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When Environmentalists Collaborate

The Wages of Compromise

by MICHAEL DONNELLY
March 01, 2012

Spring is in the air in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Crocus and daffodil add a splash of late winter color. Trees are budding. Days grow longer, the sun makes a cameo appearance…and, like swallows to Capistrano, the usual suspects cadre of eco-wonks/lawyers return to Eugene and the University of Oregon for the 30th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference   (E-LAW) March 1 – 4, 2012.

“Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function.” — David Brower, first Executive Director of the Sierra Club. This year PIELC officially celebrates the 100thAnniversary of Brower’s birth.

E-LAW is part employment bazaar for newly-minted attorneys seeking jobs in the ever-expanding (much thanks to E-LAW) field of Environmental Law. It is also part gathering of actual non-paid, in the trenches eco-activists who are the ones who generate the resistance that leads to all those legal jobs. What matters to the job seekers and the already employed panelists who draw a paycheck derived from a cornucopia of foundation-funded groups and what motivates the volunteer or underpaid activists sometimes coincide and sometimes the activists are featured panelists; but, most of the time the disconnect is palpable. Invariably, PIELC becomes living proof of the Upton Sinclair dictum.

“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something  when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair

Many environmental topics – local, national and international are featured among the many panels and plenary sessions.  Excellent panels on Civil Liberties and Activism always are on the agenda, as are ones addressing threatened Species. Many prominent issues are left unaddressed. And, as Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle (now in Appalachia fighting the good fight against the abomination of Mountaintop Removal coal extraction) always notes, “The real work at any of these gatherings is done in the hallways and bars.”

So, here’s a summary of the local and national ones that I see are the hot points issues right now; the ones getting the mountain lion’s share of the funding and attention:

Selling Out: Frackin Blood Money for the Sierra Club and Tex Hall

By Brenda Norrell writing for Censored News.

The road into New Town, of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, in North Dakota, fouled with dust, pollution and heavy trucks. Photo Brenda Norrell

T.he Sierra Club admits it accepted $25 million from the fracking industry, while Chairman Tex Hall, of the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa Nation, continued his push for fracking and the rape of Mother Earth. Hall pushed against fracking regulations designed to protect the land and water.

In ‘Breaking Up with the Sierra Club,’ Sandra Steingraber said the Sierra Club admitted secretly accepting $25 million from the fracking industry between 2007 and 2012 and most of it came from Chesapeake Energy.

Breaking Up with the Sierra Club

March 23, 2012, by Sandra Steingraber

The Orion

Orion‘s search for a more truthful relationship between humans and the natural world occasionally calls for the expression of outrage. The more we learn about a gas-drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—the more we see it as a zenith of violence and disconnect, impulses that seem to be gathering on the horizon like thunder clouds.

Long-time friend and Orion columnist Sandra Steingraber has been particularly vocal about the dangers of fracking. Her columns in recent issues of the magazine have frequently been dedicated to the issue; and last year, after receiving a Heinz Award for her work, Steingraber donated the cash prize to the fight against fracking in her home state of New York.

In February, Time magazine broke the news that the Sierra Club, an old and respected environmental defender, had, for three years, accepted $25 million from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest gas-drillers in the world. (In 2010, Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s new executive director, refused further donations from the company.) The story prompted Steingraber to write an open letter to the Club, posted below. We invite you to read the letter, which testifies to the confusion, fear, and outrage that’s pouring out of communities in gasland—but which is also, importantly, a bold call to courage.

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No right way is easy. . . .We must risk our lives to save them.
—John Muir, Sierra Club’s founder
Dear Sierra Club,

I’m through with you.

For years we had a great relationship based on mutual admiration. You gave a glowing review of my first book, Living Downstream—a review that appeared in the pages of Sierra magazine and hailed me as “the new Rachel Carson.” Since 1999 that phrase has linked us together in all the press materials that my publicist sends out. Your name appears with mine on the flaps of my book jackets, in the biography that introduces me at the speaker’s podium, and in the press release that announced, last fall, that I was one of the lucky recipients of a $100,000 Heinz Award for my research and writing on the environment.

I was proud to be affiliated with you. I hoped to live up to the moniker you bestowed upon me.

But more than a month has past since your executive director, Michael Brune, admitted in Time magazine that the Sierra Club had, between 2007 and 2010, clandestinely accepted $25 million from the fracking industry, with most of the donations coming from Chesapeake Energy. Corporate Crime Reporter was hot on the trail of the story when it broke in Time.

Big Greenwashing 101

(Or How Sierra Club Learned To Stop Worrying About The 99% And Love Wall Street)

02/12/12

By Red Emma

Greenwashing—[a compound word modeled on “whitewash”] a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly.

