Sierra Club names new Environmental Justice Award after Dr. Robert Bullard

August 05, 2014

Dr.RobertBullard (1)The Sierra Club's newest award is getting some great attention because of the namesake of our newest Environmental Justice Award. Last week we announced a new national award that bears the name of Dr. Robert Bullard, one of the founders of the environmental justice movement.

The new award will be given annually to an individual or group that has done outstanding work in the area of environmental justice. The first Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award will be presented Nov. 21 along with the Sierra Club’s other 2014 awards.

Bullard said he was delighted to have the new award named after him. "I must say that I am humbled, honored, and at the same time excited to a have the Sierra Club name its Environmental Justice Award after me," said Bullard. "For someone who has spent most of his adult life teaching, writing and lecturing, I am speechless."

In 2013, Bullard received the Sierra Club's top award, the John Muir Award. The award recognizes individuals with a distinguished record of achievement in national or international conservation causes.

"His expertise and media savvy has garnered much needed attention and remedies for communities burdened with environmental hazards," said Leslie Fields, director of the Sierra Club Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program, when Bullard received the award in 2013.

Continue reading "Sierra Club names new Environmental Justice Award after Dr. Robert Bullard" »

The fight for voting rights in Delaware

August 04, 2014

Delaware votings rights rally

"It's impossible to protect our environment if we don't defend our democracy." Stephanie Herron, volunteer and outreach coordinator for Sierra Club Delaware, says those words confidently after a fight for voting rights that's lasted for more than a year now in the state.
Sierra Club Delaware is working with a broad state coalition to pass same-day voter registration legislation, engaging thousands of residents in a movement crucial to participatory democracy.
"It shouldn't be hard to participate in the system," says Courtney Hight, director of the Sierra Club's Democracy Program. "Same-day voter registration is one way of removing a barrier that often affects young people and communities of color. This makes it easier to vote -- we thought Delaware's legislation on this issue was a good way to be proactive and encourage participation in voting."
The Sierra Club is a member of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of groups that seeks to restore the core principal of political equality. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune has written extensively on the importance of the Sierra Club and a coalition of groups in building "a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the systemic manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform."
Herron says the Delaware chapter first started engaging on same day voter registration (SDR) in early 2013 during the state's legislative session. The movement picked up momentum in the state in early 2014, when more and more diverse groups -- from unions to local community groups -- joined the coalition and voting rights in Delaware started getting more and more attention. The diverse coalition members were able to work their different legislative contacts and respective members to help bring the bill to a vote in the state House of Representatives--no easy feat as we saw in 2013 when the bill languished for almost a year without a floor vote.
The coalition fought bad amendments to the bill - and growing opposition from the Delaware Republican Party, who made fighting SDR a top priority in 2014. Herron says the opposition was well-funded and powerful, but that didn't stop thousands from contacting their state legislators to pass same-day voter registration.
Delaware votings rights rally
In the weeks leading up to the final vote in the state senate, Sierra Club Delaware sent out action alerts to more than 5,000 members and generated more than 100 calls to state senators. Delaware Sierrans also joined other coalition members at a June 17 rally calling on Senators to bring SDR to a vote.
In the end, with time running out before the June 30th close of session, unfortunately the bill never made it to a floor vote in the Senate.  Herron says she and the coalition were disappointed but hope the push for same-day voter registration in the next session will be successful.
"The Sierra Club offered a unique voice in the coalition - we were the only environmental group," she says. "We have to continue pushing these voting rights and good government issues. If we continue to let undemocratic things happen, we won't be able to bring about meaningful change."
The Sierra Club's Hight echoed that sentiment. "If you're going to change the country, you have to find ways to increase participation and make it less complicated to vote."

-- Heather Moyer, Sierra Club

Rocky Mountain Power Solar Fee Heats Up Utah

August 01, 2014


Earlier this week, the Utah Public Service Commission held a two-day hearing on Rocky Mountain Power's request to impose a $4.65 monthly fee on customers with rooftop solar. If approved, Utah would be only the second state in the country to penalize customers who have installed rooftop solar -- last year, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a fee of $0.70 per kilowatt of solar installed (the average residential installation is 3-6 kW).

Hundreds of citizens rallied outside the Public Service Commission's offices in Salt Lake City, below, and later packed the hearing inside to protest the proposed solar fee. (See more photos of the rally here.)

