community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show: Legal Experts and Immigrants Rights Advocates in Pittsburgh speak out against Arizona's SB 1070, New regulations may affect Marcellus Shale Drilling in PA and more in our local and global headlines.
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Rustbelt Radio for May 24, 2010
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every other Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
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We turn now to local stories.
On Monday, May 17th, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) endorsed two new rulings that would provide oversight to the largely unregulated oil & gas drilling procedures in Pennsylvania. If adopted into law, the legislation is being hailed as one of the first measures to truncate the environmental destruction caused by the Marcellus Shale drilling companies. Rustbelt Radio has been covering these controversial drilling processes over the past few months, weighing in from citizens and public officials on the environmental and health effects hydraulic fracturing leaves in its wake.
Among the many environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, is water contamination. In order to extract the lucrative natural gas from Marcellus Shale formations, the process pumps millions of gallons of water into the ground, laced with a cocktail of chemicals. Total dissolved solids, or TDS, in the fracking fluid include a laundry list of poisons. Currently, the allotted amount of TDS for the drilling industry far exceeds the toxicity levels for humans, not to mention a devastating impact on the already threatened ecosystems of Pennsylvania. Just last year, toxins leaked from coal mines on the PA-West Virginia border, destroying a 30-mile stretch of waterway, the once ecologically prolific Dunkard Creek.
If the state legislature accepts the regulations, natural gas drilling companies would finally be subject to an ounce of oversight. According to the executive summary of the DEP's amendments, quote: "The additional requirements will minimize gas migration and will provide an increased degree of protection for both public and private water supplies." unquote
The newly proposed rulings come amidst a flurry of excitement from environmental advocacy groups. PennFuture weighs in with a press release they issued on May 17th. Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of PennFuture stated:“These regulations will go a long way to making our drinking water safe and our streams and rivers better protected. The Department of Environmental Protection developed these rules to avoid new threats to our water as our state ratchets up both development and drilling. The drillers will now be required to treat the wastewater they discharge to rivers and streams to drinking water standards. And other industries with new or expanded permits will have strict limits on the amount of TDS pollution they can release. The new development standards will make sure that our exceptional value and high quality streams remain available for fishing, swimming and other recreational uses."
However, some in the environmental community voice concerns that the amendments do not go far enough. The Post Gazette reports that many measures were cut from the current draft of the legislation. Among the most startling, is the annexing of requirements to notify the public when potentially dangerous levels of contaminants are found in public water supplies. Myron Aronwitt, Western Pennsylvania director for Clean Water Action, tells the Post Gazette, "We were flabbergasted. We don't see how notifying the public and giving them the information they need to protect their health is a bad idea, especially since notifying the media doesn't cost the utility involved any money."
The proposed rulings include updated requirements for drilling, casing, cementing, and plugging of newly constructed oil and gas wells. Existing drill sites would not be subject to the legislation.
Additionally, the draft includes measures said to ensure a higher standard of safety before, during and after construction of new drill sites, providing an increased degree of protection for homeowners and water supplies. It then goes on to describe the technology involved in these updated procedures. However, in a lack-luster language of policy-writing, the summary describes how the contractors will conduct their own safety assessments. "Operators must inspect all of their wells quarterly and report the findings of the inspections to the Department annually. If defective casing, evidence of leaks, or if excessive pressure within the well bore is discovered, the operator must immediately notify the Department and take corrective action."
Self-administered safety inspections have proved to have a immeasurable human and environmental cost, as demonstrated by countless disasters from risky industry procedures--closest to home being the Upper Big Branch disaster that took 29 miners lives.
Another puzzling fact is the response from drilling industry representatives. Weighing in on the legislative announcement, Range Resources Corporation positively glows in a statement made to the Tribune Review. Quote: "Range shares the desire of the Commonwealth to responsibly develop the Marcellus shale," said Ray Walker, Senior Vice President with Range Resources Corp. "We're proud to have pioneered water reuse and recycling in Pennsylvania, and we remain committed to working with the DEP and other engaged stakeholders in the regulatory process."
Range Resources Corp. is heavily invested in Marcellus Shale drilling, and it's profits are rising. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, "the Texas-based oil and gas exploration and production company posted a gain of $77.6 million, or 48 cents per share, compared with $32.6 million, or 21 cents per share the prior year."
If industry officials are smiling, it should be noted that the DEP recognizes the role these special interests groups played during the drafting process of the new rulings. The document states: "This final form rulemaking differs from the proposed rulemaking in several important respects. The differences are direct reflections of concerns raised by industries that would be impacted by this rulemaking. The rulemaking is responsive to these concerns, resulting in an improved rule."
Who were the groups at the DEP's table to weigh in? Their proposed legislation lists extensive recommendations made by the Pennsylvania Coal Association, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and the Allegheny Conference.
