Quick, slightly belated, update on Bernhardt

As you probably heard by now – Bernhardt was confirmed by a vote of 56-41 last week, over the objections of nearly 200,000 of us who signed, called, texted, and petitioned to oppose his nomination. The vote was largely along party lines, with three of the same Democrats who voted against the Green New Deal — Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) — voting for Bernhardt, as well as Maine’s so-called Independent Senator, Angus King.

It’s frightening, of course, to have such a dangerous and dirty nominee confirmed to an important post  that oversees so much of our public lands and waters, as well as many of the US Government’s interactions with tribal nations and indigenous people through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

But Bernhardt didn’t get away scot-free: He takes is official position under more investigations than most previous Interior Secretaries ever see. And House Democrats will be sure to scrutinize every corrupt rule and racist policy Bernhardt tries to promulgate.

That’s the power of our actions together online – some bad things we can stop outright, and others, like Bernhardt’s nomination, we can slow and make more problematic for the drillers, frackers, and  fossil-fueled cronies Trump appoints.

So thank you for taking action.

I also want to remind you that this isn’t over – nor is it the only thing we’re fighting right now. For those of you who are new to this list – Welcome! The thesis idea here at 198 methods is to use the anti-authoritarian tactics first popularized by Gene Sharp as a non-violent alternative to armed populist revolution, and popularized again in recent books like This is an Uprising and Twitter and Teargas, as a specific model for fighting fossil fuels and climate chaos in the United States.

And if you’ve ever questioned if we’re really living in a fossil-fueled oligarchy or dictatorship – just consider the last week of Trump News: His recent Executive Orders basically direct federal agents (that’s the nationalism part) to overrule local objections to fossil fuel projects and disregard shareholder resolutions opposing climate change. 

Combined with Bernhardt’s dirty, corrupt, partisan confirmation vote, it’s one of the most blatant moment’s of Trump putting the profits of fossil fuel barons ahead of the rule of law, the safety of our communities, and the survival of our climate and common home.

If you want to see more about how we’re fighting back this spring – with actions that strike back at the heart of the fossil fuel and pipeline empires in Washington DC, and take the fight to the shareholder meetings and financiers of climate chaos – check out our blog, and stay tuned!

Trump’s Most Corrupt Nominee yet.

Trump has nominated David Bernhardt to run the Department of Interior, making him the latest in a line of corrupt former lobbyists nominated to regulate the industries they used to work for.

This is almost be a cliche at this point: Bernhardt follows Ryan Zinke, who resigned under a cloud of investigations and allegations of corruption. Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, who thousands of us called, emailed, texted and got arrested protesting was confirmed last month to replace Scott Pruitt – who was forced out over similar corruption charges.

But Bernhardt is especially bad – and there’s still time to stop him. At his committee hearing last week, he was questioned strongly by Republicans and Democrats. And his during his previous vote to be Zinke’s deputy, only 53 Senators supported him.

If we can convince just a few more Senators to oppose Bernhardt, we could stop him and take down some of Trump’s most corrupt, dirty, and totalitarian plans for US “Energy Dominance.”

But a vote is expected before April 12, so we’re teaming up with a big coalition of groups to deliver more than 150,000 signatures next week. Can you join us and sign on now?

Too corrupt even for Trump

Like I said, in an administration notorious for corruption and conflicts of interest, Bernhardt is especially bad:

Sign now, and we’ll deliver your name along with more than 150,000 others next week before Bernhardt gets a vote!

We’ve taken down Trump’s corrupt agents before – firing Pruitt, Zinke, and driving others out of office. We’ve also built a powerful bulwark against his nominees by getting every single Democrat to vote in opposition to Trump’s nominees to FERC and other agencies.

But we’ve never succeeded in taking down a nominee at this point in the process. If we stop Bernhardt, we wont just stop a corrupt, misogynist, oil-baron from taking over the Interior Department (though that would be a good thing) we’ll deal a major blow to Trump and Co.’s plans to drill, frack, and mine every inch of our public lands and waters – no matter what the damage to our climate, communities, or people.

That’s why it’s critical that you tell your Senators you won’t stand for another fossil fuel industry hack who puts the profits of his former clients above the health and safety of the American people.

