Tag Archives: President Obama

12/21/2011 Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection

Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection – Measure will protect families, women and children from toxic brain poison: Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out landmark nationwide protections for toxic mercury from dirty power plants. Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that taints the fish we eat and poses a particular threat to prenatal babies and young children. Exposure in the bloodstreams of pregnant and nursing women can result in birth defects such as learning disabilities, lowered IQ, deafness, blindness and cerebral palsy. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, pumping more than 33 tons of this dangerous toxin into our air and water each year.

The new protection, which replaces a weak, court-rejected standard from the Bush Administration, will slash mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent and improve air quality for millions of Americans.

In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson marks a milestone for parents and families across the country. It means that, after decades of delay, we now have strong nationwide protections against toxic mercury, and most of all, it means peace of mind for the parents of more than 300,000 American babies born every year that have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury.

“The Sierra Club applauds the President and his Administration for their courage and resolve in protecting American families – particularly women and children – from this dangerous toxin and for standing up to polluters’ attempts to weaken this life-saving protection.

“More than 800,000 public comments – a record – were filed in support of the protection, and we are pleased that the President heard the concerns of the American people.”

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For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org/mercury.

For mercury B-roll footage, click here.

Great news! Please spread the word.

1. National Sierra Club statement below — English — http://sc.org/suqS23

2. National Sierra Club statement — Spanish — http://sc.org/rFj4A1

3. State by state benefits of the mercury protection (click on your state) —  http://www.epa.gov/mats/

4. Blog post from Mary Anne Hitt. Please retweet and share.  http://sc.org/tUSt7L
5. Email thank you take action to President Obama — English — http://sc.org/udH6gO

6. Email thank you take action to President Obama — Spanish — http://sc.org/s1vbfJ

Oliver Bernstein, National Communications Strategist

Sierra Club
Phone: 512.477.2152 x102
Cell:  512.289.8618

10/22/2011 Avoiding Hiroshima Obama could send a vivid message about proliferation with one visit

MARK PERNICE FOR THE BOSTON GLOBEMODERN HIROSHIMA is a contradiction, a profoundly futuristic city unwilling to turn away from its past. So when Hiroshima’s schoolchildren and its senior citizens staged a letter-writing campaign to persuade Barack Obama to visit the city, their intention seemed clear: Before the atomic bombing of 1945 passes beyond human memory, they want a sitting American president to bear witness to the city’s recovery - and, perhaps, express some remorse for the conflagration that preceded it.

10/22/2011 Avoiding Hiroshima – Obama could send a vivid message about proliferation with one visit By Peter S. Canellos: MODERN HIROSHIMA is a contradiction, a profoundly futuristic city unwilling to turn away from its past. So when Hiroshima’s schoolchildren and its senior citizens staged a letter-writing campaign to persuade Barack Obama to visit the city, their intention seemed clear: Before the atomic bombing of 1945 passes beyond human memory, they want a sitting American president to bear witness to the city’s recovery – and, perhaps, express some remorse for the conflagration that preceded it.

So I assumed when, early this year, the Foreign Press Center of Japan conveyed an invitation from a group of high-school students to visit the city as a journalist and learn, firsthand, about their desire to have President Obama visit.

Apparently, both the US government and the Japanese government jumped to the same concluson – that the people of Hiroshima wanted an American president to see what an American atomic bomb had wrought. In a 2009 State Department cable recently released by WikiLeaks, US Ambassador to Japan John Roos reported to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Japanese officials believed “the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a ‘non-starter.’ While a simple visit to Hiroshima without fanfare is sufficiently symbolic to convey the right message, it is premature to include such a program in the November visit.’’

Obama did not go to Hiroshima that November. But Roos, the Japanese government, and perhaps even the White House seem to have misunderstood the nature of this invitation, as I did.

In Hiroshima, both elderly survivors and schoolchildren made the same points: No apology is requested. A meeting with survivors of the bombing would be useful, but not to bridge any gap between the American government and the people of Hiroshima. The city is impressively in touch with its complex history, and doesn’t primarily blame the United States for its fate. Japanese militarism, and Japanese wartime atrocities, are on full display at the city’s Peace Museum and are discussed in the mandatory “peace curriculum’’ at schools. The real focus in today’s Hiroshima is on nuclear proliferation.

Young and old, the people of the city where more than 100,000 died in an atomic attack share a special sense of mission to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

That happens to be Obama’s goal, too – one he coupled with a promise that the United States would lead the way. That’s what got the people of Hiroshima excited. Obama made his vow in 2009, but hasn’t made much progress since.

In fact, the problem of nuclear proliferation is on the verge of getting much worse. If Iran and North Korea join the list of nuclear nations without serious consequences, the entire non-proliferation regime that has checked the world’s nuclear ambitions for four decades will fall apart. Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and many other non-nuclear nations – among them Japan – will start exploring nuclear options of their own. The genie will truly be out of the bottle.

Unfortunately, the international peace movement that has its moral and spiritual roots in Hiroshima maintains its Cold War fixation on the United States and Russia, the countries with the largest arsenals. If Obama were to go to Hiroshima, he’d hear a lot of idealistic, and perhaps simplistic, pleas to just stop the nuclear insanity. But he could, and should, turn the conversation around: The United States and Russia, at the very least, share a commitment to arms control; the danger of nuclear weapons spreading among rogue states and terrorist groups is a far greater threat to world safety. It’s something the international peace movement needs to focus on, just as Obama needs to engage the rest of the world in a moral quest to stop North Korea and Iran.

A visit to Hiroshima by Obama would, of course, prompt some blowback at home. Though many presidents, starting with Harry Truman himself, have expressed misgivings about the American role in introducing nuclear weaponry, most Americans, including hundreds of thousands of World War II veterans, still support Truman’s decision to order the atomic bombing of Japan. Obama probably couldn’t say anything to prevent at least some Americans from suggesting a visit would be tantamount to an expression of regret. But most people would understand that no apology was being offered, and no regrets expressed. There would be plenty of occasions for Obama to make his views perfectly clear.

Meanwhile, the inherent drama of a sitting president going to Hiroshima would make the visit a worldwide event, providing the kind of stage for an Obama foreign policy speech that he’s lacked since his Nobel Prize address in the first year of his presidency. And a forceful speech aimed at rallying the world against the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea – and reminding people in every country of how threats have evolved since the Cold War – could have lasting impact.

There’s another reason he should go: A lot of the world wants and expects that kind of vivid, symbolic leadership from him, and he’s made far too few dramatic gestures in foreign policy. If it’s surprising to Americans how prosaic the Obama administration has been, it’s been even more baffling to the world. The billions of people overseas who chafed at the America-first swagger of George W. Bush pinned their hopes on Obama. Many are still waiting for his call to action.

And a visit to Hiroshima inevitably concentrates the mind — all minds — on the dangers of nuclear war. The stories of melting faces, of square miles of cityscape erased in moments, of the “black rain’’ that brought radiation poisoning and cancer to those even outside the city center, of the cases of leukemia decades later, the young women deemed unmarriageable because of radiation exposure — all are there, waiting for the world to hear.

This is the issue Obama wanted to make central to his presidency, the one that transcends all the crackdowns and liberation movements and peace negotiations of a fractious world. If Obama wants to send a strong message about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, he should go to Hiroshima.

10/11/2011 The New York Times: Groups Sue After E.P.A. Fails to Shift Ozone Rules

10/11/2011 The New York Times: Groups Sue After E.P.A. Fails to Shift Ozone Rules WASHINGTON — Five health and environmental groups sued the Obama administration on Tuesday over its rejection of a proposed stricter new standard for ozone pollution, saying the decision was driven by politics and ignored public health concerns.  The groups said that President Obama’s refusal to adopt the new standard was illegal and left in place an inadequate air quality rule from the Bush administration. Near the end of his presidency, George W. Bush overruled the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory panel and set the permissible ozone exposure at 75 parts per billion.

The current E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, wanted to set the standard at 70 parts per billion, near the maximum level recommended by the advisory panel. But President Obama rejected that proposal on Sept. 2, saying that compliance would be too costly and create too much regulatory uncertainty for industry. He ordered the E.P.A. to conduct further scientific studies and come up with a new proposal in 2013.

The decision infuriated environmental groups, who called it a betrayal, but cheered business leaders, who said that the ozone rule was one of the most onerous of the administration’s proposed environmental regulations.

The E.P.A. said last month that it would adopt the Bush-era standard and work toward tightening it in the future. The five groups that sued — Earthjustice, the American Lung Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Environmental Defense Fund — said that was not adequate and asked a federal court in Washington to review the administration’s action.

“The rejection of stronger standards was illegal and irresponsible, in our view,” said David Baron, a lawyer for Earthjustice. “Instead of protecting people’s lungs as the law requires, this administration based its decision on politics, leaving tens of thousands of Americans at risk of sickness and suffering.”

The same groups had sued the Bush administration over its ozone policy, but agreed to suspend the suit when the Obama administration came to office and promised to reconsider the Bush standard. That reconsideration was delayed several times before finally being killed by the president last month.

Ground-level ozone is the main ingredient in smog, which is linked to premature deaths, heart attacks and lung ailments, including childhood asthma.

The standard rejected by Mr. Obama would have thrown hundreds of counties out of compliance with air quality regulations and imposed costs of $19 billion to $25 billion, according to E.P.A. estimates. But the resulting health benefits would have been $13 billion to $37 billion, the agency calculated.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/science/earth/12epa.html?_r=1&hpw

Mike Eisenfeld
New Mexico Energy Coordinator
San Juan Citizens Alliance
108 North Behrend, Suite I
Farmington, New Mexico 87401

Naabik’iyati’ Committee of the Navajo Nation Council passes legislation requesting President Obama to suspend the U.S. Forest Service Permit for Snowbowl

10/5/2011 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Naabik’iyati’ Committee of the Navajo Nation Council passes legislation requesting President Obama to suspend the U.S. Forest Service Permit for Snowbowl: Gorman, on behalf of Navajo human rights, presents the legislation with Hon. Jonathan Nez: ST. MICHAELS, Ariz.—On the day Navajo Nation human rights officials were en route to host a public hearing in Flagstaff about the San Francisco Peaks, one Navajo human rights official remained at the Navajo Nation’s capital to present a United Nations report about “The Peaks” to the Naabik’iyati’ Committee at the Navajo Nation Council Chambers.

On September 23, 2011, Leonard Gorman for the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission was the agent for legislation NABIS-58-11, “Relating to Naabik’iyati’; Acknowledging the Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [A/HRC/18/35/Add. 1]; Requesting the President of the United States Suspend the U.S. Forest Service Permit to Develop Reclaimed Water System for Making Artificial Snow on the San Francisco Peaks, Authorizing Navajo Nation Officials to Attend the 18th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council At Geneva, Switzerland; and, Authorizing Navajo Nation Officials to Protect and Advocate for the Human Rights of the Navajo People as they Pertain to the San Francisco Peaks.”

Legislation NABIS-58-11 passed in favor 14 -0 at the Naabik’iyati’ Committee, NNHRCs legislative oversight committee for the 22nd Navajo Nation Council, sponsored by Hon. Jonathan Nez, motioned by Hon. Joshua Lavar Butler and seconded by Hon. Elmer P. Begay.

NNHRC began the formal communiqué 16 months ago with the Special Rapporteur urging an allegation letter, “the usual first step [for a Special Rapporteur] in taking action on a case,” as stated Anaya in his report about the communications procedure.

Anaya’s report is a direct result of the NNHRC formal communiqué urging an allegation letter against the United States by the U.N. official. When the NNHRC received the Anaya’s report on August 22, 2011, NNHRC later requested sending a Navajo Nation delegation to Geneva when Anaya was scheduled to share his report and recommendations to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but only the Navajo Nation President Hon. Ben Shelly was able to attend.

To read the legislation, visit www.nnhrc.navajo-nsn.gov.

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Rachelle Todea, Public Information Officer

Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission

P.O. Box 1689

Window Rock, Navajo Nation (AZ)  86515

Phone: (928) 871-7436

Fax: (928) 871-7437

rtodea@navajo-nsn.gov

www.nnhrc.navajo-nsn.gov

“Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development,” according to the Article 3 of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, G.A. Res. 61/295, U.N. Doc A/RES/295 (Sept. 13, 2007), 46 I.L.M 1013 (2007).

Please Support Earthjustice: President Obama keeps weak ozone standards

Just last week, President Obama delayed establishing critical new national ozone standards. President Obama is putting our lives on the line to satisfy corporate polluters. And Earthjustice is fighting back in court. The President’s reckless move undermines years of work by Earthjustice to clean up deadly smog in our air. Our air quality, thousands of lives and tens of thousands of cases of asthma are at stake. We won’t take “not now” for an answer.

Earthjustice is not standing by while our air and lives are destroyed to satisfy corporate polluters. Our legal experts are working tirelessly in the courts to stop this delay, but we need your help to support these emergency efforts. Donate now to help us fight back.

In 2008, deficient national standards for ozone, or smog, which the Environmental Protection Agency’s own scientists said weren’t adequate to protect public health, were adopted by the Bush administration. Earthjustice stepped in and sued, but before the court ruled on our challenge, the incoming Obama administration promised to revisit the standards and our litigation was put on hold.

When the revised standard still wasn’t issued by the administration two years later, we went back to court last month and asked for an order compelling the EPA to issue new, lawful standards immediately.

Now that the White House has squashed the move to stronger standards, we’re going to redouble our efforts to get relief from the courts.

The President’s decision last week to delay critical new ozone standards demonstrates why court action is absolutely critical to make meaningful progress for the environment. And with your emergency support we will continue to fight for strong air and environmental protections in court.

Please make an emergency donation today to support our critical efforts
.

With your support, we won’t take “not now” for an answer.

Sincerely,

Trip Van Noppen
President, Earthjustice

P.S. President Obama is putting our lives on the line to satisfy corporate polluters. Donate now to help us fight back in court and on Capitol Hill before more lives are lost to deadly smog.

IEN News: Keystone XL Environmental Impact Hearings Coming To Your Area

IEN News: Keystone XL Environmental Impact Hearings Coming To Your AreaThe proposed Keystone XL pipeline would consist of approximately 1,711 miles of new 36-inch-diameter pipeline, with approximately 327 miles of pipeline in Canada and 1,384 miles in the U.S. TransCanada filed an application for a Presidential Permit with the U.S. Department of State to build and operate the Keystone XL Project. The proposed Project would have the capacity to transport 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to delivery points in Oklahoma and southeastern Texas.

On August 26, 2011, the U.S. Department of State released a final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline saying the pipeline would have “no significant impact” on the environment.

According to the U.S. administration, they are saying President Obama now has three months to determine whether the controversial project is in the national interest of America.

Our concerns with this FEIS are similar to the concerns of a previous pipeline project called Keystone (with no “XL” attached to it, sometimes called Keystone 1) and its final EIS that was done in 2008. The basic concern was the EIS was incomplete, and didn’t thoroughly address all the issues. Keystone XL fails to take seriously the potential damage to American Indian Tribes and their Tribal members in the States of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. These damages could threaten, among other things, water aquifers, water ways, cultural sites, agricultural lands, animal life, public drinking water sources and other resources vital to the Tribal peoples of the region in which the pipeline is proposed to be constructed. Lack of adequate consultation has been a consistent concern expressed by Tribal members of all the affected Tribal Nations who to this day have not been thoroughly informed of the potential effects of this pipeline.

With over 12 spills caused by the Keystone 1 pipeline, which runs through eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas with links to Missouri and Illinois, it is critical that the State Department take the potential environmental and cultural resource impacts seriously.

The FEIS is not even requiring TransCanada, the company that hopes to build Keystone XL, to submit an emergency response plan before final approval. In spite of the reported spills on Keystone I, the XL EIS predicts 1.78 to 2.51 spills, of any size, per year. Click here to view a larger version of this map and more comprehensive information.

Tribal Nations deserve and have a right to be thoroughly informed and have a truthful account of the damage Keystone XL can cause. The toxic corrosive crude oil that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline comes from the tar sands in northern Alberta, Canada.

The tar sands are located in the homelands of the Cree, Dene and Métis communities. The pipeline will cross hundreds of miles of indigenous territory, including Lakota territory, and violate treaty rights under the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868 as well as human rights under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

U.S executive approval is needed before the pipeline can be laid in place. The State Department has announced the schedule for a series of public input meetings in States along the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Written comments will be accepted by the State Department until October 9th, 2011.

Public Hearings on Keystone XL Pipeline
Monday, September 26, 2011

Texas: Bob Bowers Civic Center 3401 Cultural Center Dr., Port Arthur, 4:30 – 10 p.m.
Kansas: Kansas Expo Center 1 Expocenter Dr., Topeka, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4– 8 p.m.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Montana: Dawson Community College Toepke Center Auditorium, 300 Community Dr., Glendive,
4:30 – 10 p.m.
Nebraska: Pershing Center 226 Centennial Mall, South Lincoln,
noon – 3:30 p.m., 4. – 8:00 p.m .

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Texas: University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium,
2313 Red River St., Austin, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.

Thursday, September 29, 2011
South Dakota: Best Western Ramkota,
920 West Sioux Ave., Pierre, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.
Nebraska: West Holt High School,100 N. Main St. Atkinson, 4:30 – 10 p.m.

Friday, September 30, 2011
Oklahoma: Reed Center Exhibition Hall,5800 Will Rogers Rd., Midwest City., noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.

Friday, October 7, 2011
Washington, D.C.: To be announced via website and public notice.

Click here to read the XL Final EIS, or find additional information

To learn more about the Keystone I spills, check out the Keystone XL infographic below, created by the Huffington Post, an online newspaper. Click here to read the related article

“Indian Country” needs to attend these public hearings! Let’s unite with one voice to protect our sacred Mother Earth!
Protect our Water-of-Life! Defend our Treaty Rights!

DOS will also accept written comments beginning on the date the final EIS is issued (August 26, 2011). In order to ensure that comments are processed and considered before the decision is made on the permit application, all comments must be submitted by midnight on October 9, 2011 (Washington D.C. time).Comments can be submitted by the following methods:

DOS Comments Page: Make a Comment
E-mail at: keystonexl-nid@cardno.com;
USPS mail at: Keystone XL Project NID, P.O. Box 96503-98500, Washington, D.C. 20090-6503; or
FAX at: 206-269-0098

As noted above, in order for comments to be considered they must be submitted by midnight on October 9, 2011 (Washington D.C. time). Learn more.

The statements underscored grave concerns over the impacts tar sands development are having on downstream First Nations in Canada. With the U.S. supporting the construction of pipelines transporting crude oil from the Canadian tar sands, and knowing the environmental and human rights affects; if the U.S. approves the Keystone XL, it would be complicit in international human rights violations.

There are concerns of independent studies that have confirmed toxins in the Athabasca River and Delta one of the largest freshwater deltas in the world. Native peoples in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada are concerned that this may be linked to unusually high rates of cancer through the consumption of contaminated fish and meat.

To date, 5 legal cases have been launched over violations to treaty rights by tar sands projects. In BC, Canada over 80 Indigenous – First Nations are saying no to the proposed Enbridge pipeline, another proposed pipeline from the tar sands planning to transport tar sands oil to the Pacific coast to go to China.

9/7/2011 CENSORED NEWS: Rigoberta Menchu and Nobel Peace Laureates: Halt tar sands

9/7/2011 CENSORED NEWS: Rigoberta Menchu and Nobel Peace Laureates: Halt tar sands: Nobel Peace Laureates Dalai Lama, Rigoberta Menchu and Desmund Tutu among nine urging: Halt tar sands by Brenda Norrell: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Laureates Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala and Archbishop Desmund Tutu of South Africa, joined six other Nobel Peace Laureates urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, an environmental disaster in the making.

The Nobel Peace Laureates recognized those arrested during the past two weeks of sit-ins at the White House. The 1,252 arrested included members of the Indigenous Environmental Network arrested with author and activist Naomi Klein. First Nations from Canada arrested included actress Tantoo Cardinal, Cree, from Alberta, Canada, where tar sands mining is already destroying the homelands of First Nations.

Debra White Plume, Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way, Lakota grandmother and activist from Oglala land in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, was arrested in the Indigenous delegation. After being released from jail, White Plume, along with Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, met with US State Department official Daniel A. Clune, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environmental and Scientific Affairs. There they urged the State Department to consult at high levels with Native leaders and to consider Section 106 (tribal consultations) in line with free, prior and informed consent as set forth in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mossett has lost two young friends to deaths because of the heavy oil and gas traffic that the boom industry has brought to her homeland of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara in North Dakota. Mossett sent a message to President Obama, to look her in the eyes and listen to her story before approving the tarsands pipeline. During the arrests in front of the White House, Obama did not acknowledge or address the protesters, which included Dene Chief Bill Erasmus from Yellowknife, Canada.

The Nobel Peace Laureates reminded Obama of his own promise for creating a clean energy economy. The Nobel Peace Laureates’ statement comes as another dirty war was waged over the dirty tar sands. In the dirty war of deceptive media, a tarsands campaign was waged on the Oprah Winfrey Network by the so-called “Ethical Oil” campaign which attempts to muddy the truth about the tarsands. This dirty media campaign promotes the tarsands by muddying the water about human rights. A counter-campaign called for a boycott of the Oprah Winfrey Network on Wednesday until the “Ethical Oil” advertisements cease.

The Nobel Peace Laureates point out the immense Ogallala aquifer in the Great Plains, in the heartland of the United States, which the proposed tarsands pipeline would cross, if approved. Those lands, between Alberta, Canada and Texas, include Indian country. The highly corrosive tarsands oil is likely to result in a pipeline spill and contaminate the region’s drinking water in the Ogallala aquifer. The danger to this water source brought Nebraska farmers to the White House where they were arrested during the past two weeks.

Dear President Obama,

We—a group of Nobel Peace Laureates—are writing today to ask you to do the right thing for our environment and reject the proposal to build the Keystone XL, a 1700-mile pipeline that would stretch from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

It is your decision to make.

The night you were nominated for president, you told the world that under your leadership—and working together—the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal. You spoke of creating a clean energy economy. This is a critical moment to make good on that pledge, and make a lasting contribution to the health and well being of everyone of this planet.

In asking you to make this decision, we recognize the more than 1200 Americans who risked arrest to protest in front of the White House between August 20th and September 3rd. These brave individuals have spoken movingly about experiencing the power of nonviolence in facing authority. They represent millions of people whose lives and livelihoods will be affected by construction and operation of the pipeline in Alberta, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

All along its prospective route, the pipeline endangers farms, wildlife and precious water aquifers—including the Ogallala Aquifer, the US’ main source of freshwater for America’s heartland. We are aware that Nebraska’s Governor Dave Heineman—as well as two Nebraska Senators—has urged you to reconsider the pathway of the pipeline. In his letter to you he clearly stated his concern about the threat to this crucial water source for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. The aquifer supplies drinking water to two million people in Nebraska and seven other states. We know that another pipeline that covers some of the same route as the proposed pipeline, and built by the same company proposing to build Keystone XL, already leaked 14 times over its first year of operation. Like you, we understand that strip-mining and drilling tar sands from under Alberta’s Boreal forests and then transporting thousands of barrels of oil a day from Canada through to Texas will not only hurt people in the US—but will also endanger the entire planet. After the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, the full development of the Alberta tar sands will create the world’s second largest potential source of global warming gases. As NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, this is “essentially game over for the climate.”

There is a better way.

Your rejection of the pipeline provides a tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal and gas and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency.

We urge you to say ‘no’ to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions. This will be your legacy to Americans and the global community: energy that sustains the lives and livelihoods of future generations.

Sincerely,
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) – Argentina
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) – South Africa
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate (1989) – Tibet
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) – Guatemala
José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) – East Timor
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) – USA
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) – Iran

9/7/2011 Durango Herald: Air quality backpedal – Obama’s retreat from rule was wrong

9/7/2011 Durango Herald: Air quality backpedal-Obama’s retreat from rule was wrong: One of the oft- and rightly criticized hallmarks of George W. Bush’s environmental policy was its brazen disregard for science, instead favoring political or ideological arguments. To the environmental community, and all those who value policies that are built upon research and scientific rigor, the Obama administration’s promise to do just that in its environmental efforts was a welcome answer to the Bush era. So it was with no small amount of disappointment that news was received last week of the administration’s decision to abandon an effort to tighten ground-level ozone standards.

Had the announcement been justified by science, it might have made the pill less bitter to swallow, but that was not the case. Instead, the decision appears to have come as a result of some rather basic political calculus, infused with integers from a concerted lobbying effort on the part of a range of business interests – including the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Tapping into the hot-button political issues such as jobs and burdensome regulatory efforts that stymie economic growth, this lobbying cohort effectively chastened the administration into abandoning the revised ozone standard so as not to give Republicans fodder for criticizing Obama’s commitment to job creation and economic recovery.

The trouble is, that is a false premise that gained unwarranted traction at a time steeped in all-jobs-all-the-time rhetoric. In accepting that claim, Obama has sidestepped a more important issue: public health and its impact on economies – not to mention communities, human and otherwise – over the long term.

The revised ozone standard that was widely expected to be accepted by Obama, would have reduced the limit of acceptable levels of ozone from 75 parts per billion to 60 to 70 parts per billion. That change would have meant many counties across the country exceeded the limit. La Plata County’s fate under the revision was uncertain, but noncompliance was a possibility. Regardless, ground-level ozone – that which is generated as a result of emissions from industrial activity such as gas and oil drilling – is known to cause a range of health problems such as increased asthma rates, as well as compounded effects of emphysema and bronchitis, and an overall decrease in lung capacity. The Environmental Protection Agency’s analysis of the standard found that a 60 to 70 parts per billion limit would be the most cost-effective way to address the growing issue. Despite opponents’ claim that the new rule would cost industry $90 billion a year to implement, the EPA found that savings of up to $100 billion each year would result. Nevertheless, Obama punted.

Aside from the disproportionate role politics played in his decision to ignore the EPA scientists’ recommendations, Obama showed a troubling willingness to play fast and loose with public health. With documented ill effects associated with ground-level ozone, erring on the side of caution, particularly when that caution is bolstered by abundant scientific evidence, is the responsibility of any good policymaker. Shirking that charge in order to win an election and duck criticism is a disappointment – to those to whom the administration promised better, to those who expect reason and research to take precedence over calculation and rhetoric, and to those who have seen the effectiveness of regulation in protecting those who suffer the environmental and health consequences of the industries that shape our economy. Both are essential to consider in formulating policy and striking a balance is always a goal, but putting a political finger on the scales produces nothing but cynicism.

9/3/2011 Smokescreens from smokestackers; EPA counters propaganda

9/3/2011 Santa Fe New Mexican: Smokescreens from smokestackers; EPA counters propaganda: Coal-company and power-industry mouthpieces lately have been foaming at the boca about federal efforts to clean up their act — and their rabidity has run them off the rhetorical track: The term they keep repeating in response to overdue clean-air standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency is “train wreck” — that’s what those darn feds are gonna turn our economy into … The longtime polluters of America’s air conjure images of Casey Jones’ fate, applying catastrophic scenes to our country’s finances if power companies have to spend money reducing smokestack emissions. Their public-relations people, some of the slickest in the country, were churning out the choo-choo phrases, along with exaggerations about the emissions rules — closed-down power plants, lost jobs, soaring electricity bills; the usual — even before EPA had issued its proposals.

Industry propaganda follows a disturbing pattern drawn by business lobbyists in recent years: Blame government for a bad economy, and put out ads saying that, if only we could return to the days of laissez-faire, everything would be hunky-dory. President Barack Obama appears to have bought it.

On Friday, Obama reeled back some of the EPA demands, especially as to reducing smog ingredients.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson stepped up just last week and coolly countered the coal guys’ grim scenarios. We can only hope she’ll prevail upon the pusillanimous president to get tough, perhaps when — or if — he’s re-elected.

For starters, Jackson argues, the train-wreck images were being applied, in many cases, to stricter rules than the agency was proposing. The Congressional Research Service notes that the new standards are aimed mainly at coal-fired plants 40 years old and older — which still haven’t been fitted with state-of-the-art pollution controls.

Without such controls, there’s a rising risk of asthma, cancer and other diseases; coal-fired generating plants spew all kinds of harmful elements into the air, onto the ground and into water.

Some of the dirtiest of those plants sit in the Four Corners: Public Service Company of New Mexico’s San Juan generator west of Farmington, nearly 40 years old, is an especially egregious polluter. The Four Corners plant near Fruitland is closer to 50 years old, and a notorious polluter.

EPA’s plans call for 80-percent emissions reductions there within the next five years or so. PNM, predictably, is fighting the proposal, saying those plants provide reasonably priced power — and that it’ll hit customers in the pocketbook.

PNM claims that compliance at San Juan alone would cost $750 million. That, too, is an exaggeration, if we can believe environmentalists’ expert testimony; there’s technology out there that can do the job for one-tenth that amount, they say — and, free of profit motivation, they enjoy more credibility than the lingering dinosaur mentality of PNM does.

Yes, electricity bills would go up even then — but since when haven’t they gone up, owing to one excuse or another?

Air-cleaning, here and around the country, has been delayed or dabbled with long enough; the mercury, the arsenic, the carbons and the nitrogen oxides have long posed health threats to the Four Corners; add to that EPA’s concerns about regional haze now spreading to Mesa Verde National Park and across the Navajo Nation, and corporate moaning in Albuquerque has a hollow sound to it.

PNM has made commendable steps into the renewable-energy field; its executives should keep up that good work — and veer further from the bad, old-fashioned kind. The company may need the Four Corners-area generators for years to come — and that’s all the more reason they’ve got to be cleaned up.

8/8/2011 EPA and USDA Create a Partnership to Improve Drinking Water Systems and Develop Workforce in Rural Communities

8/8/2011 EPA and USDA Create a Partnership to Improve Drinking Water Systems and Develop Workforce in Rural Communities: WASHINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a national partnership to protect Americans’ health by improving rural drinking water and wastewater systems. Nationwide, small water and sewage treatment facilities with limited funding and resources face challenges due to rising costs and aging equipment and pipes. Today’s agreement will send federal resources to support communities that need assistance and promote job training to help put people to work while addressing the growing workforce shortage in the water industry.

“EPA and USDA have joined forces to leverage our expertise and resources to improve drinking water and wastewater systems in small towns across the country,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “A critical part of this agreement is to ensure that we have a well trained, professional workforce available to replace workers when they leave or retire.”

“The agreement we are announcing today represents an exciting partnership between USDA and EPA that will greatly enhance our investments in water systems and also in developing a skilled workforce to oversee them,” said Jonathan Adelstein, administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. “By working together, our agencies will strengthen their capacity to provide rural residents with safe, clean, well-managed water and wastewater systems for years to come.”

Under the agreement, EPA and USDA will work together to promote jobs by targeting specific audiences, providing training for new water careers and coordinating outreach efforts that will bring greater public visibility to the workforce needs of the industry, and develop a new generation of trained water professionals. EPA and USDA will also facilitate the exchange of successful recruitment and training strategies among stakeholders including states and water industries.

The agencies will also help rural utilities improve current operations and encourage development of long-term water quality improvement plans. The plans will include developing sustainable management practices to cut costs and improve performance.

Since taking office, President Obama’s administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans. For instance, the administration has set goals to modernize infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are thriving economically.

In June, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies that will help realize the administration’s goals for rural communities. Today’s agreement is part of that initiative.

More about the EPA-USDA agreement: http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/partners.cfm#moa

CONTACTS:
EPA: Dale Kemery (News Media Only)
kemery.dale@epa.gov
202-564-7839
202-564-4355

USDA: Dane Henshall
dane.henshall@wdc.usda.gov
202-720-4623

More about EPA’s programs and tools for small water systems: http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/index.cfm

More about USDA’s Water and Environmental Programs for rural communities:

http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UWEP_HomePage.html