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VIDEO: Coal Lobbyist Jeff Holmstead Confronted by Greenpeace

7:51 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

 

If you’re a coal lobbyist like Jeff Holmstead, getting stuck in an elevator with Greenpeace activists is an inconvenient occupational hazard. It’s worse if you can’t catch a cab during an uncomfortable conversation about your work to attack pollution laws. See this K Street confrontation for yourself.

If you’ve followed the news around EPA’s proposed Clean Power Rule, which aims to reduce the U.S. power sector’s large contributions to global warming, you’ve probably seen Jeffrey Holmstead in the news. Usually, Holmstead is presented as a “partner” at Bracewell & Giuliani, and as a former EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation under George W. Bush.

This descriptor fails to present Holmstead’s current and past work as a registered lobbyist for coal companies, and leaves out the destructive decisions that Holmstead made in his stint at EPA, which directly contributed to the premature death of tens of thousands of people in this country. It leaves out the $17.5 million that coal industry clients have paid Bracewell & Giuliani for its lobbying services, where Mr. Holmstead is a prized hired gun against the EPA.

This is why I began our tense conversation with a simple question: why doesn’t Jeff Holmstead use his skills, qualifications and experience to find real solutions to global warming?

Every time Mr. Holmstead has appeared in the news to discuss the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Rule to reduce U.S. carbon emissions, he doesn’t have much good to say. “As someone who believes in the rule of law, I think this clearly goes beyond what EPA is allowed to do under the Clean Air Act,” Holmstead said at an event yesterday at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where I asked if his naysaying is simply to help Arch coal sell coal. Notice that Holmstead doesn’t respond:  see minute 7:30 in bottom video posted by BPC.

Mr. Holmstead’s criticisms aren’t surprising for a coal lobbyist, but Holmstead rarely acknowledges his coal clients and instead uses his former EPA credentials and his legal expertise to help steer Washington DC politicians, lawyers and journalists toward the coal industry’s interpretations of proposed environmental regulations.

Holmstead likes to conflate rising electricity rates with the average consumer’s utility bill, ignoring the proposed rule’s well-known intent to reduce consumer bills through energy efficiency targets. This deceptive talking point was called out by Susan Tierney of the Analysis Group at yesterday’s event at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Holmstead knows this isn’t honest–he was previously called out by NRDC’s Frances Beineke during a segment on The Diane Rehm Show.

He talks about how reducing U.S. emissions won’t make a dent in reducing global emissions, thanks to rising coal use in coutries like China and India, as if the U.S. first real national attempt to reduce emissions won’t give us legitimacy in global climate negotiations. When I used this as an example of one of Mr. Holmstead’s obstruction tactics.

With the science understood, with the financial stakes so high and with shocking estimates of the current human death toll from global warming, why does Jeffrey Holmstead make a career working for an industry that is killing people?

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Climate Change Explained in Cartoons by Humorous Economist

6:47 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

A comedian economist presents climate change in a new way.I just read the Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, which I’m about to highly recommend to you and anyone you have ever known. I’ll even tease you with pretty previews of the book’s pages, below. But first, let me start with an admission:

Environmentalists have a reputation for lacking in the humor department.

This stereotype is unfortunate. My colleagues here at Greenpeace and most of my own crunchy friends are genuinely witty people with good senses of humor. Good enough to make me laugh soy-milk out of my nose once I’m alerted to the kale that was stuck in my teeth all day.* And websites like Grist have done a great job bringing some LOL’s to the WTF’s inherent in environmental reporting.

But our subject matter can be overwhelming in scope: global climate disruption, deforestation, human rights violations abound, freshwater depletion, ocean acidification…..sorry, I just stopped listening to myself to avoid the temptation to hide in bed forever.

Much like environmentalists, today’s economists don’t typically earn a popular reputation for being especially funny. But Dr. Yoram Bauman, the “Stand Up Economist,” has a flair for humor in face of serious problems that he’s solving with well-established economic tools and analyses. Through the quirky cartoon illustrations of Grady Klein, Dr. Bauman has cranked out a series of light-hearted guides to microeconomics, macroeconomics, and now … The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change!

