Cabot Oil & Gas Accepts Responsibility for Contaminating Dimock, Pa. Residents’ Drinking Water From Fracking

Categories

Climate and Energy

In a remarkable conclusion to an historic legal action against Cabot Oil & Gas, the company (now owned by Coterra Energy) pleaded no contest today to a crime related to the contamination and poisoning of drinking water due to fracking in Dimock, Pa. Additionally the company has agreed to pay $16.3 million for new water infrastructure and pay for clean water to impacted residents for 75 years. In June, 2020, Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed the charges against Cabot based on recommendations from a grand jury report.

Today’s events follow a complicated 14-year saga surrounding the original cases of water contamination in Dimock. The gas industry egregiously denied contaminating their water and attacked residents for years. Since then, thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated significant risks and harms from drilling and fracking, including water contamination, air pollution and severe public health impacts. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ultimately confirmed the water contamination in Dimock as well. 

“Dimock residents have known for 14 years that Cabot Oil & Gas is guilty of contaminating our water. Finally, some justice,” said Ray Kemble, a Dimock resident whose water was contaminated. “This case proves once and for all that drilling and fracking contaminated our drinking water. Now we need immediate relief in the form of water deliveries.”

“After more than a decade of glaring inaction from state and federal leaders, finally the people of Dimock have a measure of justice thanks to the work of Attorney General Shapiro. But countless other communities on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction in Pennsylvania and elsewhere will continue to suffer from the inherent health and safety risks of fracking until our country fully transitions to a clean, safe, renewable energy future,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Pennsylvania needs more action from Shapiro to rein in the oil and gas industry, and federal leaders must act to ensure that no American is subjected to continued poisoning, sickness and harm from drilling and fracking.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Biden’s Move to Increase Meat Processing Competition Will Benefit Consumers and Farmers

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Food System

Washington, D.C. – Today the Biden administration announced details of an initiative to invest $223 million to expand meat and poultry processing capacity in the country, part of a White House plan to tackle rising consumer costs for meat and poultry. 

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

“This detailed initiative to expand and diversify the country’s meat processing capacity shows a desperately-needed commitment from the Biden administration to bring down unmanageable costs for families by confronting egregious corporate consolidation in the industry. Tackling the monopolistic market power of the biggest meat companies is critical to enabling an affordable, safe and sustainable regional food system throughout the country.

“Coupled with the strong rules from the administration for enforcing the Packers and Stockyard Act, as well as action by Congress to stop agribusiness mergers and reform our food system, this action will transform American agriculture for the benefit of families and farmers.”

recent report from Food & Water Watch highlights the crushing implications for consumers, farmers and food workers of extreme corporate consolidation in the industry. Among the report’s findings:

  • 83 percent of all beef is produced by just four processing companies;
  • 65 percent of consumer grocery market share is held by just four retailers;
  • 67 percent of crop seed market share is held by just four corporations.

Recommended policy prescriptions in the report include:

  • Federal legislation like the Farm System Reform Act, which would ban new factory farms and the expansion of existing ones, and phase out the most egregious factory farm operations by 2040;
  • Reinstating federal supply management programs for commodities, including price floors;
  • Enacting through legislation a moratorium on corporate mergers in the food system; 
  • Redirecting public agriculture funding to encourage and support organic and regenerative farming practices. 

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Kroger/Albertsons Supermarket Merger Would Be Horrible for Consumers

Categories

Food System

Washington, D.C. – News reports today indicate that Kroger and Albertsons, two of the country’s largest supermarket chains, are in merger negotiations, with a deal to be announced as early as this week.

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

“At a moment when American families are already struggling with skyrocketing food prices from a hyper-consolidated grocery industry, the notion of another mega-merger between corporate food giants couldn’t be more alarming. The federal government’s own analysis finds that supermarket consolidation typically leads to price hikes. For the sake of everyday consumers, farmers and workers, the Biden administration should be rejecting this terrible, greed-driven proposal out of hand.”

Recently Food & Water Watch issued a report detailing the deepening consolidation crisis in the country’s grocery industry, and what it means for consumers. In the report — “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Grocery Cartels” — Food & Water Watch examined the market share of the dominant companies across 55 grocery categories. The research found that more than 60 percent of the analyzed grocery categories are tight oligopolies/monopolies. Just eight of the 55 categories (15 percent) could be considered highly competitive. 

The research also showed an alarming trend towards fewer, bigger stores. From 1993 to 2019, the number of grocery stores nationwide declined by roughly 30 percent, as the combined market share of the four largest grocery retailers tripled to 69 percent. Kroger and Alberstons already own a staggering 22% of the market share of grocery stores, with their own vertically integrated supply chains. 

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Defeat of Manchin’s Energy Permitting Deal is a Repudiation of Filthy Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – This evening, the Senate removed a controversial energy permitting provision, backed by Sen. Joe Manchin and the fossil fuel industry, from a must-pass budget continuing resolution. The provision – a so-called ‘side deal’ negotiated between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – would have fast-tracked oil and gas infrastructure development, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

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

“Tonight’s turnaround represents a remarkable, against-all-odds victory by a determined grassroots climate movement against the overwhelming financial and political might of the fossil fuel industry and its Senate enablers. While the campaign against polluting oil and gas is far from over, this repudiation of Senator Manchin’s so-called permitting reform bill marks a huge victory against dirty energy – and also against dirty backroom Washington dealmaking.

“This victory would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of hundreds of national and grassroots organizations, along with concerned Americans from coast to coast, working together for the health and safety of frontline communities and a livable future for the planet.

“Senator Schumer and Democratic leadership would be wise to heed the large and growing chorus of voices demanding an end to the fossil fuel era, and put Manchin’s permitting bill down for good.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

400+ Scientists, Health Professionals Oppose Manchin’s Fossil Fuel Permitting Bill

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – In a letter delivered to House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer today, more than 400 scientists and health professionals urged Congress to reject the energy permitting reform bill released yesterday by Senator Joe Manchin. The letter cites grave public health and climate threats associated with the fast-tracking of fossil fuel development that the bill prioritizes. 

The letter was written by noted biologist and climate expert Sandra Steingraber, PhD [Science and Environmental Health Network] and circulated in conjunction with Food & Water Watch. Initial signers include noted health and climate experts Peter Kalmus, PhD [UCLA], Robert W. Howarth, PhD [Cornell Univ.],  Philip Landrigan, MD [Boston Col.], Farhana Sultana, PhD [Syracuse Univ.], Ted Schettler MD, MPH [Science & Environmental Health Network], Michael E Mann, PhD [Univ. of Penn.], Barbara Sattler, RN, DrPH, FAAN [Univ. of San Fran.], Mark Jacobson, PhD [Sanford Univ.], and Katie Huffling, DNP, RN, CNM, FAAN [Physicians for Social Responsibility].

The letter states in part: 

Fossil fuel projects also carry enormous risks to public health that include not only diverse widespread health impacts from an overheated climate but also direct harm to those living near them. As is now documented in more than 100 studies, public health harms linked to living near oil and gas wells and associated infrastructure include asthma, heart problems, early death, and impairments to infant health… More than 17.6 million U.S. residents live within a mile of an active oil or gas well. These Americans include our patients.

“The climate crisis is a public health crisis, with people living on the frontlines of oil and gas extraction suffering the most. Scientists who document the evidence for harm and health professionals who treat the harm are now speaking out with one voice,” said Sandra Steingraber, PhD, senior scientist at the Science and Environmental Health Network and author of the letter. “We call on House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer to reject Senator Manchin’s dirty deal that will expedite further fossil fuel build-out.”  

“Having spent more than 50 years working to protect children against health threats in the environment, I feel compelled to speak out against any political deal that would expose them to decades more pollution from fossil fuels,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, pediatrician and director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Global Observatory on Planetary Health at the Schiller Institute. “Fossil fuel extraction harms prenatal development. Fossil fuel combustion causes prematurity, stillbirth and asthma in children. The single, most effective strategy for protecting our children against these dangers is a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy and away from fossil fuels. The sooner the better.”

Yesterday Senator Manchin released the text of his much-anticipated energy permitting reform legislation, which Senator Schumer intends to attach to a “must pass” budget continuing resolution before the end of September.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

House Opposition to Schumer/Manchin Pro-Fossil Fuel “Side Deal” is Latest Evidence of Growing Movement to Kill the Bill

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – In a letter delivered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, more than 70 U.S. House members affirmed their opposition to a legislative deal crafted by Senators Schumer and Manchin that would fast-track fossil fuel infrastructure development. The deal, which Schumer apparently intends to attach to an upcoming budget continuing resolution, would prioritize fossil fuel projects, including the highly controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline.

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

“Today’s letter from House members further confirms what we’ve been seeing on the streets and in town hall meetings across the country: large and growing public disgust for this egregious fossil fuel permitting deal. The cynical manner in which the deal is being pushed, as an attachment to must-pass legislation, represents the worst of Washington politics from Democratic Party leaders who claim to be climate champions.

“This permitting deal would fast-track fossil fuel expansion at the expense of our health and safety and a livable climate. Evidence from the last decade clearly shows that promoting cleaner energy while still advancing new fossil fuel projects will not reduce climate pollution. The science is clear: To maintain a chance of having a livable planet for future generations, we must halt all new fossil fuel development now. This dirty energy deal would be a climate killer.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Food & Water Watch Sues FERC Over Deficient Review of East 300 Pipeline Expansion

On Friday, Food & Water Watch filed a petition of appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal for D.C. challenging the decision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a “Certification of Public Convenience and Necessity” to Tennessee Gas Pipeline LLC (TGP) for its proposed East 300 Upgrade project. The project would consist of new and expanded fracked gas compressor stations in northeastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey meant to pump more gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales to ConEd’s local distribution network in Westchester County, New York.

In its petition of appeal, Food & Water Watch raised issues with the commission’s failure to consider whether the project is needed in light of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requirements for drastic emissions reductions by 2030, the failure to consider this project’s impact on increased fracking in Pennsylvania, and the commission’s refusal to consider foreseeable downstream air pollution impacts.

Tennessee Gas Pipelines’  East 300 Upgrade expansion project involves the construction of one new and two expanded gas compressor stations — one in Wantage Township, NJ that would more than triple the size of the existing facility there, one expanded station in Susquehanna County, PA, and one new facility in West Milford, NJ at the site of a former quarry less than 1200 feet from the Monksville Reservoir which connects to the water supply of 3.5 million NJ residents.

Compressor stations maintain or increase pressure in natural gas transmission lines, and operators regularly “blowdown” the stations, releasing methane gas into the local community when too much pressure builds. These new compressors would allow the company to pipe higher volumes of gas, fracked in Pennsylvania, at greater pressure through an aging pipeline system to Westchester County, NY – a county already in non-compliance with the Clean Air Act’s national ambient air quality standards for ozone (a byproduct of methane pollution).

Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Adam Carlesco issued the following statement:

“In appealing approval of this project, we hope to put a stop to FERC’s practice of disregarding relevant state climate law, neglecting environmental review requirements, and failing to demonstrate that this project is required by the public interest. Despite recent losses in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Commission has continued to ignore the long-term consequences of its permitting and has betrayed the principles of scrutinous oversight it sought to embody with its proposed certification policy.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

New Research Shows Massive Water Savings If California Phased Out Fossil Fuels for Renewables

New research finds that if California phased out fossil fuels for renewable energy sources like PV solar and wind, the state could save 82 million cubic meters of water per year that currently supply fossil fuel and nuclear power generation. That represents a 99% decrease in California’s yearly water withdrawals for electrical generation from fossil fuels while producing the same amount of energy. 

