Fracking Comes Closer to Home

— by Hannah Lee

This weekend, I showed the 2010 documentary film, Gasland, to members of my shul. It was planned as a Tu B’Shevat educational event before the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a natural-gas drilling policy last week and before Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill last night. Pennsylvania now joins more than 25 states in imposing a levy on natural gas drillers.

More after the jump.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves new technology, using horizontal drilling/high volume hydraulic fracturing that is different from conventional drilling and is much riskier. In horizontal drilling, the drill bit is turned sideways to penetrate long distances from the vertical well. Massive amounts of water are pumped into the ground at extremely high pressure to fracture the rock According to Dr. Mirele Goldsmith of Jews Against Hydrofracking, the industry is resorting to this type of drilling because deposits accessible by conventional drilling have been used up. This method uses benzene, diesel, and formaldehyde as some of the hundreds of chemicals that are extremely hazardous to human health.

In 2009, the filmmaker, Josh Fox, learned that his home in the Delaware River Basin was on top of the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation containing natural gas that exists across Pennsylvania and huge stretches of the Northeast. He was offered $100,000 to lease his land for a method of drilling developed by Halliburton and he soon discovered that this was part of a 34-state drilling campaign, the largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history. More than 3,000 such wells have already been drilled in Pennsylvania.

Fox traveled to communities where the contamination of their drinking water has caused illnesses from headaches to asthma to the loss of hair in their animals. In Dimock, PA, the residents are able to light their tap water on fire. Contaminated water from fracking has been identified in Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio as well as Pennsylvania.

The State House voted 101-90 for the bill on Wednesday, February 8, after a 31-19 vote in the State Senate on Tuesday. As signed by Governor Corbett, the bill exacts a new fee on natural-gas drillers. The bill also: establishes a 500-foot setback between wells and buildings; requires a 300-foot setback between wells and waterways; and prohibits local governments from using zoning ordinances to ban gas drilling, and allows drilling in all zones.

Pennsylvania is the largest natural-gas-producing state that had not imposed a levy on drilling. The new bill will add a tax, beginning with a per-well fee between $40,000 and $60,000 in the first year after a well is drilled, which will decline to between $5,000 and $10,000 per well by the 15th and final year. The fee will vary with the cost of gas per year and will be set by the Public Utility Commission, which regulates utility companies.

The Forward  reported last summer that of the 30 Jewish summer camps that sit above the Marcellus Shale, four camps in Wayne County, PA, had signed leases with Hess Corporation. The New Jersey YMHA-YWHA Camps received $400,000 for a lease on property that houses two summer camps. The B’nai B’rith Henry Monsky Foundation received a bonus of $115, 248 upon signing. In Pennsylvania, there are already wells within 2 miles to 320 daycare facilities, 67 schools, and 9 hospitals, cites Dr. Goldsmith from state documents. She reports that more than 50 rabbis have signed a letter, sent to the Delaware River Basin Commission, about their concerns about fracking.

The Representatives from the Philadelphia area who voted for the Marcellus Shale “local impact fee” measure were:

  • Philadelphia: John Taylor (R)
  • Bucks County: Paul I. Clymer (R), Gene DiGirolamo (R), Frank Farry (R), Bernie O’Neill (R), Scott Petri (R), Margaret Quinn (R), Katherine M. Watson (R)
  • Chester County: Warren Kampf (R), Tim Hennessey (R), John Lawrence (R), Duane Milne (R), Chris Ross (R), Dan Truitt (R)
  • Delaware County: Bill Adolph (R), Steve Barrar (R), Joe Hackett (R), Tom Killion (R), Nick Miccarelli III (R), Nick Micozzie (R.)
  • Montgomery County: Bob Godshall (R), Kate Harper (R), Thomas Murt (R), Tom Quigley (R), Todd Stephens (R), Marcy Toepel (R), Mike Vereb (R)

Voting against the bill were:

