Archive for the 'Legal' Category

This is what LOVE looks like

(Cross posted from

Watching Tim speak in the courtroom, watching him utter words that would be echoed and transported across oceans, seeing him in all his candor and vulnerability, I realized that it’s the most powerful I’ve ever seen him. As he earnestly looked the judge straight in the eye asking him to join him — to join us — I simply could not ignore the eery yet deeply moving sensation that this statement would be one for the history books.

This is what hope looks like… This is what patriotism looks like… This is what love looks like.”
-Tim DeChristopher. July 26th 2011. Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse
(Read full statement here)

On that day, in that courtroom, his invitation fell on deaf ears. Judge Benson did not open up his heart to Tim’s plea and instead chose to respond with the inflexible “rule of law,” the systemic stance that an empowered citizen effectively challenging the status-quo should be contained and silenced.

In those initial nauseating and destabilizing moments, I simply could not process the judge’s words. 24 months of federal incarceration? To be taken into custody forthwith by US Marshals? Chained up like a dangerous criminal? All after making it crystal clear that the prison sentence was the result of Tim’s outspoken political views?

Crushed by the daunting realization that there would be no final good-bye, no last hug, I rushed down the courthouse steps, dizzy and in shock. Despite my personal trauma, the world needed to know, needed to hear Peaceful Uprising’s outrage and our call for a peaceful, directed, and sustained response. Continue reading ‘This is what LOVE looks like’

Breaking: Tim DeChristopher sentenced to 2 years in prison, taken immediately into custody

(Cross-posted from

Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to 2 years in prison today at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. He was taken immediately into custody, being denied the typical 3 weeks afforded to put his affairs in order and say goodbye to his friends and family.

Federal prosecutors asked for Tim to receive an extra harsh prison sentence in an effort to intimidate the movement that stands with him. They hoped that by condemning him to years behind bars, they would “make an example out of him” and deter all of us from taking meaningful action. But Tim is already an example. He’s an example of the courageous acts that people across our movements are taking to fight for justice and a liveable future. We support Tim by continuing to organize. Our response to this sentence is an affirmation: we will not be intimidated.  What’s your response?

The government’s statement is clear. Tim has been sentenced to 2 years as punishment for his politics; for the uncompromising content of his speeches and organizing in the two years since his act of civil disobedience protected 150,000 acres of land. Ironically, his principled views and motivations behind his actions he took were never allowed to enter a courtroom, due to their “irrelevance.” In a highly political trial, the jury was unjustly stripped of its right to be their community’s conscience and manipulated into making a political prisoner of a peaceful and concerned young man.

Tim DeChristopher

Author and activist Terry Tempest Williams said, “To think that a young man in an act of conscience might [do any amount of time] in a federal prison for raising a paddle in an already illegal sale of oil and gas leases, compared to the CEO of BP or the financial wizards on Wall Street who have pocketed millions of dollars at our expense  – and who will never step into a court of law to even get their hands slapped, let alone go to jail, is an assault on democracy.”

She’s right. But we have the power to turn this assault on democracy into a battle for democracy. Today the Salt Lake City community is expressing both their love and their outrage.

Fossil fuel lobbyists knew that Tim would be indicted the evening before it was officially filed, Jury members explained that they were intimidated throughout the process. The fossil fuel industry should not control our justice system.

Unless we decide to respond accordingly, as Tim serves his time, the real criminals — the fossil fuel industry wrecking our planet and our communities — will continue to run free, unaccountable for the countless oil spills, asthma attacks, contaminated waterways, cancer clusters, and carbon seeping into the air we breathe every day. If the justice system is intent on prosecuting the people protecting rather than pillaging the planet, we must confront the real criminals ourselves. With our heads held high, we continue to stand on the moral high-ground – and will do what’s right, despite the consequences. We know that mother nature’s consequences of inaction are far harsher than any imposed by a court system.

But we are not isolated individuals. We come together with our communities as groups of empowered agents of change who know our system is broken and does not represent us. Our communities represent us, and our vision of a resilient, just, and sustainable world that we are fighting for.

Tim’s sentence is a call to action.

For those of us who’ve been following his story fervently, our hearts were broken today. It is a sad moment. But we now have an opportunity and a responsibility to act on those feelings of hurt and outrage. For Tim’s sacrifice to truly mean something, for the spark it ignites in each of us to burn, we all must take action.

