Search form

Government

Congress Penalized by Activist Refs for Keystone XL Lies

  • Posted on: 26 January 2012
  • By: JesseColeman

How great would it be if our elected officials had to follow a set of rules that created a fair playing field in politics?  Mistruths and false promises would be seriously penalized by watchful referees and policy ideas could succeed or fail on their merit, rather than the checkbook of their supporters.  Instead we have a system where industry and government collude to pass projects that are bad for people and bad for the environment, but increase corporate bottom lines and campaign coffers.  Politicians repeat dishonest and twisted information, violating the trust between the electorate and the elected.  A low blow to the American people, yet usually no one is there to blow the whistle.

This kind of poor sportsmanship was on full display at yesterday’s meeting of the House subcommittee on energy.  The committee met in response to the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a Canadian project that would pump the dirtiest and most carbon intensive crude oil in the world from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. 

(Picture of the tar sands)

Promoters of the pipeline were attempting a Hail Mary to save Keystone XL by stripping the ability to regulate it from the Obama administration and giving it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  To make their case, Keystone XL’s congressional supporters (who have taken a whopping $41 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil) were willing to toss around all the falsehoods and industry talking points that have been polluting the debate from the beginning. 

Fans of the Tar Sands pipeline, like Joe Barton, John Shimkus, and Fred Upton, claim the pipeline would provide 20,000 jobs, lower gas prices for Americans, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.  These claims are all false - in reality the pipeline would create less than 1/3rd of the jobs pipeline enthusiasts claim, there would be no cost savings on gas for Americans, and the oil will be exported from Port Arthur, Texas, so it would not even be used in America. To top it all off, Port Arthur is registered as a foriegn trade port, meaning the U.S government would not even recieve taxes from the tar sands oil shipped abroad.

(Activist referees calling a foul)

The deceptive claims made by fans of the tar sands are a violation of the American people’s trust in their elected representatives.  That’s why a group of activist referees attended the committee hearing, and threw a penalty flag every time Big Oil’s congressmen tried to pull a fast one.  Not used to playing by the rules, Congressional advocates racked up a ton of red flags as they repeated their inaccurate data and manipulative talking points over and over.  Check out http://c-spanvideo.org/program/OilPipel">a video of the committee hearing for a taste of what these refs had to deal with.  

Industry: 

Weak Carbon Target Jives with Science, says Obama Team

  • Posted on: 30 November 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Kyle Ash, crossposted from Greenpeace International.

Many people have given up hope that President Obama will take the lead on climate. This is a massive disappointment, given the hope we all had after the departure of Bush and his denial of climate change, and Obama's 2008 campaign promise to take action. Apparently, Obama was just trying to woo us.

Here at the Durban climate talks, President Obama's team has begun actively denying the urgency of global climate change. This is just another form of climate denialism.

Here's an excerpt from an article in today's ECO, the conference daily paper published by Climate Action International, the alliance of over 700 organizations including Greenpeace:

“...science says climate change is happening due to human activity, and it’s urgent. The US received a Fossil of the Day award for statements about the science of climate change by Jonathan Pershing, the US Deputy Special Envoy, in his first press briefing here in Durban. Pershing is a scientist himself, and was involved with the IPCC, but he implausibly said current collective mitigation targets are sufficient to avoid going over 2 degrees. His overall message was that the US stands on its position that avoiding runaway global warming is not urgent enough to expend much political capital on commitments in the UNFCCC.

...By saying the US is only really concerned with post-2020 commitments, the Obama Administration’s negotiators are saying their boss doesn’t need to deal with this issue, since Obama won’t be in office after 2016 (assuming he wins another 4 year term). In his 2008 campaign, however, President Obama promised to be a leader on global climate disruption.  But expectations have now fallen so low that all we can ask is for the US to agree some very reasonable steps forward in the negotiations – for example, on a mandate to package commitments into a legally binding agreement by 2015.  That would give the world four more years, in addition to the Bali Action Plan, agreed by the Bush administration, which gave the world two. The climate may not wait. The world certainly cannot be dragged down by another US administration in denial.”

When the Obama administration says the President is making climate change a priority, it is a claim with no foundation. The perfect example is the US pollution target, which is less than half target agreed by the US in Kyoto. By acting in 2009 as if the US had never signed onto anything, Obama followed the lead of President Bush who was probably the first leader in modern history to un-sign a treaty.

