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(U.S.) Senate Climate Bill Dies-Does the Environment Win?

“For over a dozen years, since before the 1997 Kyoto climate summit, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Charitable Trust and other Big Green groups have been unshakably committed to cap-and-trade. Without bothering to consult grassroots activists or more maverick groups like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, Big Green anointed cap-and-trade as its climate mantra and forged a high-minded Beltway alliance with corporate giants like Exelon and GM.”

Charles Komanoff

July 28, 2010

Despite a Democratic supermajority in Congress, and despite President Obama’s campaign promise to tackle global warming, there will be no climate bill this year. The demise last week of the Kerry-Lieberman Senate bill makes that official. But that may actually be a good thing: it clears the way for genuine solutions to global warming­­—solutions that ordinary Americans can understand and support. And remember, most Americans do want their government to tackle climate change. A recent Stanford University poll found that 74 percent of the public believes climate change is human-caused, poses real threats and requires government action.

The bill that was withdrawn last week, like the Waxman-Markey bill that squeaked through the House last year and similar measures dating back to a 2003 Senate bill sponsored by John McCain, would have attempted to curb carbon emissions by creating a cap-and-trade market, a corporate-friendly approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under this system, a “capped” number of carbon emission permits are offered to coal, oil and gas extractors and importers, who can then sell (trade) the permits among themselves. As the volume of emissions permitted by the cap declined over time, the price of the carbon permits would rise, causing fossil-fuel energy to cost more and creating incentives to use less.

Cap-and-trade was popular inside the Beltway—some business interests and many mainstream environmental groups insisted on it—but it is a total loser in the larger battle to excite and mobilize public opinion. Attacks by climate-change denialists took a toll, but the arcane nature of cap-and-trade made it hard to love, and its links to the financial industry, originally viewed as an asset, turned toxic after the housing bubble burst.

There is a better way. Virtually everyone who truly desires emissions reductions agrees that putting a (rising) price on carbon is essential. But there’s another, better way to do that, one that also would deliver an economic bonus to a majority of Americans: the government should institute a fee-and-dividend system.

Like cap-and-trade, fee-and-dividend would limit emissions by building a fee for carbon emissions into the price of gasoline, coal-fired electricity and other carbon-based fuels, thereby giving consumers and businesses powerful incentives to use less. As in cap-and-trade, the fee would be imposed at the wellhead or import dock, eventually to be passed down the supply chain to consumers. But there are two critical differences.

First, fee-and-dividend would turn the proceeds of these higher energy costs over to the American public to spend as they wish, rather than to corporate emitters to fatten their bottom lines or to Washington lawmakers to lavish on pet projects. Under fee-and-dividend, each and every American would receive a monthly check, which for most people would offset the higher energy prices caused by the fee.

The other difference is a bit technical but is just as key. Under a cap, the price on carbon would be murky, since it would be set in a vast trading market and determined by fluctuating factors like the economic growth rate, consumer and producer price elasticities and hedge bets by speculators. With the carbon fee, the carbon price would be set up front and its rising trajectory known in advance, allowing consumers and entrepreneurs to bank on the future value of saving energy. The price incentive to move away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels would penetrate every crevice of the economy, ensuring that few if any opportunities to reduce climate-changing emissions were left on the table.

Fee-and-dividend is superior to cap-and-trade on grounds of both political appeal and economic efficiency. Here’s how James Hansen, the nation’s pre-eminent climate scientist, contrasted the two approaches in an op-ed in the New York Times last December:

Consider the perverse effect cap and trade has on altruistic actions. Say you decide to buy a small, high-efficiency car. That reduces your emissions, but not your country’s. Instead it allows somebody else to buy a bigger SUV—because the total emissions are set by the cap. In a fee-and-dividend system, every action to reduce emissions—and to keep reducing emissions—would be rewarded. Indeed, knowing that you were saving money by buying a small car might inspire your neighbor to follow suit. Popular demand for efficient vehicles could drive gas-guzzlers off the market. Such snowballing effects could speed us toward a pollution-free world.

Hansen’s example applies equally to renewable energy. Under a cap system, a wind farm, no less than his efficient auto, will lower the price for carbon emission permits, thus undermining the price incentive for other actions that would reduce emissions. In contrast, a carbon fee is immune to this effect, since individual actions have no effect on the legislated carbon price.

But can the environmental movement unite around cap-and-dividend?

For over a dozen years, since before the 1997 Kyoto climate summit, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Charitable Trust and other Big Green groups have been unshakably committed to cap-and-trade. Without bothering to consult grassroots activists or more maverick groups like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, Big Green anointed cap-and-trade as its climate mantra and forged a high-minded Beltway alliance with corporate giants like Exelon and GM.

The idea was to “put a price on carbon,” but in secret. Decision-makers at utilities and auto companies would use economic models to intuit the extent to which mandated declines in the amount of carbon emissions permitted by the cap over time would cause the prices of carbon permits (and, hence, fossil fuels) to rise, and would retool their power plants and products accordingly. But ordinary Americans, ponying up more for electricity and heat and gasoline, wouldn’t know that the declining cap was driving the higher prices.

