Pandemic Profiteering: How Corporations Are Capitalizing on the Crisis

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

1,100+ Groups Call On Biden to Use His Executive Authority to “Build Back Fossil Free”

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. –Today, over 1,100 organizations representing millions of people in all 50 states including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia released a letter to President Biden urging him to quickly deliver on his campaign promises by declaring a climate emergency and stopping the federal approval of new fossil fuel projects. 

“As organizations collectively representing millions of members and supporters, including Indigenous, Black, Brown, and frontline communities, we urge you to use your executive authority to speed the end of the fossil fuel era, protect our communities from the climate emergency, and address the severe harms caused by fossil fuels,” the letter reads. 

The letter was organized by Build Back Fossil Free, a growing coalition that is dedicated to pushing Biden to use his executive authority to act on climate and fossil fuels.The signatories on the letter include a broad swath of climate, progressive, social justice, faith, and Indigenous rights organizations – exactly the constituencies that Biden needs to energize ahead of the 2022 midterm elections by keeping his climate commitments.

The letter is another sign of the growing and widespread anger at President Biden’s failure to deliver on his campaign promises around climate and environmental justice. Today organizers gathered at the White House with an art piece depicting a giant pen and executive order, urging President Biden to act on climate “with the stroke of a pen.” Tonight, hundreds of environmental organizations, climate leaders, and grassroot organizers will join a digital rally to collectively pressure President Biden to listen to the demands of BIPOC leaders on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Speakers from fights against pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure around the country will call on President Biden to make good on his promises and take action.

“Let’s be clear– politeness and pragmatism will be the death of us. Enough is enough. We – Indigenous, Black, Brown, frontline communities, and young voters – put you in that office Joe. We did it because you made big promises about protecting us and our future. We’re tired of waiting for you to put people and the planet before fossil fuel corporations. So we’re bringing all of our issues straight to your doorstep until you use that pen of yours to end the era of fossil fuels. No more backtracking on promises, no more showing up for you and yours in the midterms or any other election. Do your job Joe!” said Sha Ongelungel, Media Coordinator, Indigenous Environmental Network.

The action and rally build on a legal foundation outlined in a new Center for Biological Diversity legal paper detailing the president’s explicit emergency powers to phase out fossil fuels, build renewables, create clean jobs and advance environmental justice.

“The president’s existing authority to act on climate is extensive, which is why our legal report devoted more than 50 pages to outlining it,” said Maya Golden-Krasner of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Biden can turn around his disappointing climate record and vastly expand his protections of people and the planet, but he has to use the powers he’s been given. The State of the Union is the perfect moment for Biden to declare a national climate emergency and kickstart the clean-energy revolution we desperately need.” 

President Biden’s record on climate change has fallen far short of the “all-government approach” he promised on the campaign trail. In spite of a commitment to stop new fossil fuel leases on public lands, the Biden Administration has approved more new leases than Trump in a similar time window. While Biden rejected Keystone XL, saying fossil fuel projects needed to be climate compatible, he then allowed other major pipelines like Line 3 and the Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward. Now, the Build Back Fossil Free coalition is urging him to rapidly act to address these failures by declaring a climate emergency and using the full powers of his presidency to address the crisis. 

“The Biden administration cannot pin the blame for its climate failures on Congressional inaction. Since day one, the White House has had the executive authority to take a series of actions that would move us away from fossil fuels,” said Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh. “The most important action he must take is to put an end to any and all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. The science and the politics of the climate crisis are very clear: We cannot build any new fossil fuel projects and still expect to meet the challenge of protecting a livable planet. It’s up to President Biden to lead the way.”

With his Congressional agenda stalled, the executive actions described in the letter provide Biden a clear way to make serious climate progress and regain the trust of the millions of Americans who are furious at his failure to deliver. Each of the priorities laid out in the letter – banning all new fossil fuel development on federal lands and waters, directing federal agencies to stop approving fossil fuel projects, and declaring a climate emergency – are actions that Biden could accomplish with a simple stroke of the pen.

This lack of action has a direct cost to the predominantly Black, Brown and Indigenous communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate impacts, as well as the millions of other Americans who have been hard hit by climate disasters over the last year. It also has a political cost: according to a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 80% of left-leaning Americans say Biden has done too little on climate. 

The signatories include major environmental groups, like the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, and Greenpeace; leading Indigenous organizations like the Indigenous Environmental Network and Sovereign Inupiat For A Living Arctic; youth climate groups like Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, and Future Coalition; social justice organizations like the Action Center on Race and the Economy; progressive groups like Indivisible and Center for Popular Democracy; and faith organizations across the religious spectrum. 

New FERC Gas Policies Could Be Key to Stopping New Fossil Fuel Projects

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved policy statements that provide guidance for how the commission will consider pending and future gas infrastructure projects. 

The agency, long derided as a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry, has been under pressure for years over its failure to adequately assess the climate impacts of interstate gas infrastructure projects it oversees. The rules echo the core issues addressed in a landmark lawsuit filed last April in the DC Circuit Court, Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team v Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In that case, the groups argue that FERC has been flouting court orders requiring them to meaningfully assess the downstream emissions of gas pipeline projects.

In response to today’s news, Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Adam Carlesco released the following statement:

“Today’s announcements suggest that FERC is finally moving towards creating policies that it should have enacted years ago. There is room for cautious optimism here – though, guidance is not the same thing as action, and we still need to see FERC make substantial improvements in its evaluation of fossil gas projects in practice. Climate science tells us that we cannot build new fossil fuel projects if we are to have a chance at averting real climate chaos. Let’s hope today’s statements on FERC’s future policy orders constitute a meaningful shift in our nation’s approach to permitting gas infrastructure. However, this policy can only move the needle so far without bold and necessary action from Congress, which should pass legislation that puts an end to the approval of new fossil gas pipelines.”

Groups Urge Congress to Require EPA to Regulate Climate Pollution from Factory Farms

Categories

Food System

In a letter sent to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, a coalition of groups are urging Congress to include the mandatory reporting and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from factory farms and manure management in the FY 2022 Appropriation for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The letter was organized in collaboration by food, farm and environmental groups: Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the National Family Farm Coalition.

The letter notes that while EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate air emissions from factory farms, the routine inclusion of appropriations riders prevents the agency from utilizing funds to implement much-needed regulations.

Maplewood Township Opposes PVSC Fracked Gas Plant

Categories

Climate and Energy

On February 1, the Maplewood Township Committee passed a resolution opposing the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s (PVSC) plans for a new fracked gas power plant in Newark and called on Governor Murphy to direct the agency to shift to a renewable energy alternative. 

Maplewood is the fourth municipality to formally oppose the project, following Hoboken, Jersey City, Kearny, and Livingston.

“We stand with our neighbors in the Ironbound who continue to be dumped on and disregarded, their health and wellness dangerously compromised,” said Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis, “We owe it to them to fight for renewable alternatives for this project. Our decision to pass this resolution was unanimous.”

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.

“I’m proud that Maplewood is helping to lead the way in fighting for environmental justice and advocating for our environmentally overburdened neighbors in Newark,” said Jennifer Nielsen of SOMA Action. “By supporting the resolution asking Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority to use alternative energy for their proposed power plant, the Maplewood Township Committee has given notice that they will not tolerate further environmental inequity in our state.”

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 the Ironbound and the surrounding region, which has historically faced the brunt of New Jersey’s pollution burden and decades of environmental injustice.

“Last month, Governor Murphy directed PVSC to delay a vote to begin construction on a massive new polluting power plant in Newark. This was a critical intervention, but without further action from the Governor this project could move ahead very quickly,” said Matt Smith, Food & Water Watch New Jersey State Director. “If Governor Murphy wants to live up to his clean energy, environmental justice, and climate commitments, he must direct PVSC to withdraw the air permit application for the gas plant and redesign the resiliency project without any increase to the already intolerable levels of air and water pollution in Newark.” 

One Year Later, Biden Climate Record is Rhetoric Over Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

One year ago today, President Biden released an executive order laying out its vision for a bold, “government-wide” approach to tackling the climate crisis. The White House called for a concerted effort to “combat the climate crisis with bold, progressive action that combines the full capacity of the Federal Government with efforts from every corner of our Nation, every level of government, and every sector of our economy.”

So far, the White House has fallen well short of those goals. 

