Posts filed under ‘climate justice’
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed a rule to set a national emissions standard for the mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of mercury pollution in the country. Tomorrow, the EPA is holding a public hearing in Atlanta – giving the Southeast an opportunity to testify in support of the new rule. Join SEN at the hearing to take action and support the new mercury emissions standard and stand up for the health of Georgia’s communities!
WHEN: May 26, 2011, 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
WHERE: Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth St. SW
Atlanta, Ga. 30303-8960
CONTACT: Jenna Garland, SEN Georgia Organizer – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are unable to attend the hearing tomorrow, take action by signing the petition in support of the mercury and air toxics regulation!
Coal-fired power plants are the primary emitter of toxic mercury pollution in the US, and Georgia’s own Plant Scherer is the 7th highest emitter of mercury in the country. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that has particularly harmful effects on the nervous systems of fetuses and children. It’s estimated that 20% of women in their child-bearing years have mercury levels in their hair that exceed federal health standards.
Humans are primarily exposed to mercury through consuming contaminated fish that come from polluted rivers and lakes. The mercury pollutants emitted by coal plants typically fall within a 60-mile radius, and with 12 coal-fired power plants in the state, Georgia’s rivers and lakes are at extremely high risk for mercury pollution. To learn more about the dangers of mercury and coal-fired power plants, read the 2011 report from the Environmental Defense Fund.
Join us at the EPA hearing in Atlanta to support the proposed mercury and air toxics emissions standards. In addition to mercury, other toxins emitted by coal-fired power plants stand to be regulated, like arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases. The EPA estimates that regulating these pollutants could prevent “as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year.”
If you are unable to attend the hearing, you can take action by submitting written comments to the EPA until July 5, 2011 and by signing the petition here. For more information on how to make public comment, visit the EPA website. The EPA states that they will finalize the rule in November 2011.
On Friday, April 15, 2011, a group of 15 young people representing the Energy Action Coalition met with Senior White House staff, and were surprised but pleased when President Barack Obama joined the group for 25 minutes to discuss the Obama Administration energy policies.
The meeting came after Energy Action Coalition contacted national media about Power Shift 2011, stating that “10,000 young, forgotten Obama voters” were coming together in Washington, DC to learn key organizing skills to move beyond dirty energy and advance the clean energy economy. After interest from several major media outlets, the Obama Administration began taking seriously Energy Action Coalition and the youth climate movement it represents.
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post have all covered the story, quoting Southern Energy Network Organizer Jenna Garland and Development Assistant Kelsea Norris.
After the 1-year anniversary of the BP Oil Disaster last week, which devastated the Gulf of Mexico and further devastated the lives of Gulf communities, President Obama needs to dream bigger and commit to the promises he made during the 2008 campaign.
President Obama’s message for Energy Action Coalition and the youth climate movement was that we need to lead grassroots organizing across the country, especially targeting Congress. After Congress failed to pass meaningful climate legislation and the UN Climate negotiations failed, many have turned back to their states and communities, looking to make change happen locally.
Young people are leading the movement beyond dirty energy to a clean, just energy economy. From shutting down coal plants to building clean energy infrastructure, young people have demonstrated where the future lies, and how we must act in the present to achieve our goals.
On Tuesday, the US EPA held its second of five listening sessions at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Building in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference room was completely packed and the audience spilled over in to the next room. Dozens of people wore “I <3 Clean Air” stickers, and children held signs that said “EPA Protect My Future.”
This session focused on bringing stakeholders in the environmental and environmental justice movements together to speak to EPA staff, including Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator at the Office of Air and Radiation. In five total hearings, the EPA will hear feedback and opinions from various stakeholder groups, which will inform the rulemaking process EPA is undertaking this year.
The EPA is preparing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS). The potential impact of this rule is huge: Congress has failed to enact legislation that will address greenhouse gas emissions, and in Georgia where developers are attempting to build 3 new coal-fired power plants, this rule could prevent these proposed plants from moving forward. It could also help transition Georgia’s existing coal plants into retirement. This is one of the reasons why so many community members came to the listening session during the middle of the workday – there is a lot riding on this rule.
NSPS is a regulatory tool EPA is authorized to use under the Clean Air Act, a key piece of environmental legislation that is currently under attack from big polluters. As Seandra Rawls summarizes in her blog about speaking at the Session on Tuesday,
“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to establish a list of sources of dangerous air pollutants and to set standards for such sources. In 2007 the United States Supreme Court ruled that GHGs are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.”
