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Marc Yaggi

Our nation's dominant forms of energy production like the burning of coal, have profound implications on the water we drink, the fish we eat, the air we breathe, and, of course, the sustainability of our planet. Power plants consume enormous amounts of water daily, killing trillions of fish in the process, and then discharging heated water back into our waterways causing further damage to aquatic life. These same plants spew toxins out of smokestacks fouling our air and sending mercury and other poisons into our waters, while accelerating climate change.

In his State of the Union, President Obama noted, "[we] will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations ... Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought and more powerful storms."

Increasingly, we have opportunities to become our own power plants and mitigate the environmental devastation caused by traditional energy sources. In particular, we can harness the power of the sun. We know that every hour, enough sun hits the earth's surface to power the world's energy needs for a year. How can we not capitalize on that cheap, plentiful, renewable energy? Until now, for most of us, the cost of installing solar panels on our homes has seemed out of reach.

And of course, we know that coal barons, mining magnates and others who profit from poisoning us with their deadly affinity to fossil fuels have undermined efforts to increase our renewable energy portfolio, as they continue to get fat on taxpayer subsidies. Moreover, regulatory red tape unnecessarily increases solar installation costs. However, solar installations have increased six fold over the past four years and new economic models and entrepreneurs are bringing us closer to the possibility that we all can afford to generate a large amount of power to our homes and offices from the sun. Increasingly, solar companies are offering consumers the option of leasing solar panels, leading to no up front cost and lower energy bills.

It is a win-win for consumers and our planet. That is why Waterkeeper Alliance has partnered with Sungevity, a solar company that will lease solar panels to consumers and give back to a non-profit. If your home qualifies for the program, you can lease solar panels with $0 down, have Sungevity's team install them (jumping through regulatory hoops for you), and likely save on energy costs from day one. Additionally, if you lease from Sungevity, you will receive a $750 rebate and Sungevity will give $750 to a non-profit that you choose from its partnership program. By signing up and selecting Waterkeeper Alliance, people can fight climate change both at home with their solar investment, and through a donation to our organization, which goes to fight more climate change—double win!

As we struggle with a path towards a clean energy future, programs like those offered by Sungevity give homeowners a cheap and easy option to lead the way. Just like the President said, "America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it."

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

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Marc Yaggi

We congratulate President Barack Obama on his re-election. We are ready to move forward with him and the new Congress to ensure cleaner, safer water for all Americans.

Forty years ago, Congress, inspired by strong Presidential leadership, enacted the Clean Water Act (CWA) in response to a growing environmental crisis. One of the CWA's goals was to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity" of our nation’s waterways and to make the nation's waters safe for fishing and swimming, eliminate harmful discharges of pollution and protect the nation's wetlands. The CWA's success is largely because it empowers ordinary citizens to enforce the CWA's provisions, giving us all a chance for cleaner water.  

In the next four years, we urge President Obama to lead in Washington and authorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require closed-cycle cooling for power plants, develop objective standards for stormwater runoff and require industrial factory farms to comply with the CWA. We hope the White House drops the illusion of “clean coal,” stops mountaintop mining, limits coal ash pollution and ends subsidies to dirty energy companies.

Waterkeeper Alliance congratulates President Obama on his election victory and looks forward to working together for cleaner, safer water for every American.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLEAN WATER ACT page for more related news on this topic.

 

Marc Yaggi

The Clean Water Act turns 40 today. As many know, a 40th birthday can be a momentous occasion for some, an "it's all downhill" moment for others and just another year for the indifferent. We have many successes to celebrate for the Clean Water Act's 40th, but our industry-controlled Congress is making it awfully hard to feel good about blowing out the candles.

After a year of kowtowing to big polluters with piecemeal attempts to gut the Act, last month, House Republicans decided to go whole hog and try to pass a super polluter bill—the "Stop the War on Coal"—which more properly belongs on the pages of Mad magazine. Unfortunately, some members of Congress are dead serious on threatening your right to clean air and water. The bill included attacks on the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, the Surface Mining Control Act and U.S. EPA, among other things, including rejecting the science on climate change.

Let's review where we've gotten with the Clean Water Act since 1972:

Forty years ago the Hudson River was more of an industrial waste conveyance than a great waterway. Today, thanks to the Clean Water Act and citizen action from groups like Hudson Riverkeeper, who stood up to polluters and gave meaning and force to the Clean Water Act, the Hudson River is a model of ecosystem revitalization.

Using the Clean Water Act, Puget Soundkeeper forced the City of Bremerton, Washington, to reduce the volume of its combined sewer overflows by 99 percent, which directly led to the reopening of nearby commercial shellfish beds in Puget Sound. These shellfish beds, which had been closed for more than 40 years, are culturally and economically important to the Suquamish Tribe, who now can harvest their ancestral fishing grounds once again.