More importantly, the US climate pollution target is so weak that it may already have been accomplished without any new national policies aimed at reducing climate pollution. Adding up reduced CO2 from new car efficiency rules, plus closing defunct coal-fired power plants may be enough as even analysts from Shell Oil argue can happen with a recovery from the recession. Although it's worth mentioning that the recession resulted in a reduction of emissions almost equal to half of the Obama administration goal.

Mitt Romney many believe to be Obama's likeliest contender in next year's bid for the presidency. People are recalling that Romney has a record of crafting, signing into law, and implementing climate policy. And one of the best Obama appointees, who is in fact in charge of developing EPA greenhouse gas policy, previously worked in Romney's government. Despite the crazy rhetoric by Republican candidates on climate, Obama will have a very hard time arguing he has a better record than Romney.

Industry: 
Company or Organization: 

Rand Paul wants to arrest the Koch brothers?

  • Posted on: 27 September 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

In a recent interview posted by ThinkProgress, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) briefly departed from his defense of corporate polluters (who heavily financed his 2010 election campaign) and claimed, "If you dump benzene in the stream, I want you to go to jail."

ThinkProgress was quick to point out the irony that one of Paul's many dirty campaign contributors, Koch Industries, was caught by the Department of Justice in 2000 after illegally releasing at least 91 metric tons of uncontrolled benzene into its liquid waste stream, and later plead guilty to falsifying documents in an effort to cover up the incident. For more, see the Justice Department's 2001 press release: "Koch Pleads Guilty to Covering Up Environmental Violations at Texas Oil Refinery." Greenpeace also has more information about Koch Industries' environmental record and how the company has avoided responsibility for preventing chemical disasters at its facilities.

Federal Election Commission data shows that Charles Koch and wife Elizabeth, David Koch and wife Julia, and Chase Koch (Charles Koch's son and Koch executive) and wife Anna each contributed the maximum $2,400 to Rand Paul's 2010 campaign for a total donation of $14,400...plus another $5,000 from Koch Industries. Koch Industries as a company spent over $7 million to influence the 2010 election cycle (see page 18 of Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial).

Forbes' newly updated "Richest Americans" list shows that Charles and David Koch have jumped up the rich list to tie as the fourth richest American, each worth an estimated $25 billion. Demonstrating the continuing consolidation of wealth at the top, Rachel Maddow reports that as Charles and David Koch increased their net wealth by $16 billion, Koch Industries cut 13,000 jobs.

For ongoing research about the dirty deeds of the billionaire Koch brothers, check out Greenpeace's hub page on Koch Industries and climate denial.

Industry: 
Company or Organization: 

Death Of A Talking Point? Regulations Actually Create Jobs

  • Posted on: 30 August 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Farron Cousins, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.

For years, the Republican Party in America has been on a crusade against what they call “job killing regulations.” A quick Google search for the phrase “job killing regulations” returns 368,000 results – many from official Republican Party sources and some others attempting to debunk this talking point.

The phrase “Job killing regulations” has been a consistent battle cry for GOP Congressmembers in their war against workplace safety and environmental protections. True to form, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) echoed this sentiment on Monday with his reference to "job-destroying regulations" in a memo about the Republican plan to further gut the Environmental Protection Agency.

While this talking point is used to berate a lot of different government protections, from checks and balances applied to Wall Street, to product safety laws, to measures safeguarding consumers from dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceuticals, and so forth.

But most often, the perjorative "job-killing regulations" talking point is used to describe the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) And it has resonated extremely well among an American public that is currently suffering from a severe lack of jobs. As of July 2011, we have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, resulting in almost 14 million Americans looking, but unable to find, a job. For a populace that desperately wants to work but is unable to do so, scapegoating “regulations” has been a very powerful and effective narrative.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, these “job killing regulations” are a myth. There is no empirical data to back up their claims, but there is a wealth of information available showing that regulations – all regulations – actually promote job growth and put Americans back to work. A new report by Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) delivers the latest blow to this popular talking point, demonstrating a direct correlation between environmental regulations and job growth. NESCAUM looked at the Northeast and found that by enacting stricter fuel economy standards and pursuing cleaner forms of energy, more Americans would be put back to work.

From the NESCAUM study:

Employment increases by 9,490 to 50,700 jobs.

