Protect Offshore Drilling Regulations!

By Christina Tarr

It seems it’s not enough for the Interior Department proposing to open all coastal waters of the United States (including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but excluding Florida, apparently) to leasing for continental shelf oil and gas drilling (don’t forget to comment on that, by the way, and note that there will be public hearings on leasing for offshore drilling, including one in Sacramento on February 8). Now, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is asking to roll back offshore drilling safety regulations — the regulations that were put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This is part and parcel of  Trump’s effort to cut back on all environmental protections to increase profits for his friends in the oil and gas business. Naturally, groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association are in favor.

A few things (among others) that the proposed rules do:

  • Delete a requirement that drillers propose to use only a safe amount of pressure in new wells
  • Loosen controls on blowout preventers, which seal off wells in case of an accident, and which currently are required to have a back-up plan in case of malfunction
  • Amend a standard that currently requires that equipment demonstrate that it can withstand a surge in pressure
  • Do away with third-party certification, which requires that an independent party confirm that equipment meets standards

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which was created by the Obama Administration after the Deepwater Horizon spill, was never intended to promote oil production. It was kept separate from the leasing arm of the Interior Department to ensure that safety would not be compromised for profit. With these regulation changes, the BSEE now moves into a role as a promoter of industry, leaving no agency whose sole role is to promote safety. If we know anything about pipelines, it’s that they leak. The danger is increased exponentially when you are drilling miles offshore underwater. In essence, experts have concluded, the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill could have been prevented – and the proposed changes in regulations favor the oil industry and money over safety and the environment.

You can read a description of the proposed changes here, and you have until January 29, 11:59 PM EST to submit comments protesting the proposed rules. Submit comments here, and also read comments that have been made already.

Sample comment:

Do not weaken the current regulations on offshore drilling. The current regulations incorporate valuable lessons learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea, killing nearly a million seabirds and still causing effects in the Gulf. The proposed rules loosen controls on blowout preventers and third party certification that safety devices will work under the extreme conditions in which they are placed. The impact of another spill like the Deepwater Horizon, which the new rules practically guarantee, will far outweigh the benefits of reducing operating costs for oil companies that can well afford them.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement should be committed to the safety of offshore drilling operations, not with oil company profits. Strong regulation and an independent BSEE are needed to ensure that offshore drilling can coexist with other important uses of our coastline, including recreation, tourism, fishing and wilderness.

You can also sign up to receive more information about, or help plan, actions during the first two weeks of February to protest plans for the huge new federal offshore drilling program.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Trump’s Dangerous Census Pick

Not content with GOP efforts to suppress the votes of low-income Americans and people of color at the state level, the Trump Administration has been trying to position the 2020 US Census as yet another arena where Republicans can make some Americans count and others not — this time literally.

The administration is planning to add a question about immigration status to the upcoming Census, a move that census experts and civil rights advocates agree would likely intimidate immigrants into not responding. At the same time, they have failed to ramp up Census funding for 2020, which will disproportionately impact the counting of lower-income and minority populations, who tend to be harder to reach.

Now they want to appoint Thomas Brunell, a political scientist inexperienced in civil service or government statistics, to the position of Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. The Deputy Director position does not require confirmation by the Senate; the position of Director does, but they are leaving the Director position unfilled. Oh, and just coincidentally we’re sure, Brunell has testified in support of gerrymandered Republican districts, drawing on his contrarian body of work supporting “non-competitive” elections. He’s even authored a book called “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Leadership positions in the Census have typically been nonpartisan and given to people with relevant expertise: for example, George W. Bush’s head of the Census had extensive government and statistical experience. Beyond the apparent politicization of career civil service roles, having an inexperienced Deputy Director handling budget and operations for the 2020 Census will likely lead to more problems with the data and undercounting of targeted populations.

An accurate Census population count is important, because what’s at stake are electoral college votes, congressional representation in the House, and the distribution of hundreds of billions in federal funding for things like education and health care.

Take Action:

Call Senator Feinstein’s office to express your opposition to Brunell’s appointment. (Senator Kamala Harris has already expressed concern regarding Brunell’s appointment). If you have to leave a message, please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied.

