Release date: March 13, 2013 (Editor: Rick Nunno)
Big Turnout for the Forward on Climate Rally
(by Jane Huff, newsletter editor of the Montgomery County Group of the Maryland Sierra Club Chapter)
On Sunday, February 17, nearly 40,000 people rallied on the Mall in Washington, DC for the Forward on Climate Rally. Said to be the largest demonstration on climate in U.S. history, this rally was intended to remind President Barack Obama that the time to deal with the climate crisis is now. A crowd of Sierra Club members, including enthusiastic groups from Maryland, Virginia and DC, joined participants from all over the country and from many other environmental organizations, including NRDC, CCAN, Citizens Climate Lobby, Center for Biological Diversity, Green America, the League of Conservation Voters, members of indigenous tribes from Canada and students from numerous colleges.
Despite the cold and biting wind the crowd listened enthusiastically from noon to 1 p.m. to speeches asking for a reduction in fossil fuel use, particularly shale oil, and support for renewable energy. We need to turn the corner on climate change. That means rejecting the toxic Keystone XL pipeline, saying no to dangerous drilling in our pristine Arctic Ocean and banning fracking on public lands and safeguarding water and air during fracking. A number of the Maryland participants held up toy windmills that were part of the Offshore Wind demonstration a few days earlier in Annapolis. After the speeches, the crowd marched along Constitution Avenue and around the White House. Although the President was on vacation, we hope he got the message.
Subsequently, President Obama updated his Facebook status to read, "We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science—and act before it's too late." We couldn't agree more.
Ride the 82 Streetcar from Downtown DC to Maryland - Take a Moment to Step into the Past
Below is a link to a video recorded in the late 1950s of the old DC Transit 82 streetcar running from 5th and G St. (near what is now WMATA headquarters) and passing through Eckington, Woodridge, Mt. Rainier, all the way to College Park. Notice how lovely and quiet DC was with fewer cars and public transportation. The DC streetcar system closed in 1962. Some of the routes shown in this video were closed in 1958. Maybe seeing this beautiful remnant from the past will encourage DC residents to demand that the city move forward on its streetcar initiative.
Potomac Polar Bear Plunge - A Big Success
|DC Sierra Clubbers (left to right): Paul Coraggio, Kirk Longstein, Philip Goo, Brenna Muller, Craig Segall, Andrew Burton, Michelle Cohen - all survived the plunge!
"Team Sierra Club" raised $2,122 for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN)'s 8th annual Polar Bear Plunge on January 27, held at the National Harbor. Half of the total amount raised benefits the DC Chapter and the other half benefits CCAN.
DC Chapter Joins with VA Chapter in Letter Writing Campaign
On February 5, DC Chapter volunteers met with members of Sierra Club's Virginia Chapter to learn about the ongoing efforts among VA volunteers to submit letters to the editor, or LTEs, in response to climate and environmental articles published in various local and national newspapers. Self labeled "the Truth Squad," the VA volunteers have been submitting about 20 LTEs per month and have gotten dozens of them published in the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and several local newspapers. We join our brethren in Virginia in the effort to counter false and misleading statements made in public venues such, and set the facts right. If you're interested in getting involved with this effort, contact Rick Nunno (firstname.lastname@example.org).
DC's Zoning Code May
Get an Environmentally-Friendly Facelift
(by Ryan Crowley, Chair, DC Sierra Club Transportation Committee)
What do wonky terms like parking minimums, accessory dwelling units, and Green Area
Ratios have anything to do with the DC Sierra Club's mission to advocate for a
cleaner, greener, healthier Nation’s Capital? Plenty, it turns out. The
chapter's transportation committee has been following the overhaul of the
city's zoning code - a big, confusing, brick of a document that lays out rules
for real estate developers, city planners, and anyone else seeking to change
the District's landscape.
