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Sierra Club Newsmakers — 1.25.08

January 25, 2008

The February 1 issue of Entertainment Weekly, which hits the news stands this weekend, includes the Sierra Club’s 2% Solutions public service announcement (below) with Danny DeVito and the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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Sierra Club attorney David Bookbinder said the recently released documents showing that EPA chief Stephen Johnson overruled his staff recommendation regarding California's carbon reduction plan could give "a crucial advantage" to the plaintiffs, which include the Sierra Club, the state of California, and other groups, who are challenging the EPA's rejection of California's waiver.

Organic farmers in Oregon, worried that their organic seed will be contaminated by genetically engineered wind-pollinated sugar beets, have joined the Sierra Club and other groups in challenging the USDA’s approval of Monsanto’s new sugar beets, and hunters can now kill gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, despite their Endangered Species status. "Deer and elk populations are thriving in this region. There's absolutely no reason to begin slaughtering wolves," said the Club's Melanie Stein.

Club Director for Climate Change and Energy Dave Hamilton told EnergyWeek that "we can do the lion's share" of reducing carbon emissions -- 80 percent by 2050 is our goal -- "with [energy] efficiency and renewables." Meanwhile, coal plants continue to be challenged left and right. Fortune magazine reported on how two coal plants proposed by the Blackstone Group in New Mexico and Nevada that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are working to stop are expected to face increased scrutiny from institutional investors, who have recently been demanding other public companies to disclose risks of climate change posed by their projects. A debate over coal plants is also raging in Arkansas, and the local NBC television affiliate turned out to cover the “No Coal” campaign meeting in Little Rock. Club spokesperson Glen Hooks said that “coal fire power plants emit carbon dioxide, which is a main component of global warming.”

“The phrase ‘think globally, act locally’ really applies here [in New Hampshire],” said the Club’s organizer Kurt Ehrenberg, responding to Derry Councilor Brent Carney’s proposed green building ordinance, which would require any new construction or major remodeling funded by the town to meet the U.S. Green Building Council "silver" certification standards.

"All pipelines leak," said Jerry Wilson, lobbyist for the Club's South Dakota Chapter, testifying before state legislators in support of a bill that would require oil pipeline operators to post bonds or the equivalent to cover potential pollution costs. "The industry itself admits this," he said. "It's only a question of how much they leak, where they leak and when they leak." The bill died in committee on January 23.

Joan Perry, a Sierra Club leader in the Manatee-Sarasota Group, died at 68 in Holmes Beach, Florida. "She loved a good fight," her husband of 43 years said. "She was very passionate about her causes," said Gerry Swormstedt, group vice chair, "but she had the knowledge to back it up."

Club volunteer Joan Saxe of Freeport, Maine, a semifinalist in Volvo’s national competition to recognize activism, is not going to win a new car or a $100,000 award to the charity of her choice, but she was happy the contest raised awareness of the local Cool Communities program she’s a leader of. “It's not about me," she told the Portland Press Herald, "it's about curbing global warming." Saxe has volunteered about 30 hours a week for the past two years to enlist towns and cities in Maine to reduce their carbon emissions.

Cascade Chapter Champions New Transportation Tools

January 24, 2008

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Sierra Club organizer Kathleen Ridihalgh was interviewed this month along with Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and King County Executive Ron Sims on National Public Radio station KUOW, the most listened-to news radio station in Washington State. Ridihalgh and her daughter Anna are pictured above with Sims at a Step It Up rally in Seattle last year.

The topic was using variable tollingcharging higher tolls at busier times of day—to pay for a new replacement bridge on state Highway 520, which runs from Seattle to its eastern suburbs across Lake Washington. The busy corridor bisects the Microsoft campus near its eastern terminus in Redmond.

Last fall, the Club's Cascade Chapter was pivotal in defeating a ballot measure, Proposition 1, which would have raised taxes for, among other things, nearly 200 miles of new highway lanes in the Seattle area. The chapter has also been promoting congestion pricing to pay for infrastructure replacement and reduce automobile congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. "It's something people said was impossible before Prop 1 lost badly at the polls," says Ridihalgh. "Now, many politicians are open to this new funding mechanism."

