Current Events

Policy update 10/19/10: Midterms 15 days away

19
Oct
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In 14 days, the entire House and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection. As a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, dirty money from big polluters is having a major effect on this year's elections. While big polluters attack climate champions with ads, new polling from NRDC suggests that voters are more likely to support candidates who voted in favor of the climate bill than those who did not. Last week The Obama Administration caved to pressure from Big Oil by lifting the deepwater drilling moratorium, but also took a step forward by cracking down on a massive new mountaintop removal coal mining project.

Dirty Money in the Election:

With large donors able to contribute unlimited amounts of money anonymously in this year's election, large PACs (Political Action Committees) have formed recently to campaign on behalf of specific candidates. Candidate contribution limits do not apply to these new 'super PACs' so long as they don't "coordinate" with candidates for elected office.

One example of a new super PAC is Alaskans Standing Together, which has spent $600,000 on ads this week on behalf of Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), over twice what her campaign has spent. According to a former adviser to presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ), "these new 'Super PACs' have opened the door to the clearest, easiest way to spend unlimited funds on an election . . .This is pretty much the holy grail that people have been looking for."

Video from fall 2009 shows oil billionaire David Koch (pronounced 'coke') presiding over an Americans for Prosperity (AFP) strategy meeting, where paid organizers, funded by Koch himself, list how many tea party rallies they were responsible for organizing. In the past Koch and his spokespeople have denied his involvement with the tea party, but this footage shows his intimate connection with the organizational structure of the "astroturf" portion of the tea party movement.

How will the House Climate Vote affect Candidates?

The unprecedented influx of money into the November election is taking its toll on many candidates who voted in support of climate action in the House last year. Conventional wisdom in an election would suggest that taking votes in support of President Obama's legislative agenda is what is hurting vulnerable Democrats, but new polling data from NRDC suggests otherwise on the climate bill specifically.

Voters prefer candidates who voted in favor of a climate bill by an average spread of almost 20% in 21 of nation's most competitive congressional districts: Jerry McNerney (CA); Betsy Markey (CO); Alan Boyd (FL); Suzanne Kosmas (FL); Alan Grayson (FL); Leonard Boswell (IA); Debbie Halvorsen (IL); Phil Hare (IL); Frank Kratovil (MD); Mark Schauer (MI); Carol Shea-Porter (NH); Dina Titus (NV); John Hall (NY); Steve Driehaus (OH); Mary Jo Kilroy (OH); John Boccieri (OH); Paul Kanjorski (OH); Patrick Murphy (PA); John Spratt (SC); Tom Perriello (VA) and Steve Kagan (WI).

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EPA Authority Tackles Big Coal and MTR

19
Oct
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Just two weeks ago, many groups like 1Sky joined the Appalachia Rising! rally in Washington, D.C. to call for an end to mountaintop removal mining. Last week, a big announcement related to mountaintop removal mining in coal country showed again why we need EPA authority to protect our air, land, and water in the absence of real clean energy legislation from Congress.

The EPA announced that the agency recommended a withdrawal of the Clean Water Act permit for the Spruce Fork No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia. The agency's press release stated,

The Spruce mine is one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed in Central Appalachia, and would result in the destruction of 2,278 acres of temperate rainforest and the burying of 7.5 miles of streams in the Spruce Fork sub-watershed."

The EPA also says of the mine on its website:

The EPA has reason to believe that the Spruce No. 1 Mine, as currently authorized, could result in unacceptable adverse effects to fish and wildlife resources."

Mountaintop removal opponents like the ILoveMountains coalition praised last week's recommendation, but also called on their supporters to ask their senators to sponsor the Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696), an important bill to sharply reduce mountaintop removal coal mining and protect clean drinking water:

While this news is great for the communities adjacent to the mine, there are hundreds of similar communities being polluted and poisoned every day by other mountaintop removal mining operations.

It's just one step, but a welcome one. We're amazed to see so much coming out of the EPA this year, but it's happened in the absence of new, comprehensive legislation to tackle these issues. Without these kinds of EPA rulings and recommendations under the authority of laws like the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act, there are few laws we have in place to stop Dirty Coal and protect our families and resources.

