'/> Uncommon Hours: October 2011
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Obama Administration: No Uranium Mining Near Grand Canyon

Sierra Club Praises Decision to Protect National Park, Southwest Drinking Water

Washington, DC -- The Obama Administration today took a critical step in finalizing protections to keep more than a million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park free from mineral exploration and new mining. The decision comes as the lands around the Grand Canyon are threatened by thousands of new uranium mining claims.

"The Sierra Club applauds the decision to protect these precious public lands. The Grand Canyon is a crown jewel of our national park system, and an important piece of American history, culture and economy," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. "These public lands are no place for destructive energy and mineral development."

Monday, October 24, 2011

A victory for our wilderness: Federal court reinstates Roadless Rule

Landmark Ruling on Wild National Forest Protections

DENVER – The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a long-awaited, landmark decision today, securing critical legal protections for nearly 50 million acres of pristine National Forest lands. These forests offer outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing, and hiking, produce clean water for thousands of communities nationwide, and provide irreplaceable habitat for imperiled wildlife species including grizzly bears, lynx, and Pacific salmon. The appellate court reversed a lower court decision and affirmed the validity of the Roadless Rule – a 2001 federal rule that protects wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging, and development.

The appellate court ruled against the State of Wyoming and industry intervenors and in favor of conservation groups, the Forest Service, and the States of California, Oregon, and Washington. This decision formally ends an injunction against the Rule’s enforcement imposed by a Wyoming federal district court in 2008.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Koch Industries and Cancer: 'Koch Brothers Exposed'

"Koch is using natural streams to transport waste, and this is not allowed by the Clean Water Act. And they can do it because the EPA lets them do it."
--Cheryl Slavant, Ouachita Riverkeeper,
President of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network

"Koch Industries not only manipulates the political process, but more importantly...they manipulate the public into believing that the EPA is killing jobs."
--Dr. Melissa Jarrell,
Environmental Criminologist,
Texas A&M University

Take action: http://kochbrothersexposed.com/
Discuss: http://facebook.com/kochbrothers

Europe’s Top Doctors On Climate Change: ‘Prevention Is The Best Solution’

By Brad Johnson

“Climate change poses an immediate, growing and grave threat to the health and security of people in both developed and developing countries around the globe,” Europe’s top medical leaders concluded at an international conference on the risks of global warming. At London’s Health and Security Perspectives on Climate Change conference, participants discussed how the destabilization of the global climate system is already hurting people’s health and security, with much greater threats to come:

Climate change leads to more frequent and extreme weather events and to conditions that favor the spread of infectious diseases. Rising sea levels, floods and droughts cause loss of habitat, water and food shortages, and threats to livelihood. These trigger conflict within and between countries. Humanitarian crises will further burden military resources through the need for rescue missions and aid. Mass migration will also increase, triggered by both environmental stress and conflict, thus leading to serious further security issues. It will often not be possible to adapt meaningfully to these changes, and the economic cost will be enormous. As in medicine, prevention is the best solution.

Signatories include the editors-in-chief of the British Medical Journal and Lancet, the chairman of the British Medical Association, the president of the Norwegian Medical Association, and the executive director of Greenpeace International.

In their statement, they call on the European Union to unilaterally adopt the climate target of a 30 percent reduction from 1990 levels in greenhouse pollution by 2020, and the rapid phasing out of coal plants.

This article was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rick Perry’s Energy Plan: 'Wheeze, baby, wheeze!'

Plan Would Poison Water and Air; Ratchet Up Rates of Asthma, Heart Disease, Birth Defects

Pittsburgh – Today, Texas Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry unveiled his energy plan for America. The plan, if implemented, will poison our air and water with toxic pollutants like soot, smog, arsenic, cadmium, dioxin, lead, and formaldehyde. It would also undercut safeguards from mercury, which is a neurotoxin and is known to harm developing fetuses.

“Rick Perry’s energy plan reads like a roadmap for making America’s kids sick,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "Under this plan, we can expect to see much higher rates of asthma among children, and risk to pregnant women from mercury exposure. Republicans like Perry are putting polluters’ profits first and our kids’ health last. The Republican mantra should be 'wheeze, baby, wheeze.'"

Perry’s plan calls for scaling back basic EPA safeguards that protect our clean air and water. It would simultaneously expand development of dirty energy like coal, oil, and natural gas amounting to a one-two punch to Americans’ health.

