Category Archives: Justice

Newark makes history – council passes 1st in Country Environmental Justice & Cumulative Impact Ordinance

By Envision Blue/Green
By Envision Blue/Green
Today on July 7 2016 the City Council of Newark unanimously and historically made into law the first ever Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance, with their vote showing that Councilpeople value the health and wellbeing of Newark residents over commercial interests.

The law’s passage in a testimony to years of hard work by environmental justice leaders in the city and allies across the state.

Stand by for more info.

08 July 2016 see complete details about the ordinance and its passage here.

Can’t make this stuff up: judge finds eco-protestor guilty before trial ends

On Tuesday 27 June, Reading Township NY judge found Seneca Lake gas storage protestor Tom Angie guilty before his team had the chance to present his defense. Schuyler County Assistant Distract Attorney John Tunney, who was prosecuting the case for the county, attempted to explain to the judge that a ruling under these circumstances is not binding – or even legal.

EcoWatch reported on the judge’s response:
Justice Berry then reiterated his verdict, saying, “I still find him guilty.”

The results: Berry, “agreed to recuse himself in this and all future trials involving Seneca Lake gas storage protesters, he granted the prosecutor’s motion to declare a mistrial in Angie’s case and I got a good laugh.

As my mother liked to say, real life is infinitely loonier than fiction.

New US ivory law gives elephants stronger protection against poachers

Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) ranger stands guard next to illegal stockpile of elephant tusks and ivory figurines before their destruction
Source: Lawyer Herald
New ivory trafficking regulations issued on Thursday by the Obama Administration will make the import and sale of African elephant’s ivory much more difficult in the United States. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reports:

It is clear that the status quo wasn’t doing enough to protect elephants from American trade: The US market has consistently ranked among the world’s largest – an (up until now) largely unregulated, multi-million-dollar black box where ivory could be bought and sold with almost no oversight, whether it was old or freshly poached. We believe that the new rules are a crucial step towards bringing the poaching crisis under control, though much still depends on the unglamorous next steps: implementation, enforcement, and diplomatic follow-through to ensure that this momentum doesn’t stop at America’s borders.

While the changes are a big improvement, they’re not perfect. The regulations still permit sales of documented antiques and certain older items with a small amount of ivory. But the documentation requirement is only loosely defined, putting pressure on FWS (and groups like IFAW) to ensure that ivory buyers and sellers uphold the spirit and the letter of the law. We also have to make sure that law enforcement agents get the tools and funding they need to keep illegal imports from slipping into the black market.

Additionally, the rule limits trophy hunters to importing “only” two dead elephants (per hunter) annually. IFAW lobbied hard to close this loophole even further and we will continue to press the issue, especially as new studies call the conventional wisdom on trophy hunting further into question. However, even this represents an improvement, as there had been no numeric limit on trophy imports at all prior to the change.

The third element I mentioned above – diplomatic follow-through – is just as important as what we do here at home. Other major ivory-consuming countries like China and Vietnam have begun to steer their ivory laws in the right direction; US/China negotiations have already resulted in a pledge from President Xi Jinping to shut down the Chinese ivory market, although tangible progress has been slow in coming and it remains vital that the US continue to set an example.

The New York Times reported on the rule-making process:

In accordance with the rule-making process under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service opened the proposed changes for public comment, and it became the second-most-commented-on rule in the agency’s history. People wrote letters, children drew pictures and thousands of petition signatures rolled in — mostly in support of the more restrictive law.

The next phase of the fight against ivory poaching will happen next week, when a delegation from the United States goes to Beijing for a round of strategic and economic talks with Chinese officials, who have also agreed to further restrictions on the ivory trade.

if you buy ivory you kill people
Source: Elephant Advocacy League
Elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory at the rate of 96 per day. Do you know that the ivory trade is a people killer too?

Lead graphic from the Lawyer Herald.


Washington tribe gets its Chinook salmon back

Chinook spawn in Elwha River
Chinook salmon spawn in Elwha River
Many generations of Chinook salmon were unable for a 100 year period to reach the Elwha River to lay eggs and raise their young. Access was blocked by two huge dams that are being removed, making the river and its tributaries habitat once again for fish travelling from the oceans where they spend their adult lives outside of spawning season. Many of the newly opened waterways lie within the protective borders of Olympic National Park in Washington state.

In 1986 the Lower Elwha Klallam Indian tribe challenged the relicensing of the 64-meter-tall Glines Canyon Dam and the 33-meter-tall Elwha Dam that prevented their “dammed salmon” from accessing the river. The removals open up 112 kilometers of river and tributary habit for wildlife, fish and other seafood and will restore the tribe’s access to the traditions and diet that are interwoven with its culture as river stewards.

