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JPMorgan Chase: Not Good Enough. Try Again.

At its annual investor conference today, JPMorgan Chase released a new fossil fuel policy. It should be met with indignation, not praise.

 

by Alec Connon

Last week, we learned that a report from economists at the world’s largest funder of fossil fuels, JPMorgan Chase, had found that the climate crisis is now so severe that “human life as we know it is threatened.” The report, written last month, concluded with an unambiguous warning for the company, and for all of us: “Something will have to change (…) if the human race is going to survive.”

And today something did change at JPMorgan Chase. At its annual Investor Day conference  ― a closed-door, invite-only gathering of the 1% and their friends ― JPMorgan Chase released a new fossil fuel policy and, for the first time, implicitly admitted what its own economists have been warning behind closed doors: the climate crisis must change the way that JPMorgan Chase does business.

After 3 years of relentless campaigning, the world’s largest funder of fossil fuels has finally blinked.


Chase’s new policy addresses three main areas: coal, Arctic drilling, and investments in projects the bank deems sustainable. The most meaningful part of the policy is around coal: It commits Chase to immediately excluding any new business ― whether providing loans or underwriting debt ― with companies that derive more than half of their business from coal mining, and to zeroing out all business with such companies by 2024. In addition, Chase has said it will not provide any new direct funding for coal plants.

Chase’s policy also commits the bank to not directly financing any Arctic oil and gas projects, and to providing $200 billion in loans to projects that meet the UN’s sustainable development goals by the end of 2020.

Unfortunately it isn’t quite as good as it sounds.

While not directly funding coal plants and Arctic oil and gas projects may sound great, it amounts to little more than greenwashing. The new policy doesn’t do anything to prohibit Chase from financing companies that are building coal plants or Arctic oil and gas projects. It’s a little like Chase has stopped directly loaning to a gun manufacturing plant, but is still loaning money to Smith and Wesson. Under Chase’s new policy, a company can no longer apply to Chase for a loan specifically for building an Arctic drilling rig, but it can apply for a general purpose loan and then use that to build an Arctic drilling rig. It’s a loophole the size of Texas.

It is an especially egregious loophole given that Chase is the world’s largest funder of companies that drill in the Arctic, providing them with more in loans ($1.7 billion) than the next five largest Wall Street banks combined since the Paris Agreement was signed in late 2015.

Then there’s the not small fact that if you are a company that derives 49% of its business from coal mining (and, say, 51% of your business from tar sands) Chase is still happy to provide you with suitcases of cash to do your dirty work.

Worst of all however, is the fact that Chase’s policy doesn’t do anything about the massive amounts of funding it provides every other type of fossil fuel company outside of the coal industry: the tar sands companies, the deepwater drilling companies, the fracking companies. It’s as if our house is on fire and Chase has promised to stop pouring (some) gasoline on the flames while continuing to pour on the kerosene and the lighter fluid.


Two weeks ago, we saw what a major bank policy on fossil fuels should look like. The Royal Bank of Scotland, the fourth largest bank in the UK, released a new policy that stated the bank would stop doing business with all coal, oil, and gas companies that do not have a “transition plan” to align their business model with the Paris Agreement goals by 2021. The fourth-largest bank in the UK has essentially said that unless fossil fuel companies stop being fossil fuel companies, they will stop doing business with them. By comparison, Chase’s new policy amounts to little more than meaningless hand-waving.

All told, Chase’s new fossil fuel policy will impact little more than 0.6% of Chase’s overall funding to the fossil fuel industry. Let’s be clear: That doesn’t deserve praise. That deserves outrage. This is not a win. And we should not call it one. Indeed, perhaps the only really good thing to come out of Chase’s new policy is that it proves that the world’s largest funder of fossil fuels is feeling some heat.


The only reason Chase has come out with any sort of new fossil fuel policy is because it has come under unprecedented pressure to do so. From New York to San Francisco, Madison to Yakima, LA to Denver, protests at Chase branches are popping off all over the country. Greta Thunberg and other youth have begun to direct their rage at those financial industries upholding the fossil fuel industry. The Stop The Money Pipeline campaign is gearing up to disrupt business at Chase branches all across the country. Media outlets from Rolling Stone to the Financial Times are reporting on the climate movement’s work to hold Wall Street accountable for its role in the climate crisis.

