Monday, November 14, 2011

Marcellus meetings

There are a couple of public meetings on Marcellus gas issues in the area this week.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night, the West Virginia University Extension Service will continue its statewide public education program on the impact of Marcellus gas drilling at the Hampshire High School auditorium at 6pm. The presentation here was initiated by the Hampshire County Marcellus Committee. The only speaker listed on the agenda at this writing is John King, from the WVDEP Office of the Advocate, but the wide-ranging discussion will be followed by questions from the public.

On Thursday evening at 7pm, a group of concerned citizens from Morgan County will host a discussion with Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, who has drafted an ordinance to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing in Morgan County. CELDF drafted many of the community fracking bans in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh's, and has advised a number of WV communities, including Wellsburg and citizen groups in both Hampshire and Pocahantas counties. The meeting takes place at Great Cacapon Elementary School, 217 Spring Street in Great Cacapon WV.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Morgan County active on fracking

Morgan County WV, Hampshire's next door neighbor, is abuzz with activities this week about the fracking issue, starting tonight.

At 6pm this evening, the regular meeting of the Morgan County Marcellus Shale Advisory Committee will feature a presentation of the public education program that members of the Hampshire County Marcellus Committee have put together, followed by questions from the Morgan committee and the public. The meeting is held at the Morgan County Courthouse, on Main Street in Berkeley Springs.

Then at 7pm tonight, the Ecology Coalition of Morgan County and the Shepherdstown group SkyTruth ( will present a public seminar about technologies that allow anyone to track a fracking site on a home computer. That meeting takes place at the Board of Education office, 247 Harrison Ave. in Berkeley Springs.

On Sunday afternoon, Morgan County citizens concerned about fracking will gather at Great Cacapon School to learn more about the issue and to discuss the possibility of passing a countywide ban of the fracking process. They will meet from 2-5pm. The school is at 217 Spring Street in Great Cacapon WV. More information about a possible ordinance can be found at

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy WV

The Occupy Wall Street movement has come to West Virginia, with ongoing occupations in towns and cities around the state. Today the movement goes global, and in solidarity with that, Eastern Panhandle activists are convening at the plaza in front of the Martinsburg library at noon. Here's the Facebook page for Occupy Martinsburg:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy DC

Longtime WV activist Mary Wildfire has an op-ed in this morning's Charleston Gazette about why she's traveling all the way from Roane County to Freedom Plaza in Washington DC tomorrow, to take part in the "Stop the Machine" protest.

In a bit of serendipitous timing, the occupation of Freedom Plaza, planned months ago to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan, is happening just as the "Occupy Wall Street" protest has caught the public imagination and inspired similar camp-ins all across the country. The common theme in all the issues being addressed by these protests is the call for economic justice.

People are tired of seeing America's wealth being redistributed upward to the top one percent, who have doubled their share of the nation's wealth in the last thirty years. People are tired of corporate tyranny, and corporate control of the US government. 99 percent of Americans want democracy returned to the people.

Monday, September 26, 2011

HCMC report

The Hampshire County Marcellus Committee will present its preliminary report to the Hampshire County Commission tomorrow, September 27th, at the commission's regularly scheduled meeting at the county courthouse on Main Street. HCMC is on the agenda at 11 am for a 45-minute presentation of a public education program and followup briefing by HCMC chair George Constantz. Open to the public.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Call for fracking ban

Concerned citizens are being asked to call the White House today to request a ban on the process of hydraulic fracture--fracking--in natural gas extraction. Here's details from Save the Water Table, a very active group in Monroe County WV.

Food & Water Watch National Action Day – Call-In to BAN FRACKING encourages you to call in to the White House on September 13 as part of the Food and Water Watch National Action Day to ask for a ban on fracking. Here is a link to more information:

This guide provides tips on how to prepare for the call-in day, what to do the day of, and how to report results.

From Candace Jordan :

Welcome to when the little guys become the big guys.

There are hundreds of local grassroots groups in the US working on issues related to fracking, clean water, and environmental health. Most of the individuals that make up these groups are, like us, committed unpaid volunteers who are passionate about protecting our water, air and public health. Together all of our groups and organizations make up a profound grassroots movement that carries immense power for positive change.

Well, the time has come for these grassroots groups to become the big guys and bring about this change. We’ve been waiting a long time, and now is our time in the sun. Let’s get together and be the large constituency we are. Take action!

The National Grassroots Coalition is partnering with Josh Fox and Gasland, Credo, Democracy for America, Food and Water Watch, United for Action, and several other organizations to push a National Call Day to President Obama on September 13th. We will be calling President Obama and letting him know that we oppose Hydraulic Fracturing.

Join us in announcing to your email list, website, and on Facebook and other social media this major national action.

Here are the details of the call day:

Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 between 9 am and 5 pm EDT on September 13th.

Say, “Hello my name is ______, I live in (City, State) and I oppose hydraulic fracturing and I want renewable and sustainable energy policy solutions.”

Feel free to cater this message to one that is appropriate for your organization. The important thing is that we let President Obama know that there is a lot of opposition to fracking.

If the phone lines get jammed, send an email through the White House Contact page here. (

This is going to be the first action of many more to come as we, together steer this country to more sane and sustainable energy policies where we don’t have to poison ourselves to power our lives.

If you have questions about this event, or would like to be listed on our website, please email or contact your regional coordinator.

Thanks so much! Together we can do this!

For all that you do as active and engaged citizens!

Monday, September 12, 2011

HCMC reschedules

The meeting of the Hampshire County Marcellus Committee scheduled for September 13th has been postponed until Tuesday, September 20th, at noon, at the Hampshire County Health Department in Augusta.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Groups react to Tomblin's Marcellus order

Statement from WV Environmental, Labor, Health and Public Interest Organizations

We the undersigned unanimously agree that the Executive Order issued by acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is inadequate and leaves communities vulnerable, while continuing to let the gas industry run roughshod over West Virginia.

The Senate should not be using the Executive Order as an excuse for stalling. Instead, the Senate should impose a moratorium on permits until a comprehensive bill becomes effective.
Many people, including Senate members of the Select Committee on Marcellus Shale, are under the illusion that the Executive Order and the resulting emergency rules are adequate enough to ensure safe, responsible development of the Marcellus Shale.

However, a number of important issues remain unaddressed.

Nothing in the Executive Order addresses protection from air pollution, noise, truck traffic destroying roads, radiation, or the cumulative impact of multiple wells in a community.

While the Executive Order does require public notice of well permits inside a municipality, it does not provide an opportunity for the public to comment on such permits and influence the permit conditions, nor does it require public notice and comment for well permits in rural areas.

Surface owners remain at risk from unilateral decisions by the gas companies. There is no requirement for drillers to negotiate with surface owners on the location of well sites and access roads or that drillers accommodate surface owners’ concerns, plans for or uses of their property.

Other items missing from the Executive Order include:
Protection for karst (limestone) areas.
Protection for parks or other public lands.
A TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) standard for water.
Elimination of the industry-influenced Oil and Gas Inspectors Examining Board in favor of a civil service type of hiring procedure.
Protective/adequate distances between large drill sites and homes, schools, hospitals and other sensitive places.
Expanded water well testing requirements.
Improvements to bonding requirements.
Disposal of toxic waste from well sites restricted to landfills designed to accept hazardous waste.

Additionally, regulations are only as good as their enforcement and with only 15 inspectors for 59,000 active gas wells, we remain concerned about the DEP’s ability to adequately protect citizens and the environment from the threats Marcellus development poses to human health and our land, air and water. Unfortunately, the emergency rules filed as a result of the Executive Order will not raise permit fees and will not provide money for more inspectors to enforce even those emergency rules.

DEP has already permitted 1,602 Marcellus wells in West Virginia. Of those, 942 of those are completed and producing and the agency is on track to issue another 400 permits this year.
We believe it is irresponsible for the acting Governor and the Legislature to allow the DEP to continue to issue new permits without having a comprehensive regulatory structure in place and without having enough inspectors on staff to ensure adequate enforcement. We appreciate that acting Governor Tomblin has recognized that there are problems, but the Executive Order does not go far enough.

It remains imperative for the Legislature to act.

Until that time there should be a moratorium on new permits.

In conclusion, acting Governor Tomblin’s Executive Order and the resulting emergency rules should not be construed as a solution to the many problems related to Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling.

Far from it.

The Select Committee assigned to craft meaningful legislation, especially the Senators, need to step up to address these problems, and they must do so quickly — next year is unacceptable.

