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Hundreds arrested in sustained White House tar sands pipeline protests

Posted by Matthew Koehler on September 1, 2011

David Dougherty with The Real News takes a very good in-depth look at the continuing White House protests and the environmental and social issues surrounding the Alberta Tar Sands and the Keystone XL pipeline. Protesters are demanding that President Obama use his veto power to halt proposed expansion of Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada, through Montana and the Great Plains, and then down to refineries in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.

Also, I just ran across this new report (download pdf) from Oil Change International called Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed.


Posted in Climate Change, Economy, Energy, Green jobs, Obama Administration, Unsustainable | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hillary Clinton’s State Department Oil Services and Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

Posted by Matthew Koehler on September 1, 2011

Produced by Mark Fiore, this short animation is a not-so-far-fetched parody of Hillary Clinton’s State Department Oil Services and the influence of oil industry lobbyists on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline permit decision. For more information, visit

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Forests, Obama Administration, Unsustainable | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Updates from White House sit-in to stop Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted by Matthew Koehler on August 22, 2011

A few weeks ago environmental leaders – including Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and David Suzuki – called for civil disobedience at the White House to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada’s tar sands, through Montana and the Great Plains, and then down to refineries in Texas.

According to Tar Sands Action:

Another 52 Americans were arrested at the White House this morning (August 22, 2011) for taking part in an ongoing sit-in to push President Obama to stand up to Big Oil and deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline. In total, 162 people have been arrested since the ongoing protest began on Saturday.

This morning’s demonstrators came to Washington, DC from across the country, willing to spend their vacation in handcuffs to send a message to the President that they feel has abandoned their values and his promises to take on climate change.

Lori Fischer, the co-director for Nebraska Environmental Action Coalition and a member of Nebraska Farmers Union, traveled with five other Nebraskans and was arrested this morning. She said before her arrest:

“If the government is going to refuse to step up to the responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and many others. This is a crucial issue for Nebraskans to speak up loudly about. Our land, water, and the future of our children are at stake. I feel our leaders need to take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I am going to Washington remind them.”

Make sure to check out Tar Sands Action’s webpage for lots more general information and video, photos and updates on the continuing protest at the White House.

Another good source of information is the DC Indy Media site. Worth a look is a video Climate Wars, Episode 1:The Tar Sands. The site also links to Anonymous – Operation Green Rights – Tarmageddon Phase Two.

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Energy, Obama Administration | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sen Tester attaches wolf rider to Senate’s $1 trillion Continuing Resolution

Posted by Matthew Koehler on March 5, 2011

According to the Missoulian:

“U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has inserted language into the Senate’s Continuing Resolution – the bill that funds the entire national budget – declaring the gray wolf a recovered species in Montana and Idaho

The $1.077 trillion, seven-month spending bill is expected to reach a full Senate vote on Tuesday, and then return to the House of Representatives.”

In response, Defenders of Wildlife released the following press release:

Senate includes wolf delisting bill in must-pass funding pack age:
Provision would strip ESA protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana

Washington, D.C. (March 4, 2011) – In the latest effort to strip federal endangered species protections from gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, a Continuing Budget Resolution to fund federal government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year was unveiled in the Senate today. The provision directs the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the 2009 delisting rule, which was struck down in 2010 by a federal district court, and would insulate the reissued rule from further judicial review. If enacted, wolf management authority would be returned to all states in the region other than Wyoming. Idaho and Montana have made clear that wolf numbers will be drastically reduced in those states, and Wyoming has thus far refused to produce a wolf management plan that passes muster under the Endangered Species Act.

The following is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“What do wolves have to do with critical funding for our federal government? Absolutely nothing. Congress should be focused on keeping our nation’s essential services up and running, not going back on America’s commitment to restore wolves to Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies.

“This provision would hand over responsibility for wolves to the states when their approach of late has been anything but responsible. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has repeatedly stated his intent to kill as many wolves as possible in Idaho, and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer recently encouraged ranchers to take the law into their own hands and kill wolves on sight. We should not be rewarding these states for thumbing their noses at the conservation of wolves, wildlife that belongs to all Americans.

