Tag Archives: oil

BLM’s failure pollutes Colorado River water supply with oil

May 30, 2014. Source: Waterkeeper Alliance.

Photo credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Photo credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A Utah oil spill has entered the water supply of the Colorado River, raising grave questions about impacts to the water supply of Las Vegas. The oil spill began after 100,000 to 125,000 gallons of oil leaked from a 45 year old oil well onto lands near the Green River, the largest tributary to the Colorado River. The spill occurred about 50 miles north of Moab, UT.

A rainstorm two days later flooded the area, overrunning inadequate containment ponds housing the oil, thereby dumping thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of gallons of oil directly into the Green River. No known sampling of downstream water supplies has been performed, raising criticism from residents across the region.

“It’s offensive to hear the BLM say they’re ‘pleased’ after a large quantity of oil entered the water supply for millions of people,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. “The BLM failed the public and it’s high time to acknowledge their mistakes instead of greenwashing this pollution. They should be warning the public about exposure to this oil, instead of pretending its not there.” Continue reading

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Missoula woman arrested for blocking megaload oil field equipment

By Kathryn Haake, January 22, 2014. Source: The Missoulian

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The 350-foot-long megaload that rolled through Missoula on Wednesday morning on its way to the Alberta tar sands is now parked at the old mill site property in Bonner, where the load is being reconfigured for Canadian highways. MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

A 71-year-old Missoula woman was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for peacefully protesting on Reserve Street as a megaload of oil field equipment passed by early Wednesday.

Carol Marsh was charged with the misdemeanor when she sat down in the middle of Reserve Street near the Kent Avenue intersection and refused to move.

Missoula Police Detective Sgt. Travis Welsh said protesters along Reserve Street were generally peaceful and obeying laws as Omega-Morgan moved the behemoth equipment through town.

But as the megaload neared Kent Street at about 12:40 a.m., Montana Highway Patrol officers accompanying the rig called city police and said a protester was sitting in the street, in front of the trucks.

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U.S. oil output to overtake Saudi Arabia’s by 2020

Note: What happened to “It’s Global Warming, STUPID!” ??

–The GJEP Team

By Lananh Nguyen, Nov 12, 2012. Source: Bloomberg.com

IEA: US to Overtake Saudi Arabia in Oil Production

U.S. oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia’s in the next decade, making the world’s biggest fuel consumer almost self-reliant and putting it on track to become a net exporter, the International Energy Agency said.

U.S. to Overtake Saudi Arabia’s Oil Production by 2020, IEA Says

The U.S. met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of this year, on track to be the highest annual level since 1991, according to Energy Department data. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg


Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol discusses global oil production, U.S. imports and renewable energy. He speaks with Francine Lacqua and Guy Johnson from London on Bloomberg Television’s “City Central.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Chart: Saudi Arabia Versus U.S. Crude Production

Growing supplies of crude extracted through new technology including hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations will transform the U.S. into the largest producer for about five years starting about 2020, the Paris-based adviser to 28 nations said today in its annual World Energy Outlook. The U.S. met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of this year, according to the Energy Department in Washington.

“The IEA outlook feeds into the idea of a shift in the center of influence in the world oil market,” said Gareth Lewis-Davies, an analyst at BNP Paribas SA in London. “Given Saudi Arabia is willing to shift production up and down it will retain a large degree of influence, and remain important as a price-influencer.”

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Iraq war contractor ordered to pay $85 million–Soldiers injured by toxic sites in Iraq

Note: from our colleague Christy who forwarded this to us: “I don’t know when I’ve seen a story that so clearly links environmental injustice with oil, militarism, and privatization.”
–The GJEP Team

AP foreign, Friday November 2 2012.  Source: The Guardian

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A jury on Friday ordered an American military contractor to pay $85 million after finding it guilty of negligence for illnesses suffered by a dozen Oregon soldiers who guarded an oilfield water plant during the Iraq war.

After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated for just two days before reaching a decision against the contractor, Kellogg Brown and Root.