Chase’s new fossil fuel policy may fall drastically short, but it has proven that, with enough pressure, the world’s largest funder of fossil fuels will blink.

Now it’s time to make it actually do something meaningful.

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Puget Sound Energy to Spend 1 Million on Misinformation

Gas flare in fracking

Credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay, File

by Nick Etheridge

Our local fossil fuel-hooked utility is planning on spending $1 million in 2020 telling us that fracked gas is good for the climate. Don’t buy their lies.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand.” I think of this Frederick Douglass quote regularly. Observing the state of our world, it is clear that the rich and powerful will not simply yield to a more just world; they will fight to keep their entrenched power, profits, and control. And while it is easy to point to the climate destruction wrought by the villain in the Oval Office, we needn’t look beyond Seattle city limits to find a local villain that is doing everything it can to profit from the fossil fuels that are wreaking such havoc on our climate, planet, and communities.

The Seattle Times recently published a disturbing article that revealed that our local provider of climate-wrecking fracked gas, Puget Sound Energy (owned by Canadian investment firms including Alberta Investment Management Corporation), is helping form a new pro-gas lobbying group called, get this: “Partners for Energy Progress.” The primary goal of “Partners for Energy Progress”? Spend $1 million in advertisements that promote the benefits of gas and sow doubt about its harmful health and climate effects. We may be living in 2020, but it appears PSE and their allies want us to live in 1984.

As Hal Bernton and Daniel Beekman note in the article, this effort is in response to the growing number of cities in the country moving beyond gas in homes and buildings by banning new gas connections in homes and buildings. What Berkeley started, other cities in California, Massachusetts, and here in Washington are continuing. Bellingham is considering not only a ban on fossil fuels in new homes and buildings, but required conversions of existing homes to electric space and water heating and cooking. Seattle’s mayor just issued an Executive Order ensuring no new municipal buildings are heated with fossil fuels. Plans are afoot to make the policy city-wide.

The ripple of cities implementing fracked gas bans is both exciting and necessary. As we previously noted, the case against gas and for all-electric homes and buildings is airtight:

  • Gas is a fossil fuel like any other, and given the amount of methane leaking into the air, it may not actually reduce emissions relative to coal, which is the primary selling point by gas boosters.
  • Gas stoves are bad for you. Really bad for you. Gas cooking can lead to indoor pollution levels deemed “hazardous for human health.” Equivalent pollution levels would be considered illegal by the Environmental Protection Agency if they were outdoors.
  • Electric induction stoves are far superior to old, electric resistance stoves, and are a ready replacement for gas stoves.
  • Seattle sits on a major fault line and a city full of buried, pressurized gas pipes carries major risks in the event of the “Big One”.
  • Replacing gas heating with electric heat pumps can reduce energy usage and provide comfortable homes that can be heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. Can PSE’s gas furnaces do that?

To be sure, PSE and its ilk will use this $1 million effort to sell the virtues of gas, and to pretend like it’s your interests they have at heart. They will use buzzwords like “flexibility” and “choice” and innocuous statements like, “We need every tool in the tool box.” What they won’t tell you is that the real choice is the one between their never-ending profits and a healthy, livable planet.

Make no mistake: this public relations campaign by PSE puts them squarely in league with the Koch brothers, Exxon, Shell, and every other fossil fuel company that has spent decades executing an orchestrated campaign of confusion, denial, and lies in a cynical effort to keep our society hooked on their planet-wrecking product as they reap ever higher profits. It is also a sign that they are reading the writing on the wall. As more and more of us awaken to the planetary crisis unfolding, our demands for change will become stronger and stronger. That will directly impact their pocketbooks.

The good news is that momentum is building in Seattle to curb fossil fuel use in our homes and buildings. In 2019, the Seattle City Council passed the Seattle Green New Deal resolution with the goal of eliminating the city’s emissions by 2030 through a just transition that reduces inequality and creates thousands of good, union jobs. That was quickly followed by a new ban on oil heating. Further, city staff are currently performing a labor analysis on the impacts of a citywide gas ban in all new homes and buildings, due out this summer. In the meantime, the Mayor has recently signed an executive order, which mandates that all new and substantially-renovated municipal buildings in the city be all electric. This is a small but encouraging step toward meaningful action. So what can you do?