Clean Water Act successes are by no means limited to the Hudson River and Puget Sound, and there are hundreds of advocates using the Act to fight for your right to clean water. Waterways across America have been brought back from the perilous brink they had reached 40 years ago.

At the same time, many of our waterways remain in decline or have suffered at the hands of greedy polluters. Just ask the citizens of Pike County, Kentucky, whose drinking water would catch fire, turn black or orange, and burn their skin after it was contaminated by the coal industry. Or talk to surfers in Malibu, California, and you're sure to find someone who became sick—some with life-threatening illnesses—after coming into contact with raw sewage and runoff.

Many dirty water horror stories across the country are the result of state and federal agencies abdicating their responsibility to properly implement and enforce the Clean Water Act, along with court decisions and agency guidance documents that are gutting the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction over our waters.

On the Clean Water Act's 40th birthday, here are a few wishes for its future:

1. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally requires closed-cycle cooling for power plants, which now consume more than 70 trillion gallons of water a day, kill billions of fish and vomit hot water back into our rivers destroying ecosystems even further. Closed cycle cooling—a technology already in use—would reduce water withdrawals and fish kills by about 95 percent.

2. The U.S. EPA provides clear information about the location and activities of industrial factory farms, requires states to issue meaningful permits to the factories and enforces the permits.

3. The U.S. EPA convinces the White House to change the chant of "Clean Coal" to "Coal Kills," ends mountaintop removal coal mining, announces a rule to regulate coal ash and stops the export of coal from the U.S. to Asia.

Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby takes water samples on December 27, 2008 while paddling between giant ash bergs created by the 1 billion gallon TVA Kingston coal ash spill into the Emory River in Tennessee. Photo credit: John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeper

4. The U.S. Supreme Court affirms every American's right to clean water by upholding NEDC v. Brown, which ruled that polluted stormwater from logging roads is subject to Clean Water Act regulation, and by upholding L.A. County Flood Control District v. NRDC, which requires Los Angeles County to clean up its polluted stormwater. And while we are on stormwater, the EPA promulgates a national stormwater rule that provides for objective performance standards for polluted stormwater, one of the greatest threats to water quality in the U.S. Such a rule would drive innovative green infrastructure techniques to capture polluted runoff on development sites, preventing it from destroying our waterways. It would reduce energy consumption, create jobs, increase property values and much more.

5. Congress passes the "End Polluter Welfare Act" (H.R. 5745), a bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. The fossil fuel industry is the biggest water polluter on earth. Ending more than $110 billion in tax payer subsidies to this toxic industry is the best thing we could do for water and American tax payers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota introduce "End Polluter Welfare Act" (H.R. 5745) at a press event on Capitol Hill on May 10.

While we reflect on the Clean Water Act's achievements, as well as the threats it faces, we should remember this: the Act's great promise of swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters is not a wish list but a delineation of every American's inalienable right to this precious resource, water.

Happy birthday Clean Water Act—we are grateful to you and will continue to fight for you.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLEAN WATER ACT page for more related news on this topic.

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WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR THE CLEAN WATER ACT THIS YEAR?

COMMENT BELOW:

 

Marc Yaggi

In the spring and summer of 2010, BP sprayed nearly two million gallons of dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico during the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Earlier this week, a coalition of public health, wildlife and conservation organizations filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit in an effort to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a rule regarding the use of chemical oil dispersants. In particular, the suit notes the U.S. EPA's failure to identify the waters in which dispersants, and other substances, may be used and in what quantities. The suit is an effort to inject science and safety into decisionmaking around oil disasters.
 
How did we get to this point? The U.S. EPA's failure to have already taken these actions caused major confusion and uncertainty surrounding the failed response to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. In the spring and summer of 2010, BP sprayed nearly two million gallons of dispersants into the Gulf. This poisonous brew mixed with the 172 million gallons of BP's toxic oil, turned the Gulf into Frankenstein's laboratory.

The dispersants created an optical illusion making the size of the spill seem smaller. The dispersants also made it extremely difficult to clean up the oil, and subjected the Gulf's waters, aquatic life and communities to unknown long-term threats. According to a recent study, dispersants may have had a very harmful impact on our food chain. In the frantic period immediately following the disaster, it soon became clear that little was known about the health and environmental impacts of discharging these massive quantities of dispersants onto and beneath the surface of the Gulf.

The U.S. EPA repeatedly acknowledged their ignorance about the effects of the dispersants being poured into the Gulf. The EPA statements reflected that science was being done on the fly and that the long-term effects on aquatic life were unknown. The Gulf of Mexico became a guinea pig for the new and untested use of dispersants, substituting the scientific method with a dirty Band-Aid. The result was a haphazard response.

