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February 06 2012

17:56

Here We Go Again – Republican Attacks On EPA Kick Off 2012 Agenda

With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set to finally enact stricter air pollution standards in accordance with the Clean Air Act and two subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions requiring them to do so, powerful Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are working to make sure that the new standards never see the light of day. The specific measures being targeted are the EPA’s new standards for carbon emissions from power plant smoke stacks.

Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, along with Republicans Joe Barton (TX) and Ed Whitfield (KY) sent a letter last week to the White House, demanding that the Obama administration take action to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions from power plants.

From their letter:

read more

January 04 2012

15:16

The Year in Review: Popular Efforts to Combat Climate Change in 2011


Popular efforts to fight global warming increased in 2011Last year saw a significant increase in popular efforts to combat climate change. From protests against the Keystone XL pipeline to campaigns that pressure businesses to engage more sustainable practices, people are standing up in support of efforts to combat climate change. Last year, we also saw an unprecedented number of people getting involved with environmental events, protests and social activism. Although the Occupy Movement may have lacked a clear environmental focus, it did underscore the growing popularity of grassroots protests.

Keystone XL Pipeline

According to the Guardian, the Keystone XL pipeline protests that took place from August 20th to September 3rd were, “the largest act of civil disobedience for the climate in US history.”  Thousands of people, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen protested at the White House, demanding that President Obama reject the tar-sands oil pipeline.

On Monday August 28th, more than 60 religious leaders made their voices heard in front of the White House. Nine recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, also joined the protest against the Keystone XL.

Weeks of protest and the arrests of 1,252 peaceful protesters did not deter people from opposing the pipeline in Washington. McKibben reportedly said the pipeline galvanized U.S. action on climate change.

On Sunday, November 6th, another protest was held to stop the tar-sands pipeline. As many as 15,000 Americans encircled the White House to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL project. This was described as a historic defining moment in the push to move beyond oil.

On November 10th, President Obama announced that he would put the future of the planet ahead of Big Oil. Citing climate change, Obama sent the Keystone XL pipeline project back for review until at least 2013.

Even though Republicans are resorting to blackmail to get the Keystone XL pipeline back on track, the success of the anti-pipeline protests represent an important victory for those involved in the struggle against climate change.

Arab Spring

Corruption and misuse of natural resources were some of the factors that fueled the uprisings in Arab states. The Arab world is facing numerous environmental problems including air pollution, water scarcity, desertification, waste management, loss of arable lands and marine degradation. Popular movements in the Arab world succeeded in changing the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. There are early indications that the environment could benefit from the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring has attracted a $550 billion investment that promises to bring sustainable energy to the region. The world’s most ambitious solar project could start producing energy as early as 2015 in the region.

Paul van Son, the managing director of the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), told Reuters that interest in the project to turn sunshine into energy has grown with the spread of democracy across North Africa and the Middle East.

Before the Arab Spring, there were concerns about the political stability in the region. “We like the Arab Spring because it has opened up a lot of ideas and generated support for the project,” van Son said. “We’re very supportive. The democratic structures fit very well with ours.”

Renewable energy projects could help the economy and create jobs in the country and throughout the region. van Son said he hopes Desertec can help bring Mediterranean nations closer together. “I believe large infrastructure projects like this can contribute to stability. It’s about the development of new industries in the region, investment, job creation and the transfer of knowledge and know-how,” he said.

The first 150 megawatts power plant will be built in Morocco and it could be generating power by 2015 or 2016, with further projects planned in Tunisia and Algeria.

COP 17 

On Saturday December 3rd, 2011 in what was called the “Global Day of Action,” about 20,000 people from all over the world took to the streets calling for action in Durban. Protests, marches and rallies around the world demanded “climate justice.”

“We march today to show our outrage. We want to give the ministers…a clear message: You cannot continue to make excuses,” said Action Aid international climate justice coordinator Harjeet Singh.

“We demand urgent and strong action on climate change. We can’t just keep talking and keep wasting time,” Singh said. And Greenpeace said, “it is time to listen to the voices of ordinary people not polluters.”

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the protesters in Durban: “You know where we stand, here with you.”

Although expectations for COP 17 were low, people came together and helped to force governments to sign-on to a binding agreement.

Local Protest Goes National

Michigan State University (MSU) students have been protesting the fact that they have the largest on-campus coal plant in the nation.

“Coal is harmful to our environment and us, but not everyone knows. I think it is important to raise awareness of the problem so it can be fixed and the damaging effects of coal can be stopped,” said student activist Kendra Majewski.

Even though three students were arrested at a sit-in, MSU activists have indicated that they are going to keep demanding clean air for their campus. In October, hundreds of campuses across the nation joined in on the demonstration against the university to show support for the Quit Coal campaign known as 100 Actions for 100% Clean Energy.

Students across the country are now engaged in telephone protests directed at the MSU president’s office. They are requesting that the president reconsider her position and commit to using 100 percent clean energy at Michigan State. This campaign illustrates that local issues can quickly gain national support.

Although MSU has not yet agreed to close its coal plant, the university has taken other steps to become more sustainable, including plans to have all new buildings become LEED-certified.

Environmental Events

There have been a number of environmental events in 2011, which were supported by an ever growing number of people. Global Green’s I Am Fighting Climate Change video contest asked people to document their individual actions to fight climate change. Global Green asked people to come together to help stop climate change and demand that leaders invest in green technologies and green jobs.

The League of American Bicyclists sponsored an event in the US and Canada that promoted the bicycle as an option for commuting to work. In 2011, Bike to Work Week was held on May 16th through the 20th. On June 5th the annual World Environment Day (WED) event became the largest and most widely celebrated WED event ever.

On June 15th, Global Wind Day raised worldwide awareness about wind energy. Thousands of public events were held in the US and around the world.  On Saturday June 18th, Canada, the US and the UK (November 19th in Australia) celebrated SolarDay. The 2011 SolarDay events were held by cities, non-profits, companies and the solar industry.

On August 15th through the 19th, the EDF led a campaign titled Voices for Clean Air to help remind political leaders that clean air is something that the majority of Americans support. The EDF sent a message to political leaders in the U.S. in support of strong clean air standards.

Beginning on September 13th, the Climate Reality Project hosted a live streaming event. The event was known as 24 Hours of Reality, it involved a global broadcast about the reality of the climate crisis. This global event was designed to help people make the connection between extreme weather, climate change, and the need to push the planet beyond fossil fuels. ZeDay was an event that took place on September 21st, it was a day for people all over the planet to strive for zero emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy.

On September 24th Bill McKibben and the 350.org team launched the “Moving Planet” campaign. It inspired over 2000 events in more than 175 countries. In South Asia, the 350.org coordinator indicated that their goal was to encourage grassroots activism against coal fired power emissions, as well as redefining development. African initiatives urged people to take to the streets to demand climate jobs. All regions including, the Pacific and Europe, pushed for renewable energy laws and sustainable transportation.

On October 26th, college campuses across North America celebrated the 9th annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD), a day which highlighted the green accomplishments and initiatives of staff, faculty and students.

On March 26th, 134 countries and turned out their lights for WWF’s Earth Hour. In 2011, Earth Hour called on businesses and other organizations to show leadership by committing to lasting action for the planet beyond shutting off their lights for one hour. Climate Care Day is an event that takes place on the same day as Earth Hour; however this initiative is intended to encourage global businesses to replace all corporate travel with remote meetings.

On Earth Day (April 23rd), the Billion Acts of Green® campaign became the largest environmental service campaign in the world. In 2011, it included an increasing number of commitments from businesses to measurably reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.

On Monday, April 18th, thousands of people came together for a rally outside the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC. The rally was the culmination of Power Shift 2011, which took place between April 15th and 18th. 350.org launched a campaign entitled “The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Me,” where more than a thousand businesses abandoned the climate denying Chamber, including corporations like Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Levi-Strauss, Best Buy, and General Electric.

Businesses are Listening

Businesses are increasingly reckoning with the power of popular pressure. Individuals are pushing corporations to cleanup their supply chains, which are causing some businesses to change the way they source commodities. Public pressure has forced companies like Nestle, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Burger King, and General Mills to adopt more sustainable business practices.

In 2011, it became increasingly obvious that the risks associated with unsustainable business practices are a serious threat which cannot be ignored. Rather than incur such risks, an increasing number of businesses are cooperating with environmental groups. For example, Xerox has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to promote sustainable forestry, preserve biodiversity and help minimize forest loss and degradation that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-profits are putting their expertise to work guiding businesses on sustainability. Carbon Trust has published a Green Guide for SMEs, the WWF-UK has launched its Green Game-Changers initiative and the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program has yielded impressive results.

People around the world are increasingly united in their demand for action on environmental issues. The events of 2011 demonstrate that the public can influence decision making at the highest level. This is a testament to the power of citizens to effectuate meaningful change.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Sky News
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November 06 2011

22:05

Thousands Protest Keystone XL Pipeline Project

The police estimate that 5,000 protesters turned out to oppose the pipeline, which would carry oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to refineries in Texas.
18:46

Bogus Job Numbers Used To Sell Keystone XL Pipeline

As thousands of protestors gather at The White House today to voice opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline plan, one of the major selling points from the pipeline proponents is revealed as flawed and perhaps completely bogus. According to The Washington Post, the prospect of job creation – the reason so many people in America support the pipeline – isn’t as rosy as TransCanada would have us believe. In fact, their numbers don’t add up at all.

TransCanada threw out a figure of 20,000 jobs (13,000 construction, 7,000 for suppliers) that would be created directly and indirectly through the pipeline construction process. This is the figure that politicians have used to sell the pipeline to their constituents. But as The Washington Post points out, TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling admits the 20,000 figure is far from honest:

Girling said Friday that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500. That brings the company’s number closer to the State Department’s; State says the project would create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs, a figure that was calculated by its contractor Cardno Entrix.

As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future.

A TransCanada statement Sept. 30 said the project would be “stimulating over 14,400 person years of employment” in Oklahoma alone. It cited a study by Ray Perryman, a Texas-based consultant to TransCanada, saying the pipeline would create “250,000 permanent jobs for U.S. workers.”

But Perryman was including a vast number of jobs far removed from the industry. Using that technique in a report on the impact of wind farms, Perryman counted jobs for dancers, choreographers and speech therapists.

So are the meager job numbers worth the environmental devastation? Again, the Post says “no”:

Meanwhile, the Cornell Global Labor Institute issued a study suggesting that any jobs stemming from the pipeline’s construction could be outweighed by environmental damage it caused, along with a possible rise in Midwest gasoline prices because a new pipeline would divert that region’s current oversupply of oil to the Gulf Coast.

Even if TransCanada’s original claim of creating 20,000 jobs were accurate, it wouldn’t be enough justification for approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which has drawn the Obama administration into an ethics scandal, enraged property owners along the proposed route, and garnered bipartisan opposition in places like Nebraska due to its multiple flaws.

Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress has even more debunking of the bogus jobs figures and who is repeating them despite evidence that they are false. 

President Obama must decide whether this pipeline is in America's best interest, and there are signs that he isn't convinced. His White House is due to receive an earful today as Tar Sands Action returns to the front gates where 1,252 were arrested in August. If you want to follow the action on Twitter, look for hashtags #Surround, #tarscandal, #nokxl and follow @tarsandsaction.

January 04 2011

15:56

Environmental Economist Joins White House Staff

An early proponent of a cap and trade system to control greenhouse gas emissions joins the White House as Republicans seek to undo much of the administration's environmental agenda.

December 22 2010

21:00

Coal Lobbyist Grinches Stole 2010 As Obama Transparency Initiative Falters

Despite President Obama’s campaign pledges of government transparency and limiting the influence of K Street lobbyists on policymaking, coal industry lobbyists got their stockings stuffed with wishes this year in Washington.  Climate and energy legislation is dead, the Environmental Protection Agency is entering its 21st year of failing to regulate mercury emissions from coal plants, coal ash regulations are delayed indefinitely, mountaintop removal mining continues, and the myth of “clean coal” is alive and well thanks to continuing praise by President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Happy Holidays!  Here’s a lump of coal, no two, and some coal ash slurry to wash it down with.  Don’t worry, it’s “clean coal!”

The Coal Grinches aren’t here to steal Christmas gifts from Whoville residents.  They’re here to steal a safe climate, clean water and breathable air from every American man, woman and child. And we won’t know when they’ve come and gone, thanks to the White House’s apparent neglect (or shutdown?) of the “open government” records of its meetings with lobbyists. <!--break-->

Arianna Huffington recently pointed out statements that Barack Obama made about government transparency as a candidate and early on in his presidency, noting that he hasn’t followed through on his rhetoric, and in fact seems headed down the well-worn path laid by the transparency-trampling Bush administration.


Back in the year 2007, B.W. (Before WikiLeaks), Barack Obama waxed lyrical about government and the internet: "We have to use technology to open up our democracy. It's no coincidence that one of the most secretive administrations in our history has favored special interest and pursued policy that could not stand up to the sunlight." …
Not long after the election, in announcing his "Transparency and Open Government" policy, the president proclaimed: "Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset."


Yet here we are closing the books on 2010 and the public is witnessing shockingly little openness and accountability from this, the “transparency” Administration.

The Obama White House has opened its doors wide for coal lobbyists, and his regulatory agencies are struggling to stand up to the onslaught of coal industry lobbying dollars.  Witness the recent and repeated delays and setbacks on critical regulations for dangerous coal industry practices that threaten public health and the environment.

Let’s take a look at coal industry lobbying efforts targeting the White House, or more specifically, at what little we know about just how extensive the reach of coal power players is under Obama’s watch.

OMB “Open Government” Records Scant To Begin With, Increasigly Barren
According to the Office of Management and Budget’s “open” meeting records database, the last publicly recorded meeting between the White House, EPA staff and coal industry lobbyists took place on April 2, 2010.

Since then, we’ve seen zero OMB disclosure of further meetings with coal lobbyists. (Who thinks there haven’t been any?) In fact, there are no records of meetings with outside lobbyists on any solid waste issue since September 22, 2010. Worse, there are few or zero records of any 2010 meeting activity for other White House offices as well. (We know they are holding meetings, after all, that’s what they do.)

