Take Interior Department to Task for Damaging Anti-Environmental Decisions

Target: Michael Nedd, Acting Deputy Director for U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management

Goal: Do not diminish efforts to conserve America’s natural landscapes.

America’s natural environment is in more danger than ever. For decades, conservation of lands has stood as one of the primary missions of the United States Department of the Interior. Yet as this federal agency—like many alongside it—becomes increasingly politicized, the values and mission of the organization are disappearing, now supplanted by new ‘priorities’ that include “protect[ing] the border” and “strik[ing] a regulatory balance.”

In a broad move that will have a strong impact on environmental conservation efforts nationwide, the department is considering significantly slashing funds for conservation grants it offers to community and state land preservation efforts. A more low-key but equally detrimental move in the long term involves new guidelines the department has put in place that will hobble the ability of geologists to attend the field’s two major scientific conferences. In new guidelines critics label censorship, materials to be used in presentations will be screened not by expert professionals but a departmental political appointee. If the materials do not support the department’s new priorities, then these scientists will be stifled from collaborating with their colleagues on matters of urgent importance.

Geologists provide critical insights on a host of environmental issues, including habitat restoration, water contamination, and the impacts of natural disasters. Their work must be allowed to continue unhindered by politics. Sign this petition to demand the Interior Department abide by one of its core missions and stop assaulting conservation and key research efforts.


Dear Mr. Nedd,

Land management stands as a fixture of the Department of the Interior, yet with each passing day this vital effort seems to be under assault from within. As the leader tasked with overseeing the operation of land management programs nationwide, does it trouble you that the financial lifeblood of such efforts is being squeezed with every new undermining policy? If grants for the conservation efforts that preserve and sustain our nation’s precious lands are curtailed, then at some point in the increasingly near future, you will be managing nothing but remnants, ghosts, and wisps of once-vibrant habitats.

In the same vein, hobbling the efforts of the geological professionals who should be valued colleagues and allies via political interference will only further diminish protections for our lands and its resources. While you may not have direct authority over these matters, you can be a strong, powerful voice that speaks for the lands that cannot speak for themselves.

Please fulfill your mission and advocate for our country’s most irreplaceable natural marvels.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Walton LaVonda

Ban Single-Use Plastic Products in the European Union

Target: Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament

Goal: Support proposed ban of single-use plastic products in the European Union.

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and keep marine environments pristine, the European Commission proposed a ban on some single-use plastic products and a drastic decrease in the use of others. The ban targets products like plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, and sticks for balloons. It would also call for the reduction in the use of plastic food containers and drink cups by blocking their ability to be freely used. This plan mimics the practice of charging a nominal fee for plastic bags at supermarkets. The proposal awaits the approval of EU governments and the European Parliament.

In a statement the Vice President of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen, said: “Plastic can be fantastic but we need to use it more responsibly. Today’s proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives.”

Sign this petition to urge the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, to support the ban of single-use plastic products.


Dear President Tajani,

The European Commission has proposed a ban on certain single-use plastic products and regulations that would drastically reduce the use of others. This would help to keep carbon emissions low as well as protect the fragile marine ecosystems that are most affected by single-use plastic waste. I urge you to support this proposed ban on single-use plastic items in the European Union.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Hans Braxmeier

Trump, Tell Unethical EPA Chief ‘You’re Fired!’

Target: Donald Trump, President of the United States

Goal: Remove the EPA administrator for ethics violations.

Seemingly every day, more details emerge about the egregious ethics violations committed by EPA head Scott Pruitt. With this continuous stream of allegations, more demands for Pruitt’s resignation or firing emerge as well. Recently, over 60 members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump calling for the embattled EPA chief’s resignation.

Most of the allegations swirl around gross financial abuse of organizational funds, including millions of dollars in extravagant travel expenses, office furniture worth more than the annual salary of the average American worker, use of emergency vehicles as ‘escorts’ to a  lavish restaurant, and a security detail that far eclipses security for the president himself.

