Oregon Environmental Quality Commission Denies Proposal to Adopt Mega-Dairy Air Pollution Rules 

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Food System

Today, The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission denied a rulemaking petition to regulate harmful air emissions from industrial dairy operations. The petition was submitted by Food & Water Watch and 21 other organizations representing environmental, public health, family farm, community, and animal welfare interests.

The public overwhelmingly supported the petition’s goal of creating an air permitting program to control and reduce dairy air emissions in Oregon; 95% of the over 1,600 public comments received strongly supported the petition. The Commission nevertheless determined that despite the real threat to the environment and public health, imposing common sense regulations on this virtually unregulated and polluting industry was “premature.” 

As far back as 2008, a state-convened Dairy Air Quality Task Force strongly recommended a dairy air emissions regulatory program like that proposed by petitioners, and rejected by the Commission today. 

“In denying the petition, the Environmental Quality Commission is ignoring the serious consequences of unregulated emissions from Oregon’s dairies on our health, communities and climate,” said Emily Miller, staff attorney at Food & Water Watch and lead author of the petition. “The Department of Environmental Quality admits that dairy air pollution is a problem in Oregon, particularly for environmental justice communities in which these operations are disproportionately sited. It further acknowledges that it has the legal authority to implement the dairy air emissions program as proposed. Nevertheless, it wants to keep kicking the can down the road instead of taking long overdue action. There is absolutely no valid reason to reject common sense regulations that would protect Oregonians from toxic emissions like ammonia, methane and fine particulate matter.”

“Rural Oregonians deserve healthy air. Now all eyes are on the Oregon Legislature to act swiftly to protect public health. DEQ and EQC’s decision to put industrial dairy farm special interests above public health underscores the need for elected officials to step in and protect communities impacted by dairy industrial farm pollution,” stated Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director for Columbia Riverkeeper.

“If this was any other industry polluting the air, the commission would have followed the overwhelming science and law and acted to protect public health and wildlife,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at Center for Biological Diversity. “Air pollution is equally harmful regardless of whether it comes from a factory farm or a power plant, yet Oregon continues to give factory farm operations a free pass to pollute. We expected better.”

The petitioners are Food & Water Watch, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Friends of Family Farmers, Beyond Toxics, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Comunidades Amplifying Voices for Environmental and Social Justice, Pendleton Community Action Alliance, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Environment Oregon, Humane Voters Oregon, 350 Eugene, 350 Deschutes, Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Farm Forward, Farm Sanctuary, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mercy for Animals, Public Justice Foundation, and World Animal Protection.

Somerset County Commissioners Oppose Woodbridge Gas Plant 

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Climate and Energy

Last week, the Somerset County Somerset County Board of County Commissioners became the eighth elected government body to pass a resolution calling on the Murphy administration to reject the proposal by Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to build a new gas-fired power plant in Woodbridge.

CPV has proposed building a new 630-megawatt gas power plant in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge, a community already overburdened with pollution. If approved, this new facility – which would be adjacent to an existing CPV plant – could emit nearly 2.3 million tons of greenhouse gasses each year, along with hundreds of tons of toxic air pollutants – including carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, and lead.

The dirty power scheme has generated strong community opposition. Resolutions opposing the power plant have passed in Sayreville, Edison, Highland Park, Hoboken, Perth Amboy, Franklin, and Rahway.

“We don’t need more floods, we don’t need more cancer, lung disease, heart disease, autism, or Alzheimer’s,” said Linda Powell, a Franklin Township resident and Food & Water Watch volunteer.  Earlier this year, Franklin Township became the fifth municipal government to oppose the CPV plan.

“It’s no wonder that towns are increasingly showing support through this resolution against the unnecessary dirty gas plant,” said Rachel Dawn Davis, a Public Policy and Justice Organizer with Waterspirit, a non-profit center of ecology and spirituality.

“As we mark the tenth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, we see that we have not done enough to avert the catastrophic effects of climate change. The last thing we need here in New Jersey is to be dumping millions more tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere,” said Charlie Kratovil, Central Jersey Organizer at Food & Water Watch.

Oil Profiteering Renews Call for Gasoline Export Ban

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Climate and Energy

The astonishing third quarter profits announced today by Chevron and ExxonMobil should prompt lawmakers to look at new policies to combat runaway profiteering – including a ban on exports of gasoline.

A new bill called the Gasoline Export Ban Act, unveiled today by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Ca), would require a ban on gasoline exports when prices surge at the pump.

Exxon Mobil announced record-breaking third quarter profits of nearly $20 billion, three times the mark it set last year. The company posted a substantial jump in sales of motor fuels. Chevron’s third quarter profits were $11.2 billion, twice as much as last year’s mark and the company’s second-highest margin ever. Earlier this week, Shell announced $9.4 billion in profits in the quarter, double its gains from last year. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“The obscene profiteering of corporate oil and gas polluters is driving the inflation that is delivering substantial misery to American families. An economy that is reliant on fossil fuels subjects all of us to the whims of petrostate dictators and profiteering corporations. One solution is to stop the export of gasoline to foreign markets. This is a lucrative business for the oil industry, but it squeezes tights supplies and jacks up prices here at home. If political leaders really want to do something to address inflation and corporate profiteering, they should get behind Rep. Khanna’s bill to stop the export of gasoline.”

Biden’s LNG Export Strategy Would Spell Climate Disaster

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Climate and Energy

A new analysis from Food & Water Watch finds that the White House plan to greatly expand liquified natural gas (LNG) exports would create a yearly increase in climate pollution equivalent to the emissions from about 100 coal plants.

The analysis – published in the fact sheet ‘LNG: The U.S. and EU’s Deal for Disaster’ – evaluates the consequences of the Biden administration’s goal of supplying an extra 50 billion cubic meters (BCM) of LNG annually until at least 2030.

The Food & Water Watch analysis of the climate impacts of this LNG buildout finds that the full lifecycle emissions of producing and shipping this much gas would create 400 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent annually, which is roughly equivalent to the climate pollution from 100 coal plants.

In addition to increasing long-term reliance on dirty energy sources, this scheme will be incredibly expensive. The cost of that 50 BCM of gas could be between $10 billion to $19 billion per year (based on the 2022 average price for U.S. exports) – an astonishing price to pay for fuel that represents only about 12 percent of overall EU gas demand.

Clean energy solutions would provide cost savings without creating massive new sources of climate pollution. The Food & Water Watch report finds that for the same price of 50 BCM of LNG, utility scale solar could provide over 540 million megawatt hours (MWh), 11 percent more than the LNG that would be supplied could generate.

“Fossil fuel interests have seized on the Russian invasion of Ukraine to secure long-term commitments that will mean more fracking, more pipelines, and more export terminals in communities that are already forced to live alongside dangerous industrial polluters,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck. “The White House vision for delivering gas to Europe will serve to deliver climate chaos across the globe, at a moment when we simply cannot build new fossil fuel facilities at all. The White House must work with political leaders across the globe to find a safer alternative than doubling down on dirty gas.”

Billions of Gallons Gone: Exporting Gasoline Contributes to Pain at the Pump 

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Climate and Energy

As gasoline prices creep back up again, a national advocacy group is drawing attention to one largely unexamined factor contributing to the pain at the pump: American companies are exporting near record amounts of finished gasoline to other countries.

Food & Water Watch calculated that in 2021, the United States exported over 12 billion gallons of gasoline for foreign sale. The total represents the gasoline consumption of over 30 million Americans, or roughly one month of total national gasoline consumption.

Those trends continued in 2022: In the first six months of this year, the United States exported just over 6.4 billion gallons of gasoline – a nearly nine percent increase from the first six months of 2021.

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement: 

“The fossil fuel industry has made obscene profits throughout a deadly global pandemic, and will continue this profiteering at the pump by promoting fuel exports when supplies are tight. This is highly profitable for them, and absolutely disastrous for American families struggling with sky high inflation. These corporations are simply deciding to make more money – no matter the pain it causes here at home. The White House should take proactive steps to ban gasoline exports to protect American consumers from Big Oil’s price gouging.”

The White House has voiced concerns about oil industry profiteering over the past few months. In August, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urged refiners to build up domestic supplies rather than exporting fuels. Administration officials have not entirely ruled out placing limits on exports, and earlier this month, the White House asked the Department of Energy to analyze the likely effects of an export ban.

Rahway Backs Resolution Opposing Fracked Gas Plant in Woodbridge

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Climate and Energy

On Tuesday, the Rahway City Council voted 7-0 in favor of a resolution opposing a plan to build another large gas-fired power plant in neighboring Woodbridge Township.

Rahway became the latest municipality to call on the Murphy administration to reject the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) plan to build a new fracked gas power plant on the Raritan River waterfront.

There are now seven municipalities in four different counties that have come out against the dirty energy project.  Similar resolutions have passed in Edison, Highland Park, Hoboken, Perth Amboy, Franklin and Sayreville, with more local governments currently considering following suit.

“CPV already operates a gas-powered plant in Keasbey, and this new one would be built right next to the old one, and they would operate together.  In total, the facility would be one of the worst polluters in the state,” said Jeff Robinson, Chairman of the Rahway Environmental Commission.

“I want a future where I don’t have to worry about the air I breathe and the water I drink,” said Jose Quinones, a Rahway public school student who addressed the Council.  Quinones was one of ten community members who spoke against the proposed gas plant during a hearing on the resolution, which enjoyed unanimous support from the City Council.

“We are at an irretrievable moment in human history where every decision we make is of immense importance and will be remembered for generations to come… We must do all in our power to stop the expanded use of fossil fuel,” said Pranita Bijlani, a Rahway resident and Food & Water Watch volunteer who spearheaded the effort to get her home city on the record against the gas plant.

CPV has proposed building a 630-megawatt gas power plant in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge, a community already overburdened with pollution. If approved by the Murphy administration, this new facility – adjacent to an existing CPV plant – could emit nearly 2.3 million additional tons of greenhouse gasses each year, along with hundreds of tons of toxic air pollutants – including carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, and lead.

The proposed plant has become the focus of sustained community opposition over the past year, and has been highlighted by climate activists statewide as one of the most important new fossil fuel infrastructure projects that must be stopped by Governor Murphy.

After Long Delay, Groups Sue EPA for Response on Factory Farm Water Pollution Rules

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Food System

The Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to respond to a legal petition urging the agency to strengthen clean water rules governing factory farms has prompted a broad coalition of public interest and environmental justice organizations to file a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that aims to force EPA to finally issue a formal response.

More than five years ago, over 30 groups – led by Food & Water Watch – filed a rulemaking petition detailing how EPA’s regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) under the Clean Water Act has failed to protect waterways and communities, and urging the EPA to strengthen its lax approach. The agency’s complete failure to respond, the groups say, violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which requires agencies like EPA to respond to petitions “within a reasonable time.” 

The suit, filed Friday, argues that the current delay is unreasonable on its face, and that EPA’s inaction is unlawfully prolonging dangerous pollution and public health threats from factory farms. Most livestock in the U.S. are raised in CAFOs, which can confine thousands, or even millions, of animals and their waste. The vast quantities of manure generated from CAFOs are typically disposed of, untreated, on cropland, where it can seep or run off to pollute waterways and drinking water sources.

The Clean Water Act defines CAFOs as “point sources” of pollution, which should require polluting CAFOs to follow discharge permits that restrict their pollution discharges into rivers and streams. But due to the EPA’s weak regulations, only a small fraction of CAFOs have the required permits. The permits that do exist are weak and inadequately protective of water quality. The agency’s failed approach has led to widespread factory farm pollution in waterways and communities across the country. The petition, filed in May 2017,  provided a roadmap for EPA to close loopholes that have enabled CAFOs to avoid regulation, and to make permits stronger and more effective. 

EPA’s failure to respond to the Petition, and in turn, strengthen its CAFO regulations, is just one of many examples of the Agency shirking its duty to protect communities from CAFO water pollution unless compelled by legal action. For instance, it was only due to a lawsuit filed by Food & Water Watch that the Ninth Circuit recently halted EPA’s illegal failure to require CAFOs monitor their discharges like other polluting industries. With this new legal action, Petitioners hope to once again pressure the Agency to fulfill its Clean Water Act obligations for CAFOs.

“This petition provided EPA with a roadmap for how it must finally regulate factory farms as required under the Clean Water Act, and explained why action is critical. EPA’s refusal to even answer simply confirms that it will not hold this industry accountable without legal and public pressure. We will not let EPA continue to delay while factory farms pollute with impunity, endangering public health and fouling our rivers and streams across the country,” said Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen

“Factory farm water pollution has had an increasingly devastating impact on marginalized communities throughout the country, and especially in North Carolina. Thousands of massive hog and poultry operations—of which only 1.1 percent are permitted—have taken root in low-income communities and communities of color, where they pollute the drinking water, ruin public waterways, and degrade the health and quality of life for those that have no choice but to live nearby. Meanwhile, the NC Department of Environmental Quality expects the polluters to regulate themselves! This is an extreme environmental injustice, and EPA is needed to take action to correct it,” said North Carolina Environmental Justice Network Director of Organizing and Policy Rañia Masri.

“Iowa is in the midst of a water pollution crisis, thanks to thousands of unpermitted factory farms. EPA’s weak rules have completely let Iowa off the hook from even the most basic Clean Water Act regulation of these facilities. It’s no wonder Iowa has become a magnet for CAFO industry expansion,” said Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member Julie Duhn

“In Wisconsin, CAFOs have to have Clean Water Act permits, but that hasn’t stopped the 17 industrial dairy CAFOs in my rural county from poisoning our community’s drinking water and decimating the wildlife in our local streams. EPA must grant this petition and strengthen its rules so that rural communities no longer have to shoulder the burden of unchecked factory farm pollution and live with the stress of not having safe drinking water in their homes,” said family farmer and Kewaunee CARES and Food & Water Watch member Nancy Utesch.

Petitioners in the lawsuit include: Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Dakota Rural Action, Dodge County Concerned Citizens, the Environmental Integrity Project, Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Kewaunee CARES, Midwest Environmental Advocates, and North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

The 33 original petitioners include six national public interest advocacy organizations, and twenty-seven state and community-based organizations based in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Collectively, Petitioners represent millions of members and supporters from across the country

OPEC Cuts Demand Action on Gasoline Exports

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, the OPEC+ cartel announced a new round of production cuts intended to keep global prices high. The Biden White House had been applying pressure to stop the move, and have warned domestic refiners to bolster their reserves instead of continuing to export gasoline. 

In the first half of this year, the U.S. exported 11% more gasoline than last year, as companies sought higher profit margins. 

Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Policy Mitch Jones issued the following response:

“It is no surprise that the international oil cartel is seeking to maintain high prices. Political leaders here at home must understand that the solution is not to increase drilling. Corporations are exporting record quantities of gasoline, and making record-setting profits as a result. Their greed hurts working families still grappling with high inflation and rising utility bills. 

“It’s time to take real action to rein in this outrageous corporate profiteering. That should start with Congress passing a ban on gasoline exports.”

Carbon Capture’s Record: Billions of Wasted Dollars

Categories

Climate and Energy

As the federal government looks to spend billions of dollars subsidizing new carbon capture projects, supporters of the technology assure that this influx of taxpayer dollars will make a decisive difference. 

But a new analysis demonstrates that federal support is not a new idea at all; in fact, as part of the Obama administration’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), $3.4 billion was pledged to support carbon capture (almost $1 billion went unspent). The result? Abandoned projects and abject failures.

The research highlights 11 large scale proposals that were part of a 2010 Department of Energy carbon capture roadmap. Of that total, seven of the projects – which ranged from coal plants in West Virginia and North Dakota to hydrogen and CCS facilities in Illinois and California – never got off the ground. 

Two projects that did make it closer to reality amounted to high profile failures. The Kemper coal plant in Mississippi aimed to capture two million metric tons of carbon, and was awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits. Long delayed and over budget, the plant was one of the most high profile ‘clean coal’ projects in the world, attracting significant attention from around the world. The remnants of the capture facility was imploded in 2021.  The other failed project was the Petra Nova gas plant in Texas, which was the only operational carbon capture and storage power plant in the country. Facing numerous technical and financial setbacks, the plant was closed in 2020.

The two ‘successful’ carbon capture projects from that round of funding should raise questions about the effectiveness of the technology. The first – Air Products and Chemicals in Texas – captures carbon dioxide process emissions at a facility that turns gas into hydrogen. It captures less than half of its carbon emissions, which are used in enhanced oil recovery. The other is an ethanol plant in Illinois owned by Archer Daniels Midland, which captures less than its permit allows and a rather small fraction of the facility’s overall emissions. Food &Water Watch calculated that the emissions associated with the power required at the facility would roughly equal the emissions that the company is projecting to capture at the facility. 

