24 hours to Grill FERC commissioners

URGENT! The Energy subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Commitee has scheduled a hearing on June 12 to compel all four commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to testify. While neither the public nor industry officials are invited to testify, this is a great chance to Crack FERC open by asking the Commissioners about “freedom Gas,” their disagreements over whether and how to evaluate the climate impacts of projects, and the massive buildout of new fracked gas pipelines, compressor stations, export terminals and more.

Can you help by Sending a comment to the Subcommittee? We’ll deliver all your comments and signatures to the Commitee before Wednesday’s hearing, and if you want – we can text or email you when the hearing starts so you can tune in live.

Here’s some background for those of you haven’t been fighting FERC for years:

FERC is a rubber stamp agency that has rejected only two applications out of more than 400 proposed natural gas pipelines/infrastructure projects in the last 30 years. We’ve been protesting FERC and their commissioners for years – and even climbed two stories up a ladder to drop a banner from FERC’s awning this spring to demand Congress change FERC into FREC, the Federal Renewable Energy Commission, as part of a Green New Deal.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, to start with, Fracking contaminates water, poisons the air and land, leads to earthquakes and leaks methane, which is up to 80 times more damaging to our climate than carbon dioxide.

Now is the moment for Congress to act: According to new research, more than 700 new natural gas power plants, petrochemical plants & LNG export terminals have been proposed, planned or built to capitalize on skyrocketing fracked gas production. With just 12 years left to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and build a just transition as fast as we can. But if the frackers get their way, it’s game over for a stable climate. It’s them or us.

Another recent report provides five clear reasons gas is not a bridge fuel to a safe climate:

  1. Gas breaks the carbon budget;
  2. Coal-to-gas switching doesn’t cut it;
  3. Low-cost renewables can displace coal & gas;
  4. Gas isn’t essential for grid reliability;
  5. New gas infrastructure locks in emissions.

But despite the mounting evidence that Gas is a climate disaster, the Trump Administration’s has been issuing Executive Orders and EPA guidance that make it clear they intend to override state objections to new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Some FERC commissioners, especially Richard Glick, have been raising objections. And more than a year ago we pointed out that there were “cracks” developing between commissioners – namely that the Democrats wanted to do more to consider climate impacts and address them, and Republicans refused.

But in the last few weeks things got … weird. After FERC approved another gas export terminal in the Gulf of Mexico (the specific thing we were begging them NOT to do from their awning), Rick Perry and the Department of Energy put out a statement praising fracked gas as “molecules of Freedom.”

While that was so stupid it’s hilarious, it wasn’t satire. This is the actual policy of the United States Department of Energy. And the very next day Acting FERC Chair Neal Chatterjee tweeted his support and made a whole statement to the press about how he has always supported gas exports at any cost.

You could chalk it all up to another corrupt Trump nominee saying stupid and ridiculous things, but with FERC overseeing dozens of applications for new gas pipelines and export terminals, Chatterjee is singularly placed to implement Trump’s fossil fuel vision. And we should be really clear what that means: increasing gas exports means increased fracking and pipelines, which means more cancer, more earthquakes, more explosions, more eminent domain seizures enforced by armed federal officers. It means people die, and get hurt, and treaties get violated, and women disappear or are murdered. That’s what it means, that’s the consequence of this.

So yes “freedom gas” is a hilariously dumb idea, and yes it’s real. But mostly it is the policy of U.S. Department of Energy to hurt you, steal from you and/or kill you and call it freedom. And the chairman of FERC is now signed on to enact that policy.

Sign here to make sure Congress asks FERC about these new reports, their record of approving climate-wrecking gas projects, and holds them accountable.

Call now to shutdown Wheeler

UPDATE – Quick update – Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s climate-destroying nominee to lead the EPA is on the Senate calendar today for a so-called “unanimous consent” vote. Within the last few weeks, Wheeler also said that the Green New Deal would threaten the entire electric grid – belying both a failure to understand how Renewable Energy works, and willingness to lie to the press in service of the Trump administration and the coal industry

You remember Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s climate-destroying nominee to be the permanent head of the EPA? Well he’s about to get a vote in the full Senate.

