Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It’s Official: New York State Bans Fracking

It’s Official: New York Bans Fracking

      June 29, 2015

See additional coverage in Bloomberg and the FuelFix.    h/t Roger Straw

New York State officially banned fracking today by issuing its formal Findings Statement, which completed the state’s seven-year review of fracking.

“After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative,” said New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens in a statement. “High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated. This decision is consistent with DEC’s mission to conserve, improve and protect our state’s natural resources, and to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state.”
Today representatives of New Yorkers Against Fracking, Frack Action and the Sierra Club delivered this giant “Thank You” scroll signed by hundreds of state residents to the 2nd floor of the Capitol Executive Chamber.
Today, representatives of New Yorkers Against Fracking, Frack Action and the Sierra Club delivered this giant “Thank You” scroll signed by hundreds of state residents to the 2nd floor of the Capitol Executive Chamber.
The Findings Statement concludes that “there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and address risks to public health from this activity.” Two groups heavily involved in the campaign, New Yorkers Against Fracking and Americans Against Fracking, praised the decision.

Mark Ruffalo, an advisory board member of Americans Against Fracking, worked diligently to ban fracking in his home state and recently made an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to encourage the U.S. to go 100 percent renewable by 2050. In a statement on the finalization of New York’s ban on fracking, Ruffalo said:

I applaud the Cuomo Administration for protecting the public health and safety of New Yorkers by finalizing the ban on high volume fracking. Governor Cuomo has set a precedent for the nation by carefully considering the science, which shows a range of public health and environmental harms, and doing what’s best for the people, not the special interests of Big Oil and Gas. Already, other states and countries are following New York’s lead, with prohibitions including Maryland, Scotland, Wales and just today a crucial county in England. Along with many New Yorkers, I look forward to working on advancing renewable energy and efficiency, showing the world that a cleaner, healthier, renewable energy future is possible. Today I’m proud and thankful to be a New Yorker.

Industry groups have, of course, threatened to sue but the attorneys at Earthjustice are confident that the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s exhaustive review “will withstand legal challenge” and Earthjustice pledges “to stand alongside the state in any legal challenge.”

“Today, nearly a year to the day after communities won the right to ban fracking, New York’s historic statewide ban on fracking is now the law of the land,” says Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg, who represented the town of Dryden, New York, which won its precedent-setting fracking ban case one year ago tomorrow. “We salute Governor Andrew Cuomo’s refusal to bow to industry pressure. He had the courage to do what no other state or federal leader has had the courage to do: let the available scientific evidence dictate whether fracking should proceed in New York.”

New York now joins Vermont in outlawing the practice altogether, which has been banned in the Green Mountain state since 2012. As Ruffalo mentioned, this spring Maryland approved a moratorium on fracking in the state until October 2017. Scotland and Wales have also instituted moratoriums. And today a county in England rejected applications for fracking permits, which the Wall Street Journal says “effectively extends the moratorium on fracking in the U.K.” Meanwhile, Texas and Oklahoma both passed legislation this spring, barring local municipalities from instituting fracking bans.

“New Yorkers can celebrate the fact that we won’t be subjected to the toxic pollution and health risks fracking inevitably brings,” said Alex Beauchamp, northeast region director for Food & Water Watch. “By banning fracking, Governor Cuomo stood up to the oil and gas industry, and in so doing became a national leader on health and the environment. He set a standard for human health and safety that President Obama and other state leaders should be striving for.”

Monday, June 29, 2015

July 5th Memorial for Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Explosion Victims

This Sunday, July 5th at Zelasko Park 3pm  – 5 pm

Public Invited to Join Memorial for Oil Train Explosion Victims


This Sunday, July 5th, citizens from around the Grays Harbor area will be hosting the 1st annual memorial for those who were lost on July 6, 2013 when a runaway train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and exploded in the center of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and 47 people perished in the inferno that followed.. 

The rally will be held at Zelasko Park, located on F Street between Wishkah and Heron Streets in Aberdeen from 3 pm to 5 pm. The rally is also in recognition of the week-long (July 1st – 6th) 160th anniversary celebration of the Treaty of Olympia.

A letter from Lac-Mégantic, Quebec resident, Jacques Gagnon of the Citizens Committee of Lac-Mégantic will be read to update us on what has happened since that tragic day. This event augments a National Stop Oil Trains Week of Action taking place from  July 6 – 12   to call attention to the growing threat of oil trains across North America.  Organizers ask the citizens of all local communities to send a clear message that the risks created by crude oil trains and terminals are just too great.

