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When it comes to rivers and clean, safe water, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Hundreds of thousands of people have learned that the hard way over recent weeks, after a dangerous coal chemical spilled into the Elk River in West Virginia's capitol city, and then toxic coal ash from a retired Duke Energy power plant spilled into North Carolina's Dan River (and now there's another coal slurry spill in WV).
In the wake of these disasters, frightened families have been faced with a sobering reality – the state agencies they were counting on to keep their water safe have actually had their hands tied behind their back for years, thanks to decades of pressure from the coal industry.
Chaos, fear and uncertainty; that’s all the people affected by the chemical spill in West Virginia and the coal ash spill in North Carolina have come to expect from their leaders in the wake of these disasters. It’s simply unacceptable.
Yesterday in Charleston, West Virginia the House sub-committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a field hearing on the spill, just a day after WV Senator Jay Rockefeller said he still had no faith in the safety of water for more than 300,000 West Virginians, stating:
And the Senator gets very specific on who is to blame for his skepticism:"It just gets into the degree of control that corporations have over people," he said. "They dominate in West Virginia's life. Governors get elected - and I was a governor once - and they appoint people to regulatory jobs who helped them in campaigns. What does that tell you?"
This comes just days after physicians in West Virginia reinforced a recommendation for children and pregnant women to avoid drinking the water - over one month after the spill. It's gotten so bad in West Virginia that, as the New York Times reports, a key selling point for restaurants is that they only use bottled water for cooking.
Sadly, corporate control over the safety of our water isn't just a problem for those of us in West Virginia. In North Carolina, Duke Energy finally announced yesterday that they had stopped the flow of toxic coal ash from a retired coal plant, after a week-long spill that dumped 82,000 tons of arsenic containing toxic coal ash into the Dan River.
An Associated Press investigation yesterday revealed that the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has actually been shielding Duke from citizen lawsuits by intervening at the last minute after citizen's groups have filed suit, ensuring that Duke pays exceptionally small fines while doing nothing to clean up toxic coal ash ponds. Rachel Maddow broke this down brilliantly on her show last night, and also interviewed Amy Adams, a former state environmental regulator who resigned in protest after being asked to give polluters a free pass - she is now on the staff of Appalachian Voices, where I used to work as executive director.
Thanks to an investigation by our allies at the Waterkeeper Alliance, the DENR is telling residents along the Dan River to "avoid prolonged direct contact" with water from the river as levels of the toxic metal arsenic are at some points more than four times higher than levels deemed safe for human contact. This warning comes days after the same agency said the water was safe - eerily similar to the way events unfolded in West Virginia.
The response of state and federal agencies to both of these crises is simply unacceptable. It took the EPA nearly a month to respond publicly to the water crisis in West Virginia, and in North Carolina, the DENR only admitted to dangerous levels of arsenic in the river after concerned citizens did testing of their own.
Enough is enough. It has been five years since the disastrous Kingston coal ash spill dumped more than a billion gallons of the toxic sludge and the EPA is still sitting on a draft rule that could have prevented the North Carolina spill, had they finalized a strong version of the rule. The agency is also in the midst of drafting rules to finally set limits for toxic water pollution from power plants, but the coal industry has tried to put the screws to the agency and the White House to ensure the final rule has no teeth.
From corporate mishandling to federal inaction, the depressing fact is that those under the gun from coal pollution still don't have much recourse to protect their homes, their safety or their water.
There are many more coal pollution time bombs ticking on our waterways nationwide, and states are clearly not able to prevent these disasters, nor to respond in time. Now is the time for the EPA to act. It's time to ensure that everyone has the security to expect clean water free from the threat of pollution from coal in any of its forms.
- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director
On a very snowy winter's day February 11, 1994, President Clinton signed a historic executive order: EO 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations."
The executive order directs, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, federal agencies to identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their actions on minority and low-income populations. The order mandates each agency to develop a strategy for implementing environmental justice (EJ). The order also directs promotion of nondiscrimination in federal programs that affect human health and the environment, as well as provide minority and low-income communities access to public information and public participation.
The road to the environmental justice executive order has been a long and hard one for EJ communities and activists. The road is still uphill with many tough and treacherous areas. Communities of color and low-income communities, urban and rural, had been sited for decades near toxic and noxious facilities and extractive processes.
It is commonly accepted that the EJ movement formally started in 1982 when black residents in Warren County, NC laid down in road near where a carcinogen-laden landfill was about to be sited. This county which was mostly African American already had a number of such landfills and the community had had enough. Indigenous communities, farmworkers, and workers inside industrial plants had long agitated for environmental justice as well. The research and documentation started piling up that the government was acquiescing to disproportionate pollution in communities of color and low income communities.
The environmental justice communities have had to make a way when there has been no way. The executive order gave EJ folks a ledge to cling to when taking on the federal government. Unfortunately, the implementation of this executive order is not complete. The work was stalled during the Bush Administration. Meanwhile EJ activists continued to fight for the health and sustainability of their communities.
The Sierra Club started work on EJ issues in the 1990s and the Environmental Justice Program was created in 2000. Organizers were placed in communities, at their request (as the mission of the program) to work on local EJ issues. The EJ Program was later combined with the Community Partnerships Program to become the present Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships (EJCP) Program.
EJCP has worked closely with communities in: Appalachia, Detroit, El Paso, Flagstaff, Memphis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Puerto Rico and Washington DC. All the organizers and the director integrate the local issues to the national and international levels on a frequent basis. EJCP has fruitful collaborations with many EJ networks as well as with faith, civil rights, labor organizations. The Sierra Club's EJCP Program is called upon to collaborate and convene with EPA and other federal agencies with EJ communities on a regular basis. Due to this influence, the Sierra Club has moved toward a greater justice frame in the national campaign work.
The biggest recent boost of attention to the environmental justice executive order began with President Obama selecting Lisa P. Jackson as the EPA Administrator for his first term. She made EJ one of her seven priorities.
Through EJ Plan 2014 (and EJ activists' advocacy around it), the EPA is facilitating the active participation of the aforementioned federal agencies with a coordinated approach to address the suffering of the overburdened EJ communities. In December of 2010, then-Administrator Jackson and Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley convened the White House Forum on EJ.
