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]

One Year Later, Biden Climate Record is Rhetoric Over Action

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Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Rejects Petition to Drop Factory Farm Gas From Energy Credit System

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Richard Corey unilaterally rejected a petition request from a coalition of environmental justice, animal protection, and community groups to immediately initiate a rulemaking to eliminate credits for factory farm gas from one of California’s premier climate programs, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The decision ignores ample evidence that the lucrative credit system is dramatically overstating the climate benefit of using methane sourced from factory farms as a transportation fuel, and illegally disregards the disproportionate environmental and health impacts that dairy digesters inflict on low-income communities and communities of color.

Advocates suggest that instead of investing millions in a credit system that incentivizes factory farm expansion and the use of more polluting manure management practices, California should instead use its climate dollars to invest in renewable energy solutions that cut pollution in environmental justice communities. 

Members of the coalition released the following statements:

“Governor Newsom and CARB have rejected this opportunity to stop California’s flagship climate program from incentivizing and entrenching the factory farm industry and the hosts of harms that come along with it. CARB’s decision to keep factory farm gas in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and kick the can down the road ensures that the program will remain fundamentally compromised and California will fall further behind its climate goals.” said Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Tyler Lobdell.

“The California Air Resources Board’s decision to delay the rulemaking our petition asks for represents a failure to meet its environmental justice commitments. The continued development of factory farm gas schemes will only serve to entrench a system that illegally and disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color,” said Brent Newell, Senior Attorney at the Public Justice Food Project.

“Some of the largest and most polluting dairy operations in California may already be making more money from factory farm gas than they do from milk. This manure gold rush incentivizes factory farm expansion, which increases air and water pollution — not to mention increased odor and flies — in environmental justice communities, all while failing to address the impacts of climate-warming methane emissions. It’s extremely disappointing that California regulators have decided not to address with adequate urgency the significant deficiencies and injustices inherent in this particular pollution subsidy, as petitioners requested,” said Phoebe Seaton, co-executive director with Leadership Counsel. 

“Incentivizing factory farming and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) — and rewarding the industry for the mass amounts of pollution it causes — is a dangerous position for The California Air Resources Board to take. It is vital that government agencies work toward solutions to the climate crisis — not exacerbate it,” said Cristina Stella, Managing Attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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

Kearny Council Opposes PVSC Fracked Gas Plant

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Research: Fossil Fuel Production Gains While Jobs Disappear

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Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38 New York Groups Unveil “Climate Can’t Wait” 2022 Advocacy Agenda

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Albany, NY — Today, 38 organizations across New York State announced the formation of Climate Can’t Wait 2022, and unveiled their package of priority proposals for action in 2022 by the Legislature, the Governor and state agencies. After two years without significant climate action in Albany, the groups highlighted that the climate emergency has only accelerated, with increased extreme heat, fires, storms and floods, culminating in Hurricane Ida which took the lives of 42 New Yorkers in 2021.

At a press conference announcing the legislative package endorsement, groups called on the New York State Legislature, Governor Hochul and state agencies to fulfill the promises of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and listen to the thousands of New Yorkers who support bold climate policies and recently voted to make access to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment a constitutional right for all New Yorkers. The group called on legislative leadership to pass 11 bills and take action to fund and implement the CLCPA, necessary to combat climate change.

The Climate Can’t Wait 2022 advocacy agenda consists of:

  • All Electric Building Act (A8431, Gallagher; S6843, Kavanagh)
  • CLCPA Implementation By State Agencies and $15 Billion Funding for Climate Justice in the 2022 Budget
  • Clean Futures Act (A6761, Mamdani; S5939, Ramos)
  • Climate and Community Investment Act (A6967, Cahill; S4264, Parker)
  • Cryptocurrency Mining Moratorium (A7389, Kelles; S6486C, Parker)
  • Cumulative Impacts Act (A2103, Pretlow; S1031B, Stewart-Cousins)
  • Energy Efficiency, Equity and Jobs (A3996, Hunter; S3126, Parker)
  • Fossil Fuel Subsidy Elimination Act (A8483, Cahill; S7438, Krueger)
  • Green New Deal For New York Act
  • New York Build Public Renewables Act (A1466, Carroll; S6453, Parker)
  • Renewable Capitol Act
  • Teachers’ Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (A6331, Kelles; S4783, Brisport)

Climate Can’t Wait activists are holding additional rallies today in New York City and Westchester County, calling on Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to pass the advocacy agenda with haste. Food & Water Watch New York Organizer Emily Skydel said:

“We can’t say it enough — we are running out of time. Climate can’t wait and neither can we. We are demanding bold leadership from our legislative leaders and Governor Hochul, right now. We must pass and enact the Climate Can’t Wait 2022 agenda, which would ban fossil fuels in buildings, cryptocurrency mining and power plants; invest in jobs and climate justice; and stop the flow of public money to the fossil fuel industry that’s spurring on the climate crisis.”

“The nation and the whole world has eyes on New York, looking to see if we will continue to build off of the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and follow the wisdom and leadership of frontline, environmental justice communities disproportionately impacted by a racialized and gendered climate crisis they had little hand in creating” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, NY Renews Steering Committee member and Director of Environmental Justice with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “There’s no time for specious or rhetorical approaches to climate change — we must engender and fund New York’s Just Transition post haste, while holding polluters accountable for decades of systemic environmental racism. The Climate Can’t Wait package is the vehicle and we need our lawmakers to do their job and drive it across the finish line.”

“Citizen Action is working to mobilize tens of thousands of New Yorkers with Climate Can’t Wait to bring the message to our state leaders to get serious about climate in 2022,” said Ivette Alfonso, President of Citizen Action of New York. “Hurricane Ida in 2021, Hurricane Isaias, which left over 800,000 New Yorkers without power in 2020, and Sandy in 2012 all demonstrate that climate change is a crisis in the here and now, wreaking havoc on our state’s infrastructure and our economy. And, we can’t ignore the needs of Black and Brown communities, who are so often first in line when it comes to environmental pollution and last in line when it comes to getting the jobs and public funding necessary to build healthy communities. Climate leaders are advancing a unified agenda on climate in 2022, and Governor Hochul, state agencies and the Legislature have the responsibility to act on it.” 

“In 2021 there were three one-hundred-year climate events in five weeks including tropical storm Fred that caused flooding across New York City, Hurricane Henri which pummeled Long Island with heavy rain, and Hurricane Ida which forced most of the subway system to shut down with many stations flooded and at least 43 people dead, mostly from drowning in basement apartments. Sadly, at the current rate of addressing climate change, we will leave our grandchildren a dystopian future mirroring ‘The Walking Dead’ with inadequate air, water and limited arable land. Climate Can’t Wait’s package of bills will help in the effort to leave a viable planet for posterity. The Renewable Capitol Act is an important symbolic step toward building a just and renewable future, and it will protect the environmental justice neighborhood of Sheridan Hollow from the fracked gas plant that currently pollutes the community in order to heat the Capitol and Empire State Plaza,” said Merton D. Simpson Jr., Albany County Legislator and Co-Chair of Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy (SHARE).

“Governor Hochul needs to break with Cuomo’s garbage climate policies, which put PR over creating jobs to cut fossil fuel use,” said Rachel Rivera, a Sandy survivor and member of New York Communities for Change. “It’s time to fund climate action and pass these vital bills because climate can’t wait. There’s no time to waste with the climate crisis: delay equals death.”

“It is 2022. Climate legislation needs to start getting passed! We are far too deep into the climate crisis to be holding off any longer. Yet, despite the present danger we are in, the New York State Legislature has failed to pass the large-scale climate legislation needed to comply with the promises made by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). As young people, the fight for our future is more crucial than ever, which is why the New York Youth Climate Leaders are proud to be a part of the Climate Can’t Wait Coalition and join with other like minded activists and heroes from across the state in pushing for the much needed passage of climate legislation. The Governor and our state legislators must listen to our voices of all ages, but especially the youth, as our future is in peril. We need them to pass legislation to let New Yorkers transition to a renewable energy economy, thus saving our future which we will not stop fighting for,” said Mandy Berghela, senior in high school and co-director of Government Affairs with the New York Youth Climate Leaders.

A recording of today’s press conference is available here; additional quotes are available here.

Climate Can’t Wait is a collaboration between 350NJ-Rockland, 350NYC, 350Brooklyn, Citizen Action of New York, Divest NY, Empire State Indivisible, El Puente, Energy Democracy Alliance, Food & Water Watch, For the Many, Forest Hills Green Team, Fossil Fuel Subsidies Coalition, Franciscan Action Network- NYA Franciscan Justice Circle, , Hudson Center for Community and Environment, Indivisible Harlem, Indivisible Nation BK, Indivisible Scarsdale, Mid Hudson Valley DSA, New York Communities for Change, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, NYC DSA Ecosocialist Working Group, NY Renews, New York State Council of Churches, New York Youth Climate Leaders, NYCD16 Indivisible, PAUSE, People’s Climate Movement-NY, Professional Staff Congress CUNY, Province of St. Mary of the Capuchin Order, Queens Climate Project, Queens County Young Democrats, Rockland United, Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy (SHARE), Sunrise Movement NYC, Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, TREEage, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and WESPAC Foundation.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

L.A. County Seeks Researchers For Aliso Canyon Disaster Public Health Study

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA — Nearly seven years after the Aliso Canyon SoCalGas blowout, L.A. County is beginning to ask for research proposals for a comprehensive study into the disaster’s ongoing public health impacts. For the past two and half years, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) composed of San Fernando Valley residents and stakeholders has stressed the vital importance of a study that assesses the holistic effects of the gas blowout on individuals in the community as well as its long term impact on health.

In response, Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy issued the following statement:

“The fact that San Fernando Valley communities have had to wait seven years for this research process to be initiated is a serious failure of political will among California’s public health and elected leaders. And while the SoCalGas storage facility is still operating — and expanding — it’s easy to understand a lack of trust in the public health department. We welcome the completion of the study as long it remains centered on clinical evaluations of the residents. But there is much more work to be done before San Fernando Valley residents are truly protected. Governor Newsom must shut down Aliso Canyon once and for all.”

The explosion of SoCalGas’ storage facility at Aliso Canyon caused the release of more than 109,000 metric tons of methane and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding communities. It is the worst natural gas blowout in the history of the U.S. Despite this and the facility’s frequent and ongoing fugitive emissions, the California Public Utilities Commission voted in November 2021 to expand the facility’s use over community and environmental outcry.

Environmental and community advocates have expressed concern that the request for a proposal bases its estimated environmental impact on flawed air monitoring data by the California Council on Science and Technology.

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

California Burning: How Big Ag and Big Oil Are Fueling the Flame

Categories

Climate and Energy

Virginia Delegate Introduces Fossil Fuel Moratorium Legislation

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Richmond, VA — Today, Delegate Kaye Kory introduced HB 1355 to place a moratorium on any new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure in Virginia. With an effective date of January 1, 2023, HB 1355 would halt the construction of pipelines and fracked gas facilities for power generation.

Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director Jorge Aguilar issued the following statement:

“As Governor Youngkin signals regressive energy policies that threaten to take Virginia backward on efforts to tackle climate change, it’s inspiring to see this landmark legislation introduced to fight the climate crisis head on. HB 1355 is the bold climate leadership we need in Richmond, putting an immediate end to our reliance on fossil fuels.

“As projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Chickahominy Pipeline and Power Plant continue apace, state leadership must commit to the passage of HB 1355 and put an end to these destructive projects, once and for all.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Oregon Mega-Dairy Digester Received California Green Energy Credits As It Violated Air Quality Law

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – Food & Water Watch has submitted a complaint to California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) asking it to invalidate the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits Oregon’s Threemile Canyon Farms’ factory farm “biogas” operations generated while its gas production facilities were violating Oregon air quality law. The complaint urges CARB to initiate an enforcement action, invalidate all of Threemile Canyon Farms’ unlawfully generated credits, and revoke Threemile’s credit account so it can no longer bank or sell LCFS credits. California’s LCFS is a program whose lucrative credit system allows factory farms to sell factory farm gas derived from manure. 

According to Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, Threemile Canyon violated its air quality permit for several periods between June 1, 2019 through at least September 30, 2020, releasing illegal amounts of fine particulate matter pollution, which contributes to numerous human health problems. DEQ fined Threemile Canyon $19,500 for those air quality violations. Threemile was violating its permit while it applied for the LCFS program, and when it assured CARB that it was operating in compliance with environmental laws. 

“Anything less than a complete revocation of Threemile Canyon Farms’ credits and account within the LCFS system is unacceptable,” said Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Tyler Lobdell. “Even as CARB was reviewing and certifying Threemile’s application for California’s LCFS program, the facility’s gas refinery was responsible for unlawful pollution that threatens Oregon’s climate and nearby communities. Under these circumstances, CARB should never have granted Threemile’s LCFS application. But the agency has the opportunity and obligation to correct that error now.”

