Release date: August 2, 2013 (Editor: Rick Nunno)
New Communications Committee Spreads the Word (By Tristan Fowler and Rick Nunno)
Our Sierra Club Chapter
has begun a new, exciting committee to complement the work of our other
committees and help promote environmental discussion throughout the District. After
many interested volunteers expressed interest in becoming active in this
committee, several members, both veteran leadership and fresh faces, are
joining up to lead a new Communications Committee. The
Committee is developing a coherent communications strategy that will include
the management of our website, the production of our newsletter, the delivery
of targeted emails to members, and the management of our social media accounts.
The goal is to communicate to our members and the DC community all the
work that the Chapter is doing, along with informing the DC community about
local and important environmental issues.
New Committee Chair
Leading the efforts of the new committee is the newly elected
Communication Committee Chairperson Tristan Fowler. Graduating with a
journalism degree from Ithaca College, where he worked on the editorial board
of the school's award-winning student newspaper, The Ithacan, Fowler has
expanded his professional experience by blogging about environmental issues and
national and community service. He is excited to join the leadership team with
the DC Sierra Club and use his expertise in organization, media and messaging
to lead a diverse group of writers and communicators, to win environmental campaigns,
and to open the minds of our readership to all the environmental stories
happening in the District. The Sierra Club possesses a variety of messaging
tools, and through organization and teamwork, the new communications committee
will engage its members and the District readership.
A central part of our
communications overhaul will be a newly designed website, which is being led by
our veteran webmaster, Brad Green. The
new website will have a more open format with the content management system,
Drupal, provided by Sierra Club National. It will be the go-to resource for all
our current and future members and donors who want to understand our issues,
our candidates and our campaigns, will have a number of
advantages over the current system, such as:
easier for more people to update content on the site,
users to comment on postings to the site,
easier to find information,
access to a national calendar of events, so users can find out what is
happening at national and at other chapters,
a blog (or blog-like) feature that allows approved users to post (which they
can currently do) and others to comment on posts, and
the ability to store archived material.
With the website as the central repository of all of our communications
efforts, we can ensure that our communications are synthesized, up to date, and
consistent across platforms (newsletter, social media, targeted emails) and
with the Sierra Club's overall goals and mission.
Continuing and Strengthening Ongoing
You are already familiar
with some of our traditional formats for communications, as you are currently
reading our newsletter. In the future, we plan to publish this newsletter six
times a year, about every two months. Our veteran editor Rick Nunno will
continue to lead the effort to produce this high-quality, information-packed
We will also increase
our use of both social media and more engagement with journalists and news
media. We have several new faces to the Sierra Club (Logan Hollers, Joey
Firman, and Matt Gravatt), who are jumping into the world of Twitter and
Facebook with gusto and enthusiasm.
We will continue to coordinate closely with National Sierra Club staff to
utilize the materials that they prepare on various national campaigns, and to
help us developing our local campaigns.
National staff provides periodic training sessions on various media
activities, such as outreach, messaging, developing creative and written
materials, social media, and pitching to TV and radio. We'll also work on learning how to use other
online tools available from national, such as Vocus (a database of local media
contacts), Clubhouse (a repository of various information for Sierra Club
members), and Convio (a system for email outreach to members).
Muller will continue to serve in the critical role of Outreach Coordinator for
the Chapter, which includes engaging
Chapter members and volunteers, tracking membership levels, and coordinating
Chapter programs, meetings and other events.
Many new ideas are
following around the table at our Communications Committee, and it's an
exciting time to get involved. If you would like to join or be a part of this
new committee, we are looking for writers, editors, graphic designers, web
gurus, social media enthusiasts, and anyone with a mind for media. If you have
a neat idea or a special expertise that you would like to try out, please
contact Brenna Muller, our Chapter Outreach Coordinator at 202-548-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Committee Educates the Public with Smart Grid Forum (by Rick Nunno and Amy Weinfurter)
Under the leadership of Larry Martin, the Energy
Committee hosted a well-attended forum on June 26 to discuss the benefits and
challenges of DC's transition to the smart grid, the new system for electricity
delivery being developed by power companies around the country. The first speaker was Eric Lightner, from the
U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
Eric described the current infrastructure for electricity delivery in the
United States, and explained how utility companies are upgrading their
transmission and distribution systems to accommodate inputs from renewable
energy sources such as wind and solar photovoltaic cells. The smart grid enables a two-way electricity
flow by utilizing digital smart meters that measure how much electricity is
generated by solar panels at residential and business locations. Over 40 million U.S.
