Some Local Climate Action News…

First Here, Then Everywhere

By Hannah Borowsky, Chloe Maxmin, and Ben Franta

Yesterday we were honored to represent Divest Harvard as we made the case for divestment at our first meeting with Harvard trustees. After 72% of undergraduates showed their support for divestment on the undergraduate referendum, our group was granted a meeting with the Harvard Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. Dozens of students lined the hallway as the trustees arrived, showing that Harvard students care about climate change and support the University in its first official conversation about fossil fuel divestment.

Overall, the tone of the meeting was very positive. We had the opportunity to make our case for divestment and explain why it is essential for Harvard to be morally and intellectually consistent. The trustees recognized the urgency of climate change and the moral authority of younger generations who will be feeling the impacts of global warming. Yet they questioned whether divestment…

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What’s Next? Advancing the Climate Movement in a Post Election, Post Sandy World Must Include Climate Justice

Listen in to any climate action group meeting around the country and you will probably hear some version of the same questions being discussed right now: How can we keep the urgency of climate change at the fore?  And what do we need to do to further build a grassroots movement for urgent and ambitious action on climate? And most important, where are there opportunities for common projects or connected work? 

On November 15, the Climate Reality Check Coalition (description at the end of blog) held the latest in a series of national conference calls to help strengthen community organizing on climate.  These calls serve to make space for voices from the many and varied constituencies within the climate movement.  I like listening in to these conference calls because the participants usually are not folks from Washington, DC, think tanks, but activists from organizations close to their base.

On the most recent call were voices from NC Warn, the NAACP Climate Initiative, the Black Mesa Water Coalition, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Food and Water Watch, and 350.org. These varied organizations strongly believe in building a movement locally.  Yet at the same time they see that their own grassroots organizing can be more powerful when informed and encouraged by actions being taken by other groups also working on climate justice in other parts of the country. Their respective websites give one a feel for what is important to their constituencies and the ways they talk about climate concerns in the context of social justice. You might want to check out the respective websites for ideas, inspiration, and photos of the people that participate in the calls. (Respective websites appear at end).

I highlighted points made during the call in bold green:

On the ground struggles are critical.  Jihon Gearon from the Black Mesa Water Coalition in Flagstaff, AZ, emphasized that every community battling fossil fuels is important because each one exemplifies what transitions can look like. The Navaho nation is party to many settlements regarding extraction of natural resources.  Between now and 2019 many of those settlements are expiring;  some groups want to keep the settlements for another 30 years, but others believe in making a transition to sustainable practices.

For example, the Black Mesa Water Coalition has the goal of holding the Peabody Coal Company accountable for the damage done to Black Mesa’s water, environment, and community health; to permanently close the coalmines on Black Mesa; and to replace the coal-fired generating stations fed by the Black Mesa mines with renewable energy.  The national environmental organizations are sometimes surprised by the changes achieved by the local and regional groups.  The progress underscores the need for building more organizing capacity at the local levels.  (Photo below of Black Mesa Water Coalition workers)

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 Speak to what people want, not what seems politically feasible.  Mark Slossberg from Food and Water Watch stressed the importance of organizing at the community level with a clear message about impacts, which creates a tie between the community’s issue and broader climate issues.  Unique issues concerning water, air, traffic, and health can be tied to climate issues.  For example, the anti-fracking movement focuses on the impact on community water supplies.  In NY, the coalition against fracking is comprised of hundreds of organizations that have succeeded in delaying fracking by electing and holding account local officials.  In Longmont, Colorado, a ballot initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing was won by people talking about what they care about; the citizen effort spent around $20,000, compared to a $507,000 industry-backed campaign to defeat the measure.

Focus on local struggles and place-based organizing.  Jacqui Patterson, the Director of the NAACP Climate Justice Initiative, reminded climate action organizers to avoid issue “silos”. For example, the end coal campaigns cannot be at the expense of different communities facing impacts from fracking.  She advocated for community-owned utilities, carbon neutral communities, and local self reliance and resilience.

