Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Pelosi and Reid: No More Coal for Capitol Power Plant

Posted in activism, coal, environment by allisonkilkenny on March 2, 2009

Note from Allison: Congratulations to all the protesters that made this happen! You should all be very proud of yourselves.

Climate Progress

2400623-2-nope-no-coal-is-clean-coal1No doubt spurred on by the impending civil disobedience, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) posted a statement and a letter on her blog (here):

Today, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent the following letter to the Acting Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers,asking that the Capitol Power Plant (CPP) use 100 percent natural gas for its operations. They write, “the switch to natural gas will allow the CPP to dramatically reduce carbon and criteria pollutant emissions, eliminating more than 95 percent of sulfur oxides and at least 50 percent of carbon monoxide… We strongly encourage you to move forward aggressively with us on a comprehensive set of policies for the entire Capitol complex and the entire Legislative Branch to quickly reduce emissions and petroleum consumption through energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean alternative fuels.”

UPDATE: Bill McKibben, who helped organize the impending civil disobedience at the CPP emails me “just to say, this civil disobedience stuff kind of works. How many coal plants are there?

Here is the letter:

February 26, 2009
Mr. Stephen T. Ayers

Acting Architect of the Capitol
SB-15 U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Ayers:

We want to commend your office for working to implement the Green the Capitol Initiative by increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is a shadow that hangs over the success of your and our efforts to improve the environmental performance of the Capitol and the entire Legislative Branch. The Capitol Power Plant (CPP) continues to be the number one source of air pollution and carbon emissions in the District of Columbia and the focal point for criticism from local community and national environmental and public health groups.

Since 1910, as you know, the CPP has continuously provided the Capitol, House and Senate office buildings, and other facilities with steam and chilled water for heating and cooling purposes. The plant remains an important component of the facilities master plan and the future of the Capitol complex, and we know your office has taken steps to make the plant cleaner and more efficient. While your progress has been noteworthy, more must be done to dramatically reduce plant emissions and the CPP’s impact. Since there are not projected to be any economical or feasible technologies to reduce coal-burning emissions soon, there are several steps you should take in the short term to reduce the amount of coal burned at the plant while preparing for a conversion to cleaner burning natural gas.

We encourage you to take advantage of current excess capacity to burn cleaner fuels and reduce pollution. According to the General Accounting Office (GAO) and an independent analysis from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the boilers at the CPP are now running with more capacity than has been historically demanded or anticipated. Even with the new Capitol Visitor Center in operation, these analyses show there is sufficient capacity to further increase the burning of natural gas and still meet energy demands at peak hours.

We are also interested in identifying and supporting funding to retrofit CPP if necessary so that it can operate on 100 percent natural gas. Unfortunately, our staff has received conflicting information and cost estimates on what would actually be required to operate the CPP year-round with exclusively natural gas. If a retrofit of two remaining boilers is indeed required, then we encourage you to develop realistic budget numbers to accomplish the retrofit expeditiously including any costs for the purchase of additional quantities of natural gas. In your budget analysis, it is important to take into account that time is of the essence for converting the fuel of the CPP. Therefore it is our desire that your approach focus on retrofitting at least one of the coal boilers as early as this summer, and the remaining boiler by the end of the year.

While the costs associated with purchasing additional natural gas will certainly be higher, the investment will far outweigh its cost. The switch to natural gas will allow the CPP to dramatically reduce carbon and criteria pollutant emissions, eliminating more than 95 percent of sulfur oxides and at least 50 percent of carbon monoxide. The conversion will also reduce the cost of storing and transporting coal as well as the costs associated with cleaning up the fly ash and waste. Eliminating coal from the fuel mixture should also assist the City of Washington, D.C., in meeting and complying with national air quality standards, and demonstrate that Congress can be a good and conscientious neighbor by mitigating health concerns for residents and workers around Capitol Hill.

