Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When Progressives Sell Out And Turn Into Shills For The Fracking Industry

Photo: How fracking is destroying Colorado.
How does a so-called liberal go from joining campus "die-ins" protesting the Gulf War (with all the slogans about trading blood for oil) to promoting the fossil-fuel industry as "part of the solution" to climate change? One seeks to answer that  after examining the profile of Tisha Conoly Schuller, now a PR flack for the frackers.

These were questions I asked after reading Schuller's abominable PR piece in the Denver Post Sunday and then checking on her profile. Schuller's PR promotional material for the gas frackers was entitled "Colorado A Model For Energy Dialogue" which is itself a joke. What Colorado actually is, not to school Tisha too severely, is a model for how the oil and gas lobbies can capture a Democratic governor and all the state machinery - to ease up on regulatory compliance (what weak regulations there are).  Thus critics see a lax system of enforcement by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which has a reputation for understaffing and most of us believe to be a front for the fracking companies.  (The COGCC currently has only seventeen inspectors, not enough to visit even half of the state's 45,000 wells every year - and offers heavily discounted fines if the frackers spill their foul, fracked water into a reservoir.)

Let's return to Tisha and her background and how she mutated from progressive environmentalist  to fracker PR flack. If one examines the background closely one beholds a more or less typical profile for a future sellout. Her transmutation is summarized by one online site thusly:

Brandishing her Stanford degree, Schuller sought work across the spectrum — from activism to regulation to consulting to working directly in industry — and saw her applications rejected repeatedly. Even the Environmental Protection Agency turned her down. She taught preschool for a year, then landed a position as an administrative assistant at a consulting firm that involved a one-hour commute.

Already I am hearing the sounds of the world's smallest violin playing "Willows weep for me".  The poor little dear, no job prospects - and out of Stanford U no less! What could the world be coming to? We are informed that "paying jobs for environmental activists were no more abundant in the early 1990s than they are today".. Well that could apply to a whole spate of fields, including astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, psychology and even sociology. But does such a circumstance force one to sell out to the enemy? Well I guess it does for an erstwhile "environmental activist" who suddenly finds her niche (and riches) elsewhere. The bio spot goes on:

With persistence, she eventually moved into field work for clients, mostly in the oil-and-gas industry: cleanup and remediation of drill sites, permitting processes for exploration and pipelines, environmental education for staff. In 1996 the company asked her to open an office in Colorado, a state she knew from family visits.
 So now we see how serendipity - combined with a willingness to leave scruples over environmental pollution, can change a life....for the putative "best". How successful has the little sellout been?

Over nearly four years of Schuller's leadership, COGA has forged a number of significant victories and alliances in the regulatory and political arenas. Despite routine clashes with regulators, the industry has gotten much of what it wanted out of the rule-making rituals of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

Well Lordy be! Am I absolutely surprised? No. Neither am I surprised at the chutzpah displayed in her Denver Post PR piece, as when she scribbles:

"It is healthy to question the safety, effectiveness and logistics of oil and gas development in your community. When taken too far and driven by fear, however, this investigation can foolishly ban production of an energy resource that we all use every day."

She also takes pains to paint the robust anti-fracking contingent as unscientific or pseudo-scientific, as when she refers to a recent vote (on a fracking moratorium) by Loveland residents last week:

"They stood up for their neighbors, who work in the oil and gas industry, for science and the responsible development of our natural resources."

Which is bollocks. As one letter writer to the Post subsequently observed:

"The pro-fracking pundits will no doubt trumpet the results of the Loveland fracking moratorium election as a victory for the industry, but it should be seen as a hollow one. The industry spent $1 million to eke out a 900-vote victory.

It should be obvious to anyone that in a true democracy with a level media playing field, an outcome more reflective of the real, sustainable, healthier, long-term needs of the citizens of Loveland would have been the clear result."

Which is a spot-on observation. As for "standing up for science", Schuller doesn't know what she's talking about, or is so immersed in PR bloviation whe can no longer discern fact from fiction. Indeed, in  the same Denver newspaper her PR piece appeared, one finds (May 2, p. 1A)  an extensive examination of data showing that the number of spills reached an all time record last year at 578 (according to the COGOC data).  In addition(ibid.):

“State data also show that 12.3 percent of the past 1,000 spills (since June 24, 2012) already had contaminated groundwater before companies began cleanups.”

Beyond the contamination of soil and groundwater, the Post's data analysis showed that the  drilling of new wells unearthed an estimated 652,000 tons a year of sludge-like drill cuttings. These are supposed to be taken to special landfills but more often than not  are spread instead on “leased fields”.  The Post then cited just the volume created after the March, 2013 Parachute Creek spill in western Colorado.  It noted:

The Williams and Bargath companies recovered 11,800 gallons of liquid hydrocarbons. They’ve excavated 2, 275 tons of contaminated soil, hauling it for burial at the ECDC facility in Utah.”

Process the dimensions and scale of this filth, polluting our landscape and the need to haul ever more tons away as the existing landfills grow into mountains- then tell me there's "no science" behind it.
 In a subsequent examination (Denver Post, May 8, 1A) the article pointed out that scientists have found that Colorado's front Range oil and gas boom has been emitting three times more methane than previously thought. The rate, at 19.3 tons an HOUR. This is serious given the EPA has determined methane is 20 time more potent (i.e. higher forcing component) than CO2.   This study was done at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration's Cooperative Institute for Research on the Environment.

