Emma Pullman

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Emma is a freelance researcher and journalist. You can find her writing in the Toronto Star, Huffington Post, Canada.com, Vancouver Observer and Rabble.

Koch Brothers Continue Their Canadian Takeover

On Friday, the Canadian government fell to a vote of non-confidence.  As Canadians prepare to head to the polls for an early May election, the oily architects of the Tea Party, mega-funders of climate change denial and bankrollers of major right wing think tanks including FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity have made a timely infiltration into Canadian politics. 

Last week, we reported that the oily brothers had set up shop to lobby in Alberta.  But perhaps more disquieting than that is that, according to Environmental Defence, Alberta isn’t the only province being strangled by the Kochtopus.  The Koch brothers have officially registered to lobby in Ontario too.

Koch Brothers Set Up Shop in Tar Sands Territory

The Koch Brothers, architects of the Tea Party and bankrollers of climate-change denial, have recently set up shop to lobby the Alberta government, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Alberta’s lobbyist registry shows that on March 15, 2011, Koch Industries signed up to lobby the province on energy and resource development policy issues, as well as taxation and economic development.  The registry shows the company’s lobbying activities started March 3, with no fixed end date.

Koch Industries spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia did not say what the company’s objectives are in lobbying the Alberta government, but her one-sentence statement noted that, “Koch companies want to add value by providing quality services and products our customers desire and value in a way that is compliant with all laws and regulations”.

“Compliant with all laws and regulations” seems a bit dubious given the pro-industry and anti-environment lobbying connections to Koch’s Alberta activities we uncovered. 

On Valentines Day, Big Polluters Find True, Dirty Love

Love is in the air today. And it can't be easy to get a date when you're a major polluter and have a questionable vision of ethics. To assist these dirty lovers, Greenpeace created the perfect matchmaking service where industry lobbyists, corrupt politicians and oil execs can find true love.  

Polluter Harmony
 (and its Canadian version) is the online go-to site for those with a strong distaste for a healthy planet. Pollution lovers can prospect for partners based on industry affiliations, shady values, and huge profit margins to find that one-in-a-lifetime kind of love.  

Koch Brothers Win Big If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved

The Keystone XL pipeline, currently awaiting a thumbs up or down on a presidential permit, has been the subject of ferocious debate.  While proponents tout the pipeline project as a boon to national security, and a move that would reduce America’s dependence on “unethical oil”, Its opponents are fearful of the environmental nightmare it would create (to say nothing of the immnent threat of future devastating spills like last year’s Michigan Kalamazoo spill).  The pipeline, if built, would increase siginificantly the import of dirty tar sands bitumen from Canada’s oil sands to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day.

What’s been left out of the fierce debate over the pipeline, according to SolveClimate News, is the prospect that if president Obama okayed the Keystone XL pipeline, he would be handing a major victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his staunchest political enemies and the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda.

Breaking: Purdue University Cancels Coal Project Thanks To Student Pressure

Today, Purdue University students, community members, faculty, alumni and staff breathed a sigh of relief as the Board of Trustees voted to nix plans to build a new coal boiler on campus.  For nearly a year, a broad coalition including Campuses Beyond Coal fought the university’s plans to build a new coal boiler on campus, and today their hard work paid off. 

Prior to today’s cancellation, Purdue was the only university in the United States that still planned to expand its coal power plant.  While school officials touted the upgrade as “green”, students, activists and community members weren’t convinced.  They feared that University officials were keen to cling to the “coal is clean” myth while other universities were leading the shift to cleaner power sources. (The coal industry cooked up the “clean coal” myth and continues trying to convince the public through a $40 million astroturf advertising and PR campaign by organizations like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity”.  But the public, especially young people, are seeing right through the industry’s propaganda.)

Purdue was initially hesitant to revisit its plans.  But effective grassroots organizers at the university and in the community hosted protests, rallies, and several events to convince the school to move away from its reliance on dirty coal.  

Groups File Appeal Over State Department’s Refusal to Disclose Communications with Tar Sands Oil Lobbyist

Three watchdog groups filed an appeal today with the U.S. State Department over its refusal to release correspondence between the agency and a former high-ranking presidential campaign staffer for Hillary Clinton.  In his role as oil lobbyist, Paul Elliott is seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline that would bring 900,000 barrels of tar sands a day over 2,000 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The coalition, including Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a FOIA request in December [PDF] targeted at Elliott, now lead lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the pipeline.  The request was rejected by the State Department, and Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, believes that the State Department did not have legitimate legal grounds to do so. 

For the groups, the failure of the State Department to comply with its responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act is worrying, and further calls into question Clinton’s capacity to remain impartial on the pipeline decision.

By refusing to disclose any documents, we contend that the State Department is violating the Freedom of Information Act,” said Keever.  “We are hopeful that with this appeal the State Department will release communications between the oil lobbyist and Secretary Clinton and her staffers.  If the agency doesn’t, we will take it to court if necessary.”

Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife: Not Even Canadians are Safe from the Kochs Anymore

Koch Brothers

From Koch Industries’ roots as “the biggest company you’ve never heard of”, David and Charles Koch have become household names for funding climate change denial and efforts to steer the United States away from a clean energy future.  They suffered a little hiccup when California voters failed to buy the arguments of the dirty oil interests bankrolling Prop 23.  Then, when David Koch was booed at the Nutcracker ballet just before Christmas, it started to look like the tides were shifting on public opinion around the billionaire brothers. 

Despite the headway made in holding the Koch Brothers to account, they’ve creeped their way into Canada. 

Well, let me be clear.  It’s not as though Koch Industries is a totally foreign force in Canada. Koch and its subsidiaries currently operate in seven Canadian provinces, and according to a Greenpeace report, Koch has held multiple leases in Alberta’s tar sands, and since the 1990s the Koch Pipeline Company has operated the pipelines that carry tar sands crude from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin where Koch’s Flint Hill Resources owns oil refineries.

On the policy development front, they’ve busily bankrolled Canada’s Fraser Institute to the tune of $175,000 between 2005 and 2008 to ensure Canada remains in the Stone Ages when it comes to environmental policy.  

This time though, it’s gotten political.  According to Chris Genovali’s piece in the Huffington Postrenewable energy in Ontario is under attack by the Kochtopus.

Industry Groups Fight Dirty Against Oscar-Nominated Hydraulic Fracturing Documentary "Gasland"

In the United States and beyond, governments are praising the “clean, plentiful fuel” that is natural gas, and tout it as a viable alternative to oil and coal.  According to Abrahm Lustgarten at ProPublica, its advocates are calling natural gas a step toward a greener energy future due to the fact, they assert, that natural gas produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal. 

Josh Fox’s critically-acclaimed documentary Gasland tells quite a different story about the natural gas industry and its extraction process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  As he journeys across the United States, he discovers the devastating environmental and health impacts of humans and animals in close proximity to gas wells, and realizes that the so-called “Saudi Arabia of natural gas” is causing more pain than it is worth.

After the release of Fox’s documentary, an oil and gas lobby group calling itself “Energy In-Depth” launched a public relations offensive against the film (apparently they didn’t like the footage of people lighting their tap water on fire).  As it turns out, the website of the lobby group was registered to a Washington, DC public relations firm called FD Americas Public Affairs (formerly FD Dittus Communications) whose clients included oil and gas lobby groups including the American Energy Alliance, run by former Republican staffers Eric Creighton, Kevin Kennedy and Laura Henderson.

Today, when Fox’s documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature, a major energy trade association weighed in on Gasland’s nomination.  The industry group, the America’s Natural Gas Alliance argues on its website that “for our nation’s economy” we must make greater use of the “Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas” for the sake of the environment and economy.

Why We Need to Stop Calling Tar Sands Oil "Ethical Oil"

There are few terms in the Canadian vernacular that irk me more than “ethical oil”.  Since Ezra Levant’s 2010 book “Ethical Oil” hit the scene, it’s become the favourite language for government newspeak, and the media.  Worst of all, its given tar sands proponents and the Conservative Government fodder for their debunked argument that tarsands oil is good for us

Levant’s book looks at the ethical cost of our addiction to oil, and argues that Alberta tar sands oil is more ethically responsible than oil imported from despotic regimes in the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico, where human rights issues are of concern. 

Though neither Harper nor our new Minister of Environmental Destruction have read the book, the term was exactly what the Conservatives needed to bolster the much-maligned tar sands.  Prior to the echochamber that ensued after the publication of Levant’s book,  tar sands oil was often characterized as “dirty” and “controversial” - much to the ire of the government.

 Levant may well have learned the art of spin early in his career while spending the summer in an internship arranged by the libertarian and clean energy/climate change enemy Charles G. Koch Foundation, or through his work with the Fraser Institute.  Levant himself coined the term “ethical oil” in 2009 after being involved in a panel on tar sands oil.  The spin doctor finished the 90-minute debate having not managed to convince his audience of the merits of the toxic oil.  Without admitting defeat, Levant quickly realized that he was going to have to find a different way to spin the dirty oil apart from economic arguments which just weren’t resonating with people. 

State Department Refuses to Release Information on Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

The U.S. State Department notified a coalition of environmental groups last week that it has denied their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for correspondence between the agency and a former presidential campaign staffer of Hillary Clinton’s, who, in his new role as oil industry lobbyist, is seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for a tar sands oil pipeline.

The coalition, including Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a FOIA request in December targeted at Paul Elliott, now a lead lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring 900,000 barrels a day of dirty tar sands over 2,000 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and a further 1,661 miles to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The State Department denied the FOIA request on the grounds that the groups had not “reasonably described the records [they sought] in a way that someone familiar with Department records and programs could locate them” and cited the groups’ request for a waiver on the fees associated with the processing of the FOIA as reason to deny their request.

Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth argues that the State Department did not have legitimate legal grounds to deny the FOIA request.

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