I’m not going to lie, it’s incredibly unlikely we can stop Wheeler from being confirmed by the full Senate this week. He was passed out of committee last week on a party line votewhich you helped make possible with calls, emails and action demanding that the Committee Shutdown Wheeler, not the EPA in January. And our outspoken advocacy with Friends of the Earth, already got me and my sister arrested while trying to tell Senators about Wheeler’s crimes.

But there’s another really good reason to call your Senator now: Last year, we convinced every Senate Democrat to vote against a Trump nominee for FERC. If we can repeat that this week with a vote on Wheeler, we’ll send a powerful message that confirming Trump’s nominees to key posts on energy and environment is a climate crime. And when it comes time to prosecute the Trump team for their corruption, collusion with polluters, and criminal neglect of our climate: this will be important.

So call now – click or call (202) 224-3121 and tell them what state you live in. Then, tell your Senators you want them to vote NO on making climate-wrecking coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler the permanent head of EPA. And don’t forget to call back, everybody has two Senators!

Need a little more on Wheeler? No problem, we’ve got you covered:

Wheeler, you might remember, has spent most of his life as a lobbyist for the coal industry, most recently for infamous coal-baron Bob Murray. And in the few months he’s been “acting” EPA administrator, he’s stopped at nothing to put fossil fuel profits ahead of public health and the health of the planet.

While he hasn’t committed the kind of outrageous, headline-grabbing scandals Pruitt was known for, Wheeler is an even bigger danger. In just a few months he’s undermined a critical rule that protects us from Mercury pollution – called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Mercury, usually emitted from coal burning power plants, is a dangerous neurotoxin that’s especially dangerous for children and pregnant women. Wheeler also rolled back regulations on the super-potent climate-changing chemical hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)And, perhaps most damning, he’s pushed to ease restrictions on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, and the paint stripper methylene chloride — overruling doctors and scientists who spent years proving that they kill farmworkers, contractors and other workers.

Click or call (202) 224-3121 and tell your Senators you want them to vote NO on making climate-wrecking coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler the permanent head of EPA.

Wheeler, Schumer and a week of action in DC

This has been a busy week for Congress, which means it’s been a busy week for activists. On Tuesday afternoon, Drew helped run a training session at the Friends of the Earth headquarters in Washington D.C. and prepared to take action at Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing. At the training, six of us (including Drew) volunteered to risk arrest by speaking out during the hearing.

The plan was to enter in pairs, splitting the roles so that one would stand and read out a story from someone impacted by Wheeler’s dirty EPA policies or by the government shutdown. The other partner would silently hold a sign reading, “Shut down Wheeler, not the EPA.”

protest in the hallway
Photo by Liz Gorman

The stories to be read were compiled from Friends of the Earth members and public reports on the impacts of EPA policy. The goal was to highlight the injustice of Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing while hundreds of people are impacted by the ongoing government shutdown. With so many people unable to pay their mortgages or afford critical medications, why is Congress prioritizing the confirmation of a puppet to the coal industry to lead the EPA?

The next morning, we arrived on Capitol Hill to line up. We had to hide our posters in bags and under coats. But Capitol Police and Republican Senate staffers suspected something – and in an attempt to prevent any kind of disruption, they filled the hearing room with EPA staff and Republican lawyers before the public was even let in. For this reason, Drew and I were the only pair to make it successfully into the hearing room before the doors were closed and those still in line were moved to the overflow space.

Silent protestors hold signs while emily and other FOE friends are arrested for refusing to be quiet

Photo by Liz Gorman

We waited until Wheeler made his opening remarks and allowed him to introduce his family before standing up. I held a sign and Drew shouted out the story a Texas woman who lives near a coal fired power plant that Wheeler wants to allow to pollute more. Capitol Police ushered us quickly out into the hallway where more than a dozen allier were also chanting and holding up posters. Four more friends were ultimately placed under arrest for refusing to stop chanting or disburse from outside the hearing.

