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Victory! Cleveland passes resolution against antibiotic misuse on factory farms. more wins »
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July 11th, 2014

Six Books Our Staff are Reading This Summer

By Elizabeth Walek

Nothing beats lounging by the pool with a really great book! Summer is a perfect time to get caught up on reading that you’ve been putting off for weeks. Plus, books are a great way to learn more about the issues Food & Water Watch handles every day. I asked around our offices to find out which socially, politically and environmentally conscious books our staff love lately. Check out our top picks, and share your own summer reading recommendations in the comments!

Read the full article…

July 10th, 2014

Taking Back Our Democracy, One Step at a Time

By Mitch Jones

On June 17 I wrote a blog about efforts in the United States Senate to move forward a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the disastrous Citizens United ruling.

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress and the states the power to regulate the raising and spending of money in federal and state elections, last year. This summer, the resolution is moving towards a possible vote on the floor of the Senate.

Citizens United opened the door to an obscene amount of corporate dollars flowing into political campaigns. The case had three major components that have made it nearly impossible to keep corporate money out of politics… 

  1. It found that free speech rights are about the speech, not the speaker (in other words, it doesn’t matter who’s speaking, but that speaking is taking place.)
  2. The case reconfirmed the notion of corporate personhood.
  3. Since political speech is the most important First Amendment right, constraint of free speech must meet strict scrutiny.

The way the amendment would work is that it would give the federal and state governments the clear constitutional authority to regulate how money is raised and spent in elections – just as they’ve been doing for over 100 years before Citizens United.

Already, pundits are predicting that the 2016 Presidential election will cost considerably more than the $2 billion spent in 2012. Most of that money, we know, will come from corporate interests trying to buy influence in whatever administration takes over in 2017. That’s why we need to let the politicians in Washington know we are fed up with dollars trumping votes and corporations trumping people.

It’s time to get the money out of politics and put the people back in.

On July 10, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee will consider the resolution. If it passes it will move to the full Senate for a possible vote.

Email your Senators today and ask them to support S.J. Res. 19 when it comes up for a vote.

 

July 3rd, 2014

FDA’s Six Month Update Shows There’s Still More to Do

By Sarah Borron 

As of this month, twelve U.S. communities have taken action to urge Congress to ban the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. While many are urban centers that will probably never see an industrial farm, these cities and towns are standing in solidarity, shedding important new light on a growing problem — the fact that misuse of antibiotics on factory farms can make us sick. 

It was therefore extremely timely that this week, the FDA released a six-month update on the progress of its voluntary efforts to change how antibiotics are used to raise livestock. But despite the agency’s upbeat tone, not much has actually changed. 

Read the full article…

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July 2nd, 2014

Energy In Depth: Working Overtime to Strain Credibility

By Alison Auciello

We usually don’t engage with the fracking PR echo chamber when they make outrageous claims about our staff members or our organization. But their latest attempt to malign us is so desperate and bizarre that it’s worth correcting the record if only to show the depths of their ability to misinform and twist facts to suit their agenda.

The oil and gas industry PR front Energy in Depth recently claimed that we redacted recently-released documents regarding the Kasich administration and fracking—when in reality, the PDF documents we posted rendered oddly once they were uploaded to our file sharing program, which inadvertently hid text that had been highlighted in the original documents we had obtained from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). (We’ve since re-uploaded those documents to our web server, which renders them correctly across most browsers as far as we can tell, and the Ecowatch story has been corrected—you can find links to all the documents here.)

The fact that Energy in Depth took an honest technical error and jumped to the conclusion (without contacting us) that we “redacted” information that actually buttresses our case—that Ohio Governor Kasich is sympathetic to industry talking points—strains credibility. (The text that didn’t render correctly included the assertion that “There has never been an instance of groundwater contamination related to the injection of oil-fuel waste.”)

We included all of these documents to demonstrate that the ODNR is using the same talking points commonly used by the oil and gas and they reflect the items that were mentioned in the state’s communications plan to promote fracking. So, why would we redact them?

Energy In Depth is an industry front organization, but with their newfound interest in transparency, we hope they will join us in pushing for real transparency, especially around industry meetings with ODNR, members of the Kasich administration and state legislators and endorse legislation requiring the full release of the contents of fracking chemicals.

We won’t hold our breath, though.

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Declaring Our Independence From Corporate Influence

By Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. Click here to become a Food & Water Partner today.

It’s been more than 200 years since the colonists fought for independence from the British. Now, in 2014, we’re in a fight for independence of a different sort.

This July 4th, you could help us declare our independence from corporate influence by becoming a Food & Water Partner.

It’s no secret that decades of bad policy have helped corporations become more powerful and more influential in U.S. politics than ever before. In fact, the law of the land is now unlimited corporate spending in politics. Because of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon, corporations can spend unlimited money and are buying more influence in our government than at any other time in U.S. history.



This is why so much of our work at the federal level is harder than ever. Big Industrial Agriculture and Big Oil and Gas interests are buying influence at universities, with non-profits, and with policymakers with the goal of increasing their profits at the expense of our health and communities. But we envision a world where people count more than profits; where everyday people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives and health, and we’re not alone.



