Fracking

Does Anybody Really Believe the Tories’ Fracking Halt Isn’t an Election Stunt?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 2:42am in

I know this story is a few days old, but it bears repeating, if only only to remind everyone that Tories are flagrant liars. On Monday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the Tories’ decision to stop fracking. But only for the moment. It’s just a temporary halt, while they consider the situation. Both Andrew Adonis and Jeremy Corbyn called it out as an election stunt. Adonis said that the ban would last all the way until December 13th, the day after the election. Corbyn added that Labour really would ban fracking. And that would be the real change. He also reminded people that BoJob had called fracking ‘glorious news for humanity’ and that we couldn’t trust him. No, we can’t. And certainly not the people in the areas where they’re drilling for shale gas, who’ve suffered earth tremors and other disastrous environmental effects.

And Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey made some very acute observations on the way Andrea Leadsom had phrased the news. She described fracking as ‘a glorious opportunity’ and the decision to halt it ‘a disappointment’. Long Bailey said that usually the Tories wait until after an election before breaking their promises, but this time they’ve made a U-turn within hours of announcing it. She also concluded that this showed they had no intention of stopping fracking, and it was all an electoral stunt.

As did Mike, who wrote

So the choice is simple: A makeshift, make-believe, pretend freeze on this dangerous process under the Tories that will last until just after the general election – or a genuine ban under Labour.

Boris Johnson is a proven liar. Jeremy Corbyn is known to keep his word.

Who do you believe?

Election 2019: Tory halt on fracking condemned as a lie and a stunt

There shouldn’t be any question about it. Johnson’s a liar, and the Tories have lied again and again. Johnson said that the NHS was not on the table in his Brexit negotiations with Donald Trump. Except it was, and there were six secret meetings about it between British and American negotiators. He has said that the Tories intend to build 40 new hospitals, but they’ve only got real funding for six, and about 120 hospitals are also set to close. They’ve also claimed that they’re not privatising the NHS, but the majority of services are now contracted to private healthcare companies. Tweezer lied so much that a London Ska band released a song attacking her for her mendacity, suitably called ‘Liar, Liar’.

And remember when Dodgy Dave Cameron and Iain Duncan Cough were campaigning for the 2010 election, and were leading campaigns to save hospitals from closure? That lasted all the way until Cameron got into No. 10. As did his promise to lead the ‘greenest government ever’. The environment was going to be protected, right up to the point where he became Prime Minister.

And this is another empty promise from a government known for lying.

‘I’ Article on Leaked Report About Brexit Undermining Workers’ Rights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/11/2019 - 5:48am in

The I carried this article by David  Connett, ‘Brexit ‘jeopardises workers’ rights’, says leaked paper, in its edition for last Monday, 28th October 2019. The article reads

The Government has denied that it is seeking to throw out existing workers’ rights and abandon environment protection after Brexit.

Kwasi Kwarteng, a business minister, dismissed reports that employees’ rights would be slashed after Brexit as ‘way exaggerated’.

It followed a leak of documents handed to government ministers saying that Boris Johnson was willing to consider diverging from EU standards on the environment and workers’ rights despite statements he has made in Parliament to the contrary. The Prime Minister told MPs last week that the UK was committed to “the highest possible standards” on both issues – a stance which helped to secure votes from 19 Labour MPs to support his Brexit bill.

Mr Kwarteng dismissed the report, saying it was completely inaccurate. “I think this is completely mad, actually,” he told the BBC. “You’ve said how we built a coalition – 19 Labour MPs have come with us and voted for a second reading [of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill]. It wouldn’t make any sense at all to dilute workers’ rights in building that coalition to land the Bill. We have said we will be better than our word. We have said our ambition on securing workers’ rights will be stronger than the provision of the Bill.”

According to the report, the leaked document said the way the political declaration – the agreement setting out the aims of the future trade negotiations between the UK and the EU – had drafted workers’ rights and environmental protection commitments left “room for interpretation”.

It reportedly boasts “UK negotiators successfully resisted the inclusion of all UK-wide level playing field rules” in the previous deal agreed by Mrs May’s team, allowing the UK to compete against the EU by possibly watering down rights.

The document, seen by the Financial Times, will fuel Labour’s concerns that workers’ rights and environment rights would be tampered with if the Tories were in power after Brexit.

Jenny Chapman, shadow Brexit minister, said: “These documents confirm our worst fears. Boris Johnson’s Brexit is a blueprint for a deregulated economy, which will see vital rights and protections torn up.

