Tag Archives: Supermajor

Sierra Club and Steelworkers


20em (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent the morning with United Steelworkers in Texas City in a forum organized by the Blue Green Apollo Alliance. Spent the night at Economy Lodge and there were funny smells in the air. Sigh.

The presentation rolled out by the Blue Green Apollo Alliance identified these problems:

  1. the US economy depends on oil
  2. the US is using more oil than we produce
  3. improvements are needed in the safety practices of oil production and refining
  4. the oil industry is a powerful political force, resulting in an unhealthy cycle of huge subsidies and lax regulation

And they proposed a suite of solutions:

  • we can cut our consumption of oil in half
  • we can ensure the oil we use is domestically produced and improve job security of US refinery workers
  • we dramatically improve safety and health practices in the US oil industry
  • the people we elect to represent us are committed to these ideals

In order to accomplish these things, there were suggestions of improving vehicle fuel standards, improving infrastructure for more efficiency, investing in transit options, and of course, smarter growth (courtesy of Agenda 21! just kidding).

We were asked to opine on the presentation, whether we agreed, disagreed, or had any further thoughts. We actually didn’t disagree with anything in the presentation, neither the facts of it nor the aspirations (Steelworkers: “Cut our consumption of oil in half? Desirable. Just not sure if it’s possible, or if Big Oil will let us do it.”) There were three similar events of this kind all over the country preceding our encounter, and the presentation changed after every presentation, so I’m assuming the content was perhaps more controversial at the beginning.

What I actually learned:

  • Steelworkers are having a tough time building their own membership. Their coworkers are mostly conservatives. The USW consistently supports Democrats, so they’re having a rough time.
  • Enforcement (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, EPA, any kind of state/federal regulator) only come around when they are called. They spoke frequently about more safety and more regulations.
  • I could have guessed this, but contract workers are a huge problem. They aren’t as well trained, and in a dangerous line of work like this one, the consequences for not knowing how to properly operate machinery or troubleshoot safety issues are enormous.
  • Deaths of contract workers in accidents do not count against “Safety Awards” given out by executives for no accidents. That is why the Texas City BP refinery had a “Safety Award for 4 years without an injury” in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, even though the Texas City BP refinery exploded on March 23, 2005, and killed 15 workers.
  • These companies cut corners wherever they can. They care about safety, as long as it isn’t expensive.
  • These guys know solidarity. They’re going to protest at Costco to get them to pull Palermo’s pizza after Palermo employees tried to form a union and the managers promptly called ICE on them. (Saturday, August 25th from 10am-noon at 3836 Richmond Avenue, Houston TX 77027 if you’re interested).
  • USW Local 13-2001 Vice President Mark Schubert, who was recently fired for statements he made at a new worker orientation, said this: “I’ve heard environmentalists belittle themselves. I have to say, that when I was growing up in the ship channel, I remember horny toads, fish, split-tail lizards… [I think that’s what he said, he was just listing wildlife]. Those guys were all gone for a while, but thanks to you guys, they’re coming back. And now maybe my grandkids will see them. And that’s really nice.”

To support Mark, you can sign this petition to Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson asking him to reinstate his job.

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Future for the Gulf is Healthy Transportation

Texans Hold ‘Second Line’ New Orleans Style Funeral for the Gulf on One-Year Memorial of BP Oil Disaster

Sierra Club and Galveston Baykeeper Release Gulf Future Action Plan and Call for Moving Beyond Oil

(Austin) – The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and Galveston Baykeeper today held a New Orleans-style jazz funeral for the Gulf where they released the Gulf Future Action Plan, the result of a year-long collaboration of Gulf state communities and they called for moving away from dependency on oil to healthier transportation solutions.

One year ago today, the BP-Horizon explosion and fire caused the loss of 11 workers’ lives and possibly the worst oil spill disaster in world history.  The disaster flooded the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with almost 5 million barrels or about 260 million gallons of oil. The oil was estimated to have covered an area of somewhere in the range between 2,500 to 68,000 square miles.