John Muir must be rolling over in his grave.

The organization he founded in 1892, the Sierra Club, America’s oldest and largest environmental group, have been in cahoots with the worst of the worst corporations in recent years. They’ve been paid tens of millions of dollars by the fossil fuel industry, tyrannical billionaire mayors and Wall Street in exchange for cleaning (and greening) up their public images.  Not only have they acted as a green public relations firm for the bastions of wealth and power, but have also sold out frontline communities most impacted by extractive industry.

Corporations rule our world with an unyielding iron fist. They poison and literally explode local communities with fracking and mountaintop removal. They profit off of dirty extractive industry with multi-billion investments. They empower a police state to repress democratic people’s movements drawing a line in the sand against Corporate America.  But they also insidiously mitigate the power of grassroots resistance movements with a complicit non-profit industrial complex. Most environmental non-profits actively serve as a buffer zone between our people’s movements seeking real change and a corporate state hell bent on sucking every last bit out of the planet and its people before the impending ecological collapse.

In recent years, there has been an expanding critique of the big greens. Corporate executives and the super wealthy occupy the donor rolls and boards of many green non-profits. Organizations like Environmental Defense and Natural Resources Defense Council have actively partnered with the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a front group that helped stop climate legislation in 2010. A 2010 expose in The Nation by Johann Hari revealed that Big Oil made large donations for decades to organizations like Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy to negate bad press over human rights and environmental abuses. Essentially, the big institutions of the environmental movement have been bought and sold.

Sadly, the Sierra Club which boasts a democratic governance system and a healthy grassroots base of local chapters have become part of the corporate world’s equation for control. They’ve partnered with, and been funded by, natural gas corporations to promote gas as a “bridge fuel.” They’ve taken large donations from New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg even as he’s attacked labor unions and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and released his racist police force to harass and demonize the Muslim community. They’ve even been business partners with the worst of the worst Wall Street banks, Bank of America, in greenwashing schemes to repair the bank’s damaged public image to the environmental community.

“Natural” gas flaring

Greening Natural Gas

In an attempt to stem scandal, the Club’s executive director Michael Brune revealed in Feb. 2012 to Time that from 2007 to 2010 they had taken over $25 million in anonymous donations from the natural gas industry. The industry is most known for the environmentally destructive extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Fracking’s methods of extraction from deep gas shale include the burning of diesel fuel and polluting ground water with toxic chemicals.

From 2007 to 2010, while local chapters in states like New York and Pennsylvania were fighting these gas companies, former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope developed a cozy relationship with Chesapeake Energy, a leading gas company. Pope, in fact, toured the country with CEO Aubrey McClendon promoting natural gas as a “bridge fuel” because it burns cleaner than oil or coal. Local Sierra activists were outraged that Pope publicly sold them out to the fracking industry.

A Warning from the Fracked States of America

January 22, 2012
by Wanda

A blog all the way from America. Anti-fracking campaigners from the US give their own perspective, and warn the UK campaign about those who might pretend to be on our side.

Look out for certain politicians and environmentalists posing as our allies. The politicians may say that they find fracking unconscionable, abominable, crazy etc. but watch out! These very same might then introduce or sign on to legislation which regulate fracking or make it ‘safer’. They might ban it in some people’s watersheds but allow it in other people’s. And then these politicians who declare fracking horrendous will again show their true colors by not taking clear steps to ban it, i.e., by not educating their constituents about the threats it poses, by not rallying their colleagues to support ban legislation, by not speaking to the media to educate many others that ban legislation exists or should, by not introducing legislation and calling out all the shots to stop it. Some environmental organizations will also pose as our allies.

But beware! Some will call for industry to use only ‘best practices’, while promoting the fanciful concept of ‘safe’ fracking, and expressing their strong disappointment at how ‘bad actors’ in the industry are ruining it for the good frackers by not disclosing the list of poisons to which the public and nature are being exposed. These poseurs will collect a bunch of $ and new members by expressing outrage without calling out pro-fracking politicians, without educating or rallying members to demand that specific relevant politicians support bans etc. We, in the fight against fracking in North America, are sharing with you our experience with these pretenders and how much they have cost our movements to ban fracking. We must and we will win the fight against fracking. We know that the window of time during which effective action to counter climate catastrophe is rapidly closing and that we must get real on systemic remedies (not Obama’s source-switching). Here below is a response to the most recent masquerade of one of the corporate media’s darlings in the ‘environmental’ movement, Natural Resource Defense Council’s legal counsel and ‘safe’ fracking promoter, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr..

