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In Pittsburgh, a community bill of rights helped ban fracking

Ben Price


Here's the problem: In 2010, the oil and gas industries operating in Pennsylvania were acquiring land leases that would allow them to extract natural gas using the process known as "fracking." Many rural municipalities had been targeted already for this activity, and the state Legislature had enacted laws forbidding local governments from limiting or banning the industrial activities related to fracking. The people of Pittsburgh were alarmed to learn that a few larger open spaces — and even small parcels of land in the city — had been quietly leased for fracking. The nine members of the city council were hearing from their concerned district constituents and one of the council members put out a call for advice to environmental groups, land-use law firms, and other experts. A group discussion ensued in which nearly 30 organizations participated. The overarching question raised by the council member was, "How can Pittsburgh protect its people, environment, and water supply from the toxic effects of industrial gas extraction in the city?"

Here's how one organization is working on the problem: After hearing advice from organizations suggesting appeals to state regulatory agencies and recommendations for new local zoning laws that might limit fracking to designated "heavy industrial zones," the council member asked another important question, "Don't these proposed 'solutions' actually allow fracking, rather than stop it?" The almost unanimous answer that came back was that "it's illegal to stop the fracking, because of state preemption. The best you can do is try to limit the harm."

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) was asked for its recommendations. Rather than "regulate" the amount of harm that fracking would inflict on a city that had been cleaning up smog and brownfields for decades following the withdrawal of the steel industry, CELDF offered to draft a local civil rights law that would guarantee certain community rights, including the right to clean air, pure water, the rights of natural ecosystems to flourish, and the right to be free from toxic trespass (poisoning). The proposed city ordinance, known as a Community Bill of Rights, would protect the rights it established by banning any new industrial extraction of natural gas. Several aspects differentiated the Community Bill of Rights from proposals for regulating fracking through local land use and zoning laws. Not only did it focus on protecting fundamental rights against violation by industrial extraction of gas and recognized those rights as higher law than state administrative law, but it bypassed the entire regulatory system by asserting the authority of the city to protect said rights by exercising the right of local community self-government.

•In 2010, the city council of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, unanimously (9-0) adopted the Pittsburgh Community Bill of Rights, which created enforceable rights to clean water and air, recognized legal rights of the natural environment to exist and flourish, reaffirmed the right of local community self-government, and, in order to protect these rights, banned the extraction of natural gas using fracking and related activities.
•News of Pittsburgh's bold policy of protecting the rights of people and nature by banning fracking spread through national media and by word-of-mouth. Following Pittsburgh's legislative action, multiple other municipalities in Pennsylvania — and then in Ohio, Colorado, California, and New Mexico — drafted and adopted Community Bills of Rights. Corporate objections to adoption of the Pittsburgh measure included threats of lawsuits based on supposed violations of "corporate rights" and breach of state laws preempting local governance over corporate activities. Despite these early threats, to date there has been no litigation brought against the Pittsburgh Community Bill of Rights.

Learn more from:
•National Community Rights Network
•Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

This case study is adapted from our latest book, "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons." Get a copy today.

This piece was edited by Emily Skeehan.


[Please go to the original article for pictures and links.  My work computer doesn't want to let me copy the pictures.]

The world's oceans levels are rising at faster and faster rates as waters warm and ice sheets melt.

Researchers, led by University of Colorado-Boulder professor Steve Nerem, looked at satellite data dating back to 1993 to track the rise of sea levels.

Their findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that sea levels aren't just rising — that rise has been accelerating over the last 25 years.

Even small increases can have devastating consequences, according to climate experts. If the worst climate-change predictions come true, coastal cities in the US will be devastated by flooding and greater exposure to storm surges by the year 2100.

Research group Climate Central has created a plug-in for Google Earth that illustrates how catastrophic an "extreme" sea-level rise scenario would be if the flooding happened today, based on projections in a 2017 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

You can install the plug-in (directions here) and see what might become of major US cities.

Go to for links and pictures....