Although the draft legislation the committee is using as a starting point is also deficient in terms of addressing several issues of concern, a number of strengthening amendments were offered and adopted when the committee met earlier this month. We want to see the committee reconvene to continue its work and make the needed improvements to the bill.

Greenbrier River Watershed Association
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter
West Virginia Citizens Action Group
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Citizen setbacks

The efforts of local West Virginia citizens to exert some control over Marcellus gas drilling in their own communities received two serious blows this week.

The first one came Tuesday night, when industry pressure convinced the Wellsburg city council to rescind its fracking ban.

The second occurred yesterday, when a Monongalia County circuit court judge ruled that "the ordinance passed by the city of Morgantown [banning fracking within one mile of the city limits] is pre-empted by state legislation and is invalid." City officials are reviewing their options. You can find the story here:

Friday, August 5, 2011

EPA study confirms fracking contamination

The New York Times reporter Ian Urbina, who, in a series of recent articles, has uncovered some damning information about the fracking process, had a story on Wednesday about an EPA study done in 1987 about a West Virginia water well contaminated by fracking chemicals.

It has long been a staple of industry propaganda that no such case exists.

The EPA report says, "When fracturing the Kaiser gas well on Mr. James Parson's property, fractures were created allowing migration of fracture fluid from the gas well to Mr. Parson's water well. This fracture fluid, along with natural gas, was present in Mr. Parson's water, rendering it unusable."

Although, as the article notes, drilling technology has improved since the EPA report was written, included in the report is the suggestion that this case is only the tip of the iceberg. Urbina interviewed the report's lead author, who "said that she and her colleagues had found 'dozens' of cases that she said appeared to specifically involve drinking water contamination related to fracking. But they were unable to investigate those cases further and get access to more documents because of legal settlements. All but the Parsons case were excluded from the EPA study, she said, because of pressure from industry representatives who were members of an agency working group overseeing the research."

It seems to be standard US government procedure to have a fox guarding every hen house.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WV Marcellus "emergency"

At a press conference yesterday, West Virginia's acting governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced (with gas industry lobbyists standing behind him at the podium) that he had signed an executive order directing the WV Department of Environmental Protection to implement some "emergency" regulation of Marcellus shale hydrofracking.

As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted in a blog post, the new regulations first appeared at a gas industry website, thereby confirming that Tomblin had sought the approval of his corporate masters before his announcement.

On a positive note, the fact that Tomblin finally and officially recognized that the lack of regulation is an "emergency" is a demonstration that the growing public awareness of the dangers of the fracking process is putting some pressure on the political class, especially Tomblin, who is facing a special election in October for the position of real--not acting--governor.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Frack damage in WV forest

A press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

Washington, DC — A new study has found that wastewater from natural gas hydrofracturing in a West Virginia national forest quickly wiped out all ground plants, killed more than half of the trees and caused radical changes in soil chemistry. These results argue for much tighter control over disposal of these “fracking fluids,” contends Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The new study by Mary Beth Adams, a U.S. Forest Service researcher, appears in the July-August issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Quality. She looked at the effects of land application of fracking fluids on a quarter-acre section of the Fernow Experimental Forest within the Monongahela National Forest. More than 75,000 gallons of fracking fluids, which are injected deep underground to free shale gas and then return to the surface, were applied to the assigned plot over a two day period during June 2008. The following effects were reported in the study:

- Within two days all ground plants were dead;
- Within 10 days, leaves of trees began to turn brown. Within two years more than half of the approximately 150 trees were dead; and
- “Surface soil concentrations of sodium and chloride increased 50-fold as a result of the land application of hydrofracturing fluids…” These elevated levels eventually declined as chemical leached off-site. The exact chemical composition of these fluids is not known because the chemical formula is classified as confidential proprietary information.

“The explosion of shale gas drilling in the East has the potential to turn large stretches of public lands into lifeless moonscapes,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that land disposal of fracking fluids is common and in the case of the Fernow was done pursuant to a state permit. “This study suggests that these fluids should be treated as toxic waste.”

For the past twenty-five years, the Forest Service has not applied any environmental restrictions on private extraction efforts, even in wilderness areas. As a result, forests, like the Monongahela, which sits astride the huge Marcellus Shale gas formation, have struggled with many adverse impacts of widespread drilling. By contrast, the nearby George Washington National Forest (NF) has recently proposed to ban horizontal drilling, a practice associated with hydrofracking, due to concern about both the ecosystem damage and also the huge amount of water required for the fracking process. Two subcommittees of the House of Representatives will hold a joint hearing this Friday to examine the George Washington NF’s singular pro-conservation stance.

“Unfortunately, the Forest Service has drilled its head deeply into the sand on oil and gas operations harming forest assets,” Ruch added, noting the National Wildlife Refuges also lack regulations to minimize drilling impacts. “The Forest Service needs to develop a broader approach than asking each forest supervisor to cast a lone profile in courage or cowardice.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gas industry hype

In its Sunday edition, the New York Times carried a story, based on a review of thousands of internal gas industry documents, which reports that some industry insiders think of the Marcellus boom as a "Ponzi scheme," similar to the Enron bubble. The report notes that many gas wells aren't producing, nor are they as profitable, as expected.

Her's a link to some of the industry documents:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morgantown bans fracking

A little after midnight last night, the Morgantown WV city council passed an ordinance that bans the practice of fracking for Marcellus shale gas within the city, and within a one-mile radius of the city limits, making it the second city in the state to put the health of its citizens over industry profits. Wellsburg, in the northern panhandle, passed a similar ordinance last month.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More fracking news

The Charleston Gazette had a pretty good synopsis by AP writer Larry Messina of the status of the Marcellus gas issue in the legislature, now that a joint committee has been formed to come up with a bill.

Also, Pro Publica, the investigative group that has in many respects led the way in reporting on this issue, has a new article, with some good links, about gaps in state laws requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals (West Virginia, lacking any such law, isn't mentioned).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Marcellus committees bloom

This past week saw the creation of two new committees established in West Virginia to investigate the effects of Marcellus shale gas drilling.

On Thursday, the Morgan County Commission adopted a resolution creating a subcommittee within the county planning commission to research the Marcellus gas issue. The resolution was modeled on the one passed by the Hampshire County Commission in February.

Yesterday, acting Senate President Jeff Kessler announced the formation of a committee in the West Virginia legislature, made up of five members from the Senate and five from the House of Delegates, to come up with some compromise legislation on Marcellus shale drilling that can be passed in a special session of the legislature that he hopes will be held later this year. Here's a link to the brief story at WV Metro News:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Negotiating drilling

Monroe County WV has taken an innovative path to dealing with the problem of fracking by making a deal with a gas company that wants to drill there.

The county commission has negotiated a Memorandom of Understanding with Gordy Oil, under the authority of Chapter 8 of the State Code, that creates a kind of partnership between the county and the company, involving training for county workers, special consideration for water testing in sensitive areas, and landowner rights to have a say in where the drilling is done.

The full story is at

Monroe County citizens also have a website dealing with fracking:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Morgantown vs. fracking

A crowd so large it spilled out the door at the meeting last night heard the Morgantown WV City Council discuss a possible fracking ban, along the lines of what Wellsburg WV did a few weeks ago.

Friday, May 27, 2011

WV gas industry propaganda

The West Virginia Oil and Gas Association has created yet another "astroturf" (in contrast to "grassroots") group to propagandize the public about the "benefits" of natural gas.

The name of the group is Just Beneath the Surface WV, who announced their formation on Wednesday, and already have ads posted at the Charleston Gazette, among other websites.

It's an indication of just how worried the industry is about the public reaction as more negative information surfaces about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing. I guess that's why they want to keep people's attention focused beneath the surface.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wellsburg meets the frackers

On May 10th, the city of Wellsburg WV passed an ordinance that prohibits the process of hydraulic fracturing within one mile of the city limits--the first city in West Virginia to adopt such an ordinance.

Yesterday, the Wellsburg city council met with representatives from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest gas drilling companies, and the WV Department of Environmental Protection, to discuss the new law.

Despite the often-heard siren song of future economic benefits the Chesapeake rep sang, at the end of the meeting, the council decided to keep its ordinance on the books.

The reason for sticking with the ordinance was stated quite succinctly by City Manager Mark Henne: "The thing that's most important to us, that would affect us in the most adverse way, would be if something went awry and contaminated our water."

