‘This Is an Emergency’: 1 Million African Americans Live Near Oil, Gas Facilities

In some states, 1 in 5 African-American residents lives within a half-mile of an oil or gas production, processing or storage facility, a new study says.

By Phil McKenna & Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
November 14, 2017

A new analysis concludes what many in African-American communities have long experienced: Low-income, black Americans are disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution from the fossil fuel industry.

More than 1 million African Americans live within a half-mile of oil and natural gas wells, processing, transmission and storage facilities (not including oil refineries), and 6.7 million live in counties with refineries, potentially exposing them to an elevated risk of cancer due to toxic air emissions, according to the study.

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When the authors looked at proximity to refineries, they found that about 40 percent of all people living in counties with refineries in Michigan, Louisiana and Pennsylvania are African American, and 54 percent in Tennessee are.

In three other states—Oklahoma, Ohio and West Virginia—they found that about one in five African-American residents statewide lives within a half-mile of an oil or gas facility.

“We have a real problem with air,” said Doris Browne, president of the National Medical Association, a national organization of black physicians and sponsor of the study. “We think it’s just a little smog and fog, but we need to worry about the pollutants in the air we’re breathing.”

The study, Fumes Across the Fence-Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Facilities on African American Communities, was published Tuesday by the Clean Air Task Force and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Its findings are based on data from the U.S. EPA’s National Emissions Inventory and the National Air Toxics Assessment, which look at emissions and health risks on a county-by-county level. The authors applied additional analysis to focus solely on emissions and health impacts attributable to pollution from oil and gas facilities, and then used demographic data to estimate health impacts on African-American communities.

The exposure carries extra health risks, the study says. Among African-American children, the study connects emissions from oil and gas facilities to over 138,000 asthma attacks and over 100,000 missed school days each year. (Approximately 13.4 percent of African-American children nationwide have asthma, compared to 7.3 percent for white children.)

An Issue of Environmental Justice

The exposure to pollutants is tied to deeper systemic issues of oppression and poverty, said Marcus Franklin, program specialist on environmental and climate justice for the NAACP and co-author of the report.

Nationally, the study found, African Americans are 75 percent more likely than Caucasians to live in “fence-line” communities—those next to commercial facilities whose noise, odor, traffic or emissions directly affect the population.

Franklin said communities need more choice and control over their energy sources, and a shift away from fossil fuels.

“It is time to shape an energy future that is not exploitative and does not profit from acts of environmental racism,” he said.

» Read the full article

 

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26 Charged with Trespassing, Unlawful Assembly at Governor’s Office to Protest New Pipelines, Power Plants

Blue Mass Group
November 16, 2017

BOSTON, MA— After two months of politely asking Governor Baker to lead on climate and ban new fossil fuel infrastructure, 26 Massachusetts residents joined by approximately 300 supporters launched a sit-in around noon today in the Governor’s office.

The individuals, affiliated with 350 Mass Action and various faith groups, refused to leave until Baker signed an executive order that effectively stops the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Massachusetts. Gov. Baker did not respond to their requests, so 26 people were charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly by the State Police when the building closed at 6pm today.

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“We could not have a more logical ask: we’re just saying as we make new investments in new energy projects, let’s only invest in the best, like solar and wind,” explained Craig Altemose, a spokesperson for 350 Mass Action. “It just does not make sense to continue allowing new gas pipelines and power plants to be built in 2017, when we know we want to be 100% powered by renewable energy within the next 20-30 years.”

 

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Water Protector Micah Lott among speakers during #StandUpCharlie action at the StateHouse. Video by Carole Horowitz

Under President Trump, the United States is now the only nation in the world that does not pledge to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, after Syria announced its intention to join last week. After a sit-in last week, Governor Baker told State House News that he doesn’t want to “take options off the table,” and proclaimed that “this administration has been a national leader in continuing to reduce our carbon footprint.”

“Massachusetts’ own climate laws require the state to get off of fossil fuels by no later than 2050,” said Claire Miller of the Toxics Action Center, “Governor Baker pledged to have Massachusetts not just meet, but exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement. How can he imagine that we can keep more gas as an option? We cannot afford to build more gas pipelines, power plants, and compressor stations.”

Among those sitting in are a retired medical doctor, a leukemia researcher, three ordained clergy, and parents, grandparents, and more. They are among over 350 concerned residents who have been personally visiting the Governor’s office over the past two months, in increasing numbers, asking him to commit to stopping new fossil fuel projects in their tracks.

“We’re asking the Governor to take this important step before the end of the international climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, on November 17th,” said Altemose,

“We hope he will send a signal to the world that despite absent political leadership in the White House, other American political leaders are stepping forward.”