  • Philadelphia: Louise Williams Bishop (D), Brendan Boyle (D), Kevin Boyle (D), Vanessa Lowery Brown (D), Michelle Brownlee (D), Mark Cohen (D), Angel Cruz (D), Maria Donatucci (D), Dwight Evans (D), Babette Josephs (D), Bill Keller (D.), Michael P. McGeehan (D), John Myers (D.), Michael O’Brien (D), Cherelle L. Parker (D), Tony Payton (D), James Roebuck (D), John Sabatina Jr. (D), W. Curtis Thomas (D), Ron Waters (D), Rosita Youngblood (D),
  • Bucks: Tina M. Davis (D), John Galloway (D.), Steven J. Santarsiero (D.)
  • Chester: Margo Davidson (D.), Thaddeus Kirkland (D.), Greg Vitali (D.)
  • Montgomery: Matt Bradford (D.), Tim Briggs (D.), Lawrence H. Curry (D.), Pam DeLissio (D.), Mike Gerber (D.)

Not voting:

  • Chester: Curt Schroder (R.)

JSPAN Visits Occupy Philadelphia: Interview with Nathan Kleinman

JSPAN Board Member Nathan Kleinman has participated in Occupy Philadelphia, the experiment in pure democracy happening on Dilworth Square alongside the Philadelphia City Hall, since its earliest days. Newsletter Editor Ken Myers visited OP and interviewed Kleinman on October 22. Ed.

Ken Myers: We are together to discuss Occupy Philadelphia which is happening right here. Is this a political event with a capital P, or is it something else?

Nate Kleinman: I would say at this stage it is the beginning of a social and possibly political movement. It is impossible to predict where it is going to go. Nobody has the power to decide where it is going to go on their own. The group makes decisions through, as much as possible, consensus. When we vote on things if we cannot come to consensus we decide with a supermajority. And so it really requires a long process of consensus building.

Myers: You mentioned that in the evening, typically at seven 0′ clock you have what you call the General Assembly. So everybody gets out and shares ideas?

More after the jump.
Kleinman: Everybody who lives here and people from elsewhere all come together. We make announcements about things that are coming up. Various working groups, of which at this point there are probably 20 or 25, report back to the full Assembly. They talk about what they are doing, what ideas they are having, what they are planning, they say when they meet and reiterate that everyone is invited. Every working group is open to all, and anyone can start one.

The General Assembly and that whole process was started on Occupied Wall Street and this is modeled after it. There are General Assemblies happening all over the country. There is one meeting today in York, Pennsylvania. There is going to be one in Stroudsburg, there is one in Norristown today, not to mention of course the bigger cities in every state across the country.

Myers: Do you see a tendency within this group to try to create a fourth political party (I say that because I give the Tea Party credit for being one)?

Kleinman: I am not sure. I think how this movement exercises its power in the political arena is still very much up in the air. But I have heard a lot of ideas, there was a lot of talk about it, and I think eventually we will come to consensus on a way forward . It seems likely to me that it will attempt to influence the political process. Some people want to run candidates for Congress next year in every single district in the country. That would certainly be something I would support because I think it’s not just Republicans that need to be asked, there are plenty of Democrats who could use a good challenge.

Myers: The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a comment today, talked about the potential for anti- Semitism in this movement. Do you see that as a serious problem?

Kleinman: No. No, I have not seen that at all. There is a huge number of Jews participating in this, and, to the extent that there may be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic comments they are from individuals. I have not seen it and it is not representative of the whole group if it does exist.

Myers: You are chairing a human rights program in a few minutes. What is your hope for this effort?

Kleinman: This is just another working group that we announced yesterday to talk about human rights, broadly defined to encompass poverty, racism, discrimination, oppression, violence, and hopefully come to some statement of principles that we in the working group can agree upon and bring to the General Assembly for their agreement. If it passes then maybe it can be sent to other General Assemblies around the country and around the world for their consideration, debate, discussion and possibly agreement. That is the only way we can come to consensus on a national and international level and be united moving forward together

Myers: A few days ago the Philadelphia Inquirer, writing up Occupy Philadelphia, seemed to summarize this movement under the flag “99 and one”. Is that a good solid summarization of the movement?

