Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Has Change Arrived?

I wanted to read Letters to Mississippi because I'm greatly passionate about social justice. I have thrown my patrons I am currently waiting on out of the restaurant for saying racial remarks about a member of the back of the house staff, I have told teenage boys to show respect for themselves by showing respect to those around them (on the street while they were acting out in violence and I had never met them before in my life), and I have spent years and years trying to make some kind, any kind of difference in the world around me.

And though I understand we have come along way from the stories I'm reading about in Letters to Mississippi, I wonder have we come far enough along to discontinue the Department of Justice's need to approve local voting board decisions?

The supreme court today is hearing a lawsuit that basically says, we have a black president, we don't have a need for Freedom Schools any longer, integration is working, and we have found racial peace in the country. Well, I'm being dramatic, but the Plaintiffs, a county near Austin, TX, says the DOJ is now just being intrusive and this type of micro-managing is no longer needed in the small amount of states that this law relates to.

But is it true?

Florida is known as an election mess. 1965, the year the voting rights law was enacted, was only 45 years ago. That is seriously just a blink of the eye in the time line of racial inequality for this country. Stories have continued to surface about people of color being turned away at polling stations throughout the state, mostly in the panhandle and central counties of Florida.

My thoughts are that, yes, we have come a long way, but if our neighborhoods are still so racially segregated that in order to meet educational intregration laws we need to bus students from far corners of the county, then we are have not come far enough.

Here are two articles/opinion piece about the lawsuit: one and two

Another interesting legislative effort underway is the Obama administration is asking congress to consider closing the gap between jail time on crack and powder cocaine. This is an issue that has riled many social justice activists for years.

This morning on the train I was reading my book and a man in the row behind me began talking to me about it. He apologized for reading over my shoulder but we had a good conversation about just how little we have really moved as a country on racial equality. But an interesting part of the conversation was that I am a middle class white girl born in the deep south and he was a middle class person of color, not sure where he was born. We were having this conversation on public transportation in the district of Columbia. Two strangers of different race and genders talking about the breadth and depth of equality in our country. This wouldn't have been possible 50 years ago.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Letters From Mississippi

I started this book (Letters From Mississippi) several months ago, but as the only type of commitment I know, I forgot about it and moved on to several others books. I rediscovered it as I was taking pictures of my bookcase. Yes, I took pictures of my bookcase. I really love the way books look and since I had recently redesigned how my books sat, I thought I'd document it. (In case you are curious, I arrange each shelf by color. Groups of red here, groups of yellow there and so on and so on)

Well, this morning I decided to continue reading this book. Thankfully, it is just notes placed together in a sort of diary, so it was easy to get right back into it. It's the notes that the group of white college students who attended the 1964 Freedom Summer sent home to their family and friends. They are pretty powerful. And 45 years later I can relate to them.

Here is one:
Now it is one o'clock and our bus is traveling down a Tennessee road, far into the country. I have always thought that between the hours of one and three a.m. America comes closest to realizing her promise. There is unity among all her travelers

I can see their bus and the kids awake and asleep and writing and reading and staring out the windows. I can see the awkwardly refracted light in the edges of the window. The driver wrestling with the wheel and the road and the darkness. I traveled many countries as the only american, white, girl, foreigner etc alone late at night. I've worked many graveyard shifts finding out how similar people are between those hours as well. There really is something about those hours and traveling.

Here is another one:
Dear Mom and Dad,

This letter is hard to write because I would like so much to communicate how I feel and I don't know if I can. It is very hard to answer to your attitude that if I loved you I wouldn't do this - hard, because the thought is cruel. I can only hope you have the sensitivity to understand that i Can both love you very much and desire to go to Mississippi. I have no way of demonstrating my love. It is simply a fact and that is all I can say . . .

I hope you will accept my decision even if you do not agree with me. There comes a time when you have to do things which your parents do not agree with. . . Conviction s are worthless in themselves. In fact, if they don't become actions, they are worse than worthless - they become a force of evil in themselves.

You can't run away from a broadened awareness . . . If you try, it follows you in your conscience, or you become a self-deceiving person who has number some of his humanness. I think you have to live to the fullest extent to which you have gained an awareness or you are less than the human being you are capable of being. . . This doesn't apply just to civil rights or social consciousness but to all the experiences in life. ...


I am almost 30 and I am part of the next generation taking over the mistakes and the successes of the latest two justice struggles that have shaped our country; civil rights and environmental. I like this book because shares the questioning of why people do things from a very particular community. And in these notes you remember that good people don't always want to get their hands dirty and sometimes it's because they are scared of the unknown and can't find their way and sometimes it's because they are scared of the known and don't want to get past it. You also see that privilege allows for a different type of fear and reality than non-privilege.

This conversation between fear and privilege and justice is one that I've been forced to dive into recently because of my work. And I have to say I just don't really understand it. I understand the words, the history, and why we have landed where we are, but I don't understand why the people working for peace, justice, and a cleaner place to live can't get past it among ourselves. I say that because I'm not particularly scared of anything and I've been very privileged in my life.

Here are two more:


For the first two days there was a noticeable tension between the volunteers and the staff . . Then, Tuesday night we saw a movie made by CBS Reports ["Mississippi and the Fifteenth Amendment"] describing how the Negro was discrimintated against in Mississippi with regard to voting. Some fo the film was absolutely ridiculous and ludicrous - a big, fat, really fat and ugly white country registrar prevents Negros from voting; the stupid, really completely irrational and dishonest views of some white Southerners and so on. Six of the staff members got up and walked out of the movie because it was so real to them while we laughed because it was so completely forieghn to us - if anyone had said what they did in the movie, we in the North would lock them up or dismiss them completely, but this is the way many white Southerners think.

After th movie one of the staff told why they had walked out and it shook some of us up. We were afraid the whole movement was going to fall apart . . .

Love, Wally

Dear Folks,

. . . We had the whole thing out in the living room, with everybody sitting on the floor or standing along the walls. The kids brought out their gripes; the staff was distant, they didn't let us know what was going on or who would be assigned where, or how we would be assigned, and they looked down on us for not having been through what they had. They shouldn't walk out like that, saying in effect you white people are too stupid to understand how serious all of this is.

Other people argued that we should take into account all of the hardships they were going through, and the fact that they had a lot on their minds. Others again demanded that the staff respect us more: we were after all products of our environments, and did not undestand Mississippi, and had not been beaten. Could we do something really convrete down there, or are we just pawns? If so, why would we go down there indeed? Did the staf trust us, could we learn?

Staff members began drifting in from a meeting and entered the discussion. "We did not walk because of you, necessarily. We have seen too much of that stuff in the flesh. We know that bastard and don't have to see him on the screen." One guy said "if you get mad at us walking out, just wait until they your head in, and see if you don't have soemthing to get mad about. Ask Jimmy Travis over there what he thinks about the project. What does he think about Mississipppi? He has six slugs in him, man, and the last one went right through the back of his neck when he was driving a car outside Greenwood. Ask Jesse here - he has beenbeaten so that we couldn't recognize him time and time and time and time again. If you don't get scared, pack up and get the hell out of here because we don't need any favors of people who don't know what they are doing here in the first place."

"We cried over you in the staff meeting because we love you and are afraid for you. We are grown mena nd women who have been beaten and shot at, and we cried for you. Somebody walked out of a movie and you won't see anybody walk out on your picket line. When you get beaten up, I am going to be right behind you. The song we sang yesterday was dedicated to a couple of people now in jail, and they know we are singing and thinking about them. As long as there is one person alive wearing SNCC pin they know. And you had better know it too, or else get out. I was a good soldier in Korea. I can stick a bayonet in your back in the right spot so that you don't make a sound. I know how to use piano wire around your neck and then let you fall to the ground soft. And all the time I was in Korea I was sick to the guts because I was being taught to kill so good. Don't tell me that you are coming down to help me because you are saving yourself. We are proud of you, and love you. Don't worry when we don't have time to share hands, because thats not the SNCC greeting anyway We hug and kiss you because we love you."

