Thursday, January 30, 2014

The New York State Water Supply: We Can't Become Another West Virginia

                                                                     Hudson Valley photo copyright Carolyn Odell Photography

Thank you to The Catskill Mountainkeeper for permission to reblog
The New York State Water Supply: We Can't Become Another West Virginia
By Ramsay Adams

Most of New York's drinking water comes from right here in the Catskills, and it is renowned for its taste and purity.

Our water is simply amazing, and we need to protect it for all of us who live here, and the 19 million people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that rely on water from our Delaware and Catskill wathersheds. 

Our Catskill water is so pure, it reaches the taps of New York City unfiltered. Sadly, for the most part, we take it for granted that its purity and supply is being protected with vigilence by governmental regulatory agencies
In our everyday lives, we just trust the water from our wells or municipal sources is safe and pure.  We also trust that our regulatory agencies are doing their most to protect us from pollution and spills into our water supply.

The truth is that we should be much more watchful and cautious in making sure our water supply is protected.

Case in point: There's an ongoing environmental disaster involving the water supply of hundreds of thousands of residents in West Virginia that we in the Catskills should be paying very close attention to in terms of protecting our own H2O.

Earlier this month, over 7,500 gallons of a clear, licorice-smelling chemical used to process coal leaked from an old storage tank and spilled into the Elk River.  The accident took place near the largest water treatment plant in the state.

Life came to a halt there with the resulting prohibition on using tap water. Over 300,000 residents of West Virginia were ordered not to drink the tap water. That chemical, Crude MCHM, which is primarily composed of a chemical named 4-methylcyclohexane methanol is very toxic, and there were immediate reports of rashes, stomach aches, and other ailments.

After 10 days, restrictions on using tap water were lifted for most of those affected by the disaster, even though the licorice smell remained. Pregnant women are still being advised not to drink the water, while Governor Earl Ray Tomblin emphasized that tests indicated the water is safe under guidelines set by the US Centers for Disease Control, he also told a press conference he was not aware of a recommendation for home owners to flush their pipes until the smell is not present.

He was not too reassuring when he told residents: "If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking in this water, then use bottled water...I'm not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don't use it."

Now as West Virginia officials, who are no strangers to environmental spills and lax regulation, scurry to deal with the health disaster, serious questions are being raised as to why there's so little regulation of the storage of these chemicals-and even worse, why there's so little knowledge by the Federal government and the medical field about the potential toxicity of chemicals like the one spilled into the Elk River.

What stands out the most from the WV spill is how the Federal and state governments throughout the nation fail to monitor chemicals and their use in terms of protecting our water supplies.

A recent article in the Washington Post's Health and Science section stated that "It has been 38 years since Congress passed a major piece of legislation regulating toxic chemicals, even though there is no disagreement that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, or Tosca) needs an overhaul" and that ""Chemicals in the United States are generally treated as innocent until proven guilty. A company does not have to prove that a chemical does not pose a health hazard in order to introduce it in the commercial market."

Much like West Virginia, our state is way too lax in regulating chemicals. 
Here in New York State, the controversy surrounding Fracking already highlights the dangerous nature of chemicals used and released in the fracking process, particularly to the water supply, and serves as a reminder of how lax the regulation of chemicals are in our own backyard.  In fact, several of the chemicals identified in the West Virginia spill are manufactured for fracking operations.

In a report issued by Environmental Advocates in May, 2012, a dire warning was issued about the lack of regulation of the oil and drilling process and the flawed exemption of chemicals from being deemed hazardous waste:

"Existing state laws and regulations do not require oil and gas companies to report with any specificity how much waste is being created, its chemical components, or how drilling waste is being disposed. We also discovered that much of fracking's waste would likely be classified as hazardous waste if it were not exempt under flawed state regulations."

The lessons of the recent chemical spill in West Virginia need to be learned well, and implemented quickly, here in upstate New York.

