National

Eyes of the Nation on Colorado Towns’ Fracking Fight

Published on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

In what many are calling the new “ground zero” in the national fight against fracking, the toxic gas and oil extracting process is on the ballot in four Colorado towns where citizens are taking on the heavyweights of the fossil fuel industry.

Following the example of Longmont, which last year became the first Colorado city to ban fracking, next Wednesday, voters in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins will have the opportunity to choose whether or not they support the controversial extraction method of shale oil and gas in their communities.

The Denver Business Journal provides this rundown of the four ballot measures:

  • Broomfield: Question 300 would impose a five-year prohibition on all fracking.
  • Fort Collins: Its measure would create a five-year moratorium on fracking and storage of waste products related to the oil and gas industry in town.
  • City of Boulder: 2H proposes a five-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration.
  • Lafayette: Question No. 300 would ban new oil and gas wells in town. [As well as] prohibit “depositing, storing or transporting within city limits any water, brine, chemical or by-products used in or that result from extraction of oil and gas.”

Though local ballot initiatives, these are no small-town battles. According to reports, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) has poured over $600,000 into campaigns against the moratoriums.

“The oil and gas industry is trying to intimidate voters by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy this election,” Laura Fronckiewicz, campaign manager for the pro-moratorium group Our Broomfield, told Denver Westword.

Among those industry insiders who are concerned that the success of these local initiatives could spell trouble for the future of fracking in the west, Tim Wigley, president of oil and gas trade group Western Energy Alliance, said, “I’ve really beat the drum with our members […] across the West about how dangerous a precedent these could be if they become law.”

“The whole country is looking at Colorado as ground zero.” The state, he added, “has been traditionally a big-time [energy] producer, and the industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.”

Three of the four initiatives propose a temporary ban on the process which, according to Fronckiewicz, will allow researchers more time to determine fracking’s “true effects” on residents’ health and the environment.

Colorado’s history as an energy-producing state where landowners’ mineral rights are often owned by commercial entities compound the challenges faced by these grassroots initiatives.

The City of Longmont—where last November nearly 60 percent of voters approved an amendment that prohibited fracking and the disposal of fracking waste products within city limits—is currently facing suits by both the COGA and the state.

Those suits, however, have not succeeded in deterring others from taking up their own fight against Big Oil and Gas.

“People on Colorado’s Front Range enjoy their quality of life and this industry represents an immediate threat to public health and that quality of life,” Cliff Willmeng of the activist group East Boulder County United told the Denver Post. “People see that the question of the environment is not an abstraction—it’s something we’re living through now.”

Shale Boom or Shale Bubble?

Come to a public discussion of fracking's false economic promise

Deborah Rogers, internationally renowned fracking economics expert,

to present and take questions

Deborah RogersDeborah will speak in three communities: Boulder, Broomfield & Fort Collins

As Front Range communities wrestle with hydraulic fracturing-enabled oil and gas development, residents should know the fracking boom may provide only a short period of oil and gas abundance before collapsing in an economic bust.

Analysis of more than 60,000 oil and gas wells shows:

  • Shale well production declines more rapidly than predicted.
  • The rate of drilling must increase to maintain current production.
  • Shale gas production has become uneconomical in many areas at current prices.
  • Wall Street has played a key behind-the-scenes role in hyping the fracking boom.
  • Industry is largely unwilling to invest in future shale development.

WHO:

Deborah Rogers, co-author of Shale Bubble reports, member of the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, advisor to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, former member of the Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Earthworks board member.

WHAT:

An opportunity for the public to learn about and discuss the financial underpinnings of fracking-enabled shale development.

WHERE & WHEN:

Tuesday, October 22nd at 6:30 p.m.
Fort CollinsCouncil Tree Library, 2733 Council Tree Ave.

Wednesday, October 23rd at 6:30pm
BoulderColorado School of Law, Wolf Law Bldg, Rm 204, 2450 Kittredge Loop Rd

Thursday, October 24th at 7pm
BroomfieldLakeshore Room of the Broomfield Community Center, 280 Lamar St.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Contacts:

·         All events – Josh Joswick, Earthworks, at 970-903-0876, jjoswick@earthworksaction.org

·         Fort Collins – Kelly Giddens-Unuigbey, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins at 503-866-5962, kellygiddens@mac.com

·         Boulder – Kate Johnson, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights at 303-579-9537, katej2555@msn.com

·         Broomfield – Laura Fronckiewicz, Our Broomfield at 312-533-0525, ourbroomfield@gmail.com

Read the research at www.shalebubble.org

HOSTING ORGANIZATIONS:

Earthworks, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights, and Our Broomfield with East Boulder County United, Erie Rising, Food & Water Watch, Frack Files of Weld County, Frack Free Colorado, Our Broomfield, Our Longmont, Plains Alliance for Clean Air & Water, Protect Our Colorado, Protect Our Loveland, Weld Air and Water, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Greeley Chapter, YES on 2H.