Food & Water Watch is awaiting CARB’s response to a petition we recently submitted with other environmental, public health and social justice organizations, asking CARB to remove factory farm biogas from California’s LCFS program entirely. The agency is legally bound to respond to the petition by the end of the month.

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

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

Categories

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.

New Jersey Climate Coalition Sues Murphy Administration Over Inaction

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Additional quotes by EmpowerNJ Steering Committee members 

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

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

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

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

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

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

NY Gov. Hochul’s Budget Furthers Statewide Gas Ban In New Construction; Requires Bolder Timeline

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Governor Hochul’s 2022 executive budget unveiled last night includes a statewide ban on fossil fuels in new construction by 2027. The move is the boldest taken in any state to move off climate-warming fossil fuels and safeguard public health from building pollutants — but it does not go far enough to stave off the impending climate crisis.

Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp issued the following statement:

“Yesterday’s move is an undeniably big one — but Governor Hochul must go further and faster. The devil really is in the details. We simply cannot move fast enough to ban fossil fuels in buildings to lower greenhouse gas emissions, keep indoor air pollution at bay, save lives and lower utility bills.

“We call on Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to enact the All Electric Buildings Act, S6843A/A8431, with haste, as part of the state budget due April 1. This will ensure New York’s new buildings are constructed without fossil fuels by the end of 2023. It’s time we move as fast as the crisis is moving towards us.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

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

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food & Water Watch Urges Broward County Commission to Halt LNG Shipping at FL Port Everglades

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, the national environmental organization Food & Water Watch issued a letter to the Broward County Commission, urging the Commission to act within their legal authority to direct Port Everglades to halt all shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Citing documents revealed in a Food & Water Watch public records request that demonstrate imminent plans to quadruple the amount of LNG transported through Broward County for export at the Port, the letter requests that the Broward County Commission exercise its “right to restrict or prohibit the entry or handling of any cargo or other property in the Main Zone [at Port Everglades] due to its hazardous… nature.”

As of last week, the U.S. is the world’s largest LNG exporter, threatening climate chaos globally and public safety locally. Beyond the climate hazards of continuing to promote the extraction, transport and burning of fossil fuels, LNG is also a highly dangerous material and its transport is a significant public safety concern. Dangers include explosive vapor clouds from LNG container punctures, boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions, deadly fireballs, and fires untamable by conventional firefighting and hazardous response measures.

Florida’s East Coast is currently involved in a dangerous “bomb train” experiment, putting residents at further risk as the LNG is transported by both truck and train through the county to Port Everglades. The Florida East Coast Railway received a special permit from the Trump administration, which exempted them from the recent federal order to halt LNG transit by rail, citing safety concerns.

With the letter, Food & Water Watch Southern Region Deputy Director Michelle Allen issued the following statement:

“The Broward County Commission has a duty to keep county residents safe. Yet for years, residents have been subjected to the threat of deadly liquefied natural gas (LNG) being silently transported through the region, without a full comprehensive review by the state or the federal government. It’s time to put an end to this senseless threat.

“The evidence is clear — LNG is a danger to communities and our climate. To have any real hope of keeping climate change below a tipping point, we must stop the transport and use of LNG immediately. And to uphold their responsibility to keep constituents safe, the Broward County Commission simply must stop the transport of LNG at Port Everglades now.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Advocates, Legislators Urge NY Gov. Hochul to End Fossil Fuels in New Buildings Via Budget

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, with one week until Governor Hochul is set to present her 2022 budget to the state legislature, more than 90 advocates and state legislators gathered to demand that she prioritize the phaseout of fossil fuels in new buildings through the budgetary process. Gov. Hochul announced her support for a statewide ban on fossil fuels in new buildings in her State of the State address, in a move critiqued by advocates for its slow timeline.

Senator Brian Kavanaugh and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, prime bill sponsors of legislation to ban fossil fuels in new construction, S6843A/A8431, and other state legislators joined advocates today in a virtual press conference calling on Governor Hochul to incorporate the bill into her budget to expedite its passage. With less than a decade remaining to avoid a tipping point in the climate crisis, advocates and state legislators urged Governor Hochul to act quickly on the ban, taking concrete steps to shut down New York’s market for climate-warming fossil fuels.

“Governor Hochul has laid out a timeline for a statewide gas ban that fails to meet the urgency of the climate crisis,” said Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, Sponsor of A8431. “This bill will put New York on course to building the green economy of the future, and reduce the air pollution that kills thousands of New Yorkers each year. Governor Hochul — thank you, but go further. It’s clear that you understand the need to stop fossil fuels in buildings, but we need to move faster. Put the Electric Buildings Act in your budget.”

“The CLCPA set ambitious climate emissions reductions goals for New York and is the strongest state legislation in the country, but we urge speed. We want as rapid as possible implementation and enactment of the Electric Buildings Act. We cannot wait until the last week of session — this is an urgent crisis,” said Senator Brian Kavanagh, Sponsor of S6843A. “As we engage in conversations about the budget, we need to include the electric buildings act and get it done.”

Should Governor Hochul ban fossil fuels in new construction, New York would be the first state in the country to do so. The push for action at the executive level comes weeks after New York City made history as the nation’s largest city to pass a fossil fuel ban in December. Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman said:

“New York is primed to make history as the first state to ban fossil fuels in new buildings — all we need is for Governor Hochul to rise to the task. With a stroke of her pen, she can cement New York as a leader in addressing the climate crisis head on, banning fossil fuels in new construction to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions and indoor air pollution. Governor Hochul must include the NY state gas ban in her budget.”

“This winter’s exorbitant heating bills have exposed the lie that the fracking industry and its corporate utility partners claim that gas equals cheap energy,” said Kim Fraczek, Director of Sane Energy Project, member of the Renewable Heat Now campaign  “Passing the All Electric Buildings Act will not only help us lock in affordable and efficient electric heat pumps and geothermal, but help alleviate the dangers and poison that comes from gas in our buildings.”

“Continuing gas infrastructure expansion is not affordable for today’s gas customers and it’s not sustainable for the climate, which is why we must stop constructing new buildings with gas and other fossil fuel systems,” said Avni Pravin, Deputy Policy Director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “We call on Governor Hochul and the legislature to pass the All-Electric Buildings Act as soon as possible, without weakening the timeline or the affordability provisions.”

“Fossil fuels burned in buildings are the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lisa Marshall of Mothers Out Front NY. “This is why the Renewable Heat Now Campaign is a priority for our organization. We fully support the All-Electric Building act and the rest of the bills that are part of the Renewable Heat Now legislative package. Including these bills in the 2022 budget will demonstrate unequivocally that New York is committed to meaningful climate solutions.”

“We all know that the technology to build electric buildings is there, that building electric will create jobs, and help push New York state into a fossil fuel free economy — it’s time to make it happen,” said Sonal Jessel, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We believe that all people deserve to live in healthy housing that is free from pollution sources like gas stoves, and we believe that we must ensure that low-income people and people of color across New York state don’t bear the utility burden from continued fossil fuel expansion. S6843A/A843 will make that happen — Governor Hochul must enact a statewide gas ban in her budget.”

“When Sandy hit New York, I lost everything, and I almost lost my daughter. Then, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Ida hit New York, and we keep losing even more lives and compiling trauma,” said Rachel Rivera, Hurricane Sandy survivor and NYCC member. “I commend Governor Hochul for supporting a statewide gas ban, but waiting for 2027 is too long — we need to move faster. It’s just getting worse out here.”

“Going all electric for new buildings keeps fossil fuels out of buildings and keeps residents healthy. The students we work with will inherit more extreme weather and rising sea levels from the climate crisis. That’s why we are fighting for a future with breathable air and safer, more resilient communities. S6843A/A843 will help us get there and must be implemented immediately,” said Megan Ahearn, Program Director for NYPIRG. 

“The All Electric Buildings Act is a no regrets solution. There is no reason to wait on a statewide gas ban,” said Conor Bambrik, with Environmental Advocates NY. “While this bill will have important impacts on climate emissions, it is also going to have a huge impact on public health. Fully electric new buildings will go a long way to helping the climate and the health of our communities.”

“Fossil fuels have no future in New York state,” said Bill Nowak of NY-GEO, the New York Geothermal Energy Organization. “I can’t see any self-respecting business setting up their customers with obsolete heating and cooling systems at this point. Governor Hochul’s announcement gets us part way there, but we need to move faster. Our industry is ready — put S6843A/A843 into law and we will make it happen.”

“BIPOC & low-income communities seeking opportunities for a new home or a new apartment should not have to sacrifice their health for a better place to live,” said Daphany Rose Sanchez, Kinetic Communities. “Equitably funding electrification in new construction and prioritizing disinvested communities is the only path forward for a just clean energy transition. Let’s shift our communities to center people and health first — make S6843A/A843 into law.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Newsom Budget Falls Short on Confronting Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2022-’23 budget today, including a $45.7 billion budget surplus. Newsom claimed that combating the climate crisis was second only to fighting COVID-19 on his list of priorities. However, the governor’s proposals lacked clear pathways towards ending fossil fuel proliferation and extraction, instead promoting factory farming and fossil fuel technology like factory farm biogas, carbon capture and “green” hydrogen.

In response, Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy issued the following statement:

“Newsom’s proposed budget fails. It lacks a comprehensive investment plan for ending fossil fuels and factory farms, two major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Newsom includes funds for technologies that prop up these industries, like green hydrogen, factory farm manure digesters and carbon capture. Too many Californians lack access to fresh water and suffer from climate change induced disasters like wildfires. Newsom has allocated $2.7 billion for wildfire mitigation and $6 billion for drought support, but he neglects the root cause of these disasters: climate change hastened by fossil fuel emissions.”

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

Biden’s Temporary Chaco Canyon Protections Highlight Need For Permanent End to Drilling on Federal Lands

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, the Bureau of Land Management announced the withdrawal of 351,000 acres of land over the next 20 years within a 10-mile radius around the Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. The land will be removed from leasing sales for a period up to two years while the Department of the Interior evaluates the withdrawal application. 

President Biden promised to end fracking on public lands during his 2020 campaign, but instead has continued the approval of leases for oil and gas exploration across the U.S., including a massive sale of new leases off the  Gulf Coast

The Indigenous-led Greater Chaco Coalition criticized today’s announcement for failing to provide a long-term solution that protects the health and cultural sites of New Mexico’s Chaco community.

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

“President Biden’s actions showcase yet again his failure to fulfill his campaign promise to ban fracking on public lands. Initiating the withdrawal of federal mineral and fossil fuel extraction around Chaco Canyon is a promising but ultimately inadequate step. Until the Biden administration ends fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and cuts Big Oil’s stranglehold on our energy future, New Mexico will serve as one more reminder of Biden’s failure to protect the country’s climate and communities from profiteering corporations.”

New Mexico is the nation’s second largest oil producer and a potential new hub for fossil hydrogen, an energy source opposed by environmental advocates that locks in fossil fuel extraction and production.

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

NY Governor Hochul Ignores Crypto-Mining Threat to Her Climate Agenda

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

In her State of the State address this afternoon, Governor Hochul pledged bold commitments to phasing fossil fuels out of New York’s energy grid, including voicing support for a statewide gas ban. Unfortunately, the governor’s proposed gas ban takes effect far too slowly – 2027 – to meet the immediacy of the climate crisis. What’s more, her climate plan fails to address the growing threat of the crypto-mining industry in New York.

In response, Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp issued the following statement:

“Governor Hochul is taking the necessary strides on climate that her predecessor was too meek to address. Yet, in 237 pages of a staggeringly detailed State of the State book, Governor Hochul fails to address the mounting climate threat that crypto-mining poses to her climate agenda. We are hopeful that the Governor’s encouraging words on climate will be backed up by strong action, starting with a rejection of the Greenidge fracked gas power plant currently powering a bitcoin mining operation in the Finger Lakes and a commitment to stop the ludicrous practice of firing up dirty, retired power plants to mine cryptocurrency.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

NY Climate Activists Say Gov. Hochul’s Proposed Gas Ban is Too Slow, Urge Immediate State Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

After a successful campaign to pass a ban on gas in new construction in New York City, climate activists are pressing for rapid state-level action to enact a gas ban statewide. The move would make New York the first state in the country with a statewide gas ban, combating climate change, cutting deadly local air pollution, and creating jobs. Eric Weltman, Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch said:

“The threat of climate change demands rapid action to move New York off fossil fuels, but Hochul is moving dangerously too slow. We don’t have time to wait on banning gas in buildings statewide. Governor Hochul is right to stand with New Yorkers and her own Climate Action Council in supporting a ban on gas in new construction, but she must accelerate the timeline. Hochul’s proposal would take effect by or in 2027, slower than New York City’s newly-passed gas ban or even what the Climate Action Council proposed. Governor Hochul must act quickly, enacting the statewide gas ban through the state budget — now.” 

The #GasFreeNY campaign urges Governor Hochul to incorporate S6843A/A8431 (Kavanagh/Gallagher) into the state’s budget, enabling an immediate gas ban at the state level that would take effect in one year on new permits, as in other jurisdictions. 

