Austinites rally outside campaign headquarters in solidarity with 12,000 in DC
- Protestors spell out their message. “SAY NO TO TARSANDS!” - Photo by Don Mason (http://ow.ly/7nbjY)
AUSTIN, TX – Campaign staff and volunteers working for President Obama’s re-election got an earful from environmentalists in Austin on Monday, one day after 12,000 people encircled the White House in Washington DC to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
“He has given every indication that this decision is his to make,” said Hope Philips, one of the protestors at the rally. “So we’re here to tell him to stick to his campaign promises and ‘end the tyranny of oil.’”
Many of the signs at both protests featured quotes from President Obama’s 2008 campaign when he made bold claims about reducing oil dependence to the delight of young voters and environmentalists.
- Protestor holding the President to his own words
Between chants protestors celebrated signs their actions are making headway in the fight against the tar sands pipeline.
“Just today the inspector general of the US State Department agreed to investigate the environmental assessment process. The relationships between TransCanada and the State Department were too cozy resulting in a deeply flawed process,” said Chris Wilson, a retired chemical engineer who recently authored a report criticizing the State Department’s environmental impact study.
The Austin protest drew out about 50 people who directed
their voices towards the campaign’s offices inside a small building on the corner of East 6th and Navasota St. During the protest two representatives from the group were invited in to speak with Hector Nieto, Texas director of Obama for America.
“It was a good conversation and I think the local and state leaders get why this is an important issue,” said Adam Hammick, one of the two representatives and a volunteer with 350.org. “They promised to take our message straight to the top of the campaign food chain, so we hope the message gets through to the President.”
Monday’s protest comes only a week after a widely reported “oil zombie” themed Halloween protest at City Hall, and organizers show no signs of slowing down. On Saturday November 12th they plan to join forces with Occupy Austin to hold a march on Citigroup who they accuse of helping to fund tar sands giant TransCanada. Then on November 28th they plan to return to the campaign headquarters along with organizers in all 50 states who will be demonstrating outside of local campaign offices.
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In recent months, the oil and gas industry has been vigorously denying that hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a technique of extracting natural gas from shale formations, is in anyway responsible for small earthquakes in areas where fracking activities have been taking place. However, (according to Bloomberg) U.K.-based shale explorer Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. said in a report published Thursday, November 3rd it is “highly probably” that fracking caused two small earthquakes near Blackpool in northwest England earlier this year.
Of course they went on to minimize the event saying the geological circumstances were “rare” and the strongest possible tremor, of a magnitude of 3, wouldn’t be a risk to safety or property on the surface.
That being said, the findings may add to concern that fracturing is harmful to the environment. France has already halted the practice for fear it may pollute drinking water and a small earthquake near Dallas caused concern for local residents who feared fracking in the area might have contributed to the event, even while the industry decried that possibility.
Cuadrilla halted operations earlier this year after two tremors were felt on the surface. The first, on April 1, measured 2.3 on the Richter scale and another on May 27 measured 1.5. Homeowners in the English seaside resort of Blackpool called the police after feeling their houses shake, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Pressure from fluids on a so-called stressed fault zone probably caused the quakes, the report showed. This should be of concern for other areas around the world where fracking activity is occurring near faults (for instance the Eagle Shale area near San Antonio).
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In the 2011 ozone season, North Texas pushed ahead of Houston in the battle for the worst air quality in the state. Both metro areas have significant pollution problems, and both continue to exceed federal ozone limits.
Dallas-Fort Worth now has the distinction of beating the Bayou City as the former longtime state champ, and one that has been contending for years for the worst smog problem in the country.
The release of the 2011 ozone season stats has been met with little concern by those in positions of power.
The Texas leadership keeps telling Texans that the feds are out to get us with their onerous and unnecessary environmental rules and regulations. But as the ozone readings reveal, the state isn’t troubling itself with meeting even basic standards.
North Texas and Houston are still exceeding the now-outdated ozone limit of 85 parts per billion and are nowhere near complying with the new standard of 75 ppb. We all pay for failing to meet this bar with public health consequences — more respiratory illnesses, hospital visits, lost work days and premature deaths.
Texas is under federal mandate to reduce ozone levels. The state is required to submit and to abide by plans to improve air quality — but too many deadlines have been missed, and too many plans have been little more than Band-Aids.
The story the numbers tell is, not enough has been done to bring North Texas into compliance. The metropolitan area needs a more aggressive clean-air plan, but it also needs state environmental officials to lead the way to reduce pollution from sources outside the cities’ purview – like coal-fired power plants – that blow into these urban areas making it even more difficult to meet air quality standards.
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