Divest M&M’s: How to De-Fund Big Coal on March 28

3rr36oWith campus, congregation, and city divestment campaigns taking off across the country, there’s never been so much momentum to de-fund the fossil fuel companies destroying the planet.  As Bill McKibben has so convincingly argued, we need to cut off fossil fuel giants’ money if we’re going to keep from passing disastrous climate tipping points.  

It’s with this inspiring backdrop that activists in Montana are calling for a day of action targeting the finances of one of Big Coal’s most destructive projects.  If you’re running a campus divestment campaign, and can spare a little of that energy to stop one of the planet’s worst carbon bombs – or if you’re not yet part of the divestment movement, and want a way to get involved – you can help.

Sign up to participate in the March 28th day of action

Here’s the background: In 2011, billionaire Forrest Mars Jr. of Mars Inc. (think M&M’s) bought a stake in the Tongue River Railroad (TRR) project in Montana.  Like the Keystone XL pipeline, the TRR threatens to open up huge reserves of buried carbon to development.  Instead of oil though, it would transport coal from Montana’s Tongue River Valley, a largely undeveloped region in the Powder River Basin.

There’s currently no mining in Montana’s Tongue River Valley.  The TRR would change that, by making huge areas accessible to the coal industry.  Most coal from the area would be exported, fueling a new generation of coal-fired power plants overseas.  Trains passing through towns in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington would expose communities to toxic coal dust and diesel fumes.

Protect communities from dirty coal by registering a local action

How did Forrest Mars get involved?  He owns a ranch in the Tongue River Valley that originally would have been bisected by the TRR.  For years Mars opposed the railroad, until he bought a share in it and used his influence to re-route it around his land.  Now Forrest Mars is one of three investors in the TRR, along with Arch Coal and Berkshire Hathaway.  He’s using a fortune largely built by selling kids candy to finance a project that will destroy those kids’ future.

That’s where we come in.  On March 28th, in communities across the country, volunteer activists will visit stores that sell Mars products, to re-label candy packages with removable stickers that let shoppers know what their purchase may be paying for.  Here’s what it looks like:

image

You can help by holding a stickering action in your community.  By targeting the Mars brand, and convincing Mars Inc that it’s bad business to be associated with coal, we can pressure Forrest Mars to drop his investment in the Tongue River Railroad.  It’s the first step toward getting the money out of coal in the Powder River Basin.

Ready to take action?  Read more about how to hold a successful stickering action, or sign up to hold an action in your community right now!

Today: Social Media Action Against Mars’ Coal Investment

Today, organizers with the Coal Export Action in Montana are calling for a day of social media action that will help bring one of our newest campaigns – to get Forrest Mars Jr to withdraw his investment in the Tongue River Railroad coal project – to a new level.

This new effort to pressure one of the major investors in Montana coal exports is already getting off the ground.  Just yesterday, a group of activists in Missoula held a die-in in a supermarket pet food aisle where Mars products are sold (yes, Mars Inc owns several pet food brands).

No matter what state or country you live in, you can help take this campaign farther by copying one (or more) of the the below sample tweets, status updates, or memes and pasting them on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.  The links direct people to where they can send an online message to Forrest Mars via Mars Inc.  The social media buzz we hope to generate today will help build a community of activists we can call on again to take action.

No doubt: the most important moments in our movement occur when people take direct action to challenge fossil fuel industries, as they’ve been doing lately from Montana to Texas and beyond.  But every once in a while, we need to harness online media to amplify the power of direct action.

Organizers in Montana are gearing up to start putting pressure on Mars in a big way in the months ahead, and to do that we need to build up our base of online support.  Help us do that by posting one of the below updates or memes on social media, and signing the petition if you haven’t already done so!

Tweets:

  • Coal for the holidays? No thanks! http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR Sign the petition to tell @MarsGlobal: #NoCoalExports! #EarthtoMars
  • Hey @MarsGlobal: Stick to exporting candy, not dirty coal! http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR Sign and RT! #EarthtoMars #NoCoalExports

Facebook updates:

  • Earth to Mars: candy and coal don’t mix! Sign this petition to support Montana agriculture, not coal trains and climate change! http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR
  • The Mars family legacy is financing coal exports.  Tell Forrest Mars Jr the world wants Mars to export candy, not coal http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR

Continue reading ‘Today: Social Media Action Against Mars’ Coal Investment’

Montanans Support Action Against Coal, During Week of Climate Solidarity

Cross-posted from the Coal Export Action

On Wednesday, over 30 people gathered in Helena, Montana’s Constitution Park to support the venerable US tradition of civil disobedience.  Immediately before an omnibus court hearing for the 23 people arrested during last August’s peaceful protests against coal exports at the Montana Capitol, the group gathered with signs reading “Support the Coal Export Action 23,” and “No More Coal Exports.”

