Saturday, October 31, 2015

Justice Dept. Investigation into ExxonMobil requested -- Alleging Climate Science Cover-up

Democrats Request a DOJ Investigation Into ExxonMobil, Alleging Climate Science Cover-up

By Rebecca Leber | New Republic | October 16, 2015

California Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested a Department of Justice investigation into ExxonMobil on Wednesday, writing that the company's behavior "is similar to cigarette companies that repeatedly denied harm from tobacco and spread uncertainty and misleading information to the public." There have always been pronounced parallels between the tobacco and oil industry—both working to undermine regulatory action that could hamper profit—but a federal investigation may mean they share the same fate, as well.

In 1999, the DOJ investigated and eventually sued big tobacco for spreading misleading evidence about the connection between cigarettes and cancer. The companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and faced repercussions for lying to the public about science. Now, Congressmen Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California say it could be Exxon's turn.

"We ask that the DOJ similarly investigate ExxonMobil for organizing a sustained deception campaign disputing climate science and failing to disclose truthful information to investors and the public," they wrote, according to a letter provided to the New Republic. "We request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil violated RICO, consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection, or other laws.

“The apparent tactics employed by Exxon are reminiscent of the actions employed by big tobacco companies to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco,” the letter says.

Two investigations undertaken by Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News show that Exxon scientists accepted the role fossil fuels play in driving global warming in the 1970s and 80s, and briefed corporate executives on the need for “major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.” In the years that followed, executives spearheaded efforts to cast doubt on the science community’s findings to halt action on climate change. Exxon financed the Global Climate Coalition, which worked against climate action in the 1990s before disbanding in 2002. Eight years ago, the company also promised to stop funding climate deniers, yet continues to contribute today to prominent skeptics, including Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe.

And this attitude appears to have seeped into the DNA of Exxon itself. Just this spring, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson questioned climate change: “What if everything we do, it turns out our models are lousy, and we don’t get the effects we predict?” Tillerson said. “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity, and those solutions will present themselves as those challenges become clear.” While other major oil companies have endorsed a global climate deal in Paris at the end of the year to tackle emissions, Exxon has opted out of pushing for climate action.

Activists, including Bill McKibben of and R.L. Miller of the Climate Hawks Vote PAC, have been pushing for a more formal investigation and prosecution of Exxon.  "In the 28 years I’ve been following the story of global warming, this is the single most outrageous set of new revelations that journalists have uncovered," he posted to Tumblr. On Thursday, McKibben was arrested for protesting at an Exxon station in Burlington, Vermont.

For years, activists and scientists have charged Exxon with taking the world down an irresponsible path, rejecting climate science in favor of increased fossil fuel consumption and profits. Lieu and DeSaulnier believe it's illegal, too.

This article originally appeared in the New Republic.

The Department of Justice Must Investigate ExxonMobil
You can join the call to action by signing a petition to the DOJ here.
350.0rg | Oct. 30, 2015

Leaders of many of the country’s largest environmental groups, civil rights organizations, and indigenous peoples movements issued a joint letter today calling on the Department of Justice to investigate ExxonMobil, after revelations that the company knew about climate change as early as the 1970s, but chose to mislead the public about the crisis in order to maximize their profits from fossil fuels.

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories are here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gerry Rising: How I Lost My Column at the Buffalo News

On October 4 my final Sunday Buffalo News column was published. The column, my 1,280th over a period of 25 years, was critical of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). On October 8 I was informed that the entire science page of the Sunday News would no longer appear so, according to my editor, “I do [sic] no longer have a place to run your column.”

On October 15 a rebuttal to my column from HSUS representative Brian Shapiro appeared in the News’s ”Another Voice” column. I find this coincidence interesting, because, as I pointed out in my original column, HSUS has a history of intimidation.

As is typical of the News, no fact-checking was done for Shapiro’s article, nor indeed was any ever done for my own columns. This throw-it-out-there-and-see-if-it-sticks approach to journalism is, of course, not specific to the News; it is standard for all of today’s media. In this case, however, it apparently contributed to the further dumbing down of this region’s major newspaper through the termination of its one page per week regularly devoted to science.

