Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sierra Club Statement on State of the Union

January 28, 2014

Contact: Maggie Kao, 202-675-2384 or

Sierra Club Statement on State of the Union

Washington, D.C. -- Tonight President Obama gave his 2014 State of the Union address.

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, issued the following statement in response:

“Tonight, President Obama laid out his vision of opportunity for our nation and made it clear that our children will hold us accountable for what we do -- or do not do -- to address climate disruption.

“The President has taken significant steps forward by committing to hold dirty power plants accountable for their toxic carbon pollution and to protect our public lands.  We’re also encouraged to hear his plans to help repair and modernize America's infrastructure.  

“Unfortunately, the sum total of the President’s commitments fall short of what American families need to ensure a safe, healthy planet for our children. We can’t drill or frack our way out of this problem.  There is far more potential for good job creation in clean energy like solar and wind, and common sense solutions like energy efficiency.

“Make no mistake -- natural gas is a bridge to nowhere. If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an ‘all of the above’ energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy. We can’t effectively act on climate and \expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time.

“To fight the climate crisis, we must resist the temptation to trade away American jobs and public interest policies to foreign corporations. We must walk away from boondoggles like fracked gas. And we must seize on the opportunity and the obligation that the climate crisis has thrust upon us.”


Monday, January 27, 2014

Pennsylvanians Are Smarter Than Their Leaders

By Wendi Taylor
PA Chapter Chair

Pennsylvanians appear to be much smarter than the average state lawmaker, when it comes to climate change. Three quarters of us know the planet is warming and that human activity is causing it. 

Based on answers to questions asked in a recent Stanford University poll, citizens are more interested, more informed and more concerned about global warming than the General Assembly or Governor Tom Corbett. The poll shows wide support among Pennsylvania residents for actions to address global warming and the resulting climate change.

Percentage of Pennsylvanians in favor of the following policies:

And yet, the majority of the General Assembly and the Corbett administration are poised to do nothing new to encourage the development of clean, renewable energy or propose new initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Climate Action Plan, Pennsylvania has done enough to reduce its emissions. 

And the Governor’s Energy Plan calls for more development and conversion to natural gas, which is just another fossil fuel that will eventually run out, leaving that generation to deal with how to produce energy.

Bills introduced in the House and the Senate, which would almost double the set asides for clean, renewable electricity, are expected to languish in committee and die at the end of the year.

The current leadership has chosen this path because they say the gas drilling industry is creating jobs. They seem unconcerned about the environmental consequences as long as the industry creates jobs and contributes to our energy independence. At the same time, the industry is making plans to liquefy the natural gas and ship it overseas to the highest bidder.

A better way to reach these goals – jobs and independence -- is to develop our capacity for wind and solar. Not only has it been shown that more jobs are created per dollars invested and energy generated, but this energy cannot be exported.

Leaders are supposed to anticipate the future and lead the way. They are supposed to solve problems, rather than forestall them until they are out of office.

We can argue about how long our fossil fuels will last but we cannot debate that those resources are finite. Wind and sun are infinite so if we can generate power from them, isn't that a safer long-term investment? Rather than build a whole pipeline system to carry natural gas and build a whole infrastructure to convert to natural gas, wouldn't we be more prudent to develop our infrastructure around wind and solar?

Pennsylvanians know that we need to address global warming and that we must move toward renewable energy. So why don’t our leaders know?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Greed and Expediency

By Tanya Wagner
Sierra Club Member, Hampden Township

*Below is testimony presented at the public hearing of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) in Mechanicsburg on January 16, 2014. The testimony is in response to the EQB's proposed oil and gas regulations. Sierra Club talking points can be found here.*

Good evening, I’m Tanya Wagner from Hampden Township.
I assumed that most testimony given tonight would be empirical in nature. So, I choose to speak more philosophically, because actions are guided by values, and legislation is crafted not just from knowledge, but influenced by attitude and moral integrity. That said, I believe it’s time we undertake bolder efforts to put tougher, more specific language in these proposed regulations. If we can’t balance public health and land stewardship concerns with economic growth and the search for new energy sources, Pennsylvanians will pay a price that we and our offspring will sorely regret.
I speak with confidence because, as 300,000 West Virginians were learning of a chemical spill that rendered their water virtually untouchable, the U.S. House of Representatives was hard at work gutting the Federal Hazardous-waste Cleanup Act. How ironic! If their bill becomes law, it will seriously erode the federal government’s ability to help PA residents if a similar disaster were to happen here. We could be in dire straits unless we get our own house in order, and fast.
The Elk River spill in WVA, while not due to fracking, is a cautionary tale, because the CEO of the company responsible is considering bankruptcy. Consequently, he won’t be paying for cleanup, and just like WVA, PA has not required mine and related company owners to establish a remediation fund for accidents that may well devastate our water supply. Yes, they pay an impact fee, but that’s simply for mitigating day-to-day wear and tear on a community’s infrastructure.
It’s reported that a legislative plan is evolving to entice drillers to substitute “mine-influenced water” (better known as acid mine drainage) for their fracking process in place of clean water. While that sounds like a tantalizing concept on its face, a tricky use of the term “beneficial” in the plan’s text, and a proposal to exempt companies who would agree to use this stuff from liability clearly doesn’t.

