The dam has officially broken, and climate polluters are being called to answer for their crimes. Next month, a delegation will attend the global climate talks in Madrid, to share evidence, legal strategy and encourage other state, local, and national governments to open their own investigations and lawsuits.
It’s time to hold Big Polluters liable — for the losses and damage they’re knowingly causing, and to pay for the solutions we need to transition to a just, sustainable future. It’s time to make them pay.
The fossil fuel industry has caused and is continuing to cause grave damage to people and our planet. And just like we’re not all equally responsible, we’re not all impacted by this crisis equally: Around the world, low-income communities, indigenous people, youth, communities of color, and people in the Global South are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.
Here’s the short version of how we got here: FERC has seen record turnover since Trump was elected. With the departure of Democratic Commissioner Cherly LaFleur earlier this summer, there are only three commissioners left, two Republicans and one Democrat). That’s barely enough for a quorum, and gives the last remaining Democrat, Richard Glick extra leverage to block votes or halt projects by refusing to participate.
At the same time, there’s been an explosion in protests and opposition to pipelines. Inspired by campaigns against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, activists have been rising up to resist fossil fuel infrastructure from coast to coast. We’ve been part of a number of those campaigns and I know you have been too. At the same time, our allies have been suing every pipeline they can to slow them down and stop the approval process. And in a few very important instances, the combination of those tactics – the lawyers suing and the people protesting – have combined to stop big projects like Keystone and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
And that’s where Danly comes in: Fossil fuel profiteers and their cronies in the Trump Administration can only win in court if they have regulators who ignore the lower courts. They’ve succeeded in firing or driving out thousands of civil servants at the EPA and Interior Department, and replaced them with lifelong fossil fuel cronies like Andrew Wheeler and David Bernhardt. Those guys were put in charge because they were corrupt, but not cartoonish, as their predecessors Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke had been.
On indigenous peoples day — a holiday that reclaims the memory of this continent and how it was colonized, not discovered, by Europeans — it’s important to also remember that the climate crisis didn’t “just happen”; Like Columbus, this crisis didn’t arrive at random, nor are its impacts felt equitably by all.
Our actions proved that we have the real, just solutions we need to address the climate crisis are within reach, many of them are already working in communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. What we’re lacking is political will to enact those solutions on the scale and timetable required. Fossil fuel companies and their dirty money is what’s holding us back.
It’s a showdown in the Pacific Northwest between our movement to stop fossil fuels and climate change, and the Trump team and their dirty power grab. But this isn’t event the first time – Jordan cove has been proposed two other times, in 2005 and 2013, and we’ve defeated it before. That’s how we know we can win.
And we have to win: Jordan Cove and the connected Pacific Connector Pipeline would cut through private and public lands — including traditional hunting and fishing areas important to local tribes. All to deliver fracked gas, a global warming pollutant up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, for export.
Ok, you’ve heard the hype: The Green New Deal is going to ban hamburgers (it doesn’t); the Green New Deal will force vegan soylant green on the unwilling masses (nope); The Green New Deal doesn’t care about farmers — actually, on that last one, it could do a better job helping farmers, but not because it’s an evil socialist plot. The Green New Deal RESOLUTION is just a little vague on the whole food and agriculture thing, and that’s a problem because we can’t solve the climate crisis without changing our food and agriculture system.
Farming and food is the biggest overall employer in the United States, employing some 23.5 million people. If you have a brother, sister, mother, daughter, father, son, friend or neighbor, odds are that one of them works in food and farming.
For the Green New Deal to be truly effective, the workers who grow, cook and care for our food — from the immigrant picking vegetables in the field, to the truck driver who transports them, to the chef or line-cook who prepares your meal, and everyone in between — needs to be part of the solution.
