National

Encana propaganda as toxic as fracking

skull-crossbonesIn “Guest Opinion” pieces of corporate propaganda, such as Wendy Wiedenbeck’s the recent post in the Boulder Daily Camera, reality gets buried by twisting the facts with half truths, misrepresentations, innuendos, and claims of innocence and victimization, that in the end amount to lies. Let’s get real about this. Wendy Wiedenbeck’s job as “community relations adviser” is to create a positive image for one of the most ruthless industries on the planet, whose only consideration is maximum profit, regardless of any ill effects to local citizens.

The laws and “”regulations” have gradually evolved to allow corporations to “legally” degrade the health of our families and our ecosystem. We have tried in vain to be heard by our elected officials at all levels of government, yet the assault on our quality of life worsens by the hour. We have tried Wiedenbeck’s “civil discourse” and figured out that it is a sham. The public forums are almost all we have left, because we are not being represented in the back rooms and the boardrooms. Now grassroots groups around the U.S. and the world are finding creative ways to fight back.

And as for Wiedenbeck’s “silent majority”, they recently spoke loud and clear in Longmont, 60% to 40%, and said “NO”, you will not be allowed to wreak havoc on the health and welfare of our community with your fracking and waste.

Wiedenbeck’s Opinion is filled with half-truths.

Example:

“I’m also guessing that they don’t know that hydraulic fracturing has been taking place in Boulder since the 1950s.”

Current fracking methods have little or no resemblance to previous methods. When Dick Cheney exempted fracking from parts of the Clean Air and Water Acts the industry took pollution and contamination to new levels.

“But there have been no signs of regret from the activists, or from the out-of-state pressure groups — such as Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C. — that encourage their behavior, train and fund them.”

Food & Water Watch did not “encourage” the behavior at the Commissioners meetings. The only “training” they have done is to show local concerned citizens how to best coordinate outreach to the community. And the only “funding” has been on an “in kind” basis. Wiedenbeck’s allegation is a thinly veiled attempt to discredit all of these concerned groups into one group, to make corporate thugs, like Encana, look good by contrast.

We’re on to you and your industry’s dirty tricks, Wendy. And that is your real concern. The citizenry has finally figured it out, and we are fighting back. Our only goal is to protect our families and communities.

Fracking protests: justified and necessary

Editor’s Note: The following OpEd, which appeared in the Longmont Times-Call on December 11, 2012, is reprinted with the author’s permission. In today’s Boulder Daily Camera, Wendy Wiedenbeck, “hired gun” spokesperson for Encana, offered the usual oil and gas industry falsehoods. However, she outdid herself with inflammatory accusations and hysteria. FRL has had several conversations with those who were in attendance at the Boulder County Commissioners’ meeting on December 4, 2012, participants and non-participants in the protest. Ms. Wiedenbeck has intentionally interpreted frustration, fear and anger at her company as a threat to her personal safety. This is propaganda of the worst sort. She has destroyed her credibility, if she had any, as well as Encana’s, if it had any, in one fell swoop. Expect a tsunami of propaganda in the months (perhaps years) to come as the industry fights for it’s state/nation-sponsored privilege to threaten the health of citizens, in Longmont, in Colorado, and around the nation.


1806885996_1d29879109I attended the Boulder County commissioners’ meeting last Tuesday at the Boulder County Courthouse. I was there to put pressure on the commissioners to strengthen the proposed new oil and gas regulations, extend the moratorium to allow time to adequately implement the new regulations, and to consider some way to enact a ban on fracking in our county. I was not, however, a part of the disruptive protests you may have read about or seen on the news.

I’d like to make a few comments about this, though, from the perspective of someone who has been learning about hydraulic fracturing and taking an active stance against it this past year.

First, while I don’t condone some of the hostile actions taken by a few of those involved on Dec. 4, I don’t condemn the intentions and the reasons behind such actions. While some of the disruptions came from people who are not very well informed about the work that has been done by the Planning Commission, the county commissioners and the county staff to try to lay the foundation for better regulations that might eventually help lead to a countywide ban, some of those involved were people who are deeply concerned about the health of their own families, and they are coming from a place of fear, anger and frustration. Fracking is a dangerous heavy industrial process where toxic spills and water contamination are frequent. And it uses vast quantities of water at a time when we are in a serious drought with no relief in sight.

If allowed to continue to steamroll its way through our county, our state and beyond, it will have such a serious impact on climate change that we will reach the tipping point where we can’t undo the damage to the planet within as little as 15 years. And yet our state laws make it nearly impossible for a local community to control whether, when, how or where it gets fracked. While Longmont’s residents were able to vote to ban fracking, that may still be challenged. Boulder County does not have the ability to vote on such a ban at this point.