2011 has already become a year of peaceful uprisings around the country. As Tim once said, we were never promised that it would be easy. We know it will take courage, sacrifice and a willingness to sustain our resistance in our fight for real Justice. Tim has taken a step and we will take the next thousand.

Here are a few upcoming action opportunities to join:

We’ll see you on the streets,

Peaceful Uprising and Tim’s community of courage.

Coal Developer Indicted, Questionable Practices Loom in Georgia

Crosspost from

Plans to construct two coal-fired power plants in middle Georgia were dealt a blow last Thursday as Dwight Brown, CEO of Cobb EMC- one of the nations largest Electrical Members Corporations (EMC)- was indicted on 31 accounts of corporate theft by taking, racketeering, making false statements, and conspiracy to defraud the government entities.  The charges come after 2 years of citizen activism and litigation, and help highlight corrupt business practices that allegedly continue within the organization today- as the EMC proceeds with $4.2 billion coal development plans.

Cobb EMC is the lead financial and logistical supporter of a coalition of electrical corporations called Power4Georgians LLC, attempting to build two 850MW coal plants in middle Georgia, despite the fact that no new coal plants have been started in the United States in the last two years.  In state filings Dwight Brown is identified as the lead “organizer” of the consortium, and is the lead signature in the plants’ permit applications.

The detailed indictment of CEO Dwight Brown lays out criminal business practices in which Brown and other EMC board members of the not-for-profit EMC created a for-profit business called Cobb Energy, and allegedly used EMC membership funds to piggy-bank multi-million dollar salary and compensation packages for Brown and Board.  Mr. Brown, after transferring nearly all not-for-profit assets to the for-profit Cobb Energy, charged the 200,000 person EMC membership an 11% mark-up on services that the EMC previously rendered, used EMC membership data to sell SCANA natural gas services at huge profits for Cobb Energy, and granted Brown a $3 million personal loan- which was soon after forgiven- used to purchased preferred stocks in Cobb Energy.  All of this while Brown lied to and deceived the EMC membership, who in organizational Bylaws are charged with democratically operating and affectively owning the not-for-profit entity.

Yeah, Shady (at best) right?

But it only gets better…

Continue reading ‘Coal Developer Indicted, Questionable Practices Loom in Georgia’

Canadian Oil Company Bullies American Landowners

TransCanada: their product's not the only thing that's filthy about them

Cross-posted at Climate Crossroads

Canada may be stereotypically associated with politeness and friendliness, but one of its major oil companies is bullying and intimidating American property owners. Canadian oil giant TransCanada has told landowners along the path of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline that if they don’t sign over their land by the end of the month, TransCanada will take it by force through eminent domain proceedings.

letter sent to a Nebraska landowner by TransCanada executive Tim Irons and obtained by the National Wildlife Federation states that the company “is constructing and will operate a 1,833 mile crude oil pipeline, which […] will cross a portion of your property.” The letter continues, asserting, “In the event we cannot reach an agreement, Keystone will use eminent domain to acquire the easement.” (emphasis added)

Such threatening language is an attempt to intimidate and silence the many landowners who have voiced safety concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline. Nebraska landowners in particular fear that a spill would contaminate the shallow Ogallala Aquifer which provides a third of the water for the nation’s crops. TransCanada is trying to trick politicians into believing the pipeline is safe, and knows that these landowners can’t be fooled. Spills from pipelines are common and harm the land and the people who depend  on it. Last month’s Enbridge oil pipeline spill of more than 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan is the latest of more than 2,500 significant pipeline incidents that have occurred in United States over the last decade, which have resulted in 161 fatalities and 576 injuries.

Continue reading ‘Canadian Oil Company Bullies American Landowners’

Massey’s Energy’s dirty strategy: ignore worker safety, persecute environmental activists

Company Responsible for Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster Actively Seeking to Silence Local Critics

Massey Energy has filed a politically motivated civil suit, also known as a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit, against fourteen activists arrested last year in relation to a protest on a mountaintop removal mining site. (Photos.) The suit seems to be part of a larger strategy on the part of the mining company to intimidate and silence critics of the company’s safety record and controversial mining practices, particularly mountaintop removal coal mining.