For a full summary, see Seandra’s post at Clean Energy Footprints.
Currently, House and Senate Republicans are working to defund the EPA. Challenges to EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act were seen in the 111th Congress and are already circulating in this Congress.
EPA’s NSPS will be focused on electricity-generating power plants and refineries. In the South, we consume the most electricity per capita and emit the greatest amount of greenhouse gases in the United States. We also have a huge fleet of aging, polluting coal plants in the Southern states.
When EPA proposes its draft rule in July 2011, we can expect the rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through multiple strategies, including providing incentives for old and polluting coal plants to retire and increasing energy efficiency nationally and in the South.
There was some disagreement in the room around how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kurt Waltzer with Clean Air Task Force spoke about the importance of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology, also known as clean coal technology, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants. As many in the Power Shift generation know, there is no such thing as clean coal. Even if we were able to harness every last atom of CO2 from burning coal, we’d still need to extract it, process it, and operate inefficient plants to burn it. CCS technology doesn’t address co-pollutants, things like mercury and other toxic chemicals that are released into the air when we burn coal for power. Extracting coal to burn for electricity is also extremely destructive. In Appalachia, community members are fighting for the lives and culture as mountaintops are blown off with dynamite to expose coal seams, and what was the mountaintop is then dumped into stream and river valleys. A dynamic movement opposing Mountaintop Removal coal mining has grown in Appalachia and spread to other parts of the country.
During the Listening Session, more than a dozen groups were given the opportunity to speak with Ms. McCarthy, including Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Environmental Law Center, National Wildlife Federation, The Reverend Gerald Durley from Providence Mission Baptist Church and Interfaith Power & Light, the Gulf Coast Fund, the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, Natural Resource Defense Council, Environment Northeast, Conservation Law Foundation, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the Clean Air Task Force, and the US Climate Action Network.
Though the panelists were knowledgeable and powerful in their statements to EPA, SEN would have liked a young leader to offer comments as well. Several students from Georgia Tech and Georgia State University came to the session between classes, but we would like to see future sessions take place at a time more convenient for students and young people.
Luckily, EPA is accepting public comments through March 18, 2011, and you don’t need time during the middle of the day to participate! Here’s how you can comment:
- Comments on the greenhouse gas NSPS for petroleum refineries must reference Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0089
- Comments on the greenhouse gas NSPS for utilities must reference Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0090
I haven’t had much of an appetite lately… With the oil spill in the Gulf Coast, confirmed reports of bio-diversities continued global decline, and another delay in adoption of a National Climate Policy, my stomaches been in knots. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep myself from sulking, and have found some inspiration through a critical political moment.
The North Carolina Primary Election kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday May 4th). Turnout for mid-term primaries is historically low, with young people being in the lowest turnout percentage. Regardless, with everything going on in the world, I feel compelled to do my part to flip that trend in 2010! I realized more than ever that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for and we will be the ones to define this decade.. Therefore it is up to us what the future looks like.
Polls are open from 7:30a.m – 6:30p.m. To find your polling place CLICK HERE
Here are 4 reasons you need to cast your vote this mid-term election
- Almost every ecosystem and resource on the planet is in a state of decline
- We’ve got to change the political tides and we need the strongest leadership to do that
- Your voice counts and now is not the time to be silent.
- Turnout in Mid-term elections is low, that means, as young people, we can have a HUGE impact!!
- Because they are just as important, if not more so, as Presidential Elections.
Please share this Facebook link with your networks to get others to vote this Mid-term Election.
Vote and Voter Early!
At the end of January, Southern Energy Network staff traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for a week-long training with the Energy Action Coalition. Many of us had never been to Texas, and the opportunity to visit a new place and escape colder climates was welcome!
Our allies and partner group the Southwest Workers’ Union – http://www.swunion.com – were our gracious hosts, connecting us with local organizations and activists, including Fuerza Unida, http://www.lafuerzaunida.org/, a union which formed after Levi’s shut down its local factories. The women of Fuerza Unida prepared delicious Mexican-inspired meals for us throughout the week, but the highlight of the trip was the Toxic Tour and rally, organized with SWU.
Southwest Workers’ Union has been fighting toxic chemical contamination in the groundwater near Kelly Air Force Base, now closed and occupied by private corporations. The Base is practically surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Referred to as the “Toxic Triangle,” the majority of these neighborhoods are occupied by lower-income Latino families, many of which speak Spanish as their primary or only language. Two residents from the area joined us for the tour, sharing their story of what is has been like to raise a family near the base.