What to say:

My name is ________________ and my ZIP Code is _________.  I’m calling to express my opposition to Thomas Brunell as Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. He has proven he is hostile to objective and fair redistricting efforts. He also doesn’t have the necessary experience for the job. We need an objective, experienced statistician and career civil servant to keep the 2020 Census on track. This appointment of a deputy instead of a director for the Census (bypassing Senate confirmation) is an attempt by the administration to skirt the “Advice and Consent” requirement of the appointments clause of the Constitution so I ask that my senator speak out against this on the floor of the Senate.

Defend Wildlife: Protect the Endangered Species Act

Center for Biological Diversity
Copyright Center for Biological Diversity

By Christina Tarr

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, currently protects more than 1,600 species and has likely saved at least 2,223 others from extinction. It has allowed the designation of millions of acres of critical habitat, and it has very strong public support. Read the Center for Biological Diversity’s description of how successful the Act has been.

Five Republican-sponsored bills that would weaken the ESA have recently passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources and are now before the House. They include:

  • H.R. 424, which would remove protections for gray wolf populations in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states;
  • H.R. 717, which allows the Departments of Interior or Commerce to prioritize consideration of petitions to list species other than in the order in which the petitions are received, and does not allow prioritization of species to be listed over species to be delisted. It also gives each department the authority to preclude listing a species if there is the likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects;  
  • H.R. 1274, which says that Interior or Commerce must use data submitted by a state, tribal, or county government in making determinations of species listed, thus forcing regulators to accept any information even if it doesn’t meet scientific standards of peer review;
  • H.R. 2603 (SAVES Act), which amends the ESA to disallow listing on nonnative species; and
  • H.R. 3131, the Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act, which amends the ESA to replace the current standard for awarding court costs, including attorney fees, in citizen suits with the federal judicial code standard for awarding costs to a prevailing party – thus making it harder for citizens to challenge illegal government actions in court.

What you can do:

Please call your Representative to say that you support the Endangered Species Act and that you oppose these five bills that would weaken it.

Hello, my name is [__________] from [______]. I urge Representative ____ to oppose five dangerous bills that attack the Endangered Species Act, peer-reviewed science, endangered species, and the right of Americans to go to court to defend them: H.R. 424, H.R. 717, H.R. 1274, H.R. 2603, and H.R. 3131.

Among other things, these bills would strip protections for imperiled wolves in Wyoming and the upper Midwest and allow for wolf hunting in those states; cripple enforcement of illegal wildlife trafficking; stymie citizens’ ability to challenge illegal government actions in court; and allow regulators to accept any information that is presented by state, local or tribal governments as science—even if it doesn’t meet scientific standards of peer review.

Learn more:

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Fight for the Clean Power Plan

By Christina Tarr

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) represents one of the strongest actions to combat global warming taken by the United States federal government. So likely you’re not surprised to hear that the Trump administration, playfellow of Big Oil, Gas, Coal, and Global Warming Deniers, wants to “suspend, revise or rescind” it. We have until January 16, 2018 to submit our comments and say “hell, no!”

What you need to know: The CPP works by reducing climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired electric power plants. CO2 is the most widespread of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. Existing coal and gas-fired power plants together emit more CO2 than any other category of emissions sources in the U.S.—roughly one-third of America’s emissions—so reducing those emissions goes a long way to reducing our total CO2 output.  The CPP effectively reduces power plant CO2 emissions in 2030 by 32% from 2005 levels.

Under the CPP, the EPA assigned each state a goal to limit emissions from existing power plants, and gave the states broad latitude to meet those goals, such as switching from coal to natural gas or building new wind or solar farms—thus encouraging innovation.

Under the CPP, $20 billion in climate-related benefits alone would occur in 2030, as well as health benefits of $14 to $34 billion. The net benefits of the CPP, including the value of total health, environmental and other economic benefits, minus the cost to comply, were estimated to range from between $26 to $45 billion in 2030.

Trump’s EPA—headed by Scott Pruitt, who says “the war on coal is over”—is now reviewing the CPP with the intent to “suspend, revise or rescind.” The Trump administration challenges both the legal basis of the CPP and its economic analysis. (Of course, the administration is also full of people who deny climate change …)

What you need to do: Comment by January 16, 2018 to urge the EPA to keep the CPP. We need to move toward the future; instead of clinging to old, dirty technologies we need to move beyond them. The jobs are in clean power. We don’t want to cede the field on newer, cleaner power industries to other countries while we grow sicker and poorer. Please make your voice heard by submitting comments to EPA, and then by sending a copy of your comments to your Representative and Senators. 

Trump’s revised proposal is here.