Since the spring of 2008, Massey has filed at least four SLAPP suits against activists in West Virginia working to end mountaintop removal, none of which have yet been resolved. Commonly used to exhaust critics by burdening them with the cost of a massive legal defense, SLAPP suits have been banned by at least 26 states and one territory has protections against SLAPP suits. West Virginia does not have a ban, but its courts have adopted some protections against them.

Donate to the activists legal defense.

Continue reading ‘Massey’s Energy’s dirty strategy: ignore worker safety, persecute environmental activists’

Victory for the Mountains!

Remember those other fossil fuels, besides oil?

Yeah, we’re still fighting them too.  If you’re like me and want a little bit of good news amongst all the bad news from the Gulf, today is your lucky day. Today, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they are going to stop rubber-stamping valley fill permits in Appalachia.

As of today, the Corps will stop issuing Nationwide Permit (NWP) 21, which is has been used to “authorize discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States for surface coal mining activities.”  Valley fills are a crucial aspect to mountaintop removal mining, because once the mountaintops are blasted off, all that material needs to go somewhere.  In Appalachia, that somewhere has been streams and headwaters.  Without the ability to shove all that rubble, i.e. former mountain, into valleys, mountaintop removal mining becomes far less…well, feasible.

Continue reading ‘Victory for the Mountains!’

U.S.A. Earns 1st Fossil of the Day in Bonn

Fossil of the Day award

<cross-posted on SustainUS’s Agents of Change blog and The Climate Community

The United States earned the 1st Fossil of the Day Award here at the  United Nations climate negotiations in Bonn. Nearly a week had passed where no country had acted badly enough in the negotiations to deserve a shameful Fossil, until the U.S.’s nomination.

The U.S. grabbed the title for blocking a discussion on greenhouse gas mitigation actions. The discussion would have helped build consensus on post-2012 actions to stop greenhouse gas pollution. Lack of a clean energy and climate law is pushing the U.S. to block an international discussion on future climate agreements (sound familiar?).

The discussion had been proposed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Many AOSIS countries are under extreme threat from rising sea levels and other worsening climate impacts. They also have some of the least capacity to deal with these impacts, and have contributed to climate change pollution the least of most nations.

The Fossil of the Day awards, run by the Climate Action Network (CAN), were created to highlight the countries doing the most to block progress in the United Nations negotiations.

Official press release from CAN:

Continue reading ‘U.S.A. Earns 1st Fossil of the Day in Bonn’

A question for Obama as ‘Copenhagen’ climate negotiations continue in Bonn

Was the world doing better on climate change under President Bush?

The focus on international climate change negotiations has receded since Copenhagen last year. Copenhagen was seen as a disappointment, with its much touted outcome, the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ looking like it could lead to an almost 4C in temperature rises, causing massive devastation – and solidifying the opposition to the Accord among many vulnerable countries such as Tuvalu and the Cook Islands.

So with less fanfare than last year, the countries of the world have returned to the table to negotiate further agreement on international climate action. The second official meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for 2010 will begin Monday in Bonn, Germany, with countries hoping to begin work on a pathway toward new legally binding agreements on emission reductions, funding for adaptation to climate impacts, and international institutions/governance.

There are plenty of new things to get your head around in the climate negotiations this year. There is a new executive secretary (starting in July); a new draft-negotiation text that has just been released; and a new infusion of ideas, courtesy of the People’s Summit held in April in Cochabamba, Bolivia. There is also, of course, new science, which shows that the situation for the planet is getting worse and that climate impacts could be more severe than previously projected.

Unfortunately, what’s old is the approach of the United States. Just six months after President Obama received his Nobel Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” and his “constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting”, people across the world are beginning to question whether he has lived up to that inscription in his actions.

Under President Bush the approach of the United States was easy to understand and easy to vilify. Bush denied climate change existed. He withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol. And he obstructed international negotiations. In a famous exchange at the Bali negotiations in 2007 a delegate from Papua New Guinea, asked the United states: ‘If you’re not willing to lead, then get out of the way.’

