Committee to Ban Fracking protests in Lansing

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People from around the state in the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan organized a protest in Lansing on October 29 while the Michigan DNR auctioned off more acres of mineral rights to the frackers.

Anti-Fracking Group Protests Sale of Oil and Gas Rights on State-Owned Land

TV 10 covered the event here.

The Committee is working on a ballot initiative campaign to ban fracking and frack wastes and could use your donation today! Go here to donate.

And you can keep up with the ballot initiative on Facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/CommitteeToBanFrackingInMichigan

Marathon Oil may have purchased most of the auction’s acreage

From Michigan Oil and Gas News, reporting on the auction:

  • “Bidders believed to be representing Marathon Oil Co. dominated the Oct. 29, 2014 auction sale of state of Michigan-owned minerals at the Lansing Center, picking up more than 148,000 of the 152,629.16 acres successfully bid.”
  • “All but 164 of the parcels successfully bid were at the minimum $10 per acre, which helped keep the overall average bid per acre at only $17.15 per acre.”
  • “The news that Marathon Oil Co. — founded in 1887 as the Ohio Oil Co. — had recently completed a transaction in which it acquired Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.’s Michigan asset marks the return of one of the state’s oldest and most storied producer/operator after an absence of 15 years.”

Below is the Committee’s press release for more information about the ballot initiative:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2014
Contact: LuAnne Kozma, Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan

(231) 944-8750 luanne@letsbanfracking.org

Ballot initiative to ban fracking supporters to protest in Lansing
Charlevoix, Michigan – The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a statewide ballot initiative campaign (www.letsbanfracking.org), will gather outside the Lansing Center (in downtown Lansing) tomorrow, October 29, to protest the Michigan DNR’s twice-annual auction of state-owned mineral rights. The event takes place Wednesday from 7:00 am to noon. The auction begins at 9:00 am.
The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is a ballot question committee that collected over 70,000 signatures in 2013 for a statewide ban on fracking and frack wastes. The Committee’s proposal is not on this November’s ballot. The group is working on placing it on the next statewide ballot in 2016.
“The State’s role in creating more fracking starts with the DNR auction of mineral rights,” said LuAnne Kozma, the Committee’s campaign director. “In addition to receiving royalties from the gas and oil industry for leasing mineral rights, the State also receives income from the production of oil and gas,[1] and is required by state law to ‘foster the development of the industry along the most favorable conditions,’[2] part of the current law our ballot initiative will overturn along with a ban on fracking and frack wastes.”
The group cites the continued push by the frack industry, supported by the State, in approving radioactive frack sludge from other states at a waste facility in Van Buren
Township in Wayne County,[3] the start of new pipelines that will bring fracked gas through the state,[4] and new natural gas plants proposed in Marquette and Gaylord. The fracking giant Encana recently sold its mineral rights to energy giant Marathon.[5]

“Nearly every day, Michiganders are facing a new threat from the frack industry as the State government helps industry turn our beautiful state into Gasland, whether it’s from radioactive frack waste or new natural gas plants. All of this industrialization is going to exacerbate climate change and health impacts,” said Kozma.
The DNR will auction off more state-owned mineral rights on thousands of acres in the following counties: Arenac, Clare, Crawford, Gladwin, Grand Traverse, Ingham, Isabella, Kalkaska, Manistee, Midland, Missaukee, Montmorency, Oceana, Osceola, Presque Isle, and Roscommon.

Public notice about the auction here:http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/ProposedPubNotice_464073_7.pdf

Michigan DNR site about the auction here:

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10368_11800-169044–,00.html

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s brochure here:

http://www.letsbanfracking.org/images/CBFM%20_2014_brochure_with%20links_FINAL.pdf

# # #
[1] MCL 205.303

[2] MCL 324.61502

[3] Series of articles at www.banmichiganfracking.org: http://banmichiganfracking.org/?p=2455

[4] Detroit Free Press, “Rival Projects Compete for OK to Build Gas Pipelines,” October 12, 2014. http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/columnists/tom-walsh/2014/10/12/tom-walsh-dueling-pipelines/17046379/

[5] Midland Daily News, “Fracking Michigan, Here We Go Again,” October 13, 2014. http://www.ourmidland.com/opinion/editorials/fracking-michigan—-here-we-go-again/article_69726cb9-a734-5afd-90f2-3c60f424263c.html

Radioactive frack sludge moved from Pennsylvania to who knows where

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by LuAnne Kozma

Word is just in from people on the ground in Pennsylvania that the 36 tons of radioactive frack sludge, that we reported on in August (here and here) and September, were moved yesterday from the impoundment site in Washington County where they have been stored in limbo for many months.