A second event follows at 5:30 pm:

A Concert with Anne Feeney & Dana Lyons

5:30 - 8 PM
Aberdeen VFW
105 E. Heron, Aberdeen WA                             Suggested donation: $15-$25

Notorious labor hell-raiser Anne Feeney and iconic environmental singer Dana Lyons team up to launch Teamsters and Turtles – Together at Last!  On their 2015 West Coast tour they are making a stop in Aberdeen on July 5 for a fundraiser for Grays Harbor Community Public Radio, KGHI/KGHE FM, sponsored by The Grays Harbor Institute.

Please join us!         for more info: cleangraysharbor@gmail.com

[Coalition note: there will be no Coalition meeting on July 9th]

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fed Judge: Railroads Responsible for Costs of Oil Spills, Disaster Planning

CA Fed Judge: Train Companies Must Prepare for Oil Spills

 PHOTO: Companies running oil trains in California will be required to have a spill-response plan. Photo credit: vladyslav-danilin/shutterstock

June 26, 2015

Railroad companies soon won't be able to carry oil in California unless they have a safety plan - and put aside lots of money to cover any future spills. That's because a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed an industry lawsuit last week against California's new railroad safety law.

Patti Goldman, managing attorney for Earthjustice, said the precautions required are common sense.

"All other industries, like the tankers that carry the oil, the refiners, the pipelines, all of them prepare these oil-spill response plans," she aaid. "It's time for the railroads to do the same."

Railroad companies had argued that federal law pre-empts states' regulation of the railroads.

Goldman said the companies now will have more incentive to get the training, equipment and communications systems in place to prevent the worst-case scenario.

"They improve their practices. They can't get financial assurances if they're being really risky," she said. "And they figure out how to handle the oil better so that they won't have a spill."

California's railroad safety law will go into effect once regulations are finalized.
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA

Victory: Railroads must show financial responsibility, safety plans for hazardous fuels they transport in California 

EarthJustice   June 19, 2015
San Francisco, CA —Yesterday, a federal judge dismissed a legal challenge to a California law that requires railroads to commit to oil spill response plans and demonstrate financial solvency in state efforts to reasonably prepare for the risk of oil car derailments and disasters such as those seen this year in West Virginia, Ontario and Illinois.

Reacting to a dramatic surge in crude oil trains coming into the state and threatening state waters, California passed a law last year requiring that railroads and other entities that transport oil across the state prepare comprehensive oil spill response plans and demonstrate financial responsibility to clean up a worst-case oil spill. The railroad industry sued the state, seeking to prohibit enforcement of the law, arguing that federal rail laws preempt any state regulation of the railroads. Earthjustice, representing a coalition of concerned citizen groups, sportfishermen, and environmental organizations, joined in the State of California’s defense of the law.

The ruling allows the state to implement regulations requiring increased accountability from railroads in light of the exponential expansion of crude-by-rail shipments across the nation and the resulting risks and incidents of derailments, spills and explosions. In his ruling, Judge Troy Nunley of the Eastern District of California dismissed the railroads’ challenge as premature, since the law they challenged has not yet been implemented.

“States have the authority—a duty even—to demand that railroads have plans in place to respond to disasters and protect waterways from oil spills,” said Earthjustice attorney Tamara Zakim.  “California’s law is a sensible response to the flood of Bakken crude and Canadian tar sands oil entering the state by rail and the threat those shipments pose, and the Court has done the right thing by dismissing railroads’ baseless challenge.”

Earthjustice represented San Francisco Baykeeper, Communities for a Better Environment, the Sierra Club, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Association of Irritated Residents and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network in defense of the law.

Read the legal document.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Diverse voices ask WA legislature to stand up against oil industry pressure

Diverse voices ask WA legislature to stand up against oil industry pressure; protect health, safety, communities

Health, labor, environment, and social justice groups call for end to oil’s roadblock on key issues

