Monday, April 30, 2012

Miami Polar Bears Say: "Chill the Drills!" to Save the Arctic

Miami Polar Bears hit the streets of downtown Miami, Saturday, April 28, to help protect America's Arctic from offshore oil drilling.

They danced outside the Miami-Dade County Cultural Plaza during the International Storytelling Festival, gathered petition signatures and passed out "Chill the Drills" postcards. The message to President Obama:  Protect the Polar Bear Seas from dangerous oil drilling.

The event comes as Royal Dutch Shell pushes forward with plans to start drilling this summer in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas—home to the entire U.S. population of polar bears.

This is one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, but this habitat is shrinking and melting. Arctic summer sea ice could disappear by 2030 and experts believe the polar bear may be extinct by 2050. Any new industrial development in these waters would only add to the effects of climate change already causing stress on Arctic wildlife. 

The Polar Bear Dance Party is part of a national campaign by Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity and Endangered Species Coalition.

The event got the attention of the AP news service, which advanced the story in more than 200 news outlets nationwide and also, internationally, in the Himalayan Times.  

To get involved, go to the "Chill the Drills" website. Let the world know you want permanent protection for the Polar Bear Seas from dangerous drilling!

See the Miami Polar Bear Dance video here: 


-- Jonathan Ullman, Sierra Club South Florida/Everglades Senior Representative

Friday, April 27, 2012

EV + PV = 0: Green Transportation takes Center Stage on 2-Year Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson gives Congress an "F" on 2nd anniversary of BP gulf oil disaster.
On April 20, 2012, the 2-year anniversary of the BP gulf oil disaster was observed on Florida's central gulf coast by acknowledgment of the lack of progress made in Congress to make drilling safer, along with celebration of new forms of transportation developed in the past two years that no longer require oil.
Britten Cleveland, Conservation Organizer for the Florida Healthy Air campaign, went to the airwaves in Sarasota to talk about what the Sierra Club is doing to move our community beyond oil in an effort to reduce the likelihood that a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon occurs again. http://sarasotatalkradio.com/wsrq-listening-lounge
Meanwhile, at a press conference organized by Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club in St. Petersburg, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson spoke on the failure of Congress to act to make oil and gas drilling in the gulf any safer than it was two years ago. "Noting that the members of the presidential oil spill commisson recently handed Congress a D grade for its failure to pass any new safety regulations, the Florida Democrat said, 'It shouldn't have been a D. It should have been an F.'"   http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/sen-bill-nelson-blasts-congress-for-failures-after-gulf-oil-spill-but/1226150

EV + PV = 0 in the Sunshine City
As Sen. Nelson spoke,  a new Chevy Volt was getting fully charged nearby with free Florida sunshine. Sierra Club Florida Senior Organizing Manager Frank Jackalone demonstrated his new formula for clean air: EV + PV = 0. That is, driving an Electric Car (EV) charged with solar photovoltaic panels (PV) = 0 air pollution.

This isn't science fiction - it's new technology that's here now. Jackalone points the way to cleaner air and breaking our addiction to oil. In the past 2 years, industry and entrepreneurs have developed new choices that now allow us to drive cars without using any of BP's dirty, dangerous oil, and without creating any more smog - an important advance for Florida, where oil is as significant a source of air pollution as coal. The solution to pollution is free and abundant, especially in the Sunshine State.

Earlier that day, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster celebrated Earth Day by cutting the ribbon on the City’s 10 new electric vehicle charging stations. St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse said on this occasion: “We really believe that this is just one of many, many steps to move us to a greener, more sustainable community. It's encouraging to see the city at the front end of what we think will be the dramatic change of transportation in America." City Unveils 10 New Electric Car Charging Stations

