I stopped by your office yesterday to request, as a constituent, that you withdraw from the March 27th Portland Business Alliance members only luncheon, which is sponsored in part by TransCanada. TransCanada, of course, is the owner of the Keystone XL pipeline project which aims to transport oil from the Alberta Tar Sands across the heart of the United States to Houston for refinement and, almost certainly, export. TransCanada also has interests in liquefied natural gas and has hired Portland based CFM Strategic Communications to lobby for its local interests.
Because you have been pretty active on Keystone XL in Congress, you’ll already know about how dirty Tar Sands oil is, the defective pipe being laid across the country which is sure to leak, the State Department’s corruption in allowing TransCanada’s contractors to author important government documents and then attempting to cover it up, and how Keystone XL is one of two US fossil fuel projects — the other being NW coal exports — that spell game over on climate if realized.
Naturally, as a person who wants to have a livable future for ours and future generations, I find the prospect of my legislator lending a modicum of respectability to people who are so greedy, reckless, and immoral to be inherently offensive. Adding in closed door meetings only makes it worse. So you can imagine my surprise and anger when I heard the news about the luncheon.
So, when I walked into your office to let your aides & staff hear my opinion (and that there would be others voicing the same), I was pleased to find that they had also been surprised to find TransCanada’s name on the sponsor list and had taken steps to investigate the matter. They were under the impression that TransCanada representatives wouldn’t even be in the room, that the event was part of an annual series, and that they were even attempting to negotiate a livestream situation for public viewing to overcome the appearance of impropriety. I suggested that they add in a public statement in opposition to Keystone XL or a press conference before or after the event, but I got the impression that these was not considered a viable options. Nevertheless, I left your office with the feeling that your staff knew what was going on, why it looks bad, and was trying to accommodate the concerns. Not a cancellation, but more than I expected just walking in off of the street as a nobody.
But, when I got home, I started reflecting on the situation and came to the conclusion that this just isn’t good enough. I stopped fixating solely on TransCanada and asked myself the following question: “why would any legislator who took climate change and environmental degradation seriously ever want to link his or her name to the Portland Business Alliance?”
Allow me to describe the PBA’s record on climate and environment while keeping in mind that this only took me a few hours of research to discover:
PBA’s Board of Directors and leading investors are some of the world’s worst polluters and financiers of polluting industries. The current Board of Directors includes: ESCO vice president Rob Cornilles (Tar Sands profiteering and heavy air pollution of NW Portland, including arsenic, lead, manganese and chromium 6), PSU President Win Wiewel (PSU involved in major “sustainable development” and urban renewal projects plus utilizing the services of and celebrating climate profiteers), Stoel Rives Managing Partner Wally Van Valkenburg (firm representing Shell Oil in an action against Greenpeace and helping to advance coal exports), J.E. Isaac of CFM Communications (TransCanada lobbyists) and Gregg Kantor of NW Natural (continual liquefied natural gas pipeline proposals). Notable board members include Steve Duea of Precision Castparts (#4 polluter in the United States), Alan Sprott of Vigor Industrial (coal export barge manufacturer), and Mark Eitzen of Gunderson (coal export barge manufacturer). There are more, but I’ll just leave it there. “Leading investors” in the PBA include Wells Fargo, Chase Bank, Bank of America (and a host of others banks) who are all major financiers of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
PBA has a long record of touting sustainability while simultaneously promoting dirty energy. Their website features mind-boggling contradictions that set new standards for green-washing. For example, in 2009 they sponsored an event called “The Energy Puzzle, Part One: “World Oil Supply: At The Turning Point?” with John Kaufman, of the Oregon Department of Energy. Here is the description of the event: “Peak oil is the premise that world oil production has reached its maximum and will soon begin to decline, with major economic and social implications. This breakfast presentation includes evidence demonstrating that the peak is imminent and identifies supply alternatives: enhanced oil recovery, nuclear power, coal, oil sands and oil shale, hydrogen, and renewables.”
PBA lobbies against industry regulation. In a letter to the State DEQ, PBA advocated for throwing out Portland’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The standard, the PBA wrote, would “increase costs and impose a competitive disadvantage for Oregon businesses”. The letter also notes that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are best left to the federal government.
PBA is the main proponent of the export economy. To that end, the Portland Business Alliance and the mega-companies that it acts as a front for are attempting to position Portland as a leader in exports. PBA, for its part, is busy propagandizing the public with absurd claims that increases in exports will bring 100,000 jobs to this area. Apparently, there is nothing that these people won’t export, including coal. As I recently wrote in an article called “Brand Portland: The Greenwashing Machine“, the export economy, though labeled “sustainable” and “green”, is just a way of shifting our environmental impacts to rapidly urbanizing areas across the Pacific.
Anyway, I could write a book about this, but you get the point.
So, again, I re-iterate my request: please cancel your PBA luncheon and communicate loudly and publicly that you’re not going to treat those who recklessly endanger an entire planet for profit as worthy of your time, energy, respect, or association. If we are to seriously have a chance to stop runaway climate change, the rules of the game are going to have to change. Now is as good a time as any to put your foot down.
If you’d like to call Representative Blumenauer to express your feelings on his upcoming PBA luncheon, his # is: (503) 231-2300.
The “Stop Tar Sands Profiteers!” week of action goes from March 16-23. We’ve already conducted one “Tour of Portland’s Worst Polluters” this week and will be riding again tonight to highlight local climate profiteers. Meet at NE Holladay Park at 5. Ride starts at 5:30. Bikes, music, street theatre, good people, and family friendly. It’s really fun.