Friday, July 29, 2011

President Obama Announces Proposed Fuel Standard of 54.5 MPG

Sierra Club Press Release

Contact: Maggie Kao, maggie.kao@sierraclub.org
President Takes Important Step in Moving America Beyond Oil
Washington, D.C. — Today the White House announced a proposed fuel efficiency standard for passenger cars and trucks of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The measure would build on a historic step taken last year to raise vehicle efficiency to 35.5 MPG in 2016 and begin reducing tailpipe pollution levels.  The newly announced standard would reduce emissions to 163 grams per mile by 2025.

The highly anticipated proposal would result in savings at the pump for American families, reduce life-threatening carbon pollution by and provide Americans with better and more fuel efficient car choices moving forward.  



In response, Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, released the following statement:

“After decades of inaction and stagnation, today President Obama has ensured 15 years of continuous progress to help cut our dangerous addiction to oil, create American jobs, save families money at the pump, curb life-threatening pollution and tackle climate disruption. Today's announcement is a win for everyone.
“But fuel efficiency and pollution standards for passenger cars and trucks are just one - albeit critical - piece of the equation for solving our addiction to oil.
“To put it into perspective, today's announcement will cut our use of oil by 6 percent in 2030 when measured against our current levels of oil consumption. If we are to fully address the challenges we face as a nation addicted to oil, we must put American innovation and technology to use to deliver the best cars and trucks for consumers, ensure smart transportation choices for all Americans and build livable towns and cities.
“As the administration moves forward to finalize the standard, it is critical that they avoid weakening loopholes and giveaways for the industry, and we look forward to working with them to ensure the strongest 2025 fuel efficiency and pollution standards possible to benefit American families and workers.

# # #


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Facts & Fiction: Numeric nutrient criteria and water quality


Guest Column
by Rae Ann Wessel
Natural Resource Policy Director
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation 



Residents and businesses in Southwest Florida know the truth about nutrient pollution first hand. We live with the truth in our backyards. Devastating and ongoing algae blooms impact our livelihoods, our use and enjoyment of area waters, our properties, businesses and the natural resources that are the engine of our local economy.

The serious and persistent algae blooms that continue to affect Southwest Florida — and other areas of the state — are the direct result of too much nutrient enrichment of our region's waters. Simply put, nitrogen and phosphorus levels are way beyond what the natural system can absorb. Southwest Florida is not alone, the problems of nutrient enrichment reach all corners of our state and nation, impacting some of our most unique and precious resources.

This is why the current effort to establish standards for nutrients is so important. Decades ago, regulations were developed to address many aspects of water quality. Unfortunately in Florida, the regulation of nutrients has been ineffectual since no numeric standard of harm was established to measure nutrient enrichment. Instead, Florida adopted a subjective, narrative standard of “healthy well-balanced systems” which has no scientific method of measurement. My definition of "healthy well-balanced" may not be the same as someone who is contributing significant nutrient pollution.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Believe it or not...



Sierra Club Press Release
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July 27, 2011
Contact:
Virginia Cramer, virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org

U.S. House Shows Strong Support for Wildlife Protection

With overwhelming bipartisan support the U.S. House of Representatives today voted 224-202 to preserve funding for the Endangered Species Act, one of the country's most successful environmental laws. The vote kills a measure added to the budget bill that would prevent new listings under the Endangered Species Act and the protection of key wildlife areas.

In response Fran Hunt, Director of Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats Campaign, issued the following statement.

"In the midst of the worst attacks on our nation's air, water, wildlife and land to date, today's vote to protect the Endangered Species Act offers hope. 

"Beneath the political posturing, the fundamental truth is that the Endangered Species Act is the reason that bald eagles still soar as a symbol of freedom. For almost four decades it has successfully served as a safety net for our country’s rarest plants and animals.

"Today our endangered wildlife are facing greater threats than ever before—from destructive energy development, to unsustainable logging, to a rapidly changing climate. 

Thanks to the leadership of Representatives Dicks, Fitzpatrick, Thompson, and Hanabusa and strong bipartisan support, the tools remain to make sure that America's wildlife don’t become just a memory."