  • Call and write your councilmembers (your district member and the two at-large members, Tereasa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González) and the Mayor, thanking them for taking the first step on municipal buildings and urging them to pass the Healthy Homes, Healthy Buildings legislation when it comes up for a vote later in the year.
  • Watch out for pro-gas advertisements and call them out for what they are–a greedy and cynical effort with the aim of sowing doubt about the dangers of fracked gas. Talk to your friends and family members who have seen ads and educate them on the truth!

Such moves by utilities, like the one last year orchestrated by gas companies to defeat I-1631, can feel discouraging and defeating. It is truly sad that so many rich and powerful people intentionally stand in the way of a better world. And yet, their success in opposing justice and progress is not inevitable; they may always have the money, but we’ll always have the people. Let your elected officials know that we expect them to fight for us, not for corporations, and that we will support them when they do.

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December Newsletter

Invasion: A film about the Unist'ot'en struggle for self-determination

2020 may be the most consequential year ever, in a historical moment when our years are all strikingly consequential. We’re excited about the possibilities it presents locally and nationally, and gearing up to fulfill them as best we can. But meanwhile, there’s more good learning and good work in this one, and a little time for reflection too.

INVASION

A day’s drive north of Seattle a major struggle over pipelines and land rights has been unfolding for over a decade. In this era of “reconciliation” indigenous land is still being taken at gunpoint. INVASION is a new (18 minute) film about the Unist’ot’en Camp, Gidimt’en checkpoint and the larger Wet’suwet’en Nation standing up to the Canadian government and fossil fuel corporations who continue colonial violence against indigenous people.

Free film screening and panel discussion. Our guest speakers include Matt Remle, Rachel Heaton, Paul Chiyokten Wagner, Dakota Case and supporters who have spent time at the Unist’ot’en Camp. Discussion will be based around how to support the Wet’suwet’en struggle, and local indigenous struggles.

If you can’t attend the event, you can still support the movement by donating, spending time at the camp, or hosting a film screening in your own community/neighborhood.

Invasion: A film about the Unist’ot’en struggle for self-determination
Hosted by Mazaska Talks and 350 Seattle
Tuesday, December 10, 6:30–8:00pm
Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave, Seattle 98122
Shareable event page here.
For questions about the event, accessibility or to volunteer, please email Sulakshana.

And whether you attend the Seattle screening or not, please join us as we discuss the camp while also learning about the history and culture of the Muckleshoot people.

Invasion at the Muckleshoot Cultural Center
Hosted by Muckleshoot Culture Program and 350 Seattle
Tuesday, December 17, 6:30–8:00pm
Muckleshoot Culture Building, 39009 SE 172nd Ave. Auburn 98092
Shareable event page here.

LOVE BOAT? WE THINK NOT!

The Port of Seattle’s proposing another cruise ship berth at Terminal 46, but we’re not on board.  Cruise ships are the antithesis of decarbonization, fueled with one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on earth — heavy fuel oil. We know fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, so why would we expand this unnecessary and polluting industry that exists solely for entertainment and luxury, in complete denial of its impacts on climate and sensitive environments?

At a time when vessel traffic noise is crippling the ability of critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales to hunt salmon, and the pollutants that have bioaccumulated up the food web are damaging their ability to survive and reproduce, introducing more toxins and more mega-ship traffic into their habitat could push these iconic animals closer to the brink of extinction.

So, please join us for the next Port of Seattle Commissioners meeting. Public Comment is given at the beginning of the meeting. Come speak from the heart!

Port of Seattle Commissioners Meeting
Tuesday, December 10, 12:00pm
Pier 69, 2711 Alaskan Way, Seattle 98121

To join our maritime workgroup or to join the multi-org coalition forming to stop the expansion at T46, contact Stacy.

TRANS MOUNTAIN

We’re headed up to Vancouver, British Columbia for a solidarity rally with the Indigenous nations who are in court to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Bring your voice to support the Federal Court of Appeal cases by Coldwater, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations against the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Family friendly!

Indigenous Legal Challenges Solidarity Rally
Monday, December 16, 12:30–1:30pm
Georgia and Howe Streets, Vancouver, BC
More details here and carpooling here.

And thanks for all your help making Pancakes over Pipelines a huge success! We raised over $20K Canadian and $35K US including a matching donation for part of it. All proceeds will go to Pull Together to help First Nations in this critical round of legal challenges. Want to chip in? Donate here.

