Category Archives: Policy

March in Philly July 24 for a Clean Energy Revolution

July 2016 Clean Energy MarchOn the eve of the Democratic National Convention as the national spotlight shines on Philadelphia, thousands of Americans will gather on July 24 2016 to demand bold action be taken to end fracking, keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground and immediately transition toward a truly clean, renewable energy future. Will you be there too?

Together, we will march through downtown Philadelphia to call for:

  • Ban Fracking Now
    A ban on fracking, acid fracking and other unconventional, extreme fossil fuel extraction methods
  • Stop Dirty Energy and Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
    A halt to the rapid and reckless expansion of gas and oil pipelines, frack sand mining, wastewater injection wells and other dirty fossil fuel infrastructure across the United States
  • A Quick and Just Transition to 100% Renewable Energy
    Bold government policies to build solar, wind and other clean energy sources and energy efficiency measures in order to transition quickly to a 100% renewable energy economy

RSVP to let us know you can join us in Philadelphia!
Sunday 24 July 2016
12-6PM

Request transportation help by contacting Rita email or 732-993-8966. More information at CleanEnergyMarch.org

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Indigenous women in Ecuador & allies march to defend the Amazon & protest environmental & cultural genocide

PUYO, Ecuador, March 9, 2016 – In recognition of International Women’s Day, Indigenous Amazonian women leaders of seven nationalities including: Andoa, Achuar, Kichwa, Shuar, Shiwiar, Sapara and Waorani nationalities and their international allies took action in Puyo, Ecuador, in a forum and march in defense of the Amazon, Mother Earth and for climate justice. Specifically, they came together to denounce a newly signed oil contract between the Ecuadorian government and Chinese oil corporation Andes Petroleum.

Indigenous woman of the Amazon with megaphone
Source: Mike Riech/Pachamama Alliance

By plane, foot, canoe, and bus, some five hundred women mobilized from deep in their rainforest territories and nearby provinces marching through the streets of the Amazon jungle town of Puyo.

Chanting, “Defend the forest, don’t sell it!” and carrying signs reading “No more persecution against women defenders of Mother Earth,” the march culminated in a rally in which each nationality denounced the new oil threat and shared traditional songs and ceremonies. The women spoke of other methods for protecting and defending the Amazon and its vital living systems, making it known that the women of the Amazon are not just victims of environmental and cultural genocide, but rather are vital solution bearers.

In addition to highlighting the grave social and ecologic implications of this new contract and the Ecuadorian government’s plans to tender several more oil blocks in the pristine, roadless southern Amazon, the women and allies brought light to their struggles and the ongoing criminalization faced as they stand to protect and defend their territories and lifeways based upon living in harmony with the natural world. A tribute was held in honor of Berta Caceres, the Honduran indigenous environmental leader who was killed last week for her years of work defending rights and territories from privatization, plantations, and most recently, a mega dam project.

The women of the Amazon were also joined by Casey Camp Horinek, WECAN delegation member and Indigenous leader of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, who shared her traditional songs and stories of how her people have been impacted by fracking activity.

Indigenous women of the Amazon-2
Source: Mike Riech/Pachamama Alliance

“Right now the oil company is trying to enter our territory. That is our homeland, this is where we have our chakras (gardens), where we feed our families. We are warriors, and we are not afraid. We will never negotiate,” explained Rosalia Ruiz, a Sapara leader from the community of Torimbo, which is inside the Block 83 oil concession.

“Although we are from three different provinces, we are one territory and one voice,” Alicia Cahuiya, Waorani leader declared.

As the march unfolded, the Ecuadorian government and Andes Petroleum held a meeting in the nearby town of Shell to organize an illegal entry into Sapara territory, knowing that key leaders would not be present. Outraged, a delegation of Sapara delivered a letter to the meeting, underscoring their peoples’ opposition to the oil project and governments tactics to divide the community. They successfully thwarted the government and company plans, and returned to the streets, victorious.

International allies including the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, Amazon Watch and Pachamama Alliance shared messages of solidarity and calls for immediate action to keep fossil fuels in the ground in the Amazon.

“On this International Women’s Day we are reaching across borders and standing together as global women for climate justice to denounce oil extraction in the Amazon and call for attention to the struggles and solutions of local women land defenders,” explained Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, “We all depend on the flourishing of these precious rainforests, the lungs of the planet. Now is the time to keep the oil in the ground and stand with the women who have been putting their bodies on the line for years to protect the forest, their cultures, and the health and well being of all future generations.”

“Today was a historic day for indigenous Amazonian women! It was the first time that hundreds of women and their allies marched for the Amazon, Mother Earth and Climate Justice. And the power of women was so strong that plans for oil companies entering Sápara territory today were halted. This is is a signal that the collective call to defend rights and territories by keeping fossil fuels in the ground is working,” says Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch.

