Sierra Club
 

Release date: May 15, 2014 (Editor: Rick Nunno)

Results of the DC Mayoral and Council Election Primaries
(by Bob Summersgill)

The Sierra Club congratulates all of the primary winners from April 1. Endorsed Democratic candidates Phil Mendelson, Mary Cheh, and Kenyan McDuffie won their races easily as expected. New comer Charles Allen won his race with a comfortable margin of 58% to 42%. All four are expected to win in November.

Endorsed incumbent Jim Graham lost to challenger Brianne K. Nadeau 41% to 59%. Since coming around on Klingle Valley, Jim Graham has been with us on every vote. The margin that challenger and first-time candidate Brianne Nadeau won by was astonishing. We made the endorsement while Bryan Weaver was still in the race, and Graham's win seemed assured. Still, until the last few weeks, Graham seemed to be in the lead. Nadeau is very likely to win in November.

Endorsed challenger Nate Bennett Fleming did not perform well against incumbent Anita D. Bonds in the At-Large race. Bonds won with 53% to Bennett Fleming’s 22%. In the two seat race for at-large council member, the Democrat has never lost or even come in second. Bonds should win easily in November.

Numerous candidates are entering the At-Large race as independents essentially vying for second place after Bonds. The Sierra Club will look carefully at all of the At-Large candidates once candidates have filed. The Sierra Club did not make an endorsement in the mayoral race in the Democratic primary. We will decide on whether to make endorsements for mayor once the candidates have filed.

 

Member Profile:  Bob Summersgill 

Bob, ascending stairs of success
Bob Summersgill

Bob Summersgill, Chair of our chapter's political committee, has been very busy these past several months, working on coordinating our process for endorsing policital candidates (as described above) during a long and tumultuous political campaign season in DC. We finally got him to catch his breath and provide his info as the second installment of our Member Profile series.  Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Bob spent most of his formative years growing up in northern New Jersey. He went to George Washington University, graduating in 1988 with a major in computers and information systems, and minors in philosophy and mathematics.  He currently resides in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, where he is an ANC representative (elected in November 2010, and re-elected in 2012). Here are his responses to our questionnaire:

  • How and when did you first get involved in the DC chapter of Sierra Club? 

In 2006, I went to a volunteer night and stuffed envelopes. I learned more about the club and how to get involved.

  • Has the club changed since you joined?

We don't stuff many envelopes now. It is mostly just email.

  • Which volunteer activities have you been involved with?

I have been involved with the Political Committee since 2007. I arranged for a few meetings with D.C. Councilmembers to encourage passage of the Community Renewable Energy Act, which eventually passed unanimously. As a member and now chair of the political committee, I have been involved with meeting and endorsing council and mayoral candidates.

  • What is your favorite part of the club? Maybe you'd like to describe a particularly cherished memory of the Club?

I appreciate the clout and respect that the Sierra Club name carries. It is something to live up to.

  • What do you work on outside of the Sierra Club? (include employment and civic/volunteer work)

I work for the Transportation research Board of the National Academy of Sciences, where I work with association management databases and other administrative work.  I am also an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (more on that below). I am very involved with Casey trees. I am a Citizen Forester and a Tree Advocate.

  • Are there any issues that you are currently involved with as an ANC rep that you can talk about?

ANC 3F (representing part of Cleveland Park neighborhood) recently voted against the historic preservation designation for the Intelsat Building on Connecticut Ave. At 30 years old, it is too soon, and the suburban design is a poor fit for our neighborhood. We did decide, however, that the UDC Student Center will be LEED Platinum certified. ANC 3F has pushed to require parking lots to have permeable surfaces to reduce waste-water run-off. The 100 year old sewer line running through Soapstone Creek Valley (a trail in Rock Creek Park off of Albermarle St. near Van Ness) must be updated. The new plan will significantly reduce the loss of trees in the Rock Creek tributary (part of Broad Branch).

  • How about your personal life? Are you married or single? Any children? any other hobbies or interests?

I am single. I have a boyfriend and he has a little dog. I am an avid bike rider and I have just taken up unicycling.

  • What environmental activist, from past or present, inspires you the most?

My father has planted more than 10,000 trees and has been involved with saving the American Chestnut tree from extinction.

  • What advice would you give to new people looking to get involved with the Sierra Club?

The Club takes on projects that are the interests of a member. Become the advocate for an issue and get the club to follow.

  • What is your motto in life?  

Where did I leave my phone?

