Josh Fox on Terry Greenwood

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Terry Greenwood is a humble hero.  Josh Fox, the director of the oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, knew Terry well.  Terry died a couple of weeks ago of brain cancer.  He knew that fracking poisoned and killed his cows, yet elected officials, the PA Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA wouldn’t listen to him.

Josh’s words and video honoring Terry Greenwood capture him so eloquently, I wanted to pass them along.  I hope you can find time to read the post and watch the video - a few poignant outtakes from Gasland.  Terry was an example of wisdom, light and integrity in the face of greed, lies and profound adversity.

Thank you, Terry.  RIP.

Here’s Josh’s post:

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Horton Hears the Whos of Calvert County and Dominion’s LNG Lies

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Most of us know the story of Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Suess. The beloved elephant Horton, with his great big ears, hears the cries for help from the Whos on Who-ville, a planet the size of a dust speck that rests precariously on a clover. Horton, with his big heart, commits to saving them because “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Yet, sadly, he can’t get others to hear their cries and acknowledge their lives.

And so it is with the citizens of Lusby, Maryland who live precariously close to a dormant liquid natural gas (LNG) import facility that Dominion Resources of Virginia is planning to turn into an LNG export facility as soon as they can get away with it.

In their permit application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Dominion conveniently omitted the population of Lusby and grossly misrepresented other nearby populations, leaving out 39,732 Calvert County citizens whose health, safety and economic well being would be at the mercy of this LNG export facility. Then, this May, FERC came out with a draft Environmental Assessment of Dominion’s proposed expansion. Nowhere in the Environmental Assessment does FERC mention the population of Lusby and surrounding towns except when discussing property values.

Of 377 residential structures within 1 mile of the DCP facility (as of 2011), 323 were built after the [import] facility commenced operations in 1978 (PPRP, 2014). This suggests that housing demand has not been significantly affected by proximity to DCP. Because the nearest residences to the [export] Liquefaction Facilities are already near to an in-use industrial facility, and DCP would implement various measures to shield the new facilities from adjacent areas, we conclude the proposed Liquefaction Facilities would not result in a significant impact on nearby property values.

Do my elephant ears deceive me? Is THE sole federal agency responsible for allowing this facility to be built equating an LNG import facility with an LNG export facility? That’s ludicrous! They are like night and day.  Through pipelines and compressor stations that will run through Maryland, Dominion plans, on a daily basis, to bring in four times the amount of fracked natural gas that all of Maryland uses in one day. This fracked gas will then be put through a volatile, energy-intensive liquefaction process before being shipped off to Asia.

The proposed export facility’s proximity to a dense population is unprecedented. An LNG export facility has NEVER been built so close to homes! The Society of International Gas Tankers and Terminal Operators, of which Dominion Cove Point is a member, states that no civilians should exist within at least 2.2 miles from the facility. Yet 2,365 “residential structures” do, along with two school, 19 daycare centers, two shopping centers, and Cove Point State Park, which is filled with 7 sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, a swimming pool, picnic tables and, therefore, lots of children and their families.

Dominion and FERC, however, think there is no reason for concern. This, despite the fact that the LNG export facility will spew 20.4 tons of air pollutants per year that local citizens will have no choice but to breathe. There are carcinogens in these airborne chemicals, as well as chemicals that can have a significant negative impact on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, the liver and kidneys and so much more. The list is like a bad Dr. Suess poem.

Ammonia, butane, sulfuric acid
Benzene, toluene, hydrogen sulfide
Formaldehyde, hexane, ethylbenzene
And nitrogen oxide out the wazoo
But not to worry
It won’t harm you.

Then there’s the fact that LNG facilities have the proven potential for explosions. Dominion Cove Point will be cramming liquefaction equipment and storage tanks into an unusually small area, increasing the risk for catastrophic accidents. Stockpiles of highly toxic, potentially explosive chemicals could trigger a massive vapor cloud if leaked out.  A large cloud of combustible material is very dangerous and almost impossible to control, despite any safety systems installed to prevent ignition. Very recent explosions at other LNG facilities caused a 2-mile radius evacuation of 1000 residents and workers in Plymouth WA and 95 residents within a 5-mile radius in Opal, WY.

Did I mention that the export facility would also be within three miles of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant?

FERC mentions “DCP would implement various measures to shield the new facilities from adjacent areas.”  One principal measure involves building an untested 6-story high, 3/4-mile wide wall which would supposedly contain a vapor cloud and subsequent “fireball.” Not exactly a comforting safety measure if you are living within a couple of miles of the facility, especially given that Dominion is only referring to this wall as a sound wall intended to mitigate sound pollution that will befall the town of Lusby’s ears for decades to come.  If Dominion admitted the wall was there to prevent a possible vapor cloud from affecting residents, they would be admitting that there are inherent dangers involved in an LNG export facility.  They certainly don’t want to do that.

If a catastrophic event were to occur, residents from more than 265 homes southeast and adjacent to Dominion Cove Point are at risk of not being able to evacuate, as the two-lane road that runs by Dominion Cove Point would be the only exit route. In an explosion, these residents would need to drive toward and pass within 300 feet of the LNG facility to escape. Yet, emergency response plans have yet to be presented to the community.   FERC concluded that Dominion will provide help, so not to worry.

