environment

Fri, 2011-12-30 13:49Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: Keystone XL

This year, a deal between TransCanada and the U.S. government almost allowed one of the most disastrous plans in energy history to win aproval. The deal would have allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S. border to carry an exceptionally dirty form of oil from Alberta's tar sands through several U.S. states to refineries along the Texas gulf coast.

But thanks to some bizarre GOP politicking in the year-end fight over payroll tax cut legislation, the table is set for President Obama to reject this fossil folly. The likely demise of one giant ill-advised pipeline is no small feat, but it doesn't mean the world can forget about the tar sands, by a long shot. The world is still addicted to oil, and Canada's fossil-friendly leaders will continue their quest to sell the tar sands bitumen on the global market.

Ever since our founding in 2006, DeSmogBlog has helped spread the word about the dangerous health and climate impacts that the tar sands pose to the environment and the global climate. Over the past year, we focused our research particularly on the dirty tricks employed by the oil industry in an effort to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved.

After Friends of the Earth exposed the fact that TransCanada's Keystone XL lobbyist Paul Elliott had worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and enjoyed special access with former colleagues, DeSmogBlog revealed further ties between TransCanada lobbyists and the U.S. government. For example:

On the web of lobbyists with connections to Hillary Clinton:

However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

McKenna Long & Aldridge is one of the key outside firms registered to lobby for TransCanada Pipelines, which paid the McKenna firm at least $190,000 over the last 5 years to lobby on their pipeline issues, including $40,000 in the first half of 2011. McKenna employees donated $41,650 in campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For the full report, see Hillary Clinton's Keystone XL Crony Lobbyists Problem.

Tue, 2011-12-27 11:08Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: The Koch Brothers

Over the last 12 months, DeSmogBlog contributors have helped spread the word about some of the most dastardly deeds of Charles and David Koch. Here are some of the biggest stories we covered this year on the issue of corruption and dirty energy money.

It is impossible to talk about dirty energy money and corruption without mentioning the Koch brothers. Before 2011, two of the wealthiest men in America were able to operate in almost complete secrecy while they spread misinformation about climate change and attempted to dismantle environmental protections:

The money in politics database Open Secrets, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, has a lengthy list of specific legislation that Koch Industries has lobbied for and against. On the “against” list, you’ll find legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a bill that would have put Americans to work building a green energy infrastructure; the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – again, a bill that would have created green energy jobs and infrastructure; and the Clean Air Protection Act – a bill that would limit the amount of acceptable emissions into our atmosphere.

The Koch brothers, through their PACs and other organizations, have funded numerous efforts to defeat legislation aimed at reducing pollution or protecting the environment. After all, their companies don't pay the real cost for the pollution they release.

And then there was their misinformation bus tour:

Fri, 2011-11-04 07:38Farron Cousins
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IBM Launches 2nd Annual Smarter Cities Challenge

At a time when corporations’ misdeeds are under a bright spotlight (and rightfully so,) we needn’t overlook the few companies that are working to bring innovation and technology to cities across the planet in desperate need of modernization. One of those companies is IBM, which is currently working on its 2nd annual Smarter Cities Challenge.

The program for this year will include a $50 million grant to cities to help improve infrastructure, technology, and energy efficiency. From a press release on this year’s program:

This highly successful grant program provides select applicant cities with access to teams of elite IBM employees with expertise on a variety of urban-related matters, such as finance, sustainability, public safety, and citizen services. They devote weeks of their time analyzing unique opportunities and challenges facing municipalities, particularly within the context of today's challenging economic climate. After conferring with officials, citizens, businesses, academics and community leaders, the IBM teams recommend actions to make the delivery of services to citizens more efficient and innovative. Issues addressed include jobs, health, public safety, transportation, social services, recreation, education, energy, and sustainability.

Earlier this year, IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge announced its 2011 grant winners, which included grants for much-needed environmental improvements in developing areas. For example, the city of Antofagasta, Chile received grants to help improve their irrigation systems, a social media infrastructure to voice environmental concerns, and an sustainable green energy program that will pull in government, academics, and private sector companies to help shift the city to cleaner, renewable energy programs.

Sun, 2011-09-18 12:18Farron Cousins
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As The World Warms, Environmental Protections Put On The Back Burner

After a year that has so far produced record-breaking snowstorms, droughts, floods, and violent hurricanes and tornadoes, environmental protections are once again being scaled back. Against the best advice of experts, the U.S. EPA has decided to delay issuing new rules for greenhouse gas emissions, the deadline for which is September 30th. This marks the second time in three months that the EPA has missed a deadline for issuing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards.

