PolluterWatch Blog

Kinder Morgan: Pollution, Lawbreaking, and Cover-ups

 

Kinder Morgan's Myrtle Grove coal export facility in Louisiana

A new report from the Sightline Institute about energy conglomerate Kinder Morgan reveals the company's track record of pollution, lawbreaking, and cover-ups.  http://greenpeaceblogs.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/...); background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: transparent; background-position: 100% 0%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; " title="More..." />As Eric de Place writes, the company's troubling history is especially concerning for residents of the Pacific Northwest, as Kinder Morgan is among the companies seeking to develop massive new projects to export US coal to Asia through Oregon and Washington:

In January, Kinder Morgan—a giant energy conglomerate—announced plans to use an Oregon port on the Columbia River to export 30 million tons of coal annually to China and other Asian markets. Many in the Northwest worry about the health risks, pollution, and economic risks that are entailed by the plans. Already tribes and environmental organizations are raising serious concerns about handling large volumes of coal on the Columbia.

One part of the report focuses on Kinder Morgan's Myrtle Grove facility in Louisiana, and the coal dust from that coal export terminal polluting the Mississippi river - even visible from satellite photosI saw this facility up close when Greenpeace's ship passed by on our way up river to New Orleans in 2010, and wrote about it and the other fossil fuel infrastructure that scars the Mississippi Delta. It was disturbing and striking to witness so much coal - at the time the facility could store over 1 million tons. The Myrtle Grove export terminal will be even bigger soon - the company last year announced a deal with Massey Energy, the notorious coal mining company and a major destroyer of Appalachian Mountains, to expand the facility and ship six million tons of coal each year. (Alpha purchased Massey Energy last year).

Barges are loaded with coal at Kinder Morgan's Myrtle Grove export facility
There are many more details about Kinder Morgan's pollution and other misdeeds in the Sightline Institute report that I'll cover in future posts. More photos of the company's polluting coal export facility in Louisiana are available here.

Why are the Koch brothers cannibalizing the Cato Institute?

The Cato Institute may soon be under new management - Koch Industries.

A cursory look at the very public clash between the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and the Koch brothers, infamous oil billionaires and funders of right wing causes - leaves many people confused.  The Cato Institute, originally called the Charles G Koch Institute when it was founded by Charles G Koch in the 70s – is in danger of a hostile takeover…by Charles G Koch?  Why would Charles Koch try to take over his own think tank?

The short answer – power, of course.  As it turns out, the Koch’s influence at Cato has waned over the last few decades due to a falling out between Ed Crane, the current president of Cato, and Charles Koch, who hand-picked Crane for the job shortly after founding the think tank.  Starting in the early nineties, the Kochs all but abandoned Cato, exerting little control over the group’s activities and steadily reducing Cato’s Koch funding (down to $0 in 2011).  Charles even left the board of directors (though he was replaced by David Koch).

Instead of running Cato, the Kochs poured their time and oil profits into front groups like Americans for Prosperity, their flagship astroturf organization.  The Kochs' network of front groups gave them influence over (and close ties to) the republican establishment at large.

During this time, Cato became seen as a relatively independent think tank, willing to criticize both democrat and republican administrations.  Real news organizations went to Cato for comment on topical issues, and legislators used Cato’s reports to inform policy. 

cato institute koch industries kato

Cato was seen as something more than a tool for corporate billionaires to accomplish their political agenda of deregulation.  (For the record, Cato was still a tool of corporate billionaires: see their defense of tobacco while being funded by cigarette companies, or their adamant climate denial while being funded by Exxon)

Fast forward to today – the Koch brothers’ political agenda has been publicly outed (see airship), their front groups like Americans for Prosperity have little credibility with the mainstream press and the Kochs’ hope of unseating president Obama is looking slimmer by the day.  Suddenly, Cato’s veneer of respectability is politically valuable to the Kochs. 

Bob Levy, current chairman of the Cato Institute, recently wrote that the Kochs admitted needing Cato as a “source of intellectual ammunition for Americans for Prosperity – through position papers, a media presence, and speakers on hot-button issues.”