customers now have smart meters installed, providing two-way communications between
customers and utility companies. Along with measuring the amount of electricity
generated by solar panels installed
on homeowners' roofs, smart meters keep track of the reductions
to subscriber's electricity bill and provide real-time customer outage
information to help utility companies restore electricity more quickly and
prevent cascading power outages. Eric
also described several other related programs, such as the Green Button
initiative, which provides customers with a method of securely downloading
easy-to-understand energy usage information from their electricity supplier.
next speaker was Dan Delurey, Executive Director of the Association for Demand
Response and Smart Grid. Dan explained
that wind typically blows at night while the energy it produces is used during
the day, increasing the need for energy storage. Using demand response techniques, the smart
grid will help alleviate some of the peak demand by helping customers use electricity
during times when its price is lower (such as programming washing machines and
dishwashers to go on at night when prices decline). Consumers can save money and utility
companies avoid having to build larger capacity delivery systems that are only
needed during peak demand times.
Laurence Daniels, Litigation Director at the DC Office of People's Counsel,
discussed what the smart grid is likely to mean for DC consumers. Laurence tied the discussion to the experience of the DC rate payer, focusing on
the new system's potential to help low-income customers track and manage their
electricity bills. Potential benefits include reducing the time
needed to restore electricity after power outages, and that all consumers
(including low income) will benefit from improved pricing models offered by the
smart grid. An important role of the OPC
will be to educate consumers on the benefits of the smart grid, while taking
precautions regarding the issues of data privacy, health, and reliability.
final speaker was Bill Gausman, with Pepco's Asset Management and Planning
office, who addressed how Pepco is implementing the smart grid for DC and
nearby regions. He noted
that the rate payer's benefits and satisfaction drive grid modernization, and
provided additional details about the ways the company reviewed the costs and
benefits of implementing a new system. One example of an
improvement is a procedure to locate a damaged power line and allow the network
to be re-routed to minimize the number of customers that go out of
service. Another is that smart meters
can send a signal when they go out of service and when they go back into
service, allowing Pepco to avoid going to those houses that have already been
restored. Also, new consumer devices
called home area network monitoring systems can help customers conserve up to
15% of their energy use.
The speakers took questions from the audience ranging
from simple to highly complex. Everyone
agreed that facilitating an informed public is the best course of action to
promote energy efficiency and reliability and to maximize the benefits of the smart
grid for all. The full video of the event is available at
ClimateNexus's Web site, at: http://www.livestream.com/climatenexus/video?clipId=pla_6fa951f5-5bde-479a-9f3f-025c34992d1a, and highlights are featured at: http://climatenexus.org/dc_smartgrid/. Please let us know if
you have any follow-on questions.
McMillan Park Update (submitted by Hugh Youngblood; article written by Beth Johnston and photos by Jenn Verrier)
One of the many underground vaulted cells in McMillan Park
Efforts to save historic
McMillan Park in
Washington, DC, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., continue. The DC government owns the 25-acre
decommissioned underground water purification facility and its accompanying
parkland but seeks to privatize and destroy the Park to make way for commercial
development. As part of this
privatization effort, the Park was the subject of a land-surplussing hearing in June, required by law to gather community opinion
before the City Council can vote to declare the Park "surplus public real
estate" and offer it for sale to the private sector. Of the more than 40 members of the community
who testified at the hearing, all but three spoke against the proposed privatization,
with many arguing that McMillan Park is a valuable community asset that should
be reopened as a public park rather than sold. As of late July, Mayor Gray has yet
to submit his formal report on the surplus hearing, and he has yet to submit a
resolution to the Council to formally propose the surplus designation.
Recent photo of McMillan Park
Friends of McMillan Park, a
community organization dedicated to preservation and adaptive reuse of the historic
Park and to facilitating an open and transparent process for deciding its
future, anticipates four major government meetings in September. First, the DC Historic Preservation Review
Board will hold a hearing to review whether the Gray Administration's development
plan respects McMillan Park's historic character. Additionally, the DC Council will hold two
important committee meetings and one critical vote pertaining to McMillan Park as
- Committee on
Government Operations, McMillan Park Surplus Hearing
- Committee on
Economic Development, McMillan Park Disposition Hearing
- City Council Vote
on McMillan Park Surplus Resolution and Land Disposition Agreement
In September, Friends of McMillan Park will
hold a Town Hall meeting and tour of the Park to engage community members in fighting the Mayor's
development plan. All are cordially invited to attend the Town
Hall meeting on Saturday, 14 September at 3:30pm in the basement of St.
Martin's Church, corner of T St. and North Capitol St. NW. For more information, please visit http://friendsofmcmillan.org/.
