Gas Campaigner — Belgium

Contact Email: [email protected]

Post Date: 05.14.21

Job Type: Full-time Employee

Office Location: Europe

Department: International

Job Description: 

Food & Water Watch is working to create a healthy future for all people and generations to come — a world where everyone has food they can trust, clean drinking water and a livable climate. Making this happen requires involving people in the pressing issues of our time at the local, state, and federal level, building on one win after another, as we develop a larger movement that has the political power to make our democratic process work.

The gas campaigner at the European office works to stop new gas infrastructure in Europe with a specific focus on methane emissions and EU policies around methane.   

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Coordinate and develop coalitions around gas and methane and implement grassroots organizing and public education campaigns targeting European institutions.
  • Liaise and maintain contacts with grassroots movements across Europe campaigning against fracking, natural gas, gas infrastructure and fossil-gas based hydrogen.
  • In coordination with the rest of the team, build a strong base of organizations and individuals in support of our campaigns against fossil fuels. 
  • Work with the rest of the team to develop strategic campaign plans including long- and short-term goals, strategies and tactics.
  • Maintain familiarity with a diverse set of issues and research products, and respond to information requests from activists, coalition members, policy makers and media.
  • Collect, analyze, edit and produce reports.
  • Develop education materials such as factsheets, action alerts, web site content and newsletter articles on various campaign issues.
  • Provide research on policy and advocacy issues as required.
  • Attend and speak at meetings and public events, as relevant.
  • Organize jointly with other NGOs public events or conferences.
  • Reports to EU Affairs Director.
  • Carry out other projects, as assigned. 
  • Support Our Culture of Philanthropy: Demonstrate an understanding of the essential role of our members and supporters, and consistently serve as an ambassador for FWW/FWA/FWAE and our work. Participate in or attend events and other activities as appropriate that are organized for our supporters and donors. Be cognizant of fundraising opportunities and share contacts and information that will help build and sustain FWW/FWA/FWAE.

QUALIFICATIONS:

 To perform this job successfully, the person in this position has a high degree of contact with colleagues at FWAE and the climate team at FWW, allied Brussels-based NGOs and grassroots groups around Europe; a moderate degree of contact with other staff, journalists and other activists groups around Europe; and a low degree of contact with other international NGOs, members of the European Parliament and officials at the European Commission, industry lobbyists and politicians at national and regional level. 

The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.                                                                                                       

Education/Experience: Bachelor’s Degree (BA, BS, etc.); 3-5 years of related experience.

Computer Skills: An individual should be able to work in a computerized environment and have adequate knowledge of word processing, email, internet and spreadsheet software; in particular have coursework or certification in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point and proficiency with all other Microsoft Office products.

Annualized Salary:  35000 EUR

Click here to apply.  Please include your resume, cover letter and three professional references to be considered.

We will review your application and if we feel that your knowledge, skills and abilities are potentially a good match for our organization, we will be in contact with you. Position open until filled. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Food & Water Watch strives for a diverse work environment and encourages women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals with disabilities to apply. 

Help us fix our broken systems and stand up against corporate control. Submit your résumé today!

Blue Communities Water Page Card

Categories

Clean Water

Make your city a Blue Community

Protecting water everywhere starts with us. Learn how you can take back control of your public water.

You can make a difference where you live.

Is Biden’s Clean Electricity Standard…Clean?

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Peter Hart

The centerpiece of the White House climate plan is something called a Clean Electricity Standard (CES), which the Biden administration wants to use to reach the goal of 80 percent carbon-free power by the year 2030.

For many Democrats and policy analysts, the CES is not only attractive as a way to reduce emissions — they also believe they have a political path to make it reality. Thanks to Senate budget reconciliation rules, CES proponents argue they can steer around the filibuster and pass a national clean power benchmark with 50 votes in the Senate.

But how clean would a clean electricity standard really be? Most people might assume that  “clean energy” means renewables like wind and solar. Not necessarily. In fact, some of the leading CES proposals rely on nuclear power, fracked gas and complicated pollution trading schemes to reach their goals — calling into question whether these plans are really what they claim to be. 

Fracked Gas and Nukes: Dirty Energy Has No Place In A Clean Energy Standard

For decades, many states already have what are known as renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which set benchmarks for sourcing clean energy. Like the proposals for a national standard, though, these programs can vary widely; some count wood burning or trash incineration as “renewable” power.

A truly clean program for the whole country would, ideally, avoid these dirty loopholes. But some of the leading proposals fail that simple test. The CLEAN Future Act — a bill championed by moderate Democrats as a supposed alternative to the Green New Deal — actually finds a complicated way to give fracked gas power plants “partial credit” as a clean energy source. This nonsensical scheme could form the basis for a national CES. The same goes for factory farm “biogas,” mentioned as a possible renewable source in some CES models — which is a grotesque and absurd reach. 