Carbon reduction, sequestration and climate resilience via a rapid, just transition that empowers farmers and ranchers to adopt ecologically regenerative, organic and agroecological practices;
Fair prices for farmers, ranchers and fishers, anti-trust measures that help reverse food sector consolidation, and healthy working conditions with family-sustaining living wages for workers;
Diversified, resilient local and regional food economies anchored by family farmers, ranchers and fishers that ensure healthy, sustainable food for all, combat consolidation in the food and farming sector and reverse the rapid loss of farmers and deterioration of farmland;
Avoid “false solutions” and agribusiness-sponsored proposals that do nothing to address the systemic causes of our climate crisis and delay progress.
April 10 – Charlotte NC and all over the Country protesting at Chase and Wells Fargo branches, in particular.
April 24 – Bank of America Shareholder meeting in Charlotte NC; and
May 7 – Dominion Shareholder Meeting Columbia SC
Lots more events are being planned – so stay tuned and drop us a line on Facebook, on Twitter, or right here on the good old fashioned website if you have an AGM/Shareholder meeting you want help planning!
That resolution would need to be referred to committee, where it would have committee hearings and consideration and debate – the kind of stuff that might address the concerns we and others have raised about banning fossil fuels, stopping pipelines, and the like. It also would give time and space to fill in details that are missing.
Don’t get me wrong, the Green New Deal has re-shaped the debate on climate change and gotten politicians to talk about the scope and severity of the crisis in a serious way for the first time in a long time.
But the conversation is still stuck in false assumptions that will not keep fossil fuels in the ground or address the systemic racism and injustice of sacrifice zones. In the House of Representatives (outside Mitch the twerp-turtle’s jurisdiction), at least 3 committees are considering climate legislation. But all those bills, and even the actual resolution from Markey and AOC still talk about “net zero emissions” or set the timeline to end fossil fuels and nuclear power way too far in the future (like 2050 or later).
If we leave fossil fuels and nuclear on the table, what we’re really saying is that we’re ok with sacrifice zones. Because if we don’t start phasing out dirty energy NOW then they will keep building them, and people will keep getting sick, having their land stolen, and worse.
Wall Street, the fossil fuel companies, the utilities, every single Republican in the Senate and a shockingly large number Democrats are committed to that same vision: another 20-50 years of drilling, spilling, pipelines, genocide, and ecological devastation.
Paris is not a panacea — It’s non-binding, like the AOC/Markey resolution. But it creates a framework to debate bills that have a lot more force and effect.
It’s like agreeing on the playing field, the rules, and saying that we’re in the game. We still need to do all the things to win (in this case stop climate change before it kills us all). And none of that will be possible if we slash our own achilles’ tendons — which is what building 12 new gas export facilities, millions of acres of fracking and drilling rigs, and millions of miles of new pipelines would do to our chances.
But, it’s a start. So this April we’re encouraging you to work on those two tracks: You can join a local Promise to Protect training stop and learn how you can turn up to stop the Keystone Pipeline, and stay tuned for updates on other actions targeting Dominion and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. At the same time, keep the pressure on Congress to keep debating climate solutions, and make sure they #KeepItInTheGround and say #nonukes as part of those solutions. A great action this week is to call your Senators and tell them to oppose Trump’s choice to lead the Interior Department, David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist who is exactly as corrupt as you think he is.
In 2015, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon supported the Paris Climate agreement and pledged and investment strategy “consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions.” But the report shows he’s been anything but consistent. In fact, Chase is the number one bank investing in fossil fuels with $196 billion invested in coal, Arctic oil and gas, fracking, tar sands, and other fossil fuels ― in the last 3 years alone!
Lots of European banks like BNP Paribas and ING Bank have taken steps to limit their funding of new fossil fuel projects. But US Banks are continuing to spend $1.9 Trillion on new fossil fuel projects ― and what’s worse, their investment in climate chaos is actually increasing.