The new Food & Water Watch research, “Thirsty Fossil Fuels: Potential for Huge Water Savings By Switching to Renewables,” details state and national numbers highlighting the need for immediate action to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Environmental advocates have long criticized Governor Newsom’s sluggish response to the drought as well as his lack of bold action to phase out fossil fuels — particularly his willingness to extend the lifetime of gas fired power plants, also intensive water users.

“Fossil fuels not only pollute our planet and hasten global warming, they also use up massive amounts of water,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck. “California in particular could benefit immensely from a swift transition to less thirsty energy. The only tradeoff in switching from fossil fuels to renewables is positive: you can produce the same amount of energy while freeing up water for households, agriculture and other beneficial uses. Governor Newsom has every reason to end California’s dependence on fossil fuel energy and transition to renewables immediately.”

The research details the pitfalls of carbon capture, another water-intensive “false solution” favored by the fossil fuel industry and recently touted by Newsom amid environmental backlash

Contact: Peter Hart – [email protected]

Allegheny County Overrides Executive Veto and Bans Fracking in Parks

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Climate and Energy

After a whirlwind month of meetings, hundreds of public comments and thousands of petition signatures, Allegheny County Council cast a historic vote tonight to ban new fracking leases in all county parks. The 12-3 vote overrode the county executive’s earlier veto of the bill (Bill No. 12162-22).

“This is a remarkable victory, as it represents the first county-wide anti-fracking action in Pennsylvania history. This common-sense law will help ensure that our county parks, encompassing 12,000 acres across 12 distinct watersheds, will be protected for generations to come,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Robin Lesko.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed the veto to the bill on July 6th, but chose to have his staff deliver the veto after the final County Council meeting on July 12th before summer recess, forcing a special meeting to be called to hold a veto override vote.

“Despite our County Executive trying to keep us beholden to the fossil fuel industry with his veto, we have voted in favor of clean air, water, and the safety of our community and environment,” said Councilmember Bethany Hallam. 

Bethany Hallam, County Council Member at Large, re-introduced the legislation in January 2022, and it was reassigned to the Committee on Green and Sustainability Initiatives, chaired by Council Member, Anita Prizio.

The law will prohibit all surface and subsurface leases in eight of the nine county parks. The ninth, Deer Lakes Park, was leased to fracking in 2014 over vocal public concern. In the years since, researchers at Duquesne have identified fracking-related pollution in the park’s water.

After gaining four co-sponsors (Olivia Bennett, Anita Prizio, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, and Jack Betkowski) Hallam worked with community groups to mobilize popular support for the bill.

“This is a hard-fought victory for Allegheny County’s parks and all of us who enjoy them,” said Zachary Barber, the clean air advocate with PennEnvironment. “Today’s vote is a testament to almost a decade of tireless work by Allegheny County parks lovers. Rather than give up after the fracking of Deer Lakes, local residents grabbed their clipboards, laced up their walking shoes, and organized.”

The discussion of banning fracking began in 2013 when grassroots organization Protect Our Parks collected 2,000 signatures in support of a moratorium on fracking in Allegheny County. County Council defeated that measure in 2014 and leased Deer Lakes Park to Range Resources. 

“Today we close a chapter on what was started so many years ago— we’ve gained so many friends and lost a few along the way, and today’s victory is in their memory,” said Dianne Peterson of Protect Our Parks.

After Today’s Inadequate Actions, Biden Must Declare Climate Emergency, Ban Crude Oil Exports and Halt New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Today President Biden is expected to announce a slate of modest climate measures, including awarding new weather resiliency funds through FEMA and issuing new guidance for a home energy assistance program. Under federal law, the declaration of a climate emergency would give Biden immediate authority to take numerous larger measures, including reinstating a ban on crude oil exports and suspending offshore oil and gas drilling.

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

“In the midst of shocking and unprecedented heat waves, wildfires and drought in America, Europe and across the globe, President Biden has failed to meaningfully act on climate. Evidence from the last decade clearly shows that promoting cleaner energy while still advancing new fossil fuel projects will not reduce climate pollution.

The science is clear: To maintain reasonable hope of achieving a livable planet for future generations, we must halt new fossil fuel development now. Biden must declare a climate emergency, ban crude oil exports and halt new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines and export terminals. The clock is rapidly ticking towards inevitable, irreversible climate catastrophe. There is no more time to lose.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

After Manchin Kills Climate Deal, Biden Must Declare Climate Emergency and Halt New Fossil Fuel Development

Categories

Climate and Energy

News broke last night that Senator Joe Manchin has effectively terminated the possibility of Congress passing a budget reconciliation bill that includes any action on climate and clean energy.

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

“With coal baron Joe Manchin’s despicable but unsurprising decision to prevent even meager action from Congress on climate and clean energy, the urgent need for President Biden to step up and act decisively has risen to a crisis pitch. Since the Senate won’t act, Biden must take matters into his own hands by declaring a climate emergency and immediately moving to halt new drilling and fracking on federal lands and waters, and denying the approval of new fossil fuel pipelines and infrastructure projects. Biden has the power to do all this now, and for the sake of a livable future, he must.

“If there is a silver lining to the death of any climate deal in the budget reconciliation package, it’s that the billions of dollars in proposed spending on harmful false solutions like carbon capture and storage will not come to fruition – at least for now. These sorts of schemes, perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry and unsurprisingly supported by Senator Manchin, serve only to extend a taxpayer-funded lifeline to polluting, climate-killing coal, oil and gas operations.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Biden Mustn’t Cave to Bad Actor Manchin on Dangerous Fossil Fuel Projects

Categories

Climate and Energy

Reporting indicates that the Biden administration, in the hopes of winning over Senator Joe Manchin on support for a budget reconciliation spending bill, is considering approving several highly controversial fossil fuel projects, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, new LNG export facilities, and new drilling/fracking projects in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and other federal lands and waters.

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

“The fact that President Biden, who came to office with a pledge to halt new fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, would even consider approving dangerous new drilling, fracking and pipeline construction at this perilous time for our climate future is alarming. The science is clear: To maintain reasonable hope of achieving a livable planet for future generations, we must halt new fossil fuel development now. Modest tax breaks for cleaner energy technologies simply won’t do the job by themselves.

“There is abundant evidence that incentivizing cleaner energy technology while also advancing new dirty energy projects does not reduce climate pollution. This has been the strategy over the past decade, and it has been an abysmal failure. 

“The fact that Biden is considering a preemptive give-away to Sen. Manchin is even more alarming. Manchin has proven time and time again to be a bad actor at the negotiating table. There is no reason to believe he has any intention of making any sort of deal on clean energy – even the very modest one the administration is proposing. 

“Years ago the Obama administration foolishly encouraged the lifting of a ban on crude oil exports, causing a spike in drilling, fracking and climate pollution for a temporary extension of modest clean energy tax credits. Biden must not make the same dangerous mistake.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Supreme Court’s Failure in WV v. EPA Decision Means Congress Must Act Now to Save the Planet

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Today the Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency that will substantially hamper federal agencies from regulating climate pollution under the Clean Air Act without action from Congress. The case concerns an Obama administration rule, the Clean Power Plan, that never took effect.

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

“The Supreme Court’s disastrous term continues to threaten the health and safety of people across the country. This decision is the latest in a string of recklessly ideological decisions that destroy long-established precedent and decades of jurisprudence.

“Since this Supreme Court has failed society and the planet, action from Congress to meaningfully address the climate crisis becomes even more urgent. Congress must tackle poisoning climate emissions at their source by curtailing new fossil fuel development before it starts. This includes halting oil and gas exports, which drive demand for expanded drilling and fracking, while raising fuel and energy costs for consumers here at home.

“Today’s decision is part of a broad-based assault on the ability of regulators to protect our air, water and climate. Long-sought by corporate polluters, industry-backed think tanks and politicians who serve monied fossil fuel interests, this decision strikes at the heart of federal experts’ ability to do their jobs.

“While this ruling intends to hamstring the federal government’s ability to regulate dangerous emissions, it does not signal the end of climate action. The climate movement must and will continue to pressure agencies and elected officials at the local, state and federal levels to enact policies that ensure a swift reduction in climate pollution and an end to the fossil fuel era. The Supreme Court will not stand in the way of the fight for a livable planet.

“This case, however broadly it might be interpreted, is irrelevant to concrete action that protects communities and this planet at the local and state levels. The climate and anti-fracking movements have won substantial victories, and will continue to do so despite the decrees from a reckless, far-right Supreme Court.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

TONIGHT – Online Film Premier and Conversation: “Dear President Biden: Our Climate Can’t Wait”

Categories

Climate and Energy

Tonight the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, along with the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition, will host an online national premier of the new short film Dear President Biden: Our Climate Can’t Wait, from acclaimed director Jon Bowermaster. Following the film screening there will be a discussion with Bowermaster and a number of activists featured in the film who are on the front lines of numerous grassroots fights against new fossil fuel export projects and false-solution carbon capture schemes around the country.

These fights are taking on ever-increasing significance as the Biden administration seeks to expand oil and gas exports overseas, at the expense of frontline communities here at home. Similarly, the administration has recently allocated $ billions for unproven and unworkable “carbon capture and storage” schemes as a solution to the climate crisis.

Available for interview: film director Jon Bowermaster – the author of eleven books and director of over a dozen documentary films, all pertaining to the environment in which we live. Founder of Oceans 8 Films, he and his team have traveled the world and inspired action to help the environment through powerful storytelling.

What: Online film premier of Dear President Biden: Our Climate Can’t Wait, followed by discussion with the director and featured anti-fossil fuel activists

When: Tonight, Thurs. June 23, 7 – 8:30 pm ET

Where: Online – register to attend here: https://www.mobilize.us/fww/event/465116/

Who: Film director Jon Bowermaster and featured activists including: 

  • Fermin Morales lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fermin is a part of Philly Boricuas, a grassroots organization of Puerto Ricans organizing the diasporic community in Philadelphia.
  • Joye Braun is the national pipelines organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network , an alliance of Indigenous Peoples whose shared mission is to Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination & exploitation by respecting and adhering to Indigenous Knowledge and Natural Law.
  • Jean Su is the Energy Director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity. Jean focuses on transforming legal structures of the U.S. power sector to achieve rapid increases in renewable and clean energy, phase out fossil fuels, and electrify transportation. Jean also serves on the Board of Directors for SustainUS.
  • Jessica Wiskus is fighting  to stop a proposed carbon pipeline that could pass near her rural Linn County. This has led Jessica to become more active in local politics and community organizing. She’s a wife and mother and is not only running for office, but has taken the lead on organizing her community against the pipelines.
  • John Beard, from Port Arthur, Texas, is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, a community based, environmental justice non-profit. PACAN advocates for solutions that reduce or eliminate environmental and public health hazards, promotes community development and improvements to the quality of life in Port Arthur.
  • Kate Delany is the Head of South Jersey Progressive Democrats and Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch. Kate is a lifelong South Jerseyan and mom of two. More about Kate.
  • Russell Chisholm serves as co-chair of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, and Rights Coalition in the campaign to stop Mountain Valley Pipeline and dangerous fossil fuel expansion through Virginia and West Virginia. He is coordinator of the pipeline construction monitoring Mountain Valley Watch project, documenting and reporting potential violations of environmental law and holding regulators accountable to impact
  • Sandra Steingraber is the senior scientist at the Science and Environmental Health Network. Its principal aim is to use law and best practices to combat cumulative impacts, especially in matters relating to public health and the environment. Steingraber taught at Ithaca College where, since 2003, she served as Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

EPA Action on PFAS Contamination is Modest First Step

Categories

Clean Water

Washington, DC – Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new drinking water health advisories for four specific PFAS “forever chemical” substances, in an effort to address the rampant contamination of drinking water sources from the highly toxic class of chemicals commonly found in proximity to military bases and industrial sites. The announcement includes updated advisories for PFOA and PFOS at near-zero levels and new advisories for two additional compounds, including GenX. These are just four of the thousands of known PFAS compounds known to exist in communities across the country.

