Nel's New Day

July 30, 2015

Portland Says ‘Shell No” to Arctic Drilling

 

Dangling shell noIn a David v. Goliath set-to in Portland (OR), protesters are one-upping the kayaktivists in Seattle, adding small boats and a “human curtain” from GreenPeace rappelling 100 to 200 feet down from the city’s tallest bridge, St. Johns Bridge, to block a ship from going out to sea. Earlier this year, protesters tried to block the departure of the Shell-leased drilling rig “Polar Pioneer” from Terminal 5 in the Port of Seattle. This week’s altercation escalated when the 380-foot icebreaker MSV Fennica tried to leave dry dock where it had a 39-inch gash in its hull repaired after the ship tried to take a shortcut early in its 1,000-mile journey from Dutch Harbor to the Aleutions.

Environmental activists in kayaks protest the Fennica, a vessel that Royal Dutch Shell PLC plans to use in its Arctic offshore drilling project, as it underwent repairs on Swan Island, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Portland, Ore.  The damaged ship, a 380-foot icebreaker, which arrived at a Swan Island dry dock early Saturday morning, is a key part of Shell's exploration and spill-response plan off Alaska's northwest coast. It protects Shell's fleet from ice and carries equipment that can stop gushing oil. (Sam Caravana/The Oregonian via AP) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NO LOCAL INTERNET; THE MERCURY OUT; WILLAMETTE WEEK OUT; PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Environmental activists in kayaks protest the Fennica, a vessel that Royal Dutch Shell PLC plans to use in its Arctic offshore drilling project, as it underwent repairs on Swan Island, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Portland, Ore. The damaged ship, a 380-foot icebreaker, which arrived at a Swan Island dry dock early Saturday morning, is a key part of Shell’s exploration and spill-response plan off Alaska’s northwest coast. It protects Shell’s fleet from ice and carries equipment that can stop gushing oil. (Sam Caravana/The Oregonian via AP) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NO 

fennica mapThe channel was shallower than shown by the 80-year-old charts that were surveyed with sextants and hand-held lines. The NOAA ship Fairweather, in the area to map Arctic shipping routes, found rocky areas less than 30 feet deep, one only 22.5 feet deep. The Fennica draws 27.5 feet.

fennica AnnThe Fennica is vital to Shell’s drilling because it contains a 30-foot-tall capping stack equipment  designed to prevent a blowout like BP experienced in the Gulf’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. A spill would be disastrous in Arctic waters which are covered by ice flows much of the year.  The Chukchi Sea is home to an estimated 2,000 polar bears, as well as gray whales, bowhead whales and a major walrus population. Gray whales swim north also go for feeding grounds in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell received federal permits last week but must wait until the Fennica arrives at the drill site before the company can reapply for more permits to drill into hydrocarbon zones in the Chukchi Sea.

Bridge goodScheduled to leave last night, the Fennica set out about 6:00 (PST) this morning but was forced to turn around by the presence of the protesters who plan to remain there indefinitely in spite of the unusual 100+ degree temperatures for at least today and tomorrow.

Bridge with yellowFollowing is an article from Oregon’s junior senator, Jeff Merkley:

“At this moment, the damaged Fennica icebreaker is entering the water in my home of Portland, OR, in what could be a make-or-break moment for our environment and our future climate.

“Here’s the background: In 2008, President George W. Bush not only lifted the executive ban on Outer Continental Shelf drilling, but also leased parts of the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea to Shell for oil and gas exploration.

“When Shell first attempted exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea in 2012, however, it was clear the company was out of its depth. In September, during open sea testing, Shell’s spill containment system was “crushed like a beer can.” Then the Noble Discoverer caught on fire later in November. To cap off the year, Shell’s other rig, the Kulluk, ran aground and was deeply damaged near Kodiak Island after facing severe winter weather. In a review, the U.S. Coast Guard deemed Shell’s wreck to be a result of “inadequate assessment and management of risks.”

