After a local 2nd grade student successfully petitioned the Portland City Council in 2018 to mitigate plastic straw use in city-owned buildings, the Maine Chapter took it to the next level with Council interest to pass a citywide ordinance becoming the first municipality in Maine to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.
The proposed ordinance was strong, seeking to ban the sale and distribution of single-use plastic straws and institute an ask-first policy for straws composed of natural fibers (bamboo, hay, cardboard, etc). Through deliberations, however, the initial exemption for schools was removed and a phase-in approach added to allow for a transition period.
Surfrider attended all Council subcommittee meetings throughout the year to help guide the policy, answering questions regarding why compostable straws are not a good ask-first option, why a ban is so critical versus a non-binding approach, and policy policy mechanisms for accommodating persons identifying as living with disability.
Chapter activists leveraged our Ocean Friendly Restaurants program to visit food service establishments covering each Portland city district. Asking questions about current straw use and distribution policies in the City, as well as impressions of the proposed ordinance, Maine Chapter volunteers gathered important data that they then shared in public hearing to support the ban. Many restaurat and bar owners were stoked to learn about the big natural-made straw discounts provided to participants in our OFR program, and were happy to learn of the Council's movement to green the City.
The first reading of the ban ordinance was held on October 7, 2019, with the 2nd reading, public hearing and vote held on October 21, 2019. Six Chapter volunteers attended the hearing, with four representatives speaking. We addressed an amendment proposed by Councilor Cook, which while well intentioned to make better accommodations for persons identifying as living with disability, would have rendered the ordinance an ask-first policy instead of a ban, which would have been a good step in the right direction but not be nearly as effective at curbing pollution as a ban.
Council debate ensued on the issue of accommodation for people requiring plastic type straws to drink and the desire not to retreat to an ask-first policy. A creative compromise was struck that both maintained the ban while also removing the need presented in the initial ordinance for people requiring plastic type straws to self-identify as someone living with "disability or other impairment." The agreement achieved this solution by amending the exceptions section of the ordinance to clarify that anyone requiring a plastic straw to drink hot or cold liquids could ask for one, and that such a straw would then be provided with no additional questions asked- a true win-win.
The following language was also added to the preamble to help qualify the nature of the exception and the intents of the council:
The City Council recognizes the need to ensure that plastic beverage straws remain available to those who require them for consumption of hot and cold liquids and seeks to protect the privacy and dignity of those requesting a plastic beverage straw.
The council carried the amended ordinance unanimously to passage, banning all types of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.
The ordinance has a phase-in process, which takes effect on April 1, 2020, whereby all types of single-use straws, stirrers and splash sticks will be available on request by the customer only. The ban on plastics kicks in on January 1, 2021, coinciding with the statewide foam food packaging and plastic stirrer ban's effective date. After January 2021, only naturally made single-use straws, stirrers and splash sticks will be available on request of the customer, except for those customers expressing an explicit need for a plastic straw to drink hot or cold beverages, which will then be available as a secondary default upon such request without further question.
Straws are one small piece of the larger plastic pollution crisis, and the Surfrider volunteer network is taking bold action across the nation to address this piece along with myriad others and concurrent with paradigm shifting change to usher forth extended producer responsibility. Together, we will gain strides toward a truly circular economy.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Surfrider.
- Maine First U.S. State to Ban Styrofoam Containers - EcoWatch ›
- Maine and Vermont Pass Plastic Bag Bans on the Same Day ... ›
- Maine Becomes First State to Ban Native American Mascots at ... ›
By Katie Day
An emerging concern among ocean scientists, stewards and beachgoers is the impact that certain chemical sunscreens are having on the marine environment. This has led to bans on the sale and use of chemical sunscreens in states and island communities such as Hawaii, Key West and Aruba, and a proposed federal ban in all U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries containing coral reefs. There has also been a surge in the production of "reef friendly" sunscreens — but what does that actually mean, and how safe are these alternative sunscreens to the marine environment?
As an alternative to sunscreen made with toxic chemicals, mineral-based sunscreen is often used as a "reef friendly" option. While mineral-based sunscreens are better for the marine environment than sunscreens with toxic chemicals, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene, there are still risks associated with their use. The most common active ingredients in mineral sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
How Do I Know If a Sunscreen Is "Reef Friendly"?
Unfortunately the term "reef friendly" is not regulated, so you can't always trust products with this description. It's important to actually check the "active ingredients" label on the back of your sunscreen or personal care product to ensure that reef-harming chemicals are not included. The size of minerals can also have an impact. Be sure to use micro-sized (or non-nano) mineral sunscreens to avoid nanoparticles, as these smaller particles can be toxic in high concentrations.
It's also advised to stick with lotions and avoid spray or misting sunscreens, especially those that contain titanium dioxide as it can be harmful to your health if inhaled. Finally, it's always good to use products that cut back on single use plastic packaging, either by using containers that are reusable, have high recycled content or are made out of biodegradable plant-based materials like cardboard.
Check the Label
Make sure your sunscreen does not contain the following harmful substances on the HEL list:
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Any nanoparticles or "nano-sized" zinc or titanium (if it doesn't explicitly say "micro-sized" or "non-nano" and it can rub in, it's probably nano-sized)
- Any form of microplastic, such as "exfoliating beads"
How Else Can I Protect Myself From the Sun, and Our Coasts From Harmful, Chemical Sunscreen?