Bernhardt is a walking conflict of interest. Tell your Senators to oppose his nomination.

BOEM goes the dynamite – your comments in action

When the Bureau of Ocean Energy management (BOEM) came to my town, there was already a great plan in place with rallies, lobby days,and speak outs planned by partners. But I wanted to make sure we did more than show up and record your comments (and mine) as opposed to the Trump administration’s plan.

There’s an important role for direct action in moments like these. First it’s an important way to withhold consent – a critical strategy in the Gene Sharp model of anti-authoritarian organizing we ascribe to.

Second, it helps inspire people to realize they don’t have to obey unjust and destructive dictates from the Trump administration. Across the country, people have been showing up at these BOEM events to speak out and demand a full retraction of this plan. The louder, less orderly, and more disruptive we get, the more Zinke and his team withdrawal. Some in the media are already saying that it looks more like a political stunt than a serious energy plan.

And finally, it helps to correct the media narrative, which tends towards “both side-ism” and false balance by giving drilling opponents, who vastly outnumber drilling supporters, the same amount of coverage as the fossil fuel industry, and paints BOEM as an impartial referee for science. In fact, Trump’s  Interior secretary Ryan Zinke is already ignoring mountains of scientific evidence that offshore drilling is too dangerous for our coasts and economies, and a disaster for our climate. In many cases, they’re ignoring evidence that was just submitted 1-2 years ago as part of the Obama administration process that resulted in a ban on all offshore drilling in the Atlantic and continental Pacific (eg not Alaska) oceans.*

So, when more than 10,000 members and supporters of 198 methods submitted comments opposing the Trump/Zinke offshore drilling plan, we didn’t just want to hand over your names and comments, we wanted to make a ruckus.

And that’s what we did in South Carolina – arguably the Reddest, most Trump-friendly state where BOEM is holding an offshore drilling hearing (and also Drew’s Home turf).  Below is a LONG recap of the day’s events. But if you’re already into our idea to deliver comments in the most loud, non-compliant, media-shattering way possible, then please chip in. There are important hearings happening in the next week in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina that we want to support and play a role in – and we need your help to make it happen.

The Story in South Carolina.

First of all, all respect to the Sierra Club of South Carolina and their Ready for 100% rally and lobby day, which was already planned at the statehouse. This was lead by Minister Leo Woodbury, he’s from the northeast corner of South Carolina. That’s right across the state-line from Robeson county, which we talked a lot about in the live-stream about the ACP and the Rev., in addition to talking a lot about clean power, talked about the dangers of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure including offshore drilling and new pipelines. Here’s a bit of Rev. Woodbury to give you the flavor:

Later in the morning, the big ocean groups- OCEANA, Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, etc – organized a big rally on the statehouse steps that featured equal numbers of democratic and Republican law makers speaking out against drilling. It was a good event, and did a good job highlighting what SC ‘insiders’ view as our most plausible route to stopping drilling in this state: that the issue is so politically toxic, that it might even suppress turnout among Trump’s base voters in 2018. These groups hope that the threat of an electoral back-lash will lead Zinke and team to offer an exemption for SC like they did for FL – but I’m not so sure.

Here’s some video of that rally:

Our local big greens did a great job planning and executing a rally based on conventional political wisdom.  It featured the voices of big politicians like Rep. Mark “Appalachian trail” Sanford and lots of State legislators. But those same reasons, the rally was not very radical  — for example it did NOT connect offshore drilling to pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, Climate Change was barely mentioned once, nor was an explicit connection to environmental and racial justice made by most speakers (except the Gullah Geechee nation, of course). Still, that was the part of the day that got the most media attention.

After that it was off to the Doubletree — a hotel as far as you can get from downtown and still technically be in Columbia. Seriously, the location has no public transit it sits at the intersection of two interstate highways. Once there it was clear that BOEM was expecting some pushback given the amount of security on site.  To counteract the un-democratic format of the hearing (more on that below) a lot of those same big green groups staged a counter-rally outside the BOEM hearing room, essentially in the ballroom next door. Where the focus of the earlier rally at the statehouse was clearly political – featuring elected officials and politically connected spokespeople – the pre-BOEM rally at the hotel was focussed on the grassroots. Local mayors, business owners, and impacted trade associations like fishermen were the featured speakers. And the clear focus was to get everyone fired up and ready to submit a comment in opposition to the Trump-Zinke plan. Here’s some video of that rally to give you a taste:

About that BOEM process.

