Archive for the 'Healthy, Safer Families and Communities' Category

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.

 

Halloween costumes scary in more ways than one

By Amanda Sebert, Consultant and Deema Dabbagh, Environmental Health Intern, Massachusetts

The chemicals in these costumes are what's scary...

The chemicals in these costumes are what’s scary…

This Halloween, we learned we have been scared for the wrong reasons. Our fears of ghouls and goblins are (probably) fictitious, but our newfound concerns that our costumes and decorations are dangerous threats to our health are only too real.

A recent study conducted by HealthyStuff.org and released in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Minnesota by Clean Water Action and our coalitions partners, found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and party supplies. The study tested 106 types of Halloween gear—purchased at national retailers such as CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens—for substances linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. In Massachusetts, we searched CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, and Target and found many of the toxic products on our local store shelves (pictured).

There are no ingredient labels on these items and even if there were labels, how many people know the difference between safe and harmful chemicals, or what the synergistic effects are? You shouldn’t need a degree in chemical engineering to celebrate Halloween without toxic chemicals. Read the rest of this entry »

739,794

By Phil Dimotsis, Campaign Organizer – Follow Phil on Twitter (@PhiluptuousD)

750,000!

739,794 comments…and counting!

Today was historic. Today we showcased nearly 750,000 public comments (that’s three quarters of a million, and counting) from people like you to EPA Water’s Deputy Assistant Director, Ken Kopocis, staff from US Army Corp of Engineers, and to Maryland’s US Senator Ben Cardin. We showed them the broad public support for EPA’s proposal to protect the nation’s streams and wetlands. They were enthralled. Kopocis said at one point, “Clean water provides a boom to the economy…brewers, recreation & agriculture depend on clean water.” And it’s TRUE, all the little things we take for granted every day absolutely depend on clean water and healthy watersheds.

We’re so proud of this. It represents nearly a decade of our work (blood, sweat, and tears included) creating the momentum necessary to get EPA to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act and restore vital protections for stream health, and ultimately our health. Read the rest of this entry »

Protect Clean Water – Kids Get It

By Susan Eastwood, Campaign Organizer – follow Susan on Twitter (@SCEastwood)

Emil, age 8, said it best. “Don’t throw trash on the ground because when it rains, it washes into the river and dirties the drinking water.”

Five year old Archie drew a contrast in bright colors, to compare “a happy fish swimming by a rainbow waterfall” with “a fish throwing up. It’s what’s gonna happen if people keep putting garbage in the water.”

Avery, age 8, showed two children holding their noses next to a polluted stream with a very sad fish swimming among the mess.

When you look at these kids’ drawings about water, you know that they get it. They get that we all need clean water to live and that it is common sense that we must protect our air and water as the most basic necessities of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday to the Clean Water Act

by Bob Wendelgass, Clean Water Action President & CEO, follow on Twitter @BWendelgass

The Clean Water Act turns forty-two this weekend! QRfile

When Congress overwhelmingly passed the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, we set an incredibly ambitious goal: eliminate all water pollution.

Before the Act, the Cuyahoga River caught fire, Lake Erie was declared “dead,” untreated waste was routinely dumped in rivers and streams, and wetlands were thought to be useless swamps that needed to be drained for development or agriculture. The Clean Water Act changed all of that. Over the past forty-two years we have seen amazing progress for our water.

The Act is visionary – it changed how we think about our nation’s relationship with our water resources, after more than a century of pollution and degradation.

  • We realized that we needed “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”
  • It seeks to eliminate water pollution completely and to make all rivers, lakes and streams “fishable and swimmable.”
  • It includes a revolutionary “citizen suit” provision that empowers concerned citizen to be effective watchdogs to protect the water resources they use, especially when government fails to do so.
  • The Act established the basic structure to regulate the dumping of pollutants into water and gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to set standards to provide a solid baseline to support states’ pollution control programs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday to the Clean Water Act!

The Clean Water Act turns 42 on tomorrow (10/18). To celebrate we’ll be sharing reflections on the Act, talking about the fight to protect clean water, and discussing what we can all do to put drinking water first.

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

The Clean Water Act became law 42 years ago this week. It’s got a straightforward name and ambitious goals (zero pollution into our nation’s waterways.) Getting there is not so simple. I have two birthday wishes for this law.

First, we have to close loopholes that leave some water unprotected even though science tells us it should be. Right this minute, a huge policy battle is being waged over whether streams, wetlands and other bodies of water should be covered by the Act’s programs. I used to think streams and wetlands were landscape features. Now I know that they are actually part of our water infrastructure. What I mean by that is that they perform a function that we often think has to be performed by engineering and building things. Streams and wetlands filter pollution before it makes its way downstream to rivers and lakes, including rivers and lakes where we get our drinking water. This protects public health and wildlife. Wetlands and streams also prevent flooding, which can cause economic disruption and displace people from their homes. My first birthday wish for the Clean Water Act is that we stop arguing over the obvious and support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to close this loophole. Read the rest of this entry »

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