Posted by: Heather M at 12:32PM PST on November 5, 2010
You've probably read many post-election reactions so far - our folks have written quite a few (Carl Pope's is here
, Bruce Nilles' is here
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune expounded on the election in his blog
, but he also spoke at an environmental community press conference on Wednesday to examine the election's results and talk about what's next. Here are his remarks.
EPA Wants Your "I Love the Clean Air Act" Stories
Thursday November 4, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 12:49PM PST on November 4, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Greenversations blog reminded us
that this fall is the 20th anniversary of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
Here's the EPA overview on those monumental amendments
In June 1989 President Bush proposed sweeping revisions to the Clean Air Act....(T)he President proposed legislation designed to curb three major threats to the nation's environment and to the health of millions of Americans: acid rain, urban air pollution, and toxic air emissions. The proposal also called for establishing a national permits program to make the law more workable, and an improved enforcement program to help ensure better compliance with the Act.
By large votes, both the House of Representatives (401-21) and the Senate (89-11) passed Clean Air bills that contained the major components of the President's proposals. Both bills also added provisions requiring the phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals....The Senate and House bills also added specific research and development provisions, as well as detailed programs to address accidental releases of toxic air pollutants.
....The President received the Bill from Congress on November 14, 1990 and signed it on November 15,1990.
The Clean Air Act has a long track record of cutting dangerous pollution to protect human health and the environment and spur innovation. It deserves to be celebrated and protected.
So why not head over to EPA's Greenversations blog
and share your stories about why clean air is important to you?
Texas' Fight Against Coal and Coal Ash
Thursday October 28, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:09AM PST on October 28, 2010
This is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. This piece was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Sari Ancel.
Here's lovely daydream if you're from southeast Texas: It's a warm fall afternoon and you're out fishing on the banks of the Colorado River, listening to the sounds of birds migrating south.
Unfortunately, a proposed coal-fired power plant will soon ruin that daydream. There will be no fish to catch because their habitat has long been polluted. Those birds overhead will be flying through smoke plumes from the nearby coal-fired power plant. And forget a quiet afternoon, you'll be hearing the hum of that nearby power plant.
This is exactly what threatens Bay City, Texas - the proposed White Stallion coal-fired power plant.
On September 29th, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) granted an air quality permit to the White Stallion coal plant
, which is proposed for Bay City, putting the polluting project one step closer to completion.
Yet despite this latest permit, residents of Bay City are not convinced that their air will stay clean or that their community will remain safe in the coming years - and for good reason. According to research
, over its entire lifecycle, the plant will cause 600 premature deaths and cost over $5 billion in external costs to the community.
Alison Sliva of the Matagorda County No Coal Coalition
is helping lead the fight against White Stallion coal plant. The 1320-megawatt plant will burn petroleum coke and coal but it is not required to produce an Environmental Impact Statement.
"The more you learn about this stuff, the more it makes you sick to your stomach," said Sliva, "It is so incredibly wrong the way things work."
She is worried about the environmental and health impacts this new coal plant will have on Bay City, a small city close to the Gulf Coast known for farming, shrimping, and world-class bird watching.
In addition to health impacts, the plant will require seven billion gallons of fresh Colorado River water every year. This fresh water is already a limited resource, with area farmers experiencing a severe drought in 2009.
"Water is the most finite commodity we have that the state is already fighting over," said Sliva. "And we're giving water to the dirty coal plant but not to our local food growers."
The White Stallion power plant design has also proposed coal ash dump sites just miles away from the Colorado River. Coal ash
, which is the toxic waste left behind after coal is burned, contains arsenic, selenium, lead, and mercury. The dump site proposals are open coal ash pits, a design that is exceedingly dangerous when considering how prone this coastal area is to hurricanes. Bay City residents were asked to evacuate for hurricanes Ike and Rita.
The area also gets an average of 42 inches of rainfall yearly, and Silva and her fellow residents have yet to see an adequate coal ash flood plan from White Stallion
"I'm very concerned about the coal ash because it is virtually unregulated," she said. "We're going to have mountains of it. We have a shallow water table and we're worried about it leeching into the groundwater...I'm hoping that the (Environmental Protection Agency) comes through to regulate the coal ash."
Sliva is referring to the new coal ash safeguards proposed by EPA
. She joined hundreds of others who went to an EPA public hearing in Dallas, Texas, to testify about the dangers of coal ash.
If EPA enacts stricter safeguards, then Sliva and the residents of Bay City will have one less problem to worry about with the White Stallion plant.
Unfortunately, that would still not be enough to fully protect Bay City. While the White Stallion plant promises job creation, this does not account for the Bay City jobs lost because farmers won't have enough water for irrigation and the impacts on the fishing industry due to polluted waters.
"We have a small rural community with little political clout," said Sliva. "We were targeted because they didn’t think anyone would fight it."
But Sliva and other members of Bay City have proven that wrong by fighting and gaining momentum against White Stallion coal plant.
"Bay City's motto isn't Beaches, Bay, Birding, and Coal Plant'" says Sliva. But, to stop this from happening, "people need to be calling, emailing, faxing, and writing letters to keep this issue in front of the faces of the agencies and elected officials. Keep waving the red flag and raise it up."
Tell EPA to enact strong federal safeguards for coal ash
Energy News of Note
Wednesday October 27, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 8:47AM PST on October 27, 2010
There's a ton of news out there about various clean energy and dirty energy issues, so here's another round-up of what you may have missed in the past week.
First up, today is the final Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) public hearing on its proposed safeguards for handling coal ash
(the toxic by-product of burning coal for electricity). Today's hearing is in Knoxville - not too far from the site of the devastating 2008 coal ash spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston coal plant.
The Sierra Club has plenty of concerned community members at the hearing, all calling for strong safeguards from EPA for this toxic waste
. Some folks are tweeting during the hearing, so watch the #coalash hashtag
for their updates.
Continuing on the coal news front, the NY Times had two good articles up this week about the Navajo Nation in Arizona wanting to move away from coal power and toward clean energy like solar and wind power. Be sure to read "Navajos Come to Grips with Coal Mining
" and "Navajos Hope to Shift from Coal to Wind and Sun
." Both pieces also include quotes from Sierra Club organizers
working hard on these issues.
In other coal news, the fight over this dirty energy source in Texas now includes available wawter resources. From a Houston Chronicle article
Coal-fired power plants are commonly identified as the nation's biggest emissions villain. But that notoriety hasn't slowed the rush to build them in Texas, where there are nearly 30 coal plants either operating, permitted or proposed.
What has given many folks pause is the amount of water consumed by the plants.
Thermoelectric power plants - those that use heat to generate power, such as nuclear, coal and natural gas - are the single largest user of water in the United States. In Texas alone, they consume 157 billion gallons annually - enough water for more than 3 million people, each using 140 gallons per day, a recent University of Texas at Austin analysis found.
Moving on to natural gas news, yesterday Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell announced a moratorium on any future natural gas drilling on public lands in the state
"The Sierra Club applauds this stopgap measure, but it is not enough," said Pennsylvania Sierra Club Director Jeff Schmidt. "We are appalled that the Pennsylvania Senate failed to pass a natural gas severance tax, a state forest protection bill, or other Marcellus gas-related legislation before adjourning. Senate leadership has chosen to put political campaigning ahead of the needs of the people of Pennsylvania."
The Keystone State is a natural gas battleground right now, with residents uniting to express their concerns about "fracking." On Nov. 3rd, the Pennsylania Sierra Club is joining a massive coalition protesting a natural gas conference in Pittsburgh
. The Sierra Club nationally
and in Pennsylvania
are working hard to call for safe natural gas as a transition fuel.
On the dirty energy front, did you watch PBS' Frontline last night all about BP's history of safety infractions
? The special covered not just those infractions that led up to the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but the company's many other deadly safety issues at a Texas refinery and along Alaska's north slope. You can now watch the full show online
More depressing dirty energy news - tar sands
continue to be terrible. The latest news is that 125 ducks had to be euthanized after landing in a massive tar sands waste pond in Canada
. Let's not bring this dirty fuel into the U.S.
And now for some good news. Our good clean energy news comes from Houston, Texas, where settlement with Shell oil company enabled the installation of solar panels on two city high schools.
"We are delighted with this solar power project in the two south Houston schools -- It not only demonstrates the best direction for Texas clean energy future, it also provides real benefits to the schools and the young people," said Sierra Club's Jennifer Powis. "The school district is expected to save over $10,000 annually in reduced electricity bills and the students will study and learn how solar power works."
More good energy news, this time on the efficiency front. Yesterday EPA announced the winners of its First National Building Competition to Save Energy
A residence hall at the University of North Carolina took first place - reducing "its energy use by 35.7 percent in one year, saving more than $250,000 on their energy bills and reducing more than 730 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of nearly 90 homes for a year."
The full results are inspiring
Although apparently it isn't that sort of inspiration that will get people to go green. According to this fascinating Wall Street Journal article
, peer pressure and guilt are what gets action.
The Aftermath of the TVA Coal Ash Disaster
Thursday October 21, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:31AM PST on October 21, 2010
This is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. This was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Philip Hawes.
Tennessee's Emory River has long been treasured for its natural beauty.
In 1867, when a young man by the name of John Muir
decided to walk from his home in Indiana, all the way to Florida, he crossed the Emory River. Its beauty struck him, and he wrote the following in his journal (which became his famed book "A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf"
"There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature's coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator. Lingered in this sanctuary a long time thanking the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in allowing me to enter and enjoy it."
Unfortunately, 141 years later, the Emory River would inspire sorrow.
On December 22, 2008, a little before 1 a.m., an earthen dam holding back an 84-acre coal ash disposal pond, collapsed
. A flood of 1.1 billion gallons (around six times the amount of BP's oil disaster) of coal ash slurry poured into the Emory River and onto the surrounding land. Coal ash
is the by-product of burning coal for electricity and contains toxic materials such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and selenium. The spill covered more than 400 acres and destroyed houses, roads, and trees in its path.
"It was unreal. There's no way to imagine what it was like," said Steve Scarborough, a resident of Roane County, where the disaster took place. "They keep saying it's an ash spill. That's like saying an avalanche is a snow spill."
The earthen dam that failed had problems for years, including multiple leaks. And Scarborough, a civil engineer himself, said that the fixes they made were inadequate, based on bad engineering, and chosen just to cut costs. According to Scarborough, it was "just sheer incompetence. And the community suffered because of it."
Scarborough owns two properties on a lake adjacent to the spill site. He had purchased them ten years earlier as an investment. Before the disaster he had both properties on the market, deciding to sell them in order to put his kids through college. But now, he said, "They're worth pennies on the dollar."
Despite the national real estate market being down in late 2008, the real estate values in the area were relatively strong - until they crumbled following the coal ash disaster.
Scarborough said, "Even in the worst of times there are still people retiring, and we are that market. This is where they retire to. The value of waterfront properties had not yet declined." But afterwards, no one wanted to buy property, even miles away.
He spoke of one couple that decided against waterfront property in Roane County after hearing about the coal ash disaster: "The wife saw the newspaper and they stormed out. They bought waterfront property; they just bought it the next county."
Many land owners sued the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which operates the coal plant and coal ash disposal site responsible for the disaster, for the lost value of their property. But Scarborough said that to get money for their property, many of the people signed settlements with TVA that included a gag order and a waiver for any future health problems. Scarborough hasn't filed a lawsuit with TVA, saying he's just "trying to get TVA to do the right thing. Whatever's fair." But, he added, "They just don't want to do it."
The economic problems due to the disaster aren't limited to real estate. The tourism industry in the area has also been severely hurt, and Scarborough said that's affected the entire local economy, calling it "economic devastation."
The cost of cleanup could end up totaling $1 billion, in addition to lost property value, lost tourism, and the effects it has had on the rest of the local economy, as well as possible health risks.
Following the disaster, TVA performed a health study to find out if any health problems had been caused by the spill. But, Scarborough said, the study was very incomplete. Out of the 200 volunteers that participated in the study, only a small handful actually lived in the immediate area.
"The study came out saying that there are no health effects. That's total bullsh-t. They're putting their heads in the sand. And they're trying to push our heads in the sand."
He continued, "If you believe TVA, I've got a couple lakeside lots to show you."
For the almost two years since the disaster occurred, TVA has been dredging coal ash out of the water, putting it into rail cars, and sending it to Alabama to another disposal site. Scarborough said they fill around 100 rail cars a day with the material.
TVA claims to have removed around 90% of the coal ash, but Scarborough believes isn't true. He says as they're dredging, they pick up a lot of sediment along with the ash. Any material that is less than half sediment is classified as coal ash, which means a lot of what they're picking up isn't actually coal ash.
Above all, Scarborough is tired of coal companies avoiding responsibility for their mistakes.
"If we put a rock through someone's window, we have to buy a new window, and that doesn't seem to be the case with these coal companies. TVA is in denial - they aren't owning up to what they've done."
The disaster in Tennessee was one of the major reasons Lisa Jackson and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed new safeguards for coal ash disposal
. Having proposed two possible rulings, EPA has been holding public hearings around the country for citizens to weigh in on the decision. Scarborough traveled to North Carolina to testify at the September 14th EPA hearing and he’ll also attend the Tennessee hearing on October 27th
Scarborough said that the disaster in Tennessee wouldn't have happened if EPA had already passed federal safeguards for coal ash disposal.
"Having seen the results of lax oversight, we feel we have to campaign for the most stringent regulatory option," he said. "This cannot be left to the states where lobbyists wield oversized power on compliant legislators. We don't want anyone else to go through what we've been through."
Scarborough points out that the coal ash from the Tennessee disaster that has been shipped to Alabama still hasn't gone away. "To be honest with you, the remedy, where they're storing the ash now, it's not contained. They just built a wall around it."
Since there still aren't yet any federal regulations, the same coal ash that caused so much destruction in Tennessee still isn't being stored in a safe manner.
Scarborough calls Roane County stunningly beautiful and is hopeful for the time years from now when the mess is cleaned up. But about John Muir's famous walk, he says, "He'd be pretty disappointed in what he saw if he was there today."
Coping with Coal Ash's Health Effects
Thursday October 14, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:31AM PST on October 14, 2010
Our Work is Just Getting Started
This is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. This piece was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Lydia Avila.
The community of Joliet, Illinois, identifies as many things - Midwestern, humble, and hard-working. Yet they also identify with something much less positive: being collateral damage. According to Joliet residents, they don't even merit a second thought to Midwest Generation, a coal-fired power plant that has been dumping toxic coal ash near Joliet for over 40 years
is the byproduct of burning coal for electricity, and it's having a major impact on Joliet. Residents say if you were to spend a week in Joliet you would find yourself driving through coal ash fog; a stroll in your yard would cause you to come back covered in "black stuff" and/or yellow particulates; you wouldn't be able to drink or bathe in the water; and your clothes would come out of the washer tinted orange and black from the chemicals in the water.
If you spent time in Joliet, residents say, you would see this "black stuff" covering your car, yard and house on a daily basis, and you certainly could not fish in any of the lakes, rivers or streams in the area.
But, they added, even worse are the health effects that you and your loved ones would experience
: nose bleeds, blisters, skin infections, migraines, coughing, gagging, mercury poisoning, neurological disorders, to name a few. And, these would culminate in the form of asthma, kidney transplants, heart transplants, lymphoma, neurological disorders, seizures, rare forms of leukemia, emergency hysterectomies, and lupus (again, just to name a few).
Tammy Thompson knows the health effects first-hand - calling herself and her family part of that collateral damage. Her six-year-old daughter Faith has suffered the effects of living near a coal plant since she was born.
Faith’s doctor diagnosed her with Grave's Disease and recommended that she, and all the children in Joliet, be routinely tested for lead and mercury poisoning.
Thompson recalls times when she often had to struggle to gain composure in her car, while her daughter in the backseat would ask, "What's that smell, mommy?" and then complain of headaches. She saw her daughter suffer from blisters and sores every time they bathed her in a storage tub filled with bottled water following recommendations from her doctor, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and others. Yet, for a long time, their health problems remained a mystery.
Thompson and her neighbors have taken matters into their own hands, filing report after report and making phone call after phone call to local, state and federal agencies. When Thompson discusses the actions taken by the people of Joliet, she underscores the fact that this is a human issue: "I'm not an environmentalist, I'm a mom. I'm not an activist, I'm an American," she said.
Unfortunately, Joliet residents say their concerns have consistently been ignored by every public agency and department that, in theory, is supposed to help them.
The IEPA and local officials play a game of ping pong with their cries for help, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims not to have jurisdiction over the area. The IEPA likes to claim that these diseases occur naturally, but there is nothing natural about the levels at which they occur in Joliet.
On the rare occasions when the IEPA has returned a few a call, agency officials have tried to justify the horrendous living conditions by saying the jobs at the coal plant and its coal ash disposal site are needed.
Thompson says that supposed "gain" certainly pales in comparison to watching her family and friends suffer the health effects. "'Get use to it and get over it' is what they try to tell us," Thompson said
Not surprisingly, when the Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club's recently released coal ash report, "In Harm's Way
," Joliet was listed as one of the most contaminated sites in the country
. The town of Joliet has received national attention from such figures as Erin Brockovich and, at the time, Senator Obama.
Thompson and her community continue to ask why they aren't receiving any help. "Why doesn't the EPA prove something is safe? Why must we wait for a body count to show it’s not?" asked Thompson.
"It's not an environmental issue; it's an ethical, social and civil rights issue."
Tell EPA we need strong federal safeguards for toxic coal ash.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:28PM PST on October 11, 2010
Global Work(out) Party - Ditch the Car and Get Active for 10/10/10
This is a guest post by Rachel Butler of the Sierra Club's Green Transportation Team.
On Friday we wrote about the 10/10/10 Global Work Party
, anticipating an unprecedented day of action with people getting to work across the globe for climate solutions.
Yesterday was 10/11/10 and the dust of these work parties is beginning to settle, and it's clear that the 7,347 work parties across the globe - including thousands of events in the United States-- show that the world’s people are leading on climate solutions.
The Sierra Club encouraged its members and activists to get to work on transportation solutions, as the transportation sector accounts for 33% of America's greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of oil use in the U.S. Most of the pollution and oil use comes from cars and light trucks, and it's clear that we're going to have to address our transportation system as we address climate change.
Looking through the photos at 350.org
is pretty incredible. It's also inspiring to see how many of these photos involve folks getting to work on their bicycles, especially from our car-centric culture in the United States.
On 10/10/10, millions of people across the globe got to work, had fun, and demonstrated to world leaders that it's time to get to work on climate solutions - but we know that one day of action isn't enough.
The Sierra Club's Transportation Activists
are "getting to work" through the year on creating a 21st century transportation system that will move us beyond oil and create transportation choices for all. Couldn't get enough on 10/10/10? Join the Transportation Activists here
Our work is just getting started.
Photo is of the Minneapolis 10/10/10 bike tour and rally, courtesy of Michelle Rosier of the Sierra Club's Central Region.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:48AM PST on October 8, 2010
Oklahoma Town Fights Coal Ash
This is a guest post from Rachel Butler, National Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign
On October 10th, the Sierra Club is partnering with 350.org and hundreds of other organizations around the world to host a Global Work Party for climate solutions.
This Sunday, volunteers across the world will host events to call for global action on climate and get to work in their communities to create local solutions. Already, more than 7,000 events have been registered across the globe in nearly every country on the planet. It's not too late to join the fun - these 6,700 Work Parties are all about working for and celebrating local solutions to the climate crisis.
Transportation is responsible for over one third of America's greenhouse gas emissions - most of those emissions coming from cars, trucks, and SUVs.
In order to get serious about climate solutions in the US, we’re going to have to re-think the (way that we design our communities and how we get from point A to point B
In his blog this week, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune highlighted the need for America to reform our transportation system
, and on 10/10/10, the Sierra Club is encouraging its members and activists to promote smarter transportation choices that move America beyond oil.
Here's just a sample of some of the exciting Work Parties organized by Sierra Club activists this Sunday:
- Activists in Minneapolis, Minnesota are hosting a public transit outing and rally to highlight how to take public transit to green space around the city.
- The local Sierra Club group in Binghamton, NY is organizing a Global Work(out) Party to ditch the car and get active on bicycles - a talk on bicycling with the mayor and other officials will be followed by a group bike ride along the river.
- In Las Vegas, Nevada, activists are hosting a Walk Party to raise awareness for livability in the city.
Don't have an event in your community? It's not too late to organize one! Check out our template event ideas and other materials to organize your own Work Party
. One of these ideas - a group walk or ride that highlights how people can reduce their oil use and help the climate by walking or biking - can even be done on your way to another 10/10/10 Work Party. How's that for packing a punch?
And if one day of action for smarter transportation choices isn't enough for you, join the Sierra Club's Transportation Activists here
to help create a 21st century transportation system in the United States.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:27AM PST on October 7, 2010
Ash, Spills, Emissions, Mercury: Coal News of Note
This post is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. It was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Flavia de la Fuente.
When a company named Making Money, Having Fun LLC (how's that for Orwellian?) applied for a permit for a commercial disposal facility to dump coal ash
(along with waste oil and gas water) in eastern Oklahoma, they provided geographical maps and documents indicating that, pursuant to the Corporation Commission rules, there was no town of a population below 20,000 within three miles.
Except that's not true.
The town of Bokoshe (450 people) has been there since the 1800s. You can drive through it, you can stop at the post office, and you can graduate from the high school.
But for Making Money, Having Fun, there is no town and there are no rules. For eight years, they have been dumping waste oil and gas water and driving trucks of toxic coal fly ash (as many as 80 trucks in a single day), the product of a nearby coal-fired power plant run by AES, through the main street in town and dumping it in a pit a mere mile and a half from Bokoshe. Dozens of people in Bokoshe have died of cancer or are battling it right now, and children with asthma wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe, afraid that they're going to die.
Diane Reece, an elementary school teacher in Bokoshe, protested the fly ash pit from the beginning.
"We didn't know anything about fly ash at the time," she said. "When they granted us a meeting downtown, it was a courtesy, because they were going to do it anyways. They haven't honored any of the promises they made, and they said it was harmless. And we believed them."
Tim Tanksley, another local Bokoshe resident, also recalls being told not to worry: "They just told everybody it was dirt, that you could put it on your peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Choosing a site near Bokoshe was nothing if not predatory. Reece stated, "In small towns you have people who help each other. It's a beautiful place to live. It's a wonderful thing to live in a community to help each other. And I feel that they have chosen small towns because we are so trusting. We trusted that they wouldn't be dumping anything to harm us
"They" is a broad term for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (lead state agency in charge of oil and gas water that issued the original permit), and the Department of Mines (lead agency in charge of reclamation).
To Reece and other Bokoshe residents, also complicit is Oklahoma's political leadership: the governor who appoints people to these various commissions, the local congressional representative, and the senators from Oklahoma, who in theory are charged with representing the interests of their constituents.
The ODEQ refuses to acknowledge that fugitive coal fly ash is impacting people
and property outside the fence line. The Department of Mines refuses to acknowledge that the pit is leaking contaminated wastewater
. And Oklahoma's political leadership refuses to acknowledge basic, incontrovertible science.
Tim Tanksley appealed directly to Senator James Inhofe and Representative Dan Boren to help, who in turn replied, "The fly ash is temporarily mounded while it is mixed with water to form slurry. Ultimately, the mine will be transformed into a pasture. Therefore, the fly ash mound is temporary and will disappear once the reclamation is complete."
Meanwhile, Senator Inhofe and Representative Boren are both helping the pit stay open.
According to Harlan Hentges, Oklahoman and attorney for Bokoshe residents, "Senator Inhofe is all over this thing. EPA stopped (the company) from dumping out there. After that happened, the Senator called EPA to find out when they could resume dumping in the pit. Representative Dan Boren did the same thing."
Hentges has learned to follow the money. "Those businesses pay a whole lot of money to do whatever the hell they want to do. They pay people to exploit the power that they have on their behalf. And you come up with all kinds of interesting ways to justify it. It's becoming really, really hard to justify in Bokoshe. What is wrong with this? What is so twisted here? Why is it so bad that we don't think you should dump fly ash into a pit?"
Bokoshe residents are fighting back, and founded B.E. Cause to protect their town, their health, and the future of their children.
They've tussled with state agencies, with their elected officials, and even with other people in Bokoshe.
There's a younger generation that is fighting back as well: Diane Reece's class of sixth graders has taken the kind of initiative that reassures us that small towns are still America's moral compass.