The rest of the crowd stood in the hallway outside of the hearing room with their posters in silence until all of us were escorted out. All six of us were released after paying a fine of fifty dollars.

Drew is placed under arrest for disrupting the hearing of Andrew Wheeler for EPA Administrator

Photo by Liz Gorman

Later that same night, we were back at it, attending a meeting with 350 to plan and train folks for an action the following morning at the office of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. The plan was for a large group to enter the office of Senator Schumer and read out a letter demanding that he sign on to the Green New Deal. Members of the group would also tell their own stories about how the climate change movement has affected their lives. As we exited the office we would sing protest songs while two floors above, four people would drop a banner over the side of a balcony to be viewed from below.

Banner dropped over Sen Schumer's office
photo by 350

On the morning of the action, we met at Union Station and briefed a larger crowd that had not been able to attend the previous night’s training. Then we walked over to the Capitol to file through metal detectors and security checkpoints before making our way to Chuck Schumer’s office. The stories and testimony insider from impacted young people were powerful. And the songs and chants outside echoed through the hallways and marble lobby of the Hart office building. No arrests were made that day, since our banner team chose to comply with orders by Capitol Police to pull up the banner.

On the lower floor, the larger group continued to sing, and share stories of climate impacts, until we were warned to cease and desist. After a second warning, the whole group together then walked over to the park across the street from the capitol building, where reflections and feelings of hope were shared before one final song was sung.

Emily and our team with the banner after the action at Sen Schumer's office
Photo by 350.org

Shutdown Wheeler, not the EPA

This Wednesday, the Senate is set to consider Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s climate denying, fossil fuel loving nominee to replace Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA.

Wheeler, you might remember, has spent most of his life as a lobbyist for the coal industry, most recently for infamous coal-baron Bob Murray. And in the few months he’s been “acting” EPA administrator, he’s stopped at nothing to put fossil fuel profits ahead of public health and the health of the planet.

While he hasn’t committed the kind of outrageous, headline-grabbing scandals Pruitt was known for, Wheeler is an even bigger danger. In just a few months he’s undermined a critical rule that protects us from Mercury pollution – called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Mercury, usually emitted from coal burning power plants, is a dangerous neurotoxin that’s especially dangerous for children and pregnant women. Wheeler also rolled back regulations on the super-potent climate-changing chemical hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). And, perhaps most damning, he’s pushed to ease restrictions on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, and the paint stripper methylene chloride — overruling doctors and scientists who spent years proving that they kill farmworkers, contractors and other workers.

The pattern is clear – every time he’s given a chance, Wheeler puts corporate polluter profits ahead of the health of our people, communities and planet. Sign here to tell the Senate that they MUST reject Andrew Wheeler’s nomination to be permanent EPA Administrator.

To add insult to injury, Wheeler’s nomination is being considered in the middle of the longest government shutdown in history – which has left some 800,000 government employees, including most of the EPA, furloughed, or forced to work without pay. EPA staff who are supposed to be out cleaning up toxic pollution, or monitoring for air pollution right now are stuck home, unpaid and forbidden to look for work. And efforts to recover from recent climate-fueled fires and storms in California, Puerto Rico, or Florida is on hold thanks to Trump’s racist, stupid shutdown.

For the Senate to even consider Wheeler’s nomination during the shutdown is outrageous. Sign here to tell them.

The good news is, we might actually be able to block Wheeler’s confirmation during the shutdown. The Trump team is under fire for prioritizing corporate profits over the public good right now – like how the Interior Department is forcing staff to work overtime to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, even as they fail to pay park rangers to protect rare, endangered Joshua Trees in our national parks.

The corruption is so naked now, that three out of four Americans say the government shutdown is “embarrassing for the country,” and a majority of them blame Donald Trump and his team. In response, Democrats are showing more of the backbone we last saw during the hearings on Bernard McNamee, trump’s climate denying FERC nominee. In response to that loathsome nomination, every Senate Democrat voted as a block to stop McNamee’s nomination.