Sierra Club took $26M from natural gas

 

Michael Brune says his group has changed its stance since 2010. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

By DAN BERMAN

2/2/12

The Sierra Club took $26 million from one of the nation’s largest natural gas companies for three years while at the same time hawking natural gas as a clean, green energy source, the group admitted Thursday.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. s Defense of Fracking (NRDC, Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, EDF)

“… you cannot regulate an abomination. You have got to stop it.” – Wendell Berry, writer/ environmental activist

Since the article featured below, published on October 26, 2011, Global News has aired a new video titled – ‘Untested Science’. The investigation reports that the technique called ‘fracking’ is raising serious environmental red flags. Bloomberg reported on November 2nd, 2011, that “gas fracking probably caused earthquakes in United Kingdom. Petroleum Economist reported on November 3rd, 2011:”Shale gas vs renewables: a battle for Britain“. In a shameful blog post on November 4th, 2011, the king of corporate ‘greens’, Environmental Defense Fund wrote that “shale gas reserves could reignite U.S. economy” (see blog post following article below). On the EDF website you can “See how we’re accelerating climate change: EDF’s corporate partnerships.” On November 9th, 2011, it was disclosed that the gas fracking industry is using military psychological warfare tactics and personnel in U.S. communities.

Notes on RFK, Jr.’s defense of fracking in the Huffington Post

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the ‘natural’ gas industry he works with

October 26, 2011

By Robert Jereski

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has finally acknowledged some terrible things about the fracking-for-natural gas industry. This took the good work of a lot of activists outraged at his appearance in ads for the gas industry and his groups’ promotion of gas as a ‘transition’ fuel. Tragically for New York, however, by the middle of his opinion piece, it is clear that he hasn’t even convinced himself.

Keywords:

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has finally acknowledged some terrible things about the fracking-for-natural gas industry. This took the good work of a lot of activists outraged at his appearance in ads for the gas industry and his groups’ promotion of gas as a ‘transition’ fuel. Tragically for New York, however, by the middle of his opinion piece, it is clear that he hasn’t even convinced himself, and that he ignores the need to ban fracking and the widespread demand by engaged environmental activist that it be banned.

Mr. Kennedy is on New York Governor Cuomo’s Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel. Rather than listen to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who in communities throughout the state have voted to ban fracking in their part of New York, Mr. Kennedy praises his buddy on the fracking panel, Mark Boling, from Southwestern Energy, a massive gas industry player.

Kennedy is Still a Booster of Safe Fracking, Despite all his Pained Reasons not to be. Why?

Because he is still a shill for the gas industry, who is proceeding with phase two of the Critical Path Energy Summit’s plans about fracking: “Make it Safe.” Robert F. Kennedy’s recent, apparently purely theatrical, diatribe against the gas industry in the Huffington Post spills much ink repeating industry talking points and then concludes that fracking is safe and that environmentalists will support it if the promised jobs and royalties materialize and if it is ‘reasonably regulated’. What??

For someone claiming to speak the “truth” why no mention of widespread popular movement to ban fracking?

A year ago regulator/politicians, gas industry CEOs (including Kennedy’s mentor on NYS Governor Cuomo Fracking Advisory Panel Mark Boling) and fellow pro-‘safe’ fracking NGO representatives concluded that the pro-gas p.r. strategy had failed and that the public was overwhelmingly against fracking. They decided they needed to reframe ‘gas’.

Since their summit, Kennedy, Boling and others claim to have made the following progress: (http://aspensciencecenter.org/projects/natural_gas_1):

Below is quote from Aspen Energy Summit site revealing collusion between Kennedy (of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Riverkeeper), Carl Pope and Michael Brune (Sierra Club), Aubrey McClendon and Boling (Chesapeake and Southwestern Energy respectively), and pro-fracking politicians:

“Our 2010 Natural Gas Solutions Summit 1.0 was convened to chart the critical paths that will enable natural gas to achieve its optimal potential as that source—environmentally, economically, politically and globally.

A year later, that gathering of leaders can claim impressive results, in terms of new alliances, important ongoing initiatives, and fundamental changes in the US energy approach, among them:
• Developing a system for 100% transparency in the disclosure of chemical ingredients in hydraulic fracturing fluids that does NOT infringe on trade secrets
• Developing a model regulatory framework designed to ensure well bore integrity throughout the full lifecycle of a hydraulically fractured well.
• Forming a legal team and petitioning the EPA to enhance Natural Gas use: define and enforce Clean Air Act provisions, MACT Boiler Rule etc
• Development and publishing of tabletop life-cycle analysis of carbon impact coal vs. natural gas
• An alliance of NGOs, industry, government leaders committed to replacing coal with natural gas”

Big Gas isn’t just going after the NY Times, as Kennedy claims. Their PR cast and crew are congregating in Texas soon to prepare a new assault on grassroots pro-ban anti-fracking activists by studying “militant NGO’s” websites to take their PR campaign to a new level of “combat.” People who are against fracking aren’t just activists in the streets, but entire communities, regions, even states and countries.

