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Oklahoma Earthquakes Shaking Up Fracking Politics

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Earthquakes in Oklahoma are shaking up the politics of its natural gas friendly state government. According to a June 27th article in Energy Wire, Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission, under public pressure, will start collecting information and test data on underground injection wells.

The problem is that Oklahoma have become seismically active. Between the months of October and May Oklahoma had more magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes (189) than California (with 139). Other reports state that the number of quakes in Oklahoma is double the number in Caliphornia. The locations of the quakes closely correspond with fracking sites. State regulators say to need more evidence of the correlation despite the stack of scientific, peer reviewed studies supporting the correlations.

Energy Wire report:

The U.S. Geological Survey reported 40 earthquakes greater than magnitude 2.5 around the world yesterday as of midafternoon — six of them were in Oklahoma and three were outside this suburb of Oklahoma City.

“You can hear them coming,” said Mary Ternes, who lives near Edmond. “You can hear the rumble and then the house shakes.”

The largest quake so far measured 5.7 and killed two people back in 2011, but the risk of higher magnitude quakes is growing.

While Oklahoman’s are beginning to come out in significant numbers to public hearings to complain, state officials and regulators are taking starting to take the first step to address their concerns.

Energy Wire:

New rules on injection wells, approved by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin last week, will require operators to perform more frequent mechanical integrity tests of disposal wells and keep daily records of the amount of fluids they inject and the pressures they use.

Meanwhile, Skinner said, state regulators have told operators to shut in several injection wells for minor violations such as excessive pressure. The Corporation Commission also held formal hearings on two injection wells proposed near existing faults and asked the operators to do additional monitoring as a condition of approval. Previously, most injection well permits were approved administratively.

According to The Oklahoman newspaper about four-hundred worried resident of Edmond, Oklahoma came out to a meeting this past Thursday evening to express their fear and concerns. Many of them had been awakened by a magnitude 3.5 quake near Edmond in the wee hours of that same morning.

The Oklahoman report:

Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland said there is no way to know what has caused the unprecedented increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, although several studies have linked temblors to oil and natural gas activity, particularly wastewater injection wells.

 

Many residents were no happy with the answers they got at the meeting.

 

the problem isn’t just happening in Oklahoma it’s happening in Texas and Ohio and many other states where fracking operations are taking place. Alan Brundrett, the mayor of a small town call Azle, in North Texas, said his town has experienced an unusual number of earthquakes. He is upset by the lack of data and transparency of local fracking operations that make it hard to assess the issues.

 

According to an Al Jazeera report:

Brundrett said the Texas Railroad Commission would not draw a link between fracking activities and earthquakes in the meeting, but promised to investigate the matter further.

Ramona Nye, who handles media relations for the Railroad Commission, told Al Jazeera in an emailed statement that the agency “does not have the jurisdictional authority to shut down an injection well based only on the presence of a nearby earthquake.

“There has been no scientific proof that a specific well or wells have caused the Azle-area earthquakes,” she said, adding that the commission had hired a seismologist in April who is working to determine any links between fracking and earthquakes.

 

State geologists in Ohio have already made the case that the quake activity there is the result of fracking activity.

 

According to a report from International Business Times:

Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals down into wells and horizontal pipes to crack open rock and extract oil and gas. Often, the wastewater created is dumped back into the ground, which according to the U.S. Geological Survey, is linked to a sixfold increase in earthquakes from 2000 to 2011. [snip]

ast month, Ohio regulators indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracking operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, one of 3.0 magnitude, rattled Ohioans.

 

According to Oil Price.Com, an oil and energy news site:

In March, 2014. there was a study entitled “Potentially induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, USA: Links between wastewater injection and that 2011 Mw 5.7 earthquake sequence,” [snip]The study

focused its research on seismic activity in Oklahoma over the past two years and concluded that a 4.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Prague on 5 November 2011, was “induced” by the injection wells. Two subsequent earthquakes, including a 5.7-magnitude “event” the following day, was the biggest in contemporary state history, were caused by the first earthquake and existing tectonic stresses in the earth.