###

The Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats Campaign is working across the country to protect, connect and restore America's great outdoors. By safeguarding our nation's wild lands and waters, we are creating healthy natural systems that will help plants, animals and people survive and thrive in a changing climate. www.sierraclub.org/habitat


Sierra ClubSierra Club85 2nd St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
sierra.news@sierraclub.org
www.sierraclub.org/pressroom 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Take a Photo to Stop the Slime

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet


Take a Photo to Fight Slime Crimes
Algae Outbreak
Take Action!
No matter where you live in Florida, chances are that you are not far from a toxic algae outbreak during the summer.

Pollution from fertilizer, sewage and animal manure feeds the ugly green slime that grows fast this time of year and threatens our ponds, springs, streams, rivers, canals and bays.
Where there is an algae outbreak there is a source of pollution. Help us show decision-makers how pollution impacts you by taking a photo of an algae outbreak in your area.

Haven't seen any algae spreading in your local waterways? You can still help. Go to our website to sign our petition to Florida's policymakers and submit a photo of yourself with the reason you want to stop the slime!

Thanks to activism like yours, we have been making progress. More than 50 local governments in Florida have passed strong urban fertilizer laws. The EPA also developed stronger limits for nutrient pollution in Florida that are set to be enforced in 2012.

But there is still toxic algae in our water and Florida's biggest polluters are not taking a vacation this summer. The new pollution limits set out by the EPA are under attack again:
  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is trying to weaken the new limits; and
  • The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill that would gut the Clean Water Act and the new limits along with it.
You can help make the case for strong pollution standards by submitting a photo telling us the reason you want to stop water pollution -- whether that's a picture of you with a sign or a shot of your local slime. 

Thanks for taking action to spotlight the urgency for strong action to protect our waterways.

Sincerely,

Cris Costello
Sierra Club

P.S. After you take action, be sure to forward this alert to your friends and colleagues!
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$50 million grant will help Sierra Club move the U.S.A. beyond coal!

Sierra Club Press Release

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2011
Contact:
Orli Cotel orli.cotel@sierraclub.org

Bloomberg Philanthropies commits $50 million to Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign to move America toward cleaner energy

Grant a 'game changer' that will effectively retire one-third of the nation's aging coal fleet by 2020 


Alexandria, VA. Today the Sierra Club announced a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies that will effectively retire one-third of the nation's aging coal fleet by 2020, replacing it with clean energy. The partnership includes a $50 million commitment over four years to the Beyond Coal Campaign that will fuel the Sierra Club's effort to clean the air, end the coal era, and accelerate the transition to cleaner, cost-effective energy sources.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was joined for today’s announcement by Michael R. Bloomberg. They appeared outside a coal-fired plant in Alexandria, Virginia.

In the U.S., coal is the leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions, and coal’s pollution contributes to four out of the five leading causes of mortality -- heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory illness. Coal emits almost half of all U.S. mercury pollution, which causes developmental problems in babies and young children, as well as being a major contributor to asthma attacks. Coal pollution causes $100 billion in health costs annually.

"If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal. Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because, while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source, the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant," said Bloomberg. "Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption."

Bloomberg added: "The Beyond Coal Campaign has had great success in stopping more than 150 new coal-fired power plants over the past few years and is empowering local communities to lead from the front while Congress continues to watch from the back. That is why I'm pleased to support the Sierra Club and its allies, and I encourage others to do the same."

The $50 million grant will fill a significant portion of the campaign's projected $150 million four-year budget and will have a significant impact in advancing the efforts of the Beyond Coal campaign.

The partnership will play a key role in helping the Sierra Club achieve their impact goals of:
  • Cutting 30% of coal production by 2020
  • Reducing mercury pollution from coal by 90% by 2020
  • Replacing a majority of coal with clean energy
From an organizational perspective it will:
  • Increase the number of Sierra Club campaign states from 15 to 45
  • Increase the active member base from 1.4 million to 2.4 million people
  • Double the size of full-time Sierra Club staff working on the campaign from 100 to 200
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune thanked Bloomberg for the grant, calling it a "game changer" in the fight against coal. He also praised Bloomber's farsighted vision and understanding of how protecting public health, developing innovative energy sources, and addressing climate change are all inextricably linked. He also welcomed his business savvy and track record for success to the campaign.

"This partnership will help the Sierra Club to work with communities nationwide as they tell one coal plant after another that inflicting asthma and other diseases on their children is unacceptable and that they will not accept coal pollution in their neighborhoods.