So I share the frustration and anger about the state of the earth and the sad state of our government. And I recognize that these strong emotions and the passion behind them can and need to be expressed productively and can potentially effect great change. At the same time, there are instances when hostile behaviors and approaches can cause the intended message to get lost and the overall effectiveness of the movement to be undermined. Many of us are working on this issue from a variety of different angles, and most of us are doing it with civility and respect of our fellow citizens.

I encourage anyone who has up to this point remained uninvolved and uninformed to step up your awareness and involvement. There are many good references out there to help you understand the seriousness of this issue and how it will affect every one of us. For starters, if you haven’t already done so, watch the movie “Gasland.” Then, when it premiers later this month, go see Matt Damon’s “Promised Land.” Visit http://environmentcolorado.org/reports/coc/report-costs-fracking for a good overview of the costs of fracking and the environmental damage it is causing. The facts you will begin to uncover will help you understand the fear and frustration that is driving some of the behavior that may be hard to condone, but is based on a real threat to our community and our planet and certainly warrants such strong emotions and concern.

Let’s go make history together!

Editor’s Note: The following address was given before the Longmont City Council on December 18, 2012, following the lawsuit filed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association over Article XVI of the Longmont City Council.

Given our recent history some of us here may seem unlikely allies……but we are wise enough to look forward, not backward.  We now have a compelling common cause…to protect this community and its citizens from an oppressive lawsuit that would elevate the profits of a single, privileged industry over the health of our own people by granting that industry a godlike, dare I say, unconstitutional right to impose its inherently dangerous operations next to our homes, our schools, and our places of recreation.

There are those that would fatalistically parrot history and blandly proclaim that we are prisoners of this case law, or that judicial outcome.

Just so, many advised Abraham Lincoln that, based on history, it was impossible and untimely to free the slaves,…..there were many who discouraged General Eisenhower from the Normandy Invasion given the immense risk of challenging the massive blockade by the powerful German army; and there were, no doubt, multitudes around the world that laughed at the thought of 13 small audacious American Colonies challenging the Imperial English war machine……  Retrospectively knowing all those outcomes today we can easily lose sight of the risk involved in undertaking each of those historic missions.     We, like Lincoln, Eisenhower, and the fledgling America have chosen the higher road.  Not irresponsibly or unthinkingly choosing a path of great risk of a possible lawsuit that is now a reality…..but because we recognize the true risk…..a long-term threat to the health of the very families and children in this community.

We now face a lawsuit from COGA, a proxy for arguably the most powerful industry in the world.   But we are not motivated by fear,…rather we stand together as a threatened people with courage, determination, and resolve to uphold our inalienable right guaranteed by the constitution to health, safety, and wellness.

I end with a quote from the Supreme court in 1932 as follows……”Neither Property Rights, nor contract rights are absolute.  For government cannot exist if the citizen at will can use his property to the detriment of his fellos.”   So, you see…we DO have a case….. Now let’s go make history together!

It’s An Obscenity

Photo courtesy of sxc.hu

How much? How long?

What happened on December 14, 2012 in the small town of Newtown Connecticut where 20 (and counting) children and at least six adults were shot to death has been variously described as a tragedy, a horror, or a calamity. It was all of these; it was also an obscenity.

It is an obscenity when a country can be so influenced by money, by fear, by political manipulation, by lobbyists that it allows virtually anyone to buy a weapon meant but for one purpose only- kill another human being on a field of battle.

Surely the word obscenity is insufficient when one considers the power over this nation’s culture and the resulting mayhem when anyone can buy an AK47 or a pistol with “extended” clip hold ing 30 or more bullets.

It’s an obscenity when, on PBS, three eminent social “experts” opined on how, in a dream-world Utopia, all persons of violent nature could be intercepted, counseled, quieted, calmed and returned to a compassionate society. But not one damned time was the phrase “Gun control” uttered. Perhaps in their Utopia guns don’t exist.

It’s an obscenity when one PBS expert opined that “objectively” schools were safe. By that I assume he meant that statistically, schools were safe. After all, only 20 children were shot dead- and there are thousands of schools which have never experienced such an act. Tell that to the parents of the dead from the carnage of Newtown or Columbine.

Your school is probably not safe. Read those words again and then ask yourself a few questions and the answer will be clear.

Is your school completely enclosed by a high chain link fence?

Are there armed guards monitoring metal detectors at the entrances through the fence and into the property and well away from the actual school?

If there is a breach of security can the school be alerted and all doors locked before an assailant can gain entry?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, your school may be statistically safe but also vulnerable, for as long as a mentally disturbed person can buy weapons meant to do nothing else but kill, no school, no theatre, no campus can ever be considered safe.

So the larger question is there; How long are you, as a citizen of this nation prepared to indulge this culture of swagger and “open carry”? Guns on campus, guns in bars, guns strolling down Main Street? How long are you prepared to tolerate the NRA and the choke-hold it has on reasonable gun control?