Use Sun Management
Even mineral-based sunscreens can negatively impact fish and coral reefs at high concentrations. The best thing we can do is limit products when recreating in high use areas. Effective sun protection methods include a balance of:
- Avoiding sun exposure during peak sun hours (10 am – 2 pm)
- Covering up- Wear hats and clothing (can be UPF or even just regular)
- Using a more reef friendly sunscreen on exposed areas
Spread the Word and Advocate for Bans on Reef Harming Sunscreens
In addition to changing our actions and purchasing decisions to protect the marine environment, it's also important to spread awareness about the issue to friends, family and community members. At the local level, ensure that your town's stores are offering "reef friendly" sunscreen products, and encourage them to stop the sale of harmful products (feel free to share this handout with your community).
You can also advocate for local legislation that bans the sale and use of toxic sunscreens. For instance, in 2018, Hawaii passed the first ever statewide ban on oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreens, soon after, island nations including Palau, Bonaire and Aruba followed suite. Due to widespread community support, the Florida Keys were also able to pass an oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreen ban in Key West, but chemical companies have been working tirelessly to try and revoke this important legislation through the use of statewide preemption — learn more here.
At the federal level, you can ask your federal representatives to support the first federal bill to ban oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreens in National Marine Sanctuaries with coral reefs! National Marine Sanctuaries are home to some of the ocean's most biologically diverse and culturally significant marine areas, and we need to ensure that these critical areas are protected from harmful chemicals, in addition to other damaging practices like oil and gas extraction.
Please call your House representatives in Washington DC and ask them to support HR 1834 — Defending Our National Marine Sanctuaries from Damaging Chemicals Act of 2019, and ask your Senate representative to support or sponsor a similar bill.
Learn more about "reef friendly" sunscreens, the negative impacts of chemical-based sunscreens and get a list of some great sunscreen options here.
- Key West Bans Coral-Damaging Sunscreen - EcoWatch ›
- Hawaii Lawmakers Pass Ban on Coral-Damaging Sunscreen ... ›
- Florida Gov. DeSantis Prohibits Cities From Banning Sunscreens, Even Ones That Harm Coral - EcoWatch ›
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Pete Stauffer
For those of us who love the coast, the negative impacts of offshore oil drilling are obvious. Offshore drilling has a proven track record of polluting the ocean, damaging coastal economies and threatening a way of life enjoyed by millions of people. Yet, the oil and gas industry—and the elected officials who prioritize them over the public interest—would like you to believe that offshore drilling is somehow a safe and necessary practice.
To help set the record straight, Surfrider has released a new short film with surf legend Rob Machado and surfer/comedian Tyler Allen, on the Trump administration's plans for new offshore drilling and what this means for our ocean and coastal communities. Please check out the video and take action to stop new offshore drilling!
U.S. Coasts Are Under Threat
In early 2018, the Trump administration announced plans for new offshore drilling in over 90 percent of U.S. waters, igniting a firestorm of public opposition. During the 60-day comment period that followed, more than 1.3 million Americans submitted comments against the proposal and since then, public opposition has only grown. To date, more than 330 municipalities, 2,000 elected officials, 45,000 businesses and almost all coastal governors have formally opposed new offshore oil and gas development.
In the coming weeks, the Department of Interior is expected to release the next draft of the 5-Year Offshore Drilling Plan, which will indicate which areas are still under consideration for new oil and gas development. The agency will then open another comment period and host a series of public meetings in affected communities before making a final decision later this year.
New offshore drilling would threaten thousands of miles of coastline and billions in GDP, for a relatively small amount of oil. Ocean tourism and recreation provide 12 times the amount of jobs to the U.S. economy, compared to offshore oil production. Even under the best-case scenario, America's offshore oil reserves in the Atlantic and Pacific would provide only about 758 days, or about two year's worth of oil at the current rate of consumption, according to federal agency estimates.
Surfrider is determined to stop new offshore drilling off U.S. coasts, but we need your help! Please take action by contacting your federal representatives in support of anti-drilling legislation. We also urge everyone to participate in the Department of Interior's upcoming public comment period of the proposed 5-year offshore drilling plan. Please stay tuned to Surfrider's channels for the latest news and ways to take action!
Coastal Recreation and Tourism Businesses Fight Offshore Oil Drilling Proposal https://t.co/sDYUQT6Boc @BusinessGreen @GreenCollarGuy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518908433.0
By Pete Stauffer
The partial shutdown of the federal government reached its 16th day on Monday with no immediate resolution in sight. With border security politics dominating the headlines, Republican and Democrat lawmakers remained locked in a stalemate while President Trump signaled a willingness to keep the government shut down for months or even years. The upshot is that dozens of federal agencies remain closed or operating at minimum capacity until the gridlock in DC is resolved.
Among the government agencies impacted are those responsible for managing our nation's coastal and ocean resources. These include the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Parks Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others. But what do these government closures really mean for our coasts and ocean, and the millions of people who use these resources? Here's a list of some of the impacts:
1. Clean Water Programs
Numerous EPA programs that protect clean water and public health are currently suspended. The shutdown is disrupting everything from wastewater permitting to enforcement actions against polluters. The result is that the Clean Water Act—the landmark law that protects our nation's rivers, lakes and oceans—is rendered dormant while the federal government is closed. Also affected is the BEACH grants program that monitors water quality at thousands of U.S. beaches and remains unfunded for 2019. Finally, only a single NOAA staff person is monitoring Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) such as the recent events off Florida that devastated marine life and coastal communities.