At Sierra Club Florida, we think Councilman Nurse is right. At the press conference with Senator Nelson Sierra Club Healthy Air Campaign Regional Representative Phil Compton and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch (above) called for the county to break its addiction to oil by investing in green transportation choices like light rail, expanded bus service and safer streets for bikes and pedestrians.
Florida ranks near the bottom when it comes to transportation alternatives like inter-city mass transit, light rail, rapid buses and safe walking/biking paths. The state's solution to congested roads has been to build more roads and widen existing ones. This does nothing to solve transportation problems - it only induces more traffic, increases vehicle miles traveled by the average driver and keeps our state vulnerable to high gas prices and the threat of offshore oil drilling. Due in part to Florida's expansive tourist industry, our reliance on oil is among the highest in the country.  This dangerous reliance has resulted in catastrophes like the BP oil disaster that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010.
Even after Tampa Bay and Sarasota residents finally get these choices that most Americans now enjoy, however, most people here will probably continue to drive their cars for most trips. That’s why making all cars more efficient is such an important way to improve Tampa Bay’s air quality. We’re now moving rapidly towards achieving the new 54.5 miles per gallon standard for vehicle efficiency by 2025, and new electric vehicles developed in just the past several years are a great new way to reduce or even totally eliminate one’s personal contribution to the air pollution that ruins so many spring days in Tampa Bay and Sarasota with dangerous smog.
With 100+ EV public charging stations installed in the past year ready to refuel electric cars anywhere in the Tampa Bay region, it’s now really possible for Florida Gulf Coast residents and visitors alike to move beyond the dependence on oil that now hammers our family budgets and is also the primary cause of our dangerously high ozone levels in the spring and fall.

Hillsborough Gets an “F”, Kids With Asthma Pay the Price: Tampa and Southwest Florida Continue to Suffer from Unhealthy Smog Pollution; Elevated Levels of Ozone Trigger Hillsborough Air Pollution Advisory


(Tampa) The Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County issued an Air Pollution Advisory Thursday April 26 and again Friday April 27 due to anticipated levels of ozone pollution. According to the advisory, ozone levels are expected to reach levels of 101-150, considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, elderly, and those with existing respiratory ailments such as asthma and COPD. These conditions are now forecast to persist through Friday.

This advisory comes on the heels of a report released Tuesday by the American Lung Association, which grades Florida air quality county-by-county according to common air pollutants like particulates and ozone. The report shows that Hillsborough County received an “F” grade for its frequent number of such bad air quality days in 2011: 11 orange alert days, regarded by EPA as being “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” during which “Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects”, and 1 red alert day, with ozone levels so high that “Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.” This information is contained within ALA’s new report available at http://www.stateoftheair.org/

This week’s high ozone levels are due a combination of typical spring weather: calm winds, low humidity, and lots of Florida sunshine combined with accumulations of nitrogen oxide (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). NOX and VOC are converted through exposure to sunshine to ground level ozone, also known as smog. Unlike most of America, where coal burning power plants are the source of NOX and VOC that create summer smog, Florida’s riskiest season for smog is in the spring months of April, May and June until summer thunderstorms help keep the air cleaner. Thanks to local utilities’ efforts to reduce emissions and the lack of transportation alternatives that most U.S. communities offer, gas-powered cars and trucks are believed to be as significant a source of NOX and VOC in the region as are coal-fired power plants.

Phil Compton, Tampa Bay Representative for Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign, said: “If you know someone with asthma or COPD, please let them know that today is NOT a good time to take a walk or do any other kind of exercise outdoors, as the forecast is for another ORANGE ALERT day in Hillsborough Co.”

Sierra Club joins the Florida Department of Health in recommending that all schools, child care centers, and parents of children with asthma stay on top of our potentially hazardous springtime ozone levels with the EPA's smartphone app or website @ http://www.airnow.gov/ for the daily air alert.


Britten Cleveland, Sierra Club’s Healthy Air Campaign Representative for Sarasota, added: “The solution to our hazardous pollution is to offer commuters the kind of choices; expanded bus service, safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, and light rail that most Americans take for granted. Also, Floridians can now choose from a greater variety of cleaner, more efficient vehicles, including electric vehicles that can be charged at any of the region’s 100 new public charging stations that have been installed in the past year. Everyone, even those who drive every day, will benefit when we adopt these transportation choices that  improve our air quality and reduce the number of bad air days we experience every spring.”

Rev. Andy Bell adds, “I am an adult with asthma who is extremely compliant with my meds. Thursday afternoon I was struggling to breath, and I didn’t understand why until I learned of the Air Pollution Advisory. I and many others don’t have the luxury of taking a full breath for granted. Clean air is life”. Rev. Bell is the Executive Director of Sunshine State Interfaith Power & Light, Inc. whose mission is to mobilize faith communities to address the climate crisis and to care for creation in Florida.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vice President Biden Visits Everglades: Gives Strong Support to Skyway








On April 23rd, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Everglades National Park where he gave a great speech reaffirming the support of the Obama Administration for 6.5 miles of bridging of Tamiaimi Trail to restore the flow of the River of Grass.  It was his first trip ever to the Everglades.  








