'Take Back St. Louis': A New Direct Action Front Targeting Big Coal's Tax Breaks

St. Louis is about to have a vote to decide the future of Big Coal in the city. Just days ago, the St. Louis Board of Elections verified that the Take Back St. Louis Ballot Initiative had 960 signatures more than necessary, thereby guaranteeing its spot on the ballot. In other words, residents of St. Louis think that continued tax breaks to coal corporations should be brought to the ballot. In the battle against coal and other extractive industries, we are opening up a new front in which we directly target the subsidization of their corporate headquarters and subsequently, their profits.

Acting fearlessly, groups across the country seeking to curb climate calamity have intensified action against extraction sites, pipeline routes, power plants, refineries, and corporate targets. As fossil fuel corporations continue business as usual, the stakes in the climate crisis rise; groups have escalated their tactics in order to demand a change.

Meanwhile, in the land of coal corporate headquarters, corporations like Peabody Coal take public money in a “race to the bottom” which gives corporations control over our tax dollars. Over the past decade, the city of St. Louis has given “aggressive incentives” to private-sector corporations, while fundamental services in the city remain in critical condition.

St. Louis is about to have a vote to decide the future of Big Coal in the city. Just days ago, the St. Louis Board of Elections verified that the Take Back St. Louis Ballot Initiative had 960 signatures more than necessary, thereby guaranteeing its spot on the ballot. In other words, residents of St. Louis think that continued tax breaks to coal corporations should be brought to the ballot. In the battle against coal and other extractive industries, we are opening up a new front in which we directly target the subsidization of their corporate headquarters and subsequently, their profits.

Acting fearlessly, groups across the country seeking to curb climate calamity have intensified action against extraction sites, pipeline routes, power plants, refineries, and corporate targets. As fossil fuel corporations continue business as usual, the stakes in the climate crisis rise; groups have escalated their tactics in order to demand a change.

Meanwhile, in the land of coal corporate headquarters, corporations like Peabody Coal take public money in a “race to the bottom” which gives corporations control over our tax dollars. Over the past decade, the city of St. Louis has given “aggressive incentives” to private-sector corporations, while fundamental services in the city remain in critical condition.

As long as we continue to fund corporations like Peabody, they will continue their business practices that fuel the climate crisis. A quick look at their less-than-shiny track record will show that they have robbed hard working miners of their health care benefits, contaminated the water sources of Native American tribes and destroyed communities in Appalachia through mountaintop removal coal mining.

Locally, the business model of Big Coal is ripping off St. Louis. Not only is the system of tax incentives to Big Coal undermining communities because of disinvestment in neighborhoods, but it is also subsidizing the climate crisis. As St. Louisans we have had enough.

Now we’re acting fearlessly too-- resisting Peabody and fundamentally reworking the system that rewards Big Coal and its backers over citizens and over the environment. Over the past eight months, we have laid the infrastructure to revive St. Louis from this system of incentivizing fossil fuels. With the Take Back St. Louis Ballot Initiative, we move to divest the city of St. Louis from fossil fuel to amend the city’s development priorities.

Not only will the ballot initiative shift public money away from fossil fuel extraction corporations, it will also assert the city’s right to a sustainable energy future and provide funding for sustainable energy initiatives throughout the city. This initiative is about improving our communities and creating a green economy in the city, where gangsters like Peabody do not have control of public funds.

We want to shift money away from corporations and put it into neighborhoods, turning vacant lots into solar arrays and urban farms.

Already the opposition has come out swinging. They have promulgated sensationalist arguments instilling fear in the public, saying that this initiative will devastate the St. Louis economy. In response to the submission of over 36,000 signatures for the ballot initiative, the mayor’s office called the plan an “anarchist’s dream.” The mayor’s office has said that this will shut down city hall; coincidentally, the mayor’s office has taken $30,000 from Peabody. The opposition is trying to paint this ballot initiative as ‘anti-everything’ in order to keep the present state of affairs in which large corporations are supported by the city, and the city is controlled by large corporations.

Clearly, we’ve crafted a campaign that strikes at the largest fears of Big Coal and its cronies. It calls them out for killing the planet while also eliminating a piece of their subsidization, which messes with their profits. By attempting to strike down this ballot initiative, Big Coal is aiming to prolong the status quo in the city- an economy which works for a handful of wealthy corporations but not the majority of the citizens.

What is happening in St. Louis is representative of what is happening all across the country. At the intersection of the environment and the economy, the root cause of the problems that face our generation is the same. Climate and economic injustice are products of the same broken system. The powerful will take drastic means to continue business as usual, but we need to think critically about the ways in which we can improve the climate and improve our communities. We need real change. We need cities that work for people, not corporations.

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