Over the last few years, the District's Office of Planning has been working to craft an update to the outdated, archaic, automobile-focused zoning code, with the intent to move the city towards a future of improved health, environmental sustainability, and a variety of transportation options. It’s cut out the parts that are stuck in the first half of the 20th century, such as guidelines for telegram operators and penny arcades, and added cutting-edge provisions for
environmentally-friendly innovations, like green roofs and roof-top solar
panels. Below is a brief rundown of some
of the highlights and what the chapter has recommended to the city:
- Affordable, diverse housing options: Ensuring access to
affordable housing is a vital goal, especially in a city experiencing historic population
growth and a heightened demand for housing. According to one estimate, the
District will need over 122,000 new housing units by 2030 (see http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/16470/washingtons-economic-future-depends-on-more-housing/). The zoning update seeks to
address this problem by permitting residences with extra space to make such
dwellings available for rent. Encouraging such "accessory dwelling units" like
a basement apartment or converted garage, would diversify the housing stock,
give options to homeowners with surplus space, and relieve the need for more
rental housing while reducing the need to develop and build additional housing
- Update car and bicycle parking requirements: The code would also lift mandates for on-site parking for new
buildings. This would encourage more transit use, walking, cycling in
high-density areas; reduce automobile traffic; reduce costs associated with
parking construction, and free up space that would otherwise be
developed/designated for parking stock. It would make housing more affordable,
as each structured parking space adds about $63,000 to the cost of a home and
each parking space increases it by 12.5%. The chapter strongly
supports the elimination of so-called “parking minimums” throughout the
District for all new and rehabilitated buildings. At the very least, we believe
parking minimums should be eliminated from downtown areas, residential
buildings with fewer than 10 units, and commercial and mixed-use zones in close
proximity to frequent bus or rail service. The zoning code also establishes requirements for long- and
short-term bicycle parking as well as shower and changing areas in certain
commercial buildings. With more people commuting to work by bike, and Capital
Bikeshare stations springing up all over the city, cycling in the District is
exploding, and the zoning code needs to evolve to meet the needs of bikers old
- Fresh food around the corner: The new zoning code would improve
access to corner stores – such as small grocery stores – by lifting the
restrictions on certain types of retail in residential areas far away from
commercial strips. This provision could reduce shopping trips by car,
strengthen access to fresh food, and reduce unnecessary development in areas
overladen with shops. The chapter has supported restrictions on the kind of
corner stores permitted, such as dry cleaners that may emit polluting
- Green roofs, solar panels and more: To help reduce air pollution and stormwater runoff, and improve
the environmental richness of the urban landscape, certain new and/or renovated
buildings would be required to meet an environmental sustainability measure called a "green area ratio." This can be
achieved by including green roofs, grassy spaces, stormwater treatment, more
landscaping and tree cover and other environmental elements in the site. The
Sierra Club strongly supports the GAR requirement and recommends that the
zoning update include enforcement mechanisms to ensure that this important
provision is implemented.
As the District faces ongoing
renewal and growth, the DC chapter believes that the zoning code must
evolve to meet the needs of lifelong residents and new arrivals, the young and
the old, and those living east of the river and west of the river. The
zoning code will be finalized in the coming months, so if you’d like to help
push for an environmentally-friendly and sustainable Washington, I encourage
you to attend one of the transportation committee meetings, held the first
Tuesday of every month at the Sierra Club offices at 50 F St. NW, 8th
McMillan Park - An Update
(by Hugh Youngblood, DC Chapter member)
The District's McMillan Sand Filtration Site, part of McMillan Park, which was featured in an article in the December 2012 Capital Seirran (McMIllan Park Planning), was added to the National Register of Historic Places in February 2013. Although this designation constitutes
real progress towards the preservation of this unique place in the District,
McMillan now faces new pressures. DC
Water will soon begin using some of the underground sand filtration cells at
McMillan as part of a temporary storm water infrastructure program to abate
recurring local sewage overflows. In
addition, the City and its development partners have begun presenting a revised
commercial development proposal for the historic landmark Sand Filtration Site.