The record of carbon capture failure has not apparently diminished lawmakers’ enthusiasm for throwing more money at the technology. The Inflation Reduction Act greatly expands the 45Q tax credit program that supports existing CCS investments. Apart from that law, the first round of spending — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act – also dedicates billions to promoting CCS. 

Manchin’s Permitting Reform Bill is a Shameless Boost for Climate-Killing Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Today Senator Joe Manchin released the text of his much-anticipated energy permitting reform legislation, which Senator Schumer intends to attach to a “must pass” budget continuing resolution. 

As expected based on a leaked draft, the bill would fast-track fossil fuel infrastructure development, including the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement: 

“Senator Manchin’s so-called permitting reform bill is little more than a shameless handout to the fossil fuel industry – a green light for oil and gas companies to keep on digging, drilling, fracking and polluting. At a time when frontline communities and the entire planet are crying out for climate action and clean energy, this dirty backroom deal would drive us deeper into fossil fuel dependence for decades to come. 

“Despite what backers claim, the paltry incentives for clean energy would be no match for the prioritization of fossil fuel infrastructure this bill guarantees. Evidence from the last decade clearly shows that promoting cleaner energy while still advancing new fossil fuel projects will not reduce climate pollution.

“It should come as no surprise that a corporate coal baron like Joe Manchin would push a fossil fuel bonanza under the guise of bureaucratic reform. For the sake of countless communities suffering air and water pollution today, and a livable climate for generations to come, this dirty permitting deal must be rendered dead on arrival.”

Fossil Fuel Production, Profits Soar While Jobs Continue to Decline

Categories

Climate and Energy

As the economy recovered from the global economic disruptions linked to the COVID crisis,  fossil fuel companies ramped up and began producing more oil and gas and raking in record-breaking profits. But a new analysis shows that the industry’s recovery did not extend to workers, as oil and gas drillers continue to shed jobs. 

The new Food & Water Watch fact sheet, “Oil Profits and Production Grow at the Expense of Jobs, Consumers, and the Environment,” shows the stark reality of fossil fuel production and employment. The recovery of the oil and gas industry in 2021 – with production close to 2019 levels – came as jobs in those industries continued to fall. The industry employed 504,000 workers in 2021, compared with 541,000 in 2020 and 695,000 in 2019.  That amounts to a seven percent decline from 2020, and an astonishing 34 percent decline from the 2014 peak. 

These trends continue to show that the industry is employing far fewer workers while producing far more; since 2014, production has risen 33 percent while jobs declined 37 percent. 

These facts fly in the face of the spin generated by industry giants like the American Petroleum Institute (API), which churns out highly misleading reports that wildly exaggerate the state of the industry’s workforce. Their 2022 report – commissioned in 2021 and relying on 2019 data – claims that 11.3 million jobs are supported by the oil and gas industry.  In reality, there were only 695,000 oil and gas jobs in 2019 that year. 

Food & Water Watch has extensively documented the flaws with these industry studies, from what appear to be basic arithmetic errors such as double counting or the inclusion of entirely unrelated jobs. The API reports lump indirect and ‘induced’ jobs into their totals, accounting for the vast majority of their inflated totals. 

“The oil and gas industry would rather pay shareholders than workers,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Researcher Oakley Shelton-Thomas. “It should be clear by now that more production means more pollution, but it hasn’t meant lower prices or more jobs.”

These national trends are evident in states with large oil and gas industries. In Pennsylvania, for instance, oil and gas jobs fell 20 percent in 2020 – despite record levels of gas production. Increased gas production carried over into 2021, but the job losses continued – the industries employed just 24,088 workers, a 2 percent decrease from the previous year.  

In New Mexico, oil and gas jobs fell 25.8 percent in 2020, and in 2021 they continued their slide, falling another 9 percent. North Dakota’s industry jobs have fallen by more than half since 2014, and continued to decline in the past several years – meanwhile, oil production has increased slightly over that period. And in California, oil and gas production actually dropped considerably in 2021 – oil production fell 5 percent and gas production fell 17.5 percent from 2020 to 2021. Nonetheless, oil and gas employment in the state only fell 4 percent – less than in states where production increased.

The research also notes that the increased production has coincided with a huge jump in costs for consumers. Historically speaking, oil and gas production was 1.7 times higher in 2011 than it was in 2021; nonetheless, average gas prices soared this year, as did heating and utility costs.

The Jackson Water Crisis is Not Over

Categories

Clean Water

Yesterday, Mississippi lifted the weeks-long boil order for Jackson, news that led Governor Tate Reeves to make this claim: “We can now announce that we have restored clean water to the city of Jackson.” 

But there is still a long way to go before that claim could be considered true.

Food & Water Watch Public Water for All Director Mary Grant issued the following statement:

“Contrary to the assurances from Governor Reeves, much more is necessary to address the harms of decades of racist policies and intentional disinvestment and ensure safe, clean water for Jackson residents. Federal, state and local collaboration is helping to improve water service in Jackson, but declarations that the water is ‘clean’ or ‘safe’ are hasty and irresponsible. The city has an ongoing lead-in-water crisis, and the system remains one climate change-fueled storm away from breaking down again. 

“Worse, this progress could be undone if the state forces Jackson to hand control of the system over to corporate interests. The city remains under threat of a state-imposed privatization. Privatization would exacerbate the city’s water affordability crisis, driving up the cost of necessary improvements to cover corporate taxes and profits. On average, private companies charge 59 percent more than local governments charge for water service. 

“Instead of abdicating responsibility for ensuring safe water to every Jackson resident, the Governor must reject water privatization and commit to correcting the state’s racist policies – which among other wrongs, have excluded Jackson from federal and state support for disadvantaged communities — and realize the promise that every Jackson resident has clean and safe water.”

Reps Bush, Bowman, Tlaib Introduce Resolution Recognizing Access to Utilities as a Human Right

Categories

Clean Water

Washington D.C. — Today Representatives Cori Bush (MO-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) and Jamaal Bowman Ed.D (NY-16) introduced the Resolution Recognizing the Human Rights to Utilities, which would recognize access to water, sanitation, electricity, heating, cooling, public transit, and broadband communications as basic human rights and public services that must be accessible, safe, acceptable, sufficient, affordable, justly sourced and sustainable, climate resilient, and reliable for every person.

“A person should never be forced to choose between electricity or heat during the winter. A person should never have their only option for water be water that is not properly sanitized. A person should never have to wait in a restaurant parking lot to get Wi-Fi to finish their homework or pay their bills. None of us should ever have to struggle to survive because we cannot afford these basic necessities. I am proud to introduce this resolution alongside Congressman Bowman and Congresswoman Tlaib to formally recognize utilities as what they are: a human right,” said Congresswoman Bush. 

“Utilities are the foundation we build our lives upon. We need water to drink and bathe, electricity and broadband to connect with each other and the world, heat to survive our increasingly harsh winters, and transportation to link us to opportunity and our communities. In the richest country the world has ever known, it is an outrage that millions of Americans struggle with utility insecurity, substandard and dangerous services, and inhumane shutoffs. I am proud to stand with Representatives Bush, Bowman, and our colleagues in the House in recognizing that access to affordable, reliable utilities is a human right. It’s time to change the conversation around what we all deserve, take the profit motive out of providing the basics of a good life, and give every American the opportunity to thrive,” said Congresswoman Tlaib.

“Having access to utilities like water, sanitation, energy and broadband is a matter of life and death,” said Congressman Bowman. “In my district and across our country, millions of people do not have access to these basic human rights, struggle to pay their utility bills as costs rise, and suffer from failing utility infrastructure systems. This in conjunction with the privatization of our utilities has caused major gaps of equity and access leading to increased health concerns, different standards of living including uninhabitable conditions, and exacerbated struggles for survival. From Jackson, MS to New York’s 16th Congressional District, Black people do not have access to clean water, are disproportionately energy burdened, and are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. This resolution will recognize utilities as a basic human right, ban the destructive practice of privatizing our utilities, and promote public power. We cannot thrive as a nation and as a people until all have safe, accessible, reliable and climate conscious utility rights.”

A copy of the resolution can be found HERE.

Additional co-sponsors of this resolution include Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), André Carson (IN-07), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09).

This resolution is endorsed by: Action Center on Race and the Economy, BIG! Blacks in Green, Center for Biological Diversity, Corporate Accountability, Food & Water Watch, Free Press Action, Friends of the Earth US, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, MediaJustice, NTEN, Open MIC, PolicyLink, RapidShift Network, SumOfUs, Sunrise Movement, The Democracy Collaborative, The People’s Justice Council, Unitarian Universalist Association, and more than 200 other organizations.  See a full list of organizational endorsements HERE.

“This resolution puts families’ health and safety before corporate utility profits and shareholder dividends,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar with the Center for Biological Diversity. “People are being squeezed by rising bills and the threat of disconnections because of volatile oil and gas prices. This is a matter of life and death for many households, so it’s ludicrous that wealthy utilities can single-handedly cut off basic human rights like electricity, water and broadband. The Inflation Reduction Act pours more money into fossil-fuel utilities to transition to renewable energy, but Congress needs to protect energy-poor communities from inhumane utility behavior.”

“Water, sanitation and other essential utilities are basic human rights that should never be denied to a person,” said Mary Grant, the Public Water for All Campaign Director with Food & Water Watch. “We applaud Reps. Bush, Tlaib and Bowman for their leadership on this resolution. It is long past time for Congress to recognize these essential human rights and to commit to protect people from privatization and violent collection practices. Access to utilities is essential to life and living a life with dignity.”

“Equitable access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet, power and water are a necessity in 2022,” said Heather Franklin, Campaign Manager for Free Press Action. “At a time of compounding existential crises, no one — no matter who they are or where they live — should have to worry about their ability to call for help, communicate with their loved ones, or safely turn on the lights or faucet. We thank Reps. Bush, Bowman and Tlaib for their leadership on these issues and for putting people first.”

“In the 21st, century, this resolution is the basis that will allow us to achieve the goals stated in the USA constitution, to ‘form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.’ Thank you, Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman for making sure such fundamental rights are granted to all individuals,” said María Celeste Delgado-Librero, Founder & Board President, Sustainable Roanoke.

“We at Climable believe that the basic human necessities of electricity, water, sanitation, public transport, and broadband should be treated as such,”said Jen Stevenson Zepeda from Climable. “Ensuring people have reliable access to each is the right and equitable thing to do. We are so pleased to see this resolution from Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman and applaud this effort to put people first.”

“The Coalition of Community Organizations (COCO) mission is grounded in equitable access to basic human necessities of electricity, water, sanitation, public transport, and broadband,” said Reverend James L Caldwell. “Poverty affects health by limiting access to proper nutrition and healthy foods; shelter; safe neighborhoods to learn, live, and work; clean air and water; utilities; and other elements that define an individual’s  standard of living. Individuals who live in low-income or high-poverty neighborhoods are likely to experience poor health due to a combination of these factors. (AAFP, 2021) As Texans we continue to struggle with the weight of an ineffective and burdensome power grid; therefore, COCO is supportive of this resolution from Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman and applaud this effort to put people first.”

“The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore is in full support of the passage of this Bill to make electricity, water, sanitation, public transport, and broadband a basic human necessity and right,” said the Rev. Dr. Alvin Gwynn Sr, President of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore. “The burden and expense should not be placed upon those alone who cannot afford it”

“In light of the crises that grip the world, causing despair among millions of Americans, we encourage the Congress to pass the resolution by Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman,” said Doumafis Lafontan. “Indeed, we think such a resolution is a step in the direction to alleviate the exorbitant cost of living, which the unemployed, underemployed, working poor, and middle class can no longer afford. So, we are joining hands with the initiators of this resolution, expecting its passage will lead to a better future for all Americans.”

“Access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water and sanitation is a human right — one that we’ve recognized in California for almost a decade,” said Susana De Anda, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Community Water Center. “It is critical that we also recognize and affirm these rights at the federal level so that we can prioritize solutions to this water and sanitation crisis with the urgency all Americans deserve. We support and applaud this resolution from Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman.”

“We believe that access to affordable water, sanitation, electricity, heating, cooling, public transit and broadband communications are basic human rights and public services that should be provided to all citizens,” said Mary Gutierrez, Founder and Executive Director at Earth Ethics. “We also believe that these rights and services should be accessible to all no matter a person’s socio-economic status, ethnicity, or community. We applaud and support the efforts of Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman and strongly encourage the Congress to pass this resolution.”

“Nobody should be deprived of the basic necessities for life just because they are poor, and we know that the people most likely to be deprived of utility services are Black, Indigenous, people of color, and rural residents,” said Kendall Dix, national policy director at Taproot Earth. “The best way to guarantee the human right to utilities is to make sure all utilities are publicly owned and publicly funded with progressive taxes rather than regressive user fees.”

“Daily, we witness devastating, disproportionate effects of increasing drought and extreme weather climate crises on humanity. Accessible and affordable clean drinking water and basic utilities must be rights for all humans,” said Rachel Dawn Davis, Public Policy & Justice Organizer for Waterspirit. “Advocates came together across Turtle Island to fight for these rights in 2020 and we deeply appreciate the leadership of Representatives Bush, Tlaib and Bowman in taking this vital step to ensure these basic human rights are protected indefinitely.”

“We fully support this resolution and urge Congress to pass it,” said Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance. “All residents of the United States of America should be able to rely on their political leader’s commitment to making sure they have the necessities of life; including water, heat, electricity and connectivity so they can live a safe, engaged and free existence. Keeping utility services affordable, public and accessible to all must be a priority and we cannot allow private companies to sacrifice human rights in the interest of profit.”

“Access to affordable utilities, including broadband communications are basic requirements for equitable access to opportunities in America,” said Andreanecia M. Morris, President, Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance. “This should be a no-brainer in 2022 and this resolution needs to be followed by concrete actions to ensure these basic needs are met for all and to #PutPeopleFirst.” 

“Universal access to safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. This resolution charts a bold vision for achieving it, recognizing publicly-controlled, well-funded, and equitable water systems as essential to this right. The crisis unfolding in Jackson, Mississippi is the latest of far too many signs that we cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Neil Gupta, Water Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability. “And the resolution goes even further, affirming the right of all people to the essential public services we need to thrive. Thank you to Representatives Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman for their leadership in bringing forward this transformative framework for our communities.” 

“The US must join the global agreement to meet the United Nations (UN) 2030 food and water goals by passing legislation ensuring The Human Right To Utilities act,” said Pat Lando, Director – Recode.org. “Survival is always at risk when basic needs are controlled as a commodity and not as a basic healthcare right. The Universal Right to Basic Water / Utilities is an approach to join the global equitable human rights agreement which guarantees the necessary amount of potable (i.e. safe to drink) water and other basic utilities to everyone in the United States for the minimal purpose of ensuring personal and public health.” 

“The Resolution recognizing Human Rights to Utilities is essential to cultivating equitable communities. Unaffordable utilities rob our most vulnerable community members of their dignity, and sense of security, as they struggle to provide for their families’ safety. Access to affordable drinking water, sanitation, and heat are life sustaining services that provide communities with agency, psychological, and physiological well being,” said Erica Maceda, Executive Director of River in Action. “We strongly support and applaud the effort of Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman to ensure that families are safer and healthier.”

“We must acknowledge that access to water, sanitation, electricity, heating, cooling, public transit, and broadband communication is a human right so we can create equitable policies for society,” said Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN. “To go to school, have a job, or participate in civic life, every person requires access to foundational services from water to heating to broadband. Access can’t be a privilege for only those living in certain areas or with high enough incomes. We need everyone’s participation to empower communities, design cities, and develop local and national innovations. That participation can only happen with full access to all foundational services.” 

“Everyone needs to be able to heat and cool their homes, drink clean water, get to their jobs or school on public transportation, or work or attend classes from home using the internet. Electricity, heat, clean water, public transit, and broadband are essential for a dignified life, and should be regarded as a human right,” said Basav Sen, Climate Policy Director at the Institute for Policy Studies. “No one should be denied these essentials because they cannot afford steep utility bills, or they cannot afford to own a personal vehicle, or they cannot operate a personal vehicle because of a disability.”

“The climate crisis calls into question who controls the utilities we need to survive: water to drink, electricity for life-giving machines, the internet to keep connected to our loved ones. Reps. Bush, Tlaib and Bowman deeply understand this and are moving our country to reclaim these human rights to be governed for the common good, and not held hostage by private utility companies that have frozen us over, left us to burn, or shut us off,” said Mari Rose Taruc, Coordinator of the Reclaim Our Power: Utility Justice Campaign. 

“Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband is finally being acknowledged as a utility that should be treated as a public service, not a source of corporate profiteering,” said Brandon Forester, Organizer at MediaJustice. “The highly monopolized broadband marketplace fails to serve Black, brown, Indigenous and low-income communities because corporate ISPs care more about connecting their shareholders to profit than our communities to the Internet. MediaJustice appreciates the thought and care put into this legislation. We believe that when broadband — along with all the other public service utilities addressed — is truly accessible, safe, sufficient, affordable, justly sourced, climate resilient and reliable for every person, a different world is possible.” 

“Like all utilities, broadband is a vital public service that must be universally accessible, affordable, and reliable,” said Dana Floberg, Advocacy Director of Open MIC. “Instead, unaccountable internet providers have afflicted communities with discriminatory practices, outrageous prices, and life-threatening disconnections. We applaud this legislation for affirming that utility justice is a fundamental human right.”

“As we have seen with the COVID pandemic, our population needs fresh, clean water for consumption and washing hand,” said Peggy Ann Berry. “Children and adults without internet lost valuable education and work opportunities. Now, as we see temperatures rising with Climate Change, electricity is essential for cooling to prevent illnesses and death. Utility justice is a fundamental right, even more so with climate change.” 

“In America and around the globe, the climate and the times call for basic rights and compassion for all people,” said Ralph Kisberg, Energy Policy Consultant with the Responsible Decarbonization Alliance. “The Responsible Decarbonization Alliance congratulates Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman for their leadership in a Congress where nearly half the members lack the courage, awareness and decency to acknowledge the evidence and address the dire circumstances we face.”

“State governments have granted profit-driven utilities and wealthy CEOs too much power over residents’ access to basic, life-sustaining necessities,” said Erin Hempfling, Direct Action Against CenterPoint Energy (DAACE). “Heating and cooling, preparing food, and accessing the internet should not be treated as luxuries that can be taken away, especially from low-income and working-class residents who are already burdened most by the soaring cost of living and effects of climate change. We applaud this Resolution to affirm that these basic services should be reliable, affordable, and accessible to all.” 

“Most of us want to live in a healthy and beautiful world where we all enjoy our country’s great abundance equally,” said Megan Hess with We the People Action Fund. “To do that, we need to ensure basic human needs like water, sanitation, electricity, public transit and broadband are guaranteed to everyone, no exceptions. With this legislation, Reps. Bush, Tlaib and Bowman are amplifying a chorus of voices from every background to say that, in the wealthiest country in human history, we all have a basic human right to utilities. Together, and with legislation like this, we can create a world where that idea is a reality.”

“This piece of legislation is critical to the health of countless people in so many different communities,” said Marilyn Elie, the Co-Founder of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition. “Every citizen in this country deserves clean water as a matter of course. Without water there can be no life.”

Sayreville Council Backs Resolution Opposing Fracked Gas Plant in Woodbridge

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Climate and Energy

On Monday, the Sayreville Borough Council voted in favor of a resolution opposing a plan to build a second gas-fired power plant in Woodbridge. 

Sayreville became the sixth municipality to call on the Murphy administration to reject the proposal by Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to build a new gas-fired power plant in Woodbridge. Similar resolutions have passed in Edison, Highland Park, Hoboken, Perth Amboy, and Franklin.

“We support environmental cleanliness and the safety of our residents,” said Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick, who enthusiastically supported the measure, which enjoyed bipartisan support.

“I think it’s way beyond time for any plants considered to be clean, renewable energy,” said Alexandria Haris, a member of the Sayreville Environmental Commission. “This proposed plant would negatively impact the health and well-being of young children.”

“There are four fossil fuel plants here and we don’t need another one that will not benefit the residents of Sayreville,” said Arthur DeSarno, a Sayreville resident and Food & Water Watch volunteer.

CPV has proposed building a new 630-megawatt gas power plant in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge, a community already overburdened with pollution. If approved, this new facility – which would be adjacent to an existing CPV plant – could emit nearly 2.3 million tons of greenhouse gasses each year, along with hundreds of tons of toxic air pollutants – including carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, and lead.

The proposed plant has become the focus of sustained community opposition, most notably as part of a climate march across the state last month urging Governor Murphy to reject permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.  One of the community events along the march route saw more than 75 people come out to oppose the plant at a rally outside Woodbridge Town Hall on August 17.

Disappointing DRBC Vote to Renew Gibbstown Fracking Terminal Permit

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Climate and Energy

Today the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to extend the construction permit for New Fortress Energy’s Gibbstown gas export terminal project. 

The scheme to liquify fracked gas in Pennsylvania and ship it to an export terminal on the Delaware River. 

The commissioners also refused a proposal to hold an additional public hearing on the permit. 

Food & Water Watch Organizer Noa Gordon-Guterman released the following statement in response:

“Today’s disappointing and undemocratic decision gives New Fortress’ disastrous fracking plan new life. At a moment when our global climate crisis requires a swift transition away from dirty fossil fuels, the commissioners voted to grant more time for this company’s polluting scheme. To add insult to injury, the commissioners refused to grant an additional public hearing to discuss this permit – one more gift to a company that has tried its best to shield its intentions from public scrutiny.

“The Gibbstown fracking terminal presents risks at every step of the way – from the heavily fracked communities of Pennsylvania to the residents who live along the train or truck routes that would be used to ship highly explosive liquified gas to Gibbstown for export. These communities should not be sacrifice zones for the greedy fossil fuel industry. We continue to urge state and federal lawmakers to reject this dangerous and unnecessary New Fortress project, which will only exacerbate climate, air and water pollution.”

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Bucks County Sewer Sale Rejected by Commissioners Because of Public Opposition

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Clean Water

The hotly contested sewer privatization deal in Bucks County will not move forward, as County Commissioners announced their opposition to the proposal in advance of a meeting that was scheduled for tomorrow.

Aqua’s $1.1 billion proposal for the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) system would have been the largest sewer privatization deal in the history of the country.

Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority Board Chair John Cordisco issued a statement today that acknowledged the stiff opposition to the deal, saying that he had “informed the BCWSA board members that I do not support moving forward with the proposed offer.”

Aqua Pennsylvania submitted an unsolicited proposal in late 2020 and has since been attending Board meetings. The company’s bid to buy the county system sparked months of widespread community opposition. In July, the BCWSA announced an ‘exclusivity’ deal with the company. 

Local residents and community groups vehemently opposed the deal and a total lack of transparency and accountability throughout the negotiations. Hundreds of residents have demanded the Commissioners stop the sale.

“We are thankful to the Commissioners and to the Board of the Authority for coming to this decision,” said David McMahon, co-founder of Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts (NOPE). “We are grateful to all the residents, township officials, utility workers who devoted considerable time and effort in these past weeks to share the information, spread the word, and stand together in time to turn this sale back. It is important to recognize though, that our state legislators still have a role to play. They need to recognize the unintended consequences ‘fair market valuation’ has had in becoming the driving force behind these privatization efforts. We need to stop the passage of SB 597 in the General Assembly and we need to create legislation that facilitates the merging of municipal systems in public/public partnerships to help genuinely struggling systems meet the needs of their residents and customers.”

“I commend the Bucks County Commissioners and the BCWSA board for listening to their constituents and rejecting the Aqua bid, but we need to turn our attention to state lawmakers,” said Kofi Osei, a community organizer with NOPE. “Our public utility acquisition laws are still broken and there are currently communities fighting these corporate takeovers of public property. The way our utility code is written opens up the floodgates for potential corruption. We need to severely narrow the scope of when privatization is acceptable and give ratepayers a seat at the table with referendum.”

“I would like to thank our County Commissioners for their support in stopping the sale of our Local Water Authority,” said Tom Tosti, Middletown resident, former Township supervisor, and director of AFSCME District Council 88. “Privatizing is not the answer when it comes to public services as our communities get hurt by the sale of these services. We must stay vigilant though as it might be over for now, but we need our legislators in Harrisburg to help us in making sure this is not dead for now and it is a permanent message to say our Water Authority is not for sale. We need to put a stop to this for good as we as ratepayers deserve better.”

“On behalf of Region 1 Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association, I would like to thank the Bucks County Commissioners and the Board of the BCWSA for listening to the members of their community and ensuring that these vital, life sustaining resources stay in the public trust,” said Mike Sullivan, PMAA Region 1 Director. “We recognize that there are challenges across our industry and we trust that BCWSA and other publicly owned systems will rise to the challenge to meet those needs and remain accountable to their customers. Additionally, our state legislators need to address the unintended consequences unleashed on Pennsylvania ratepayers by the Section 1329 [Act 12] acquisitions.”

 
“The rejection of Aqua’s purchase offer by BCSWA is good news for now,” said Margo Woodacre, Bill Ferguson, and Peter Mrozinski with KeepWaterAffordable. “But Aqua and other Big Water companies will not go away. BCSWA is too big a prize. In fact, because of Act 12, the state of Pennsylvania is open game for all corporate predators. We need action by the State Legislature now to provide long term protection for the ratepayers.” 

“This was a backroom corporate deal from the start, and it only stopped because local residents started to ask questions, voice their concerns, and hold their elected County Commissioners who have the power to change the BCWSA’s charter accountable,” said Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Getting the board to see the light and slam the brakes on this terrible deal is a huge win for clean water, public input and democracy itself.”

Reality Check: Carbon Capture is Another Fossil Fuel Bailout

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Climate and Energy

Since the Inflation Reduction Act dedicates billions of dollars to supporting carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), it is crucial to understand that this technology has massively overpromised and underperformed, with its only lasting achievement coming in the form of increased oil extraction. 

A new Food & Water Watch fact sheet, “Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Fossil Fuels’ Billion-Dollar Bailout” traces the history of industry-friendly schemes that masquerade as climate solutions. The new fact sheet explains the clear problems with CCS:

Is increasing oil drilling a climate solution?

Currently, the vast majority of captured carbon (about 95 percent) is used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), which injects CO2 and other chemicals into existing wells to draw out new oil. There are currently more than 119,500 wells that are used to inject CO2 to produce oil. The climate benefits are an illusion: A ton of CO2 produces 2 to 3 barrels of oil when injected; when burned, that oil emits around 1.2 tons of CO2. 

Of the 12 active CCS projects in the United States, only one sequesters the CO2; the rest use it for EOR.

More new money, same old problems?

The additional funding for CCS made available in the IRA follows a distressing pattern. Over a decade ago, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dedicated over $3.4 billion for CCS. Just two of the nine large-scale demonstration projects remain operational, and only one of the five commercial power plant projects ever reached operation. That facility – the Petra Nova coal plant – was shuttered after just a few years of intermittent operation. 

There were also billions of dollars in additional carbon capture subsidies in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). For fossil fuel giants, the attraction of carbon capture is clear: As currently structured, these are government subsidies that keep their polluting infrastructure in place. 

Shoddy Accounting

If technologically possible, carbon capture only makes sense if there is a method to track captured carbon. There is no evidence that is happening. The 45Q carbon capture tax credit – which is being expanded as part of the IRA – has been used by polluters to claim 72 million tons of captured carbon by 2020. But a Treasury Department Inspector General investigation found that the vast majority of the credits had been improperly claimed, without meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s storage and monitoring requirements.

Nonetheless, the IRA will supercharge this tax credit program, and the modeling that predicts emissions reductions from the new law rely on carbon capture becoming widely adopted and incredibly successful almost immediately. But those rosy predictions are at odds with other projections; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the changes to the 45Q credit in the IRA will cost only $3.2 billion over 10 years, reflecting between 9 and 13 million metric tons of CO2 captured each year. That is substantially lower than what IRA supporters are suggesting will happen. If CCS technology were to be as widely adopted as some of the IRA’s supporters assume, the costs would run in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

“The only reason to continue subsidizing carbon capture schemes is to please and enrich the fossil fuel industry,” said Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh. “Decades of experience show carbon capture is not a viable technology to address the climate crisis and there is no reason to continue subsidizing new failures. The fossil fuel industry is trying to use CCS to rebrand fracking as a clean source of energy, while it continues a legacy of harms to public health, drinking water and our climate.The answer is to stop subsidizing  the fossil fuel industry pollution and make real investments in clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency and electrification.”

Woodbridge Rallies Against New Gas Power Plant

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Climate and Energy

WOODBRIDGE, NJ – Local residents and climate activists rallied this evening in front of Woodbridge Town Hall to stop a proposal by CPV to build a second gas-fired power plant in Keasbey.

If the Murphy administration grants approval for the plant, it would be one of the state’s largest climate polluters. According to the company’s air permit application it would also be responsible for hundreds of tons of toxic air pollutants  – including carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, and lead. 

The rally is part of “Governor Murphy: Walk Your Talk on Climate,” a walk for clean air and climate justice from Newark to Red Bank to draw attention to dangerous fossil fuel expansion projects.

The rally began with a warm welcome for the walkers, who arrived at the rally after the second day of their journey.

“Probably the most common illness that my students have is asthma,” said Pranita Bijlani, a public school teacher who is walking the entire length of the route for her students.  “I’m very concerned about the health of my students.  We’re already a very overburdened community over here.”

“We want to communicate to Governor Murphy that there is an incongruence between his words and his actions, and as adults, we know that sincerity depends on actions, and we want Governor Murphy to align his actions with his words,” said Bijlani, before leading a chant of “Governor Murphy, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk!”

Other speakers represented the diverse coalition of groups opposing the CPV power plant.


“Nothing about this is sustainable… The amount of pollutants that we are actually unleashing into the environment that we and our children occupy is not sustainable,” saidDan Jimenez, a member of Woodbridge Youth and Liberation Equity (WYLE).

Local opposition to the plant is growing. Nearby municipalities have passed resolutions calling on Governor Murphy to reject the project (Franklin, Edison, Highland Park, Hoboken, and Perth Amboy), with more expected in the coming weeks.

Jimmy Dabrowski, a lifelong Woodbridge resident and member of the Perth Amboy branch of the NAACP, commended the municipalities that have come out against the proposed CPV power plant.

“What needs to happen is political courage,” said Dabrowski, echoing the words of Inger Andersen, the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “We’re proud of the municipalities that have thus far passed resolutions coming out against this power plant… As it turns out, air pollution doesn’t just stay within the lines drawn on a map.”

What Must Come After the Inflation Reduction Act

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, the House is poised to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which features billions of dollars in spending that is aimed at bolstering clean energy production. The IRA also devotes enormous additional resources to carbon capture, unproven industry-favored technologies that have thus far done nothing to reduce pollution. The legislation does not include any policies that require emissions reductions, and does not address measures to restrict fossil fuel development. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement:

“Serious climate action requires serious investments in clean, renewable energy alongside policies to dramatically restrict new fossil fuel development. The Inflation Reduction Act takes important steps to promote clean energy, but utterly fails to rein in toxic, destructive fossil fuel extraction.

“The Inflation Reduction Act can only be seen as the beginning of our response to the climate crisis. Much more is needed, specifically to restrict any and all new fossil fuel projects. Unfortunately the bill aims to actually promote additional drilling and fracking, an unconscionable trade off that will increase pollution in frontline and environmental justice communities.

“Our focus now must shift to stopping Senator Manchin’s awful ‘side deal’ to fast track fossil fuel permitting. This giveaway to big corporate polluters would doom any progress that might result from the passage of this legislation.”

Franklin Opposes New Gas Plant Planned for Woodbridge

Categories

Climate and Energy

On Tuesday evening, the Franklin Township Mayor and Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution opposing a plan to build a second gas-fired power plant in Woodbridge. 

Franklin is the fifth municipality to call on the Murphy administration to reject the proposal by Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to build a new gas-fired power plant in Woodbridge. Similar resolutions have passed in Edison, Highland Park, Hoboken, and Perth Amboy.

CPV has proposed building a new 630-megawatt gas power plant in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge, a community already overburdened with pollution. If approved, this new facility – which would be adjacent to an existing CPV plant – would emit more than 2.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses each year, along with hundreds of tons of toxic air pollutants  – including carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, and lead

“I am proud that Franklin is now the fifth town that is supporting this resolution, and putting pressure on the DEP and Governor Murphy to reject this terrible project,” said Manijeh Saba, a Food & Water Watch volunteer and longtime Franklin resident. “We have the responsibility to provide a healthy environment to future generations, so we are demanding our leaders take action to stop fossil fuel projects like this.”

Next week, climate activists will be walking from Newark to Red Bank to raise awareness of fossil fuel projects that Governor Murphy must reject. On Wednesday (8/17) the “Walk Your Talk” climate caravan will stop at the Woodbridge Town Hall for a rally at 6:30 pm.

