The Koch Brothers Are Now Funding The Bundy Land Seizure Agenda

— by Jenny Roland & Matt Lee-Ashley, Guest Contributors at ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: AP Photo / Rick Bowmer

The political network of the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has signaled that it is expanding its financial and organizational support for a coalition of anti-government activists and militants who are working to seize and sell America’s national forests, monuments, and other public lands.

The disclosure, made through emails sent by the American Lands Council and Koch-backed group Federalism in Action to their members, comes as the 40-day armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is winding to an end.

The occupation came to a head, with the FBI moving in on the four remaining militants at the refuge and arresting scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy at the Portland airport under charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers. Occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy were previously arrested under the same charge on January 26. The Bundys and their group of militants want the federal government to cede national public lands to state and private control.

Though ClimateProgress has previously uncovered and reported on the dark money that the Kochs have provided for political efforts to seize and sell public lands, recent organizational changes reveal that the Koch network is providing direct support to the ringleader of the land grab movement, Utah state representative Ken Ivory, and has forged an alliance with groups and individuals who have militia ties and share extreme anti-government ideologies.

The expanded window into the Koch network’s support for the land transfer movement opened on February 3, 2016, when the American Lands Council (ALC) (a group whose goal is to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over publicly owned national forests and other public lands) announced that Ivory would be stepping down as its president to join a South Carolina-based group called Federalism in Action (FIA).

At ALC, Ivory had risen to be the most prominent and active voice in the land seizure movement, but his tenure as president was plagued by evidence that the group violated state lobbying laws, was tied to the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and used taxpayer money to fund their campaigns to seize public lands.

Though he will continue to serve as an unpaid member of the American Lands Council executive committee, Ivory is joining the FIA’s “Free the Lands” project, a joint initiative between Federalism in Action and The American Lands Council Foundation.

This new “Free the Lands” project sits at the confluence of Koch funding, anti-government ideology, and land seizure activists and militants. The graphic below illustrates this web of funding, resources, and staff.

Credit: Dylan Petrohilos

Federalism in Action was launched a few years ago by two groups: State Policy Network and State Budget Solutions (SBS). Because FIA is a new organization, its funding sources are not yet public. However, according to IRS filings, State Budget Solutions received money through the Donors Capital Fund, an organization known for cloaking the sources of funding which it distributes, and is sometimes referred to as a Koch “ATM”. The SBS leadership recently joined ALEC and Ken Ivory is listed as one of SBS’s senior policy fellows. The group “works to make its vision … a reality … through the project Federalism In Action.”

Federalism in Action is also a member of the State Policy Network, which is the Koch-fundednetwork of more than 50 right-wing think tanks in states across the country.

Also supporting the Free the Lands Project: the American Lands Council Foundation, the tax-exempt non-profit arm of the American Lands Council. Upon announcing the departure of Ken Ivory from ALC’s presidency, the group named Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder as its CEO. Fielder is Montana’s leading figure in the land seizure movement and has proposed legislation that would require the federal government to cede ownership of all national forests and public lands in Montana to the state. The bill was unpopular and and swiftly vetoed by Montana Governor Steve Bullock.

Fielder’s selection as ALC’s CEO suggests that the group is tightening its ties with the violent anti-government elements of the land seizure movement that is represented by Cliven Bundy and his sons. Fielder’s land seizure efforts and campaign for Montana State Senate, for example, werevocally supported by a Militia of Montana organization that is run by white supremacist John Trochmann. In a recent blog post Fielder also expressed her support for the Bundys and the Oregon militants by referring to them fondly as “cowboys” and “protesters” performing “an act of civil disobedience” and bringing “new light to the widespread problems of a distant federal bureaucracy in control of local land management decisions.”

It remains to be seen whether the Koch network will be able to lift the failing efforts of the Bundys, Ken Ivory, and Jennifer Fielder to seize and sell public lands. If nothing else, expanded Koch backing may help the land seizure movement attract the endorsement of more national politicians who are competing for the Koch brothers’ endorsement and contributions. Last week, for example, Texas Senator Ted Cruz promised to be “vigorously committed to transferring as much federal land as humanly possible back to the states”.

Still, the Bundy brothers and their political allies face long odds in their quest. Proposals to transfer national public lands to state control have been shown to be unconstitutional, costly to states, and deeply unpopular with western voters. And while a wholesale privatization of public lands may benefit the Koch brothers and other oil, gas, and coal interests, new research shows that protecting national public lands has actually resulted in big economic gains for many rural economies.

