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Keri Russell: We Need to Protect the Arctic for Future Generations
The Arctic has been in the news a lot lately since President Obama gave conditional approval to Shell to start drilling for oil and gas in the northernmost part of the Earth. Shell could begin exploratory drilling as early as next week, risking devastating oil spills and ensuring more carbon emissions pumped into the atmosphere, undermining the goals set by the U.S. in its fight against climate change.
To bring greater awareness to these dire concerns, Golden Globe-winner Keri Russell, Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune along with veterans advocates Genevieve Chase and BriGette McCoy, and author Rebecca Solnit just visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They saw firsthand why millions of Americans want the Arctic permanently protected.
“Going to Alaska was a lifelong dream,” said Russell. “I’m amazed by the incredible beauty and serenity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Having the chance to camp and raft the Kongakut River and completely immerse myself in nature was a life changing experience and an important reminder that we need to protect these lands for future generations.”
They witnessed some of the Arctic Refuge's incredible wildlife such as grizzly bears, Dall sheep, Arctic foxes, peregrine falcons and bald eagles.
“This expedition was a reminder of when I had the opportunity to visit the Prince William Sound in Southcentral Alaska as a teenager, and what a life-changing event that was," said Aronofsky. "Shortly after that trip, however, the Sound was devastated by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. We cannot allow a similar fate befall the Arctic. The Arctic Refuge and Ocean must be permanently protected from the threat of oil and gas companies.”
“Despite the awesome beauty we were fortunate enough to witness during this trip, there were constant reminders of the devastating effects of climate change,” said Brune. “From melting glaciers to unseasonably warm weather—to say nothing of the looming threat Shell poses if it is allowed to drill in the Arctic—this trip was a clear reminder that we must pass legislation to curb the effects of climate change.”
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore shares Brune's concerns and criticized President Obama last week for allowing fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic, calling the recently approved Shell project “insane.” And, on Saturday, people in 13 states gathered for a “ShellNo” Day of Action asking President Obama to revoke oil and gas exploration leases in the Chukchi Sea.
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.