How long before this all happens again? How long will we continue to tolerate the obscene stupidity we practice every day in allowing the NRA, the weapons industry and the corrupt politicians they bought and paid for to shape our culture and abuse the underlying premise of the 2nd Amendment?

Perhaps the parents of those tiny dead bodies in Newtown could provide an answer.

Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2012
Contact:  Michael Bellmont
(303) 678-9470

 

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit against Longmont’s Charter Amendment

 

Before the ink was barely dry on the Longmont Charter Amendment, Article XVI, the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, that prohibits hydraulic fracturing next to homes and schools in Longmont, the oil and gas industry has filed a vicious lawsuit against the People of Longmont.  This suit was brought by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—with brazen support from Governor Hickenlooper—to force the citizens of Longmont to allow a dangerous, industrial activity that threatens the health, safety and property of citizens in Longmont.

On November 6, 2012, over 25,000 people, 60 percent of Longmont voters, representing all demographics and all political philosophies spoke loud and clear that it is their intention to prohibit hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the disposal of attendant wastes within the city limits of Longmont.  The citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights to health, safety, and property shall not be infringed.

The legal assault by COGA is a blatant attempt to undermine the democratic process.  “It is unconscionable that the oil and gas industry has decided to sue the people of Longmont to recklessly endanger our health, safety and property,” said Michael Bellmont, a spokesperson for Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).

Our Longmont has assembled a legal team that will assist in a vigorous and unwavering defense of the charter amendment that it placed on the ballot with the concurrence of over 8200 Longmont voters who signed the petition to qualify the measure (nearly 45% more than required).   “We will not be bullied.  We will not permit Governor Hickenlooper, who has publicly stated he will support a lawsuit and the oil and gas industry to put this dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes, schools and public parks,” said Kaye Fissinger of Our Longmont.

Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper is equally culpable in this decision to sue the people of Longmont after publicly declaring he will support any oil and gas company that seeks to sue citizens who want to protect their health, safety and property from fracking.  Any action that he directs the State of Colorado to take against the City of Longmont and the citizens of Longmont will be received with immense animosity and will carry a heavy political price.  Hickenlooper took an oath to represent the people, NOT the oil and gas industry.

Past the point of survival?

earth_on_fire_1062515_63098996The International Energy Agency issued its annual World Energy Outlook on Nov. 12. The Paris-based agency has 28 member nations and is acclaimed worldwide by many government agencies. The World Energy Outlook stated that North America is leading a global energy shift that will make the United States almost energy self-sufficient by 2035!

Almost all of this projected energy growth in North America, and particularly in the United States, is based on increased use of hydraulic fracturing and more efficient use of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal). The report clearly states that although the renewable energy segment will continue to grow, the world will still rely heavily on fossil fuels to meet its ever-expanding energy needs into the foreseeable future.

This overriding projection by the IEA is supported by most of the developed nations and driven by purely economic reasons. The United States, China and India demand a cheap and reliable energy source to satisfy their insatiable appetite for energy. The undeniable fact is growth-based economies need a cheap energy supply to grow their economies and use job creation as a publicly accepted excuse. The hydrocarbon companies, which are truly worldwide in nature, are only too happy to support this data for profit motives.

Even the projected expansion of renewables is based on the continued and increased use of government subsidies to make them competitive with relatively cheap and available fossil fuels. The World Energy Outlook report doesn’t take into consideration many of the potentially devastating consequences of expanding fossil fuel usage.

The most important of these consequences is global warming, with all the environmental factors associated with increased usage of fossil fuels. Along with the contentious climate change issues, there are other related and overlapping issues that could affect this projected scenario: social discontent, general health issues, inadequate water supplies, lack of proactive government policies, etc.

Unfortunately, the human condition is to be reactive, not proactive. I am fairly certain that we will use every ounce of fossil fuels available unless the world condition forces us to put survival ahead of profit. Most of the world depends on growth to sustain economic viability. We are culturally and socially committed to an ever-expanding population, consumption of finite resources and a dependence on profit and material growth. If we continue on this shortsighted path we could very well see the end of growth as we know it. We are at a crossroads in our human development. The question is will we do the things necessary for our very survival and maybe of the survival of the earth itself? The human species is close to becoming a cancer upon the earth that could kill the host that we owe our very existence to!

I am not trying to take a purely environmentalist position or simply suggest a doomsday scenario. I am also certainly not speaking out of technical expertise. I am simply trying to express my opinion as an observer of reality and human nature. We live in a world society where cellphones and iPods have become more important than a sustainable ecosystem. I actually believe a compromise will be worked out that will pacify the public and allow the fossil fuel companies to extract their bounty. It would take a sea change in our collective attitude to wean us off fossil fuels and close to impossible from a pragmatic standpoint. The reality is our fate may already be sealed!