“American families have enough to worry about,” Brune said. “They don’t need to spend more time taking their kids to the doctor or more money on hospital bills. The only people who stand to profit from this plan are overpaid oil, coal and natural gas CEOs.”
“Dismantling the EPA and assuming that states are properly watching over natural gas drilling is dangerous and puts the health of our families and communities at risk.”

Perry’s plan would also undercut the expansion of jobs in industries like solar—the fastest-growing industry in the energy sector.

“There’s a solution to the current epidemic of pollution-related illness that will also create good, lasting local jobs, and secure America’s energy independence,” said Brune. “It’s clean energy. America’s clean energy industry is strong and thriving, even in this down economy. Rick Perry’s plan would stifle that growth and return our country to a dirty, antiquated energy system. Under his plan, we’ll see asthma rates among American kids soar, while countries like China surpass us in reaping the benefits from clean energy like solar and wind."

In fact, America is predicted to become the world’s leader in solar energy by 2014, and in 2010, the U.S. was a net exporter of solar by $2 billion. Solar energy creates seven times more jobs than coal, nuclear and natural gas.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pollutors Win: House blocks toxic mercury protections for industrial boilers

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives tonight passed legislation that would block critical protections against toxic mercury and other dangerous chemicals and metals emitted by industrial boilers, which are among the nation’s biggest and dirtiest sources of mercury pollution. Boilers exist in and around hospitals, schools and communities across the country, exposing Americans to toxic mercury pollution, a known brain poison that threatens the development of young children. The bill is the latest in a series of dangerous attacks waged by House Leadership on public health protections and the Clean Air Act.

National Peace Action director to speak in Kansas City

Kevin Martin
Kansas City, Mo. ― Kevin Martin, the Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund, will appear at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City on Oct. 16, at 1:00 p.m.

His address is entitled “Endless War, Endless Costs, Endless Nuclear Weapons: The Crying Need to Change America’s Flawed Military and Economic Priorities.”

Martin has appeared on CNN, National Public Radio, Fox News, MSNBC, BBC-TV and radio, and many other local, national and international radio and television outlets.

Peace Action is the nation's largest grassroots peace network, with chapters and affiliates across the country, including PeaceWorks, its Kansas City-based chapter.

According to Henry Stoever, Chair of the PeaceWorks Board of Directors, “We are bringing Kevin Martin to Kansas City to call attention to what our city has done—sold up to $815 million in municipal bonds to private investors to finance the new nuclear weapons plant.”

“Kansas City,” Stoever said, “is the only city in the world so involved in creating and financing a nuclear bomb production plant.”

Members of PeaceWorks and Kansas City Peace Planters, a coalition of regional groups, are petitioning to place two initiatives on the April ballot. One measure calls for development of a plan to create alternative jobs for the plant’s workers, while the other seeks an end to Kansas City’s role in financing the production of parts for nuclear weapons. For more information on these petitions, go to  http://www.peaceworkskc.org/.

Peace Action was founded in 1957 through the merger of The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Michael Brune: "...the hypocrisy of the Koch brothers pales in comparison to the State Department's role in the Keystone XL debacle"

What's that Smell? Keystone XL
By Michael Brune

Michael Brune,
Executive Director of the Sierra Club
Three months ago, I wrote an op-ed for the L.A. Times that listed the "Koch brothers-backed" Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar-sands oil as one of the most important environmental issues confronting President Obama. That prompted a stern missive from the Legal Department at Koch Industries, which even got the Times to run a correction saying that Koch Industries "says it has no involvement in the project."

Only problem: It now turns out that three years ago a Canadian subsidiary of Koch Industries said exactly the opposite: That it had "a direct and substantial interest" in seeing the Keystone XL pipeline approved. Whoops.

But, really, I feel like I've been vindicated for observing that "the sun rises in the east." Let’s get real here. No reasonable person could have doubted that the Koch brothers, who are in the tar-sands business up to their Windsor-knotted neckties, could possibly not have been in favor of the Keystone XL. (Note to the good folks at Koch Industries Legal Dept: This is called poetic license. I humbly confess that I have no idea how Charles and David knot their ties, so please don’t come seize my house.)

Unfortunately, the hypocrisy of the Koch brothers pales in comparison to the State Department's role in the Keystone XL debacle. Last summer, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that her department would leave "no stone unturned" as it prepared its environmental impact report. But when the report appeared, there were unturned stones everywhere:

  • No study of the consequences of a raw tar-sands oil spills or the difficulties of cleaning up the inevitable spills was done.
  • No analysis of the clean-energy alternatives to the pipeline or of how extracting Canadian tar sands oil would affect their development.
  • No serious assessment of alternatives to a route that crosses the Ogallala Aquifer (which underlies more than a quarter of our country's irrigated land).
  • No study of how more pollution would affect Gulf refinery towns like Port Arthur, TX, which is already one of our country's most polluted communities.
  • No analysis of the impact on wildlife, such as the lesser sandhill cranes that use Nebraska's central Platte River valley as a stopover on their migration north.
  • An incomplete and faulty analysis of how extracting and burning tar-sands oil will affect climate disruption.
There's more, but you get the gist. How could the Department of State have gotten it so wrong? Keystone XL, after all, is a 1,700-mile pipeline that will do nothing for Americans except seize their land through eminent domain, expose them to catastrophic oil spills and toxic pollution, and make domestic gas more expensive -- all so a foreign oil company, TransCanada, can ship its tar-sands oil overseas from our ports. It's such a bad idea that, in Texas, the Sierra Club and the Tea Party actually allied to oppose it (I think the sun actually did rise in the west on that day).

Sorry to say, the answer is that this was government at its most tawdry. The Department of State allowed a former Clinton campaign staff member, working as a TransCanada lobbyist, inappropriate access to high level officials within the Department and hired a biased pro-oil contracting firm to do the actual evaluation and run public hearings.

The more Americans learn about Keystone XL and the big-money campaign behind it, the worse the whole thing smells. Whether or not to permit this travesty is still one of the most important decisions facing President Obama. It's time for him to clear the air, kill this Koch brothers-backed pipeline, and let the State Department get back to issuing passports and visas.

Michael Brune is the Sierra Club's executive director.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sierra Club releases clean water voting record

View the Report Card: http://www.sierraclub.org/coal/reportcard/

U.S. House Anti-Clean Water Vote Expected This Week

Washington, D.C. – Today the Sierra Club released a clean water voting record for the U.S. House of Representatives, in time for an expected floor vote this week on a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting communities from toxic coal ash. Coal ash is a dangerous solid waste by-product of burning coal, containing mercury, arsenic, hexavalent chromium and lead. There are more than 130 cases of coal ash contaminating communities across the country.

The interactive, online report card issues letter grades for U.S. Representatives’ voting records on clean water issues.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

U.S. House continues assault on clean air

Latest Vote Blocks Toxic Mercury Protections

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation that would block critical protections against toxic mercury emitted by cement plants. The chamber is expected to vote on a similar bill to block toxic mercury protections for industrial boilers next week. Cement plants and industrial boilers are among the nation’s biggest and dirtiest sources of mercury pollution.

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

“Members of the U.S. House Leadership have outdone themselves again, with their continued, all-out assault on commonsense public health protections.

“By passing H.R. 2681, the U.S. House has voted to allow cement plants, some of the nation’s biggest, dirtiest sources of mercury pollution, to continue spewing toxic mercury – a known brain poison that threatens the development of young children – into our air and water without limits.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Students Take Action to Move Campuses Beyond Coal

Over 100 Actions Planned Demanding Schools Switch to 100% Clean Energy

Washington, DC – This week students at Virginia Tech, Purdue University, Bates College in Maine and the University of Illinois kicked off a nationwide month of creative actions focused on moving America’s campus’ beyond coal. The coordinated effort called 100% Clean: 100 Actions for Clean Energy aims to unite local efforts into a nationwide movement to retire university coal plants, cut university ties with the coal industry and move the nation’s institutions of higher education to clean energy solutions.

“We have students on our campus who are getting sick from breathing coal dust coming from the campus coal plant across the street from their dorm. This is unacceptable. We want Virginia Tech and universities nation-wide to be leading the way towards an innovative, healthy and clean energy future, not stuck in the past relying on dirty coal,” said Kara Dodson, a senior at Virginia Tech and Coordinator of the Campuses Beyond Coal campaign on campus.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sierra Club Books to release updated edition of Nukespeak

Critically acclaimed Nukespeak updated to include events through the still unfolding Fukushima disaster

The 30th anniversary edition of Nukespeak examines critical events of the last three decades and the language used to shape and distort public discourse on nuclear issues.

On October 4, 2011, Sierra Club Books will publish the 30th anniversary edition of Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima exclusively in e-book format. First published in 1982 in the wake of the first great nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island, the original edition, written by Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell, and Rory O’Connor, examined the turbulent history of the nuclear industry, documenting the extraordinary public relations campaign that developers undertook to sell nuclear technology.