So, when one of the shareholders of Cato died leaving his shares to his widow (Cato has a strange system of governance involving controlling shares), the Kochs saw an opportunity to pounce.  The brothers filed a lawsuit they hope will force the widow into selling her shares, giving the Koch’s majority control over Cato’s board of directors.  This would give the Kochs the power over Cato they needed to fold it into their suite of other front groups, making Cato another Koch-controlled cog in the republican political machine.

However, after years of relative freedom Cato’s leadership was not keen on bowing their heads to Koch control and becoming a pawn of the republican party.  In a letter to employees, Cato president Ed Crane wrote:

“Catoites, You are all probably aware by now of the unfortunate development with Charles and David Koch. They are in the process of trying to take over the Cato Institute and, in my opinion, reduce it to a partisan adjunct to Americans for Prosperity, the activist GOP group they control.”

Thus began the public brawl between the Koch Brothers and the Cato Institute.

The moral? The Koch’s are so ruthless in their pursuit of power that even Cato, a bastion of ‘every man for themselves,’ ‘only the strong survive,’ ‘no free school lunch,’ free-market capitalism, is crying foul.  But don't feel sorry for Cato, perhaps they just need to re-read a little Ayn Rand

Senator Inhofe admits his views on climate science based on money

But first, a dose of climate reality:

In a recent study, scientists found that climate change will decrease the number of seasonal flowers, leading to an overall decrease in the number of butterflies, who rely on flowers for a sustainable source of energy - no destruction required.  Another recent study found that climate change will increase the number of Lyme disease infected ticks, parasites that drill into their prey and extract their blood, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake. 

It’s almost poetic that continued reliance on puncturing the earth and sucking out the oil will lead to more parasites puncturing and sucking us in return…

 

Speaking of bothersome pests - Senator James Inhofe, staunch global warming denier and human prune, went on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss his new book, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future."

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

During the interview, the good Senator from Oklahoma repeated his belief that a global conspiracy of environmentalists and scientists (and global temperature readings) are colluding to create the illusion of a changing climate, just to justify taxes. 

See the left portion of this graphic for a summation of Inhofe’s climate views:

 

Though Inhofe has said ludicrous things about climate science many times before, he rarely mentions why he initially became such a zealous climate denier. 

As he revealed in the interview, Inhofe became skeptical of climate science once he found out solving the looming climate crisis might cost money.  In the interview he said “I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

So, if Inhofe lets money dictate his policies, what does it mean that the top three contributors to his campaign are dirty energy companies (Koch industries being #1), or that he has taken well over $1 million from the fossil fuel industry since 1999?

Come on Inhofe, dont be such a tick.
 

Heartland Institute Scandals Convince Columnist of Climate Change Reality

Ken Midkiff, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see investigation and ongoing updates.

Some journalists have issues with reality.

Here at PolluterWatch, it's obvious when agents of the climate denial machine succeed in taking advantage of widespread scientific ignorance in our country and place stories in the news that misinform the public on global warming. While many have come to expect unscientific coverage of global warming on agenda-driven partisan fronts like Fox News, poor reporting pervades plenty of more respected sources of news.

In contrast, it's refreshing when you see a person really get it. Thanks to the Heartland Institute's recently leaked documents laying out their 2012 efforts to create doubt over climate science, [Missouri's] Columbia Daily Tribune columnist Ken Midkiff has publicly reversed his skepticism over global warming now that he has examined Heartland's dubious public relations. Reacting to a Greenpeace letter questioning Heartland payments to the University of Missouri's Anthony Lupo for climate denial work, Mr. Midkiff explains his change of heart:

Some recent revelations about the Heartland Institute have led me to correct my earlier statement about global warming. It now seems that the jury is in and has rendered a verdict: The Earth is becoming warmer, caused by the amount of gases that humans are sending into the upper atmosphere.

While we wish this had been clearer to Mr. Midkiff years ago (NASA's James Hanson told Congress this was a pressing global issue with a formidable human impact way back in 1988), his revelation and willingness to publicly explain it is a small win for both science and journalism. Even earlier this year Mr. Midkiff had been questioning aspects of climate research that the scientific community can easily dismiss with their tedious work.