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                            Jacqui Patterson, Director of NAACP Climate Justice Initiative

Climate justice has to be part of any solution to the climate crisis. Pete McDowell of NC Warn said core values give climate activists a positive identity of doing their duty and mission; activists should take pride in mission.  He urged that climate activists adapt their language to what gives meaning to people’s lives.  “We have to de-brand our approach; there’s too much organizational chauvinism.” He viewed climate activism as broader than traditional environmental groups and climate action campaigns need to allow collaborating groups to have their own identity.

Recast the climate question as a moral question.  This is another important way to challenge fossil fuel, according to Mae Boeve.  350.org is partnering with Energy Action, a coalition of 50 youth-led environmental and social justice groups working together to build the youth clean energy and climate movement. Thirty groups are working on divestment from fossil fuel corporations across the country.

 How to use the first 100 days of Obama’s next term.  Ted Glick, from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network felt the climate action agenda must essentially focus on Obama. The first 100 days can be an occasion to bring national attention to the urgency of ending consumption of all fossil fuels, not just coal.  Gas and all other fuels that release green house gases (GHG’s) block the transition to renewables. Ted advocated for actions around No to Keystone XL Pipeline, and urged organizations to call for a National Climate Summit.  He is in favor of a carbon tax.

We can continue to push for a lot more.  Mae Boeve of 350.org urged that groups push for answers from the President. The Keystone XL pipeline is an immediate target nationally. She posed a few questions for groups.  What can we learn from other groups?  What new tools can bring people into the movement?  How can we build scale?  What can we learn from the Obama campaign itself?

 Questions and comments from listeners: 

 Lies in advertisements by natural gas companies go virtually unanswered.  Can groups take them on?  Can we spend money to do counter ads?

 Action alerts are ineffective.  Better than e-mailing elected officials who don’t pay much attention, show up in great numbers in district offices to force them into action.  Apply heat.

 How to deal with weak Congress proposals on controlling climate change? One listener suggested that we build power by organizing around where Congress people get elected.  We have to work at all levels and tie politicians to those funding them. Another suggested putting together local climate action teams that highlight how to reduce the demand for energy.

 What about U.S. international negotiations?  From a policy aspect, who is appointed to the U.N. is important, but until we take dramatic action as a nation to cut emissions, we won’t be effective on the international scene.  Other grassroots efforts in other countries can give examples for people, since mainstream media doesn’t give attention.

How to prevent moving from coal to downside of investing in massive gas infrastructure? Public education is needed.

Alert people to the methane releases in the Arctic.  Is it on the radar?

To hear the entire conference call, go to the recording at http://bit.ly/Udjyic.

Further Information on Conference Call Participating Organizations at:

 Climate Reality Check Coalition http://climaterealitycheck.org/   The coalition is a diverse alliance of organizations united by a deep appreciation for all interdependent life on the Earth, including the entire human family. “Together, the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can and must develop practical and transformative solutions — solutions that heal old wounds, and that move our nation and world closer to achieving social, economic and environmental justice.”

NC Warn (Waste Awareness Reduction Network) http://www.ncwarn.org/   The organization is part of the Black, Brown, and Green Alliance of Durham, NC. In partnership with allies, including Greenpeace, AARP-NC, the NC Housing Coalition and the NC Justice Center, NC WARN is working to change Duke Energy Progress’ business model of building unneeded, expensive power plants and repeatedly raising electricity rates.  Duke Energy Progress is now the largest electricity corporation in the United States. Shifting them away from fossil fuels could be the global game-changer humanity needs to avert runaway climate catastrophe.

NAACP Climate Justice Initiative http://www.naacp.org/programs/entry/climate-justice  The NAACP Climate Justice Initiative advances an advocacy agenda which promotes policies on issues such as clean energy, transportation equity, food justice, equity in urban/rural development, economic empowerment/green economy, health justice, education justice, disaster planning, housing justice, etc with desired outcomes and processes framed by four Rs: 1) Real Reductions in the emissions that are driving climate change and harming our communities; 2) Reparations through resource provision for mitigation and adaptation that is controlled by our communities; 3) Representation at state, local, national, and global levels in decision making around policies, programs and practices; 4) Rights Based Responses that ensure that human and civil rights are upheld through the transition.