2) National Parks & Marine Sanctuaries
At least 70 national parks have closed across the country while others are understaffed and plagued with overflowing trash and toilets. Among the coastal parks impacted by the shutdown are Point Reyes (CA), Olympic (WA), Gulf Islands Seashore (FL), Assateague Island (MD), Acadia (ME) and many others. As National Geographic recently noted, damage is likely to extend well after the shutdown is resolved. On the ocean side, NOAA's Office of Marine Sanctuaries, which manages 14 marine protected areas encompassing more than 783,000 square miles, is closed and unable to complete its mandate of protecting our nation's most outstanding ocean ecosystems.
3) Coastal Management
States and communities depend on federal support to manage coastlines and keep these vital resources open for public use. Because of the shutdown, NOAA has suspended its national estuaries, coastal resilience, marine debris and Sea Grant programs. These programs not only protect beaches, rocky shores and wildlife, they also help communities plan for sea level rise and extreme weather events. In addition, NOAA's Coastal Zone Management (CZM) program, which provides grants to 34 state coastal programs, remains unfunded for 2019. Lack of federal funding would be disastrous for many state programs and coastal communities that rely on this support.
4) Scientific Research
Agencies like NOAA, EPA and the National Science Foundation conduct research that's critical to the sound management of coastal ecosystems. Many federal scientists have been forced to stop their work during the shutdown, causing delays and disruptions to ongoing research. Projects impacted range from coral reef studies in the Pacific to fisheries surveys in the Gulf of Mexico to sea ice monitoring in the Arctic. The shutdown has also suspended important climate change research programs. In response, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has issued a statement urging for a swift resolution to the federal budget.
Making Our Voice Heard
It's notable (but not surprising) that impacts to the coast and ocean have received scant attention during the media's breathless coverage of the government shutdown. That's why Surfrider is working to elevate the voice of people who love the coast through our United States & Oceans of America campaign and federal advocacy efforts.
This winter, Surfrider and our partners will travel to Washington, DC for Coastal Recreation Hill Day to meet with congressional offices and federal agencies in support of coastal and ocean conservation. You can make your voice heard by calling your representatives in the House and Senate and urging them to support laws and funding to protect our coasts and ocean!
How the #GovernmentShutdown Could Impact the Nation’s Environment https://t.co/7OBrP0EHJQ— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1545968651.0
By Adam Hammell & Dana Williams
The pungent, salty air that emerged over South Bay communities last February was not a familiar whiff of wrack decomposing on our favorite beaches. In fact, it was the estimated 143 million gallons of raw sewage that raced down the rugged canyons of Tijuana, funneling directly through the mouth of the Tijuana River into the Pacific Ocean. Beachgoers, visitors, and residents of San Diego County have suffered the devastating effects of these spills for decades—yet little has been done to remedy the origins.
The perpetual disaster has direct, negative consequences on our local economy, tourism, marine life and growing public health concerns for residents of San Diego County. A problem that has remained dormant for many years has come into the spotlight in recent months due to the direct effect it is having on U.S. Border Patrol agents and, consequently, our national security.
A trip to the Tijuana River Valley with public lands liaison agent Amber Craig, supervisory border patrol agent Bill Rogers and Chris Harris, the secretary and director of Legislative & Political Affairs for the National Border Patrol Council, was indicative of the devastation to the area. Conditions were far less than ideal for the agents working in the Tijuana River Valley—and even worse for those without homes living amidst the sewage and rubbish on either side of the border. Nauseated daily by foul smells and constant exposure to toxins, metals, and raw sewage, many border patrol agents have been concerned about long-term health complications. In fact, some agents are keeping daily health records to document their respiration disturbances and rashes. Even cases of Hepatitis A, MRSA, and flesh-eating bacteria have been linked to exposure in the South Bay.
Former Border Patrol agent Joshua Wiley recalls symptoms of the necrotizing fasciitis—a flesh eating bacteria— he contracted in 2010 from the contaminated waters off of Coronado during training.
In fact, Joshua Willey, former Border Patrol agent, was permanently disabled due to a flesh-eating bacteria he contracted in April 2010, while training in the waters off Coronado after a heavy rain. At the time, Joshua assumed that he had an overuse injury due to rigorous physical training. Perseverance and determination kept Willey from being sent home, since this type of training was meant to clear some agents out. By day 11 of a 30-day intensive academy, Willey said "the pain got worse and started spreading down into my arm, and down in my chest area. I woke up in the barracks confused, with night sweats, the shakes, and didn't feel right." The next day, Willey was sent home and went straight to bed. He woke up later that night to use the bathroom and ended up on his floor—after suffering a febrile seizure. He was transported, by ambulance, to the hospital, where he recalled his arm swelling to "the size of a volleyball." Doctors told his family that his arm may have to be amputated, but that fortunately was avoided after a successful emergency surgery. After his operation, and a series of blood tests, it was revealed that he contracted necrotizing fasciitis—a flesh eating bacteria—from the contaminated waters off of Coronado.
