Monday, July 8, 2013

I wanted to share a poem and an article written by Stewart Acuff, one of the foremost labor organizers in the country, and former head of the AFL-CIO.  He has been a wonderful support to our family.  Both were published on "The Daily Kos." and if you click on the poem link (just below) you can watch the memorial video a good friend of ours made.

One family’s loss seems a ripple
In a sea of grief and heartache
Yet this family a unit of love and a
Right relationship to our world
Misses part of its collective soul
CJ’s own hands built their shelter
And his heart sheltered their hearts
CJ ripped from them leaving a
Wound that cannot heal
By those who run too much of our lives
Who value money over love, people,
Humanity, our earth and take us and
Our people and loved ones who just
Did their jobs snatched from us
By those who care more for a
Green piece of paper than they do for
Us and ours who give love and
Use their hearts and hands to
Bless the rest of us and our world.
Rest easy, CJ, you are loved.

This blog is cross-posted at
I’ve heard Steelworkers President Leo Gerard say again and again, “We need to put an end to the lies, the myths, the hysteria, that say you can have either a clean environment or good jobs,” Gerard says. “You can have both, or you have neither.”
This is a maxim that must be applied to our economy today.
Right now, across the United States, we are drilling as much as 8000 feet below the surface for the dangerous process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
“For each frack, 80 – 300 tons of chemicals may be used. Presently, the natural gas industry does not have to disclose the chemicals used, but scientists have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.” (
Make no mistake natural gas is a very dangerous and volatile fuel. People like CJ Bevins can be and are killed in the drilling. Other workers, utility and fire fighters are killed in the delivery of the fuel. Entire underground aquifers from which our cleanest water comes are threatened with poisoning. If you think about it for just a moment, drilling below the surface of the earth and breaking apart the earth is a symptom of humanity’s arrogance toward our planet.
Meanwhile, we have a huge debate in America of whether to build a massive pipeline down the middle of America to carry the dirtiest oil in the world from Canada tar sands to refineries in Texas – essentially treating America as a developing country allowing its environment to be degraded and its people put to risk. It is called the Keystone XL pipeline. The refined oil would not be used or consumed here, but shipped to China and other countries.
The reason for fracking or the pipeline is not to put people to work, but to make billions for those who already have billions and only care about themselves.
The irony is stunning – an interstate bridge collapse in Washington State, a bridge collapse just a few years ago in Minneapolis, a D+ grade for our infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers, crumbling roads and railroads, lack of investment in renewable energy such as wind and solar, and the necessity of rebuilding our electricity infrastructure and electricity transmission lines.
Let me end this post with this irony. Just miles from the corridor of the proposed pipeline could be a series of wind farms and wind turbines creating thousands of jobs for America instead of the rest of the world – safe, sustainable and renewable.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This is an article with a bit of info about the bill they are trying to pass in NY for Gas and Oil worker's safety.  We are in the article.  It's done by a local NPR reporter, Karen DeWitt.  Here is the link to the original article and the audio report:

Nancy Bevins, with photos of her son CJ, who died in a gas drilling accident in NY, along with CJ Bevins son.      
Dueling Fracking Filmmakers Visit Capitol
by Karen DeWitt
Dueling pro and anti fracking filmmakers held screenings and promotions for their films, as they await a decision by Governor Cuomo on whether fracking will go forward in New York. That could come by the end of the month.  As Karen DeWitt reports, at one point in the day ,  the two sides confronted each other in the halls of the Capitol.
Phelim McAleer is the creator of Fracknation, a film that claims to rebut charges made by environmentalists and  the popular anti fracking movie “Gasland”. He came to Albany to hold a screening of his film.

McAleer says he’s an investigative journalist who has worked for UK publications like The Financial Times and the Economist.

“I wanted to look at the science behind it , and also the truth behind it,” McAleer said. “That’s what’s been missing so far “.

McAleer says he has no stake in whether fracking goes ahead in New York, but wants the claims made by opponents to be more thoroughly researched by the media.
“Journalists need to treat big environment the same way they treat big business,” said McAleer. “The environmental movement is a vast, multi national globalist movement.”