Well-organized and -financed public relations shops like the Heartland Institute and many others (check out ExxonSecrets and DeSmogBlog) play a critical role in the effort to fabricate public doubt, politicizing the science of climate change by demanding journalists cover their "side" of the story, even though it carries no scientific relevance. Worse yet, they are expert projectionists, taking their very tactics of lying, misrepresenting, cherry-picking, bullying and politicizing and blaming their opponents for those very things.

It's like arguing with a child: "I know you are, but what am I?!"

And horrifyingly, it works and has worked for decades now, which is why the booming public relations industry in this country dwarfs the presence of true journalists whose job it is, ideally, to dig up an accurate story and present it to the public for final judgement. The Heartland Institute is a hired PR gun in this case, taking money from a few rich ideolgues and vested interests and packaging doubt over global warming to sell to the media and American people.

Luckily, we can see that the lastest exposure of Heartland's climate denial campaigns through their leaked internal documents is shining a light on this shadowy effort to deceive us all. May that trend continue as Greenpeace continues to investigate the Heartland Institute.

SEC to Investigate TransCanada's Lies on Keystone XL Job Claims

Today Greenpeace sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking them to stop TransCanada Corporation from continuing to illegally mislead investors and the American public with wildly inflated job creation claims for its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. 
 

TransCanada and its allies in Congress (TransCanada has spent $1.3 million dollars on lobbying for Keystone XL) have routinely used deceitful jobs numbers in their support of the Keystone pipeline, claiming that it would create 20,000 jobs in America.  In reality the pipeline will create less than 1/3rd that number, possibly far less according to studies by the EPA and Cornell University.

Furthermore, TransCanada knows its jobs claims are exaggerated.  According to the company, the U.S. pipeline would create jobs at a rate 67 times higher per mile of pipeline than the rate given to Canadian officials for the miles of pipeline it would build in that country.

SEC rules forbid the use of "manipulative and deceptive practices" to directly affect the value of the company's stock.   TransCanada CEO Russ Girling directly connected the pipeline’s approval with his company’s profits in an April 2011 earnings conference call, making his company’s manipulative and deceptive jobs data illegal according the SEC rules.

As Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace said in a recent speech, "It’s wrong for politicians and pundits to use these false numbers, but it’s illegal for TransCanada to lie to investors. The SEC needs to take immediate action to hold TransCanada accountable for misleading investors to boost its valuation,” "TransCanada needs to knock off the propaganda and level with people that they'd create a few temporary jobs just to move dirty oil through our country so it can be shipped to Europe for maximum Big Oil profits."

Congress Penalized by Activist Refs for Keystone XL Lies

How great would it be if our elected officials had to follow a set of rules that created a fair playing field in politics?  Mistruths and false promises would be seriously penalized by watchful referees and policy ideas could succeed or fail on their merit, rather than the checkbook of their supporters.  Instead we have a system where industry and government collude to pass projects that are bad for people and bad for the environment, but increase corporate bottom lines and campaign coffers.  Politicians repeat dishonest and twisted information, violating the trust between the electorate and the elected.  A low blow to the American people, yet usually no one is there to blow the whistle.

This kind of poor sportsmanship was on full display at yesterday’s meeting of the House subcommittee on energy.  The committee met in response to the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a Canadian project that would pump the dirtiest and most carbon intensive crude oil in the world from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. 

(Picture of the tar sands)

Promoters of the pipeline were attempting a Hail Mary to save Keystone XL by stripping the ability to regulate it from the Obama administration and giving it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  To make their case, Keystone XL’s congressional supporters (who have taken a whopping $41 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil) were willing to toss around all the falsehoods and industry talking points that have been polluting the debate from the beginning. 

Fans of the Tar Sands pipeline, like Joe Barton, John Shimkus, and Fred Upton, claim the pipeline would provide 20,000 jobs, lower gas prices for Americans, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.  These claims are all false - in reality the pipeline would create less than 1/3rd of the jobs pipeline enthusiasts claim, there would be no cost savings on gas for Americans, and the oil will be exported from Port Arthur, Texas, so it would not even be used in America. To top it all off, Port Arthur is registered as a foriegn trade port, meaning the U.S government would not even recieve taxes from the tar sands oil shipped abroad.

