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A Simple Earth Day – Dispatch From FDR’s “Little White House”, Warm Springs, Georgia

April 22nd, 2021 No comments

Headwaters Of The Green New Deal

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We celebrate our Earth Day with a sense of quiet contentment – and sombre reflection after a tour of FDR’s “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia.

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How fitting a day for the Green New Deal bus to be amid the history of the original New Deal, particularly in light of the recent political events in Georgia and the reintroduction of the Green New Deal Resolution by AOC and Friends.

After heading out of the southern Arizona desert upon the onset of the first 100 degree day and heading across magnificent southern Utah, as we were headed east and coming across the midwest, we got hammered with a week of cold, high winds, snow and rain.

In looking for a way out of this miserable weather, I set upon my own “southern strategy” – and thought Warm Springs Georgia would be a great place to visit.

We arrived in town late afternoon yesterday, and because FDR’s site was about to close, after getting help from a ranger about where I could park for the night (he suggested the Baptist Church parking lot), we headed downtown. First stop: Mac’s BBQ. The pulled pork was out of this world! We’re heading back for dinner today.

Most of the local shops were still closed, not yet open for the season.

First thing this morning, we went back to FDR’s place for the day.

As you enter, you pass through the museum. The architecture reminds of Frank Loyd Wright.

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I was disappointed with the displays, as there was not much on the New Deal and key programs, particularly like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). But the inclusion and depiction of rural electrification was interesting. That could be because the site is owned and run by the State of Georgia – not federal National Park Service. FDR deeded the place to the State of Georgia. There were similar style and omissions at the crappy gift shop, but I did buy books on the Georgia CCC and FDR’s Famous Speeches.

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But The Little White House itself – and the landscape – are simply magnificent.

The scale, craftsmanship, and simplicity of the furnishings at once gave a sense of intimacy and yet a creepy almost voyeuristic feel of intrusion into a very private space. (FDR died there on April 12, 1945). (and sorry, I forgot to reset my outdoor white balance and the colors are so terrible!)

Visitors enter through the side door, into the kitchen:

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The muted light, rich wood paneling, and simply crafted artifacts stimulate an incredibly moving and somber mood and sense of contentment.

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I was told by the host – a black woman – that the wood that built the place was harvested locally.

On the way out, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the simplicity and dignity to the lady at the museum desk. She replied that FDR knew he was among poor people and intentionally kept it simple because he didn’t want to lord it over or create any impression that he thought he was better than the locals.

That kind of humility, simplicity, craftsmanship, and dignity permeates the place. Just like his politics and New Deal programs, his compound shows a deep respect for nature and the common people.

[Update: To illustrate that point, I’m just now reading FDR’s first “Fireside chat”, on Sunday evening March 12, 1933, on the banking crisis and his “bank holiday” (which I was not aware followed bank closures by many states). Here’s the brilliant conclusion of a brilliant speech (emphases mine):

After all there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work.  ~~~ end update]

FDR the man is perfectly reflected in his landscape design, architecture, and interior decoration, perhaps more so than other FDR estates I’ve visited, including FDR’s home and Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY on the Hudson River and FDR’s Campobello summer place in Canada (scroll down for photos).

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An Orwellian Earth Day

April 20th, 2021 No comments

NJ Democrats Push Forest Logging Bills On Earth Day

Source: NJ DEP Wetlands Forestry BMP Manual (1995)

Source: NJ DEP Wetlands Forestry BMP Manual (1995)

As if the nomination of a former corporate lawyer as DEP Commissioner weren’t enough of an insult and Orwellian nightmare – amid an accelerating collapse – tomorrow (Earth Day) the NJ Senate Environment Committee will hear a package of bills to promote logging. Even the bill descriptions are Orwellian:

  • S2001 – Forest stewardship program-establishes for State-owned lands
  • S3547 – Forest stewardship, pinelands,
  • S3548 – Prescribed burns-set min. acreage goal & schedule in pinelands area & Statewide
  • S3549 – Forest stewardship plan-required for lands acquired
  • S3550 – Forest stewardship plans-provide that municipal approval is not required

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith has been pushing this ill advised legislation for over a decade. He is responding to the sham and misleading self interested lobbying of the NJ Audubon Society, the NJ Farm Bureau, the forest products industry, and professional forestry consultants. NJ Audubon reveals that truth:

The invitation from committee chair, Senator Bob Smith, requests technical information on the value of forest management plans on publicly-owned lands in the state.  Information from hearing experts will inform members about science-based practices and sound policies to protect NJ’s valuable resources, forests.

