Climate Money Watchdog founders Dina Rasor and Greg Williams recap our first twenty episodes. We started this podcast before most of the federal and state climate money began to flow by interviewing people who have looked for fraud in government spending for years. Then we have interviewed people who have scientific or political organizing background to hear their stories on what will or won't work in this race for climate and environmental mitigation. We are going to start moving in the direction of helping inside sources bring forward their knowledge of ongoing fraud. If you know about fraud in a climate program, please contact us. If you know about fraud in a climate program, please contact us safely at our website! If you have a topic you would like us to cover in a podcast episode, please send us an email. In the past 20 podcast episodes, we have covered such issues as:
Today we’re joined by Jenn Tenny, Communications Manager for the MCE (originally Marin Clean Energy), a relatively new kind of government organization called a CCA, which stands for Community Choice Aggregation. CCA’s allow individual consumers to choose where they get their electricity, even if it’s delivered over transmission lines that are owned by a single, monopoly utility company.
As a journalist and am MCE customer, Dina Rasor followed MCE's progress for many years, including writing an article about them in Truthout in 2014.
As MCE’s Communications Manager, Jenna works to share messages of MCE’s mission and achievements in the community through various public engagement and press opportunities. These initiatives include not only making renewable energy more available to consumers, but also providing assistance to individuals installing more efficient appliances such as heat pumps and LED lighting, as well as reducing power usage during peak demand hours through their 4 to 9 program.
Prior to her time with MCE, Jenna worked at the California Academy of Sciences and the Bronx Zoo as a public educator. Jenna has a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an M.A. in Climate and Society from Columbia University.
Dr. Charles Harvey is a professor of environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Kurt House is the chief executive officer of KoBold Metals, a metals exploration company. On August 16th, they challenged the prevailing wisdom that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is key to fighting climate change in a New York Times guest essay titled, Every Dollar Spent on This Climate Technology Is a Waste.
Doctors Harvey and House opinion is driven by their own direct experience starting the first privately funded company to make use of CCS in 2008. Back then, solar and wind energy were vastly more expensive than generating electricity by burning fossil fuel, even if you added the high cost of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the exhaust. Now, with clean renewable energy cheaper than burning coal, “it’s clear that we were wrong, and that every dollar invested in renewable energy — instead of C.C.S. power — will eliminate far more carbon emissions.” New York times, August 16, 2022
Dr. Brittany Trang recently made New York Times headlines with an experimental but extraordinarily promising method for turning dangerous "forever" chemicals called PFAS into different, harmless chemicals.
Dr. Trang is a 2022-2023 Sharon Begley Science Reporting Fellow at STAT News. Previously, she covered health and science at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Fellow. Her freelance work has been published places like Chemistry World, Chemical & Engineering News, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
She has a bachelor’s in English and chemistry from the Ohio State University and a PhD in chemistry from Northwestern University, where she worked with Prof. William Dichtel to develop per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) remediation methods.
PFAS, a class of “forever” chemicals that don’t break down in the environment, are a common problem on military bases and other places where firefighting foam is heavily used. As part of Climate Money Watchdog’s mission to investigate spending on environmental protection as well as climate change mitigation, we are tracking the $10 billion the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has $10 billion has allocated to addressing the PFAS problem, including $1 billion for advanced research.
Elliott Negin, Senior Writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, was UCS media director from 2007 through 2011 and now writes about UCS-related topics for a range of news organizations including:. A contributing writer at HuffPost from 2011 through 2017, he has also written articles and columns for Alternet, The Atlantic, Columbia Journalism Review, EcoWatch, The Hill, Live Science, Mother Earth News, The Nation, The Progressive, Roll Call, Salon, Scientific American, The Washington Post and other publications. Prior to joining UCS, Elliott was the Washington communications director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a foreign news editor at National Public Radio, the managing editor of American Journalism Review, and the editor of Nuclear Times and Public Citizen magazines. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
We have invited Elliott to talk about two recent articles – one on ALEC and its funding and one on the long history of Charles Koch funding climate denial and climate disinformation efforts and how this impacts the ability to fund necessary climate change.