The rally in support of the Coal Export Action also coincided with an international week of climate solidarity, initiated by organizers of the Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas.  It’s a good time to be organizing; as the Tar Sands Blockade puts it, “The aftershock of Sandy is still being felt on the East Coast, it’s the hottest year on record, and families most affected by climate change are increasingly bearing the brunt of dirty extraction.”

Residents of Helena, Missoula, Bozeman, and other Montana communities met at Constitution Park at noon, one hour before the court hearing.  Speakers at the rally included Lowell Chandler of the Blue Skies Campaign, Linda Kenoyer of the Livingston-based Montana Women For, and Corey Bressler a college junior who was one of the youngest people arrested at the Coal Export Action.

“I came to Helena, to my own statehouse and got arrested because it looks to me like there is no more time for writing reasoned letters to the editor or having meetings with the politicians,” said Linda Kenoyer, describing why she participated in last summer’s civil disobedience.  “The time has come to put my body on the line, to risk my safety and clean record if that’s what it takes to get someone’s attention.”

At the court hearing itself, sixteen of the peaceful protesters appeared in person or called in to request a jury trial.  If granted, the trial will be a chance to argue a necessity defense: the idea that acts of civil disobedience are legally justified when used as a last resort to stop catastrophic climate chaos.

If we argue a necessity defense successfully, it will set a great precedent for civil disobedience.  At the very least, this court case is an opportunity to highlight issues surrounding coal exports in a way no one in Montana has tried before.  We’re lucky to have a great legal team working with us for minimal pay, but they do need some compensation and there are other legal costs.  If you have the means, please help us take coal exports to court by donating to the Coal Export Action Legal Defense Fund.

Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana

The last few days in Montana must have made Big Coal very, very nervous.

First, around 100 people gathered outside the Montana Capitol on August 13th to protest state decision makers’ support for coal export projects, which would see Montana become an international coal colony so Big Coal can profit while coal trains and mines expose our communities to poisons.  We then stormed into the Capitol building itself, dropping off letters for State Land Board members Governor Brian Schweitzer and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

Then, over the course of a week, 23 activists (myself included) were arrested at the State Capitol protesting coal exports, in one of the largest acts of nonviolent civil disobedience Montana has seen in recent years.  As far as anyone I’ve talked to has been able to tell, it’s the biggest climate-related civil disobedience the state has seen, period.

Partly because of increased attention generated by last week’s protests, journalists uncovered the news that Arch Coal last month submitted its application to build the Otter Creek Coal Mine – one of the largest mines in North America.  Apparently hoping to avoid public scrutiny, Arch submitted its application in July without even a press release.  Last week the application, along with our protest, made front page news in the Great Falls Tribune, not what Arch wanted.

These are just the highlights from an amazing week.  During the Coal Export Action in Helena, people concerned about coal exports marched to the office of the state Department of Environmental Quality, staged a die-in outside US Bank (one of Arch Coal’s funders), picketed outside the Montana Coal Council office, and held a series of teach-ins on coal-related issues in the middle of the Capitol rotunda.

Governor Schweitzer was apparently so scared of us that he posted highway patrol officers outside his office doors, to block the entrance.  But he needn’t have worried; the Coal Export Action was entirely peaceful, with both police and protesters behaving peacefully and respectfully toward those around them.

If media attention is at least part of the measure of a successful action, the Coal Export Action was very successful.  The protests received coverage in every major Montana newspaper, as well as local TV and radio outlets.  We even scored national coverage in USA Today.  But while media coverage of the coal exports issue is important, the real measure of our success will be the degree to which it helps build a winning movement against coal exports. Continue reading ‘Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana’

Climate SOS: It’s Our Time to Act!

This is a guest post by Monica Christoffels, cross-posted from Coalexportaction.org

Our Climate Summer of Solidarity (ClimateSOS) is off to a great start!

Yesterday the Coal Export Action team watched as our friends from Frack ActionStop the Frack Attack andRAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) took action against fracking and mountaintop removal, respectively. We were inspired to see that about 50 people were able to shut down one of the largest mining sites on the East Coast (as covered here in the Huffington Post!); and that as many as 5,000 stormed the streets of NYC and DC, the latter rally stopping at the offices of America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute, to send a strong message of opposition to the industry.

We were also overjoyed to see our allies at the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas begin training for their massive nonviolent direct action against the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will take place later this summer. The Blockadelive-tweeted its training, and even sent out a message of support to West Virginia, DC and NYC.