McAleer says the environmental groups should be asked “the same difficult questions”.

Filmmaker Josh Fox, who made the movie “Gasland”, was also at the Capitol.  Fox attended a press conference with State Senator Tony Avella, who is introducing a bill requiring stricter worker safety requirements for gas drillers.
Fox released a trailer for his new film highlighting the worker safety concerns.
“My experience with dealing with this issue for the past four years is that the people who are most at risk, who are the most ground up by this industry, are the workers,” Fox said.

Also at the press conference, were Nancy and Charlotte Bevins. They are the mother and sister of CJ Bevins, who was killed in a drilling accident in Smyrna, New York in 2011. Bevins was working on a vertical gas drilling plant, which is currently allowed in New York, for a company contracted to the now bankrupt Norse energy.  CJ’s mother and sister say he died because of inadequate worker safety standards that included 15 hour days and longer and dangerous conditions, like trying to set up a new well on a  muddy, unstable site. Nancy Bevins says her life has been changed forever.

“When it’s time for bed, all I can picture is my son , sitting there, with no family around, in pain,” said Nancy Bevins.
Bevins died during the hour long ride to the nearest hospital, in Syracuse.
Senator Avella says if horizontal hydraulic fracturing is eventually permitted by the Cuomo Admisntration,  then there should be strict worker safety rules implemented as well.

At one point, the two opposing filmmakers met.  As “Fracknation” filmmaker McAleer was in the midst of an interview, he caught sight of Josh Fox, as the “Gasland”  filmmaker strode through the Senate lobby, accompanied by Nancy and Charlotte Bevins.

McAleer and others rose to confront him.
Fox refused to engage. He sought refuge in the office of the Senate Sargent of Arms, who called state troopers. They stood guard as Fox  and the two women as they got on a near by elevator.
Later, Fox explained why he refused to discuss the subject with the pro- fracking filmmakers.

“There’s been an extensive smear and misinformation campaign on behalf of the oil and gas industry that’s been going on since the film came out,” Fox said. “It has ranged from the hysterical to the ridiculous.”
McAleer and the others  say they were merely trying to engage in a discussion with Fox about the gas drilling process and dispute points made in his film Gasland

Tensions are high, as both sides wait to find out whether Governor Cuomo will go ahead with fracking.  If the State Department of Environmental Conservation is to allow a rule making process on fracking to conclude by the end of the month , it must first make public its generic environmental impact statement on fracking. It would have to do so in a special publication for state regulations that is due out on Wednesday.  However, earlier in the month, Cuomo’s environmental commissioner, testifying at a legislative budget hearing, cast doubt on whether the administration’s self imposed deadline of late February will actually be met, meaning that a decision on fracking could once again be delayed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

This is the speech I wrote for the Shale Gas Outrage rally in Philadelphia.  I had to cut a lot out because of time constraints, but this is the whole thing.  It was a great rally, met a bunch of wonderful people with very kind and caring souls. 

As people skeptical of the gas industry, we are used to bad news. We shake our heads knowingly when we hear about another illegal dumping of frack waste. We scribble pages of statistics as the scientific community publishes newer findings of the dangerous health risks related to horizontal drilling. We pass reports through social networks of semi-truck wrecks, destroyed country roads and explosions. It is very easy to find ourselves in a frack pit of despair, apprehensive that the next article will be the one to finally knock us permanently on our backs.

But there is a less talked about risk in fracking circles. It is an aspect that many ignore. After all, no one is forced to put on a hard hat, just as no one is forced to sign a lease with a gas company. But if the industry can lie to and deceive a land owner, couldn't they just as easily lie to and deceive an employee? Or worse, poison, endanger and threaten them? Even injure or kill them?

