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Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling Over Fracking Threat

The Pittsburgh City Council today unanimously adoped a first-in-the-nation ordinance banning corporations from drilling for natural gas within city limits, a direct response to the threats to drinking water and public health posed by hydraulic fracturing methods used widely by drilling companies to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris said her biggest concern about natural gas fracking involves the threat to people’s health posed by water contaminated by Marcellus drilling. She noted that the gas industry’s claims about creating the thousands of jobs isn’t worth the risk.

“They’re bringing jobs all right,” Harris told CBS News. “There’s going to be a lot of jobs for funeral homes and hospitals. That’s where the jobs are. Is it worth it?”

Beyond its innovative approach to fighting the fracking threat, the ordinance - drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) - seeks to limit the claim of “personhood” by corporations and to elevate the rights of property owners and other living, breathing citizens above the interests of corporations.

According to Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, who introduced the measure, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights.  It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”

Koch Industries: 2010's Dirtiest Opponent of Clean Energy

This is a guest post by Josh Nelson, the New Media Director at the Alliance for Climate Protection and its Repower America campaign.

Three weeks ago, we asked our members to nominate the worst corporate polluters of 2010. Our goal was to identify organizations that have hijacked our democracy, devastated our environment and denied the science of climate change — all while reaping massive profits. The response was overwhelming. In just a few days, more than 4,000 people submitted their nominations, many of which were passionate and articulate. The next week, we introduced the top four nominees: Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, BP and Massey Energy. A few days and 13,000 votes later we had our winner: Koch Industries.

Now, you may have heard a thing or two about Koch Industries. Their role in funding climate change deniers is well documented. What you may not realize is that Koch intentionally flies beneath the radar. David Koch likes to joke that Koch Industries is the biggest company you’ve never heard of. They’re able to remain unknown because they hide behind shadowy front groups like Americans for Prosperity. Co-founded by David Koch, Americans for Prosperity funds advertising and public events designed to mislead Americans about climate change and energy policy.

George Marshall: The Ingenious Ways We Avoid Believing in Climate Change

George Marshall, founder of the UK-based Climate Outreach Information Network, has a new three-part video series exploring ‘The Ingenious Ways We Avoid Believing in Climate Change.’  Marshall explores the psychology of climate change denial and climate communications, both in this video series and on his blog ClimateDenial.org. Check out the videos below.
 
Part one
Risk – and why we don’t feel threatened by climate change
Belief – why we can’t just accept the information and need to believe in it
Attention – how avoiding  talking about climate change is like avoiding talking about human rights atrocities

Special Interests Enabled By 'Citizens United' Spent $186 Million To Influence U.S. Midterm Races

The success of GOP and Tea Party-backed candidates in the 2010 U.S. midterm elections was enabled by a massive influx of secretive spending thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

A new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation identified $126 million in unrestricted funds spent during this midterm without any disclosure of whose money it was. That figure represents more than a quarter of the total $450 million spent by outside groups on the midterms.

Sunlight Foundation notes that:

“Add the $60 million spent by groups that were allowed to raise unlimited money, but still had to disclose, to the undisclosed money and the total amount of outside money made possible by the Citizens United ruling reaches $186 million or 40 percent of the total spent by outside groups.”


The two leading GOP shadow groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS - both founded and guided by GOP veterans Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie - are reportedly “gloating” over their influence on the elections. The two groups spent more than $38 million on attack ads and misinformation campaigns to defeat Democratic candidates.

NBC News reports that “a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS’ money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls.”

Welcome the GOP Anti-Science Caucus - Only Four GOP House Members Acknowledge Science of Climate Change

Just how bad is the new crop of Tea Party-infused GOPers when it comes to scientific understanding of climate change?  Pretty mind-bogglingly abyssmal. 

A new analysis by the Wonk Room with research by Daily Kos contributor RL Miller details the denial among the new crop of Climate Zombies that will be walking the halls of Congress.

Among the findings: “45 of 97 Republican freshmen and 85 of 166 reelected Republicans are confirmed climate zombies. There are no Republican freshmen, in the House or Senate, who admit the science is real.”

Yikes.

Head over to the Wonk Room for the full report.

William Reese: "Warning To the People of Earth"

Here is a new documentary worth watching compiling the lectures and planetary warning issued by William Rees, the co-creator of the Eco-Footprint concept and Professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Rees has measured humanity’s use of the planet’s resources, and has concluded - not surprisingly - that humans are using more resources than the planet can supply us with sustainably.

Outcome of U.S. Midterm Election Already Clear - Polluters Win Again

While U.S. voters head to the polls today - and everyone from Fox to Politico to your uncle on Facebook becomes a pundit trying to predict the results - the outcome is already crystal clear: polluters have won again, handily.

