Homepage News Archive

9 Things the Biden Administration Could Do Quickly on the Environment

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. campaigned on the most ambitious climate platform of any presidential candidate in history, promising to spend $2 trillion over four years to draw down planet-warming fossil fuel emissions and convert much of the nation to clean energy.

The possibility that the Senate could remain under the control of Republicans, who have generally opposed climate legislation, puts a damper on some of his biggest-ticket plans. But with or without Democratic control of the Senate, the first 100 days of the Biden administration are likely to see a flurry of executive actions addressing climate change, as well as a major push to insert clean energy provisions into legislation that could pass with a bipartisan coalition.

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Photo Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Homepage News Archive

Environmental agencies are violating civil rights laws — and the EPA is letting them

In the early 1990s, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a series of public hearings to consider whether or not to grant a permit to the Genesee Power Station, a wood-burning facility that was to be built in a low-income, predominantly Black neighborhood in Flint. The hearings were supposed to be an opportunity for the community to weigh in on the effects that the resulting pollution would have on their neighborhood, but the agency held the hearings 65 miles away, had armed guards present when speakers testified, and prioritized white attendees over Black attendees. The permit was approved, and pollution from the facility later led to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifying it as a “significant violator” of environmental rules.
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Photo credit: Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

Backyard Talk

Solar in the US is Booming!

By: Katie O’Brien
Solar in the United States is booming! According to the most recent Solar Market Insight Report by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), there are more than 58 Gigawatts (GW) of solar currently installed in the US. That’s enough to power over 11 million American homes! The amount of solar installed in the US generates enough power to offset more than 74 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to taking 15.8 million vehicles off the road or planting 1.9 billion trees.
Solar is expected to keep growing in coming years…total installed capacity is expected to double by 2023. One of the fastest growing segments in the solar industry is community solar. Community solar is a large solar project shared by multiple community subscribers. These subscribers receive credits on their electricity bill for their portion of the power produced. This allows homeowners, renters, businesses and others who may not have the means or may not have the appropriate roof positioning/tree cover for their own systems. Community solar is also helping assist residents in low income communities. The in Fort Collins, CO is the largest low-income community solar project in the US. The 1.95 megawatt (MW) solar farm will directly benefit low income households, affordable housing providers and non profit organizations located in the utility’s service territory. The project is part of a Colorado state initiative to show the benefits of low income solar for utilities for their highest need customers.  Community solar allows more people to share in the economic and environmental benefits of solar.
Solar is not just good for the environment, it’s great for the economy, especially compared to other forms of electricity generation. More than 250,000 Americans are employed in the US solar industry. In fact, solar employees more people than the gas, coal and oil industries combined. With installations expected to boom, more employees will be needed to assist in installation. The solar industry has also accounted for over $159.5 billion in investment into the economy, with over $17 billion alone in 2017. The cost of solar has also been recently found to be the same or cheaper than other forms of generation. With such low costs, high jobs numbers, and investment, it’s hard to understand why there are still so many solar opposers out there.
The solar industry is also refereed to as the “solar coaster”. With most regulation being done at the state level, the benefits of solar can vary immensely from state to state depending on guidelines set by regulators. Florida is known as the sunshine and ranks as one of the top states in the country for solar potential, yet they fall 12th in total installed capacity. This is mostly due to poor solar policy, driven in part by the lobbying efforts of greedy, monopolistic utilities. With solar policy now changing in the state, Florida is expected to rank 2nd in the country growth over the next 5 years, with over 5.1 MW forecasted to be installed. Florida will truly be the sunshine state in so many ways!
Continued growth in solar will help replace other forms of generation that can be not only costly, but their emissions deadly. To learn more about the solar industry visit

Backyard Talk

Why Do You March?

Millions of people will come together in the next few weeks, as they have since the start of the new administration, to take part in several marches. Two of which are: the March for Science (April 22, 2017) and the People’s Climate March (April 29, 2017). Although the marches will be held in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., both marches (or shall we say movements) have generated such a following that satellite marches are being held around the country, and even around the world, on those days as well.
The goals for the March for Science:

  • Humanize science by showing that it is conducted, applied, and supported by a diverse body of people.
  • Partner with the public by joining together both scientists and supporters of science, as progress [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][in science and research] can only be made by mutual respect.
  • Advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science by including in conversation and valuing the voices of all members of the global community.
  • Support scientists
  • Affirm science as a democratic value

The People’s Climate March Platform:

  • Directly and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas and toxic pollution to successfully combat climate change and improve public health
  • Mandate a transition to an equitable and sustainable New Energy and Economic Future that limits the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • Provide a Just Transition for communities and workers negatively impacted by the shift to a New Energy and Economic Future that includes targeted economic opportunity and provides a stable income, health care, and education.
  • Demand that every job pays a wage of at least $15 an hour, protects workers, and provides a good standard of living, pathways out of poverty , and a right to organize.
  • Ensure that investments are targeted to create pathways for low-income people and people of color to access good jobs and improve the lives of communities of color, indigenous peoples, low-income people, small farmers, women, and workers.
  • Make bold investments in the resilience of states, cities, tribes, and communities that are threatened by climate change; including massive investments in infrastructure systems from water, transportation, and solid waste to the electrical grid and safe, green building and increasing energy efficiency that will also create millions of jobs in the public and private sector.
  • Reinvest in a domestic industrial base that drives towards an equitable and sustainable New Energy and Economic Future, and fight back against the corporate trade-induced global race to the bottom.
  • Market- and policy-based mechanisms must protect human rights and critical, native ecosystems and reduce pollution at source