"Coal relentlessly dirties our water, air, and lungs and fixing the problem cannot be left to Washington," said Brune. "Nor can coal's contributions to climate disruption be left to international bodies. Mike Bloomberg's strong clean air agenda as Mayor of New York, and his Chairmanship of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, shows that he understands that actions are being taken, and that the most significant ongoing successes will be won city by city, by dedicated people across America."

Beyond Coal campaign successes to date include:
  • The campaign has stopped 153 new coal-fired power plants from being built, preserving market space for clean energy.
  • Nearly 10% of the current coal fleet is now slated for retirement.
  • New mountaintop removal mining permits have slowed to a trickle.
  • Victories at 16 colleges and universities, where Sierra Student Coalition members have won fights to shut down coal plants on their campuses.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people mobilized in support of strong clean air and water protections
  • The biggest clean air agreement in the history of the Southeast with the TVA settlement.
Studies show that replacing coal's pollution with clean energy is possible and as coal prices are going up, wind and solar are coming down. Iowa already gets more than 15% of its energy from wind power, and San Antonio recently decided to shut down one of its dirty coal plants and install over 400 MW of solar power, what will be one of the largest solar installations in the world. Meanwhile, the green job sector is growing -- the wind industry already provides more jobs in the U.S. than the coal industry.

The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign started as a three-person campaign in 2002 and has quickly grown into a powerhouse effort that is changing the way America produces energy. In 2001, the Administration at the time met with coal industry representatives as part of a closed-door energy task force, to craft plans for a new "coal rush" -- the construction of 150 new coal-fired power plants. Had the industry prevailed in building these plants, the nation would have been locked into the use of 19th-century dirty fuels for the foreseeable future. The potential for entrepreneurs to develop wind, solar and other clean technologies would have been crippled. Working with local people in neighborhoods across the country, Sierra Club organizers began fighting Big Coal’s efforts to push through these plants. Together, they achieved one victory after another.

Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign, called coal "an outdated fuel that is making our kids sick and has no place in a modern energy economy."

"We're already winning in cities across the country. Community by community, people are standing up and saying no to coal, saying that they are ready for the clean energy economy. Now we’re ready to take this campaign to a whole new level."

This is the second major climate initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies following the recent involvement and investment in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40). Bloomberg Philanthropies is focused on climate action, taking a realistic view that progress will come not from national governments and international bodies, but instead by driving action at the city and local level.

###

Note: The press conference took place today on the Potomac River in front of the GenOn coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Virginia. The Alexandria community has rallied around the need to end the plant’s burning of coal and is one of many localities across the country that are active partners in the Beyond Coal Campaign.

For More Information Please Contact:
Orli Cotel orli.cotel@sierraclub.org



Sierra ClubSierra Club85 2nd St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
sierra.news@sierraclub.org
www.sierraclub.org/pressroom

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Five Worst Parts of the Budget Bill




- by Fran Hunt, Sierra Club Resilient Habitats Campaign Director:

Right now the U.S. House of Representatives is debating a budget bill that’s just riddled with bad policy that hamstrings the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency from doing their jobs. If you care about U.S. wild lands policies or how our nation protects wildlife, you’re going to hate this bill.

In no particular order, here are the five worst amendments to this proposed budget bill from my Resilient Habitats perspective:

1. A rider that would place a moratorium on new Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings and critical habitat designations, as well as prohibit court challenges of ESA delistings.
The ESA is regarded as one of the strongest conservation laws the world has ever seen, and it has had an astounding effect bringing species back from the edge of extinction and preserving biodiversity in this country. Its power lies in sound, science-based management, free from political interference.

2. A rider that would prevent a long-term ban on mining around Grand Canyon. To put it mildly, this is just a bit ridiculous.
Why do we want to mine in a national treasure? The Greater Grand Canyon region is a wild and remote landscape that includes two national monuments, two national forests, numerous wilderness areas, and the crown jewel of our national park system: Grand Canyon National Park.

These lands provide important connections for wildlife movement and homes to key animals like the desert tortoise, the endangered California condor, the northern goshawk, and the Kaibab squirrel—an animal found nowhere else.

