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Posts Tagged ‘environmental justice’

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.


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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 »

Why We Fight: Paul Edwards discusses his tar sands, megaloads video

Posted by Matthew Koehler on August 25, 2011

(Note: This article was written by Paul Edwards. It originally appeared in the summer 2011 newsletter of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Paul’s new tar sands/megaloads video can be viewed here. – MK)

If John Muir were alive today he’d be a member of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Muir was no armchair environmentalist, he was a radical activist committed to demonstrable results on the land, not to collaboration and consensus. He maintained that the whole natural world was vitally connected and you couldn’t damage one essential element of it without damaging it all in ways unknown and unforeseen. He’d be with us.

So would Aldo Leopold. Leopold’s passionate connection to the wild world led him, through years of immersion in it and deep, discerning introspection, to the formulation of his watershed Land Ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” That’s the mantra we live by in this organization.

The Alliance is often accused by nature rapists, ecosystem despoilers, and their phony sob sisters of being an uncompromising “obstructionist” organization. What drives them nuts is that we relentlessly attack and beat proposals that are flagrantly criminal — and so much of what is being done or attempted now in various ways by the Corporate Tyranny that owns America is simply criminal.

One good example is the Alberta Tar Sands obscenity. This incalculably destructive eco-crime has the full backing of both the Canadian and American governments, but organized opposition to it is growing every day.

Meanwhile, Exxon–a major Tar Sands player and extortionist pirate–has cut a deal with Montana’s Coalboy Governor and his Idaho counterpart, Oily Butch Otter, to run monstrous megaloads from the port of Lewistown on narrow Highway 12 along the federally-designated Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers. From there the route twists over serpentine Lolo Pass, goes down through Missoula and follows the Blackfoot River to the Rocky Mountain Front then up to the Alberta Tar Sands.

There are administrative challenges and lawsuits under way against the scam in both Idaho and Montana, but there’s no telling how they’ll play out. So, knowing I had a shot at a known enemy, I decided to try to hit Exxon where they live by doing a video to expose them in all their appalling arrogance.

The fight against the massive and continuing destruction of the Tar Sands is as David and Goliath as it gets. But as John Muir would have said, it is directly related and “connected” to the essential mission of the Alliance: We fight the arrogant and irresponsible exercise of concentrated money and power that exploits and abuses the natural world and the people who inhabit it.

Vital ecosystem connections are the essence of the Tar Sands fight and are part and parcel of what the Alliance has been doing with issues like the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act for decades. We fight the tough fights against very long odds…and we win most of the time.

For exactly that reason, members Muir and Leopold would be proud of us.

Paul Edwards was born in South Dakota and has worked as a pea-pitcher, header puncher, roustabout, wild animal trainer’s assistant, high-steel man, able seaman, movie actor and NGO rep in I Corps, Vietnam. Paul also put in 25 years as a writer, director and producer in Hollywood film and television (including the hit TV series Gunsmoke) before fleeing for his life and what remained of his sanity to his ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

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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 »

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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MT Leg: Ghost of anti-environment, anti-wildlife senator lives

Posted by Matthew Koehler on January 25, 2011

It was once said that bad ideas die with the people who hold them. If only that were true. In viewing the opening of the Montana Legislature, it is apparent that the anti-conservation, anti-environment, anti-public land and anti-wildlife philosophy of Montana’s most notorious politician is vigorously alive in 2011.

By way of refresher, William A. Clark was our U.S. senator from 1901-1907. At the time, it was a position filled through vote of the state Legislature. For Clark it was “… a position he had initially purchased with bundles of crisp $100 bills handed out to legislators in monogrammed envelopes – W.A.C. stamped on the fold, $10,000 per vote.” Clark’s defense at the time was, “I never bought a man who was not for sale.” The prize then, as it is now, was privatization and commercialization of natural resources.

So opens an excellent guest column today from Jim Posewitz. Those not familiar with Posewitz should be sure to check out his impressivebio.

Posewitz grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin during the 1940s and 50s, at a time when even common wildlife, such as deer, were literally nowhere to be found across even the rural landscape of forests, fields and farmland, the inevitable results of over-hunting and poor management. I too was born in Sheboygan in the early 70s and was raised in the rural village of Elkhart Lake, about 20 miles outside of Sheboygan. Given the hundreds and hundreds of deer we’d see biking or driving country roads as a teenager, it’s literally hard for me to even comprehend how this landscape could have possibly been devoid of even the most common forms of wildlife.

Posewitz came from an incredibly athletic, I’d even say legendary, Sheboygan family. During the 1930s, John and Joe “Scoop” Posewitz were stars for the Sheboygan Red Wings, a professional basketball team that would go on to become the smallest market team in the NBA, successfully taking on the likes of the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. Legendary basketball coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach, who’s team went 0-3 at Sheboygan during the NBA’s 1949 inaugural season, looked at Sheboygan, and their fans, with great distain. To this day, when I check the Sheboygan Press sports page, there’s good chance some member of the extended Posewitz family will be highlighted.

