White House Must Reject Awful Infrastructure Compromise

Categories

Climate and Energy

New reports suggest that the White House may be inclined to abandon key climate provisions in its infrastructure proposal, apparently in an effort to woo Republican support. 

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

“Let’s make one thing clear: If the Democrats accept this deal, or any of the other watered down plans being batted about Washington, then they own the failure of climate policy for the next several years. We know what we need to do. Joe Biden campaigned on ending fossil fuel subsidies and the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands. To fail on both of those promises would be a disaster, not only for the planet but also for the Democrats’ hopes in 2022. We deserve, and the planet needs, President Biden to fulfill his campaign promises.”

Why is Mayor Wahler Afraid of Clean Energy?

Categories

Climate and Energy

In light of recent public statements from Mayor Brian Wahler, it’s time to clear the air on the Piscataway Community Energy Aggregation (PCEA) program.

The PCEA was created by a 2019 referendum, when nearly two thirds of voters in the township approved a public question to create the program. Energy aggregation is a powerful and practical tool that a growing number of local governments are using to clean up air pollution and fight climate change. 

The PCEA empowers the Township to bulk purchase electricity from clean sources like solar and wind, and make it available to residents at discounted rates. A similar program successfully launched in New Brunswick in 2019, and won praise from Governor Phil Murphy.

The Piscataway program provides residents three new electricity supply options to help clean up air pollution and move the needle forward in the race to stop runaway climate catastrophe.  These options are now available to all residents through their existing utility service accounts: 31% renewables, 50% renewables, and 100% renewables (and each is comparably priced to the PSEG’s default supply option that offers only the state minimum of 21% renewables).

Despite the popular mandate from voters, as well as the urgency of our public health and climate crises, Mayor Wahler has consistently put his own political interests before the will and best interests of Piscataway residents. Even before it was approved by voters, Mayor Wahler began issuing a steady barrage of press releases, social media posts and official Township newsletters disparaging it. The latest example is his use of taxpayer-funded resources to issue a press release in an attempt to influence the outcome of similar clean energy initiatives in other New Jersey towns, “cautioning” them against adopting this popular, common sense program. This is not only a misuse of public resources, it’s also a thinly veiled attempt to deflect attention from the mayor’s mismanagement of the PCEA program.

After the referendum there has been a complete lack of transparency about the program implementation, including critical errors the administration made in launching it. To date the township has not held any public meetings on the program, nor have they solicited any public or stakeholder input on how to successfully create and manage it. In fact, Piscataway is one of only a few New Jersey towns without an Environmental Commission or an active Green Team, which are important advisory boards for facilitating public input and participation on critical local issues from energy choices and water quality to responsible development and land preservation.

According to the latest rates from PSEG, participating residents will once again save money with the Piscataway CEA program. Starting June 1, PSEG’s rate is scheduled to jump to 13.2492 cents/kilowatt hour for the first 600 kilowatt hours, and 14.2174 cents per kilowatt hour for all additional electricity supply. Meanwhile, PCEA participants will enjoy a flat rate of 13.19 cents/kilowatt hour for all of their electricity, helping families save hard-earned money during this difficult time. Despite Mayor Wahler’s politicization and attempts to undermine the program, the PCEA remains a win-win for Piscataway pocketbooks and our planet. Any resident who pays an electricity bill can opt in to PCEA by going to PiscatawayCEA.com and clicking “Enroll/Opt In.”

In an apparent attempt to demonstrate his own green credentials, Mayor Wahler recently issued a press release touting a township program to use clean energy for public buildings. This is no doubt an important initiative, but it’s hard to square his support for that while he continues undermining a program to give residents similar access to clean energy. 

If Mayor Wahler wants to be an environmental champion, he must stop undermining the PCEA and focus on successfully implementing it, in addition to tackling other critical issues facing the Township. For example, The American Lung Association recently rated Piscataway an “F” for air quality, and data released earlier this year by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection shows that the majority of the Township is classified as an environmental justice community, which is used to determine where communities of color and low income communities are suffering from a disproportionate burden of pollution. In other words, it’s an indicator of environmental racism.