In fact, on January 10 Governor Gregoire announced a plan to use variable tolling to pay for the Highway 520 bridge. Asked by KUOW reporter Joshua McNichols how the Sierra Club felt about the idea, Ridihalgh said, "Our transportation principles include fix it first, finding a fair way to pay for thingsand a user pay system is very equitableand dealing with congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. So this hits all three of our major goals for transportation planning."

Sierra Club Newsmakers — 1.18.08

January 17, 2008

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The Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the Sierra Club on January 16 when it ruled that factory farms in the state were being issued operating permits in violation of the Clean Water Act. "This is a real vindication of what we have been arguing for many years," said Michigan Sierra Club Director Anne Woiwode, pictured above with Club attorney Aaron Isherwood.

The Club launched its first cause-based marketing venture involving a widely distributed consumer product with the introduction of the Green Works line of all-natural, eco-friendly household cleaning products, a joint venture with the Clorox Company.

In South Carolina, Sierra Club members lobbied at the State House against a bill that would define nuclear power as a renewable energy source. "Nuclear energy is not a renewable resource," said Cary Chamblee, chapter legislative director. "It's almost like saying an apple is an orange."

A coalition of environmental groups including the Sierra Club filed an appeal opposing relicensing of New Jersey's Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, alleging that a 100-foot-tall containment shell for nuclear waste is insufficient to ensure the safety of the facility.

In Ohio, the Sierra Club threatened legal action against a coal-gas power plant proposed by Cincinnati-based Global Energy if the company does not apply for a new air-pollution permit. Power companies claim coal-gas plants are cleaner than traditional coal plants, but although they eliminate pollutants that contribute to smog and acid rain, they emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year. "There's no such thing as clean coal," said Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign.

Photovoltaic installer Clean Solar, Inc., announced it will offer a $500 charitable donation on behalf of its customers: the Sierra Club is one of four non-profits the company recommended for donations.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has put on hold the permitting of a proposed Kennecott nickel and copper mine in the state's Upper Peninsula, saying more information is needed about the mine's aboveground operations in a remote area renowned for its backwoods trails and trout streams. The mining company said it will protect the environment while boosting the regional economy, but Chapter Legislative Director Marvin Roberson said the state should demand additional evidence of that claim.

Alaska is the only state that permits wolf hunts, but now the Wisconsin Legislature is considering allowing it too. Club volunteer Jim Olson told reporters the state's current management methods, which allow landowners to trap problem wolves and shoot them if they're in the act of attacking a pet or livestock, are working just fine. "Leave well enough alone," Olson said.

The staff of the California Coastal Commission has rejected a proposed highway through a portion of San Onofre State Beach in San Diego County, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger urged the commission to disregard the staff recommendation and OK the road. "Clearly the governor has forsaken his environmental legacy," said Mark Massara, director of the Sierra Club's Great Coastal Places Campaign.

The Sierra Club was one of 11 groups opposing a federal policy allowing power companies to build transmission lines in sensitive areas near Washington, D.C., even if states object. Several controversial power lines are planned for Northern Virginia and Maryland. Historically, states have had the final say about whether power lines should be built. The Club also opposed a proposed energy corridor in Arizona and California that would bypass normal reviews for new high-voltage power lines.

In Tennessee, longtime Club volunteer James Baker penned a column in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, urging all citizens to make and keep one resolution for 2008: put politics and ideology aside and unite to deal with the planetary challenge of global warming.

Sierra Club Cosponsors Christian Book Tour

January 16, 2008

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In early 2008 the Sierra Club is cosponsoring an eleven-city tour to promote Christian author Brian McLaren's newest book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis and a Revolution of Hope.  Focusing on creation care, global justice, and a concern for the poor, this book calls upon its readers to take action in a time of global crisis. How can people of faith usher in change in the face of unprecedented challenges: global warming, poverty and war? 

