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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 20 hours 35 min ago

Confluence of Trump’s Climate Villainy and Jailing Child Refugees, Says Bill McKibben, Nothing Short of ‘Downright Evil’

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 10:54
Published on Tuesday, October 02, 2018 by Common Dreams Confluence of Trump’s Climate Villainy and Jailing Child Refugees, Says Bill McKibben, Nothing Short of ‘Downright Evil’

“Telling people to stay home is not an option—when there’s no water, or when the floods come each year, or when the sea rises into your kitchen, people have to leave. Period.”

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer

Environmental activist Bill McKibben, in an op-ed published by the Guardian on Tuesday, expresses alarm over the Trump administration’s “disastrous, linked policies on climate change and child refugee camps.”

“The Trump years are a fantasy land where we pretend we can go on living precisely as in the past [and] insist that the rest of the world stay locked in place as well. It’s impractical, it’s unfair, and when it ends up with camps for kids in the desert it’s downright evil.”
—Bill McKibben, activist

While much of the media for the past week has focused on the contentious confirmation process of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the women who have accused him of sexual assault, McKibben writes, “two new Trump initiatives slipped by with less notice than they deserve.”

A Washington Post report published Friday revealed a “startling assumption” buried in an environmental impact statement (pdf) recently produced by the Transportation Department to justify the administration’s rollback of vehicle emissions rules: that the planet could warm 7°F, or about 4°C, above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. “Were the world to actually warm that much, it would be a literal hell, unable to maintain civilizations as we have known them,” McKibben notes. “But that’s now our policy, and it apparently rules out any of the actions that might, in fact, limit that warming. You might as well argue that because you’re going to die eventually, there’s no reason not to smoke a carton of cigarettes a day.”

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, wrote an op-ed for the Guardian raising alarm about the Trump administration and how the global climate crisis is expected to force millions of people to flee their homes over the next few decades. (Photo: Mark Dixon/Flickr/cc)

On the heels of that revelation came a “horrific” report from the New York Times on Sunday that due to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, more than 1,600 unaccompanied migrant children at shelters and foster homes across the nation have been roused in the dead of night to be transported to, in the words of McKibben, “what can only be described as a concentration camp near the Mexican border.”

The “tent city” located in the border town of Tornillo, Texas opened in June as a temporary shelter for undocumented minors who entered the United States without parents or who were forcibly separated from their families under the “zero tolerance” policy. After a series of delayed closures, the administration announced last month that the detention center would triple its capacity to house the record number of migrant children in government custody.

“That camp is linked to climate change because, first, it’s in a desert. If you searched high and low across the North American continent, you could barely find a place hotter and drier,” McKibben points out. “But the link goes much deeper. Most of those migrants are from Central America and Mexico, and they might as easily be described as refugees fleeing gang violence (much of it rooted originally in the U.S.) and a changing climate.”

Looking to a future that, based on World Bank estimates, could see 140 million climate migrants by 2050, McKibben warns:

This will, of course, get steadily worse in the years ahead—every climate forecast shows deserts spreading and water evaporating across the region. And of course more migration will follow, in every corner of the world. […] Telling people to stay home is not an option—when there’s no water, or when the floods come each year, or when the sea rises into your kitchen, people have to leave. Period.

And telling people to stay home is not a moral option, either. Because the climate chaos setting off waves of refugees is born above all from the unconstrained migration of carbon dioxide molecules from America over the last century… [W]e are a world without atmospheric borders, where the people who have done the least to cause the problem feel its horrors first and hardest. That’s why, over the last half-decade, the environmental and migrant-rights movement have grown ever closer.

“The Trump years are a fantasy land where we pretend we can go on living precisely as in the past, unwilling even to substitute electric SUVs for our gas guzzlers, and able to somehow insist that the rest of the world stay locked in place as well,” he concludes. “It’s impractical, it’s unfair, and when it ends up with camps for kids in the desert it’s downright evil.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don’t survive on clicks. We don’t want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can’t do it alone. It doesn’t work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don’t Exist.

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Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci to Star in Anti-GMO Movie

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 09:36
“The Schmeiser case, as well as the 147 other times Monsanto has sued U.S. farmers over patent infringement involving saved seed, has raised questions about companies having patents on plants and other life forms.” Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci to Star in Anti-GMO Movie

Hollywood actors Christopher Walken and Christina Ricci are set to star in the new “anti-GMO” movie Percy, Deadline reported.

The film is based on the true story of Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada who was sued by agriculture giant Monsanto over patent infringement in 1998.

 

L: Getty Images Entertainment / Mike Pont / Getty Images R: Patrick McMullan / Sean Zanni / Getty Images

Walken will play the title character and Ricci will star as anti-GMO activist Rebecca Salcau.

Here’s Deadline’s synopsis of the film:

As [Walken’s character] speaks out against the company’s business practices, he realizes he is representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle. Suddenly, he becomes an unsuspecting folk hero in a desperate war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against what they see as corporate greed.

Clark Johnson of The Wire will direct the film from a script by Hilary Pryor and Garfield L. Miller, Deadline reported.

Not to spoil the movie, but Monsanto successfully sued Schmeiser for patent violation after the company’s GMO canola was found growing on his farm without a license. In 2004, the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where the judges ruled 5-4 in favor of Monsanto, even though Schmeiser claims the seeds were accidentally blown onto his property.

Although Schmeiser lost, his story has evolved into a David versus a corporate Goliath tale, where Monsanto is framed as a boogeyman throwing its multinational heft at a small-time farmer.

The Schmeiser case, as well as the 147 other times Monsanto has sued U.S. farmers over patent infringement involving saved seed, has raised questions about companies having patents on plants and other life forms.

Schmeiser, who was also the main character in the 2009 documentary David versus Monsanto, has emerged as an anti-GMO folk hero and ultimately views his legal defeat as a win.

“In the end it turned out good and we brought the world’s attention to what GMOs do and what it could do to farmers,” he told CBC in an interview published last month.

To this day, Monsanto’s view of the case and of Schmeiser himself is not exactly flattering.

“The truth is Percy Schmeiser is not a hero. He’s simply a patent infringer who knows how to tell a good story,” the company states on its webpage about the case. “Schmeiser knowingly planted this seed in his field without permission or license. By doing so, he used Monsanto’s patented technology without permission.”

Sonoma County Meetings on Septic issues

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 09:30
Sonoma County Meetings on Septic issues

Lower River Community Engagement

on Septic Issues The County of Sonoma is updating County regulations for septic systems in order to meet state mandated regulations that protect water quality and public health. Permit Sonoma (formerly PRMD) invites the public to attend  upcoming community meetings to share feedback on the proposed Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) Manual. OWTS Community Meetings Gold Ridge RCD staff will attend as many of these community meetings as possible to meet the interest of our community and introduce the services of the  Lower Russian River Ombudsman. October 10, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM: 

Villa Chanticleer Annex, 900 Chanticleer Way, Healdsburg October 17, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM:  Guerneville Elementary School, 14630 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville OWTS Feedback Questionnaire Please give us your feedback by answering just a few questions. Feedback Questions in English Feedback Questions in Spanish Learn more: http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Regulations/OWTS/OWTS-Manual-Revision/

Native American Tribes Sue Trump Over ‘Unlawful’ Keystone XL Approval

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 09:25
Native American Tribes Sue Trump Over ‘Unlawful’ Keystone XL Approval

“All historical, cultural, and spiritual places and sites of significance in the path of the pipeline are at risk of destruction.”

by Jake Johnson, staff writer 5 Comments

Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native Americans, farmers, and ranchers from across the United States, hold a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in front of the U.S. Capitol April 22, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Accusing the Trump administration of failing to take into account the significant damage TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline could do to sacred cultural sites when it approved the project last year, Native American tribes from Montana and North Dakota sued the State Department on Monday and demanded that it immediately “rescind the illegal issuance of the Keystone XL pipeline presidential permit.” Represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the Fort Belknap and Rosebud Sioux tribes argue in their suit (pdf) that the Trump White House conducted “no analysis of the potential impact of the pipeline on treaty rights, no analysis of the subpar leak detection system and the potential impact of spills on Fort Belknap’s tribal members, and no analysis of the potential impact on Fort Belknap’s cultural resources and historic properties in the path of the pipeline, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.”

“President Trump permitted the Keystone XL pipeline because he wanted to,” NARF staff attorney Natalie Landreth said in a statement on Monday. “It was a political step, having nothing to do with what the law actually requires. NARF is honored to represent the Rosebud Sioux and Fort Belknap Tribes to fully enforce the laws and fight this illegal pipeline.”

