Oil and Water — a 14-Part Series (First 11 Parts)

Since last May, I’ve contributed to a series for The Intercept utilizing leaked documents and public records to reveal a troubling fusion of private security, public law enforcement, and corporate money in the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline and other pipelines across the United States.  Intercept readers voted the first story in the series, “Leaked Documents Reveal Counter-Terrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies,” as the publication’s Most Essential Story of 2017. Check out the series timeline here.

You can also access the entire series here, or by clicking on the links below.

Part 1Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to “Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies”, May 27, 2017
Part 2: Standing Rock Documents Expose Inner Workings of “Surveillance-Industrial Complex”, June 2, 2017
Part 3: As Standing Rock Camps Cleared Out, TigerSwan Expanded Surveillance to Array of Progressive Causes, June 21, 2017
Part 4: Dakota Access-Style Policing Moves to Pennsylvania’s Mariner East 2 Pipeline, June 21, 2017
Part 5: TigerSwan Faces Lawsuit Over Unlicensed Security Operations in North Dakota, June 28, 2017
Part 6: TigerSwan Responded to Pipeline Vandalism by Launching Multistate Dragnet, August 26, 2017
Part 7: Police Used Private Security Aircraft for Surveillance in Standing Rock No-Fly Zone, Sept. 29, 2017
Part 8: The Battle of Treaty Camp: Law Enforcement Descended on Standing Rock a Year Ago and Changed the NoDAPL Fight Forever, Oct. 27, 2017
Part 9: Dakota Access Pipeline Company Paid Mercenaries to Build Conspiracy Lawsuit Against Environmentalists, Nov. 15, 2017
Part 10: An Activist Stands Accused of Firing a Gun at Standing Rock. It Belonged to Her Lover — an FBI Informant., Dec. 11, 2017
Part 11: A Native American Activist Followed Her Mother’s Footsteps to Standing Rock. Now She Faces Years in Prison., Jan. 30, 2018

The Federal Government is Trying to Imprison These Six Water Protectors

In February, a federal grand jury issued indictments of four Standing Rock water protectors on charges of Federal Civil Disorder and Use of Fire to Commit a Federal Crime.

The federal investigators accused the four men—James White, Brennan Nastacio, Dion Ortiz, and Brandon Miller-Castillo—of involvement in setting three highway barricades on fire, which obstructed police during a highly-militarized October 27 raid of the “Front Line Camp” just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Another water protector, Michael Markus, was indicted on identical charges on January 24, and his case has been combined with those of the other four men. Prosecutors are also pursuing three federal felonies against a 38-year-old Oglala Sioux woman named Red Fawn Fallis. They accuse her of firing a gun during her arrest, even as multiple police officers had her pinned face-down on the ground. Fallis’ arrest also occurred on October 27.

These cases likely mark the first time that United States authorities have pursued felonies against individuals involved in demonstrations against fossil fuel infrastructure. Click here to keep reading @ Shadowproof

Brown Administration Supports Proposal That Would Block Increased Bay Area Tar Sands Refining

I co-authored this April 18th East Bay Express blog post with Jean Tepperman:

The California Air Resources Board has announced support for a proposal that would block the increasing use of Alberta tar sands and other extra-polluting crude oil at the Bay Area’s five major oil refineries. This proposed Bay Area Air Quality Management District limits, known as Rule 12-16, would likely make the Bay Area the first place in the world to limit oil refineries’ overall pollution levels. It would enforce caps on the refineries’ greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions, based on July 2016 levels. Click here to keep reading @eastbayexpress.com >>

Building Trades Union Asks Trump to Fast-Track First-Ever US Pacific Coast LNG Terminal, 25 Other Infrastructure Projects

In mid-February, representatives of North America’s Building Trades Unions presented President Donald Trump a list of 26 infrastructure projects for which they are requesting fast-track regulatory approval, McClatchey reported last week.  The list includes six major oil and gas pipelines, including at least two that have engendered major opposition from impacted local residents on grounds similar to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

One is Williams Co.’s Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania, an expansion of the Transco line — the US’ largest natural gas pipeline. It would carry 1.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas 199 miles from the Marcellus shale region, where gas is extracted using hydraulic fracturing. It would cross 388 water bodies and 263 acres of forest. The group Lancaster Against Pipelines is opening an encampment to create a focal point for nonviolent direct actions.

The second is Canadian company Veresen’s Jordan Cove Liquid Natural Gas Project in Oregon, which would consist of both the 233-mile Pacific Connector Pipeline and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Coos Bay, OR. It would be the first liquefied natural gas terminal ever constructed on the US Pacific Coast (though there is one in Baja, CA, in Mexico). (more…)

How California’s Oil Refining Sector Became, Proportionately, the Most Carbon-Intensive in the World

[Check out my new story in East Bay Monthly…]

California is one of the world’s most important political arenas for climate change policy. In contrast to the Trump administration, which has begun to dismantle the federal government’s existing climate change regulations, California officials are plotting out how to achieve a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2030 and have established cooperative programs with countries and states throughout the world to reduce atmospheric pollution.