The Rev.Dr. Jim Antal, President and Conference Minister of the MA Conference of the United Church of Christ, explained: “For weeks we’ve been offering Gov. Baker the biggest opportunity of his political career. 100 years from now, every child in Mass. will know his name if he commits to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure in the Commonwealth.  Keeping all options open is a death sentence for future generations.  God is calling our generation to take action NOW.”

“As a Christian, I believe that God entrusted the world to our care. Desecrating the earth by disrupting its climate and unraveling the web of life is an affront against our Creator. In order to avert climate catastrophe and to preserve a habitable planet, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground. We call upon the Governor to help us move as swiftly as possible to a clean energy future in which all communities can thrive.” The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ.

Rev. Dr. Wendy von Courter, Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead “As a human rights activist and a person of faith, I’m clear there is no issue more important that saving our planet.  I am here to appeal to Governor Baker’s heart. Just as my work on racial justice, homelessness and immigration reform becomes meaningless if I don’t work to save our climate, all Governor Baker does becomes moot as well.  He has pledged a commitment to climate justice and now’s the time to deliver on that promise.  I’m counting on him, as a person of faith, to do the right thing, to remain faithful to his promises, and to show us he’s the strong leader we need to move us to the clean energy future our children deserve.”

“As a doctor, I tend to go by “First, do no harm.”  I think that’s a good rule not just for doctors, but for anyone who has power.  And our scientists tell us that by investing any further in fossil fuels, Governor Baker is doing harm;  so I think he needs to stop, right now. We know that President Trump is doing tremendous damage to our country and our planet with his blind support of fossil fuels.  This is the Governor’s chance to break with the Trump madness, put his foot down, and mandate that Massachusetts  build only what’s best for our state and for the world.  I’m not ready to give up on Patient Earth and I’m hoping Governor Baker will join the treatment team.” Dr. Sue Donaldson, M.D., and member of 350 Massachusetts.

“As a scientist, I am driven by the data. 97% of climate scientists agree that human activity is the main contributor to climate change. It is incumbent on the politicians to listen to the experts and craft policy to avert the crisis we face. Instead, Governor Baker is taking a page from President Trump’s playbook and catering to the whims of the fossil fuel corporations while sticking taxpayers with the bill. We expect better in Massachusetts. Governor Baker, sign the executive order and galvanize the green energy revolution in Massachusetts.” – Dr. Jim Mulloy, PhD, and member of 350 Massachusetts.

» Read original article


» Environmental activists continue sit-in at Governor’s office: The coalition has been staging sit-ins for the past two months

By Elisha Machado, WWLP
November 16, 2017

 

 

 

Sandra Steingraber to speak 12/2 on PCBs, Fracked Gas, Human Health

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On December 2nd, Sandra Steingraber, renowned ecologist and author will speak about how PCBs, fracked gas, and pipelines are impacting ecological and human health at 5 PM at Lenox High School, 197 East Street, Lenox, MA. Steingraber brings a clear, passionate voice to the complex evidence of biology.

Dr. Steingraber’s 1997 book Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment changed the way we think about toxic chemicals and their connections to cancer. Living Downstream was based on by Steingraber’s personal journey as a cancer survivor and her career as a scientist. In 2010 the book was released as a film.

Steingraber has written extensively about topics ranging from climate change and toxic chemical exposure to developmental and reproductive disorders.

Steingraber’s other works include Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, and Post Diagnosis. She also is featured in the recent documentary “Unfractured” as an activist speaking out about the environmental risks of fracking.

PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) are the toxic chemical that pollutes the Housatonic River and has contaminated the food chain of the earth. Fracked gas and the pipelines carrying that gas have been on the frontline of environmental debates as severe dangers to the environment.

The presentation begins at 5 PM and will be followed by a question and answer period, as well as a book-signing.

While Trump Administration Pushes Fossil Fuels in Bonn, Group Demands that Charlie Baker ‘Stand Up!’

Fifty Pioneer Valley organizations are supporting a standout and delivery of a letter to Governor Charlie Baker at his Springfield office on Thursday, November 16, at 12:15 pm. The “Stand Up, Charlie!” action demands that Baker not follow the lead of the Trump Administration and, instead, act now to cut greenhouse gas emissions responsible for catastrophic climate change.
All of the nations of the world but one are supporting the United Nations Climate Accord, as President Trump has threatened to pull out this summer. Contrary to the intent of the gathering, Trump has sent a delegation to the yearly Conference of Parties in Bonn, Germany, to promote coal, gas and nuclear energy. The burning of coal and gas produces carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change, which has already warmed the planet by 1 degree Centigrade and has been responsible for massive hurricanes in the Gulf that have devastated Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the coast of Texas. But there are many U.S. senators, mayors, and governors, who are staging an anti-Trump revolt in Bonn, calling their movement “We are still in!”, indicating their willingness to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
Baker has in the past said that Massachusetts would continue to affirm the Climate Accords, an act compelled by the need to comply with the state’s even-more-stringent Global Warming Solutions Act. Meanwhile, however, he has supported the construction of new gas pipelines and compressor stations and backs a “pipeline tax” that would force electric rate payers to foot the bill for new gas infrastructure.
“Stand Up, Charlie!” was initiated in Boston by the statewide environmental coalition Mass Power Forward focused on clean energy policy, following the example of a single woman who stood outside Baker’s office for 82 days demanding a meeting with him. She was requesting that construction of the Weymouth Compressor Station be stopped.