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A year on, Nigeria’s oil still poisons Ogoniland

By Tim Cocks, Aug 5, 2012, Source: Reuters

Children play near a borehole where a signboard is erected in Eleme community, outside Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt August 1, 2012. A bright yellow sign above the well in this sleepy Nigerian village says 'caution: not fit for use', and the sulphurous stink off the water that children still pump into buckets sharply reinforces that warning. Prosperity has flowed from Ogoniland, one of Africa's earliest crude oil producing areas, for decades. But it has flowed to the big oil companies and to Nigerian state coffers. Locals have long complained that precious little goes their way. To match Insight NIGERIA-OILPOLLUTION- Picture taken August 1, 2012. REUTERS-Akintunde Akinleye
Canoes are grounded in slick mud on the shore of Bodo creek, outside Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt August 2, 2012. A bright yellow sign above the well in this sleepy Nigerian village says 'caution: not fit for use', and the sulphurous stink off the water that children still pump into buckets sharply reinforces that warning. Prosperity has flowed from Ogoniland, one of Africa's earliest crude oil producing areas, for decades. But it has flowed to the big oil companies and to Nigerian state coffers. Locals have long complained that precious little goes their way. Picture taken August 2, 2012. To match Insight NIGERIA-OILPOLLUTION- REUTERS-Akintunde Akinleye
Oil slick flows at the base of the mangrove at Bodo creek, outside Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt August 2, 2012.Prosperity has flowed from Ogoniland, one of Africa's earliest crude oil producing areas, for decades. But it has flowed to the big oil companies and to Nigerian state coffers. Locals have long complained that precious little goes their way. Picture taken August 2, 2012. REUTERS-Akintunde Akinleye
Photos: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

OGONILAND, Nigeria - A bright yellow sign above the well in this sleepy Nigerian village says ‘caution: not fit for use’, and the sulphurous stink off the water that children still pump into buckets sharply reinforces that warning.

“Can you smell it? Don’t get any in your mouth or you’ll be sick,” said Victoria Jiji, 55, as she walked past the bore hole in her home village of Ekpangbala, one of several in Ogoniland, southeast Nigeria, whose drinking water has turned toxic.

Prosperity has flowed from Ogoniland, one of Africa’s earliest crude oil producing areas, for decades. But it has flowed to the big oil companies and to Nigerian state coffers. Locals have long complained that precious little goes their way.

A landmark U.N. report on August 4 last year slammed multinational oil companies, particularly leading operator Royal Dutch Shell, and the government, for 50 years of oil pollution that has devastated this region of the Niger Delta, a fragile wetlands environment.
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Tar Sands Healing Walk begins today in Alberta

More Than 250 First Nations and Allies From Across North America Gather In Alberta To Raise Awareness

First Nations delegations from British Columbia and Ontario show growing concern and resolve against tar sands infrastructure projects across Canada.

FORT MCMURRAY ALBERTA (August 4, 2012) – Hundreds of First Nations leaders from BC, Alberta, the NWT and Ontario along with First Nation actress Tantoo Cardinal and allies from across North America, gathered in Fort McMurray today, to walk 13-kilometres through the visceral landscape of tar sands operations to bring attention to the destructive impacts of tar sands projects and pipelines on surrounding communities and the environment.

First Nation representatives from the Heiltsuk (BC), Yinka Dene (BC), Coastal First Nations (BC), the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Six Nations (Ontario) and Aamijiwnaang (Ontario) joined with local First Nations leaders in a traditional mixing of the waters ceremony, bringing water from their respective territories as a symbol of importance of the protection of water and the sacred connection to mother earth.

Local elders led the group in prayers along the route that was once valuable northern Boreal forest and fertile traditional hunting, fishing and gathering grounds, stopping in the four directions to lay down tobacco as an offering for healing of the land.

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Tar Sands: Led by Six Nations community members, Enbridge Line 9 hearings disrupted, shut down for half a day

London, Ontario, Canada — Dozens of environmental justice activists led by Indigenous activists from Haudenosaunee successfully “mic checked” a stop to Enbridge Line 9 hearings in London early Wednesday morning. Members of the National Energy Board had travelled to London to hear presentations from major oil conglomerates as well as environmental NGOs. After successfully disrupting meeting, Haudenosaunee representatives explained that they had not been consulted about the pipeline plans, which would negatively impact their lands.