The approach under President Obama has been much more confusing – until now. It has been confusing because the US has actively engaged in the negotiations, not blocking with procedural issues, and actively taking leadership on issues, but often doing so in a way that hasn’t pleased campaigners.[1] Now, however, President Obama has followed up on his bald-faced blackmail of small developing countries to change their position in negotiations with a submission that clearly shows that the United States is not blocking negotiations but trying to take them backwards.

As the rules now stand developed countries have a collective target for emission reductions (an aggregate target) and then they negotiate their individual country targets underneath that aggregate. The negotiations focus on how comparable each countries’ individual target is, for example that the UK is doing the same amount of heavy lifting as Germany, and they work to make sure that the total sum of countries’ commitments will meet the agreed aggregate target. They then negotiate on the rules for meeting these targets and the penalties for failing to meet them.

The United States’ recent submission refuses to negotiate on any of these issues. President Obama rejects an aggregate target for the developed countries, which means we can’t be sure of how effective their contribution will be. He rejects that targets should be comparable, so different countries do their fair share of the heavy lifting. Now poor countries like India and Bangladesh will have to do a lot more than the US to keep temperature rises from wrecking havoc on their communities. Obama also proposes that there should be no rules about how targets are met or what penalties for not meeting them should be. In effect what President Obama has announced is that the US will not negotiate on emission targets – on their size, on how they are determined, or how they are achieved. In this context when the US says it’s for a ‘legally binding outcome’ I’m with outgoing UNFCCC Executive Security Yvo De Beor when he asks what does that mean in substance?

It’s also got the world asking the broader question: what’s the point of negotiating with the US at all? If the US will do whatever it decides (a 4% cut on 1990 levels by 2020 with unlimited offsets), no matter what the world decides, then what value is there for the world letting Obama save face by pretending to be a part of the solution? Increasingly the answer seems to be: very little. Perhaps someone at Bonn will say: ‘We want to go forwards. If the US wants to go backwards, please go by yourself. We’re going forwards and you can join us later.”

To see what is actually said at Bonn check back here as I (and others) provide updates – I’ll also be tweeting @climatedebtorg

[1] See p. 48 of this report for an example of the US bracketing the entire text on developed country emission targets at Copenhagen

Stand-in Ends with Phone Conversation with House Rules Chair

Posted on behalf of Katie Chin, New Media Coordinator of Students for a Just and Stable Future

On this historic 40th anniversary of Earth Day, participants in The Leadership Campaign have once again reminded us all of the courage necessary to create the just and stable future called for in 1970. The Leadership Campaign is a Massachusetts coalition of students, community members, and members of the faith community. Together they have introduced legislation demanding that Massachusetts create a plan to reach 100% clean electricity by 2020. Since the introduction of “An Act to Create A Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force” on December 7, 2010 the campaign has worked diligently towards gaining support throughout the state for this bold and important bill.

Currently the bill is held up in the House Committee on Rules, headed by Representative John Binienda. Representative Binienda has the power to release the bill. He has claimed that he supports the goal of 100% clean electricity by 2020, but has nonetheless been blocking the bill and thus has prevented it from receiving a fair hearing. Today, the campaign conducted a stand-in direct action.

Continue reading ‘Stand-in Ends with Phone Conversation with House Rules Chair’

MA Bill Leaves Committee as Climate Court Hearings Continue

Cross-posted at The Leadership Campaign Blog

Today, An Act to Create a Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force — written by Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) and others in The Leadership Campaign — was released from the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee during the 6th Day of Climate Court Hearings for the Boston Common Sleep-out.

Each day last week, citizen-activists marched from the Court House after paying their court fees to the State House to show legislators the depth and breadth of support for the bill.  Well over 100 people faced the courts last week for sleeping out on the Boston Common after the park had formally closed (a misdemeanor trespassing offense).

After scores of people visited his and other key legislator’s offices indicating their support, Senator Frederick Berry, Chair of the Senate Ethics & Rules Committee (and Senate Majority Leader) released the bill from his committee and moved it along to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy.

“We are extremely thankful to Senator Berry for releasing our bill from committee, opening debate to legislators across the state and allowing us to focus our energy on gathering the votes needed to pass it this spring,” said Martha Pskowski, Hampshire student and Western Massachusetts Legislative Coordinator for SJSF. Continue reading ‘MA Bill Leaves Committee as Climate Court Hearings Continue’