Backyard Talk
Lois

Ohio Govenor Kills Green Energy & NYS Invests

By Lois : January 28, 2015 7:57 pm

It was only a short while ago when the Ohio Legislature essential killed all efforts to bring clean green energy and energy use reduction to the state. Ohio Gov. John Kasich dashed the hopes of environmentalists, leading manufacturers and renewable-energy businesses in June when he signed a bill shelving requirements for utilities to ramp up the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Kasich welcomes fracking and other nasty industrial processes to his state while other states are taking a more proactive and protective direction.

Recently, New York Governor Cuomo announced a ban on fracking in NY sighting the many unknown health issues that  have not been addressed and the potential impacts are too great to allow fracking to proceed in the state at this time.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said that in other states where fracking is already happening, he found that state health commissioners “weren’t even at the table” when decisions about the process were made.

Zucker add “I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” also noting that he would not live in a community that allows fracking and would not want his children to play in the soil in such a place.

We give the Governor of NY an A+ for his due diligence in protecting the citizens of NY and the Governor of Ohio a big fat red letter F for his lack of caring or concern for the residents of his state.


This January 2015 NYS Governor began pushing for investments in clean green energy.

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Sharon H.

For BPA, Does the Dose Make the Poison?

By Sharon H. : January 26, 2015 11:42 pm

For those who keep up with environmental health research and chemical regulations, it is no surprise to come across conflicting reports on the safety or risk of various compounds. This week, in the case of the compound bisphenol A (BPA), these conflicting reports happened to emerge almost simultaneously. On January 21st, the European Food Safety Authority declared that BPA “poses no health risk to consumers of any age group…at current exposure levels.” The next day, a study published in the journal PLoS Genetics showed that even low and short-term exposures to BPA and other hormone-mimicking compounds could alter stem cells and lead to lower sperm counts.

BPA is a common ingredient in plastics used for food and drink containers. Its hormone-like properties allow it to disrupt the endocrine system, with potential health effects ranging from reproductive issues to cancer. Though BPA has been banned in baby bottles in the U.S., and BPA-free products have become widely available since concerns about the compound were first raised in 2008, it remains in products from water bottles to the inside coatings of cans.

David McNew via Getty Images

‘The dose makes the poison’ is a well-known adage in toxicology, implying that even hazardous chemicals can be harmless at low enough concentrations. However, decades of research have shown this to be an overly simplistic way of analyzing toxic exposures.  Dr. Theo Colborn, who passed away on December 14th, 2014, was a pioneering researcher in the field of endocrine disruption and a tireless advocate for precautionary chemical regulation. Her research on endocrine disruption demonstrated that even very low concentrations of harmful chemicals could result in changes to the reproductive system, particularly in developing babies and children who have less of a tolerance for exposure than adults. She also demonstrated that not all effects of toxic chemicals are immediately apparent, but can occur decades and even generations later.

The study published last week focused on both questions of concentration and timing. The researchers tested estrogenic compounds including BPA on mice, and found that they alter the stem cells, or undifferentiated cells, which are responsible for sperm production later in life. Patricia Hunt, the researcher who led the study, told Environmental Health News that exposure to even low doses of estrogens “is not simply affecting sperm being produced now, but impacting the stem cell population, and that will affect sperm produced throughout the lifetime.”

Uncertainties remain in the wake of this study. For instance, the researchers are still investigating whether the changes observed can cross generations, or whether the same changes can occur in human reproductive stem cells. The EFSA also recognized uncertainties in non-dietary sources of BPA, and they are still conducting long-term studies in rats. While scientists and regulators continue to chase answers, this past week shines a spotlight on the complicated realm of environmental health risk assessment, and shows the continued relevance of Dr. Theo Colborn’s work and legacy. Dose is indeed important in making a poison, but so is timing of exposure, and time itself in revealing the chronic and transgenerational effects of chemicals.

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Lois

Demand What You Want-Not What’s “Feasible”

By Lois : January 23, 2015 12:01 pm

Truer words have never been spoken. In CHEJ’s recent training on Lessons Learned from New York State, which recently banned fracking until it can be proven safe, Eric Weltman from Food and Water Watch told the group to demand what you want not what is feasible.

I find it frustrating and a bit troubling when I visit communities who are struggling to protect their health and environment from environmental threats and they ask for less than they deserve and need. When I ask leaders, “why short change themselves,” they often respond saying they don’t want to sound unreasonable or worse because their opponents said it’s too expensive. Leaders and community members are often bullied into believing that they must take less or they won’t get anything. This is just not true.

At Love Canal in 1978, our community was told that government does not evacuate families and purchase homes because of toxic pollution. If we didn’t stick to our goal we would never had been evacuated. When the environmental health and justice movement demanded that no more commercial landfills be built, we were all told it must go somewhere. Several years later up until today no new commercial hazardous wastes landfills have been built, although it is still legal to do so.

In one of CHEJ’s consumer campaigns around a multinational corporation, we were demanding they take certain products off their shelves. The corporations response was, we won’t be bullied by radical environmental group. Yet a short time later they did exactly what we and consumers across the country asked.

