clean water

People's Climate March - Washington D.C. 4/29/17

It’s pre-dawn on the Jersey Turnpike.  A torrential downpour has turned it into a river.  The unrelenting storm is complete with constant, menacing flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder.  In the days prior, it has already wreaked havoc and destruction across the Midwest as the driving force behind a rash of tornadoes. By midday in D.C., the temperature has climbed all the way to 91ºF.  It is still April.

These extreme weather events could not have been more ironically timed, as CCE came together with over 200,000 people from all over the country - lead by indigenous people from all over the world - to march for action on our changing climate.  The unseasonable heat punctuated the urgent message each one of us was there to deliver directly to the White House: “Climate Change is upon us and there is no more time to waste!”

This is fact. Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years on record occurred between 2000 and 2016.  Data collected from the polar regions tells us they are warming even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists have studied fossilized life forms and Antarctic ice cores to determine that the speed at which the Earth is warming is happening much, much faster than ever before.

Sea level rise threatens coastal communities, ocean acidification and warming ocean temperatures imperil marine organisms of all types and have already contributed to the impending death of the Great Barrier Reef.  Desertification is reducing the amount of arable land available to feed our exploding population.  Unpredictable weather patterns are leading to water shortages and crop failures.

All of that can – and must – change.

But, the People’s Climate Movement is in fact more than a movement for the climate. Indeed, one of the slogans for the march proclaimed it was for “Climate, Jobs, and Justice.”  Transitioning to renewable energy offers solutions not just for climate change, but also for a range of economic and social issues facing our country.  Over 900 different organizations came together for the march.  Among them were labor unions, groups concerned with water and air quality protection, and even coal mining communities who were there to advocate for a ‘just transition’ to renewables for the workers in their hometowns. Moving our country forward toward energy independence, toward leadership in innovation and economic prosperity, toward keeping our air safe to breathe and our water safe to drink, can only happen by embracing the renewable energy future.

The good news?  It’s already happening.  Deepwater Wind flipped the switch on the first offshore wind farm in America this week, providing 100% of the power for Block Island, Rhode Island and replacing noisy, polluting, diesel-burning generators with its five turbines a few miles out.

The best part?  It will not be the last.  Advances in solar and wind technology have made them cost-competitive against fossil fuel generation. That means we don’t have to choose between clean energy and cheap energy. We have reached the point whence they have become one in the same!

We pay tremendously with our dollars, our health, and our environment to keep fossil fuels on life support.  It needs to end now. We must demand it – for the Climate, Jobs, and Justice we all deserve.

The march was a great start.  It was an absolute inspiration to see so many doing exactly what needs to be done; standing up, showing up, and speaking up for our energy policies to work in the best interest of everyone.  We must continue to demand it because (as one sign read) “Silence is Compliance”.  We have finally arrived at the precipice of a paradigm shift away from filthy fossil fuels.  We have the technology and the capability to make it happen. Exercise your rights to the fullest!  Protests.  Letters.  Petitions.  Phone Calls. ‘This is what De-mo-cra-cy looks like!’

Some quotes spotted on signs at the march:

“CLIMATE JUSTICE IS A MORAL IMPERATIVE”

“THE GREATEST THREAT TO OUR PLANET IS THE BELIEF THAT SOMEONE ELSE WILL SAVE IT”

“WE ALL NEED CLEAN AIR, WATER”

“RESPECT EXISTENCE OR EXPECT RESISTANCE”

“GREEN ENERGY --> 5 TIMES MORE JOBS THAN COAL”

Shoreham Solar Commons Benefits Long Island’s Air and Water

Over the last decade, New York has seen multiple bad energy proposals, from offshore liquefied natural gas facilities, to hydrofracking, to  providing lifelines to dirty coal plants. Members of the public have time and time again said “no” to these polluting, antiquated fossil fuel projects. We need to move our state in a cleaner, more sustainable direction.  Fortunately, Governor Cuomo has listened to  the public and has continued to support and invest in increased renewable energy. Standing alongside former Vice President Al Gore, Cuomo recently pledged to reduce harmful climate change emissions and move NY towards a renewable energy economy. To fulfill that commitment, we need to invest in large scale wind and solar projects.