Dems’ IRA Falls Short on Climate Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today the Senate voted to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which proponents claim includes monumental action to address the climate crisis.

In response, Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Policy Mitch Jones issued the following statement: 


“It’s no surprise that climate policy tailored to meet the demands of a coal baron would fall well short of what’s needed to adequately address the severity of the climate crisis we face. The bill devotes billions to industry schemes like carbon capture, which exist solely to extend the life of the fossil fuel industry. Models touting the emissions reductions this legislation would provide rely heavily on carbon capture despite decades of evidence that the technology can’t be implemented effectively.

“There is already abundant evidence that investing in clean, renewable energy does not, in and of itself, displace fossil fuels. Over the past decade, both have grown side-by-side, as fossil fuel interests have pushed to create profitable export markets for oil and gas. There is nothing in this legislation that would stop this march towards the climate cliff. 

“We know that any adequate climate policy must directly confront fossil fuels. The fact that oil and gas executives seem pleased with this legislation speaks volumes about its glaring shortcomings. Activists and frontline communities will continue fighting to stop fossil fuel corporations that threaten our air, our water and a livable planet.”

Residents Rally Against Fracked Gas Compressor Project in North Jersey

Categories

Climate and Energy

Dozens of North Jersey residents and activists held a rally this afternoon in Sparta just ahead of the NJDEP hearing on the proposal to expand and build new fracked gas compressor stations along a North Jersey gas pipeline. This hearing was on the Air Quality permit for the project which is the last pending permit for this project before Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) can start building this project.

Compressor stations are industrial facilities situated along pipeline routes that pressurize gas to push it through the pipeline and release gas to regulate pressure within the pipeline system. These accident-prone facilities are dangerous, loud, and major sources of harmful air pollution.

This so-called “East 300 Upgrade” project includes a massive expansion of an existing gas-fired compressor station in Wantage, and a new gas compressor station in West Milford right next to the Monksville Reservoir, which provides clean drinking water to millions. The expansion project would allow TGP to pipe higher volumes of fracked gas through this 65-year-old pipeline en route to Westchester, NY.

“In a worsening climate crisis, we must do all we can to lower emissions, and that must start with a halt to new fossil fuel projects in our state. Governor Murphy’s own climate goals would be undermined by a dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel expansion project that is only being built to serve the profits of the fossil fuel industry and a private utility in New York,” said Sam DiFalco, an organizer with Food & Water Watch. “If Governor Murphy means what he says about battling climate change and protecting public safety and our environment, he must reject this unsafe and unnecessary fracked gas expansion project.” 

“Our government is supposed to protect the people and the common good, not major corporations like the oil and gas industry,” said Renee Allessio, a 45-year resident of West Milford and board member of Sustainable West Milford. “Fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and combustion pollute the air communities breathe, the water they drink, the land they walk on, and the food they eat. The release of these pollutants is also a major cause of climate change.”

Compressors regularly release methane gas containing volatile compounds including formaldehyde, benzene, and other harmful compounds directly into the air surrounding the compressor. This gas can engulf the surrounding area in a toxic cloud for hours and travel for miles before the gas dissipates. A major incident like this happened on New Year’s Day of this year when a computer malfunction caused the unstaffed facility to shut down and release gas for almost two hours before a worker could arrive on-site and fix the problem.

“My family moved to Wantage to build our forever home not knowing the major risks this facility would pose to our growing family. We already deal with the awful smells from the facility and noises 24×7. On January 1 of this year, a blowdown as loud as a jet engine released a toxic plume that engulfed the local community and could be smelt, for miles,” said Kelly Kessler, a Wantage resident who lives less than a mile from the existing facility. “These facilities release benzene a known source of childhood leukemia. An even bigger facility three times this size is not safe to raise children around.”

“NJDEP must protect our health and environment and reject this unnecessary project which will have damaging impacts on the air, water, and land. These compressor facilities release harmful air pollutants such as benzene, GHGs, NOx, that can cause asthma, headaches, and worsen symptoms for people with respiratory problems.,”  said Taylor McFarland, New Jersey Chapter Conservation Program Manager for Sierra Club. “This is a dangerous and polluting project that will only cause more climate and health impacts. It’s critical that NJDEP consider the disastrous impacts this project will have and reject it.” 

Many remember the significant damage TGP caused to North Jersey communities a decade ago when they laid additional pipes in the ground to expand the capacity of their original 65-year-old line. During construction, they caused a sinkhole, mudslides that flowed into decimated Lake Lookover in West Milford and impacted drinking water wells, and petrochemical spills. What’s more, TGP failed to successfully replant the mature forest they decimated during construction across North Jersey. NJ communities are not alone in dealing with the impacts of TGP’s risky operations.

“According to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration failure reports, from 2006-2017, TGP had 111 significant incidents with their pipelines resulting in $89,815,380 in property damage and 19 federal enforcement actions,” said Jill Aquino, RN a 19-year resident of Sussex County who worked as a school nurse in the county for 16.5 years. “Just last month a portion of this very same pipeline exploded in PA and started a forest fire which burned through 5 acres before it could be contained, reminding us of the increased risks of forcing higher volumes of gas through this aging pipeline system. With this track record, it’s unfathomable that the agencies responsible for protecting our environment would permit TGP to construct another expansion in our communities.”

“We seem to lose focus on the fact that none of this gas is intended for use by residents of New Jersey — it’s all going to New York to serve potential new users in the future. It’s not needed, yet the damage will be borne in the Highlands by our residents,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “It’s an outrageous, irresponsible situation! The DEP must deny the permit.”

In an undeniable climate, ecological, and public health crisis, Governor Murphy has to make a choice to live up to his climate commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower harmful pollution or cave to the corporate interests of out-of-state polluters. 

“Anushiik kéeshxung is ‘Thank You Wind’ in the Munsee language, the original language of these lands. We have a choice between Good Air and Bad Energy right now. If we choose Bad Energy then we will have Bad Air, Bad Health, and Death,” said OWL of the Ramapough Munsee Lunaaape Nation. “Let’s not sacrifice Good Air for Bad Energy.” 

Manchin ‘Side Deal’ is a Climate Disaster

Categories

Climate and Energy

Bloomberg published a copy of draft language for the ‘permitting reform’ bill that Senator Joe Manchin demanded in order to support the Inflation Reduction Act.

The proposal aims to fast track a variety of environmental and public safety reviews for major infrastructure projects, and requires the President to create a list of at least 25 projects deemed to be of “strategic national importance” that would be subject to the review. The list would be updated every six months.

The draft requires that at least five of the priority items “shall be projects to produce, process, transport, or store fossil fuel products, or biofuels, including projects to export or import those products.” Two of the priority projects should be devoted to the “capture, transport, or store carbon dioxide, which may include the utilization of captured or displaced carbon dioxide emissions.” This fossil fuel prioritization continues well past 2030, requiring at least three projects to be fossil fuel oriented while allowing greater discretion to add more to the priority list.

Bloomberg reports that that the document includes a “Draft-API” watermark, which could be a reference to the oil and gas lobbying group that had discussions with Manchin’s staff at the time it was drafted.

In response, Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh released the following statement:


“This should no longer be considered a ‘side deal,’ it is the main event for fossil fuel polluters that have pushed to weaken environmental reviews. The draft requires a constantly updated list of projects that will be placed on the fast track, limiting public input and necessary environmental review. Any future White House that seeks to do special favors for the fossil fuel industry would have broad executive authority to force the construction of new fracking pipelines, power plants and methane export facilities. It would also hamstring the White House in efforts to curtail new fossil fuel infrastructure development sufficient to meet agreed upon climate goals.

“Creating new wind and solar tax credits while giving fossil fuel polluters a green light is the ultimate devil’s bargain. Lawmakers must speak up strongly and swiftly against this massive rollback of public health and environmental protections that will fast track fossil fuel projects.”

What to Make of Joe Manchin’s Climate Deal

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Peter Hart

After months of near-misses and false starts, Senate Democratic leaders have announced a compromise spending package. If passed, the package would become the most significant investment in climate and energy spending in decades — totaling $369 billion over ten years. 

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was tailored to the liking of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a coal millionaire who has made no secret of his preference for propping up the fossil fuel industry. The deal — which still has several legislative hurdles — is essentially a slimmed-down version of the Build Back Better Act. That version called for $555 billion in climate and energy spending when it was passed in the House. This bill provides much-needed support for clean energy, that much is true. But it comes with many concessions that advance fossil fuel interests and lock in a dangerous climate future.

The IRA Is A Mixed Deal For The Climate

When it comes to climate action, much of the IRA is geared towards wind and solar credits. These credits would bolster private investment in renewables and clean energy manufacturing. The IRA would also increase the tax rebates associated with purchasing an electric vehicle. On the flip side, there are serious questions about whether the credits would actually apply to most car purchases. There are also funds for home energy improvements and environmental justice spending. However, advocates have criticized those provisions for falling well short of the White House’s own goals. 

There are also some highly unappealing provisions — including billions dedicated to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). CCS is the dirty energy industry’s favorite false climate “solution.” There are also substantial investments in fossil-based hydrogen, though studies show little to no climate benefit over fossil fuels. Such policies would subsidize ineffective technologies that prolong the life of the fossil fuel industry.

The legislation also devotes billions to a “methane fee.” This fee would penalize companies that leak the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere from wells, pipelines and other infrastructure. These leaks are not even currently measured or adequately monitored, so it remains unclear how this approach would work. As written, it amounts to a subsidy for fossil fuel companies, in hopes that the penalty would lessen pollution. 

Several Dirty Energy Devils Lurking in the IRA’s Details

This legislation will increase fossil fuel development in several ways. It bizarrely requires the federal government to reinstate a massive oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. That sale was blocked by a federal judge in January. 

The deal also features a dirty-for-clean public lands tradeoff. If the federal government wants to approve any new wind or solar projects on public lands or waters, it would first have to offer millions of acres of public land for oil and gas leases. 

The IRA reinforces the deluded idea that we can secure real climate victories by both ramping up clean energy and continuing to approve new fossil fuel projects. The last decade of energy development in the United States shows that clean energy doesn’t displace fossil fuels on its own. In fact, we have grown both at the same time. Continuing this dual-track is dangerous — it fools people that progress is happening when fossil fuels are still endangering our future. 

What’s worse, to secure Manchin’s IRA support, the Senate must consider a separate measure to expedite energy infrastructure permitting. While this could help build badly needed transmission infrastructure for renewables, we can expect Manchin and Republican lawmakers to craft something primarily benefiting fossil fuel facilities and projects. Additionally, Manchin has strong-armed cooperation from Senate Democratic leaders and the White House to finish the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

This kind of so-called ‘permitting reform’ has been a priority for the fossil fuel industry. That could explain why some dirty energy CEOs appear mostly pleased with the overall package.

Will The Inflation Reduction Act’s Climate Provisions Work?

Obviously, the goal of any climate plan is to reduce climate pollution. IRA proponents argue it will work, citing models that predict a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2030. However, there are several massive caveats. First, it’s not a 40% reduction in climate pollution; it’s from the emissions recorded at a high point in 2005. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s calculations, net emissions have already declined 21% between 2005 and 2020.

Indeed, the models that show a range of 31 to 44% reductions through the IRA also forecast that we would reduce emissions between 24 and 35% without passing any new climate policies. Moreover, the assumptions behind these models remain unclear. For instance, to what extent do they rely on carbon capture’s promised results despite decades of failures? Are they underestimating the impact on pollution from fracking on public lands? 

The IRA is the product of painful compromise. It does not mandate emissions reductions. And it fails to threaten corporate polluters with heavy fines for poisoning communities and threatening the stability of our climate.

If it passes, we will keep pushing for stronger measures to secure a livable future and protect our planet. The type of bold, robust climate action that we need at all levels of government must aim higher. We can — and must — do more.

Help your friends make sense of this issue.

Lawsuit Against Smithfield for Lying to Public Will Move Forward

Categories

Food System

Smithfield Foods lost its bid to dismiss a case alleging that the meatpacking giant repeatedly lied to consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to protect its bottom line at the expense of its workers’ health and safety.

The decision from Judge Heidi M. Pasichow, released on July 22, means that the case, filed by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, will proceed. The group is represented by itself and Public Justice.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially in the early stages of the global health crisis, Smithfield has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign to bolster its image and keep its production plants operating at full capacity despite the grave risk to workers. 

When major COVID-19 outbreaks struck Smithfield plants in 2020, the company told consumers that closing processing plants to protect workers’ lives would result in national meat shortages. It also reassured the public that its pandemic safety protocols were keeping workers as safe as possible a claim it continues to make to this day.

The lawsuit alleges both claims are false. The country was never in danger of a meat shortage: at the height of the pandemic, Smithfield increased its exports and held billions of pounds of meat in warehouses across the country. The company’s fearmongering led to record sales and profits. Meanwhile, Smithfield has consistently failed to implement essential safety measures at its processing plants, and workers still face dangerous working conditions, particularly as new COVID variants emerge.

As the company sought to have the case dismissed, a congressional report exposed the role that Smithfield and other meatpacking giants played in inciting panic about the national meat supply, and documented how companies like Smithfield aggressively lobbied the federal government to keep plants running with “glaringly deficient” safety protocols, endangering workers’ lives. The report also revealed how Smithfield actively impeded state and federal policies that would have better protected all meatpacking workers, including its own. 

“While Smithfield told the public it was doing ‘everything in its power’ to protect its workers, the company was actually cutting backroom deals with federal regulators that halted life-saving safety precautions from being instituted at its plants,” said Emily Miller, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch. “We are grateful that the court will provide us an opportunity to make our case, and to deliver justice for workers and consumers who continue to be harmed by Smithfield’s reckless behavior and incessant fearmongering.”

“Smithfield lied to consumers about workers’ protections from COVID-19 and even made up a story about an impending national meat shortage—all to justify continuously operating its slaughterhouses at full tilt at the height of the pandemic, no matter how many workers or people in the surrounding community got sick,” said Public Justice Budd Attorney Ellen Noble. “Public Justice is glad that the court quickly denied Smithfield’s motion to dismiss, recognizing that Food & Water Watch has properly alleged violations under the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) and should have an opportunity to seek discovery and prove its case. We look forward to doing just that.”

Food & Water Watch is also represented by Berger Montague and Towards Justice.

Bucks County Sewer Proposal Details Remain Hidden from Public

Categories

Clean Water

Today, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records denied Food & Water Watch’s appeal seeking to overturn the Buck County Water & Sewer Authority’s refusal to provide information about its dealings with Aqua Pennsylvania. 

In early March, after hearing rumors that the BCWSA was in private talks with Aqua, Food & Water Watch requested copies of any presentation, draft proposal, unsolicited bid or other materials or communication from Aqua Pennsylvania or Essential Utilities from January 1, 2020 to present. 

The Office of Open Records ruled that the documents would be confidential until the execution of a contract, but failed to respond to any of Food & Water Watch’s arguments for the release of the records. Their decision, which was delayed by months, comes two days after BCWSA approved an exclusivity agreement with Aqua Pennsylvania. 

The entire process has been highly flawed. On Wednesday, the BCWSA Board voted on the exclusivity agreement even though it excluded it from the public agenda posted before the meeting, and it failed to notify the public that the vote was happening. The Board, however, did take the time to hold a private press briefing the day prior to the vote to discuss the agreement. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer Ginny Marcille-Kerslake issued the following statement:

“What is the BCWSA Board trying to hide? The people of Bucks County have a fundamental right to know what is being discussed about the future of their sewer system. The entire privatization process has been shrouded in secrecy without public access to even basic information. The process has been flawed since its conception. Sewer privatization is not in the public interest and will sacrifice public control over an essential asset, leading to massive increases in bills for households and local businesses. The BCWSA Board must reject the sewer privatization deal.” 

Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority Advances Backroom Deal with Aqua

Categories

Clean Water

This morning, the board of directors of the Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority (BCWSA) announced a year-long exclusivity deal with Aqua Pennsylvania to finalize the sale of the authority’s sewer system to the corporation. This comes after months of community opposition, and it follows months of private conversations between the BCWSA board and the corporation. The proposed $1.1 billion sale would be the largest sewer privatization in the United States. 

Aqua Pennsylvania submitted an unsolicited proposal in late 2020 and has since been attending Board meetings. The BCWSA has rejected Food & Water Watch’s Right to Know request for a copy of that proposal or any information about its ongoing conversations with the corporation. According to a document submitted by BCWSA in response to an appeal of that denial, Aqua Pennsylvania has claimed that the proposal and all communication are confidential “without regard to time.” 

