Fri, 28 April 2006
Last night (April 27, 2006), PennFuture hosted a special premier of the new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," which starkly shows the reality of global warming and the need to take action now to prevent a catastrophe. After the movie was shown, former Vice-President Al Gore joined the audience for a question-and-answer session about global warming.
PennFuture staff will be blogging today about the experience of being with more than 200 of Pennsylvania's environmental leaders, discussing global warming action.
Category:Global Warming -- posted at: 5:22 AM
Thu, 20 April 2006
Pennsylvania's State Capitol is under siege. Mercury polluters are working the halls of the legislature to stop Pennsylvania from cutting this toxic pollution by 90 percent, even though mercury threatens the health of women and babies. You will hear exactly how in this podcast with expert Dr. Ted Schettler. We felt we needed to run this one again because it is so critical.
One would hope that lobbyists for mercury polluters would have gotten a cold reception from our legislators. But so far, too many elected members have rolled out the welcome mat to those companies that pump thousands of pounds of highly toxic mercury into our air, water and into us. The power companies not only pump mercury into our environment; they also pump lots of toxic dollars into the coffers of politicians.
Of course -- we can hear the politicians saying -- all that cash did not influence one legislator. Perish the thought.
But something made 121 House members and a number of senators of both parties initially agree to sponsor two companion bills, HB 2610 and SB 1201, which the lobbyists for power companies desperately want.
These bills would stop Pennsylvania from adopting a regulation requiring power plants to cut their toxic mercury pollution by 90 percent in order to protect women and their babies from exposure to high levels of mercury contamination. The bills prohibit Pennsylvania from moving ahead with its own rule and require the Commonwealth to settle for the illegal federal mercury regulation - which Pennsylvania and 13 other states have sued to stop.
In 2004, Pennsylvania power plants were the second biggest mercury polluters in the country, with only Texas' power plants spewing more. In
In reality, these bills guarantee that Pennsylvania power plants will NOT reduce their mercury pollution by 86 percent because many of the plants will buy mercury allowances under the illegal federal trading scheme, instead of installing available, affordable pollution control technology.
Trading is especially dangerous for a toxic substance like mercury, as communities near the power plants will continue to be exposed to unacceptably high levels of mercury contamination. The "opportunity to participate in a national emissions trading program for mercury..." is actually an opportunity to continue to be slowly poisoned at our own expense.
Mercury pollution controls are available and very affordable, as a Department of Energy official acknowledged last Friday on the public television show "Pennsylvania Inside Out" on WPSU. On the show, Tom Feely III of the National Energy Technology Laboratory said, "There is existing technology that has already proven to be able to take mercury out... That technology is relatively inexpensive on a capital cost basis compared to a scrubber... We don't anticipate -- just looking at some back of the envelope calculations that we've done -- that there would be a significant increase in electric utility rates."
During the last election cycle the utilities and the Chamber fertilized the political ground with at least $804,000 in campaign contributions. They are now reaping the harvest of that generosity.
But then, again, one would think that few legislators would relish going into the election season with their names on a bill that weakens protection for our most vulnerable citizens and draws the ire of Pennsylvania sportsmen and women.
The legislators who signed onto this bill made a political calculation in an election year, ranking the desires of the polluters above the public health of their constituents. The losers in the calculation are Pennsylvania's women and babies, the real casualties of the Siege of Capitol Hill.
Take action! Contact your legislators now to voice your dismay at these bills and your support for the DEP rule on mercury.
Fri, 14 April 2006
It seems like all the news about global warming these days is doom and gloom. Why not enjoy it? Composer, educator, and performer Julia Haines shares her satirical take on global warming with PennFuture's Joy Bergey. Beware: this song has a way of getting stuck in your head. But maybe that's a good thing. Because we can't afford to forget what's at stake. A little humor can go a long way.
Lyrics for "Let's Enjoy Global Warming While It's Fun!" (music by Julia Haines, lyrics by Marian Mackenzie with Julia Haines, copyright 1999 Ahowl Productions):
Let's enjoy global warming while it's fun.
Oh we'll have such a jolly holiday
Who cares if oceans rise, Or the ice cap shrinks and dries,
Let's invest in global warming while we may
Oh Greenland will be green, And Queen Maud land so serene,
Let's enjoy global warming here and now,
Let's enjoy global warming while it's fun!
Hey, it's better than nuclear winter...
Wed, 12 April 2006
In late March, residents and local municipal officials in southeastern Pennsylvania were invited to attend a seminar on global warming. The seminar was designed to helo local officials create and, more importantly, implement local action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (the primary cause of global warming) in their communities. Communities who are doing so are finding collateral benefits of improved health and growing local economies. In this podcast, PennFuture's Joy Bergey explores a variety of strategies with speakers at the seminar and the seminar sponsor, State Representative Greg Vitali (D-PA 166).