Rally-against-solar-taxPhoto by Kim Sanders

Rocky Mountain Power's proposed fee is not based on any evidence that rooftop solar customers impose additional costs on the utility's system. Rather, the company is arguing that because customers with rooftop solar purchase less electricity, they aren't contributing sufficiently to the fixed costs of maintaining the distribution grid.

What the company's sparse analysis fails to take into account, however, are the many benefits that rooftop solar customers offer the grid. The absence of any accounting for these benefits is inexcusable because state law (recently amended by SB 208) requires the Public Service Commission to weigh the costs and benefits of net metering prior to imposing any fee.

Despite that law, Rocky Mountain Power submitted no evidence of the benefits of net metering in its initial application. In a last-ditch effort to cobble together a record that would support a decision in its favor, the company asserted that the price paid to small utility-scale renewable resources was an adequate proxy for the benefits of net-metered rooftop solar. (The reason that the price paid to these "qualifying facilities" under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act is not conclusive of the benefits of net metered distributed solar will be discussed in a future post.)

The Sierra Club and Utah Clean Energy, however, did present detailed evidence of the benefits of rooftop solar. First, net-metered rooftop solar customers reduce their electricity consumption during the time of day and of the year when it is most expensive for the utility to provide power, and thereby save the utility and all other ratepayers a lot of money. This locally generated power is even more valuable than remotely generated power, since almost no electricity is lost during transmission.

Moreover, the 14.2 megawatts of solar installed in Rocky Mountain Power's territory helps the utility meet its capacity reserve requirements, and reduces or defers the need for upgrades to the distribution system. The Sierra Club's expert, Dr. Dustin Mulvaney of Ecoshift Consulting, calculated that these benefits added up to more than $1.4 million annually -- and this isn't even taking into account the very real benefits of reduced emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that result when rooftop solar generation displaces fossil fuel generation. Dr. Mulvaney estimated that a modest 6.8 percent growth rate of rooftop solar in the Rocky Mountain Power territory could avoid over 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from 2015-2040.

The Sierra Club, along with Utah Clean Energy, The Alliance for Solar Choice, and Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy, are asking the Commission to deny Rocky Mountain Power's effort to impose this unjustified fee on rooftop solar customers. Instead, the Commission should open up a separate proceeding to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the costs and benefits of net metering, and to allow adequate time and opportunity for public input. Over ten thousand citizens and many local leaders,  including Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, have come out against the proposed fee, as has the city's major newspaper.

The hundreds of citizens who rallied in opposition to the fee on July 29th called it a "sun" tax. This show of public support for distributed solar -- not just from net-metered customers -- should remind the Public Service Commission of the broad social benefits that this resource provides.

- Casey Roberts, Staff Attorney, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program

Big Turnout For Clean Air in Indy

July 31, 2014


On July 22, more than 200 Indianapolis residents packed the City-County Council chamber hall wearing bright red "Vote Yes for Clean Air" t-shirts for a hearing on Resolution 241, calling on Indianapolis Power & Light to stop burning coal in Marion County by 2020 and invest in greater amounts of clean, renewable energy at the city's Harding Street Station power plant.


"This is what democracy looks like," says Nachy Kanfer, deputy director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in the Midwest. "And we were successful! By a 4-1 vote, the Community Affairs Committee passed the resolution, which will now head to the full City-County Council for a vote on August 18."


The hearing came up suddenly, giving the Indiana Beyond Coal team and local Sierra Club activists from the Hoosier Chapter and Heartlands Group just a week to organize -- including printing up the "Vote Yes for Clean Air" t-shirts, thanks to Club organizer Shelly Campbell.


"We were joined by parents of children with asthma, faith leaders, health professionals, small-business owners, and both registered Democrats and Republicans, all sending the same clear message to the Community Affairs Committee: We want clean air, and the time for action is now!


