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BREAKING: Chevron Guilty of Amazon Rainforest Destruction, Judge Issues $8 Billion Fine

Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network just announced a major victory for the Amazon rainforest. An Ecuadorean judge today found Chevron guilty of one of the largest environmental crimes in history and ordered the company to pay a whopping $8 billion to clean up its damage in the Amazon. 

Chevron immediately issued a statement condemning the judgement as “ilegitimate and unenforceable” and announced plans to appeal.  This ruling clearly has Chevron riled up, as the statement suggests the ruling is “the product of fraud” and included this ominous line: “Chevron intends to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct.”

Chevron apparently fails to see the irony of the phrase “held accountable for their misconduct” since today was a major slapdown of the company’s destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

As the L.A. Times notes in its piece about the verdict,

“Residents of Ecuador’s Amazon region have said that faulty drilling practices by Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001, caused damage to wide areas of jungle and harmed indigenous people in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Head over to The Understory blog of the Rainforest Action Network for more details.

Environment Minister Peter Kent Claims Climate "Plan Is Working" and Canadians Are "Proud" of Tar Sands

Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, suggested in a raucous Parliamentary exchange on Tuesday that Canadian leaders “have a plan, and the plan is working” to address climate change.  He also suggests that “Canadians are proud of the Canadian oil sands” which are “well regulated” and operated in an “environmentally sensitive and sustainable manner.”

Check out this video from the floor Q+A session from Tuesday February 8th when MP Kent was asked to respond to a question about Climate Action Network’s demands that Canada come up with a credible plan to deal with the climate crisis, and to move toward clean energy solutions instead of sinking deeper into the dirty tar sands. Here is the exchange:

David Koch and Wife Julia Observe Real Grassroots From A Safe Distance

A photograph from the billionaires’ Kochtopus summit in Rancho Mirage this weekend shows a very concerned looking David and Julia Koch witnessing the 1000+ protestors gathered on the street for the “Uncloaking the Kochs” rally.  David and Julia peer down at the masses from their safe rooftop perch.

The Other 98% is running a caption contest for the photo on their Facebook page, and the photo made the rounds on Twitter earlier today as well.

David and Julia Koch

What photo caption ideas do you have? 

Greenpeace Airship Hovers Over Secretive Koch Summit with Message "Koch Brothers: Dirty Money"

UPDATE: Video footage of the Greenpeace airship flight below this post.

A Greenpeace airship today flew over the secretive Rancho Mirage polluter strategy meeting hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Wealthy elite interests and oil tycoons arriving at the posh resort to plot their anti-democracy agenda were greeted with the aerial message “Koch Brothers: Dirty Money.”

Greenpeace also released information collected from tax records confirming that the Koch Family Foundations continue to fund climate denial organizations.  The most recent records available document that the Kochtopus dished out $6.4 million in 2009 to front groups and think tanks that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. That brings the Kochtopus’s confirmed Dirty Money total to $54.9 million since 1997, with the majority, $31.3 million, spent since 2005.

Coal Money And Violent Rhetoric Hold Appalachia Captive to Dirty Energy

While Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues her amazing recovery in the wake of the tragic Tucson shootings, the coal industry and its captive members in Congress and the right wing media continue to talk about a “War on Coal.”

The industry front group Friends of Coal issued “A Call to Arms” yesterday announcing the “Rally for Coal” taking place this afternoon at the West Virginia capitol and featuring the state’s top politicians. Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office quickly labeled the “Call to Arms” rhetoric “an unfortunate use of words,” but wouldn’t confirm whether Tomblin had any plans to discuss the use of such violent rhetoric with the coal industry.

Oil Supermajors Desperately Chasing a Tar Sands Pipe Dream

The six major oil companies that for decades enjoyed phenomenal profits and power over the world’s oil supply now find themselves fighting over the dirtiest and most dangerous oil left - Alberta’s climate-wrecking tar sands and the dangerous deepwater deposits in the Arctic, Gulf of Mexico and other difficult to reach areas. Geoff Dembicki reports today in The Tyee that the oil supermajors once known as the “Seven Sisters” now control a tiny fraction of the world’s dwindling oil reserves - just seven percent - while state-owned oil companies and national governments control 93 percent.