If constructed as planned, Keystone XL would carry up to 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands daily from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska.

“All historical, cultural, and spiritual places and sites of significance in the path of the pipeline are at risk of destruction, both by the pipeline’s construction and by the threat of inevitable ruptures and spills when the pipeline is operational,” the tribes’ lawsuit concludes. “The failure to analyze any of these impacts was unlawful.”

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‘Major Victory’: Landowner’s Legal Challenge Halts Construction of Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 09:11
When did corporations get the right of eminent domain reserved for the US government? Bumper sticker seen: “I’ll believe corporations are people when they execute one of ’em.” “Peter Aaslestad, one of several co-owners of undeveloped marshland, filed an injunction in July alleging that the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) was clearing trees and trenching on his property without permission. ETP—which is also behind the hotly contested Dakota Access Pipelineclaims it has the right to the use property through expropriation, a process used to take private land for public benefit.” ‘Major Victory’: Landowner’s Legal Challenge Halts Construction of Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana

While celebrating the win, activists noted that “construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline continues in other parts of the Atchafalaya Basin” and vowed to keep fighting to completely shut down the project

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer

Faced with a new state law that effectively criminalized peaceful protests of pipelines, activists have put their bodies and freedom on the line to oppose the Bayou Bridge project in Louisiana. (Photo: L’eau Est La Vie Camp/Facebook)

In a “major victory” for local landowners and pipeline activists who are fighting to block the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana, the company behind the project agreed to halt construction on a patch of private property just ahead of a court hearing that was scheduled for Monday morning.

The path of the 163-mile pipeline runs through Atchafalaya Basin, the nation’s largest wetland and swamp. Local landowners and activists have raised alarm about the threat the pipeline poses to regional water resources, wildlife, and communities.

“We have been tased, pepper sprayed, put into choke holds, and beaten with batons to stop this illegal construction that ETP was carrying out despite not having an easement for the land.”  —L’eau Est La Vie Camp

Peter Aaslestad, one of several co-owners of undeveloped marshland, filed an injunction in July alleging that the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) was clearing trees and trenching on his property without permission. ETP—which is also behind the hotly contested Dakota Access Pipeline—claims it has the right to the use property through expropriation, a process used to take private land for public benefit.

Monday’s agreement “essentially gives us everything we would have asked for with [the injunction] request and argued for in our hearing,” Misha Mitchell, a lawyer for Aaslestad and Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, explained in a Facebook video. “The company has voluntarily agreed to cease entering onto the property and to stop all construction activities on the property.”

A court hearing for the expropriation battle is scheduled for Nov. 27, meaning the company will not meet its initial deadline of completing construction by October.

“This represents a significant victory for the conservation of the Atchafalaya Basin and for the rights of private landowners who lawfully resist their property being seized for private gain,” Aaslestad said in a statement.

A collective of activists fighting against the pipeline—who have created the L’eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) floating resistance camp—celebrated the agreement as validation of their ongoing efforts to kill the project.

“We have been tased, pepper sprayed, put into choke holds, and beaten with batons to stop this illegal construction that ETP was carrying out despite not having an easement for the land,” the group wrote on Facebook Monday. “While this is a major victory, construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline continues in other parts of the Atchafalaya Basin. We won’t stop until completely shut down the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.”

Protests have continued even as state lawmakers have enacted legislation that effectively criminalizes peaceful protests of “critical infrastructure,” including pipeline projects. Last month, as Common Dreams reported, three kayaktivists who oppose Bayou Bridge were detained by private security, then arrested and charged with felonies under the new law.

The Times-Picayune reports that “at least 12 activists protesting the pipeline on Aaslestad’s property have been arrested” under the law, which took effect Aug. 1, but the district attorney “has not yet decided whether to prosecute the protesters.”

Bill Quigley, a Loyola University law professor who is volunteering as an attorney for the protesters, said they were all detained by private security before being arrested, explaining that “because they were on private property at the invitation of the owner, it’s not clear that [ETP] had any right to do what they were doing, or have people arrested.” This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don’t survive on clicks. We don’t want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can’t do it alone. It doesn’t work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don’t Exist.

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Cannabis Ordinance Update scheduled at BoS 10.16.18

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 09:03
Cannabis Ordinance Update scheduled at BoS 10.16.18

 

Cannabis Ordinance Updates 

The Cannabis Ordinance Updates scheduled to be reviewed by the Board on October 9th have been rescheduled for October 16th. 

Staff is finalizing the agenda and associated meeting materials and will send out via this email listserve once complete. 

For more information about the Cannabis Program, visit us at: sonomacounty.ca.gov/Cannabis 

Contact us at: cannabis@sonoma-county.org

Saturday Actions across the nation

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:39
FLOOD THE STREETS: No Justice, No Seat! Find Nearby Events

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We’ve been taking action for over a month with thousands of grassroots activists in Washington DC and across the nation to keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court because we know that if confirmed, he will not just send a message that sexual violence is rewarded with power; he will also roll back rights that we have worked for a generation to secure.

On Saturday October 6th, the full Senate is scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. That day, we are flooding the Capitol and streets around the nation to make sure they hear our demand to #CancelKavanaugh and #BelieveSurvivors.   Join the “No Justice, No Seat” marches on Saturday, October 6th, flooding the streets around the country! The stakes are too high to stay home. All of our lives are literally on the line as Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court threatens to roll back women’s rights, voting rights, LGTBQ rights, and more. And, it’s not just that — we owe it to all the brave survivors of sexual violence who have come forward, like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick, to step forward. We believe survivors. We will #CancelKavanaugh Here’s what you need to do:
  1. FLOOD THE STREETS: Sign up to participate in “No Justice, No Seat” March near you this Saturday! If there’s not one in your area, host your own! We will be sharing toolkits on hosting events soon. Keep a look out for our training for Grassroots Hosts this Friday night!
  2. Share this action on social media! Stay tuned for our digital toolkit.
  3. Wear black to show solidarity! Be sure to wear black in solidarity as we do everything we can to #CancelKavanaugh
  4. CALL YOUR SENATORS. Do this every. single. day. Until they stop Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court
Sponsored by

 

Women’s March National Additional Sponsors

 

Planned Parenthood Action Fund

CPD Action Brooklyn, NY

CPD Action:

Did you see Donald Trump’s tweet this morning about us and our Co-Executive Director Ana Maria?

Women’s March DC

                  

 

He thinks we’re rude and that survivors are being “paid” to tell these stories. The real cowards are the Senators who refuse to acknowledge our existence, our experience, and our stories. We’ve spent the last week chasing them down into bathrooms, hallways, and phone booths because they’d rather hide then listen to their own constituents.

As Americans who believe in the promise of this nation, we refuse to watch idly as Republicans jam through a nominee caught for perjury, accused of brutal assault and shrouded in unreleased records. If that means we’re being “rude” for making our voices heard, then so be it. We are united and undeterred. As survivors, we know what it means to make a way where there is none — to take the most brutal of human experiences and not merely live but thrive.

This Kavanaugh vote is moving forward TOMORROW AT 3PM and this is what we need you to do:

  • If you are in or near DC. Get on buses, or trains and get to DC! Sign up here and join us for #NoJusticeNoPeace 12-3PM.
  • If you are not in DC- find a #NoJusticeNoSeat event near you or organize one here.
  • Donate $15 and help keep us going in the final hours.

How will you remember today and tomorrow? Where will you be when the Kavanaugh vote goes down? This is a moment in history and we need you NOW more than ever. Don’t be an observer, be a participant in your own democracy. Be a troublemaker.

In solidarity,

CPD Action Team

CPD Action, and our sister organization the Center for Popular Democracy, are building a rising movement of people fighting for a future of opportunity, equality, and inclusion. We’re working on campaigns that promote a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda and win victories to improve people’s lives. Together, we’ll build a progressive future we can all be proud of. Please chip in $10 right now to support our campaigns.

Why women are upset: Best letter yet

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:13
From playwright Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” A Letter to White Women Who Support Brett Kavanaugh

By Eve Ensler, TIME

05 October 18

 

n Oct. 2, I watched the President of the United States mock a woman who had recounted the trauma of being sexually assaulted in front of the world, on live television. And as he did so, a recent poll rattled around my head. The survey found that, while white men regularly supported Kavanaugh the most, white women also did so significantly more than Hispanic or black people overall. For example, 45% of white women said Kavanaugh should be confirmed, compared to 30% of Hispanic people and 11% of black people. Like so much of these recent weeks, it made me reflect. But even more so, it made me want to write to those women. Not lecture them. Not denigrate them. Just simply to speak to them directly and to try to explain my feelings. This is what I wrote:

Dear white women who support Brett Kavanaugh,

Last night when I saw Donald Trump mock Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I couldn’t help focusing on the women behind him who cheered and laughed. I felt like I was falling into a familiar nightmare. It compelled me to reach out to you.

