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August 26th, 2015

United Water’s Breach of Trust in New York’s Rockland County

By Mary Grant

At the end of July, United Water backed out of a water conservation task force in Rockland County, N.Y., in the wake of a scathing report about the company’s practices. This is its latest offense in an ongoing effort to build a boondoggle of a desalination plant, a project that could generate serious profits for the company while hiking water bills for the nearly 300,000 people it serves throughout Rockland County.

United Water, the U.S. water arm of French multinational Suez Environnement, first proposed desalinating Hudson River water in 2007. Soon after, a coalition of residents, elected officials and area groups formed the Rockland Water Coalition to oppose the company’s scheme and promote sustainable water management practices. (Food & Water Watch is a proud member of the Rockland Water Coalition.)

Last November, after years of tenacious organizing, the coalition’s efforts bore fruit when state regulators ordered the company to suspend its desalination plans and work with a county task force to study conservation measures. Earlier in 2014, Rockland County set up the Task Force on Water Resources Management to reduce water use and preserve water supplies in the county.

Around that the time, United Water CEO Bertrand Camus, Suez’s top ranking U.S. executive, promised that the company would be an active member of the task force. Explaining its involvement, a company spokesperson waxed lyrical in the local newspaper, “We are part of the fabric of the community.”

Now, the company has pulled out of the task force and says that it will pursue its own sustainability initiatives and consider the task force’s ideas but only if it can increase rates. Food & Water Watch warned three years ago that United Water can’t be trusted.

One of the company’s excuses was that it does not agree with everything that the task force says. In particular, it took exception to a report produced for the task force by an independent consultant. In response to the state’s November 2014 order, the task force hired Amy Vickers, an award-winning expert on water conservation and efficiency, to analyze United Water’s water system.

Vickers found that the company keeps unreliable records, replaces pipelines too slowly, inadequately monitors for leaks and wastes a large volume of water — an estimated 2.5 million to 3.3 million gallons a day. Her preliminary analysis determined that water conservation and main repairs could save a significant amount of water, making the company’s desalination plant of dubious value.

In response, the company vehemently attacked her findings, labeling them “overtly adversarial,” “closed-minded” and “aspirational advocacy.” Instead of studying how to address concerns raised by the report, the company went so far as to hire a firm to counter the report’s findings.

As Harriet Cornell, chair of the task force, wryly observed, “It is obvious that the independent study analyzing United Water’s data has touched a nerve and caused consternation at United Water.”

United Water’s commitment to conservation is questionable, and the company wants to charge residents for the money it sunk into a desalination plant that it now admits it doesn’t need for at least a decade.

The push is on to protect Rockland County’s water. Right now, state regulators are considering whether to order the company to completely abandon the desalination project. Check out the Rockland Water Coalition to get involved and learn more.

August 25th, 2015

86-ing Michigan’s Line 5 Pipeline

By Mariah Urueta – Michigan Organizer

1508_FBSq-GreatLakesLine5It is inspiring to see the progress that can be accomplished in as little as four months. I began working with Food & Water Watch in Michigan this past May, right after I finished college. Right away, I went to work with a coalition of Michigan groups in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign to stop the frightening monster beneath the Straits of Mackinac – Line 5.

Line 5 is a pair of 62-year-old pipelines operated by Enbridge (a giant energy corporation) that transports oil and gas from Canada, and poses too great of a risk to the Great Lakes. The Lakes provide drinking water for 35 million people, are home to numerous flora and fauna, and are essential to our Michigan way of life.

In the short months that I have worked with Food & Water Watch and the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, Michiganders have not gone a week without seeing concerns raised around Line 5 in the media! It all started for me when I participated in a rally in Mackinaw City at the end of May to call on the Governor and Attorney General to shut down Line 5. While our rally was taking place in Mackinaw City, Michigan lawmakers were making their way to the Mackinac Policy Conference that was taking place on Mackinac Island. Serendipitously, I was able to get into the conference and disrupt Governor’s Snyder’s speech. As he was discussing Michigan’s future, I stood up amid the crowd of 1,700 people with conviction and told him, “To keep Michigan pure, it’s time to shut down Line 5.”

