You are here

Energy Justice Network

EcoDefense Radio: Alex Lotorto on Supporting Frontline Communities

By Ryan Clover - Eco Defense Radio, September 8, 2016

Audio File

Bio:

Alex has been the Shale Gas Program Coordinator for Energy Justice Network since 2011. Outside of his professional capacity, he has worked extensively as a volunteer organizer fighting for environmental justice in communities facing rural poverty.

Alex also has a labor union background and has been a union activist in both the private and public sectors, is a union delegate for the Industrial Workers of the World, and represents workers in unemployment compensation appeal hearings on a volunteer basis.

Main Message :

Foundations and major environmental groups (Big Greens) aren’t situated to help the people most in need and Organizers need to build their own support network if the most difficult and important work is going to get done.

What we talked about :

In this conversation Alex shares his experience working with his friends in Northeastern Pennsylvania. From working in rural communities, and with a history in labor organizing, Alex understands the importance of building support networks of our own – and not relying on large foundations or major environmental groups (Big Greens).

At first I was uncomfortable when Alex started sharing examples of how organizations like the Sierra Club can actually perpetuate the problems of fracking – I didn’t want this episode to come across as cynical. But Alex’s message isn’t cynical, it’s critically important – it’s empowering. He shares some concrete examples about how we can build support networks of our own, and has suggestions for how people working within large environmental organizations can help steer them toward supporting the front lines.

Links to stuff we talked about:

Trees Cut as Maple Syrup Farmers Lose Eminent Domain Battle Over Constitution Pipeline

By Energy Justice Network - EcoWatch, March 3, 2016

IWW Members have been involved in this campaign:

Guarded by heavily armed U.S. marshals, a Constitution Pipeline tree crew began felling trees in the Holleran family’s maple sugaring stand Tuesday while upset landowners and protesters looked on.

The cutting began 11 days after Federal Judge Malachy Mannion dismissed charges of contempt against the landowners for allegedly asking a tree crew that had arrived on the property not to cut the trees. The charges were dismissed due to the prosecution’s inability to show enough evidence of violation of the February 2015 order that cited eminent domain in giving Constitution Pipeline Company permission to cut on the property without landowner permission. The judge expanded on the original order, adding a 150-foot “safety buffer” to be maintained around all tree-cutting activity, effectively extending the size of the Right of Way. All visitors and family members are remaining outside of the buffer while trees are being felled this week.

North Harford Maple is a family business owned by Cathy Holleran that produces maple sap and syrup utilizing their sugarbush, which includes 1,670 linear feet of the proposed 125-foot-wide right of way.

I have no words for how heartbroken I am,” Megan Holleran, a family member and field technician for North Harford Maple, said. “We’ve been preparing for this for years, but watching the trees fall was harder than I ever imagined it would be.” She admits that she expected more compassion from the company, but was wrong. This week’s cutting will destroy 90 percent of the only sugarbush that the family owns. “They refused to see us as people and brought guns to our home,” she added.

In February 2015, Judge Mannion in Scranton ordered that the Holleran property and several others in Susquehanna County be condemned using eminent domain for the private use of Constitution Pipeline Company.

A partial Notice to Proceed with non-mechanized tree cutting was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday, Jan. 29 for the Pennsylvania portion of the Constitution Pipeline. According to the deadline set by FERC, felling must be completed by March 31.

The Constitution Pipeline is a project of Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas to be used to transport shale gas obtained through the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The right of way would be at least 100 feet wide, with additional intermittent 50 foot wide workspaces and access roads.

According to Kelly Finan on her Facebook wall, “In 2015, the Constitution Pipeline company used eminent domain to seize my best friend’s family maple stand for their natural gas pipeline in New Milford, PA. The family has not been compensated for their land. In New York, the permitting for the pipeline has not been completed, so the family argued that cutting trees on their property was preemptive. When the family politely denied tree crews access to their property last month, the company took the family to federal court in an attempt to have them fined and put in federal prison for violating the eminent domain court order. Today the company arrived on the property with assault rifle-bearing federal marshals. They cut down the trees.”

