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Dozens of business owners and concerned residents of Western Maryland descended on the capital today to highlight strong and growing demand in their region for a statewide fracking moratorium. They presented a letter to legislative leaders signed by more than 100 Western Maryland business owners calling for the moratorium. The letter cites deep concern over the grave effects the highly industrial, polluting process of fracking could have on regional businesses, particularly those related to the booming tourism and leisure industries. Western Maryland residents also delivered to the legislature today some of the 20,000 petitions from state residents calling for the moratorium that were recently collected by advocacy groups.
Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo and Senator Karen Montgomery are the two lead sponsors on the Protect Our Health and Communities Act (HB 449/SB 409), introduced in February, to enact a long-term moratorium on fracking in the state.
"I believe the impacts from fracking will take our Golden Goose and send it flying. Having seen the equipment intensive widespread heavy industry that fracking is I cannot see how it is compatible with vacationing in Deep Creek Lake or Garrett County. Tourism pays a lot of bills in Garrett County," said Steven Green, co-owner of High Mountain Sports and former president of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.
"We are excited for the chance to respectfully explain that our own elected representatives do not reflect the sentiments of what we believe are most business owners' viewpoints in Mountain Maryland. We say no to water contamination, no to urban-style air pollution in our valleys, no to the perpetual truck traffic that will spell the end of our tourism industry and yes -- resoundingly yes -- to fracking moratorium legislation," said Paul Roberts, co-proprietor of Deep Creek Cellars.
"My business has introduced the beauty of rural, western Maryland to many thousands of outdoor recreation tourists and cyclists each year, visitors who are typically affluent and have a high likelihood of returning often. Outdoor recreation tourism in general, and cycling in particular, is not compatible with destroyed roads, heavy truck traffic, polluted air, and the eyesore that is inherent with fracking. Western Maryland should be encouraging rather than discouraging the outdoor recreation industry," said Kyle Yost, owner of Garrett Events.
"According to a Washington Post poll, more than 50 percent of Marylanders oppose fracking. Because of all the research that is coming out on the potential health, environmental and safety risks of the fracking industry, we need to take a step back and let the science play out on these issues," said Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo.
The advocacy groups that collected more than 20,000 petitions in support of the fracking moratorium are: Chesapeake Climate Action Network; CREDO Action; Environmental Action; Food & Water Watch; Friends of the Earth; League of Conservation Voters; Sierra Club; and Waterkeepers Chesapeake.
Background: Fracking is a controversial natural gas drilling method that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at extreme pressure to break up rock and release the gas. Maryland's new governor, Larry Hogan, has said he wants to move forward with drilling -- despite the growing evidence of its harm and the most recent polling, which shows a clear majority are concerned about those risks.
More than 425 peer-reviewed scientific studies on the effects of shale gas development now exist, and 75 percent of those have been published since January 2013. Of the 49 studies that investigated the health effects of fracking, 47 - over 96 percent - found risks or adverse health outcomes. Maryland's Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) also concluded that the likelihood of negative public health impacts was "high" or "moderately high" in 7 of 8 areas studied. The latest poll in Maryland found 58 percent of Marylanders who know of fracking thought it would harm the state's environment. For more information visit www.DontFrackMD.org
Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.(202) 683-2500
"Erdoğan's victory will consolidate one-man rule and pave the way for horrible practices, bringing completely dark days for all parts of society," warned one Kurdish opposition leader.
As supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at home and abroad celebrated his win of Sunday's runoff election, human rights defenders and marginalized people including Kurds and LGBTQ+ activists voiced deep fears about how their lives will be adversely affected during the increasingly authoritarian leader's third term.
Turkey's Supreme Election Council confirmed Erdoğan's victory over Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Sunday evening. Erdoğan, the 69-year-old leader of the right-wing Justice and Development Party who has ruled the nation of 85 million people since 2014 and dominated its politics for two decades, won 52.18% of the vote. Kılıçdaroğlu, a 74-year-old social democrat who leads the left-of-center Republican People's Party, received 47.82%.
