Peabody Energy, the largest coal company in the US and one of the largest in the world, is once again embroiled in controversy over shady treatment of employees. In 2007, Peabody Energy created Patriot Coal, a spin-off company comprised of Peabody’s eastern US mines. According to lawsuits involving the United Mine Workers (UMW), Patriot was formed as a place to stash union mines in West Virginia and the Midwest, along with the significant pension and health-care obligations that these eastern mines held. According to UMW, Patriot was essentially a "company created to fail," to give Peabody Energy and Arch Coal (another major US coal company who sold union mines to Patriot) an easy way to avoid paying union pensions and health-care benefits, while continuing to profit from their giant, nonunion surface mines in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.
Once Patriot declared bankruptcy, which it did last July, all of the pensions and medical benefits Peabody was obligated to pay their workers were put on the chopping block, just as Peabody had hoped. If Peabody succeeds, 10,000 retirees and another 10,000 dependents will lose the benefits promised them. Now, retired mine workers who labored for Peabody under the promise that they would receive health care and pensions, are outraged. Protests have forced Peabody to move its annual meeting to Wyoming, to avoid the civil disobedience by coal miners in the east. This is just the latest chapter in a long history of deceptive and exploitative practices by Peabody Energy and the coal industry in general. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coal front group funded by Peabody claims “Coal = Jobs.” But Peabody’s callous treatment of pensioners exposes what math the coal industry really cares about.
I am deeply disappointed that Greenpeace engaged in an action at the sacred Nazca Lines in Peru.
We have been hearing from many of you and I share your frustration and anger about this situation.
The decision to engage in this activity shows a complete disregard for the culture of Peru and the importance of protecting sacred sites everywhere. There is no apology sufficient enough to make up for this serious lack of judgment.
I know my international colleagues who engaged in this activity did not do so with malice, but that doesn’t mitigate the result. It is a shame that all of Greenpeace must now bear.
For many years Greenpeace US has been making a concerted effort to reach out to and collaborate with diverse constituencies, many of whom share different cultures, values and priorities. We know it’s important for us to be a strong ally who can learn from the leadership of our partners and ensure the work we do reflects and supports all communities.
The Nazca Lines situation has undermined the trust of many allies and supporters that we have been working so hard to build.
As Executive Director of Greenpeace US I assure you that our organization will do everything possible to ensure nothing like this ever happens again and that we will strive to protect the planet in the most respectful, effective and collaborative way possible. I know it will take time and substantial effort to rebuild the trust we have lost, and I am committed to doing that. I am also committed to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable and that we put safeguards in place to ensure that nothing like this happens ever again.
None of these words justifies the pain and anger so many of you are feeling. The next time you hear from me, we will be a better and more respectful Greenpeace.
Yesterday, about 80 clean energy advocates visited the Arlington, Virginia office of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to protest its dirtywork for polluting companies like Dominion Resources, a major utility in Virginia.
Brandishing small wind turbines, banners and posters calling on Dominion to sever ties to ALEC, noting the company's role in causing climate change. Many protestors are Dominion customers out of necessity, due to market monopolization, and are demanding that Dominion make wiser investments with the royalties they provide as customers.
Here are some photos, Courtesy of Oceana's Caroline Wood. Greenpeace was among the supporting organizations, led by Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Black Youth Project, Food & Water Watch, Oceana, and Progress VA.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille
ClimateProgress author and Physicist Joe Romm.
Oceana Volunteer Priscilla Lin advocates for quality climate science education.
Jonathan Lykes of the Black Youth Project (BYP100) urges activists to practice unity among movements for economic, racial and climate justice.
Ivy Main, Chair of Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
Protestors Engage Traffic Before the Event
The following guest speakers urged for action on climate change, clean energy development, unity across movements, and racial and economic justice:
Bill Euille - Mayor of Alexandria VA
Joe Romm - Physicist and Founder of Climate Progress
Jonathan Lykes - Co- Chair Black Youth Project 100, D.C. Chapter
Jorge Aguilar - Southern Region Director at Food & Water Watch
Priscilla Lin - Recent graduate of William and Marry College and Volunteer with Oceana
Ivy Main - Chair Sierra Club Virginia Chapter and member of Virginia Governor’s Climate Commission
Seth Heald - Vice Chair, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
Building Pressure on Dominion to Dump ALEC:
This protest is the latest in ongoing calls for Dominion Resources to sever ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Alexandria Mayer Bill Euille wrote an op-ed in the Fairfax Times, encouraging readers to "to join me in Crystal City at the Sept. 4 rally calling on Dominion to sever its ties with ALEC." Shareholders have filed resolutions at Dominion's last annual meeting, and formally requesting increased commitment to addressing climate change and disassociation from ALEC, citing climate change denial and complaints to the IRS about ALEC's potential tax status violations. Of nine ALEC member utilities contacted by Greenpeace earlier this year, Dominion was one among three that continued to stand by ALEC. Why all the pressure and protest? ALEC is currently helping dirty energy companies wage "guerrilla warfare" against the country's first rule to curb climate pollution as part of a decades-long effort to deny climate change science and block policy solutions. In recent years, ALEC's coal and oil company members have used the shadowy lobbying group--through its state politician members--to attack incentives for clean energy and penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels. ALEC infamously labeled such people "freeriders on the system."