“If the American flag stands for anything,” Rich Garella said on Finan’s Facebook page, “it stands for the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. These pipeline companies are misusing eminent domain and the courts are on the side of the companies. They are taking land, scarring our countryside and destroying livelihoods for the sake not of public use, but of private profit and nothing more.”

How To Fight a Pipeline

By Alex Lotorto - Energy Justice Network, February 16, 2016

Energy Justice Network is on the cutting edge of fighting fracking and related infrastructure in the northeast.

It's a special organizing challenge to fight pipelines, as we're fighting a line, not a point, on the map. Companies and agencies won't release data listing all impacted landowners. In Pennsylvania, we have enhanced our outreach by using GIS to overlay company pipeline maps with 911 emergency addresses obtained from each county, allowing us to identify impacted landowners.

Along the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in northeast Pennsylvania, we used this information to mass-mail and go door-to-door to over 200 landowners in three counties to inform them of their rights and build a landowner coalition that meets quarterly.

Our goal for landowner organizing is to have them each deny survey permission to the company (Williams Partners LLC) so that permit filing can't be completed. Then, we intend to support landowners through eminent domain proceedings by providing referrals to vetted attorneys and appraisers.

Media strategy is just as important and we have had a number of human interest stories published in local and national news about compelling cases where landowners are standing up against Williams and other companies.

In Pike and Northampton Counties, we appealed the PA Department of Environmental Protection's air permits for twin compressor stations meant to pressurize the Columbia Pipeline 1278 line that transports gas to the proposed Cove Point LNG export terminal. Both compressors emit the equivalent of a fleet of idling diesel school buses, making the local air quality especially dangerous for children's developing lungs.

During the compressor appeals, Columbia Pipeline motioned to dismiss our case and Governor Tom Wolf's attorneys agreed. However, the judge dismissed their motion and is allowing us to proceed with our arguments regarding best available control technologies, health impacts, local zoning approval, and other important considerations.

Most urgently, we're leading the cutting edge battle against the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline, a project of Williams and Cabot Oil & Gas, which is proposed to carry fracked gas from Susquehanna County, PA to Albany, NY and beyond.

On January 29, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permitted tree cutting to begin in Pennsylvania that must be finished by March 31 to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act as enforced by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

We have landowners across Susquehanna County who have given our volunteers and staff permission to monitor the pipeline clearing for violations. On one property, where a sugar maple farm is producing syrup this season, we have set up a picket line where we've turned away tree crews for 16 days straight.

The picket at North Harford Maple has drawn both the attention of national media organizations like NPR and the Associated Press and legal action in federal court by the company. We're pledging to stick to it for the long haul so stay tuned for more updates!

Inspiring Fossil Fuel Resistance Action In Northeast Pennsylvania

By Ted Glick - Ted Glick's Blog, February 8, 2016

Northeast PA – Very possibly as early as tomorrow, chain-saw-armed tree cutters hired by Williams Partners, a powerful pipeline-building corporation for the gas and oil industry, will try to cut down sugar maple trees on the property of Maryann Zeffer, Cathy and Megan Holleran and their family. For 65 years they have lived on this land, and for the last ten or so they have been producing delicious, pure, Pennsylvania maple syrup from those trees.

This destruction won’t happen without a big fight. Nine days ago as I write, after FERC gave approval to Williams’ request to start tree cutting in Pa. even though Williams does not have all of the necessary approvals to build their Pa. to NY Constitution pipeline, an encampment was set up on the Zeffer/Holleran land. Every day since people have been there.

The press has been there too. TV stations in Binghamton, NY and Scranton, Pa. have done stories on this epic David vs. Goliath battle, though this one is more like strong women Davidas vs. Goliath.

I spent a very cold but inspiring day yesterday with Maryann, Cathy and Megan and about 30 other people there for some part of the day, including fracktivist heroine Vera Scoggins, who I had never met before. One of the rewarding things about a life of for-the-people activism and organizing is the wonderful people you are always meeting and getting to know.

