Archive for the 'Coal' Category

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’

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’

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!

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’

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’


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