Cabot’s Security Posts Photographs of 63-Yr Old Scroggins in Guards’ Campers, for Failing to Follow the “Unwritten Rules”, And Other Tales of the Absurd from Fracksylvania

US Main Stream Media is full of anecdotes about the criminal amounts of cash the global corporate Oil & Gas (O&G) lobby dumps into it’s politics. It barely mentions the seedier outcomes of O&G’s political influence. Many of my fellow Americans might have therefore missed what The Guardian has called “one of the most extreme measures taken by the oil and gas industry to date.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/29/vera-scroggins-fracking-activist-pennsylvania

The Guardian also notes that “None of that activity by Scroggins or other activists was illegal, or presented a public danger, according to Jason Legg, the district attorney for Susquehanna County,” while “Thomas Meagher, the county solicitor, said Scroggins brought her legal problems down on herself by failing to follow the “unwritten rules” of civilized discourse.”

Dr. Walter Brasch, in his linked blog, “An Injunction Against the First Amendment” describes a kangaroo court run of, by and for Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. to silence one (1) 63-yr old grandmother, Vera Scroggins. Among my favorite passages, is where Scroggins is basically told that if she were to accidentally go anywhere she can’t go, she would then be in violation:

“(Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth W.) Seamans issued the temporary injunction that Cabot wanted. It forbid Scroggins from going onto any property that Cabot owned, was drilling, or had mineral rights, even if there was no drilling. The injunction didn’t specify where Scroggins couldn’t go. It was a task that required her to go to the courthouse in Montrose, dig through hundreds of documents, and figure it out for herself.”

The extent of this kangaroo court’s slant is described in The Guardian: “Cabot turned up with four lawyers and nine witnesses, employees of the company and the firm it hired to provide security. Scroggins represented herself. She told the court she had been unable to find a lawyer as the hearing had been called on 72 hours’ notice.”

Scroggins later explained to me that the judge originally denied her request for continuance since she hadn’t given 24 hours notice. But she didn’t have an attorney to know about the 24 hour notice.

Good She Checked

It is a good thing Scroggins had the time, inclination and resources to dig through those hundreds of documents. Otherwise, here is what she might never have found until her lawyer told her inside a jail cell:

“Scroggins can’t even go to homes of some of her friends, even if they invite her; that’s because they had leased subsurface mineral rights to Cabot…Cabot had leased mineral rights to 40 percent of Susquehanna County…the local hospital, supermarkets, drug stores, several restaurants, the place she goes for rehabilitation therapy, and a recreational lake.”

http://themoderatevoice.com/192734/an-injunction-against-the-first-amendment/#7jxsRs1GKyJC5KoS.99

According to former lease holder and current candidate for the 110th Legislative Representative Carol French: “Remember the landowner owns the property and if you have or had permission to go on the land, Cabot will NOT and does NOT have a leg to stand on. That landowner still pays the taxes on that property and owns the right to enjoy and share their property with whomever they choose. The lease does NOT allow the use of the surface unless the landowner signs away surface rights to the gas company.”

But How Can It Be?

Big money has broken our ability to get a fair share shake against those with big money. As Brasch explains, the following is only possible “Where the oil and gas lobby has been able to pour millions of dollars into politicians’ campaigns.” The sole saving prayer may yet come: “the fractivists have countered by grass-roots organizing and contacting government officials and politicians, promising them no money but only the truth,” Brasch notes.

How do you get around with these restrictions? You don’t. We The (actual, living) People have to put They The (corporate, non-living) People in their place. That place is not, but should be, 100% subordinate to the will of We The (actual, living) People.

Round Two: A Little More Evenly Matched

On March 24, at 9 am, Scroggins went to court to defend her right to shop in markets, and visit the hospital in her own town. She was up against Cabot Oil, who wants to restrict her from the land she grew up on – and the corporate person Cabot did not – because she speaks up against fracking that land. Is this over? Hardly.

Scroggins said the next day: “waiting for the Judge to make a decision on whether to continue the injunction and if so, how restrictive this time.” While Vera sought to dismiss the injunction, Cabot now wants to exclude her from 500 feet around active sites. “How am I supposed to know where it is? They are going to have to establish a Vera-Free Zone,” she said on the Bob Joseph Show, WNBF Radio 1290 Binghamton, the next day.

On the Bob Joseph Show, a caller named Ray, who said he is an ex-gas worker in Dimock, allows Vera on his property. There is an operating gas well 500 feet from his front door. When Vera is there, he says gas workers “Viciously come down and attack her standing on my property.”