“We are not only fighting for our rights but yours too” said grandmother and long time Indigenous activist Ruby Montour, after members of the Board and lawyers from the Oil companies left the presentation room. “They need to be fair with our people, with you, your ancestors and your children. The environment is going to pay big time if these pipelines rupture and they need to listen to our concerns. They need to speak to us, the real people who need to be spoken to, whose treaties have been broken. They forced us to go to school, they forced us to learn, and we learned so now we know when they are lying or cheating. Well, they can’t anymore. They can’t force things on our lands.”

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. is proposing the Line 9 Trailbreaker Pipeline to transport tar sands oil through some of the most important natural and cultural landscapes in eastern Canada.  Under the plan, Enbridge would pump corrosive tar sands oil – the dirtiest oil on the planet – through a pipeline that was built in 1975. Enbridge has taken the first step to implement this plan by recently filing a permit application with Canada’s National Energy Board.

“This project cannot go forward without the free, prior and informed consent of the Haudenosaunee who would be directly impacted by a pipeline rupture,” said Metis activist Sakihitowin Awasis who led the mic check that was repeated by over two dozen activists in the room. The Mic Check continued: “The people believe the NEB hearings are illegitimate, inaccessible and undemocratic”

“Pipelines have been stalled or stopped going westward through British Columbia, southwards through Texas (the Keystone XL) and are now being pushed eastward through Ontario. It will be met with similar resistance,” said organizer Toban Black outside the five star Hilton Hotel after the meeting was recessed.

Awasis was arrested by London police, held for over an hour and released with a trespass ticket.

The National Energy Board public hearing was shut down for half the day, after which only the press and the official intervenors were allowed to re-enter. After submissions from intervenors inside the room, the Board ruled that members of the public could re-enter if the intervenors vouched that the people coming in would not be disruptive.

Activists stayed outside and organized a People’s Hearing where statements were read by those gathered and others who had submitted their statements online http://peopleshearing2012.wordpress.com/line9/ .

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Petro Plutocracy: Oil Tycoons Force Firing of EPA Fracking Enforcer

Cross-Posted from EcoWatch

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Last week, the world got a preview of America’s new post Citizens United petro plutocracy with the oil lords flexing their political muscles like oil soaked body builders pumped up on a steroid drip of campaign dollars. It was all about fracking. The petro tycoons first orchestrated the firing of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top frac patch enforcer, then adeptly forced the same cowed agency to stall its release of a damaging scientific study on fracking and finally strong armed the Interior Department to open America’s public lands to gas companies without prior disclosure of their frac chemicals.


On Monday, the oil industry showcased its political muscle by forcing the resignation of EPA’s popular environmental enforcement chief for the Gulf region, Dr. Al Armendariz. Dr. Al was beloved by environmentalists, civic leaders, and poor and minority communities across five states for his willingness to strictly enforce environmental rules regardless of the lawbreakers’ political clout. But Armendariz’s courage won him powerful enemies as well. He was steadfastly undeterred by relentless pressure from polluters and their allies including political intrigue, hamstringing budget cuts, and even death threats directed at him and his family. But this week, the world’s most powerful cartel—an international syndicate feared even by the Obama Administration—finally brought Dr. Armendariz down. Armendariz’s mistake was promising to enforce the law against Big Oil in the shale gas fields.


Several weeks ago, a two-year-old videotape surfaced showing Dr. Armendariz addressing a group of frightened and skeptical businessmen, civil leaders and property owners in Dish, Texas, a gas patch town familiar with government’s anemic enforcement record against the oil barons.  Dish’s citizenry were terrified that reckless, dangerous and illegal practices by shale-gas fracking companies might jeopardize their community’s property values, water supplies, jobs, local businesses and human health. Dish’s Mayor, Calvin Tillman, who attended the meeting, had already moved his home away from the frac fields due to the daily nosebleeds afflicting his children ever since fracking operations commenced. Armenderiz assured Dish’s shaken citizens that the EPA would enforce the law strictly in order to quickly bring industry outlaws into line.  This was too much for Congress’ “law and order” Republicans who apparently believe that oil companies, and shale fracking in particular, should be above the law. Lead by U.S. Senator, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Big Petroleum’s sock-puppet-in-chief, Congressional Republicans forced Armenderiz’s dismissal. (As a private citizen, Dr. Al is no longer entitled to FBI protection and has had to appeal to the Dallas police for protection against continuing assassination threats.) Instead of the deterrence, for which Dr. Al had hoped, the episode sent an altogether different public message—government enforcers can lose their jobs by suggesting that the oil companies ought to obey America’s laws.


