Sunday, June 30, 2013

Report on Frack Free North Carolina Forum--June 22, 2013

The rush from the N.C. Legislature to frack us feels like an oncoming thunderstorm we can't ward off.  Photo, Richard Hayes

I was persuaded to attend the Bynum Forum on Fracking program, sponsored by the umbrella group, Frack Free NC, on Saturday afternoon, June 22.  On the program were: Elaine Chiosso, the Haw Riverkeeper; James Robinson, with the RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation, International, USA; a man from Mebane, working on environmental racism, Omega Wilson; Hope Taylor of the Clean Water for NC org; from Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Ryke Longest; and finally, two women dairy farmers from Bradford County, PA: Carolyn Knapp and Carol French
There were about 60 folks there, coming from Chatham,  Lee, Moore, Alamance, and other counties, too.  This was a gathering of no-fracking activists, being called “fracktivists.”  Signs and bumper stickers were given out, refreshments were available during the break.  Elaine explained present situation, how many people’s lives are affected, risk to water: contamination of wells through drilling and three million North Carolinians are on private wells (we don’t have as much separation of layers of gas and water as in PA); surface water contamination through spills, deliberate dumping, fracking companies taking water from streams and rivers, etc, (not enough regulations to prevent it or enforce stopping it if it happens); huge amount of water needed, avg of 3.5 mil gallons per fracking well.  Deep underground injection of waste water outlawed in NC, because of an earlier incident in 1968-72 at the coast when Hercules Chemical company did it, and the chemicals came back up to the surface.  Also deep drilling especially sets off earthquakes, and nuclear plant near Jonesboro fault line, and gas under shale in same area.  Rules supposed to be finished by Oct 2013, moratorium until Mar 2015, but even House version says permits could be issued by 2015, and language could be finessed legally.  Unclear whether laws and second vote in 2014, in House version, would hold up permits.  House and Senate presently in committee to work out a compromise.
James Robinson said that RAFI has worked primarily on helping farmers not sign predatory leases.  This may be why few leases have been signed except in Lee County, and that county had many landowners without mineral rights, going back to the days of mining coal there.  He said RAFI hadn’t taken a stand for or against fracking, and he serves on the Compulsory Pooling Study Group of the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC).  RAFI opposes compulsory pooling, which forces landowners who don’t want to sign mineral rights to do so.
Omega Wilson announced that he and Elaine had filed a federal complaint that fracking in NC would violate Title 6 of Civil Rights Act.  It would not only hurt the environment; it would hurt people.  States now receive federal money for health, employment, education, housing, safe drinking water, sewer, and other areas, but they’re supposed to follow federal guidelines re Title 6, but it’s not being enforced by states. “We have to take the responsibility to be the watchdogs,” Omega said.  NC now is the 10th largest U.S. state, with 9.6 million people, fracking affects 12-15 counties, 1.6-2.5 million people.  605-950,000 people of color.  
Hope Taylor announced that they were starting a new petition, with the goal of 50,000 signatures.  It should be available soon.  Their website will have that and other information.  You can email Hope at  Some of the health affects from the chemicals and gasses released into air (primarily) and water are: respiratory diseases, mood disturbers (clusters of suicide in the fracking areas), cancer, joint pain, skin rashes, memory problems.  She also said that in Europe they are being much more careful, and to them our largely unregulated fracking makes the US look foolish.  
Ryke Longest, consulted by Elaine, Hope, and others, explained that one big danger not often mentioned was the casings, where the main pipe going down is connected to other pipes going out horizontally.  A third of the wells have well-degradation of casings.  Once wells are in, they can be there for 50 years.  He thought Anson County’s moratorium could be legally defended in the courts.  It argues that since the county doesn’t have protection and laws in place, it can hold off fracking with a moratorium for 5 years.  In NY state, too, they’re getting help for towns with ordinances forbidding fracking, from the appellate courts.  The public is supposed to be notified if any chemicals are released, but this isn’t always happening with fracking.
The two women from PA were very solemn.  They talked about the attraction of the money, first the bonus, then the royalties, but when their water goes bad, they have to pay huge amounts for water to be trucked in. Carolyn named nearly $200,000 to get water for her cows.  Carol said her water jelled. Many people have illnesses, but people are offered money by the gas companies not to talk about it; Carolyn had rashes, and her daughter got very ill so can’t visit her mother as being there makes her sick.  Cows dying and aborting.  Carol was an organic farmer, can’t afford the fees to get re-certified.  Their state had high income from tourism, dairy products, and many other things, $392 billion; fracking income, $22 billion, but tourism, dairy, and many other things ruined.  Also the gas companies blocked roads for two weeks, so children couldn’t go to school, people couldn’t get to hospitals, etc.  Roads were destroyed by heavy equipment.  They have bills to pay instead of royalties.  Carolyn was crying over her lost just-born calf. She said, “Think about your treasures.  What do you treasure most?  Compare that to the money.”  But obviously the money received can’t compensate for the income lost, the health problems, the new bills.