On May 1, 2011, my son and his coworkers were hurriedly erecting a drill site in Smyrna, NY.  The site was extremely hazardous.  AWD vehicles were sinking into the mud and ruts were thigh and even waist deep.  Supervisors requested, then demanded, more mats to cover the work area. But the company answered that they were too expensive, and pushed the workers to continue. As a result, Charles E. Bevins III, my sweet, sweet boy, was pinned and crushed between an industrial sized forklift and a building when the weight of the forklift on the unstable ground gave way.

The remote, hidden location which affords so many drilling sites less scrutiny, was not mutually beneficial to my son. The sprint to the Syracuse hospital took over an hour. I'm told the last thing his coworkers heard him say as they loaded him into the ambulance was, "Am I gonna die?" My only son, 23 years old, died repeatedly until the doctor could no longer revive him. My only son, died with no family or friends at his side, to hold him and comfort him. Every night when I go to bed my thoughts are haunted with what his last thoughts must have scared he was...his pain.

When my son's body was brought back home, we buried him on our property after keeping him at home one last night. He went into our soil where he had grown up the last 14 years of his life. We buried him among the trees he had cut and planted, the fences he strung and repaired, while the sheep he trimmed and fed overlooked from the meadow. Our family dogs lay quietly among us as we said goodbye and filled his grave with earth. He was supposed to grow old in the house he helped build, not be buried in the woods a stone's throw from the back door.  Life became observed, not lived.

The corporations he worked for sent flowers, and representatives to his viewing. I found a short paragraph on one of their web sites about sending their condolences and how committed they are to worker safety...this sandwiched between paragraphs about earnings and upcoming events. As far as the news, a local channel did a very short piece acknowledging his death and that there was an ongoing investigation. After many months, OSHA found the companies at fault, and slapped them on the wrist with a whopping $4,900.00 fine.

In the 17 months following the loss of my son, our eyes have been opened to the substantial amount of injuries and deaths caused by this dangerous industry.  We read more and more articles about rig workers injured or killed by electrocutions, explosions, and traffic accidents.  Our research also unveiled the unregulated inhumane hours they are forced to work and the unsafe environment they are subjected to.  After speaking with his co-workers it became apparent that all the regulations in the world would never make drilling safe.  This is an industry known for cutting corners, racing against public opinion, and ignoring scientific evidence. Their blatant disregard of these things will continue to leave environments, communities and especially its workers at risk.

How is it possible we live in a world where an industry can poison and pollute with little repercussions? Where their workers are expendable and a death can be brushed aside as just part of another days work?  How many once complete families will be left incomplete?  

Friday, August 31, 2012

"There's a hole in the world now. In the place where he was, there's now just nothing. A center, like no other, of memory and hope and knowledge and affection which once inhabited this earth is gone. Only a gap remains. A perspective on this world unique in the world which once moved about within this world has been rubbed out. Only a void is left. There's nobody now who saw just what he saw, knows what he knew, remembers what he remembered, loves what he loved. A person, an irreplaceable person, is gone. Never again will anyone inhabit the world the way he did. Questions I have can never now get answers. The world is emptier. My son is gone. Only a hole remains, a void, a gap, never to be filled."

-- Nichola Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

Thursday, August 30, 2012

From a grieving sister....

"Over the weekend I found myself sitting beside my brothers grave on the family farm. It hit me again, as if I were hearing the news for the first time again...He is gone. Only I wasn't on my hands and knees vomiting on the side of I-66 after trying in vain to get to the hospital in NY from DC. Instead I was sitting on a cast iron bench in the hot sun looking down at a patch of dirt that has sunk an inch lower since he was buried last May. My brother is beneath the ground. He is gone. Forever. From me, from my parents, my siblings and his children. I thought this was supposed to get easier. I was told that the pain would lessen. But I feel his absence more now than I ever have and his absence is apparent everywhere I looked on the farm." -
Amanda (Bevins) Barr
This is one of the hardest things about losing a child....being unable to help, comfort, fix, or make everything better for those who are hurting as much as I am.  Knowing that we all want to be fixed...looking to one another for help but seeing the same pain reflected in each other's eyes.  We all want to feel better, but none of us possess the ability to bandage up the gaping wounds that have been left in our now broken hearts. 
I heard this tonight while listening to the book (on Audible) "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner.  I pray this will be me in the years to come. 