THE ORGANIZATIONS BEHIND THE SHALE BUBBLE RESEARCH:

The Energy Policy Forum addresses the serious long-term implications for U.S. energy consumers as America chooses course at the crossroads of potential energy futures.

The Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, environmental, and equity crises that define the 21st century. We envision a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

Need vs Greed

In Greed We TrustLet us assume that Mr. Pedro Gonzalez, an average employee at McDonalds works a 40 hour week, 50 weeks per year for a total of 2000 hours. At $8.00 per hour his gross pay is $16,000.00 per year.

Meanwhile, his ultimate boss, the CEO, is paid somewhere around $10 Million per year, or $5000.00 for each of those same 2000 hours. But let’s recognize reality- most CEO’s work long hours some of the time, so let’s assume Mr. CEO puts in an additional 5-600 hours per year doing other stuff. He’s still up over $4000.00 per hour no matter how you cut it. If he worked 4000 hours a year, he’d still be making around $2500. per hour.

Mr. Gonzales and his fellow workers in the fast-food industry are organizing around the idea that they should be paid $15.00 per hour, an income that would allow them to enter the middle class – the backbone of any successful economy.

The fast-food execs are screaming that such a wage increase would mark the end of their business models, eviscerate the market and probably collapse world-wide economies. Indeed, it seems the sky would fall.

Let’s think about all this for a moment. Is there a soul on this earth worth $5000 per hour? Exactly where did this obscenity in remuneration come from? I recall an old expression; “There’s need and there’s greed”. Was this ever more true?

Let me suggest that if Mr. Gonzalez was paid $15.00 per hour and Mr. CEO took a cut all the way down to (say) $3000.00 per hour and then raised the price of a hamburger by 25 cents, the corporation would survive and indeed flourish. Thousands more middle-class families would be spreading their incomes over a wider market, millions more hamburgers would be sold, Mr. CEO would likely get his salary cut back in the form of a bonus and just possibly realize he had helped his country begin to renew itself.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But then I remember the need-greed mantra; given past performance I’m guessing that greed will trump need, and the hell to Mr. Gonzalez.

Bruised from Celebrating

YEE HAAAAA!!!!!!

Photo courtesy of tumblr

Gun crazies in Colorado are stroking themselves to the point of bruising after the success of their NRA-backed putsch.

I’ve read story after story crowing about how Morse and Giron reacted to their loss. The flapping-in-the-breeze lunatic fringe is blurring they’re so wound up with vengeful glee. Easy kids, you’ll wear a sore spot.

I’m surprised Greg Brophy isn’t walking around with ammo belts and a sombrero in the capitol building. No, really, wait for it. Sigh. Looking for the campaign gaffe of the decade? Keep your eyes on him. He’ll deliver in fine form when the chips are down.

And the stories keep rolling in: a young man shot without reason after a car accident, two road-ragers trade hot lead and end up cold meat, a sailor goes on a shooting spree, an 83 year old man shoots his wife for putting the lid on the ketchup too tight, etc, etc, etc!!

This is NOT a win for common sense or safety. The legislation limited the size of magazines. No more ‘mine’s bigger’ and I can imagine that upset a lot of folks. The NRA did a fine job of ginning up anger and ‘they’s a-gonna take yer gunz!!!!’ fear in the orange-vested hearts of rural Amurika.

So I’m guessing requiring real background checks is out of the question now that the NRA has two scalps dangling from it’s gore-dripping belt. Lovely. So we can expect more and worse incidents. Oh, and whatever you do don’t speak up and complain or ‘conservative watchdogs’* will track you down and see to it you’re out of your job. Yes, the ‘fear’ tactic is in clear use.

As one wit on Twitter quipped: “Clean kill on that one.”

Indeed. Sadly, common sense was also a casualty.

* Paid agents?

Cory Gardner: Fraud and Abuse

Cory Gardner, anti-environmentI see that Cory Gardner, along with his compassionate christian Colorado Republican buddies, has voted to cut the food stamp bill by 40 million, citing fraud and abuse among other things. This program has a fraud level of 1% while congress itself has a fraud level of 2%. So much for fraud and abuse.

The cuts will remove 3.8 million people from the food stamp rolls. Half of the people getting food stamps are children. Some of them go hungry part of the time. If Cory Gardner and his family were on food stamps, I wonder if it would bother him if his children went to bed hungry part of the time. Probably not. It certainly does’t bother him that other people’s children go hungry part of the time. What a caring compassionate Christian.

Doyle Myers
Longmont

Give ‘im hell, Grandma, Grandpa!