Gross regional product, a measure of the states’ economic output, increases by 2.1 billion to 4.9 billion.

Household disposable income increases by 1 billion to 3.3 billion.

Gasoline and diesel demand drops 12 to 29 percent.

Carbon pollution from transportation is cut by 5 to 9 percent.
 

And this is just for eleven states in the Northeast. A similar trend has been verified in California, where the standards set forth by NESCAUM are already in place.

But in the "Republicans Against Science" age, one study is certainly not enough to undo the damage that this “job killing regulation” GOP talking point has done to America, even when there are numerous other studies to back it up. Increased fuel economy standards already led to the creation of more than 155,000 U.S. jobs, according to the United Auto Workers union.

Last year, while Senate Democrats worked to pass sweeping environmental protection legislation, reports showed that the proposed efforts to protect the environment and invest in green technologies would have provided a boost to the economy by creating several hundred thousand much-needed jobs for out of work Americans.

But even though some of this information has been available to the public for years, many people still believe that any form of environmental protection will come at the expense of American jobs. The reason behind this mass ignorance once again lies with the GOP, which has deployed one of the most powerful echo chambers on the planet, consistently repeating the lie about “job killing regulations” over and over again. Unchallenged in their Fox News and right wing radio echo chambers, Republicans work to convince Americans that they have to choose between protecting the environment or the economy. They are aided by a network of industry front groups funded by polluting companies like ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

During a recent GOP presidential debate, candidate Michelle Bachmann expressed her disdain for the EPA:

“I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”

See how she used the “job killing” catchphrase? That was not an accident. Frank Luntz would be proud of the message discipline.

Another GOP presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, has said that he would completely do away with the EPA, a sentiment echoed by numerous GOP elected officials. The New York Times recently ran a headline declaring that bashing the EPA was the new “theme” of the 2012 GOP presidential race.

But it isn’t just elected GOP officials and big corporations repeating the talking point. So-called “independent” bloggers and reporters have taken up the mantle of attacking environmental protection as well. A recent piece cross-posted on BigHealthReport.com read: “Obama’s EPA Is Killing More Jobs than Economy Can Create.”

Here are a few comments from that article showing that this talking point is resonating quite well with some Americans:

Rudloph
August 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm
The ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION AGENCY is useless, it just makes our economy worse. Their whole existence depends on pollution and bad mouthing it.

Carolyn Kane
August 27, 2011 at 10:45 am
I am always amazed at how much power the E.P.A. has gained in the U.S.A. none of these people were ever voted in yet they control every part of our lives. I think it is time for people to start looking at everything that they do and if it is even legal.

Gary
August 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm
No surprise here. Does anybody really believe that Obama is serious on creating jobs. He is intent on destroying everything possible. Part of the Muslim plan.

Higgs
August 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Uh, the EPA and their regulations didn’t clean up the enviroment, advances in technology caused the decrease of pollutants released into our air and water. Now, the EPA is becoming to the “regulation world” as what unions have become to the working world. Both were needed in the beginning, but now they both are one part of the “big government” ideal of the socialists in Washington.
 

The list could go on and on. But not only were these commenters going after the EPA, they also re-hashed numerous other GOP talking points from the last few years. You’ll notice that they discuss the “Socialists in Washington” and one even makes the claim that Obama is a Muslim.

This shows just how powerful the GOP’s echo chamber is in American politics, and how selective people are when it comes to picking news sources. After all, there is plenty of credible, easily-accessible information to debunk “job killing regulations” and other talking points.

But if people don’t actively search out the facts after watching Fox or listening to Americans For Prosperity, the echo chamber has done its job misleading the American people. It's immoral and unethical behavior, and that's the only job we ought to be killing off.

Industry: 

The Story of Citizens United

  • Posted on: 10 August 2011
  • By: JesseColeman

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC (2011)

Ever wonder why multinational corporations with multi billion dollar profit margins are considered individuals, with all the rights and privileges of actual people, but none of the responsibilities?  Ever wonder what it means to our democracy that these corporations can make unlimited and unreported contributions to elections?  Ever wanted the answer presented by a concise and entertaining animation?  Well you are in luck.  Annie Leonard’s the Story of Stuff Project has just released their newest chapter, which explains the significance of the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court case. 

 

For those not familiar, the Story of Stuff is a project that explains our current economic system of consumption and its effects on the world we live in through animated films.  Other videos produced by the Story of Stuff include the story of bottled water, electronics, and cosmetics.