Unfortunately, the Wahler administration has been making matters worse by granting approvals for politically-connected developers to build large warehouses and trucking depots all over town, including one proposed on state protected wetlands immediately next to Randolphville Elementary School. The administration is clearly not considering the serious health risks posed by diesel truck emissions and truck traffic, especially for the hundreds of young children at Randolphville Elementary whose developing lungs are vulnerable to air-borne pollution when it’s close by, recurring, and concentrated — like diesel trucks lining up next to school playgrounds, drop-off sites and classroom windows.  When challenged on these public health and environmental justice issues, Mayor Wahler has lashed out at local residents and the organizations to which they belong.

Over the past two years Mayor Wahler has consistently claimed that Food & Water Watch is an “outsider” group that couldn’t possibly represent the best interests of Piscataway residents. Here are a few facts about Food & Water Watch. We are a non-profit organization with an office right next door in New Brunswick, the same place we’ve been for over 13 years. We have successfully worked with residents and elected officials across the state on a wide range of environmental and public health issues. We helped lead a years-long fight against a major fossil fuel pipeline through Central Jersey, including a polluting compressor station proposed in Franklin Township. We worked with thousands of residents, over 50 municipal governments, and dozens of state legislators to defeat two dirty power plants proposed in the Meadowlands. We’ve organized successful grassroots campaigns to protect affordable, locally owned, and democratically controlled water in Edison, Franklin Township, Trenton and Atlantic City. Our track record of protecting clean air, affordable public water, and a safe and healthy climate future speaks for itself.

Rather than disparaging local activists and environmental groups, Mayor Wahler should work with those who are ready and eager to help the township address its most urgent public health and environmental justice issues.

While it’s true the PCEA has at times faced short term challenges with pricing due to temporary declines in the PSEG default rate, every other town in New Jersey that has faced similar challenges has been able to meet them head on. Earlier this year, New Brunswick joined a cooperative of towns in Hunterdon and Mercer Counties that will allow the city to continue increasing clean energy access for its residents while delivering cost savings every month. Livingston and Glen Rock joined a similar cooperative of towns in Essex County to nearly double the amount of renewable energy content for their residents, at a price well below the current PSEG rate. There’s no shortage of neighboring towns for Piscataway to partner with to deliver greater savings to residents: Edison, Highland Park, East Brunswick and South Brunswick are all launching similar CEA programs for their residents. Unfortunately, Mayor Wahler and his administration continue to block this kind of common sense collaboration.

Piscataway voters made history by initiating their own ordinance to protect public health and a safe environment by transitioning onto 100% clean energy. In light of all the lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis, we can no longer afford to let politics get in the way of good policies that promote public health and environmental justice for all.

Groups Invite EPA Admin. Regan Back to Iowa for Community Tour

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Des Moines, IA — Today, Food & Water Watch and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan demanding that he return to Iowa to participate in a tour of factory farm-impacted communities and to meet with people who have been harmed by the buildout of industrial agriculture across the state. The letter is in response to Administrator Regan’s visit to the state earlier this month, which he spent cozying up to industrial agricultural interests rather than meeting with people harmed by Iowa’s 13,000 factory farms.

The Raccoon River, which provides drinking water to half a million Iowans, was recently named one of the ten most endangered rivers in the country, citing the grave threat that factory farms and other industrial agricultural pollution pose to drinking water. As Iowans face another summer of drought and water scarcity, algae blooms from this pollution are already threatening the remaining water supply. Iowa needs urgent action to address this growing water crisis, and Administrator Regan’s recent visit with the Farm Bureau sends a troubling message about his commitment to protecting the state’s water and holding polluters accountable under environmental laws.

