Response to a WHYY report, New Numbers Show PA Gas Production Will Lead Nation.Ms. Phillips -.This series of Penn State Reports has used a false premise, that capital spending directly equates to jobs and taxes, to make highly exaggerated claims. The gas industry has a great need for capital but an extraordinarily low requirement for staffing, about 10% of that of a normal industry..This from the May 2010 version describes their methodology: “During 2009, Marcellus gas producers spent a total of $4.5 billion to develop Marcellus shale gas resources. Using the IMPLAN modeling system, we estimate that this spending generated $3.9 billion in value added, $389 million in state and local tax revenues, and more than 44,000 jobs” (emphasis added).Judged against results these estimates were far off. According to Labor and Industry figures there are presently only 18,000 employees in the six core gas extraction industries in Pennsylvania..Because of the structure of Pennsylvania tax code, the gas industry pays almost no local taxes and very little state taxes. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center found only 44.4 million in state taxes paid in 2009..Since then, the industry has claimed 1.1 billion in taxes paid but reading the fine print shows this to be the total for five years, 2006 to 2010. Even then, the Budget and Policy Center complained that the Revenue Department had erected a smoke screen for the industry by counting taxes their employees and others paid..Not to be deterred or embarrassed by past failure, Considine and company press on to new ridiculous highs in this current version..“Our estimates suggest that in 2020 the Marcellus industry in Pennsylvania could be creating more than $20 billion in value added, generating $2 billion in state and local tax revenues, and supporting more than 250,000 jobs,” said the authors associated with Penn State’s department of energy and mineral engineering.”.To put the above “estimate” of jobs into perspective, consider this item. A 2008 US Labor Department analysis of the oil and gas extraction industryfound only 162,000 employees nationwide. A look at the three pages listing of industry job titles shows that the majority of these aren’t working on rigs but are sitting at desks at corporate headquarters in the Southwest..The Penn State Reports have the same relationship to the Marcellus industry as fantasy football has to the NFL..Jon BogleWilliamsport, PA 17701
From a follow-up interview conducted by e-mail and used with permission:
Thanks for coming up to Ithaca on Friday.
On a separate note, would you mind if I share your experience with fracking with people in Ithaca? If it’s okay with you for me to do so, I’d also like to confirm what you told me:
1. Pollution of your well (two wells?). How did this show up?
Bohlander: We have two wells on the farm (190 acres). We had a detailed baseline water testing done on both before any of the gas activity happened in our area. We subsequently have had another 6 or so tests done on these wells. It is crucial to have certified baseline testing done prior to any activity by gas companies or they will claim there is no proof they are the cause and argue it was a pre-existing condition. We also retained a very competent hydrologist (who has the gas company clients) who was the plaintiffs hydrologist in the Dimock, PA contamination (highlighted in the movie Gasland). The well for the barn/and original farmhouse was so contaminated with methane they thought it would explode so the well pump was disconnected for six months and water was trucked in by the gas companies for the animals, and spring water for the humans!
2. The operations end up being more extensive than anticipated. The “pads” are large, and end up being used for other operations.
Bohlander: Gas companies are major deceivers. They do this many ways. One is using land agents that are not their employees so that they can claim “we never said that ..they did”
Most all the neighbors were told that the gas wells would be drilled, it would take 3 months or so, and then land would be restored to earlier state. In reality this is what happens. They excavate a pad obliterating the natural terrain, hauling in 100’s of trucks of stone, gravel, etc. Once the pad is completed, they only drill 2-4 actual gas wells of what ultimately are likely going to be 12 or so on that pad. They may not frack the drilled wells immediately, but wait sometimes a year. The intention is to refrack over and over the same drilled wells. They are now claiming there is 60 years of gas here. Simultaneously, although not on all pads, they use the pads for other things such as equipment storage, frack water storage, and the worst: frack water recycling which we have three in our neighborhood and 2 are 10 year permits (one is in the review process, 9 days to go). These are REGIONAL frack water recycling operations bringing in dirty radioactive brine from 15 miles away or more, operating 24/7 with extensive noise, lights and traffic. DEP is way behind on enforcement. The neighbors are the enforcers, but it is David vs. Goliath (the gas companies). After four years now, I have not seen one well pad restored back to the original state. The stated plan by the gas companies is that there will be one well pad every 50 acres. If the well pad is 10 acres, 20% of our surface land area will be a perpetual well pad.
3. Extensive light pollution due to 24/7 operation.
Bohlander: Re frack water recycling: They power huge lights that light of the pads for the whole night. They don’t use street electric but generators which contribute to the noise. The trucks have large pumps that due to the volume of 5200 gallons per truck are large motors, the trucks endlessly are using their backup safety beepers, horns for instructions to the ground crew, etc. The three sites in our neighborhood will generate 800 trucks a day, 1600 with return trip passes.
The gas drilling when it goes on makes it almost impossible to sleep. 24/7, 7 days a week.