Inspired by our shared values of environmental stewardship, global justice and care for our neighbors, the Sierra Club is proud to partner with Sojourners: Faith & Justice Churches, Emergent Village and others, in promoting this message of responsible stewardship. 

Each of the eleven-city events are held on Friday night through Saturday afternoon. In select cities these events are followed by an opportunity to put your faith into action with a service project hosted by the Sierra Club on the following Sunday. 

Learn more about the Sierra Club's Faith Partnerships Program.

Cities and Dates:

*Charlotte, NC (Feb. 1-2)

Boise, ID (Feb. 8-9)

*Dallas, TX (Feb. 22-23)

St. Petersburg, FL (Feb. 29- Mar.1)

*Washington, DC (March 7-8)

*San Diego, CA  (March 28-29)

Chicago, IL  (April 4-5)

Seattle, WA (April 11-12)

*Kansas City, MO (April 25-26)

*New York, NY (May 2-3)

Goshen, IN (May 9-10)   

*Indicates locations where Sierra Club is co-hosting Sunday events.

Georgia Outings Leader Honored for Leading 100th Hike

January 15, 2008

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Some 80 people gathered recently at Atlanta's Stone Mountain Park to celebrate Arthur Ratliff's 100th hike as a Sierra Club Outings leader. Ratliff, pictured above in brown hat behind sign, has introduced hundreds of people to wild places all over Georgia and parts of North Carolina since he began leading Club outings in 1994.

Following a commemorative ceremony at the trailhead, attended by chapter leaders, first-time hikers, old-timers, and members of the Black Newcomers Network and the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Ratliff led 15 hikers on a "centennial" 5-mile trek around the granite monolith of Stone Mountain.

A State Farm Insurance agent by trade, Ratliff intentionally paces many of his hikes gently in an effort to get beginners to choose his outings for their first experience in the wild. "I really enjoy taking people out for the first time," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the occasion of his 100th outing. "I want them to enjoy hiking, and I try to make it a good experience for them."

Still, you never know what Mother Nature will throw at youone reason potential leaders must undergo extensive training before being sanctioned as Sierra Club Outings leaders. Ratliff recalls leading a hike in the Raven Cliffs Wilderness Area in north Georgia attended by several Puerto Rican children. "It started snowing and icing up," he remembers. "The children thought it was real cool; they were thrilled because they'd never seen snow and ice before. But we adults knew we had to get out of there fast."

His advice: "Get outdoors in 2008. Georgia is a beautiful state; you'd be amazed what's beyond the freeways.

New Line of Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products Launches

January 14, 2008

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Club gives imprimatur to Green Works, Clorox' first new line in 20 years

Today the Sierra Club launched its first cause-related marketing venture involving a widely-distributed consumer product: the Green Works line of all-natural eco-friendly household cleaning products, a joint venture with the Clorox Company.

"A big stumbling block for families who want to live a greener lifestyle has been the high cost of green products and the fact that they are not always easy to find," says Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "Industry has to be part of the solution, and the Sierra Club has the power to influence corporations to move in the right direction. This is a huge opportunity for us to influence the buying behavior of millions of people and give a giant kick-start to the market for safe, green, affordable cleaning products."

Green Works products contain no toxic chemicals, phosphorus, or bleach, and the packaging features the Sierra Club's name and logo and a statement about Green Works' support for the Club's work. The partnership and the products have been vetted and approved by a broad range of Sierra Club volunteers and staff, including the Board of Directors.

"We're committed to promoting solutions that help people live clean, green lives, and working with groups, including business, that are moving in green directions," says Club President Robbie Cox. "With Clorox, this is what we've been asking business to do, and here's a company that has taken a big step forward. We're interested in supporting that kind of behavior."

Learn more about the Sierra Club's work to promote safe and healthy communities.

Muir Woods Named to National Register

January 10, 2008

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Photo by Noorkhan

Muir Woods, the majestic redwood grove just north of San Francisco, commemorated its 100th anniversary as a national monument on January 9 by getting listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Speaking to an assembled gathering of politicians, park rangers, and members of the public, park historian Stephen Haller said the grove was listed not only because of its ancient trees, but because it was one of the birthplaces of the modern conservation movement.

