gasland

Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — the controversial horizontal drilling technique used to extract oil and gas in shale basins around the U.S. and the world — has sat at the center of the debate over the Democratic Party's draft platform set for a vote at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.

That platform was drafted and debated by a 15-member committee, with four members chosen by DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, five by Bernie Sanders and six by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. After a fracking moratorium clause failed in a 7-6 vote at the DNC Platform Committee meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri from June 24-25, an amendment calling for President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan not to incentivize fracked gas power plants also did not pass at the July 8-9 DNC Platform Committee meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that two members of the committee chosen by Hillary Clinton work for a consulting, lobbying and investment firm with a financial stake in fracking. Those members — Carol Browner and Wendy Sherman — work for Albright Stonebridge Group. Clinton campaign energy policy adviser Trevor Houser, who introduced a regulate fracking amendment (introduced as a counter to the one calling for a ban) also has industry ties via his now-defunct fellowship* at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  

Josh Fox 100 City Movie Tour On A Stop In New Orleans

Aria Doe, executive director of the Action Center for Education and Community Development in New York’s Rockaways, met Oscar-nominated documentarian Josh Fox, director of Gasland, a few weeks after Superstorm Sandy hit, when he came to film Sandy’s aftermath. The two have joined forces in Fox’s mission “to help communities lead a renewable energy revolution, one community at a time.”

Sandy devastated the Rockaways, an 11.5-mile oceanfront peninsula in Queens, NY near Kennedy Airport. Fox filmed Doe at work in the Action Center, a community center that provides resources to the area’s poorest residents, which morphed into the area’s largest disaster recovery center serving those in need. 
 
The housing projects near the Action Center, where residents live below the poverty line, were left without power for weeks. The neighborhood has still not fully recovered.

High-Profile Trial Begins in Dimock, PA Water Contamination Case

Trial began this week in a case alleging that an oil and gas company contaminated drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania. The tiny town is now internationally notorious over claims that drilling and fracking tainted people's drinking water and caused it to become flammable.

This lawsuit is the first such case out of Dimock to reach a jury, nearly a decade after many residents of Carter Road, a short stretch of dirt road in the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania, first noticed that their water seemed to have gone bad.

“We haven't had clean water since he was in kindergarten,” Monica Marta-Ely told reporters during a press conference outside the courthouse on Monday, as she gestured to her 13 year-old son, Jared. “He's in 7th grade now.”

It's a legal case that is as noticeable for the allegations being tried —  that Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. negligently contaminated the water supplying Nolan Scott Ely and his family and that living without water for years was a serious nuisance for the Elys and the Huberts, a family living in a trailer on the Ely's land — as for the claims and evidence that the jury will not hear.

Heat on EPA as National Study on Fracking's Risks to Drinking Water is Challenged

The Environmental Protection Agency's draft national assessment on fracking's potential to pollute drinking water is still under review. If it is to reflect science over policy, some dramatic changes to the wording of the study's conclusions are needed, EPA's review panel was told during a public comment teleconference on Thursday.

Back in 2010, when Congress first tasked EPA with investigating the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses to American drinking water supplies, relatively little was known about the scale and significance of the onshore drilling rush's environmental impacts.

NaturalGasNow.org, Run by Former Energy in Depth Staffer Tom Shepstone, Derides "Gasland" Sociology Study

The American Sociological Review will publish a study in its October edition linking the documentary film “Gasland” to social movements inspired by it that have arisen in opposition to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) since the film was released in 2010. 

Titled “'No Fracking Way!' Documentary Film, Discursive Opportunity, and Local Opposition against Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, 2010-2013,” the study concludes that “screenings of Gasland in different locations had an effect upon the mobilization of local campaigns against the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing; in turn, those local mobilizations made local policymakers significantly more likely to take action to ban the practice of fracking.” 

Fracking industry  front groups such as Natural Gas Now and Energy in Depth (EID) responded by attacking the study's subject: “Gasland.” 

Meme with Wings: Are Western Anti-Fracking Activists Funded by Putin's Russia?

At a June 19 speaking event at London's Chatham House, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed the Russian government is covertly working to discredit hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the west from afar.

“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” said Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark.

