Archive for the 'Making Democracy Work' Category

Keystone XL – Just Say No

By Aaron Haskins, Michigan Energy Program Intern

For years, we have been heard a lot about the Keystone Pipeline. Oil companies like TransCanada continually reassure us that the pipeline will have minimal impact on the environment while creating thousands of jobs for both Americans and Canadians. Those who oppose the pipeline say that it will contaminate drinking water, endanger the environmentally sensitive farmland it passes through, and raise oil prices throughout the Midwestern United States.
Stop Keystone XL by chesapeakeclimate, on Flickr
The proposition for an extension to the pipeline called “Keystone XL” has been hotly debated by economists and politicians for years now, but the project is still in limbo. The northern half of the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canada border, which means it can’t be built without approval from the Obama administration. Given the controversial nature of the pipeline and the pressure coming from both sides, I am not surprised that a final decision hasn’t been made. I am, however, disappointed that there even needs to be a discussion an either/or debate when it comes to creating jobs and protecting wildlife and the environment.

If Keystone is allowed to move forward, it will indicate America’s commitment to tar sands as a long-term form of energy – which isn’t good. Tar sands are an unconventional form of petroleum proven to be much more polluting than regular oil. Approving a pipeline designed to put tar sands extraction in the express lane would be a sorry symbol of our lack of progress toward clean energy.

Proponents of the extension have argued that the pipeline will not increase harm to the climate or our communities because those tar sands were going to be burned anyway. For them the pipeline merely serves as a more convenient method of transport. Justifying the project using this kind of logic is akin to saying, “I don’t want my friend to drink and drive, but since he’s going to anyway I might as well start his car for him.”

In 2008 (around the time Keystone XL was first proposed), President Obama called on us to “be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.” Now, it is our turn to call on him to be the president who helped us do it by saying no to Keystone XL.

Clean house at Alcosan

By Tom Hoffman and Emily Alvarado

This post was originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Included in the short list of issues that Mayor Bill Peduto raised with President Barack Obama back in November at a meeting of incoming mayors was a request for the Environmental Protection Agency to let Pittsburgh pursue greener solutions to our sewer system “big fix.” Every time it rains, our pipes overflow and we dump raw sewage into the rivers. Fixing our sewer system is both long overdue and federally mandated.

Mayor Peduto gets it: It’s good for communities, workers and the environment if we maximize our area’s largest-ever public investment to stop water pollution and solve multiple community needs at the same time.
Read the rest of this entry »

“Polluter Pays” Paying Off in Rhode Island – Part 2

By Jamie Rhodes, Rhode Island State Director (Follow Jamie on Twitter – @jrhodes97)

Read part one here

After Southern Union was found guilty of illegally storing mercury in Pawtucket, Judge William E. Smith, in an unprecedented move, in his opinion stated “I am inviting the parties, and the greater environmental community, to suggest community service obligations that I could impose upon Southern Union which would have the broadest possible impact.” Clean Water has been a leader in the Rhode Island community for developing campaigns designed to reduce the use of mercury in products and meters and provide for the safe recycling of items that contain it. A proposal was submitted that would provide us funding to advance efforts to collect mercury thermostats and create a collection program for CFLs, which contain mercury. At the end of 2013, Judge Smith announced that Clean Water would be among the recipients of part of these funds, along with the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the City of Pawtucket. Read the rest of this entry »

“Polluter Pays” Paying Off in Rhode Island – Part 1

By Jamie Rhodes, Rhode Island State Director (Follow Jamie on Twitter – @jrhodes97)

Clean Water had an unusual opportunity in 2013. As part of a criminal penalty assessed against Southern Union, the natural gas storage and transportation company, we received $100,000 to develop and implement programs to properly manage mercury. This begs the obvious question, what does a natural gas company have to do with mercury? That question is the beginning of story that has just entered a new chapter. Read the rest of this entry »

Dealing with Waste in the Ocean State

As the 2014 legislative session approaches, one key question bubbling in the Ocean State is what we will do to reduce waste in the most innovative ways.