Some highlights of the hearing, according to Kanfer:

  • Amber Sparks, a parent who has lived within five miles of the city's Harding Street Station coal plant her entire life, recounting for the committee her three children's struggles with asthma, including yearly visits to the intensive care unit for two of them.
  • Council member and clean-air champion Zach Adamson asking the swing vote on the council to pass him the 1,000-plus letters that councilmembers have received so far on this issue.
  • Council member and committee chairman John Barth, asking the crowd to come to every committee hearing and saying he wished people were as engaged in other public policy issues.
  • Indianapolis Beyond Coal volunteer leader Todd Schifeling delivering a newly-released poll showing that nearly seven in ten Indianapolis voters support Indianapolis Power & Light phasing out coal in Marion County and increasing investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • John Bowser, a neighbor of the Bear Run Mine in southwest Indiana that supplies the Harding Street plant with coal, speaking of the devastation his hometown has faced due to the impacts of mining.


"Considering the short notice, it was an extraordinarily heavy lift to get so many people to turn out to the hearing and provide such compelling testimony," Kanfer says. "It could never have been done without the countless volunteer hours of phone-banking and canvassing by Hoosier Chapter activists."


"Between now and August 18 we will be pushing hard to ensure that the City-County Council joins us and more than 50 allied groups around Indianapolis that have passed resolutions calling on Indianapolis Power & Light to stop burning coal in the Marion County by 2020," Kanfer says.


Kanfer gives a special shout-out to Hoosier Chapter chair Steve Francis; fellow Beyond Coal organizers Megan Anderson, Jodi Perras, Shane Levy, Allison Fisher, Justin Uebelhor, Matt Skuya, and Mark St. John; and allies Power Indy Forward, Citizens Action Coalition, Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, the Greater Indianapolis NAACP, and the Hoosier Environmental Council.


All photos by Sierra Club online organizer Justin Uebelhor and Inianapolis Beyond Coal volunteer leader Ellery Diaz.

New Power Plant Stopped on University of Delaware Campus

July 28, 2014


The Sierra Club's Delaware Chapter celebrated a major victory when the University of Delaware decided this month to terminate an agreement to build a massive new natural gas power plant on the university campus in Newark. The university's announcement came on the 399th day of grassroots opposition to the power plant, proposed by The Data Centers LLC.


"Our chapter was the first of the public to find out about the project, and we started organizing against it on Day One," says chapter conservation chair Amy Roe (above). "We immediately began informing neighbors of the proposed site, the media, and the Newark City Council -- none of whom had heard about the proposed power plant at that time."


"A groundswell of local opposition from residents and UD students, faculty, and staff emerged after the first public meeting on the project in September 2013, which we pushed hard for at city council meetings," Roe says." We worked with and supported the Newark Residents Against the Power Plant, Blue Hens for Clean Air, the Delaware Audubon Society, and other groups in opposing the project for over a year -- this has been a completely grassroots-led effort from the get-go."


Administrators and professors in UD's working group assigned to review the proposal concluded that the proposed facility, which included a 279-megawatt cogeneration power plant, "was not consistent with a first-class science and technology campus and high quality development to which UD is committed."

Below, students rally outside a UD Board of Trustees meeting this May.


We'll let Stephanie Herron (below), volunteer and outreach coordinator for the Delaware Chapter, recap the Club's grassroots campaign:

Continue reading "New Power Plant Stopped on University of Delaware Campus" »

Taking Climate Action in Knoxville

July 22, 2014


Upward of 400 people attended portions of Climate Knoxville Action, a community event at Knoxville's Market Square on July 12 to build support for the EPA's Clean Power Plan and the City of Knoxville's energy-efficiency and green jobs programs in low-income neighborhoods. That's Tenneseee-based Sierra Club organizer Chris Ann Lunghino, above, tabling at the event. Below, activists with Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED), a partner group.


The event was hosted by Climate Knoxville, a coalition of environmental, faith-based, social justice and economic groups, University of Tennessee students and faculty, small businesses, and renewable energy companies. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign and Tennessee Chapter were founding members of the coalition, which formed in 2013 to promote policies to combat climate disruption.


Bands, comedians, and speakers gathered with groups from across the region to support meaningful, concrete steps to combat climate disruption.


"The Beyond Coal campaign presented its vision of a 100 percent clean energy future and informed the crowd about the role power plants play in causing climate change, as well as the economic, health, and climate benefits of the EPA's Clean Power Plan," Lunghino says.


Guest speakers included Sierra Club activists, local elected officials from the Knoxville area, staff from the City of Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and representatives from Climate Knoxville.


Tennessee Chapter volunteer leader and Climate Knoxville coordinator Louise Gorenflo, below at right, told the crowd that the day was about organizations cooperating to make a difference. She said the EPA's new carbon rule was an effective policy to get behind and support, and she stressed that combatting climate change is a moral issue.