(Activist referees calling a foul)

The deceptive claims made by fans of the tar sands are a violation of the American people’s trust in their elected representatives.  That’s why a group of activist referees attended the committee hearing, and threw a penalty flag every time Big Oil’s congressmen tried to pull a fast one.  Not used to playing by the rules, Congressional advocates racked up a ton of red flags as they repeated their inaccurate data and manipulative talking points over and over.  Check out a video of the committee hearing for a taste of what these refs had to deal with.  

ALEC Model Bill Behind Push To Require Climate Denial Instruction In Schools

Written by Steve Horn, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.

On January 16, the Los Angeles Times revealed that anti-science bills have been popping up over the past several years in statehouses across the U.S., mandating the teaching of climate change denial or "skepticism" as a credible "theoretical alternative" to human caused climate change came.

The L.A. Times' Neela Banerjee explained,

"Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom."

What the excellent Times coverage missed is that key language in these anti-science bills all eminated from a single source: the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

ALEC Exposed: No, Not Alec Baldwin*

In summer 2011, "ALEC Exposed," a project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)**, taught those alarmed about the power that corporations wield in the American political sphere an important lesson: when bills with a similar DNA pop up in various statehouses nationwide, it's no coincidence. 

Explaining the nature and origins of the project, CMD wrote, "[CMD] unveiled a trove of over 800 'model' bills and resolutions secretly voted on by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These bills reveal the corporate collaboration reshaping our democracy, state by state."

CMD continued, "Before our publication of this trove of bills, it has been difficult to trace the numerous controversial and extreme provisions popping up in legislatures across the country directly to ALEC and its corporate underwriters."

CMD explained that ALEC conducts its operations in the most shadowy of manners (emphases mine):

"Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALECCorporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve 'model' billsCorporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills."

So, what is the name of the "model bill" this time around?

The Trojan Horse: The "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act"

The Trojan Horse in this case is an Orwellian titled model bill, the "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act."[PDF]

The bill was adopted by ALEC's Natural Resources Task Force, today known as the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, at ALEC's Spring Task Force Summit on May 5, 2000 — it was then approved by the full ALEC Board of Directors in June of 2000.

The bill's opening clause reads [PDF], "The purpose of this act is to enhance and improve the environmental literacy of students and citizens in the state by requiring that all environmental education programs and activities conducted by schools, universities, and agencies shall…"

Among other things, the bill stipulates that schools, universities and agencies should, 

  • "Provide a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner."
  • "Provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific and economic controversies." 
  • "Be presented in language appropriate for education rather than for propagandizing."
  • "Encourage students to explore different perspectives and form their own opinions."
  • "Encourage an atmosphere of respect for different opinions and open-mindedness to new ideas."
  • "Not be designed to change student behavior, attitudes or values." 
  • "Not include instruction in political action skills nor encourage political action activities."

How does this language compare with legislation passed or proposed in various states? A review is in order.

ALEC Bills: From Model to Reality

The "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act," or at minimum, the crucial language found within it, has been proposed in seven states, and passed in three states, Louisiana in 2008, Texas in 2009 and South Dakota in 2010.

Louisiana

In 2008, the Louisiana state legislature introduced and eventually passed S.B. 733, the Louisiana Science and Education Act. The bill was originally sponsored by four members of the Senate, three of whom are current dues paying members of ALEC: Sen. Ben Wayne Nevers, Sr. (D-12); Sen. Neil Riser (R-32); and Sen. Francis Thompson (D-34).

The three ALEC members received a total of $9,514 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles in campaign money combined, and the four of them together received $13,814 in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics' FollowTheMoney.org.

ALEC Model vs. S.B. 733

The Louisiana bill calls for, "an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including…global warming…" The bill also calls for "instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."

This bill mirrors the provisions of the ALEC bill which say that teachers should "provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific…controversies," and mandates that "balanced and objective environmental education materials and programs will…be used."