Some CES plans rely on the idea that gas-fired power plants will eventually be equipped with “carbon capture” technologies that might trap climate pollution before it enters the atmosphere. There are no workable models for this yet; most of the current capture systems used the limited carbon they captured to extract additional oil from wells. 

Also, most CES plans grant nuclear power as a clean power source as well. Given the range of concerns about nuclear power, it is hard to justify its role in any clean energy system. 

Polluter ‘Penalties’ And Credits Schemes: Dirty Dealing Is Part Of A Clean Energy Standard?

A clean standard should encourage clean, renewable energy. That much seems obvious. But some proposals set up complex pollution credit trading systems that will give dirty utilities a way to simply buy credits from utilities that have stockpiled “extra” credits. This is a system that invites abuse of the rules. 

There’s also the matter of what to do with the power companies that choose not to meet the goals. Some CES models allow for “alternative compliance payments,” which are fines paid in lieu of meaningful action. Like permit trading, pollution fines will be attractive to utilities that want to maintain the status quo — especially if it is economically attractive to pursue that course of action. After all, they can just jack up prices for the consumers and create a new line item in their budgets. For those who are determined, it’s simply the “cost of doing business.”

Let’s Set Some Real Standards — A Renewable Portfolio Standard

Instead of passing a CES that allows and rewards the continued use of fracked gas, nuclear energy, and factory farm “biogas,” Congress should pass a real Renewable Portfolio Standard. This RPS must have as its target 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. It must strictly define the acceptable forms of truly renewable energy and must not include any fossil fuels or other props and giveaways to dirty energy. These include:

  • Factory farm “biogas” and other bioenergy including biomass, biofuels, and wood pellets;
  • Nuclear; waste incineration and other combustion-based technologies;
  • New, large-scale and ecosystem-altering hydropower.

Any RPS must also reject all market-based accounting systems like offsets. 

Congress has the opportunity to take the bold action we need to stave off the ever worsening effects of our climate crisis. But in doing so, it must resist the temptation to settle for half measures and new systems that prolong the life of the fossil fuel system. 

Your friends need to see this.

Is Oregon Environmentally Friendly? Governor Brown’s Inaction Casts Doubt.

Categories

Food System

by Mark Schlosberg

Oregon has a reputation as a progressive and environmentally friendly state. In reality, however, it has a dirty factory farming problem that is polluting its rivers, streams, and groundwater, threatening public health in rural communities and contributing to climate chaos. This legislative session we made progress towards stopping an expansion of these mega-dairies, but bold action is needed from Governor Kate Brown to combat this growing problem.

The Transition Away From Family Farms In Oregon Has Been Disastrous

Oregon has long been a dairy state, and small and mid-sized farms have been a lifeblood of rural Oregon. But while the number of dairy cows in the state increased fourteen fold between 2007 and 2017, those cows are largely concentrated in enormous operations with thousands or even tens of thousands of cows. The resulting flood of cheap milk has made it difficult for small and mid-sized family farmers to compete, forcing them out of business. This rapid transition from family farms to mega-dairies has been a disaster for Oregon’s communities and environment.

In 2019 alone, large dairies in Oregon produced almost 6.5 billion pounds of manure — twice the waste produced by the entire Portland metropolitan area’s more than 2 million residents. But while waste from Portland residents is treated, mega-dairies dump their waste into large “lagoons,” where it can leach into drinking water aquifers. They then dispose of it — untreated — on cropland, often in far greater quantities than can be absorbed by crops. This results in runoff into local waterways that threatens aquatic ecosystems and recreation with pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and algae-causing nutrients. 

Oregon’s Mega-Dairies Are A Significant Contributor To Climate Change

Mega-dairies also drive climate change by emitting huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere. Corresponding with an explosion of factory farming across the country, U.S. methane emissions from manure management increased 60% between 1990 and 2018. Just as we cannot afford to keep expanding fossil fuel production, we cannot afford to keep building new factory farms.  

That’s why Food & Water Watch is working with the Stand Up to Factory Farms (SUFF) coalition, a diverse range of organizations committed to stopping the spread of mega-dairies across Oregon. 

Governor Kate Brown Fails The Leadership Test On Our Mega-Dairy Moratorium Bill 

In 2019 SUFF first introduced legislation to place a moratorium on mega-dairy expansion in the Oregon Senate. In the two years since, our campaign’s momentum has grown, and in the 2021 session we got our bill introduced in both houses with an increased number of sponsors. Our bill was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, and we organized to pressure chair Lee Beyer to move the bill out of committee. Despite hundreds of calls and emails to Beyer’s office and over 130 people submitting testimony in favor of the bill (with only 16 against), Beyer refused to schedule the bill for the required work session in order to pass it out of committee.

Governor Kate Brown, who has the authority to unilaterally put a pause on approval of mega-dairies, was silent on the bill, despite her call for bold actions to combat climate change “in all policy decisions.” She clearly continues to look the other way when it comes to factory farms.

