Dear City Paper
Just to be clear.
The Community Rights Ordinance (CRO), which asserts the Community’s right to say “NO” to an inherently dangerous activity is the law here in Pittsburgh. It is our right as citizens to say “No Thanks" to FRACKING. Why would we say “NO?"
IT ISN’T SAFE
4 rigs blew up within 70 miles of the city (the closest was 12 miles away- 2 men killed) during the Council’s consideration of the CRO. There have been numerous other such calamities since then throughout the Commonwealth. Our State Parks are now being converted to industrial zones.
Air quality is clearly denigrated as a result of shale gas extraction; off gassing of VOC’s (carcinogens) diesel fumes and other material is legally permitted for us to breath. VOC’s are known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters, effecting women’s reproductive systems and children’s development.
The air quality, in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming is is now worse than Los Angeles The only plausible source of air pollution there is massive shale gas extraction operations
Attending formation of ozone lowers crop yields and is a clear danger to our respiratory health.
Water supplies are clearly contaminated as a result of the shale gas extraction process (See: EPA’s Pavilion, Wyoming EPA study).
Shale gas extraction waste stream disposal has clearly denigrated drinking water supplies by dumping untreatable return fluids into our local rivers. The industry said it was safe and just just fine until CMU’s Professor Van Briesen’s study proved otherwise (bromides - a salt- when treated with chlorine at a water treatment plant, form trihalomethane, a carcinogen directly linked to bladder cancer. The PWSA has spent over $475K this past year to deal with the problem and has had issues in meeting drinking water standards. Not only is this a public health issue, it is a cost incurred by the PWSA’s rate base.
Waste stream disposal via injection wells did cause a series of seismic events (earthquakes) in Youngstown OH and in Arkansas, England and elsewhere. What is the waste stream management plan?
Significant numbers of civil suits have been filed by property owners, due largely to water well contamination. Settlements provide for confidentiality agreements (no talking about this or you have to give the cash back) are sealed and and shielded from public view. The P-G was denied access to review such cases by a Washington County Court.
The industry admits to a well casing failure problem leading to methane gas migration into water supplies. A Well Casing is the “impermeable seal” that is supposed to protect contamination of aquifers. They have to last forever. They fail routinely. It was a bad casing that led to the disaster in the Gulf. Add to that, old, unmapped, unplugged, gas and oil wells (many drilled during the birth of this industry boom here 100 years ago) also provide pathways for methane and fracking fluid migration and attending aquifer contamination.
There is much more to be concerned about. None the less, do we have a right to protect our health welfare and safety. Yes, we do.
I disagree with Mr. Dowd’s public comments on the CRO. He claims it isn’t really quite a law. It is. It is the law in the City. The PA Supreme Court presumes all law enacted by a legislature is Constitutional. It is so until proven otherwise if challenged. It is the same judicial principal as the presumption of innocence afforded individuals in a criminal prosecution by the state.
He also stated publicly and privately to me that he would "not ever vote to repeal" the CRO.
His zoning ordinance does not have a recession clause superseding any laws in conflict with it.
The CRO/drilling ban is not impacted by his legislation. It stands and governs conduct here.
Now the industry says that we have "no intention of drilling in the city - at this at this time."
It is not for them to decide when that time will come. It is our decision to make. We made that decision. Whatever their intentions may be (that is hard to discern. This industry has proven to be less than honest and transparent about much of anything) the city’s intentions are clear. "No Thank you.” We have a right to say that- don’t we? Or are we a mere colony of the state and to do what we are told to do. ?
What Mr. Dowd’s proposed zoning ordinance does do is clearly illustrate what Pittsburgh would look like with drilling operations along with its attending adverse impacts. Some of the questions that will need to be answered before the Planning Commission are:
Do we have a fire department equipped and trained to deal with well fires and explosions? NO.
Do we know the cost of doing so? NO.
Do we have an evacuation plan/cost for a one or two mile area? NO.
Do we understand how an incompatible use denigrates property value? YES.
Do we know there are inherent dangers associated with Fracking. YES.
Do we have a comprehensive public health impact study to look to for guidance? NO.
Do we have an Environmental Impact Study (as-built & natural) to make public policy? NO.
Mr. Dowd’s legislation will cause these and many other questions to be raised in a very public forum. It will require a very non public industry to very public about it’s position.
It will bring evidence, not talking points, the fore of this debate.
I see value in that. That process was denied to us in the State Assembly.
Let’s take testimony under oath before the planning commission; cross examination of witnesses.
I have been involved in many zoning issues. One telecom tower in a neighborhood engenders tremendous public interest and resistance. LED Billboards required expert testimony, demonstrations of the technology, studies and engendered significant public interest. That took three years to decide. This issue dwarfs all other zoning issues that have come before it.
The City is taking up the issue in a very public process; a process the Commonwealth failed so miserably at in it’s construction and passage of Act 13.
According to Act 13, (if upheld in the PA Supreme Court) Mr. Dowd’s legislation is moot. It grants the Oil & Gas Industry a “use by right” in all zoning districts in the Commonwealth and trumps any local ordinance.