Had the U.S. EPA performed its Clean Water Act duties, it already would have determined in which waters dispersants could be used and what quantities could be safely used. Consistent with the law's intent, various scientific analyses and data would have been available for use in the response efforts.  

It is imperative that the U.S. EPA act now to avoid similar situations in the future. Since the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf ended on October 12, 2010, more than 400 oil drilling permits have been granted, more than 28,000 permanent and temporary abandoned wells in Gulf pose a continued threat, and nearly 38 million acres of the Gulf are being sold off to big oil. Meanwhile, the system for reporting spills is still broken. There have been and will be more oil spills in our coastal waters.  

The damage from dispersants in the Gulf has already been done. Nearly two million gallons of dispersants with essentially unknown environmental effects were released into the waters. We need more effective and responsible dispersant rules so that we are never caught unprepared and uninformed in a crisis situation again.

The coalition, represented by Earthjustice, includes Louisiana Shrimp Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, Gulf Restoration NetworkLouisiana Environmental Action Network, Alaska-based Cook Inletkeeper, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, WaterkeeperAlliance, and Sierra Club.

Read the summer issue of the Waterkeeper Magazine by clicking here.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLEAN WATER ACT and GULF OIL SPILL pages for more related news on this topic.

 

Marc Yaggi

This summer, grab your family and make the time to get out and enjoy your local waterway! Whether it's swimming, surfing, paddling, snorkeling or just laying on the beach and enjoying the sound of surf breaking, take the time to enjoy YOUR right to clean, swimmable waters. Today, we are celebrating Swimmable Action Day—a day to advocate for our right to clean, swimmable waters for all.

Why? Because the more we use our waterways, the more we will understand, and value, the importance of clean water to our communities. Access to clean swimmable waters gives us a day of recreation without fear of harmful pollutants, provides a sense of place and inspires us to act as stewards of our waterways. And that is exactly what we need today—an army of informed citizen advocates who understand that everyone has a right to clean water for swimming, drinking and fishing. An informed, active public is the best defense to preventing industrial polluters and corrupt politicians from privatizing our waters. Usually, all it takes to instill this is a meaningful connection—a positive experience—with one's local waterway.

Take a minute and listen to participants in the recently held Buzzards Bay Swim (a Waterkeeper Alliance Splash Series event presented by Toyota and KEEN) talk about their connection to their local waterway.

Organized by Buzzards Baykeeper, the swim drew more than 300 people, who swam 1.2 miles across the bay to join hundreds of supporters in raising money and awareness for a clean bay. We interviewed dozens of swimmers and attendees. The most common reply to the question "what does clean water mean to you?" was "life." Most of the participants couldn't imagine a world where it wasn't safe for them to jump in a local waterway and go for a swim.

And swimming is good for you.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, swimming is the second most popular sport in the United States and an excellent way to get regular aerobic activity.  As an exercise, swimming can lead to improved health for those with diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic illnesses. Those who swim regularly have stronger hearts and good muscle stamina.  Swimming also is easier on joints and muscles than most exercise and can improve mental health. 

But of course, we need clean water for other water-based recreation, such as kayaking, canoeing, surfing, sailing, waterskiing, fishing, and paddle boarding. A 2006 Study by the Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Apart from the significant economic impacts, the benefits of water-based recreation include increased physical fitness, meeting people, growing self-confidence, learning new skills and more. Added benefits include community pride, environmental awareness and cultural appreciation.

Further, the America's Great Outdoors report notes that "play and relaxation in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, promote learning and personal growth..." It is also a powerful antidote to the skyrocketing obesity rates across the nation, which have tripled among our children over the past 30 years. The report goes on to observe that "Americans' increasing disconnection from the outdoors...also weakens the commitment to stewardship of our shared natural legacy."

If you have a memorable experience recreating on a waterway, aren't you more likely to step up and fight for that waterway if someone abuses it? Of course. That is why, with the generous support of Toyota and KEEN, we are continuing to expand our National Splash Event Series. At Splash events, local supporters across the country swim, boat, paddle or fish in celebration of everyone's right to clean water. To date in 2012, we've hosted Splash events in Biscayne Bay, FL; Potomac River in DC; Russian River in Healdsburg, CA; Mobile Bay in AL, and Buzzards Bay in MA. Looking ahead, we plan to get people splashing in Lake Erie, OH; New York Harbor; Hackensack River, NJ; Charleston, SC, and on the Kentucky River.

Additionally, we are working to expand the new Waterkeeper Swim Guide (download it at the App Store or www.theswimguide.org) across the country. The Waterkeeper Swim Guide is a revolutionary smartphone app and website that tells you where your closest beaches are, which ones are open for swimming and which have unreliable monitoring data. The Waterkeeper Swim Guide goes further by describing the laws and policies and sampling procedures that apply to your beaches and also gives citizens a pollution reporting tool. This summer, we have launched the Swim Guide in Florida; California; New York, Connecticut; Mobile, Ala.; the Chesapeake region; the Great Lakes; Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and parts of Quebec.