As more evidence about fracking comes in, that threat seems more and more real. We can only hope that other elected officials in this state will take courage from the Wellsburg model, and keep their priorities straight.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Gasland" in Morgan County

Several community groups are sponsoring a viewing of the documentary "Gasland," about the questions surrounding the fracking process, tonight at 6:30 pm, at the Berkeley Springs High School auditorium. There will be discussion following the film.

In other fracking news, the Post Carbon Institute has just issued a report challenging the assumptions of the federal Energy Information Agency that Marcellus shale gas is the key to our energy future. Here's the link:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

HCMC meeting

The Hampshire County Marcellus Committee will meet Monday, May 16 at 10 am at the Hampshire County Health Department, on Route 50 in Augusta WV. The public is welcome to attend.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Study links flaming faucets to fracking

A peer-reviewed scientific study has found a definite correlation between methane gas migration into drinking water wells--a phenomenon documented in the movie "Gasland," which shows several homeowners lighting their running kitchen faucets on fire--and the process of hydraulic fracture, or "fracking."

The study was done by Duke University, and found dangerous levels of methane in drinking water where a gas well was fracked within a kilometer (about three-fifths of a mile) of a water well. Considering that present WV regulations allow fracking as close as 200 feet to a water well, this study shows how truly inadequate those regulations are.

Let's hope that once the gubernatorial primary dust clears, legislators (including the acting governor) will get serious about a special session to deal with this issue.

--Michael Hasty

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Marcellus wells in Morgantown

Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette has a blog post about WVDEP permits being granted in March for two Marcellus gas wells, not far from where the Morgantown area draws its public water. The permits were granted without any opportunity for public comment.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Marcellus task force meets

The Marcellus-to-manufacturing task force that acting governor Earl Ray Tomblin named in February had its first meeting this week. As expected, it will focus on boosting industry, and leave the issues of new regulations and environmental damage to someone else. Paul Nyden wrote the story for the Charleston Gazette:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama assassinated

The news that Osama bin Laden—a CIA asset until at least the morning of September 11, 2001, according to former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds—has died of a single gunshot to the head, fired by a US Navy SEAL, signals the end of an era in Deep State global relations.

There is a major shift occurring in global politics, as old US allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan abandon the sinking American empire for the rising power, China. Silencing Osama bin Laden, who has obviously been under the protection of both Pakistani and American intelligence services for the past ten years, is a message from US elites to their restive Middle Eastern vassals that such betrayals will go neither unpunished nor unchallenged.

We live in a world ruled by gangsters allied with banksters—Russian gangsters, Chinese gangsters, American gangsters, and a multitude of smaller affiliate gangs, organized in elite clubs like the Trilateral Commission and the central bankers and the G20. It is a lawless world, governed solely by power. And it is a world running out of cheap oil, the fuel that runs capitalist civilization. We’re entering an era of global hardball. Bin Laden’s death sends a serious message that the US is in the game. It also fits a pattern: Noriega, Saddam, Mubarek—the US always double crosses the monsters it creates.

The news we see rarely reflects the reality of a given geopolitical event, and the death of Osama bin Laden will be no exception. The whole circumstance raises numerous questions which will be studiously avoided by our mainstream propagandists. They create the corporate version of reality, the matrix where most people live.

Nothing to see here, folks. The war on terror grinds on. Your liberties, please.

--Michael Hasty

Friday, April 29, 2011

Stop the Kaboom!

Stop the Kaboom! Festival is an event merging music, art and activism in a fundraiser for a new direct action campaign, the RAMPS Collective. RAMPS stands for Radical Action for Mountain and People Survival, and they have just recently launched their campaign in southern West Virginia, to help abolish Mountaintop Removal coal mining.

The festival and campaign will help raise money and awareness for this cause, and will be used to acquire a living space in the Coal River Valley of WV. The music will include several local and regional musicians, representing a wide range of styles and genres, including bluegrass, funk, reggae, jam, folk and electronic music.

In addition, we will have several informed and inspiring Speakers from throughout WV taking the stage. They'll be speaking and conduction presentations on their involvement in organizing to stop Mountain top Removal, Hydrofracking Marcellus Shale for natural gas, and their struggles in creating a more sustainable, healthier West Virginia.

The event is located in Hedgesville, WV and will be held April 29th through May 1st, 2011. The festival will include admission and 3 days of camping for a minimum donation of $15 dollars.
If you would like to take part in vending, or wish to set up a table with an environmental or social justice group, please contact event organizer Laura Steepleton at

For more info, please visit us at or on Facebook at

--Laura Steepleton

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mountaintop removal in Romney

On Thursday, April 28th at 6 pm, three young staffers from the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation will talk about their efforts to stop the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. The event will take place at the Hampshire County Public Library on Main Street in Romney, and is sponsored by the Hampshire County Independent Network.

All in their twenties, Junior Walk, Adam Hall and Amber Whittington grew up in the coal mining region of West Virginia. But when they reached adulthood, they began to recognize how removing entire mountaintops to get at the coal beneath was devastating the communities in which this practice occurred. They got involved with groups like Coal River Mountain Watch, and eventually joined the staff of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation.

The foundation was organized by Larry Gibson, who has been the subject of many articles, documentaries and books, for his attempt to save his family home place on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. All the land around him has been strip-mined, but Gibson refuses to leave the property where a family cemetery goes back 300 years.

Also being discussed at Thursday evening’s event is the upcoming March on Blair Mountain, which will commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain, where 10,000 coal miners fought against private coal company security, police and eventually the US Army, for the right to organize a union. It remains the largest civil insurrection in US history since the Civil War.

After Blair Mountain was, in a dubious process, removed from the National Register of Historic Places, and became a target of acquisition of both Massey and Arch coal companies, several groups, including the United Mine Workers, filed suit against the Secretary of the Interior to return Blair Mountain to the Register. That lawsuit is pending.

The March on Blair Mountain will take place in June, and will follow the route that the army of miners took in 1921. Marchers will start in Marmet WV on June 6th, and end up at Blair Mountain in Logan County on June 11th, where a final rally will be held. Details can be found at

The appearance in Hampshire County will be the first in a whirlwind weekend for the Keeper of the Mountains staffers, who will be speaking at events throughout the Eastern Panhandle, including on Saturday at the Stop the Kaboom music festival in Hedgesville (

Hampshire County Independent Network organizer Michael Hasty, who drafted the Hampshire County Commission resolution that established the Hampshire County Marcellus Committee—so far the only county advisory board on Marcellus gas issues in the state—and serves as committee secretary, will also be a featured speaker at the Stop the Kaboom festival. He will speak following the appearance of his folk trio, Michael & the Archangels, Saturday April 30 at 1 pm.

More information and biographical information about the speakers:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Single payer forum tonight

This evening at 6 pm, at the Bank of Romney Community Center on Main Street in Romney, Gloria Rickel will present the case for a single-payer national health care system in the US, along the lines of the Canadian model. Ms. Rickel will contrast the experiences of her Canadian relatives with those of American health care consumers. Her slide show program, "Health Care after Health Care Reform," will be followed by discussion. Sponsored by the Hampshire County Independent Network.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Single-payer health event in Romney

On Monday, April 18th, at 6:30 pm, the Hampshire County Independent Network will sponsor a discussion of proposals for a single-payer health care program in the US, the only industrialized nation without a national health care system. The program will be presented by Gloria Rickel, who has prepared a slide show, "Health Care after Health Care Reform," comparing the US system to health care systems around the world, and the legislation passed last year to a single-payer system. Ms. Rickel has family living under other health care systems. The event will take place at the Bank of Romney Community Center on Main Street in Romney. --Windy Cutler

Monday, April 4, 2011

HCMC meeting

The Hampshire County Marcellus Committee (officially renamed as such at the last county commission meeting) will meet today at 12 noon at the Hampshire County Health Department in Augusta WV. The public is welcome to attend. Among the topics on today's agenda are a committee statement in support of the bipartisan group of Delegates (including Hampshire's Ruth Rowan) who are calling for a temporary moratorium on new gas drilling permits until regulations are strengthened; and the offer of a conference call with the committee from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the authors of the Pittsburgh PA city council's ban on hydrofracking within the city limits.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Edit problem

Regular readers of the Independent amy have noticed some weirdness in the past few days--long absences, mysterious large blocks of text. The problem for me as neo-Luddite editor was that the "enter" function didn't work in the blogspot posting program. It worked fine on my computer. I'll know after posting this (I corrected the last post on a friend's computer) if the system is functioning correctly again. If so, I'll have new stuff up soon. If not, help! --Michael Hasty

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rowan requests gas moratorium

Hampshire County's representative in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Ruth Rowan, has joined the bipartisan group of delegates calling for a temporary moratorium on new permits for gas wells, until new legislation sets more stringent regulations to protect the public from dangerous new drilling technology.