“In his visit to the state earlier this month, Administrator Regan followed the well-trodden path of DC officials currying favor with industrial agriculture corporations and their legislative enablers. But with warnings about water quality, toxic algal blooms and drinking water shortages already issued for summer 2021, it’s time for our leaders to get serious about solving Iowa’s water and factory farm crises,” said Emma Schmit, Food & Water Watch Iowa Organizer. “That should start at the top — Regan must commit to returning to Iowa to hear from some of the thousands of people who have been harmed by the buildout of factory farms across Iowa.”

“Iowa’s well-documented water crisis is a result of years of deregulation and failed voluntary efforts to reign in the impacts of industrialized ag across the state. We know that like the back of our hand,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “If the Biden Administration is truly interested in ‘building back better,’ it will start with Administrator Regan hearing from folks on the ground, across the state, who know what it will take to clean up our water and reset our food and farm system, as opposed from those profiting off the current industrialized model.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Alarming Lead, Arsenic Levels Found in Popular Vinegar Brands

Categories

Food System

Citing new test results that show alarming levels of lead and arsenic in vinegar products sold at national chain supermarkets, the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch and Rochester-based Empire State Consumer Project (ESCP) issued a letter to the Food & Drug Administration to take action on the issue. 

ESCP tested 24 major brands of vinegars or vinegar reductions and glazes for contaminants, and found that nearly half (11) were contaminated with arsenic or lead. Seven brands tested positive for both. All but one of the samples testing positive were balsamics, and all were imported from Italy, Greece, or Spain.

The tests found high levels of arsenic and lead in brands like Great Value (Walmart) Balsamic Vinegar, Rachel Ray Balsamic Reduction, Colavita Balsamic Vinegar, Wegmans Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Alessi Balsamic Reduction. All tested products found to be contaminated are sold through retailers like Walmart, Target and Wegmans. 

ESCP’s tests sought to determine if levels of contaminants had changed since they were originally identified in 2002 by the Environmental Law Foundation. The original tests had led to labeling requirements in California, but no other measures were taken to protect consumers. The updated test results clearly show that lead and arsenic levels continue to be unacceptably high, highlighting the need for greater consumer protections at the federal level.  

“It should go without saying that  consumer rights groups should not be the ones doing testing to make sure that our food is safe to eat. This is absolutely the responsibility of government agencies, and they need to take this seriously,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Staff Attorney Zach Corrigan.

“We think it’s time all U.S. consumers were protected with the same product and shelf labeling California requires while we wait for the FDA to set federal limits,” said ESCP President Judy Braiman.

Lead and arsenic both pose distinct and serious health risks, particularly for pregnant women. Exposure to arsenic in utero is associated with DNA damage and micronuclei in newborns, and elevated levels of lead can increase the risk of miscarriage and cause premature birth. Lead exposure poses risks to a baby’s brain and kidneys, and is linked to other learning and behavioral problems. Arsenic is also a cardiotoxin, making it particularly dangerous for the elderly, African Americans and many other people with a range of chronic illnesses.

In 2011, the same groups partnered with Consumer Reports to test arsenic levels in apple juice. As a result of that work, the FDA agreed to set arsenic limits for those products; those rules are still being finalized. The groups hope to spur the same response from the FDA in ensuring limits for arsenic and lead in vinegars.

Over 50 NY Activists Rally in Manhattan to Protest Fossil Fuel Power Plants

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

New York, NY — Today, more than fifty New Yorkers rallied at Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office in support of executive and legislative action to move New York off fossil fuels.

One week after the New York state panel recommended a moratorium on fossil fuel plants, advocates urged the passage of A6761A/S5939A, which would codify the panel’s recommendation in state law. If passed, the legislation would prohibit the development of any new major electric generating facility that would be powered in whole or part by any fossil fuel. Advocates also urged Governor Cuomo to heed the advice of his Climate Advisory Council and take immediate executive action to halt the permitting processes of current fossil fuel plants seeking expansion permits, including the Gowanus and Astoria plants in New York City and the Danskammer plant in Newburgh.