Fenced border in Goat Canyon, where cross-border stormwater and sewage runoff collect on U.S. soil. Agents are required to physically check the gates, regardless of the presence or depth of contaminated water.
Border Patrol agents have taken precaution in some areas along the international border. "Many of the agents are told not to bring their boots and gear home." Said Craig. This is an effort to mitigate the possibilities of exposure to the families of the agents. At times, agents now wear face masks and gloves to protect themselves from the exposure to the hazardous waste. Craig noted that holes have burned through the soles of agents' boots and gloves in recent months, and agents are breaking out in rashes. "Whatever is in the water is damaging and eating away at our agents' boots. There appears to be chemicals or something in the wastewater."
U.S. Border Patrol agent shows a rash expected to be from contaminated water exposure.
Water quality testing commissioned by U.S. Border Patrol San Diego Division measures the level of fecal contamination in the wastewater that agents come in direct contact with, and the results are horrific. The Tijuana River bacteriological results from May 2018 (below) indicate levels of fecal indicator bacteria, E. coli, and fecal coliform that are literally thousands of times higher than national recreational exposure standards.
|Tijuana River Fecal Bateria Study Results, May 1, 2018|
|Station||E. coli (MPN/100 mL)||Total Coliform (MPN/100 mL)|
|Public health standard||235||10,000|
Water quality test results from May 1, 2018, provided by the Public Lands Liaison of the US Border Patrol, San Diego Sector.
Border Patrol agents knew the potential threats and inherent risks of guarding our country's Southern Border when signing up for training. "We could be shot at, get into a high speed chase, but didn't really sign up to be at risk from raw sewage." Noted Craig, With the warmer, summer months approaching, more threats to the agents are going to be lurking in the lowlands of the Tijuana River Valley. Mosquitoes spawning in this sewage present considerable health suspicions to Customs Border Patrol and the Public Health of San Diego County and beyond, as mosquito-transmitted viruses include West Nile, yellow fever, dengue and Zika.
Trash and debris collect at a border fence.
In addition to the health risks of contaminated water exposure, trash and debris wash down the Tijuana canyons during storm events, causing these streams to send sewage, chemicals, and solid waste into the marine environment. Gates and border walls can act as collection points for trash. To prevent flooding, agents are forced to open the gates of these collectors when it rains, leaving the busiest international border access in the world open to possible dangers and risks.
Hilly topography surrounding the Tijuana Rivery Valley form multiple stormwater and debris collection areas that eventually flow across the border.
Many residents, especially those in the South Bay communities, are longing for a solution to this enduring problem. Amber Craig, who has been with U.S.C.B.P for two decades, says that spills have been an issue for as long as she has been there. I asked her about a possible solution, since she is an expert on the crisis:
"All we can do is put a Band-Aid on it. The real problem is there is not a Band-Aid big enough. These problems keep getting bigger and bigger. It is going to have to happen at very high levels of government."
On May 15, Surfrider Foundation San Diego sent the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) a Notice of Intent to Sue for repeated violations of the Clean Water Act. The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) is the federal agency with the jurisdiction over transboundary flows of waste. Lack of foresight, management, leadership, priority and diplomacy has resulted in an IBWC that has not been proactive. Their stance is "we cannot do anything about it." However, they have also not yet considered the options or costs involved in mitigating contaminants that cross the border, or cleaning up when they happen. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is launching a diagnostic of possible solutions as a result of the February 2017 spill that should be completed by November. However, the IBWC should have been engaging in these sorts of diagnostics for the last decade.
By Pete Stauffer
Ever since the United Nations declared June 8th to be World Oceans Day in 2002, people and groups from around the world have used the occasion to celebrate the ocean and take steps to protect it. Now, with the ocean facing more threats than ever, it's time for all of us to come together to protect our treasured marine environment.
Our federal leaders are waging an unprecedented assault on the ocean. The Trump administration has proposed new offshore drilling in more than 90 percent of U.S. waters, while targeting marine protections for potential repeal. Meanwhile, plastic pollution continues to proliferate in our ocean, choking and entangling marine wildlife, as government leaders and corporate interests refuse to take meaningful steps to address the problem.
This is why grassroots action is desperately needed to protect the health of our ocean. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, "If the people lead, the leaders will follow." So, on June 8th, let us all be reminded of our responsibility as ocean advocates to protect this incredible resource for now and the future.
Here are three ways to take action on #WorldOceansDay 2018.
1. Tell Your Federal Leaders to Stop the Rollback of Ocean Protections
The administration and members of congress need to hear from people who value the ocean and oppose proposals that would damage the marine environment. Please visit Surfrider's Stop Offshore Drilling campaign page to learn how you can take action to defend our coastlines from new oil rigs. Please also complete this action alert to urge your representatives to support our Marine Sanctuaries and National Monuments. Or better yet, pick up the phone and call your representatives in the Senate and House! For more information on Surfrider's Ocean Protection initiative click here.
2. Reduce Your Consumption of Plastics With a #ZeroPlasticLunch!
Plastic pollution represents one of the greatest threats to the health of our ocean. Every year, millions of tons of plastic enters marine waters, wreaking havoc on wildlife and ecosystems. That's why the theme of this year's World Oceans Day is preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean. Surfrider is partnering with CNN to ask students around the world to celebrate #WorldOceansDay with a #ZeroPlasticLunch. Join by sharing photos of your lunch on social media using the hashtag #ZeroPlasticLunch and tagging @surfrider with changes you made to your meal and why. For more tips on reducing your consumption of plastics, please visit Surfrider's Rise Above Plastics page.
