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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Democracy vs. corporations

A clever 8-minute film laying out why last year's US Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. FEC, which extended the same first amendment free speech rights to corporations that the Framers meant to apply only to actual "persons," is so destructive to American democracy.

--Submitted by Dottie Eddis

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sensible tax policy

Richard Wolff, an economist we’ve discussed here before, has an article out explaining how the richest one percent of Americans has been ripping everyone else off for the past thirty years, and why taxing the rich is a good idea. Here’s his conclusion:

“First, a good part of the money the rich save from taxes is then lent by them to the government (in the form of buying US Treasury securities for their personal investment portfolios). It would obviously be better for the government to tax the rich to maintain its expenditures, and thereby avoid deficits and debts. Then the government would not need to tax the rest of us to pay interest on those debts to the rich.

Second, the richest Americans take the money they save from taxes and invest big parts of it in China, India and elsewhere. That often produces more jobs over there, fewer jobs here, and more imports of goods produced abroad. US dollars flow out to pay for those imports and so accumulate in the hands of foreign banks and foreign governments. They, in turn, lend from that wealth to the US government because it does not tax our rich, and so we get taxed to pay for the interest Washington has to give those foreign banks and governments. The largest single recipient of such interest payments today is the People's Republic of China.

Third, the richest Americans take the money they don't pay in taxes and invest it in hedge funds and with stockbrokers to make profitable investments. These days, that often means speculating in oil and food, which drives up their prices, undermines economic recovery for the mass of Americans, and produces acute suffering around the globe. Those hedge funds and brokers likewise use part of the money rich people save from taxes to speculate in the US stock markets. That has recently driven stock prices higher: hence, the stock market recovery. And that mostly helps – you guessed it – the richest Americans who own most of the stocks...

Cutting the taxes on the rich in no way guarantees social benefits from what they may choose to do with their money. Indeed, their choices can worsen economic conditions for the mass of people. These days, that is exactly what they are doing.”

--Michael Hasty

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Capitol crunch time

An important update from the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization:

Please contact your representative(s) in the House of Delegates and urge passage of HB 2878 regulating Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling. Although the bill addresses some of our concerns but not others, it must pass the House by Wednesday to remain active this session.

The goal is to keep the discussion about problems related to Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling alive, and to work to improve the bill over the next two weeks. Currently, the House bill is stronger, and its passage will put us in better position when the House and Senate reconcile the final product.

Please call or e-mail delegates and urge them to support the bill. (If you can do it, calling is more effective than emailing.)

Your support is crucial to making regulation of Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling a reality.

Please contact your delegates now.

Thank you!

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

Pro Publica gas drilling guide

The investigative team at the website, Pro Publica, taking note of the major article the New York Times published on Sunday documenting problems with hydro-fracking, has published a guide to the 15 most important articles it's published over the last couple of years on natural gas drilling, in its "Buried Secrets" series.