Thanks to a federal grant program called "Learn and Serve America" there is structured time set aside for Reece's class (pictured below) to serve their community. Proposals for this year's program included a "Welcome to Bokoshe" sign and a bench downtown for the gossip group (it's a small town, after all).
But then three girls raised their hands and said, "We need to stop the fly ash." Reece asked the class how many people had asthma, and of the 17 students, 9 raised their hands.
Reece recalled, "That was my answer. They started telling me about what it's like to have asthma. I was listening to them tell me how their attacks made them feel like they were going to die."
"We're just getting started," said Reece, "my sixth graders are leading the cause. The other night at our parent-teacher conference, they got 25 signatures in an hours' time. And this type of stuff is important, because out here, not everybody has access to computers and the internet. Tonight at the football game, we're going to pass out flyers about fly ash."
Bokoshe may be a small town, but the residents have big hearts.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:23AM PST on October 7, 2010
Green Sneakers Delivers Energy Savings in Maine
Posted by: Heather M at 10:51AM PST on October 1, 2010
This is a guest post by Louis "Cuffie" Winkler, an intern for the Blue Green Alliance.
After the launch of its Green Sneakers
Project last spring, Maine Partners for Cool Communities (MPCC
) is gearing up for a big fall weekend, supporting eight communities that are taking action to champion local clean energy solutions.
Earlier this month, Green Sneakers community leaders reached more than 500 households in northeastern Maine with high efficiency CFL bulbs, home energy performance information and money saving coupons. Catholic leaders in the town of Fort Kent handed out Green Sneakers energy saving kits to parishioners while high school Key Club volunteers traveled door to door distributing kits and talking to their neighbors about saving energy and combating global warming.
Speaking with residents at their home, volunteers explained how both small and large home improvements can dramatically reduce energy consumption and energy bills. They discussed how community-wide action can reduce foreign oil dependence, cut pollution and contribute to a cleaner, cooler planet.
Green Sneakers volunteers offer initial home efficiency assessments. Interested homeowners are encouraged to consider the benefits of a professional, comprehensive home efficiency assessment and upgrade.
Green Sneakers helps homeowners interested in larger retrofit projects connect with qualified Energy Advisors at Efficiency Maine
(EM) Home Energy Savings Program
which manages state and federal efficiency rebates and incentives available to Maine residents, oversees auditor and contractor certification and ensures quality efficiency retrofit work is done by trained professionals.
A September event in support of Green Sneakers action in Lewiston, Maine, showcased Lewiston Mayor Laurent F. Gilbert, Sr., Auburn Mayor Richard Gleason and State Senator Margaret Craven in addition to bringing together faith, environmental and public health leaders. Representatives of Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins also attended.
Maine Partners for Cool Communities
(MPCC) includes the American Lung Association of Maine, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Energy Investment Corp., Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine chapter and the Sierra Club, Maine Chapter.
Sierra Club is working with national and local partners to jumpstart home performance markets
that create good family-supporting jobs
for local residents.
A Big Coal Ash Problem At Little Blue
Thursday September 30, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:36AM PST on September 30, 2010
This post is the latest in our series of coal ash community profiles. Our work on coal ash unfortunately becomes timely yet again, as news came out this week of a breach at a coal ash impoundment in North Carolina. This week's profile was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Andrea Sanchez.
There is nothing little about Little Blue Run Dam, the coal fly ash impoundment that reaches into both Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Coal ash
is the toxic by-product of burning coal for electricity - the Little Blue Run ash impoundment belongs to the Bruce Mansfield Plant. This plant is FirstEnergy's largest coal-fired power plant, burning around seven million tons of coal annually.
At full capacity, the three plants that make up Bruce Mansfield complex produce four million gallons of coal slurry daily.
This is where Little Blue comes in.
Seven miles of pipeline will bring you to a 1,694 acre disposal site known as Little Blue (see its eerie blue color in the above Google Maps satellite image). By the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) own admission, Little Blue is one of 49 sites around the country whose dam currently has a High Hazard Potential rating. This rating means that if the dam holding back Little Blue's toxic slurry - the largest earthen dam in the country - were to breach, it would result in probable loss of life, largely to communities across the river in Ohio.
In addition to the structural hazard, coal ash also contains toxic metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and selenium, to name a few, and so far EPA has not required special liners to ensure that coal ash does not contaminate nearby waterways.
Debbie Havens, of the West Virginia side of the impoundment, remembers the first time the energy company spoke to her about the expansion of the impoundment years ago. A man came to her home armed with a colorful brochure and said, "There will be swimming, boating, walking and bike trails, a place my family could spend time together."
She told him, "I'm sorry sir, but I have a hard time believing that." That was the first and only time that anyone came to her door. Now large properties are being bought off left and right to make room for more coal ash waste at Little Blue.
For those living near unlined coal ash impoundments the risk of cancer can be as high as 1 in 50
, which is 2,000 times higher than EPA's "acceptable cancer risk of 1 in 100,000." This statistic only takes into account the risk of cancer from arsenic exposure in drinking water.
When looking at the entire list of toxins contained in coal ash, the health risks are even worse. Havens' husband had his thyroid removed several years ago after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and now Havens herself has a thyroid nodule which doctors are watching. Doctors also found three benign tumors doctors in her breast.
With no family history of thyroid problems, her endocrinologist has assessed that environmental exposure as the cause and told her, "You need to move or you will never survive this stuff."
In her community three men have already died from cancer this year. One thing is sure, she said, "Life is a lot different than that pretty brochure 36 years ago."
On the other side of the impoundment in Pennsylvania, Barb Reed and her son are living about a mile away from the site in Georgetown. Reed has lived in the area since 1978; her son is now living with her because he can no longer use his own water. His home is closer to the impoundment and after both FirstEnergy and the state Department of Environmental Protection found that the levels of arsenic in his water were exceeding the maximum EPA levels, he decided he had to leave his home.
"It's terribly upsetting because he can't even take showers or wash dishes, he's had to leave his home, and he's still paying a mortgage on it," said Reed. "They haven't even offered him a viable water supply because they claim it is not their fault."
If the risk of cancer, the potential for contaminated water, and the destroyed landscape isn’t enough - there is also the smell of rotten eggs. "You can't breathe because of the smell. Your throat burns, your eyes burns, everyday we're surrounded by fly ash," said Havens.
Even from a mile away Reed is reluctant to use her water because of the smell of rotten eggs coming from the tap. While she used to garden in her own backyard, she now grows vegetables out of buckets with store-bought soil to avoid eating contaminated produce.
It is time for EPA to treat coal ash as the toxic waste that it is.
Both of Reed and Havens have attended the EPA coal ash public hearings
in their areas hoping to get the agency to enact federally enforceable standards that will treat coal not like household garbage - but as toxic waste.
"A banana peel is household waste, not fly ash," said Havens.
Testifying Before the Gulf Oil Disaster Commission
Tuesday September 28, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 10:27AM PST on September 28, 2010
Appalachia Rising - No More Mountaintop Removal
Yesterday was the first day of a two day hearing
by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
. The hearing is covering the response following the BP spill, impacts on the Gulf and approaches to long-term restoration.
At the hearing, our own Sierra Club Apprentice Jenny Kordick testified about the Sierra Club's involvement and wishes for the cleanup and restoration. Here is her testimony: (You can also watch it at C-SPAN's website - her testimony starts at about minute 59)
Last week, the Sierra Club brought a delegation of Gulf Coast residents impacted by the spill
to Washington DC - these individuals included Sierra Club staff and volunteers working on oil spill response, fishermen, and coastal business owners. The group met with Professor Lazarus, Director Bromwich, representatives from NOAA, and members of Congress with a clear message that the BP oil disaster is not over
. Although the BP well may be capped, the Gulf Coast and its residents are still recovering from the disaster, with job losses in fishing and tourism, and massive fish kills as oil finds its way into our shores and ocean bottoms. The environmental, economic, and social impacts from the spill will be felt in years to come.
The Gulf of Mexico and affected coastal communities need federal resources for restoration and recovery. Funding these resources can come from Clean Water Act penalties, creating a Gulf Coast fund whereby penalties from the BP spill go directly towards restoration projects, and securing immediate funding under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process. We also support the creation of a permanent regional community council to guide recovery efforts and ensure continued community driven oversight of the offshore oil industry.
In wake of the disaster, we must ensure full accountability by the oil industry.
A portion of oil and gas industry profits should be directed toward ocean protection and restoration. Long term funding can be provided for independent, peer-reviewed science to supplement federal and state research to obtain a full assessment of the BP spill's impacts on Gulf of Mexico resources like fisheries and marshes as well as seafood and public health monitoring.
A third generation Alabama fisherman who was a part of the Gulf contingent in DC last week expressed concern about the safety of the seafood industry as fishing waters re-open for the first times following the spill. The industry faces challenges ahead to not only restore the fishing stock but also to restore public perception about the safety of Gulf seafood.
The BP disaster reinforces the need to move America beyond oil dependence towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.
The BP spill demonstrates the certainty that there will be adverse economic and environmental outcomes as drilling continues. Instead of more offshore drilling, we should be building a 21st century transportation system, and investing in the kind of clean energy that will create jobs and infuse new life into our economy
Posted by: Heather M at 8:16AM PST on September 28, 2010
A Kentucky Community Surrounded by Coal Ash
Friday September 24, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:34AM PST on September 24, 2010
This week's coal ash community profile was written by Elizabeth Irvin, a Sierra Club Apprentice.
Ash about 20 feet over containment berm, 50 yards from residents’ homes in Riverside Gardens. Picture is taken from 2nd story window of resident's house. Credit: Thomas Pearce, Sierra Club.
For one weekend each year in early May, Louisville, Kentucky, boasts an abnormally high concentration of horses, jockeys, mint juleps, and elaborate hats. Less than ten miles from Churchill Downs, the neighborhood of Riverside Gardens has been dealing with an abnormal and deadly concentration of toxic chemicals every day for more than 40 years. A low income neighborhood in an area of Louisville known for its concentration of chemical plants, landfills, and power plants, Riverside Gardens may soon be forced to deal with yet another threat: a second coal ash dump in their community.
Monica Burkhead thought she was living the American dream when she bought a house in Riverside Gardens at the age of 17. She was assured that the neighborhood was safe, but has since learned that she is surrounded by growing quantities of all forms of toxic waste. The sources of these toxins include 11 chemical plants, a 2.4 million cubic yard unlined chemical landfill that is one of the state's oldest superfund sites, and multiple unlined coal ash waste ponds at the Cane Run coal plant owned by Louisville Gas and Electric.
The oldest of these coal ash ponds was built in the 1970s, but there are no records of any monitoring of any pond until 2005. The largest of these ponds is one of 49 nationwide that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated as "high hazard" - meaning that a dam failure like the 2008 disaster in Tennessee would probably result in loss of life.
Ash in this pond looms 20 feet over the containment berm, 50 yards from homes and within 350 yards of the Ohio River.
Louisville Gas and Electric is currently seeking permits to "expand" the pond at the Cane Run coal plant by constructing a new 5.7 million cubic yard, 14-story-tall pond some 1,500 feet from the existing one. What little data can be obtained about the existing ponds shows that they have been leaking sulfates into local groundwater. Neither the coal plant nor the state government has made public any tests of the toxic heavy metals found in coal ash, including arsenic, selenium, and mercury.
Monica and her neighbors live in a community ravaged by cancer.
EPA has found that people living near coal ash ponds have a risk of cancer greater than that of smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. Community organizers say that behind every door they knock on is someone with either cancer or kidney failure.
When Monica took the community's concerns to the chemical and coal companies, they told her that it was their lifestyles, and not the toxic contamination, that was making them sick.
Monica doesn't smoke or drink, eats healthily, and gets regular exercise. All of her family members except her husband have battled cancer. The industries evidently consider living in Riverside Gardens a lifestyle choice, even though the neighborhood existed long before plants that are now polluting it.
Resident Terri Humphrey expressed a common sentiment when she told a community meeting, "I believe the companies think that it’s already so bad down there that it doesn’t matter if they dump something else on us."
Monica, Terri, and other Riverside Gardens residents will testify at the upcoming EPA coal ash hearing in Louisville on September 28th
. Monica says that EPA can begin to repair her trust in government’s ability to protect communities by enacting a strong, federally enforceable rule that ends dangerous practices like the ones employed at the Cane Run plant.
Last spring, a group of children at nearby Farnsley Middle School were top 10 finalists in a competition to be "America's Greenest School." In the video they produced
, students talk about their plans to manage the school's waste more responsibly. Strong leadership from EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson can make coal companies live up to the example set by the students in their own community.
See www.sierraclub.org/coalash to learn more and take action on toxic coal ash.
Powerful Film About Coal Ash in Oklahoma
Friday September 17, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 12:10PM PST on September 17, 2010
Threat Remains Despite VA Coal Plant Delay
Thursday September 16, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 8:23AM PST on September 16, 2010
This is a guest Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign blog post written by Gabriel DeRita, a Sierra Club Communications Apprentice. Also, follow today's EPA coal ash public hearing in Chicago via our @SierraClubLive and @SierraClubIL Twitter accounts.
The area around Surry County, Virginia, is already home to some sinister projects, including several major coal ash disposal sites and Michael Vick's infamous dog fighting operation. One of the disposal sites is the local golf course, the Battlefield Golf Club. The green is sculpted with 1.5 million tons of coal fly-ash.
Now a major Virginia power provider, the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), wants to site a 1500 mega watt coal plant, accompanied by several hundred acres of ash disposal sites, along the Blackwater River in Surry.
This project, if completed, will be the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia. Its coal ash will be stored in several landfill areas around the plant. If the power plant itself falls through, ODEC representatives have indicated an option of developing the site as an exclusive coal ash landfill.
Executives announced on Wednesday, September 8, that the project deadline is being pushed back from 2016 to 2020
, citing concerns over pending federal regulations and lagging electricity demand. Though ODEC remains committed to pursuing the project, the delay comes as a welcome relief to local residents, and backs up arguments made by environmental and community groups that there is no pressing need for coal-fired power from such a massive plant.
Local residents like Betsy Shepard, mother of two, have been fighting ODEC tooth and nail since 2008, and the announcement comes as a major vindication of their efforts. Shepard is a busy full-time mom, but found the time to take a leading role in her community's fight to curb the march of coal ash contamination.
"I had no intentions of taking such an active role in the fight, but as is often the case in small communities, one has to step up and lend a hand when there is a need," said Shepard.
The President's Labor Day Transportation Announcement
Wednesday September 15, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 1:31PM PST on September 15, 2010
This is a guest post by Rachel Butler, National Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club Green Transportation Team.
On Labor Day 2010, President Obama made an announcement unveiling preliminary plans for transportation reform and spending to boost the economy
. The president's announcement is a step in the right direction-- transportation reform can't come too soon for our broken transportation system and lagging economy.
However, the President's announcement leaves many details yet to be resolved, and entrenched interests will be fighting for continuation of the status quo. This is the beginning of a long push ahead on transportation reform.
We have a lot of work ahead of us to create a 21st-century transportation system that ends our dependence on oil. To highlight the extent of our transportation and oil problem in the United States, check out these mind-blowing facts:
- Transportation consumes more than 70% of the 19 million barrels of oil used daily in the U.S. One barrel holds 42 gallons, meaning that we use roughly 557 million gallons of oil for transportation each day.
- The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico - that's just over a quarter of the amount of oil we use in the United States each day.
- Fully one quarter of our nation's roads and bridges are in disrepair, and the Highway Trust Fund, which is financed by the gas tax to take care of our roads, no longer has enough money to cover the costs.
The good news is that the president's announcement is putting transportation back on the national agenda, and we have an opportunity to shape how this reform develops. The President needs to hear from citizens on what transportation reform looks like in our communities.
Add your voice by joining the Sierra Club's Transportation Activists
as we work for a 21st century transportation system in the United States that moves us beyond oil.
New Coal Ash Video and Facebook App Aim to Educate, Engage
Tuesday September 14, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:29AM PST on September 14, 2010
You've seen our push against toxic coal ash continue over the past few months as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks public comment on how to regulate coal ash
. Our push continues this week with the unveiling of a new coal ash video we produced and a Facebook application. Take a look at the video first:
Sept. 11th Serve Outdoors Report from NYC
Monday September 13, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 9:39AM PST on September 13, 2010
This is a guest post by David Veliz of the Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors (BBTO) Program in New York City.
This year on September 11th, the weather was eerily similar to that of nine years ago. It was a beautiful day. The differences are of course un-measurable, since the events that we honor and remember every year, changed the world and our lives forever.
I usually spend every 9/11 remembering the feeling of fear and uncertainty that I felt as ashes fell upon my face, and remembering how the youth at the community programs I coordinated felt lost and unable to verbalize the their feelings - I knew they had lost a sense of innocence and security that in my community is already scarce.
This year however there was a new feeling that brought a sense of hope to all of those around me --the feeling of service, the feeling of giving back to the community as a way to honor and remember. This year as I stood on the roof of an urban farm in the South Bronx, surrounded by community residents and youth leaders, I saw the hope that brings change through action. The Building Bridges to the Outdoors program in NYC, as part of Sierra Club's national "Serve Outdoors
" campaign, helped coordinate this amazing service project which allowed for this hope to shine through.
In partnership with Get Dirty NYC!, the Horticultural Society of NY, and BBTO, 25 community residents, youth leaders, Sierra Club members and partner organizations came together to carry bags of soil, fill garden boxes and plant seeds. The urban farm is located on the roof of a green building that is used for women and children exiting the shelter system in NY State.
In a community that has very little to no green space, the urban farm provides a place for residents and youth to learn about nature and horticulture, and provides a place to get fresh vegetables, something that is also scarce. Local farms like this one as well as community gardens help communities learn about food sustainability, nutrition and in turn creates healthier communities and helps combat climate change.
This year on 9/11, we honored and remembered, but we also got something back, by giving back - hope.
White House Declines to Put Solar Panels Back Up
Friday September 10, 2010
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:39PM PST on September 10, 2010
Climate advocate and 350.org
head honcho Bill McKibben was rebuffed by the White House, after he tried to appeal to the president's staff that solar panels should return to the executive home.
Panels were first constructed and placed on the White House's roof under Jimmy Carter in 1979. Reagan took them down as soon as he moved in. That was more than 30 years ago. Imagine how much further renewable energy would be if our presidents committed to it.
Via the NYT
's Green blog:
Mr. McKibben met with three mid-level White House officials Friday morning who told him, politely, no dice.
They explained that there were a variety of reasons that the White House roof is not available for a gesture with very little energy-saving potential and that the Obama administration was doing more to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any previous government. The word “stunt” may have come up.
After the meeting, Mr. McKibben, speaking by cellphone from the sidewalk outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, said: “They refused to take the Carter-era panel that we brought with us and said they would continue their deliberative process to figure out what is appropriate for the White House someday. I told them it would be nice to deliberate as fast as possible, since that is the rate at which the planet’s climate is deteriorating.”
He said the van with the solar panel was parked in a garage two blocks from the White House. It will be rolled out again on Oct. 10 as part of a series of global warming and renewable energy events around the country and the world.
's Andy Revkin has reported
that the Secret Service took issue with putting panels visibly on the roof. For what it's worth, the White House installed photovoltaic and hot water panels in 2002, albeit "under the radar."
McKibben's goal is to get this issue out from under the radar. That's why the Sierra Club and others have partnered with 350.org for 10/10/10, or Global Work Day, a national call to action in which people will put climate solutions into practice and relay a message to our elected officials in Washington. Click here to get involved.
Coal Ash, a Rancher's View
Thursday September 9, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 7:58AM PST on September 9, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency is in the middle of a series of public hearings at sites around the country to gather input on new protections from toxic coal ash. This week's blog post comes from Sierra Club Apprentice JennyKordick.
After watching a deer refuse to drink water from a reservoir on a hot summer day last August, Colstrip, Montana area ranchers knew something was wrong. The water, found to contain toxic levels of sulfates, was traced back to a coal ash dump.
Coal ash contamination in Colstrip, Montana dates back nearly 30 years. Colstrip sits on one of the largest coal deposits in North America, and is home to four coal-fired power plants owned by Pennsylvania Power and Light (PP&L).The company disposes of coal ash, the toxic by-product of burning coal, in wet ash dumps, known as settling ponds,in the area.
Insufficient pond linings and poor construction techniques, in addition to lack of state environmental regulation,have led to widespread contamination of water resources in Colstrip. "The state of Montana has had every opportunity to right this wrong, and has failed in every way," said Clint McRae, a Colstrip area rancher.
The ranching community in Colstrip, including McRae, expressed concern about the ash settling ponds used to dispose of coal ash, but were assured by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality the ponds would not leak, and if they did, the power plants would be shut down.
"We were lied to." McRae stated. "We trusted our state and federal agencies to represent our best interests, and keep us from damage. This has not happened."
The livelihood of McRae and other ranchers in Colstrip is threatened by toxic coal ash, as healthy water quality is critical to the success of ranching operations. Simply put, cows drinking toxic water will die. Two coal ash ponds in the area were found to be leaking water containing 16 times the amount of sulfates needed to cause death in cattle.
Instead of cleaning up the coal ash contamination and fixing the leaks, PP&L has opted for a cheaper method to silence the issue. This involves fencing off contaminated ponds, and buying up damaged and polluted land, including the land containing the reservoir where the deer refused to drink.
PP&L is getting by with this for now, but McRae, whose family has been in the area for five generations, makes one thing clear: "Our places are not for sale."
In 2008, PP&L settled for $25 million with 60 homeowners in Colstrip whose drinking water became contaminated. McRae, who was not involved in the lawsuit, is acting as a voice for his family and neighbors that settled with PP&L and can no longer speak out on the issue. McRae traveled to the Denver coal ash hearing last week to speak out for strong, federally enforceable protections from coal ash as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a proposal to federally regulate toxic coal ash disposal for the first time-a proposal that, after more than two decades, may finally help stop leaking coal ash ponds and protect the families in Colstrip.
The Denver hearing McRae attended was the second of seven hearings nationwide that are being held to gather public opinion on how to regulate toxic coal ash disposal. See www.sierraclub.org/coalash for more information and to find out how you can tell the EPA what you think.
How's Your No Impact Week Going?
Wednesday September 1, 2010
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:57PM PST on September 1, 2010
Be a Transportation Activist!
I admire Colin Beavan, not just for his "no impact" venture, but also for the message. Beavan is the center of the documentary No Impact Man
, which follows his goal of one year of a sustainable, no-impact lifestyle.
Want to be like Colin? Now's your chance (although you can start at anytime). The "No Impact Experiment" takes place this week for anyone who wants to give it a try. (Sign up by clicking here
.) What's nice about this campaign is that it lets us decide for ourselves how far we want to go with it. Colin's undertaking of 100 percent sustainability feels impossible to emulate. ("It's extreme relative to the culture we live in," he says during his interview
on Sierra Club Radio.)Thanks to the "No Impact Experiment" campaign, we can dip our toes in the water everyday this week without feeling like we're diving head first into the unknown.
Like so many others in the Sierra Club, I decided to give this a try last weekend.
Day one on Sunday and day two on Monday concerned consumption and trash, respectively. This makes sense. These two things come hand in hand.
For me, refraining from shopping (except for essential groceries and such) is easy. Reducing my waste stream is harder. I do not have a good track record when it comes to things like buying in bulk. I go through paper towels like crazy. And I'm not the best at reusing certain kitchen items, like aluminum foil. I do, however, have some friends, namely reusable bags and my super-cool, retro looking coffee mug:
Luckily the Experiment's handy manual for Monday has some great tips that I can easily adopt and encourage others (like you!) to try. From the manual:
-- Steer clear of goods that come in a box, wrapper, throw-away bag, plastic container, tin can ... you get the idea!
-- Travel with reusable cutlery, a handkerchief, and a resealable bag or Mason jar (all handy for eating on the run).
-- Say goodbye to delivery and hello to potlucks with friends.
-- Cereal lovers –- buying in bulk reduces your waste. If you can’t buy in bulk, then re-use the wax-lined bags in cereal boxes to wrap sandwiches, or as trash bags.
-- Consider gifts that don’t come wrapped in lots of packaging that will end up in the trash. Give experiences, such as massages (who doesn’t love a back rub?) and local “adventures” like museums, movies, and dance or rock-climbing lessons. Re-gifting is good for your wallet and the planet.
