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The Easy Way — NOT Most Effective Way

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Sign a petition or write a letter? It is true that many signatures on a petition is meaningful but such petitions also has its limits. Legislators look at the petition signatures and note the number but essentially ignore what activists see as their “powerful voice” they intended the petition to represent.

It’s a case of “the easiest way is also not the most effective.” Clicking on to a form letter ends up to be not only a very soft message to the targeted audience. Moreover, the person signing thinks that they have done their good deed of the day and takes no further action. For example, last year, almost 4,000 comments were submitted to a legislator in Pennsylvania and 95% of them were rejected as “form letters.” That doesn’t mean they didn’t represent some level of people’s voices but were not as meaningful.

When you look at what citizens did in NC around fracking regulations, where they worked to get specific comments from people who may have use a model predefined set of issues, but many comments were personalized, you get a very different story. According to an article in the NC paper News Observer the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission is plowing through a mountain of public comments on its proposed fracking standards with less than a month left to fine-tune the safety rules for shale gas drilling. State officials estimate that more than 100,000 comments flooded in by the Sept. 30 deadline and the finally tally could approach 200,000.

The number of submission was so large that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials are not sure they have sufficient memory space on the agency’s hard drives to post the comments online for public view. DENR have assigned at least eight extra staffers, including from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, to sort through public remarks and enter them into a database.

That action made a difference at a very high level. However the people power could have been even stronger if everyone said a little more than “don’t frack.” According to the commissioner, “about half of the comments are repetitive ‘don’t frack’ and they don’t really count, if you know what I mean.”

This was successful with the chairman of the commission saying, there is no question that we will recommend some adjustment to the rules, how much is not clear. It was the volume and the individual comments not just signing on to a model set of comments that made the difference and has moved the needle. So think about giving people talking points to actually submit individual comments that are not all exactly the same and you may see the difference, next time you want to move a person with authority or regulations. Some people will only act with a sign-on but encouraging one more step, making that step as easy as possible could increase your power. No one ever said that activism was easy, but it’s not all that hard either.

group photo st louis

Thugs, Cancer, Radioactive Wastes – EPA Again Sitting on Their Hands

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Republic Services sent several of their men – young men—to stand out in front of the hall where a community meeting was being held to hand out corporate propaganda. Imagine walking from your car, after leaving your young child who is suffering from brain cancer at home, to be met by men from the company that you believe is responsible for exposures. “Just clean up the waste, dig it up and take it out of our community,” was the response of one of the local moms.

Republic had a lot of nerve coming to this meeting and leafleting people as they entered the building. Their signs making it look like people were the barrier to EPA cleaning up the site, but its Republic Services that wants to leave the waste where it is, which was the EPA plan before the underground fire. How heartless can you be? Families just learned that there was a significant childhood cancer cluster in the community that surrounds Republic’s radioactive and burning garbage dumps.

One woman told the Republic thugs – what she called them – that she has had both breast removed from cancer and her best friend has lupus. The state health department believes there is a problem, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit because of a problem and the community has a registry that documents health and environmental problems with Republic Services wastes. She was angry, “How dare they send thugs to our meeting of moms, dads and seniors who are sick and tired of Republic’s refusal to do the right thing.”

This community located in St. Louis Missouri area have been fighting to obtain relocation for families living around this site. There are two dumpsites one with garbage that is burning underground and the other is a radioactive waste site. At the meeting one woman spoke up and said, “Do you know what it’s like to tuck your children in at night and then lay in bed waiting for a siren to tell you the fire has reached the radioactive wastes and likely radioactive materials are traveling through the air into your home. It’s terrifying. I can’t move, I can’t stay and I can’t protect my babies.”

Republic Services has enough money to buy the families homes and properly clean up the waste sites. Last year they earned $8.4 billion in revenues and $589 million in profits. If they did the right and responsible thing by moving people and properly cleaning up the wastes they would still have plenty of profits to go around. But instead they send their thugs to picket outside the meeting of Republic Services victims.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates owns 29 percent of the company’s shares through Cascade Investment, LLC – about $4 billion worth. This includes 16 million shares (worth $645 million) purchased in 2014 alone. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also owns 1.35 million shares of Republic stock. Gates chief investment officer at Cascade Investment, has been a Republic Services board director since 2009. When Republic pays a $0.28/share quarterly dividend in October 2014, Bill Gates and his Foundation will receive $27.6 million.

