Archive for the 'Making Democracy Work' Category

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 260 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 »

Will EPA Finally #KickCoalAsh?

By Jennifer Peters, National Water Campaigns Coordinator  – Follow Jennifer on Twitter (@EarthAvenger)

All We Want for Christmas is a strong coal ash rule!After years of delay, EPA will finalize its coal ash rule on December 19th. Will it be strong enough to protect the hundreds of communities impacted by this toxic waste?

Six years after our nation’s largest industrial waste spill – the 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant disaster that dumped over a billion gallons of toxic slurry into two Tennessee rivers and buried several homes – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will finally issue the first-ever federal coal ash regulation. The Agency is under a court-ordered deadline to publish its final rule by Friday, December 19th.

Those of us who have been working on this issue for years are anxiously waiting to see if EPA’s new rule will be strong enough to prevent future disasters like Kingston or a spill like the one that happened at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River plant this past February. Coal ash, the toxic remains of burning coal, is one of the largest industrial waste streams in the country.   It contains a witches’ brew of nasty chemicals – arsenic, mercury, lead, selenium, hexavalent chromium – just to list a few. Every year, power plants produce a staggering 140 million tons of coal ash – that’s enough toxic waste to fill train cars stretching from the North to the South Pole. Read the rest of this entry »

The SDWA – 40 years of Safe Drinking Water

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

Celebrating 40 years of the Safe Drinking Water Act - a Poster

Celebrating 40 years of Safe Drinking Water

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Like our drinking water itself, a lot of people don’t think much about SDWA (pronounced Sid Wah) until there is a problem. But the important thing about our nation’s landmark drinking water law is that its implementation chugs along no matter what. Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the water sector including the Public Water Systems regulated by SDWA and public health and environmental organizations can celebrate four decades of progress in setting standards for contaminants, in research, in public education and in fascinating evolution of understanding about the complexities of providing water to the public and of what it means to regulate that activity.

When I woke up this morning, DC was experiencing a water main break and thus disruptions to traffic and Metro service downtown. Our water infrastructure is just one example of the miracles and challenges implicit in the business of water. Most of the time, those pipes bring water to our taps for drinking, cooking, bathing and so many other daily activities in our homes and businesses. Most people don’t think much about it until one of those pipes break. Then we notice, mostly in frustration. Water infrastructure replacement and modernization will be one of the great challenges of the next 40 years. Not only do we need to invest billions of dollars in these deteriorating systems, but we are learning fascinating things about what goes on in those pipes and how that relates to public health protection.

There are other challenges, including reforming how we regulate all of our activities so that our drinking water sources are better protected. Clean Water Actions likes to say we should Put Drinking Water First, by which we mean making the ultimate impact on drinking water sources a primary consideration when we are controlling pollution from the many activities which can lead to contamination. How we get our energy, how we grow and make our food, how we manufacture products and how we build our cities and towns all impact drinking water quality. 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 »

Celebrating the SDWA!

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

On December 9th I spoke at a Safe Drinking Water Act 40th anniversary Forum about why we have to stop using our drinking water sources as a dumping ground and our treatment plants as a pollution solution.

The day’s agenda featured leaders from the drinking water sector, including representatives from Public Water Systems, drinking water associations and the state agencies who implement the Safe Drinking Water Act. There were some special guests too. Vic Kimm was one of the first EPA employees and the Director of the Drinking Water Office when the Act was first being implemented. Read the rest of this entry »


By  Jennifer Peters, National Water Campaigns Coordinator – Follow Jennifer on Twitter (@EarthAvenger)

Leaving 100 million tons of toxic, industrial waste in unstable, unlined pits near rivers and lakes sounds like a bad idea, right?

Not necessarily, according to the CEO of Duke Energy.

Earlier this year an old pipe under one of Duke Energy’s inactive coal ash ponds broke, spewing an estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. (Coal ash is the toxic remains of burning coal.) It took Duke nearly a week to stop the flow of pollution, which contaminated at least seventy miles of river, causing several Virginia drinking water utilities downstream to close their intakes to prevent the ash from polluting their systems.  To prevent future disasters, Duke is now working on a plan to close its 32 coal ash ponds in North Carolina, which contain decades of accumulated toxic waste – at least 100 million tons – nearly all of it stored precariously next to a river, lake, or drinking water reservoir. 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 »

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 »

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