 

Reject and Protect:  Communities Unite to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline
(by Courtenay Lewis, Sierra Club National, Tar Sands Campaign Representative)

Thousands of supporters rallied on the Mall on April 26
Reject and Protect Rally 2014

A criticism sometimes leveled at "environmentalists" is that we care more about trees than people. Perhaps we unwittingly reinforce this stereotype-we sometimes use images of burning globes to symbolize climate change and the consequences of fossil fuel development -- when in fact, for many climate and energy campaigns, working to protect human livelihoods and rights is a fundamental motivation. Too often we fail to put faces to the individuals who suffer as a direct consequence of a society addicted to fossil fuels, and those who are bravely fighting corporations and sometimes even governments to protect their land, water, and communities. However, Reject and Protect was an inspiring weeklong event in which human faces took center stage. From April 22-27, farmers, ranchers, and members of tribal communities along the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route, as well as First Nation representatives whose communities are being devastated by tar sands development in Canada, came to Washington, D.C., and set up an encampment on the National Mall.

American Indian Tribes marching with ranchers and environmental advocates in front of the U.S. Capitol
Reject and Protect rally 2014-2

With the aim of showing the Obama administration the faces of people who would be affected by Keystone XL, the "Cowboy Indian Alliance" led a week of actions which included an opening ceremony with ranchers and tribal leaders on horseback, daily water ceremonies, and a march and ceremonial tipi gifting ceremony which was joined by thousands of people on Saturday April 26. The Sierra Club's Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska chapters and partners including Idle No More held solidarity events that same day in Oklahoma City and Lincoln, Nebraska, featuring landowner and tribal representatives who are playing leadership roles in the fight against Keystone XL. This week also marked a Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle spiritual encampment in Green Grass, South Dakota, where Native nations came together to pray for communities living at the source of tar sands development. Speakers included Sundance Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Wizipan Little Elk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, young Nebraska rancher Meghan Hammond, and other representatives of the communities that would be the hardest hit by Keystone XL, who emphasized that the pipeline plan threatens communities' land, water, and tribal rights. Actress Daryl Hannah also attended and marched in support of the communities participating in Reject and Protect

Reject and Protect rally 2014-3

At the event and throughout the week, speakers called on President Obama to reject Keystone XL and other tar sands projects, and on Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper to honor Canada's treaties with First Nation communities, many of whom oppose tar sands development on their lands. They stressed the cultural and ecological devastation that tar sands development is already having in Canada --impacts that cannot be measured. "You can't put a price on the sacred," said Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sundance Chief Rueben George. For a week, the Cowboy Indian Alliance altered the iconic landscape of the nation's capital with stark white tipis standing proudly on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, and traffic was occasionally brought to a standstill by Reject and Protect marches and ceremonies. Although the tipis have now come down, the influence of those who participated in the week will only grow. For more details and photos of the event, see http://sierraclub.typepad.com/planet/2014/04/reject-and-protect-communities-unite-to-stop-keystone-xl.html.

 

Time for the Senate to pass Shaheen-Portman – without Keystone XL
(by Lena Moffit)

Hurricane Sandy batters the Brooklyn coast
Hurricane Sandy

It’s ironic—on the same day a massive report is released detailing the increasingly severe impacts of climate change on the U.S., the Senate will likely sink a common-sense energy efficiency bill by weighing it down with partisan, anti-environmental, anti-climate riders.

The National Wildlife Federation supports passage of the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency legislation (S. 2262) because it would be a logical step in the right direction – promoting measures to improve the efficiency of our buildings, reducing pollution, and saving consumers money. A win-win-win. The bill would even create quite a few jobs, while we’re at it! It would also help protect our wildlife and their habitat by slowing emissions of climate-disrupting pollutants.

The lead authors of the bill have even gone out of their way, over the course of the bill’s multi-year slog through the Senate, to engage supporters from both sides of the aisle, garnering 62 cosponsors on this latest iteration – enough to pass the bill! That is, if a vote were to occur right now, on the legislation itself.

But no. To allow this broadly supported, win-win-win legislation to even be considered, some in the Senate are demanding a separate vote on a bill to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, as well as votes on several anti-environment riders to Shaheen-Portman. Some of these riders would directly undermine the administration’s ability to combat climate change – by gutting regulations to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, our largest source of CO2. Another possible amendment would bar federal agencies from considering the “social cost of carbon” when conducting environmental reviews of major projects – barring them, essentially, from considering the climate costs of the projects under review.

Sandhill cranes are one of the many species that are impacted by tar sands development. Photo by Myrna Erler Bradshaw.

Sandhill cranes are one of the many species that are impacted by tar sands development. Photo by Myrna Erler Bradshaw.