In the course of the episode, Elliott encourages listeners to learn more by reading the following works, or about the following topics:
Recent climate policy discussions on how to rapidly reduce carbon have taken on an all-of-the-above attitude that the world, and especially the US, must include all technical solutions, including carbon capture, extracting more fossil fuel, and keeping nuclear plants running as a bridge to carbon reduction. The most recent climate funding, including the new infrastructure law and the soon to be passed new climate bill, have been allocating money to these bridge efforts as well as funding clean renewable energy. There is a push by the fossil fuel industries to insist that more fossil fuel must be extracted and carbon capture technology must be used to burn the extracted fuel in order to not run out of energy while waiting for renewable energy sources to catch up. This puts more carbon in the air, does not stop the air pollution that kills about seven million people a year worldwide, and carbon capture requires a very large infrastructure base, including moving the carbon through a massive pipeline system.
Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson and his team at Stanford University has been modeling the requirements and technology that will be needed to meet world wide carbon goals for years for 145 countries and have found a startling result. His new study found that all 145 countries can meet international carbon reduction by simply by electrifying everything and using renewable energy technologies-- off and on shore wind electricity, solar panels for rooftops and power plants, concentrated solar power, solar heat, geothermal electricity and heat, hydroelectricity, and small amounts of tidal and wave electricity. In this podcast episode, he discusses how the other bridge practices and technologies are much more infrastructure heavy and don't reduce carbon as cheaply and quickly as these renewable technologies.
This worldwide model raises many questions about how climate money should be used for the climate emergency, especially since the technology of carbon capture has yet to be proven to be usable on a large scale. This podcast episode answers many questions about the current technology path on carbon.
Mark Z. Jacobson is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Some describe him as the architect of the U.S. Green New Deal. He has authored books, textbooks and articles on transitioning to renewable energy. Recently co-authored the study, “Low-Cost Solutions to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Insecurity for 145 Countries.
Professor Jacobson came to our attention via his opinion piece in The Hill, “No miracle tech needed: How to switch to renewables now and lower costs doing it.”, which draws heavily on this report. His credentials are impressive:
Director and co-founder, Atmosphere/Energy Program (link), Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, 2004-present.
Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment (link), January 2008-present
Senior Fellow, Precourt Institute for Energy (link), January 1, 2010-present
Co-founder, The Solutions Project (link), July 10, 2011-present.
B. S., with distinction, Stanford University, Civil Engineering, 1988
B. A., with distinction, Stanford University, Economics, 1988
M. S., Stanford University, Environmental Engineering, 1988
M. S., UCLA, Atmospheric Sciences, 1991
Ph. D., UCLA, Atmospheric Sciences, 1994
Have you ever dreamed of an approach to carbon capture and sequestration that can be deployed anywhere, and has many years of demonstrated success? It turns out farmers have been employers using this technology – plants – for thousands of years. Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is a hot topic in the climate world right now but there is a huge difference between engineering CCS versus natural CCS. The infrastructure law has set aside $12 billion to do expensive engineering CCS demonstration plants that will require complex technology to trap the carbon coming from a polluting plant, hundreds of miles of possibly dangerous CO2 pipelines to transport it to the sequestration sites, and looking for underground sites to store the carbon forever.
Dr. Jeff Creque and others have spent years finding out that there are many potential areas in farming that can be used as permanent and natural cycling of carbon while lowering pollution and improving the soil so that it will absorb more CO2 that current farming practices. He outlines it in this podcast episode and his work with excellent graphics can be found at the Carbon Cycle Institute.
Dr. Jeff Creque is a co-founder of the Marin Carbon Project and the Carbon Cycle Institute, where he serves as Director of Rangeland and Agroecosystem Management. Jeff provides senior leadership on carbon farming and land management, informed by thirty-five years of applied experience and theoretical training. He is an agricultural and rangeland consultant and a Natural Resources Conservation Service certified nutrient management planning specialist and technical service provider.
Jeff’s organizational affiliations include: Founding Board Member, Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture (Marin); Co-Founder, Bolinas-Stinson Beach Resource Recovery Project; Agricultural Director, Apple Tree International; Co-Founder, West Marin Compost Coalition.
