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PART III: Calling for Reinforcements from Behind Enemy Lines in the Fight Against Keystone XL
[Editor's note: Thanks to Michael Bishop for providing EcoWatch this firsthand account of what happens when a company like TransCanada claims eminent domain on one's property and begins building a tar sands pipeline—the southern leg of the Keystone XL. Unfortunately, this is one of many examples of corporations putting profits before human health and the environment in pursuit of extreme fossil fuel extraction. The good news is that people like Michael Bishop are fighting back. This is the third of a four-part series. Read Part I, Part II and Part IV.]
To recap where we left off … After losing the condemnation hearing, my attorney filed an appeal and we moved forward. Under Texas law, TransCanada has the right to proceed with construction; a law that I question and challenge. After the condemnation suit, they filed a writ of possession and had all rights to the property they had condemned. In the interim, the Texas Veterans Land Board (TVLB), represented by Megan Neal of the Texas Attorney General's office began speaking with my attorney regarding a "settlement." I received an email from my attorney in March 2012 telling me that she and Megan Neal were negotiating a settlement with TransCanada and that if I did not accept it, the TVLB would "foreclose" on my property. I became irate.
I had not been in default, was not in arrears and had not violated any terms or conditions of the mortgage to warrant "foreclosure." In spite of the threat, the "pending agreement for settlement" never came and I watched the survey crews from TransCanada begin their preliminary work on my property.
This included a bulldozer that began moving dirt to lay out the pathway for the pipeline. I felt betrayed by the very state legislature that I thought was there to protect me, betrayed by the elected officials that I actually helped elect into office, and betrayed by the regulatory agencies that had a mandate to protect human health and safety as well as the ground and surface water in my state. The work continued daily and my thought was that I was being invaded by a foreign entity and no one would help me.
I questioned the business acumen of TransCanada's decision to begin construction without having settled all of the legal issues they were facing. If I were a stockholder, it would be of great concern to me that the CEO of this firm was moving forward with a project that had multiple, pending lawsuits in several states and an overall negative impression of this company by the public. The company has a definitive history of lying to landowners and in many cases, "bullying" them into submission through questionable tactics.
I finally received an email and phone call from my attorney on Nov. 7, 2012 advising me that a mediation hearing had been requested by TransCanada and that I must be in Austin, Texas on Nov. 9. I attended that meeting with Johnnie Johnson, my former business partner who was leasing land from me for her biorefinery to manufacture two renewable fuels, biodiesel and ethanol.
We began the negotiation at 9 a.m. and ended around 3 p.m. that day. I had refused to take offers that were made but in the end, the mediation attorney and my attorney came into the room to explain that Megan Neal with the Attorney General's office and James Freeman, the attorney for TransCanada were present and if I did not "accept their final offer," the TVLB would foreclose on my property. I am 64 years of age and was scheduled to begin medical school in January 2013, I have a wife with severe medical problems who was recently diagnosed with dementia and a 16-year-old daughter in high school. Again, I became irate and questioned the legality of this threat of foreclosure. I immediately felt helpless and thought that all three of them were in collusion. I took the offer under coercion and extreme duress but told my former partner that when this was settled, I would sue them and sue the state of Texas.
The minute this business was settled, title to the property was transferred and foreclosure was not in my future, I took legal action. This has been a long and frustrating effort but I did manage, for three days, to shut down their work on my property through a temporary restraining order (TRO). All of the facts, supported by sworn affidavit, were presented to Judge Sinz of the Nacogdoches County Court at Law—the same judge we have been in front of from the beginning of this battle. He agreed with me as to the need and reasons for a TRO and signed the order, shutting down their work until a hearing on the facts was held.
TransCanada requested an emergency hearing three days later and the judge acted as though he had never met me and dissolved the TRO and I knew then that the fight was far from over. I also knew at that point, the system was in harmony with TransCanada, for whatever reason. This may sound conspiratorial and paranoid but the evidence is overwhelming and I am not one that believes in “coincidence,” especially when it repeats itself multiple times.