Colorado Grandparents Tell Governor Not to Frack Their Grandchildren’s Future

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, Sept. 9, 2013

Contact: Russell Mendell, 802-318-1135

Sam Schabacker, 720-295-1036

Colorado Grandparents Tell Governor Not to Frack
Their Grandchildren’s Future

Broomfield, Colo.—Today, concerned grandparents from across Colorado will deliver a letter to tell Governor Hickenlooper and other governors from across the country to say no to fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and yes to a renewable energy future in celebration of National Grandparents’ Day. The delivery is taking place before Governor Hickenlooper’s keynote address to the Western Governor’s Association Policy Forum on Shale Energy Development in Broomfield.

These grandparents will be voicing their concerns over the risks fracking, drilling and related activities pose to all Coloradans health, air, water, land, property values and their special concerns for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  They are also demanding that Governor Hickenlooper end his continued use of lawsuits to bully the people of Colorado to accept fracking next to their homes and schools.

“Yesterday I celebrated National Grandparents’ Day with my two grandchildren in Lafayette,” said Merrily Mazza, a retired corporate executive and current member of East Boulder County United. “Today, I’m here to tell Governor Hickenlooper to stop trying to force fracking next to our homes and schools with lawsuits.  My grandchildren deserve a safe, healthy future in Colorado.”

Grandparents representing the five communities (Broomfield, Fort Collins, Loveland, Lafayette and Boulder) who will be voting to protect themselves from fracking this November will be participating in the letter delivery, as well as grandparents from Longmont, who’s community is currently facing two lawsuits from Governor Hickenlooper in order to force fracking next to homes and schools in their city.  Despite gathering thousands of signatures to exercise their right to vote in each of these communities, Governor Hickenlooper has stated he will sue any community that protects themselves from fracking and has not spoken out against the attempts of the oil and gas industry to undermine Coloradans right to vote on fracking in these communities.

“Endangering the health of our grandchildren by contaminating air and water is unacceptable.  We want to work to protect our communities from this dangerous practice.  We are appalled by the lack of leadership in our state government,” said Joan Stern a grandmother with Our Broomfield.

The Western Governor’s Association Policy Forum on Shale Energy Development does not include one voice from residents who have been directly impacted by fracking or have been sued by either Governor Hickenlooper or the industry for exercising their democratic right to vote.  Instead, the Forum appears designed to coach governors and their staffs on how to deflect community concern effectively and use industry messaging to shut out any voices critical of fracking, drilling, wastewater disposal and its associated activities.

“This forum provides yet another disturbing example of how Governor Hickenlooper is the oil and gas industry’s leading cheerleader for fracking while he ignores the people who voted him into office in the first place,” said Kaye Fissinger, a great-grandparent, leading member of Our Longmont and a representative of Protect Our Colorado, the state coalition.

The organizations participating in today’s delivery are: Our Broomfield, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, East Boulder County United, Protect Our Loveland, Frack Free Colorado, Our Longmont and Food & Water Watch.

Open Letter to American Business

It's no longer 'whatever floats your boat' but whether or not your boat FLOATS at all.

It’s no longer ‘whatever floats your boat’ but whether or not your boat FLOATS at all.

Dear American business sector:

Here’s how it is. We, the consumers who keep this country viable (at least we once did), are NOT going to buy your crap until and unless you –

  1. Reduce your incessant, blatant, mind-numbing ads everywhere. That means the ‘web, television, everything. Enough is enough.
  2. Stop calling us if we don’t want you to. The simple rule is, if we didn’t ask you to call, don’t. We usually have “Caller ID” these days, and if we’ve never heard of you, don’t be expecting anyone to pick up. This goes for your scammer friends, too. Especially them.
  3. Lower your prices. How unequivocal can THAT be? Since when is a 30% return really necessary?
  4. This one is critical, because without it, we are all headed for the dumper. HIRE MORE, much more, AND PAY BETTER. Provide benefits (you remember those; the execs have them), and you will gain a more loyal, dedicated, secure (and, therefore, STABLE) work force. Or is that what you really want? Oh, it’s a growing return for the shareholders (usually that includes management) that turns your head?

Well, unless you’ve forgotten BA 104 and Econ 102, if the common folk (the “rabble?”) don’t have the money, they won’t buy, because they CAN’T! What’s that you say? Foreigners will take up the slack? Did you just climb out from beneath a rock? Most of them don’t have much money, either. How about that 1% group? Just how many lunches can one man eat, anyway? Can anyone drive TWO Porsche’s at the same time? Try it.

Otherwise, just keep punishing and laying off your CUSTOMERS, and see where that gets you. A rising tide lifts all boats. All we ask is that you stop punching holes in them.