Despite a greater focus on EJ at the EPA (February was deemed "Environmental Justice" month by EPA this year), much more needs to be done on to prioritize EJ in enforcement in all the regions. Seriously overburdened communities, for example are suffering detrimental health effects and economic deprivation from chemical accidents and proposed coal terminals. Port communities are exposed to more and more truck, container and barge traffic due to globalization. Communities around refineries are being subject more fires and explosions at refineries who cannot refine tar sands in a safe manner due its toxic content. People in Charleston, WV are still wondering whether their water is safe to drink after a chemical spill last month. Tribal communities and border communities still have to live with the legacy of Cold War uranium contamination and pesticides contamination.
These communities are proactively fighting for a just sustainable future and refuse to be condemned as sacrifice zones. The executive order has been helpful in mandating EJ become central in these agencies' cultures, practices, compliance and enforcement. Much more work needs to be done by the federal government to protect the most overburdened and vulnerable communities.
-- Leslie Fields, Director of the Sierra Club Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Program.
EPA is holding a 20th anniversary celebration at the National EJ Advisory Council (NEJAC) in Denver, CO on February 11-12. Sierra Club EJCP Organizer Rita Harris will be featured on the commemoration panel on February 11. See also the Sierra Club's comments on Dr. Bob Bullard's (called the father of environmental justice) link about the 20th anniversary. Learn more about Dr. Bob Bullard here.
The following is testimony from Nick Mullins, a former coal miner from Virginia, given Thursday before the Environmental Protection Agency public hearing in Washington, DC, on carbon pollution standards. Nick is pictured above speaking to a press conference outside EPA before giving his testimony inside.
My name is Nick Mullins and I am a 4th generation former underground coal miner from Southwestern Virginia.
Like many of the men in my family, I worked in the coal mines to support my family and to give my children a better future, but it came at the cost of more than just our battered bodies and polluted lungs. It also came at the expense of clean water and clean air for future generations. After decades of mining and mountaintop removal practices, I had to move my family away from our ancestral Appalachian home, fleeing from the detrimental health effects associated with decades of chemicals released into our environment from coal extraction and the “cleaning” process.
The proud heritage of the coal miner has been soiled by the greed of an industry that knows no bounds in its exploitation of decent, hardworking people. While billions of dollars in coal profits have left our communities, thousands of people continue to face a seemingly endless cycle of poverty and drug abuse. Of the billions of tons of coal extracted from our mountains to power this great nation, most of it has gone up in waste for the sake of comfort, convenience, and enormous profit.
After decades of careless energy use by our nation, Appalachians are being left with poisoned water, eviscerated mountains, and little economic hope. But the problems in Appalachia are only some of the many caused by the overuse of a cheaply extracted-resource. Now we are facing the inevitability of human-created climate change, of which we can no longer be apathetic.
By limiting carbon emissions from power plants, we are taking steps towards a transformative future. Though many will find themselves fearing, and even resisting change, we need to realize that smart policies designed to protect public health and spur innovation are absolutely necessary. For example, by creating a more energy efficient, carbon-conscious economy, we are also creating new jobs for thousands of skilled workers who can install equipment, upgrade infrastructure, and build a better, cleaner future for our children. In doing so, we are accomplishing the same goals so many coal miners work hard towards every day.
I speak out on behalf of fellow fathers, Appalachians, skilled workers, and the 4,000,000 other Americans who support strong standards to limit pollution from our nation's power plants. We are standing together, in pursuit of a healthier, safer, cleaner future for our children.
This week, actresses Amy Smart, Eva Amurri Martino, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Dawn Olivieri joined the Sierra Club in an online video asking California Governor Jerry Brown to make a "clean break" with fossil fuels, and commit to replacing the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station with 100 percent clean energy. Check out the great video.
The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to begin its decision-making process within the next few days as to how much of the shuttered nuclear plant will be replaced by clean or dirty energy.
Take action and learn more here.
The Sierra Club's My Generation Campaign is a statewide effort to ensure that every Californian is able to enjoy the access and benefits that come from the use of affordable, local clean renewable sources of energy, thereby reducing our overall reliance on dangerous fossil fuels.
Across the country, Sierra Club activists have been raising their voices about a “free trade” scheme that would do more environmental harm than help if it’s pushed through the finish line as-is.
From rallies and demonstrations to emails and phone calls to their representatives in Congress, these activists are calling for responsible trade, and opposing fast track--an outdated ploy to speed up passage of massive trade deals that have less to do with tariffs and quotas and more to do with our labor, environmental, and consumer safeguards.
If passed, the fast track bill introduced in the House and Senate last month would strip Congress of its right to improve trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal and a Transatlantic deal with the European Union. From what we know about these trade deals -- which isn’t much, since we’re relying on leaked texts and are otherwise locked out of negotiations -- they will feed to the whims of the deals’ corporate advisers and will do little to protect the interest and safety of the public.
There are tons of reasons to oppose fast track, and Sierra Club activists aren’t the only ones joining this national “10 Days to Stop Fast Track.” They’re joined by members of labor unions, proponents of open internet, other environmentalists, and concerned citizens that have a stake in America’s role in international trade. According to the Wall Street Journal, this effort has engaged nearly 600,000 supporters through online petitions and garnered more than 40,000 phone calls to Congress.
Here’s what some of you, the Sierra Club’s grassroots activists, have done to raise the issue and call to stop fast track.
Sierra Club activists sent over 65,000 messages to the halls of congress to stop “fast-track” dead in its tracks. You can add your name and share with your networks.
In Seattle, 300 people including labor leaders and health professionals joined together at Westlake Center to protest the highly secretive TPP trade deal. Speakers appeared in front of a giant “We the People” replica of the Preamble of the Constitution while nearby, a satirical “We the Corporations” rewrite of the Preamble hinted at the corporate interests that are actually served by the trade deal. You can watch a video of the whole event here.Photo by Robin Everett
Sierra Club activists made the news in Maryland where about 25 people rallied outside Rep. John Delaney’s office in Gaithersburg last week to urge him to vote against fast track. An op-ed written by Betsy Johnson, Political Chair from the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, also ran in the Baltimore Sun just before the 10 days of action, calling on Reps. Delaney and Chris Van Hollen to speak up and reject fast track.