Indigenous woman of the Amazon with banner
Source: Mike Riech/Pachamama Alliance

Belen Paez from Pachamama Alliance declared: “It’s a unique and historical moment to have the experience of solidarity and connection between indigenous women and activists from all over the world standing up for the rights of the Amazon rainforest and its people, we have all been waiting for this moment for so long, and that moment is now.”

The March 8 forum, action and press conference will be followed by a March 9 event and report back, ‘Women of Ecuadorian Amazon and International Allies Stand For Protection of the Amazon Rainforest’ to be held on March 9 at 17:00 at the Biblioteca FLASCO, Universidad FLACSO, Quito.

A solidarity action was also held at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, CA, to denounce the new oil contracts on Sapara and Kichwa territory and support women’s rights in Ecuador and around the world.

Flint decision makers no-shows at today’s Congressional hearings on Flint Water Crisis. Scary situation.

Flint Water Crisis hearings
Source: C-Span live stream

The Congressional hearing on the Flint Water Crisis was live streamed this morning, 03 February 2016.

Michigan Gov. Snyder and officials he appointed who made the decision for the City of Flint to stop receiving water from the Detroit Water Company and get it from the contaminated Flint River instead, have elected not to be present at the hearings. Detroit had been Flint’s supplier of clean, fresh water for over 50 years.

After Snyder nullified Flint’s election and put former “Emergency City Manager” Darnell Early in place there, the decision was made during his term of service from 2013-2015, to change the city’s water source to the Flint River. The decision to not spend $9000 for three months of corrosion control treatment to seal the pipes carrying the water was made, even though this is an EPA requirement. Treatment would have prevented the river’s contamination from causing lead and other heavy metals to flake off from corroding pipes to enter the city’s potable water supply.

High lead levels resulting from the corrosion have caused irreversible, permanent lead poisoning to all of Flint’s children who drank the contaminated water, which is probably all of the city’s 9000 children. Lead is a neurotoxin which shortly after ingestion, causes damage which commonly includes brain damage. Resident Mrs. Leeann Walters speaks of her own child and other Flint children whom suffer from a panoply of symptoms including liver damage, slow weight gain and poor eye health. On Earth reports:

Panel testifying at Flint Water Crisis Hearing
Source: C-Span

LeeAnne Walters’ four children started getting sick around November of last year. Her 14-year-old, J.D., was in and out of the hospital, and her four-year-old twins, Garrett and Gavin, would get scaly, itchy rashes whenever they took a bath. “I could see the water line on Gavin’s stomach,” Walters says. In February, the pediatrician wrote a note to the city saying that Gavin, who has a compromised immune system, couldn’t consume the water.

City officials came out to test the Walters’ tap that same month and found lead levels at 397 parts per billion. For reference, anything greater than 15 ppb—what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers an acceptable level—can result in irreversible damage to a child’s brain.

Mr. Early chose to evade service of the subpoena summoning him to the Congressional hearings and is also not present. On a side note, Early was appointed by Gov. Snyder to serve as Detroit Public Schools “Emergency Manager” at an annual salary of $221,000 after leaving Flint in Jan 2015 . But Early has announced that he will step down from that position on 29 Feb 2016.

Cong. Stacey Plaskett of the US Virgin Islands, points out that Mr. Early received $181,000 for poisoning Flint’s children, and that this situation is an example of the powerful adverse health impacts that residents of environmental justice communities may experience.

Several Congressmen have asked the EPA representative present at today’s hearing to explain why the EPA failed to notify Flint residents when the lead and copper rule failure was discovered a year before the issue became known to the public.

Flint native and film maker Michael Moore is on the ground, researching and reporting on the situation. I’m sorry to say that it looks even worse up close than it does from a distance. Moore’s first point:

While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water.

A few months after Governor Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The Governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water. Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.

Elijah Cummings
Source: bet.com
Rep. Elijah Cummings asked the most important question of the day: he wanted to know why so much blame is being assigned to the EPA when the decisions made to poison the people of Flint. He commented:

What you all have done has given us … a platform, the basic information … to go higher. I hope that the governor (Snyder) will understand that these are people who are suffering … About the water bills: If I’m being poisoned, can’t wash with the water, can’t drink the water and then I’m being asked to pay for the water, that doesn’t make any sense. (This is) about what happened – so you can correct it and so hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.

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Michael Moore reports from Flint on the Flint Water Tragedy

Michael Moore on Flint Water Tragedy
Source: michaelmoore.com

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.