Delegate Rowan is listed among the co-signers of a letter to the acting governor requesting the moratorium, in an op-ed in this morning's Charleston Gazette, "Think before drilling," co-authored by Delegates Barbara Fleischauer and Mike Manypenny, who were leaders in the effort to build more protections into the legislation which failed to pass in the regular session.

The delegates are asking the acting governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, to call a special session of the legislature, to get the legislation necessary to adequately regulate Marcellus shale gas drilling.

--Michael Hasty

Monday, March 28, 2011

The collapse of globalization

A passage from “The Collapse of Globalization,” the most recent essay by Chris Hedges, a modern American prophet: We must embrace, and embrace rapidly, a radical new ethic of simplicity and rigorous protection of our ecosystem—especially the climate—or we will all be holding on to life by our fingertips. We must rebuild radical socialist movements that demand that the resources of the state and the nation provide for the welfare of all citizens and the heavy hand of state power be employed to prohibit the plunder by the corporate power elite. We must view the corporate capitalists who have seized control of our money, our food, our energy, our education, our press, our health care system and our governance as mortal enemies to be vanquished. Adequate food, clean water and basic security are already beyond the reach of perhaps half the world’s population. Food prices have risen 61 percent globally since December 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund. The price of wheat has exploded, more than doubling in the last eight months to $8.56 a bushel. When half of your income is spent on food, as it is in countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and the Ivory Coast, price increases of this magnitude bring with them malnutrition and starvation. Food prices in the United States have risen over the past three months at an annualized rate of 5 percent. There are some 40 million poor in the United States who devote 35 percent of their after-tax incomes to pay for food. As the cost of fossil fuel climbs, as climate change continues to disrupt agricultural production and as populations and unemployment swell, we will find ourselves convulsed in more global and domestic unrest. Food riots and political protests will be inevitable. But it will not necessarily mean more democracy. The refusal by all of our liberal institutions, including the press, universities, labor and the Democratic Party, to challenge the utopian assumptions that the marketplace should determine human behavior permits corporations and investment firms to continue their assault, including speculating on commodities to drive up food prices. It permits coal, oil and natural gas corporations to stymie alternative energy and emit deadly levels of greenhouse gases. It permits agribusinesses to divert corn and soybeans to ethanol production and crush systems of local, sustainable agriculture. It permits the war industry to drain half of all state expenditures, generate trillions in deficits, and profit from conflicts in the Middle East we have no chance of winning. It permits corporations to evade the most basic controls and regulations to cement into place a global neo-feudalism. The last people who should be in charge of our food supply or our social and political life, not to mention the welfare of sick children, are corporate capitalists and Wall Street speculators. But none of this is going to change until we turn our backs on the Democratic Party, denounce the orthodoxies peddled in our universities and in the press by corporate apologists and construct our opposition to the corporate state from the ground up. It will not be easy. It will take time. And it will require us to accept the status of social and political pariahs, especially as the lunatic fringe of our political establishment steadily gains power. The corporate state has nothing to offer the left or the right but fear. It uses fear—fear of secular humanism or fear of Christian fascists—to turn the population into passive accomplices. As long as we remain afraid nothing will change.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

WVU gas "education"

A message from WV Sierra Club:

The WVU Extension Service is staging a series of so-called "Natural Gas Team Educational Programs". If they are anything like the one they had in Buckhannon awhile back, there will be a clear industry bias and a dismissive response to folks' environmental concerns.

These dog and pony shows are meant to soothe citizens' fears of the coming unregulated industrialization of West Virginia. We believe they are industry funded (if not, are they taxpayer funded?) although in their announcement they make no mention of industry backing. Here's a portion of their announcement:

Schedule Date Time Location
March 30 6:30 p.m. Keyser High School Mineral County
April 4 6:30 p.m. Oak Hill High School Fayette County
April 26 6:30 p.m. Days Inn at Flatwoods Braxton County
May 3 6:30 p.m. Parkersburg City Building Wood County
May 10 6:30 p.m. Agricultural Sciences South, Room 1021, WVU Evansdale Campus, Monongalia County

In association with:
West Virginia University Geology Department
West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University
WV Department of Environmental Protection
More info: Georgette F. Plaugher
West Virginia University Extension Service
Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources Development
Cell Phone: 304-376-4515

You may want to contact Ms. Plaugher and inquire about the program, its source of funding, and why there are no environmental degradation aspects being presented.We urge you to attend to show your concern about Marcellus shale drilling.

We can supply you with talking points and handouts. Please let us know ifyou plan to attend.

Chuck Wyrostok
Sierra Club Outreach Organizer
Toll free 877 252 0257

Friday, March 25, 2011

Right to Know Rally

Join the Rally for the Right to Know This Saturday, March 26th!

The United States may soon be the only country in the world that does not require labeling of genetically engineered food. In Spring 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that labeling of GE foods would remain voluntary, even though there was no indication that any company would voluntarily label genetically engineered foods--and in the 11 years since, none have.

Meanwhile, companies who have eliminated GE ingredients and added “NON-GMO” labels have faced burdensome regulations, while the FDA lets other companies continue to use GE ingredients in secret. It is time to stand up and demand mandatory labeling of GE foods!

This Saturday, March 26th, from D.C. to Colorado Springs--and more than 20 cities in between--thousands of people will join together for a Rally for the Right to Know, demanding labeling of GMO foods. Check out the events listing on the Rally for the Right to Know Facebook page to find a rally near you (please RSVP at the event page if you plan to attend an event).

Our CFS True Food Shoppers Guides will be available at all of the rallies! We hope our True Food Network members in these areas can attend a rally. This is a great way to make your voice heard, demand mandatory GE food labeling, and meet others in your community who care about True Food!

Find a rally near you and RSVP:!/topic.php?uid=150163591710461&topic=152

If you can't attend any of the rallies in person, join our virtual rally on Saturday, March 26th instead! CFS True Food Network members across the country will be sending letters to Congress urging legislation implementing mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

Rally for the Right to Know!
Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 26, 201111am - 3pm
Location: The White House Sidewalk

--Submitted by Barbara Showers

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WVDEP gas alert

ALERT from the WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas:

As you are aware, we have been reviewing various aspects of oil and gas development, particularly as it relates to Marcellus Shale drilling, to better ensure protection of the environment.

One area of review has been the reclamation of drilling pits. As a result, DEP is going to immediately start requiring that all drilling pits that contain Marcellus Shale cuttings and drilling pits that contain cuttings removed from the wellbore using a fluid-based drilling medium other than freshwater and bentonite gel must be reclaimed in the following manner, in addition to any other reclamation requirements:

-The pit liner must remain intact throughout the reclamation process to ensure containment of pit materials.
-All excavated areas, in addition to the primary drilling pit, that are constructed to hold cuttings must incorporate the use of a liner.
-Solidification of materials must be conducted to the extent necessary to prevent overflow and to ensure proper stabilization of the site. Materials to be added to assist in the solidification must be approved by the Office of Oil and Gas.
-A liner must be placed over the top of the pit and any additional excavated areas to prevent water from percolating into the cuttings. This may be accomplished through the use of the existing liner or an additional liner. This requirement does not preclude approved offsite disposal methods such as transporting the material to a landfill.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

James Martin
Office of Oil and Gas
304-926-0499 Ext 1654

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

EPA gas drilling tipline

A press release from the EPA:

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking citizens to call 1-877-919-4EPA (toll free) if they observe what appears to be illegal disposal of wastes or other suspicious activity. Anyone may also send reports by email to Citizens may provide tips anonymously if they don’t want to identify themselves.

In the event of an emergency, such as a spill or release of hazardous material, including oil, to the environment, citizens are advised to call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

Public concern about the environmental impacts of oil and natural gas drilling has increased in recent months, particularly regarding development of the Marcellus Shale formation where a significant amount of activity is occurring. While EPA doesn’t grant permits for oil and gas drilling operations, there are EPA regulations which may apply to the storage of petroleum products and drilling fluids.