3. Conservation funding cuts, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and any funding for climate change adaptation or mitigation.
The LWCF is one of the most effective tools the government has to acquire lands critical for conservation and habitat protection. Projects that receive money from LWCF are vital to the continued protection of our national parks, forests and wildlife refuges.

4. A rider that would prevent EPA from implementing or enforcing water quality standards in Florida.  Florida has a history of failing to follow the Clean Water Act. For over a decade the state has refused to set numeric limits for nutrient pollution that causes toxic algal blooms. With over 1,900 miles of rivers and streams and 375,000 acres of lakes in Florida currently suffering from nutrient pollution there is no time to lose in cleaning them up.

5. A rider that would prevent funding for Wild Lands policy.The Bureau of Land Management has a responsibility and a duty not just to inventory, but to protect our nation’s wild places.
The Wild Lands policy provides a straightforward approach to restoring balance and preserving our last wild places for future generations to enjoy.

Our outdoor heritage, our communities, and many economies, depends on keeping some places wild. The future of some of our most cherished wild places should not be determined by political games.

This bill is an all-out assault on environmental protections, and it has a good chance of passing.

Thankfully, we’ve had some champions in the House fight back against these cuts, including Rep. Jim Moran, although he remains pessimistic as well: "I think we should be very concerned that many of these could see the light of day," said Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia.

Why are House members ignoring their constituents? Polls show Americans want to protect our nation’s natural heritage. A March poll showed that 84% of Americans support the ESA and believe it is a safety net providing balanced solutions to save wildlife, plants and fish that are at risk of extinction. The same poll showed that the majority of Americans believe decisions about whether to remove the Endangered Species Act’s protections and decisions about wildlife management should be made by scientists, not politicians.

We must protect, connect, and restore healthy natural systems, not prevent the right people from doing just that. These natural places help clean our air and water. We should be helping our special places survive and thrive in a changing world. That’s the goal of the Club’sResilient Habitats Campaign; which recognizes that the natural legacy we leave our children depends on the choices we make today.

But unfortunately, the line has been drawn: the House has it out for anything that would protect critical habitats, endangered species, water quality standards, and policies that keep wild lands free of development.

http://sierraclub.typepad.com/layoftheland/2011/07/index.html


Thursday, July 14, 2011

U.S. House Passes Dirty Water Bill Sponsored by FL Rep. John Mica

Sierra Club Press Release

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2011
Contact:
Virginia Cramer, 804-225-9113 x102

U.S. House of Representatives Votes to Gut Clean Water Act

Rep. Mica  (photo: FlaglerLive.com)
Washington, DC -- In a 239 to 184 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted for legislation that threatens the safety of the lakes and rivers that provide much of our nation's drinking water. Sponsored by Reps. John Mica (FL) and Nick Rahall (WV), H.R. 2018 guts the Clean Water Act, severely limits the federal government’s ability to protect waterways, and seeks to return the country to an era of inconsistent and ineffective state water safety standards without a federal safety net. Representatives also voted against an amendment that would have ensured continued protection of municipal drinking water sources.  

Click here to see how your Representative voted:
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll573.xml

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued the following statement.

"Today's unprecedented attack on clean water protections is an assault on Americans' health, environment and economy – and further exposes a House of Representatives that no longer represents the interests or the values of the American people.

We applaud President Obama for his strong support of clean water protections for our families. We should all be able to eat the fish we catch, swim in our lakes and drink from our taps without fear of getting sick.

The federal safety net that Congress created when it passed the Clean Water Act has stopped billions of pounds of pollution from entering our waters and doubled the number of waterways that meet clean water standards.  
Without it, cities would still be dumping untreated sewage into waterways every day and industries would still be using rivers for waste disposal.  Lake Erie would still be 'dead.' 

But the work of cleaning up our waters is far from over. There are still too many places where water is not safe for fishing and swimming. Now is not the time to roll back essential clean water protections or prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting Americans’ drinking water."
###

H.R. 2018 would:

- Thwart states from protecting their drinking water sources and other waters from pollution discharges from upstream or neighboring states.

- Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency, without state concurrence, from taking action to revise outdated state water quality standards, making it easier for companies to dump their waste and garbage into lakes and rivers.

- Eliminate the federal safety net ensuring that states update their water quality standards as scientific understanding evolves.

- Allow states failing to meet minimal federal clean water standards to continue receiving federal taxpayer funding for inadequate programs.

