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The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading California

By various - International Transport Federation, et. al., November 2016

In the recent election, Chevron-backed campaigns lost bigtime, despite the $61 million the company has spent to influence California elections since 2009. That’s far more than any other oil company spend in state elections. The report, by the International Transport Workers Federation, was released Nov. 17 at the Chevron gates by a coalition including the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), and more.

Members of the coalition said the report, The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy, will educate the public about the corrupting influence of corporate money and alert politicians that they will be judged on whether they act in the public interest or in Chevron’s interest.

In this election, in State Assembly and State Senate races, candidates heavily backed by Chevron lost. In Monterey County, Chevron spent $1.5 to oppose a ballot measure to ban fracking and expanded oil drilling. Despite being outspent 33 to 1, the measure passed.

In Richmond, Chevron sat out this election, having spent $3 million in the last election, when its candidates lost anyway. This year, two additional progressive candidates won seats on the city council and a longstanding Chevron candidate was voted out.

Chevron makes billions in profits from its huge retail and refining business in California, but has aggressively cut tax payments to federal, state and local governments. In 2015, the company paid no net income tax in the US, but instead banked nearly $1.7 billion in tax credits.

In 2015, Chevron had over $45 billion stashed in offshore accounts, including the company’s 211 active Bermuda subsidiaries, and the company’s global effective tax rate fell to below 3%.

Read the report (PDF).

Breathing in the benefits: How an accelerated coal phase-out can reduce health impacts and costs for Albertans

By Benjamin Israël, Kim Perrotta, Joe Vipond, Leigh Allard, and Vanessa Foran - Pembina Institute, September 2016

With the phase-out of coal power announced by the provincein November 2015, Albertans stand to avoid significant health impacts caused by coal pollution. By extension, afurtheraccelerated phase out of coal power facilities would both hastenand amplify those avoided health impacts.The health benefits and costs savings in avoided health outcomes would be significant, and should be consideredin the government’s planning of the coal phase-out from now to 2030.

While the provincial government has announced a coal phase-out, they have not yet released a transition schedule. This analysis assesses the relative benefits of an accelerated stepwise transition away from coal, as proposed by the Pembina Institute,versus the back-loaded phase-out that otheranalyses haveposited.

In 2012, when the federal government finalized its coal regulations that —in effect —reduce electricity generation from coal plants, Environment Canada(as it was called at that time)estimated considerable health impacts would be avoided, usinghighly regarded modelling techniques. Logically, thesesignificantbenefits from reducing coal necessarily mean that the use of coal for power generation causesconsiderablehealth impacts in the first place.

By extrapolating the health benefit results from Environment Canada’s analysis, this report highlights the full impact of coal-fired generation in Albertaand indicates attainable benefits associated with the province’s coal phase- out.When the federal government weakened its proposed coal regulations back in 2012 in response to lobbying from some coal generators, allowing coal plants to continue unabated longer than first proposed,it left health savings on the table. Alberta can now grasp these savings byaccelerating our transition away from coal-fired electricity.

Read the report (PDF).

(Working Paper #7) An Illness to One is the Concern of All: The Health Impacts of Rising Fossil Fuel Use

By Svati Shah and Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 2016

This paper has been written to help unions representing workers in all sectors get a clear sense of what is presently happening in terms of the health impact of fossil fuel use and what could also happen if present patterns in energy use continue into the future. The data are presented in a way that unions can use to more effectively advocate both for their members and the broader public.

Unions in health care can play—indeed are playing—an important role in addressing both the climate-related and the pollution-related dimensions of the unfolding health crisis, as can health and safety personnel working with or for unions in different sectors. But the health-related impacts of rising pollution levels and climate change are expected to affect the lives of workers across a range of occupations. Unions representing workers in emergency services, workers in transport systems, or workers who must work outdoors in agriculture or construction also have a particularly important role to play. The situation requires as unified a response as possible.

