Earth First! Protests Fracking at California Regulatory Agency

frack thisCross-posted from the Earth First! Newswire

Ventura, CA –Dozens of activists from Earth First!, American Indian Movement Southern California, and Wica Agli demonstrated at the offices of California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) in Ventura Monday morning, protesting the plan to pursue further slick water horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the ecologically sensitive Sespe watershed.

Approximately 50 people chanted and held banners reading “Save Water, Don’t Frack!” while dozens of activists entered the office and served a notice of eviction to DOGGR.

Fracking in the Sespe Oil Field is currently being done by Seneca Resources Corporation, a Texas-based company receiving chemicals, supplies, and other services from Halliburton. A recent DOGGR Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) highlighted the Sespe Oil Field because of its remote location and critical habitat for endangered species. The study determined that fracking in this area would result in seven different “significant and unavoidable Class I impacts,”1 including pollution of water in the Sespe Creek watershed and degradation of cultural sites of the Chumash People. In spite of substantial evidence of environmental impact, DOGGR continues to be complacent in the destruction of the Sespe Watershed.

“We are here to send the message that Seneca Resources Corporation and DOGGR need to stop their trespass and theft of water in the Sespe Watershed,” said Jason Dean, Santa Barbara resident and member of Earth First! “The resources that they use and regulate do not belong to them.”

“Seneca Resources and DOGGR are illegitimate agents acting on stolen Chumash land,” said Gray Wolf, a Yoemi Elder with American Indian Movement Southern California.

Seneca Resources already fracks heavily in the Sespe Oil Field, and DOGGR is set to approve eight new wells in the Sespe Watershed. Sespe Creek is the last undammed waterway in Southern California2 and critical habitat for many endangered species, including steelhead trout, red-legged frogs, and arroyo toads. It is bordered on three sides by the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, which facilitates the recovery of the critically endangered California condor.

“Water belongs to no individual or corporation, but to the ecological community that relies on it, and people are a part of that,” said Dean. “In a fracked world, water is undrinkable; a fracked world is uninhabitable.”

Given California’s current water crisis, it is socially irresponsible for DOGGR to allow Sespe Creek to be poisoned by the toxic chemicals used in fracking. Fracking a well once requires two to eight million gallons of water. During a time that numerous water wells are running dry throughout central and Southern California, we do not need DOGGR to regulate fracking, we need fracking to stop immediately. This morning’s protest comes in the wake of fracking bans in New York, Vermont, and Los Angeles, as well as the largest anti-fracking march in history in Oakland, and civil disobedience actions in San Francisco. Earth First! stands in solidarity with all people resisting fracking around the world.

No Atlantic Pipeline VA! Over 50 blockade Dominion HQ in downtown Richmond, VA

noneCross-posted from Virginia People’s Climate March

February 23, 2015

Contact: Shantae Taylor

For Immediate Release

Activists Block Dominion Headquarters and Demand “Stop Selling Our Futures”

At 7:00 a.m. a group of over 50 activists blocked vehicle access to Dominion Resources’ Tredegar Campus in Richmond, Virginia to protest the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Traffic quickly formed on Tredegar Street as activists stretched large banners across the road and paraded large puppets around the scene. Two activists remain suspended from a pedestrian bridge with a banner reading “Stop Selling Our Futures” while a larger crowd occupy the access way to the campus below.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transport natural gas from West Virginia, where there is a boom in hydraulic fracturing, 550 miles, through Virginia, and into North Carolina. “This proposal would be a dangerous investment in fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the scientific consensus is clear that we must invest in renewables, such as wind and solar, to avoid further warming of our planet. ” said Whitney Whiting from Newport News, Virginia.

hangThis action follows several months of grassroots resistance in the region against Dominion. On February 3, an activist scaled a crane at a construction site for Dominion’s proposed Cove Point LNG export facilities in Lusby, Maryland. On February 9, activists with the group Beyond Extreme Energy staged a disruption at a Dominion analyst meeting in New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, also with the message “Stop Selling Our Futures”.

Shantae Taylor from Norfolk, Virginia said, “As a person of color, I am out here because I am disturbed by the climate crisis in the Commonwealth. The Tidewater region is second only to Louisiana for its vulnerability to sea level rise. Now we’re facing the additional threat of offshore oil and gas drilling. I don’t want another Hurricane Katrina or BP oil spill to happen here. It’s time to push back against Dominion’s corrupt political influence and demand an end to fossil fuels.”