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

“President Biden repeatedly promised to end fracking on public lands, and his administration pledged to make climate and clean energy a priority across every federal government agency. Their performance so far has been appalling. The White House has carried on selling new fracking leases on our public lands, and has approved thousands of new drilling permits – even  outpacing the Trump administration’s first year record. After the White House revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, they have been silent on other pending fossil fuel projects where the administration has the authority to act decisively to move the country off fossil fuels.

“The White House appears to support industry plans to massively expand fracked gas export schemes, which will deliver pollution to environmental justice communities in the Gulf Coast and increase drilling in fracked-out sacrifice zones across the country. The White House announced an unconscionably reckless sale of offshore drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, just weeks after Hurricane Ida made landfall in the area and ravaged communities from Louisiana to New York. 

“Instead of taking meaningful steps to stop fossil fuel pollution, the administration supports plans to shovel billions of dollars to prop up industry-backed false solutions like carbon capture and so-called ‘renewable natural gas,’ providing cover for dubious, expensive and unworkable scams that only deepen our dependence on fossil fuels.

“White House officials constantly tell us that they know time is running out to act on climate. If they actually mean what they say, they need to prove it.”

Food & Water Watch has been tracking the White House’s climate and clean energy missteps at the Biden Climate Watch timeline. 

Kearny Council Opposes PVSC Fracked Gas Plant

Categories

Climate and Energy

On January 26, the Kearny Council passed a resolution opposing a plan by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) to build a new fracked gas power plant in Newark and called on Governor Murphy to direct the agency to shift to a renewable energy alternative. 

Kearny is the fourth municipality to formally oppose the project, following Hoboken, Jersey City, and Livingston.

“For too long, this region has endured air pollution and noxious orders from heavy industry, garbage landfills, incinerators, and power plants. For too long, the residents of this region have suffered the negative health impacts from air pollution. It has to stop now,” said Mayor Alberto Santos of Kearny. “Residents must come first. I strongly support efforts to improve the quality of life for residents of the Ironbound and the region.”

​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 the Kearny administration 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 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 the Ironbound and the surrounding region, which has historically faced the brunt of New Jersey’s pollution burden and decades of environmental injustice.

Several years ago, the Kearny Council also passed a resolution against a similar resiliency project that included a fracked gas power plant proposed by NJ Transit to be built right in their own town. After 18 months of opposition from activists in support of a renewable alternative, Governor Murphy directed NJ Transit to halt all work on this project and invest in a renewable energy-based power source.

“Earlier this month, Governor Murphy directed PVSC to delay a vote to move ahead with this power plant. We appreciate this pause but without further intervention, this project could move ahead very quickly,” said Matt Smith, Food & Water Watch NJ State Director. “If Governor Murphy wants to live up to his clean energy, environmental justice, and climate commitments, then just as he did with NJ Transit he must direct PVSC to stop all plans for a new fracked gas power plant in the Ironbound and make a strong commitment that PVSC will use their resources and the massive taxpayer grant at their disposal to redesign the project with a clean, renewable energy-based source of power.” 

New Research: Fossil Fuel Production Gains While Jobs Disappear

Categories

Climate and Energy

New research from the environmental organization Food & Water Watch debunks fossil fuel industry claims about job creation, showing that overall employment has suffered even as production has increased. 

For years, the oil and gas trade association American Petroleum Institute (API) has released wildly inflated estimates of direct and indirect jobs created by the fracking industry, ranging from 2.5 million to 11 million. But the new Food & Water Watch analysis – which is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – shows that the industry employs far fewer workers than it claims: About 541,000 nationwide, or less than 0.4 percent of all jobs.

Fossil fuel jobs losses were particularly striking in 2020, when oil and gas employment fell by an astonishing 22 percent. Oil and gas production, however, fell by just 3 percent. While the jobs decline is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is part of a larger trend: Total oil and gas employment has fallen 33 percent since 2014. Over the same period, production has risen 32 percent.

“The oil and gas industry uses promises of employment to gain political leverage, which has impeded the necessary transition to clean, renewable energy,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Researcher Oakley Shelton-Thomas. “This research shows that the industry’s jobs claims are not only wildly inaccurate, but that they are able to bring more oil and gas out of the ground with fewer workers. When the jobs disappear – especially in bust years like 2020 – workers and frontline communities bear the pain.”

The gap between industry jobs misinformation and reality was particularly wide in key oil and gas producing states:

-In Pennsylvania, API claimed that a fracking ban would cost over 500,000 jobs. In reality, just under 25,000 workers are employed in the oil and gas industries. Last year, employment in those fields shrank by 20 percent, even though record amounts of gas were produced.

-The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association claimed that stopping fracking on public lands would cost 60,000 jobs. But total oil and gas employment in the state is only about 20,000 (about 2.6 percent of the workforce), and jobs in the industry declined by about 25 percent in 2020.

-In California, the Western States Petroleum Association claimed that there are 368,000 jobs in the oil industry. But the Food & Water Watch analysis counts just 22,000 jobs in the industry, and that total has dropped 40 percent over the past decade. Overall, oIl and gas production account for barely one-tenth of 1 percent of all employment in California. 

New Jersey Climate Coalition Sues Murphy Administration Over Inaction

Categories

Climate and Energy

Trenton, NJ — The EmpowerNJ coalition sued the Murphy administration today for its failure to take enough meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the face of the escalating climate crisis and follow state law and its own policies. Today’s appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court highlights the disconnect between the Administration’s words and actions.

Six months ago, EmpowerNJ, a coalition of more than 120 environment, community, faith and grassroots groups, formally legally petitioned the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to follow state law by setting and enforcing benchmarks to achieve a 50% reduction in climate pollutants by 2030 (50×30). 

Two months after Hurricane Ida hit last September, Governor Murphy officially declared 50×30 to be state policy yet DEP soundly rejected the advocates’ petition in December. EmpowerNJ called the rejection a dereliction of duty and is appealing that decision in court today.

“Ida was not a wake-up call, but yet another five alarm fire. There are only two ways to look at DEP’s outright denial of our petition: DEP has gone rogue or this Administration is uninterested in pursuing its own stated policies and state law. If the Governor’s recent State of the State address is any indication, where climate change was virtually ignored, the latter appears to be the case. Anything less than 50×30 would be too little and too late so we’re taking DEP to court,” said John Reichman, Esq., Chair of BlueWaveNJ’s Environment Committee.

In 2007, New Jersey passed the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA), which requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 to avert the climate crisis.  However, the earth is warming far faster than climate science initially predicted — causing unprecedented, destructive and unpredictable climate events around the globe and in New Jersey on an increasingly regular basis. Hurricane Ida caused the deaths of at least 30 New Jerseyans, the most of any state, and an estimated $16 to $24 billion in property damage.

In 2018, the universal scientific consensus called for a 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 to avoid climate catastrophe, which is comparable to the Biden Administration’s goal of a 50% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. In 2019, Governor Murphy signed amendments to the GWRA that require interim benchmarks to meet the target of reducing GHGs 80% by 2050. In July 2021, EmpowerNJ filed its legal petition with the DEP demanding it adopt rules following the law and science to meet the critical interim benchmark of 50×30.

On November 10, 2021, Governor Murphy appeared to agree when he issued Executive Order 274, which made it “the policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 2006 levels by the year 2030.”  EO 274 cited the undeniable reasons for this policy: the continued burning of fossil fuels is already causing catastrophic weather events around the world; New Jersey is “uniquely vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change”; disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected by climate change; and addressing climate change “requires steep and immediate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on an economy-wide basis.”  

EmpowerNJ noted the governor could have added additional reasons, e.g., that renewable energy is now generally less expensive than fossil fuels; the economic cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action; and that fossil fuel plants create direct, heavy and unacceptable health costs.  

Advocates say all of this should have led to the DEP granting the petition and initiating rules to accomplish the purported state policy of reducing climate pollutants by 50% by 2030. Instead, DEP denied the petition outright a week after proposing rules to limit carbon pollution from power plants that fail to even acknowledge let alone follow EO 274 and state law. 

“None of the administration’s existing or proposed climate rules will prevent the continued proliferation of dirty pipelines, power plants and other new sources of climate destroying pollution in New Jersey. The proposed power plant rule doesn’t even require polluters to use the best available technology, let alone do anything to stop new fossil fuel plants, like the one proposed by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in Newark, from being approved”, added Matt Smith, NJ State Director for Food & Water Watch.

