BradyDale's blog

Will Senator Williams recuse himself from Marcellus related votes?

Fun fact, everyone, I don't work for any non-profit at all any more. I am no longer a professional Organizer. My career in that vein has ended. That's not to say that I don't still care a ton about the issues. Especially the issue of the environment. Ironically, in fact, I found I did the worst job on the issue I cared the most about. Strange, but that's a post for another time.

The reason I am writing today is because I wanted to put an exchange I had with Senator Anthony Williams of West Philadelphia onto the record. First, because it should be instructive for other politicians on how not to use Twitter, and also because it raises an important public policy question: should politicians recuse themselves from voting on issues that their households have a vested interest in?

It started with this story in The Inquirer. From the short piece:

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the natural gas industry trade group, is expanding its presence in Southeastern Pennsylvania by hiring Shari Williams, a former communications specialist at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the wife of State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D., Philadelphia).

If you're not familiar, The Marcellus Shale Coalition is a lobbying group that would have you believe that natural gas drilling is so clean and pure that loading the ground full of hydrochloric acid actually improves soil quality. Like... potatoes come out with vitamin C and manganese after one of their shale rigs gets done with a site.

Notably, Sen. Williams was one of two noteworthy Senate D's to cast the wrong vote on the only significant piece of legislation that has passed on the Marcellus Shale so far. Now known as Act 13.

So then when the news came out that his wife is now working for Team Pollution, my hackles were raised. It's not hard to imagine that the Senator had some idea that this relationship might be consummated even as the vote was going down. Shady. Or maybe he didn't. There had to be some reason why he and Hughes backed this legislation when every other Democrat stood against it, though. The crummiest part is that I don't think they even needed their votes to get it passed.

So I sent him the following tweet last Friday:

For the full exchange that followed, hit read more.

The Santorum Problem

In January, a coalition of environmental groups led something like 200 people in a rally against natural gas drilling in the Pennsylvania Capitol’s Main Rotunda. Folks came to the Capitol angry that the legislature looked intent to take away the right of towns to use Zoning to control how close well pads are built to their homes and schools. A frequent shout at rallies like this is some version of, “Let’s vote ‘em out!” Legislators never seem that afraid of losing their jobs. Legislators continue to sell out their constituents in the interest of the rich and powerful, I believe, because of The Santorum Problem.

This is The Santorum Problem: if an incumbent who serves industry actually does get voted out of office on his merits (which is rare), there will always be a much better paying job waiting for him after he loses. If an elected loses for protecting corporate America, corporate America has a golden parachute ready for him.

Click read more to see how I spell this out in a bit more detail...

More eco-cops to be layed off in new Corbett budget...

There's two ways to think about the ineffectiveness of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection as described in this video.

Of course, a lot of folks' prejudices tend them toward the former, but the evidence suggests that the real problem is the latter.

If we keep laying off eco-cops, do we really expect polluters not to try to get away with polluting more? And who can catch them but DEP? Answer: almost no one.

That's why Clean Water Action thinks the real environmental news today isn't the quibbling over a severance tax. It's the fact that the state's GOP has agreed on a budget that will cut environmental enforcement staff another $10 million.

The tempting idea that Shale Gas won't make money

Once again, Ian Urbina proves the New York Times has made a smart investment by letting him take long periods to research Deep Shale Drilling issues and only write occasional stories. His latest piece concerns the profitability of deep shale operations and whether or not the profit prospects aren't being oversold.

I'm tempted to love anything that makes the natural gas industry look bad. I believe deep shale drillers are going to destroy much of what's left looking natural and nice in this country. Many people forget that Pennsylvania may look lush and natural, but it's actually covered by relatively new forest. Less than 100 years old. It still hasn't fully come back from the lumber industry's destruction of it in the 1800. It's made a lot of progress, though, and I fear Shale Drillers will destroy all that.

So the idea that deep shale drilling is a Ponzi Scheme is tempting. But I don't buy it. Here's a passage from Urbina's latest piece, a piece that is definitely, definitely worth reading (even if I am criticizing its fundamental points here):

“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale gas formations raise further questions about the industry’s prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted.

I believe, in the end, there will be a lot of money made off of deep shale drilling. I say that because I think it is important that those of us who want to protect the environment face facts and live in the world as it is. I believe Shale Drilling is going to progress, so we need to try to impose better rules on the drillers so that they won't do as much damage as they would otherwise.

It's tempting to believe that wheels will come off this industry, like it did the 2000 dot-coms, but I don't buy it. Why? Two words: peak oil.

This is what strength in numbers looks like

Most of the folks in this video are Clean Water Action staff, but there's a few of the rank and file Lobby Day attendees there. On Tuesday, environmentalists hit Harrisburg big [check out these photos]. You might have seen press reports about the rally. To me, though, the real story is what happened before the rally, as normal people went to visit their legislators and talk issues around the Marcellus Shale.