In Denver, activists from MoveOn.org, Food and Water Watch, Communication Workers of America and Sierra Club, along with others participated in a sign-waving event downtown. Held in Civic Center Park on a snowy afternoon, this event helped get the word out about the TPP to Rep. Jared Polis’ constituents.Photo by Sam Schabacker of Food and Water Watch
Even before the organized 10 days of action, Sierra Club members across the country have been bringing the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership into daylight.
Recently, Debra Higbee-Sudyka, Vice Chair of the Marys Peak Group of the Sierra Club in Oregon, spoke at town halls with Congressman DeFazio and highlighted the Sierra Club's concerns about TPP and our opposition to fast track. It made the front page of the community’s paper, the Gazette Times.
Also, with support from the Sierra Club chapter in Los Angeles, the LA City Council introduced a resolution opposing fast tracking the TPP. The chair of Sierra Club's Committee on Trade, Human Rights, and the Environment, Jesse Swanhuyser, spoke at the press conference alongside Teamsters President James Hoffa in order to announce the resolution.
The Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter in New York, led by volunteer Stephanie Low, helped organize an incredibly successful press conference on the steps of City Hall in NYC. You can see the short video from the rally against fast track here.
These days of action gave activists a chance to have their voices heard -- and momentum to do more. If we want to protect our jobs, our food, our air and water, and our climate, we need to urge Congress to reject fast track.
--Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program Director
The site of the Dan River spill in North Carolina. Photo by Appalachian Voices. See more photos here.
On Sunday, a stormwater pipe burst underneath an unlined pit storing wet coal ash at a retired Duke Energy coal plant in Eden, North Carolina, spilling up to 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of wastewater into the Dan River, six miles upstream from a drinking water source. Even more disturbing than that deeply disturbing news is that Duke Energy did not issue a press release and inform the public about this massive spill until 24 hours after it was discovered.
This event is far from over as the river is grey from the coal ash and Duke Energy has yet to implement a permanent solution to stop the flow of coal ash into the river.
Officials are saying the water treatment plant will be able to handle the coal ash, which contains arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury, and many other toxic materials, but I'm guessing North Carolinians in that area still aren't feeling very safe when they turn the tap on. And now the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the water is not safe.
The Dan River after the coal ash spill. Photo by Appalachian Voices.
Sierra Club in North Carolina is responding to this coal ash spill with a coalition of groups. Unfortunately, the dangers of coal ash pollution are not new to the state Duke Energy operates thirteen additional coal ash waste pits in North Carolina, meaning more waterways and communities remain at risk.
Duke Energy is also responsible for the coal ash contamination of Mountain Lake, which is the drinking water source for 75,000 people in Charlotte. Meanwhile, its coal ash pollution in Sutton Lake kills 900,000 fish every year. And in Asheville, where Beyond Coal campaign is calling for the retirement of the Asheville coal plant, the old coal ash ponds are leaching toxic chemicals into the French Broad River.
Duke Energy and the state of North Carolina have known about contamination from aging and dangerous coal ash storage pits for years, yet have taken no action to clean up the waste pits and protect our waterways and our people. In fact, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources only took legal action against Duke's unlawful coal ash pits after conservation advocates like the Sierra Club forced their hand. Even then, DENR's customer-service approach would allow Duke Energy to continue business as usual.
As Grist's John Upton pointed out, Duke was quite confident their coal ash sites were all perfectly safe:
We know that confidence is far from reality.
Even Duke is changing its tune, as a spokesperson recently told the LA Times that storing coal ash in lagoons is outdated.
The Sierra Club calls on both Duke Energy and the State of North Carolina to be fully transparent with the public, releasing accurate and timely information about the scale of this latest spill and its consequences. As the spill is ongoing, nothing less than full disclosure and cooperation is acceptable.
Last week a settlement was announced that will require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will release its first-ever regulations for the disposal of toxic coal ash toxic waste product. But this deadline alone is not enough. These coal ash sites in North Carolina and across the U.S. are poisonous time bombs. We cannot afford any more coal ash spills.
-- Kelly Martin, Sierra Club North Carolina Senior Campaign Representative
President Obama said it best last week in his State of the Union address: "Climate change is a fact."
Few people know this better than winter athletes. Since climate disruption started drastically affecting the weather and the seasons, these athletes have seen winters with extreme weather ranging from Arctic cold temperatures to seasons so warm that no snow could fall.
When your livelihood depends on consistently cold temperatures year after year, it's not hard to see how climate disruption is a major problem.
But if you think these winter athletes are just going to let climate disruption take away their favorite season, think again.
In 2007, pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones started Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization dedicated "to engag[ing] and mobiliz[ing] the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change. [Its] focus is on educational initiatives, advocacy and the support of community-based projects."
In April of last year, POW sent a letter signed by 75 professional winter athletes and Olympians to President Obama urging him to move toward renewable energy sources, put carbon limits on power plants, scrap the Keystone XL pipeline, and stop climate change in its tracks.
"As professional athletes, representing a community of 23 million winter sports enthusiasts, we're witnessing climate change first-hand," the letter states. " was the warmest year on record, and once again, we're currently experiencing another winter season of inconsistent snow and questionable extremes. Without a doubt, winter is in trouble."
But they didn't just stop there. Most recently, POW has launched the Riders Alliance, a group composed of 53 snowsports athletes from around the world who are dedicated to combating climate disruption and saving the snow.
To top it all off, 13 of these climate champions will be representing Team USA in the upcoming Olympic games. Jamie Anderson, Danny Davis, Alex Deibold, Kaitlyn Farrington, Arielle Gold, Chas Guldemond, Nate Holland, Lindsey Jacobellis, Devin Logan, Julia Mancuso, Steven Nyman, Kikkan Randall, and Hannah Teter are some of the greenest athletes competing for the red, white, and blue.