The groups say DEP’s denial of EmpowerNJ’s Petition is not an outlier. For every good decision the Governor has made, such as developing offshore wind and opposing the PennEast pipeline, there have been bad ones such as allowing a gas pipeline to be built through the Pinelands; thus far refusing to stop the development of the huge liquified natural gas export project in Gibbstown and spending $16 billion on unneeded highway expansion projects, instead of spending that money on electrifying our transportation system and supporting public transportation.

“Putting aside how devastatingly wrong, arbitrary and capricious DEP’s denial of the Petition is, it is also illegal. The Global Warming Response Act requires DEP to set interim benchmarks for reducing climate pollutants – it is not ‘discretionary’ as DEP maintains,” Reichman concluded.

By this appeal and other concerted actions, EmpowerNJ says it will continue to hold Gov. Murphy and his Administration accountable each time he breaks his pledge to treat climate change as the existential threat that it is. 

                                                                                                ####

Additional quotes by EmpowerNJ Steering Committee members 

“We are facing mounting environmental impacts, pollution incidents, property and infrastructure destruction, community disruption, and increasing threats to public health and safety as a result of climate change right here in New Jersey. The Governor and his DEP must recognize the urgency to measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions and they must specifically demonstrate how NJ plans to achieve what Governor Murphy says he wants – a 50% cut back by 2030. Furthermore, the state simply cannot rationalize issuing permits for greenhouse gas-emitting projects by saying it is “impractical” not to. It’s not practical for residents to drown in basement apartments nor for our communities to face catastrophic loss either. Devastating times require bold and quantifiable action to stop new sources of the problem – greenhouse gasses – and put every state agency to work towards this mission,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. 

“Since Governor Murphy first took office, the climate emergency, as well as racial and democratic crises, have accelerated. Urgent action on climate change is needed now to create a healthier future for New Jersey families and generations to come,” said Eric Benson, Clean Water Action, NJ Campaigns Director. “Governor Murphy, with control over the DEP, DOT, BPU and DCA, already has the authority and moral obligation to act faster to combat climate change. Preventing new climate projects from coming online, and rapidly reducing emission will save life and limb, property and money, and keep lights, furnaces, and stoves lit.”

“Climate devastation is accelerating – floods fires Hurricane Ida  its more an alarm bell going off. There is not a community or person in NJ that is unaffected by the climate crisis. We are seeing these impacts getting worse and happening more frequently. While we are on the frontline in the climate battle, DEP denied our petition and is allowing fossil fuel projects to go forward,” said Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club former director. “We are number 2 in the country for temperature increase and building in flood prone areas. While climate change is literally killing us, the DEP is not coming close to meeting its challenges  with weak rules and lack of action. By rejecting our petition, it is violating the law and the Governor’s EO and is putting us more at risk. We are going to court to get the DEP to follow the law and fight climate change.  New Jersey needs to implement the Global Warming Response Act and put in benchmarks to reduce GHG pollution by 50% by 2030. We are in court to do the job DEP should be doing.”

“It is not enough for Governor Murphy to say he wants to reduce GHG emissions; he must act and he must act now.  We have until 2030 to reduce GHG’s by half to avoid climate catastrophe. Each day the Governor and other leaders refuse to act makes the climate crisis worse. Neither DEP nor the Governor has offered a rational explanation for why, if the state’s stated policy is to reduce GHG’s by 50%, DEP is refusing to recognize that policy and take action needed to implement it.  The Governor must order not only DEP, but all other State agencies, to take the steps needed to reduce GHG pollution by 50% by 2030, said John Reichman, Chair of BlueWaveNJ’s Environment Committee.

“The Murphy administration has yet to take the bold action needed in response to a climate reality dominated by increasingly destructive events like superstorm Ida, out-of-season Colorado wildfires, the December tornados that ripped through the Midwest, and a terrifying new assessment of the  “doomsday glacier” in Antarctica” said Matt Smith, NJ State Director for Food & Water Watch. “Thankfully, communities across the state are confronting the polluters responsible for this destruction by stressing, above all else, the need to shut down new sources of planet-destroying emissions. New Jerseyans have rallied by the thousands to stop dirty pipelines and power plants and fight for the big picture agenda that prioritizes environmental justice. Governor Murphy must follow their lead.”

“The DEP denial of  EmpowerNJ’s petition for rulemaking states, ‘Statewide climate policy development [has been] underway since January 29, 2018.’  Yet there is no mention of any GHG reduction it has achieved over the past four years due to any of its policies, nor has any such estimate been found in any Administration announcements.   Essentially, the administration has spent four years issuing Executive Orders, conducting studies, writing reports and updates, proposing regulations, and reorganizing itself,” observed Ken Dolsky, Co-Leader of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition.  “It is past time for real action and clearly the Administration will not do so without being sued,” he continued.

Dangerous Hog Slaughter Self-Inspection Program Should Be Stopped, Advocates Tell Court

Categories

Food System

National food-policy and consumer organizations filed a motion asking for a federal court to rule in a case that could have major ramifications for food safety.

The case, filed in 2020 (Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Sonny Perdue, 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. 

In the brief to the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch and the Humane Farming Association argue that the 2019 rules violate the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), one of our country’s cornerstone food safety laws.

“The Trump administration implemented this outrageous self-policing initiative that hands over inspection duties to meat companies themselves — even though 48 million Americans get sick every year due to foodborne illness,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Attorney for Food & Water Watch and lead counsel in the case. “Enough is enough. We are asking a federal court to throw out the unlawful rules the Biden administration continues to defend.”

The NSIS program relies in large part on meat company employees conducting inspections instead of government inspectors, a radical departure from long-established practice. The brief argues that this raises significant dangers to public health: for example, 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. Since the government projects widespread adoption of the NSIS rules (plants producing over 90 percent of the U.S. pork supply), these policies will greatly impact consumers.

“The powerful meat processing industry wants to turn back time to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, but Congress required federal inspectors to ensure that meat processing is safe for the public,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety. “USDA’s new rules gut that assurance of safety and allow the fox to guard the henhouse.” 

“Turning over meat inspection duties to the regulated industry flies in the face of federal law and consumer safety,” said Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association. “The Biden Administration’s refusal to reverse this Trump era rollback poses a significant danger to public health and animal welfare.”

The industry push for ‘self-regulation’ goes back decades, and in the 1990s the USDA began moving in that direction. This eventually led to the creation of a pilot program; 15 years later, government investigators found major problems, including lack of proper oversight and persistent regulatory violations. Whistleblower employees also came forward to document serious violations, and called for a halt to the program.

Despite these issues, USDA has continued to move forward with the NSIS program. As the filing documents, a Clemons Food Group plant in Coldwater, Michigan, was granted a waiver in 2017 so that it could begin to operate with these relaxed inspection rules. Despite a series of well-documented and serious problems, USDA decided to allow the plant to continue operating under the NSIS rules. 

The brief showed that employees in plants such as the one in Coldwater repeatedly could not perform newly assigned inspection tasks, such as slicing and feeling lymph nodes, that are  critical to identify animal conditions and diseases. These are tasks that are usually the responsibility of trained federal USDA inspectors. Employees in these plants also regularly missed fecal matter on carcasses, contamination that contains dangerous pathogens that can make people sick. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illness each year, while 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from it.

The motion notes the widespread opposition to the NSIS rules. The vast majority of the over 80,000 comments filed on the program — from consumer groups, animal welfare groups, and dozens of members of Congress — were critical of the proposal. 

PVSC, Governor Murphy Postpone Vote on Dirty Newark Power Plant Scheme

Categories

Climate and Energy

Faced with deep community opposition, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) pulled a planned vote to begin construction on a new $180 million gas-fired power plant at the agency’s sewage facility in the Ironbound section of Newark.

The move came at the request of Governor Murphy, who released a statement saying that “it is imperative that the project adheres to the Administration’s core values on environmental justice.” The governor’s statement calls for “a more thorough environmental justice review and robust public engagement process, ensuring that the voices of the community are heard.”