Organic food industry is being overtaken by mega corporations – take a look

mega corps taking over food production
Source: Phil Howard, Michigan State University

Assoc. Prof. Phil Howard of Michigan State University tracks the evolution – or degeneration – of the United States’ organic food standard. Howard told the WaPo,

It’s easier than ever to access to foods,” he said, “and the prices have come down. On the other hand, there is continual pressure to weaken the national organic standards to increase profits – and the big companies have the clout to do that.

Still, it’s disconcerting to learn that organic has become corporatized, and Howard certainly isn’t the only sustainability professional concerned about the trend. Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumer’s Association explains what the fuss is all about:

While Cummins believes that this is still largely true in practice, he says that this will change over time. I see some troubling trends, especially in organic dairy. In that sector there is a major move toward moving production from family farms to industrial feedlot factory farms. Horizon controls 70% of the US organic dairy market, and last year it was bought by Dean Foods, he told CorpWatch..

³No way in hell can you be organic if you have over a few hundred cows. After a certain size, the operation cannot be ecologically sound anymore, among other things because of the amount of manure produced, added Cummins.

³In California there are huge organic farms that produce organic lettuce and carrots in large monocultures, using large energy inputs and receiving subsidized water- three elements that are anti-environmental and unacceptable for those who want ecologically sound farming, he adds.

In a 2002 study conducted at the University of California at Davis, Karen Klonsky documents that organic food production in California is already concentrated. Two percent of organic farm operations, about 27 growers, bring in over $1 million a year and represent over half of the organic sales in the state.

Indeed while over 90% of all U.S. farms are categorized by the USDA as small, the other 10% — big agribusiness — provide approximately 60% of all food sales.

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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 dvaccaro@moonachie.us

Little Ferry: Mauro D. Raguseo 201-641-9234 mayor@littleferrynj.org

S. Hackensack: Walter Eckel Jr. 201-440-1815 weckel@southhackensacknj.org

Teterboro: Nicholas Saros 201-288-1200 nsaros@teterboronj.org

Carlstadt: Will Roseman 201-531-7199 info@carlstadtnj.us

CC the NJDEP Representative Kerry Pflugh Kerry.Pflugh@dep.nj.gov 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.

DOJ Files Complaint Against Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche for Clean Air Act Violations

EPA actions against VW
Source: EPA website

Find out if your vehicle is affected and what to expect.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”

“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”

“VW’s illegal defeat devices have resulted in thousands of tons of excess NOx emissions in California, a state where more than 12 million people live in areas that exceed air quality standards set to protect public health,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “The California Air Resources Board is fully coordinating its investigation with the federal EPA and DOJ to address the environmental harm VW has caused.”

Consistent with EPA’s Notices of Violation, issued on September 18, 2015 for 2.0 liter engines, and November 2, 2015 for certain 3.0 liter engines, the complaint alleges that the defeat devices cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards during normal driving conditions. The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to certify to EPA that their products will meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution. Motor vehicles equipped with illegal defeat devices cannot be certified.

The complaint alleges that Volkswagen equipped certain 2.0 liter vehicles with software that detects when the car is being tested for compliance with EPA emissions standards and turns on full emissions controls only during that testing process. During normal driving situations the effectiveness of the emissions control devices is greatly reduced. This results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory and at the test site, but during normal on-road driving emit oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at levels up to 40 times the EPA compliance level. In total, the complaint covers approximately 499,000 2.0 liter diesel vehicles sold in the United States since the 2009 model year.

The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen also equipped certain 3.0 liter vehicles with software that senses when the vehicle is undergoing federal emissions testing. When the vehicle senses the test procedure, it operates in a “temperature conditioning” mode and meets emissions standards. At all other times, including during normal vehicle operation, the vehicles operate in a “normal mode” that permits NOx emissions of up to nine times the federal standard. In total, the complaint covers approximately 85,000 3.0 liter diesel vehicles sold in the United States since the 2009 model year.

NOx pollution contributes to harmful ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter. These pollutants are linked with asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Exposure to ozone and particulate matter is also associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory disease are particularly at risk of health effects from exposure to these pollutants. Recent studies indicate that the direct health effects of NOx are worse than previously understood, including respiratory problems, damage to lung tissue, and premature death.

Today’s filing of a civil complaint under Sections 204 and 205 of the Clean Air Act seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. A civil complaint does not preclude the government from seeking other legal remedies. The United States will seek to transfer its case and fully participate in the pretrial proceedings now initiated in the related multi-district litigation in the Northern District of California. The United States’ investigation is ongoing, in close coordination with CARB. EPA and CARB have been in active discussion with Volkswagen about potential remedies and recalls to address the noncompliance, and those discussions are ongoing.