In response, Mary Grant, Director of Food & Water Watch’s Public Water for All Campaign issued the following statement: 

“This modest action by the EPA to warn communities of the harm caused by these four specific chemicals is good, but it only represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of adequately acknowledging and mitigating the hazards posed by the thousands of highly toxic variants existing in the PFAS ‘forever chemical’ family. The EPA needs to go much further by implementing strong, enforceable regulations on the entire class of PFAS chemicals that are sickening communities around the country as we speak.

“Funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law provided a down payment on what needs to be a continuing stream of adequate funding to properly address the drinking water crisis facing our country. The WATER Act, which now has more than 100 cosponsors in Congress, would provide the adequate long-term solution we need to provide clean water for everyone for years to come.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Spending $8 Million, Oil and Gas Industry Overturns Ventura County Environmental Regulations

Categories

Climate and Energy

Ventura, CA – Backed by an $8 million war chest, the oil and gas industry succeeded in defeating Measures A and B, two ordinances that would have closed a dangerous loophole allowing oil and gas drillers to avoid modern environmental review using antiquated permits with no expiration date. The vote overturns a decision by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 2020 requiring all new drilling operations to abide by modern environmental standards regardless of permit date.

The vote is the latest in a nearly two year battle between community members and environmental justice activists and fossil fuel giants like Aera Energy and Chevron. Only three days after the initial Ventura County Board of Supervisors’ decision in 2020, Aera Energy spent $1 million on signature gatherers to put the issue back on the ballot. Once that happened, oil and gas interests poured additional millions of dollars into the hyperlocal campaign, making this the most expensive ballot issue in Ventura County’s history despite the ordinances only applying to new drilling operations. They used dark money to overturn common sense regulations passed by Ventura’s elected representatives; not one individual donor is listed in their campaign finance reports. 

“Big Oil has set a terrifying precedent,” said Food & Water Watch Central Coast Organizing Manager and Yes on Measures A & B Campaign Lead Tomás Rebecchi. “Ventura County’s families know that our communities’ health is not for sale at any price. We are no one’s sacrifice zone. But it’s increasingly clear that fossil fuel companies not only threaten the safety of our communities and climate, they’re also unraveling our democratic processes. And if Big Oil can buy its way out of a democratic decision for $8 million in a tiny county in California, where will they go next? This may be Ventura County’s fight, but it’s a defeat for the whole country.”

Led by environmental justice and community activists, the grassroots Yes on Measures A & B campaign headed the effort to pass Measures A and B. Ventura-based clothing outfitter Patagonia added a donation of $450,000 to the primarily individual contributions.

“We’re deeply disappointed that Measures A & B failed,” said Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert. “I want to thank all the activists from the VC Safe campaign who knocked on doors, picked up the phone and rallied the community to push back against Big Oil’s lies and money. This is just one loss in an ongoing campaign to save the home planet. We’ll be back at it tomorrow.” 

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected]

New Report Outlines Deepening Crisis in Iowa Hog Industry

Categories

Food System

A new report released today from the national environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch details the growing crisis in Iowa farm country caused by the increasingly consolidated hog industry. The report is the second in a series outlining the harsh economic costs to consumers, rural communities and farmers of corporate monopolies throughout the American food system.

In the report — “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Hog Bosses” — Food & Water Watch analyzed the economic welfare of counties in Iowa, ground zero for the nation’s consolidated hog industry. Through an analysis of 35 years of data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, the report examines the impacts of a hyper-consolidated agriculture industry on Iowa’s local economies, consumer prices and climate change. The report also highlights how federal policies and lax antitrust oversight enabled and encouraged these impacts.

The report finds that Iowa is producing more hogs than ever, on fewer farms than ever, to the detriment of local economies. Specifically:

  • Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms from 1982 to 2017, as rapid factory hog expansion drove out smaller, family-scale farms. Continued farm loss is a steady trend, with fully one third of Iowa’s remaining hog farms disappearing from 2007-2017.
  • Since 1982, Iowa counties with the most hog factory farm development suffered declines across several economic indicators, including real median household income and total jobs. These counties also experienced significant population decline — twice the rate of Iowa’s rural counties overall.
  • Overproduction — and growing corporate consolidation — have pushed down the real price of hogs. Adjusting for inflation, today’s farmers earn $2 less per pound of pork produced compared to 1982, while the retail price fell only $1; slaughterhouses, processors and retailers capture the other $1.

A March poll commissioned by Food & Water Action found that 95% of Iowa voters support rules that make it easier for small farmers to compete with large agricultural corporations, and a 2019 study found that 63% of Iowa voters support legislation to ban factory farm expansion and corporate monopolies in our food system.

“Our centralized, corporate-controlled food system was built to funnel local resources into Wall Street hands, at the expense of local economies, independent family farms, consumer prices and our environment. Nowhere is this more obvious than with Iowa’s hog bosses,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck. “Factory farming, dismantling federal supply management, and a consistent willingness to shirk antitrust oversight and enforcement for the industrial agriculture industry are hollowing out Iowa farm country. To fix this, Iowa legislators must enact a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms. And President Biden must ban new and expanding factory farms through passage of the Farm System Reform Act, restore supply management in the 2023 Farm Bill and improve antitrust oversight and enforcement.”

“I run a factory farm because I have to; I run a regenerative hemp farm because I want to,” said farmer Ethan Vorhes of Floyd County, Iowa. “Over my daughter’s lifetime, Iowa lost one third of our farms. While I’m one of the few remaining, I’m struggling to make ends meet. Our policies, tax dollars and elected officials should support methods of farming that help farmers like me and families like mine — not industrial factory farming that lines Wall Street pockets at our expense.”

“It started with needing to take on a second job to make ends meet — farming just doesn’t pay the bills like it used to,” said farmer Nick Schutt of Hardin County, Iowa. “Jobs are evaporating and my community along with it. Today, I work three jobs. Farming, hauling trash for the dump, and fighting against the very policies that created this mess. We have to give power back to the little guy, by banning factory farms and halting the corporate consolidation ruining Iowa.”

“After 25 years out-of-state, I returned to Iowa for retirement. It felt like a completely different place,” said Linda Luhring of Calhoun County, Iowa. “The businesses I’d frequented in my hometown had shuttered, and everywhere I looked, I found nothing but hogs and corn. Iowa is so much more than Big Ag’s playground. We need to reign in corporate power, stop the unsustainable proliferation of factory farms and reinvest in our rural communities.” 

“Decades ago, the federal government told farmers to “get big or get out,” so they did. We’re paying with the consequences now,” said Julie Duhn of Hardin County, Iowa. “People are leaving town to find jobs, and factory farms are polluting our air and water without regulation. It’s up to our elected officials to turn this ship around. The government needs to reinvest in farmers doing the right thing, not the destructive factory farming system carving out our communities.”

For more on The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies report series from Food & Water Watch, see Grocery Cartels, detailing exploitative retailer monopolies and their impacts on consumers.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Biden’s Earth Day Forests Pledge is Grossly Inadequate Response to Deepening Climate Crisis

Categories

Climate and Energy

In anticipation of President Biden’s Earth Day announcement in Seattle tomorrow regarding an initiative to preserve old-growth forestsFood & Water Watch National Organizing Manager Thomas Meyer issued the following statement:

“President Biden seems to think we’re celebrating the first Earth Day in 1970, rather than in the depths of the climate crisis in 2022. Protecting forests without addressing the root cause of the climate crisis, namely the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels, will do very little to slow global warming. The president has many effective tools at his disposal to address the climate and public health impacts of fossil fuels in a serious way. He should start by following through on his pledge to end fracking on public lands and stop offshore drilling, and directing his agencies to reject all new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Scores of climate activists will be outside President Biden’s event in Seattle tomorrow to remind him of his commitments and demand that he take bold action to address the climate crisis.

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected]

Expanded Natural Gas Exports Will Doom Us Later, But Not Help Anyone Today

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Amid the growing calls from the American fossil fuel industry and its political allies to ramp up the export of liquified natural gas to Europe, Food & Water Watch’s Managing Policy Director Mitch Jones issued the following statement:

“As we’ve come to expect, the fracked gas industry and its political backers are leveraging a global crisis to justify a buildout of new infrastructure, like pipelines and export terminals, in the name of alleviating a short-term supply crunch. In reality, no action taken now to enable the industry to expand operations here in America would have any impact on price spikes or supply shortages in the days or months to come. New pipelines and export facilities would take many years to come online. Meanwhile, Europe doesn’t have the storage capacity to import more American gas right now, even if it wanted to.

“The fracked gas industry is seeking an excuse to expand its drilling, fracking and export infrastructure for decades to come, and in so doing, commit the planet to an irreversible future of climate chaos. Nothing this industry is angling for today will have any positive impact on the troubles we or our allies face, tomorrow or in the future.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

New U.N. Climate Report is a Dire Warning: Only Immediate, Decisive Action Will Keep a Livable Planet Possible

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – A new report published this morning by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the world is nearly out of time to take quick, decisive action to avert the worst impacts of climate change and maintain the chance of a livable future for humans in decades and centuries to come. 

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

“This report paints an ominous picture of a world already slipping past the edge of climate management and into the realm of devastating, irreversible climate chaos. A dereliction of duty from global leaders — and outright contempt from corporate polluters – has pushed us to this perilous point, and only immediate, decisive action will keep hope of a livable planet alive. Now is the moment we must demand a halt to new fossil fuel development and a rejection of faulty schemes like carbon capture and emissions credit trading. Only a rapid, aggressive ramping-up of truly clean, renewable energy will save this planet and its people.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Environmental Groups Oppose Funding for Carbon Capture, Blue Hydrogen Schemes

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – In a letter sent to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders today, nearly 200 local, state and national environmental groups demanded that Congress reject new and existing funding for faulty climate proposals such as carbon capture and storage, blue hydrogen, and other fossil fuel-based technologies that would serve to prop up the polluting industry. 

The letter was written and facilitated primarily by the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch, and was signed by groups including Sierra Club, Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Earth, Center for International Environmental Law, Indigenous Environmental Network, Institute for Policy Studies and Oil Change International.

See the letter here.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Citing 100+ Violations and Dozens of Criminal Charges Against Sunoco, Environmental Groups Call on Pennsylvania DEP to Deny Mariner East 2 Permits

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Climate and Energy

On February 12, 2022 the state permits issued five years ago for construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline, a dangerous project to ship fracked ethane across Pennsylvania for plastics production overseas, will expire. Echoing comments submitted by scores of Pennsylvanians, five Pennsylvania environmental groups submitted joint comments to the state Department of Environmental Protection calling on the agency to deny the renewal of permits.

Their comments note that Sunoco “has failed and continues to fail to comply with any [relevant] provisions of the law,” and “has shown a lack of ability or intention to comply with such laws as indicated by past or continuing violations.” The comments note that in light of Sunoco’s track record of more than 100 violations and its ongoing failure to comply with cleanup, restoration, remediation and mitigation orders, renewal of its operating permits would be unlawful under section 609 of the state’s Clean Streams Law.

“The scores of violations, dozens of criminal charges, spills, accidents, illnesses and even a death associated with this ill-fated pipeline project speak volumes about what a bad actor Sunoco has been,” said Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Pennsylvania organizer with Food & Water Watch. “What more evidence could the DEP possibly need to conclude that construction of the Mariner East pipeline must be halted indefinitely, pending a thorough legal review by state officials and full remediation of the impacts?”

