In 'David vs. Goliath' Fracking Case, Families Handed Major Win

Common Dreams, March 10, 2016, by Deirdre Fulton

A court on Thursday handed down a $4.2 million verdict—and vindication—to two Pennsylvania families who said fracking contaminated their water

"A 10-person jury in court on Thursday handed down a $4.2 million verdict—and vindication—to two Pennsylvania families who refused to settle in a case pitting homeowners in the village of Dimock against a Houston-based fossil fuels company.

After a two-week trial at the U.S. District Court in Scranton, the federal jury found that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., one of the largest natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania, had polluted the families' well water. ..."


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Though Fracked Again, Denton Says Fight Isn't Over

The Texas Tribune, June 1, 2015, By Jim Malewitz

"Seven months after a rag-tag group of local activists scored a surprising victory over the state’s powerful oil and gas industry by convincing voters in this North Texas city to ban hydraulic fracturing, heavy trucks bearing piping, perforating guns and other high-powered equipment waited at well site early Monday.

After police arrested three protesters trying to block the path of workers, Colorado-based Vantage Energy, a natural gas driller, officially revved up its fracking operations on a pad site on the western outskirts of town. That effectively ended the brief but intense life of an ordinance that Denton officials say they can no longer enforce due to a new Texas law — House Bill 40 — passed in response that pre-empts local control over a wide range of oil and gas activities.

Activists and city officials said they aren't precisely sure what’s next for the city of roughly 123,000, but agreed that its anti-fracking push — and the Legislature’s swift move to quash it — have fundamentally changed attitudes, stirring outrage and a conversation that could last for years.

'What they did with HB 40 is raising awareness, and it’s giving people a voice,' said Cathy McMullen, who spearheaded Denton’s push against fracking, the practice of blasting apart underground shale to bolster oil and gas production.

McMullen, a home health nurse, said she has fielded messages from angry residents of drilling towns across Texas, and is in some ways “grateful” that the Legislature enacted such a far-reaching law. 'This is a unifying thing for communities.' ..."


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Never Say Never: Maryland Fracking Moratorium Becomes Law

EcoWatch, May 29, 2015, By Wenonah Hauter

"Today, a two and a half year fracking moratorium became law in Maryland. Over Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Hogan let it be known that he would not veto the bill. At the end of March, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill, originally introduced by Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo and Senator Karen Montgomery, which would prohibit any permits for fracking in the state for two and a half years. The bill passed with veto-proof majorities in each house.

This critical moratorium was made possible by a coalition of more than 100 community and advocacy groups who don’t want to see Maryland fracked. ...

More than 100 Maryland health professionals had expressed concern about the unknown long-term health effects of fracking on human and environmental health. The evidence for the potential short and long-term health effects continues to grow. In fact, two new studies were published just this month, one showing that air-pollution from fracking in neighboring Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia has contaminated the air across state lines into Maryland and other areas, and the other found a chemical commonly used in drilling in Pennsylvania drinking water. The health risks alone are enough to want to press the pause button on fracking, but it didn’t stop there.

More than 100 Western Maryland business owners and more than 50 restaurant owners, chefs, winemakers and farmers from across the state also came together to voice their concerns about how fracking would impact their livelihoods. The risks to local business of allowing fracking in Maryland far outweigh the potential profits of out-of-state gas companies. ..."


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'Groundswell Rising': Film Review

The Hollywood Reporter, May 19, 2015, By F

Renard Cohen's documentary chronicles the rise of grassroots opposition to the controversial form of energy extraction known as fracking

"... Concentrating particularly on the growing of opposition by ordinary citizens who find themselves besieged by well pads located near their homes and schools, Groundswell Rising makes its case with passion and clarity. ...

Featuring damning commentary from an array of science and environmental experts and frequently anguished accounts by ordinary citizens whose drinking water and general health has been negatively impacted by the expansion of fracking into their communities, Groundswell Rising delivers its arguments with a canny mixture of facts and emotion. ...

...you're likely to be moved by the film's portraits of grassroots activists managing to make their voices heard despite the opposition of major corporations and the big money at their disposal."


