The Koch Brothers, through their so-called Americans for Prosperity, have commanded Senator Dan Sullivan (R, Ohio, Maryland, Koch) to speak at their August event. Held, appropriately enough, in Ohio, Senator Sullivan’s home state. “Sit up, Senator. Speak! Speak!”
After all, the Koch Brothers bought him a senatorship; the least he can do is speak like a good dog at their command.
The Koch Brothers aren’t any friends of Alaska. They closed the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole. They’ve left an appalling legacy of ground and groundwater contamination that’s going to cost tens of millions of dollars to resolve. And they’ve permanently damaged a part of Alaska.
A principled politician wouldn’t have anything to do with an event sponsored by someone who had so grievously injured Alaska. A principled politician wouldn’t have accepted the Kochtopus’s dirty money in the first place. But, unhappily, we are talking about Dan “the Carpetbagger” Sullivan, who is a principaled politician. He after the money.
A principled politician would recognize that the Koch Brothers, with their climate change denial, the stupendous amounts of CO2 they discharge into the atmosphere through the Kochtopus’s various enterprises, and their numerous environmental crimes, including:1
- Two chlorine dioxide chemical leaks from a Koch-owned cellulose facility in Taylor County Florida in May, 2014.
- Subsidiaries of Koch Carbon have accumulated massive piles of petroleum coke in U.S. cities like Detroit and Chicago, where the toxic dust has blown into peoples’ homes from a 5-story-tall pile of petcoke. Petcoke is a byproduct of refining tar sands that is usually burned like coal. Petcoke, which is more carbon-intensive than coal, is typically exported and burned in other countries with little to no air or climate regulations. While Detroit’s mayor ordered Koch to move its petcoke pile, Chicago regulators and politicians have not acted with the same urgency despite sustained local protests from community members, nurses, and threats of lawsuits from environmental groups. In response, Koch claims it will add protections to its unlined pile, which could take two years.
- Ongoing releases of benzene and other chemicals from Koch’s oil refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, where refinery communities experience high rates of illnesses.
- Hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic chemical contamination from Koch-owned Georgia-Pacific facility in Crossett, Arkansas, as reported in 2011.
- In 2009, the US Justice Department and EPA announced in 2009 that Koch Industries‘ Invista subsidiary would pay a $1.7 million penalty and spend $500 million to fix environmental violations at facilities in seven states, in an agreement with the US EPA and Department of Justice.
- In May 2001, Koch Industries paid $25 million to settle with the US Government over a long-standing suit brought by Bill Koch – one of the brothers bought out in 1983 – for the company’s long-standing practice of illegally removing oil from federal and Indian lands.
- In late 2000, the company was charged with covering up the illegal releases of 91 tons of the known carcinogen benzene from its refinery in Corpus Christi. Initially facing a 97-count indictment and potential fines of $350 million, Koch cut a deal with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to drop all major charges in exchange for a guilty plea for falsifying documents, and a $20 million settlement.
- In 2000, the EPA fined Koch Industries $30 million for its role in 300 oil spills that resulted in more than three million gallons of crude oil leaking into ponds, lakes, streams and coastal waters.
- In 1999 a Koch subsidiary pleaded guilty to charges that it had negligently allowed aviation fuel to leak into waters near the Mississippi River from its refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota, and that it had illegally dumped a million gallons of high-ammonia wastewater onto the ground and into the Mississippi.
- Koch‘s negligence toward environmental safety has led to tragic losses of life. In 1996, a rusty Koch pipeline leaked flammable butane near a Texas residential neighborhood. Warned by the smell of gas, two teenagers drove their truck toward the nearest payphone to call for help, but they never made it. Sparks from their truck ignited the gas cloud and the two burned alive. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that “the probable cause of this accident was the failure of Koch to adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion” and the ineffectiveness of Koch’s program to educate local residents about how to respond during a pipeline leak.
But it’s the Kochtopus’s unrelenting, self-serving climate change denial campaign that may be damaging Alaska and America the most. Koch Industries and the Koch family spend millions of dollars on lobbyists to fight climate and energy legislation, millions more on politicians, and still more millions on organizations denying climate change. Through the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation as well as Koch Industries and the other Koch family foundations, numerous and substantial donations go to organizations that deny, skepticize or belittle the significance of global warming. Compared to ExxonMobil, which has spent over $27.4 million on skeptic groups since 1998, foundations linked to Koch Industries have spent over $70 million in traceable contributions to the same network of organizations, with additional untraceable funding funneled through organizations like Donors Trust.
As the catastrophes from global warming in Alaska pile up, as more villages’ very existence is threatened, as sea levels rise and multi-year sea ice vanishes, Senator Sullivan’s close relationship with the Kochtopus looks more and more like a betrayal of the state he claims to represent.
It’s amusing to see a dog trained to sit up and speak on command. It’s embarrassing to see a human being forced to do the same thing. And it’s appalling to see it in a U.S. Senator.