CHEJ working with the community are circulating a petition to push Bill Gates to use his power of the vote to move Republic to evacuate families who need to leave and clean up the two sites to remove the hazards. Please help us by signing the petition.

Mahoning River Tributary

Citizen Groups Urge W.Va. Governor to Rethink Oil and Gas Drilling Under Ohio River

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Yesterday, citizen groups on both sides of the Ohio River sent a letter to W.Va. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, requesting that he withdraw a proposal that would allow drilling for natural gas under the Ohio River. They also requested a meeting with the governor.

In late August, the groups alerted one another to a disturbing legal notice in area newspapers: Until September 25, the W.Va. Department of Commerce, Division of Natural Resources is taking bids that will allow the successful bidder to drill for Marcellus- and Utica-shale-derived natural gas beneath the Ohio River in Pleasants, Marshall and Wetzel counties.

Although a news report quotes W.Va. Governor Early Ray Tomblin as saying, “The proposed development is in the best economic interests of the state and will not unreasonably disrupt use and enjoyment of the Ohio River or the division’s opportunities to develop other mineral interests in the area,” the citizen groups are highly skeptical of the wisdom of drilling under the Ohio River.

“The 981 miles of the Ohio River provide drinking water to more than five million people. Ten percent of the country lives in the Ohio River Basin. Considering the multiple dire water situations we are seeing nationwide — such as drought out west, coal-chemical contamination of 300,000 people’s water supply in West Virginia, drinking water at peril from fracking waste around the country — we should be doing everything possible to safeguard our water. Drilling under the Ohio River is a huge risk,” says Roxanna Groff of the Athens County Fracking Action Network.

Groff’s group and several others recently successfully worked together to convince the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the comment period on a fracking waste barge dock permit proposed for Portland, Meigs County, Ohio.

In coming together to question this latest threat to the Ohio River, the groups point out that since 2005, according to federal law (42 U.S. Code § 15941), “No Federal or State permit or lease shall be issued for new oil and gas slant, directional, or offshore drilling in or under one or more of the Great Lakes.”

“There are protections for the water in Lake Erie needed for drinking water in the northern part of the state — why not the same protections for the water in the southern?” says FreshWater Accountability Project Managing Director Leatra Harper.

“One state’s governor shouldn’t be able to sell off drilling rights at the peril of the millions who depend on the Ohio River for drinking water,” says Mary Greer of Concerned Citizens Ohio, based in Portage County.

“Fracking related activities have been causing earthquakes and there’s a fault line running under the Ohio River,” says Teresa Mills with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. (See http://www2.ohiodnr.com/portals/geosurvey/ohioseis/images/faultbig.gif.)

“We’ve heard before that some outrageous plan is ‘safe’ when it wasn’t. There needs to be a comprehensive environmental study done before drilling under the Ohio River is even considered,” says Patricia Jacobson with FaCT-OV.

“How can one division of state government rush into such an enterprise without consulting the people of West Virginia, or indeed anyone living in any downstream state, as well as the federal government? How can it be in the best economic interests of a state to jeopardize a major source of drinking water for millions of people?” says Robin Blakeman of the Huntington, W.Va.-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

In reporting on the proposal, the website FrackCheckWV.net wrote, “Drilling and fracking above or near the Ohio River will result in hundreds of acres of disturbed land, toxic chemical leaks, increased water pollution run-off and contaminated storm water, as well as significant air pollution from diesel trucks, pumps and/or compressors, gas leaks and flares. The chances of fires, explosions, fish kills, worker injuries, and public health exposures are very real.”

The Department of Commerce will hold a public opening of all bids on Friday, September 26, at 1:00 p.m. in Room 525, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, State Capitol Complex, Building 6, Charleston, W.Va.

