Archive for the 'Dirty Energy' Category

Life at the End of the Line — Drawing the Line on Tar Sands in Houston’s East End

“My son died from cancer. He was only 26,” he said as his eyes quivered and filled with tears.

I struggled to complete the community health survey that brought me to this man’s humble front porch next door to a menacing, industrial car-crushing facility. This summer, as I knocked on dozens of his neighbor’s doors I heard similar heart-breaking stories of illness, asthma, and poverty.

One long-time resident I spoke with summed up the popular sentiment for relocation: “I’m just trying to save up enough money to move my family the hell out of here.”

These are just a few of the voices from the “End of the Line” – those living in the community of Manchester, on Houston’s toxic East End – one of the communities at the terminus of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Today as thousands gather in over 200 actions across the country for a national day of action to “Draw the Line” on Keystone XL and tar sands it seems like an appropriate moment to reflect on these stories and ask: Can our movements better support these communities already bearing the disproportionate burden of tar sands refining and environmental injustice?

The People at Both Ends of the Pipeline

The story of tar sands resistance goes far back beyond Obama, long before 1,253 folks like myself were arrested at the White House for protesting the pipeline, or really even before Keystone XL was anything but an industry pipe dream. Decades ago the struggle began by First Nations leaders in modern-day Canada and their commitment to maintain their ancestral homelands from what they term the “slow industrial genocide” of tar sands extraction that is poisoning their loved ones and turning their boreal paradise into a tortured wasteland.

What do the communities living with the worst impacts at both ends of this pipeline have in common? They are both communities of color.

Valero refinery in the Manchester community on Houston's East End.

Continue reading ‘Life at the End of the Line — Drawing the Line on Tar Sands in Houston’s East End’

At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Hi All,

Here’s a crosspost of a blog by Dave Pomerantz at Greenpeace on last week’s Action Camp. I hope to see increasing discussion of a more collective movement!

John

Title: At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Activists and trainers from Greenpeace's Coastal Canyons Action Camp

For a long time, corporations and governments have used the tried and true tactic of divide and conquer: they’ve tried to convince us that the immigrant rights struggle is different from the worker rights struggle, which is different from the climate justice struggle, to name just a few of the efforts to make the world a more sustainable place.

Of course, those divisions are false and self-serving: all of those struggles are linked by both cause and effect. The corporations, institutions and systems that caused environmental destruction by prioritizing the wealth of the few over the health of the many are the exact same ones that have trampled the rights of workers, immigrants, and the poor. And environmental crises like climate change promise to hit immigrant and poor communities the hardest.

Last week, Greenpeace hosted an Action Camp in Southern California for 160 activists where we focused intently on pushing back against those false divisions.

Continue reading ‘At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want’

Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings

This week, the Joint Review Panel has been holding hearings in Victoria about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Just today, the Dogwood Initiative tweeted:

Final speaker of the day makes it official! 141 OPPOSED – in favour, ZERO at the #yyj #Enbridge #JRP hearings #bcpoli

Earlier in the week, several news outlets (written coverage here and TV coverage here) reported heavy police presence and “armed guards” at the hearings, where the public is supposed to be able to express their opinions on the pipeline which is planned to carry over 500,000 barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta to the Pacific Coast where it will be exported. Organizers with Social Coast organized events outside of the hearings and criticized the undemocratic nature of the hearings. “They are public hearings, are they not?” asked Eric Nordal of Social Coast. The format of the hearings taking place this month and next in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna are having a different format than previous hearings on the same pipeline. People who have registered to speak are asked to speak to the panel one at a time, while others wait in a separate observation room. A few months ago, there were also updates as to what people were allowed to speak about, prohibiting people to address issues such as climate change.

The following is a release sent out by Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. A long list of endorsers indicates the broad-based opposition to Enbridge, and other pipelines that would bring fossil fuels to the coast and across unceded Inidgenous territories.

Media Release-January 7th, 2013

Enbridge Panel to be Greeted with Loud Demonstration
Diverse list of grassroots groups demand consent not consultation

When the Enbridge pipeline joint Environmental Assessment and Energy Board hearings open in Vancouver on January 14th they will be greeted by community members determined to make their opposition heard on the streets and inside the hearing room. A large, noise demonstration will march through downtown Vancouver in full support of the self-determination of Indigenous communities, and their rights to say no to oil and gas pipelines across their territories.

The Harper government has gutted Canada’s already weak environmental laws, giving cabinet the final say on pipeline projects and making the Joint Review Panel hearings merely a public relations (consultation) exercise. This undemocratic change attempts to remove the rights of communities to say no to big oil corporations. Continue reading ‘Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings’

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.