3. Join the March for the Ocean (or Wear Blue to Show Support)
On Saturday, June 9th, ocean advocates are assembling in Washington DC and sister events around the country to March for the Ocean. The goal is to show grassroots support for stopping offshore drilling, reducing plastic pollution, and preserving coastlines in the face of rising seas. Surfrider Foundation will have a strong presence at the march, with chapter members and staff traveling to our nation's capital for the event. Those who can't make it to Washington DC are encouraged to 'Wear Blue for the Ocean' to show their support in local communities and on social media. For more information go to: www.marchforocean.com and engage with #MarchForOcean on your favorite social channels.
- How a Small Piece of Plastic Wrap Likely Killed a Harp Seal ›
- Parley Continues Its Innovative Campaign to Save Our Oceans With ... ›
- A Fishing Town in India Is Building a Road to a Plastic-Free Ocean ›
By Katie Day and Trent Hodges
When we think of plastic pollution, we think of images of plastic bags on the beach, suffering marine life and the almost invisible smog of microplastics in our ocean. What often gets overlooked is the fact that conventional plastic is made from fossil fuels, and is a product of the oil and gas industry.
Traditionally made from petroleum byproducts, plastic in the U.S. is now most commonly sourced from the nation's production of "abundant and affordable" natural gas. Natural gas liquids (NGLs) ethane and propane get extracted and sent to a "cracking facility" where ethane is made into ethylene (the foundation of polyethylene—the most common plastic in the world, frequently used for packaging, bottles and synthetic clothing), and at a dehydrogenation plant, propane is made into propylene (the foundation of polypropylene—a plastic commonly found in food packaging and vehicle manufacturing).
"The reason is simple: because of shale gas, it is more cost effective to produce ethylene in U.S. than just about anywhere else in the world."
— Excerpt from American Chemistry Council
The U.S. natural gas boom has made plastic feedstocks really cheap and readily available. An estimated $50 billion will be invested into new and expanded U.S. plastic production facilities, increasing production by roughly 50 percent in the next 10 years, and tripling the amount of plastic exports by 2030! That includes 400 new plastic processing facilities, in addition to plastic manufacturing facilities and plastic additive processing facilities, which can produce some significantly harmful chemicals including pthalates and brominated flame retardants.
In fact, in the U.S. alone, producers of polyethylene are expecting to increase production capacity by as much as 75 percent by 2022. Industry explains that this increase of production is fueled by expected increases in demand for disposable plastics, such as soft drinks and packaging, by millennials in developed countries, and growing consumer markets in developing countries. This means that much of the U.S. manufactured plastics are planning to be exported to developing countries, where waste management services may not be properly equipped to handle current, let alone a surge in non-biodegradable solid waste.
This is disheartening news, but just as the proposal for offshore oil drilling off the U.S. ignores the fact that the world is moving towards renewable energy, the plastics industry fails to recognize the proliferation of social and political changes such as bag bans, foam bans and society's refusal to accept an inundation of single-use plastic.
The movement to reduce single-use plastic pollution has gone global. At the local level, cities across the U.S. have banned and restricted the unregulated use of wasteful single-use plastics, fueled by campaigns that Surfrider chapters and passionate communities have fought for. On the international side, in January 2018, the European Commission announced a Europe-wide strategy to reduce plastic pollution and ensure that all plastic in Europe is recyclable by 2030.
Even the UN Environment Program has taken a strong stance against plastic pollution, and started a global campaign to reduce marine debris from microplastics and single use plastics by 2022. Though none of these actions alone signal an end to single-use plastics, they do show the increased resistance among cities, nations and the international community to reject products that are used once and thrown away to the detriment of our waters, land and wildlife.
Plastic pollution is an issue that demands worldwide cooperation, similar to climate change, as they are two sides of the same coin. As a product of extracting and refining fossil fuels for energy, the amount of plastic produced is influenced by the demand for and production of oil and gas. Industry analyses find that the production of plastics from fossil fuel is only cost effective when the components not used for plastics are used for energy production, treating plastic more as a byproduct of the industry. Therefore, if we transition away from fossil fuels, and towards renewable energy and a healthy climate, we also encourage industry to transition away from producing wasteful single-use plastics.
"Plastics manufacturers assume demand for disposable plastics will continue to rise, despite evidence that global awareness of plastic pollution is growing and cultural attitudes are changing. Industry investments reflect a further underlying assumption that supplies of cheap hydrocarbons will remain the norm for decades to come, even as the global community has begun to phase out the very fossil fuels upon which plastics producers depend."
— Excerpt from Center for International and Environmental Law
This makes the fight against single-use plastic pollution more compelling and holistic, realizing that good choices in renewable energy and climate friendly decisions may also help reduce single-use plastic production and pollution, and vice versa.
We need your help to reduce the consumption of single use plastics and fossil fuels!
- Support bans on harmful single-use products through local campaigns.
- Support Ocean Friendly Restaurants and local businesses that avoid plastic waste while spreading awareness of the issue.