One of the striking features of fossil fuel use today is how much it reflects and reinforces class inequalities. It is well known that rich countries consume far more energy per per-son than poorer ones, but within both rich and poor countries there is often a huge gulf between the energy consumed by the rich and the energy consumed by the poor and working class. The same is true of emissions. A December 2015 study released by Oxfam calculated that the poorest half of the global population are responsible for only around 10% of global emissions yet live overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change while the richest 10% of people in the world are responsible for around 50% of global emissions.

Trade unions with the capacity to play more of an active role in resisting the expansion of fossil fuel use can be confident of the fact that they will be intersecting with a rising global movement that is confronting fossil fuel extraction, including “unconventional fuels” like shale gas and shale oil. The concerns that drive this movement are numerous. Along with climate and air quality concerns, struggles have been built around questions of water scarcity and contamination and the fight to defend land and livelihoods from “extractivist” energy companies.

Read the report (PDF).

Smoke and Mirrors: Lonmin’s failure to address housing conditions at Marikana, South Africa

By staff - Amnesty International, August 16, 2016

Since 2012 Amnesty International has commented and campaigned on the serious policing failures that led to the deaths at Marikana, calling for full accountability and reparations for the victims and their families. That work continues.

This report examines abuses of the right to adequate housing of mine workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine operation. Its primary focus is an examination of Lonmin’s response to the findings of the Farlam Commission.

In this regard it looks both at what Lonmin has done and what the company has said about the situation.

Read the text (PDF).

Critical Gulf: The Vital importance of ending new fossil fuel leases in the Gulf of Mexico

By various - Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Bold Louisiana, August 2016

As this report was going to press, a massive storm caused unprecedented flooding in Louisiana, destroying tens of thousands of homes and killing at least 11 people. Thousands of others were forced to evacuate. This is exactly the kind of extreme weather projected to become more severe on the Gulf Coast as the climate crisis intensifies.

And that’s what this report is about: the necessity of a rapid and just transition to clean energy to reduce this terrifying threat to the Gulf Coast. We must begin by stopping new fossil fuel leasing in the Gulf of Mexico to prevent offshore drilling and fracking that could ultimately contribute nearly 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to global warming.

“Climate change is never going to announce itself by name. But this is what we should expect it to look like,” was the first line of a New York Times story about the flood. Indeed climate scientists and meteorologists are linking the Louisiana deluge to a series of extreme floods caused by climate change in the United States over the past two years.

The link between burning fossil fuels and heavy rains is clear and direct. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, which warms our atmosphere. “As the atmosphere warms, so does the ocean,” climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe explained in a recent Facebook post about the Louisiana flooding. “Evaporation speeds up, making more water available for a storm to pick up and dump as it sweeps through.”

The National Weather Service in New Orleans measured record levels of moisture in the air during this storm. More than two feet of rain fell on Baton Rouge and southern Louisiana in under 48 hours, sending most of the region’s rivers over their banks on Aug. 17 and flooding thousands of homes. That deluge was the result of a low-pressure storm system that stalled off the coast and kept sucking more moisture from the unusually warm Gulf waters, which will only grow warmer over time.

It’s high time the communities of the Gulf Coast cease to be treated as sacrifice zones. They deserve environmental justice and a clean energy future. Turning away from fossil fuel extraction in the Gulf will allow them to weather future storms, help end our dangerous collective reliance on fossil fuels, and dramatically reduce hazards for future generations.

Read the report (PDF).

The Price Tag of Being Young: Climate Change and Millennials’ Economic Future

By Rachel Morello-Frosch, Manuel Pastor, James Sadd, Lara Cushing, Madeline Wander, and Allen Zhu - NextGen Climate and Demos, August 2016

This report quantifies the cost of climate change to millennials and their children, compared to a world without climate change. The climate change costs are compared to other significant economic burdens millennials will face over the course of their lifetime, including student debt, child care, stagnant wages, and the lack of good jobs. The key findings of this analysis include:

  • Without action on climate change, a 21-year-old in the class of 2015 earning a median income will lose $126,000 in lifetime income, and $187,000 in wealth.
  • Without action on climate change, a 21-year-old earning a median income will lose $100,000 in lifetime income, and $142,000 in wealth.
  • For the children of millennials, the losses from climate change will be drastically greater.
  • Without action on climate change, the millennial generation as a whole will lose nearly $8.8 trillion in lifetime income.
  • The economic losses caused by climate change are substantially greater than the damages of other economic challenges.
  • Student debt costs the median-earning college-educated individual approximately $113,000 in lost wealth over a lifetime, due to reduced savings for retirement and home ownership.
  • Losses from the Great Recession cost the median-earning college-educated household $112,000.