I had also filed a suit against the Railroad Commission of Texas, the permitting agency for TransCanada Keystone Pipeline XL, L.P. It was also my intention, after researching the rules and circumstances around the Army Corps of Engineers permitting for the southern leg of the pipeline, to file a suit against that agency as well.
President Obama denied this firm a permit to cross the border and build in Nebraska because of the threat or potential threat to the Ogallala Aquifer. What many people don’t know, however, is that he issued an executive order to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the southern leg of this very same pipeline.
This was done in spite of the classification of the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer that supplies all of East Texas. It is classified by the Department of Transportation as a Class 1C aquifer, ultra-sensitive area (USA). It has the same classification as the Ogallala but the President is ignoring our concerns and even went to Cushing, Oklahoma for a photo op, where he stood in front of the TransCanada pipe that is now being laid in Texas. This is an abomination and is political hypocrisy.
Regardless of whom you supported for President, you must be concerned about the future of our water supply. TransCanada has had 14 leaks in the past year and one of them was 10,000 gallons of bitumen or tar sands "oil." If you will recall, the Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan shut down 35 miles of river, contaminated the drinking water of a small town, spilled more than 1 million gallons of this toxic mess into that river and has cost hundreds of millions in clean up. To add insult to injury, it has not been completely remediated, given that bitumen is heavier than water and sinks to the bottom of the water. And yet, our government blindly supports this project. Why? Follow the money.
This pipeline is crossing more than 1,000 waterways, including six rivers right here in Texas and it is not a matter of if but when this pipeline will leak. As I have stated before, God help us all when this happens. And yet, there is only silence on the part of our elected officials and regulators. Lawyers circle the wagons and throw legal technicalities to keep my suit, and others, from being heard by a jury. TransCanada fears us and fears that our efforts will prevail. When they lose in court, it will be their own fault. The truth cannot be hidden and in the end, we will win a victory for the environment, for the Constitutional patriots in this country and against the massive corruption surrounding this project.
I am amazed by the lack of understanding about this project by the general public and even more amazed that people in other parts of the country are so focused on the "northern segment" while the pipeline is actually being laid right here in Texas and will begin transporting diluted bitumen, tar sands crude oil, to Gulf Coast refineries by the end of the year. So many seem oblivious to this fact.
My former business partner and my sons just formed a non-profit corporation called Landowners Against TransCanada Pipeline to assist landowners in the U.S. The website and purpose of the corporation will be published and advertised in the next week but the primary purpose is to raise money to fight TransCanada legally. TransCanada has an immense budget and financial resources. Landowners like myself do not have the financial resources and are relying on the help and kindness of people who are opposed to this project for reasons of sovereignty, arguing against eminent domain, arguing that this project will be a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and that the material to be transported is highly corrosive and toxic.
This is a real war. Those of us behind enemy lines are anxious for reinforcements to arrive.
Tom Weis served as contributing editor in this series.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
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The depths of the oceans are heating up more slowly than the surface and the air, but that will undergo a dramatic shift in the second half of the century, according to a new study. Researchers expect the rate of climate change in the deep parts of the oceans could accelerate to seven times their current rate after 2050, as The Guardian reported.
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By Joni Sweet
Should you skip your annual checkup? The answer would have been a resounding "no" if you asked most doctors before the pandemic.
But with the risk of COVID-19, the answer isn't so clear anymore.