A bipartisan surveillance state

Too much security isn't a good thing, no matter which party's in charge.

Too much security isn’t a good thing, no matter which party’s in charge.

On Wednesday, July 24, the House of Representatives, in a surprisingly close vote, defeated an amendment that called for the defunding of the National Security Agency’s warrantless and bulk domestic spying program. I say surprisingly close because the White House and the leadership of both mainstream parties opposed the amendment. The House could have lived up to its responsibility to defend the Constitution but instead chose to continue being a party to the shredding of the Fourth Amendment.

President Obama and political leaders claim that it is necessary to sacrifice much of our privacy in order to keep the U.S. secure. Benjamin Franklin didn’t agree. He said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

As a reminder, the Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In June, after President Obama touted the key role of the NSA surveillance program in stopping terrorist plots, Sens. Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said they have seen no evidence that the NSA program “has actually provided any uniquely valuable intelligence.” They added: “As far as we can see, all of the useful information that it has provided appears to have also been available through other collection methods that do not violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans in the way that the Patriot Act collection does.”

On July 31, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis conceded that the claims about the usefulness of the program in preventing attacks had been overstated. Why then does the government continue to spend billions on a program that violates the Constitution and doesn’t deliver the goods?

Perhaps because the bulk collection of records may also allow the government to identify whistleblowers and sources used by investigative reporters. It appears the Obama administration is comfortable with leaks that portray it in a good light whereas it goes ballistic over leaks that report on its problematic actions.

The Obama administration, self-proclaimed as the most transparent in history, has indicted six former or current government employees who became whistleblowers, twice as many as all previous administrations combined. In a May 21 article in The Hill, James Bachman wrote: “These whistleblowers have revealed government waste, fraud and abuse, acts of aggression, torture and war crimes. Yet, it is those who have revealed the criminal activity that have suffered prosecution by the Obama administration while those who have actually committed the crimes have gone unpunished.”

On July 9, McClatchy News broke a story on the Insider Threat Program, enacted through a little-known executive order signed by President Obama in October 2011. This executive order requires government agencies to “implement an insider threat detection and prevention program” — in effect, ordering all government employees, regardless of security clearances or the sensitivity of their work, to police fellow workers as potential security threats, and report the suspicious behavior to superiors.

This program is not consistent with our values. If we become a nation where fellow employees and neighbors spy on one another, the social fabric of our nation would be destroyed. Indeed, this program sounds similar to things that the East German Stasi and the KGB of the Soviet Union did during the Cold War.

We must demand that Congress stop these violations by the NSA. Otherwise, in a few years we could be saying: First they came for the whistleblowers; then they came for the reporters; then they came for protestors; etc.

Current economy: unsustainable, unreasonable, unfair

Mind those teeth...

Mind those teeth…

To paraphrase: It is hard to drain the swamp when you are up to your waist in alligators. Much of what we try to address will not in the end be successful unless we deal with root causes. We need to beat off the alligators but this will never end unless we drain the swamp.

Income and wealth disparities have been growing at an alarming rate. Many, including some in Congress, speak out against food stamps and other assistance for the poor (Cory Gardner just voted to discontinue funding food stamps). If workers were paid a living wage, wages were not routinely stolen from workers and corporations would not trim costs by cutting workers, expecting remaining salaried workers to make up the slack, while paying hugely inappropriate salaries and bonuses to top management and board members, there would be less need for assistance.

Eventually, the huge and increasing disparity in earnings and wealth will come back to bite the corporations. Low pay results in less purchasing power for many millions. This reduces sales tax collection, also hurting local governments. Low pay leads to poverty and homelessness. It leads to discouraged portions of the populations. Unemployment among the young leads to crime.

The same people who voted down food stamps and other food assistance while funding large agriculture support tax breaks to big oil at a time when big oil is making incredible profits, while denying small incremental financial support for renewable energy, also brought us Citizens United. The same party continues, in the face of Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, with attempts to make it less likely that minorities, the elderly and some rural citizens will be able to vote (Scott Gessler continues to mislead us on the number of non-citizens voting while proposing to make it more difficult for thousands of citizens to vote.)

The Republican Party should be just as worried as the Democrat Party about Citizens United. Recently the Chinese government offered to buy a large U.S. food processing company. The press talks about worries that the Chinese will reduce food safety. The real concern is that as an owner of a U.S. corporation, the Chinese government will be able to support candidates of their choosing and influence elections and thus laws without having to disclose their hand in this misguided gift from the Bush court.

Historically the robber barons, mining companies, large manufactures, etc., mistreated employees and developed monopolies. Thanks to unions and an informed public, the worst of these abuses were stopped. Unfortunately, income and wage disparity has become a huge crisis. The very wealthy control too much of the wealth and thus power. Greed runs rampant. Every effort seems to be made to receive bigger and bigger portions of the pie at the expense of the many, first the poor and now the middle class. Even athletes and other entertainers fight for obscene salaries while educators, law enforcement and medical professions fall back in real buying power.