Yesterday it looked like Williams’ tree cutters might not be getting to the Zeffer/Holleran land for a while; they had started just the day before, a number of miles away. However, just today, another crew started cutting a little more than a mile away, and the locals sent out an alert calling upon as many people as possible to show up today if possible but tomorrow for sure. They expect the confrontation to take place within 48 hours at most.

People who can get to the site should do so right away. You don’t need to be prepared to risk arrest to do so; the more people there to watch and observe and take pictures and spread the word the better.

You do need a car. Here’s the information you need, from the “Stop the Constitution Pipeline in Pa” site on Facebook:
The Holleran property is located at 2131 Three Lakes Road, New Milford, PA, but use these coordinates to find where people are gathered to stop the tree cutting: 41.8272387, -75.7585062

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.

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.

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.

Picketers protest gas compressor expansion in Milford

By Jessica Cohen - Pocono Record, February 4, 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.

MILFORD — Accusing Columbia Pipeline Group of flagrant disregard for clean air and local laws, about 40 people braved temperatures in the teens Saturday to picket on Broad Street and at CPG’s gas compressor construction site on Fire Tower Road.

Construction workers began showing up in January, within a day or two of successive federal and state approvals, to clear trees and demolish the old compressor station. They work seven days a week, often from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., according to a neighbor of the site.

Last Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved construction of a new compressor, much bigger than the one that had been on the site.

Alex Lotorto, Energy Justice Network organizer, who put together Saturday's demonstrations, said Columbia Pipeline Group has refused to comply with local law requiring a township conditional use hearing.

“In December of 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that townships have both the right and responsibility to protect the environmental rights of their residents,” he said.

An electric compressor would largely eliminate toxic emissions, but would cost CPG several million dollars more than a gas compressor, said Milford township supervisor Gary Clark, who has requested that concession. However, Clark said he and the other township supervisors fear an expensive lawsuit if they legally enforce demands that CPG submit to a conditional use hearing.

David Wallace, an attorney in Montague, N.J., who has litigated against gas companies, questioned that decision.

“When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down Article 13 (legislation that would have given gas companies more local power), it put the Constitutional responsibility for resources and safety back in the preeminent position where it belonged,” he said. “Townships have a basic responsibility, and they don't really have a good excuse to avoid it.”

One picketer, Justin Snyder, who lives next door to the compressor site, said that since the recent pipeline expansion, gas fumes have been frequent and nauseating, but his complaints have drawn little action.

EcoUnionist News #31

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Rail Safety:

Carbon Bubble:

March for Real Climate Leadership:

  • KPFA FM Livestream of the March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, California | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | - February 7, 2015

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

From Shock to Victory: The Planet’s “Immune System” at Work

By Jan Baty, Newark Residents Against the Power Plant - Energy Justice Network, December 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.

As I saw Alex Lotorto (campus and community organizer for Energy Justice Network) step out of his car, unloading materials for the meeting he was to lead at my house, I had a flash back to how I had discovered the Energy Justice Network. In Newark Delaware, residents had taken on the enormous task of stopping a project the University of Delaware was considering, a data center power plant, proposed by The Data Centers, LLC (TDC), to be built in the heart of this college town and the university, at a former Chrysler plant site. The plans for the power plant had now grown to 279 megawatts —at least two times larger than any other on-site power generation facility at data centers in the US.

News of this proposal had been kept tightly under wraps for over a year by City of Newark staff, TDC, the State of DE and the University of DE until June 2013, when the CEO of TDC approached the local Sierra Club chapter seeking an endorsement for this project as being “green.” The alarm was raised by the directors, Stephanie Herron and Amy Rowe.

An official resident’s group was formed, Newark Residents Against the Power Plant (NRAPP), which by now had hundreds of members and dozens of working groups and neighborhood groups across Newark. Much effort was going into persuading city council to withdraw their support of this proposal. City council meetings were filled with passionate statements by citizens, including revelations of results from FOIA requests, and uncovered information about TDC’s plans. There was a continuous stream of letters to the editor of the Wilmington News Journal.  Knowing how long it often takes for governments to respond, some of us were eager to pour our energy into educating university faculty, and students about this —since most knew nothing about it!  We realized that if given enough pressure the University could certainly stop this project.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.