California is also home to a massive oil industry, which has waged a multi-faceted campaign that includes lobbying, arm-twisting, and record levels of election campaign spending to soften state and regional climate programs as much as possible.

In particular, California is a major hub of oil refining (along with a large oil extraction sector). Other than Louisiana and Texas, no US state processes more oil into gasoline, diesel, propane, or other petroleum products. Moreover, California’s oil refining sector actually probably releases more greenhouse gases on a proportionate basis than any other major regional oil refining sector on planet earth.

That’s according to Communities for a Better Environment Senior Scientist Greg Karras, who has studied oil refinery pollution emissions, including for a 2010 article in peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology. I talked to him extensively for my new story in East Bay Monthly called “Stopping a Tar Sands Invasion.”>>


Brown Administration Weighing In on Proposal to Stop Bay Area Tar Sands Refining

Canadian tar sands mines.

On May 17, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will consider a proposal that would make the San Francisco Bay Area the world’s first region to place limits on oil refineries’ overall greenhouse-gas and particulate-matter emissions. This new regulation, Refinery Rule 12-16, would prevent oil corporations from making the East Bay a hub of Canadian tar-sands processing, because it would enforce a cap based on historic emissions levels at the five major Contra Costa and Solano county refineries.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is about to weigh in on the proposal. Will the administration help stop increased Bay Area refining of tar sands? Read more in my Feb. 22nd East Bay Express story. >>

Deluged: Logging That Imperils CA Rivers and Residents

During storms of even moderate intensity, the Elk River in Humboldt County rises above its banks and dumps torrents of mud and sand across neighboring properties and has ruined domestic water supplies, inundated vehicles, buried farmland and spilled into homes. Why does this happen?

The cause of the flooding is simple: logging. “California has a systematic and deliberate policy to flood our homes and properties for the sake of corporate profit,” Elk River resident Jesse Noell said.

Read my story in the February 15th North Bay Bohemian. >>

A Fight for the Oak Woodlands

Forest fragmentation resulting from cannabis grows in Humboldt County (photo courtesy of The Siskiyou Crest)

The Mendocino County Supervisors will soon vote on a series of environmental protections that would include putting 714,000 acres of rangeland off-limits to new cannabis cultivation permits. They are also considering an impressively strict oak woodlands protection ordinance and a grading ordinance, while also allowing existing cannabis growers to become legally permitted. The end of marijuana prohibition has opened up the possibility of a damaging “green rush,” which these measures aim to prevent.

The person who has most vocally opposed these protections is Stuart Bewley, one of Mendocino County’s wealthiest landowners, who made his fortune in the wine industry. Bewley has moved aggressively into the cannabis business.  Last year, the Mendocino County Sherriff’s illegally granted Bewley five grow permits and declined to act on complaints by county supervisors and local residents, thus raising questions about whether the county will actually enforce its own rules.

I wrote a two-part feature in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley Advertiser that provides a snapshot of this issue. Here’s part one, and here’s part two.

I’ve written in the past about how marijuana growing is used as a scapegoat for environmental degradation, but it’s also the case that extreme marijuana grows are a major source of environmental damage and cultural upheaval, as many people who have long campaigned against damaging logging have also pointed out.

This Bay Area Proposal Would Strike a Huge Blow Against Dirtier Oil Production (The Nation)

As I noted in a December post, I am preparing new stories on efforts by Bay Area climate justice activists who are mobilizing for the first-ever overall limits on oil refinery greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions, thus dealing a major blow to the Canadian tar sands and other dirtier crudes.

I wrote a story about it for The Nation, published on January 31st:

“In spite of its reputation as a haven for environmentalism, California is home to the third-largest oil-refining sector in the United States, which exports a considerable amount of gasoline, jet fuel, propane, and other fossil-fuel products to surrounding states. Oil processing is already California’s largest industrial emitter of greenhouse gases, but things could get even worse in the coming years: The state’s refineries have developed a greater technical capacity to convert lower-quality, denser oil into engine fuels than those in other parts of North America, meaning they’re at the leading edge of the oil industry’s long-term pivot towards refining dirtier-burning sources, including the tar sands—something California’s existing climate policies may do little to prevent.” Click here to keep reading @ thenation.com >>

Recent Stories on Redwood Region Logging Struggles

Logging-induced flooding in the Elk River watershed downstream of Headwaters Forest Reserve

In the last month, I’ve published two stories in the Anderson Valley Advertiser concerning struggles against ecosystem destruction — one of which is also, clearly, a human rights struggle — in my home territory: California’s redwood region.

My Jan. 11th story, “That Old Maxxam Band Again,” explores the historical connections to Maxxam Corporation of the people involved in crafting and defending recent Gualala River floodplain logging plans.

My Jan. 25th story, “Floodwaters Still Rise,” looks at the decades-long problem of logging-induced flooding in the Elk River watershed near Eureka, downstream from the Headwaters Forest Reserve, which invades and destroys people’s homes, orchards, domestic water supplies, and more, and has gravely harmed some of the North Coast’s best coho salmon habitat.

A broader story I’ve written on these topics will be the lead feature in the North Bay Bohemian on Feb. 8th. I will repost it here.