South Dakota

In 2010, the South Dakota Legislative Assembly passed House Concurrent Resolution 1009, a non-binding resolution introduced by 33 members of the House of Representatives and 6 members of the Senate, 39 in total, and 12 of whom are current members of ALEC. The bill calls for "balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota."

The 12 members of ALEC who sponsored HCR 1009 received $1,900 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles combined, according to FollowTheMoney.org.

The bill mirrors the provision of the ALEC bill that call for the providing of "a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner."

Kentucky

In 2010, the Kentucky state legislature proposed H.B. 397, the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act, a bill that eventually failed to pass.

The bill was co-sponsored by two members of the Kentucky House of Representatives who were not members of ALEC, but one of whom, Tim Moore (R-26), took $3,000 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles combined, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

ALEC Model vs. HB 397

Two key provisions of the H.B. 397 "encourage local district teachers and administrators to foster an environment promoting objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories" and "allow teachers to use, as permitted by the local board of education, materials in addition to state-approved texts and instructional materials for discussion of scientific theories including…global warming…"

This bill mirrors major provisions of the ALEC model bill that say teachers should "provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific…controversies," and mandates that "balanced and objective environmental education materials and programs will…be used."

New Mexico

In 2011, ALEC member, Rep. Thomas A. Anderson, introduced H.B. 302. In the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles, he raised $2,650, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics' campaign finance database.

ALEC Model vs. H.B. 302

H.B. 302 says that schools shall "not prohibit any teacher, when a controversial scientific topic is being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic." One "controversial scientific topic" listed is the "causes of climate change."

This bill mirrors the provisions of the ALEC model bill which call for teaching "a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner," teaching "different perspectives" to allow for students to "form their own opinions," and creating an "atmosphere of respect for different opinions and open-mindedness to new ideas."

Tennessee

Tennessee's House bill, H.B. 368, essentially a replica of the ALEC model bill, overwhelmly passed the House in April 2011, but its Senate-version cousin, S.B. 893, failed to pass. As the Los Angeles Times article makes clear, efforts to push the bill through are far from over.

Key clauses of that bill read,

  • "[T]eachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught."
  • "[P]ublic elementary and secondary schools…[should]…respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues." 

These excerpts match, almost to a "T," bullet points one, three and four of the ALEC model bill.  

Nine of the 24 co-sponsors of the H.B. 368 are ALEC members, according to CMD's ALEC Members database.

In addition, these nine ALEC member co-sponsors received $8,695 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry combined in the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles, according to FollowTheMoney.org. The other 15 sponsors of the bill, while not members of ALEC, received $10,400 in their campaign cofffers in the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles combined.

S.B. 893, on the other hand, was sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson (R-11), a recipient of $1,800 in oil and gas industry money in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles combined.

Translation: between the 25 of them, on top of a model bill handed to them by corporate oil and gas industry lobbyists, they were also furnished with $20,895 in campaign cash by these industries with the expectation to do their legislative bidding.

Oklahoma

Titled, the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” H.B. 1551 is also essentially a copycat of Tennessee's version of the ALEC model bill — it failed to pass. A Senate version of that bill, S.B. 320, was also proposed in 2009, but failed to pass through committee.

Key clauses of that bill read (emphases mine),

  • "[T]eachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught."
  • "[N]o student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories."

Notice how the first bullet is exactly the same in both the Tennessee and Oklahoma bills — also notice how similar bullet number two is in both language and substance in both states' bills.

Rep. Sally Kern (R-84), sponsor of H.B. 1551, is a member of ALEC, according to CMD. She received $12,335 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, in total, according to FollowTheMoney.org. Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-34), sponsor of S.B. 320, while not a member of ALEC, received $22,967 from the oil and gas industry while running and losing for Governor of Oklahoma in 2010, according to FollowTheMoney.org.

On the whole, sponsors and co-sponsors from the six states in which the ALEC bill was proposed were recipients of $44,409 in campaign money from the oil and gas industry, a miniscule down payment for some of the most lucrative corporations known in the history of mankind.

