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Protecting Our Communities From a Chemical Disaster

4:44 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

When was the last time you heard about Republicans and Democrats agreeing on something?

Christine Todd Whitman. Photo by Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Green.

Recently, the Center for Public Integrity reported that on April 3, Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President George W. Bush sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to use Clean Air Act to prevent chemical disasters.

Yes, you heard that right, in a world where Newt Gingrich is calling for the abolition of the EPA, there is common sense bi-partisan support for the EPA using its authority to make us safer. Governor Whitman can speak with authority about this issue because she, as EPA chief under President George W. Bush, drafted such a program in 2002, driven by the country’s national security concerns following the 9/11 attacks.

The EPA’s 2002 proposal, complete with a roll out plan, hinged on using the “Bhopal Amendment” of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Commonly called the “General Duty Clause” (GDC) this section of the Clean Air Act obligates chemical facilities who handle hazardous chemicals to prevent chemical disasters.

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Following SEC complaint, Greenpeace asks TransCanada for honest Keystone XL jobs explanation

6:31 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

 

 

TransCanada has some explaining to do.

Greenpeace just sent a letter to TransCanada’s CEO, Russ Girling, as well as the company’s board of directors asking for complete documentation of how it came to its inflated conclusions on Keystone XL pipeline jobs here in the U.S. That letter is posted in full below (click here to see it).

We are following up on a letter Greenpeace sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission last week noting that TransCanada’s job claims per mile of U.S. pipeline are 67 times higher than the estimates they provided to the Canadian government for its portion of Keystone XL. SEC notified us that our complaint was sent to their enforcement division.

TransCanada has already bit back at our complaint, insinuating that Greenpeace doesn’t know anything about pipelines. Perhaps TransCanada can explain why its existing Keystone pipeline leaked 14 times in less than 18 months when it anticipated a rate of 1.4 leaks per decade — check out this infographic for descriptions of the first twelve leaks. Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and the Ogallala aquifer cannot be subject to TransCanada’s insufficient pipeline safety standards, especially when that pipeline carries corrosive tar sands for almost 2,000 miles. And with well over 1,000 miles of pipeline proposed in our country, it’s alarming that as little as 50 people may be employed to monitor and maintain it, as Cornell’s Global Labor Institute suggests. Read the independent Cornell report yourself.

Referees blow the whistle on American Petroleum Institute Keystone XL lies

TransCanada has also boosted its employment statistics by equating one job to one full year of employment for one person. This is part of how TransCanada and its allies inflated State Department estimates of less than 7,000 jobs, while the Cornell assessment concludes that Keystone XL could kill more jobs than it would create. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others are paying big for advertising campaigns that re-hash TransCanada’s flawed 20,000 jobs claim, and from there claim hundreds of thousands of jobs from indirect employment. By indirect employment I mean services the oil industry isn’t actually providing, which would would dry up after pipeline construction ends.

I’m not saying temporary jobs don’t count–we need all the employment we can get, which is why it’s a slap in the face to the American people for TransCanada to grossly exaggerate its employment promises as if it’s on the campaign trail and building Keystone XL is the inauguration. Tell it like it is, TransCanada, citizens seeking employment don’t need to be teased after the 2008 economic recession.

Unfortunately, the media is buying TransCanada’s lies despite some reporting from the Washington Post and others that have already called the jobs numbers into serious question. According to Media Matters, 0% of broadcasters covering Keystone XL were critical of the jobs claims. Things weren’t much better in coverage on cable news (11%) or print news (5%) either. Excluding USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, all major media outlets quoted more Keystone XL pipeline supporters than opponents. That’s pretty bogus–Jack Gerard must have been popping the champagne over at the American Petroleum Institute headquarters as he put millions of dirty dollars to work through advertising campaigns like “Vote 4 Energy.”

It’s ridiculous although unsurprising that TransCanada and Big Oil act as if pipeline jobs are the only ones that exist. Why mention that any dollar invested in a polluting, outdated, climate-destroying industry is better invested in creating jobs in the clean energy sector? Big Oil would never be that forthcoming. They’d rather keep Americans fenced within the Kingdom of Crude, where not only are they the most profitable industry on earth, but taxpayers still pay handouts for their multi-billion dollar operations.

Greenpeace will continue demanding accountability from TransCanada and its Big Oil allies here in Washington, DC, and we’ll let you know when we start getting some answers.

Letter to TransCanada CEO Russ Girling:

Dear Mr. Girling:

I read with considerable interest your company’s response to our request to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it investigate the possible illegal use of misleading and deceptive job claims to win approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would boost your company’s bottom line considerably:

“These groups have never built or operated a pipeline,” said company spokesman, Terry Cunha, to Politico.

