Category Archives: Policy

SCOTUS requires EPA to consider cost to industry before regulating mercury and air quality

Dirtiest Power Plant
This photo taken May 5, 2014 shows the stacks of the Homer City Generating Station in Homer City, Pa. Three years ago, the operators of one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants warned of “immediate and devastating” consequences from the Obama administration’s push to clean up pollution from coal. Faced with cutting sulfur dioxide pollution blowing into downwind states by 80 percent in less than a year, lawyers for EME Homer City Generation L.P. sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the rule, saying it would cause a painful spike in electricity bills and grave harm to power producers like itself. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
On June 29 2015 in a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court remanded the first-ever national limits on mercury and other toxic air pollution spewed by power plants. The rules will save between 4,000 and 11,000 lives each year by substantially reducing pollution from the dirtiest plants. Although EPA demonstrated that the health and environmental benefits of the standards far outweigh the costs to the industry, the Court found EPA should have considered industry’s costs earlier in the process, when it determined whether these emissions were worth controlling at all.

The Court left the standards in place pending further consideration by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and the EPA. The majority of power plants are already in compliance with the standards, having met them without reported difficulty since April of this year. Because EPA has already evaluated the costs and benefits of the rule, the agency should be able to provide the cost analysis required by the Court in short order.

It is important to note that the Court did not reject the following key conclusions by EPA:

  • Power plants are far and away the worst industrial polluters
  • Controlling toxic emissions is both technologically and economically feasible
  • The resulting pollution reductions will yield between $37 billion and $90 billion in health benefits every year
  • The public will receive $3-$9 in health benefits for every $1 that the protections cost the power industry

One in 20 Americans is killed by air pollution, and coal-fired power plants are a big part of the problem. These plants are also the largest industrial source of toxic air pollution by far, responsible for 50 percent of total U.S. emissions of mercury, a potent neurotoxin particularly dangerous to children. Nearly 7 percent of all U.S. women of childbearing age — more than 4 million women — are exposed to mercury at levels harmful for fetal brain development. The standards will reduce mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants by 75 percent.

Earthjustice, on behalf of Sierra Club, Clean Air Council, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the NAACP, helped defend these health safeguards as respondent-intervenors.

Statement from Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program:
“Our report, Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People, found that the 6 million people living near power plants in America have a significantly lower average income than Americans nationwide, and a disproportionate number are people of color. The financial interests of corporate entities in maintaining the status quo should not trump protection of the health of these communities.”

Statement from Jon Mueller, Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Vice President for Litigation:
“The polluters fighting this battle are putting their profits ahead of the human health risks from mercury pollution. In the last 15 years, the number of states with advisories warning against consumption of locally-caught fish due to mercury contamination grew from forty states to all fifty, including those around the Chesapeake Bay. We also know that fish consumption advisories have limited utility as angling surveys tell us that local fishermen continue to eat contaminated fish or share fish with others despite the advisories. EPA has the power to protect these people and these waters, and it’s time for the agency to act.”

Statement from Joseph O. Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council:
“The Council is disappointed by the Court’s decision not to uphold this rule, which would bring many of the country’s oldest and dirtiest power plants in line with modern standards and allow citizens to breathe cleaner, safer air. It is clear that the benefits to public health and the environment this rule would provide dwarf the costs of implementing it, no matter when in the determination those costs are considered. We hope EPA will work quickly to address the Court’s concerns and issue a revised rule that implements these protections.”

Statement from Lisa Garcia, Earthjustice’s Vice President of Litigation for Healthy Communities:
“The Supreme Court’s decision does not change the importance of EPA’s role in protecting our families and communities from toxic air pollution. The Court gave EPA the ability to finalize these critical public health protections once and for all. Now, EPA must act quickly. Thousands of lives are at stake. Further delay is not an option.”


Read the Supreme Court’s decision
Important Legal Issues Raised By National Mining Association V. EPA

Fabulous animated NASA graphic clearly shows the cause of global warming

Greenhouse gases create global warmingNASA’s Goddard Institute has gathered data on various conditions that could be the cause of rising earth temperatures – but aren’t – as well as data on greenhouse gas emissions, which is the primary cause. Don’t take my word on it – see for yourself.

Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical might be a global game changer

vatican ws - encyclical imageOn Thursday, Pope Francis released his 180-page papal encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home”, which sets for the need for the people of the world to halt climate change and end global social injustice. I have high hopes that his statement will change our world, transforming personal human choices that have led us to the brink of nature’s destruction and ultimately, our own … because the Pope’s standing as a world leader is never in dispute.

pope-francis-600I have noticed that even lapsed Catholics, people whom are not Catholics and people who do not believe in Christ, nonetheless respect the Pope and pay attention to His Holiness’ edicts and opinions.

The Guardian provides an overview of the encyclical. Here’s an excerpt:

Pope Francis has called on the world’s rich nations to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change, saying failure to do so presents an undeniable risk to a “common home” that is beginning to resemble a “pile of filth”.

The pope’s 180-page encyclical on the environment, released on Thursday, is at its core a moral call for action on phasing out the use of fossil fuels.