-- Rid your life of paper towels. Cut up and reuse old clothes for napkins, diapers, cleaning rags, dishtowels, and even for blowing your nose.
--Forget Post-Its. Use scrap paper, junk mail, and dryerase boards to take notes.
Visit the No Impact Experiment network
to share with others your experience. Also, some participants are using their own blogs as a journal about their week. Read the blogs A Mom Writing
and Christy the Writer
to follow their week. Tomorrow, I'll get into Tuesday's and Wednesday's tasks: transportation and food.
Posted by: Rachel Butler at 3:15PM PST on August 30, 2010
UPDATE: Amid Public Scrutiny, TransCanada Backs Down
This summer, we’ve witnessed the 10-day traffic jam in China, the million-gallon Enbridge pipeline oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and, of course, ongoing efforts to clean up the BP oil disaster in the Gulf.
Traffic. Oil spills. What do they have in common? Both are at the core of our transportation system in the United States, a system which leaves us dependent on cars to get around, drains as much as $1 billion from our economy each day, and keeps Americans stuck in traffic for 4.2 billion hours each year while wasting 2.8 billion gallons of gas.
We know that America can do better. We need a 21st century transportation system that enhances our national security, economy, environment and quality of life. So the Sierra Club is launching a new network of Transportation Activists, the Club's front line on creating a 21st century transportation system in the United States.
Sick of traffic jams and oil spills? Want to learn about and take action on national transportation issues like ending our dependence on oil, expanding public transit, and promoting the development of walkable and bikeable communities? Sign up to be a Transportation Activist here and join the movement.
Posted by: Elizabeth Irvin at 2:52PM PST on August 30, 2010
New Report Reveals Widespread Toxic Coal Ash Contamination
Our mothers were right: the best way to deal with bullies is to confront them. In the face of yet another round of public criticism, Canadian oil giant TransCanada has backed down from bullying American landowners into putting toxic pipelines on their land. The company sent letters to Nebraska landowners in the proposed path of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, threatening them with legal proceedings if they did not agree to sell their land by the end of August. They invoked eminent domain, an obscure provision of the law that allows the government and some utilities to appropriate private property
But in response to public outcry about the injustice to private landowners who want to keep their communities safe and healthy, TransCanada has changed its tune.
A TransCanada spokesman announced Monday, August 30 that the company has withdrawn the negotiating deadlines and has no intention of seeking eminent domain actions, at least for now. This announcement is a win for landowners who have raised serious concerns about the safety of the Keystone XL pipeline.
This is the second time this month that TransCanada has advanced an underhanded scheme at the expense of American landowners, but been forced to back down when activists and community members turn the spotlight on them. The company had also been lobbying the Department of Transportation for a special safety waiver that would allow them to operate the pipeline at a higher pressure, increasing odds of a spill. The permit, which would essentially have allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline with thinner steel, would have saved the company approximately a billion dollars, but put American health and safety at risk. In the wake of outcry over the Enbridge spill of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River, TransCanada announced that they had withdrawn the application, although they reserved the right to reapply in the future.
TransCanada spokesman Jeff Rauh said that the company's intent wasn’t to threaten landowners, and that they were trying “to be clear and straightforward with what we’re doing.” The message--that TransCanada will build their pipeline regardless of the cost to American communities-- is clear, indeed.
If there is one thing we have learned from this pattern of bad behavior from TransCanada, it is that they are always looking for the next corner to cut. The good news is that increased scrutiny from the public, the media, and elected officials is making it much more difficult for TransCanada to hide their dirty deeds and hurt communities.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 6:49AM PST on August 27, 2010
A No Impact State of Mind
This is the weekly blog post from Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
Power industry lobbyist Jim Roewer: "Wasn't a problem."
Leslie Stahl: "Well, it was a problem, but we just didn't know it."
This excerpt from a recent 60 Minutes story on toxic coal waste sums up the current trouble with the millions of tons of toxic ash left over each year from burning coal for energy.
While scientists and experts know, and have known for years that coal ash is full of harmful pollution that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses, the issue flew largely under the radar until the massive TVA disaster. Even now nobody, including the EPA, has a full picture of how much of this toxic waste is out there, where it is, or if it is staying put. The coal industry has dumped millions of tons of its toxic leftovers at thousands of sites across the country with no federal oversight, and utterly inadequate state policies.
The result? Toxic ash dump sites lacking even basic safety protections, drinking water sources poisoned and people unknowingly at risk.
A new investigative report reveals more than three dozen new sites in 21 states where toxic coal waste has made water supplies unsafe. These sites are the latest in a steadily growing number of waters known to be contaminated by poor management of coal ash. So far more than 130 cases of coal ash contamination have been found in 34 states, and even EPA admits this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Many state agencies (like those in Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico and Tennessee to name a few) require no monitoring of waters near toxic coal ash sites. Other states, like West Virginia, do such a poor job of monitoring as to be useless. About 70 percent of the toxic coal ash generated nationwide is dumped in states that don't require monitoring to see if toxic contamination is leaking from coal ash sites.
The report shows that states responsible for only four of the coal ash sites have required an investigation to determine the scale of the pollution. Not one state has required the toxic pollution to be stopped, let alone cleaned up. There is a clear need for the EPA to step in where the states have failed to protect our communities.
Lisa Jackson and the EPA have recognized this and the agency is currently considering whether and how to regulate toxic coal ash. Monday the EPA will begin a series of hearings across the country to gather public comment on the new protections. The first hearing will be in Arlington, Virginia, followed by hearings in Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Kentucky over the next month. Whether you attend a hearing in person or submit comments online I urge you to send a strong message to EPA that federally enforceable protections are absolutely necessary in the face of the growing risk from coal's toxic waste.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:57AM PST on August 26, 2010
Battles Won, but War Not Over, to Protect Whales
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:10AM PST on August 26, 2010
Honor 9/11 By Volunteering Outside
Photos courtesy Andrew Christie
It seems like the ink is barely dry on this summer's victory to protect whales. But activists are already mobilizing for the next battle.
In June, the Santa Lucia Chapter celebrated after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) declined to lift a moratorium on commercial whaling. However, the IWC's resolution included a "one-year cooling off period," which means the tug-of-war on commercial whaling -- a back and forth that started after a 1986 moratorium -- might resume in the not-too-distant future.
"The nations that continue to exploit the loopholes in the moratorium and kill whales [Japan, Norway, and Iceland] have been loud and aggressive in their efforts to bring back full-scale whaling. It's safe to assume they're going to try again," said Andrew Christie, Santa Lucia Chapter Director.
Several Sierra Club chapters had a major hand in the 16 rallies that took place on May 23 along 15 California coastal counties. More than 1,000 people showed up. At Morro Bay alone, more than 400 people signed the petition to preserve the moratorium. The overall coordinating group was the Western Alliance for Nature/WAN Conservancy
Why the strong turn out? One reason was the U.S. government's lackadaisical approach to the IWC negotiations.
“Attendees were incredulous that the Obama administration was supporting a return to commercial whaling,” Christie said. “Nearly every attendee signed the petition, a postcard, a prayer flag, and anything else site organizers came up with that'd convey a firm ‘no’ to our government.”
Despite the U.S.'s search for a compromise with Japan, Norway, and Iceland, the moratorium stayed intact
. When the IWC revisits the issue, activists want the U.S. to take a sharper approach.
In the U.S. Congress, two anti-whaling bills have stalled: H.R. 2455, which has 54 cosponsors, and Senator John Kerry’s S. 3116.
“Both these bills have been stalled in committee, as is the habit of our federal legislature. All Sierra Club members should urge them to move these bills out of committee and onto the floor for a vote by the House and the Senate,” Christie said.
Meanwhile, the California legislature this week passed a resolution calling on the federal government to oppose lifting the IWC's moratorium.
One reason whaling stirs activists so much is because seeing whales in person is such a memorable experience. Asked about his relationship with whales, Christie said, “I had the experience of reaching out and touching one of the people-friendly gray whales that swim up to meet the small boats full of tourists in those Baja California lagoons. They seem to enjoy checking out the people in between mating or calving.
"I also had the pleasure of crewing on a Sea Shepherd anti-whaling campaign about 15 years ago," he said. "I wish I’d seen a whale, but we were preoccupied with getting shot at, depth-charged, and rammed by the Norwegian Coast Guard."
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:01PM PST on August 17, 2010
Interview: Guerrilla Gardener in the Mist
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:08AM PST on August 13, 2010
Thousands of Sierra Clubbers Demand U.S. Bank to Stop Coal Abroad
Jim Richardson of Aurora, Colorado is a Sierra Club member with the Rocky Mountain Chapter. He is also a real life guerrilla gardener. I had a chance to talk with him about this furtive hobby. For tips on how to become a guerrilla gardener, click here.
So where did your roots in gardening come from?
I grew up in a rural environment in Iowa. Now I live in a patio home that I outgrew in a few years. I volunteer at some community farms in our area. I started planting stuff in my neighbors’ yards. I’d say, “Hey, you want a tree?” and I’d plant it for them. They probably got tired of seeing me, so I started to sneak down to a nearby greenbelt, wetland area near my house. That’s where I do my guerrilla gardening.
For those who might not be familiar with the topic, describe guerrilla gardening.
There are a lot of underutilized city owned areas in our metro environments that could use plants, trees, and bushes that will enhance wildlife and fight climate change with carbon sequestration. If you look around, there are brown lots everywhere that could benefit from native species. You don’t want to introduce something that’s not native. There’s enough of that going on already. You want to try to eradicate an invasive weed and replace it with a native grass or something like that.
It can be as small as sunflowers. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it or anything. Just plant it somewhere, monitor it, and water it as needed. After a while it establishes itself and you can go plant something else. I probably have several hundred plants in my area that I maintain.
The “guerrilla” tag implies trouble.
I’ve had two run-ins with the local government. I started out with evergreen trees in a floodplain area. The city didn’t like them so they took them out. I’ve had to meet city officials a couple of times over the past five years. They’d say that I need to quit planting because if I keep doing it then someone else will get the idea of doing it. And I’m thinking, “Okay, what’s the problem with that?” So I just ignored that and tried to be sneaky about it.
Then the city flood supervisor and I came to an uneasy agreement: I can plant things in an area that's about 100 yards long by about 30 yards wide along a road.
Are you OK with the “guerrilla” tag or do you think it’s a mis-characterization?
It works for me. I recently read a blog that struck a chord with what I'm trying to achieve. It read:
“Worrying about our planet while adhering to local zoning codes or social norms forbidding ecologically sensible behavior is a recipe for disaster. Such laws require citizens to commit an ecological injustice by using a disproportionate share of our Earth's resources. They scream out for civil disobedience.”
What do you plant?
Sunflowers, blue stem grasses, switch grasses. Some daisies. Prairie type plants. Coneflowers.
What about food? Tomatoes? Strawberries?
I suppose you could do that. But I don’t do vegetables. I focus on creating native habitat and converting these areas to a more sustainable environment that was once there.
Any advice on how to get started?
It can be as big or small as you want. Use common sense. You don’t want to put an evergreen tree next to a sidewalk that might block vision for traffic or something like that. Plant as many native species as you can. It should be where you can maintain it. You don’t want it on the other end of town. That’s what’s fortunate about my area, that I can just walk down there at night.
As a true "grass roots" effort, people should see the wisdom in taking advantage of under-utilized land in a manner beneficial to their local community. Even if it's as small as planting a sunflower, we owe it to our ecosystem the ability to heal. When I started this endeavor, the area was a collection of weeds, trash, used condoms, and beer bottles. It's now an area to be proud of and I've gotten numerous accolades from neighbors that I had never met prior to beginning this effort. I even have a few folks that help pull weeds. As the plants mature and get bigger, the area will fill in and become more hospitable to various small wildlife -- my ultimate goal.
photos courtesy Jim Richardson.
Posted by: Guay at 10:31AM PST on August 13, 2010
Cool Art for This Warming World
7,769 Sierra Club members told the Export-Import Bank that instead of financing dirty power projects abroad, it should be positioning U.S. companies to lead in a competitive clean technology market that can create thousands more jobs in the US. These comments were directed at the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Kusile coal-fired power plant proposed by the South African Utility.
At nearly 5,000 megawatts of output, the Kusile plant would be one of the largest dirty-coal plants in the world, and would be one of the single largest point sources of climate disrupting pollution on Earth. The Kusile project would annually emit more than 150 percent of the annual carbon emissions from projects supported by the Ex-Im Bank in 2009.
While failing to adhere to a Congressional mandate to significantly increase renewable energy financing, the Ex-Im Bank’s Board of Directors also recently voted to support the Sasan coal-fired power project in India, one of nine “Ultra Mega Power Plants” being pursued by the Indian government. Sasan, slated to produce 3,960 MW
, is controlled by Sasan Power Limited, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, owned by Anil Ambani one of the world’s richest men. Local communities in India are actively protesting the Sasan project, as it will displace 6,000 people, and emit between 26-27 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
If the Ex-Im Bank proceeds with funding the Kusile and Sasan projects, U.S. taxpayer dollars will be tripling the annual carbon emissions from projects supported by the Export-Import Bank in 2009. According to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, more than 95% of Ex-Im’s energy portfolio is based on fossil fuels, and in 2009 Ex-Im Bank financing for renewable energy was less than 0.5% of the agency’s total financing.
While funding the project with U.S. tax dollars presents a strategic misstep, it also represents significant health and environmental impacts in South Africa. Pollutants proven to cause and contribute to serious cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses such as heart disease and asthma, as well as neurological and developmental disorders, will directly impact the surrounding communities.
The Ex-Im Bank Board is expected to take up a due diligence vote on Kusile in early September. The decision to whether or not to finance these projects will send a direct signal to fossil fuel industries and other lenders about the future of clean energy technology and the role of fossil fuels in development. With controversy brewing, and pressure building, it’s time for Ex-Im Bank to do the right thing.
To find out more about Kusile go here.
To find out more about Sasan go here.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:18AM PST on August 13, 2010
Greenland is retreating to the sea. Russia is on fire. And the Gulf is full of oil. There's no better time to express yourself. And there are few better ways than art.
That's why the Sierra Club is one of many partners in the CoolClimate Art Contest, a first-of-its-kind online contest that will be judged on Huffington Post by several climate activists, including Van Jones, Philippe Cousteau, Jackson Browne, and comedian Chevy Chase. The contest is sponsored by Creative Visions Foundation and Crosscurrents Foundation.
Enroll and post your entry at deviantArt by Sept. 6. The panel of judges will narrow the field to 20 finalists. These submissions will then be moved to HuffPost for a public vote. The best of the best will be featured on Planet Green's Planet 100 show. So connect with your inner Pollack and get to work!
Clean Energy News of Note
Wednesday August 11, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 11:07AM PST on August 11, 2010
Burning Coal + Hot Days = Unhealthy Air Warnings
It's the summer doldrums, but there's still been a lot of clean energy and dirty energy news hitting the wires out there. Here are some highlights.
First up we have a NY Times article about using "brownfields" as clean energy sites in California
- meaning using dried up farmland as good siting for solar power projects. From the article:
Unlike some renewable energy projects blocked by objections that they would despoil the landscape, this one has the support of environmentalists.
The San Joaquin initiative is in the vanguard of a new approach to locating renewable energy projects: putting them on polluted or previously used land. The Westlands project has won the backing of groups that have opposed building big solar projects in the Mojave Desert and have fought Westlands for decades over the district's water use. Landowners and regulators are on board, too.
"It's about as perfect a place as you're going to find in the state of California for a solar project like this," said Carl Zichella, who until late July was the Sierra Club's Western renewable programs director. "There's virtually zero wildlife impact here because the land has been farmed continuously for such a long time and you have proximity to transmission, infrastructure and markets."
In the world of dirty energy, there's been some news out lately about toxic coal ash (the by-product of burning coal for electricity). Right now the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed two very federal safeguards for coal ash
- and this Alamogordo Daily News article
looks at residents in New Mexico who are fighting to make sure its regulated as a toxic substance.
Meanwhile, after some serious pressure from grassroots groups, EPA announced two more public hearings on these proposed coal ash rules
- one in Louisville, KY, and one in Pittsburgh, PA. You can learn all about the hearings on EPA's coal ash rules website
- and make sure you submit your comment calling for strong federal safeguards for coal ash right away
! And if you want to see if there's a coal ash storage site near you, check out our map
From water quality (coal ash contaminates groundwater all the time) to air quality. There's a new report out showing the EPA action on air pollution will not hurt the industry
. From the release
An expert report issued today finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can move forward in a timely way on new air quality rules for power plant emissions to improve public health while maintaining the reliability of the nation's power system.
"However, these will tend to be older, smaller generating units that are already reaching the end of their design life. We have identified at least 40 units that are scheduled for retirement with an average age of more than 50 years old."
The report, Ensuring a Clean, Modern Electric Generating Fleet while Maintaining Electric System Reliability....reviews the impact on power plant operations of proposed EPA rules to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury, and other hazardous air pollutants.
Related to air quality, EPA just issued air pollution rules for facilities that produce cement
. This may sound small and inconsequential, but it's quite the opposite. From EPA's release
(The final rules) protect Americans' health by cutting emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. The rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs.
Mercury can damage children's developing brains, and particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of serious health effects, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
And finally, we go back to clean energy. Our friends over at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
have a brand new website in honor of their 30th anniversary - go check it out
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:27AM PST on August 10, 2010
Pipeline Company Rescinds Risky Proposal … For Now
Yesterday and today are code orange unhealthy air alert days
in the Washington, DC, region where I live. The 95+ degree temperatures and excessive ground-level ozone create extremely unhealthy air – especially for kids, senior citizens, and people with pre-existing health conditions.
These aren't the first days this summer where we've had these warnings, and I know that the Washington, DC, region is not alone in its unhealthy air warnings. Temperatures are soaring across the U.S. - and while one major source of air pollution is vehicles, the other major cause is burning coal for energy.
And with this comes new research that poor air quality days aren't just a struggle for your lungs, they're just as tough on your heart
. This is news from the combined efforts of the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, who are reminding us that while some pollution levels may be decreasing, we’re learning that air pollution is actually much worse for us than originally thought.
From one article on this research
While risks to individuals are small and are dwarfed by risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, the overall effect on the public is big, says Robert Brook, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of the report.
Much of the worrisome data concerns "fine particulate matter" - tiny bits of soot that come from burning coal, oil, diesel fuel or wood, mostly in factories, vehicles and power plants.
"These fine particles get deep into the lungs," says Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association....It's also possible that some fine particles seep into blood vessels and the blood itself, causing direct damage. Dirty air also may trigger irregular nervous system activity that affects the heart and blood vessels.
Some in Congress want to gut EPA's Clean Air Act powers - and yet air pollution levels are so dangerous that these unhealthy air warnings recommend that kids should not be outside
. Kids should not be outside in August? Right. Summer vacation is still in full force, so kids are outside, and that means they are at risk of permanent lung damage because the oil and coal companies are holding congress hostage.
We are literally killing ourselves by burning coal, and yet the coal industry continues to fight against the Clean Air Act and any safeguards that might prevent them from spewing their pollutants into the air.
This is shameful. The coal industry would rather make money than clean itself up
We must support clean, renewable energy sources that don't pollute the air and contribute to unhealthy air warnings when temperatures climb. Coal-fired power plants spew millions of tons of pollution into the air ever year, which spreads from state to state and causes numerous health issues.
Thankfully, EPA is acting to help states be good neighbors with the proposed 'Good Neighbor / Transport' rule that will systematically and efficiently cut pollution from dozens of coal plants that would otherwise spread across the country.
The rule is intended to help downwind states achieve EPA's national ambient air quality standards for ozone and fine particles.
We applaud this common sense approach by Lisa Jackson and EPA to protect public health and help states clean up their air efficiently and cost-effectively.
You can make your support heard for this rule at one of the three upcoming public hearings
(first one is next week), or by submitting your own comment
Posted by: Gabriel Derita at 12:20PM PST on August 6, 2010
Take Action: Some In Congress Spreading Misinformation About Coal Ash
Amid two massive oil
spills, public pressure was apparently high enough to force TransCanada
to back down from its permit request to pump the world’s most toxic
crude at over-zealous pressures. In doing so, the company made a
telling statement about the risks their pipelines pose, acknowledging
their proposal was unsafe from the start.
But they made sure to allow for a “request for a special permit in the future”.
TransCanada is making a smart PR move, because pumping at lower
pressures still allows the company to meet its prospective deliveries
while making them appear sensitive to safety concerns.
They stood by their commitment to use thinner-than-standard steel,
a move that will expose American communities and vital aquifers to
increased risk, but will save the company close to a billion dollars. There's no sign of shying from that proposal -- actually building an up-to-par
pipe would provide the minimum safeguards against another disaster, but
a fraction of their profits are on the line!
The Enbridge pipeline disaster in Michigan spill is the latest of more than 2,500 significant pipeline incidents that have occurred in the United States over the last ten years, resulting in 161 fatalities and 576 injuries. There are no safe pipelines, and TransCanada knows it.
This thinly veiled publicity stunt is yet another attempt by big oil
companies to dupe the American people into believing their practices
are safe. We have been reassured time and again by companies like BP
and Enbridge, only to see the all-too-real consequences of their
negligence in the form of devastating toxic spills.
We cannot allow another oil company to placate us again with a
bait-and-switch ploy at appearing ‘safer’, while simultaneously forging
ahead with risky practices that protect nothing but their profits.
TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is a risky project that will
undermine well-paying, green jobs at home, and expose 27 percent of America’s
irrigated farmland to oil contamination.
We cannot afford another pipeline disaster, and we don't need
a multi-billion dollar project that directly undermines America's clean
energy future. We must stand up and tell the State Department that another risky pipeline carrying the world’s dirtiest crude will never be in the national interest.
Main Switchboard for State Department:
TTY:1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay Service)
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 7:55AM PST on August 6, 2010
Climate Ride 2010 Will Hit the West Coast
Coal ash contains numerous poisonous chemicals, including arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, boron, thallium, and aluminum. So why are some members of Congress wanting to block action from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson that would protect people from toxic coal ash?
It's true - 139 House members and 36 Senators either signed onto letters asking as much, or wrote their own letters (links to the letters are farther down in this post)
. What's worse is that the letters are full of misleading information and inaccuracies about the public health risks of coal ash.
Coal-fired power plants produce approximately 150 million tons of waste per year, making coal combustion waste the second largest industrial waste stream in the U.S. When coal ash comes into contact with water, toxic heavy metals can leach out of the waste and contaminate groundwater and surface water.
One of the House letters to Administrator Jackson refers to an EPA document from 2000 that supposedly concludes that coal ash does not warrant regulation as a hazardous waste - but in reality that document says
After careful review of the present disposal of these wastes, we believe these additional measures are needed to ensure that public health and the environment are fully protected. If the states and industry do not take steps to address these wastes adequately in a reasonable amount of time or if EPA identifies additional risks to public health, EPA will revisit this decision to determine whether a hazardous approach is needed.
Consider these facts: There are more than 2,000 coal ash storage sites across the U.S. and dozens of documented cases where coal ash has contaminated surface water or groundwater in at least 23 states. (U.S. EPA, Coal Combustion Waste Damage Case Assessments, July 9, 2007.)
And the latest EPA test results released in December 2009 show that the heavy metals seep out of coal ash at much higher rates than previously understood, poisoning water with arsenic and selenium at levels hundreds of times greater than the federal drinking water standards
. Clearly, EPA is right in proposing stringent protections for toxic coal ash.
The House letter also claims that "states have effectively been regulating" coal ash - but in reality state laws governing coal combustion waste disposal are usually weak or non-existent, as exemplified in the growing cases of water contamination putting communities at risk across the country.
Further, both the House and Senate letters advance faulty claims that stringent federal safeguards for coal ash would stigmatize the coal ash recycling industry (coal is often recycled into concrete, bricks, etc...), with the Senate letter claiming even the proposed idea of this type of regulation has caused a downturn in the market. What these letters choose to ignore is that EPA's proposals would completely exempt coal ash that's encapsulated from water and safely recycled into construction materials.