The Amish Horse-Drawn Buggy Is More Tech-Forward Than You Think

The tech inside this 19th-century conveyance isn't stuck in the 19th century.

By Matthew Jancer

  Jan 9, 2017 

Despite what you heard, the Amish aren't against technology. Communities adopt new gadgets such as fax machines and business-use cell phones all the time—so long as the local church approves each one ahead of time, determining that it won't drastically change their way of life.

So it is with the Amish horse-drawn buggy. You might have thought the technology inside this 1800s method of transportation stopped progressing right around then. Instead, buggy tech keeps advancing, and buggy makers have become electricians and metalworkers to build in all the new tech you can't see under the traditional black paint.

Even if you skip luxury options such as a propane-powered heater, cupholders, and speedometer, a buggy is an expensive thing.

One builder in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was rather busy when we spoke. In a half-hour, four people called in to discuss orders. Amish people often shy away from using their names and businesses in publication, but one of the shop's builders was happy to talk about all the new system being developed for this old technology.


Buggy brakes are automotive-style, non-powered drum or disc brakes mounted to two wheels. When a driver wants to stop, he or she halts the horse using the reins and halts the buggy by stepping on the brake pedal so that it doesn't run into the horse. Our builder estimates 90 percent of buggy buyers stick with drums, in part because of the old-fashioned aesthetics—braking systems on buggies are very visible—and partly because all drum components can be made in Amish communities.

"Back in the '60s, a local Amish man started going through junkyards and getting the old seven-inch VW brakes," our builder says, "salvaging them, repairing them, and cleaning them up, and retrofitting them to buggies. After a while he started getting good castings made. Now all the buggy brakes are manufactured by buggy shops."

Builders cast the drums in steel and the backer plates and shoes in aluminum-tin alloy. "We'll buy the castings, and we'll machine, we'll drill the holes, we'll process them, and install the components," he says. "We actually bond our own shoes. We buy brake lining from a brake company in Ohio."

The few disc brakes used on buggies are off-the-shelf parts bought from outside Amish communities and usually were manufactured for dune buggies. For both drums and discs, the brake master cylinder, which moves the hydraulic fluid that actuates the brakes, is mounted underneath the body near an Amish-made pedal assembly whose foot pedal pokes up through the floor into the interior. The master cylinders are made of anodized aluminum at an Amish shop, also in Ohio.


States with large Amish populations, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, have laws that require buggies to light up when sharing public roads with automotive traffic. Which means these old-fashioned vehicles have electrical components.

"Ninety-nine percent of buggies are built with a dash—a console on the front panel—and in that switch box is all the switches you need," says our builder. "We have headlights, taillights, interior lights, and a turn signal switch."

Shops buy LED components and assemble systems based on a customized turn signal developed by Lancaster County's Amish builders 50 years ago. It's a pedestal lamp with an amber headlight on the front and a red taillight on the back, one lamp for each side of the buggy. Bulbs stay on low-beam during normal use, but flicking a turn signal toggle switch activates a brake-light-style system that turns on the high-beams. There's your Amish turn signal: A buggy whose left-side headlight and taillight are brighter than their right-side counterparts is about to turn left.

"We actually looked into doing financing through the banks, but we don't have titles for buggies, so the banks are squeamish about it."

To power these lights, batteries are all over the place. "For many, many years we just simply used a standard deep-cycle marine battery because everything was incandescent, and we needed more power," says the builder. Nowadays, they use cordless tool batteries. A single 20-volt/6-amp battery, the type that powers an electric drill, runs the whole electrical system for two to three hours on a charge. Those traveling for longer carry spare batteries.

"There was actually an alternator system attempted in the last five years," he says. "It worked about 60 percent, but it never took off."


The main body is fiberglass. It's pre-manufactured off-site and shipped to Amish builders across the country for finishing. They add aluminum components to areas that see a lot of wear, such as door sills. Everything else is white oak or ash wood framing stretched over with fabric, plusher linings for interior surfaces, and a tough polyester for exterior surfaces, all to save weight.