Here is what I said: people have been talking about Americans, and how there is more than just the black man's problem. Somebody said that we sounded like a sick bunch of people with all of our complaints. Well, we are all sick, black and white, because we are Americans, and that fat bastard on the screen has poisoned all of us. The whole god damn country has gone to hell, and we are the only ones who can save it. Isn't it sick when we have to see an in-group sitting together at lunch and feel that they are suspicious of because we are white? That is why we are going down, not to help the Negor, but to get rid of those guys for all of us. It is natural that these things should come out, because that bastard put it into all of us. That is why the training is a week long and not just two days. . .

Then some of the staff people came in singing, and we all sang togerher, and the first time really together. The crisis is past, I think.

Love, Bill


Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring Time or Bizarro Time

I'm not sure if you caught the Daily Show the other day, where they had the British dude hanging out in bizarro Washington DC. I feel it's really happening. What the hell is going on in this town? Is it the town? Is it me? Are we all finally cracking under the pressure of the world-wide economic crisis or is a delayed exhaustion from the last eight years?

My spring time so far has been pretty intense. I had this crazy dream the other night after a couple days of hormone surges (crying, eating, crying, attempts to sell everything I own and move to a small beach town. I totally looked on craigslist) Hungover West Virginian hikes (if someone gets you up a mountain by pushing on your back, you can do it too), entering my third month of 445 am wake up calls of sneezing and itchy eyes, and complete exhaustion from not having taken a vacation in over two years. Then there's the whole 'the world is falling apart and I need to do something about it' drama that activists repeat in their heads a hundred times a day thing. So anyways, my crazy dream. I dreamt that in order to get to my new apartment I had to take a glass bottom boat through a perfectly clear ocean while navigating around giant breaching whales and you never knew where they were going to break the top of the water. Whooaa! Get me a hammock and a Brazilian fanning me immediately! I need to pull over.

I feel like everyone is stressed and overwhelmed and no one is having a particularly good day right now. I'm not kidding when I say that most of the people around have put themselves into an institution or had someone die on them or are being fired or are dealing with career crisis'. It's like a fucking Mary Higgins Clark book but I haven't gotten to the part where all the pieces fit together nicely and the main character is sitting warmly in her apartment yet.

Finally, the weather was amazing today and everyone on the metro was smiling and even talking to each other. Talking during rush hour commute - I told you it was bizarro world in the district!

Maybe that's how spring is every year and I just keep forgetting. Like how every year you forget that February makes you consume more of everything and how hot September is and how there is always that 30 degree day in April that catches you off guard. Maybe I forgot how long my allergies lasted last year. Did they wake me up at 445 am for almost three months? Wouldn't I have remembered that?

I also feel like everyone is exhausted right now. I kind of feel like everyone is faking the caring about each other and wanting to do a good job at work. I think in reality we all want to go outside, sit in the park, and take a nap, but nobody wants to admit it because we are in all kinds of crisis' and that would look really lazy.

Take today for example. I listened to NPR but I didn't get out of bed until 8am. I didn't make it to the metro till 845. I didn't get to work until 10 and I took a 3pm lunch that allowed me to roam an arts and crafts store and then leave work by 430. Yeah, I left work at 430pm and I was the last one to leave. I turned off the lights and locked the office door at 430pm today!! Every last one of those bitches snuck out the door one by one and didn't tell anyone.

See, nobody means it. I bet they were all on facebook all day long while I called congressional staff and begged them to attend my briefing on Tuesday. I'm having dreams about having to navigate a giant glass bottom boat around dozens of breaching whales and people are not telling me I can leave work EARLIER than 430pm.

I kind of feel like people are starting to have crisis fatigue. There have been so many things going up and down, wrong, left, right and sideways, that I'm not sure how much more we can all take before we just shut down. I love politics. I love reading politics. I love talking politics. I love listening to politics. I even love googling state bills and reading the actual text of bills that have been passed in various states. I love reading the dates they got passed in which committee and what changed and was added and deleted. I love politics, but I'm getting so fucking tired of listening to politics that deals with the economy. It makes me sick thinking about the credit card rates, empty houses while families build tent cities in open spaces, smog filled cities when cleaner technology has been around for decades, and I'm even tired of watching the people who are responsible get punished, sort of punished in a ohhh you are such a rascal now come over here while I give you tons of money while you keep fucking over all those people. I don't want to know about any of it anymore. I'm fucking tired, yo.

But today I found this: "3-5PM: Nap Time and Vegan Cookies at West End Library 24th and L St NW hosted by SDAC" and I thought ohhhhh maybe the world is just as it should be.

I think the Obama's should host nap time and vegan cookies at the white house. Maybe that's all we really need after this past winter. I feel like we need mandatory nap times and time outs, acordingly.

And a trip to Barcelona. We all really need a trip to Barcelona.


ps. check out some pictures of the Orlando train station.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Precaution, BPA and NPR

I heard this this morning during my half-awake, half still dreaming laying in bed listening to NPR hour. Just in case you are curious that hour is 6-7am. It's kind of lovely.

Plastic Peril?

Is 'Better Safe Than Sorry' Reason Enough For Law?

by Jon Hamilton

Morning Edition, April 15, 2009 · A federal proposal to restrict a plastic additive called bisphenol A (BPA) is focusing attention on a guiding concept known as the "precautionary principle."

The proposal would ban BPA from food and beverage containers. Proponents say the precautionary principle requires such a ban because high doses of BPA can cause reproductive abnormalities and cancer in animals.

But whether you agree with that stance depends on how you define the precautionary principle. It's not written into federal law, and it turns out that people have widely differing views on what it is, and how it should be applied.

BPA In The Body

BPA is used to create polycarbonate plastic products that are clear and durable. It's also used in resins that coat the inside of many food and beverage cans.

In the body, BPA can act like a weak form of estrogen. And studies show that BPA is used so widely that most people have detectable levels.

Scientists don't know whether these low levels of BPA pose a health risk. So arguments about the proposed ban tend to involve discussions of precaution.

The precautionary principle dates back to at least the 1930s, says Jonathan Wiener, a professor of law, environmental policy and public policy at Duke University. He says there are at least three basic forms of the principle, though one scholar found 19 variations.

Weaker versions of the principle say it's OK to take precautions against a threat to health or the environment even if it's not clear that the threat has caused any harm. Stronger versions say it's essential to take precautionary action.

Extreme Interpretations

And then there's the variation that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) used last month when she introduced her bill to restrict BPA.

"If you do not know for certain the chemical is benign, it should not be used," Feinstein said.

But that standard has never been part of the precautionary principle because it couldn't be met, says Dr. Ted Schettler, director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, an advocacy group that has warned regulators about the potential risks from BPA.

"It's almost impossible to prove that something will never happen," Schettler says. You simply can't prove that a chemical will never hurt anyone.

Even though Schettler disagrees with Feinstein's take on the precautionary principle, he strongly supports her effort to remove BPA from food and drink containers.

Precaution Says To Seek Out Alternatives

Schettler says he backs a more mainstream version of the precautionary principle. It states: "When there are credible threats of harm from some proposed activity, precautionary action should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully understood."

The competing versions of the principle can be confusing, Schettler says. And he says that confusion has been made a lot worse by people who don't want regulators or the government to use any version.

"They say the precautionary principle requires you to ban something if you have the slightest glimmer that it might cause harm," Schettler says. "That is not what it does. It does ask you to look carefully, whether there are alternatives, and then look at the range of activities available to you.

Schettler notes that products like baby bottles are already being made without BPA.

"In my view, we've gathered enough evidence to say that we know enough to act," he says.

Europe And U.S. Treat Precaution Differently

The European Union, though, hasn't acted against BPA even though it has a law requiring it to follow the precautionary principle.

Wiener says that's a reminder that Europe's formal endorsement of the principle doesn't mean Europe is always more precautionary than the United States.

"On the contrary, what we find is that there is a complex pattern of particular precautions applied to particular risks on each side of the Atlantic," he says.