This graphic book takes readers on a eyeball-friendly journey through our Earth’s history, the tumultuous evolution of its climate system, explanations of key science supporting our understanding of climate change, and specific economic solutions that Dr. Bauman say we’ll need to employ to insure ourselves from potentially catastrophic global warming. You’ll also learn why our climate is like a compost pile, the types of one-liner jokes told by single-cell organisms, and why human’s aren’t so great at cleaning up dog poop in public spaces (hint: Garrett Hardin).

Not only is it entertaining, it’s packed full of facts, presented as cartoons and peppered with a few transparently-unrealistic zingers. You can read it in an afternoon, and so could your kid, or your grandparent. And thanks to the illustrations and simple analogies, I’d bet they will retain more of the information.

Here’s a rundown of why I liked the book, with a few minor critiques at the end.

 

Real Climate Science, Trans-disciplinary Presentation

Core to this book’s utility is its accurate portrayal of science. Dr. Bauman’s work cites the most contemporary data from scientific authorities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Data Center. When graphs and exact scientific models are used, Bauman and Klein attribute the work right there on the page, so you can check the source yourself. This is the coolest climate context since SkepticalScience.com. #GeekingRightNow.

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NPR Examines Charles Koch’s Influence at Florida State University

3:09 pm in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Just before Memorial Day weekend, NPR’s Morning Edition featured a segment examining the role of Charles Koch at Florida State University (FSU): “NPR: Koch Foundation Criticized Again For Influencing Florida State.”

Charles Koch image: "Your Education, My Legacy"FSU students outline the various ways that Charles Koch’s multimillion dollar grants give his staff subtle control over hiring of economics faculty and de facto influence over what students are, and aren’t, taught. This limitation is a serious violation of academic freedom, as has been repeatedly asserted by the American Association of University Professors, which is dedicated to the protection of academic integrity at US colleges. AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum told NPR’s Greg Allen:

You know, it amounts to the Koch brothers’ foundation basically trying to buy a position on the faculty. And that certainly is a threat to academic freedom.

FSU students and faculty alike have been strongly outspoken against the Koch agreement since 2011, when Charles Koch’s influence was first exposed by two FSU professors writing in the Tallahassee Democrat. This year, FSU has come under renewed criticism for not taking preventative measures to limit the influence of outside interests like Charles Koch, whose multi-million dollar grants are craved by public schools in need of more funding.

This is often because Charles Koch bankrolls political groups working to defund public functions, including decreased higher education funding when corporate taxes are cut.

Charles Koch is the Kansan fossil fuel billionaire known for coordinating with corporate executives to dump hundreds of millions of dollars into election politics, union busting, opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and the privatization of education, among other things. The Koch family is known for spending tens of millions of dollars on politcal groups that deny climate change, which I have asserted is overlapping with the activities of FSU economics professors who are involved with global warming skepticism (well outside of their field of expertise–economics).

The up-bringing of Charles Koch and his three brothers is the subject of a new book by Mother Jones editor Daniel Schulman, titled Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. The book offers a lot of helpful context how Charles Koch and his brothers have lived their lives out of touch with the vast majority of people, apparently not in small part due to being worked ruthlessly by father Fred Koch, not to mention being born into his vast wealth from the oil company he co-founded.

Charles Koch in particular took his father’s ferocious work ethic to heart, now leveraging his own fortune in combination with that of weathly, politically active friends who work together to bend government into a service for corporate executives rather than prioritizing the needs of people living on the margins.

You can read more from Florida State University students and professors themselves in the Tampa Bay Times, and op-eds written by students and professors for the Tallahassee Democrat. Charles Koch’s influence on higher education was recently examined by Dave Levinthal for the Center for Public Integrity.

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

Is Charles Koch Funding Climate Science Denial in Florida State University Economics?

7:14 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

Charles Koch imagined as a clown in caricature

Charles Koch’s money may be polluting science research at Florida State.

Students at Florida State University are telling Charles Koch to stop compromising academic integrity with multimillion dollar grants that come with strings attached.