Others joined her and the protest mounted until last week demonstrators were arrested for sitting in.
Mass Power Forward delivered a letter to Baker in September requesting an state Executive Order that would:
• “Hold state permits (of fossil fuel infrastructure) to the highest standards, rather than ‘Trump standards’”, i.e. preventing those that pose a health risk to state residents;
• Oppose a pipeline tax;
• Promote environmental justice throughout the Administration.
In Springfield, protesters will accompany these demands with demands specific to western Massachusetts:
• Expansion of public transit, specifically the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority;
• Development of east-west high-speed rail transit;
• Blocking large biomass construction; and
• Supporting “climate change refugees” from recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast.
Numerous studies have shown that many more jobs are created by renewable and efficient energy transformation than by continued use of gas, oil and coal. Further, Massachusetts, which has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, will benefit from the health effects of clean air.

There will be a “Stand Up, Charlie” rally at the state office building, 436 Dwight Street in Springfield on Thursday, November 16 from 12:15 to 12:45 pm. Demands for a clean energy future will be delivered to the governor.

SPONSORED BY: Climate Action NOW, Arise for Social Justice, and Springfield Climate Justice Coalition
CO-SPONSORS: 2degreesatgreenneighbors.earth, Abundance Farm, Badass Activists in the Pioneer Valley, Carbon Pollution Fee and Rebate Group, Direct Action Coordinating Committee at Amherst College, Earth Ministry Team of First Church Amherst (UCC), Easthampton Democratic City Committee, Edwards Church, First Churches Peace & Justice, Green Team of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield, Indivisible Noho, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, Mothers Out Front Amherst, Northampton Democratic City Committee, Northampton Friends Meeting, Out Now!, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Partners in Health, Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition, Pioneer Valley Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pioneer Valley Resist Coalition, Pioneer Valley Women’s March, Pioneer Valley Workers Center, Progressive Democrats of America, Riseup Western Massachusetts Indivisible, Smith Center for Religious & Spiritual Life, Smith Divest, Social Justice Commission of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Social Justice Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership, Springfield Area Interfaith Climate Action Network (SAICAN), Springfield League of Women Voters, Springfield Noone Leaves, Sugar Shack Alliance, Sustain Us, The Enviro Show, The Northampton High Environmental Club, The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, Tikkun Olam Committee of the Jewish Community of Amherst (JCA), Toxics Action Center, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence Climate Action Group,  Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst Green Sanctuary Committee, Western Mass Code Pink, Western Mass Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Young Democrats of Northampton & Youth Rise Together

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Marty Nathan martygjf@comcast.net 413-531-9915 or Jesse Lederman jesselederman2016@gmail.com  413-734-4948

Columbia Gas wants Longmeadow connection to interstate pipeline

By Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican
November 3, 2017

LONGMEADOW — Columbia Gas of Massachusetts wants a new connection built on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Longmeadow that would bring more gas to customers in Longmeadow, Springfield and Chicopee and make Springfield less reliant on a single supply line over the Connecticut River.

The project, which could be built in a single construction season once all the approvals are in place, is one of a package of gas-delivery network projects Stephen H. Bryant, president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, discussed Friday with reporters and editors at The Republican.

The proposal was also part of a set of documents Columbia Gas filed Thursday for approval at the state Department of Public Utilities.

Other projects include replacing 8,500 feet of aging pipe buried under Springfield streets with modern gas lines, a new compressor station and 2-mile pipeline loop from Agawam to Springfield, and a 6-mile, 12-inch pipeline costing $24 million through West Springfield and Holyoke that could end a moratorium on new gas hookups in Easthampton and Northampton.

That moratorium could be lifted sometime in 2020 if plans move forward, Bryant said.

A new, utility-owned pipeline, a capacity-swap deal with Holyoke, and a beefed-up Agawam compressor station could provide an alternative to the maxed-out Northampton Lateral.

No site in Longmeadow has been selected yet, Bryant said. But the utility has already had preliminary meetings with the town, where development and building projects are notoriously difficult to get approved.

“We would stay away from a residential area,” Bryant said.

The pipeline passes through the southern part of town. The connection itself, a sort of off-ramp from the east-west Tennessee Gas Pipeline, would be on about an acre of land and would be a collection of pipes in a small building. It would not be staffed.