“This backroom dealing is a recipe for disaster for the customers of the BCWSA,” said Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “The process was ripe for manipulation by private interests at the public expense. The Board has failed the public, who should have been informed and consulted before the Board started down the road to privatization. This major transaction would stick generations of Bucks County residents with higher utility bills. The Board must reject the deal.”   

“When you put politics before the residents who would be affected by the increases privatization of services and the effects it has on their daily life brings, it’s a sad day for all of us who will have to live with this mistake,” said Tom Tosti, Director of District Council 88, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). 

“Yet again we see Aqua Pennsylvania continue its drive to be the regional water monopoly in our area and yet again we have a set of local officials who do not appear to understand the bigger and profound negative impacts from commodifying our water and wastewater systems,” said David McMahon, cofounder of Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts (NOPE). “And so once again it is left to the ratepayers themselves to do the due diligence and show how these privatization efforts are simply not in the public interest.” 

“We keep playing this game where consultants and public officials pretend that there is a magical benefit to privatizing water and wastewater systems but time and time again we are shown that the PA PUC is unable to protect ratepayers,” said Kofi Osei, a community organizer with NOPE. “Investor owned utilities consistently have double or triple rates of nearby systems owned and operated by municipal authorities. Section 27 of the PA constitution states that ‘ Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come’. Investors have no right to our constitutionally protected resources and Municipal Authorities, especially huge multi county ones like BCWSA, have no right to explore giving away our property.”

“This is disappointing but not surprising,” said Margo Woodacre with Keep Water Affordable. “We spoke at one of the suddenly-announced Buck’s County Sewer and Water Authority’s board meetings to warn the board of our experience with Aqua’s tactics of raising fees on the ratepayer. We were surprised to see Aqua’s leadership quietly present at that meeting.  Although the board promised that this would be an ‘open process,’  this decision seems to have been made behind closed doors with no public input!”

Since last winter, community groups, workers and residents have attended Board meetings to express opposition to privatization of BCWSA. More than 300 Bucks County residents have signed petitions opposing the privatization. 

The authority will not pursue the traditional competitive bidding process. It has engaged in exclusive conversations with Aqua Pennsylvania. The vote was made without advance public notice. The item was not included on the agenda. This has raised concerns that the anticompetitive nature of the transaction will result in higher costs for the public. 

Fitzgerald’s Fracking Ban Veto: Disappointing but Not Surprising

Categories

Climate and Energy

As expected, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald vetoed Bill No. 12162-22, a measure that would prohibit all surface and subsurface leases in eight of the nine county parks. 

“Rich Fitzgerald’s veto was not a surprise, but it is still disappointing,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Robin Martin. “Fitzgerald’s explanation for his veto is confusing, but what it tells us is that he is committed to standing in the way of those of us who want to protect our county from the dangers of fracking. Thankfully, the community leaders who worked so hard to build support for this ban, and the lawmakers who championed it alongside us, are not backing down.” 

“Allegheny County Council did the right thing in listening to their constituents and casting a historic vote to protect county parks.  We’ve come too far, and the stakes are too high, to stop now,” said PennEnvironment Clean Air Advocate Zachary Barber. “It’s time for Council to do to cement this bill into law.”

The measure passed in a lopsided 11-4 County Council vote on July 5, which is one vote more than the minimum needed to override the veto, and lawmakers have vowed to vote to override the veto during a special meeting held sometime this summer.

“Rich Fitzgerald has shown once again that he is on the side of industry, rather than the community. Not one person who has contacted me from any district has asked that we frack our parks– all have told me to ban fracking any way possible. All we keep hearing are excuses to have profits remain the priority over people’s health, safety, and welfare. My colleagues and I are dedicated to returning any special meetings called by President Catena for a veto override vote, and to vote yes (again) for this bill,” said Allegheny County Councilmember Bethany Hallam.  

Hallam added: “I didn’t introduce this bill because I thought it would be easy; I introduced it because this is the right thing to do. We knew all along that the only way to protect our parks would be to overcome the executive’s veto, and fortunately the overwhelming support of Allegheny County residents has put us in position to do just that. I intend to do whatever it takes to preserve our beloved parks.” 

Pandemic Profiteering: How Corporations Are Capitalizing on the Crisis

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

by Peter Hart and Mia DiFelice
Editor’s Note: This content originally appeared on Food & Water Action’s website (our affiliated organization) at an earlier date.

From the beginning of the COVID crisis, corporate oligarchs manipulated markets to maximize profits. The giants that control the meat industry stoked bogus fears of a shortage to jack up prices on consumers — with lies so egregious that we filed suit against one of the worst offenders, pork giant Smithfield.

Of course, the problems mounted. Inflation spiked across the economy. Shops swung between long waits and huge shortages. Big companies blamed supply chain shocks and increasing production costs, which were certainly part of it.

But when a handful of corporations control markets, they can essentially name their price — and shovel obscene profits to CEOs and Wall Street speculators.

Oil Companies Are Winning

The squeeze on working families intensified with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Suddenly, global dependence on fossil fuels reached a breaking point. U.S. gasoline prices soared while gas supplies to Europe plunged into chaos. 

In response, politicians and their media enablers demanded a dramatic increase in fracking. But energy giants quietly rebuffed these drilling demands. Not for any new concern for the environment — but rather because they are pulling in billions in record profits. Twisted market logic meant that limiting supply would pay off for their Wall Street investors.

From January to March this year, CEOs of eight fossil fuel corporations saw their share values grow by nearly $100 million. Windfall profits have not resulted in lower prices or better conditions for workers. Instead, these CEOs sold their shares for millions of personal profit.

The horror in Ukraine has created a new global energy crisis. Unfortunately, too many political leaders are clinging to the wrong solution. They want to “fix” a fossil fuel crisis by pushing more fossil fuels. That political support has given frackers a license to spring for long-term gas export terminals. American company EQT even called their mega-polluting gas export scheme “the Largest Green Initiative On the Planet.”

As a result, 25 new LNG projects are currently underway in our country. Fossil fuel companies are not only profiteering from today’s misery — they’re locking us into decades of pollution and emissions. We can’t let this continue. The International Energy Agency warned just last year that fossil fuel production must stop growing immediately if we’re to avoid the worst effects of climate change. 

Cornering the Market at The Supermarket

At the start of the pandemic, broadcasts and news feeds were fixated on one recurring image: empty grocery store shelves. Periodic shortages kept some consumers on our toes, while many were simply forced to go without.

As with oil and gas, we face giant corporations that would rather gobble profits than prioritize the needs of families. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen the cost of meat rise while small farmers’ and ranchers’ profits fell. While COVID ran rampant, we saw corporations limit hazard pay for workers, while investing in stock buybacks to line the pockets of executives.

The meat industry is one of the core players in this problem. A mere four corporations process 85% of all beef and 70% of pork in the U.S. This extreme concentration gives these companies the power to control supply chains, prices and wages. Experts suspect they’re using inflation and supply chain problems as a cover to boost profits. In fact, net profit margins for those top four companies are up over 300%.

Plus, lean supply chains in any industry are dangerous for crises. With one disaster, a few broken links send huge ripples throughout a system without the backups and resilience to recover. For example, a COVID outbreak in a single Smithfield hog plant took out 5 percent of the nation’s hog processing capacity. 

Corporations Are Selling Us Misery

It’s never been clearer: When the essentials for life itself are controlled by corporate cartels, the future of our communities, our families and our planet are at their mercy. For decades, corporate America has told us that bigger is better, that consolidation would lower prices and eliminate inefficiencies. 

We know this is a lie. 

The latest heartbreaking example: the wealthiest nation on Earth is running out of baby formula because of problems at a single factory, thanks to a market controlled by four corporations.

At Food & Water Watch, we know that these problems have solutions. That’s why we’re fighting to break up the grocery cartels and stop corporate water profiteers. It’s why we’re demanding an end to the polluting factory farms that harm communities and farmers. Why we fight on the ground across the country to stop the fossil fuel projects driving the climate emergency. In an era of compounding crises, we must fight to transform the present and protect the future.

We can’t fight Corporate America without you.

Climate Justice Advocates March on Trenton

Categories

Climate and Energy

Hundreds of community and climate activists joined environmental justice leaders in a march and rally demanding that Governor Murphy deny permits for major new fossil fuel projects.

The March and Rally for Clean Air and Climate Justice, convened by the EMPOWER NJ coalition, brought together residents and community groups fighting on the frontlines of fossil fuel pollution with environmental groups and climate activists from every part of the state. 

The event sought to highlight several major fossil fuel expansion projects, four of which are approaching permit deadlines with the Murphy administration. The Empower NJ coalition is working closely with local communities to stop these projects. According to the coalition’s estimates, if all seven are approved, the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions could increase by up to 38 percent.

Attendees gathered at the stops of the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial before marching  to the Statehouse Annex, where speakers from frontline communities talked about the threats they are facing from new dirty energy projects. 

The march was focused on environmental justice and the unequal burdens faced by communities that must live with fossil fuel pollution. While the state’s environmental justice law is an important step, it is not being applied to the current proposals, including a new fracked gas power plant at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission treatment plant in Newark. 

A growing coalition of community groups, elected officials and activists have mobilized against the project, which would dump even more air pollution in a community already suffering some of the worst environmental and public health impacts in the country.

“Environmental justice communities like Camden already suffer the dire consequences from dirty energy facilities that pollute our air and water, “ said Minister Roy Jones, Camden resident and executive director at the National Institute for Healthy Human Spaces. “By enacting a moratorium on fossil fuel projects, Governor Murphy can halt the proposal to ship explosive LNG by truck and train through Camden for overseas export and fulfill his promise of a healthy environment for all New Jerseyans, regardless of their skin color or zip code.”

“Sometimes our courage is called upon to say no to something outdated and harmful.  The plan for another dirty gas power plant in Woodbridge, which will spew even more toxic pollution into the air we breathe in Perth Amboy, is exactly that,” said Julie Ann Ferreira, a Perth Amboy resident and Food & Water Watch volunteer. “We must make history of fossil fuels before they make history of us.”

“The proposed Williams pipeline expansion would introduce even more unnecessary and unhealthy pollution into our community and contribute to the ever-growing climate catastrophe. Our leaders cannot claim to take action on the climate crisis while allowing these dirty energy projects to continue. Our future is at stake, and it’s time to say enough is enough,” said Rey Watson (they/them), 17 year old climate justice organizer from Whitehouse Station.

“All of us here in Hudson County see it’s a trap that will create new congestion and dirty the air we breathe,” said Dr. James Lee, an organizer with Safe Streets Jersey City.  “The proposed turnpike widening is the equivalent of dumping a fossil-fuel power plant complete with billowing smokestacks in the middle of Jersey City next to our homes and schools.”

“The proposal by Tennessee Gas Pipeline to expand their pipeline operations in North Jersey with more dirty, dangerous fracked gas compressor stations sabotages New Jersey’s visionary goals to curb destabilizing fossil fuel emissions and toxic air pollution,” said Melissa Brown Blaeuer, a 20+ year homeowner in the Highlands watershed town of West Milford in Passaic County. Her house is surrounded by a vital greenway of protected land, and sits only a mile from the proposed compressor station. “If Governor Murphy is the climate leader we all truly need, he will reward companies investing in energy innovation and safe, sustainable solar and wind development. He will deflect and de-incentivize old technology profiteers undermining our moral obligations to ourselves and our children.  The Governor can and must stop the flow of money and talent into such ill-conceived and self-defeating fossil fuel projects.”

 “After over a year of activism and organizing against NJ Transit’s proposed gas plant, in 2020 at the direction of Governor Murphy they committed to finding a greener solution for their resiliency needs. Now after over a year of “re-envisioning the project” NJ Transit is yet again continuing to push for a dirty fossil fueled power plant in an environmental justice community in the Kearny Meadowlands,” said Liz Ndoye, Hoboken Resident and member of the Don’t Gas the Meadowland Coalition. “I say shame on NJ Transit and Governor Murphy for allowing this plan to pollute the air of Essex and Hudson County residents during this time of extreme climate crisis.”

 “We call on Governor Murphy to stop PVSC’s proposal for a new gas power plant in Newark,” said Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, Co-Chair of the Newark Environmental Commission. “Newark has long been disproportionately overburdened with pollution from both stationary and mobile sources. We cannot get to zero emissions unless we switch to clean, renewable energy and shift away from harmful fossil fuels. This type of power plant would already be a relic. No more fossil fuel projects in Newark and no more fossil fuel projects in New Jersey!”

Pleasantville Flushes Sewer Privatization Deal

Categories

Clean Water

Tonight the Pleasantville City Council approved an ordinance to rescind its earlier approval of a 39-year sewer concession deal with the private equity firm Bernhard Capital. 

The 4-3 vote represents a remarkable turnaround after months of organizing by community groups opposed to the privatization deal. 

The original memorandum of understanding would have transferred control of the operation, management and financing of the sewer collection system to Bernhard Capital in exchange for $15 million upfront. Advocates had raised concerns with contract provisions that could have led to unexpected rate increases as well as with the approval process. The original ordinance was approved during consecutive meetings in February 2022, when community members were barred entry from City Hall due to unrelated protests. 

“This is a huge victory for democracy in South Jersey. This privatization scheme was a horrible deal for Pleasantville residents,” said Food & Water Watch senior organizer Kate Delany. “It would have gouged residents with excessive sewer rate hikes to profit a private equity firm. We applaud the City Council and the community organizations who stood up to this financial firm to protect their essential wastewater system. Responsible public provision is in the best interests of the public.”

This is the second time Bernhard Capital has lost an attempt to privatize a water system in South Jersey. The company faced stiff opposition to its bid to take over the public sewer system in Cumberland County. 

“From Fayetteville, Louisiana to Pleasantville, New Jersey, controversy follows Bernard Capital,” said Irvin Moreno-Rodriguez, Pleasantville resident and co-director of El Pueblo Unido of Atlantic City. “This is not a coincidence. Bernhard is a firm that will do whatever it takes to profit off the public utilities of American cities. Public utilities should be public and never at the mercy of money.”

To Give Consumers Real Relief, Biden Must Stop Oil and Gas Exports

Categories

Climate and Energy

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is scheduled to meet behind closed doors with oil executives tomorrow to discuss out of control gasoline prices. Instead of cajoling private companies to offer a symbolic band-aid to hurting consumers, the White House should pursue a more direct strategy: Stopping the export of gasoline and other fuels.

In 2015, the decades-long ban on exporting crude oil was lifted. Oil shipments went from  400,000 barrels per day in 2015 to about 3.8 million barrels earlier this year. Exports of gasoline and diesel have also risen dramatically, reportedly to near-record highs. In addition to increasing carbon pollution, the shipments serve to lower domestic supplies, which raises prices for consumers at the pump here at home. 

The same is true of the liquified natural gas (LNG) export boom. While global supplies are tight, corporations are exporting fuels to buyers that can pay the most, raising the costs of home heating and electricity for American families. The effect on prices was evident when a fire shut down a major gas export facility in Texas. Natural gas futures dropped about 25 percent as a result, which analysts attributed to more gas being available for domestic consumption.

In advance of the meeting, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement:

“Exporting dirty energy is a climate disaster, but it also hurts consumers and working families here at home. While gasoline prices remain ridiculously high, energy corporations are shipping crude oil overseas. This is great business for Wall Street speculators and dirty energy CEOs, but it’s taking a terrible toll on everyone else. 

“Lifting the ban on oil exports was a terrible mistake, but the White House has the authority to do something to immediately ease the pain on consumers. By declaring a climate emergency, President Biden could curtail oil exports to help alleviate the supply crunch. The administration could take similar action to rein in LNG exports.

“We are also exporting near-record levels of gasoline and diesel, the products that are currently wiping consumers out at the pump. 

“Of course, the real solution is to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels altogether. In the last three years we have seen the destabilizing war in Ukraine, the supply chain shocks of a deadly pandemic, and the decision by domestic drillers to cut new supplies in order to maximize profits and please Wall Street. This is simply unsustainable in every sense. Instead of begging corporate profiteers to solve our problems, it’s time for the White House to take a direct step to alleviate the pain being felt by American families. It’s time to stop oil and gas exports.”

VP’s Pittsburgh Visit Underscores Need for More Lead Funding

Categories

Clean Water

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris is in Pittsburgh to highlight the city’s lead line replacement program. Her visit should help shine a light on policies that have worked – and on the level of funding that is necessary to replace lead lines across the country.

