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Corporatism and Fascism


Corporatism and Fascism

I Googled "Evil" And It Took Me to Google

Google may have been, until now, the Obama of hip internet monopolies.  No matter how many nations the President bombs, people still put Obama peace-sign stickers on their cars.  No matter how many radical rightwing initiatives Google funds, people still think it's a "progressive corporation" -- How could it not be? It's making progress!

Google is funding Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union, and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.

And there's more really bad news: Google is funding ALEC, the powerful, secretive, and destructive lobbying force from which many companies concerned with their public images are fleeing. ALEC is in the news this week, holding its 40th annual meeting. Together with allies, RootsAction.org is applying as much pressure as we can.  And it might just be that the tide is turning.  Google just might have to start worrying about whether its users favor plutocratic plundering or not.

ALEC targets state legislatures around the country to roll back labor rights, environmental protection, civil rights, public health measures and more. Using big money, corporate clout and smooth lobbyists, ALEC teams up with like-minded state lawmakers to draft and enact regressive legislation.

Tens of thousands of people have heeded our request to Tell Google and other huge firms to which we'll deliver this petition not to participate in ALEC's corruption of our government:
We urge you to stop funding ALEC. With ALEC's help ...
* Tobacco companies get tax cuts.
* For-profit education companies get school privatization.
* Management gets union busting.
* Oil companies get opposition to renewable energy.
* The rich and powerful get the repeal of estate taxes.
But, in the process, democracy gets hijacked -- one state at a time.

***

You should read the thousands and thousands of comments people have submitted when they have signed this petition.  And you can, they're all publicly posted at the link above.

Some people express their great affection for Google, along with disillusionment:

"I really thought that your business was a role model as  progressive, social conscious Corporation...  I was seriously mistaking... -  - It is outrageous that you are supporting these politicians that have injured out country and our people so deeply...  and ALEC???? -  - PLEASE STOP!!!" --J. Carlo Diaz, FL      

"Really, Google. Really!? I expect more sense from you!" --Marian Pickett, LA

"As much as I like Google, I'll be damned if I'll support in any way the increase in political clout of big and secret money funneled to "money is above all" unbridled capitalism Republican organizations!  There are other choices ... and I'll be switching!!" --William Whitlock, CA

"Any company that funds an organization like Alec does not have an interest in democracy. Alec is in the business of buying votes, and votes for the most un-American causes. My respect for Google has taken a huge hit because of its support of Alec." --Kathlyn McCaughna

"I used GOOGLE to research ALEC. I am surprised and greatly disappointed that your corporation would support this horror to our democracy. Greed. Cynicism. Arrogance. Downright stupidity. Or as stated in one of your listed sources--policy areas including legislation 'opposing U.S. consumers' rights to know the origin of our food,' 'undermining workers' rights,' 'stripping environmental protections,' and 'limiting patient rights and undermining safety net programs.' (MediaMatters 12/4/13) I said 'surprised.' Perhaps not, just thoroughly disgusted.  - I love GOOGLE; other venues' ads have not swayed me. However, your support of such a vicious, predatory, manipulative organization has changed the game. --JoAnn Durfee, OR

Some explain to Google what the problem is:

"Alec is for profits at any cost to society. Make your engine work for people, not for evil." --John Kozub, TN

"Google, Facebook and Yelp are people driven and should not support corporate takeover of the internet or other arenas." --Amy Whitworth, OR

"Does Google want to be seen to be supporting ALEC? If so they are also supporting this neanderthal approach to energy production: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/alec-freerider-homeowners-assault-clean-energy  -- An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as 'freeriders' -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned." --E Healy, CA

"Funding the most regressive organizations puts your company right there with them: destroyers of democracy, dirty political actors. Think carefully whether this is where you want to be, and where you are going to be seen to be." --John Prehn, UT

"ALEC has caused so much evil and trouble in Wisconsin that I am sure most people don't understand, at this point in time. Please do NOT support the agenda of ALEC as it is not for the people but for the FEW!" --Joan Schneider, WI

Some get a bit angry:

"Alec sucks. When I found out the State Farm backed them, we DUMPED State Farm. And we had been with them for 20 years. Don't miss them a BIT!" --Audrey Lima, FL

"ALEC's prime mission is to destroy everything decent in this country!  Fascism simply ISN'T the same thing as Democracy!  STOP supporting this evil group!!!!" --Linda Christy, OK

"Stop SCROOGLING the very hard-working Americans who pay taxes that made you a household name. We don't need ALEC trying to shove their power-hungry, money-centered, and sexist/racist/homophobic agendas onto hard-working taxpayers. And we won't need GOOGLE either if they get in bed with corrupt ALEC and its members." --Deirdre McCullough, NC

"Google is EVIL SCUM pretending to be a progressively-minded company while funding organizations that systematically destroy the rights and well-being of everyday citizens everywhere, all to increase their already bloated bottom line.  Screw you--I don't need your search, your email, your phones, or anything else you can offer.  I NEED DEMOCRACY AND A COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY." --Ellen Read, NH

Or angry and pithy:

"Dicks." --Brad Thompson, IA

Some plead with Google:

"Please, Google, do not be a part of this right wing attempt to hijack democracy in your country!" --Sharon Fummerton, BC

"With your power you could (and should) do good instead of furthering ALEC's poisonous agenda." --Barbara Coulson, NC     

Some propose a course of action:

"I will boycott any company affiliated with ALEC" --Jim Knipe, VA

"Don't make me start using Bing." --Liz Neff, CA

Some are taking action already:

"I am already using DuckDuckGo for web searches. I'm pretty sure I can find an email service other than Gmail." --Dan Starr, IL

"Just changed my search engine." --Michael Keenan, IL

"I already changed my home page to Yahoo." --Nadia Daley

"I have stopped using Google completely due to it's support of these ultra conservative and regressive groups." --Kelley Dempsey, MD

"Until Google makes it clear that it no longer supports Alec and other anti-democratic, anti labour, and environmentally destructive causes I will conduct my searches through other engines." --Glenn Ashton

Some have a more serious solution in mind:

"Google is Getting too big and powerful, break it up!" --Stephen Rawlings, FL 

"When corporations get a fairer deal than the tax paying population, something needs to CHANGE!" --Debbie Boozer, IN

Why Douche Waffles Get Elected?  | Direct TV Parody Compilation

Originally posted at AcronymTV

http://youtu.be/mr5C1vic4xY

The full campaign spoofing the Direct TV commercials, produced by Acronym TV for Move To Amend. All six spots, each about 30 seconds, are included here in this single video.

Written by Lee Camp and Dennis Trainor, Jr, and Directed by Trainor, these spots aim to hijack a popular meme to shine a seriously unserious light on the issues of corporate personhood and money as free speech.

Move to Amend is a coalition of hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests.

Tar Sands' Next Frontier: Shipments on the Great Lakes

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Great Lakes, drinking water source for over 40 million North Americans, could be the next target on tar sands marketers' bullseye according to a major new report out by the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Killing the First Amendment in Dealey Plaza: JFK Assassination 50th Anniversary and the Eyes of Texas (Pt. II)

By Lori Spencer


“This is content based denial of free speech in a public park and at a designated historic site. Dealey Plaza belongs to history and to the American people, especially on the 50th anniversary.”

              -- John Judge, executive director of the Coalition on Political Assassinations
 

Firm with History of Spill Cover-Ups Hired to Clean Up North Dakota Oil Spill

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Tesoro Logistics — the company whose pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of fracked Bakken Shale oil in rural North Dakota in September — has hired infamous contractor Witt O'Brien's to oversee its clean-up of the biggest fracked oil spill in U.S. history.

The oil was obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the Bakken Shale basin.

A Pre-Conspiracy Theory: What If Our Premature Nobel Laureate President’s Having a ’63-Style Kennedy Moment?

By Dave Lindorff


I’m going to engage here in a thought experiment which may make some readers a little queasy, but bear with me.