"The idea for the larger organization started last fall when such groups as Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light met with the Sierra Club and SEEED," Gorenflo says. "The seed was planted when we got together just to talk about how to respond to everything going on, and we found a supportive ally in the city of Knoxville."


Climate Knoxville collected over 100 postcards signed by attendees supporting the Clean Power Plan and Knoxville's clean energy efforts. "The Beyond Coal campaign also recruited over 30 new volunteers and signed up 20 activists to attend the EPA's Clean Power Plan regional hearing in Atlanta on July 29-30," Lunghino says.


Prior to the event, the Knoxville News Sentinel ran feature stories on Climate Knoxville, an op-ed by Louise Gorenflo on the importance of acting on climate disruption, and two letters-to-the-editor backing the Clean Power Plan and inviting people to Climate Knoxville Action. Community Shares, a local public television program, also ran segments promoting the event and interviewed Climate Knoxville partners in the weeks leading up to the event.


"Louise deserves the lion's share of credit for creating Climate Knoxville and helping ensure the July 12 event was such a success," says Lunghino. "Louise is driven to take on climate change and help those most affected by it." Lunghino also gives a shout-out to chapter conservation chair Axel Ringe, below at left-center, next to Sierra Club table, for helping recruit members and speaking at the event about the urgency of taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate disruption.


Victory for Panther Habitat as Oil Driller Leaves Florida

Fl pantherEnvironmentalists working with the Sierra Club's Florida Panther campaign won a year-long battle Friday to stop oil drilling in southwest Florida after a Texas-based oil drilling company announced it will terminate its lease holdings on 115,000 acres.

Numerous environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Stonecrab Alliance, Preserve our Paradise, and South Florida Wildlands Association, led the fight against drilling in the environmentally sensitive areas of the Everglades and Big Cypress Watersheds.

The fight began in April 2013 when the Dan Hughes oil company mailed a letter informing residents of a Naples suburb they were living in a "hydrogen sulfide evacuation zone" for an exploratory well. The well, which would be 1,000 feet from residences and less than one mile from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, sparked public protests, meetings with elected officials, and hearings to assess the environmental impacts from the company's oil wells in the western Everglades. The county was so concerned about the impacts it challenged a consent order between the drilling company and the state.

Earlier this year, the US Environmental Protection Agency held a public forum to address the public's concerns. Sierra Club generated over 167,000 comments calling for the exploratory permit to be revoked. Also, in March, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, meeting for the first time in five years, reversed their initial decision to allow the permit after hearing public testimony. In a 4-1 vote, they recommended denial of the permit.

The concerns with drilling in the western Everglades are numerous - ranging from water quality and hydrology to habitat fragmentation and increased panther mortality. For Florida panthers, whose numbers range from 100 to 180, these wells would have destroyed primary habitat and fragmented areas that are used for hunting, denning, and traveling. Increased traffic on the roads in Golden Gate Estates (large trucks on isolated, small roads) would have increased the chances of a panther being hit - the leading cause of panther deaths. Perhaps most importantly, there have been no studies conducted that show how oil drilling impacts panthers or other wildlife.

Continue reading "Victory for Panther Habitat as Oil Driller Leaves Florida" »

Dirty St. Louis Coal Plant to be Retired

July 18, 2014


The Sierra Club's Missouri Beyond Coal campaign achieved a prized goal this month when Ameren Energy announced that it would phase out its 923-megawatt Meramec coal-fired power plant in St. Louis County by 2022, with an option to retire the plant even sooner.


The announcement comes after years of advocacy from the Beyond Coal campaign, local citizens, the Club's Missouri Chapter, and allied health and environmental groups to retire the outdated 61-year-old coal plant and invest in clean energy. Below, the plant's four smokestacks loom behind a residential neighborhood in south St. Louis County.


"If you've ever been to one of our Missouri planning meetings, you know that we often repeat for each other during tough times… 'be patient, we have to stick with this for the long haul,'" says Holly Bender, associate regional director for Beyond Coal. "Today, the patience and relentless advocacy paid off."


For the past several years the Sierra Club has urged the Missouri Public Services Commission to adopt an integrated resource plan and made the case that retiring the Meramec plant is the most prudent path forward in light of new carbon pollution regulations and changing market conditions.