The agency is also very concerned about the proper disposal of waste products, and protecting air and water resources. EPA wants to get a better understanding of what people are experiencing and observing as a result of these drilling activities.

The information collected may also be useful in investigating industry practices. The agency works closely with state and local officials, as well as industry and public interest groups, to ensure that oil and natural gas drilling occurs in a manner which is protective of human health and the environment and complies with applicable laws.

The agency is also counting on concerned citizens to report unusual or suspicious activity related to drilling operations. EPA is asking citizens to report the location, time and date of such activity, as well as the materials, equipment and vehicles involved and any observable environmental impacts.

The Marcellus Shale geologic formation contains one of the largest mostly untapped reserves of natural gas in the United States. It underlies significant portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York, and smaller portions of Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky.

Interest in developing Marcellus Shale has increased because recent improvements in natural gas extraction technology and higher energy prices now make recovering the gas more profitable. Operators produce this gas through a process called hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Fracking requires drilling a well thousands of feet below the land’s surface and pumping down the well under pressure millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals to fracture the shale. The process allows the gas trapped in the formation to flow to the well bore. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the fluid flows back to the surface. This “flowback” fluid consists of fracking fluid and brines which contain dissolved minerals from the formation. Operators are urged to recycle their flowback water for reuse in the fracking process, but some of the flowback is taken offsite for disposal.

Chemicals used in the process are often stored on-site. Spills can occur when utilizing these chemicals or when transporting or storing wastewater, which can result in the contamination of surface water or ground water, which is used for many purposes including drinking water.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stand up against gas

There’s a plainspoken opinion piece in yesterday’s Charleston Gazette that gets right to the heart of the Marcellus shale drilling issue. Here’s the beginning:

“Wall Street barons used the same line on past generations: Give us your timber and coal; we will bring untold wealth to West Virginia. The facts speak for themselves. The wealth went to Wall Street and the timber and coal left West Virginia.

A rosy picture for Marcellus Shale gas drilling painted by a carefully crafted West Virginia University study omitted any mention of environmental impacts. Overall statistics do indeed show job growth in the gas industry, but what about the real facts of job growth in West Virginia?

Remember remarks made by the Chesapeake Energy CEO when asked why Chesapeake doesn't employ more state residents? He said we are illiterate, uneducated and can't pass drug tests. I guess that is why Chesapeake closed its office in southern West Virginia and laid off over 200 employees.

It's no secret that Marcellus jobs are being filled by out-of-state workers. Do you really think corporations are concerned about effects this type of drilling could have on our state? When the job is done, they are gone and whatever is left behind is not their problem. Sounds all too familiar, doesn't it?”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Marcellus Committee meets

The Hampshire County Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Advisory Committee will hold its first official meeting today at noon at the Hampshire County Health Department on Route 50 in Augusta. The meeting is open to the public.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Delegates request moratorium

A bipartisan group of nineteen members of the West Virginia House of Delegates have sent a letter to Randy Huffman, director of the WV Department of Environmental Protection, requesting that the DEP stop issuing permits for horizontal gas drilling in the Marcellus shale region, until new legislation is passed regulating the practice.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where two or three...

This is a note that Windy sent out to those few who braved the cruel elements (including the local police department, but more about that later) and attended our "Defend the Dream" rally in front of the county courthouse on Tuesday:

Although we were few, and not seen by many, and didn’t make the news, we know it has been said, “Where two or three gather together…” We were there in solidarity for unions everywhere, in Madison and Ohio and Michigan and Maine and, yes, of course in West Virginia. In Egypt and Japan and Brazil.

Whether they know it or not, we know it. Whether or not we believe in prayer, we are there because we believe that, in some way, our actions and our presence will be felt by all of those whom we support, that we are kindred spirits. Know that they know that we were there.

Thank you to all of you for being there.

--Windy Cutler

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NJ fracking ban introduced

"New Jersey lawmakers advanced legislation last week that would make their state the first to ban the controversial and largely unregulated practice of hydraulic fracturing, aka 'fracking,' used to drill for natural gas. The New Jersey Senate Environment Committee approved the legislation amid a public debate over proposed regulations for an estimated 10,000 fracking wells that could soon be established in the Delaware River Basin.

The bill to permanently ban fracking in New Jersey is the first of its kind, but a growing grassroots movement against fracking has already won victories in city halls across the country as the public responds to mounting evidence that fracking operations are contaminating water supplies.

Fracking is the process of injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals - some of them toxic - into underground formations to split up rock and release natural gas. The language in the New Jersey bill echoes the fears of fracking's hardcore critics, including the industry's unwillingness to reveal the chemicals included in fracking liquids and the now infamous June 3 blowout of a fracking well that spewed potentially explosive gas and 35,000 gallons of contaminated water in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tomblin balks

"Acting governor" Earl Ray Tomblin, one of industry's (coal, gambling, oil and gas, et cetera--take your pick) staunchest puppets in the entire West Virginia government, is refusing to call a special session of the legislature to regulate Marcellus Shale gas drilling.


--Michael Hasty

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Call for fracking moratorium

A number of people, including at least one West Virginia delegate, are calling for a moratorium on fracking in the state. Here's a suggestion from the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization:

Ask Governor Tomblin to Regulate Gas Drilling, or Stop Issuing New Drilling Permits!

After 60 days, legislators failed to pass legislation to regulate Marcellus Shale drilling. It’s time to call on Acting Governor Tomblin to stop issuing new drilling permits until the industry is properly regulated. We do not believe that the DEP should be issuing more new permits than it can review, inspect and enforce. Our drilling laws have not been updated in nearly 40 years.

There are only 17 inspectors for 59,000 active gas wells. Also there are 6,000 inactive conventional wells out there now that need to be plugged before the well owners go out of business. We have had at least three major well fires and explosions in the past 18 months.

The current system isn’t working! We need a special session to address the environmental and other concerns related to Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling.

Please call, e-mail or write Governor Tomblin, and send a copy to Acting Senate President Kessler and House Speaker Thompson, saying:

Dear Governor Tomblin:

I am disappointed that the Legislature was unable to reach any agreement on legislation to regulate Marcellus Shale gas drilling. It is important that you stop issuing new permits until regulations are in place to protect property owners and the enviromment, and to ensure proper enforcement and inspector staffing. It is unacceptable that West Virginians were not heard during the 2011 Legislative Session asking for protection from destructive gas drilling that is happening all over the state. Please call a special session to address environmental and other concerns related to Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling.

You can contact Governor Tomblin at:
Phone: (304) 558-2000
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
State Capitol Building
11900 Kanawha Blvd East
Charleston WV 25305

You can contact Senate President Kessler at:
Phone: (304) 357-7801
Senator Jeff Kessler
Room 227M, Building 1
State Capitol Complex
Charleston WV 25305

You can contact House Speaker Rick Thompson at:
Phone: (304) 340-3210
Delegate Rick Thompson
Room 228M, Building 1
State Capitol Complex
Charleston WV 25305

--Julie Archer
WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie Street
Charleston, WV 25311
(304) 346-5891(304) 346-8981 FAX

Monday, March 14, 2011

Defend the Dream rally

You are invited to join your friends and neighbors tomorrow (Tuesday, March 15) evening at 5:00 p.m. at our local Defend the Dream Rally at Courthouse Corner in Romney, at the light at Main and High.

This event is in solidarity with public sector workers in Madison, Wisconsin, and in several other states, that are being threatened with loss of collective bargaining rights. They may not have come for you yet, but these workers are fighting not just for their own rights, but for everyone’s rights and the future of unions, private and public. For you and your children and grandchildren, your siblings and friends.

These rallies are being held all over the country tomorrow evening. The rally will last for only about an hour; we will provide posters and flyers and handouts. Please join us. You can respond to this email or call me at 304-492-5185 if you will be able to come. Or just show up.

There will be “open mike” for anyone who would like to say a few words about their own experience or that of someone they know. We are looking for teachers, firemen and police, public employees, elected officials, social workers, unemployed or underemployed citizens.

Yes, this is short notice, so we need each of you to spread the word among friends and neighbors.

I look forward to seeing you there.

--Windy Cutler

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Marcellus bill dies

The bill being considered in the West Virginia legislature to regulate natural gas drilling in the state was not able to make it through a House/Senate conference committee in the final hours of the session last night.

There will be no new regulation of the gas industry this year, unless our acting governor calls a special session to come up with legislation.