Industry: 

Citizens United v. FEC leads to more corporate power in government

  • Posted on: 10 August 2011
  • By: JesseColeman

Ever notice how people seem to listen to you more if you have a bag full of cash?  Tom Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce sure has.  Politicians and corporations have as well.  But it used to be, prior to 2010, that giant multinational corporations couldn’t use their equally giant bags of cash to directly influence how people voted in elections.  Unfair for corporations you say? A travesty of justice perhaps?  Luckily for our favorite corporate interests the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of pesky electioneering laws in the 2010 landmark court case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.  The court ruled that corporations, because they are considered individuals under the law like you and me, are fully protected by the first amendment of the constitution, and therefore should be able to spend as much as they want on political attack ads during elections.  Now we all have free speech.  You have free speech, I have free speech, Monsanto has free speech, all are equal- just like the writers of first amendment intended hundreds of years ago.  And we can all freely spend our billions of dollars on political ads that support our own politics, thus bringing balance to the system.

But under this system it seems like some “individuals” have more free speech than others.  ExxonMobil for example made $30.46 billion dollars in profit in 2010.  That is a big bag of cash and thus, a lot of free speech.  And now, if a politician does something Exxon doesn’t like (forcing them to clean up an oil spill or curb carbon emissions for example), Exxon can bankroll millions of dollars in political ads in support of an opponent.  Most non-corporate “individuals” can’t do that.  Does that sound like a government for the people and by the people to you?

 

Speaking of Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce, he represents an important facet of the hazardous fallout from Citizens United.  It may be that Exxon doesn’t want to alienate consumers by picking sides in a contentious political match.  Instead, they funnel money to trade and advocacy groups, like Donohue’s Chamber or Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, who can then attack an offending candidate in any manner they choose, without impugning ExxonMobil’s www.exxonsecrets.org/maps.php">http://www.exxonsecrets.org/maps.php">good name.  In fact one of the most insidious and corrosive of all of the Citizen’s United case’s effects is to increase the funding (and therefore importance) of corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce, who do not reveal their funding and are not accountable to the public. 

In all seriousness the Citizens United v. FEC court case erodes the foundations of democracy in America. The decision has made it much easier for private interests with enormous wealth – like the now infamous www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwa...">http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/pol...">Koch brothers – to use their riches to align public policy with their business ideologies, to the detriment of social, economic, and environmental justice.

On August 11, 2011, www.storyofstuff.com/">http://www.storyofstuff.com/">The Story of Stuff Project has planned an online day of protest against the landmark Supreme Court Case http://storyofstuff.org/citizensunited/">Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.  To mark the occasion, the 11th has been named “http://storyofstuff.org/dollarsordemocracy/">the Day when $$ equals speech."  Check out the www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5kHACjrdEY">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5kHACjrdEY">short film explaining Citizens United and add your voice to ours and tell our government that it serves real people, not corporations.

 

Industry: 

The government the polluters paid for

  • Posted on: 26 April 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Mark Floegel, crossposted from Greenpeace USA.

Happy Chernobyl Day. It was 25 years ago today Soviet engineers were conducting a systems test on that nuclear reactor when a sudden power surge led to a series of explosions, a fire and the worst nuclear reactor disaster in history… so far. The ongoing disaster in Fukushima, Japan may be worse by the time that situation is under control.

How are you celebrating Chernobyl Day? The folks in Texas City, Texas are celebrating by staying indoors and sealing their windows and door with duct tape. It’s called “shelter in place” and it’s not really a Chernobyl Day commemoration, it’s the citizens only defense against noxious fumes emanating from three refineries and a vinyl acetate facility that have experienced a power loss. Power loss, the same thing that kicked off the Fukushima disaster.

The three Texas City refineries are owned by Valero, Marathon and BP. The BP refinery is the most famous of the three, due to an explosion in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others. The federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration found BP had ignored safeguards prior to that explosion. BP is trying to sell that refinery. So far, no takers.

According to wire reports, area residents report noxious fumes in the air, making breathing difficult. The refineries’ flares are still burning, so it’s unclear why people are choking. Other gaseous emissions may be occurring. Later reports say the power outage was caused not by the local utility, but by problems inside the industrial facilities.

