Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

ABC Refused to Air Clean Energy Ad

Posted in environment by allisonkilkenny on January 4, 2009

abc-logothumbnailTarget: ABC
Sponsored by: Alliance for Climate Protection – We Can Solve It
ABC recently refused to run Alliance for Climate Protection’s Repower America ad, even though they run ads from oil companies like Chevron and Exxon that mislead the American people about the role fossil fuels play in the climate crisis.

The Repower America ad has a clear and simple message — that massive spending by oil and coal companies on advertising is a key reason our nation hasn’t switched to clean and renewable sources for our energy.

Ask ABC to reconsider their decision and air Alliance for Climate Protection’s Repower America ad.

Watch the ad here

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EU’s New Figurehead: Climate Change is a Myth

Posted in environment, global warming by allisonkilkenny on January 3, 2009

Times Online UK

The Czech government is desperate to keep its head of state as far away as possible from the EU presidency

The Czech government is desperate to keep its head of state as far away as possible from the EU presidency

The European Union’s new figurehead believes that climate change is a dangerous myth and has compared the union to a Communist state.

The views of President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, 67, have left the government of Mirek Topolanek, his bitter opponent, determined to keep him as far away as possible from the EU presidency, which it took over from France yesterday.

The Czech president, who caused a diplomatic incident by dining with opponents of the EU’s Lisbon treaty on a recent visit to Ireland, has a largely ceremonial role.

But there are already fears that, after the dynamic EU presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy – including his hyper-active attempts at international diplomacy over the credit crisis and Georgia as well as an historic agreement to cut greenhouse gases – the Czech effort will be mired in infighting and overshadowed by the platform it will give to Mr Klaus and his controversial views.

Czech diplomats in Brussels insist that Mr Klaus is not a big part of their plans and are trying to limit him to one speech to the European Parliament in February and chairing one international summit, either the EU-Canada or EU-Russia meeting.

They are pinning their hopes on a lunch between Mr Klaus and Mr Topolanek on January 5, which they hope will see both parties agree a truce after the President’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat his rival as Prime Minister at a party conference last month.

“What is sure is that there will be at least a little choir of voices coming from Prague that will not be singing the same song,” said Piotr Kaczynski, of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels.

“It will probably not impact the way the Czechs will manage the work of the EU presidency. It will however have some negative impact on the political leverage of the Czech presidency,” he added.

Tensions recently erupted between Mr Klaus and Brussels when a private meeting with senior MEPs descended into a slanging match after they presented him with an EU flag and said that they were not interested in his Eurosceptic views.

Mr Klaus responded: “No one has spoken to me in this style and tone in my six years here. I thought these methods ended for us 18 years ago. I see I was wrong.”

This led to a counter-attack from Mr Sarkozy in the European Parliament. He told MEPs: “The president of the European Parliament should not be treated like this and Europe’s symbols should not be treated like this, whatever people’s political engagement.”

Mr Klaus returned to the row over Christmas in a Czech television interview. “I dare say that these people represent the height of anti-Europeanism. They have absolutely no right to wave Europe in front of our face,” he said.

There has been further sniping, not least from the French, that the Czechs do not have the clout or the capability to lead the EU as it faces the key challenge of the financial crisis. Mr Sarkozy has threatened to convene meetings of the 16 member states of the Euro during the Czech presidency because the Czechs do not have the single currency.

Nor does Mr Sarkozy believe Prague has the ability to deal with an increasingly restive Russia, which is threatening an arms race over US plans for missile defence radar in the Czech Republic.

The Czechs are also one of just three EU states not to have passed the controversial Lisbon treaty, which has enraged Mr Sarkozy after his drive to revive the document. Mr Klaus continues to lead Czech opposition to a treaty he likens to Communist centralism.

He is undeniably popular with Czech voters, having been Prime Minister from 1992-97, overseeing the harmonious break-up with Slovakia, and president since 2003. An economist who spent much of his working life at the Czechoslovak State Bank during the Iron Curtain years, he became active in politics as a champion of free market economics after 1989 and is said to keep a photo of Lady Thatcher, who he greatly admires, on his desk.

