Utah: Young people sit-in urging Utah Governor to oppose the BLM’s Oil and Gas Sale

Photo Credit: Brooke Larsen

Cross-posted from Wasatch Rising Tide and allies in Utah

Utah Youth Rise Against Oil and Gas Leasing

Young people urge Governor Herbert to oppose the BLM’s March Oil and Gas Sale

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — On Monday, Utah youth delivered a letter with over 1,500 signatures to Governor Herbert’s office, urging him to request the deferral of all parcels in the Utah Bureau of Land Management’s March oil and gas lease sale. Over 50 community members joined young leaders as they held a sit-in, expressed fears for their future, and shared how the state’s poor air quality has impacted their health. The action comes ten days after over 500 young Utahns, and millions of teens around the world, went on strike for climate action.

Utah’s young climate organizers targeted Governor Herbert to keep him accountable to the resolution he signed last year that acknowledges the threats climate change poses to Utah.

“Governor Herbert has failed my generation,” said Mishka Banuri, a senior at West High. “By acknowledging climate change but not following through with substantive action to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, the Governor is knowingly sacrificing our future.”

photo credit: Carly Ferro

On March 25-26, the Utah BLM is auctioning 217,576 acres of public lands to the oil and gas industry — the largest lease sale since the Bush administration. The BLM has listened to governors in the past. Governor Herbert successfully requested the deferral of parcels near Dinosaur National Monument in 2017, and in more recent months, governors of New Mexico and Colorado have achieved limitations on leasing.

Three students initially met with the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Mike Mower, on March 19 to deliver the letter and express their demands. They were disappointed with Mower’s response.

“Mower told us he attended the youth climate strike, but only wanted to focus on the students who drove away in their cars, turning climate change into an individual problem,” said Eliza Van Dyk, Westminster student and organizer with Wasatch Rising Tide. “Climate change will not be solved on an individual basis, we need to change our entire energy system and we need elected officials to help, not hinder that transformation.”

During the sit-in, students spoke with Mower again and asked him to take immediate climate action. He said the state would continue their “all of the above” energy strategy.

“Science shows we must drastically reduce carbon emissions in the next 11 years to prevent climate catastrophe. The state’s all of the above energy strategy is unethical and irresponsible.” said Brooke Larsen, coordinator of Uplift Climate. “My generation needs a rapid transition to the renewable energy economy. We will continue to rise to defend our future.”

The action was organized with the support of the following organizations: Utah Youth for Environmental Solutions, Utah Chapter Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Uplift, and Wasatch Rising Tide.

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UPDATE: Yesterday, Utah youth led a sit-in at Governor Herbert’s office, demanding he take action to defend our future. We delivered a letter with over 1,500 signatures calling on the Governor to request the deferral of all parcels in the Bureau of Land Management’s March oil and gas lease sale. We showed that the people of Utah will keep our leaders accountable and continue to rise for a livable climate, clean air, and protection of wild and sacred lands.

On Tuesday, April 2nd at 6pm MST, Utah youth will have a webinar/conference call to discuss next steps in ongoing actions in protest of the Utah Bureau of Land Management’s mass sale of public lands to the oil and gas industry, a recent court decision that says the BLM must consider climate impacts, and the numerous ways the public can rise with us in defense of our future.

Register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_g1j4rCGiTJW1H1eszCbhTg

 

BREAKING: Rising Tide Vermont, Addison County Residents, Stage Sit-In at Public Service Board Demanding a Halt to Pipeline Construction

RT VT 34Montpelier, VT – Landowners and climate activists opposed to the Vermont Fracked Gas pipeline staged a sit-in today at the Department of Public Service, calling on the agency and the Public Service Board to suspend pipeline construction until they address possible widespread hazardous soil and water contamination along the proposed pipeline route.

“We’re here to let the Department and the Board know that without adequate intervention, pipeline construction threatens to disturb soils contaminated with hazardous chemicals,” said Jonathan Shapiro, of Rising Tide Vermont.

The demonstrators, including several Monkton landowners who live along the proposed pipeline route, are concerned that pipeline construction along the VELCO corridor could expose more people and water to contaminated soils.

Dangerous levels of Pentachlorophenol (PCP), a wood preservative used to treat utility poles, showed up in a Monkton resident’s drinking water last month. [1] The contamination was caused by VELCO maintenance work in preparation for the proposed fracked gas pipeline.

PCP is classified as a probable human carcinogen. [2] Short-term exposure can cause ear, eye and respiratory irritation, and lead to liver and kidney complications.  A bill to regulate treated utility poles was introduced in the Vermont legislature in 2012, due to previous cases of PCP contamination in the state. [3]

Over twenty-five Monkton residents also plan to file a motion with the Board today, requesting that they investigate the issue of contamination. Monkton resident Selena Peyser submitted a similar request to the Board on May 7. The Board has not responded to this request at all.

“I’m deeply concerned that pipeline construction could expose toxic soil, and the state agencies charged with protecting the public from this sort of thing are sweeping our concerns under the rug,” said Maren Vasatka, a Monkton homeowner. Vasatka is currently embroiled in a battle with Vermont Gas over an easement to run the pipeline through her property, along the VELCO corridor.

Over 20 miles of the pipeline route runs alongside the VELCO corridor in Chittenden and Addison counties. The recent contamination incident in Monkton raises concerns about contamination along the rest of the corridor.

“I can’t imagine why the Public Service Board, Department of Public Service and Vermont Gas would want to risk poisoning water instead of taking time to perform adequate testing,” Vasatka said.

The demonstrators, who planned to maintain the sit-in until the Board or the Department of Public Service agreed to pursue the matter, drew connections to larger issues of soil and water contamination caused by fracking.

“From the frackfields of Alberta to the farmland of Addison County, fracking infrastructure is threatening our land, water and our health,” Shapiro said.

Rising Tide urged supporters to attend the upcoming public hearing on Phase 2 of the pipeline this Thursday, June 12, at 7 pm at Middlebury High School.

[1] Tainted water leads to Addison County concern. http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/story/d/story/tainted-water-leads-to-addison-county-concern/15072/GBXJ8B5ir0-vrcu2GrSZKg

[2] US EPA. Registration Eligibility Decision for Pentachlorophenol. http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/pentachlorophenol_red.pdf

[3] Vermont Department of Health (2009). Pentachlorophenol contamination of private drinking water from treated utility poles