Protecting Baltimore from Oil Trains

By Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Program Organizer

Marilaine Savard shares her experience with the Lac-Mégantic oil train explosion with Baltimore

Marilaine Savard shares her experience with the Lac-Mégantic oil train explosion with Baltimore

Oil production in North America has skyrocketed in the past five years, with industries using increasingly dangerous and desperate technologies to extract fossil fuels from the ground. Particularly in the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota, the cheapest way for companies to move oil to profitable markets is to load it onto trains and send it to the coast, where refineries and export terminals can transform it into fuel and transport it to wherever they can find the best price. With increasing oil production comes increasing oil train transport – and a mind-boggling increase in oil train accidents. When train cars carrying crude oil derail or hit something, they often puncture; when they do, a slight spark can set off a fiery explosion that turns the train car into a bomb.

Trains carrying volatile crude oil from North Dakota travel through Baltimore constantly – 100 million gallons traveled through the city last year. The trains enter the city in the Morrell Park neighborhood of Southwest Baltimore and pass near the stadiums, follow a tunnel underneath Howard Street, continue underground along 26th Street through Remington and Charles Village (where a retaining wall collapsed onto the tracks two years ago), through Clifton Park, and exit through East Baltimore on their way to Philadelphia. Other trains travel from Morrell Park to South Baltimore, where the oil is transferred to ships and sent on the Patapsco River and through the Chesapeake Bay. Read more…

Posted on February 12, 2016  | Filed Under Global Warming and a New Energy Economy, Healthy, Safer Families and Communities | 1 Comment

Toxic Injustice and the Power of Personal Stories

Sara with Jeremy

by Sara Moffett, Western Massachusetts Organizer

People often ask me, “What do you like best about working for Clean Water Action,” and my answer is always the same: the people. For me, the most rewarding aspect of my job is connecting with folks on the diverse experiences that drive our efforts for progressive change. We all suffer the impacts of environmental degradation (some more profoundly than others), and we all have unique stories to share. Whether incensing, inspiring, or downright heartbreaking, these personal stories have the power to unite us as we find common ground from which to build solutions. Story sharing allows us to think beyond ourselves and look through the window of someone else’s life, if only for a moment or two.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a national effort to ban toxic chemical additives from certain consumer products. In 2015, a petition was submitted by Earthjustice and Consumer Federation of America to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) asking the agency to protect consumers nationwide from the dangers of toxics lurking in products. Specifically, petitioners asked the CPSC to ban the sale of four categories of products (upholstered furniture, mattresses, children’s products, and electronics casings) containing organohalogen flame retardants. Organohalogens are a chemical class representing some of the worst known toxic culprits and have been increasingly linked to serious health issues like cancer, hormone disruption, reduced IQ, and reproductive damage.

Clean Water Action, working in Massachusetts with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow coalition, organized a powerful response in support of this petition. Our members and allies submitted more than 150 comments urging the CPSC to protect public health and ban the sale of organohalogens in consumer products. We are still awaiting the agency’s final decision, so stay tuned!

In the spirit of story sharing, I have taken a selection of quotes from the comments of our coalition members. I hope that you find the words of these bold individuals as motivating as I do.

“Flame retardants are another example of a harmful product, like cigarettes, where corporations have poisoned our families.” (Ellie Goldberg Newton, MA)

“The sad story is that the public health has been endangered more by the use of flame retardants than it has benefited from them.” (Russ Cohen, Arlington, MA)

“As a person disabled by exposure to a combination of approved chemicals and heavy metals, I know first-hand the dangers and cumulative results of slow poisoning. It is the responsibility of our government to keep children and adults safe from toxins.” (Janet Johnson, Plainfield, MA)

“I am sick of spending hours trying to find the least-toxic mattress, car seat, pajamas, etc., only to find out that alternatives without toxic flame retardants are either not available, or are too expensive. MY INCOME LEVEL SHOULD NOT DICTATE MY CHILD’S EXPOSURE TO ENDOCRINE-DISRUPTING CHEMICALS.” (Amie Lindenboim, Brookline, MA)

“I clearly remember the CPSC ban of TRIS in children’s pajamas in 1977- the same week my son was born. The ban and recall of TRIS treated children’s clothing was a strong, justified response by your agency that protected millions of children over the past four decades. I hope your agency will add to that proud moment and act to ban these same organohalogen flame retardants that now pervade multiple consumer products in 2015.” (Lynn Wolbarst, Norwood, MA)

“There are far more effective ways to promote fire safety than dousing everything with toxic chemicals. Please take a stand for lowering healthcare costs, promoting consumer rights and upholding common sense by banning the sale of consumer products containing organohalogen flame retardants.” (Alex Papali, Clean Water Action Organizer, Jamaica Plain, MA)

Posted on February 11, 2016  | Filed Under Healthy, Safer Families and Communities | 3 Comments

Methane in the Membrane: The Oil and Gas Industry’s Invisible Threat

Burning oil gas flaresBy John Noël, National Oil and Gas Coordinator – On Twitter: @Noel_Johnny

What we can’t see is hurting us.

The oil and gas boom is playing out in dozens of states across the country. Yet years later we are still struggling to fully understand the devastating impacts it’s having on our environment and public health. The industry’s impacts are local, often severe and likely to unfold over decades. First, we see changes in our groundwater. Then local surface water is impacted. Then we realize the entire lifecycle of water used in oil and gas operations is vulnerable to contamination. Worse yet it’s the smog-forming pollutants and other air toxics that threaten our health, especially for children. Finally, some are forced to conclude that oil and gas development is an “assault” on their way of life. Now it’s methane pollution that promises to kick climate change into overdrive. Read more…

Posted on February 10, 2016  | Filed Under Global Warming and a New Energy Economy, Protecting America's Waters | Leave a Comment

Supreme Court Pauses Clean Power Plan Momentarily


By John Noël, National Oil and Gas Coordinator – On Twitter: @Noel_Johnny

Yesterday the Supreme Court put a temporary stay on the Clean Power Plan. Importantly, this decision was not based on the legal merits of the case nor does it overturn the Clean Power Plan, which enjoys overwhelming public support. EPA’s authority to reduce carbon pollution has already been widely debated and upheld by the Supreme Court. Read more…

Posted on February 10, 2016  | Filed Under Global Warming and a New Energy Economy, Healthy, Safer Families and Communities, Making Democracy Work, Protecting America's Waters | 1 Comment

Standing up for the Health of Mon Valley Residents


By Cassi Steenblok, Program Organizer

The U.S. Steel owned Clairton Coke Works is the largest producer of coke in the nation, and 37,000 people live in the plant’s shadow. We know that coke emissions can be very dangerous – the Environmental Protection Agency has classified them as carcinogens. This means that the emissions from Clairton Coke Works that waft out over the Mon Valley can cause leukemia and other types of cancer, problems with the nervous system and even premature death. A 2013 study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that residents around Clairton have a cancer risk 20 times higher than the average American from exposure to air pollution. These high stakes have created a long standing desire by residents for change. Read more…

Posted on February 9, 2016  | Filed Under Healthy, Safer Families and Communities, Making Democracy Work | Leave a Comment

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