Flashback to Scandal Over Energy Industry's 2009 Phony Letters to Congress: Linguistic Analysis Shows Pro-Coal Group Submitted Bogus Petition to White House Opposing Coal Ash Rules.
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- How few friends does toxic coal ash pollution have? It has so few supporters to call on that when a coal industry-backed group, "Citizens for Recycling First," submitted a petition to the White House last fall opposing tightened regulation of coal ash dumpsites, the petition submitted by the front group included hundreds of fake Chinese signatures as part of the submission of 5,400 names, according to a linguistic analysis commissioned by the non-profit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).
"Citizens for Recycling First" issued the petition on the Obama Administration website in late 2011 to "protect coal ash recycling by promptly enacting disposal regulations that do NOT designate coal ash a 'hazardous waste." The group claimed that in just one month, its petition had gathered more than 5,400 signatures. At the time, this was deemed to be enough support to require an official White House response.
A copy of the phony petition is accessible online at https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/protect-coal-ash-recycling-promptly-enacting-disposal-regulations-do-not-designate-coal-ash-/dG1sH81M. A copy of the linguistic analysis obtained by EIP from Transperfect can be accessed at the following URL: http://environmentalintegrity.org/news_reports/documents/2012521LinguistDeclaration.pdf.
Citizens for Recycling First has publicly taken direct responsibility for the "hard work" needed to gather the signatures on the White House petition survey, as in this October 25, 2011 Web posting: "Citizens for Recycling First is grateful to everyone who participated in getting friends, family and associates to sign the petition. The American Coal Ash Association and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association were particularly helpful in reaching out to their members. The 5,000 signatures were particularly hard to gather because the White House website was frequently overloaded and unresponsive to people trying to sign." (See http://www.recyclingfirst.org/blog/?post=126.)
Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer said: "If coal ash is so important to American jobs – as its Congressional supporters insist – why would the industry submit a petition with so many names in Chinese characters? We engaged a Mandarin translator from Transperfect, a linguistic services company in Washington, D.C., to conduct an exhaustive review of every signature that appears in the Citizens for Recycling First petition. Our service compiled more than two thousand Mandarin names that were included in the petition to the White House. Based on our review, the vast majority of the Chinese names in the petition are not authentic."
The exposing of the fake petition from the "astroturfed" pro-coal group is reminiscent of the 2009 scandal when a lobbying firm retained by an energy trade group sent forged letters to Members of Congress in opposition to climate legislation. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/us/politics/19charity.html?_r=1.)
According to the analysis prepared by Transperfect, fake Chinese names appearing on the petition fall into the following categories:
- Generated by software/small group of individuals. Based on the consistent wording and style of many of these names, they appear to be generated by a piece of software or a small group of individuals. While many of the first names might be real, they appear frequently with either the last name or one character altered. An illustration of a similar randomly combined list of Western names might look something like this: George Jones, William Jones, James Jones, Henry Jones, Peter Jones, William Smith, Frank Smith, Jim Smith, Larry Smith, etc.
- Use of non-names. At least 80 of the names identified in Chinese characters in the petition refer to objects or descriptions that are not used as surnames in the Chinese language. These include: Popular food items: Steamed Bun, Older Sister, Steamed Bun Little Sister, Small Steamed Bun and Big Steamed Bun, etc. Dozens of the names are simply names of animals in Mandarin, including: Big Bear, Big Grey Wolf, Little Duck, Little White Rabbit and Yellow Tiger.
- Invitations to travel. Some of the names included in the petition are in fact invitations to visit China, such as: Come to China Big, Come to China Cat, Come to China China, Come to China Donkey, Come to China Little Girl, and so on.
- Appearance-obsessed fake names. Thirteen names appearing in the petition include the first name of "Handsome", including Handsome Six, Handsome Eight, Handsome Good Looking, Handsome Dragon and the Most Handsome Guy.
- Famous historical/literary figures. Another 30 of the Chinese names in the petition actually identify famous characters in Chinese politics, history or literature. These include: Dasheng Sun: The monkey king in the Journey to the West (a famous Chinese novel) and Shanbo Liang, who is the protagonist in a very well-known legend.
The Environmental Integrity Project (http://www.environmentalintegrity.org) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws. EIP has three goals: 1) to provide objective analyses of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of environmental laws.
SOURCE Environmental Integrity Project, Washington, D.C.