The republicans complained that Armenderiz, by way of reassuring Dish’s frightened and skeptical townsfolk, referenced, as a metaphor, the ancient Roman practices of roadside crucifixion and burning villages to deter violators. Attorneys are familiar with such historical touchstones that are routinely invoked by law professors and “tough on crime” prosecutors to illustrate the concept of deterrence. If Armedariz had been speaking about any other crime than pollution from fracking, and any type of criminal other than oil frackers, the same republican lawmakers would have applauded his muscular commitment to merciless rigor.

From its inception, hydrofracking has been an outlaw enterprise. The industry was born in a provision drafted in secret by oilman Dick Cheney’s clandestine energy task force specifically exempting it from the Safe Drinking Water Act, a shale fracking method devised and patented by Cheney’s former company Halliburton. The Vice President’s henchman then rammed the exemption though a supplicant post 9/11 Congress. Rough and tumble competition among fracking companies have turned the frac fields from North Dakota to Pennsylvania into modern Dodge Cities. Regulatory capture has given the industry’s worst actors de facto immunity from their criminal behavior. In states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the fracking industry has become an outlaw enterprise, flourishing through habitual law breaking including illegal dumping of horrendous toxins into public sewage treatment plants utterly unequipped to treat those poisons, using substandard casing protocols that regularly contaminate people’s groundwater with carcinogenic benzene and explosive methane, and illegally filling streams to build roads, pipelines and drill pads. These species of habitual lawbreakers require the protection of crooked politicians and captive agencies to insulate criminal companies from the consequences of their illegal behavior. Oil companies are experts at using campaign contributions to purchase this class of government cooperation.

In another demonstration of its impressive power, two days after Dr. Al’s resignation, the frac industry won another political battle—forcing cowed Interior Department officials to allow gas companies to frac on our federal public lands without first disclosing the constituents of the lethal fracking fluid they intend to inject into our purple mountains’ majesty and amber waves of grain.

Later that week, A.P. reporters documented how the frac industry was using its clout to escape, not just the laws of government, but of science. On Thursday, AP’s investigators forced the U.S. EPA to admit that it had withheld—for nearly a month—a devastating study showing groundwater contamination linked to fracking from oil and gas wells in Pavillion, Wyoming. At the command of Wyoming’s republican Governor Matt Mead—an indentured servant to the fracking industry—the EPA delayed issuing the report. Mead then ordered state officials to “take a hard line” on the industry’s behalf. A team of tobacco scientists and biostitutes at Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality next dutifully used the delay to gin up critical questions meant to debunk EPA’s science to help soften the blow from the federal study that sent shock waves through the oil and gas industry.

Law-abiding gas patch residents like the citizens of Dish, Texas understand something that Congressional Republicans apparently don’t—environmental crime is real crime with real victims. Pollution doesn’t just attack water and wildlife and put fishermen out of work. It harms human health, private property and often takes human life. Oil pollution damages the brains of little children and kills both young people and adults. Emissions from burning oil and coal kills tens of thousands Americans annually from cancer and respiratory illnesses, and impose hundreds of billions of dollars yearly in health care damage. Oil and coal’s other costs include global warming, acid rain, mercury contamination and ocean acidification. The carbon cronies have demonstrated an uncanny talent for writing loopholes and exemptions into health, safety and environmental laws to escape the consequences of damaging private property, public health, the shared commons and the welfare of the American people. When their lobbying and drafting tricks fail to give oil titans full protection, compliant enforcement and regulatory officials dull the sting of noncompliance. It’s no wonder that frightened gas field communities seek assurance that government regulators will enforce the anemic laws that still exist to protect them. In the southern Gulf states, Armendariz was respected by coastal communities as one of the few public officials who had not been corrupted by Big Oil. In that sense, Armendariz is an American hero in the mould of Eliott Ness, Pat Garret, Wyatt Earp and Thomas Dewey.

