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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Categories

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

Categories

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

Categories

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]