Additionally, the state must not preempt stronger local gas bans on new construction by any municipality, including New York City.

“We urge Governor Hochul to incorporate gas ban legislation (S6843A/A8431) sponsored by Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Emily Gallagher into the state budget. The state should act immediately. There is no time to waste in the climate crisis and a gas ban also creates good jobs while cutting deadly air pollution. If the legislation passes, New York State would become the first state to end gas use in new construction, which has been enacted at the municipal level by over 50 localities nationwide to date, including New York City, San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, and Seattle,” said Megan Ahearn, Program Director for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).  

The #GasFreeNY campaign, which is expected to grow rapidly in the wake of climate activists landmark NYC-level victory, is composed of Earthjustice, Food & Water Watch, New York Communities for Change and NYPIRG.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

NY Gov Vetoes Ban on Spreading Oil and Gas Waste on Roads, Sides with Industry Over People

Categories

Climate and Energy

On December 23rd, Governor Hochul vetoed critical legislation (S355/A903) banning the spreading of oil and gas waste on New York’s roads. Fifteen counties in New York have already banned this dangerous practice, which poses a direct threat to both people and the environment. Both houses of New York’s legislature overwhelmingly voted in favor of the ban earlier this year.

Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp issued the following statement:

“Governor Hochul’s decision to side with the oil and gas industry over New Yorkers is appalling. As we head into the winter season, toxic waste from oil and gas operations is routinely being dumped on roads across the state, putting people at risk. Earlier this year, both houses of the legislature overwhelmingly passed crucial legislation to protect New Yorkers from this hazardous practice. Governor Hochul’s veto can only be described as an early Christmas present to corporate polluters.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Climate Justice Is Reproductive Justice

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Yonit Friedman

More than ever, people of childbearing age are choosing not to have children. There are a variety of factors that go into this choice — wage stagnation, the housing market, civil unrest, COVID-19. But a common denominator heard among many in their 20s and beyond is grave concern over our climate trajectory. They’re not wrong to be worried about what kind of climate and resources would be available for their potential kids. Climate justice is a crucial part of reproductive justice.

SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective includes in its definition* of reproductive justice “the human right to … parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” That is a key connection with climate change. A safe environment in which to have and raise children is a basic human right — violated by the climate crisis. From pregnancy to childhood, climate change threatens people’s reproductive health. 

“…the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”

*SisterSong’s Full Definition of Reproductive Justice

Climate Change Puts Pregnant People At Risk

Higher temperatures are an immediate symptom of the climate crisis. Hot weather is obviously uncomfortable for pregnant people, and it can shift quickly from discomfort to danger. Researchers in California found that for every increase of ten degrees, the risk of premature birth goes up by 8%. Air pollution has also been linked to premature birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth. Extreme climate events also have a negative effect on pregnant people’s health. After Hurricane Sandy in New York, emergency room visits for pregnancy complications increased by nearly 17%

The U.S. already has a horrific racist parental health crisis. Black and Indigenous birthing parents and babies die during birth, or soon after, at much higher rates than white parents. The climate crisis compounds this, and pregnant Black and Indigenous people face disproportionately high reproductive threats from climate change. Redlining is reflected in higher temperatures, lower air and water quality, and fewer trees in predominantly Black neighborhoods. This translates to poor health outcomes in pregnancy and birth. These examples of environmental racism also harm children of color after they are born, like high asthma rates among Black children. 

Climate Change is a Danger to Reproductive Health and Justice

It stands to reason that the option to raise children in a safe and sustainable environment is a human right. Therefore, climate change and the threat it poses to pregnant people, babies, children, and families constitute a human rights violation. As is so often the case, the individuals who face these threats are not the people who caused them. Careless and greedy fossil fuel CEOs have caused a public health crisis, and it’s long past time for their destruction to be stopped. The well-being of current and future generations requires nothing less. 

Share this piece on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about how climate justice and reproductive justice go hand in hand! 

Your friends need to read this.

Company Issues Misleading Letter to Landowners Impacted by Dangerous Carbon Pipeline Proposal

Categories

Climate and Energy

This weekend, news broke that former Governor Terry Branstad had issued letters on behalf of Summit Carbon Solutions to landowners impacted by the controversial carbon pipeline project proposed for the Midwest. Proposed to cover hundreds of miles across Iowa, Summit’s pipeline is a disaster in the making, posing serious threats to communities, land and climate.

The misleading letter from the pipeline developer warns landowners against community and environmental groups opposed to the destructive pipeline, saying that such groups “are not your friends” and could be “making wild claims about the pipeline and encouraging you to oppose it.” News of these misleading letters comes on the heels of the state refusal to make public the names of landowners impacted by the dangerous pipeline proposal, hampering the efforts of environmental and community groups to conduct outreach on the project.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“Carbon capture and storage is an unproven and unsound false climate solution. A distraction from the real work of reforming our agricultural and energy sectors to combat the looming climate emergency, carbon capture stands to make corporate cronies like Rastetter and Branstad very rich, while regular Iowans bear the brunt of the project’s many risks.

Carbon pipeline developers are using landowner names to specifically organize a misinformation campaign, while weaponizing the Iowa Utilities Board to prohibit community groups from conducting public education — it’s unjust. Iowans have the right to understand the many threats carbon capture and storage pose to our communities, land and climate.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Want ‘Bomb’ Trains Running Through Your Neighborhood? Neither Do We.

Categories

Climate and Energy

Photo of San Bruno PGE pipeline explosion in 2010. CC-BY © Thomas Hawk / Flickr.com
by Adam Carlesco

Until 2020, transportation of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail was prohibited in the U.S. The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) banned it due to the inherent volatility of the practice. Obviously, moving large amounts of explosive chemicals under extreme temperatures and pressure via aging privately-owned rail lines is catastrophically risky. This is why they’re often referred to as “bomb trains.” The Trump Administration finalized a rule in 2020 allowing LNG to be transported by trains. Their idea of an acceptable limit? Hauling up to a hundred DOT-113 LNG tanker cars. This development is extremely dangerous for front-line communities as LNG is highly flammable and explosive. An accident could mean uncontrollable fires and devastating explosions — LNG fires burn hotter and faster than fires caused by oil or gasoline

PHMSA themselves acknowledge the safety and environmental risk of LNG transport via rail under Trump’s 2020 rule. So it’s vexing that rather than repeal it, the Biden administration has proposed a rule that only temporarily suspends it. Meanwhile it will allow railways with DOT special permits to continue moving LNG. This is in effect until 2024 or until a new rule is issued, whichever comes first. If the data cannot support the 2020 rule, as PHMSA rulemaking notes, then the data cannot support a sunsetting suspension.

Bomb Trains Should Be Stopped — Not Postponed

In issuing this proposal, Biden’s DOT has fallen short of the administration’s promises to fight environmental racism and climate change.

The 2020 rule eliminated notice and comment requirements that would have otherwise accompanied every application for LNG transportation by rail. So fenceline environmental justice communities — disproportionately impacted — could remain unaware that such hazardous shipments were moving past their homes. Suspending the rule temporarily does not address the underlying shortcomings of the 2020 rule. It merely demonstrates a desire to postpone these explosive shipments while preserving harmful provisions of the rule.

Fossil gas is not clean energy and LNG rail transport is doing the atmosphere no favors. The greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction, transport, and re-gasification of LNG can oftentimes be just as much as from the burning of the gas itself. When combined with the emissions from the use of LNG at its destination, plus methane leakage during export, the greenhouse potential of LNG is similar to other fossil fuels. The industry touts LNG as a greener replacement for other fossil fuels, but bomb trains’ impact blows up that assertion. Issuing a temporary suspension is not climate action or justice — a full repeal is.

Tell PHMSA To Repeal Trump’s LNG by Rail Rule

Transporting LNG by rail is inherently dangerous and threatens the safety of many fenceline communities and degrades our atmosphere. If PHMSA now believes there is sufficient evidence of harm to suspend the rule, then there was never sufficient evidence of safety to allow LNG transport via rail in the first place. If there is sufficient evidence of harm, they should have never allowed special permits — let alone continue to.

However, at this time it’s only a proposal and public outcry could change the shape of the final rule. PHMSA requests all interested members of the public provide them with comments by December 23, 2021. Now is our opportunity to influence the final rule and compel PHMSA to once more prohibit LNG transport by rail. Tell the Biden administration to issue a full repeal. We must stop the transport of LNG via rail and prohibit the issuance of special permits for LNG shippers.

Send your comments to the government! They need to hear what you think of bomb trains by 12/23/21.

Midwest Groups Ask Sen. Schumer to Exclude Carbon Capture Credits from Build Back Better Act

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, eight groups issued a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, requesting that federal taxpayer dollars, credits and incentives do not go toward carbon capture and storage. Carbon capture and storage is a false climate solution that threatens to entrench both the fossil fuel and industrial agriculture industries and steal public money away from real climate solutions like wind and solar. The letter comes amidst Congressional debate on the Build Back Better Act.

To minimize the harms that carbon capture and sequestration poses, groups requested that Senator Schumer and Congressional Democrats:

  • increase minimum capture rates to 90%, which industry leaders consistently claim to the public that they are able to achieve,
  • eliminate the tax credit for carbon dioxide used in enhanced oil recovery, and 
  • ensure that CCS facilities and related infrastructure are not sited in disadvantaged communities.

The group’s letter came days after U.S. Representative Ro Khanna introduced legislation dubbed the End Polluter Welfare for Enhanced Oil Recovery Act to eliminate public subsidies for enhanced oil recovery.

“Carbon capture and storage has no place in a clean energy future — and no place in our backyards,” said Emma Schmit, Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer. “Posing immediate dangers to Iowans’ lives, land and livelihood, carbon capture and the pipelines that come with it are a false solution to the crisis we face. Congress must eliminate loopholes that funnel taxpayer dollars to this corporate scam. It’s time to double down on addressing the true causes of climate change — stopping fossil fuels and reforming our agriculture system.”

“Carbon capture and sequestration is just another greenwashing scheme designed to prop up the fossil fuel industry,” said Julie Duhn, Hardin County resident and member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “We don’t want our tax dollars lining the pockets of corporate profiteers who only seek to further destroy our planet when we should be trying to heal it. That’s why Iowa communities are banding together to keep these pipelines out of Iowa.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

The World’s Biggest Carbon Capture Scam Is Coming to Iowa

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Phoebe Galt and Emma Schmit

Overnight, Iowa has become ground zero for the world’s biggest carbon capture scam. Two corporations, Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator Heartland Greenway LLC, have proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. Each of them will require building hundreds of miles of hazardous pipelines across the state. The science and technology behind the ventures is unproven and unsound — minor details overlooked in the name of corporate greed. Iowa’s Governor Reynolds is happily ushering the projects forward.

We’re talking about “capturing” carbon emitted from ethanol and fertilizer facilities, transporting that hazardous material via pipeline, and injecting it into ancient rock formations. The companies claim that their technology is a requisite solution to the climate crisis. They’re lying.

‘Capturing’ Carbon Won’t Stop the Climate Crisis — It’ll Dig a Deeper Hole

CCS is a false climate solution, propped up by Big Energy and Big Ag so they can continue to profit. CCS relies on fundamental falsehoods to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about their real climate impact. Here’s how it’s supposed to work: carbon capture attempts to trap greenhouse gas emissions from smokestacks (in this case from dirty ethanol plants). It then transports the hazardous gas through communities via explosive pipelines, and injects it underground. In reality, these projects fail to capture all harmful emissions. They also don’t account for the pollution that goes into creating the ethanol in the first place. The industry also keeps quiet about CCS’ role in fossil fuel extraction. The dirty truth is that most of the captured carbon is pumped into oil wells to increase oil production. 

Carbon Capture Keeps Big Ag Alive

Over 13 million acres of land in Iowa are devoted to growing corn. Of that corn, 50% is currently used to produce ethanol. But those uniform acres of corn come at a serious cost to climate and communities. Industrial monocropping traps farmers in a cycle of dependence on Big Ag giants, like Monsanto, and forces their hand. Producers are required to use destructive farming techniques like tilling and fossil fuel-derived fertilizer application to turn a profit. Big Ag has profited off the lie that corn-derived ethanol is a “low carbon” fuel. They hope we’ll ignore the mega-emissions and harmful practices required to make it, so they can keep this system going.

Iowa is also littered with more than 10,000 factory farms, leaving communities to deal with their impact. This includes harmful water pollution, slumping rural economies and negative health effects. The ethanol industry plays a direct role in the success of the factory farming model. A leftover byproduct of the ethanol process is distillers grain, a cheap feed option often used in factory farming. Indeed, the existence of cheap feed is one of the leading factors keeping factory farming profitable. CCS will only make it worse, entrenching ethanol plants and factory farms, instead of shifting to a more sustainable system.