Groups signing the letter: Athens County (OH) Fracking Action Network, Concerned Citizens Ohio, CHEJ, FaCT-OV, Fresh Water Accountability Project, OVEC, Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum, Wetzel County (W.Va.) Action Group and the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Basic RGB

Corporate Espionage Non Profits Without Legal Consequences

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Greenpeace received word that the DC Court of Appeals has ruled against them in their lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Sasol, Dezenhall Resources, Ketchum, and the former operates of the now-defunct Beckett, Brown, Inc. corporate espionage firm. The court dismissed the case because Greenpeace rents its office space and the court ruled that as tenants and not owners, Greenpeace had no standing to sue the burglars for intruding on our premises.

Some of you that have been with CHEJ for a while might remember this is the same suit in which CHEJ and Lois Gibbs was targeted with both her home address listed in the espionage firm’s documents as well as photos of the front of her house.  Too bad the case was dismissed but not surprising.  CHEJ knows that they are watched and our phone and internet wires cut a few years ago also went unsolved. For a recap of the case read Ralph Nader’s recent article.

Like other firms specializing in snooping, Beckett Brown turned to garbage swiping as a key tactic. BBI officials and contractors routinely conducted what the firm referred to as “D-line” operations, in which its operatives would seek access to the trash of a target, with the hope of finding useful documents. One midnight raid targeted Greenpeace. One BBI document lists the addresses of several other environmental groups as “possible sites” for operations: the National Environmental Trust, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Media Services, the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization run by Lois Gibbs, famous for exposing the toxic dangers of New York’s Love Canal. For its rubbish-rifling operations, BBI employed a police officer in the District of Columbia and a former member of the Maryland state police. Ridgeway Mother Jones Article.

toothpaste

Three new reasons retailers must ban triclosan

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Last week, Bloomberg News broke a major story that shined the light on the dangers of triclosan, a hormone-disrupting chemical commonly used in antibacterial soaps and even Colgate Total toothpaste.

#1 – FDA approved use of triclosan, despite evidence to suggest harm

Bloomberg News’ story reveal an all too common practice in Washington – where chemicals are approved to be used based on limited studies conducted by the same companies that profit from their use. The expose revealed how In the case of the FDA’s approval of triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste, the agency approved the chemical despite the fact that there was early evidence suggesting it could be harmful to consumers. These revelations have come to light only after NRDC sued the FDA to make these documents public, after the FDA withheld them from public view.

I had the opportunity to appear on live national TV to discuss this breaking story, and talk about our Mind the Store campaign, which has been challenging the nation’s largest retailers to eliminate the worst-of-the-worst chemicals like triclosan. Check out the video below to see the story. Bloomberg News also ran a great follow-up story on our campaign’s work to get retailers to scrub their supply chains of unnecessary dangerous chemicals like triclosan.

#2 – Brushing teeth with Colgate Total = 5 time the level of triclosan

The Bloomberg story came on the heels of a brand new study which found that brushing your teeth with Colgate Total toothpaste can lead to higher exposures to this dangerous substance. Our colleagues at NRDC wrote:

“It’s a study of hospital workers at two different hospitals. One hospital used triclosan-containing soap, the other did not. Not surprisingly, the study shows that people who washed their hands with the triclosan-containing soap had higher levels of triclosan in their urine.

The really interesting part of the study showed that the numbers were skewed heavily by brushing with Colgate Total toothpaste. As it turns out, people who brushed their teeth with Colgate Total had more than five times as much triclosan in their urine as people who didn’t use it.“

#3 – Babies and pregnant women exposed to triclosan

Along with these new reports come yet another brand new study which found that pregnant women and fetuses in the womb are being exposed to triclosan and its cousin chemical, triclocarbon. Every single one of the women tested had triclosan in their bodies, and half of newborns tested were also exposed to triclosan.

“We looked at the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used germ-killers in soaps and other everyday products,” says Benny Pycke, Ph.D. “We found triclosan in all of the urine samples from the pregnant women that we screened. We also detected it in about half of the umbilical cord blood samples we took, which means it transfers to fetuses. Triclocarban was also in many of the samples.”

Will Retailers Mind the Store?