The US National Park Service reports

Dam removal began on the Elwha River in mid-September 2011. Today, Elwha Dam is gone, over fifty percent of Glines Canyon Dam has been removed, the Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell reservoirs have drained, and the Elwha River flows freely from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the first time in 100 years. Dam Removal dam is scheduled to be complete by September 2014.

Webcams and dam removal blog by the NPS Elwha River Project.

National Geographic has done several reports on this project:
Rebirth on the River: Washington’s Elwha Flourishing After Big Dam Removals
Salmon Re-enter Olympic National Park River Thanks to Elwha Dam Removal
Dam Removals Open Way for Cultural and Habitat Restoration

Spectacular time lapse video of dam explosion and Elwha River waterway being re-established.

AP article

The Shangri-la source of all the world’s apples is under threat of destruction

Kazakhastan apples via orexca
Source: Orexca
Modern apples are a product of bear selection and a mother-father pair of trees in the Tian Shen forests of Kazakhastan, where many tasty and supremely healthy varieties can still be found today. Techly contributer Riordan Lee explains:

After sequencing the entire genome, scientists have traced 90% of the billions of apples that have ever been, back to the Malus sieversii – the original wild apple.

This species was born deep in the heart of the Tien Shen forests – where dense covers of apple trees dominated the hilly, remote mountain ranges.

The reason most apples have that classic, sweet ‘apple’ flavour is funnily enough, because of bears.

In these Kazakh forests, bears, being the picky buggers that they are, would only pick and eat the sweetest apples.

Then they’d go and wander around poop everywhere and the seeds of these sweet, delicious apples were spread around.

Today, tourism and deforestation are threatening the Kazakh region’s, “highly disease resistant, sweet, and hard,” apple trees. Due to centuries of inbreeding, the genetic structure of apple varieties outside of Kazakhastan has become fragile and their immune systems are weak. Fruit from Kazakh trees has the power to save apples around when seedlings from their stock is merged with genetically weaker varieties the rest of us know and love.

We must protect our apples!

State Sens. Gordon & Weinberg ask why NJ did not get most of the Sandy recovery funds HUD wanted to give us

Sandy impact
Source: NJ National Guard. New Jersey National Guard in flooded Hoboken following Hurricane Sandy
State Senators Bob Gordon and Loretta Weinberg are deeply concerned that Christie’s administration failed to submit a disaster resilience grant application to the federal government which would have empowered HUD to give us hundreds of millions of dollars they had earmarked to help New Jersey residents.

For New Jerseyans, who suffered more heavily from the ravages of superstorm Sandy than the residents of any other state, last month’s announcement of federal disaster resilience grants by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development hit like a nor’easter.

Of the $1 billion being awarded by HUD in Natural Disaster Resilience Competition grants, a minimum of $181 million had been set aside for New Jersey and New York thanks to the hard work of our congressional delegation.

That’s why it was so shocking when New Jersey received just $15 million.

New York City and New York State received a total of $212 million, but New Jersey ranked 14th on the grant list, just ahead of the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. The last time we looked, Springfield didn’t have much of a coastline.

The state’s failure is just the latest example of New Jersey coming in way behind New York in obtaining federal aid to rebuild after superstorm Sandy. New York City and New York State received $8.6 billion in Community Development Block Grants — twice as much as New Jersey’s $4.2 billion — and the $1.7 billion we received in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants is dwarfed by the $7.7 billion that went to New York.

That is why Senate President Stephen Sweeney asked our Senate Legislative Oversight Committee to open hearings on why New Jersey has consistently failed to obtain the funding needed to protect residents from Bergen County to Cape May from the ravages of coastal and inland flooding, and on what we should be doing to protect the state against sea-level rise and climate change.

Our first hearing earlier this month started to get some answers, and we will have a fuller understanding when officials from HUD, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Rockefeller Foundation, which was retained by HUD to advise applicants, appear before the committee at a future hearing. reports on the NJ Legislative Oversight Hearings held on 11 February 2016:

Several witnesses … raised questions about what New Jersey chose to include and not include in its application, including a bus station in the Meadowlands.

“One of the things about this application that really astonished me and I still don’t understand and I just wished someone could explain it to me in a way that makes sense, is how building a bus station in the Meadowlands protects anybody from flooding?” said Bill Sheehan of the Hackensack Riverkeeper environmental group.

Sheehan, after the hearing, questioned whether requests like that had less to do with flood control and more to do with the fact that the state’s Transportation Trust Fund is nearly out of money.

This is not a partisan issue. As Republican Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, who represents the Monmouth County Bayshore that suffered some of the most severe damage from Sandy, said at the hearing, it is the responsibility of the Legislature to hold federal and state officials accountable.

What we learned so far is just the beginning of that process.

We already know that HUD Secretary Julian Castro said New Jersey received less funding not because the state did not have great need for storm resilience projects, but because our application was weaker than most other states. In fact, we just made the minimum cutoff to receive any funding at all.

