Monday, April 25, 2011

Poisoning the Wells Fracking the Wind River Country

How a Small Wyoming Town Might Be the First to Prove its Water Damaged by Natural Gas Production
Despite the testimonies of the people living by gas drilling, the companies have yet to be held accountable for damages. That might change.

March 25th 2011
Pavillion, Wyoming.

Jeff and Rhonda Locker’s water changed abruptly one day in the mid-1990s while Rhonda was doing the laundry. A Denver-based gas company was working over an old well in back of their house, when the wash water turned black. “It happened just like that,” Jeff Locker says. “I stopped him and asked him what he did to our water, and of course he didn’t do anything to our water… It’s been bad ever since.”

Donna Meeks’ well water was so good, she used to haul it to town for the school office coffee pot. Neither she nor her husband Louis noticed anything wrong until her co-workers stopped drinking the coffee; it was 2004, and a Canadian company, EnCana, had just drilled a new well about 500 feet from the Meeks home. Some visiting friends later said they noticed the water tasted and smelled like gas, but didn’t want to be rude by saying anything about it.

John and Cathy Fenton had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with their water—it tasted fine. But just to be neighborly, they went along with the Lockers, the Meeks, and other Pavillion-area residents when the Environmental Protection Agency came in 2009 for an initial round of testing. That’s when they found out that their family had been drinking water laced with methane. Follow-up tests a year later found a whole soup’s worth of semi-volatile organic compounds in the family’s stock well....continued....

Cattle vs. Conoco: How Gas Fields are Crowding out New Mexico Ranchers

March 24th, 2011
Blanco, New Mexico.

Chris Velasquez sees the impacts of gas development in the San Juan Basin of northern New Mexico through the eyes of a rancher, and those of a man whose roots in this country pre-date both the gas rigs and the arrival of Anglos.

He and his dad ran cattle, until recently, on a grazing allotment called the Rosa, rolling high desert lands punctuated by bluffs and arroyos, ringed by mesas, adjacent to the Carson National Forest on the east, the Southern Ute reservation to the north, and bordered on the west by Navajo Lake. In a way, it’s what’s left of Velasquez’ ancestral homeland. “We used to live where the Pine River and the San Juan meet up here, then when they built the lake, it either was drown or move,” he says. In 1962, the Bureau of Reclamation completed a dam stretching three-quarters of a mile across the San Juan River. The idea was to control flooding and provide irrigation water for the Navajo tribe. It also displaced Velasquez’ community. “All my ancestor’s on my mom’s side, well on my dad’s side too, came from right up here,” he says. “My grandpa and my grandma on my mom’s side, they were the second farm below the dam. They got chased out too. From right here on, all the people who lived here—they were all Spanish people—relocated. Threw them to the four winds. Scattered them all over the place.”

The Velasquez family wasn’t blown far: his dad bought a place near Blanco, New Mexico, the nearest town with a name, a short drive west and south of their former home.  The entire clan now lives and ranches on about 320 acres they share with 17 gas wells. “My dad’s the one that started the ranch, but we’ve always had animals,” he says. It was the former owners who sold the mineral rights back in the 1930s or 40s. “So they’ve been after this area for a long time,” he says. “They’ve been hammering it, it didn’t happen overnight. They had a vision for it.”.....continued..

Drafting Nature's Constitution: Simply regulating pollution will never really stop it--Yes! Magazine

Mari Margil
March 2nd 2011

The environmental movement, with its army of professional advocates, lawyers, grassroots campaigners, and dedicated funders, has been around for decades. Yet nearly every biological indicator shows a planet in crisis—and poised to unravel faster as climate change disrupts already-shaky ecosystem functions.

Mari Margil, associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) believes it's time for different tactics. The nonprofit agency used to work within the body of existing environmental law—helping impacted residents file lawsuits or appeal corporate permits—to protect communities from environmental damage. But a series of blocked efforts, often made worse by the very agencies meant to protect the environment, convinced the group that more fundamental changes were necessary.

"Our system of environmental laws and regulations don't actually protect the environment," says CLEDF's Mari Margil. "At best, they merely slow the rate of its destruction ... We weren't helping anyone protect anything."

The organization has since changed its goals, working with citizens from all over North and South America to literally rewrite local laws in ways that allow people to speak up for their communities, watersheds, forests, and air.

Megaloads, water company: Ordinances help local communities fend off corporations

 March 20, 2011

Last year, ExxonMobil publicly reared its head in Montana with a plan to shoehorn 200 megaloads onto U.S. Highway 12. Since then, the Carlyle Group announced the pending purchase of the California company that owns Mountain Water in Missoula.

Activism is alive and well here, and Missoulians are writing letters, signing petitions and marching in the streets. In City Hall, Mayor John Engen is getting emails calling for the city of Missoula to buy Mountain Water.

On the other end of town, in the wee hours of March 10, hundreds of activists temporarily plugged Reserve Street when the first megaloads rolled through Missoula - these big rigs belonging to ConocoPhillips. But the giant trucks passed anyway, just as they had inched along the federally protected highway along the Lochsa River.