Gone are the days when a single salary could provide a comfortable lifestyle. It is not a bad thing that talented people can make more than an average earning, but when taken to an extreme this is not in the interest of collective society. Very high salaries come at the expense of poorly paid workers, workers who need two jobs even with a working spouse to make ends meet.

Too much money from relatively few sources influences elections in a way that defeats the concept of one person one vote. Politicians are frequently unduly influenced by large contributors and special interests group such as big oil, pharmaceuticals and the NRA. These groups spend huge amounts on lobbyists. We have legislators in Washington, D.C., who fight for weapons that the military says its doesn’t need and doesn’t want. We allow pharmaceutical companies to practice “Pay for Delay,” whereby they pay other companies to not produce and sell generics at a lower price. We pay, insurance companies pay and Medicare pays more. This also goes against the basic tenants of patent law.

This is not about a liberal agenda. This is about a better America. It is about living up to our values. It is about long-term sustainability of our economic system. Look around at the unrest in other countries. While there are several reasons for unrest, a good deal of the energy comes from disparity in wealth that leaves many with bare subsistence and little hope for anything better for them or their children.

Lawsuit Challenges Oil Shale, Tar Sands on Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2013
5:18 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust, (801) 300-2414
John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435) 259-1063
David Garbett, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 486-3161
Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351
Matt Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 546-0214
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 x 102

 

Lawsuit Challenges 800,000-acre Oil Shale, Tar Sands Plan Across Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

DENVER, Colo. – July 26 – A coalition of seven conservation groups sued the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday afternoon in federal district court in Colorado for allocating more than 800,000 acres of federal public land to climate-warming oil shale and tar sands development without undertaking formal consultation to protect endangered species.

The lands due to be mined are in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming within the Green River Formation, which the U.S. Geological Survey states contains between 353 billion and 1.146 trillion barrels of oil with “high potential for development,” — in fact, so high it holds 2 to 7 times as much as Alberta’s 170 billion barrels targeted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Vast mining, carbon emissions and water use will only worsen climate disruption and Colorado River drying,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with the Grand Canyon Trust. “This plan opens the door to that kind of development, and it does so while ignoring the plight of the creatures most vulnerable to its many impacts.”

“This citizen intervention is necessary because the Department of Interior is sending mixed messages to the public. On one day, the administration issues a statement that the Colorado River’s critical water supply will be protected for people and habitat, and then on another day they announce the most carbon intensive mining practice on the planet can move forward,” said John Weisheit, conservation director with Living Rivers. “The two programs are not mutually beneficial. Interior has to protect the Colorado River, there is no other choice.”

In March the BLM amended 10 resource-management plans, making 687,600 acres available for oil shale leasing and 132,100 acres available for tar sands leasing. The agency refused to conduct formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered species, as required by the Endangered Species Act, despite acknowledging likely impacts to those species.

“The Endangered Species Act requires agencies to consult with the experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service when they know listed species will be impacted,” said Matt Sandler, a staff attorney at Rocky Mountain Wild. “BLM has skipped this step, which will push these species closer to extinction.”

Mining for oil shale and tar sands would industrialize backcountry and destroy habitat, pollute and deplete water, and emit greenhouse gases. The allocated lands encompass habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, Mexican spotted owl and many other threatened and endangered species.

“Our public lands should be managed to protect our air, water and wildlife, not auctioned off for dirty and destructive fossil fuel development that will push us ever closer to climate disaster,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

CBD lawsuit BLM 4-state map

Thursday’s lawsuit comes as atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach 400 parts per million, a milestone in human history. Making fuel from oil shale and tar sands is an energy-intensive process of mining, heating, chemical treatment and refining. Its greenhouse gas emissions would far exceed that of conventional oil. For example, emissions from Alberta’s tar sands development exceed that of conventional oil by several times.

“The BLM should be managing these wild areas for the rich wildlife diversity and recreational opportunities they provide,” said Dan Chu, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, “not for dirty fuels development on a giant scale.”

The groups filing today’s lawsuit are Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Rocky Mountain Wild, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club. Many of the same groups on Monday challenged a new oil refinery in Green River, Utah, that could process fuels derived from oil shale and tar sands mined in lands subject to this lawsuit.

To download a copy of Thursday’s lawsuit, click here.

To download maps of the refinery and state and federal leasable oil shale and tar sands land, click here (high resolution [6.7 MB] or low resolution [1.7 MB]) (for media use).

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Full speed ahead for the 1%

The economy is burning down and the 1% don't care.