 

The growing body of scientific evidence and the growing public concern about fracking are reaching a critical mass and even the most business friendly politicians are starting to feel the ground shift.

 

 

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“Serve and Protect” or “Enforce and Collect” The Changing Character of Local PD

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Police officers come in two basic flavors, the “serve and protect” peace officers and the “enforce and collect” enforcement officers. These represent (in the overly simplified terms used here) two fundamentally different and incompatible philosophies that are competing for the heart and soul of the profession. I needn’t mention which view is winning out since 9/11. Still, the drama playing out among departments also plays out within departments, which might help account for some of the reasons behind the article below. You might not see it at first, but so often the emotional motivations behind what seems like petty disputes are really underlying rifts involving fundamentally different world views. That’s what I suspect is happening here in New Jersey and elsewhere around the country.

http://j.mp/1nP5kBV

Good Cop, Bad Cop: How Infighting is Costing NJ Taxpayers

Police officers across the state are suing fellow cops and departments over everything from sexual harassment to being sent home for wearing the wrong shoes — and residents are footing the bill. We unearthed the details, and the latest tally.

In the opening account in this article a female officer in Camden is made Chief of Police. When she inspects the unmarked car that comes with the job she discovers that one of her fellow officers planted crack cocaine in the car to derail her promotion and her life. Incidents like this reveal just how serious the clash of ideologies can be within public police departments.

I had a good friend who spent his entire career in local police departments. He dedicated himself to serving the public. Sometimes that meant arresting people who endangered others or disturbed the peace, but it also meant going the extra mile to help out a resident in a pinch. In smaller towns and communities it isn’t all bad guys all the time. He was never cynical or jaded by his work, but his philosophy on small town policing set him at odds with a segment of his fellow officers. It played out in many internal conflicts and unfavorable personnel decisions over the course of his career. In the end he retired early in part because of the hostility he felt in the workplace.

I have other police officer friends, even some who are of the “enforce and collect” variety who received negative attention in their careers when they strayed a bit from that philosophy. Another person I know who aspires to be a police officer was turned off by the militancy and hardnosed cynicism that has been built into the police training curriculum. Just what does the current police training curriculum look like these days? The public has a right to know.

What all this really means is that the drama playing out in society as a whole between ultra-conservative ideologies and more liberal ideologies is also playing out in all our institutions, including police agencies. Local departments are not immune to what affects society as a whole. What’s different here is that even small, local police departments shun transparency. While they work for the public they tend to view us as civilians outside of their fraternity. It is hard to penetrate a Departments cultural view. At the same time, there is clearly money and military style equipment flowing into even local law enforcement agencies, which serves to alter the character of local policing.

These changes are real. What is missing, in addition to transparency, is a robust public debate on what role we want local police to play in our communities. Are we aware of the changes character of our local police departments and are we comfortable with those changes?

Kids in Cages – Refugee Crisis at Our Border

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

It is It was Father’s Day and I was still haunted by story I hear about earlier this week. Over 70,000 children a year are coming across the US border from places like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, many of whom are unaccompanied minors. The United States is forced to house these children in temporary detention facilities under very difficult conditions. The situation is desperate as federal agencies and facilities designed to house adults races to accommodate the special needs of young children.

On All In with Chris Hayes, José Diaz Balart reported about the humanitarian crisis at the US Mexican border. Unaccompanied minors are crossing the border in record numbers, sometimes as many as 300 a day. Some of these children are as young as 18 months old. But also, there are couples trying to cross the border with their children who are being met by members of Mexico’s drug cartel that take one of the parents hostages for ransom, allowing the other parent and children to cross into the States.

