The Skywriter

Policy update 8/24/10: With the Senate bobbing in oil, election season heats up


Policy update 8/24/10: With the Senate bobbing in oil, election season heats up

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1Sky and our allies continue to hammer members of Congress for their failure to address climate change and our addiction to dirty energy while also highlighting how much money members received from the fossil fuel industry. On the campaign trail, some candidates are using climate change to score political points and capitalize on the general mistrust among voters of the D.C. establishment. The EPA is hosting public hearings around the country on toxic coal combustion waste and the effort to reduce smog and protect the public health. Finally, the controversy continues over the White House report claiming that 3/4 of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico has "evaporated or dissolved."

Congressional Recess Timeline:

  • 7/31-9/12: House on recess
  • 8/7-9/12: Senate on recess
  • 9/13: Congress returns from recess

Oily Hands and Climate Champs in the Senate

1Sky and our allies, including and Energy Action Coalition, continue to hammer members of Congress for inaction on climate change and our addiction to fossil fuels. 1Sky shadowed members at public events in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Ohio. Our activists, along with our allies, are generating an important narrative during the August recess on the need to address the climate crisis and our addiction to fossil fuels immediately.

1Sky activists in Colorado showed up at five events over the past week, including a small gathering with Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, to call for more action to address the climate crisis. In Florida, 1Sky organizer Andrea Cuccaro and allies followed Senator George LeMieux around the state to repeatedly ask if he supported a price on carbon pollution to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels.

Oil Change International, along with allied groups including 1Sky, launched Clean Up the Senate -- also known as Bobbing In Petroleum -- to highlight the influence of big oil companies in the Senate. The Hill highlighted the online effort to expose oil money in our politics, while Politico also noted the effort in Morning Energy, a daily publication of the hottest news surrounding the climate and energy debate.

Our allies at Clean Energy Works will be hosting CarnivOIL events in 25 cities during the August recess to highlight the fact that Big Oil continues to party at the expense of all Americans. Meanwhile, the oil industry is using its deep coffers to hold "citizen rallies," sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute during recess.

Al Gore called for massive rallies in the United States after tens of thousands rallied in Australia to call for bold action on climate change days before the federal election.

Midterm Election Heats Up

Riding an anti-establishment wave, some GOP candidates like Ron Johnson, running against Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI); Sharon Angle, challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); and Carly Fiorina, running against Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), are knocking global warming and publicly doubting man-made climate change. This is a major concern that threatens to drive a wedge between Democrats and Republicans on an issue that historically generated bipartisan support and solutions.

In addition, some members of the House of Representatives are taking heat for their votes on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) last June. Rep. Rick Boucher (VA-09) worked to include provisions to benefit the coal fields under a cap-and-trade system, but his opponents are claiming he is out of touch with people in his district. Sam Caliguri, who clenched the GOP nomination for the 5th district of Connecticut, supported the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a state senator; but regarding national legislation, Mr. Caliguri says it would impose an enormous tax on the American population. And Rep. Debbie Halvorson (IL-11) is also taking heat for her vote on ACES: Her opponents are claiming that the bill is bad for business, bad for the 11th congressional district, and are using the issue to drive a wedge between the two candidates. Politico highlighted the political and personal financial troubles of Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), a former oil man who voted for ACES despite energy-industry pressure in his home district.

A group of Democrats who voted against climate legislation in 2009 are being attacked by their opponents for not doing enough to protect dirty energy during the cap-and-trade debate and even for just belonging to the Democratic party that voted in favor of climate solutions.

President Obama traveled to Los Angeles and raised over one million dollars for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. During his fundraising blitz, the president talked about the emerging clean energy economy and the need to curb carbon emissions.

Exposing Dirty Coal

The Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a number of public hearings on new rules to clean our air, water, and environment and safeguard the public health.

Coal ash, the toxic waste left after burning coal, is currently regulated as simple household garbage, even though it contains dangerous heavy metals and chemicals. The EPA is hosting hearings on the new rules around the U.S. (click the link for exact location).

  • August 30: Arlington, VA
  • September 2: Denver, CO
  • September 8: Dallas, TX
  • September 14: Charlotte, NC
  • September 16: Chicago, IL
  • September 21: Pittsburgh, PA
  • September 28: Louisville, KY

1Sky activists are submitting public comments to pressure the EPA to regulate toxic coal ash as a hazardous waste, not household garbage.

The EPA is also holding hearings on the Clean Air Transport Rule, that will reduce the nation's smog pollution that causes tens of thousands of premature deaths and disease (click the link for exact location).

  • August 26: Philadelphia, PA
  • September 1: Atlanta,GA

Dirty Coal is calling on Congress to bail them out and continue ignoring the true cost of coal to our economy and our health. David Roberts from Grist outlines how the coal industry continues their work to undermine clean air regulations much like the past 30 years. Grist also highlighted the latest research for the scientific journal Energy that shows there may be far less coal than we think.

The Associated Press published an article in news outlets across the country focusing on coal plant expansion across the country. The article shows that utilities across the country are building dozens of old-style coal plants. Yet Bruce Nilles, Deputy Conservation Director at the Sierra Club rebuts the article saying "Make no mistake, the Coal Rush is over." He explains that just a few years ago, the coal industry was hoping to build 151 coal plants. Through the efforts of Sierra Club and activists across the country, Bruce argues that "We have made unprecedented progress in recent years to prevent new coal plants...but our work is not done."

The Washington Post also published an article about old coal plants noting that construction comes "despite growing public wariness over the high environmental and social costs of fossil fuels, demonstrated by mine disasters in West Virginia and the Gulf oil spill."

BP Gulf Disaster Update - Day 126

The White House continues to take heat regarding the long-term effects of the BP Gulf Disaster and how much oil is still in the ocean. A government report released in early August claimed that 3/4 of the oil "evaporated or dissolved" but other scientific research teams claim that the numbers were greatly exaggerated. Rep. Ed Markey (MA-07) held a rare August recess hearing regarding the controversial NOAA report implying that most of the oil was no longer in the Gulf of Mexico. Bill Lehr, a top NOAA scientist, said the report was not peer-reviewed and about 3/4 of the oil is still in the environment. The rare August hearing hosted a number of scientists who were skeptical about the White House report. Charles Hopkinson, Director of Georgia Sea Grant, said

One major misconception is that oil (that) has dissolved into water is gone, and therefore, harmless. The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade."

An oceanographer from Florida State University used satellite imagery to measure oil slicks and found that only 10% of the oil has actually been removed from the ocean.

Top Obama Administration officials visited the Gulf of Mexico last week to monitor the clean up effort. The Secretary of Interior, EPA Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief, and the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality all traveled to see the BP Gulf Disaster area.

Prepared by Jason Kowalski and Gabe Elsner from the 1Sky Policy Team. Please direct questions or comments to

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