Good night and good luck, America

I had to say a few things before this election. As I write it isn’t over yet, but whoever wins, the entire campaign will leave a lot of bad taste in many mouths.

I keep wondering how it is that one candidate for President is able to quantify how many jobs he will supposedly “create” if elected. If he truly cared about the country he’d disclose just how, and yesterday. Truth is he hasn’t got any more ability to “create” jobs than your dog. Now just where did he get that number, 12 million?

What if, just suppose that the membership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been intentionally holding back on hiring. Why would they do that? Perhaps they hate having an African-American Chief Executive. Or they simply want to be able to do whatever they like. Either way, from what I read, those who do have jobs aren’t getting raises and are just about to work themselves into the ground. Stress and burnout are really good for productivity.

Twelve million sounds like a lot. That requires growing the paycheck lines by about five per cent. Actually, I’m not an economist, but if maybe around eight million were hired in short order, making the “capitalist” candidate look pretty darned good, those mysterious “multipliers” could take care of the other four million.

I would not put it past them. The Chamber has made no secret of its disrespect for and dislike of the sitting President. And many on the “red” side of the aisle (I remember when that meant they’d be Communists) openly express their dislike for the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Prof. Ben Bernanke. What now?

Bernanke’s “quantitative easing” has meant a lot of companies were able to hold on when pure “market” economics would have meant doom. These moneyed conservatives hate that. They read Schumpeter. They salivate over buying up assets for pennies on the dollar. They haven’t had many opportunities to do that since 2007, and they’re unhappy. According to this way of thinking GM and Chrysler should have been on the block that way, but the Administration headed off the Indians at the pass. No wonder the candidate with Utah connections has been upset over the bailout of the car companies.

Likewise, the “failed” stimulus. Bull. Picture the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. When he grows tired or has to honor Nature’s call, he needs someone to stick his thumb in for him, or the Netherlands becomes the New Jersey shore last week. What if no one shows up? Would any Dutchman logically be unhappy if at the last minute some stranger shows up with a fresh thumb? Would anyone in Holland care very much who this new guy is? Truly, if no one fills the hole sooner or later those lowlands are gone. This is pretty much what happened starting in 2007, when that other rocket scientist from Texas sat in the White House. Was his policy misguided? No? You can’t have it both ways, pilgrim.

Onerous regulations are said to be the bane of American business now. If that were true, wouldn’t we expect to see dozens of lawsuits in federal district courts challenging every one of them? No, the Federal Register hasn’t hurt many. Businesses would apparently rather blame their own lack of innovation and creativity on the White House. If that fails, then there’s the Chinese at fault. Once in a while it might be labor unions. Or, if all else fails, there’s that tried-and-true bogeyman, the cost of money. Oops! Interest rates have been lower than a snake’s butt for so long it seems like forever. Corporations have been borrowing like crazy thanks to these tiny rates, trillions of dollars’ worth. Now, if government were run like a business, then they’d borrow and . . . Oh, fudge. There goes another mantra!

It’s sad to admit it, but the USA already has a health care system that rations service by income. Some want education to be the same. Where does that take us? Not to Canada, not to Norway, not even to Saudi Arabia. Try a place like Pakistan, or Niger. Some of these self-styled conservatives might envy Niger, because of their oil. Heck, I even see where some in Longmont have expressed envy over Firestone and Frederick. These people don’t get out much.

If voters want to buy a horse, they would almost always check its teeth. They should go a bit farther with their government. And if they are serious about having a government run like a business, they must ask themselves who benefits. If they have corporate experience, answering THAT question will be easy, and enlightening.

I wonder if Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t saved from assassination just before his first inauguration by the hand of divine intervention. FDR also avoided a coup from wealthy “businessmen” whose utterances would sound very familiar today. Then we were winners in World War II. It was fortunate for the nation that Hoover preceded FDR and not the other way round. A parallel is advocated by some today. If we get this wrong and elect a REAL non-Christian President, then what might befall us? Was Hurricane Sandy a warning? Or was it the wave one candidate needed?

Another contributor to this thread is fond of stating that the American public doesn’t like having a President smarter than they are. Well, in 2000 and 2004 they darn sure got exactly that. Now they’re uncertain, as they believe they have another one. I remember clearly during the GOP debate season (21 of them, I believe) that many “men on the street” claimed they wanted “somebody else” and not the man who was eventually nominated. Now in many cases that guy on the street is again saying, with regard to the incumbent President, I’d like to see “somebody else.” The electorate will never be happy. As for me, I am voting for the Presidential candidate who actually strikes me as having a bit of humility. This human quality will serve better than having a wallet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In case you’re wondering, this candidate is the one with daughters and not sons.

Good luck, America.

Rape

There’s no joy in rape for the victim.