The NJ Farm Bureau makes their economic interests very clear:

Landowners with mostly forested properties now will have ways to tap some of the equity in their land while retaining the farm. A forest easement purchase program allowed by policy in the RMP is included in the new land conservation rules being considered by the Highlands Council. Farm Bureau with the Department of Agriculture will make sure that the Council removes any obstacles to timely implementation of such a program in which the landowner can continue to follow a Woodland Management or Forest Stewardship plan to continue Farmland Assessment.

Remarkably, even Gov. Christie – no friend of NJ’s forests, the Highlands, or public lands – vetoed the Forest Stewardship bill the Democratic legislature passed back in 2012.

So, I fired off this note:

Dear Chairman Smith and members of the Senate Environment Committee:

I write to strongly oppose the package of bills regarding “forest stewardship”.

I will confine this note to a few brief points, as the bills are up for discussion only (and I am on the road today), and reserve my right to revise and extend these comments with more detailed and substantive testimony.

1. Climate Emergency – Carbon sequestration

The bills, the proposed DEP’s draft “Forest Action Plan”, and current Forest Stewardship planning and field practices not only fail to consider and promote maximum carbon sequestration, but they would promote active management practices that significantly reduce current forest carbon sequestration and the prospective capacity to sequester additional carbon.

(See this for links to and analysis of DEP’s draft “Forest Action Plan”:

The bills conflict with the science and carbon sequestration policies and targets in DEP’s  Global Warming Response Act 80 X 50 Report (see Chapter 7:

https://www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/docs/nj-gwra-80×50-report-2020.pdf#page=168

Mature intact forests store far more carbon than “actively managed” and “young forests” promoted by these bills.

Given the climate emergency, the goals of the GWRA, and the sequestration targets set by DEP, these flaws alone should be sufficient to convince legislators to abandon the current version and fundamental “active management” approach of these bill.

2. Conflicts With the Highlands and Pinelands Acts

A fundamental assumption in the Highlands conservation strategy was that fragmenting forests and opening the canopy were to be avoided because they created a host of negative effects and dynamics, perhaps most important was because disturbance increased edge effects, destroyed interior forest habitat, created erosion, impaired water quality, and increased sunlight on the forest floor fueled a proliferation of invasive species.

The bills conflict with this strategy.

3. Lack of Effective Regulatory Oversight

There are huge gaps in NJ laws and DEP regulations regarding practices that may fit the definition of “forest  stewardship”. The DEP’s Forestry Wetlands BMP Manual is over 26 years old – adopted before the passage of the Highlands Act and DEP’s C1 waters 300 foot buffer programs – and, among other things, allows just 25 foot buffers and logging on steep slopes, stream buffers, and vernal pools. For details and links, please see:

I would add that the prescribed burn provisions of these laws would exacerbate NJ’s chronic air quality problems, particularly with respect to fine particulate pollution, a significant health threat and regulatory compliance issue that is completely ignored, see:

4. Forests Are Public Lands – “Active Management” Impairs Public Uses

5. The bills would pre-empt local government, the most democratic institution in NJ

6. The premises and scientific rationale for “active management” are dubious and challenged by credible independent science

a) Prescribed burns do not reduce wildfire risks. Those risks are a function of climate, drought, temperature, relative humidity and wind.

b) “Active Management” to create “young forest” habitat is illusory and destroys other habitat and conservation values.

Flawed Conservation Rationale

We are left scratching our head, because the bills are at odds with the fundamental conservation strategy that led to the passage of the Highlands Act.

The prime conservation imperative in passage on the Highlands Act was preservation of the existing large tracts of contiguous forest, maximization of forest canopy cover, and prevention of fragmentation.