Even more troubling , however, are the actions that have a direct impact on the future of a vital American agency. In line with the unprecedented number of lobbyists now circling the EPA, Pruitt rented a luxury room from a well-known lobbyist in the energy industry that falls under EPA regulation. When concerned EPA employees exposed these abuses, they were punished with demotion.

While other EPA employees categorize Pruitt’s tenure as a “low point,” President Trump continues a wholehearted defense of his foot soldier in unprecedented assaults on environmentalism. Sign this petition to hold the president to his campaign promise of “draining the swamp.”


Dear President Trump,

‘Drain the swamp.’

This was one of your most consistent and passionate rally cries. With your continued defense of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, you have broken this pledge.

Will you stand in support of someone who views office furniture as more valuable than a year’s worth of work from the average American? Will you pat the back of an individual who believes he is entitled to travel, accommodations, and security rivaling that of the president? Will you pledge your allegiance to a ‘swamp creature’ who uses his influence and taxpayer dollars to advance his own interests, or will you pledge allegiance to the United States of America and the individuals who elected you to be ‘their’ champion?

The choice is clear. Back Pruitt, or back the people.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Trump: Reinstate Trophy Ban on Elephant Parts

Target: Donald Trump, President of the United States

Goal: Reinstate ban on elephant part imports that promote trophy hunting.

President Trump has repealed a ban on the import of legally hunted elephant remains, or “trophies,” from Zimbabwe and Zambia that was put in place while President Obama was in office. This is the second time this year that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has brought up the idea of easing trophy import restrictions. The first time, Trump criticized trophy hunting, calling it a “horror show.” This time, however, his actions speak louder than words.

In November 2017, when discussions on lifting the elephant part import ban first came up, public outrage ensued. Conservationists as well as celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Leonardo DiCaprio spoke out about opposing the lift of the ban. In response to the outrage, President Trump announced that he would “review all conservation facts” before making any decision. He went on to say that he would be “very hard-pressed” to lift the ban and that, in his opinion, big game hunting doesn’t help the “conservation of elephants or any other animal.”

Despite the remarks that President Trump made in November, an official FWS memo dated March 1, 2018 states that imported trophies will now be considered “on a case-by-case basis” as opposed to banning the trophies outright. The agency has rationalized the decision by assuming that big game hunters will assist in conservation efforts in an attempt to be able to continue their cruel leisure activity. Conservationist groups like the Humane Society and Save the Elephants have stated continuously that trophy hunting is never beneficial for the animals being hunted and is especially worrisome for the elephant populations in the countries that the ban was protecting: Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Sign this petition to urge President Trump to reinstate the ban on all elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.


Dear President Trump,

In January of 2018, Piers Morgan interviewed you. You stated that you “[didn’t] want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country].” You have also referred to big game hunting as a “horror show.” These public remarks contradict the actions taken by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under your command to lift the Obama-era ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Big game hunting needs to be stopped not only in order to save animals that are endangered or part of a declining population, but also because the practice itself is cruel towards other living things. I urge you to stop considering any big game hunting appropriate, even on a case-by-case basis, and reinstate the ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Charles-J-Sharp

EPA Targeted by Republican Primary Candidates

As the 2012 presidential campaign kicks off with the run up to the Republican primaries, it is becoming clear that red and green interests are anything but complementary. 

Candidates from the red states vying for a spot on the Republican ballot have taken opposition to green, environmental initiatives to a new extreme.  Bringing down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is quickly becoming a clear objective for those hoping to represent the G.O.P. in elections next year.  

Representative Michele Bachmann actually called the E.P.A. the “job-killing organization of America,” and other candidates like former Speaker Newt Gingrich have pledged to close the agency if elected. 

In an effort to win the favoritism of their core constituency for the primary elections, Republican candidates are feeding into the anti-environmental tide stemming from a poor economy and rising fuel costs. 