Tune in to Rustbelt Radio for continuing coverage of how Marcellus Shale drilling will impact your community.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
We now bring you a commentary from political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal. In this episode recorded on May 19th, he links the Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills with the words of MOVE leader John Africa.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots. We'll be back after this brief break.
Arizona's new immigration bill 1070 has drawn criticism across the United States and Mexico, as opponents say the law's provisions will lead to increased racial profiling of Latinos, pose dangerous threats to civil liberties, and give power to untrained local police to enforce federal immigration laws. The bill which was signed by Governor Jan Brewer has sparked an already heated immigration debate and has mobilized communities in favor of a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. In addition, communities and legislators that support the SB1070 are now introducing copycat bills in their own states, including a bill introduced to the PA House by State Representative Daryl Metcalfe of Cranberry Township.
In order to shed light on the new Arizona law and the immigration issue as a whole, the ACLU of Pittsburgh held a community forum on May 17th entitled "What Happens in Arizona STOPS in Arizona." Over 100 community members gathered to listen to a diverse panel of local legal experts and advocates for immigrant's rights.
Representing the ACLU was Vic Walczak, the organization's Pennsylvania Legal Director and lead attorney in challenging Hazleton PA’s anti-immigrant law. The 2006 law, introduced by Mayor Lou Barletta made it illegal for anyone in the eastern Pennsylvania town to employ or rent to someone who could not prove their legal immigration status. If employers or landlords were found to employ or rent to a quote "illegal alien" unquote they would lose their license to do business in the town. The Hazleton laws were declared unconstitutional by a US District Judge in 2007, however the town's appeal is currently pending in the US Court of Appeals. The law has sparked a series of copy cat laws in other towns across the country.
In his presentation at the community forum, Vic Walczak traced the fear-mongering that is behind Hazelton's law. He provided factual data, refuting the claims of the law's anti-immigrant supporters who say the immigrants will ruin the economy, place a burden on the healthcare system, and lower the quality of the public school system. Vic explained how his research disproves these myths, including the ever-popular claim that new immigrant populations lead to an increase in violent crimes.
David Harris, is a University of Pittsburgh Law Professor, ACLU Pittsburgh Chapter board member and nationally recognized racial profiling expert. He described the anti-immigrant laws recently passed in Arizona as making up a third wave of racial profiling. The first wave was seen as part of the "war on drugs" which specifically targeted black and brown motorists on the New Jersey turnpike, as directed by the federal government. The second wave of racial profiling was introduced after 9-11 as part of the "war on terror" and now targets Muslims in airports. To put the new Arizona law into perspective, David highlighted some of it's key points:
Speaking from a legal perspective, David described how the law will absolutely lead to racial profiling.
David Harris believes the new Arizona law will create a negative relationship between local law enforcement and the immigrant community, thus threatening community policing:
Christina Powers, is a board member with the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center or PIRC. She is also a former staff attorney with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, which works exclusively with detainees to help them through the legal process. Speaking on her time in Arizona, Christina described the human costs that result from misguided and broken immigration procedures:
Rustbelt Radio will continue after this musical break.
That was Legendario with the song Problemas Raciales. We now continue with voices from the May 17th ACLU-sponsored community forum in Pittsburgh: What Happens in Arizona STOPS in Arizona.
Jackie Martinez, is a local immigration attorney and member of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) Racial Profiling Task Force. She spoke from the perspective of a Latina immigrant who works with the undocumented population on a regular basis:
Sister Janice Vanderneck, is a Sisters of St. Joseph and member of the PATH to Justice Committee of the Religious Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. She has been a long time advocate for Latino immigrants in the Pittsburgh region, arguing for a moral response to the issue. One of her biggest concerns is the devastating effect that detentions and deportations have on the family unit.
While the focus of the night's discussion often centered around Arizona, attendees were urged to inform themselves of current copy-cat bills that are being proposed in the PA House. Local Representative Daryl Metcalfe has introduced House Bill 2479 that will require law enforcement to verify the immigration status of anyone stopped, arrested, or detained and who (quote) " is or should reasonably be suspected of being unlawfully present in the United States." It also creates a state criminal offense for not possessing proper immigration papers. HB 2479 also requires all private employers to use the federal E-Verify database prior to hiring. This database is intended to check an individual's immigration status, however businesses that use the system indicate a 10-15% error rate that deems eligible workers as INeligible. Conversely, workers who should have been found ineligible, were found eligible for work.
In addition to HB 2479, PA House Bills 1502 and 1503 would require all state contractors and construction employees to use the database.
For more information on Arizona's new SB1070 and copy cat proposals in Pennsylvania, you can go to aclupa.org
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are Carlin Christy and Garth Porter with contributions from Carlin Christy and Emily DeMarco. This week's show was produced by Shawn Watson and Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, or to send us your comments, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. All of our shows are available on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.