Radioactive frack sludge in Washington County, held for months at a Range Resource waste impoundment site, is now off the site and gone to who knows where. Submitted photo.

The material was approved by the Michigan DEQ for shipment to Michigan last August to Michigan/Wayne Disposal, a private processing and landfill facility in Van Buren Township near Belleville. After our reporting and subsequent publicity in the Detroit Free Press, the company, now owned by frack waste giant US Ecology, agreed to temporarily halt further shipments of radioactive waste pending a review of procedures by a governor-appointed TENORM panel. Theoretically, the approval has still been granted and it wouldn’t be illegal for it to be brought to the Michigan facility, just perhaps not politically acceptable.

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the shipment is likely not coming here to Michigan, due to the ongoing voluntary action by US Ecology. Ken Yale, who I spoke to yesterday, said he didn’t think that the company would risk taking the 36 tons from PA during their self-imposed moratorium when they are taking in over 400,000 tons per year of hazardous wastes.

Today I contacted Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection for some answers. As of 4:00 pm they have have not called back with a reply as to where the waste is going, after I spoke with someone in the Communications department.

Where the wastes are going, however, is anyone’s guess.

In other news, the application or request by US Ecology to take in waste at higher radiation levels at the Van Buren County Wayne Disposal Facility has been withdrawn, according to DEQ’s Ken Yale. Ban Michigan Fracking paid for a copy of that application or proposal through a Freedom of Information Act request and we are still awaiting its arrival.

 

No public representative on Michigan radioactive frack waste TENORM panel

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Meetings in Secret

Remember the panel the Governor set up to review the state’s disposal procedures on radioactive frack waste? Well, it’s meeting already, but meetings are not open to the public.

Apparently the panel members were named and the panel got started without fanfare, and without the public being allowed to attend its first meeting on September 22.

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan members protest outside frack waste facility near Belleville, August 2014.

Ken Yale, the head of the DEQ’s Radiological division, who is also on the panel, told me yesterday that because they are a “pre-deliberative body” the state is not required to hold public meetings in accordance with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

The Governor’s TENORM waste panel has a former DEQ radiology employee as representing “the public” 

And there’s another blow to transparency and public participation. One panel member was to represent the DEQ–and that’s Ken Yale himself. Another member was to represent the public. According to this September 22 press release by the DEQ, it lists Dave Minnaar, of Middleville, as the person “representing the public.”

Minnaar isn’t from the affected communities near frack waste sites, and he’s not simply someone from “the public.” In fact, he’s a former DEQ employee. Minnaar was one of the contributing specialists to the report An Assessment of the Disposal of Petroleum Industry NORM in Nonhazardous Landfills, which brought us the disposal standards the State is now using, along with his co-worker Bob Skwronek, who today makes the approvals on the radioactive wastes coming in to Michigan.

In this Argus-Press news article from January 1990, Blanchard says Michigan can handle nuke waste, Minnaar is quoted as the deputy chief of radiological health for the state Department of Health, saying that Low Level Radioactive Waste storage facilities (being proposed back then) pose no threat to public health. The group that fought the Low Level Radioactive Waste site during those years, Don’t Waste Michigan is also quoted in the story. I contacted an activist involved in that fight yesterday and he remembers Minnaar as one of the biggest salesman for the nuke dump.

Minnaar was one of the key DEQ employees who handled the bizarre incident in 1994-95 of the “radioactive Boy Scout,” a Detroit area teenager who assembled and worked with highly radioactive materials in his backyard. In the clean-up, the most radioactive materials, including radium and thorium, were thrown away into the household refuse (and into a local landfill) by his parents before the DEQ had the chance to haul away a bunch of barrels out west for disposal.

Expertise aside, as a former DEQ employee responsible for overseeing the very disposal methods the state uses, this appointment is not the same as having someone “from the public” on the panel.

But as DEQ spokesperson Brad Wurfel has already declared, this panel’s recommendations are a forgone conclusion anyway: “the review panel will conclude that existing Michigan standards are appropriate.” Wurfel’s admission that this is a charade is quite bald.

 

After the huge climate march

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The People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday September 21 was seen by many as a turning point for the climate movement. It definitely was a start. Four hundred thousand people walked, an amazing number, ten times the size of the previous climate march in Washington in February 2013.