Texas

Texas, in this case, is a bit of a wild card. Rather than a bill proposed by a state legislature, in 2009, the Texas School Board passed an amendent calling for the "balanced" teaching of climate change, meaning both science and "skepticism."

The Austin Statesman explained,

"The State Board of Education…adopted standards on the teaching of global warming that appear to both question its existence and prod students to explore its implications.

Standards are used to guide textbook makers and teachers.

Language…instructed students to 'analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming,'"…

This provision mirrors and is likely inspired by the ALEC model bill provision on global warming, which suggested science teachers should "Provide a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner."

A Bill In the Corporate Polluter's Interest

The money paper trail for this ALEC model bill runs deep, to put it bluntly. 

When the ALEC model bill was adopted in 2000 by ALEC's Natural Resources Task Force, the head of that committee was Sandy Liddy Bourne, who after that stint, became Director of Legislation and Policy for ALEC. She is now with the Heartland Institute as vice-president for policy strategy. In Sandy Liddy Bourne's bio on the Heartland website, she boasts that "Under her leadership, 20 percent of ALEC model bills were enacted by one state or more, up from 11 percent." 

SourceWatch states that Liddy Bourne "…is the daughter of former Nixon aide and convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy, who spent more than 52 months in prison for his part in the Watergate burglary…[and her] speech at the Heartland Institute's 2008 International Conference on Climate Change was titled, 'The Kyoto Legacy; The Progeny of a Carbon Cartel in the States."

The Heartland Institute was formerly heavily funded by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, just like ALEC was at the time that Liddy Bourne's committee devised the "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act." These two corporations are infamous for their funding of climate change "skeptic" think tanks and front groups.  

Today, the corporate polluter members of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force include representatives from American Electric Power, the Fraser Institute, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Energy Research, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Heartland Institute, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, to name several.

Getting Them While They're Young: A Cynical Maneuver 

In the United States, the politics of big-money backed disinformation campaigns have trumped climate science, and serves as the raison d'être for DeSmogBlog. Polluters with a financial interest in continuing to conduct business without any accountability for their global warming pollution have purposely sowed the seeds of confusion on an issue seen as completely uncontroversial among scientists.

Maneuvering to dupe schoolchildren is about as cynical as it gets. Neuroscience explains that young brains are like sponges, ready to soak in knowledge (and disinformation, for that matter), and thus, youth are an ideal target for the "merchants of doubt."

The corporations behind the writing and dissemination of this ALEC model bill, who are among the largest polluters in the world, would benefit handsomly from a legislative mandate to sow the seeds of confusion on climate science among schoolchildren.

Alas, at the very least, the identity of the Trojan Horse has been revealed: it's name is ALEC.

 

*Sorry Alec Baldwin, this isn't about you, please resume your Words With Friends. This ALEC is far more scandalous.

**Full Disclosure: At the time of the ALEC Exposed project's public release in mid-2011, Steve Horn was an employee of Center for Media and Democracy.

Americans for Prosperity's Lisa Thrun faces public scrutiny in NY RGGI lawsuit [VIDEO]

States participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

“I’m not a scientist, I’m an event planner,” explained Lisa Thrun when I asked her if she believed burning coal and oil contributed to climate change. Oh really, Ms. Thrun? If you’re just an event planner, what are you doing giving a presentation on the economic impacts of a regional plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? See the video:

 
Lisa Thrun, the chair of grassroots for the New York Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, was invited by the Tompkins County Republican Committee to speak about the economic impacts of RGGI. Pronounced “Reggie,” the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a cap-and-trade program, which promises to reduce CO2 emissions 10% by 2018 among Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  
Thrun is the lead plaintiff in a New York lawsuit against RGGI - a serious conflict of interest since Americans for Prosperity was started and is still funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. David Koch is the chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, AFP's sister group. It’s pretty ironic that the lead plaintiff in a suit against plant emissions works for an organization that is heavily involved in the ongoing orchestration of campaigns to sell doubt over climate science. When I asked Thrun about this conflict of interest, she responded, "You know what? I don't know what the Koch brothers do. It just goes to show you our independence from the Koch brothers."See the video:

 

 
AFP's ongoing suit against RGGI in New York is ironic for another reason: Koch Industries, which funnels profits to AFP through the Koch brother's foundations, was involved in the very first trade of physical carbon allowances under RGGI. Thrun’s main argument focused on economic implications for states (and families) involved in the cap-and-trade program. One slide during the presentation demonstrated how initiatives like cap and trade can be detrimental to big business. The charts proudly boasted the logos of groups including the Heritage Foundation, the Competative Enterprise Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute - all three of which have been involved in Koch-funded scandals. Thrun continuously warned that RGGI is a costly program, even though the average residential bill increases less than 50 cents a month and RGGI participating states show $3-$4 benefits for every $1 invested. The invested money then goes into state-designed consumer benefit and strategic energy programs, like home weatherization which can reduce household heating energy needs by 15 to 30 percent. (source: RGGI Proceeds Report Press Release) In response, Thrun implied that winterizing homes helps to save us money and energy, but “we should be doing it on our own.”
 
As the New York lawsuit is pushed forward by the polluter apologists running Americans for Prosperity, we will see if AFP is can finish pushing New Jersey out of RGGI. Gov. Chris Christie caved to AFP pressure last year, announcing New Jersey's withdrawal from the profitable program and then bragging about it right to the Koch brothers faces at their private political meeting in Vail, Colorado.
 
The Koch brothers are not running out of money. Their wealth has increased by $13 billion each in the last five years (Forbes, 2006 and 2011) and they will continue to bankroll ideological attacks on environmental initiatives that threaten their billions in private profits. What Charles and David have lost is the ability to ghost run the country in secret.
 
PolluterWatch will continue to track the development of Koch-backed attacks on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other dirty campaigns. For more, see PolluterWatch's profiles for Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity.

The Anniversary of Citizens United

January 21st marks the two year anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, the landmark Supreme Court case that removed limits on election spending by corporations and other moneyed interests, overthrowing 100 years of election laws. 

( For more background on CU v FEC, read this blog and watch the video from the Story of Stuff.)

The Citizens United case has already begun affecting elections.  Spending on political television ads funded by anonymous donors is already five times what it was during the entire Republican primary season four years ago, according to estimates from Kantar Media/CMAG.

An example of the kind of propaganda corporate polluters are flooding the airwaves with - thanks to Citizens United – is the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) new election cycle ad campaign, released last week.

The new advertising campaign is an attempt to hoodwink Americans into supporting Big Oil’s political agenda by faking grassroots support for the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and offshore arctic drilling. Now that the Supreme Court has decided API can use Big Oil’s millions to influence elections, API, the Chamber of Commerce, and other industry fronts can relentlessly attack candidates that don't support the fossil fuel industry’s political agenda.

Greenpeace caught API in the act of creating this Astroturf campaign, when activists responded to a leaked casting email that invited “real people not actors” to share their views on energy.  When the activists showed up to the shoot, API tried to use them as puppets, feeding them lines and strictly controlling what people could say on camera.  

Greenpeace created a parody commercial and website called "vote 4 energy" to point out API’s manipulations, but without millions of dollars of oil and gas money for ad buys, API’s lies will likely reach many more people.
 
Therein lies the fundamental injustice of the Citizens United decision, it increases the power of the richest sectors of society, allowing those with the most money to have the biggest voice in elections.  Because of Citizens United, Groups like API now wield advertising dollars like a cudgel, threatening politicians with unrelenting attack ads if politicians dare to deviate from corporate approved policies.  API’s president Jack Gerard admitted this strategy when he unveiled his ad campaign, promising “Huge political consequences” if President Obama does not approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

 

It is up to the people of America to beat back this corporate takeover of our government.  As the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision approaches, a growing and diverse movement has been building to pursue the only remedy that can overcome the entrenched Supreme Court majority’s distortion of the First Amendment: amending the Constitution to reverse Citizens United and broadly ensure free and fair elections, uncorrupted by excessive corporate influence.                                                                               

We need to tell corporate manipulators this is not over.  Demand your right to democracy for the people and by the people by joining one of the many actions taking place to mark the anniversary of Citizens United, starting January 19.  The People for the American Way have set up a website that can connect you to an event in your area.  There are hundreds of events across the nation so get involved!!  

