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Pennsylvania

Tony Mazzocchi Lives: Blue-Green Organizer Takes Up ‘Just Transition’ Mantle

By Mark Hand - CounterPunch, October 20, 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.

Union and environmental activist Alex Lotorto believes environmentalists should be working more closely with organized labor and following the advice of some of labor’s more enlightened leaders.

When Lotorto speaks with his friends and neighbors who work in the shale gas fields of northeast Pennsylvania, they generally do not have favorable things to say about environmental groups. And when he meets with his fellow environmental activists, solidarity with workers is often missing.

“Hardly anywhere in the conversation do you hear the question, ‘How do we bring the workforce into the picture and how do we make sure that the communities that are losing these well-paying, family-sustaining jobs have something in the end?'” Lotorto, who lives in Scranton, Pa., said in an interview.

There have been attempts in recent years to bridge the gap. For example, the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle featured “Turtles and Teamsters” coming together to oppose corporate-managed globalization. The BlueGreen Alliance was created in 2006 to unite large labor unions and Big Green groups in a more lasting manner, with the goal of addressing environmental challenges while maintaining quality jobs.

And yet, the ties forged between labor unions and environmental groups remain fragile. Lotorto sympathizes with extractive industry employees, including coal miners in the bituminous coal fields of southern West Virginia, many of whom blame federal regulators for their worsening job prospects. “There is a war on coal. And it’s been led by Beltway, nongovernmental organizations,” Lotorto emphasized, referring to the Big Green groups who have made shutting down coal-fired power plants a top priority. “We’ve missed the fact that removing coal from the picture in Appalachia is devastating.”

The federal government is offering some help to the hardest-hit communities in coal country. The Obama administration on Oct. 15 announced the federal government will be giving $14.5 million to 36 programs designed to help coal country communities cope with the economic hardships from the coal industry’s decline. The grants will be used to spur economic development and workforce training to move coal communities away from coal reliance.

Lotorto views these efforts as an attempt by he Obama administration to throw a “bone to labor and a bone to Appalachia.”

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.

Stand with Dimock families as they take their water contamination case to federal jury trial

By Alex Lotorto - Energy Justice: Shale Initiative, April 3, 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.

UPDATE: Dimock PA families with water contamination will finally have their day in court against Cabot Oil & Gas, but only with your help. The federal jury trial will start on November 30, 2015 in the Scranton Federal Courthouse and will be the highest-profile court case related to shale gas development in history. Donations accepted here.

Frackademia in Depth; An analysis of the oil and gas industryʼs case for fracking

By Robert Galbraith, Gin Armstrong, and Kevin Connor - Public Accountability Initiative, February 2015

In the wake of New York Stateʼs decision to ban fracking, drilling proponents have criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration for basing the decision on “pseudo science”and “junk science.” When asked about the New York fracking ban at his 2015 “State of American Energy” press conference, American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard called for “more thoughtful consideration as to economics, environment, and sound science –because the science is clearly on the side of development and on the side of industry.”

Over the years, some of this science has proven less than reliable. In a trend that became known as “frackademia,”several universities issued industry-friendly fracking studies that the institutions later retracted and walked back due to erroneous central findings, false claims of peer review, and undisclosed industry ties. The studies bore the hallmarks of an industry effort to manipulate and corrupt the scientific debate around fracking, much like the tobacco industry manipulated the scientific debate around the dangers associated with smoking.

This report suggests that those studies, rather than being isolated cases, were consistent with a larger pattern – pro-fracking scholarship is often industry-tied and lacking in scientific rigor. An in-depth look at frackademia reveals that many of these kinds of studies have been produced by industry and its allies in academia, in government, and in the consulting world.

The report approaches this topic by analyzing a broad set of fracking studies that the industry has put forward to help it make its case. Specifically, the report considers an extensive list of over 130 studies compiled by an oil and gas industry group, Energy in Depth. The list was specifically used to convince the government of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, home of the city of Pittsburgh, to lease mineral rights under its Deer Lakes Park to Range Resources for gas drilling. Though that decision was a relatively minor one in the context of the nationwide fracking debate, the list provides a telling window onto the fracking research that the industry believes is fit for public consumption, and which it uses to make the case that the science around the issue is settled.

