Good riddance to 2017 – I like our chances next month

It’s the last few days of 2017. And good riddance, I say, because we’ve got big plans for January 2018.

It’s been a busy and mostly brutal year as the Trump team attacks one of our communities after the other. We end the year much as we began it – worried about deportations, awash in climate chaos, resolute in our desire to show up when and where we can to speak out and shut down fossil fuel projects and the political patsies that approve them.

But in the face of all that, there is also hope: Major new divestments from big banks (and even the WORLD bank), opportunities to challenge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s new leadership, and convergences and gatherings that will consolidate the strength of our movement to shut things down and renew your spirit to open new ideas up.

Rebellions are built on hope, and two stories are giving me hope this week:

A recent article in Reuters details how Canadian Tar Sands, the dirtiest oil on earth, are having a tough time getting to export markets — driving up prices and costing Big Oil companies billions of dollars in the process. One of the big reasons the oil can’t get out is that a bunch of new pipelines are being delayed by our resistance. One of them – the Energy East, which was to be the “largest tar sands pipeline in the world” – was flat out canceled earlier this year. This makes it clear that our strategy of delaying big fossil fuel projects can work, but only if 2 things are true:

  1. We have to physically get in the way and obstruct these projects. No pipeline has ever been stopped by a court action or environmental impact statement alone (those things are are also important). In fact, more often than not, even when pipelines are found to have violated the law or their government-issued permits, they just pay a fine, revise the plan and keep right on going. If we want to stop the construction, we need to actually STOP the construction.
  2. Local governments like cities, states and counties can make a huge difference. That Energy East pipeline in Canada faltered not on federal rules, but mostly on the opposition of sovereign indigenous nations and the province of Quebec, which asked for a serious climate test on the project. Here in the US, the laws are different, and mostly stacked in favor of federal regulators like FERC and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE). But our best results have come in states like New York, where the Governor stood up to gas pipelines, or in cities like Vancouver, which voted to block an oil train terminal and set off a chain reaction that’s shutting the industry down across the state of Washington.

The second big piece of news is this new Finnish study out that confirms what many of us already know in our hearts: A planet earth powered by 100% renewable energy isn’t just possible: it’s cheaper, more just, more efficient, and better for jobs too. That research builds on the existing plans for 100% Renewable energy in 139 countries, and detailed, state-by-state plans for the U.S. that show the same thing.

So, the solutions are coming – if we can just hold off the poison of fossil fuels long enough. And in particular if we can oil the dastardly plans of Trump and team to build an entire new generation of fossil fuel pipelines, export terminals and more that will lock-in another 30 years of global warming pollution both here and abroad, which millions of people simply cannot survive.

The even-better news is that we have some great opportunities in the next 4 weeks to make real progress. BUT, we need you support to fund the travel, logistics and technology we need to make that happen. We’ve have a goal of raising $10,000 by the end of the year, in part because changes in the Republican Tax Bill may make it less likely people will donate to groups like us in 2018. So far we’re $3,800 short of the goal. Can you chip in to support our work and help us start 2018 off right?

Here’s our plan for the next few weeks, custom designed to take advantage of the crisi-tunities above:

