Archive for the 'Making Democracy Work' Category

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 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 »

Why I’m Blown Away by Danish Wind Energy

Lily Biggar; Former Communications Intern [Ed. Note – though we were sad to see Lily go, we’re lucky enough to have her dispatches from Copenhagen]

A month ago, after completing my summer internship with Clean Water Action, I wrote to say that I’d be spending the fall semester studying sustainability in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Most of the buzz surrounding Danish sustainability stems from the country’s leadership in wind energy. Wind currently accounts for nearly 20% of the nation’s electricity consumption— that’s four times that of the United States! Denmark has recently set the goal and is well on its way to extend wind’s share of electricity consumption to 50% by 2050. Read the rest of this entry »


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


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 »

Toward the Future of the Movement

Times Square during the People's Climate March

Times Square during the People’s Climate March

By Alex Papali, Organizer : Green Justice Campaign and Boston Recycling Coalition – follow the Boston office on Twitter (@CleanH2OMA)

The People’s Climate March in Manhattan last month was hailed as a watershed moment for the fast-growing climate movement. Yet fewer people see themselves as environmentalists today than in decades past. An estimated 20 million Americans, for example, participated in the first Earth Day in 1970, credited with building the grassroots pressure that led to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other fundamental environmental protections we enjoy today.

An honest assessment may well show that the lower numbers of self-identified environmentalists today is because being green is perceived as the province of affluent whites who don’t have to deal with the immediate needs of real life, or as coming at too high a cost to society’s economic health. But the class and race diversity readily apparent at the New York march show that these attitudes are changing quickly. Every day more people understand the economic benefits that come with low-carbon energy production, or the power of investing in local control of energy, food and other systems instead of the expensive and undemocratic status quo. Read the rest of this entry »

True Facts about the Clean Water Act, part 2

The Clean Water Act turns 42 on Saturday. 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.

Four More Clean Water Act Facts (part 2 of 2) — Learn these and you’ll be an expert

by Jonathan A. Scott, a member of Clean Water Action’s development and communications teams, @jscottnh

FACT #9: Some of the main Clean Water Act tools responsible for most of the progress cleaning up and protecting water include:

  • A national permitting system, administered by the states, to regulate discharges into waterways called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
  • Special protections requiring review and permitting for development projects that disturb or destroy wetlands, the “Section 404” program which provides citizens a critical point of access to decisions affecting their water.
  • Funding – initially a mix of grants and loans, now primarily loans – for state and community investments in modern sewage treatment plants and other water cleanup infrastructure.
  • More federal funding comes to states, mainly as grants, to implement and enforce various Clean Water Act programs.
  • Citizen suit provisions in the law specifically designed to allow citizens and nonprofits to intervene and make sure the law is properly implemented and enforced.

Clean Water Action played significant roles drafting and winning adoption of these provisions. Read the rest of this entry »

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