Monday, May 27, 2013

Albany Rally -- No to Fracking, Yes to Renewable Energy

New York Crossroads
Rally to Stop Fracking and Demand Renewable Energy!
On Monday, June 17, 2013, citizens from across New York—from Long Island to Niagara Falls—will arrive in Albany to demand freedom from dirty energy, calling on Governor Cuomo to reject fracking and lead the nation in building a renewable energy economy here and now in New York.

At this march and rally, the anti-fracking movement will, for the first time, join with business leaders, faith leaders, health professionals, elected officials, farmers, and youth to demand the renewable energy jobs that our families and communities want and deserve.

  • What: Stop Fracking and Demand Renewable Energy 
  • When: Monday, June 17th, 12pm-3pm 
  • Where: Rally and March on East Capitol Lawn, Albany 
  • Buffalo/Rochester Bus: Reserve Seat Now: Click Here 
Sponsored by New Yorkers Against Fracking, Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Catskill Mountainkeeper, United for Action, NYPIRG, Citizens Environmental Coalition, Western NY Drilling Defense, Alliance for a Green Economy and many more to be announced.

Erie County Community Forum - June 3 at 6pm

League of Women Voters Luncheon, Speaker and Awards

The League of Women Voters Buffalo/Niagara invites you to join us at our
2013 Annual Meeting Luncheon
Ripples of Hope*
Protocol Restaurant, 6766 Transit Road, Williamsville, 14221
Saturday, June 15
Luncheon will be served at noon
Guest Speaker
Katherine Bodde

Katharine, New York Civil Liberties Union Policy Council and member of the State Wide Steering Committee for the Women’s Equality Agenda, will  speak about Governor Cuomo’s ten item Agenda that is scheduled to be presented as a bill in the state legislature on June 17. 
The League will also recognize Erin Heaney, Director of the Clean Air Coalition with the  Making Democracy Work Award and Anne Huberman with the Joan K. Bozer Leadership Award.  Both of these fine women will be out of town on June 15.

Luncheon cost is $25 for League members and $30 for guests
    Mail reservations payable to LWVBN to LWVBN, 1272 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY  14209  by June 10, 2013.

*Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.                                                                                                                                                                                 Robert F. Kennedy, June 6, 1966

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bill McKibben Addresses Climate Crisis at UB Commencement

Bill McKibben speaking to UB graduates - D.Kowalski photo
Bill McKibben, world-renowned author, environmentalist and educator, delivered the 2013 commencement address of the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning on May 10.

McKibben wrote The End of Nature (1989), the first book on global warming for a general audience, and more recently, Eaarth - Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (20

McKibben founded the global climate action campaign,, and has been steadfast in demanding that political leaders take steps to address the climate crisis.

In his address to the graduates, McKibben cited Superstorm Sandy, which he said "drove the Atlantic Ocean into the New York subway system." He added, "If you had any doubts about the vulnerability of our technological civilization to the new and souped-up Nature we are creating, that should have ended."

McKibben urged the graduates to call for change, referring to the climate crisis as "one of the central tests of your life, a test of both your skill and your character." He said "your training is now not just an end to a profitable rewarding career, but something that our society badly, badly needs."

VIDEO: It opens with Robert G. Shibley, Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, followed by an introduction of Bill McKibben by Subhashni Raj (3:54), Masters Degree recipient and a Pacific-350 organizer from Fiji. Subsequently, Shibley presented McKibben with the Dean's Medal (8:00), and then Bill McKibben delivered his address to the graduates, faculty and guests (11:22 to 29:00). 

Watch the video on YouTube: Click here.

UPDATE May 21, 2013: A TRANSCRIPT of Bill McKibben's speech and transcripts of the introductions and the medal presentation were kindly provided by Alan Oberst. To view the transcripts, Click Here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reinstein Woods Summer 2013 Program Schedule

Even though the weather has been a mix of winter, spring, and summer lately, June is just a few weeks away and it is a great time to get out to Reinstein Woods for a visit! Join us to learn about plants, bugs, bats, and many other topics over the summer.

The summer 2013 schedule of programs for June through August 2013 is now available online. See to scroll through the events happening in the next 30 days. You can also download the Summer Public Programs brochure (PDF, 66 KB) on the this page.  Click on to view the full schedule for each month.  There are many family-friendly programs throughout the summer season, as well as the Friends of Reinstein's annual Meander in the Woods fundraiser on June 15.