Carbon Pipelines Keep Fossil Fuels On The Grid

CCS and the miles of pipelines required to transport hazardous gases offer a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry. Pipelines created for carbon can also be used to transport fossil fuels, extending the industry’s reach.

What’s more, CCS can be used to extract even more fossil fuels. The majority of domestic CCS projects currently in operation are small projects located close to fossil fuel extraction and power plant sites. Where the carbon is created at these sites, it’s injected underground to extract oil. Summit has left the door open to this destructive process, known as enhanced oil recovery. Their pipeline runs right to Bakken oil fields in the Dakotas. 

Iowa CCS Projects Come At Our Risk And Our Cost

Iowans are expected to take on all of the risks of these CCS proposals, while Wall Street gets the reward. And the risks are tremendous. Carbon is an invisible, odorless gas that acts as an asphyxiant in the event of a pipeline rupture. It’s happened before; an entire town was gassed in 2020, sending 49 people to the hospital. Some of them are now saddled with negative lifelong health issues.

Rural community health systems are already overburdened by the enduring pandemic. Most Iowa communities don’t have the training or timely access to emergency services to properly handle a mass gassing event. The last thing our support services need is dangerous hazardous gas moving through peoples’ backyards.

Tens of thousands of Iowans are expected to risk their lives for these projects — and we’re expected to fund it. Like Big Ag and the fossil fuel industry, Summit and Navigator can only profit by crushing real people. Despite clear proof that CCS doesn’t work, we continue to see public tax dollars wasted on this false promise. Summit’s record-keeping shows their carbon pipeline proposal will be eligible for up to $600 million in tax credits each year. This is an immoral use of our public money.

Iowans Deserve Better Than Carbon Capture Scams

Iowans’ lives are a damn sight more important than the balance of multi-millionaires’ bank accounts. If you believe in putting people before corporate profit, join us in opposing carbon pipelines.

Tell President Biden to oppose carbon capture schemes — your voice can make a difference!

Company Behind Gowanus Fracked Gas Plant Repowering in NY Discontinues Project

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, as advocates celebrated the New York City Council’s passage of a citywide gas ban in new buildings, the company behind the Gowanus fracked gas power plant repowering quietly announced their discontinuation of the controversial project. The project had drawn opposition from New Yorkers and more than forty elected officials including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Mayor-Elect Eric Adams.

In response to the news, Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp issued the following statement:

“Gowanus is the latest fossil fuel project to close its doors in New York. From Governor Hochul’s decisions to stop both the Danskammer and Astoria fracked gas plants, to the New York City Council’s passage of a bold citywide gas ban, the days of fracked gas in our state are numbered. No Gowanus repowering means better health outcomes for New Yorkers and better climate outcomes for everyone. Eastern Generation’s decision to pull out of the project underscores New Yorkers unequivocal stance that fossil fuels and those who profit off their pollution are not welcome here.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

The Future Generations Protection Act — The Climate Bill We Urgently Need

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mitch Jones

Recent debates in Congress on climate action have been disappointing. They’re dominated by lawmakers proposing massive new handouts to the fossil fuel industry disguised as real action on climate. So-called “carbon capture” proponents want to prolong the fossil fuel industry’s existence well past what’s survivable for us. Conveniently for their donors, these projects will result in (potentially) billions of dollars coming their way. Whether helping them profit or watching them destroy our climate, Congress has failed to confront the fossil fuel industry.

It’s Going To Take Good Policy-Making For Renewables To Displace Fossil Fuels 

There are new, necessary investments in renewables, storage, and transmission, but these won’t directly shut down fossil fuel projects. We know that renewable energy sources like solar and wind have had remarkable growth in the past decade. We also know that growth is largely on top of fossil fuels, not displacing them.

Any truly serious climate plan must take on the industry and directly begin to shut down fossil fuel production, transport, and combustion. Luckily, a bill just reintroduced in Congress will do just that.

The Future Generations Protection Act is the most aggressive climate legislation introduced in this Congress. It has been reintroduced by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Nanette Barragan (D-CA) plus 20 of their colleagues.

Fossil Fuel Supply Must Be Cut Quickly To Stave Off The Worst Effects Of Climate Change

The urgency of the climate crisis is more obvious than ever. The most important step we must take is to cut off the supply of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. This bill is the most comprehensive approach to achieving that necessary goal. It stops fracking, puts a halt to new fossil fuel power plants, and ends the oil and gas exports that deepen global dependence on dirty forms of energy. Renewable energy has become increasingly affordable and available, so fossil fuels can no longer be claimed as a necessary bridge.

We know fracking has unleashed a steep spike of methane, a greenhouse gas 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Its ongoing release into our atmosphere is driving the devastating effects of our climate crisis. We know we must stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure now, yet utilities push for new natural gas power plants. And we know that oil and liquefied natural gas exports increase emissions at home and abroad. 

The Future Generations Protection Act will put a stop to all of these practices.

The Future Generations Protection Act Is Urgently Needed And Must Be Passed

Specifically, the legislation will:

  • Ban fracking by 2025
  • Prohibit any new electric power plants from emitting greenhouse gases
  • Stop the export of crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and liquified natural gas

This is the bold action directly confronting the fossil fuel industry on which our planet — and the future of everyone on it — depends. It’s the sort of bold action Food & Water Watch has championed since we became the first national organization to call for a ban on fracking a decade ago. Now it is Congress’ duty to act with that same boldness.

Send a note to your Congressperson asking them to support the Future Generations Protection Act today.

Virginia State Agency Awards Controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline A Critical Water Permit

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Richmond, VA — Today, despite mass grassroots opposition, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Water Board narrowly awarded the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) a critical water permit, by a margin of 3-2. The fate of the massive fracked gas pipeline will now rest with Biden’s federal agencies. Biden’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Army Corps of Engineers will have the final say on the project, with decisions expected from these agencies in early 2022.

Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director Jorge Aguilar issued the following statement:

“Mountain Valley Pipeline offers a critical opportunity for President Biden’s administration. Where Virginia state agencies and our Governor have abdicated responsibility to protect Virginians from the destruction and pollution of this massive fracked gas project, the federal government must now act. Leadership on climate change simply cannot include the Mountain Valley Pipeline. We call on President Biden to direct his federal agencies to deny the Mountain Valley Pipeline its required permits.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

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

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Cherry Hill Voters Will Decide Clean Energy Question

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biden’s Executive Order Fails to Confront Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

New York City Set to Ban Gas Use in New Construction Buildings

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

New York, NY – After a successful campaign led by the #GasFreeNYC coalition, New York City will soon ban the use of gas in new construction. 

Negotiations for legislation banning gas hookups in new buildings in New York City by limiting carbon emissions concluded late last night, with a final version of the bill slated to be voted on by the City Council next week. The legislation is sponsored by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel of Brooklyn and has 26 co-sponsors. Mayor de Blasio supports the legislation as does Speaker Johnson. 

The bill, Introduction 2317, ends gas use in small buildings under seven stories tall in two years (2023), starting on new permit applications, and ends gas use in large buildings over seven stories in five years (2027).

The #GasFreeNYC coalition, led by New York Communities for Change, NYPIRG, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and Food & Water Watch, championed this gas ban legislation for months, and issued the following statement today:

“Our climate movement is winning. The nation’s largest city is about to end gas hookups in new buildings and set a big precedent for other cities and states to follow. As climate action stalls at the federal and international level, New York City is leading the way on fighting climate change, cutting air pollution, and creating good jobs. The evidence is clear: an immediate shift to requiring gas-free buildings is both feasible and necessary. We have the technology and the skills to build all-electric buildings, many of which are already built or under construction across the city.

We applaud the leadership of Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who introduced the bill and fought hard against industry efforts to weaken it. We also thank Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson for their support. Most of all we thank the activists, organizations, and experts who made this pioneering victory possible. We call on the City Council to pass Introduction 2317 and officially end the use of gas in new construction. The devastation caused by Hurricane Ida in New York City this year was a painful reminder that delaying climate action is lethal for New Yorkers. Additionally, this legislation will prevent the use of future gas infrastructure in homes that contributes to poor air quality and therefore causes respiratory and cardiovascular illness.

We also urge the state legislature and Governor Hochul to pass the fossil-free building legislation (S6843A/A8431) introduced by Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, which would end fossil fuel use in new construction in one year for all of New York State.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Trenton Votes to Oppose Gibbstown Fracked Gas Terminal

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill’s Best And Worst Features

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mark Schlosberg

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that passed has hidden and disguised provisions that could lock us into continued fossil fuels. We should celebrate the increased funding of some good programs, but the sneaky giveaways for fossil fuels are downright ugly. This piece breaks it down. 

The Good  

Increased Funding for Water Infrastructure, Lead Pipes, and Rail — But Not Enough

The infrastructure bill contains about $50 billion for our nation’s water and wastewater systems over 5 years. This includes $15 billion specifically for lead pipe replacement and $10 billion to address PFAS forever chemicals. Funding for water is critical as pipes across the United States are crumbling. This is evidenced by many well documented water failures in Flint, Michigan; Martin County, Kentucky; East Chicago, Indiana; and Benton Harbor, Michigan. Significantly, we won a major fight in removing language that would have promoted water privatization. That language is not in the final bill following objections from Food & Water Watch and hundreds of other organizations.

While this spending is certainly good, it does not go nearly far enough. The $15 billion for lead pipe replacement, for example, is only about a third of what is needed. Also only 49 percent of funding will be grants — the rest is loans. While $50 billion over 5 years sounds like a big number, it is far short of the $35 billion per year that is needed. This is the level of funding contained in the WATER Act, which Food & Water Watch worked to introduce the last few congresses. 

Finally, the legislation also increased the ability of federal regulators to approve new transmission projects. These are necessary to sustain a buildout of wind and solar power. It removes the ability of states to block these necessary projects. 

The bill also contains $60 billion for rail — necessary funding as public rail must be part of our transportation future. But again, this number is far short of what is needed. It is not even enough to modernize Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the busiest passenger rail line in North America. It is nowhere near the levels that could radically transform American transportation and avert climate disaster.  

The Bad  

The Infrastructure Bill Ensures Money for Pipelines and Petrochemicals and Weaker Environmental Review

There are several provisions of the infrastructure bill that are clearly damaging to the environment and promote fossil fuels. For example:

  • Specific funding for loan guarantees for a natural gas pipeline in Alaska; 
  • A billion dollars to support the development of a petrochemical hub in the Ohio River Valley; 
  • Provisions that weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, reducing public participation and making it harder to stop fossil fuel projects. The bill enshrines into law some provisions of a Trump executive order that rushed environmental review.  The order was reversed by Biden but now some of its terrible provisions are back in play. 

The bill also continues to prioritize investment in roads and highways over public transportation. Instead, we need to massively invest in public transportation and transit-oriented development to move away from fossil fuels. 

The Ugly  

This Infrastructure Bill’s Sneaky Subsidies For Carbon Capture, Hydrogen, and  Fossil Fuels

The bill’s most damaging provisions are wrapped in clean energy language, yet lock us into decades more of fossil fuels. There are over $25 billion in subsidies for carbon capture and hydrogen. Framed as climate-friendly, these provisions essentially subsidize the fossil fuel industry, which stands to benefit from them. At the same time, Congress left in place existing subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

There are specific provisions, for example, for “regional clean hydrogen hubs.” Sounds good right? It’s ‘clean!’ Except the details state that two of these hubs must be in areas with the “greatest natural gas resources.” The plan is to increase fracking for the production of hydrogen, through steam-methane reforming. This ignores the fact that fracking releases massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere, driving climate change. 

Support for hydrogen and gas is littered throughout the bill. Even the somewhat touted provision for funding for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations is polluted with these industry-friendly provisions. The funding isn’t just for EV charging, but for EV charging, as well as hydrogen and natural gas fueling stations. 

Biden and Congress Must Step up To Take on Fossil Fuels

While there are provisions in the bill that make some positive changes, for the climate, it is a net negative. The infrastructure bill further locks us into a fossil fuel future and does little to promote renewable energy. It is incumbent on Congress to act swiftly to pass legislation to really take on the climate crisis and on President Biden to use his executive authority. Rather than catering to the corporations that are driving us over a climate cliff, Biden must act to halt fossil fuel expansion.

Your friends should know more about this.

Too Close For Comfort

REPORT - December 2021

What You’ll Learn From This Report

  • 1: Introduction
    • A special project at Food & Water Watch focuses on the people living near natural gas power plants, who tell a different story than the fossil fuel industry does when it comes to harmful effects. 
  • 2: The Fight Against Fracked Gas in New York
    • Mark Sanchez-Potter is a Newburgh, NY resident concerned about the Danskammer Energy Center.
  • 3: A California Community Member Becomes An Advocate
    • Kitty Merrill’s fight against the proposed Puente Plant in Oxnard, CA led her to become an environmental activist.
  • 4: The Ripple Effect of People Power in New Jersey
    • Bill McClelland has become a seasoned veteran in the battle between concerned residents and persistent power plants in New Jersey.
  • 5: Conclusion
    • Our future depends on us creating the political will to ban fracking and stop the buildout of more fossil fuel infrastructure.