“It is also clear Boris Johnson was misleading Parliament earlier this week. You simply can’t trust a word Boris Johnson says. The Brexit Department initially declined to comment on the leak but later said: “The UK Government has no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights or environmental protection after we leave the EU.”

I’m sure that this has already been covered by the many other excellent left-wing blogs, including Mike’s and Another Angry Voice, but this bears repeating. Of course the Tories are going to cut workers’ rights and environmental protection. Their hatred of workers’ rights is one of the fundamental reasons why the Tory right has wanted to leave the EU since the days of Thatcher. I can remember one of them appearing on Wogan back in the 1990s, who explicitly said so. He liked the single market, but hated the Social Charter. That’s the section of EU law providing for workers’ rights and other standards regarding social conditions. They also loathe the green movement with a passion. Remember how Dave Cameron boasted that his would be the Greenest government ever, and put a windmill on the roof of his house to indicate his commitment to it. And then when he won the election, he went back on his word – surprise, surprise! – supported fracking, and that windmill was off his roof. And BoJob is a worse liar than he was.

As for the 19 Labour MPs, who supported him, they were either gullible, as one blog suggested, or active collaborators. The Blairites, it should be remembered, are also fellow worshippers of the cult of Thatcher.

Kwasi Kwarteng and the rest of his revolting party cannot be trusted on this for a minute. It might be Halloween, but to them it’s always April Fools Day, and they see us as the fools. Vote for Corbyn and get them out of office.

The ‘I’ on Labour’s Manifesto Policies

Thursday’s edition of the I, for 10th October 2019, carried an article by Nigel outlining Labour’s election promises. The article ‘What will be in the Labour Party election manifesto’, stated that ‘Jeremy Corbyn aims to target areas for radical change’. These were itemised and described as follows

Brexit

The plicy issue likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. One in office, Labour would spend three months negotiating a new Brexit deal with Brussels to enable Britain to remain in customs union with the European Union and be closely aligned to the European single market.

It would then organise a referendum within six months, offering voters a choice between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU. Labour would hold a special conference to decide which side it would endorse in the referendum.

Taxes

Labour says its tax-raising plans would only affect give per cent of taxpayers. It is currently committed to increase income tax rates to 45 per cent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 per cent for salaries over £123,000.

Cuts to corporation tax would be reversed and the rate would be fixed at around 26 per cent. 

Infrastructure

Labour is pledging to spend £250bn on upgrading the UK’s transport, energy and broadband infrastructure. Another £250bn of capital would be provided for businesses and co-ops to “breathe new life into every community”.

Nationalisation

Labour would bring the railways, Royal Mail, the water companies and the National Grid into public ownership so “essential services we all rely on are run by and for the public, not for profit.”

Minimum Wage

Workers of all kinds would be legally entitled to a UK-wide minimum wage of £10 an hour. LOabour says the move will make the average 16- and 17-year-old in employment more than £2,500 a year better off.

Free Personal Care

A new National Care Service would help elderly people in England with daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing, washing and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care, and provide better training for carers. The £16bn annual cost would come out of general taxation.

Free Prescriptions

Prescription charges would be abolished in England. They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

More than 80 per cent of English prescriptions are already issued free of charge, but in other cases patients pay £9 per item.

Boost Doctor Numbers

The number of GP trainees in England would rise by 50 per cent to tackle a recruitment crisis. Labour says it would mean an extra 27 million GP appointments per year.

Scrap Tuition Fees

One of the party’s most popular policies at the last election, Labour is committed to scrapping university tuition fees in England and Wales, which currently stand at a maximum of £9,250 a year.

It would also cancel existing student debt, which the party says has reached “unsustainable” levels.

End Rough Sleeping

Labour would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.

Outlaw Fracking/ Increase Renewables

Fracking would be banned “once and for all”, with Labour putting its emphasis on developing clean and renewable energy.

The party wants 60 per cent of UK energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and would build 37 state-owned offshore windfarms. it is pledging to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a Green Industrial Revolution.

Scrap Ofsted

The schools inspectorate, which the party claims causes higher workload and stress for teachers, would be abolished and replaced with a two-stage inspection regime.

A Four-Day Working Week

Labour would cut the average working week to 32 hours within ten years, but with no loss of pay. It would end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms sidestep EU rules on limiting hours to 48 a week. Zero hours contracts would be banned.

Overturn Union Legislation

Margaret Thatcher’s union legislation would be scrapped as a priority, and moves begun towards collective bargaining in different sectors of the economy.