Scroggins offers what might be a better method of keeping her off another’s property: “If you don’t want me on your property, send me a letter. I would honor it, and if I didn’t, take me to court.”

To the danger Scroggins’s presence creates on fracking sites, she asked on Joseph Show: “What is the danger? I basically stay on the road, they have gates and guard shacks. If it is so dangerous, why are you next to homes? They are afraid that too many people were seeing what this industry is doing to the residents.” She later added, “Cabot is the real danger and all the gas companies; we are being exposed to possible gas leaks, explosions, fires with these sites next to homes, schools, farms daily. When will the next accident that takes out the nearby residents happen? How many will have to die and be cremated, incinerated like the worker on the site in Greene Twp., Washington County, PA?”

To documentation of Vera loosing her patience in face of adversity, she welcomes anyone to sit down and talk to her. Let them decide for themselves. She adds: “Those who know me don’t describe me like that. Those who are pro-gas industry describe me like that.”

John Trallo, Vice Chair Executive Committee, Shale Justice Coalition, shalejustice.org, later told me: “This is a big deal, because the outcome of this case will set the precedent for all other BS trespassing cases that the gas industry is certain to try to use against every citizen activist, grassroots organization, etc., who rightfully opposes this massive and gross industrialization.”

Vera told me later: “The 3 attorneys I have are pro bono, court costs are covered by donations. I will continue to expose this industry and reveal the dangerous practices they impose on the residents.” We, the residents, hope you do, Vera.

My next (hearing) date has been moved later to July 2nd at 9 am” says Scroggins. We, the residents, must be there for her.

Further Reading

Reuters account of the hearing:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/24/us-usa-pennsylvania-fracking-idUSBREA2N05H20140324

William Huston’s writeup about the “after scene”:

http://williamahuston.blogspot.com/2014/03/attorney-for-cabot-oil-and-gas-loses-it.html

According to Trallo “this story is getting picked up all over:
So far: 7 states, 3 countries, US National News Media, 2 wire services.”

He lists them:

International: France (Le Monde), Russia (RT)
Wire Services: Reuters, AP,
National: Huffington Post, Yahoo News (front page!), Bloomberg Business Week, Washington Post
Local: NY(Binghamton, Elmiria) PA (WNEP Scranton, Wilkes Barre, York, Abington), IL: (Pekin), IN: (Greenfield, Indianapolis), WI (Eau Clare), OH: (Warren), CO (Colorado Springs)

An HD video of the entire press conference will be posted on my “Citizen Sane” blog (http://pacitizensane.blogspot.com/) YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the Shale Justice Coalition Newsletter and website, and also on Dr. Wendy Lee’s “The Wrench” (http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/) and “Raging Chicken Press” (http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/).

Here’s the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKazb8AiJEs&list=UUEWwQRI3qXtuLt6p30OusQQ

For a set of stills of the press conference, please see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wendylynnelee/sets/72157642865631153/

*Why is this so important? If Cabot gets away with this bogus ‘slap suit’ against Vera Scroggins, it will set a dangerous precedent and the oil and gas industry will take steps to silence anyone who dares to tell the truth about their activities. We can not allow that to happen. Vera deserves our full public support. I was proud to stand with her and the crowd of other socially, environmentally, and morally responsible citizens at the Montrose Court house today, and intend to be there with her when the judge announces his decision. We all need to stand in support of each other if we are to win this battle for our children, and our children’s children and stop this industry from advancing. I refuse to accept, or believe this is a lost cause. – JT

Le Monde (France):

http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2014/03/24/une-militante-americaine-anti-gaz-de-schiste-saisit-la-justice_4388523_3244.html

Fox40 (Binghamton):

http://www.wicz.com/news2005/viewarticle.asp?a=32380

WNEP (Scranton):

http://wnep.com/2014/03/24/anti-fracking-activist-case-in-court/

PennLive (Patriot News, Central PA):

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/03/fracking_activist_wants_back_o.html

Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/24/fracking-activist-vera-scroggins_n_5019352.html

RT: http://rt.com/usa/fracking-injunction-pa-scroggins-893/
Elmira Star Gazette:

http://www.stargazette.com/viewart/20140324/BUSINESS/303240071/Trespassing-fracking-activist-wants-ban-lifted

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/24/us-usa-pennsylvania-fracking-idUSBREA2N05H20140324
Law360 (membership only access): http://www.law360.com/articles/519769/pa-anti-fracking-activist-seeks-to-end-ban-from-land
WBNG (Binghamton): http://www.wbng.com/news/local/Anti-fracking-activist-takes-on-Cabot-Oil-and-Gas-in-court-252043121.html
Bloomberg Business Week:

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-03-24/trespassing-fracking-activist-wants-ban-lifted

Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin:

http://www.pressconnects.com/comments/article/20140324/BUSINESS/303240071/Trespassing-fracking-activist-wants-ban-lifted

York Dispatch: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/ci_25410227/trespassing-fracking-activist-wants-ban-lifted
StateImpactPA (public radio): http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2014/03/24/driller-defends-court-order-barring-anti-fracking-activist-from-pa-land/
Washington Post (with a totally incorrect headling): http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/trespassing-fracking-activist-wants-ban-lifted/2014/03/24/d6df7a3a-b392-11e3-bab2-b9602293021d_story.html
Allentown Morning Call: http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/pennsylvania/mc-pa-fracking-activist-banned-20140324,0,3575493.story
Pekin Times (Illinois): http://www.pekintimes.com/article/20140324/NEWS/140329558/11130/SPORTS
Abington Journal (Montgomery County PA): http://theabingtonjournal.com/news/local-news-news/1269509/Anti-fracking-activist-appeals-court-injunction
Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/anti-fracking-activist-banned-pennsylvania-land-heads-court-040127457–finance.html
The Daily Journal (Indianapolis, IN): http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/4fc48f0ab9b24a7f9efc2c37fa44ef1f/PA–Banned-Fracking-Activist/
Times Leader (Wilkes Barre): http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1269509/Anti-fracking-activist-appeals-court-injunction
Tribune Chronicle (Warren OH, Mahoning Valley): http://tribune-chronicle.com/page/content.detail/id/601512/Mon—4-49pm–Trespassing-fracking-activist-wants-ban-lifted.html?nav=5192
WEAU (Au Clair, WI): http://www.weau.com/home/headlines/Activist-wants-back-on-natural-gas-drillers-land-252055041.html
Greenfield Reporter (Indiana): http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/4fc48f0ab9b24a7f9efc2c37fa44ef1f/US–Banned-Fracking-Activist
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO): http://gazette.com/fracking-activist-wants-back-on-drillers-land/article/feed/102062

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Bond Swap for New Building? The Political Class’ continued fleecing of We The Taxpayer.

Folks don’t know the connections and implications of crony capitalism, partly because no one points them out, until a municipality is overexposed by such unnecessary risk, a la Harrisburg.

So I’ll try to keep an eye on The Political Class’ continued fleecing of We The Taxpayer.

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/03/hummelstown_borrowing_63_milli.html

The article says “average interest rate of 3.87 percent over 30 years,” might indicate a bond swap of fixed for variable interest rates. This document, from Boro staff, says it is fixed:

Hummelstown Information

Hopefully that is for the life of the loan.  Because if it ever can switch to variable, it exposes the taxpayer to unnecessary risk, if rates go up, in exchange for no benefit of reduced taxes, etc. I cover little of that here, in a similar move in nearby Londonderry Twp:

http://news.thesunontheweb.com/news/2012-12-06/Community/Swapping_Midstream.html

Here, former Harrisburg Receiver recommended that Pennsylvania “prohibit local governments from entering into any new in­terest rate swap agreements,”, and why:

http://todaysthedayhbg.com/pa-senate-committee-testimony-of-former-harrisburg-receiver-david-unkovic/

Interest rates, kept low for a long time only by the Federal Reserve’s actions, have to rise at some point. A bond swap – of fixed interest for variable – is taking on a risk burden. If swaps are to be done in the public sector, those assuming the risk must equally share the rewards from it. Swaps should not be done to make new money appear out of thin air, and spent on campaign donors, even before it hits the coffers.

Watch also when O’Keefe “recommends an engineering firm.” That could end up as another no-bid, no peer oversight handout to HRG-PAC. It would be curious, for example, to know who recommended Bond counsel Lou Verdelli, who he beat, and by what competitive selection process he beat them. Verdelli and HRG-PAC sweep most of the plumb assignments right next door in Derry, by wild coincidence. Verdelli and HRG-PAC have both given generously to Derry Supervisors’ political campaigns.  And the coincidences pile on.

Also coincidentally: Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank announced on March 12, 2014 funding $3.9 million to five local projects. HRG-PAC is the municipal engineer in three: West Hanover, Derry and Londonderry. If HRG-PAC was also involved in the other two, in Harrisburg and/or Middletown, who did they beat for those lucrative projects, and by what selection criteria? If there was no competitive process, then We The Taxpayer may not have gotten the best price we could have for those services. That would be a shame, but doubly so if we added the risk of variable loans on to our tax burden and didn’t share in the wealth. Again.