As more and more people were beginning to learn about Line 5, we wanted to point to Enbridge’s history of operating pipelines in Michigan. In 2010, Enbridge allowed toxic tar sands oil to leak into the Kalamazoo River for 17 hours before responding. It would be outrageous to trust them with operating a 62-year-old pipeline through the Great Lakes. So, on July 25 we acknowledged the five-year anniversary of the disastrous Kalamazoo River oil spill by supporting the communities of Marshall, Battle Creek, and Galesburg, which have yet to recover from this ruin. Enbridge has taught all of us by example what their negligent company is capable of; incidents like these tell us why Line 5 needs to be decommissioned immediately.

Enbridge oversees not just Line 5, but also a network of tar sands pipelines that the company is trying to expand in the Great Lakes region and across the country. These pipelines, especially the ones that transport tar sands oil, are turning communities into sacrifice zones from Alberta, Canada to Detroit, Michigan and beyond.

Food & Water Watch has been working tirelessly on this issue, and in the time I’ve been with the organization, we collaborated with our volunteers and allies to recruit 186 businesses and organizations to sign a letter addressed to Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette urging them to immediately decommission Line 5. This letter was delivered to Snyder and Schuette three weeks ago in Lansing.

The pressure to shut down Line 5 is on, and Attorney General Schuette even said, “the pipeline’s days are numbered.” But our work isn’t done yet!

So what’s next? This September, Food & Water Watch, along with local groups like Idle No More, will assist in organizing the Pipe Out Paddle Protest– a flotilla of kayakers and activists committed to shutting down Line 5. Stay tuned!

August 20th, 2015

A Witness to Africa’s Water Challenges

By Eric Weltman

This summer, my family took an extraordinary and illuminating vacation in Africa. We covered five countries, where we saw an abundance of wildlife, including thousands of giraffe, zebras, elephants and other animals. My personal highlight was visiting a Maasai village in Kenya where I showed a classroom of students how to juggle.

It was at this village, though, that the region’s struggles with access to water struck me hard. We witnessed women, young girls and old ladies, laboring to carry water to their homes, hunched over with jugs strapped to their backs. Our host told us that delivering water was a woman’s most important responsibility.

Indeed, water was a constant theme in our travels. In Zimbabwe, the thundering beauty of Victoria Falls astonished us, as did the crocodile-filled Zambezi River in Zambia. At the same time, we saw the prevalence of bottled water, along with the discarded bottles and stench of burning plastic from trash fires.

The facts are stark: According a 2015 United Nations report, 319 million people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to safe sources of drinking water. These are nations contending with lack of basic infrastructure, such as taps and toilets. But they’re also facing new threats, from fracking in South Africa to privatization in Nigeria.

Of course, Africa isn’t alone in facing water challenges, as we see in the United States. In Detroit and Baltimore, residents are struggling to prevent water from being shut off in their homes. Communities from Florida to California are resisting fracking. New York’s Rockland County is combatting United Water’s capricious management of their drinking water system. And across the country, we are dealing with drastically reduced federal funding for water infrastructure.

In Zanzibar, I was asked to lead a conversation about energy policy with other guests at the eco-lodge where we were staying. We discussed fracking as the waves of the Indian Ocean crashed on the nearby shore. We were joined by a local fisherman, who shared his concerns about pollution’s impact on his livelihood.

Food & Water Watch is proud to have helped win the passage of a UN resolution in 2010 explicitly recognizing the human right to water and sanitation. My trip to Africa further inspired me to stand in solidarity with people of all nations to build the power we need to fulfill that right.

August 19th, 2015

A Franken-Sized Salmon?

By Tim Schwabgeneticallyengineeredsalmon

For those of you who have read the Mary Shelley novel “Frankenstein,” you remember that the name refers to the scientist Victor Frankenstein, not the monster he constructed from body parts found in the local cemetery. The story has captured the public’s imagination for nearly 200 years, and “franken” has become a common prefix—and a pejorative—for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are made with cut-and-pasted genetic material from different species of plants, animals and microorganisms.