You may recall: back in 2011, two Florida State University (FSU) professors revealed that the Charles Koch Foundation was given inappropriate control over the professor hiring process in the economics department, where millions of dollars were granted from the Kansas billionaire. Three years later, the case still isn’t closed on this corporate manipulation of university functions. The FSU students write:

Our university’s academic integrity has already been compromised from the influence of high-dollar donors like Koch, who managed to assume inappropriate control over our economics department’s curriculum and hiring process per an agreement signed in 2008. Three years have passed since FSU professors exposed Koch’s financial grip over our school and a committee of faculty senators formally rejected several stipulations of the agreement. Yet, it is clear that the administration refuses to act to appropriately limit outside influence on FSU’s educational operations.

A new agreement with Koch, signed by both ex-President Barron and current Interim President Garnett Stokes, still contains many provisions from the original agreement that were explicitly rejected by the faculty senators who reviewed it. Barron himself stated that the initial agreement ‘did provide the opportunity for outside influence’ from Koch. This leads us to question whether the new agreement leaves that influence intact.

The op-ed focuses on the departure of Eric Barron, who is transitioning into the president’s office at Penn State University after serving as president of Florida State University.

Mr. Barron is being celebrated for his expertise in climate science as he cycles into his new position at Penn State (which also gets money from Charles Koch).

Why does this matter? What’s the relevance of President Eric Barron’s climate change credentials?

Let’s start with Florida State’s economics department. FSU’s economics department has received much of the $3,898,657 itemized to FSU in the Charles Koch Foundation’s tax filings from 2009 to 2012.

Beyond the well-documented concerns highlighted by FSU students and professors alike, FSU’s Koch-funed economics department appears to host professors who are misrepresenting climate science, a field well outside of their credentialed expertise.

Ph.D economist Yoram Bauman has twice reviewed and ranked economics textbooks for how accurately they portray climate change science. Citing top climate science institutions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Bauman has repeatedly given a failing grade to a widely-used textbook authored by professors from several of the top Koch-funded schools across the country, including FSU. Three of these four authors have direct ties to FSU: one primary author is a current economics professor, one formerly taught in the FSU econ department, and one obtained his economics Ph.D at FSU.

These same four professors, who aren’t climate scientists yet authored the worst economics textbooks in regard to climate science misinformation, are affiliated with numerous Koch-funded climate denial organizations. Such affiliations include the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, The Heartland Institute, the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and the Association for Private Enterprise Education (APEE). These professors are closely affiliated with groups created and directly overseen by the Koch brothers, like the Cato Institute in Washington, DC and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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Valentine VIDEO: ALEC Is Duke Energy’s Corporate “Dating Service”

7:28 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, The EnvironmentaLIST.

Over the last four years, Greenpeace has made a Valentine’s Day tradition of spoofing the influence peddling of corporate lobbyists and captured politicians. This year’s installment embodies the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which reporters have characterized as a “dating service” for its role in pushing copycat, corporate-crafted laws through state legislatures.

This year, our PolluterHarmony story wrote itself. Online dating ads running on TV have featured a creepy middleman who plays third wheel on various peoples’ dates. In real life, ALEC is that creepy middleman, creating a tax-deductible process for companies to vote as equals with state politicians on bad laws that appear in legislatures around the country. This all happens with little to no disclosure, away from the constituents who elected ALEC’s member legislators.

This secretive attack on the public comes in many forms: privatizing education, weakening unions and public employee benefits, increasing gun violence, keeping legitimate voters away from the polls, denying climate change science, limiting the liability of corporations that harm people, and many other items on the Big Business wishlist.

Want examples? Check our humorous dating profiles (citing real-life events) on an ALEC senator in Ohio attacking clean energy incentives and an ALEC senator in Nebraska who was courted on a trip to the tar sands courtesy of ALEC, oil companies and the Canadian government.

ALEC has said that one of its top priorities in 2014 will be to make it harder for homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops by introducing solar taxes on behalf of big utilities that are afraid of losing customers.

But thanks to increased public scrutiny, ALEC has struggled in recent years to avoid its own controversial shadow. ALEC’s own leaked documents confirm it has lost at least 60 corporate members and 400 legislative members, thanks to ALEC’s role in pushing Stand Your Ground laws and Voter ID legislation that keeps people with social minority status away from the voting booth.