Even the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) said there would be no stigma. From one news report
EPA noted a U.S. Green Building Council representative's affirmation that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design incentives would remain for fly ash in concrete even under a broader (coal combustion residual) hazardous waste classification. If USGBC and EPA continue to recognize fly ash as an environmentally beneficial portland cement substitute, the proposed rule states,
"The use of this material is unlikely to decrease solely because of 'stigma' concerns. We believe it is unlikely (the American Society for Testing and Materials) will prohibit the use of fly ash in concrete under its standards solely because of a determination that fly ash is regulated under subtitle C of (the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), especially given that [such usage] is accepted [worldwide] as a practice that improves the performance of concrete. It is one of the most cost-effective, near-term strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and, there is no evidence of meaningful risk--nor any reason to think there might be--involved with its use in cement or concrete."
The list of inaccuracies in these letters goes on. We encourage you to read the letters (PDF) - House Letter 1
, House Letter 2
, House Letter 3
, Senate Letter 1
, Senate Letter 2
See if your representative or senator signed on. If s/he did, call them right now and tell them to withdraw their signature. If s/he did not sign on, call them to say thanks and to continue working for strong coal ash safeguards.
We need strong, federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash. Research from government and private scientists over the years shows an increasing concern for public health if exposed to coal ash's toxins. Some studies have shown that these coal ash dumps are so toxic that they can increase nearby residents’ cancer risk to as high as a staggering 1 in 50.
Call your reps right now.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:19AM PST on August 3, 2010
Video from our Freedom from Oil Flag Day
While previous years had it coming down the East Coast and into Washington, DC, this year's Brita Climate Ride
will hit the West Coast. The Climate Ride is a huge bike ride aimed at supporting action on climate change. Here are the details from Climate Ride organizer David Kroodsma:
Join the National Bike Ride to Support Climate and Energy Solutions
The nation's largest environmental charity bike ride and 'climate conference on wheels' comes to California! After two years on the East Coast, Climate Ride debuts Brita Climate Ride California 2010 this September 21-25, 2010.
Two hundred cyclists will pedal beautiful country roads 300 miles along California’s rugged northern coast from Eureka to San Francisco to raise awareness of clean energy, the climate crisis, and pedal power.
This fully-supported adventure raises funds for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Green America, and 1Sky. Climate Ride is the first multi-day, multi-city bicycle ride to address climate issues and highlight renewable energy solutions. The event also showcases that the bicycle is the ultimate carbon-free machine and a viable form of transportation. Participants can register online at www.ClimateRide.org.
David also has a great write-up on Huffington Post
about how the event will go and why you should join him. You should also watch this video from last year's ride.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:21AM PST on July 6, 2010
Happy Independence (From Oil) Day
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:06PM PST on July 2, 2010
Interview: Talk to Feds About the Great Outdoors
With no end to BP's oil disaster in sight
and July 4 around the corner, the Sierra Club on Wednesday planted 10,000 flags by the Washington Monument
to demand independence -- from oil. For the past two weeks we've been posting some helpful hints here to lessen your own dirty energy usage -- which will be particularly appropriate this holiday weekend when we celebrate our country's break from the British. So let's review!
-- Drive less or not at all! Americans burn 378 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
BP and other oil companies do not want to see that number to go down. Show them who's in charge. Take public transit
. And dust off your bike and/or increase your car's mileage
-- Purchase local produce and eat less meat
. Challenge yourself to one meatless day a week. It'd vastly improve your personal carbon footprint. The meat industry is a major consumer of petroleum. Are you planning to barbecue this weekend? Click here
." And for those of you who are hitting the road, there are probably plenty of lovely destinations within a 100-mile radius of your home. Visit a park and hike a trail
You might notice that these suggestions are not anything new. But walking the talk a little at a time will go a long way. And if you're frustrated by the slow political process in Washington, click here to take action. Have a happy and safe long weekend!
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:27PM PST on July 1, 2010
In April, President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a new effort to preserve parks and open areas, conserve natural resources, and promote outdoor reaction amid a changing climate. On July 8, federal agencies will hold a “listening session” in Los Angeles and continue to hold sessions throughout the country to collect public feedback for the initiative. Athan Manuel, the Sierra Club’s Director of Lands Protection, answered some of our questions about the initiative and the Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats program.
Q: What are these listening sessions?
A: They are excellent opportunities to tell the Department of Interior what a 21st century land-management plan should be and to push these agencies to keep climate change in mind. When you look at policy in the past, it was always in reaction to railroads, sprawl, oil and gas drilling, and logging. But now we have a more profound threat and that’s climate change.
The listening session is like a public hearing. These agencies really want to hear from the public and make it as much of a grass roots policy as possible.
There are going to be seven or eight sessions across the country after next week's hearing in L.A.: Florida, New York, Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, for example. They’ll probably run one or two a week till the end of August. The Interior, the EPA, and the Forest Service will look at the public feedback, put together a report, and base recommendations on what the public has to say. We want to augment that and put forth our vision for Resilient Habitats.
Q: Explain the Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitats program.
A: It’s mainly designed to protect public lands, habitats, species, and resources that are being impacted by climate change. We think this should be prioritized above all other stressers. We need the federal government to recognize that climate change is changing our public lands more than anything in the last 100 years.
The first thing we need to do is reduce our emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Then we need to complement that by funding adaptation programs to climate change’s impacts. Animals are starting to change their migratory patterns. Migration corridors are shifting. So we need to shift or expand the boundaries of these lands accordingly. Animals are moving further and into higher elevations to get away from rising temperatures. There are a lot of changes happening to habitat and species that we need to catch up to and start funding via a cap-and-trade system.
Q: Obama’s initiative is in coordination with other government agencies, like the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, among others. Why?
A: They’re all legitimate and one of the largest managers of public lands is the Department of Defense. These military bases are islands of natural habitat. A lot of animals and plant species have migrated to these places because of sprawl, road building, mining, and oil drilling. They are a huge manager of land and in terms of endangered species -- from the red cockheaded woodpecker to the desert tortoise -- they’ve been very good stewards. They take it seriously. So there’s a lot of overlap between them and what the Department of Interior does. Right now we’re pushing Resilient Habitats
with the Department of Interior but we’d love to do more with the DOD.
Q: EPA head Lisa P. Jackson in talking about the initiative has specifically called for more outdoor access, especially for inner city kids and minorities. Can you elaborate?
A: This is one of their three priorities -- getting kids outside and connecting them with hiking and biking. They want to get inner city kids out there who don’t get to leave the city often. And this effort complements the First Lady’s Let's Move
initiative to fighting childhood obesity.
The Sierra Club of all the environmental groups is probably best positioned for these efforts because of our Building Bridges to the Outdoors program and getting youth outside, and our Military Families Outdoors program. The Department of Interior in particular is very eager to work with us because they see it as part of their own campaign for the Obama Administration to pursue.
Q: What end result are we hoping for?
A: Some of it's legislative, but mainly we need different land management plans. Current plans don’t talk about climate change at all. Some agencies are ahead of the curve. For example, Fish and Wildlife is recognizing that migratory corridors are changing. So the first step is recommendations for these agencies. And then the next step is probably legislation to fund the work they want to do. Or in the case of one issue like migratory changes -- such as mule deer that are starting to wander on private lands like ranches or farms -- we might have to do some conservation easements and rezoning so that we can adjust the corridors to where the animals are going. The first step is making recommendations and climate-smart management plans.
Q. If you don’t live in L.A. or nearby other cities that these agencies will be visiting to collect public feedback, how do you get yourself heard?
A: The Sierra Club can always make your voice heard. But there is also a public comment page on the web
. But the Sierra Club is the best way to do it
. That’s my unbiased opinion.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 9:14AM PST on July 1, 2010
Flag Day -- Freedom from Oil! UPDATED with more Photos!
The tide of public response to BP's Maconda oil catastrophe continues
to rise. On Saturday, the world witnessed almost 1,000 rallies, with
hundreds of thousands of people holding "Hands Across the Sand"
to protest of off-shore oil drilling.
And today the Sierra Club planted 10,000 flags on the National Mall
here in Washington, a literal representation of the tens of thousands
of "virtual" flags that our online supporters have planted in the cause
of moving Beyond Oil. The Club was joined in planting the flags by the
Truman National Security Project and the Communications Workers of
America. The flags spell out these words: "Freedom From Oil." But as
you might imagine, reading them from ground level is not easy -- so we
wondered whether anyone other than the tourists looking down from the
Washington Monument would get the message on-site.
But as Club
Executive Director Mike Brune stood up to begin the ceremony, Marine 1,
the helicopter that carries the President of the United States, flew
overhead. So, thanks to the folks who asked to bear witness with us
today, at least one very important part of the audience for America's
national demand that we get off oil saw the message right there on the
To see for yourself how the flags looked from the air, check out the Sierra Club's homepage.
And if you haven't already added your flag online, you can still join the crowd -- and you won't have to go through airport security to be a part of it.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:18AM PST on June 30, 2010
Testifying Against Tar Sands
here are some more photos of the 10,000 flags on the Mall. And Getty Images took some great photos from above as well - Photo 1
, Photo 2
, Photo 3
, Photo 4
, Photo 5
, and Photo 6
. Scroll down to the original entry from this morning - these photos are from our Beyond Oil event where 10,000 flags spelling out "Freedom from Oil" were planted on the Mall in Washington, DC.
Above - Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (left) and banner holders look back at President Obama's helicopter flies nearby during the press conference.
George Kohl, Senior Director of the Communications
Workers of America, speaks at today's Beyond Oil rally.
Iraq War veteran and Truman Security Project CEO
Jonathan Powers speaks at today's Beyond Oil rally.
All photos above by Javier Sierra. All photos below by Heather Moyer.
---End of Update - The original Post is Below --
It's not officially Flag Day (that was June 14th), but on the National Mall in Washington, DC, today is a sort of an unofficial flag day.
We've got our Beyond Oil action up and flowing in the wind on the Mall - 10,000 flags that spell out "Freedom from Oil," that volunteers worked late in the night on Tuesday to stake into the ground.
These 10,000 flags represent the more than 50,000 people who took action on our Beyond Oil website asking President Obama to move our country beyond oil.
Glen Besa of the Sierra Club in Virginia took a great video of the flag planting last night, so take a look. (Sorry, the humidity got to our flipcam)
Posted by: Heather M at 7:18AM PST on June 30, 2010
Hands Across the Sand at Rodeo Beach
Tuesday was the last public hearing on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - which would carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada through the American Heartland to Houston.
In an effort to save money, TransCanada has applied for a safety waiver for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would allow the company to operate with thinner pipe and higher pressures than standard operating procedure; they also lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
So on Tuesday, a big crowd of clean energy advocates rallied before the hearing and then took it inside the U.S. State Department to let their opinions be heard on why this pipeline is a bad choice for our country's energy future and why the State Department's draft Environmental Impact State (DEIS) is flawed.
There were plenty of industry people at the hearing - they'd even signed up for the first 20 speaking spots, but thankfully the State Department rep who was running the hearing recognized that and did his best to alternate between the varying interests.
That means Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (pictured below) got to speak second, and he did great.
"I am here to officially state for the record that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement grossly underestimates the negative impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline in three critical ways," said Brune.
"First the Draft EIS fails to adequately assess the air and health impacts of refining tar sands in the United States; second, it includes an improper analysis of the global warming pollution of tar sands oil; and third, it fails to assess this pipeline's ability to drive expansion of the environmental 'Armageddon' occurring in Canada."
If you're not familiar with how dirty tar sands are, then you should definitely check out www.DirtyOilSands.org
Tar sands oil contains more sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, lead, nickel, and arsenic than conventional crude oil. All of these pollutants are harmful to human health causing lung and respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, respiratory infections, and decreased lung function. Many of the metals released into the air such as mercury are neurotoxin; and some of the volatile organic compounds emitted by refineries are carcinogenic.
Not to mention that this proposed pipeline would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the source of drinking water for millions of Americans in the Midwest.
In addition to that, both the tar sands industry and the scientific community agree that over its entire lifecycle tar sands oil emits 15 -20% more global warming pollution than the conventional oil we currently use.
Two speaker highlights for me during the hearing were a farmer from Montana and Marty Cobenais of the Indigineous Environmental Network (IEN).
The farmer, Tom Rudolph, said the pipeline will cross his land and he's worried about its safety - especially in regards to the thickness of the pipeline and the lack of emergency safety procedures should something go wrong. "BP's disaster is a warning, we should address the safety," said Rudolph, pictured above.
Then IEN's Cobenais spoke of his travels up and down the pipeline's route through middle America to speak with impacted Native American tribes. He said the majority of the tribes oppose the pipeline.
"Oil is not good for us anymore," he said. "We need to get off it."
Cobenais also brought up the national security issue. "We talk about the national security - well what's more important to us - agriculture or oil? They won't mix for long, especially if there's a spill out there."
Lena Moffitt, Sierra Club Washington Representative for our Dirty Fuels Campaign, said she thought the hearing went well despite the large pro-tar sands attendance.
"The community opposed to increasing our reliance on dirty fuels made a great showing today at the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline hearing," said Moffitt. "We had 13 dedicated activists give testimony in opposition to the pipeline, and one member of Congress submitted written comments for the record (Rep. Mike Quigley, IL-5 will be sending them in electronically).
"Considering how out-funded we are on this fight, and the fact that DC is the hub of industry lobbyists, our showing was great and demonstrated broad opposition to this project and the ecological disaster that is tar sands."
If you weren't able to make it to the hearing, you can still submit a comment opposing this pipeline by taking action right here.
All photos by Heather Moyer except the polar bear one, which was taken by Kelly Trout of Friends of the Earth.
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 11:33AM PST on June 28, 2010
Tar Sands Poised to Become the Next Fossil Fuels Disaster
Saturday was not a beach day. Foggy and
cold, though not windy. No blue sky in sight.
That didn’t stop about 200 people from gathering at Rodeo Beach in the Marin
Headlands for Hands Across the
a worldwide gathering to oppose offshore oil drilling and promote
clean, renewable energy.
While we held hands, facing the
Pacific, an Exxon oil tanker appeared on the horizon. Empty, as someone
near me noted, riding high in the water, most likely after having
unloaded at Chevron or one of the other refineries along San Pablo Bay.
A few people gave the
tanker the finger, but the woman to my right said she didn’t feel that
was appropriate, given that she had driven her car to the beach.
We got a short hike in
too, and wildflowers were everywhere.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:06AM PST on June 25, 2010
Other Global Warming & Energy News of Note
This entry is by Sarah Hodgdon, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club. It was cross-posted on the Treehugger blog. Be sure to join the Say No to Tar Sands group here on Climate Crossroads.
If we could go back in time before the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, what would we learn? What steps would have helped avert what is now the nation's worst environmental disaster? Could this hindsight help us prevent similar catastrophes in the future? Would our political leaders have the moral compass to "get it right" this time around?
A ready-made test case for such an exercise exists in the form of TransCanada's push for a pipeline to transport toxic tar sands oil
from Alberta, Canada, through the American Heartland down to Houston.
In an effort to cut costs, the company is requesting a special safety waiver to use thinner pipes and pump oil at pressures that exceed the normal limits allowed by current pipeline safety regulations. They lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
These are the same type of cost-cutting and corner-cutting methods that got us into the BP mess. It's hard to believe that, knowing what we know today, we would tolerate another rubber stamp approval for the oil industry whose safety assurances have rung hollow and wreaked havoc.
Not heard much about the reckless expansion of tar sands? Our new report "Tar Sands Invasion
" (PDF) is a good primer on tar sands, and the National Wildlife Federation also just released a report on the subject
It's actually an ongoing disaster coupled with a series of potential disasters, with different risks and concerns as the landscape is annihilated during extraction and the pipelines and refineries wind 2,000 miles across six states.
But the best way to wrap your head around the tar sands issue is to hear from the people who have been and would be impacted in Canada and across the U.S.
residents are worried about the threats to the Ogallala aquifer. David Kromm, an expert on groundwater management, has written
, "the future economy of the High Plains depends heavily on the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of water for all uses. The Ogallala will continue to be the lifeblood of the region only if it is managed properly to limit both depletion and contamination."
, where TransCanada has already been involved with tar sands construction, landowners like Harry Bennett have borne witness to the "pennywise and pound foolish" approach of the company. In his eyes the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety is in the same class as the much-maligned Minerals Management Service—the cozy relationship with the oil industry and propensity to cut corners is "the same song, second verse" of what we've seen unfold in the Gulf. When it comes to the tar sands pipeline, which will skirt his property, "these pipelines go together with very little oversight."
, the Marathon oil refinery would have to be expanded to process the heavy tar sands oil. It's heartbreaking to hear Theresa Landrum talk about their situation:
"When we found out Marathon was bringing in nasty tar sands from Canada, with more emissions at an expanded refinery, we started doing research into what kinds of chemicals would be emitted into the air. We found terrible things like benzene, which affects the nervous system, carbon monoxide, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, which is hazardous to human health at any level, and other carcinogens.
"My mom had four different cancers and passed away from the last one. My dad died of lung cancer, and I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. On my block alone, ten people have died of cancer over the last decade. These companies put dollars above human life. Are we not what we eat, drink, and breathe? What are we to do? Where can we go? We're an economically stressed community without resources for health care, or for people to move out. Are we just sitting here waiting to die?"
Oil spills have moved beyond mere threat in Minnesota
, according to Elizabeth Sherman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
"The Enbridge pipeline runs through the Leech Lake Reservation, and there have been several spills right outside our town that Enbridge hasn't been able to clean up. We're close to Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and the oil from these spills has gotten down into one of our two aquifers and contaminated the water in the top aquifer. The oil is still there, the water is still contaminated, and the damage is still being done. Tribal residents' wells are being contaminated, and now there's a restriction on how much fish we can eat per week because of mercury pollution."
Despite all of these concerns, tar sands oil is poised to blaze a toxic path through America's pipelines and refineries and into our cars and air.
The final public hearing on the Keystone XL toxic tar sands pipeline is set for Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and the comment period gives everyone an opportunity to weigh in until July 2.
Make your voice heard by filing a comment
and, if you live in the area, joining us at the DC hearing
Let the Obama Administration know that you heard loud and clear these words from his Oval Office speech:
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we've talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires...We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:42AM PST on June 22, 2010
Interview: Musical Activism and "Gasland"
Time again to update folks on other news that is not BP oil disaster related.
Let's start with coal. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally published its proposed coal ash rules in the Federal Register
(PDF), meaning they're now taking public comments on the rules
. Coal ash is the toxic by-product of burning coal for power, and right now it's not subject to any federal safeguards
. Sounds pretty crazy to me to not have safeguards for a substance that contains mercury, selenium, arsenic, lead and many more heavy metals
that can harm humans and the environment.
Here's the Little Blue Run Coal Ash Pond that sprawls across the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania near the Ohio River. Oh yeah, that looks real normal right there. (Photo is courtesy of Google Maps satellite).
So, let us help you send in your public comments to EPA telling them to enact strong federal safeguards on coal ash - take action right here.
Meanwhile, also related to coal, last week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was suspending nationwide permits for mountaintop removal coal mining
This announcement comes more than a year after a March 2009 U.S. District Court decision ruled these permits illegal.
The nationwide permits, created in 1982, gave a blanket authorization to mountaintop removal coal mines to dump their mining waste in streams and waterways. The District Court ruled that this overly generalized permitting process could not guarantee compliance with the Clean Water Act and that mining companies must apply for individual permits in order to be able to fill streams with mining waste.
Duke University just published some of its research on mountaintop removal coal mining
that came from its January 2010 study that showed mountaintop removal site reclamation barely makes a difference
. It's pretty eye-opening, so take a look.
And if you like important energy-related research, the U.S. Green Building Council
just teamed up with Harvard University to release the 2010 "State of the Nation's Housing
." (PDF) The report "studied the affordability, energy and location efficiency within the existing U.S. housing stock."
Next up, related to our post yesterday
talking up the new documentary "Gasland" about natural gas "fracking," EPA announced a series of four public meetings on this controversial process
- July 8 in Fort Worth, Texas
- July 13 in Denver, Colo.
- July 22 in Canonsburg, Pa.
- August 12 in Binghamton, N.Y.
More details are in the EPA news release
In environmental justice news, we just had two of our fantastic EJ organizers get major news hits
. In Detroit, our own Rhonda Anderson got this very nice spread in the Detroit Free-Press about impact of excessive industrial pollution on certain neighborhoods in Detroit: Article 1
, article 2
, and video here
Our EJ organizer in Texas, Mariana Chew, was profiled in this Latino Magazine piece
on the EJ issues in her community.
Finally, in global warming news, we've got two hits for you. First is the news out on the latest study about whether there is a scientific consensus on human-caused global warming
- of course there is! Read about this latest study in the NY Times' Green Blog
And then we've got this Discover magazine blog piece
on a melting glacier that may not be melting because of global warming. Science!
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:05PM PST on June 21, 2010
Watch "Gasland" Tonight, Take Action for Clean Water Now
Posted by: Heather M at 11:28AM PST on June 21, 2010
Quitting Oil, Part V
If you've got HBO, check out the debut of the new documentary "Gasland
" tonight at 9pm ET
. The documentary - which won awards at the Sundance Film Festival - is about the environmental hazards of natural gas drilling, including a process known as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking.")
Check out the trailer:
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:40PM PST on June 18, 2010
Michael Brune Interviewed on CNN's Rick Sanchez Show
Ask yourself, what would John Muir do? He wouldn’t sit on his duff, that’s for sure. Some of those politicians in Washington, D.C., have an insular view of the world. And they don’t necessarily correlate the BP oil disaster with the need to shift to clean energy and move beyond oil in the next two decades.
Help them connect the dots! Visit the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil action center
, where you can send a message to the president, find information on hosting a Gulf action house party
, and get involved locally. On July 4th, you can have the Sierra Club plant a flag in your name for freedom from oil.
On Independence Day, the Sierra Club will plant flags at the Washington Monument to represent the demand to end our oil dependency. The Club needs at least 50,000 sign-ups to make it happen. Click here and be one of them.
In addition to thinking nationally, consider what you can do in your area. Write letters to the editorial pages of your local newspapers. Watch what city and county planners are up to. Grist has a great list
of ten things that cities can do, for instance, such as building dense housing near public transit, phasing out parking lots, and setting up bike corrals and safe pedestrian spaces.
The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by BP and its reckless negligence. Ultimately, though, the real long-term solution is up to the American people. Until we demand and get a plan from our leaders for getting off of oil, we shall remain at the mercy of those who extract, refine, and sell it.
Read Part IV: Public transit.
Read Part III: Telecommute.
Read Part II: Bike and walk.
Read Part I: Eat smarter.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:01AM PST on June 18, 2010
Demand No More Coal, No More Oil This Independence Day
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:01AM PST on June 17, 2010
Quitting Oil, Part III
No surprise here, on the heels of President Obama's Tuesday night speech, the coal industry front group -- American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity -- released a statement
saying they agree with his call for a clean energy future:
"The president also renewed his call for bolder action to create a clean energy future. We share the President's commitment, and recognize the steps we take as a nation must balance America's environmental, economic, and energy goals."
As we said in a post a few weeks ago
, the coal industry is working harder to convince you that to address our oil problem, we should mine and burn more coal.
Wrong. 19th Century energy sources have no place in a clean energy economy. Coal belongs in the same category as oil - too dirty and dangerous and energy sources we must phase out as soon as possible.
The President got it right when he said, "The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic."
We must restore the Gulf and push President Obama to put the weight of his office behind treating the cause of the epidemic, our reliance on oil. We must end our dependence on oil and coal.
So leading up to July 4th, we want you to join us for one the largest visual displays in Sierra Club's history as we call for Freedom From Oil this Independence Day
Head to our Beyond Oil website to plant a flag and demand our freedom from our oil addiction and a commitment to a clean energy economy.
Plant a 'virtual flag' on our website
and, if we get 50,000 people to do so, we'll recreate the scene in real life in front of the Washington Monument right before July 4th where Congress and the White House are sure to notice.
If we don't want to repeat the BP Oil Disaster, we must do better than using coal and oil to power our country. Let's stand up to these powerful interests and build a clean energy future.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:36PM PST on June 16, 2010
On Thursday, Dump the Pump with Public Transit
Wouldn’t it be nice to work in your pajamas from home? Americans spend about 100 hours a year commuting
. That's a lot of time, money, and oil. If you have a job that allows you to telecommute one or two days a week, jump on it. If your boss is flying you around the country, look into alternatives such as web seminars and phone conferencing from home.