If we can deliver that same kind of rebuke to Wheeler, combined with the bad press of the Government Shutdown, it might be enough for Republicans to pull or delay his nomination from the schedule. Sign now, and we’ll deliver your message to Senators on the relevant committee this week. Give us your cell phone number when you do, and we’ll text you updates from his committee hearing, and use our new tools to patch you directly through to the right Senators before they vote.

Been a minute

Hey friends, been a minute since my last post. Just want to assure that 1) we’re not done fighting; 2) we’ve been busy, even if we haven’t posted; and 3) There’s more coming soon.

Lightening round recap:

  1. We blocked the doors to the EPA to demand climate justice with the poor people’s campaign on June  18
  2. I stalked the halls of Congress to demand Republican members #FirePruittand then they did!
    1. Two weeks later Pruitt Resigned What the what!?!
  3. I locked myself to a 20 foot tall bamboo tower for 7 hours to #CrackFERCopen and demand reforms at the Federal Energy regulatory Commission (thanks to the more than 10,000 of you who signed in support!)

    1. Later that same week, one of the Republican Commissioners Robert Powelson, announced he is resigning in August – setting up a deadlocked FERC over climate and gas pipelines, exactly what we were trying to accomplish with our action.

There’s been a ton of other news, most of it bad:

  1. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court,Brett Kavanaugh, is a radical, anti- woman, anti-LGBTQ, racist and  anti-environment jurist. And he’s proposed him to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s often called a swing vote was pretty reliably pro-climate and life on earth (Kavanaugh is not).
  2. Pruitt is out at the EPA but his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is equally corrupt, and potentially more dangerous if only because he’s seen as less comically corrupt than Pruitt was – replacing petty scandals over lotion and condo rentals with serious ones about poisoning our air, water and land.
  3. Pipeline construction continues in Lousianna, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and elsewhere as our big, ud, proud, fragile, community continues to fight the black snake on too many fronts to bear. We;ll have na update tomorrow about the current weeks of action happening to support the L’eau Est La Vie Camp. And soon we’ll have more ways to sign, donate, show up and otherwise support all our actions

I trust that even when we can’t find our way back to the keyboard, you know we’re out fighting, demanding action and making change. We started 198 methods to do digital support for direct action climate campaigns. That’s where we’ve been: locking down, sitting in, aking art, making friends and demanding change.

I’ll also point out that, even though times are certainly still dark, the old adage holds: when we fight, we win. IN the last few weeks we fired (another) member of Trump’s corrupt cabinet. We conviced 20% of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to step down and re-create the deadlock we spent a year exploiting to delay, derail and block gas infrastructure all over America. And we’re not out of fight yet.

We ready. We coming. Don’t touch that dial. I believe that we will win.

Pruitt’s trying to over up this cancer-causing chemical report

Last week, hundreds of 198 supporters joined more than 300,000 petition signers and 100 environmental and social justice organizations in calling on Congress to fire EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

But today, he still has a job. What’s more, just today Pruitt abused his power (again) to bodily remove a reporter from a meeting on toxic chemicals. I’ve said it before, but ANY other EPA administrator would have been fired already. But Trump won’t do it. And so far, it seems like it’s going to take more pressure to get Congress to act. So here’s what you can do to help:

  1. Don’t normalize this latest scandal with your silence. Share the news on social media using the links below, or forward this to friends on email.
    1. Share on Facebook.
    2. Share on Twitter.
  2. Chip in to support our ongoing work on this campaign. Last week more than 100 of us participated in petition deliveries from coast to coast. But Congress hasn’t responded to our demands. We need your support to keep planning escalating actions and protests that compel them to #FirePruitt.

The backstory

We’ve been petitioning Congress and the Administration for months to Fire Scott Pruitt, Trump’s racist, corrupt EPA administrator. In cased you missed it, Senator Bernie Sanders helped us lay out the case in a conference call (which hundreds of you participated in) early last week. Click here to listen to a recording if you missed the call (Drew helped moderate and screen your questions).

Last week Pruitt was back on capitol hill to testify before a Senate subcommittee and so were our friends — A crew of activists silently held “Fire Him” signs behind Pruitt as he gave his opening remarks, and again owned the media narrative with stories on CSPAN, Politico, MSNBC, and more.