The economy is burning down and the 1% don’t care.

Detroit’s default and bankruptcy say a great deal about where we’re headed, and that has little to do with the outcome for municipal bond investors or with the national debt picture. Many, many Detroit retirees are watching their pensions blow up in front of their eyes. What will they do? I’d lay odds we’ll have a gray version of Cairo’s Tahrir Square within two years if some entity fails to come to the rescue.

But these folks were mostly if not entirely UNIONIZED. So let ’em eat Alpo, the GOP says. And while we’re at it, we’re going to chop food stamps and vouchers for subsidized housing for the poor. In short, we just don’t give a Tinker’s dam about anyone except the 1% and ourselves, sayeth the buffoons on the wrong side of the aisle and the wrong side of history.

Where might this lead in short order? Assume no other municipality files for Chapter 9. But watch Detroit. See if CURRENT (union) firefighters begin ignoring calls, because there’s no future in it for them. These people are galvanized solid gold human beings, but they do have to eat. Now and in thirty-five years, and later.

What’s the GOP solution? Cut the budget some more. Cut taxes on those who can afford them. Cut the arguing and let us “deliver.” Like John Boehner means “deliver?” Pray that the country finally sees the real cost of the anti, do NOTHING Congressional GOP.

Or else, by the time it does see, climate change will make Detroit pensions completely irrelevant anyway. Oh, Boehner’s clowns are not about to allow anything to get in the way of that little matter, either. Who cares about a few polar bears or coral reefs? These simpletons care only about SUVs, resource extraction, and a 25% return. that’s what made this country GREAT, you know.

Paradigm shift from fighter-nation mentality needed

Are we a fighter nation?

Are we a fighter nation?

My June 29 guest column in the Times-Call generated a variety of responses via email and on the Opinion page, leading some respondents to ask for a follow-up, so here goes.

I often use personal stories to make a point, connect the dots. These stories are true. I don’t make them up and readers tell me they appreciate them. I was appalled during Army basic training to have my sore feet questioned and see many trainees pummeled into submission with challenges to their veracity. But at least I had boots and the times were different. Our military needed more fighters in Vietnam and petty excuses were not acceptable. I do remember receiving much better medical treatment as an officer, though. I hope that has changed over the past 47 years since I went through training.

One respondent cited a New York Times article claiming more than 50 percent of assaults were to men. Another referred me to Marine Capt. Lindsay Rodman’s Wall Street Journal column, which concluded the statistics on sexual assaults were based on a bad survey resulting in bad math, with projections, not actual assaults that others have hyped out of reality.

Per Capt. Rodman, “The actual number of reported sexual assaults in the military in 2012 was 3,374, up from 3,192 in 2011. Of the 3,374 total cases reported last year, only 12 percent to 14 percent were reported by men. … We in the military justice system want victims to come forward, and to seek accountability through the system. We want them to feel empowered to report, and to know that their command will take the allegation and their recovery seriously. An increasing number of reported sexual assaults, at least in the next few years, should be viewed as a positive sign that this message is being heard.”

Another respondent, a retired Navy public relations officer, described having written a report on sexual assaults that was covered up by the chain of command. And a grandmother wrote concerned about a grandson who might be making a bad choice by enlisting in the military.

All of these perspectives, including mine, are valid. Our military is a huge amalgamation of people. In many ways its members are characteristic of society, yet military service is not the romanticized life portrayed in enlistment commercials flooding TV. Previously on this page, I applauded a young Marine recruit who signed up for the possibility of receiving valuable training while serving his country. Yet he also understood the dreaded alternative of being sent into combat and being killed. Anyone seeking military service must weigh these alternatives.

Personally, I believe everyone should serve this country for at least two years. There are many alternatives to serving in the military and I’ve described some on this page before, especially AmeriCorps. But public service of some kind is necessary to gain a commitment, an investment, in our country.

Over the last half-century, military spending has gobbled up resources that should have been used for education and health care. Yet, doomsday spokesmen tote up the national debt and find no way out of rapidly increasing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending other than to reduce benefits and raise taxes.

Our political leaders are looking at the wrong issues. Incrementally, we have drifted into a fighter-nation mentality. Our priorities are out of whack and we now equate bloated military spending with adequate defense spending. Statistics show we have had enough defense for a long time. We must have a paradigm shift of priorities, a change that puts people first.

Bill Ellis is a local author. Reply to him at contact@billelliswrites.com,

U.S. checkered immigration history

The U.S. is a land of immigrants, a common saying. Our treatment of immigrants has not always been one we can be proud of, beginning with mostly northern Europeans entering lands populated by a native or indigenous people. Through disease, wars, and policy that population has been decimated and still suffers oppression.