Spending more time at home for work can have its drawbacks, namely with your energy bill. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider your home's energy usage. Turning to programmable thermostats
and putting on layers during the winter months are good starts. Here are tips
on minimizing your need for an air conditioner during the summer months. And lastly, look into Google’s PowerMeter
, a free energy monitoring tool for your home. Along those same lines, consider a home energy audit here
Read Part IV of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Heather M at 8:22AM PST on June 16, 2010
Call Your Senators Now to Stop Big Coal, Big Oil in Murkowski Vote
We're guessing that you all are just like us here at the Sierra Club - you feel frustrated and helpless looking at all these terrible BP oil disaster photos.
Well tomorrow, June 17th, is an event that can be a good start in getting our country to end our oil dependence. It's "Dump the Pump" day
, sponsored by the American Public Transit Association
(APTA) and heartily backed by the Sierra Club, on which you should leave your car at home and take public transportation
whenever you can.
Here's more from the APTA press release
The 5th Annual National Dump the Pump Day on Thursday, June 17, will give people the chance to make a statement in support of public transit and its ability to help our country reduce its reliance on oil...(T)he National Dump the Pump Day is a public awareness day that highlights the benefits of public transportation.
Public transportation is part of the solution for our country attaining energy independence as U.S. public transit ridership saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually. By using public transportation on June 17, people will be able to show their support for public transportation and also for our nation's goal of energy independence.
In addition, riding public transportation can help people save money. The most recent APTA Transit Savings Report showed that on the average, an individual can save can more than $9,000 a year by taking public transportation instead of driving a car.
More than 100 public transportation systems are participating in National Dump the Pump Day activities this year.
So how about you, will you be taking public transportation tomorrow?
Cross-posted on the Climate Crossroads Green Transportation Group.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 6:57AM PST on June 10, 2010
Other Global Warming & Energy News of the Week
Today will see a major vote in the U.S. Senate - one that could hugely benefit Big Oil and Big Coal if it passes.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will introduce her disapproval resolution that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking action to limit global warming pollution - even from the biggest polluters like coal plants and oil refineries.
This resolution has been waiting for a vote for a while - I even wrote about back in March
. But we still need your help in stopping it!
Senator Murkowski's amendment would block EPA from implementing existing and new rules designed to cut pollution and reduce our dependence on oil and coal in favor of clean wind and solar. It is nothing short of a huge bail out for dirty energy companies.
With oil continuing to soak the Gulf and air pollution blanketing most of our urban areas, we need EPA to move forward and cut our use of oil and coal. As long as we are dependent on dirty forms of energy there will be problems. At every stage of its life-cycle, from the production to the refining to the burning, oil is filthy and harming our communities and our environment.
Major industrial facilities, including the nation's more than 500 existing coal plants
, are responsible for almost 70% of our country's global warming pollution. Addressing the pollution from these sources is a key part of the big picture solution to global warming and energy independence.
So please join us right now in calling your Senators and telling them to vote against the Murkowski disapproval resolution.
EPA has a critical role in protecting our health, and the health of our environment. We can't let Big Coal and Big Oil continue to push for and receive loopholes while they pollute our planet.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:58PM PST on June 8, 2010
BP Knows Irony
To again take a break from the BP oil disaster news, let's talk about some other global warming and energy news out there.
First, there is a very important vote in the Senate scheduled for Thursday - on Senator Lisa Murkowski's (R - Oil) disapproval resolution that would block Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act.
This move is a total sham - the Supreme Court ordered EPA to regulate carbon dioxide after EPA ruled it as harmful to humans. EPA Administration Lisa Jackson is speaking out in opposition to Murkowski's resolution as well.
Looks like Senator Murkowski just wants to protect Big Oil and Big Coal from cleaning themselves up. Have you asked your Senator to vote against this resolution yet?
Speaking of Senate action, Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana released his version of a climate bill on Monday
. Here's our statement
In coal news, Duke Energy is taking a long hard look at buying coal from mountaintop removal coal mining operations....really? Ah, because they're estimating how much it would cost to stop buying MTR coal, I see. In any case, here's another interesting fact from that article:
North Carolina is one of the nation's top users of mountaintop coal.
About half the electricity used in this state comes from coal-burning
power plants, and about half the coal for those plants comes from
You can do better than that, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Massey Energy (owner of the mine that blew up and killed 29 coal miners in early April) is now blaming the Mine Safety and Health Administration for making them install a ventilation system that's unsafe. And it just happens to be the same system that was in place at the mine that exploded.
And while some dirty tar sands company executives are saying this Gulf of Mexico BP oil disaster means we should switch to the much safer tar sands oil for our needs, we're saying No Way.
If you're in Houston this Thursday night, then check out the Houston Sierra Club Chapter's Air Quality forum, where they'll talk about plans for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. That pipeline would bring Canada's dirty tar sands (see the photo) into the U.S., and you can send in your comment right now opposing that plan.
We just released a major report on tar sands with several other organizations, too. Go read "Tar Sands Invasion" and educate yourself on why this dirty energy source is not a wise choice for the U.S. Here is a good column on this issue, too.
Finally, today Yale University and George Mason University co-released a poll on public opinion about global warming. The results?
Since January, public belief that global
warming is happening rose four points, to 61 percent, while belief that
it is caused mostly by human activities rose three points, to 50
percent. The number of Americans who worry about global warming rose
three points, to 53 percent. And the number of Americans who said that
the issue is personally important to them rose five points, to 63
The polling also includes numbers on specific policy points to stop global warming. Check it out.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:04PM PST on June 7, 2010
Gabrielle Burton, Sierra Club member who runs fivesistersproductions.com, sends us these shots from a BP pump station. Thanks, Gabrielle!
Take a closer look at that red warning sticker:
A lot of people are noticing these warning signs and taking pictures. There are more at Think Progress. If you have pictures related to the oil mess, post them at the BP Oil Disaster group's gallery here on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Reed McManus at 9:30AM PST on June 4, 2010
Coal: Good News and An Opportunity for More
BP has moved from top-hat to top-kill to cut-and-cap. (Is cut-and-run next?) Since the company has literally thrown the kitchen sink at its hemorrhaging Gulf of Mexico well -- the “junk shot” at the end of May included golf balls and rubber scraps that failed to stop the flow -- no proposed solution seems beyond consideration.
Okay, at least two are pretty much off the table: detonating a nuclear device (radioactive uncontrolled oil, anyone?
) and inserting a giant tampon
, as proposed by the Today
show’s Hoda Kotb.
For more your-guess is-as-good-as-mine proposals, go here
, and here
. You can submit your own idea to the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command
or directly to BP. The befuddled oil empire’s “Do you have ideas to help us?” phone number is 281-366-5511.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:27AM PST on May 27, 2010
BP's Disaster Is Not Like an "Airplane Crash"
Last week our Michigan Chapter and everyone who loves clean air and clean energy got some great news when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (MDNRE) denied a permit for the proposed Wolverine coal-fired power plant.
We're cheering the news - the DNRE decision states there is no need for the proposed power plant, in Rogers City, Michigan, and that alternative methods are available that would supply the customers of the four electric cooperatives that make up Wolverine with electricity at a much cheaper rate than the cost of building a new coal plant.
State officials estimated that the proposed plant would increase the electric rates charged by the cooperatives by at least 59.2% even after Wolverine suggested reducing the plant by half.
Residents had been fighting this plant and calling for clean energy options instead for almost three years now!
"The cost of Wolverine coal would have meant diminished health, diminished economy, and great injury to our environment which sustains our lives," said Jean Veselenak, a resident of Rogers City. "Wolverine must now put its head to the real thing; wind, solar; and new technology that already exists in Michigan. Our families deserve these jobs and their health after long promises."
We also saw good news from Ohio last week
when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA and Department of Justice announced a settlement with American Municipal Power that will shut down AMP's last coal plant in Ohio
by 2012: the Richard Gorsuch Station, located near Marietta, over its Clean Air Act violations.
This move will clean Ohio's air, reduce global warming pollution, and prevent destructive coal mining by AMP. The company will also spend $15 million on an energy efficiency program that will further reduce polluting emissions and save consumers money.
Now after that good news, we head to West Virginia, where we need your help bringing good news to the residents of Logan County. There is a very important deadline rapidly approaching - on June 1st EPA will stop taking public comments on its proposed veto of the permit that would allow devastating mountaintop removal coal mining at the massive Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia.
Local residents have been actively challenging the approval of this permit at the Spruce No. 1 Mine
for more than twelve years. The proposed expansion of the mine would bury more than seven miles of headwater streams, directly impact 2,278 acres of forestland, and degrade water quality in nearby streams. This EPA veto would stop that expansion.
We urge you to join us in supporting EPA in its proposal to veto Spruce No. 1
, one of the largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mines ever authorized in Appalachia. Take action right now to block this mine's permit.
As with the Ohio AMP plant closure settlement, this is another example: EPA has a critical role in protecting our health, and the health of our environment.
We must not let this dirty coal mine move forward in Appalachia.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:10AM PST on May 26, 2010
Gulf Aid Fundraiser -- Who Gets the Funds?
At about 2:50 of this clip, Sen. Alexander of Tennessee compares the BP disaster to an plane crash. "We can't stop flying just because we have a terrible airplane crash, but we can do everything we can to make sure we don't have another one," he says.
Does this analogy hold water (or oil)? I like Sierra Club's tweeted response: "Sen. Alexander, this BP oil disaster is more comparable to the Hindenberg -- when’s the last time you flew on a dirigible?"
The way to "make sure we don't have another" disaster is to end offshore drilling for good. Take action and let your elected representatives know that you mean business.
Posted by: jamie hansen at 1:06PM PST on May 19, 2010
Meatless Mondays Gaining Popularity
I just recently read a blog post by the nonprofit Bucket Brigade regarding Saturday's Gulf Aid concert
, which was designed to fundraise monies to assist those negatively affected by the oil disaster. The post, which you can read here
, explains that the Bucket Brigade was almost asked to leave the show (for rather vague reasons involving targeting British Petroleum through one of their signs and asking for donations). It also raises the concern that the recipients
of the Gulf Aid fundraiser have yet to be named. Eyebrows raised, I called to check in with local radio station WWOZ's general manager and even co-founder David Freedman to see what was up with the Gulf Aid monies.
Freedman verified that recipients of the Gulf Aid fundraiser haven't yet been chosen: "We're trying to get on the ground, visit these groups, and widen our pool so we consider all the possible groups [that are worthy]," he said.
Freedman is one of the three members of the Gulf Aid board, along with plumbing contractor Joe Jaeger and Sidney Torres of SDT Waste and Debris Services.
Freedman said the final tally of the funds raised through last Saturday's concert wasn't completed yet, and declined to give an estimate of what those funds might be. He did say that the amount -- and the names of the beneficiaries -- will likely be released Friday.
According to a Times-Picayune
article, the board is using the following criteria in selecting those beneficiaries:
The foundation's creators are hoping to support organizations that meet the foundation's three standards: Money must go as directly as possible to beneficiaries, not operating costs; it must help either wildlife or people whose livelihoods were directly affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill; and it must target needs not being addressed by government...
It sounds like the board could use some help finding the best -- and most legitimate -- groups to donate to. To encourage the Gulf Aid group to donate to an organization you think deserves it most, email David Freedman at email@example.com.
The fundraiser seems like a wonderful idea: "The principle of this thing was based on the fact that when Katrina came, we were all waiting around for outside money and insurance to flow in," said Freedman. "This time, we didn't want to wait, we wanted to do something."
Hopefully, Gulf Aid will be transparent about its fundraising and decision making as it moves on from Saturday's concert.
Stay tuned as we continue to cover how much Gulf Aid raised and where the money will go.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:34AM PST on May 19, 2010
Some Other Energy & Global Warming News
The Washington Post has a very interesting article today on the increasing popularity of Meatless Mondays (We have a Meatless Monday action right here on Climate Crossroads, as well as two meatless groups, too)
The article, entitled "Meatless Mondays, A Movement That Has Legs," covers all the angles of why people are doing it, as well as the meat industry's paranoid response. An excerpt:
It's enough to make the meat industry nervous. Over the past year,
lobbying groups including the American Meat Institute, the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Pork Board and the Farm
Bureau have launched a quiet campaign to try to reverse the momentum.
They have fired off missives to institutions that embrace the call to
reduce meat consumption, and they have posted talking points for meat
producers on the Internet. They are also making a final push to ensure
that the government recommendation of two servings of meat per day
remains enshrined in the new dietary guidelines that the Department of
Agriculture will release this fall....
In response, the meat industry has stressed science...To
environmentalists, they point to new research that challenges widely publicized statistics
that livestock production creates more greenhouse gases than forms
of automated transportation.
Nervous meat producers! Could be a good band name. Are you into Meatless Mondays?
Posted by: Heather M at 9:37AM PST on May 18, 2010
Sierra Club Radio
There's still news happening out there related to other energy and global warming issues beyond the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
We'll start with a news hit that's slightly related to the BP drilling, though. Recently we lost our final appeal against Shell in its bid for oil drilling leases in the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. One of our many arguments against allowing drilling in the Arctic waters is because an oil spill there would be even harder to clean up due to icy waters and how remote the region is
Well Shell is now attempting to respond to those concerns - see this LA Times article
Shell Oil Co. pledged Monday to deploy a prefabricated coffer dam ready for "immediate" use in the event of a blowout, with a full-scale oil spill response within an hour.
In a letter intended to reassure federal officials that offshore drilling can safely begin in the fragile Arctic in July despite the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell said it also would be ready to apply dispersant immediately underwater near the source of any oil flow and would have a remotely operated submersible and trained divers at the drilling site.
Sorry Shell, despite this move, we still think Arctic drilling is a bad idea. Learn more in this LA Times article from earlier this month
Moving on from oil drilling to another dirty energy source: Coal. Today in Richmond, Va., a coalition of unions, environmental and faith groups joined for a rally and march to remember the 29 coal miners who died in April at a Massey Energy coal mine in West Virginia
, as well as to call for safer mining conditions and for Massey CEO Don Blankenship to step down.
Why a rally in Richmond? Today is the Massey Energy shareholders' meeting. There was also a vigil last night. If you were there, please comment and let us know how it all went and share some photos.
Speaking of coal, looks like our corporate accountability pressure on one of the many banks that finances mountaintop removal coal mining is moving in a positive manner
. JPMorgan Chase announced a change in its policy this week
(PDF). I'll let Mark Kresowik, our Beyond Coal Campaign Corporate Accountability
Rep explain it:
After the Sierra Club and our partners began campaigning to end JPMorgan Chase's coal financing in September of 2008, JPMorgan Chase conducted an internal review of their environmental policies and financial support for coal companies engaged in mountaintop removal. Starting in 2009 JPMorgan Chase began an "enhanced due diligence" process for any potential financial transactions related to mountaintop removal coal mining, which means extra review of potential risks to their bottom line or their reputation. In global warming news
As a result of that process JPMorgan Chase decided not to conduct business in 2009 with any coal companies engaged in "significant" mountaintop removal operations, such as Massey. While Bank of America and Citigroup have similar policies in place, JPMorgan Chase still lags behind Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo which have policies that end or phase out any financial involvement with companies engaged in mountaintop removal, respectively.
, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced yesterday that
"The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for both April and for the period from January-April, according to NOAA. Additionally, last month's average ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for any April, and the global land surface temperature was the third warmest on record."
It's getting hot on earth! But who doesn't care? Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. After blocking an attempt last week to hold BP fully accountable for its oil disaster, Senator Murkowski is expected to introduce a resolution in the Senate this week that will block the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to enforce the Clean Air Act to reduce global warming pollution
. You can take action against this resolution today
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:37AM PST on May 14, 2010
Michael Brune's Live Chat Today on Kos
Appearing on Sierra Club Radio
tomorrow will be Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who will talk about his recent trip to the Gulf Coast and the damage he observed during his visit. Speaking of which, Michael Brune answered questions yesterday on DailyKos in a live Q&A about the Senate's climate legislation. Read it here
Also on tomorrow's show:
-- Chatham Olive on the success of the new light-rail system in Charlotte, North Carolina -- and how public transit solutions can help end our addiction to oil
-- Freecycling with Deron Beal, founder of Freecycle.org
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:31AM PST on May 13, 2010
Oil Disaster Protest Pics and More
Climate legislation on your mind? Oil in your ears? Visit DailyKos
today at noon PST/ 3 EST for a live chat with Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. He'll be there to answer all your questions. You need to be registered (which is free) to submit a question, but you don't have to be in order to view the Q&A.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:41AM PST on May 11, 2010
The Mayor of Flagstaff and High Desert Cruizin'
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:30AM PST on May 11, 2010
Window Rock to Mesa Verde
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:25AM PST on May 11, 2010
Rallies Against Oil Drilling, for Clean Energy
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, set off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
We woke to more wind and predictions of 50 mph + winds by the afternoon. Even though it's Mother's Day, we managed to get Derrick to ride with us for the day and we headed out after saying goodbye to Linda (Derrick's mother in law). She was so sweet to us and we basked in her hospitality.
We went to Mc Donalds to get "the best coffee in town", unload our bikes, use the bathroom, load up on water and head out of town.
The first 25 miles or so were up a wide valley with smooth, rounded red rock cliffs just on our right. It was some of the most spectacular scenery we have seen and our friendly tailwind kept us smiling. Derrick was a delight. He enjoyed every minute of the ride and added his knowledge and fun commentary to our day.
We turned east and headed up the pass that would drop us into New Mexico. Again, tailwinds helped us up a somewhat challenging pass and we stopped to picnic right below the summit where the rest of Derrick's family met us. It was great hanging out with them and Sean played in the snow with the three kids until his hands hurt from making and throwing snowballs.
At the top of the pass, Catherine turned over the reins of her steed to Sean to avoid the long steep windy downhill. And it was a long, very steep downhill. I used my brakes most of the way down and had trouble keeping myself below 40 mph.
Sean disappeared immediately and I won't say how fast he went. Almost at the bottom, I got my first flat tire and did a roadside repair with the help of Catherine who stayed behind us and was able to stop and help me fix the flat.
We reached our destination and it was obvious that our path forward was full blown sandstorm again. So, after a fond farewell to our new friends Derrick and his family, we loaded up all the bikes and detoured up to Mesa Verde where I am now sitting in a campground while Catherine cooks mutton stew and we are looking forward to spending most of the day tomorrow exploring Mesa Verde.
It's sad to be leaving Navajo Country. The limited services and lack of internet barely registered on our radar when compared to the warmth and beauty of the Navajo lands and people. I will need to come back and I will never forget the strength and warmth of the Navajo's we were so lucky to get to know.
Gearing up for the days ride at Mc Donalds
While rolling -- Pretty good huh?
Yet another roadside attraction
I-phoning the route
Green Riders in front of a green mountain
Sean and Logan playing
More snow play
Derrick wants an electric bicycle - And so does Jessie
Yet another dust storm
Posted by: Heather M at 1:05PM PST on May 10, 2010
"Like Open-Heart Surgery in the Dark"
The Sierra Club has been holding a series of "Clean It Up!" events around the country calling on BP to clean up the disaster and demanding an end to new offshore drilling. Citizens have already turned out for rallies in Florida, Virginia, Seattle, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Houston.
On Saturday in New Orleans, the Sierra Club joined with fishing industry representatives, Gulf Coast leaders, and a crowd of more than 200 concerned citizens at a rally in support of Gulf Coast communities impacted by the BP Disaster.
"We are here to urge that President Obama dedicate every necessary resource his disposal to contain the well and stop the flow of oil," said Sierra Club president Allison Chin. "We need to clean up this disaster. The people who live in the Gulf Coast are looking at sweeping job losses and a destroyed ecosystem."
Last Thursday in Houston our Lone Star Chapter also held a brief presser and gathering outside an oil industry conference to call for more clean energy. They started the presser off with a fake speech from a fake oil industry spokesperson, "Oilivia Blackwater." Here's video of that:
Then the press conference got serious, as the group called for no more oil drilling, including a speech from a shrimper who spoke of the oil disaster's impact on her industry.
That message is present at all the "Clean It Up" rallies. "Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous. This disaster could happen in Virginia, or California, or anywhere offshore oil rigs are allowed. We need an end to all new drilling off America's coasts. But that's not enough," said Chin at the New Orleans rally.
"We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get America off of oil and onto a clean, efficient, 21st century transportation system. We need to clean up the Gulf Coast, and we need to clean up America’s energy."
There are more clean energy rallies and events coming up to counter this terrible oil disaster - are you going to one? You can even sign up to host one!
New Orleans photos by David Graham-Caso. Houston photos by Zac Trahan.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 12:49PM PST on May 10, 2010
Ditch Oil, Write Poetry, Win a Bike
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:09AM PST on May 10, 2010
Other Energy and Global Warming News From the Week
Sick of oil? Do you bike instead? Do you haiku?
Enter our bike-ku contest for the chance to win a brand new Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. Runners-up will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet. A panel of bike-commuting Sierra Club staffers will pick the finalists and the winner will be selected by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
It's National Bike Month and with news of oil spills clogging up your ears, there's no better time to celebrate our beloved, emissions-free, two-wheeled pals.
All you have to do is join the Bicycle group; post a picture; write a haiku. Your deadline is May 31. For more details visit the Bicycle group.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:43PM PST on May 7, 2010
Miss the LiveChat with Michael Brune on the Oil Disaster? Watch it Now!
The major oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is of course worthy of extensive news coverage, but perhaps you've missed these other big energy and global warming news articles from the week.
On Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to regulate coal ash
- only it proposed two options
. One to classify it as hazardous waste (which it should be)
, and the other to continue treating it the same as household garbage. As we've noted before, most of us don't usually have arsenic, selenium, chromium and numerous other toxins in our household trash, but that's exactly what's in coal ash
. Even investors are raising their eyebrows at coal ash disposal
This EPA announcement opens up a 90-day comment period and we'll soon have an action that will allow you to submit your own comments. Stay tuned.
In other toxic coal news, check out this sad story from Crawford, Nebraska, where runoff containing coal dust contaminated a family farm
where the vegetables were being given away to the elderly and low-income families for free. Don't let anyone tell you coal is clean
- this story is just about the impact of the DUST from train cars full of coal.
On the energy efficiency front, good news! The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010
, a bipartisan home energy efficiency retrofit bill
, passed in the House of Representatives Thursday
. The bill will help create clean energy jobs by setting up a $6 billion program to retrofit millions of homes to make them more energy efficient and to lower consumers' energy bills.
On to global warming - here's some stunning news: U.S. energy-related global warming emissions are down nearly 10% since 200
5. Yeah, really! Learn more in this blog post
and in this USA Today article
And you may have seen the blog post on Climate Crossroads from Bruce Nilles about the University of North Carolina announcing that it will transition away from coal power on campus
, but we didn't have video of it then. Check this out:
Posted by: Heather M at 8:35AM PST on May 7, 2010
Video of Oil Spill, and Statement from Michael Brune
Posted by: Heather M at 10:28AM PST on May 6, 2010
On the Ground in the Gulf; Oil Press Conference
This is a guest post by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who now has video footage up of him talking about the Gulf oil disaster on our BP Oil Disaster website - along with this new map of the spill area.
Last year, Americans were outraged when the government bailed out the same big banks that nearly ruined our economy. We had to do it, we were told, because these banks were "too big to fail." Now we're being asked for another bailout -- this time for BP, the company whose irresponsibility has brought ruin to the Gulf of Mexico
. Initial estimates for just the first few months of cleanup are in the billions.
Although President Obama has said that BP must pay the bill for its titanic oil disaster, the Oil Pollution Act currently on the books caps liability for economic damages at a paltry $75 million dollars. After that, an oil-tax trust fund kicks in another $1 billion. And after that, the bill will be delivered to the American taxpayer.
To make sure that BP's corporate hand stays out of your pockets, the Sierra Club is backing The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act,
cosponsored by senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Bill Nelson (D-FL). Also known as "Too Big to Spill," the act would retroactively raise the $75 million liability cap to $10 billion. (By the way, BP had $12 billion in cash on its balance sheets at the end of the last quarter.)
Of course, even that amount of money won't be enough to restore the fisheries and bayous of the Gulf Coast. I just had the opportunity -- "pleasure" is not the word -- to visit Louisiana
and fly over the affected area
. As far as 76 miles from the site of the explosion, you could clearly see the oil pollution -- ribbons of orange muck coursing through the water. Oil was already washing up on the outer islands.
You can't see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region.
