We just sent out the following press release about the amazing action that took place in Washington, DC this afternoon. The action is still continuing, as our referees march over to the American Petroleum Institute to protest the Big Oil front group. We’ll try and get more photos and video up soon, but here’s the initial report: 

WASHINGTON – At a protest on Capitol Hill this afternoon, hundreds of people dressed as referees called “foul” on members of Congress for supporting the Keystone XL pipeline while taking millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. The protest was the first of many similar actions across the country as reformers go on the offensive against Big Oil and its political allies in Congress who have given billions in handouts to fossil fuel companies while slowing down progress on the nation’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

“People’s chief demand today was that Congress stop giving the fossil fuel industry gifts in the form of billions in useless subsidies just so politicians can cash in the favor for campaign contributions,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who has led protests against the Keystone XL pipeline. “We’re really hopeful that the President will echo that call in his State of the Union address tonight.”

At the rally this afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pledged to introduce legislation to end fossil fuel subsidies. The exact amount of subsidies the coal, oil and gas industries receive each year are difficult to calculate, estimates range from $4 billion to $41 billion annually. (1)

“The most profitable corporations in the world do not need subsidies from the American people,” said Sen. Sanders. “We need to end Big Oil subsidies and tax breaks, and I’m going to introduce legislation to do it.”

Grassroots environmental campaigners hope to make politicians’ ties to dirty energy money and the subsequent billions of dollars in taxpayer funded subsidies the industry receives each year a key campaign issue in 2012.

“Young people are not taking on record student loan debt only to graduate into a world in which corporations are buying our politicians, polluting our planet, and sealing our climate’s fate,” said Maura Cowley, Executive Director of the Energy Action Coalition, the largest youth clean energy coalition in the country. “We can do better, and we demand that our representatives pick us over their Big Oil backers.”

At Tuesday’s protest, hundreds of people dressed in referee outfits blew whistles, threw penalty flags, and held placards with slogans like: “Penalty, Big Oil for Obstructing Democracy.” The rally was organized by 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Energy Action Coalition, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, and Sierra Club. 

The referees also called out individual members of Congress for their ties to dirty energy money. According to public records compiled by Oil Change International, members of Congress who support the Keystone XL pipeline have received $41 million in contributions from the fossil fuel industry. (2)

“Congress has been flagged for ‘holding’ because it continues to hold our country hostage to the interests of Big Oil and the 1 percent,” said Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International. “The penalty is loss of legitimacy and the trust of the American people.”

According to McKibben, 350.org has already received reports of more activists across the country purchasing referee shirts and whistles. 

“This just may be the start of something,” he said. 


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