“Yet now, with no indication things will be different this time around — and with clear and mounting evidence we can’t afford to burn Arctic oil if we are serious about climate change — Shell is making moves toward Arctic drilling once again. In fact, Shell’s rigs are already on their way to Arctic waters. The only thing that is stopping Shell is the delay of the Fennica, the damaged icebreaker, which they need to begin their drilling operations.

“Shell should seize this last chance to reverse course and drop their reckless plans for Arctic drilling before it is too late.

“Drilling in the Arctic is the height of irresponsibility. If the Chukchi leases are developed and Shell begins operations, a major oil spill is extremely likely. We all remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in billions of dollars in economic damage to coastal communities and devastating pollution from the 4.9 million barrels of oil that were dumped into the warm Gulf waters. The harsh climate and remote location of the Arctic would make cleanup of a comparable spill nearly impossible, and if a spill happens during the winter, months could pass before a well could be plugged.

“Additionally, we should not be investing in infrastructure that will lock in decades of production — and carbon pollution — from previously unexploited fossil fuel reserves. The science is clear that we have already discovered five times as much fossil fuel as we can afford to burn if we hope to avert catastrophic climate change. Human civilization already faces enormous challenges from climate change.

Save the Arctic“We must take steps to alleviate this danger, not make it worse — and for Shell that means demonstrating global leadership by deciding to not put the world at risk by tapping into untouched and treacherous oil reserves in the Arctic. The U.S. should also use its power and leadership as the new Chair of the Arctic Council to work with other nations to keep Arctic oil off limits.

“Simply put, the Arctic may have oil, but the risks of drilling in the Arctic are too great. Arctic oil should stay in the ground.

“Several weeks ago, five of my Senate colleagues and I introduced the Stop Arctic Drilling Act of 2015, legislation that would protect the Arctic — and our climate — by prohibiting any new or renewed leases for oil drilling in the Arctic.

“It can take years to pass legislation in Congress, however, and right now we only have a window of weeks — maybe just days — before Shell starts drilling.

“It’s time for Shell to do the right thing and announce that they will pull out of the Arctic.”

Two friends—married couple Ann Hubard (photographer) and Taylor West (writer)—went down to the Willamette River this morning to chronicle the events as protesters kept the icebreaker from leaving Portland to help Shell drill for oil. Hubard, who was interviewed for the Oregonian, sent photos, and Taylor sent her impressions of this morning’s gathering:

zigThirteen Dangling in Protest:  Dangling some 408 feet above the Willamette River, yellow and red streamers marked each roped body. A flotilla of colorful kayaks was strategically stationed below, and a lone powered paraglider zigzagged up and down, in and out, voicing support for the mission. News helicopters tracked and recorded the event from on high while hundreds of spectators craning necks to spot the target of the daring dissenters. Moving ever so slowly up the Willamette came the MSV Fennica, 9,000 tons of icebreaker stretching longer than a football field. At last the dare is on!

Bicycles under bridgeThe crowd is eerily quiet,  the flotilla of kayaks centers itself, and, in unison, the danglers hang at attention. Suddenly I’m aware of only the paraglider’s engine and the roar of helicopters circling above. We stand together in anxious anticipation, heads shifting back and forth in tennis-match-style from danglers to ship. Who will say uncle first? Suddenly, the crowd erupts in boisterous cheers and applause. Yes, the Fennica has stopped before it turned and straddled on the river side-saddle as it starts its retreat. The daring dangling dissenters have won this round.

last chanceComment from Hubard: The Shell ship is huge, and being there helps you really understand how impressive these protesters are, to hang there as long as they have. Their dedication and perseverance is amazing.  I feel honored to have been there.

Addendum: This afternoon, police closed the St. Johns Bridge and removed three or four of the protesters dangling from the bridge. Law enforcement also circled protesters in kayaks and canoes that had continued to enter the river and block the big ship’s access. At 5:55 (PST), the Fennica went under the St. Johns Bridge, going north toward the Columbia River. Updates are available here.