Despite being repeatedly pressed by Greenpeace on how ALEC upholds its "free market" slogan when it consistently attacks clean energy incentives while advancing fossil fuel industry interests, ALEC staff have not been able to account for the contradiction:
Leading this charge within ALEC is the Edison Electric Institute, the primary trade association for utility companies like Dominion and Duke Energy. Todd Wynn, a climate change denier who previously directed ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, is now working for Edison Electric Institute. EEI remains a primary voice within ALEC's anti-environmental task force, which on churns out model policies to undermine pollution safeguards and stunt the growth of clean energy development. Not accountable to customers, lobbyists like Wynn at EEI provide some political cover for its utility members like Dominion, Duke Energy, and Arizona Public Service, all of which have ignored calls to dump ALEC and have acted aggressively against distribute generation solar energy--homeowners and small businesses taking steps to become energy independent.
ALEC is a rightwing bill mill group that connects corporations with our elected officials to draft model legislation in support of corporate profits over the welfare of people and our planet. ALEC has written legislation including Arizona’s racist immigration law SB1070, Stand Your Ground Laws relating to the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida, and many voter suppression laws such as Voter ID here in North Carolina. But that’s not all, ALEC also has an Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Forcewhich is working on legislation to stop regulation of coal fired power plants and to prevent laws from being passed that support renewable energy.
Duke Energy, headquartered in the heart of Charlotte and at the center stage at the 2012 Democratic National Convention this week, is a major contributor to this dirty front group. Last May, Duke Energy spent $50,000 to bring ALEC’s annual meeting to Charlotte. Especially in South Carolina and Indiana, Duke representatives work very closely with ALEC to draft such legislation.
This is why yesterday, dozens of activists gathered in Charlotte to ask Duke Energy’s CEO Jim Rogers to make the call and dump ALEC! We gathered in front of the Knight Theater where Rogers was speaking on a panel and urged passersby to make a phone call into the Duke Headquarters. Then we hand delivered 150,000 petition signatures that have been collected in the past week. At the same time in Ohio, local activists gathered to deliver the message to Duke’s Midwest corporate headquarters. And all throughout the day yesterday activists took action online on Facebook and Twitter sending their messages directly to Duke Energy.
We know that it’s working. We ran into Jim Rogers at an event and he said that he’s listening. The question remains, will Duke act?
Last weekend was a wild one for climate action in our nation’s Capitol, between the protest outside a conference run by Koch Industries front group Americans for Prosperity and Sunday’s large street protest against the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that encircled the White House with over 10,000 people.
The two issues came together when I and another Greenpeace activist found oil billionaire and Americans for Prosperity Chairman David Koch inside AFP’s “Defending the American Dream” conference, and questioned Koch about his company’s financial stake in the Keystone XL pipeline and their false statement to Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA). See for yourself:
Greenpeace presented Mr. Koch with a “Wanted for climate crimes” flyer featuring the faces of himself and brother Charles, and also asked about any changes in his view on climate change after a Koch-funded study appears to agree with what climate scientists have known for decades now—the globe is indeed increasing in average surface temperature. David Koch refused to answer questions, but clearly understood that accountability was expected for the $55 million he and brother Charles Koch have donated to organizations that work to confuse and deny the reality of climate science.
Mr. Koch’s day wasn’t all bad—shortly before the encounter he was lauded by Herman Cain, who declared, “I am the Koch Brothers’ brother from another mother!” The statement lifted David Koch out of his seat for a strange Nixon-style salute to the AFP audience. Chairman Koch also got to hear from Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and fellow climate denial financier and AFP director Art Pope. Among numerous other issues, the keynote speakers attacked environmental protections and peddled fossil fuel extraction. Herman Cain stated the need for the US Environmental Protection Agency to undergo an “attitude adjustment,” a popular sentiment among attendees who were also offered a panel dedicated to hating on the EPA.
Echoing Kochs’ efforts to dismantle the EPA
Opening the “Extreme Power Abuses” panel, Koch-backed Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) bragged about his efforts to prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming, warning observers that EPA is “on the march, they will stop at nothing.”