Kate Brown’s Pattern Of Inaction When It Comes To Mega-Dairy Scandals 

Take for instance the specific permit application currently pending before her Department of Agriculture by Easterday Dairy. Easterday is an entity with no dairy experience, yet seeks to operate a 30,000 head mega-dairy on the site of the disastrous Lost Valley Farm. Lost Valley was cited with over 200 environmental violations including overflowing lagoons that threatened water supplies. Only after pressure by Food & Water Watch and our allies in SUFF, the state finally revoked its permit in 2018. 

Oregon regulators and elected officials have claimed that Lost Valley was simply one bad actor, but recent events have proven that to be false: the Easterday family and its companies were recently caught up in a modern day cattle rustling scandal, and Cody Easterday recently pled guilty to federal fraud charges for ripping off Tyson Foods for the feed and care of cattle that didn’t actually exist — to the tune of $244 million. Two of Easterday’s companies have declared bankruptcy, and Cody Easterday could face up to 20 years in prison. Was Lost Valley Farm a lone bad actor? Clearly not.  

Brown’s response to these huge red flags? Her administration has “paused” processing the Easterday permit, but has remarkably refused to deny it outright despite clear authority — and good reason — to do so.

Help Motivate Governor Brown To Do Right When It Comes To Easterday And More

Oregonians need real leadership from Governor Brown. Between now and the next legislative session, we’ll be working with our allies across the state to continue to build an even more powerful movement to stop mega-dairies in the state — demanding both the Governor and legislative leaders stop giving this polluting industry a free pass. If Governor Brown is serious about addressing the climate crisis, she must use the power of her office to stop the expansion of these dirty factory farms and support our small and mid-sized farmers. And she must order the Oregon Department of Agriculture to deny the Easterday Farms mega-dairy permit outright to prevent another disaster like Lost Valley. 

Urge Governor Kate Brown to deny permitting to Easterday Farms.

Caroline Wren

Caroline Wren

Researcher

WASHINGTON, DC

The Fossil Fuel Industry Spent $3.3M In New Mexico To Undermine Climate Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mark Schlosberg

The powerful fossil fuel industry flexed its significant muscle in New Mexico this year, blocking a bill which would have paused new fracking in the third largest oil producing state in the country. Yet despite this setback, anti-fracking voices continued to make progress this legislative session.

Fossil Fuel Interests Unleashed A Tidal Wave of Money On Elections In New Mexico

It is hard to understate the influence of fossil fuel money on politics in New Mexico. According to a report from New Mexico Ethics Watch, the fossil fuel industry spent $3.3 million on elections in the state in the 2020 cycle and leadership of both parties accepted significant campaign contributions from them. For this reason, when state Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez introduced a bill to pause fracking this year, few gave it much of a chance of passing out of a single committee, let alone the legislature.

Still, Food & Water Watch and our allies across the state rallied around Sedillo Lopez’s bill, generating hundreds of emails and phone calls to legislators as well as significant media coverage. The result was the bill passing out of the Conservation committee. Though the bill ultimately died in the Judiciary Committee when Chair Joseph Cervantes refused to bring it forward for a vote, the fact that it passed out of its first committee showed the growing strength of the anti-fracking movement in the state. It was not surprising that Cervantes killed the bill as he received 17% of his campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. 

This legislative battle highlighted both the growing anti-fracking movement in the state as well as the power of the oil and gas industry. This year we worked to help bring together diverse groups to support the fracking pause bill in the legislature. Bringing together a statewide coalition effort is an important step in building a more powerful presence in New Mexico. 

The State of New Mexico Must Reduce Its Dependence on Fossil Fuel Revenue So They Can Adapt

At the same time, it is clear that the oil and gas industry continues to run politics in New Mexico, thanks to their significant political spending and also the way New Mexico funds its governmental operations. Approximately a third of the New Mexico state budget comes from revenue from the oil and gas industry. This state dependence on fossil fuels gives industry an extraordinary amount of political power and leverage in addressing legislation. It is therefore critical that New Mexico diversify its revenue streams and economy if the state is ever going to move off fossil fuels. 

For this reason, we are heartened by passage of SB 112, which for the first time creates a task force to study how to advance this critical economic diversification. While the bill is much needed, we remain skeptical about how much progress will be made, as the bill still allows the oil industry to have a seat at the table and the person in charge of the taskforce — Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham — took over $50 thousand in oil money during the 2020 election cycle. 

Time Will Tell If Governor Grisham Is More Than Just Talk On Clean Energy 

This task force will be a key test for Lujan Grisham. The Governor has called climate change an “existential crisis” and said we need a “clean energy revolution,” yet has spoken out against Biden administration plans to halt leasing for oil and gas on federal lands and continues to take money from dirty energy interests. How she guides the task force will be a key indicator of whether she is really interested in a renewable energy future or just interested in window dressing for the fossil fuel industry.

As we move forward, we will continue to pressure Lujan Grisham to end the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, as well as take on the factory farm industry which continues to pollute New Mexico’s environment. At the same time, we will continue work to protect the greater Chaco region from fracking, in concert with our partners in the Chaco coalition. 