- Reduce your reliance on greenhouse gas emissions by driving less, investing in high-efficiency lighting and appliances, and buying locally.
- Adopt a single-use plastic free lifestyle by investing in reusable cups and cutlery, purchasing loose produce instead of packaged produce, and saying no to plastic straws, bags, bottles, and takeaway containers.
- 7 Things You Can Do to Create a Plastic-Free Future ›
- Microplastics Pollute Rivers and Lakes, Too ›
- Do Fuels Made From Plastic Make Eco Sense? ›
The Surfrider Foundation and leaders of the coastal recreation and tourism industry on Thursday presented Department of Interior representatives with a surfboard and letters signed by more than 1,000 coastal businesses and elected officials in opposition to new offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters. From Florida to Maine and California to Washington State, businesses including restaurants, retailers, surf shops and hotels are expressing concerns that new offshore oil and gas development would be disastrous for coastal communities.
"Clean water and healthy beaches are critical drivers of our coastal economies and provide over two million jobs and $114 billion in spending in the U.S. annually," said Firewire Surfboard CEO Mark Price. "As co-owner of a coastal business, offshore oil drilling makes no sense for the coasts, ocean, the planet, or our business."
Businesses dependent on a clean coastal environment are taking action to protect the ocean and coasts. On the East Coast, the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast consists of 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families that are opposed to offshore oil drilling. The Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast also recently launched with more than 1,000 members.
Pete Stauffer (above) is the environmental director of the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider Foundation
"The health of our ocean and beaches is critical to support our nation's coastal tourism, recreation and fishing industries, which are significant contributors to the U.S. economy," said Roger Spatz, president of Reef and Eagle Creek. "At Reef, we see offshore oil drilling as a clear danger to coastal economies, communities and our ocean, waves and beaches. We will continue to stand up and work to keep them protected and pristine for future generations."
Opposition to offshore drilling also includes bipartisan representation. Republicans and Democrats have called for the administration to reverse its position on new drilling, including:
● Governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, California, Oregon and Washington all announced their opposition to offshore oil drilling.
● 37 senators, most of whom represent coastal states affected by the proposal, sent a letter to Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke expressing strong opposition to the department's plans to expand offshore drilling to new areas.
● Florida's entire federal delegation of 29 lawmakers sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis expressing concerns over expanded offshore drilling.
● 16 federal lawmakers from the Pacific Northwest sent a letter to Zinke opposing offshore drilling off Oregon and Washington.
● More than 150 municipalities on the East Coast and West Coast have passed resolutions against offshore drilling.
● The California Senate, California State Lands Commission, California Fish & Game Commission and California Coastal Commission have all passed resolutions against offshore drilling.
"I believe the potential consequences of offshore drilling and exploration outweigh the possible benefit," said New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith (R-4th Dist). "In short, New Jersey's pristine beaches, marine ecosystem and economy are far too important to take a chance on drilling."
Even when there is not a spill and everything goes "right," the process of oil drilling releases thousands of gallons of polluted water into the ocean, called drilling muds. These muds are generally unregulated and contain toxins such as benzene, zinc, arsenic, radioactive materials and other contaminants. High concentrations of metals have been found around drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and a study by the Pew Charitable Trust concluded that a single oil well discharges up to 2,000 tons of waste material.
"Our nation's coastal tourism, recreation and fishing industries, which are built around clean water and healthy beaches, provide 12 times as many jobs as that created by offshore drilling," said Pete Stauffer, environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation. "We will continue to work together with the many businesses, communities, and elected officials that have already demonstrated opposition against the expansion of destructive new oil drilling to fight for the protection of our ocean, coasts and communities for the future."
'Not a Single Drop': California to Block Trump's Offshore Drilling Plan https://t.co/EAyrGEBkeW @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine @foe_us— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518128409.0
By Pete Stauffer
The Trump administration is expected to unveil the new Five Year Offshore Oil Drilling Plan as early as this week, after signing an executive order earlier this year to expand offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters. Expanded offshore oil drilling threatens recreation, tourism, fishing and other coastal industries, which provide more than 1.4 million jobs and $95 billion GDP along the Atlantic coast alone. The executive order directed the Interior Department to develop a new five-year oil and gas leasing program to consider new areas for offshore drilling. The order also blocked the creation of new national marine sanctuaries and orders a review of all existing sanctuaries and marine monuments designated or expanded in the past ten years.
"Our ocean, waves and beaches are vital recreational, economic and ecological treasures to our coastal communities that will be polluted by new offshore oil drilling, regardless of whether or not there is a spill," said Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation. "Without a massive mobilization by coastal communities around the country in opposition to new offshore drilling, our voice will be drowned out by the lobbying power of Big Oil in Washington, DC."
New offshore drilling would threaten thousands of miles of coastline and billions in GDP, for a relatively small amount of oil. Ocean tourism and recreation, worth an estimated $100 billion annually nationwide, provides 12 times the amount of jobs to the U.S. economy, compared to offshore production. Even under the best-case scenario, America's offshore oil reserves would provide only about 920 days, or 18 months supply of oil at our current rate of consumption, according to federal agency estimates.
"Tourism drives our local economy, and the approval of offshore drilling poses a huge threat to the livelihood and quality of life in our beach community," said Nicole D.C. Kienlen, tourism director of Bradley Beach, New Jersey. "The effects would be devastating on multiple levels."