Food & Water Watch Water for All Program Director Mary Grant issued the following statement: 

“Cities like Pittsburgh and Newark have had real success in replacing lead lines, thanks to the work of community activists and the availability of public funds to do the work. We applaud the Our Water Campaign led by Pittsburgh United for its work to advocate for lead line replacement, and for pushing back on the water privatization that aggravated the lead crisis itself. Pittsburgh still has much work to do to eliminate all lead service lines, and federal support will be crucial to achieving lead-free water without exacerbating the city’s water affordability problems.

“Unfortunately, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law did not provide the level of funding that is necessary to end the nation’s lead-in-water crisis. The infrastructure law that was championed by the Biden administration devotes $15 billion to lead pipe replacement, which is only a quarter of what the water industry estimates is necessary to replace all lead service lines. And about half of that funding comes in the form of loans, instead of grants, which disinvested-in cities urgently need. 

“If the administration wants to fully confront this crisis, President Biden should make the WATER Act a part of his infrastructure agenda. This bill is the only permanent fix for our water crises, allocating $35 billion per year to urgently address the problems facing communities all across the country. The WATER Act prioritizes disadvantaged communities and would be fully paid for by rolling back some of the previous administration’s corporate tax breaks. And the WATER Act would make sure that the funds would not flow to large private water companies that take control of public water systems. It is the most comprehensive solution to our national water crisis, already backed by over 100 members of Congress. It’s time to act.”

Food Advocacy Groups Defend Lawsuit to Hold Smithfield Accountable for Lying to the Public

Categories

Food System

Today, Public Justice and Food & Water Watch submitted their opposition brief in response to Smithfield Foods’ motion to dismiss Food & Water Watch’s case. The case alleges that Smithfield Foods has repeatedly lied to consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to protect its bottom line at the expense of its workers’ health and safety.

Smithfield’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit comes in the wake of a damning congressional report released last month, exposing the role that Smithfield and other meatpacking giants played in inciting panic about the national meat supply and endangering workers in the process. After conducting an extensive investigation, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis concluded that the country’s largest meatpackers—including Smithfield— not only lied to the public about meat shortages, but also aggressively lobbied the federal government to keep plants running with “glaringly deficient” safety protocols, despite the terrible risk to workers’ lives.

Congress’ findings validate the advocacy groups’ claims against the pork giant. Throughout the pandemic, Smithfield has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign based on two claims: that the company was adequately protecting workers at its facilities from COVID-19, and that meat shortages were imminent if processing plants were forced to close. The lawsuit alleges both claims are false. Nonetheless, Smithfield continues to promote misleading information about how it protected its workers earlier in the pandemic.

In moving to dismiss this case, Smithfield excused its baseless claims about impending meat shortages, arguing that government agencies and the Trump administration made similar statements. However, the congressional report traces those same government statements directly back to meat industry lobbyists, including Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan.

“Smithfield has a lot of nerve attempting to dismiss our case just two days after Congress published its truly disturbing findings about the company’s pandemic response,” says Emily Miller, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch. “As confirmed by Congress, while Smithfield was telling the public it was doing ‘everything in its power’ to protect its workers, the company was actually cutting backroom deals with federal regulators so that it did not have to implement life-saving safety precautions at its plants. Smithfield put its workers in grave danger then, and if not stopped now, will keep putting workers at risk as new COVID variants surge throughout the country.”

The meatpacking giant also claimed that it had addressed worker safety concerns. However, the COVID pandemic is still having a serious impact, from the emergence of new variants to ongoing outbreaks that continue to put workers in danger.

Public Justice Budd Attorney Ellen Noble has this to say on today’s brief: “Smithfield Foods fabricated a controversy and panic. The company intentionally promoted the myth that meat shortages were imminent if the company scaled down production to protect workers. This myth impacted consumers’ purchasing decisions and stirred up a national debate about the need to keep meatpacking plants running at full capacity. Smithfield’s tactic of ginning up a public controversy to promote production is not unlike Big Tobacco’s strategy of turning the health risks of smoking into a public argument, instead of a well-documented and widely accepted fact.”

EPA Proposes Rule to Return Key Water Protections Power to States

Categories

Clean Water

Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would return to states the legal authority to block certain key infrastructure projects that pose a threat to clean water. 

This move will restore longstanding state power to protect waterways from infrastructure projects. States’ Clean Water Act Section 401 legal authority has been a key factor in stopping several major fossil fuel pipelines and related dirty energy infrastructure, but was severely limited by a Trump administration rollback. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen released the following statement:

“In recent years, states have wisely used their long-standing legal authority to protect clean water in denying certification for dangerous new fossil fuel projects. The Trump administration’s reckless decision to gut state authority was nothing but a gift to oil and gas polluters at a time when we must leverage every tool available to combat the worsening effects of the climate crisis. It is welcome news that the White House is restoring this common-sense authority to protect our water and our climate.”

Fracking Exporters Post Huge First Quarter Profits

Categories

Climate and Energy

The companies exporting liquified natural gas (LNG) are posting huge gains as they plot strategies to massively expand their operations in order to capitalize on the shift away from Russian gas.

A Food & Water Watch analysis of first quarter financial records shows that four of the most high profile companies – Cheniere, EQT, Tellurian and Total – reported substantial increases in sales, profits, and stock buybacks. The company stock held by CEOs jumped in value as well. 

Cheniere, the country’s largest LNG company, exported a record amount of gas in the first quarter of this year, and posted revenues of $7.4 billion, more than doubling their haul from a year earlier. The vast majority of those revenues come from their LNG business. The value of stock held by CEO Jack Fusco jumped by $30 million in the first three months of the year, and the company bought back about a quarter million shares for $25 million. 

The Houston-based Tellurian generated about $146 million in total gas revenues, about $120 million of which came from its LNG business. This is a substantial increase from last year’s first quarter total of $8.7 million. The company has a direct tie to the White House: Amos Hochstein, a Senior Advisor for Energy Security at the State Department, was an executive vice president atTellurian just before joining the Biden administration. Hochstein, who still owns considerable stock in the company, is currently helping to lead the US-EU Energy Security Task Force, a secretive body that is playing a key role in promoting LNG exports. 

EQT, based in Pittsburgh, is pushing an aggressive public relations campaign called Unleash U.S. LNG, which it calls “the largest green initiative on the planet.” The company is calling for the quadrupling of the country’s LNG capacity over the next eight years.  Unlike other major players, EQT posted losses in the first quarter, some of which is attributable to its focus on reducing its debt. The company reports selling more gas at higher prices than last year.  In the first quarter of this year, CEO Toby Rice has seen the value of his EQT shares appreciate by nearly $9 million. The company spent about $200 million buying back shares.

The French-owned TotalEnergies, which is the second largest LNG company in the world, reported adjusted net income of $9 billion, a massive jump from last year’s $3 billion total for the same time period. The company’s gas sales increased about 34 percent from the previous year. The company spent $1 billion in the quarter buying back shares of company stock.

Perth Amboy Votes to Oppose New Fracked Gas Plant in Woodbridge

Categories

Climate and Energy

The Perth Amboy City Council voted unanimously last night in support of a resolution opposing the construction of a massive new fracked gas power plant in the Keasbey section of Woodbrige.

Competitive Power Ventures is seeking to build a 630-megawatt plant amid a densely populated community already overburdened with fossil fuel pollution.  Perth Amboy neighborhoods are just over one mile from the site of the power plant, and all of the city’s public schools are located within three miles of it.

If approved, this new facility – which would be adjacent to an existing CPV plant – would emit more than 2.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses (GHG’s) each year, along with hundreds of tons of toxic air pollutants  – including carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, and lead, all of which will hurt the health of Central Jersey and Staten Island residents.

Combined with its existing power plant, the Woodbridge facility would be one of the largest single sources of climate-destroying carbon emissions in New Jersey, emitting over 4.6 million tons of GHG’s every year.

“I am proud that the City Council passed the resolution in opposition to the construction of CPV Keasbey Power Plant in Woodbridge,” said Perth Amboy Councilman Bienvenido “BJ” Torres. “The proposed power plant’s proximity to Perth Amboy will have a negative impact on the lives of all our residents. Our city is an environmental justice community that has suffered from past practices.  It is time to put the health of our residents first.”  

“This plant would go against environmental justice,” said Reverend Donna Stewart, President of the NAACP Perth Amboy Area Branch. “The NAACP is a civil rights organization, and environmental justice falls under civil rights of our people.” 

“Sometimes our courage will be called upon to say no to something outdated and harmful.  Today, we must say no,” said Julie Ann Ferreira, a Perth Amboy resident and Food & Water Watch volunteer. “We must make history of fossil fuels before they make history of us.”

Resolutions opposing the CPV plant have been passed by the Hoboken, Edison and Highland Park municipal councils, as well as the Highland Park Board of Education, a sign of the growing opposition to the plant across the region.

If you would like Food & Water Watch to present to your town government, contact us at 732-993-9697.

New Investigation Documents Meatpackers’ Pandemic Deceptions

Categories

Food System

Today, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report documenting how leading U.S. meatpacking companies stoked fears about a meat shortage in order to keep their plants open during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The report shows that corporate giants like Tyson and Smithfield worked closely with the Trump administration to keep their operations running despite the risks to workers. It also documents how pork companies were exporting record amounts of pork while stoking fears of a shortage. 

In June of last year, Food & Water Watch filed suit charging that Smithfield Foods repeatedly lied to consumers about a looming meat shortage in order to protect its profits. 

In response to today’s report, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement: 

“From the very beginning of the pandemic, consumer advocates and industry watchdogs warned that meat giants like Smithfield and Tyson were stoking fears of a shortage in order to keep their plants operating – putting public health and workers’ lives at risk. These fear mongering PR campaigns were nothing more than a coverup for corporate greed and pandemic profiteering.

“The unsafe conditions in meatpacking plants have raised alarms for decades. The devastating impacts of the COVID crisis on workers in these industries should push lawmakers and the Biden administration to crack down on the meatpacking giants. This is an urgent matter of public health, food safety and workers’ rights.”

‘Lab Meat’ Industry is Big Ag in Disguise

Categories

Food System

The ‘lab meat’ industry is dominated by many of the same corporate powerhouses that exert substantial control over the processed foods and meat industries, according to new research from the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch.

The group’s report (“Lab Meat Won’t End Factory Farms — But Could Entrench Them”) shows that the plant-based meat sector is dominated by just four companies, including Kellogg and  Conagra. Kellogg alone accounts for nearly half of all sales of plant-based meat alternatives, thanks to its acquisition of Morningstar Farms. 

The industry is also seeing substantial investments from meat giants such as JBS, Smithfield and Tyson. This is not surprising; U.S. sales of plant-based meat rose 37 percent between 2017 and 2019, and plant-based dairy has seen even more impressive growth.

As a whole, the lab meat industry (plant-based meat and so-called ‘cultured meat’) seeks to attract health conscious consumers by closely mimicking meat products while promising substantial environmental benefits. But on the whole, the marketing of plant-based meats deserves further scrutiny. Many products are ultra-processed and rely on additives like saturated fats to mimic the flavors and textures of meat. And government oversight can range from inconsistent to non-existent, and often relies on industry-supplied safety studies. And the ecological and climate benefits touted by the industry remain dubious, given the reliance on processed materials and inputs like corn and soy. 

The report finds that so far, lab meat seems to be complementing — not replacing — meat consumption, which raises questions about whether Americans can truly ‘shop their way’ to a more sustainable food system. This is all the more true when considering the array of federal policies and economic incentives that support the heavily polluting factory farm model. 

“Consumers may think they are ’voting with their dollar’ by choosing plant-based meats, but most of that dollar lines the pockets of agribusiness giants, including the largest meat companies,” says Amanda Starbuck, Food & Water Watch Research Director. “Plant-based meats are not true alternatives if they prop up the existing system that fuels climate change and ecological degradation.” 

The report calls for sweeping changes to U.S. farm policy, including banning factory farms and boosting support for organic, regenerative farming. This will only be achieved if we fight back against corporate power that currently holds a stranglehold on our food system. 

Food, Water, And Climate Are Under Attack. We Must Protect Them.

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mark Schlosberg and Peter Hart
Editor’s Note: This content originally appeared on Food & Water Action’s website (our affiliated organization) at an earlier date.

With the Western United States engulfed in megadrought and climate change supercharged weather disasters increasing everywhere, the future can seem bleak. This is especially true given that our dysfunctional Congress has failed to pass any meaningful climate legislation. 

But now isn’t the time to surrender. It’s time to double down to advance a bold food, water, and climate agenda. This moment calls for visionary plans that will inspire people across the country and meet the challenges we face.

We need to organize around the real solutions that will address our food, water, and climate problems. 

A Proven Theory To Address Climate Change And Resource Problems

At Food & Water Action and our affiliated organization, Food & Water Watch, we’ve never backed down from a fight. Our theory of change — how we believe real change happens — is two-fold. First, we propose bold policies that will solve real problems that people face. And just as importantly, we organize around those solutions, even when others say they are politically unreasonable. 

It’s how we’ve:

  • Changed the national debate on fracking and won a ban in New York, Maryland and communities nationwide. 
  • Blocked water privatization attempts in dozens of communities.
  • Begun changing the debate around factory farms. 

At the federal level, we cannot afford to waste time on industry schemes like carbon capture and so-called “renewable” biogas. These are delay tactics that will lock us into decades of fossil fuels, incentivize the spread of factory farms and subsequently pollute our water. We need to advance legislation that takes on the fossil fuel industry, big agribusiness, and the water privatizers. That’s exactly what we’re doing. 

Climate Change Is Inseparably Connected With Food And Water Concerns

The issues of food, water and climate are deeply connected. The historically punishing drought in the West, for example, is driven by climate change. Climate change, in turn, is being fueled by greenhouse gasses from factory farms and fracking and drilling. Industrial agriculture is also a massive water user and polluter in dry western states, as is the fossil fuel industry.

So we have a reckless cycle: 

  • Fracking and factory farms use and pollute water. 
  • The greenhouse emissions they create drive climate change. 
  • Climate change leads to drought and less water, which also affects food supply. 

All the while, a small number of giant corporations and wealthy titans profit while ordinary people suffer.

This Climate Change Cycle Can Only Be Broken Through Systemic Shifts In Policy

We need to break this cycle. And that’s what we aim to do with three landmark pieces of legislation in Congress. Passing the Future Generations Protection Act, the Farm System Reform Act, and the WATER act will not happen in the current weak Congress. But laying the groundwork now is critical. Real federal solutions are essential to avoid worsening climate chaos, depleted water systems, and a further consolidated food system that hurts everyone, including family farmers. 

THREE LANDMARK BILLS

The Farm System Reform Act (FSRA) will make our food system safe, healthy, and sustainable. This critical legislation will ban the construction of new factory farms and the expansion of existing ones. The FSRA will phase out existing factory farms by 2040. It will also ensure we’re enforcing environmental laws on existing factory farms, including holding Big Ag companies responsible for their pollution. 

Our aging water systems are crumbling. Meanwhile, giant corporations are scrambling to privatize public water systems to profit from the basic human right to water. The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act will provide a long-term, comprehensive solution to the current water-funding gap. It will achieve this by rolling back a small portion of the Trump’s administration’s corporate income tax cuts. The WATER Act will significantly fund the protection of our drinking water and create almost one million jobs. The WATER Act will help renew our commitment to public water, ensuring everyone has access to affordable water service.

The Future Generations Protection Act (FGPA) is groundbreaking legislation that would move us toward the fossil-fuel-free future we need. The FGPA will: 

  • Ban greenhouse gas emissions from all new power plants
  • Ban fracking
  • Ban crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids exports 

It’s the only bill in Congress that would ban fracking nationally — a critical step to ending climate chaos.

Your Support Is Needed In The Fight To Preserve Our Resources

The first step is having the right solutions to the problems that face our generation. Now that we have those, we need your support at all levels to build the power over the long-term to enact them. Will you add your name to show Congress the power these solutions have?

Urge Congress to support the Future Generations Protection Act!

Booming Oil Earnings Demand Windfall Profits Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, Exxon Mobil and Chevron released first quarter earnings that show the companies making astonishing profits while American families struggle with punishing inflation. 

Chevron’s first quarter earnings were the highest in a decade, while Exxon Mobil reported $5 billion in profits over the first three months of the year, a substantial increase from 2021. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Policy Mitch Jones released the following statement:


“The evidence could not be any clearer: The fossil fuel giants are cashing in on the global energy crunch, pinching American families and sending excess profits back to shareholders and Wall Street speculators. This demands a policy response – namely, a windfall profits tax like the one introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, that would recover much of these ill-gotten gains and return them to struggling households. Lawmakers who complain about corporate concentration and inflation should do something about it – like tackling the damage being caused by polluting profiteers. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer should bring this legislation forward for a vote.”