Reverse Legal Aid Cut

Labour would expand legal aid as a priority with help focussed on housing cases and family law.

These are all policies that this country desperately needs, and so you can expect the Tories, the Lib Dems and the lamestream media, not to mention the Thatcherite entryists in the Labour Party itself, to scream ‘extremism!’ and do everything they can to stop them.

And you can trust that the party is absolutely serious about honouring these promises. Unlike David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris Johnson, all of whose promises about restoring the health service and reversing cuts, bringing down the deficit and ending austerity, have proven and will prove to be nothing but hollow lies.

James Cleverly Tries to Claim William Wilberforce was Tory

The Tory chairman, James Cleverly, whose name is surely a contradiction in his case, has tried rewriting history. According to him, William Wilberforce, the great 18th – 19th century campaigner against the slave trade, was a Tory MP from Yorkshire.

Er, no. He wasn’t. As Mike has posted on his blog, Wilberforce was an independent. Mike quotes two Tweeters, who know far more history than Cleverly, who point out that the Tories largely hated him, and that the Conservative Party only came into being in 1834, a year after the Act banning the Slave Trade throughout the British Empire and Wilberforce himself had died in 1833. And Philip Lowe, one of the Tweeters, also points out that the Tories tried to break him as a politician and a man, just like they’re trying to do with Corbyn.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/05/new-tory-chairman-owned-over-slavery-howler/

This looks like another example of the Tories trying to appropriate anything progressive from an earlier era. They tried it a couple of years ago with the National Health Service, despite the fact that it was very definitely launched by Clement Attlee’s Labour government with Nye Bevan as the minister responsible for it. Then there was the ‘Red Tory’ movement launched by David Cameron and his mentor, Philip Blonde, which used the example of the great 19th century Conservative social reformers and radical socialists like the anarcho-communist thinker Peter Kropotkin, to try to position the Tories as more left-wing than Blair’s Labour. In opposition, Cameron had the Conservatives campaigning against hospital closures. Once in power, however, anything left-wing was very quickly dropped. Cameron went on and accelerated hospital closures and the privatisation of the NHS.

He also tried to present the Conservatives as being eco-friendly. ‘This will be the greenest government ever!’, he announced. And put a windmill on his roof as a symbol of his commitment to green policies and renewable energy. But once he got his foot in the door of No. 10, that all went for a Burton too. He and his government decided that they loved fracking and petrochemical industry, cut funding for renewable energy. And took that windmill off his roof.

And somehow I don’t think Cleverly’s attempt to claim Wilberforce for them is unrelated to the current furore about Tory racism. Cameron attempted to present the Tories as nicely anti-racist, severing links with the Monday Club and throwing out anyone who had links to the NF and BNP. Now that Brexit’s the dominant issue, racism and Fascism has come back with a vengeance. There have been revelations about the vitriolic racism and islamophobia in the Tory party, and particularly in online Twitter and Facebook groups for friends of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And people very definitely remember BoJob’s comments about Black Africans and ‘grinning picaninnies with water melon smiles’. So Cleverly is trying to sanitise their image by appropriating Wilberforce.

Don’t believe the lies. The Tories are racist and viciously islamophobic. Get them out!

Boris Johnson and His Cabinet of Privileged Thugs Seize Office

So it’s finally happened. As just about everyone expected, but nobody outside his circle of the Tory far right actually wanted, yesterday Boris Johnson finally slithered into office. It was already on the cards on Monday, when the papers published this piccie of an expectant, jubilant Boris.

It sounds ridiculous, but I know people, who were genuinely unsettled by this image. They described him as looking mad, possessed even. I think it was probably due to a loathing of the man’s vile personal character and views coupled to his goofy expression. It also struck me that with his eye’s wide and his mouth wide open, there’s a certain superficial resemblance to the expression on this notorious American mass murderer, Charles Manson.

Which means that when they saw the picture of Johnson, subconsciously they saw this:

Which is enough to give anyone the creeping horrors.

Now Johnson isn’t a vile, unrepentant serial killer and cult leader like the late Manson. But he is an obscenely wealthy aristo, who has just appointed a cabinet of similarly obscenely wealthy aristos, none of whom seem to have the old virtues of genuine concern for the poor of the Tory paternalists. Because being ‘wet’ went out with Maggie Thatcher. They also stand for nothing more than their own enrichment and the simultaneous impoverishment of the less fortunate. They are vehemently pro-Brexit, anti-welfare and for privatisation and deregulation, despite the immense harm these zombie economics have done to this country and its proud, fine people. And it hardly needs to be said that they’re also pro-fracking and against the environment.