"Back in the '60s, a local Amish man started going through junkyards and getting the old seven-inch VW brakes."

"A new technology is thermally modified wood," our builder says. "Thermally modified is, basically, they cook the livin' daylights out of it. Like a kiln. Your common dried lumber, they take it down to 10 to 20 percent moisture. Thermally modified is taken down to almost zero-percent moisture. They just bake the moisture out of it, and then it's stabilized and real hard to rot."

Tires and Wheels

Amish buggies roll on either steel or solid rubber tires, but our builder says most use steel. Both are built in-house. "Your steel-tire buggy actually pulls easier than a rubber-tire one because of the compression of the rubber," he says. "Now, if you'd have pneumatic tires it'd be different, but with a solid rubber tire it has compression. Of course, the pro with rubber is that it'll be quieter."

Rubber tires also stress the turning mechanism (the fifth wheel) harder, so brakes are mounted on the rear wheels if a buggy has rubber tires. Steel-tire buggies have the brakes on the front wheels because the sliding of metal on road takes some of the stress off the fifth wheel. For the wheels mounted within the tires, they're wood, steel, aluminum, or fiberglass.

"I prefer the wooden wheel yet," the builder says. "That's my number-one choice, for several reasons. It's quieter, and it's repairable. If you bust a spoke or something, you can easily pop off a tire, replace a spoke, and pop it back together again." In the past five years, Amish buggy builders have developed an automotive-style tubular-steel torsion bar suspension that mounts the body over traditional leaf springs or, more recently, air bags.

How the Amish Buy a Buggy

Shady Lane Wagons

Like car-shopping, the first step is to choose a general model of buggy as a base to build upon. You could opt for a two-seater, four-seater, half-enclosed, completely open, and so on. Then you pile on the options from the shop's checklist. Even if you skip luxury options such as a propane-powered heater, cupholders, and speedometer, a buggy is an expensive thing.

"Average cost of a buggy is, I'm gonna say, $8,000," says our builder. Families usually have several types at once, for different uses, and each one they buy outright with cash. "We actually looked into doing financing through the banks," he says, "but we don't have titles for buggies, so the banks are squeamish about it." If somebody needs it, though, builders will finance them a buggy without the banks.

"A lot of people will get 20 or 30 years out of a buggy before they do any major rebuilding of it. There's a strong demand for good used buggies because of youth. Most people will buy their 16-year-old son a horse, a harness, and a used buggy. And then we have people who trade in their buggy every five to eight years. It's like the mainstream world. A lot of these buggies will be running 40 or 50 years, rebuilt several times."

SUN ☼ / Inman Progress Report
« on: December 14, 2016, 04:46:33 PM »
For those of you not following the SUN Project on Facebook, I thought I'd share this recent update:
Hello everyone!
Baby, it's cold outside!

We are still slowly making progress with The City of Inman and their community garden project. We hope to build an earthship greenhouse on this property.

We have the design, most of the materials and a promising group of young teens to help build this project.

We are still slowly growing a support system and volunteer base.

Since this is the "off season" for growing's also time for us to kick back until we run full force again in the Spring.

We have lots of ideas, lots to learn, and room to grow.

Thank you for sticking with us!

Best wishes and Happy Holidays!
I think that is so exciting!  :icon_sunny:

Doom Psychology & Philosophy / Renewing All In Nature
« on: September 07, 2016, 09:09:58 AM »
Going through the SUN's acronyms, an idea that has been bouncing around in the back of my head finally congealed.  Most prepper/survivalist type websites are only concerned with physical needs: food, water, shelter, etc.  They completely ignore the top half of Maslow's pyramid of human needs .  About the only ones concerned with psychological needs are the people who are convinced we are going extinct very soon, so theirs is more of a hospice effort.  So, between the BAU everything-will-be-alright and the NTHE prepare-to-die crowd, there is a HUGE unfulfilled niche for people who are concerned that things are going to get worse but not going to end mercifully quickly.