It’s unclear exactly how this will play out in the Senate, but one thing is clear – it’s simply ridiculous to undermine the benefits of this positive legislation by tying its passage to harmful riders or paired legislation, all to score political points. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, if constructed, would add the equivalent carbon pollution to the atmosphere every year as adding 5.7 million new cars to the road every year. That’s clearly a step in the wrong direction. Right now, we need the support of Senator Franken (D-MN), Senator Carper (D-DE), and Senator Bennet (D-CO) to ensure the Senate doesn’t ram through this approval of the polluting Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as ransom for the consideration of the Shaheen-Portman bill. Call, email, or tweet at them right now!

As the National Climate Assessment makes clear today – we simply cannot wait to address the impacts of climate change. They’re here, and they’re getting worse. For the sake of our wildlife, our communities, and our planet, I hope the Senate can see pass the short-term gains of political grandstanding for at least a day – and pass this common-sense legislation without climate-harming riders. Enough is enough.

 

DC Events in Environmental Policy

As a policy-wonk city, DC is full of seminars and other events related to national environmental policy.  For example, the Environmental and energy Study Institute, based in DC, held a briefing on April 22 (Earth Day) about recycling at the local level, with an emphasis on four types of recycling:  curbside, compost/organics, building deconstruction/reuse, and electronic waste.  Members of the panel discussed the environmental and economic benefits of recycling and ways to increase recycling in our homes, businesses, and communities.  To obtain copies of the presentations and to view a video recording of the event, see http://www.eesi.org/042214recycling.

Another recent seminar was held on April 30 by Ourenergypolicy.org and the University of Texas at Austin to discuss American Perspectives on Energy Efficiency. A panel of thought-leaders in government, academia, and industry shared their ideas and expectations for the future. They presented results from a survey of the American public and energy professionals that indicate the most trusted source of information is the academic and scientific community, followed by environmental groups. The least trusted are the business community and oil and gas companies. They discussed the need for continued development of building codes as well as energy appliance and system standards to foster energy efficiency. With its heavily urban landscape and abundance of government buildings, DC would be a good place to apply some of these ideas.  Presentations and an online continuation of the discussion (as well as many other discussions on environmental topics) can be seen at http://www.ourenergypolicy.org/.

 

Apply Now for the District of Columbia's 2013-2014 Green Roof Rebate Program

The District of Columbia’s 2013-14 Green Roof Rebate Program offers rebates for green roof projects located within the District of Columbia.  The rebate ranges from $7 to $15 per square foot of green roof. This rebate is based on the type of building and the location within DC. Green roof rebates are available for both existing buildings and new construction.  To qualify for the rebate, the green roof must be located within the District of Columbia and retain at least one inch of stormwater. While new construction projects, and major renovations over 5,000 square feet, must first meet the stormwater permitting requirements, any green roof area that exceeds the stormwater permitting requirement can be eligible for the rebate. In addition, a Structural Engineering Rebate of up to $250 is available for existing buildings smaller than 2,500 square feet.

For more information and to apply, please go to: http://www.anacostiaws.org/green-roofs or contact us a 301-699-6204 ext.108 or via e-mail at greenroofs@anacostiaws.org. The Anacostia Watershed Society is administering the rebate program for the District of Columbia Department of the Environment. 

Take action to pass clean energy legislation for DC

The DC Council passed a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) in 2005 to encourage clean energy use in the city. Unfortunately, some of the energy sources that qualify as "renewable" aren't so renewable. Currently, "black liquor," a byproduct of the pulp and paper industry, qualifies as a renewable energy source under the law -- even though the carbon content of black liquor is comparable to coal.

The good news is that the DC Council is considering a bill to fix this problem and clean up our energy supply. "The Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Amendment Act of 2013," introduced by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Mary Cheh, would remove black liquor from qualifying as a renewable fuel, paving the way for more truly renewable energy sources, like wind, to power our city.

Promoting real sources of clean energy like wind and solar has the potential to bring thousands of new jobs to the Mid-­Atlantic region. And, if DC removes black liquor from its RPS, wind energy could make up 70% of our renewable energy portfolio by 2020.

Sign the petition to the DC Council members urging them to pass the "Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Amendment Act of 2013" to bring more clean energy to DC!