As the Olympics approach, the Riders Alliance, in conjunction with the Yale School of Forestry, will work to call attention to climate disruption at one the world's largest winter sports events. Five graduate students from the Yale program will travel to Sochi to make sure climate disruption "is part of the conversation, where it should be."
You can do your part to help these students and athletes make a difference in the fight to end climate disruption. As you watch the Olympic games, start a conversation about the cost climate disruption has on our winters. Tell your friends and family. Get the word out using Twitter and Facebook.
And make sure you support these athletes and Team USA by watching their competitions starting February 7. Let's cheer on our Olympic-sized environmental champions as they go for the gold.
Here's a quick viewing guide, so you can watch them compete and tweet your support:
Event: Men's Slopestyle
Date: Saturday, Feb. 8
Event: Ladies' Slopestyle
Date: Sunday, Feb. 9
Sport: Alpine Skiing
Event: Men's Downhill and Men's Super Combined
Date: Sunday, Feb. 9 and Friday, Feb. 14
Sport: Alpine Skiing
Event: Women's Super Combined and Women's Downhill
Date: Monday Feb. 10 and Wednesday, Feb.12
Event: Men's Halfpipe
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 11
Event: Ladies' Ski Slopestyle
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 11
Event: Ladies' Halfpipe
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 12
Event: Ladies' Halfpipe
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 12
Event: Ladies' Halfpipe
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 12
Event: Ladies' Snowboard Cross
Date: Sunday, Feb. 16
Event: Men's Snowboard Cross
Date: Monday, Feb. 17
Event: Men's Snowboard Cross
Date: Monday, Feb. 17
Sport: Cross-Country Skiing
-- Cindy Carr, Sierra Club Media Team
Public hearing in Washington, DC, Thursday will be packed with supporters
This week we once again heard the call for action from Americans loud and clear: They want clean energy and they want it right away. On Tuesday the Sierra Club released a new poll with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showing that seven-in-ten Americans favor the Environmental Protection Agency putting limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can release.
And that's not the only amazing statistic from the poll. Just look at the key findings:
- By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, voters think the country should be investing more in clean energy sources and energy efficiency rather than in fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas (61 percent clean energy vs. 33 percent traditional sources).
- A majority of voters (51 percent) "strongly" prefers investing in clean energy. Support is even higher among African-American voters (77 percent) and Latino voters (71 percent).
- A strong majority of voters (58 percent) favor the U.S. setting national goals to move away from coal and other fossil fuels and replace them with clean, renewable sources by the year.
- Two-in-three U.S. voters say the issue of climate disruption is a serious problem.
- The majority of voters (56 percent) believe that the government already limits the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can release, which the government currently does not.
We'll be taking these stats with us Thursday in Washington, D.C., to an EPA public hearing on its proposed carbon pollution standards. I’ll be testifying, and if you're in the D.C. area Thursday, you should join us!
Dirty power plants are a threat to our health and our climate, and this week's poll shows once again that President Obama and the EPA have the public support they need to ensure pending carbon pollution standards for power plants are strong enough to protect our families.
Millions of Americans have already sent in their comments supporting EPA's carbon pollution standards. Have you sent yours in yet?
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director
Imagine pumping 400 million gallons of fuel for your cars over the course of a year. That's roughly twice the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by BP in 2010. That's also the amount of fuel the federal government used in 2012. A new report by the General Services Administration shows that federal fleets are falling well short of goals set by President Obama to reduce oil consumption and shift to advanced vehicles.
In the Sierra Club's Future Fleet campaign, we are pushing large fleets to reduce their oil consumption and stop using dirty and dangerous tar sands oil wherever possible. As the largest single fleet operator in the country, the federal government has a tremendous opportunity to lead the nation in reducing our dependence on oil. In a 2009 executive order, President Obama set a goal of reducing oil use in the federal fleet 30 percent by 2020, and outlined more specific guidelines for federal fleet managers in a 2011 presidential memorandum.
In 2012 the federal government managed more than 650,000 vehicles around the world - roughly split in thirds among military vehicles, civilian agency vehicles, and the US Postal Service fleet. According to the GSA report, vehicles in the federal fleet drove more than five billion miles, consumed nearly 400 million gallons of fuel and incurred operating costs of $4 billion. While this represents a reduction in fuel use of five percent from 2011 to 2012, the federal fleet has only reduced oil use a total of three percent since 2005.
A closer look at the numbers reveals several interesting trends. The military has aggressively moved to reduce oil use in their vehicles, shedding five percent of its vehicles from 2011 to 2012, and reducing oil use ten percent compared to the previous year alone. These actions saved the military billions, reducing operating costs by more than five percent in just one year.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the US Postal Service. While the Postal Service did reduce the numbers of miles driven by its vehicles by 4.5 percent from 2011 to 2012, its fleet operating costs increased slightly, and it lagged behind the military and other civilian agencies, only reducing oil use by 2.5 percent.
The Postal Service fleet must operate nationwide in tough conditions; however, there are significant opportunities for using less oil and saving money. Currently, Postal Service delivery trucks achieve around 10 miles per gallon. A 2009 Postal Service analysis found that electric vehicles could cut maintenance costs substantially, and that fuel costs could be reduced from 33 cents a mile to five cents a mile by switching from gas to electricity. Just this week, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Representative Connolly (D-VA) introduced the FLEET Act, a bill that would require the Postal Service to reduce oil use two percent each year through 2025.
It is encouraging to see federal fleets taking important strides to reduce oil use; however, more action is needed to meet the ambitious goals set by President Obama. It is critical that the government continue to transition to advanced vehicles, such as plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, and show leadership in reducing our dependence on oil.
-- Jesse Prence-Dunn, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program
MSNBC's Chris Hayes had a great commentary on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this weekend.
Are you attending one of the more than 280 Keystone XL protest vigils tonight?
It has been an inauspicious few days for congressional Republicans when it comes to action on the climate crisis. Hours before Tuesday’s State of the Union address, the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee rejected an amendment that would simply have recognized that climate disruption is occurring. Minutes after the president was done speaking, four congressional Republicans gave four separate televised responses that offered a grand total of nothing regarding climate. And on Wednesday, that Republican congressional conference - of which a sizable majority deny basic climate science - began their three-day retreat at a place right in the path of some of climate disruption’s worst expected outcomes.