Much is promised by operators and legislators, and agency spokesmen assure us that all is well; however, I suffer cognitive dissonance when reviewing information that contradicts the pro-fracking message, such as countless violations, token penalties, inadequate rules for safe use and disposal of hazardous substances, danger from orphan and abandoned wells, methane migration, and wording in laws that smacks of bias favoring mine operators over public health and environmental safety. Just one issue I shudder to think about is: what happens if we permit long-term burial of waste pits and toxic or radioactive materials like drill cuttings? Why, we could create sites like the infamous Love Canal, which, quoting NY’s health commissioner, “remains as a national symbol of failure to exercise concern for future generations” Is that how we want to be remembered? 
I’m no expert, but distance and location limits listed in these proposed regulations seem uncomfortably close to areas they’re designed to protect, and they’re accompanied by vague enforcement language. Won’t such a laissez-faire approach just invite less safety and more risk?
I’m troubled, too, when many people (including elected officials) willingly accept drillers’ assurances of safety. For me, their credibility sank after hearing that the industry hired the same public relations firm tobacco executives employed back in 1994: yes, the very ones who raised their hands at a congressional hearing, and under oath, stated “I believe that nicotine is not addictive”.
On that note, I’ll close by sharing 2 wise and very relevant proverbs: first, it seems the only thing we’ve learned from history is that we don’t learn from history at all, and second, humans come to their moment of clarity only through pain and humiliation. Sadly, their own, and not someone else’s. My hope is that these tendencies can be reversed in this crucial matter; and that wisdom, foresight, and courage will prevail over greed and expediency. Our land, our citizens…and…even mine operators, will be the better for it. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I <❤> Clean Water

We have an opportunity to join an environmental battle that we have a good chance to win. Help us restore protections to ALL the waters of the United States. Many organizations across the United States are working together to restore the Clean Water Act and we should join them.

In anticipation of EPA soon releasing a proposed rule to clarify Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands,  Clean Water Action we will be hosting a grassroots call next 
                                           Wednesday, January 22nd from 2-3pm ET.   
On this call  we will share the latest information on timing, provide an update on last month’s Science Advisory Board meetings on the Connectivity Report, and discuss campaign activities.  If you plan to participate, please RSVP to

The Clean Water Act broadly protected the waters of the United States until about ten years ago when two Supreme Court decisions left many small streams, wetlands, and headwaters unprotected. There have been many jurisdictional disputes regarding whether certain waters were connected with other waters. Also, many waters were drained, filled in, disturbed. 

Many of us have been working in recent years to restore protections to all “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) because we understand that all types of waters are connected. We know that our mighty rivers, large lakes, and oceans will in turn be cleaner and healthier.
Over the next year, we have a narrow but real window to advance a strong “water of the US” rule that will clarify and resolve which waters are connected and thus deserve protection. Our success depends upon establishing a strong scientific basis for broad jurisdiction and a broad and effective grassroots mobilization across the country. We know there will be pushback from the Farm Bureau, builders etc but we think we can prevail.

Barbara Benson, Water Issues co-chair

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Take Action Against Dirty Diesel Pollution

Alert: Your voice counts.
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Click this logo to go to PennFuture's website, which will open in a new browser window.You can stop dirty diesel pollution. On Tuesday, January 14, the Pennsylvania House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will vote on House Bill 1699, which would require pollution controls for dirty diesel engines that generate power for the electricity grid through demand response programs. HB 1699 would allow diesel units to continue participating in demand response programs — but only if they install commonsense pollution controls. The bill would protect public health from dangerous toxins and create greater opportunities for clean demand response.
What's good about this bill:
  • By requiring pollution controls, this bill would protect public health and limit dirty diesel pollution on some of the worst air quality days of the year.
  • This bill will protect opportunities for energy efficiency and energy conservation in the demand response market.
Who could be helped by this bill:
  • Clean energy and conservation businesses will benefit by closing this loophole that currently benefits dirty diesel engines.
  • Children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems will breathe easier with less pollution in the air.
What could happen without this bill: Dirty diesel engines will continue to spew toxic air pollution and dominate the demand response generation market, making the air dirtier and reducing opportunities for clean demand response.

Dirty diesel engines release three times more nitrogen oxides and particulate matter than the average coal plant, in addition to releasing toxic pollution like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, and methanol.

The number of diesel engines participating in demand response programs is growing, reducing opportunities for clean demand response such as energy conservation and energy efficiency.