Iʼm continually amazed by the number of women who, in voting the Republican ticket have potentially tossed away their rights as the female of the species and casually handed them over to a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous and (apparently) intellectually challenged males. I also would not be surprised how many of these same women will look in the mirror one day and realize the staggering mistake they have made in their voting selection.

I wonder how many of these women voters will be faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Not theirs – their daughterʼs. How many will face the agony of holding a child who has been raped and with a growing fetus, now face the abhorrence of future offspring by an unknown rapist or perhaps a known relative? Will there be joy in that embrace?

The Romney/Ryan ticket has of late softened its absolutist position on the abortion of rape and incest victims, but beneath the veneer of concern for the victim lies the absolute probability that a Romney administration will have the opportunity to appoint at least two supreme court justices. With those appointments, the nation can say goodbye to Roe v Wade. Mission accomplished and itʼs; “Hey – we didnʼt do it”. But of course they did; thatʼs politics for you.

No one knows just how far the court might go. No abortion, regardless of cause or even the health of the mother? Who knows? A more compassionate view protecting the life of the mother but otherwise prohibiting the procedure regardless the raper? Perhaps. Nice to realize that your daughter bears the child of good olʼ Uncle Joe or brother Billy or- well, you really donʼt want to go there, do you? At what point does anger spring into action?

A female is raped and her life is changed forever- a memory she will carry to her grave and a pregnancy adds to the agony. I wonder if R&R have spent much time thinking about what goes through a victimʼs mind once sheʼs dismissed from the hospital with her baby cooing as she make their way home. Very little I suspect.

The births of R&R’s lovely children were intended and filled with joy. What about the others- the victims, the innocents, the scarred? Your child is in your arms. She may be 11 or 16 or 26. She is in emotional and physical pain. If very young she may have no understanding of what has just occurred. As you comfort her, do you think of what to tell her a few months along; that she is pregnant and will soon be a mother- and nothing legally can be done to change that fact? Or is it impossible for you to even imagine such an event in your family? Unimaginable! No way – not in my family! Well, if your luck holds, that may be a fact.

But what if and what about that mother down the street clutching her raped and pregnant daughter? I wonder who she voted for and exactly why some ignorant male politician is making decisions for her. Then again, – it may be you, alone and with no arms to hold you.

And his eyes- are they as filled with tears as yours or your daughterʼs? Not likely- theirs will burn with zeal and the certainty of whatʼs good for you – and them. Mostly them at the polling booth.

Birtherism is bull

From Lowering the Bar – Legal humor. Seriously.

UPDATE: Birthers’ Record Is Worse Than I Thought

by Kevin Underhill

Last week I mentioned that the lawsuit (if you can call it that) filed against me, the President of the United States, and a number of other dignitaries by birther/dentist/lawyer Dr. Orly Taitz had been dismissed. I also mentioned having seen a chart purporting to list every court ruling in the many cases that have challenged Obama’s claim to be a “natural born citizen,” and based on that I suggested that Taitz’s record in court on these cases was 0-158. I heard from the person who compiles that chart, who kindly gave me permission to link to it, and after reviewing it again I need to make a couple of corrections.

First, it may not be correct to ascribe all these losses to Orly Taitz. Certainly there are other people involved in filing these things, including Keith Judd, who I mentioned here in a slightly different context, although a context that also involved him being in prison, and also Philip Berg, who I mentioned here. None of these people have ever won a single victory in their “birther” lawsuits, nor has anyone else, and it’s also entirely possible that Taitz is involved in some or all of these other cases behind the scenes. But to be strictly accurate, while Taitz is zero-and-something, it may not be zero-and-158.

Second, the overall record is significantly worse than I thought, according to the “Birther Scorecard.”

This chart, which is currently 70 pages long and lists 175 cases, includes short summaries and also links to almost all the cited orders, where they are available online. It’s an impressive piece of work, created by Tesibria at What’s Your Evidence? According to the Scorecard (last updated October 18), of the 175 cases she thinks can be fairly classified as “birther” cases, birthers have lost 166 and the remaining nine are still pending.

If you add up all the individual rulings, including those in appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the birther’s arguments have been rejected (or appeals denied) at least 258 times.

As a bonus for me personally, I think I’ve also gotten at least one new entry for the Comical Case Names page from this, because one of these people apparently insists on filing cases as “Annamarie Last Name Uncertain.” Not “Annamarie Doe” or something like that—as this court noted, “In her pleadings, Plaintiff indicates that her first name is Annamarie and that her last name is uncertain.” But the captions actually read Annamarie Last Name Uncertain vs. [Whoever]. Nicely done, Ms. LNU.

In general I support the rights of the uncertain, but nobody seems able to even figure out what this person wants.


Kevin Underhill

Kevin Underhill

(excerpted from “About the Author” at Lowering the Bar)

Kevin Underhill is a partner in the San Francisco office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, and to the surprise of many, himself included, has been with the firm for over 17 years.  He was a summer associate in 1992 and began his career in the firm’s Kansas City office in 1993.