Black Mesa Water Coalition http://www.blackmesawatercoalition.org/  Black Mesa Water Coalition is dedicated to preserving and protecting Mother Earth and the integrity of Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, with the vision of building sustainable and healthy communities. BMWC strives to empower young people while building sustainable communities.

 350.org http://www.350.org/ 350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Its online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.

 Food and Water Watch http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org  Food and Water Watch helps people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping the global commons — our shared resources — under public control.

 Chesapeake Climate Action Network http://www.chesapeakeclimate.org/  CCAN’s mission is to build and mobilize a powerful grassroots movement in the unique region that surrounds our nation’s capital to call for state, national and international policies that will put us on a path to climate stability.

Also mentioned during the call:

Energy Action Coalition http://www.energyactioncoalition.org/  Energy Action Coalition is a coalition of 50 youth-led environmental and social justice groups. Working with hundreds of campus and youth groups, dozens of youth networks, and hundreds of thousands of young people, Energy Action Coalition and its partners have united a burgeoning movement behind winning local victories and coordinating on state, regional, and national levels in the United States and Canada.

END

 

EPA Roundtable on Limiting Carbon Emissions From Power Plants

Dispatch from our own Susan who was in attendance:
 
Here are some take-away messages from the EPA Roundtable on June 13 held at the Boston Public Library.
 
The U.S. EPA has proposed a rule under the authority of the Clean Air Act, which would limit the amount of carbon emitted from new electrical generation plants.  Fact sheet attached.  The deadlilne for comment of June 25 is fast approaching.   To submit a comment, go to: http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/actions.html and look for the link.
 
Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. This standard would set the first national limits on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can be emitted from future power plants — a critical step forward in reducing the impacts of global warming, protecting public health and transitioning to a clean energy economy.
 
In addition to Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding, Vince Maraventano from Interfaith Power and Light, Dr. Rachel Cleetus from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Dr. Ari Bernstein of Harvard all spoke in support of the rule, while recognizing that the rule will not reduce current carbon emissions. Vince highlighted the belief by all major religious groups that our nation has a moral obligation to reduce our emissions of carbon that cause climate change.  The proposed rule should be promulgated and implemented by EPA without delay, in light of the global emergency regarding climate change that is already wrecking devastation on impoverished communities vulnerable to flooding and drought from changed weather patterns.  EPA’s rules will not on their own shut down carbon-emitting electrical plants.  We citizens can do our part by lowering our demand for electricity through energy efficiency measures and by purchasing energy supplied from renewable sources.  Buying a more efficient furnace is not as important as turning down the thermostat.
 
Administrator Spalding stated that the rule would not cause unreasonable costs on either the private or public sector. A representative from the organization CERES commented that when the full cost of fossil fuels is factored in, electrical energy produced by renewables is cost-competitive, and the price continues to drop.  The economist from the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that old plants are not economically viable anymore.  She raised concerns that natural gas is contributing to climate change, but the current low price is stimulating more production. From the lively Q&A session with attendees, I learned that the carbon emission limits on new coal-fired plants as proposed for Phase 1 will not address the multitude of existing plants, some of which are located here in New England. The yet-to-be-developed standards for Phase 2 that will apply to existing plants could be far in the future.  Also, the rule falls short in not addressing climate impacts and pollution of water resources caused by the extraction of natural gas by fracking and pipeline transport (methane leaks).
 

Susan

 

 

Riverdale: EMERGENCY UPDATE

According to their website, construction of a water removal site at Riverdale Mobile Home Park begins today. The water is slated for use in a nearby fracking operation. Facing eviction after Aqua America bought the land earlier this year, several families, some with out the means to relocate, chose to stay enlisting the support of sympathetic citizens across the country. In May, concern over the evictions in Riverdale Mobile Home Park spurred bipartisan support and the eventual passing of the Manufactured Homes Community Standards Bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It has been moved to the Senate for approval. The legislation requires tenants to be notified within 60 days of the sale and development of the land they live on, and to be provided with relocation funds.