With the advent of now limitless corporate donations polluting the democratic process thanks to the Supreme Court’s insane ruling on Citizens United, dirty energy interests, Wall Street fat cats and lobbyists will run America for the foreseeable future.

Corporations have long enjoyed the advantage of spending a tiny amount (compared to their enormous profits) to influence the entire political system, buying future access and favors that pay off for years to come, simply by driving contributions to their favored candidates in every contest from local zoning board races to governors to U.S. Senators.

But thanks to Citizens United, corporate influence is now far more invasive and impactful. Polluters can freely run attack ads and vicious smear campaigns against climate hawks, deploy their front groups to mislead voters on everything from health care to global warming, sponsor ballot initiatives to kill clean energy progress, and generally play fast and dirty with zero accountability for their actions. 

Koch Brothers Are Kings of Alberta Oil Sands Too

The Tyee notes today that billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and their company Koch Industries are a major player in Alberta’s dirty oil sands, a fuel source far more polluting than even regular oil.  Leave it to the Koch brothers to gravitate towards (and profit from) the dirtiest sources of energy on the planet - while ignoring investments in cleaner alternatives that could help rescue and stabilize the U.S. economy - and collect love letters from the Tea Party’s “patriots” for their efforts. 

Tyee reporter Geoff Dembicki notes the Kochtopus’s role in spawning the fake ‘grassroots’ Tea Party movement, especially through the Koch-filled coffers of Americans For Prosperity, and points to the Kochs’ role in funding the climate denial machine as a key indicator of why the TeaOP is overrun with anti-science sentiment

The looming threat of a TeaOP takeover in Washington - even if exaggerated in its scope - is bad news for science-based policy, particularly in the arena of climate change policy.  With a fresh crop of climate deniers set to assume seats formerly held by moderate Republicans and Democrats, the silly season antics that typically crop up during election time appear to be stuck on auto-repeat for the foreseeable future.

Dembicki details Koch Industries’ role in sponsoring the Tea Party rise, but also probes Koch’s extensive control over Alberta’s filthy oil sands, including this excerpt:

Coal Lobbyists Wooed White House Staff To Influence Coal Ash Regulations Long Before Public Hearings

While the final EPA hearing is happening today in Tennessee to solicit public input on federal proposals to regulate toxic coal ash, a new report [PDF] from DeSmogBlog and PolluterWatch shows that coal industry lobbyists held dozens of secretive meetings with the White House to peddle their influence long before the Obama administration opened the process to the public.  

The coal industry’s influence on the process was largely peddled behind the scenes, beginning over a year ago, when lobbyists representing coal ash producers and users started swarming the White House to protect the coal industry from full responsibility for the potential health and water threats posed by coal ash waste.  

The lobbyists’ ability to quickly and easily gain access and influence over the White House’s review of this critical environmental regulation calls into serious question President Obama’s campaign pledge to limit the role of lobbyists in federal decision-making.

Elusive Charles Koch Deploys Security To Block Joel Francis’ Visit to Koch Industries HQ to Invite Debate on Prop 23

Joel Francis, the Cal State-Los Angeles senior and Marine Corps veteran, today followed through on his promise to visit Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita, Kansas to formally deliver his letter challenging CEO Charles Koch to a public debate about his funding of Prop 23, an attack on California’s clean energy investments and job creation efforts.  

After receiving no response from Koch following the video posting of his challenge last week, Joel traveled all the way from Los Angeles with a group of fellow college students and Gabe Elsner, campaign director of Powervote CA and the California Student Sustainability Coalition.  

The goal was simple and the approach polite – Joel simply hoped to meet with Charles Koch to invite him to a public debate “anytime, anywhere in the state of California” between now and election day about why Koch would attack the fastest growing sector in California’s struggling economy – clean energy jobs, which are growing 10 times faster than other sectors.

But as the students arrived, it was clear that Koch wasn’t rolling out the red carpet for Joel.  

Pairs of security guards were stationed prominently outside each entrance to the Koch corporate campus.  Marked and unmarked Koch security vehicles trailed several cars after they dropped the students off on the front lawn of Koch HQ. (The vehicle I arrived in along with PowerVote’s Gabe Elsner was also trailed as it left the scene.)

Larry Moorman, Koch’s Director of Corporate Security, immediately approached Elsner and wrongly claimed that we were on private property.  Elsner responded that county records indicated the first 18 feet of lawn adjacent to the curb was public property, which sent Mr. Moorman on his way back to guard the front door from the apparent ‘threat’ of an articulate college senior challenging the company’s secretive CEO to talk to him.  

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