But if we act together, we can make a difference. The Dakota Access pipeline got $2.5 billion of its $3.8 billion in total funding from banks like Chase and Wells Fargo. Without those loans, they simply wouldn’t have enough money to build new pipelines, coal terminals or fracked gas facilities.
Under the All of the Above plan from Obama, the US dramatically increased production of Renewable energy at the same time we even more dramatically increased fossil fuel production and especially fossil fuel exports. Donald Trump even bragged on it at his state of the Union on Tuesday – and when Trump brags about something, you know it’s just the worst. Some of the places that got hit first and worst by this boom in fossil fuels:
The Gulf of Mexico, especially poor, black or brown communities in places like Louisiana and Texas who are also on the frontlines of climate-fueled super storms.
Indigenous communities in Canada and the plains, where a boom in tar sands and shale oil brought crime, pollution and pipelines.
California communities – again usually poor or black or brown or all of the above – that saw a massive expansion of fracking for oil and gas even as state leaders touted 100% renewable goals and carbon trading markets.
And the shale-fields of Pennsylvania, where a boom economy in fracking left behind pollution, bomb-trains, pipelines and chemical plants, but failed to deliver lasting economic stability.
That’s not the Green New Deal we hoped for or need. But even if it’s imperfect, the resolution introduced today is an important place to start conversation. We need to begin changing everything, and we can. But only if EVERYONE shows up right now to tell Congress: This is the moment to call – Congress just started to hold hearings yesterday on climate change, and this new Resolution for a Green New Deal is like a starting gun being fired. Now we race towards solutions, with only 10 years to make the big changes we need.
Early this year, Ryan Zinke, Trump’s Interior Secretary, announced a new plan that would open more than 90% of US coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. It’s a really really bad plan, since offshore oil drilling always leads to more spills and accidents.And if anything, Trump’s other actions to roll back protections for the environment and worker safety will make accidents even MORE likely. Plus, there’s simply no way to manage the decline of fossil fuels and create the 100% renewable powered economy we need to stop climate change if we open up millions of new acres to offshore drilling. Which is why the Obama administration just banned all drilling off the Atlantic and pacific coasts 2 years ago after a HUGE public comment period in which more than 3 million people, dozens of governors, hundreds of mayors and just about everyone who lives along the coast clearly said #NoDrilling. Loads more footnotes and references in this pst from early in the comment period. As usual for this White House, the rollout was chaotic and ham-handed, and the whole thing may not even be legal because Zinke tried to exempt just the state of Florida as an explicit political favor to Governor Rick Scott who wants to run for US Senate. More on that later.
All of which brings me back to why I wanted 198 to work on offshore drilling plan in the first place, and how your actions with us really make a difference: First – It’s about an important concept in Gene Sharp’s writings and teachings called ‘withholding consent’. When we fight climate change, we’re fighting a really BIG system. It involves money and power at a lot of different levels. Fundamentally, it’s also an autocratic system – meaning it’s accountable to a ruling elite, not to the people or the planet. At 198 methods, we’re convinced that fighting climate change requires a specifically anti-authoritarian approach. Like what we did at the BOEM hearings: by standing up speaking out in ways that BOEM didn’t condone (and threatened to throw us out or shut down the hearings over) we put the staff of this administrative agency in a bind. We’re asking them to consciously choose NOT to do their jobs, if that’s what it takes, in order to stop the greater harms of offshore drilling. We’re demonstrating, in a really physical, in-your-face way, that there will be a reckoning — we know most of the people are commenting in opposition to offshore drilling. We know that the consequences of this offshore drilling plan will threaten us all through climate chaos, oil spills and more. And we’re asking them to pick a side: with us or with the polluters. Second – It’s about inspiring people who are already part of the process to realize they have more power than just typing a comment into a laptop — including our allies in groups like the Sierra Club and Oceana that did not support our efforts to stand up and disrupt the hearings in advance. I noted after the SC hearing that I saw a lot of groups advocating a sort of NIMBY (Not In My