Erdoğan—who was seen handing out cash to supporters at a polling station in an apparent violation of Turkish election law—mocked his opponent's loss outside the president's home in Istanbul, saying, "Bye, bye, bye, Kemal" as the winner's supporters booed, according to Al Jazeera.
\u201cInstead of congratulating Erdogan, EU leaders should ask about the backsliding democratic and human rights. \n\nTurkey is already 103rd of 167 countries on democracy index, and we know Erdogan wants to take it further down...\u201d— Guy Verhofstadt (@Guy Verhofstadt) 1685354462
"The only winner today is Turkey," Erdoğan declared as he prepared for a third term in which his country faces severe economic woes—inflation has soared and the lira is at a record low against the U.S. dollar—and is struggling to recover from multiple devastating earthquakes earlier this year.
However, in Turkish Kurdistan—whose voters, along with a majority of people in most of Turkey's largest cities favored Kılıçdaroğlu—people expressed fears that the government will intensify a crackdown it has been waging for several years.
Ardelan Mese, a 26-year-old cafe owner in Diyarbakir, the country's largest Kurdish-majority city, called Sunday's election "a matter of life and death now."
"I can't imagine what he will be capable of after declaring victory," Mese said of Erdoğan in an interview with Reuters.
After initially courting the Kurds by expanding their political and cultural rights, Erdoğan returned to the repression that has long characterized Turkey's treatment of a people who make up one-fifth of the nation's population, while intensifying a war against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a far-left separatist group that Turkey, the United States, and other nations consider a terrorist organization.
\u201cKurds fear that an Erdogan victory "could reinforce a crackdown the state has been waging against them for years, alarmed by a surge in nationalist rhetoric ahead of Sunday's vote." https://t.co/aAhHVqjmf4\u201d— Kenneth Roth (@Kenneth Roth) 1685018787
"Erdogan's victory will consolidate one-man rule and pave the way for horrible practices, bringing completely dark days for all parts of society," Tayip Temel, the deputy co-chair of Turkey's second-largest opposition party, the center-left and pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)—which backed Kılıçdaroğlu—told Reuters.
Human rights defenders—many of whom have chosen or been forced into exile—also sounded the alarm over the prospect of a third Erdoğan term.
"If the opposition wins there will be space, even possibly limited, for discussions for a common future. With Erdoğan, there is no civic or political space for democracy and human rights," Murat Çelikkan, a journalist who founded human rights groups including Amnesty International Turkey, said in an interview with Civil Rights Defenders just before Sunday's runoff.
Çelikkan called Erdoğan a "very authoritarian, religious, pro-expansionist conservative."
"Turkey, according to judicial statistics, has the largest number of terrorists in the world, because the prosecutors and judges have an inclination to use anti-terror laws arbitrarily and lavishly," he continued. "There are tens of thousands of people who are being trialed or convicted by anti-terror laws. Thousands of people insulting the president."
\u201cToday #Turkey is holding a presidential election runoff. But what is at stake?\n\nRead the interview with Murat \u00c7elikkan, human rights defender from Turkey, about possible impact of the election outcome on #HumanRights:\n\nhttps://t.co/7a8HTEELUp\u201d— Civil Rights Defenders (@Civil Rights Defenders) 1685253600
"Nowhere in Turkey you can make a peaceful demonstration and protest," Çelikkan added. "The security forces directly attack and detain you. The minister of interior targets and criminalizes LGBTI+ people on a daily basis."
LGBTQ+ Turks voiced fears for their future following a campaign in which Erdoğan centered homophobia in his appeals to an overwhelmingly Muslim electorate and repeatedly accused Kılıçdaroğlu and other opposition figures of being gay. During his victory speech Sunday evening, Erdoğan again lashed out at the LGBTQ+ community while excoriating Kılıçdaroğlu for his campaign pledge to "respect everyone's beliefs, lifestyles, and identities."
Erdoğan vowed in his speech that gays would not "infiltrate" Turkey and that "we will not let the LGBT forces win." At one point during his address, an Al Jazeera interpreter stopped translating a 45-second portion when the president called members of the opposition gay.