But coal has a lot of resources to fight back. The recent attacks on the Clean Air Act in the Senate and House make it too obvious that coal is out to end any regulation that stops their dirty energy practices and it shows how much money they funnel towards Congress to keep them up. Last week's announcement was another step in the right direction from the EPA, one we're hoping Congress will follow.

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Weekly roundup 10/15/10: More pics and stories from 10/10/10 (VIDEO, PICS)

15
Oct
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This week we're keeping the roundup tightly focused on the 10/10/10 Global Work Parties. Unfortunately the mainstream media largely decided to ignore the event. And can you blame them? Hundreds of thousands of people in 188 countries and all 50 states organized and attended more than 7,300 events in what amounted to the largest climate grassroots mobilization in history -- that's all. Really, how is that news?

Snarkasm aside, clearly it's up to us as a movement to tell this story. Which is why we've been collecting pics and stories of 10/10/10 events from our organizers and supporters all week -- and they've been pouring nonstop. You can enjoy the eye candy neatly compiled in this slideshow, but below are some stories and pics we wanted to highlight.

Veronica Butcher Shingleton in North Carolina sent us this delicious video and report:

1Sky NC focused around the Raleigh area (commonly known as the Triangle) at six sites: East Raleigh, South Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Wendell , and Louisburg. At each location folks gathered for a potluck lunch featuring local foods and then went to work side by side seeding, weeding, or harvesting at a local Community Garden or an Organic Farm. We picked this action because, in dealing with the climate crisis, we have to rethink the way we produce food on the planet -- moving away from industrial agriculture powered by fossil fuels, and towards small-scale, local, organic farming. Food is part of the problem but it is also part of the solution.

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Obama's climate schizophrenia

14
Oct
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The last few days have been something of a roller coaster for the climate movement. On Sunday, October 10th, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the U.S. and around the world to work on fighting climate change and push our leaders to do the same. Then on Monday, the Obama Administration announced the lifting of the offshore drilling moratorium that was put in place in response to the BP oil disaster.

The contrast was stark: A global movement demanding that their leaders get serious about climate change and building a clean energy future, while the President of the United States sends a very public signal that it's back to business as usual -- essentially an endorsement of the dirty energy sources that have us over the climate barrel.

There's no denying that President Obama has accomplished a lot on climate in two short years, including his recent decisions to put solar on the White House next spring and the approval of two major solar power installations in the Southwest. But when the President abruptly reverses one of his most visible responses to the BP oil disaster just three weeks before Election Day, it's no wonder the American people are confused about the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to transition to clean energy sources immediately. They look to the President for leadership -- and right now, they're getting very mixed signals.

It's no mystery who's behind this decision. Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and their allies have spent more than $990 million to influence the current Congress and to elect a whole slate of climate deniers and shills for big polluters this November. Monday's announcement of the lifting of the moratorium is yet another example of just how hard these dirty fuel companies are leaning on our leaders and why we need to push back.

In the face of this Administration's climate schizophrenia, the 10/10/10 Global Work Parties were a critical reminder to our leaders in Washington that the climate movement is alive, growing, and ready to keep fighting. Hundreds of thousands of people attended at least 7,347 events in 188 countries and all 50 states -- the largest climate grassroots day of action in history. One day of action won't solve the climate crisis, but on 10/10/10, we showed our leaders that Big Oil and Dirty Coal are not the only game in town.

The 10/10/10 Global Work Parties were just the start of a movement-wide push on President Obama to fulfil his promises to the international community in Cancún during COP16 this fall -- even as we support him when he comes through on climate, as when he decided to put solar on the White House. But more importantly, we'll keep pushing him to provide the American people with clear, consistent leadership on climate and energy. When it comes to climate, this one-step-forward, two-steps-back approach just won't do.

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Making Sausage of Climate Policy

8
Oct
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By 1Sky blogger Andy Silber. See Andy's bio at the end of this post. -- Luis

Andy Silber is a astrophysicist, engineer, project manager, husband, father, and energy activist living in Seattle. Visit Andy's blog on Sustainable West Seattle. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.