In the absence of real federal chemical form, many leading brands are filling the regulatory void and have already taken precautionary steps to eliminate triclosan, such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Avon. Even Colgate has eliminated it from their dish and hand soaps. Colgate Total should join them and move swiftly to remove triclosan.

Alliance Boots, who Walgreens is merging with, has banned triclosan as part of its its corporate chemicals policy. We’ve been calling on Walgreens to adopt Boots’ chemicals management program as a first step in developing a comprehensive chemical policy, and are hopeful Walgreens will do what’s right for American consumers. Both Target and Walmart have identified over 1,000 chemicals to reduce and work to eliminate, though it’s unclear whether triclosan has made it onto their priority lists.

In light of the Bloomberg story and the ever-growing evidence that triclosan is harmful to our health and getting into our bodies, big retailers like Walgreens should leverage their purchasing power to eliminate this unnecessary toxic chemical from products on their shelves once and for all. Will you join us and call on the nation’s top retailers to Mind the Store?

TAKE ACTION: Tell the nation’s biggest retailers to ban dangerous chemicals like triclosan.

Protect yourself from triclosan:

1. Check the label: avoid products with the words triclosan and triclocarban on the ingredient labels of personal care products, soaps and hand sanitizers. Triclosan may also marketed under the trade name Microban™ when used in plastics and clothing, and Biofresh™ when used in acrylic fibers.

2. Be wary of products like cutting boards that are labeled as “anti-microbial” or “anti-bacterial.”

3. Stick to washing your hands with hot water and soap and alcohol based hand sanitizers when on the go.

Written by Mike Schade, Mind The Store Campaign

pillow

Public Health Risks & Corporate Profits

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People’s bodies are being contaminated with industrial chemicals without their consent or knowledge. Unlike food and drugs, most of these industrial chemicals have never been tested to determine their effects on human health or the environment. Diseases linked to chemicals like childhood cancers are on the rise. Our laws need to be changed to protect public health and the environment. We must phase out the worst chemicals and switch to safer, effective and affordable alternatives that already exist. Because our country’s laws are outdated—prevention, substitution and proof of safety—are not our nation’s goals. Instead calculated harm and sacrifice are the goals of today’s regulations and laws. Risk of harm and cost of change (regardless of how large or small) dominate decisions around chemical exposures of innocent people and the environment.

Corporations and our government try to confuse the public about risks or make a certain level of risk somehow acceptable. To simplify the entire mathematical formula to justify unnecessary risks for the average person I came up with this analogy. Although this may be a bit of over simplification it is the formula that is used to dismiss risks and allow corporations to expose people, innocent children, to very dangerous chemicals in order to increase their profits.

Here is the analogy to demonstrate their technique.

Protective Gates vs. Cheap Pillows

Most people believe if you have a toddler and an open staircase it makes sense to be cautious and place a gate across the stairs to prevent the child from falling down the stairs.

U.S. chemical industries would argue investing in the gate may not be necessary—instead they would do studies to determine how many toddlers would fall and the level of harm from each tumble down the stairs.

After defining statistically how many toddlers would likely fall down the stairs and the percentage that could be harmed, industry would still argue the gate is too expensive and purchasing them would cause financial harms.

They would argue that instead of expensive gates, believed to be overkill, they would invest in cheap pillows at the bottom of the stairs which would provide adequate protection for tumbling toddlers.

So the next time you are faced with a risk benefit equation from corporations or government ask them (using this analogy) if they are suggesting pillows instead of a gate? Are they really interested in protecting public health especially from involuntary risks?

covepoint-ferc-slide

Obama Stop Exporting Our Energy

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Some people support fracking for the issue around jobs while others are totally opposed. I’m not going to talk about that debate but rather about the larger issue that gets lost in the overarching debates. One “talking point” that consistently resonates with the American people is they want to be energy independent. The public buys into this position put out by the fracking industry. Yet it’s a lie because you can’t have energy independence if you are exporting the resources. The fact is that the U.S. economy, in order to grow, must have an abundance of low cost energy. To keep our energy prices low it makes no sense for President Obama to approve export terminals for natural gas.