Assembly Member Mamdani, the sponsor of the bill in the State Assembly to end fossil fuel generated power plants in New York, joined activists in rallying against dirty and dangerous fossil fuel power plants.

“Everyday I see my neighbors in Astoria suffer from some of the worst air quality in the city and we have the asthma rates to show for it. We are sick and tired of investment in dirty fossil fuels when we can build clean energy today. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Clean Futures Act, legislation that prevents new fossil fuel plants and puts us on the path to meet our climate goals — a first step towards a future with clean air,” said Assembly Member Zohran K. Mamdani.

New York activists spoke at a rally in front of Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office on the mounting evidence of the urgent public health and environmental crises that a reliance on fossil fuels feeds. Speakers also called attention to the environmental injustices core to the community organizing that has evolved around fossil fuel power plant fights to date, including the growing evidence of the public health crises in communities that live near fracking wells across the border in Pennsylvania and that live near fracked gas power plants from Brooklyn to Queens, and upstate in the Hudson Valley. Laura Shindell, New York Organizer with Food & Water Watch, said:

“Fossil fuel power plants pollute our air and water, clog our lungs, and lock New York into a dirty energy future that spurs on the climate crisis. We stand with the communities that have been fighting the Danskammer, Gowanus and Astoria fracked gas plants for years, and urge immediate passage of A6761A/S5939A to end New York’s reliance on fossil fuels.”

“It’s time for all of New York — including labor and the energy companies — to embrace the fact that our future is in technologies like offshore wind and battery storage,” said Georgi Page, Organizer with 350Brooklyn. “So many lives will be lost and opportunities missed if we persist in this dangerous lie that fossil fuels are the only way, when numerous reports and studies have shown that they are not.”

“Now is the time for New York State legislators to stand up to polluters and their dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel projects”, said Elaine O’Brien from Queens Climate Project. “The choice is clear: we end our dependence on fossil fuels and turn toward wind, solar and battery storage, or we do further damage to communities who have already suffered from gas burning plants and sink deeper into the climate crisis.”

“Astoria and other communities across the State with concentrations of power plants have long faced the health and environmental consequences of fossil fuel generation,” said Astoria resident and Sane Energy Project volunteer Nicolas Shearman. “New Yorkers work hard to protect and build their vibrant communities. We need 100% renewables and to pass climate laws like the Clean Futures Act, not build new plants that threaten our lungs and dump pollutants on the people and places we love and care for.”

Today’s events marked the conclusion of multiple days of community activism urging rapid passage of A6761A/S5939A in communities across the state.

For photos available for media use, please visit this Google Drive link.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

NY Activists Rally in Newburgh to Protest Fossil Fuel Power Plants

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Newburgh, NY — Last night, forty activists and local residents rallied at the site of the Danskammer LLC fracked gas plant in Newburgh to protest fossil fuel powered plants statewide. One week after the New York state panel recommended a moratorium on fossil fuel plants, advocates urged the passage of A6761A/S5939A, which would codify the panel’s recommendation in state law. If passed, the legislation would prohibit the development of any new major electric generating facility that would be powered in whole or part by any fossil fuel.

In addition to legislative action, activists urged Governor Cuomo to heed the advice of his Climate Advisory Council, and take immediate executive action to halt the permitting processes of current fossil fuel plants seeking expansion permits including the Danskammer plant in Newburgh. Emily Skydel, Hudson Valley Organizer with Food & Water Watch, states:

“New Yorkers demand a fossil free future, and it needs to start right here in Newburgh with the closure of the Danskammer plant. Our Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires moving off fossil fuels, Governor Cuomo’s own Climate Advisory Council recommends it, and New Yorkers ourselves have been demanding it for years. Our legislature must take prompt action to pass A6761A/S5939A.”