  1. In terms of stoking local resistance, the best opportunities in the next few weeks are the inaugurations of new (Democratic) Governor’s in Virginia and New Jersey. VA Governor Northam’s inauguration is on January 14 and could present some interesting opportunities. Northam is for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. But the Virginia Water Control Board has split recently: requiring additional review of the ACP, and voting to approve MVP with no such condition. With one pipeline approved, one on the way, and the governor not yet on-board: it’s time to start planning accountability and disruption actions. But we only have a few weeks to do it, and we need your support.
  2. In our survey, by far the most popular action people were willing to take (93%) was signing petitions and sending letters online. Two great opportunities to do that will come early in 2018 as FERC rules on the disastrous proposal from Rick Perry & Donald Trump to subsidize coal and nuclear power by raising electricity rates across the Northeast and midwest. A second opportunity may present itself as FERC considers new rules on when and how they approve pipelines. But given that they’re literally paid by the industry and have only opposed 1 or 2 pipelines out of more than 400 applications – color us skeptical. Either way, FERC dockets are notoriously hard to comment on or access for the public (at their monthly “public” meeting, for example, you get thrown out of the room if you try and speak. Unless you’re paid by the industry.) We use online tools to make it one-click simple for anyone to comment, and hand-deliver your messages at protests and media events that the Commission can’t ignore. But we need your support to keep these tools free and easy to access.
  3. The second most popular activity according to our survey is calling and lobbying your elected officials in person or by phone. And boy-howdy is there a show-down coming in January. You might remember that right after they brazenly voted to loot the middle class and strip mine the Arctic with their Tax Bill, the GOP voted to kick the can on a major spending bill until January 19. At stake are two huge issues: whether or not the government will shut down and whether or not thousands of undocumented young people (the Dreamers) will be deported. Two weeks ago, at the last critical moment, several Senate Democrats blinked and voted to allow thousands of Dreamers to face deportation over the holidays. It’s hard to overstate what a betrayal that is, or how eerily similar it was (both in who voted, and in who ducked the issue) to recent sell-outs on climate change like Democrats not objecting to (or even defending) Trump’s FERC nominees. We need to get ready to show up and show down with our allies in the Dreamer and immigration rights communities, and we need to make sure the climate movement doesn’t get completely forgotten (again) by the politicians who claim to speak for us.
  4. Last, there’s all the work we don’t know will happen (or exactly when) in January. This includes a plan for a series of webinars and conference calls with the team behind the People Vs Oil and Gas Summit. And keeping an eye on the #NoBBP and #NoKXl movements – which thousands of us have pledged to show up and support if called. If you’re interested in making a tax deductible gift that will keep us operating all month, then a monthly donation of $1.98 is the best, most efficient way to do so.


Two pipelines a week

Last week the Army Corps of Engineers gave preliminary approval to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP). A few days earlier, the Virginia Water Control Board (VaWCB) voted 4-3 to approve the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), but required a final review of several environmental studies. That second one is actually considered a partial victory, since the week before the VaWCB had voted to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) — another, shorter, fracked gas pipeline — with no such condition.

This not to mention the FCC ripping apart #NetNeutrality and the Republican Congress poised to ram through a tax bill that will steal our healthcare, deport our neighbors and drop a depth charge on the middle class from a luxury yacht. So, yeah, the last week wasn’t great.

But here’s the thing, in moments of crisis this climate justice movement rises to the occasion in ways that never fail to startle and inspire me. So, short version – Can you chip in to support what we’re doing? Even $1.98 helps a lot, and there’s a ton of other (including non-monetary) stuff you can do to help that we’re supporting or participating in below.

Ok – how to help. First, if you haven’t already, you need to sign up to show up. Both the #NoBBP and the #NoKXl movement have launched “pledge to protect” campaigns that encourage you ti sign up to show up – when asked, that’s really important – to support thee campaigned with civil disobedience and direct aid.

If we stop the pipelines, and lose the economy, our democracy, and all our immigrant neighbors though, it wont count for much. So we also need to sign up to show up and stop congress this week. Some of the best organizing going right now is to stop the tax bill, or derail it by forcing a big fight about the DREAM act. All week long, brave young dreamers, people who rely on the Affordable Care Act have been showing up in force. If you can get to D.C. or a local rally and support them you should.

Coincidentally, putting pressure on the Senate might also be the best way to save #NetNeutrality, which some 8,822 (yes we keep count), of you signed up to protect. The FCC voted to shred net Neutrality last week, but the short version is that we can fix it — IF two bulwarks hold:

  1. The lawsuits already introduced in New York, Massachusetts and a bunch of states to overrule the FCC decision because the comment process was to flawed;
  2. Congress votes (in accordance with some 70% of their constituents wishes) to overrule them with a powerful tool called the Congressional Review Act. The CRA gives Congress 60 legislative days to overturn a rule issued by a federal agency with a “resolution of disapproval,”  and it is NOT subject to a filibuster, so it can pass the Senate with just 51 votes.