Conservation Update (by Jim Dougherty, DC Chapter Conservation Chair)
A Reprieve for Poplar Point?
Last week the Mayor teamed with the DC United soccer team to announce the planned construction of a new stadium in SW DC. While there appear to be wrinkles requiring ironing, it feels like this proposal has a lot of momentum. The City was able to create Nationals Park, only scant blocks away, despite substantial resistance to the funding arrangements. (Note that most of the talk about a velodrome, planned for virtually the same venue only a year ago, has now disappeared).
The environmental perspective: this is good news for Poplar Point, a large and wonderful tract of Anacostia Park land located directly across the River from Nats Park. For the past seven years or so Poplar Point has been in the cross-hairs of DC United – and the Administration, particularly that of Mayor Fenty. It now appears that the Point can be upgraded from its current, neglected, condition into prime national park land – consistent with the vision set out in the 2002 Anacostia Waterfront Framework Initiative. The Framework did not envision sporting arenas or other commercial development near the River.
What does this mean for RFK Stadium, the United's current home field? With the Reds***s secure in Landover, the Nats in SE, and the United in SW, why should there be any kind of (unused) structure on prime park land next to the River? Answer: the site should be restored to public recreational/ecological/permeable conditions and uses. The chief threat comes from the Reds***s' Dan Snyder and two City Council members (unnamed here but both are white men) who have dreams of bringing the football team back to DC (meaning Anacostia National Park, of course). Zillionaire Jack Kent Cooke wasn't able to do this in 1995, thanks in significant part to Sierra Club opposition. Stay tuned.
Campaigning Against Coal - Capitol Power Plant Update
Our six-month campaign to pressure Mayor Gray to pressure the Architect of the Capitol to stop burning coal at the Capitol Power Plant fell short in June. Too bad that the Mayor did not reach for the brass ring. Hats off to us for taking on the most powerful foe imaginable. THANKS to the hundreds of SC members – and thousands of non-members – who engaged in the campaign. But we have just begun to fight. (Actually we started the larger effort circa 2004).
On June 5, the DC Department of the Environment (DDOE) issued the permit sought by the Architect of the Capitol to expand the Capitol Power plant to build a cogeneration facility allow the plant to generate electricity from natural gas. The permit does not prevent the Architect of the Capitol from burning coal at the facility.
On June 6, the Mayor sent legislation (#20-326) to the City Council that he claims would "ban coal burning in the City" beginning 18 months after the commercial operation date of the cogeneration project. That bill, however, includes a provision to allow the plant to burn more than 16,000 tons of coal per day. Thanks but no thanks Vince – we'll meet up with you at the legislative hearing.
The next phase: DC Council consideration of Councilmember Wells' bill (#20-119) to ban coal-burning in the City.
Get your piece of the
sun! (by Irv Sheffy)
That's the slogan of the DC Sierra
Club's campaign, in conjunction with DC Solar United neighborhoods (DC SUN). DC SUN is a local umbrella/advocacy
organization that grew out of the efforts of the Mount Pleasant Solar Coop to encourage
the use of the coop model amongst neighborhoods throughout the District to go
solar. Members of DC SUN, the Energy Committee of the DC Chapter and others met
two years ago at the DC Sustainable Energy Utility to learn about community
solar. There are many definitions and
models of community solar, but in brief, it's a community based solar energy
generating facility, or CREF, that allows individuals to subscribe and benefit
from the energy it produces. Up to
now, solar installations in the District have been basically limited to fairly
affluent homeowners who can afford to have solar panels placed on their
property. Such installations are
directly tied into their home's system and the energy generated by their panels
offsets their use of electricity. With community solar, a wide array of people can subscribe to a CREF
that could be located on their property, on top of another building (a school,
faith organization, factory, warehouse, etc), over a parking lot (e.g., FedEx
Field) or on an underutilized parcel of land (i.e. a brownfield). Like with the single homeowner,
the energy produced by the CREF would offset the power used, but in this case
by many people.
Currently, District laws do not allow this type of
arrangement, which led to our ad hoc coalition proposing a bill to the District
Council in the spring of 2012. The
bill, the Community Renewable Energy Act (CREA) will create "virtual" net
metering (VNM). VNM is basically
an accounting system, which will allow multiple people to subscribe to a CREF. They in turn will get credit for the
energy it generates, lowering their monthly bills through the use of clean,
renewable solar. CREA's eventual
passage will allow renters, low income residents, non-profit organizations,
schools, faith organizations, small businesses and homeowners whose home are
not well situated for solar to benefit.