But it is also a document infused with an activist anger and concern for the poor, casting blame on the indifference of the powerful in the face of certain evidence that humanity is at risk following 200 years of misuse of resources.

Up to now, he says, the world has accepted a “cheerful recklessness” in its approach to the issue, lacking the will to change habits for the good of the Earth.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” the papal statement says. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

…The pontiff included a personal handwritten note in his communication, ending with a plea for help: “United in the lord, and please do not forget to pray for me.”

Another Guardian article shares reactions from scholars and citizens around the world. Prof Ian Gough speaks to the difference between need and greed, terms Pope Francis reintroduces to global discussion that modern economics has buried:

• Pope Francis’s encyclical “on care for our common home” introduces two terms buried by modern economics: “need” and “greed”. These represent two opposing worldviews. One seeks to satisfy our wants or preferences, which are limitless, non-satiable, substitutable and amoral. The other prioritises meeting universal human needs, which are limited, sufficient, non-substitutable and with clear ethical grounding. By counterposing these and putting them centre-stage, he has clarified the egregious moral dilemma inherent in climate change in a way that can unite both religion and humanism.

The pope also takes issue with the arguments of green growth, which is the current dominant strategy to handle climate change. Yes, we must support the fastest possible decarbonisation of the global economy through eco-efficiency, as Nicholas Stern persuasively argues in his new book, but at some point, very soon, we will need to switch to post-growth strategies.

This revolutionary encyclical challenges both current ethics and economics.
Prof Ian Gough
London School of Economics

I’m interested in knowing your views on the Pope’s encyclical and the impact it may have on our world. Please share …

We need Green Infrastructure, and EPA infographic shows why

EPA GI infographicThis EPA infographic may just be the mother of all Green Infrastructure elucidations. It shows many different ways to incorporate GI in communities and how this helps us conserve water, reduce energy use, reduce flooding risks and make both buildings and Planet Earth, cooler.

Wikipedia‘s Green Infrastructure definition is pretty empty: it doesn’t help us paint a mind picture of what GI is.

Green Infrastructure or blue-green infrastructure is a network providing the “ingredients” for solving urban and climatic challenges by building with nature.

But American Rivers helps us understand the scope and relevance of Green Infrastructure.

Green infrastructure is an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure is effective, economical, and enhances community safety and quality of life.

It means planting trees and restoring wetlands, rather than building a costly new water treatment plant. It means choosing water efficiency instead of building a new water supply dam. It means restoring floodplains instead of building taller levees.

Green infrastructure incorporates both the natural environment and engineered systems to provide clean water, conserve ecosystem values and functions, and provide a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife.

How green is NJ? Sustainable Jersey’s Sustainable State Report tells all.

sustainable state of NJ reportThe 2015 NJ Sustainable State of the State Report is now available as a free download. The report is published by Sustainable Jersey, the statewide program helping municipalities become greener and more resilient. It was released on June 10 2015 at the Sustainable Jersey Summit.

Louisiana Reps vote to ban schools on waste sites

Campaign to ban construction on toxic waste NOLAThe Campaign for Toxic-Free Schools in New Orleans and Louisiana reports that the Louisiana House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 180, which would prohibit the construction of new schools on waste sites. The bill now goes to the Louisiana Senate – let’s all pray that it passes!

An April 2015 Times-Picayune article provides background on this issue.

Indian Point NRC Hearing – raise your voice to shut it down

Indian Point may kill usEarlier this month, a transformer fire at Indian Point resulted in a notable oil spill on the Hudson River and even more worrisome questions about the safety of the aging nuclear power plant. Riverkeeper patrolled the Hudson near Indian Point soon after the fire, and found an oil sheen and notable odor. But Indian Point’s operators, Entergy, are claiming that there wasn’t a spill at all.

Come out and voice your concerns about Indian Point. We need to show NRC that there’s strength in numbers.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Regulatory Performance Public Meeting on Indian Point
Wed 20 May 2015: 6-9 PM
Westchester Marriott
670 White Plains Road, Tarrytown, NY

6-7 PM: Open house with NRC staff to answer questions from the public about Entergy’s performance at Indian Point during calendar year 2013, and discuss issues or concerns.

7-9 PM: Question and answer session with NRC, during which members of the public can ask questions or make statements. Time for individual comments at the meeting may be limited to accommodate as many speakers as possible.

An audio recording and transcript of the meeting will be available on the NRC website at a later date.

Background on the NRC Public Meeting on Indian Point

The unfortunate case of the disappearing Black farmer

John Boyd was interviewed by Grist writer Madeleine Thomas on the state of Black farmers in America. Mr. Boyd has been a driving force in the movement to procure support for Black farmers – and even funding to help cover the personal and community cost of Black farmers being denied USDA support that was made readily available to Caucasians.