GMO salmon—or franken-fish, as it is sometimes called—is an Atlantic salmon whose DNA has been re-engineered with a “growth-hormone gene construct” made from genetic material of other fish. One of these fish, the ocean pout, is only as closely related to Atlantic salmon, taxonomically speaking, as a human is related to a porcupine or a platypus. This recombination of genetic material would never happen in nature. Read the full article…

August 10th, 2015

Ten Years Later, the “Halliburton Loophole” and America’s Dirty Fracking Boom

By Wenonah Hauter

This past Saturday, Aug. 8 marked a notable 10th anniversary. But it was certainly nothing to celebrate. Ten years ago, President George W.  Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The giant energy bill included massive giveaways for the fossil fuel, nuclear and ethanol industries, and provided only token incentives for renewables and improved energy efficiency. But the most infamous piece of the law was what is now commonly known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” an egregious regulatory exemption that ushered in the disastrous era of widespread oil and gas fracking that currently grips our nation.

Fracking – the extreme oil and gas extraction method that involves blasting millions of gallons of water mixed with toxic chemicals underground at enormous pressures to break apart subterranean rock – has exploded in the last decade. More than 270,000 wells have been fracked in 25 states throughout the nation. More than 10 million Americans live within a mile of a fracking site. This means that 10 million Americans – and truly many more – have been placed directly in harm’s way. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have connected fracking to serious human health effects, including cancer, asthma and birth defects.

For this we can thank the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the law that holds the Halliburton Loophole. Named after Dick Cheney and the notorious corporation he led before becoming vice president, the law (championed by Cheney and disgraced Enron founder Kenneth Lay, among others) explicitly exempted fracking operations from key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. These exemptions from one of America’s most fundamental environmental protection laws provided the oil and gas industry the immunity it required to develop a highly polluting process on a grand national scale.

One of the most troubling repercussions is how fracking companies hide the contents of their toxic water and chemical solutions pumped into the ground. Contamination of underground drinking water sources from fracking fluids is a glaring threat to public health and safety. Yet even doctors responding to fracking-related health complaints can’t access data on what particular chemicals their patients may have been exposed to.

But the Halliburton Loophole wasn’t the only fracking enabler in the Energy Policy Act. The act granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sweeping new authority to supersede state and local decision-making with regard to the citing of fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure. It also shifted to FERC industry oversight and compliance responsibility for the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, another key law. This was akin to putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

As it stands, FERC is entirely unaccountable to public will. It is unaccountable to Congress and even the White House. Commissioners are appointed to five-year terms and can do as they please. Until a law reigning in FERC is passed, the commission will continue to act as a rubber-stamp for the fossil fuel industry.

Additionally, the Energy Policy Act repealed an important anti-monopoly law, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA). PUHCA safeguarded consumers from the overreach of the oil and gas industry, and banks that did business with those companies. It prevented the formation of giant state and regional energy cartels that could manipulate energy costs, engage in profiteering and exert undue influence over political debate. The Energy Policy Act transferred most of this oversight to FERC. Since then, the largest American energy companies have grown significantly more powerful, and spent almost a billion dollars on federal lobbying, according to OpenSecrets.org.

The 10th anniversary of the Energy Policy Act is indeed a sad occasion, but it provides us with a ripe opportunity to reexamine our nation’s disastrous policy of doubling-down on fossil fuels over the last decade, thanks to the extreme process of fracking. For the sake of countless Americans who are currently suffering health effects caused by fracking, and the countless more who will suffer in the future, we must immediately curtail our dependence on oil and gas, and turn decisively toward a truly clean, renewable energy future.

 

August 3rd, 2015

You’ve Got Questions About GMO Labeling; We’ve Got Answers

By Sarah Alexander

BlogThumb_GMOkidsWe get a lot of questions about why we need labeling for GMOs, even from staff of members of Congress. Our answers are below. We hope you’ll contact your Senators today, and give them the information below, so they can vote the right way and protect your right to know what’s in your food.

1: What is a genetically engineered food or GMO?

A genetically engineered food is a plant or animal that has been changed by taking genes from one species and inserting them into the DNA of another species or altering the DNA in a way that could never happen through traditional cross-breeding or in nature.

2: Aren’t genetically engineered foods safe?

The approval process for new GMO crops in the U.S. is extremely weak and relies solely on the safety tests done by the corporations that are creating these crops. Right now, most crops are approved by federal regulators under the “generally recognized as safe” provision, which means that if a GMO corn variety looks and “acts” like the non-GMO version of corn, it is approved.

Currently, biotechnology seed companies and their advocates are oversimplifying the hundreds of factors involved in the GMO production process to broadcast the myth of a “scientific consensus” that GMO foods are safe. To the contrary, most scientific bodies weighing in on the subject openly acknowledge unaddressed safety considerations and gaps in knowledge.