Those regional management objectives were initially espoused by the US Forest Service:

  • The Highlands serve as a major migratory flyway for many neotropical bird species, many of which populations are in decline. Of particular concern to ornithologists are the 70 to 75 species of interior nesting neotropical migrants such as the red-eyed vireo, American redstart, Kentucky warbler, and eastern pewee. These species require large undisturbed forest patches.
  • Fragmentation and alteration of habitat continue to pose the greatest threat to the biological communities in the Highlands. The rapid expansion of urbanization encroaches on and fragments habitat, destroys individuals as well as populations, and potentially threatens the continued existence of many biological communities. Degradation of habitat by direct destruction or indirectly through pollution, erosion, introduction of invasive species, or fragmentation threatens the existence of species, diminishes natural communities, and reduces genetic variability.  ~~~ NJ/NJ Highlands Regional Study (US Forest Service, 2002)

Active management  to create “young forests” would destroy habitat for interior forest species and other conservation and water resource values provided by intact mature forests.

c) NJ Forests are diverse – they are not “single age class” or “middle aged” as claimed by proponents of this legislation. See US FWS studies cited above. DEP’s own forest planning documents and data also refute these claims.

7. NJ DEP economic research proves that preserved forests provide far more “ecological services” and economic value that “actively managed” forests subject to “treatments” (i.e. logging)

DEP’s own Report on “Natural Capital”, which found that forests have far more economic and ecological value as forest, than as for logging or timber:

The Corzine DEP produced a report:   Valuing New Jersey’s Natural Capital: An Assessment of the Economic Value of the State’s Natural Resources. That report found that forests have far more economic value as forest than harvested as commercial logging. DEP needs to dust off that report and apply it to future management policies.

8. All the supporters of the bills have private economic interests and elevate them above competing public interests.

The NJ Farm Bureau and others like NJ Audubon have openly testified that the objectives of the legislation are to re-establish a commercial logging industry in NJ.

Source: “Statewide Forest Assessment” NJDEP – (2010)

Source: “Statewide Forest Assessment” NJDEP – (2010)

I previously exposed this economic motivation to restore an in state commercial logging industry during the controversial debate on proposed “Forest Stewardship” legislation, by quoting the testimony of the NJ Farm Bureau:

“In the early 1980’s, the state stopped participating in timber sales. So the state lands that were managed in timber, up to that point in time, were an important part of  attracting the timber industry to the State. The State owns half or more of the wooded lands, so its been on the back of smaller producers to attract competition to the state. And what they’ve ended up with is the one guy who wants to come and cut in NJ, kind of setting the market price. And so we’ve had a depressed value of our wood products.

We see, by the State re-entering into a managed timbering process, that  more vendors will be attracted  to come into the state and then they’ll pick up those smaller [private] parcels … and we’ll see an economic benefit to our state, for the private forest lands as well as the public lands, because landowners will have more options in how they do those managed cuts. […]

And then its the  ability of the State to recoup those costs through the sale of the timber. … 

With the increased participation by the state we will see increased competition amongst those that harvest these products and better prices  which them improves the overall wood and timber industry in the state.”

It’s obvious that this legislation is about logging NJ forests under cover of various sham ecological and conservation claims.

9. The bills are a component of a national campaign to expand commercial logging, particularly in mature northeastern hardwood forests

10. It is an insult to the legacy of Earth Day that bills that would promote logging of public forests and ignored and exacerbate the climate emergency are considered on Earth Day

Senator Smith has been pushing this ill advised legislation since at least 2012.

It’s time to abandon the entire approach, if only for the climate emergency.

Respectfully,

Bill Wolfe

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NJ Gov. Murphy’s DEP Commissioner Was A Corporate Hired Gun Who Crippled DEP’s Natural Resource Damage Program

April 19th, 2021 No comments

LaTourette Represented Essex Chemical In Key Appellate Court Precedent That Struck Down DEP NRD

NJ Gov. Murphy issued a highly misleading press release in support of his nomination of Shawn Latourette as DEP Commissioner. As I wrote last week:

Gov. Murphy’s press release announcing the nomination misleadingly portrays LaTourette as a public interest champion and fails to mention the fact that he was a corporate lawyer and represented some of NJ’s biggest corporate polluters, including the controversial LNG export facility.