Residents suffer abnormally high rates of certain diseases, especially cancer. After realizing there was likely a pattern of disease, SWU organizers went door to door, asking people if a family member, or members, had suffered from a serious illness. The results were heartbreaking. People of all ages had been diagnosed with serious health problems, including many neighborhood children who suffered from leukemia or other cancers.
SWU organizers asked impacted families to place a purple cross on their homes or in their yards – creating a powerful visual of how deeply effected so many in the neighborhood are by the contamination from the base.
Government officials and health authorities have been reticent to take action, insinuating that the illnesses were caused by poor diets and other health habits.
The Air Force has refused to take responsibility as well; though they admitted to using toxic chemicals, they claimed there was no proof that the chemicals had left Air Force property to contaminate the water. SWU and the local residents knew better. They launched a multi-year campaign to force Kelly Air Force Base to stop the use of toxic chemicals and clean up the contamination in the groundwater.
The campaign continues today, even though Kelly Air Force Base has closed and is now used by private corporations, including Boeing. Still, problems persist.
Though the communities are still threatened by contamination and industrial processes, Southwest Workers’ Union’s campaigns have been impactful, and in many ways, successful. Many residents responded to the purple cross campaign, and after seeing how many of their neighbors are suffering, people across San Antonio recognized that Kelly Air Force base was causing harm providing a critical shift in public opinion.
After finishing the Toxic Tour, we learned more about the Southwest Workers’ Union campaigns against new nuclear reactors in the area, and their work to bring more clean energy to San Antonio. SWU has been successful in preventing the construction of a new reactor, organizing communities across the region and exposing the deceitful behavior of the nuclear utility. The company had lied about how much the new reactor would cost consumers, and people were angered to learn that over the long term, nuclear would be much more expensive than anyone had bargained.
Now, SWU is focusing on bringing green-collar jobs to the San Antonio metro area. To show our solidarity with SWU’s campaigns, Energy Action Coalition staff and members joined SWU supporters in a rally outside City Hall, calling on Mayor Julian Castro to move forward with their plan for clean energy, energy efficiency, and reducing our Global Warming pollution. Representatives from SWU, including several high school students and other SWU members, met with the Mayor’s office during the rally.
Toxics and clean energy are linked, though perhaps not directly in the Toxic Triangle. Dirty energy has a cost, and often these costs are disproportionately shouldered by communities who lack the ability to prevent, or escape from, serious environmental health hazards. The Southern Energy Network fully supports the Southwest Workers’ Union campaigns to address toxic contamination and bring clean energy jobs to
With new nuclear reactors proposed in South Carolina, Georgia, and other Southeastern states, we’re working to make sure our neighbors aren’t paying too much for dirty energy that will put our communities at risk. For more information or to learn about how you can stop dirty energy in your area, visit http://www.climateaction.net.
Earlier this month, Florida Power and Light (FPL) was denied the $1.3 Billion rate increase they requested last fall, only getting $75 million. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously ruled against the huge increase, citing a struggling economy and questioning FPL’s exorbitant corporate spending habits and high profit margins.
This week, the Public Service Commission ruled once again to serve the public, rejecting Progress Energy’s $500 million rate increase. Both utilities were also forced to reduce their profit margins a couple percentage points.
With much of the rate increase slated to fund the utilities’ proposals to build a total of four new nuclear reactors at the Turkey Point plant and in Levy County, many citizens are taking action. Engaging the PSC since last October, thousands commented on Early Cost Recovery and nuclear. Their message is simple, “Don’t nuke Florida, we need solar in the Sunshine State!”
Public opposition is mounting against increasing rates and forced consumer investment into projects that are financially risky and literally create tons of radioactive waste. The AARP and numerous environmental groups have building grassroots pressure on the Public Service Commission, urging them to protect the customers pocket and the environment.
FPL and Progress Energy now say that they will be “suspending” their risky nuclear plans . Because their main funding mechanism was Early Cost Recovery, the utilities claim they need the rate increases to attain capital investment from their consumers. Check here for an interesting analysis of how the utilities are crying wolf about job losses when their true interest is protecting their sharholders.