When I was a child my father sexually abused and beat me. My mother did not protect me. She sided with my father, just like these women sided with Donald Trump, and I understand why. She sided with him because he was the breadwinner. She sided with him because of her need to survive. She sided with him because the reality of what was happening in front of her was so terrible, it was easier not to see.

Eve Ensler, playwright, “The Vagina Monologues” Getty Images

She sided with him because she was brought up never to question a man. She was taught to serve men and make men happy. She was trained not to believe women. It was only much later, after my father died, that she was able to acknowledge the truth of my childhood and to ask for my forgiveness. It was only then, too late, that she was able to see how she had sacrificed her daughter for security and comfort. She used those words. I was her “sacrifice.”

Some people when they look at this video of women laughing at Dr. Ford, will see callousness. I see distancing. I see denial. I have worked on ending violence against women for 20 years. I have traveled this country many times. I have sat with women of all ages and political persuasions. I remember the first performances of my play The Vagina Monologues in Oklahoma City, when half the women in the audience came up to tell me they had been raped or battered. Most of them whispered it to me, and often I was the first and only person they had told. Until that moment, they had found a way to normalize it. Expect it. Accept it. Deny it.

I don’t believe you want to have to choose your sons and your husbands over your daughters. I don’t believe you want the pain that was inflicted on us inflicted on future generations. I know the risk many of you take in coming out to say you believe a woman over a man. It means you might then have to recognize and believe your own experience. If one out of three women in the world have been raped or beaten, it must mean some of you have had this experience. To believe another woman means having to touch into the pain and fear and sorrow and rage of your own experience and that sometimes feels unbearable. I know because it took me years to come out of my own denial and to break with my perpetrator, my father. To speak the truth that risked upending the comfort of my very carefully constructed life. But I can tell you that living a lie is living half a life. It was only after telling my story that I knew happiness and freedom.

I know the risk others of you face who have witnessed those you love suffer the traumatic after-effects of violence and those who worry for both your sons and daughters that may someday face this violence

I write to you because we need you, the way I once needed my mother. We need you to stand with women who are breaking the silence in spite of their terror and shame. I believe inside the bodies of some of those women who laughed at that rally were other impulses and feelings they weren’t expressing.

Here is why I believe you should take this stand with me. Violence against women destroys our souls. It annihilates our sense of self. It numbs us. It separates us from our bodies. It is the tool used to keep us second-class citizens. And if we don’t address it, it can lead to depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating and suicide. It makes us believe we are not worthy of happiness.

It took my mother 40 years to see what her denial has done and to apologize to me. I don’t think you want to apologize to your daughters forty years from now. Stop the ascension of a man who is angry, aggressive, and vengeful and could very well be a sexual assaulter. Time is short. Call your senators. Stop laughing and start fighting.

With all my love,

Eve

Dear Senators: The Opposition to Brett Kavanaugh Includes Churches, Law Professors, and Conservatives — Even His Own Friends

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 15:17

The Intercept: Dear Senators: The Opposition to Brett Kavanaugh Includes Churches, Law Professors, and Conservatives — Even His Own Friends

Full Text here: https://theintercept.com/2018/10/05/dear-susan-collins-the-opposition-to-brett-kavanaugh-includes-churches-law-professors-and-conservatives-even-his-own-friends/

Excerpts:

“The National Council of Churches, which represents 100,000 congregations and 45 million church-goers, issued a blunt demand for Kavanaugh to step aside after his testimony. “Judge Kavanaugh exhibited extreme partisan bias and disrespect towards certain members of the committee and thereby demonstrated that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character essential for a member of the highest court in our nation,” the NCC statement said. It continued, “We are deeply disturbed by the multiple allegations of sexual assault and call for a full and unhindered investigation of these accusations.” More broadly, several thousand law professors across the country signed a letter against his nomination, stating about his testimony, “Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.” And just today, the American Bar Association notified the Senate that it was re-opening its evaluation of Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve as a result, again, of his testimony last week. What follows is a list of people and organizations that have opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court of the United States:

“No Justice, No Seat”:KAVANAUGH Protests planned all over the country……

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 15:04

KAVA NOPE!

This is it. Right now, Senate Republicans are rushing forward with their plan to confirm serial sexual assaulter Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The final vote could happen as early as Saturday afternoon.

Win, lose, or still fighting, we MUST keep up a show of force and make sure every single politician hears us: Women and our allies are outraged, we’re not going away, and we will remember every single senator who voted to put another abuser on the Supreme Court. That’s why UltraViolet Action, Planned Parenthood, MoveOn.org, the Women’s March, and many other groups are working together to pull off national “No Justice, No Seat” marches all across the country, this Saturday, October 6. But to make this work, we ALL need to show up on Saturday.

Can you sign up to join your local march TOMORROW, Saturday? OR if there’s not a march near you yet, sign up to organize one. You’ll receive a toolkit, training, and help along the way.

We’ve been taking action together for over a month, with thousands of grassroots activists and survivors of sexual assault fighting in Washington, DC and at key senators’ offices across the country. It is because of this courage and fire that we’ve been able to hold off the vote for so long. We know that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, it will not only send a message that sexual violence is rewarded with power, it will also likely mean the rolling back of countless rights and freedoms, including abortion access, health care, affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, and so much more.

This Saturday, October 6, the full Senate is expected to vote on his confirmation. That day, we need to show up in numbers too big to ignore, all across the country, to make sure they hear our demands loud and clear in DC: Believe survivors and vote NO! This is likely our final opportunity to force the Senate to do the right thing–the stakes are too high to stay home!

Join the “No Justice, No Seat” march TOMORROW, Saturday, October 6, taking place in DC and communities around the country.

Thank you for taking action.

–Shaunna, Kat, Karin, Holly, Kathy, Susan, Anathea, Audine, Emma, Pilar, Natalie, Melody, Pam, Lindsay, and Ryan, the UltraViolet Action team

P.S. Once you sign up, let us know if you’re able to pick up signs, and we’ll contact you with more information.

P.P.S Join the national “No Justice, No Seat” planning call, TODAY Friday, October 5, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

Women’s Rights and actions

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 10:29
#StopKavanuagh for sites around the country holding protests Women’s Rights action. Friday, noon to 1pm  downtown Sebastopol, Hwy 12 and main Street.

*Rally – We Believe You, Christine Blasey Ford! 
Friday, October 5th, 5-6:30 PM

We are planning to say Yes! to Christine Blasey Ford and No! to Brett Kavanaugh and the misogynists in the U.S. Senate. For more info, visit: www.facebook.com/events/325681704860359
Federal Building, 777 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa

 

Interfaith Council of Sonoma County Leadership Statement on the Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court

Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court poses a threat to human rights, civil liberties, and sound government. These risks are evident in Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial opinions, other legal writing, and speech. Judge Kavanaugh’s intemperate conduct and speech during committee hearings, and his apparent perjury and absence of remorse regarding alleged past drunkenness and sexually assaultive behavior, render him unacceptable for the Court.

We believe Judge Kavanaugh is at best indifferent, and very likely actively hostile, to the rights of immigrants, religious and ethnic minorities, women, LGBT persons, and people with disabilities.

We believe that if Judge Kavanaugh is seated on the US Supreme Court, his expressed deference to presidential power will impede critically needed protection of the natural environment, and will bring about grave abuses of power.

We also object emphatically to the Senate majority leadership’s withholding of thousands of pages of background documents and its refusal to allow meaningful investigation of Kavanaugh’s alleged misdeeds.

Board, Interfaith Council of Sonoma County, October3, 2018

Sonoma County winegrowers navigate the politics of ‘sustainability’

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 10:16
What do  you get when you hire your own people to be “certifiers”? You get Sustainable Sonoma” and loss of truly organic and biodynamic growers. Sonoma County winegrowers navigate the politics of ‘sustainability’

by September 25, 2018     

‘What are you doing to my wine?”

That’s what Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, heard from more than a few consumers in response to the organization’s ambitious sustainability initiative. The voluntary program is aiming to make Sonoma County the nation’s first 100 percent sustainable wine region by the year 2019.