\u201cDuring his victory speech President Erdo\u011fan repeated: \u201cWe will not let the LGBT forces win!\u201d. \n\nHe then emphasised \u201cLGBT cannot infiltrate among us. We will be reborn. The family is sacred for us. The violence against women is forbidden and haram for us, no one can resort to this\u2026\u201d— \u2022 (@\u2022) 1685309623
Ilker Erdoğan, a 20-year-old university student and LGBTQ+ activist, told Agence France-Presse that "I feel deeply afraid."
"Feeling so afraid is affecting my psychology terribly. I couldn't breathe before, and now they will try to strangle my throat," he added. "From the moment I was born, I felt that discrimination, homophobia, and hatred in my bones."
Ameda Murat Karaguzu, a project assistant at an unnamed pro-LGBTQ+ group, told AFP that she has been "subjected to more hate speech and acts of hate than I have experienced in a long time."
Karaguzu blamed Erdoğan's government for the increasing hostility toward LGBTQ+ Turks, adding that bigots are keenly "aware that there will be no consequences for killing or harming us."
Ilker Erdoğan struck a defiant tone, telling AFP that "I am also part of this nation, my identity card says Turkish citizen."
"You cannot erase my existence," he added, "no matter how hard you try."
"There are too many Americans trying to survive and raise families on $9, $10, or $12 an hour," said the senator. "This injustice must end."
On the heels of launching an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour over five years, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday announced upcoming rallies to demand the pay hike in three states, where he will be joined by Bishop William Barber II.
Barber—Repairers of the Breach president, Poor People's Campaign co-chair, and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School—plans to join Sanders (I-Vt.) to "make the moral case for raising wages."
Sanders and Barber are first headed to Durham, North Carolina, where they are set to be joined by Democratic Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam—who worked for the senator's 2016 presidential campaign—for a 7:00 pm ET rally at the Hayti Heritage Center on June 1.
The pair then plans to visit the Henderson A. Johnson Memorial Gymnasium at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee at 7:00 pm CT on June 2. State Rep. Justin Jones (D-52)—who gained national attention earlier this year for being expelled by GOP legislators over a protest demanding gun control, only to be promptly reinstated by Nashville's Metropolitan Council—is expected to join them.
A third rally hosted by the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 at their union hall in Charleston, South Carolina is scheduled for 4:00 pm ET on June 3. State Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-111) plans to join the event, in partnership with the South Carolina AFL-CIO.
"Low-income workers need a pay raise and the American people want them to get that raise."
A longtime advocate of increasing the U.S. minimum wage, Sanders and labor leaders announced their push for $17 per hour earlier this month. Though several states have set higher minimums, the federal rate of $7.25 hasn't changed since 2009.
"At a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality and record-breaking corporate profits, we must stand up for working families—many of whom are struggling every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families," Sanders—who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee—said Monday.
"There are too many Americans trying to survive and raise families on $9, $10, or $12 an hour. It cannot be done. This injustice must end," he added. "Low-income workers need a pay raise and the American people want them to get that raise."
The progressive think tank Data for Progress last week released polling results that show 76% of likely voters across party lines would support a $17 hourly minimum wage—and 74% would support $20.
The survey, conducted in early May, also revealed that all likely voters believe Americans need to earn $26.20 per hour "to have a decent quality of life (that is, the ability to afford basic necessities such as groceries, rent or mortgage payments, transportation, and other essential bills without struggling)."
\u201c$26 per hour: The wage voters think you need to earn to have a decent quality of life in the U.S.\n\n$7.25 per hour: The current federal minimum wage.\u201d— abby springs (@abby springs) 1684955759
Plans for the rally series come after researchers at the University of California, Berkeley kicked off May by putting out a working paper that shows significant minimum wage increases can have positive effects on earnings and employment—countering claims from corporate lobbying groups that oppose such pay hikes.
While Sanders has the power to ensure his panel takes up the issue, legislation to increase the minimum wage nationwide is unlikely to reach President Joe Biden's desk, given the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Senate that still includes
Democrats who partnered with the GOP in 2021 to block a measure that would have mandated a $15 hourly rate.