That was the plan. Alas, though cap-and-trade had functioned well in a kind of pilot program involving electric utilities and acid rain, it wasn’t up to the job of transitioning the American economy from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and renewable sources. To manage that Herculean task in decades rather than centuries, the rising trajectory of fossil fuel prices must be not just steep but plainly visible to all—from the aircraft manufacturer weighing the use of costly exotic materials to raise fuel efficiency, to local officials wrestling with whether a new school should be built in town, near the bus stop and bike lane, or on the car-dependent outskirts. Millions of similar carbon-critical decisions, from the individual level of riding transit and switching light bulbs to the societal level of ensuring that those options are available, attractive and valorized, must be taken with full knowledge of those prices. A stealth price on carbon, one that’s lost in the noise of fluctuating prices and general inflation, won’t do the job.

The fate of the climate—and perhaps the viability of EDF, NRDC et al. as well—may now turn on the environmental lobby’s willingness to embrace the alternative that has been there all along: a revenue-neutral, steadily rising carbon fee, the proceeds from which would be redistributed to Americans via equal monthly dividends—or, in a variant favored by some economists, in which the regressive and anti-jobs payroll tax is phased out as carbon fee revenues ramp up.

A climate bill based on a revenue-neutral and rising carbon fee would not require a cap-and-trade market in carbon derivatives; would be transparent and hence less vulnerable to the K Street carve-outs that turned cap-and-trade bills into laughing stocks; could be imitated internationally (since carbon fees are fungible while carbon caps are not); and wouldn’t require a PhD in complexity to grasp. Indeed, one such bill, America’s Energy Security Trust Fund Act of 2009, sponsored by Connecticut Democrat John Larson, is all of twenty-one pages, versus upwards of 1,500 for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that squeaked through the House last year and the similar Kerry-Lieberman bill that just died in the Senate. Yet the emission reductions under the Larson bill would be two to three times as great as those from Waxman-Markey.

A climate bill like the Larson bill would also honor a fundamental tenet of environmentalism: that the costs of pollution must be internalized into the price of the activities that cause it.

We can drive emissions reductions throughout the economy while protecting Americans’ pocketbooks if we reframe the climate debate. Cap-and-trade is dead, and not a moment too soon. With its simplicity, its transparency and its economic rewards for everyone but die-hard polluters, fee-and-dividend could be a political winner. If environmentalists and others who care about averting climate catastrophe can unite around this approach, the public is ready to be convinced and, one hopes, mobilized. And, as two centuries of struggle for racial, labor and gender justice should have taught us, a mobilized public is essential to winning the climate battle.

http://www.thenation.com/senate-climate-bill-dies-does-environment-win

UPDATE | Grassroots resolution calling for a full debate within the Sierra Club on energy-related legislation within the United States Senate

SPONSORS OF RESOLUTION CALLING FOR DEMOCRATIC DEBATE WITHIN SIERRA CLUB re: SENATE CLIMATE / ENERGY LEGISLATION RESPOND TO DAVE SCOTT AND OFFER MODIFIED TEXT (LIST OF SIGNATORIES INCLUDED)

To Dave Scott and all who have received his critique of the grassroots resolution calling for a full debate within the Sierra Club on energy-related legislation within the Senate,

The sponsors of this resolution request an opportunity to respond to Scott’s critique. As his statement has been circulated to a substantial number of chapter leaders – a fact which was not made known to us and only belatedly learned through third parties – we request that in fairness this response be sent to the same list so that these leaders can hear both sides of this tremendously important issue. We start with a general overall response, and then move to a more specific paragraph by paragraph reply directly inserted (and highlighted in red) within the text of his statement.

Gary Houser (of the Ohio chapter) and Robert Jereski (of the New York chapter).

************************************************************************************

OVERALL RESPONSE –
The great challenge facing the environmental movement is that we are fighting an intractable foe. It is simply not possible to negotiate with the alarming amounts of methane gas now venting into the atmosphere from the shallow seabeds of the Siberian coast, nor the other dynamic processes which are now carrying the planet toward irreversible tipping points. Political deal making simply will not work in an environment where nature’s laws of physics are now calling all the shots.

As the nation’s largest membership environmental organization, it is of paramount importance that the Sierra Club throw all of its weight behind what science is saying is necessary to avoid catastrophe rather than become entrapped in the Beltway culture of compromise and political horse-trading. The Club must embrace a higher vision and mobilize its membership to fight for what the planet truly needs rather than allow corporate interests to dictate what is “politically possible”.

Our approach for examining what science-based advocacy would require is just one of many ways the club could move towards a greater democratization of its decision-making process. The web-forum has failed because it is a one-way street in which no response is provided to allow concerned members (some with much expertise in the relevant subject matter) to know whether their views have been considered, except once they read, for example, that the leadership considers K-L a ‘strong foundation’, signaling clearly that member concerns have not had an impact. Certainly our Club, with all of its resources and its legacy of grassroots engagement, could find other (even better-suited) approaches in the future. Members deserve feedback and to be heard. We also deserve to have an impact on the policies that shape our Club’s climate policy.
——————————————————————————————————-
SPECIFIC REPLIES TO DAVE SCOTT EMBEDDED IN RED

To: Sierra Club leaders and activists
From: Dave Scott, Vice President for Conservation
Date: June 26, 2010
Re: “Sierra Club Resolution Will Ensure That Leadership Guarantees Grassroots Participation and Environmental Protection”

This memo is written in response to a resolution circulated by Robert Jereski (below).
Let’s start with what we clearly agree on. Kerry-Lieberman is a deeply flawed bill that the Club would not support in its present form. It is also almost certainly a moot point, in that few observers expect that proposal to ever see the Senate floor. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what if anything will get to the Senate floor — possibly a problematic utility-only cap, or energy-only legislation that we may also have problems with. The Club is pressing for a clean energy package (or Renewable Energy Standard), reduced oil consumption, and the deepest emission cuts we can get from this Congress, and we will keep doing that.