It's just not about potential fracking here in the Catskills, but about a broader, rudimentary need to protect our water supply from chemicals on a day-to-day basis.
Right now, our water supply is woefully underregulated in terms of chemical storage and transportation, and with the boom going on right now in transmission pipes servicing the needs of the oil and gas industries in neighboring states, updated studies and regulations should be mandated immediately.

The time to take action is now, at both the local and state levels of government, before it is too late.  To find out what you can do to help, email us or visit Catskill Mountainkeeper today.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Yorkers Demand A Safe & Healthy Future- Ban Fracking!

New Yorkers Demanding a Frack-Free Future!                                                                        Photo by Jodiah Jacobs
On January 8, over 1,000 New Yorkers braved the cold to send yet another message to Gov Cuomo - Do Not Frack New York!  And as he has in the past, the governor ignored the massive gathering just outside his door and said not one word on hydraulic fracturing in his State of the State address

Thanks to all the patriotic citizens who went out of their way, some traveling hours, to passionately argue for a sustainable, renewable future. They represent the position of millions of voters in our state (a Nov 2013 poll showed 47% of New Yorkers were against fracking- up 8% from March).

Kudos to all the organizers, to photographer Jodiah Jacobs for giving permission to share the great photos you see here from his album "New York Crossroads; No Fracking, Yes Renewables", to the over 100 sponsors and to I thought their summary of what lies before us to be excellent. 

This is the critical crossroads – on the fate of New York and the nation – where we remain. In one direction is fracking, leading to further catastrophic dependence on fossil fuels. That path is lined with drill rigs, contaminated rivers and water wells, smog and toxic air, dangerous pipelines, compressor stations, and other infrastructure, and poisoned farms. It leads to a future with worse climate change, super storms and public health disasters. 

 In the other direction – Governor Cuomo and the people of New York say no to fracking and instead embrace renewable energy. That path leads to good jobs, healthy families, and sustainable homes and communities. New York can step up and show the nation and the world a place where people can live, work and thrive without dirty and dangerous extreme energy. We can take a stand for public health and clean water. We can champion and support our jobs in agriculture and tourism and continue to develop more jobs in efficiency and renewable energy like wind and solar.

To see more go to "New York Crossroads; No Fracking, Yes Renewables" and thanks again to Jodiah  for bringing the spirit of the day alive with these photos.

New Yorkers have accomplished something of great significance- a fracking moratorium has been in place in NY since 2008. But the governor has said he will make a decision as to whether to ban fracking permanently by Election Day of next year. Get involved!  Call Gov Cuomo 866 584-6799. Tell him to protect our health and safety from fracking.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What You Don't Know about the TPP Will Hurt You!

From TPP March on the Media Like them on Facebook! (photos added)
Our demonstration in front of Congressman Gibson's office in September
If you have not heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal you are not alone. However, the fact that the TPP is not making headlines in mainstream news is no accident. The deal is being negotiated with such a degree of secrecy, not even members of the US Congress have been allowed to see the full draft.

What we do know about the TTP from leaked documents on Public Citizen is truly frightening. If the public knew what 600 corporate representatives were negotiating behind closed doors, there would surely be such a global outburst of protest, it would make the ground shake.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal has provisions that would:
     Force the US (and other member countries) to import and sell unsafe food products
     Creates “State-owned enterprises”
     Cause 90 percent of Americans to take a pay cut
     Raise the cost of prescription drugs and reduce access to medicines
     Eliminate nearly all oversight on the banking industry
     Ship millions of US jobs overseas
     Limit free speech through new intellectual property rights laws
     Eliminate most internet privacy rights
     Create corporate owned “investor states”
     Give foreign countries the right to sue the United States for “loss of expected profits”
     Exempt foreign companies from US laws including, environmental, land use,banking,      
       public safety and health, food safety and labor, among others.
In an essay called “What’s the matter with NAFTA,” Elaine Bernard of Harvard Law quoted
Michael Walker, an economist with the right-wing Fraser Institute in Canada, as saying, "A trade agreement simply limits the extent to which the U.S. or other signatory governments may respond to pressure from their citizens.”

