 18 percentage points. “Every month the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] releases its worker-productivity numbers, which measure output per labor hour worked,” says Celeste Monforton, a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staffer. Montforton, now at the George Washington University School of Public Health, points out that the numbers “go up every month. And that’s because businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.” Some of these gains come from the adoption of new technologies, but others just come from pushing workers harder.

A 2013 survey of its own union reps by the United Steelworkers, which represents such blue-collar industries as oil and steel, found that production pressures, the increased pace of work and increased workloads topped workplace health concerns—outstripping more obvious risks such as poorly maintained equipment. When the reps were asked to give an example of a health or safety problem that had gotten worse over the past year, understaffing led the list. The jobless recovery, in other words, is sustained in part by aggressively overworking those with jobs.

Take the meatpacking industry. By age 39, Juan Martinez, who worked at a Cargill beef processing plant near Omaha, had hands so disfigured from making repetitive cuts that he could no longer work; he is now surviving on disability. He still experiences pain so intense it feels like nails are being hammered into his fingers. His crew had to slice up 4,600 twenty- to thirty-pound pieces per shift. In the four years he was at the plant, from 2003 to 2006, the number of people at his station dropped from eight to six or seven, while the parts kept coming. Since they couldn’t keep up with the line when someone took a bathroom break, supervisors responded by simply denying break requests. “There are people who would pee in their pants,” he told me, “because they didn’t give them permission to go.”

Another meatpacking worker, whom I’ll call Porfirio, worked on the kill line at XL Four Star Beef (now JBS) in Omaha for twenty-seven years. When he started, he says, they killed 1,000 cattle in a ten-hour shift; now they kill 1,100 in eight and a half hours. At night, when he goes to bed, his hands hurt so much that he has trouble falling asleep; when he wakes up in the morning, he can’t move them at all. Everyone talked about popping enormous doses of Tylenol; some talked about pressure so intense it left them depressed. “The Speed Kills You,” a 2009 report from the nonprofit organization Nebraska Appleseed, was based on a survey of 455 meatpacking workers; it cataloged a range of injuries, from cuts, falls and fractures to musculoskeletal and repetitive-strain injuries, attributed mainly to “uninterrupted line speed.” Three-quarters of respondents said line speed had increased in their plant over the past year.

Line speeds in meatpacking and poultry are federally regulated for food safety only, not worker safety. Last year, the USDA proposed to raise the cap on poultry line speeds from 140 to an almost unimaginable 175 birds a minute, even though hand and wrist injuries were already rampant in the industry. A government study of one poultry plant in March of this year found that 41 percent of the workers already exceed safe limits for hand activity, and 42 percent showed evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

What the Cowboy-Indian Alliance Means for America and the Climate Movement

By Devon Douglas-Bowers - Occupy.Com, October 8, 2014

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.

The Cowboy-Indian Alliance made waves in April when participants led a five-day "Reject and Protect" campaign in Washington, D.C., against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The action was prominent and gained notice in the media, although the origins of the alliance haven’t fully been bought to light – nor the historical importance of such an alliance.

Art Tanderup, a Nebraska farmer who has vocally protested against Keystone XL, stated in an April interview that the alliance formed several years ago due to the “common interests between farmers, ranchers and Native Americans in northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota."

"We’ve come together as brothers and sisters to fight this Keystone XL pipeline, because of the risk to the Ogallala Aquifer, to the land, to the health of the people,” he said. The pipeline is a threat to both communities, he added, as the Ogallala Aquifer – the country's largest underground water source, located beneath the Great Plains – not only provides water for 2.3 million people but also “threatens the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for probably a couple 'nother million,” bringing the total number whose water supply is threatened by construction of the pipeline to about 5 million people.

In addition, the aquifer provides water for animals, livestock and irrigation. All of this means that, contrary to oil industry claims, the pipeline in fact imperils the health and economic stability of the Midwest.

For the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Great Sioux Nation, there is also a historical significance to this battle. As Tanderup stated in the interview, part of the pipeline’s route, as well as his own farm, “is on the Ponca Trail of Tears from back in the 1870s, when Chief Standing Bear and his people were driven from the Niobrara area to Oklahoma.”

The extraction processes, such as tar sands mining and the refining and dilution processes used to obtain the oil, are extremely dangerous. Nez Perce activist Gary Dorr noted in the same interview that before the oil extraction started, Fort Chip in Canada had “a negligible cancer rate,” but now they “[have] a cancer rate 400 times the national Canadian per capita average. Every single family [in Fort Chip] has cancer in their families.”

COSATU Issues Draft Policy Statement Against Fracking and Tar Sands Mining

By COSATU - July 2014

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.