REPLY: Your point regarding the shifting nature of climate/energy legislation is accurate and legitimate, and we acknowledge that. That is why we have modified the resolution so that it is not specifically focused on the Kerry-Lieberman proposal but rather any of the various forms of legislation that may emerge from the Senate. This shifting nature does not diminish the intrinsic value of what we are requesting – an open and democratic debate within the Sierra Club on the fundamental questions and urgent concerns related to climate legislation. Such a focused debate would provide an opportunity for scientific findings on how close we are to tipping points to be measured against all forms of legislation being considered and assess their adequacy in terms of preventing these daunting “points of no return”.

Your resolution mentions the science — Hansen’s warnings about tipping points. We’re well aware of them, of the urgency of getting steep cuts now, and of the stakes of this struggle. The cold fact is that there are nowhere near 60 Senate votes to pass a climate bill that goes far enough in terms of reductions. Environmental groups face an incredibly difficult legislative situation for many reasons: corporate lobbying, the recession, ignorance and well-funded lie campaigns about the need to cut emissions, and the inability to get any support at all from a scorched-earth GOP whose leaders dismiss the science altogether. Over the long term, we have the task of changing the politics of climate. We must also make the most of the opportunities we have outside of comprehensive climate legislation: suing and stopping coal plants, supporting EPA as it moves aggressively to regulate coal, cutting dependence on oil, and achieving what we can with state-level climate work. We must fight for reductions wherever we can get them.

REPLY: All of Scott’s points here are well taken in theory. However, the glaring omission is that the Sierra Club never did carve out a principled position in defense of the scientific requirements for prevention of crossing runaway tipping points. Starting with Waxman-Markey and continuing through Kerry-Lieberman, the Club has instead tragically been pulled into the “inside the Beltway” mentality of political horse-trading and has allowed USCAP – a coalition of corporate interests and all too willing to compromise “environmental” groups such as EDF – to define the parameters of what is “acceptable”.

Instead of setting the standard where it needed to be to prevent planetary catastrophe and then fighting to hold that ground, the Club allowed itself from the very beginning to be drawn into a series of disastrous compromises. Much ground has already been lost, but we feel compelled by conscience to request that the Club not continue this same pattern with Senate legislation. Dr. James Hansen, who, as a leading voice of conscience within the scientific community, has strongly opposed the way that meaningful climate legislation has been sabotaged by far too much yielding to corporate interest by powerful environmental organizations like ours.

That said, we have not yet abandoned hope of getting some kind of federal climate legislation this year that starts us on a path towards significant cuts, either through a renewable energy standard, caps or some other mechanisms. That means engaging in the gritty, difficult process of trying to get 60 Senate votes for something that moves us forward in the short time we have left this session.

REPLY: Other environmental groups (such as Friends of the Earth, International Rivers, and Friends Committee on National Legislation) have documented how full utilization of highly questionable offsets would allow polluters to avoid actual emission reductions for up to 20 years. It is subject to debate whether the institutionalization of such a system (along with the various manipulations possible through a carbon trading system) would actually constitute “progress” or instead lock in a future that would be catastrophic for the planet. ll we are asking for is a chance for an honest and straightforward debate on this and other key issues to occur within the Club.

The Sierra Club has repeatedly complained about the flaws in Kerry Lieberman, and by engaging in the DC lobbying process, we have successfully pressed for some improvements in proposed legislation (such as retaining some crucial EPA authority over coal plants, authority that is not in the House bill). Our leadership teams, which have volunteer representation, have been aware of strategic decisions to join other Green Group members or Labor allies on press releases in an effort to help push legislation forward. Club messaging has recently taken a somewhat harder tone, but you should not read any coalition press releases as if they were the only things the Club is doing or saying to get good legislation. They aren’t.

REPLY:  Statements describing Kerry-Lieberman as a “strong foundation” that only needs to be “finished” were not only released to media, but also sent out in mass emails to the grassroots membership. We fail to see how such positive characterizations of K-L lend themselves to creating an engaged grassroots membership that is willing to fight for the level of protection the planet truly needs at this time of transcendent crisis.

In response to your request regarding press releases, it is not practical for a national organization to have member votes before press releases or staff media appearances, and I don’t believe it would be wise to try — events simply happen too fast. The board has ultimate authority to set direction, the Executive Director — who reports to the elected board — directs staff, and we have a volunteer-staff FICC campaign team that makes week-to-week decisions. That is our board-approved process. That said, the Board’s Constituent Engagement Task Force has emphasized the desirability of doing more online member polls and surveys, and that’s something that I agree we should strongly consider.

REPLY: We do appreciate Scott’s mention of support for the general concept of seeking more input from the grassroots when critical decisions need to be made at the national level. Having this process become as inclusive and democratized as possible is something we fully support. We also recognize that daily operations cannot be conducted in such a way and never inferred that they should. Again, we point out the truly transcendent nature of the issue we are dealing with in this case.

