Archive for the 'Global Warming and a New Energy Economy' Category

What Do EPA’s new Coal Ash Disposal Rule and New York State Fracking Ban Have in Common?

By Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director – Follow Lynn on Twitter (@LTCWA)

Two big things happened in the world of energy policy this week. I don’t think most people connected them. EPA finalized a long overdue framework to regulate our country’s second largest waste stream after household trash – toxic ash from coal plants. New York banned high volume hydraulic fracturing, basically ruling out drilling for Marcellus Shale gas in that state. Two important similarities here.

Fossil Fuels are Dirty: Until the infamous Tennessee coal ash spill in 2008, people didn’t realize the mess we leave behind when we burn coal for electricity. As EPA began working on this regulation, we learned that coal plants produce millions of tons of toxic waste every year. And we learned how powerful a polluting industry that doesn’t want to change can be. Read the rest of this entry »

Why did Gov. Cuomo Decide to Ban Fracking in New York?

By Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania State Director – Follow the Pennsylvania Team on Twitter (@CleanH2OPA)

Oil and gas operations close to a home in Armstrong, PA

Oil and Gas operations near a home in Armstrong County, PA

Why did New York ban fracking?

Maybe it was the hundreds of families impacted by the 240 cases of water contamination from gas drilling documented by the state of Pennsylvania.

Maybe it was the millions of gallons of toxic wastewater from gas drilling that have been dumped in Pennsylvania rivers.

Maybe it was the notices from water utilities sent to 300,000 residents in the Pittsburgh area to not use their drinking water due to fracking wastewater in their water supply.

Maybe it was the 500 frack pits, open earthen impoundments of toxic wastewater, set up by the oil and gas industry around the state covering nearly 1,000 acres and capable of holding a billion gallons.

Maybe it was the flammable water, exploding water wells, or even the gas well fire in southwest PA that took a week to put out. Read the rest of this entry »

Seriously, FPL?

By Kathy Aterno, National Managing Director and Florida Director – Follow our Florida Team on Twitter (@CleanWaterFL)

Did you know that in some states – including Florida – electric utilities are allowed to charge ratepayers for the costs of complying with environmental laws, even if the ratepayers were not the ones that caused the company to need to clean up its act?

Bad as that is, a few months ago, Clean Water Action and allies the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Earthjustice learned that one Florida utility, Florida Power and Light wanted to go a step farther. They actually asked the Florida Public Service Commission for permission to bill ratepayers almost a quarter-million dollars to go towards a national Dirty Water lobbying campaign.

FPL had the audacity to try making its own ratepayers pay even more on their electric bills so their electric company could join in a misguided national campaign led by many of the nation’s worst polluters. They want to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from completing work on a proposed Clean Water Rule that would restore longstanding protections for small streams, wetlands and drinking water sources. This is in a state where clean water is central to our economy and quality of life. Everyone here – including FPL ratepayers – needs clean water and values it highly. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shale Gas Dream: Is it Almost Time to Wake Up?

By John Noël, National Oil and Gas Program Coordinator - Follow John on Twitter (@NoelJohnny)

When it comes to the future of energy in this country, you’ve probably heard the terms “shale-revolution,” “bridge fuel,” or “natural gas is our clean energy future.” There are dozens of these buzzwords. Together they form a powerful narrative that, unfortunately, is not really based in reality.

Everything we’ve heard from the gas industry is based on upon projections of an abundant recoverable supply of natural gas for decades to come. The problem is that there are holes in the “lots of domestic oil and gas for decades to come” narrative. Researchers are exposing just how flawed the oil and gas supply predictions are from industry and the leading source for government certified energy forecasts, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) in the Department of Energy.

A new report from the Post Carbon Institute investigates drilling data from the top tight oil and shale gas plays. The report very simply concludes that current production projections for tight oil and shale gas are unsustainable and misleading. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday EPA

By Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director – follow Lynn on Twitter (@LTCWA)

[ED. Note – Like the best birthday greetings, this is a day late]

Happy Birthday EPA!

I learned on one of my favorite blogs (This Day in Water History) that on this day [Ed. Note – yesterday, December 2nd] in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began operations. Most people probably don’t think much about the EPA. Here at Clean Water Action, we think about EPA all the time. Much of our work in the community of health and environmental organizations over the last four decades has been about passing laws in the U.S. Congress. But it doesn’t stop there. After an environmental law passes, it’s EPA who steps in to make it a reality. That’s no easy task.