Locally-organized educational tours of
the Site are still prohibited by the District government.
Even as local Sierra Club members
and others concerned about McMillan Park celebrate the National Register victory,
they are watching carefully new storm water infrastructure developments planned
for the Sand Filtration Site. Since
December 2012, the Site has become the target of efforts by the DC Water and Sewer Authority to avert
the recurring catastrophic sewage backflow events experienced by the
Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods just south of the Site. After the
streets and basements of these neighborhoods repeatedly filled with a dangerous
mixture of raw sewage and storm water during torrential rains last summer when
storm surges exceeded the capacity of the combined sewer and storm water
system, McMillan activists approached DC Water, the independent agency that provides
sewer and water services to the District, to ask if the huge, idle water
treatment cells located beneath the Site could be placed into service for storm
water retention. DC Water was impressed with the possibility of diverting storm
water (NOT sewage) into the McMillan's underground cells during major storms and
releasing that water back into the combined sewer system thereafter. DC Water
presented a conceptual design proposal to the District Council during a
November 15 Council hearing on the catastrophic water
infrastructure failures. The Council then instructed DC Water to present a specific
implementation plan within 30 days. On a
cold December 7 , Mayor Gray broke ground at the Site on the DC
Water sewage backflow abatement plan, which has two phases.
one would identify two suitable underground cells at the Sand Filtration Site
in which to store diverted storm water during major storms for release after
the storm. That phase has already begun
with minimal damage to the Site. Phase
two of the program would request permission to demolish two underground cells
in the southern area of the Site to use as a staging area for drilling a massive
combined sewer tunnel under 1st St. NW, a longer-term solution to
greatly increase the capacity of the current combined sewer system as part of
DC Water's Clean Rivers project and to serve as temporary stormwater storage
until the new system is completed (projected for 2022). On March 28, DC Water will present to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board its request to raze the
two cells located in the Site’s southwest corner. Some in the activist community recommend that
DC Water stage the tunnel drilling in the southeast corner of the Site, where
underground cells are in an irreparable state rather than destroying the cells
in the southwest corner, which are in rather good shape and have potential for
preservation and creative reuse. (See http://www.scribd.com/doc/128304335/DC-Water-2013-02-20-DIVP-MAG-Presentation for a presentation of the DC Water sewage overflow abatement
plans for the Site).
While DC Water's plan to
avert local water infrastructure inadequacies has been given priority over the commercial
development of the Site proposed by Vision McMillan Partners (VMP) as described
in the Capital Sierran article, VMP has very recently revised its development proposal
to integrate the planned DC Water uses. (see http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mcmillans_planned_park_may_start_constuction_in_2016/6736 for details of the new VMP plans). The new VMP proposal includes a 6.6-acre park
in the southernmost sector of the Site (the sector in which DC Water would stage
tunnel drilling operations). But as a
result of the proposed 6.6-acre park, the rest of the site development plan now
includes denser and taller features. Proposed buildings ranging from 75' to
130' in height along North Capitol Street would completely block the historic
views of Howard University, the Washington Monument, and other prominent
landmarks enjoyed by the local community. Only the challenge of designing
around the DC Water plans forced VMP to increase its planned park space from
2.6 acres to 6.6 acres. At the same
time, the revised plans eliminate (1) the community center that activists
fought hard for and (2) housing set aside specifically for senior
citizens. Seniors would now have to
compete with all low-income residents for any affordable units included in the
final plan. Originally VMP claimed that a secret "exclusive rights agreement"
between VMP and the District required certain minimum rates of financial return
from the proposed development. The
District government has yet to respond to a FOIA request submitted for this
agreement in October, 2012.