In their announcement, the EPA said that they are aware that it is their responsibility to move forward with new GHG standards, but they want to consider all of the available information before issuing a final ruling. According to an EPA spokesperson, one factor that the agency is still trying to figure out is the cost of the new measures.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is legally required to put restrictions on any air pollutant that is deemed unsafe for the American public. Thanks to a recent decision that GHGs are a threat to the public, this means they are required to put new standards in place. In addition to legally being required to regulate, the EPA is also not allowed to consider costs when making their decisions, meaning that their current “evaluation” period should not be extended to examine costs.

Wed, 2011-07-13 12:09Farron Cousins
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ALEC Exposed: Center For Media and Democracy Details ALEC's Industry-Friendly Legislation Machine

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has launched a new website, ALECExposed.org, to help consumers understand more about the secretive business group that is helping craft industry-friendly legislation. CMD has obtained more than 800 model bills that were crafted by ALEC for state governments across the country. From a CMD press release:

At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their “task force” co-chairs – all Republican state legislators – to approve “model” legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the “American Legislative Exchange Council” (ALEC).

There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.

Sun, 2011-06-26 11:39Farron Cousins
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Coal Ash Disposal Sites Contaminating Ground Water In 19 States

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has released a new report showing that coal ash disposal sites are threatening water supplies at 33 sites located in 19 different states across the U.S. The EIP says that the levels of heavy metals like arsenic in these locations are dangerously higher than federally accepted levels, which the group says could mean that legal action could be taken against the companies involved in the coal ash dumping.

From an EIP press release:

Thu, 2011-06-23 00:23Farron Cousins
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Mountaintop Removal Mining Linked To Birth Defects

Researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University have released a new report that links an increase in birth defects in Appalachia to the practice of mountaintop removal mining (MTR or MTM). The study shows that communities exposed to the wastes created by blowing up mountains to extract coal experience significantly higher instances of birth defects.

A press release on the new report summarized the findings as follows:

The study was based on analysis of over 1.8 million birth records between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia. Prevalence rates were higher in mountaintop mining areas compared to non-mining areas for circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and ‘other’ types of defects. Spatial correlation between mountaintop mining and birth defects was also present, indicating that MTM activity in one county may have increased birth defect prevalence rates in surrounding counties.

Mon, 2011-05-30 12:19Farron Cousins
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New Jersey Governor Christie Bails On Carbon Pollution Reduction Initiative

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has decided that he is no longer willing to cooperate with other states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Christie announced this week that his state will be pulling out of a program with ten other Northeastern states that aimed to reduce carbon pollution and institute a cap-and-trade program among the states.

In an announcement on his decision, Christie declared the program – which has been in place for almost 8 years – to be a complete failure that has done nothing to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that the program is hurting job creation in his state.

Fri, 2011-05-27 12:52Farron Cousins
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Oil and Gas Disasters Raise The Ire of Colorado Hunters

The Bull Moose Sportsmen Alliance in Colorado has set their sights on the oil and gas industry. In a new report, the hunting and fishing group highlights the damage that the dirty energy industry has done to their hunting and fishing grounds for years. Among the more damning findings are the fact that there are over 100 oil spills every year in just three counties in Colorado – Garfield, Mesa, and Rio Blanco. The state of Colorado has confirmed that no fewer than 77 of these spills managed to taint water supplies of the three counties. These spills combined have leaked more than 5.6 million gallons of oil into the lands that the Bull Moose Sportsmen Alliance works to preserve.

As the Alliance points out, the hunting and fishing industry in Colorado brings in more than $1.2 billion a year, making it more profitable than the sports industry in the state, which includes NFL, NBA, and MLB teams. But thanks to the reckless oil and gas industry, the ecosystems and habitat that hunters and fishermen spend that billion-plus dollars to enjoy are threatened.

Thu, 2011-05-12 11:18Farron Cousins
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Fracking Study Panel Filled With Gas Industry Insiders

In an under-reported move on May 5th, the Obama administration announced the members of a government panel created to study the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and determine if there are ways, or even a necessity, to make it safer for the environment and public health. Unfortunately, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the administration stacked the panel with oil and gas industry insiders.

As DeSmogBlog reports have detailed, the practice of fracking has been linked to numerous environmental dangers, including the release of methane into drinking water supplies as well as releasing carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. In spite of these findings, the energy industry continues to insist that fracking is safe, and with industry insiders packing the Administration’s new safety panel, their findings will likely mirror those of the industry.

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