 

Article on McMillan Park Hearings

An article was published in the May 9 edition of The InTowner newspaper on a series of hearings held recently by the DC Zoning Commission on the planned commercial development of McMillan Park.  Critical questions were raised over environmental and aesthetic concerns regarding the developer's plans.  One concern is that the significant portion of impervious surfaces that would be created under the development plan, plus the destruction of all but one of the underground cells, would lead to increased runoff during rainstorms, along with increased flooding in the nearby neighborhoods of Bloomingdale and Ledroit Park.  Another concern was the likelihood of increased automobile traffic that would be generated by the commercial development (without any plans for building a Metro line or any serious consideration of streetcars to the area).  Others include aesthetic concerns over plans for the large, "ugly" medical office building, and the lack of affordable housing in the plan.  For further details, see article at http://intowner.com/2014/05/09/developers-plan-for-historic-mcmillan-park-site-vigorously-questioned-during-hearings-serious-community-issues-said-unaddressed/.  The Sierra Club remains opposed to the current plan based on its lack of sufficient green space.


Committee Activity 

The Energy Committee

In April, the D.C. Sierra Club and the Grid 2.0 Working Group (an energy services reform advocacy group) filed a Request for Reconsideration of the Public Service Commissions (PSC) Opinion (Order #17424) of March 26, 2014 in the Matter of the Application of Potomac Electric Power Company to Increase Existing Retail Rates and Charges for Electric Distribution Services (Formal Case No. 1103).  The PSC Order allowed Pepco to increase its rates by approximately $23.4 million.  Pepco had sought, among other things, to increase its rates by approximately $52.1 million.  PSC declined to take immediate action on any of our recommendations in the case (which began in March 2013).  We asked PSC to reconsider its decision based on the following points.  As argued in our legal briefs, the DC Clean and Affordable Energy Act (CAEA) required PSC to use environmental standards in its regulation of Pepco, including the rates Pepco charges its customers.  We argued that the conditions on which just and reasonable rates are evaluated have changed with the adoption of CAEA, and that granting a rate increase without a comprehensive planning effort to address global warming and other environmental quality issues does not comply with CAEA.  We argued that PSC did not properly consider the conservation of natural resources and the preservation of environmental quality when deliberating about the merits of Pepcos proposed rate increase.

The public and environmental health effects of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, the consequent threat from global warming, and the disruptions associated with a warming climate (e.g. storms, flooding) are now well understood as a significant threat to environmental quality, the distribution system and the public safety.   PSC ’s decisions and Pepco’s subsequent actions to address environmental quality issues have been lacking in speed and scale and have not led to a comprehensive planning effort to mitigate global warming and its impacts or the interrelated deficiencies in the reliability and resiliency of Pepco's distribution grid.   Rates cannot be just and reasonable until a coordinated response to improve grid capacity for efficiency, conservation, and renewables is employed. 

Further, we disagreed with PSC that the "reliability enhancement/construction projects and program categories included in the Construction Program Report appear to be reasonable." Pepco has the burden of proof to demonstrate that a proposed project is reasonable. The mere appearance of reasonableness is not legally sufficient proof.  In addition, we argued that those projects cannot be just and reasonable because they are based on a fundamentally flawed strategic approach to distribution system planning and investment that do not appropriately factor in opportunity costs.  The record shows that Pepco’s distribution system is not performing as it should, and Pepco’s plans are outdated and do not incorporate necessary best practices of other utilities throughout the region, country, and world, which would highlight innovative and cutting-edge technologies used by other jurisdictions that could be successfully incorporated into Pepco’s grid improvement plan.  Pepco should meet the articulated needs of ratepayers and address society’s environmental challenges.  

PSC stated in its Opinion and Order that it "will take under advisement Sierra Club/Grid 2.0’s proposal for a Workgroup..." We had argued that PSC should create a Workgroup that is tasked with developing a Strategic Investment Plan for comprehensive grid reliability and modernization including recommended actions. Reliability investments and improvements to the grid can be incorporated into this and future rate cases. In addition, PSC should place more requirements on the revision of Pepco’s Blueprint for the Future. PSC should set specific requirements and goals to guide Pepco, including wide stakeholder participation to maximize the benefit of ratepayer and utility investments; the responsible deployment of distribution system equipment and infrastructure;the reliability and resilience of the distribution grid; the effective incorporation of distributed renewable energy; and the promotion of rates and services that meet the need for energy services in the District. For further details on this activity, contact Larry Martin at lmartindc@gmail.com

The Smart Growth Committee - contact Payton Chung at payton@westnorth.com for information on ongoing activities. The committee's next meeting will be held Tuesday, June 3, at 7 p.m. at the Sierra Club Office.

The Zero-waste Committee  

On May 7, the DC Chapter's Zero Waste Committee, along with several other environmental advocacy organizations, sent a letter to DC Mayor Vincent Gray, expressing concern about the Solid Waste Management Study ("Study") currently being conducted by the DC Department of Public Works (DPW).  In December 2012, DPW had been awarded $300,000 under the Sustainable DC Budget Challenge to study "the costs and benefits of establishing a waste‐to‐energy conversion facility within the District." At the insistence of many of the same organizations, the Study was modified in March 2013 to produce several scenarios for solid waste management that are consistent with Mayor Gray’s goals of achieving zero waste by 2032.