Rasmussen's comments were relayed to the press by someone in attendance who apparently broke the “Chatham House Rule” by telling outsiders about the content of a Chatham House meeting.


Anders Fog Rasmussen; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

But Rasmussen left out some key context from his presentation, which he said “is my interpretation” and did not further elaborate on his “disinformation operations” comments.   

That is, while powerful actors have claimed on multiple occasions that western-based anti-fracking activists are funded by the Kremlin, no one has ever documented such a relationship in the form of a money paper trail.

Josh Fox's Gasland Part II Faces Aggressive Oil and Gas Public Relations Campaign

It’s coming,” a baritone voice warns as images of a fiery hellscape flash across the screen. “Lies. Deception,” someone whispers, just before the narrator launches into a diatribe about Josh Fox’s new documentary, Gasland Part II, in a youtube clip whose esthetic falls somewhere between b-horror movie and election season attack ad. It’s the sort of video that might be campy if it wasn’t made with an actual budget.

Posted last November under the account energyforamerica, the faux trailer is one of the first hits in a Gasland 2 youtube search.

 “I think it’s kinda unprecedented,” Mr. Fox said after the mock trailer appeared on youtube five months ago. “I don’t know of any other trailer that has attacked a film before even the actual trailer of the film has come out.”

Mr. Fox, the documentarian who made the Emmy-winning Gasland in 2010, and whose new movie Gasland Part II is now making its world premiere at Tribeca, has already withstood an aggressive P.R. campaign the likes of which few journalists and film-makers have ever experienced. The man who forever linked fracking to flaming tap water in the public mind has found himself, once again, in the oil and gas industry’s doghouse.

With funding from an array of oil companies, front groups like Energy in Depth have created entire websites devoted to “debunking” the first-hand reports shown in the first Gasland, produced their own film titled Truthland, and maneuvered behind the scenes to undermine Gasland’s credibility amongst the media.

Now the oil industry is gearing up for a new campaign to attack the sequel. And early signs indicate they plan to pull out all the stops.

Regulatory Non-Enforcement by Design: Earthworks Shows How the Game is Played

Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project published a scathing 124-page report this week, “Breaking All the Rules: the Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement.”

The content of the report is exactly as it sounds.

That is, state-level regulatory agencies and officials often aren't doing the jobs taxpayers currently pay them to do and aren't enforcing regulations on active oil and gas wells even when required to under the law.

This is both out of neglect and also because they're vastly understaffed and underfunded, meaning they literally don't have the time and/or resources to do proper inspections.

And on those rare instances when regulatory agencies and the regulators that work for them do enforce regulations on active oil and gas wells, Earthworks demonstrated that the penalties for breaking the rules are currently so weak that it's merely been deemed a tiny “cost of doing business” by the oil and gas industry.

Climate SOS Ends with Shale Gas Outrage, Autumn Begins with Global Frackdown

Global grassroots activism is heating up alongside a scarily ever-warming climate.

Since the beginning of 2012, we've seen the Arab Spring, the Wisconsin Uprising, the Tar Sands Action, and the ongoing Keystone XL Blockade. In the climate justice movement, some have referred to the recently passed summer as the Climate Summer of Solidarity (SOS).

The SOS closed with an action organized by Protecting Our Waters called Shale Gas Outrage, which took place in the heart of the global fracking boom, Philadelphia, PA, home of the Marcellus Shale basin. Outrage was warranted, given that this year's Shale Gas Insight unfolded in the City of Brotherly Love. Insight was sponsored by Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Range Resources, EOG Resources, Aqua America (who stands to profit off of water as a scarce resource via fracking), and many others.

Speakers at the pre-march rally included the likes of “Gasland” Producer and Director Josh Fox, author and ecologist Sandra Steingraber, environmental journalist and activist Bill McKibben and Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter; former Pittsburgh City Council member and writer of the ordinance that banned fracking in the city, Doug Shields, as well as members of the Pennsylvania community whose livelihoods have been deeply affected at the hands of the shale gas fracking industry. 

Upon the rally's completion, activists zig-zagged up and down Philly's streets, making stops at the Obama for President campaign headquarters and Governor Tom Corbett's campaign headquaters.   

Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Commonwealth Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court** ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional.*** The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”

Act 13 – pejoratively referred to as “the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway“ by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld – would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. “It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.

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