Big Win For Energy Efficiency in Los Angeles

August 12, 2014

Los-AngelesPhoto by Thomas Pintaric, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With the help of some amazing coalition work in Los Angeles over the past few years, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) approved a major new energy-efficiency mandate for the utility. The new savings targets put LADWP among the leading utilities in the nation, and Los Angeles among the leading cities, when it comes to energy savings. Serious thanks are in order to Mayor Garcetti, the LADWP board members, and the excellent LADWP Energy Efficiency Department (helmed by David Jacot).

Here's the nitty gritty: Every California utility is required to provide a 10-year energy savings target to the California Energy Commission. State legislation requires that utilities save at least one percent of total sales each year. Los Angeles' previous commitment was exactly that: one percent every year for the ten years between 2011 and 2020.

On August 5, the utility's board unanimously approved a new plan which would kick our energy-efficiency programs into high gear and ensure that the utility saves 15 percent by 2020 instead -- a 50 percent increase over the last program. Below, Frank Alvarez, an organizer with RePower LA, and coalition members at the Aug. 5 hearing in front of LADWP's board of commissioners. The Sierra Club is a charter member of the RePower LA coalition.


When fully up and running, LADWP will save over two percent of its annual energy use and has plans to invest upwards of one billion dollars on energy saving projects across the city. The utility has come a long way over the last five years, from the time when Los Angeles was one of the worst-performing utilities in the state, to being the clear leader of the pack.

"We've long known that our utility has the potential to perform as well or better than the best utilities in the nation on energy efficiency," said Evan Gillespie, western region deputy director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "To get there, we needed the city to commit to saving at least two percent annually and allocate sufficient funding to do so. We also knew that we had to engage the public in new ways and ensure that every single customer in the city -- from apartment dwellers to industrial facilities, to small business and schools -- could benefit with programs tailored to their needs."

Key to all of this work has been a partnership between the city and the public. In 2012, LADWP adopted guiding principles that have informed its project development ever since. The adopted principles include commitments to serving low-income communities, prioritizing programs that spur job development, transparency, and collaboration with community-based organizations. The principles spurred expanded programs targeting small businesses, low-income homeowners, renters, and more while providing grants to community-based organizations to help spread the word about opportunities for customers to reduce their energy use and lower their bills.

All of this work has paid off; over the last two years the city has doubled spending on efficiency and seen its energy savings double as well. You can read about these victories in this Sierra magazine article from late 2013, Repower LA.

Then the big news came last week with the LADPW commissioners hearing testimony from a packed room with people from all over the city calling for better standards for the city. Below, a young woman from Venice YouthBuild gives testimony at the hearing in favor of energy efficiency.


Jasmin Vargas, Beyond Coal organizer in L.A., helped translate the testimonies of two Spanish speakers before the LADWP, and said more than 20 organizations were represented.

"When our coalitions win, we all win," said Vargas. "We came together last Tuesday with labor groups, environmentalists, youth groups, and social justice organizations with a united message: 'equity, good jobs and climate action now!'"

Gillespie said LADWP board members were blown away by how much support increasing the energy-efficiency mandate had.

"During the hearing, LADWP board president and retired congressman Mel Levine noted he'd never seen so many people at a LADWP meeting," said Gillespie. "He praised the coalition for the breadth and depth of support for energy efficiency. As he moved to open the vote, he jokingly dared his fellow commissioners to vote no, and the motion passed unanimously!"

Vargas says the next steps are to work with communities to increase participation in the wide array of programs offered by LADWP, while making sure that efficiency is utilized to ease the transition away from the city's dirty coal plants. While the City approved the transition away from coal last year, the utility is still crafting its replacement strategy.

Learn more about what the Sierra Club is doing to move Los Angeles beyond coal.

Tar sands pipelines and their cumulative climate impacts

August 11, 2014


Last summer, President Obama delivered a major climate speech in which he laid out his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020. He also committed to deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline based on its climate impacts, stating unequivocally: "The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."

While the evidence (PDF) shows that Keystone XL would result in significant greenhouse gas emissions and should be denied in its own right, it is only one of many proposed tar sands pipelines on the Obama administration’s desk. The State Department is currently preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for an expansion of Enbridge's Alberta Clipper pipeline, which would increase its capacity to over 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) - roughly the same size as Keystone XL.  An expansion of Enbridge's Line 3 would transport up to 760,000 bpd of tar sands crude through the Great Lakes region; and a reversal of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline could bring up to 600,000 bpd through New England.

