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How We Beat Trump’s Dirty Power Play

By Ben Ishibashi - Common Dreams, October 11, 2017

Donald Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, think undoing all that has gone before them is something to celebrate. With no real accomplishments of their own, they revel in their power to destroy, rather than defend.

This is what Pruitt wants out of his bid to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Obama Administration’s signature effort to cut carbon emissions from electric power generation by 32 percent by 2030.

“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt crowed at a press conference on Monday in Hazard, Kentucky, beaming. as if easing restrictions on dirty generators will magically bring back jobs to the state’s ravaged coalfields. It will not.

Allowing power companies to pump more carbon into the atmosphere won’t create jobs, nor will it revitalize the economy, even if Pruitt and Trump claim it as a big win.

But their bid to repeal the Clean Power Plan may have one silver lining: It gives all of us who care about climate justice a new opportunity to make our voices heard, and to fight for our planet’s future.

The Corporate Assault on Science

By Murray Dobbin - CounterPunch, October 6, 2017

The fact that science is the foundation for civilization and democracy should be self-evident. Regrettably that connection seems often to escape our collective consciousness. We tend to think of science narrowly as restricted to hi-tech, laboratories and the development of electric cars or travel to Mars. But everything we do collectively from Medicare to fighting climate change to designing social programs, building infrastructure and tax policy we take for granted is rooted in evidence, that is, science.

The advent of right-wing populist hostility towards evidence and now extended by so-called alternate facts, threatens to take us down the dystopian road of the irrational. The spread of this trend in the US – highlighted by the election of Trump as president and the inability of US culture to cope with gun violence – is as much a threat to the future of the human race as is climate change.

The trend started in earnest in the 1990’s and it took a long time for scientists themselves to step up and defend their ground. An unprecedented and overt attack on public science by Stephen Harper forced the traditionally a-political science community to take a public stand for evidence-based policy. In the summer of 2012 hundreds of demonstrators marched from an Ottawa science conference to Parliament Hill under the banner the ‘Death of Evidence’.   Many were working scientists wearing their lab coats. Last April there was the world-wide Global March for Science in 600 cities coinciding with Earth Day.

The fight back for science and by scientists is one of the bright spots in the resistance against the rise of irrationalism. But there is another dark corner that has not had as much light shone on it and that is the pernicious corruption of science and scientists.

A recent book gives us a major resource for understanding and exposing the sinister trade in lies and obfuscation that results in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deaths every year. Corporate Ties that Bind: An Examination of Corporate Manipulation and Vested Interests in Public Health is a 450 page, 24 chapter compendium by an   international group of scientists about how corporations routinely set out to undermine public interest science – and how they have found hundreds of scientists eager to do their bidding.

Those who consider themselves informed citizens know of course that science is often corrupted with the tobacco industry being the poster child for deadly science fraud. But even the most disillusioned will have their breath taken away by the accounts in this book. One of the most compelling chapters is authored by Canadian Kathleen Ruff (a friend) who led the successful fight against asbestos in Canada.

Ruff documents how the strategy of the tobacco industry was adopted by virtually every other dirty industry eager to hide their toxic products. The advice received by the industry from the infamous Hill and Knowlton was “…not to challenge scientific evidence but instead to seize and control it. …declare the value of scientific skepticism…creating an appearance of scientific controversy.” It was a brilliant strategy and is still being used today.

EPA Forces Staff to Attend Anti-Leak Classes as Attack on Environment Continues

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, September 21, 2017

As the Trump administration continues to gut regulations meant to protect public health and the environment, the Associated Press reports Thursday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffers are being forced to attend anti-leaking classes this week as part of a wider effort by the White House to stem the flow of unauthorized information reaching the public.

The AP, which obtained training materials from the Environmental Protection Agency's hour-long anti-leaking class, reports how "a three-page fact sheet sent to EPA employees as part of the training warned that leaks of even unclassified information could have serious consequences to national security."

The document reportedly provided examples detailing how government secrets previously have been revealed through espionage, hacking, or leaks to the press, and noted that "enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm U.S. interests."

The mandatory anti-leak training follows Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcment last month that the Justice Department was launching an intense war on leaks, and planned to investigate and possibly prosecute government employees who share unauthorized information. Sessions' comments, as Common Dreams reported, were immediately denounced by press freedom groups, journalists, and civil libertarians as "a direct attack on the First Amendment."

