Archive for the 'Protecting America’s Waters' 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 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 »

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 »

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.

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