Although the PSC decisions are good news, the utilities are still pursuing permitting for the new reactors, which is an extremely expensive process. Utility executives are also claiming huge lay-offs will follow the decision to deny the rate increases. This is questionable, to say the least. Even Governor Crist, a supporter of nuclear who opposed the rate increases, thinks the utilities misleading the public about jobs. You can read his statement here.
Stay tuned for more exciting updates as the nuclear fiasco continues to unfold in Florida. Folks in communities and on campuses all over Florida are taking on the nuclear industry in 2010!
cross-posted on http://sustainus.org/blog
I have been in Copenhagen for two weeks now and have watched from the inside and outside of the Bella Center as the UN Climate Change Negotiations proceed. At this point the progress that is needed to have a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty has not occurred. The nations of the world are still stuck in a political gridlock and the transparency of this process for observers is becoming increasingly limited.
Right now I am sitting in the Bella Center, wearing a bright orange t-shirt that says, “How old will you be in 2050?” I am listening to the plenary session broadcasted on screens throughout with clusters of NGOs, young people, and party delegates crowded around. Security guards walk around staring me in the eyes. Outside protesters are trying to break-in. We are receiving fragmented reports about what is going on just beyond these walls, of what has become a UN fortress. Somehow I have managed to find myself within it, in a surreal microcosm of the world. I am struggling with a mix of emotions in navigating what on one hand seems an incredible access to power but on the other is the reality that the struggles that appear to be contained in this conference center are really much bigger and are found outside and back at home.
The pace of the negotiations is wrenching many of us here in the heart as our frustrations and fears about our futures and others are put on the line with the increased delays in action. The marches outside with thousands and the dozens of actions within the Bella Center are drawing the world’s gaze to Copenhagen and on climate change, yet it doesn’t seem to be enough. It is incredible to me that my country or rather a few key decision makers are able to stall the process. Though really, that is only a simple analysis of the state of things right now. We are working with a process that is flawed (whether or not there is anything better—I do not know). I wrote yesterday on the SustainUS Blog about my inspiration from the amazing people I have met and the development of networks of people that are seeking solutions now. This seems to be the best we have at this point.
The science on climate change is no longer in debate and it is apparent here that we must think beyond our economic and political concerns and realize a moral call to action to address this issue. The images for me that most stand out from the past week are those from when I pass the incredible people who are undertaking the Climate Justice Fast, several of these individuals are now on day 42 without food. They have undertaken the fast because of their loss of what to do in the face of the inaction we see. I sympathize wholeheartedly at this point, and will join them tomorrow for a day of fasting with world leaders and citizens from around the world.
Other moving images from the past week include those from the march of 100,000 in the streets of Copenhagen on Saturday, where people of all ages stood in solidarity for climate action, this image was further solidified when I came back to the Bella Center and saw Bill McKibben of 350.org standing at a computer beaming with excitement as pictures from 350 vigils on that same day came streaming in from around the world. Government action is necessary on this issue but it will only come if the people demand it. Despite some progress recently, the United States still needs to take bolder action for our country’s prosperity and that of the entire planet. Let’s envision a future that is truly sustainable where clean renewable energy powers our lights and people see the impacts of their actions on everyone else worldwide and take action to foster healthy and long-term relations. Despite the daily frustrations on seeking a better way, I am reminded of the words of Kumi Naidoo from just over a week ago, “We can do this, we must do this, we will do this!”
Teaming up with the Guacamole Fund, Southern Energy Network had the awesome opportunity to promote its our anti-nuclear work in Florida, raise some money, and hang out with Bonnie Raitt. And what a great night it was!
SEN’s Field Director, Stephanie Powell and I worked with 3 amazing volunteers from University of West Florida to inform fans about the nuclear issues currently facing Florida. We encountered tons of folks who were already engaged on the issues and a few more that were in process of going off the grid with solar power installations at their homes. During the show, we took turns going in to enjoy the music. Personally, watching Bonnie perform was quite an experience! Her music has been in my life since I was pretty young, and seeing it live was phenomenal.
Bonnie Raitt, along with a number of other artists, founded a group called Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) that opposes nuclear power in favor of safer, renewable options like solar. To help the cause, they build fundraising into their ticket sales, giving fans the choice to purchase special V.I.P. tickets. At this Pensacola show, there was a small dessert reception afterward. Bonnie was so careful to spend a few moments with each of the folks there, chatting with them and taking a photo. At the end of it all, we had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with her as well. She is such a genuine person and was very knowledgeable about the complex intricacies of nuclear power, as well as the details of Florida’s specific challenges in the face of this risky industry. It’s great to have folks with such public access on our side, spreading real information to folks about issues that affect us all!