Are States Allowing Preventive Care Visits?<p>First things first: If you're experiencing a medical emergency, don't delay treatment.</p><p>While there's the potential that you could be <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/hai/data/portal/index.html" target="_blank">exposed to infections at the emergency room</a>, the health risks of avoiding urgent medical care could be far more severe.</p><p>Hospitals have also implemented precautionary measures, like distributing masks to patients, that help cut down the risk of viral exposure.</p><p>Now that that's out of the way, is it possible to start catching up on routine healthcare appointments, like physicals and dental cleanings?</p><p>"Different places are in different stages of opening up," said <a href="https://www.methodisthealth.org/doctors/arvind-ankireddypalli/" target="_blank">Dr. Arvind Ankireddypalli</a>, primary care physician and geriatrician at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. "Preventative services might not even be available in some communities, [and in others] medical appointments may be on a case-by-case basis."</p>
Is it Safe to Go to the Doctor?<p>If your state is open (or will end its lockdown soon), you may be able to start booking preventive care appointments, like Pap smears, cancer screenings, checkups, and dental cleanings.</p><p>But is it worth the risk of possible exposure to the new coronavirus?</p><p>Opinions vary among healthcare providers and the conditions of their patients, as well as the infection rate in their communities and availability of personal protective equipment.</p><p><a href="https://www.lenhorovitz.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Len Horovitz</a>, internist, pulmonary specialist, and director of Carnegie Medical, recommends that patients avoid delaying their annual physical or other types of preventive care.</p><p>"You will encounter problems that are best seen earlier rather than later," he said. "It is possible to provide a safe environment for a patient in the doctor's office. There's no reason for people to put off an annual exam; these are important appointments that help keep problems from getting out of control."</p><p>In an effort to curb the spread of infection, Horovitz has been following a strict set of procedures at his office, including allowing just one patient in at a time, requiring patients to wear masks and gloves, and disinfecting the examination room between every patient.</p><p>Other physicians, like Ankireddypalli, conduct a risk-benefit analysis for every patient before agreeing to see them in person.</p><p>"It is probably not appropriate to keep delaying visits for high-risk patients, like older adults or people with chronic conditions," he explained.</p>
Role of Telehealth Visits<p>Telemedicine visits, where doctors connect with patients via phone or video chat, can be an option if in-person appointments are risky or prohibited.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/downloads/medicaid-chip-telehealth-toolkit.pdf" target="_blank">Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services</a> and some private insurance companies have expanded coverage for telehealth services during the pandemic. As a result, some practices have seen the <a href="https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/during-pandemic-telehealth-visits-soar-10-week-300-group-practice" target="_blank">use of telemedicine services soar</a> over the last few months.</p><p>"Telemedicine is a way that patients can be seen, evaluated, counseled, and informed about their healthcare without being exposed to the dangers of going into lobbies and offices," said <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/ommen-steve-r-m-d/bio-20053861" target="_blank">Dr. Steve Ommen</a>, cardiologist and associate dean of the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care, which offers telemedicine services.</p><p>"It is particularly relevant for patients who already have a relationship with a provider, the appointment is for an ongoing care episode, and the patient doesn't need to be touched," he said.</p><p>A virtual doctor's visit can't be a substitute for all routine care, though. Cancer screenings, blood draws, evaluations of lumps, Pap smears, and other services still need to be done in person.</p><p>But even if you do have to go to the doctor's office, telehealth services can help cut down on the amount of time you spend there, thus potentially reducing your exposure to the new coronavirus and other germs.</p>
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Viral images of thousands of people eschewing the recommendations of medical experts and epidemiologists were on full display in the U.S. over Memorial Day weekend. In Missouri, St. Louis County officials called the images of crowds gathered at pool parties at bars and yacht clubs in the Lake of the Ozarks an "international example of bad judgment," according to The Washington Post.
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By Jeannette Cwienk
When it comes to recycling and recyclability, very little, it seems is straightforward — even something as seemingly simple as orange juice can present a conundrum. In Germany, many smaller shops sell drinks in cartons or plastic bottles, both of which will end up in the yellow recycling bin. But how do their recycling credentials stack up?
