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Webinar: Urban Waters Learning Network: Engaging Elected Officials in Your Work

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Date: Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
Time: 1:00 p.m. Eastern / Noon Central / 11:00 a.m. Mountain / 10:00 a.m. Pacific
Length: 90 minutes

Join us for the Urban Waters Learning Network webinar “Engaging Elected Officials in Your Work.” You’ll hear from three experts on this topic who will share tips, how-to’s, guidelines and inspiration to help you make partners out of your elected officials. Please don’t delay in registering – participation is limited to 100 slots and expected it to fill up! You can register at http://www.rivernetwork.org/forms/rsvp-urban-waters-learning-network.

Description: Have you engaged with an elected official this week? Informing and involving elected officials in our work to restore urban waters and communities is something we do all-too-infrequently, yet it’s an important way to draw attention, credibility and support for our efforts. Engaging officials can also provide an entry point for discussions about policies and programs that impact the things we care about.

In this session:

  • ·         Sven-Erik Kaiser, U.S. EPA Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, will share his experience and enthusiasm to help you approach this unique type of outreach, prepare to meet with your elected officials and build these important relationships for the benefit of your urban waters.
  • ·         Keely Monroe, Alliance for Justice, will share important information and resources to ensure that, when working with elected officials, you stay on the right side of IRS lobbying rules and restrictions for nonprofits.
  • ·         Rick Magder, Groundwork Hudson Valley, will share the story of the Saw Mill River and the important role that engaging elected officials played in helping Groundwork Hudson Valley use a $5,000 seed grant to spur a $19 million Saw Mill River daylighting project. The impetus created by that project has inspired other major capital investments by the City of Yonkers, resulting in more transformative green projects valued at over $15 million and other private development investments. Today, these projects are considered to be the centerpiece of Yonkers, NY.

Questions on more information may be directed to Diana Toledo at dtoledo@rivernetwork.org or Ann-Marie Mitroff at annmarie@groundworkhv.org

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Oklahoma scientists suspected quakes linked to oil 8 years ago

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The Oklahoma Geological Survey jolted the national drilling debate last week when it announced oil and gas activity was “very likely” causing the earthquakes plaguing the state.

But many scientists at the survey had suspected as much since 2007, when earthquakes rattled an area near an oil and gas operation in southeast Oklahoma City.

Survey leaders, though, decided against going public with a theory that might be viewed as hostile to the state’s most prominent industry, according to interviews and agency emails obtained by EnergyWire under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act.

Instead, the agency, commonly called by its initials, OGS, accepted thousands of dollars’ worth of seismic equipment from the company that scientists suspected of causing the quakes, Tulsa-based New Dominion LLC. And for years, they told the public the quakes were natural.

“The survey is currently dismissing such events as being naturally-occurring,” OGS geologist Richard Andrews, now the interim director, wrote in an email to a family member last year. “Sooner or later, the media will pick up on the real cause and create a genuine ruckus.”

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St. Louis burning: Atomic Legacy Haunts City

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by Ryan Schuessler @RyanSchuessler1 April 29, 2015 5:00AM ET

Karen Nickel had never even heard of lupus before she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease six years ago. Today she says she takes as many as 18 pills a day — “and that’s just to make me feel OK.”

Read part one of three part series.

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25 Organizations Petition EPA Fracking Waste Disposal Program

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NEWS RELEASE


For Immediate Release:  April 29, 2015

For additional information, contact Teresa Mills, Center for Health, Environment and Justice at:

(614)-539-1471

TWENTY-FIVE OHIO CITIZEN GROUPS PETITION U.S. EPA

FOR DRASTIC REFORM OF OHIO’S

FRACKING WASTE DISPOSAL PROGRAM


75% of Ohio’s Disposal Wells for Fracking Waste are in Low-Income Appalachian

Areas That Receive “Comically Inadequate” Public Participation Opportunities and No Meaningful Enforcement

COLUMBUS:  A large coalition of Ohio environmental and community groups sent a detailed, fifteen page demand to U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice today documenting that Ohio’s program for approving “injection” wells that dispose of highly contaminated wastewater from oil and natural gas “fracking wells” has an overwhelmingly disparate impact on low-income Ohioans in violation of a federal directive requiring that such impacts be identified and given specific safeguards.  74.9% of the 237 active injection wells in Ohio are concentrated in the state’s 32 officially recognized “Appalachian” counties due to their low-income status where just 17.4% of all Ohioans live.  Injection wells disposed of over 1 billion, 46 million gallons of highly toxic fracking wastes in 2014 deep underground where it is supposed to be isolated from drinking water – but the serious problems in the program detailed in the letter place the injection well program’s claims to safety into deep doubt.