In Stephen’s blog from last week, it was easy for him to explain a scientists’ reasoning behind the March for Science. As a newcomer in the field with much less experience than he, it took me a while to come up with a personal connection to support my reasoning behind these movements. But after thinking about it, I realized that my only reasoning is because truly care about the issues, & that’s okay. I take inspiration from people my age who are making their voices heard and standing up for what they believe in, day after day.
I do it for a sense of community and understanding that we’re fighting for something greater than ourselves. I do it for the people who are, unfortunately affected every day by things they cannot control. On these days, I will be marching for the generations before me who had a stronger connection with the Earth – who took care of it and respected it. I will be marching for the generations after me who will only be able to live healthy lives and enjoy this Earth so long as we do everything we can now to preserve and care for it. I will be marching for little, 5-year-old me, who visited family in the Philippines and could not understand why she, in extremely hot, humid weather, had to pump water from the ground and then boil it before drinking so she wouldn’t get sick…
To think that other environmental factors, global warming, and climate change has made situations much worse over the years (and will continue get worse if change is not made) is truly terrifying.

As a verb, the word “march” means:

  • Walk quickly with determination
  • Walk along public rods in an organized procession as a form of protest

As a noun, it means:

  • The steady and inevitable development or progress of something

Progress. That’s all we need. A little push in the right direction is still a major win, and that’s what these movements are aiming to do.
Without strong belief in scientific evidence, without environmental regulations that protect our health, without a care for the environment and the world we live in, future generations will surely suffer.
Sure, there will be people who criticize these movements- only because they feel they have no reason to stand behind them. Find your reason. March with us.
March for Science (April 22, 2017)
People’s Climate March (April 29, 2017)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Backyard Talk

CHEJ’s Green Flag Schools Program for Environmental Leadership


For years, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice has been mentoring a movement, empowering people and preventing harm   to  human health caused by exposure to environmental threats.

Included in this work is CHEJ’s Green Flag Schools Program for Environmental Leadership. Started in 2002, this program targets  students in schools and provides a framework for students to become environmental leaders and contribute to positive change in their  school community.

The Green Flag program gives students from kindergarten to twelfth grade the opportunity to learn environmental concepts, investigate environmental practices in their school and identify solutions to make their school safer and healthier. Working as a team, students begin by conducting an environmental audit using a comprehensive form provided by CHEJ to assess their school’s environmental practices. The team then selects an area they want to focus on that will make an impact at their school. The four target areas are non-toxic pest management, indoor air quality, least toxic cleaning products, and reuse, reduce, recycling. Students learn practical life skills such as problem solving, teamwork and public speaking. With each positive step, students are presented with an award culminating in the Green Flag Award for Environmental Leadership.
Earlier this year the Green Flag Team at the Saklan School in Moraga, CA satisfactorily completed Level 3 of the Green Flag School Program for Indoor Air and was awarded an Indoor Air Quality patch for their Green Flag. These middle school students were quite excited about achieving their award which is their second Green Flag award. They are planning to move on to acquire a third patch this fall. The Roots & Shoots Club at the Tom McCall Upper Elementary School in Forest Grove, OR also participated in the Green Flag Schools program this past year. Their Green Flag team satisfactorily completed Level One and was awarded a Green Flag this past spring. They plan to select one of the four project issue areas this fall so that they can acquire a patch to place on their flag.
The Green Flag start-up kit provides all the information you need to get started on earning environmental awards including facts sheets on school environmental issues and an environmental survey tool. More information can be found at
We hope you will consider adopting this program at your school.

Backyard Talk

Celebrating 20 Years of Environmental Justice at EPA

I had the good fortunate to attend a reception celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the USEPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) last week in Washington, D.C. This event celebrated the accomplishments of the Environmental Justice movement and recognized the work of many of the pioneers in the movement over the past 20 years. Lisa Garcia, Associate Assistant Administrator for EPA’s OEJ opened the evening’s events that included presentations by Charles Lee, former director of the OEJ and Vernice Miller-Travis, long time environmental justice advocate. Charles Lee looked back at the significance of his seminar report Toxic Waste and Race in the United States published in 1987. Key recommendations in this report included urging the EPA to establish an Office of Hazardous  Wastes and Racial and Ethnic Affairs which became the Office of Environmental Justice in 1992; urging the President to issue an Executive Order on Environmental Justice mandating federal agencies to consider the impact of current policies and regulations on racial and ethnic communities which Bill Clinton did in 1994; and further urging EPA to establish a National Advisory Council on Racial and Ethnic Concerns which became the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in 1993. Vernice Miller-Travis spoke of other seminal reports and moments in the Environmental Justice Movement including the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit and the formation of the Principles of Environmental Justice.

Environmental Justice Pioneer Awards were given to former EPA Administrator Lisa Perez Jackson and to Dr. Clarice Gaylord, the first director of the EPA Office of Environmental Justice. Also honored was Dr. Mildred McClain for her spirit and lifelong commitment to Environmental Justice. The most moving moment of the evening came when past heroes and sheroes (their word) of the Environmental Justice movement were recognized and honored. The individual images of sixteen leaders who had passed away in recent years were shown on a large screen in a moving video tribute. Virtually every one of these individuals were people I and others at CHEJ had known and worked with before. By the time the video tribute was over, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. It was very moving.

The newly appointed director of the Office of Environmental Justice, Matthew Tejada was also introduced that night. Matt was the former director of the  Air Alliance Houston. Music and refreshments were served to close out the evening as several hundred environmental justice activists and supporters shared memories and hopes for the futures. The theme for the evening seemed to be that much has been accomplished but much more still needs to be done, like all struggles for justice.

EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice has launched a 20th Anniversary Video Series that features government officials, non-profit leaders, academics and students who share inspiring and educational stories about the lessons they have learned while working on environmental justice. Click here to view the full list of blog posts and videos in this series.