You Can’t Get Clean Energy From Natural Gas!

Pretty… toxic Picture Credit: Pexels

Originally published by the San Diego Free Press on January 26th 2018
By Edward Bergan / SanDiego350

In retrospect, branding the toxic gas that emerges from underground deposits as “natural gas” was a stroke of marketing genius. It sounds so, well, natural. But natural gas is much more like “organic tobacco” – harmful in any form.

The more experts study natural gas, the more evidence they find that this fossil fuel is inflicting great damage on our environment. It is damaging when it’s burned and damaging when it’s extracted from the ground. In fact, the extraction and burning of natural gas to produce electricity is a dirty process. This dirty process impacts the clean water and air we need to live. [Read more…]

San Diegans in LA Action to Break Free from Fossil Fuels

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, May 26th 2016

Over a two week period earlier this month, a wave of
Break Free from Fossil Fuels mass mobilizations was held around the globe. The first action saw hundreds of people peacefully shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Wales. In the Philippines, 10,000 marched demanding the cancellation of a proposed 600-Megawatt coal power plant. In Australia, 2,000 people shut down the world’s largest coal port for a day, with kayakers blocking the harbor entrance while others blocked a critical rail crossing. In Anacortes, Washington, over the course of three days, thousands converged by land and water at the site of two oil refineries. They marched, led by indigenous leaders, and held an overnight sit-in on the train tracks that led to over 50 arrests.  

These were but a few of the many Break Free actions in the campaign which was organized by 350.org with support and participation from a wide range of international, national and local organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, National Nurses United and the United Church of Christ.

Figure 9 -BillMcKibbenWithSanDiegans AtBreakFreeLA

San Diegans with Bill McKibben – sporting his SD350 tee-shirt – at the end of the march

Closer to home, Los Angeles was the venue for a Break Free from Fossil Fuels action for people from all over California. Los Angeles is the biggest urban center for oil production in the nation and the Porter Ranch neighborhood was recently the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history from SoCalGas’  Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.

The LA event started with a rally at City Hall which included high-profile speakers Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org) and businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer, plus speakers from many local groups, including Save Porter Ranch and STAND LA – a group dedicated to ending neighborhood oil drilling in LA. McKibben reminded us of our “brothers and sisters around the world who right now are standing with you.”  He talked about the worsening climate crisis – recent loss of coral reefs in the Pacific and the heatwave in Southeast Asia. He said it’s important we turn up the heat and demand real leadership from Mayor Garcetti and Governor Brown, saying we don’t need them to do a “pretty good job”, we “need them really out in front treating it [climate change] like the crisis that it is.” [Read more…]

Lessons from Porter Ranch

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on January 28th, 2016

The massive leak at the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility is a stark example of why natural gas is a significant health and safety risk and not a bridge fuel to our clean energy future. The facility, the second largest in the U.S., stores vast amounts of natural gas at high pressure in underground wells once used for oil extraction more than fifty years ago.

On or about October 23rd a rupture in a 60-year old injection well pipe a thousand feet underground initiated the leak. At its peak the leak had an estimated rate of one-hundred twenty-five thousand pounds of methane per hour. To date, the cumulative emissions from this single source is equivalent to 25% of the state’s annual methane emissions from major sources like agriculture and landfills, equivalent to the annual climate pollution of almost half a million cars. [Read more…]

SD350 Awarded Patagonia Grant for Anti-Fracking Efforts — Again!

For the second year in a row, SD350 has been awarded a grant from the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. This year’s grant, which again recognizes SD350’s activism in the fight against fracking in California, is for $5000.

Patagonia logo tee-shirts and jackets are often seen on back-country trails.

Patagonia logo tee-shirts and jackets are favorite outdoor garb.

Patagonia’s grant program donates 1% of annual sales – not profit! – to local action-oriented organizations that build public involvement in defense of the environment. In a video on the company’s website, Lisa Pike Sheehy explains why: “No matter how much we strive for sustainability, we are still using non-renewable resources. For that, we tax ourselves.”

A privately held company, Patagonia has the freedom to fund grassroots groups that use creative methods to engage communities to take action on environmental issues, actions that include but also go beyond education and awareness-building. “We often fund groups that other companies don’t feel comfortable funding,” says spokesperson Hans Cole, adding, “Maybe it’s because the issues are too political or too hot. That’s where we feel we can make the most difference.” [Read more…]

Rally Rhyme

Rally Rhyme

March for Real Climate Leadership, Oakland

2/7/15

1

 

A quiet sleep did fly us there,

Us travelers with tangled hair

But not so tangled up in knots

As governors in chess board spots.

