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Michigan Activists Lobby for Air and Water Protections

May 10, 2010


Quick, what's the difference between the photo above and the photo below?


Actually, it's not too tough; the top photo is geared toward protecting clean air, the second toward protecting clean water. Both were taken on the occasion of a Sierra Club-hosted meeting with U.S. Congressman Gary Peters (in glasses and striped tie) of Michigan's 9th congressional district, just northwest of Detroit.

The meeting took place at the Sierra Club's office in Peters' district to talk about the health of the Great Lakes and a recent series of legislative acts in Congress that constitute a stealth attack on the Clean Air Act. The so-called Dirty Air Acts seek to undermine the 2007 ruling in Massachusetts vs. EPA that greenhouse gases must be regulated as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

"We'd already set up a meeting with Congressman Peters to discuss the Dirty Air Acts," says Tiffany Hartung of the Club's Beyond Coal campaign, "and since our Great Lakes Program was also planning to meet with him, we combined topics. We had a great turnout of Sierra Club members, community leaders, and alliesit really reflects how much Michiganders care about protecting our Great Lakes and moving towards a clean energy future."

Below, a Sierra Club rally for clean energy in Lansing last summer.


Continue reading "Michigan Activists Lobby for Air and Water Protections" »

2010 Sierra Club Employee Recognition Awards

May 07, 2010


On the next-to-last day of April, Sierra Club staff gathered in the Yosemite Room at the Club's San Francisco headquarters for the 2010 staff awards.


Brand new Executive Director Michael Brune, above, opened the proceedings, and Adrian Cotter, below, winner of last year's Behind the Scenes Hero Award, was the master of ceremonies. Cotter began his remarks in a flawless Scottish brogue in honor of John Muir.


It was of course on everyone's mind that the BP oil disaster was unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico the same week the awards were presented. But the catastrophe does not diminish one iota the accomplishments of five Sierra Club employees whose exceptional work and dedication distinguished them over the past year.

The 2010 winners are:

Julian Fisher - Community Service Award

Glen Besa - Virginia Ferguson Award

Tim Guilfoile - Behind the Scenes Hero Award

Brittany McKee - Special Achievement Award

David Willett - Larry Mehlhaff Award for Excellence

Also honored were four 20-year Club employees: Barbara Josepher and James McCaffrey, who could not attend, and Yolanda Fortuna and Julia Reitan, below.


Read a full account of the award winners here.

Continue reading "2010 Sierra Club Employee Recognition Awards" »

UNC Says No to Coal

May 05, 2010

Here's a report from Deputy Conservation Director Bruce Nilles about Tuesday's commitment by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to stop burning coal to heat and power the campus within a decade.

Yesterday, before a crowd of fired-up student coal fighters and a bank of cameras UNC's Chancellor Thorp announced that "coal cars pulling up ... to the plant [is] not particularly good symbolism for a university that teaches people about climate change and the frontiers of energy research" and that the University was phasing out coal use.

There's Chancellor Thorp at the lectern, and behind him, from left, is me; Tim Toben, chair of the energy task force; and student leader Stewart Boss. (Photo by Olga Grlic, chair of the Club's Orange-Chatham Group)


Last fall Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign and Sierra Student Coalition kicked off our campaign to end coal use at the 60 campuses with on-site coal plants and build up the student movement to help us wrestle the coal industry to the ground. We began by dispatching a dozen Green Corps organizers to campuses around the country, including Laura Stevens to UNC.

In response to our first overture requesting the University to acknowledge the problem of coal burning and agree to a pain-free and coal-free path, the chancellor said we would be better directing our attention at other campuses that were doing less on sustainability. With guidance from Laura and North Carolina Chapter Director Molly Diggins, the students ramped up the campaign, brought Dr. Jim Hansen to campus for a rally, and held a series of forums and movie showings to let the chancellor know they were not going away. The students made the coal plant a major issue on campus, in a respectful but forceful way.