Speaker John Boehner and his colleagues are calling it a meeting of the “Congress of Tomorrow,” but if they continue to stand in the way of climate action, the place where they are having their retreat soon may not have a tomorrow. This year, the conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina -- a resort located on Maryland’s waterfront, and just one of numerous areas on the eastern seaboard at risk of sea level rise.
Take a look at the map above, collected from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s maps depicting the vulnerability of different regions to sea level rise and coastal flooding. The dark red indicates the retreat is occurring in an area of “High” vulnerability. The light blue shows the expected impact of sea level rise of up to six feet. Clearly, the choice of location is an ironic one for a group with so little to say on climate action.
Climate scientists have been very clear: As the earth’s temperatures continue to rise as a result of human activity -- such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas -- sea levels will continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to experts, the sea level in Maryland could rise upward of six feet by the end of the century.
It's not just Maryland. As of 2010, two out of every five Americans -- more than 123 million of us -- lived near the coast. This includes major cities like New York, New Orleans, Boston, and San Diego. And, in addition to the shoreline erosion, the costs, severity, and frequency of extreme storms like Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and Typhoon Haiyan are expected to increase in those areas.
If those storms weren't a wake-up call to every elected official that we need to act on climate, we can only hope the congressional Republicans' choice of location will help open their eyes to the reality of what’s at stake -- but, we certainly don’t expect it. After all, these are the folks who have earned the inauspicious designation as the most anti-environment Congress in history.
Even still, the worst effects of climate disruption won’t discriminate when it comes to political party -- National Geographic’s recent image of the effect on North America if all sea ice melts makes that shockingly clear. Whether they are looking at the coastline in Cambridge or at these projections, the dire need for action is staring climate deniers right in the face. The question they’ll be judged on is whether they actually do something about it.
Pretend you are a member of Congress. You’ve just received word that unless you take action to protect a certain policy, people in your district will lose their jobs and a growing industry in your community will be stopped in its tracks. What do you do?
Do you contact the leaders of your party to demand action? Do you hold a press conference telling your constituents what is at stake? Do you pledge to support that policy as best you can?
Well, if you are Pennsylvania Republicans Keith Rothfus and Bill Shuster, you keep your mouth shut, sit back and count the money you’ve raked in from the Koch Brothers.
That’s the devastating reality people in Cambria County, PA are seeing play out before their eyes, as the Gamesa wind turbine plant in their community just announced it was closing amid dire uncertainty over whether Congress will renew critical wind energy investments (see the Sierra Club's statement here). Now, with Gamesa leaving town, the steelworkers once employed there are left trying to make ends meet. To add insult to injury, these jobs could have been saved if people like Rothfus and Shuster had stepped up to protect them.
If anyone does, Rothfus and Shuster should know the huge positives of wind power. Out of 24 wind farms in the Commonwealth,16 are in their own districts - two out of every three. Wind is flourishing there, creating jobs, and powering thousands and thousands of homes and businesses, putting their friends and neighbors to work. But it’s sadly not that simple. With wind booming, fossil fuel billionaires like the Koch Brothers have gotten desperate to protect their profits and market shares, and opened up their wallets to try to kill wind energy.
To do so, the Kochs have launched a massive campaign targeting the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit - the vital investments that have helped spur wind innovation and job growth in Pennsylvania and across the country. They know that one of the reasons the cost of producing wind power has been cut in half in recent years is because we’ve been making wind turbines here at home, creating American jobs, so they’ve made it their goal to sabotage the industry. And, while the Kochs have been doing that, they’ve also dumped thousands upon thousands in campaign cash into the coffers of members of Congress like Shuster and Rothfus. In fact, in 2012, Shuster took $10,000 from Koch Industries while Rothfus took $5,000 -- and added another $7,000 this year. That’s thousands in anti-wind jobs money going into their pockets while wind jobs were about to get blown away.
It’s mystifying how these elected officials - meant to represent their constituents - could look at a plant just down the road from their homes and ignore the simple solutions before them that could save it from closure. Yet while they’ve been collecting those big checks from the Kochs, Rothfus and Shuster have been doing nothing to protect their constituents good-paying wind jobs. They haven’t voted in support of wind energy, they haven’t stood up with the other Republicans calling for action to protect wind investments, and they certainly haven’t told the Kochs to take their anti-American jobs agenda elsewhere.
Now, their constituents are paying the price in the form of lost jobs. Meanwhile, in a cherry-paneled drawing room somewhere, David and Charles Koch are toasting victory. This was a banner day for them, but devastating news for families in an area where wind jobs provided hope for a better future in the struggle to recover from the loss of steel industry jobs to overseas plants. Now, these wind jobs themselves may head overseas as well.
Workers in Pennsylvania and nationwide deserve better than a Congress that bows to the demands of fossil fuel executives who’ve proven they will destroy American manufacturing just to cling to their profits. By failing to protect wind jobs in their backyards, Shuster and Rothfus have shown they aren’t very good at their own.
--Dave Hamilton, Director of Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Program and Tom Schuster, Pennsylvania Campaign Representative
Late Wendesday we saw a victory for clean water and public health: The Sierra Club is pleased to be a part of a legal agreement with 11 organizations compelling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize safeguards against coal ash pollution by the end of this year. EPA first proposed these standards in 2010, and they have been mired in red tape ever since. If the final protections are strong, getting them over the finish line will be a major victory for public health, safe communities, and clean water.
Coal ash is the toxic by-product left over when coal is burned for electricity. It's a dangerous mix of lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium and many other harmful metals and pollutants. When coal ash comes in contact with water, a soup of hazardous pollutants can leach out of the waste and poison our water. Every year, the nation's coal plants produce 140 million tons of coal ash pollution -- and those tons of toxic material are stored in unlined ponds and uncovered piles nationwide.