This off-ramp would be connected to Columbia’s existing network by pipes buried in the public right-of-way that is under town streets, Bryant said.

It would be built and paid for by Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which would then charge Columbia a tariff on the gas it buys to recoup the cost. He didn’t have a dollar estimate but said the cost passed on to ratepayers might be offset by lower costs for the gas itself as Columbia adds more sources of gas to its portfolio.

Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen Crane didn’t respond to emailed questions Friday afternoon.

» Read original article

RELATED:

» Columbia Gas: Northampton, Easthampton service moratoriums could be lifted by 2020

By Mary C. Serreze, Springfield Republican
November 3, 2017

 

Editorial: Nice to see concerns on pipeline projects heard, considered

Greenfield Recorder Editorial
November 10, 2017

It’s hard to see why the Legislature shouldn’t embrace two recently introduced bills that would protect us from a future Kinder Morgan gas pipeline.

Not quite two years ago, Franklin County dodged a bullet when local opposition, a state Supreme Judicial Court decision and changing financial currents sank the Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would have cut a swath through Franklin County on its way from Pennsylvania to the seacoast. Foes of the multi-billion dollar project argued it would have cut through environmentally sensitive lands the state had paid tax dollars to protect from development. The pipeline posed environmental and health hazards to residents along its route — to provide fuel that wasn’t really needed in Massachusetts or could be provided in less disruptive ways.

The real kick in the gut was that local electric generators who wanted the extra gas supplies planned to pass on the cost in advance to their customers. If the project had failed, those customers would still have taken the financial hit.

Thankfully, the high court refused to allow electricity companies to force on to their customers investments in pipelines that those customers opposed.

Now, more than 120 state legislators have called for passage of bills to protect consumers from unwanted pipeline expansion by codifying that court ruling in law and by forcing the state’s utility regulatory agency to listen to affected towns and their legislators.

A bill filed by state Rep. Stephen Kulik guarantees municipalities, legislators representing electricity ratepayer communities, and groups of 10 or more ratepayers the right to intervene in Department of Public Utilities hearings on rate hikes, and strengthens the department’s review where new interstate gas infrastructure financing is involved, requiring that environmental and community impacts be considered. It also requires the DPU to consider lower impact alternatives to a pipeline proposal.

All of this sounds like common sense, but was in dispute during the NED pipeline fight when the DPU rejected a request by Kulik, along with Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, then-Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, to intervene in its review of the pipeline on behalf of the towns the pipeline would have crossed. Also supporting the new bills are other county legislators: Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, as well as Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Susannah Whipps, I-Athol.

Kulik said the DPU’s position that the legislators were not “substantially and specifically affected” by their decisions was “absurd,” “ridiculous” and “insulting.”

“Our experience in working to defeat that misguided project made it clear that the permitting and financing procedures for natural gas infrastructure do not align with our clean energy future in Massachusetts, and place unjustifiable environmental and financial risks on citizens and ratepayers,” Kulik said in submitting the new bill.

He added in his letter, “We must reform procedures at the Department Public Utilities so that the voices of ratepayers, communities and legislators are fully heard and considered by utility regulators.”
His position was reinforced by the regional grassroots anti-pipeline awareness coalition president Kathryn Eiseman, who said, “This legislation … would allow the public to have a meaningful role in agency decisions that will impact us for decades to come … The DPU currently believes it can bar municipalities and ratepayers from banding together to participate in DPU proceedings in an orderly fashion with legal counsel and technical experts of their choice.”

We can’t agree enough — and we were happy to see our legislative delegation stand so strongly for the interests of Franklin County.

After all, these proposed laws, while not in themselves blocking potentially worthwhile energy projects in the future, would protect our neighbors, the environment and the economy from the self-interest of pipeline companies and electricity generators by giving us an equal voice before the DPU and by requiring a gas pipeline company’s investors — not local electricity users — pay up front for questionable pipeline projects.

» Read original publication

Let the Landscape Speak : Presentation on Ceremonial Stone Landscapes

A presentation on Ceremonial Stone Landscapes by Narragnasett Indian Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Doug Harris and Attorney Anne Marie Garti to be held on Sunday, December 3rd, 3 pm at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, MA.

Learn directly from the leaders of the fight to protect Native American Ceremonial Stone Landscapes from pipeline construction. Narragansett Indian Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Doug Harris will be joined by Attorney Anne Marie Garti to talk about the history and significance of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes and their fight to take FERC to task for ignoring the Historic Preservation Act in permitting the CT Expansion pipeline in Massachusetts, setting precedent for future pipeline fights.
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Sliding scale admission: Suggested donation $5-$50 (no one turned away). Proceeds raise funds for the legal fight to preserve these ancient sites. If you can’t attend, but would like to donate, please visit here for more information.

3:00 PM
Hitchcock Center for the Environment
845 West Street
Amherst, MA

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