“The Danskammer project is like tyrannosaurus rex — extinct but still dangerous,” said Amy Kletter of Ulster Activists. “Polluting fossil fuel energy production is a thing of the past. We need to stop these projects and move quickly to a future of renewable, sustainable projects and conservation!”

“The legislature hasn’t passed a major climate bill since 2019 with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. With three weeks left of session they are on track to skip another year while the climate emergency continues to wreak havoc,” said Michaelangelo Pomarico, Co-Chair for Orange County of the Mid Hudson Valley DSA. “The Mid Hudson Valley DSA urges swift action from the state legislature to pass A6761A/S5939A to stop all future fossil fuel projects like Danskammer, and A1466A/S6453 to create over 50k jobs building the publicly owned renewable infrastructure we need to make good on the promise of a just transition.”

“New York’s legislature has a responsibility to pass A6761A/S5939A,” said Aura Lopez Zarate-Raiz, Organizer for Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund. “It is urgent and needed in order to stop harmful projects like Danskammer. Community members and recent events have made it clear that we do not need or want a fracked gas power plant in our backyards. Scientific evidence and people’s personal stories have also shown the danger of fossil fuels to the environment and the negative impacts it has on our health. People deserve to live healthy lives and raise their families in a safe environment without the effects of fossil fuels.”

“The construction of this plant violates the most basic values of the people of this state: it actively works against the public health of our communities, it damages the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley, and it violates New York’s State’s commitment to renewable energy. As such, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson joins our neighbors to stand up to the construction of Danskammer,” said Rene Mejia Jr., Organizer with Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. 

Activists will hold a second day of action in New York City today to urge action on A6761A/S5939A and the rapid transition off a fossil fuel power grid.

For photos of the event available for media use, please visit our Google Drive folder.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Ventura Residents Demand DTSC and CPUC Reform Amid Environmental Justice Violations

Categories

Climate and Energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Members of Ventura’s Westside Clean Air Coalition are using public comment to decry the hypocrisy and negligence of state agencies responsible for managing the environmental and public health risks of natural gas infrastructure. While the California State Assembly reviewed the budget of the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), coalition members pointed out the agency’s avoidance of public comment regarding remediation of toxic soil on the site of a SoCalGas compressor station. Despite the site’s proximity to an elementary school, parents were left out of the notification process for the remediation plans. Citing lack of public interest, the DTSC denied each community request for public hearings on the project in English and Spanish.

“The DTSC and CPUC are complicit in the environmental injustice happening in Ventura’s Westside,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Tomás Rebecchi. “While the CPUC has neglected its mandate to independently regulate SoCalGas’ compressor station, the DTSC has refused to engage with members of our community and relegated Ventura’s Westside to a sacrifice zone. The cleanup plans initially proposed by the DTSC affect the entire community, particularly the children at E.P. Foster Elementary School whose lungs are vulnerable to the toxic particulates unearthed by any remediation efforts. We need the DTSC to go back to the drawing board and include the voices of those most impacted by these efforts: the parents and residents of Ventura’s Westside.” 

Without notifying the community, the DTSC agreed on an exemption for the remediation plans from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and any environmental impact report. 

“SoCalGas claims they have already obtained the needed approvals for this massive expansion project, in a time where it is widely acknowledged that we should be phasing out natural gas for the health of people and planet.” said Liz Beall, executive director at CFROG. “Yet there is no evidence this project was formally approved by any state or local agency, and we will not be satisfied until a full Environmental Impact Review is performed.” 

“The DTSC has members appointed from the oil and gas industry who know the gas company is simply cleaning up to protect its employees during the compressor expansion project,” said Liz Campos, Chair of the Westside Community Council. “To exempt the gas company from an EIR for the entire project ignores the imminent danger to the community. In meeting with the local DTSC regulators I was given the impression that the people who live in the disenfranchised neighborhood of West Ventura were unimportant, even perhaps expendable; that the DTSC’s relationship with SoCalGas is of primary importance; and we (the citizens whose health has been badly affected) must understand that the gas company’s expansion of the compressor station after an awkward excuse for toxic soil cleanup is a done deal.”

