Newsletter - Positive Actions You Can Take This Summer

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. This week, we look at some of the current struggles in the United States and ways that you can get involved this summer. From protecting health care, net neutrality and the environment to building positive alternatives that transform our current dysfunctional systems, there is something for everyone to do. Read on to learn what’s happening and how to take action. This is the time to rise up and protect our families, communities and planet.

The Grizzled, Stubborn Lawyers Protecting The Environment From Trump

Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, in front of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC in March.KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

By Nick Stockton for Wired – ON HIS FOURTH full day in office, President Trump signed an executive order that was supposed to settle this whole Dakota Access Pipeline thing—no more delays due to protests, no more reconsidering the route because of environmental worries. And for a while, it seemed to work. The protest camps are gone, and the pipe has been pumping oil since March. But Thursday, a federal judge ordered a do-over on the rush-job environmental review Trump ordered back in January. Trump came into office aiming for a blitzkrieg on environmental regulations. He got trench warfare. That’s because firing from the other side of no man’s land is a nimble alliance of environmental groups that have spent decades preparing for the likes of him. You have probably heard of many of them: the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, and so on. Others are smaller, focused on regional issues—like the Standing Rock Sioux that just won a small victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline. What they all have in common are stubborn, attrition-minded legal teams. Trump’s assault is just a more bombastic version of what these lawyers have weathered under past administrations. And if there’s any green left in the government by 2020, they’ll be the ones responsible.

Anti-Pipeline Protesters Head Back To Court

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By The Sugar Shack Alliance. Massachusetts – On June 20, eighteen members of the Sugar Shack Alliance who were arrested for civil disobedience at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, MA, will be having their day in court. At the activists first arraignment for the criminal charges brought against them for blocking tree cutting in Otis State Forest, the state put in a motion to have the criminal charges of disorderly conduct and trespass converted into civil charges. Charges stemmed from protesters blocking the gas pipeline workers’ access to a pipeline work site. The hearing on that motion will take place in front of Judge Vrabel on June 20 at 9:00 a.m. at the Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington. Those being tried at the hearing were arrested protesting a the $93 Kinder Morgan Connecticut Expansion Project, a pipeline extension planned for the Massachusetts state forest to store fracked gas that will be used in CT.

New Study: Artificial Intelligence Will Alter Humankind In 10 Years

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By Lee Camp for Redacted Tonight. Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp has the latest on an impending crisis robots are causing. As jobs are rapidly becoming automated, what will it mean the society of workers made of flesh and blood and not controlled by a processor? Robots are climbing the ladder and will soon take over more mortal jobs. Though it may not be hard to imagine that cashiers will disappear, with self check out already around the corner, there are also white collar jobs at risk. With this imminent job loss, what on Earth can we do as a society to take on skyrocketing unemployment? Lee gets into why the growth of artificial intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world if we harness these changes the right way. Then to Europe.

Trump Names BP Oil Spill Lawyer, Climate Policy Foe As Top DOJ Environment Attorney

Clark was prominently involved in industry challenges to the EPA's "endangerment finding" that set the scientific basis for all subsequent attempts to regulate greenhouse gases. Credit: U.S. Navy

By Marianne Lavelle and John H. Cushman Jr. for Inside Climate News – Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a lawyer who has repeatedly challenged the scientific foundations of U.S. climate policy and was part of a legal team that represented BP in lawsuits stemming from the nation’s worst oil spill, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, was nominated by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to serve as the Justice Department’s top environmental lawyer. Clark, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis, has represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in lawsuits challenging the federal government’s authority to regulate carbon emissions. In court he has repeatedly argued that it is inappropriate to base government policymaking on the scientific consensus presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “When did America risk coming to be ruled by foreign scientists and apparatchiks at the United Nations?” Clark demanded in a 2010 blog posting on the EPA’s endangerment finding. Clark was prominently involved in industry challenges to the EPA’s “endangerment finding” that set the scientific basis for all subsequent attempts to regulate greenhouse gases, including from autos and industrial sources.