The groups charge that Ohio’s injection well regulator, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (“ODNR”), is a “captive regulator” controlled by Ohio’s politically potent oil and gas industry and has neither the effective public input nor reliable enforcement programs that states with disparate impacts on low-income communities are required to have under a 1994 Executive Order signed by Bill Clinton addressing “Environmental Justice.”  The groups document that the Ohio program has not been updated since it was established in 1983 and has not been changed to address either the rapid growth in waste volume since fracking became common or the requirements of the 1994 Environmental Justice Order despite the obvious disparate impact.

The Environmental Justice Executive Order is enforced by U.S. EPA’s Washington DC-based Office of Environmental Justice where the demand letter was sent.  The injection well program is the only component of oil and gas production where federal oversight exists through the U.S. EPA.  The Executive Order requires that all federal agencies address “disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects” of federal programs “on minority and low-income populations in the United States” through insuring 1) full access to relevant information, 2) meaningful opportunities for public participation in the permitting process, and 3) effective enforcement.

The groups list evidence that ODNR fails badly in all three areas.  It calls ODNR’s current public participation policies established in 1983 “comical but for the profound injustice they cause” due to eight separate defects including that the Department provides only fifteen days to comment on these complicated deep well proposals, routinely refuses to hold public meetings to discuss the permitting process and respond to public concerns, and even claims that citizens have no right to contest its injection well siting decisions in court.  Citizens making public records requests to ODNR routinely wait over two months for a response.  ODNR’s enforcement program is virtually non-existent with not a single fine collected and only a single example where ODNR authorized the state Attorney General to take an injection well to court.  When ODNR inspects injection wells, many violations are ignored while those cited are seldom followed up on to insure compliance.  The injection well program is severely understaffed with only four dedicated inspectors, most of whose time is spent insuring that the wells receive their permission to operate.

For proof of ODNR’s “regulatory capture,” the groups point to the disclosure in February, 2014, of a “communications plan” prepared by ODNR to promote fracking in state parks that proposed aggressively partnering with the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists to overcome resistance from what the Department scornfully called “eco-left pressure groups” which included many of the nation’s most respected environmental groups and even two state legislators.

“With ODNR, it’s everything for the oil and gas industry and nothing for the public. They act just as biased toward the industry as their own secret communications plan revealed them to be,” says Teresa Mills of Citizens for Health, Environmental and Justice who coordinated the letter’s release.  “They treat Appalachian Ohio as the fracking industry’s dumping ground whose people are too poor to resist taking the lion’s share of Ohio’s waste and that from surrounding states.”

The groups also take U.S. EPA to task for its inadequate oversight role over ODNR.  The last oversight report in 2009 was virtually a cut and paste of the previous 2005 report with no mention of ODNR’s severe staff deficiencies or lack of enforcement.  The groups also believe U.S. EPA is just as apathetic toward the public as ODNR citing a 2013 episode where, after ODNR refused to hold public meetings, Ohio’s citizens groups held their own to take testimony; the results were sent to U.S. EPA – who never responded.

The groups have asked U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice to conduct an investigation of both ODNR’s and U.S. EPA’s injection well programs to determine how they should be reformed to satisfy the 1994 Executive Order and to order that the necessary reforms be implemented to insure that the concerns and health of Appalachian Ohioans are taken into account in the injection well program.  “The industry has effectively blocked all reform in Ohio and in Washington DC,” concluded Ms. Mills.  “This petition is about the only step left to instill some basic fairness into this miserably corrupt system.”

See attached letter.Tejada 4-27-15

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Free Lois to spend more time in the field!

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Dear Friends,


The Center for Health, Environment & Justice is committed to healthy neighborhoods and ensuring that under-represented communities no longer become the dumping ground for toxic wastes and life-threatening pollution.

Diversity and democracy make us stronger. To that end, we are asking you to send along this message to your friends and contacts who have the experience organizing in diverse communities and the passion to continue the momentum forward as the next Executive Director of CHEJ.  Here’s a message from Board Chair Emeritus Alonzo Spencer:

“I was at the helm of CHEJ as chair of the board for eight years. I’m looking for the next generation to take over and assist communities to speak up, step up, lead and create the change our country needs to win environmental health and economic justice for all.

People of color, young people and women together comprise what many call the ‘emerging American electorate,’ and it is they who will both determine environmental and economic policy, and live with the consequences of the decisions.”

Think about it . . . It’s your turn now.