“Governor Murphy has reaffirmed his commitment to Environmental Justice by canceling today’s vote,” said Maria Lopez-Nunez, Director of Environmental Justice and Community Development with Ironbound Community Corporation.  “Our community needs a real process to evaluate alternatives to the power plant like the one NJTRANSIT has initiated for their resiliency project right next door in Kearny. We need to bring in real resources and experts to find a solution that does not hurt the lungs of our children and in no way contributes to climate change. Even though we cut it close, I’m proud of the work being done in New Jersey to safeguard Environmental Justice and look forward to more partnership between our communities and the Governor of this great state.”

The shift comes after nearly a year of community-led opposition to this project, which would worsen air quality in a region overburdened by fossil fuel pollution. Approving the project would undermine Governor Murphy’s professed commitment to phase out fossil fuels, as well as a new state law intended to protect environmental justice communities from new sources of pollution.

“Delaying this project is the right thing to do because new facilities should serve and protect overburdened communities—not increase harm and pollution,” said Cynthia Mellon, Co-Chair – City of Newark Environmental Commission. “We need a real process that centers robust community engagement to achieve a solution that protects public health today and a safe environment for future generations.”

“Governor Murphy this morning has demonstrated real environmental justice leadership, thank you! Newark residents have been heard,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action National Environmental Justice Director and the founder of Newark’s South Ward Environmental Alliance.  “We have had enough. We cannot afford any new industrial smokestacks. Whatever their other intentions, they unavoidably poison our already too poisoned lungs and add to the climate emergency. There are better options out there for our lungs, our jobs, and our Newark Bay. We look forward to working with PVSC, the Murphy Administration and appreciate this pause to ensure we have the right process and get to the right result. Today’s meeting shows we still have a long way to go.” 

“Today’s decision to cancel the vote is a critical first step towards fulfilling Governor Murphy’s commitments to protect clean air for all New Jerseyans,” said Matt Smith, NJ State Director of Food & Water Watch. “But at today’s meeting PVSC continued to greenwash their dirty power plant. In light of PVSC’s remarks today and their action to date, we need a strong public commitment from Governor Murphy that he will not issue the air permit for the polluting power plant plant, and instead order PVSC to re-design the resiliency project in a way that brings no further pollution to Newark and neighboring communities.”

More than 100 Groups Call on CFTC To Shut Down Dangerous ‘Water Futures’ Market

Categories

Clean Water

A national advocacy organization, along with 138 other organizations, petitioned the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today to suspend the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s water futures market, which is based on the availability of water rights in California. 

The letter from Food & Water Watch details a range of serious problems with Nasdaq Veles California Water Index Futures, which were self-certified by the CME before their launch one year ago. It is the world’s first market for water futures contracts. The comment was co-signed by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Southern California Watershed Alliance, FLOW (For Love of Water), Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, National Family Farm Coalition, Public Citizen, and more than 130 other organizations.

It argues that the ‘commodity’ in question — water rights in a state grappling with a serious drought — and the price index for such rights are not commodities at all, and their trade in a futures market undermines state law and does not conform to CFTC regulations.

It also points out that the agency’s regulations strictly prohibit CME from allowing trades of futures that are “readily susceptible to manipulation of the price of such contracts.” The fact that the market was self-certified means that the commission has not appropriately evaluated whether the futures contracts violate this standard.

“Water is necessary and essential for life and is simply not a commodity,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Attorney for Food & Water Watch.  “The Commission should reject this shoe-horn attempt to drive investor profit under a federal law never meant to apply to a common public resource managed by the state for the public welfare.”

“The radically deregulatory Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 allows exchanges to self-certify that new futures contracts comply with CFTC rules and core regulatory principles,” said Dr. Steve Suppan, senior policy analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “Self-certification has been applied to minor changes to contracts. The CME water futures contract, however, is a novel contract and a new asset class for which the CFTC must not allow self-certification. CFTC staff should heed and further the analysis in this letter of the California water sales that underlie this futures contract towards determining whether the contract is susceptible to market manipulation, a violation of a key CFTC core principle.”

“In this time of global-warming-induced drought in California, the last thing we need is to gamble on our precious water resources,” said Conner Everts, Executive Director, Southern California Watershed Alliance.

As the letter lays out, water entitlements in California involve rights allocated for different types of waters (e.g., ground, surface) and in different areas that cannot be exchanged under state law. But futures contracts can be freely traded on CME’s market, thus allowing investors to profit. This undermines state law including California’s “beneficial use” doctrine, which prohibits water entitlements to be used for speculation. It also violates the Commission’s regulations, which bar futures trading that “involves, relates to, or references . . . an activity. . . that is unlawful under any State or Federal law;” or that is “similar to” such an activity.”

“FLOW unequivocally supports Food & Water Watch’s efforts to stop the commodification of water,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director, For Love of Water (FLOW). “Water is a fundamental human right held in trust by the states for the public, not something to be speculated on by profiteers.” 

“The CFTC needs to strongly re-consider the listing of water futures,” said Andrew Park, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund. “There is no reason why speculators and other financial market participants should be able to have any impact on the prices of Earth’s most important resource.”

The letter also argues that, even if all of the other deficiencies did not exist, the water futures market is contrary to the public interest. The petition warns that large institutional speculators — which tend to dominate key commodities markets — could pursue investment strategies that would result in actual water hoarding and raise water rates,  which would be particularly devastating to small farmers.

The petition closes by reminding the CFTC that it has the authority to review any self-certified products and suspend trading activities during any such review. The commission can also hold a hearing on the Nasdaq Veles Water Futures, which would prompt the CFTC to ultimately decide whether or not the product violates its normal policies.

Cherry Hill Voters Will Decide Clean Energy Question

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Climate and Energy

At a Tuesday evening meeting, the Cherry Hill Township Council decided to let voters determine the fate of a new Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program for the town. 

A CCA would authorize the town to bulk purchase electricity from clean renewable sources and offer it to residents at discounted rates. The environmental group Food & Water Watch is working with residents of municipalities across the state to create these programs, which will help reduce air pollution and our reliance on fossil fuels.  

A state law called the Faulkner Act gives residents the right to initiative and referendum, meaning that any ordinance can be introduced by a petition with signatures from 10 percent of the number of residents who voted in the most recent state assembly election. At the meeting, the Council decided not to vote to pass the ordinance directly, which means the question will appear on the ballot in the November 2022 election. 

“As we face extreme flooding, tornadoes and fires from a warming planet, the Cherry Hill town council made an utterly tone-deaf decision to sit on their hands and do nothing to move Cherry Hill to sustainable, responsible wind and solar energy choices,” said Cherry Hill resident Susan Druckenbrød. “I am, however, extremely confident that the voters of Cherry Hill, who are worried about the future of our planet and the future facing our children, will vote yes at the ballot box in November 2022. Let the campaign begin.” 

Cherry Hill resident David Stahl added: “I am confident the voters of Cherry Hill will have the gumption to do what their elected councilmembers could not: say yes to renewable energy and lower energy costs for residents.”

Food & Water Watch has worked with residents to win similar 100% clean energy programs in Edison, New Brunswick, Collingswood, Asbury Park, Piscataway, East Brunswick, South Brunswick and Red Bank, and has a goal of putting more than one million New Jersey residents on a path to achieve 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030.
“Community choice energy programs not only lower harmful climate emissions and air pollution, they also serve to invigorate local democracy,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Jocelyn Sawyer. “The residents of Cherry Hill have enthusiastically supported this clean energy campaign throughout, and we expect to see them continue to build this movement for a cleaner, safer future.”

Biden’s Executive Order Fails to Confront Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

In response to the White House’s new clean energy executive order, Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Advocacy Programs and Policy Mitch Jones released the following statement: 

“While this executive order lays out noteworthy investments in solar energy and important changes in transportation and energy efficiency, their effectiveness is undermined by the White House’s failures to address the root cause of the climate crisis: Fossil fuel development. 

“If Biden was actually serious about tackling the climate crisis, he would ban new oil and gas extraction on federal lands like he repeatedly promised to do. Instead, the White House continues to approve new drilling and fracking projects on public lands, and just conducted a massive sale of offshore drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration also seems eager to expand the export of fossil fuels, creating new sources of climate, air and water pollution at home.

“The focus on ‘net zero’ and zero emissions goals leaves the door open for expensive and dirty energy infrastructure including nuclear and fossil fuel-based hydrogen. We need President Biden to stop pushing policies that will keep us hooked on dirty energy.”