There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and asked, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?"

Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.

She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me."

They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.

The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my my own?"

She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hotels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune.

The woman became so involved in helping others cope with their sorrows that she eventually let go of her own. She would later come to understand that it was the quest to find the magical mustard seed that drove away her suffering.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I have been saving things I wrote to add to this blog, and since I have to stay off my feet for a while, this is my chance to finally add them.  This was written in the middle of the night, because I didn't want to forget any of it, it was so vivid in my mind and so real.  A real blessing and comfort, about 1 month before the 1 year anniversary of his death:

April 2, 2012, 3:55 am

I just had the most beautiful vision.

I had just gone to bed, completely worn out.  Once again I stayed up too late working.  I laid down and instantly thought of CJ, which often happens when I'm trying to go to sleep.  Sometimes I have torturous thoughts of the pain he went through as he was dying, or the worry, or what was he thinking in those last moments.  Did he think of us?  Was he crying?  Was he in agony thinking he might not see his children again?  Or was he in denial as we all were, thinking, "This isn't happening!  How can this be my life?  This isn't supposed to happen!"

I closed my eyes, covered my head and cried out, "Please, Maker of the Universe, King of everything and everyone, Almighty, Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha'olam.  Please take care of my son, tell him I love him and we miss him!  I don't think I can go on any longer without him!!"  Once again my body shook with uncontrollable sobs.

I immediately saw almost like rainbows swirling, then leaves funneling up from the ground in a torrent of wind, and there's CJ, walking along in the woods wearing a kind of rangers hat, but more like something they'd wear in the outback of Australia.  He's wearing shorts, but long socks and work boots, a plain t-shirt, and he's smiling from ear to ear! 

So there he is, plain as day, walking along with a clipboard, leading a bunch of people.  They appear to be from many different countries, possibly other planets, and they're trekking through the woods and brush, and around the edges of a meadow, as he shows them, teaches them, the medicinal purposes of each plant they encounter.  All the time he has a smile on his face, joking, absolutely engulfed in the joy of sharing his knowledge.  He shows them Lemon Yarrow, and Echinacea, and all the comfrey which has taken over parts of the garden. 

But in the vision, it's like I was there too, standing on the edge of the woods watching.  I was looking on as they'd identify and sample the many trees and bushes.  Once in a while he'd look directly at me and smile, like he wanted to come talk to me but he was "on duty."   But he was loving it.   

There I stood watching him live his new "after" life, when he finally came to the edge of the woods and was right there in front of me.  He just said quietly, "Mom, it's OK!!  Everything's gonna be OK!  We'll be together again very soon, it'll feel like a long time to you but it's only a few days here!  We will all have each other again, we'll all be together.  I love you, don't worry!  It's all gonna be OK.  I love you mom."

He rejoined his class, and I just stood there in amazement watching him as he answered questions and jetted back and forth between his "students."  There were these little rivers of swirling rainbow colors, and he would step onto one and ride it almost like an escalator or moving sidewalk, but it was faster and more challenging.  Almost like he was surfing, and he'd whoop it up like, "Wooo-hooo-hooo-hooo" in that goofy crazy way he and Kelsey used to say it.  He'd laugh and smile and ride it for a second, then step off and continue with his hike.  As he walked away, teaching his big class of foreigners, they struggled to follow, almost having to run to keep up with his long, exuberant, joyous steps.  He kept looking back and blowing kisses to me, waving, and laughing....

I am posting a letter I sent to a few state reps at the end of last year, when WV leaders were still grappling with drilling regulations.  As most of you know, the select committee came up with a less than perfect bill, but it was a start and gave surface owners a bit more protection.  Governer Tomblin, however, took it upon himself to write his OWN bill, with the help of the gas industry, which offered LESS protection in many ways than before regulations were even in place!