The Club has steadfastly called for reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions at three St. Louis-area coal plants, demanded groundwater monitoring at coal ash sites, and urged local elected officials to be leaders in taking a stand against coal pollution in St. Louis County. Last year the Club revealed Ameren's leaking coal ash ponds across the state and the company's significant contribution to decades of unsafe air quality in St. Louis.


"This victory is a testament to the patience and perseverance of the Sierra Club team in Missouri and the power of an all-in campaign," Bender says. "In the belly of the beast, and in the hometown of coal's giants, dedicated grassroots engagement, strategic legal work, and a relentless drive to change the public's perception about coal has won the day. We will continue to advocate alongside Meramec-area communities for a retirement date sooner than 2022, and ensure that Ameren finally gets serious about adding clean energy."


Ameren currently produces 75 percent of its power from coal, and has for a long time joined Arch and Peabody in deeply vesting coal's future in the community. Missouri gets 85 percent of its electricity from coal, and according to the American Council for An Energy-Efficient Economy, the state ranks 43rd nationally in energy efficiency.


Local elected officials receive generous donations from Ameren, potential clean-energy allies have shied away from fighting against coal due to the company's hefty donations and support of annual galas, and Ameren's public relations machine has successfully convinced citizens in greater St. Louis that it really does care about clean energy -- despite its rating among the Natural Resources Defense Council's "Gang of 8" top polluters lobbying in Washington against clean air and water protections.


In announcing its decision to phase out coal at Meramec, Ameren said the plant had reached the end of its useful life. The decision comes as Ameren has realized great success saving energy -- and saving its customers money -- through energy-efficiency programs. Ameren previously stated that the power generated by Meramec could be entirely replaced through strong energy-efficiency programs.


"As a local mother, this announcement could not have come soon enough," says Donna Seidel, a local parent who lives close to the Meramec plant. "Our community is looking forward to collaborating with Ameren and other stakeholders to find a plan to make south St. Louis County an even safer place for our families to live."


The announcement to phase out the Meramec coal plant represents the 168th coal plant to retire or announce retirement since 2010, cutting nearly 252 million tons of carbon emissions -- the equivalent of 53 million passenger vehicles.


"After years of dangerous coal pollution, we could use a breath of fresh air from Amaren and some forward-thinking investments in clean energy," says Andy Knott of the Beyond Coal campaign in St. Louis. "As utilities elsewhere in the Midwest continue to grow clean-energy portfolios, Ameren has lagged behind with woefully low investments in readily available and cheap resources like wind, solar, and efficiency, which can create local clean-energy jobs."


Today, the United States has more than 61,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity and 13,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity -- enough to power the equivalent of 20 million American homes.


"Communities in south St. Louis have struggled with unsafe air for decades," says St. Louis-based Sierra Club organizer Sara Edgar. "We're ready to work with Ameren on a plan to invest in local clean energy, to build a responsible timeline for transition of its workforce at Meramec, and to move as expeditiously as possible to stop burning coal in St. Louis."

Meramec-coal-plantPhoto courtesy of Simmons Hanly Conroy

Sierra & Tierra: A Monumental Symphony

By Javier Sierra  

When President Obama signed the proclamation to designate the Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks National Monument in May, it was the last stitch of a tapestry to weave together several natural sites of extraordinary beauty and cultural significance.

The monument, located in the Doña Ana County in southern New Mexico, is loaded with enchantment and historic significance, particularly for the Latino community. Just notice the Spanish names of many of these places: Sierra de las Uvas, the Robledo, Potrillo and Doña Ana mountains, and the very Sierra de los Organos (Organ Mountains), named after its resemblance to the musical instrument. Let’s call it a monumental symphony.  

The Organ Mountains, the centerpiece of the monument

For centuries, the ragged peaks of the Organs for centuries witnessed the flow of settlers traveling from Mexico to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. In the Broad Canyon there is an abundance of petroglyphs, testament of ancestral native cultures. And in the Robledo Mountains dinosaur footprints were petrified millions of years ago.

These natural treasures have been protected in large part due to the activism of Latino leaders.

“Latinos have been working to protect these lands for well over a decade,” says Michael Casaus, New Mexico State Director of the Wilderness Society. “From the very beginning Latino leaders took an active role in shaping the campaign and determining which lands should be protected. Without the contribution of Latino leaders and conservationists the designation would not have happened.”

