Alert 649: In Washington, DC, signs of change. In Delaware….every backbone counts

Green Delaware Alert 649
(please post/forward)
(note:  Some versions of this Alert were incorrectly numbered 648)

Fossil Fools Day
Obama and the auto industry
Opportunity knocks, but can the environmental movement step up to the plate?
In Delaware, “The more things change, the more they stay the same….”
In a small place, every backbone counts ….

Today, April 1, 2009, is Fossil Fools Day ( http://www.fossilfoolsdayofaction.org/2009/category/frontpage/).

US Auto Industry and Obama

Yesterday I listened to President Obama’s speech about the auto industry.  After so many years of hearing Bush seemingly trying to do as much damage to us as possible, what a relief to hear a president making sense!  Obama essentially said the industry, focusing on GM and Chrysler, has to get more serious about cleaning up its act or face bankruptcy.  He’s right, of course.  Here’s a Reuters story:  “Obama’s tough auto stance may include bankruptcy,” http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE52S1VV20090330 .

Not stated was the underlying reality that the technical and management skills of the US auto companies have greatly deteriorated compared to the foreign competition, particularly the Asian competition.  Vehicles sold to US residents–can’t say “cars” because so many of they are trucks/SUVs–are relatively crude, as well as low-mileage, compared to what the rest of the world is buying.  For decades, “Detroit” maintained the art of manipulating US politics and manipulating our buying habits, but didn’t maintain technical leadership and showed less-than-zero social responsibility.  This isn’t something that can turn around easily, if at all.  But at least the present crisis has put a long-delayed focus on reality.

Environmental turnaround in DC….?

Signs of change in the White House, in the Congress, and at the EPA, are clear.  Actions are turning towards better protection of the environment.  Gradually, the screws will be tightened on power plant emissions.  Wilderness areas and national parks will fare better, although there will controversies over their use for transmission corridors and other energy infrastructure.  EPA may finally act on cooling towers, on coal ash disposal, on raw sewage dumping (as by the City of Wilmington), on climate change, on recycling, on “mountain top removal,” and many other pressing but long-neglected matters.

Things were so bad under Bush that they can hardly avoid getting better.  The real question is:  how much better?  Environmental and energy policies in the US never really recovered from the damage done by President Reagan.  A lot will depend on how effectively the pressure is kept on.

Many other actions are beyond the power of EPA and depend on action by the Congress.

Opportunity knocks, but can the environmental movement step up to the plate?

Climate activist Ted Glick ( http://www.tedglick.com/) writes about a fundamental problem:

“Groups are moderating their tactics and their demands, scaling them back to gain access to high-level White House and Congressional leaders, who themselves are being impacted by Republican intransigence and fossil fuel supporting Democrats. It’s an old, familiar story which has played out innumerable times on other issues in the past. And it’s a very big problem for the low-income people of the world, most of them people of color, who are most vulnerable to the more destructive storms, floods, droughts, wildfires, famines and sea level rise that we’re already seeing as the atmosphere heats up.”

Mark Downie, in Losing Ground–American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (1995), writes:

“During … [the Reagan-Bush years], when environmental conditions and political sildenafil circumstances called for tougher, more confrontational tactics, most of the mainstream organizations lost the momentum they had developed in previous decades.  In a desperate drive to wind respectability and access in Washington, mainstream leaders politically pursued a course of accommodation and capitulation with elected officials, regulators, and polluters.  Compromise, which had produced some limited gains for the movement in the 1970s, in the 1980s became the habitual response of the environmental establishment.  It is still applied almost reflexively, even in the fact of irreversible degradations.  These compromises have pushed a once-effective movement to the brink of irrelevance. (page 6)

Downie writes about how Earth Day was early on taken over by the likes of British Petroleum, Monsanto, DuPont, and Peabody Coal.

And:

“When government and the environmental movement both play mediatory roles and compromise on environment issues, it is left to “radicals” to create the extreme position to counter the mega-technological [corporate] position, be it preservation of pristine wilderness or a toxic-free world.  Between two such extremes some degree of environmental protection can, hopefully, be brokered through compromise.  But when radicals are excluded from the process, as they are by both government and mainstream environmentalists, there is no extreme against with to negotiate.  Government, polluters, and environmentalists are then negotiating in relative harmony.  The result is scant progress. … compromise will only gain results if one party is willing to do something more drastic than cut a deal.  Unless some enviros as the table are prepared to walk out, sit in at a government office, picket a polluting factory, boycott a product until it hurts, … attempts to compromise will lead inevitably to failure” (page 77)

And:

“When it comes to lobbying Congress, it [the environmental movement] has remained a mosquito on the hindquarters of the industrial elephant.”