Affected 2.0 liter diesel models and model years include:

Jetta (2009-2015)
Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)
Beetle (2013-2015)
Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
Audi A3 (2010-2015)
Golf (2010-2015)
Golf Sportwagen (2015)
Passat (2012-2015)

Affected 3.0 liter diesel models and model years include:

Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2016)
Porsche Cayenne (2013-2016)
Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
Audi A8 (2014 – 2016)
Audi A8L (2014-2016)
Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
Audi Q7 (2009-2015)

More at Mother Jones

Information about EPA actions on Volkswagen at epa.gov/vw

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People of Flint are being poisoned by City Manager and Michigan’s Gov. Snyder

Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows Flint water quality Source: Flint Journal via Michigan Live
Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows Flint water quality Source: Flint Journal via Michigan Live
Flint, Michigan has followed in *Detroit’s footsteps, attacking residents’ access to one of the two most important elements required for living: clean water (the other is air). Two city managers appointed by Gov. Snyder colluded to deprive 100,000 people of access to Great Lakes water via the Detroit Water Authority by switching to the Flint River, a salty source which has caused pipe corrosion and has resulted in lead poisoning in young children and health issues across the general population. The Ford factory also soon learned that Flint River water was ruining its equipment:

One of the most telling moments in this saga was when General Motors disconnected from the Flint River because the water was ruining its machinery, leaving some to wonder — if it was doing that to machines, what was it doing to humans?

On the Dr Boyce Watkins show, Roosevelt Mitchell III and Vanessa Lynn discuss the horrific situation Flint is confronting and residents’ hopes that the federal government will step in with a solution to this crisis.

ABC News reported in October 2015

…the Genesee County health department declared a public health emergency, recommending that people not drink the water unless it has been filtered and tested to rule out elevated levels of lead. More steps will be announced Friday.

County Commissioner Brenda Clack told residents that infants and children should not use the water coming from the taps in the city of Flint.

“Individuals who have respiratory conditions should not use the water, pregnant women should not use the water – it’s imperative that they not use the water,” she urged.

However, it is unclear what people were expected to drink and cook with. Early on, FEMA stepped in to provide some bottled water – but only a few thousand liters … General Motors and local non-profits donated to buy filters – but only for 5,000 residents. It remains unclear today how close the city government has come to fulfilling the promise made in October to provide filters for all homes and businesses, and when a source of clean water will be available again.

The Flint Water Board allowed the switch to be made without requiring adequate testing to ensure that residents’ health would not be compromised.

Added later in the day: Detroit Free Press reports that Gov. Snyder, in a move calculated to shift the blame away from himself, called for the resignation of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant, which was tendered today.

*In April 2015, the City of Detroit began shutting off the water for 40% of the city’s residents after giving 10 days’ advance notice.

How converting farmland to solar fields affects rural residents’ quality of life & the future of agriculture

Solar Array
Solar Array is in Fuquay-Varina Source: Raleigh’s News & Observer
Maybe a few silly things were said by residents of Woodland, North Carolina about yet another solar farm proposal for town land. But there are excellent reasons for residents to reject a fourth solar installation. Woodland Councilman Ron Lane shares the facts:

The Strata Solar project was not doomed by irrational fears. The photovoltaic panels were proposed just 50 feet from residential homes, and the project was too close to State Route 258 leading into town.

Raleigh News & Observer reporter John Murawski explains that converting farmland to solar fields is not only a quality of life issue for local residents – it may be an important agricultural issue for our nation as well:

…resistance often flares up in areas that have become magnets for solar farms – agricultural communities with cheap farmland near electrical substations where solar farms can interconnect to the power grid, said Stephen Kalland, executive director of the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center.

But the state’s remarkable transformation of soybean fields into rows of indigo panels is also alarming some agriculturalists. In a Nov. 30 letter to the state’s extension agents, N.C. State University crop science professor Ron Heiniger warned that the rapid spread of solar farms “may well be one of the most important agricultural issues of our generation.”

Heiniger’s call-to-arms, reproduced in at least one local paper, predicts that solar farms could shift land use to such an extent that “it is highly unlikely this land will ever be farmed again.”

Thanks to Thomas Beckett for setting the record straight concerning this matter. I joined the social media crowd in poking fun of Woodland’s residents but obviously, this is no joking matter.

A love letter from #EarthToParis – short video narrated by Morgan Freeman

Earth to Paris
Source: United Nations Foundation video
#‎LoveEarth Add your voice to the global call for climate action‬: http://www.earthtoparis.org/

Film by Nirvan / GOOD. Narrated by Morgan Freeman. Music: “Allegro Prestissimo” performed by Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment. Nature footage courtesy of Moving Art by Louie Schwartzberg. Produced by SpecialOrder.co.

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