Tonight, EPA Admin Lisa Jackson spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. I put on my best duds and bought some tickets so that me and my friends could go, hear her talk about our “Green Future” and ask her some pointed questions about mountaintop removal. The room was packed with EPA employees, PG&E employees (they were a co-sponsor of the event) and folks from ENGOs.
I went with folks from RAN, Greenpeace and Climate Ground Zero. All my friends are passionate about coal and mountaintop removal. We felt compelled to go and ask her some pointed questions.
Her speech was little too sunshine-ey for my tastes. I’m not too keen on politicians telling me it’s going to all be ok, simply because we’ve had a change of administrations who seem to be aligned with a few too many of the same interests as the previous one. I’m more of a “show me ,don’t tell me” kinda guy.
As activists we employed agit-prop tactics to get our point across to her that we’re not taking the issue of mountaintop removal lightly by patiently waiting for Obama’s EPA to act.
*It started with my co-campaigner, Annie, asking Sierra Club ED Carl Pope to wear a bright green “Stop Mountaintop Removal” hat as he sat on the front row right in front of her podium.
*The Q&A was done by form, so we stacked it with questions about mountaintop removal and the 2nd and 3rd questions were about mountaintop removal. The 4th and 5th questions were about coal ash and “clean coal.” Admin Jackson answered the questions skillfully, but not committing to go on a flyover of Appalachia publicly. She instead said it was more important that her staff visit instead.
*At the end of talk, Charles from Climate Ground Zero and I joined the crowd that swarmed her to ask questions and make introductions. When I finally got my turn, I presented her with 2,000 more petition signatures asking her to go on a flyover (we delivered 20,000 two weeks ago to EPA Wetlands Director David Evans in D.C. with coalfield residents). I told her that while it was important that her staff go to Appalachia it was more important that from a big picture public perspective of the issue that she journey to Appalachia and see the devastation and meet the communities harmed by mountaintop removal.
*As her aides and bodyguards tried to whisk her way, Charles refused to let her leave her go without giving her his say. He finally caught up to her and said “My name is Charles, I’m with Climate Ground Zero the people that have been getting arrested in West Virginia stopping mountaintop removal operations. As long as the liquid wash process for coal is legal, coal will never be clean and continue to poison communities’ water supplies. Natural gas also destoys communities’ water just as bad as coal slurry does.” ” She told him that she admired his passion and said she’d visit Appalachia.
While the EPA has been giving us some good news, I’m not totally convinced that we’re turning any corners on mountaintop removal. It’s time for us to be making more noise on this issue and taking more action.