McMillan Park Committee, Friends
of McMillan Park, and other concerned activists had provided periodic educational
tours of the Sand Filtration Site to interested persons until the Office of the
Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), which manages the Site,
prohibited the tours late last summer, citing safety concerns. Noting that the tours have all scrupulously
adhered to city safety and legal guidelines, neighborhood activists have
pressed the case, offered remediation to accommodate any specific safety
concerns, and requested permission to resume the tours. DMPED has not relented and has yet to produce
the report that Director of Real Estate, Jeff Miller, said would be generated
to evaluate the safety of the Site. Hundreds of people who have participated in
the tours in recent years have learned a lot about the unknown history of the Park
and its amazing slow-sand filtration water system, which helped battle typhoid
and cholera epidemics caused by dirty drinking water here in the 19th
century. These popular public tours have opened many eyes to the preservation
and reuse potential of this gem among Washington's historical parks.
Several persons in the
community will testify at the March 28 Historic Preservation
Review Board hearing on the proposed DC Water and VMP plans for the Site, and
at the scheduled April 5 hearing by the Mayor's Agent concerning
the DC Water proposal to raze two underground cells. National Register listing
for McMillan Park occurred after DC Water and VMP submitted revised plans for
the Site and will undoubtedly affect these two proposed uses. Please consider making your voice heard on the
DC Water and VMP proposals at the relevant hearings, and consider asking Mayor
Gray why DMPED continues to prohibit the park tours. Also, visit friendsofmcmillan.org for regular updates.
DC Chapter Energy Committee activities
(by Larry martin, Energy Committee co-chair)
The Chapter's Energy
Committee, co-chaired by Nicole Sitaraman and Larry Martin continues its work to
promote energy conservation and renewable energy in DC. The energy efficiency outreach program, led
by Judith Barrow, is in the process of forming partnerships with the DC SEU
(Sustainable Energy Utility) and the Koshland Museum (sponsored by the National
Academy of Sciences) to enhance its educational outreach to DC citizens. We will work with the DC SEU to make “Energy
Efficiency 101” presentations in all 8 Wards the District, and collaborate with
Koshland on the development of interactive educational techniques to
communicate about climate change. The
Koshland Museum announced a $2,000 competitive award to the Chapter's outreach
and education project.
The Committee has also taken
the lead to reform the District's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), the law
requiring businesses who sell electricity to District residents to obtain
certain percentages of their power from renewable sources. The RPS currently permits these energy vendors
to use energy credits from waste wood and "black liquor" to meet the renewable
obligation. These materials are waste
from paper mills that have been used to provide fuel to mill operations for
decades, and will be used as such regardless of whether or not they receive "renewable energy credits." In DC,
however, vendors compete for wind energy credits, which account for more than
half of the credits vendors purchase to meet their RPS requirements. Sierra Club's position is that the black
liquor credits should be removed from the RPS to fulfill the original intent of
the RPS law, so that income from the credits will be directed to new renewable
energy projects, wind in particular.
With the recent passage of Maryland's Offshore Wind Act (HIGH5 to MD
Chapter!), energy credits to wind development will become especially advantageous
to DC, potentially funding nearby projects. The financial impact on rate-payers has been estimated to be negligible. The Energy Committee plans to facilitate a
community information workshop on the RPS in the near future.
In addition to revising the
RPS, the Energy Committee has been working in a coalition of activists
promoting the "Clean Alternative Technology Standard" (CATS), which will, like
the RPS, use market signals to promote the use of fuels that are of lower
carbon intensity. In recent meetings
with DC Department of the Environment, Committee co-chair Larry Martin asserted
that adoption of the CATS would ratchet down carbon emissions from DC's overall
electricity fuel mix by 60%, over 660 lbs per megawatt-hour (MWh)
consumed. It would be implemented at a
rate of 6% reduction per year beginning in 2015. The Mayor announced this initiative as one of
the strategies included in the Sustainable DC Plan, which was released in
the Energy Committee is a part of an alliance called the Grid 2.0 Working Group
has been established to explore grid resiliency issues in DC. The group
was formed by Jigar Shah, founder of Sun Edison and Board Member of The Carbon
War Room. In addition to the Sierra Club DC, key partners in this working
group include the DC Environmental Network, DC Solar United Neighborhoods and
DC Chapter of the AARP. The Grid 2.0 group is in the process of drafting
a resolution for the DC Council, instructing the Public Service Commission to
procure a study for the design of a reliable smart electric grid, capable of
powering the District of Columbia through the 21st century. This
resolution calls for the study of the feasibility of designing and building a
grid that includes more local power generation and energy efficiency, new
capabilities such as Microgrids and battery storage and integrates them with
features such as Supervisory Controls and Data Acquisition (SCADA).