New Mexico is a big oil state and change here will not come overnight. Still, the 2020 legislative session represents progress and we are well positioned to work with our allies across the state to build on the progres from this session as we work to advance a clean energy future.

Your friends need to see this.

Water Problems Add To Widespread Environmental Injustice. Two Major Bills Could Change That.

Categories

Clean Water

by Rianna Eckel

Two landmark pieces of legislation could change our future. The Biden administration’s next big move is passing the American Jobs Plan, his proposal to repair our crumbling infrastructure — from bridges, roads, and public transportation to our underground water pipes and treatment systems. It is an actual plan to put real federal dollars — not fake privatization schemes — into the systems critical to society. This is a chance to stop our growing water crisis, and to finally treat water as what it is: a basic necessity and human right. 

Additionally, we’ve been pushing to fully fund our water systems for nearly a decade by working to pass the WATER Act (S916 / HR 1352), sponsored this Congress by Representatives Brenda Lawrence and Ro Khanna, and Senator Bernie Sanders. The WATER Act has been cosponsored by over 80 Members of Congress, and endorsed by more than 550 organizations who share the same vision: universal access to safe, affordable, public drinking water. 

Congress will be considering the President’s plan over the coming months, and it’s crucial that we win big for water justice. These negotiations are a huge opportunity to create a real change in our dysfunctional water system. 

Here’s what’s in the preliminary outline of the American Jobs Plan and the WATER Act.

How The Funding Compares For The American Jobs Plan And the WATER Act

American Jobs Plan — $13.9 billion annually

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposes $111 billion for our water systems over 8 years, which breaks down to roughly $13.9 billion each year. This is a big increase over the roughly $2 billion a year our water and wastewater systems currently receive — and a huge boost over the $6 billion from the Obama administration’s stimulus after the Great Recession — but it’s just not enough by itself. 

The WATER Act — $35 billion annually

The EPA has said that to comply with existing federal water standards, we must invest more than $35 billion annually in our water and wastewater systems. That’s why the WATER Act would appropriate $35 billion/year in permanent, self-sustaining funding through a water trust fund. We’ll need Congress to increase the total funding to meet the country’s needs, and dedicate permanent funding to a trust fund so that our water isn’t a bargaining chip during annual funding battles. 

Both the American Jobs Plan and the WATER Act recognize that our water systems need real federal money. Both plans would make big corporations pay their fair share to improve public infrastructure. 

Funding Priorities For Minority And Disadvantaged Communities

Black, brown and Indigenous communities have been disproportionately harmed by our water crisis. The money must first go to the communities that need it most. 

The American Jobs Plan would provide $56 billion in grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, Tribes, territories, and disadvantaged communities across the country. President Biden has also promised at least 40 percent of the benefits of the investments will reach disadvantaged communities. 

The WATER Act would require that at least half of funding would be dedicated to disadvantaged communities, dedicates 3 percent of funding as grants to Indigenous Nations, and provides funding for technical assistance to help rural small municipalities and Indigenous communities improve their water and wastewater systems. It would also dramatically expand funding to upgrade and install rural household drinking water wells. 

The WATER Act would also require the EPA to produce guidance on water affordability programs, and to coordinate a study about water affordability, civil rights violations by water and sewer providers, water shutoffs, and more.

Both proposals get much needed money to impacted communities, but the WATER Act would provide a bigger pool of funding. We cannot allow our water and wastewater systems to perpetuate environmental racism, and must have enough funding to go around. Congress must require the federal government to act so no communities face an undue burden in the future. 

Dedicating Funding Specifically For Lead and PFAS Contamination

Too many people don’t have tap water they can actually drink. Pollutants like lead or PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are extremely harmful to our health. This infrastructure package must remediate them now. 

President Biden’s plan makes a bold environmental justice commitment to eliminate all lead service lines going into homes, investing $45 billion in grants for impacted communities. This comes close to what the American Water Works Association estimates it will cost to eradicate these toxic pipes — the main source of lead-in-water poisoning. 

The American Jobs Plan would also provide $10 billion in funding to monitor and address PFAS in drinking water, and invest in rural small water systems and household wells. 

The WATER Act would guarantee that money from the total funding level could be used to provide grants to utilities and private properties to replace homeowners’ at-risk service lines. It also expands a grant program to replace all lead piping and plumbing in public schools, dedicating $1.1 billion a year to schools. 

The WATER Act would also provide safe alternatives when community water systems or household water wells are contaminated with PFAS.

Both the WATER Act and American Jobs Plan have funding for expansive lead remediation and address PFAS — a non-negotiable priority.

Keeping Water Corporations From Raiding Federal Funding

Private corporations should not be able to profiteer off of a basic necessity. Water privatization generally leaves customers with higher bills (59% higher on average), declining water quality, and worse service — in the name of profit. 

The WATER Act is the only explicitly pro-public water funding proposal. It would limit funding eligibility to publicly owned water systems and small, locally owned private systems. It allows communities to use funds to buy their water systems and exit water privatization contracts.