(Photo credit: Tar Sands Blockade on Facebook)

The movement literally grew before our eyes; we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. Now it’s our turn to take action.

This Tuesday, July 31, Coal Export Action will kick off a social media blast day to amp up the volume on our actions to stop coal mining in Otter Creek next month.

We hope a surge in tweets and Facebook posts will alert people to the action, increase support (both in donations and new participants) and, most importantly, send a strong message to Arch Coal and the Montana State Lands Board that we’re ready to act on behalf of Otter Creek, the state of Montana and our global community.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook – we’ll be blasting our tweets and posts from those accounts on Tuesday. We’ll hope you join us online as we continue on the road to Coal Export Action this August!

Flawed Report Ignores Economic Costs of Coal Mining, Contains Blatant Self-Contradictions

This post is cross-published from the Coal Export Action.  To help stop destructive coal mining in Montana this summer, sign up here.

What do you get when the construction industry finances an “unbiased” report on the economic impacts of coal mining, and the report author goes on to completely ignore how land degradation, aquifer depletion, and climate change might negatively impact the economy?

You’d expect such an industry-sponsored study to over-estimate the economic benefits of letting Big Coal have its way.  What you might not expect, is for it to contain findings that blatantly contradict the authors’ own claim that opening a giant coal mine will positively impact nearby communities.  Yet that’s exactly what a recent report on “The Impact of Otter Creek Coal Development on the Montana Economy” does.

The report in question, financed by the Montana Contractors Association, and authored by Patrick M. Barkey and Paul E. Polzin of the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, recently made headlines in the Montana news.  Claims made in the report are about what you’d expect from an industry-sponsored study: coal mining will create thousands of jobs, generate millions in tax revenue, and lead its supporters down the one true path to Paradise.

But as I read the report, I was astonished by both its cavalier disregard for basic information, and its obvious self-contradictions. Continue reading ‘Flawed Report Ignores Economic Costs of Coal Mining, Contains Blatant Self-Contradictions’

Big Coal’s Politicians Called Out at Montana Republicans Convention

ImageCross posted from the Coal Export Action

Friday evening, delegates at the Montana Republicans State Convention received an unexpected visit and serenade from the Blue Skies Campaign and Occupy Missoula.  During the dinnertime reception for candidate for Congress Steve Daines, the activists showed up to protest the Republican Party’s emphasis on coal and other forms of dirty energy, to the exclusion of clean energy investments that could power our economy with green jobs.

Keep Montana’s massive coal reserves safely in the ground.  Join this summer’s Coal Export Action!

While Republican candidates in Montana occasionally give lip service to wind and other renewables, GOP politicians like Daines, Senate candidate Denny Rehberg, and gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill primarily want to see Montana remain dependent on coal, oil, and gas.  Hill, for instance, is at least as wedded to the idea of sacrificing the Otter Creek school trust tracts for coal development as is Montana’s current governor, Democrat Brian Schweitzer.

Yet coal mining would create relatively few jobs, at the expense of the sectors that really power Montana’s economy.  Agriculture and tourism, sectors that would both be hurt by coal mining and climate change, together supply almost 30% of the jobs in Montana.  For comparison, coal mining creates less than 0.5% of jobs in the state.

That’s why Friday, Missoula activists called out Republican candidates for supporting the energy of the past – at the expense of public health and the economy.  Wielding a 20-foot wide banner, and singing anti-coal carols to the tunes of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” the group marched into the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn where delegates were gathered outside the doors.

Put Montana on a path to clean energy, not coal.  Sign up for the Coal Export Action!

Continue reading ‘Big Coal’s Politicians Called Out at Montana Republicans Convention’

Connecting the Dots: Dirty Money and Politics in Montana

Cross-posted from the Coal Export Action

On Saturday, as part of the international Connect the Dots day of action organized by 350.org, activists in Missoula, MT highlighted the connection between dirty money, government, and climate change.  At the Missoula Farmers Market, organizers from the Blue Skies Campaign, Occupy Missoula, and other local groups enacted a creative street theater routine to draw attention to the Montana Land Board’s support for Arch Coal at the expense of ordinary people and the climate.

In 2010, the Montana Land Board voted 3-2 to lease coal tracts in the Otter Creek area to Arch Coal.  Developing Otter Creek for coal mining would set off one of the largest carbon bombs in the world, facilitating construction of the Tongue River Railroad, and the opening of vast additional tracts of land to mining.  With a quarter of US coal reserves sitting under Montana soil, this is truly one of the most important fights on the planet.

Help diffuse this carbon bomb: join the Coal Export Action this summer!

Fortunately, Land Board members – all of whom are statewide elected officials – still can stop mining at Otter Creek.  It will take massive public pressure to make them do so, though.  The ones who can really diffuse this bomb are the Montana people.