Unfortunately, most of our political leaders lack Dr. Al’s courage and integrity. Instead of protecting America’s citizenry from oil industry atrocities, Senator Inhofe and the republicans see their job as protecting oil company brigands from the law and its enforcers. Inhofe’s reasoning is not obscure, the oil and gas industry pumps hundreds of millions of dollars annually into elections and lobbying to purchase friends like Senator Inhofe. Big Oil is now the richest industry in history. Last year, Exxon contributed $54 million to the political process. The gravities of this lucre are irresistible to politicians of a certain stripe. Exxon’s record quarterly profits of $145 million per day will allow that company to dramatically increase its political investments. More importantly, the Supreme Court’sCitizens United case removes all the past restrictions that once deterred Big Oil from employing these enormous profits to completely dominate America’s political system. As a result of that court ruling, the oil barons will pick the winners and losers in America’s upcoming elections at every level—in secret if they desire.

The industry is already poised to flood America’s political landscapes with hundreds of millions of dollars in newly legalized bribery. In addition to their generous contribution to the Tea Party, CATO Institute and other oil industry front groups, and oil tycoons Charles and David Koch, on Feb. 3 pledged an extra $60 million of their private money for direct campaign donations to ensure that their oil friendly candidate wins the presidential election in November.

Chevron, Exxon, the American Petroleum Institute and other oil moguls will match the Koch brothers’ largesse many times over. The oil barons must find great comfort in historic data assembled by the Center for Responsive Politics demonstrating that, in 94% of American elections, the candidate with the most money wins.

It was the underlying idealism of our successful experiment with self-government that made America an exemplary nation and the template for the world’s democracies. If American democracy is to survive, we clearly need to restore integrity and representative democracy to our electoral process and get control of an industry that is using its enormous financial power to enrich itself, destroy the planet and undermine everything we value. Last week’s events are merely a foreshadowing of the devolution that is inexorably propelling us toward a corrupt venal and petro kleptocracy.

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Video, Photos: Tar Sands/ Gulf Oil Spill Protesters dragged out of BP meeting in UK

This post comes from Clayton Thomas-Muller, Tar Sands Campaigner for Indigenous Environmental Network and Global Justice Ecology Project Board member:

After the Reuters article below is an initial round up of media from yesterday’s BP AGM meeting here in London, England. IEN teamed up with Crystal Lameman, community member of Beaver Lake First Nation, UK Tar Sands Network and Gulf Coast Fund representatives to send a clear message to BP Chairman, board and shareholders about their extreme energy impacts…more to follow.

Shareholders, protesters line up to lambast BP

A BP petrol station sign is seen at dawn in west London October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville
 By Tom Bergin, Wed Apr 11, 2012

Cross-Posted from Reuters

(Reuters) – BP (BP.L) will run the gauntlet of protests from environmentalists and investors alike at its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday where it will make the latest in a series of attempts to put the Gulf of Mexico oil spill behind it.

Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg and Chief Executive Bob Dudley are likely to face some harsh questions from shareholders frustrated at the group’s continued weak share price, sceptical about its turnaround prospects and unhappy about executive pay.

BP will also face protesters from the Gulf coast and from representatives of environmental groups who are still angry about the United States’ worst ever offshore spill and determined to dispel perceptions that the crisis is over.

“This isn’t true,” said Bryan Parras, an activist who is travelling from Houston for the AGM. “Oil is still impacting our communities, causing sickness, and triggering a collapse in fish stocks and local livelihoods,” he added.

The Gulf Coast protesters will be joined by representatives of groups opposed to the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands and, most likely, by other environmental and human rights groups, all of whose attendance usually makes the event a colourful affair.

The turnout of protesters always attracted to the oil company’s AGM could even be larger than usual because BP’s decision to become a major sponsor of the London Olympics has enraged green groups.