The organization says it’s taking on the project to ensure the long-term viability of grape growing and agriculture in Sonoma County, but also to help move the region a peg up in the global marketplace.

Consumers do not reward organic labeling the same way they do when shopping for food and other products, and, apparently, some people confuse “sustainable” and organic wine, which was just too darn crunchy for them.

“Historically, we’ve seen that more around biodynamics and organics,” Kruse says. “There’s been some consumer confusion—that the practices that go into it impact the taste of the wine.” In other words, people were making the age-old association of dirt with “dirty.”

But increasingly, consumers are getting a new message: sustainability is green, and “clean.” The feedback they’re getting to questions like, “Why would you buy sustainable wine?” is the opposite, Kruse says. “It’s because they think the quality is better.”

The five-year sustainability plan was launched in 2014. As 2019 approaches, Sonoma County winery and vineyard operators have implemented progressive environmental and personnel development projects too numerous to list here.

But as the Sonoma Sustainable label rolls out to consumers, are wineries aiming to have their Chardonnay and drink it, too—passively benefiting from the positive messaging of organic farming practices while evading inconvenient prohibitions on fertilizers and pesticides?

CPDR carcinogen concentration map of Sonoma County.

In recent years, I’ve noted a war of words in discussions about organic and sustainable certifications that does not seem necessary. It’s not enough to tout the benefits of one; the other must also be put down. Sometimes, those who favor organics complain that when a winery says it’s sustainable, it doesn’t mean anything. More often, winery representatives tell me that sustainability “goes beyond organics.” I was once told, in all earnestness, that sustainable farming only selectively targets pests, like a smart bomb, while, “in organics, they kill everything!”

It isn’t the Sonoma County Winegrowers pushing this view. “We have growers that are organic and biodynamic and sustainable,” Kruse says. “And they’re all good. Any time farmers are focused on what they’re doing is good. I think people try to pit the programs against each other, and I don’t think that’s fair to the farmers who are trying real hard to do the right thing.”

The Winegrowers’ reports on the initiative’s progress published since 2015 do a great job of explaining their goals, and include many profiles of local growers and ag leaders who have found cost savings or other benefits by implementing best practices in energy use, habitat and human resources. It’s worth noting that the reports make minimal mention of organic or biodynamic certified vineyards. For example, one report discusses how Ridge Vineyards uses cover crops, but doesn’t say the vineyards are certified organic.

What does it mean to be sustainable for the Winegrowers? Is it more than just marketing? To get a better idea of the nuts and bolts of the program, I sat down with former Winegrowers sustainability manager Emily Farrant last year to discuss the grape growers’ self-assessment, the first step of the certification process. She’s now an independent auditor of the program.

To become Sonoma Sustainable, there are four ways to go. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance certification program is the main standard the Winegrowers use. Three other programs with their own rules are also accepted: Fish Friendly Farming, Lodi Rules and Sustainability in Practice. Organic certification will not get you a Sonoma Sustainable seal of approval.

Here’s how it works: the workbook has 16 chapters, each dealing with an aspect of vineyard management, human resources, winemaking practices and other topics. Each section contains a series of statements in four categories, and respondents are asked to choose which category best describes their operation.

For example, in section 7-5 on wine quality, answering “Knowledge of wine quality consisted of only tasting local wines or none at all,” will get you category 1. The better answer is, “Wine regions elsewhere in the state and internationally had been visited and toured,” one of three prerequisites for best-practices category 4.

In section 3-3, on leaf removal, category 2 states, “Leaf removal was sometimes done, or very lightly done, to minimize costs.”

Most of the best-practices answers here have been taught for decades as simply good, modern farming. Doing just a little better than showing up will earn a category 2.

But growers cannot hang out in category 2 forever and be re-certified, Kruse says. “Every year, you’re having to do something, whether lowering water use or doing something for employees. You have to do something that shows you’re moving the needle in one of the assessments.” Continual improvement is the mantra of the program.

Full text

99 Percent of Seabirds Will Have Plastic in Their Guts Within Decades

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 09:47
99 Percent of Seabirds Will Have Plastic in Their Guts Within Decades

https://www.alternet.org/environment/ninety-nine-percent-seabirds-will-have-plastic-their-guts-within-decades

Most plastic is tossed after minutes of use, but its impact on wildlife and the environment can last for centuries.

By Lorraine Chow / Independent Media Institute October 1, 2018, 9:55 PM GMT  The world’s plastic problem may seem vast and incalculable, but its footprint has actually been measured. In a sweeping 2015 study, researchers calculated that 9 billion tons of the material have been made, distributed and disposed in fewer than 70 years. That’s an astonishing figure, but it’s also one that’s hard to picture. Perhaps a better way to illustrate the problem of plastics is by looking at the damage that can be caused by a single drinking straw. In 2015, a team of marine biologists in Costa Rica pried a plastic straw from the nose of a male olive ridley sea turtle. Footage of the excruciating, bloody extraction was posted online and viewed by millions of people around the globe. The video is powerful not only because it suggests the pervasiveness of plastics and shows the harm it can inflict on a vulnerable species, but it also strikes a much deeper chord within: shame.

“Subconsciously, people who watched the video knew that the straw in that turtle’s nose could have been thrown away by any of us,” Christine Figgener, the biologist who extracted the straw, wrote in a Medium post after the video went viral. “They saw their own actions reflected in its eyes.”

Not long after saving that turtle, members of the same team of marine biologists in Costa Rica pulled a plastic fork out of the nose of another olive ridley, this time a female. A video of that disturbingly similar extraction was also posted online and viewed millions of times.

After that video came out, I spoke with George Shillinger, the head of the Monterey, California-based conservation nonprofit called the Leatherback Trust, which works with the team in Costa Rica.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he told me. “This was an isolated incident involving a single turtle in a small area off a nesting beach in Costa Rica. Just imagine globally what’s happening.”

In 2015, a study by Australian and British scientists determined that 90 percent of seabirds living today have ingested some form of plastic, mistaking it for food. If plastic consumption continues at its current rate, 99 percent of seabirds will carry plastic in their guts by 2050.

Then can we assume, I asked Shillinger, that the same thing is happening to sea turtles? He replied without hesitation: “Totally.”

Both turtles were released back to sea after the items were freed from their nostrils, but other aquatic creatures are not so lucky. In June 2018, a small male pilot whale that died in southern Thailand was found with more than 80 plastic bags crumpled in his stomach. The veterinary surgeon who carried out the necropsy told Sky News the animal was “emaciated,” as the plastic likely stopped the whale from getting the nutrients he needed.

This is the key to understanding that aforementioned 9 billion ton figure, which was calculated by researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Georgia and the Sea Education Association: Most of that plastic—roughly 7 billion tons—has been thrown away. Only 9 percent is recycled and 12 percent is incinerated, leaving the vast majority of plastic waste accumulating in landfills or in the natural environment, the researchers determined. If you think one plastic straw is bad, think what 7 billion tons could do.

The most eye-opening revelation in the research is how quickly plastics proliferated since the 1950s, when mass production of synthetic plastics first took off. Half of the world’s plastic now in existence was made in just the last 13 years, with most of that for products used only once, discarded and forgotten.

If you think back to that first turtle, his encounter with a plastic straw is a distinctly modern problem. Paper straws were the standard until their non-degradable cousins took over in the 1960s and ’70s. Today, about 175 million plastic straws are thrown out in the United States every day, the marketing analysis firm Technomics estimates.

There’s no denying the incredible usefulness and versatility of plastic. The low-cost, durable material can be molded into everything from lightweight drinking tubes to insulation for our homes. We take for granted that plastic keeps our food fresh and encases the electronics we use everyday. Modern medicine would not be possible without disposable syringes and plastic implants. However, its durability and widespread use around the globe are exactly why plastics are so pervasive in the environment.

FULL STORY HERE

Brett Kavanaugh Also Lied About His Rulings on the Environment

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:58
Earthjustice found that of 26 EPA-related cases in which Kavanaugh wrote opinions, the judge came down on the side of rolling back protections for clean air and water 89 percent of the time. Eighteen of those cases dealt with EPA rules on water and air specifically, and in 16 of them, Kavanaugh’s position would have resulted in less protection and more pollution, the analysis found. When it comes to wildlife, Kavanaugh’s record is even worse, according to an analysis by William Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. In his 12 years on the federal bench, Kavanaugh had a say in 18 decisions affecting wildlife; taking split decisions into account, he ruled against the animals 96 percent of the time, according to Snape. “ Brett Kavanaugh Also Lied About His Rulings on the Environment

October 4 2018, 9:24 a.m.