Trenton Votes to Oppose Gibbstown Fracked Gas Terminal

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Climate and Energy

The City Council of Trenton passed a resolution on December 2 opposing a plan by New Fortress Energy to build a massive liquefied natural gas export terminal in the Gibbstown area of Greenwich Township, located in Gloucester County.

The Trenton resolution calls on Governor Murphy to reject permits needed to load highly explosive and polluting LNG onto ships for export out of Gibbstown, and calls on the Army Corps of Engineers to complete an environmental impact statement on the project. The state capital’s vote is the twelfth municipality to pass a resolution in opposition to the project.

“I was proud to co-sponsor our adoption of this resolution against liquified natural gas being transported near Trenton. New Fortress Energy’s plan to move fracked gas through our backyards would put our already overburdened community at higher risk, and would set us back in our efforts to transition Trenton and the whole state off of fossil fuels. We need to be investing in clean energy for our childrens’ futures and the future of Trenton,” said Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson, a co-sponsor of the resolution. 

The proposed export terminal would be part of a massive new fracked gas infrastructure buildout in the region. The full scope of the project would involve supercooling gas extracted in Pennsylvania into liquefied natural gas (LNG), a highly volatile substance, and shipping it by truck and train nearly 200 miles to Gibbstown for export. 

As a registered nurse case manager, I am accustomed to advocating for the citizens of Trenton. I am extremely pleased that the Trenton City Council passed a resolution against the ground transportation of liquified natural gas through our area,” said City of Trenton employee Zoe Leach. “Our first responders have been through enough in the last year and a half and deserve the protection and support from our elected officials, not just verbal praise. I am so pleased with the results of the council’s vote.”

While the planned shipping routes have not been disclosed to the public, truck routes would likely pass within 2 miles of Trenton, as well as densely-populated urban areas in North Philadelphia and Camden. LNG is exceptionally dangerous: if ignited, it can burn in a fire too hot to extinguish. An LNG explosion at a Washington plant in 2014 led to emergency evacuation of a two-mile radius.

Councilperson Santiago Rodruiguez, co-sponsor of the resolution, said that “no hazardous materials should be transported through NJ. ” He noted that Trenton is already on a transport route for hazardous waste being transported from upstate New York  to Pennsylvania. “Residents are already subject to the schemes of the corporate fossil fuel industry, we don’t need any more dangerous material rolling through our town.”

“Trenton’s unanimous choice to vote against the Gibbstown LNG terminal is part of a growing effort throughout New Jersey to stop this dangerous project in its tracks,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Noa Gordon-Guterman. “Trenton’s elected officials and residents sent a clear message to Governor Murphy, Biden and the Army Corps: We do not want the Gibbstown terminal or any new Fossil Fuel infrastructure in our communities. This project would expose thousands of South Jersey residents to the fatal and lasting risks of explosive liquified natural gas every day and exacerbate already worsening effects of climate change. Governor Murphy and President Biden must prioritize the health and safety of New Jersey residents.”

So far, resolutions against the project have passed in Princeton, Pennsauken, Runnemede, Haddon Township, Riverton, Hazlet, Burlington City, Merchantville, Barrington, Maple Shade, National Park and Palmyra.

Drilling Report Reveals Biden’s Fracking Deception

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, the Interior Department released its long-awaited report on oil and gas drilling on public lands, which recommends raising the royalty rates that polluters pay to extract fossil fuels from public lands. The report offers little on the climate impacts of drilling, and bluntly contradicts Biden’s repeated vows to end drilling on public lands. 

Food & Water Watch Policy Director Mitch Jones released the following statement:

“Releasing this completely inadequate report over a long holiday weekend is a shameful attempt to hide the fact that President Biden has no intention of fulfilling his promise to stop oil and gas drilling on our public lands. A minor increase in the royalties paid by climate polluters will have zero impact on combating the climate crisis, and will in effect make the federal government more dependent on fossil fuels as a source of revenue. 

“This shocking capitulation to the needs of corporate polluters is a clear sign that, when it comes to climate action, the White House does not actually mean what it says.”

Passaic County Commissioners Fail to Take a Stance on TN Gas Pipeline Proposal

Categories

Climate and Energy

After months of resident-led advocacy against a proposal for a pipeline expansion project in North Jersey, involving the construction of new fracked gas compressor stations in West Milford and Wantage, the Passaic County Commissioners voted down a resolution opposing the project last night, lacking the two-thirds majority needed to pass it. 

“The proposed compressor station is a dangerous and unnecessary risk to our community,” said West Milford resident Eileen Curran. “Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company already has a track record of destruction in our backyards. We cannot trust them to operate a fracked gas compressor station that will release volatile compounds in our protected highlands region close to homes, and the water supply of millions. The Passaic County Commissioners have failed to stand up for their constituents, so we need Governor Murphy to be a leader and reject the proposal for new compressors in North Jersey.”

“New Jersey is the fastest-warming state in the nation, and Passaic County is already facing drastic impacts from climate change. Two summers ago, Greenwood Lake was shut down due to harmful algae blooms affecting communities and recreation, and just a few months ago Hurricane Ida caused major flooding and damage in Paterson and Passaic and killed 3 people,” said Renee Allessio, a West Milford resident and leader of Sustainable West Milford. “By voting down the resolution, the Passaic County commissioners have failed to stand up for the health and safety of their constituents in the face of a deepening climate crisis. Though the Passaic County Commissioners do not have the authority to approve or deny the project, by passing a resolution they could have sent a strong signal to Governor Murphy that permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure in an escalating climate crisis is unacceptable.” 

The majority of the commissioners were set to pass this resolution at their meeting on October 26th. But at the last minute Commissioner Director Pat Lepore made the unilateral decision to pull the resolution off the agenda to give “stakeholders” the opportunity to make their case. At their next meeting, they gave close to an hour of the agenda to a representative from TGP, a subsidiary of the multi-billion dollar oil and gas corporation Kinder Morgan, for a presentation in favor of the project.

“The presentation from pipeline behemoth Kinder Morgan was riddled with misinformation and unanswered questions. Local residents and advocates requested the same opportunity for a presentation by accredited public health, pipeline safety, and environmental experts and Director Lepore denied this request,” said Sam DiFalco, an organizer with Food & Water Watch. “By failing to meaningfully engage with residents and pass the resolution, the Passaic Commissioners have chosen to acquiesce to the profits of a multi-billion dollar corporation over the health and local environment of their own constituents. Regardless, we will continue to organize and call on Governor Murphy to stop this disastrous proposal.”

Maple Shade Votes to Oppose Gibbstown Fracked Gas Terminal

Categories

Climate and Energy

The Town Council of Maple Shade passed a resolution on November 18 opposing a plan by New Fortress Energy to build a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Gibbstown, Gloucester County.

The Maple Shade resolution calls on Governor Phil Murphy to reject permits needed to load highly explosive and polluting LNG onto ships for export out of Gibbstown, and calls on the Army Corps of Engineers to complete an environmental impact statement on the project. 

This week’s vote is the eleventh resolution to pass opposing the project.

“It is incredibly important to me to have my town, Maple Shade, show its support for the opposition to the proposed LNG transport through New Jersey,” said Emily Salaazar, a mother, teacher and resident of Maple Shade. “This dangerous project would impact the lives and health of all of the residents of South Jersey, including my own town, friends, and family. I’m very proud that Maple Shade is now a part of the growing number of towns that have formally voted in resolutions to oppose these hazardous LNG exports.” 

The proposed export terminal would be part of a massive new fracked gas infrastructure buildout in the region. The full scope of the project would involve supercooling gas extracted in Pennsylvania into liquefied natural gas (LNG), a highly volatile substance, and shipping it by truck and train nearly 200 miles to Gibbstown for export.

While the planned transport routes have not been disclosed to the public, truck routes would pass by I-95, which is less than a mile from Maple Shade, as well as densely-populated urban areas in North Philadelphia and Camden. LNG is exceptionally dangerous: if ignited, it can burn into a fire too hot to extinguish. An LNG explosion at a Washington plant in 2014 led to emergency evacuation of a two-mile radius.