The communities living in the shadows of power plants have been living with this dangerous pollution for decades. As I mentioned in my column last week - just look at Charlotte, N.C., where Duke Energy's coal ash has contaminated the lake that provides drinking water for the 750,000 residents in the area. In the wake of the West Virginia coal chemical spill earlier this year, it's more clear than ever that we must close all the water pollution loopholes that the coal industry has enjoyed for far too long. This coal ash standard is a big one.
But the pollution doesn't stop with the water - coal ash also dirties the air. Just ask the Moapa Band of Paiutes living next to the Reid Gardner coal plant in Nevada, who joined this suit, or the residents living near the Louisville Gas & Electric Cane Run Power Plant, where coal ash has caused "persistent" air quality and health issues for years now.
The unlined ponds are also a major threat to nearby communities because of the risk of dam failures. We saw that in the 2008 TVA coal ash disaster in Roane County, Tennessee, when one billion gallons of coal ash spilled into a beautiful riverside community. The vast majority of states do not require adequate monitoring or liners to stop the release of toxic chemicals nor do they ensure that massive earthen dams are maintained safely to prevent another disaster like the 2008 coal ash spill.
This is alarming, considering that there are at least 50 high hazard coal ash dams throughout the U.S.
Despite coal ash being so toxic, it's less regulated than your household garbage. Unfortunately, since the 2008 Tennessee spill, the coal industry has lobbied hard to block the EPA from establishing strong protections. For the polluters, all that matters is keeping operating costs as low as possible. The costs to society of the misery and disease their pollution causes are no concern of theirs.
While the EPA has thoroughly documented the dangers of coal ash and the public has been outspoken asking for protections -- Americans have sent more than 450,000 comments asking, and turned out by the hundreds to five public hearings -- the EPA has failed to set federal limits on the pollution. Our settlement requires EPA to protect these communities with federal action by the end of this year.
So today we celebrate this move in the right direction for clean air and water and our health.
We will continue to working with affected communities to push the administration to ensure that the EPA finalizes a standard that is strong, federally enforceable, and truly protects communities living near these dangerous sites.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director
Don’t panic if you momentarily think your television is going haywire tonight. You may try to change the channel, only to see bizarrely similar images on screen. You may mash the buttons on your remote only to hear similar words being uttered by different voices. Don’t worry - you aren’t hallucinating. You won’t have to pay an expensive repair bill. You don’t even need to change the batteries in your remote. You’re just stuck in the twilight zone that is... the Republican response to the State of the Union address.
Tonight, we’re eager to hear what President Obama will say about clean energy and climate action. And, it appears his Republican opponents are just as eager to respond, as no fewer than three different people will deliver separate rebuttals. For years, it’s been standard practice for the opposing party to deliver a response to the President. But, just one response to one speech. Now, with the Republican Party increasingly fractured, constant jockeying for political position among factions means a mad dash for airtime that has Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rogers of Washington, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky each deliver a nationally-televised response.
What’s all that mean for our climate crisis? Not a whole heck of a lot. That’s because even with three voices speaking, we shouldn’t expect to hear one positive word about our booming clean energy economy, one sentence about why we have to act on climate, or even one hiccup about the dangers of dirty fossil fuels. Take a look at their records, and you’ll see why:
Lifetime Environmental Voting Score (LCV): 4%
Thinks 97% of Climate Scientists Agreeing on Climate Disruption is “Inconclusive”
Took almost $177,000 from oil and gas special interests
Voted against critical investments in job-creating clean energy like wind and solar
Lifetime Environmental Voting Score (LCV): 16%
Took almost $131,000 from oil, gas, and mining special interests
Voted against critical investments in job-creating clean energy like wind and solar
Lifetime Environmental Voting Score (LCV): 8%
Thinks the 97% of Climate Scientists Agreeing on Climate Disruption are “making up facts”
Took almost $260,000 from oil, gas, and mining special interests
Voted against critical investments in job-creating clean energy
With records as identical as those, Americans should fully expect three voices giving the exact same speech - or offering the exact same silence - when it comes to climate action. It looks like they won’t just be competing for airtime tonight -- they’ll also be competing for sand to bury their heads in.
Trade can help spread environmentally friendly technologies, but if the products we’re trading harm the environment, everyone loses.
Today, a group of World Trade Organization (WTO) countries including the United States, the European Union, Australia, and Canada, launched a new set of negotiations to eliminate tariffs on a set of supposedly environmentally beneficial products.
According to a statement put out by the countries involved in the initiative, the negotiations will build on the work of the 21 countries that make up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In 2012, these 21 countries agreed to reduce or eliminate tariffs by the end of 2015 on a list of 54 "environmentally beneficial" products. The theory is that if governments reduce or eliminate tariffs, the products will be more frequently traded.
While the APEC commitment was non-binding and not legally enforceable, a WTO agreement on environmental goods and services, if one is reached, would be.
So, it sounds like a good thing, right? Well, while the goal of increasing use of and trade in environmentally beneficial products is certainly noble, I have serious concerns about the approach taken up by APEC, and now the WTO.
In fact, if you dig into the list of products whose tariffs would be reduced or eliminated—the starting point for the WTO negotiations—you'll see that many would actually harm the environment.
Incinerators, for example, are used to burn waste material and release toxic chemicals and byproducts into the air, water, and ground. Secondly, steam generators are found in equipment used in dirty fuel-production processes such as nuclear and coal-fired power plants that pour harmful toxic chemicals into the air we breathe and emit climate-disrupting carbon pollution. Also, centrifuges, which are used to filter and purify water for a variety of reasons, can also be used in the production of oil and tar sands -- dirty fuels which should be on their way out as more clean energy comes online in America.
Many developing countries, like India, see this approach as an expansion of “free trade” that will benefit the corporations in developed countries, but it could end up harming our already-fragile climate. India—which is not one of the countries that launched the initiative—has proposed a different, potentially more promising approach that would essentially allow for temporary tariff cuts on specific goods that are needed in environmental projects, therefore making sure the products will actually benefit the environment.
