Building Political Power

This post originally appreared at Waging Nonviolence. To read the original post, click here.

Anti-mountaintop removal activist Larry Gibson, who passed away last year, saw most of his family's land on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia razed by the coal industry. (Flickr / Blaine O'Neill)

Anti-mountaintop removal activist Larry Gibson, who passed away last year, saw most of his family’s land on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia razed by the coal industry. (Flickr / Blaine O’Neill)

Two and a half years ago, I arrived home from the last of several trips to West Virginia, where I had gone with a group of 10 fellow Swarthmore College students to witness the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. Knowing that our school was invested in this practice that is decimating rural communities — and wanting to support their organizing against it — we decided to ask Swarthmore to divest its stock holdings from fossil fuels. Although we knew that our school wouldn’t have a huge impact on the situation, we hoped our actions would encourage other schools to start similar campaigns — thereby drawing more attention to the daily struggles of people on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, and possibly even posing a threat to the industry itself.

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At Bonnaroo, the nation’s biggest music festival, a new wave of organizing set-off to call on President Obama to reject the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

And it couldn’t have been happening at a more important time: just this last Tuesday President Obama addressed Keystone XL in his climate speech, saying that Keystone XL must be rejected if it “significantly exacerbates climate change.”

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Crossposted from Checks & Balances Project.

ERMProposalIn yet another investigation into the Obama Administration’s activities, the State Department Inspector General is probing the conflicts of interest surrounding the contractor that performed the Keystone XL review,. The American public was supposed to get an honest look at the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline. Instead, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a fossil fuel contractor, hid its ties from the State Department so they could green light the project on behalf of its oil company clients. Hiring an oil company contractor to review an oil pipeline that its clients have a financial interest in should be illegal - and it is.

The Federal Government has strict laws to avoid conflicts of interest and prevent the hiring of contractors who cannot provide unbiased services. Unredacted documents from the contractor’s proposal (revealed by Mother Jones) show that the company had worked for TransCanada, ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies that have a stake in the Canadian Tar Sands. But, ERM misled the State Department at least twice in its proposal (see C&BP's original post on ERM's conflicts of interest)– which may have led to its selection by the State Department to review the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Crossposted from Checks & Balances Project

Grover Norquist is a familiar player in Washington debates, renowned for convincing nearly every Republican in Congress to sign a pledge to not raise taxes. But Norquist’s main job is not as a principled advocate for his brand of limited government but functioning as a paid lobbyist for whatever corporate interests are ready to write him a check. Norquist is a prominent pundit for Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, and now, he’s also batting for Big Oil.

Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), is at the forefront of the latest fight against renewable energy in the United States.

Conservative front groups and fossil fuel interests are attacking renewable energy standards in a coordinated assault to protect profits generated from fossil fuel-based electricity. Twenty-nine states have renewable energy standards and twenty-two of those have become fierce battlegrounds.

This coordinated attack on clean energy bears resemblance to the effort by Big Tobacco to prevent public health laws from impacting the profitability of tobacco companies. And it turns out, a lot of people working to dismantle renewable energy laws are deeply connected to Big Tobacco. Some, like Grover Norquist, even worked with Big Tobacco on their misinformation campaigns and are now turning their lobbying power to attack state clean energy policies.

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