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]

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]

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

Categories

Food System

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

The case, filed in 2020 (Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Sonny Perdue, No.4:20-cv-00256-JSW (N.D. Cal) ) concerns the implementation of the USDA’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), a Trump administration rule that greatly undermines the ability of federal inspectors to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses. 

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

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

The NSIS program relies in large part on meat company employees conducting inspections instead of government inspectors, a radical departure from long-established practice. The brief argues that this raises significant dangers to public health: for example, an examination of USDA data showed that the plants that had piloted the new system had significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses than traditional plants. Since the government projects widespread adoption of the NSIS rules (plants producing over 90 percent of the U.S. pork supply), these policies will greatly impact consumers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One State’s Faulty Energy Plan Is Incentivizing Pollution Nationwide — Biden Wants To Make It The National Model

Categories

Food System

California’s clean energy program is leading to the unprecedented growth of factory farm biogas facilities nationwide, an emerging sector of the fossil fuel industry that creates methane gas from factory farm pollution to inject straight into pipelines alongside fracked gas.  

The nascent industry has secured allies in high places, from California Governor Gavin Newsom to President Biden, whose USDA is set to unveil a plan to expand the flawed program. 

How “Renewable Natural Gas” (RNG) Props Up Polluters

Big Ag is teaming up with the fossil fuel industry to bail out their stranded fracked gas assets. The false climate solution they misleadingly call “renewable natural gas” (RNG) incentivizes the worst practices of the polluting industries. From pipelines to gas hookups in buildings, factory farm biogas keeps gas infrastructure on the grid and provides the rationale to build more. While industry touts RNG as a way to eventually supplant fossil fuel gas, the numbers tell a different story: This is an energy source that, at full potential, with 2019 data, accounts for just one percent of total natural gas use. At a time when we need to move off fossil fuels, factory farm biogas extends a lifeline to the fracked gas industry.

Biogas also drives polluting factory farm expansion, driving increased industry pollution and hampering efforts to transition our food and agriculture system away from emissions-intensive factory farming. Factory farm air pollution includes the release of ammonia, a smog-forming particle linked to more than 12,000 premature deaths annually — anaerobic digestion has been proven to concentrate the pollutant further. Further, the waste left over from the anaerobic digestion process is often land-applied, leaching harmful pollutants like nitrates into drinking water supplies, cropland and regional ecosystems.

How California Is Driving National Biogas Growth

In 2018, there was not a single factory farm biogas facility in California’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) program. Today, at least 66 facilities in nine states profit off the credit system. More than 30 large-scale projects are under construction explicitly to generate pipeline gas eligible to profit from the California program. 

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is the nation’s largest and most lucrative carbon credit system for factory farm biogas. Intended to incentivize the production and use of low-carbon fuel sources for the transportation sector, the LCFS determines credits based on the life cycle emissions of each energy source. Under the LCFS, factory farm biogas lifecycle emissions don’t include many of the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to factory farming, resulting in calculations that the fuel has a vastly lower emissions intensity than in reality. This faulty accounting attributes a greater supposed climate benefit to factory farm biogas that can be sold as a “credit”.

In his November Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, Biden charged his USDA with developing a plan which we anticipate will borrow language from California’s faulty LCFS. This threatens to extend the system’s faulty accounting nationwide, broadening the market and profit horizon for the polluting industry.

How Taxpayers’ Clean Energy Money Goes to Polluters

Factory farm biogas digesters need public funding to turn a profit. Unsubsidized and outside of a credit system, factory farm biogas costs between four and six times as much as fracked gas, per energy unit generated. With LCFS credits, digester facility operators can pay off their startup costs in no time — as much as a few years to profit, despite the hefty startup price tag, which ranges from $3-10 million.

Yet public money flows freely to the false solution. In his 2022 budget, California’s Governor Newsom directed $48 million to factory farm biogas facility development, and the facilities carry President Biden’s endorsement. Federal efforts to prop up the false solution of factory farm biogas spell disaster for our climate. Seeing lucrative public investment, tax credits and pollution trading programs like California’s LCFS, private investment in the biogas scam has tripled since 2017 to $1.6 billion.

Food & Water Watch is tracking the factory farm biogas industry’s growth nationwide, and is engaged both in local fights to stop these methane refineries, in legal action to stop the buildout, and organizing to ban factory farms federally and in states across the country. In October, we worked in coalition to file a petition calling on California to remove factory farm biogas from its LCFS.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

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]

Third Carbon Capture Pipeline Scam Proposed For Iowa

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, news broke of plans to develop a third carbon capture pipeline in Iowa. The new project, proposed by Archer Daniel Midland and Wolf Carbon Solutions, marks the third carbon capture pipeline project proposed for Iowa. The efforts have garnered widespread resistance from thousands of impacted landowners and Iowans.

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

“Carbon capture and storage is an unproven and unsound technology that will do nothing to mitigate the climate crisis — it’s an industry scam and distraction from the real work of reforming our agricultural and energy sectors to combat the looming climate emergency.

We envision an Iowa where communities work together to care for our land, climate and communities alike — carbon capture has no part in that future. We will continue our sustained resistance to these corporate fat cats looking to profit at our peril. We urge our state legislators to introduce legislation this session to put an end to this destructive profiteering, and keep carbon capture out of Iowa. It’s time to focus instead on the real solutions to our climate and agriculture crisis by stopping destructive, emissions-intensive agricultural practices from factory farming to monocropping and ethanol production.”

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]

35 Groups Urge Governor Carney to Oppose Biogas Infrastructure Development in Delaware

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, 35 groups from across the Delmarva region issued a letter to Governor Carney, urging his opposition to factory farm biogas infrastructure development moving forward in Delaware. The controversial Bioenergy DevCo biogas scheme in Sussex County currently seeking state permits will be the first facility of its kind in the state and region. Groups warn that the project is only the start of what could be a destructive regional industry buildout, if allowed unchecked.

Letter signatories cited a host of concerns with the Bioenergy DevCo biogas operation, including:

  • Traffic and the safety of public roads: The methane refinery Bioenergy DevCo has planned would bring at least 20,000 heavy-duty truck trips per year (or more than 50 every day) to local roads. A yet undisclosed number of the trucks added to local roads would be hauling explosive gas – sometimes called “truck bombs.” 
  • Air quality: Biogas facilities emit smog-forming nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide. These chemicals are known to cause chronic lung disease and other respiratory ailments like asthma, and would directly affect health in nearby neighborhoods.
  • Water quality: The waste at biogas facilities inevitably seeps into the soil either through mismanagement at the site or land application to fields, and has the potential to poison local drinking water with nitrate contamination that is linked to birth defects, miscarriages, various cancers and blue baby syndrome.
  • Environmental justice: The community surrounding Bioenergy DevCo’s proposed biogas facility is home to people of color at almost twice the rate of Sussex County as a whole and home to people living in poverty at almost three times the rate of Sussex County as a whole. To place a dirty and dangerous industrial plant for the sole purpose of extracting gas (and generating profit) from slaughterhouse sludge in this community is simply unjust.

In the letter, groups requested that Governor Carney direct the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to reject Bioenergy DevCo’s sought-after permits and oppose all buildout of biogas infrastructure. Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton said:

“Delaware is facing the crises of a destructively expansive factory farm poultry industry and the imminent doom of the climate crisis. As they always do, Big Ag is looking to profit off the situation by peddling a false solution in factory farm biogas. But make no mistake — factory farm biogas will do nothing to aid our poultry waste overload, and everything to further entrench both factory farms and fossil fuel infrastructure in our communities. Governor Carney must say no to Bioenergy DevCo and no to biogas.”

“Biogas is a threat not only to the environment, but to the health of the communities in which our members live and work,” said Javiel Nazario, UFCW Local 27 VP & Executive Asst. to the President. “We call on Governor Carney to oppose the buildout of biogas infrastructure in favor of safer, cleaner energy alternatives.”

“Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice (SDARJ), supports fellow environmental justice advocates and, therefore, opposes the construction of an anaerobic digestion system in Sussex County,” said SDARJ Chair Charlotte King. “The hazards associated with the proposed methane refinery site that have been shared with state agencies responsible for protecting the environment and the health of Delawareans, state and county legislators and residents, raise serious concerns that the project would import and concentrate massive quantities of pollutants, and would threaten local and regional water quality. In addition, given our mission, SDARJ is especially concerned about people of color who live near the proposed plant. As a matter of fact, in Seaford, Delaware, people of color make up about 32 percent of the population within the three-mile radius of the proposed anaerobic digester. Indeed, an extensive and expanding body of scientific evidence finds that people of color are located more often in communities that are exposed to disproportionately higher levels of pollution.”

“The Sierra Club Delaware Chapter strongly opposes this methane refinery in Sussex Co,” said Sherri Evans-Stanton, Sierra Club Delaware Chapter director. “The facility would send toxic chemicals in the air and would poison our local drinking water. This would result in significant increased health impacts. Additionally, the facility would be located next to some of our most vulnerable communities. Biogas is not a renewable energy and this project should be denied.”

“Factory farm gas or so called ‘biogas’ is a dirty energy with serious safety and health concerns for the minority communities where this project is being sited,” said Maria Payan, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project senior regional representative. “Furthermore, to represent this as an Environmental Justice solution for frontline communities is reprehensible. “

“The Community Housing & Empowerment Connections Inc. (CHEC) stands with Food & Water Watch and other nearby residents in Seaford in preventing Bioenergy DevCo’s project from moving forward. While there are a number of reasons why this project should not be located there, the primary one is that it’s harmful to people’s health,” said Penny Dryden, Community Housing & Environment Connections, Inc. Executive Director. “Low income communities of color already face higher pollution burdens than their more affluent and whiter neighbors, as highlighted in our 2017 EJ for Delaware report. The placement of dirty digesters in these communities is unjust, detrimental to health and will only exacerbate the existing environmental hazards facing these vulnerable communities in Sussex County Delaware. CHEC Inc. urges the governor and all other public officials to put the people above profits and reject this project.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [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]

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]

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]

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]

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.

Unprecedented Water Restrictions Point to Urgency of Ending Corporate Water Abuse

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration announced a 0% water allocation from the State Water Project for California districts in 2022 – the only exceptions being select health and safety allocations. The announcement comes after Food & Water Watch along with dozens of other environmental, public health and justice advocacy organizations sent a letter to Governor Newsom urging him to end corporate abuse of water from industrial factory farms, fossil fuels and bottled water companies. 

“The Newsom administration’s announcement serves as a potent reminder of how dire this drought is and the need for immediate action to preserve the water we have for the people who need it most,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy in response to the announcement. “Conservation measures are necessary, but so is a reevaluation of our water allocation system. Instead of mining our already scarce groundwater, we must accelerate groundwater sustainability plans and cut off water supplies to chronic corporate abusers like fossil fuel interests, industrial agriculture and bottled water companies. The freshwater used by the oil and gas industry alone could provide billions of gallons of water to homes in need. Water is a human right. It’s time California acted like it.”

New research compiled by Food & Water Watch around the state’s biggest water abusers reveals the oil and gas industry used more than 3 billion gallons of freshwater between January 2018 and March 2021 that could otherwise have supplied domestic systems. Likewise, 80 percent of the state’s water goes to agriculture, including heavy water users like almonds. In 2019, more than 60 percent of almonds produced in California were exported, rerouting 910 billion gallons of water out of the state for corporate profit. Additionally, alfalfa uses a huge share of California’s agricultural water at 16 percent and occupies 1 million irrigated acres in the state. More than 1.5 trillion gallons of water are needed for alfalfa irrigation or more than enough water to provide the daily recommended water needs (55 gallons per person per day) for every Californian for over a year. 

Groundwater accounts for 30 percent of water used by California agriculture in wet years, and in dry years groundwater accounts for a staggering 80 percent.

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

Backed By New Research, Environmental Groups Demand End to Corporate Water Abuse

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – 48 organizations have signed on to a letter demanding Governor Newsom address California’s water crisis with specific actions targeted at the corporate abuse of public water resources. While drought ravages the state and freshwater supplies dwindle, more than 1 million Californians lack access to clean drinking water. Wells in dry and under-resourced areas like the Central Valley are predicted to go dry at astonishing rates. Yet unsustainable amounts of California’s water are being allocated to multibillion dollar industries like fossil fuel production, industrial dairy operation and almond crop cultivation. Read the letter HERE.

“California’s antiquated water policies favor the corporations that contribute to the climate crisis and drain our water supplies,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “We can no longer afford to distribute water based on wealth and prioritize corporations over people. It is unthinkable that serial water abusers like Big Ag and Big Oil can reap billions of dollars in profits while thousands of wells around California go dry and our environment deteriorates. Already one million Californians lack access to safe, clean drinking water. Governor Newsom has taken steps to guard frontline communities against the predatory incursion of oil and gas drilling. Now he must begin prioritizing the water security of those same communities.”

The letter draws on its demands from new research by Food & Water Watch that highlights a water system designed to favor corporations over people. Among the paper’s findings are:

  • 80 percent of the state’s water goes to agriculture, including heavy water users like almonds. In 2019, more than 60 percent of almonds produced in California were exported, rerouting 910 billion gallons of water out of the state for corporate profit.
  • It takes 142 millions of gallons of water every day to operate California’s mega-dairies. That’s more than enough to supply every resident in San Diego and San Jose with the daily recommended amount of water. 
  • Between January 2018 and March 2021, the oil and gas industry used more than 3 billion gallons of freshwater — enough water to fill 4,570 Olympic-sized swimming pools — that could otherwise have supplied domestic systems. 

Among the letter’s chief demands for Governor Newsom:

  • Declare using groundwater to grow almonds and alfalfa in the southwest San Joaquin Valley not a beneficial use. 
  • Ban new and expanding mega-dairies in the state. 
  • End new oil and gas permitting immediately.

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

Drilling Report Reveals Biden’s Fracking Deception

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

Maple Shade Votes to Oppose Gibbstown Fracked Gas Terminal

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petitions to Create Renewable Energy Program Accepted in Cherry Hill

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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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.”

IA Landowner Names Impacted by Carbon Pipelines Must be Public, Legal Filing States

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, Food & Water Watch filed legal comments requesting that the names of landowners impacted by the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions carbon pipeline be made public. Given the project’s substantial dangers and uncertain regulatory environment, Food & Watch demanded the Iowa Utilities Board make landowner names public to facilitate transparency and community organizing around the proposed project.

In an attempt to prevent organized public opposition to its project, Summit has been pressuring the Iowa Utilities Board to prevent the disclosure of impacted landowner names. The project has been met with widespread opposition from landowners, and the public access to names is critical to sharing accurate information on project risks with impacted citizens.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“Iowa is not a sacrifice zone. Our state is already ravaged by the factory farming and corporate agriculture industries that pollute our air, water and land with abandon. We cannot give another free pass to corporate abuse — that begins by releasing the names of Iowan landowners impacted by the proposed pipeline.

Carbon pipelines are a nightmare for Iowa. The dangerous project has already seen massive opposition. Information sharing and community organizing are critical to ensuring all parties have an accurate understanding of how to take action against the proposal. Governor Reynolds and her Utilities Board must make all impacted landowner names public.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone, [email protected]

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.”

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

Categories

Food System

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

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

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

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

The consolidation is especially acute within specific food categories: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Food & Water Watch Sues Sussex County Commission Over Factory Farm Biogas Facility

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

On Friday, Food & Water Watch, alongside and on behalf of a local resident, filed a lawsuit against the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission for their unlawful zoning decision regarding CleanBay Renewables’ planned factory farm biogas facility in Georgetown. The petitioners argue that the Commission exceeded its jurisdiction and ignored County law when it found that construction at the site was “substantially underway,” and that therefore CleanBay Renewables’ conditional use approval could remain in effect.

Food & Water Watch was forced to bring this lawsuit after County officials refused to process its appeal to the Sussex County Board of Adjustment. This refusal marks only the latest move by County officials to ram through factory farm biogas facilities in areas otherwise reserved for agriculture and low-density residential uses, despite local opposition. County officials’ apparent disregard for impacted residents is an affront to their constituents. 

If the lawsuit is successful, CleanBay Renewables’ zoning approval will become null and void, a major setback in its effort to bring a polluting factory farm biogas facility into the area. Given the public health, safety and environmental threats of factory farm biogas, a voided permit would be a victory for nearby residents, who staunchly opposed the facility when it was first proposed in 2018.

With the filing, Food & Water Watch Attorney Emily Miller issued the following statement:

“In flagrant violation of their own County Code, the Commission’s decision to allow CleanBay Renewables’ zoning approval to remain in effect flies in the face of the law and the best interests of their own constituents. Commissioners claimed they were giving the company the ‘benefit of the doubt’ when they made this unlawful decision. But the benefit of the doubt should go to the communities who will bear the brunt of the public health impacts from the toxic air and water pollution the gas refinery would emit — not to the companies who stand to profit off the entrenchment of two mega-polluting industries, factory farms and dirty energy providers. Factory farm biogas must not take root in Delaware. That begins with holding developers like CleanBay Renewables to account, as opposed to giving them special treatment in contravention of state and county law.”

Petitioners are represented in this matter by Kenneth T. Kristl, Esq., Professor of Law & Director of the Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic at Widener University Delaware Law School.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

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]

DE Governor Carney’s Climate Action Plan Promotes False Solutions In Factory Farm Biogas

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, Governor Carney released Delaware’s Climate Action Plan, outlining a roadmap for the state to prepare for climate change in the years to come.

Included in plans for how to reduce high global warming potential greenhouse gases, the Governor’s plan outlines a strategy to “increase renewable natural gas production and incentivize markets for its use as a fuel.” The plan goes further, identifying “renewable natural gas” as a clean energy source, despite its known threats to public health, climate and the environment.

In response, Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton issued the following statement:

“Cutting climate warming emissions must begin at the pollution source — by banning the continued growth of the factory farm industry in Delaware. Factory farm biogas is a false climate solution that props up polluters. Methane refineries keep the factory farm industry solvent, and biogas provides a lifeline to fossil fuel infrastructure.

Factory farm biogas is neither a clean or renewable energy source and the methane gas refined from factory farmed animal waste does nothing to lower our greenhouse gas emissions. We have no time to waste on false climate solutions, peddled by polluting industry. Governor Carney must invest in real renewable energy in the form of wind and solar, and reject factory farm biogas operations as the scam they are.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

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]

NY Gov. Hochul Signs Legislation Enabling Public Water in Nassau County

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, Governor Hochul signed legislation establishing two new public water authorities in Nassau County. The bills were passed by the New York legislature in June, and have been awaiting the Governor’s signature to enable the process of taking public control of the water systems currently owned and operated by American Water on Long Island. The move comes two days after New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly to approve a Constitutional right to water in the state.

Advocates hailed the move as a powerful blow to the corporate control of water in New York and an essential step towards better service and more affordable, cleaner water. In New York, private water systems like American Water were found to charge almost twice the amount of their public counterparts, making this a critical victory for public ownership of essential water services. Joseph M. Varon, a West Hempstead resident and volunteer with Food & Water Watch said:

“Since becoming governor, Kathy Hochul has demonstrated tremendous leadership in opposing corporate control and abuse of our most vital resources — the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the climate we rely on. Water is a human right — one now enshrined in New York’s constitution — and Governor Hochul’s actions are a major step towards honoring that right on Long Island.”

“We are so thankful and grateful to Governor Hochul for recognizing this injustice and signing the North Shore Water Authority Legislation into law,” said Agatha Nadel, Director of North Shore Concerned Citizens. “We are also so thankful and grateful to Senator Gaughran and Assemblymen Lavine, Montesano and Ra for their leadership and support in getting this legislation unanimously passed. We have suffered under this private water debacle of astronomical rates, never ending surcharges/taxes, water quality issues and lame customer service for way too long. Water is a necessity of life and should always be in the public’s trust — not by private companies who profit from this resource and are accountable to their shareholders. Our time has arrived to cross over the finish line to affordable public water.”

“Glad to see the governor has done the right thing. For the 113,000 NYAW customers in Hempstead, it is now up to the town and the county legislature to do the right thing and appoint independent, non-partisan, non-political commissioners to this new authority with the financial, environmental, civic and legal expertise to implement the public takeover authorized by this legislation,” said Dave Denenberg, Co-Director of LI Clean Air Water & Soil.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

NY Votes to Enshrine Right to Water and Healthful Environment in State Constitution

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release


Last night, New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted to enshrine the right to water and a healthful environment in the state constitution. As communities across the state struggle with PFAS contamination, lead pipes and unaffordable service, the new amendment paves the way for greater state efforts to ensure the safety of drinking water and access to essential water services. With the vote Tuesday, New York joins states like Virginia and Pennsylvania in formally recognizing the human right to water.

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

“Water is a human right, but New York’s policies don’t ensure access to this essential resource. Statewide, communities are moving to take over public control of their water utilities, removing them from corporate control and abuse. Communities are pushing back on PFAS and lead contamination in drinking water, demanding stricter regulations, testing and cleanup. And households statewide are grappling with unaffordable water service and water debt.

With the right to water codified in our state constitution, it’s time to get to work putting control of this most critical resource into the hands of the people, it’s time to clean up New York’s drinking water and it’s time to cancel water debt and make water service affordable for every person.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Ag Sector Methane Emissions Are A Big Problem — Factory Farm Biogas Is Not The Solution

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy released its U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan. The plan promotes the use of anaerobic digesters, and touts a “new public-private partnership” to promote factory farm biogas as a solution.

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

“Agricultural sector methane emissions are a critical driver of climate change — but stopping them requires shifting away from gas infrastructure, not more industry-friendly band aids like digesters. Factory farm biogas and carbon trading schemes are false solutions that distract from the root cause of the industrialized agriculture industry’s pollution problem — the continued concentrated corporate control of our food system.

Congress must pass the Farm System Reform Act to curb the growth of this destructive factory farm model, and President Biden must direct his administration to stop incentivizing false solutions like factory farm biogas, which only intensify the current system.  

We have no time to waste on greenwashed solutions that offer a lifeline for the destructive corporate agriculture industry.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

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

Categories

Clean Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Stronger Approach to Methane Pollution: Ban Fracking

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

Merchantville Votes to Oppose Gibbstown Fracked Gas Terminal

Categories

Climate and Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Report Highlights MD Poultry Industry’s Stranglehold Over People and the Environment

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

A report released today by the Environmental Integrity Project, finds that Maryland’s expanding poultry factory farm industry is woefully under-inspected, despite massive pollutant violations. Key findings include, that:

  • As the number of factory farms increases, the number of operations inspected by Maryland Department of the Environment’s two or three inspectors has declined by 40 percent since 2013.
  • 84 percent of Maryland’s inspected poultry factory farms failed their first state inspection; almost half (43 percent) also fail follow up inspections. Only four percent were penalized by the state.

In response, Lily Hawkins, Food & Water Watch Maryland Organizer, issued the following statement:

“Factory farm violations come at the direct expense of people and the environment. Over decades, Maryland’s poultry factory farm industry has tightened its stranglehold on the region, polluting air and water with abandon, and threatening the public health of those who work within the barns and those living near them. This report solidifies what advocates have known for years — factory farms are an unchecked threat to our health and environment.

For too long, factory farms have been given a pass. It’s time to double down on stopping the expansion of this polluting industry. At the federal level, that means passing the Farm System Reform Act. And in Maryland, that means keeping false solutions to the poultry industry’s excessive waste problem like factory farm biogas out of our state’s renewable energy portfolio.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]