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How mountaintop removal destroys ecosystems

6
Oct
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Mountaintop removal mining in the Appalachian region is one of the most ecologically destructive activities being undertaken to meet our domestic energy needs. To understand the devastation, you need to first get a picture of the process of the destruction.

Before mountaintop mining begins, forests are logged off the mountain. Then the overburden (organic material, topsoil, and bedrock to the depth of the coal seam) is removed. Mining companies had difficulty in disposing of this "mining waste," so in 2002 the Bush administration decided to allow them to dump the overburden in adjacent forest streams.

The result:

Just one mountaintop removal mine can lay bare up to 10 square miles and pour hundreds of millions of tons of waste material into as many as a dozen "valley fills" -- some of which are 1,000 feet wide and a mile long.

And if that’s not bad enough, the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act allows mining companies to restore MTR sites in grass -- which means that it will take thousands of years for forest to develop again, and the Appalachian temperate forest ecosystem is gone forever. Filled streams are no longer streams. They are ditches or culverts, their ecological function gone forever.

Janelle Corn, Ph.D., is an ecologist and wildlife biologist living in western Montana. She has lived and worked in the western U.S. for 30 years, and is currently an activist for addressing climate change before it's too late. Her new blog is Natural History Now. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.
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Sun, sun, sun, here it comes!

5
Oct
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Great news from the White House! President Obama has decided to install solar panels atop the White House residence:

The most famous residence in America, which has already boosted its green credentials by planting a garden, plans to install solar panels atop the White House's living quarters. The solar panels are to be installed by spring 2011, and will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity.

The plans will be formally announced later Tuesday by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Groups like 350.org have been urging Obama to put solar on the White House for some time, so it's nice to see the President heeding their call to lead by example. As Bill McKibben said:

The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: they listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future...If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world."

Add this to a list of significant climate achievements so far in Obama's young presidency (the lack of a certain critical item notwithstanding). And while the value of this move is largely symbolic, never underestimate the power of presidential symbolism:

"Putting solar on the roof of the nation's most important real estate is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we generate electricity," Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch said.

This is a great way to start the final week before the worldwide 10/10/10 Global Work Parties on Sunday. And on a personal note, I'd like to thank President Obama and the AP for giving me the flimsiest of excuses to include a Beatles song with this post:

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Biking for climate down the California coast

1
Oct

If you have been paying attention to 1Sky's Twitter or Facebook feed in the last weeks, you'll recall hearing about the great event that is the Brita Climate Ride. If you don't know what Climate Ride is, here's the short version: two incredible women whose day jobs involve showing others the world on bicycles decided to help make a difference on climate change. In 2008, they started a five-day bike ride from New York to Washington, D.C. to raise money and awareness about climate and clean energy groups. Climate Ride has now grown into a bi-annual action with hundreds of riders. This year, 1Sky was chosen as a beneficiary and I was able to take part in this epic event down the coast of Northern California.

 

Overall, the trip was inspiring – from the amazing landscapes, the steel-willed riders, and the incredible ride staff. The week officially started when we all met in the small town of Fortuna, CA during a beautiful sunset before we were to set off. The room was full of more than 100 riders, Climate Ride staff, and a few family members. I knew that this was a room of people who cared about fighting climate change, but it wasn't until later in the week that I realized what incredible company I was in. That night ended with the riders being invited to write messages to President Obama on pre-addressed postcards about why we were doing Climate Ride and what the issue means to us.

Day one was through the most perfect setting imaginable for such a ride. After the morning safety talk (and me shoving a triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich down my face – energy food, clearly), we set off and soon found ourselves riding through the redwood forests of Northern California. They don't call it the Avenue of the Giants for nothing. Living in D.C., I can sometimes forget just how breathtaking nature can be. This day reminded me of that very quickly.

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Weekly roundup 10/1/10: Obama's chunky climate solutions

30
Sep
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This week, we gauge reactions to President Obama's comments about climate action in 2011, we look back at a very ineffectual Congress (good and bad), learn why Californians need to defeat Prop 23 this fall, and give a shout-out to this weekend’s One Nation Working Together rally in Washington, D.C.

