Around the World

Colorado Communities Battle Energy Industry to Build Community Rights

Saturday, 18 April 2015 | By Cliff Willmeng, Truthout | Op-Ed

On the Wattenberg shale of Colorado, it was recently reported that the Larimer Energy Action Project, an extension of the Colorado oil and gas industry, contributed $20,000 to the Fort Collins City Council campaign of Ray Martinez. With this contribution and the electoral victory of Martinez, the industry successfully extended its influence over a community defending a democratically mandated five-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling.

The industry knows that its control of the state legislature, legal system and courts is not sufficient. Community members standing up to the inherently dangerous oil and gas industry aren’t entering the effort from high political office. The movement against fracking comes from below, from the real grassroots, making local councils the logical next battleground between corporate power and community and environmental rights.

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Fighting Fossils, Letting Go of Regulatory Law

by Simon Davis-Cohen – April 28, 2015

Oregon county embraces a community rights approach to challenge local liquefied natural gas terminal

US fossil fuel exports are on the rise. The fall in global oil prices has bolstered already determined efforts to lift the 1975 ban on US crude oil exports. And as hydrofracking operations continue to expand, the industry is scrambling for regulatory approval to build a network of pipelines and terminals to transport natural gas around the country and worldwide.

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Local GMO Ban on May Ballot: Full Analysis

The Corvallis Advocate |

So, what does local GMO measure 2-89 do? What are the pros and cons?

Ballots will be mailed April 30, and due back on May 19. Measure 2-89 mandates that all genetically modified organisms in Benton County be harvested, removed, or destroyed within 90 days if it passes; it makes use of these organisms illegal after that. The measure envisions  an enforcement regime decided by county supervisors, as well as standing for individual residents to bring legal actions.

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The Carcinogenic Murder of Audrey Moore

Friday, 24 April 2015 | By Evaggelos Vallianatos, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I met Audrey Moore in April 2014. She and a few other Oregon environmentalists invited me to talk about my book, “Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA” (Bloomsbury Press, 2014, paper 2015).

The reason why these Oregonians wanted to hear me talk about regulation and the Environmental Protection Agency is simple. They read “Poison Spring” and found its message spoke to their needs. They appreciated my clearing the confusion about regulation. Who regulates whom? Is the government regulating the industry or the industry the government?

Oregonians understood why the government has been indifferent to their plight. My book confirmed their uneasiness that their government was a hostage of the timber companies. They have been fearful of being sprayed by hazardous and, in many instances, cancer-causing chemicals.

I fully appreciate their fear. Timber companies and large farmers are addicted to powerful and harm-causing poisons. They spray these toxins primarily for political reasons, including the control of their vast land properties. But these biocides fly and drop all over the natural world. Not only are these chemicals deleterious to nature; they cause cancer and numerous other maladies to humans.

How, one may reasonably ask, can these companies and farmers cause so much harm? Where’s the government? I explained in my talks, and I documented in “Poison Spring,” that the industry has captured the government. So, in Oregon, the timber companies go on with their calendar spraying of their “private” forests. They know that both state and federal governments are on their side.

Audrey Moore decided to fight back. She educated herself about the weapons timber companies use: weed killers and insect poisons. She spoke to other concerned Oregonians and government officials. She attended countless meetings only to discover the government used delays, complex texts, scientists and regulations to obfuscate and cover up the sprayings of the timber industry.

So Audrey correctly figured out the laws are designed to protect the large owners of private property. In fact, America’s legal system is a subsidiary of moneyed interests. That’s why even “environmental” lawyers fail to represent the environment (rivers, creeks, lakes, seas, mountains, forests, land). They struggle with details and minor reforms that fail to address the bias of the laws and the courts. Besides, polluters have their fingers all over the drafting of our environmental laws. And the same polluters have been funding the legislators responsible for US environmental legislation. This reality also cripples EPA from being APA.

So Audrey tried to convince the people of the Illinois Valley of Josephine County to institute new laws forbidding the dangerous and immoral spraying of people and nature by timber companies. She got in touch with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit group of lawyers rewriting the country’s laws. With their help, Audrey Moore mobilized “the country’s first Freedom from Pesticides Bill of Rights campaign.”

Audrey described the sprayings of timber companies as crimes against the natural world and society. After all, what is the poisoning of creeks, rivers and people, if not a crime? Audrey Moore was a victim of those crimes. She got cancer. Her six-acre home was in the woods of Josephine County in the spraying path of timber companies. She suspected her drinking water was poisoned. She died of cancer in mid-April 2015.

Dana Allen, a friend of Audrey Moore, sent me a message in which she spoke about Audrey Moore. Allen said Audrey did more than make a difference in inspiring people:

“[Audrey Moore] was a force of nature. Every wound to nature was a wound to her because she was of it; in it; a part of the whole of it. She set the example for all of us of how fierce and enduring we must all be to save the things we love. And I promised her that her work would go on through all of us that have engaged in this fight to save the living earth by overturning the existing system that is killing all life as we know it.”