As naive as I may be, I still wanted to at least give another perspective on the many faceted problems associated with horizontal drilling:

To whom it may concern:

My name is Nancy Bevins.  My husband and I and our 4 children built a small organic farm on 40 acres here in WV.  We raise sheep, chickens and produce for the farmer's market.  I sell handmade items on Etsy which I make from our sheep's wool.  We are also foster parents and have adopted 5 children in addition to our 4.

On May 1st, 2011, my only biological son was killed in a drilling accident in Smyrna, New York.  He was working for a local drilling company, contracted by Norse Energy, to set up a horizontal drilling rig.  Because we have retained a lawyer, we are not able to give a detailed description of his death, but we are convinced that the negligence and unsafe conditions of the site, which the company was aware of, caused the death of our son. 

There is no way to describe the pain and heartache our family is now going through.  Every inch of our land was walked by our son.  The posts which hold up our fences were driven into the ground by him and my husband.  The walls and foundation of our home were crafted by his hands.  Every single day of our lives is now a struggle as we try to make sense of what has beset our family.  Every night, before I go to sleep, I picture him slowly dying as they rushed him to the hospital, scared, without a single loved one at his side.  There are days I do OK, and others in which I can barely get out of bed.

As we deal with the sadness it is more and more becoming entangled with anger.  Before he was killed I began learning about the dangers and environmental consequences that unchecked drilling can reap on the environment.  Although my son loved his coworkers, he worried about the conditions and knew it was extremely dangerous, especially the speed in which they were pushing these young men to set up and drill for gas.  With the sheer number of wells and the inadequate number of inspectors, the remote locations of these sites are mostly unregulated and unchecked.  He was working 15 days on, with only 5 days off, 2 of the 5 in which were spent driving to and from NY.  Most days he worked between 14 and 16 hours, sometimes longer if relief never showed up. 

Before he left for New York the last time, I made him promise me he'd sit down and maybe we could figure out a way to increase production on the farm and other ways he could make a living besides drilling...a few weeks prior he had been injured on the job, a blow to his face by a swinging pipe.  He was only making 13.25 per hour and he hated being away from his family.  He lived with his fiance and 2 small children on our property.

I am sure you are very aware of the environmental impact these drilling companies will have on our precious state, and I am so thankful that some of you are pushing for tougher regulations.  But I decided to write and tell you of our lives so you could be aware that the problems involved with drilling are multifaceted.  I feel there is no safe, humane, and environmentally responsible way to frack.  Young men are being recruited for these dangerous jobs, some just out of high school.  When I talked with my son's co-workers and asked them if they knew what fracking really is, they were misinformed.  When asked what they are putting into the ground, 3 out of the 3 sitting on our couch said "Sand, water, and soap."  Most workers are not even aware of the poisions they are being exposed to daily.  Drug problems are rampant BECAUSE they are forced to work inhumanely long hours.  The companies conveniently turn a blind eye because a working body, to them, is better than no body on the rigs.

We have a well, as I am sure thousands and thousands of other West Virginians do, and we depend on that water for drinking, for our animals, and for our organic produce.  We are unable to get city water, as again I am sure thousands of other West Virginians are unable to also.  Even if we were, the cost of buying it would be crippling for us.  We live in fear that a gas well will go in near our home, and our once pristine water will be contaminated.  Our son is buried here, we just can't pick up and leave.

This is a matter of survival.  This is a matter of unbelievable urgency.  It is impossible to say this without sounding dramatic, but once our water is contaminated, there will be no going back.  And for what?  A few temporary jobs?  Tell that to Texans who still have a higher unemployment rate that WV and many other states...a state which has let oil and gas companies over-run their farms for many years.  A state which, while going through the worse drought since the dust bowl, is still allowing hydro-fracking, which uses between 4 and 8 MILLION gallons of water per well.  This, while crops shrivel up and die for lack of rain.  The situation is nothing short of insanity.

I have attached a picture of our son and his baby, who we are now raising.  Our son was a sweet funny, generous and kind young man, and his children have been robbed of his influence by the greed and irresponsibility of a corporation.  Please don't let this happen to another family.  Please consider the risks these operations are taking not only with the environment, but with human lives.


Nancy Bevins