While ALEC staff have given lip service to increased transparency, journalists like Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll have shown how ALEC keeps its doors firmly shut on the public.

Even companies that are sticking with ALEC appear to be embarrassed by the association: Duke Energy has done all it can to not confirm renewed ALEC membership, ignoring repeated calls, emails and a 150,000-strong public petition delivered by a diverse coalition of organizations whose members don’t appreciate how ALEC’s bad policies make Duke appear two-faced.

Please share our video to help spread the word on ALEC, and send a message to state legislators at StandUpToALEC.org.

No Prodigal Sun? ALEC Doesn’t Want Its Clean Energy Members Back

6:58 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

ALEC’s petrochemical companies

Leaked American Legislative Exchange Council documents published by The Guardian recently offered a glimpse into ALEC’s financial troubles, spurred by its role in peddling corporate laws through statehouses around the country. ALEC’s controversial work has caused its member companies to abandon it, such as pushing the National Rifle Association’s Stand Your Ground laws, efforts to undermine clean energy incentives and delay climate change regulations, and breaking workers unions.

The ALEC documents revealed its “Prodical Son” project [sic], a list of 41 corporate members the legislator-lobbyist matchmaker would like to entice back into its roster. ALEC has lost about 60 corporate members since 2011, the year ALEC Exposed was launched by the Center for Media and Democracy.

But there are some private sector members that ALEC doesn’t want back. 60 companies left ALEC and it’s asking 41 to rejoin…so who is missing from the Prodigal Son list?

Conspicuously, both the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) are not on ALEC’s secret Prodigal Son list. Not surprising, since an ALEC staffer accused residential solar rooftop owners of being “freeriders,” despite how they feed extra electricity back into the grid and spare utilities the capital costs of installing those solar panels themselves.

The solar trade group SEIA left ALEC in the fall of 2012. Shortly before that, ALEC’s Energy, Environment & Agriculture task force considered, but didn’t ever approve, the Solar Streamline Permitting Act (see p. 18). It’s pretty much what it sounds like–making it faster and easier for state governments to approve solar projects, a concept that you might assume ALEC’s conservative member legislators would embrace.

But ALEC didn’t pass the solar permitting model bill. At the same time, ALEC was incubating its assault on state clean energy incentives through The Heartland Institute’s proposed Electricity Freedom Act, the repeal of state renewable portfolio standards, later introduced in some form in 15 states, according to ALEC.

ALEC’s documents list SEIA among “Lapsed” members, with a note explaining “left because their bill did not pass the task force.” SEIA was ALEC’s only interest dedicated entirely to solar energy at the time, and with both SEIA and AWEA absent from ALEC’s ranks, ALEC has no members predominantly focused on clean energy development.

Check out Rachel Maddow’s recent interview with Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington for more on ALEC’s work against clean energy and other revelations from ALEC’s leaked documents:

ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force: Hostile Territory for Clean Energy

Members of ALEC’s EEA task force include Koch Industries, the engine of climate denial finance, not to mention many groups its billionaire owners fund and even helped create, like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute and The Heartland Institute.

There’s ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, the architects of the leaked 1998 master plan to publicly attack climate science and scientists, which included ALEC itself and other ALEC members like DCI Group.

There’s Peabody Energy, which commands its PR spokespeople to deny global warming. There’s Duke Energy and Arizona Public Service, two major utilities fighting to make residential rooftop solar energy more expensive for residents and small businesses owners in their respective regions. ALEC’s utilities are joined by their top trade association, Edison Electric Institute.

And don’t forget the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the heavily advertised “coalition that hates each other.” ACCCE was caught subcontracting groups that forged letters to Congress against 2009′s failed national climate policy.

Mining, petrochemical, utility, & agribusiness interests supporting ALEC:

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Oops! CEO of Corporate Front Network Lied to Reporters

9:21 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow released a series of reports on how the State Policy Network coordinates an agenda carried out by affiliate “Stink Tanks” in all 50 states. Responding to questions from reporters, SPN’s CEO Tracie Sharp demanded that each of the seemingly independent groups were “fiercely independent.”