3: But don’t farmers need genetically engineered foods to feed the growing world population?

Most of the GMO crops planted today are engineered to withstand strong chemical applications, or to produce their own pesticides. Often, the chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow and DuPont that create GMO crops also create the chemicals that have to be used with the crops, so the main benefit of these patented crops is for the companies and their profits. Additionally, most of these GMO crops — like corn, soybeans, canola and cotton — are not grown as food for direct human consumption, but rather for animal feed, or to create ingredients in processed foods.

4: If over 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMOs, why hasn’t Congress or the Food and Drug Administration done anything?

 What we eat and feed our families has a direct impact on our health and wellbeing, and we have a right to know if the food we’re eating has been altered in a way that could never happen in nature. Unfortunately, the big food industries spend millions lobbying Congress and federal agencies to keep labels off of GMO foods. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the biggest food and chemical companies, has spent over $50 million to defeat labeling initiatives in multiple states.

5: Won’t labeling GMO ingredients cost companies a lot of money and raise the price of our food?

 This is one of the biggest industry myths. Consumers Union did a study last year that shows the requirement of labeling genetically engineered food ingredients will cost consumers less than a penny per day or $2.30/person annually.

6: Why should I take action and ask my Senators to oppose this legislation?

Genetically engineered crops are in most processed foods but are unlabeled, so many people who wish to avoid foods with GMO ingredients don’t know where they are lurking. GMOs are untested, and it’s unknown how these engineered foods may be impacting our health and the environment. At the very least, shouldn’t we have a choice to avoid them if we want to? The legislation that Congress is considering will prohibit any states from labeling GMOs and will make federal labeling voluntary, which is what we have already, and not a single product is labeled as containing genetically engineered ingredients.

Ask your Senators to support labeling of genetically engineered foods and to oppose any attempt to take away states’ rights to require labels.

July 30th, 2015

Foodborne Illness is Not Funny

By Tony Corbo

Tony Corbo, Senior Food Lobbyist

Tony Corbo, Senior Food Lobbyist

I was stunned to read an account of a recent panel discussion on the state of food safety regulation that took place at the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) in Portland, Oregon. There, a top food safety official from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) made light of his agency’s inability to prevent food-borne illnesses caused by salmonella. It speaks to the insensitivity of some officials to the sorry state of food safety in this country, and it calls into question the competence of these officials to hold such positions of responsibility in the Obama administration.

The news account to which I am referring was posted on the website of Food Safety News entitled, “IAFP 2015: Taylor and Almanza Share the Same State in Portland.” I did not attend the IAFP conference, so I have to rely on this news account of what transpired at the panel discussion. The panel was composed of the Obama administration’s two top food safety officials—Alfred Almanza, USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety and Acting Administrator for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) (he holds more titles than a Russian general has medals) and Michael Taylor, the Deputy FDA Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. Mr. Taylor was also the FSIS Administrator during the first term of the Clinton administration.

During a question and answer period with the audience, Mr. Almanza was asked that if USDA does not consider salmonella to be an adulterant in poultry (courts have ruled that because poultry is consumed fully cooked, it is the consumer’s responsibility to ensure it is safely handled), should salmonella be declared an adulterant in beef products since some consumers prefer to eat their beef rare. When a pathogen or other anomaly is considered to be an adulterant, food that contains it is not permitted to enter the food supply and if it does, it is subject to an immediate recall.

As he was trying to respond to the question, Mr. Almanza first fumbled and then tried to blame Mr. Taylor for not dealing with the issue when he was FSIS administrator during the Clinton administration. According to the Food Safety News story, the audience laughed at his so-called response.

Had I been in the audience, I would not have laughed, but I would have promptly gotten up and scolded Mr. Almanza. This is not funny, and neither Mr. Almanza, nor anyone else in the Obama administration, is even trying to correct this glaring loophole in USDA food safety regulations. Ask the 634 consumers who got sick from consuming salmonella-tainted poultry products processed by Foster Farms in 2013 and 2014 if salmonella is funny. It took Foster Farms 16 months from the time the outbreak began to recall voluntarily some of these contaminated products. Ask the 22 consumers who were made ill in 2013, or the 46 in 2012 who got sick from eating salmonella-contaminated ground beef if salmonella is funny.