We hope to see you out at Reinstein Woods this summer!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bike to Work and Get Fueled En Route -- May 13-17

Bike to Work Week Features Daily Fueling Stations For Bike Commuters

What:  May 13-17 is National Bike to Work Week; in Buffalo GObike has partnered with four local businesses and one non-profit to put on a bicycle commuter breakfast “fueling station” for each day of the week.
Who: GObike Buffalo, Sweet_ness 7 Café, Café Taza, Five Points Bakery, Ashker’s Café and Juice Bar, Golden Cup Café, and GOBNMC.

Why: To encourage people to bike to work!
Who Should Attend:  All bicycle commuters on their way to work.

When:  Monday May 13th, 8-10am: Sweet_ness 7, 220 Grant St.
Tuesday May 14th, 8-10am: Cafe Taza (w/ Five Points Bakery), 100 Elmwood Ave.
Wednesday May 15th, 7-9am: Ashker’s Cafe and Juice Bar, 1002 Elmwood Ave.
Thursday May 16th, 7:30-9:30am: Golden Cup Cafe, 883 Jefferson St.
Friday May 17th, 6:30-10am: With GOBNMC, 929 Washington St.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

GO Bike Buffalo for Dinner, Book and Film

“Dinner and Bikes” Make Buffalo a Stop on Their Northeastern Tour
What:  Vegan chef Joshua Ploeg, Portland based author Elly Blue and author/documentarian Joe Biel are a traveling trio who will put on a dynamic evening that will be both delicious and inspiring.  Josh Ploeg will serve up a gourmet vegan and gluten free buffet; Elly Blue will present about transportation equity and the bicycling movement, and Joe Biel will show an excerpt from his forthcoming documentary "Aftermass" about the history of bicycling in Portland.  Suggested donation $10 for adults, $5 for children; Register online, click here.
Who: GObike Buffalo, Massachusetts Avenue Project, Burning Books

Who Should Attend:  Those interested in both bicycle advocacy and delicious food.
When: Saturday, May 11, 5-8pm
Where: Massachusetts Ave. Project Office, 271 Grant St.  Register Online Here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bill McKibben to Deliver Commencement Address

Bill McKibben, Author, Educator, Environmentalist, to Deliver Commencement Address, Receive Dean's Medal

The School of Architecture and Planning Commencement will be held on Friday, May 10, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre, North Campus of the University at Buffalo. The event is open to the public.

Special seating is available in the balcony area for guests who will be attending the ceremony that are not directly connected to the graduates. No tickets are required to attend.

As this event is a celebration for the students, you are invited to stay for the full program.  However, since this occasion represents a special opportunity to hear Bill McKibben speak about important issues in today’s fragile world, a musical interlude will be included after his speech to allow guests to quietly exit the auditorium. 

Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Time Magazine called him 'the planet's best green journalist' and the Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was 'probably the country's most important environmentalist.' Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, he holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges, including the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the State University of New York, and Whittier and Colgate Colleges. In 2011 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Sierra Club Niagara Group Announces Annual Awards

The Sierra Club Niagara Group held its Annual Awards Dinner on Monday, May 6, 2013. This year they recognized two outstanding citizens of Western New York as well as to announce the winners of our Environmental Education contest.

The Blake Reeves Award, given in honor of the founder of the Niagara Group of the Sierra Club, this year went to Joanne Hameister of the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Water. Since the mid-1970s, Hameister and a group of dedicated citizens have been our regional “watchdogs” and provided public oversight on the nuclear waste facility only 30 miles from Buffalo.  Hameister’s expertise in research and statistics have protected us from misguided and easily misinterpreted studies endlessly prepared by DOE and NYSERDA as the agencies continue to postpone a decision on the final clean-up of this site.  This has been a labor of love and compassion, and required perseverance, knowledge and communication skills.

David Kowalski received the Bruce Kershner Award, an award designed to honor a person who has continued to fight tirelessly on behalf of an environmental issue in the way that Kershner fought for old growth forests. Kowalski has worked to protect the land, air and waters of New York State in his ongoing and evidence-based critique of the proposed deep horizontal hydrofracking.  His education of the public on this matter and the creation of the informative blog, “Re-Energize Buffalo” have been very effective in the ongoing protection of our natural resources.

Sierra Club Niagara Group also presenting a certificate and monetary support for Environmental Education to two WNY teachers whose work is being recognized:  Kevin Powers of Nichols School and Melisa Dettbarn of Pembroke High School.  Powers helped to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum, “A Rising Tide” into the schools that will address the theme of environmental refugees, especially those displaced by climate change.  Ms. Dettbarn’s Applied Science class created an on-line field guide to the trails near their school.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

FRACKING: Animals Dying, People Sick in Pennsylvania

More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington state and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air, and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible [PDF].