“The fact that Klaus holds these views makes it difficult to run the presidency,” said Robin Shepherd, senior fellow for Europe at the Chatham House think-tank.

“Klaus is not the head of government…but he is the public face of the Czech Republic.”

Oregon Looks at Taxing Mileage Instead of Gasoline

Posted in environment, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 3, 2009

AP

Jim Wierson of Clackamas, talks about the idea of a mileage tax as he stands next to his pick-up in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008. Facing the possibility of lower tax revenue from gasoline sales, the state is considering a tax not on the number of gallons purchased, but on the number of miles driven. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Jim Wierson of Clackamas, talks about the idea of a mileage tax as he stands next to his pick-up in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008. Facing the possibility of lower tax revenue from gasoline sales, the state is considering a tax not on the number of gallons purchased, but on the number of miles driven. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in 300 vehicles. The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes.

“I’m glad we’re taking a look at it before the potholes get so big that we can’t even get out of them,” said Leroy Younglove, a Portland driver who participated in a recent pilot program.

The proposal is not without critics, including drivers who are concerned about privacy and others who fear the tax could eliminate the financial incentive for buying efficient vehicles.

But Oregon is ahead of the nation in exploring the concept, even though it will probably be years before any mileage tax is adopted.

Congress is talking about it, too. A congressional commission has envisioned a system similar to the prototype Oregon tested in 2006-2007.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing is considering calling for higher gas taxes to keep highways, bridges and transit programs in good shape.

But over the long term, commission members say, the nation should consider taxing mileage rather than gasoline as drivers use more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles.

As cars burn less fuel, “the gas tax isn’t going to fill the bill,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The next Congress “could begin to set the stage, perhaps looking at some much more robust pilot programs, to begin the research, to work with manufacturers.”

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has included development money for the tax in his budget proposal, and interest is growing in a number of other states.

Governors in Idaho and Rhode Island have considered systems that would require drivers to report their mileage when they register vehicles.

In North Carolina last month, a panel suggested charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax.

James Whitty, the Oregon Department of Transportation employee in charge of the state’s effort, said he’s also heard talk of mileage tax proposals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado and Minnesota.

“There is kind of a coalition that’s naturally forming around this,” he said.

Also fueling the search for alternatives is the political difficulty of raising gasoline taxes.

The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993, and nearly two dozen states have not changed their taxes since 1997, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

In Oregon’s pilot program, officials equipped 300 vehicles with GPS transponders that worked wirelessly with service station pumps, allowing drivers to pay their mileage tax just as they do their gas tax.

Whitty said the test, which involved two gas stations in the Portland area, proved the idea could work.

Though the GPS devices did not track the cars’ locations in great detail, they could determine when a driver had left certain zones, such as the state of Oregon. They also kept track of the time the driving was done, so a premium could be charged for rush-hour mileage.

The proposal envisions a gradual change, with manufacturers installing the technology in new vehicles because retrofitting old cars would be too expensive. Owners of older vehicles would continue to pay gasoline taxes.

The difference in tax based on mileage or on gasoline would be small — “pennies per transaction at the pump,” Whitty said.

But the mileage tax still faces several major obstacles.

For one, Oregon accounts for only a small part of auto sales, so the state can’t go it alone. A multistate or national system would be needed.

Another concern is that such devices could threaten privacy. Whitty said he and his task force have assured people that the program does not track detailed movement and that driving history is not stored and cannot be accessed by law enforcement agencies.

“I think most people will come to realize there is really no tracking issue and will continue to buy new cars,” Whitty said, noting that many cell phones now come equipped with GPS, which has not deterred customers.

Others are worried that a mileage tax would undermine years of incentives to switch toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“It doesn’t seem fair,” said Paul Niedergang of Portland, that a hybrid would be taxed as much as his Dodge pickup. “I just think the gas tax needs to be updated.”

Lynda Williams, also of Portland, was not immediately sold on the idea but said it was worth consideration.

“We all have to be open-minded,” she said. “Our current system just isn’t working.”