Fracking has been banned by elected officials representing hundreds of thousands of people in numerous cities and towns throughout the country–places like Dryden, NY (pop. 13,532), Ithaca, NY (pop. 18,198), (Morgantown, West Virginia (pop. 26,809), Baldwin, Pa (pop. 19,767), Buffalo, NY (pop. 292, 648), and Pittsburg, Pa. (pop. 305, 704). Seems like something a truthsayer might breathe a little mention of.

RFK says there are 40,000 activists. Okay, well there are many more people who have banned fracking in their communities. Will those people simply be angry about promised jobs not materializing? No. We know what we want and it’s not what Kennedy’s pushing.

Here are a few relevant annotated quotes below.

“In pitting itself against public disclosure and reasonable regulation, the natural gas industry is once again proving that it is its own worst enemy”.

Note: Calls for disclosure and regulation of the fracking industry have been made by large DC-tied environmental organizations, many of which have long supported methane as a transitional fuel, without sound evidence on which to base this pro-polluting industry spin. Communities impacted by the fracking industry are much more inclined to ban fracking so these ‘environmental’ groups are trotted out to declare that bans or bills to impose criminal sanctions on frackers are ‘politically unrealistic’.

This is Kennedy’s role: he pens this op ed pretending to make amends to the environmental community that has been outraged by his support for fracking (through the pro-‘safe’ fracking NRDC and Riverkeeper and through his ads for the fracking industry). The Op Ed sidles up to the powerful NYTimes, gives a useful list of many of the egregious crimes of the industry, regulators and legislators revealed by the NYTimes, but pairs these outrages with the same old defense of fracking!

What a sleight of hand! Guess they don’t pay Kennedy the big bucks for nothing.

If only the gas industry were more honest and forthright and allowed “reasonable regulation”, we would all be happy and allow the country to be fracked because . . . (Kennedy implies) fracked gas is better for the climate than coal. That’s the industry lie he continues to repeat implicitly as he makes a false mea culpa about having colluded with them in Aspen, and appeared in gas industry propaganda!

The Cuomo ‘Fracking Advisory Panel is stacked with pro-‘safe’ fracking advocates like Kennedy and his ‘bright light’ Mark Boling. Here’s the Gas Main report, entitled “A GRASSROOTS PERSPECTIVE: Is the DEC Spending Taxpayer Funds on Propaganda to Promote ‘Safe’ Fracking? A Look at New York Governor Cuomo’s Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel”:

http://gasmain.org/resources.htm

It may be true that the industry could have more easily continued to deceive and damage the communities of American people as it moved into the more densely populated Eastern states if it had pursued the p.r. strategy suggested by Kennedy here. But we’re not interested in being convinced by lies of ‘safe’ fracking.

Fracking is opposed by all real environmentalists. Period.

Kennedy oped here:
The Fracking Industry’s War On The New York Times — And The Truth
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Professor, Pace University Posted: 10/20/11 02:18 PM ET

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/fracking-natural-gas-new-york-times-_b_1022337.html

http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2011/10/116734.html

***

Shale Gas Reserves Could Reignite U.S. Economy

By EDF BLOGS | BIO | Published: NOVEMBER 4, 2011

By: Drew Nelson, EDF’s Clean Energy Project Manager

Yesterday, Bloomberg News produced a comprehensive article on shale gas and the hydraulic fracturing process used to tap it. The article provides some interesting history on how hydraulic fracturing has gone from a fringe technology practiced by only a few innovators to a widespread technology that, along with horizontal drilling, led to the current shale gas boom. It also highlights the fact that expanding U.S. shale gas production will play an important role in the U.S. economy and provide potential wins to local economies, local air quality, and the global climate system. However, as EDF President Fred Krupp points out in the article, these wins will only materialize IF the U.S. produces shale gas “in the right way.”

The article highlights EDF’s role on the front lines of ensuring that shale gas is produced in the right way, which we believe should include, among others:

– Comprehensive disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals (significantly, a Chesapeake Energy spokesman notes in the story that industry’s failure to disclose that information has led to a lack of trust by the public and slowed down industry efforts to expand drilling);
– Modernization of rules for well construction and operation;
– Systems-based management of wastes and water;
– State and national standards for improving air quality and reducing climate impacts; and
– Minimization of land use and community impacts from natural gas development.

It is important for the natural gas industry to realize that business as usual isn’t going to cut it and EDF will continue to work with responsible gas companies to get the rules right. Stay tuned.

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