Because the tar sands deposits are landlocked in Alberta, the oil industry needs these pipelines to carry tar sands crude to U.S. refineries and overseas markets. Each one is a key part of the industry's plan to triple tar sands development to around six million bpd by 2030. Without these pipelines, much of the high-carbon tar sands would stay in the ground.

Last week, the Sierra Club and allies urged (PDF) the State Department to evaluate the cumulative climate impacts of these pipelines as part of its Alberta Clipper EIS. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires an analysis of the cumulative environmental impacts of a proposed project combined with other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable projects. Federal courts recognize that "the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change is precisely the kind of cumulative impacts analysis that NEPA requires."

Continue reading "Tar sands pipelines and their cumulative climate impacts" »

Communities call for strong EPA pollution standards near oil refineries

August 07, 2014

Louisiana goes to Houston to testify

Hundreds of concerned residents from port communities along the Gulf Coast packed an Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Houston this week to call for stronger pollution controls near oil refineries.

"In Louisiana and Texas, communities around refineries have for too long lived with exposure without knowing what was in the air," said Darryl Malek-Wiley, a Sierra Club environmental justice organizer in Louisiana.

The EPA is proposing additional pollution control requirements for storage tanks, flares, and coking units at petroleum refineries. The EPA is also proposing to require monitoring of air concentrations at the fenceline of refinery facilities to ensure proposed standards are being met and that neighboring communities are not being exposed to unintended emissions.

Exposure to toxic air pollutants can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, and can increase the risk of developing cancer.

The Sierra Club, EarthJustice and coalition partners helped bus in residents from neighborhoods near refineries in Louisiana to speak at the Houston hearing. Affected residents from around the U.S. were also at the hearing to testity. From the AP story:

Theresa Landrum traveled to Texas from Detroit to testify about the "toxic soup" she said she and her neighbors are exposed to from living alongside a refinery. A cancer survivor, Landrum said she lost her mother, father and brother to cancer she believes was caused by refinery emissions.

"The fenceline monitoring will help us determine what is coming out of those stacks," she said.

Adan Vazquez said that in winter, "snow flurries look like ash" because of a refinery near the Houston Ship Channel less than a mile from his Pasadena, Texas, home.

Leslie Fields, director of the Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program for the Sierra Club, testified at the hearing as well, calling on EPA to create the strongest standard possible and enforce it. This EPA standard at refineries would reduce toxic emissions, improving air quality and protecting public health in communities surrounding these facilities.

"Leslie Fields testifies in HoustonWe support the proposed standard -- it's long overdue for these affected communities," said Fields. "We also are advocating for real time fenceline monitoring and more hearings in the Midwest and along the East Coast on this standard," said Fields. "The EPA also needs to create an environmental justice analysis for this rule."

But Fields and Malek-Wiley also think the standard could go even farther.

"The EPA needs to look at more chemicals from these refineries, require more monitoring, and we also want to make sure that all that information is easily accessible to communities," said Malek-Wiley.

"Also, some have said it's too expensive for industry. Well, for one example, I looked at the first quarter of 2014, and Marathon Oil made $540 million. If they don't have enough money now, when will they ever have enough money to do comprehensive real-time monitoring of their pollution?"
Houston EPA hearing
(L to R) Mary Willams of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Jane Williams of Sierra Club California, Monique Harden of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, Jesse Marquez of the Coalition for Safe Environment, Lisa Garcia of Earthjustice, Hilton Kelley, Leslie Fields, Margie Richard, Dr. Robert Bullard.

Also testifying at this week's hearing in Houston were 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize winner and long-time Port Arthur environmental justice activist Hilton Kelley and Dr. Robert Bullard, the winner of the 2013 Sierra Club John Muir Award and known as the father of environmental justice. Dr. Bullard is the dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland Public Policy School at Texas Southern University.

Powerful testimony also came from Dr. Beverly Wright, director Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University in New Orleans, Willy Fontenot, the conservation chair of the Delta Chapter Sierra Club in Baton Rouge, Neil Carman, Clean Air Director of the Lone Star chapter, Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra Club Toxics Committee, 2004 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Margie Richard, and Dorothy Felix of Mossville Environmental Action Now in Louisiana.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the EPA you want strong pollution standards and enforcement for oil refineries!

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" »

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