As John Broder of the New York Times explained: “Opposition to regulation and skepticism about climate change have become tenets of Republican orthodoxy, but they are embraced with extraordinary intensity this year because of the faltering economy, high fuel prices, the Tea Party passion for smaller government and an activist Republican base that insists on strict adherence to the party’s central agenda.”

Candidates are incorporating environmental deregulation of industry as integral parts of their platforms because they say it will create jobs and bolster corporate profits – alluring notions to the millions of Americans suffering from unemployment, a volatile stock market, and conservative consumer spending. 

Gov. Rick Perry, a leading candidate in the primary race, advocates an immediate moratorium on environmental regulation.  Rep. Ron Paul wants states or courts to rule on environmental disputes, while still others have proposed independent commissions to oversee regulations. 

With the E.P.A.’s active track record under the Obama administration, the agency is a popular target among conservatives advocating for smaller government.

“Right now for House Republicans one of their important rally cries is that EPA regulations are excessive and even abusive,” said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. 

Fortunately, polls indicate that such extreme political tenets are not viable through the general elections, as they do not appease the broader, moderate American constituency. 

Broder reported that national surveys show the majority of Americans are significantly concerned about air and water pollution, and thus, would be unlikely to support a candidate seeking to backtrack environmental policy in a significant way. 

He quoted David Jenkins of the Republicans for Environmental Protection, saying: “Not only are these positions irresponsible, they’re politically problematic.  The whole idea that you have to bash the E.P.A. and run away from climate change to win a Republican primary has never been borne out. Where’s the evidence?”

Such ideas may prove to be unpopular down the road, however, in the race to the primaries, anti-environmental rhetoric has come to be expected from candidates financed by oil and gas industry representatives. 

Most of these candidates are public skeptics of climate change theory.  Mrs. Bachmann has called the science a hoax.  Mr. Perry wrote in his book that global warming is “one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.” 

One libertarian researcher from the Competitive Enterprise Institute told Broder of the NYT that “Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Huntsman, who have all said that global warming is real and at least tentatively attributed it to human actions, would suffer for it in the Republican primaries.”

While the espousal of environmental deregulation and climate change skepticism may be partly attributed to early efforts to secure the right-wing base, the weight of high gas prices and a suffering economy are conspiring to lend support to conservatives’ calls. 

Moderate America will have to hold fast to its green values in order to preserve the integrity of its air and water.  To be an informed voter on election day, you can stay abreast of campaign developments through the 2012 Presidential Candidates website.  

Photo credit: shspoetrya.wikispaces.com/file/view/american-flag-2a.jpg

Senate Democrats Propose Cutting Oil Tax Breaks to Reduce Deficit

With gasoline prices rising to levels not seen since 2008, Democrats in the US Senate are hoping to curb the federal deficit by ending tax giveaways to the richest oil companies.  This week Democratic leaders announced a plan to re-direct funds for oil industry tax breaks into cutting the deficit, generating around $21 billion for deficit reduction over the course of the next decade.  Through the focus on the deficit, they hope to win the support of Republicans who say they want to curb the national debt.  At the same time, the legislation would channel money away from oil companies at a time when the oil industry is increasingly seen as reaping a sweet deal from high gas prices.

The proposal Democrats have put on the table would eliminate certain tax breaks for the six biggest oil companies that do business in the US: ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell.  The legislation would accomplish a goal many Democrats have been pushing for a long time, ending the biggest taxpayer handouts to some of the most profitable companies on the planet. 

“Oil companies are not using their enormous revenues and subsidies to drive down prices,” said Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey late last month.  “Instead they are pocketing these subsidies to pad outrageous profit numbers.  In a budget crisis we cannot continue to subsidize Big Oil.”

President Obama also wants to eliminate major tax breaks for the oil industry, though he has said he would like to see the money go directly toward encouraging growth in renewable energy.  At least some Democrats in the Senate also favor this approach, but Senate leaders believe staying focused on deficit reduction is the best way to win support from Republicans.  John Boehner, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has already said cutting oil industry tax breaks is something that may need to be looked at. 

