Voices from Russia

Monday, 8 May 2017

Dissent Denied: “Emergency” US State Law to Silence Protesters

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New laws intended to punish those exercising their constitutional right to disagree with existing legislation and policy will now see possible fines of up to 1 million USD (58.1 million Roubles. 6.9 million Renminbi. 64.3 million INR. 1.37 million CAD. 1.35 million AUD. 910,000 Euros. 770,000 UK Pounds) in the US state of Oklahoma after legislators rushed “emergency” anti-protest laws into effect. The new laws allow for increased fines on those found guilty in Oklahoma of engaging in protest actions that result in the damage of infrastructure, especially oil and gas equipment. They also include a new wrinkle, in which the state could fine those who support, or “conspire” (in the terms of the bill), with the protest up to one hundred times the amount levied on the guilty party. The new statutes allow fines for up to 10,000 USD (581,000 Roubles. 6,900 Renminbi. 643,000 INR. 13,700 CAD. 13,500 AUD. 9,100 Euros. 7,700 UK Pounds) against anyone found guilty of simply intending to destroy infrastructure. The state can assess fines up to 100,000 USD (5.81 million Roubles. 690,000 Renminbi. 6.43 million INR. 137,000 CAD. 135,000 AUD. 91,000 Euros. 77,000 UK Pounds) if protestors actually do real damage. However, the real kicker is a 1 million USD fine for any person or organisation found to be supporting an activist found guilty, including, ostensibly, human rights groups or medical, legal, and logistical assistance at the protest site.

The laws are in direct correlation with increased attempts across America to stymie any dissent against new petrochemical infrastructure, including pipelines and fracking wells. Considered a major oil and gas transfer hub for much of the USA, Oklahoma has a long history of its state government acting as a front for oil companies. According to The Intercept, the town of Cushing OK (the so-called “Oil Pipeline Crossroads of the World”) and surrounding regions saw a striking rise in earthquakes during the fracking boom due to the pumping of a toxic mix of wastewater and chemicals directly into the ground. The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association is a vocal supporter of the new legislation.

Many are suspicious of the loose wording of the new Oklahoma anti-protest laws, however. Doug Parr, a lawyer who has represented several environmental activists in Oklahoma, told The Intercept that the statute’s claims are too broad:

Say they lock themselves to a piece of construction equipment, and a claim can be made that there were damages from that trespass. Does this statute create a civil action for a pipeline company to then go after a person or organisation that posted a bond or helped pay for a lawyer for that civil disobedience? Those organising peaceful actions of civil disobedience can now be heavily penalised if any attendee chooses to take on a solo act, such as spray-painting a message on a wall. Suppose an organisation decides they want to support a perfectly legal, no civil disobedience, action. Somebody in that crowd, who came to the protest at the request of that organisation, then jumps the fence and runs in there, and spray-paints on a storage tank, “This equipment causes earthquakes. Shut it down”. These statutes could be used to attack that organisation and impose financial liability on them.

The Sierra Club’s Oklahoma head, Johnson Bridgwater, pointed out the possibly illegal ramifications of the new laws, stating:

We don’t necessarily know everyone who’s attending the events. There’s a strong and real fear that this could be used as an attempt to crush a group or a chapter of Sierra Club unfairly.

Common Dreams identified 19 new anti-protest bills in the USA, as of April 2. Similar legislation in Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota aims directly at civil disobedience actions that seek to stop or limit the expansion of petrochemical operations. Many see new laws in Minnesota and other states as responses to previous protest actions blocking roads and highways after white police killed unarmed black men and women in US cities. Referring to an earlier high-profile action of civil disobedience seeking to shut down the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the Sierra Club’s Bridgwater observed:

We see all of these bills as nothing more than corporate America being fearful of how successful the Standing Rock protests were.

8 May 2017

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/business/201705081053369767-us-state-law-silences-protest/

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Chevron Tries to Apologise for Pennsylvania Fracking Explosion with Free Pizza

00 pizza and beer. 09.12

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Last Tuesday, residents of the small town of Bobtown PA woke to an explosion and a massive high-temperature fire, at the site of a fracking well owned by Chevron Corporation. Last Tuesday, a Chevron well in the preparation stages for hydraulic fracturing exploded 50 miles south of Pittsburgh PA causing a fire that lasted for four days and left one Chevron contractor unaccounted for and another one injured. It took five days for emergency crews to extinguish the fire; the explosion shook the small town of Bobtown, located in the far southwestern corner of the state. The blast gave off a loud hissing noise that one could hear hundreds of yards away.

One resident told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the explosion in a shale formation where Chevron spent time fracking “sounded like a jet engine going five feet above your house”. John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner PA, said that his dog started growling unusually at 06.45 on 11 February, “then, the house just sort of shock and there was a big loud bang”. The Philadelphia Daily News since discovered that residents of Bobtown… a census-designated place of fewer than 1,000 people that revolves mostly around coal mining… started to receive coupons for one free pizza and a two-litre soda from a local Bobtown pizzeria.

On its website, the company said, “Chevron recognises the effect this has had on the community. We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We’re committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbours, our employees, our contractors, and the environment”. Daily News reporters were able to confirm with Bobtown Pizza that it was, in fact, Chevron that bought about 100 of the 12 USD (430 Roubles. 13.25 CAD. 13.35 AUD. 8.75 Euros. 7.20 UK Pounds) coupons, which expire on 1 May 2014.The coupon is for one free large pizza and a two-litre drink at Bobtown Pizza, a shop a few miles away from the drill site.

Activists say that the pizza coupon is just the most outlandish of the many ways Chevron and other oil and gas companies have tried to soften their image, as fracking stirs controversy over environmental and health impacts. Gloria Forouzan, a leader with Pittsburgh-based anti-fracking group Marcellus Protest, said, “How arrogant and stupid do they think people are? What (fracking companies) are doing in terms of PR is insidious. They advertise, and they advertise heavily, and for that, (people) are basically willing to lie down and let the companies walk all over them”.

19 February 2014

Voice of Russia World Service

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_02_19/Chevron-apologizes-for-Pennsylvania-fracking-explosion-with-free-pizza-0282/

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