Tamiami Trail serves as a dam, stopping the flow of water south to Everglades National Park.





"Everglades Skyway" is the name Sierra Club members  affectionately call the bridging of Tamiami Trail,  authorized by Congress earlier this year.   The Obama Administration has started building the first mile of bridging.





Senator Bill Nelson, and Congressional Representative Alcee Hastings joined Biden for his tour of the Everglades.














Sierra Club Everglades Representative Jon Ullman and I were among 60 people invited to join the Vice President at the event -at the very spot where the work has begun to elevate the first mile of the Trail. 






Jon and I each personally greeted the Vice President after his speech. When Biden shook my hand, he noticed my Sierra Club button and commented that Sierra Club was one of the few organizations that had always given him a 100% score for his voting record in Congress. 

---------------
Frank Jackalone
Sierra Club Senior Organizing Manager

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Florida Water Coalition Launches TV Ads during "Summer Slime" Season








Florida Water Coalition Launches TV Ads
Floridians Ask Leaders to Address Ongoing Public Health Threat



April 24, 2102
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:    Monica Reimer, Earthjustice attorney (850) 681-0031

                     Manley Fuller, Florida Wildlife Federation (850) 567-7129

Tallahassee, FL - The Florida Water Coalition launched a 30-second TV ad today that will play in markets across Florida during the "summer slime" season.

The ad explains that massive toxic algae blooms in Florida are fueled by industrial pollution, sewage, manure and fertilizer. These polluters are protected by Florida's politicians who refuse to crack down on those who use our waterways as their personal sewer systems.

While polluters profit from externalizing the costs of their waste, toxic algae harms Florida's economy, property values, and tourism. The ad encourages Floridians to write to President Obama and demand that the Environmental Protection Agency step in and fully enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida.

"Floridians are tired of watching waterways get covered with slimy green toxic algae from sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "It's bad for people and it's bad for wildlife.  Just last week, Lee County's health department issued a warning for people not to have contact with natural waters in the county, and to keep their pets and livestock away, too. It is time to address this health threat, it's been dragging on too long and we need our leaders to step up and protect the public."

The Florida Water Coalition is made up of Earthjustice, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and St. John's Riverkeeper.

View the ad online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK4zE-3zjxc

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

EPA Takes First Step to Address Dangerous Air Quality at Frack-Fields


Sierra Club Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Contact:
Jason Pitt, Sierra Club, 202.675.6272
Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, 202.797.5235 
John Rumpler, Environment America, 617.997.8296
Bruce Baizel, Earthworks, 970.259.3353 x2
Stuart Ross, Clean Air Task Force, 914.649.5037
Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action, 202.895.0420 x109

Environmental Groups Praise EPA’s First-Ever Clean Air Protections for Fracking

Agency Takes Important First Step to Protect Air Quality and Public Health

Washington, D.C.—Today environmental groups praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) vital updates to nationwide air quality protections to include oil and natural gas production.  This is the first federal safeguard aimed at curbing air pollution from hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking.’


The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS) will benefit the health of Americans and our environment in many ways.  The updated standards will result in major reductions in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic benzene and methane, a highly potent contributor to climate disruption. These pollutants are known to cause asthma attacks, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, cancer and even premature death.

The measure will also benefit the gas industry –EPA projects that capturing more methane and other gasses to send to market will save an estimated $11-19 million annually.

Today’s announcement by the EPA is a major step forward.  However, the two and a half-year delay in reducing pollution from wellheads is an unnecessary setback because industry can meet those standards now.   The environmental community is committed to working with EPA to strengthen the public health and air quality safeguards to protect families who live near existing fracking sites.

The EPA proposed the updated safeguards in July 2011. Since the proposal, environmental groups submitted more than 156,000 comments and turned out hundreds of supporters of strong standards to hearings in Pittsburgh, PA, Denver, CO, and Arlington, TX.


In response to EPA’s announcement, environmental leaders released the following statements:
“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is taking an important first step in closing loopholes for the natural gas industry and addressing dangerous air quality levels in and near frack-fields across the country,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.  “The natural gas industry dumps massive amounts of air pollutants into our air every day, sickening families and children.  An industry that touts its ability to efficiently drill thousands of wells thousands of feet into the earth is crying wolf when it claims it can’t build enough tanks to capture wellhead pollution.  It’s time we clean up the natural gas industry’s dirty and reckless practices.”