Finally, the Energy Committee
continues to steer the Community Renewables Energy Act which is pending in the
DC Council and is expected to be passed into law this Spring.
A Re-Vamped Recycling Committee
(by Larry Martin)
The DC Chapter's Recycling Committee has been recharged and
renamed the Zero Waste Committee. Hana
Heineken was elected as Chair in January. The Committee will continue to advance recycling in DC, and will
also take on the broader goals of promoting a reduction of solid waste by
residents and businesses, as well as challenging inappropriate disposal
In recent remarks before the DC Council’s Committee on the
Environment, Public Works, and Transportation at an oversight roundtable on
recycling and waste disposal, Hana represented the Chapter and testified on the
current status of recycling in the District as well as the Mayor's Sustainable
DC Vision to achieve zero waste by 2032.
Here is an excerpt from her testimony: "Nearly one million tons of waste
is collected from the District each year, but the diversion rate [the amount
recycled vs. placed in landfills], as measured in FY 2010, averaged a mere
22%. This is nowhere near the 45%
recycling rate required by DC law, and lags far behind other major cities in
the country, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago,
and Seattle. DC is lacking not only in
the infrastructure to divert waste, but also in public awareness of how and
what to recycle. …we are encouraged by the Mayor’s commitment to achieving zero
waste by 2032. The critical question is how to achieve this goal. The Sierra
Club advocates a zero waste hierarchy in the order of reduction, reuse, and
recycling. Landfilling, incineration, or thermal treatment for energy recovery
should be used only for non-recyclables and as a last resort… Landfilling or
burning valuable resources that can be recycled and composted is not consistent
with the concept of zero waste. It is
therefore concerning that the Mayor's [Sustainable DC] Vision document includes
a study of the feasibility of waste-to-energy and waste conversion technologies
as a quick action. Instead of
waste-to-energy, the District needs to invest in reducing the waste we produce
and increasing the rate of recycling and composting. This requires more
education, stronger enforcement, and better infrastructure. The District should
invest in a citywide composting program, facilitate the separation of waste at
the household and commercial level, and prohibit certain non-recyclable and
non-biodegradable waste such as Styrofoam. Recycling … not only protects our environment, but also reduces our
expenditures of tax dollars, and also has the potential to create jobs. It is a
The Zero Waste Committee also presented to the DC
Environmental Network (DCEN) and met with DC Department of the Environment (DDOE)
Acting Director Keith Anderson to recommend that the Mayor's "Incineration
Study" be reoriented toward a comprehensive zero-waste project to reduce, reuse
and recycle. The Department of Public
Works reports that the study will be revised to examine a "life-cycle analysis"
of municipal solid waste in DC.
Hana will be representing the Chapter in the upcoming Zero
Waste Week organized by Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA) and
the Zero Waste International Alliance, to be held from March 17-21 in
California. Hana will also be presenting
on zero waste at a DCEN-sponsored debrief on the Sustainable DC Plan, to be
held on March 28 in DC (see DC Chapter website for details).