One such project is the Shoreham Solar Commons. This 25 megawatt solar project will replace energy now generated by dirty, polluting fossil plants on Long Island and reduce harmful climate change emissions by roughly 29,000 tons per year. That's good news for the climate, our environment, and public health for all Long Islanders.

Shoreham Can Aid Water Quality

In addition, the project will also work to improve water quality on Long Island. Long Islanders get 100% of our drinking water from underground aquifers. This groundwater also feeds all of our lakes, streams, rivers, and harbors. Unfortunately, the quality of our groundwater is steadily declining, due to increased contamination and over-development.

So, how will solar energy help our water quality? Currently, the site of the solar farm is a golf course—a heavy user of toxic pesticides and high-nitrogen fertilizers. By replacing the Tallgrass Golf Course, Shoreham Solar Commons will eliminate a significant source of these pollutants. There’s no need for fertilizers or pesticides under solar panels. Existing flora on the golf course will be replaced with indigenous, drought-resistant plants. This project will also prevent the site from being developed into new residences, mitigating further potential groundwater contamination by septic seepage, as well as residential application of pesticides and fertilizers.

Solar Sets the Right Energy Path for Long Island

Long Island has been on the forefront of many environmental and renewable energy initiatives and have set strong, aggressive precedents for environmentally sound decisions that will shape our energy future. Moving towards a 21stcentury renewable economy means investing in large scale wind, residential solar, and large scale solar projects. Shoreham Solar Commons would signify the right energy shift for Long Island and New York. This solar project is consistent with renewable goals called for by federal, regional, state, county, and local leaders. More importantly, it is aligned with what Long Islanders have been asking for—increased clean, home-grown renewable energy.

Connecticut Legislature Approves Ban on Plastic Microbeads in Personal Care Products, Pesticides on Town Playgrounds

The 2015 Connecticut Legislative Session has officially come to a close, and CCE members in Connecticut are celebrating two important, last-minute victories for clean water and a healthy environment. The first is a bill that phases out and ultimately prohibits the sale of personal care products that contain plastic microbeads.  These are tiny plastic particles that are used as an additive in more than 100 different products on the market today.  These products include facial scrubs, soaps, cosmetics, and even toothpastes.

The bill would require manufacturers to discontinue the use of these microbeads in favor of safe, biodegradable alternatives that are already on the market.  Certain manufacturers of personal care products have already agreed to phase out the use of microbeads over time.  Unfortunately, many more remain unresponsive to the problem.  While other states have passed bans on plastic microbeads, those laws include loopholes that allow the microbead problem to persist.  The new law passed in Connecticut is the strongest in the nation and will help "raise the bar" on this issue nationally, and stands as a model for other states to follow.

CCE generated more than 4,500 letters to key elected officials and collected over 10,500 signatures in support of eliminating plastic microbeads in products that are available for sale in our state.  Ultimately, the bill passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, and it was included in the budget implementer bill that was passed during the special session held in late June and early July.

Another significant win came in the form of a law that prohibits the non-emergency application of toxic pesticides on town playgrounds.  It also improves the existing parents' notification system to alert families whenever pesticides are scheduled to be applied on school grounds.  The law is the product of ongoing negotiations in the legislature, and it expands upon laws passed in 2005 and 2009 aimed at protecting children's health by eliminating pesticides on K-8 school athletic fields and daycare facilities.

These victories come as a pleasant surprise to environmentalists and public health activists who had all but given up hope on these important issues after the clock ran out on the regular legislative session on June 3.  More importantly, they are a testament to the power of grassroots advocacy and a shining example of what is possible when members of the public are educated and vocal about their concerns.

CCE would like to applaud Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., Rep. James Albis, Rep. John Shaban, Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, Rep. Diana Urban, Rep. Andy Fleischmann, and Rep. Terry Backer for their leadership and continued commitment to these important issues, and extend a special thanks to Senate President Martin Looney, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz for agreeing to address them during the special legislative session.

New York Should Invest in its Ocean and Great Lakes

New York State is currently in the middle of its budget negotiations (read: battle) and Governor Cuomo has put forth his proposal. He has thirty days to make amendments and then the Senate and Assembly will put forth their versions.  After the requisite back-and-forth, a final budget will be approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.  The budget is supposed to be finished by April 1st.

