Sierra Club Newsmakers -- 4.18.2008
When the Otter Tail Corporation of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, proposed expanding its Big Stone II coal-fired power plant, the Sierra Club and tribal partners held a press conference outside Otter Tail's annual shareholder meeting on April 10. And to the surprise of Club organizer Cesia Kearns, who put the event together, a man identifying himself as "Mr. Otter" showed up to help promote renewable energy to Big Stone II's project manager. Kearns said Otter Tail should diversify its energy systems with greater use of wind and solar resources. Native American author and environmental activist Winona LaDuke urged that instead of a coal plant, Otter Tail should build a 1,000-megawatt wind farm. Above, Kearns, Peggy Peters of the Sisseton Wahpeton tribe's environmental protection council, LaDuke's son Gwae, LaDuke, and Mr. Otter.
A barrage of criticism greeted President Bush's April 16 call for "realistic long-term and intermediate goals" for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The Sierra Club was widely quoted in the media, including these representative samples from ABC and CNN. "The president is throwing a Hail Mary to polluters in a last-ditch effort to stave off any meaningful action on global warming," said Club Executive Director Carl Pope.
Longtime Sierra Club activists/lobbyists Neil Herring and Mark Woodall were featured in "Creative Loafing," an online "green guide" to all things cultural in Atlanta, atop its list for Georgia's 2008 Green Team. "Together they've fought hazardous-waste incinerators and big-money road projects, pushed for the preservation of Georgia's coastline, and rallied against the Southern Company's proclivity for coal-fired power plants," Creative Loafing wrote. Asked why it's important for the environmental community to have a presence at the Capitol, Herring replied: "Because the business industry lobbyists at the other end of this building would rape this state. The last source of wealth in Georgia is taking it from air, water and land."
In a national first, two adjoining counties have passed tandem resolutions to sign on to the Sierra Club's Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, a county-level initiative to combat global warming on a regional level and create new jobs in the green economy. The Cool Counties initiative is part of the Club's Cool Cities program—there are now 30 Cool Counties and nearly 1,000 Cool cities nationwide. Multnomah & Clackamas Counties, which comprise most of Greater Portland and are home to nearly 30 percent of Oregon's population, have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Club organizer Christine Caurant urged other counties to sign on and make Oregon the nation's first "Cool State."
Susan Brown of Dearborn, Missouri, says she joined the Sierra Club because she wanted the free backpack that was being offered to new members. Soon she was talking with Platte County commissioners and speaking at public hearings about the importance of regulating emissions from a local coal-fired power plant. Now she is a leader in helping curb the spread of old-coal technology in the area, and she serves as chair of the Concerned Citizens of Platte County, a group that had previously fought against factory farms operating without health permits. All because she needed a backpack.
The mayors of three Detroit suburbs, Berkley, Ferndale, and Royal Oak, will attend the monthly Sierra Club & Beer event at the Berkley Front Bar on April 24 to talk about why local governments should act on global warming. Club organizers of the free organic beer event said the three were invited because they have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection agreement and joined the Sierra Club's Cool Cities initiative. All three cities have insulated buildings, bought energy-saving furnaces, and studied downsizing city cars from gas guzzlers to hybrids or electrics. "I'm looking for more and more mayors to sign this," said Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey.
Los Angeles Times reporter Judy Pasternak, who has covered both the smog and science beats (among others) in 23 years with the paper, wrote on April 14 that, "Every time a new coal-fired power plant is proposed anywhere in the United States, a lawyer from the Sierra Club or an allied environmental group is assigned to stop it." The coalition, which includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Integrity Project, claims 65 victories over the last three years, and the Sierra Club is coordinating opposition to about 50 additional power plant proposals. "We have a national presence, so we're sort of mission control," said Pat Gallagher, director of the Club's environmental law program. The goal: "We hope to clog up the system," said David Bookbinder, the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel. "It's putting pressure on Congress to put together a comprehensive plan."