Jim Yienger, Director of the ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability) USA Policy Institute, talks about the Cities for Climate Protection program. More than 700 cities have signed on; in Pennsylvania, only Philadelphia and West Chester are part of the program so far. With 18 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions represented by the 700 participating cities, it will be a significant positive impact on the problem when full implementation is achieved. Each city creates an action plan that links climate change mitigation with actions that improve local air quality, reduce local governments' operating costs, and address other existing municipal concerns.
Joy next talks with Dan Desmond, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Energy and Technology Development with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Pennsylvania has great capacity for becoming one of the nation's leaders in biofuels and biodiesel. Both offer benefits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for improving Pennsylvania's economy.
Kim Lundgren serves as the Northeast Regional Director for ICLEI, and she expands on the role that local government plays in reducing global warming. Kim is responsible for supporting 60 local governments within the region on implementing climate change prevention policies and programs. Additionally, she manages various grant programs that are focused on Northeast communities and sustainability and furthers the network of greenhouse gas emission reductions within this region.
Finally, Joy talks with Rep. Vitali, who believes that the future for making real progress in combating climate change, especially in light of the lack of leadership at the national level, lies with state and local governments. Rep. Vitali introduced legislation with bipartisan support from 49 co-sponsors, aimed at assessing Pennsylvania's contribution to global warming. The bill, called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, would require that the state report on global warming impacts and economic opportunities; conduct an inventory of Pennsylvania's greenshouse gas emissions; and create a plan of action for the Department of Environmental Protection.
On the other side of the state, Sierra Club just announced that it is initiating a campaign in Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh called "Cool City, Cool County." The goal is to get Pittsburgh and the county to take action to reduce their contributions to global warming, and to adhere to the limits set forth in the Kyoto Treaty. For more information on the campaign and how you can get involved, contact Rachel Martin at the Sierra Club in Pittsburgh.
PennFuture has a statewide campaign called CoolPennsylvania, aimed at battling Pennsylvania's contributions to global warming at the state level. With nearly 150 endorsing organizations (and growing!) including houses of worship, businesses, and non-profits, CoolPennsylvania has already achieved one critical goal: passing Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Your participation is encouraged. You can join the campaign as an endorsing organization, or become one of the more than 1000 citizens across the state who has signed a petition to Governor Rendell to take action on global warming. To stay up to date on campaign actions and ways you can help, join our list-serve.
Mon, 10 April 2006
In this podcast, PennFuture's Christine Knapp explores strategies for sustainable waste management at the fourth Urban Sustainability Forum, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Revisioning Waste Management in Philadelphia." The strategies discussed can be (and are being) employed all over, with success.
Christine speaks first with Maurice Sampson, Chair of Recycle Now Philadelphia and President of Niche Recycling and Waste Reduction Systems, a business providing professional services from policy development to implementation for solid waste management, recycling, and recycling market development. Though the national average for recycling participation rates is 24 percent, in Philadelphia, it is only five percent. Sampson believes the most important thing citizens can do to change that is to talk to elected officials and candidates at every opportunity about the type of program they desire.
Next she talks with Linda Knapp (no relation) Senior Program Manager at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, based in Washington, D.C. ILSR works to help community development organizations, small businesses and government agencies increase productive employment, recover increasing amounts of valuable recycled materials and products, save environmental resources, and lower operating costs. Linda talks about deconstruction, which is the systematic dis-assembly of abandoned buildings to recover materials like lumber, bricks, and other architectural salvage materials. Money generated from this recovery is used to support new local industry and job creation.
Christine then speaks with Ron Gonen, founder of RecycleBank. RecycleBank is incentive-based recycling, where participants are literally rewarded for recycling-- the more recycled, the more "RecycleBank Dollars" a participant receives, to spend at local businesses. The pilot project in several Philadelphia neighborhoods resulted in a participation rate of 90 percent, with the average household recycling 20-25 pounds per week of materials. The project is underway in many communities in southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Gonen advises that if people want this in their community, they need only recall that this is "government for the people, by the people." In other words: demand it!
Finally, Christine chats with Betsy Teutsch, one of the moderators of Philadelphia's "chapter" of Freecycle. Freecycle is an online network of people listing items (the sky's the limit) that they want to give to other people-- for free. The main rule is that if you want to get something or give something, it has to be for free. Betsy recounts some of the more creative things she's seen on the list and given herself. Freecycle lists exist for nearly 3500 communities. People find things they want and need, and keep lots of things out of the waste stream. It's a win-win!
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