The scenario played out exactly like it looked it would yesterday, with the Senate refusing to compromise on any of the changes the House made to the more industry-friendly Senate bill. The result confirmed the impression left by the head of the WV Oil and Natural Gas Association in yesterday's Charleston Gazette, that if the gas industry wouldn't "make a deal," that included industry's puppets in the Senate.

Of course, the legislature did manage to pass generous tax breaks for the gas industry--presumably to make sure everybody knows who's really pulling the strings in Charleston.

The failure to get any new gas drilling regulation through this year's regular session makes our effort to deal with the issue at the county level even more critical.

--Michael Hasty

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Today is the last day of the West Virginia legislature's regular session, and there is still dealing to be done on the Marcellus drilling bill.

The House of Delegates has passed its own version of SB424--a version that is not to industry's liking. The different versions will have to be reconciled in a conference committee, and then, if the House and Senate conferees can agree on wording, both houses will again have to pass the bill.

The director of the WV Oil and Natural Gas Association revealed how much control the industry actually has in the legislature when he told an Associated Press reporter that the industry can't "make a deal" with the House version. In other words, industry is able to kill a bill it won't accept.

Your "democracy" at work.

As the saying goes, the fat possums will be stalking the capitol tonight. It will be interesting to see what news tomorrow brings. At this late writing, things don't look hopeful for something good. But at least we know there are principled people in the House trying to do the right thing and look out for the public's welfare.

--Michael Hasty

Friday, March 11, 2011

Last chance for gas bill

The latest update from the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization:

URGENT - Please call or email your representatives in the House of Delegates ASAP, and ask them to “VOTE YES” on the House version of SB 424. This is our last chance to pass a bill this session to regulate drilling in the Marcellus Shale and provide additional notice, etc. to surface owners about all gas well drilling.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee amended and strengthened SB 424 and the House Finance Committee signed off on those changes today. (More details below.) It is important that your Delegates hear from you in support of a strong bill.

Please call or e-mail your Delegates and ask them to:

Support the House Judiciary Committee amendments,

Oppose any amendments to weaken the bill, and

Pass a strong bill that protects West Virginia’s surface owners, water resources, environment and natural resources, mineral owners and work force. If you e-mail, put "Please VOTE YES 424" in the subject line.

If the House passes the bill, the House and Senate will have to work out an agreement between the two versions of the bill by Saturday, when the legislative session ends. We are hopeful that the House will act on this much needed legislation.

Once you've contacted your Delegate(s), please contact your Senators and urge them to support the House version of SB 424, because it does a better job of protecting West Virginia’s surface owners, water resources, environment and natural resources, mineral owners and work force.

This may be the last time you hear from us before the legislative session ends. We hope to have good news the next time we're in touch. In the meantime, please help us keep the pressure on and thanks for all you do!

Good Provisions Amended into SB 424 by the House Judiciary Committee:

-Requiring all new oil and gas leases to have language advising the signer to consult with an attorney.

-A pre-survey notice to surface owners that applies to ALL new wells, not just to horizontal wells, and is 30 days in advance of the entry to survey.

-Requires the driller to offer to meet with the surface owner.

-Requiring horizontal wells to be 1000 feet from occupied dwellings and water wells unless the owner consents, or unless a variance (with conditions) is granted.

-Requiring horizontal wells to be 100 feet from a watercourse, pond, or wetland.

-Requiring horizontal wells to be more than 1000 feet upstream of a surface public water supply, and more than 1000 feet from groundwater public water supply.

-Allowing the state to deny or condition a horizontal well permit based on impact to parks, rare habitats, historical sites, bodies of water, etc.

-Requiring horizontal wells to be inspected during each phase of cementing, completing and altering before the company can proceed.

-Extending water well testing near horizontal wells from 1000 to 5,500 feet, if requested by the water well owner.

-- Julie Archer
WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie StreetCharleston, WV 25311
(304) 346-5891(304) 346-8981 FAX

Dear Public Servants

Dear Public Servants,

We must pass the strongest legislation possible to protect all West Virginia waters and lands, not only for ourselves, but for all generations to come. Our water is our most important currency; it's Life itself.

I have been studying this hydraulic fracturing process and the companies that are doing this for some time.

Fact #1- In every state that has agreed to this process, there have been disasters to the water supply--most recently to a river in Pennsylvania that left 850,000 with undrinkable water. Arkansas has had 800 earthquakes in 6 months (the last one a 4.7, never having had one of that magnitude before) due to this process.

Fact#2 - This industry has no uniform standards. They regulate themselves.

Fact#3 - They can use 700,000 gallons of lethal chemicals every time they fracture and up to 7,000,000 gallons of water for each fracture, and can fracture one well site 18 times.

Fact#4- The back flow containing lethal benzene as well as other extremely toxic chemicals pool back for 30 years after this process is done. There is actually an open pit or pool that is contaminating to the environment.

Fact#5 - The reason Pennsylvania's river became poisoned was because their sewage treatment plant could not break down the salts and chemicals. There needs to be a strict and proper system in place to get rid of the waste.

Fact#6 - These companies do not even have to tell you what chemicals are being used.

Fact #7- It is a lie that this will create jobs for WV. They hire very few locals for this process. They bring in their own.

I will stop here. There's actually better information on; or watch what happened in Colorado in the academy award-nominated film, "Gasland," by Josh Fox.

The gas industry will deny all of this. But they really can't. It's up to us to protect ourselves. The EPA whistleblower from Colorado in the film, "Gasland," said there was nothing he could do.

My question is, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS? Where is your vote going? You will never regret doing the right thing. Really educate yourselves about this issue. It's not going away.

Donnyl Patterson

Thursday, March 10, 2011

9/11 Initiative

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, who endorsed Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson in last year’s special election for the late Robert Byrd’s seat in the US Senate, is heading up a petition drive in California to put an initiative on the November 2012 ballot to create a state commission to fully investigate the events of September 11, 2001.

Gravel has a long history of challenging conventional wisdom. Here’s a description of his collaboration with famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, from Washington’s Blog, one of the best sites on the web to find information about global “deep politics”:

"The two main players in releasing the Pentagon Papers were Daniel Ellsberg and United States Senator Mike Gravel.

Senator Gravel is the person who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. This act made the papers public record, so that they could not be censored by the government. He was the only member of Congress courageous enough to do so.

Both Ellsberg and Gravel - like many other high-level former officials in the government and intelligence services (including many well-known whistleblowers) - support a new 9/11 investigation. Ellsberg says that the case of a certain 9/11 whistleblower is 'far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers.' (Here's some of what that whistleblower says.) He also said that the government is ordering the media to cover up her allegations about 9/11.

And he said that some of the claims concerning government involvement in 9/11 are credible, that 'very serious questions have been raised about what they [U.S. government officials] knew beforehand and how much involvement there might have been,' that engineering 9/11 would not be humanly or psychologically beyond the scope of those in office, and that there's enough evidence to justify a new, 'hard-hitting' investigation into 9/11 with subpoenas and testimony taken under oath (see this and this)."

Here is the first section of the initiative:

The 9/11 Citizens Investigation Commission Act

This measure would establish within state government the 9/11 Citizens Investigation Commission in order to conduct a citizen-based, comprehensive, and truly independent investigation into events relating to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The measure would:

(1) Grant the commission all investigatory powers of the state, including the power of subpoena;

(2) Authorize the commission to enter into a joint powers agreement with any public entity within the United States and to exercise any investigatory power of any of the contracting powers in conducting the investigation;

(3) Amend the California Constitution to appoint former United States Senator Mike Gravel as the initial Director of the 9/11 Citizens Investigation Commission, and in his absence Representative Cynthia McKinney, to ensure the political independence of the commission from government interference through the appointment process, and to provide the commission credibility with respect to the transparency of its operations;

(4) Appropriate an amount equal to $0.50 per resident of the state from the General Fund to the director to conduct and administrate the investigation;

(5) Specify conditions governing its future amendment; and

(6) Provide that if a provision of the measure is held invalid, that provision’s invalidity will not render the remainder of the measure invalid.


We, the undersigned, registered, qualified voters of California, residents of ____ County (or City and County), hereby propose amendments to the Constitution of California and the Code, and petition the Secretary of State to submit the same to the voters of California for their adoption or rejection at the next succeeding general election or at any special statewide election held prior to that general election or otherwise provided by law. (The “official summary date,” the date that the Attorney General sends the title and summary for the initiative measure to the proponent, is also the date that the Secretary of State will use to determine the calendar deadlines applicable to the measure. All requisite signatures must be received within 150 days of the official summary date. The requisite number of signatures and other qualifications for placement on the November 2, 2012 Presidential General Election ballot must be met at least 131 days before that election—May 24, 2012.) The proposed constitutional amendments read as follows:

SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the 9/11 Citizens
Investigation Commission Act.

