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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Steven Chu To Help Kill Grassroots EJ Conference?

The Department of Energy Is Using Its Power To Replace Original Conference

It appears that Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Steven Chu is going to lend his office, money and authority to replace an environmental justice conference that has been successfully implemented for the past five years. Incredibly, Secretary Chu never participated in the grassroots-organized conference, but now that a DOE employee has decided to replace the original grassroots conference with a federal government sponsored conference, the secretary is advertised as speaking at the department conference.  Does Secretary Chu really believe this is the best use of government money?  Does he think this is the best way to create jobs in the private sector?  

It is unconscionable that a multibillion-dollar federal agency would use its power to crush a multi-thousand dollar, grassroots-organized conference.  Click here for specifics on the situation. This federal government coup d'etat includes everything from cooping sponsors to even tapping into the speakers list from the original conference.  The DOE-sponsored conference initially tried to advertise itself as the 6th Annual Conference until there were complaints.  Frankly, we have never seen a more blatant abuse of power in the history of the environmental justice movement. It is this sort of activity that has led Occupy Wall Street to challenge abuse of power. 

The federal conference is scheduled a week after the original grassroots conference.  This is not an effort at a legitimate supplement to the environmental justice dialogue, it is a blatant effort to destroy the grassroots conference.  If Secretary Chu has no more sensitivity than to be a party to this injustice, he should consider resigning.  The grassroots conference might survive this year in the face of this significant and unfair competitor, but it surely cannot last going forward if the U.S. DOE is intent upon replacing it.

Again, it is a sad day for the Obama administration when one of its cabinet members supports the replacement of a very successful grassroots conference just because one department employee chose to part ways with the original grassroots conference coordinator.  It is enough to make one cynical.

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