After being introduced by Councilmembers Cheh and Alexander,
a hearing in the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs was held in
June 2012. That was followed by
the convening of a stakeholders (i.e. PEPCO, the PSC, Washington Gas, DDOE, DC SEU, Council
staff, DC SUN and the Sierra Club) working group to refine procedural and legal
details. We had fairly good
cooperation amongst the group and all outstanding matters were resolved to
everybody's satisfaction by the end of the year. In 2013 the committees were reorganized by the Council
President and the bill was reintroduced in a new committee with new Councilmembers. The markup of the bill by the Committee
on Government Operations (where the committee can approve it or send it back
for revision) was delayed for several months, but finally by occurred in June
of 2013 where it passed. Then the
bill went before entire District Council on July 10th at its last
Legislative Meeting prior to their summer recess for its first reading. The
bill received a unanimous 'yes' vote from all thirteen members of the Council
and will now move to its second reading in September. If the bill receives at least 7 of the possible 13 yes votes
at this reading, it will become law.
We credit the 237 Sierra Club volunteers who responded to a
call to action, contacting their Councilmember, At-Large Councilmembers and the
Chair to support the bill. Many of
those people came to the legislative session to show their support. We as a group can definitely make a
difference and we did. As noted,
thing are not complete and we will call upon all to notify their Councilmembers
again as they meet for that last stage. Thanks to all and we look forward to your continued support to bring
clean energy alternatives to all DC residents.
Remember to come out to the regular Chapter Energy Committee
meetings to find out about other initiatives we are working on and get
involved. The Committee meets the
last Thursday of each month, normally at the Sierra Club's offices at 50 F
Street, NW from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information on CREA and other initiatives, contact Larry
Martin, Chair of the Energy Committee at email@example.com.
For more information on the DC Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships
program, contact Irv Sheffey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Invasive ivy proliferates and smothers trees unless it is cut back
Rock Creek Park Volunteering: On two separate occasions (June 22 and July 13), DC Chapter members assisted the National Park Service and the Rock Creek Conservancy in their efforts to save Park trees from the chokehold of English ivy. English ivy is an invasive vine that grows up tree trunks and weakens and kills the tree.
Volunteers cut the ivy from the tree trunks using hand tools. Training was provided on how to identify and cut the ivy.
DC Sierrans help keep our water clean and safe! (By Brenna Muller)
Thank you to many DC Sierrans who made calls, spread the word, and turned out to a summer hearing on July 9 at the EPA for a rare opportunity to help protect our nations streams and rivers.
Coal plants across the country are allowed to dump toxic heavy metals like arsenic and lead into our waterways, polluting our drinking water, fishing areas, and local rivers and streams.
After thirty years, the EPA has proposed new limits to the amount of waste coal plants can dump into our water and they're held a public hearing in D.C. to find out how the public feels about the new limits
Currently, only four out of five coal plants have any limits to the amount of toxic waste they can dump in our water, and half the nation's streams and rivers are in poor health.
The Transportation Committee sent letters on June 12 to DDOT and the National Park Service urging them to collaborate to complete the Metropolitan Branch Trail and maintenance of the Rock Creek Park Trail.
On July 1, Transportation Committee member Brad Green testified before the DC Council's Committee on Transportation and environment advocating support for the streetcar project as a way to promote a greener city, to create jobs, and to make transit options available to more areas. The Energy Committee met on July 24 to discuss its next plans after co-chairperson Nicole Sitaraman stepped down in June. For the next scheduled meetings of these committees as well as the Zero-waste and Political committees, see www.dc.sierraclub.org/calendar.
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 email@example.com or call 202-548-4581.
Transportation Committee Meeting: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 7:00 p.m. at the Sierra Club Office, 50 F St NW, Eighth Floor.
Inner City Outings Happy Hour: Wednesday, Aug. 7, 8:00 p.m. at Solly's U St Tavern, 1942 11th St NW.
DC Chapter Member Meeting: Monday, Aug. 19, 7:00 p.m. at Petworth Library, 4200 Kansas Ave NW.
Hike from Fort Totten to Fort Reno (Civil War Forts of Northwest Washington): Sunday, Aug 25, 9:30 a.m., Starting at Fort Totten metro station west parking lot (behind E2 bus stop). RSVP to Sankar Sitaraman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Energy Committee Meeting: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 6:30 p.m. at the Sierra Club Office, 50 F St NW, Eighth Floor.
Film Screening of "Bidder 70": Tuesday, Sept. 10, 7:00 p.m. at the Sierra Club Office, 50 F St NW, Eighth Floor.
Looking for a hike or other outdoor adventure?
Click here to learn more about regional Sierra Club offerings.
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