Folks were talking to legislators about the budget for environmental enforcement, rules to protect drinking water, a commonsense moratorium and taxing the revenues from shale to pay for cleaning up the drillers' destruction. Before the day happened, we had folks registered to come from 47 out of the 50 State Senate Districts, and our drop-off rate was really low. So not only was there a big noisy rally, but legislative offices were hearing from real voters. That's where change comes from.

It was also great to see the environmental community so unified.

How Corbett tricked the protesters at the last Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission hearing

This video is just 88 seconds and its great. At Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory hearing last week, they set out two sign-up sheets for public comment. Only, they told the industry about one and the protesters about the other.

Guess which one they went to first?

In this video, a woman from Pittsburgh calmly and clearly confronts a Corbett Administration spokesperson about the trick. She comes off as smart, guts and reasonable. He comes off like someone who just got caught stealing an extra piece of cake at Church Camp.

Cohen, Goode and Reynolds-Brown get the green nod in At-Large race

Reynolds-Brown, Goode and Cohen get the green vote
Clean Water Action releases its endorsed candidates in the at-large City Council election

(Philadelphia) – This morning, Clean Water Action released its list of endorsed candidates in Democratic Primary for At-Large Council Seats. The environmental organization with almost 8,000 registered voters in its membership in the city is supporting Councilwoman Blondell Reyolds-Brown, Councilman Wilson Goode, Jr. and Sherrie Cohen. Speaking outside City Hall this morning, environmentalists stood alongside these three endorsed candidates to show their commitment to an environmental agenda.

Brady Russell, Eastern PA Director for Clean Water Action said, “We decided we were only going to support candidates for these seats who got 100% on our environmental questionnaire. We wanted to throw our support to a small group of candidates who were willing to make the strongest commitment to the environment. With the support of the Southeast Pennsylvania Steering Committee, we decided these three were the right choices to recommend to our members.”

State House Budget Hearing on DEP today -- CWA calls for an end to cuts for eco-cops

(Harrisburg) – Clean Water Action called on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to commit to restoring the one-third of the Department of Environment Protection’s (DEP) budget that has been cut in recent years. The State House Appropriations Committee is holding their budget hearing on DEP’s budget today at 10:30 in Room140 of the Main Capitol.

“Gov. Corbett is proposing to reduce overall state spending to the 2008/2009 levels. However, DEP has lost over a third of their budget since that year. To fail to restore DEP’s budget is to establish a deliberate policy of weakening protection for clean water and clean air in our state,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action.

Gov. Corbett proposed an additional 5% budget cut for DEP this year, continuing five straight years of budget cuts for DEP. Including these new proposed cuts, over $77 million, or 36% of DEP’s budget has been cut since the 2008/2009 budget.

Click Read More for more on this issue...

Philadelphia Federal Credit Union: we expect better

So, we expect big banks to charge high fees. They love to screw over people lending them their paychecks to invest. But credit unions?

Credit Unions are supposed to be a better deal, right?

I have had a pretty OK experience with PFCU since I came to Philadelphia. It's not quite the credit Union I grew up in in Kansas where all the tellers knew me on site and knew who my mom was to, but it's been okay. I recently got nailed for a couple fees from them that seem pretty ridiculous.

I confess: on the face of it, it's all my fault. The rub is two-fold tho. 1) the money was there and 2) it's a pretty big charge for what comes down to an honest mistake.

Click Read More for the rest of the story...

Philadelphia's forum on hydrofracking our watershed

MEDIA ADVISORY - MEDIA ADVISORY - MEDIA ADVISORY - MEDIA ADVISORY

Speak out, Philadelphia -- for your water supply

Local environmentalists partner with Councilwoman for hearing on new rules for hydrofracking the Philadelphia watershed

Contact: Brady Russell, Eastern PA Director, 215-545-0250

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has partnered with Clean Water Action and other environmental groups to host a forum on natural gas drilling in the water supply of Philadelphia. The Delaware River Basin Commission, which was created to protect the special waters of the Delaware River Watershed, has released a set of draft rules for hydrofracking for natural gas.

If these rules go into effect, natural gas drillers will put the water we all drink at the same risk from dangerous chemicals that have made so many concerned in other parts of the state. Many Philadelphians drink water taken from the Delaware River, with intakes downstream from many future natural gas developments.

Philadelphia groups and elected leaders are banding together to create a forum for spoken comment which will be transcribed and sent to the DRBC before the April 15th deadline for comments.

What: Public Forum on the Draft DRBC Natural Gas Drilling Rules
When: March 8th. Doors at 5:15PM. Forum Begins at 5:30PM. Ends at 7:30PM
Where: City Hall, City Council Chambers (Room 400)
Co-sponsoring organizations: Delaware Riverkeeper Network, PennEnvironment, Protecting Our Waters, Sierra Club Southeastern PA

Water pouring from the Fairmount SEPTA station is even worse

Three years ago this month I wrote about water seen streaming in from the ceiling of the Fairmount SEPTA station, on the Southbound platform. Since then, it's gotten a lot worse. I was fairly shocked to see how bad it was this morning. This time, I made a video. You get a good gush of water in the video, toward the end.