I’ve long tried to tell my elected officials about the waste associated with no-bid assignments. To no avail, yet:

http://steventodd.wordpress.com/competitive-bidding-and-non-constituent-influence-out-of-our-derry-govt/

http://steventodd.wordpress.com/derry-supervisor/

Someday, someone may start to cover the real story of bond swaps profiting campaign donors by increasing public risk exposure. I’ll keep blogging about it and trying to elect folks with the honesty and courage to stand up to it, while staying open to any other suggestions.

April 4 UPDATE:

By sheer coincidence, the link below came out two days after this blog. I swear I didn’t know about PPC’s, although I can understand if you don’t believe me, given that I am very closely associated with the PA People’s Campaign (“PPC”: I am the Dauphin county Coordinator of Hanger Activists for Government Reform).

PPC’s interpretation focuses much more on Corbett than I prefer, as it implies that the problem will improve after Corbett leaves. I do not think it will, as no one running against Corbett has made reform a central plank. But still, solid accounting of the #1 underlying threat to our democratic republic, at all levels of government.

http://peoplescampaign.blogspot.com/2014/04/corbett-makes-pay-for-play-corruption.html

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Keystone Cannabis Reform Rally

On Monday, March 31, the Keystone Cannabis Reform Rally took place in the Rotunda of the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at 10:00 AM. The urgent need for cannabis and hemp reform was stressed to around 300 onlookers. Presenters spoke for medical cannabis, for industrial hemp and the benefits and the necessity of establishing a legal, regulated market for adult consumption of cannabis, similar to the program in Colorado.

Marijuana reform rally in Pa. Capitol makes Anchorage Daily News !!! Yeah…It’s that big of a deal.

http://www.adn.com/2014/03/31/3402405/pro-marijuana-supporters-rally.html

This issue (at least the medical access) is a poison pill to any who oppose. A former Gov candidate I was backing, John Hanger called on all voters to ask every General Assembly candidate where they stand on SB1182, our bipartisan med MJ bill. If against, don’t vote for that person. Period. I have NEVER heard John lay down that litmus test on any other issue. Ever. And I’ve known him a while before this run.

Here are my highlights, as Tweeted @stevenwtodd

Dana Ulrich tells of Sevina Rose, died after 26 hour seizure, invites @GovernorCorbett to “watch Loreli deteriorate.” pic.twitter.com/hpbbbFfSNy

Iraq Vet Joe Mertz: “I can raise a gun for USA, but I can’t raise a joint to heal those wounds.” Drugs from VA bad. pic.twitter.com/7XWRzOKL8V

Former Dem Gov Candidate John Hanger at PA MJ Reform: don’t vote for any candidate for house or senate if anti#SB1182 pic.twitter.com/uwxhXfgeWb

Erica Lynn McBride reading speech I had honor of proofreading. “Hanger Activists will vet candidates on MJ reform” pic.twitter.com/INTdswtXGJ

Sen. @Daylin4Congress marijuana reform rally: “We have the votes to pass #SB1182, biggest obstacle: @GovernorCorbett” pic.twitter.com/ddxo2TvCGr

Lolly Myers at PA marijuana reform rally: child had thousands of seizures this year. “I pray to god for it to stop.” pic.twitter.com/XmbKODWDnc

Former PA Gov Ed Rendell sends letter to PA Marijuana Reform rally: supports medical and decriminalize recreational. He used to oppose.

Organizer Les Stark PA MJ Reform. PA prison population up 500% since 1980. Other states building their economies. pic.twitter.com/Hlb0vXauYq

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Where’s our cut?

Wages are kind of stagnant in the face of growing productivity, since about the mid-70′s decline of them.  At least that’s what BLS says:

Wages vs Productivity

The steadily increasing line is us working smarter, longer and/or harder = efficiency.  The flat line is our real wages since the mid-70’s.  The area in between is the wage theft = the amount the worker added value but was not fairly reimbursed.

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A Computer Alone Can Not Gerrymander

PA State Senator Daylin Leach’s Facebook page features a graphic. His explanation of that graphic was: “On top is the actual, GOP-made gerrymander of PA Congressional Districts. 13-5 Republican. Below is a drawing I did of a legal 13-5 Democratic gerrymander. I flipped 8 Congressional seats with every single PA voter voting exactly the same way. So who here is relevant, the voter? Or the guy drawing the lines?”  Leach later added Option “3) a Brand New map I drew 9-9 which shows what districts that actually represent the breakdown of the state and are compact and contiguous look like.”

