Mountaintop Removal: Help Larry get to the UN

(Cross-posted at the new Appalachian Voices blog)

This is Larry Gibson and Appalachian Voices own Austin Hall on (or in this case under) Capitol Hill.

We took this after a day of lobbying for the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 2719) to end Mountaintop Removal coal-mining. Our staff, volunteers, and interns busted our butt for weeks to make the trip a success, and it was! But after three days of intense lobbying, a congressional breifing, and some star studded pictures with some of least favorite Senators...

(Stephen Callahan, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, and myself)

...we went home.

Larry Gibson however, never stops.

He can't...

He lives on top of $4.5 million worth of coal.

There's more...

OSM tells Gov. Bredesen (D-TN) to Piss Off!!

(Cross-posted at the new Appalachian Voices blog)

Recently, particularly after the Sago mine disaster in which 16 were killed, states have been paying more attention to the effect that mining has on their lives, communities, and environment.

West Virginia's governor Joe Manchin wanted all WV mines shut down for safety reviews.

Tennessee Phil Bredesen (D-TN)

also filed a request with the Office of Surface Mining, requesting that the OSM Reclamation and Enforcement develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to review the effects of coal mining in Tennessee.

The OSM also received similar requests from Paul Sloan (Deputy Commissioner, TN Department of Environment and Conservation) and Gary Myers (Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.)

In response to these requests for an assessment of their actions, and the results thereof, the OSM respectfully flipped Governor Bredesen, Commissioner Sloan, and Executive Director Myers the bird....

There's more...


Detroit, MI - The headlines from Detroit are grim today.  Delphi Corporation, the largest U.S. auto supplier, is going to bankruptcy court today in New York City with a reorganization plan that will include: the calculation of its union contracts and the elimination of retiree medical and life insurance benefits, according to today's Detroit Free Press.


"A GM default would be absolutely huge," said Jonathan Loredo, credit manager of Cairn Capital. "It would be the biggest thing to hit the market in terms of losses and operational stress."

There is no understating the scale of GM's problems. It is losing market share in the United States, has $300 billion of long-term debt, provides health benefits to 1.1 million people (at the rate of about $1,500 per car produced), is threatened with a strike by its largest supplier, which is bankrupt, and is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Nancy Skinner is running for U.S. Congress in suburban Detroit (the home district of most management, executives and a huge part of the workforce).  Skinner has been endorsed by the UAW and she has a plan that will inject new life into the auto industry.


Hybrid tax credits that will equalize the cost of a hybrid with a conventional engine.  $3000 for a conventional hybrid, $6,000 for a plug-in vehicle.

A government purchased fleet of 50,000 hybrid vehicles.
These greener, technologically superior vehicles will meet the world market's demand in a global environment where oil supplies will continue to grow scarcer.

The warnings from energy analysts must be heeded.  This vision to meet the future head on will result in:

Reduced dependence on Mideast oil and rogue regimes like Iran who threaten to withhold oil with resulting economic shocks as a way to pursue their nuclear ambitions.  

An increase in jobs and economic prosperity for American workers and corporations.

A vast reduction in greenhouse gases that are already causing climate related disasters such as stronger hurricanes, increased flooding and prolonged droughts.  


Michigan's 9th district is a 50/50 split. The DCCC and EMILY'S List have targeted this seat as a potential pick up. We will need their support to take out Joe Knollenberg. But to do this we have to meet our quarter one fundraising goal. The quarter ends FRIDAY MARCH 31. We need your immediate financial support to make this happen. To contribute go to

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Trimming Around The Edges On Fuel Economy

Some rare good environmental news came out of the Bush administration on Wednesday. Well, "good" is probably an overstatement. But with Bush, it's all relative. The Department of Transportation announced new CAFE standards that require light trucks to meet a minimum of 24 miles per gallon and, for the first time, regulate the fuel efficiency of large SUVs like the Hummer. Of course, these aren't huge changes, but I'm personally shocked this administration is addressing CAFE standards at all.

Now, contrast this with the situation in Brazil. CBS News has an interesting story about the fact that the Brazilians are about to complete their transition from gasoline as an auto fuel to sugarcane ethanol. I'm not talking here about a pilot project, or ethanol becoming the dominant fuel. By the end of 2006, Brazil should be an all-ethanol nation. Mind you, this has been a long time in coming. Brazil ramped up publicly-funded studies of sugarcane ethanol in reaction to the oil crises of the 1970s. But they also started putting their academic work into practice, by requiring gas stations to also offer ethanol and requiring refiners to mix ethanol into gasoline. This in turn led to innovations like so-called flex vehicles, which run on either a gasoline/ethanol mix or pure ethanol, that are enabling the complete shift to ethanol that Brazil's undergoing today.

