Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Poll Analyses
Share on Facebook 7 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/14/21

Amy Coney Barrett Should Recuse Herself from Big Oil's Supreme Court Case

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages) (View How Many People Read This)   No comments
Author 50710
Message Bill McKibben
Become a Fan
  (19 fans)

From New Yorker

Amy Coney Barrett.
Amy Coney Barrett.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Rachel Malehorn)
  Details   Source   DMCA

January 19th, the day before Joe Biden's Inauguration, is one of those moments when past, present, and future will collide, this time in the halls of the Supreme Court. The Justices will hear a case (BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore), and the most interesting question is: How many Justices will there be? Because, as new research makes clear, Amy Coney Barrett, the junior member of that august bench, should recuse herself.

Shell, which is where Barrett comes in: her father, Michael, was an attorney for Shell for almost three decades. During her Senate-confirmation hearings, Barrett provided a recusal list that she'd used during her years as an appeals-court judge -- it included four Shell subsidiaries, but not Shell Offshore, Inc., even though her father represented that Shell entity in court and administrative forums for at least 13 years. He also worked for the American Petroleum Institute for two decades, chairing its subcommittee on exploration and production law. And those two roles could be crucial to the case before the Supreme Court: as Lee Wasserman, the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, which has played a key role in the fight to hold oil companies responsible, points out, Barrett père could be called for a deposition. "Justice Barrett's father potentially has direct knowledge of and operational involvement in how Shell managed climate threats. He also faces reputational risk from his association with colleagues engaged in decades of corporate deception."

For instance, in 1988 -- the year that the nasa scientist James Hansen made the greenhouse effect a public issue -- Royal Dutch Shell produced a confidential internal memo after five years of internal reviews. The memo, which was uncovered in 2018 by the Dutch journalist Jelmer Mommers, notes that climate impacts could include "significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather." It observes that changes would impact "the human environment, future living standards and food supplies, and could have major social, economic and political consequences." These environmental and socioeconomic changes might be the "greatest in recorded history."

The memo includes this jarring observation: "By the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation." The document also calculated how much Shell was on the hook for in all this; it concluded that the company could be tied to four percent of all the carbon dioxide that humans, as of 1984, had spewed into the atmosphere. And Shell's executives took the warning seriously -- among other things, they quickly redesigned a natural-gas platform to raise its height and protect against sea-level rise and intensifying storms. As Wasserman says, "There is almost no chance that a person as senior as Mr. Coney, who worked principally in the 'offshore OCS [Outer Continental Shelf] exploration and production area,' would have been unaware of the issue." (Late Tuesday afternoon, a coalition of environmental groups, including 350.org, where I am the senior adviser emeritus, called on Justice Barrett to recuse herself.)

Shell, instead of admitting the damage it had caused, joined with other fossil-fuel companies to form the Global Climate Coalition, which ran a huge (and hugely successful) decade-long campaign to confuse the public. There's no way to take that back now -- it's water under (and, increasingly, over) the bridge. But there can still be justice, in this case for the taxpayers of cities like Baltimore, who, despite not being at fault for the damage wrought by fossil-fuel companies, have to pay for the protection that their homes now require. That justice depends on taking the past seriously, which isn't easy for any of us. It will be interesting to see how Justice Barrett responds.

Passing the Mic

Robin Broad is a professor at American University; she has served as an international economist in the Treasury Department and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. With her husband, John Cavanagh, she helped build the network of international allies that spearheaded the global fight against gold mining in El Salvador, a fight premised on the argument that the mines would wreck the country's rivers. They chronicle the decade-long battle in their new book, "The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed." (Our conversation has been slightly edited for length and clarity.)

This has been called a David and Goliath story. Can you explain in a few words what happened in El Salvador and why it was so dramatic?

In fights against corporate Goliaths like ExxonMobil and Amazon, the Davids almost never win. In El Salvador, brave individuals from poor, remote communities beat the odds. To save their precious rivers, they stood up to powerful mining corporations. And, despite the brutal assassination of four of their comrades, they kept fighting for 13 years and ultimately prevailed. How did they do it? They won over public opinion by defining their struggle as pro-water rather than anti-mining. Their slogan: "Water Is Life." With creative audacity, they cultivated unlikely allies, including right-wing ministers and legislators and conservative archbishops. Since their corporate foes were global, they forged their own international alliances. Labor, environmental, and faith activists in the United States, the Philippines, Australia, Canada, and other countries put pressure on governments, corporations, and international institutions in solidarity with the Salvadoran water defenders.

In the end, they defeated a corporate lawsuit in a Washington, D.C., tribunaland they persuaded their national legislature to make El Salvador the first country in the world to ban mining.

Water defenders have been popping up around the world, Standing Rock being a prime example. Are people learning from one another as these fights multiply?

Now you are asking me to jump ahead to some of the surprises in the book. Trying not to reveal too much, here is more good news: a Philippine governor became a secret weapon in the Salvadoran win. He travelled halfway around the globe to El Salvador to offer his first-hand testimony on the dangers of large-scale mining. He then returned home with tales of the Salvadoran victory, helped spread the understanding that water is life, and joined Philippine water defenders to block the continued operation of a global mining corporation there.

So just as the Standing Rock Sioux are celebrated around the United States and have shared lessons with indigenous communities from Arizona to Minnesota, El Salvador's water defenders have been invited by communities -- from Haiti and Peru to Canada and Australia -- to share the story of their unexpected victories. And movements have learned from each other to push governments to stop or restrict toxic mining in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and elsewhere.

We've watched in the past few months as unprecedented hurricanes have slammed into Central America. Do you foresee climate refugees headed north, and how should Americans think about them if they come?

Yes. Even before the devastating hurricanes, years of climate-change-induced drought in Central America shrivelled coffee, bean, and corn crops, creating countless climate refugees. Their ranks have been further fuelled by decades of socially and environmentally destructive economic policies imposed by U.S.-backed governments across the region.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

 

Rate It | View Ratings

Bill McKibben Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, including The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and The (more...)
 
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The Movement to Divest from Fossil Fuels Gains Momentum

Idle No More, Think Occupy With Deeper Roots

We're not even close to being prepared for the rising waters

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

Why Dakota Is the New Keystone

Why the Planet Is Happy That Bernie Sanders Is Running for President

Comments Image Post Article Comment and Rate This Article

These discussions are not moderated. We rely on users to police themselves, and flag inappropriate comments and behavior. In accordance with our Guidelines and Policies, we reserve the right to remove any post at any time for any reason, and will restrict access of registered users who repeatedly violate our terms.

  • OpEdNews welcomes lively, CIVIL discourse. Personal attacks and/or hate speech are not tolerated and may result in banning.
  • Comments should relate to the content above. Irrelevant, off-topic comments are a distraction, and will be removed.
  • By submitting this comment, you agree to all OpEdNews rules, guidelines and policies.
          

Comment Here:   


You can enter 2000 characters. To remove limit, please click here.

Please login or register. Afterwards, your comment will be published.
 

Username
Password

Forgot your password? Click here and we will send an email to the address you used when you registered.
First Name
Last Name

I am at least 16 years of age
(make sure username & password are filled in. Note that username must be an email address.)

No comments  Post Comment

 
Want to post your own comment on this Article? Post Comment