It’s been half a century since the wrenching experience of having a charismatic young president cut down by bullets in what most Americans apparently still believe was a dark conspiracy by elements of the US government unhappy with the direction he was taking the country in international affairs.

US Court Denies Halt on Pipeline Set to Replace Keystone XL Northern Half

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The ever-wise Yogi Berra once quipped "It's like déjà vu all over again," a truism applicable to a recent huge decision handed down by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. 

Shifting from Defense to Offense: Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and less Military Spending

By Dave Lindorff


A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.


Fracking Lobby’s Tax Forms: Big Bucks to Media, “Other ALECs,” Democratic PR Firms

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) - the public relations arm of the oil and gas fracking industry - has released its 2012 Internal Revenue Services (IRS) 990 form, and it's rich with eye-opening revelations, some of which we report here for the first time. 

Is FBI behind rash of account closings?: Islamic Name? US Banks May Not Want Your Business

By Dave Lindorff


(This article first appeared in WhoWhatWhy News)


“I regret to inform you…”

The real criminal, our government, jails the real hero: The Hero and the Villains: the Jeremy Hammond Sentence

By Alfredo Lopez


This past Friday, Internet activist Jeremy Hammond stood in a federal courtroom and told Judge Loretta A. Preska why he released a trove of emails and other information uncovering the possibly illegal and certainly immoral collaboration of a major surveillance corporation called Stratfor with our government.

'Bombs in the Basement' -- a new TCBH! poem by resident poet GARY LINDORFF

Today my toast looks like Christ, 

like planet earth, 

like Venus

like me in a dinosaur-proof suit,

bristling with spikes

that I invented when I was afraid to fall asleep. 

But I don’t have time for visions. Christ, 

WikiLeaks Leaks Controversial Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Documents

Originally posted at AcronymTV

The TPP is a Trojan horse that seeks to usher in a backroom secret sweetheart deal for the global elite, and President Barack Obama wants the deal fast-tracked through Congress. That effort was dealt a serious blow on Wednesday, when WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire Trans-Pacific Partnership Intellectual Property rights chapter. According to the WikiLeaks press release:

A ‘60-Minutes’ Scandal: Lara Logan, Hotness and Benghazi Gone Wild

By John Grant


Lara Logan is a formidable TV reporter who has covered wars and other stories at significant risk. She’s supremely confident and has a powerful journalistic institution supporting her. But as a would-be ethical journalist, she seems to rely too much on her sexual allure and to be too tight with elite elements of the US military establishment.

Public Citizen: Dents, Holes in Keystone XL Southern Half Weeks Before Planned Startup

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is supposed to begin pumping up to 700,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day through the Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX route within weeks. But is it ready to operate safely?

Public Citizen has released a chilling report revealing that the 485-mile KXL southern line is plagued by dents, faulty welding, exterior damage that was patched up poorly and misshapen bends, among other troubling anomalies.

In conducting its investigative report, "Construction Problems Raise Questions About the Integrity of the Pipeline," Public Citizen worked on the ground to examine 250 miles of the 485 mile pipeline's route. The group and its citizen sources uncovered over 125 anomalies in that half of the line alone. These findings moved Public Citizen to conclude the southern half of the pipeline shouldn't begin service until the anomalies are taken care of, and ponders if the issues can ever be resolved sufficiently.

What’s more important: Security or freedom?: The Big Question the National Security State isn’t Asking

By Dave Lindorff


So National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander, who, along with his boss, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., thinks that “if you can collect it, you should collect it,” now is asking whether it might not be such a good idea in the case of spying on the citizens of US allies like Germany, France, Spain et al.


A Modest Proposal: Let's Flip the NSA's Talents From the Dark Side to the Bright Side

By John Grant


President Obama finds himself under fire on two disparate fronts these days, both for the botched rollout of his signature health care program and for the secret spying on allied heads of state.

- Peter Baker, The New York Times
 

It’s one of those elegant solutions to a mix of problems where you wonder why no one thought of it before.