As for water pollution from fracking, we already know the extent of it even if the frackers aren't totally forthcoming about disclosure.  According to a report obtained by Sen. Diane DeGette, the product of an inquiry by the House Energy and Commerce Committee two years ago, fourteen of the nation's most active hydraulic fracturing companies used 866 million gallons of chemical fracturing products, and more than 650 of the chemicals named in the report were known carcinogens . Among the choice chemicals documented as having been  injected into the  state's water supply:

- Benzene,, a powerful bone-marrow poison (aplastic anemia) associated with leukemia, breast and uterine cancer

- Styrene, which may cause eye and mucous membrane irritation, neurotoxic effects in the central and peripheral nervous systems.

- Toluene, which may cause muscular incoordination, tremors, hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo, emotional instability and delusions, liver and kidney damage, and anemia.

- Xylene, with cancer-causing (mainly in the kidneys, liver) and neurotoxic effects, as well as reproductive abnormalities.

- Methylene chloride, which may cause cancer, liver and kidney damage, central nervous system disorders and COPD.

Clearly, science is on the side of the critics and those who seek to have local bans on fracking, not on the frackers or their PR shills.

In her PR piece, Schuller claims that the pro-ban side has "in the past successfully used fear and misinformation to lure other cities into passing illegal bans on energy development. These bans trample on private property rights, hurt the economy and curtail efforts toward energy independence."

Which is so deep in BS one can hardly wade through it. The bans, in fact, are NOT illegal because the state's edicts- whatever they may be - do not trump citizens' rights. And only flesh and blood citizens have rights, states don't. States have prerogatives.  Thus, whatever local bans may be passed this November are totally legal, all Shculler's nonsense to the contrary.

As for private property rights, whose?  If  a frack well is set up 500' away and my home is fracked from beneath and methane pollutes my water it is MY property rights being violated. If this isn't acknowledged then all concepts of private property are blown through a cocked hat. They're meaningless.

In her PR piece, Schuller is big on attacking all NIMBY-ism and portrays herself as willing to go along with sacrifices as the rest of us little peons should be. But is she really? Or is she another hypocrite bidding us to do what she says not what she does, or how she lives?  Boulder fracking critic Sam Schabacker hits the nail on the head concerning all these PR bloviators:

"They love to talk about how we all use energy and we have to take responsibility for that energy use. That's all well and good, but they're not talking about putting a fracking well close to their homes. Tisha Schuller lives up in the mountains outside of Boulder, an area that's never going to be fracked because there isn't shale under that location. They're not sharing the burden; they're imposing it on the people of Colorado."

So now we know:  Tisha Schuller is full of it. All her beseeching and imploring for us to just "settle down" and accept the sacrifice of energy development are hollow because she doesn't sacrifice herself. So why should the rest of us?  Indeed, none of the political elites who advocate for fracking, whether Obama, Hillary or any of the Repukes, live near fracking sites - so their homes and environs aren't threatened. Thus, they can afford to sound all cuddly with concepts of "energy independence" and natural gas fracking - which is fucking up our whole state (see top image).

Tisha saves her biggest chunk of bullshit for last when she writes:

"We all want to live in a special state where the economy is as healthy as the ecosystem.."

But the promise of fracking is a false one as pointed out by Richard Heinberg in his new book, Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise Imperils Our Future'

The bottom line here is that the ecosystem can never be healthy if fracking forms the basis of a state's economy. One would have to accept that hundreds of toxins in fracked water are acceptable, not to mention the fracking itself depleting our water reserves in a notoriously dry -drought prone state, oh and that pumping more methane into the atmosphere helps climate change. What all this means is that Americans have to understand that they face a tradeoff, in either having cheap energy or expensive health costs down the line, and a degraded quality of life. We can't have both and anyone attempting to sell the horse pockey that we can needs to be exposed.

Only an idiot would buy into Tisha Schuller's spiel and the need now is to teach the frackers a heavy civics lesson come November - outlawing the bastards' operations across the state! If they want to fuck up another state's air and water, let them -but we make a stand they don't do it here.

The "tragedy of the commons" is that a relatively few frack- crazy people can permanently ruin this planet for all the rest of us. Our job as citizens is to ensure this doesn't happen.


As per an AP report published in today's Denver Post (p. 15A), "New York's top court handed a victory to opponents of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas by affirming the right of municipalities to ban the practice within their borders."

This State Court of Appeals "affirmed a mid-level decision by an appeals court that said state oil and gas law doesn't trump the authority of local governments to control land use through zoning."

Which has been the case in this country for many years. Thus, a neighbor in a residential zoned neighborhood cannot just suddenly decide to start a hog farm, or now - in Colorado - a marijuana grow operation. Local zoning ordinances prohibit it! The same clearly applies to the practice of fracking irrespective of its claimed economic benefits.  It doesn't matter! Whatever those benefits are they don't trump citizens' rights to proscribe the operations via zoning. Indeed, the whole practice of zoning was established to be able to exclude those intrusive, disruptive or inappropriate activities (including porno dives and pawn shops) that didn't fit in with a neighborhood's profile. I mean, Jeebus, why would any right-thinking citizen want pawn shops or sex toy emporiums right next to schools or their homes ? So why would you want a frack well right in your neighborhood?

The court itself, according to the piece, did not consider the merits or otherwise of fracking but simply the principle of "home rule" authority of municipalities to regulate their land use.

Look out, Colorado gas frackers! You are next in line on the banning  banner!

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