However not all Republican lawmakers are on board with the idea.  Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that instead of cutting oil industry tax breaks, Congress should focus on drilling for more US oil to meet the country’s energy needs.  “If ever there was a moment to develop our [oil] resources here at home, it’s now,” said McConnell in a press statement Monday.

In fact the United States has only 2.6% of the world’s oil reserves and accounts for close to 25% of world oil demand, so increasing domestic oil production would do little or nothing to reduce gasoline prices.  Since oil is sold on the global market, there is no guarantee oil extracted in the United States will actually be used in this country.  More domestic drilling would also mean increasing the risk of another catastrophic oil spill like last year’s BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. 

While what to do about high gas prices and reliance on oil has long been a divisive issue in Congress, the latest proposal from Senate Democrats ensures cutting oil tax breaks is not longer just about fairness: it’s also about getting the US out of debt.  Republicans have been very vocal about the need to reduce the deficit, but are hesitant to do so by eliminating corporate tax breaks.  Republican leaders instead favor other steps to reduce spending, like cutting Medicare benefits for seniors and reducing funding for enforcement of the Clean Air Act

Now, with a concrete proposal before the Senate to reduce the deficit by cutting oil tax breaks, Republicans who oppose the idea might have a tough political fight ahead of them.  It’s politically hard to say you support cutting the debt and then vote against $21 billion in deficit reduction.  Convincing voters to protect oil industry profits at the expense of Medicare and environmental protections could also be a hard sell.  By suggesting a cut to oil industry tax breaks, Democrats have sparked a discussion which should prove politically interesting for both parties.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/magnera/3755006104

GOP to Push for Delay in Implementing EPA Rules

Concerns over the growth of the economy have led the GOP to push for longer delays in implementing new EPA rules for toxic power plant emissions. Republicans insist that putting the EPA’s new pollution rules in place would damage economic recovery.

The rules that are in question deal with the EPA’s standards for air toxicity, which are set to control the emissions of mercury and other poisonous substances from power plants, and the MACT standards (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) which regulate toxic emissions from boilers and cement plants.  All of these rules are part of the Clean Air Act mandated in 1990.

Supporters of the EPA’s new standards say that the change will create more jobs and prevent many illnesses and deaths.

However, businesses and utilities say that these new standards would be too expensive to implement, possibly leading to plant shutdowns which would cut jobs and threaten economic recovery.  The EPA estimates the cost of implementing control systems to be around $11 billion a year, which far outweighs the $140 billion spent in annual health and economic benefits.  

Some believe that the country has already waited too long to enact these standard to protect public heath, as changes were enacted in 1990 and were supposed to be completed by 2000, and companies were given four years to comply.  As of yet, there have been no changes, and if these standards are continually pushed back, none will be made until at least 2014, nearly 15 years after they were set to be finished.

Photo credit: lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/sabl/2006/Oct/power_plant.jpg

On Environment, Oregon Governor’s Race Candidates Take Very Different Stances

Oct. 4, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – In a state known for taking the green initiative, the two major candidates for governor this year have taken very different stances on the environment.  On issues from offshore oil drilling to the science behind global warming, the positions of Oregon gubernatorial candidates John Kitzhaber (Democrat) and Chris Dudley (Republican) have become clearly evident in the lead-up to next month’s election.

If elected to the governorship, Kitzhaber says he will work to create jobs in the clean energy sector, weatherize school buildings to make them more efficient, and support a ban on offshore oil drilling along Oregon’s coastline.  Kitzhaber, who served two previous terms as governor between 1995 and 2003, has also been praised by environmentalists for his track record on salmon conservation, protecting waterways from pollution, and helping to pass the Oregon Recycling Act.

In contrast Dudley, a basketball player entering into politics for the first time, has declined to make the environment a priority issue.  Dudley has been vague about his stance on many environmental questions, but has said he would cut funding for water quality protection programs, and that he wants to see fewer environmental regulations put on Oregon’s timber and agricultural industries.  Dudley also opposes statewide efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and is against a ban on offshore oil drilling. 