Part 1:

Introduction

A special project at Food & Water Watch focuses on the people living near natural gas power plants, who tell a different story than the fossil fuel industry does when it comes to harmful effects. 

Our dependence on fossil fuels is destroying our climate and eroding the health and safety of everyone who lives in this country. Natural gas, produced primarily from fracking (hydraulic fracturing) — a dangerous form of drilling, is being touted as a “cleaner” fossil fuel by the industry and its supporters.1 But the experiences of those on the frontline show that it is anything but clean or safe.

At a time when we need to be shifting away from fossil fuels, more and more natural gas power plants are being proposed in communities across the United States. These plants prop up the toxic fracking industry and emit significant amounts of methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter and other pollutants.2 It is a public health and climate nightmare.

You can enter your zip code in this map to see the natural gas power plants — already built or being proposed — near you.

In this special project connecting our research with stories from the frontlines, Food & Water Watch interviewed the people living near these facilities. These stories uncover the plight of pollution plaguing communities, the health issues suffered and the victories from those who have been brave enough to fight against climate-polluting corporations.

The interviews took place in late 2020. In October 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul rejected a key permit that effectively blocks the proposed Danskammer Energy project, underscoring the importance of citizen activism.3

Following section divider photo credit: Gilles Uzan

Part 2:

The Fight Against Fracked Gas In New York

Mark Sanchez-Potter is a Newburgh, NY resident concerned about the Danskammer Energy Center.

The Power Plants Ravaging Neighborhoods Across The U.S.
Source Data: U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA); U.S. Census Bureau.23

Nestled in a New York suburb some 60 miles from Manhattan lies the diverse community of Newburgh, which is largely made up of Black and Hispanic people.4 Newburgh is also home to Danskammer Energy Center, a seldom-used natural gas power plant that has been the center of widespread opposition and rising tensions in the community. While New York is one of the only states to ban fracking, a dangerous proposal to turn Danskammer into a full-time fracked gas power plant would endanger the community in Newburgh and others nearby.5 The potential perils from this facility have sparked residents’ fears that the state is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to mitigating climate change.

Among these concerned residents is native New Yorker Mark Sanchez-Potter, who lives four miles from the plant in Newburgh. Mark’s involvement in volunteer work with Food & Water Watch and environmental activism naturally developed as he witnessed his community devastated by corporate pollution and, as he puts it, by “neglect” from every level of government.

For years, a military base polluted Newburgh’s main water supply with firefighting foam, and the area is now considered a Superfund site.6 Analyses found PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are toxic waste from chemical manufacturing and related products) in the community’s water— highly toxic forever chemicals that have been linked to medical issues like cancer. Outrageously, after these tests were run, state officials failed to warn residents not to drink the water.7 At the time of the interview, Mark said the community was getting its water trucked in from the Catskill Aqueduct.

The proposed expansion at Danskammer would have compounded the health and safety threats already plaguing the community. “These corporations don’t give a shit about Black and Brown folks and Indigenous folks, and that’s why they put these projects in these communities, and you know they wouldn’t put something like this in a white area of Westchester,” Mark lamented. The proposed plant would have run year-round and processed fracked gas from Pennsylvania.8 “It’s a bridge fuel to nowhere,” he says.

From being a former coal plant and now running on natural gas, Danskammer has historically polluted the community. Mark says residents have dealt with high rates of asthma and compounded pollution from vehicles and other modes of transportation. Between 2011 and 2013, the city of Newburgh had more than two times the number of hospitalizations for asthma as the entire state of New York.9 “Old folks, undocumented folks that we’ve talked to … understand ‘I don’t want to breathe that.’ So, it’s not the jargon of environmental science and the environmental movement that they understand, it’s the impact.”

The majority of the Newburgh community is staunchly against the facility’s expansion, but there are communal tensions between the plant’s union and its members that support the plant. The potential of new jobs in the area is enticing to blue-collar union members, but Mark says, “you know who these jobs are going to be for? They’re not going to be for the Black and Brown people in the city of Newburgh. They’re going to be for people outside of Newburgh who don’t have any connections or who don’t care about their company’s polluting.”

“Our energy needs will be met without Danskammer. We don’t need it.”

It’s safe to say the community won’t go down without a fight. Mark has been involved with various advocacy efforts in Newburgh, from bird-dogging elected officials to participating in a die-in (a visually stunning public action where participants represent the deadliness of a public health issue). He emphasized the importance of putting pressure on former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Governor Cuomo says he’s a climate leader, but I feel like he’s wishy-washy with a lot of climate issues.” Mark adds, “He has the executive power to stop the application process and … the plant. He has the ultimate authority.”

“We have to think of renewable energy,” Mark affirmed. “We need to be investing in renewable energy with an emphasis on a just transition for union workers.” New York has legislation in place to get the state to 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 (although 100 percent would be optimal). Former Governor Cuomo himself had been vocal about shifting the state to renewables, while creating clean energy jobs for New Yorkers.10 But to communities like Newburgh, it seems like lip-service. According to Mark, “our energy needs will be met without Danskammer. We don’t need it.” Governor Hochul’s October denial of the Danskammer permit in October 2021 shows what real climate leadership looks like. The next step for her administration is to halt all fossil fuel development.

You helped us stop Danskammer. Let’s beat the next environmental threat in NY, too! We need a ban on cryptocurrency mining powered by fracked gas!

Part 3:

A California Community Member Becomes An Advocate

Kitty Merrill’s fight against the proposed Puente Plant in Oxnard, CA led her to become an environmental activist.

The Power Plants Ravaging Neighborhoods Across The U.S.
Source Data: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); California Air Resources Board; California Department of Conservation.24

Kitty Merrill lived peacefully on the south end of Oxnard, California with her family for decades, completely oblivious to the “chemical soup” of pollution all around them. “It had this really charming feel,” Kitty described first moving to Oxnard. “You could drive and smell the strawberry fields, it’s just really cool.” And then, one day, a text message from her adult daughter changed everything.

“Did you know you’re in one of the most polluted areas in the region?” the text message read. Oxnard, California is flanked with contamination from mega agricultural operations, power plants, a wastewater treatment facility and a Superfund site — marking a history of pollution.11 “We get particulate matter from power plants; there was a recycling plant that turned out to be a Superfund site with toxic waste,” says Kitty. The strawberry fields that once enticed Kitty and her family turned out to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. “I realized this really wonderful environment that we sought out to raise our kids was really a toxic one.”

“I felt really betrayed that a community could look so perfect on the outside.”

In an area that is predominantly Hispanic and lower-income, residents are faced with terrible air quality and asthmatic conditions.12 In 2013, Oxnard had some of the worst air quality scores in all of Ventura County,13 and residents have reported feeling symptoms consistent with asthma.14 Kitty said she started hearing about asthma in the community and realized that her daughter first got asthma in elementary school. A lot of her daughter’s friends are also asthmatic. “It’s not just a statistic, it’s something that I was seeing in the real world, on a day-to-day basis.” She admits, “it never clicked with me that there was a connection.”

The pollution in the area often goes unacknowledged by the wider community, becoming an invisible threat. “People don’t really discuss pollution issues,” says Kitty. At the community college where Kitty worked, she was surprised that her students were not more passionate about the environmental issues in the community. “They were more concerned about bread and butter,” she recalls. The students “had parents that were agricultural workers” with “different levels of documentation,” which made it hard for them to focus their energy on the less obvious environmental dangers in the community. “They weren’t at the level where they could afford to start thinking about the health effects and the things … that are less immediate.”

At the same time, the community’s health issues were being exacerbated by the high concentration of existing natural gas plants in the area and threatened by repeated proposals for new ones, including power plants along the local beaches. When the Puente Plant was proposed for Oxnard, a coalition of fed-up locals, including Kitty, started rallying against the highly contentious facility.15 She began speaking out against the plant at community meetings, which was something she “had never done before.” “It was something I really felt strongly about, and I wanted to make sure that I could do what I could for my community.”

Ultimately the Puente proposal was knocked down after widespread opposition, but as California continues to be ravaged by larger and larger wildfires each year, it becomes all the more crucial to move away from fossil fuels in general. In fact, the state’s demand for electricity has declined in the past decade.16 “We’re at a point where so many things are changing in technology, that locking our community into fossil fuels for 20, 40 years … was just ridiculous.”

“I think that time is on our side, and in the same breath I can say time is against us because climate change is clearly here.”

Kitty continues to push for clean energy measures in her community, working alongside organizations like her local 350.org chapter, the Ventura Climate Hub, Food & Water Watch and other California organizers. “We’ve been putting our energy into county-level things.” She hopes that small changes on the local level will have a ripple effect at the state level. “I think that time is on our side, and in the same breath I can say time is against us because climate change is clearly here.” Despite it all, Kitty remains hopeful about “the possibility of change in our future.”

You can stand with us. Urge Governor Newsom to stop all new fracking and drilling permits in CA!

Part 4:

The Ripple Effect of People Power in New Jersey

Bill McClelland has become a seasoned veteran in the battle between concerned residents and persistent power plants in New Jersey.

The Power Plants Ravaging Neighborhoods Across The U.S.
Source Data: EPA; EIA.25

Despite the political clout and deep coffers of the fossil fuel industry, the collective action of the people can be even more powerful. Sometimes all it takes is a dedicated and passionate community unwilling to compromise. Bill McClelland has watched this play out in his diverse community in Hudson County, New Jersey where he has lived for the past four decades. “Obviously the goal is to ban and stop all fossil fuel projects,” Bill says.

Having lived in New Jersey for so long, Bill is familiar with the pollution that has plagued the state and his neighborhood in Hudson County. He says that over the decades, industrial development has resulted in “all sorts of environmental problems,” from “illegal dumping” to chromium pollution. Bill’s community is home to a large Superfund site, where for decades an oil processing plant spewed millions of gallons of contaminants into the soil and wetlands — including lead.17 “These industries, because they are in such isolated areas, can get away with anything.”

Historically, Hudson County has had air quality issues, receiving an “F” rating from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution from 2016 to 2018.18 Air pollution has also been linked to environmental justice issues in New Jersey, and one study found that particulate matter, a major natural gas plant pollutant, is associated with higher mortality among Black and lower-income residents.19 Notably, natural gas plants are a major source of particulate matter pollution.20 Yet the industry claims that these plants are “clean” and has been trying to push for new natural gas-fired power plants in New Jersey for years.

When the North Bergen Liberty Generating (NBLG) natural gas power plant was initially proposed in 201821, the community began fighting against its development. According to Bill, the plant would have been located in a pristine wetland called the Meadowlands, close to homes and a school — all of which prompted outcry from residents. Bill participated in a protest that was organized by students called March for Our Lungs, where “hundreds … maybe even a thousand people showed up,” he said. “We marched from the high school down to the site where this power plant was supposed to be.” Community organizing successfully led to the defeat of those plans at the end of 2020.

“You’ve got to be persistent … you can’t be intimidated by these people.”

On the heels of the NBLG win, the community found itself fighting yet another natural gas plant, this one proposed by New Jersey Transit. “Along came the proposal by New Jersey Transit to build another huge fracked gas power plant on the other side of the Meadowlands.” These plans were also quickly shot down after the community stood against the proposal.22 “You’ve got to be persistent and … you can’t be intimidated by these people just because they have power,” Bill emphasizes. “We’ve had two major victories in the last year, and … everyone is just high.”

What makes Bill’s story so inspiring is that he is a passionate resident committed to a better planet. “You know, I’m not a scientist — I’m a musician.” Bill’s interest in environmental advocacy started in the late 1980s when New Jersey first passed a mandatory recycling law. “I called the town, totally out the blue … and said ‘you need any help?’” The rest is history. As only a volunteer, Bill helped start up the state’s recycling program; he’s worked with North Bergen’s assemblymen on environmental issues over the years, and now stands with his community against natural gas power plants.

“A lot of these power plants … go on forever, long past time of usefulness, and they just get dirtier and dirtier and cause more problems.” But Bill remains motivated to continue to fight these natural gas proposals. “Our primary goal is to stop construction of any new power plants that plan to burn fossil fuels.” Riding the high of these wins, Bill and other community organizers and organizations are committed to banding together to fight other proposals around the state. He is now assisting in efforts to stop New Fortress Energy’s proposal for an LNG export terminal known as the Gibbstown Facility.

“I hope others seeing this say ‘wow it can be done,’” Bill says. Although it can be daunting to directly address the powers that be, the communities in New Jersey have proved to be fearless. And while he’s not sure he’ll be around long enough to witness a less-exploitive world, Bill remains hopeful for the future.

Help Bill keep NJ free from new fossil fuel infrastructure. Your voice makes a difference!

Part 5:

Conclusion

Our future depends on us creating the political will to ban fracking and stop the buildout of more fossil fuel infrastructure.