Since we are concerned with Sustaining Universal Needs, we really should be concerned with more than just physical needs.  Living in Gentle Harmony Together covers the need for community.  One idea that I've had that SUN should be doing is helping to heal people's bodies, minds, and spirits.  The kinds of things I'm thinking about that are currently being used are horticultural therapy, equine therapy, survival retreats, yoga outdoors, transforming garden work into exercise.... and it struck me that these fit quite nicely under the acronym Renewing All In Nature.

Now, as to RE's original idea for the RAIN initiative, perhaps WATER could be the acronym? Earth/Ecological Rejuvenation/Restoration being the last two letters.

And for the psychological components of the new RAIN initiative, I would hope Uncle Bob would be a major contributor to the effort.

The Kitchen Sink / Joke ISO Punchline
« on: August 17, 2016, 10:04:34 PM »
What do you get when you cross a road with a chicken?

Education / Internet Based University Education
« on: July 20, 2016, 10:03:03 PM »
Aggregate statistics are just a lot of sad stories heaped together. Most of the student loan debt is waste, money siphoned off by predatory conduit schemes dreamed up by smart sociopaths working for corporate interests. The people who fall into that trap are the ones who should be doing the farm labor you alluded to, and not getting degrees in saturated fields that they lack the ability to compete in.
Aggregate statistics are NOT just a lot of sad stories heaped together, they are evidence of a crime.

A few people making a bad choice is unfortunate.  The majority of a generation making the same choice is a racket.

If colleges were selling cars rather than education, the people involved would be doing hard time for breaking consumer protection laws.  The product they are selling does not work in the way it is advertised.  It's like having a car that will only start if you are going downhill.  If you are lucky enough to live at the top of a hill, great!  But everyone else is screwed.

The problem is, while not everyone is fit to go to college, colleges have no incentive to turn anyone away.  They get paid no matter what.  So they encourage everyone to come, whether or not the students really have any business being there.

So, there is a real simple solution to the student loan crisis: sure, keep the student loans so that they can't be bankrupted... but the only ones who can make the loan are the colleges themselves, and they cannot transfer them.  Then, the colleges will have to worry about whether the student is a good risk or not.  And the ones who are bad at evaluating the risk will go under.

Doomsteading / Download Your House
« on: July 14, 2016, 06:37:39 PM »
Okay, technically, download the software and modules and plans for the tools and build it all yourself, but that's too long for a topic:

! No longer available

Bottom line: they built a 700 square foot home in 5 days for $25,000 in materials with labor that was not paid but being trained in the process.

If you're not familiar with Herrick Kimball, he has lots of neat ideas for gardening.  Most of them are on his blog The Deliberate Agrarian, and he did compile many of them in a book.

So why the echo in the title of this post?  Because for the month of May, 2016, he is having a 2-for-1 sale.  He is clearing out the remaining copies he has of his first printing of 4000 to make way for his second printing (which has no new material, just a few grammar corrections).  Note to the rare book collectors out there [Eddie], these are signed copies.

The Kitchen Sink / The Wealthiest Men on Earth
« on: April 09, 2016, 09:44:26 PM »
That is why I consider the 99% meme to be so toxic.  It was the nobles after all that got King John to sign the Magna Charta. I believe the whole 99% meme was a deliberate attempt by the .0001% to disenfranchise the 1% so they wouldn't be a threat to the ones with the real power. I think people who have personally made a fortune are the best chance we have of dislodging the reigns of power from families who have been holding it for centuries, without destroying the whole system.  Still a long shot, though; most likely, it will only be after they've killed off 80% of the population and they realize that consumption has only gone down 20% that things will really fall apart for them.

What an amazing insightful paragraph. May I commend your writing skills and most unique analysis JD.

You are on to something important IMO, with such a singular, well thought out analysis and perspective.