Lawsuits Are Challenging Almost All Trump’s Environmental Offenses

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By Chelsea Harvey for Fusion – On Thursday, President Trump made international headlines by announcing his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement—a landmark decision that was met with outrage and dismay from climate activists and environmentalists. But while the gesture carries great symbolic significance, signaling the president’s disinterest in international climate efforts, any hope of actually achieving our domestic climate goals pledged under the agreement had already long since vanished. Since January, the Trump administration has taken swift steps to dismantle numerous climate and environmental priorities established under the Obama administration, including the repeal of multiple environmental regulations. And environmentalists are fighting back—by way of the courts, that is. Just about every environment-related action the Trump administration has taken has been met with a legal challenge. Trump is no stranger to litigation—reports suggest he was sued thousands of times as part of his career in real estate before ever becoming president. But since assuming office, he’s also been met with record-setting numbers of legal challenges.

Enviros Disrupt Senate Energy Committee For Second Time Over Trump Nominees

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By John Zangas for DC Media Group – A group of environmentalists disrupted the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as it attempted to vote on two key Trump nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It was the second time in two weeks the Senate Committee was disrupted by environmentalists. Three activists representing a coalition of 170 green groups were arrested early Tuesday after interrupting the Committee vote, delaying it for a brief time. Ted Glick and Sid Madison, environmental activists from New Jersey, and Jess Rechtschaffer, an activist from New York, were arrested and charged with incommoding and blocking an exit during a Senate hearing. Glick was also charged with resisting arrest and held overnight and will be arraigned Wednesday. Both Rechtschaffer and Madison paid a $50 post and forfeit fine and were released a short time later. By posting the fine, they admit guilt and avoid a court hearing. The Senate Energy Committee meeting ended after voting 20-3 to forward the nominees anyway. The approvals of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, who have worked as fossil energy insiders, will come to a full Senate vote.

Judge Rules Environmental Group Can Challenge Sunoco Over Pipeline Eminent Domain

Sunoco Logistics’ use of eminent domain to take private land to build its Mariner East 2 pipeline came into question again on Thursday when a Philadelphia court ruled that an environmental group can argue that the practice is unconstitutional.

Judge Linda Carpenter of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied the company’s request to summarily dismiss a complaint by the Clean Air Council, clearing the way for a trial, possibly at the end of this year.

The Clean Air Council argues that Sunoco has no right to take land via eminent domain because the pipeline is carrying natural gas liquids across state lines and is therefore an interstate, not intrastate, pipeline. If Mariner East 2 is deemed an interstate pipeline, it is not entitled to a “certificate of public convenience” from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the environmental group argues.  That certificate is needed to assert eminent domain to take the land of uncooperative landowners.

The ruling follows two other recent decisions from the Commonwealth Court, which ruled in favor of the company in its disputes with individual landowners.

On Wednesday, the court rejected an appeal of a lower court ruling in Lebanon County.  That judge had sided against Homes for America, a property developer of low-income housing, in its argument against eminent domain.

On May 15, the Commonwealth Court ruled against Stephen and Ellen Gerhart of Huntington County, who have been fighting Sunoco’s plans to build the natural gas liquids pipeline across their land, and argued that the company had no right to use eminent domain because the pipeline is not in the public interest.

Once complete, the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline will carry ethane, propane and butane from the Marcellus Shale of southwest Pennsylvania to a terminal at Marcus Hook in Delaware County, near Philadelphia.  Most of the fuel will be exported. Sunoco began construction in February after getting its final permits from the Department of Environmental Protection, but the project continues to be fought by some communities, especially in densely populated Philadelphia suburbs, where opponents argue it poses a risk to public safety.

In its ruling on Thursday, the Philadelphia court said that neither of the Commonwealth Court rulings addressed the constitutional issues that have been raised by Clean Air Council.

“Because these prior cases stemmed from condemnation proceedings governed by the Eminent Domain Code, there was no available avenue to raise a constitutional challenge,” the judge wrote in an 11-page opinion.

The judge also said that the PUC, which issues the certificates of public convenience on which eminent domain depends, is “not the proper adjudicating body” for a constitutional claim.

