Release date: December 13, 2013 (Editor: Rick Nunno)
Calling on the EPA to Cut Carbon (by Brenna Muller)
On November 7, the Sierra Club, along with partner organizations, turned out over 200 people to testify at an EPA public "listening session" on a proposed rule to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants.
In September, the EPA proposed a rule to limit carbon pollution from new coal fired power plants. By June 2014, the Agency will write what is considered to be a far more contentious rule, limiting carbon for existing plants. In an unusual move, the EPA sought public input at 11 Public Listening Sessions around the nation.
We had an outstanding day, with those testifying in support of carbon regulation strongly outnumbering the opposition (over 200 to about 37). Dave Scott, Sierra Club President, was among the many Sierra Club activists who testified at the EPA's listening session, calling on the agency to write strong carbon protections for currently operating power plants. A press conference was held a few blocks away at the National Press Club, hosted by the Sierra Club, Clean Air Coalition, Moms Clean Air Force, the National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, and League of Conservation Voters. The speakers, led by Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, discussed the key issues at stake for both the Mid-Atlantic region and nationally. Over 80 people squeezed into the room that sat 40. After the press conference, J. Firman, a DC Chapter volunteer, lead a march back to the EPA with participants carrying placards, banners and photos.
There are currently no regulations on CO2 emissions for existing power plants, and this Listening Session was an opportunity for us to offer testimony directly to the EPA on why carbon pollution standards are a critical step in the President's plan to reduce pollution and to take action on climate change. Thanks to everyone who turned out to make this day a success!
|A packed hearing room with many Sierra Clubbers represented||Marchers gather outside EPA Headquarters
downtown after the hearing
Take a Sierra Club Trip off the California Coast
The Sierra Club's Global Population and Environment Program Committee is planning trips for 2014 to the Channel Islands off the California Coast and would like to invite all SC chapters to join them. Below is the information as well as some beautiful pictures from previous trips.
Island Hopping in Channel Islands National Park: 3-Day, 3-Island, Live-Aboard Cruises
2014 Schedule: April 12-14; May 4-6; June 8-10; July 22-22; August 24-26; September 14-16.
DC Evaluated for Green-ness
Washington, DC was listed as the 8th greenest city overall in the U.S. and Canada in a research project of the Economic Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Siemens, Inc. The recently released report assesses the environmental performance of 27 major U.S. and Canadian cities. The categories that were evaluated included CO2 emissions, energy use and conservation, land use, building energy efficiency (in which DC took 3rd place), transportation systems, water use and conservation, waste treatment, air pollution/cleanliness, and environmental governance (in which we shared first place with two other cities). See US/Canada Green City Index for more details.
Walkers Circle McMillan Park to Save it
|Hugh and others march on DC streets|
Chapter Presence at State Department Event
On November 6, the DC Sierra Club had a table at the US Department of State's America Recycles event. Hana Heineken and Laura Calderon also wrote a guest blog about zero waste on the State Department's "Our Planet" blog, which can be accessed at http://ourplanet.infocentral.state.gov/2013/11/27/zero-waste-is-the-future/.
Close the Gap: Make Environmental Justice Part of the Climate Action Plan
WE ACT for Environmental Justice (www.weact.org) and the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change (www.ejleadershipforum.org) - a national coalition of environmental justice leaders working on climate change - have collaborated to create a petition to the White House (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/) and they need at least 100,000 signatures by December 29, 2013 for the White House to review it and respond. The DC Chapter would like to help promote signing this petition among our members.
Here's some more information about this petition, titled Close the Gap and make environmental justice part of the Climate Action Plan: Climate change is causing more severe impacts on low income, communities of color and Indigenous peoples. Extreme weather events (Super Storm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, droughts and wildfires) increase the vulnerability of people living in climate vulnerable areas as well as those who already deal with bad air, unsafe housing, and lack adequate resources to plan, prepare and recover. Resiliency should not only be for the wealthiest communities in our great nation. The members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change call on the President to "CLOSE THE GAP" and make environmental justice a key part of the Climate Action Plan. They are requesting that the White House provide a formal response to our statement on their website (www.ejleadershipforum.org), and amend the current plan.
