Massachusetts

Mon, 2014-09-08 12:46Ben Jervey
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Massachusetts District Attorney Makes History: Recognizes Necessity of Defending Climate

This morning, a District Attorney in Massachusetts made history as he recognized the “necessity defense” of climate-related civil disobedience, and reduced the charges for two activists charged in their Lobster Boat Blockade.

Some quick background. Back in May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara boarded their lobster boat, navigated to the shipping channel at the coal-fired Brayton Point Power Plant in southeastern Massachusetts, and dropped anchor. For six hours, the two climate activists and fishermen blocked the “Energy Enterprise” steam ship from delivering Appalachian coal from reaching the power plant.

The “Henry David T,” Ward and O'Hara's boat, blockading the coal ship. Photo: LobsterBoatBlockade.org

The two were arraigned later in the year on four charges in relation to their act of civil disobedience, including conspiracy.

This morning, Ward and O’Hara were due in court, and their lawyers — along with a number of climate experts in Fall River to present testimony to the trial — had intended on using the “necessity defense” to argue that their actions were necessary to combat the greater threat of climate change.

Ward and O'Hara had sought to become the first American climate activists to use this “necessity defense”, arguing that “the blockade was necessary in light of the imminent threat of climate change.” They had planned to call former NASA climatologist James Hansen and environmentalist Bill McKibben to the stand as expert witnesses.

Scheduled for two days, the court proceedings were over in a less than an hour, as Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter immediately dropped the conspiracy charge, and reduced the other charges to civil infractions.

“The truth is that taking these sorts of actions is necessary in light of the drastic news that continues to be described by the science. This decision by the District Attorney is an admission that the political and economic system isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously, and that it falls to ordinary citizens, especially people of faith, to stand up and take action to avert catastrophe,” said O’Hara.

Thu, 2013-12-05 17:29Steve Horn
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Stink Tanks: State Policy Network Internal Budget Documents Revealed by The Guardian

It's been a rough week for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The “corporate bill mill” group's annual States & Nation meeting was overshadowed by damaging evidence of misconduct revealed by The Guardian. 

And it just got a whole lot rougher with yet another investigative installment in The Guardian series.

This time, instead of focusing on ALEC alone, Guardian reporters Suzanne Goldenberg and Ed Pilkington took a big swing at what Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now have called the “stink tanks” network run by the right-wing State Policy Network (SPN). Leaked a copy of SPN's tax and budget proposal published in July 2013, the documents offer a rare glimpse inside the SPN machine.

One of the biggest revelations in the energy and environment sphere: SPN Associate Member, the Beacon Hill Institute “requested $38,825…to weaken or roll back a five-year effort by states in the region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” explained The Guardian. “The institute said it would carry out research into the economic impact of the cap-and-trade system operating in nine states known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.”

BHI appeared to have already arrived at its conclusions in advance, admitting from the outset that the aim of the research was to arm opponents of cap-and-trade with data for their arguments, and to weaken or destroy the initiative.”

Another huge related development came in a piece published concurrently by The Guardian. That piece pointed out that Beacon Hill Institute is in trouble with its host institution Suffolk University for pushing research explicitly funded by SPN to oppose the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, with research results already determined before the inquiry began. 

Thu, 2012-07-12 14:29Farron Cousins
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Republican Senator Scott Brown Suffering From "Subsidy Amnesia"

With a straight face, Republican Senator Scott Brown told a crowd in Massachusetts this week that “oil companies don’t get subsidies” from the federal government. Brown tells us that, just like other companies, they are able to “take deductions,” but nothing more.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was quick to jump on the story, compiling an astounding array of information that proves that Scott Brown is either the most misinformed member of Congress when it comes to subsidies, or that he’s a plain old liar. From an LCV press release:
  

Experts say oil company tax credits are essentially the same as direct spending subsidies. In a May 5, 2011 article, the Center for American Progress noted: “[T]he tax code is stuffed with a host of subsidies for oil and gas. These subsidies are delivered through the tax code but they are essentially no different from government spending programs that provide money directly.” Additionally, citing nonpartisan organizations including the Tax Policy Center and Pew Charitable Trusts, Media Matters for America documented in an April 10 article that “experts say that [oil industry tax] incentives – legally categorized as tax expenditures – have effects similar to more direct cash transfers from the government.” The Tax Policy Center stated that “Tax expenditures operate essentially like direct expenditures, even though they appear as tax breaks.” Pew’s SubsidyScope.org website stated: “Tax expenditures have a similar effect on the federal deficit as government spending. They can also have effects on recipients that are similar to grants or other types of subsidies.” [Center for American Progress, 5/5/11; Media Matters for America, 4/10/12].