“Something is wrong at the Department of Toxic Substance Control,” said Jonathan Ullman, director of the Sierra Club’s Los Padres Chapter. “And if what’s happening in Ventura’s Westside community is any indication, its funding must be tied to reform. When local residents, social justice and environmental groups asked the Toxics Dept to re-open up the comment period and hold an official public hearing, they were denied. This would never have happened in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. It shouldn’t happen in Westside Ventura. It’s an environmental injustice that must be reopened.”

The Ventura City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before further work can continue on the natural gas compressor station on 1555 North Olive Street, yet the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has yet to hold SoCalGas accountable. SoCalGas plans to expand the compressor station site, adding four new compressors, more than doubling the horsepower of the current compressors.

“According to CalEnviroScreen, the project is located among the most pollution-burdened communities in California,” said CAUSE Senior Policy Advocate Lucia Marquez. “A super emitting toxic facility like this with a known history of leaks throughout the years should have never been built next to hundreds of small children, yet an expansion doubling its size is being considered. The City of Ventura was pushed to pass a resolution requesting further review of this project because of the inconsistent and inaccurate information they received from SoCalGas staff when asked about the expansion plans. We believe this project is a major violation of the PUC’s environmental justice policies.”

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

New Bill Would Protect Americans From Utility Shutoffs and Mounting Debt Crisis

Categories

Clean Water

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Maintaining Access to Essential Services Act today, which aims to place a moratorium on the disconnection of electric, water and broadband utility service due to uncollected payments. An increasing number of people in the country are at-risk of losing access to vital utilities, including electricity, water, and broadband, as utility debt increases nationwide.

The bill would provide low-interest loans to electric, water, and broadband utilities to cover the cost of uncollected household payments in exchange for a moratorium on shutoffs. The loans would be forgiven if the utility forgives the household utility debt. For publicly-owned, nonprofit and cooperative utilities, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the household debt forgiveness; for investor-owned utilities, the federal government will split the cost with the utility. 

Estimates show that people across the country are facing utility debt in the tens of billions as a direct result of the pandemic-driven unemployment crisis. Families of color have been disproportionately impacted. A recent University of California, Los Angeles study found that up to one-third of households in Los Angeles have utility debt and that 64% of people severely affected are Latino and Black communities. 

“This bill is vital to address the reality that millions of families have been plunged into poverty because of COVID. Mounting utility debt digs that hole deeper and threatens their access to basic human rights of power, water, and broadband access,” said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Any notion of building back better must include this bill which stops the immediate bleeding of utility shutoffs and greater infrastructure investment in community and rooftop solar solutions to stop the energy shutoffs crisis in the long-term.”  

A national study showed that a moratorium on utility shutoffs could have reduced COVID-19 deaths by 14.8% because Americans could have had access to water and avoided congregating for heat and power. A study from Cornell University and Food & Water Watch similarly found that water shutoff protections were associated with significantly lower rates of COVID cases and deaths, and estimated that a nationwide water shutoff moratorium might have prevented nearly 500,000 COVID cases and more than 9,000 deaths. 

“Too many people are going into debt just to keep the lights on, keep the tap running, and keep the Wi-Fi from going dark,” said Dana Floberg, policy manager at Free Press Action. “When it comes to broadband, we know prices are too high for this essential service that families rely on for school, work, and organizing. Stopping utility shutoffs and easing the debt burden makes this crucial connectivity more accessible for the communities that need it most.”

“While we may be moving towards the light at the end of the Covid tunnel in this country, political leaders must understand that the economic impact of this pandemic still weighs heavily on many of our neighbors,” said Rianna Eckel, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch. “Access to water is a necessity for families trying to recover from the pandemic, but ever-growing utility debt and shutoffs loom ahead. Congress must urgently pass Senator Merkley’s proposal to alleviate this debt, and fully fund our water systems now.” 