The Obama administration needs to go to Congress and seek legislation to give USDA the authority to declare salmonella or any other pathogen that can cause food-borne illness an adulterant in order to prevent contaminated meat and poultry products from entering the food supply. It has chosen not to do that even when top administration officials, such as the Secretary of Agriculture, have been pressed to in Congressional hearings.

Now, there is pending legislation in Congress that would give USDA that authority, but the administration has not endorsed it.  However, it is moving ahead with plans to deregulate poultry inspection by turning over more of those responsibilities to the companies to police themselves.

This is not a laughing matter; it makes me very angry. So angry in fact, that I filed a Freedom of Information Act request in October 2013 for the all FSIS records into its investigation of the 2013-2014 Foster Farms outbreak. I am still waiting for a complete response to my request. That’s not funny either.

July 27th, 2015

Three Ways The Energy Policy Act Ushered In The Frackopoly

By Wenonah HauterBlogThumb_Wenonah2

This is a good week to reflect on Dick Cheney’s role in facilitating fracking. Early in the George W. Bush administration, he put together a task force made up of energy industry CEO’s and lobbyists, known as EPACT 2005, which rewrote energy policy.The damage this legislation did is much broader than is usually discussed.

This has become increasingly apparent to me as I researched and wrote my new book, Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment (to be released next spring). The tremendous political power of the energy industry unleashed the tragic policy decisions in EPACT 2005. In fact, their increasing pwer over the past hundred years has locked us in to dependence on fossil fuels and other dirty energy sources. Federal funding was key in developing the technologies that are used for fracking today. Removal of federal oversight of natural gas pricing and changes in the rules around the transportation of natural gas in pipes also helped eventually drive the shale gas boom. Decisions in the 1990’s concerning the deregulation of the electric industry – how electricity is generated, sold on the wholesale market and delivered to consumers – also drove the use of natural gas-fired generation.

But one of the biggest oil and gas industry giveaways happened 10 years ago this week, when Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

This giant energy bill had massive handouts and incentives for the fossil fuel, nuclear and ethanol industries, with minimal incentives for renewables and energy efficiency. This bill was largely written by the lobbyists of the oil and gas industry and other dirty energy interests. The long forgotten shyster Kenneth Lay, of Enron fame (or infamy) was one of the leading lobbyists for deregulation of the electric industry and the giveaways to the energy industry in EPACT 2005. Lay and other Enron officials lobbied the Clinton and Bush Administrations for significant deregulation of energy markets that paved the way for fracking—and many of the policies were signed into law by President Bush on August 8, 2005.

Here are three specific ways the Energy Policy Act promoted fracking.

  1. The Halliburton Loophole

This may be the most familiar tool the Energy Policy Act wielded in helping necessitate the fracking boom. Named for the company where Dick Cheney had been CEO before becoming Vice President, the Halliburton Loophole famously exempted fracking from chemical disclosure rules under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). As a result, we don’t even know the full range of chemicals used in the cocktail of fluids injected underground in the process of releasing natural gas from deep beneath the earth’s surface.

The loophole clouded the otherwise clear lines of liability for companies that contaminated water. It also makes it a nightmare for health professionals treating victims of fracking-related injuries, because they can’t get the information they need to provide proper care.

  1. FERC granted power of imminent domain in siting new gas infrastructure

The Energy Policy Act gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sweeping new powers to overrule local and state governments in the siting of new pipelines for gas and new transmission lines for electricity – even when there are conflicts with other federal laws. The agency was given the power of eminent domain so that it can swoop in and take property for building this intrusive and often unnecessary infrastructure.

FERC was given the authority to approve the siting, construction, expansion and operation of LNG terminals. It was also authorized to be the lead agency coordinating compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, one of the nation’s most important laws for protecting the environment.

Combined with the powers granted to FERC when it was created, and the fact that it is an independent agency unresponsive to politics, EPACT 2005 made certain that affected communities would be virtually powerless to fight against this unneeded infrastructure.

