Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Over 4,200 Amazon workers push for climate change action, including cutting some ties to big oil

Karen Weise, THE NEW YORK TIMES

SEATTLE — Employees at big tech companies have pushed back against their employers for working with the military and law enforcement offices, and demanded better treatment of women and minorities.

Now, thousands of them are also taking on climate change.

This week, more than 4,200 Amazon employees called on the company to rethink how it addresses and contributes to a warming planet. The action is the largest employee-driven movement on climate change to take place in the influential tech industry.

The workers say the company needs to make firm commitments to reduce its carbon footprint across its vast operations, not make piecemeal or vague announcements. And they say that Amazon should stop offering custom cloud-computing services that help the oil and gas industry find and extract more fossil fuels.

The goal for Amazon’s leaders and employees is “that climate change is something they think about whenever a business decision is being made,” said Rajit Iftikhar, a software engineer in Amazon’s retail business. “We want to make Amazon a better company. It is a natural extension of that.”

The letter adds support for a new tactic among activist tech workers: using the stock they receive as compensation to agitate for change. Like other shareholders, they can file a resolution urging a particular corporate change that investors vote on at a company’s annual meeting. Historically, this approach has been used by outside activist investors, not employees.

The Amazon employees signing the letter, who made their names public, are pushing Amazon to approve a shareholder resolution that would force the company to develop a plan to address its carbon footprint. The resolution was filed by more than two dozen current and former employees late last year, and it could come up for a vote next month.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/technology/amazon-climate-change-letter.html

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

US judge halts hundreds of drilling projects in groundbreaking climate change ruling

Cassidy Randall, THE GUARDIAN

In the first significant check on the Trump administration’s “energy-first” agenda, a US judge has temporarily halted hundreds of drilling projects for failing to take climate change into account.

Drilling had been stalled on more than 300,000 acres of public land in Wyoming after it was ruled the Trump administration violated environmental laws by failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions. The federal judge has ordered the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages US public lands and issues leases to the energy industry, to redo its analysis.

The decision stems from an environmental lawsuit. WildEarth Guardians, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Western Environmental Law Center sued the BLM in 2016 for failing to calculate and limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from future oil and gas projects.

The agency “did not adequately quantify the climate change impacts of oil and gas leasing”, said Rudolph Contreras, a US district judge in Washington DC, in a ruling late on Tuesday. He added that the agency “must consider the cumulative impact of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions” generated by past, present and future BLM leases across the country.

Read more at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/20/judge-halts-drilling-climate-change-trump-administration

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Oil and real estate interests pour money into Petaluma and Santa Rosa races

Will Schmitt & Hannah Beausang, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

More than $100,000 from oil and real estate interests has been funneled into city council races in Sonoma County’s two largest cities, highlighting how outside groups have ponied up to influence voters in the Nov. 6 election.

Of the pair of independent expenditure campaigns, the most visible has been in Petaluma, where a committee backed by several large oil companies has poured more than $78,000 into the race for mayor, according to campaign finance records.

The second spending effort is by a national real estate group that has spent more than $31,000 in favor of several city council candidates in Petaluma and Santa Rosa.

In Petaluma especially, the rush of outside spending has caused a stir. The two campaigns there have separately generated mailers supporting two mayoral candidates — Mike Harris and Brian Powell — and online ads and mailers supporting Harris and two others running for council seats, incumbent Dave King and candidate Michael Regan.

Brian Sobel, a Petaluma- based political analyst and former city councilman, called the level of outside spending in the city election unprecedented.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8873734-181/oil-and-real-estate-interests

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Tell it to the judge, Big Oil

Jason Mark, THE NATION

Polluters admit climate-change basics in an unprecedented court hearing but still duck responsibility.
n Wednesday morning, Jim Hyden woke up well before dawn, braved a spitting rain, and skipped a day at work so he could arrive at the Federal District Courthouse in San Francisco at 6 am sharp to have “a chance to see some history.”

“I’m very interested in hearing the oil companies talk in court…about what they knew and when they it about climate change,” Hyden said as he waited in line with dozens of attorneys, reporters, and concerned citizens for an unprecedented court-ordered “climate-change tutorial” to begin. “And [to hear] what they did after they learned about it.”

It will be up to historians to decide whether the five-hour-long climate-science seminar that took place yesterday in federal court made history. During the weeks leading up to the hearing, boosters had promised “the Scopes Monkey Trial for climate change,” a unique chance to litigate the science of human-driven global warming in a court of law. In the end, there were no Clarence Darrow-like rhetorical fireworks; just scientists and attorneys dispassionately reviewing the evidence about how human activities are transforming Earth’s atmosphere.

Yet the hearing still marked an important milestone: For the first time, some of the world’s biggest carbon polluters were forced to explain to a US court whether they accept basic climate change science. Billions of dollars are at stake. The proceedings in San Francisco, according to legal experts, could shape the legal terrain for the lawsuits New York City and other plaintiffs are bringing against ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel giants for the damage climate-fueled storms, sea-level rise, and other impacts have caused and will continue to cause in years to come.

“You can’t get away with sitting there in silence,” Judge William Alsup pointedly said to attorneys from ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, and other fossil-fuel corporations at the close of the day. “If you disagree [about the information the court had just heard], you need to let me know. Otherwise, I will deem that you agree.”

Read more at https://www.thenation.com/article/tell-it-to-the-judge-big-oil/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , ,

Standing Rock activist speaks at SRJC

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

“This is a low-level oil war going on right in our country,” he [Iron Eyes] said, adding that activists “faced deadly force, people faced corporate-sponsored, state-executed” violence, and that the Keystone project will bring more of the same.