It’s critical for Congress to keep water under community control by blocking water companies’ access to federal funds. 

American Jobs Plan And WATER Act Are Great For Workers’ Rights And Jobs

Investing in our infrastructure will create jobs. According to the Clean Water Council, every $1 billion in water infrastructure investment creates an estimated 20,003 to 26,669 jobs and can have far-reaching benefits, tripling in size with total demand for goods and services estimated at $2.87 to $3.46 billion.

Biden’s proposal has incredibly strong provisions to support workers. Importantly, it includes the PRO Act, which would require that employers follow strong labor standards and remain neutral when their employees seek to form a union. It also includes provisions to promote local hiring, create more apprenticeship and training opportunities, and provide $10 billion for workplace safety enforcement. 

The WATER Act will create up to 1 million good, reliable jobs across the country. The WATER Act’s worker protections are tied specifically to projects funded by the legislation, encourage the use of union labor, require that the prevailing wage law be applied, and mandate the use of U.S.-made iron and steel on water system projects. 

Congress should protect the labor provisions in the final infrastructure bill, and include the passage of the PRO Act. We must create good union jobs while fixing our water crisis. 

Our Leaders Must Protect Our Water Access While Planning For Infrastructure 

Over the next few months we’ll be organizing to pressure Congress to pass a strong infrastructure plan that prioritizes water at the level our communities need. In this moment of crisis, we cannot just return to the way things were, but truly create the future we want — where every person has access to safe, affordable public water. 

The convergence of the pandemic and climate change has only deepened the harm that communities face. We can’t wait any longer. Water is not a luxury; it is something that we all need to live. 

Sign on to show your support for the WATER Act!

The Interior Department Has a Legal Duty To Protect Our Public Lands

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Adam Carlesco, Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden was adamant about stopping oil and gas drilling on public lands. Now it’s time to actually make it happen.

Biden Has Laid The Groundwork To End Leasing Of Public Lands For Fossil Fuel Extraction

In the first few days of his presidency, President Biden signed two executive orders which directed the Department of Interior to temporarily halt the leasing of public lands for fossil fuel extraction. During that time, the administration pledged that it would review how to reform its lands leasing policy to best fight climate change in a scientifically informed manner.

While that new policy is still months away, the pause was a significant start. While public lands have the potential to be a major global carbon sink, federal lands currently produce nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions due to decades of extensive land leasing to private oil, gas, and coal extraction corporations at bargain basement rates. As one of the largest single historical contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, the Interior Department’s continued leasing of public lands for the extraction of fossil fuels would threaten climatological stability which, in turn, would drastically impact endangered plant and animal species, exacerbate wildfires, degrade air quality, and threaten many freshwater sources.

The Department Of Interior Can – and Should – Ban Fracking

The continued degradation of public lands and the global ecosphere is not simply unacceptable, it is contrary to the laws that govern the Department of Interior. As the largest landholder in the U.S. and the principal public land management agency, the department is tasked under the Federal Land Policy Management Act with ensuring that public lands preserve “multiple uses” which requires lands be used for “a combination of balanced and diverse resource uses that take into account the long-term needs of future generations.” It must also ensure that a sustained yield of “renewable resources” (i.e., freshwater, fish, wildlife, plants) be maintained in perpetuity. In order to see that public lands are managed accordingly, Interior is mandated to “take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the lands” it manages, and has great latitude in how it prevents such degradation.

The continued leasing of these lands for fossil fuels amidst a global climate emergency simply does not comport with Interior’s multiple use and sustained yield management requirements and, in fact, would lead to undue and unnecessary degradation of public lands.

Food & Water Watch Spelled Out The Legal Case For Ending Fossil Fuel Leasing On Public Lands

In comments filed with Interior on April 15, 2021, Food & Water Watch laid out how the agency is legally required to cease its destructive leasing practices if it is to truly comply with its statutory requirements while living up to President Biden’s directive to “to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; … to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; [and] to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Food & Water Watch further countered common industry talking points which seek simple “reform” of Interior’s leasing program, via the false solutions of carbon taxes and implementing carbon capture and sequestration systems which do not address the gravity of the climate crisis while still allowing continued extraction and combustion of polluting fossil fuels.

This comment period was an informal method to solicit input from the concerned public, but the Interior Department will need to engage in robust public outreach and environmental review of its leasing program as it goes forward with its next steps. As the department is legally required to pursue the least-harm alternative in land management, a thorough and candid environmental review of this program can only result in one outcome – a halt to all fossil fuel extraction on public lands. As this process unfolds, Food & Water Watch will continue its work of ensuring that ordinary people, when organizing together, have their voices heard by those in power. Together we can stop fossil fuel extraction on public lands and work towards a greener future.

Become a part of the movement to save our planet. A monthly donation of any amount powers this work.