 

Those interested in how pro-corporate forces have plotted to hijack democracy for more than three decades, check out the report on the Powell Memorandum, a blueprint for corporate takeover of democracy written by former Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell.

Meet the coal lobbyists who call mercury safeguards 'unfortunate'

After years of delay, the Environmental Protection Agency is finally issuing safeguards that will protect Americans by reducing the amount of mercury pollution and other poisons emitted by coal plants around the country. It's good news for mothers, children, communities near dirty coal plants, people who eat fish - pretty much everyone, actually, so it's no surprise that Americans overwhelmingly support rules to reduce mercury pollution from power plants. So who isn't pleased? Well, lobbyists for the dirtiest utilities like Southern Company seem pretty down about it - Scott Segal, for example, called the upcoming rule "unfortunate."

You might remember Scott Segal from his appearance on The Daily Show, in a bit about how lobbyists kill legislation. Mr. Segal works for K Street lobby firm Bracewell & Giuliani, where he represents clients like Southern Company, Arch Coal, and Duke Energy, along with his colleague Jeffrey Holmstead. (Holmstead has worked for years against meaningful mercury protections, as a top George W. Bush EPA official and as an industry lobbyist - read our Jeff Holmstead profile and our new report: Jeffrey Holmstead: the Coal Industry's Mercury Lobbyist for much more). They’ve got the tough job of trying to weaken and delay these popular, life-saving rules so their clients can keep dumping mercury into our air and water without restriction.

and prevent tens of thousands of illnesses every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As it turns out, it's really just a few companies that have pushed hard against the mercury safeguards. Most utility companies have prepared for this long-delayed rule, and one analysis found that "Companies representing half of the nation’s coal-fired generating capacity—eleven out of the top 15 largest coal fleet owners in the U.S.—have indicated that they are well positioned to comply with EPA’s clean air rules because of early investments in their generating fleets."

To help hide this, Mr. Segal often represents himself as the director of a coal industry front group called the "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council." For example, a few weeks ago Mr. Segal, writing as the director of ERCC, sent a letter requesting a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget as it was analyzing the Mercury Rule. And when Mr. Segal testified before Congress against the Mercury Rule in April 2011, he also used his preferred title of director of ERCC, instead of, say, a lobbyist for Southern Company.

But what exactly is this "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council" that has spent much of the last year trying to weaken and delay these badly needed mercury safeguards? ERCC's website describes the group as "a broad-based coalition of energy companies committed to the continued viability of diverse, affordable and reliable electric power supply in the United States." But nowhere does its website list the member companies in ERCC's supposedly "broad-based coalition." When challenged in a debate on the Mercury Rule by John Walke of NRDC to disclose ERCC's full list of member companies, Mr. Segal declined after naming just four companies: Southern Company, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, and EFH (Energy Future Holdings, which owns Luminant).

It's no surprise for Southern Company and EFH - those companies have openly attacked the Mercury Rule, and were the second and third worst mercury polluters in 2010, after American Electric Power. But what about Duke Energy? Has it been using this front group to lobby against the Mercury Rule? After we sent Duke CEO Jim Rogers a letter asking if Duke was a member of ERCC, and whether the company supported the ERCC's efforts to delay and weaken the Mercury Rule, a spokesman for the company told the Charlotte Business Journal that Duke is a member of ERCC, “But, as with many organizations we are affiliated with, we don’t agree with them on every issue.”

So are ERCC's attacks on the Mercury Rule too extreme even for its coal industry member companies? Or is Duke Energy backing those attacks after all, and misleading the public about what exactly it has been doing with the $1.6 million it spent on lobbying in just the last three month period? Well as it turns out, Mr. Segal got that meeting he requested with the Office of Management and Budget. According to White House records, he was there with Jeffrey Holmstead, three executives from Southern Company - and Duke Energy's Vice President for Federal Affairs. It seems like Duke Energy has some explaining to do.

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