The plain translation of Mr. Walker’s words spell the end of freedom and democracy as we know it. If government is more bound to a trade deal than “pressure from their citizens” then the US Constitution is essentially null and void.

To put this in perspective, let’s say a TPP nation wants to drill an oil well in a residential neighborhood that has laws that don’t allow oil drilling. Under TPP, the company can drill there anyway because not drilling in that particular spot, represents a loss of expected profits.

That same company also does not have to comply with local environmental laws for the same reason. Additionally, if they happen to kill the last animal of its kind, or add cancer-causing pollution to the drinking water supply, that’s okay, too, under the TPP. Spending money to operate without polluting cuts into their profits.

If local citizens protest because their neighborhood is being ruined and their children are dying from pollution-related diseases, it won’t matter. The TPP gives companies the right to ignore the laws of sovereign nations. The businesses would even have the right to file a lawsuit to recoup any profits they may not collect. If they win their case in a foreign tribunal, US taxpayers will have to pay the corporation for their “losses.”

While the above is an over-simplified, hypothetical example, it does provide an idea of just how dangerous this pseudo-trade deal really is and why the people negotiating it want to keep the details secret. 

As The Guardian explains, “The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new “free trade” pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.”

The “New World Order” will no longer be a conspiracy theory if the Trans-Pacific Partnership becomes law. By design, this trade deal is a huge step toward creating a One World fascist government that has complete control over every form of life on the planet.
Some 40 percent of the global economy will fall under the control of corporate interests with the TPP deal. In addition to the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam will have the right to violate the laws of sovereign nations.

For generations, wealthy elitist have been manipulating governments and laws like a global Ponzi scheme. One step at a time, working-class people have been convinced to surrender their rights to the more powerful, under the guise of economic benefits for themselves.
In fact, there is little historical or modern-day evidence to suggest that the rich have ever had any intention of sharing their wealth with the poor.

Why Citizens United matters so much

In 2010, corporations were declared “people” by the US Supreme Court. The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision opened the floodgates of corruption that have since poisoned US elections and the legislative process. It allowed millionaires and billionaires to spend an unlimited amount of money to create false or misleading ads to influence the minds of voters. That money filled the seats of congress with radical freshmen that pledge their allegiance only to the corporate lobbyists’ flag. The American public is barely an afterthought for the Citizens United Congress.

Had the Citizens United decision gone the other way, the world might not be on the brink of the New World Order that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will bring. But that’s not what happened and it would be na├»ve to think that all those election “investors” are not expecting a return on their money.

The wealthy elites want the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it’s good for them, not you. And that’s why the negotiations are being conducted in secret. The public is not supposed to know how badly they are being sold out until it’s too late.
If you live in America and you want to try to stop the TPP, tell your elected representative to deny President Obama “fast track authority” for trade agreements. 
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202 224-3121 and ask to speak to your representatives.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dec 3- International; Day of Action against TPP- a Toxic Trade Deal


Call To Action: December 3, International Day of Action Against Toxic Trade Agreements

Call To Action: December 3, International Day of Action Against Toxic Trade Agreements
Join the International Call to End the WTO and Stop the New Wave of Free Trade Agreements on December 3rd, the first day of the World Trade Organization meetings in Doha, Qatar. The Doha meeting will be followed by a 20th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meetings in Kyodo, Singapore. Negotiations for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TAFTA) are also underway.
All of these trade agreements share the same fundamental principle that profits are more important than the health and needs of people and the planet. They are destroying local economies and public infrastructure in order to establish a global neo-liberal economic system that privatizes all goods and services. These agreements grant transnational corporations the power to change laws even down to the local level and challenge court decisions in their own tribunal that operates outside of sovereign judicial systems and cannot be challenged by domestic courts.
On December 3, we call on all allies for fair trade, peace and justice to gather in a public space at noon and declare global resistance to these toxic trade agreements. We will not obey secret deals made by transnational corporations that defy public interests and desires and destroy hard-won protections of people, workers and the environment. We demand the rights of all people to live with dignity, to meet their basic needs and to build a 21st century sustainable green economy.
  • We are acting in solidarity with people all over the world to end the race to the bottom in jobs and wages.
  • We respect the right to have a job with a living wage and safe working conditions.
  • We want 21st century jobs that build a sustainable green energy economy.
Communities in the United States are starting to pass resolutions to declare that they will not obey trade agreements that cause harm to their communities. To learn how you can do the same in your community, visit “Declare Your Community a TPP-Free Zone.”
To participate in the international day of action:
  1. Endorse the Call to End the WTO and Stop the New Wave of Free Trade Agreements by contacting Mary Lou Malig of La Via Campesina – Asia at
  2. Register your action with Flush the TPP by contacting Cassidy at
  3. Find tools for your day of action at
  4. Share photos, videos and reports about your day of action with Flush the TPP by contacting Margaret at