While most winning applicants identified significant matching funds and were working closely with regional nonprofits on climate change initiatives, New Jersey received just 1 point out of a possible 10 for “leveraging” other funding. Furthermore, we also got marked down on “scalability” for failing to present proposals that could be implemented even if we only received partial funding.

We need to find out if the state received adequate feedback from HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation that deficiencies in our proposal could jeopardize our chances to win the needed funding. But there are clearly questions at the state level as well.

New Jersey’s two main proposals were for a $231 million grant for construction of a berm and pumping stations to protect towns in the Meadowlands from flooding and for a $75 million satellite bus garage in Secaucus.

What our initial hearing showed was that the Meadowlands berm project was controversial — and indeed was opposed by environmentalists. And, as we pointed out, a proposal for a $75 million bus garage seems less like a proposal to protect the Meadowlands against climate change than an attempt to get the federal government to pay for a new bus garage because the Transportation Trust Fund is out of money.

The most disconcerting part of the hearing was the heart-wrenching testimony by Monmouth and Ocean County Sandy survivors who rightfully questioned why New Jersey did not apply for any funding for projects to protect homeowners in the Jersey Shore counties that sustained the lion’s share of Sandy damage.

Questions also were raised about whether New Jersey’s reluctance to embrace climate change gave HUD “political reasons” to deny our application. While New York State has developed a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation plan, is mapping for climate change and sea-level rise, and is increasing its green building and energy efficiency standards, New Jersey is the only state bordering either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean that does not have a plan to deal with climate change and sea-level rise.

As a coastal state that relies so heavily on tourism to drive our economy and boost state revenues, we cannot afford to ignore the challenges posed by climate change and sea-level rise, and we certainly cannot afford to lose out on federal grants designed to protect our citizens against the ravages of future megastorms.

We need to know why we fared so poorly on federal Sandy grant funding, and we need to know how we can do better in the future. The victims of Sandy deserve no less.

Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Bergen/Passaic, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, serve as chair and vice-chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee.

Additional Sandy recovery coverage available at Asbury Park Press

Landowners near Scranton & activists set to face off against Pipeline builders who will clear cut their trees

protecting the land
Source: The Times-Tribune
Ted Glick reports on the environmental horror that’s about to begin in Northeast Pennsylvania:

Very possibly as early as tomorrow, chain-saw-armed tree cutters hired by Williams Partners, a powerful pipeline-building corporation for the gas and oil industry, will try to cut down sugar maple trees on the property of Maryann Zeffer, Cathy and Megan Holleran and their family. For 65 years they have lived on this land, and for the last ten or so they have been producing delicious, pure, Pennsylvania maple syrup from those trees.

This destruction won’t happen without a big fight. Nine days ago as I write, after FERC gave approval to Williams’ request to start tree cutting in Pa. even though Williams does not have all of the necessary approvals to build their Pa. to NY Constitution pipeline, an encampment was set up on the Zeffer/Holleran land. Every day since people have been there.

The implacable Williams Partners pipeline builders aka land destroyers and water polluters, has obtained the go-ahead from FERC to begin clear-cutting more private land on 160 Pennsylvania properties than they need to lay a pipeline for transporting fracked fuel through Pennsylvania to New York. Williams got the red light to proceed even though they lack all the necessary permits and have not paid for some of the land they plan to access. They acquired some of the land through eminent domain seizure and will cut down more trees than the pipeline requires to give themselves “working space”.

The families of Cathy and Megan Holleran and Maryann Zeffer fought the pipeline builders in court for well over a year. With tree felling now about to begin, they’ve taking their battle to the public. Anti-fracking/anti-pipeline and clean water activists, environmentalists and the press have been summoned to witness the Holleran/Zeffers take a stand against the usurpation of their land rights and the destruction of their beautiful maple syrup kingdom and stand with them, if they’re willing to risk being arrested. These people’s little slice of Paradise is a 1/2 hour drive north of Scranton, PA.

The family loves these 22 acres that Catherine Holleran’s parents bought in the late 1950s, when they escaped to the Endless Mountains from Long Island.

Sturdy maples, cherries and other hardwoods rise from their property’s steep eastern hillside. A small creek-fed lake lies at the bottom of the gentle valley. Across a strip of trees, a grassy field rises to the north. It’s a place for syrup making and snowmobiling in the winter, lake parties and off-roading in the summer.

Constitution’s designs call for a 30-inch pipe laid in an S-shaped strip across 1,670 linear feet of their land. The permanent easement would be 50 feet wide, but the company would fell timber in a wider area to create work space. The family doesn’t want to lose the trees or the quality of their lake, which they fear could fill with sediment despite the company’s stated policies of controlling erosion.

The five Zeffer siblings — Ms. Holleran’s maiden name — want to pass the land on to their children the way it is, “without a big stupid pipeline,” Ms. Holleran said.

