fresh voices from the front lines of change








Colleen Kennedy

Pennsylvania Is Ready For A Just, Clean-Energy Future

Ever since 1859, when Edwin Drake ushered in the modern era’s addiction to fossil fuels when he struck “rock oil” in Titusville, Pennsylvania has been at the front lines of the extraction industry’s booms and busts. We are way past ready for a Just Transition to renewable sources of energy and a sustainable future for us all. For a century and a half, we’ve watched corporations pull poisons from the ground, then leave the health and safety of our communities in ruins as they move on with all the riches. From poisoned rural waterways to the nearly catastrophic explosion at a South Philadelphia oil refinery earlier this year, no part of the state has been left unscathed. But even after a century and a half, the extraction industry still thinks the people of Pennsylvania can be fooled by its false narrative. We won’t. Polling shows the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, 69 percent, want to end our reliance on fossil fuels by prioritizing investment in renewable energy sources. And like most of the planet, Pennsylvanians are urgently seeking bold actions to address the global climate catastrophe. In every corner of the state, people overwhelmingly support the planks of the Green New Deal. Pennsylvania has heard all of the lies before, and seen the results. We are ready for a better future. That means wholesale investment in clean, renewable sources of energy, democratizing and localizing the energy sector, centering the leadership of people on the front line, particularly communities of color, and ensuring workers currently in the energy sector can find safe, good paying jobs in the economy of tomorrow.

Colleen Kennedy is communications director for Keystone Progress in Pennsylvania, part of the People's Action national network of grassroots groups.

Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns

President ordered to turn over returns to Manhattan D.A. NYT: "A federal judge on Monday rejected a bold argument from President Trump that sitting presidents are immune from criminal investigations, a ruling that allowed the Manhattan district attorney’s office to move forward with a subpoena seeking eight years of the president’s personal and corporate tax returns. Lawyers for Mr. Trump quickly told the court they would appeal the ruling from Judge Victor Marrero of Manhattan federal court. An appeal is likely to mean further delays. In a 75-page ruling, Judge Marrero called the president’s argument 'repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.' Presidents, their families and businesses are not above the law, the judge wrote."

Trump Allies Pressed Ukraine To Gain Control Of Gas Firm

Trump allies pressed Ukraine over gas firm. AP: "As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic. Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans. Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump. But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors. It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company."

SCOTUS Takes On Abortion, Guns And Gender

The Supreme Court's march to the right. NPR: "The Supreme Court may be anxious to portray itself as an apolitical institution. But this term, political questions writ large are knocking at the high court door. The upcoming term will almost surely be a march to the right on almost every issue that is a flash point in American society. Among them: abortion, guns, gay rights, the separation of church and state, immigration and presidential power. Also headed to the court are cases testing the power of Congress to get information from the executive branch and elsewhere, information that is relevant to congressional oversight and potentially, to impeachment. Clearly, President Trump had something like that in mind when he said of the current impeachment inquiry, 'It shouldn't be allowed. There should be a way of stopping it, maybe legally through the courts.' And if that isn't enough, pending before the court is a sleeper case testing the very structure of our presidential election system. The Supreme Court, by tradition, has tried to stay out of big controversies in an election year. But the justices, even if reticent, don't always have control over their docket. When the lower courts are divided on major questions, the justices cannot always escape their responsibility to be the final decider."

Talks To End GM Strike Stall

Talks to end G.M. strike take ‘Turn for the worse,’ U.A.W. says. NYT: "General Motors and the striking United Auto Workers hit a roadblock in contract talks on Sunday over the question of moving production from Mexico to plants in the United States, two people close to the talks said. The union, which has been on strike since Sept. 16, has pressed G.M. to shift production of some sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks from Mexican factories in order to create and secure jobs in domestic plants, these people said. After the two sides appeared to make progress in recent days, a U.A.W. vice president said Sunday that the union had offered a new contract proposal over the weekend but that G.M.’s response failed to address key concerns. 'We, in this union, could not be more disappointed with General Motors,' Terry Dittes, the U.A.W.’s lead negotiator with G.M., said in a letter to members. 'These negotiations have taken a turn for the worse.'"

GE To Freeze Worker Pensions

GE is freezing its pension plan for 20,000 US workers. CNN: "General Electric announced Monday it will freeze its US pension plan for about 20,000 workers to help clean up the company's beleaguered balance sheet. Years of inattention, low interest rates and shrinking profits have left GE with one of the largest pension shortfalls in Corporate America. GE (GE) said it will pre-fund $4 billion to $5 billion of its pension obligations for 2021 and 2022 and offer lump-sum payouts to 100,000 former employees who have not started their monthly payments yet. GE is also freezing supplementary pension benefits for about 700 employees who became executives prior to 2011. To fund the pensions through 2022, the company said it will use a portion of the $38 billion of cash it plans to raise from asset sales. Together, the moves are aimed at slashing GE's pension deficit by between $5 billion and $8 billion, helping reduce the struggling company's mountain of liabilities. The maker of light bulbs, MRI machines and jet engines said the steps will not impact GE retirees who are already collecting pensions. It also will not affect employees with production benefits. GE closed its pension to new hires in 2012. The pension freeze for salaried workers will go into effect January 1, 2021, meaning those workers will not earn additional pension benefits, though they will keep what they have already earned."

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