Top 10 Victories of 2023

Published Oct 31, 2023


Food SystemClimate and EnergyClean Water

Thank you for making this year's food, water, and climate victories possible!

Thank you for making this year's food, water, and climate victories possible!

Your commitment to building a brighter future for all has not only strengthened our movement; it has led to many meaningful protections for our food, water, and climate. 

You power all the work that Food & Water Watch pours our hearts into. Here are the top 10 victories of 2023 that you made possible. 

1. Reining in and stopping factory farms in Oregon

Together, we won the passage of SB 85 — the first legislation in decades to reform factory farm regulations in Oregon. This bill will require a more intensive water permitting process, increased oversight on the practice of spreading factory farm waste on fields, and allow local governments to require setbacks between factory farms and communities. 

We also forced one of the state’s biggest industrial agriculture giants, Easterday Dairy, to cancel its proposed mega-dairy

The notorious Easterday family abandoned its attempt to re-open a mega-dairy in Boardman, a community on the Columbia River. The community already struggles with nitrate-contaminated water due to mega-dairies’ irresponsible waste management practices. 

Soon after, a community in northwestern Oregon saw a similar victory following the passage of SB85. A year ago, Foster Farms proposed a factory chicken farm near the North Santiam River in Scio. It would have become the state’s largest chicken operation. That property is now listed for sale. 

Victories like this, boosted by SB85, will spare communities from foul odors, toxic emissions, and water pollution. Nearby small farms will breathe more easily without the threat of a polluting neighbor wreaking havoc on local economies.

2. A win against fossil fuels and a win for renewables in New York

Together, we passed the All-Electric Building Act, which bans gas hookups in new buildings statewide. It made New York the first state in the country to ban gas in new construction by law.

This landmark victory for the climate movement is a huge step forward for the transition to renewable energy and sets a precedent for other cities and states nationwide.

We also helped pass the Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA). This law will require the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the state’s publicly owned power utility, to provide only renewable energy to customers and serve as the only energy provider for all state-owned and municipal properties. 

It also allows the NYPA to build renewable energy production to meet the state’s goals of achieving 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2040. Moreover, the BPRA will create tens of thousands of jobs and close some of the state’s dirtiest oil and gas plants.

3. Saved the Hudson River from radioactive waste

Together, we passed the Save the Hudson bill in New York, which protects the Hudson River from radioactive waste dumping. Holtec International, the company decommissioning the Indian Point Nuclear Power Station near Peekskill, New York, planned to do this as early as May.

Our New York team jumped into action when they learned about this threat to the Hudson. By tabling, petitioning, phone banking, and rallying nonstop, we gathered support from communities throughout the region and forced Holtec to delay their plans. This delay allowed the Save the Hudson bill to be drafted, passed, and signed.

This is a tremendous win for people over polluters and communities over corporations.

4. Struck down Colorado’s factory farm permit 

Together, we won a lawsuit challenging Colorado’s weak standards for its statewide factory farm Clean Water Act permit. The court ruled that to comply with the Clean Water Act, the state must monitor groundwater to ensure facilities are not illegally polluting.

This decision is a positive step toward cleaning up Colorado’s waterways by holding factory farms accountable. The court’s ruling relied on Food & Water Watch’s 2021 Ninth Circuit Court win striking down Idaho’s permit for similar reasons.

5. Forced the EPA to better protect our water from slaughterhouse pollution

Together, we won a coalition lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), challenging its outdated and weak national water pollution standards for slaughterhouses — a leading source of water pollution. 

The EPA agreed to strengthen standards for the nation’s largest industrial source of phosphorus pollution and second-largest industrial source of nitrogen pollution by 2025. A proposal for new standards is due in December. 

6. Kept a water system in public hands in Pennsylvania

Together, we blocked the corporate takeover of Newberry Township, Pennsylvania’s publicly owned sewer system. Food & Water Watch helped this community just south of Harrisburg to protect its valuable public resource and mount months of intense opposition to York Water Company’s bid to buy their sewer system. 

People power won, as the Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to reject the proposal. This win protected residents from a privatization deal that would have caused massive spikes in residential sewer rates. 

7. Won PFAS limits for safer drinking water

Together, we worked with community groups to successfully pressure the EPA to propose the first federal, enforceable limits on six types of PFAS to make our drinking water safer.

PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment, are everywhere. They are in everything from food packaging to non-stick pans — and are a widespread contaminant in our water. Health risks include cancer and immune and reproductive system harm. 

These PFAS limits are a welcome first step, but we won’t stop until all PFAS are banned. 

8. Powered the March to End Fossil Fuels — the largest demonstration to stop fossil fuels in U.S. history

On September 17, more than 75,000 people joined us in the streets of New York City for the March to End Fossil Fuels. This march came ahead of the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, a gathering of world leaders promising to take climate action. Together, we demanded the Biden administration do more to curb climate change by ending fossil fuel use. 

This march showed the breadth, diversity, and strength of our movement. We joined with scientists, artists, workers, frontline communities, farmers, students, community organizers, faith leaders, and more. People across gender, race, class, and creed marched united in our fight for a livable future.

9. Stopped a climate-polluting blue hydrogen facility in Pennsylvania

Together, we defeated plans for a blue hydrogen power plant in West Whiteland, Pennsylvania, a community thirty miles west of Philadelphia. Hydrogen production requires huge amounts of energy, making it more of an energy user than an energy source, as proponents argue.

“Blue hydrogen” refers to hydrogen derived from burning natural gas. Research shows that the carbon footprint of blue hydrogen production is greater than that of burning coal. 

10. Secured triple wins against liquified natural gas expansion

Together, we successfully pressed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to deny a permit to New Fortress Energy. The permit would have allowed New Fortress to transport highly explosive liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail.

This decision will prevent LNG-filled bomb trains from traveling through communities in South Jersey and Pennsylvania to a proposed gas export facility on the Delaware River in Gibbstown, New Jersey. 

We also helped to defeat an LNG plant in Port St. Joe, Florida. In 2022, community members learned of Nopetro’s plans to build a facility that would liquefy natural gas and then transport it to the town’s docks for export.

Forseeing how this facility would bring pollution, heavy traffic, and the risk of explosive accidents, community activists reached out to us. We helped them develop a strategy to build a coalition, grow public opposition, and shut the project down.

Our years of organizing against LNG paid off nationally, too, when the DOT announced the suspension of a Trump administration rule that allowed LNG to be transported by rail. This decision is a welcome relief to communities that would have become sacrifice zones in the name of fossil fuel industry profits.

Your investment in Food & Water Watch powers the work that has led to these incredible achievements. We don’t accept corporate money so that we can take strong, independent stances against anyone threatening our food, water, and climate. Everything we do is made possible by caring and generous people who love our planet — like you!

Thank you for fighting like you live here!

You can build on these victories towards a livable future! Your commitment to fighting for sustainable food, clean water, and a livable climate for all makes a difference in communities across the country.

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