No one should ask or accept as the final decision, what is not right and fair. However, winning the big ask is more difficult and demands serious discipline. Everyone needs to be on the same page and demand the same goal. Yes, there are always those few who will say out loud and even in the media that they would be wiling to accept less. Yet if the loud vocal people, the base of the majority, the framers of the campaign stick with their larger goal for justice, they will dominate the campaign. Those with smaller goals will be essential drowned out by the voices and actions of this  larger group.

This was the case in New York State around fracking. There were good people who would have accepted better regulations or only drilling in certain parts of the state. In every issue those working from various groups often have different goals. Sometimes their efforts help build toward the larger goal and other times they may be an irritation. The key to win it all is to build larger stronger, more visible opposition and demand for the larger goals. In this way you can win your goals without publicly fighting with others.

As Eric told us, “we were relentless. With op-eds, press events, using the public participation/comment period to submit a hundred thousands of “comments” that said Ban Fracking Now –not detailed line by line comments about regulations that were proposed. Hundreds of groups participated in bird dogging the governor who couldn’t go anywhere without a group, small or large in his face demanding he ban fracking.”

Secondly, Eric was clear that you need a single target, in NYS it was the governor. “You need to find the person who has the power to give you what you are demanding,” he said. I would add that it always needs to be a person not an entity, like regulatory agency or corporation. You need a human face on your opponent and your messengers to make it all work.

This is a time tested strategy and if you follow it you are more likely to receive a higher level of justice not a compromising solution.

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jaguayo

President Obama Holds the Power to Protect America from Keystone

By Jose Aguayo : January 21, 2015 3:18 pm

In the first week of 2015, President Obama sent a clear message to the new Republican congress that he intends to stand firm in his commitment to uphold the health of environment and the American public. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on January 6 in a public statement that president Obama would veto any effort to move forward with the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Now, after the Keystone Act was passed in the House and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate, we hope that the President will stand firm by his promise.

This Keystone XL Pipeline Act is an effort that pushes for the completion of a pipeline that would transport oil tar sands from the Canadian province of Alberta, through Montana and South Dakota, and into Nebraska. Republican leads have been pushing for the Keystone pipeline since 2008, with a virtually identical bill failing to make it through the Senate as recently as last November. However, with the newly shaped senate in place and an already approved vote of 266-153 in the House of Representatives, the President faces a tough task in keeping the pipeline from harming the health of millions of Americans.

The concerns surrounding the Keystone pipeline are staggering. Firstly, the type of oil being mined and moved, oil sand tar, produces as much as 22% more carbon emissions than other fuels according to a Stanford University study commissioned by the EU in 2011. Secondly, the potential for a spill is highly likely, as is evidenced by the previous A tar sand spill in Mayflower AR, and could contaminate drinking water and agricultural land with toxic chemicals as the Environmental Working Group’s Poisons in the Pipeline investigation revealed.

Now that the Keystone Act is in the Senate floor and multiple amendments that would mitigate the pipeline’s destructive effects are being shot down by the Republican majority, the President’s resolution will be tested to its fullest. Although the Act has every chance of making it through the Senate, the president still hold the ultimate say. His veto power may be the only thing that stands to protect the American public from the unthinkable harms that the Keystone Pipeline would bring.

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Steve

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Stephen Lester : January 19, 2015 5:38 pm

Martin Luther King Jr. left many legacies – as a crusader for civil rights, voting rights, religious harmony, peace and economic justice. As we reflect on his legacy, I was struck by a story written by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post that talked about how “timeless” King’s economic message was (“to our society’s great shame”) and how much further we still have to go.

In the weeks before his death, King was preparing for a march on Washington as part of the Poor People’s Campaign, and he formulated a speech called “The Other America.” Although not as well known as King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, there’s much that still rings true in this speech five decade later. Robinson quotes King’s speech given in New York City in March 1968:

“One America is flowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality. That America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits … But as we assemble here tonight, I’m sure that each of us is painfully aware of the fact that there is another America, and that other America has daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In that other America millions of people find themselves forced to live in inadequate substandard housing, and often dilapidated housing conditions…

“In this other America, thousands of young people are deprived of an opportunity to get an adequate education … because the schools are so inadequate, so over-crowded, so devoid of quality, so segregated if you will, that the best in these minds can never come out.

According to Robinson, the problem was structural as he quoted King further: “This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.”

Robinson states that King continued this theme eight days later when he addressed striking sanitation workers in Memphis: “Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day? They are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are the facts which must be seen, and it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and full-time job getting part-time income.”

According to Robinson, King explained the shift in his focus:

“Now our struggle is for genuine economic equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?“

Robinson concludes with “What King saw in 1968 – and what we all should recognize today – is that it is useless to try to address race without also taking on the larger issue of inequality.”

To read the Robinson’s article in full, go to

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-mlks-call-for-economic-justice/2015/01/15/3599cb70-9cfe-11e4-96cc-e858eba91ced_story.html

To read King’s Other America speech in full, go to http://www.gphistorical.org/mlk/mlkspeech/mlk-gp-speech.pdf


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