TACOMA LNG

In the upcoming days or weeks, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) will announce a final permit decision for the proposed Tacoma LNG fracked gas storage, refinery and bunkering facility. Although they announced their intent to approve the permit before the most recent public comment period even opened, this fight is far from over!

The data used in PSCAA’s analysis is over a decade old, relies on industry data and impossible-to-enforce conditions such as all the gas for the lifetime of the project coming from only one area in Canada. The agency has also refused the numerous requests made by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians to engage in meaningful consultation.

Please join us at the next PSCAA board meeting for public comment. Wear red in solidarity!

PSCAA Board Meeting
Thursday, December 19, 8:45am
1904 3rd Ave, Seattle 98101 (Lower level)

Missed our meeting last week on how to be part of the LNG fight from right here in Seattle? Contact Stacy for more info or to join one of our LNG work teams such as Solidarity Action Planning, Social Media Support or Community Engagement!

CHASE OUT OF FOSSIL FUELS

The campaign to stop JPMorgan Chase from funding climate disaster is popping off all over the nation. This month, there were major actions targeting Chase in Washington DC, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon and more. We’re not quite ready to share all the details with the world yet, but let’s just say we have a feeling that this campaign is going to take off on a whole new level very soon. Fill out this form to stay up to date with our Chase campaign.

SEATTLE FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL

Since we’re coming up to the end of the year, let’s review our progress in 2019, shall we?

We gathered over 10,000 signatures from Seattle residents in support of a Seattle Green New Deal, and nearly 250 Seattle-based organizations and community leaders endorsed the call. In response, we saw the City Attorney publicly commit to taking legal action against the fossil fuel industry, a Green New Deal Community Oversight Board was created, and the City Council unanimously passed a resolution committing to creating a transformational Green New Deal that will eliminate climate pollution by 2030, address current and historic injustice and create thousands of good jobs.

2020 here we come! To get involved, sign up here.

KEEP THE IRP!

What’s an IRP? Why, that’s the bi-annual Integrated Resource Plan that electric utilities like 58% fossil-fueled Puget Sound Energy use to explain how they’re going to power their customers and implement necessary legislation like the Clean Energy Transformation Act, which calls for carbon accounting and addressing equity concerns.

After cancelling this year’s IRP, the Utilities and Transportation Commission proposes to reduce the frequency of planning session from every other year to once every four years. Wait, what?

Sure, public regulators are spread thin trying to put our new clean electricity law in place, but these planning sessions are nearly the only oversight and watchdog opportunities the public gets!

So, take two seconds to make sure the public keeps this critical oversight function: Submit a comment here.

And bonus points for personalizing your comment with the words transparency, accountability, trust, stonewalling, and “utilities should disclose their models and data to technical advisory group members who sign non-disclosure agreements, as is done in other states”!

EQUITY AND INCLUSION

Our Equity and Inclusion workgroup (the next iteration of Frontline Allies) continues to deepen our undoing oppression and equity work across the organization. We have 6 co-leads on 4 teams: Solidarity, Equity Filter, Education, and Hiring, all of which have set ambitious but achievable goals for the year. Our workgroups are working closely with frontline communities on climate related issues like stopping pipelines or refineries and launching Seattle for a Green New Deal. We’re developing more trainings and an equity lens to ensure that work is widespread and successful.

We’re looking for folks to join the Solidarity Team to focus on networking with majority frontline community groups on justice issues that share the same root causes as the climate crisis. Examples are immigration, prisons, militarism, and requests for support to stand up to oppression and racism is various forms.

See our new “350 Seattle in Solidarity” calendar and our Facebook Group for upcoming educational and solidarity events and join our workgroup discussion list!

No experience needed, just a desire to learn alongside us, but if you have skills in undoing oppression or equity work, please let us know! If you’re interested in anti-war solidarity, please contact Kara or Anna. If you are interested in getting involved in other crucial solidarity work for our climate movement, please contact Lisa.

SOLIDARITY

Climate Emergency Declaration. On Thanksgiving Day, The Protectors of the Salish Sea visited Jay Inslee’s home on Bainbridge Island to pray and ask that he declare a Climate Emergency and use his executive power to terminate fossil fuel expansion in the state.

Please lend your voice by signing and sharing their online petition.

For more about this prayer-led movement, check out this beautiful video by Jenna Mason. If interested in volunteering at the prayer camp in Olympia or from afar, please fill out this online registration form. To be added to the updates list for upcoming actions, please email the Protectors, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram. To donate to the camp, see the equipment needs list or make a financial donation here.