Actor and storyteller Garth Gilchrist, below, addressed the crowd in John Muir guise, recalling words the Sierra Club's founder spoke in 1897: "God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from foolsonly Uncle Sam can do that."

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By the end of the 19th century, more than 97 percent of the old-growth redwood forests on the California coast had been chopped down, and pressure was mounting to log the valley then known as Redwood Canyon, tucked into the folds of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County a few miles north of the Golden Gate. Seeing the threat, U.S. Representative William Kent, heir to a Chicago meat-packing fortune, purchased 611 acres of the canyon in 1905 in order to protect the trees. But when the 1906 earthquake and fire created a need for lumber and a reliable water source, the local water company proposed damming Redwood Creek and filed condemnation papers to take Kent's land.

Kent foiled the ploy by donating 298 acres to the federal government in 1907, and the following year President Theodore Roosevelt declared it the nation's 10th national monument. Roosevelt wanted to name the grove after Kent, but the congressman insisted it be named after Muir. The monument was later expanded to 550 acres, and Kent went on to co-author the act of Congress that created the National Park Service in 1916. He lived out his days in what is now Kentfield, California, in the lee of Mt. Tamalpais.

Sierra Club Newsmakers — 1.11.08

The weekend before the New Hampshire primary, Barack Obama indirectly invoked the Sierra Club while touting fuel efficiency: “The time has come for...a president who if he is going to talk about raising fuel economy standards on cars does not go in front of the Sierra Club but goes to Detroit in front of the automakers and tells them how they need to change.”

Testifying in Los Angeles before a Senate Panel probing the EPA's denial of California's Clean Cars Waiver, Club Executive Director Carl Pope said that since passage of the Clean Air Act 37 years ago, "no administrator of the [EPA] has issued a decision which more flagrantly violated the clear language and intent of the Clean Air Act, or more fundamentally threatened the American people." He also called on Californians to focus on the February 5 primary and demand that all presidential candidates support the waiver. 

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Commenting on the decision by the energy firm Indeck to cancel a proposed coal-fired power plant, Illinois Chapter volunteer Verena Owen told a suburban Chicago newspaper that "the writing is on the wall” and that the state is experiencing a boom in wind energy development,  including the construction of one of the nation's largest wind farms north of Bloomington. That's  Owen above with Club Midwest Rep Bruce Nilles after the decision to scrap the plant was announced. She added that the Sierra Club has helped defeat more than a dozen proposed coal plants over the past four years. She didn’t say that she has been an integral part of several of those battles. (See more here.)

On New Year’s Day, 30 Club members from the Los Angeles area braved 50 mile-per-hour winds for their annual “calorie burner” hike up the Los Pinetos trail to Wilson’s Saddle. “If we are lucky, when we get to the top, we may get a glimpse of the Rose Bowl, said hike co-leader Ray Lorme. Volunteers in San Diego, including memberse of the Club’s Canyons Campaign, devoted the first Saturday of the New Year to removing invasive non-native mangroves that had colonized a Mission Bay salt marsh.

A New York Times Fashion & Style story led with an anecdote about how Lone Star Chapter Communications staffer Donna Hoffman gave compact fluorescent light bulbs gifts to family  members.

The Wall Street Journal gave answers to common questions about how to get greener, saying that “you don't have to change your whole life to make a difference.” California Regional Director Carl Zichella was quoted, saying, “You can go crazy and get lost in the details and completely miss the point that every little bit helps.”

The Army Corps of Engineers blocked a mountaintop removal expansion in eastern Kentucky after the Sierra Club and Kentucky Waterway Alliance challenged the permits, and the Club joined California to challenge the EPA’s rejection of state efforts to cut global warming emissions from cars and trucks.

The Bush adminstration announced it would miss a legal deadline to list the polar bear as an threatened species, prompting protests from the Sierra Club and other environmental groups suspicious that the delay will allow oil drilling to commence in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.