I do want to say that I'm going to need a lot of convincing on this statement (bold, underlined above).  It seems to me perhaps entirely implausible  that a tiny handful of people such as this number could have a tremendous amount of "power" other than spending power.  I do know that money buys influence; this is both obvious and demonstrable.  But what does the graph line look like? Does influence and power keep steeply climbing all the way as high as the .000001 perecent?  (somebody count my zeros; I didn't).  Do two or three of the richest people on Earth have vastly more "power" than the 1% or the .01 percent? Is power entirely proportionate to money all the way up to the very richest?  What?

1% = 70 million people
0.01% = 700,000 people
0.0001% = 7,000 people (my number)
0.000001% = 70 people (your number)
(all to 1 significant figure)

Two months later, following Oxfam’s calculation and having published the new 2014 rich list, Forbes journalist Kasia Morena did some fact-checking. She found that the number of billionaires owning the same as the poorest 3.5 billion had dropped from 85 to 67

Read More:

So wealth of bottom 50% = wealth of top 0.000001%

Power and wealth are not the same thing, but if you have power, you can get wealth, and if you have wealth, you can get power.

Doomsteading / Paracord Projects
« on: November 18, 2015, 10:25:34 AM »
What are your new fun things to do with paracord?
Well, so far I've made 2 belts for myself, 1 for my dad, and am working on one for a paying customer, and I've probably made somewhere between 1 and 2 dozen bracelets.  The most fun thing I've made so far is a glow-in-the-dark green/reflective neon orange double helix zipper pull.  I'll be making some simple large fobs for my daughter to play with, and at some point I want to tackle a hammock-bed and woven sandals.

Sounds cool!  Take some pics!

(These are scaled to be approximately true size on my laptop screen.  Your Mileage May Vary.)

Be Seen Zipper Pull

Cobra Belly Bracelet

Stars and Stripes Bracelet

My Dad's Belt

Doomsteading / Limited Edition Signed Book Opportunity: Modern Homesteading
« on: September 29, 2015, 04:43:07 PM »
I thought Eddie in particular might be interested in this, a man, who goes by the pseudonym of Wranglerstar on Youtube, and his wife have just written a book on their experiences in self-sufficiency entitled Modern Homesteading.  For a couple more days, they are taking orders for signed copies at 25% over list:  For people who aren't book collectors but are interested in doomsteading, I can't tell you how good the book is because I won't get my copy until November, but I can tell you that the Youtube videos are both numerous and informative:

Diner TV / Club Doom: Labor Day Mix
« on: September 07, 2015, 04:48:09 PM »
Welcome to Club Doom!  A place to dance away your cares about the end of the world.  I'm your host, DJ JD.

Tonight is a special Labor Day edition of songs celebrating the working man:

Primitive Living / Wild Edibles
« on: June 11, 2015, 05:14:12 PM »
From my blog, Going Upslope:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

When It's A Cat's Ear....

When is a dandelion not a dandelion?

When it is Hypochaeris radicata, also known as Flatweed, False Dandelion, and Cat's Ear.  My mom asked me what the yellow flower out in the yard was, and my first answer was "DYC", which stands for "Damn Yellow Composite".  That gives some indication of the, um, "affection" botanists have for that class of flowers, because of the difficulty in narrowing down exactly what it is.  In the end, the Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers: Northeastern and North-central North America on Google Books ended up being most helpful in coming up with an identification, but Dandelion and Cat's Ear made me confident that I had identified it correctly.

Learning more about it, Cats Ear is quite interesting.  It is edible, although it may be toxic to horses in large quantities.  Unlike dandelion, it is not supposed to be bitter, and like chicory, you can dry and grind the root for a coffee substitute.  I don't drink coffee, so I won't be trying that, and it's a bit late in the season to be eating the leaves, as they are probably quite chewy by now, but I look forward to sampling some next year.

Related articles:

    Dandelions Need Love too.
    7 Little-Know "Superfoods" You Can Find In Your Backyard
    Common And Powerful Healing Plants You Can Find In Your Back Garden
    Why Should You Eat Dandelion Greens?
    Natural rubber from dandelions

Posted by John D. Wheeler at 4:08 PM

Labels: Food, Gardening, Household tip, Nature, Personal, Photos, Survival, Website

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