The groups submitting the comments include Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Food & Water Watch, Mountain Watershed Association and Protect PT.

The comments go on to note that Sunoco’s application for the renewal of permits is wholly incomplete, lacking necessary details and specifics on plans for further construction. “Without this information, it is not possible for Commenters to weigh in on what is acceptable and what is not” in the proposal. “The [DEP] itself does not have enough information to make a reasoned decision…”

In addition to articulating the immediate legal imperative of denying the permit renewals, the comments chart the disaster-prone history of the various Mariner East pipeline projects, including a series of unresolved sinkholes across West Whiteland Township, numerous leaks, spills and groundwater seeps, multiple cases of highly dangerous water runoff onto streets, and the tragic death of a teenager.

On January 25, 2020, 18-year old Maclean Maund was killed when his vehicle spun out on a patch of frozen water runoff from an ME2 worksite and was hit by oncoming traffic. Maund’s family has filed suit against Sunoco over the tragic occurrence. “The loss of this young life was completely avoidable,” said Gillian Graber, executive director of Protect PT (Penn-Trafford). “Allowing a criminal like Sunoco to present this application in its current form only perpetuates the certainty of continued harm and  the probability of more environmental crimes in our state.”

On Eve of Congressional Hearing, Data Shows Egregious Profiteering in Food, Energy Sectors

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Food SystemClimate and Energy

New data analysis from the advocacy group Food & Water Watch shows that pandemic-era inflation is being largely driven by the food and energy industries, where price increases over the past two years have grossly out-scaled economy-wide increases, and where corporate revenues in these sectors are soaring. 

This analysis comes ahead of tomorrow’s hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee on corporate price gouging during the pandemic.

“Companies are hiding behind the pandemic and supply chain disruptions as an excuse to gouge consumers. But in reality, 2021 revenues among the largest food and energy corporations topped pre-pandemic levels,” said Amanda Starbuck, research director at Food & Water Watch. “Many companies have subsequently fattened executive compensation while worker wages have stagnated or even dropped.” 

Over the past two years (Dec. ‘19 – Dec. ‘21) the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 8.5 percent. However:

  • Energy costs have increased by 20.3 percent.
  • The cost to feed a family of four on a “thrifty” food plan has increased by 33.5 percent.

More specifically:

  • Gasoline: +31.7% per gallon unleaded.
  • Beef: +19.2% for ground beef and +25.5% for beef roast.
  • Pork: +31.7% for bacon and +18.6% for pork chops.
  • Poultry: +19.7% for chicken breasts and +15.5% for broiler composite.
  • Milk: +17.4% for whole milk (gallon).
  • Eggs: +16.5% for Grade A eggs (dozen).

Meanwhile, corporate revenues in the food and energy sectors are growing rapidly.

Oil and gas industry revenues, by quarter (*in millions):

 Q4 2019Q1 2020Q2 2020Q3 2020Q4 2020Q1 2021Q2 2021Q3 2021Q4 2021
ExxonMobil$67,173$56,158$32,605$46,199$46,540$59,147$67,742$73,786$84,965
Chevron$36,350$31,501$13,494$24,451$25,246$32,029$37,597$44,710$48,130

Meat and poultry industry revenues:

  • Tyson Foods (FY ending 10/3/20): +1.8% over FY 2019. 2021 FY revenue +11% over FY 2019 (pre-pandemic levels).
  • WH Group (parent company of Smithfield): 2020 revenue +6.2% over 2019. 
  • Perdue (FY ending 3/30/21): +12.7% over FY 2020.
  • Cargill (FY ending 5/30/21): +17.3% over FY 2020.

Grocery industry revenues – top four grocery retailers in the U.S., controlling about 70% of the market:

  • Walmart (FY ending 1/31/21): +6.7% over FY 2019.
  • Kroger (FY ending 1/30/21): +8.4% over FY 2019.
  • Costco (FY ending 8/30/20): +9.2% over FY 2019. Costco’s FY 2021 numbers which have been released show +17.5% revenue increase over FY 2020, and 28.3% over FY 2019 (pre-pandemic levels).
  • Albertsons (FY ending 2/27/21): +11.6% over FY 2019

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Court Halts Gulf Oil and Gas Leases Where Biden Administration Failed to Lead

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the D.C. District Court canceled the Biden administration’s massive sale of oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, arguing that the administration was wrong to rely on a Trump administration analysis that ignored the climate impacts of new fossil fuel extraction.   

While the Biden administration has claimed that it was legally required to go forward with the 80 million acre lease sale, this ignores a Justice Department memo – reported by the Guardian in November – that explained how the White House was not, in fact, compelled to proceed with the lease sale. 

Food & Water Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking communications between the Department of Interior, the White House, members of Congress, and the oil industry related to the decision to go ahead with the sale.

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

“The Biden administration’s foolish plan to lease a vast swath of the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry would have spelled disaster for our climate and the Gulf communities already suffering from intense air and water pollution caused by the industry. 

“Thankfully the courts intervened when President Biden failed yet again to live up to his unequivocal campaign pledge to halt new oil and gas extraction on federal lands and waters. It’s time for this administration to finally stand up for people and our planet, and start standing firmly against fossil fuels. It can start by accepting this prudent court decision and confirming the cancellation of this unconscionable Gulf leasing plan.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

80+ Groups Urge Biden, Haaland to Prevent New Offshore Drilling Leases, Beginning Now

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Climate and Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — 80+ climate and environmental justice organizations sent a sign-on letter to President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland to effectively ban offshore drilling by creating a new Five-Year Offshore Lease Program with no new lease sales beginning in 2022. The letter also calls for Secretary Haaland to follow the law and reject controversial Lease Sale 257, the largest sale of public waters to oil and gas companies in U.S. history, and to cancel the remaining sales in the current five-year program.

Sign-on letter here: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Letter-to-Biden-and-Haaland-re_-Lease-Sale-257-New-Five-Year-Lease-Plan.pdf

The groups submitted the letter to the House Natural Resources Committee as part of its hearing today called “What More Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Leasing Means for Achieving U.S. Climate Targets.” The letter states how the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) can effectively ban offshore drilling in public waters by creating a new five-year offshore leasing program with no new proposed lease sales after the current program expires this summer. 

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) requires the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) within the DOI to prepare and maintain forward-looking five-year plans — referred to by BOEM as “five-year programs” — to schedule proposed oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Atlantic and Pacific regions. The current offshore leasing program for 2017-2022 was developed by the Obama administration and ends on June 30, 2022.

At that time, OCSLA gives the Interior Secretary discretion to propose as many or as few lease sales as necessary to balance the nation’s economic and environmental interests for the next five years. But the letter notes that the administration has already acknowledged that ending new leasing will have no impact on jobs or the economy “for years to come,” since the fossil fuel industry has already stockpiled millions of acres for drilling that remain undeveloped and non-producing.

“Given the impact of continued fossil fuel extraction on Gulf communities and our climate, the U.S. shouldn’t be locked into another week of offshore drilling, let alone five years more,” said Thomas Meyer, national organizing manager at Food & Water Watch. “After promising to crack down on drilling on federal lands and waters, this administration leased a vast swath of the Gulf to Big Oil and then lied to the public about a supposed legal obligation to do so. The administration must do the only responsible thing now, and put a hold on this reckless new offshore oil leasing by whatever means necessary.”

Many of the groups who signed the letter are part of the Build Back Fossil Free coalition that has pressured the Biden administration in recent months to stop Lease Sale 257, which resulted in a historic auction of 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to ExxonMobil, BP, and other mega-polluters one week after COP26 in November.

Since last year, the Biden administration has repeatedly claimed that the DOI was compelled to move forward with the sale by a federal judge. In June 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana held that pausing offshore lease sales through executive order was an unlawful overreach of executive power. 

However, the ruling acknowledged that the Interior Secretary still has “discretion to stop or pause a lease sale because the land has become ineligible for a reason such as an environmental issue.” A subsequent exposé of court records by The Guardian also found that the administration knew that they were not compelled to move forward with offshore lease sales within a specific timeframe, raising questions about the administration’s true reasons for moving forward with the largest sale of public waters for oil and gas drilling in U.S. history. 

Environmental groups filed a FOIA request to shed light on the DOI’s decision-making in December, with a response expected in early February.

The letter also coincides with a legal petition that was sent to DOI earlier in the week by over 300 environmental groups urging the Biden administration to phase out oil and gas production on public lands and oceans through executive action in order to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

Environmental Groups File FOIA Request Over Interior Secretary’s Illegal Sale of Public Waters to Oil and Gas Industry

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. — Environmental organizations Food & Water Watch and the Action Center on Race and the Economy, along with youth advocacy groups Earth Uprising and One Up Action, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today seeking records related to the recent leasing of more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction. 

The FOIA request was submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and seeks any and all communications related to the lease sale between Interior Secretary Haaland, DOI and BOEM officials, White House officials including John Kerry, Gina McCarthy, Ron Klain, David Hayes, members of Congress and their staff including Senators Manchin and Sinema, and the oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, a newly uncovered memo indicates that the Biden administration was presented with a legal analysis confirming that it was not required to go ahead with the lease sale, just weeks before it claimed it was legally compelled to conduct the sale quickly. 

The memorandum of opposition filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on August 24, 2021, the administration itself acknowledged that the court did not compel the DOI on a specific timing to resume lease sales (see page 11 of the memo here). Yet the DOI announced it would resume Lease Sale 257 a week later despite clear violations of the National Environmental Protection Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Both federal laws authorize the Interior Secretary to only move forward with lease sales that are in accordance with environmental safeguards and in a manner that will not cause harm to life or the environment.

“This lease sale will deepen the climate crisis and completely undermine the country’s credibility as a global climate leader. Moreover, allowing new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters constitutes a blatant disregard for Biden’s repeated campaign pledges to halt this foolish activity. We know this action has already disillusioned many Democratic voters who were counting on serious climate action from the Biden administration. What we don’t know is why the administration went ahead with this sale without the required environmental review when it clearly knew it wasn’t compelled to do so,” said Thomas Meyer, National Organizing Manager at Food & Water Watch.

Early in his administration, President Biden issued an executive order that paused new leasing of federal lands and waters for oil and gas development to complete a comprehensive review of the impacts of offshore drilling on climate change. After a preliminary U.S. District Court decision struck down Executive Order 14008, the administration quickly backed down, claiming that its hands were tied by the court, despite filing legal briefs in ongoing litigation arguing the contrary. However, the administration has simultaneously acknowledged that it has many other legal mechanisms to prohibit new oil and gas leasing aside from the one the District Court addressed. 

Today, youth climate leaders from Earth Uprising, Grounded, and One Up Action who attended COP26 also submitted a letter to Secretary Haaland urging her to reject the bids from the illegal sale of public waters in the Gulf of Mexico to ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and other major polluters. The full letter can be read here.

“The Biden Administration’s official position is that they were forced to conduct this sale by the court. But we’ve done our homework and we know that is not true. If the court did not compel the administration to sell our public waters to the very companies responsible for the climate crisis and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, then what did?” said Kevin Patel, Founder and Executive Director of One Up Action.

Public opposition to the Gulf lease sale is mounting. Over 100,000 petition signatures have been gathered and over one thousand calls were made to the DOI last week. Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo have joined environmental groups in a social media campaign to #StopTheSale. And a lawsuit filed by EarthJustice on behalf of Healthy Gulf, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and the Center for Biological Diversity to compel Interior Secretary Deb Halaand and the DOI to comply with NEPA will be heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this Thursday, December 16.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

As Food Prices Soar, New Report Details Vast Grocery Industry Consolidation Crisis

Categories

Food System

Washington, D.C. – With food prices soaring, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch released a new report detailing the deepening consolidation crisis present in the country’s grocery industry, and what it means for consumers.