Kevin’s essay series, “If Great Literary Works Had Been Written by Lawyers,” was published in The Green Bag law journal, and was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio, among other places. Kevin has also occasionally been heard on NPR himself, has been blogging and otherwise writing for years, and started this blog, “Lowering the Bar,” in 2006 or thereabouts. He has given presentations on a variety of topics, but all drawing from the stories he posts here, for law firms and legal departments across the country.

Behind-the-scenes story of oil and gas in Longmont

Who's behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Who’s behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Once upon a time not too long ago, our terrific city was growing and evolving. Not in the usual sense of the words, but in forming a fresh identity that would lead us forwards in this new century. That is the best, most meaningful definition of “home rule,” albeit not the legal one.

And then along came the oil and gas industry. The behind-the-scenes story began in 2009 when Longmont first lost control of its elections to outside interests with big money to spend. An organization known then as Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, slipped into Longmont elections more or less under the radar. It fully funded a political committee who attacked candidates that it perceived as being unreceptive to their intended future agenda.

WTP/ATP is an IRS 501c4. It doesn’t have to reveal its donors. But its mission makes it clear just who those donors are. ATP is funded by extraction industries and backers who support that agenda. What do I mean by “extraction industries”? In a nutshell – mineral extraction. And for the purposes of Longmont, that means oil and gas. And that means fracking.

WTP (ATP) funded a slate of candidates to redirect the vision for Longmont. Their motive, vague and blurred at the time, was to pave the way for oil and gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing inside Longmont; and in doing so, to transform our fair city into something we would not recognize or want.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor now serving as a proxy for the oil and gas industry, made his motives clear in early 2010 when he stated that he wanted the city to get into the oil and gas business by exploiting its own mineral rights. I watched for council agenda items on minerals. They did not appear. But they WERE there – hidden from view, without the knowledge or consent of the Longmont public, but as part of an ATP-sponsored and council majority endorsed trajectory to invite the oil and gas industry to bully its way into Longmont, leaving Longmont citizens and the city to pick up after them.

The oil and gas industry’s intention to drill in Longmont came out of hiding in an ATP election survey in October 2011. And with that, “all hell broke loose.” It was staff’s intent to bring a TOP Operating conditional use permit before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November 2011. That, as they say, would have been that. Longmont would have been fracked and we wouldn’t have known what hit us.

As the people of Longmont became aware of what was in store for their hometown, over and over they said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is OUR Longmont and we get to say whether or not we get fracked.”

Over 8200 people signed the petition sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont to place Question 300 that prohibits hydraulic fracking and fracking waste disposal inside Longmont city limits on our ballot. Now there are those with big, big industry money behind them who are trying to silence those voices and hand over the keys to this great town to the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas companies and their trade associations (28) from all over the country and even Canada have contributed nearly a half million dollars to defeat the will of the people of Longmont. How high will that total go? One million dollars? More?

You’ve seen their eight full-page ads with seven mayors pretending to care about the health and safety of Longmont, all the while shilling for the industry who would pollute our air and water and threaten our property values by using false and deceptive quotes from politicians they’ve never supported (and likely never will) to manipulate Longmont voters. They’ve spent or accrued almost $338,000, including television ads and eight mailers. They’re determined to stomp Longmont into submission.

In 2009 and 2011 another industry spent huge sums of money (over $600,000) to make Longmont believe that they cared about us. Longmont voters saw through that scheme and sent them packing.

Pay no attention to the “wizards” on this smokescreen. Tell the oil and gas industry and their local puppets, former or current, that you want them to go away and stay away. This is our Longmont that they are trying to destroy and we won’t allow that. Constitutional and moral rights are on our side.

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.

People sacrificed to profit by O & G

By now you likely have received your ballots for the November election. If you have yet to fill it in or intend to vote on Nov. 6 at a voting station, please consider these facts.

As you probably know from ads and fliers, seven former mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose Ballot Question 300. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “fracking” before November 2011, when the issue first arose on Mayor Coombs’ watch. The seven aren’t experts — they are shills for the oil and gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place: the recycling bin.

Why in the world would a heavy industry such as oil and gas even think of drilling within sight or sound of a municipality?

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about– $75. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4,000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75. One hundred feet equals $7,500; 750 feet costs $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell with you, the hell with me and the hell with Longmont.

The regulations currently governing the O&G industry were formulated around 1985. At that time no one had likely ever considered drilling and fracking operations anywhere near a city or town. Does anyone seriously believe that if these same regulations were under consideration today they would pass? That a drilling pad could be set up within 350 feet of a school or a home? That the millions of gallons of contaminated water returned to the surface could be stored in open pits within a residential area?

