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.
Three weeks before the UN Secretary-General's extraordinary meeting of world leaders in New York to tackle climate change, a leading British scientist unveils plans for a global low-carbon fund on a par with the Apollo Moon programme.
There are prospects of significant progress in the response of world governments to climate change, according to a former UK Government chief scientist, Sir David King.
“There are signs that a leadership role is beginning to emerge”, he told a conference in London held by the Green Economy Coalition.
Sir David also announced that he and a colleague are working with governments to raise funds to help all countries, including developing countries, to switch to renewable energy. Their scheme hopes to raise nearly as much as the cost of the Apollo programme, NASA's moon-landing project.
Railroad giant Union Pacific has some big plans for a tiny Texas community. According to locals in the Brazos River Valley, the railroad company is hoping to turn some of the most fertile farmland in Texas into a massive, 72-line rail yard.
Union Pacific’s plan would consume as much as 1,800 acres of farmland in the region, effectively putting numerous family-owned farming operations out of business. The toxic loads that Union Pacific’s trains would be hauling in and out of the area on a daily basis would then threaten the remaining farms in the region.
The Brazos River Valley, named after the Brazos River, is considered some of the richest farmland in the state, thanks to the city’s namesake river feeding fresh water and nutrients to the area. Taking this land out of the hands of farmers — many of whom are the descendants of early generation of farm settlers in the area — would not only have devastating effects on the local economy, but they could also put a huge hole in the nation’s food supply.
But Union Pacific is not concerned with the well being of the Brazos Valley community or their environment, and they are hoping to move forward with their plan. And the land grab only represents half of the danger.
Notwithstanding the fact that “clean coal” had a meaning within the energy sector, we considered that without further information, and particularly when followed by another reference to “clean, modern energy”, consumers were likely to interpret the word ”clean” as an absolute claim meaning that “clean coal” processes did not produce CO2 or other emissions. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ASA said that the complainant, environment group WWF, had argued the term “clean coal” was misleading and that it “implied that the advertiser's impact on the environment was less damaging than was actually the case”.
“Any legislation or regulation that may ultimately be adopted, either at the federal or state level, designed to reduce GHG emissions could have a material adverse impact on our electric generation and natural gas distribution operations,” We Energies stated on the form.
“Such regulation could make some of our electric generating units uneconomic to maintain or operate, and could adversely affect our future results of operations.”
Alpha Natural Resources, one of the leaders in the practice of mountain removal mining, has made it clear that they aren’t happy with the new EPA rules that will require a 30% reduction in power plant emissions by the year 2030.
In a notice to about 1,100 employees last week, Alpha informed the workers that they could be laid off due to a mix of “weak market conditions and government regulations…”
“EPA regulations are at least partly responsible for more than 360 coal-fired electric generating units in the U.S. closing or switching to natural gas. Nearly one of every five existing coal-fired power plants is closing or converting to other fuel sources, and Central Appalachian coal has been the biggest loser from EPA's actions.”
An exclusive investigation conducted by DeSmogBlog reveals that Cheniere — the first U.S. company to receive a final liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permit by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — has acted as the lead corporate backer of the LNG exports model resolution.
ALEC has served as a key vehicle through which the fracking industry has curried favor and pushed for policies favorable to their bottom lines in statehouses nationwide. Now ALEC and its corporate backers have upped the ante, pushing policies that will lock in downstream demand for fracked gas for years to come.
But back to Greenpeace. As their report points out, the main culprit for rampant coal production is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which leases out huge swaths of land to the coal industry. Greenpeace says this is occurring in defiance of Obama's Climate Action Plan and have called for a moratorium on leasing public land for coal extraction.
“[S]o far, the Bureau of Land Management and Interior Department have continued to ignore the carbon pollution from leasing publicly owned coal, and have failed to pursue meaningful reform of the program,” says the report.
“Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and others in the Obama administration should take the President’s call to climate action seriously, beginning with a moratorium and comprehensive review of the federal coal leasing program, including its role in fueling the climate crisis.”
“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, BOEM…today announced that the bureau will offer more than 21 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale that will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area,” proclaimed a July 17 BOEM press release.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.