Only 10 states currently collect data on the number of power shutoffs – since the onset of the pandemic — but the numbers  are alarming. A Center for Biological Diversity report shows that over half a million households in 10 states have experienced power shutoffs, and that the numbers are as high as 6% in states like Georgia.

“No one should be left in the dark, offline, or without water because of debt from unaffordable bills,” said Alissa Weinman, Associate Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability. “Everyone should have access to vital utilities — especially during a pandemic and economic crisis. And eliminating utility debt is an important step toward realizing that future. What’s more, this bill would direct sorely needed federal funds toward our water infrastructure. Direct, federal investment into our water systems helps ensure they stay in the hands of the public, not corporations.” 

This bill aims to include a moratorium on all utility shutoffs in the oncoming infrastructure package. 

“The introduction of this bill is an essential step in tackling the dual crises of the COVID-19 and the wave of utility debt threatening people’s right to water, broadband, and electricity,” said  Leslie Saul-Gershenz, PhD  Researcher and Conservation biologist. “We’re thankful for Senator Merkley’s commitment to ensuring people have access to these critical utilities and are not at risk of having their access shut off due to a mountain of past-due, unaffordable bills ” 

“Seniors can’t afford to be without their utilities,” said Karen Reside, Secretary of Long Beach Gray Panthers. “Climate change is impacting seniors the most with increases in extreme temperatures. Utility shut offs must be prevented. It is really a matter of life or death for our nation’s seniors.” 

“The Internet is not just an amenity. Today, it is a bridge to employment, education, services and information,” said Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director of Media Alliance. “When we cut people off for economic shifts they can’t control, we are risking their health, safety and ability to recover. Our resiliency, during and after this catastrophic pandemic, is linked to each other. All Americans need these vital services to put themselves, and our economy back together again.” 

Food & Water Watch Sues EPA to Protect Waterways from Factory Farm Pollution

Categories

Food System

Portland, OR— Today, Food & Water Watch filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the agency’s failure to update factory farm wastewater guidelines as required by the Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act, EPA is required to annually review, and if necessary, strengthen, industry-wide pollution standards—called effluent limitation guidelines—for factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These guidelines are supposed to ensure that CAFOs are implementing the technology and management practices necessary to reduce the amount of pollution these operations discharge into the nation’s waterways.

For years, EPA has maintained incredibly lax pollution standards for factory farms, despite mounting evidence that the current guidelines, last updated in 2008, are ineffective. This case challenges EPA’s decision to once again maintain the status quo letting CAFOs off the hook.

“We have over fifteen industrial dairies in our community, and the massive amount of waste they produce is wreaking havoc on our water resources,” said Food & Water Watch member Lynn Utesch. “All three rivers running through Kewuanee County, Wisconsin are impaired with high levels of pollutants associated with CAFOs, and the burden of monitoring and responding to the problem falls on residents like us instead of the CAFO operators. EPA’s CAFO standards just don’t do enough to protect our water quality, and our community is suffering for it.”

Across the country, thousands of CAFOs produce vast quantities of manure containing pollutants like E. coli, nitrogen, phosphorous, pharmaceuticals, and heavy metals, which are discharged into waterways. But EPA’s current CAFO guidelines only apply to the largest of operations, do not regulate many of the pollutants of concern coming out of these industrial facilities, and sanction manure storage and disposal practices that are known to harm water quality. Having been left largely unregulated, the agriculture sector, including factory farms, is one of the biggest sources of water pollution in the country.

“Food & Water Watch has been trying to get EPA to do its job and regulate factory farm polluters for years,” said Emily Miller, Staff Attorney for Food & Water Watch.“In 2017, we filed a petition asking EPA to update these guidelines, which are based on outdated information and fail to adequately control the myriad ways in which CAFOs pollute. EPA has not even responded to that petition, but it will have to respond to this lawsuit.” 