Wiener says the European Union is usually more cautious about chemicals than the United States.

Europe Requires Companies To Register Chemicals

In 2006, the EU passed a tough law requiring companies to register the chemicals they use, gather safety information, and switch to safer alternatives when possible.

But Wiener says it was the U.S. that proved more cautious when mad cow disease started killing people in Europe a few years ago.

The United States not only halted beef imports from affected countries, it banned blood donations from anyone who had spent much time in Europe.

That was "a highly precautionary strategy given that the evidence of transmission through blood transfusions was very preliminary and the countervailing risk of not having enough blood in hospital trauma centers was quite real," Wiener says.

Wiener says the United States also maintains tougher standards for certain types of air pollution, and acted sooner to get rid of chemicals that damage the Earth's ozone layer.

Taking Personal Precautions

Linda Birnbaum, who directs the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, has spent years pondering the precautionary principle.

She describes it in subjective terms: "The precautionary principle says that you act in the presence of concerning information."

In other words, Birnbaum says she finds the information about BPA "somewhat concerning," especially studies showing that the chemical tends to leach out of plastic that's been heated.

"So I stopped microwaving in plastic many years ago," she says, "not because I was convinced it was going to cause harm, but because it just wasn't a necessity."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wash This Green

Here is the latest list of the top 10 biggest greenwashers. I kind of wish there was the "Did You Know You Are Being Greenwashed by . ." list. Because yeah even my mom knows that Exxon sucks. I mean record profits when I'm planning my return to waiting tables and roommates. . helllllooo? I want the list that talks about Disney World (is that the smell of toxic cleaning products?), Clorox (Burts Bees crushed my soul too), and Kimberly Clark (they destroy the boreal yet have a Greenseal product, WTF?).

So here is a list of the typical extremely large corporations that pay super cool people with great lofts and summer homes lots and lots of money to come up with advertising that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside for being an environmentalist.

Environmentalist: More than recycling and turning off the lights, bitches. (That's the name of my first book) Now power your blender with your bike or stairmaster or something. That will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside . . . . and ready for smoothie.

The “Green” Hypocrisy: America’s Corporate Environment Champions Pollute The World

“Green is green as in the color of money”
- Brand director of General Electric, Brandweek, July 26, 2006

“Greenwashing” is the act of misleading the public regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product, service, or business line. Due to the public’s increased awareness of environmental issues, including global warming, deforestation, and the loss of endangered species, greenwashing has become a staple of corporations marketing efforts. All of the companies in this article have made some effort to address these concerns. Some of them appear to be trying harder than others, and even a few of them have made legitimate efforts to become responsible corporate stewards of the environment. Evidenced by the support of environmental groups and corporate responsibility professionals, many of these companies’ green initiatives have made a positive impact.

A majority of America’s largest companies have become part of the “green” movement. Some have fleets of hybrid trucks. Others install solar panels on their large buildings to consume energy more cost effectively with less of an impact on the environment. Many give generously to environmental non-profit organizations.

The irony of the “green” movement of US companies is that many of the firms that spend the most money and public relations effort trying to show the government, the public, and their shareholders that they are trying to improve the environment are also among the most prolific polluters in the country. Pollution does not mean that the companies are doing anything illegal. Instead, it simply refers to natural consequence of the companies’ industrial efforts which result in contamination to the air, soil or water by the discharge of substances that are toxic to the environment.

24/7 Wall St. has put together a list of the Top Ten Greenwashers in America. There may be some large companies that are greater polluters than these firms. There may be other corporations that do more to promote their pro-environment credentials. But those can be counted on two hands.

Every company on this list makes a substantial investment in creating a perception that they are friendlier to the environment than their peers are or that they are on the side of good or that saving the global ecosystem should be part of a corporation’s broad public responsibility–its good citizenship. These firms often spend millions of dollars on advertising to support the way that their companies are perceived in the green world. But, hidden behind these efforts, each corporation on this list is a Herculean polluter. And, that fact points to a hypocrisy which is almost completely hidden from the public.

In the process of creating this list, 24/7 Wall St. examined hundreds of state and federal documents and interviewed experts in environmental law, and officials who review data for non-profit organizations which have charters to track environmental violations. We also reviewed annual reports from companies on their environment efforts. It was important to balance all of these. Some sources had axes to grind, but that was weighed in the process.
A more complete description of our methodology runs at the end of the article.

1) General Electric (GE)

In May 2005 GE announced its $90 million “Ecomagination” advertising campaign. According to Jeff Immelt, the company’s CEO, “Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to address challenges such as the need for cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, reduced emissions and abundant sources of clean water.” The company said that revenue from 70 Ecomagination products and services would be $17 billion in 2008. Since its inception, Ecomagination has provided GE with countless opportunities to reflect its corporate concern over the environment. Arguably the whole effort is greenwashing.

On Super Bowl Sunday GE debuted its ad campaign for Smart Grid Technologies. The premise behind this technology is that IT systems and products can make power grids more efficient. The ad explains that “Smart grid technology from GE will make the way we distribute electricity more efficient simply by making it more intelligent.” This will benefit the environment. The more efficient our energy grid, the less power we use. The less power used, the less carbon dioxide is emitted. That GE used Super Bowl Sunday to launch this initiative is important, not only because of the huge sums spent for the advertising time, but also because it marked the first time that GE has bought time during the Super Bowl.

GE also launched a website to further create buzz around its efforts. The online videos and interactive features include significant coverage about how the technology can be employed to better use alternative energy by improving the ability of the grid to deliver locally generated wind, sun and biogas power across the country. The technology will also facilitate the purchase of energy generated by the consumer from systems like wind turbines and solar panels. The cumulative effect of promoting the benefits that the technology will have on alternative energy is that it appears to equate the two.

The reality is that smart grid technology in one form is already required by 42 states. Although alternative energy may benefit from this new service, there are myriad ways that it will improve consumer spending and carbon emissions without adopting better alternative energy efforts. Ecomagination’s stated goal is to “meet customer demand for more energy-efficient products” by investing in “innovative solutions to environmental challenges.” The character of this statement is fair, but it belies the company’s larger corporate identity and its history as one of the country’s worst polluters.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), for the electrical equipment industry, GE was the fifth largest producer of chemicals with four facilities in the top 100 generating 332,336 pounds in waste in 2007. In the miscellaneous manufacturing industry, GE’s GE Osmonics facility was the fourth highest producing facility of TRI production-related waste with 1,919,437 pounds. According to the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), General Electric is the sixth most toxic company when considering the amount of population exposed to its pollution and its toxicity level from its plants (last week 24/7 Wall St. incorrectly reported that GE was the most toxic company according to PERI).

According to the EPA, “From approximately 1947 to 1977, the General Electric Company (GE) discharged as much as 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from its capacitor manufacturing plants” at two facilities on the Hudson River. The EPA says that “The primary health risk associated with the site is the accumulation of PCBs in the human body through eating contaminated fish.” The EPA has found that the cancer risk from eating fish from the Upper Hudson exceeds the EPA standard by 700 times.

On December 4, 2001, the EPA issued a “record of decision” calling for the dredging of 2.65 million cubic yards from the upper section of the Hudson River to remove approximately 150 thousand pounds of PCBs. According to the company’s website, “From 1990 to 2007 GE has spent over $1 billion in addressing PCB-related issues, with the majority of those expenses (82%) coming from just three sites” including the Hudson River. However, Riverkeeper and other non-for-profit organizations focused on the environment contend that GE has stymied the government’s efforts to clean up the river and enforce the dredging requirement. In 2008, Alex Matthiessen, president of Riverkeeper, stated that CEO, Jeffery Immelt “continues to be, as is GE, very defensive about the Hudson River cleanup.”

Each year the League of Conservation Voters publishes the “Dirty Dozen,” a program targeting candidates for Congress “who consistently vote against clean energy and conservation.” Out of this list, GE’s PAC has donated thousands of dollars to six of the dirty dozen. Additionally, GE’s PAC donated to two leading deniers of global warming, Senator Jim Inhofe, included in the Dirty Dozen list, and Congressman Joe Barton.