Last, I want to talk about California, and all the places recently ravaged by climate-fueled super-storms. The fires, now among the largest in California history, are being driven by strong winds and new evacuation orders were issued in the last 24 hoursOne firefighter, Cory Iverson, 32, has been confirmed dead. And like Puerto Rico, we expect the actual toll to be much much worse than the public account.

Some friends have been strategizing about Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and I think there’s potential fir us to help. But to do so we’ll need a lot of logistics. Training, supplies, some sort of micro-grid on wheels. We need to get ready, and the climate chaos isn’t waiting.

If you chip in now, we’ll put 100% of the funds towards staging actions, protests and relief efforts where they matter. Even better, 100% of your gift is now tax-deductible as we apply for charitable status from the IRS. But I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring — whether there will be another disaster to respond to, another pipeline permitted, or whether the Trump team will order the IRS to disregard all new applications towards protecting the environment the way they told the CDC to stop using words like “fetus” and “science-based” last week.

What I do know is that, together, we can make a difference. But only if we show up however we can. Click any of the links in this email to get connected and show up to say #NoKXL, #NoBBP, #StopGOPTaxScam, clean #DreamActNow, or do stand in solidarity with the victims of #ThomasFire and ALL the #ClimateChanged disasters of the last few months.

Or, click here to chip in and help us fight back.

Photo Credit: Brandon Wu

Reportback – day of action on FERC nominees

This week, as part of our ongoing campaign to stop fracked gas pipelines and export terminals by keeping the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) shut down, we visited the US Senate to deliver thousands of your letters, signatures and messages.

Big Props to the Delaware River Keeper Network, who organized a lot of the logistics and set up dozens of meetings for our team on capitol hill. And special thanks (as always) to our besties at Beyond Extreme Energy and Berks Gas Truth who showed up to walk the halls, lobby legislators and work the press with us.

Here’s a short video recap from our friends (I’m the one in the grey suit) and a written reportback follows:

Our pipeline fighters were on the hill today to talk about FERC, and the #DirtyEnergyBill. I sat in on a meeting with Sen. Sanders staff that was predictably amicable. In fact, within hours of our catching up, Bernie had put out a statement opposed to the energy bill, and re-iterated his opposition to Trump’s extreme FERC nominees. But he is, frustratingly, the ONLY Senator to have raised objections so far.

The other meetings I sat in on, with staff for Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA) were less encouraging. Cartwright’s staff were sympathetic, he’s got major gas pipelines proposed for his district and says he hears about it all the time from constituents. he’s mad at FERC for rubber stamping these projects without adequate community review, and conversant in the need to invest in renewable energy (not just gas). Even more important, the day before our meeting Cartwright had voted NO (the right vote) on legislation to dramatically expand FERC’s powers, including giving them oversight of international oil pipelines like Keystone XL.

But Cartwright’s staffer was also pretty down-beat on our chances: he said several times that as the minority party in the house, Democrats just don’t have much power to fight or stop bad energy legislation. That’s true, as far as it goes procedurally, but it’s not exactly the kind of leadership we’re looking for to inspire the resistance or unite the supposedly bi-partisan movement of Congress that wants to #ActOnClimate.

The Warner meeting was, if anything, more frustrating. The staffer was courteous and knew what we were about. He (like most Democrats) said that the Senator cares about climate change, and wants to invest in renewable energy. He also allowed as how he hears a lot from constituents, especially in the western part of the state, about how FERC’s trampling local property rights and the environment by fast tracking the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. But when we put the tough questions to him – whether he’d vote against FERC nominees, demand hearings on their abuses of power, and vote against the #DirtyEnergyBill – it was clear Warner wanted to #ActOnClimate only insofar as it didn’t actually require him to vote on anything. He plans to vote YES on the Dirty Energy Bill, and while he hasn’t committed one way or another, it seems like he’d vote to approve the FERC commissioners too.