Boyd’s work helped spark a landmark legal case in 1997. In the class-action lawsuit Pigford v. Glickman, 400 black farmers alleged that the United States Department of Agriculture had denied them loans based on racial discrimination. The decision eventually awarded thousands of black farmers payments up to $50,000 for discrimination claims. In 2010, President Obama announced an additional $1.25 billion settlement, known as Pigford II, to fund any additional unfiled claims. Native American, female, and Latino farmers were also eventually awarded similar settlements, too.

…What has happened is that a lot of family farms have been left to the next generation, and they’re really not set up to continue farming. That has created a huge challenge for black people in this country as far as being agriculturalists and maintaining and contributing to America’s fabric, which is why black people were brought into this country in the first place. We were brought to this country to work the land and we’ve done it for hundreds of years for scot-free. Here we are hundreds of years later, barely holding on here.

Mr. Boyd advises taking back control over our connection to land and food by investing in back gardening, small scale farming and even larger scale farming. On the particular subject of land, he shares this wisdom:

We need people to become concerned that God doesn’t make any more land. They make a new Cadillac and a new Mercedes-Benz every day, but the actual land, once it gets away from you and your family loses that land, it’s very difficult to go back and buy it from a white farmer because they’re not going to sell it back to you. We can’t continue to give our land away for pennies on the dollar and move to suburbs and condominiums. That’s a real problem.

…As my grandfather said, “I can’t leave my PhD to my children, but I can leave my raggedy farm to them.”

Big Ag and its destruction called ‘conventional’ farming to hide the truth

farming for profitConventional farming is Big Ag’s planned destruction of human and natural food systems. It includes GMOs, patented seeds, silent forests, animals that are tortured for years before being slaughtered, one more India farmer that will commit suicide 30 minutes from now and many other very scary things. Conventional seems like such an innocent word: conjures up thoughts of conventional wisdom, societal conventions which are the underpinning of civilization … but this word, like our food system, has been corrupted by Big Money and their lapdogs, the major media portals, to confound and confuse us, and to obfuscate the truth. L.E.A.F. explains:

Conventional farming systems share many characteristics: rapid technological innovation; large capital investments in order to apply production and management technology; large-scale farms; single crops/row crops grown continuously over many seasons; uniform high-yield hybrid crops; extensive use of pesticides, fertilizers, and external energy inputs; high labor efficiency; and dependency on agribusiness. In the case of livestock, most production comes from confined, concentrated systems.

Philosophical underpinnings of industrial agriculture include assumptions that “a) nature is a competitor to be overcome; b) progress requires unending evolution of larger farms and depopulation of farm communities; c) progress is measured primarily by increased material consumption; d) efficiency is measured by looking at the bottom line; and e) science is an unbiased enterprise driven by natural forces to produce social good.” [Karl N. Stauber et al., “The Promise of Sustainable Agriculture,” in Planting the Future: Developing an Agriculture that Sustains Land and Community, Elizabeth Ann R. Bird, Gordon L. Bultena, and John C. Gardner, editors (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1995)

When it’s good food you crave to feed to your families, look to traditional or family farming – and organics. Although take care with organics, as in recent years that industry has been steadily encroached upon by Big Ag too.

Want your tax dollars spent to kill 2.7 million wild animals again this year?

refugeweek97-with TrumanNew data from the highly secretive arm of the U.S. Agriculture Department known as Wildlife Services reveals it killed more than 2.7 million animals during fiscal year 2014, including wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles and other animals deemed pests by powerful agricultural, livestock and other special interests.

Despite increasing calls for reform after the program killed more than 4 million animals in 2013, the latest kill report indicates the reckless slaughter of wildlife continues, including 322 gray wolves, 61,702 coyotes, 580 black bears, 305 mountain lions, 796 bobcats, 454 river otters, 2,930 foxes, three bald eagles, five golden eagles and 22,496 beavers. The program also killed 15,698 black-tailed prairie dogs and destroyed more than 33,309 of their dens.

“It’s sickening to see these staggering numbers and to know that so many of these animals were cut down by aerial snipers, deadly poisons and traps,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These acts of brutality are carried out every day, robbing our landscapes of bears, wolves, coyotes and other animals that deserve far better. Wildlife Services does its dirty work far from public view and clearly has no interest in cleaning up its act.”

Agency insiders have revealed that the agency kills many more animals than it reports.

Many animals – especially wolves, coyotes and prairie dogs – were targeted and killed on behalf of livestock grazers or other powerful agricultural interests. Wildlife Services does not reveal how many animals were wounded or injured, but not killed.

The new data also show that hundreds animals were killed unintentionally including 390 river otters, as well as hundreds of badgers, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, jackrabbits, muskrats, raccoons, skunks, opossums, porcupines and 16 pet dogs.

The data show that the federal program has refused to substantially slow its killing despite a growing public outcry, an ongoing investigation by the Agriculture Department’s inspector general, and calls for reform by scientists, members of Congress and nongovernmental organizations.

“Wildlife Services continues to thumb its nose at the growing number of Americans demanding an end to business as usual,” said Atwood. “This appalling and completely unnecessary extermination of American wildlife must stop.”

Just since 1996 Wildlife Services has shot, poisoned and strangled by snare more than 27 million native animals.