Like so many issues, this one ends up being about responsibility. Sierra Club members and supporters are doing their part. Already the Club has mobilized 2,000 volunteers in the Gulf States to aid in recovery efforts. We're also continuing our decades-long efforts to usher in clean-energy solutions, so we no longer have to sacrifice our beaches and wildlife to prolong our dependence on oil.
BP, on the other hand, is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability. Anyone who is here in the Gulf, talking to residents and seeing the oil on the water, knows that the impacts of this disaster can't be minimized. BP needs to be accountable for every penny of the response effort and for every job lost.
Join Michael Brune for a livechat about the oil disaster today at 4:30 PT / 7:30 ET.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:37AM PST on May 6, 2010
No More Drilling
A heads up, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was down in Louisiana yesterday to check out the oil disaster up close and personal. He spoke with some affected business people and then flew over the spill area. Check out his early remarks on this trip here
. We'll soon have some video of this trip and the oil slick as well. For now, we have these photos. The above photo is of Brune talking with reporters before boarding the plane. This below photo is the team about to board the plane.
This next photo is of Brune talking with Tulane University Professor and New Orleans Sierra Club Chapter Conservation Chair Barry Kohl.
On Tuesday, Brune took part in a press conference
back in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill with key coastal protection champions from the Senate to discuss the impact of the catastrophe on future coastline drilling policy and to recommend courses of action.
Brune was joined by Senator Bill Nelson
of Florida, and Senators Frank Lautenberg
and Robert Menendez
of New Jersey, as well as Environment America head Margie Alt and Andrew Sharpless of Oceana. (In the above photo, Senator Lautenberg is at the mic, and L to R are Brune, Senator Nelson and Senator Menendez). The press conference garnered great media attention, as you can see in this photo below.
Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are now getting attention for a bill they're introducing called the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, which would "raise the economic damages liability cap for offshore oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion
," ensuring that BP pays the full amount to clean up this massive oil catastrophe. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has already come out in favor of this bill as well
Stay tuned for more details on the recovery and response to BP's oil disaster. (Louisiana photos by David Graham-Caso, press conference photos by Javier Sierra)
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 2:13PM PST on May 5, 2010
Will BP Pay in Full?
In the coming week, thousands of Americans will be coming together at events across the country to call for the end of off-shore drilling. "This does serve as a wake-up call, to both the administration and Congress, to focus more effort on reducing the demand for oil," the Sierra Club's Executive Director Mike Brune told the Washington Post
. "There's increased enthusiasm for fighting it, and fighting it hard." While BP and other industry insiders are trying to portray the disaster as something that will never happen again, we know that when it comes to dirty energy, danger is always present.
in keeping the pressure on our elected representatives to end off-shore drilling and move to a clean-energy economy. Events are taking place throughout the country – you could even be a host. Get breaking news here
Posted by: Brian F. at 6:37AM PST on May 5, 2010
Update on the Oil Catastrophe in the Gulf
Thanks to the Internet, you don't need a time machine to look back at what happened after the infamous Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. Exxon fought tooth and nail in the court system and basically got away with a slap on the wrist. After years and years of litigation, the Supreme Court two years ago sided with Exxon and reduced the previous ruling of $2.5 billion in punitive damages to a paltry $500 million. And these days, Exxon's pockets are blooming again.
Obama swears BP will pay for this one. But can we be so sure? Take action and tell your representatives that additional offshore drilling is no longer acceptable.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:49AM PST on April 30, 2010
Beware of Earth Day Greenwashing
Posted by: Sophie Matson at 3:17PM PST on April 22, 2010
Take a Pledge, Post a Pic
Our friends at Rainforest Action Network made this entertaining video that calls companies out for blatant Earth Day greenwashing. The video may be funny, but the subject matter is no joke: Going green is a massive marketing craze, and many corporations insidiously exaggerate or completely fabricate their eco-credibility to cash in on well-meaning consumers.
Need evidence? Dasani (a Coca-Cola subsidiary) recently switched to plastic bottles made from "up to 30 percent" plant-based materials. Really, that could mean anything from 1 to 30 percent. The rest is regular, non-recycled plastic, rendering their eco-claim bogus. They're still making landfill-clogging, disposable plastic bottles, and causing water problems around the world.
Our next example is brought to you by McDonald's, which published an "environmental best practices" e-book. That's big talk from a company we haven't yet forgiven for cutting down Amazonian rainforest, and for being one of the biggest peddlers of the world's most polluting product.
But who is stopping these companies from making baseless claims of environmental responsibility? As of now, there's no system for accountability, and marketers can bluff all they want. Fortunately, though, there are several certification and watchdog agencies out there
; check out Greenwashing Index
or the Greenwash Guide (PDF)
to learn how to spot greenwashing.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:57PM PST on April 21, 2010
Tomorrow We Ride
Tomorrow's Earth Day (duh), and if you're like me, you've made a pledge to do something
! Well, buddy, we want that something in picture form. Join the Solutions
group here on Climate Crossroads and post an image of your everyday solution. (Example: a compost bin.)
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:49PM PST on April 21, 2010
The Latest Green Riders Video!
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
The nerves are a'tingling.
We are not ready but hopefully ready enough. Unfortunately, today is filled with events leaving very little time for organizing. We've come to the point where our actions have very little control over outcomes so we'll put this show on the road and see what happens!
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:39PM PST on April 21, 2010
Hope for Mother Earth?
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
Less than 36 hours to departure! Here is the latest episode of "The Green Riders Videos" showing us (Oliver and Catherine) practicing riding and talking at the same time!
While we are on the road we hope to publish video shorts of our experiences. Please subscribe to the Green Riders videos at youtube.com/user/TheGreenRidersVideos (click the yellow 'subscribe' button at YouTube.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:16PM PST on April 20, 2010
Coal News Round-Up
Posted by: Heather M at 1:11PM PST on April 9, 2010
Saturday Stir Fry!
I thought I'd share some more coal news today. While there's still plenty of buzz about yesterday's World Bank let-down, other decisions are making news.
Number one is a hearing planned next week in the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The hearing is entitled "The Role of Coal in the New Energy Age
" and features some major coal company execs testifying before the committee on Wednesday, April 14th:
- Gregory Boyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Peabody Energy Corporation
- Steven F. Leer, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Arch Coal, Inc.
- Preston Chiaro, Chief Executive for Energy and Minerals, Rio Tinto
- Michael Carey, President, Ohio Coal Association
This hearing will certainly be full of fireworks, no doubt about that. Stay tuned to this blog, there's talk of us live-tweeting or live-blogging the hearing.
In other notable coal news, Georgia got some bad news
when the state Department of Environmental Protection approved the permit for the planned 850-megawatt Plant Washington
coal-fired power plant.
Finally, in coal ash news, the Sierra Club took action this week to stop the disposal of millions of tons of toxic coal combustion waste each year in unlined pits at the San Juan Coal Mine
in Farmingon, New Mexico, and to compel the clean up of previously disposed waste that continues to leach toxic pollutants into the surrounding ground and surface water.
From our news release:
Since 1973, the San Juan Coal Company has dumped more than 40 million tons of coal combustion waste containing pollutants like arsenic, lead and mercury into massive unlined pits at the San Juan Mine, about 10 miles west of Farmington. The coal combustion waste disposed of at the mine comes from the nearby San Juan Generating Station, and includes various forms of ash as well as sludge from the scrubbers that remove air pollutants from the power plant exhaust. As a result of the lack of adequate safety precautions, toxins from the coal combustion waste have leached into nearby waterways and wells, endangering local residents, livestock, and wildlife.
"For years the San Juan Coal Company and others have dumped toxic waste into this mine without regard to what it was doing to those living downstream," said R.G. "Squeek" Hunt, a local sheep farmer. Water on Mr. Hunt’s property has been repeatedly polluted by the dumping of coal combustion waste in the area. "Thank goodness that somebody is finally going to make the mine accountable for its action."
Testing has shown that the levels of arsenic, lead, selenium, uranium, sulfate and many other toxins exceed safe levels in ground and surface water near the mine dump site. These pollutants have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, damage the nervous and reproductive systems, and cause other serious illnesses to people and animals.
Over the past years coal companies have been increasingly dumping coal combustion waste in open coal mines, like the San Juan mine, as a way to avoid the costs of landfill disposal, liners, covers and monitoring to make sure toxins don't leak out. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that water supplies in 24 states have been contaminated from coal combustion waste that was disposed of without proper safeguards.
Heard enough? Take action against coal ash today on our Big Picture page.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:45PM PST on April 9, 2010
License to Drill
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:27PM PST on April 9, 2010
Tragedy in Coal Country
Sierra Club's Lay of the Land blog is the spot to take action on Obama's offshore drilling announcement.
The plan, as laid out by Obama, would open the Mid and South Atlantic (from Delaware through Cape Canaveral) to exploratory seismic testing, would go forward with a lease off Virginia's coast (following an assessment of environmental impacts), would allow a lease in the Eastern Gulf (assuming the same set of environmental analyses), and would allow exploratory drilling in Alaska's ice-choked Beaufort and Chukchi seas to go forth.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:28AM PST on April 7, 2010
Yet Another Twist -- A Good One!!
Our thoughts are with the miners, families and communities of West Virginia as the sadness sinks in from the April 5 West Virginia coal mine explosion. We send strength to the rescue workers and healing to everyone who is affected by this disaster.
To express your thoughts with the family and friends of the miners, visit this website
To donate to the West Virginia Council of Churches' Montcoal Mining Disaster Fund, visit their website
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 9:53AM PST on March 30, 2010
Earth Hour is Saturday: Turn Off the Lights
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
As our electric bicycles go through their testing, tuning debugging etc., we are pushing dangerously close to our departure date without having full confidence in our rigs. The most recent concern has been the bicycle we built up on a cargo bike frame. The bicycle works well but the extra weight adds extra stress to the wheel and requires more battery power to get the mileage we need. As a consequence of losing confidence in the cargo bike for the long trip, I approached Michael DeVisser, the owner (with his father) of OHM bikes. About a month ago they had expressed interest in providing us with a bicycle but I wasn't interested since we were counting on the cargo bike.
I called Michael on Thursday, we talked for about 15 minutes and I emailed him our website and a short note updating the status of the trip and by 4 p.m. Friday he wrote back to me and offered us the loan of an OHM bike!! Not only that, he is loaning us the high end model with the bigger motor and suspension and providing an additional battery pack to extend our range to where we need it. OHM is a small company and to loan us a bicycle that won't come back new is a big deal for them. Not only am I completely delighted with their generosity but their bike uses the very reliable BionX system.
The disadvantage of the OHM for many people is the price. I'm not sure what they retail for but they are more expensive than most electric bicycles out there. On the other hand, they use excellent components, they ride really well and they will outlast most other electric bicycles on the market today. So, you get what you pay for. The OHM's are selling really well in Marin where the terrain overwhelms the lower end electric bikes.
Here's a terrible picture of the bike OHM is loaning us. Here's a link
to their website where you can learn more about the OHM. The bike has a pressure sensor that provides power based on how hard the user is pedaling. I don't have much experience with this system but I figure I will by the end of June!!
Posted by: Sophie Matson at 4:32PM PST on March 25, 2010
Guerillas in the Mist
Image courtesy WWF
You've heard of Earth Day, but what about Earth Hour? This Saturday, March 27, at 8:30 p.m. (local time), join hundreds of millions of people around the world who are taking a stand on climate change. It's easy to participate in this global sustainability event: Simply switch off your lights for 60 minutes during the fourth annual Earth Hour.
Worry not; you don't have to sit alone in the dark contemplating climate change (though reading by candlelight sounds pretty good). Instead, you can host an Earth Hour event, or find one that's already planned in your city or town.
Many landmarks and iconic buildings will turn their lights off in solidarity
, from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building to Sydney's Opera House and the Eiffel Tower. Check out this awe-inspiring video
to see how it looked last year when the skylines of major cities went dark.
One tiny town on an island near the North Pole even pledged to shut off its lights
despite the resulting risk of polar bear encounters. Now that's
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:47AM PST on March 25, 2010
Plastic, Plastic Everywhere
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:02AM PST on March 24, 2010
I continue to follow the blog The Daily Ocean
, written by someone who is picking up trash on Santa Monica Beach for a year and writing about it. The images of litter she constantly posts are captivating and sad at the same time. In 106 days, she's collected more than 425 pounds. What are you doing about your plastic? Join the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
group on Climate Crossroads and tell us about it.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:19PM PST on March 23, 2010
South By Southwest Solar
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:42AM PST on March 19, 2010
Farmers' Market Mania
The Green Life has been posting tips all week on going solar. Check them out
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:54AM PST on March 19, 2010
Stop Government Funding of Coal
The Farmers' Market group on Climate Crossroads is doing great stuff. The group uses its photo gallery to create a photo map that spots where its great photos were taken. To view the whole map, click here!
Six farmers' markets were added to the photo map yesterday! There are close to 90 markets from 30 states up on the map.
Remember when viewing the map to click on a basket to view the photo taken from the market. If you don't see your local market on the map, take your camera with you on your next visit to the farmers' market, snap some pictures, post it to the photo gallery, and indicate your market's location. We'll take it from there.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:00AM PST on March 18, 2010
On March 15, Take Action to Stop Dumping Mine Waste Into Our Water
This post was co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mark Kresowik, Director and Corporate Accountability and Finance Representative, respectively, for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
"How good will the business judgment of companies that make high-carbon choices now look in five, 10, 20 years, when it becomes clear that heavily polluting infrastructure has become deadly and must be phased out before the end of its useful life?"
- Todd Stern, U.S. State Department Special Envoy on Climate Change
This is the quote we have on our Beyond Coal Corporate Accountability and Finance page
because it sums up the problem with funding coal plants. The only thing we'd add to it is this: then why is our government still subsidizing more expensive and dirty coal plants?
It’s true, the U.S. is still actively playing an active role in the funding of coal plants - both domestically and internationally - which is contradictory to President Obama's pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies with the G-20. Let's talk international first.
There are two women from Sasolburg, South Africa, in Washington, DC, this week fighting for the health - physical and economic - of their community. The World Bank is currently considering a $3.75 billion loan to South African company Eskom for the construction of a 4,800 megawatt coal plant
. This proposed coal plant would be the fourth largest coal plant in the world.
These two women, Makoma Lekalakala and Caroline Ntaopane, are here on behalf of more than 70 South African groups who oppose this loan, including the South African Council of Churches and Earthlife. These groups have asked the Sierra Club Beyond Coal team for help getting the U.S., the largest monetary supporter of the World Bank, to stop the loan.
The World Bank's mission is to alleviate poverty, and Eskom officials claim the coal plant is going to help the poor get access to electricity. But hearing Makoma and Caroline describe how their community's electricity rates are tripling over the next five years in order to pay for this plant and the other planned coal and nuclear power plants proposed by Eskom, the subsidized electric rates for major industrial polluters like mining giant BHP Billion, and the harmful pollution from coal mining and burning in Sasolburg and other South African communities, we know that this loan will do anything but help the poor.
The World Bank has no business financing coal-fired power plants. After the Copenhagen Climate talks in December the World Bank is positioning itself to lead financial support for mitigating the worst effects of global warming. How can the World Bank help fight climate change if its financing the problem - pollution from coal plants - in the first place?
And how can the U.S. cast away its power by abstaining, rather than voting against the loan, when the project clearly violates both World Bank rules and the Treasury Department's recently issued coal financing guidance? The Eskom plan is designed to serve major polluters instead of getting clean energy access to low income families in Africa, many of whom live off the grid and need decentralized solutions.
South Africa and some of the other developing countries have a point too: As long as our government is still subsidizing coal plants here at home, we’d look like hypocrites. Domestically, the U.S. is financing coal-fired power plants via the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Department of Energy. But the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal team is leading the fight against these fossil fuel subsidies as well.
We're standing with the more than 50 electric co-op member rate-payers from Kentucky who wrote to the USDA last month asking for a formal review of RUS financial support for electric co-ops that are investing in and developing new and existing coal-fired power plants.
These 50 members are also seeing support from their peers and colleagues in eight other states, who have now made that same request. And these are electric cooperative member-ratepayers in the heart of coal country: Wyoming, Kentucky, Montana, Texas, Colorado, Alaska, Virginia, Georgia, and Kansas. Like Caroline and Makoma, they see firsthand that coal is bad for their environment and even worse for their pocketbooks. Whether you're in South Africa or Kentucky, coal will cause rate increases and the waste of federal taxpayer dollars.
If our leaders in the U.S. and beyond are serious alleviating poverty and combating climate change, they cannot be supporting new coal-fired power plants anywhere. We must all stand together to support clean energy and stop using coal power. It is past time for the U.S. to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
Join us in telling U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to ensure the U.S. votes against any World Bank loans for dirty coal.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:46AM PST on March 12, 2010
Clean Energy Solutions
This post was co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mary Anne Hitt, director and deputy director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, respectively.
There is nothing clean about destroying homes and communities to get coal out of the ground. Mountaintop removal coal mining
is a dirty secret in our nation's energy supply. More than 470 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed by this process of detonating explosives to expose the thin layers of coal at the surface. Coal companies dump the resulting mining waste and debris in valleys, and they have filled and destroyed approximately 2,000 miles of streams to date. As a result, we Appalachians suffer from the loss of our rivers, streams, and forests; contamination of our drinking water; increased flooding; and other impacts.
There is Bush-era waste loophole in the "fill rule" that allows polluters to bypass water quality standards and dump untreated mining waste in streams, lakes, and rivers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to close the waste loophole in the Clean Water Act, and President Obama should instruct the agency to do so immediately
Time is running out for EPA to fix the Clean Water Act before the end of the Obama administration's first term, given the time required to change regulations. EPA needs a green light now from the White House to begin, and President Obama should give it to them. The Obama Administration has an opportunity to end the dirtiest form of coal mining by reinstating the longstanding prohibition on filling waters with waste immediately.
Help stop the dumping of mining waste in our water. Please call the White House on March 15 and ask President Obama to restore the Clean Water Act's prohibition on filling waters with waste
: 202-456-1414 (9AM-5PM Eastern Time).
Put it in your calendar now - call the White House on Monday
Mountaintop removal mining is strip mining on steroids. Peer-reviewed research published in the distinguished journal Science
found the impacts of valley fills and mountaintop removal are "pervasive and irreversible, and that mitigation cannot compensate for losses" to our water quality, wildlife, and quality of life.
It doesn't have to be this way. We can keep the lights on without destroying the streams and communities of Appalachia. Only five percent of our nation's electricity comes from mountaintop removal coal, an amount that could be easily made up from a wide range of cleaner energy sources (or even coal from underground mines in elsewhere in Appalachia).
In the mountains of Appalachia you will find hard-working, patriotic Americans who are dedicated to their families and communities. These mountains are world famous for whitewater rivers, scenic beauty, bluegrass music, and old-fashioned hospitality. Those of us who had the great fortune to grow up here consider it to be heaven on earth. But time is running out for our mountains, streams and communities.
Will you join us in calling the White House on March 15 and asking President Obama to restore the Clean Water Act's prohibition on filling waters with waste?
Together, we can demonstrate to the White House the urgent need for action to restore the prohibition of dumping mining waste in our water.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:22AM PST on March 12, 2010
Earth Day Revolution Kicks Off
Posted by: Heather M at 10:35AM PST on March 11, 2010
Party Like It's 2009
This morning, right next to the U.S. Capitol building, we saw the official kick off the 2010 Earth Day Revolution
. Today marks 40 days until Earth Day, and coincidentally enough, this year is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
The Earth Day Revolution calls for the Senate to stop stalling and pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, and today's rally speakers signed the official Earth Day Revolution Declaration
"Since the first Earth Day began 40 years ago, and despite incredible progress on environmental protection, America has a failing energy policy that continues to reward polluters, undermines the health of the American people, threatens our national and economic security and keeps us dependent on energy sources from overseas. We call on the Congress to finally push aside the obstruction of the polluter lobby and stand with America's Clean Energy Patriots. We call for America's elected leaders to join us as Clean Energy Patriots and deliver on the promise of a clean energy revolution and climate action now."
The rally's speakers were all quite inspiring, with many wanting to know just whose side the Senate is on - Big Oil's, or clean energy. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President of the Hip Hop Caucus
"For our generation, this is a battle for survival," said Rev. Yearwood (pictured above). "We need to reclaim our communities and we need to restore our planet."
Speakers called for a new clean energy policy that protects the planet and not the same old special interests that want to block action on global warming and continue to pollute our air, water and land.
Sierra Club President Allison Chin
(pictured above) also spoke. "Over the next 40 days, we need Senators to stand up and separate themselves from Big Oil," she said. Read her full remarks here
Rock the Vote
President Heather Smith brought up the wants and needs of today's youth movement. "Young people want jobs, they want a cleaner planet and they want security," said Smith, noting that clean energy can bring about all of the above.
Finally, Denis Hayes, one of the national coordinators of the first Earth Day 40 years ago spoke and told tales of what it was like planning it all in such a different time. Here is a photo of Hayes signing the declaration.
The whole rally was powerful and certainly got me excited about this year's Earth Day. Stay tuned to Climate Crossroads and the Sierra Club Earth Day site to find out what you can do with us on April 22.
For now, you too can sign the Earth Day Revolution Declaration and learn more about the cause by going to www.EarthDayRevolution.com
Here's a full list of all the groups that have signed the Declaration:
1Sky, Audubon, American Hunters and Shooters, American Rivers, American Values Network, Campus Progress, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Clean Water Action, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Protection Action Fund, Climate Solutions, Defenders of Wildlife, Democracia Ahora, Earth Day Network, Environment America, Environmental Defense Action Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Green for All, Hip Hop Caucus, Interfaith Power and Light, La Onda Verde, League of Conservation Voters, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, National Wildlife Federation, NWF Campus Ecology, Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, Oceana, Operation Free, Rock the Vote, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, SACE, Southern Energy Network, StudentPIRGs, SustainUS, Truman National Security Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Veterans for Common Sense, Voces Verdes, World Wildlife Fund, The Wilderness Society.
All photos by Heather Moyer.
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:43PM PST on March 2, 2010
The Letter Of the Law
Posted by: Abel Collins at 2:54PM PST on March 1, 2010
Join the 72-Hour Call-In
My mission with the Sierra Club is to fight climate change by reducing Rhode Island’s carbon emissions. Since 42% of our State’s emissions are produced by the transportation sector, Sierra devised the Transportation Choices 2020 campaign to affect the greatest reduction. Essentially, Rhode Island needs to move away from its dependency on the car culture in order to do its part, and that means we need more options than just the car in the driveway.
Too often, we overlook biking and walking as viable alternatives to our automobiles, but the fact is we live in a tiny State where the power in our legs could easily satisfy many of our transportation needs. If we placed greater emphasis on designing our communities and the roads between them to be more walkable and bikeable, we could reap enormous rewards in the battle against climate change, at the same time encouraging much more healthy lifestyles.
Unfortunately, Rhode Island bikers and pedestrians are confronted by unfriendly roads, designed for the singular use of the car. There is a movement afoot to change our cultural disregard for walking and biking, and it’s called complete streets. The idea is to incorporate space for all modes of transportation into street design and to restripe our old roads so they meet everyone’s needs.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:56AM PST on March 1, 2010
Today kicks off a busy couple of days for taking action, and we need your help!
This week, the Sierra Club is joining forces with dozens of organizations across the country for a 72 Hour Call in for Clean American Power
to show our senators that voters will not wait another year for action on clean energy and climate legislation.
Join the 72 hour call in
and tell your senators that we want action NOW on a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill.
Workers in hard hit industries cannot afford to watch jobs move overseas to countries like China and India
while Congress drags its feet on building a clean energy economy.
Military families cannot afford to lose another parent, another spouse, or another child because our dependence on foreign oil threatens national security, while clean, American alternatives are ignored.
And our children cannot afford to lose their chance to enjoy the outdoors and live without fear rising sea levels, stronger storms, droughts and famine as the effects of global warming worsen, while skeptics are indulged
Our clean energy future is on the line -- will you make the call
This week, veterans, workers, business owners, people of faith and environmentalists are banding together with a common purpose, passing strong clean energy and climate legislation that will create jobs, build our economy, make our country more secure, and protect our planet.
We need all hands on deck to win this fight -- call your senators today!
72 hours can change history.