The Sun Gazette Reported:

State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, who voted in favor of the legislation, said it will ensure that residents of such communities do not experience what is happening with tenants of Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Piatt Township.

“I have been working on this issue since the previous session when I served on the House Urban Affairs Committee,” he said. “The recent events at the Riverdale Mobile Home Park helped to bring this issue back to the forefront.”

In June the Sun Gazette reported that both Everett and fellow supporter Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, have noted that the bill would be too late to help the residence of Riverdale. This leaves the residence to fend for themselves, which they have done, with success, for over a week.

Now facing a final eviction, their website stated yesterday:

“This morning, we were informed by a utility worker that construction crews affiliated with Aqua America are planning to begin excavation on the land of the Riverdale mobile home community tomorrow (Tuesday).  

We have successfully delayed construction of a massive water withdrawal facility, permitted to suck up to 3 millions gallons of water daily from the Susquehanna River for use in fracking operations, for over 10 days now. The encampment is in urgent need of support at this time!  Now is the time to show your conviction and solidarity with these brave residents and volunteers who have decided to stand their ground in the face of ruthless corporate giant – Aqua America.

The construction crews are already there and, thanks to modern technology, the situation can be watched live.

Actions to take and numbers to call can be found here. Suggestions on the site include calling Aqua America and, for those that have them, the divesting of personal holdings in the company.

~ nuevaspora

Pilgrim’s Progress: Nuclear BWR Safety Called to Question

Protesters Demand Safer Standards From RNC

Report:
Protesters from numerous groups including Pilgrim Watch, Occupy the Cape, and Occupy Falmouth, spoke at a press conference in Post Office Square on the morning of June 7th, 2012 in advance of a hearing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The NRC agreed to a hearing in response to Pilgrim Watch’s requests for a hearing on 2 of 3 orders issued by the NRC which affect all nuclear reactors. The protesters have called the orders “band-aids” that do not address the lessons learned from Fukushima’s nuclear plant disaster. “The Orders do not protect public health and safety as they are purported to do.  They affect every reactor.” (from www.pilgrimcoalition.org)

June 7th Protest Press Conference

The two orders which Pilgrim Coalition charges are wrong and inadequate are regarding:
1)Vent Request, and
2) Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation

 

A few examples of what’s wrong with the orders: The existing order to improve reliable vents in Mark 1 and Mark 11 Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) does not require filters. If the contaminant vent is opened without filters, we get 100% of the lethal contaminants. Pilgrim’s reactor is a Mark 1 design, exactly like the design at Fukuskima. Japan is planning to require filters on vents in their plants.  Regarding the spent fuel pool, the order simply requires spent fuel pool instrumentation to provide information about the pool’s water, and yet there is no reasonable assurance that the pool can be refilled in a high radiation field, for example, when the proposed gauges read empty or nearly so.

Protesters Oppose Pilgrim Nuclear. June 7th 2012

Occupy Falmouth’s fact sheet states that:
The Pilgrim Nuclear Plant has been operating for 40 years.  Against all common sense and real safety concerns, the NRC has re-licensed the plant for 20 more years.  There is no evacuation plan for Cape Cod.  The spent fuel at Pilgrim is in a pool, vulnerable to a loss of power just like Fukushima. Highly radioactive spent fuel is in a crowed ‘swimming pool’ high in the main reactor building, and outside the reinforced primary containment area.  The spent fuel pool was designed to hold only 880 radioactive bundles.  It now holds more than 3,270 bundles and the number is increasing.  A safer way to house spent nuclear fuel is in dry casks.  Entergy, the corporate owners of Pilgrim, must put safety before profits and invest in dry casks before it is too late.
~ Susan

 

UPDATE: Entropy’s Corp.’s Pilgrim Nuclear is now three days into a lockout of unionized employees. A standoff in negotiations over salary and benefits has come to a head, and temporary personnel are currently serving in the place of these workers. Anyone looking for an exciting temp job?  ~ Nuevaspora