Taking this major step toward cleaning up the Capitol Power Plant’s emissions would be an important demonstration of Congress’ willingness to deal with the enormous challenges of global warming, energy independence and our inefficient use of finite fossil fuels. We strongly encourage you to move forward aggressively with us on a comprehensive set of policies for the entire Capitol complex and the entire Legislative Branch to quickly reduce emissions and petroleum consumption through energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean alternative fuels.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

best regards,

NANCY PELOSI
Speaker of the House

HARRY REID
Senate Majority Leader

VIDEO: RNC Clusterfuck ’08: Six Months Later

Posted in activism, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 25, 2009
I-Witness Video members and friends in handcuffs during a police raid on their house in St. Paul, August 30, 2008. (AP: Matt Rourke)

I-Witness Video members and friends in handcuffs during a police raid on their house in St. Paul, August 30, 2008. (AP: Matt Rourke)

I just received this e-mail from Eileen Clancy, an activist and member of the watchdog group, I-Witness.

Hello Allison,
We have begun the process of filing suit regarding our treatment at the hands of law enforcement in St. Paul during the RNC. A press release is attached.

Six months after the RNC, the government has charged only 15 percent of the 800 people the police arrested in that period. On Friday, the St. Paul City Attorney announced that he would not prosecute 323 people arrested in a single round-up on the final night of the convention.

Since most potential RNC litigants are approaching the 180-day statutory deadline for giving notice to municipalities in Minnesota, we should have a better sense of the scope of the civil lawsuits contemplated in relation to the RNC fairly soon.

– Eileen

###

Eileen and I-Witness were routinely harassed at the Republican National Convention (RNC.) By the way, this is the same RNC during which Amy Goodman was violently arrested. During the RNC (and after some initial harassment from local police, including the suspicious mass arrest and release of I-Witness,) I received an urgent email from Clancy.

The police were surrounding her office…again.

Police have arrived at our office in St. Paul. They say that they have
received reports of hostages barricaded in the building. We are behind a
locked door. Lawyers are outside dealing with them. 

– Eileen

That  was the second encounter I-Witness had with police at the RNC. The first encounter occurred on August 30 when seven members were preemptively detained at the house where the group was staying. The police were basically harassing the protest group, who are peaceful, and whose only intent was to videotape the protests.

Such was the general chaos of the RNC. I was routinely e-mailed by journalists, who were fairly certain of their impending arrest.

I had my own run-in with St. Paul’s police state when I was trying to gather information about Amy Goodman’s arrest for Huffington Post. 

Something called the Joint Information Center was set up to monitor all of the hubub that occurs when — ya’ know — a city jails hundreds of activists exercising their right to freedom of speech and protest. My name and press credentials were taken down a few times by various ominous, anonymous foot soldiers.

These are the notes I took during the investigation. I was making inquiries as to the whereabout of Amy Goodman, and the two Democracy Now producers (Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar) with whom she was arrested.

11:00PM EST: The Ramsey County Jail redirected me to something called the “Joint Information Center.” Under a little pressure, the operator finally revealed his name (Sgt. William Palmer,) though he asked for my name (had me spell it twice) and asked for my phone number in exchange. Friendly stuff.

Palmer informed me that Kouddous and Salazar will be held in jail overnight until they are taken to court tomorrow. No one knows what they are being charged with, but Palmer attributes their arrest to “suspicious behavior.”

Kouddous and Salazar are still being held without any formal charges.

11:22PM: Apparently, one of the job qualifications for working at the JIC (Joint Information Center) is that you must have the scariest voice in the world. I spoke with a Coast Guard named Chief Bauman, who again took down my information: name, phone number, website I write for, etc. He had me spell my name twice and repeat my phone number three times.

The JIC seems to exist less to help media representatives and more to intimidate the hell out of them. For instance, I wondered aloud why I couldn’t directly speak to a media representative and first had to pass through Bauman’s filter. Bauman explained he was a conduit between reporter and information.

I then asked Bauman why the JIC was staffed with police officers and Coast Guards seemingly naive to the ways of media. He informed me that he was working at the JIC for “security purposes.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, I see there’s a lot of security at the RNC.” He didn’t laugh.

Bauman said he didn’t know what court Kouddous and Salazar are being taken to in the morning. He said he would get back to me.