Three months ago, the chancellor reversed his position, and agreed to appoint a taskforce of students, faculty, and Molly Diggins to advise him. Last week the taskforce issued its interim recommendations, including that the university should end coal use no later than 2020, with a goal of 2015, and phase out coal mined with mountaintop removal as soon as possible.

This was a remarkable development, as this particular plant was built in 1992, had another 20 years left of its useful life, and is still being paid for. The plant has also won EPA awards for its co-generation efficiency.

To his enormous credit Chancellor Thorp jumped at the opportunity to get back into a leadership position and agreed to each of the interim recommendations and convened a press conference yesterday announcing the coal-free commitment before students left town for the summer. (Additional recommendations on energy efficiency are coming in the fall).

Yesterday I attended that press conference with chancellor, our student leader Stewart Boss (a freshman!), along with Molly Diggins and the other student activists who helped make all of this possible.

Looking forward to toppling the rest of the campus coal plants quickly!


Congratulations all! You can read more here.

Sierra Club Stops Coal Plant, Moves to Address Oil Spill

May 04, 2010


This was supposed to be a story about how the Mississippi Sierra Club led a successful fight to stop the construction of a proposed 500-megawatt, $2.4 billion coal-fired power plant.

And it is a big deal that Mississippi Chapter volunteers and Club organizer Louie Miller prevailed in their tussle with the formidable Southern Company and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to stop construction of the Kemper County Lignite Plant and the leasing of nearby lands for strip-mining lignite coal.


Chapter volunteers rallied against the dirty, unnecessary, and expensive coal gasification plant, spoke at public meetings, and helped galvanize public opposition to the project through sustained public and media outreach.


Sierra Club attorney Andrea Issod played a key role in the victory by intervening in the "Certificate of Necessity" proceedings before the Mississippi Public Service Commission, providing expert witnesses and legal expertise to challenge assertions about the "need" for such a facility.

The 3-member Public Service Commission voted 2-1 in favor of the project. But thanks to pressure from the Sierra Club and other citizens who spoke out, the Commission placed a $2.4 billion cap on the amount of construction costs the developer, Mississippi Power, would be allowed to charge to rate payers.

Officials from Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Company, said on April 29 that these conditions were unacceptable and they were scrapping plans to build the plant.

But what should have been a time to celebrate for the Sierra Club and all Mississippians who want clean energy turned instead into an all-hands-on-deck emergency as it became apparent that the April 20 explosion and collapse of British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was rapidly turning into an environmental catastrophe threatening the entire region.

Continue reading "Sierra Club Stops Coal Plant, Moves to Address Oil Spill" »

Sea Turtle Festival Again a Smash Hit in Puerto Rico

April 30, 2010


The 5th Annual Festival del Tinglar (Sea Turtle Festival) took place in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, the next-to-last weekend in April.


Celebrating the Leatherback turtle nesting season, the festival is put on by the Puerto Rico Sierra Club and the Coalition for the Northeast Ecological Corridor.


The Northeast Ecological Corridor, one of the Puerto Rico Sierra Club's top priorities, is one of the most important U.S. nesting grounds for the critically endangered Leatherback, the world's largest sea turtle.


"The festival was a big success," says Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman. "In the afternoon the police closed the entrances to town because it was so full."


More than 7,000 people came to the event throughout the day to learn about the turtle and the corridor and other environmental issues.


Below, P.R. Chapter Chair Angel Sosa, in green shirt, at the Sierra Club's booth.


Continue reading "Sea Turtle Festival Again a Smash Hit in Puerto Rico" »

Climate Rally Calls for Congress to Pass Climate Bill

April 27, 2010

Photo by David DeFranza, courtesy of Treehugger

Tens of thousands of people converged on Washington, D.C., on April 25 for a Climate Rally and concert on the National Mall, organized by the Earth Day Network.


Sierra Club Deputy Conservation Director Bruce Nilles, above, got the crowd revved up with a speech exhorting Congress to pass a climate bill in 2010. Nilles formerly directed the Club's Beyond Coal campaign.


The Club also set up a booth, below, to educate attendees about clean energy, energy efficiency, and a range of other climate-related issues.