Brett Kavanaugh has made any number of claims that defy belief: that spicy food, and not drinking, caused him to vomit in high school, for instance; or that he called himself a “Renate Alumnius” in his high school yearbook as a tribute to the girl in question, and not as a boast that he’d had sex with her. While such questionable statements set off the b.s. detectors of pretty much anyone who has attended high school, they are hard to definitively disprove. Kavanaugh’s claims about giving environmental issues a fair shake while on the court, on the other hand, can be easily fact-checked against the judicial record. And when they are, they come up short.

When testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 5, Kavanaugh listed several cases in which he upheld environmental regulations, including “the Natural Resources Defense Council case versus EPA, a ruling for environmentalist groups,” as he put it.

Yet, in that case, which was decided by the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2014, Kavanaugh ruled against three of four challenges brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. The judge rejected the environmental groups’ primary argument that the Environmental Protection Agency’s limits on lead, arsenic, chromium, and soot pollution from cement plants were too weak. He also rejected another legal challenge the groups posed to the EPA’s pollution limits. And Kavanaugh’s ruling also sided with industry in giving cement companies a two-year extension to pollute above the limits that the environmental groups already felt were too weak. It was only on one procedural point that Kavanaugh agreed with environmentalists — one that wasn’t “especially environmental,” according to John Walke, a senior attorney for NRDC, who argued the case in front of Kavanaugh.

Read our complete coverageSupreme Privilege

Walke was watching the testimony in his office when Kavanuagh began talking about the case in the Senate hearing. “My immediate reaction was, I thought I had misheard him,” said Walke, who directs NRDC’s clean air program. “But as he kept talking, I realized he was talking about my clean air case before him. And then, I honestly could not believe that a federal judge and Supreme Court nominee was misrepresenting my case to U.S. senators in order to bolster his environmental credentials.”

Walke quickly got on Twitter and began countering Kavanaugh’s interpretation of the case. “Judge Kavanaugh ruled squarely against ‘environmentalists’ interests’ on the substance of the weaker toxic pollution limits & the 2-year compliance extension—what mattered most to public health & the environment,” he wrote.

Kavanaugh presented himself to the Senate as a friend of the environment more broadly. “In some cases, I’ve ruled against environmentalists’ interests, and in many cases I’ve ruled for environmentalists’ interests,” he told the members of the Judiciary Committee, in another statement that stretched the truth.

While that characterization went unchallenged by senators, an analysis by the environmental law firm Earthjustice found that of 26 EPA-related cases in which Kavanaugh wrote opinions, the judge came down on the side of rolling back protections for clean air and water 89 percent of the time. Eighteen of those cases dealt with EPA rules on water and air specifically, and in 16 of them, Kavanaugh’s position would have resulted in less protection and more pollution, the analysis found.

When it comes to wildlife, Kavanaugh’s record is even worse, according to an analysis by William Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. In his 12 years on the federal bench, Kavanaugh had a say in 18 decisions affecting wildlife; taking split decisions into account, he ruled against the animals 96 percent of the time, according to Snape. For comparison, Snape also ran the numbers for Judge David Sentelle, a conservative, who ruled against wildlife 57 percent of the time, and Judge Merrick Garland, a moderate, who came down against wildlife 46 percent of the time.

“On all the opinions he wrote, there’s absolutely a discernible anger and bias against wildlife,” said Snape, who estimated that he has read at least 120 of Kavanaugh’s opinions. “It’s always couched in this industrial interest. And this little bear or frog is not going to get in the way.”

President Donald Trump has also acknowledged Kavanaugh’s pro-industry bias, touting it as qualifying him for the nation’s highest court. In a July email to industry stakeholders, the president wrote that “Kavanaugh helped kill President Obama’s most destructive new environmental rules” and that he had “overruled federal regulators 75 times on cases involving clean air, consumer protections, net neutrality and other issues.”

Among Kavanaugh’s many opinions that haven’t pleased environmentalists is one that struck down an EPA rule limiting air pollution that crosses state lines. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the rule, which the EPA estimated would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths each year. In a case over whether coal companies can dump waste into streams, Kavanaugh dissented from the other justices and sided with the companies. And in a decision from last year, Kavanaugh ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority when it tried to regulate HFCs, climate pollutants that are used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

With several big cases heading to the Supreme Court and the Senate barreling toward a vote on Kavanaugh, environmentalists are alarmed by his record. For only the second time in the past 25 years, NRDC came out against the nomination of a Supreme Court nominee, telling Sen. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein that Kavanaugh’s nomination “poses a unique threat to the principles and public resources we defend.”

But Kavanaugh’s characterization of his positions may be as big of a problem as the rulings themselves. “He lied. He abjectly lied,” Snape said of Kavanaugh. “And if he’s going to lie about his record on environmental cases, what’s he not going to lie about?”

Top photo: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2018.

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Here’s How Community Rights Could Help Save the Great Lakes

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:41

“We the people are following laws written by corporations for their benefit. It’s greed,” says O’Dell. “They’re using our communities as resource colonies,” she added.

https://www.alternet.org/local-peace-economy/can-community-rights-save-great-lakes

Local Peace Economy

Here’s How Community Rights Could Help Save the Great Lakes

Organizers in Toledo work to save their drinking water.

By Valerie Vande Panne / Independent Media Institute Imagine for a moment, putting the rights of nature into public policy: Your town charter, your state constitution, or even federal law. Imagine, for a moment, giving the Great Lakes—the world’s largest source of fresh water—the right to exist and evolve naturally, to be free from pollutants that could contaminate and harm the lives that rely on it. Imagine that we, as Americans, have the right to lawfully stop anything that violated the rights of the Great Lakes. That means the right to stop anything that would cause harm to the ecosystem. That ecosystem provides tens of millions of people with the fresh water they use to drink, bathe, cook, and farm. The idea is called community rights, and it’s popping up around the world and across the country, and it is meant to stop anything causing an adverse effect on the ecosystem.

Ecuador has it enshrined in their constitution. Here in the U.S., when the community can see the harm being caused by, for example, fracking, the community can say, “this is harmful, and the polluting company doesn’t have the right to do that.” Pittsburgh did just that.

A company might have a permit to allow them to emit, dump, or otherwise pollute, but with community rights, the community has the right to protect themselves from legalized harm.

And it’s not just fracking waste that it can stop. Dumping from farms, oil drilling, and factories too—basically anything causing an adverse effect on the ecosystem and life, the community can say, “this is harmful, and they don’t have the right to do that.”

It’s about communities passing laws to create a society you want your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in.

And that is exactly what activists in Toledo, Ohio, are seeking to do. The western basin of Lake Erie has experienced extreme toxic algae blooms that have contaminated the drinking water of nearly half a million people in the region, sometimes causing citizens of the Midwestern city to go days without fresh water. The algae blooms are attributed to nutrient runoff in agriculture and sewage.

Of course, agriculture is permitted to use nutrients. There are “harms we allow, and they are within the allowable limits. Even with all these permits and permissions, we are still seeing the harmful effects,” says Markie Miller, an organizer with Toledoans for Safe Water. “Something’s not working.”

In August, Toledoans for Safe Water turned in petitions to put a community rights-based initiative on the ballot, with over 10,000 signatures. It’s called the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, and if implemented, would recognize the right of Lake Erie “to be healthy and free from pollution that today is killing the Lake and depriving surrounding communities of safe water.

Miller says she studied environmental studies and environmental science in college. The emphasis in those programs was on getting a job working on regulations, or in companies to comply with regulations. That seemed to sidestep the real issues of environmental justice, so Miller turned to the community rights movement.

Miller is tired of the messaging around environmental disasters. “We don’t want to put up with allowable harm,” she continues. “We don’t just want to be prepared for algae.” That mentality, Miller explains, is reactive. “We want something proactive.”

She and fellow activists connected with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, CELDF, a public interest law firm operating with communities across the U.S. and rights of nature work in other countries. Together they drafted the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and started collecting signatures and talking about it.

Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer for CELDF, initially got involved in the movement because her community of Broadview Heights, Ohio, was threatened by oil and gas drilling.

It was here she and her fellow community members passed a Bill of Rights in 2012. Despite the Bill of Rights being appealed, the community sued by the company, and ultimately losing, the company hasn’t drilled since the bill was originally passed.