Jeff holds a PhD in Rangeland Ecology from Utah State University, and is a California State Board of Forestry Certified Professional in Rangeland Management.
While many climate groups and activists are fighting for climate mitigation on a national level, some local environmental and climate groups are fighting for climate mitigation right in their backyard. It isn't easy work and takes knowledge and especially perseverance against local and national companies influencing local governmental leaders against the own self interests over the public good. This week's podcast episode features the work of Mike Eisenfeld from the San Juan Citizens Alliance and his tireless work to shut down an aging coal power plant in Farmington, NM only to have a hedge fund swoop in to keep the plant going with a large and unproven Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) plan.
This plan has failed almost every milestone and keeps changing the rationalization for the coal power plant against all odds and science. Mike has watch-dogged this project through failed promises and now their attempts of getting federal and state money to bail out this failing power plant. His community has been a dumping ground for dirty oil extraction and dirty power for years and he is determined to shut down the coal power plant and get transition money for the town to create jobs that do not poison the people who live in the area.
Local work is a very important part of reaching climate goals and Mike talks about his project and working locally. The important and compelling story of his and others efforts can be found below.
Mike Eisenfeld is San Juan Citizens Alliance Energy and Climate Program Manager. Mike joined SJCA in 2006 following ten years as an environmental consultant in the Four Corners region. Mike works on energy issues including coal, oil/gas, air quality and public lands. He specializes in the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy & Management Act, and Endangered Species Act compliance. Mike has a B.A. from Bates College and a M.A. in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver.
Mike's current work and this episode focus on a venture capital backed effort to extend the life of the San Juan Generating Station - a 1.7 gigawatt coal-fired power generation station once scheduled for decommissioning in 2022. As described in a June 29, 2022 High Country News article, this project proposes to implement carbon capture at a scale never before implemented, and to store it underground in areas of questionable geological quality.
Climate Advocates Can Use the SEC's Whistleblower Program To Stop Intentional Climate Misinformation - Poppy Alexander
As a climate advocate, have you been angry and frustrated over corporations who tell their stockholders how great their climate programs are doing to find out they are just greenwashing everyone? The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a whistleblower program and their new focus is to stop companies from reporting misleading and false information on their climate efforts or climate challenges. How many companies are claiming to move to "net zero" on carbon releases only to use skewed formulas to make the stockholders and public think they are making progress. The SEC is counting on average citizens to report these false statements and are willing to share with citizens tipsters up to 30 percent of the fines they place on the wrongdoing companies.
To make these tips to the SEC, it is wise to have the help of attorneys who know this program and can navigate through the hoops to have a successful tip. This podcast episode features Poppy Alexander, a seasoned attorney from Constantine Cannon, one of the most successful whistleblower law firms in the country. Take a listen and see how citizens can keep these companies honest in their reporting to the government and the public. If you think you might have proof of wrongdoing in this area, contact us at the Get In Touch tab above and we will look at your case and guide you to a good attorney.
Sarah “Poppy” Alexander is a partner in Constantine Cannon’s San Francisco office.
She represents whistleblowers and government entities in qui tam lawsuits, as well as under the various agency whistleblower programs including those administered by the Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, The Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Department of Transportation. Poppy’s practice focuses on issues of international corruption and financial misconduct, with a specialty in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering cases. She writes and speaks regularly about emerging topics in financial fraud, including sanctions violations, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies or SPACs, and cryptocurrency. Poppy has been selected to the Northern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars list every year since 2016.
Prior to joining Constantine Cannon, Poppy was an associate attorney at Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, where she worked to ensure prisoners received appropriate medical and mental health care and adequate accommodations for disabilities in jails and prisons.
Poppy maintains an active pro bono practice, with a particular emphasis on protecting the rights of children and adults in detention and protecting communities harmed by corporate bad acts abroad. Poppy is also a board member for the Impact Fund, an organization devoted to funding and supporting cutting edge civil rights litigation.
