Calling Out the Bullies
A recent NY Times article about Julia Trigg Crawford, a Texas farmer who stood up to TransCanada’s demand that the Keystone XL pipeline cross her property, reminded me of something Jeremy Symons of National Wildlife Federation said to me recently. “We will win when people realize that the fossil fuel industry is a bully. They abuse our land, our air, and our health. They violate our rights and pervert our political system.” Examples of bullying are everywhere–mountain top removal, poisoned water from fracking, attacks on the EPA–and it’s all sheltered with money poured into Congress and the media to protect fossil fuel subsidies, fight regulation and oversight, and deny the science behind the most critical issue of our time.
The bullying in Ms. Crawford’s case is all too common, but still hard to believe. Worried about contamination of her creek, she didn’t want the pipeline on her land, but the company did not take “no” for an answer. She soon discovered they didn’t have to. Texas law allows private pipeline companies to use eminent domain to force landowners to let pipelines through. This is true even for TransCanada, a foreign corporation that doesn’t even have approval to bring Keystone XL across the border.
The Guardian reports there is an effort underway by conservative think tanks in the U.S. to eliminate all government programs aimed at promoting the use of renewables. The decade-long surge in renewables can largely be attributed to state renewable portfolio standards requiring utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, federal production tax credits and stimulus grants. The stimulus grants have expired; the tax credit for wind will expire at the end of 2012. These attacks include:
• A new $6 million election ad buy by the ultra-conservative group Americans for Prosperity attacking Barack Obama’s support for wind and solar power.
• An e-mail and telephone campaign by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Tax Reform to repeal or alter clean energy mandates requiring electricity companies to get a share of their power from renewables.
• Putting forward ALEC-drafted bills overturning those measures in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Montana and Washington state.
However, citizens everywhere are calling bullies out and standing up to their abuses. Julia Crawford started a legal fund, “Stand with Julia,” to fight for her property, and donations have topped $6,000. Opposition to Keystone itself continues to grow, and people all across the country are fighting dirty coal and unregulated fracking.
Other examples of standing up to bullies this week include:
• The effort to stop the $113 billion in tax breaks, handouts, and subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the next 10 years. Today, May 14, 350.org and a number of partners including Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen and others are launching a week-long online push, with the goal of getting hundreds of thousands of people to sign on to support ending these subsidies. For more information, see this week’s featured action alert, below, on the End Polluter Welfare Act.
• Oil Change International just completed a major update of DirtyEnergyMoney.com. The new data reveals that members of Congress have taken almost $16 million from the oil, gas and coal industries so far in this 112th Congress. That puts this Congress on track to be the dirtiest ever. Contributions to Congress from the oil, gas and coal industry have doubled in the last decade.
• A group of California teenagers is suing the federal government for endangering the survival of their generation. They hold the government responsible for global warming because it hasn’t reduced national emissions of carbon dioxide. The teens filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., which is scheduled on Friday to hear motions to dismiss the case.
• The juvenile plantiffs are part of an organization called Kids vs. Global Warming, founded by then 12-year-old Alec Loorz of Ventura, California. Now a high school senior, he says the lawsuit is vital to his survival. “The government has a legal responsibility to protect the future for our children,” Loorz declared. “So we are demanding that they recognize the atmosphere as a commons that needs to be preserved, and commit to a plan to reduce emissions to a safe level.” Specifically, the youths demand an immediate cap on greenhouse gas emissions and a six percent reduction every year starting in 2013.
The fossil fuel industry may be a big and powerful bully, but every day the community is gaining powerful new tools and ground to fight back. There is so much great work going on, too much to mention in just today’s Hotline. Keep it up, send us your stories, and check out the action alert below!
Peter Bahouth, Executive Director, US Climate Action Network.