SECTION 2. The people of the State of California find and declare all of the

(a) The events of September 11, 2001, have had a profound effect on the economic, social, and cultural well-being of Californians, and of all citizens of the United States.

(1) In the wake of that tragic day, the United States entered into the War on Terror, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. Vast amounts of the blood and treasure of the American people have been spent fighting these ongoing wars. Over 5,800 American military personnel have lost their lives in the War on Terror, and over 40,000 have been wounded. In addition, innumerable innocent civilians have also lost their lives in the War on Terror. According to a September 2, 2010, report by the federal Congressional Research Service, the cumulative total for funds appropriated in the War on Terror was $1,121,000,000,000.

(2) Since September 11, 2001, the civil liberties of Californians and other Americans have been drastically curtailed, and fundamental rights guaranteed by the United States Bill of Rights have been under attack. Government actions under the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), enacted on October 26, 2001, have trampled civil liberties and fundamental rights by, among other things, purportedly authorizing increased espionage against innocent United States citizens, and the indefinite detention of certain prisoners without charge.

(3) Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has decimated essential liberties of its citizens in the name of temporary safety, and this way of thinking has reached an absurd extent, in that suspicionless, systematic assault on its citizens has become a policy of the federal government. In November 2010, the Transportation Security Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, began implementing additional screening procedures for air travelers, including the use of invasive back-scatter X-ray scans that display nude images of the person scanned, and extensive patdowns that include the touching of the chest, genitals, and buttocks of the person inspected.

(b) Beyond these profound effects on the well-being of Californians and all United States citizens, there are other wide-ranging and substantial considerations that support the need for further investigation into the events of September 11, 2001:

(1) A false flag operation is one designed to deceive so that the operation appears as though it was carried out by another entity, rather than the actual operator, in order to foster a clandestine political effect. The history of the United States is littered with instances of the alleged use of false flag operations, especially as pretext for war or to forward a pro-war agenda. These instances include, among others, the invasion of Mexico in 1846, the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine on February 18, 1898, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, the second Gulf of Tonkin incident claimed to have occurred on August 4, 1964, and the purported existence of weapons of mass destruction as the rationale for the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003.

(2) World Trade Center Building 7, a 47-story skyscraper that was part of the World Trade Center complex, collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on September 11, 2001, and proffered explanations for the building’s failure have been widely disputed. To date, over 1,400 architectural and engineering professionals, and over 10,000 other individuals, have signed a petition, addressed to Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States of America, demanding “a truly independent investigation with subpoena power in order to uncover the full truth surrounding the events of 9/11/01 – specifically the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers and Building 7.”

(3) In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the federal government established the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, to prepare a full and complete account of, and to report on the circumstances surrounding, the attacks. However, the 9/11 Commission has been widely criticized for lacking sufficient political independence or legal authority to discharge its duties. In their book, which was co-written after the conclusion of the commission’s work, “Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission,” the commission’s Chairman, Republican Thomas H. Kean, and its Vice Chairman, Democrat Lee H. Hamilton, asserted their belief that the commission had been designed to fail. The collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 was not addressed in the 9/11 Commission’s final report.

(c) The State of California is an appropriate government entity to initiate, and to provide the legal basis for, a citizens’ investigation into the events of September 11, 2001. Californians were among those who died in the attacks of that infamous day, and many more Californians have subsequently died fighting in the War on Terror, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. Furthermore, alleged terrorist conspirators trained in California to carry out the events of September 11, 2001. Historically, California has been an economic and political leader among the states, and events relating to September 11, 2001, have drastically affected the economics and politics of both California and the country at large. For all these reasons, the initiation of a citizens’ investigation into the events of September 11, 2001, is an urgent matter of statewide concern.

(d) In order to ensure the political independence of the 9/11 Citizens Investigation Commission from government interference through the appointment process, and to provide the commission credibility with respect to the transparency of its operations, former United States Senator Mike Gravel shall serve as the initial director of the commission and, if Senator Gravel is unable to serve as the initial director, former Member of the United States House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney shall serve in that capacity.

(e) We, the people of the State of California, in solidarity with all citizens of the United States, direct the 9/11 Citizens Investigation Commission, a new investigatory commission created by this act, to conduct a citizen-based, comprehensive, and truly independent investigation into events relating to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

--Michael Hasty

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Down to the wire

As the last days of the West Virginia legislative session tick by, bills under consideration can move quickly and dramatically.

A case in point is the bill to regulate natural gas drilling in the state, which changed rather suddenly in the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, from the more industry-friendly legislation sent over from the Senate, to one that more closely reflected the environmental concerns of the House’s now-abandoned original bill. There will be further action at a Judiciary Committee meeting scheduled for this morning.

There is excellent coverage of the politics of these maneuvers, by reporter Alison Knezevich, in this morning’s Charleston Gazette.

Another reporter on the Marcellus Shale drilling beat is the New York Times’ Ian Urbina, who has done groundbreaking investigation of the problems associated with the disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater from the hydrofracking process.

His earlier stories about radioactivity in the wastewater—sent to water treatment plants in Pennsylvania, which don’t have the capacity to remove the radioactivity, then released into rivers—has drawn the attention of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which plans to monitor Pennsylvania’s drinking water more closely.

Here’s a sample of Urbina’s latest article in this series, published Monday:

“Although the state’s river monitor tests said the radioactivity in the water was at safe levels in November and December, public health experts called for broader and continual testing.

‘As long as we are going to allow oil and gas wastewater to enter these streams,’ said Conrad Volz, director of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities at the University of Pittsburgh, ‘there needs to be monitoring weekly at least for a whole host of contaminants, including radium, barium, strontium.’

Mr. Volz said that he planned to release on Wednesday [today] the results of water monitoring conducted by his team last December on wastewater discharged from a sewage treatment plant into the Blacklick River.

He said he did not test for radioactivity. But he did test for bromides, strontium, chlorides and other contaminants, and he said he found dangerous levels sometimes more than 10,000 times the safe drinking-water standard.”

--Michael Hasty

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Equal Executive Amendment

In honor of the 100th anniversary today of International Women's Day, I'd like to present an idea I've had for many years, but have never before published: an amendment to the US Constitution that seeks to bring balance to executive branch deliberations, by requiring that the offices of president and vice president be filled by opposite genders. So here's the draft:

Equal Executive Amendment
Whenever the President of the United States is male, the Vice President shall be female. Whenever the President is female, the Vice President shall be male.

An amendment like this probably has less chance of enactment than the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment did forty years ago. But decades after even a Muslim nation like Pakistan has had a woman prime minister, and women have led nations all over the world, it's a little embarrassing that (fifty years after "women's liberation") the US has still had neither a female president nor vice president.

I think it's an issue that should at the very least be a matter of public discussion. And the plain fact of the matter is, sometimes legislation (or the pursuit of legislation) does lead the way to social change.

--Michael Hasty

Boycott Koch

The Koch (pronounced "coke") brothers have bought the Supreme Court and most of Congress. And for most of the governors who are acting under Koch orders to destroy the unions and, subsequently, the middle and working classes, a feudal system is the goal.

Anyway, following is a list of some of the gas and household products produced under the Koch brothers empire – Charles and David Koch, who are working behind the scenes in Wisconsin, and on a national scale to get President Obama out of office.

Koch Industry Gasoline:
Union 76

Koch Industry/Georgia-Pacific Products:
Angel Soft toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper
Sparkle napkins
Vanity fair napkins
Zee napkins

--Windy Cutler

Monday, March 7, 2011

Marcellus action alert

The latest from Charleston via the WV Sierra Club:

On Friday, House Speaker Rick Thompson told WV Environmental Council lobbyist Leslee McCarty that the Marcellus regulation bill (now SB424) is going to be back onto the Special Calendar in the House. They intend to work the bill, maybe in Committee, but he wants to get it moving. Of course, it's a long way to go before we get a bill passed, but this is encouraging.

West Virginia legislators need to pay attention to WV voters and start ignoring the robo emails they're getting from PR flacks hired by the gas industry. Word is they got dozens of these "stop regulation" messages last week. Now it's your turn to encourage the Speaker and your delegate. Please tell them this bill (and any strengthening amendments) is the first crucial step in curtailing industry abuses and protecting our precious water and land.

