Farron Cousins

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

Arch Coal Mine Will Destroy Colorado Wilderness in 'Roadless' Forest

In a devastating blow to the Colorado wilderness, the U.S. Forest Service has agreed to allow Arch Coal to expand their West Elk mine into 6.5 miles of roadless forest in Colorado.  This means that as soon as Arch Coal gets the “ok,” they will begin leveling a formerly pristine part of America’s beautiful wilderness.

The ruling of the Forest Service came after an appeal by conservation groups, led by EarthJustice, who hoped that the agency would have the decency to prevent the dirty energy industry from destroying a vital part of the environment.

From EarthJustice:

The appeal filed in September 2012 with the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional Forester in Denver, sought to overturn an August decision affirming Arch Coal’s West Elk mine expansion into roadless lands that provide habitat for lynx, black bear, elk and goshawk. The conservation groups argued that the mine expansion violates laws meant to protect wildlife, air quality, and forest lands, as well as the Colorado Roadless Rule.

Smokey Bear has turned his back on Colorado’s natural, roadless lands,” said Ted Zukoski, staff attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest environmental law firm representing the groups. “Instead, the Forest Service has literally paved the way for a coal mega-corporation to destroy real bear habitat. The Sunset Roadless Area is a beautiful forest of aspen and giant spruce, beaver lodges and meadows, a home for elk and hawks. This is a place the Forest Service should be protecting for all Coloradoans, not sacrificing to appease special interests.”

In February of this year, EarthJustice and the environmental groups they represent won a legal battle against the Forest Service over the expansion of the mine.  During this fight, the Forest Service was unable to provide an adequate explanation of what they would do to prevent the destruction of the habitats of endangered bald eagles and lynx, as well as what measures would be put in place to prevent landslides.

EPA And TVA Nix Coal Ash Spill Cleanup Efforts

Four years after a coal processing plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) accidentally released tons of toxic coal ash into waterways in Kingston, the cleanup has finally come to an end. 

But just because cleanup efforts have ceased, that does not mean that the pollution problem is gone.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal with the TVA to allow the company to stop their cleanup efforts and allow “natural river processes” to dispose of the remaining toxic sludge.

The Real Winner Of US Election – Dirty Energy Money

As Democrats crawl out from their election night hangovers, still riding the high of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory, it appears that a reality check is due.  Obama might have won the election, but the battle was won by the dirty energy industry.

Sure, the industry went all-in on Republican nominee Mitt Romney, showering him with almost $5 million, compared to a paltry $705,000 to Obama in 2012.  But the industry knew better than to put all of their eggs in one basket, and they received a massive return on their investment in the down ballot races, particularly those for the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the top 20 House candidates who received money from the dirty energy industry were all members of the Republican Party.  Together, these 20 Republican candidates received more than $3.6 million from the industry.

Here are the top recipients of dirty energy largesse (all money sources via OpenSecrets, election results via Huffington Post), along with the results of their respective elections:

Why Is North America Behind The Curve On Climate Change and Energy?

Just three short years ago, it appeared that North America was on the verge of finally kicking that nasty dirty energy addiction that was crippling our economies and our energy independence.  The United States had elected a president (Barack Obama) who set incredibly lofty goals for renewable energy targets, and green energy investments across the continent were higher than anywhere else in the world.

Groups Call On EPA To Close Fracking Disclosure Loopholes

Seventeen public interest groups, including the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to close a loophole in U.S. laws that allows hydraulic fracturing operations to be exempt from disclosing the pollutants they release each year.

Under the current code, the fracking industry is exempt from having to disclose the pollutants that they release into the atmosphere every year, which is estimated by the EPA to be about 127,000 tons of pollution.  These pollutants endanger both the environment and people living in and around areas where fracking wells are operated, and the lack of disclosure makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of illnesses and properly diagnose people when they become sick from exposure.

That is why the EIP and other groups have created a petition that was sent to the EPA, hoping to convince the agency to once again consider adding the fracking industry to their Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which contains information about the amount and type of pollutants released into the environment by U.S. companies.  The last time the agency considered adding the fracking industry to the list was in 1996, but those discussions ended with the industry as the victor.