Thus the inspiration for Saturday’s street theater, which showed what it will take to keep Montana’s largest coal reserves underground.  During a tug-of-war match between the people of Montana and pro-coal members of the Land Board, climate activists discovered pro-coal politicians couldn’t be budged as long as they remain tied to the coal industry by dirty money. Continue reading ‘Connecting the Dots: Dirty Money and Politics in Montana’

Gonzaga Students Call for a Coal-Free Spokane

Cross-posted from the Coal Export Action

Across the Northwest, people are waking up to the threat of coal export projects in their communities.  Recently, students from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington took action, organizing a march against coal exports a few days before a forum on how coal exports and increased coal train traffic would negatively impact Spokane.

On Sunday, April 15th, Gonzaga students marched from the University campus to a busy street intersection, where their signs reading “Honk for Clean Air” garnered attention from drivers parked at the street intersection.  Says Gonzaga student Adriana Stagnaro, “As we walked we remembered our intentions of supporting the community with an action to raise awareness about issues surrounding coal exports.  We smiled and waved to cars as we made our way into town.”

At the intersection, students talked with passersby waiting at crosswalks, and explained what an increase in coal train traffic would mean for Spokane.  This city sits on at the intersection of two existing rail lines coal trains could use to get from eastern Montana and Wyoming to the West Coast, putting the community at the front lines of the fight against coal exports.  Of course, with every additional coal train to hit the tracks comes an increase in coal dust, diesel emissions, and climate-changing carbon pollution.

A few days after the march, coal-free activists held a forum at Gonzaga University, featuring speakers  Bart Mihailovich of Spokane Riverkeeper, Gonzaga professor Hugh Lefcort, and local farmer Walter Kloefkorn.  According to Stagnaro, the panel “really exposed the complex nature of environmental-human issues surrounding coal exports.”

Like communities throughout the five-state region of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, Spokane residents may have a long road ahead of them when it comes to protecting their public commons from the threat of coal exports.  But this community with a history of leadership on social issues is already getting organized, and students at Gonzaga are setting an example.

No doubt this won’t be the last we hear from Spokane residents.  With communities across the Northwest rallying to stop coal exports, King Coal’s CEOs don’t know what they’re up against!

Stop the Coal Trains, Bring Climate Justice to Eugene

This post was submitted to It’s Getting Hot in Here by Emma Newman, of the Climate Justice League at University of Oregon.

As coal plants in the United States continue to close, local organizations around the country appear to have struck a blow to the industry. But in reality, as coal consumption decreases in our country, global demand continues to rise. A result of this shift in demand can be found in recent proposals to ship Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming through several Northwest ports. One of these proposals would bring coal right through the city of Eugene, to the Port of Coos Bay.

Eugene has been given a unique opportunity to combat coal by rallying against this proposal. Not only are coal mining and combustion dirty; its transportation presents significant health hazards as well. The coal passing right through downtown Eugene, slowing traffic for up to eight minutes would be transported in open bed coal trains.

More than 100 tons of coal dust per train will blow off between Montana and Coos Bay. The dust contains heavy metals such as lead and mercury and causes lung diseases, as well as pollution from the diesel that fuels the trains. Regionally, the health impacts of coal follow the transportation and watershed routes.

This is a major issue we face as a community, region, and nation and it represents a textbook environmental justice problem. Environmental justice (EJ) is a social movement that includes mainly people of marginalized communities and focuses on the environment directly around people in society who carry many environmental burdens in their everyday lives, including living and working conditions. EJ strives to bring communities autonomy through their fight for civil and human rights. The coal trains will be passing directly through the Whiteaker neighborhood, a historically working class part of the city.

Emma Newman, a Co-Director of the Cascade Climate Network, went on an environmental justice tour in West Eugene last week and saw the neighborhoods that would be hardest hit. “One neighborhood,” Emma said, “was literally surrounded by a train yard on one side and train tracks on the other. They are already suffering from a toxic plume in their well water and the last thing that they need is coal dust drifting over their park and onto their vegetable gardens.” Continue reading ‘Stop the Coal Trains, Bring Climate Justice to Eugene’


nickengelfried


Nick is a freelance writer, climate activist, and a graduate student at the University of Montana. He got his start in activism by helping to establish a new campus recycling system at Portland Community College; since then he has organized to stop fossil fuel projects and open up space for clean energy in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Nick is currently working with activists throughout the Greater Northwest to protect Northwest communities from coal export projects. When not in school or organizing for a clean energy future, he can be found hiking in the natural areas around Missoula, bird watching, or writing a novel.

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