We must act quickly to address climate change because the impacts are occurring now faster and stronger than predicted:

  • July 2016 was the 15th straight month of record-breaking heat.
  • The 21st century has seen 15 of the 16 hottest years on record.
  • For the eighth consecutive year, extreme weather has cost U.S. taxpayers over $10 billion.
  • Sea levels are rising and in Miami, Norfolk, and other coastal cities, tidal flooding is becoming the norm – even on days without storms.
  • Drier and longer droughts are threatening our public health and crops.

We must transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy in order to avoid the devastating economic impacts of climate change detailed in this report.

Read the report (PDF).

A Deadly Shade of Green: Threats to Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Latin America

By staff - Center for International Environmental Law, et. al., Summer 2016

On 3 March 2016, a wave of indignation and repudiation swept the world, condemning the brutal and cowardly assassination of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and community leader who inspired thousands of people through her work promoting the rights of the Lenca people.

Her death came amid a growing number of attacks against human rights defenders, particularly campaigners peacefully defending the environment, the right to land and the rights of indigenous peoples. This situation is not limited to Honduras, but can be seen throughout the continent, in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador. This long list is being added to by an increasing number of countries that seem willing to put economic interests before those of people and territories. Reports from numerous organizations confirm a steady deterioration of the situation, highlighting the fact that Latin America has become the most dangerous region in the world for environmental activists.

Various types of attack have been committed against campaigners and their organizations. They range from surveillance campaigns, harassment, and being discredited in the media and social networks, to physical assaults, acts of torture, enforced disappearances and assassinations. In addition, there is widespread corruption and impunity in many countries where relations between state and non-state actors are often ambiguous. We should note, in particular, the attacks against female human rights defenders, who face threats of sexual violence and smear campaigns based on their gender. All of this is exacerbated by the context of increasing criminalization of social protest, and use of the law to suppress dissent in Latin American and Caribbean societies.

Despite the grim outlook, there are reasons to remain optimistic. Civil society has never looked so strong, organized and determined. International solidarity strengthened by the globalization of exchanges between people and organizations makes it possible to bring these struggles out of isolation, and demand accountability to ensure the effective implementation of human rights commitments.

Read the report (EN PDF) | (ES PDF).

Unfair Market Value II: Coal Exports and the Value of Federal Coal

By Clark Williams-Derry - Sightline Institute, June 17, 2016

This report documents massive exports of federally owned coal from 2000-15. The US Bureau of Land Management sold private companies the right to mine this coal for a pittance—in some cases, for less than 20 cents per ton. And when Asian demand was red-hot, these companies made massive profits selling millions of tons of federal coal overseas. Nonetheless, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has essentially ignored export economics when setting the “fair market value” that it will accept for federal coal leases. Now that the Department of Interior has placed a three-year moratorium on new coal leases pending a thorough review of federal coal policies, BLM has an ideal opportunity for a thorough review of the economics of exports. And our report points to evidence that by ignoring exports, the BLM has been selling many federal coal leases at just a fraction of their true economic value.

Read the report (PDF).

No relief: Denial of bathroom breaks in the poultry industry

By staff - OxFam, 2016

As poultry workers are routinely denied adequate bathroom breaks, they face dangers to their health and blows to their dignity.

While the poultry industry today enjoys record profits and pumps out billions of chickens, the reality of life inside the processing plant remains grim and dangerous. Workers earn low wages, suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, toil in difficult conditions, and have little voice in the workplace.

