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What Fracking and Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining have in Common

Energy

DeSmogBlog

By Steve Horn

Erie, CO meet Naoma, WV. Though seemingly different battles over different ecologically hazardous extractive processes—hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for unconventional gas versus mountaintop removal for coal—the two battles are one in the same and direct parallels of one another. 

On June 2, a coalition of activist organizations led by Erie Rising and joined by the likes of the Sierra Club, the Mark Ruffalo-lead Water Defense, the Angela Monti Fox-lead Mothers Project (mother of "Gasland" Producer and Director, Josh Fox), Food and Water Watch (FWW), among others, will take to Erie, CO to say "leave and leave now" to EnCana Corporation.

EnCana has big plans to drill baby drill in Erie.

It "plans to frack for natural gas near three local schools and a childcare center," according to a press release disseminated by FWW. "On June 2, the event in Erie will give voice to those immediately affected by fracking there, and to all Americans marred by the process, becoming ground zero for the national movement to expose the dangers associated with fracking."

The action is a simple one: a "rally and vigil to protest gas industry giant Encana’s plans to frack for natural gas near Red Hawk Elementary, Erie Elementary, Erie Middle School and Exploring Minds Childcare Center and transport toxic fracking by-products on roads that come within feet of these and other community schools," reads the FWW press release.

Actor and head of Water Defense, Mark Ruffalo, had this to say in The Denver Post of the upcoming action: 

Erie Rising's struggle to protect children from the imminent danger of fracking is urgent. Encana wants to begin drilling by the schools early this summer, subjecting the town's children to the dangerous carcinogens that appear to have already caused so much illness.

On June 2, Erie Rising is holding a rally in opposition to the wells by the school. Erie Rising's members still have a long fight to protect their kids, but they are exposing the claim of clean natural gas as a dirty lie. It's a struggle that is paving the way for mothers across the nation to stand up and fight for their own children's future.

Colorado was one of the first two states (Texas being the other) where Halliburton (of "Halliburton Loophole" fame) chose to test its new horizontal drilling method in 1949, Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Region Director for FWW explained to DeSmogBlog in an interview. Colorado is home of the Niobrara Shale basin. Its Governor is a Democrat, John Hickenlooper, who in his former career was a petroleum geologist, working for Buckhorn Petroleum.

Hickenlooper was involved in a scandal in March of this year, appearing in a pro-fracking ad and making himself a de facto industry spokesman for the sector in which he was formerly employed. For his antics, he was called out by both the Republic Report and Think ProgressThink Progress reported,

Hickenlooper’s background and track record may indicate why he has failed this test of good government…He took $73,666 from oil and gas interests in his 2010 election, and as Salon points out, appointed an industry campaign donor to an important regulatory position.

According to FollowTheMoney.org, the oil and gas industry has also given more than $150,000 to candidates on both sides of the aisle running for seats in the Colorado House and Senate in the past two election cycles, 2010 and 2012, combined. With political circumstances such as these, it's perhaps no wonder people have stood up and decided to fight back. What other choice do they have?

"This encroachment of residential areas has really woken up a grassroots revolt of regular Coloradans who are standing up and saying don't come in my backyard," said Schabacker in an interview. "And that's really what's going on in Erie. This is Exhibit A of how the gas industry has cavelierly expanded into residential areas against the wishes of local governments and regular Coloradans."

"And so we're drawing a line in the sand [on this one]…and that's really what this fight is all about," he continued. "It's mothers' standing up to protect their children in their community."

If this seems like deja vu, it should.

Not only have communities around the U.S. been fighting back against the gas industry's proposals to frack in the areas surrounding schoolyards and universities, but similar battles have also been waged by activists against the coal industry in the recent past, as well.

Exhibit A of this fight was the recent prolonged fight in Naoma, WV against King Coal giant Massey Energy in the past several years pertaining to its coal mountaintop removal extraction site in close proximity to Marsh Fork Elementary School

The Fight Back Against Massey and Marsh Fork Elementary School: A Redux

The community surrounding Marsh Fork Elementary School in Naoma, WV was also home to aggressive activism, this time a fight back against coal industry giant Massey Energy, then led by now-retired CEO Don Blankenship. The battle royale itself inspired many documentary films featuring it, including "The Last Mountain," which featured Bobby Kennedy Jr., "On Coal River," "Mountain Top Removal," and others. DeSmogBlog has written about the fight, as well.

In a nutshell, the community surrounding Marsh Fork was turned upside down by Massey at its Upper Big Branch Mine project, which involved contaminated air and water and left children susceptible to developing Black Lung and various cancers and other illnesses as they grew older. A summary of the milleux that occurred in the area, appearing in the film "Mountain Top Removal," can be seen below.

Like the battle in Erie of today, the battle in Naoma involved, as Schabacker put it in his interview, "mothers' standing up to protect their children in their community." Ted Nace, Director of Coalswarm, a project on the Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch project and author of the book Climate Hope: On the Front Lines of the Fight Against Coal, told DeSmogBlog in an interview that it is these types of battles that win the hearts and minds of regular everyday people.

"Movements need rallying points and a movement needs to have cases of high visibility local impact," said Nace.

"Those people who think about building movements should keep their eyes open to such cases. People at the local level are also looking to get visibility for their community. And I do think one of the big dimensions of environmental activism is finding stories that resonate for people. It's a lot easier for people to comprehend a story that involves other peoples' families than it is to understand a story about some unpronouncable chemical."

Eventually, after a long, hard grassroots fight, often involving civil disobedience, Massey Energy (with financial help from the Annenberg Foundation) was pressured into building a new school for the community away from the Upper Big Branch Mine. 

Time will tell whether Erie sees similar success. The parallel, at the very least, is an interesting one. 

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Visit EcoWatch’s MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL page for more related news on this topic.

 

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The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

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What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

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Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

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Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

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In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.