“This decision was made possible due to the hard work of Maple Shade volunteers like Emily,” said Food & Water Watch Organizer Noa Gordon-Guterman. “Residents and Maple Shade elected officials sent a clear message to Governor Murphy, President Biden and the Army Corps: We do not want the Gibbstown terminal or any new fossil fuel infrastructure in our communities. Maple Shade’s unanimous vote against the Gibbstown LNG terminal is part of a growing effort throughout New Jersey to stop this dangerous project in its tracks. This project would expose thousands of South Jersey residents to the serious risks of explosive liquified natural gas, and exacerbate already worsening effects of climate change.”

So far, resolutions against the project have passed in Princeton, Pennsauken, Runnemede, Haddon Township, Riverton, Hazlet, Burlington City, Merchantville, National Park, Palmyra and Maple Shade. 

Petitions to Create Renewable Energy Program Accepted in Cherry Hill

Categories

Climate and Energy

Cherry Hill residents who support the creation of a new Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program for the town were notified by the municipal clerk that they have submitted enough petition signatures to trigger a public hearing on the proposal. 

A CCA would authorize the town to bulk purchase electricity from clean renewable sources and offer it to residents at discounted rates. The environmental group Food & Water Watch is working with residents of municipalities across the state to create these programs, which will help reduce air pollution and our reliance on fossil fuels.  

Under the Faulkner Act, Cherry Hill residents have the right to initiative and referendum, meaning that any ordinance can be introduced by a petition with signatures from 10 percent of the number of residents who voted in the most recent state assembly election.

Now that the petitions have been approved, the Township Council will have an opportunity to vote on the matter. If they vote yes, the ordinance will become law; if they vote no or decline to hold a vote, the matter would be decided by voters in a referendum.

“This is a great opportunity for Cherry Hill to become leaders in sustainability for the state of New Jersey,” said Cherry Hill resident David Stahl. “Our air will be cleaner and our energy costs will be lower. Hopefully our Councilmembers will do the right thing and put Cherry Hill on a more sustainable trajectory.” 

“This is a win-win for Cherry Hill and the planet,” says Cherry Hill resident Susan Druckenbrød. “We’re hopeful that Cherry Hill town council will agree with the more than 2,000 Cherry Hill residents who are ready to make the switch to renewable energy and will vote yay to adopt Community Choice Aggregation.”

Food & Water Watch has worked with residents to win similar 100% clean energy programs in Edison, New Brunswick, Collingswood, Asbury Park, Piscataway, East Brunswick, South Brunswick and Red Bank, and has a goal of putting more than one million New Jersey residents on a path to achieve 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030.

Biden’s Offshore Lease Sale Makes Mockery of Climate Rhetoric

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, the Biden administration will conduct the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in the nation’s history — a massive giveaway of 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico. While Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and President Biden alike have stressed their climate credentials over the years, this action speaks louder than all of the words coming from the administration. 

Earlier this month, hundreds of organizations signed this letter to President Biden urging his administration to cancel the lease sale. 

Food & Water Watch Policy Director Mitch Jones released the following statement: 

“President Biden’s decision to carry forward with these new offshore drilling leases is a clear demonstration of where his priorities lie when it comes to climate policy. The president tells voters that he will stop fracking on our public lands — and then continue handing out drilling permits by the hundreds. He calls the climate crisis an existential threat, and then takes actions that only enhance the threat to people and our planet for generations to come.”

“The administration claims that a court loss requires them to sell these parcels. But that is not true; the White House has always had several other legal avenues it could pursue if it chose to do so. Not only has the White House refused to do so, it has gone so far as to argue that the decades of new drilling unleashed by this move would have no effect on the climate crisis.

“We came to expect climate denial from the Trump administration. With Biden, tragedy has turned to farce, as administration officials speak about confronting the climate crisis, while carrying on the deadly and dirty fossil fuel status quo.”

Fossil Fuel Moratorium Passes New Jersey Senate Committee Vote

Categories

Climate and Energy

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee voted 3-1 (with one abstention) to approve Senate Resolution 17, introduced by Senator Loretta Weinberg, which “urges the Governor to impose an immediate moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure projects until the State adopts rules regulating CO2 and other climate pollutants.”

Food & Water Watch New Jersey State Director Matt Smith, who testified at the hearing, released the following statement:

“Governor Murphy has accelerated our state’s timeline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and launched several high-profile renewable energy projects that will speed the transition to clean power. But these goals can only be meaningful if the state stops approving new dirty energy projects. There are fracked gas pipelines, compressor stations, power plants and export terminals that the Murphy administration must reject if it wants to take a serious approach to climate action and environmental justice. 

“This resolution was championed by Senators Weinberg, Codey and Environment Committee Chairman Smith, whose dedication to climate action made this possible. We now urge the full Senate to join their colleague, as well as a coalition of more than 120 grassroots community groups across the state in calling for a moratorium on all new climate polluting projects. And the Senate’s commitment must be matched by Governor Murphy, who can put New Jersey at the forefront of the fight for climate justice by stopping all new fossil fuel projects.”

COP’s Failures Must Not Excuse White House Inaction on Climate

Categories

Climate and Energy

As the COP26 negotiations in Glasgow wind down, Food & Water Watch Policy Director Mitch Jones released the following statement: 

“The haggling over the drafts of the conference agreement only underscores how far political leaders are from introducing meaningful plans to address this planetary crisis. Governments that cannot directly and forcefully confront the fossil fuel industry are doing nothing but advertising their failure. Even a call to stop government fossil fuel subsidies a modest but necessary first step — had to be weakened in order to coddle corporate polluters.

“It was heartening to see some renewed enthusiasm for strong policies to limit the global supply of fossil fuels. The 10-nation Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance represents the approach that must prevail across the world if we are to have a realistic chance at averting further catastrophe.

“The egregious failure to achieve even modest, voluntary agreements is disappointing, but not surprising. All the more reason that real climate action must not wait, especially here in the United States. The Biden administration has tools at its disposal that it is simply failing to use. This White House should fulfill its campaign promise to stop oil and gas drilling on public lands, put an end to oil and gas exports, and stop approving new dirty energy power plants and pipelines. If President Biden believes we are in an emergency, he should act accordingly.”

Biden Hog Speed Decision Puts Food Safety at Risk

Categories

Food System

Today, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a one year pilot program to once again allow faster line speeds at hog plants.

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

“With this decision, the Biden administration is caving to industry pressure. We already know that industry-friendly hog inspection rules create significantly more food safety problems than rules that require strong federal oversight. The administration was right to accept a court decision throwing out the awful Trump administration rules that allowed slaughterhouses to ramp up their slaughter-line speeds. Unfortunately, they are now reversing course on this with a pilot program that continues to put industry profits over protecting the safety of our food supply.”

National Organization Backs Appeal of Chester Water Authority “Hostile Takeover”

Categories

Clean Water

The national advocacy group Food & Water Watch has filed an amicus brief in support of Chester Water Authority’s appeal to the state Supreme Court to stop Aqua Pennsylvania’s attempt to take over the authority’s water system. 

The brief urges the court to consider the appeal, arguing that the action taken by Aqua constitutes a “hostile takeover” that was effectively and incorrectly sanctioned by a Commonwealth Court decision. 

Food & Water Watch argues that the court failed to treat the water system as a public trust, and nullified the legal requirement that the Chester Water Authority must consent to an acquisition. 

In its brief, Food & Water Watch points out that the most immediate effect of the takeover is likely to be a dramatic increase in water rates — the most predictable consequence of corporate water privatization in Pennsylvania and across the country. The water bill burden in Chester would go from about 1.2 percent of median household income to 3.3 percent of median household income, a level generally deemed unaffordable by the Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations.   

“This whole scheme amounts to a hostile takeover of the Chester Water Authority by Aqua Pennsylvania,” said Food & Water Watch staff attorney Zach Corrigan. “The State Supreme Court should hear the appeal and affirm the public trust purposes of the water system to protect the people served by the water authority.”

“I’m a senior living on a fixed income, as are all my neighbors in my community. We can’t afford the huge water rate increases that always come with selling of a water system to a private, for-profit company,” said Margo Woodacre, a resident of New Garden Township. “My township recently sold our sewer system to Aqua, and my bill went up 44% this year! My neighbors and I are working so this won’t happen with our water too.”