Inside the venue, the Europe’s second-largest oil producer by market value could also face a shareholder revolt on executive pay. Shareholder advisory group PIRC advised investors to vote against the remuneration report, citing BP’s failure to disclose the targets used to rate bosses’ performance.


Svanberg has replaced 80 percent of BP’s non-executives since his appointment in 2010 — four months before the rig blast that killed 11 men and led to 5 million barrels of crude leaking into the Gulf.

The AGM will also see the standing down of Bill Castell, the former head of BP’s safety committee, whose reappointment was opposed by 25 percent of investors last year.

Dudley, meanwhile, has put new faces in most of the top executive roles.

BP is predicting strong growth in cashflow and has hinted at further increases in the dividend, which was cut in the wake of the rig blast, and which still stands well below pre-spill levels.

However, analysts fear the disaster still hobbles the group and will prevent it from growing as quickly as its rivals. Its shares have lagged rivals so far this year, falling 2.8 percent, against a 1.0 percent drop in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index .SXEP.

BP continues to face legal action in the United States where the Department of Justice could saddle it with fines worth over $20 billion (12 billion pounds) unless it can cut a deal.

(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Andrew Callus)


Photos: Photos from the protest can be viewed here

BP chief faces pay protest at annual meeting, Huffington Post

Video: BP under pressure at AGM : Reuters

BP Shareholders Show Anger At High Executive Pay, Wall Street Journal article

Activists accuse BP of ‘cutting corners’ in Gulf oil spill clean-up: Guardian

BP under fire at turbulent AGM: Guardian

Eventful meeting for BP bosses: Independent

BP protestors sound off: Evening Standard London

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Playing Nice? An alleged tip sends the FBI out to question Denton drilling activists.


Cross-Posted from Fort Worth Weekly

 North Texas environmental activists frequently feel as though local officials ignore their protests against gas drilling, but it turns out it’s easy enough to get the federal government’s attention — if the FBI thinks you might be planning eco-terrorism.
That’s what happened to University of North Texas student Ben Kessler, a Marine veteran and dedicated activist on fracking, who spent several months last fall dodging FBI phone calls that he felt were attempts to intimidate him and pump him for information about legitimate, peaceful environmental groups. Kessler is an organizer with Rising Tide, an international network of environmental groups that sometimes employ civil disobedience as a protest tactic.
METROKessler: “I thought they were going to invade my house.”

In early February, an FBI agent and Dallas police officer came to campus to question one of Kessler’s professors as well. David Rogers, the FBI agent who called Kessler repeatedly, told him the agency was following up on an anonymous tip about environmental activism in the area.“The first conversation we had, he was kind of lecturing me about ecoterrorism,” Kessler said. “All of the following conversations were him basically trying to convince me that I didn’t need a lawyer and should try to come in as soon as possible.”

For Rising Tide leaders, the monitoring by federal law enforcement sends a clear message: Back off. “We saw that as an act of intimidation,” said Scott Parkins, a spokesman for Rising Tide North America.

Lydia Maese, the spokesperson for the FBI’s Dallas office, would not confirm whether the agency was conducting an investigation. It’s FBI policy to conduct at least a preliminary investigation of any tip, she said, though she acknowledged that not every anonymous call results in an agent spending months trying to contact a college student and his associates.

“We do investigate any potential ecoterrorism violations that could potentially cause harm to the public,” Maese said. “We do this hundreds of times. We are obligated to resolve the matter.”

Both Kessler and the professor described Rogers as a polite, seemingly well-meaning person just trying to do his job. They said Rogers repeatedly told them the agency was in no way trying to curb free speech activities.

But when federal agents start questioning you about terrorism, it’s difficult not to feel intimidated, they said.

Kessler is still a little shaken.

“I was fucking scared shitless,” he said. “This whole period was very stressful. I thought they were going to invade my house.”

Kessler said Rogers told him on the phone that the agency was concerned about groups like Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, which in years past have destroyed private property.