How many of you remember that in 2005 Vice President Dick Cheney strong-armed Congress into passing the “Halliburton loophole,” which exempted fracking operations from some of the protections of the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air acts? Think about that — a retired CEO of a company (Halliburton) that pioneered fracking technology persuades Congress to exempt the industry from such bothersome regulations because fracking was “safe, harmless and benign.” If the operation was so squeaky clean, why were these exemptions requested? Aside from the methane that leaks from every single drill site, is there another odor wafting about?

The O&G folks will tell you that fracking has been around for 60 or so years, but what they won’t volunteer is that fracking today ain’t your grandpa’s fracking. Back then, the water injected was just that — water. Today it’s a rich stew of chemicals so complex that each company considers their mix a trade secret and they fought to keep it that way, hidden from competitors, regulatory agencies, monitors, cities, towns and you — the folks whose lives may be the most violated.

Back then, the pressure of the water/sand mix exploded far below in the horizontal pipes was perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 psi. Today it’s pushing 14,000 psi. Back then it didn’t matter because no community was within sight or sound of a drill site. Today, if the industry had its way it could occur around the second hole at Sunset Golf Course or in the middle of the cemetery. And today, as back then, no one has a clue as to just what the long-term effects of all this activity might be on the water or air our grandkids drink and breath.

These are not — or at least should not be — partisan issues; a Republican household will be affected by the stench, noise and loss of property values every bit as much as will a Democratic household. We’re in this together, like it or not.

Longmont, let’s overwhelmingly vote for this proposal. Let’s see what 25,000 or 30,000 votes can do to enlarge and influence the conversation. Vote “yes” on 300 to ensure the message is delivered and that future generations will want to stay, live and grow in our city.

Cory Gardner’s dismal record

Cory Gardner 2011 - photo by M. Douglas Wray

Cory Gardner gets $211/hr to ignore his Democratic constituents.

At a 4th Congressional District candidate forum, Cory Gardner bragged that he could compromise with Democrats and pointed to one instance of not voting lock-step with Republicans. One report said he voted the party line 93 percent of the time. I couldn’t verify that but I know this: Cory kneels at Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Increase” throne, precluding any meaningful budget compromise. Last year, tea party fanatics, led by Michele Bachmann, worked furiously to drive us into default over the debt increase. Cory voted with them until it was too late to salvage our credit rating.

He voted every time, 33, to deny health care to the poor and unemployed while enjoying his lush government plan. He voted twice for the Ryan budget to destroy Medicare with vouchers and “cut, cap and balance,” which is Ryan on steroids.

He voted down every attempt to reduce corporate welfare, especially oil’s $4 billion subsidy, where he gets much of his money. At the same time he voted for every attempt to cut safety net funding for the disabled, poor and elderly.

He voted for every bill to restrict aid for women’s health, such as birth control and preventative tests. He also voted for numerous anti-abortion bills, including one that would authorize hospital emergency rooms to refuse treatment for women suffering from abortions.

His voting record says he is much like the guy from Indiana who said his idea of compromise was for Democrats to accept all Republican ideas.

For this we pay Cory $174,000 a year plus perks, including a $21,000 car. He gets a week off for every two weeks worked. So far we have paid him $304,500 for 259 days in session. That comes to $1,175/day or $211/hour. What has he done for regular people? Not much.

Ballot 300 opposition: slick word choice for slickwater

It’s poison, in the water and in their words.

This election I am casting a “yes” vote on Question 300. I just want to take a moment to share some wisdom I’ve learned over the past year about this issue: Read carefully the information you receive on any issue and pay particular attention to word choice.

For example, the opposition to 300 points out that EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has stated, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.” Besides that fact that this is an outdated statement and much has happened since she said this, it is also a specifically worded statement, “the fracking process itself.” When the industry refers to the “fracking process” they refer to that very moment that water, combined with toxic chemicals and sand, is injected into the well and creates the fissures underground to release the oil or gas from the shale.

Here’s what they are not referring to: Any number of days or weeks before to years after the well has been “fracked” where well-bore integrity may have failed. Any spills or accidents of the frack fluid or chemicals used in it during transport or at any time before or after the frack. The backflow of fluid from the well after it is fracked. The transfer to tanker trucks for disposal. Any accidents or spills that tanker trucks might have on the way to a disposal facility. Any spills, accidents or integrity issues at the disposal well, or the disposal pit at the well. Any leaks or spills during the lifetime of the well.

Also not included is the process by which clean, drinkable, treated municipal water is combined with toxic chemicals to create fracking fluid. Yes, “Fracking pollutes the water our families drink.” Millions of gallons of the water meant for you, for me, for our children to drink is injected with chemicals and made undrinkable. It is forever removed as a source for human consumption and it is disposed of underground because it is toxic waste.