“Just so you know,” she said to me, “I am going to be putting together a group in Alsea [Oregon] that will be doing an ordinance similar to the one that Audrey did in Josephine [County] to ban all aerial spraying on forestry and ag lands and the spraying of pesticides on public lands (schools, parks, roadsides, etc) here in Benton County. Another similar ordinance is being written in Lincoln County where Carol van Strum lives and is almost ready to be submitted. Another is being prepared in Lane County (Cottage Grove) with Eron [King]’s group. Hopefully, all of these will make it to the ballot in 2016. All of this work and the good that will come of it is because of Audrey. She brought you to Oregon and you really helped to open our eyes too about what Carol [van Strum] calls a genocide here in Oregon. You too have now become part of this circle that Audrey inspired.”

Like Audrey Moore, Eron King and Carol van Strum try to defend the environment and society of Oregon from hazardous chemicals and irresponsible timber company abuses.

Dana Allen is right. Audrey Moore blazed a path for democracy and a healthier natural world. Let’s honor her by continuing her struggle.

Start banning cancer-causing chemicals. Like climate change, cancer is largely anthropogenic. Pollute the air, water and food and you are embraced by cancer. The victim of cancer is a victim of crimes against all of us.Audrey went further. She told me cancer is murder.

It’s in our power to live in a cancer-free world. Carcinogenic murder deserves extinction.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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Proposal aims to override Oregon’s GMO pre-emption

Mateusz Perkowski | Capital Press | April 8, 2015 | Capital Press
A proposed ballot initiative in Oregon would allow local government regulation of GMO, which is currently pre-empted by state law.

Local governments in Oregon could restrict pesticides and genetically modified organisms despite statewide pre-emption laws under a ballot initiative proposed for the 2016 election.

Proponents hope to pass a “Right to Local, Community Self-Government” amendment to Oregon’s constitution written to immunize local ordinances from state and federal pre-emption.

Currently, the state government can pre-empt cities and counties action on nearly every subject, said Paul Diller, a law professor at Willamette University.

“This amendment would flip that presumption in many more instances,” he said.

While the proposed amendment wouldn’t have any power over federal pre-emption — that would require a change to the U.S. Constitution — it would override state pre-emption with a simple majority vote if it gets on the ballot, Diller said.

“We want to be part of the decision-making process,” said Mary Geddry, a chief petitioner for the ballot initiative.

State regulatory agencies currently make decisions by which local communities must abide, she said. “We want to democratize the process.”

Pre-emption is a key subject of recent battles over GMOs, which were banned by Jackson and Josephine counties last year. Benton County will vote on a GMO prohibition in May and supporters in Lane County are trying to get a similar initiative on the ballot.

However, state lawmakers in 2013 pre-empted local regulations of GMOs except in Jackson County, where the measure had already qualified for the ballot. Local regulation of pesticides is also pre-empted in Oregon.

Unenforceable county GMO bans and other pre-empted ordinances would likely be retroactively activated if the ballot initative is approved by voters, said Diller.

“I would assume it would apply to anything that’s still on the books,” he said.

Overturning state pre-emption would affect numerous other laws that set a statewide standard, such as the statute against local rent control ordinances, Diller said.

“I think it would be an absolute boondoggle if it passes, not just for agriculture but a host of other issues,” said Scott Dahlman, policy director for Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an agribusiness group that supports state pre-emption of GMO and pesticide rules.

The proposal to overturn state pre-emption is part of the “same movement” as GMO prohibitions, as well as restrictions on oil and gas pipelines, he said.

To qualify for the Oregon general election ballot in 2016, supporters must collect more than 117,500 valid signatures. As a constitutional amendment, the initiative faces a steeper hurdle than the roughly 88,000 needed to get a statutory measure on the ballot.

To begin the process of drafting a ballot title, though, supporters only need to gather 1,000 signatures.

“That’s not a very high bar,” said Dahlman.


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Firing Big Green: Are National Environmental Groups Really Serving the People?

Friday, Apr 3, 2015 | By Thomas Linzey |In These Times: With Liberty and Justice for All…

Forty years after the major environmental laws were adopted in the United States, and 40 years after trying to regulate the damage caused by corporations to the natural environment and our communities, by almost every major environmental statistic, things are worse now than they were before.

Indeed, a recent study determined that we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction of life on earth, and the United Nations has declared that we’re heading toward “major planetary catastrophe.”

It’s not because we haven’t been sending enough letters to Congress, submitting enough public comments or having enough people testify at EPA hearings.

Rather, it’s because our activism has failed to confront the basic premise of how our environmental laws actually function—that rather than protect the environment, they instead regulate its exploitation, and thus legally authorize the very harm Big Green and communities have been trying to stop.

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