Jenny Rowland is the Research and Advocacy Associate for the Public Lands Project at Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @jennyhrowland. Matt Lee-Ashley is a Senior Fellow with the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. Follow him on Twitter @MLeeAshley.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

Bernie Finally Announced His Overly Ambitious Socialized Energy Plan

On Monday, Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced his highly aggressive energy plan to forcefully deal with climate change. You can read his published plan here.

“The debate is over. The vast majority of the scientific community has spoken. Climate change is real,” said Sanders. “We will act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal because we have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.”

 To do all that, Sanders’ plan would outright ban offshore drilling, ban Arctic drilling, block natural gas exports, stop attempts to lift a decades-old ban on crude oil exports, support states trying to ban natural gas fracking, and ban mountaintop removal coal mining. That’s a whole lot of current private sector jobs he’d be killing to bring his plan to fruition.  But it does appear that he intends to create 10 million public-sector(?) clean energy jobs that would replace them.  Many however, may not possess the requisite skills to fill those clean energy jobs, so I hope he’s planning to provide re-skilling education programs as part of his overall plan he’s going to impact the overall economy with a gigantic thud.

The major points of his plans are as follows:

  1. Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House. (That’s nice, what about all the lobbyists who take precedence over actual constituents over in the House and the Senate?)
  2. End the huge subsidies that benefit fossil fuel companies.  (First, he’s going to need someone in the House and the Senate to propose that, then he’s going to need to get that out of committee and on the floor of each house for a vote, AND, he’s going to need 60 votes in the Senate or it’s going absolutely nowhere, because he cannot do that via executive order or fiat.)
  3. Create a national environmental and climate justice plan that recognizes the heightened public health risks faced by low-income and minority communities. (A plan that recognizes that?  How about some constructive action to correct not just the risks, but the actual health conditions resulting from continual exposure?)
  4. Bring climate deniers to justice so we can aggressively tackle climate change. (Would that be his fellow Senators and Representatives from the House … or the corporations that are their financial backers?)
  5. Fight to overturn Citizens United. (Ok? Not sure why that one is in his “Energy/Climate Change” proposal.  Seems like that should be in an “Election Reform” proposal.  At best it’s just going to show us which energy companies are buying whom.)
  6. Embrace a science-based standard for carbon pollution emissions reductions. (and decrease our carbon pollution emissions by at least 8o% from 1990s levels by 2050?  Does he fully comprehend how much pass-down costs are going to cripple our economy?  He’s already indicated he has plans to increase even middle class taxes.  Now he wants to dramatically increase the cost of absolutely anything and everything we buy as those costs to comply are passed down and marked up on every single commodity.)
  7. Put a price on carbon. (Well, that’s the only good thing in the plan so far given that we own 9kw worth of solar on the roof.  If he sets up a credit system, maybe there’s something in it for the investment we made.)
  8. Work toward a 100 percent clean energy system and create millions of jobs. (Would those be private or public sector jobs?  It’s already being intimated that Sanders is proposing the creation of 10 million “federal” jobs.  I can already hear right-wing heads exploding over the idea of a socialized energy workforce and the demise of the for profit energy industry.)
  9. Invest in clean, sustainable energy sources powered by the sun, wind and Earth’s heat. (I really do believe that truly is something our federal tax dollars should be used for instead of bankrolling BigOil profit margins, but it won’t go over well.  Didn’t Obama try that and get crucified by the GOP?  I can already hear and see in my mind’s eye, one commercial after another ad nauseum, raving about the failed Solyndra Solar development and how the Bernie wants to waste even more of our precious tax dollars on such frivilous endeavors.)
  10. Invest in advanced renewable fuels and keep our energy dollars at home. (I do believe we’re already doing that.  Net imports accounted for 27% of the petroleum consumed in the United States, the lowest annual average since 1985.)
  11. Invest in solar energy and put money back in the pockets of consumers. (Well I’m all for his support for net metering, but clearly he hasn’t been watching with the good Republicans of Nevada and other states around the nation have been doing to charge net-metered accounts higher “minimum cost to serve” bills and introducing schemes to credit net-metered accounts with only one-half a KW for every full KW taken by the utility.  Will he be putting an end to those predatory schemes?)
  12. Invest in making all American homes more energy efficient. (I’m sorry, but isn’t it the responsibility of home owners to invest in the maintenance and update of their homes?  I can see maybe making that process more affordable via reduced rate energy improvement loans and assistance programs.  But, we can’t do everything for everybody.)
  13. Build electric vehicle charging stations. (Wait a minute?  The Federal Government is going to do that? We’re going to take that out of the hands of the private sector? Is he also going to require all vehicles that burn fossil fuels to be off the road by some magic date?  That might work fine in urban centers, but it’s 2.5 hours at 75mph for us to be able to get to the nearest significant “urban center” and a single charge just isn’t gonna get us there without a significant stop for a serious re-charge … and then there’s the cost of that new electric car to add into the mix of things to come.)
  14. Build high-speed passenger and cargo rail. (Amtrack serves a limited number of cities across our nation, and the small rural town in which I reside does happen to be one of them, but many other small rural towns along its path are not so lucky. It seems to me that while this proposal may help those along the eastern and western seaboards and maybe some of the bigger urban centers across the nation, it will be at the expense of rural Americans for the benefit of big urban centers.)
  15. Convene a climate summit with the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities in his first 100 days. (Really?  Didn’t we just have one of those and didn’t leaders from around the globe just agree on some serious curtailment goals …. is didn’t the Republican Congress just tell President Obama to go take a flying leap? )
  16. Lead countries in cutting climate change.  (I think before we start telling everybody else what they should be doing, we better get our act together here at home!  When we have leaders in both houses of Congress not just denying climate change, but science altogether and claiming that Noah carried two of each type of Dinosaur and woolly mammoths on the ark along with two of every animal known to mankind today … maybe we need to concentrate on building a consensus at home.)
  17. Plan for peace to avoid international climate-fueled conflict. (What exactly does that mean? Do we all need to start watching “prepper” videos on YouTube and stalking our pantries?)