But Mr. Latourette’s record is even worse than I realized.

The facts are that Mr. LaTourette is no public advocate – instead his career illustrates the damage a corporate hired gun can do.

We previously exposed the fact that LaTourette was the lawyer for the controversial Fortress Energy LNG export plant.

But we had not realized that Mr. LaTourette was a lawyer that helped gut the DEP’s Natural Resource Damage (NRD) program – the program he now presides over and has failed to reform – allowing corporate polluters to dodge billions of dollars in NRD liability.

For over 15 years, I’ve followed and have written multiple posts about the DEP’s NRD program.  I exposed why it fails and allows polluters to pay just pennies on the dollar for the destruction of NJ’s natural resources, including critical groundwater drinking water supplies.

I even petitioned the Christie Administration State Comptroller to investigate the DEP’s NRD program, see:

One of the DEP NRD failures I cited in that petition was the Essex Chemical case.

I even wrote about the Essex Chemical case in response to the Appellate Court’s decision, see:

The core issue is DEP’s longtime failure to adopt legally enforceable regulations that value the economic damages to natural resources caused by polluters.

In the wake of the Christie administration’s corrupt settlement of a DEP proposed $8.9 billion for just $225 million,  the New Jersey Law Journal story documented, as we’ve written, that DEP lost all 3 NRD cases it litigated, going back over a decade to 2004 as a result of this core failure. Those cases include:

  • New Jersey Society of Environmental & Economic Development (SEED) v. Campbell(N.J. Super. Law Div., Mercer County, 2004)
  • N.J. Dept. of Envtl. Prot. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., Docket No. MER-L-2933-02 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Aug. 24, 2007
  • New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, et al. v. Essex Chemical Corporation (Appellate Division, 2012)

Mr. Latourette represented Essex Chemical Corporation and his legal advocacy basically killed the DEP’s NRD program – read the Appellate Division decision in that case:

On this basis alone LaTourette should fail to gain Senate confirmation.

The NJ Law Journal story makes this very clear:

But some lawyers and environmental advocates said the state’s failure to adopt a methodology for calculating damages for harm to natural resources through the formal rule-making process—as it committed to do more than a decade ago when it settled another suit—may have weakened its negotiating position and led to a lower settlement in not just the Exxon case but in other natural resource damage suits it has brought. …

Bill Wolfe, the director of nonprofit environmental advocacy group New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the issue is one he’s been raising since the SEED case.

Wolfe is not a lawyer but spent 13 years as a policy analyst and planner for the DEP, and was policy director for the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter for seven years.

Wolfe said the lack of valuation rules leaves the state vulnerable to challenges on the amount of damages. The state “knows it has a weak legal hand,” making it reluctant to push too hard and more willing to settle, Wolfe said, adding that Exxon’s lawyers are “sharp enough to know this” too. “There’s this wink and a nod going on where the DEP is saying, ‘We won’t squeeze you too hard if you just come to the table and settle,’” Wolfe said, adding that it’s been “a quiet little dance for 10 years,” with the state knowing it can’t get more than pennies on the dollar.

DEP still has not adopted regulations to enforce the NRD program. That failure continues to undermine the State’s legal hand and allow polluters to settle for pennies on the dollar.

Senator Smith established a Legislative TaskForce to develop these standards.  As NJ Spotlight reported:

Another problem with the [NRD] lawsuits is the state lacks any objective standards to monetize damages to New Jersey’s natural resources. Sen. Bob Smith, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, set up a legislative task force of industry experts and environmentalists to try and come up with a framework to establish such standards.

That Senate NRD Standards Taskforce has been abandoned and has done nothing.

If confirmed by the NJ Senate, Mr. LaTourette would preside over the DEP’s NRD program, a program that he essentially killed via his legal work on behalf of corporate polluters.