2) American Electric Power (AEP)

According to the company, American Electric Power’s 2008 Sustainability Report is a “comprehensive report offering a frank discussion” about their environmental performance and their strategies for sustainability. Michael G. Morris, the chairman, president, and CEO, says that sustainability is “Transparency and accountability, along with a close working relationship with our stakeholders, will grow our business, serve our shareholders’ interest and create a better world for our children and grandchildren.”

In an effort to be more energy efficient, the company adopted principals set forth by the Clinton Global Initiative, committing approximately $100 million over the next five years to build or update its facilities using the LEED green building rating system. In 2008, construction was completed on a new facility for which the company is seeking LEED certification and which it claims “will use 15 percent less energy and 20 percent less water than comparable non-LEED building.” Through another initiative the company will conform to the International Management System Standard ISO 14001, which outlines the requirements for organizations to operate in an environmentally sustainable manner. The company further argues that is has “completed more than two-thirds of our $5.4 billion investment program to reduce airborne emissions from our coal-fired power plants,” in order to comply with the federal environmental regulations.

Although these investments are laudable, it appears that they were not entirely motivated by the company’s desire to be a good steward of the environment. As the report sets forth, “AEP’s court-approved settlement of the New Source Review (NSR) litigation provides us with additional opportunities to reduce our power plant emissions.” The complaint by the U.S. EPA and others alleged that AEP had made major modifications at some of its coal-fueled generating units without obtaining the necessary permits and without installing controls required by the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (“SO2”), nitrogen oxide (“NOx”) and particulate matter. Despite the company’s eagerness to be a leader in environmental conservation, “AEP did not admit to wrongdoing by agreeing to this settlement.”

According to Frank O’Donnell, President of Clean Air Watch, an environmental policy group and whistleblower, “AEP is one of nation’s biggest polluters, now that GM is making fewer cars, and is one the key lobbyist against political interest on global warming.” O’Donnell also says that the company “aggressively seeks to block legislation unless it receives a huge financial wind fall in the deal.” The company’s corporate PAC donated to five members of the Dirty Dozen as well as Congressman Barton.

On October 9, 2007, the Department of Justice, eight states, and 13 citizen groups announced a settlement agreement with AEP under the Clean Air Act, obtaining caps on emissions of pollutants from 16 plants in five states. According to the EPA, it is the single largest environmental enforcement settlement by several measures. The EPA estimates that the company will spend more that $4.6 billion to achieve the emission caps. The settlement also will have one of the greatest individual impacts on pollution, reducing it by 813,000 tons per year. According to assistant administrator for EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance program, Granta Nakayma, “Today’s settlement will save $32 billion in health costs per year for Americans. Less air pollution from power plants means fewer cases of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”

3) ExxonMobil (XOM)

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the country’s largest oil spill. As a result of the disaster, the ship spilled approximately 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound, Alaska. Since that time, ExxonMobil has spent millions of dollars in an attempt to regain the public’s trust. In an effort to continue to improve the way the company is perceived, it has begun to aggressively market its green initiatives.

ExxonMobil’s Corporate Citizen’s Report, published May 21, 2008, states that the company “is working on technologies with the potential for near-term impact on greenhouse gas emissions” including: investing $100 million improving natural gas technology, working with car makers to increase fuel economy by 30 percent, improving lithium-ion battery technology in order to enable lower-emission hybrid vehicles, and developing a hydrogen system that could improve driving efficiency by 80 percent.

In a commercial broadcast in 2008, the company sought to promote this perception further. The ad features a series of ExxonMobil employees who share their thoughts on the need for greater energy efficiency and alternative fuels. An engineer states that “With the increased demand for energy in the world there is a growing concern about the risk of climate change.” Another engineer suggests “One of the best things we can do is be efficient with our energy. The less energy we use the less impact there is on the environment.” Finally, a research engineer says that efficient fuels, engines, and batteries for hybrid cars will be important because “energy has to be used in the most efficient way to meet the needs of our lives but also to minimize the impact on the environment.”

For some time, policy and research groups have worked to discredit the reality of global warming. According to the U.K.’s Royals Society, a highly regarded scientific academy, these groups “misrepresent the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence.” In 2007, The Guardian reported that academics were offered $10,000 each “by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.” Research performed by ExxonMobil watchdog, ExxposeExxon, suggests that “Since at least 1998, ExxonMobil has spent $17 to $23 million to bankroll these groups.”

According to the company’s 2008 Corporate Citizen’s Report, ExxonMobil has finally admitted that its funding efforts to research groups that deny global warming has an adverse effect on the environment. “In 2008 we will discontinue contributions to several public policy interest groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”

On December 17, 2008, ExxonMobil settled an action with the EPA arising from Clean Air Act violations. As a result of the company’s failure to monitor sulfur content in some fuel gas streams between 2005 and 2007, EPA tests found sulfur levels in excess of regulatory limits. This was a violation of a 2005 agreement. The total fine for the two EPA actions was more than $20 million.

4) DuPont (DU)

In 2008 Dupont launched a marketing campaign called “Open Science.” According to the company’s website, “DuPont Open Science uses the power of collaboration to do extraordinary things. Explore how DuPont and its partners are helping the United States cultivates, taps new energies, and makes industries safer and eco-friendly.” The site goes on to encourage the reader to “Explore how DuPont and its partners are tackling the issues of our age: food shortages, dwindling petroleum, and global warming.”

Along with this initiative, the company debuted a TV advertisement. The TV spot features a series of miniature cityscapes depicting scenes where conditions are improved by Open Science. Among the changes that Open Science achieves are rebuilding cities “making them safer and more sustainable”; “it can bring solar power to remote villages”; “it makes materials lighter which saves fuel”; and“it can feed a growing planet.” DuPont’s website provides perfect illustrations for each of these initiatives. In one such example, DuPont explains its efforts to help Greensburg, Kansas recover from one of America’s worst tornados. According to the piece, the company helped “rebuild Greensburg as a model sustainable community” by a financial gift and “eco-friendly” products.

DuPont’s efforts and partnerships are, in many cases, charitable works that have a positive impact on the environment. The ad and the campaign in general have an aggregate affect on all of DuPont’s detailed “eco-friendly” projects leaving the impression that DuPont is a good steward of the environment and believes in open science. Open Science, before DuPont co-opted the name, refers to the concept in science of providing accurate accounts of methodology that results in a transparent research process that encourages collaboration. In reality, DuPont’s partners are in large part its customers. And, as has been the case for DuPont for some time, its business practices are far from transparent and fall short of being friendly to the environment.

On December 12, 2005 the EPA reached a $16.5 million settlement with the DuPont arising from violations alleged by the agency that the company failed to report the possible health risks associated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical compound used to make Teflon. The settlement included $10.25 million civil administrative penalty and $6.26 million for Supplemental Environmental Projects. According to the EPA, “A SEP is an environmentally beneficial project that the violator agrees to undertake in exchange for mitigation of the penalty to be paid.” At that time, the penalty was the largest in the agency’s history.

The violations alleged by the EPA included “multiple failures to report information to EPA about substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment that DuPont obtained about PFOA from as early as 1981 and as recently as 2004.” The violations fell into three categories: human health information, environmental contamination, and animal toxicity studies. The enforcement action arose from DuPont’s failure to disclose information that the company had obtained regarding the level of PFOA in 12 individuals who had been exposed to drinking water which contained the chemical.

According to DuPont’s Progress Report on PFOA Phase Out, in February 2007, former DuPont Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Charles O. Holliday went beyond the stated goal of the EPA program when he publicly announced the company’s commitment “to eliminate the need to make, buy or use PFOA by 2015.” However, despite the fact that it has complied with the terms of the phase out, the company continues to deny PFOA’s harmful effects. Although the EPA has not made any definitive conclusions regarding potential risks, including cancer, at this time, additional research is still being conducted to determine the cancer-causing risks of PFOA. However, in 2005, the Science Advisory Board performed a formal peer review of the chemical that, while not conclusive, stated the PFOA cancer data was consistent with EPA Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment Descriptor and “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

On January 8, the Environmental Appeals Board granted EPA and DuPont’s joint motion seeking a three-year extension on its testing of PFOA. Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group, Richard Wiles, said the data from DuPont tests is critical to determining whether consumer Teflon products are a major source of PFOA in the environment. “As long as they can delay development of this data, that basically means that they don’t have to comply with the phase-out agreement,” Wiles said.

5) Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)

Biofuel, ethanol and biodiesel, have quickly become the darlings of the green economy. They are heralded as renewable energy sources that some say can either reduce or entirely replace reliance on petroleum to fuel internal combustion engines. According to the company’s site, “a world in need of clean, renewable fuels to meet growing energy demand and achieve greater energy security is turning to agriculture for answers.” As one of the largest diversified agribusinesses in the world, the company maintains that it has the necessary scale and expertise to be a leader in the production of biofuels. Its mission is “to unlock the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.”

The company points out that biofuels have measurable benefits to the environment including a reduction in greenhouse emissions, by limiting cardon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter associated with petroleum-based diesel, while also serving as a renewable energy source. Produced from corn and sugar cane, ethanol is blended with gasoline to produce a fuel that can improve engine performance and reduce pollution. Produced from vegetable oil and alcohol, biodiesel is blended with gasoline, reducing greenhouse emissions from diesel engines.

The truth is that both ethanol and biodiesel emit less global warming pollution than burning petroleum-based gasoline. Unfortunately, producing biofuels creates enormous amounts of global warming pollution, so much so that many argue that they offset the benefits gained when the fuel is used to power engines. This is the sin of the hidden trade-off. In this case, a company promotes the green attribute of a product without consideration for other environmental factors. ADM publicly touts biofuels’ green benefits, while failing to mention that the energy necessary to grow the corn requires significant amounts of fossil fuels, offsetting the environmental benefits. According to the journal Science, “corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%.”

In 2006, Wilmar Holdings, the largest producer of palm oil, announced the proposed acquisition of “five plantation companies which have interests in land in Kalimantan province, Indonesia” in order to increase capacity for palm oil production. The planting of palm-oil producing plants requires land which is cleared of trees. The acquisition document proves that ADM Asia Pacific Limited, a subsidiary of ADM, acquired 30% interest in the companies. According to Greenpeace, the enormous growth of the palm oil industry is due in part to increase demand for biofuels. Although the problem is occurring across Southeast Asia, “the problem is particularly acute in Indonesia which has been named in the 2008 Guinness Book of Records as the country with fastest rate of deforestation. It is also the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, largely due to deforestation,” environmental group said.

Since receiving increased attention from a number of environmental and political organizations, ADM has sought to distance itself from palm oil plantation efforts in Indonesia. Following a series of public attacks ADM stated that it “affirmed our Company’s commitment to responsible palm oil through our membership in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil,” an organization that encourages sustainable palm oil production. On February 24, Wilmar International Limited entered into two separate acquisition agreements with Archer Daniels Midland Europe BV and Archer Daniels Midland Singapore Pte Ltd for the acquisition of all its interests in two jointly-held companies, Wilmar-ADM Investments Holding Pte Ltd & PT Karya Putrakreasi Nusantara.

6) Waste Management, Inc. (WMI)

In 2006, Waste Management introduced a new television advertising campaign focusing on environmental messages. According to WM senior vice president of sales and marketing David Aardsma, “the goal of the Waste Management ad campaign is to link everyday collection to environmental protection in the minds of consumers.” The campaign, titled “think green” was intended to inform the public that the company was the largest recycler in North America and that their landfill gas-to-energy project produced renewable energy,

The television spot featured cinematic shots of lush forests and woodland creatures interspersed with the company’s truck driving on a road past the trees. A narrator is heard saying “This lush expanse of green does more than beautify our world. Trees help clean the air of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. As North America’s largest recycler, last year alone, Waste Management recycled enough paper to save over one million trees. From everyday collection to environmental protection, think green, think waste management.”

In 2008, WM launched greenopolis, a social networking site that encourages users, including individuals, organizations, schools and businesses, to learn about the environment and earn rewards by making a positive impact. About the launch, Joe Vaillancourt, managing director of Waste Management said, “Waste Management is an environmental company that is committed to not only providing its comprehensive waste and environmental services, but also engaging customers and all of its various stakeholders to think about the environment. We believe that by promoting and creating a dialogue about things such as conservation, recycling and renewable energy, that awareness about our environmental operations and our business offerings will increase.” Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington thinks it has a more subversive purpose: “Greenopolis, I suspect, is designed to show that Waste Management cares about the environment more than anything else. So in a way, it’s like an advertisement.” and others seem to take similarly skeptical position.

According to Elizabeth Royte, a journalist for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s onearth, since 2005, Waste Management has spent more than $90 million on TV commercials and print advertisements emphasizing the number of trees it saves through recycling, the amount of land it has set aside for wildlife habitats, and how much energy it generates through incineration. However, what the ads fail to disclose is that burning trash doesn’t come without a price. Although the technology continues to improve, incinerators still discharge small levels of mercury, lead, and dioxin into the atmosphere. Royte also writes, “They also generate more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy generated than do power plants, and their ash is toxic.” An additional consequence of incineration is that it discourages using landfills. Because power plants that use incinerators require a consistent flow of garbage, they are necessarily antagonistic to principles such as recycling, composting and reducing waste.

Waste Management’s corporate PAC has donated to two members of the dirty dozen, Mitch McConnel and Sam Graves. The company also made a donation to Congressman Barton.

7) International Paper (IP)

In the early 1990s, following a series of reports issued by the United Nations on sustainable development and rainforest conservation, the forest products industry began to receive increased attention over its land-use strategies regarding logging. Specifically, these companies, including International Paper, received negative publicity regarding their use of chemicals, clear-cutting, and inadequate conservation protection. Informed by increased awareness of sustainable practices, third-party certification has become a critical tool for promoting ecologically responsible forestry practices.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit founded in 1993 by environmental groups, the forestry profession, and community groups. Its stated purpose “is to improve forest management worldwide” by providing “a model for environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable forest stewardship.”

In 1994, International Paper, in collaboration with the American Forest & Paper Association (AFPA) – the national trade association for the forest, pulp, paper, paperboard, and wood products industry – founded the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). According to AFPA website, the association’s members “agreed to adhere to a set of forestry principles that would meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

According to an independent study commissioned by both FSC and SFI, although SFI was initially developed as an industry led self-improvement program, “it has evolved into a program that promotes third-party certification of forestry practices of member companies and licensees.” However, contrary to this assessment, environmental groups, including The Sierra Club, The Nation Environmental Defense Fund and the Rainforest Action Network have published reports critical of what they characterize as weak standards for certification. According to these groups, because SFI standards were developed by the same industry that requires certification, SFI certification provides a measurement for sustainability that is weak on oversight and contrary to its stated purpose.

The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a rating tool of the nonprofit for green building design and construction that seeks to provide measurable results for building owners and occupants. The LEED green building certification program for new construction requirements are intended to “encourage environmentally responsible forest management.” The most recent version of LEED, with a scheduled launch of April 27, requires that new construction seeking the LEED designation must “Use a minimum of 50% (based on cost) of wood-based materials and products that are certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council’s principles and criteria, for wood building components.”

FSC is not without its critics. It may be that some groups find both acceptable. However, despite this criticism, 24/7 Wall St is unaware of any environmental groups that have suggested that SFI is better than FSC.

According to International Paper’s 2008 “Sustainability Update,” FSC certification in the U.S. reflects a fraction of the certification used by the company’s businesses. Of the company’s 16 domestic paper mills only one uses FSC certification. Similarly, domestic container plants and wood procurement systems both use SFI certification in lieu of FSC.

According to TRI, for the paper industry, International Paper was the largest producer of chemicals with fifteen facilities in the top 100 generating 42,554,027 pounds in waste. The company also had the second highest producing facility of TRI production-related waste with 43,320,612 pounds. According to PERI, International Paper is the thirty-first most toxic company with a toxic score of 49,385.

