In what looked to be an obvious subterfuge to appear eco-friendly and whitewash the image of polluters like the Sentinel, the Summit promoters had invited Daryl Hannah to be a keynote speaker as she is a known environmental activist opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline, a member of the World Future Council, the founder of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, and sits on the boards of Mission Blue, Environmental Media Association, and Action Sports Environmental Coalition. Her activism is nothing new to those of us concerned about environmental and social issues. An interesting side note is that one of our occupiers marched with her in 1992 to try to stop the war in El Salvador. The march took place in Los Angeles from Pershing Square to City Hall and Hannah took his young daughter backstage to meet Jackson Browne and Kris Kristofferson who were performing at the protest rally.
The Palm Springs Life magazine article/interview prior to the event stated that the conference was about “the future of energy policy, advances in green building, innovative technologies, and the role of natural gas and bio fuels,” and quoted Hannah as saying that “we need to focus on sustainable energy sources,” that she remarked that agriculture has “the potential to be as big a part of the solution as energy does,” and that she stated that tends to focus much of her work now on energy issues as “energy is something that touches everybody,” explaining that we are “poisoning our life-support systems – water, air and soil – through our inefficient energy-sourcing methods.” See: http://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/October-2013/Daryls-Web/
The Summit was reported by the Desert Sun as about “renewable energy” (See: http://www.mydesert.com/article/20131004/BUSINESS0302/309300041/Southern-California-Energy-Summit-focuses-valley-s-role-renewable-energy?nclick_check=1 and there was some information about solar, etc. but there was also prominent presence of big polluters like Southern California Edison and CPV Sentinel, sponsors of the event.
OCV and People Over Pollution protest the fossil fuel industry in general and specifically CPV Sentinel Power Plant as it is a major polluter and poses a grave threat to health in our local area. The plant is NOT within state guidelines for emissions and is NOT being overseen and monitored by the CEC & SCAQMD. In addition, the Mission Springs Water District Board of Directors has been unwilling to press the Sentinel to install modern technology to cool the turbines & clean the smokestacks. In an effort to protect their investors rather than the public, Sentinel’s owners have not revealed the truth regarding the hazard it poses to people’s health.
The newly constructed 850 MW natural gas peaker plant, CPV Sentinel, is a platinum sponsor of the Energy Summit. This plant is the largest of its kind in the world and will dump ONE MILLION TONS of CO2 a year for 30 years in our mountain-ringed valley! It will spew 112,000 pounds of PM2.5, a deadly metallic particle formed by combining ammonia and water (our drinking water) to the burnt fuel. This material (1/30 the size of human hair) has been proven to cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, according to the EPA.
In stark contrast to Hannah, other Keynote speakers at the Summit were from the California Energy Commission (who licensed the plant and excused it from an Environmental Impact Report) and the California Independent Systems Operator who purchases the power from Sentinel and will not tell us how many hours the plant is operating. Last year we presented the Energy Summit keynote speaker, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, with 2,000 signatures of valley residents against the plant going on line but never heard back from him. We at OCV and POP had planned to protest the pollution of the Coachella Valley by the Sentinel plant again this year at the Summit, and knowing Hannah to be an ally, contacted her in order to make her aware of why we would be demonstrating at the Palm Springs Energy Summit. She responded positively to our overture.
During her talk, occupiers inside the convention center reported that Hannah referred several times to the “dedicated people out front” (meaning Occupy and POP) who are concerned about the environment, that she said that we should try to make the world a place where we could all live, not pollute, and that if it turns out that the Sentinel plant is not living up to the EPA standards that it should be shut down. It was observed that 6 or 8 people would applaud when she made these remarks, but that many in the audience were unenthusiastic, likely disconcerted by her unwillingness to go along with the sponsors’/promoters’ attempts to mislead the public/whitewash the image of the polluters in question. One person in fact was overheard to sarcastically comment, “I wonder when her plane leaves!” Kids were seen wearing Sentinel shirts in the various booths and when informed by Occupiers about the Sentinel, were shocked to learn that it is a big polluter, as they had clearly been led to believe it was environmentally friendly.
Specifically, Daryl Hannah covered the following points we had asked her to mention:
- People have a right to clean air and water.
- Communities have a right to be involved in the decision process when their air and water are at stake.
- Representatives should listen to the people they represent. Newly elected Congressman Raul Ruiz was also scheduled to be a Keynote speaker but cancelled due to the government shutdown.
- Residential Rooftop Solar (DG) is far superior and should have first consideration vs. Big Solar and fossil fuel plants.
- The regulatory agency charged with protecting our air, South Coast Air Quality Management District (also a sponsor of this Summit) should respond to the will of the people and place high quality air quality monitors where they are needed: one in Desert Hot Springs, one near the Salton Sea, and one in between. They have been repeatedly asked to do so, and have not responded. These monitors would show the air quality on an hourly basis and be accessible by the public.
The protest was filmed by mainstream media who interviewed some of the protesters, but reports were predictably lacking in any critical assessment of the Sentinel’s impact, appearing to buy into the corporate public relations tactics. It was a success regardless, largely due to Hannah’s integrity. It is clear that she not only cares about the environment but is a down-to-earth and warmly personable woman as well, even hugging one of our members when he identified himself as the person who called her about the Summit action. We are very thankful to Daryl Hannah for standing up for the people of the Coachella Valley alongside People Over Pollution and Occupy Coachella Valley, instead of being a tool of the corporate polluters, and helping us make this protest a success!