Clean Water Action was founded in the wake of passage of the Clean Water Act because our founders knew that a law doesn’t mean much if it is not implemented well. And that implementation requires public participation. These days, with Congress not passing many health or environmental protection laws (or any others for that matter), our focus remains on the ongoing processes of implementing our laws. We focus especially on our landmark water laws – the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act which turns 40 in just two weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

What a Week – Clean Water Action in Motion

By Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director – Follow Lynn on Twitter (@LTCWA)

It’s been quite a week for our Clean Water, especially for our National Program Team. Here are some of the highlights:

Congressional Testimony on Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water: I testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy today. You can find my testimony and our press release here.

EPA’s Dr. Peter Grevatt talked about 40 years of Safe Drinking Water Act progress and the challenges ahead

EPA’s Dr. Peter Grevatt talked about 40 years of Safe Drinking Water Act progress and the challenges ahead

Celebrating: At our annual event in Washington DC last Friday, we celebrated our work on the Clean Water Rule campaign and the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Peter Grevatt, directs EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water – the office that implements the Act. We learned from Peter about the importance of protecting drinking water sources and investing in our infrastructure to help prevent the kinds of water disruptions we saw in West Virginia and Ohio this year. We also presented an award to Verna Harrison of the Campbell Foundation in honor of her groundbreaking work to support campaigns in the Chesapeake Region.

Protecting All Water: Also last Friday, the comment period on the Clean Water Rule closed. National Water Campaigns Coordinator Jennifer Peters submitted our technical comments and oversaw the wrap-up of a campaign that included over 130,000 grassroots comments, resolutions in 16 local jurisdictions and over 400 organizations and over 200 local and state elected officials signed on to comment letters spearheaded by our state offices. This organization-wide multi-strategy campaign might be the biggest in our history. Read the rest of this entry »

Virginia Groups Take Strides to Protect Their Communities and Our Region’s Drinking Water from Gas Drilling

This week the U.S. Forest Service released the George Washington Forest Final Revised Forest Plan. The plan was updated for the first time in over 20 years due to the prospect of high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activities within the national forest.

Given the unique nature of the GW Forest, the Forest Service rightly put drinking water first and prohibited fracking throughout the forest in 2011. The GW Forest is the headwaters for an incredible 2.7 million people in the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Its watershed serves as a direct source of drinking water for 262,000 people in the Virginia Shenandoah Valley. It is only appropriate that the Forest Service originally suggested that fracking might be too risky of an industrial activity for this fragile landscape. Local public water suppliers, Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe, and a broad coalition of local environmental groups agreed.

However, the final plan released this week reversed the original position. The Forest Service’s revised plan would now allow drilling in limited areas of the national forest. Roughly 176,000 acres of privately held leases within the forest are now eligible for gas development. The plan rightly safeguards the remaining 985,000 acres from natural gas development, a positive step and a prime example of a government agency listening to the local impacted community. However, the impacts of irresponsible drilling do not follow property lines. Fracking on any acre of privately held land within the forest has the potential to impact the rest of the ecosystem, including surface water and groundwater resources.

While there is no current expressed interest in drilling inside the national forest, the area does sit smack on top of one of country’s most profitable “shale plays” (as the industry views things). It could be only a matter of time and economics until gas drillers creep into this pristine forest land.

When considering future drilling proposals it is critical to remember the positive economic contributions an intact and preserved George Washington National Forest adds to the region:

  • Recreational opportunities for more than 10 million people who live within driving distance of the forest
  • More than 1 million people visit the park each year, and the park contains portions of the world renowned Appalachian Trail
  • The land includes 4 of the top 10 agriculture producing counties
  • The park injects more than $10 million into the local recreation and tourism economy, and contributes to the 138,000 recreational jobs created annually in Virginia

Clean Water Action stands with the local community groups in support of the Forest Service’s decision to ban fracking from the vast majority of the forest. We hope that any future proposals to drill examine the costs fracking operations and will weigh those potentially very serious costs against the substantial benefits the region receives from the Forest’s sustainable ecosystem and recreational economy, without fracking.

The Baltimore Bag Bill.

