Clean Energy Climate Change Coal Trains Environment Global Warming Politics

Short Term Profits or Long Term Survival?

The science is in. Climate change is happening, and it is caused by human activity. Yet the oil and gas industries continue to use their immense cash reserves to fund the campaigns of politicians who are climate change deniers. There is a perfectly understandable reason for them doing so: it is profitable.

Bought-and-paid-for politicians granted exemptions to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to allow drilling for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) ensuring enormous profits for extracting gas from a huge geological region of the Midwest called the Marcellus Shale. But when the National Academy of Sciences reports “geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers” nothing changes. The scientists are telling us that the gunk the oil companies are pumping deep into the Earth to crack the shale and release the gas is polluting the groundwater, but the gas companies don’t even have to disclose the list of chemicals they use. What we do know is in there (such as formaldehyde and benzene) are not things you would want in your baby’s formula. Cracking the shale also causes micro-quakes that could lead to a major seismic event. Oh, and keep lit matches away from your kitchen tap—it just might catch fire. (If you think I am exaggerating, watch the move Gasland.)

Keystone XL, anyone? How could it possibly make any sense to destroy whole landscapes in Canada then pipe the resulting sludge across one of the biggest and most important aquifers in the entire United States? Pipelines, oil rigs and tankers always spill; it is just a question of when and how much. All of this just to ship the oil to overseas markets. We’re not even talking about using the fuel here in the US.

King Coal is literally blowing up mountains to get at coal deposits. Studies show that people who live near these sites are suffering much higher rates of cancer and birth defects, yet the coal-fired congressional allies of the industry continue to deregulate, removing health and environmental protections in the law. Judges elected with money from the fossil fuel industry turn a blind eye when coal executives put increased production over worker safety. Twenty-nine miners died in a preventable explosion in April 2010.

How does all this affect us here in the Pacific Northwest? Well, now King Coal wants to strip mine the Powder River Basin in Montana, put the dirty coal onto trains, spewing toxic coal dust and diesel exhaust all across Washington State, including a long stretch through the 31st Legislative District, then put the millions of tons of the dirtiest fossil fuel of them all onto container ships and schlep it all the way to China. When they burn the coal in China, we’ll get the blowback in the form of more carbon in the atmosphere and mercury-laden soot carried to our shores via the jet stream.

The coal industry will make an obscene amount of money selling coal to China, but who will pay for the costs? Exposure to coal dust causes increased rates of asthma in children, as well as lung and heart disease in adults. We’ll lose salmon runs and discourage economic development at our ports. Traffic congestion will increase around busy rail crossings slowing commuters, commercial vehicles, and emergency responders alike. But these ‘external’ costs won’t be paid for by the coal companies. You and I will have to foot the bill.

If I am elected, I will oppose all efforts to build coal export terminals in Washington State. But more than that, I will work to change the perception that environmentalists are the cause of our economic problems. Far from it: ecological politics is based on the idea that if we retool our industries and lifestyle to a more just and sustainable model that relies on renewable energy sources, there will be an expansion of opportunity and an improvement in the quality of life that has not been seen since the 1950s and 60s. We can do this.

Remember, I am accepting campaign contributions only from individuals who live in Washington State. I will not accept contributions from any special interest organization, including corporations, PACs, unions, or non-profit groups. I won’t be owned by the out-of-state interests who want to pollute our air and water in the name of profit.

Brian L. Gunn
Candidate for State Representative, 31st District, Position 1