“From Colorado to Pennsylvania, the gas industry is making a killing from drilling, and at the very least they should cut dirty and dangerous air pollution that threatens our families’ health,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America.  “EPA’s action today is a breath of fresh air for every man, woman, and child living in the shadow of the gas drilling boom.”


“Left to its own devices, the oil and gas industry has turned the clear skies over Wyoming as smoggy as the car-choked highways of Los Angeles. For decades, industry had a free pollution pass. Thanks to a court victory, that changes today,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen. “There is more work to be done to protect Americans living near oil and gas fields from cancer and other unacceptable health threats, but this rule from EPA is an important first step.”


“The stories of families hurt by gas drilling’s air pollution were essential to the adoption of these new public health safeguards,” said Bruce Baizel, senior attorney for Earthworks. “Hopefully this much-needed first step will soon be expanded to better protect the families that illustrated the need for the new rules in the first place.”


"These important rules start to cut down on air pollution that harms people living near wells, creates smog, and warms the climate," said David McCabe, senior scientist with Clean Air Task Force. "They are a solid start, but we need to keep working to reduce pollution from the gas industry all the way from the well to the customer. People who live near compressors and equipment already in use need to see their air cleaned up as well. Unfortunately these rules won't do that."


“Our members in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Colorado have suffered because state regulators haven’t acted to control oil and gas operations, so these standards are a win-win-win,” said Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action National Campaigns Director. “They protect people from air pollution, help curb climate change and save the industry money. People expect the federal government to use their authority to protect their health, their drinking water and the air they breathe and this is a good first step.”

# # #
 

A Fight for Our Future


Coming Clean
The blog of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
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April 18, 2012

A Fight for Our Future
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Four years ago, Sierra Club members and people across the country knocked on doors, made phone calls, and talked with our friends and neighbors to help Barack Obama win the presidency. We worked hard because we knew that clean air and water and the health of our families were at stake.

But our hard work didn't stop after President Obama was elected. As Senator Barack Obama said when accepting his party's nomination, "Change happens because the American people demand it." We've spent the past three years both demanding and helping the president deliver the kind of positive change we need.

To protect the health of our kids and communities, 800,000 of us called on the EPA to limit toxic mercury pollution from coal plants for the first time ever -- and President Obama acted. New protections will slash mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent and improve air quality for millions of Americans.
  • We said that it was time to clear our air and save families money at the pump -- and the president listened. He's implementing the strongest fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks in history, representing the largest single step our nation has ever taken to move beyond oil.

  • We rallied to defend our wild lands -- and the president protected a million acres around the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining.

  • We called for independence from dirty energy to create new jobs and a healthier future -- and the president responded by making landmark investments in clean energy and demanding an end to costly tax subsidies to oil companies.
Thanks to all that we've accomplished together, the tide is turning. Americans are using less oil and coal than we have in decades -- and clean energy use is skyrocketing.

But though we've achieved much, still more remains to be done. We haven't achieved all that we wanted, and indeed we've had a few setbacks along the way. But we've made great progress, and whether we continue to move forward or instead fall back will be determined this November. Because President Barack Obama has stood with us on the side of health, prosperity, and progress for all American families, I am proud to announce that the Sierra Club is endorsing him for reelection.

The positive changes we've made happen will not go unchallenged. Big polluters are ready for a knockdown, drag-out fight to push their own reckless agenda. They're backing candidates whose agenda is simply pollution without limits: increased drilling and mining, elimination of safeguards for clean air and water, and the end of the EPA as we know it. They are ready to use their billions and an army of lobbyists to highjack our nation's energy policy and continue raking in record profits.

We can't let them reverse what we've achieved. If President Obama is defeated, big polluters will have free rein to turn back the clock and begin polluting our air and water without fear of repercussion.

That's why we need you in this fight. We don't have billions of dollars like the oil industry and other polluters -- but we do have millions of people like you who are willing to work hard to make sure that we get the clean energy, the healthy air and water, and the unspoiled great outdoors that we all need. Together, we must stand with President Obama and against big polluters. Because this election is about more than any one candidate's career -- it's about the future for all of us.
Paid for by Sierra Club Political Committee, www.sierraclub.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.


Michael Brune is the Sierra Club's executive director.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Florida's Electric Vehicle Revolution


Despite popular belief, Florida can be leader in something good.