MSNBC "Leans Forward" Into Running "Native Ads" Promoting Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Three years into its "Lean Forward" re-branding campaign, MSNBC has given new meaning to the catchphrase, leaning forward into running branded content promoting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking)

Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post

Government gangsterism: NSA’s ‘MUSCULAR’ Program Secretly Invaded the Google and Yahoo Servers

By Alfredo Lopez


What a week! Shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that maybe our government had gone "too far" in its surveillance programs, the Washington Post dropped another Edward Snowden bombshell demonstrating that it is going a whole lot farther than we knew.

Revealed: Never Before Seen Photos of Tesoro Fracked Oil Spill in North Dakota, Pipeline Restarted Today

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A month after over 865,200 gallons of oil spilled from Tesoro Logistics' 6-inch pipeline near Tioga, North Dakota, the cause of the leak is still largely unknown to anyone but Tesoro. The pipeline resumed operations today.

What’s done abroad can be done at home too...: Is NSA spying really about blackmail?

By Dave Lindorff


A revealing page-one article in today’s New York Times (“Tap on Merkel Provides Peek a Vast Spy Net”) reports on how the NSA’s global spying program, dating back at least to early in the Bush/Cheney administration, was vacuuming up the phone conversations (and no doubt later the internet communications) of not just leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but opposition leader Merkel before her party took power in Germany.


Twittered Out: Washington Does Not Like Snarky

By John Grant


To: Jofi Joseph, Washington DC

Dear Mr Joseph:

I read of your firing as a national security adviser in the White House thanks to your “snarky” tweeting about various White House officials above you in the pecking order.

Shot down like a dog: Why We Should Not Forget Miriam Carey

By John Grant

 

For the past week I’ve been talking with anyone I could shoehorn about the shooting death of Miriam Carey on the streets of Washington DC. As with any homicide -- and that’s how it would be classified for the autopsy -- there are differing opinions and mitigating circumstances to consider.

For instance, the mitigating circumstance most articulated by officialdom and the media to justify the killing of Miriam Carey is that the threat of terrorism is in the forefront of the minds of police officers in the nation’s capital, where 17 days earlier a random gunman had murdered 12 people at the Navy Yard.

Acting with Impunity: The Case of General Electric

Can the world’s biggest corporations act with impunity?  When it comes to General Electric (GE) -- the eighth largest U.S. corporation, with $146.9 billion in sales and $13.6 billion in profits in 2012 -- the answer appears to be “yes.”

Let us begin with a small-scale case in upstate New York, where in late September 2013 GE announced that it would close its electrical capacitor plant in the town of Fort Edward.  Some 200 workers will lose their jobs and, thereafter, will have little opportunity to obtain comparable wages, pensions, or even employment in this economically distressed region.  Ironically, the plant has been highly profitable.  Earlier in the year, the local management threw a party to celebrate a record-breaking quarter.  But the high-level financial dealings of a vast multinational operation like GE are mysterious, and the company merely announced that the Fort Edward plant was “non-competitive.”  The United Electrical Workers (UE), the union that has represented the workers there for the past 70 years, has already begun a vigorous campaign of resistance to the plant closing, but it is sure to be an uphill battle.

If we dig deeper into the record, a broader pattern of corporate misbehavior emerges.  Indeed, the Fort Edward factory is one of two GE plants that polluted the communities at Fort Edward and nearby Hudson Falls, as well as a 197-mile stretch of the Hudson River, with 1.3 million pounds of cancer-causing PCBs for several decades.  Worried about the dangers of PCBs, workers asked managers about them, and were told that these toxins were perfectly safe -- in fact, that the workers should rub the PCBs on their heads to combat baldness!  When the extent of this environmental disaster began to be revealed in the 1970s, GE began a lengthy campaign to deny it and, later, a multimillion dollar public relations campaign to prevent remedial action by the Environmental Protection Administration.  GE lost this battle, for the EPA insisted upon the dredging of the Hudson River and ordered GE to pay for it.  Thus, the Hudson Valley became the largest Superfund cleanup site in the United States, with a project that will take decades to complete.