Dominion is poised to begin construction as soon as FERC gives the go-ahead, which appears to be FERC’s plan.

This is where Horton comes in.  There are, in fact, a lot of Hortons in our region and across the country who are listening, and we are not going to let this happen. We will not let it happen because profits for the gas industry do not trump the health and safety of children and their families, the ones who live in “residential structures.” Despite the jobs and tax revenue that Dominion keeps touting they will bring to the community,  they come at at too high a price and are not worth the risks the export facility will pose to the community.

And Calvert County residents aren’t the only Whos not being heard. Dominion and FERC are turning a deaf ear to the people of Myersville, Maryland who are fighting one of the compressor stations Dominion is set to build in their small town to move the gas from Appalachia through Maryland to Cove Point – a potentially explosive compressor station that will emit 23.5 tons of nitrogen oxide into the air and is located less than a mile from the elementary school. Dominion is also turning a deaf ear to the people who are being poisoned by fracking in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia – states that will suffer profoundly with increased fracking should the export facility be approved.

The safety and health of citizens should come before all else. Health professionals, environmentalists, students, faith leaders and concerned citizens join them in demanding that FERC conduct a proper Environmental Impact Statement and Quantitative Risk Assessment to thoroughly analyze all potential risks that an LNG export facility will pose to Maryland residents.  They deserve nothing less.

“Should I put this speck down?”
Horton thought with alarm.
“If I do, these small persons may come to great harm.
I can’t put it down. And I won’t! After all
A person’s a person. No matter how small.”

Will you join us?  We can use all the Hortons we can get.

_______________________

Demand that FERC conduct a proper, thorough Environmental Impact Statement!

Learn more about actions you can take to stop the rubber stamping of Dominion Cove Point.

Learn more about the dangers of Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export facility.

 

Whose Security Is at Stake? My Unexpected Hassle with Dominion Cove Point

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On Saturday I went to my stepson’s graduation from St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland.  It was a beautiful day, and attending family were filled with love and pride as we took in this milestone.  We snapped lots of pictures when the ceremony was over, with big smiles on our faces, attuned to both the impressive accomplishments achieved and the opportunities on the road ahead.

Speaking of the road ahead, it turns out Dominion’s Cove Point was on the way home, very close to the college.  My husband Gregg and I decided to drive by the dormant liquid natural gas (LNG) import facility that Dominion Resources of Virginia hopes to turn into an export facility as soon as possible.  I wanted to see for myself how close the facility is to family residences.  I had heard they were just across a two-lane road and, lo and behold, they are!

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Notice the LNG storage tank just beyond the gate!

I got out of the car to take a few photos, and as soon as I got back in, security pulled up behind us, lights flashing.  They asked what I was doing there.  I explained that I had heard about Dominion Cove Point and wanted to see for myself how close the LNG facility was to the community.  He asked for my ID and then went around and took down Gregg’s license plate.  He was on his walkie-talkie the entire time and continued to detain us there, as if we were a threat of some sort.  After a few minutes, Gregg said we had been detained long enough, and we parted ways.

Really?  Was it necessary to detain us for taking a couple of photographs outside of the facility?  Who’s the real threat to security?  A concerned citizen or a proposed LNG export facility that has the proven potential to explode right beside a residential neighborhood?  The answer should be a no brainer. Apparently it’s not.

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Finding Rachel Carson

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I feel as if this is a confession and an embarrassing one at that.  I say this because, as a passionate “environmentalist,” I should have already known intimately the work of Rachel Carson.  But, in all honesty, I only knew about four sentences worth of who she was, a true hero that brought scientific light to the blind irresponsibility and profoundly toxic effects of spraying the chemical DDT on the living Earth.  With the publishing of her monumental book Silent Spring in 1962, Carson set in motion the first laws in this country to safeguard the environment.

Yet it is only now that I have found her words, and I am grateful beyond measure. It is like opening up a treasure chest and finding pure gold.  Nothing beats an insightful, poetic biologist.  At the same time, her words are deeply disturbing to hear because, 50 years later, we are still irresponsibly contaminating our world and ourselves with toxic chemicals at an alarming rate.  We are still ignoring science.

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Natural Gas is Not Clean (Even If Ads Say It Is)

Cove Point Rally in downtown Baltimore, February 20, 2014

Cove Point rally in downtown Baltimore, February 20, 2014

I have been quiet for a while on the writing front.  I’ve been more of an activist of late, compelled by the urgency to change where we source our energy before we poison ourselves right out of existence.  I’ve been going to press events and rallies for such things as the proposed Dominion Cove Point liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility in southern Maryland.  I’ve been making video shorts of some of the moving speeches given at these rallies. I’ve been speaking in places of faith about fracking. And I’ve been going to Annapolis, Maryland to learn how my state government works, how to meet with elected officials and educate them on what I know and why it matters.

