Published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette
By MARTY NATHAN
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
On Saturday, June 24, 98-year-old Frances Crowe sat in her wheelchair as it was rolled into the path of construction of Kinder Morgan’s Connecticut Expansion Pipeline in the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield. There she stayed, with eight others, temporarily blocking work, until she was rolled away and arrested with the others on a trespassing charge.
Frances had joined the Sugar Shack Alliance, a grassroots group of folks originally motivated to stop the North East Direct Pipeline that Kinder Morgan had proposed to carry gas from fracking operations from New York to Dracut for shipping overseas. For the last year the Alliance has turned its attention to preventing the building of the 3.8-mile pipeline loop also owned by Kinder Morgan and affiliate Tennessee Gas Pipeline. It is being routed onto 17 acres of Otis State Forest land that contains biologically important wetlands and sacred Native American sites. This project is a flagrant violation of Article 47 of the Massachusetts Constitution prohibiting such development on preserved land, but was nonetheless permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Frances’ arrest was by no means the first in the campaign, nor will it be the last. The struggle in Sandisfield is stirred, as with almost all environmental fights these days, by three powerful stimuli:
Opposition to local pollution and despoliation of precious air and waterways. Old trees are being felled and the pipeline almost certainly will leak methane and fellow-traveler toxic chemicals into the air and the previously protected lakes and streams nearby.
Climate justice. Building the pipeline violates rights to their traditional religious sites by the Narragansett Tribe. Moreover, it wrecks the state’s compact with all its citizens to protect, not to destroy, our common resources.
Resistance to the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure enabling more carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas burning and more methane blow-off from leaks. Over twenty years, methane is eighty times as potent as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas in warming our planet.
The need to say No to burning and emitting fossil fuels just became more urgent. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change last week led scores of world leaders and scientists in a declaration published in the prestigious journal Nature that humanity has but three years, to 2020, to begin to decrease global emissions or face the catastrophic consequences of uncontrollable global warming.
Sandisfield, therefore, is part of the epic struggle of our times to save our planet from the devastation that is already claiming coral reefs destroyed by bleaching, agricultural fields in the West devastated first by drought and now by floods, and coastal communities in Haiti and Eastern North Carolina wiped out by hurricanes. The Sugar Shack Alliance is spurred on by the always-relevant maxim, “Think globally and act locally.” They are blockading a path to the ruin of the biosphere.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the opposition… As the New York Times reported, Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Scott Pruitt is one of the few effective members in the Trump Cabinet. Effective, that is, at destroying the agency he was appointed to lead. In mapping his agenda, he has consulted not his own EPA scientists — some of the best in the world — but rather fossil fuel industry lobbyists: the board of the industry lobbying group American Petroleum Institute (with whom he met at Trump Tower), representatives from American Chemical Council and the Republican Attorneys General Association (which he formerly headed). The attorney generals group has taken $4.2 million from fossil-fuel related companies like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries since 2013, and has filed fourteen lawsuits against the EPA.
Pruitt is their man and they are getting what they pay for. Environmental experts are amazed at what he has achieved in the corporate thrall. He relieved chemical companies of the unbearable burden of preventing explosions and spills at their plants. He reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the EPA’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems. Despite saying that he is taking the lead in cleaning up toxic sites, he supports a 25 percent budget cut in the Superfund program, which always has been vastly under-resourced.
He has taken a wrecking ball to programs to control greenhouse gas emissions. He was a leading proponent of abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement and will create the legal path to exit it. He has filed to undo or weaken the Clean Power Plan which would limit emissions from coal-fired power plants. He has delayed a rule requiring oil and gas companies to control methane emissions at wells, and eliminated a requirement that they even report on how much is leaking.
This is what the folks of Sugar Shack are up against. A lopsided struggle? It could be seen that way. But increasingly everyday Americans are seeing that the conflict has at its heart our very lives and future. It will take commitment and organization to channel that awakening and fight for a conservation and renewable energy agenda instead of further investment in polluting fossil fuels. To sit on the sidelines grants victory to those, like Pruitt, with the power.
Choose your side and join the fray.
Dr. Marty Nathan lives in Northampton and is a physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield. She is on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW.