Even when there are no accidents, offshore oil drilling seriously pollutes our water and food supply at every stage. The ground penetration, the drilling, the rigs, and the transportation tankers all release toxic chemicals and leaked oil. The standard process of drilling releases thousands of gallons of polluted water into the ocean. High concentrations of metals have been found around drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and have been shown to accumulate in fish, mussels and other seafood.
Fortunately, any attempt by the Trump Administration to revise the 2017-2022 Offshore Drilling Plan will require an extensive review process with multiple opportunities for public input. Surfrider's grassroots network is both ready and motivated to stand up for the protection of our nation's coastlines!
Last year, Surfrider chapters on the East Coast played an instrumental role in reversing the Obama administration's plans to open the Atlantic to new oil drilling. Through raising awareness about the impacts of offshore drilling and building opposition from coastal businesses and communities, Surfrider and our partners prevailed in protecting the Atlantic. Now, we must rally once again to stop new oil rigs off our coasts!
Please join our campaign to stop new offshore drilling off U.S. coastlines. See below to learn how you can take action.
- Send an email to your federal leaders by completing this action alert.
- Call your representatives in congress to tell them to oppose new offshore drilling! Find your member's phone numbers here: Senate and House.
- Join the Ocean Recreation Hill Day February 15-16, 2018 and find out more here.
- Participate in Hands Across the Sand on May 19th to demonstrate grassroots opposition to new oil and gas development click here.
- Visit Surfrider's Stop New Offshore Drilling campaign page click here.
Pete Stauffer is the environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation.
By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn
The Surfrider Foundation released the 2017 State of the Beach Report Card, which evaluates U.S. states and territories on their policies to protect our nation's beaches from coastal erosion, haphazard development and sea level rise. The results reveal that 22 out of 30 states, and the territory of Puerto Rico, are performing at adequate to poor levels, with the lowest grades located in regions that are most heavily impacted by extreme weather events. Surfrider's report card clearly denotes that not only do the majority of states need to make improvements, but they also require continued support at the federal level for the Coastal Zone Management Act and funding for agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to protect our coastlines for the future.
About 40 percent of our nation resides along America's unique coastlines. Healthy beaches fuel coastal tourism and recreation economies that are worth more than $100 billion and provide 2.15 million jobs nationwide. However, beaches are disappearing at an alarming rate, due to both natural processes and human intervention. Coastal erosion causes approximately $500 million in coastal property loss annually in the U.S., including damage to structures and loss of land. To mitigate erosion impacts, the federal government spends an average of $150 million every year on beach replenishment and other shoreline erosion control measures. In addition, scientists predict that sea levels could potentially increase up to six feet by 2100, which would impact coastal economies, public access, recreation and healthy ecosystems.
In response, Surfrider has produced the State of the Beach Report Card to serve as a tool to empower concerned citizens to work with coastal municipalities and ensure that their local communities actively protect coastal resources. The report is also intended to provide a basis for decision-makers and agencies to form proactive, long-term solutions for increased coastal protection for the future.
- Surfrider's report finds that only eight states are doing a "fair or better" job (e.g., earned grade of A or B based on relevant criteria) of protecting beaches.
- The states scoring higher had strong policies regarding coastal building setbacks, prohibitions against coastal armoring and rebuilding in coastal hazard areas, and support for incorporating sea level rise and coastal adaptation into planning documents.
- More than 22 states assessed are doing a "barely adequate to poor" job (with an earned grade of C or less). These states tend to have less stringent policies regarding development in hazardous coastal zones, sediment management, no prohibitions on coastal armoring, and/or little in the way of policies that require the incorporation of sea level rise projections into coastal planning.
- The latest science and frequent coastal damage from storms show that our nation's beaches are under siege and highly vulnerable to erosion.
- The report findings underscore why NOAA's Coastal Management Program must be adequately funded to support stewardship of our nation's beaches.
- Most of the states that experience extreme weather events lack solid coastal preservation and sea level rise policies.
As a result of the assessments and recommendations provided by Surfrider's State of the Beach Report Card, it is our responsibility to work together to drive awareness of the increasing challenges facing our nation's coasts and improve local, state and federal government responses to erosion and sea level rise, to protect our ocean, waves and beaches for the future.
By Pete Stauffer
It's a simple choice, really. Do we want our National Marine Sanctuaries to be used for recreation, education, fishing and ecological protection? Or do we want to hand these ocean gems over the oil and gas industry so they can expand offshore drilling off our coasts?
For the past six months, the federal administration has been studying this very question. Following the Trump administration's Executive Order: The America First Energy Strategy, the Department of Commerce began a review of five National Marine Sanctuaries (including all four off California's coast) and six Marine Monuments to determine if these sites might be exploited for energy development. As part of the process, they invited the public to share their thoughts on the matter. The input received was unequivocal: don't mess with our sanctuaries!
According to an analysis by the Marine Conservation Institute, roughly 99 percent of public comments collected at regulations.gov expressed support for maintaining Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments as they currently exist. In all, nearly 100,000 citizens spoke out on the issue, demonstrating broad and diverse support for sanctuaries including Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Cordell Bank and the Greater Farallones. Moreover, seven coastal counties in California, from Ventura to Humboldt, passed resolutions affirming local government support for Sanctuaries.