Unfortunately, the best the United States can seem to do is trim around the edges of our fossil fuel problem, raising CAFE standards to levels that easily could have been met decades ago. And of course, at the core of the problem here is politicians cowering before oil companies and auto manufacturers who liked the inefficient status quo. But it's not as if Brazil didn't have to deal with industrial opposition themselves. "Basically, the people who produce oil," one Brazilian official explains, "they don't like us ... because we are getting their markets. It's very simple."

If the United States is going to continue to subsidize corn ethanol for agribusiness, and if auto companies are going to engage in greenwash marketing about ethanol, why not use the power of government to actually make ethanol more widely available? Corn ethanol may not be as cost-effective as sugarcane ethanol, but what about biodiesel? More obviously, why not mandate a certain percentage of a manufacturer's fleet to use hybrid gas/electric technology? There are a number of options that are better than the current course. The point here is that there is an incredible lack of leadership in Republican-run America on energy policy and as a result, we're falling behind nations like Brazil. It's pathetic.

There's more...

Corporate Message, Corporate Reality

Working closely with the non-profit sector, especially non-profits that deal with energy and transportation policy, I always find it a bit odd that, while oil companies like Exxon/Mobil are castigated for their lack of concern for the environment, BP is almost uniformly praised, even among those who are supposed to be in the know. The reason, of course, is that BP has a marketing department more adept at green messaging. Hopefully, a story in this morning's New York Times will help shatter that conventional wisdom.

Earlier this month, a massive oil spill pumped anywhere from a few thousand to nearly a million gallons of crude oil onto the tundra at Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. It is the largest oil spill on Alaska's North Slope to date. Previously in February of 2001, two other oil spills dumped almost ten thousand gallons into the same region. As recently as last spring, there were three more spills in the area. These disasters have one thing in common -- BP was responsible for all of them. Here's some more information from the latest Times piece.

... one of the company's longtime employees, a mechanic and local union official who has participated in the spill cleanup, said in a telephone interview that he and his colleagues had repeatedly warned their superiors that cutbacks in routine maintenance and inspection had increased the chances of accidents or spills.

In the interview, Marc Kovac, who is an official of the United Steelworkers union, which represents workers at the BP facility, said he had seen little change in BP's approach despite the warnings.

"For years we've been warning the company about cutting back on maintenance," Mr. Kovac said, adding that he was speaking for himself, not the union. "We know that this could have been prevented."

Maintenance at BP's Prudhoe Bay facility has been a problem for some time now. In 2001, The Wall Street Journal reported that the valves designed to protect against pipeline leaks and ruptures were not working properly and "can't be relied upon to shut in an emergency, creating the potential for a natural catastrophe." And here's where the story gets even worse. When Republicans talk about opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge up to drilling, they point to nearby Prudhoe Bay as a guide on environmental impact. For example, look at the 2005 Heritage Foundation report titled "Opening ANWR: Long Overdue."

Good Energy Policy
The Prudhoe Bay experience also presents strong evidence that drilling can be done with only a modest impact on the environment. Decades of drilling on a scale much larger than that envisioned in ANWR have not harmed the porcupine caribou herds near Prudhoe Bay or caused any of the other environmental problems that were predicted. Thirty years makes a difference, too. Drilling in ANWR would be done with much better environmental safeguards than were available in the 1970s. And today's technology is far more environmentally friendly than that available 30 years ago.

In case you happen to be curious, BP has indeed been a major financial backer of the Heritage Foundation over the years. But of course, their support for Heritage pales in comparison to their support of K Street. The company has spent nearly three million dollars on lobbying in 2005 alone. It goes without saying that pro-corporate think tanks like Heritage are, by definition, easier to buy off than Congress.

When will corporations wake up to the fact that there is long-term value in real environmental responsibility? People obviously want to buy what their advertising is purporting to sell, but the reality just isn't there. It's one thing for a company like BP to run an ad campaign that promotes the idea that the company is committed to sustainability and renewables, but it's ultimately pointless if it's just to divert attention away from BP's horrible record of managerial irresponsibility in places like Prudhoe Bay.


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