Olympia, WA – A diverse coalition is calling on the State Legislature to stand up to the undue influence of the oil industry that is putting Washington’s health, climate, safety, and communities at risk.
“When progress on our health and environment is blocked, time and time again, you find the fingerprints of the oil industry,” said Becky Kelley, president, Washington Environmental Council. “The cynical maneuvering of Big Oil is holding up a needed transportation revenue package, where they have convinced the Senate to go along with a last ditch effort to block a Clean Fuel Standard. They gutted the oil transportation safety bill. They’re fighting the commonsense closure of the Big Oil Tax Loophole. And they killed any hope of climate action this year. At what point will our leaders say, enough is enough?”
This legislative session, in addition blocking the transportation revenue package with a “poison pill”, the oil industry lobbying has resulted in the Big Oil Tax Loophole remaining open in the latest budget draft, no progress on climate policy, and an oil transportation bill which failed to provide needed protection for Puget Sound and delivered unreliable funding for protecting communities. 
“When you look at the Senate’s proposal on transportation revenue, it’s pretty clear who is being prioritized: the oil industry,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director, OneAmerica. “Communities of color and low income communities are disproportionally impacted by climate disruption and air pollution; they’re also disproportionally impacted by inadequate access to transit. Pitting clean air and transit against each other is a social and environmental injustice.”
 “Pollution from transportation is the largest source of climate emissions and a significant factor in lung disease, like asthma,” said Carrie Nyssen, Vice President of Advocacy and Air Quality, American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “Legislators should put the health of their constituents ahead of the oil industry and move forward on needed policy solutions.”
“This is a chance for our legislators to put partisan ideology aside and stand up for clean air and transit,” said Shannon Murphy, president of Washington Conversation Voters. “Just this week, Oregon stood strong in the face of this pressure – we hope their example serves as a call to action to the Washington legislature.”
American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, Climate Solutions, OneAmerica, Puget Sound Sage, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington Conservation Voters, and Washington Environmental Council all joined the call for the legislature to stand up for the interests of Washingtonians, not the oil industry. 

Kimberly Larson, kimberly@climatesolutions.org, 206.388.8674
Pavan Vangipuram, pavan@weareoneamerica.org, 206.452.8403
Carrie Nyssen, cnyssen@lungmtpacific.org, 360.921.1484
Kerry McHugh, kerry@wecprotects.org, 206.902.7555

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Judges Begin to Recognize Dire Climate Crisis

Judge: Students’ petition on carbon emissions should be reconsidered

Seattle Times    6/24/15   By Seattle Times staff reporter

A King County Superior Court judge has ruled that the state Department of Ecology must reconsider a petition from young climate activists seeking a crackdown on state emissions of greenhouse gases.

Eight students who unsuccessfully petitioned the state Department of Ecology to crack down on carbon emissions gained an initial legal victory in King County Superior Court.

Citing what she called the “historical lack of political will to respond adequately to the urgent and dire acceleration of global warming,” Judge Hollis Hill ruled the petition must be reconsidered.

She set a July 8 deadline for the department to report back to the court.

The petition, filed by the youth activists’ attorneys, argues the Ecology Department is required to come up with tough new standards for cutting carbon emissions and put the state on a path to meet them.

Carbon emissions resulting from fossil-fuel combustion are a major driver of climate change, and Gov. Jay Inslee has made reducing them a high-profile goal of his administration.

Inslee has been unsuccessful this year in convincing the Legislature to pass a cap- and-trade program to cut carbon emissions. That effort has been opposed by the oil industry.

The legal battle was initiated by young climate activists in elementary, middle and high school who wanted to be more involved in efforts to cut carbon emissions, according to Andrea Rodgers, of the Western Environmental Law Center.

Last year, her organization joined with Our Children’s Trust in filing the initial petition for rule-making that was rejected by the Ecology Department.

In the subsequent lawsuit, their attorneys argued that the state Department of Ecology, even without additional legislative action, already has enough authority under the Clean Air Act and other statutes to move forward with a major carbon-reduction plan.

“The Legislature has not acted, and the plain and simple truth is that somebody has to act,” said Rodgers, of the Western Environmental Law Center.....    more here

Dutch government loses world's first climate liability lawsuit

A dangerous situation (Image: Siebe Swart/Hollandse Hoogte/eyevine)

The Dutch government has lost a landmark legal case over its greenhouse gas emissions plans.

The environmental group Urgenda brought a class action suit over climate change on behalf of some 900 citizens, including children. The suit claimed that the government's action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is insufficient, and is therefore "knowingly exposing its own citizens to dangerous situations".

Urgenda asked that the court in the Hague "declare that global warming of more than 2 °C will lead to a violation of fundamental human rights worldwide". According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, governments must cut emissions to between 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 to have a 50 per cent chance of avoiding 2 °C. Yet European Union states have signed up for 40 per cent cuts by 2030.

 Three judges agreed with the class action suit, ruling that government plans to cut emissions by 14-17 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were illegal. The ruling said: "The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts."

Dr. StrangeWeather, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb-Train