Frances Crowe, pictured here during an anti-war rally, shows the way for citizens who want to stand up against assaults on the environment, says columnist Marty Nathan.
August 18, 2018
This is a special fundraising appeal to ask supporters of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes to donate to a Climate Action Now project that is very important to us: the protection of indigenous ceremonial stone landscapes. Here are two reasons why:
– Justice for indigenous people
– Restoration of accountability for federal agencies
This project combines these goals in one lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that approved the Kinder Morgan gas pipeline in Sandisfield, Mass. and allowed the destruction of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes that are of cultural significance to indigenous peoples.
Please note: Sugar Shack Alliance has offered a matching grant for up to $4000. Please make a donation on our fundraising page https://tinyurl.com/CeremonialStones. Once we match this grant we will have only $500.00 to go.
Ceremonial Stone Landscape Feature
Photo credit: Doug Harris
Do you know that hidden among the hills and valleys of New England are Ceremonial Stone Landscapes created over thousands of years by the indigenous peoples of this region? Indigenous tribes along the east coast of North America used stone structures as part of their religious and cultural ceremonies, and some of these sacred sites are now being destroyed for gas pipeline projects.
Last summer, right in our own backyard, Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline built the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline through protected land in Otis State Forest. In the process they desecrated at least 23 of the seventy-three ceremonial stone landscapes that had been identified by the New England tribes.
What are ceremonial stone landscapes?
A ceremonial stone landscape is a series of stone groupings, petroglyphs, chambers, or other features created by indigenous reasons that include marking astronomical cycles, deaths, or other significant events. In the Northeast we generally find these “prayers in stone” hidden in fields, woods, near streams, and even under water. Doug Harris, the Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, explains the traditional belief that these stones are physical manifestations of living prayers to Mother Earth, calling for balance and harmony in places where traumatic events took place. They should not be altered. When the stones are disassembled and reassembled, the spiritual content is broken.
Who allowed this desecration to happen?
Any time federal approval or federal funds are required for a project, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) mandates a federal agency, in this case FERC, to consider the impact on historic and cultural resources before the project is approved or funds are expended. The NHPA requires consultation with federally recognized Indian Tribes for projects that are on tribal lands and with any tribe that “attaches religious and cultural significance” to the property, regardless of where it is located. FERC approved the Connecticut Expansion Project before the Tribes documented the 73 ceremonial stone landscapes that would be impacted and then did not engage in meaningful consultation with the tribes on how to mitigate the impact on them.
This is nothing new – FERC regularly violates NHPA by delaying review until it is too late to avoid destruction of these sacred resources. FERC’s failure to follow the requirements of the NHPA is illegal and the Narragansett Tribe has filed a lawsuit.
One third of the ceremonial stone landscapes in Otis State Forest have already been destroyed. Why file a lawsuit now?
When it learned that the ceremonial stone landscapes would be destroyed, the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO) moved for party status in the FERC permitting process and opposed the start of construction. On May 10, 2017, NITHPO requested a rehearing of FERC’s order that authorized construction; it took until January 10, 2018, for FERC to deny the request. It was too late to save the stone landscapes from destruction.
Photo credit: Lisa McLoughlin
On March 2, 2018, NITHPO filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking the D.C. Circuit to review: 1) FERC’s orders granting the Tennessee Gas Pipeline the right to construct the Connecticut Expansion Project, and 2) FERC’s rejection of NITHPO’s request for rehearing.FERC also denied NITHPO’s motion to intervene, forcing NITHPO to file a second request for rehearing, and then filed a motion to dismiss NITHPO’s petition in the D.C. Circuit. These procedural maneuvers indicate that FERC is trying to keep NITHPO out of court.
Although harm has been done, good can still come of it.
Across the U.S., fossil fuel infrastructure is being built at an alarming rate. FERC oversees all interstate gas pipelines and many other energy infrastructure projects in the U.S. The goals of this case are threefold: to clarify and enforce federal law, namely the National Historic Preservation Act; to clarify FERC’s consultation requirements; and to establish FERC’s fiduciary duty to Tribal Nations. After reading the parties’ briefs and questioning their counsel in oral arguments, the U.S. Court of Appeals will issue an order that will be binding on FERC. If NITHPO prevails on some or all of its claims, FERC will have to comply with the court’s holdings in future pipeline and other projects across the country.