However, we take exception to Scott’s mention of a “member vote” on climate legislation, which is an inaccurate representation of our request. All we have requested is an open and honest debate and then an opportunity for the grassroots to participate meaningfully by providing feedback to the leadership based on hearing this debate that would actually be considered and evaluated based on fundamental principles of environmental protection and democratic participation. . Contrary to taking a position of resistance, we would hope that the leadership would see such as a chance to create a more engaged and empowered grassroots membership.”

We have provided opportunities for members to learn about the bill and share their views. FICC has posted the comment board you mention, at  clubhouse.sierraclub.org/CLIMATE-BILL. There have also been regular evening Energy Activist calls. See http://action.sierraclub.org/site/PageServer?pagename=adv_climateleaders

REPLY:  This is not the same as allowing a structured debate that is focused squarely on the assumptions that national Sierra policy appears to already be operating on (as proposed below). Let’s not pretend the message board is a venue for meaningful participation. Those who attempt to question these basic assumptions through leaving short “sound bites” on a “comment board” are simply being marginalized. Considered comments, posted there by seasoned and engaged members of our Club, have been ignored and disregarded. These were not ‘sound bites’ but thoughtful input reflecting the views of many others.  The magnitude of the issues calls for a full and open debate. This would be a healthy process for Sierra and should not be feared. Why not allow the truth to bear witness to itself?
We share your concerns about the flaws in Kerry Lieberman, including the nuclear loan guarantees. We wont’ support a bill that doesn’t help avert a climate catastrophe. I ask that you do take advantage of the opportunities we have created for input — your thoughts are welcome as the club struggles with these difficult decisions.

REPLY:    If the Sierra Club truly wishes to “avert a climate catastophe”, then we ask that it allow the kind of full and open debate which can lead to the policy with the best chance of achieving this goal.

———————————————————————————————————–

Sierra Club members call for Leadership:

Do not put special financial interests above

the sustainability of nature’s planetary life-support systems.

July 2nd, 2010

Greetings Sierra Club members:

Please add your name and club affiliation to those already signed-on to this Resolution below.

Thank you.

Gary Houser – Ohio State Chapter, Sierra Club member

Robert Jereski – Atlantic Chapter (New York State) Sierra Club member

BACKGROUND:

We are alarmed by the current Sierra Club stance on US energy-climate legislative initiatives under consideration in Congress. Although a Clubhouse web site has been accepting comment about the topic, there has been no organized “pro and con” debate within the Club and it has seemed at least to many members within the Club that the Club’s leadership has been discounting or ignoring grassroots views and proposals. The proposed Resolution, if passed, seeks to place a moratorium on the Sierra Club’s stance until there is a full and democratic opportunity for robust discussion and debate at the grassroots level. The Resolution has been independently circulated to some Club members and chapters by Sierrans Gary Houser (Ohio Chapter) and Robert Jereski (New York Chapter).

STATEMENT:

1. The issue of climate disruption from carbon emissions is of such transcendent importance and irreversible tipping points are so close that the Sierra Club’s stance on Federal energy legislation deserves full and democratic discussion and debate within the Club involving grassroots Sierrans;

2.  This Resolution is meant to express concern that tipping point dangers will not accommodate political deal-making and governments should not put special financial interests above young people and the sustainability of nature’s planetary life-support systems on which we all depend. It aims at persuading the Club’s leadership not to compromise Club principles to gain a piece of legislation so flawed that it may worsen, not lessen, carbon emissions – and create future barriers to real reductions;

3.  The Resolution’s thrust is consistent with the views of NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, renowned climate scientist and the honored recipient of Sierra Club’s John Muir Award in 2008, that the climate situation is far more serious than most of the public understands and that half-measures won’t suffice;

4.  The Resolution will help stop problematic statements by some Club officers that the proposed Kerry-Lieberman climate bill (or any other legislation which is inadequate to addressing climate change) is a “strong foundation” and simply needs to be “finished”. Many within the grassroots disagree, and see climate legislation under consideration as dangerously riddled with emission reduction delays and giveaways to industry requiring serious amendments;

5.  The Resolution supplements earlier, unsuccessful attempts to present these concerns to the Club’s leadership.

RESOLUTION:

We call upon the members of the national Board of Directors, the members of the Federal and International Climate Committee (FICC), the Executive Director Michael Brune and the national staff to affirm and implement a policy that the Sierra Club will only support climate legislation which conforms to Club principles and policies. We also call upon the national leadership of Sierra Club to institute an immediate moratorium on official statements to the media and Congress in regard to US energy-climate bills until such time as the full membership has been allowed an opportunity to have a democratic discussion and debate about the baselines necessary for adequately addressing climate in keeping with our Club’s environmental mission.

This moratorium should be followed by these pro-active steps to facilitate an opportunity for full discussion and debate:

1) A one hour national Sierra conference call or webcast be organized for the purpose of facilitating a pro and con debate on the following questions as they relate to US energy-climate bills:

A) Do the emission reduction targets of the relevant bills adequately comply with the IPCC’s stated reductions of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent irreversible climate change and added reductions required based on review of new empirical evidence and the inadequacy of the models used in the 2007 IPCC report which were based on 2005 science?

B) Can the structures employed by this legislation – including carbon trading and offsets – be depended upon to bring about the required deep cuts in emission levels?

C) Should the Sierra Club support legislation with serious deficiencies, such as corporate give-aways, gutting of EPA authority, subsidies to nuclear power, limits on state programs, and so forth, under the argument that a faulty bill is better than nothing?