Poppy graduated from Harvard Law School, where she was the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and an active member of the Harvard Human Rights Clinic. Poppy spent one of her law school summers at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, fighting for abortion rights and the rights of pregnant women. After law school, Poppy clerked for the Honorable Martha Craig Daughtrey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Nashville, TN.
Poppy holds an M.A. in Political Theory from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. from Yale College.
Important information in this week' episode to stem fraudulent spending of climate money. As the federal and state governments begin to release large amounts of climate money, there will be areas of fraudulent spending by corporations and start ups. Fraud happens to almost every government endeavor that is going to spend large tranches of money. And most everyone in the climate efforts realizes that the climate money will have to be spent quickly because of the dire consequences of inaction. That is why oversight is so important because our country does not have the time or money to waste.
Often when a whistleblower or insider sees that the company is fraudulently spending money in a government contract, they don't really know where to go to report the fraud while protecting themselves. There is a federal law with similar laws in 29 states that allows anyone with original knowledge of the fraud, can sue the company on behalf of the federal or state government. Then the government decides if they want to join the case and settle or take the company to trial, the person that filed the case (called the relator) can get between 15-25 percent of the recovered money. If the government does not take the case, the relator can take the case through the courts on behalf of the government and get 25-30 percent of the recovered money. Since the federal qui tam law was rehabilitated in 1986, the federal government has recovered over $70 billion of fraudulently spend money.
Our guest in this podcast episode, attorney Josh Russ, has recently won $36 million in a jury trial brought by a relator. In this episode, we discuss qui tam law basics and explore how it can be used for climate and environmental money. Josh also explains how a relator can take a new strategy with the qui tam law which can include using standard federal environmental clauses in the climate money contracts. Climate advocates and dedicated people who work for companies getting climate contracts should listen and learn how the qui tam law can help stop fraudulent spending in the years ahead in climate spending.
Dina Rasor, executive director of Climate Money Watchdog, has extensive experience in investigating qui tam cases so if you think you might have a fraud case, please contact us in the Get in Touch tab on this website and we will review it and recommend how to proceed.
A former Assistant United States Attorney, Josh Russ is a principled and relentless advocate.
In 2013, after practicing healthcare regulation and litigation at a large corporate law firm, Josh joined the firm of Reese Marketos. During his time as an associate there, Josh tried a jury trial on behalf of a plaintiff financial firm involving debt owed to his client under multiple loan instruments. The case was settled just before closing arguments for more than $2 million. In addition, Josh represented two entrepreneurs in a commercial fraud and breach of contract matter that resulted in a favorable judgment for more than $5 million. The Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas affirmed the judgment in 2016.
In 2015, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas offered Josh the opportunity to serve the American public as the Eastern District’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE) Coordinator. In that role, Josh oversaw and directed most of the Eastern District’s False Claims Act and civil Controlled Substances Act investigations and litigation. In less than five years, Josh’s work contributed to the recovery of more than $85 million in settlements, suspensions, and judgments on behalf of American taxpayers, most of which involved enforcement of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act. Josh was also named the Eastern District’s Civil Healthcare Fraud Coordinator, where he worked to develop the district’s parallel proceedings practices in accordance with Department of Justice policy.
For his work, Josh was awarded the Executive Office of United States Attorneys Director’s Award for Superior Performance as a Civil Assistant US Attorney. Josh frequently lectured internally for the Department of Justice regarding the False Claims Act, the Controlled Substances Act, and parallel proceedings.
In 2018, at the age of 33, Josh was promoted to serve as the Eastern District’s Civil Chief. In that position, Josh supervised all civil litigation across the Eastern District’s six divisions: Sherman, Texarkana, Marshall, Tyler, Lufkin, and Beaumont. In addition to managing the Eastern District’s affirmative False Claims Act and civil Controlled Substances Act dockets, Josh supervised the district’s Financial Litigation Unit as well as defensive litigation against the United States, its agencies, and its personnel.
Josh’s highest priority as Civil Chief became fighting the nation’s devastating opioid crisis. He served as the co-chair of a national Prescription Interdiction and Litigation (PIL) Task Force working group.
In November 2019, Josh rejoined Reese Marketos as a partner, where he leads the firm’s Eastern District office and the firm’s False Claims Act practice.
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