In all these events and actions, I carry in my heart the people I have met over these past months and years who have been directly affected by the ramifications of high-volume, slick water hydraulic fracturing – more commonly known as fracking.  They are sick. Their children are sick.  Their drinking water and air have been contaminated by the fracking process with incredibly toxic chemicals that should never touch humans.  They have lost the value of their homes and peace in their lives.

Now, Dominion Resources of Virginia wants to turn its dormant liquid natural gas import facility in residential Lusby, Maryland into an export facility, with a massive contract already in place to export the gas to India and Japan for the next 20 years.  It will be the first LNG export facility on the east coast.

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Fukushima and the Role of Catastrophe in Human Evolution

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant  Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant
Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sometimes there are impending disasters that are so extreme, I have to tune them out for fear that they will have too great an impact on my capacity to function in daily life.  Such had been the case with the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan.  Since the initial accident in March of 2011, there has been little in media covering the ongoing leakage of radioactive waste into the air and Pacific Ocean; little on how a yet-to-be-quelled damaged reactor remains a serious threat to us all.  It was easy enough to tune it out.  Until my daughter Claire decided she loved to eat dried seaweed.

In my Internet meanderings, I had come across an article on Japanese seaweed showing high levels of radiation.  I remember quietly mourning the loss of sushi, knowing I was now much less likely to eat it, not knowing where the seaweed – or the fish for that matter – came from.  Still, I do eat sushi on rare occasion, quietly pushing away thoughts of radiation, telling myself that a little radiation here or there is probably tolerable.

But not when it comes to Claire.  So I looked at the packet of dried seaweed she loves and saw that it was from Korea.  I investigated further and learned that Korea was on the back end of the nuclear meltdown, and Korean seaweed and fish were showing no sign of radiation.  I was relieved, knowing Claire was in the clear.  Time to tune Fukushima out again and move on.

Except that I couldn’t.  I was already knee-deep.  I had learned that radioactive waste from Fukushima has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean for the past 2.5 years and is heading toward the West Coast.  It was deeply disturbing news to bear, yet almost paled in comparison to what is currently happening with Fukushima Diiachi Unit 4, the nuclear reactor that still has the potential to cause the most powerful, widespread nuclear accident in human history.

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Fracking Falls Short of “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself”

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Cove Point LNG export terminal. Coming soon to a Chesapeake Bay near you?

In my constant state of vocation evolution, I now find myself focused on getting into places of faith to talk about fracking*, the new, unconventional natural gas extraction process I’ve been obsessed with over the past few years.  I’m knocking on the doors of places of faith because the moral consequences of fracking are up in my face, screaming at me to let it be known that fracking is not the way to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

There has been an impressive, growing effort in religious communities to become more actively engaged in energy efficiency, thanks in large part to Interfaith Power and Light. So fracking seemed to me a reasonable extension of this engagement.  Turns out, a fracking presentation is a harder sell than I had hoped.  Taking a look at how natural gas is extracted isn’t a priority, and I get that.  There are so many social causes that call out for help; fracking seems a more abstract and less pertinent one.  But I beg to differ.

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And We’ve Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden

This garden we are graced to live in, this magical spinning planet we call home, was designed for abundance, designed to provide us with food, clothing and shelter, and, beyond that, beauty and magic. This garden was not designed to withstand the amount of carbon dioxide and methane we are putting into the atmosphere from fossil fuels; the pesticides we are putting into our water, soil and food; the destruction of our trees and oceans meant to clean our air and create oxygen.

We have forgotten where we live. We have forgotten that being alive is not something we are guaranteed.

We are forgetting our moral obligation to our children and future generations.

Claire and berries

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Calling All Angels for Renewable Energy

As spring begins, I am keenly aware of the urgency the renewable energy movement is facing. Fracking is moving at lightening speed across the country and the world, poisoning water, air and, of course, people. Elected officials in Congress are doing their best to get the Keystone XL pipeline passed, even as tar sands spills continue to rear their ugly head.

The fossil fuel industry has the deepest pockets on the planet, and at times it feels as if we can’t beat them in this fight for a viable future. Yet, we continue to grow as a movement in numbers and strength. The coordination between people, towns, cities, states and organizations is impressive and essential to our capacity to impact the shift to renewable energy.

This video was made to inspire all those giving so much of their energy and time to this dire cause. After all, there is no Planet B. Just us and the choice to create a safe and viable future. I say, in the end, our passion will tip the scales away from dirty energy toward renewables. Let’s keep it up!

GMO Sugar: How Sweet It Isn’t

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Our daughter Claire definitely falls into the category of picky eater.  Her sensitivity to taste limits what she eats, and I’m always trying to make the most of the food she’s willing to eat. One of those is pumpkin pie.  She loves it, and pumpkin has good nutritional value. On Sunday, we decided to try a different recipe than our usual.  I needed brown sugar, so I ran to the closest supermarket and picked up a pack of Domino’s brown sugar.  I felt my GMO radar go off, but nonetheless it was time for Claire and I to make a yummy pie, which we did.

The next day, I bought some organic brown sugar for future pies and felt better.  Yet I knew I hadn’t done any real research on GMO sugar, so I looked into it.  Here’s the scoop.

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