Balart also reported on the conditions that are creating these developments. One Guatemalan mother told him gang violence in her country is so bad that when their daughters reach puberty, gang members will come in and either rape them, kill them, or take them as their property. These parents feel they have no option but to send their children across the border to safety. When US officials try to interview young children to learn who their parents are it is not unusual for 4 and 5 years to not know their parents names or the name of the towns in which they lived. In some cases, trying to reunite children with their families is impossible.

While we flounder around once again in Iraq and other foreign lands with oil resources of interest, we are ignoring the deteriorating humanitarian situations in our own hemisphere. The immigration issues we face are usually couched in protectionist language when the root of the problem is really about promoting growth and stability in foreign countries much closer to home.

We need to direct more resources and attention on foreign aid and international diplomacy among our Latin American neighbors. The social and economic conditions in these countries have reach a crisis proportions. Our immigration problem is a massive refugee problem that our politics and the media isn’t addressing. The answers to real immigration reform fall well beyond the scope of our current political dialogue.

De-Cantoring Big Business

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

EricCantorWallst

The defeat of Eric Cantor in his primary, and the article below, is instructive because it illuminates the growing populist enmity towards politicians who serve business interests over voter interests. This is at the heart of the growing rift in the Republican party. The GOP establishment serves the interests of Big business over all else and almost mockingly manipulate ordinary voter segments and the small business owners they claim as their base.

The beltway seems baffled by this, but the trend has been clear for some time. Putting people first in politics will be key to winning over the real voter base of both parties going forward. And peeling off small business owners by promoting specific policies that support them and level their playing field against corporate abuses is an essential element for Democrats. Democrats should be the champions of small community business leaders and ordinary citizens. They should be resist the growing corporate influence over government and our lives (without being overtly hostile).

Campaign funding should also be as populist and grass roots as possible, or at least have that as a prominent feature. People should be able to contribute small donations to their candidate’s campaign on line using their pay pal accounts, or they should be able to text a contribution on their smart phone. This not only sets the right tone, it takes action against the influence of big money in politics even if particular  campaign must still rely on big donors..  But note that in this race Eric Cantor outspent Brat by a  40 to 1 ratio.  The strength of Brats message overcame this huge spending advantage.

As I tweeted earlier today in reference to Cantor: In drawing democrat-proof districts the GOP created congressional district that are toxic to traditional conservative Republicans as well. And traditional conservative Republicans are virtually all big business Republicans. So there is a clear message here for all Democratic candidates. Stop cozening up with corporations and start representing real people.

If Democrats messaging can thread this needle they may be able to pick up disaffected moderate Republican votes while making it harder for radical right-wing Republican’s to vote for GOP supporter of ever more crony capitalism.

Here is a snip of the Nation’s article by John Nicols:

from The Nation

Breaking news and analysis of politics, the economy and activism.

Eric Cantor Defeated by a Conservative Who Rips Crony Capitalism

John Nichols on June 11, 2014 – 12:21 AM ET

 

http://www.thenation.com/blog/180189/eric-cantor-defeated-conservative-who-rips-crony-capitalism#

The DC-insider storyline about this being a great year for the Republican establishment is undergoing a rapid rewrite. For the first time since the post was formally established in 1899, a House majority leader has been defeated in a bid for renomination. And as political prognosticators, Republican stalwarts and savvy Democrats search for explanations, they are being forced to consider complexities they had not previously entertained — including the prospect of conservatives who are ready and willing to criticize big business.

Eric Cantor, the face of the GOP establishment, one of the party’s most prodigious fundraisers and the odds-on favorite to become the next speaker of the House, lost his Virginia Republican primary Tuesday to a challenger who promised, “I will fight to end crony capitalist programs that benefit the rich and powerful.”

 

Dave Brat, who defeated the number-two Republican in the House by a 56-44 margin, tore into big business almost as frequently as he did the incumbent. “I am running against Cantor because he does not represent the citizens of the 7th District, but rather large corporations seeking insider deals, crony bailouts and a constant supply of low-wage workers,” declared the challenger.

 

Image credit: www.businessinsider.com