If successful, the case could have wide-reaching impact, forcing EPA to re-consider its nationally applicable CAFO guidelines. A proper review of the current, lax guidelines would likely result in a determination that more stringent national standards are required to protect water quality.

Food & Water Watch and Earthrise Law Center represent the plaintiff.

Spring Newsletter 2021

Categories

Clean Water

This June during Food & Water Watch Member Month, we are celebrating the people who make our fight for a livable future possible. That’s you! Each of our members brings something special to our fight. We want to share with you some of their stories. It’s one of the ways we say Thank You for making our work possible.

In this video, you’ll hear from Natalie, a member of the Food & Water Watch Leaders Circle, and Jolene, our Virginia Organizer, about what inspires them to make a difference.

For 15 years and counting, Food & Water Watch has been mobilizing people to stand up and “fight like we live here”. Our philosophy? We can beat special interests when we stand together; each member grows our collective power. Together, we can – and will – win clean water, safe food, and a livable climate.

At Food & Water Watch, our work mirrors the character of our members:

  • Our members are dreamers who envision a brighter future.
  • Our members believe in the power of community.
  • Our members are compassionate and intelligent: critical thinkers and feelers.
  • Our members are brave in the face of our world’s toughest environmental challenges, and are dedicated to making a difference.

Community organizing brings people together. That’s why Food & Water Watch Leaders Circle member, Daniel Tahara, dove into local organizing this past year. It’s a path Daniel started down after he began donating to Food & Water Watch and discovered our theory of change.

As a San Francisco software engineer, Daniel internalized the Silicon Valley ethos: work on the biggest problem at the biggest scale. Daniel applied that ethos to fighting climate change, as he looked to national organizations focused on federal legislation. He learned that every Food & Water Watch staff member is trained through the book Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists. He read it cover-to-cover and implemented it in his local climate group.

Daniel says Food & Water Watch and this manual transformed his activism: “I didn’t know what to do. I thought, let me read this book and try something. I tried to take the group through it, and it helped. [The San Francisco Climate Emergency Coalition] went from an informal rag-tag band to a slightly larger group with a real goal. It shaped my 2020 approach to organizing.”

By applying what he learned from Food & Water Watch, Daniel used the joy of community – forged virtually – to endure months of quarantine.

“I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction and knew my life would never be the same. I threw myself into the environmental movement figuring out as I went along what my role would be in the fight. I’m a photographer by trade and an animal lover at heart. So, I first tried to rally other artists to the cause, and then realized I needed to align with an organization that had the vision and tools necessary to take on the biggest fight of our lives. I’ve found that group in Food & Water Watch. Food & Water Watch sees that to stop the burning of fossil fuels, you have to also transition from factory farms, because the two are interlinked. It’s that kind of vision that I want to support with my dollars and my time.”

“I am a proud supporter of Food & Water Watch, an effective organization that safeguards basic, life sustaining elements, food and water.  I especially admire Food & Water Watch’s research and work on banning fracking. As a climate activist, I appreciate Food & Water Watch’s leadership, whether it is from Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, or my local Virginia Organizer, Jolene Mafnas. I’ve worked together with Jolene, from volunteering to organize meetings with legislators in support of Virginia’s Green New Deal legislation, to celebrating the successful stop of the Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) Interconnect Pipeline in Virginia! All in all, Food & Water Watch organizers on the ground do outstanding work, and are extremely strategic and effective. 

Food & Water Watch gives citizens concerned about climate change opportunities to act.  I am very hopeful for more progress locally in Virginia, and nationally to make the transition off fossil fuels to clean renewable sources of energy.”

“Writing a check is easy. The scope and focus of your work are why I support Food & Water Watch. I hope I live long enough to see the end of factory farms and mistreatment of animals across the board. The thanks belong to the dedicated members and staff of Food & Water Watch who give so much in pursuit of a healthy, sustainable environment. I am grateful to all of you in your efforts to make a better world for my grandchildren!”

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