“This provision sets a dangerous precedent for legislating on Endangered Species Act protections that could leave countless other species vulnerable to attack. And, by blocking any further judicial review of wolf delisting, this provision sends the message that complying with the law doesn’t matter. If Congress adopts this measure, it will be a tragedy not just for wolves and other endangered species, but for the rule of law in America.

“Congress’s last-ditch attempt to force wolf delisting through on a budget bill only opens the door to other riders that eat away at the foundation of our nation’s environmental safeguards.”

Posted in Obama Administration, Wilderness, Wildlife | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher goes to trial

Posted by Matthew Koehler on February 27, 2011

(What follows is a slightly abridged version of an article by Umbra Fisk, which appeared on Grist on Feb 22, 2011)

The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be … The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.—Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to share a story of an ordinary citizen using peaceful direct action to take a stand.

When Tim DeChristopher woke up one morning in December of 2008, what he was intending to do that day was disrupt a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction. He did not expect he was starting down a road that would leave him $1.7 million in debt, facing a court date and up to 10 years in jail. But Monday, Feb. 28, DeChristopher will go to trial for an unusual and profound act of creative, direct, nonviolent civil disobedience.

For DeChristopher, armchair activism wasn’t enough of a response to the climate crisis. So when he heard that parcels of land were going to be rushed off for lease in an auction at the end of the Bush administration, opening them up for drilling, DeChristopher wanted to do something to stop the sale.

As a busy graduate economics student at the University of Utah, DeChristopher hadn’t planned what he was going to do that day when he arrived directly after a class. The auctioneers asked if he would like to be a bidder. Thinking on his feet, he said, “Yes, I would.”

Handed bidder paddle number 70, DeChristopher began bidding as soon as the auction opened. He bought more than a dozen parcels and drove up the prices of others before being stopped by a federal agent. His “purchase” totaled 22,500 acres, and effectively put a halt to the 11th-hour leases and subsequent drilling.

The auction itself was later deemed illegitimate by the Obama administration because it was conducted outside of the rules set for holding such auctions. A law known as Secretarial Order 3226 went into effect in 2001, stating that all parts of the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management, have to take into account the impacts of climate change in any major decision they make involving resource extraction.

Last year, climate luminaries Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Robert Redford, and Terry Tempest Williams published an open letter to support DeChristopher.

They wrote that he “pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that ‘violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act’ and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future.”

If you’re interested in joining the march or trial activities, you can find information for how to do that here. Watch Solve Climate News for a series of seven interviews with Tim DeChristopher. Contribute to Tim’s legal defense at Bidder 70.

During the two years since the auction, DeChristopher’s trial has been rescheduled nine times. He is heading toward the Feb. 28 date with “joy and resolve,” committing to letting his position be known even in the face of significant jail time. “I have no illusions about prison being a nice place,” DeChristopher told me in an interview. “But I’ve been very scared about my future for a long time. Throughout this I’ve been a lot more scared about staying on the path that we’re on now than about going to prison for a couple of years,” said DeChristopher.

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Senate hearing takes DOJ to task over foreign corruption enforcement

Posted by Matthew Koehler on December 1, 2010

Yesterday in Washington, a hearing was held before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee to examine the Department of Justice’s enforcement – or lack of enforcement – of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

You can watch the entire hearing via the C-Span feed.

In a nutshell, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) makes it unlawful for U.S corporations to bribe foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.

I admit that I’m no expert on the in’s and out’s of FCPA and DOJ’s enforcement measures, but my brother Mike is.

Mike’s the business law professor at Butler University (you know, the Indiana school that should have beat Duke in the NCCA basketball finals last April). He also writes the FCPA Professor blog.

Mike had the privilege of testifying during yesterday’s hearing and, boy, did he knock it out of the park! I couldn’t be more proud of my little brother for taking on Big Brother and these corporate thieves!