Our current energy system is unsustainable and dangerous to communities and people all across the United States. The continual push for more fracking has only further propped up the toxic oil and gas industry, with little regard for the communities carrying the burden of these consequences. The time for an energy system overhaul is now, and the good news is that people power can work with time and dedication. We need to ban fracking and make the shift to clean, renewable energy — because the health and safety of our communities and our very futures depend on it.

For clean energy to heal our planet, we must also ban fracking.

Add your name to the movement!

Endnotes
  1. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Energy Information Administration (EIA). “Natural gas explained: Natural gas and the environment.” Updated September 24, 2020. Available at https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/natural-gas-and-the-environment.php. Accessed March 2021 and on file with Food & Water Watch (FWW).
  2. Fard, Reza Fouladi et al. “The assessment of health impacts and external costs of natural gas-fired power plant of Qom.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Vol. 23, No. 20. August 2016 at 20922; Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. “Environmental Impacts of Power Plants.” June 2015 at 5.
  3. McKenna, Chris. “DEC rejects key permit for proposed Danskammer power plant in Newburgh.” Times Herald-Record (NY). October 27, 2021; FWW. [Press release]. “NY Governor Hochul rejects applications for Danskammer and Astoria fracked gas plants.” October 27, 2021.
  4. U.S. Census Bureau (USCB). QuickFacts. Available at https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/newburghcitynewyork. Accessed January 2021.
  5. TRC. Prepared for Danskammer Energy, LLC. “Preliminary Scoping Statement, Danskammer Energy Center.” Case No. 18-F-0325. February 2019 at 5-11.
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “What is Superfund.” Available at https://www.epa.gov/superfund/what-superfund. Accessed May 2021.
  7. McKinley, Jesse. “Military base near Newburgh is made a Superfund site over tainted water.” New York Times. August 12, 2016.
  8. Bellamy, Lana. “Danskammer Energy looks to hydrogen for future power; activists claim company is ‘greenwashing’.” Times Herald-Record (NY). August 31, 2020; FWW. “Twenty cities and towns in New York unite to oppose Danskammer fracked gas plant.” June 22, 2020.
  9. New York State Department of Health (DOH). “City of Newburgh: Health Equity Report.” February 2017 at 16 and 20.
  10. Walton, Robert. “New York expands state clean energy standard, moves to boost renewables use in the Big Apple.” Utility Dive. October 16, 2020; New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). [Press release]. “Governor Cuomo announces new competitive program to retain New York’s existing renewable energy resources.” January 22, 2021.
  11. Boyd-Barrett, Claudia. “As California’s ports expand, neighboring communities fight back against pollution.” California Health Report. March 18, 2019; Homefacts. “Ventura County, CA Environmental Hazards Report – Superfund Sites.” Available at https://www.homefacts.com/environmentalhazards/superfunds/California/Ventura-County.html. Accessed January 2021.
  12. Boyd-Barrett(2019); USCB.
  13. “Environmental report shows Oxnard has worst score in the county.” Ventura County Star. April 23, 2013.
  14. Dignity Health St. John’s Hospitals. “Oxnard, California Latino Community Health Needs Assessment.” April 2014 at 11 and 26.
  15. Weikel, Dan. “Oxnard residents are fighting slag heaps, power plants and oil field that mar the town’s beaches.” Los Angeles Times. July 9, 2017.
  16. Penn, Ivan and Ryan Menezes. “Californians are paying billions for power they don’t need.” Los Angeles Times. February 5, 2017.
  17. D’Auria, Peter. “Who will foot $24M bill to clean up one of Hudson County’s most polluted sites?” Jersey Journal. October 8, 2020.
  18. American Lung Association. “State of the Air: 2020.” 2020 at 121.
  19. Wang, Yan et al. “Estimating causal effects of long-term PM2.5 exposure on mortality in New Jersey.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 124, No. 8. August 2016 at 1182.
  20. Massetti, Emanuele et al. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Prepared for DOE. “Environmental Quality and the U.S. Power Sector: Air Quality, Water Quality, Land Use and Environmental Justice.”. ORNL/SPR-2016/772. January 4, 2017 at vii and 15.
  21. Heinis, John. “DEP grants first land use approval for $1.8B North Bergen electricity plant.” Hudson County View. July 6, 2018.
  22. Johnson, Tom. “NJ Transit opts for green energy, ending plan for gas-powered plant.” NJ Spotlight News. October 23, 2020.
  23. FWW analysis of Power Plants. US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Accessed March 2021; 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. US Census Bureau. Accessed March 2021; 2019 TIGER/Line Shapefiles. US Census. Accessed March 2021.
  24. FWW analysis of TRI Explorer. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Accessed March 2021; Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) Sites with Status Information. EPA. Accessed March 2021; Pollution Mapping Tool. California Air Resources Board. Accessed March 2021; WellSTAR. California Department of Conservation. Geologic Energy Management Division. Accessed March 2021.
  25. FWW analysis of TRI Explorer. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Accessed March 2021; Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) Sites with Status Information. EPA. Accessed March 2021; Power Plants. US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Accessed March 2021; Wetlands of New Jersey. New Jersey Geographic Information Network (NJGIN) Open Data. Accessed March 2021; Proposed NJ TRANSITGRID Project Area. NJ Transit. Accessed March 2021.

Drilling Report Reveals Biden’s Fracking Deception

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

Fracking, Power Plants & Exports: Three Steps for Meaningful Climate Action

REPORT - November 2021

Maple Shade Votes to Oppose Gibbstown Fracked Gas Terminal

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petitions to Create Renewable Energy Program Accepted in Cherry Hill

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frontline Communities March in Sacramento to Demand Newsom Stop SoCalGas Expansion

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – Two years after Governor Gavin Newsom urged his Public Utilities to Commission to expedite the closure of SoCalGas’ storage facility at Aliso Canyon, environmental advocates joined frontline community members for a march and sit-in at the governor’s Sacramento office protesting the facility’s expansion and urged Newsom to close Aliso Canyon with an Executive Order. At issue are other SoCalGas infrastructure projects steadily allowed to expand into neighborhoods by the Public Utilities Commission with Newsom’s tacit approval, including Playa Del Rey and Ventura. 

In the nearly three years since Newsom’s election, Sempra, parent company of SoCalGas, has already spent $115,823 lobbying the Public Utilities Commission — nearly 20 percent of what it spent over the eight years of Governor Brown’s tenure to influence the PUC. This year alone, the company spent more than $1 million lobbying legislators and agencies. Protestors marched from the Capitol to the Public Utilities Commission offices, where they symbolically “cleaned” the building, freeing it from undue influence from SoCalGas.

“Governor Newsom and his Public Utilities Commission have allowed SoCalGas free rein over frontline communities for far too long,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “No neighborhood is a sacrifice zone. And yet Porter Ranch, Playa Del Rey and Ventura have paid the price of fossil fuel development with their health and safety. Unless Governor Newsom directs the PUC to reverse course and halt the rampant expansion of this toxic infrastructure beginning with Aliso Canyon, California will never live up to its climate or environmental justice ambitions. Governor Newsom needs to use his authority and direct the immediate shut down of Aliso Canyon with an Executive Order.”

In Ventura, the PUC has all but greenlighted SoCalGas’ proposal to expand a compressor station 500 feet away from the E.P. Foster Elementary School and a Boys & Girls Club. Ventura residents have sent more than 280 emails and held three rallies in opposition to the project. Yet no Environmental Impact Report has been commissioned to ascertain the true impact of this facility’s expansion on the surrounding community which has suffered from decades of environmental racism.

“The Public Utilities Commission has let the West Ventura community down,” said Tomás Morales Rebecchi, Ventura resident and Central Coast Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “But the ultimate responsibility to protect the health and safety of Californians is Governor Newsom’s. We’re asking him to hold SoCalGas accountable for the sickness their infrastructure has caused and the danger it poses to our children every day. As Governor Newsom himself has said, fossil fuels have no place in our future. Neither does environmental racism. It’s time for Newsom to stop the expansion of gas infrastructure in neighborhoods like Ventura, Porter Ranch and Playa Del Rey.”

Faith Myhra spoke on behalf of Protect Playa Now: “SoCalGas has had 68 years to do right by our communities and they have proven they are not capable of being good neighbors. Since 2003, we have experienced toxic oily “mist,” a vent stack explosion and an oil well blowing open. It is time for Governor Newsom to act like a real climate leader and close these dangerous facilities down, stop any expansions, and hold the CPUC accountable to Californians whom they are supposed to protect.”

Jane Fowler with Aliso Moms Alliance survived the 2015 gas blowout and suffered health impacts like hair loss, brain fog, nausea, fatigue, etc. “Our health is still being impacted with these leaks that continue to this day,” she said. “I urge everyone to fight like hell to not let SoCalGas expand anywhere. Because once it’s here we’re stuck with it for years. Left to their own devices, SoCalGas will be the voice that is heard by our representatives. Our voices will not be heard unless we all stand up and fight.”

###

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

Ventura Residents Demand Newsom and EPA Stop SoCalGas

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA – Ventura residents are appealing to Governor Gavin Newsom and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan to prevent SoCalGas from expanding a natural gas compressor that’s footsteps away from an elementary school and Boys & Girls Club.

A coalition of community members, nonprofit organizations, and businesses — known collectively as the Westside Clean Air Coalition — are concerned about the environmental impacts of SoCalGas’ proposal to expand the Ventura Compressor Station, a natural gas compressor station at 1555 N. Olive St. in Ventura, CA. The site is directly across from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura’s Robert Addison Center and the E.P. Foster Elementary School, and less than a block away from the West Ventura neighborhood — home to approximately 13,000 people.  

The proposed gas expansion project raises significant environmental justice issues for the residents of Ventura. The smell of fumes is a regular occurrence in the West Ventura neighborhood. Compressors and pipelines are prone to ruptures, leaks and explosions. This site is a prime example of why oil and gas infrastructure should be included in Governor Newsom’s draft 3,200-foot setback rule which currently only applies to oil and gas drill sites. 

Ventura residents have sent more than 280 emails and held three rallies in opposition to the project. Yet the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District has thus far refused to review the environmental impacts on the surrounding community under the California Environmental Quality Act.

In a letter sent to the Governor’s office, the coalition urges Newsom to remind the Air District as well as the California Public Utilities Commission of their responsibility and authority to intervene, requiring an Environmental Impact Report before any further work can be performed on the compressor expansion.

In a similar letter, the coalition is asking EPA Administrator Regan to demand relevant permitting agencies conduct robust health and environmental assessments.

“Governor Newsom has taken promising steps to protect communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel drilling, but he must break his silence on the equally catastrophic impacts of fossil fuel infrastructure on nearby neighborhoods,” said Tomás Rebecchi, Food & Water Watch Senior Central Coast Organizer. “We appeal to him now to follow through on his commitment to protect communities facing environmental racism and injustice. The Public Utilities Commission allowed the unnecessary expansion of SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility. We cannot allow the unnecessary expansion of its Ventura Compressor.”

“Science draws a clear connection between the planet’s warming and fossil fuel industry activity,” said Shannon Simpson, Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas Executive Director. “Governor Newsom and the Environmental Protection Agency must consider the facts and demand that SoCalGas’ proposed expansion of their Ventura facility be properly reviewed to fully understand its effects on our environment and the densely populated Westside neighborhood. Earth and the frontline community cannot risk experiencing further harm from the greenhouse gas super emitter station.”

“Having this infrastructure here is an environmental injustice to the people who live nearby,” said Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, the Ventura-based outdoor clothing company that is part of the Westside Clean Air Coalition. “Not only is expanding a gas compressor across from an elementary school to pump more fuel through the region dangerous, it’s unnecessary and counter to California’s efforts to find solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Read the letter to Gov Newsom here.

Read the letter to the EPA here.

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

Biden’s Offshore Lease Sale Makes Mockery of Climate Rhetoric

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fossil Fuel Moratorium Passes New Jersey Senate Committee Vote

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

Five Cities Where Wildfire Smoke Is Making It Harder to Breathe

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Arianna Chopelas

Burning nostrils. Watery eyes. A cough that won’t quit. These are feelings that are all too familiar to people living in the Western U.S. The sunny, blue skies that were once a backdrop for beach days and camping trips are now smoky and grey, serving as a frequent reminder that we are in a climate crisis. And this summer, Western wildfires made national headlines when the smoke turned air quality “unhealthy” all the way in New York City.

Air pollution from wildfire smoke is full of dangerous, microscopic particles called PM 2.5. These tiny specks of debris can lead to long-term health problems like respiratory disease, heart failure and developmental impacts in children, not to mention the mental health stresses of living in a world shrouded in smoke. 

But protecting our communities from climate change and these fires is as much of an environmental justice issue as it is a public health issue. Low-income communities and communities of color are already more likely to live in areas with unhealthy air quality, and due to years of systemic racism, suffer from higher rates of disease and illnesses like COVID-19. Adding in another layer like wildfire smoke is like pouring fuel on the fire.