Drilling, compressor stations, pipelines, frack ponds in:
Stanton Heights? YES
Frick Park. YES.
City Greenways? YES.
Point Breeze? YES.
Every square inch of the 57 sq. miles of the city? YES.
Do you, a resident of this city, have anything to say about it? NO.
The benefit of this legislative exercise compels us as a community to deal with this issue in a very direct and very personal way. It is no longer in the abstract. It is your present reality.
One thing is clear to me. If shale gas extraction operations are permitted in our city - by way of a state act or city zoning ordinance - I find no benefit that would override our health, welfare and safety.
former member of Pittsburgh City Council
Wow, the timing of your book is on target Professor Harris. Sometime in November my nephew will be sentence for a crime he did not commit. He is Emilio Rivera- a father, a son, a nephew, a brother, an uncle, and a good friend. Emilio has been condemned by a system that has failed and continues to fail. I agree with Professor Harris, "Someday, we'll look back and wonder why it took so long."
If there's anyone listening, please "Free Emilio" for he is innocent!
THIS IS EMILIO RIVERA SOPPORT TEAM----NO D.N.A NO FINGERPRINTS...NO FORENSIC EVIDENCE,A WITNESS THAT ID FOUR OTHER SUSPECTS,WHY EMILIO,HE IS INOCENT AND WE WILL KEEP FIGHTING FOR HIS FREEDOM.WE WILL LIKE TO TALK TO THIS PROFESSOR,SOMEONE NEEDS TO HEAR OUR SIDE OF THE STORY.
Excellent article, Charlie! I wish Kimberly well and that she gets elected so that the Women's Health issues there can be taken care of. http://www.ivfvictoryphilippines.com
For someone who is opposed to "huge tax breaks for the natural-gas industry amid cuts," she sure has a funny way of showing it.
Back in June, she was blasting Vogel's legislation for the cracker plant tax credit as not being lucrative enough. In fact, she seems to have supported the Corbett "guaranteed credit" version of the language, rather than Vogel's version, which would have required legislative approval every year.
Say what you will about the wisdom of the cracker credit, back in June, she wanted more than even Sen. Vogel.
I think that the employees of EDMC may be about to give the board of Directors including the directors from Goldman Sacks a lesson in the consequences of long term criminal behavior. When you rip off two hundred thousand people to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of each dollars by fraud and the government to the tune of more than ten billion dollars heads may be about to roll and we may see some Goal time for these buckets of slime. It may not be pretty. This time I don't think that they will be laughing all the way back to Goldman Sacks.
Yes,...thanks for standing in the gap, working for justice when none seems possible. It is only when I hear stories of people such as you am I convinced that I am not shouting alone in the darkness.
It's interesting that Rachel Canning is only trying to fill my neighborhood with vagrants through her support of overrunning the neighborhood with these types of group homes. And if the definition of creating a "social fabric" is loading the neighborhood with the homeless rather than lobbying for grant money to create interest in home ownership, then your writer is an idealistic fool.
Great article. I was not aware of these risks. I was only aware of the fact that the cracking meant more jobs, etc.. Thanks! I will share this.
Thanks for your intense and persistent efforts on behalf of environmental justice and democracy. You did a great job of tying these issues together during the interview.
Excellent article! On behalf of our Committee and the Thomas Merton Center I would like to convey my thanks. You took so much thoughtful care in your interview. This is exactly what our Committee wanted to express. You truly spoke our mind!
Is the misspelling of "Bain" Capital an intentional allusion to the Batman villain -- or perhaps a suggestion that Romney's company was the ruin of workers' lives? Either works for me! :-)
Good luck convincing a judge that residents in Pittsburgh have more in common with residents in rural Armstrong and Westmoreland Counties than the North Hills. Ferlo deserves to loose his seat ever since he declared that Texans, Virginians, Ohioans and Floridians can drink responsibly but Pittsburghers are somehow incapable of doing so.