A blockbuster series in the NY Times raises new questions about the dangers of Marcellus drilling. For a horrific sample of what Harrison County residents experience, go to

Full page industry ads in WV newspapers say they oppose regulation, saying the bills will restrict or eliminate drilling. Nonsense. The gas they want is under our land. Tell legislators drillers have to "do it right".

Speaker Rick Thompson's office number is 304 340 3210. You can reach him first thing Monday morning. His email is and his secretary's email

If you can do it, calling is much more effective than emailing. If you're emailing, you might use this in the subject line: "I am a WV voter - pass SB424."

You can also call toll free (1-877-565-3447) any time to record your message for Speaker Thompson, your Senators and Delegates. Call early Monday to be connected directly to their offices.

To find and contact your reps, go to
and simply type in your zip code.

The Session ends midnight this Saturday, March 12th, so this week is the last chance for you to get to the Capitol for a "face to face" with your Senators and Delegate. A lobby team member from Sierra Club, WVEC, OVEC or SORO will be there to provide you with guidance and handouts and make your visit to the capitol easy and effective. This is the most effective way to get your message across. Making appointments to meet with your reps is highly recommended. And let us know when you're coming.

Enough said. It's up to you. Thanks so much.

--Chuck Wyrostok
Sierra Club Outreach Organizer
Toll free 877 252 0257

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marcellus bill awaits House action

The latest update from the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization:

With only a week to go in the 2011 legislative session, time is running out to pass a bill to regulate Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling. On Wednesday, bills regulating Marcellus Shale gas well drilling were up for a final vote in both the House and the Senate, but only the Senate acted. The House decided to forgo further consideration of its bill, HB 2878 – the stronger of the two – in favor of the weaker Senate version, SB 424.

Although the Senate bill has some good provisions, there many good provisions in HB 2878 that we want to see incorporated into SB 424. (See details below.)

If you haven't already, please contact your delegate now and urge them to support SB 424 and any amendments that would strengthen the bill. You can call them toll free at at 1-877-565-3447.

On Thursday, SB 424 was read a first time, then placed on the regular “House Calendar” (described by one statehouse reporter as the “graveyard where bills go to expire in the waning days of a session”) as opposed to the “Special Calendar” (consideration of bills on this calendar have precedence over bills on the regular “House Calendar”). However, as of Friday, the bill was back on “Special Calendar,” and should be on second reading (amendment stage) on Monday.

It is important that your delegates hear from YOU. Please contact your delegates and ask them to pass a strong bill that will protect West Virginia’s environment.

Good Provisions in HB 2878 That Aren't in SB 424:
-Requiring all new oil and gas leases to have language advising the signer to consult with an attorney.
-A pre-survey notice to surface owners that: applies to ALL new wells, not just to horizontal wells; is 30 days in advance of the entry to survey; requires the driller to offer to meet with the surface owner.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be 1000 feet from occupied dwellings and water wells, unless the owner consents, or unless a variance (with conditions) is granted.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be 100 feet from a watercourse, pond, or wetland.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be more than 2500 feet upstream of a surface public water supply, and more than 1000 feet from groundwater public water supply.
-Allowing the state to deny or condition a horizontal “shallow” well permit based on impact to parks, rare habitats, historical sites, bodies of water, etc.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be inspected wells during each phase of cementing, completing and altering before the company can proceed.
-Extending water well testing near horizontal wells from 1000 to 5,500 feet if requested by the water well owner.
-“Local jobs for local workers” provisions.

More on the Senate Action on Marcellus Shale Legislation:
Senator Clark Barnes' (R-Randolph) attempt to strengthen the bill by eliminating the Oil and Gas Inspectors Examining Board. This board gives the industry too much influence over the hiring and firing of oil and gas inspectors. Senator Barnes' amendment would have done away with the board as well as the requirement that inspectors have industry employment history in order to be hired, and allowed DEP to hire oil and gas inspectors the same way they hire other environmental inspectors.

We're not sure if partisan politics got in the way, or if the bill being advanced to third reading with right-to-amend gave industry backers in the Senate an extra day to squelch support for the amendment, but it was defeated. Most Senate Republicans supported the amendment, with a few partisan exceptions that we are aware of, including Senators Dan Foster (D-Kanawha), Ron Miller (D-Greenbrier) and Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson).

Thank you, Senator Barnes!

-- Julie Archer
WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie StreetCharleston, WV 25311
(304) 346-5891(304) 346-8981 FAX

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Marcellus boom?

The Charleston Gazette’s outstanding environmental reporter, Ken Ward, whose impeccable investigations of the coal industry have won many awards over the years, has been turning his attention to the Marcellus Shale gas issue lately.

He put up a blog post yesterday highlighting a report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, that he noted hadn’t got enough attention in the media. The report concludes that there won’t be much of a boom from Marcellus gas; the effect will be much like the coal industry, with profits going to a few and poverty and devastation left behind. From the post:

“Among other things, the center points out that during the time period when the natural gas industry was on the rise in West Virginia (since 2002), the counties that have dominated gas production in our state have nonetheless experienced population loss, lower incomes, higher poverty and less economic diversity.

The report offers some important cautions about the gas boom:
– Annual production from a shale well declines by about 50 percent in the first year alone, and economically recoverable gas production is uncertain beyond five years.
– A boom in activity has a different impact than a slower ramp-up, providing an economic spike that is unlikely to be sustainable in the longer term.
– Expectations of wealth from development of this sort works against diversification and increases the cost of doing business in other industries.
– After the initial boom and construction phase, few jobs remain.

The report advises that state policies that mitigate negative effects on local communities and deal with environmental impacts can help.

And, it concludes that a mineral trust fund that uses revenue from increased severance taxes to promote economic diversity would be a positive step.”

In contrast to Ward’s sharp-eyed look at industry, the ironically named WV Department of Environmental Protection is pulling the same Sergeant Schultz routine (“I see nothing”) on the gas industry that it does with Big Coal.

Unlike Arkansas, which just shut down some hydrofracking operations because their connection to recent earthquakes was too much of a coincidence, West Virginia’s DEP has concluded that “coincidence” is precisely the explanation for some earthquakes in Braxton County near some recently fracked wells. Nothing to see here, people. Move on.

--Michael Hasty

Friday, March 4, 2011

Calls needed on Marcellus bill

The House has decided to forgo further consideration of HB 2878, its bill regulating natural gas drilling in West Virginia, and is planning to take up SB 424, which was passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

Please call or e-mail your representatives in the House of Delegates ASAP. This is our last chance to pass a bill this session to regulate Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling.
You can call your delegate toll free at at 1-877-565-3447.

It is imperative that your delegates hear from YOU. There is a coordinated effort by some in the industry to stop the bill, saying, “Vote No,” and “the future of the industry and West Virginia’s economy are at stake.” We've heard that legislators are receiving hundreds of these messages – but very few from concerned citizens in support of a strong bill regulating Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling.

Please contact your delegates and ask them to pass a strong bill that will protect West Virginia’s:
Surface Owners
Water Resources
Environment and Natural Resources
Mineral Owners
Work Force

Contact your delegate now. Thank you!

-- Julie Archer
WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie StreetCharleston, WV 25311
(304) 346-5891(304) 346-8981 FAX

NYT followup

Last Sunday's very influential New York Times article on hydrofracking is followed up today with an article from the same reporter, Ian Urbina. Here's a sample:

"Nor has recycling eliminated environmental and health risks. Some methods can leave behind salts or sludge highly concentrated with radioactive material and other contaminants that can be dangerous to people and aquatic life if they get into waterways.

Some well operators are also selling their waste, rather than paying to dispose of it. Because it is so salty, they have found ready buyers in communities that spread it on roads for de-icing in the winter and for dust suppression in the summer. When ice melts or rain falls, the waste can run off roads and end up in the drinking supply.

Yet in Pennsylvania, where the number of drilling permits for gas wells has jumped markedly in the last several years, in part because the state sits on a large underground gas formation known as the Marcellus Shale, such waste remains exempt from federal and state oversight, even when turned into salts and spread on roads.

When Pennsylvania regulators tried to strengthen state oversight of how drilling wastewater is tracked, an industry coalition argued vehemently against it. Three of the top state officials at a meeting on the subject have since left the government — for the natural-gas industry."

A link to the series:

--Submitted by Windy Cutler