2) An email be sent to the full national membership of the Sierra Club offering the opportunity for pro and con arguments on these same questions;

3) The pro and con arguments submitted be made public to members and analyzed by the FICC and Board of Directors, which report on how the input will be integrated into the official stance of the Sierra Club on US energy-climate legislation.

Current signatories:

* Jean Gramlich, Michigan Chapter Chair, Member Southeast Michigan Group ExCom

* Donald L. Gibbon, PhD, Co-founder of the NE Ohio Group and Ohio Chapter Conservation Chair almost forty years ago, also NC Chapter ExCom and present Allegheny Group Environmental Education Chair (and life member), Allegheny Group, PA Chapter

* Edward A. Mainland, Co-Chair, Energy-Climate Committee, CNRCC Sierra Club California; SF Bay Chapter member; Senior Conservation Fellow, Sierra Club.

* Ken Smokoska, member & past chair (2003-2008) Energy/Climate Change Committee of CNRCC, Sierra Club of California

* Rick Estes, member, Executive Committee, San Gorgonio Chapter, California Sierra Club

* Art Unger, member of Kern Kaweah Chapter Executive Committee, California Sierra Club

* Shannon Wilson, Executive Committee Member of the Many Rivers Group and former Chair of MRG, Oregon State Chapter Sierra Club

* Moisha K. Blechman, member, ExCom, Atlantic Chapter, Global Warming Chair, Communications Chair

* Joan Taylor, Chair of the California/Nevada Desert Energy Committee, Sierra Club of California, among other titles and member and Club activist for many decades

* Frank Morris, Executive Committee, Atlantic Chapter Sierra Club, Executive Committee, Long Island Sierra Club

* John Wolverton, Dirty Fuels, Outings and Newsletter Committees, Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club

* Karin Ascot, Political Chair, Austin Group, Lone Star Chapter

* Jessica Helm, Conservation Chair for the Atlantic Chapter

* David Wolf, Member Southeast Michigan Group Executive Committee

* Dan Miner, Chair, Sierra Club New York City Group,  Atlantic Chapter.

* Marily Woodhouse, Excom member of Shasta Group (CA) and the Mother Lode Chapter anti-clearcutting organizer.

* Mike Hudak, Leader, Grazing Team, currently the largest of the Club’s 159 issue teams. (See http://connect.sierraclub.org/Team/Grazing_Team)

* Cynthia Westerman, Susquehanna Group, Wetlands Chair, Atlantic Chapter.

* Arthur R. Boone, Member, Northern Alameda Group, Member and Secretary, Zero Waste Committee, SF Bay Chapter;

Chair, Conservation Committee, SF Bay Chapter; Co-Chair, Zero Waste Committee, California/Nevada Regional Conservation Committee

* Samuel Golding, Sierra Club California Energy-Climate Committee, Bay Area Chapter member, California Sierra Club

* Charles Wesner, Chair, Oklahoma Chapter Sierra Club

* Larry Martin, Washington DC Chapter Energy Committee Chair, DC Sierra Club Chapter

* Angel A. Sosa, Ex Com member Puerto Rico Chapter

* Keith C. Johnson, Political Chair for Upper Columbia River Group of Cascade Chapter, Washington State Sierra Club Chapter

* John Wilkinson, Wilderness Chair, Loma Prieta Chapter, California Sierra Club Chapter

* Michael Melampy, Conservation Committee Co-Chair, Northeast Ohio Group, Ohio Sierra Club Chapter

* Veronica Jacobi, member, Sierra Club Sonoma Group: Excom, Climate & Energy Chair, Conservation, Santa Rosa Councilmember

* Roger Cole, Energy Chair, Loo Wit Group, Cascade Chapter, Washington Sierra Club Chapter

* Jim Redmond, Conservation Chair, Northwest Iowa Group  Iowa Sierra Club Chapter

* Candice Rue, member, ExCom and Conversation Committee-Northeast Florida Sierra Club, Florida Sierra Club Chapter

* Shawn Kilmurray, Chairman, Executive Committee, Long Island Sierra Club; Delegate, Executive Committee, Atlantic Chapter Sierra Club

* Rachel Treichler, Atlantic Chapter Gas Drilling Task Force, New York State Sierra Club Chapter

* Larry Martin, Washington DC Chapter Energy Committee Chair, DC Sierra Club Chapter

* Linda Fedele, Rochester Regional Group, Membership Chair, member of ExCom & Global Warming & Energy Committee

* BC Macdonald, ExCom, Mendocino Group, Redwood Chapter, CA SC

* Buffalo Bruce, Conservation Chair, Platte Valley Group, NE Chapter

* Ed Steinman, Executive Committee, Huron Valley Group, Michigan Chapter

* Ann I. Aurelio, Vice Chair, Sierra Club, Long Island Group, Executive Committee member and Membership Chair, Atlantic Chapter

* George Klein, Chair, Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group, on behalf of the Group Ex-com, Atlantic Chapter

* Jodi Zimmerman, Membership Chair, Eagle View Group

* Doug Cowherd, Chair, Executive Committee, Huron Valley Group, Michigan Chapter

* Jane Fasullo, Outreach/Tabling/Outings Chair & Volunteer Coordinator, Sierra Club L.I. group, Atlantic Chapter (NYS)