OK, enough of my Sheboygan-inspired digression. We’re all lucky, because Posewitz came to Montana in the 1950s on a football scholarship at Montana State in Bozeman. By the early 60’s – following 3 years in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division – Posewitz left MSU with a Masters of Science in Fish & Wildlife Management and started what would be a 32 year career with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Jim’s accomplishments while with FWP are literally too numerous to list (again, check out his bio), but some of the highlights include:

• Fish and Wildlife management plans were developed under Jim’s direction for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

• In the mid and late 1970s efforts were underway to construct two dams on the Kootenai River of northwestern Montana. Under Jim’s leadership, baseline fish and wildlife research helped to seal the fate of both the Kootenai Re-regulating Dam and the Kootenai Falls Dam. Neither were constructed.

• Jim was instrumental in assuring that critical fish and wildlife language was incorporated into the 1980 Montana Strip and Underground Mine Reclamation Act.

• When the Montana Water Use Act of 1973 was passed, it was entirely attributed to Jim Posewitz and his biologists who spent years in the field then weeks in court on the witness stand, adroitly testifying on behalf of fish and wildlife habitat needs. This was the first time that fish and wildlife needs were recognized as legal uses of water.

Posewitz has also founded Orion: The Hunter’s Institute, which provides leadership on ethical and philosophical issues to promote fair chase and responsible hunting. He’s also an excellent writer, who’s book, Beyond Fair Chase, has been printed over 500,000 times and is required reading for many hunter education courses.

The battle between exploitation and conservation has persisted through the century that followed, generally with pseudo-conservatives attacking conservation budgets, vilifying those carrying the conservation message, and purging progressive political thought from their own political ranks.

In conclusion, welcome to the 2011 Montana legislative session and its promise to privatize and commercialize our wildlife; repeal environmental protection; weaken laws passed that protected our air, land and water; and to do what it can to peddle the last ton of Western coal to Asia as the planet chokes.

Thus, it is once again time for the people to express themselves in support of the legacy that delivered this Last Best Place to our custody. There will be a number of conservation nonprofit organizations monitoring the legislative process. They deserve our support and when they call for our help, we all need to respond. It will be up to “we the people” to preserve the legacy passed to us and our time. Posterity will judge us just as we have judged those who preceded us.

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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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Democracy Now! on the Struggle Against Mountaintop Removal

Posted by Matthew Koehler on April 9, 2009

We’re highlighted mountaintop removal coal mining – one of the greatest environmental and human rights tragedies in America – taking place in the mountains of Appalachia before.  Families and entire communities (some of which were founded before the American Revolution) are being driven off their land by flooding, landslides and blasting from mountaintop removal coal mining operations. I’d encourage anyone who cares about the environment and justice to take action by visiting the links above or one of the fine non-profit organizations in the list to the right that are working tirelessly day and night to end this tragedy.

Never one to shy away from a good fight – especially when the earth or social justice are at stake – my buddy Mike Roselle has put his neck (and entire large frame) on the line to stop the destruction of entire mountain ranges in West Virginia, the most biologically diverse region in the country.  Roselle’s considerable efforts have recently landed him in jail and spurred more death threats than people could imagine, something this co-founder of Earth First!, Rainforest Action Network and The Rukus Society takes in stride.

Yesterday, Amy Goodman interviewed Roselle on her Democracy Now radio/TV show. Please give the excellent interview a listen and get angry and inspired enough to take some steps to ensure justice for the people, mountains and critters of Appalachia.

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This is What a Dirty Lie looks Like

Posted by Matthew Koehler on March 18, 2009

One of the greatest environmental and human rights tragedies in America is taking place in mountains of Appalachia, the most biologically diverse region in the country.  According to my friends at organizations such as Appalachian Voices and Coal River Mountain Watch, families and entire communities are being driven off their land by flooding, landslides and blasting resulting from mountaintop removal coal mining.

As Appalachian Voice’s excellent webpage on Mountaintop Removal points out:

Mountaintop removal is a relatively new type of coal mining that began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Coal companies in Appalachia are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require.

Mountaintop removal involves clear cutting native hardwood forests, using dynamite to blast away as much as 800-1000 feet of mountaintop, and then dumping the waste into nearby valleys, often burying streams. While the environmental devastation caused by this practice is obvious, families and communities near these mining sites are forced to contend with continual blasting from mining operations that can take place up to 300 feet from their homes and operate 24 hours a day. Families and communities near mining sites also suffer from airborne dust and debris, floods that have left hundreds dead and thousands homeless, and contamination of their drinking water supplies.

In central Appalachian counties, which are among the poorest in the nation, homes are frequently the only asset folks have. Mining operations have damaged hundreds of homes beyond repair and the value of homes near a mountaintop removal sites often decrease by as much as 90%. Worst of all, mountaintop removal is threatening not just the people, forest and mountaints of central Appalachia, but the very culture of the region. Coal companies frequently claim that mountaintop removal is beneficial for the people, economy and the environment, but the facts just don’t hold up.

To help create broader awareness of the destructiveness of mountaintop removal specially, and coal in general, a coalition of organizations have recently launched “The Dirty Lie” campaign. I’d highly recommend checking it out and watching the videos, even if their web interface creeps me out a little because it reminds me of the Red Room from Twin Peaks.

If you’re looking to be more action-orientated, click here to write a letter to your congressional representative asking them to support the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310), which is one of the main strategies to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. Also, make sure to check back, as in the coming weeks I plan to have more articles about this important environmental and human rights issues directly from community activists who are on the front lines.

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