The electric vehicle industry is growing quickly across the country and Florida has emerged as a front-runner in electric vehicle adoption and readiness.  Chargepoint America, a grant program made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and administered by the Department of Energy, is aiming to accelerate the development and production of electric vehicles to substantially reduce petroleum consumption, reduce greenhouse gas production, and create jobs1.  

Tampa/Orlando was selected as one of 10 regions to receive funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  Tampa/St. Petersburg currently has over 200 charging stations in operation; most of which are available free of charge.

Automobiles, above all else, represent America’s addiction to dirty oil – especially here in Florida.  We are far behind most other populous states when it comes to green transportation alternatives, like inter-city mass transit, commuter rail, and safe walking/bicycle paths.  Plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), which require no gasoline and emit no pollution from their tailpipes, present a critical opportunity to cut pollution and clean up our air.

The Florida Healthy Air Campaign is kicking into high gear to make sure that the electric vehicle revolution endures and we are taking every opportunity to educate our communities about the ease and convenience of owning an electric vehicle.  Around the state, Sierra Club members and supporters are hosting numerous house parties to show “Revenge of the Electric Car,” a riveting documentary that details the resurgence of the electric car through the eyes of four pioneers.  At several of the house parties, electric vehicles have been on hand before and after the film for sit-ins and test drives.

Watch the trailer for "Revenge of the Electric Car" here:


A fully electric vehicle uses electricity to power a battery –typically one made of lithium ion. No gasoline, no dirty oil changes, no internal combustion engine. Most new fully electric vehicles can drive 70-130 miles on one charge. An extended range electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle run on electricity for a certain number of miles, and as their battery runs out of juice, a gasoline powered engine or generator kicks in.


Frank's new Volt plugged in to 110V outlet in his garage
Our very own Florida Staff Director, Frank Jackalone, decided to trade in his gas-guzzling ’97 Volvo for a new Chevy Volt, an extended range plug-in electric vehicle.  During his daily commute, the Volt has used an average of 1 mile of battery charge for every 5 miles driven. That's just 0.2 KWH of electricity to drive each mile, and at 13 cents a KWH he's paying just $2.60 for electricity to power the car 100 miles.  Frank just plugs the car into to a normal 110V outlet in his garage every night.  The Volt has a driving efficiency feature that shows how you are doing while driving, and Frank says that it has motivated him to improve his driving style to extend how far the Volt goes on the battery without kicking over to the gasoline powered generator.   

The electric vehicle revolution is here and now. Welcome, Florida, to the 21st century!

Sierra Club Seeks Action to Reduce Gulf "Dead Zone"


Sierra Club Seeks Action to Reduce Gulf Dead Zone - read about it.The Sierra Club is one of a dozen environmental groups that filed two federal lawsuits in March 2012 against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The dead zone is an area of water that is so low in oxygen it will not support aquatic life. It is caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution discharged from the Mississippi River. At about 9,400 square miles, the dead zone in 2011 was the largest in history.

The first suit accuses the EPA of violating the Clean Water Act by refusing to set state standards on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus discharged into the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

The second lawsuit involves the failure of the EPA to respond to a petition from environmental groups in 2007 asking that standards be set for the discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Mississippi River from wastewater treatment facilities. Read more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CALL TODAY: Help protect the Caloosahatchee River from another public health disaster!

Spring 2011 (when flow was disrupted last year)

The South Florida Water Management District recently recommended to the Army Corps of Engineers that all water flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River be suspended. The Army Corps implemented the suspension and as a result, toxic slime is ready to take hold of the Caloosahatchee again.
Please call your SFWMD governing board representatives TODAY!  Click here for full contact list.
Ask them to resume freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee to protect our environment, local economy and public health! 
Lack of freshwater flow causes stagnation of the river upstream which results in the formation of toxic algae outbreaks.  Communities along the Caloosahatchee are then subject to toxins that affect the central nervous system, liver and respiratory function, and can cause skin eruptions.  People, pets and livestock are put at risk.
This erodes our quality of life and impacts our local economy, which is heavily dependent upon the quality of our waters to attract visitors and businesses.
Click here and here for two recent News-Press opinions for more details.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Oil Drilling Off Florida's Atlantic Coast? 

Big Oil is one step closer to drilling off the Atlantic coast of the U.S., thanks to a move last week by the Department of the Interior to allow oil and gas companies to conduct seismic mapping of the outer continental shelf from Delaware to Florida.


