Hold Exxon accountable for climate change coverup

Dear Friends,

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Photo by Troy Church, May 18, 2015

A year ago today, I was arrested by my friends with the Iowa State Patrol because Governor Branstad refused to hear the stories of landowners I’d met during my 400-mile walk along the Bakken Pipeline route. Thanks to a coalition of landowners, farmers, tribes, property-rights advocates and environmentalists, this fight is still on. For a handcuffed-stroll down memory lane, from my visit to the Governor’s office to the Polk County Courthouse, click here, here, here and here.

In other news, Bold Iowa has joined the national mobilization to hold Exxon accountable. Click here for the op ed I wrote as it appears in today’s Des Moines Register, or continue reading . . .

Democrat or Republican. Cubs or Cardinals. Tea or coffee. Regardless of where you come down on life’s biggest decisions, here’s a simple concept we all should be able to get behind:

When people behave badly, they need to be held accountable.

Since corporations are people, as we learned from Mitt Romney a few years ago, corporations who behave badly likewise need to be held accountable.

Alas, by now I should know better. Yet, it still surprises me when tough-love politicians — i.e., those who favor corporal punishment, the death penalty, drug testing of welfare recipients, etc. — want to let corporate offenders off the hook with a slap on the wrist, or more commonly, a slightly-smaller tax handout.

Exxon-Bold graphicAmong corporate bad-boys, Exxon Mobil, America’s largest oil company, recently moved to the top of the list, ahead even of Big Tobacco, Big Bank and the NFL.

How badly has Exxon behaved? Well, if you thought Big Tobacco was deceitful for lying about its product while destroying enough lungs to kill 100 million people in the 20th century alone, that pales alongside Exxon’s assault on every lung on the planet.

Last fall, a brilliant piece of investigative journalism conducted by InsideClimate News revealed shocking truths about what Exxon knew about “the emerging science of climate change. The story spans four decades, and is based on primary sources including internal company files dating back to the late 1970s, interviews with former company employees, and other evidence…”

Forty years ago, Americans were mostly one big, happy family of climate deniers. Who could fault us? With little information available to the average person, climate change appeared to be but a muddled theory, potentially no more valid than spontaneous generation or canals on Mars.

But back then, there were those who knew exactly what was happening, including the top brass at Exxon. Like Big Tobacco, instead of dealing responsibly with the findings of its own scientists and researchers, Exxon worked “at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day,” the report found.

Americans should be outraged. And the investigation launched by InsideClimate News last year should be just the beginning.

And it is just the beginning. Attorneys general across the nation are conducting their own state-by-state investigations. To his credit, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has expressed interest as well. Hundreds of Iowans have signed petitions encouraging Miller to investigate Exxon with the same tenacity he brought to bear with the tobacco lawsuit several years ago.

(On May 25 at 11 a.m., a coalition of Iowa organizations plans to present Miller with petitions calling for such an investigation. Details here. Please join us!)

Of course, not all Iowans agree. Just as Big Tobacco had its friends, so does Exxon.

Enter Iowa Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison. In his recent guest column, Holt defends Exxon, arguing against “using the legal system to silence businesses that do not subscribe to government’s conclusions on climate change.”

Silencing Exxon? Hardly. We want them to speak loudly — and truthfully — about everything they knew about climate change, and when they knew it. And we want them to speak before a court of law, if it comes to that.

These state-by-state investigations are not about suppressing dissent. From the perspective of an attorney general, charged with being the chief legal advocate of the public good, an investigation of this nature is about consumer protection, about holding accountable businesses that mislead the public.

Over the years, Iowa Attorney Tom Miller has done an admirable job in that role. Here’s hoping he’ll rise to the challenge again when it comes to Exxon.


Listen to the Fallon Forum:
– Live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines, IA)
– Outside of central Iowa, listen live here: FALLON FORUM LIVE-STREAM
– KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA)
– KICI.LP 105.3 FM (Iowa City, IA)
– WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Cars Matter More Than Kids

Dear Friends,

My birthday is next week, and in the great tradition of Hobbits – who instead of receiving gifts on their birthdays give them – I’m offering four of you a $50 gift card to either Gateway Market and Cafe, Ritual Cafe, HoQ Restaurant or Cinco de Mayo Restaurant. Just leave a comment on my website – HERE (scroll down to the end of the post) — and tell me what you think of my take on Des Moines’ “Cars Matter More Than Kids” day-care policy. I’ll randomly pick four names out of a hat. You can tell me how wrong I am and still win a gift card. Is this a great country, or what?

“So, cars matter more than kids,” you ask? Yes, I’m afraid so. Like soylent green, governments are made of people. And people not only taste bad, they make mistakes.

Like West Des Moines banning air B & B.

Like Aurelia vanquishing a Vietnam Vet’s service dog.

Like Ankeny outlawing chickens. (Note: Ankeny reports an average of 35-45 dog bites per year, yet zero chicken bites.)