Leach PA Congressional Districts

Leach PA Congressional Districts

Well, as much as I like Sen Leach and all…the answer for all three maps is “the guy drawing the lines.” None do a thing to ensure most appropriate representation of We The People; all ensure only most advantage to They The Only Two Parties Invited.

I would like to see the most non-partisan and impartial way to meet each redistricting rule, with equal population, and minimal splits to counties and municipalities.

Compare both to Amanda Holt’s map, available with narrative describing methodology and references here:

http://amandae.com/files/redistricting_congressional.pdf

Image

Holt PA Congressional Districts

Her Redistricting Proposal Overview is: “The purpose of this system is to provide a non-partisan and impartial way to meet each redistricting rule. It achieves equal population (as defined by the Supreme Court) with minimal splits to counties, municipalities, etc. (as required by PA Constitution). The only considerations used are population totals and political subdivisions. The method leaves out the data that causes a more partisan and biased view of redistricting (like the residence of incumbents, prior district boundaries, political affiliation of residents, etc.)”

http://amandae.com/2011/09/28/redistricting-proposal-overview/

Even that is drawn by a human though, so limited to some level of bias we each have and can not escape. I prefer IA’s approach. See my LTE to PennLive.com, Harrisburg’s regional newspaper, and the discussion following it, in the Comments section:

http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/05/redistricting_gerrymandering_iowa_solution.html

In IA, a computer makes it using only population data, or ‘head counts’; it doesn’t have voting/registration info input. The elected humans then accept or reject the map, but can never tweak it. If rejected, the computer makes another with demo data. No limit to how many times humans can reject.  Here is what they are blessed with:

Iowa Congressional Districts

Iowa Congressional Districts

THAT is the only way to go.  Why?

Before rushing to blame the majority party, in the 2012 PA case Republicans, just as often the only other team allowed at the table, remember:

No gerrymander would could work without the buy-in of the minority party leadership:

“In the House, the bill could not have passed without Democratic support — 16 of 92 voted ‘yes’”

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/03/pa_democrats_helped_gop_in_ger.html

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Hanger’s Out. His Effect is In

All remaining Dem candidates, one of whom will be Pennsylvania’s next Gov, are now on record for medical and open to decriminalized marijuana. None but John were before. It is the right position, it is the just position, and it would not even be on the radar without Team Hanger.

Speaking of which: Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia are all now more progressive than Pennsylvania on medical marijuana to help convulsing children and PTSD victimized US service veterans. This is starting to get a little embarrassing, neighbors…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/13/kentucky-marijuana-oil_n_4960570.html

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Idyllic Trains Yield to Hellish Bicycles?

One to watch, as seen shared on Chesapeake Bay Foundation Exec. Director Harry Campbell’s LinkedIn page:

“Court Ruling in Land Dispute could Threaten Bike Trails”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/10/supreme-court-railroad-land-dispute/6252835/

The following quote from an adjoining land owner is key to the argument, from both a legal and justice concern:

“They want to bring a train through here, that’s fine. We never expected and we never agreed to a bicycle trail.”

This suit wasn’t brought to protect the right to build a railroad. It was cynically (almost perversely so) brought to keep a bike path from wrecking the perpetually empty road this right-of-way guarantees. The speaker is OK with a train, I suspect because it is less likely than a bike path. I further suspect the speaker is not really fine with a train next to home and garden.

To which Eva Wright responded: “That may be true but the other point is the assertion of using the land as it was intended. In this case the government agreed to use the land only for a railroad. Then they changed the nature of the agreement to a bike trail. It can be looked at as negotiating in bad faith.”

Valid concern, Eva. I used to do quite a bit of land development for Rail-to-Trail bike paths. Those usually depend on the notion of maintaining it as a “transportation corridor”, as does the permitting of them, at least in PA. If bike path is too much of a stretch from railroad, though, the adjoining land owners have fairly raised a limitation of the common understanding of what a Right-of-Way includes…and excludes.

If I were fighting one, I would also focus on their biggest weakness by far, as noted by Chief Justice Roberts: “strikes me as pretty unusual that the government doesn’t know what it owns.” Metes and bounds plots, but even more so, the accompanying deeds for interstate rail R/W’s, tend to lack enough info to say where the boundaries are. Check one out sometime: they are pretty flimsy, as legal documents go…rendered even more flimsy once the original rails are removed as is often the case.

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