Now, a new generation of downwinders is getting sick as an emerging industry pushes the next wonder technology — in this case, high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Whether they live in Texas, Colorado, or Pennsylvania, their symptoms are the same: rashes, nosebleeds, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, joint pain, intestinal illnesses, memory loss, and more. “In my opinion,” says Yuri Gorby of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “what we see unfolding is a serious health crisis, one that is just beginning.”

The process of “fracking” starts by drilling a mile or more vertically, then outward laterally into 500-million-year-old shale formations, the remains of oceans that once flowed over parts of North America. Millions of gallons of chemical and sand-laced water are then propelled into the ground at high pressures, fracturing the shale and forcing the methane it contains out. With the release of that gas come thousands of gallons of contaminated water. This “flowback” fluid contains the original fracking chemicals, plus heavy metals and radioactive material that also lay safely buried in the shale.

The industry that uses this technology calls its product “natural gas,” but there’s nothing natural about upending half a billion years of safe storage of methane and everything that surrounds it. It is, in fact, an act of ecological violence around which alien infrastructures — compressor stations that compact the gas for pipeline transport, ponds of contaminated flowback, flare stacks that burn off gas impurities, diesel trucks in quantity, thousands of miles of pipelines, and more — have metastasized across rural America, pumping carcinogens and toxins into water, air, and soil.

Sixty percent of Pennsylvania lies over a huge shale sprawl called the Marcellus, and that has been in the fracking industry’s sights since 2008. The corporations that are exploiting the shale come to the state with lavish federal entitlements: exemptions from the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Clean Drinking Water Acts, as well as the Superfund Act, which requires cleanup of hazardous substances. The industry doesn’t have to call its trillions of gallons of annual waste “hazardous.” Instead, it uses euphemisms like “residual waste.” In addition, fracking companies are allowed to keep secret many of the chemicals they use.

Pennsylvania, in turn, adds its own privileges. A revolving door shuttles former legislators, governors, and officials from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection into gas industry positions. The DEP itself is now the object of a lawsuit that charges the agency with producing deceptive lab reports, and then using them to dismiss homeowners’ complaints that shale gas corporations have contaminated their water, making them sick. The people I interviewed have their own nickname for the DEP: “Don’t Expect Protection.”

The downwinders
Randy Moyer is a pleasant-faced, bearded 49-year-old whose drawl reminds you that Portage, his hardscrabble hometown in southwestern Pennsylvania, is part of Appalachia. He worked 18 years — until gasoline prices got too steep — driving his own rigs to haul waste in New York and New Jersey. Then what looked like a great opportunity presented itself: $25 an hour working for a hydraulic-fracturing subcontractor in northeastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to hauling fracking liquid, water, and waste, Randy also did what’s called, with no irony, “environmental.” He climbed into large vats to squeegee out the remains of fracking fluid. He also cleaned the huge mats laid down around the wells to even the ground out for truck traffic. Those mats get saturated with “drilling mud,” a viscous, chemical-laden fluid that eases the passage of the drills into the shale. What his employer never told him was that the drilling mud, as well as the wastewater from fracking, is not only highly toxic, but radioactive.

In the wee hours of a very cold day in November 2011, he stood in a huge basin at a well site, washing 1,000 mats with high-pressure hoses, taking breaks every so often to warm his feet in his truck. “I took off my shoes and my feet were as red as a tomato,” he told me. When the air from the heater hit them, he “nearly went through the roof.”

Once at home, he scrubbed his feet, but the excruciating pain didn’t abate. A “rash” that covered his feet soon spread up to his torso. A year and a half later, the skin inflammation still recurs. His upper lip repeatedly swells. A couple of times his tongue swelled so large that he had press it down with a spoon to be able to breathe. “I’ve been fried for over 13 months with this stuff,” he told me in late January. “I can just imagine what hell is like. It feels like I’m absolutely on fire.”

Family and friends have taken Moyer to emergency rooms at least four times. He has consulted more than 40 doctors. No one can say what caused the rashes, or his headaches, migraines, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat, or the shooting pains down his back and legs, his blurred vision, vertigo, memory loss, the constant white noise in his ears, and the breathing troubles that require him to stash inhalers throughout his small apartment.

