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Greenpeace Activists Charged With Piracy, Fossil Fuel Industry Desperate As Ever

Phil Radford

The fossil fuel industry is desperate. They're searching the earth for more and more extreme forms of energy, hoping to get the last of the oil, coal and gas out of the ground before it's all gone.

With this extreme desperation for fossil fuels comes extreme behavior. Russian oil giant Gazprom is trying to get the last of the oil and gas out of the Russian Arctic, an extreme endeavor likely to cause massive disruption to that delicate ecosystem, in addition to fueling catastrophic climate change.

Russian security services seize the ship at gunpoint following a Greenpeace International peacefull protest against Arctic oil drilling. Photo taken with a camera phone, Sept. 19.

And when Greenpeace activists tried to peacefully demonstrate against this oil giant, these terrifying photos show how the Russian military responded.

With guns, knives and extreme, disproportionate intimidation. And now, today, after the Arctic 30 have been detained for days without charges, we've finally learned that the Russian government has the audacity to charge five of the Arctic 30 with piracy. Look at those photos. Who do you think the pirates are?

Russian security services abseiling from a helicopter onto the deck of the Arctic Sunrise, Sept. 19.

As Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International says, this is now the most serious threat to Greenpeace's peaceful environmental activism since agents of the French secret service bombed the Rainbow Warrior and killed our colleague Fernando Pereira because we stood against French nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. Three decades later the activists of the Arctic Sunrise, including American ship captain Peter Willcox, also took a stand, this time against the powerful vested interests of the oil industry. And they could now face the prospect of up to fifteen years in a Russian jail.

Russian security services abseiling from a helicopter onto the deck of the Arctic Sunrise and seizing the ship at gunpoint following a Greenpeace International peaceful protest against Arctic drilling.

I call on people from across the world, anybody who ever raised their voice in support of something they believe in to stand with us at this moment demand the release of the Arctic 30 and an end to Arctic drilling.

Visit EcoWatch’s OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING page for more related news on this topic.

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Industry Funded Fracking Study Fatally Flawed

Phil Radford

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Today, the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources released a study funded by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the natural gas industry that stated two things: that the sample size it looked at is "not sufficient" to fully understand the methane pollution from fracking, and that the rates of methane pollution from this sample size are nonetheless 10 to 20 times lower than those calculated from more complete measurements in other peer reviewed studies. This discrepancy may be attributable to the fact that industry chose the locations and times of the wells that were studied.

At best this study will be considered an interesting outlier that calls for further research. At worst, it will be used as PR by the natural gas industry to promote their pollution. In fact, methane is 105 times more powerful than carbon pollution as a global warming pollutant, so figuring out its real climate impacts has very real consequences for us going forward.

Methane pollution from fracking is a serious and growing threat to global climate stability, which is why we welcome peer-reviewed studies that examine the climate impact of fracking. Unfortunately, these results seem so far from the results of other studies that the scientific watchdog group Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy has called this study "fatally flawed."

Here's the science: A recent study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that wells in the Uintah basin of Utah leaked 60 tons of methane per hour, and studies from Cornell University have found dangerously large methane pollution rates from fracking, showing that gas is not a viable "bridge fuel," and in fact could be worse for the climate than emissions from coal fired power plants.

In this EDF and industry funded study, only 190 well sites were measured out of the over 25,000 wells drilled in the last year alone. As the paper acknowledges, this sample size is "not sufficient" for measuring methane pollution from fracking at a national scale.

So what does this study tell us? Mainly, that we need more peer-reviewed studies that look more seriously into methane pollution from fracking nationwide, not just studies from the industry's best-bet wells.

There's been even more controversy on the people behind this study. Among others, Steve Horn at De-Smog Blog has long been skeptical of EDF's position in the industry studies, and he has a studious critique of this study's funding.

The fossil fuel industry desperately wants to get us hooked to its latest product before we have time to adequately study it. They know that renewable energy technology is here now and ready to be implemented, but they're hoping consumers won't notice, or have the courage to make the switch to the real Energy Revolution that can carry us fully into the future.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Climate

I Have a Dream: Tipping the Balance of Power Back to the People

Phil Radford

Tomorrow, the progressive movement will stand together to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington because we want to protect working families, keep our air and water clean, and ensure justice for every American.

Corporate money is currently flooding our political system and drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. We are gathering together tomorrow in Washington to send the signal that this is still our fight  and we have the momentum to win it now. People from across the country are fighting to tip the balance of power back to the people, and away from big money and bigotry.

We want to realize Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of America, but we can't do it if we're divided into separate groups.

If you believe in a united vision of government working for all of the American people, share this video to tell the world that "We Are All Connected."

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

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A Preventable Chemical Plant Explosion May Be Closer Than You Think

Phil Radford

Last Thursday, President Obama issued an Executive Order mandating that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the departments of Labor and Homeland Security to develop plans for new safety measure at chemical plants like the one in West, TX, that exploded in April, killing 17 people and injuring hundreds.

That West, TX, tragedy was one of many preventable disasters that have happened in the decade since the EPA first proposed using the Clean Air Act to enforce common sense rules for chemical plants. It's been over 10 years, and we're still waiting.

Even in the time since the West, TX, disaster, there have been at least six other serious, preventable chemical accidents around the country. This is a problem we not only should have, but could have, solved years ago, and now, with President Obama's order, the EPA has a clear mandate to do what a wide coalition of organizations have been urging it to do for years: use its existing authority under the law to require chemical plants to use safer processes and chemicals at thousands of facilities across the country. The safety of millions of people depends on it.