Why should I help?
Given the historical and continuing genocide of indigenous peoples through the taking and destruction of their lands, their resources, their sacred sites and their way of life, this campaign offers us a rare opportunity for a concrete act of solidarity and respect, and in that spirit we are asking you to join our efforts with as generous a contribution as you can offer.
NITHPO’s lawyer, Anne Marie Garti (who was instrumental in defeating the Constitution Pipeline in New York State) believes this case has a high likelihood of success. She is working at a reduced rate for this social justice effort. Because of the generosity of people like you, Climate Action Now has raised $48,248 for this lawsuit through donations and a few small grants.
We are hoping that this is our final fundraising appeal.
We only need another $8,500 to fund this lawsuit.
You can be part of this precedent-setting case.
Please give as generously as you can – a gift that’s significant for you – whether that is $5 or $1,000.
Mail a tax deductible check made out to Creative Thought and Action with CSL in the memo line to:
Rene Theberge, Climate Action Now Treasurer
77 Prospect Street, Apt. 35
Northampton, MA 01060
Susan and Rene Theberge
Printed in the Hampshire daily Gazette
Columnist Marty Nathan urges taking action for climate justice
Community members lead the Springfield March for Climate, Jobs and Justice on Saturday. RENE THEBERGE
By MARTY NATHAN
Wednesday, May 03, 2017
I’m writing this from a near-horizontal position on my living room couch, resting my elderly bones after a good march from the Federal Building to the Springfield City Council steps on Saturday.
It was a sister event to the 200,000-strong People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., one of hundreds around the country. My husband and I joined 1,200 others in Springfield, and were struck by a tone and integrity different from past such rallies.
What distinguished the Springfield March for Climate, Jobs and Justice?
First, it was bigger. As an organizer, I have known the frustration of encouraging people to show up to make the needed case. Political activity is not on most people’s front burner. Jobs (often more than one) kids, housework — the immediate — need to be taken care of before dealing with climate change, war, or immigration.
Too, there is a feeling of powerlessness in the face of government and corporate policy, and some anxiety about the kickback of taking a public stand. Most people may have strong feelings about the headlines but encounter a certain embarrassment at the thought of marching holding a sign and repeating “The people united will never be defeated!” I get it.
But the Trump era has changed a lot of things. His and his administration’s brutal racism and sexism, his open embrace of the wealthiest at the expense of public interest, his ignorance and willingness to endorse the most cockamamy excuses for his actions have both frightened and emboldened people. And once they have been out in the streets, the empowerment, existential meaning and social connection are a welcome alternative to despair and a stiff drink.
Second, it was broader. On April 29, we marched for climate justice, the concept that we can and we must reverse the deep-seated inequity of our society even as we fight against climate change. In my many years as a political activist, I have found that often people’s personal and cultural needs have interfered with our ability to get along.
Environmentalism has been viewed as a “white thing.” White people don’t show up for Black Lives Matter or immigration rights events. Racism, sexism, genderism and just plain individual needs have divided folks who should have been supporting each other around issues of human rights and a sustainable world.
But again, Trumpism has made us examine our priorities. Although the majority of marchers were white folks, Springfield’s diverse neighborhoods and unions were well represented and had skin in the game. Hip hop artist Tem Blessed gave the most sophisticated analysis of the intertwining of our social problems and environmental destruction, blending his experiences as a young victim of police brutality with his longing for a sustainable world. The march endorsed the May Day immigrant workers strike and the rights of women to equal pay for equal work.
It was a good step forward and I am deeply grateful to all who came out and made the long march. Those who went to D.C. get special respect for having borne the hottest April 29 in recorded history. We still have jobs, kids and homes to attend to, but we thoughtfully chose to sacrifice a day for more intangible but absolutely necessary ideals.
Two recent studies point out both the dangers of our not acting on climate justice and the benefits of confronting it. A January study by Ray Bradley of UMass found that New England will warm faster than all other parts of the country except Alaska and will reach a 2-degree Centigrade rise by 2025. Snow will become a relatively rare commodity and wintertime rain and flooding will prevail. It confirms previous studies that indicated Boston’s sea level will rise higher than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2100, causing flooding in 30 percent of the area.