"This agreement is far from a compromise," said one campaigner. "It's a surrender to Big Oil and Republican hostage-takers in Congress."
Environmental protection groups warned that the text of the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023—which, if approved by Congress in the coming days would hold federal nonmilitary spending at its current level in the coming year and increase it by 1% in 2025—includes a " colossal error" by the Biden administration.
"Singling out the Mountain Valley Pipeline for approval in a vote about our nation's credit limit is an egregious act," said Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director with Appalachian Voices. "By attempting to suspend the rules for a pipeline company that has repeatedly polluted communities' water and flouted the conditions in its permits, the president and Congress would deny basic legal protections, procedural fairness, and environmental justice to communities along the pipeline's path."
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has previously been denied multiple permits by courts due to concerns about its effects on water quality and environmental justice for the communities it would run through from West Virginia to southern Virginia, but under the bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to issue all remaining permits within 21 days. The bill also attempts to prohibit judicial review of the permits by any government agency.
According to one analysis by Oil Change International, the MVP—a pet project of right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—would emit the equivalent of more than 89 million metric tons of carbon, equal to the emissions of 26 coal plants.
"Changes to environmental laws and favors to fossil fuel companies have no place in a bill to raise the debt ceiling."
Although President Joe Biden previously said he would not negotiate with Republicans about raising the debt ceiling—which Congress has
voted to do 78 times since 1960, mostly under Republican presidents—he is now supporting a deal which includes a dramatic rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in addition to the MVP approval.
Ariel Moger, government and political affairs director at Friends of the Earth,
noted that Manchin "has done as much as Republicans to sabotage the Democratic agenda" by refusing to back Biden's signature domestic agenda, the Build Back Better Act, in 2021.
Despite this, Moger said, Manchin has "been rewarded" while "MAGA extremists" have been given legislation "filled with polluter giveaways and devastating spending limitations."
Biden and Manchin have claimed the MVP is essential for energy security, and the bill text includes claims that the project "will reduce carbon emissions and facilitate the energy transition," despite Oil Change International's finding that methane gas leakage, pipeline operations, and the burning of the gas delivered by the pipeline would add "tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution to the atmosphere every year for decades to come."
The legislation includes "too many lies to even begin correcting" about the pipeline, said Grace Tuttle, advocacy director for the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition.
\u201cThere's too many lies to even begin correcting in this bill text. Congratulations to Republicans AND Democrats for continuing Appalachia's role as a sacrifice zone. Shame on @POTUS. Cruelty is the point, and this nation is the cruelest of them all. #StopMVP\u201d— Grace Tuttle (@Grace Tuttle) 1685320485
"The debt deal insists that building Manchin's pet MVP pipeline is 'in the national interest' and will cut global warming emissions," said350.org co-founder and author Bill McKibben. "These things simply aren't true."
Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that Biden's approval of the MVP comes months after his administration allowed the construction of the massive Willow project, a ConocoPhillips oil drilling operation in Alaska which could send roughly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 2050—even as scientists and energy experts warn that keeping planetary heating below 2°C by then will be impossible if fossil fuel projects continue.
"Support for Biden's climate record plummeted among young people after his approval of the Willow project," said Henn. "Greenlighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline will drive it down even further."
\u201cSupport for Biden\u2019s climate record plummeted among young people after his approval of the Willow Project. \n\nGreen lighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline will drive it down even further. \n\nHe needs youth turnout in 2024. This ain\u2019t the way to get it. https://t.co/Za9wIDZZME\u201d— Jamie Henn (@Jamie Henn) 1685323662
With the Fiscal Responsibility Act, said Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, "Biden has allowed Sen. Manchin and Republicans to hold the government hostage to ram through the climate-killing Mountain Valley Pipeline, dramatically roll back bedrock environmental laws that give voice to frontline communities, and sabotage agencies whose job is to protect the environment and working families."
"Congress should reject these poison pills," she said, "and pass a clean debt ceiling bill."