Archive for the 'Coal Campaign' Category

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:

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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!

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.

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’

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!

BREAKING: Student Activists Hang Banner at MSU

Today Michigan State students took action to push their school to go 100% renewable. Here’s what my friend David Pinsky had to say about their situation last week:

The Michigan State University (MSU) T.B. Simon coal plant is the largest on-campus coal plant in the country.

The MSU coal plant burns 200,000 tons of coal every year, and is one contributor to the 31 annual deaths in the Lansing area due to coal-fired power plants.

Since 2009, hundreds of MSU students have been waking up and saying “today I am going to shut down our campus coal plant!” For nearly three years, two student groups, MSU Greenpeace and MSU Beyond Coal, have been working tirelessly to pressure their administration to shut down the coal plant and transition to 100% clean energy.

Following relentless grassroots organizing from students, the administration finally responded – with an unambitious energy transition plan that calls for 40% clean energy by 2030. The plan also contains false solutions such as burning biomass and natural gas. Greenpeace and Sierra Club energy experts have concerns about the methodology used to create the plan. The ultimate goal of the plan is 100% clean energy. However, with a current timeline that extends to 2030, meeting not even half of the 100% goal, MSU students are calling on the MSU Board of Trustees to reject the current energy transition plan.

On April 13th, the MSU Board of Trustees has the power to reject this unambitious plan and demonstrate leadership on clean energy…. ” Read the rest of Davids blog on Quitcoal.org

This is part of a week of action and students around the country are taking action in solidarity, you can too.

You can tweet about this using the hashtag #quitcoalmsu

Finding King Coal’s Weak Spot

This piece is cross-posted from Coalexportaction.org

 If there’s one thing the climate movement learned from the fight against the tar sands, it’s that the fossil fuel industrial complex has weak spots that can be turned into pressure points for effective campaigns.  From direct actions to stop the “heavy hauls,” to mass action against Keystone XL, the freedom-from-tar sands movement has applied pressure in places where Big Oil is constrained by geography or the political process.

Though they haven’t won every time, activists fighting the tar sands (including good friends of mine) have cost Big Oil millions, derailed or delayed key parts of the tar sands project, and given us a real chance at defeating one of the worst planetary disasters in history.  It’s time for the Freedom From Coal movement to do the same thing.

When it comes to coal, our most effective pressure points aren’t trucks or pipelines, but they are no less real.  Coal barons dream of turning North America’s biggest coal deposit, the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, into an industrial mining zone.  Just as Big Oil needs the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands crude to the US, coal industry leaders are counting on a key project to realize their plans.  That project is the Otter Creek mine.

Help stop King Coal’s anchor project: join the Coal Export Action this summer! 

For those who don’t know, Otter Creek is located just east of the Tongue River, south of Miles City, Montana.  Arch Coal executives want to turn Otter Creek into one of the continent’s biggest coal mines, but that’s just the beginning.  Otter Creek is considered an “anchor project,” which would facilitate the transformation of vast additional areas into a mining zone.

Why is Otter Creek so special?  It provides official justification for building the Tongue River Railroad, which is fiercely opposed by ranchers whose land would be transected.  Without this railroad, coal barons have no way to transport the huge quantities of coal they want to move from the Powder River Basin, to the international export market via the West Coast. Continue reading ‘Finding King Coal’s Weak Spot’

Be the Power. Join the Coal Export Action this Summer

With recent news that utilities will transition off ten more coal plants, US activists can claim to have put 100 aging, dirty coal plants on the path to retirement.  This is a milestone in what is becoming one of the most successful environmental campaigns in history: the push to clean our air and slash carbon emissions by phasing out the US coal fleet.

We’ve won victories of mammoth proportions.  Now it’s time to make sure these wins are not undermined, and that coal kings don’t simply export their dirty product abroad.  This won’t be easy, because they are even now pushing plans to ship coal from the Powder River Basin and other areas overseas.  As a movement committed to the dream of clean power for all, we cannot let them succeed.

That’s why I hope you’ll join what could be the most exciting initiative yet to stop coal, the Coal Export Action.  Register to join this summer’s Coal Export Action here!

Inspired by last year’s Tar Sands Action and the Occupy movement, hundreds of people affected by coal exports will converge this August in the Montana state capitol.  Using disciplined, non-violent, and creative direct action, we will do our best to bring an end to business as usual in the building where members of Montana’s State Land Board work.  Continue reading ‘Be the Power. Join the Coal Export Action this Summer’

VICTORY: Midwest Generation and GenOn Announce Coal Plant Closures

Well, folks, it seems the fight to phase out coal-fired electric generation is starting to work. Today, Midwest Generation announced that they will be closing their two dirty coal plants in Chicago, the Fisk coal plant in Pilsen will shut down in 2012 and the Crawford coal plant in Little Village will shut down by 2014. As if this wasn’t enough good news, GenOn has also announced that it will be retiring 8 of it’s plants, 7 coal and 1 oil.

These plants are some of the dirtiest in the nation, and are probably part of the reason I, and so many others, grew up with asthma. What’s more, their impact on the climate will shortly be eliminated and I hope that means the demand drives further renewable energy production.  Below are many links where you can learn more, but a huge debt of gratitude goes out to the organizations who have been fighting these, and for those who mobilized the American public to get stronger rules at EPA. In particular, the communities of Pilsen and Little Village have been dealing with the health effects of Fisk and Crawford and have been fighting for their closure for some time.

Here’s more: P.E.R.R.O, Washington Post, Greenpeace , Sierra ClubChicago CBS, Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See

One of the great things about the age of email, Twitter, and Facebook, is it theoretically allows ordinary people to connect quickly and easily with their elected officials, sharing their views about matters of concern to them.  In the perfect democracy, politicians would embrace the opportunity to host open and transparent discussions about big issues online.

Yet in the real world, politicians all too often use tools like Facebook merely to have a one-sided conversation, projecting the image they want you to see while removing posts and comments they disagree with.  A case in point is Montana’s Congressman Denny Rehberg (who is running for the US Senate this year).

One week ago, after a weekend of action against coal exports in the Northwest, youth activists posted photos from a rally outside of Rehberg’s office on his Facebook page.  Since the action was on a Sunday, when no one was in the office, we wanted to make sure Rehberg still knew we had been there.  Some of us hoped he might even respond to our concerns about expanded coal mining, and explain why he continues to support the coal industry despite it’s record of health, safety, and environmental violations.

Instead, the photos were removed from Rehberg’s Facebook page almost immediately.  No comments, no explanation, nothing.

Continue reading ‘The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See’


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