Let's all celebrate Swimmable Action Day today. Please lend your support and go 'jump in a lake', or pond, river, bay, or stream!  And post a photo of yourself, your kids or your dog enjoying your right to clean, swimmable water to our Facebook page.

 

Marc Yaggi

I remember the first fish that I caught with my dad on a small creek in rural Pennsylvania. Once he took care of cleaning the fish, we ate it for dinner. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity for me to enjoy that rite of passage with my children is closing quickly, unless we act fast to save our fisheries and waterways. Even if you're not someone who fishes, the quality of our waterways affects the fish you and your family eat and virtually all other aspects of your diet; just listen to renowned chefs, Beau MacMillan (Elements) and Dave Pasternack (Esca).

A healthy fishery is more than a pastime, childhood memory, or the makings of a meal, it is a major indicator of the health of our waterways, watersheds and the economy. Recreational angling is one of the most popular outdoor activities and one of the most solid industries in the U.S. Each year, "nearly 40 million anglers generate more than $45 billion in retail sales, with a $125 billion impact on the nation's economy, creating employment for over one million people."

Unfortunately, our state and federal governments have given industrial polluters a free bar tab for polluting; only, the public suffers the hangover. Coal-fired power plants across the U.S. have poisoned our fish with mercury, industries have willfully dumped PCBs and chromium in our waters, and industrial aquaculture and other kinds of unsustainable fishing have depleted already stressed fish stocks.

For example, in August 2011, based on a citizen complaint, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper discovered that a paper mill on the Pearl River in Louisiana had discharged untreated and partially treated black liquor into the river, causing a massive kill of fish and other aquatic life. Water and mussel samples collected after the discharge revealed the presence of toxic chemicals in the mussels and water. These toxic substances are associated with the pulping process and flow freely in the wastewater from the offending paper mill. The concerned citizen's life revolves around the swamp. He makes his living there. In fact, he catfishes to raise extra money to help offset expenses incurred mentoring troubled youth in his community. The outlook for catfish in the Pearl River over the next couple of years is bleak. In response to this destruction, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network have filed a notice of intent to sue against the mill for failing to comply with the Clean Water Act, Louisiana state law and the Endangered Species Act.

These egregious acts aren't limited to the U.S. Across the globe, polluters and malfeasant governments are destroying our fisheries and threatening our health. Twenty-five years ago, Hann Bay in Senegal was one of the most pristine bays in the world. The bay also was one of Senegal's most important fisheries. Today, the bay suffers from numerous industrial discharges, urban wastewater pollution, illegal dumps, and more. Fishing is now prohibited in the bay and the government has failed to enforce clean water laws. Now, traditional fishermen are forced to practice their trade in the dangerous open ocean waters, raising the cost of fishing and endangering their lives. Hann Baykeeper is working to enforce the law and restore the bay.

Back in the U.S., our fisheries received some good news in December 2011 when U.S. EPA finalized national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants produced by coal-fired power plants. The rule was a result of years of advocacy and litigation by Waterkeeper Alliance and other partners. The rule will reduce U.S. mercury emissions by 91 percent from the dirtiest plants (that's 43 tons of this neurotoxin that would have entered our air and water every year, were it not for the rule).

In typical fashion, the utility and coal industries are engaging in a desperate scramble to thwart the new regulations. They have dispensed their long-time crony, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, to spearhead what they perceive as their right to pollute our waterways. Continuing the fallacious jobs vs. clean air/water argument, the senator has introduced a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to prevent the mercury rule from moving forward.

According to U.S. EPA, if this attack succeeds it will, by 2016, result in as many as 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks and 540,000 days of missed work every year. U.S. EPA also estimates a cost of about $9.6 million to implement the new standards, while the rule is projected to save the public between $37 billion and $90 billion a year in human health costs alone. Additionally, U.S. EPA projects the rule will create 10,000 temporary construction jobs and 8,000 permanent utility jobs.

As the Clean Water Act heads toward its 40th anniversary, facing—along with other key environmental laws—attacks from industrial polluters and their cronies in Congress, we need to stand up for our right to clean air and water. Call your senators TODAY and ask them to oppose Sen. Inhofe's Congressional Review Act filing (S.J. Res. 37).

Waterkeeper Alliance is holding a Fishable Waters Action Day this Thursday. Let's make it a celebration by stopping Senator Inhofe's plan and ensuring that the mercury rule succeeds. If we don't act fast to protect our right to clean water, the age-old rite of spending a summer day fishing with your daughter or son will end with this generation. We cannot allow that to happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit EcoWatch’s CLEAN WATER ACT page for more related news on this topic.

 

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