Regrettably, detailed information recently acquired by the Sierra Club through a FOIA request with the Energy Justice Network (see here) and through participation in public meetings revealed that the Study is not moving the City any closer to zero waste.  The joint letter urges the Gray Administration to take a more holistic approach to the costs and benefits of different waste management options, as well as to comply with the zero-waste hierarchy (which prioritizes waste diversion before consideration of landfill or incineration), and to commit to meaningful public input and engagement. The letter criticized the Study’s failure to consider the broader environmental and social benefits of reuse, recycling and composting by neglecting to consider how it conserves resources and/or generates employment. Moreover, the Study not only includes incineration as an option for waste management but fails to treat it as a last resort, even though "incinerators are the most expensive and polluting ways to manage waste." The letter further criticized the Gray Administration for failing to provide easily understandable presentations that are conducive to public feedback at their recent public meetings on the Study. The Study is currently being finalized by DPW and their consultants and will then be presented to the DC Council for their consideration. The Sierra Club hopes that with this letter, the Mayor and DPW will work to address their current flawed approach to improving waste management in the District.  For further details on this activity, contact Hana Heineken at  hheineken@gmail.com


Other Upcoming Events/Activities

Following is a selection of upcoming chapter events. For complete listings and details, visit our calendar. To RSVP or for more information, email washingtondc.chapter@sierraclub.org or call 202-548-4581. 

Sierra Club Outings Leader Training Workshop - Wednesday, May 21, 2014.  Join us for a Sierra Club Outings Leader Training workshop designed to welcome new (and seasoned) outdoor leaders who want to connect people to the outdoors. This workshop is focused on the interpersonal skills associated with outdoor leadership. These "softer" skills are vital to being a successful leader. These skills include learning how to manage your group, how to create a positive group dynamic, and how to practice a safety-based planning and delivery of your outing. Every participant should come back "Safe, Happy, and Inspired."  This workshop will fulfill the Sierra Club's OLT 101 and OLT 201 requirements, which is one of the requirements for being a Sierra Club leader. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Melanie MacInnis (of Sierra Club Outdoors). basic first aid class  on May 22 for 10 people (max). Participants will learn to recognize and treat life threatening emergencies and care for a variety of first aid emergencies, such as burns, cuts and scrapes, sudden illnesses, head, neck and back injuries, and heat and cold emergencies. This does not include CPR.

Congressional Climate Rally, Wednesday, May 21, 4 - 5:15 p.m., in Upper Senate Park on Capitol Grounds.  Join us for a climate rally in Upper Senate Park on the Capitol Grounds.  Several Members of Congress, including Senators Whitehouse and Boxer, will be speaking about various aspects of climate change (e.g. how climate change affects their community, public health concerns, threats to future generations, EPA’s carbon pollution standards for power plants).  The theme is “Time to Wake Up” and the speakers will be inviting rally attendees to set off alarm clocks and apps at 5 p.m. as a wake-up call to Congress.  

Next Zero Waste Committee meeting, Thursday, May 22, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., at the Sierra Club DC office at 50 F St NW, 8th Floor.  Contact Hana Heineken at  hheineken@gmail.com if interested in attending.   

DC Green Festival - Saturday, May 31 to Sunday, June 1, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  For further details, see http://www.greenfestivals.org/wdc. Sierra Club volunteers are needed to help staff our table!  If you're interested in volunteering, please email washingtondc.chapter@sierraclub.org.

Next Smart Growth Committee Meeting, Tuesday, June 3, 7:00 p.m., at the Sierra Club DC office at 50 F St NW, 8th Floor. Contact Payton Chung at lists@westnorth.com. 

Capital Pride, Saturday, June 7 to Sunday, June 8, downtown D.C. Sierra Club is happy to team up and support Capital Pride again in 2014. More information and sign up to volunteer here.

Corruption, war and timber: First-hand accounts of illegal logging in Liberia and Peru, Tuesday, June 10, 6:00 p.m., at Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St NW. Join the Sierra Club for a discussion about the impacts of illegal logging around the world and how the US Lacey Act can help combat trade in illegally-harvested timber. Refreshments will be provided. 

 

For more information about volunteering, or to RSVP for an event, please email  washingtondc.chapter@sierraclub.org or call 202-548-4581.

Looking for a hike or other outdoor adventure? 

Click here to learn more about regional Sierra Club offerings.

 

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