If you look at the photo in the post I linked above, it's not nearly so bad. Just a serious leak. This video shows that whatever is failing to seal water out has gotten much, much worse.

Are you running for City Council?

Of course you are. Everyone on YPP is running for City Council.

OK, well, if you'd like an endorsement from an environmental organization, please shoot me an email at Clean Water Action. My address is brussell[symbolhere]cleanwaterDOTorg. Got it?

Clean Water Action will be making endorsements in races where we believe the candidate for council has demonstrated a real commitment to protecting the environment. That means we may not endorse in all races or for a full slate of at-large candidates.

That said: if we do endorse you we will do real work. Field work. Phone work. We'll really let members know.

So... hit me up if you want the candidate questionnaire. If you don't complete the questionnaire, we can't even consider endorsing you.

What would you do with WHYY's program schedule if you could be a public radio czar?

What do Liberals love more than NPR? I still remember when I first discovered All Things Considered. I was in High School. My mom and I decided we were sort of over our Country Music phase and we decided to try some Classical Music. In our hometown, that meant KRPS, which also happened to carry the news from NPR. It blew my mind. I fell in love. I had so many driveway moments as I parked at my high school that it was guaranteed that I would be a listener for life.

As many of you who know me personally know, I've lived in many parts of the country. One of the first things I do any time I move is start exploring the radio dial. I like to have two or three stations I like (ideally, give me a good Classical station, an all talk NPR affiliate, some sort of Real Rock Radio station, some indy rock heavy college station and an edgy/alternative/hard rock station -- and I'm good). So, after living lots of places, I've found a lot of public radio shows I really like.

Now, the advent of podcasts has made the program schedule of local NPR stations less relevant, but... a lot of times I'm in a car and I don't have any option for talk but NPR. And I am often annoyed by WHYY's program schedule.

It's pledge time at WHYY right now, and, like many large public radio stations, it's "public" in that we give it money, but it doesn't really seem like there are a ton of opportunities for member input in what the program schedule looks like.

So, we've got the Internet and I bet there are a lot of WHYY listeners on here.
What would you change about WHYY's program schedule? You can see the full schedule here.

Here are some ideas I have. Some of these are definitely going to tick people off, but you've got a chance to share your ideas too. Have at it! Okay, here goes:

Sen Casey seen as a swing vote on climate change

It continues to blow my mind that so many legislators are willing to stake their legacies on denying climate change. Just because you can find some well paid off scientist in some nothing university to tell you that he's a climate change skeptic doesn't change the fact that the evidence keeps piling up.

And piling up.

Climate Change is real. It's probably too late for us already, but we should at least not run off the cliff like a lot of lemmings.

That's why it was so important when the courts rules that Greenhouse Gases can, in fact, be regulated as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, but now that major step is coming under serious fire by members of the GOP, according to this report on Politico.

Fortunately, the President is saying he'd veto it (that is, assuming it was glommed onto something he can't veto):

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Nancy Sutley repeated the veto threat Wednesday. “The president’s advisers have said if it comes to a straight up or down, they’d recommend he’d veto it,” she told reporters. “And I think that continues to be where we are.”

Unfortunately, not all Dems are on the right side here, and the GOP has Bob Casey on a list of Dems they think they can bring along.

“There’s anywhere from 12 to 15 Democrats that we are eying that we think would have an interest in supporting a bill like this,” the aide said. Among the Democrats Republicans are watching: Bob Casey (Pa.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Jim Webb (Va.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), John Rockefeller (W.Va.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.).

If you think that sucks as much as I do, then tell Casey it sucks. Do it here.

If you want to help the working poor, then for God's sake gouge the rich

If you haven't seen it, have a look at this quote from President Obama's press conference on the deal he cut with the Republicans.

So this notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care. This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.

Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

It's a nice piece of rhetoric (Talking Points Memo has the transcript of the whole press conference), but it nails down precisely my problem with the President's approach. My problem with Health Care Reform aligns with my problem with the auto industry bailout, financial reform and the latest tax deal. In every instance, the President has hidden behind some vulnerable community in order to excuse himself from sticking it to the rich and the very rich, as he should.

Let's bust some trusts. We live in a world where the rich are so rich that their richness is fat and lazy and self-perpertuating it has left us with an ever more boring, decadent, uninventive world, a world where the captains of industry work harder to keep things easy than create new markets by coming up with new products or services that folks could really use. That's where we are as a people. Drug companies spend more money on advertising than research. Banks screw their depositors six ways from Sunday and call it "financial innovation" and the Scions of Microsoft sit in Seattle and look only for good ideas to steal rather than coming up with good ideas of their own. We live in a world where rich people only get richer at the expense of other people, and you can sure as hell bet that those other people aren't other rich people.

OK, that's going to be my only purely rhetorical paragraph: let's get to the point. Obama isn't willing to play the serious brinksmanship it's going to take for the very rich to finally lose a fight. The screed goes on. Hit the link below and hang with me past the break.

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