Power Shift Carolinas is here! Weeks of planning have culminated in hundreds of students gathering at the campus of UNC Chapel Hill this weekend. This morning we heard inspiring speakers that reminded us that we must take this movement beyond conferences and meetings. They reminded us that the climate movement is not so unique from any other social movement. We are all seeking a new paradigm that addresses issues of domination and oppression of people’s livelihoods. Students braved crisp October weather as we sat in an outdoor theater and were reminded that being green is not always easy, despite what retailers often make us think.
I have now stepped away from the workshop halls where my peers are learning skills that they will take home with them to teach to others. Away from the Power Shift hub-bub I find myself on a plush sofa in the UNC Chapel Hill student union with a TV blaring beside me and students munching on disposable platters that will soon disappear into a waste stream that terminates in an unknown place. I remember that I’m responsible too, we all are. Seeking climate justice is going to be a long winding path that won’t end with a federal climate bill and won’t end in Copenhagen.
Here at Power Shift I join some of the most amazing people I know. These are friends who constantly motivate and inspire me with their passion and energy and make me believe that it is possible. As Marcie Smith, said this morning, “it is the incremental steps and actions that are building to a tipping point in this movement and that will lead us to the future we seek.” Power Shift Carolinas is proving that people throughout the U.S. Southeast are ready – are you?
by Brittany Forrestal – Southern Energy Network Activist and Intern
When it comes to climate issues in the state of Georgia, there’s a lot of work to be done. I know this, you know this, and, as it turns out, we’re definitely not alone.
Last weekend, Georgia Youth for Energy Solutions (YES!), the new youth-organized Georgia branch of the Southern Energy Network, joined more than sixteen student organizers from across the state in Milledgeville, Ga, to launch a student organization dedicated to creating a coal-free Georgia. Students from Georgia Perimeter College, Oglethorpe University, Emory University, Mercer University, and the University of Georgia all showed up to represent their campuses and collaborate with other students to create a coal-free Georgia.
After hours of recruitment calls, a night of lunch-packing, and an early-morning drive to Georgia College and State University, we found ourselves exhilarated by everyone’s shared enthusiasm. Every single person present showed genuine interest and genuine excitement about the opportunity we have. We can stop coal in Georgia. We have great resources, we’re intelligent, and we’re passionate about our fight.
We spent the morning talking about the dangers of coal, discussing Georgia’s current coal situation, and brainstorming strategies and tactics to end coal in Georgia. The real highlight of the day, however, came after lunch, when we all loaded up and drove to Sandersville, Ga, which is the proposed home of coal-fired Plant Washington. We went to the local Kaolin festival in downtown Sandersville, where we handed out flyers and talked to locals about the dangers of coal. It was a soaring success; we were able to meet dozens of residents and find out where they stand and give them really important information about the plant, while enjoying the atmosphere of the festival and the beautiful weather.
After our Sandersville adventure, we wound up at a beautiful cabin in the woods, only a few miles from where Plant Washington is proposed to be constructed. There, we discussed final plans, formulated an action timeline for the next few weeks, and we agreed to continue working on this campaign both collaboratively and on our home campuses. It was an amazing day filled with amazing brainstorming by amazing students. Needless to say, I had a great time.
There is one thing in particular, however, that I’d like to mention. I think it’s safe to say that after visiting Sandersville and talking to its residents, we all felt a renewed obligation to fight this coal plant. I’ve known about this plant for a long time now and I’ve known about how dangerous and detrimental it will be if it is built, but it all seemed so abstract to me. I realized that this plant would affect me and millions of other Georgians, but I suppose I never felt personally connected to it. This weekend, that all changed. I saw the city, I saw the beautiful countryside where the plant is supposed to be built, and I felt a new urge to end coal in Georgia.
So now, I’m asking that you all help in the fight. On October 20, the Environmental Protection Division will have a hearing to give citizens an opportunity to voice their views on the coal plant. It’s open to the public and we need to get as many people as possible to show up and express opposition to the plant. The hearing is in Sandersville and it starts at 6pm, with a 5pm information session from residents and field experts. Please register here to attend the meeting. Bring friends! Bring family! Bring posters and t-shirts and an opinion. We’ll be there in all our anti-coal glory. Will you?