Gulf Future Action Plan  “America’s Gulf Coast is still suffering, and we need the support of the nation for a full and fair recovery,” said Galveston Baykeeper Charlotte Wells.  While Texas was not as significantly damaged as Louisiana, Mississippi and other Gulf states, Wells showed a map of Texas beaches that were impacted.  The Gulf Future Action Plan calls for:

  • 80% of Clean Water Act fines to be directed to ecosystem restoration on the Gulf Coast
  • Affordable, accessible health care by professionals trained in oil-spill related illnesses
  • Full funding for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment
  • Implementation of the Oil Spill Commission recommendations including prohibition of the use of dispersants
  • Stakeholder participation and Transparency
  • Investments in Renewable Energy and local jobs

The Gulf Future Action Plan is available online at http://www.gulffuture.org/

Moving Beyond Oil

Over two years ago, Sierra Club launched its Beyond Oil campaign asserting that drilling for oil in difficult scenarios such as in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, in the sensitive Arctic wilderness, and piping the dirtiest tar sands oil across the continent from Canada are prohibitively dangerous and risky.

“The only way to truly protect our communities and our oceans is to end Big Oil’s stranglehold on our economy and break our addiction to oil. Instead of chasing dirty, dead-end fossil fuels, we should be investing in 21stCentury transportation solutions like smarter, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, electric vehicles and mass transit,” said Eva Hernandez with Sierra Club.

Professor Tad Patzek, Chair of the University of Texas Department of Petroleum and Geosciences Engineering pointed to individuals responsibilities but also said that the world is running out of oil.

“So what are the two main lessons from the Macondo well tragedy?,” said Patzek.  “One is that we need to be a lot more careful in how we drill and produce oil and gas reservoirs in the most difficult and inhospitable environment on Earth — the deep ocean. The second lesson is that we have to snap out of our stupor and realize that the time of cheap gasoline and sprawling suburbs accessible only by car is coming to an inevitable end, no matter what anyone says. This second lesson has not been learned yet.”

Gulf Future Action Plan participating groups, Sierra Club and Galveston Baykeeper are looking to local, state, and federal government to lead.


“The time is now for leadership from Congress – the restoration of the Gulf, the health of our economy and the safety of all Americans depends on it,” said Hernandez.

Become a fan of Texas Sierra Club on Facebook and view the photo album from this event — http://www.facebook.com/TexasSierraClub#!/media/set/fbx/?set=a.10150168401047920.311091.119581047919

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Big Oil Bad News: Six Months and $68 Million Later…

On 6 Month Anniversary of BP Disaster,  Big Oil spends $68.5 million on Campaigns to block solutions


Today, Wednesday, October 20 marks six months since BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, killing eleven workers and sending millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Following the disaster, the Sierra Club reached out to hundreds of thousands of citizens, who called on our leaders to prevent future oil disasters by moving American beyond oil dependence. Since then Big Oil has poured tens of millions of dollars into lobbying and political campaigns to fight any reform or accountability for their industry.

As the anniversary approaches, the Sierra Club is calling attention Big Oil’s campaign spending and efforts to block clean energy at a new site: www.paidforbybigoil.org. A new Center for American Progress report released today details how groups with ties to Big Oil have spent nearly $70 million so far on political campaigning.

Statement of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune:

After the BP disaster, hundreds of thousands of Americans called on our leaders to prevent future tragedies by moving America beyond oil dependence. Six Months and $68 Million later, we’ve been disappointed to see the oil industry stand in the way of clean energy solutions that would help end our oil dependence. Thanks to Big Oil’s influence on Congress and elections, we still haven’t seen the measures we need to help the Gulf Coast recover. We still haven’t seen real action to prevent future oil disasters and create clean energy jobs. Voters must not let our elections be Paid for By Big Oil.

According to a report released today by Center for American Progress Action Fund, the oil industry and special interests have already poured $68.5 million into campaigns this election season.

The dirty energy industry has poured millions into backing candidates who, if we let them get to Washington, will be sure to stand in the way of clean energy innovation and jobs. They spread oil all over our beaches, and now they’re spreading money all over our elections. By voting for clean energy advocates, we can send a clear message to corporate polluters that they need to step aside and let us get to work creating a clean energy economy.

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