"The event reminded me of the rallies of the 70s," says longtime Sierra Club volunteer Jim Dougherty. "The crowd was incredibly diverse, energized simply by being there among Washington's great green vistas, and all feeling like this mightjust mightprove to be a pivot point in this noble campaign of ours."

Photo by David DeFranza, courtesy of Treehugger

Sting, John Legend, and Bob Weir were just three of the high-profile musical acts that joined environmental, political, civil-rights, and religious leaders in marking the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.


A forecast of thunderstorms threatened to put a damper on the rally. But as if by design, the clouds parted as Weirwhose former band, the Grateful Dead, penned the song Here Comes Sunshinetook the stage, and the Mall was soon jam-packed and throbbing with energy.

Photo by David DeFranza, courtesy of Treehugger

Speakers included Avatar director James Cameron, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who led the crowd in chanting, "Go Green! Let me hear you scream!"

Read more here and here. And enter the Sierra Club's Earth Day Sweepstakes (grand prize: a trip for two to Hawaii) by making a green pledge by April 30.

Photos by Jim Dougherty unless otherwise noted.

100-Mile Horseback Ride to Protect Tribal Homelands

April 23, 2010


On April 18, Navajo grassroots leaders from Black Mesa saddled up for a 4-day horseback ride from Piñon, Arizona, to the Navajo Nation capital in Window Rock to protest coal mining on Black Mesa.


The purpose of the ride was to send a message to the Navajo Nation Council that the voice of all tribal members and the future of Black Mesa should be considered in the royalty negotiations now underway with Peabody Coal.


Community members worked with the Black Mesa Water Coalition, To' Nizhoni Ani (Navajo for "Beautiful Water Speaks"), and Dine Care to organize the 100-mile ride and deliver the message to save Black Mesa.


Continue reading "100-Mile Horseback Ride to Protect Tribal Homelands" »

Michigan Clean Water Activist Wins 2010 Goldman Prize

April 20, 2010


Lynn Henning, a family farmer and self-described "redneck" from Clayton, Michigan, is a 2010 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Henning, 52, boarded an airplane for only the second time in her life this week to travel to San Francisco, where she received her award on April 19 along with five other winners. The Goldman Prize is awarded to grassroots environmental heroes in the world's six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, South America, and North America.


After a dozen huge factory farms, or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), began operating within 10 miles of Henning and her husband Dean's 300-acre corn and soybean farm, she and her neighbors formed Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan to fight back and urge state and federal agencies to clamp down on CAFO pollution.


Continue reading "Michigan Clean Water Activist Wins 2010 Goldman Prize" »

Club, Black Caucus Team Up to Take Kids Camping

April 16, 2010


In early April, eleven students from the Clark County Black Caucus in Las Vegas joined Sierra Club organizers Rob Disney and Vinny Spotleson and four adult chaperones on a 3-day camping trip to Valley of Fire State Park and visits to the nearby Reid Gardner coal plant and Moapa Paiute Reservation.


The trip's objectives were threefold: to get the kids out into nature, to talk about where Las Vegas' energy comes from, and to connect the Black Caucus with the Moapa Band of Paiutes, who showed the group their planned site for a solar plant as a cleaner alternative to Reid Gardner.


Continue reading "Club, Black Caucus Team Up to Take Kids Camping" »

Planting a Tree for John Muir

April 14, 2010


On the final day of Scotland Week in North America, the Scottish Government and the Sierra Club held a special tree-planting ceremony in San Francisco's Presidio National Park to celebrate the life and legacy of Scottish-born Sierra Club founder John Muir.


Two Scottish dignitaries joined Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton, John Muir National Historic Site General Superintendent Martha Lee, and kids from the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings program and the Presidio YMCA to plant a sapling in the Edgar and Peggy Wayburn Redwood Grove.


That's Michael Russell (center), Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Education, and John Hutchison (right), chairman of the John Muir Trust, pictured above with Hamilton at the April 9 ceremony.

Continue reading "Planting a Tree for John Muir" »

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