This brings us to the secret report. On Oct. 25, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross submitted his recommendations to President Trump on National Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments based on the agency's review of the issue. The only problem? No one from the public is allowed to read it. Yes, that's right. Despite a review process ostensibly based on public input, the administration's plans for our National Marine Sanctuaries are being kept a secret.
One might assume that no action will be taken against Marine Sanctuaries, based on the overwhelming public support expressed. Yet, given the recent news that protections for National Monuments will be scaled back by the administration, following similar (and equally overwhelming) public sentiment expressed, it's clear that the risk is very real. Add the fact that the report is being kept under wraps, and the urgency of the matter becomes even more clear.
Trump to Shrink #Utah National Monuments to Allow Drilling, Mining https://t.co/IeC0Qf0dsx @NWF @NatlParkService @SierraClub @Wilderness— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1509374626.0
That's why people who value Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments need to speak out and contact their members of Congress. While the administration may be intent on opening Sanctuaries and Monuments to oil and gas development, our federal representatives can fight back to protect these designations. Please pick up the phone and call your representatives today! Find your member's phone numbers here: Senate and House.
The Surfrider Foundation is proud to be part of a national coalition working to defend our country's Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments from attacks by the current administration. We will continue to fight to protect these special places, including Marine Sanctuaries off California and the Northeast Canyons & Seamounts Marine Monument, whose designations our members worked so hard to support.
Visit our "Save our Marine Sanctuaries" campaign page.
By Pete Stauffer
It's nearly impossible to convince certain people, most notably leaders of our federal administration, that bold action is needed on climate change, but recent events have certainly made a compelling case.
Three major hurricanes have battered U.S. coasts in recent months, impacting the lives of millions of people and causing billions of dollars in damage. Although no single storm event can be blamed directly on climate change, scientific experts agree that the warming climate and ocean waters contribute to the frequency and scale of hurricanes—putting the residents, natural resources and economic security of coastal communities at elevated risk. This makes the Trump administration's proposal to expand offshore oil drilling off U.S. coasts all the more dubious.
As Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico struggle to recover from hurricane damage, our federal government is seeking new ways to increase carbon emissions and put our nation at even greater risk. Following an executive order earlier this year, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke announced plans to revise the nation's Five-Year Offshore Drilling Plan, threatening the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean with the prospect of new offshore oil rigs. Congress leaders are also discussing the proposed Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore (ASTRO) Act, which would fast-track offshore drilling by removing critical safety and environmental protections.
The drilling, rigs and transportation tankers required for offshore drilling release a brew of toxic chemicals and leaked oil. High concentrations of metals have been found around drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and have been shown to accumulate in fish, mussels and other seafood. Offshore drilling also regularly leads to oil spills. Since 1969, at least 44 major oil spills (of more than 10,000 barrels or 420,000 gallons of oil per spill), have been recorded in U.S. waters. This includes the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, which poured about 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days. The spill devastated beaches and coastal wetlands from Louisiana to Florida. It killed birds, fish and marine mammals, and delivered a serious blow to the recreation and fishing-based economies of the Gulf States, which have yet to fully recover.
Oil Spill Off Louisiana Coast 2X Bigger Than Original Estimate https://t.co/6t2LieyYbD @Greenpeace @World_Wildlife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1508550905.0
Even though recent history is full of lessons that we can learn from, leaders in Washington appear to be turning a blind eye and prioritizing the private interests of the fossil fuel industry. The federal government continues to push offshore drilling and defy widespread opposition from the scientific community and public—even though a proposal from the previous administration for new drilling off the Atlantic coast was soundly rejected by scientific analysis and millions of Americans.
More than 130 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials and an alliance representing 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed oil and gas development in the Atlantic. And this spring, a bipartisan group of more than 100 lawmakers in the House of Representatives signed a letter urging the Department of Interior not to allow any new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Such a groundswell of opposition—from local communities to government leaders—is an acknowledgement that the risk of offshore drilling is simply not worth it. New offshore drilling would threaten thousands of miles of coastline and economies worth billions of dollars for a finite amount of oil. On top of that, ocean tourism and recreation, worth an estimated $100 billion annually nationwide, provides 12 times the amount of jobs to the U.S. economy, compared to offshore oil production.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration is moving forward with plans for new offshore drilling, and by the end of this year, the Department of Interior will release its draft proposal of where new oil and gas drilling will be allowed. Fortunately, federal law requires an extensive public review process that can take two or three years to complete. That's why Americans need to mobilize and call their representatives in Congress, submit comments to the Department of the Interior and boldly voice their opposition to offshore drilling.
In the past few months, coastal communities were devastated and displaced by Harvey, Irma, Maria and other storms; their journey to recover and rebuild will continue for years. Offshore drilling will only exacerbate the symptoms of climate change, and therefore increase the rate and intensity of the extreme weather our nation has recently endured. What we need from our government now is policies that will protect and strengthen our coastal communities—not more oil rigs.
Pete Stauffer is the environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation and manages the organization's campaigns and programs to address the protection of our ocean, waves and beaches. Based in San Clemente, California, Pete supports Surfrider chapters and staff across the U.S. to advance local, state and national priorities.