* Margie Campaigne, Rochester Regional Group, ExCom member, Global Warming/Energy Committee member, Vegetarian/Biodiversity, former member Great Lakes Committee

* Sheila Calderon, Fund Raising and ICO Chair, Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group, Florida Sierra Club

* Julio Magalhães, Global Warming Program Coordinator, Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club

* Al Weinrub, Energy activist member, San Francisco Bay Chapter, Sierra Club of California

* Anne Marie Garti, member, SC Atlantic Chapter (NYS)

* Mickey Moritz, Climate Change Activist for Tahquitz Group, San Gorgonio chapter (California)

* Linda A. DeStefano, active on the local and state level with the Atlantic Chapter (NYS)

* Terry Frewin, member, Los Padres Chapter, California Sierra Club

* Mike Mullen, SC Life Member, Alabama Chapter, Alabama, Alabama Sierra Club Chapter

* Donna Tisdale, San Diego Chapter, California Sierra Club

* David G. Gray, Jr, San Francisco Bay Chapter, California Sierra Club

* John Fay, Montgomery County Group, Maryland Sierra Chapter

* Claudia Kirkpatrick. member, Allegheny Group, Pennsylvania Chapter, Pennsylvania Sierra Club Chapter

* Stephanie Low, member Atlantic Chapter, Gas Drilling Task Force, Watershed Committee

* Lee Blackburn, Nuclear Team member, Ohio Sierra Chapter

* Carl Arnold, member, Gas Drilling Task Force, Atlantic Chapter (NYS)

* Karen Chun, member,  Maui Group, Hawai’i Chapter, Hawai’i Sierra Club

* Lorry Swain, Nuclear Team member, Ohio Sierra Chapter

* Chip Ashley, Tehipite Chapter, Sierra Club of California

* Allen Joseph member, former Executive Committee member of the Big Bend Chapter, Florida Chapter

* William Saunders, Outings Chair, CenAR Group, Arkansas Chapter Sierra Club

* Barbara Curtis, Broward County Florida Sierra Club

*********************************************************************************************************

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Sierra Club members call for Leadership

Sierra Club members call for Leadership:

Do not put special financial interests above

the sustainability of nature’s planetary life-support systems.

June 24, 2010

BACKGROUND:

We are alarmed by the current Sierra Club stance on the Kerry-Lieberman Federal energy-climate bill. Although a Clubhouse web site has been accepting comment about the topic, there has been no organized “pro and con” debate within the Club and it has seemed at least to many members within the Club that the Club’s leadership has been discounting or ignoring grassroots views and proposals. The proposed Resolution, if passed, seeks to place a moratorium on the Sierra Club’s stance until there is a full and democratic opportunity for robust discussion and debate at the grassroots level. The Resolution has been independently circulated to some Club members and chapters by Sierrans Gary Houser (Ohio Chapter) and Robert Jereski (New York Chapter).

STATEMENT:

1. The issue of climate disruption from carbon emissions is of such transcendent importance and irreversible tipping points are so close that the Sierra Club’s stance on Federal energy legislation deserves full and democratic discussion and debate within the Club involving grassroots Sierrans;

2. This Resolution is meant to express concern that tipping point dangers will not accommodate political deal-making and governments should not put special financial interests above young people and the sustainability of nature’s planetary life-support systems on which we all depend. It aims at persuading the Club’s leadership not to compromise Club principles to gain a piece of legislation so flawed that it may worsen, not lessen, carbon emissions – and create future barriers to real reductions;

3. The Resolution’s thrust is consistent with the views of NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, renowned climate scientist and the honored recipient of Sierra Club’s John Muir Award in 2008, that the climate situation is far more serious than most of the public understands and that half-measures won’t suffice;

4. The Resolution will help stop problematic statements by some Club officers that the proposed Kerry-Lieberman climate bill is a “strong foundation” and simply needs to be “finished”. Many within the grassroots disagree, and see it as dangerously riddled with emission reduction delays and giveaways to industry requiring serious amendments;

5. The Resolution supplements earlier, unsuccessful attempts to present these concerns to the Club’s leadership.

RESOLUTION:

We call upon the members of the national Board of Directors, the members of the Federal and International Climate Committee (FICC), the Executive Director Michael Brune and the national staff to affirm and implement a policy that the Sierra Club will only support climate legislation which conforms to Club principles and policies. We also call upon the national leadership of Sierra Club to institute an immediate moratorium on official statements to the media in regard to the Kerry-Lieberman bill until such time that the full membership has been allowed an opportunity to have a democratic discussion and debate.

This moratorium should be followed by these pro-active steps to facilitate an opportunity for full discussion and debate:

1) A one hour national Sierra conference call or webcast be organized for the purpose of facilitating a pro and con debate on the following questions as they relate to the Kerry-Lieberman bill:

A) Do the emission reduction targets adequately comply with the IPCC’s stated reductions of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent irreversible climate change and added reductions required based on review of new empirical evidence and the inadequacy of the models used in the 2007 IPCC report which were based on 2005 science?

B) Can the structures employed by this legislation – including carbon trading and offsets – be depended upon to bring about the required deep cuts in emission levels?

C) Should the Sierra Club support legislation with serious deficiencies, such as corporate give-aways, gutting of EPA authority, subsidies to nuclear power, limits on state programs, and so forth, under the argument that a faulty bill is better than nothing?