This article is the only attempt to determine the true course of events over the past four years, leading to the arrest and conviction of Thomas Deane, for possession of child pornography. Neither the law enforcement agencies, nor the school district, took steps to ensure that the safety of children - very young, very vulnerable, mostly non-verbal children- was a priority. While I absolutely understand, and fully support, our right as Americans to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, that is not relevant here. Thomas Deane is a convicted felon who pleaded guilty to the crime of which he was accused. I also understand, but DO NOT agree with, the policies and legislation in place which prevented the school district from contacting families during the investigation and when charges were filed. However, there is NO EXCUSE for their blatant negligence in not contacting every affected family immediately upon his conviction. District staff, who consistently make statements in the media about putting children first and being committed to student safety, should have made individual phone calls to personally discuss the situation with the families of the NINE students enrolled in that class on July 10th, when the court documents, which are a matter of public record, stated that he had been convicted. Making nine phone calls, and following them up with a letter offering phone numbers and names off resources to help parents obtain the support their children may have needed, should have been planned and ready to be executed as soon as the conviction was handed down. The district representatives could have, at that time, stated that although they regretted being unable to alert the families before that point, they wanted to be sure to provide them with the information available as soon as they were legally able to do so. That way, families could make their own decisions about pursuing evaluations to determine the safety and welfare of their own children. By withholding that information, the effectively denied parents the right to obtain timely and appropriate medical and/or psychological evaluations of their children, most of whom are non-verbal and/or have cognitive impairments and need specialized interventions in order to be accurately assessed. Instead of reaching out to the families and offering support, the district released statements which were blatant lies, specifically stating that Thomas Deane was never alone with children. That is patently untrue, as he frequently assisted children in the bathroom who were unable to wipe or dress themselves, took children for walks off campus, and frequently had one or more children alone in his classroom while his assistants were in other classes. Additionally, the district claimed to have mailed a letter on July 23rd, which NOT ONE FAMILY actually received, and then, finally sent a letter on August 27th, in which stated that they regretted being unable to share the information prior to that point. If they are claiming that they were unable to share information until Aug. 27th, how can they also claim to have sent a letter in July? How can parents of any child, let alone a child who cannot communicate clearly, trust a school district who does not demonstrate transparency in interactions and information sharing, honesty, and true concern for the welfare of children?
The legislation must be changed to place the focus on safety of children, and the district must be held accountable for the decision they have made and the lies that they have told throughout this ordeal.
Thank you SO MUCH for this article. The one change I would make is to the headline, replacing "accused" with "convicted" as Tom Deane is not just a suspect but a felon at this point. As a parent of a child who was in Mr. Deane's room off and on during the school day for 3 years during the time of the investigation, I was heartbroken and horrified to find out when this news broke that he continued to teach during this ridiculously long period of time. As had the Doughertys, we had also sought out Mr. Deane as he came highly recommended and we grew to respect and rely on him. He was actually a very effective teacher in all the ways one would consider as a parent unaware of his penchant for child pornography. But while Mr. Deane may think he could compartmentalize his life, the fact is that he is the same person in and out of the classroom. Parents are upset that this person who viewed child pornography in the evenings was charged with the care of their children the next day. The questions raised in this article are the same ones I had and still have (the school district and law enforcement spokespersons didn't provide satisfactory answers in its responses to the reporter's questions). We were on the verge of a relocation to another part of the state when this news broke, but if it can happen in Pittsburgh it can happen anywhere in PA or elsewhere, so it is still a concern for us and one I would have followed up with the district myself if not for the demands of our move. The systems are broken - both the law enforcement process (a three-year lag in the investigation?!) and the school district's system of handling situations like this in terms of (not) notifying parents during and after the investigation (We have still not received any letter from the district although I am getting other mail from them following our move). The school district could have put him on admin leave with pay and called it a 'sabbatical' until the results of the investigation were known. A district in Austin TX put a teacher on admin leave with pay during a similar investigation, so it is not unprecedented to place concern about the students first. I also know for a fact that Mr. Deane was alone with students regularly as would be routine under normal circumstances, especially in a public school without "extra" staff.
As for the commenter who thinks private schools are the solution to avoiding teachers who end up on Megan's List, you are living in a state of denial if you think it is only public school teachers who do so. And private schools frequently can't/won't/don't effectively address the needs of kids on the autism spectrum, as they are not required by law to do so. Again, thanks so much for reporting on this.
Three names is one too many. Too much amundoo. Pick two.
Allegheny Center or Allegheny City works. North Side works as well, now that there has been a jettison with the North Shore.
If you want to be the South Side, then come live over here. We welcome you.
Permit parking sucks. Hate it. Do not trust it, and do not want to enable the giving of $45 tickets for self and friends and customers and workers.
What if he was innocent? His life would have been destroyed. I can truly feel for the kids and the parents. What if he didn't do anything wrong? There isn't any answer except in hindsight. If you are worried about the treatment of your kids do what most teachers do. Send to private schools.
Since when is it the school boards responsibility to transport a child to social events, part time jobs, etc? If parents are concerned about their child's ability to attend such events they need to either drive them or by their own kids bus passes. An even better idea to help them become independent is to let the teenager contribute money from a job to buy their own bus pass. Relying on the school board for social activities is not teaching independence.
A friend who had been at the shadow lounge a few weeks back said that they saw cops busting an illegal party in the building being renovated. Apparently kids had broken in and were blasting music. If they've done this a few times, it could be them creating the noise that is being blamed on the shadow lounge.
I doubt anyone has heard too much noise from the shadow lounge. I would go to their open mic nights and shows constantly a few years back and you couldn't hear much outside. In all honesty, it would be good to have a business like them around there when the housing opens up. I would feel safer with an upstanding business open nightly there as it would be more eyes out on the street who could call the cops if they see someone up to no good.
The ideal answer to doing what is right in difficult situations won't be found within legislation authored by Senator Wayne Fontana.
Leverage for better action comes from solid journalism such as the above article.
Thanks and cheers for the City Paper.
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