In response to Shapiro’s misleading screed I first remind you what I said in my original column. It began:
    An attractive dog or cat peers out at you from your television screen, its pleading eyes sending the clear message: “Why am I abandoned?” Your heart goes out to that animal as the message comes on screen: “Donate $19.00 per month to the Humane Society of the United States.” (And get a “Humane Hero” T-shirt.)

    Many do just that. HSUS’s 2013 income fell just short of $133 million. But what fraction of that amount goes to care for those pleading pets? In one recent year it was less than one percent.

Then I went on to detail some other facts about HSUS: Against that one percent for those animals in their ads, it spends 35 percent on salaries and 39 percent on fundraising. I also told the story of HSUS intimidation of its former employee Didi Culp, who was operating an animal shelter that HSUS considered competition. More significant, I wrote:
    The other legal problem was as large as this one was small. HSUS recently settled with a Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus representative for $15.75 million to avoid a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charge for bribing a witness. The society has claimed that this was forced on them by an organization they absorbed. I interpret that differently. I suspect that HSUS saw dollar signs in the circus suit when they took on their new partner and, having failed to do due diligence, were blindsided by this behavior. Who pays for those kinds of error? Those $19 per month contributions and certainly not contributions by HSUS administrators.

I indicated too my abhorrence for many HSUS policies and my agreement with Dr. Ron DeHaven, president of a veterinary organization HSUS attacked, who said, “They represent every kneejerk response based solely on emotion.” As a result of all this, I recommended that donors support local animal shelters and rehabilitators rather than HSUS.

Now consider Shapiro’s response. He begins with the claim that my column “got a lot wrong about the organization.” But what follows rebuts none of my charges: not a word about the one percent, nothing about the circus fiasco, no response to the intimidation example. Instead he makes a series of grandiose claims for HSUS. Consider two.

First he claims that those TV ad animals “were directly aided by our rescue teams, veterinary services and other programs focused on pets.” But HSUS has no rescue teams, no veterinary services, and no other in-house programs focused on pets. Instead they have a modern five-story building in Washington housing lobbyists and PR people like Shapiro. HSUS even admits on some of its ads that they don’t help those particular animals.

What HSUS does have are several “affiliated groups” that include some animal shelters. Why are those groups affiliated? Because they give HSUS a way of claiming those services.

More important, they are made part of HSUS annual reports, disguising the amounts the main organization devotes to its activities. This leads some accrediting agencies that fail to check closely to give them high marks; others see through this ruse. I spent hours studying HSUS income tax returns and other evidence and my figures stand. You too can check those returns, for they are on the web. For still more information, visit the Humane Watch and National Animal Interest Alliance websites.

So much for Shapiro’s snide demand that “Rising and others will do more research rather than simply parrot false claims about our work.” Shapiro’s idea of research is going to the HSUS website and accepting its deceptive and self-serving misinformation.

I thank The Public for providing this opportunity to respond to Shapiro’s attack on my integrity and to the Buffalo News’s reaction.

Gerry Rising is a retired University at Buffalo professor who continues to write math and natural history books.

This article originally appeared in The Public  
Photo by Jay Burney

Editor's Note: Gerry Rising's 'Nature Watch' column will be sorely missed. All are welcome to attend a community event on November 19 at 6PM to celebrate Gerry Rising's quarter century of contributions to the Science page of The Buffalo News. For details, click here.

Panel to Discuss Climate Justice at Working Families Party Meeting

Working Families Party Chapter Meeting

Wednesday, November 4th   6:00 PM
UAW Region 9
35 George Karl Blvd. (Wehrle near Transit)
Williamsville, NY

Food will be served


Paul Schuh, UAW Region 9/NYS WFP co-chair
Debora Hayes, Director, CWA District 1

Nurse staffing campaign; NYS geo-thermal bill; marijuana legalization; local election outcomes

Panel Discussion
David Kowalski:  “The Climate Crisis:  Global Warming”
Lynda Schneekloth:  “The Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign”
Bill Nowak/Roger Cook:  “NYS Campaign for Climate Justice Legislation”

Please Attend and Invite Friends!!