4. Extensive trucking.
Bohlander: The gas companies make new roads over smaller older roads to accommodate their extensive traffic. The state allows them to exceed the weight limit of the road by paying some fee or posting a bond. The small country road in front of our farm is now elevated 3 feet in the air from normal ground level. Certain roads are used as main arterial roads after they have been rebuilt –this happened to ours. The trucks are hauling huge amounts of gravel, fill, fresh water for fracking and the dirty brine water out, as well as all the equipment for the drilling process. Each well on the pad uses 5 million gallons of water. 60% flows back and is recycled, but removed from the site. Our road was destroyed initially and impassible. The gas companies then closed 10 mile stretches of the road for months at a time as they began rebuilding it. One landowner could only get to and from his property with a four wheeler.
5. Feel free to add any other relevant details.
Bohlander: The gas companies have a very systematic playbook from the years of operating and polluting Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, etc. They have two sides: a friendly neighborly “give $35K to the fire company” and then a ruthless no-holds-barred side. Three times they threatened that in 24 hours they were going to stop trucking in water for the cows in our barn unless we agreed to things. These things include non-disclosure agreements, consent not to sue, etc. Read the book Collateral Damage. A lot of good environmental activist groups with websites and a lot of info. Many have been to our house. We were one of the first contaminated sites in this region from the drilling.
The public does not have any idea how bad the permanent environmental contamination is going to be. There has been major barium and radiation poisoning with some already. One not far from us is a 13-year- old girl with barium poisoning. One of our immediate neighbors’ daughters is having clumps of hair fall out and his dog got sick and parakeet died from drinking his well water. He abuts one of the frack water recycling sites.
Air pollution is the sleeping giant. Each well pad on an ongoing basis emits things into the air (like toluene) as the gas goes through a preliminary filtering process at the well pad. The absolutely worst are the gas compression stations for both noise and air pollution.
As you may know, the gas drilling is exempt from the Clean Water Act — we actually are more apt to be fined if manure is spread on the road, than these major infractions the gas company are doing. The environmental enforcement agencies only slap their wrists with fines. Cost of doing business to gas companies –easier to just pay the fine.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before the court. When I first met Mr. Manross, the sentencing officer who prepared the pre-sentence report, he explained that it was essentially his job to “get to know me.” He said he had to get to know who I really was and why I did what I did in order to decide what kind of sentence was appropriate. I was struck by the fact that he was the first person in this courthouse to call me by my first name, or even really look me in the eye. I appreciate this opportunity to speak openly to you for the first time. I’m not here asking for your mercy, but I am here asking that you know me.
Mr. Huber has leveled a lot of character attacks at me, many of which are contrary to Mr. Manross’s report. While reading Mr Huber’s critiques of my character and my integrity, as well as his assumptions about my motivations, I was reminded that Mr Huber and I have never had a conversation. Over the two and half years of this prosecution, he has never asked me any of the questions that he makes assumptions about in the government’s report. Apparently, Mr. Huber has never considered it his job to get to know me, and yet he is quite willing to disregard the opinions of the one person who does see that as his job.
There are alternating characterizations that Mr Huber would like you to believe about me. In one paragraph, the government claims I “played out the parts of accuser, jury, and judge as he determined the fate of the oil and gas lease auction and its intended participants that day.” In the very next paragraph, they claim, “It was not the defendant’s crimes that effected such a change.” Mr Huber would lead you to believe that I’m either a dangerous criminal who holds the oil and gas industry in the palm of my hand, or I’m just an incompetent child who didn’t affect the outcome of anything. As evidenced by the continued back and forth of contradictory arguments in the government’s memorandum, they’re not quite sure which of those extreme caricatures I am, but they are certain that I am nothing in between. Rather than the job of getting to know me, it seems Mr Huber prefers the job of fitting me into whatever extreme characterization is most politically expedient at the moment.
In nearly every paragraph, the government’s memorandum uses the words lie, lied, lying, liar. It makes me want to thank whatever clerk edited out the words “pants on fire.” Their report doesn’t mention the fact that at the auction in question, the first person who asked me what I was doing there was Agent Dan Love. And I told him very clearly that I was there to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future. I proceeded to answer all of his questions openly and honestly, and have done so to this day when speaking about that auction in any forum, including this courtroom. The entire basis for the false statements charge that I was convicted of was the fact that I wrote my real name and address on a form that included the words “bona fide bidder.” When I sat there on the witness stand, Mr Romney asked me if I ever had any intention of being a bona fide bidder. I responded by asking Mr Romney to clarify what “bona fide bidder” meant in this context. Mr Romney then withdrew the question and moved on to the next subject. On that right there is the entire basis for the government’s repeated attacks on my integrity. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, your honor.