When asked during a recent gubernatorial debate whether he believes global warming is caused by human activity, Dudley responded that, “I’m not sure how much is man-made and how much is natural.”

During the lead-up to the gubernatorial primaries last spring, Dudley declined to attend a debate on environmental issues at Portland State University.  The debate was attended by both front-running Democratic candidates—Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury—and by Republican primary candidate Allen Alley.  After winning the Republican primary in May, Dudley has remained hard to reach when it comes to environmental issues.  Newspapers like the Oregonian have asked him to respond to questions about his stance on the environment, but have received relatively few concrete answers.

Unsurprisingly, Kitzhaber has received the endorsements of Oregon’s major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.  Meanwhile Dudley has drawn the support of timber companies and of industries that want to see clean air and water laws loosened. 

After a televised debate last week between Kitzhaber and Dudley, Jon Isaacs of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters explained why he supports Kitzhaber.  “Oregonians,” said Isaacs, “can count on John Kitzhaber to promote a balanced approach [to the environment] that creates good paying jobs, strengthens the economy and makes Oregon a healthier place to live and work.” 

Photo credit: Nick Engelfried

Oil Companies Plan to Sponsor “Citizen Rallies”

By: Nick Engelfried 

August 20, 2010
While members of the US Senate make the town hall rounds in their home districts this summer, they are likely to hear at least two opposing viewpoints on clean energy.  On the one hand, environmental groups and supporters of federal action to curb global warming plan to use the Senate’s summer recess to vent their frustration at senators’ inability to pass climate and clean energy legislation this year.  In contrast, other voices at the town halls are likely to insist that energy legislation which cracks down on big polluters would cost jobs in the US.  On the face of it, the situation seems like a perfect example of two opposite viewpoints each employing the democratic process to make their own arguments. 
But a closer look at what’s going on reveals a very different picture.  It turns out the major force behind so-called “citizen rallies” that oppose curbing carbon emissions is an oil-industry sponsored campaign to give the impression that there’s widespread opposition to climate legislation.
There is nothing new about oil companies and other fossil fuel industries using their influence to generate a less-than-genuine “grassroots” movement.  In fact the practice has become so common that environmentalists have a word for it: initiatives that appear citizen-driven but actually originate with corporations are referred to as fake or “astroturf” movements.  In one example from last September, a major Labor Day event in West Virginia which was billed as a jobs rally turned out to actually be the brainchild of corporations like the coal mining company Massey Energy.  The rally appears to have been part of Massey’s strategy to convince law makers that coal mining provides essential jobs in the eastern US. 
In a similar manner, this summer industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute plan to turn out as many oil industry sympathizers as possible to senator town hall meetings, presumably hoping the movement will appear to be locally based and supported by the grassroots.  Whether these “citizen rallies” will be able to shake off the appearance of a corporate PR campaign is another question.
Meanwhile environmental and climate groups argue that the real grassroots movement brewing this summer is an increasingly loud chorus of voices calling for action to reduce global warming and create green jobs through investments in renewable energy.  Citizen advocacy groups like 350.org, 1Sky, True Majority, and Public Citizen are encouraging supporters to attend town halls and ask senators why they failed to pass a climate bill.  350.org alone has already registered more than 2,500 people to “shadow” senators at upcoming town halls.  A coalition of environmental groups known as Clean Energy Works is getting creative, and will be holding CarnivOIL street theater events in 25 cities, designed to make a mockery of senators’ beholdenenss to the oil industry.
In the end, it appears to be an over-simplification to say two equally authentic viewpoints will be dueling to be heard at town halls across the US this summer.  Rather, one truly grassroots movement will be pushing for solution to global warming and invetsments in renewable energy.  At the same time a corporate-based campaign to prevent action on climate issues will be attempting to use senator town halls as an opportunity to push oil industry interests.
Photo credit: Futureatlas.com