Carol Kazeem of Chester City added: “I truly and strongly believe that we must save Chester Water Authority and to keep our water public. Most of the residents that are in our communities are on fixed income or a low income. And changing Chester Water Authority now to be given over to Aqua will cause more of a financial distress to many residents in the City of Chester and also the surrounding areas of Delaware County.” 

A Stronger Approach to Methane Pollution: Ban Fracking

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, the EPA unveiled new rules intended to limit methane emissions for the oil and gas sectors.

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

“The best regulation against methane emissions is to ban fracking and prohibit the use of methane in heating of newly constructed buildings. In addition, the federal government should be working to retrofit existing buildings to eliminate the use of methane. Further, President Biden should use his executive authority to stop the buildout of new gas infrastructure, ban the export of LNG, and stop fracking and the extraction of fossil fuel on federal lands as he promised during the campaign.

“In addition, Congress should pass Senator Cory Booker and Representative Ro Khanna’s Farm System Reform Act to begin the transition away from the destructive factory farm model that harms the environment, impoverishes farmers, and promotes climate change.”

Merchantville Votes to Oppose Gibbstown Fracked Gas Terminal

Categories

Climate and Energy

The Borough Council of Merchantville passed a resolution on October 25 opposing a plan by New Fortress Energy to build a massive liquefied natural gas export terminal in Gibbstown, Gloucester County.

The Merchantville resolution calls on Governor Murphy to reject permits needed to load highly explosive and polluting LNG onto ships for export out of Gibbstown, and calls on the Army Corps of Engineers to complete an environmental impact statement on the project. This week’s vote is the ninth resolution to pass opposing the project.

“I was proud to support our Green Team’s efforts to educate the public on the dangers of New Fortress Energy’s plan to transport LNG through our local neighborhoods…[and] of our Council’s unanimous vote to adopt a resolution in opposition to this plan,” said Councilwoman Maria Nina Scarpa. “Our constituents sent us a clear message that not only are they opposed to the transport of LNG but also disappointed that there is consideration of massive investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure. As one resident said, ‘How can we allow this when we should be taking action to secure a clean energy future for our children?’”’

The proposed export terminal would be part of a massive new fracked gas infrastructure buildout in the region. The full scope of the project would involve supercooling gas extracted in Pennsylvania into liquefied natural gas (LNG), a highly volatile substance, and shipping it by truck and train nearly 200 miles to Gibbstown for export.

While the planned shipping routes have not been disclosed to the public, rail routes would almost certainly pass within 2 miles of Merchantville, as well as densely-populated urban areas in North Philadelphia and Camden. LNG is exceptionally dangerous: if ignited, it can burn in a fire too hot to extinguish. An LNG explosion at a Washington plant in 2014 led to emergency evacuation of a two-mile radius.

“Twenty five residents showed up at Merchantville’s October 25th Borough Council meeting to support a resolution put forth by the town’s Green Team in opposition to the New Frontier Energy’s plan to transport massive quantities of LNG via rail and highway in South Jersey,” said Merchantville resident and Green Team member Dorothy Foley, who was one of the seven people who testified in support of the resolution. She added that they were “horrified at the foolhardy and dangerous plan to transport LNG but more than anything…the overall environmental impact of allowing this huge investment in fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when all efforts should be into transitioning away from carbon fuels.” 

The Merchantville Green Team also voted to pass a similar resolution within their group joining many other Environmental groups, church groups and New Jersey municipalities which have passed resolutions calling on the governor and the Army Corps to reject the project. 

“Merchantville’s unanimous choice to vote against the Gibbstown LNG terminal is part of a growing effort throughout New Jersey to stop this dangerous project in its tracks,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Noa Gordon-Guterman. “Merchantville elected officials and residents sent a clear message to Governor Murphy, Biden and the Army Corps: We do not want the Gibbstown terminal or any new Fossil Fuel infrastructure in our communities. This project would expose thousands of South Jersey residents to the fatal and lasting risks of explosive Liquified Natural gas every day and exacerbate already worsening effects of climate change. Governor Murphy and President Biden must prioritize the health and safety of New Jersey residents.”

So far, resolutions against the project have passed in Princeton, Pennsauken, Runnemede, Haddon Township, Riverton, Hazlet, Burlington City, and Merchantville.

Biden’s Build Back Better ‘Framework’ is a Climate Failure

Categories

Climate and Energy

This morning, the White House released its Build Back Better framework.

Food & Water Watch Policy Director Mitch Jones released the following statement:  

“On a day when Congress is finally holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its climate disinformation campaigns, President Biden has announced a spending plan that fails to do the same. Given the prime opportunity to cancel billions of dollars in domestic subsidies for oil and gas polluters, the president and Congressional leadership have rolled over. A climate plan that fails to directly confront the oil and gas industry cannot possibly be considered meaningful. 

“We cannot rely on credits, grants, and loans to incentivize our way out of the worsening climate crisis. This is a historically significant failure of leadership, and our planet may well pay the price.”

New Documents Reveal Dangerous Australian Meat Imports

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Food System

WASHINGTON, DC — Documents uncovered by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch show an alarming increase in safety violations of Australian meat imports, in particular mutton, lamb, and goat meat that was contaminated with fecal matter and digestive contents. 

The incidents raise serious questions about the public health risks of relying on Australia’s heavily privatized meat inspection system. 

The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and reported by Reuters this morning, detail the import refusals that were documented by the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). From 2019 through 2020 the agency’s Public Health Critical Refusals Report found over 19 “zero tolerance” violations in Australian meat shipments. Twelve of these identified fecal matter or digestive contents as the reason for the refusal.

This is especially concerning for several reasons: These imports had already been inspected in Australia. Further, even if the amount of meat found to be in violation is small when considering the size of the lots imported, FSIS only ‘re-inspects’ a small percentage of imports—which means that the documented incidents are likely a massive undercount of the amount of contaminated meat that ends up imported and likely onto consumers’ plates. And the rate of rejections is increasing—from four violations for fecal matter and digestive content in 2018 to close to three times that (11) in 2020. The documents show three violations in just two months of 2021.

Records obtained from the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents meat inspectors in Australia, indicates a “significant rise” in rejections over the past year, and indicates that the USDA has known about these problems. One shocking case includes the allegation that an establishment sought to use scrapers to remove fecal matter from the contaminated carcasses.

“It was outrageous to simply scrape off fecal matter on carcasses, as that would merely spread around the contamination,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch.  “The USDA needs to revoke its approval of Australia’s inspection system as equivalent.  American consumers simply don’t deserve this fecal matter.” 

In June of 2014, Food & Water Watch submitted a petition requesting that the FSIS revoke its equivalency determination for the Australian Export Meat Inspection System (AEMIS)—which essentially replaces government inspectors with far fewer plant employees—like the Trump administration’s swine slaughter system that is now subject of multiple court cases. Food & Water Watch submitted these documents to the agency to bolster its case against the equivalency determination. USDA has yet to answer the petition.

Legal Petition Challenges EPA Inaction on Factory Farm Air Pollution

Categories

Food System

Washington, DC – As President Biden continues to promise that his administration will address the climate crisis and protect the air we breathe from industrial polluters, 24 advocacy organizations are demanding Biden’s EPA live up to that promise by doing more to protect communities from factory farms. Today, the groups filed a legal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging it to enforce federal air pollution laws against these major polluters, something the agency has refused to do for nearly two decades. 

Over 16 years ago, the George W. Bush administration announced an Agreement and Final Order it had secretly negotiated with the National Pork Producers Council. EPA agreed to refrain from enforcing key air pollution control and public disclosure laws like the Clean Air Act against any animal feeding operation (AFO) that signed up for the deal. In exchange, participating AFOs agreed to pay a small penalty to fund a nationwide air monitoring program that was supposed to help EPA develop more accurate air emissions estimating methodologies (EEMs) for AFOs. The methodologies were intended to allow EPA and citizens to calculate factory farms’ pollution and begin enforcing clean air laws.

Nearly 14,000 AFOs signed up for this sweetheart deal, known as the Air Consent Agreement, which, by its own terms, should have been completed in 2010. Yet, due in part to the fundamentally flawed ways in which EPA designed, ran, and used the data collected from the air monitoring study, the agency has yet to finalize any methodologies or end the Air Consent Agreement. 