In an earlier era, workers’ illnesses fell into the realm of “industrial medicine.” But these days, when it comes to the U.S. fracking industry, the canaries aren’t restricted to the coal mines. People like Randy seem to be the harbingers of what happens when a toxic environment is no longer buried miles beneath the earth. The gas fields that evidently poisoned him are located near thriving communities. “For just about every other industry I can imagine,” says Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University, coauthor of a landmark study [PDF] that established fracking’s colossal greenhouse-gas footprint, “from making paint, building a toaster, building an automobile, those traditional kinds of industry occur in a zoned industrial area, inside of buildings, separated from home and farm, separated from schools.” By contrast, natural gas corporations, he says, “are imposing on us the requirement to locate our homes, hospitals, and schools inside their industrial space.”

The death and life of Little Rose
Little Rose was Angel Smith’s favorite horse. When the vet shod her, Angel told me proudly, she obligingly lifted the next hoof as soon as the previous one was done. “Wanna eat, Rosie?” Angel would ask, and Rosie would nod her head. “Are you sure?” Angel would tease, and Rosie would raise one foreleg, clicking her teeth together. In Clearville, just south of Portage, Angel rode Little Rose in parades, carrying the family’s American flag.

In 2002, a “landman” knocked on the door and asked Angel and her husband Wayne to lease the gas rights of their 115-acre farm to the San Francisco-based energy corporation PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric.) At first, he was polite, but then he started bullying. “All your neighbors have signed. If you don’t, we’ll just suck the gas from under your land.” Perhaps from weariness and a lack of information (almost no one outside the industry then knew anything about high-volume hydraulic fracturing), they agreed. Drilling began in 2002 on neighbors’ land and in 2005 on the Smith’s.

On Jan. 30, 2007, Little Rose staggered, fell, and couldn’t get up. Her legs moved spasmodically. When Wayne and Angel dragged her to a sitting position, she’d just collapse again. “I called every vet in the phone book,” says Angel. “They all said, ‘Shoot her.’” The couple couldn’t bear to do it. After two days, a neighbor shot her. “It was our choice,” says Angel, her voice breaking. “She was my best friend.”
Soon, the Smiths’ cows began showing similar symptoms. Those that didn’t die began aborting or giving birth to dead calves. All the chickens died, too. So did the barn cats. And so did three beloved dogs, none of them old, all previously healthy. A 2012 study [PDF] by Michelle Bamberger and Cornell University pharmacology professor Robert Oswald indicates that, in the gas fields, these are typical symptoms in animals and often serve as early warning signs for their owners’ subsequent illnesses.

The Smiths asked the DEP to test their water. The agency told them that it was safe to drink, but Angel Smith says that subsequent testing by Pennsylvania State University investigators revealed high levels of arsenic.

Meanwhile, the couple began suffering from headaches, nosebleeds, fatigue, throat and eye irritation, and shortness of breath. Wayne’s belly began swelling oddly, even though, says Angel, he isn’t heavy. X-rays of his lungs showed scarring and calcium deposits. A blood analysis revealed cirrhosis of the liver. “Get him to stop drinking,” said the doctor who drew Angel aside after the results came in. “Wayne doesn’t drink,” she replied. Neither does Angel, who at 42 now has liver disease.

By the time the animals began dying, five high-volume wells had been drilled on neighbors’ land. Soon, water started bubbling up under their barn floor and an oily sheen and foam appeared on their pond. In 2008, a compressor station was built half a mile away. These facilities, which compress natural gas for pipeline transport, emit known carcinogens and toxins like benzene and toluene.

The Smiths say people they know elsewhere in Clearville have had similar health problems, as have their animals. For a while they thought their own animals’ troubles were over, but just this past February several cows aborted. The couple would like to move away, but can’t. No one will buy their land. 

National Bike Month Celebration

Bike Month Blast Off To Be Held At GObike Community Workshop

What: GObike Buffalo is kicking off National Bike Month celebrations at their community workshop with a bike drive, member party, and BBQ.  The event is free for members; for non-members it is a suggested donation of $10 or a used bike.  There will be music by The Bear and discounted GObike memberships sold.

Who: GObike Buffalo
Why: To celebrate members, hold an open house at the Community Shop, to encourage bike donations, and to engage with the cycling community.

Who Should Attend: All those interested in meeting fellow cyclists, donating bikes, seeing the workshop for the first time, or reconnecting with old friends.
When: Saturday, May 4th 4-8pm

Where: GObike Community Workshop located at 98 Colvin Ave., Buffalo NY 14216