Also brought up by the opposition is how many water wells in Colorado have been polluted by “fracking” fluid from hydraulic fracturing drilling. Well, how many people in Longmont city limits are concerned about their well water being contaminated by fracking? I know I’m not. I don’t get my water from wells. Have the people who wrote this ad even visited Longmont? I get my water from a municipal water source. I am concerned about surface and groundwater contamination, though, especially in areas where children and animals play. You need only visit the COGCC’s website to see hundreds of such contaminations; one was by Trail Ridge Middle School.

Here’s what they also aren’t talking about: Air quality in close proximity to a well. Fracking a well releases not only natural gas and oil, but also VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other toxins into the air. Some of it is captured, but some of it isn’t and over the lifetime of the well, especially a multi-well pad site, it would certainly add up. These chemicals are known to have neurological and respiratory effects and many are known to cause cancer. How’d you like to have that in your backyard for 20 years? What about 50? Many scientific studies are raising serious red flags, and even the COGCC and the CDPHE have said they just don’t know what the health effects of living in close proximity to a well are. How’s that for instilling confidence in the citizens this is forced upon?

And regardless of air and water, this is still always going to be a highly industrial activity that is damaging to property values, quality of life and has safety issues that are a concern for every resident when it occurs in close proximity to where people live and children go to school.

Read carefully. I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to choose wrongly because of semantics. Vote “yes” on 300 and “Keep Longmont a Great Place to Live.”

About Mitt’s Promises

Mitt Romney – is he to be believed?

Romney promised to reduce all income tax rates by 20%, very impressive. He added that your deductions would be reduced so that the government’s operating deficit would not increase. Romney is saying your tax payments will not decrease and might actually increase. As a result, some will pay higher taxes when they lose more in deductions than they save due to the rate change. Think about losing your home mortgage interest deduction and your charitable gift deduction. When the public rebels against losing popular deductions, a president Romney and Congress will be forced to drop that plan but the 20% rate reduction will remain, reducing revenues significantly. Our budget deficit and our national debt will rise as a result of reduced tax revenues.

Mr. Romney will repeal the Affordable Care Act, doing away with the law that is already helping tens of millions of American who have pre-existing conditions or simply can’t afford health insurance. His proposal makes drastic cuts in Medicaid. This would deny essential health care to millions more Americans including the elderly who need long term care. Romney’s view that these people can get medical care in the emergency room is not the solution. What was your last ER visit like? And an ER visit by an uninsured person is paid for by higher rates for those who do buy insurance. This type of health care puts an additional burden on every person who has health care coverage.

And Romney says PBS will not be federally funded when he is president. He will get rid of Big Bird! Ninety percent of U.S. homes view PBS. Each day 80 percent of all children between ages of 2 – 8 tune into PBS according to the New York Times. PBS is a national treasure. PBS news gives viewers a chance to hear both sides of issues, unlike the partisan programs too often masquerading as news. And PBS includes high quality nature, music, and educational programs. And finally, eliminating funding for PBS provides an insignificant savings in the national budget. Romney will have to do better, a lot better.

Some believe that a president who is an experienced businessman will promote recovery of our economy. But businessman Romney insisted the government should let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt when they struggled during the 2007-8 Great Recession. That reflects the ruthless attitude of a successful business leader. President Obama leads our nation, not just our businesses. His extraordinary effort to pump federal funds into the auto industry and save up to one million jobs worked beautifully and today our auto manufacturers are alive and well and have paid back the Federal loan. We need a president with that kind of vision.

PBS Statement Regarding October 3 Presidential Debate

Reposted from: PBS.org

Romney’s picked the wrong bird to shoot at.

ARLINGTON, VA – October 4, 2012 – We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. We think it is important to set the record straight and let the facts speak for themselves.

The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.

A national survey by the bipartisan research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint in 2011 found that over two-thirds of American voters (69%) oppose proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting, with Americans across the political spectrum against such a cut.

As a stated supporter of education, Governor Romney should be a champion of public broadcasting, yet he is willing to wipe out services that reach the vast majority of Americans, including underserved audiences, such as children who cannot attend preschool and citizens living in rural areas.

For more than 40 years, Big Bird has embodied the public broadcasting mission – harnessing the power of media for the good of every citizen, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Our system serves as a universally accessible resource for education, history, science, arts and civil discourse.

Over the course of a year, 91% of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81% of all children between the ages of 2-8.

Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online – all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.

Earlier in 2012, a Harris Interactive poll confirmed that Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds, behind only national defense, for the 9th consecutive year.

A key thing to remember is that public television and radio stations are locally owned and community focused and they are experts in working efficiently to make limited resources produce results. In fact, for every $1.00 of federal funding invested, they raise an additional $6.00 on their own – a highly effective public-private partnership.

Numerous studies — including one requested by Congress earlier this year — have stated categorically that while the federal investment in public broadcasting is relatively modest, the absence of this critical seed money would cripple the system and bring its services to an end.