The Blue Communities Movement

April 2021

The Movement At A Glance

  • 1: OVERVIEW
    • Learn how Blue Communities started and see sample resolutions.
  • 2: THE BACKGROUND
    • Find out why it’s crucial to become a Blue Community.
  • 3: STEPS TO BECOME A BLUE COMMUNITY
    • Learn about launching your own Blue Community campaign and
      register for a free toolkit!

Part 1:

Overview

Learn how Blue Communities started and see sample resolutions.

Protecting Our Water Locally & Nationally

We can transform our country to ensure that every person has access to safe, clean, affordable, public tap water.

On a national level on our Food & Water Action side, we’re working to pass the WATER Act in Congress to support this vision and provide a comprehensive solution to support public water for all.

You can take action in your own community by passing a local resolution to turn your city or town into a Blue Community.

A Blue Community:

Recognizes water and sanitation as human rights;

Rejects water privatization in all its forms; and

Bans or phases out bottled water in government buildings and at municipal events.

Here’s a sample resolution for any municipality in the United States to protect residents’ water.

The First Blue Community

In 2011, Burnaby in British Columbia, Canada, became the first Blue Community. Since then, 80 communities around the world have joined the effort — check out this map by the Council of Canadians:

Almost 25 million people now live in official Blue Communities that have pledged to promote water as a human right, protect water as a public trust and public service, and phase out bottled water in government buildings and events. These cities include Montreal, Vancouver, Paris, Berlin and Brussels. 

Here’s a sample resolution for any municipality in the United States to protect residents’ water including factory farming and fracking side effects.

In the United States, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, California, have become Blue Communities, but we have a lot more work to turn our country blue.

Part 2:

The Background

Find out why it’s crucial to become a Blue Community.

What Are the Issues?

1 Water as a basic human right is under attack.

Across the United States, toxic water and unaffordable water bills are infringing on the basic human rights of millions of people, hurting poor people and Black and Indigenous communities of color the most. In a typical year, an estimated 15 million people in the country experience a water shutoff, losing basic water service simply because they cannot afford to pay their water bills. Water is intrinsic to living a life with dignity, and to life itself. We need water to drink, cook food, bathe, clean, wash our hands and flush our toilets. In the midst of a global pandemic, this basic essential need for water has never been clearer.

2 Water privatization undermines the basic human right.

At its core, turning water over to a for-profit company abdicates a basic government responsibility to protect and promote the human right to water. Water privatization gives a water corporation control over an essential service, typically leading to higher rates and worse service. On average, private water companies charge 59% more than local government charge households, while customer service declines. Outsourcing typically leads to a loss of one in three water jobs, slowing maintenance and customer service requests. 

3 Bottled water undermines the human right to water.

Bottled water companies like Nestlē extract local water supplies to put in plastic bottles and ship around the world to generate profit. Bottled water costs thousands of times more than local tap water – it’s more expensive than gasoline. Bottled water uses upwards of 82 million barrels of oil to generate 4 billion of pounds of plastic – enough to fill the Empire State building more than 1.3 times each year – and most of these bottles end up in landfills. People and the environment lose.

Part 3:

Steps To Become A Blue Community

Learn about launching your own Blue Community campaign and register for a free toolkit!

Step 1: Launch A Campaign

Initial Planning Meeting

An initial planning meeting is a good way to bring together others interested in becoming the core group that can work to get the Blue Communities resolution passed.

You can recruit people to an initial planning meeting by talking with others who care about the human right to water and representatives of organizations who might have an interest in working to pass a local resolution — including community-based environmental organizations, housing groups, labor unions, religious organizations and other groups in your community. 

You can also do general outreach by inviting people on email lists, posting to social media, hanging up flyers in high-traffic areas and asking others to spread the word.

Step 2: Develop A Strategy

The next step is doing your homework and planning a strategy. You’ll need to clearly identify your goal, understand how your city council or local decision-making body works, and map out a strategy for moving the resolution forward.

a. Have a clear goal: The goal is to pass a Blue Communities resolution. Food & Water Watch has two different templates that you can use: one resolution is focused on the principles of a Blue Community, and the other one encompasses Food & Water Watch’s long-term goals including banning fracking and factory farms. Choose the one that makes the most sense for your community. 

b. Identify decision makers: To pass the resolution, you will need the support of your city or town council to vote in favor of it, so take a look at the council and identify who will likely support it, who will likely oppose it, and who may be undecided. Questions to ask: How many votes do you need to pass it? Are there key members whom others listen to and have the power to move something like this? Does the mayor have a vote on the council just like any other member, or do they have the power to veto a resolution if it is passed?

c. Take stock of your resources: Questions to ask: Who is in your core group and what resources do they bring? Who has relationships with members of the council? Are there representatives of other organizations, and if so, how many members do they have? Could they help with things like getting people to key meetings? Who has time — and how much time — to put into the campaign?

d. Identify allies and opponents, if any, and their power: Your initial meeting is just a starting place. You’ll want to think about other individuals and organizations that might help you. Think particularly about who might have some power or influence with council members. Consider what these potential allies’ interests are — why they would care about your campaign and what they might bring to the campaign, as well as who from your group will contact them. Also think about any potential opponents. Who might oppose the resolution, what power do they have over the city council members and what might they do to fight the resolution? Think about what arguments they might make to council members and how you would respond to them. Food & Water Watch can help with this.

e. Map out an initial timeline: Your campaign will evolve over time, but you should map out an initial timeline that your core group is accountable for and make sure your plans are realistic and achievable. Make sure to not take everything on yourself. A campaign will be much more fun and successful if work is spread among several people, with each taking the lead on different aspects of the campaign.