More and More Multilayer Packaging<p>How easy is it to recognize multilayer packaging? With drink cartons, it's usually obvious that they're made from a combination of different materials, but with other products, such as candy wrappers, it's a different story.</p><p>Such packaging can be made from a complex mix of up to 10 different films of plastic, which as Joachim Christiani, managing director of German recycling institute cyclos-HTP, explains, is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-produces-record-amount-of-packaging-waste/a-51293541" target="_blank">invisible to consumers</a>.</p><p>"In recent years there's been a trend toward so-called multilayer packaging, which is extremely light and thin. It saves material as well as CO2 emissions during transport, but can't be recycled," Christiani says.</p><p>Because it is not possible to melt the different plastics together, or — at least for now — to separate the individual films from one another at recycling plants.</p>
Lack of Recycled Plastic<p>A 2017 cyclos-HTP study into the recyclability of conventional packaging waste concluded that a third of it was not recyclable, and only 40% of the remaining two-thirds was made into plastic recyclate. The rest was used as fuel <em>—</em> in other words it was incinerated.</p><p>"There was no economic or political pressure to recycle more than this amount," Christiani says. "The prescribed recycling quotas were met, and there were not nearly enough recycling plants."</p>
Room for Greenwashing<p>According to a 2018 survey by Germany's vzbv consumer protection association, most consumers would like to see more plastic recycling, especially when it comes to packaging.</p><p>Although some products come in packaging that is advertised as being "made from recycled material," Elke Salzmann, a resource protection officer with vzbv, says that can be misleading.</p><p>"It says nothing about how much recycled material the packaging actually contains," according to Salzmann. "And it also doesn't mean that the recycled plastic comes from collected plastic waste. It could just as well come from plastic leftovers created during the production of primary plastic."</p><p>The term "ocean plastic," which some textile and shoe manufacturers use to advertise the recycled plastic in their product lines, can also be misleading, Salzmann says.</p><p><span></span>"Plastic waste from the ocean is in much too bad a state to be recycled. Instead, they use plastic waste from beaches or riverbanks."</p>
Laws Against Plastic<p>Images of garbage choking our waters and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/eurythenes-plasticus-a-deep-sea-crustacean-full-of-plastic/a-52663559" target="_blank">killing marine wildlife</a> have played a key role in giving plastic a negative reputation among the public, and politicians have started to act.</p><p>Many countries worldwide have introduced bans on single-use items, and in Germany, a 2019 packaging law stipulates a plastics recycling quota of 90% from 2022, up from 36%. That said, the quota only refers to how much material has to be fed into the recycling system, not how much ultimately needs to be recycled.</p>
Rethinking the Whole System<p>Although plastic is a very useful material, at the end of its life it causes many problems, EASAC environmental program director Michael Norton tells DW, adding that we have to rethink the whole system and completely change the way we use plastic.</p><p>Joachim Christiani says the packaging industry is starting to catch on. Around 70% of recycled mass can currently be generated from packaging, but that figure is expected to rise in the future.</p><p>"95% is quite feasible," says the engineer, adding that sorting facilities are currently undergoing improvements, while packaging design is also changing.</p>
Clear Plastics Are Easiest to Recycle<p>As things stand, PET bottles are easiest to recycle because they're not mixed with other materials. New bottles can therefore easily be made from the old ones and the recycling rate is high. But the color of the bottle can pose a problem.</p><p>Because plastic is sorted by type rather than color, if different colors of plastic are mixed, the resulting recyclate cannot be used for light-colored packaging, which many manufacturers want. The upshot is the introduction of new plastic instead.</p><p>Consumer and environmental associations have long called for recyclability, greater sorting purity and better sorting facilities, but their most important demand remains waste avoidance through reusable systems.</p><p>"Why melt down disposable bottles to make new disposable bottles when you can refill them up to 20 times?" Buschmann asks.</p>
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When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm—whose organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant—was looking stark.