And if you like taking action on clean energy and climate change, then join the Climate Crossroads group
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:23AM PST on February 26, 2010
Coal Ash Stories Highlight the Problems
March is fast approaching and the seasons are changing. Do you want to get a garden going? The I Love to Garden group here on Climate Crossroads is the place to be. Join the group, meet other gardeners, and check out some new photos like this one in the group's gallery. Another excellent group with a vibrant photo gallery is Fans of Farmers Markets.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:34AM PST on February 26, 2010
This post was co-written by Lyndsay Moseley, Associate Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
This week we had the privilege to listen in on a White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) conference call with citizen groups from across the country to share the concerns and priorities of citizens around the country who are directly impacted by coal ash disposal problems.
is the by-product of burning coal for power, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), working with the OMB, is preparing to draft new proposed rules to ensure the safe disposal of coal ash – hence this conference call.
On the calls, local spokespersons from 16 states delivered powerful stories of how their lives have been impacted by improper coal ash handling
, and compelling messages on the importance of mandatory federal safeguards for coal ash.
We listened as residents from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Montana, New Mexico, Maryland, Virginia and many other states spoke about water contamination, the questionable reuse of coal ash to fill in mines, and more.
One southeast Ohio resident spoke of residents near her getting sick from the coal ash contamination. "Environmental justice and the human cost really have to be taken into consideration with this," said Elisa Young of Meigs Citizens Action Now
, noting that the southeast Ohio area is very poor and Meigs County has no hospital despite having the highest rate of asthma in the state.
"The coal industry is dumping coal ash on us in so many ways, all with no regulation on how it affects us cumulatively," added Young. "They even dump it on the roads in the wintertime, which all runs off the road into the streams and groundwater."
Another resident who lives near a coal ash site by the New River in Virginia said he was tired of seeing ash from the unlined site in a 100-year-flood plain leech into the river and threaten the drinking water sources of communities down-river. "Our water table is being devastated," he said.
Other residents spoke of their battles to keep proposed coal ash sites from being placed near them. The stories went on and on, and all were heart-wrenching. Overall, their most common phrase to the government leaders on the call was, "We need help." These community activists want federal safeguards to protect them from the toxins in coal ash.
The staff of OMB, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and EPA were quite receptive during the calls, taking notes as they listened. After the meeting, one OMB staffer commented that that they don't often hear local stories such as these.
Coal ash contains arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, boron, thallium, and aluminum, and most coal ash is stored near coal-fired power plants in waste ponds near communities and waterways. The toxic materials leach out of the waste and contaminate groundwater and surface water.
There are hundreds of coal ash storage sites across the U.S.
We've already seen one major coal ash disaster – December 2008's devastating Tennessee Valley Authority spill in Roane County, Tenn. The conference call included residents from near the spill, who spoke of the remaining devastation and toxins and how they do not want that kind of tragedy to happen anywhere else.
We need consistent mandatory federal safeguards to prevent future coal ash disasters - safeguards that will protect the environment and our communities from toxic leaching and flooding. Yet the coal industry continues fighting for special treatment to keep them from cleaning up their dirty business. Coal use from cradle to the grave is dirty, dangerous, and damaging, and but the coal industry continues spending millions on lobbying to retain and create more loopholes for themselves.
This much is clear - coal must be cleaned up and the industry will not clean itself. We must speak out in favor of stronger regulations and encourage EPA to quickly implement real safeguards to protect our communities from coal ash.
Take action today for coal ash safeguards
Using Coal Ash to Melt Ice?
Wednesday February 17, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 2:12PM PST on February 17, 2010
Love Winter? Hate the Oil.
Co-written by Lyndsay Moseley, Associate Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
On Thursday, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will start using coal ash to melt the thick ice
on the Platte River in Omaha, Nebraska, to prevent ice jams and severe flooding. From the article:
"The hope is that the dark ash will absorb the sun's energy and help 'rot' the ice so it breaks up into smaller chunks and washes downstream, Berndt said."Coal ash
contains heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic and more – all of which are linked to increased rates of cancer, learning disabilities and reproductive problems. The metals can be ingested through the dust or when dissolved in water.
This strikes us as a strange and dangerous move – one community is going to add coal ash to their water while many others are worried about how it will affect their water supplies.
For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority is working around the clock to get tons of coal ash out of the Emory and Clinch rivers to protect public health and the environment in Tennessee.
Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is drafting a rule to mandate safe coal ash disposal practices. Yet for some reason officials in Nebraska think it's is a good idea to take 86 tons of bottom ash from a coal plant and dump it onto the river ice via cropduster.
We are looking into this action by the Army Corps and the state to see if it violates any environmental laws designed to protect the rivers and drinking water sources.
For now, please urge EPA to move forward
with federal safeguards that protect our waterways from improper coal ash disposal. And if you’re in or near Omaha, Nebraska, write a letter to the editor today
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:08PM PST on February 17, 2010
If you love the Winter Olympics, then you'll hate the fact that Canadian oil sands -- the dirtiest of the dirty -- pose a threat to our planet. Visit lovewinter.org to learn more about this destructive process.
Fuel from the oil sands is the dirtiest in the world, producing three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil. The oil sands extraction and production process requires clear-cutting giant swaths of ancient forest and leaving behind toxic lakes so large they can be seen from space—lakes that kill birds and other wildlife and threaten to poison drinking water in neighboring communities.
Join the Say No to Tar Sands group
here on Climate Crossroads.
Save Winter - Stop the Oil Sands
Tuesday February 16, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:28AM PST on February 16, 2010
Forget You, Coal!
Every day it seems as if we see another energy company trying to convince us of new ways to keep us tied to oil and coal. Yet these fuels always turn out to be dirtier and more expensive, especially when their environmental costs are considered.
Liquid coal is one of these same old fossil fuels the industry touts as the next best thing for American energy, but the latest culprit in this pattern of dirty fuels purported to be the U.S. energy savior is "oil sands," a thick, black dirt derived from the soil under the great forests of Canada.
Use of these polluting oil sands is particularly ironic right now, as we approach what may be a near snowless Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Many have found it strange to read the reports of snow being shipped into Vancouver from hundreds of miles away; sadly, due to the effects of global warming, future Winter Olympic Games may never be the same
Yes, the East Coast was just blasted with record snowfall in the past week, but long-term trends show less snowpack at higher altitudes, and what is there is melting earlier – making it not only a harder time for the winter sports industry, but also having catastrophic consequences for the western wildfire seasons as droughts increase.
Right now, unfortunately, Canada is pursuing an energy policy that could have a huge impact on winter sports by accelerating global warming – and the U.S. is following suit.
The Canadian province of Alberta is home to a form of oil that's considered the dirtiest on earth
. It's called the oil sands, also known as tar sands, and each barrel creates three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil.
In fact, oil sands are now the fastest growing source of global warming pollution in Canada. They are also one of the most expensive forms of gasoline on the planet.
Now the Canadian government and the oil industry want to open up the U.S. gasoline market through a vast network of pipelines crossing through Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Texas.
And oil sands don't only represent a threat of climate change bringing less snow or of paying more for Canadian gasoline. Producing this dirty oil also requires clear-cutting giant swaths of ancient forest and, excessive water usage, which creates lakes of toxic waste so large they can be seen from space (sounds like Canada's own version of mountaintop removal coal mining
If we allow this massive project to creep across our border, it will lock America into dependence on yet another foreign source of oil, just as our local, homegrown clean energy industry is beginning to thrive. It would threaten the good-paying, lasting American jobs that wind and solar and efficiency projects create—the kind of jobs that can't be outsourced.
Continued widespread usage of oil makes America reliant on foreign dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. We cannot seriously combat global warming and protect American independence without changing our insatiable need for oil. And the way toward breaking an addiction cannot be to double down on that addiction by finding ever dirtier and more expensive sources. The way to get off oil is to get off oil
Instead of sending U.S. dollars to Canada, we need to invest in alternatives to oil at home. Fortunately, the best investments also clean up the local environment, combat global warming, and create home-grown jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Relying on yet another dirty fuel it could put an end to the winters we know. Unless we act now to combat climate change, future Winter Olympics could be dramatically different than the games we love today
– whether through using artificial snow or forcing outdoor events to compete indoors.
Thankfully there are already some businesses choosing to take a stand against oil sands, including Whole Foods and Bed, Bath and Beyond, who announced last week
that they would not use suppliers who use oil sands as source fuel. Last week even saw a group of BP shareholders introducing a resolution that called for a review of the risks of the company's oil sands project
Americans have a chance to turn things around. Right now, we are poised to become a leader in the global clean energy economy. One of the most important things we can do to demonstrate that leadership is say no to Canada's oil sands.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:17PM PST on February 12, 2010
In the Pacific Northwest good things are happening
Regional energy planners say improved efficiency, conservation, wind power and gas will help the Pacific Northwest meet electricity demand over the next 20 years without adding an extra lump of coal.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council unanimously adopted a regional energy plan Wednesday that avoids any new coal-fired plants for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana through 2030.
Join the Beyond Coal group
here on Climate Crossroads and be a part of the solution.
Quitting Meat, Part 5
Wednesday February 10, 2010
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:08AM PST on February 10, 2010
Video: Hansen Urges Campuses to Wise Up
My wife and I visited my Grandma's town this past weekend -- a weekend that happened to include the annual crab feed put on by the local American Legion post, which got me thinking about vegetarianism and seafood. For some reason, people seem to think seafood is not meat. "But you still eat crab, don't you?" my grandma asked. I shook my head. "What about white meat?" Uhhh.
My wife and I attended the event anyway just to be with Grandma and her friends -- and because proceeds go toward a good cause. In this town, crab feeds are among the most exciting things that happen.
Nearly 400 people packed the Legion's auditorium. Each table was waited on by Girl Scouts while some Cub Scouts bussed. Fresh Dungeness crab was served in blue buckets while the leftover shells were tossed in white buckets and carried back to the kitchen. There were a lot of buckets. I later found out that 1,200 pounds of crab total were trucked in for the feast.
About five years ago, I attended and happily participated. But now that I'm a vegetarian, my wife and I had to prepare. Pasta was also on the menu. But my instincts were proven right when it was served with meat sauce already plopped on top.
That's why my wife made our own pasta to bring. And some great sauce to boot -- regular tomato, basil sauce with cooked artichoke hearts. And she made tasty garlic bread using a sweet baguette. It was divine!
I learned from this experience that vegetarians have to be mindful of what's available when they attend events that provide prepared food. I also learned that vegetarians are expected to conform to what other people are doing, especially at something like a crab feed. Luckily we didn't get very many confused looks from people wondering what we were doing bringing our own food. Why go to a crab feed when you're not going to eat crab? Well, we don't get to see Grandma all that often!
And lastly, there are ways to eat seafood while keeping the planet in mind. Our oceans, rivers, and lakes are among the most vulnerable ecosystems out there. I recommend reading Julie Packard's (of the Monterey Bay Aquarium) recent article on sustainable seafood and taking the Sierra Club's excellent and educational "How Green is My Seafood" quiz.
(I quit meat for 2010 and I'm writing about it. Read my previous articles here, here, here, and here.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:27AM PST on February 8, 2010
The People Speak Out in Favor of Stronger Smog Standards
Here's a scrappy video of NASA scientist James Hansen, who urges all college campuses to move beyond coal
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:53AM PST on February 5, 2010
"I've been hospitalized many times with asthma attacks. It's scary when you can't catch your breath. When I was young, going to the hospital with asthma was a monthly thing. Now I'm on an adult dose of asthma medicine and the only other way to manage the asthma is to limit my outdoor activities. That's hard to do at 14. My doctor's even talking to me about moving away from Houston's pollution when I go to college."
Those are the words of 14-year old asthma patient
Aaron Smith, who attended the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on its proposed ozone rule in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday with his mother Rosa Smith. The Smith family lives near the Houston refineries.
If those statements by Aaron aren't enough to make you think about what kind of pollution we're putting into our air, that's a shame. Smog, one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, comes mostly from coal-fired power plants and automobiles and is harmful to human health even at very low levels. Scientists have compared exposure to smog pollution as getting sunburn on the lungs. Smog also blocks the views and harms forests and wildlife in some of our nation's most special places, like the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains.
Recap from Yesterday's EPA Smog Hearings
Wednesday February 3, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 8:44AM PST on February 3, 2010
Quitting Meat, Part 4
The many people who attended yesterday's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings on its proposed ozone/smog rule
are calling them a success. The proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standard follows the recommendation of EPA scientists and numerous health groups, setting the limit between 60 and 70 parts per billion - and we strongly support this move
We had great numbers of concerned citizens, scientists, doctors and more turn out at the hearings in Houston, Texas, and Arlington, Virginia, to talk about the need for stronger standards on ozone - which is also known as smog.
In Houston, our Lone Star chapter teamed up
with the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention to state the facts on the risks of smog. The coalition got some good media coverage before
the event, including their live-blog on DailyKos
- and they even made this fantastic video of it all.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:48AM PST on February 2, 2010
Things are not always as they appear.
I quit meat for 2010 to reduce my carbon footprint. But this past week I've come to realize that vegetarianism is not a be-all, end-all. For example, the other day I noticed after the fact that the grapes I bought were from Chile. Whoops. And then I read Mr. Green's articles here and here about why purchasing meat from small farmers might be better than eating no meat at all. He makes a very persuasive "eat less meat" argument.
Meanwhile, I am in the middle of The Omnivore's Dilemma by food guru Michael Pollan. I was struck by the chapter about Big Organic and the industry's steady morph into something that resembles the conventional. I'm always leery of "organic" microwable dinners that I periodically see at my grocery store. But what Pollan writes here (p.182) really stuck out:
[P]erhaps most discouraging of all, my industrial organic meal is nearly as drenched in fossil fuel as its conventional counterpart. Asparagus traveling in a 747 from Argentina; blackberries trucked up from Mexico; a salad chilled to thirty-six degrees from the moment it was picked in Arizona [...] to the moment I walk it out the doors of my Whole Foods.[...] Today it takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate. And while it is true that organic farmers don't spread fertilizers made from natural gas or spray pesticides made from petroleum, industrial organic farmers often wind up burning more diesel fuel than their conventional counterparts: in trucking bulky loads of compost across the countryside and weeding their fields, a particularly energy-intensive process involving extra irrigation and extra cultivation.
I guess there are a few lessons here: eat local; eat seasonal; and while quitting meat probably does wonders to one's carbon footprint, it's not the whole enchilada, so to speak. And last but not least, food labels (i.e. "organic", "cage-free") are not always what they insinuate. There's vegetarianism and then there's smart vegetarianism.
(I quit meat for 2010 and I'm writing about it. Read my previous posts here, here, and here.)
Video: Brune on CNBC's "Mad Money"
Thursday January 28, 2010
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:33AM PST on January 28, 2010
National Day of Action Against Coal Ash
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 7:38AM PST on January 28, 2010
Today, Jan 28th, Sierra Club and our allies at Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, NRDC and grassroots groups across the country are participating in a national day of action
to urge the Obama Administration to move forward with strong, federally enforceable rules to regulate coal ash disposal.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working on proposed rules to ensure the safe disposal of coal ash – the byproduct of burning coal for power. As expected, the coal industry is fighting to maintain the status quo on coal ash, backing a proposal that ensures coal ash is treated less responsibly than household trash.
The nearly 136 million tons of coal ash generated each year is full of harmful toxins like arsenic, lead and mercury. People living near the coal ash sites have a staggering 1 in 50 risk of cancer. Both EPA and the National Academy of Sciences have years of research making it clear that coal ash is becoming increasingly toxic and confirming time and again that coal ash poses a threat to human health.
We must treat coal waste as a hazardous substance and not take away the opportunities for residents of communities impacted by coal ash disposal to provide input on how the coal ash should be handled.
Our goal with a day of action on January 28th is to generate thousands of emails, phone calls and letters to the editor of national and local newspapers calling on the Obama Administration, to bring an end to the delay.
We hope you will share the information about the day of action with your local activists, allies, colleagues, friends, and family. Want to get involved? Here are two things you can do on Jan. 28th and beyond:
1. Email Action: Send an email
directly to the White House in support of this EPA rule. Everyone who takes action on our alert
will be automatically invited to submit a letter to the editor of their local newspaper as well.
2. Then, post this message as your facebook status with a link to the online action alert: "I asked President Obama to protect all US residents from hazardous coal ash sites around the country, and you can too: http://action.sierraclub.org/coalash
One thing is clear—coal must be cleaned up and the industry will not clean itself. Residents across the U.S. want the coal industry to clean up and not expose them to health hazards like air pollution and coal ash. We need strong regulations to hold coal accountable and speed the transition to a clean energy economy.
Global Warming Polls Show Shrinking Support for Action
Wednesday January 27, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 11:43AM PST on January 27, 2010
People Outraged By Bag Tax, Use Less Plastics Bags
If President Obama wants to lead our country on global warming via his State of the Union speech tonight
, he'd better find some even more inspiring words, unfortunately. (Maybe from Hansen and the others in the videos from this Climate Crossroads post?)
Americans are becoming less supportive of action on global warming - this according to two polls out in the past week.
A poll released today by George Mason University and Yale University shows that:
- Only 50 percent of Americans now say they are "somewhat" or "very worried" about global warming, a 13-point decrease.
- The percentage of Americans who think global warming is happening has declined 14 points, to 57 percent.
- The percentage of Americans who think global warming is caused mostly by human activities dropped 10 points, to 47 percent.
The poll adds that there has been an increase in the number of Americans who think global warming will never harm people in the United States or elsewhere or other species. Click here to read the release on the GMU/Yale poll
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:16PM PST on January 26, 2010
How's that new D.C. plastic bag tax coming along? Via Yglesias
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to gather anecdata on the impact of DC’s new initiative to impose a five cent tax on plastic grocery bags. My key observations are that I hear a ton of whining about how terrible this new tax is, and also a lot of people engaging in tax-avoiding behavior—canvass bags, cramming stuff into backpacks, carrying items by hand. In other words, it looks to be a stunning success! The five cent fee is actually very small but people really hate paying it. Apparently it’s led to something like a fifty percent reduction in bag usage.
The Last Word on Copenhagen from the UKYCC
Wednesday January 20, 2010
Posted by: Robert Friedman at 9:11AM PST on January 20, 2010
Video: Mayor Tracks Down Energy Sources
The story of what actually happened in Copenhagen at COP15 is still coming out, but the video below very much captures how many of us feel after leaving the conference. Tom is a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, and the story he tells is a moving account of what COP15 was like.
While the conference was surely a failure in many respects, it was successful in that it brought together youth from all over the world. We as youth are fighting for our future, and as we continue to rally support, our numbers are growing. And they will continue to grow until the climate crisis is solved.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:19AM PST on January 19, 2010
Stopping the Murkowski Amendment
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:49AM PST on January 15, 2010
Over 2600 Big Energy Lobbyists? (and other news of note)
I suppose it might be sad to say that we were and were not surprised to hear this week that two dirty energy lobbyists helped craft the effort to neuter the Clean Air Act, which could next appear as an amendment to the Senate’s debt ceiling vote next week.
If you missed it, the Washington Post confirmed
on Tuesday that lobbyists from Bracewell Giuliani and Sidley Austin helped write an amendment from Senator Lisa Murkowski that will strip Clean Air Act and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate global warming pollution. Check out the Washington Post follow-up on it here
Who are Bracewell Giuliani and Sidley Austin? Oh, only lobbying firms that represent Southern Company, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, and other major coal supporters. And the specific lobbyists who ghost-wrote this amendment, Jeffrey Holmstead and Roger Martella, held EPA positions during the Bush Administration.
If you recall, last month EPA declared that global warming pollution endangers human health and welfare and announced plans to limit emissions from big polluters. The decision is a long-time coming and is crucial in controlling the global warming pollution from the coal industry – which contributes 30% of total U.S. global warming emissions.
This amendment may come up for a vote on January 20th, and its passage would mean that big polluters will be bailed out by blocking President Obama and EPA from taking action to limit emissions
After years of research, scientific debate, court cases, public hearings and comments, Senator Murkowski is suggesting that we simply choose to "un-learn" that global warming is happening and that it will be dangerous to human health and welfare.
But EPA is merely doing what the Clean Air Act already requires--and what it was ordered to do almost three years ago by the Supreme Court. And last month, more than 400,000 Americans submitted comments in favor of EPA's proposal to limit pollution from the biggest global warming polluters - among the highest number of comments ever submitted in favor of any proposal.
These big polluters – including the coal industry - are using the same tired old arguments, too. Suggestions that this EPA action means the agency plans to regulate farms, schools, hospitals, cows, and Dunkin' Donuts are simply false - EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said as much on numerous occasions. In reality, EPA plans to limit the new common sense, economically feasible regulations to only the largest polluters. Those statements attempting to scare small businesses are merely misleading smears designed to derail any limits on polluters.
We cannot continue to let Big Coal push for loopholes and weakened pollution rules so they can keep making money.
Instead of looking for ways to delay action, senators need to finalize comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation as soon as soon possible - and more important in the short-term, they must say no to this amendment or any other attempt to weaken the Clean Air Act.
You can urge your senators to do as much
- tell them to vote no on any amendment blocking EPA action on global warming emissions from the largest polluters.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:28PM PST on January 11, 2010
Video From Kentucky: Coal Is No Good
I've had a ton of interesting news articles hit in inbox in the past few days, so I wanted to share a few that are definitely worth reading.
First up - one to toot our own horn a little bit, but more importantly, it's an excellent look at using coal to power college campuses
. The Chronicle of Higher Education
has the article, and it talks about our Campuses Beyond Coal campaign, but also delves into the issue with some depth.
Next up, this weekend President Obama unveiled his $2.3 billion in clean energy tax credits
. The money goes to 183 projects in 48 states, and Grist's Dave Roberts has an educational look
at the projects and the politics involved.
I also want to highlight a spirited discussion over on Treehugger, where our own Greg Haegele blogs weekly. Last week's blog post is on the proposed Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) amendment
that would remove Clean Air Act authority to regulate global warming pollution - a crucial vote coming up next week. Some commenters are at odds with our position, but there are some great defenders in there as well.
(By the way, have you taken action yet on the Murkowski amendment? Tell your Senator to oppose it now
Back to coal, check out this Rolling Stone article entitle
d "As the World Burns: How Big Oil and Big Coal Mounted One of the Most Aggressive Lobbying Campaigns in History to Block Progress on Global Warming." An alarming part of that article:
Foreseeing a showdown over climate change, the energy industry had been busy packing Capitol Hill with lobbyists. By last year, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the number of lobbyists devoted to climate change had soared by more than fivefold since 2003, to a total of 2,810 - or five lobbyists for every lawmaker in Washington. "I had no idea this many lobbyists even existed in Washington," says former senator Tim Wirth, now head of the United Nations Foundation. Only 138 of the lobbyists were pushing for alternative energy - the rest were heavily weighted toward the old fossil-fuel mafia, most of whom oppose tough carbon caps. The most aggressive foes were coal polluters like Peabody Energy and the Southern Company, an Atlanta-based utility known for its prowess on Capitol Hill. "They're kneecap breakers," says one congressional staffer.
Phew, that's depressing.
Finally, a science article from the Christian Science Monitor Bright Green blog
. It gets a bit wonky, but it's still an interesting look at our current atmosphere and how it compares to the Pliocene era - an era that may best mirror what we're in for with climate change. From the blog post:
What do (the study's) findings mean? They indicate that the Pliocene might be the best analog for the world in the not-too-distant future. They also imply that our climate models, which account for short-term feedbacks like water vapor and sea-ice formation, but don't include feedback cycles that take place on a longer time scales - receding ice sheets and vegetation changes, for example significantly underestimate CO2's impact on Earth's climate.
So how 'bout you - read any good articles in the past week?
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:06PM PST on January 8, 2010
Quitting Meat, Part 1
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:45AM PST on January 8, 2010
You Say You Want a Resolution
This year I’ve resolved to try vegetarianism. There are a few reasons why I’m giving it a shot: It’s healthier if it’s done right; it’ll lower my carbon footprint; it'll force me to look closer into what I eat and where it comes from; and I know I can do it because last year I had a veggie day once a week. (Having a meatless day once a week is like driving 1,000 fewer miles a year
As someone who was raised in a typical meat-eating family, going vegetarian is a hard undertaking. For me, this is especially true when it comes to breakfast. I have a real weakness for bacon, link sausage, and bratwurst. I love corned beef hash. (I’m salivating as I type this.) But the more I read and write about climate-change issues, the more I look at my own lifestyle. And the more I consider what is within my control. The link between diet and its ecological impacts is undeniable. Too often I come across articles like this one
(about meat and emissions) and this one
(animal cruelty) and this one
However, reading about it isn’t as big a deal as seeing it. I'm specifically talking about a September road trip I took with my wife to L.A. My wife, a UCLA alumna, forewarned me about a feedlot outside the rural town of Coalinga in Fresno County adjacent to I-5. As we were approaching it on the highway, the stench was assaulting my nose. But the site was worse. Tens of thousands of cows were cramped in rows and columns covered in their own filth -- exposed to the excruciating Labor Day heat with no cover. (Flickr photo here
.) The scene went on for miles and miles into the horizon, like that infamous overhead shot of the wounded soldiers in Gone With the Wind
. I haven’t really been able to shake the image from my mind. (If you live in this area or have driven through the same stretch of freeway, you know the place.)