backyard) strategy. Basically, they were trying to convince BOEM to give them the same exemption Zinke gave Florida (which, again, may not hold up in court). They did this either through explicit argument, like by siting the value of their coastal tourism economies, for example; Or through an implicitly political argument, like by having lots of Republicans or state-wide officials testify that they are opposed to drilling, which helps make the argument that Trump & Co. will lose support in the mid-term elections if they push forward with the plan. But I think that’s the wrong approach for two reasons: one, as outlined below, it fails to move the media narrative and focusses attention on our weakest and least reliable partners. More importantly, it uses a NIMBY argument when what we need is a NIABY argument – Not in ANYBODY’s Back Yard. We don’t just want to ban offshore drilling in South Carolina, or California, or in places that have Republican Governor’s, or in places with coastal tourism: We want to ban offshore drilling – ALL of it – because it’s way to dangerous for our communities and our planet. Third – It’s about inspiring everyone who’s not part of the process yet. Two years ago, more than 3 million people and hundreds of academics, researchers, churches, and all kinds of organizations commented in opposition to offshore drilling (all of it). Obama responded by banning drilling off the Atlantic and mainland US Pacific coasts, but allowed it to continue in the “sacrifice zones” of the Gulf of Mexico and much of Alaska. That was basically what the conventional wisdom in the media expected, and so it was ‘enough’ to turn out lots and lots of comments so that Obama would feel empowered to do that. But there is no conventional wisdom for what Trump is doing. He’s already given away more land to fossil fuels, and more brazenly, than anyone imagined a few years ago. And, dazzled by the sheer, crazy, deluge of horribleness, the main stream media (like that Washington post story) default to covering this as a ‘normal’ political story where there are people for drilling, and people against it, and BOEM is a sort of neutral mediator. To stop Trump and team’s plan we need to be bigger, more powerful, and reach more people. That means working outside of the conventional wisdom of what works in the media and political wisdom. We can’t wait for Trump to come to his senses, or be satisfied with incremental NIIMBY victories any longer. Honestly, it will probably mean more of us lining up on roads and paddling our kayaks in front of drilling rigs to stop them. That’s movement building work – not lobbying and media work. And to inspire people, a LOT of people to rise up against big authoritarian power of the petro-state as represented by this offshore drilling plan, we need to inspire people. And that, fundamentally, is why we do digitally supported direct actions JUST LIKE THIS! Look, there are enough of us, in America, to stop offshore drilling, reverse climate change and build the 100% renewable fossil free world we need. What’s more, we’ll all have more jobs, more money, more political power and more control over our daily lives when we do. What’s holding us back is the raw political power (fueled by money, fear, and a lot of other things) of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in power – like the Trump administration. but to mobilize those people, we need to show them that resistance is possible, that it works, that it feels good (if I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution) and most importantly that they have the power.
So, what next?
Glad you asked. First of all, if you liked our actions and the ideas in this post, please chip in to support us. If everybody who sent in a public comment with us gave $1.98, we’d have more than enough money to fund our entire operation for 6 months. Of Course, not everyone can donate, so if you’re in a position to give a little, please consider a weekly donation of $1.98, or a gift of $19.80 to support our ongoing work. Second – it’s not too late to submit your comment, and even if you already sent one in with us, or with another group, hang on and consider this new tool as well. Working with our friends at Daily Kos and Action Network, we’ve set up a new comment form that delivers your comments directly to the BOEM staff in charge of this docket. I’ll still deliver all the 14,000+ signatures you sent in through the in-person deliveries, and I’ll submit them as evidence before the March 9 deadline. But by also submitting a comment through this new form, you’ll essentially get two comments — and that can be really helpful for when our friends in the legal community go to court to challenge this rule. Being able to cite the fact that there were a LOT of comments, and also to pull out individual voices of opposition from the public record, will be really helpful. So, if you haven’t commented, please do so now. And if you already have, comment again!