Two days ago on Tuesday, male feminist and anti-Fascist YouTuber Kevin Logan put up a video, Super Rich F**ks, which exactly described the Tory front bench. It was a piece of musical satire, mirrored from Dirty Little Owl’s channel, which showed images of various leading Tory politicians, with captions showing their personal wealth and a short piece about their horrendous voting record, while a song plays in the background viciously sending them up.

It begins with the statement that the Tories have a combined net worth of £2.4 billion, before going to the following –

Michael Gove

Net worth, £1 million +

Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.

Chris Grayling

Net worth, £1.5 million

Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms. (Bedroom tax).

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

Net worth £1.5 million

Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

Is a massive child.

Theresa May

Net worth: £2 million

While her husband’s £1.1 trillion investment firm avoided UK tax, she cut 2,000 police, raised tax on the self-employed and took benefits from 60,000 disabled people.

Penny Mordaunt

Net work: £2.5 million

Always voted to reduce help with council tax for those in financial need.

Philip Hammond

Net worth: £8.2 million.

Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.

Sajid Javid

Net worth: £8.5 million

Almost always voted against spending public money to create jobs for young people who’ve spent a long time unemployed.

Lord Stratchclyde

Net worth: £10 million

Voted against free school meals and milk.

Wryly commenting on the girth of the above aristo, the video comments that ‘clearly hasn’t suffered a want of meals himself.’

Jeremy Hunt

Net worth: £14 million

Here the video quotes his views advocating the destruction of the NHS:

‘Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of healthcare in Britain.’

Adam Afriyie

Net worth: £50 million

Voted for reduction in benefits for disabled and ill claimants required to participate in activities intended to increase their chances of obtaining work.

Zac Goldsmith

Net worth: £75 million

Voted in favour of proposed spending cuts and changes to the welfare system in favour of spending on new nuclear weapons.

Lord Deighton

Net worth: £95 million

Voted against protections for pensions being ‘raided’ when the master trust fails.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Net worth: £100 million

Voted for cuts in Housing Benefits for recipients in homelessness hostels, refuges, sheltered housing and accommodation for people with ongoing support needs.

Richard Benyon – richest MP in the UK

Net worth: £110 million

Voted to set the rate of increase for certain benefits, payments and tax credits at 1%, rather than in line with the increase in prices at 2.2%.

The Marquess of Salisbury

Net worth: £330 million

Receives £250,000 each year of taxpayers’ money for his inherited 10,000 acres, mostly in Jersey.

Lord Ashcroft

Net worth: £1.2 billion.

A tax exile in Belize who has poured millions into the Conservative Party over the years and strongly supported Brexit, which would remove Britain from the jurisdiction of forthcoming tax avoidance rules in the EU.

This bit has a clip from Panorama showing Brexit hiding in the gents’ toilets to avoid having to answer questions on tax avoidance.

I dare say that some of these grotesques are no longer in power, like Theresa May, thanks to Johnson’s massive purge of the cabinet. But those, who have replaced them are pretty much the same. They are what Private Eye once described as ‘the futile rich’. Their only concern is to grab more money for themselves, and steal it from the mouths of the poor.

And the press are complicit in this. Owned by millionaires themselves, they’ve now started a campaign of truly nauseating sycophancy, praising Boris to the rafters. Toby Young even raved about how Boris was a type of ‘Nietzschean superman’.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/tory-propaganda-assault-begins.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/toby-young-says-gissa-job-bozza.html

And the Beeb enthusiastically joined in last night on the One Show, where one of the guests was his father.

It’s all just Tory lies, one after another. Boris won’t do anything for this country. He doesn’t stand for more investment in the NHS or public services. He won’t put 20,000 more rozzers on the street. But he will privatise the NHS and cut welfare spending like the Tories always have. And Brexit will decimate our manufacturing industry, just as they’re anti-environmentalism will destroy our natural environment.

Get these thugs and hypocrites out now!

Boris, do what you said ought to be done when Blair transferred power to Brown and call an election so we can kick your sorry rear end out of No. 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas Murphy on the Corporate Elite, Environmental Collapse

In my last post, I reviewed Douglas Murphy’s Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture (London: Verso 2016). This is about the rise and fall of Modernist architecture. This style, whose antecedents can be traced back to the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace, and which was strongly influenced by architects and thinkers as widely different as Le Corbusier and Buckminster Fuller, was an attempt to create cheap, available buildings to cater for the needs of the future, as it was predicted in the 1950s and ’60s. This was an optimistic period that looked forward to economic growth, increasing standards of living, beneficial technological innovation, and, crucially, the ability of the state to plan effectively for people’s needs. This was a future that looked forward to a future, which automation would mean that people only worked for three days each week. The rest of the time, people would voluntarily go back into education to develop themselves. As Buckminster Fuller enthusiastically proclaimed that ‘within a century the word “worker” will have no current meaning’.

As automation eliminates physical drudgery, we will spend more time in the future in intellectual activity. The great industry of tomorrow will be the university, and everyone will be going to school’. (p. 27).

Fuller was one of the pioneers of the nascent environmentalist movement, and coined the term ‘spaceship Earth’ to describe the loneliness and fragility of our planet and its ecosystem.

Other influences on Modernist architecture were Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, about the devastating effect pollution, and particularly the insecticide DDT was having on wildlife. and the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth. Silent Spring’s title referred to the massive decline in America’s bird population caused by crop spraying with the insecticide. Limits to Growth was based on an attempt to use computers to model the performance of the world economy and the effect this would have on the environment. It assumed that resources were only finite and a growing global population. The intention was to test various changes in policy and see what effects this would have in the near to mid-future. The results were extremely ominous. The first run found that

If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on the planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probably result will be a rather suddent and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity. (p. 176).

This prediction of collapse was constant in subsequent runs, despite the changes in factors. Sometimes the collapse was sharper. One variation meant that it would be put off for fifty years. Another left some resources still in existence after the collapse for some kind of civilisation to continue. But all the models predicted disaster.

Moreover, technological innovation was unable to prevent the collapse. The authors of the experiment stated that technological optimism was the most common and most dangerous reaction to their findings, because it tended to solve some of the symptoms of the problems while leaving the actually causes untouched. The only real solution was to halt population growth, reduce the consumption of resources, switch capital investment from industry to education, combat pollution, improve agriculture and extend the productive life of capital.

While this is extremely restrictive, nevertheless the authors of the report believed that there was still room for optimism, because it allowed what many would consider the most desirable and satisfying human pursuits – education, art, music, religion, basic scientific research, athletics and social interaction, to continue.The book was highly influential, and discussed by powerful figures like Kurt Waldheim, the UN Secretary General in 1973, and President Giscard d’Estaing of France.  It was also widely criticised. Its critics complained that the model was too simplistic, and the authors themselves acknowledged that the model was rudimentary. It was also asserted that capitalism would find solutions to these problems, and industry would switch to a different, more productive direction. And also humanity would in time find solutions, both social and technological, to the problems.

However, Murphy goes on to comment that despite criticisms and attempts to move industrial society away from its current disastrous direction, the book’s predictions appear to hold true. He writes

Despite the massive emotional and political investment in moving the world away from its destructive course and onto more sustainable paths, none of the great many harbingers of doom from the period managed to shift capitalism off its growth-led and industrially intensive direction. There may be no need to defend the primitive systems of Limits to Growth and its ‘world model’ of 1972, but in recent years it has become a common sight to see the graph of the ‘standard model’ catastrophe with actual data from the subsequent forty years superimposed upon it. When this is done the graphs match almost perfectly, right up to around the present day, which is the point where the collapse is due to begin. (p. 180, my emphasis).

One of the responses to the predictions of environmental collapse was the proposal that special biospheres – enclosed buildings enclosing parts of the natural environment – should be built to protect some areas from destruction. One example of such a project is the Biosphere 2 experiment of the 1990s, in which a group of eight volunteers attempted to live inside such an enclosed artificial ecosystem for three years.

In his conclusion, Murphy points out the difference between the ’60s prediction of the benefits of automation and those of today, writing

Back then, automation was seen almost universally as a rising tide that would set people free from drudgery, but now, the mass automation of intellectual work promised by the algorithms of the technology industry seems much more likely to raise the drawbridge between the wealthy and the masses even further. Instead of people working a few days a week and fulfilling themselves with creative leisure at other times, it appears more likely that people will become more tightly squeezed into the last remaining jobs whose empathy and emotional labour the robots cannot synthesise.

And instead of enclosed cities, in which all citizens can live in harmony with nature, he predicts these will instead become the sole preserve of the rich.