In 2008, the Rainforest Action Network condemned a proposal by International Paper to build a pulp mill and establish 1.2 million acres of plantation forest in Indonesia’s rainforest. This came as a surprise to RAN because the company had established an internal policy that it would not expand into Indonesia because it is a global warming and biodiversity hot spot.

Following the release, Thomas E. Gestrich, president of International Paper Asia, explained the company’s plans in Indonesia. Mr.Gestrich said that he would prefer land that had already been cleared, but failed to explain how the company would secure hundreds of thousands of meters of forest without disturbing the natural habitat, waters or indigenous peoples.

Out of the LCV’s Dirty Dozen, International Paper’s PAC has donated thousands of dollars to 5 of the Dirty Dozen, including the leading denier of global warming, Senator Jim Inhofe.

8) BP (BP)

In 1998, British Petroleum and Amoco announced a merger into a single company called BP Amoco. In 2000, according to the company’s website, BP, now a group of companies that included Amoco and others “unveiled a new global brand with a distinctive new mark, a sunburst of green, yellow and white.” According to Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, “in late July 2000 BP launched a massive $200 million public relations and advertising campaign, introducing the company with a new slogan - ‘Beyond Petroleum.’” According to an EPA press release, on July 25th, 2000 the company entered into a settlement with the EPA and agreed to spend more than “$500 million on up-to-date pollution-control technologies and work practices at nine refineries to reduce emissions from all sources - from stacks, leaking valves, wastewater vents and flares.”

In December of 2000, CorpWatch, a non-profit focused on corporate violations of environmental fraud, gave BP a “greenwash” award. CorpWatch gives out the awards “to corporations that put more money, time and energy into slick PR campaigns aimed at promoting their eco-friendly images, than they do to actually protecting the environment.” In a 2001 speech to shareholders, BP’s Chief Executive John Browne said “When we launched the brand we used the phrase beyond petroleum. Some people thought that meant we were giving up oil and gas. I’m sorry to disappoint our competitors. Beyond Petroleum means that what we’re giving up is the old mind set - the old thinking which assumed that oil companies had to be dirty and secretive and arrogant. I don’t believe we should be any of these things.”

“Beyond petroleum” is still the company’s motto today. A commercial that played in 2008 suggested that alternative energies were important to BP. Composed of a series of brief statements that appear to be the opinions of the average American, the comments state what BP’s energy policy should be with respect to alternative fuels. “First we insure that we find all the oil that is avail to us in North American. Natural gas is probably the cleanest and the most accessible fuel we have. I’d love seeing more wind power. I think it would be in their best interest to continue to pursue things like solar energy. I think biofuel is a very viable alternative. Any business person that’s worth their salt is going to diversity as much as they can.” The commercial closes by showing a series of icons depicting oil, natural gas, wind, solar, and biofuels, followed by the ad’s s tagline: “investing in America’s most diverse energy portfolio: bp. beyond petroleum.”

O’Donnell has a poor opinion of the company’s green initiatives saying “several years ago, BP, which probably spent as much as any company in the world to promote their green brand, was, at the same time, actively lobbying against efforts to limit global warming legislation – beyond petroleum and into the backrooms.” In 2008, the company’s corporate PAC contributed to half of the Dirty Dozen and to Congressman Joe Barton.

According to environmental watchdogs, things have not changed a great deal since 2000. A 2009 study published by Greenpeace reported that BP “allocated 93 percent ($20 billion) of its total investment fund for the development and extraction of oil, gas and other fossil fuels. In contrast, solar power was allocated just 1.39 percent, and wind a paltry 2.79 percent.” Along with its aggregate investment in alternative energy – including wave, tidal, and biofuels – this amount is only 6.8 percent of BP’s total investment. Greenpeace claims that this information is from internal company documents which it obtained.

As recently as last month, BP entered into a settlement with the EPA stemming from charges related to violations of The Clean Air Act. According to Catherine R. McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, “BP failed to fulfill its obligations under the law, putting air quality and public health at risk.” She added, “Today’s settlement will improve air quality for the people living in and around Texas City, many of whom come from minority and low income backgrounds.” BP has agreed to invest at least $161 million on “pollution control, enhanced maintenance, and monitoring.” Furthermore, the company must spend a total of $18 million, $12 million in civil penalties, and $6 million for supplemental environmental projects in the community.

9) Dow Chemical (DOW)

In 2006, The Dow Chemical Company announced its new advertising campaign. Dubbed “The Human Element”, the accompanying press release stated that the campaign sought to reintroduce the company the company, announcing “its vision of addressing some of the most pressing economic, social and environmental concerns facing the global community in the coming decade.” Dow vice president of global communications and reputation, Patti Temple Rocks, explained that the initiative is more than an ad campaign, calling it a statement to the world “about the future direction of our business.” She went on to say, “It will be our calling card to people around the world to people who care about the future relationship between business, society and the environment.”

In 2008 the company’s Human Element advertising won a national advertising award for the best overall television commercial. The ad, “The Bond Between Us All,” focused on climate change. The commercial beat out advertisement from brands including Altoids, Bud Light, IKEA, and Nike. Another excellent commercial featured in 2008, is set to a string quartet and features picturesque scenes of nature and human creativity coupled with eloquent narration that describes how the company seeks to embrace life’s most important character, the human element. The narration provides, “The human element is the element of change. It gives us our footing to stand fearlessly and face the future. It is a way of seeing that gives us a way of touching issues, ambitions, lives.”

In May of 2001, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry received a petition from Michigan-based environmental groups seeking public health assessment of dioxin contaminated in Midland, Michigan. In a subsequent report by the agency it was recorded that “levels of dioxins detected in soil in the city of Midland and in the fish in the Tittabawassee River downstream of Midland exceed health-based comparison values.” The report further stated that dioxin is believed to cause carcinogenic effects at extremely low levels of exposure.

In January of 2002, Michigan-based environmental organization, Lone Tree Council, issued a press release calling for “federal probe into major dioxin cover-up in Michigan.” According to the release, documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act indicated that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Russell Harding had suppressed state health assessments that revealed dioxin levels in the Tittabwassee Riber floodplain, which were downstream from the company’s plant in Midland 80 times Michigan’s cleanup standards. In February of 2002, MDEQ announced the Tittabawassee/Saginaw River Flood Plain Dioxin Environmental Assessment Initiative.

In 2007, Dow agreed to three EPA orders issued under the Superfund Act for sediment cleanup on the Tittabawassee River. However, despite this agreement, Dow Chemical has been slow to respond. As recently as 2008, the company claimed that it needed to measure the amount of the pollution before it could establish a cleanup program. Although the company removed contaminants from four environmental hotspots, particularly polluted areas, it has spent over $40 million on sediment sampling as well as other studies. According to the EPA, these areas include some of the highest dioxin levels recorded in the Great Lakes region. In July of 2008 an agreement was reached between Dow Chemical and the EPA to clean up dioxin contamination in the Riverside Boulevard neighborhood.

As of this year environmental groups and the EPA remain frustrated with the progress the company has made. In a March 3 EPA press release, the agency stated that “Dow Chemical Co. has agreed to conduct another Superfund removal action to clean up dioxin contamination in the Tri-Cities area.” The project, focusing on the Saginaw Township’s West Michigan Park, was scheduled to begin in mid-April and go through early June. According to a 2003 work plan issued to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the park “is essentially a level field with an open expanse of grass for ball sports.” The park includes picnic tables and a play area for children. According to the 2003 report issued by MDEQ on Dow’s sampling study the company found that the range of dioxin contamination in the soil in West Michigan Park was 140 to 670 ppt (parts per trillion) with an average of 413 ppt. In 2002, MDEQ established the residential action standard for soil containing dioxin at 90 ppt. According the company’s 2003 work plan, the planned interim measures included a hand-washing station and replacement of sand in children’s play area along with cosmetic measures.