Even though oil has begun to flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline, the months-long battle against the controversial pipeline has fueled resistance against an economic system that puts corporate interests ahead of people’s rights, said Chase Iron Eyes, a Native American activist and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Speaking Monday afternoon to a packed crowd of students, faculty and local activists gathered at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Bertolini Student Center, Iron Eyes said the activism at Standing Rock has also energized political resistance against President Donald Trump, who green-lighted the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, and also resurrected the Keystone XL pipeline.
DAPL’s final segment was recently completed after Trump signed an executive order in January lifting President Barack Obama’s administrative opposition to the project. Obama rejected the Keystone project in 2015.
Iron Eyes said those who supported the movement against DAPL have a “responsibility, the duty to take what is powerful from Standing Rock, from the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers” and consider it a victory, even though the protest camps have been razed.
Read more at: Standing Rock activist at SRJC: Standing Rock protest energized political resistance | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land UseTags , , , , ,

What does a Trump presidency portend for California’s environmental policies?

Richard Frank, LEGAL PLANET
Sensing political storm clouds ahead, California Governor Jerry Brown yesterday issued a statement on the presidential election results that concludes: “We will protect the precious rights of our people and continue to confront the existential threat of our time–devastating climate change.”
Several of my Legal Planet colleagues have recently posted thoughtful commentary on what Donald Trump’s election as the nation’s 45th president signifies for national environmental law and policy.  By contrast, I’d like to focus on the potential for significant political dissonance between the incoming Trump Administration and the State of California.
In my view, that potential is sky-high, given California’s longstanding commitment to environmental and energy policies that are anathema to those articulated by Trump in the just-concluded presidential campaign and currently being reiterated by senior members of his transition team.
Business leaders, property rights advocates and Tea Party activists are all seeking the Trump Administration’s active support for their efforts to re-energize the oil, gas and coal industries, aggressively promote private development of federal lands, dismantle or curb USEPA’s regulatory programs and suspend the Obama Administration’s aggressive pursuit of greenhouse gas reduction goals.  California Governor Brown’s above-quoted statement confirms that the Golden State will continue to pursue its environmental, conservation and climate change objectives notwithstanding the dramatic environmental policy shift we can expect under Trump’s presidency.
Past political history demonstrates that such a clash between California and the federal government is likely.  When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, with both houses of Congress in Republican hands, similar political turbulence quickly developed between the Reagan Administration and Reagan’s home state of California on a number of environmental issues.
At its heart, this was, and is, a battle of federalism principles: the proper, respective roles of the federal and state governments in charting public policy, together with the legal authority of both to act.
As we gird for likely legal and political battles between California and the federal government over environmental policy, three constitutional doctrines are likely to play a key role:

  • preemption,
  • regulatory takings
  • and the dormant Commerce Clause.

I briefly review each of those doctrines and their relevance below.
Read more at: What Does a Trump Presidency Portend for California’s Environmental Policies? | Legal Planet

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , , ,

Op-Ed: How oil won the battle for SB 350

Dan Morain, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
Before he would commit to voting for landmark legislation to cut petroleum use by 50 percent, Assemblyman Adam Gray had a few requests.
Actually, it was more than a few. The term sheet runs three pages. The quid for the quo is something to behold.
In one of his more remarkably bold suggestions, the Merced Democrat sought $550 million a year in cap-and-trade revenue to pay for more water storage. Additional water storage is a great idea. But cap-and-trade money must be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not provide water in perpetuity for Central Valley farmers.
And then there were the three pages of amendments offered by the Western States Petroleum Association. Its demands would have gutted the California Air Resources Board, the agency directly responsible for reducing air pollution created by the oil industry.
Faced with demands made by industry and well-greased Assembly members from his own Democratic Party, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León concluded last week that he had no choice but to gut the most significant part of his Senate Bill 350, the sections that sought to force a 50 percent reduction in oil use.
Not having been in the room when negotiations were going on, I don’t know who said what. But the wish lists offer some insights into the pulls and tugs that led to the decision to limit SB 350. Though it won’t cut oil use, it will reduce electricity use and increase wind and solar power.
Gray was quick to say “we have to take aggressive action on climate change.” He also defended his proposals by saying he wants to “make sure the Valley is not put at a disadvantage,” while people in “Palo Alto are driving around in Teslas.”
Gray is one of 20 or so Assembly Democrats who call themselves moderates, and held out against the petroleum reduction in SB 350. As near as I can tell, being a moderate has little to do with their stands on social issues, or their willingness to challenge the core of Democratic support, public employee unions; they aren’t.
Rather, the definition seems to revolve around a willingness to accept campaign money from oil, tobacco or anyone else, and their malleability when donors come calling. Certainly, the reflections of some of Gray’s donors can be seen in some of the amendments he suggested.
Read more at: Dan Morain: How oil won the battle for SB 350 | The Sacramento Bee

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags ,

Temporary ban on Petaluma gas stations fails

Lori A. Carter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Petaluma City Council on Monday night rejected a proposed moratorium on gas stations that would have prohibited Safeway from building a fueling station in front of its North McDowell Boulevard store.

A temporary urgency ordinance – commonly called a moratorium – would have required the approval of six of seven council members.

As council members began discussing the issue, it soon became clear that Councilman Mike Healy, who sought the moratorium, wouldn’t even get a majority on his side. In a straw vote, only Healy, Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller supported a 45-day ban to buy the council time to craft tighter regulations on gas stations.

“We should just follow the process we already have in place,” said Councilman Mike Harris, saying businesses should be able to rely on existing rules when they “make investments in our community.”

Councilwoman Teresa Barrett was conflicted in her vote. She said she opposes the gas station project on whole, but doesn’t support blanket bans.

Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/1857348-181/temporary-ban-on-petaluma-gas