At the same time that the President issued his Executive Order, Greenpeace and more than 100 groups such as United Auto Workers, the Sierra Club, UPROSE, Rebuild the Dream, Environmental Defense Fund, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Peoples' Action, MoveOn, Los Jardines Institute, and Community In-Power and Development Association sent a jointly signed letter to the new EPA chief Gina McCarthy urging her to make chemical disaster prevention a priority in her first 100 days in office. The path forward couldn't be clearer, and the risks of continued inaction couldn't be higher.

Unsecured toxic chemicals needlessly threaten our communities every day. According to the EPA's own data, there are more than 470 chemical facilities that each put 100,000 or more people at risk of injury or death from a sudden poison gas release. In 2004, the Homeland Security Council estimated that an attack on a poison gas facility would result in 17,500 immediate deaths, 10,000 seriously injuries and send an additional 100,000 people to the hospital.

These are astonishing numbers, so much so that it can be hard to understand just how close this problem is to most of us. Greenpeace has set up a quick way for you to find out how near you are to one of these facilities, and by simply entering your zip code here you can find out exactly how this issue affects you. The results might shock you, they certainly shocked me. But luckily, this is a problem with a solution.

Hundreds of chemical facilities, including all Clorox facilities in the U.S., have already taken it upon themselves to adopt safer procedures for their workers and the communities around their plants. As Greenpeace knows well, we can't simply rely on corporations to police themselves. There are still more than one-hundred million people at risk because they live and work inside "vulnerability zones" near the highest risk chemical facilities in major cities across the country.

The EPA needs to act now to ensure the safety of millions of people who who are needlessly endangered by un-secure toxic chemicals. The President has now made clear he is joining our call for action, but it's ultimately up to the EPA to use its existing authority to make our communities safe from toxic chemicals starting today. Safer alternatives and better regulations are the only fool-proof ways we can keep keep tragedies like West, TX, from happening again.

Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.

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Climate

An Open Letter on Politically-Motivated IRS Audits

Phil Radford

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Dear Senator Carl Levin, Senator John McCain, Congressman Elijah Cummings and Congressman Darrell Issa:

Greenpeace has been watching with great interest the unfolding controversy over whether the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) singled out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny. We're pleased to see Attorney General Holder takes this issue seriously enough to open an investigation and believe such an investigation need not be limited to these narrow circumstances. In the past dozen years, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) were subject to politically-motivated tax investigations by the IRS and Congress. Greenpeace is offering to testify about being the target of politically motivated audits in 2004, because regardless of which party holds power, these abuses are egregious and must stop.

Greenpeace opposes the use of federal power, in whatever form, to skew the forum of public debate. Greenpeace is devoted to the notion of government of, for and by the people. While we have serious philosophical differences with any number of groups, corporations and organizations on the political spectrum, the place to resolve those differences is in legislatures, courts, executive branch agencies and the public square. Let's all bring ideas and plans for what will lead to a better society and debate them freely and openly without fear of intimidation.

Greenpeace has both 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 entities and we take extreme care to make sure we stay within those boundaries. Greenpeace neither supports nor opposes any candidate, but seeks to improve the environmental policies of all politicians, regardless of affiliation. It's important that all participants in public discussions play by the same set of rules; where the IRS has evidence rules are broken, it should use its authority appropriately. IRS investigations, like any investigations, however, should begin with evidence, not conclusions.

There's compelling (if inconclusive) evidence that the IRS was sent after our organization by our political enemies. In 2003, a group called Public Interest Watch publicly called on the IRS to investigate the finances of Greenpeace USA, implying improprieties. In 2005, we were audited. The day the IRS auditor arrived in our offices, he pointed at a photo of an activist chained to an Exxon gas pump and said, "You guys are engaged in illegal activity and this stuff has got to stop." Chilling words indeed, and ones we took seriously.

We passed that audit with good grades. A recent follow-up IRS audit was recently completed and again, Greenpeace received excellent marks from the IRS. Does this prove Public Interest Watch—at the time, a group obscure to us—goaded the IRS into auditing Greenpeace's books? We might not have thought more about it, but in 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported Public Interest Watch wasn't as obscure a group as we'd thought. Instead, Public Interest Watch received $120,000 of its $124,000 budget from ExxonMobil, the multinational entity Greenpeace has clashed with for years over its drilling, spilling and denial of climate change.

For the record, the IRS has never commented—and until now has had a policy of not commenting—on reasons it selects groups for auditing. If a small group of people angry at Greenpeace calls for an IRS audit, it's one thing; if the richest corporation on Earth, with massive lobbying and influence with all branches of the federal government are behind that small group, it's another.

In 2004, then chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Thomas (R-CA) subpoenaed 10 years of records from RAN. In a letter to then-RAN Director Michael Brune, Rep. Thomas wrote:

The subcommittee has received reports of tax-preferred organizations that may be operating beyond the scope of their charitable status.

As was the case with Greenpeace, hard scrutiny by the government revealed RAN was acting with propriety.

The same year, the IRS threatened the NAACP with tax penalties, based on statements made at its national convention. In that case, as in the current case, subordinate staffers in a branch office were blamed.

In September 2010, the Department of Justice's Inspector General released a report which found the Federal Bureau of Investigation had improperly extended investigations against a number of public interest and civil rights groups, including Greenpeace. These improper investigations were ongoing at the same time ExxonMobil—via its front group—was calling on the IRS to investigate Greenpeace's tax status.

Given that exhaustive history, we feel well-qualified to weigh in opposing politically motivated investigations of any group.

We applaud the Justice Department's investigation into what the IRS did—or failed to do—in this case, but we urge you to take a closer look at the historical pattern of behavior as well. This investigation provides an opportunity to look at what the government—in all its capacity—has done to suppress voices, not just of the Tea Party, but of any group on any side of an issue. Let's work together to get our government on the track where it belongs—and then let's return to our great debate.

 

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