Mr. Cunha is correct; Greenpeace has never built a pipeline funneling corrosive tar sands crude oil across the heartland of the United States, endangering America’s groundwater, and then selling the oil overseas. What we do have experience in, however, is examining facts. Your claims just don’t add up. How will your pipeline create 67 times more jobs in the U.S. than your company told Canadian officials it would in Canada?

Greenpeace calls for an end to destructive tar sands mining, which you must be aware is fueling global climate disruption and poisoning indigenous people in northern Alberta. Our opposition extends to projects like Keystone XL that aim to solidify continued decades of carbon pollution. I must admit that we probably won’t ever try to build something that will spill oil, threaten aquifers and create a several thousand mile-long terrorist target.

However, you clearly do have such expertise, both in building pipelines and watching them spill, as demonstrated by 12 reported leaks in the first year of your existing Keystone pipeline’s operation. That’s why I’m inviting you to (possibly) head off SEC action and significant public embarrassment by explaining how TransCanada created such contradictory job creation claims.

I invite you to provide a detailed, plain-language explanation of this remarkable difference in job creation rates. Several groups of people await this important explanation, including investors, dozens of politicians and pundits who have recycled your company’s fictitious job creation numbers, and SEC enforcement officials eyeing SEC Rule 10b(5) – Employment of Manipulative and Deceptive Practices.

Greenpeace also would appreciate it if you could direct your contractor, Ray Perryman, to give a detailed accounting of the assumptions and methodology of the calculations he performed for your company on the pipeline’s supposed benefits.

Phil Radford blows the whistle on Big Oil corruption in Congress over Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

We’ll gladly post any detailed, credible explanation of this wide discrepancy in job creation numbers on our website.

Regards,

Phil Radford
Executive Director
Greenpeace

Cc: TransCanada Corporation Board of Directors
Sent by email, fax and direct mail.

Obama Stands up to Big Oil and Polluter Politicians

5:59 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

President Obama stood up to Big Oil and its puppets in Congress and denied a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline yesterday. This is encouraging news for the communities whose air and water would have been directly threatened by this pipeline, from Canada to Nebraska to the Gulf Coast. And it’s an important piece of the struggle to avert a runaway climate catastrophe. But since the Keystone XL has become a pitched political battle, this announcement is also an encouraging affirmation of the power of people, creative protest, and grassroots organizing in the face of the entrenched power and big bucks of the oil industry.

Earlier this month, American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard, the oil industry’s top lobbyist, directly threatened President Obama with “huge political consequences” if he rejected Keystone XL. Speaker of the House John Boehner has been pushing the tar sands pipeline at every opportunity. Like most of the members of Congress that support Keystone XL, Boehner has taken piles of campaign cash from the very oil companies that were hoping to boost their profits with this scheme to pipe Canadian tar sands through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico and overseas markets.

This immense pressure from the oil industry came after months of grassroots organizing against the pipeline, weeks of creative protest in Washington DC where we and more than 1200 others were arrested in front of the White House, and a broad, diverse coalition mobilizing all around the United States and Canada to stop this pipeline.

Faced with a clear choice between Big Oil and all its money, threats, and politicians on the one hand, and a people powered movement determined to stop this enormous threat to our air, water, food security, and climate on the other, President Obama made the right call.

Of course, this does not mean the end of the oil industry’s efforts to expand production of the tar sands. TransCanada and other oil companies will continue to seek other ways to exploit the tar sands, and the politicians who do their bidding will devise new bills to push tar sands pipelines. No doubt the American Petroleum Institute will take out even more astroturf “Vote 4 Energy” ads slamming the President for his decision.

When that happens, we hope President Obama remembers how good it feels to stand up to the oil industry’s political threats, and keep working to make good on his promise to “end the tyranny of oil” and move America to a clean energy future.

Co-Authored by Greenpeace Executive Director, Phil Radford and Actress/Activist, Daryl Hannah

Follow Philip Radford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Phil_Radford
Follow Daryl Hannah on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dhlovelife

A Call for Direct Action in the Climate Movement: We Need Your Ideas

9:19 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

Think of possible direct actions — and tell us.

Dear Friends,

God, what a summer. Federal scientists have concluded that we’ve just come through the warmest six months, the warmest year, and the warmest decade in human history. Nineteen nations have set new all-time temperature records; the mercury in Pakistan reached 129 degrees, the hottest temperature ever seen in Asia. And there’s nothing abstract about those numbers, not with Moscow choking on smoke from its epic heat wave and fires, not with Pakistan half washed away from its unprecedented flooding.