Here’s a snip from Mike’s oral testimony, which can be viewed at the 42 minute mark:

“The FCPA is a fundamentally sound statute that was passed by Congress in 1977 for a very specific and valid reason and my prepared statement provides a brief overview of the legislative history on that issue. That the FCPA is a fundamentally sound statute does not mean that FCPA enforcement is fundamentally sound. The recent article I wrote in the Georgetown Journal of International Law, ‘The Facade of FCPA Enforcement‘ details several pillars which constitute this current facade environment which exists. One pillar that I would like to talk about today is the pillar, which is very frequent, and that is where seemingly clear-cut cases of corporate bribery – per the DOJ’s own allegations – are not resolved with FCPA anti-bribery charged….This facade pillar undermines the rhetoric that DOJ uses when it describes it’s FCPA enforcement program and and undermines the deterrence that proper FCPA enforcement can achieve.

So despite numerous public statements during this era of the FCPA’s resurgence that the DOJ will vigorously pursue violators and that paying bribes to get foreign contracts will not be tolerated, the undeniable fact is that in the most egregious cases of corporate bribery the DOJ does not charge FCPA anti-bribery violations.

And the Siemens and BAE enforcement actions that have already been alluded here today are perfect examples of those.

Not only is it that these companies were not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations, but the deterrence message is also undermined when one analyzes the extent of US government business these companies have done in the immediate aftermath of the bribery scandals.

Using one will find that Siemens alone has been awarded numerous federal government contracts with U.S. stimulus dollars in the immediate 12 months after the bribery scandal. And one will also find that BAE, this month alone, not only was BAE not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations, but this month alone, BAE, according to its website, has secured $50 million in U.S. Government contract. Including in September 2010 securing a $40 million contract from the FBI, the same exact government agency that investigated BAE for its improper conduct.

So deterrence is not achieved when a company that bribes is not charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations. Deterrence is not achieved when a company settles a matter for an amount less than the business that was gained through bribery. Nor is deterrence achieved when the U.S. government continues to award multi-million contacts to the same companies that are engaged in these bribery schemes.

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President Obama sets sustainability goals for federal agencies

Posted by Matthew Koehler on October 7, 2009

From the White House:

WASHINGTON, DC – Demonstrating a commitment to lead by example, President Obama signed an Executive Order today that sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies and focuses on making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies.

“As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies,” said President Obama.

The Federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services.

The Executive Order also requires federal agencies to meet a number of energy, water, and waste reduction targets, including:

  • 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;
  • 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020;
  • 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015;
  • 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements;
  • Implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement;

Click here to read the entire executive order.

This is a good step in the right direction and, quite frankly, it’s about time. I have a previous post up about something similar, which I called the “sustainability filter.”

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Obama Administration, Sustainable Solutions | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More on Pulp Industry’s Billion Dollar Taxpayer Boondoggle

Posted by Matthew Koehler on July 8, 2009

Last month I wrote about how the US pulp and paper industry has figured out how to use an unintended tax loophole in the 2005 highway bill to basically transfer up to $10 billion in taxpayer funds right into their own packets.  Essentially every man, woman and child in the US is being forced to give $30 to the industrial dinosaurs in the pulp and paper industry.

Well, today I stumbled across some more information about this boondoggle courtesy of a new report in the  North American Wood Fiber Review.

According to the report:

In 2008, US pulp companies started to take advantage of a loophole in the US tax law, which will result in an influx of billions of [US taxpayer] dollars to a struggling industry. The tax credit was originally introduced in 2005 to encourage the use of alternative fuel over fossil fuel for cars and trucks. However, since late 2008, chemical pulp producing mills started to take advantage of the credit….These additional [US taxpayer] funds to the US pulp and paper industry, which is estimated to be valued between $3 billion to $8 billion dollars total in 2009, has been particularly helpful this year because many mills have been running with very low, if any, profit margins.

Wait, isn’t that “socialism?” But hold on, there’s more!

Without a doubt, many paper companies would have reduced their production of pulp this year had it not been for the black liquor tax credit….It is still uncertain how much longer the tax credit, or subsidy, will be in place. The US administration and a number of senators would like to see the program ended as soon as possible. Therefore, it may very well be that from October 1st 2009, US pulpmills will have to run without the support of the US taxpayers.