But the action wasn’t contained to the committee room, or even the East Coast: More than 100 198 methods supporters signed up to deliver more than 300,000 petition signatures demanding Congress Fire Pruitt. There were rallies in New York, sit-down meetings in Philadelphia and Boston, and drop-bys and deliveries in Chicago, California, and hundreds of other locations.

Back on capitol hill, Pruitt’s reception with the Senate was not a friendly one. As with last month’s hearing, Democrats generally called on Pruitt to resign and were harsher in their questioning. Republicans were generally more patient, though Republican Subcommittee chair Murkowski did refer to the scandals as “legitimate” concerns. A lot of questions at the hearing were about whether Pruitt may have had a personal hand in covering up a pollution report that the White House said would be a “PR nightmare” if released.

The report in question is reported to expose the health effects from a class of chemicals used to make non-stick Teflon and some kinds of firefighting foam, which are called perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Other studies from government agencies have linked those chemicals to cancer, developmental disorders and a host of other health problems and hundreds of communities from Vermont to Souther California may already be contaminated contaminated. Which is why it’s suspicious that Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis caused by PFOA and related chemicals. And, as if to confirm that he doesn’t want to talk about the human and environmental consequences, Pruitt chose not to invite victims, community leaders, and even major media outlets to today’s “National Leadership Summit” on PFOA, PFOS, and other chemicals.

When reporters showed up to cover the meeting anyway, they were refused entry and in one instance forcibly ejected. This is only the latest in a string of scandals and cover-ups involving Pruitt. But it’s important that we don’t get resigned to the Trump cycle of repeating scandals and constant crisis. Pruitt won’t quit, and Trump won’t fire him. And that means it’s up to Congress to take action and #FirePruitt. You can help us keep the pressure up:

  1. Don’t normalize this latest scandal with your silence. Share the news on social media using the links below, or forward this to friends on email.
    1. Share on Facebook.
    2. Share on Twitter.
  2. Chip in to support our ongoing work on this campaign.

 

Call in with Bernie Sanders tonight to #FirePruitt

This could be the end for Scott Pruitt: Last Friday, the New York Times broke the story that, Pruitt wined and dined a Roman Catholic cardinal who also is accused of “multiple … sexual offenses” just because the cardinal doesn’t believe in global warming. Then he tried to cover it up from the press and the public by changing FOUR. DIFFERENT. PUBLIC. ACCOUNTS.

Congress is angry (as they should be) but that may not be enough. There are indications that last month, when he testified before a House Committee, Pruitt may have lied and omitted informationas he has done many times before with the press and public – and therefore broken the law, again.

The only solution is for Congress to fire him using the impeachment process. And that’s exactly what going to do tomorrow, with your help. More than 300,000 people have signed on to demand Congress #FirePruitt. Now we need to deliver the message:

Can you click here to find your member of Congress’ local office and deliver our petition tomorrow at noon? You’ll be provided with a two page delivery packet and training guide to make sure everything goes smoothly. Then, call 844-881-1311 tonight at 6pm Eastern / 3pm pacific, and Senator Bernie Sanders and FOE President Erich Pica will tell you all about it (Drew will be helping manage the Q&A line with other volunteers).

Time and again we’ve seen scandals about Scott Pruitt, and thought to ourselves ‘this time he’s done for’. But every single time, Donald Trump has stood by his man because he appreciates the work Pruitt is doing to destroy our environment and poison our public health on behalf of big polluters.

The White House Press office says they “hoping” Pruitt can address the scandals at his hearing next Wednesday. We need to show up in force and make it clear that Pruitt can’t cover up or explain away his misconduct.

We’ve got everything you need to deliver a powerful message. Just click here to find your member of Congress’ local office and deliver our petition tomorrow at noon.

You’ll be provided with a two page delivery packet and training guide to make sure everything goes smoothly. When you arrive take a picture of yourself holding up the first page in front of the office. Then head inside and deliver a copy of the second page, which has a copy of the petition we all signed. Finally, post your pictures on social media using the hashtag #FirePruitt and we’ll share them with activists and reporters all over the country.