Kleinman: It is a characterization that came from some individuals in New York, and a lot of people like it because they think it dramatizes well what we are up to, that we do stand for: that we are representative of the 99% of the people who do not have 40% of the wealth

Myers: One more question. For our readers and members, if they want to follow what is happening, what is the best way for them to do that?

Kleinman: There are a lot of different places they can look. They should get on Facebook and check out our Facebook page. There is a page called Occupied Together that is bringing a lot of information from all the movements around here. But here in Philly I would say our Facebook page is the best one, with over 20,000 people following it. Look under Occupied Philly. Our media task force is doing a great job 24-7 to get the message out, and to make sure that we tell our story and the media do not have a monopoly on that.

Myers: Thanks very much for your comments.

Reprinted courtesy of JSPAN.

Nathan Kleinman is a graduate of Abington Friends School and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is a human rights activist, a community organizer, and a veteran of several political campaigns in Pennsylvania.

235 Years of Independence – An Occasion to Celebrate American Jewish Heroes

— by Ken Myers

How many Jewish heroes of the Revolutionary War (or earlier) can you identify? You probably know that Haym Salomon was a key figure in financing the Revolution. Did you know that Francis Salvador was the first Jew to die in the American Revolution, on August 1, 1776, following the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You might know that Philadelphian Rebecca Gratz founded the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and other relief organizations. Did you know that her family was prominent among revolutionaries here?

It is well known that Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938), was a member of the United States Supreme Court. His family already had a glorious record in America: David Nunez Cardozo (1752- ?) was a hero of the Revolution. He led the assault on British-held Savannah, Georgia, in which Count Pulaski was killed. Cardozo was taken prisoner by the British while defending Savannah, but was released at the end of the British stay in that area.

Forty-seven Jewish heroes of the Revolution and other major events in American history are listed and their achievements memorialized on the web site of the Florida Atlantic University Libraries, with credit to
Seymour Brody.

But his major opus is the book, Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America: 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, by Seymour Brody with illustrations by Art Seiden. Spend some time during the Independence Day weekend examining the lives of Jewish heroes during and since our War of Independence.

This Rosh Hashanah Remember Mazon


— Kenneth Myers, Vice-President of JSPAN

The season of reflection is here, and it has to weigh heavily on those of us who ponder larger questions.

Our economy stumbles along, with unemployment far too high and too wide among a broad cross-section of the old, the young, blue collar folk and new college grads. The large financial prizes handed out to those in power in a few industries seem totally out of place in a society with pockets of 20% unemployment.

Peace in the Middle East seems no closer, and each year that it fails to materialize gives credence to a number of very wrong answers to the open question. As we depart Iraq and struggle in Afghanistan, American hegemony in world affairs seems only a dream of the distant past.

In this country we Jews have long enjoyed a golden age like few others in our history. We are empowered as never before to reach for the goals of Torah, Tikkun Olam, striving for the perfection of the world.

America is also striving, and our brilliance is that we do prevail in time. We are the most powerful, most respected and admired nation on earth. We will restore full employment, expand the reach of health insurance, continue to do good works around the globe, and stand by Israel while we work for peace in the Middle East. We will respond unselfishly to all the challenges, as the richest nation on earth should.

We wish you the best of New Years.

This Rosh Hashanah Remember Mazon

Many Jews eat apples and honey together during Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a wish for a sweet new year. Tashlich is another Rosh Hashanah custom, in which we symbolically cast away our sins by tossing breadcrumbs into a body of water, such as a river, ocean or stream. After the ritual observance, add a gift of food to the hungry or a gift of money to Mazon, a Jewish response to hunger.

To donate, click here.