Clean Air Council argues that Sunoco’s use of eminent domain violates the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions because it is taking land for private rather than public purposes; that it violates the Pennsylvania constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment, and that it violates due process under both the state and federal constitutions.

Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco, said the company would have no comment on the latest ruling because the matter is in litigation.

Alex Bomstein, an attorney for Clean Air Council, said the latest ruling shows that the fight over Sunoco’s right to use eminent domain is not over despite the company’s argument that it has been vindicated by the Commonwealth Court.

“This ruling showed that the Commonwealth Court only showed that in certain cases,” Bomstein said. “In fact, there are legitimate, important, constitutional issues that have yet to be decided that bear on whether Sunoco ultimately does have the right to use eminent domain for Mariner East.”

Bomstein said the trial might take place in December.

John Dernbach, a professor of environmental law at Widener University, said the significance of the latest ruling will depend on what the trial court decides about Clean Air Council’s constitutional claims.

“All the court decided was that some of the Clean Air Council’s issues get to go to a hearing,” Dernbach said. “The significance of the case will depend on what the court decides after a hearing. If a court decides that there are constitutional problems with the land condemnations, that would be significant.”

By Jon Hurdle for State Impact NPR – Sunoco Logistics’ use of eminent domain to take private land to build its Mariner East 2 pipeline came into question again on Thursday when a Philadelphia court ruled that an environmental group can argue that the practice is unconstitutional. Judge Linda Carpenter of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied the company’s request to summarily dismiss a complaint by the Clean Air Council, clearing the way for a trial, possibly at the end of this year. The Clean Air Council argues that Sunoco has no right to take land via eminent domain because the pipeline is carrying natural gas liquids across state lines and is therefore an interstate, not intrastate, pipeline. If Mariner East 2 is deemed an interstate pipeline, it is not entitled to a “certificate of public convenience” from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the environmental group argues. That certificate is needed to assert eminent domain to take the land of uncooperative landowners. The ruling follows two other recent decisions from the Commonwealth Court, which ruled in favor of the company in its disputes with individual landowners.

Environmentalists Disrupt Senate Energy Committee Hearing Over Trump Nominations

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By John Zangas for DC Media Group – Strickler spoke from her home in Virginia Thursday evening. “The fossil fuel industry has a stranglehold on the Senate with the money it gives to control the political process,” she said. Strickler is concerned that energy policy cannot begin to change toward renewable options as promised in the Paris Climate accords, while FERC and the fossil fuel industry lobby controls Congress.Four of the protesters were arrested, while one was detained. Strickler was the only one released from custody Thursday afternoon after paying a $50 post-and-forfeit fine. The others were held over night. Ellen Barfield from Baltimore and Randy Fenstermacher from Massachusetts were also arrested. All four were initially charged with disrupting a Senate hearing. But at their arraignment on Friday, the charges were dropped for all but Lee Stewart. Stewart was also charged with destruction of government property, involving his attachment to the chair. His court date is set for June 26. BXE has been battling FERC over its approval of virtually every fossil project put before it by the gas industry. As a result, BXE activists have nicknamed FERC the “rubber stamp agency.”

Sugar Shack Alliance Desperate To Save State Forest

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By Katy Eiseman. SANDISFIELD, MA — Eighteen protesters were arrested this morning at the Otis State Forest after blocking an access road to a pipeline construction site, according to Massachusetts State Police. SANDISFIELD, MA — Eighteen protesters were arrested this morning at the Otis State Forest after blocking an access road to a pipeline construction site, according to Massachusetts State Police. IMG_7104 Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline has started cutting trees within the forest, owned by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, for a natural gas pipeline project. Tennessee hopes to complete the project by November 1 to serve three natural gas utility customers in Connecticut. A leading anti-pipeline strategist who is not associated with the Sugar Shack Alliance — and did not take part in their action on Tuesday — had sharp words for Gov. Charlie Baker. “The real tragedy in all of this is that no state actors have been willing to stand firmly and say that Connecticut does not need this pipeline,” said Kathryn Eiseman, director of Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network.