On the other hand, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health last week published research on the impacts of putting a fee on all gas, oil and coal coming into the state, what is called a “carbon fee.” They found that the implementation of either of the two bills before the Massachusetts Legislature now, S.1821 (An Act Combating Climate Change), and H.1726 (An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Create Jobs), would result in 349 lives and $2 billion in health benefits saved in Massachusetts from 2017 through 2040. The decrease in pollution that would occur as we combat climate change would also reduce asthma, heart attacks and stroke.
The flooding, extreme heat and pollution-related disease always have weighed heavier on poor and low-wage working communities, particularly those of color. Precarious housing, lack of transportation and air conditioning, and increased direct exposure to pollutants in these communities make them particularly vulnerable to the ravages of bad air and climate change, though they have contributed the least to the problem.
The climate justice movement has always made sense. The lives most at risk are the lives already weighed down by economic stress and racism. We in the climate movement are finally beginning to get it. And act on it.
Marty Nathan, MD, is a mother and grandmother who lives in Northampton and works at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield’s North End. She is a steering committee member of Climate Action NOW.
With tensions building regarding the controversial Connecticut Expansion Project in Sandisfield, MA, the normally sleepy Otis State forest has become the site of 24/7 private security detail and the apparent focus of intensifying law enforcement at the local and state level.
As the Berkshire Eagle reported Monday, “Tennessee Gas has hired three Massachusetts State Police details for daylight hours and eight full-time security guards for around-the-clock coverage” for security at the site.
Meanwhile, the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) acting on behalf of Kinder Morgan and their Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) affiliate, has begun dramatically restricting access to the state forest– apparently in an attempt to stifle expected protests. In the last week, signs have been appearing at access points to the forest, restricting the public from entering the tax-payer-owned forest.
“Area closed to public access,” the signs read, “This area is subject to a temporary construction easement.”
In stark contrast to the response of Kinder Morgan, about fifty residents of Western Mass met in a large circle Tuesday night to recommit to their values of non-violence, civil disobedience, and peaceful resistance to fossil fuels– regardless of the heavy security presence. TGP hopes to begin felling thousands of trees on or about Thursday, April 27, but the activists, calling themselves the Sugar Shack Alliance, are determined to keep up their opposition on the ground, in courts, and in the media.
“We need to protect our forests, not build pipelines through them,” said Sugar Shack Member Susan Theberge Wednesday, “We are facing climate chaos. We need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels and towards a sustainable energy future.”
The group, calling itself the Sugar Shack Alliance, is a coalition of activists based in Western Massachusetts. Sugar Shack Alliance is rooted in the principles of non-violence. Originally formed in resistance to the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline, Sugar Shack has expanded its mission to resist all expansion of the fossil fuel industry. All members of the alliance are committed to non violence, have completed eight hours of comprehensive nonviolent direct action training, are members of affinity groups, and agree on all decisions using a consensus-based model. The group has proactively met with both local Sandisfield and State Police officials to keep channels of communication open, ensure the safety of all involved, and the peaceful nature of actions.
Cate Woolner, a member of Sugar Shack, described the group’s strategies as “imaginatively nonviolent,” explaining that the SSA’s code of conduct “includes a commitment to no property destruction, peaceful actions, and the presence of peacekeepers, legal observers, and police liaisons at all actions.”
Woolner added, “Anyone who acts outside of these conditions is not endorsed or part of Sugar Shack.”
In conjunction with their presence on the ground, the group has launched a creative social media project emblematic of its mission. This #whyiprotect project, found as a hashtag on Twitter and group on Facebook, is driven equally by a profound concern for the accelerating pace of climate disruption and by a deep reverence for places like Otis State Forest and the conservation principles that are meant to protect them.
In his first #whyiprotect entry, the project’s curator, Bob Barba of the Affinity Ashfield group, wrote, “I still abide by the apparently quaint notion that conservation land is actually conserved in perpetuity and not just unless and until we find some profitable or expedient reason to destroy it.”