TALK: 'Truth to Power' -- November 2nd

Visiting Author to address Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation

Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 6 pm

Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium, Burchfield Penney Art Center

6:00 pm Reception  - 7:00 pm Presentation  - This event is free and open to the public.

Dr. Robin W. Kimmerer, mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. Her programs introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge. Dr. Kimmerer is the author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants.” As a writer and a scientist, she is interested in the restoration of our relationships to land.

Funding for this event was provided by the Western New York Land Conservancy, Niagara Frontier Botanical Society, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Buffalo Audubon Society, and Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York.

For more information at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, click here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Call on Obama for Bold Action at UN Climate Talks in Paris


A diverse group of people in Western New York are involved in a campaign for climate action and justice. Recently, over 300 citizens rallied in support of the campaign in Buffalo.

Now, we want to draw attention to President Obama who will play a major role in the outcome of the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris. 

With your help, we want to send out huge numbers of a message using social media. In the message, we call on President Obama for bold cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at the UN Paris Talks to protect people and the planet.

You can view our message in context by clicking on this link To support the message, simply click the Facebook or Twitter button and agree to support. 

That's it. Done. Easy!

With your support, our message will be greatly amplified. Also, the message from every supporter will be released at the same time through the Thunderclap website, creating a virtual 'thunderclap' on social media.

The release is scheduled for 1:00 pm on Friday, October 23, the day before United Nations Day. Check for the 'thunderclap' on Facebook or Twitter after 1:00 pm on Friday.

Please help us do this. Thanks!

The Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Film: 'MERCHANTS of DOUBT' - Free Screening in Williamsville, October 25th

How a handful of so-called 'experts' obscured the truth on vital issues from 
tobacco smoke to global warming ...


A 'Must See' Documentary Film

 Free and Open to the Public

WHEN: Sunday, October 25 at 3:00pm

WHERE: North Presbyterian Church, 300 N. Forest, Williamsville [Map]

View the Film Trailer:

Panel Discussion: How is Buffalo Niagara really doing?

Buffalo Niagara: How Are We Really Doing?
A panel of local experts will answer this question. The panel will be hosted by Larry Brooks, author of the new book Buffalo Niagara: Diagnosis and Prescription for Change.

The panel includes:
  • Philip Haberstro, Executive Director, Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo & WNY
  • Jay Burney, Founder and Chair, Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve
  • Sam Magavern, Co-director, Partnership for the Public Good
  • Marlies Wesolowski, Executive director, Lt. Col Matt Urban Human Services Center

Friday, October 9, 2015

Film: THE WISDOM TO SURVIVE - Climate Change, Capitalism & Community

Join Us for the Buffalo Premier of the Film

Hosted by the Buffalo Zen Dharma Community

in support of the

Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign

MAP to the Event Site: Click Here

View the Film Trailer: 

FORUM: Love Canal and Beyond - Environmental Justice in Niagara Falls

WHAT: Panel discussion for the community and campus at Niagara University

WHEN: Thursday, October 15, 6:00pm-8:00pm

WHERE: Gallagher Center (lower level), Niagara University [Campus Map] [Road Map]

WHY: The purpose of this forum is to consider the legacies of environmental injustice in Niagara Falls and to determine strategies for empowering the community. 

Panelists will reflect on how Niagara Falls residents were able to organize to respond to the toxic threats of the Love Canal community in the 1970s and 1980s, how hazardous conditions continue to threaten our local citizens, and how the lessons and strategies of Love Canal can be applied to today’s environmental dangers.  

  • Stephen Lester, Center for Health and Environmental Justice
  • Luella Kenny, Former Love Canal Resident
  • Rebecca Newberry, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition
  • Mayor Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls (Invited)
The event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend—please share with others who might be interested!

The event is sponsored by the Niagara University Political Science Department and the Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement at Niagara.

For additional information, please contact Dave Reilly at or by phone at (716) 286-8088.