About the missing. Learn about the intersectional issues that contribute to Native people going missing and being murdered at rates higher than any other demographic. It will be a night of amazing panelists and speakers, families speaking out about their experiences, and discussion of the work being done to combat this issue of MMIP.

Amplifying the Voices of Missing & Murdered Indigenous People

Hosted by: Missing and Murdered Indigenous People & Families, Mazaska Talks, Unkitawa and Seattle Human Rights Commission

Thursday December 12, 5:30–9:00pm
Town Hall, 1119 8th Ave, Seattle 98101
Shareable event page here. To volunteer at this event please email Ahlay.

ANTI-WAR SOLIDARITY

As part of 350 Seattle’s solidarity work, we have joined two local anti-war coalitions: the Seattle Anti-War Coalition (SAWC) and Washington Against Nuclear War (WANW). Both groups are focused on our region’s significant role in the U.S. military-industrial complex, including building and readying nuclear weapons. Nuclear weaponry has direct connections to climate, including destructive mining practices, the potential for ecological catastrophe, and health consequences to communities surrounding nuclear weapons manufacturing and testing sites. We are working on both learning and educating others about how war fuels climate change and how climate change fuels conflict.

How to Plug In
Seattle Anti-War Coalition: Attend monthly anti-war protests outside the Federal Building in downtown Seattle on first Tuesdays, 11:00am–1:00pm (or as much of that time as possible). The November SAWC rally focused on the US role in the atrocities happening in the Philippines. The December rally focused on the US role behind the coup in Bolivia.

Washington Against Nuclear War: Participate in organizing phone calls (no more than once a month); participate in political advocacy by calling and writing your representatives about key pieces of legislation.

Contact Kara or Anna for more info.

TIME TO MAKE THE CALL ON TRADE

Word on the street says there’s huge pressure on Nancy Pelosi from moderate Democrats to allow a vote on Trump’s USMCA, or NAFTA 2.0 in the next two weeks. This deal would continue to allow fossil fuel companies to sue Mexico over environmental policies and continue the trend of climate polluting industries moving to Mexico, where standards are weaker. Until trade deals include enforceable climate standards, the work we do here in the US will be insufficient.

If you are in one of these Congressional Districts, please call your rep and tell them to oppose the climate-killing NAFTA 2.0:

Derek Kilmer, (253) 272-3515
Adam Smith, (425) 793-5180
Kim Schrier, (425) 657-1001
Suzan DelBene, (425) 485-0085
Rick Larsen, (425) 252-3188

CIVIC ACTION TEAM

Get your phones ready, we’re gearing up for the 2020 legislative session in Olympia! And you know what that means: It’s almost time to start calling our legislators to make sure they are making climate justice a top priority this session! Sign up here to join our Civic Action Team and receive regular updates and calls to action throughout the session. Then, mark your calendars for 2020:

2020 CAT Kick Off Webinar
Sunday, January 12, 7:00pm
We’ll discuss the bills that we’ll be championing and a few tricks of the legislative advocacy trade. RSVP here.

Youth Climate Lobby Day
Friday January 24, 10:00am–3:00pm
Temple Beth Hatfiloh, 201 8th Ave SE, Olympia 98501
Shareable event page here.

And in other exciting news, we can share that we’ve been talking with many of the ten other 350.org-affiliated groups in Washington State and we’re hoping to partner with some of them on our Civic Action Team work this year. 350 WA? Stranger things have happened…

TRANSPORTATION UPDATE

Transpo meeting is a Zoom call now! Second Monday of the month, 5:00–6:00pm. This month we’ll be discussing upcoming #ClaimTheLaneForClimate actions, leadership opportunities in Transpo, MASS coalition work for 2020, transpo bills in the upcoming state legislative session, and Orca for All.

Transportation Team Monthly Meeting
Monday, December 9, 5:00–6:00pm
Online: https://zoom.us/j/397697975

For phone call-in info, or to get involved but can’t make the meeting, email Alice.

Been wondering about leaving your car behind more often?  New to the transit system? Trying to find safe routes to bike? Give one of our Transpo #CarlessInSeattle coaches a call! Experienced transit riders and bike riders can tell you about safe routes to bike, or where to find frequent and reliable transit. Email Andrew to get connected with a coach.