Submit comments to the docket here by January 16, 2018

Read more about the CPP and Trump’s assault on it, and find talking points. Read our previous article.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. 

 

 

Urge Contra Costa to Return Juvenile Justice Fees

By Judith Tannenbaum

For over two decades, when a child faced criminal charges, Contra Costa and other California counties made the family pay for the child’s incarceration. This practice came to an end statewide this past October, when Governor Brown signed SB 190 into law.

Now, Contra Costa is considering restoring these fines and fees to families, which would make it the first county in California to do so.  On a reportback to Contra Costa’s Public Protection Committee, the Probation Department identified $175,000 in fees (as opposed to fines) that were illegally collected from families between 2010 and 2017.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the details of the proposed restitution at their December 12 meeting. The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition and others call for the Board of Supervisors to return money to everyone from whom it was taken unlawfully.

Full restitution includes returning money with interest to those charged as far back as 1991 when fees were first imposed, returning fees charged for ankle monitors, and compensation for collateral damage (including impact on families’ credit ratings).

What you can do:

▪    Please call your Contra Costa County Supervisor (contact infoand say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to urge you to make Contra Costa the first county in California to agree to return the fines and fees collected unlawfully from families of juveniles facing criminal charges. I ask that you vote to approve returning money to everyone from whom it was taken improperly.

  • Speak at the December 12 Board of Supervisors meeting during public comments

At present, the item is scheduled to appear on the Supervisors’ December 12 agenda. The agenda isn’t published yet, so please check to make sure that’s the date to show up.

Judith Tannenbaum is a writer and teacher. Her books include ‘Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin’.

Graphic © Juvenile Law Center

 

Giving Thanks for Social Security and Medicare – TAKE ACTION NOW!

At Thanksgiving we remember what we’re thankful for. For many seniors among our family and friends, thankfulness includes financial security in old age through Social Security and Medicare. But Trump’s go-for-broke tax bill gives big tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country, and this will cause large budget deficits to threaten Social Security and Medicare.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that Trump’s tax cuts for the very rich would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Because of the pay-as-you-go rule, Medicare could be cut by $25 billion as soon as next year. Afterwards, our government would have to cut “mandatory spending” – which means Social Security and Medicare – because of even bigger deficits from Trump’s tax plan.

We’re thankful for the support people receive from Social Security and Medicare. But if we want to keep it we have to take action now. Please call your U.S. senators and ask them to vote NO on Trump’s go-for-broke tax plan. And please pass this message on to everyone you know, all over the country!

WHAT TO SAY:

My name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [zip code]. Trump’s tax cuts will benefit the wealthy over the middle class and they will cause big budget deficits for years. I’m afraid Social Security and Medicare benefits will be cut because our government won’t have enough money to pay for them. My family, friends, and I all benefit from the financial security that Social Security and Medicare give to seniors. Their health and financial peace of mind matter to us.  Please vote against Trump’s tax plan.

California Senators:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Contact your Senator (anywhere in the country)

More info:

 

 

 

Abuses Alleged at Richmond ICE Facility

No access to bathrooms, only to plastic bags. Hours-long lockdowns. Federal immigration detainees at the West County Detention Facility have documented these and other complaints in a September letter signed by 27 inmates to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a group that monitors jails where immigrants are detained.

Complaint filed by immigration detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff – whose office has a $6 million-a-year contract with ICE to operate the immigration detention center – is investigating the allegations of mistreatment raised by the detainees.

The allegations were publicly revealed in a San Francisco Chronicle article on November 2, and the newspaper has further investigated the story:

You can also read detainees’ demands to improve conditions at the West County Detention Facility, released by the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

The reports have raised concerns among state elected officials. Reportedly, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has scheduled a tour of the jail on November 27, and State Senator Nancy Skinner has urged California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a letter to probe conditions at the jail.

What you can do:

Please call your elected officials and say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. As the SF Chronicle has reported, immigration detainees at the ICE facility at West County Detention Center in Richmond are alleging abuse and mistreatment. Please move quickly to conduct a thorough, independent investigation to insure that their rights are upheld and that conditions do not put their health at risk.