The Days After the Storm

By Daniel Rosen and Billy Parish, co-founders of Mosaic

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. We’ve seen the impacts of climate change in other parts of the world, but with Hurricane Sandy, we saw for the first time the places of our childhood underwater, family members without power. It is as shocking as it is frightening to see the devastation extreme weather can wreak.

We were deeply moved by pictures of firemen and nurses carrying babies in the dark from NYU Hospital out of harms way. Seeing them in action, we were filled with a fierce pride in humanity. When it comes down to it, in moments like these, we rise to extraordinary levels of bravery and sheer force of will.

But we’re also left feeling angry. The irony that the same energy system that brought us climate change and this tremendous storm also couldn’t handle its wrath makes us sick.

Let’s not mince words: The fossil fuel industry is destroying our planet and everything that we love. CO2 in the atmosphere is making our oceans warmer and making our climate unstable. The current energy system is not only bad for the planet, but also is extremely fragile. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, 12,000,000 people went without power for days. Many of them still without power today.

When you awake you will remember ev’rything, You will be. – Bob Dylan

The gravity of the situation is real. Everything is at stake. Families. Homes. Memories. Whole ways of life. All packaged up neatly and for sale to the highest bidding lobbyist The fossil fuel industry has spent $153 Million on this election so far. It’s no wonder climate change didn’t come up once in the three Presidential debates or the VP debate.

Meanwhile, the expected costs of Sandy are upwards of $50 billion. Will Exxon and Shell pay for that out of their $54 billion in profits this year? Will ConEd? Will PG&E? And what about the wildfires this summer? And the droughts across the midwest that have destroyed corn crops and farmers’ livelihoods? What about those costs? Is there math that they have that figures out the value of lives lost in the hurricane? It’s disgusting to even write that, but it begs the question.

So after the storm, what?

An Ambitious Proposal
Like the firefighters who risked their lives, we of all creeds, all ages, and all political stripes, must come together and work with the same tireless strength and courage to replace CO2-producing energy sources with clean energy and smart grid technologies. A world powered 100% with clean energy. If you don’t think it’s possible, watch this talk by actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson, and Executive Vice President of Rabo Bank, Marco Kraepels.

Jacobson’s team has mapped out how New York can make a total transition to clean energy by 2030. Under this plan, electricity would come from a mix of renewables and energy efficiency, reducing statewide power demand by 37%.  And talk about collateral benefits: Air pollution mortality would decline by 4,000 deaths a year. Just the cost savings from reduced air pollution would save the Empire State $33B a year, enough to pay for the needed new 271 gigawatts of renewable power.

Take Jacobson’s plan national and there you have it — clean energy delivered via thousands of decentralized microgrids. It will take planning, coordination and financing by the whole crazy lot of us, from the clean tech sector to utilities to Mosaic investors crowdfunding the next distributed solar power plant. It will take an unprecedented coalition of people and businesses mobilized to make this ambitious vision happen.

ConEd is saying that it will take 10 days to get the majority of its customers their power back, but some may be without power until the end of November. In coming months, Cuomo and others could establish an aggressive state Feed In Tariff, guaranteeing a market for renewables. They could help to structure it to incentivize back-up storage. Each house could be a solar power plant. Every rooftop a place for distributed generation.

Distributed generation (such as wind and solar with backup battery storage) and other decentralized energies would have been far more resilient than our current electricity grid. The advantage of clean power microgrids, besides curbing climate change, is that if one mini-power station goes down, it doesn’t take the whole grid down with it — had NYU Hospital been microgrid-powered, we likely would not have witnessed the grim spectacle of firemen carrying those babies to safety.

Microgrids would offer protection in the inevitable event of future superstorms and in the face of powerful solar storms predicted for 2013 that have the potential to take down the entire US grid. Better still, clean energy would help avert extreme weather events in the first place.

One of Mosaic’s projects in Oakland funded by 134 people.

The storm waters have gone back to the sea. Now begins the real work of rebuilding. The task in front of us is the most ambitious rebuilding project human civilization has ever undertaken. This is not a top down mandate. The task to transition from a CO2 based economy and energy production to 100% clean and renewable energy is a movement of movements, community of communities, network of networks.

We have the technology to make the transition. We have the know how. We have the people.  We need not wait for another superstorm to underscore our vulnerability, and we need not — must not — wait for politicians and utility executives to lead the charge. As we say at Mosaic, we got this.

ACTION ALERT: Stop the tar sands at their source, Say NO to Shell

ImageUntil October 1st you can make a written submission or sign up to make a presentation submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency about the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion. Visit stopshellnow.com to find out more or visit this page directly to make your submission. It is easy. It won’t take you long. You can do it now!

