Blogs | Food & Water Watch - Part 8
Victory! Cleveland passes resolution against antibiotic misuse on factory farms. more wins »
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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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How One Woman Exercised Her Power to Take Back the Tap

By Sydney Baldwin and Katherine Cirullo


Modern superheroes don’t wear capes anymore. In fact, they’re just like you and 
me — they stand behind us in the grocery line and walk past us on their way to work. Lynn Hartung is one such superhero. She has taken it upon herself to demand change in her community and beyond, not taking “no” for an answer.  

A cognitive behavioral therapist, activist, and mom based in Michigan, Hartung has launched a campaign to eliminate plastic water bottle waste at her local gym and, eventually, at all fitness centers. Her passion for the environment stems from her mother’s constant recycling efforts and her father’s love of the outdoors. Lynn is also inspired by her daughter, an environmental organizer for The Sierra Club. So when Lynn noticed that her gym club was not taking the initiative to recycle plastic water bottles, she stepped in to correct that problem.

Read the full article…

June 20th, 2014

The Fight for San Bartolo’s Water

By Andrew Diaz

Water Service and ImmigrationAll over town, church bells were tolling, but they were not marking the top of the hour as they usually do. Upon hearing this signal, masses of townspeople came from all directions, armed with stones, pipes, even sticks—anything that was lying around was fair game that day. Off in the distance, the opposition could be seen approaching through the haze, their fifteen hundred shiny, black helmets slowly marching forward as one force behind the protection of their transparent shields and riot gear. As the dark swarm of police approached down the narrow, twisting streets, the crowd of townspeople braced themselves. They shouted commands at each other to hold their positions. Soon, the objects in their hands would become a barrage of projectiles hurled at the officers in an effort to keep them back.

This scene was the culmination of thirteen months of acrimonious debate. San Bartolo Ameyalco is an otherwise unremarkable town sitting on the hills of the Álvaro Obregón delegation, or borough, on the fringes of Mexico City. Founded in 1535, the town is one of the oldest communities in the Federal District, and is indeed one of the older settlements in the whole of Mexico. Its history probably dates even further back, as it is believed that the town was first settled by the native Tepanec people. 

What brought the early settlers to this area, and what has kept people in San Bartolo ever since? The residents of the town simply know it as el ojo de agua, or “the waterhole”— a volcanic spring that has been faithfully providing freshwater to the community from the time of its founding. In fact, Ameyalco is a Nahuatl word meaning “place from which the water flows,” which it continues to do at a rate of about 60 liters per second.

It is this water supply that is at the heart of the dispute that is taking place in one of the largest and most densely populated cities on earth. Desperate to find additional water sources to supplement a rapidly-depleting aquifer below its soil, the government of Mexico City announced in April 2013 that a part of San Bartolo’s water supply would be joining a larger system delivering water across the entire borough. The residents of the town, whose name is often referred to simply as Ameyalco, responded with a clear voice: “no.”

Miguel Ángel Mancera, the mayor of Mexico City, insists that this project would benefit at least twenty thousand people. Many of Ameyalco’s residents, however, believe that the main beneficiaries of such a project would be the rich, inhabiting hastily-built communities with profits from international business —such as the community of Santa Fe, built over a former dumping ground not far from Ameyalco — and with no prior infrastructure for delivering water. 

The government asserts it has a responsibility to deliver water to these newer communities, and that the people of Ameyalco do not have the right to selfishly appropriate this precious resource. Meanwhile, the people of San Bartolo proclaim that their water is not for sale, as water is already scarce in their community. Additionally, they say that they should not have to pay the price for the city’s poor planning. 

The floodgates of this controversy finally burst wide open on the morning of May 21, 2014, as workers of Sacmex, the Mexico City water company, arrived to lay the pipe that would connect San Bartolo’s water to the wider network. The residents were determined to guard their spring in any way possible. Once it became clear that efforts to continue the construction project would be met with resistance, the riot police were called in. There are conflicting reports, but the ensuing clash resulted in at least fifty to seventy of the townspeople injured or hospitalized, over fifty policemen injured—at least two of them seriously—and property damage around the area of the conflict, including several destroyed police vehicles.

Despite the opposition to the construction plan, the project in San Bartolo was carried out. The government has stated that Amayalco’s spring has not been affected by the plan, but instead it was the nearby water system by the name of Cutzamala that was connected to the borough-wide system. The borough of Álvaro Obregón has even released a statement guaranteeing that San Bartolo’s spring water will not be mixed with this larger system. There are many in San Bartolo who see this as just the calm before another storm, and as a result want to negotiate terms with the government. However, their demand is to have their rights respected by having a seat at the discussion table, and for the government to be transparent about its plans regarding the region’s water. 

In the meantime, Mexico City continues to literally sink under its own weight as it swiftly drains its underground water reservoir ever more quickly. As its vast and growing population continues to demand more and more resources, it is a near certainty that this complex and contentious issue is far from settled. 

Andrew Diaz is an international research and policy intern with Food & Water Watch. He currently attends the University of Maryland at College Park and majors in geographic information science and minors in international development and conflict management.

June 19th, 2014

Pollinator Week: Brought To You By…Bayer?

By Genna Reed 

For me, Pollinator Week should be about adding gratuitous amounts of honey to my tea, eating loads of fruits and nuts and enjoying the outdoor company of some of my favorite insects buzzing around in my backyard. For the Pollinator Partnership, an alliance that includes some companies with dubious track records when it comes to the survival of bees, and the masterminds behind this annual celebration of pollinators, the goal is a little less clear. The Pollinator Partnership includes some of the biggest players in the seed and agrichemical industry, including Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta and trade groups like CropLife America. The organization’s industry partners seem to be using this effort to craft a façade of involvement in the fight to save pollinators while simultaneously making millions from the very insecticides that are linked to serious health problems in honeybees.

The Pollinator Partnership advocates for increasing foraging land for pollinators, educating the public about the importance of pollinators and encouraging people to grow bee-friendly plants in their backyards. Although these are important undertakings, the partnership has so far failed to promote a ban on neonicotinoids, which would significantly help prevent future bee health issues. Yet, despite all of the evidence linking neonicotinoids to declines in bee health, industry representatives from Bayer, Syngenta and CropLife remain in denial, which might have something to do with the $2.45 billion (and growing) seed treatment market of which Bayer and Syngenta share 60 percent. 

Instead of promoting symbolic acts to protect pollinators, we need a tangible effort to protect what are arguably the most important creatures in our food system: 

 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should follow the European Union’s lead and ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides until there is adequate, independent research proving no direct or indirect links to adverse impacts on pollinators. 

 The EPA should reject registrations for insecticide seed treatments that are used as prophylactics and are unnecessary most of the time. 

 The EPA and USDA must work together to ensure that the labels of treated seeds and foliar insecticides adequately communicate the unnecessary pollinator risks to farmers in a clear, pronounced and convincing manner. 

 The EPA and USDA should commence a joint research and education program designed to help farmers practice bee-friendly farming methods, which would eliminate the need for neonicotinoid or other insecticide-treated seeds and would safeguard bees and other pollinators. 

 Take action today and urge your representative to support H.R. 2692, Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which would protect bees and other pollinators by banning major neonicotinoids in the United States.  

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