A lot has been said about how the Koch brothers have spent a fortune financing the Tea Party and climate change denial, but we visited Polluter Watch to learn more about the numerous other ways these carbon barons are destroying our planet. Frankly, we are floored by the utter and shameless impunity with which America's fourth richest men act (Bloomberg estimates they are worth $52 billion each.) If Ecocide was universally recognized as the fifth crime against peace, these men would be among the planet's worst offenders. With petroleum refineries, fuel pipelines, coal supply and trading companies and various other chemical and industrial plants in 60 different countries, the Koch Brothers are responsible for releasing roughly 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, according to CARMA. And they (or various subsidiaries of Koch Industries, Inc.) have been fined numerous times for blatantly violating environmental laws. Their crimes are so numerous, we narrowed in on just five to demonstrate the most emblematic. After this, you will never wonder again why they are so hell-bent on convincing naïve Americans that climate change is not real.
1. World’s 14th Worst Air Polluter
In their report Toxic Release Inventory, the Political Economy Research Institute finds that Koch Industries, which is 84 percent owned by Charles G. and David H. Koch – two of four Koch brothers, is the world’s 14th worst air polluter. This is nothing to scoff at. We love to hate BP and Shell for all of their environmental ‘accidents,’ but according to this report, Koch Industries is far more toxic – at least when it comes to air pollution.
2. Petcoke Piles
As if it isn’t bad enough that subsidiaries of Koch Carbon even own huge piles of petcoke, which is a toxic byproduct of tar sands refining that is burned like coal, the brothers are responsible for unsightly and poisonous piles of the stuff that blows into the homes of people living in cities like Chicago and Detroit. According to Polluter Watch and Detroit Free Press, last year mayor Dave Bing ordered the removal or coverage of piles of petcoke along the Detroit River because of its damaging impact on nearby residents. But in Chicago, KCBX Terminals has two years to clean up their mess along the Calumet River.
3. Toxic Corpus Christi
I recently drove through Corpus Christi, Texas, and my environmental sensibilities have never before nor since been more assaulted than during this short journey. The Koch brothers own the Flint Hills Resources oil refinery that processes diesel, jet fuel, gasoline and other industrial chemicals. More than once they have been fined for illegally dispelling highly toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, including Benzene, Butadiene and Sulfuric Acid, and the local people are suffering a great deal as a result. Here’s a great, but disturbing story in the Texas Observer that details the Erin Brokovich-esque environmental horrors taking place in this polluted city astride the Gulf of Mexico.
4. Fines for 680 Environmental Violations
In 2009, Koch Industries subsidiary INVISTA was ordered by the U.S. government to pay a $1.7 million penalty and $500 million to clean up environmental violations in seven states! All in all, the company was responsible for 680 violations that cleaned up would have spared 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year. Thing is, this was just one incident – who knows what happens in facilities across the globe (60 countries, remember) where environmental oversight is worse than ours. Koch Industries, Inc. consistently dumps harmful chemicals into our air and water, and fails to properly dispose of hazardous waste or invest in suitable emergency planning and preparedness.
5. Organized Theft of Oil Under Federal and Tribal Lands
Back in 2009, Bill Koch accused his own brothers of stealing from American taxpayers and “organized crime.” As a result of a subsequent lawsuit, Koch Industries entered into a $25 million settlement with the U.S. Government as reparation for what Polluter Watch calls the “longstanding practice of illegally removing oil from Federal and Indian Lands.” Koch Industries actually faked measurements to take more oil from the government (which was then sold to refineries). Bill Koch says they have ruined their father’s legacy by amassing their wealth through organized crime.
Really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are the Koch Brothers polluting people’s minds with egregious falsehoods, but they jeopardize the safety of the entire planet through their own irresponsible industrial practices. For more stories like these and a lot more really sound information, head over to Polluter Watch. You may leave feeling very angry, but we hope you will also be inspired to raise your voice against people like the Koch Brothers so that they might one day be genuinely accountable for their environmental crimes.
Image of Charles Koch via Billionaire’s Database, Air pollution image via Shutterstock, Petcoke image via Wikicommons, Corpus Christi image via Shutterstock, Detroit Port Photo via Shutterstock, U.S. Property Sign via Shutterstock