This year’s Local Government Run Amuck Award (yes, the year is young, so this could change) goes to the City of Des Moines for limiting in-home day-care providers to six children. Why? Because one south-side curmudgeon complained about parking.

And the city has taken the curmudgeon’s side, possibly because he votes and kids don’t. One city official quoted in The Des Moines Register story claimed the restriction was needed to prevent “unintended consequences for neighbors, like too much parking, too many people on the streets, overcrowding.”

Seriously?? So, are these toddlers driving themselves to day care and hogging all the on-street parking? Or is even the act of dropping off and picking up one’s child deemed to be “too much parking?”

And since when is “people on the streets” a bad thing? A vibrant neighborhood has people on the streets. A dead, dying or decayed neighborhood has empty streets — streets that are less safe, I might add.

And “overcrowding?” In Des Moines? Give me a break . . . although this is likely to change when climate change forces refugees from submerged coastal communities to flee to the American Heartland.

This is a serious problem, folks. If the City Council refuses to budge, the number of in-home child-care slots in Des Moines would drop by around 2,000. That affects not only those kids and their families, but the employers those parents work for, too. It also affects in-home day-care providers like Tonja Boggs (featured in The Register story), whose income would be cut in half.

Finally, if none of that matters to City officials, they should care because this makes Des Moines look dumb and backward. How does the City expect that fancy new hotel it subsidized to achieve optimal occupancy rates if prospective visitors say, “Wow! Why hold our HUGE convention where they value cars more than kids when we can go to Minneapolis – America’s most bike-friendly city?”

Bike-friendly. Kid-friendly. Progressive. High quality of life. These things kinda go together. I thought the City of Des Moines would have figured it out by now.


Check out podcasts from this week’s Fallon Forum:
– Rampage in Kalamazoo
– Cars Matter More Than Kids|
– Chet Culver on Medicaid
– The Kinder-Morgan Pipeline, with Hattie Nestel
– Restaurant Renaissance, with Paul Rottenberg

Listen to the Fallon Forum live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CST on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. The number to call is (515) 528-8122. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans). Check-out podcasts here.

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Catholic Church speaks out on climate

Dear Friends,

I am honored to have Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese on today’s Fallon Forum at 11:00 a.m. You can tune-in to the conversation live on KDLF 1260 AM La Reina or online. A podcast will be available after the program.

Responding to Pope Francis’ encyclical addressing climate change, Bishop Pates wrote “An honest conversation acknowledges that humans are causing much of the recent climate change . . . The dialogue we need is not about whether to act on clime change but how to act.” (The Des Moines Register, July 2, 2015)

Bishop Pates goes on to challenge us to action, saying, “With presidential candidates already visiting us regularly, I encourage Catholics across our state, and all people of good will, to talk to them and ask not if, but how, they plan to work toward solutions to climate change.”

Already, 2015 has been a big year for climate action, with two major events still on the horizon:

* Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. this month, including a first-ever address by a pontiff to a joint session of Congress.

* The United Nations Climate Summit in Paris, November 30 – December 11, where expectations are high that a serious climate agreement might at last be attained.

I am grateful for Bishop Pate’s clarion call to faith-based action on behalf of creation and our planet. And I am grateful to all who are engaged in principled acts of conscience leading up to these two landmark moments in the face of escalating climate disasters. There are so many encouraging citizen-based actions in progress right now, it’s impossible to note them all. But let me mention three:

1. The Climate Mobilization, a promising new initiative challenging presidential candidates, other elected leaders, and all of us to confront climate change honestly and commit ourselves to “a World War II-scale emergency climate mobilization to protect civilization from the climate crisis.” If you haven’t yet signed the Pledge to Mobilize, please do.

2. Activists, including some of last year’s participants in the Great March for Climate Action, are fasting for eighteen days in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) building in Washington, DC. In advance of the Pope’s visit, they hope to call on FERC to stop issuing permits for fracking.

3. The People’s Pilgrimage chronicles an informal network of concerned people heading to Paris for the U.N. Climate Summit, or those who plan to be there in spirit. The initiative’s website says, “You can cross a continent, or only walk a mile. It’s up to you. You can do it any way you like – walk, cycle or some other low or zero fossil fuel means. What matters is the spiritual journey and that you use the journey to reflect on the risks of climate change.”

Join us live every Monday from 11:00-12:00 noon CDT on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Wednesday on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 p.m. Podcasts available, too.

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Could cheap gas kill the pipeline?

Dear Friends,

Dr. Charles Goldman makes his inaugural appearance on KDLF 1260 AM this week. I always enjoy co-hosting with Charles – especially when he’s wrong, i.e., when we disagree, as we do on at least one of this week’s topics.

Here’s the line-up:

Continue Reading →

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Walking the (pipe)line

Dear Friends,

I have one request of you this week: Please forward this message to at least one media contact and your personal and/or professional network. Help get the word out now, so that when this walk begins in March, we’ll have a great list of contacts from which to organize meetings and events. From everything I’m seeing and hearing, we can stop this pipeline – despite the powerful, well-financed forces lined-up against us. Continue Reading →

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