###

This is the state of modern protest. You can protest, but only if you have a permit, you stand back 500 feet from the target of your dispute, you stay behind the barbed wires, and only use a bullhorn if you have another permit. It’s neutered dissent. And even if you obey all their little rules, you get bullied and harassed like Eileen Clancy and Amy Goodman.

And Clancy and Goodman weren’t even protesting. One is a representative of a watchdog group, and the other is a highly respected journalist. Imagine what they do to the poor kids and students, who are usually doing nothing more than operating inside the guidelines of the law, when the cops pick them up off the street.

If the dull tool of bureaucracy hasn’t chipped away enough from America’s monument to civil disobedience, the watchful Sauron-esque eye of the government is threatening to blast it into smithereens. As I wrote over at Huffpost, last year’s DNC and RNC were both laboratories for the newest, most high-tech toys for the intelligence community. Denver dropped $50 million on the police state project.

In an interview with Democracy Now, Erin Rosa, a reporter for the Colorado Independent, explained that Denver seemed to be seriously bracing for a stand-off between the police and protesters [during the DNC], to the point where the Colorado Army National Guard constructed a makeshift barracks in the far east region of the city:

They’re not saying what the purpose is for nearly 400 people to be stationed in this private university. They’re actually going to be stationed at Johnson & Wales University in the eastern region of the city, you know, more than 400 troops in that one area. They rented more than 500 rooms across the city. And they’re not saying what the purpose will be for, but they have confirmed that it will be all Colorado National Guard personnel.

So while Denver would be immersed in a total police state, what sort of behavior could individuals expect from their new intelligence and censorship overlords? In the same interview, Mike German, National Security Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, warned protesters that new guidelines for what constitutes suspicious terrorist-like activity may include some pretty basic elements of protesting:

The Los Angeles Police Department issued an order compelling their officers to report criminal and non-criminal suspicious behavior that can be indicative of terrorism, and they listed sixty-five behaviorsOne of the precursor behaviors to terrorism that’s identified in the order is taking video. And we put in our report a couple of instances where people taking video were stopped by police officers simply for taking pictures or video. And in some cases, particularly where they’re taking photographs or video of police, it actually resulted in arrests.

I argued this would put quite a damper on many grassroots responses to this kind of intelligence/police state bullying, particularly I-Witness, a group created to protect citizens from the attacks of overzealous police authorities. Clancy, the founder of I-Witness Video, explained that it’s important to keep a video log of every protest (complete with date and time displayed clearly on the camera) should the footage be needed as evidence in later court hearings.

Clancy also explained that the Deputy Chief of Operations in Denver testified before the House subcommittee that they see the DNC fusion center as an opportunity to make permanent a “super fusion center.” Clancy said the Denver crew is going to take their government allocated $50 million and “play with their new toys,” and they are going to build a permanent and more powerful surveillance apparatus for Colorado.

…yaaaaay.

At the time, Clancy offered these words of wisdom to future generations of activists:

“The federal government is trying to criminalize video because it has tremendous power to expose bad acts by the police and federal agents. The best way for people to document police misconduct is to band together in video activist groups such as I-Witness Video, work in pairs or affinity groups, protect their footage by making back-up copies, publish their work in the media or on the Internet, and vigorously challenge any arrests, detentions and police orders to erase photos or videotapes. The First Amendment offers tremendous protection to people videotaping the police at work, but we must fight to maintain our right to shoot.”

Now it’s time to see if Eileen Clancy and the members of I-Witness will receive some delayed justice, and if the police and government officials in St. Paul will acknowledge any wrong-doing.

Please remind Mr. Coleman and Mr. Pawlenty that the behavior of law officials was (at best) overzealous, and at worst, totally fascist and unnecessary:

Contact Mayor Chris Coleman at: 651-266-8510 or e-mail him.
Governor Tim Pawlenty can be reached at: (651) 296-3391 or e-mailed at tim.pawlenty@state.mn.us.

I-Witness press release: First Step in RNC Lawsuits Taken.

Watch videos of the arrests

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