Mr Huber also makes grand assumptions about my level of respect for the rule of law. The government claims a long prison sentence is necessary to counteract the political statements I’ve made and promote a respect for the law. The only evidence provided for my lack of respect for the law is political statements that I’ve made in public forums. Again, the government doesn’t mention my actions in regard to the drastic restrictions that were put upon my defense in this courtroom. My political disagreements with the court about the proper role of a jury in the legal system are probably well known. I’ve given several public speeches and interviews about how the jury system was established and how it has evolved to its current state. Outside of this courtroom, I’ve made my views clear that I agree with the founding fathers that juries should be the conscience of the community and a defense against legislative tyranny. I even went so far as to organize a book study group that read about the history of jury nullification. Some of the participants in that book group later began passing out leaflets to the public about jury rights, as is their right. Mr Huber was apparently so outraged by this that he made the slanderous accusations that I tried to taint the jury. He didn’t specify the extra number of months that I should spend in prison for the heinous activity of holding a book group at the Unitarian Church and quoting Thomas Jefferson in public, but he says you should have “little tolerance for this behavior.”
But here is the important point that Mr Huber would rather ignore. Despite my strong disagreements with the court about the Constitutional basis for the limits on my defense, while I was in this courtroom I respected the authority of the court. Whether I agreed with them or not, I abided by the restrictions that you put on me and my legal team. I never attempted to “taint” the jury, as Mr Huber claimed, by sharing any of the relevant facts about the auction in question that the court had decided were off limits. I didn’t burst out and tell the jury that I successfully raised the down payment and offered it to the BLM. I didn’t let the jury know that the auction was later reversed because it was illegitimate in the first place. To this day I still think I should have had the right to do so, but disagreement with the law should not be confused with disrespect for the law.
My public statements about jury nullification were not the only political statements that Mr Huber thinks I should be punished for. As the government’s memorandum points out, I have also made public statements about the value of civil disobedience in bringing the rule of law closer to our shared sense of justice. In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people. A West Virginia state investigation found that Massey Energy had been cited with 62,923 violations of the law in the ten years preceding the disaster that killed 29 people last year. The investigation also revealed that Massey paid for almost none of those violations because the company provided millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions that elected most of the appeals court judges in the state. When I was growing up in West Virginia, my mother was one of many who pursued every legal avenue for making the coal industry follow the law. She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail. I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry. Those crimes committed by Massey Energy led not only to the deaths of their own workers, but to the deaths of countless local residents, such as Joshua McCormick, who died of kidney cancer at age 22 because he was unlucky enough to live downstream from a coal mine. When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.
This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.
Mr Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned. But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development. A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.
And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.
The government has made the claim that there were legal alternatives to standing in the way of this auction. Particularly, I could have filed a written protest against certain parcels. The government does not mention, however, that two months prior to this auction, in October 2008, a Congressional report was released that looked into those protests. The report, by the House committee on public lands, stated that it had become common practice for the BLM to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits. The oil industry was paying people specifically to volunteer for the industry that was supposed to be regulating it, and it was to those industry staff that I would have been appealing. Moreover, this auction was just three months after the New York Times reported on a major scandal involving Department of the Interior regulators who were taking bribes of sex and drugs from the oil companies that they were supposed to be regulating. In 2008, this was the condition of the rule of law, for which Mr Huber says I lacked respect. Just as the legal avenues which people in West Virginia have been pursuing for 30 years, the legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government.
The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice. Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code. I know Mr Huber disagrees with me on this. He wrote that “The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.” That’s an especially ironic statement when he is representing the United States of America, a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience. Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice. The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.
This philosophical difference is serious enough that Mr Huber thinks I should be imprisoned to discourage the spread of this idea. Much of the government’s memorandum focuses on the political statements that I’ve made in public. But it hasn’t always been this way. When Mr Huber was arguing that my defense should be limited, he addressed my views this way: “The public square is the proper stage for the defendant’s message, not criminal proceedings in federal court.” But now that the jury is gone, Mr. Huber wants to take my message from the public square and make it a central part of these federal court proceedings. I have no problem with that. I’m just as willing to have those views on display as I’ve ever been.
The government’s memorandum states, “As opposed to preventing this particular defendant from committing further crimes, the sentence should be crafted ‘to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct’ by others.” Their concern is not the danger that I present, but the danger presented by my ideas and words that might lead others to action. Perhaps Mr Huber is right to be concerned. He represents the United States Government. His job is to protect those currently in power, and by extension, their corporate sponsors. After months of no action after the auction, the way I found out about my indictment was the day before it happened, Pat Shea got a call from an Associated Press reporter who said, “I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow Tim is going to be indicted, and this is what the charges are going to be.” That reporter had gotten that information two weeks earlier from an oil industry lobbyist. Our request for disclosure of what role that lobbyist played in the US Attorney’s office was denied, but we know that she apparently holds sway and that the government feels the need to protect the industry’s interests.