The format of the hearings is always the same, they call it a ‘townhall’ but it’s not the format most of us associate with that description – EG one microphone and people get up one at a time to testify in favor or against on the record. What they have are a bunch of table displays, staffed by career BOEM people about the proposed offshore drilling plan. The displays and staff are not explicitly pro-drilling, but they are there to explain the Trump/Zinke proposal, which is very pro drilling. So the information includes things like “why oil drilling is safer than ever” and “Why is offshore oil important to America’s Economy”. There is no display specifically on climate change or pipelines (which will be needed to get oil from offshore rigs to shore, and then onshore to refineries).

If you want to submit a “public comment” at the hearing, you have to sit down, by yourself at a laptop (provided by BOEM) and type your name, address and other personal information into the approved terminal before being allowed to (in complete silence) type your comment into the system.

I wasn’t having it. So, after a few minutes of letting people sign in and mill around, I pulled out a chair, stood on it, and called BS on the whole process.

I’m using the “BS” frame here as an intentional homage to Emma Gonzalez and her speech in Florida on gun violence. There’s something really powerful about having someone call out a lie, and it’s a similar energy I’m hoping to channel into these remaining BOEM hearings – because they’re NOT OVER YET!

In fact there three more weeks to comment on this offshore drilling plan. So before March 9, tell your friends to comment, share the action online, and if you can please chip in to support us getting to as many of these hearings as possible to shout, disrupt, and make our voices heard any way we can.

Thanks!

* We think the Obama rules should have gone farther, and protected the Gulf of Mexico as well. If it’s too dirty and dangerous for the South Atlantic, why is it safe for the Gulf? Answer it’s not, but the Gulf is treated as a sacrifice zone.  But that’s another story.

Stop Trump’s offshore drilling plan!

Trump wants to repeal the Obama-era ban on offshore drilling, opening more than 90 percent of our coastline to oil and gas leasing.

At the same time, Trump’s allies in Congress are trying to dismantle the worker safety and environmental protections put into place after the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and caused a $60 billion oil spill that destroyed coastal environments and made thousands of people sick.

Nor are spills, explosions and loss of life on oil rigs the only things we’re worried about (though only a fool would not be worried about them). We need to keep at least 80% of known oil and gas reserves in the ground, or risk tipping the climate beyond the point of no return. Adding millions of new acres of oil and gas drilling is not just climate denial, it’s a death sentence for millions of people in coastal communities around the world.

Fortunately, there’s still time to stop Trump’s disastrous plan. You have until March 9 to submit and official comment. Sign with us, and we’ll hand deliver the message at a series of regional meetings over the next few weeks.

Why do we think we can win this time, when the Trump is so clearly bent on service their polluting pay-masters in the fossil fuel industry? Well this time, they might be vulnerable: As usual, Trump’s plan for unlimited offshore drilling was as ham-handed as it was disastrous. Just five days after announcing the new drilling plan, Interior Secretary Zinke did Florida Gov. Rick Scott a huge favor by exempting his state, and ONLY his state, from the offshore ban.

That’s created a huge backlash in coastal states, some of which Trump and his allies in Congress cannot win re-election without. Governors from virtually every state have demanded to be exempted like Florida — including Trump loyalists like Gov. Henry McMaster in South Carolina — but so far only Rick Scott is politically connected enough to get a waiver. The deal many not even be legal, and coasts-state Senators are already holding hearings and demanding answers.

With all this turmoil, now is the moment we can make a difference with simple online actions, backed up by strong in-person deliveries that demand accountability. Can you help? Click here to sign on to our public comment, and we’ll hand deliver it to a BOEM hearing in the next few weeks.

PS – Our friends at 350.org are organizing turnout and supporting local activists in several cities. I’ll be at the Columbia SC hearing next week for the first of our deliveries. Check that page for updates and links to events near you.