In the report — “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Grocery Cartels” — Food & Water Watch examined the market share of the dominant companies across 55 grocery categories, representing a variety of common products, from fresh vegetable side dishes, milk and milk alternatives to convenience meals. The research calculated the ratio of sales of the top four (or fewer) companies in each food category, compared to those of all other companies. 

The research finds that more than 60 percent of the analyzed grocery categories are tight oligopolies/monopolies. Just eight of the 55 categories (15 percent) could be considered highly competitive. 

This concentrated marketplace is dominated by several giants across categories. Kraft-Heinz is among the top four companies in 12 categories (22 percent of the total). It is the lead company in five of those categories (including dry macaroni & cheese mixes and table sauces).General Mills and Conagra are among the top four companies in 9 out of the 55 categories we surveyed. Conagra has monopolies in more than one category, including single-serve prepared pasta dishes (64 percent of sales) and single-serve prepared Sloppy Joe sauce (92 percent of sales). Campbell Soup Company is in the top 4 in seven of the categories, and PepsiCo and Del Monte are both in six.

The consolidation is especially acute within specific food categories: 

  • Yogurt: While this category could fill an entire supermarket showcase, just four companies make up three-quarters of all yogurt sales. These include Danone (maker of Activia and Oikos), General Mills (Yoplait and Mountain High) and Groupe Lactalis (Stonyfield Organic and siggi’s).
  • Baby formula: Just three companies capture 85 percent of all liquid formula sales and around 95 percent of powdered formula, enabling these companies to engage in anticompetitive behaviors such as price fixing.
  • Dip sales: PepsiCo alone captures 88 percent of all dip sales in the United States, largely through brands that do not carry its name (like Fritos, Lay’s and Tostitos).
  • Soy milk: Danone dominates the refrigerated soy milk market with its Silk brand, accounting for 80 percent of all sales. The next leading brand takes in just over 1 percent.

The research also shows an alarming trend towards fewer, bigger stores. From 1993 to 2019, the number of grocery stores nationwide declined by roughly 30 percent, as the combined market share of the four largest grocery retailers tripled to 69 percent. 

The acutely consolidated market funnels wealth into the hands of corporate shareholders and executives, at the direct expense of small businesses, local economies and consumer choice. 

At the store, consumers are faced with rising food prices — as much as a 26 percent increase since January for a family of four on a “thrifty food plan”.

“Over the past century, food giants have been quietly consolidating their power, stripping out the resilience baked into more diversified, regional food systems, and cutting local economies out of the picture. The grocery cartel has created an illusion of choice and efficiency to disguise their profiteering off of the American consumer who is unwillingly asked to trade abundance for resilience,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck. 

She continued: “We envision a U.S. food system more resilient, just and sustainable than the one we have today. To get there, we need to address the rampant food monopoly consolidation crisis on our hands. President Biden must reinstate the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act to enforce antitrust laws, break up monopolies, and invest in the grocery cooperatives, regional food hubs and local food processors that can rebuild our food system from the ground up.”

In recent months, the Biden administration has taken some first steps to address agricultural industry consolidation — but much more action is necessary. From strengthening and enforcing antitrust law, to providing public incentives to help regional food hubs take root, the report offers a clear-eyed description of the crisis we face and outlines the federal action needed to address the problem.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

UN Climate Conference Puts Spotlight on Biden

Categories

Climate and Energy

As world leaders prepare for the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP 26) in Glasgow, President Biden’s failure thus far to take necessary executive action to address the escalating climate crisis could undermine the chances for success at the conference.

Biden ran for office promising to listen to the science on climate, stop drilling on federal lands, and move the nation to a renewable energy future. But with his legislative agenda being substantially slimmed down in Congress, the real test will be how he uses his substantial executive authority.

While Biden has used lofty rhetoric to describe the climate crisis, he has also made moves to appease the fossil fuel industry. His administration has continued to approve new drilling and fracking permits, failed to intervene to stop the dirty Line 3 and Dakota Access pipelines, and has embraced industry scams such as carbon capture and blue hydrogen, which will only prolong our dependence on fossil fuels. For more see Food & Water Watch’s Biden Climate Watch.

From October 11-15, hundreds of climate activists from across the country were arrested at the White House, imploring Biden to stop fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. A week earlier, over 330 research scientists urged Biden to follow the science and do the same. The UN Secretary General called the release of the latest IPCC report “code red for humanity.” Action is needed now. There is no time to delay. 

“As world leaders gather in Glasgow next week, all eyes will be on President Biden’s actions and his record,” said Mitch Jones, Policy Director at Food & Water Watch. “Everyone can see how the climate provisions of the Build Back Batter Act have been substantially weakened, but there is plenty that President Biden can and must be doing to promote a safe and livable future. Biden must use his executive authority to stop the expansion of fossil fuels, reject industry scams, and put the full force of his administration behind a transition off fossil fuels. That will determine the success or failure of COP 26. We do not have time for further delay or half measures.” 

Food & Water Watch was the first national organization to call for a ban on fracking and is working across the country with community partners against new fracking and drilling plans, dirty power plants, and fossil fuel pipelines. 

Available for Interview:

Policy and Organizing Experts

Mitch Jones is Policy Director at Food & Water Watch. Mitch leads the organization’s national legislative and executive strategies including legislative efforts to stop fossil fuel subsidies and ban fracking. . 

Emily Wurth is Managing Organizing Director at Food & Water Watch. Emily leads the organization’s field strategy at the national level and across the country and was a leader in the successful efforts to ban fracking in New York, Maryland and the Delaware River Basin. 

Alan Minsky is Executive Director at Progressive Democrats of America. PDA has partnered for years with Food & Water Watch and is focused on pushing Congress and President Biden to address the climate crisis by taking on the fossil fuel industry. Alan advocates for the Democratic Party severing all ties to the Fossil Fuel Industry.

Scientific Experts

Sandra Steingraber and Peter Kalmus initiated with Food & Water Watch and Center for Biological Diversity a letter from over 330 scientists to President Biden calling on him to follow the science, stop fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. 

Sandra Steingraber is a biologist and Senior Scientist at Science & Environment Health Network. She is co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York and was a key leader in the fight to ban fracking in New York. 

Peter Kalmus is a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and associate project scientist at UCLA’s Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering. He speaks on his own behalf. 

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

New PFAS Roadmap from EPA Is Overdue First Step Toward Real Drinking Water Safety

Categories

Clean Water

Washington, D.C. – Today the Environmental Protection Agency released a plan to better monitor and regulate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” thousands of which are found in industrial and consumer goods and pervasively contaminate drinking water sources.

In response, Food & Water Watch’s Public Water for All Campaign Director Mary Grant issued the following statement:

“The Biden administration’s new PFAS roadmap includes a number of long-overdue steps that could make significant strides in dealing with the rampant toxic contamination of our country’s drinking water. If implemented quickly and aggressively, the plan will set new enforceable limits on the two most studied forms of these ‘forever chemicals’ and help hold polluters themselves accountable for cleanup – potentially making meaningful improvements in water quality and public health. 

“But in order to fully address the many existing threats to drinking water safety we are facing, EPA must go farther by regulating PFAS as a class. And Congress must act to ensure that adequate funding exists to allow public water providers, many of which are also struggling with lead contamination and failing infrastructure, to fully implement these critical new PFAS standards.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – s[email protected]

Hundreds of Scientists Tell Biden: Halt Fossil Fuel Development Now

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. — More than 330 U.S. research scientists sent a letter to President Biden today urging him to use his executive authority to stop all new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency — actions they say are necessary to avoid the worst damages of the climate crisis and deliver on environmental justice. 

The letter was organized by two prominent public-health and climate scientists, Drs. Sandra Steingraber and Peter Kalmus, and national advocacy groups Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch. It’s signed by leading scientists including Michael Mann, Robert Bullard, Aradhna Tripati, Robert Howarth, Kim Cobb, Mark Jacobson and Drew Shindell. 

The letter directly supports the core demands of frontline communities to the president in the massive People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization taking place at the White House next week. Scientists including Dr. Steingraber plan to participate in the action and risk arrest. 

“U.S. scientists are done speaking calmly in the face of inaction,” said Steingraber. “Terrified by our own data, we stand in solidarity with the People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization and its demands. President Biden, listening to science means acting on science. It means stopping new fossil fuel projects, opposing industry delay tactics, and declaring a national climate emergency.

“Climate change is genuinely an emergency, and we need to start treating it as such,” said Kalmus. “It does no good to speak of an ‘existential crisis’ while continuing to expand the fossil fuel industry.”

To end fossil fuel expansion, the letter calls on Biden to use his authority to end new fracking and drilling on public lands and waters, stop the approval of fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and end fossil fuel exports and subsidies. The scientists further urge the president to declare a climate emergency to advance a rapid, just buildout of clean renewable energy.

The letter highlights that Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor communities bear the brunt of the climate disasters and serious health harms caused by fossil fuel pollution, and that ending the fossil fuel era is necessary to protect frontline communities.  

“Our communities are living every day with the toxic chemicals that are shutting down beaches in California right now,” said Dr. Robert Bullard, distinguished professor and director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University and a signatory of the letter. “We hear President Biden making lots of promises, but Black, Brown and Indigenous communities are waiting for action. We’re waiting on the president to stop the fossil fuel projects that are killing us and deliver on the environmental justice he promised.” 

The scientists also urge the president to reject fossil fuel industry delay tactics like carbon capture and storage, blue hydrogen, and carbon offsets that impede the rapid transition to renewable energy and perpetuate a racist fossil fuel system. 

“The climate emergency is caused by burning fossil fuels, and the only way out is to quickly ramp down and end the fossil fuel industry,” said Kalmus. “Carbon indulgences and hypothetical tech solutions are dangerous distractions. Far too much time has been wasted already.”

“The science is clear: To stand a chance of avoiding complete climate catastrophe, we must halt all new fossil fuel development now. Today, not tomorrow,” said Dr. Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University and a board member of Food & Water Watch.

Other prominent scientist signatories on the letter include Anthony Ingraffea, Peter Gleick, William Ripple, Terry Root, Lucile Jones, Doreen Stabinsky and Sarah Myhre. 

“When scientists across the U.S. are imploring the president to get the country off fossil fuels, it’s time to listen,” said Dr. Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A crisis this big demands more than crossed fingers and compromise. Biden must use his substantial powers to make a rapid transition to clean energy if we want a livable future.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Joe Manchin’s Gaffe is Illuminating: Carbon Capture Doesn’t Work

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C.  – Yesterday while discussing with the media a memo that outlines his demands for a potential budget reconciliation bill, Senator Joe Manchin directed his remarks to focus on climate and energy aspects of the pending legislation. He stated: “I’d love to have carbon capture, but we don’t have the technology because we really haven’t gotten to that point. And it’s so darn expensive that it makes it almost impossible.”

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

“It’s rare that we agree with Senator Manchin, but when he slips up and tells the truth, we’ll back him on it. Carbon capture doesn’t work. It never has, and if it did, it would indeed be so expensive as to be pointless. Carbon capture is a faulty concept being pushed by the fossil fuel industry in order to encourage more public handouts to keep its polluting business running. Manchin and many of his fellow Democrats have consistently touted carbon capture and other phony technology schemes as justification for continuing to pump massive funding and tax breaks to oil and gas interests. This shocking moment of truth from Manchin should do as much to debunk the logic of continuing to prop up fossil fuels as anything clean energy advocates like us have been screaming for years.”