 

March 27, 2013

End LGBT Job Discrimination

Marriage equality has been the focus of media this week as the U.S. Supreme Court addressed two separate cases about allowing same-sex couples the opportunity for legalized marriage. Fox has started stirring up its audience into a froth, fomenting the fear that a ruling in favor of marriage equality would result in removing Christianity from our country and wiping out all the advantages that religion—primarily Christians—have. But there’s an even scarier thing going on for all LGBT people.

I want all the straight people in this country to consider what would happen if they were to be fired because they are—gasp!—heterosexual. Little do they know that this could happen in 29 states. It most likely won’t because straight people are in the majority in the United States, but their employers could legally use this excuse. That’s because Congress consistently refuses to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Passing ENDA would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees. Introduced in every Congress since 1994 except for the 109th Congress from 2004-6, the concept of ENDA has failed since 1974. A version of the law failed in the Senate by a single vote in 1996. Even a Democratic Congress in 2006 couldn’t pass it, even after ENDA dropped protection for transgender people, perhaps because George W. Bush threatened to veto the measure. Even Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) voted for ENDA in 2007.

Following Democratic gains in 2008, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced ENDA that included transgender people. Failing in that Congress, the two men introduced the bill again in 2011 when a Senate committee held a hearing on the measure, the first such hearing to include testimony by a transgender witness.

Courts cannot protect LGBT employees fired because of their sexual orientation and gender identify because LGBT people are not classified as a “suspect class,” a group with a set of criteria indicating that they are probably the subject of discrimination. ENDA supporters argue that the Constitution guarantees equal protection and due process for all. The American Psychology Association (APA) argues the homosexuality is a personal identity and not a “choice” and that all employees should be judged by the quality of their work performance instead of completely unrelated factors.

Conservative Christians believe that there is no discrimination against LGBT people and that ENDA would negatively impact religious organizations. The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), are afraid that schools would be required to hire transgender teachers.

In the current 113th Congress, with Frank no longer in the House, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) plans to be the lead author of the next ENDA. One source stated that the new bill may have changes related to religious exemption and disparate impact to make the legislation’s protections stronger for LGBT workers than previously written. ENDA has previously included a strong religious exemption. In the most recent version of the bill, Section 6 provided an exemption for religious organizations and businesses that were also exempt under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964.

Three weeks ago, the Family Research Council sent out a fundraising email warning its recipients that this “dangerous” and “totalitarian” bill is possible. Tony Perkins explained that ENDA would “give special rights to men and women who engage in homosexual behavior.” To far-right Christians, having a job is an example of “special rights.”

A public opinion poll from 2011 shows that almost three-fourths of voters (73 percent) support protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Even two-thirds of Republicans supported nondiscrimination laws. Even Catholics (74 percent) and seniors (61 percent) are in favor of workplace protections for LGBT people. Even voters who describe themselves as being unfavorable toward LGBT people support nondiscrimination by 50 percent.

Yet 90 percent of these voters don’t understand that that these protections are not in place: they think a federal law protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination. ENDA affects far more people than equality of marriage and of lesbians and gays in the military, but the bill is largely ignored by most people, including President Obama.

There’s a 99-percent chance that the bill won’t even see the light of day in the current, Republican-dominated House although Ryan claims that the GOP will support ENDA—sort of. The GOP even strongly opposes universal background checks for gun buyers although 91 percent of the people support this. But if any heterosexuals are fired because of “sexual orientation,” they might want to consider support of ENDA.

As columnist Ruth Marcus wrote, “The movement for marriage equality is enormously important; its trajectory toward success is nothing short of astonishing. Yet no American should be asked to choose between the right to marry and the right to work. Every American, regardless of sexual orientation, is entitled to both.”

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