But LaTourett’s corporate whoring is not limited to Fortress Energy LNG and Essex Chemical NRD. Take a look at his ethics disclosure and recusal forms, which reveal that he represented:

  • Congoleum
  • Dupont
  • FMC
  • Novartis
  • Kinder Morgan
  • Weeks Marine
  • JIS Landfill Superfund Responsible Parties
  • Stag Industrial
  • Universal Preserv-A-Chem
  • Akzo Noble

Gov. Murphy has got some big pair of balls to fob off this corporate hired gun as some public interest advocate.

Certainly all this deserves coverage prior to LaTourette’s Senate confirmation hearing, especially given Gov. Murphy’s press release claims.

[End Note: The Gov.’s claim was not supported by any facts and I have been unable to document Gov. Murphy’s claims that:

LaTourette began his career partnering with the Erin Brockovich law firm to organize and defend New Jersey communities whose drinking water was contaminated by petrochemicals

I ask readers to shoot me an email if you know where and when and how Mr. LaTourette was doing any of this. ~~~ end]

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NJ Gov. Murphy Nominates Former Corporate & Fossil Energy Lawyer As DEP Commissioner – Exposes The Green Grifters

April 15th, 2021 No comments

Appearance By Murphy’s Wife Is Quid Pro Quo For Praise In Gov.’s Press Release

A Classic Example of “Progressive Neoliberalism” In Action 

NJ Gov. Murphy nominated current Acting DEP Commissioner Shawn Latourette for DEP Commissioner. His appointment requires Senate confirmation.

There is no doubt – none – that Senate confirmation is a done deal, because LaTourette served the political interests of Senate President Sweeney in, among other things, working as a corporate lawyer who quietly and successfully secured DEP permits for a controversial major fossil energy project. The fossil LNG export project is in Sweeney’s south jersey backyard and is strongly supported by Sweeney’s Norcross machine and labor friends.

That project is so bad that is has become a national controversy and a divisive wedge issue in the labor – climate emergency – just transition debate, see this Washington Post story:

Heckofajob Shawn!

Gov. Murphy’s press release announcing the nomination misleadingly portrays LaTourette as a public interest champion and fails to mention the fact that he was a corporate lawyer and represented some of NJ’s biggest corporate polluters, including the controversial LNG export facility.

The Gov.’s press release included strong supporting statements by the folks I call NJ’s corrupt Green Mafia. They include:

  • Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action (formerly NJ Environmental Federation, the corrupt group that endorsed Christie in 2009)
  • Eric Stiles, NJ Audubon (he entered into a “partnership” with & praised Trump, and logs State preserved forests in the Highlands)
  • Ed Potasnak, NJ LCV (Keep It Green grifter that lied about theft of DEP & State Park Funds & regularly provided green cover for Murphy)
  • Peter Kasaback, NJ Future (the group that secretly worked with Gov. Christie to privatize development at Liberty State Park)

The false praise of these corrupt Green Mafia members exposes their opportunistic and transactional politics. They all rely on DEP for funding and all are looking forward to DEP for other selfish favors. It’s absolutely disgusting how obvious it is.

Here’s the worst illustration of that corruption.

Despite the fact that the Murphy “environmental justice” legislation is seriously flawed, that DEP has not prioritized adoption of regulations required to implement the law, and that LaTourette lied to an EJ community and falsely blamed EJ activists about a chemical experiment in this EJ community, Kim Gaddy of CWA praised LaTourette.

Predictably, just one day later, CWA announced a “surprise guest” appearance by First Lady Tammy Murphy at their annual conference this Saturday. This is what corrupt transactional politics looks like. CWA today (4/15) wrote:

We are excited to announce that surprise guest First Lady Tammy Murphy will be joining us tomorrow to kick off our 35th annual conference Upholding Democracy for a Healthy Environment, beginning at 9:30 AM this Saturday 4/17. Register now to join, and please share with your colleagues and environmental leaders!

After an introduction from the First Lady and a special video message from Senator Cory Booker, we’ll dive right into the keynote conversation with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman!

Does it get any more corrupt than that?

It is remarkable that none of the media coverage mentioned the fact that Mr. LaTourette served as a lawyer for the energy company that quietly secured DEP permits for a controversial LNG export plant on the Delaware River

He then joined DEP just days after DEP issued  final  permits. It’s worse than revolving door, because the door can’t revolve that fast!