The Drought in the West and Climate Change Are Making Smoky Skies the New Normal

Here are five cities where smoky skies are getting worse – and might become standard – if our elected officials don’t act to stop climate catastrophe and ban the fossil fuel infrastructure that’s driving it.

Known for its ancient Native pueblos and towering mountains, Flagstaff, Arizona is one of the many Western cities living in a fog of wildfire smoke. From 2016-2020, people living in Flagstaff experienced an average of 72 smoky days every year, which is a 79 percent increase from the years 2009-2013. Since most summers are 92 days long, that means that Flagstaff residents could have experienced unhealthy air quality and smoke for almost four out of five days of the summer.

The geography of California’s state capital already makes it vulnerable to air pollution, with smog and PM 2.5 often collecting in the valley throughout the year. The addition of wildfire smoke left residents having to cope with an average of 58 unhealthy air quality days per year from 2016-2020. On top of that, people living in Sacramento experienced a shocking 174 percent increase in unhealthy air quality days compared to 2009-2013. And even more shocking? People living in neighboring Yuba County experienced an average of 81 smoky days per year from 2016-2020. Yes, you read that right: 81.

Reno’s proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California means it’s also close to California’s wildfires. From the years 2016-2020, Reno residents experienced an average of 42 smoky days every year, which represents a considerable difference and a 132 percent increase compared to the years 2009-2013. In 2021 alone, Reno lived through 24 days of an unhealthy air quality index of 101 or higher – all before mid-August.

People living in the Denver area are no strangers to wildfire smoke, but that doesn’t make the increased number of smoky days any more manageable. With residents experiencing an average of 40 wildfire smoke-affected days per year from 2016-2020, that would be like spending nearly half of every summer unable to see the horizon and breathing unhealthy air. 

Portland made national headlines earlier this year after an extreme heatwave melted streetcar power cables and killed nearly 100 people. But what didn’t make the headlines is another climate change-related problem: Portland’s residents experienced an average of 34 smoky days per year from 2016-2020. Compared to the average of 23 smoky days per year from 2009-2013, that represents an increase of almost 50 percent.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This. We Can Stop Our Planet From Going Up in Smoke.

By refusing to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure and relying on false climate solutions like carbon capture or “renewable” natural gas, our elected officials and the Biden administration are locking us into decades more of fossil fuel dependence, all but ensuring that climate change – and the resulting droughts and wildfires – will only get worse. Switching sunglasses out for N-95 respirators and having important community events canceled because of fires simply isn’t sustainable.

That’s why all of us in the climate movement need to raise our voices together and demand that the Biden administration start taking the climate crisis seriously. Will you sign a petition now to urge President Biden to ban fracking on federal lands? We need to act now – before it’s not just harder to breathe, but impossible.

President Biden, it’s time to ban fracking on federal lands.

Biden Administration Dodges Any Real Reform of Trump’s NEPA Rules

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Adam Carlesco

Last year Trump’s administration finalized drastic changes to how federal agencies perform environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It resulted in the gutting of public engagement requirements, expansion of the exemption list, and narrowed the scope of review. As part of a coalition, Food & Water Watch sued the administration for violating clear statutory requirements. Now the Biden administration, rather than repeal the 2020 rules, has decided to piecemeal tweak the Trump administration’s handiwork. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) oversees how all federal agencies implement the environmental review requirements of NEPA. They recently issued a “Phase 1” rulemaking to address issues with the 2020 rulemaking. Rather than return to rules that guided federal agencies for over forty years, the Biden CEQ has largely accepted the 2020 alterations. They are changing only three of the most grievous mistakes.

The Changes Proposed By CEQ Are Needed, But Aren’t Enough

This draft Phase 1 rulemaking proposes reinstating the definition of “effects” to include indirect and cumulative impact. This will require agencies to review climate impacts of permitting decisions. This proposal would also make CEQ’s rules the regulatory floor for agencies – not a ceiling like 2020’s rules. That means individual agencies can make their own agency-specific NEPA review requirements that are more stringent than CEQ’s. Additionally, the proposed rule looks to expand alternative analyses of a proposed project. The Trump administration required that all determinations of need and consideration of alternatives “meet the goals of the applicant.” This let industry developers narrowly define the scope of projects so that few or no alternatives met their stated goals.

While the amendments made within this proposed rule are necessary, they largely neglect the voluminous deficiencies of the 2020 rules. A complete repeal of 2020’s rules and reinstatement of those that have governed NEPA for decades would be most appropriate.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality Should Entirely Repeal the 2020 NEPA Rules

The 2020 changes went further than removing indirect and cumulative effects consideration and instituting a ceiling on agency NEPA implementation: 

  • They restricted public engagement; 
  • They let project developers (like pipeline companies) set the government’s scope of review;
  • And they even allowed developers to start some construction before the review begins. 

The 2020 rules also expressly exempted federal loan guarantees to would-be factory farm operators and vastly expanded categorical exclusions. That allows potentially harmful projects to entirely evade environmental review. The 2020 rules moved the goal posts for requiring an in-depth environmental review by redefining the term “major federal action.” It also allowed more projects to evade such in-depth review by expanding mitigated findings of no significant impact. These are just the most glaring issues – many more can be found within the 2020 rules. 

Additionally, the 2020 rules introduced subtle language changes that greatly alter how agencies proceed with environmental review of proposed projects. These shifts are almost entirely to the detriment of the public and environment. The sheer volume of changes in the 2020 regulations underpin numerous threats to public health. A piecemeal approach to amending Trump’s regulatory framework is not enough to adequately address them.

Tell The Biden Administration To Repeal Trump’s NEPA Rules, Not Tweak Them

The Trump administration’s changes to how the federal government reviews the environmental impacts of projects are pervasive and detrimental. We cannot simply amend them. The 2020 NEPA rules are beyond reform and require total repeal before making any future changes to the NEPA process. Through omission, CEQ’s tweaks to the 2020 rules would cement many of their serious deficiencies, including Trump’s expanded exclusions. The good news is at  this time it’s only a proposal. CEQ requests all interested members of the public provide them with comments by November 22, 2021. Now is our opportunity to influence how the final rule takes form.

Ask CEQ to completely repeal the 2020 rules Trump instituted! Our future depends on it.

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

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

Newsom’s Failure to End Fossil Fuel Permits Results in California’s Second Tier Membership in BOGA

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — California took its place today as a second-tier associate member of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a network of states and sub-nations committed to ending the expansion of fossil fuel production. California is ineligible for first-tier membership because Governor Newsom has yet to ban new oil and gas drilling permits. 

In response to the announcement, Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy released this statement:

“Rather than exemplifying a holistic approach to climate action, California’s admittance to BOGA as an associate member highlights what prevented it from joining as a first tier member: Governor Newsom’s failure to stop new oil and gas permitting. Vital as Governor Newsom’s actions like banning new oil wells within 3,200 feet of communities are, his pattern of slow progress is not enough to stop global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Nor is it enough to secure Governor Newsom’s place as a climate leader with the rest of BOGA’s first tier members. That path begins with ending all fossil fuel permits and that is what we urge Governor Newsom to do.” 

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

TECO Net-Zero Plan Threatens to Take Tampa Backwards on Clean Energy Commitments

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, with the support of Tampa’s Mayor Castor, the city’s utility monopoly TECO announced a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The commitment is severely lacking in details, but one thing is for sure — it threatens to take the city backwards on clean energy, without a firm commitment to ending the use of fossil fuels citywide. 

TECO’s announced commitment is at odds with an enacted resolution passed by the Tampa City Council earlier this year, which called for 100% renewable energy by 2035, more than a decade before TECO has committed to a weaker “net zero” energy grid. In addition to a slow timeline, advocates warn that net-zero commitments are smoke and mirrors, relying on faulty carbon offsets and untested carbon capture technology to distract from the continued burning of polluting fossil fuels.

Where the city has all but abdicated responsibility to act boldly on clean energy, Tampa Bay Climate Alliance groups called on Tampa’s U.S. Representative Castor to push bold federal policies that eliminate fossil fuel use nationally to act where Tampa is not. Brooke Errett, Food & Water Watch Senior Florida Organizer said:

“With less than a decade left to enact sweeping reforms of our energy grid, TECO’s faulty net-zero commitment is an embarrassment. Business as usual is nowhere near bold enough for the crisis we face. Mayor Castor should know better than to buy greenwashed corporate commitments like this one. We need U.S. Representative Castor to step in and champion federal policies that cut fossil fuels out of our energy grid once and for all.”

“TECO’s Net Zero by 2050 commitment just means the company will pay for carbon offsets or invest in carbon capture technologies as they continue to pollute, with no formal commitments to transition or phase out of fossil fuels,” said Mary-Elizabeth Estrada, Tampa Climate Justice Organizer with the Florida Student Power Network. “We need a just-equitable transition from TECO, not another performative greenwashing commitment to continue business as usual, while our future is at stake.”

“PSR Florida joins climate scientists and healthcare professionals around the globe in viewing net zero carbon as a dangerous trap that denies the urgency of the climate crisis and net zero’s inequitable application for low-income communities. Shame on TECO and the Mayor of the great City of Tampa for dragging the city into the trap,” said Howard Kessler, MD, President PSR Florida. “PSR Florida calls on federal policy makers to protect public health and address the climate crisis by promoting 100% clean and renewable energy legislation today.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

New Biden Administration Rule on Liquified Fracked Gas (LNG) Rail Transport Won’t Protect Floridians

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation filed an anticipated new rule suspending a 2019 Trump Administration rule that opened the door to allow shipments of LNG (liquefied fracked gas) by rail. The new rule temporarily suspends rail transport for the highly flammable hazardous material, while the agency evaluates whether LNG by rail should be allowed in a separate rulemaking. 

The rule reversal will not, however, impact the dangerous “bomb train” experiment moving forward along the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). Thanks to a special federal permit FEC acquired under the Trump administration, this new rule from the Biden Administration will not impact New Fortress Energy’s rail transport of LNG in Florida.

In response to the report, Food & Water Watch Southern Region Deputy Director Michelle Allen issued the following statement:

“For the past few years, the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) has been transporting extremely volatile LNG on tracks that pass through dense communities. Public health advocates and engineers alike have been sounding the alarm on the ticking time bomb of LNG rail transportation projects like Florida’s. Simply put, LNG transport by rail poses unnecessary risks to Florida’s communities.

Big Oil & Gas’ insatiable thirst for profits will inevitably lead to more LNG projects across Florida unless stronger action is taken by the Biden Administration. Miami-Dade, Broward, and Jacksonville are already home to LNG facilities, and companies are eyeing further expansion across Florida. As more LNG facilities are built, the industry will look to expand the rail transport of the dangerous substance through more Florida communities. The Biden Administration must do more to protect Florida from dangerous LNG rail transportation. President Biden must permanently ban all rail transport of LNG, including overturning FEC’s special permit.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Fossil Fuels Were Dealt A Big Blow On Both Coasts. We Couldn’t Be Prouder.

Categories

Climate and Energy

Photo by Hannah Benet

by Mark Schlosberg

In mid-October the climate justice movement scored major victories in California and New York. California Governor Gavin Newsom released a draft rule banning new drilling within 3200 feet of homes, schools, and other sensitive sites. In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul rejected two new fracked gas power plants. These victories are huge and did not happen spontaneously. They only happened because of years of organizing and they mark a continuing shift in the political dynamics of fossil fuels.

A decade ago, these wins would have seemed impossible. Fracking in New York appeared inevitable. Then-Governor Cuomo had convened a task force that included some leading environmental groups to discuss how to regulate it. In California, then-Governor Jerry Brown was a friend to the oil and gas industry. He famously went on national television in 2015 to defend fracking and increasing oil production in California. 

Fossil Fuel Interests In New York Were Strong, But People Power Is Stronger

In spite of powerful adversaries, communities organized. Food & Water Watch joined with other grassroots organizations to launch New Yorkers Against Fracking. This coalition to ban fracking grew into a broad-based, diverse, and powerful force. Actions across the state targeting Cuomo were non-stop. Following his underwhelming 2014 re-election, Cuomo had enough and announced a ban on fracking

But the movement was not done. Various coalitions and grassroots organizations continued to fight pipelines, export facilities, and power plants, toppling one after another. The result has been a shift in the political dynamics of the state — fossil fuel projects are no longer politically tenable. Governor Hochul cited New York’s climate law when she rejected the Danskammer and Astoria fracked gas power plants. She also promised more action to come. 

Our Movement’s Work In California Paved The Way To Newsom’s Fracking Setbacks Announcement

Unlike New York, California is a major oil-producing state. For many years it was among the top four oil-producing states in the country. The oil industry is entrenched there and politically powerful. Former Governor Jerry Brown was adamant about protecting the state’s oil industry. He even fired the head of the state’s oversight agency in order to expedite oil permitting. 

But in parallel with New York, communities organized and the dynamic has started to change. Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Center on Race, Poverty & The Environment along with others launched Californians Against Fracking. Through the coalition, we directly challenged Governor Brown across the state and also organized several winning local campaigns. The anti-fracking movement passed fracking bans in Monterey, San Benito, Butte, Mendocino, Alameda, and Santa Cruz counties.