So far, my first week is going well. Though my family might think I'm nuts, I’m eating a lot of salad, pasta, rice, and fruit and feeling good about it. This weekend, I’ll probably scour the internet for vegetarian recipes. (Pssst. You can find some right here on Climate Crossroads
!) If you have any recipes or advice, share them here! Happy and healthy 2010!
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:29AM PST on January 5, 2010
The Best News from 2009
We're five days into the new year. But that doesn't mean it's too late to resolve to do something. Today is just as good as any day to improve your life and the planet. The Green Life blog is posting some excellent tips this week on how to green your year.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 1:56PM PST on January 4, 2010
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:55PM PST on January 4, 2010
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:57PM PST on January 4, 2010
Everyone loves a good end-of-the-year list. That's why the Energy Solutions group on Climate Crossroads put together a list of the top five things you can do in 2010 to save money and reduce your home's energy intake. Visit the group blog to read it. Here's one of the five: Upgrade the efficiency of your home appliances.
Have you made any of these changes to save energy at home? Take a picture of what you've done and post it on the Energy Solutions' photo gallery.
Total Copenhagen Recall
Tuesday December 22, 2009
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:08AM PST on December 22, 2009
A Tale Of Two Speeches
Copenhagen is over, but it's still buzzing. The Copenhagen group here on Climate Crossroads -- with nearly 600 members -- will continue to post blog items, news, and video.
The Sierra Club delegation that was there did an excellent job using the group as its central place to keep us all informed. Here's a list of five of the best items that were posted during the historic climate summit:
5. Sierra Club Voices. In addition to Carl Pope's blog posts from Copenhagen, the "Voices" video series was a compelling set of testimonials from the Sierra Student Coalition and Club staff and volunteers. To watch them, click here, here, here, and here. Here's one:
4. Inside the Bella Center. The conference center was the focus of attention throughout the negotiations process. The Sierra Club's Josh Dorner was able to provide video and give us an inside look at activity from within the facility.
3. Young activists. There's no denying that young people had a huge presence at Copenhagen. Besides, they have the biggest stake in all this. Everyone seemed to have opinions on this video of activists taking over a climate-denier's speech. But that didn't overshadow the enthusiasm and passion shown by younger attendees of the summit. The Sierra Student Coalition wrote some memorable blog posts. And this speech did an exceptional job at articulating the youth's voice.
2. Tuvalu! Tuvalu -- a place that most Americans probably have never heard of before -- stole the Copenhagen spotlight and left a huge impression on the world. Members of the Sierra Student Coalition wrote about a Tuvalu rally. And here's a video of the Tuvalu delegation that will give you chills.
1. The Copenhagen gallery. Great pics, everyone!
Posted by: SSC international at 9:30AM PST on December 20, 2009
David and Goliath: Reflections on Power and Helplessness
Two Thursdays ago, I took a short break from dashing around the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark to watch President Obama give his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech
. My bleeding one-world heart was all a-flutter to watch it with a truly international audience: delegates, press, NGO observers and security personal representing many of the 193 nations in attendance gathered around a projector screen to watch the President reflect on winning the ultimate peacemaker’s prize mere days after committing yet more soldiers to our eight-year-long war in Afghanistan.
Obama’s speech, in my opinion, was moving and eloquent. After much internal and external debate, I had decided that I did not support sending any additional troops to Afghanistan, and the speech did not change my conclusion. What it did do, however, was give me confidence that while his ultimate decision may have been wrong, Obama’s core principles were worthy of my respect. He acknowledged that violence in all forms is abhorrent, he asserted the need for the oppressed to have justice, and he showed humility in the face of his own limitations. After he finished, as people from every corner of the world applauded around me, I felt a surge of pride in my country and the ideals, so beautifully articulated by it’s leader, for which I believe it stands.
Eight days later, Obama was back in Scandinavia and I again found myself watching him speak. This time, I watched from my apartment as all of civil society had been kicked out of the conference center in direct violation of UN principles agreed to in, of all places, Denmark. The mood was decidedly darker as, with less than 24 hours remaining in the alloted time, barely any progress had been made towards an agreement to address climate change. Outside the fortress-like Bella Center, police had met peaceful protests with violence. Inside, the smaller, poorer, and most threatened countries had effectively been excluded from the negotiation process. A process on which their survival depended.
As Obama walked toward the podium, I knew that even if he gave a speech that topped his magnificent effort in Oslo, it still wouldn’t mean that the fair, ambitious and binding treaty I hoped for would be signed. In all honesty, most people had known for months that that sort of result was a fantasy. What I didn’t know, what I hadn’t even imagined, was that the speech I was about to hear would not only offer no inspiration, but also arrogantly demand that the world sign on to an agreement of America’s creation, which served America’s interests, and which doomed millions to famine, flood and destruction.
With this speech, Obama allied himself with the idea that the powerful will make decisions, and the powerless will suffer the consequences. He allied himself with the concept that what can be taken, should be taken. He allied himself with the fallacy that we are not responsible for the damage we inflict on others. The equality, the justice and the humility he called for in Oslo were gone.
Obama made a mistake in Copenhagen. He was far from the only one to do so. In his defense, people will say that he was exhausted from the health care debate and the trans-atlantic flight, that the speech was a negotiation tactic, and above all that he was being realistic in the face of a skeptical American public and an enormous, chaotic conference on the verge of collapse. All true. But he would do well to remember his own words, delivered in such stark elegance a scant week before:
“We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us. But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place.”
Climate change is more than just bigger hurricanes and hotter summers. It is the natural manifestation of humanity’s inability to impose limits on our own consumption, or deal with its consequences. In Oslo, President Obama inspired us to “reach for the world that ought to be.” In Copenhagen, he reminded us how far we still have to go.
Posted by: SSC international at 9:20AM PST on December 20, 2009
Since I’ve arrived at COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, I’ve faced many dual emotions of empowerment and helplessness. I have felt more important and key than ever in the highly accessible Bella Center, where the convention is taking place, where I can run into the President of the Maldives or participate in an action that directly targets key negotiators, but more helpless than ever watching the long and grueling process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the ever-so-stubborn US stance on the issue.
Being a youth here is definitely a unique position, and has had a significant impact on the way I’ve felt throughout this conference. There are over 2,000 international youth here, 500 US, and for the first Conference of the parties, youth are being recognized as an officially constituency called “YOUNGO”. I feel that YOUNGO’s voice is being heard through vast media coverage, actions, and a very unique perspective. But at the same time it is frustrating to see youth being shutout. At Secretary of Energy Steven Chu’s US briefing yesterday only one person was allowed in to ask questions to represent each group, and judging by the fact that most people in the line were youth who had been waiting for the briefing for hours, I couldn’t help but think that it had something to do with the demographic. Also at a briefing last week the “bouncers” of the US center only seemed to be letting in older people.
I feel that I am having am immense impact here in Copenhagen and that US youth and youth as a whole are, and that people are beginning to realize that survival is not negotiable in a treaty, I also am frustrated with the lack of flexibility within each nation’s stance. It almost seems that every country has just stayed within its own expectations, with the small island states and developing countries calling for adaptation funding and a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty, and the developed countries like the United States have compromised but not enough to support the science. Throughout this second week non-government organization delegates (including myself for the Sierra Student Coalition) are being taken out of the process by being restricted from access to the Bella Center. This has given me time to see what is happening around the conference, including an immense amount of side events, exhibits, and action going on around these issues. But we can’t deny that removing legitimate organizers from an important process to make room for the hundreds of staff people that heads of staff may bring is taking the power from the people.
Sometimes it feels that no matter what we do here, no matter what anyone does anywhere, that the people in power will not listen. That no matter the bicycle critical mass happening in the streets of Copenhagen tomorrow, or the 10,000 people that marched to the Bella Center in protest on the International Day of Climate Action on the 12th, that the power will never truly be transferred. But this is our only chance.
A friend of mine here from Oregon told me that she was talking to an assistant of a negotiator about what makes the negotiators think or change their mind, and if anything we do can have an actual effect. And everytime I have seen people devoting their whole lives to this cause, everytime I have seen the face of another youth who I know if missing their finals or got into countless arguments with their parents about attending this events, I remember what she told me he said. He said that what we do is something that no one appreciates until it is gone. Imagine this movement if there weren’t crazy protests, if there weren’t 2,000 youth walking around the Bella Center asking the aging delegates “How old will you be in 2050?”, if there weren’t people risking their lives for this movement. It would be dead. We are the passion and the heart behind everything that this rush for survival is, and no matter how powerless I may feel at times in the convolusion of negotiations, or how helpless I may feel when no one listens, I know that we are the silent roar that these negotiators have yet to hear. And I know that if they had marched alongside me on the International Day of Climate Action, they would see not only other middle aged men, but rather people of every age, color, and language.
I have never felt more human than I do in this fight against climate change.
Mayor Bloomberg Spotlights the Message Behind the Message
Thursday December 17, 2009
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 9:30AM PST on December 17, 2009
Speech by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at ICLEI event during COP15 from ICLEI Global on Vimeo.
Mayor Bloomberg didn’t mince words in his opening talk during ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability's panel discussion in Copenhagen: Cities need direct funding for climate mitigation. Cities produce approximately 75 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and worldwide, so you have to send the money to where the problem exists, and where climate impacts will be felt first.
That’s been an oft-repeated headline in the media over the past week, of course. But Mayor Bloomberg drove home the crucial secondary message that isn’t always getting through: Local governments need to be empowered not only because they’re responsible for GHG emissions, but because they’ve proven they know how to implement climate action measures successfully and efficiently.
Climate change is a monolithic problem for governments to tackle. (breaking news, right?) Where do you start? What are the most practical and cost-effective measures to implement? Local governments have already developed a playbook and defined a roadmap for emissions reductions. Mayor Bloomberg highlighted the success of New York’s approach, through its PlaNYC sustainability plan, the new green buildings legislation, and a commitment to accountability.
When you watch the video, also take note of the way Mayor Bloomberg frames the importance of climate action in New York:
We’ve had an environmental agenda that unchokes our economy, cleans up our air, saves us some money, and as a byproduct, helps stop us from destroying the planet. I’ve always thought that if you want to make process, you have to bring [the topic of climate change] back to something that’s near term and personal, otherwise people talk about it but aren’t committed to it, and certainly aren’t willing to spend their money and time to change it.
Wednesday December 16, 2009
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:17AM PST on December 16, 2009
Put It On Your List
There are great pictures being posted by the 50 or so Sierra Club staff and volunteers who are in Copenhagen. Check 'em out.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:15AM PST on December 16, 2009
It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, Actually, It's Tons of Carbon?!
Tuesday December 15, 2009
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 11:59AM PST on December 15, 2009
Video: Holiday Green Tips
So I was wondering, why is it that commercial air travel is considered so non-green? It seems unjust that my efforts to live green all year are negated by a few flights to Sierra Club headquarters and a trip or two to visit my parents.
Most carbon calculators - but notably not ours at Sierra Club Green Home (www.sierraclubgreenhome.com) - penalize even the dark green citizen who is required to fly commercial for work. Let's say you're a sales manager, you diligently recycle, you watch the thermostats, you have low-water landscaping, you eat organic vegetables, you're doing everything right except your job requires you to fly from Denver to Cincinnati twice a month. According to most evaluations, you are a serious carbon emitter. I don't think this is right, it's not fair to call this person a polluter. His or her lifestyle and home are green, and should be respected as such.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:05AM PST on December 15, 2009
Top Five Ways to Green Your Holiday Shopping
The previous blog post
by Janet about greening your holiday inspired me to re-post this classic -- and helpful -- video.
Posted by: Janet Gardner at 9:03AM PST on December 15, 2009
Taking the People Out of Politics
Hope I’m not too late on this one. If you’re like me, you still haven’t done much of your holiday shopping. What? There are still two weeks until Christmas, and Hanukkah started only a few days ago.
So, who isn’t tempted around the holidays, with all the great sales and so many people to impress, to buy, buy, buy? I know I’m susceptible. I adore buying gifts for people. It’s one of my favorite feelings to find the perfect gift for someone, something they mentioned off-hand once months ago, and had no idea you remembered.
That being said, I strongly believe there is just way too much stuff in this world. Finding the perfect gift is great, but buying just for the sake of giving something? Not so much. Here are my five best tips for making your holiday gift-giving a little greener, both in terms of the environment, and that extra cash you’ll still have in your wallet.
1. Buy Time
I love to give the gift of time spent together. This is one of my favorite gifts to give children, especially, rather than a plastic toy they’ll just outgrow and cast away. My sister and I like to do this for my little brother, who’s 7 – we’ve taken him on a day-trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and owe him a trip to the Academy of Sciences. He might not like it as much in the moment as another set of Star Wars Legos, but we like to think he’ll remember how his cool older sisters took him places when he was a kid. Beyond kids, this is a great gift for anyone in your life – a concert, a cooking class, even a meal out together at a place they’ve been wanting to try. And it won’t clutter their house or come wrapped in plastic.
Note: If you are forced to gift-give to someone you, ahem, are not the biggest fan of, it is totally acceptable to give them a gift of something to do that you don’t have to participate in!
2. Make – or Buy – Something Homemade
Homemade gifts are all the rage, especially in this economy, and for good reason. I like homemade foodie treats, like hot fudge (this recipe is super delicious), jams and infused alcohols. If I could sew or knit, I’d be all about those kind of hand-crafted gifts, but alas, my high school offered only Foods class, and not Home Ec.
If, like me, you’re not so crafty, turn to Etsy or Foodzie for something adorable or delicious (or both!). Both sites have Buy Local options, which I’ve linked to. Foodie gifts from your local farmers market are another great option. Give jams, olive oils, or whatever your area is known for. If you’re traveling to see your family anyway, bring them a special treat made in your hometown.
3. Buy Used or Secondhand New
Who says a gift has to be brand new? I love scouring Craigslist for gift ideas. Chances are someone has whatever you need, used it once, and decided they didn’t need it. You’ll save money and reduce your impact – what’s not to love about that? Have a friend or family member you just can’t imagine giving a previously-been-owned gift? Craigslist and eBay are full of items I like to call “secondhand new,” those that someone bought, never used, and never got around to returning.
4. Buy One Less
One of my favorite rules for holiday gift giving is to buy “one less.” For example, if you have the idea for 3 perfect gifts for someone, and you’re only able to get 2 of them, they won’t know. All they’ll realize is that they got two fantastic gifts from you, and they’ll never know about that just absolutely perfect gift you had to get them but couldn’t track down in time. This has helped take the pressure off me when I’m looking for “just one more” perfect gift.
5. Ask What They Want
It’s not very romantic or mysterious, but asking what someone wants is a great way to reduce. This is admittedly hard for me, because I do love the surprise-and-delight factor. But so many times what I think is the perfect gift for someone might not be everything they ever dreamed of and more. Asking what someone wants will make the recipient happy, and you won’t have wasted your money on something they’ll never use anyway.
That about wraps it up, and speaking of wrapping? Remember that while colorful holiday wrapping paper may be cute, it’s not so adorable when you think about it being shipped overseas to be recycled or meeting its untimely death in a landfill. Try newspapers, scraps of cloth, and reusing old gift bags this season!
Are you planning to use any of these tips to “green” your holiday season? What are your best green holiday tips?
(Like what you read? Read my blog prettygreengirl.com.)
Posted by: SSC international at 2:58PM PST on December 14, 2009
How Different Is Global Warming?
So, starting tomorrow non-governmental organizations will have restricted access to the Bella Center. This includes all sects of civil society, not just the youth or environmental organizations. For Tuesday and Wednesday only 20% of all NGO delegations will be allowed to enter the Bella Center and further restrictions will be in place as the week goes on. On Thursday only 1000 NGO delegates will be allowed in and by Friday the number will be reduced to 90. That’s a drastic decrease considering that there are 2,000 youth delegates alone.
Now, granted, I’m pretty biased in this opinion, but I feel that these restrictions are taking the democracy out of the negotiations. Without civil society it will just be a bunch of politicians, diplomats and negotiators wandering the halls of the Bella Center theoretically working towards a treaty that will determine the future of my generation. Maybe some random ambassadors and their families. That’s not what I consider to be representative of our world’s population and I think that it’s a little ridiculous that we’re being shut out of the negotiations just as big decisions are being made.
The UNFCCC is giving a false front to democracy in the climate negotiations by accrediting a bunch of NGOs and then later shutting them out of an event that some travel across the globe to be able to attend. So I’m asking the UN to remember that people are at the root of politics and that we should be brought back into the negotiations that will determine the future of our planet. We’re here, we’re engaged, and we’re ready for some serious negotiating to happen. Now let us participate and become the world leaders that we’re capable of being.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 2:33PM PST on December 14, 2009
Neo Wants Climate Action
In a few hours I'll arrive at the UN Conference in Copenhagen -- surely the biggest environmental gathering I've ever attended and, arguably, the most consequential ever to meet. The sheer scale of the threats posed by climate disruption (and of the actions needed to protect us against it) does make global warming seem different from other environmental challenges we've faced. But in a number of important respects, it's not different at all. I think it might even help us understand what we're up against if we look at some of the lessons we've learned from those other challenges.
Lesson 1: Safety First -- It's Cheaper
If you listen to the so-called "climate skeptics," you might start to think that the history of environmental policy is one of expensive false alarms and unnecessary panic. But in reality, it 's almost always turned out that interventions taken to protect people from environmental risks were inadequate and too late -- and that prevention would have been much cheaper than cleaning up the mess. And history also shows that scientists, more often than not, underestimate
the risks -- they are not nervous Nellie alarmists.
Take formaldehyde. We've known that for decades that it's toxic. It's also ubiquitous and consumer exposure to it is widespread: permanent press clothing, particle board, and some kinds of plywood. Yet for decades federal regulators failed to establish safety standards for formaldehyde exposure in consumer use and, as a result, manufacturers kept churning out mobile homes that had formaldehyde concentrations higher than those permitted in chemical plants for workers -- much higher. Only when FEMA loaned hundreds of these toxic trailers to Katrina victims -- a population that was concentrated and easily monitored -- did the Sierra Club uncover just how bad the situation was. And even then FEMA stonewalled, resisted, and argued that the trailers were not the problem -- until Congress stepped in and finally forced them to get people out of the trailers. (They also had to force FEMA to abandon plans to simply sell these trailers to other victims.)
The California Air Resources Board, in the wake of the scandal, passed consumer formaldehyde standards. And this month the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported out legislation that would make the California standards nationwide -- an important step forward. Will this end the formaldehyde risk? Probably not, although it will reduce it. New scientific studies expected from the EPA next month will show that formaldehyde is toxic at even lower levels of exposure than previously believed -- so the new standards, while an improvement, will still leave millions of Americans still at risk.
The science of climate change is similar. Over the last decade it's become clear that global warming is happening faster than anticipated, that CO2 disrupts the climate at lower-than-expected concentrations, and that the addressing the problem will cost more than we previously thought.
So taking early action to avoid risk is the prudent, cheap, economic course of action. One question I have often wanted to ask the climate skeptics is "What do you think the chances are that you're mistaken and we are
disrupting the climate? And at what point are the odds of a global castastrophe high enough that you would favor preventive action? One in four? One in ten? One in a hundred? And do you have fire insurance on your home? What are the odds on its burning down next year?
Lesson 2: Higher Standards Don't Hurt Economies -- If Applied Uniformly
Chesapeake Bay, the economic linchpin of the economies of Maryland, Delaware, and eastern Virginia, is in serious ecological distress. After more than a decade of federal action, the loss of fisheries and biological productivity hasn't stopped -- largely because agriculture has been permitted to handle its manure improperly, which has led to huge quantities of toxic water pollutants in the streams that drain into the Bay.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:08AM PST on December 14, 2009
"The Fate Of My Country Rests In Your Hands"
The Matrix team is in Copenhagen to demand climate action. Whoa! Take the red pill and join the Copenhagen group here on Climate Crossroads to get the latest news and see pictures from the COP 15 talks. Or take the blue pill and go on your merry way.
Posted by: SSC international at 8:47AM PST on December 14, 2009
Our Shared Future
The footage below is from two days ago but it accurately captures the immediacy of the situation in small island nations like Tuvalu. Ian Fry is the head Tuvalu delegate to the United Nations Climate Change Conference. His impassioned plea for a legally binding agreement here in Copenhagen gave me chills.
In these drawn out negotiations it's quite easy to forget that survival is even in question. But it is, and it's something that the negotiators of Annex I and fast-developing nations need to start realizing.
Heres' the transcript:
The entire population of Tuvalu lives below two meters above sea level. The highest point above sea level in the entire nation of Tuvalu is only four meters.
Madam President, we are not naive to the circumstances and the political considerations that are before us. It appears that we are waiting for some senators in the US Congress to conclude before we can consider this issue properly. It is an irony of the modern world that the fate of the world is being determined by some senators in the U.S. Congress.
We note that President Obama recently went to Norway to pick up a Nobel Prize, rightly or wrongly. But we can suggest that for him to honor this Nobel Prize, he should address the greatest threat to humanity that we have before us, climate change, and the greatest threat to security, climate change. So I make a strong plea that we give proper consideration to a conclusion at this meeting that leads to two legally binding agreements.
Madame President, this is not just an issue of Tuvalu. Pacific island countries — Kiribas, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Haiti, Bahamas, Grenada — Sao Tome in West Africa and all the LDCs: Bhutan, Laos, Mali, Senegal, Timor-Leste — and millions of other people around this world are affected enormously by climate change.
This is not just Tuvalu.
Over the last few days I’ve received calls from all over the world, offering faith and hope that we can come to a meaningful conclusion on this issue. Madame President, this is not a ego trip for me. I have refused to undertake media interviews, because I don’t think this is just an issue of an ego trip for me. I am just merely a humble and insignificant employee of the environment department of the government of Tuvalu. As a humble servant of the government of Tuvalu, I have to make a strong plea to you that we consider this matter properly. I don’t want to cause embarrassment to you or the government. But I want to have this issue to be considered properly.
I clearly want to have the leaders put before them an option for considering a legally binding treaty to sign on at this meeting. I make this a strong and impassioned plea. We’ve had our proposal on the table for six months. Six months, it’s not the last two days of this meeting. I woke this morning, and I was crying, and that’s not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands.
Week 2 of COP15, here we goooo!
Posted by: SSC international at 6:47AM PST on December 14, 2009
Perhaps the most salient reason for disputes at the COP15 negotiations is that nations truly do not understand each other. Negotiators advocate on behalf of their own nations' interests without much consideration for the the needs of other nations.
This past Thursday, Chinese and American youth gathered at the University of Copenhagen for a dinner meeting to talk about the COP15 negotiations and their implications for us as young people. Over Chinese food, we discussed why we are in Copenhagen as well as how Chinese and American youth are quite different in their approach to environmental activism.
The event was extremely fascinating for me as I have never interacted in such an environment with Chinese youth. Our two countries have a long history of contention on issues of trade and national identity, but in our discussions, it became quite apparent that we have more in common than we could ever imagine. And the things that do set us apart can be used to learn from each other.
A relationship between Chinese and American youth is crucial to the development of a clean and green future as we will be negotiating on behalf of our own countries in the near future. The more we know about each other, the more successful future negotiations will be. Climate change is a burden that we all share, and in collaborating, we have the opportunity to completely challenge our ideological differences and solve the climate crisis that we have been presented with.
In just spending two hours with our Chinese counterparts, immeasurable progress was made. Perhaps it would do the negotiators at COP15 some good to sit down together to share food and stories of their paths to COP15. Actually, I think I'm going to recommend this to Yvo, I think he'd go for it.
Continue to read about the SSC's travels to COP15 atwww.sscinternational.org
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