  1. Repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act

The Energy Policy Act repealed anti-monopoly legislation – the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, or PUCHA – that safeguarded consumers from the overreach of the oil and gas industry and banks in the utility industry. As M. Elizabeth Sanders writes in The Regulation of Natural Gas: Policy and Politics, 1938-1978, UCHA restricted the size and geographic reach of gas and electric utilities. It also restricted parent companies of utilities from cheating ratepayers by charging high fees for services to their affiliate utility subsidiaries and from speculating in risky businesses with ratepayers’ money.

Among the key consumer and investor protections in PUHCA, it prohibited non-utilities (such as oil companies or investment banks) from ownership of gas or electric utilities, and empowered the SEC to oversee the business dealings of utilities to prevent the reappearance of the huge multistate utility cartels that had previously ripped off customers and ruined investors. Utilities were required to provide the SEC with detailed financial information and to have financial transactions approved—from issuing securities to reorganizing.

PUCHA’s strong regulatory authority was replaced by giving FERC the authority to review electric utility mergers and acquisitions.

And as could have been predicted, FERC did not prevent the consolidation of the electric utility industry. The repeal of PUHCA unleashed energy market speculation and created extremely large energy companies with outsized influence on our political system. According to OpenSecrets.org, since 1998 the top 10 electric utilities, listed below, have spent $581 million on lobbying the federal government. One of the little-recognized benefits of PUHCA was in preventing corporate utilities from becoming political powerhouses. Their increased size and profits have enabled them to influence policy on a much broader scale.

Today, a handful of giant companies operate subsidiaries that provide electricity and half of them are involved in trading energy on Wall Street. Deregulatory measures have incentivized them to sell as much electricity as possible, much of it generated by natural gas. They are:

  1. Exelon Corp
  2. Duke Energy
  3. Southern Company
  4. NextEra
  5. Dominion
  6. Xcel Energy
  7. PPL Corp
  8. PG&E Corp.
  9. Public Service Electric & Gas
  10. American Electric Power

The chilling effect that Enron and the other proponents of deregulation has had on sound energy policy – by letting the market make decisions about energy choices – cannot be overstated. Energy use, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, is continuing to increase at a time when conservation policies and energy efficiency solutions must be prioritized. As a result of years of lobbying and campaign contributions form the oil and gas industry, policymakers instead declared natural gas, and ultimately fracking, as the best solution for addressing climate change, with bogus cost-benefit analyses.

The 10th anniversary of the Energy Policy Act is a good reminder that it is long past time for a paradigm shift. We need localized, efficient and clean energy systems now to meet our energy needs and safely power our communities.

July 21st, 2015

Give Me a Break: Renewable Energy Credits Threatened by Koch Brothers

By Mitch Jones

BlogThumb_WindTurbinesAt the end of next year government policies that have successfully aided the growth of residential and commercial solar and industrial wind are set expire. Congress can help do something about this, but powerful special interests could stand in the way. Read the full article…

July 20th, 2015

Congress’s Handout to the Bottled Water Industry

By Elizabeth Schuster

During the Congressional appropriations process it is not uncommon for members to include legislative giveaways to corporate interests such as Big Ag and the oil and gas industry. Now it’s the bottled water industry’s turn.

This year especially, the House bill to fund the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and related agencies has received a lot of attention for being the most anti-environment, anti-government funding bill to date.

With final consideration and vote on the bill indefinitely stalled due to a controversial amendment about the Confederate flag, it’s a good time to pause and consider another hidden rider included in the House version of the appropriations bill. This one is a gift wrapped giveaway to the bottled water industry.

Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA), put forward an amendment, passed by a voice vote, which prevents the National Park Service from implementing its 2011 policy aimed to reduce and recycle plastic bottles in national parks. Recognizing the need to reduce the parks’ environmental footprint, the policy allows the option for parks to stop selling bottled water if they complete an extensive list of requirements.

Since the policy went into effect, more and more parks have banned the sale of bottled water, opting instead for water refilling stations. Parks that have adopted this policy have reported a reduction in litter from plastic bottles. This is an important step forward in preserving the environment of our public lands and moving us away from our dependency on bottled water.

The House appropriations process is at a standstill and the amendment was already approved. But we can still stop this nonsensical amendment from becoming law. First, we can ask our representatives to vote NO on the Interior-EPA bill.  Second, we can ask our Senators to keep this language out of the Senate version of the Interior-EPA bill.

We must stop giving the bottled water industry free reign to exploit our natural resources! Take action today to tell Congress to keep bottled water out of our national parks.

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