OMB records of meetings involving EPA staff and outside lobbyists trail off in May 2010.

And the OMB’s disclosure page for the EPA administrator office’s meetings with outside lobbyists contains a sole archival entry from June 2006. (While the EPA is still reporting the daily schedules of its senior managers on its own, that cumbersome presentation does not distinguish between events, failing to parse actual meetings with outside lobbyists and White House staff, or to disclose the materials distributed to attendees as the OMB’s WhiteHouse.gov records are designed to do.)

Beyond what isn’t included in OMB’s meeting records, it is worth noting what is there is more than a bit outdated.  For example, the scandal-ridden Minerals Management Service is still listed as part of the Department of Interior, even though it was torn apart and renamed in May by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the wake of multiple embarrassing revelations about MMS’s close relationship with industry lobbyists.

Cass Sunstein, the administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), has repeatedly extolled the virtues of government transparency and the public’s right to know.

But it seems that a potentially useful tool designed by Sunstein’s office to allow the public access to basic information about meetings between White House and agency staff and outside lobbyists has either been neglected or abandoned entirely.

This lack of disclosure appears to defy the “Open Government Directive” launched a year ago this month by the Obama administration. In practice, our window into the Obama adminstration’s meetings with lobbyists is currently draped with blackout curtains.

Coal Lobbyists Swarmed White House Last Winter
The best indication of how easily coal lobbyists are getting their message across to White House staff comes from last winter, when the coal ash issue was causing a rift between the White House and EPA.  An October 2010 report produced by DeSmogBlog and PolluterWatch documented a lobbying swarm by coal ash interests involving dozens of secretive meetings with White House staff between October 2009 and April 2010.

The result? The coal lobbyists’ White House blitz achieved in short order exactly what the industry wanted by delaying federal regulation of coal ash waste indefinitely. 

Keep in mind that EPA administrator Lisa Jackson first promised a rapid regulatory response on coal ash during her confirmation hearing in January 2009 (on the heels of the December 2008 TVA disaster).  Jackson followed through partially by proposing coal ash rules sixteen months ago, when she promised to issue a decision by the end of 2009.

"We've promised that we will address regulation for coal ash by the end of the year [2009]," Jackson said. "And so, by the end of the year, we'll make that regulatory determination as to whether or not it's hazardous."


Yet EPA just announced another delay this week, stating that the agency has no idea when it will get around to issuing its ruling on whether to classify coal ash as hazardous waste.

The never-ending coal ash battle demonstrates the immense success of coal industry lobbyists in 2010, and yet coal ash is only one – albeit a significant one – of the ongoing threats posed by our addiction to dirty, dangerous coal. 

There’s also the continued assault on Appalachian communities and waterways posed by mountaintop removal mining.

A wise man once remarked:

“We’re tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuels.  We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains.”


What happened to that guy anyway?  Oh, he’s in the White House now.  That was Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky in August of 2007.

How long will President Obama let the coal industry’s lobbyists dictate his policy response to the number one climate killing fossil fuel? How many more pollution-related deaths will result thanks to the lobbying muscle of polluters who are holding Obama’s regulatory agencies captive?

When will the Obama administration provide the records of all the meetings it has held with coal industry lobbyists in 2010 – and all other industry lobbyists for that matter?

The Hill recently reported on a “thaw” in the Obama administration’s relations with K Street.  

“…since Democrats suffered heavy losses in November, lobbyists have seen administration officials more willing to work with business leaders, who are their clients.”


If this is what a thaw looks like, the chilly period sure was balmy. Get ready for a lobbying heat wave in 2011.

Will the Obama team, cowed by coal lobbyists, stand by and let Lisa Jackson get smacked around by the Tea Party thugs in Congress?  If so, who is to be held accountable for the added deaths and impaired lives due to delayed coal pollution control? Congress or Obama himself?

December 15 2010

16:11

November 10 2010

15:31

October 05 2010

14:09

October 04 2010

16:00

September 10 2010

15:54

White House Spurns Solar Panel

A polite refusal to accept a solar panel that was installed by the Carter administration, removed by the Reagan administration and proffered Friday by environmental campaigners.

June 15 2010

12:17

June 11 2010

16:20

Ask the White House

Carol Browner, President Obama's assistant on energy and climate change, is answering questions about the gulf oil spill live on the Web starting at 12:30 p.m.

April 26 2010

18:35

Obama, Leno and a Low-Carbon Menu

The White House Correspondents' Dinner, an annual black tie festival of schmoozing, preening and source-greasing, is taking steps this year to reduce its carbon footprint.

December 03 2009

16:04

In Letter to Obama, Senators State Conditions for Supporting Climate Bill

A group of Senate Democrats who are considered swing votes on pending climate change and energy legislation sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday morning detailing their conditions for backing any domestic bill or international treaty to address global warming.
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