Following independence from England the U.S. purchased lands taken from the indigenous population by Spain, and annexed 55 percent of Mexico following a war. Indigenous people who had crossed the man-made border between the U.S. and Mexico for centuries were eventually not permitted to cross that border.

Various populations were excluded after providing much-needed labor. After building the transcontinental railroad Chinese immigrants were barred from entering the U.S. (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). Between 1943 and 1964 the Bracero Program bought in more than 5 million temporary workers. In 1954 Operation Wetback targeted Mexican American communities with nearly 4 million deported, including some U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

A common practice has been the utilization of Asians and Latinos as a labor commodity rather than as people. (For a local flavor, see “White Gold Labors” by Jody Lopez and Gabriel Lopez, a documentation of the abuse of laborers brought to Greeley to harvest the sugar beet crop.) When the labor is no longer valued, people, including families, are deported.

The immigration situation has never been no more complicated than it is today. For many years the southern border was alternately open and largely closed. When labor was needed in fields and orchards, workers, mostly men, entered with a wink and nod by border enforcement. These workers tended to work for the same farm or orchard year after year, returning home after the harvest season. As the border became more challenging and more dangerous, workers stayed. Some with green cards failed to renew their status or simply overstayed.

Because we have not matched work visas with labor demand, we have many undocumented people here to fill a need. As we saw in some states, tough anti-immigrant laws resulted in large portions of crops rotting in the fields.

Over the years many immigrants brought their children with them or had children here, sometimes with U.S. citizens as the other parent. As we “got tough” on undocumented immigrants we began to deport a large number of people.

Unlike the stated policies of the White House and Department of Homeland Security, many of the deported have nothing other than a minor traffic violation in addition to illegal entry. A very significant number of those deported are parents and breadwinners. Their departure causes huge hardships on those left behind. As a result of the recession here and improving economy in Mexico, a greater percent of those trying to enter (re-enter) are doing so for family reunification.

At the same time the U.S. beefed up border security, spending billions of dollars, cutting through properties of U.S. citizens and creating the largest policing force in the country. The “fence” has been extended farther and farther away from populous centers. What used to require one or two days walking in the desert is now a brutal four-day walk. In 2012 in the Tucson Sector alone, 300 bodies (estimated to be a small fraction of the total deaths) were found. These bodies are those of brothers, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandparents, etc. Their death is not just their death but the loss of someone very important in the lives of those in the U.S. or in their home country.

Many Border Patrol agents are compassionate and rescue as well as capture immigrants in the desert. However, videos document border patrol agents breaking water bottles left out to save lives (killing is not the answer) and treating immigrants inhumanely such as making them walk barefoot. The most egregious examples on film are the beating of a man in Nogales and the shooting of an unarmed teenager who was in the Mexican town of Nogales.

Those of us who participated in the Migrant Trail, a 75-mile, seven-day walk from Sasabe, Mexico, to Tucson watched a film (“The Undocumented”) that showed the finding of bodies, the autopsies and the efforts to let families know the tragic ends of their relatives. We carried crosses with the names of the deceased and called out their names. If we did not relate to the terrible conditions at the border before we walked, we did afterward.

Arrogance of command protects sexual assault offenders

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

The first time I showed up at “sick call” during Army basic training, 16 in my company of 250 filled the first sergeant’s office displaying blisters worn through to flesh. Both of my Achilles were bloody and I could hardly walk, much less run in combat boots. This ailment stayed with me through four months of infantry training and six months of officer training, the latter including “jorks,” jogs of five miles carrying an M-14 and wearing a fully loaded backpack.

Periodically, an Army doctor would prescribe low quarters, regular shoes, so I could continue training. And to this day, nerve damage in my left foot causes pain and numbness in several toes.

I relate this sad tale to demonstrate this point: Of the 16 complainers that day, only four of us withstood the first sergeant’s shaming condemnation and actually went to see a doctor. The other 12 were bullied into submission, made to feel like cowards and laggards. Our treatment then was matched with another warning. Don’t write to your congressman and complain because the chain of command will send that letter to your company commander and you will be in hot water.

No one who has served in the military should be surprised that there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault recently reported. I wondered about the huge jump and asked a friend, a woman who served four years and left the Army as a captain. She related that a male senior officer had harassed her on her first tour of duty. It didn’t matter that she was married and warned him off. She is an attractive woman, and, as she said, “boys will be boys.” Today though, she believes the overall environment has improved, leading more women to report sexual assaults and harassment. Regardless, she said, there is still an arrogant “good old boy network” protecting offenders.