Finally, instead of living in giant structures balancing the energy needs of cities with the natural world around them, it seems more likely that the lack of action on carbon dioxide emissions, combined with rising inequality across human society, will lead instead to the creation of climate enclaves, fortified cities for the super rich, self-sufficient in energy and food yet totally barricaded off from those outside who will be left to fend for themselves – the ultimate in Slotendijk’s bubbles. (p. 221).

When I read the above passage remarking on the apparent accuracy of the predictions in Limits to Growth, I thought of all the figures in big business and right-wing politics telling us that there’s no need to worry and we can carry on polluting and destroying the planet – the Koch brothers, the Republicans in America and Conservatives and Lib Dems over here, the oil and fracking companies, the newspapers pushing climate denial, like the Daily Heil and the Spectator, Nigel Farage and the Brexit party, Mick Hume and the wretched Spiked magazine and all the rest. And my reaction was the same as Charlton Heston’s in the 1968 Planet of the Apes, when he finally finds out that he is not on an alien world, but on an Earth after humanity has virtually destroyed itself in a nuclear war.

I really hope that the predictions are wrong, and that this isn’t the high point of our civilisation and that there won’t be any collapse. I’m sure that there are plenty of good objections to Limits to Growth.

But we still need to combat the environmental crisis, and kick out the corrupt politicians, who are taking the money from polluting industries and allowing the destruction of the Earth’s precious environment and the squandering of its resources. We need an end to Republican, Conservative governments and the political parties that aid, like the two-faced Lib Dems, and the election of genuinely Green, socialist governments under leaders like Jeremy Corbyn.

 

Texas' Ban On Fracking Bans Proves Industry Money Talks and Residents Walk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/05/2015 - 12:39am in

Silenced.jpgBy Claire Bernish

[Photo: Nathan Rupert.]

In a peremptory case of government acting as oil industry legislator, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a prohibition on fracking bans -- completely undermining one town's hard-won ordinance to protect its citizens' health and safety. Effective immediately, no city or town in the entire state will be able to "ban, limit, or otherwise regulate" any "commercially reasonable" industry practice -- with "reasonable" being determined by government and the industry, itself.

Having fought against all odds with a tireless grassroots campaign, in a state famous (infamous?) for its fossil fuel industry, the town of Denton managed to pass an anti-fracking ordinance late last November, a feat which garnered international attention. However, Denton was promptly sued by the Texas General Land Office and Texas Oil & Gas Association.

That lawsuit, however, did not appear to have firm footing, so the industry took matters into more powerful hands and used its powerful political sway to wield a legislative weapon instead.

Earthjustice attorney, Deborah Goldberg, who successfully defended a similar case in Dryden, NY, explained,

The Texas courts have upheld a long tradition of local control, so the Governor and the Legislature took matters into their own hands. Now, they have capitulated to the greedy but powerful oil and gas industry at the expense of their own constituents' health, well-being, and property rights.

Apparently, the governor has the concept of private property rights confused with fossil fuel industry predominance. In a statement about the new law, he said,

HB 40 does a profound job of helping to protect private property rights here in the State of Texas, ensuring those who own their own property will not have the heavy hand of local regulation deprive them of their rights.

Though HB40, which was written by former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff, applies statewide, its transparency as a direct response to Denton's efforts to ban fracking is virtually indisputable -- particularly given the town's location atop the Barnett Shale, one of the largest natural gas reserves in the country.

"HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts," said Sharon Wilson of Earthworks Texas who had helped with the town's original ban. She added, "It was the oil and gas industry's contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt."

Fracking is the only industry permitted to operate within city limits, and besides the nuisance of noise, there is mounting evidence to support claims that toxic chemicals from wastewater injection make their way into the drinking supply. A recent USGS study confirmed this process causes earthquakes, and risk maps had to be adjusted to account for these human-induced tremors.

Though the law is a clear victory for the bully, the town of Denton remains proud of their accomplishment, and hasn't lost all hope. As Goldberg explained, "We have been proud to represent the proponents of Denton's ban, and we know they will regroup and fight back against this legislative overreach."

"The people of Denton exercised their democratic right to keep a nasty industrial process out of their community-and now big oil and their friends in high places are steamrolling them, along with everyone else in Texas," said Natural Resources Defense Counsel attorney Dan Raichel. "The interests of a powerful industry should never take priority over the health and safety of American families. Texans should be able to keep dangerous activities and chemicals away from their homes, schools, and hospitals -- just as hundreds of other communities across the country have already done."

Claire Bernish writes for TheAntiMedia.org, where this article first appeared. Tune in! The Anti-Media radio show airs Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Image credit: John McSporran.