But that’s just the half of it. It’s also the summer when the U.S. Senate decided to keep intact its 20-year bipartisan record of doing nothing about global warming. Global warming is no act of God. We’re up against the most profitable and powerful industries on earth: the companies racking up record profits from fossil fuels. And we’re not going to beat them by asking nicely. We’re going to have to build a movement, a movement much bigger than anything we’ve built before, a movement that can push aback against the financial power of Big Oil and Big Coal. That movement is our only real hope, and we need your help to plot its future.

We’ve got some immediate and crucial priorities. For instance, groups around the world are joining together on 10/10/10 for a Global Work Party, demonstrating that we already know many of the solutions to the climate crisis. That will be a good day not just to put up solar panels, but also to shame our political leaders, to say to them, "We’re getting to work. What about you?" Meanwhile, around the country, lawyers and community groups are doing yeoman’s work fighting off new coal plants, activists are persuading banks to stop loaning to corporate villains, city councils are figuring out how to make their towns more efficient and resilient. This is the basic work of any movement, the foundation on which hope for long-term progress rests.

But necessary as such efforts are, they’re not sufficient. We’re making progress, but not as fast as the physical situation is deteriorating. Time is not on our side, so we’ve concluded that going forward mass direct action must play a bigger role in this movement, as it eventually did in the suffrage movement, the civil-rights movement, and the fight against corporate globalization. Even now, environmentalists in places like the coalfields of Appalachia have been putting these tactics to good use, albeit in small ways. (In the spring of 2009, our three groups worked with others to pull off a large-scale action outside the congressional power plant in D.C. that resulted in a promise that it would cease to burn coal.) History suggests, in other words, that one way to effectively communicate both to the general public and to our leaders the urgency of the crisis is to put our bodies on the line.

Nobody can predict which one event will trigger social change. Paul Revere was not the only rider to warn of the British advance, and many people refused to move to the back of the bus before Rosa Parks. But we do know two things. First, that we must act with unity, and second, many minds working together are likely to be smarter. So we’re asking for your help. As you go about your other work on behalf of the planet and its diverse communities, think about the possibilities for direct action, and write them down and send them to us. Here are a few thoughts to guide you.

  • Our actions must be infused with the spirit of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and other peaceful protesters before us. No violence, no property damage.
  • We need large actions, with many members of the general public. Think hundreds and thousands. So don’t concentrate on the kind of tactics that only a few hardy specialists can carry out; we’re not going to have hundreds of people rappelling or scuba diving.
  • We don’t think for a minute that we can actually physically shut down the fossil-fuel economy for any meaningful period; it’s too big. We need to aim for effective symbolic targets — say, dirty, old coal-fired power plants — and use them to make clear the need and opportunity to cut carbon fast.
  • Our actions must be rooted in the communities where they are held and be organized hand in hand with local groups and activists.

Our tactics need to engage onlookers, not alienate them. We have to have effective ways of keeping provocateurs and incendiaries at a distance, and attracting the kind of people who actually influence the rest of the public. Discipline will matter.

We need to be transparent and open in our planning, not reliant on secrecy. We’ll need to do our work certain that law enforcement is looking over our shoulders; our method can’t be surprise.

Beauty counts. We’re fighting for the beauty in the world that’s being stolen by our adversaries, and at the same time we’re aiming for hearts and minds.

We don’t have unlimited resources. The cost and complexity of these kinds of actions can mount quickly. As with all things environmental, frugality and simplicity are virtues.

Note that though all of our groups have international operations, we’re only thinking about America right now. That’s for three reasons. One, in some parts of the world activists have already done great work that can teach us a lot. Two, America really has to show some leadership, since we’re historically the biggest cause of climate change. And three, though we Americans face real and sobering risks when we engage in direct action, people doing the same things in many other nations can be locked up for decades or worse; in those places, other tactics will have to suffice.

Note too that though this letter comes from just three environmental groups, we want this fight open to everyone. We’ll happily work with any organization that shares our goals and tactics as plans go forward; in fact, we think that breaking down boundaries between groups is key to any chance at success. We’ll do our best to reach out, but please make sure you let us know you want to be involved.

We’ve set up a special email address for ideas: climate.ideas@gmail.com. By late autumn, we hope we’ll have been able to mine those ideas and start coming up with coherent plans for actions starting next spring.

We know this strategy won’t appeal to all of you. That’s fine; there are a thousand other useful ways to help, and we don’t want to distract anyone from other work they’re doing. But if you have ideas, send them in. It’s clear to us that this is going to be a battle for the long haul, and we’re going to need to be creative and committed. Thanks much for being a big part of it.

Phil Radford,Greenpeace USA
Becky Tarbotton,Rainforest Action Network
Bill McKibben, 350.org

This article was originally posted on Grist on September 7, 2010.