In the past year, this 3.8 mile piece of the CT Expansion Project has faced ongoing opposition from local residents, private citizens, environmentalists, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – which owns the land in conservation. Though Article 97 of the state constitution states that publicly-owned land cannot be used for private interests, the state was forced through federal eminent domain law to reach a settlement with the company in December.
For more information, see http://sugarshackalliance.
* Please spread the word about the march, invite people, and make solid plans to show up with your friends and family on this important day.
* If you would like to help organize or volunteer to help setup on march day, please email us at email@example.com
* If you are on facebook, please share the event and rsvp/going to the event.
Here is the facebook event page for the march: https://www.facebook.com/events/622655164600213
* Financial – a march like this comes with expenses such as port-a-johns and staging.
If you would like to contribute, you can use paypal or a check.
— Check: please make your check payable to “Climate Action Now”, put “March” in the for line
and mail it to our treasurer Rene Theberge, 250 Shutesbury Road, Amherst, MA 01002
**** Thank you! ****
Saturday April 15th 2017 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Springfield Technical Community College, Scibelli Hall
1 Armory Square, Springfield 01105
Sponsored by Arise for Social Justice
A panel of experts and activists on the connections between war, climate disasters and refugees, health impacts on immigrants, climate justice locally, and examples of activist organizing. Climate change is fueling the growing refugee crisis around the world, as individuals and entire communities are forced to flee their homes due to its effects. Come explore humanitarian implications as well as questions of responsibility and justice at the international, national and local level, and afterwards participate in workshops to understand how you can make an impact.
(1) Internationally recognized author and professor Vijay Prashad (Trinity College);
(2) Dr. Martha Nathan, of Climate Action Now, Baystate Health and La Cliniquita;
(3) Michaelann Bewsee, Executive Director for Arise for Social Justice and co-founder, Springfield Climate Justice Coalition; and
(4) Ravi Khanna, philanthropic advisor at Philanthropy for Change.
(1) Interfaith organizing led by Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, lawyer, member of Council on Islamic Arab Relations & Joan Butler (Springfield Unitarian Universalist Society);
(2) Organizing for Immigrants led by Rose Bookbinder (Pioneer Valley Workers’ Center), and
(3) Health Impacts of Climate Change, led by Sarita Hudson (Partners for Healthier Community).
Schedule of Events 11:00 AM Registration/Check In
11:15 AM Panel & Discussion
12:45 AM Lunch/Networking
1:15 PM Workshops
2:30 PM Closing
Free lunch and childcare provided.
Free parking at Pearl St. lot. Follow signs to Scibelli Hall.
For more information contact Ann Ferguson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-367-2310
Co-sponsors include: Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, Climate Action Now, Markham-Nathan Justice Fund, Rosenberg Fund for Children, Springfield Unitarian Universalist Society, Pioneer Valley Workers’ Center, Jobs with Justice, Pioneer Valley Interfaith Refugee Action Group, Western MA American Friends Service Committee, Traprock Peace Center, UMass Social Thought and Political Economy Program, UMass Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Program
Who wants to make some stuff?
Help Build Props for the Climate Marches in DC and in Springfield
Come and work (play) with us as we construct large pin-wheels and solar disks on poles to carry in a group in both the Washington, DC and Springfield People’s Climate Marches. Help us represent creative Western Massachusetts and our plans for the clean energy revolution! Contribute to the marches even if you cannot be there In person!
Saturday, April 15 .
9:00 to 5:00
Join us for an hour or the whole day- whatever part of the day works for you.
Robin M has kindly offered lead this project, to host, and to provide tea & coffee. Please bring a bag lunch if you plan to be with us all day.
We will send the address when you RSVP to email@example.com
We are especially in need of thin poles, like bamboo, & yellow or orange latex paint.
Here are some more items on our materials list:
duct tape- white or silver
shoelaces; zip ties; soft cord; heavy yarn
latex or acrylic paint in sun color, yellows, oranges, metallic, magenta
big dark magic markers or dark paint for making lines.
Ribbon or fabric for pinwheel streamers: blue, white and silver ribbon
Ribbon or fabric for solar disk streamers: orange, red, metallic
Poles under ¾” diameter at least shoulder height – bamboo, tree saplings, etc.
folding tables – or saw horse set
plastic or paper to cover tables – old cheap tablecloths are great.