On March 2, , Lisa P. Jackson, the new head of the EPA, sent a letter to community and environmental groups who had voiced concern over Dow’s slow progress, She said that she would stop negotiations with Dow until EPA had been given the opportunity to take the groups’ concerns into consideration. “My goal is to ensure an expeditious and robust cleanup, and I will take steps to ensure that the dioxin contamination is addressed in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment and that the process is open and transparent,” she wrote. It has been a long time coming.

10) General Motors (GM)

On July 5, 2007 General Motors Chevrolet division launched its “gas-friendly to gas-free” campaign. The branding effort seeks to reposition GM as an environmentally responsible car company. The press release stated that Chevrolet will “launch a major ad campaign intended to let the world know about its far-reaching approach to reducing petroleum consumption.” In 2007, GM began to run commercials for the Chevrolet Volt, an electric prototype car that was not scheduled for production for several years.

One such ad featured the car sitting on a grassy hill surrounded by children with their ears pressed against the hood. The children ask why the car is humming and a man explains, “That’s the sound of the future, the extended range electric car powered by the miracle of the advanced lithium-ion battery pack. And they expect you get to 40 miles without a drop of gas.” The ad then shows a series of icons representing fuel economy, E85 ethanol, hybrid, electric, fuel cell. It concludes with the motto, “Chevy, from gas friendly to gas free. That’s an American revolution.” According to its website, these efforts include fuel efficiency, biofuels, hybrid, electric, and hydrogen fuel cells.

On September 16, 2008 the company unveiled the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle. “The Volt symbolizes GM’s commitment to the future,” said Rick Wagoner, the company’s former chairman and CEO. Unlike a traditional hybrid vehicle that is both battery and gas powered, the company claims that the Volt is entirely electric. Although the battery can only go 40 miles on a single charge, a gasoline engine will turn on once needed that will power the electric motor. The company justifies the fact that the car should be considered electric, because the gas engine powers the electric motor and doesn’t power the wheels.

In addition to electric cars, GM has begun advertising its cars that run on ethanol, biofuels and fuel cells. According to a 2008 press release, “GM has been working on hydrogen-powered fuel-cell propulsion systems for 11 years. Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen which is converted onboard into electricity. Powered by hydrogen, the consequence of using fuel cell technology is no emissions. Although this kind of alternative energy would be a remarkable step forward, the company indicates that the technology is still very immature.” The press release adds that “under a carefully scripted development plan at General Motors that culminates in as many as one million affordable FCVs by 2020.” That’s quite a ways a way to be marketing it now.

In 2008, GM vice chairman Bob Lutz appeared on the Colbert Report, a satirical news and comedy program.. Lutz, interviewed by show’s host, Steven Colbert, lauded the environmental benefits of the Volt. Following up, Colbert said “that’s tantamount to admitting that we have to do something about global warming, sir. You don’t believe global warming is real, you said so?” In response, Lutz stated “I accept that the planet is heated, but I, like many noted scientists, don’t believe in the CO2 theory . . . In the opinion of about 32,000 t of the world’s leading scientists” global warming is the result of sun spots. He appeared to be very sincere.

O’Donnell says “GM has long been one of the most anti-environment companies in America’s history, dating back to its efforts to limit car emission standards. Because of their lobbying efforts, they created a loophole to reduce the average fuel economy of a car-makers fleet. GM had legislation passed that provided “if you make certain number of cars that are flex fuel – cars that can take both regular and biofuel – the average fuel economy of all of the company’s cars can go down below emission standards. The loophole enables car companies to use ethanol as a pretext for reducing fuel economy.” The company’s corporate PAC donated to over seven of the Dirty Dozen and Congressman Barton.

In 2007, according to a study by Union of Concerned Scientists, General Motors ranked as the second worst polluter, just above DaimlerChrysler, out of eight major car companies. In addition, GM manufactures the most cars that have 15 MPG or worse in city driving. In 2008 the numbers were not much better for GM. According to, the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy’s site for consumer research on the environment, GM’s numbers have not improved. The company had the most car models on the list with four. Not surprisingly, the Hummer H2, which is exempted from fuel economy regulations because it is considered heavy-duty, was rated number 1.


24/7 Wall St. evaluated the public actions of a number of global companies in order to measure which were engaged in extensive greenwashing. Environmental groups and public relations firms have enumerated several standards that can be used to evaluate whether a company is engaged in the practice. However, at the heart of greenwashing is a company’s desire to represent its business as environmentally friendly at the expense of honestly portraying their environmental character.

Common methods used by corporations include advertising, press releases, and websites. Less obvious methods that are equally pernicious include trade groups that lobby the public on the company’s behalf, touting the adoption of non-governmental standards serving environmental protection, and establishing endowments for green academic research. A number of the companies that 24/7 Wall St. selected have been identified by environmental groups as greenwashers.

In order to demonstrate that greenwashing misrepresents the environmental character of the company, 24/7 Wall St. considered adverse environmental causes in several ways. Chief among these is pollution data. As a result of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 and Pollution Prevention Act, EPA annually collects data from companies on releases and transfers of certain toxic chemicals and waste management activities from industrial facilities. The agency then publishes the data through the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. As part of the program, the TRI data is indexed and made publicly available through the EPA’s online databases and software.

The TRI database, called the TRI Explorer, allows queries based upon several criteria including industry code, chemical type, and facility. Using TRI explorer, 24/7 Wall St. created toxic chemical release reports based upon industry and facility. Using this methodology we identified the companies which released the largest amount of toxic chemicals according to 27 different industrial codes identified by the EPA. This data included the ranking of each company’s facilities compared to the performance of other companies in the industry. Frequently, the larger the share of the industry the company enjoyed the greater total amount of toxic release.

Relying on the TRI program, a number of organizations, including nonprofits and trade groups, create additional databases that further analyze this information based upon issues including the facilities reporting the release of the toxic chemicals, the companies which own the facilities, the level of toxicity of the chemicals, and the risk of public exposure to the chemicals. 24/7 Wall St. also used these databases, including the Political Economy Research Institute’s Toxic 100 index.

Enforcement data includes court orders, civil actions, and administrative rulings. Generally, these arose from private or governmental concern over the company’s environmental conduct vis-à-vis EPA and State environmental regulations. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed case law and EPA enforcement actions to identify companies that had poor environmental records. In addition to settlements and awards against the companies, 24/7 Wall St. also considered the company’s responses to environmental concerns raised by agencies and the public. The greater the number of actions, the monetary value of the awards or settlements, and the reluctance of the companies to abide by the agreement were all factors that we took into consideration.

Finally, lobbying efforts had a substantial impact on whether companies were on the list. Using, a “nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy,” 24/7 Wall St. calculated the amount of contributions that each company made through their corporate PACs. Specifically, we considered whether or not the company donated to particular members of the House and Senate who are known to have bad voting records on environmental laws. All of the companies on our list donated to at least three Senators or Congressman who have such records.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Disclosure, Acts of Quick Change of Plans, and Itching Eyes

This week has been a whirlwind of activity, plans (long term life kind alongside when to pee kind) and high pollen counts. I can't fucking believe its only Wednesday. It is shocking my brain right now!

In my old job I was definitely the girl that got shit done when shit needed to get done and this week put me back into that zone. Shit needs to get done? Choose me choose me!! Or in reality it 'heeeey you! come here and get shit done!', which works just as well. Monday morning I thought I would have a nice week catching up and then a relaxing weekend hiking in west virginia or pennsylvania and maybe a long bike ride and a good brunch. Turns out I'm flying to Florida, sorting shit out, taking a train to Fort Lauderdale, sorting shit out, touring toxic school sites, sorting shit out, waking up at 4am, flying back to DC, sorting shit out, taking a bus to NYC, sorting shit out, busing my way back to DC, sorting shit out, and then maybe when next Friday comes around I'll take a short nap, before I have to sort some more shit out.