Oh great! So you mean that the pulp and paper industry would have actually had to reduce the amount of pulp and paper they produced without US Taxpayers giving the pulp and paper industry $8 billion in tax credits! So taxpayers not only get to foot this $8 billion bill, but we also get stuck with all these unneeded, wasteful paper and packaging products? Is this about the furthest thing from enlightened environmental policy you’ve ever heard of?

Please contact Senator Max Baucus and ask him to end this tax loophole as soon as possible. You can email Senator Baucus via his website or call his DC office directly at: (202) 224-2651.

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Pulp & Paper Industry’s Boondoggle Could Cost Taxpayers $10 Billion

Posted by Matthew Koehler on June 2, 2009

The US pulp and paper industry has figured out how to use an unintended tax loophole in the 2005 highway bill to basically transfer up to $10 billion in taxpayer funds right into their own packets.  Essentially every man, woman and child in the US is being forced to give $30 to the industrial dinosaurs in the pulp and paper industry.  If that doesn’t get your blood boiling, throw in the fact that this money is to compensate the pulp and paper industry for burning an additional 20 billion gallons of diesel!

For a look at how this issue is playing out in Montana, check out the Missoula Independent’s coverage.
You can also learn more by reading this letter that was sent to Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, by 25 environmental groups working to make the pulp and paper industry more sustainable and responsible.

Even more information can be found in this recent Wall Street Journal article, which opens with: “The Obama administration wants to stop billions of dollars of tax credits and direct payments to the paper industry under a tax provision originally intended to promote alternative fuels for motor vehicles.” Make sure to see a statement from a  US Treasury official quoted in the article who said, “Right now this does appear to be a transfer from the taxpayers to this industry.”  Talk about a “redistribution of wealth!”

Finally, no matter where you live in the US, please contact Senator Max Baucus (the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee) and ask him to end this tax loophole as soon as possible.  In April, Senator Baucus actually spoke out strongly against this boondoggle saying, “Unless we plug this loophole, the federal government is liable for billions in credits for black liquor in 2009 alone, even though the credit was never intended for this fuel…We are working to undo that unintended consequence.”  However, since that time, the Pulp and Paper lobbyists have been breathing down Baucus’ neck using the same tired, old rhetoric of the past.

Posted in Climate Change, Forests, logging, Obama Administration, timber industry | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wilderness Defender Carole King & NREPA Featured at Huff Post

Posted by Matthew Koehler on April 24, 2009

The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.
Edward Abbey (1927 – 1989)

Yesterday, the Huffington Post featured Todd Wilkinson’s look at Carole King’s sixteen year effort to protect Wilderness in the northern Rockies. The four-time Grammy Award winner has been a stalwart in the Wilderness movement every since 1993, when King was captivated by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies’ vision for Wilderness protection based on science and the needs of wildlife, not politics.  Much of King’s activism has centered around her remarkable efforts to see the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) passed by Congress and signed into law.

We’ve written about NREPA before. In a nutshell, NREPA:

• Designates as Wilderness 24 million acres of roadlless wildlands in the Northern Rockies;

• Connects natural, biological corridors, ensuring the continued existence of native plants and animals and mitigating the effects of climate change;

• Restores habitat that has been severely damaged from tens of thousands of logging roads that were built, and creates more than 2,300 restoration jobs in rural communities leading to a more sustainable economic base in the region;

• Keeps water available for ranchers and farmers downstream until it is most needed; and

• Eliminates subsidized development in the designated of 24 million acres of new wilderness areas, saving taxpayers $245 million over a 10-year period.

If you want more information about NREPA, including the full text of the bill and also a link to some really nifty maps broken down by National Forests, click here.

Do yourself a favor. Read the excellent feature on Carole King’s Wilderness activism, get inspired and then take a page from Carol’s book and get active!! You’re Congressional representative is waiting to hear from you!

Posted in Climate Change, Forests, logging, Obama Administration, Sustainable Solutions, timber industry, Wilderness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »