Then, as more oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and worldwide protests demanding action on climate change go largely ignored by the U.S. corporate media, we talk with Mary Anne Hitt, director of the the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, about how sustained grassroots activism has succeeded, once again, this time by blocking a major coal export facility on Native American tribal lands in Washington state.
"Yes, grassroots activism is working and accomplishing amazing things," Hitt tells me as she describes last week's huge victory when "the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a landmark decision to deny federal permits for the biggest proposed coal export terminal in North America." The successful 5-year effort to block the proposed coal export facility at Cherry Point, is also a major victory for the Lummi Nation and native Americans in general, because the facility would have violated U.S. treaty obligations to protect the tribe's fisheries and ancestral lands.
"Our reliance on coal here in the U.S. has been dropping dramatically thanks to a lot of grassroots activism. We've got a third of the coal plants in the U.S. already announced to retire and we're not building any new ones. We have the biggest coal reserves in the world. Shipping that to Asia was the grand plan of some of these mining companies, and they needed to get the coal out through the Northwest, and they needed these big new coal export terminals to make that happen. It's a big deal," she explains, before adding: "It's demonstrating the power of advocacy. In addition to the Lummi Nation, we had hundreds of thousands of people across the Northwest speaking out against these export terminals. The voices of the people were heard. It's a victory for our climate, it's a victory for our treaty obligations, and it's a victory for democracy."
Environmentalists have had a number of major victories in the U.S. of late, from Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline last year to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's rejection of a major natural gas pipeline more recently. "I think the worst thing you can do for the climate is give up on the power of grassroots advocacy, because I have seen it again and again. I have seen these David and Goliath campaigns where David has won. The Cherry Point export terminal is a perfect example," says Hitt.
The West Virginia native goes on to offer her thoughts on the future of Coal Country and its miners, as well as an opinion or two on whether President Obama has done enough to fight for the environment, against fossil fuel, and in favor of renewable energy. Finally today, Bernie Sanders offers some candid thoughts on how the corporate media continues to fail in their obligations to the electorate, and a wingnut hissy fit over transgender people and bathrooms takes an ugly turn at a Connecticut Walmart.