 

The push and pull of tug-of-war

2for sons and daughters, what’s in store?

We’ve come from miles, miles away

Please hear our woes, as woes they stay:

 

 

3Please let our land be free from waste

From toxic streams and rumbling earthquakes

For thirstier we grow each year

Without your help, we’ll drink our tears.

The wells are running dry, they say

And yet we wait another day.

 

Lawless acts and bleeding noses

Residents of Dish have told us4

Scrolls unroll the chemicals

This practice is now medical.

 

Airborne benzene, CO2,

The price of power is up to you.5

 

 Dear Governor, please hear our voice

 With energy we have a choice.

6 7 8 9 10 11

Student Fieldtrip: Environmental Justice vs Oil

Twenty-one seniors from King-Chavez Charter High School’s Environmental Justice class made the long trek to Kern County in California’s  Central Valley to view the effects of the oil industry, and fracking in particular, on the land and the residents of the region.

SD350’s Peg Mitchell recently organized an eye-opening trip to the oil fields of Kern County for some of San Diego’s high-school students. Here are some excerpts from the report she sent back:

Friday, December 19th, was the last day of the term for students at the King-Chavez Charter High School in San Diego.  Twenty-one seniors from the Environmental Justice class trekked in the dark to board a school bus at 6AM for a long trip to the oil fields of Kern County.  They had signed on to witness for themselves the impact of of the oil and gas industry, and fracking in particular, on the communities nearby.

KIng-Chavez High School students gather after their five-hour bus trip from San Diego to Kern County.

KIng-Chavez High School students gather after their five-hour bus trip from San Diego to Kern County.

 

Tom Frantz from Association of Irritated Residents (Great name!) began the tour at the “Panorama Overlook”, breathtaking for its view of oil pump jacks in every direction as far as the eye can see. Among the rigs students could spot an occasional power plant, used for heating up water into steam to use in the “cyclic steam injection” process – an older method for releasing the tarry oil to flow up the wellhead an out to the pipelines.

“On many days of the year Bakersfield has the worst air quality in the country,” Tom told the students. “Why doesn’t anyone do anything about that?” asked one. Tom explained the connection between appointments to the air quality boards, the legislative representatives in that area, and the oil companies. “It’s all politics,” he explained, “so nothing ever changes.”

Tom Frantz's stories about the problems created by fracking hold the students' attention.

Tom Frantz’s stories about the problems created by fracking hold the students’ attention.

A retired high school Math teacher, Tom doesn’t accept this status quo. He spends his time traveling around the Kern County oil fields checking up on activities of the oil production industry. He has caught drillers illegally dumping highly polluted toxic “produced water” from fracking operations into fields; he has teamed with other organizations from Texas using special cameras to film methane and other pollutants as they leak from pump sites and compressor stations; and he has discovered leakage and resulting air pollution from open evaporation pits that contain all the waste from oil and gas operations.

Continuing on their bus tour, students witnessed oil rigs placed amidst agricultural fields and one right next to an elementary school, near the town of Shafter.  Next to the school, a gardener turned over soil in the community garden situated in the rig’s shadow. Children at the school suffer from numerous health problems, particularly asthma and respiratory issues.

Across the valley to the West, the tour drove through the heart of Kern’s agricultural areas. Students learned that not only are the oil and gas operations a hazard to public health but, incredibly, so are dairy farms – including one that had 15,000 cows on site, standing in their own waste as far as the eye could see. This waste is yet another hazard as it is moved into open pits where it is occasionally “stirred up” to help release 50% of the ammonia its decay generates into the air. The remaining solid waste is just piled up into mountains of  …

The last stop on the tour was a history lesson: the Belridge Oil fields and the towns of McKittrick and Taft are best known as being the location as well as subject matter of the movie “There Will Be Blood” – a movie about the beginnings of the oil industry in California and the cutthroat dealings that went on to secure land and drilling rights.

Asked about their biggest learning from their Kern County tour, the students’ almost unanimous reply was the proximity of oil drilling to where our food is grown.  The potential hazard to our food source raised great concern among the students. “No doubt the crops are contaminated, at a minimum from air pollution” Tom explained. “But no one really knows,” he said, “because no one tests for anything, because no one really wants to know.”

Because of what they witnessed, these 21 seniors from King-Chavez High School now have strong, disturbing images of the impact that industrialization of the valley has had on the nearby communities, the school children, and even the food they themselves eat. They also have a clear sense of what “environmental justice” means and are, therefore, determined to stay engaged in this issue and help SanDiego350 in future efforts to inform the public.