President Obama gave a Rolling Stone interview on the cusp of midterms elections and raised some hope when he discussed his stance on climate legislation. He told the magazine he will dedicate himself to the issue in 2011, but that it would need to be handled in “chunks”, not as one bill. New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andy Revkin reacted with “”deep skepticism.” Andrew Schenkel at Mother Nature News said stand-alone bills like RES and a cap on smokestacks could be signs of this “chunkiness” already happening. We asked our followers on Twitter and Facebook what they thought -- and got some very mixed reactions. What’s yours?

Congress recessed early this week, leaving a lot of work hanging in the wind until they return from elections. Congress leaving things in the balance certainly isn’t anything new and there is some good and bad to what they did leave in balance.

The good? Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) says Congress won’t act this year to block the Obama administration from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Senate Republicans invoked Rockefeller’s “Dirty Air Act” on Monday, only to be shot down on the floor (whew!). Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn says this act is likely over for the year:

“A spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid declined comment Wednesday when asked if he will follow through with the floor vote commitment, most likely during the lame duck session. Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters there was limited time on the calendar after the midterm election.” [another whew!]

The bad? Well, any talk of a renewable Energy Standard (RES) bill is gone as well. Grist’s Randy Rieland says Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) introduction of his own RES bill puts a kibosh on Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) own RES bill. Greenwire’s Katie Howell says Bingaman is holding out for 60 votes. But with Sen. Durbin’s announcement of a tight lame-duck schedule, who knows. While 1Sky hasn't taken a stand on any RES bill yet, signs of bipartisan bills on climate is a step in the right direction. We hope.

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Appalachia Is Rising Up Against Mountaintop Removal

24
Sep
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Two years ago this month, I flew in a helicopter over Appalachian coal country in Kentucky.

After we landed and I drove off, I cried.

I was in Kentucky because the amazing group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) had asked me to come down to see firsthand what mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining was really like. I took a Litehawk helicopter flight for an aerial perspective of the damage from MTR mining in the area. During the flight, I took picture after picture of these gouged-out mountaintops:

People who know me can tell you I'm a strong-willed activist who thinks and acts decisively and pragmatically. But after an hour of circling these stripped-out circles of land among the trees and hills that make up this beautifully hilly country, seeing truck after truck moving mountains of earth away from these scars, I felt like I could hear the ground screaming in pain. I had seen pictures, but nothing had prepared me for this. As I was driving off in my car, I really wasn't sure if I would be able to stop crying. I felt like I had just witnessed a murder I wasn't able to prevent.

During trip through Appalachia I also met many of the people directly affected by the devastation from MTR. These men and women took me to their homes -- their Kentucky "hollers" -- and talked about the death threats they received from coal companies for speaking out against MTR. These weren't "activists": They were people who came from Appalachian families going back several generations, many of whom worked in the coal mines and were part of the mining community. For them, community and tradition were replaced by health problems caused by contaminated drinking water from coal slurry and homes that had to be abandoned because of cracked foundations due to the blasting. The health threats and pain of a changing landscape were all too real, every day. I think about them often and what they have faced. It makes me realize that we have to stop these companies from destroying the land and these communities.

Since my trip to the Appalachians, my respect for the leaders and groups working to end mountaintop removal has soared. Make no mistake: no one is fighting coal companies on the front lines harder than the fearless anti-mountaintop removal activists in Appalachia. The climate movement can learn a lot from how these anti-MTR activists and groups work together to take a hard stand against Dirty Coal.

This weekend, those alliances come together in Washington, D.C. for Appalachia Rising!, billed as "a national response to the unmitigated destruction of Appalachia's mountains, air and water through mountaintop removal coal mining." The two-day conference this weekend will bring together scores of groups and speakers to discuss mountaintop removal and share stories, followed by a day of action that includes a rally and march in downtown D.C. on Monday, September 27, and a day of lobbying Congress on Tuesday.

Recently, 1Sky worked with Appalachian Voices on a video that speaks to the need to protect Appalachia from the reprehensibly destructive practice of mountaintop removal:

This video, cut to a song by Mary Anne Hit of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, features Appalachian natives who are tired of seeing their homes abused and want something better for future generations in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and the rest of the mountain states. We look forward to Monday's Appalachia Rising! action against MTR with determined resolution. Let's send a message to our leaders that this tearing of the earth must stop.

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