Koch Bros Caricature

Koch money is behind SPN’s state “stinktanks.”

But Jane Mayer at the New Yorker reports Tracie Sharp said the opposite to attendees of SPN’s recent annual meeting. In Oklahoma City last September, Ms. Sharp plainly told her associates how to coordinate a broad agenda and pander directly to the interests of billionaire funders like the Koch brothers and the Searle family for grants:

Sharp went on to say that, like IKEA, the central organization would provide “the raw materials” along with the “services” needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. “Pick what you need,” she said, “and customize it for what works best for you.”

During the meeting, Sharp also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization’s often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. “The grants are driven by donor intent,” she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, “the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.” She said that the donors also sometimes determined in which states their money would be spent.

Tracie Sharp responded to the New Yorker with a generic statement that didn’t address her contradictory statements. And who knows if there’s anything useful she could say at this point, The State Policy Network was just caught with its pants down.

For those who don’t spend their days reading about the inner workings of the corporate-conservative political machine, the State Policy Network isn’t a familiar name. But it’s an important entity. SPN serves as the umbrella of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and all of its state and national allies pushing a coordinated corporate-friendly agenda through all 50 states.

SPN and ALEC have led the coordinated attack on clean energy in states like North Carolina, Kansas and now Ohio. Dozens of SPN groups are longtime players in the Koch-funded climate change denial movement. By orchestrating against policies to lessen global warming impacts or by directly undermining the science, SPN’s efforts have ranged from urging inaction on global climate treaties and forcing teachers to misrepresent climate science to their students.

Beyond shilling for the coal, oil, gas and nuclear companies bankrolling ALEC and SPN’s operations, these coordinated entities attack  public employee unions, wages and pensions, block Medicaid expansion, suppress legitimate voters, push to defund and privatize schools, and undermine choice in women’s health.

And who pays for SPN’s work in all 50 states?

SPN’s main purpose is to advance the interests of its corporate funders: dirty coal and petrochemical industries, the tobacco giants, agribusiness, pharmaceutical companies, private education firms, tech and telecom companies, and the usual web of trade associations, law firms and lobby shops paid to represent each of those industries. Corporations use SPN to advance political campaigns they are typically embarrassed to associate with publicly.

The State Policy Network also serves to advance an ideological agenda that tends to undermine the interests of most Americans in favor of those who are particularly wealthy and well-connected.

The Koch brothers fit this description, of course. But they’re joined by a legion of lesser known multi-millionaires and billionaires, sometimes coordinating directly with the Kochs.

These SPN funders include Richard Mellon Scaife, Phil Anschutz, Art Pope, the Coors family, the DeVos family, the Searle family, and the remains of the Bradley family fortune, to name a few of the better known of these sources of dark money. Few citizens recognize the names of this quiet minority of political puppetmasters, but people still feel the bruise of plutocratic spending as state and national politics are pushed to new extremes.

More on the State Policy Network can be read in the National Stink Tanks report. SourceWatch has the full list of SPN members and affiliates and SPN funders.

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

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REPORT: Tobacco-style Climate Denial – Greenpeace’s “Dealing in Doubt”

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Written by Cindy Baxter, crossposted from Greenpeace: Dealing in Doubt.

Who likes being lied to by people paid by the oil industry who pose as “experts” on climate change?

Did you know it’s been going on for 25 years?

In a couple of weeks, the UN’s official advisors on climate change science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will update its global assessment on the issue. Yet in the background, more attacks on the climate science are underway.

For the last quarter century, the climate science denial machine, its cogs oiled by fossil fuel money, has been attacking climate science, climate scientists and every official US report on climate change, along with State and local efforts – with the aim of undermining action on climate change.

Our new report, Dealing in Doubt, sets out the history of these attacks going back to the early 90s. These are attacks based on anti-regulatory, so called “free market” ideology, not legitimate scientific debate, using a wide range of dirty tricks: from faked science, attacks on scientists, fake credentials, cherry-picking scientific conclusions: a campaign based on the old tobacco industry mantra: “doubt is our product”.

We give special attention to perhaps today’s poster child of the climate denial machine’s free market think tanks, the Heartland Institute, which is about to launch a new version of its “NIPCC” or “climate change reconsidered” report next week in Chicago.