If you believe in democracy, if you believe that people should have control over their own basic needs, and you are willing to fight fearlessly for what is right, then I want to invite you to become a Food & Water Partner.

 That’s why we’re announcing a bold goal: We need 435 new Food & Water Partners to commit to monthly giving who will stand with us, and give us the financial support we need to change the conversation and weaken the influence of big money in politics so that our democracy serves people, not corporate profits.



Why 435? That’s how many representatives there are in Congress, and even though it’s a symbolic start, we want to show we’re building support in every district, regardless of whether it’s red or blue, urban or rural. We’re all in this together.



The bread and butter of Food & Water Watch is our organizing. We are committed to building power in communities across the country to pressure decision makers to do the right thing. We don’t think it’s okay for leaders in either political party to take marching orders from corporations, so we hold them accountable just like we would any politician that gets a little too cozy with industry.

Furthermore, we’re building for the long term, and we know we need a true 50 state strategy that builds power in every state and every district because we can’t live without safe food and clean water. We are making moneyed interests and entrenched political leaders sit up and take notice. Food & Water Watch’s uncompromising activism and movement building are game-changers that are eating into the influence of those who would profit from our food and water.





As a Food & Water Partner, your regular donations as a monthly supporter allow us to keep our fundraising costs low so more money goes to our work protecting our essential food and water resources and empower you to make contributions that fit your monthly budget while making a big impact on the issues we all care about. Become a Food & Water Partner today.

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July 1st, 2014

Governor Brown: Climate Leader or Climate Loser?

By Adam Scow

California Governor Jerry Brown

When it comes to fighting pollution, global warming and our climate crisis, Governor Jerry Brown is big on talk and weak on action. Governor Brown frequently warns us that climate change is a major threat we must solve, citing the ongoing drought and recent fires as indicators of global warming’s threat to our economy and standard of living. Yet when it comes to governance and real action the Governor is letting the oil and gas industry expand fracking and refineries that pollute our climate with more emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, worsening global warming and our climate crisis.

When asked about the contradiction between his rhetoric and support for fracking, the Governor has made inaccurate statements and blamed Californians for his lack of action.  First, Governor Brown continues to make the inaccurate argument that because Californians drive cars, it is necessary to frack California. In reality, California has long imported and will continue to import most of the oil it uses, a trend confirmed by the Energy Information Administration’s reduced estimate of recoverable oil in California. The EIA, which once projected that over 15 billion barrels of oil reside in California’s Monterey Shale formation, has reduced its estimate to just 600 million barrels—a 96 percent reduction.

The Governor is wrong again when he implies fracking in California will decrease or offset oil imports into California. Despite California using less oil, imports are now increasing into the Golden State via rail and ship, threatening to cause major accidents in transit. California’s 17 refineries, mostly located in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, are processing and exporting more refined oil overseas to China and other markets. To meet the foreign demand refineries are looking to expand their operations to process the growing influx of oil from North Dakota and Canada to then be sold overseas.  

Refinery expansion is strongly opposed by community and environmental organizations, yet Governor Brown is allowing Chevron to expand its enormous Richmond refinery and increase its pollution. A recent lawsuit by Communities for a Better Environment challenging Chevron’s expansion cites increased pollution emissions as undermining California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the Brown administration, consistent with its “cap and trade” program that allows big polluters to continue polluting in exchange for a small fee, is content to let Chevron pay to increase its pollution and worsen our climate. Governor Brown is also permitting a refinery expansion in Bakersfield, which already suffers from some of the worst air quality in the nation. To put the icing on the cake, the Brown administration recently weakened its already weak cap-and-trade program to allow petroleum refiners to receive 100% of their emissions allowances for free until 2017—meaning for the next three years Chevron and others may not pay a dime for their refinery pollution

California’s pollution from carbon emissions has been getting worse, reflected in the California 2012 greenhouse gas inventory released in May by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The total inventory climbed from 2011, which means California went backwards towards reaching its goal of 1990 levels of emissions by 2020. While total California oil and gas production slightly declined in 2012 from 2011 levels, this inventory shows a 4 percent increase in the amount of greenhouse gas pollution released by this sector. Since the Brown administration has yet to determine the true carbon intensity of oil and gas development, this increase is likely underestimated and will rise again for 2013.  

Governor Brown’s support for fracking and refinery expansion is worsening California’s pollution problems and undermining our state’s ability to meet its pollution reduction targets by 2020. While polls continue to show that a majority of Californians oppose fracking outright and nearly 70 percent support an immediate moratorium, the Governor has sided with the oil companies to let them keep fracking under the false pretense of strong regulations, which do nothing to make the practice safer or prevent pollution.

California needs real leadership in the effort to transition from dirty oil to clean energy. If the Governor is sincere about fighting the climate crisis, he can prove it by stopping the fracking and opposing refinery expansion. So far Governor Brown has talked some talk, not walked the walk, and is making our pollution problems worse.  