That shift in power has left the six Anglo-American oil majors sparring fiercely for control of the remaining dregs to feed our oil addiction.  Dembicki writes that:

“aggressive oil sands development appears to be one of the few viable growth strategies left for ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. These six energy giants are among the top-earning private companies on Earth. Yet their continued corporate existence, at least in its current form, is far from assured.”

In their race to the bottom, these six oil companies are all vying for control of Canada’s dirty tar sands. Dembicki notes that:

“all the supermajors own – or plan to develop – huge operations in Alberta’s oil sands. Canada is one of the few countries left on Earth offering unbridled private sector access to major known oil reserves (in this case, the planet’s second-largest).”

David Koch Denies Climate Change, Appears Bewildered When Asked About Citizens United by ThinkProgress

Lee Fang from ThinkProgress had the chance to conduct an impromptu interview with billionaire polluter magnate David Koch of Koch Industries last week in Washington.  Despite the best efforts of Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips to end the interview by pestering Fang and his cameraman continously, Fang succeeds in getting Koch to answer several questions.  In part one, Koch acknowledges there are “some extremists” in the Tea Party, but that most of them are “normal people like us” - where “us” equals the handful of people worth $21.5 billion or more.

In part two, when asked about Americans For Prosperity’s work to confuse public understanding of climate change, and about his own grasp of climate change science, David Koch delivers a barely comprehensible response demonstrating his need to brush up on the usual climate denier arguments.

FANG: Why does Americans for Prosperity focus so much on the science of climate change? I’m just curious why they spread so much information that denies the existence of climate, of global warming?

KOCH: Well… I think it’s uh, regulating CO2 excessively is going to put — uh really damage the economy.

FANG: Do you believe in climate change yourself, Mr. Koch?

KOCH: Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.

FANG: But do you believe carbon pollution affects climate change? [Koch shrugs]


David Koch: "There's Some Extremists" in the Tea Party, But Others "Normal People Like Us"

Lee Fang from ThinkProgress was able to interview David Koch briefly today during Koch’s visit to Washington to congratulate his freshly purchased Congress.

Remembering Judy Bonds, Heroic Organizer Who Fought Mountaintop Removal With Everything She Had

Judy Bonds, the fearlessly outspoken activist and community organizer who devoted her life to saving her native Appalachian mountains from the ravages of mountaintop removal coal mining, passed away Monday.

The daughter of a coal miner, Julia Bonds was fiercely dedicated to the cause of ending dangerous coal practices and combatting the myth of ‘clean coal,’ which she could often be heard pointing out is a “dirty lie.”

She was an inspiration to me personally, and I’m fortunate to have met and talked with her often over the years.  She will be dearly missed. But her legacy lives on in the thousands of lives she touched, and her memory will serve as a continuing inspiration to everyone who wants to see America and the rest of the world end our addiction to dirty coal.

Jeff Biggers has a wonderful tribute to Judy on the Huffington Post, and JW Randolph has another tribute at Appalachian Voices.  WTRF in West Virginia reports that Coal River Mountain Watch, the group that Bonds led, is planning a memorial service but a date has not been set yet.

Future of Coal Dims Further in 2010, But Dying Industry Still Killing and Polluting

2010 was a dark year for the dirty U.S. coal industry, with the deaths of 48 coal miners – the deadliest year in nearly two decades – and widespread recognition of the threat posed by hazardous coal ash waste to waterways nationwide. 

2011 hasn’t started off very well either, with a New Year’s Day article in the Washington Post noting the industry’s failure to begin construction on a single new coal-fired power plant in the United States for the second straight year.

An excerpt from the Post story:

“Coal is a dead man walkin’,” says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. “Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them… . And the economics to make it clean don’t work.”

Not only are the coal barons failing to build new plants, but their aging fleet is also facing a huge wave of coal-plant retirements thanks to new and emerging EPA regulations, as Grist’s Dave Roberts summarized last month. 

Nevertheless, the coal industry’s best efforts to flood Washington with lobbyists and dirty PR tricks seem to have crippled President Obama’s campaign pledge to end mountaintop removal and stalled out EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s momentum towards regulating coal ash as the hazardous waste it surely is.