Kessler has been arrested twice for civil disobedience, both times at nonviolent protests in Washington, D.C. But he doesn’t see the connection between eco-terrorism and his protests of tar sands oil pipelines or gas drilling next to Denton residential neighborhoods.

“The implication is that you move from doing marches and protests and sit-ins to setting buildings on fire, that that’s a logical step that normal people take,” he said. “No one I’ve worked with has ever threatened property destruction. We’ve never flipped a trashcan or broken a window… . [The FBI agent] was going to ask me who I protest with, what groups I’m involved with … that’s none of their business.” He questions whether the FBI even got the alleged tip.

Fellow environmental activist “Texas” Sharon Wilson, who writes the blog Bluedaze: Drilling Reform, saw the FBI’s web address pop up on her site-management system in November, a few months after Kessler received the first phone call from the FBI.

The agency had searched for  “Ben Kessler” and “tar sands,” leading to her article about the August protest in Washington, D.C., of the Keystone XL pipeline, at which she, Kessler, and about 1,200 others were arrested for civil disobedience (see cover story, page 10). The UNT student was also specifically listed in searches of her website by various oil and gas companies, Wilson said.

“This is about more than the FBI,” she said. “They’re trying to intimidate and silence the opposition.”

The FBI has labeled ecoterrorism as the top domestic terror threat since at least 2005. That puts “highly destructive ecoterrorists” above “hate-filled white supremacists,” “violence-prone anti-government extremists,” and “radical separatist groups” — descriptions from a 2009 FBI press release on the agency’s website.

The federal agency also monitored members of Rising Tide North America in Moscow, Idaho, when they blockaded truck shipments of drilling equipment for extracting oil from Canada’s tar sands. Federal agents worked with local police to monitor the protesters’ activities.

“They’re doing MLK, Gandhi-style civil disobedience,” said Parkins. “People are constantly going to hearings and filing lawsuits and talking to elected officials about fracking, but you don’t see the FBI investigating gas companies about those problems.”

As for Kessler, he never met in person with the FBI. He contacted a lawyer — despite Rogers’ attempts to convince him that was unnecessary — and was told he could refuse to go in for questioning.

UNT philosophy professor Adam Briggle never got that chance. About a month after Kessler’s last contact with Rogers in January, the FBI agent and a Dallas police officer showed up at Briggle’s office and spent a half-hour discussing ecoterrorism. They asked the professor about assigning class readings on civil disobedience and about his own activism regarding gas drilling.

Briggle teaches an ethical theory course that discusses ethical problems such as environmental degradation. He doesn’t teach his students how to make bombs, but rather about the philosophy behind nonviolent protests.

The law enforcement officers asked Briggle about his involvement with the Denton Stakeholder Drilling Advisory Group, a group of residents lobbying the city council to stop issuing permits for gas drilling until potential environmental impacts are studied.

The agent and police officer also asked the professor about Kessler, who took his ethical theory course, and about some of his assigned readings. Oh, and they also asked him about IEDs, improvised explosive devices of the sort used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“A question like that is so out of left field, it just sort of stuns you,” Briggle said. “It seemed like this was about Ben, not me. …  The Dallas police guy said they just wanted to make sure everyone was ‘playing nice in the sandbox.’ ”

Briggle said the officers seemed mainly to want him to contact them if he observed the potential for violent behavior by a student or activist. The professor described Kessler as an intelligent leader of nonviolent student protests.

“There’s a concern, not just that I get written off as a nutty ideologue, but that Ben and other protesters are written off as crazy, violent terrorists,” he said.

Questioning students and professors, even for the best reasons, could have a chilling effect on free speech, said Matthew Esbaugh-Soha, a political science professor at UNT who believes such interviews raise concerns about academic freedom.

“It can be of itself very intimidating. You think, ‘Does this mean I’m on the list?’ he said. “It’s our job to raise controversial issues to [encourage] reflection by our students and get them to think critically about what happened and why.”

Kessler said he has no plans to stop protesting oil drilling in his neighborhoods and across the country. He continues to work with Rising Tide North Texas in an attempt to influence city policy.

“We can’t let the intimidation stop us from doing what we’re doing,” he said. “The kind of people that are drawn to this work aren’t going to get deterred.”

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