As we transition to a clean energy economy, we should increase the use of and trade in environmentally friendly technologies. But unlocking the clean energy revolution should not be under the thumb of the WTO or through a purely "free-market approach." Instead, the key to unlocking clean energy is developing home-grown approaches to renewable energy production and manufacturing that lift up and protect workers within and outside of the U.S.
If countries in the WTO want to truly help the environment and climate, there are a number of other critical steps they must take. For one, these countries should stop negotiating trade agreements that include the harmful investor-state dispute settlement process that has increasingly allowed foreign corporations to bodyslam clean energy and climate policies in other countries. For example, Swedish energy firm Vattenfall is currently suing Germany for its phase-out of nuclear energy, and U.S.-incorporated Lone Pine Resources is suing Canada over a moratorium on fracking in Quebec’s St. Lawrence River.
WTO countries could also allow local job-creating clean energy policies to flourish -- but they’re not, in some cases. Last year, as examples, Japan and the EU challenged Ontario’s clean energy and green jobs program at the WTO; the United States is investigating whether India’s national solar program bumps up against WTO rules; and China is investigating whether to take WTO action against certain EU countries over their clean energy programs.
If we’re going to face this climate crisis together, developed nations—those historically responsible for producing the greatest amount of climate-disrupting pollution—must also provide finance and clean technology to developing countries. Discussions on the transfer of finance and technology are already ongoing at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Developed countries like the U.S. must step up and share resources that actually help the environment and communities. After all, we all share the same planet.
--Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program Director
Earlier this week my West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said the following about whether people should be drinking the water in Charleston and downstream: "It's your decision....I'm not a scientist."
For the 300,000 people affected by the coal chemical spill from two weeks ago, I bet that's very reassuring. Quite a profile in courage, our governor. Even less reassuring, the news came out Wednesday that there was another mysterious chemical spill in that leak, and officials are now testing to make sure the water treatment facility removed that chemical.
And it gets worse - how about this article featuring a former WV coal miner Joe Stanley, who says:
It sounds bad even before Stanley explains that coal mines are constantly pumped to clear ground water, aquifers, and underground streams: "As soon as we're out of that mine it immediately fills with water. And where does it go from there? I don't know, your guess is as good as mine."
Stanley says he hasn't drunk the water for years and that no one else should either.
We know the coal industry is getting away with poisoning our waterways nationwide, and a new study of federal data by the Associated Press shows just that. Coal industry chemicals and waste "have tainted hundreds of waterways and groundwater supplies, spoiling private wells, shutting down fishing and rendering streams virtually lifeless."
And here's the damning detail: "(B)ecause these contaminants are released gradually and in some cases not tracked or regulated, they attract much less attention than a massive spill such as the recent one in West Virginia."
Coal-fired power plants are the nation's biggest water polluters, spewing millions of pounds of toxic metals and other pollutants like arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, and selenium into surface waters each year.
Beyond West Virginia, need another example of how close to home this contamination can be? Duke Energy's coal ash pollution is contaminating North Carolina's Mountain Island Lake - a drinking water source for more than 750,000 people in the greater Charlotte area.
Additionally, Duke Energy's coal ash pollution from one coal plant in North Carolina kills 900,000 fish every year in Sutton Lake -- and that's just how it affects the fish!
In West Virginia, parents are wondering if they can let their kids drink the water, pregnant women are being told to drink bottled water -- and we don't even know yet the full effects of these leaked chemicals on the land and aquatic wildlife.
How much longer will we let the coal industry play fast and loose with our water? From coal processing chemicals, to the toxics scrubbed while burning coal, to the coal ash left behind - the industry is poisoning an element necessary for all life: water. It's time to close these water pollution loopholes once and for all.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director. Photo courtesy of WV Clean Water Hub.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its 2013 Annual Climate Report, which found that the United States experienced seven weather- and climate-related disasters that resulted in more than $1 billion in damages. (See infographic below.) Specific dollar amounts for each event will be released later this year.
The report contains numerous maps, charts, and graphics such as the one below, highlighting some of last year's significant weather and climate events.
2013 was both warmer and wetter than average for the contiguous United States. The report includes a summary of national and regional temperatures and precipitation, including drought, wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms, snow and ice, tornadoes, and -- for the more technically minded -- a "Synoptic Discussion describing recent weather events and climate anomalies in relation to the phenomena that cause the weather."
After his stop in Los Angeles, everyone’s favorite cartoon clownfish, Nemo, continued his tour of the U.S., stepping out in sub-freezing temperatures in Washington, D.C. to ask Americans to help him save his home, the Great Barrier Reef.
What’s Nemo doing touring the U.S.? Is he lost again?
While the Australian Embassy and Alliance 21 – a partnership that includes large corporations and big polluters like DOW Chemical, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, GE, NewsCorp, Morgan Stanley and Raytheon – hosted a dialogue on energy and Asia as part of “G’Day USA,” a month-long promotion of Australian business interests, Nemo hit the streets to protest possible U.S. involvement in plans that could destroy the reef.
Not one–but two–companies, GVK and Adani, want to open new enormous coal mines in Australia’s Galilee Basin, and then dredge (the destructive operation of scooping up and moving sediment from waterways) within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site to expand shipping channels to take theNemo at the White House
coal to Asia. But that’s not all. Media reports have linked the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) to the projects, which means U.S. tax dollars could help finance the scheme – something Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg has failed to deny, despite going against the spirit of President Obama’s pledge to end financing for coal plants overseas in his Climate Action Plan.
Dredging in the Great Barrier Reef will put clownfish like Nemo, as well as sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins, and many other amazing coral reef creatures in grave danger. Sustainability agency UNESCO has even warned the Australian government that dredging could endanger the Reef’s World Heritage status. Meanwhile, numerous reports have shown the projects are a financial boondoggle, and investors continue to drop out of dredging projects.
You can help Nemo save his home by tweeting at the G’Day USA event organizers and the U.S. Export-Import Bank and telling them to #SaveTheReef:
Hey @GDAYUSAofficial @EximBankUS: #SaveTheReef for clownfish like Nemo. Say no to dredging for #coal exports http://sc.org/1mH2ZZx
--Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program
By Javier Sierra
A gale of good news is hitting both the wind industry and the future of the planet.