Other activities related to the Energy and Zero Waste Committees include: participation in the Capitol Power Plant Working Group, in which community activists are strategizing around getting coal removed and greenhouse gas emissions reduced at the Capitol Power Plant in Southeast DC (see article from December 2012 Capital Sierran); and organizing around our advocacy to redirect a DDOE study concerning "waste conversion," (there is some question as to what that refers to). The Committee plans to draft a letter to the Mayor and other stakeholders, as well as a fact sheet on emissions and environmental justice issues related to trash incineration.
DC Environmental Film Fest
The 21st annual DC Environmental Film Festival will be held from March 12 to 24, presenting 190 films, including 110 Washington, DC, US and world premiers at 75 partnering venues across our nation's capital. The Environmental Film Festival Web site, http://dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org/, is now live with the complete Festival schedule.
VA Chapter Climate Legacy Town Hall Meeting
On Wednesday, March 13, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter will host a Climate Legacy Town Hall in Alexandria featuring renowned clean energy expert Dr. Willett Kempton ( University of Delaware Professor). His new research shows we can get 99.9% of our energy with only solar and wind at the same costs we are paying today. Moving beyond fossil fuels -- the primary cause of climate disruption -- is not only achievable, but practical. Space is limited and we expect this to be a packed event-- RSVP now to guarantee a spot!
This Climate Legacy Town Hall is part of a nationwide effort to accept President Obama's invitation for a national conversation about climate. The President in his inaugural speech defined our potential legacy to stop climate disruption by offering a clear solution - a path toward clean energy. Join us to hear how this climate legacy of clean energy is within reach! Find out more about this study from Ivy Main's blog at PowerForThePeopleVA. Location: MetroStage Theater, 1201 N Royal St. Alexandria, VA, RSVP or Information: Phillip Ellis, email@example.com, 571.970.0275
Other Upcoming Events/Activities
Following is a selection of upcoming chapter events. For complete listings and details, visit our calendar
Monday, March 18, 6:30 - 8:30, DC Chapter Member Meeting, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., West End Library, 1101 24th St. NW (3 blocks from Foggy Bottom metro). Learn about the work that the Chapter is doing and how to get involved. Contact Brenna Muller, 202-548-4581.
Wednesday, March 20, March mailing, 6:00 - 8:30, Sierra Club office 50 F St. NW (near Union Station metro) Suite 800.
Tuesday, March 26, Chapter Board meeting,
7:00 - 8:30 p.m., 50 F St. NW Suite 800, Harriet's restaurant, 436 11th St. NW DC. contact kathleen Robertson (firstname.lastname@example.org
) for details.
Wednesday, March 27, Energy Committee Meeting,
6:30 - 8 p.m., Sierra Club office 50 F St NW Suite 800. Contact Nicole Sitaraman (email@example.com
) for details.
Tuesday, April 2, Transportation Committee Meeting, 7-8 p.m., Sierra Club office 50 F St. NW Suite 800. Contact Ryan Crowley (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
Looking for a hike or other outdoor adventure?
Interested in exploring the natural beauty, locally available and natural resources of Washington DC? The Sierra Club Washington, DC Chapter is planning events that will provide socializing and adventure across DC's back yard! Please contact Kirk Longstein (email@example.com) if you're interested in getting off the couch and exploring the places that we work so passionately to conserve. In addition to the initial list of events below, check the Sierra Club DC Chapter website with updates to activities.
April 12, Certified Outings
Leaders Training (time and location TBD)
May 21, 8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
, May 22, 8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
, or May 23, 8:00 – 10:00 p.m., National Arboretum- Full Moon Hike
This is a four-mile-long, mildly strenuous hike through moonlit
gardens, meadows, and woods. Your guide will share specially chosen points of
interest and seasonal highlights. The two-hour walk over hilly and uneven
terrain is a brisk hike, not a garden tour so wear good walking shoes
and dress for the weather. Not recommended for children under 16. No pets,
please. Spring hikes book quickly; register soon to reserve your spot. Fee: $22
In addition, click here to learn more about regional Sierra Club offerings.
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