Unlike the real IPCC, with thousands of scientists involved from around the world, the Heartland Institute’s handful of authors is paid. Several of them claim fake scientific credentials. They start with a premise of proving the overwhelming consensus on climate science wrong, whereas the real IPCC simply summarizes the best science to date on climate change.

This multi-million dollar campaign has been funded by anti-government ideologues like the Koch brothers, companies like ExxonMobil and trade associations like the American Petroleum Institute.

More recently, less visible channels of funding have been revealed such as the Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, organization that that has been called the “ATM of the conservative movement”, distributing funds from those who don’t want to be publicly associated with the anti-environmental work product of organizations like the Heartland Institute.

In the last week we’ve seen new peer-reviewed science published, linking at least half of 2012’s extreme weather events to a human carbon footprint in the atmosphere and on the weather and climate.

As the scientific consensus strengthens by the day that climate change is happening now, that carbon pollution is causing it and must be regulated, the denial machine is getting increasingly shrill. But today, while they are being increasingly ignored by a majority of the public, their mouthpieces in the US House of Representatives, for instance, have increased in number.

They’re still fighting the science – and they’re still being funded, to the tune of millions of dollars each year, to do it.

Dealing in Doubt sets out a history of these attacks. We show how the tactics of the tobacco industry’s campaign for “sound science” led to the formation of front groups who, as they lost the battle to deny smoking’s health hazards and keep warning labels off of cigarettes, turned their argumentative skills to the denial of climate change science in order to slow government action.

What we don’t cover is the fact that these organizations and deniers are also working on another front, attacking solutions to climate change. They go after any form of government incentive to promote renewable energy, while cheering for coal, fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

They attack any piece of legislation the US EPA puts forward to curb pollution. Decrying President Obama’s “war on coal” is a common drumbeat of these anti-regulation groups. One key member of the denial machine, astrophysicist Willie Soon from the Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, has portrayed himself as an “expert” on mercury and public health in order to attack legislation curbing mercury emissions from coal plants.

This recent history, as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.

The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.

Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.

Exact Keystone XL Route Is a Mystery to the U.S. State Department?!

9:30 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from PolluterWatch.

Greenpeace activists from Canada, France and the U.S. block the giant tar sands mining operation at the Shell Albian Sands outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 .

The U.S. government doesn’t know exactly where TransCanada wants to lay pipe for the northern section of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, according to the results of a 14-month Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. State Department. In its final answer to a FOIA request by Thomas Bachand of the Keystone Mapping Project, the State Department admitted:

Neither Cardno ENTRIX nor TransCanada ever submitted GIS information to the Department of State, nor was either corporation required to do so. The information that you request, if it exists, is therefore neither physically nor constructively under the control of the Department of State and we are therefore unable to comply with your FOIA request.

Yes, you read that right. The U.S. State Department published its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)–supposedly an official account of the potential hazards of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline on U.S. waterways, wildlife and other major considerations like global climate change–without knowing exactly where TransCanada wants to dig. Check out the full letter from State to Mr. Bachand at the Keystone Mapping Project.

Ongoing Conflicts of Interest in State Department Environmental Assessments

The State Department is already facing legitimate criticism for contracting companies with ties to TransCanada and other oil companies for its environmental impact estimates, which the Environmental Protection Agency has slammed for being “insufficient.” State looked no further than oil industry contractors to run the draft SEIS–companies like Cardno ENTRIX, which calls TransCanada a “major client,” and ERM Resources, a dues paying member of the American Petroleum Institute which is being investigated by the State Department’s Inspector General for trying to hide its prior consulting for fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. In fact, TransCanada chose ERM Resources to do the Keystone XL SEIS review for the State Department, and one of ERM’s people working on the review was formerly employed by TransCanada. 

TransCanada has stacked the deck, wagering American waterways and private property against the promise to profit from continued extraction of dirty tar sands petroleum.