The things that I’ve been publicly saying may indeed be threatening to that power structure. There have been several references to the speech I gave after the conviction, but I’ve only ever seen half of one sentence of that speech quoted. In the government’s report, they actually had to add their own words to that one sentence to make it sound more threatening. But the speech was about empowerment. It was about recognizing our interconnectedness rather than viewing ourselves as isolated individuals. The message of the speech was that when people stand together, they no longer have to be exploited by powerful corporations. Alienation is perhaps the most effective tool of control in America, and every reminder of our real connectedness weakens that tool.
But the sentencing guidelines don’t mention the need to protect corporations or politicians from ideas that threaten their control. The guidelines say “protect the public.” The question is whether the public is helped or harmed by my actions. The easiest way to answer that question is with the direct impacts of my action. As the oil executive stated in his testimony, the parcels I didn’t bid on averaged $12 per acre, but the ones I did bid on averaged $125. Those are the prices paid for public property to the public trust. The industry admits very openly that they were getting those parcels for an order of magnitude less than what they were worth. Not only did those oil companies drive up the prices to $125 during the bidding, they were then given an opportunity to withdraw their bids once my actions were explained. They kept the parcels, presumably because they knew they were still a good deal at $125. The oil companies knew they were getting a steal from the American people, and now they’re crying because they had to pay a little closer to what those parcels were actually worth. The government claims I should be held accountable for the steal the oil companies didn’t get. The government’s report demands $600,000 worth of financial impacts for the amount which the oil industry wasn’t able to steal from the public.
That extra revenue for the public became almost irrelevant, though, once most of those parcels were revoked by Secretary Salazar. Most of the parcels I won were later deemed inappropriate for drilling. In other words, the highest and best value to the public for those particular lands was not for oil and gas drilling. Had the auction gone off without a hitch, it would have been a loss for the public. The fact that the auction was delayed, extra attention was brought to the process, and the parcels were ultimately revoked was a good thing for the public.
More generally, the question of whether civil disobedience is good for the public is a matter of perspective. Civil disobedience is inherently an attempt at change. Those in power, whom Mr Huber represents, are those for whom the status quo is working, so they always see civil disobedience as a bad thing. The decision you are making today, your honor, is what segment of the public you are meant to protect. Mr Huber clearly has cast his lot with that segment who wishes to preserve the status quo. But the majority of the public is exploited by the status quo far more than they are benefited by it. The young are the most obvious group who is exploited and condemned to an ugly future by letting the fossil fuel industry call the shots. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research, some of which you received as part of our proffer on the necessity defense, that reveals the catastrophic consequences which the young will have to deal with over the coming decades.
But just as real is the exploitation of the communities where fossil fuels are extracted. As a native of West Virginia, I have seen from a young age that the exploitation of fossil fuels has always gone hand in hand with the exploitation of local people. In West Virginia, we’ve been extracting coal longer than anyone else. And after 150 years of making other people rich, West Virginia is almost dead last among the states in per capita income, education rates and life expectancy. And it’s not an anomaly. The areas with the richest fossil fuel resources, whether coal in West Virginia and Kentucky, or oil in Louisiana and Mississippi, are the areas with the lowest standards of living. In part, this is a necessity of the industry. The only way to convince someone to blow up their backyard or poison their water is to make sure they are so desperate that they have no other option. But it is also the nature of the economic model. Since fossil fuels are a limited resources, whoever controls access to that resource in the beginning gets to set all the terms. They set the terms for their workers, for the local communities, and apparently even for the regulatory agencies. A renewable energy economy is a threat to that model. Since no one can control access to the sun or the wind, the wealth is more likely to flow to whoever does the work of harnessing that energy, and therefore to create a more distributed economic system, which leads to a more distributed political system. It threatens the profits of the handful of corporations for whom the current system works, but our question is which segment of the public are you tasked with protecting. I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me.
After this difference of political philosophies, the rest of the sentencing debate has been based on the financial loss from my actions. The government has suggested a variety of numbers loosely associated with my actions, but as of yet has yet to establish any causality between my actions and any of those figures. The most commonly discussed figure is perhaps the most easily debunked. This is the figure of roughly $140,000, which is the amount the BLM originally spent to hold the December 2008 auction. By definition, this number is the amount of money the BLM spent before I ever got involved. The relevant question is what the BLM spent because of my actions, but apparently that question has yet to be asked. The only logic that relates the $140,000 figure to my actions is if I caused the entire auction to be null and void and the BLM had to start from scratch to redo the entire auction. But that of course is not the case. First is the prosecution’s on-again-off-again argument that I didn’t have any impact on the auction being overturned. More importantly, the BLM never did redo the auction because it was decided that many of those parcels should never have been auctioned in the first place. Rather than this arbitrary figure of $140,000, it would have been easy to ask the BLM how much money they spent or will spend on redoing the auction. But the government never asked this question, probably because they knew they wouldn’t like the answer.