In Houston, Neil Carman of the Club’s Lone Star Chapter announced a federal lawsuit against Shell Oil and its subsidiaries for pollution from a refinery complex along the Houston Ship Channel. “Shell is paying to pollute,” said attorney Joshua Kratka. “Shell is factoring these fines into its costs of operating these facilities.”

Citing recent environmental victories in Diné Bikéyah, or Navajoland, the Navajo Times suggested that “if there was a woman of the year for 2007, maybe it was Mother Earth.” Navajo Robert Tohe, an environmental justice organizer for the Club in Arizona said, “There's been a definite turning point. For decades, these (environmental) issues have labeled as fringe issues by the decision-makers. Now they're mainstream.”


CSPAN  transcript (January 5, 2008)

(Barack Obama speaking) “You can say the time has come for a president who is honest about the choices we confront. Who will not just tell the American people what they want to hear but will tell the American people what they need to hear. A president who if he is going to talk about raising fuel economy standards on cars does not go in front of the Sierra Club but goes to Detroit in front of the automakers and tells them how they need to change....”

Club Prevails In Fight Against Illinois Coal Plant

January 09, 2008

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The Sierra Club notched another victory in its efforts to stop the coal rush the first week of January when Indeck Energy Services scrapped plans to build a $1 billion, 660-megawatt coal-burning power plant 55 miles south of Chicago. The Club has been fighting the project since 2003, when the Illinois EPA granted Indeck an air permit for the plant. But grassroots and legal action by the Club and its allies prompted the City of Chicago to file a brief in support of the Club's position, and the U.S. EPA struck down the state permit in 2006. Since then, Indeck and developer CenterPoint Properties have tried to resuscitate the project, but they finally threw in the towel on January 4.

"My very first project when I joined the Club's Illinois Clean Air Campaign in 2002 was to investigate the Indeck plant," says Club Midwest Rep Bruce Nilles. "After getting to know Verena Owen, our joint investigation uncovered that this would be a massive new source of air pollution, and we launched a multi-faceted campaign to block this project." Owen and Nilles are pictured above after the decision to scrap the plant was announced.

"Indeck's decision to abandon coal comes at the same time other companies are embracing wind and solar energy here in Illinois," Owen told the suburban Chicago Daily Herald. "We are creating family-supporting clean energy jobs that don't jeopardize our children's future or accelerate global warming."

The Sierra Club has helped defeat dozens of coal plant proposals in Illinois and elsewhere since the Indeck fight began five years ago. "But Indeck was the first battle we undertook," says Nilles, "and it makes this victory oh so sweet." Read more about this and other Sierra Club's successes in stopping the coal rush.

Green Goes Mainstream in Native America

January 07, 2008

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"If there was a woman of the year for 2007," begins a recent article in the Navajo Times, "maybe it was Mother Earth." A number of environmental victories have been won lately on Native American lands, and in several the Sierra Club was in the thick of the action. Two notable cases are a federal court ruling in favor of 13 tribes trying to prevent reclaimed wastewater from being used for snowmaking at a ski area on sacred Indian lands, and the shuttering of the Black Mesa Coal Mine and its slurry pipeline on Navajo and Hopi lands because the closed Mohave Generating Station, a notorious polluter, would cost billions to clean up and its owners cannot find a buyer.

"There's been a definite turning point," Robert Tohe (pictured above), a Navajo and a Sierra Club environmental justice organizer in Arizona, told the Times. "For decades, these environmental issues have been labeled as fringe issues by the decision-makers. Now they're mainstream." Tohe sees the Navajo Nation at a crossroads. "We can either go on with the status quo, exporting our energy and buying it back at higher prices, or we can look to sustainable, renewable energy and better building techniques to take care of our own needs."

Asked what he sees and the biggest environmental issue facing his peopleand all peoples in the American Southwestin the years to come, he says, "Water. No question. As more and more people come to the Southwest and the climate continues to warm and dry, there's going to be more and more competition for it. We all need to find ways to consume less and conserve more." Read more about the Sierra Club's work with tribal partners.


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