As the father of four daughters and grandfather of six granddaughters, I see the existence of a network of men who will lie to protect other men as so far from honorable as to be repulsive. Military officers are sworn to tell the truth. Always. They are also expected to uphold positive leadership characteristics including empathy, dedication, judiciousness, loyalty, trust and understanding. Note that arrogance is not one. Yet I saw it many times from officers who believed that once silver or gold bars, oak leaf clusters, eagles or stars were pinned on their shoulders they were automatically imbued with greater intelligence and overriding power. And that first morning on sick call was my first encounter with its corruption.

Years before the reality of Hillary Clinton as a viable presidential candidate, my wife asked a good question: Where are all the women running for president? That was in August 2000, when we didn’t like any of the candidates. The idea for a book struck me, so one night we sat down and brainstormed to describe the ideal first woman president. She had to be “flameproof,” and Hailey MacMurray, the leading lady in my novel, was certainly that. She was spick and span, highly intelligent, smart, an All-American athlete and attractive. Hailey would attend the Air Force Academy and graduate at the top of her class on the way to becoming a jet fighter pilot. And become a widowed, single mom. How could the hawks vote against such a phenomenon?

Then real life intervened. Almost between chapters in my writing life at home, I was introduced to the daughter of an office secretary where I worked as part-time gofer. Personable and well-mannered, she was an all-state volleyball player, and as a freshman at the Air Force Academy was so good she was on the starting varsity.

Then she was sexually assaulted at the academy. Her mother’s grief at work was palpable and mixed with the fear that her husband was threatening to take his gun to the academy and shoot somebody, anybody. But on top of the anguish of the assault came this message to the young woman from the “brass”: Resign. Quit school. That’s what all the other women have done.

Say again? Where was the empathy, loyalty, trust and understanding?

Twenty-six thousand sexual assaults tell me the chain of command does not work and should not be considered for reporting such felonies, court martial offenses. Yet the Inspector General reporting system is set up for just such cases. If the IG system is not working, then it’s time, in Army lingo, to take names and kick ass.

Bill Ellis is a local author who can be reached at contact@billelliswrites.com.

President Obama: Fracked Gas is Not a Solution to Climate Change

I watched with anticipation yesterday as President Obama delivered his speech laying out his new climate action plan. Climate change is one of the most pressing issue of our time, and one on which the United States desperately needs to lead. While it was heartening to hear the President take on climate deniers and pledge to fight the problem, his full-throated advocacy for fracked natural gas and oil was more a case of two steps back than a giant step forward.

A major pillar of the President’s climate action plan is increased production and use of domestic fracked natural gas – and it wasn’t just gas – he also lauded increased domestic oil production. While Obama didn’t use the word “fracking,” that is the method used to extract gas and oil in communities across the country. He repeatedly referred to “clean burning natural gas” and lauded it as a “bridge fuel.” But if our goal is stemming climate change, fracked gas is a bridge to nowhere. It’s true that we need to identify new sources of energy, but we can’t drill away our energy problems.

Studies show that the process of drilling, fracking, processing and transporting natural gas releases a tremendous amount of methane into the air. Methane is 70-100 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.  Some recently published studies on methane emissions show that burning natural gas may be even worse, in terms of the overall greenhouse gas footprint, than burning coal for electricity and burning fuel oil to heat homes or run industrial boilers. A massive expansion of fracking threatens to undo any gains from other parts of his plan and may make matters even worse. For an excellent video on the intersection between fracking and climate change, check out this great explanation by Cornell Professor, Tony Ingraffea.

Ban Fracking NowThere is a strong and growing movement against fracking – not just because of its documented impact on water, air and communities, but also because it is a driver of climate change. PrintAmericans Against Fracking, a national coalition to ban fracking has over 200 organizational members and vibrant state based coalitions pushing for a ban in New York, Colorado, California and elsewhere.  People across the country are growing to understand what climate scientists have said for years—that we must leave our fossil fuels in the ground to avert climate change.

When I heard Obama talking about boosting the development of natural gas and oil yesterday, I got angry, but then I got energized. I got energized by the tens of thousands of people in New York pushing Governor Cuomo to ban fracking; I got energized by the amazing organizing in Pennsylvania and California to move the Democratic Party to endorse moratoriums on fracking; and I got energized by the people in Boulder County, Colorado who won an 18 month moratorium on fracking.

Our movement is growing and our elected officials have not caught up to their constituents. It’s critical that we pressure President Obama to listen to the science and to this growing movement against fracking for oil and gas. We also need to continue to hold him accountable for decisions he is making that contribute to climate change. His Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, for example, is facing critical decisions about fracking on public lands and his administration is also making key decisions on liquefied natural gas exports, pipeline projects and other infrastructure projects.

Take action now to tell President Obama that fracked gas and oil is not part of any climate solution.

Mark Schlosberg is the National Organizing Director of Food & Water Watch. He has a J.D. from New York University and a B.A. in Economics from University of California at Berkeley.