The other number suggested in the government’s memorandum is the $166,000 that was the total price of the three parcels I won which were not invalidated. Strangely, the government wants me to pay for these parcels, but has never offered to actually give them to me. When I offered the BLM the money a couple weeks after the auction, they refused to take it. Aside from that history, this figure is still not a valid financial loss from my actions. When we wrote there was no loss from my actions, we actually meant that rather literally. Those three parcels were not evaporated or blasted into space because of my actions, not was the oil underneath them sucked dry by my bid card. They’re still there, and in fact the BLM has already issued public notice of their intent to re-auction those parcels in February of 2012.
The final figure suggested as a financial loss is the $600,000 that the oil company wasn’t able to steal from the public. That completely unsubstantiated number is supposedly the extra amount the BLM received because of my actions. This is when things get tricky. The government’s report takes that $600,000 positive for the BLM and adds it to that roughly $300,000 negative for the BLM, and comes up with a $900,000 negative. With math like that, it’s obvious that Mr Huber works for the federal government.
After most of those figures were disputed in the presentence report, the government claimed in their most recent objection that I should be punished according to the intended financial impact that I intended to cause. The government tries to assume my intentions and then claims, “This is consistent with the testimony that Mr. DeChristopher provided at trial, admitting that his intention was to cause financial harm to others with whom he disagreed.” Now I didn’t get to say a whole lot at the trial, so it was pretty easy to look back through the transcripts. The statement claimed by the government never happened. There was nothing even close enough to make their statement a paraphrase or artistic license. This statement in the government’s objection is a complete fiction. Mr Huber’s inability to judge my intent is revealed in this case by the degree to which he underestimates my ambition. The truth is that my intention, then as now, was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil industry to the extent that it cuts into the $100 billion in annual profits that it makes through exploitation. I actually intended for my actions to play a role in the wide variety of actions that steer the country toward a clean energy economy where those $100 billion in oil profits are completely eliminated. When I read Mr Huber’s new logic, I was terrified to consider that my slightly unrealistic intention to have a $100 billion impact will fetch me several consecutive life sentences. Luckily this reasoning is as unrealistic as it is silly.
A more serious look at my intentions is found in Mr Huber’s attempt to find contradictions in my statements. Mr Huber points out that in public I acted proud of my actions and treated it like a success, while in our sentencing memorandum we claimed that my actions led to “no loss.” On the one hand I think it was a success, and yet I claim it there was no loss. Success, but no loss. Mr Huber presents these ideas as mutually contradictory and obvious proof that I was either dishonest or backing down from my convictions. But for success to be contradictory to no loss, there has to be another assumption. One has to assume that my intent was to cause a loss. But the only loss that I intended to cause was the loss of secrecy by which the government gave away public property for private profit. As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted. The success of that intent is not dependent on any loss. I knew that if I was completely off base, and the government took that second look and decided that nothing was wrong with that auction, the cost of my action would be another day’s salary for the auctioneer and some minor costs of re-auctioning the parcels. But if I was right about the irregularities of the auction, I knew that allowing the auction to proceed would mean the permanent loss of lands better suited for other purposes and the permanent loss of a safe climate. The intent was to prevent loss, but again that is a matter of perspective.
Mr Huber wants you to weigh the loss for the corporations that expected to get public property for pennies on the dollar, but I believe the important factor is the loss to the public which I helped prevent. Again, we come back to this philosophical difference. From any perspective, this is a case about the right of citizens to challenge the government. The US Attorney’s office makes clear that their interest is not only to punish me for doing so, but to discourage others from challenging the government, even when the government is acting inappropriately. Their memorandum states, “To be sure, a federal prison term here will deter others from entering a path of criminal behavior.” The certainty of this statement not only ignores the history of political prisoners, it ignores the severity of the present situation. Those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change. They know their future, and the future of their loved ones, is on the line. And they know were are running out of time to turn things around. The closer we get to that point where it’s too late, the less people have to lose by fighting back. The power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people. The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel. The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today. And neither will I. I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future. Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience. Nothing that happens here today will change that. I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority. You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine alone.
I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me. If you side with Mr Huber and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away. I certainly don’t want that. I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false. I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government. I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience. If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them. You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path. You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing. You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM. You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it. This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.
Tags: Tim DeChristopher
Leaked to un-naturalgas.org:
on natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale
for internal use with Governor Cuomo’s office and DEC
From the executive summary:
“The potential transportation impacts are ominous. Assuming current gas drilling technology and a lower level of development than will be experienced in Pennsylvania the Marcellus region will see a peak year increase of up to 1.5-million heavy truck trips, and induced development may increase peak hour trips by 36,000 trips/hour. While this new traffic will be distributed around the Marcellus region this Discussion Paper suggests that it will be necessary to reconstruct hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges and undertake safety and operational improvements in many areas.
“The annual costs to undertake these transportation projects are estimated to range from $90 to $156 million for State roads and from $121-$222 million for local roads. There is no mechanism in place allowing State and local governments to absorb these additional transportation costs without major impacts to other programs and other municipalities in the State.
“This Discussion Paper also concludes that the New York State Department of Transportation and local governments currently lack the authority and resources necessary to mitigate such problems. And, that if the State is to prepare for and resolve these problems it is time to establish a frank and open dialogue among the many parties involved.”