Public Hearings April 16 in Jacksonville

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Department of Interior, will hold its first public hearings on seismic mapping of the Atlantic outer continental shelf on April 16, 2012 at 1 pm and 7pm at the Jacksonville Marriott at 4760 Salisbury Road in Jacksonville, Florida. Persons wishing to speak may request to be placed on the speakers’ list may sign up to speak upon arrival or contact Gary D. Goeke at (504) 736–3233 in advance of the meeting.

Atlantic OCS Planning Area

Tuesday, April 3, 2012



Take Action -- Tell Your Senators to Support Clean Water -- Read more.Take Action: Tell Your Senators to Support Clean Water

The Senate is currently considering the incorrectly named "Preserve the Waters of the United States Act." This bill does nothing to protect waters but is a giveaway to developers and polluters, who are trying to reverse long-established protections for our streams and wetlands, endangering all of our communities and threatening the safety of our drinking water.

Tell your senators to support clean water by opposing this bill.
Sierra Club Press Release

For Immediate Release – April 3, 2012

New Appropriately Sited Solar Power Projects With Limited Effects on Habitat 
Will Create Local, Union Jobs, Invest in Long-term Conservation
 Groups declare support for 600 megawatt solar projects in Imperial County, California

SAN DIEGO – Four major conservation groups today announced their support for a set of proposed large-scale solar power projects in Imperial County, Calif., because of the project meets the need to promote well-located clean energy development, demonstrate the care taken to address wildlife concerns, and create good union jobs. The Sierra Club, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council all support the projects, which the Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved today.

When completed, the Mt. Signal, Calexico I and Calexico II solar projects under development by 8minutenergy will produce about 600 megawatts of electricity each year, enough to power more than 200,000 households. The projects are located on privately owned, disturbed land currently used to grow highly water-intensive landscaping grasses. The biological effects from the projects are significantly less than proposed renewable energy projects on environmentally sensitive public lands. These Imperial County projects show that it is possible to develop viable, cost-effective projects without sacrificing our precious desert wildlands.

"After close examination, the Sierra Club decided to support these projects due to the developer’s willingness to provide support and funding for a program that should provide a higher level of protection for the imperiled burrowing owl, a species potentially affected by the large-scale development of solar," said Bill Corcoran, Western Regional Campaign Director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "We strongly support moving the development of large-scale clean energy projects away from pristine lands, and 8minutenergy’s proposal is an appropriate balancing of solar energy production with the protection of our natural legacy."

Importantly, the Sierra Club introduced the developer to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which was critical in helping to finalize a Project Labor Agreement to employ local, Imperial Country workers for the projects. Imperial County has the highest unemployment rate in California (27%), and the projects will provide important economic benefits to the area.

"These projects are truly a win-win for local Imperial County workers and the environment," said Johnny Simpson, Business Manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569. "They will create good, middle-class green jobs with skilled training, healthcare benefits and pension retirement while reducing polluting greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change."

The projects will likely share and co-locate transmission lines, towers and other infrastructure with other solar developers and utilities, preventing additional threats to nearby lands and communities.

"The Imperial Valley is an Audubon Important Bird Area of global significance, and sensitive species of birds depend on the agricultural lands for nesting, foraging and roosting," saidGarry George, Renewable Energy Project Director with Audubon California. "This project developer is siting it right by carefully choosing the lands that have the least impact on birds, and by working with the California Department of Fish & Game and Audubon to avoid, minimize or mitigate for the species affected by the project."

"The Mt. Signal Calexico I and Calexico II solar projects show that solar development can be smart from the start," said Helen O’Shea, Deputy Director of NRDC’s Western Renewable Energy Project. "NRDC supports these Imperial County projects because they make use of appropriate lands that reduce on-site water consumption and will bring clean energy to the grid faster."

"By choosing a project site with very few impacts to wildlife, 8minuteenergy has shown that renewable energy can be developed quickly and without sacrificing sensitive wildlife and wild lands," said Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife’s California program director. "These projects are shining examples of how to develop solar energy right."

The Sierra Club testified in support of the projects at today's Imperial County Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

###

Contacts:
Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club,             512.289.8618      , Oliver.Bernstein@sierraclub.org
Garrison Frost, Audubon California,             323-601-1866       x 225, gfrost@audubon.org
Serena Ingre, Natural Resources Defense Council,             415.875.6155      singre@nrdc.orgMicah Mitrosky, IBEW,             619.957.2596      , mmitrosky@ibew569.org
James Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife,             202-772-0247      jnavarro@defenders.org

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