“They started drilling and getting people to sign leases, promising wealth beyond imagine,” O’Dell explains. “Oil spilled in a creek outside people’s homes. The fire department would evacuate people. We had an elementary school, and something broke on a well next door, and it spilled oil on the playground at recess. That woke people up. Then when people started going to city council and saying, ‘This is BS. Stop this,’ they said, ‘we can’t do anything, the state has control over this.’ Then the obedient citizens we are, we went to the state.”

O’Dell says the state sent them to EPA, and then to the state Department of Public Health. “No one would take responsibility. It was like the scarecrow pointing in different directions.”

O’Dell says they were told the drilling was safe and that it would bring jobs.

CELDF helped them draft a bill of rights, for clean air, water, and soil. It passed. Then, it became, “Our law says your permit violates our law, so we’re not going to recognize your permit in our community,” she says.

“We don’t have the kind of government we thought we did,” says O’Dell of the lost court battles that ensued.

Now, the local board of elections in Ohio has the right to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot based on content, “which shouldn’t be happening,” says Miller, “whether or not someone agrees with the content. We have a city charter, and we should be able to take it to the people and let them decide. Our local board of election should not be the gatekeeper for something like that.”

And yet, it is. The local BOE kept the Lake Erie Bill of Rights initiative off the ballot, and the Ohio Supreme Court blocked the initiative on appeal. Toledoans for Safe Water said they are filing a motion to reconsider.

“It was devastating to be without water for 3 days in 2014. This is worse,” Crystal Jankowski, an organizer for the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, said in a press release. “To know that the Lake and my children are at risk because it is legal for the polluters to pollute us, while our own government makes it illegal for us to propose a law to protect the Lake and our children, is beyond devastating. It is the realization that we not only have a water crisis, but we also have a democracy crisis.”

“We the people are following laws written by corporations for their benefit. It’s greed,” says O’Dell.

“They’re using our communities as resource colonies,” she added.

No matter what happens, the battle over local control of the natural environment won’t end here in the Ohio Supreme Court. The health of future generations—the very water they drink—depends on what communities can do today to protect themselves and those to come in the future.

 

Former Koch Staffer With Chemical Ties Appointed to Key EPA Position

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:28
SWAMP WATCH Former Koch Staffer With Chemical Ties Appointed to Key EPA Position

By E.A. Crunden, ThinkProgress

02 October 18

The agency is stocked full of industry insiders.

 

he Environmental Protection Agency has hired a former Koch Industries staffer who worked on water and chemical policy to fill a key role within the agency, continuing a Trump administration trend of appointing company insiders to oversee the industries they are meant to regulate.

David Dunlap, a former Koch chemical engineer who has served as director of policy and regulatory affairs with the right-wing corporation since 2010, is joining the EPA as deputy assistant administrator for research and development. Prior to his eight years with Koch, Dunlap worked for the Chlorine Institute overseeing health and environmental safety, in addition to roles with both the Uniform and Textile Service Association and Ogden Environmental.

“As a chemical engineer, Mr. Dunlap has worked on environmental issues for nearly 30 years with a focus on assessing risk,” read a statement from EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson. “His extensive experience on regulatory issues will be pivotal in our mission to protect human health and the environment.”

Koch Industries is a massive conglomerate overseen by the Koch brothers, major conservative donors who have spent decades undercutting U.S. climate and environmental policies — the brothers’ fortune was made largely from fossil fuels but has since expanded to chemicals and manufacturing.

In April, Senate Democrats indicated that they would probe the influence of the brothers on Trump administration policies, specifically with reference to the EPA and the Department of the Interior. The Kochs have appeared to take credit for the rollback of the Clean Power Plan, among other Obama-era initiatives targeted by the Trump administration.

A spokesperson for Koch Industries told Courthouse News on Monday that Dunlap is “not working for Koch Industries in any capacity” at this time, indicating that he has officially left his prior position with the company.

Dunlap’s predecessor, Richard Yamada, left the EPA in September after only 15 months in the position. Yamada was largely seen as one of the chief drivers behind a deeply controversial “secret science” policy proposal attempting to limit the use of private data in scientific studies. Such efforts have been a pet cause of retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX); Yamada previously had a role working with Smith to draft similar legislation prior to interest from the Trump administration.

And during former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure, the Heritage Foundation — which has received numerous donations from the Koch brothers over the years — hosted a closed-door meeting with Pruitt and others to discuss the policy.

In his new role, Dunlap will help to oversee a number of crucial programs. The risk assessment program that produced a health study linking formaldehyde to cancer, for instance, falls under the EPA’s research and development arm. Trump administration officials have blocked that report, seemingly due to pressure from the chemical industry. Formaldehyde is a prevalent chemical throughout the United States and is often found in items like particle boards and crease-resistant fabrics.

Georgia-Pacific Chemicals LLC, a Koch Industries subsidiary, is one of the largest formaldehyde producers in the country, and has lobbied against the study’s release according to Politico. As a former Koch employee, Dunlap will now be in a position to direct the study’s future, amid a heavy industry lobbying effort.

The EPA is in the midst of a controversial streamlining effort; last week, the agency announced that the Office of the Science Advisor will be closing. Meanwhile, Dunlap’s appointment will provide a measure of political leadership within the EPA while allowing the Trump administration to avoid a Senate confirmation hearing.

Recent battles over agency nominees with industry backgrounds have proven bruising for the White House, although the administration has largely succeeded in its efforts to appoint officials with strong ties to the companies and sectors they now oversee. That includes acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, who previously served as a coal lobbyist.

Green groups and advocates argue that revolving door between industry and the federal government has taken a toll on environmental regulations. The Trump administration has overseen an onslaught of environmental regulation rollbacks, many directly benefiting fossil fuel industries, chemical companies, and corporate interests more broadly. Most recently, the EPA has indicated that it will propose easing limitations on the toxic chemical mercury, in a victory for the coal industry.

 

Calistoga public forum for candidates tonight at 6:30pm

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:19

Dear Supporters,

Just a reminder about the candidates’ forum tomorrow evening, Thursday,
October 4, at 6:30 in the Community Center.

I really appreciate your encouragement in recent weeks.  So many of you
have helped the campaign in so many ways!  Tomorrow night is another
opportunity.  Hope to see you,

Donald


Donald Williams
P.O. Box 273
Calistoga, CA 94515

www.donaldcalistoga.com
707-479-8660

No on Prop 3

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 09:59

Prop 3 would:

● Shifting the cost for water from the end users to California taxpayers;
● Reducing state money available for other critical state programs like education, affordable housing, and healthcare;
● Failing to provide for adequate project oversight and financial accountability.

There are at least five specific ways that we (Sierra Club) believe this bond will directly harm the environment.
  • It could open new funding pathways for ill-conceived dams. Only chapters 8 and 9 and the new Section 6 (page 49-50) prohibits the expenditure of funds on new surface storage or raising existing reservoirs. We are concerned that the only clear prohibition is found in 3 specific places in the bond and nowhere else. This raises the issue that the other chapters are not subject to that prohibition. Also, the bond measure’s proponents rejected requests by environmental groups to overtly prohibit funds from being used to construct, expand or improve conveyance facilities associated with any surface storage project listed in the CalFed decision of 2000. We take this as a sign that it is possible—and maybe probable—that funds in this bond will be used to advance several dam projects we have opposed.
  • It could create incentives that harm threatened and endangered species. Section 86032 of the bond provides funding for agricultural water conservation in the tributaries of the Delta for the benefit of flow and to expedite water transfers. This section does not explicitly prohibit the expenditure of funds on activities that create adverse impacts to wildlife, such as eliminating flooding of rice fields for decomposition or the disking of fallowed agricultural lands to prevent the growth of plants that provide for upland habitat for birds and other species. This section could provide perverse incentives that decrease migratory bird habitat and habitat for other wildlife such as the threatened giant garter snake.
  • It shifts money away from important upland habitat conservation. The bond’s proposed addition of Section 2799.7 to the Fish and Game Code would send the Habitat Conservation Fund money to water acquisition after 2020. We do not believe that 100 percent of that money should go only to acquire water. That fund has been important to non-water related habitat. If there is to be a reallocation of that fund, a substantial percentage should go to wildlife corridor conservation in the face of climate change.
  • It raids the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to build political support. AB 32 (2006) created California’s cap and trade system. Emitters of greenhouse gases must either reduce their levels of emissions or purchase credits to cover their emissions at auction. Proceeds from those auctions are supposed to go towards projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This bond mandates that funds paid into the GGRF by the Department of Water Resources, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority will be given back to those agencies for water conservation measures. This could shift a large amount of money from programs that efficiently cut greenhouse gas emissions and other co-pollutants that harm public health
SIERRA CLUB FAQ’s for Prop 3

July 2018

1

Frequently Asked Questions

Proposition 3 Water Bond and Sierra Club Opposition

What is Proposition 3?