Click here for OCR’d version.
Thank you all for coming to help preserve life in this peaceful spot in the universe. But please keep in mind: There’s no time left.
There’s plenty of time left for the earth. But there’s no time left for us. What does that mean in this beautiful setting where everything appears so calm, where we stand beside the still waters. Will they continue to restore our souls in five years? In three? Up to now they’ve been protected very carefully so that millions can drink knowing these waters are safe.
But are they safe?
Democracy is an alien concept to corporations whose only interest is profit. We’ve reached a point in this world where their influence is so pervasive — they get to decide our fate. Unless WE do something about it. There are more of us than there are of them.
Until we do, we’ll continue to have the bank bailouts, reductions in nuclear safety standards after Fukushima, more drilling in the oceans for gas and oil, we’ll continue to live with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case that gives corporations unlimited license to “donate” to political campaigns and thus determine national policy.
The national policy the US government is pushing directly threatens the safety of the water in this reservoir, which feeds millions in NYC and surrounding areas. That same national policy actually threatens the entire world. In April 2010, the United States Department of State established GSGI — the Global Shale Gas Initiative — to promote hydraulic fracturing around the world, especially to China and India, to make money selling American technology.
So the clean waters all around us are what we have and what we stand to lose if hydrofracking seriously escalates in this state.
While we appreciate these waters, let’s not forget how this reservoir came to be. Frank & Margaret Martin were the grandparents of Nancy Martin, who sold us our farm in East Meredith in northern Delaware County.
Frank and Margaret had a dairy farm that now lies somewhere below these very waters. Farms, homesteads and villages were taken by eminent domain to make way for this reservoir. She was so attached to her farm and so angry, Margaret Martin chained herself to the porch when the sheriff came.
At least the destruction of those farms and villages, where folks built their lives, resulted in something reasonably healthy that NYC tries very hard to maintain that way. But all this is threatened by fracking.
Just look at the shortlist of the destruction fracking will bring:
• aquifer poisoning from underground migration of toxic plumes
• forest fragmentation
• spills onto farmland and into fishing streams
• air pollution that spreads as much as 200 miles, with the toxins — heavy metals, non-biodegradable chemicals and radioactive substances — settling on our lakes, streams, rivers, ponds — and farm fields that pasture our animals and grow our food.
• billions of gallons of fresh water squandered and permanently contaminated, in addition to the further billions squandered by mining for sand to be used in fracking. One mine in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, would use 3,700 gallons of water per minute, 24 / 7, year round = 1,944,720,000 gallons per year. Not to mention the silica dust that people living around the mine would be forced to breathe.
All of which leads to terrible health consequences: liver, kidney, respiratory and skin disorders, brain lesions, birth defects, cancers.
Despite all this actual experience of people in states from Colorado and Wyoming to West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, there are folks who sign leases. Who doesn’t want free money? Especially if you’ve been living near the edge for years, which is true for many in this region.
Now, sadly, there’s a growing number of people who’ve signed leases, many of them farmers, who wish they could take it back.
Three years ago, Dave Weed, a farmer in East Smithfield, Bradford County, PA, signed a five-year lease. Now he wishes he could get out of it. He said, “Everyone thought they’d be driving a Rolls-Royce, wearing pajamas and flip flops. Now most of us feel like we’d be just as happy driving our pick-up trucks, with our duct-taped work boots.”
While the folks in East Smithfield have learned a hard lesson, as have so many in other states, including our own New York, the industry promotes the few myths it can trot out:
• fracking is perfectly safe
• there’s never been a proven case of water contamination
• NY’s regulations are the best in the country
• it’ll bring thousands of jobs
• natural gas — methane — is a clean fuel that should be the transition to renewables (sometime in the distant future)
• developing our gas reserves will lead us to energy independence
These are all myths. Take just one notion — that fracking for gas will bring lots of jobs. A group called Headwaters Economics is out of Bozeman, Montana, where the extractive industries have held sway for many years. Headwaters Economics did a thorough analysis of the economics of drilling compared with places that didn’t have oil & gas extraction. One conclusion of this report: “counties that focused on [varied] development choices are better off, with higher rates of growth, more diverse economies, better-educated populations, a smaller gap between high and low income households, and more retirement and investment income.”
A similar Columbia University study of Hancock NY came to a similar conclusion. While some may temporarily benefit, the entire community loses in the end. And that’s just the economics of it.
There is no time left. It’s no exaggeration to say that our very survival is at stake. The London Guardian published an article just last Monday describing a new scientific study that says our seas are in a shocking state from overfishing and pollution. Fish, sharks, whales and other marine species are in imminent danger of an “unprecedented” and catastrophic extinction at the hands of humankind, and are disappearing at a far faster rate than anyone has predicted up to now.