The report assesses the relative independence and quality of the studies by identifying and classifying each studyʼs industry ties –through funders, authors, and issuers –and determining whether it was peer-reviewed.

Read the report (PDF).

Bad Call: PA Governor Wolf Pursues Drilling on 700,000 Acres of State Land

By Allison Petryk, Lee Clark, and  Ray Kemble - Energy Justice Network, January 29, 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.

“Keeping 700,000 acres of our public lands on the table for the drillers is like letting quarterback Tom Brady keep his deflated footballs for the Super Bowl. This is the Big Game and Tom Wolf is blowing it. I have a front row seat.” – Ray Kemble, Dimock PA.

“The compendium of scientific studies that convinced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking shows that it cannot be done safely. Without further action to reclaim already damaged lands, transition to clean energy, and ban shale development across Pennsylvania, Wolf’s words lack substance.” – Allison Petryk, Energy Justice Network

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – On Thursday, Governor Tom Wolf will announce a moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state lands, but will leave nearly 700,000 acres of Pennsylvania’s state forests on the table for drilling.

The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources states that 385,400 acres have already been leased for Marcellus Shale drilling and 290,000 acres could be developed through private leases.

Thursday’s order does not stop the Department of Environmental Protection from permitting wells, pipelines, or compressor stations on existing leases, where there is room for as many as 6,000 wells, according to PA DCNR. If all of those wells are drilled and developed, approximately 25,000 forested acres would be converted for roads, pipeline right of ways, and well pads. As of October, PA DCNR had approved more than 1,000 Marcellus wells on state forests and nearly 600 of them — clustered on about 230 well pads — had been drilled.

According to the PA DEP online permit report, the Wolf administration permitted 22 shale gas wells for five counties in just three days from January 21-23. One of those well permits, Chief Oil’s Teel 4H, is within a mile of a cluster of 19 water wells in Dimock, PA that were spoiled by gas drilling in 2008.

Meet the Insurgents on the Front Line of America’s Fracking War

Compiled by Peter Rugh - Vice, January 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.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made headlines at the end of last year when he announced a ban on hydraulic fracking in his state. That was unquestionably a victory for environmentalists, but in neighboring Pennsylvania, however, fracking is still underway. This summer, I visited the northeastern region of the Keystone State to see what the the front lines of America's shale gas boom looks like.

Far off the radar of Google Maps, I found Craig Stevens mowing the front lawn on his 115-acre property in Susquehanna County. Craig, a former National Rifle Association recruiter, hasn't had a drink from his faucet in about a year and a half, and for good reason.

"Blood started shooting out of my face," he told me at his home, licking the sweat off of his gray mustache. "The water started tasting like metal. Slightly at first, then it got stronger. I had spontaneous nosebleeds. Eight of them over two weeks. I couldn't figure out what it was, but the day I stopped drinking the water is the day the nosebleeds stopped." Craig had the water tested. "Barium and strontium levels are through the roof," he said.

Back in 2007, representatives of Chesapeake Energy visited Craig's now deceased 95-year-old grandmother in a nursing home. For $50 an acre, they convinced her to sell the mineral rights to the property, which has been in Craig's family for six generations. Craig and his siblings later negotiated the fee up to $8,000 an acre and a 20 percent cut of everything that is extracted, but he's still pissed that Chesapeake had the gall to hustle his grandma. And he's bitter now that his water has gone bad.

"They won't do anything about it, because they won't admit they did anything wrong," he said.

REPORT: Pennsylvania Shale Gas Operators Cited for 337 Well Casing Violations

By Alex Lotorto and Adam Hasz - Frack University, October 30, 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.

Link to the report

Shale gas operators have been cited for a total of 337 well casing violations in Pennsylvania out of an estimated 8,473 wells drilled.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s compliance and well count data, there has been one well casing violation for every twenty-five wells drilled in the decade since unconventional shale gas development began.