Prominent members of Scott Brown’s own party recognize that tax expenditures are subsidies. In a March 28 article, Think Progress documented that “Numerous Republican leaders have noted that a tax break is the same as a direct government [payment] or subsidy, in a different form. This includes President Ronald Reagan’s chief economic advisor, Martin Feldstein, former Senate Budget Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).” Think Progress included quotes for each of these Republicans in the article. [Think Progress, 3/28/12].
 

Not only does the oil industry receive subsidies from the federal government, but as the LCV points out, earlier this year, Scott Brown actually voted against repealing the subsidies for the oil industry, that are currently costing U.S. taxpayers as much as $7 billion a year.

Wed, 2012-05-02 10:04Steve Horn
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ALEC Wasn't First Industry Trojan Horse Behind Fracking Disclosure Bill - Enter Council of State Governments

19th Century German statesman Otto von Bismarck once said, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), put on the map by the Center for Media and Democracy in its “ALEC Exposed” project, is the archetype of von Bismarck's truism. So too are the fracking chemical disclosure bills that have passed and are currently being pushed for in statehouses nationwide.

State-level fracking chemical disclosure bills have been called a key piece of reform in the push to hold the unconventional gas industry accountable for its actions. The reality, though, is murkier.

On April 21, The New York Times penned an investigation making that clear. The Times wrote:

Last December, ALEC adopted model legislation, based on a Texas law, addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The ALEC legislation, which has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states, has been promoted as a victory for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants.

A close reading of the bill, however, reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets. Most telling, perhaps, the bill was sponsored within ALEC by ExxonMobil, one of the largest practitioners of fracking — something not explained when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.

The Texas law The Times refers to is HB 3328, passed in June 2011 in a 137-8 roll call vote, while its Senate companion bill passed on a 31-0 unanimous roll call vote. Since then, variations of the model bill have passed in two other key states in which fracking is occuring.

Like dominos falling in quick succession over the following months, ColoradoPennsylvania and, most recently, the Illinois Senate passed bills based on the ALEC model. Louisiana also has introduced a similar bill. 

Tue, 2010-01-19 20:38Kevin Grandia
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Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts will put the chill on climate legislation

Republican candidate Scott Brown has won the race to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts and, as I wrote earlier today, this does not bode well for the clean energy and climate change legislation currently being considered in the Senate.

Up until a couple of weeks ago this was seen as an easy win for the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, but as the polls began to tighten, the political punditry began to speculate what a Republican win would mean for President Obama’s health care reform package. In a nutshell, and without getting into wonky talk about super-majorities and the like, a Brown win in the Bay State most likely means health-care-for-all is dead in the water.

While the ramifications for the health care package have rightly been the talk of the town and the cable news talking heads, there are other parts of Obama’s plan that will also suffer. One of the biggies is the American Clean Energy And Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill or the green jobs/clean energy bill.

ACES proposes, among other things, to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency incentives for homes and buildings, grants for green jobs and a cap-and-trade program that aims to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020.

Fri, 2008-04-11 14:16Bill Miller
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Indigenous peoples seek key role in global climate talks

A climate conference in Brazil’s Amazon basin has drawn indigenous groups from 11 Latin American countries, Indonesia and Congo. In the largest gathering of its kind, they came to forge a plan whereby wealthier nations would compensate developing countries for saving tropical forests.

Scientists reckon tropical deforestation causes 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. An international carbon-trading plan was a central topic last December at a climate conference in Bali, Indonesia.

Thu, 2007-04-12 10:44Bill Miller
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Kerry, Gingrich at odds over global-warming strategy

Massachusetts Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich are advocating separate approaches to climate change, with Kerry calling for government regulation and Gingrich touting voluntary change fuelled by government incentives.

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