We’re pushing for a multi-tiered plan featuring the best ideas from local experts and cities and states across the country, which are making real progress toward zero waste. Because of your support, Clean Water Action continues to make a critical contribution in Rhode Island to building a sound, long term solid waste management strategy that incorporates Producer responsibility, expansion of composting and the diversion of organic waste, increased recycling in the business community and in public spaces across Rhode Island, and the development of a zero waste policy statewide. There is a lot to do, but with your help, we’ll transform Rhode Island’s waste system. Read the rest of this entry »

Protecting Drinking Water and Fracking – It’s All Connected

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

Update – February 18, 2014: Click here to tell EPA to Put Drinking Water First and Protect Communities from Coal Ash!

Hydraulic fracturing operations

Hydraulic fracturing operations

I’m pretty sure many people don’t make the connection between this week’s finalization of permitting guidelines for hydraulic fracturing activities using diesel and two big stories we’re following – the chemical spill in West Virginia and the coal ash spill in North Carolina.  That’s understandable because we don’t approach protecting drinking water sources in a holistic way. In fact, it sometimes appears that we don’t approach drinking water protection at all!

But this is all about acting as if our drinking water really matters, and using the laws we have or creating new ones to make sure drinking water sources are protected. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a Bad Idea: Drilling for Gas Under State Forests.

By Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Campaign Manager

Governor Corbett wants to open our state forests to drilling…because.

Are you kidding me?

Reopening Pennsylvania’s state forests to new gas development is short sighted and threatens both the environmental and economic benefits our forests provide. Yet during his 2014 State of the State address Governor Tom Corbett proposed doing just that. He wants to do this not only to balance a one time budget gap, but because “there’s a huge amount of gas under state parks and forests, and I don’t believe in leaving it there.” Read the rest of this entry »

The River City, Where Coal Ash (STILL) Flows from Eden

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

Update – February 18, 2014: Click here to tell EPA to Put Drinking Water First and Protect Communities from Coal Ash!

The motto for the City of Danville, Virginia is “The river city, where innovation flows.”  Since Sunday night, the River City has been where coal ash flows.  As I posted Wednesday, Duke Energy has been scrambling to stop the flow of coal ash wastewater from one of its ash ponds since a stormwater pipe beneath the pond ruptured Sunday afternoon.  The ash pond, located near Eden, North Carolina, is approximately 20 miles upriver from the city of Danville, VA, which gets its drinking water from the Dan River. Our friends Catawba Riverkeeper have created this timeline of events for the ongoing spill. It’s been over five days – and I am beginning to wonder, how many Duke Energy engineers does it take to fix one broken pipe?  Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Read the rest of this entry »

A River Runs Gray, Threatening Downstream Water Supplies

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

Update – February 18, 2014: Click here to tell EPA to Put Drinking Water First and Protect Communities from Coal Ash!

Nearly 72-hours after a stormwater pipe buried beneath a 27-acre unlined coal ash pond burst, wastewater from the pond is still spilling into the Dan River near the town of Eden, North Carolina. Duke Energy, the pond operator, estimates that between 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash has contaminated the Dan River – a volume of ash that would fill between 20 and 32 Olympic-size swimming pools. The company estimates that an additional 24-27 million gallons of coal ash wastewater has poured into the river.

Coal ash is the waste left behind from burning coal and it contains arsenic, lead, mercury, boron, cadmium, selenium, nutrients and other harmful chemicals. Heavy metals like mercury are highly soluble in water, and wastewater from ash ponds pose an especially big threat to aquatic life because these dissolved heavy metals can persist in the environment for a very long time. Heavy metals like mercury also concentrate up the food chain, which is why so many water bodies across the country have fish consumption advisories. Read the rest of this entry »

US Senate Hearing on West Virginia Drinking Water: Crisis What Crisis?

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


Time to Put Drinking Water First

Yesterday I attended a U.S. Senate hearing on the West Virginia “Drinking Water Crisis” brought on by last month’s chemical spill into the Elk River, the drinking water source for West Virginia American Water’s 300,000 consumers.  The hearing title got me thinking that we do have a “crisis” on our hands, but it’s not limited to what happened in West Virginia.  Far too often, many different types of polluting industrial activities – not just storing chemicals in tanks  - are allowed to contaminate our drinking water sources.

This could be prevented.  But instead we’re putting a burden on our drinking water systems and their consumers (us). We’re basically turning our drinking water treatment plants into an easy-way-out waste disposal option for companies who should be cleaning up their act way upstream. That’s what our Put Drinking Water First efforts are about, and you’ll be hearing more about them during this 40th anniversary year of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Read the rest of this entry »

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