Jingle bells, jingles /rattles from junk to tie to poles?
Here’s Robin with her mock-ups! She is envisioning the sun faces in yellow and oranges instead of the pink, and the pinwheels with blues hanging. We plan to paint the backs as well, and put our simple messages there.
SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!
Show up, speak up, write a letter. Please attend even if you do not intend to speak – we need people power showing support for speakers.
Eversource has asked the MA Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to approve:
A 10% rate increase for residential customers in western Mass
Increased investor profits to a guaranteed 10.5% (exceeding the average)
Imposition of confusing demand charges on unsuspecting consumers and new fixed charges on households with solar panels
What can you do?
Attend a DPU hearing on the rate hike request
Pittsfield Monday April 10 – 6 pm Berkshire Antheneum
Springfield Wednesday, April 12 – 7pm, City Hall, School Committee Meeting Rm
Greenfield, Wednesday, April 26 – 7 pm, Greenfield Middle School Auditorium
You can sign up to speak or simply attend to show your opposition. No signs allowed in the hearing room but T-shirts or buttons with messages are fine.
Write to the DPU
One easy way to send your comments to the DPU – https://actionnetwork.org/letters/eversources-anti-solar-rate-hike-is-absurd Please personalize the letter with your own words.
Or send a letter to the Hearing Officer, Tassone@state.ma.us
You must include the docket number (17-05), your name, a brief description in the subject line (eg Comment on Eversource rate hike request).
Some talking points:
I oppose the Eversource rate increase request because it asks for:
Unjustified rate increases that will be hard on our families and businesses
New charges to residents with solar panels that will slow the vital uptake of new solar installations
Excessive profit for the companies and their stock holders with no assurance of the company meeting our clean energy and energy efficiency goals
For more talking points go to this document.
Climate Action Now (CAN) has a long-standing commitment to challenge the construction of any new and existing fossil fuel infrastructure in our region. As part of that commitment we have been deeply involved, along with other groups and organizations in Western Mass, in efforts to protect Otis State Forest, in Sandisfield, Mass. CAN opposes construction of the Kinder Morgan Connecticut Expansion Pipeline, which will involve the felling of thousands of trees, endangerment of protected bird species and wetlands, and destruction of sacred Native American ceremonial stone landscape features, in this pristine forest in the southwestern corner of Massachusetts. At present, Kinder Morgan is awaiting a “Notice to Proceed” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission so that they can begin tree felling in Otis State Forest. Tree felling could begin soon.
Seventy-three sacred ceremonial stone landscape features have been identified along the proposed pipeline route. There is currently an effort to explore legal avenues to protect these sacred ceremonial stone landscapes from being destroyed by the pipeline project.
We are writing to you to ask for financial support to help pay for the initial costs of this effort. If you are able to contribute to this undertaking, please make your check payable to “Creative Thought and Action”, the fiscal sponsor for Climate Action Now. Please put CSL in the “for” line and mail it to our treasurer:
250 Shutesbury Road
Amherst, MA 01002
If money is raised in excess of the attorney’s fees needed in this endeavor, we will redirect any excess funds from your donation to help cover the legal costs incurred in the ongoing legal challenge to the 401 Water Quality Certificate for the Connecticut Expansion Project, another avenue we are pursuing at this time. Thank you for your kind attention to this urgent and time sensitive request.
Susan Theberge from Climate Action Now
Published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette March 1, 2017
I am sitting on my porch reveling in the glorious, sunny day. It is 72 degrees. I am in my shirtsleeves, my neighbor just biked by in shorts and my friend will soon bring her 6-month-old for a walk. So I should complain?
Well, yes. Last week’s high temperatures in Boston, Buffalo and Pittsburgh broke records. Weather is not climate, for sure, and a couple of days do not global warming make. But the trend, which is climate, is ever upward.
In February, almost 4,500 daily high temperature records were broken, and the winter of 2016-2017 is on its way to beating 2015-16 as the warmest in recorded history. Arctic sea ice decreased by 9 percent, but more shockingly, Antarctic sea ice was at its smallest for January since records began, down 23 percent.