Corporate Siege and Trade in the 2018 Elections

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Trade policy is amounting to be an increasinly contentious topic as the Trump administration has clearly showed its intentions to keep major TPP provisions in NAFTA. Corporations are working with the Department of Commerce to eliminate the few but significant labor and environmental protections the government enforces while members of Congress begin to campaign around trade. 2018 promises to put trade policy at the forefront as presidential elections in Mexico and mid-terms in the United States could determine the fate of North American trade agreements to come.

Major Oil Spill In NYC Harbor Kept Secret Until Someone Noticed

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By Carly Miller for Bklyner. The 27,000 gallon spill at Bayside Fuel Depot began before sunrise on Thursday, March 30, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYC DEC) official Rodney Rivera confirmed after we obtained photographs and video of the spill’s aftermath and extensive cleanup. Within hours of the report, the response team, which includes the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the US Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), rushed to contain the spill, shroud the soil in plastic, and vacuum up oiled water, said Rivera. They are not, however, required to make a public announcement. And by late Friday afternoon, while most New Yorkers were driven inside by the whipping rain and winds, workers in hazmat suits filed to and from the shore at the Bayside Depot, vacuuming oiled residue into trucks from a private waste removal contractor specializing in oil spills.

Louisiana's Governor Declares State Of Emergency Over Disappearing Coastline

A boy fishes on a bayou near Isle de Jean Charles, La., in August 2015. Louisiana is still losing about a football field of coastline every hour.
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By Merrit Kennedy for NPR – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency over the state’s rapidly eroding coastline. It’s an effort to bring nationwide attention to the issue and speed up the federal permitting process for coastal restoration projects. “Decades of saltwater intrusion, subsidence and rising sea levels have made the Louisiana coast the nation’s most rapidly deteriorating shoreline,” WWNO’s Travis Lux tells our Newscast unit. “It loses the equivalent of one football field of land every hour.” More than half of the state’s population lives on the coast, the declaration states. It adds that the pace of erosion is getting faster: “more than 1,800 square miles of land between 1932 and 2010, including 300 square miles of marshland between 2004 and 2008 alone.” The governor estimates that if no further action is taken, “2,250 square miles of coastal Louisiana is expected to be lost” in the next 50 years. He emphasized the importance of the land to industries such as energy, maritime transportation and trade. Lux says the governor hopes this will pave the way to move ahead with coastal projects…

What Standing Rock Teaches Us About Environmental Racism And Justice

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By Ramon Jacobs-Shaw for Health Affairs Blog – Access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water is not just a concern of developing countries but of communities in our own backyard. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North and South Dakota, for instance, relies on Lake Oahe, a 231-mile reservoir along the Missouri River, as its primary water source. In July 2016, the US Army Corps of Engineers approved the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a 1,172-mile duct that will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois when completed, which will run underneath the Missouri River less than a mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, including through the tribe’s sacred, ancestral lands. Given concerns about having oil-related infrastructure near major water sources, especially after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 (the largest oil spill in US waters), members of the tribe have been vigorously defending their rights to safe, clean water. Their struggle has caught the attention of major advocacy organizations around the world and indigenous tribes in other nations. After a brief reprieve in December 2016 when the Obama administration blocked further construction of the DAPL…

Fishing The Plastic Out Of The Ocean

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By Jessica Murray for True Activist – An Amsterdam-based company called Plastic Whale is embarking on a positive initiative to combat plastic pollution by reusing plastic bottles in an innovative and simple way. The company work to retrieve numerous plastic bottles, along with other debris from various canals around the city. Once they have collected a large amount, they then transform the plastic material into a boat, which is cleverly then used to fish for more plastic bottles in the canals, according to reports. Thereby producing an answer to a problem within another solution. The main goal of Plastic Whale is to dramatically reduce plastic pollution and thereby clear the world’s waters of the damaging material. Plastic Whale, which describes itself as the world’s first plastic fishing company, is currently working to solve a huge global problem, with recent statistics estimating around 8 million tons of plastic trash entering waterways every year. The company’s founder and captain, Marius Smit, told EcoWatch that he imagines the world where waters are completely free of plastic…