Am I the only one who read his ethics disclosure and recusal documents? Who can speak truth to power?

Here are some very different assessments of Mr. Latourette:

Mr. LaTourette is a corporate Neoliberal (and I’ll bet that he’s so poorly ededucated that he doesn’t even know it).

He is a classic example of what Professor Nancy Fraser describes as “Progressive Neoliberalism”hiding corporate neoliberal ideology behind identity politics.

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Dear Climate Activists: Please Stop FERC-ing Off!

April 11th, 2021 No comments

A Focus On FERC Is A Complete Waste of Time And A Diversion

Provides Political Cover For Democrats Who Support Gas

Suspicious Timing Just Days After Biden OK’s Dakota Acccess Pipeline

A NJ friend forwarded me an appeal by Friends Of Earth (FOE), titled:

Your Signature is Needed: FERC has approved over 130 fracked gas pipeline projects in the past five years

We have a chance to stop FERC from fast-tracking permit approval. The agency is revising its process, and we need an outpouring of activists like you to demand it stop greenlighting polluting pipelines.

Are you kidding me?

I can not think of anything lamer than urging activists to sign a petition to FERC asking them to please stop rubber stamping pipelines and strengthen their regulations!

I spent years of watching my former NJ colleagues waste their time with FERC, something I call “FERC-ing off”:

I’ve also spoken with many of you to advise that submission of comments to FERC is a waste of time, because FERC is captured by the energy industry and there is virtually no chance of FERC denying an approval of PennEast’s application.

So it is a disgrace to now see that same misguided waste of time and resources being replicated at the national level. (see:

So in frustration, I fired off this email to FOE and my NJ friend:

Dear FOE:

Appealing to FERC is a complete waste of time.

If activists want to change the FERC review and rubber stamp approval of pipelines, they have 3 choices:

1) amend the Natural Gas Act to put teeth in it – but that would require putting pressure on Pelosi and Schumer and all the corporate Democrats that support gas and pipelines. It is so absurd that activists can’t seem to pressure their Democratic friends; OR

2) design a campaign at the State level to target Governors and pressure them to kill pipelines via Stater power under Clean Water Act 401 by denying Water Quality Certification (or, Coastal Zone Management Act State powers, as appropriate). These State powers are NOT pre-empted by FERC and the Natural Gas Act. see:

3) Pressure Biden to use Executive power, e.g. issue an Executive Order declaring a moratorium on federal approvals and directing federal agencies to kill projects in the pipeline and strengthen regulations to assure that science based greenhouse gas emissions climate targets are met.

But Biden supports gas too! And activists won’t call him out for it or make real demands (Dems already are undermining Biden’s fake “pause” on drilling on public lands). We saw the same thing under Obama. For the pathetic state of liberals, see WaPo:

I’m expecting to see pipelines receive subsidies and “streamlined regulatory review” under Biden’s infrastructure plan. I’ve already read quotes from Sect. Transportation Buttigieg that included pipelines in the definition of infrastructure. And Biden supported the gas industry before the US supreme Court, see:

Biden loves to cut deals with Republicans from oil & gas states and pro-fossil Dems like Manchin from W. Va. FOE should be bird dogging ALL THAT.

This FERC stuff is a diversion on top of a waste of time – and it provides cover for Democrats. For example, just yesterday, did you see this from EarthJustice?

While FOE is FERC-ing off, there are also efforts in Congress that are getting zero attention, including:

  • legislation to expand gas and oil exports; (while exports should be banned)
  • legislation to strip states of power to kill pipelines under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act;
  • ignore Congressional Review Act powers to kill Trump regulator rollbacks. Democrats did nothing with this power for 4 years to block Trump rollbacks and are doing nothing with it now.
  • legislation to impose a tiny and regressive “price on carbon” in exchange for stripping EPA of authority to regulate greenhouse emissions. That’s the fossil energy industry’s “compromise”. And that’s exactly what was in the Obama first term climate bill sponsored by Congressman Markey. 

Time, resources, and the attention of activists are finite resources.

Stop FERC-ing off and wasting them!

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