House Democrats’ $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act fails to remove massive existing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, including:

  • A subsidy enacted in 1916 (Sections 263(c) and 291) allowing many fossil fuel producers to deduct 100 percent of many costs associated with extraction;
  • A subsidy enacted in 1926 (Sections 611 through 613A and 291) that allows many producers to deduct 15 percent of gross income annually, which often results in a deduction greater than the value of actual assets;
  • A tax credit for “carbon capture and sequestration” (Section 45Q), an unrealized, faulty technological process that is falsely characterized by the industry as a solution to toxic climate emissions.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

EPA Must Force Idaho Factory Farms to Monitor and Report Water Pollution: Ninth Circuit

Categories

Food System

Boise, Idaho — Today the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch, along with Snake River Waterkeeper, won a Ninth Circuit challenge to EPA’s statewide water pollution permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs, or factory farms) in Idaho. The three-judge panel unanimously held that the permit arbitrarily let factory farms off the hook for monitoring their pollution discharges into waterways.

Simply put, CAFOs in Idaho will now be required to comprehensively monitor and report on their waste discharge and water pollution for the first time. This case may have broad implications for how pollution from the factory farm industry is regulated across the country in the future.

“Today’s decision strikes a major blow against EPA’s practice of granting illegal exceptions and special treatment to the factory farm industry,” said Tarah Heinzen, Legal Director at Food & Water Watch. “Factory farms are a huge source of water pollution in Idaho and across the country, but without pollution monitoring, they have been able to pollute at will and hide this pollution from citizens and regulators. Monitoring is a critical first step towards holding factory farms accountable for illegal pollution.

“We are confident that this is the first domino to fall on the path to comprehensive pollution monitoring and accountability for America’s corporate factory farm industry,” Heinzen added.

CAFOs confine hundreds or thousands of animals and their waste, which they store in impoundments prone to leaching and ultimately dispose of on fields where it can run off into waterways. These facilities are a significant source of water pollution, including nitrates, pathogens, and pharmaceuticals, and have contributed to pollution impairments in waterways across Idaho. Because of this pollution risk, CAFOs are supposed to be regulated as “point sources” under the federal Clean Water Act, which requires polluters to follow permits that limit discharges and require monitoring to demonstrate if a facility is in compliance. 

EPA’s Idaho Permit did not require factory farms to monitor for discharges through waste impoundments or from land application fields, instead assuming that facilities would satisfy the permit’s “zero discharge” limits. Food & Water Watch and Snake River Waterkeeper argued that this violated the Clean Water Act’s requirement that permits contain “representative” monitoring capable of showing if a facility is meeting or violating its permit. 

The Court agreed with the petitioners, holding that EPA’s Idaho Permit is unlawful because without such monitoring, “there is no way to ensure that a CAFO is complying with the Permit’s … no-discharge requirement.” 

“This victory changes the face of permitting and accountability for an industry that has avoided the requirements of the Clean Water Act’s pollution safeguards for far too long,” said Buck Ryan, Executive Director of Snake River Waterkeeper. “The public deserves to know what is being put into waterways by the State’s worst polluters, and with this decision we can begin to understand the actual levels of factory farm effluent being discharged into the Snake River in order to address their sources and ecological impact.”

The Court vacated EPA’s Idaho Permit, requiring the agency to draft a new permit with the monitoring provisions required by federal law. Because EPA and state agencies routinely omit monitoring in CAFO permits with similar pollution risks, today’s decision will pave the way for similar requirements in CAFO permits across the country. 

The Petitioners were represented in this case by Food & Water Watch and Earthrise Law Center at Lewis & Clark Law School.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Federal Drilling and Fracking Update: Biden Promised a Ban – He’s Doing the Opposite

Categories

Climate and Energy

This week President Biden traveled to Western states to sound the alarm on climate action. But his administration has so far failed to deliver on one of its signature campaign promises: stopping drilling and fracking on public lands.  

During the campaign, Biden made it clear where he stood: “No more drilling on federal lands, period.” From a climate perspective, Biden’s pledge was prudent and necessary; fossil fuel development on federal lands accounts for almost a quarter of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Since taking office, however, the Biden administration has approved thousands of new oil and gas drilling permits, while simultaneously pursuing a public lands strategy vulnerable to legal challenges. Food & Water Watch has been comprehensively tracking the many pro-fossil fuels statements and decisions made since the start of the administration.

The administration has clear legal authority to immediately halt new drilling and fracking on federal lands. The fact that it continues to offer new leases (and approve new drilling/fracking permits on existing leases) is an intentional choice – one that blatantly defies Biden’s campaign pledges.

Solid Legal Basis for Drilling and Fracking Ban 

Shortly after taking office, the Biden administration announced a pause on new oil and gas lease sales while it reviewed the federal program. As Food & Water Watch noted in comments to the Interior Department filed in April, the statutes that give the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management the authority to conduct oil and gas leases also grant them ample discretion in whether or not to block fossil fuel leasing and drilling. 

The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 stipulates that lands “may be leased by the Interior Secretary,” but that is a discretionary policy, not a requirement. The Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) requires that public lands “be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values.” It also stipulates that the Secretary of the Interior “shall, by regulation or otherwise, take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the lands.” And the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act specifies that offshore drilling “subject to environmental safeguards” and must be done “in a manner which is consistent with… other national needs.”

Simply put, there are a variety of legal arguments the administration could make to justify stopping new oil and gas drilling on public lands – if it truly wanted to.

Biden Crumbles to Industry Pushback 

The industry fought back in court against the White House leasing pause. In a June decision, US District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty — a Trump appointee — issued a temporary injunction that essentially blocked Biden’s executive order temporarily pausing new leases. But instead of aggressively defending its initial, modest attempt to temporarily halt new leasing (while new permits for existing leases were still being aggressively approved), the White House rolled over at the first signs of industry pushback.

While the administration could have sought a stay of the injunction when it appealed that decision, it chose not to. The Interior Secretary also could have issued an evidence-based finding at any time over the past nine months declaring continued oil and gas expansion as being detrimental to the multiple use and sustained yield requirements of FLPMA; however, no such finding was issued. Furthermore, while pending appeal, Judge Doughty’s decision is only legally binding within the Western District of Louisiana. The administration could have chosen to constrain lease sales only to that area; instead it reintroduced sales nationwide.

Just days after Hurricane Ida wreaked devastation from the Gulf Coast to New York City, the administration announced a massive new lease sale of 90 million acres (nearly all the remaining leasable land) in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration downplayed the climate risks, even refusing to revise the Trump administration’s environmental analysis of this awful scheme. 

There is a clear path for the administration to halt new fossil fuel drilling and fracking on public lands – in a way that complies with relevant statutes and the Administrative Procedure Act. Unfortunately, every indication thus far is that the White House has no actual desire to do so. An administration that took office promising to end fracking on our public lands has approved thousands of drilling permits, is paving the way for thousands more, and shows no sign of even wanting to fight to win one of its most important climate policies.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

House Ways & Means Committee Advances Egregious Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Today the House Ways & Means Committee is advancing a massive budget reconciliation funding bill associated with Congressional Democrats’ Build Back Better Act, which would invest $3.5 trillion in an infrastructure spending package. The bill fails to remove massive existing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, including:

  • A subsidy enacted in 1916 (Sections 263(c) and 291) allowing many fossil fuel producers to deduct 100 percent of many costs associated with extraction;
  • A subsidy enacted in 1926 (Sections 611 through 613A and 291) that allows many producers to deduct 15 percent of gross income annually, which often results in a deduction greater than the value of actual assets;
  • A tax credit for “carbon capture and sequestration” (Section 45Q), an unrealized, faulty technological process that is falsely characterized by the industry as a solution to toxic climate emissions.

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

“As climate-driven fires and floods ravage our country, Chairman Neal’s failure to tackle billions of dollars in direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry is an egregious dereliction of duty. We must be halting new oil and gas drilling and fracking, not encouraging decades more of it. This abject failure to stand against polluting fossil fuels and stand up for a livable planet now leads to a firm demand to the Senate and the Biden administration: No handouts for fossil fuels can be allowed. Not one dollar will be tolerated.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

White House Climate Czar Gina McCarthy Must Resign

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – In public comments made on Tuesday in California, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy clearly stated the Biden administration’s support for natural gas as part of an “all-of-the-above strategy” for power generation in the country. She went on to state that the administration wound not be “picking and choosing winners” when it came to prioritizing particular types of energy. This comes on the heels of a report from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change, released last week, that stressed the depth and urgency of the climate crisis. The “all-of-the-above” reference was also used by President Obama more than a decade ago to describe his administration’s support for fossil fuels like coal and gas as part of the nation’s power generation mix. In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“When Gina McCarthy stated her support for an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, she knew exactly what she was saying. She was clearly and consciously endorsing filthy, polluting fossil fuels as a part of our country’s energy future. Given all we know about the disastrous impacts of coal, oil and gas on our perilous climate condition, such a statement is dangerous and absurd. Ms. McCarthy must take responsibility for this unacceptable policy position and resign immediately.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Nearly 500 Groups Urge Biden to Fill FERC Seat With Environmental, Energy Justice Champion

Categories

Climate and Energy

WASHINGTON— More than 460 environmental and energy justice, racial justice, faith and youth organizations from across the United States sent a letter today urging President Joe Biden to appoint a nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who will champion environmental and energy justice.

The letter names three candidates to replace Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee, whose term has expired. One is Daniel Blackman, a previous contender for the Georgia Service Commission and critic of the fossil fuel-focused utility giant Georgia Power. Another is Marquita Bradshaw, the first Black woman to win the Democrat nomination for a Tennessee Senate seat and a victorious opponent of the Byhalia Pipeline. The third pick is Nidhi Thakar, a long-time renewable energy lawyer and national co-chair of Clean Energy for Biden. 

The Biden White House’s climate and environmental justice legacy will hinge on this nomination, the groups say. As the federal agency that oversees interstate gas infrastructure and wholesale electricity markets, FERC has immense power to curtail the growth of fossil fuels and integration of just renewable energies. 

“After six months in office, President Biden’s climate and environmental platform hangs in the balance. If he doesn’t act decisively now, he could doom us to a future of unlivable climate chaos. Choosing a FERC nominee that will reject new fossil fuel development would be a strong sign that Biden intends to take our climate crisis seriously,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

“The Biden administration will not achieve its goal of rooting out systemic racism in energy and environmental decision-making with a status quo appointment to FERC,” said Dana Johnson, federal policy director with WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We urge President Biden to nominate a commissioner that is concerned about FERC’s legacy of prioritizing projects over people, has the courage to apply an equity and justice lens to their work, and will be accountable to the people and communities that are disproportionately harmed by the energy industry.”

“We must seize this consequential opportunity to appoint a visionary commissioner who can enact federal change to our racist and ecocidal energy system,” said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With people dying from coast to coast of extreme heat waves and hurricanes, the climate emergency is undeniably here. FERC has a critical role to play in making sure we prioritize renewable and just energy before it’s too late.”

“The Biden administration must uplift a FERC candidate that will uphold justice for Indigenous and frontline communities. The impacts of the fossil fuel industries, pipeline infrastructure, including at Enbridge Line 3, are putting our people in prison. A Justice-based FERC candidate could be a first step in showing good faith on meeting the unmet promises of the Biden Administration,” said Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. 

“If the world is going to prevent escalating climate and social disruption, the U.S.’s FERC agency must play a key role,” said Ted Glick, organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy.  “It needs to stop being a rubber-stamp agency for gas industry expansion, and it needs to upgrade the electrical grid to rapidly advance renewables and battery storage. This FERC nomination, if a strong one, can make that a reality.”             

“We don’t need little changes at FERC: we need a whole new agency and new leadership,” said Drew Hudson, senior national organizer at Friends of the Earth. “If President Biden is serious about achieving 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, he must look beyond the industry insiders and utility sympathizers who got us into the climate crisis.” 

“It’s past time for President Biden to name a new FERC commissioner. Every day he waits on this appointment — and others at crucial independent agencies — is a missed opportunity for climate action,” said Jeff Hauser, executive director at the Revolving Door Project. “We look forward to Biden choosing a commissioner who aligns with his stated campaign goals of securing environmental justice and accountability to the people, not to polluters and corporations.”

“For too long FERC has been a rubber stamp for pipeline companies, helping to accelerate the destruction of communities throughout the Gulf South. If President Biden is serious about his commitments to environmental justice, he must nominate a commissioner who will put people first,” said Kendall Dix, policy lead at Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy.

The letter notes that this coalition of groups was able to identify the three individuals who center justice in their work with far fewer resources and less time than the White House. It encourages the Biden administration to consider these candidates as part of widening their own search for a candidate. 

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Gov. Cuomo Must Resign

New York – On Tuesday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a report detailing 11 credible cases of sexual harassment by Governor Cuomo, in violation of state and federal law. In response, Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp issued the following statement:

“The findings of the attorney general’s report – including no less than 11 credible cases of sexual harassment – lead to only one conclusion: Governor Cuomo must resign immediately. In the meantime, Speaker Heastie should expedite impeachment proceedings to ensure that Cuomo is vacated from office one way or another.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

House Passes Sweeping PFAS “Forever Chemical” Regulation

Categories

Clean Water

Washington D.C. – Today the House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021, jumpstarting regulations for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the toxic lab-made chemicals that have been posing major health risks to communities across the country for decades. Among its provisions, the legislation would require the EPA to set drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, the two most studied PFAS chemicals, and would designate these as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund program to facilitate the cleanup of toxic sites. The legislation, H.R. 2467, passed in a vote of 241-183.

Studies have found that long-term exposure to PFAS is associated with many health problems, including liver malfunction, birth defects, thyroid disease, weakened immunity and certain cancers. PFAS has been found in the blood of 97 percent of people in the United States and in human breast milk, and more than 200 million people in the country could be drinking PFAS-contaminated water. 

In response to today’s vote,  Food & Water Action Public Water For All Campaign Director Mary Grant said:

“We applaud the House of Representatives for passing this critical legislation to finally begin regulating toxic PFAS chemicals and prevent drinking water contamination. There is no more time for delay when it comes to enacting a thorough plan to remove these chemicals from our drinking water with enforceable regulations, and ensure the biggest polluters are held accountable for cleaning up their rampant contamination. 

“The Senate must not compromise when it comes to protecting people from toxic chemicals in their water. The Senate must pass the PFAS Action Act of 2021, and reject any attempt to weaken the legislation. Communities have waited too long already. It is past time for the Senate to pass this critical legislation. Our country deserves clean water – nothing less.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Farm System Reform Act Reintroduced in Congress; Would Ban New Factory Farming

Categories

Food System

Washington, D.C. – A diverse coalition of animal welfare, public health, environmental, and sustainable agriculture organizations commend U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) for introducing the Farm System Reform Act, federal legislation that will help create a more humane food system by moving away from destructive concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and supporting the transition toward higher welfare, certified farms, and alternative crop production. This legislation also includes provisions to address industry consolidation and unfair practices, which can hamper farmers’ independence and ability to improve animal welfare, as well as measures to ensure communities located near factory farms are able to hold these companies legally accountable for negative environmental and public health impacts, and to provide consumers with increased transparency on country-of-origin labelling.

Original cosponsors of the Farm System Reform Act include Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the Senate, and Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D.Wis.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Andy Levin (D-Mich.) in the House of Representatives.  

“The factory farm agricultural model, which dominates our country’s food system, fuels toxic air and water contamination, drives dangerous and unfair working conditions, wreaks havoc on independent farmers and rural communities and threatens food safety,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The Farm System Reform Act is the bold approach we need to bring dangerous factory farming under control now—and begin the necessary transformation to a safe and equitable future for food consumers and workers alike.”

Almost 10 billion animals are raised on U.S. factory farms every year, crowded together in intensive confinement and unable to carry out even some of their most basic natural behaviors. The COVID-19 crisis further exposed the failings of our current food system as viral outbreaks among slaughterhouse employees and inspectors killed hundreds of workers and resulted in shutdowns and the mass killing of millions of farm animals who languished on farms with no place to go. The scale of this suffering has increased the immediacy with which the food, farming, and animal welfare movements advocate together for a shared vision of a better farming system.

“Large, multinational meatpackers, because of their buying power and size, are putting our food system at risk and harming everyone along the supply chain. We need to fix the broken system – that means giving family farmers and ranchers a fair shot and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” said Sen. Booker. “We must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system. An important first step is ending our reliance on huge factory farms and investing in a system that focuses on resilient and regenerative production.”

“If Congress doesn’t act soon, we risk losing an entire generation of family farms to multinational farming corporations,” said Rep. Khanna. “The Farm System Reform Act is the clear way to ensure the American food system maintains fair competition, high animal welfare standards, and a dependable food chain. We must fix this broken system. I’m proud to reintroduce this critical legislation with Senator Booker to level the playing field for family farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers in the 21st century.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed animal agriculture’s deceptive façade, revealing a broken factory farm system that is failing both people and animals. The Farm System Reform Act will help repair and bring compassion to our food system, protecting countless animals from unconscionable cruelty,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We thank Senator Booker and Representative Khanna for championing this necessary legislation to build a food system that values animals, people, and our planet—not just profit.”

Factory farms directly threaten animal welfare, often making use of cruel confinement methods that prevent animals from carrying out even the most basic natural behaviors like perching or rooting. Besides harming animals, factory farming also wreaks havoc on rural communities, public health, farmers, farm workers, and the environment. The COVID-19 crisis has strengthened the public’s understanding of these linked impacts with demand for change growing. A 2020 survey found that the vast majority (89 percent) of Americans are concerned about animal welfare, worker safety or public health issues that go hand-in-hand with factory farming—including 85 percent of farmers and their families who support a complete ban on new CAFOs, almost twice the level of support expressed by the general public. 

The Farm System Reform Act is supported by more than 300 diverse groups, including the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), Food & Water Watch, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Additionally, more than 100 farmers across the country have signed onto a letter endorsing the bill as a critical solution that would revitalize independent agriculture and uplift farmers and rural communities. The coalition is asking the public to contact their U.S. senators and representatives to urge them to cosponsor and pass the Farm System Reform Act.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

EPA’S Permittance of Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Fracking is Cause to Ban the Process Entirely

Categories

Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – A new report out this morning from Physicians for Social Responsibility indicates that going back at least as far as 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of chemicals in the process of fracking that were known to be highly toxic, long-lasting in the environment, and inherently hazardous to human health and water safety. The chemicals, known as PFAS, have been widely used in fracking in many states over the past decade, the report indicates. 

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

“This alarming report confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: Fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely. Not to mention the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country. President Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight. The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago, and all these years later, Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.

“President Biden needs to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands, and his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

60 New York Organizations Call on Sen. Schumer to Champion Public Water Funding, Pass WATER Act

Categories

Clean Water

New York, NY — More than 60 New York organizations from across the state sent a letter to Senator Schumer today urging him to include the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act (WATER Act) of 2021 in any Congressional infrastructure legislation. The letter comes as a group of senators have floated a bipartisan proposal that would jeopardize water infrastructure investment in favor of costly privatization schemes. The letter was facilitated by the advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, and signed by groups including NAACP New York State Conference, Riverkeeper, New York Communities for Change, PUSH Buffalo, the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the New York State Parent Teacher Association.

From PFAS and lead contamination to leaky pipes, New York’s aging water systems highlight the urgent need for investment in water infrastructure at levels only the federal government can provide. Recent victories in New York, including the community-led movement to institute  a public takeover of American Water’s private water system on Long Island, highlight the importance of rejecting privatization schemes.

In the letter, community, environmental, faith-based and student groups from across New York urged Senator Schumer to champion the WATER Act, which ensures permanent federal funding to promote safe, affordable public water for New York and the nation. The letter states that in New York alone, the WATER Act would provide roughly $2.4 billion towards our water needs each year, create nearly 40,000 jobs, and generate over $7 billion in economic output.

“This is not a moment for watered-down compromises and privatization schemes. We are fast approaching a water crisis of epic proportions, should we fail to use this infrastructure investment opportunity to double down on investment in our water systems,” said Eric Weltman, Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer. “Senator Schumer must listen to the New Yorkers who have been mobilizing for years, raising the alarm on PFAS contamination in our drinking water, and coordinating community-led movements to municipalize water systems. It’s time to reject privatization schemes, and embrace real solutions to rebuild our nation’s water infrastructure. Senator Schumer must prioritize the passage of the WATER Act.”

“Investing in safer, cleaner water infrastructure that puts people first is a no-brainer. The WATER Act would do just that, helping communities across the country, including the creation of 40,000 jobs right here in New York for Senator Schumer’s own constituents,” said Patrick Houston, Climate & Inequality Campaigns Associate for New York Communities for Change.

“The government has no more basic responsibility to its taxpayers than providing clean, affordable water that is publicly owned and publicly managed for the public’s good.  There is NO place for private monopolies controlling our water infrastructure. ‘Private’ means the shareholders will benefit and not the people. Unfortunately, money for water infrastructure has been declining for decades and this must be stopped now. It appears there is money for every other issue and the life sustaining resource — water — MUST be made a top priority,” said Agatha Nadel, Director of North Shore Concerned Citizens, a Long Island civic group.


“The public has the basic right,and expectation that when they go to turn on the tap their water will be safe and healthy for them to drink. But aging water infrastructure that is worsening due to climate change, dangerous unregulated contaminants like PFAS, and a toxic industrial legacy jeopardize that basic right. There is nothing more essential to life than water, which is why the federal infrastructure package should include bold policies like the WATER Act,” said Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Ahead of Key Mariner East 2 Pipeline Hearing, New Report Highlights Grave Harms of Natural Gas Liquids Buildout

Categories

Climate and Energy

Chester Co. – Just ahead of a critical state DEP public hearing tonight on a proposed reroute of the disaster-plagued Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline, a new report from the advocacy group Food & Water Watch was released  highlighting the numerous harms and hazards associated with the buildout of the natural gas liquids industry in Pennsylvania and across the country. Many of the hazards detailed in the report have been exemplified in the ill-fated ongoing construction of ME2.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • The natural gas glut is fueling increased NGL exports and more unnecessary petrochemical and plastics facilities;
  • The cheap oversupply of NGLs has led to an infrastructure buildout frenzy, especially in wet gas-rich areas like Pennsylvania and Appalachia;
  • NGLs and NGL infrastructure are notoriously dangerous to public health and safety;
  • Petrochemical plants are disproportionately sited in or near low-income communities and communities of color. 

“The Mariner East 2 pipeline is a prime example of the unacceptable, potentially catastrophic harms that natural gas liquids infrastructure can and often do levy on the frontline communities that are faced with the most direct impacts of this industry. Leaks of natural gas liquids often go undetected because sulfur-based odorants aren’t added to pipelines. This means that extremely flammable natural gas liquids can be exceptionally dangerous and lead to explosions, fire and even death. As our research shows, the hazardous impacts of this industry are not limited to the communities where infrastructure is sited. Natural gas liquids buildout results in petrochemical harms, plastics pollution and fossil fuel-driven climate chaos that impacts the entire world.”