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Groundswell Rising

LA Weekly, May 15, 2015, By Ernest Hardy

"...What separates Groundswell from the spate of recent town-crier documentaries on pressing environmental issues is that co-director siblings Matt and Renard Cohen consistently balance grim facts and expert analysis with scenes of ordinary people pushing back (and often winning) against huge corporations. The Cohens avoid the usual issue-doc trap of piling the doom and gloom so high that final-act slivers of hope seem insufficient to the challenges already raised.

So while it's filled with infuriating examples of corporate greed and duplicity, plus heartbreaking tales of people being cheated of health and hearth, Groundswell is ultimately a rousing, convincing rallying cry that the little guys, working in numbers, can triumph. ..."


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Obama Vetoes Bill Pushing Pipeline Approval

"President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by lawmakers to force his hand on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, using his veto pen to sweep aside one of the first major challenges to his authority by the new Republican Congress.

With no fanfare and a 104-word letter to the Senate, Mr. Obama vetoed legislation to authorize construction of a 1,179-mile pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels of heavy petroleum a day from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast.

In exercising the unique power of the Oval Office for only the third time since his election in 2008, Mr. Obama accused lawmakers of seeking to circumvent the administration’s approval process for the pipeline by cutting short 'consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest.' ..."


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New York Banned Fracking, But 460,000 Tons Of Fracking Waste Have Been Dumped There

Think Progress, February 6, 2015, By Emily Atkin

"New York’s ban on fracking hasn’t been enough to completely shield the state from its public health and environmental risks, a prominent state environment group charged on Friday.

In a report titled License to Dump, the group Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) accused seven state landfills of accepting potentially hazardous waste from Pennsylvania’s fracked oil and gas wells. Using information obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the group said at least 460,000 tons of solid drilling waste — which can contain heavy metals, chemicals, and naturally occurring radioactive material — have been dumped in those landfills since 2010. ..."


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Gov. Wolf bans new leases for drilling on state lands

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 30, 2015, By Laura Legere

"Gov. Tom Wolf banned new oil and gas leases in state parks and forests on Thursday, officially ending plans by the Legislature and the previous administration to raise millions of dollars for the budget this fiscal year through new drilling deals.

In signing the executive order at a ceremony at Benjamin Rush State Park in Philadelphia, Mr. Wolf said natural gas development is a vital element of the state’s economy, but he made an economic case for preserving the state’s public natural resources as well. ..."


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Groundswell Rising: Q&A with anti-fracking documentary director Renard Cohen

Whole Terrain Journal, December 29, 2014, By Cherice Bock

"With the recent news out of New York State regarding a statewide ban on natural gas fracking, I am excited to share an interview with the director and producer of the documentary film Groundswell Rising: Protecting Our Children’s Air & Water, Renard Cohen. This documentary explains the process and dangers of 'fracking' (hydraulic fracturing) for natural gas reserves caught in layers of shale, and follows activists from Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New York. These individuals educate themselves about the health problems associated with fracking and their legal rights regarding how far away from their homes natural gas companies are allowed to drill. They craft and fight for legislation to limit fracking in their area and to require the natural gas companies to pay for restoration of health and safety in their communities.

Filmed on location in several states, Groundswell Rising shows everyday people who have become activists because they see the harm the natural gas industry is doing in their lives and communities. The film shows the devastating illnesses experienced by children and adults alike, as well as natural gas workers themselves. It shows the unjust treatment of communities denied clean water, which had been promised in their leases, and the injustice of the legislative system that permits such environmental degradation and damage to community health. ...

With cameos by Natalie Merchant, Mark Ruffalo, Bill McKibben, and Pete Seeger, the film mainly follows the activism of normal, everyday Americans who just want a safe and healthy place for their children to live. The film also spotlights Sandra Steingraber, a biologist, author, cancer survivor, and activist, who was instrumental in organizing the anti-fracking movement in New York State."


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What Pairs Well With a Finger Lakes White? Not Propane, Vintners Say

The New York Times, December 25, 2014, By JESSE McKINLEY

New York Winemakers Fight Gas Storage Plan Near Seneca Lake

"WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Over the last two decades, vintners in the Finger Lakes region of New York State have slowly, and successfully, pursued a goal that could fairly be described as robust, with a lively finish: to transform their region into a mecca for world-class wines, and invite an influx of thirsty oenotourists.

But long before the local labels went upscale, the Finger Lakes were known for another earthy, if not so refined, industry: underground gas storage.

