It’s cold and wet and hectic here in the Rockaway penninsula of Queens, New York City. Disaster relief efforts from hurricane Sandy are being interrupted by a Nor’easter storm that is now rolling in. As I type, the rain is transitioning to snow and word has it that the National Guard and the Red Cross are pulling out.
Snow is starting to collect on the rubble of collapsed buildings in Rockaway, NY.
While much of the country is focused on the outcome of the election, residents of Rockaway NY are buttoning up their coats, grabbing provisions and either buckling down or evacuating. Again.
That is, the folks who are aware that this storm is coming in. Not everybody is aware that an evacuation order is in place, and not everybody is willing or able to leave. Stranded residents are a major concern here right now. When Sandy trashed the area last week, some nursing homes along the beach were ordered not to evacuate, something fellow residents are feeling sore about as they look out for one another.
Enduring Sandy: A United Community Faces Challenges Head On
Despite miserable weather in the disaster zone and an ongoing lack of basic conveniences, I have seen incredible resilience from residents and relief volunteers in the Rockaways. Continue reading →
At a campaign event today in Etna, Ohio, Governor Romney was asked, “Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?” Romney responded, “I never imagined such a thing is funny,” despite using rising sea levels as a punchline in his speech to the Republican National Convention.
Woman: “Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?”
Romney: “I never imagined such a thing is funny.”
Man: “Is climate change still a joke to you?”
Romney: “As a matter of fact, if you’d like to – I know you’re filming – if you’d like to see my view on global warming, I wrote a book, and there’s a chapter on global warming and you’ll see what I think we can do to deal with it.” Continue reading →
As news organizations cover the relationship between climate and extreme weather in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, we also need to consider the people attempting to misinform and distort the link. One name comes to mind: Andrea Saul.
Saul happens to be Mitt Romney’s campaign press secretary.
A Greenpeace investigation on Andrea Saul began this year when a sharp ex-journalist tipped us on anti-climate science press releases sent his way while Saul worked for the lobbyists DCI Group several years ago. Upon further digging, it was clear that Saul played a key role in an Exxon-funded campaign to subvert global warming science — running counter-ops specifically denying any connection between global warming and hurricanes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Continue reading →
For the second time today, Mitt Romney dodged a question about Hurricane Sandy and climate change.
After standing by as his supporters drowned out a question about climate change with chants of “USA! USA!”, Mitt Romney was confronted again at a rally today in Virginia about his climate silence. An audience member on the rope line asked Mitt Romney “Given Hurricane Sandy, how would you address climate change as president?”
The opportunity to connect the dots was there for the second time today, but once again Romney dodged. Continue reading →
Last week, Greenpeace posted a comparison of Romney’s new “War on Coal” TV ads with coal industry advertising. Our analysis shows that Romney’s ads mirror four decades of coal industry advertising.
It turns out that the coal industry is not only providing Romney with talking points for his TV ads, but also with human props. The Romney “War on Coal” TV ad features the candidate speaking in front of a crowd of coal miners. Murray Energy Company forced these miners to miss a day of work without pay, and told them that attendance was mandatory at the Romney event. On Tuesday, Progress Ohio filed an FEC complaint over the use of coal miners in the Romney TV ad. “Clearly the [Romney] campaign should have thought better of exploiting the forced support of these workers,” said Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of ProgressOhio.
The TV ad is running in coal states, including Ohio and West Virginia. In the ad, Romney declares “we have 250 years of coal! Why wouldn’t we use it?” Greenpeace analysis revealed that this estimate is frequently used in coal advertising, even though the National Academy of Sciences shows it to be vastly overestimated.
The second administrator of the EPA, Russell Train, passed away today at the age of 92. This loss is assuredly great for his family, but it is also a loss for the environmental community and citizens of conscience throughout the country.
President Obama aired a new ad in Ohio this week in which he decided it would be good politics to insult the millions of Americans who are choking on the pollution caused by coal-burning power plants. The ad says:
“When he ran for president, Barack Obama pledged to support clean coal and invest in new technologies, and here in Ohio, coal production’s increased 7 % since Obama took office … Obama’s also made one of America’s largest investments ever in clean coal technology, a $5 billion effort to create the next generation of coal-fired plants.”
The ad goes on to bash Mitt Romney for one of the more decent things he has ever done: boldly calling for the closure of a coal-burning power plant back when he was the governor of Massachusetts in 2003. Don’t believe it? Here’s video of what Romney said then:
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). Watch for yourself below.
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 (TCEQ), 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 www.fracfocus.org 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.