Proposition 3, previously known as the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018, is a $8.877 billion general obligation bond on the ballot in California for the November 6th 2018 election.

What is a “general obligation bond”?

A general obligation bond is a bond that is repaid over a period of time through tax dollars. This means that taxpayers are responsible for the entire $17.3 billion dollar repayment (the cost of the bond plus fees and interest). A general obligation bond is different from a revenue bond in which those who benefit from the bond pay the costs of the bond, such as debt issued for a new bridge where tolls are collected for repayment.

General obligation bonds are best used to serve purposes that benefit the taxpayers as a whole. This includes paying for state obligations, paying for projects where there is no other source of funding or the community cannot bear the costs, or incentivizing a shift in policy that benefits the state. For the purposes of water bonds, these frequently include obligations like Salton Sea restoration, funding public trust resources such as wildlife, assisting disadvantaged communities with drinking water needs, or shifting water agencies to increase conservation or recycling that reduce reliance on taking water from ecosystems. While some of these public trust resources will benefit from Proposition 3, many projects funded by the bond will benefit only particular interests and not the public as a whole.

How was this bond placed on the ballot?

There are two paths to place a bond on the ballot: through the legislative process, or through signature gathering. This bond went through the signature-gathering process.

The legislative process requires a bill to be publicly developed and heard at public hearings by numerous legislative committees, with options for public comment, and must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the legislators in both the Senate and the Assembly. These legislators are directly accountable to voters. Additionally, the executive branch usually engages during this process, to make sure the governor is willing and able to support the expenditures. 2

The signature-gathering process is very different. This process involves developing a bond by private parties, with no requirements for public engagement or involvement. Additionally, campaigning and signature-gathering costs a lot of money. For this bond, 365,880 signatures were needed. Signature-gathering services range between $2.72 and $8.38 per signature, and sometimes more. In the context of this water bond, the high costs of simply putting the bond measure on the ballot and then run a successful election has resulted in a pay-to-play structure, whereby private groups with money provide funds for the campaign. In exchange, they receive guarantees of funding for specific purposes within the bond. They effectively get more than they invested in the campaign out of the bond. If the bond passes, taxpayers end up paying for these investments that the private sector would otherwise have made on its own for certain water projects or would have been required to make through enforcement of existing law. Exactly what projects and funded are included in the bond was negotiated in private.

How much will Proposition 3 cost Californians?

The bond itself is for nearly $8.9 billion. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has estimated that interest costs will add $8.4 billion. This means the total cost to taxpayers will be $17.3 billion dollars, representing a direct cost pressure to the state’s general fund of about $430 million annually.

There could be other costs to Californians. For instance, during an economic downturn (which economists say California is overdue to experience) the general fund is the hardest hit, particularly after other constitutionally required expenses are paid. During the Great Recession 2007 to 2009, California faced a $41 billion budget deficit. When another economic crisis occurs, $430 million annually will still have to go to pay the water bond. Other programs that depend on the general fund will likely suffer, including environmental protection programs, higher education, or other needed social programs.

What will it fund?

The bond will fund investments in water and habitat projects throughout California. Many of these projects are worthwhile. For instance, $500 million will be directed toward projects that improve drinking water in disadvantaged communities. However, other projects are generous giveaways to private entities. Approximately $750 million will be given away to an entity to use to support large projects designed to give one of the largest agricultural companies in the world new canals. Other money could go to building new dams even though existing dams are not being maintained at safe levels. 3

How will Proposition 3 harm California’s environment?

There are at least five specific ways that we believe this bond will directly harm the environment.

  • It could open new funding pathways for ill-conceived dams. Only chapters 8 and 9 and the new Section 6 (page 49-50) prohibits the expenditure of funds on new surface storage or raising existing reservoirs. We are concerned that the only clear prohibition is found in 3 specific places in the bond and nowhere else. This raises the issue that the other chapters are not subject to that prohibition. Also, the bond measure’s proponents rejected requests by environmental groups to overtly prohibit funds from being used to construct, expand or improve conveyance facilities associated with any surface storage project listed in the CalFed decision of 2000. We take this as a sign that it is possible—and maybe probable—that funds in this bond will be used to advance several dam projects we have opposed.
  • It could create incentives that harm threatened and endangered species. Section 86032 of the bond provides funding for agricultural water conservation in the tributaries of the Delta for the benefit of flow and to expedite water transfers. This section does not explicitly prohibit the expenditure of funds on activities that create adverse impacts to wildlife, such as eliminating flooding of rice fields for decomposition or the disking of fallowed agricultural lands to prevent the growth of plants that provide for upland habitat for birds and other species. This section could provide perverse incentives that decrease migratory bird habitat and habitat for other wildlife such as the threatened giant garter snake.
  • It shifts money away from important upland habitat conservation. The bond’s proposed addition of Section 2799.7 to the Fish and Game Code would send the Habitat Conservation Fund money to water acquisition after 2020. We do not believe that 100 percent of that money should go only to acquire water. That fund has been important to non-water related habitat. If there is to be a reallocation of that fund, a substantial percentage should go to wildlife corridor conservation in the face of climate change.
  • It raids the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to build political support. AB 32 (2006) created California’s cap and trade system. Emitters of greenhouse gases must either reduce their levels of emissions or purchase credits to cover their emissions at auction. Proceeds from those auctions are supposed to go towards projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This bond mandates that funds paid into the GGRF by the Department of Water Resources, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority will be given back to those agencies for water conservation measures. This could shift a large amount of money from programs that efficiently cut greenhouse gas emissions and other co-pollutants that harm public health to water conservation measures that only have a marginal reduction in emissions and could have other sources of funds.
  • Debt servicing for the bond could require future cuts for environmental protection. This bond will add $430 million annually to the Natural Resources budget. This pushes debt to over 50% of that part of the budget. If there is an economic downturn, these payments must continue, meaning that cuts to the rest of the Natural Resources budget are likely. This could include vital funding for other environmental protection programs throughout the state.
  • Debt servicing for the bond could require future cuts for environmental protection. This bond will add $430 million annually to the Natural Resources budget. This pushes debt to over 50% of that part of the budget. If there is an economic downturn, these payments must continue, meaning that cuts to the rest of the Natural Resources budget are likely. This could include vital funding for other environmental protection programs throughout the state.
How do large corporate agricultural corporations or other parties profit off of Proposition 3?

Several items in the bond directly relieve existing financial obligations by parties, including corporate agriculture.

The $750 million for Friant Water Authority is being advertised as repairing the damaged Friant-Kern Canal. This canal was damaged from groundwater subsidence caused by overpumping of aquifers. The traditional method of paying for canals that deliver water to agricultural interests is through a beneficiary pays model, where those who profit from the water pay for the costs of building and maintaining the infrastructure. This bond instead provides taxpayer money for these canals that large corporate agricultural interests will profit from. Additionally, since the Friant-Kern Canal was caused by overpumping of groundwater, those who overpumped the water will not be held liable for causing the damage.

Similarly, the Oroville Dam is part of the State Water Project, with contractors who operate under a beneficiary pays model. Funding for repairs for the dam should come from these contractors, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Further, California needs to shift towards better dam maintenance. Absolving these parties of responsibility sends the wrong message.

The bond mandates that four agencies receive all of the funding that they provide into the GGRF back for water conservation projects. These agencies are able to meet current conservation targets without additional funding from the GGRF, which should go towards the most effective emissions reduction measures.

Funds in the bond are available for purchasing water rights for instream flow, without adequate assurances that these flows will not be used to satisfy existing legal obligations to provide water by parties. 5

How will Proposition 3 be repaid?

The bond will be repaid by the taxpayers through the state’s general fund at an average of $430 million annually.

How will Proposition 3 affect funds available for other natural resource needs?

This bond creates a $430 million cost to the state’s general fund for 40 years, increasing the percentage of debt in the Natural Resource budget to over 50%. California’s general fund is notoriously subject to large swings with changes in the economy. Should the economy weaken, there will be needed cuts to spending across the board, including the Natural Resource budget. This $430 million pressure increases the likelihood that other programs in the budget will be cut.

Didn’t Californians just pass a water bond in June?

