Sierra Club Newsmakers -- 3.14.2008
Communities in the Chicago area are using a mixture of beet juice and salt to mitigate damage from road salt that has caused chloride levels to spike in local waterways. Illinois Sierra Club leader Paul Mack, pictured above left taking water samples in the west branch of the DuPage River, found chloride levels that violate state water quality standards. "[The salt] is so prevalent it can be tasted," he told the Chicago Tribune.
After the EPA tightened smog standards this week—though not by as much as environmentalists hoped—counties across the nation found themselves out of compliance with federal regulations, including Hamilton County, Ohio, where Cincinnati is located. "Hamilton County has had a smog problem forever, and this is one of the reasons why we oppose new highways being built," Ohio Sierra Club leader Enid Nagel, second from left, above, told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The EPA says Honolulu has been violating the Clean Water Act by not treating wastewater twice before releasing it into the ocean. The city requested permission not to clean wastewater a second time, but the EPA denied the request—a decision the Sierra Club supports. "They take the chunks out... but it's really not a lot of treatment," said Hawaii Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina, second from right, above. "We're putting into the ocean some... pretty nasty stuff." Watch Mikulina in this March 12 segment from Honolulu's KGMB9 News.
Martin LeBlanc, above right, director of the Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program, was largely responsible for a $1.5 million appropriation last year by the Washington State legislature to fund nature education for the state's youth. The Club and 235 other groups have applied for a combined $8.9 million to fund outdoor education next year. "There will likely be a recession," Leblanc said. "We want to get a source of sustainable funding."
There were many mentions in the media this week of the "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" conference in Pittsburgh, coordinated by the Blue-Green Alliance, a partnership of the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club. More than 80 organizations participated in the first-ever national forum on green jobs and the economic and employment benefits of a clean energy future.
A measure now before the California legislature would strip the California Coastal Commission of its ability to self-initiate appeals of local-government development decisions and restrict it to hearing appeals brought by other individuals or groups. "We believe the legislation is terribly misguided," said Sierra Club coastal programs director Mark Massara, explaining that it's difficult for the public to track everything and grasp the implications of key decisions that could harm coastal ecosystems or restrict public access.
In Mississippi, a measure in the state legislature would allow the Public Service Commission to decide whether energy companies can raise customers' rates to fund the construction of a nuclear reactor and a new coal plant. Mississippi Sierra Club organizer Louie Miller, who opposes the bill, said he was unsure how House Public Utilities Chairman Tyrone Ellis felt about it. "From what I see at the Capitol, the energy lobbyists are walking around seemingly as clueless as I am on the man's intentions. Maybe that's a good thing and he can't be bought."
The EPA is concerned about the presence of pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water supplies around the country. An Associated Press report found that drugs have been detected in drinking water in 24 major metropolitan areas. New Hampshire Sierra Club organizer Kurt Ehrenberg laid much of the blame on the Bush administration for not doing more to help states get a leg up on the issue, calling the problem an example of "the unintended consequences of human activity" the federal government needs to address. "We need a more active Environmental Protection Agency to learn more about this and find solutions."
State legislators in Oklahoma are considering weakening a law prohibiting large hog farms from locating within three miles of church camps and recreation sites. Oklahoma Sierra Club director Billie Brown told state lawmakers at the Capitol that the law has worked well for at least 10 years to stop "the intrusion of corporate hog factories."