Tar Sands Pipelines Spill

The potential is too high for Keystone XL to leak just like TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline has repeatedly done, or rupture like ExxonMobil’s Pegasus tar sands pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas earlier this year, or Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River. The southern leg of Keystone XL is already under construction, and the if the cracks, dents and other faults in the ‘new’ pipe are any indication, pollution from oil spills looks inevitable. Beyond being a disaster waiting to happen, KXL guarantees the continued disaster that is tar sands mining, a process that has already poisoned entire regions–and peoples’ communities–in northern Alberta, Canada.

With President Obama’s recently unveiled Climate Action Plan, it would be a limp gesture to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. You’d think with the State Department having its environmental analysis run by oil industry consultants, they’d listen to the oil industry’s own guarantees that Keystone XL would increase demand for tar sands mining. That’s bad news for our climate — something the State Department cannot ignore if they do a reasonable review of the “unprecedented” amount of public comments on its draft SEIS on KXL.

What remains to be seen is if the State Department will be reasonable in the last leg of its review, or if it will continue letting TransCanada and Big Oil control the process to the bitter end.

Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford is arrested at the White House to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, August 29, 2011. Radford was among 1250 people arrested at the White House gate over the course of two weeks.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce drops Yes Men lawsuit, avoids Discovery Process

9:07 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s The Witness.

Shenanigans at the front door of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday reveal that the Chamber has dropped its lawsuit against the Yes Men, the activist duo famous for their elaborate prime-time pranks against Dow Chemical, Chevron, the World Trade Organization, and other giant entities known for putting their profit margins before people and the planet.

The Yes Men went to the Chamber yesterday morning in attempts to convince the business front group not to drop the lawsuit. Here’s some footage of the announcement and confusion over who does and doesn’t work for the Chamber:

That’s right. The Yes Men want to be sued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to their press release:

“Just as their case against us was finally heating up again, the Chamber decided to drop it,” said former defendant Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men. “The Chamber knew this was our chance to challenge their silly claims and, since they claimed we had ‘damaged’ them, investigate the details of their finances through the discovery process. It’s the height of rudeness to deprive us of this great opportunity.”

“The Chamber’s lawsuit represented the only time in 17 years that anyone has been stupid enough to sue us,” said former defendant Mike Bonanno. “This was the chance of a lifetime, and we profoundly deplore the Chamber’s about-face.”

Apparently, revenge isn’t a strong enough reason for the Chamber to to cough up information on their secret financial backers or their obstruction on solving the critical issue of global climate change, the issue which sparked the original Yes Men parody press event and ensuing lawsuit.

The Chamber sued the Yes Men in 2009 for holding a press conference at the National Press Club on the Chamber’s behalf, announcing a reversal on the Chamber’s efforts to block climate change legislation. The false event was interrupted by an actual Chamber official named Eric Wohlschlegal, who told attending press, “This guy is a fake! He’s lying!” See this video:

The stunt threw the Chamber off balance as it had to clarify it would not stop obstructing national climate change policy. The following lawsuit was unprecedented for Yes Men hijinks. Even Dow Chemical didn’t sue them, despite losing $2 billion worth of stock when Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum posed as a Dow official on a live BBC interview and took responsibility for the Bhopal chemical disaster (which Dow still won’t own up to despite the death of 20,000 people).

Yes Lab has a summary of the announcement at the Chamber’s front steps in Washington, DC, including a list of questions the Yes Men wish the lawsuit’s discovery process could have answered:

Some of the things we could have asked in court had they not withdrawn their lawsuit:
  • Why does the U.S. Chamber lie even more than the American Petroleum Institute about the number of jobs created by the Keystone XL pipeline?
  • Why did the U.S. Chamber design a teaching program for US schools that favors coal over clean energy sources?
  • And who pays them to lie to children… and adults?
  • Why does the U.S. Chamber expend so much money to call into doubt the most mainstream climate science, and insult the most respected scientific bodies?
  • Why does the U.S. Chamber fight not only unions, but even just shareholder activists?
  • Why do they fight even tiny increases in the federal minimum wage?
  • Why has the U.S. Chamber’s law firm hired spies in try to discredit anti-Chamber activists?
  • And finally, why is the U.S. Chamber fighting so hard to keep corporations from having to reveal their political spending?

PolluterWatch has more on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its anti-environmental practices.