Though leaks have been a part of all presidencies in recent memory, since the beginning, "the Trump White House has gushed," and multiple federal agencies—concerned about the long-term consequences of the administration's policies—have followed suit, including the EPA.

The agency has made headlines in recent months for being too cozy with the fossil fuel industry and purging federal scientists, which has reportedly spurred internal strife at the EPA and even provoked some staff to publicly resign in protest. In April, the EPA removed pages about climate change from its website.

And while the Trump administration attempts to suppress important information as it champions deregulation efforts, many of its moves to cut environmental protections have been blatant and public.

Trump’s Energy Plan: A “Brighter Future” for American Workers?

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 28, 2017

Full PDF of the White Paper can be found HERE

The day he was inaugurated, President Donald Trump issued his “America First Energy Plan.”[1] It presented policies it said would “stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health” and thereby provide “a brighter future.” Trump has promised that his energy policy will create “many millions of high-paying jobs.”[2]

What do American workers need in an energy policy? Does President Trump’s energy plan provide it? Or does it threaten our future? Is it credible or deceptive? Does it put us on the road to good jobs in an affordable, reliable energy future? Or does it threaten to reverse a massive shift to a more secure, climate-safe, fossil-free energy system — a clean energy revolution that will benefit American workers, and that is already under way?

Some in organized labor have been attracted by President Trump’s energy plan, even echoing the claim that it will provide “a brighter future.” But one thing you learn when you negotiate a contract for a union is to take a hard look at proposals you are offered— however attractive they may appear, it is best to unwrap the package and see what’s really in it before you agree. Labor should conduct similar “due diligence” for Trump’s America First Energy Plan. Was it designed to meet the needs of American workers, or of the global oil, gas, and coal companies whose executives have been appointed to so many top positions in the Trump administration? Will it encourage or hold up the energy revolution that is making renewable energy and energy efficiency the way of the future?

'Sheer Reckless Folly': Trump Destroys Obama-Era Climate Rules

By Nika Knight - Common Dreams, March 28, 2017

President Donald Trump on Tuesday set about aggressively dismantling Obama-era climate policies with an executive order decried as "sheer reckless folly," which will increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the climate crisis.

"Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump's effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions," said David J. Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen's Climate Program, in a statement.

"This day may be remembered as a low point in human history—a time when the world's preeminent power could have led the world to a better future but instead moved decisively toward catastrophe," Arkush added.

The order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would have limited the emissions of coal-powered power plants. It also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing, repeals limits on methane emissions from fracking, and directs the agency to reconsider the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Environmental Policy Act guidance on greenhouse gas emissions.

"The EPA's rollback of basic environmental rules demonstrates that when it comes to the health of our children, our communities, and our climate, this is an administration of lawlessness and disorder," said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the grassroots sustainability group UPROSE, in statement.

"For frontline communities, those of us impacted first and worst by the extraction economy, this means an escalation of public health crises, from asthma to cancer. It means an utter disregard for those of us most vulnerable to climate disasters," Yeampierre added. "It means a  world of volatility and exploitation for our children and grandchildren."

Environmentalists, local and state leaders, and advocacy groups are vowing to resist.

Climate Activists Pledge Huge Response to Trump’s Executive Order

By Dani Heffernan - Common Dreams, March 28, 2017

Climate activists are joining with labor, social justice, faith, and other organizations to plan a massive march in Washington, D.C. this April 29th that will offer up resistance to Trump’s new executive orders and put forward the vision of a clean energy economy that works for all.

The “Peoples Climate March” aims to bring upwards of 100,000 people to Washington, D.C. and turn out tens of thousands more across the country to push back on Trump’s agenda and stand up for climate, jobs and justice.

350.org is one of the organizations on the steering committee for the mobilization and is working on turning out members to D.C. and actions across the country.

350.org Executive Director May Boeve said:

“The best way to fight against these executive orders is to take to the streets. Even as Trump dismantles environmental protections to shore up the fossil fuel industry, support for action to stop global warming is at an all-time high. Now it’s up to communities to bring our vision of a healthy climate and a just transition to renewable energy to life. From the upcoming congressional recess through the Peoples Climate March and beyond, we’ll be putting pressure on lawmakers to defend the climate and building power to stop the fossil fuel industry for good.”

