Sierra Club Newsmakers -- 4.4.2008
The city of Owensboro, Kentucky, unveiled its first hybrid vehicle in an April 1 ceremony at City Hall. Twenty Sierra Club volunteers in Be Cool, Go Green t-shirts were on hand, and city officials sported the shirts as well. "The city is now officially embarked on a course that is both prudent and far-sighted," said Ben Taylor, chair of the Club's Pennyrile Group. Mayor Tom Watson signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement earlier this year. Club activist Lee Dew said the city's efforts will show that people can save money by using energy more efficiently. Pictured above, from left, are volunteers Donnie Mayton and Ben Taylor, Club organizer Aloma Dew, volunteer Carol Mark, city Facilities Maintenance Superintendent (and local Cool Cities director) Lelan Hancock, Mayor Pro-tem Al Mattingly, and Lee Dew.
A coalition of states, cities, and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, took its fight to federal court to compel the federal government to act on global warming. The coalition wants to EPA to regulate global warming emissions from new cars and trucks or prove that such regulation is unnecessary. David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, said that while the EPA has been talking about a holistic approach to climate change for years, "in fact, they have done absolutely nothing but stand in the way of everyone else's efforts." Read Bookbinder's statement to the press.
The controversial border fence with Mexico was headline the news this week after the Department of Homeland Security announced that 30 environmental laws would be waived to expedite construction of 267 miles of fence, outraging elected officials and citizens in the border region. "Waiving longstanding laws that protect the environment and our cultural heritage would undermine decades of work to establish a vibrant wildlife corridor and would be a devastating blow to ecotourism," said Lone Star Chapter director Ken Kramer. Club organizer Oliver Bernstein said going around NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) "pulls the carpet out from under community participation."
The Club's Honey Island Group helped organize the collection of more than 20,000 pounds of hazardous materials from over 500 households in southern Louisiana's St. Tammany Parish, near New Orleans. Sixty-two Club volunteers pitched in to collect latex- and oil-based paints, batteries, tires, computer and office equipment, cell phones, and toxic liquids like kerosene, turpentine, and lamp oil.
The city of Detroit is deliberating whether to keep burning the more than 1 billion pounds of waste the city generates each year. Twenty years ago the city built the largest municipal waste incinerator in America, which now costs the city nearly ten times as much per ton as nearby counties pay to landfill their garbage, and which spews toxic chemicals and gases on the surrounding community, which is primarily poor and black. Sierra Club environmental justice organizer Rhonda Anderson sees the incinerator as a threat to the health of those living near it and a symbol of backward thinking. "If we are not able to start looking at things differently," she said, "the little people at the bottom are going to stay there—at the bottom, looking up."
The dubiously-named Alabama Family Farm Preservation Act—also known as the "Hog Bill"—purports to protect hog farm operations from municipal ordinances or resolutions that might deem such operations a public or private nuisance. "To call it the 'Family Farm Protection Act' is completely misleading," said Alabama Chapter volunteer Bryan Burgess, who pointed out that the average waste lagoon for hog urine and feces at hog facilities in the state contains about 5 million gallons of untreated raw sewage.
Dominion Power wants to build a coal-fired power plant in southwestern Virginia that would not only spew carbon emissions but would further ravage the state's mountains to provide coal to feed its furnace. Sierra Club representative Dave Muhly calls the project "a disaster masquerading as an energy solution." Not only has Dominion admitted that the proposed plant is not "carbon capture compatible," Muhly said, it also ignored the consequences of increased mountaintop removal mining on those Southwest Virginia communities that would continue to see their natural heritage blown up and buried.