The new year started out with two world records. Spain became the first country ever to get more energy from wind than any other source during a complete year in 2013, with a 21.1-percent share at 55 gigawatts (GW). According to Spain’s Wind Energy Association, at the end of 2013, this clean energy was able to bring the price of electricity from $150 per megawatt (MW)/hour down to $7 per MV/hour.
Wind farm in Southern Spain (Photo: J. Sierra)
And in December, Denmark became the first country ever to generate more than half of its energy from wind, a total of 54.8%. Specifically, on December 21, wind fulfilled that country’s entire energy demand, and over the course of the year, it produced one third of the consumed total.
The good news also abounds here at home. In Texas, during the extreme cold spell that gripped almost the entire country during the first week of the year, wind energy saved the day for a grid that was overwhelmed by demand. On January 7, when several power plants shut down, wind energy from Western Texas avoided dangerous blackouts throughout the state. This is the logical result of Texas having added more wind energy to the grid than any other state.
And throughout the US, the breeze of good news has become a veritable gale. In 2012, the country’s wind energy capacity surpassed 60 GV (enough to power 15 million homes), no other country installed more wind energy than the US, and wind added more power to the national grid than any other source, including natural gas.
It’s no wonder then that the price of wind power is hitting record lows: 4 cents per KW/hour, 50 percent less than in 2009. It’s no wonder also that the utility owned by Warren Buffett has invested $1 billion to purchase enough wind turbines in Iowa to generate 1,000 MW.
The price of the alternative to clean energy, on the other hand, is simply unacceptable. According to a Harvard University study, every year the costs of coal pollution —also known as externalities— hit $500 billion (one 5 followed by 11 zeros), in premature deaths, asthma, emphysema, heart disease, cancer and other factors. Big Coal pays nothing out of this huge price tag. They instead dump it on you, me and the rest of the country.
Considering these arguments, it’s simply astonishing that Congress still is to renew the Production Tax Credit (PTC), one of the several tax incentives that invest in job creation in the clean energy industry. Just wind supports 80,000 jobs in the US, and 72% of the equipment needed to build wind turbines is manufactured in our country.
The fossil fuel industry, on the other hand, calls the US Capitol home. Each year, oil, coal and gas companies receive up to $52 billion in subsidies; that is, a gift from the taxpayer, you, me and everyone else.
Tell Congress that renewing the PTC is crucial for the wind industry to continue its smooth sailing.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC
As a West Virginian, this has been a sad, frustrating, and infuriating time for me, though I do not live in the area affected by last week's coal chemical spill. More than 300,000 people in the WV capital of Charleston and downstream counties have been without water for eight days and counting.
The chemical that spilled is used to process coal after it's mined, to separate the coal from other substances before it's carried away on trains or river barges. A tank of this chemical, located immediately above the largest drinking water intake in WV, leaked. Very little is known about the chemical and its health effects - and WV officials are saying they also don't know where else in the state this chemical is stored.
Some residents have been told they can start flushing out their water systems while others are still using bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing. Even where the water is back on, it’s undrinkable, forcing residents to continue their reliance on bottled and shipped in water -- an especially heavy burden on the areas poorest residents. In fact, "do not use" orders are being reissued in some places.
Now the CDC is saying the test it used to determine "safe" levels of the leaked chemical humans can drink focused on the wrong chemical!
What's more, on Wednesday, six days post-spill and after the water had been deemed "safe" in some areas, officials issued an advisory urging pregnant women to drink only bottled water. As the mom of a three-year-old, I can only imagine what a scary time this must be for all the new and expecting moms in the middle of this crisis.
Earlier this week, I appeared on NPR's Diane Rehm Show to talk about the spill, along with the head of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a Washington Post reporter, and a staffer from an anti-regulatory think tank. A few people have told me that they were shocked and even brought to tears by the program, which you can listen to here.
The Sierra Club has a long-time organizer in Charleston -- Bill Price -- and, in the immediate aftermath of the spill, he has been working closely with allies on relief efforts to provide people with water. In some rural communities, volunteer water distribution has been the only relief for residents, believe it or not. Earlier this week we profiled one West Virginian who is part of that effort, Dustin White, to underscore that this crisis is a long way from over, and frankly highlight the continuing failure of the state to safeguard the health of its people.
If you want to make a donation to help support the volunteer water distribution efforts still under way, you can donate to the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and make a note that your gift is for the WV water crisis.
As I described on the Diane Rehm Show, this tragedy is a direct product of a regulatory system held hostage by the coal industry for decades. The site where the tank leaked hadn't been inspected by the state since 1991! In the state of the state address just days before the accident, the governor vowed to "never back down from the Environmental Protection Agency because of its misguided policies on coal." In the immediate wake of the disaster, the governor has repeatedly asserted that the coal industry had nothing to do with this spill - which is like saying the tobacco industry has nothing to do with lung cancer.
This spill pulls the curtain back on water problems that people in the Appalachian coalfields have been pleading for decades to have addressed. Each year, after this chemical and others are used to "wash" coal, billions of gallons of leftover slurry - a witches brew of chemicals and water - are typically either injected into old underground mines (which leaches into groundwater) or stored behind earthen dams, some of which are larger than the Hoover Dam.
You can read more about the coal industry’s threat to water in this article and others in the Charleston Gazette, whose reporter Ken Ward Jr. has been doing Pulitzer-caliber reporting on the spill, in my estimation. And I urge you to support the West Virginia-based organizations fighting this battle for clean water -- Keeper of the Mountains, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Sierra Club West Virginia.
It's time to hold these polluters and decision-makers accountable, and to work to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again. A candlelight vigil is being planned for next Tuesday in Charleston, and allies around the country are planning their own events in solidarity.
Finally, you can take action now to tell President Obama that West Virginia leaders cannot be trusted to regulate the coal industry.
This spill only underscores the coal industry's widespread use of dangerous chemicals, and the cost to Appalachian communities and mountains. If the WV Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) continues to turn a blind eye to polluters, President Obama should direct federal agencies to do the job the DEP will not do.
Tell President Obama to step in and stand up for the health of West Virginia communities.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director