The wide-ranging coalition behind the Peoples Climate March includes major labor unions and environmental, climate justice, faith, youth, social justice, peace groups, and more (the “Peoples” in the title is a direct reference to the role of Indigenous peoples in helping lead the effort). In 2014, the same coalition brought over 400,000 people to the streets of New York City to call for climate action ahead of the Paris Climate Summit.

Contrary to Spin, Trump Slashing Energy Jobs With New Executive Order

By Nika Knight - Common Dreams, March 28, 2017

As the Trump administration brags that Tuesday's executive order to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations will create coal industry jobs, new employment data from the Department of Energy (DoE) demonstrates how misguided that claim is.

Clean energy employs many more Americans than the fossil fuel industry, and economic forecasts show that the trend will continue, according to a Sierra Club analysis published Monday of the DoE's 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (pdf) released earlier this year.

"Clean energy jobs, including those from solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart grid technology, and battery storage, vastly outnumber all fossil fuel jobs nationwide from the coal, oil and gas sectors. That includes jobs in power generation, mining, and other forms of fossil fuel extraction," the Sierra Club observed.

Nationwide, "clean energy jobs outnumber all fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to 1; and they outnumber all jobs in coal and gas by 5 to 1," the group wrote.

"Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

The New York Times also examined the ramifications of President Donald Trump's pending order, which would dismantle former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, and echoed the Sierra Club's findings.

Indeed, the newspaper notes that while more coal plants could remain open as a result of the order, increasing mechanization means that coal miners may still see job loss:

[C]oal miners also should not assume their jobs will return if Trump's regulations take effect.

The new order would mean that older coal plants that had been marked for closings would probably stay open, said Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming. That would extend the market demand for coal for up to a decade.

But even so, "the mines that are staying open are using more mechanization," he said. "They’re not hiring people."

"So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs," he said.

"The problem with coal jobs has not been CO2 regulations, so this will probably not bring back coal jobs," Godby added. "The problem has been that there has not been market demand for coal."

Coal industry executive Robert Murray, of Murray Energy, apparently agrees. Murray told the Guardian that in a meeting with Trump, the coal boss told the president to temper his expectations.

"He can't bring [coal jobs] back," Murray said.

Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, added to the Guardian: "Friends of the coal industry now populate the highest perches of our agencies and they will do their best to unwind clean air and water regulations and we will fight them every step of the way. But even if all their wishes come true, I don't think there will be a big boost to the coal industry."

The Times further cast doubt on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt's claim that the order would support U.S. energy independence. "We don't import coal," Robert Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University, told the newspaper. "So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever."

"These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires," charged the Sierra Club's Brune.

"If we truly want to grow our economy, reduce air and water pollution, protect public health and create huge numbers of news jobs for American workers," Brune added, "we must seize the opportunity that is right in front of our eyes: invest more in clean energy including solar, wind, storage and energy efficiency."

"Obama Has Killed Coal"

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughful Coal Miner, December 12, 2015

I keep seeing people pointing fingers at Obama and the EPA for the woes of the Appalachian Coal Miner, so let’s think about it…

How hard would it be to believe that the power companies, the natural gas (oil) companies, and the coal companies sat down over a nice steak dinner to discuss our nations energy future?

Perhaps they worked things out like this….

The coal industry knows there’s not that much coal left, but they can still get to it and make a hell of a profit if they can do it cheaply, but there’s a catch—they have to surface mine it and tear up hell to do it (mountain top removal). The natural gas companies know they have a product that is cleaner than coal and the power companies know they can build cheaper plants, but they don’t want to leave their long time buddies with the coal industry hanging either. I should also add that they are all investing in each others stock.

So let’s devise a plan. Natural gas can get by  as a “clean” energy alternative or “bridge” fuel. In the mean time, they can allow their politician buddies to garner a few votes by enacting new regulations which doesn’t affect natural gas as badly, makes them look good with the “treehuggers” and puts a squeeze on coal markets. The benefit to the coal industry is it makes it look like there is a “War on Coal” which does two things. Not only does it get the democratic vote with people thinking they’re helping fight MTR and climate change, but it also gets all the republican voters to fight against regulations and vote in candidates who they think will help them keep their jobs.

On the surface (no pun intended) it appears like a big struggle, the “liberal” politicians hold up 36 surface mining permits letting the “treehuggers” feel like their winning, but it also gets all the working people in Appalachia to ignore the “treehugger’s” information on climate change and cancer rates, and to even go a step further and fight for de-regulation that paves the way for the coal companies to tear up hell without any consequence.