Step 3: Get Public Support

You’ll need to do outreach to demonstrate widespread support for the Blue Community resolution in your community. This outreach can take two forms: organizations and individuals.

a. Organizations: You can talk with representatives of local organizations and businesses you think will support your Blue Community campaign. Food & Water Watch will provide you with a sample sign-on letter and you can ask them to sign on to it. This will give you a document listing influential supporters that you can share with city council members to demonstrate widespread support for becoming a Blue Community. It will also give you a list of groups you can invite into your campaign and who can help publicize council hearings to their members and generate attendance.

b. Individuals: You will also want to get large numbers of individuals to support your campaign by signing a petition in support of becoming a Blue Community. Food & Water Watch will provide a petition tool to collect names, addresses, emails and phone numbers of supporters. Food & Water Watch can help you set up your online petition. During the pandemic, we urge you to use digital tools to collect petitions online, by email and by text. We can send you a number for a text opt-in that you can put on flyers around town to allow you to collect signatures easily. Set goals for yourselves and remember to reach out to people who are constituents of the council members you are asking to support the resolution. Gathering more signatures from the district of a hesitant council member is a great tactic. After collecting signatures, call or email the people who signed it and invite them to get involved in the campaign itself. Calling is always better, but if you only have an email address, of course use that.

Step 4: Meet With Council Members

You need to engage with the council members who can pass the resolution after you’ve built strong support for it. Once you have that, you will be able to make a bolder ask and your elected representatives will be more likely to give you what you want. If you have a strong enough group and enough individuals and organizations supporting the resolution, it will be much harder for them to say no.

a. Identify a sponsor and make a strong ask: Who you want to sponsor your resolution depends on a lot of factors. The best sponsor will be someone who is strongly supportive of the Blue Communities resolution and has good relationships with other members of the council. It’s difficult to pass something when the lead sponsor is someone who has alienated their peers. You also want a sponsor who will stay strong with you and not compromise on the values of the resolution. 

Once you identify this member, make a strong ask. Meet with the council member in a small group. Bring a couple of lead organizational supporters who have some power in the council member’s district — people who might have helped deliver votes in the member’s last election or have significant membership in the district. Also, make sure to bring your coalition letter and copies of the petitions you’ve gathered. An elected official will take you seriously when you can demonstrate you represent a significant number of people.

When you make your ask, be direct and polite. If you’ve done your homework and identified a member who is supportive, this should be an easy ask. Give them a copy of the resolution you want introduced, get their commitment to introduce it, and talk with the member about when the resolution will be brought for a hearing and vote. You should also ask their opinion about other council members — where they might stand and whether the sponsor can talk with them about supporting your resolution.

b. Meeting with other council members: After you have a council member to introduce the resolution, set up meetings with the other council members to determine how they will vote. Set up meetings in advance by emailing or calling their offices (this will depend on the size of your city/town and you and your allies’ relationship with the members). Make sure that when you meet with them, representatives of other organizations join you that have members in the appropriate districts and/or constituents from their districts. Bring the coalition letter and petition copies. If your council members are elected by district, be prepared to tell them the number of people in their districts that signed the petition, because that will be most important to them.

Make a direct ask for each council member to support the resolution and get a clear answer. If they ask for more information, provide it for them. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell them you will get back with them. If they do not commit to supporting the resolution at the initial meeting, set a follow-up meeting to get their position.

If you do not get a commitment from any of the members, and especially if there is opposition, you will want to implement additional tactics to pressure those members. Get people from their districts to call and ask for their support, organize people in their districts or organize people

to write letters to local newspapers calling on the council members who are undecided to support the resolution. Do more petition gathering and organizational outreach to increase the pressure on your target. You don’t want the council to take a vote unless you think you have a good chance of the resolution passing.

Step 5: Pressure The Council Members

Before the council votes, demonstrate public support for the resolution through public comments at hearings or council meetings, traditional news media and social media, and calls and petitions into offices. 

a. Public comments or testimony. There will be opportunity for the public to weigh in during a council meeting or public hearing. Every hearing or public comment period is a chance to educate and mobilize people to support Blue Communities. You’ll want to pack the meetings. That is critical to getting it passed. There are several ways to do this: Call all the groups that signed your letter in support of the resolution and ask them to come to the hearing and invite their members. Call everyone that has signed the petition supporting the resolution, tell them about the meeting and ask them to come. Send notices about the hearing on community email lists and through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Line up good speakers who can explain all the reasons your community should become a Blue Community and why council members need to support the resolution.