As a result of EPA’s protracted delay, thousands of the nation’s largest AFOs continue to enjoy protection from EPA enforcement actions, even if their air pollution emissions exceed legal limits or reporting thresholds. AFOs emit a number of deadly air pollutants like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and climate-altering methane. According to a recent study, the livestock industry’s air pollution is responsible for over 12,700 deaths per year — more deaths than are attributed to coal-fired power plants. 

In light of AFO air pollution’s serious and unregulated public health impacts, the advocacy groups are demanding EPA put a stop to its “unacceptable dereliction of duty” by terminating the Air Consent Agreement, and taking all actions consistent with President Biden’s executive orders to enforce applicable clean air laws against AFOs.  

The Petitioners include: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (Arkansas), Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Clean Water for North Carolina (North Carolina), Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment (California), Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Farm Aid, Friends of the Earth, Friends of Family Farmers (Oregon), Friends of Toppenish Creek (Washington), Food Animal Concerns Trust, Food & Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, Humane Society of the United States, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa), Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, North Carolina Conservation Network (North Carolina), Public Justice, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

“AFO air pollution not only harms human health and our environment, it also exacerbates the suffering faced by the animals living at these facilities, ” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This free pass to pollute the air is another way our federal government subsidizes this cruel industry and helps it to thrive and expand.”

“Air pollution from factory farms kills almost 13,000 people a year, yet the EPA continues to sit on its keister as the meat industry emits more and more air pollution without consequences,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Multiplied out, the agency’s practice of ignoring these dangerous emissions for 16 years now makes it an accomplice in likely more than 200,000 deaths and countless harms to the environment and wildlife. Enough is enough.” 

“Communities surrounding the mega-dairies in Oregon have suffered long enough from their air pollution,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety’s Pacific Northwest office. “No one wants to live near these stinking and hazardous operations, yet EPA continues to sacrifice the most marginalized people to the benefit of industry profit.”

“We are simply asking the EPA to level the playing field and treat this industry the same way it treats every other industry,” said Abel Russ, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “We strongly support the Agency’s efforts to update the science, but that process is always ongoing – it should never be used as an excuse to put critical environmental protections on hold. No other industry gets that kind of special treatment. It’s unfair, and it has important consequences to overburdened communities across the country.”   

“The EPA has given factory farms a free pass to pollute since 2005, when it negotiated a backroom amnesty deal with the industry essentially exempting it from federal air pollution laws,” said Emily Miller, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch. “Since then, factory farms have been freely spewing dangerous air contaminants into the environment, not only threatening the health of nearby communities, but also contributing to climate change. This needs to stop.”

“For decades, the factory farm industry has insulated itself from the necessary enforcement critical to a just food system and healthy climate,” said Brent Newell, Senior Attorney at the Public Justice Food Project. “The Air Consent Agreement, now more than 16 years old, has given factory farms a free pass to pollute and reflects past administrations’ failure to take urgent action and prioritize human health over the profit-driven interests of Big Ag. We urge the EPA to grant this petition and to finally abandon an agreement that not only undermines the law, but also entrenches the factory farm system in a way that harms Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian and white rural communities.”

Finally! Sunoco Charged With Environmental Crimes Over Mariner East Pipeline

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Peter Hart, Ginny Kerslake, and Megan McDonough

From the very start, we knew Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 project — a 350 mile pipeline across Pennsylvania — would be a disaster.

We knew that Governor Tom Wolf pushed state agencies to approve the massive project, which carries fracked gas liquids to a port in Philadelphia, where they are shipped in tankers to Europe to make plastic junk.  

We saw for ourselves how the pipeline construction ripped up communities, contaminated drinking water, created sinkholes, and spilled drilling mud into lakes and streams.

We knew that Sunoco and parent company Energy Transfer were getting away with what seemed like criminal behavior, and we have urged state officials to take more serious action.


On October 5, things changed. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Sunoco/Energy Transfer was charged with 48 crimes related to the construction of the pipeline. A grand jury investigation found that the company routinely failed to report spills of drilling-related industrial waste.

Everything We Already Knew About Mariner East Pipeline — Plus a Lot More 

The details in the report are both familiar and horrifying to those who have followed this story. There was a consistent pattern: As they carried out horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at sites across the state, Sunoco’s contractors would spill drilling fluid, and the company mostly failed to report the accidents.

The drilling under Raystown Lake, for example, was a years-long disaster. The first contractor spilled 780,000 gallons of waste into the lake — but none of these eight ‘accidents’ were ever reported to the state. The next contractor had more problems, and Sunoco reported almost none of these either. All told, millions of gallons of waste was dumped into Raystown Lake.  

The same was happening near other lakes and streams, next to apartment buildings, and in residential neighborhoods.

And as appalling as these details are, the grand jury is crystal clear about one thing: The problems are far worse than what they have documented. Their report focuses on waste spills at 21 locations, but that is just 16 percent of the horizontal drilling that took place across the state. We know the same things were occurring at other sites; dozens of spills that impacted bodies of water were reported to the state. But the patterns of behavior documented by the grand jury report indicate that Sunoco failed to report many, many more.

Sunoco’s Threat To Drinking Water  

The report also covers some of the ways Sunoco ruined drinking water when drilling fluids entered water wells or an aquifer. One resident, Rosemary Fuller, experienced a range of problems almost as soon as construction began near her home. After she notified the state, Sunoco sampled her water, and told her that the problem was just harmless bentonite from the drilling fluid. 

A few weeks later, the grand jury report says, 

“she received a follow-up email informing her that additional test results indicated her water had tested high for e-coli and fecal coliform. In the intervening time period, her daughter drank the water and was hospitalized.”

The grand jury found that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a list of 183 people who have complained about water problems, And the problem could be bigger: 

“The possibility exists that the number of families that have had their only water supply impacted by this project is larger than is known. Many of the agreements that Sunoco entered into with homeowners who were affected by pipeline construction included non-disclosure provisions. Some of these prohibit a homeowner from speaking even with DEP or other governmental entities at the township, borough, county, state or federal level.”

Sunoco Paid The Fines And Kept Polluting. It’s Time For Governor Wolf To Stop This. 

Sunoco’s destructive behavior has not gone unpunished by the state. They have been issued more than a hundred violations and have paid millions of dollars in fines; at one point the state suspended reviews of new water permits due to the company’s record.  There have been a series of investigations, and even reports of an FBI probe into the Wolf administration’s approval of the pipeline.

The criminal case against Sunoco is a step forward for accountability. But the ultimate decision about the fate of Mariner East — and the communities that have been abused and put at risk by this corporation  — rests with Governor Wolf. All along, he has had the power to stop this. As the company finally faces legal challenges, will the governor finally do the right thing?

People need to know about this.

Highland Park Council Opposes Keasbey Fracked Gas Plant

On Tuesday night, the Highland Park Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution strongly opposing plans for a gas-fired power plant in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge Township, and calling on the administration of Governor Phil Murphy to reject the facility’s air permit application.

The council’s action follows a vote in Edison earlier this month, where the Township Council became the first in New Jersey to formally oppose the fossil fuel infrastructure project.

The Competitive Power Ventures plan would place a 630 megawatt plant amid a densely populated community already overburdened with fossil fuel pollution. The company — which was embroiled in a high-profile corruption scandal in New York over approval for a facility in Orange County — already operates a fracked gas power plant adjacent to the proposed site.

The resolution was adopted as state officials develop rules under a new environmental justice law that will make it harder for polluting projects to be sited in overburdened communities. 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 environmental justice criteria.

“We’re happy that the Highland Park Council passed a strong resolution. The proposed Keasbey gas-fired plant is an environmental justice issue for both the Highland Park and the Woodbridge Township communities,” said Ellen Whitt, a Highland Park resident who championed the issue.

“Our Council members and Mayor understand that burning fracked gas increases global warming and shortens lifespans. The only power that is acceptable in today’s world is the power of renewables,” said Tina Weishaus, Chairperson of Sustainable Highland Park, a committee that recommended this action to the Mayor and Council.

“There is simply no need to add another source of air and climate pollution in this part of the state, or anywhere else for that matter,” 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.”

The resolution calls for the Borough Clerk to forward the resolution to Governor Murphy, as well as Rep. Frank Pallone, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, State Senator Patrick Diegnan, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Assemblyman Sterley Stanley, and the Middlesex County Board of Commissioners.

A Climate ‘Deal’ that Guts the Clean Power Plan Would Be a Disaster