Alison Grass, research director at Food & Water Watch

The proposal under consideration in the Pennsylvania DEP hearing tonight was made by Sunoco, the pipeline owner, as it seeks to avoid a costly reroute directive made by the DEP. Sonoco was forced to halt construction near Marsh Creek Lake and reroute the pipeline path after a serious spill during construction last August contaminated the lake with thousands of gallons of toxic drilling sludge. Sunoco’s alternative proposal for the required reroute would take the pipeline ever closer to the lake than the original path.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Virginia Activists Highlight Environmental Injustices in Fracked Gas Plant Permitting Process

Categories

Climate and Energy

Charles City, VA — This morning, impacted residents and environmental justice advocates gathered virtually to highlight the accumulated negligence behind C4GT’s permitting processes and the environmental injustices core to the project. On the heels of a Charles City County Administration vote to reclaim the land the power plant plans to develop, and one week after C4GT’s State Corporation Commission’s Certificate of Public Necessity was due to expire, speakers gathered to urge prompt state action to stop the project.

The C4GT plant is the latest in a string of fossil fuel infrastructure projects to enter rocky ground, from the evaporating financial rationale behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline to the corporate interfighting that left C4GT footing the bill in a recent lawsuit loss to Virginia Natural Gas. Despite the limited financial viability of the project, state agencies and lawmakers have been unwilling to take action against the plant.

Speakers highlighted the environmental injustices core to the project, and called on the Department of Environmental Quality to subject the project to their new environmental justice rules.

“For over twenty years, County officials have been concerned with gaining profits through the C4GT power plant. Local government officials have repeatedly told the residents of Charles City County that this project is a done deal — now they are changing their tune,” said Wanda Roberts with Concerned Citizens of Charles City County. “I represent the Concerned Citizens of Charles City County and on behalf of our hundreds of supporters demand action against the C4GT plant. Change does not happen in a day and it is change that we desperately need in Charles City County.”

“The state’s continued negligence to hold C4GT to utmost scrutiny is an injustice to the residents of Charles City County and indeed the state,” said Food & Water Watch Virginia Organizer Jolene Mafnas. “To allow the C4GT project to continue would be to support the irresponsible and incompetent actions of a corporate polluter rather than to protect the health and safety of constituents in Charles City County. We stand with the citizens of Charles City County in demanding prompt action to review the C4GT plant.”

“Fossil fuel projects are predatory in their siting, across Virginia — C4GT included,” said Mothers Out Front Virginia Organizing Manager Kim Sudderth. “If you are black, brown, indigenous, poor, rural or any of the above, I’ve learned that you will be affected by environmental injustice. If the C4GT plant is built, it will give life to other opportunists to prey upon the residents of Charles City now and in the future. We demand that the C4GT plant be cancelled.”

“This project is smoke and mirrors on a corporate level,” said Richmond Interfaith Climate Justice Council Member Barb Adams. “There is waning support even for the Charles City County administration who has declared this a done deal for so many years. We must keep the light on this project and ask the very hard questions of our state agencies as to why they continue to allow C4GT’s scheme to continue.”

“There is no reason for the state regulatory entities — SCC and DEQ — to continue to dilly dally and play with the C4GT corporation,” said Sierra Club Virginia Outreach Coordinator Lynn Godfrey. “This needs to be squashed.”

New footage taken in March of the hasty construction at the C4GT site last December, which the Department of Environmental Quality states maintained the project’s permits, is available at the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4t6t8txfhg7r8v9/AADrpFTSeXJ4OwbH4Xi0EEGfa?dl=0. Photos and images are available for media use with attribution to Ben Cunningham of Blue Ridge GeoGraphics LLC.

A recording of the event can be found at the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VA6FkrUWUeqBbO0AStkdbk4SLgEwctEV/view?usp=sharing.

Contact: Phoebe Galt – [email protected]

Newsom Expands California Drought Emergency, Commits $5.1 Billion to Water Infrastructure and Debt Relief

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Clean Water

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom announced an expansion of the drought emergency to 41 of the state’s 58 counties, dedicating $5.1 billion to boost water infrastructure and an additional $1 billion to paying off nearly the entirety of Californian household water debt. Yet, while the governor’s plan includes $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling measures, it does nothing to speed up the process to bring overdrafted water basins into full and sustainable operation. The deadline is currently 2040 for critically overdrafted basins and 2042 for remaining high and medium priority basins.

“It’s gratifying to see Governor Newsom addressing the critical water supply issues in our state and providing much-needed water debt relief, but ultimately his drought relief plan mirrors his approach to oil and gas drilling,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “The current Sustainable Groundwater Management Act sets a deadline of 2040 to bring our most overdrafted and stressed water basins into sustainable operation. The people relying on that groundwater need it now, not 19 years from now. And just as obviously, the governor could divert the massive amount of water needed for fracking to help Californians going thirsty if he banned the practice now. We need Gov. Newsom to step up his timeline. Our frontline communities shouldn’t have to wait on his political will.”

The dry vast majority of critically overdrafted water basins are in the Central Valley, one of the poorest regions in the country and home to water-intensive extractive practices like fracking and factory farming. Gov. Newsom has committed to banning new fracking permits by 2024, allowing continued fossil fuel extraction and water usage until that time. He has taken no action to ban factory farms or curb their water intake. 

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected]

Colonial Pipeline Shutdown Spotlights Need for Safe, Distributed Clean Energy Networks

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Since an apparent crippling cyberattack last Friday, the Colonial pipeline – a primary source of petroleum products for the U.S. East Coast – has been shut down. A prolonged shutdown poses a threat to consumer financial security if gasoline prices continue to rise, as well as a grave public safety threat if the volatile, explosive contents of the pipeline somehow become unstable. In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“The ongoing shutdown of the Colonial pipeline is just the latest in a long litany of examples of why we must urgently transition off of highly vulnerable and dangerous fossil fuel networks. Given the centralized nature of major fossil fuel pipelines, a disruption anywhere along the line can adversely impact tens of millions of people, as we are seeing now. And this says nothing of the grave threat posed by the highly flammable, explosive petroleum products flowing through these pipelines. Any deviation from normal operation elevates the inherent risk posed to communities on the front lines of these pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure. 

“Wind and solar power networks are by their very nature more distributed, more sensibly scaled, and more resilient than fossil fuel systems. And of course, unlike fossil fuels, clean wind and solar power pose no threat to our climate. This latest pipeline disruption makes it ever more clear: We must break free from dangerous fossil fuel dependance, now.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected], 917.363.6615

After 100 Days, Biden and Congress Must Do More to Address Water Crises in America

Categories

Clean Water

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate is poised to pass the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which would authorize $35 billion in funding over the next five years for drinking water and wastewater systems. The expected passage comes a day after President Biden gave his first address to Congress to outline progress and promote his infrastructure plan including his commitment to eliminate all lead water pipes and deliver clean water to all. The president’s American Jobs Plan would provide $111 billion over eight years to drinking water and wastewater services.

“Our communities cannot afford a compromise on safe water. This Senate legislation authorizes critical programs and higher funding levels, but it simply isn’t enough,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “We need bold and transformative support for water infrastructure through the WATER Act and in the administration’s American Jobs Plan to ensure that we build stronger, more resilient and more accessible water systems. No one should be denied access to safe water.”

Meanwhile, upon Biden’s 100th day in office, he has yet to take action to protect all people in the United States from the threat of losing utility service due to unaffordable bills and water debt. By May 1, two-thirds of the country will not be protected under a local or state water shutoff moratoria, leaving 216 million people vulnerable to possible disconnection. This includes the lapse of a statewide moratorium in New York State, where the state legislature has passed an extension but has yet to send the bill to the Governor for his signature. Only California, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State still have comprehensive statewide water shutoff protections in place. 

Ms. Hauter continued: “President Biden must deliver on his promise of providing clean water to every person in the country. Among the many lessons learned during this ongoing pandemic is that universal access to safe water is critical for public health and the functioning of our society. Water is a basic human right, and every person deserves access to safe water regardless of their ability to pay unaffordable utility bills. President Biden must affirm this human right by acting now and ordering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use their public health authority to institute a nationwide water shutoff moratorium now.”

Although Congress has approved $1.1 billion in low-income water bill assistance, the funding has not been released yet to aid local households and it falls far short of the more than $8 billion in estimated household arrears. Hundreds of thousands of people face the threat of water shutoff because of water debts accrued during the economic hardship of the pandemic.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected], 917.363.6615

Methane Emissions Rule is Another Half-Measure in Dem’s Tepid Climate Agenda

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – The Senate is expected to approve a resolution today that would reinstate an Obama-era rule requiring stronger regulation of methane emissions from oil and gas extraction operations. 

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

“The Senate’s move to reinstate an Obama-era emissions rule is nothing more than an attempt to address today’s climate crisis with inadequate half-measures from the past. In fact, any action that could be seen as ‘cleaning up’ the image of fossil fuel drilling and fracking might do more harm than good. The science is clear: In order to avoid the worst impacts of deepening climate chaos, we must halt new oil and gas development in its tracks, and transition rapidly to a truly clean, renewable energy future.”

Earlier this week, details of a new United Nations climate report were revealed, indicating higher-then-ever emissions levels in the atmosphere last year, and the dire urgency of the need to drastically reduce emissions immediately to avoid perilous climate conditions.

Meanwhile, as President Biden marks his 100th day in office this week, he has yet to honor his campaign pledge to halt new fracking on federal lands. Although the Biden administration has temporarily paused the leasing of new federal land for fossil fuel drilling and fracking, it has continued to grant permits on land that has already been leased. Ms. Hauter continued:

“President Biden’s campaign pledge was clear and unequivocal: no more fracking on federal lands. Yet for the past 100 days, his administration has been regularly approving permits for new fracking operations. Biden needs to honor his pledge to all Americans and cease the permitting of new fracking now. Additionally, Mr. Biden should use his executive authority to halt the development of oil and gas projects approved by the Trump administration, including the Dakota Access, Line 3 and Mountain Valley pipelines. And he must cancel new fossil fuel infrastructure, including petrochemical plants, and ban the export of fracked oil and gas.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected], 917.363.6615

Gov. Newsom’s Future Fracking Ban is a Half-Measure

Categories

Climate and Energy

Sacramento, CA — Today California Governor Gavin Newsom once more declined to use his executive power to ban fracking, opting instead to direct CALGem to phase out new fracking permits by January 2024 and phase out oil extraction by 2045. These measures fall far short of demands, failing to address more than 242,000 state-regulated wells already in operation. The move underscores Newsom’s efforts to rebuild his reputation as a climate leader after a fracking ban died in the legislature, lacking his support. 

Statement of Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy:

“While it is significant that for the first time Governor Newsom is acknowledging the need to ban fracking and his authority to do it, this announcement is a half measure as it allows continued drilling and fracking for the next two and a half years. It comes after years of pressure and dedicated organizing by thousands of Californians who want a just transition away from fracking now.

“Directing his regulatory agencies to do the work over two and a half years that the governor can do today is more of the dodging we’ve seen from Newsom during his entire tenure. Phasing out oil drilling is absolutely necessary, but 2045 is a long way off. Until then, Newsom leaves Californians on the frontlines to pay for the oil industry’s scars on the landscape and damage to community health. He needs to use the authority the law has given him to stop issuing all new oil and gas permits, ban fracking completely and phase out oil drilling now starting with a 2,500 foot health and safety buffer between wells and sensitive sites. Newsom needs to protect our water supplies as we head into a destructive drought and guard our frontline communities from further harm.”

In 2020, Newsom approved 83 fracking permits for 608 individual fracking events, according to state regulators at CalGEM. This was out of 3,745 total permits for oil and gas wells in 2020. In total Governor Newsom has approved 8,129 drilling permits since taking office. 85 percent of those living within 2,500 feet of an oil well are Hispanic or non-white. 90 percent of California’s fracked land is owned by the state and unaffected by President Biden’s January executive order pausing the issuance of leases on federal land.

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected]