Backyard Talk
Andrew Morris

Fracking In New York State Official Banned

By Andrew Morris : December 17, 2014 8:47 pm

Today is a momentous day in the ban against unsafe fracking as Governor of New York  Andrew Cuomo’s administration has banned Hydraulic Fracturing in the state of New York. The decision was, “based on the recommendations of two commissioners who have studied the energy extraction process”, according to Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker at a public year-end cabinet meeting provided an overview of the reasoning behind the decision citing evidence of significant health risks as a major contributing factor for the ban.

From Salon, ‘Would I live in a community [with fracking] based on the facts I have now? Zucker asked. “Would I let my child play in a school field nearby, drink water from the tap or grow vegetables from the soil? My answer is no.”

He concluded, “I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York.”

Dr. Zucker said the numerous reports of environmental and health risks found in many peer-reviewed journals and studies pointed to many threats both to adjacent water supplies as well as air quality.

‘The bottom line is that we lack the comprehensive long-term studies,” Zucker said. “The science isn’t there.’

The decision comes in the wake of a 6 year moratorium on the practice put in place in 2008.

In June, New York’s highest court ruled that municipalities in New York should be allowed to ban fracking within their respective boundaries. It also allowed over 170 other measures against fracking to be passed.

“This has been the most emotionally charged issue that I’ve ever experienced. More than marriage equality, more than the gun issue, more than the death penalty,” Cuomo said, “ “But I will be bound by what the experts say,” said during the commission, “Let the science decide.”

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Lower Your 2014 Taxes with a Vehicle for Justice! Tic Toc.

By Vincent : December 16, 2014 2:24 pm

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

This envious musing posed by Jack Nicholson’s embodiment of The Joker evokes memories of the Dark Knight crashing through a glass ceiling, sending shards of glass dancing across the floor.

You might not have the Batmobile or Wonder Woman’s invisible jet. But guess what. Your vehicle can still fight injustice. Unlike those fantastical machinations, however, your vehicle doesn’t even necessarily have to be in running condition to do so. And that’s a cool power to have.

This month, as the winter holidays and tax season rapidly approach, please consider turning your extra car, truck, RV, motorcycle, plane, boat, farm equipment or heavy machinery into a vehicle for justice. Use Vehicle Donation to Any Charity’s (V-DAC’s) trusted, easy to use, nationwide service to donate your vehicle to the benefit of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. The service is free, and you can get a tax deduction for your donation!

To lower your taxes for 2014, donate your vehicle before the end of December 2014 through V-DAC’s system to benefit CHEJ. Perhaps you’d like to share this idea with your family and friends as well.

Whether your vehicle is new or old, running or not, V-DAC will arrange free, convenient pickup of your vehicle—anywhere in the 50 states. The V-DAC program then does all of the work to turn your vehicle into cash for CHEJ and will send you your donation receipt for tax deduction purposes.

V-DAC has an established track record of delivering to a donor’s designated charity a high percentage (70% to 75% on average) of the net proceeds from the sale of the donated vehicle. It is able to do this by striving to control its administrative costs. V-DAC is also accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

Whether helping communities win campaigns against air, water and ground contamination from polluting infrastructure, or against toxic chemicals in our children’s schools and consumer products, CHEJ will use the proceeds effectively to mentor the environmental health and justice movement, empower people and prevent harm.

To start the online process of donating your vehicle to CHEJ’s benefit or to learn more about this vehicle donation program, click here or the vehicle icon below. Alternatively, you may call V-DAC’s trained customer service center toll free at 877-999-8322.

If you decide to handle the vehicle donation process by phone, please be sure to specify “Center for Health, Environment and Justice” as the charity that you want to benefit from your donation.

Donate your vehicle to benefit CHEJ! Fight injustice! And get a tax deduction to boot!

Thank you!

P.S.  Of course, you can always make a tax-deductible cash contribution by visiting our donate page here.

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Sharon H.

A Weekend of Environmental Justice

By Sharon H. : December 12, 2014 7:34 pm

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the third annual Symposium on Environmental Justice and Environmental Health Disparities in Maryland and DC. The conference was organized by the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health lab at the University of Maryland. Over two days, the conference brought together nearly 250 people, including community organizers and leaders, health care practitioners, government officials, students and researchers to discuss some of the most pressing issues in the DC metro area related to environmental health and justice.

Picture from

This year’s theme related specifically to environmental justice and health within the Chesapeake Bay region. Over the course of the day and of the entire weekend, the seventeen principles of environmental justice were reiterated: most particularly that all of us, no matter our identities, have the right to a clean and safe environment. Fred Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, discussed his experiences in the environmental justice movement over lunch, and brought together many of the themes of the weekend. If we are working on environmental issues, Fred discussed, doesn’t it make sense to start with the worst of the problems with which we are contending? Unfortunately, so many of these environmental issues, whether pollution or the impacts of climate change, fall disproportionately on communities of color and low income communities. One conundrum of the environmental field and the environmental movement is that it is so often characterized as a movement of the white and wealthy, when in fact these communities are certainly not the ones with most at stake in the game. Fred reiterated the importance of prioritizing the issues of communities of color when we address environmental crises, as well as a related need to diversify the movement and centralize environmental justice as a concern for all.

The afternoon plenaries of the first day focused in more closely on issues of diversity. While women have made great strides in gaining influential positions within environmentally related organizations, most of these gains have been made by white women. The need for diversity in this movement is more than just an issue of counting heads, but bringing to the table the most valuable perspectives on environmental issues that fall on a diverse range of communities. The next day, we had the opportunity to hear from some incredible community leaders, and particularly a few young voices, who are making strides to defend their communities and improve environmental health.

Environmental justice is often treated more as a ‘side issue’ appended to a larger environmental movement that is often more concerned with the health of oysters, streams and crabs than with the health of our fellow human beings. As Fred Tutman wrote in his essay, Why Green is not the New Black or Brown, “Let’s build a true “rainbow” movement, with membership and goals that reflect the diversity of the whole community. The environmental movement must cast its nets wider and cover more issues and causes.” This conference made great strides toward building such a movement.

Read more from Fred Tutman here.

Learn the principles of environmental justice.

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Stop Poisoning The Children

By Lois : December 10, 2014 11:34 am

When will we stop poisoning our children?  What is a child’s life worth? I can’t help but ask those questions today as I click through my e-mail box and see the story on fracking related health effects, around birth defects and infertility and another on cancer, respiratory disease and more. As I scroll down there’s a new story by the Center for Public Integrity focused on a study finding childhood leukemia related to the petrochemical industry.

“Children, developing fetuses, they’re especially vulnerable to environmental factors,” says Ellen Webb, the study’s lead author and an energy program associate at the Center for Environmental Health. “We really need to be concerned about the impacts for these future generations.”

The Center for Public Integrity story is almost a mirror image of the story about Woburn,  Massachusetts. Parents in that community in the late 1970’s discovered a cluster of childhood leukemia while taking their children into the hospital for treatment. For those who are familiar with the Woburn story just read the paragraphs below for the article and see the similarities.

“It was December 29, 1998, six years after Jill McElheney and her family had moved next to a cluster of 12 petroleum storage tanks. Jill was escorting her son Jarrett, then 4, to the doctor again. He had spent the day slumped in a stroller, looking so pale and fatigued that a stranger stopped her to ask if he was all right.

It was an encounter Jill couldn’t shake. For the previous three months, she had noticed her once-energetic preschooler deteriorating. He complained of pain in his knee, which grew excruciating. It migrated to his shoulder and then his leg. His shins swelled, as did his temples. At night, Jarrett awoke drenched in sweat, screaming from spasms. Jill took him to a pediatrician and an infectious-disease specialist. A rheumatologist diagnosed him with anemia.

Doctors identified a common form of childhood leukemia. “I heard the words,” Jill recalled, “and I only knew the bald heads and the sadness.”

In the waiting room, family members heard more unsettling news: A neighbor’s child also had developed leukemia.

Days later, Jarrett’s doctor penned a letter to federal environmental regulators about the two cancer patients, highlighting their “close proximity” to Southeast Terminals, a group of 10,000-gallon tanks containing gasoline, diesel and fuel oil.

“Could you please investigate,” the doctor wrote, “whether high levels of chemicals could have contaminated the water, possibly contributing … to the development of leukemia?”

I can remember like it was yesterday, talking with mothers from Woburn literally telling the same story. Why are corporations allowed, now over thirty five years later, to continue to poison our children? These children have parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, names and personalities. They are not just numbers in a report or statistics in someone’s research they are little people and are helpless. It is well past time to stop this madness and protect the most vulnerable among us. Enough is enough our children matter.

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European Union to Allow Ongoing use of DEHP

By Jose Aguayo : December 9, 2014 12:21 pm

When it comes to green policies, toxic chemical law, and pretty much every other environmentally related topic, Europe is light years ahead of the United States. The European Union (EU) has been at the forefront of sustainable and environmentally friendly policies. However, that record now stands to be blemished by a poor decision regarding the use of a family of chemicals called phthalates.

EU Parliament Building

Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid that are used as plasticizers mainly in PVC plastics (Type 3), increasing their flexibility, transparency and durability. These chemicals have been associated with several health complications including breast cancer and hormone imbalances. As a result, the use of six particular phthalates, DEHP; BBP; DBP; DINP; DIDP; and DNOP, has been restricted to 0.01% by weight in children’s toys both in Europe and in the US.

However, the EU went a step further and during the past few years contemplated the complete phase-out of BBP, DEHP, DIBP and DBP, four of the most common phthalates in use, from every product on their market. This effort was led mainly by Danish Environmental Protection Agency and Swedish Chemicals Agency. Their efforts led to the EU to task the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to evaluate phthalates (among other chemicals) and create a final recommendation on whether or not to enact a complete market ban on phthalates in consumer products. Large European plastic companies, such as Arkema (France), ZAK (Poland) and Deza (Czech Republic), replied with ferocious intensity – demanding that ECHA maintains the status quo. This political battle has intensified in the past months.

Now, the EU set a deadline of February 21 for it’s final ruling on the four phthalates. Two of them, BBP and DIBP, received relatively little backing from the industry and will be phased out completely by the February date. However, DEHP was defended staunchly and the industry pressured ECHA to recommend the continued authorization of DEHP. The proposal by ECHA is to grant certain manufacturers four years for ongoing use of DEHP in PVC production and twelve years for ongoing recycling of PVC.

The final decision on whether or not DEHP will be banned now rests with the European Commission (EC) who has 3 months to take a position. Environmental NGO’s and certain government agencies are working hard to convince the EC to see ECHA’s recommendation as completely not objective and as the result of pressure from the plastic industry. The EU has historically made the right decision when special interests conflicted with the public’s safety. Let’s hope they maintain their good record.

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