And he points out that–then, but its probably the same now–that “… the 25 largest organizations … [continue] … to receive about 70 percent of the total [funding].  The 10,000 smallest organizations will compete for the scraps, as they have for the last 25 years. … only a major shift in … distribution will enable grassroots and fourth-wave organizations to receive adequate funding.

In Delaware …..

Responding to a lot of questions about Governor Markell’s nominee for Secretary of the DNREC (Alert 646: Gov. Jack Markell nominates CA economic development staffer):

We haven’t met Mr. O’Mara and he didn’t return our calls.  I understand a selected group of “environmental advocates,” chosen by policy advisor Stephanie McClelland, did meet with him.  McClelland didn’t return a call, and none of the “advocates” gave us any heads-up.

How normal this is….  During Minner’s time as Governor, policy advisor Lee Ann Walling (now a DNREC official) used to meet regularly with selected Delaware enviros to help them feel important and give them their marching orders.  None ever told Green Delaware anything, with one exception:  David Keifer, a retired bureaucrat connected to the Sierra Club, called one day–I feel able to write this now because Dave is unfortunately deceased–to say he’d been at such a meeting and the main agenda item had been now to neutralize Alan Muller (Green Delaware) and Jeff Montgomery (Wilmington News Journal environmental reporter).  I’d daresay this agenda was acceptable enough to the brownnosers making up Delaware’s industry-approved “environmental community.”

A Delawarean with a backbone

One person in Delaware who is getting somewhere by having a backbone is Dee Whilden of Claymont, leading a fight against bad-actor Evraz Claymont Steel.  Claymont Steel is dosing the community with toxic dust.  DNREC’s Air Quality Management folks admit the dust is coming from the steel plant but say they aren’t convinced it is a health hazard and don’t seem to be able to get the company to clean up.  Whilden and her team have gotten DNREC (another part of DNREC) and Claymont Steel to fund independent monitoring and testing in the area by Global Community Monitor ( http://www.gcmonitor.org/).  Here’s a News Journal article:  http://www.gcmonitor.org/article.php?id=861 .

In a recent email, Whilden said:

“How can we expect to get anywhere when these jerks imply that they are pacifying us?
Rob walked out on the EVRAZ meeting and is furious about the letter he received from Small, so blatant!!  How can they lie to this extent without something being done?
Dee”

Courts and judges

Update our Jan alert,

Green Delaware Alert 638: Governor Jack Markell needs to reform Delaware’s judicial selection process .

A key point of this was the presence of anti-environment, anti-public-participation lawyer Mike Parkowski as chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission.

On Thursday, March 26, Markell issued an Executive Order ( http://governor.delaware.gov/orders/exec_order_4.shtml) continuing the Commission essentially as it was, giving the Delaware State Bar Association a large role in selecting judges and the public little if any role.  The actual names aren’t in the Order but appear in a press release from Markell’s office ( http://governor.delaware.gov/news/2009/20090326-judicialcommission.shtml ):

F. Michael Parkowski, Esq. of Dover – Chairperson
Stuart M. Grant, Esq. of Wilmington – Vice-Chairperson
Drewry N. Fennell, Esq. of Wilmington
Teresa J. Ford of Lewes
Scott A. Green, Esq., of Rehoboth Beach
Michael F. Kelly, Esq. of Wilmington
Ileana M. Smith, Ph.D. of Seafo
Jocelyn Stewart of Montchanin
The Honorable E. Norman Veasey of Wilmington
Gregory B. Williams, Esq. of New Castle
The Honorable S.B. Woo of Newark

Two names that stand out are Drew Fennell, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (Delaware) and Norm Veasey, former Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, who created a scheme for the funding of Delaware Courts directly with money from corporations involved in a lot of litigation.  See GreenDel Alert #120: Corporations to fund Delaware Courts? Supreme Court task force to meet over lunch in elite Wilmington Club .

Markell then announced his first judicial appointments, both to the Court of Common Pleas ( http://governor.delaware.gov/news/2009/20090327-commonpleas.shtml) :  Andrea Rocanelli, head of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (responsible for what passes for regulation of Delaware lawyers) , and Anne Hartnett Reigle, who “practices at the firm of Parkowski, Guerke & Swayze.”

A long-time Delaware lawyer commented:  “Nominating a member of your own firm is surely a conflict and just puts more power in Parkowski’s hands.”

Money.  What Truthout (truthout.org) says below applies exactly to Green Delaware:

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