Following Rep. Pompeo was Kathleen Hartnett White of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a Koch and Exxon front, among other dirty donors. Hartnett White’s primary focus appears to be criticizing the EPA’s every move. She approved Texas’ first new coal-fired power plant in 20 years when she was chair of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality, and has grossly misrepresented the scientific conclusions of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. During the panel, Hartnett White pushed to continue allowing unchecked mercury emissions from coal plants, which the coal lobby has blocked from regulation since the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. She downplayed the concerns of communities suffering from coal plant pollution with claims like “People do not die of particulate matter levels,” while ignoring clear threats to our health, such as mercury from power plants winding up in the fish we eat. Most indicative of Hartnett White’s do-nothing attitude on pollution: “there is no environmental crisis—in fact, there’s almost no environmental problems.”
Next up was a career polluter apologist from the American Tradition Institute, Chris Horner. Horner is also an affiliate of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Horner’s current work involves harassing climatologist Michael Mann by seeking his emails from the University of Virginia, a favorite cause of climate denier and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who was also present at the AFP conference.
The EPA panel was concluded with the angry rants of Ann McElhinney, who has made a name for herself as an anti-environmental documentary filmmaker who circulates her films among various climate denier front groups. McElhinney accused environmentalists in general of being unequivocal liars while throwing some questionable claims* around herself. Claiming that “fracking is an absolute miracle,” McElhinney repeatedly attacked Gasland director Josh Fox for spreading a “message of hate” though his film. Similarly, McElhinney said that the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline “is just wonderful,” and mocked the idea of an organized protest against Keystone XL two days later.
What McElhinney said that did seem on point was, "at the moment, the story of energy is being told by people that tell lies." That certainly sounds right – if she meant the influence peddlers of the fossil fuel industry. But McElhinney then continued to demonize people with environmental concerns, rather than pointing out how polluters spend millions to influence our government through direct donations, lobbyists, trade associations, and front groups, including Americans for Prosperity and the very panelists McElhinney stood next to.
Americans for Koch’s Prosperity
Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity have become synonymous to the people who pay attention to the billionaire oil baron brothers and their many front groups. AFP itself was spawned from predecessor group, the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation (CSE), which split from its sister group to form AFP and Freedomworks. While the Kochs left Freedomworks alone, they continue to fund and govern AFP—David Koch is the chairman of the AFP Foundation and the group has received over $5.6 million from the Koch Brothers’ foundations, according to the most recent five years of their tax filings. Co-sponsors and allies present at the conference have received large checks from the Kochs over the same time frame, such as the Heritage Foundation ($2.2 million), the Institute for Humane Studies ($4.4 million), and the American Legislative Exchange Council ($275,858).
Other known financiers of AFP and other corporate front groups, which often don’t have to report their donors, are the usual cadre of ideologically-driven conservative foundations backed by corporate interests who bankroll efforts to roll back environmental protections, attack health care reforms, increase corporate rights while decreasing corporate tax rates…check out the Lewis Powell memo for more history on how companies have seized our democracy.
Standing out most among Ann McElhinney’s misleading statements were two in particular. First, she claimed that the gas industry website FracFocus contains full disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing—it doesn’t. Second, she led the audience to believe that health concerns over tar sands water pollution [PDF] in Alberta, Canada were unsubstantiated. Specifically, McElhinney attacked Dr. John O'Connor, who discovered and was persecuted by industry (and industry-tainted government) for years for linking tar sands operations to unusually high cancer rates. This was formerly confirmed by the Alberta Cancer Board in May 2008, vindicating Dr. O'Connor. The cancer rates in the Fort Chipewyan area are 30% higher than expected rates. Most notably, McElhinney accused Dr. O’Connor of fabricating the death of a 33-year old in Fort Chipewyan, a community heavily polluted by chemical byproducts flowing up the Athabasca River. Read more about this specific industry/Alberta government attack on Dr. O'Connor in Andrew Nikiforuk's "Tar Sands," pp. 96-101.
Rising Tide North America has put together a short video demonstrating nonviolent protests and direct action for the Day of Action Against Extraction. Events across the United States and Canada were conducted on April 20, 2011--the one-year anniversary of the disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil gusher. In addition to the oil spill in the Gulf, protests called attention to other monumental forms of destruction, such as tar sands mining, mountain top removal and other forms of strip mining to extract coal, and air pollution from dirty coal plants in Chicago. In addition to the irreparable harm the fossil fuel industry places on ecosystems and the people they sustain, these products ultimately contribute to the looming global climate crisis.
PolluterWatch is a project of Greenpeace that holds polluters accountable for the work they’re doing to block the transition from the dirty fossil fuels of the past to the clean energy sources of the future.
The science is clear: We must take immediate action to avert the worst effects of global warming. But polluters, their lobbyists, and the politicians who work with them are holding the climate debate hostage and poisoning the debate about policies that would lower our greenhouse gas emissions and kickstart a clean energy revolution. Help us hold the polluters accountable. Get in touch today and find out how you can help. Learn More