Homepage Superfund News

Lois Gibbs Describes the Movement she Sparked and what Today’s Activists Need to Know

Listen to the Podcast.
In 1978, Lois Gibbs was a young mother with a child in a school that was found to be built over a toxic chemical waste dump site. Lois gained international attention and incredible momentum in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as she led the fight for environmental justice for children and families affected by the environmental disaster identified with the neighborhood where it occurred, Love Canal.
“I was waiting on someone to knock on my door and tell me what to do, to explain how I could help,” says Lois of the early days of revelations about the infamous Love Canal dump.
“But no one ever came to my door. So I did something on my own.”
Her persistent activism led to passage of the “Superfund” toxic waste site cleanup legislation.
Lois went on to found the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, which has helped more than 10,000 grassroots organizations with technical, organizational or environmental education. She appears in the 2018 HBO movie Atomic Homeland and was named a “top environmentalist of the past century” by Newsweek magazine. She also has been honored with a Heinz Award and the Goldman Prize for her groundbreaking environmental work.
On this 40th anniversary of the Love Canal tragedy, Lois shares how she dealt with being called “a hysterical mother with a sickly child.” She explains the moment she most clearly saw democracy at its best, and the key to success for today’s environmental activists.
“Average people and the average community can change the world,” Lois says.
Hear how she did it, and how you can, too, on this episode of “We Can Be.”


Trump’s Assault on the Environment — Destructive

In just two years, President Trump has unleashed a regulatory rollback, lobbied for and cheered on by industry, with little parallel in the past half-century. The trade-offs, while often out of public view, are real — frighteningly so, for some people — imperiling progress in cleaning up the air we breathe and the water we drink, and in some cases upending the very relationship with the environment around us. Mr. Trump enthusiastically promotes the changes as creating jobs, freeing business from the shackles of government and helping the economy grow. Read more NYT.


Trump Administration Unveil Strategy to Fight Lead Exposure

Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan unveiled the Trump Administration’s Federal Lead Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts (Lead Action Plan). <Read more.>

Superfund News Water News

Tucson Water Plant Address New Contamination

A water treatment plant in Tucson is replacing more than 56 tons of activated carbon to address newly-discovered perfluorinated compound contamination from the nearby Superfund site. “The fact that we have a treatment plant there at all is entirely driven by the Superfund site,” said Tim Thomure, director of Tucson Water.

The 10-square-mile Tucson International Airport site was designed as a Superfund in 1983. Superfund sites are considered some of the most contaminated places in the county. The water treatment plant was set up 11 years later to address the groundwater contamination. “The main process that we use is designed to remove TCE and 1,4 dioxane,” Thomure said. But with the recent discovery of perfluorinated compound contamination, the plant decided updates were needed to have specific management of perfluorinated compounds and other carcinogenic contaminants.

Read more.

Backyard Talk News Archive

A Green New Deal Must Be 100 Percent Just

Excitement is building among environmentalists as Washington prepares for the arrival of new lawmakers elected by the #PeoplesWave. Led by New York Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, these insurgents promise to infuse new energy into the movement for climate justice.
By Ben Ben Ishibashi, People’s Action Network
Ocasio-Cortez, through a series of high-profile public protests and statements, has focused the minds and hearts of activists, and laid down a gauntlet for the Democratic Party.
Now is the time, she says, for a Green New Deal that confronts climate change head-on with bold solutions that can fundamentally alter our nation’s course on both the environment and rising income inequality through a real commitment to renewable energy.
Last month, she led over a thousand young people in three simultaneous sit-ins at Democratic leadership offices on Capitol Hill to demand action on climate change.
“This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation,” she said.
36 members of Congress have already joined her call to action. On Friday, more than 300 local officials signed an open letter of support, adding to the thousands of young people from the Sunrise Movement who helped coordinate the Capitol Hill protests.
But what exactly is a Green New Deal? More importantly, what should it be?
At People’s Action, we often find ourselves at the front lines with those most affected by environmental injustice. We know that a new energy economy must go far beyond simply replacing fossil fuels.