When it comes to the will of the people and corporate autonomy, the deck is stacked in favor of corporations, said Zack Porter, a spokesman for All Against the Haul. It is just one group that formed to fight Big Oil from building a permanent corridor through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana for these loads, which can weigh as much as 700,000 pounds.

"Right now, the burden of proof is on us to demonstrate these projects are unsuitable. The burden of proof should be on the corporations," Porter said.......continued........

Tackling Corporate Power, One Town at a Time: What’s a town to do when state regulatory agencies don’t keep corporate drilling out?--Yes Magazine

by Mari Margil
March 17th 2011

As more information about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," (a technique used during natural gas drilling) emerges, more and more cities and municipalities are organizing to keep drilling and fracking out of their own communities, but are surprised to find that they do not have the legal authority to say “no” to these corporate activities.

Last week, Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, with fewer than 2,500 residents, became the latest community to do something about this, adopting the state’s first ordinance banning corporations from natural gas drilling.

Drafted with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the ordinance comes on the heels of the City of Pittsburgh’s ordinance banning drilling by corporations, adopted in November. Both ordinances also eliminate the authority of corporations to wield their constitutional rights to override the municipality's wishes. Such constitutional rights and powers are often used by corporations to overturn local and state laws adopted to protect the environment and public health.
More and more communities are organizing to fight drilling and fracking, but are surprised to find that they do not have the legal authority to say “no” to these corporate activities.

A similar ordinance was recently introduced in Wales, New York; it comes up for a vote in April. If adopted, it would make Wales the first community in New York to restrict corporate rights and ban corporations from drilling.

Fracking Will Cause 'Irreversible Harm': Shale-Gas Extraction After-Affects Will Threaten Drinking Water, Could Jeopardize Agriculture, Expert Says--Montreal Gazette

 Kevin Dougherty
March 4, 2011
QUEBEC - A geological engineering professor whose specialty is rock mechanics and hydrogeology says hydraulic fracturing to free natural gas from shale rock formations will cause "irreversible harm" lasting thousands of years.

And the gas companies will be long gone, leaving behind costly remediation, Marc Durand said in an interview, suggesting the gas producers should be forced to establish a reserve fund.

"The billions required would be much more than all the profits beckoning now," said the retired Université du Québec à Montréal professor.

The circulating gas left behind will threaten the water Quebecers drink and could jeopardize agriculture, he said. The Utica shale field gas deposits between Montreal and Quebec City lie under some of the best farmland in the province.

"Fracking" is the technique of pumping a mixture of water, sand and a cocktail of toxic chemicals under pressure into wells drilled horizontally to liberate the gas from the shale.....continued.....

The Privatization of Municipal and County Governments

 In the March 9th Amy Goodman/"Democracy Now!" report, March 9th, 2011, Naomi Klein was interviewed.  Listen to what she has to say about the current bill introduced into the Michigan legislature and to her interview with Naomi Klein:  click on listen to youtube of Democracy Now!
This is a summary of part of it "Democracy Now!" 3/9/2011:

 A bill in the Michigan state legislature would in the case of an emergency, give an appointed person or a firm (corporation) the authority to  dissolve the municipal/county government and run it.  This law being passed in Michigan now could happen anywhere, according to Naomi Klein, where a corporation would "become" the government of that municipality or county.

 This has happened in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Currently we are seeing this occurring in the privatization of our school systems.  When Katrina occurred, the public school system was dismantled in New Orleans and replaced with privatized publicly funded charter schools. I heard on Democracy Now last week that this same dismantling is
Rhode Island where minority children will have no opportunity to attend a publicly funded school system.

The efforts we put in place on the local county and municipality levels to exercise our rights to "local self governance" are critical at this point in history. Never before have we seen such actions coming forth in this country.  Germany under Hitler, yes, but not in the United States of America until now.

 New Mexico State Constitution:
"Right of self-government. “The people of the state have the sole and exclusive right to govern themselves as a free, sovereign and
independent state. ” N.M. CONST., Art. II, § 3."

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund ( has written over 125 community rights ordinances expressively exercising the right of "local self governance" for communities across the United States and abroad to protect human rights and nature's rights---clean air, water, land, ecosystems.

Drilling Mora County

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Colorado Number Two in Carcinogen-Laced "Fracking" Fluids--Denver Post

Allison Sherry

WASHINGTON — Colorado ranked second only to Texas in terms of the number of gallons of carcinogen-laced "fracking" fluids used in oil and gas extraction between 2005 and 2009, according to congressional Democrats.

A 30-page House Energy and Commerce report — the second release in an investigation into hydraulic fracturing — shows that 1.5 million gallons of fracking fluids containing a carcinogen were used in Colorado in that time, compared with 3.8 million gallons in Texas and 1 million in Oklahoma. The report does not show the concentrations of those chemicals or that the carcinogens, including naphthalene and benzene, have endangered drinking water near the drilling sites in Colorado.

State leaders charged with regulating Colorado's energy industry say the report's findings are not a surprise.

"Generally, we know what kinds of chemicals are in frack fluids," said Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. "We're still looking at it (the report). But from a high level, we know what they are and how they're used and how they're used in other parts of our lives.".....continued.....