“I’ve been born and raised in Virginia, where we have pride in our land”, said Phil Cunningham, from Prince Edward County. “Now Dominion wants to come steal people’s property and sell our futures to the highest bidder. We are here to send the message to Dominion that people matter more than profits. This is our Keystone XL, and we will stop it. ”

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Oil Train Derailment in WV

By WILSON DIZARD

(Article Cross Posted from Al Jazeera America)

Residents of a West Virginia county started picking up the pieces Tuesday after an oil tanker train derailment and fire forced more than a hundred people from their homes and threatened water supplies for thousands, raising new alarm among environmental activists over the rail transport of crude oil through their state.

By Tuesday evening, power crews were restoring electricity, water treatment plants were going back online, and most of the local residents were back home. Many people had taken shelter in local schools or hotels near the town of Boomer. Others continued to rely on free bottled water from the water utility. CSX, the rail company involved, issued a statement saying it is working with the Red Cross to provide shelter for some 125 people amid frigid temperatures and a fresh foot of snow.

With fears of oil seeping into the adjacent Kanawha River, water authorities shut off an intake plant near the derailment, disrupting the lives of everyone on the water system near the smoky crash site. After testing on Tuesday found no detectable trace of oil in the river, public health officials and the utility, West Virginia American Water (WVAW), started turning the intake plant back on — but it will be several days before water service returns to normal. 

The crash sent one person to a hospital with breathing trouble, but the blaze resulted in no deaths despite sending a massive fireball over the Kanawha River at about 1:30 p.m. EST, around 30 miles southeast of the state capital, Charleston. 

At least 20 tankers were “involved” in fires, CSX said Tuesday, and state environmental officials and the rail company decided to let the fires burn themselves out. “At this point there are still small fires burning, so responders can’t go down to there,” said Kelley Gillenwater, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “We can’t get to the actual derailment to assess the immediate impact.”

Gillenwater said the DEP remains dedicated to preventing the pollution of water supplies, pointing to its proposal for strong chemical storage safety laws. Her department, however, has nothing to do with overseeing what travels through the state via rail, she said.

According to CSX, the 109-car train was carrying Bakken shale crude oil from North Dakota to Yorktown, Virginia. 

“We don’t have the jurisdiction to regulate that transportation,” Gillenwater said, adding that the DEP will be conducting further tests of the river’s water and watching out for a telltale “sheen” of oil. 

Gillenwater wasn’t certain of who is responsible for environmental safety on the state’s railroads, but pointed to the Department of Transportation as the likely authority. The West Virginia DOT web site says it controls the State Rail Authority, which oversees freight rail. The DOT was not available for comment Tuesday night. 

After the fire burns out, DEP officials will examine how much oil has spilled onto the soil and remove contaminated dirt that could pollute groundwater, Gillenwater said. 

West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery, the site of the water plant shutoff yesterday, canceled classes until Monday, Feb. 23. Students living on campus will be able to stay at the nearby Beckley branch of WVU, the school said Tuesday, adding that it doesn’t expect to regain water service at its Montgomery campus for another 72 hours. 

WVAW and the DEP said tests Tuesday showed no detectable levels of oil in the water near intake valves downstream from the spill. But the company had already shut off the system Monday as a precaution. The WVAW has advised residents to boil their water before drinking it after the taps are turned back on. The water restrictions affect about 2,000 people in six different towns, local news channel WVNS reports.

The accident conjures memories of another spill in West Virginia just over a year ago, when 10,000 gallons of a coal processing chemical spilled from a tank along the Elk River, making its way to the waterway — the supply for 300,000 people in and around Charleston. For weeks, emergency management authorities in the state distributed free water to thousands across the region.

Even now, many people in that area report being afraid to drink the water.

“It’s just one thing after another,” said Maria Gunnoe, an environmental activist with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, who cited the Jan. 2014 chemical spill as an example.

Accidents with coal or gas are so common, Gunnoe said, that people don’t notice them much anymore. She blamed what she sees as a complacent and complicit state legislature.

“Everyone will forget this in three months, and our state leaders will continue to facilitate the oil and gas industry and not protect the people,” Gunnoe said.

“I don’t have all the answers. It’s a massive problem,” she added, saying the freight shipments of oil aren’t handled safely. “They go extremely fast and they’re extremely reckless, and all of our state leaders turn a blind eye until something like this happens.”

T. Paige, 66, a musician, photographer and part-time environmental activist who lives near Monday’s derailment, said Tuesday morning that he could still see smoke coming from the accident site. He said the crash made him feel “very, very, very angry.”

“These trains are not regulated enough,” he said. “They should not have been going through here in the snow storm. It’s dangerous. They’re not taking adequate precautions.”

He blamed what he called a close relationship between industry and elected leaders for what he sees as a dangerous attitude toward regulation.

“Democracy is being derailed and this is one of the symptoms.”