Earlier in the week I was having some mini-panic attacks about it all, but then I realized this is how I live. This is actually my life. For better or for worse. And I kind of like it. In fact, I've gotten more done in the past three days, then I've gotten done in weeks. I've even been going to the gym and taking vitamins. I mean, I never do those things. Ever. This is my life. All or nothing.

I also recently subscribed to a bunch of EPA and HHS and email lists. Those bitches send a whole lot of emails. But they are really interesting too. They are all sending out updates on how they are using the recovery money and it's really helpful to keep track of what's going on, including what companies are being fined and what toxic sites are being listed as superfund sites and what states are using recovery money for green jobs and water conservation project. I just got an email from HHS. Here is where it sent me.

Not bad. I like how it has the person that submitted the activity and her phone number as well as latest activity with recovery money.

What are you using the recovery money for?


p.s. the tree pollen count is extremely high today and my eyes itch.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bodega's, Fake News, and I Wish I Was A Little Bit Taller

I've been hanging out in Brooklyn (specifically greenpoint) since last Sunday. Mostly for the boy, mostly for the naps, and little for the extra small overpriced apartment search.

I'm searching for a new place to lay my head and a new city to discover and get bored with in a few years. This time in Brooklyn (again). I'm hoping to get up there sometime this summer. So, I hung around off the G train in an effort to see how I would like it and if it was the right thing to do. I think I would and I think it is. The district will be a large piece of the past seven years for me. I feel like I came of age in this tiny town. 22-29 ain't no small feat to get out alive. Let me tell you, little darling.

This morning the boy and I stopped by this great little bodega that just opened up on Nassau. , called the Brooklyn Standard. It is an organic, slow food high hipster content bodega. Even with all that thrown in, I like it. The best coffee with milk that takes only 72 hours from teet to lips. When my new girlfriend (I have a crush on the barista, cute, tattooed, pours a damn good skim latte) told me that, I became a little concerned. Do I want to be that close to food sources? Doesn't milk need to sit around and go through a process for a little bit? 72 hours is a very long partying time, but just a hop, skip and jump for something that was squeezed out of a bovine's nipple. The boy and I had a moment of 'whooaaa that's intense'. And the girlfriend said 'yeah. i know. Enjoy, sweets!'. But it was one of the best damn latte's I've ever had, so I think I'm cool with it. Was it the hot girl making it or the freshly lactated milk? Not sure. But if you ever find yourself wandering around Greenpoint, you should stop in for a taste.

This brings me to some new topics I've recently found myself drawn to. Slow food. Community gardens. And my desperate need for a hobby. Work. Sleep. Eat. Walk. Metro. Work. Sleep. Eat. Walk. Metro. is starting to bring me down and bore me terribly. My brain needs to be challenged in ways that do not involve the chemical industry and upward managing.

I decided (with the understanding that I kill green things) that I want a hobby that involves community gardens. I'm obsessed with food. You can check out my little tummy, but I beg you not to, as proof. I also want to one day open a community center for neighborhood children to become part of a real community and experience the arts and creative endeavors as a way to make a community better and productive and peaceful. So I think getting my hands dirty a couple times a week, might be just what I need. I seriously think I also suffer from seasonial depression-like feelings. Winter be gone! I often drink and eat and sleep way more during the winter, which makes Spring ever the more delightful. Maybe it's just a mix of that and boredom and a little of wanting to be better intuned with where my food comes from. My body is very sensitive so I am often affected by the food I eat. Whether it is stomach pains for two days or allergic reactions to papaya skins or intense satisfaction from the perfect burrito, food is a big part of my life (I'm also southern) so I should know something about it. Yes, Liz you are helping move forward on this too! My little foodie! What are friends for if they don't move in the right direction? I guess getting drunk and swapping clothes, maybe.

Anyways, though I'm hoping to hop into this newly renovated apartment with awesome hardwood floors and the most amazing built in closets I just found near Franklin Avenue in Greenpoint May 1 (send good luck apartment wishes to me - the dude needs to put me at the top of the list) I am going to check out some of the community gardens in DC this month. There are a few. It seems like there are small amounts of everything in DC, but I guess it's because the city is actually quite small itself. 7 square miles. I also want to check out the community gardens in Brooklyn. There is also a co-op in Park Slope that I would like to join. You have to work like 3 or 4 hours a month. That would be a good hobby too and a nice way to meet like minded people. Though I'm not the biggest fan of the h.i.p.p.i.e.s.

So, the landlord, who served mimosas, fruit and cheese at the open house this afternoon, lived in the district for 5 years and his girlfriend is moving from DC to NYC to work for The Onion. I think we bonded over DC and working in VA. Yeah, I totally have a inside track to The Onion. Two degrees to fake news! Fuck yeah!

The room is pretty small. I'm going to have to sell most of my trash, which I'm happy about. I need to purge all the crap I never use/look at/have seen in years anyway. I'm thinking of taking pictures of most of my stuff and putting it on my flickr account then holding a open house for people to come visit. I was also thinking of serving Miller High Life and hummus. Could work in DC. I have soooo much stuff. Need to get rid of it. Maybe you want some of my stuff. Think about it.

Anyways, the neighborhood I want to move in Greenpoint is super cute. It's right next to the water. So I can walk two blocks and contemplate life choices near the waves, like I use to Florida. And visit adorable dark wood and red light cafe's and libraries. I can take pictures of warehouses and industry and even the sewage treatment plant located just blocks from my apartment. Evidentally a very talented light specialist designed the exterior lighting, making it all very pleasing to view at night. Though my room will most likely face a brick wall, the thought of the beautiful lighting seems good to me!

Well, that brings me to right now. In the second row of a chinatown bus back to the district. Just near ext 7A on the Jersey Turnpike. The dude next me to is snoring and my bright lit Mac is annoying my eyes, so I'm heading out to send good luck wishes for a good apartment to myself. And maybe a small nap.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

EPA is Back on the Job

I went to a conference at Columbia University called Translating Science to Policy on Monday. It was about children's health science and how our movement (called the toxics movement internally - though I wonder what the chemical industry calls us - probably something that you can be fined for on tv) can use recent science to get good laws passed for a more precautionary approach to protecting health instead of regulating chemicals. is that enough jargon for you this early in the morning?

Lisa Jackson, the new EPA Administrator, was there to discuss the agency's priorities. She gave some bold statements, such as EPA is back on the job. She also talked about the USAToday articles on air pollution and schools. She didn't mention that the EPA just announced 100 schools that are being monitored for the next 60 days for air pollution. The extent of this project can be found here.

On this issue, which I spend most of my time working on, EPA has been back on the job. In January, the agency announced that a working group had been formed to develop national guidelines on school siting. Though this announcement should have happened the January prior because now they are it looks like a sure thing they will miss yet another deadline which for this project is June 2009. (though I was told that I should be happy that their goal isn't 3 or 4 years) She gave a pretty good speech that allowed us in the room to feel that maybe our concerns will be looked at and examined in a thoughtful manner. Of course all this makes me nervous. Because it means that the public might become too complacent. Might think that because we don't have an environmental agency who fires scientists for speaking out against chemicals/corrupt corporations or dozens of staff quitting because they can't take having their science replaced with political favors and stymied any longer, that we all don't have a part in keeping the pressure up on our government.

They may be better than that past 8 years, but a democracy only works when people make it work. It doesn't exist in isolation or without arguments or without corruption. Democracy only works when the people watchdog and complain and FOIA the shit out of it. It only works when we are engaged and read the newspapers/blog/twitter/whathaveyounewssource and then discuss what you read with your neighbors and children and cubicle mates.

So even though Jackson gave this speech where she outlined a better regulatory system, children's health, cleaner water, cleaner air, and the precautionary principle as her priorities, that doesn't mean that today I'm not going to try to convince people and organizations to sign on to school siting principles that will then be used in local school districts to sign on letters to Jackson herself about how if these guidelines really do take 18 months longer than they were mandated to take, that the EPA isn't putting children's health first. That they will be failing in being back on the job.

Renee Claire

ps. I'm trying to come up with a project to highlight the 100 schools that are being air monitored, but I'm not sure what to do. Got any ideas?