In 2018 groups working on these issues expanded and refocused into the Last Chance Alliance. LCA demanded Governor Newsom stop all new oil drilling, institute setbacks, and rapidly phase out all oil production. Environmental Justice groups formed a coalition that year as well, VISION, to provide essential leadership in pushing statewide setbacks. 

The Most Recent Urgent Pressures That Pushed Newsom To Act

More wins followed. Food & Water Watch partnered with local allies to block hundreds of proposed new oil wells in Santa Barbara and Ventura County. We supported successful community efforts to stop all new oil drilling in Los Angeles County — the city must still act to do the same. 

Governor Newsom faced increasing pressure from our movement to go beyond symbolism and take real action to stop fossil fuel expansion. He started to deny fracking and drilling permits and announced he would ban fracking by 2024 and phase out oil production by 2045 — falling far short of what is needed. As California’s drought deepened and wildfires raged across the state, pressure continued to mount. Ultimately, Newsom released his plan to stop new drilling within 3200 feet of sensitive areas.

Fossil Fuels Have Got To Go, So Our Work Continues And We Need Your Support

Neither of these actions go far enough. Governor Hochul must stop other fossil fuel projects, support efforts to ban gas in new construction, and accelerate plans to phase out existing fossil fuel plants as New York state ramps up renewable energy. In California Newsom must stop all new fossil fuel projects including gas in new buildings, shut down the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, and expand his proposed rule to shut down existing neighborhood drilling. He also must aggressively work to expel fossil fuel money from the Democratic party as the oil and gas industry continues to block legislation in the Capitol. 

Though there’s more to do, these actions are real wins that will have a meaningful impact on people’s lives and our climate. They are a sign of what is possible when we organize. They show how together, we can change the political dynamic and our future. And they prove that elected leaders will respond to public demands if we are consistent and powerful. 

While heads of state debate how to address the climate crisis in Glasgow, these two wins are a great reminder that we do have the power to compel the changes that are needed. And it is a reminder that the only way we will be able to avoid runaway climate chaos is by growing an even bigger, more powerful, and uncompromised movement for change.

Will you stand with us and power more wins like these?

Your involvement adds up and makes a difference in our climate future.

In Defiance of Governor’s Mandate, CPUC Votes to Increase Gas Storage at Aliso Canyon

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – In defiance of demands from frontline community members, environmental and public health advocates, and state and local legislators, the California Public Utilities Commission voted “yes” today on an industry-backed proposal to increase the gas storage capacity at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon natural gas facility. The proposal raises the storage capacity limit to 60% percent allowable capacity at 41.6 Bcf. The commissioners voted unanimously to increase storage despite 62 public comments from public health advocates, residents and environmental activists to shut the facility down. Among those calling for the increase were the Indicated Shippers, a group of oil companies including California Resources Corporation, Chevron, Phillips 66 and Tesoro.


“The Public Utilities Commission voted today in favor of fossil fuel interests, not the wellbeing of California ratepayers,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Allowing any increase in storage capacity at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility is not only dangerous, it is needless. SoCalGas and its shareholders are the only ones who profit from this disastrous glut of natural gas in the backyard of their ratepayers. Governor Newsom has instituted setbacks to protect frontline communities from oil and gas drilling. But where is the protection for communities in the shadow of gas infrastructure like Aliso Canyon? Governor Newsom has made it clear that Aliso Canyon should be shut down. Now he must follow his mandate with action and ensure the CPUC closes this facility once and for all.”

In 2019, Governor Newsom directed the CPUC to expedite the closure of Aliso Canyon. In the interim, the L.A. City Council as well as the L.A. Board of Supervisors have also voted in favor of shutting the facility down immediately. The most recent legislators to call for the closure of SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility are Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Alex Padilla (D).

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

The Story of Your Year with Food & Water Watch

Categories

Climate and Energy

Photos by Rebecca Wolf, Hannah Benet and Survival Media Agency

It’s our year in review! The Story of Your Year shows the real results from your investment in Food & Water Watch, including actions you and our members took that moved our mission forward in 2021 — petition signatures, calls, texts, and emails to legislative offices, letters to the editor, and the many other ways our members invested their time this year. From rallying against pipelines to exposing the suffering caused by factory farm pollution, and more — we showed up, we fought for our climate and resources, and we’re winning.

This dive into the numbers showcases some of our 2021 accomplishments. It highlights our strength – the movement we continue to build and the momentum you’ve created. We look forward to even greater successes in the coming year!

The passion you bring to the fight for our food, water, and climate makes all of our victories possible — including those in the video and stats below:


In 2021, the EPA has only banned one pesticide, chlorpyrifos. For years, we’ve been fighting for them to ban glyphosate. We sounded the alarm, published research and educated policymakers about its danger.  

We compiled data that showed glyphosate:

  • Interferes with hormone levels, even when its residue on foods is present at low levels;
  • Is a “probable carcinogen,” linked strongly to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, according to  the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer — which has underpinned many of the lawsuits against Monsanto/Bayer;
  • May contribute to antibiotic resistance in certain bacteria;
  • May be linked to reproductive issues and birth defects; and
  • Is widely present in our food. 

In part because of our work, Bayer announced it would be pulling glyphosate from consumer products! We have more work to do — they’ll still be selling it for large-scale agriculture which is its path to our food — but this is a step in the right direction.

In 2021, Food & Water Watch challenged dozens of corporations and government regulators in court. We’re fighting to put people ahead of corporate profit. 

Late this year, Food & Water Watch won a landmark lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. Our victory will force the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act and require factory farms in Idaho to monitor and report on their water pollution.

This means that polluting factory farms in Idaho must now comprehensively monitor and report on water pollution for the first time. More importantly, the precedent is relevant everywhere across the country where factory farm permits take the same illegal approach.

We will use this huge win to fight factory farm pollution across the country!

Without monitoring, factory farms have polluted at will for decades. Our victory is a critical first step to hold the industry accountable; it brings us closer to banning factory farms forever.

Thanks to pressure by Food & Water Watch and allies, the House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021, jumpstarting regulations for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxic lab-made “forever chemicals.” The legislation would require the EPA to set drinking water standards for the two most-studied PFAS chemicals and would designate these as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund program to promote the cleanup of toxic sites. 

Studies show that long-term exposure to PFAS is associated with many health problems, including liver malfunction, birth defects, thyroid disease, weakened immunity and cancer. 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. 

Food & Water Watch’s fight for clean drinking water is making a difference. We will continue to fight alongside you for everyone to have access to clean public water.

Your support brings a team of volunteers together to fight for and advance our mission, guided by our organizers and empowered by our research, legal expertise, and advocacy.

In 2019, we piloted our first formal volunteer program, the Food & Water Volunteer Network. Big, systemic change takes mobilizing people-power to convince decision-makers. We know that the larger our movement, the bigger the impact we can make. 

Food & Water Watch volunteers take on leadership roles aligned with their skills and build our capacity to pressure elected officials at all levels. We have formally launched volunteer hubs in Florida, New York, Iowa, California and Oregon and we’ll be adding more in 2022.

If you’re eager to take an extra role in this movement, join Food & Water Watch’s volunteer network. We’d love for you to join us for national volunteer calls, ​​trainings and workshops, and to work alongside other dedicated volunteers throughout the country. Our volunteers change the world, one location at a time! Learn more: fwwat.ch/volunteer2021

Food & Water Watch delivers groundbreaking research and bold policy recommendations on climate change under three interrelated fronts. A sustainable food system, safe, affordable water, and leaving fossil fuels in the past all help to create a livable future. Food & Water Watch provides scientific, factually grounded educational tools to inform the public and elected officials about these issues.

Our members do a wonderful job sharing these resources to spread awareness of the bold solutions Food & Water Watch is fighting for. 

Here are the top 5 articles our members read and shared this year:

Understanding Food Labels

Fracking, Federal Lands, and Follow Through 

Monsanto — Er, Bayer — Will End Glyphosate Sales. It’s Not Enough. 

Guide To Safe Tap Water And Filters 

5 Big Misconceptions About President Biden’s Fracking And Drilling Orders

And our debut digital report showcasing our new digital format and showing a path forward for our food system:

Well-Fed: A Roadmap To A Sustainable Food System That Works For All

We at Food & Water Watch are grateful for your generosity. 

Your investment in the fight for safe food, clean water, and a livable climate makes a huge impact. Thank you for standing with us to make a difference and fight like you live here!

Your help has been pivotal.

Thanks for everything you do!

A Stronger Approach to Methane Pollution: Ban Fracking

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

Time Is Up On Fossil Fuels, Biden. Our Communities Can’t Wait!

Categories

Climate and Energy

Photo by Emad Mohammed | Survival Media Agency

by Laurel Levin and Thomas Meyer

As the climate crisis has picked up speed, so has the movement to stop it in its tracks. From October 11th – 15th, Food & Water Watch co-organized the People vs. Fossil Fuels actions in D.C. Throughout the week, thousands took to the steps of the White House and the U.S. Capitol with a clear demand. We asked that President Biden stop all new projects involving fossil fuels and declare a national climate emergency. Indigenous organizers and other front-line communities made the message loud and clear. Continuing business as usual is catastrophic for our communities, our water, our health, and our future. 

Food & Water Watch mobilized our allies from many different local campaigns to join the action in DC. From the fight against fracking in Pennsylvania and pipelines in Virginia, we came together to demand that President Biden end the era of fossil fuels. In addition to dozens of volunteers and activists, twelve Food & Water Watch staff participated in civil disobedience on October 14.

A Glimpse Into The Action At The People Vs. Fossil Fuels Rallies

In total, over 650 people were arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience. It generated a huge amount of media coverage, and forced the Biden administration to publicly respond to our demands!

Each day, hundreds of people gathered at Freedom Plaza for opening prayer and grounding. Indigenous water protectors, activists, and Tribal leaders from across the country lead the march from Freedom Plaza to the White House. Then on the final day, youth organizers led as we marched to the Capitol. All told, about 120 people on average were arrested daily in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. The purpose was to demand that President Biden uphold his promises on climate action.

People who volunteered to be arrested stand in front of the White House during a march to protest against fossil fuels on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
People who volunteered to be arrested stand in front of the White House during a march to protest against fossil fuels on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades | Survival Media Agency

The Message Was Clear — Choose People Over Fossil Fuels

Protesters rallied under banners that read “Our Communities Cannot Wait,” “Stop Fueling the Flames,” and “Real Solutions, No Bullshit.” Speakers from Alaska to Louisiana gave testimony about heatwaves, floods, fires, hurricanes, and other climate disasters that threaten their communities. The gravity of these testimonies fueled our spirits and kept the energy going through each long day.

Additionally, we heard from Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch. She gave a moving testimonial on Thursday about the Mariner East pipeline cutting through her community in Chester County.

Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch, speaks about the devastation of pipelines that transport fossil fuels.
Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch. Photo credit: Rebecca Wolf

“This fracked gas pipeline has brought danger and destruction to families across Pennsylvania. But it has also helped change public opinion, and now residents from across the political spectrum oppose fracking and the pipeline. President Biden may falsely believe he won Pennsylvania on account of his support for fracking, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Fracking is a loser for our climate, air, water, health and safety.”

Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Food & Water Watch Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer

Biden Has The Unique Authority To Act On Climate Now

President Biden has the authority through executive action to implement our demands today; no messy negotiations in Congress necessary. But here’s the main problem: Biden is unwilling to take on the fossil fuel industry. As a movement, we must make it clear that anything less than a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels is not enough. We call on President Biden to deliver on his promises. He must directly take on the fossil fuel industry to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.

The Pressure Activists Are Placing On Biden To Thwart Climate Change Is Just Beginning

People vs. Fossil Fuels was the largest climate mobilization and civil disobedience action in years, but the struggle continues. Our actions forced the Biden administration to respond to our demands. Additionally, they highlighted resistance to fossil fuel projects just weeks before the next UN Climate Summit in Glasgow.

Casey Camp Horineck, Councilwoman and Hereditary Drumkeeper of the Women's Scalp Dance Society, of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, speaks at the People Vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization.
Casey Camp Horineck, Councilwoman and Hereditary Drumkeeper of the Women’s Scalp Dance Society, of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, speaks at the People Vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization. Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood | Survival Media Agency

Overwhelmingly, this week of action demonstrated that the people have had enough empty promises and watered-down climate policies. At Food & Water Watch, we are determined to keep the pressure on. We’re meeting President Biden and his team wherever they go across the country, demanding that they stop fossil fuels and declare a climate emergency. And it’s not just us. Rep. Cori Bush’s office, along with twelve other members of Congress, released this letter. It calls on President Biden to meet our demands and act on fossil fuels before it’s too late. 

Urge President Biden to show bold leadership through executive action today!

Use your voice to stand in solidarity and ask President Biden to act now.