The American West has been in increasing drought for decades. The Colorado River has so much removed from it for agriculture as well as Phoenix golf courses and extravagant Las Vegas fountains, that the Colorado River no longer empties into the ocean. Remember, it was the Colorado River that made the Grand Canyon.
Another recent study shows that sea levels are rising at the fastest rate in 2,000 years.
Across the top of the northern hemisphere, permafrost is melting, sending ever-growing amounts of methane directly into the atmosphere. Remember, methane is 107 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
There’s no time left. But we can — and must — turn this around. A report issued in 2000 was entitled “A Sustainable Energy Future Is Possible Now.” The opening line of the summary reads, “Today’s world energy systems, relying on fossil and nuclear fuels, endanger the very existence of humanity.” This report, now 10 years old, describes how we can remake our world into a place that is livable and sustainable:
• Sustainable energy is inexhaustible and can ultimately satisfy 100% of the world’s energy needs.
• The technology is available now.
• Sustainable energy offers enormous economic advantages in terms of job creation and continuous economic growth.
• Sustainable energy is cost-competitive if we level the playing field by eliminating direct and indirect government subsidies for fossil fuels, including nuclear.
• Conservation, efficiency and renewables give us the only path to true energy security.
Further development of fossil fuels is irrational to the point of — to be perfectly precise — insanity.
Maude Barlow is head of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization. One of her 16 books is Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water. She says that by 2030 the demand in our world for water will be 40 percent greater than the supply!
What can we do? First, we must continue to grow the ban fracking movement so that this scourge is stopped dead on our doorstep. If enough of us become mobilized, we can bring enough pressure on officials and politicians so that Senator Avella and Assemblymember Colton’s Ban Bill will get passed in Albany. Then we must change our way of looking at the world, our way of being in the world.
The CEOs of the powerful corporations — the Monsantos, the Exxons, the GEs, the Rio Tintos and Anadarkos, Peabody Coal or Massey Energy — these power brokers don’t realize that they’re suicidal. They don’t realize that they’re committing suicide for all of us. They’re not going to change. We must change the way we look at the world, at agriculture, at society, at water, air and soil — the very fundamentals that allow us to live — to exist.
Two South American countries have set an example that is both lofty and down-to-earth. They asked the simple question, Does Mother Nature deserve the same protection as your own mother?
In 2008, Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly approved new articles for their constitution that recognize the rights of Mother Earth.
Bolivia passed a law that grants nature equal rights with humans. Known as the Law of Mother Earth, the legislation created 11 distinct rights for the environment, including the right to
• life and to exist
• continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration
• pure water and clean air
• be free of pollution
The General Assembly of the United Nations approved a resolution presented by Bolivia called “Harmony with Nature.” It recognizes that “human beings are an inseparable part of nature, and that they cannot damage it without severely damaging themselves.”
At the UN two months ago, the ambassador from Botswana spoke as Acting President of the General Assembly. “We should all recognize that we are part of nature. We should create a society in balance with nature if we want to survive.”
What can we do?
The Keystone XL pipeline is set to be approved by the Obama administration to bring yet more tar sands oil down to the US. Most observers agree that the Alberta tar sands exploitation is the most polluting form of extraction on the planet. If this administration has its way, a brand-new tar sands deposit — in Utah — will soon be exploited.
So what can we do? This action today is one of many taking place across the State of New York. More are planned.
What can we do? Some fairly well-known folks are calling for a Tar Sands campaign this August: Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, author Wendell Berry, Danny Glover the actor, Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, Bill McKibben, who started 350.org and several others, including James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Inst for Space Studies at Columbia Univ, who has said, “. . . if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.”
This call is for non-violent direct action this summer in Washington, DC, probably during the last two weeks of August. Watch for the announcements.
Soon after that, in Philadelphia, there will be a national anti-gas-drilling demonstration on Sept 7 & 8. Again, watch for the announcements.
It’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces. Because there’s no time left.
The NYS Dep’t of Environmental Conservation will be in charge if drilling goes ahead. This agency has already shown that it’s completely incapable of coming up with regulations that can realistically ensure the health and safety of New Yorkers. This agency has already shown that it’s completely incapable of enforcing whatever regulations it may dream up.
Yet on the DEC website there’s a surprisingly exact comment on the larger meaning of a watershed. And I quote: “Everyone lives in a watershed. It might be large or small. All watersheds are part of the bigger environment. What you do at your house affects everyone downstream and around you. You can set a good example for your family, friends and neighbors. Simple actions you take make big differences.”
We must stop hydraulic fracturing. We must ban it. We must stop mountaintop removal and the tar sands. We must end nuclear power — before all of these end us. As a society, we must embrace conservation, efficiency and renewable sources of energy as a way to live decently and sustainably — and as a way to continue to live.
Remember, Mother Nature bats last. We must change our way of looking at the world. We must change our way of being in the world. We must stop seeing nature as something to be conquered and recognize that we are nature, nature is us, and nature is our sustenance. We must collaborate with her and cherish her.
There’s no time left! What’s at stake is our very survival. We are all connected.