That definitely sets him apart from Hillary Clinton and assuredly proposes to take on BIG oil, but at what cost?

His staff did go all out to detail how his plan would work, complete with an interactive US map that pops out a target clean energy breakdown for each state. Here’s an animation of the pop-out for Nevada, as an example:


The 2050 Energy Costs slide claiming folks will save on average $98/person is a bit odd. Really?  Folks are going to have to buy solar, trash their current car and buy a new car (or give up your car altogether to use a bicycle or walk), all to achieve $98/person … in 2050(?).  Maybe I’m missing something here, but that’s a seriously steep selling curve even to the most avid climate change fanatics amongst us. And the “Money in your Pocket” for “Annual energy, health and climate cost savings/person” (again in 2050) section also makes no sense to me whatsoever.  I don’t come close to spending that much per year on energy, health or climate now and I’m reaching those elder years where one expects to start having to pay a bunch on health care issues.

Take some time and see if you can make some sense of where he wants to take our nation, how drastically quick he wants to get there and whether you think his approach is even do-able given our currently ideologically split nation.  If Bernie’s our party’s nominee, we’re all signing on “revolutionary” ideas to remake our nation.

Obama Takes a Walk on the Greener Side

As Nevada short-circuits its solar boom, the White House gets more committed to renewable energy.

— by

Emily Schwartz GrecoUntil now, President Barack Obama has embraced gas and oil fracking, encouraged the construction of new nuclear reactors, and hailed government investment in wind and solar power. In keeping with this “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, he’d call for climate action one minute and sign off on measures destined to boost carbon pollution the next.

Suddenly, it looks like Obama may have ditched his inherently contradictory approach.

“We’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy,” he asserted during his final State of the Union address. “I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”


Just three days later, the Obama administration moved in that direction by declaring a three-year moratorium on new leases to mine coal from federal land.

Obama’s speech also cast switching to renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels in a business-friendly light.

“We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy —  something environmentalists and tea partiers have teamed up to support,” he said. There’s plenty going on at a larger scale too. Wind and solar energy are generating more than half of the new power that came online last year.

The Republican Party’s obsession with “job creators” should make it a fan of green energy. Nearly 210,000 Americans now work for the solar industry, and some 73,000 are employed in the wind business. Renewable power forged at least 79,000 new jobs between 2008 and 2012 as 50,000 coal jobs vanished.

But the fossil fuel industries and their political allies won’t surrender without a fight. As Obama put it: “There are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.”

To see what he meant, check out what’s up in Nevada.

Right before Christmas, the state’s electric-sector regulators short-circuited policies that rewarded homeowners for investing in their own solar panels. Nevadans may end up paying for the privilege of generating their own electricity while simultaneously padding the profit margins of NV Energy, rather than getting compensated for it.

The Nevada Public Utility Commission, whose three members were all appointed by Republican governor Brian Sandoval, effectively killed demand for rooftop solar power and the jobs that diversifying industry would have created in Nevada—overnight. The new policies also punish consumers who previously bought or leased panels.