- Prevent the EPA from intervening in the most destructive proposed waste-dumping permits and projects that would threaten drinking water supplies, fisheries, wildlife and recreational areas at an unacceptable level. The EPA has exercised this authority only 13 times in the history of the Clean Water Act-- most recently prohibiting a mine waste dump that would have filled six miles of Appalachian streams.

### 


Sierra Club

Sierra Club
85 2nd St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
sierra.news@sierraclub.org
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Florida Panther killed in vehicle collision is 19th mortality for 2011

I just received this tragic report from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Mark Lotz:

"The remains of an approximate 1-1.5 year old uncollared male panther, UCFP162, were collected this afternoon, 7/11/2011, on SR29 near the Owl Hammock Curve (about 5.5 miles south of Immokalee) in Collier County. The cause of death was vehicle collision. The carcass is at the FWC Naples Field Office and will be transported to the FWC Gainesville lab for necropsy tomorrow (7/12/11) morning. The remains will be archived at the FL Museum of Natural History. This is the 19th panther mortality (UCFP157’s skeletal remains were collected this year but evidence suggests it died prior to 2011) and the 7th road mortality for 2011."

Injunction Issued Against Mosaic's S. Ft. Meade Mine

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   Contact Percy Angelo at medintzm@yahoo.com

Preliminary Injunction Issued for South Ft. Meade Phosphate Mine Extension


On July 8, 2011 Judge Henry Adams of the U.S. District Court in JacksonvilleFlorida issued a preliminary injunction against all phosphate mining at the Mosaic Company’s South Fort Meade Extension site in Hardee County Florida.  Judge Adams held that the plaintiffs had shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that U.S. Corps of Engineers’  permit for the mining violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act.  The permit would allow the destruction of 537 acres of wetlands and more than 10 miles of streams in the headwaters of the Peace River, a federally designated Aquatic Resource of National Importance that has been decimated by phosphate mining over the past few decades.  In the latest round of this long-running litigation, Mosaic sought to mine 700 acres of what it called “uplands” within its more than 10,000 acre site, while waiting on the judge’s ruling.  However, the judge stopped that because he found that these areas were covered by the permit and, based on Mosaic’s own evidence, that mining those areas would cause harm to wetlands in and around the uplands site.  The judge also noted that although Mosaic has had approximately a year to do so since this lawsuit began, it had chosen not to fix its permit with the Corps of Engineers to comply with the law.

Commenting on the result, Bev Griffiths, chair of the Sierra Club Florida phosphate committee said, “The court has recognized that the Corps of Engineers review of this project was deeply flawed and needs to be re-done in order to protect these wetlands, streams and water flows that are crucial to wildlife and human populations.  Such destruction should not occur without full compliance with environmental protections.”

Plaintiffs are a group of environmental and community groups:  Sierra Club, ManaSota-88 and Citizens for Protecting Peace River (3PR).  Plaintiffs originally brought their lawsuit in June 2010, obtaining a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.  Mosaic and the USCOE appealed that order to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which vacated and remanded that injunction because the judge had prematurely issued a final order.  When the case went back to Judge Adams, plaintiffs then renewed their request for preliminary injunction including a request that it include mining in the 700 acres Mosaic calls “Area 2”.  While Mosaic claimed that Area 2 was almost solely uplands, and didn’t need a permit, the plaintiffs pointed out that Area 2 contained wetlands and mining the area is inconsistent with the Corps permit and had never been considered by the Corps.  The preliminary injunction issued July 8, 2011, addresses the entire mine site, including Area 2.

Plaintiffs brought the legal challenge because the Corps had issued the permit over objections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, failed to comply with the Clean Water Act by not limiting the mine to the least damaging alternative and not holding public hearings, and by not preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.  Plaintiffs are seeking more effective protections for site wetlands and streams, including the Peace River and its tributaries, which discharge to the Charlotte Harbor estuary.

Plaintiffs and Mosaic previously agreed to a partial settlement of the litigation to allow mining by Mosaic of 200 acre ‘Phase I’ on the northern end of the property.  In return Mosaic agreed to protect an additional 40 acres, including 14 acres of high quality wetlands and bayhead swamps.  The mining of Phase I ended in June, 2011.

Submitted by Beverly Griffiths bevgriffiths@verizon.net.