Elsewhere, our team was walking the halls making sure everyone knew about FERC and fracking and the need for action. They bumped into Senator Hirono in the halls, one of only three Democrats (Sanders and Wyden are the other two) to vote against the FERC nominees in committee. After confusing her with an un-woke Senator, our team thanked her profusely, and later got to meet with her staff and thank them again. I get the sense that Markey is probably get-able, but I didn’t meet with his staff. Ditto on Merkley and Warren – I didn’t talk directly to anyone on their staff but based on other conversations, and their Climate Hawks scores, they probably lean no.

We also ran into Sen Al Franken in the hall, and chatted with him for a few. We didn’t talk long enough to pin his vote down, but my guess is that he’s a yes until persuaded — he also voted for FERC nominees out of committee, just as an example of when he’s followed Cantwell and Murkowski’s lead in recent weeks. Those votes are surprising mostly because Franken has been making funny new videos for the internet and writing books about how he’s a badass climate warrior speaking truth to power. It’s hard to believe that, though, when he’s voting for Trump’s nominees, to approve more pipelines, and expedite the construction of new fracked gas infrastructure. I couldn’t resist a little snark for the former SNL performer, so we made a quick video mocking that contradiction too.

I tried to pitch the idea to anyone who would listen, but especially Warner (who’s a member of Democratic leadership in the Senate) that if the Democrats are serious about building a different energy future than Trump and the Republicans (see also, Paris, Climate Agreement, The) then they really can’t be voting for an energy bill co-sponsored by Murkowski and fast-tracked by McConnell. If they vote for this, all Democrats will be doing is giving McConnell and team a pop of good press and “look how clever and bipartisan Republicans can be when the President doesn’t tweet”.

But it seems clear that nobody in Democratic leadership is buying that line, yet. Their new “better deal” plan includes exactly 0 references to climate change or a just transition to a clean energy future — despite the fact that rebuilding our energy economy could be the biggest jobs program (public or private) since the WPA. And for some reason they’re still not making the connection that fracked gas is a fossil fuel. It’s a bridge to nowhere and any vote that expands, fast-tracks, expedites or exports gas is a vote against the climate. Too many of them are possessed by what I sometimes call “Booker’s Myopia” — named for fantastic frontman and terrible negotiator Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ). Booker’s Myopia is characterized by an inability to see past the value of bi-partisanship, a sort of myopia that focusses on how brave and reasonable one looks “reaching across the aisle” while missing the point that looking reasonable while negotiating with an authoritarian regime hell bent on destroying the planet is not actually a good thing.

Booker became the name-sake of this illness (which presents disproportionally in Democrats from safe seats in the Senate. Check your Senators regularly by asking “so, will you vote against legislation that causes climate change, even if it has a bi-partisan co-sponsors?”) when he cheerfully negotiated an end to the us ban on crude oil exports DURING the paris climate talks. It was a perfect storm of blindness – Booker’s own constituents (local oil refineries in NJ) hated the plan, as did nearly every environmental group and Climate Justice campaign. The only people for it were the big oil companies. But there was Booker, parading around the paris COP talks like a hero while giving ExxonMobil exactly what it wanted for Christmas. That sort of thing would make most of us blind, but Booker’s immune due to the Myopia.

Anyway, we’re not done yet in the fight to stop FERC and the #DirtyEnergyBill. The Senate is due to take up Health Care next, and that will buy us at least a few more days, maybe a week or two, to round up the votes we need in opposition. As a reminder, the Dirty Energy Bill will need 60 votes, and there are all kinds of procedural ways to slow down or block a FERC nominee. So if even a handfull of Senators are willing to stand up and fight for our climate, we can mount a serious challenge.

You can chip in to keep us fighting here, and stay tuned for further updates and actions.