If you’re ready to Fire Pruitt, get your materials and then call 844-881-1311 tonight at 6pm Eastern / 3pm pacific. Senator Sanders and members of our #FirePruitt coalition will tell you all about how we’re going to win.

Stand and Deliver to #FirePruitt

The Scandals keep piling up for Scott Pruitt, Trump’s racist, corrupt, and dangerous EPA administrator. But this latest one – broken late Friday by a team of New York Times investigative reporters – might be enough to end him:

While on a lavish trip to Rome paid for by taxpayers, Pruitt took a Cardinal who denies climate science and is under investigation for child sex abuse out to dinner at a $240/plate restaurant. Then, he tried to hide it from reporters and the public by changing his official schedule four different times. Wow.

More than 300,000 people have signed on to demand Congress Fire Pruitt. And it’s essential that they do. Trump’s not going to do it – As recently as Thursday his press office said that “The president is pleased with the job that he’s doing…” And Pruitt’s digging in:  He’s refusing to show up at the EPA or speak to anyone but a tiny handful close advisors. And he’ll do anything to change the story, even instructing his staff to leak embarrassing stories about his rival, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And all this after weeks of scandals, nearly a dozen investigations and more!

But Pruitt can’t hide forever. He’s scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee next Wednesday May 16, and Drew’s headed to D.C. to make sure he doesn’t get off easy. Along with dozens of partners, we’re planning to escalate. Can you help?

RSVP to #FirePruittIt’s past time For Congress to fire Pruitt. Trump won’t do it and Pruitt won’t resign voluntarily (people have been telling him to for weeks). So impeachment is the only solution for an administrator this corrupt, venal, and dangerous to the agency he’s supposed to lead and the people he’s supposed to protect.

But Congress isn’t likely to act without a push. Hundreds of members have already called for Pruitt to resign, and they feel like that’s enough. Even worse, some Democrats feel like they’d rather have Pruitt as a punching bag – an example of Trump’s corrupt, reckless leadership team – to campaign against in November’s mid-term election. That’s not leadership or courage.

We’ve said for months that if elected leaders want to act like the climate hawks they claim to be, they need to do more than condemn the Trump administration with words. They need to take action – by refusing to fill vacant posts (like at FERC), firing his most dangerous cabinet secretaries, and refusing to confirm deputies and who will carry out the Trump’s deadly anti-climate agenda with less publicity or notice. Pruitt deserves to be the first to go, given all that he’s done, but he shouldn’t be the last. That’s the message we’ll deliver to every member of Congress next week, with your support

We’ve got everything you need to deliver a powerful message. Before you go to your local congressional representative’s office, print out a copy of this two-page delivery packet. When you arrive take a picture of you and your friends holding up the first page in front of the office. Then head inside and deliver a copy of the second page, which has a copy of the petition we all signed. Finally, post your pictures on social media using the hashtag #FirePruitt and we’ll share them with activists and reporters all over the country.

But we can’t do it without your support. Can you sign up to show up – and if you can’t chip in to support those who can?

 

 

A week of actions to walk the talk on climate

This is the long version of our report back on the Walk the Talk action in Albany, and the #FirePruitt actions in DC – if you prefer shorter versions of these reports and updates, subscribe to our email list on the home page. We start in Albany, so click here if you want to skip ahead to the Pruitt news, click here. And to cut to the chase – we’re looking to raise another $500-$1,000 to cover the costs of this. The funds will be used to support travel and logistics and legal support for more than 55 people (all of whom need to return to Albany next week for a court date. Click here to chip in if you can.

Cuomo Walk the Talk

The week got off to an AMAZING start on Sunday with the Cuomo Walk The Talk Action Camp. about 100 of us gathered in Athens, a few miles south of Albany, for an all day planning meeting, art build and action walk through. It was an intersectional crowd with first time action takers in their late teens and twenties, and experienced grandparents who’d planned or participated in hundreds of direct actions before. Our friend Eric took amazing photos so you can see how it looked.