By Will Fadely, Baltimore Program Organizer – Follow Will on Twitter – @TrillChillWill

Each week, Clean Water meets with residents and community associations and we continue to hear one overwhelming environmental concern – an abundance of trash in our neighborhoods. Whether we’re in Hampden, Westport, Park Heights, Armistead Gardens, Curtis Bay, or Sharpe-Leadenhall the complaint is the same; trash. The most visible element of this trash: plastic bags. Plastic bags in the trees, gutters, alleys, playgrounds, and waterways. There are too many plastic bags and something needs to be done.

Community complaints have not fallen on deaf ears. Over the last few years, and again last April, the Baltimore City Council introduced legislation to create a five cent surcharge on single-use plastic and paper bags. The idea is to encourage the use of re-usable bags instead of single use plastic and paper bags, which are the major cause of litter in our streets. Whether a resident pays the surcharge or not is a matter of choice. It will not impose a fee or tax on anyone who changes their behavior and adopts the re-useable bag. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Herrings and Meat Dresses on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

By Neil Bhaerman, Crew Coordinator, Pittsburgh Phone Canvass – Follow Neil on Twitter (@neilanalien)

If you’ve driven the Pennsylvania turnpike, especially the stretch between the state capitol in Harrisburg and the coal and gas rich southwestern counties, you’ve probably seen some eye catching billboards.

One, featuring Lady Gaga with a raw steak on her head, asks, “Would you take energy advice from a woman wearing a meat dress?” Another, with Yoko Ono, asks, “Would you take advice from the woman who broke up the Beatles?” A third, with Robert Redford, shouts out: “Demands green living. Flies on private jets.”

There are a lot of problems with these ads. For example, why wouldn’t they keep the message structure the same and title the Redford billboard, “Would you take energy advice from a man who turned down the lead role in The Graduate?” Read the rest of this entry »

Shake It Off & Keep Your Eye on the Ball: Americans Expect Clean Water

Americans Expect Their Elected Officials to Protect Clean Water

“The new Congress could be one of the most hostile to clean water and other environmental concerns, based on the new leadership’s extreme anti-environment records and positions. But that’s not what the American people want, and it’s not what they voted for.”  – Bob Wendelgass, Clean Water Action President and CEO

Yesterday's elections brought some good and not-so-good news for clean water. But the bottom line remains unchanged: people care about their water and want to see it protected. We have some work to do. Are you with us?  [photo credit: Steve Shohl]

Shake it off, and keep your eye on the ball! Yesterday’s elections brought some good and not-so-good news for clean water. But the bottom line remains unchanged: people care about their water and want to see it protected. We have some work to do. Are you with us?
[photo credit: Steve Shohl]

Though some votes are still being counted, the Republican Party has regained a majority in the U.S. Senate, and Sen. Mitch McConnell will be the next Majority Leader. Sen. McConnell has made it clear that the Senate in the 114th Congress will take up measures aimed at reducing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget, stopping EPA from implementing rules needed to protect drinking water for more than 1 in 3 Americans, and preventing action to reduce climate-changing, health-harming pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Clean Water Action President and CEO Bob Wendelgass released the following statement:

We are disappointed to lose Senator Mark Udall and other clean water allies, but we are very pleased to continue to partner with Senators Cory Booker and Jeanne Shaheen, and excited to work with Senator-Elect Gary Peters. All have proven to be clean water champions in their careers as public servants and their leadership on these issues will be all the more important in the next Congress.

Despite big polluters’ unprecedented election spending on dirty water candidates, this election hasn’t changed the fact that Americans expect their elected officials to protect clean water and take concrete action on climate change. On behalf of our one million members and the 750,000 Americans who have told EPA they want protections for small streams, wetlands and drinking water sources, Clean Water Action intends to hold all Members of Congress accountable to the people whom they represent – not the polluters.

The new Congress could be one of the most hostile to clean water and other environmental concerns. That’s what we fear when we look at the new leadership’s extreme anti-environment records and the anti-environment agenda to which they’ve pledged themselves. But that’s not what the American people want, and it’s not what they voted for. Clean Water Action will be there every step of the way to make sure that the polluters’ agenda is not allowed to prevail, making sure that the concerns for clean water and healthy communities held by ordinary Americans are heard by their elected officials.

The opportunity to move an environmental agenda forward still exists despite the new Congressional leadership. We will continue working with the Obama Administration on executive actions to protect our water and address climate change, and look forward to working with our allies in Congress to ensure that these protections are allowed to move forward.


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