Californians passed Proposition 68, which was a $4.1 billion legislative bond for parks and water projects. This includes the following funding for water:

  • $162 million for urban streams
  • $30 million for Salton Sea and New River restoration
  • $175 million for coastal and ocean resources
  • $250 million for clean drinking water and drought preparation
  • $80 million for groundwater sustainability
  • $550 million for flood protection
  • $290 million for other drought measures, including water recycling

How did that June bond measure differ from this one slated for November?

The June bond was much smaller and more targeted than the November bond. This is partially because of the differences in process. Proposition 68 went through five legislative committees, with each providing an opportunity for the public to engage in the process and offer suggestions. It also went through votes by both houses of the legislature, receiving a two-thirds vote in each house. The June bond also underwent negotiations with the governor’s office, which helps ensure that the funds can be spent quickly and adequately. Because of this, funding was ready to be allocated as soon as the bond was approved by the voters.

This in contrast to the process for the November bond, which was negotiated behind closed doors, includes giveaways to large corporations and polluters, and may not be ready to implemented by the executive branch. 6

Does the good in Proposition 3 outweigh the bad?

No. This bond underwent a process that gives too much away to rich corporate interests and opens the way for large sums to be spent on ambiguous or environmentally harmful projects. A better approach would be to consider a more tailored bond that addresses

real public needs and benefits in an open negotiation through the legislative process and with the governor.

What oversight will there be that the bond money allotted is spent as promised?

This bond is unusual in that it continuously appropriates all the funds. That means that, unlike with most other natural resource bonds, there will be no annual budgeting from the legislature. This eliminates clear and constant oversight by elected officials to ensure that agencies responsible for distributing the bond money, and the entities receiving the bond money, are spending money as voters intended.

 

Trump administration working to weaken EPA radiation rgulations

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 09:46
SWAMP WATCH Saving money for corporations, risking citizens health….how morally bankrupt can you get? Same supporters of rule change are climate change deniers and think smoking tobacco is fine. “Calabrese and his supporters argue that smaller exposures of cell-damaging radiation and other carcinogens can serve as stressors that activate the body’s repair mechanisms and can make people healthier. They compare it to physical exercise or sunlight.”  Trump administration working to weaken EPA radiation regulations As recently as this March, the EPA’s online guidelines for radiation effects advised: “Current science suggests there is some cancer risk from any exposure to radiation.” by Associated Press / Oct.02.2018 / 2:39 PM PDT

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is quietly moving to weaken U.S. radiation regulations, turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you — like a little bit of sunlight.

The government’s current, decades-old guidance says that any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. And critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release.

The Trump administration already has targeted a range of other regulations on toxins and pollutants, including coal power plant emissions and car exhaust, that it sees as costly and burdensome for businesses. Supporters of the EPA’s new proposal argue the government’s current no-tolerance rule for radiation damage forces unnecessary spending for handling exposure in accidents, at nuclear plants, in medical centers and at other sites.

“This would have a positive effect on human health as well as save billions and billions and billions of dollars,” said Edward Calabrese, a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts who is to be the lead witness at a congressional hearing Wednesday on EPA’s proposal.

Calabrese, who made those remarks in a 2016 interview with a California nonprofit, was quoted by EPA in its announcement of the proposed rule in April. He declined repeated requests for an interview with The Associated Press. The EPA declined to make an official with its radiation-protection program available.

The regulation change is now out for public comment, with no specific date for adoption.

As recently as this March, the EPA’s online guidelines for radiation effects advised: “Current science suggests there is some cancer risk from any exposure to radiation.” “Even exposures below 100 millisieverts” — an amount roughly equivalent to 25 chest X-rays or about 14 CT chest scans — “slightly increase the risk of getting cancer in the future,” the agency’s guidance said.

But that online guidance — separate from the rule-change proposal — was edited in July to add a section emphasizing the low individual odds of cancer: “According to radiation safety experts, radiation exposures of …100 millisieverts usually result in no harmful health effects, because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk,” the revised policy says.

Calabrese and his supporters argue that smaller exposures of cell-damaging radiation and other carcinogens can serve as stressors that activate the body’s repair mechanisms and can make people healthier. They compare it to physical exercise or sunlight.

Mainstream scientific consensus on radiation is based on deceptive science, says Calabrese, who argued in a 2014 essay for “righting the past deceptions and correcting the ongoing errors in environmental regulation.”

EPA spokesman John Konkus said in an email that the proposed rule change is about “increasing transparency on assumptions” about how the body responds to different doses of dangerous substances and that the agency “acknowledges uncertainty regarding health effects at low doses” and supports more research on that.

The radiation regulation is supported by Steven Milloy, a Trump transition team member for the EPA who is known for challenging widely accepted ideas about manmade climate change and the health risks of tobacco. He has been promoting Calabrese’s theory of healthy radiation on his blog.

But Jan Beyea, a physicist whose work includes research with the National Academies of Science on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, said the EPA proposal on radiation and other health threats represents voices “generally dismissed by the great bulk of scientists.”

The EPA proposal would lead to “increases in chemical and radiation exposures in the workplace, home and outdoor environment, including the vicinity of Superfund sites,” Beyea wrote.

Cooling towers at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania, on May 22, 2017.Matt Rourke / AP file

At the level the EPA website talks about, any one person’s risk of cancer from radiation exposure is perhaps 1 percent, Beyea said.

“The individual risk will likely be low, but not the cumulative social risk,” Beyea said.

Radiation is everywhere, from potassium in bananas to the microwaves popping our popcorn. Most of it is benign. But what’s of concern is the higher-energy, shorter-wave radiation, like X-rays, that can penetrate and disrupt living cells, sometimes causing cancer.

Congress allows parks program (and the Violence Against Women Act) to expire

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 09:19

 

Congress allows parks program to expire over the weekend The lapse in funding leaves many potential projects in limbo. Jenny Rowland Oct 1, 2018, 11:44 am SHARE

Landscapes, waterfalls, mountains, wildlife and natural scenery in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. (Credit: Diego Cupolo/NurPhoto via Getty Images) SHARE -->

The Republican-controlled Congress allowed the country’s most popular parks program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to expire Sunday. The lapse threatens access to public lands and water and leaves many potential projects in limbo.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the most successful land conservation program in our nation’s history. Congress’s inability to prevent its expiration is a stunning failure and a betrayal of more than a half century of broad bipartisan support,” Colin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. “America’s wildlife heritage, outdoor recreation opportunities and public lands are the envy of the world and drive our $887 billion recreation economy.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides funding to protect parks, forests, cultural heritage sites, and water resources, at zero expense to taxpayers. The fund, which is paid for through revenues from offshore drilling, was passed in 1964 and has financed projects in all 50 states.

Money from the fund is used to protect lands and recreation access across the board: from local baseball fields and trails, to purchasing private land inholdings within national parks.

With the lapse of the fund, the authority to carry out current LWCF projects remains authorized, but any new revenue from offshore drilling stops going into the fund, meaning new and upcoming projects will likely not have funding to proceed.

The Center for Western Priorities estimates that with this lapse in funding, at least 318,000 acres of deserving lands are at risk of being lost to development.

The LWCF is authorized to receive $900 million in revenue each year, but year after year Congress has shortchanged the fund, leaving it with about half of what is promised. This is the second time in three years that Congress has allowed the program to expire.

“It’s outrageous that the Republican-led Congress is allowing the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters in a statement. “LWCF has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. Its expiration is a clear failure of leadership, starting with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to even schedule votes. Communities need Congress to fix this and save America’s best parks program.”

Part of the reason the fund was left to expire is that Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, and Republicans have repeatedly attempted to frame it as an “either/or” choice between investing in the LWCF and addressing the National Park Service’s (NPS) backlog of maintenance projects. In fact, despite paying lip service in support of LWCF, Secretary Zinke’s budget recommended zeroing out funding for LWCF, while at the same time proposing a new fund to pay for infrastructure in national parks.

While the NPS’ $12 billion backlog is not unimportant, the price tag of critical, high-priority needs appears to be inflated. Moreover, the maintenance needs of NPS and other public lands agencies could be swiftly addressed if Congress were to provide adequate funding through its normal appropriations process, rather than establishing a separate new program that threatens to divert money away from the LWCF.

Despite the lapse in funding for LWCF, there are currently bills to permanently reauthorize the fund moving in both the House and Senate. On September 13, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed a deal to reauthorize LWCF, though it did not include any guarantees on funding.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee will have a hearing on a bill that would both permanently fund and reauthorize the fund on Tuesday. But with the House on recess until after the November elections, there is no clear path for the bills to see floor time in the near future.

Jenny Rowland is a senior policy analyst on the Public Lands team at the Center for American Progress. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed within CAP.

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