With our plans made, our art painted I shot everyone a quick email asking for donations and cued it to send the next day while I was at the action. It’s a good thing I did because Monday was BUSY!

We were just one of more than 100 organizations that endorsed the Cuomo Walk the Talk action, and every group brought something to the action. One of the biggest was busses: more than 1500 people came on 19 buses from Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Rochester, Elmira, Caroline, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, Oneonta, Binghamton, Westchester, the Hudson Valley, and Ithaca. Together we formed a massive crowd, too big for the sidewalks we were permitted to hold and pressed in close to  hear Karenna Gore, Tim DeChristopher (Fresh from their necessity defense win in Massachusetts last month) speak alongside frontline community leaders from Sheridan Hollow. Sheridan Hollow is a frontline EJ community in Albany that is home to a power plant that used to burn trash. Now, Cuomo wants to convert it to a fracked gas powerplant, deepening the city and the region’s reliance on fossil fuels.

From the opening rally, we marched just under a mile to the Statehouse lead by beautiful art, two brass bands, and a whole lot of energy for our 3 demands — ending all fracking infrastructure, moving to 100% renewable energy, and making polluters pay, where we heard some more from young leaders like Lee of Sane Energy and Patrick of New York Communities for change. They fired up the crowd (tired from walking the last few blocks up a steep hill) and then lead people inside to rally in the only public space big enough to hold our crowd. More great photos from Eric here.

But it was at that moment that our “red team” split off from the main rally. Instead of going to the staircase, we headed directly for the Governor’s office. In the “war room”, decorated with murals of New York’s conquests in war, we sang and unfurled a giant sun-shaped banner that exactly covered the state seal on the floor. Then we marched for the Governor’s office, but the State police literally shut the door in our faces: locking the glass door from the main stairwell to the “hall of Governors” that leads to Cuomo’s ceremonial action. The message from Cuomo was clear: when it comes to demands that he Walk the Talk on climate, he doesn’t want to hear it.

But we weren’t taking no-answer for an answer. So 55 people including friends from BXE, Sane Energy, NYCC, and Food and Water Watch, sat down and refused to leave until Cuomo met our demands: ending all fracking infrastructure, moving to 100% renewable energy, and making polluters pay.

I was especially moved by the action that Kim and the team from Sane Energy had devised: Each of the 55 arrestees sat down on the floor, and one by one read a short statement on why they were there, which they’d also written on piece of red ribbon. Many people talked about the need to protect their children and grandchildren; some young people talked about the uncertain future their generation faces; and more than one person paid homage to David Buckel, a civil rights lawyer and environmentalist who set himself on fire to protest fossil fuel use, after leaving a suicide note nearby. After each person read their statement, they tied themselves to their neighbor with the ribbon – so that they were literally bound together by their stories.

It was a powerful action, and we were delighted to be able to support it by supporting several of the BXE arrestees and live-streaming the action on facebook where thousands of people watched along. Here’s a short video 350.org made of the action:

And here’s the Livesteam of the whole 3 hour long action.

The next day, I jumped in a car with a few of the BXE folks who’d been arrested and drove back to the DC-Baltimore area. But all 55 of the arrestees have to return to Albany next week for a court date. We’re raising money to send to Sane Energy, who coordinated the action and is making sure that everyone gets to their court date and stays free. If you can, please chip in to support this action and the ongoing support costs.

The hearing that should have Fired Pruitt

We were back in DC because Scott Pruitt was scheduled to testify before a congressional subcommittee. More than 225,000 Americans have signed on to demand Pruitt be fired after a wave of scandals – including many 198 methods members – and we wanted to make sure he felt the heat.

With leadership from Friends of the Earth, we created a carnival atmosphere outside the Rayburn congressional office building. FOE passed out fliers at every entrance, so there was no chance that any member of Congress or their staff could ignore our message that it’s time to #FirePruitt. And a team from several organizations waved signs, danced in a giant Pruitt head and generally had a good time making Scott Pruitt look ridiculous.

