To: Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list
September 3, 2015
RE: Against nuclear waste, Arctic drilling, and tar sands oil

Environmental Protests

by Pete Brown, Detroit Workers' Voice

Every day there are protests against attacks on the environment. Be it Fukushima or Deep Water Horizon or the latest frack well, ordinary people are constantly taking up struggle against assaults on the environment. Some of the most recent protests:

against nuclear waste

On Sunday, August 16th, 200 people demonstrated in Port Huron against plans to build a new nuclear waste dump near there. Ontario Power Generation, the electric company on the Canadian side of the border, plans to bury seven million tons of radioactive waste just a half mile from Lake Huron. Protesters wore anti-nuke T-shirts, carried signs saying "Dump the Dump", and gathered signatures on a petition to the Canadian Minister of Environment.

The nuclear waste comes from OPG’s power plant at Kincardine, Ontario. OPG argues the waste would be stored thousands of feet down, below groundwater, and would be sealed in rocky leakproof caverns. But commonsense tells us everything leaks eventually; that’s what keeps city water workers busy.  And with fracking and its earthquakes becoming more common, who is to say the earth won’t move and open cracks in this allegedly leakproof cavern? The waste will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years, when OPG is long gone but there are still (hopefully) people living around the Great Lakes. OPG is giving empty promises, and they know it, when they assure people the waste will be completely safe forever.

Another problem is transporting the waste to the dump site. Traveling by rail, there is always the chance of a major accident which would spread radioactivity around western Ontario and the Lake Huron watershed.

The waste is presently stored above ground at the Kincardine plant, and it’s true that it’s not completely safe there either. The Fukushima disaster made this abundantly clear. The Kincardine plant is right on the shore of Lake Huron, so a disaster at that plant would ruin the Great Lakes. But is the solution then to bury its waste underground near the Great Lakes? There doesn’t seem to be any good solution to the problem of nuclear waste, which is one of the major arguments against nuclear power. As one of the protesters said, “If we just stopped using nuclear materials, then we wouldn’t have to find some place to put it when done.”

President Obama and other establishment politicians are trying to find a way to bring back nuclear power, to make it acceptable to a wider public again after numerous disasters. But this demonstration, and previous ones at the Monroe power plant by Michigan and Ohio activists, as well as the ongoing demonstrations in Japan concerning Fukushima, show they have a long way to go.

against drilling the Arctic

On August 31st some 50-60 people in Seattle marched in solidarity with the larger protests in Anchorage, Alaska protesting President Obama’s visit there. Activists demanded urgent action on climate change and attacked President Obama’s hypocrisy on environmental issues. Most of the activists were from the Shell No! Action Council and other environmental organizations. Activists denounced Obama and his Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell (who is from Seattle), for approving Shell Oil’s plan to drill for oil in the Arctic.

President Obama made headlines during his visit to Alaska by speaking against climate deniers who try to stop any action on climate change by arguing the science isn’t definite yet. Obama rightly denounced them but did so in an apolitical way, calling them stupid and backward.  This covers over the real political connections of the climate deniers and the reason they persist in stupid campaigns. In fact the climate deniers are well funded by conservative think tanks like the Heartland Institute, the Ripon Society, and the Institute for Energy Research, which are themselves funded by the Koch brothers and corporations that get rich off of carbon-intensive energy. Alpha Natural Resources, for instance, a coal company, recently went bankrupt, and its financial records show big-money contributions to climate denier groups and shady think tanks that prop up the conservative Republican Party. Alpha is the company that took over Massey Energy after 29 miners were killed in a Massey mine, and Massey had to get out from under lawsuits.

The climate deniers are stupid like a fox. They know where their profits are coming from, and they don’t care if it ruins the environment. President Obama certainly knows this, so why doesn’t he say so? Because he and his party, the Democrats, are also well financed by the rich carbon-hungry energy corporations and their top executives and shareholders. This is proved by the Obama administration giving the green light to Shell Oil to drill for oil in the Arctic.

Activists are correct to denounce Obama’s hypocrisy, but when hypocrisy goes on for years, on many issues, it ceases to be a personal failing and becomes government policy. Actions speak louder than words, and the Obama administration’s actions are in support of the “stupid” energy billionaires.

against tar sands oil

On August 25th some 100 young activists, most of them from Midwest Unrest, occupied the sidewalk in front of John Kerry’s home in Georgetown (in Washington, D.C.) protesting the State Dept.’s approval of an increase in tar sands oil going through the Alberta Clipper pipeline. The activists swarmed over Kerry’s front stoop and sidewalk holding signs denouncing Kerry’s shady deal for more tar sands oil. They linked arms, sang songs and held a large sign saying “Kerry: Stop Enbridge’s Illegal Tar Sands Scheme.” The activists included representatives from a number of Native American tribes and different Native organizations. The Obama administration and its State Dept. have turned a deaf ear to the tribes’ complaints about the tar sands project, and finally, after Kerry approved the deal, they traveled to Washington to bring the protest to Kerry’s front door.

The Alberta Clipper pipeline, owned by Enbridge Oil, brings tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It currently sends 440,000 barrels of oil per day through; under the new plan pressure on the pipeline will be increased so it can send almost double that amount. The proposed increase equals the entire output of the proposed Keystone XL project, which is currently under environmental review. But the Alberta Clipper will be doing it without any environmental review; all it needed was Kerry’s signature. This is clearly an attempt by the Obama administration to circumvent the controversy surrounding Keystone and bring in more tar sands oil through a backroom deal.

Tar sands oil is much heavier than regular oil, so increasing the pressure on an old pipeline could well spell disaster, especially in the hands of Enbridge Oil which is notorious for oil spills like the 2010 spill near Kalamazoo that polluted the river there. The young activists showed initiative in finding a new way to bring the issue directly to Kerry’s doorstep.

Activists in Port Huron, Anchorage, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. are on the move exposing different assaults on the environment. They should also expose the corporate connections behind these assaults and their ties to the two major political parties, Republican and Democrat. Obama and his cabinet members will never do that, no matter how many nice-sounding speeches they give. What’s needed is a real trend of conscious struggle against the polluters. <>

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Posted on September 5 , 2015