The Board of Directors of CHEJ is pleased to announce that Lois Gibbs, our founder and Executive Director, has accepted the opportunity to shift the focus of her work to our newly created Leadership Training Academy program.

To maintain our momentum in supporting community-based environmental health and justice work, we have begun the formal search for the next grassroots leader with excellent training and management skills and a vision of powerful action – our successor Executive Director. To support the Board in the search process, CHEJ has engaged Democracy Partners. Our process of outreach and selection begins very soon. The job description can be found on our website and questions or suggestions should be directed to Cheri Whiteman by e-mail at jobs@democracypartners.com.  In keeping with CHEJ’s mission of justice, we want to ensure that communities of color and all minorities in the “emerging American electorate’ have the opportunity to apply.  Please act quickly, as we would like to have all candidates in within the next few weeks. Here is a link to the job post http://democracypartners.com/jobs

Lois Gibbs will shift her full-time attention away from her current day-to-day administrative responsibilities with the engagement of our next Executive Director, which is expected to occur this summer. “I’m excited to spend more time in the field to build the advocacy base for change!” said Lois, “and it’s a great opportunity for one of the emerging community leaders out there to take CHEJ to the next level!”

CHEJ has launched the Leadership Training Academy program to strengthen and sustain the infrastructure of fledgling environmental health and justice organizations in the United States.

CHEJ recently completed a strategic review and refocus of our work. We were aided as a Board in this process by a group of allies and advisors, and our retreat was facilitated by Jim Abernathy. In examining our work, the following important findings led CHEJ’s Board to take those steps to reshape the organization to meet the increasing demand from the field for Leadership Training Academy program services:

  • There are more local, state and regional groups emerging than in the past. This is due primarily to energy-related proposals and activities such as pipelines, extraction wells, export terminals and associated waste disposal.
  • Established groups are growing and looking for advice on long-term organizing, establishing collaborative efforts, Board development and establishing a three-year strategic organizational plan.

Lois describes the Academy program this way: “The Leadership Training Academy is a training center ‘without walls.’ It provides a distinctive brand of leadership skills-building training and mentoring of local group leaders around the country to build the base of the environmental health and justice movement. This program is based on

a proven, time-tested methodological framework that is grounded in CHEJ’s 34 years of grassroots leadership and coaching experience, campaign strategy knowledge and the tactics of successful grassroots victories. A special focus of the training activities is with thousands of women leading grassroots groups on a range of environmental health and economic justice issues. People of color, young people and women together comprise what many call the ‘emerging American electorate,’ and it is they who will both determine environmental and economic policy, and live with the consequences of the decisions.”

I personally am excited to “free Lois” to spend more of her energy in the field, and the Board of Directors looks forward to working with new leadership. We’ve always known that success comes when we learn from the past and step boldly into the future. With a new CHEJ Executive Director and our legendary friend and teacher, Lois Gibbs, we will have the best of both worlds!

Thank you,

Peter B. Sessa
CHEJ Board Chair

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Gas pipelines surprise land owners

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Ginny Narsete was surprised to find black hoses on her property one day, and even more surprised to find that they were gas pipelines.

Read the full story at the Columbus Dispatch.

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Biotechnology and fish farming: Gas guzzlers

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SOMETHING called Methylococcus capsulatus might not sound an appetising ingredient for a meal. Methylococcus is a methanotroph, a bacterium that metabolises methane. Fortunately, salmon are not fussy eaters. They will happily consume pelletised protein made from these bugs. And that could be handy for fish farmers—at least it will be if Alan Shaw, boss of Calysta, a biotechnology firm in Menlo Park, California, has anything to do with it. For Dr Shaw proposes to take advantage of the rock-bottom price of methane, a consequence of the spread of natural-gas fracking, to breed Methylococci en masse as a substitute for the fish-meal such farmers now feed to their charges.

Read more at The Economist.

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Recycled Vinyl Can Reintroduce Chemical Hazards Into Building Products

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“Today’s announcement by Home Depot that it will require manufacturers to phase out phthalate plasticizers from all of the vinyl flooring products it sells was the latest in a long history of efforts to eliminate hazardous additives from vinyl building products. But this does not mean that all phthalate-free vinyl floors (and other PVC products) are now free of potential concerns for building occupants.

Healthy Building Network (HBN) research found that recycled PVC used in building products usually contains legacy toxic hazards like lead, cadmium, and phthalates. (PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride, or “vinyl.”) We reveal this and more in our new report, Post-Consumer Polyvinyl Chloride in Building Products, published today.