2) An email be sent to the full national membership of the Sierra Club offering the opportunity for pro and con arguments on these same questions;

3) The pro and con arguments submitted be made public to members and analyzed by the FICC and Board of Directors, which report on how the input will be integrated into the official stance of the Sierra Club on the Kerry-Lieberman bill.

TO ADD YOUR SUPPORT, PLEASE INSERT YOUR NAME AND SIERRA CLUB AFFILIATION HERE:

* Edward A. Mainland, Co-Chair, Energy-Climate Committee, CNRCC Sierra Club California; SF Bay Chapter member;

Senior Conservation Fellow, Sierra Club.

* Ken Smokoska, member & past chair (2003-2008)

Energy/Climate Change Committee of CNRCC, Sierra Club of California

* Al Weinrub, Energy activist member, San Francisco Bay Chapter, Sierra Club of California

* Moisha K. Blechman, member, ExCom, Atlantic Chapter, Global Warming Chair, Communications Chair

*Jessica Helm, Conservation Chair for the Atlantic Chapter

* Anne Marie Garti, member, SC Atlantic Chapter (NYS)

* Joan Taylor, Chair of the California/Nevada Desert Energy Committee, Sierra Club of California

among other titles and member and Club activist for many decades

* Frank Morris, Executive Committee, Atlantic Chapter Sierra Club

Executive Committee, Long Island Sierra Club

* Mickey Moritz, Climate Change Activist for Tahquitz Group, San Gorgonio chapter (California)

* Linda A. DeStefano, active on the local and state level with the Atlantic Chapter (NYS)

* Terry Frewin, Los Padres Chapter, Sierra Club member

* Arthur R. Boone, Member, Northern Alameda Group

Member and Secretary, Zero Waste Committee, SF Bay Chapter

Chair, Conservation Committee, SF Bay Chapter

Co-Chair, Zero Waste Committee, California/Nevada Regional Conservation Committee

* Donna Tisdale, San Diego Chapter, California Sierra Club

* David G. Gray, Jr, San Francisco Bay Chapter, California Sierra Club

* Samuel Golding – Sierra Club California Energy-Climate Committee, Bay Area Chapter member, California Sierra Club

* Larry Martin, Washington DC Chapter Energy Committee Chair

* Rachel Treichler, Atlantic Chapter Gas Drilling Task Force (New York State)

To add your name and affiliation please contact us at:contact@climatesos.org

Sierra Club Chooses Corporate Sponsorship Over Grassroots Activists

Sierra Club Chooses Corporate Sponsorship Over Grassroots Activists

June 16, 2010

There is no shortage of worthy targets in the gulf cleanup effort that the Sierra Club could be aiming for right now: the Center for Biological Diversity exposed Ken Salazar for granting new drilling permits after he said there was a moratorium. Food & Water Watch filed suit against Salazar to force the shutdown BP’s Atlantis, the second largest deepwater rig in the Gulf of Mexico, after a former BP employee warned that it was not fit for operation. Even the National Resources Defense Council joined Jerry Nadler and Jim Oberstar to demand OSHA stop acting as a front for BP and require appropriate protective gear for cleanup workers.

So where is the Sierra Club focusing its attention? Last Tuesday, the Obama administration said that they will proceed with offshore drilling after a temporary ban. The Sierra Club issued a press release saying “It’s encouraging to see the Obama administration taking steps to improve safety regulations for offshore drilling.” On that same day, they took out a full page ad in the Washington Post, thanking Obama for putting a hold on an Alaska drilling project (no press release).

How this furthers the interests of environmentalism I’m not sure, but it sure helps a White House nervous about Obama’s poll numbers in the wake of the BP oil crisis.

Sierra Club loyalists were quick to defend the club, saying that the Sierra Club is a “grassroots organization” and that the article “insults those very volunteers and every Sierra Club member who has ever volunteered to help with an environmental cause.”

There was absolutely no insult meant towards those that donate their time and money to the Sierra Club’s efforts. Quite the opposite. I respect the work that committed grassroots environmentalists do, and believe it’s important to ask if there are other organizations out there more deserving of their support. I do not believe that the Sierra Club, which has aligned itself so tightly with political and corporate interests, is providing leadership worthy of those efforts.

The Sierra Club’s alliance with elite interests has turned it into the antithesis of a “grassroots” organization.

According to the Associated Press, in 2002 Sierra Club head Carl Pope threatened to dissolve the southern Utah chapter for “speaking out against the Bush administration’s push toward war with Iraq.” The Sierra Club’s Board of Directors had passed a resolution “supporting efforts to strip Iraq of weapons of mass destruction” (i.e., supporting the war), and at the same time warned that Sierra Club policy “does not authorize individual members, leaders or club entities to take public positions on military conflicts as they arise.”

While I understand the need for the national organization to impose some kind of order on local chapters, it’s quite something to demand that 700,000 environmentalists toe the line and support the Iraq war, especially after the Sierra Club board made the unilateral decision to pull down “all television, radio and print ads, shut down phone banks and removed internet material seen as critical of Bush.”

In an email, Pope said “I would leave dissolving the group as a means of last resort if acting against individuals who won’t adhere to club policy fails to resolve the situation.” It was only after the email was published by the LA Times that the Sierra Club changed its position and opposed the war.