This blog originally appeared at WilderUtopia.com.

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June 30th, 2014

Protecting Our Water: It’s Simply the Right Thing to Do

By Nisha Swinton

I have worked with Food & Water Watch – Maine on bottled water issues for almost five years, and I am always so excited when new people join our growing movement against corporate control of our most precious natural resource. I met Nina and her mother Molly, recently, and I was immediately inspired. Nina is nine years old, in 3rd grade, and loves to swim. Nina was not shy at all about discussing her bottled water work at her local elementary school.

“I found out about global warming through nature shows and I realized that polar bears were endangered, so I wanted to do my part in helping the polar bears by helping people notice that plastic water bottles are NOT cool,” Nina explained one afternoon. “One of the reasons I want to keep the ocean clean is because I love swimming and I don’t want to swim in trash or have the fish be sick.”

Nina started the Protect Our Land and Resources (POLAR) Kids Club at school. She and other club members have been speaking in classes, holding raffles for Take Back the Tap reusable water bottles, meeting with teachers and administration, and collecting student signatures to ban bottled water and plastics from their school. POLAR has collected more than 500 signatures already, from a school of 700 students! 

Across the United States and the world, students like Nina are making headlines for their efforts to ban the bottle. People are realizing that bottled water is not safer than tap water. Increasingly, bottled water comes from the tap. Bottled water creates mountains of garbage and causes other major environmental problems. Bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water. Bottled water companies mislead communities into giving away their public water in exchange for dangerous jobs. 

Nina’s work is most important right here in Maine because we are facing a huge battle with the bottled water industry giant Nestle North America, which owns Poland Spring. Nestle is looking to go into a 45-year contract with a water district right here in Maine. We need more and more Mainers, young and old, to learn from Nina’s story and work in their communities to ban bottled water to protect our natural resources for Nina’s generation and beyond.

Molly is proud of her daughter’s hard work. “I’m really proud of Nina for being passionate about an important issue and working to share her ideas with her peers, and not giving up. She has put aside her own fear of public speaking for the sake of this cause about which she feels so strongly. For her, the ideas are simple and she is motivated to protect the environment. Her reasons are not political or economical, it’s simply the right thing to do.” I couldn’t agree more.

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June 27th, 2014

Cities Come Together to Save Antibiotics

 

By Katy Kiefer

Volunteers in Alexandria, VA, wear red to show their support. The resolution to protect antibiotics passed unanimously on Tuesday

A few months back, we launched our national effort to save antibiotics from factory farm abuse. Despite efforts by Big Ag and pharmaceuticals to block regulations, there’s no debate here — factory farms are irresponsibly squandering antibiotics and cities across the country are calling on Congress to act.

On Tuesday, Alexandria, Va. and Carrboro, N.C. (and on Wednesday, Chicago, Ill.) joined eight other cities in passing city council resolutions calling for federal action to ban factory farms from using antibiotics on healthy animals, bringing the national total to 11 resolutions.

Before antibiotics, simple infections could be deadly. Now, the medical community is warning that these life-saving medicines may no longer work when we need them, and this is in large part due to irresponsible use on factory farms — feeding daily, low doses of antibiotics to healthy animals to boost profits and keep animals from getting sick in filthy living conditions. That’s not the way antibiotics should be used, and the antibiotic-resistant bacteria being bred by the meat industry are making us sick. Read the full article…

On Fracked Gas, Same Rhetoric—Different Century

By Geert Decock

Are you familiar with the British comedian Rowan Atkinson? Does Mr. Bean maybe ring a bell? Then maybe you know the sketch comedy piece where Atkinson plays a rather deluded Member of Parliament who makes a nonsensical speech, high on rhetoric, low on substance. I had to think back to Atkinson’s “Sir Marcus Browning MP”, when reading the NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s remarks last week that Russia is behind the growing anti-fracking movement in Europe, fomenting opposition to shale gas and even funding anti-fracking groups. Sir Marcus Browning finishes his speech (spoiler alert!) by insisting he doesn’t want to end up like “the blind man, in the dark room, looking for a black cat… that isn’t there”. By making his comments about Russian support for the European anti-fracking movement, Rasmussen looks exactly like “the blind man, in the dark room, looking for a black cat … that isn’t there”.

These accusations of Russia’s influence in the anti-fracking movement have repeatedly been made. And until today, without a shred of evidence. Read the full article…

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June 25th, 2014

Washington’s Revolving Door Spins Again

By Sydney Baldwin

 Ban Fracking!

Another one bites the dust.

Former Obama Energy Aide Heather Zichal has been nominated to the board of directors for Cheniere Energy, Inc., one of the leading fracked gas companies in the world. As the White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, Zichal was one of the primary facilitators between the Obama administration and the oil and gas industry. Unfortunately, she is now just another government official turned big-business pawn.

Called Obama’s “climate czar,” Zichal regularly met with oil industry lobbyists and worked on legislation regarding the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking on private and public lands. Her history of oil and gas industry oversight is what landed her potential new gig. If she elected to the board of directors, she will be paid $180,000 a year.

Read the full article…

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