HBN examined the supply chain for vinyl flooring. We discovered that post-consumer PVC used in flooring is more likely to come from insulation jackets stripped from old cables and wires than from discarded vinyl flooring.[1] These jackets typically contain high levels of heavy metals, problematic plasticizers, and even PCBs – substances that building product manufacturers have worked to eliminate from their consumer products in recent years.

While we tracked the recycled PVC supply chain, the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Ecology Center[2] tested scores of vinyl floors sold by retail stores. They shared their results with HBN and generously allowed us to debut their findings in this report.

The Ecology Center tests revealed content previously unknown to the public. Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device on 74 floors, the Ecology Center determined that each inner layer likely contained electrical and electronic PVC waste.[3] And the recycled PVC had surprisingly high levels of heavy metals. In at least 69% of the floors’ inner layers, lead was present above the concentrations allowed in children’s toys. The XRF tests detected as much as 2% cadmium and 1% lead. This is a lot of lead and cadmium.

As PVC products age, they can release heavy metals. In 1996, the Consumer Products Safety Commission found that surface lead levels of 1.23 percent in deteriorating PVC mini-blinds “were high enough to present a lead poisoning hazard to children 6 years of age and younger if they ingested small amounts of dust from the blinds over a short period of time. Some states have identified children with elevated blood lead levels attributable to vinyl mini-blinds.”[4]

Few PVC recycling operations, whether small-scale or industrial, screen their inputs for toxicants. A recycling consortium in Europe acknowledges that phthalates and heavy metals remain in the recycled PVC feedstocks that they currently produce, and that these substances are present above regulatory thresholds of concern.

Over the past year, HBN has been examining the supply chain of recycled feedstocks in conjunction with StopWaste, a public agency responsible for reducing the waste stream in Alameda County, CA, and with support from the San Francisco Department of the Environment. Our collaboration’s goal is to identify the best practices for optimizing recycled materials – to increase recycling rates while minimizing toxic content – that can be used in building products.[5]

Wes Sullens of StopWaste is optimistic about the future of recycling. “While HBN’s research has identified some serious problems with certain sources of recycled PVC, it also identifies opportunities to clean it up for use in building products,” he notes. “Manufacturers and suppliers have shown the ability to screen, eliminate or minimize problematic ingredients that can affect the quality of future recycled content feedstocks. I am excited by this convergence of interests, and its potential to create higher-value and healthier products.”

Watch our next newsletter for the good news about what PVC flooring manufacturers are doing to address these issues.

Funding for research on post-consumer PVC feedstock was provided by StopWaste and donors to the Healthy Building Network (HBN). An evaluative framework to optimize recycling developed by StopWaste, the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and HBN, guided our research. Today’s post-consumer recycled PVC evaluation is a prequel to a forthcoming white paper by this new collaboration. It will identify pathways to optimize the benefits of using post-consumer recycled feedstocks in building products sold in the Bay Area of California and beyond.”

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Earth Day and Environmental Justice: Connected and Working Together Side-By-Side

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April 22nd, 2015 9:44 am ET  -

environmental justice earth day 2015

Sparks for Environmental Movement

On April 22nd, the world will celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Conceived by former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was established to focus on creating a healthier environment by protecting our planet and its resources. Perhaps, Earth Day set the tone for environmental protection, education, and advocacy. Senator Nelson said the idea of Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. This was a time when the fight for civil rights characterized activism against injustice, brutality, and dehumanization, and a time when Woodstock represented a peace and love generation.

child recycling earth day 2015

Read more at the CDC’s Your Health – Your Environment Blog

vinyl flooring

Home Depot banning toxic phthalates in flooring

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Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families has some GREAT news to share from their Mind the Store campaign! Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, is banning added phthalates in their vinyl flooring! The Mind the Store campaign has been working with the retailer to develop this policy over the past year.

A report at HealthyStuff.org shows other retailers like Lowe’s, Lumber Liquidators, and Ace Hardware are still carrying flooring with these harmful chemicals. They found that 58% of vinyl flooring tested at top retailers contains these harmful chemicals, which have been linked to asthma and birth defects in baby boys.

What’s worse — phthalates don’t stay in flooring – they get into the air and dust we breathe in our homes, and then make their way into our bodies. While Home Depot is banning added phthalates in its flooring products, when Lowe’s, the US’ second largest home improvement retailer, was asked whether it had a policy on phthalates it responded that it did not. If Home Depot can ban phthalates in flooring, so should Lowe’s!

TAKE ACTION: Tell Lowe’s to eliminate toxic phthalates in flooring.

Today is a day to celebrate, to thank Home Depot for the bold steps they have taken, and challenge Lowe’s and other home improvement retailers to join Home Depot in getting toxic phthalates out of flooring. Will you join us?


Act Now!