Well casing violations are cited when the structural integrity of a shale gas well is lost. Improperly casing the borehole may result in contamination entering groundwater resources such as springs and aquifers. Well casing violations fall under seven categories, some of those categories include; improperly or insufficiently installed cement, failure to report insufficient or improper cement within a twenty-four hour period; and failure to case and cement to prevent migrations into fresh groundwater.

Two companies with the greatest number of casing violations include Chesapeake Energy, with fifty-four violations and Talisman Energy Inc with forty-one violations, each accounting for about six percent of their total well casing violations. Operators with ten or more wells who had the greatest percentage of well casing violations were Chief Oil and Gas and Exxon Mobil, both having approximately 11.5 percent of wells drilled with well casing violations.

The data review was completed by a partnership of environmental groups including Energy Justice Network and SustainUs.  Researchers sourced well count data from the PA DEP Spud Report and the well casing violations were counted using the online PA DEP Compliance Report, both available on the department’s website.

Energy Justice Network mission is to support communities threatened by polluting energy and waste technologies. Taking direction from a grassroots base and the Principles of Environmental Justice, EJN advocates a clean energy, zero-emission, zero-waste future for all.

SustainUS’ mission is “to empower young people to advance sustainable development. Through proactive education, research and advocacy at the policy-making level and at the grassroots, we are building a future in which all people recognize the inherent equality and interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. We strive to reflect our values through the diversity of members and projects, our ongoing commitment to educating ourselves and others, and the way we live our lives.”

Pennsylvania Instructed Its Employees To Ignore Residents Sickened By Drilling

By Andrew Breiner - Think Progress, June 20, 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 Pennsylvania Department of Health instructed its employees never to talk to residents who complained of negative health effects from fracking, StateImpact Pennsylvania reported Thursday. Two retired employees of the department detailed restrictions on attending meetings, lists of topics they could not discuss, and a general departmental hostility to the idea of health problems linked to shale gas drilling. The state’s governor, Tom Corbett, declined to comment for StateImpact Pennsylvania’s story.

Pennsylvania has had more than 6,000 hydraulic fracturing wells drilled within the last six years, and zero state studies on their health impacts. In Pennsylvania, and near fracking operations across the country, people have won settlements from fossil fuel companies after being sickened. In many cases the drilling company imposes a gag order to prevent sickened people from spreading the word about what caused their illness and building the case that fracking has negative health effects.

In 2011 Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended a registry to collect health data from people living near fracking operations. Three years later, it still doesn’t exist. Across the country in Colorado, legislators tried to commission a study on the health effects of living near drilling, but fossil fuel advocates ensured its demise. Doctors want more data on health effects of fracking, but the interests of the drillers usually win out.

Former Pennsylvania Health Employees Say Bosses Enforced Silence on Shale Drilling

By Brandon Baker - EcoWatch, June 19, 2014 (reposted with permission from EcoWatch)

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 shocking investigative report revealed Thursday that Pennsylvania state health employees may have compounded the danger of Marcellus Shale drilling by systematically refusing to respond to residents’ concerns about it.

A former Department of Health employee said she was told not to return phone calls from residents who expressed concerns about natural gas drilling, NPR reported in its State Impact series.

“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a Fayette County community health nurse for nearly four decades.

Another department retiree, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed Stuck’s accusation. He said that drilling was the only public health issue he remembers officials enforcing silence on during his 20 years with the department.

Exaggerating the Employment Impacts of Shale Drilling: How and Why

By Frank Mauro, Michael Wood, Michele Mattingly, Mark Price, Stephen Herzenberg, and Sharon Ward - Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, November 2013

Over the last five years, firms with an economic interest in the expansion of drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations — and their allies, supporters, and trade associations — have used a variety of tools and techniques to exaggerate the employment impacts of shale drilling. These strategies have ranged from the use of inappropriate measures, such as data on new hires, to represent job growth to the misleading attribution of all jobs in “ancillary” industries to the shale industry.

A review of statements by representatives of shale drilling firms and their allies makes the motivation for this exaggeration clear — to preclude, or at least to minimize, taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling.

Read the report (PDF).

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