At the same time all the working people are so damn job scared they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their jobs. This would mean working mandatory overtime and being forced into taking short cuts for fear of getting fired if they don’t meet production (Upper Big Branch). The coal companies can even get by with filing bankruptcy and jerking all the benefits from their pensioners while everyone points all their blind hatred towards the EPA and the president. Coal mining families continue to vote in the conservatives who have everyone thinking they’re for the working people, but in truth they are cutting the working man’s throat by blocking safety regulations (giving miners the right to shut a section down if it’s unsafe to operate) and labor rights laws (that could put an end to mandatory overtime and cause them to have to hire more miners). The “War on Coal” also focuses everyone’s hatred away from where it should be.

Everyone should be focusing their hatred on all the coal companies and politicians who have manipulated them into believing coal is all there is and ever will be, while not lifting one single finger to build up local infrastructure and bring in job alternatives. Billions of dollars of coal have left Appalachia in just the last decade and not a damn thing has been done to bring in job alternatives or build up our roads, or our towns, or our education systems. Instead, they give everyone “Friends of Coal” stickers and go into the public schools to teach our kids about their version of coal in Appalachia without all the bloody union struggles and company hired mercenaries killing the families of coal miners trying to fight for a living wage.

They want people poor and desperate enough to fight for the high wages of a mining job and who aren’t afraid to cut their neighbors throat to keep it, whether it’s in the superintendent’s office or running equipment and destroying some poor person’s backyard.

And it looks like the companies and politicians have done a hell of a job at it because people aren’t thinking about the bigger picture. They just want to blame the EPA and Obama.

That’s business my friends. Each company get’s what they want. The coal companies walk away with everything and have all their earnings invested in natural gas, the natural gas industry makes bank, and the politicians—on both sides—get all the perks and votes they can handle.

Just imagine if one day we all woke up and realized we didn’t have to go in debt and work full time jobs for companies that treat us like crap, that we can still grow our own food and live simpler, happier lives with plenty of time to spend with friends and family, raising our children the right way—to be good to each other, to give freely, and that happiness doesn’t come attached to a dollar bill dangling from a coal company’s fishing pole….

Environmental Justice Becoming Just a Platitude at EPA; New “Action Plan” Neuters Enforceable Protection for Overburdened Communities

By Kirsten Stade - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, July 14, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Washington, DC — The proposed new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Action Agenda” for environmental justice contains precious little action and continues to marginalize disadvantaged communities beset by disproportionate pollution burdens, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The EPA plan focuses on symbolic steps that will do little to lift the pollution burden off the poor.

Public comment closes today on EPA’s draft “EJ [Environmental Justice] 2020 Action Agenda framework” which would guide agency efforts over the next five years to make “a visible difference in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities,” according to the agency website. PEER faults this new iteration for, among other reasons, its –

  • Divorce of environmental justice from its underlying basis in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This separation has reduced environmental justice to a largely voluntary program;
  • Absence of any guidance for state and local recipients of EPA funds, leaving the program as an intellectual exercise for EPA staff with little practical consequence; and
  • Lack of any enforceable regulation or even a plan to promulgate any.

“At EPA, environmental justice has devolved into aspirational window-dressing,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the agency has yet to take promised steps to enable communities to defend themselves. “EPA’s ongoing failure to put some teeth into this program only perpetuates environmental injustice.”

The PEER comments urge EPA to adopt best practices from other agencies. For example, the Federal Highway Administration commits itself to “identify and address” undue pollution impacts in communities. By contrast, the EPA plan seeks to “build partnerships” to negotiate away problems.

“In the face of environmental racism, the EPA stance is that of a passive cheerleader,” added Ruch, pointing out that despite its muddled approach EPA is charged with coordinating environmental justice efforts among all federal agencies. “EPA has not even been able to develop guidance to implement the civil rights requirements underlying its environmental justice policies in the hundreds of state and local programs it funds, in the very communities bearing the brunt of pollution-driven insults to public health.”

The PEER comments also describe the fragmented and conflicted cross-currents within EPA that have caused various internal reform efforts to be stillborn. In addition, the agency has a history of civil rights complaints inside its own workforce. “Since EPA has not addressed the civil rights issues within its ranks, it is ill equipped to remedy those same problems outside its hallways,” Ruch concluded.

EcoUnionist News #52

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

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