This about face prompted companies like SolarCity, Vivint, and Sunrun to shutter their operations in the state. SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is calling this move an act of “sabotage,” and two Las Vegas residents have already filed a class action lawsuit.

Along with rigging the rules, fossil fuel lobbyists are trying to extract new political favors. The coal industry, for example, wants new government handouts from West Virginia’s cash-strapped government. And, there are rumblings about a federal bailout for Big Oil.

This money ought to support and ramp up the green transition, not delay it. That’s what Obama meant when he asserted: “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future.”

And although polls have shown that government efforts to expand solar and wind power enjoy bipartisan support, GOP presidential contenders and many Republican leaders dismiss these increasingly competitive industries.

“Why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?” asked Obama, raising an excellent question. “The jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve  —  that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”

Indeed. Supposedly pro-business politicians who are out to kill the green energy boom make no sense. Neither does an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

Columnist Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Pausing The Coal Train

— by CAP Action War Room

The Obama Administration Announces Overhaul Of Federal Coal Leasing Program

The last time rules for coal mining on tax-payer public lands were updated, smoking was allowed on airplanes, airbags weren’t required in cars, and sewage was still dumped into the ocean. But today, the Obama administration announced a package of reforms to modernize and reform the federal coal leasing program. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the plan, saying it was long past time to re-examine the coal-leasing program. “It is abundantly clear that times are different in the energy sector now than they were 30 years ago, and we must undertake a review and that’s what we need to do as responsible stewards of the nation’s assets,” she said.

The plan includes three measures to update the federal coal program to account for taxpayer interests and environmental challenges: The U.S. Department of the Interior will conduct a review to identify potential reforms to the program, direct the U.S. Geological Survey to begin annual tracking and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions that come from fossil fuel extraction on public lands, and put a temporary pause on new coal leasing, which will not apply to existing leases.

Coal companies currently have stockpiled billions of tons of unmined coal that is ready to be developed, so a targeted pause on leasing will likely have no impact on jobs, coal production, energy prices, or grid reliability. But it will keep at least 3.5 billion tons of coal from being added to the already-enormous stockpile coal companies have on public lands and allow time to figure out how to best change the current program to ensure taxpayers get their fair share from coal mined on public lands.

The current federal coal-leasing program is fundamentally noncompetitive. Under the current system, taxpayers are missing out on millions of dollars in royalties from leasing energy sources on public lands. Offshore oil and gas drilling is subject to an 18.5 percent royalty charge, but coal companies only pay a 12.5 percent royalty rate for mining on federal lands. Furthermore, royalty rate reductions, loopholes, subsidies, and self-dealing transactions further reduce the effective royalty rate coal companies pay to less than 5 percent. Because the current system fails to ensure mining companies pay royalties on the true market price of the coal they extract, coal companies are able to take advantage of billions of dollars of de facto subsidies.

A flawed royalty system is not the only way the true cost of coal is being undervalued. The environmental impacts of coal, including its contribution to climate change, also impose a cost to the American public. More than 57 percent of all emissions from fossil fuel production on federal lands comes from the combustion of coal. Coal mining in the Powder River Basin alone, which spans across Wyoming and Montana, is responsible for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Strip mining and failed mine reclamation produce air and water pollution, which add to coal’s environmental costs. Furthermore, some companies are trying to get out of their responsibility to clean up their mines on public lands, which could leave taxpayers holding the bag for billions of dollars in reclamation costs.

BOTTOM LINE: Not much has stayed the same since the 1980s and the energy sector is no exception. Reform of the federal coal program is long overdue. The Obama Administration’s steps to modernize and reform the program will help reduce the environmental and climate impacts, ensure that taxpayers are getting a fair return, increase transparency and accountability, and hold companies responsible for cleaning up their mining operations.

The article above was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

Remember the Keystone XL pipeline? We’re ALL being sued!

confused_lIt would have brought a million barrels of toxic tar-sands sludge oil across the length of our nation, through wetlands and communities. President Obama wisely rejected it.

Only now you and other American taxpayers may have to pay for that common-sense decision.

TransCanada is demanding that American taxpayers pay them $15 billion in compensation. They’re using the “investor-state dispute system” that’s in NAFTA – just like the one in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

It allows corporate polluters to attack our environmental and safety laws in private courts stacked in their favor. These companies think protecting clean air and water is a trade barrier. If TPP passes, they will be able to sue any time we manage to pass not just environmental legislation, but anything they believe might hurt their bottom lines. And we’ll be on the hook when they win in their sham corporate-biased dispute system established by the TPP.