Introduction

The discussions on shale gas extraction in South Africa (SA) have incited lively debates amongst activists, government officials and communities. These are all informed by divergent ideological paradigms and competing interests. The president and minister of finance have provided the South African citizenry with a clear picture of government’s stance on this contentious matter. This perspective was captured in both the state of the nation address and the budget speech of 2014. For example, in the budget speech delivered to parliament in February, Gordhan (2014:21) stated that “we will pursue the exploration of shale gas to provide an additional energy source for our economy”. His sentiments were echoed by the president when he told South Africans that: “Nuclear has the possibility of generating well over 9000 megawatts, while shale gas is recognised as a game changer for our economy. We will pursue the shale gas option within the framework of our good environmental   laws (Zuma 2014).

The above-mentioned quotes indicate that the South African government supports shale gas extraction. This position has produced two contending reactions from the population. The first supports government’s position on the basis that it will improve energy security and decrease dependence on imports (Warren 2013; Zhenbo et al 2014). Proponents also argue that shale gas exploration will create employment, and replace other harmful sources of energy (Considine et al 2010; Turner 2012).

The second perspective argues that shale gas extraction will produce a number of negative environmental and socio-economic effects. Advocates highlight the externalities that are associated with this form of energy source. The emphasis is placed on the carbon footprint; water contamination and usage; negative health effects on both humans and livestock.

This discussion paper will contribute the debate on the shale gas exploration in SA. It will use the existing research and data to determine whether this form of energy generation will produce positive socio-economic outcomes. This analysis will be guided by the COSATU resolutions which will be summarized in the following sections.

1. Brief Background on COSATU Resolutions and Policies

All COSATU policy must be read within the broader context of the federation’s paradigm on the political economy. There is a dialectical relationship between socio-economic, political and environmental phenomena. Thus, the debate on shale gas exploration cannot be confined to the natural sciences. Conservative analysts discuss shale gas exploration within the limited scope of ecological and environmental degradation. We oppose this perspective on the basis that it ignores the intersecting relationship between environmental destruction and socio-economic underdevelopment. In our view, it is unscientific to separate socio-economic issues from environmental trends. These are all interlinked and should be viewed as connected parts of a wider discourse on sustainable development. This logic is captured in COSATU’s Growth Path towards Full Employment which states that:

“Economic growth and development must support sustainable environments.  Industrial and social processes must minimize the disruption of natural processes; limit environmental degradation, adverse changes in bio-diversity, soil erosion and desertification, the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, and pollution of water streams and ground water.  Patterns of consumption must also be aligned towards products that optimize environmental regeneration (COSATU Growth Path 2010).

The above-mentioned statement captures the tools of analysis that will be used in this paper. These will complimented by the following resolutions on climate change and energy.

Read the entire document as a PDF File.

Toxic Chemicals, Carcinogens Skyrocket Near Fracking Sites

By Alan Neuhauser - US News and World Report, October 31, 2014

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.

Oil and gas wells across the country are spewing “dangerous” cancer-causing chemicals into the air, according to a new study that further corroborates reports of health problems around hydraulic fracturing sites.

“This is a significant public health risk,” says Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York and lead author of the study, which was published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health. “Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities. But five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen.”

Eight poisonous chemicals were found near wells and fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming at levels that far exceeded recommended federal limits. Benzene, a carcinogen, was the most common, as was formaldehyde, which also has been linked to cancer. Hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs and can affect the brain and upper-respiratory system, also was found.

“I was amazed,” Carpenter says. “Five orders of magnitude over federal limits for benzene at one site – that’s just incredible. You could practically just light a match and have an explosion with that concentration.

“It’s an indication of how leaky these systems are.”

The health effects of living near a fracking site have been felt elsewhere, according to separate research. A study published last month by researchers from the University of Washington and Yale University found residents within a kilometer of a well had up to twice the number of health problems as those living at least 2 kilometers away.

“The way fracking’s being done in these five states, it’s not being done safely,” Carpenter says.

Fracking emissions bad enough to cause death or severe health impacts

By TX Sharon - Bluedaze, October 29, 2014

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.

The fact that breathing hydrocarbons can be lethal should not surprise anyone. Breathing hydrocarbons kills babies and adult oilfield workers. What you may not realize is that these same hydrocarbons are in the air venting from the oil and gas facilities in your backyards.

I’ve blogged about Dustin before. When I have time to blog, all kinds of people contact me. Several people close to Dustin contacted me after my blog post. I understood how important the deposition was. You’ll have to read the article and connect some dots to know what all that means.

Dustin, like several other men in the story, was a flowback operator. Flowback is part of the completion process where the fracking fluid comes back up to the surface. They store this fluid in tanks onsite that have 16″ x 16″ vents on top because the flowback is so volatile it will blow up the tanks if not vented. That venting of flowback is bad news for neighborhoods.

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