Residents, Advocates Speak Out Against PVSC Gas Plant At Public Hearing

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, dozens of Newark residents and activists from across New Jersey spoke at a public hearing in opposition to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s plans to build a new gas fired power plant at their wastewater treatment facility in Newark’s Ironbound Community.

“The last thing the Ironbound needs is another power plant. Residents here already experience high levels of pollution from numerous sources including three other gas power plants, NJ’s largest trash incinerator, heavy industry, Newark airport, truck and train traffic, and  major highways. The Ironbound is the definition of an overburdened community,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Ironbound Community Corporation. “Increasing the pollution burden on Newark is perpetuating NJ’s legacy of environmental racism. The community has done its job sounding the alarms, we need our elected officials to step in and help us stop this grave injustice . We can’t fix one problem by hurting the lungs of children.” 

Despite the landmark Environmental Justice law that Governor Murphy signed in 2020 that should prevent projects like this from being sited in overburdened communities, PVSC is seeking final approval for their power plant before the law is implemented. The interim Administrative Order 2021-25, which PVSC is subject to, does not include the requirement for a cumulative public health and environmental impacts assessment to be completed prior to a permit decision – a key provision in the EJ law. 

“It is disappointing to see that PVSC has opted to forego doing a thorough cumulative impact assessment in line with the forthcoming EJ law, thereby disregarding the sentiment of thousands of residents from Newark and across the state who are demanding that EJ communities are no longer treated as sacrifice zones,” said Dr. Ana Isabel Baptista, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice & Co-Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School University.

“All of NJ was affected by Hurricane Sandy, but people in Newark, specifically the Ironbound are impacted continuously by the imminent health crisis of environmental pollution,” said Melissa Miles, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance

Approving the project would undermine Governor Murphy’s professed commitment to phase out fossil fuels and protect clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for all residents regardless of zip code.

“Newark residents need their concerns addressed, not just lip service. We cannot afford any new industrial smokestacks like PVSC’s proposed gas plant. There are better options out there for our lungs, our jobs, and our Bay,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action National Environmental Justice Director and the founder of Newark’s South Ward Environmental Alliance. “PVSC and the Murphy Administration must rethink building a fourth gas plant in the Ironbound if their words about environmental justice are to mean anything other than another environmental injustice.” 

People in Newark have a long history with polluting facilities and their effects on our health. The new environmental legislation, which is designed to protect us, has not yet had the desired effect,” said Cynthia Mellon, Co-Chair of the City of Newark Environmental Commission. “We are carefully monitoring PVSC’s promises to the community, but due to the pollution overburden Newark experiences, we ask that this gas-fired power plant not be built and that PVSC seek other ways to increase the resiliency of its plant. We must turn away from fossil fuels now.”

After widespread opposition to a vote to move this project ahead that had been planned for PVSC’s January board meeting, Governor Murphy intervened and directed PVSC to cancel it and do a renewable alternatives assessment. Though PVSC put out an RFP for renewable energy proposals earlier this year, they have still not completed their review.

“PVSC is rushing through the EJ Law public hearing process for its outdated gas plant idea before it has even finished reviewing proposals for renewable energy sources that could replace the need for a new, polluting plant,” said Jonathan Smith, Senior Attorney at Earthjustice. ”We need PVSC to pump the brakes and thoughtfully consider alternatives that could save the health of Ironbound residents and help New Jersey achieve its decarbonization goals – not barrel through another gas plant in a neighborhood that already has more gas plants than anywhere else in the state.”

This public hearing comes less than a week after over 130 health professionals held a press conference in opposition to this project, and sent a letter to Governor Murphy signed by over 130 health care workers regarding the public health impacts of increased pollution in the Ironbound.

“Fossil fuel pollution has been estimated to lead to over 10.2 million premature deaths,” said Dr. Lisa Cerceo, MD, academic hospitalist with a special interest in environmental health and the impacts of climate change. “But it is far too easy to fall into the trap of just seeing these as numbers. These are children with asthma, grandparents with lung cancers, fathers with heart attacks, and mothers with adverse birth outcomes.”

PVSC will receive public comments on this proposal through the summer which will be reviewed by the NJDEP before they decide whether or not to grant PVSC permits to construct the gas plant. In the meantime, Newark residents and allies across the state remain committed to getting Governor Murphy to stop this project and direct PVSC to redesign it with a renewable energy alternative.

“The path forward has never been more clear,” said Matt Smith, New Jersey State Director with Food & Water Watch. “Governor Murphy must direct his own agency, PVSC, to cancel their contract for gas fired turbines, withdraw their air permit application for the polluting power plant, and re-design the project in a way that does not add any more pollution to Newark and neighboring communities.”

‘Bipartisan’ Climate Compromise Would Be Bad for the Climate

Categories

Climate and Energy

Recent news reports indicate that lawmakers are aiming to craft climate legislation that could draw the support of a handful of Republican Senators and coal millionaire and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Policy Mitch Jones released the following statement

“The Build Back Better bill was effectively stymied by Senator Manchin, who is now apparently part of an effort to craft a bipartisan bill that would be even weaker than the compromise efforts he soundly rejected last year. This approach could only be considered ‘climate legislation’ if we warp the meaning of that term to include bills that will make climate change worse. Instead of letting Manchin and fossil fuel interests define the terms, the White House and Democratic leadership must push for the solutions we need, not merely what pleases Joe Manchin.”

Health Professionals Outline Alarming Impacts of Newark Gas Plant Proposal

Categories

Climate and Energy

On April 20, health professionals from across the region gathered in Newark to call attention to the environmental injustice and health implications of building a new gas power plant in Newark’s Ironbound community.

If approved, a proposal from the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) would result in construction of a fourth methane gas-fired power plant in the Ironbound, a community which already faces a massive pollution burden from fossil fuel plants, the state’s largest trash incinerator, ports, thousands of diesel truck trips daily, and other major polluting facilities.

At the press conference, health professionals released a letter to Governor Murphy outlining these concerns, signed by over 130 health care professionals from dozens of medical fields urging him to stop PVSC’s proposal.

“If PVSC is serious about their environmental and public health commitments, they should sit down with the residents of Newark and figure out how to make their waste treatment plant more resilient without further increasing the already unsafe levels of air pollution in the community and region,” said Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq., the director of the Center for the Urban Environment of the John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy and Research at Kean University.” 

“There’s no substitute for the air we breathe. Over 19 million people in the Newark-Jersey city area already suffer from bad air days because of ozone and particulate matter,” said Dr. Catherine Chen, MD, FACP. “Over 42 days of this already. We can’t have this power plant add even more days of the year to this toll. People and the communities need to breathe clean air.”

The Ironbound already faces dangerous levels of harmful air pollution. A gas fired power plant will increase air pollutants including CO2, NOx, particulate matter, SO2, and VOCs in the Ironbound, a community that already experiences some of the worst air pollution in the country. These air pollutants have been linked to a host of health problems including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, autism, learning disabilities, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease.

“As a reproductive health specialist, doula and student midwife, I am tired of seeing the health issues and near death experiences of my clients due to systemic racism. Environmental racism being one of the biggest endocrine distributors effecting our overall health and contributing to our infant and maternal mortality rates in Newark,” said Erica Castillo, Newark resident, birth doula, and student midwife. “There is much work to be done but stopping PVSC from adding another power plant in Newark is something we can easily do now to protect our residents of further health damage.”

Despite Governor Murphy directing the commission to delay a vote this past January, PVSC is moving ahead with this project by seeking an air pollution permit before New Jersey’s environmental justice law is implemented. NJDEP’s interim Administrative Order 2021- 25 does not require PVSC to conduct a cumulative public health impacts assessment, the main requirement of NJ’s environmental justice law.  

“The science rings true: Another dirty fossil fuel powerplant near the Ironbound is bad for the health of the community, the state of New Jersey, and the planet,” said Dr. Robert Laumbach MD, MPH, CIH, DABT, Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health and Justice, Rutgers School of Public Health.

PVSC will hold a public hearing on the power plant on April 26, as required by the NJDEP AO-25. Approving the project would undermine Governor Murphy’s professed commitment to phase out fossil fuels and protect clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for all residents regardless of zip code.

Camden Forum Highlights LNG Terminal Dangers

Categories

Climate and Energy

On Wednesday evening, about 90 people gathered at a public forum in Camden to learn about a dangerous fracked gas terminal proposed for Gibbstown. 

The attendees, both in person and online, ended the evening by signing a letter to President Biden and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to ban the dangerous transport of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail car. The residents and activists are also preparing to mobilize in Trenton in June to call on Governor Murphy to call a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure in Jersey.

The public education forum was held at Rutgers Camden Campus and was hosted by the Rutgers Faculty Union and co-sponsored by Food & Water Watch, the National Institute for Healthy Human Spaces, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Southern Burlington County NAACP, Camden for Clean Air, South Jersey Progressive Democrats, Rowan College at Burlington County Environmental Club, Our Revolution Trenton Mercer and the Empower Coalition. 

“Educating folks about this dangerous project is the first step at engaging the public to take action to stop it. Everyone who attended is sending a powerful message to Governor Murphy and President Biden: Reject permits for this project and protect the health and safety of already overburdened environmental justice communities,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Noa Gordon-Guterman.  

US, European Green Groups Urge Leaders to Reject Fossil Fuel Expansion Schemes

Categories

Climate and Energy

Hundreds of groups in the United States and across Europe sent a letter to President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Lyn today urging them not to build new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The groups expressed their concerns that the March 25 US/EU Joint Energy Security announcement could encourage the construction of new fracked gas infrastructure, including export facilities and pipelines, and that the drive to replace Russian gas will increase fracking in the United States.

As the letter states, “we urge you to direct the Energy Security Task Force to develop a plan that ensures no new financing, exploration licenses, or permits for coal, oil or gas extraction, expansion of exports, imports and infrastructure, and to develop a plan to transition the EU and US off all fossil fuels by 2035.”

While fossil gas companies are pushing to expand the buildout of export terminals, the groups argue in their letter that “redirecting existing LNG exports, combined with energy efficiency measures and an all-out mobilization to renewable energy, could immediately address Europe’s current reliance on Russian gas.” 

Further, the letter points out that long term fossil fuel investments are contrary to the recommendations laid out in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report: “Any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States and Europe will rob us of our last chance to avert climate chaos, and continue the decades of harm done to frontline communities living near fracking wells and LNG infrastructure, including pipelines and export and import terminals.”

The letter comes just days after nearly 300 scientists wrote to President Biden urging him to stop plans to increase fossil fuel production or to build new dirty energy infrastructure.

“The answer to a crisis brought on by dirty, expensive fossil fuels cannot be to do more of the same and expect a different result,” said Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh. “It would be a climate disaster to double down on fossil fuels when we have all the available technologies to jumpstart a rapid shift towards clean renewable energy. We urge all world leaders to pursue policies that end the fossil fuel era once and for all.” 

“The energy dilemma facing Europe is similar to that facing the Delaware River Watershed in our struggle to stop the production and export of Liquefied Natural Gas. The solutions to both lie in switching from the deadly dependence on fossil fuels to developing truly clean, renewable energy sources that benefit the consumer and allow for self-sufficiency and independent economic control. We are united with our allies to end the tyranny of fossil fuels, the only choice to avert climate catastrophe and more suffering,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“President Biden’s plans to increase gas exports are in direct contradiction to his commitment as the environmental president, to environmental justice and climate action,” said John Beard, founder and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network. “Fast-tracking new gas infrastructure would only add insult to injury for communities in the Gulf coast that have been overburdened with the toxic impacts of the fossil fuel industry for generations; over-exposed to the frequent storms and disasters driven by climate change. I invite him to come to Port Arthur, and other impacted cities, and see for himself. Instead of doubling down with more dirty energy, he should be doing everything he can to invest in a just recovery and an equitable transition from fossil fuels.” 

“This plan would have disastrous implications for communities in Texas and across the Gulf coast. Our region is already overburdened with decades of pollution from oil and gas operations, and dozens of new projects are proposed. President Biden’s plans to increase gas exports would require more fracking and would lock us into decades of pollution and would exacerbate the climate crisis. We need clean energy policies that protect our communities, keep our air and water clean, and provide real support for working families,” said Melanie Oldham, Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Brazoria County. 

“An exclusively economic and short-term view cannot prevail in the face of the magnitude of the challenges we face,” said Marina Gros, Gas Campaigner at Ecologistas en Acción in Spain. “Most fossil fuels must remain in the ground. However, the EU is facing a false dilemma of increasing dependence on fracking gas from the US, which causes high impacts on communities and the climate. It is a false dilemma, because with an adequate and rapid energy transition, based on reducing energy demand and changing the production and consumption system, external dependencies could be reduced and the development of new and expensive gas infrastructures would not be needed.“

Dangerous Gibbstown LNG Project Isn’t Dead Yet

Categories

Climate and Energy

While recent developments cast some doubts on the viability of a proposed dangerous liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in South Jersey, opponents are warning that developer New Fortress Energy has not formally abandoned the project.  

Late last month, several Pennsylvania environmental groups reached a settlement with the builders of the gas liquefaction plant in Bradford County that was intended to supply the New Fortress export terminal. The deal essentially requires the developer to obtain a new air permit if it wishes to build the facility. The current permit expires in July.

For its part, New Fortress affiliate Delaware River Partners has been claiming that they are not currently planning to export LNG from the Repauno port the company has spent years re-developing, but that the facility will be built to handle LNG to meet potential future demand. Despite the company’s rhetoric about not pursuing LNG, they have taken actions to continue down that path – including a last minute move in late November to apply for a renewal of its special permit to ship LNG by rail to the Gibbstown facility. In their permit application, New Fortress explained that  “[t]he capability to move LNG by rail remains integral to the viability of this enterprise and this special permit thus is an important component of this undertaking.” 

In fact, the company applied for permits to build a double rail track loop on the site that would enable them to handle liquid cargo in long “unit trains” that are used for LNG. They subsequently received these permits from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  

And even without the Wyalusing liquefaction facility, New Fortress has indicated to federal regulators that it could source gas from other facilities, although they don’t disclose where. As political leaders and energy companies push for a rapid expansion of LNG projects to supply gas to Europe, companies like New Fortress will continue to pursue projects like the Gibbstown gas terminal. 

“While any developments that slow down the Gibbstown fracking terminal are welcome news, there are still plenty of reasons to remain vigilant,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Noa Gordon-Guterman. “New Fortress has misled regulators and the public in an attempt to circumvent key regulatory oversight of their massive LNG export project. Some of the company’s current rhetoric could very well be more of the same. The real power to halt this project rests with the White House and the Murphy administration, who can put an end to all of this scheming by stopping this dangerous proposal in its tracks.”

“Every permit that is canceled in this complex and highly segmented project is an important win for the environment and community health. Taking this project apart piece by piece is what we have had to do because New Fortress Energy (NFE) and Delaware River Partners (DRP) have worked to cut this project up into little pieces to avoid agency reviews, comprehensive environmental analysis and public scrutiny. This subterfuge has been carried to the extreme by DRP spokespeople who pretend they have no interest in LNG export, yet the company is spending millions to make it happen, defending permits in court that allow it, putting up a front for investors, and playing coy about their intentions regarding the LNG export project. It doesn’t pass the straight face test that DRP is not interested in LNG but is doing everything in its power to make it happen. So, they are building LNG infrastructure while saying it will only be an “occasional use”. The old adage ‘watch what they do, not what they say’ explains it all – DRP and NFE want to export LNG but they want to avoid the federal agency review and environmental impact analysis required to do that. The truth is people are just not that gullible,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

More Fracking Is Not the Answer to Energy Crisis

Categories

Climate and Energy

European leaders and White House officials are developing plans to deal with the energy crisis exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Corporate interests are cynically seizing on this moment to push forward an agenda to entrench fossil fuel dominance for decades to come, moves that would all but doom the necessary shift away from dirty energy. 

In anticipation of these announcements, Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Policy Mitch Jones released the following statement:

“The solution to the energy crisis exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t doubling down on fracking here in the United States – or anywhere else. The fossil fuel industry, which is enjoying soaring profits amidst considerable suffering, pushes fracked gas exports as the solution, despite the fact that new fossil fuel export infrastructure will take years to develop, and Europe lacks infrastructure to move LNG through the continent. 

“President Biden should firmly reject any plans to fast track gas export terminals here in the United States. Corporate polluters are brazenly seizing on this crisis to secure decades of dependence on dirty energy, which will further devastate frontline communities and abandon any hopes for bold climate action. 