Call State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and ask him to investigate, as Sen. Nancy Skinner has reportedly asked him to do. Public Inquiry Unit: (916) 210-6276 or (800) 952-5225

Other ways to help:

  • Nancy Burke, of Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante & Richmond, is organizing a meeting with the sheriff who runs the West County Detention Center to bring the community’s concerns to her attention. The meeting will focus on 10 points of concern about conditions at the facility. Please contact Nancy by email or phone: (510) 932-9267 if you have questions or you’re interested in attending the meeting.
  • Save the date to help support CIVIC (the group to whom the detainees sent the letter) in their work to end the isolation of West County immigration detainees. Artists for Humanity invites all to an afternoon of music, poetry, and dance, January 28, 2018, 2:30 to 5:00 PM at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. The benefit concert (asking for a sliding scale donation) will create a revolving bail fund to be used by West County detainees to reunite with their families and gain legal representation. Email for more information.

No Saturday Night Massacre 2017

Word leaking from the White House is that Trump is losing his shizzle as Special Counsel Robert Mueller & Team close in on the president and his friends & family in pursuing the Russia investigation. The October 30 bombshell unsealing of the 12 count indictments against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and an eye-popping guilty plea by Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI has ratcheted up the pressure.

Some Republicans are trying to diminish, obstruct or outright kill the investigations into Trump’s Russia ties. A resolution was introduced on November 3 to remove Mueller, and Fox News and other right wing media are pushing for firing. Meanwhile, Democrats have introduced legislation to protect Mueller or bolster the investigation, including Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) Special Counsel Integrity Act (H.R. 3771).

There’s much you can do:

  • Call your MoCs and say: My name is ___, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please do all you can to combat Republican efforts to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and to support Democratic efforts to protect it. Thank you.
  • Send an e-letter: Join the Action Network’s online letter-writing campaignRead more details and use the easy form to have letters sent to your MoCs.
  • Hit the streets if Mueller is fired!  MoveOn is calling for emergency Nobody is Above the Law rallies nationwide if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Search by zip code to find an event. At this time, local rallies set for San Francisco and Walnut Creek.

Stayed tuned for further news!

Make Peace, Not War

Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Since then, thousands of American troops have been killed and injured and hundreds of thousands of civilian lives lost in the Middle East. It took an ambush in Niger (and fumbled condolence phone call) to get Congress to schedule a hearing on the 60-words long authorization that has enabled presidents to launch more than 37 military campaigns in the past sixteen years.

But a Congressional hearing doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods; hawks want to expand the scope of the authorization and if they prevail, it’s round infinity in the dead end war on terror. We must all demand a repeal of this blank check for the President, and Congress has to do its job. Hiding behind 4-star generals was not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote that Congress had the power

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

With a dangerously out-of-touch and unstable Commander in Chief, we can not continue to be complicit when even those charged with oversight can’t keep track of where our military is deployed, let alone explain why!

For 16 YEARS our own Representative Barbara Lee has fearlessly pushed to revisit this dangerously overbroad war authorization. Let’s give her our full support and demand a full repeal.

Please call Senators Feinstein and Harris, and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell, and say:

My name is _____, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of  Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask [ ] to support a full repeal of the Authorization of Military Force passed by Congress after 9/11. The 16 year old AUMF is a blank check to wage war. Giving this President such latitude is a risk to national and global security. His disregard for our military service-members and their families (evidenced by his reaction to the ambush in Niger), civilians caught in the crossfire, and provocative statements to other foreign powers show that he is incapable of the responsibility of leading a nation at war.  Please call for repeal of 2001 AUMF.

Call to Restrict First Use of Nuclear Weapons

Seems obvious, right? With tiny tweeting hands on the trigger, the time is now to ramp up Senate support for S.200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, and H.R.669, the companion bill in the House of Representatives written by Rep Ted Lieu of California.  Both bills would ban a presidential nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. If it passes by a veto proof margin (i.e. doesn’t need POTUS signature to become law), soldiers or whoever are in command, can disobey and face no consequences, thanks to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Senator Feinstein and Representative Lee were early supporters of these bills. Please thank them and ask them to get their colleagues on board. Ask Senator Harris and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell to support the legislation as well.

Tell your MoCs:  

My name is _____, I’m with Indivisible East Bay from [zip code]. I support the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act and I want you to fight for its immediate passage. The President should not be able to launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Thank you.”

And please encourage your friends and family in other states to get their MoCs to co-sponsor and fight for S.200/H.R.669. We must all work for this legislation as though our lives depended on it – because one day soon they might!

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Are you on Twitter? Representative Ted Lieu is a master tweeter, follow and RT him: @tedlieu.