Despite all that, though, workers say the thing that offends their dignity most is simple: lack of adequate bathroom breaks, and the suffering that entails, especially for women.

Routinely, poultry workers say, they are denied breaks to use the bathroom. Supervisors mock their needs and ignore their requests; they threaten punishment or firing. Workers wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline.

Workers struggle to cope with this denial of a basic human need. They urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security. And it’s not just their dignity that suffers: they are in danger of serious health problems.

The situation strikes women particularly hard. They face biological realities such as menstruation, pregnancy, and higher vulnerability to infections; and they struggle to maintain their dignity and privacy when requesting breaks.

Supervisors deny requests to use the bathroom because they are under pressure to maintain the speed of the processing line, and to keep up production. Once a poultry plant roars to a start at the beginning of the day, it doesn’t stop until all the chickens are processed. Workers are reduced to pieces of the machine, little more than the body parts that hang, cut, trim, and load—rapidly and relentlessly.By its nature, it is demanding and exhausting work.

But it does not have to be dehumanizing, and it does not have to rob people of their dignity and health.

Read the report (Link).

Pitch Black: The Journey of Coal from Colombia to Italy; the Curse of Extractivism

By various - Re:Common, April 2016

By presenting the horrors suffered under the domination of multinational companies, this work by Re:Common will dispel any lingering doubt that the current economic system based on extractivism is a war against the poor (what subcommander Marcos called the “Fourth World War”).

If someone who trusts the mainstream media and academic analyses thinks that at some point colonialism disappeared from the face of the Earth, this work, based on documents and testimonies, demonstrates otherwise.

For those who believe that progress is the most striking characteristic of our times, starting with the post-World War II period, the voices of the missing that populate these pages will convince you that present-day capitalism is a just a revamped version of the Spanish conquest of five centuries ago.

Throughout this work, all the variables of extractivism can be seen: from occupation of the territory and displacement of people to the role of the offshore banking and financial system, as two complementary and inseparable parts of accumulation by theft/dispossession. In the occupied territories, the displacement occurs in the form of war, with the participation of military, paramilitary, guerrilla and the greatest variety of imaginable armed actors.

The victims are always the weak: poor women and their children, elderly men and women, peasants, Indians, blacks, mestizos, the “wretched of the Earth,” as Frantz Fanon calls them. I want to emphasize, though it may seem anachronistic, and without reference to academic sources, how the extractive model coincides with colonialism, despite the different eras. This is not only due to the violent occupation of territories and the displacement of populations, but also to the salient features of the model.

Economically, extractivism has generated enclave economies, as it did in the colonies, where the walled port and plantations with slaves were its masterworks. This colonial/extractive model held populations 6 hostage in both 1500 and 2000.

Extractivism produces powerful political interventions by multinational enterprises, often allied with States, which manage to modify legislation, co-opting municipalities and their governors. It is an asymmetrical relationship between powerful multinationals and weak states, or better, states weakened by their own local elite who benefit from the model.

Like colonialism, the extractive model promotes the militarization of the territories, because it is the only way to eradicate the population, which, recalling Subcommander Marcos, is the real enemy in this fourth world war. Militarization, violence, and systematic rape of women and girls are not excesses or errors; they are part of the model because the population is the military objective.

To understand extractivism, we must consider it not as an economic model, but as a system. Like capitalism. Certainly there is a capitalist economy, but capitalism is not just the economic aspect. Extractivism (as stated by Re:Common) is capitalism in its financial phase and cannot be understood only as an economic variable. It implies a culture that promotes not work but consumption, which has (systemic) corruption as one of its central features. Put in another way, corruption is the extraction mode of governing.

Therefore, extractivism is not an economic actor; it is a political, social, cultural, and of course also economic actor. At this point, it’s crucial that the central part of this work describes human beings and the Earth as the subjects for looting, which is much more than the theft of the commons. Understanding dispossession only as robbery places property ownership at the center of the matter, in the place of people and land; e.g., life.

Read the text (PDF).

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