If we allow our resources to be exported overseas to other foreign markets then our domestic costs of gas will increase, there is no debate over that, and instead of attracting new industry both our jobs and economic opportunity will continue to move out of this country. In the Asian market the worker costs are low because they don’t pay a living wage or offer benefits to workers in many of the countries that U.S. gas will be sold. However, their energy costs are high.

If we stop the export of our gas to other nations America might be in a better position to attract new industries or at a minimum keep and expand the industries we have. Exporting is a foolish idea that provides the opportunity for corporations who are selling the gas to make huge profits while keeping America in a less competitive edge. Why does this make any sense to our leaders in Washington?

CHEJ has been very supportive of groups working to prevent fracking harms. Additionally, we have supported the efforts of groups like Chesapeake Climate Action Network who are fighting the export terminal in Maryland. At this time that terminal has received a delay while the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the departments that contributes to assessments of LNG projects, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a 30-day extension to conduct a review of Dominion Resources Inc’s Cove Point liquefaction project. The additional time “will allow the agency to compile comments from its regional associate internal reviewers and the required need for EPA headquarters’ review,” the EPA said in a June 3rd letter to FERC.

It is time that Americans stand up and speak out louder to the administration about jobs. We want our low costs energy to stay in America to create the economic incentive to attract new industry and to keep and expand our existing industries. Our men and women have fought too many wars over oil and energy let’s to do what the gas industry is saying in their propaganda making America Energy Independent by keeping our gas in America. There is no way we can achieve energy independence when we ship our energy resources out of the country. So get involved and tell the White House no to export, whether you are opposed to fracking or supporting fracking we can likely agree that shipping our energy resources overseas is a bad idea.

flag

Memorial Day A Special Day

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On this day we remember and honor those who have served and protected our country. I’ve known a few that passed in the line of duty and others who have returned to their families injured. It’s a day set aside to take note, to acknowledge personal sacrifice and give thanks to all of the men and women who have kept my family, friends and fellow citizens safe.

CHEJ has worked over the past thirty years with many veterans. In fact, the organizations founding group was first introduced at a conference for Vietnam Veterans who were looking for benefits for themselves and their families from exposure to Agent Orange chemicals, dioxin. CHEJ’s attorney ran a Law Clinic for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in 1982 at American University in D.C.

I shared many values with the veterans, that our country and our democracy is worth fighting for, worth making the personal sacrifices, but our country has a responsibility to care for those who fought to protect America. Yet when the veterans came home from Vietnam they were not greeted with fanfare, parades and celebration. Not only did they come home to unfriendly citizens, with all of the issues any veteran faces when re-entering society after being on the front lines, but they were faced with serious health impacts from the chemicals used to defoliate.Veterans asked for studies to explain why they had rashes over so much of their bodies, why their children were being born with birth defects and why so many developed and died from cancer.

It was the issue of exposures to Agent Orange, dioxin, which brought the Vietnam Veterans of America and CHEJ closer together. Our struggles were similar. The veterans of course sacrificed their lives for this country and our government turned it back on them, refusing to cover diseases clearly associated with exposure to dioxin. CHEJ’s members, some veterans, homemakers, taxpayers and the “American Family” that our country works to protect when we go to war were also being exposed to toxic chemicals in their environment. Like the Vietnam veterans the government refused to step up and make the polluters clean up the mess.

It has been a long and positive relationship. I am proud and thank all of our country’s veterans and especially the many brave and compassionate Vietnam Veterans.

“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.” -Bob Marley

NJ Roxbury

Gov. Christie’s Wastegate in Roxbury, NJ

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Gov. Christie reopened a landfill without following the states regulatory procedures, allowed a burner to be built without even a stack test, allowed waste to be placed in the landfill without knowledge of what was in the waste stream, and allowed a convicted felon to operate the landfill which is also against the law. Why is the Gov. ignoring his own state laws and regulations pout in place to protect public health and the environment? Does Christie think he is above the law?

By MIKE CONDON Editor

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Fracking pit

NC Wants to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals

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This is one of the most outrageous bills yet. The North Carolina proposed bill would also prevent local governments from passing any rules on fracking and limit water testing that precedes a new drilling operations. Read more.