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The Arctic Refuge, the 'Filthy Four' and Organized Labor

The Hill: Face to Face

03/13/2002 02:00 PM

Participants: Ray Rogers, Director, Corporate Campaign Inc.

The Hill: Hello, this is David Silverberg, managing editor of The Hill and my guest today is Ray Rogers, director of Corporate Campaign Inc. Ray, would you tell us what Corporate Campaign is and what it hopes to do?

Ray Rogers: Hello, David. Thanks for having us on. Corporate Campaign, Inc. helps labor unions, communities and environmental groups challenge the abuses of corporate and political power. We have recently set up the Labor Environment Alliance for Planetary Solidarity (LEAPS), which brings together leaders and members of labor unions and environmental groups to work cooperatively with other advocates of economic and social justice on issues of mutual interest.

The Hill: What abuses of power do you currently see?

Ray Rogers: I'd first like to draw your attention to our web site: There you will find a report entitled: "The Arctic Refuge, the 'Filthy Four' and Organized Labor" The report will show you how the four gigantic oil companies which are trying to invade the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain are guilty of human rights abuses worldwide, massive despoilment of the environment, cheating the public treasury out of hundreds of millions of dollars in oil and gas royalty payments, have horrible safety records and are involved in all kinds of criminal activities.

The Hill: Where do you come out on the energy bill and in particular, drilling in ANWR?

Ray Rogers: We need a national energy policy that promotes long-term job growth through cleaner, more efficient technologies, diversified energy sources and conservation efforts. Our nation does not need an energy policy that piles up nuclear waste nor one that is promoted by fat-cat lobbyists who want to keep us hooked on fossil fuels and want to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain to oil drilling. We need to fight for a cleaner, safer and less costly energy policy that will most benefit workers and consumers, not multinational corporations like ExxonMobil, Halliburton or Enron.

The Hill: So if you want to hobble all these corporations, where will we get our energy?

Ray Rogers: To promote clean, renewable energy sources, I would support the Jeffords Renewable Portfolio Standard Amendment which would require 20% of the nation's electricity to be generated by clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2020. That's possible through existing technology. CO2 emissions from power plants will be greatly reduced, high quality jobs and new income for farmers, ranchers and rural landowners will be created. I would also oppose any efforts to weaken (SEER 13), the 30% standard increase in air conditioner efficiency. By 2030, this would reduce peak electrical demand by the equivalent of about 204 power plants.

The Hill: Is it really realistic to expect alternative energy providers to meet the energy needs of a country like the United States? They're still in their infancy.

Ray Rogers: It's a combination of using clean, renewable energy sources (mentioned in my last response) and conservation. On the conservation side, I would support the Kerry-McCain fuel economy amendment. It would help enormously to reduce America's dependence on oil. By raising fuel economy standards for cars, SUVs and other such vehicles to 36 miles per gallon by 2015, our nation will save 1 million barrels of oil everyday by 2016. As the fleet of fuel efficient vehicles grows, oil savings would reach 2 million barrels a day. That's twice as much as we currently import from Iraq and Kuwait combined. As a result, consumers will save billions at the gas pump, CO2 emissions that cause global warming will be reduced and long-term job growth in the auto industry and across the nation will result. Everyone wins except the fossil fuel addicts.

The Hill: What would your cleaner, safer energy policy look like?

Ray Rogers: I believe I've already responded to this question in two of my previous answers.

The Hill: The Teamsters certainly don't seem to share your views on energy and ANWR. Can you really claim to speak for labor?

Ray Rogers: Every major national poll shows that labor union MEMBERS oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many large international unions like the Communications Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union and others as well as hundreds of union locals including Teamsters and district councils of the Steelworkers and Building and Construction Trades and many others have opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a cornerstone of the energy bill. The Teamsters are simply doing the dirty work for Bush and the Big Oil companies.

The Hill: Haven't we heard all this before? We had President Carter's big energy push for alternative power sources, etc. in the 1970s and we're back where we began energy- wise.

Ray Rogers: Yes, we have heard this before. Unfortunately, the Big Business, selfish, self-serving interests whose money influences and controls much of Congress has prevented our nation from having a sound, clean energy policy that serves the greater public interest. We believe that private greed and the public good are inherently incompatible. We, like many other environmental and labor organizations, wish to encourage a continual and expanding dialogue about the many ways that selfish and entrenched corporate interests threaten human rights, the basic needs of working people and the future of the planet that we all call home.

The Hill: How did you personally get involved in this issue and develop your views?

Ray Rogers: We got deeply involved in the energy issue because we saw how the policies of the big energy producers, like ExxonMobil, Massey Coal, etc. do great harm to workers, their communities and the environment. We see companies like ExxonMobil, which has not paid one penny of a 1994 $5.3 billion punitive damage penalty to the victims of the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

Arlington: Given new reports from whiste-blowers that BP is not properly maintaining Prudhoe Bay oil field equipment and that we may experience significant spills, what should the Congress and federal and state agencies do about this situation?

Ray Rogers: In short, protect the workers and penalize the company until it cleans up its act.

The Hill: You speak about a fossil fuel addiction, but is it an addiction or a necessity? I can't put anything but gasoline in my car.

Ray Rogers: That's a serious problem that the environmental and consumer groups have been addressing. That's why we need a new energy policy so that you can get a cheaper, cleaner fuel. We also need Congress to support investment in new vehicles such as mass producing gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles which get double the mileage of today's cars; expanding use of renewable, non-petroleum fuels such as ethanol made from crop waste, and by putting hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles on the road.

Anchorage: Our paper reports today that another Alaska oilfield worker is calling attention to the many safety and maintenance problems in Alaska's oilfields. He says BP is cutting corners and putting the Arctic at risk of major oil spills. Shouldn't we ensure that the oil fields we already have in Alaska are operating safely before we consider expanding development into our pristine wilderness areas?

Ray Rogers: YES. I would add that we should not allow ANY oil drilling in our pristine wilderness areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As former president Jimmy Carter, who is now honorary chair of the Alaska Wilderness League, says: "The simple fact is, drilling is inherently incompatible with wilderness. It would be as out of place there as it would be in the heart of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon."

The Hill: Where does Corporate Campaign get its funding?

Ray Rogers: All of CCI's funding over its 20-year existence has been fees for services from clients that include many labor unions, religious and environmental groups and other organizations with a public interest agenda.

The Hill: Ray, we've come to the end of our allotted time. I want to thank you for a very lively and provocative discussion. Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

Ray Rogers: I want to thank the participants for their excellent questions and I want to thank The Hill for inviting me.