— Carl Arnold
In its Executive Summary of the revised SGEIS released yesterday, the DEC states clearly that groundwater is at sufficient risk from gas drilling to restrict gas drilling to protect those drinking groundwater. But they only afford that protection to those drinking from primary aquifers. The DEC leaves the great majority of drinkers of groundwater in the Marcellus unprotected. They have some explaining to do.
I’m looking forward to hearing the DEC’s logic and science—their risk assessment strategy— used to assess that only some drinkers of contaminated groundwater need protection.
Primary aquifers are used as drinking water for some municipalities.
The list is on on page 5: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/togs213.pdf
The list includes about 300,000 people in those municipalities drinking water from these primary aquifers in counties in the Marcellus shale. (see attached spreadsheet and chart at bottom.)
Page 18 of the new DEC doc describes the exclusion of primary aquifers. It’s pasted below, bold face added.
No HVHF Operations on Primary Aquifers
Although not subject to Filtration Avoidance Determinations, 18 other aquifers in the State of New York have been identified by the New York State Department of Health as highly productive aquifers presently utilized as sources of water supply by major municipal water supply systems and are designated as “primary aquifers.” Because these aquifers are the primary source of drinking water for many public drinking water supplies, the Department recommends in this dSGEIS that site disturbance relating to HVHF operations should not be permitted there either or in a protective 500-foot buffer area around them. Horizontal extraction of gas resources underneath Primary Aquifers from well pads located outside this area would not significantly impact this valuable water resource.
As the DEC says, this is in addition to the exclusion of drilling in the watersheds of NYC and Syracuse.
Now, one can make an argument, as the DEC has, that the exclusion of drilling in the NYC and Syracuse water supplies is based on their being unfiltered surface water (as opposed to ground water), with a risk of “turbidity” from surface drilling activity. And because there have been rules in place for years restricting industry and development in unfiltered surface watersheds to avoid having to build super-expensive filtration plants, as for NYC. A more clear eyed assessment of carving out the NYC watershed is that the DEC wants to excise the political opposition of NYC, which could easily create a critical mass of opposition in the state. But they do have the surface water “turbidity” argument to fall back on to explain this preferential exclusion, even if politics is the underlying reason.
But when you are dealing with groundwater sources, how can you rationally and scientifically exclude some aquifers and not others? Again, the actual rationale appears overtly political, rather than based on the science or risk. The DEC is trying to carve out the opposition of the municipalities drinking from primary aquifers—including Jamestown, Elmira, Cortland, Binghamton, Corning, Salamanca. After all, these municipalities are really organized entities of people…….. who would otherwise likely oppose drilling.
Problem is, there are at least 1,140,000 people drinking groundwater in the Marcellus shale. What’s up, DEC? You’ve determined that groundwater is at risk. You’re going to protect 300,000 people from ground water pollution, but not the other 840,000.
Who are those people? Hello, it’s us, the people of rural NY State who will be drinking from polluted wells. It’s us, people who will not be receiving equal protection against the very threats that the DEC assesses are too risky for the people of upstate municipalities.
I think I’m going to call my lawyer.
Ken Jaffe, MD
county percent of population drinking groundwater county population population drinking groundwater population drinking groundwater from primary aquifer population drinking groundwater not from primary aquifer name of primary aquifer Cortland 100 49,336 49,336 39,000 10,336 Cortland-
Chenango 95 50,477 47,953 47,953 Tioga 90 51,125 46,013 46,013 Waverly-
Cattaraugus 90 80,317 72,285 72,285 Salamanca Allegany 85 48,946 41,604 41,604 Steuben 80 98,990 79,192 49,000 30,192 Corning-Cohocton Broome 80 200,600 160,480 110,000 50,480 Endicott-
Schuyler 80 18,343 14,674 14,674 Madison 75 73,442 55,082 55,082 Otsego 75 62,259 46,694 46,694 Chemung 70 88,830 62,181 50,000 12,181 Elmira Yates 60 25,348 15,209 15,209 Genesee 60 60,079 36,047 36,047 Wyoming 55 42,155 23,185 23,185 Chautauqua 50 134,905 67,453 52,000 15,453 Jamestown Seneca 30 35,251 10,575 10,575 Ontario 25 107,931 26,983 26,983 Cayuga 25 80,026 20,007 20,007 Albany 20 304,204 60,841 60,841 Tompkins 15 101,564 15,235 15,235 Onondaga 15 467,026 70,054 70,054 Monroe 10 744,344 74,434 74,434 Erie 5 919,040 45,952 45,952 Totals 3,844,538 1,141,468 300,000 841,468
- incomplete DEC data on primary aquifer in Cattaraugus and Tioga Counties may underestimate those drinking from primary aquifer by up to 50,000; this could raise the total using primary aquifers to about 350,000
- incomplete DEC data on total users of ground water does not include Delaware and Sullivan Counties; this could raise the total users of unprotected groundwater to about 950,000