On October 23rd, for the first time ever, two First Nations—the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree–will be filing a constitutional challenge against a tar sands mining project. Shell wants to expand the Jackpine Mine, adding 100,000 barrels of bitumen production per day to the existing 200,000 barrels per day. That would be enough to fuel both the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline (525,000bpd) and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline (currently 300,000 and proposed to expand to over 700,000bpd), with plenty to spare. To learn more about these tar sands pipelines, visit www.canadians.org/pipelines

Pipelines are a recipe for disaster and mean fear of fractures and spills that would impact sensitive ecosystems, wildlife, and water systems and rivers that provide communities with water and food. With spills may also come the forced evacuation of communities, but also negligence of community health. People have reported burning eyes and headaches when there have been leaks. But when opposing these pipelines, it is crucial that we not only think about the destruction that happens along the pipeline route, but also the destruction that is happening at the point of extraction and downstream from these mines. Downstream communities have been plagued with rare cancers, increased autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease. There has also been increasing diabetes as people can no longer eat and live off traditional foods because water, fish, and moose have been poisoned by tar sands contamination.

Last Friday, several women from tar sands impacted communities shared their personal stories at the event She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Up Against the Tar Sands. One of the speakers, Melina Laboucon-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation spoke about the community impacts of last year’s Rainbow pipeline rupture and the company’s negligent response and has also produced a photo essay.

This fall, the Council of Canadians will be holding a No Pipelines, No Tankers Speaking Tour in which we talk about the pipelines proposed to bring fossil fuels to BC’s coast for export and corporate profit. We will be talking about the fights against three pipelines in BC—the Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, and the Pacific Trails Pipeline—and the much needed solidarity in fighting all of the pipelines. For more information about the pipelines tour, visit http://www.canadians.org/pipelines

This blog was also posted on http://www.canadians.org

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!

Divestment listening tour connects students and anti-coal activists

by Will Lawrence and Kate Aronoff, re-posted courtesy of Waging Nonviolence

Picture courtesy of We Are Powershift.

Students from Swarthmore and Earlham College will be traveling to Appalachia this week as part of the Divest Coal Frontlines Listening Tour, which is the latest effort in a broader campaign calling on all colleges and universities to divest from the largest and most destructive U.S.-based fossil fuel companies. Arriving in West Virginia in time for the Mountain Mobilization — a regional gathering July 25 through August 1 that will culminate in direct action on a proposed mine site — the tour is meant to facilitate collaboration by connecting the divestment campaigns with groups that have been organizing against mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia for the past several decades.

Mountaintop removal (MTR) is just what it sounds like — a process in which the tops of mountains are exploded to reveal the coal seams underneath. Anti-coal activist and lifelong West Virginia resident Larry Gibson describes the practice as “raising the dead, while burying the living.” This method is less labor-intensive, and thus more profitable to mining companies, than underground mining. In regions where it is practiced, MTR results in poisoned water, deadly health impacts and economically devastated communities.

Engagement with environmental issues is nothing new for many colleges. Student-led initiatives have driven down institutional energy consumption in the past 10 years, placed wind turbines on campuses and taken coal-fired power plants off of them. While these efforts continue, students across the country are turning to divestment as a new means to confront the coal, oil and gas industries. Campaigns are currently being waged at SwarthmoreEarlhamUNC-Chapel HillUniversity of Illinois-Urbana-ChampaignCornell and Colby, with another six campuses planning to join in the fall.

In forming relationships with organizations on the frontlines of the struggle against MTR, students hope to more effectively act in solidarity with these groups and weave divestment, both symbolically and materially, into an ecology of resistance against the fossil fuel industry. Although it may be just a small part of the ongoing movement for climate justice, college divestment campaigns add a new element of strategy to the work being done to combat climate change.

By asking for divestment, students implicate universities in the destructive practices of the global economy, calling into question their positions as actors in an increasingly myopic financial industry. Like the corporations they invest in, university finance managers look for returns on a quarterly, not long-term basis. Such thinking paints coal, oil and natural gas as sound investments based on solid short-term financial returns, while failing to consider their negative long-term returns: poisoned watersheds, toxic ecosystems and devastated communities.

Divestment also carries a symbolic weight that challenges us to reconsider fossil fuel extraction and climate change as human rights issues. For many, the word divestment brings to mind the mass movement to divest from South African apartheid in the 1970s and 80s. More recently, divestment campaigns have drawn attention to human rights crises in Sudan and Palestine, as well asworkplaces in the U.S. Calling for divestment from fossil fuels inevitably highlights these connections, and creates an opening to talk about the ways that climate change disproportionately affects poor communities, women and communities of color. Furthermore, it places the blame for the economic violence of climate change squarely on the companies that fuel it, rather than on those consumers who can’t afford to “buy green.” Continue reading ‘Divestment listening tour connects students and anti-coal activists’


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