We welcome this new influx of excitement and resources to the fight for environmental justice. We invite new lawmakers to join us in working to pass and implement policies that address our needs for a just and equitable energy transition – to an economy that is not only 100 percent renewable, but also 100 percent just: an economy that puts those most affected by our climate crisis, people of color and the working class, at the center of our new economy.
At present, the Green New Deal is a proposal – a statement of intent, really – to create a Select House Committee with House members who have never taken money from the fossil-fuels industry. This committee will draft legislative language for the Green New Deal by March 1, 2020.
Goals include a dramatic expansion of renewable power to meet 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources, upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural transportation and other industries, and making the U.S. a global leader in the creation and export of  “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services.
In order to be 100 Percent Just, any Green New Deal must include truly renewable fuels, democratizing the grid, and an end to “sacrifice zones” where Black and Brown communities disproportionately bear the human costs of dirty energy extraction.
Good green jobs must be created both for communities that have survived decades of disinvestment, as well as those communities that now depend on extraction.
We have an opportunity – indeed, an obligation – to transform our energy economy so we can not just meet the challenges of climate change, but also transform our economy overall to put people and planet before profits.
A 100 Percent Just Green New Deal goes far beyond good intentions: it frames justice and equity as necessary components that make this project strategically possible. It mandates that dirty energy pollution end by the earliest date, spelling out clearly and intentionally how this happens.
It must include a plan for investment and reparations for communities that have been sacrificed on the altar of polluter profits. And this commitment to equity must be part of the structure of the plan – from the very first resolution, establishing the first House Select Committee, all the way through to final bill language and commitment to follow through with jobs, training, accessibility and investment for working class people and communities of color.
This means a 100% Just Green New Deal not only mandates that we stop burning fossil fuel for energy by 2030, but that we fully end the extraction fossil fuels and other forms of dirty energy by 2025, and do so in a way that doesn’t leave extraction workers or their communities in the lurch.
A 100% Just Green New Deal will mandate that we phase out fossil fuel energy, but will also require that that this starts with the closure and reclamation of the dirtiest power plants, located in the communities most overburdened by pollution.
We must commit to and adopt the principle that the residents of sacrifice zones that have most borne and bear the burdens of dirty energy now become the first to receive benefits of the new, democratic and non-extractive economy.
A 100% Just Green New Deal doesn’t just offer a blanket promise of good green jobs and training for everyone, it will ensure that jobs training programs and investments in job creation are targeted and available first to the communities that need them most.
The Green New Deal, in its current form, aspires to some of these things, but not all of them. We know this is a work in progress, and welcome this influx of new energy, but we know there is much more work to be done.
For the United States is to position itself globally as a green technology leader, we must push for the kinds of broader restructuring of international trade and global economic structures that will lay the ground for a truly equitable, just and transformative global economy.
Finally, any 100% Just Green New Deal must include the voices of those who are directly impacted. The people who are closest to the problems of sacrifice zones, the consequences of extractive industries and the private monopoly control of energy, must be invited into the process of drafting and proposing solutions that flesh out this bold new framework.
Their voices must be heard, and it is up to our new lawmakers to put their vision, needs and priorities at the heart of this exciting new process from its beginning through to the end.


Federal appeals court rejects permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

A panel of federal judges has rejected permits for the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline to cross two national forests and the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, finding that the U.S. Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility” and kowtowed to private industry in approving the project. <Read more>

Superfund News

In southern Dallas, a toxic Superfund site where answers remain years away

<read more>



1000+ youth sit-in, 143 arrested demanding Dem leadership back Green New Deal.

Over 1,000 youth with Sunrise Movement lobbied 50 Congressional offices and sat-in at the offices of Reps. Pelosi, Hoyer, and McGovern, demanding Democrats and their leaders in the House support the Select Committee for a Green New Deal before the holiday recess. In total, 143 were arrested during the sit-ins.

A week after the 2018 midterm election, Rep.-elect Ocasio-Cortez joined a sit-in at Rep. Pelosi’s office to ask Democrats form a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. Less than a month later, over 22 Congressional Democrats have endorsed the Select Committee, dozens more have endorsed the Green New Deal, and over 140 environmental, economic, and social justice organizations have joined the call for a Green New Deal.  Read more.


Modern Incinerators Still Emit Dangerous Pollutants

Even the world’s most modern waste incinerators still emit dangerous pollutants far beyond EU toxic emissions limit, a new study has revealed. <read more>.

Backyard Talk

Are Real or Artificial Trees Better for the Environment?

Are Real or Artificial Trees Better for the Environment?
By: Katie Pfeifer
Real or artificial Christmas trees, which is better for the environment? This question seems to come up every year around the holiday season. There are many factors that go into making an environmentally friendly choice this season depending on what environmental and health factors matter most to you.  A recent article from the NY Times citing information from studies from both the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents manufacturers of artificial Christmas trees, and the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents US Christmas tree farmers gives good insight to the debate.
First, the case for a real Christmas tree. Not only the classic, but real trees are also are great for the economy. Real Christmas trees are crops that farmers grow for the purpose of being cut down. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents Christmas tree farmers, there are currently over 350 million Christmas trees growing in the US by farmers and it takes about 7-10 years for a tree to grow. When it is cut down, the farmer will typically plant a one to three seedlings in its place the following spring. Over 100,000 people are gainfully employed in the US Christmas tree farming industry at over 15,000 farms. The industry provides plenty of jobs and helps stimulate the economy. More than 80% of fake Christmas trees are manufactured in China, buying a real tree helps support American jobs and local economy.
Real Christmas trees are also great for the environment. They clean the air and also provide crucial ecosystems and watersheds to wildlife. They also grow best on hilly land that is unsuitable for other crops. Tree farms cover over 350,000 acres, assisting in land preservation. As long as Americans continue to buy real trees, the land is protected from being sold to developers. Best of all, real trees are compostable and recyclable. There are over 4,000 Christmas tree recycling programs in the US. One of the most successful is Mulch Fest in New York City, an event that the city holds to collect thousands of trees to mulch for use in public parks.
As for artificial Christmas trees, the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents Christmas tree manufacturers, says that fake trees are the more environmentally friendly way to go. According to their sustainability life cycle assessment, if you use and keep the tree for longer than 5 years, its environmental impact is less than that of purchasing a real tree every year. The typical family will keep a tree between 6-9 years before throwing it away. While the impact may be slightly less based on purchasing a new real tree every year, artificial trees will ultimately end up in landfills across America. Fake trees are primarily petroleum based and made of PVC, metals, and chemical adhesives. These materials can have toxic health risks, some artificial trees even tested positive for traces of lead. When dumped into a landfill these toxins can start to leech adding to environmental issues. Some artificial trees require special labeling thanks to California prop 65. The label states: “This product contains chemicals including lead, known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm”. That’s a scary thing to have present in your home and around your family.
While the debate will continue it’s good to know that no matter how they are disposed of, real or artificial, Christmas trees only account for less than 0.1% of the average person’s annual carbon footprint. Happy Holidays from all at CHEJ!