Saturday, September 21, 2013

TPP (The Terrible Plutocratic Plan) in the News

From William Rivers Pitt, TPP in the USA Is Why We Occupy, Truthout:

"The trade pact known as the Trans Pacific Partnership is wending its way to existence with the express approval and muscular push of the Obama administration. This has been happening for a while now, and almost entirely in secret, because if people knew what it entailed, they might, you know, Occupy.

Let's see...TPP favors banks over people, companies over workplace safety and the environment, coal and oil over alternative energy sources, major agribusinesses over local farmers and local produce, the absolute end of "Buy American," as well as the end of laws protecting even the most anemic minimum wage, product safety...and here's the best part: if corporations feel like governments are encroaching on corporate power and "rights" in these matters, they can sue those governments in specially-created tribunals. NAFTA has similar tribunals that have levied hundreds of millions of dollars in fines; under TPP, the rights of corporations to sue for "damages" is massively expanded.

TPP is the point of why Occupy came to exist in the first place, the distilled essence. If this deal happens, it will be the final triumph of the legal fiction known as "corporate personhood," the fraud that gives your 14th Amendment rights to a faceless, unassailable company with billions in assets and the will to use them in our already-septic political system. With this "trade" pact, they will be able to stretch those rights globally, nationally, regionally, locally, and literally right down your throat.
It sounds like a bad Batman plot. It isn't. The president thinks it's a fine idea.


While you still can."

From an OpEd by David Brodwin in US News and World Report:

"Many provisions of TPP have little to do with trade per se. They simply promote the interests of powerful global industry groups and use legal and political mechanisms to limit true competition in the market place. For example:
  • Provisions of SOPA, the so-called "Stop Online Piracy Act" which was rejected last year by Congress. SOPA would give a competitive advantage to the film industry and other content-creators while restricting innovation on the internet.
  • Provisions that would extend patent protection on pharmaceuticals while restricting governments from negotiating lower prices.
  • Provisions that would privilege major banks and financial institutions over credit unions and the emerging sector of public banks.
  • Provisions that would disadvantage organic farmers and others who adopt safer and more environmentally-sound agricultural practices.
  • Provisions that would extend the dominance of coal and oil and hinder alternative energy producers, by blocking regulations and limiting deployment of smart grid and other infrastructure.

An OpEd from Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club and James Hoffa, president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters- calling for fair trade not free trade.

Please call your elected officials today and say "No Fast Track for TPP"! Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202 224-3121. Tell President Obama what you think of his attempt to push this through Congress without debate- 202 456-1111. Sign the petition-

Most Americans now see what a bad deal NAFTA was for American workers- A May 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion poll found that U.S. respondents who believe that the country should “renegotiate” or “leave” NAFTA outnumbered by nearly 4-to-1 those that say the U.S. should “continue to be a member” of NAFTA (53% vs.15%). Support for the “leave” or “renegotiate”positions dominated among Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike. 

TPP is NAFTA on steroids. Public opposition has stopped 15 bad trade deals in the past. We can stop this one too. Keep Faith!

Our Sept 17 Action at Congressman Gibson's Kingston, NY office
TPP Opposition Growing and What You Can Do
TPP the Global Monsanto Protection Act

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rally to Tell Congressman Gibson- No Fast Track for TPP!