Organizers say there were 1574 participating organizations, 630,000 social media posts, and 5200 articles written.  Around the world 2646 allied events took place in 162 countries.

The organizers’ video features some good footage, however, optimistically ending with Obama speaking to the UN saying leaders “have to answer the call” (yet… the president continues an all-of-the-above-energy policy and is pushing fracking and natural gas across the US and globally.)

The New York Times featured the worldwide events the next day on the front page, noting that this summer “was the hottest on record for the globe, and that 2014 was on track to break the record for the hottest year, set in 2010.” (Yet one week later on September 27, an activist noted the same paper did not have a single article on #climate).

The two-mile-long march was led by indigenous people and frontline communities — those most immediately impacted by climate change.  The line stepped off from Broadway and Columbus Circle at 11:30 am.

An hour and a half later, we in the anti-frack contingent a mile to the north on Central Park West waited for the backward sweep of the starting signal to reach us.  At that moment, a 2-minute lull of eerie silence fell upon the procession — signaled in advance by organizers’ text messages.

Then followed an amazing sound.  At first it was like like a careening jet airplane, faint but scary.  It increased exponentially, becoming human as it surged toward us through the crowd, an overwhelming wave of voices, erupting finally around us, in a massive and sustained ecstatic communal roar. Soon we were on our way.

Photo by Ban Michigan Fracking

The crowd featured majestic banners, pageantry, diversity, young people of color, political and diplomatic officials, victims of superstorm Sandy, labor unions, grassroots enviro groups, Big Greens, celebrities, socialists, anarchists, homeless, and everyone else. There was a remarkable humanitarian and internationalist spirit.

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan volunteers walk with film maker Josh Fox. Photo by L. Kozma

 

Activists in the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan were among 400 people from Michigan at the march, including 322 that came in seven buses and 40 in four vans.

Converging for climate with other grassroots activists

On Friday and Saturday before the march, the Global Climate Convergence (endorsed by Ban Michigan Fracking), a two-day conference organized by grassroots activists held in lower Manhattan, offered over 100 workshops and two plenaries, attended by 2500 people, including a session on “Frack Bans with Teeth” by BMF’s LuAnne Kozma on the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s ballot initiative.

In contrast to the goals of the March, the Climate Convergence Conference called for people, planet, and peace over profit.  More particularly:  full employment, 100% clean renewable energy, universal free healthcare and education, securing the global food supply, economic democracy, demilitarization, and end to mass incarceration and deportations, political democracy, civil liberties, and support for peace, human rights, and rights of Mother Earth.

At #FloodWallStreet, photo by LuAnne Kozma.

 

On Monday, also in contrast to the March, over 2000 protesters acted to #FloodWallStreet to disrupt business as usual and highlight the financial sector’s role in climate change. Ban Michigan Fracking also took part in this action. There were over 100 arrests, including an activist in a polar bear outfit (Frostpaw by Center for Biological Diversity), who was handcuffed and arrested. One scene from #FloodWallStreet (video by Ban Michigan Fracking. Click to see video): IMG_1550 Mic check

Going Beyond Extreme Energy

Similar marches continue, such as http://climatemarch.org. Grassroots groups at Converge for Climate called for System Change, Not Climate change. Popular Resistance calls for larger and escalated action on climate change, starting with a week of action in Washington DC on November 1-7 for Beyond Extreme Energy. A call to retire fossil fuels, this action calls on the government “to drop its ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. Extreme energy extraction–fracking, tar sands, deep ocean drilling, Arctic drilling, mountaintop removal — of the last fossil fuels condemns us to ravaged landscapes, poisoned water, and weather convulsions.”

Ban Michigan Fracking’s purpose is to educate and advocate so that we stop fostering fossil fuels and in particular, stop the frack industry here as part of the overall movement to ban the frack industry globally.

A cultural shift is needed, too. Most people are dubious of corporations and of government, the main creators of the climate problem in the first place.  But equally, most people don’t have a clear political vision, and have no objection to the political elite and corporate executives who joined the march.

Our country has a conservative ideology and political system, and a culture of acquisitive individualism.  To save the planet and ourselves, the majority will have to rise against the few whose commitment is to money and power.  Only such a transformation will allow the technical solutions to flower.

We have a world to win.

CH4 and CO2 models getting tossed around at the People's Climate March.