“This crisis must drive political leaders to prioritize energy independence by speeding the transition to clean, renewable energy coupled with increasing energy efficiency – not deepening our foolish dependence on polluting fossil fuels. We urge leaders here and abroad to craft policies that prioritize peace and climate stability, not corporate profiteering and geopolitical manipulation.”

Hoboken Passes Resolution Opposing Woodbridge Fracked Gas Plant

Categories

Climate and Energy

Last night, the Hoboken City Council unanimously adopted a resolution opposing a plan to build a new fracked gas power plant in Woodbridge.

The Competitive Power Ventures plan would place a 630 megawatt plant amid a densely populated community already overburdened with fossil fuel pollution.  If approved, CPV’s new facility would emit more than 2.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) each year, along with toxic pollutants like particulate matter, NOx and formaldehyde.

The company — which was embroiled in a high-profile corruption scandal in New York over approval for a plant in Orange County — already operates a gas-fired power plant adjacent to the proposed site. Combined with its existing power plant, CPV’s power plant in Woodbridge would be one of the largest single sources of climate-destroying carbon emissions in New Jersey, emitting over 4 million tons of GHGs every year.

“I am yet again proud of Hoboken for making the environmentally correct choice in voicing its opposition to yet another fossil fuel power plant in New Jersey,” said Hoboken resident Liz Ndoye. “We are leading the way in helping to slow the progress of the climate crisis and helping to save lives from the severe and damaging health effects of air pollution caused by fossil fueled power plants.” 

“Hoboken is proud to take a leading role in opposing yet another ill-conceived fossil fuel power plant in the Garden State,” said Councilman Phil Cohen, who sponsored the resolution. “We stand in solidarity with our friends in Woodbridge to protect their right to breathe clean air.  New Jersey is on the front lines of the climate crisis and Hoboken is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.”

Hoboken joins Edison and Highland Park councils in opposing the CPV plant. Its adoption comes as state officials develop and implement rules under a new environmental justice law, which will make it harder for polluting projects like this one to be sited in overburdened communities.

If approved by the Murphy administration, the proposed new facility would be a significant source of air and climate pollution. Each of the towns located within 5 miles of the proposed site (Woodbridge, Perth Amboy, South Amboy, Metuchen, and Edison) are considered overburdened, with 73% of all census block groups meeting one or more of the state’s environmental justice criteria.

“There is simply no need to add another source of air and climate pollution in this part of the state, or anywhere else,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Charlie Kratovil. “If Governor Murphy wants us to believe he is ready to be a climate leader, he will reject the Keasbey plant.”

Rep. Khanna, Senator Warren Introduce Bill to Prevent Corporations From Profiting Off Water Rights

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Clean Water

Washington, D.C. — Today, Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led a bicameral group of colleagues in introducing the Future of Water Act to amend the Commodity Exchange Act to prohibit futures trading of water or water rights and protect our country’s water. Water is a basic human right that must be managed and protected as a public trust resource.

As climate change has increased the severity and frequency of drought in our country, large corporations should not be profiting off of water or water rights. Water should be affordable, easily accessible, and guarded from markets prone to manipulation and speculation that could cause real-world price increases. The announcement of the water futures trading received condemnation from the global water community, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water who stated: “Water is already under extreme threat from a growing population, increasing demands and grave pollution from agriculture and mining industry in the context of worsening impact of climate change. . . I am very concerned that water is now being treated as gold, oil and other commodities that are traded on Wall Street futures markets.”

Wall Street’s interest in financial derivatives based on water and water rights could lead to severe real-world water price spikes due to market manipulation and/or excessive speculation. Prohibition of water and water rights futures trading stops this dangerous speculation and protects American families and agricultural producers.

“Every American should agree: Clean, drinkable water is one of our most basic human rights,” said Rep. Khanna. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Warren to prioritize human needs over corporate profits. Large companies and investors should not be allowed to use an essential public resource for their own gain. We have to stand together to protect our water.”

“Water is a human right and Wall Street shouldn’t be allowed to use this vital resource to make profits at the expense of hardworking Americans,” said Senator Warren. “My bill with Rep. Ro Khanna would protect water from Wall Street speculation and ensure one of our most essential resources isn’t auctioned off to the highest bidder.”

“With the climate crisis delivering historically devastating droughts across the West, it is clearer than ever that water should be treated as a scarce, essential resource, not a commodity for Wall Street and financial speculators,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “This groundbreaking legislation would put a lid on dangerous water futures trading before it creates a crisis, and it reinforces the fact that water must be managed as a public resource, not a corporate profit center. We thank Senator Warren and Representative Khanna for showing true leadership in the fight to protect access to safe, affordable water for all.”

“IATP welcomes the Future of Water Act’s amendment to the Commodity Exchange Act to exclude water as a tradable derivatives asset class under the regulations of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,” said Steve Suppan, Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy. “According to one of the CFTC’s core principles, derivatives contracts should not be traded if the underlying cash market for the commodity is susceptible to market manipulation. The CFTC has allowed the water future contract to be traded when the underlying cash market for that contract is price opaque and therefore susceptible to manipulation. The Future of Water Act will help protect water as a public good by preventing its price manipulation in the futures market.”

“No one should be allowed to gamble with the Great Lakes – but that’s exactly what Wall Street is trying to do by trading water futures,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.“Allowing speculators to bet on water as a commodity like oil is a world-class threat to our world-class Great Lakes.”

Last year, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) announced it had certified the world’s first water futures contracts, which allow investors to purchase and sell futures contracts based on “water rights” prices in California. Market speculators are interested in financial derivatives based on water and water rights. Large contract holders would have a strong incentive to manipulate the water futures market for profit. Too much concentration in water markets by massive passive investors could lead to physical water hoarding and price increases. The Future of Water Act sends a powerful message that access to clean and affordable water is right and not a financial instrument to gouge American families, farmers, and ranchers. 

House cosponsors include: Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), André Carson (D-IN), Chuy García, Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL),Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Senate cosponsors include: Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Over 250 organizations have endorsed the Future of Water Act including Americans for Financial Reform, Center for Biological Diversity, Demos, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth United States, Greenpeace USA, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Indigenous Environmental Network, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, National Family Farm Coalition, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Open Markets Institute, People’s Action, PolicyLink, Public Citizen, Inc., and the Sunrise Movement. A full list of organizations supporting the legislation can be found here.

A copy of the House legislation can be found here.

Political Opposition Grows to PVSC Fracked Gas Power Plant Proposal

Categories

Climate and Energy

This week, Union City and Bayonne passed resolutions opposing the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s (PVSC) plans for a new fracked gas power plant in Newark. They join a growing number of Hudson County municipalities – including Weehawken, Kearny, Jersey City, and Hoboken – that are calling on Governor Murphy to stop PVSC’s polluting proposal and instead pursue a renewable energy alternative. 

With these votes, six of the twelve municipalities in Hudson County have now formally opposed the project, in addition to three other municipalities from Essex and Bergen Counties (Livingston, Maplewood, and Alpine).

“It was impressive to watch the Union City Commissioners and Bayonne Council pass this resolution against the dirty power plant proposed by PVSC in the Ironbound. It showed that smaller cities can work in solidarity with their neighbors to stop environmental injustice at the local level,” said Liz Ndoye, member of the Hoboken Democratic Committee. “They can help their neighbors and themselves stave off the ill effects of air pollution and the climate crisis by taking this kind of direct action. These commissioners did the right thing to protect the residents of Hudson and Essex Counties from further damage and illness from pollution and climate change.”

The power plant would be built at PVSC’s massive sewage processing facility in the Ironbound section of Newark, part of a resiliency project that was proposed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. That storm caused the sewerage plant to lose power and spill billions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into the Passaic River. The project would provide backup power to the treatment plant when the grid is down, but PVSC also plans to run the facility to offset their power needs from the grid at other times.

“We applaud our neighbors in Hudson County for taking a stand against the dirty energy plant and supporting the well-being of North Jersey communities and our climate,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Ironbound Community Corporation. “The welfare of Newark residents and residents downwind in Hudson County and across the region depends on Governor Murphy rejecting the proposed PVSC power plant and investing in an alternative guided by input from our community.” 

While local community members and advocates agree about the importance of improving infrastructure resiliency in the face of a worsening climate crisis, they are demanding a clean renewable energy project that will not increase the pollution burden in Newark and the surrounding region, which has historically faced the brunt of New Jersey’s pollution burden and decades of environmental injustice.

“These resolutions are major victories in our effort to make PVSC and Governor Murphy realize they must listen to the residents of Newark and surrounding communities who are suffering severe health issues from overwhelming pollution,” said Bill McClelland, a volunteer with Food & Water Watch. “Another huge fossil-fuel burning project is not acceptable. If Governor Murphy wants to live up to his clean energy, environmental justice, and climate commitments, he must direct PVSC to immediately withdraw its air permit application for this power plant and re-write their proposal.”   

Residents and activists will continue to present this resolution forward to other municipalities in the region. Secaucus is expected to vote on the resolution at their next council meeting.

Court Rules FERC Failed to Consider Emissions From Agawam Compressor Station

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Climate and Energy

The DC Circuit Court issued a ruling today in an important case challenging the approval of a compressor station in Massachusetts. The decision found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately assess the indirect greenhouse gas emissions linked to the 261 Upgrade Project outside of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the court ordered FERC to redo its environmental assessment to fully account for downstream emissions.

The lawsuit, Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team v FERC, charged that the federal regulator that permits new gas infrastructure projects had failed to consider the climate impacts of the Agawam  Compressor Station and associated pipeline. FERC has been flouting a D.C. Circuit precedent requiring it to meaningfully consider the reasonably foreseeable ‘downstream’ greenhouse gas emissions of gas infrastructure projects — essentially the combustion of the gas transported by these pipelines and compressor stations – for nearly five years. This decision confirms that FERC must review downstream emissions even when gas is moved to local distribution companies for residential and commercial use, an issue long ignored by FERC.

The decision comes at a critical time for FERC, which recently approved policy statements that provide guidance for how the commission will consider pending and future gas infrastructure projects.

In response to the ruling, Food & Water Watch staff attorney Adam Carlesco issued the following statement: 

“This decision confirms that FERC has a legal responsibility to properly evaluate the downstream emissions linked to compressor station upgrades and the local distribution of gas. These projects create acute pollution impacts for nearby residents and contribute to the climate pollution that is fueling our global climate crisis. FERC must take these responsibilities seriously, and enact a greenhouse gas emissions policy that meaningfully addresses the glaring problems in the Commission’s track record up to this point.”

Lawmakers and State Attorneys General Weigh in on Preserving Federal Meat Inspection

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Food System

Several attorneys general, members of U.S. Congress, and the meat inspectors’ union filed amici curiae or “friend of the court” briefs in a key food safety case, a move that signals the growing importance of strengthening food inspection systems. 

The Congressional brief was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, and written by the non-profit law firm Public Justice. Representatives Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) also signed on to the brief.

The states’ brief was spearheaded by Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and signed by the Attorneys General for Illinois, Massachusetts, and Michigan.

The case – Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Thomas Vilsack, No.4:20-cv-00256-JSW (N.D. Cal) – concerns the implementation of the USDA’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), a Trump administration rule that greatly undermines the ability of federal inspectors to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses.

National food-policy and consumer organizations – including the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch and the Humane Farming Association – have argued that those rules violate the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), one of our country’s cornerstone food safety laws.

The NSIS program relies in large part on meat company employees conducting inspections instead of government inspectors, part of a decades-old industry push for ‘self-regulation’ and a radical departure from long-established practice. This raises significant dangers to public health; an examination of USDA data showed that the plants that had piloted the new system had significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses than traditional plants.

​​The Congressional brief argues that USDA “promulgated rules related to meat inspection that run contrary to the congressional intent and purpose of enacting the Federal Meat Inspection Act (‘FMIA’),” and that the NSIS rules “are not only inconsistent with the ways Congress directed the FMIA be implemented, but also with the statute’s overarching goal of ensuring consumer confidence in a safe meat supply.”

The Attorneys General brief argues that the new rules “delegate[] many inspection duties to private plant employees, who must meet only minimal training requirements, effectively sidelining federal inspectors and placing the public at a greater risk of consuming suspect products.”

The American Federation of Government Employees, who represent the federal food safety inspectors employed by USDA, argued that the new rules improperly delegated inspection tasks to private companies.  They also “effectively prevent[] … inspectors from performing the required post-mortem examination of all carcasses, and parts thereof, by allowing establishment employees to trim carcasses prior to the required inspection.”

“The Trump administration implemented this outrageous self-policing initiative that hands over inspection duties to meat companies themselves, putting millions of Americans at risk from getting sick due to foodborne illness,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Attorney for Food & Water Watch and lead counsel in the case. “We welcome the support of lawmakers and state officials who realize this case is about stopping a fundamentally unsafe food policy.”

“We are gratified to see our elected officials, state, and union allies step up to help us restore safety to our animal food system,” said Amy van Saun, Senior Attorney for Center for Food Safety. “This overwhelming support confirms how important public health and safe meat are to so many in this country.”

“This partnership between federal meat inspectors and the plaintiffs in this case is a natural,” said Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association. “We’re also gratified to have several legislators and attorneys general standing with us. Clearly, USDA bureaucrats should not be relying upon the industry’s own employees to conduct federal meat inspection.  Food safety and humane slaughter laws should be vigorously enforced by federal inspectors for the sake of both animal welfare and public health.”

USDA Grants Cargill Beef Self-Inspection, Raising Food Safety Concerns

Categories

Food System

A Cargill cattle slaughter plant in Schuyler, Nebraska has been granted a regulatory waiver by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will allow the plant’s employees to perform several critical safety inspections instead of federal inspectors.  

USDA informed union officials representing inspectors that the switch will start next week, with full implementation to begin the week of May 2.

It is only the second beef plant to be granted this permission, and the first under the Biden administration. Last year, Food & Water Watch released agency documents showing that pork plants operating in a similar pilot program for swine had significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses than traditional plants. 

The USDA’s waiver occurs at the same time that the USDA has been defending the pig slaughter system in court.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Attorney Zach Corrigan issued the following statement: 

“By transferring critical inspection duties to plant employees, the USDA is allowing plants to essentially inspect their own beef.  This is fundamentally dangerous for consumers. Pork plants that switched to this system saw a two-fold increase in violations for contamination of fecal matter and digestive contents. While this is only one plant, it is the second pilot plant for a program the Biden administration plans to implement for the entire industry.  At a time when consumers are already wrestling with the high prices due to industry consolidation, the USDA is asking consumers to jeopardize their health.”

A Lost Decade: Fossil Fuel Production Grew as Renewables Boomed

Categories

Climate and Energy

New research from the national environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch reveals that a decade of impressive growth in the clean energy industry was matched by increases in fossil fuel production – showing that any meaningful climate policy must focus on measures to stop new fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure.

Over that past decade (2010-2020), solar and wind generation grew considerably. The share of renewable energy on the U.S. electrical grid rose from 2.8 percent to 11.5 percent. But over the same time frame, fossil gas went from supplying 22.7 percent of electricity to 39.3 percent. Overall fossil fuel production (coal, oil and gas) grew throughout the period as well.

The research is featured in a new report, “Averting Climate Catastrophe: Fossil Fuels Must End While Renewables Take Over,” which lays out the ways that domestic fossil fuel production has continued to grow, thanks to plastics production and a massive increase in gas exports. 

The research casts serious doubt on climate policies that exclusively focus on developing new sources of clean power, such as those that rely heavily on tax credits and other incentives. And it serves as a stark rebuke to the assurances of fracking boosters that gas production would serve as a clean energy ‘bridge.’ As the data show, fossil fuels have grown alongside renewables. 

“What this research shows us is that building more renewables while continuing to promote the development of dirty energy puts us on the climate treadmill. We’re going nowhere fast in the race to slash climate pollution,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The so-called fracking boom was a boon to the dirty energy industry, which cynically deployed arguments about gas being a clean energy bridge. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we need is immediate action to confront the fossil fuel industry and stop new fossil fuel projects.”

The Food & Water Watch report highlights similar dynamics at the state level. In Virginia, where a new state climate law received national acclaim, plans to build substantial new wind and solar capacity were overshadowed by twice as much fracked gas capacity that came online between 2010 and 2020. California enjoys a reputation as a climate leader, and produces the most solar power in the country. But it also uses more gas than every state but Texas, and is a massive electricity importer, some of which is sourced from out-of-state coal plants. While the state’s gas-fired generation has declined by 29 percent since 2015, the reliance on out-of-state generators has left overall gas generation unchanged.