Pictures and Video of Tennessee Coal Spill Disaster

Posted in coal, environment by allisonkilkenny on December 30, 2008

TVA Coal is Killing Tennessee

CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEOS
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Toxic Spill in Tennessee

Posted in environment by allisonkilkenny on December 24, 2008

MCM

tennesseeThe Tennessee Valley Authority, better known as TVA, has a coal-burning power plant located near Harriman, Tennessee, along Interstate 40between Knoxville and Nashville. The stuff that is left over after TVA burns their coal is called coal ash.
 
Coal ash contains mercury and dangerous heavy metals like lead and arsenic – materials found naturally in coal are concentrated in the ash.TVA has a huge mountain of this coal waste material stored in a gigantic pile next to their Harriman (Kingston) power plant, alongside a tributary of the Tennessee River.On Monday morning Dec. 22 around 1:00 am, the earthen retaining wall around this mountain of coal ash failed and approximately 500 million gallons of nasty black coal ash flowed into tributaries of the Tennessee River – the water supply for Chattanooga TN and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
 
This Tennessee TVA spill is over 40 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, if local news accounts are correct.
UPDATE (CNN)
 
A wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from a coal plant in central Tennessee broke this week, spilling more than 500 million gallons of waste into the surrounding area.
 

Environmental Protection Agency officials are on the scene and expect the cleanup to to take four to six weeks.

The sludge, a byproduct of ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, agency officials said.

The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, a TVA spokesman told CNN.

The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River.

“We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes,” TVA said in a statement released Tuesday.

TVA spokesman Gil Francis told CNN that up to 400 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, a bigger area than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Video footage showed sludge as high as 6 feet, burying porches and garage doors. The slide also downed nearby power lines, though the TVA said power had been restored to the area.

Francis said Environmental Protection Agency officials were on the scene and estimated the cleanup could take four to six weeks.

Some of the goop spilled into the tributary, but preliminary water quality tests show that the drinking water at a nearby treatment plant meets standards.

“I don’t want to drink it. It doesn’t look healthy to me,” Jody Miles, who fishes in the Clinch River, told CNN affiliate WBIR. “Do you reckon they can bring all this life back that’s going to die from all this mess?”

Still, there is the potential for more sludge to enter the water supply through waste runoff.

“We’re taking steps to stabilize runoff from this incident,” Francis said.

Although video from the scene shows dead fish on the banks of the tributary, he said that “in terms of toxicity, until an analysis comes in, you can’t call it toxic.”

One environmental attorney called that statement “irresponsible.” The ash that gives sludge its thick, pudding-like consistency in this case is known as fly ash, which results from the combustion of coal.

Fly ash contains concentrated amounts of mercury, arsenic and benzine, said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“These things are naturally occurring, but they concentrate in the burning process and the residual is more toxic than it starts,” she told CNN.

Appalachian environmentalists compared the mess with another spill eight years ago in eastern Kentucky, where the bottom of a coal sludge impoundment owned by Massey Energy broke into an abandoned underground mine, oozing more than 300 million gallons of coal waste into tributaries.

The water supply for more than 25,000 residents was contaminated, and aquatic life in the area perished. It took months to clean up the spill.

“If the estimates are correct, this spill is one and a half times bigger,” said Dave Cooper, an environmental advocate with the Mountaintop Removal Road Show, a traveling program that explains the effect of an extreme form of mining.

While the full scope of the TVA spill is being determined, coal critics are already concerned about its long-term effects.

Cleaning up the mess, which could fill nearly 800 Olympic-size swimming pools, could take months or years, Taylor said.

“We’re very concerned about how long it’s going to take” to clean the spill, she told CNN.

Cooper agreed, saying, “It’s 4, 5 feet deep. How are you going to scoop it up? Where are you going to put it?

 

Posing as a Bidder, Utah Student Disrupts Government Auction of 150,000 Acres of Wilderness for Oil & Gas Drilling

Posted in environment by allisonkilkenny on December 22, 2008

decristopherwebThis is beautiful.

Democracy Now

In a national broadcast exclusive, University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher explains how he “bought” 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from drilling. The sale had been strongly opposed by many environmental groups. Stephen Bloch of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said, “This is the fire sale, the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.”