Though it varies by state, cities or towns will usually allow members of the public to speak on issues that are on the agenda, pursuant to the state’s open meeting laws. You may have to sign up just before or at the beginning of the hearing. Make sure to get there early for that reason — also important for getting good seats! Encourage everyone to fill out speaker cards, as there may be a limit to the number of speakers. Have your top speakers lined up. If one of them doesn’t get called, someone else may be able to give them his or her time slot. Prepare in advance and make a strong argument why the council should pass the resolution. 

Whoever speaks first should ask everyone who is there supporting the resolution to stand up or hold up their signs or identify themselves in some public way so the council can see how broad the support is. People who represent groups should identify those groups and who they represent. Someone should also read off a list of all the organizations and businesses that signed the group letter supporting the resolution.

If your town allows people to bring signs into the council meetings, make and bring signs that clearly call for supporting Blue Communities. If not, make sure everyone on your side is clearly identified by wearing a Blue shirt or outfit. Give everyone who comes to the hearing an 81⁄2” x 11” piece of paper that says in large letters “Turn our Community Blue!” When members of the council look out at the audience, they should see their constituents support becoming a Blue Community.

b. Media outreach: Media coverage serves a few important purposes. It can put pressure on members of the council to support the resolution, help educate other members of the community about the issue, and energize your supporters about your campaign. So, getting your issue in the media will be important.

Letters to the editor: A letter to the editor is a 150-to-250-word letter that anyone can submit to the editorial page of a newspaper. Food & Water Watch can send you a letter template, but it is important that your letter is different and comes directly from the person submitting it. In large cities, it is unlikely that a newspaper will print a letter unless it responds to some article that the paper has written. In that case, keep an out for water-related news that you could tie your letter to as a response. Then get several people to submit letters that use that article to call for support of becoming a Blue Community. 

Reach out to reporters: The main way to alert reporters about an upcoming hearing or vote on a resolution is a media advisory. This is a short statement that has the “who, what, when, where and why” of the hearing. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample media advisory that you can edit with the right information and email to the key reporters at least a day in advance of the hearing. Call the reporters and talk with them about the resolution and why your community needs it. Be brief and clear — reporters are busy and probably won’t want to chitchat, but a good pitch explaining why the issue is significant to your community and why a reporter should cover the issue might result in some coverage in advance of a hearing or vote.

Social media: before the vote, ask all the organizational and petition signers to post on their social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) in support of the resolution and tag your council member, if they are on that platform. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample social media toolkit to use with sample posts and images.

c. Calls into the council members: Before the vote, council members need to hear from their constituents personally about why they should support the Blue Communities resolution. Reach out to all the organizations on the sign on letter and all the petition signers to ask them to call the council members. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample call script. A call should take about two minutes. Calls are the best simple way for elected officials to know that an issue is important to their constituents.

Step 6: Celebrate Victory

If the resolution does not pass the first time, don’t give up! It just means you need to do more organizing and generate more public pressure on your council. Go back to step one and hold a meeting to consider next steps. You can still build a larger, more powerful group to show that more people support the resolution. Remember, officials are ultimately elected by the voters and are accountable to the people. You’ll need to organize more to demonstrate a majority of their constituents support becoming a Blue Community.

When the resolution passes, congratulations! 

You’ve done some great work! Celebrate that victory with all the supporters! This is something we don’t do often enough. Celebrating victories is important because we deserve to feel great when we win and also because it builds community and will energize everyone for the next fight.

Once you’ve gotten a resolution passed supporting the Blue Communities, don’t forget to send the resolution to Food & Water Watch — we are tracking all the resolutions passed. When yours is passed, send a copy to us and we’ll share it on our Facebook page where activists across the country can see it. We want to publicize your win! 

Then leverage your newly powerful group to build your next campaign! Beyond the local resolution, there is much more to do. Take some time and work with your group to pick a new goal and identify a new target to take action in support of Blue Communities (maybe you can move on to the County Commission), or to gather federal support for your local community water system by asking your Congress members to cosponsor the WATER Act. By continuing to build and mobilize in communities across the country we can make amazing changes. So keep organizing!

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US Steel Backs Out of Edgar Thomson Fracking Well Scheme

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, US Steel announced that it was abandoning its plan for a fracking well at the Edgar Thomson mill in East Pittsburgh. 

The dangerous scheme to drill in a densely populated community has drawn intense opposition from the start. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Pennsylvania State Director Megan McDonough released the following statement: 

“Since the day this fracking plan was announced, this community has fought to stop this project. We know all too well the dangers of fracking, and folks in the Mon Valley are sick of being the sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry. 

“While folks like John Fetterman were siding with the frackers, our community worked with local political leaders to protect ourselves from an outrageously dangerous plan hatched by an out-of-state corporation to drill a new fracking well in a densely-populated community.”

Contact: Megan McDonough, [email protected]