If you wish to join or support the resistance, here’s the information you need:
Holleran property is at 2131 Three Lakes Road, New Milford, PA. But use these coordinates to find the location where people have gathered to stop the tree cutting: 41.8272387, -75.7585062

Contacts: Megan Holleran 570-709-3268 and Alex Lotorto (after 5PM) 570-269-9589

Visit Stop the Constitution Pipeline Facebook group

Hat tip to Theresa Lam for the share

Michael Moore reports from Flint on the Flint Water Tragedy

Michael Moore on Flint Water Tragedy

Flint native and film maker Michael Moore arrived in the city a couple of weeks ago and went right to work gathering information about the origin and extended impact of what’s being nationally referred to as the “Flint Water Crisis”. He has released his article 10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy. But I Will.

The New Meadowlands development project progresses – sign up to get involved or to just get news

New Meadowlands
Source: Rebuild by Design

#1 Get news about Meadowlands redevelopment

The New Meadowlands Coalition formed out of several groups that have been advocating since Superstorm Sandy to get Meadowlands region residents back in their homes; get clean-up and repairs done in the area; monitor the progress of the Rebuild by Design competition and track the recent award of an implementation contract to a vendor selected by the DEP, who will be overseeing the Meadowlands development project that is about to begin. The project’s funding source is the EPA.

If you are a community member or ECJ advocate wishing to receive updates from the New Meadowlands Coalition or to learn how to influence the selection of the redevelopment option for the region, please fill out this brief form.

#2 Apply for a seat on a DEP (CAG)

You can have a voice in shaping the design for this project. If accepted, you will take part in meetings to help identify the unmet needs of your community and share information between your neighbors and the project leaders.

Apply by contacting your mayor, cc’ing the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection TODAY:

Moonachie: Dennis Vaccaro 201-641-1813

Little Ferry: Mauro D. Raguseo 201-641-9234

S. Hackensack: Walter Eckel Jr. 201-440-1815

Teterboro: Nicholas Saros 201-288-1200

Carlstadt: Will Roseman 201-531-7199

CC the NJDEP Representative Kerry Pflugh or 609-633-7242

Contact the New Meadowlands Coalition
Reach us by emailing Sally Gellert or drop by a monthly meeting on first Tuesdays 10-11:30am at St. Margaret’s. Follow signs for the VOAD Office once you’re inside the building or phone 201-477-8711 for help locating us.

RIC St. Margaret of Cortona
31 Chamberlain Ave.
Little Ferry, NJ

About the CAG

“In June 2015, the ESC formed an Outreach Subcommittee consisting of State and local officials tasked with developing a Citizen Outreach Plan (COP) and identifying citizens to serve on a Citizen Advisory Group (CAG). The COP will outline how the general public, municipal officials, community organizations and the academic community will engage and collaborate with the NJDEP in the RBDM planning, design and implementation processes. The CAG will consist of interested members of the public from the five (5) municipalities and will also include vulnerable and underserved populations, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons with limited English proficiency. Participants in the CAG will take part in meetings to help identify the unmet needs of the community. The ESC anticipates that the COP will be finalized in January 2015.”

Some information provided by Rebuild by Design. Additional information here.

Michigan AG seeks to block Flint from turning off poisoned people’s water altogether

Water shut-off notice Flint MI
Yet another nightmare has surfaced in the Flint, Michigan tragedy where residents are being systemically poisoned by city-supplied drinking water. The city is planning to shut-off water for unpaid bills, despite the fact that the water Flint has served is literally unfit for human consumption – and isn’t safe even for bathing.

The city’s top officials switched from clean water supplied by Detroit for a source that has corroded pipes and led to horrific health effects. The reason for the switch was not motivated by money.

Now, Attorney General Bill Schuette has launched an investigation and he hopes to provide relief to the beleaguered community. NBC reports:

Michigan’s top prosecutor said Monday that it’s an “outrage” that residents of Flint are being forced to pay for water that’s unsafe to drink — and his office may take action to stop the billing.

“Words can barely describe this tragedy. Things went terribly wrong,” AG Bill Schuette said. “I would certainly not bathe a newborn child or a young infant in this bad water and if you can’t drink the bad water you shouldn’t pay for it.”

Flint Residents Are Still Being Forced to Pay for Contaminated Water 0:19
Schuette said his office has begun investigating what steps it could take to provide financial relief to the people of Flint, who were subjected to chemical byproducts, E. coli, Legionnaires’ disease and lead after the city’s water source was switched to the corrosive Flint River in 2014.

It was unclear if Schuette could stop Flint from shutting off water to families who don’t pay their bills … Schuette’s office has launched a criminal investigation into the water emergency to see if any laws were broken, and he announced Monday that a former FBI chief and an ex-prosecutor will lead the probe and report directly to him.