As the ice melts, the ocean surface it covered absorbs solar radiation rather than reflecting it back to space as did the white ice. This is one of those feedback loops that at a certain point incur warming independent of human-derived greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet even as we hurtle toward climate disaster, never has the federal government so belligerently denied the problem nor so aggressively repositioned to increase greenhouse gas emissions in order to foster fossil fuel company profits.
The cabinet members appointed and the bills and executive orders signed just in the first month illuminate the regime’s objective.
Scott Pruitt was narrowly confirmed to head the Environmental Protection Agency after Senate Democrats battled unsuccessfully in committee to postpone the vote till thousands of emails ordered released by a federal judge from Pruitt’s office of the Oklahoma Attorney General became available. That the nomination was shoved through without that information was a disgrace to the deliberative process. That the emails exist is a testament to corporate corruption.
First, it should be noted that Pruitt used a private email server to conduct public business, something that he denied under oath at his Senate hearing. More importantly, though, he worked “arm in arm,” according to the New York Times, with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and Koch Industries-linked groups to roll back any and all environmental regulations.
Pruitt represented their interests in the most precise manner and in return received big dividends. Not just once did Pruitt transfer corporate-written complaints about federal restrictions on their pollution directly to his official stationery.
His ghost-written appeals protested controlling the belches of a coal-fired power plant, limiting the spewing of potent greenhouse gas methane from wells on federal land, and preventing smog-causing chemical release.
His closest buddies were Devon Energy, Oklahoma Gas and Electric and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers. In return he was granted huge donations to his political campaigns, fundraisers at company expense and even the management of his reelection campaign by the Devon CEO.
As is now well known, Pruitt sued the EPA, the very agency he is now appointed to head, 14 times to prevent it from doing its job. Rachel Maddow calls him a puppet.
Even as Pruitt was being confirmed, Trump signed two of what can only be termed climate-change promotion bills. The first eliminated the requirement for US energy companies to report their payments to foreign governments in their dealings to extract fossil fuels. The bill was designed to prevent bribing of corrupt leaders for access to oil and gas (Exxon/Putin/proposed Siberian oil megadeal comes to mind).
The second reversed an Obama regulation restricting coal companies from toxic dumping in streams, a small step toward stewardship of the land they mine. Both bills made extraction and emissions easier and cheaper for big oil, gas and coal.
In late February, the administration released two executive orders. Both are focused on eliminating federal agency regulations. I am not alone in assuming they will be used to free corporations from all restraint based on public health, consumer and worker protection, and a sustainable climate. His proposed budget promises to cut funding of domestic agencies including the EPA and the Department of the Interior, even as military spending and the nuclear arsenal are expanded.
The intent is clear. Steve Bannon, Trump’s closest adviser, has admitted that their plan is to destroy domestic federal agencies. Be it by legislation, executive order, budget cuts or the likes of Pruitt, Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson, we will lose protection from corporate excess. There will be dirtier air and water, sicker workers and communities. The billionaires will be richer.
But we are being given a choice. This month, a statewide coalition of environmental groups led by Environment Massachusetts and including local Climate Action NOW, announced a legislative plan to achieve electricity powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. HD 3357 and SD 1932, submitted by state Sen. James B. Eldridge, D-Acton, and state Reps. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, and Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, would make the state a leader in solar and wind power and an example for the country in the fight against climate change.
Also firmly on the Massachusetts legislative agenda are viable bills for carbon pricing, grid upgrades, conservation measures and specific acts immediately to encourage wind and solar power production.
Trump has touted his actions as a job-creator, but this is a pile of alternative facts. Results are in and energy efficiency and renewable sources produce 2.5 to 9.5 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per dollar spent. Massachusetts’ course is not only the most beneficial to environment and humanity but to economic growth as well.
If this were a horse race, I would bet on little Massachusetts and all the other states that are bucking the corrupt tide. Unfortunately, it’s a race for our health and our future. All the more reason to bet the bank.
Marty Nathan, MD, is a mother and grandmother who lives in Northampton and works at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield’s North End. She is a steering committee member of Climate Action NOW.