Orca for All, the campaign to get employer funded transit passes for more people (and ultimately free transit) needs our love at city hall:

Orca for All
Thursday, December 12, 1:00pm
Seattle City Council,
Shareable event page here.

And if you can’t attend, can you still take a minute to sign the petition and email Seattle elected officials in support? 

Regional Clean Fuel Standard. Given that the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has used out-of-date science to evaluate Tacoma LNG, can we expect them to do a good job lowering the carbon intensity of fuels for vehicles in the Puget Sound region? Study up here, and then join scads of your concerned fellow citizens at the public hearing on the draft rule at the Washington State Convention Center.

Public Hearing on a Regional Clean Fuel Standard
Thursday, December 19
Rally, 11:00–11:30am
First session, 12:30–4:30pm
Second session, 5:00–8:00pm
Washington State Convention Center, Room 2AB, 705 Pike St., Seattle 98101
Shareable event page here.

ARTFUL ACTIVISM

We welcome all skill levels in any art form, and have lots going on to jump into, from occasional participation to leadership opportunities. Join online here or come to art builds whenever you can! They are fun, no-skills-needed community gatherings with food and good connections.

If you’re a skilled artist (visual, theater, dance, music…) and want to apply your skill or show others how, please let us know! Contact Lisa.

PEOPLE’S ECHO

You do NOT need to be a singer to sing. We are louder when all our voices join together as one. The People’s Echo is teaching songs written for this political climate.

Every successful social movement has had song. Come learn a few to carry in your back pocket! You never know when it might come in handy!

Our upcoming song teach-ins are held at All Pilgrims Church (December 18, January 23, February 13, March 5 and April 23). Contact Ahlay for more info.

BE WELL

Community Resilience is here to assist individuals in finding ways to contribute to our efforts in working towards climate justice. The climate movement requires many skills and talents. Can you offer a service to benefit our community? Do you have skills which can help our organizers take care of their basic needs (e.g. healing modalities, computer help, haircuts)? The broader our skill sets and resources are, the stronger our chances are of success. Contact Ahlay.

DROP IN, HELP OUT

Looking for an easy way to help out at 350 Seattle? Curious about other ways to get involved?

Join us on the third Wednesday of every month to meet others and help out with all the small things that keep 350 going! Tasks range from phone calls to data entry to arts and crafts.

350 Seattle Drop in Hours
Wednesday, December 18, anytime from 3:30 to 6:30pm
350 Seattle, 1127 10th Ave E. Suite #1, Seattle
Shareable event page here. Questions? Contact Meg.

That’s it for 2019! As we know you know, 2020 is going to be a critical year… so rest up and get ready.

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Support the Unist’ot’en Camp! Film Screening this Tuesday!

Screening of Invasion this Tuesday, December 10,  6:30-8 PM at Washington Hall 153 14th Ave Seattle WA 98122 AND on Tuesday December 17, 6:30pm-8pm at the Muckleshoot Culture Building, 39009 SE 172nd Ave. Auburn, Wa 98092

This Tuesday there will be a film screening on the fight at the Unist’ot’en Camp, where clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have been resisting the construction of multiple fracked gas pipelines on their land for over a decade. It will be followed by a panel of local indigenous leaders making the connections to struggles here in Washington.

The Unist’ot’en camp is a day’s drive from Seattle, and is an assertion of indigenous sovereignty over lands that were never sold, surrendered, or signed away in treaty to the Canadian government. For the last 10 years Wet’suwet’en people and their allies have been living in the path of the proposed pipelines and controlling who can access their unceded territories.

The pipelines and export terminals they are resisting would bring about a dramatic expansion of fracking in NE British Columbia in the Monterey Shale Basin, and could ultimately also be used to export tar sands. The Monterey Shale Basin is where a large percentage of gas burned in Seattle homes comes from, and the extraction already happening there is already wreaking havoc on local water supplies and releasing large quantities of radically climate-destabilizing methane into the atmosphere.

The fight at the Unist’ot’en Camp is a critical struggle for climate justice that is in need of ongoing support. People who can travel to and spend time at the camp are needed on an ongoing basis, and grassroots fundraising has provided the vast majority of funds used to run the camp and pay for legal challenges.

Here in Seattle we are the closest U.S. urban center to this fight, and are well positioned to organize meaningful material support. If you’d like to learn more and get involved in this critical fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground please come out to the event Tuesday December 10 at Washington Hall from 6:30 to 8 PM, or Tuesday December 17, 6:30pm-8pm at the Muckleshoot Culture Building, 39009 SE 172nd Ave. Auburn, Wa 98092.

Check out the Facebook events here and here.

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Aviation Growth Radically Undermines Climate Goals

Jet in flight
Dear PSRC Executive Board,

I am submitting these comments on behalf of 350 Seattle in response to the Aviation Baseline Study currently underway.[1] Founded in 2013, 350 Seattle is a grassroots group working for climate justice by organizing people to make deep system change: resisting fossil fuels; building momentum for healthy alternatives; and fostering resilient, just, and welcoming communities. We have a mailing list of over 13,000 people, the great majority of whom are in the Seattle metropolitan area. We’ve been a key leader in successful fights like the #ShellNo campaign against Arctic drilling, the campaign to defeat the (proposed) world’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, and the campaign against the Anacortes Shell oil-by-rail spur. With Got Green, we are co-leading the Seattle for a Green New Deal campaign.

We have very serious concerns regarding the Aviation Baseline Study, and three specific asks for you.

Without consideration of our climate, public health, or environmental justice, PSRC has positioned the Aviation Baseline Study as setting the stage for unconstrained aviation expansion.[2] This expansion is projected to consist of a doubling of flights in the next 15 years. [3] According to King County’s 2017 greenhouse gas emission inventory, emissions from Sea-Tac and King County International Airport, based on fuel used, totaled 7,168,000 MgCO2e, or roughly a quarter of the County’s emissions.[4] If we allow aviation to indeed double, increased emissions will far outweigh reductions achieved in other sectors.[5]  

The science is clear: our climate cannot bear this. Instead of laying the groundwork for doubling emissions, we must spend the next decade cutting emissions in half to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.[6] Moreover, the very bases of the Study do not reflect PSRC’s own stated climate goals—which include protecting and restoring the natural environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions—and conflict with the principles of PSRC’s Regional Transportation Plan, including “moving people and goods in ways that support a healthy environment.”[7]

The Study also fails to acknowledge that those harmed by aviation expansion are not those benefitting from expansion. Indeed, impacted communities have been fighting against increased air traffic. For example, residents of Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood[8]—which sits directly below flight paths for two airports and is constantly bombarded by noise and pollution—have been tirelessly collecting noise data showing that noise levels over their schools and homes are constantly above acceptable levels set by the city and FAA.[9] Exposure to these levels of noise has serious health consequences, and negatively impacts student learning.[10] Impacted communities are also dealing with unknown levels of air pollution, including ultra-fine particulates.[11]

Finally, while the Public Involvement Plan says that PSRC will “provide transparency and create confidence,” it has failed to engage and listen to impacted communities, instead prioritizing the profits of large corporations and the aviation sector.[12] The Public Involvement Plan says that “community leaders … have been briefed,” but staff has not told us who those leaders are.[13] The Public Involvement Plan also says that PSRC is communicating the scope and findings of the study to “diverse audiences.”[14] These audiences appear not to include impacted communities, as many, if not most, of the potential stakeholders listed in the Public Involvement Plan are corporations or industry groups. PSRC should not prioritize the profits of Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and FedEx over the health and wellbeing of impacted communities.

As the Board overseeing this Study, you must take responsibility for these shortcomings. We urge you to direct staff to fully consider aviation emissions in the study. How can you have a “clear picture”[15] of aviation activities without considering that these activities are inimical to our region doing its part for a stable climate? You must also ensure that PSRC’s other stated goals and policies are incorporated into the study instead of being at odds with them, including substantially reducing, not increasing, greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, if PSRC is to be the “honest broker of reliable and valid data and analysis”[16] that it touts itself as, it must be clear that the putative benefits of aviation expansion do not flow to those suffering from its direct negative consequences every day. Finally, PSRC must prioritize engaging impacted communities, particularly marginalized communities whose voices are often unsought or downed out—and this engagement should not just be lip service or box checking.

Specifically, we ask that you:

  1. Adopt greenhouse emission reduction targets set by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a non-negotiable restraint on aviation expansion.[17] When doing so, consider the full extent of emissions from aviation activities based on fuel usage.[18] Climate must be an existing condition recognized in the Study and necessary greenhouse emission reductions must be a future constraint.
  2. Ensure that the Study’s Economic Analysis captures which corporations are driving and profiting from increased aviation.[19] This analysis must also show who is benefiting from aviation activity and who is paying the immediate and longer-term price.
  3. Establish a community advisory board made up of representatives from each and every impacted community, including south Seattle neighborhoods. Involve this community advisory board in all phases of the Study, and ensure that its members review and weigh in at each phase of the Study. With regard to public involvement, the advisory board should help determine which stakeholders receive outreach, how focus groups are comprised, how surveys are constructed and conducted, and where and when public meetings are held. The advisory board’s questions, concerns, and input should be recorded and reflected in the Study results.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sarah Shifley
350 Seattle

[1] Founded in 2013, 350 Seattle is a grassroots group working for climate justice by organizing people to make deep system change: resisting fossil fuels; building momentum for healthy alternatives; and fostering resilient, just, and welcoming communities. We have a mailing list of over 13,000 people, the great majority in the Seattle metropolitan area. We’ve been a key leader in successful fights like the #ShellNo campaign against Arctic drilling, the campaign to defeat the (proposed) world’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, and the campaign against the Anacortes Shell oil-by-rail spur.

[2] Scope of Work, p. 1 (the purposes of the Study includes “set[ting] the stage for future planning”); Draft Public Involvement Plan, p. 9 (PSRC’s “elevator speech” for the study includes “meeting future aviation demand”).

[3] Port of Seattle, “Forecast of Aviation Activity,” September 2015, available at https://www.portseattle.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/TM-No-04-Forecasts-of-Aviation-Activity.pdf.

[4] “GHG Emissions in King County – a 2017 update,” pp. 10 and 29, available at https://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/climate/documents/201907-KingCounty-GHG-Emissions-Analysis.pdf. This inventory only reflects 10% of actual emissions resulting from fuel used at Sea-Tac and King County International Airport.

[5] The Study’s Scope of Work pays lip service to climate concerns, making it internally inconsistent since its entire premise is laying the groundwork for doubling aviation emissions. p. 6 (stating that the Study “will consider the principles of sustainable transportation that includes… reducing carbon and other emissions”).

[6] “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2018, available here https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report.

[7] Regional Transportation Plan – 2018, p. 2. Indeed, the Study states that it will “integrate the policy framework of the PSRC’s Regional Transportation Plan,” including “that the transportation plan must move people and goods in ways that support a healthy environment.”  Scope of Work, p. 6.

[8] 70% of SeaTac landings and 30% of SeaTac take-offs travel directly over Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill also experiences heavy air traffic from King County International Airport and the noise and pollution impacts of all of this air travel on Beacon Hill are demonstrably high, even compared to the communities considered directly adjacent to Sea-Tac.

[9] In King County, the Beacon Hill population is in the top 25% for poverty, infant mortality, deaths due to diabetes and stroke, and adults without health insurance. About 25% of Beacon Hill residents older lack a high school diploma. About 80% consider themselves non-white. More than 30 languages other than English are spoken at home, and of those who do not speak English at home, less than half report being able to speak English “very well.” See https://beaconhillseattlenoise.org/about.

[10] A study of six million older people and 89 airports in the US, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Seattle’s King County International Airport, linked aircraft noise with cardiovascular disease and increased hospital admissions. In a study of 46 US airports and surrounding schools, including five Beacon Hill schools, statistically significant associations were established between airport noise and lower reading and math scores as compared to non-impacted schools. Additional studies underway may show that exposure to aircraft noise may also be linked to negative metabolic outcomes and lead to depression. See https://beaconhillseattlenoise.org/noise-health-effects.

[11] See https://deohs.washington.edu/mov-mobile-observations-ultrafine-particles-study.

[12] Although I have been corresponding with staff about the study and voicing concern regarding public involvement, I was not made aware of this meeting nor the opportunity to submit comments.

[13] Staff has only stated that community leader briefings entailed “conversations with member jurisdictions, discussions at PSRC board meetings, and with others….” We’ve also requested that Beacon Hill be considered among the “core” audience for purposes of the Public Involvement Plan; that request was denied.

[14] Draft Public Involvement Plan, p. 4.

[15] Scope of Work, p. 1.

[16] Draft Public Involvement Plan, p. 4.

[17] UN Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 C,” available at https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/.

[18] Scope of Work p. 12.

[19] Id., p. 6.

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