As you probably know, CCE advocates for the New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) every year.  The EPF is an important piece of the New York State budget, but specifically, I would like to talk about the Ocean and Great Lakes line of the EPF.  In 2005, the Ocean and Great Lakes line was added to the EPF and it is used by eight state agencies to advance important conservation and restoration projects along New York's beautiful coasts.  Unfortunately, the Ocean and Great Lakes line has been stuck at $5 million dollars and there is so much work to be done.  Now is the time to up that investment.  Recently the New York State DEC released the draft Ocean Action Plan, a blueprint for protecting our ocean and estuaries.  Additionally, implementation of the DEC's interim Great Lakes Action Agenda is underway and it identifies the most pressing problems facing the lakes, and provides specific goals and activities to address these problems.  With these plans in place it is time to use them and really invest in our ocean and Great Lakes economies.

In 2010, ocean sector industries like fishing and tourism contributed more than $21.7 billion to New York’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supported nearly 300,000 jobs.  The largest ocean economy sector is tourism and recreation: in 2010, tourism and recreation contributed more than $16.5 billion to the state GDP and supported nearly 254,000 jobs.  The Great Lakes also contribute significantly to the state’s economic well-being, supporting a sport fishery valued at more than $2.27 billion that generates nearly 12,000 jobs. In addition, Lakes Erie, Ontario and the St. Lawrence River provide the foundation for a multi‐million dollar tourism industry in the New York Seaway Trail region, serve as a key water resource for hydropower generation and manufacturing industries, and allow for recreational boating opportunities that contribute over $600 million a year to New York’s economy.

In order to implement important goals laid out in both of the Ocean Action plan and the Great Lakes Action Agenda,  additional funding is needed in the Ocean and Great Lakes program.  It's time for the Ocean and Great Lakes program to funded at $10 million and for the state to take these resources, and their contributions to the state economy, seriously.

So please take a minute and contact your Senator and Assemblymember.  Ask them to increase funding for the ocean and Great Lakes.

 

 

 

 

 

Hartford City Council Takes a Stand for the Clean Water Rule

water=life Recently Citizens Campaign for the Environment went to Hartford, Connecticut to speak in support of clean water for all Americans. That night the Hartford City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers' proposal to clarify protection of waterways under the Clean Water Act (CWA), known as the Clean Water Rule. When the Clean Water Rule is finalized it will restore protections to more than 59% of streams that are connected to Connecticut's drinking water sources. This is a big step and sends a clear message that we are ready for our water protections to reflect the original intentions of the CWA.

The Clean Water Act, since its inception in 1972, has enforced the protection of our rivers, lakes, coastal waters and wetlands. In other words, it protected all waters of the United States. This resulted in clean water, billions of dollars of economic activity, and  jobs for millions. Farming, industry, recreation and tourism all benefit from protecting clean water.

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While the US has seen great economic , environmental, and health benefits  from cleaner water, unfortunately Supreme Court cases in 2001 and 2006 and subsequent federal policy changes have  caused confusion to what is protected under the Clean Water Act. As a result, 60% of the nation’s stream miles and millions of acres of wetlands are not protected by the CWA .This means that about 117 million Americans get their drinking water from streams that are vulnerable to pollution.

The proposed Clean Water Rule would finally restore the Clean Water Act protections back to where it was before the court cases of 2001 and 2006. The Rule would not expand the law beyond where it was prior to the court decisions; it would merely remove the confusion that made so much of our water vulnerable to pollution since 2001. The confusion that  put the drinking water for 2.2 million residents of Connecticut residents at risk would finally be cleared up.  The rule would restore protections to millions of small streams and wetlands that provide most of the flow to local rivers, including the Housatonic, Farmington, Connecticut, Thames and Quinebaug. The protection of the network of smaller streams that lead into our rivers and bays are the key to keeping them healthy and ensure the safety of millions of jobs that depend on clean water.

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We encourage other towns to follow in the example that Hartford set in standing up for clean water. Individuals can stand up with them too. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are holding a public comment period until November 14, 2014.  The public must show support for the Clean Water Rule, and we have provided an easy way to take action!

Be a part of ensuring the clean water rule is implemented and in keeping our waterways safe for future generations!