We had a great rally in front of Congressman Gibson's Kingston office today. About 40 people from all over the Hudson Valley came to register their opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP has been negotiated by multinationals secretly for over three years and it threatens our jobs, food safety, environment, sovereignty and our very democracy. Read more:

Thank you to all who came from near and far! Thanks too to Dutchess County Legislator, Joel Tyner for his interactive rap which was very entertaining!

We have stopped bad treaties before and if we can stop Fast Track for TPP, we can stop this one too. Call your elected representatives (Capitol Switchboard- 202 224-3121) and say "No Fast Track for TPP!" If you haven't yet, send your email to to receive updates.

A copy of the letter signed by 40 at the rally and delivered to the Congressman's office is below.

Ulster County MoveOn Council
New Paltz Women in Black
PO Box 955
New Paltz, NY 12561

September 17, 2013

Representative Chris Gibson
Congressman of the 19th District of New York
721 Broadway
Kingston, NY 12401

Dear Congressman Gibson:

Subject: No Fast Track for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Many of your constituents are upset to hear some of the details that have been leaked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The fact that 600 "advisers" from multinational corporations and financial institutions have been meeting behind closed doors for over three years to negotiate this treaty already casts serious doubts on what is being proposed in our names.

We find it interesting that the former trade adviser for the US, Ron Kirk, said if the American people knew what was in this treaty they would rise up in opposition and it would never pass. We agree. Here is brief summary of the parts we find most egregious.
  • The TPP would set up foreign tribunals to challenge national, state and local government laws that corporations say would hurt their future profits. Already under NAFTA and WTO, such lawsuits are increasing. The US has lost 95% of them. This could result in a huge transfer of taxpayer money to corporations already experiencing record profits, but even worse, it would have a chilling effect on any government's ability to pass laws for the environment, public health and public safety. Unbelievably, the "judges" in these tribunals would be corporate attorneys and their decisions final. This is a description of corporate tyranny.
  • Under the TPP,  there would be a mad rush to off-shore millions more American jobs to countries where labor is most exploited and environmental regulations the laxest, accelerating a global race to the bottom in wages, benefits and working conditions and worsening climate change.
  • The TPP would "harmonize" food safety standards.
    "That means all countries that sign on to the agreement would be required to abide by the lowest common denominator standards of all participating governments. So, for instance, if Vietnam were to allow for higher residues of veterinary antibiotics in seafood than the U.S. allows and Vietnam and the U.S. both sign on to the TPP as trade partners, the U.S. could be forced to lower its standards to allow for imports of seafood from Vietnam or face a lawsuit by the seafood exporter for depriving the company of future sales of its products in the U.S."
  • The costs of medicine will increase under TPP as patents are extended for big pharmaceutical companies and there are fewer generics.
  • Internet freedom under TPP. "would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate".
  • The TPP would undo the already too weak regulations of Wall Street setting us up for more and even worse financial crashes.
  • TPP would ban "Buy American" procurement policies.
The Obama administration is pushing for the Fast Track of TPP, which would only allow Congress to make an up or down vote without requiring an airing of the provisions of TPP through public hearings, or allowing Congress to make any amendments. It is the responsibility of Congress to review and amend treaties. We ask that you not cede this power to the Executive Branch, which we see as a clear violation of separation of powers and antithetical to the spirit of our Constitution. We are asking you to pledge NO to the Fast Tracking of TPP.

We find it shocking that few in Congress have even been able to read the text of the TPP. Rep Alan Grayson was allowed to and he said it is "a punch in the face to the middle class" and added he was not able to even talk about what is in it!

We support Fair Trade that raises standards and protects American workers, the environment, public health and public safety. We ask you to stand up for democracy, for US sovereignty and for your constituents and reject the Fast Tracking of a secret deal that benefits the 1% at the expense of people and the planet.

Thank you.
Signed by 40 attending today's rally 

and here is a photo gallery of other No TPP events. On the second anniversary of OWS, stopping the fast track of TPP was front and center!