GE has produced other environmental disasters, as well.  Three GE nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power site in Japan melted down and exploded on March 31, 2011.  This was the world’s worst nuclear accident in three decades, and quickly spread radioactive contamination nearly 150 miles.  Indeed, the stricken reactors are still sending 300 tons a day of radioactive water flooding into the Pacific Ocean.  Dr. Helen Caldicott, who has studied nuclear power for decades, has estimated that up to 3.5 million people could eventually die from cancer thanks to the Fukushima radiation release.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when these boiling water nuclear reactors were installed, GE’s engineers and management knew that their design was flawed.  But the company kept selling them to unsuspecting utilities around the world, including many in the United States.   As a result, there are still 35 GE boiling water reactors operating in this country, most of them located near population centers east of the Mississippi River.  Currently, in fact, more than 58 million Americans live within 50 miles of a GE nuclear reactor.

Another important product produced by GE is the export of jobs.  According to an extensive New York Times report on GE in March 2011:  “Since 2002, the company has eliminated a fifth of its work force in the United States while increasing overseas employment.”  By the end of 2010, another study found, 54 percent of GE’s 287,000 employees worked abroad.  Not surprisingly, the company’s overseas operations in that year provided most of its total revenue.  Responding to GE’s claim that it had created thousands of new jobs in the United States during the Obama administration, Chris Townsend, the political action director of the UE, produced a list of 40 U.S. plants the company closed in the country during the same period.

Townsend also noted that, even when GE kept its operations going in the United States, it slashed wages, sometimes by as much as 45 percent at a time.  For example, the work of the Fort Edward plant will be moved to Clearwater, Florida, a non-union site where GE pays many workers $12 an hour and hires others through a temp agency at $8 an hour -- little more than the minimum wage.

Although technically a U.S. corporation, GE – with operations in 130 nations – apparently feels little loyalty to the United States.  Jack Welch, a former GE CEO, once remarked:  “Ideally, you’d have every plant you own on a barge to move with currencies and changes in the economy.”  According to a Bloomberg analysis, to avoid paying U.S. taxes, GE keeps more of its profits overseas than any other U.S. company -- $108 billion by the end of 2012.  Most of these profits, GE declared, would be invested in its foreign business enterprises.  Thanks to this tax dodge and others, GE reportedly paid an average annual U.S. corporate income tax rate of only 1.8 percent between 2002 and 2011.  In 2010, when GE reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, it paid no U.S. corporate income tax at all.  Instead, it claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.  This is a sweet deal for that giant corporation, for the official corporate tax rate is 35 percent.

Despite this appalling record, the U.S. government has been very generous to GE.  During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the federal government’s Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program loaned approximately $85 billion to GE Capital, the company’s huge finance arm that accounts for roughly half of GE’s profits.  GE needed the bailout because, among other reasons, GE Capital was marketing subprime mortgages, making GE the tenth-largest subprime lender in the United States.  The Federal Reserve also bought $16.1 billion worth of short-term corporate i.o.u.’s from GE in late 2008, when the public market for this kind of debt had nearly frozen, and GE became one of the largest beneficiaries of this federal program.  In yet a further indication of GE’s influence, President Obama appointed Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s CEO, as chair of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which strategizes about how to revive America’s manufacturing base.  One of Immelt’s favorite panaceas is to end taxes on the overseas profits of corporations.

Thus, it might seem that those 200 embattled workers at Fort Edward have no possibility at all of effectively challenging a corporation this wealthy and influential.  But stranger things have happened in the United States -- especially when Americans have had their fill of corporate arrogance.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.  His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, "What’s Going On at UAardvark?”

US Court: Transcanada's Keystone XL Profits More Important than Environment

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline

The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012. 

Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?

In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."

Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.

U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House

Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen. 

Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014. 

NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval

After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12. 

This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.

The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.

President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House

"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes. 

Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."

"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club

Why, I asked Hayes? 

"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."

NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines. 

Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process. 

"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes. 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so. 

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia

"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.

"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law." 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water. 

There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.

Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment. 

"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.

"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."

Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.

"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).

U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists 

Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."

While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects. 

"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman

"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."

Photo Credit: tankist276 | ShutterStock

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