Some follow-up on the presentations, if you’re interested in seeing the power-points.  Also you can sign up for Clean Water’s weekly Frack Updates by contacting Hope.  They’ll have Carol and Carolyn’s power point on their website and/or in a Frack Update soon.  These available now.

Elaine Chiosso, Haw RiverKeeper:

Mineral Rights Leasing, Compulsory Pooling, and Protecting Landowner Rights - James Robinson, Rural Advancement Foundation International

State and Federal Responsibilities for Title VI and Fracking - Omega Wilson, West End Revitalization Association

Layers vs Loopholes - Ryke Longest, Duke Law Environmental Policy Clinic

Then, I understand that Rev. Barber, at a recent Moral Monday quoted Gandhi.  “When you start a movement (for justice), first, they laugh at you; then they ignore you; then they fight you; then you win.”

Another photo by Richard Hayes of a recent storm coming on.

One of the folks here in Chatham, 79-year old Judith Butt, sent me her report on what it was like to be arrested at a Moral Monday protest.  She also mailed letters to the editor to several papers.  This one appeared in the Sanford Herald June 27th:


LETTER: Conscience drove me to civil disobedience
Jun. 27, 2013 @ 04:59 AM 

To the Editor:
Up until today, I have generally obeyed the law. I am a 79-year-old woman who has one traffic ticket in more than 60 years of driving and never been arrested. I am not an “agitator, "hippie" or “outsider“ as the governor and many politicos on the right like to believe. So why did I choose now to be arrested for civil disobedience during a peaceful protest in the state legislative building?

I have watched in disgust and horror as the super majority in Raleigh has cranked out one unjust and outrageous piece of legislation after another under the complicit nose of our supposedly “moderate” governor. North Carolina is one of 24 states with a Republican governor and both houses of the legislature controlled by ideologues dedicated to the interests of the wealthiest at the expense of the poorest and weakest. In the Tar Heel state, many of those elected officials owe their seats of power to a “cash cow” newly appointed to the influential position of budget director (Art Pope).

Ultimately I was so bothered that my conscience drove me to attend a Moral Monday protest on June 10. While there, I was much taken by a sign that paraphrased Thoreau: “In unjust times, the only proper place for a person is jail.” Silence feels to me like acquiescence. Since the number of people protesting and speaking has been met with only non-hearing and accusations from the majority of our Republican legislators, I decided it was important to do what may not be “lawful” but what is morally “right.” I remember Margaret Mead’s statement, “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.” So I signed up for civil disobedience. I hope Margaret Mead’s words prove to be true.

Judith Butt


Along with 120 others, with 1500 cheering us on and saying thank you for doing this, I was arrested for civil disobedience at the legislaturebuilding in Raleigh at the 8th Moral Monday coordinated by the NAACP and Reverend Barber.  The total arrested so far is 550. My warrant reads "Second Degree Trespass; Fail to Disperse on Command, Violating Legislative Building Rule." My Court date is October 4th. NAACP will provide us with bail if needed and volunteer lawyers.

The experience was amazing. After an orientation at a Baptist Church, we were bussed to the mall of the legislative building for more inspiring speeches. Then the 120 of us were blessed by the Reverend and marched into the legislative building singing Solidarity forever-the union makes us strong, and civil rights songs. We continued singing and swaying as the officers instructed us to leave, supporters cheered us and did leave, and then we were handcuffed with plastic ties and led into a room where mug shots were taken, our cell phones, drivers licenses, food, and dangerous instruments taken away to be later returned. We were marched, 
handcuffed, into a department of corrections barred bus used to 
transport prisoners, not air conditioned of course, to be taken to jail. 
And cheered by onlookers as we drove away. 

At the detention center we were taken from one room to another to be registered as offenders, at one point on a chain gang with steel locked handcuffs. The numbers of armed officers guarding us could have paid for the budget cuts the legislature had passed.

The funniest part were the jail holding cells holding anywhere from 6-10 women (men were separated for the whole procedure). We were told only two flushes per hour were allowed or the cells would flood. Volunteers drove us back to the church, after all the processing, where other volunteers had provided a feast for us and cheered us as each group returned. Because I was one of the first processed and out by 9 PM, and the driver for our carpool from Pittsboro was one of the last, we didn't get home till midnight.

An exhilarating experience; I then sent my letters to the editor of all 
the local newspapers. You may see me in a Civitas (think Art Pope) 
blacklist of names and pictures of those arrested. I now have a pin that says "I was arrested with Reverend Barber 2013" which I shall proudly wear.

I hope all those who read this blog think carefully about the dangers of fracking and do what they can.  If we each do a little, we can change this picture. We want rain from our storms, not illness, poverty, and hopelessness. Judy Hogan


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