Then in 2007, the Sierra Club board took the unusual step of selling the club’s brand name to a greenwashing campaign by Clorox:

This is the first time in Sierra Club’s 116-year history that it has endorsed a product and even Club executive director Carl Pope, who’s been a driving force in the partnership, admitted that the decision by a well-known environmental group to endorse a company known for its bleach, plastics, and chemical products is “controversial.”

Well, yes, “controversial” is one word. The very same month the partnership was announced, Clorox was fined $95,000 by the EPA for “donating illegal, mislabeled, Chinese versions of its disinfecting bleach to a Los Angeles charity.”

The Sierra Club Board of Directors overrode the Club’s own Corporate Relations Committee to approve the Clorox deal.

Peter Montague, executive director of the Environmental Research Foundation, said that the Chemical Industry of California “was using the Sierra Club/Clorox deal to try to deflect attention away from a new report [PDF] showing that the chemical industry sickens and kills thousands of Californians each year, costing the state an estimated $2.6 billion in medical expenses and lost wages.”

On March 1 of this year, Clorox proudly announced that they have paid $1.1 million to the Sierra Club to date under the deal.

The Sierra Club should have expected that many of their members would have a problem with a deal to greenwash a company that US PIRG had named “one of America’s most chemically dangerous companies” (PDF).

Instead, the Sierra Club Board of Directors voted to suspend the 35,000-member Florida chapter for four years and remove its leadership after they spoke out in opposition to the Clorox deal.

Michael Donnelly has been writing about the problem of the “Democratic/Green revolving door,” and how organizations that add their support to corporate-friendly legislation are routinely rewarded with big foundation grants (and will somebody please do an expose of the role foundations play in laundering money to buy progressive validators for corporatist legislation?). It has led to the corruption of progressive groups across the board.

The Sierra Club is now fiercely advocating for the passage of Kerry-Lieberman. But as James Handley says:

In exchange for an energy-giveaway bill masquerading as a climate bill, they’re in effect lobbying for dirty energy subsidies and for undercutting much of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases — an authority that these same groups once vigorously defended, and which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

Carbon cap and trade was a scheme cooked up by BP and Enron lobbyists in the mid nineties. BP has subsequently dropped millions of dollars into the coffers of green groups to pave the way for it. Obama’s cry to pass Kerry-Lieberman as punishment for BP is not only highly ironic, it’s also illustrative of just how broken our national discourse around environmental issues has become.

Until progressive groups successfully address the challenge of funding themselves independent of the elite individuals and institutions that act as enforcers of a corporate agenda, they will not be able to successfully advocate for progressive causes. Any success they might have will mean that their funding dries up, and they will cease to exist.

The Sierra Club is a marquee name that has indeed gone for the green: cash. Environmental activists should carefully examine the way in which the organization is operating, and whether its agenda is worthy of continued support.

Follow Jane Hamsher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/janehamsher

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-hamsher/sierra-club-pro-corporate_b_614457.html

Read More: Bp , Carl Pope , Clorox , Iraq War , Kerry Lieberman Climate Bill , Sierra Club , Green News

Climate Activist Begins Vigil Outside EDF Offices over Kerry-Lieberman | Environmental Defense

Climate Activist Begins Vigil Outside EDF Offices over Kerry-Lieberman

Published by Sparki, June 4th, 2010

environmental_offense2.jpg?w=300&h=225

Image from Rising Tide North America protest at EDF’s offices in Dec. 2008

LIEBERMAN SAYS ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN CONSTRUCTING HIS CLIMATE BILL’S LANGUAGE:

SOS Activist Starting Vigil Outside Their DC Office

As Jim Hansen stated in an opening quote for the piece by Cory Morningstar and Gary Houser in Common Dreams : “Governments will not put young people and nature above special financial interests without great public pressure. Such pressure is not possible as long as big environmental organizations provide cover.

Environmental Defense (EDF) is front and center as spending big money to provide that cover. Their site now reveals they played a lead role in crafting all the giveaways in the dangerous facade of a bill called Kerry-Lieberman. Gary Houser of Climate SOS is now seeking support for an ongoing vigil outside the EDF office in DC. The goal is to expose EDF’s false, deceptive, and immoral claim to represent the “environmental community” (when in fact they are serving the interests of fossil fuel corporations) and the real damage it is inflicting on efforts to create a truly meaningful bill. Any potential supporters (including from the religious community) should be directed to Houser at: mountainmist4

Here are some choice direct quotes from an EDF webpage:

EDF played a critical, behind-the scenes role in constructing the Senate bill. In Senator Lieberman’s words: “We relied on EDF for big picture counseling, for strategic and tactical advice, and for the substantive legislative and modeling assistance that we needed so much.

Our litmus test for climate legislation is: Does it reduce emissions enough, and quickly enough?” said Krupp. “We believe the Senate bill will do that.

The Senate bill, like the House one, puts a declining cap on emissions from the largest sources of carbon pollution and aims to reduce emissions 17% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

[Comment:
Never mind that these are from a 2005 base rather than 1990, never mind that
there are enough loopholes to avoid ANY actual reductions for up to 20
years.]

EDF will go the extra mile for a strong climate bill…… Kerry and Lieberman appeared at EDF’s May board meeting in Washington ….

Link to EDF page on their key role in drafting Kerry-Lieberman bill.

Direct link to this post: http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/06/04/lone-climate-activist-begins-vigil-outside-edf-offices-over-kerry-lieberman/#more-19516

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