What To Expect When You're Electing - The Candidates' Energy Plans

With only a few weeks left for American voters to decide between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, more and more attention is being paid to the candidates’ respective energy policies.

We’ve reported in recent months that Mitt Romney has stacked his energy team of advisors with dirty energy industry insiders and lobbyists, which gives us an idea of how he would run the country.  With Obama, we have the benefit of using the past as an example of what to expect in the future. 

But both candidates are now in a position where their current proposals and policy ideas are being shown to the public, so let’s break down what each presidential candidate says they will do with regards to energy and the environment, if elected.

Think Progress has put together a great side-by-side comparison of the two candidates, which gives us a very clear picture of where each candidate would take the country:

Public Pressure Helps Disney End Destructive Environmental Practices

After several years of talks, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) scored a major victory this month, when they were finally able to convince the Disney Corporation to give up their destructive environmental printing practices.

Disney is one of America’s top ten publishers of children’s books, and an analysis by RAN showed that the bulk of the company’s paper for their printing was coming from the endangered Indonesian rainforests.  This was first discovered in 2010, and RAN was able to convince eight of the top U.S. publishers to change their practices and swear off the use of rainforest pulp for their paper.  Nine of the top ten publishers were found to be using paper pulp that came directly from the Indonesian rainforests.

At that time, however, Disney (along with Harper Collins) refused to sign onto the idea.

Heritage Foundation Distributes List Of Fallacies Regarding Obama’s Energy Policies

In an attempt to paint President Obama as bad for the U.S. economy, the Heritage Foundation recently released a list of the top ten ways in which the President’s energy policies are 'destroying' both the economy and our domestic energy production.

The list contains numerous falsehoods coupled with half-truths and out of context information.  When taken at face value, they give conservatives plenty to salivate over in the short time before the national election.  But those of us who have been paying attention can easily conclude that the statements made by Heritage have no basis in reality.

Before diving into the list, it is important to remember that Heritage has received millions of dollars from the dirty energy industry over the years, including such noted players as Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries.  They are also a hub for many prominent climate change skeptics.

Here’s Heritage’s list of Obama’s attacks against the energy economy, each one followed by the reality behind the situation:

Are Coal Mine Employees Forced To Support Romney?

According to a Federal Election Commission complaint filed by the Democratic Party of Ohio, employees for coal mining company Murray Energy have been coerced by their bosses into not only voting Republican, but also helping to fund Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

From Eric Dolan of Raw Story:

Two Murray Energy managerial sources told The New Republic that the company pressures employees into giving money to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates. In addition, internal documents revealed that the company tracks which employees are and are not making contributions. Employees of the company allegedly fear that if they do not make the political contributions and attend fundraisers, they will face repercussions including demotions and being refused bonuses.

This is the second time that a FEC complaint has been filed against Murray Energy.  The first occurred last month when Progress Ohio filed a complaint against Murray for allegedly forcing employees to attend a Romney rally in August of this year.

BP Settlement Deal Could Put Taxpayers On The Hook For Spill Costs

A proposed settlement deal between the federal government and BP over their involvement in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil leak could shift the burden of cleanup costs away from the oil giant and onto U.S. taxpayers.

The current settlement option is just one of several being negotiated between the federal government and BP.  But this settlement option would route fine and settlement money through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), rather than fining the company directly via the Clean Water Act.

Not only could this reduce the total amount of money that the company pays in fines, but it would shift the burden of cost onto U.S. taxpayers.  While the company would still be paying out of pocket, the NRDA allows the company to write off their fines and deduct that from their yearly taxes.  Paying through the Clean Water Act would not allow the costs to be tax deductible. 

But the cost shift is just one of the problems with the proposed deal.  The provision that has residents of the Gulf Coast up in arms is the fact that the NRDA would route the money through the U.S. Treasury, instead of directly sending it to local and state governments.  This means that the Treasury, not the affected areas, would be in charge of determining how the money is spent.