We at Greenpeace have witnessed many industrial accidents. One sad feature of them all is that the industry in question always gives out incomplete or misleading information on day one. There always seems to be more concern for controlling the PR than for protecting the health of people who live nearby. There are 550,000 people who live in the “vulnerability zone” around the BP refinery. These are the folks who’ve been told to duct tape themselves into their homes.

The weather report says it’s 80 degrees and hazy in Texas City. Of course, you have to shut off your air conditioner when you “shelter in place.” What would you do if you lived there? Tape the windows, swelter, turn on the radio, pray? Or grab the kids and run for the car, risk being overcome by fumes, just try to get out of there? Where would you go?  These are not gated communities of McMansions.  People who live near refineries don’t have much money.

Dow Chemical owns the vinyl acetate facility. The plant was part of Union Carbide, which Dow purchased in 2001. In 1984, a Union Carbide facility in India leaked methyl isocyanate. The “vulnerability zone” around that plant had a half million poor people living in it, too. Twenty thousand of them died; another 150,000 were severely injured.

According to the material safety data sheet for vinyl acetate, it is immediately threatening to the eyes, skin and lungs and cancer-causing in the longer term.

We at Greenpeace have been working for a nearly a decade – since before the 9/11 attacks – to convert America’s industrial facilities from the use of hazardous feedstocks to available safer alternatives, ones that don’t require huge amounts of poison gasses in the communities where we live and raise out children.

In 2004, then-Congressman Jim Turner (D), who represented a nearby area, called such plants “pre-positioned toxic weapons of mass destruction.” Unfortunately, a decade of efforts by legislators like Mr. Turner has run into a wall of pre-positioned lobbyists from the chemical industry and the politicians whose campaigns they finance.

Our nation was attacked by terrorists and no measures were taken to protect us from distinct hazards nestled among a half million people. Our economy crashed and no effort was made to recoup the thieved billions or regulate our financial markets. Three reactors and four spent fuel pools in Japan have been in crisis for weeks and our government does nothing to examine the 23 similar reactors in this country.

You get what you pay for, except this isn’t the government you paid for. It’s the one the polluters paid for.

Industry: 
Company or Organization: 

VIDEO: Koch Industries Stomps on Wisconsin Unions in Governor Walker's Boots

  • Posted on: 22 February 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: 'Shoutout to the Kochs--I know you're watchin'!'

Photo Credit

Over the last couple days, the complimentary agendas of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and Koch Industries to attack unions and state employees has been increasingly observed, explored, and revealed. Here is the condensed story of Gov. Walker’s and the Koch brothers’ union busting in Wisconsin, which will be updated as more relevant information surfaces:

  • Walker wins the gubernatorial race, and quickly cuts corporate taxes, benefiting large businesses in the state, including subsidiaries of Koch Industries.
  • Advised by the Koch- and Exxon-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, Walker adopts the strategy of fabricating a budget crisis and calls for emergency mitigation. The state fiscal bureau denies this emergency, claiming the fiscal year could still end with a surplus, but Walker takes advantage of the crisis he created to strip labor unions of all bargaining rights except over salaries, which he plans to cut.
  • Governor Walker’s bill includes a hidden provision to sell state energy assets to private contractors without legally mandated bids, opening up major opportunities for energy companies in a way that could provide less income to the state. Koch Industries happens to be a major energy conglomerate.
  • Governor Walker threatens layoffs for 1,500 public employees by July, 2011, the Koch brothers are reminded of recently laying off 25% of their work force in a Green Bay Georgia-Pacific plant.
     
Industry: 
Company or Organization: 

Report Describes How Energy Companies Bought EPA Officials

  • Posted on: 24 September 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

John Pemberton, a former EPA official now in the employ of Southern Company.

Gulf Oil Slick makes Climate Negotiations Slippery says Utility Exec. (Webside 126)

A report by Public Citizen entitled EPA’s Smoke Screen details how Congress was given false information while campaign contributions and political connections gutted a key Clean Air rule.  The Report mentions John Pemberton, a former EPA Chief of Staff who went to work for Southern Company just one week after his office ruled in favor of relaxing pollution controls on the energy company.  The ruling effectively repealed the Clean Air Act's "new source review," which requires companies to install modern pollution control technologies in new plants and in old plants when they make modifications that significantly increase pollution.

Known Associates: 
Industry: 
Company or Organization: 

Pages