Building Food Communities<p>Family farms in California and across the country have been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus on their markets. But in the health-conscious Bay Area, where celery was already one of the first groceries to disappear from the produce rack, demand for fresh local produce has shot up. The challenge is in redirecting food from farms to new customers.</p><p>Sonoma County has historically been an agricultural region. When the organic food movement sprang up in the 1970s, this area was one of its early proponents. The first farmers markets and CSAs appeared in the 1980s and flourished, but the burgeoning network was later eclipsed by an inflated wine industry, much of it owned by distant corporations.</p><p>According to a 2018 crop report, 60,000 acres have gone to grapes, with only 500 acres in food crops. Land prices have skyrocketed, the cost of labor has gone up, and increased regulations have all made it harder to run a viable business here. Many farmers had turned to "boutique" specialty crops for restaurants.</p><p>"Farmers are always in an uphill battle, especially ecological farmers," says Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. "I often hear them say, 'I'm working my butt off and hoping for the best.'" That's even more true now, as the pandemic strangles economies the world over.</p>
Scaling Up Support<p>F.E.E.D. Sonoma, a food hub that aggregates produce from dozens of local farms, was another quick responder. When the pandemic hit, it went from serving Bay Area restaurants to building a cooperative of farmers, filling food boxes for distribution at F.E.E.D.'s Petaluma warehouse and other drop spots in the county.</p><p>"Our local food system is extremely diverse," says co-founder Tim Page, who has the energy of a visionary combined with the skills of a businessman. "We have a ton of small farms but we don't have the infrastructure to support them. That is what F.E.E.D. is trying to establish." Since converting the restaurant supply business to a CSA, it has gone from 90 boxes to 450. Ultimately, the goal is 1,800 or more.</p><p>"I grew up in L.A.," Page says. "Every single farm is gone. The same thing will happen here if the general public does not understand the importance of it.</p><p>"That understanding was on display at the Sonoma Farmers Market, which now operates with strict restrictions and safety precautions because of the virus. "We think F.E.E.D. is going to save us," said Candy Wirtz, co-director of Paul's Produce, a well-established farm in Sonoma, as she weighed out my purchases. The CSA model could be transformative for Paul's and other farms across the country.</p><p>Subscribing to a CSA is a lifestyle change for consumers, to be sure. It means eating what's in season and learning to cook unfamiliar vegetables. But it's a change that many people are making now because of the stay-at-home orders. "People just have to learn to cook again instead of eating out," says Judith Redmond, part-owner of Full Belly Farm near Sacramento.</p><p>In light of this newfound commitment to CSAs, Perrotti, of Coyote Family Farm, says: "My hope is that this solidifies instead of going back to the way things were. I hope the importance of local farming stays at the forefront."</p>
Farms With Futures<p>To help small farmers stay in business during the crisis, Community Alliance is also advocating for stimulus dollars. "Most often subsidies go to a small number of the largest farms, or to buy food that goes to food banks from far away, while local farmers can't sell their food," Wiig says. "We want food banks to buy from local farms."</p><p>This seems like a win-win. Millions of tons of food is being plowed under as 60 million people are now going hungry, 17 million of them since the pandemic began, according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks.</p><p>But it's complicated. David Goodman of the Redwood Empire Food Bank puts it plainly: Local food is too expensive. "We distribute nine and a half million pounds of produce annually," he says. "It costs about 9 cents a pound, 3 cents to transport. With 82,000 people to feed, it would be a luxury to think of tending to local needs by buying locally."</p><p>That reticence is partly because the food bank system is tangled in bureaucracy. The USDA decides what to purchase and from where. Because of the distances between sites, the federal agency has tended to favor foods with long shelf lives, such as canned and processed foods, and long-lasting produce like apples and potatoes. "If local food is what we need, there has to be a plan," Goodman says.</p><p>Such a plan might be where short-term disaster relief meets long-term resilience. Michael Dimock is president of Roots of Change, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transforming California's food system. To get serious about preparing the food system for future disasters, Dimock says, the government needs to be involved. Roots of Change is now advocating for a tax on sugary beverages to help foot the bill.</p><p>Dimock says the state needs a paradigm shift for farms to remain viable in the face of multiplying disasters to come—not only pandemics, but fires, floods, and other symptoms of climate change. "How bold will people get in the months ahead to demand real change? My hope is they will get more radical."</p><p>Food is fundamental. While farmers have yet to face the full economic impact of this pandemic, their collaborative efforts, along with local grassroots networks, could mark the beginning of a new economy laboring to be born.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Nearly 200 Canadian organizations on Monday rolled out their demands for a "just recovery," saying that continuing business-as-usual after the pandemic would prevent the kind of far-reaching transformation needed to put "the health and well-being of ALL peoples and ecosystems first."
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Alberta Energy Minister Calls Pandemic ‘a Great Time’ to Build Pipelines Due to Protest Restrictions
Anti-pipeline protests work.
That's the implication behind comments made by Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Friday on how coronavirus social distancing requirements could ease the construction of Canada's controversial Trans Mountain Expansion project.