Pruitt however, did not look amused as he jogged past our protest. So it was a good thing Lukas from FOE recognized him and shouted a question about his corrupt, climate denying tenure as Trump’s EPA administrator.

The reception inside was not much better: as members of Congress sharply questioned Pruitt on how he broke the law to spend more than $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for his office, more than $143,000 on first class flights (often back to his home state of Oklahoma), more than $3 million on a massive security detail he didn’t need and gave more than $100,000 in raises to his friends, in direct defiance of White House guidance.

But Republicans went easy on Pruitt. Infamous climate denier Joe Barton of Texas told Pruitt he was “not the first victim of Washington politics.” And it was at that moment that the real action happened:

As Pruitt tried to explain away his sweetheart deal to rent a fossil fuel lobbyists’ condo for $50 a night I was part of a team of activists who raised signs that read “Mr. Corruption.” For a moment, you couldn’t even hear Pruitt’s answer over the sound of the press corps’ shutters furiously clicking away. I was I was lucky to get a seat right behind Pruitt, so my sign was clearly visible on the Cspan live stream carried live on several networks.

Friends of the Earth Fire Pruitt Rally

Pruitt stammered on for a moment, until Chairman of the committee told everyone that if they held up signs or displayed any t-shirts with writing on them, they would be arrested.

Drew asks Dems to walk the talk by firing Pruitt

I didn’t want to get arrested, but a minute later another Republican was praising Pruitt for rolling back clean car standards and inspections on refineries, and I couldn’t take it. I put on my oversized “Impeach Pruitt” shirt over my suit, stood, and slowly shuffled out of the hearing. Lucky for me, the Capitol police decided not to press the issue further – and while they banned me from the rest of the hearing, I was not arrested.

Although i was thrown out, Pruitt stayed on Capitol Hill for a second hearing, where he continued twisting the truth and defending the Trump Administration’s racist, climate denying policies. While I stood outside in the hallway with Erich Picah and staff from Friends of the Earth,  several staffers for Democratic members of Congress thanked us for speaking out – and today, the papers are full of pictures from our action inside and outside the hearing room.

But it’s also become clear from Republicans’ weak questions and the tone of coverage on Fox News that Pruitt isn’t going to resign and Trump is less likely to fire him today than before the hearing. That doesn’t mean we’re giving up – it means it’s up to Congress to fire him, just as our petition asks.

I’ll be heading back to DC in 2 weeks to participate in another FOE-lead rally at the EPA, and we’ll have more surprises for Pruitt and team. Again, if you can, please chip in to support our travel and logistical costs (Drew helped recruit, transport and house several people for the action at the hearing, and will plan to do so again in May.)

What’s it all about?

Both actions this week had a similar theme: Confronted with a Trump administration that denies climate science and does the bidding of the Fossil Fuel industry, we need local leaders and Congressional Climate Hawks to take bold action on climate change.

But too often we get climate peacocks like Cuomo: politicians who talk a good game about how they care about climate change and support renewable energy, but also “frack us in the back” to quote Lee Z from Sane Energy at the Albany action. It’s the same story in Congress, where more than 140 lawmakers from BOTH parties have called on Pruitt to resign, but not one of them, yet, has introduced binding legislation to remove him or called for his impeachment.

That’s why we use digital tools to support direct action campaigns. By raising the stakes – with a sit in outside Cuomo’s office and standing up in an impeachment t-shirt at Pruitt’s hearing – we demand more than talk from our leaders, and we show that we’re not going to be placated with happy talk about solar power or “believing in climate change.” And by broadcasting these actions online, and providing ways for you to sign on in support with internet petitions, call in actions, and more – we expand the reach of those actions and share the stories that inspire us with a much larger audience.

Just like at the Albany action, where activists were literally and figuratively tied together by their stories, 198 methods uses digital tools to tie our direct actions for the climate together with a bigger, more powerful community. 

If you value that connection, or want Drew to keep traveling to more actions (maybe in your town next time!) to deliver support, risk what others cannot, and bring you back recordings, live streams and online actions you can take in solidarity – please chip in to support our work.