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE
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Bush Pushes Through Last-Minute Deregulations

Posted in Bush by allisonkilkenny on November 22, 2008

 george-bush-leads-the-us-towarDemocracy Now! 

As the media focuses on President-elect Obama and the transition of power here in Washington, the Bush administration is quietly trying to push through a wide array of federal regulations before President Bush leaves office in January.

Up to ninety proposed regulations could be finalized by the outgoing administration, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment. According to the Washington Post, the new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era. They include rules that could weaken workplace safety protections, allow local police to spy in the so-called “war on terror” and make it easier for federal agencies to ignore the Endangered Species Act.

While it’s nothing new for outgoing administrations to try and enact these so-called “midnight regulations,” the Bush administration has accelerated the process to ensure the changes it wants will be finalized by November 22nd. That’s sixty days before the next administration takes control. Most federal rules go into effect sixty days after they’ve been finalized, and it would be a major bureaucratic undertaking for the Obama administration to reverse federal rules already in effect.

We speak to Matthew Madia of the watchdog group OMB Watch.

See the video here.
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Join November5.org and Create Real Change

Posted in activism, environment by allisonkilkenny on November 11, 2008

logo2

Join November5.org, the citizen group that serves as a Congressional watchdog.

Update from Nov5:

We are off to a great start. In the 5 days since we launched November5.org, nearly 10,000 of you have signed up for this effort!

Getting our country back on track by using the leverage we can exert over Congress is an approach that naturally fits with third party and independent voters, as well as many who voted for Democrats and Republicans. Millions of us realize that we must now put our shoulders to the wheel of justice and push harder than ever.

If we all move fast to get our friends and family involved, we could have 1000 active and organized citizens in each Congressional district in 2009. To do this, we need you to encourage people to sign up today by forwarding this link: www.november5.org.

Remember to emphasize to others that what will make November5 different from many other similar efforts is that we will have no allegiance to any political party. We want to create a non-partisan mechanism to get problems solved. Action will result when members of Congress hear loud and clear from their constituents back home. This will not be about raising big money for expensive television ads during the Super Bowl. It will involve using tried and true organizing techniques – and all the local creativity we can muster – to make sure that our Representatives respond to our voices, district by district, person by person.

We want to focus on the victories – big and small – that we can achieve. Too much citizen advocacy involves sending emails or letters to Washington, D.C. We need a return to raising our voices on the ground “back home,” where Congressional elections are decided.

High on our list is a plan to pass privately-delivered, publicly-funded health care. This approach would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the current for-profit system, enough to provide coverage for every American. After all, how can you be civically active if you are worried about your health care? Many organizations do great work on this issue (see Physicians for a National Health Program), but there is a need for much more citizen muscle behind it. That’s where we’ll come in.

Other issues we are looking at include: new regulation of Wall Street, a $10 living wage, the elimination of unnecessary weapons systems that cost tens of billions, a strong drive for investment in solar, wind, and conservation – against coal and nuclear – and a federal law requiring paper ballots and establishing uniform rules for ballot access for all candidates.

Soon, we will email you with more details on how this website will enable you to organize in your district, and on how we will keep building November5 in the coming weeks.

Now, though, it all comes down to getting all of the people who agree with the basic approach of shifting our focus to Congress in 2009 signed up for November5. This is the critical building phase and we all have to do everything we can to get the word out.
Onward for Justice, 

The November5 Team Five Things You Can Do Right Now:

Yes We Can ________

Posted in Barack Obama by allisonkilkenny on November 9, 2008

319193018v1_350x350_frontIt’s a new day and a new slogan for Obama supporters. Overnight, the infamous “Yes We Can” transformed into “Yes We Did.” Voters proclaimed it from their Facebook statuses, their Twitter updates, and I even saw the affirmation branded across the chest of a baby’s jumper.

A strange thing happens when you ask an Obama supporter what the subject of their slogan entails. What did they do? Most reply that the “Did” means collectively supporting and electing the first African-American president. Anyone with a beating heart knows this is indeed a momentous occasion, and it’s very moving to see relatives of MLK celebrating the evolution in American society.