Now, those two legacies have collided over a long-simmering project that would store tens of millions of gallons of liquefied petroleum gas, and up to two billion cubic feet of natural gas, in subterranean salt caverns thousands of feet below the shores of Seneca Lake.

Those who oppose the plan describe it as an existential threat to years of carefully cultivated vinicultural development in the Finger Lakes, just as the area is beginning to bloom.

'Do we want to be known for world-class wine grapes, farm-fresh food and great hospitality?' said Will Ouweleen, an owner of Eagle Crest Vineyards on Hemlock Lake, near the region’s western edge. 'Or do you want to be the gas-storage hub of the Northeast?'

The project inched closer to reality last month, when the State Department of Environmental Conservation scheduled a Feb. 12 issues conference, a proceeding on issues of fact and standing in the permitting process.

The state must approve the portion of the project that involves liquid propane and butane. The expansion of methane-gas storage received approval from federal energy officials in October.

Since then, dozens of protesters have been arrested near the natural gas storage site, just outside this upstate village, where rolling hills fall into deep glacial lakes. ..."


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Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State

The New York Times, December 17, 2014, By Thomas Kaplan

"Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of debate over a method of extracting natural gas. ..."


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Fracking Bans Pass in Denton, Texas, Two California Counties and One Ohio Town

EcoWatch, Anastasia Pantsios | November 5, 2014

"With a record number of fracking issues on local ballots in California, Texas and Ohio, the outcome was decidedly mixed. Of the eight measures—three in California, four in Ohio and one in Texas—four passed and four failed.

The biggest victory came in Denton in north Texas, located atop the lucrative Barnett shale play. After citizens demanded action from city council on a fracking ban and council punted last July, the issue went to the ballot where it passed last night.

'As I have stated numerous times, the democratic process is alive and well in Denton,'said Denton mayor Chris Watts. 'Hydraulic fracturing, as determined by our citizens, will be prohibited in the Denton city limits. The city council is committed to defending the ordinance and will exercise the legal remedies that are available to us should the ordinance be challenged.'

Denton became the first city in Texas—a state where fracking has become big business—to pass such a ban, despite threats from the oil and gas industry to sue to overturn it. And it passed overwhelmingly, 59-41 percent, despite heavy spending by the industry. ...

'Denton, Texas, is where hydraulic fracturing was invented,' said Earthworks energy program director Bruce Baizel. ...'If this place in the heart of the oil and gas industry can’t live with fracking, then who can? The answer, at present, is ‘no one.’ That’s why fracking bans and moratoria are spreading like wildfire across the country. And the oil and gas industry has no one but itself to blame. Perhaps banning fracking in Denton, Texas will finally force the oil and gas industry to clean up its act. Because blaming the impacted community is a losing strategy. It lost them Denton, and it will lose them the hearts and minds of the country.'

It has also lost the hearts and minds of Mendocino and San Benito counties in California and Athens, Ohio, while California’s Santa Barbara County and the cities of Kent, Gates Mills and Youngstown, Ohio weren’t ready to put a ban in place. ...

Athens joins the Ohio communities of Yellow Springs, Oberlin, Mansfield and Broadview Heights, which have previously banned fracking within their city limits. That measure passed overwhelmingly with 78 percent of the vote. ...

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch concurs, “This is huge news, and an indication that more and more Americans are rejecting oil and gas industry hyperbole, as well as this destructive, toxic process.”


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Introducing Bullfrog Communities

Welcome to
Bullfrog Communities

We aim to energize change, and to help local activists broaden their reach.

  • We provide powerful films and all the support materials you need to create an effective community event.

  • We will send out strategic petitions, asking you to sign and send them on to your network, using the power of this medium on behalf of the people and the earth. These will be either national in scope — asking you to join an uproar of opinion, or very local — asking you to add your voice to attain a specific victory, which may provide a watershed — changing the mindset of the people empowered in a community, of multinational corporations' assumptions as to what they can get away with, and of politicians who notice the change in the wind.

  • We will provide a forum for sharing ideas that work and news that can inform action on an issue. We ask for your discussion, suggestions, feedback, and reports of successes in your community.

Please join. Let's see what we can accomplish together.

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Protecting Our Children's Air and Water