This Latino activism also ensured that the traditional uses of the land would be permitted in the monument, such as grazing, water rights, hunting, fishing and recreational activities.

“This garnered the support of the local residents, who are mostly Latinos, and ensured that these lands will not be sold to private owners to reduce the national deficit or be turned into mining operations,” says Casaus.

The monument is also getting Latino youth interested in their history and culture and encouraging them to stay in school.

“I lead these kids into the monument to help me compile its cultural inventory,” says Angel Peña, cultural resources specialist of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “We hike around the lands looking for remnants of Hispanics coming through in the 1580’s, we have found evidence of the Camino Real, as well as numerous petroglyphs and other archeological resources.”

The monument has literally changed the lives of these kids.

“Each expedition is a trek of discovery of their culture and past,” says Peña. “They now have a purpose in life. Many of them are interpretative rangers of the Bureau of Land Management. Here there are good jobs that will fill them with pride and satisfaction.”

Unfortunately, there are representatives in Washington, DC, who are adding a sour note to the music. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Steven Pearce (R-NM) and Jeff Duncan (R-SC) insist that the monument, located by the Mexican border, poses a threat to national security because it creates a gateway for illegal activity, and impedes open access to the Border Patrol and other law enforcement bodies.

Several civic groups, on the other hand, called the representatives’ claims “false” alleging data and statements by the US Customs and Border Security that prove the opposite. The faith-based group NM CAFé, for instance, labeled the statements as “a waste of time and taxpayers’ money” and urged these congressmen to dedicate their time to find “real solutions to the border problems,” including supporting immigration reform.

The establishment of the monument is a brilliant idea. Too bad there are those willing to play out of tune in this monumental symphony.

Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC

Taking a stand against a proposed coal export terminal in Louisiana

July 17, 2014

Yard Signs

Gretna, La., might be a small city, but the residents are banding together to speak out against a proposed coal export terminal and the increased coal trains that would come with it. In the past month they've packed two community meetings to learn more about the proposed RAM Terminal coal export facility.

Back in June, dozens of people attended a Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition public meeting as a way to kick off the Gretna movement against the facility. The facility itself it planned for Plaquemines Parish, but the rail line serving it bisects Gretna.

The meeting followed weeks of canvassing, phonebanking, and media outreach to publicize the meeting, collect petition signatures, and draw attention to the problems of coal trains rumbling through historic districts and along major commuter highways intersections, said Sierra Club organizer Devin Martin.

"It was a joint effort between the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network, and the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition," said Martin.

The movement's been making the news as well:

"Gretna has been making a lot of progress, preserving its historic district, renovating its old post office. It seems Gretna is on the upswing,'' said Devin Martin, a Sierra Club organizer who lives just outside Gretna, in neighboring Algiers. "The last thing the city needs is to have that rail line turn into an industrial corridor.''

Q & A

Then on July 9, Gretna residents packed a Gretna City Council meeting to get the chance to testify their concerns about the possibility of coal trains passing through their neighborhoods, with all the attendant health risks, traffic congestion, emergency response times, and economic and quality of life concerns that would rattle the town.

"They gave some of the best, most heartfelt, moving, and powerful statements I've ever witnessed in my four years with the Club," said Martin.

Martin says the weeks since that first June town meeting included some excellent organizing - from tabling at farmer's markets and cafes, to business outreach, and weekly community meetings.

"Our goal was to introduce our presence and show the council that this is a vital issue that cannot be ignored any longer, and that the Mayor and council must take leadership and elevate and amplify the concerns of their constituents to state and federal decision makers," said Martin.

The coalition is asking the Gretna City Council to pass a resolution that would oppose coal trains, as well requesting that the appropriate state and federal agencies involved in the RAM Terminal permitting conduct a full public health, economic, and environmental impact analysis, which has not been done.

"The Council is definitely feeling the heat, and we intend to come back in August with even more residents, business owners, and health professionals to encourage the Council to pass this resolution," said Martin.

"From there, we will work to engage the entire Parish of Jefferson, the most populous parish in Louisiana, to do the same to stop this new coal export terminal that puts so much at risk for so many in one of the most vulnerable regions of the world for climate change and sea level rise."

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