But by that definition of the “Did,” the journey is over. Yes We Did Elect A Black President. For some, the slogan means Yes We Did Elect Someone Better Than Bush. True, but by that definition, John McCain would have been better than George Bush, and I like to give Obama supports more credit than assuming they would vote for the lesser of two evils.

Other Obama supporters claim a massive overhaul of the executive agenda is their “Did.” And early signs are encouraging with the Obama camp claiming they’re ready to reverse the Bush administration’s stacks of ill-conceived executive orders. However, there is no collective citizen mandate rumbling from the people to help guide Obama’s fledgling White House.

If the people aren’t asking anything of Obama, then he owes them nothing in return. That’s like you right now being pissed at me for not having mailed you twenty dollars. You didn’t ask me for money, so why should I have sent you anything? (I’m not giving you money.)

Yes We Did What? Elect Barack Obama on good faith alone? It appears Obamanites think their journey is over, and that good people are at the helm, and all will be well.

But Obama is indebted to Wall Street for about $9.5 million. That amount of cash transforms into favors once your guy gets elected. Obama will be hesitant to strongly regulate the billions of bailout dollars if the people he’s dealing out the cash to are his donation buddies. On day one, Wall Street will thrust a litany of demands before president Obama, but the American people will not be represented in the Oval Office. Yes We Did Leave Our President with the Wolves.

Others claim the “Did” is a movement toward universal health care. It’s totally illogical to assume Obama will defy his insurance company friends and his past rhetoric, and suddenly adopt single-payer health care. Thousands of physicians have already gone on record to say that Obama’s idea for a hybrid of private health insurance plans and government subsidies will not work, and in fact has already failed in Oregon, Minnesota, Washington and several other states, including Massachusetts, whose second go-round at incremental reform is already failing.

It’s not enough to know in the warmest places of your little hearts that Obama really is a good man, and he wants to end Americans’ suffering. The American people have to swiftly demand single-payer health care, or the insurance companies will greet Obama at the White House and quickly neuter any plans for universal health care coverage.

Yes We Did Elect a Good Man. President-elect Obama does seem like a decent guy, and a good family man, but the government system doesn’t care if he’s a good man. It’s impossible for Obama to keep his fingers on the pulse of the nation when he’s living in a severed limb like Washington. It will take an engaged citizenry living in the real, breathing world to help him fight every step of the way.

Now is the time to outline a plan for the Big Four, four ultra-important demands that need to be addressed within the first 100 days. I would suggest something like: universal health care, strong regulation of the bailout cash, ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan (enough of this Afghanistan is the “good war” silliness,) and serious movements toward building a green economy and ending our dependency on foreign oil.

Google the issue nearest and dearest to your heart, find a local group that shares your agenda, and get together. Your strength is in numbers. If you’re not really the go-out-and-change-the-world type, just add your name as a contribution, or open your wallet to an already established Progressive group like November5.org.

It’s not enough to simply watch over president Obama, either. As director Eugene Jarecki explains, the three branches of government are like the stand-off in a Quentin Tarantino film with each body aiming a gun at someone else. It’s not enough to change one part. We have to change them all. Obamanites must also monitor the behavior of their Congressional representatives and put pressure on them to implement the Big Four.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. But that’s the point. Democracy is a constant battle to suppress the evil motives of corrupt politicians. Or, in the words of our beloved Dubya: “If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”

He will be missed.

Add your voice to the Yes We Are forces. Yes We Are Living Wage Warriors. Yes We Are Congress Watchdogs. Stay alert, engaged, and don’t be afraid to offer Obama some tough love. He can take it. He’s already asking for help with his Change.gov website, so get working.

This is an exciting time. Unlike the bullheaded asshole playing Snood in the White House for the past eight years, Barack Obama is an intelligent, reasonable, open politician that we have the chance of influencing if we are at the negotiation table alongside Big Business. But we have to demand our seat the table. No one is going to come hand it to us.

So I would suggest the Yes We Did camp change their slogan to Yes We Will Be, or Yes We Are, but they can’t quit yet.