Anyone can view and sign the petition here. Please feel free to share this link with your friends, family and others who care about environmental justice, climate change and public health. For further questions on other ways to support this campaign, contact Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome, Environmental Justice Federal Policy Analyst, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DC Chapter Introduces Global Warming in Pepco Rate Case
On December 3, the DC Chapter's Energy Committee lawyers submitted a briefing to the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) on a rate case by Pepco to increase its charges to DC residents for electrical service. The Sierra Club, joined by Grid 2.0 Working Group, argued that Pepco should be required to upgrade its grid infrastructure to improve reliability and enable broad-scale incorporation of renewable power. We argued that global warming has increased the likelihood of more frequent storms and power outages, and that before the PSC grants any further rate increase, Pepco should be required to improve its electrical grid design to move away from large fossil fuel generating plants toware decentralized distributed power, and thus protect and preserve environmental quality.
Pepco's request, submitted in March of this year, was to increase its authorized rate of return to investors and increase charges to ratepayers by $52 million. Pepco made this request less than six months after the PSC granted it a rate increase in 2012, and they have already announced plans to seek another rate increase in 2014.
To support our argument, we cited a 2009 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy on Service Reliability for Electric Utility Customers, which concluded that planning decisions to achieve reliability must be "economically efficient" rather than simply "keeping the lights on". We argued that Pepco's existing grid is increasingly unreliable and lacks resilience to severe weather (remember the Derecho storm of 2012) or basic provisions for DC's most vulnerable residents during power outages. Moreover, the current “radial design” of the grid is poorly suited to incorporation of distributed and intermittent renewable power (for example from solar panels on roofs or residents and businesses).
We presented industry data that places Pepco in the bottom quartile of rankings on reliability among U.S. utilities over the past decade. In 2003, however, Pepco paid record high shareholder dividends and employee compensation packages while it initiated a program of spending reductions. In 2005, Pepco reduced its staff, its maintenance, as well as its budget for equipment replacement and tree trimming for infrastructure. We pointed out that by 2012, Pepco was employing 58% fewer linemen than it had in 1992. This neglect of its infrastructure has caused Pepco to fall behind the rest of the country, so that Washington DC experiences 70% more power outages, and lasting twice as long as most other major U.S. cities. We further argued "piecemeal" smart grid investments have been inadequate compared to other U.S. utility companies. We argued that to meet the requirement of being "just and reasonable", Pepco needs to incorporate important social goals into its program, such as lifeline rates (subsidized rates for low income households), and environmental surcharges.
According to DC's Clean and Affordable Energy Act, the PSC is required to consider the conservation of natural resources and the preservation of environmental quality. This, we argued, would include the public and environmental health effects of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, the consequent threat of global warming, and the disruptions associated with a warming climate. However, the PSC has not enforced that provision, as Pepco has not adopted a comprehensive plan to mitigate global warming through support of improved efficiency, conservation, and use of renewables in its grid.
We believe that it is proper for the PSC to issue a directive or Order putting Pepco on notice that its past reliability performance is unacceptable and that routine rate increases will not be granted without better coordination and improvements to its infrastructure. The PSC should create a Workgroup that will require the development of a comprehensive reliability investment plan with recommended actions to be completed before Pepco can request any further rate increases. Pepco has failed to maintain or improve its electric grid for too long without proper recourse, and it has failed to address the risks of global warming for the reliability of its services. Stronger, tougher oversight is necessary now to bring our city up from the depths of grid futility to a position it should be in as a world leader in grid reliability.
The full text of our briefing can be seen on the PSC website at http://www.dcpsc.org/edocket/docketsheets_pdf_FS.asp?caseno=FC1103&docketno=249&flag=D&show_result=Y. The PSC will review all public comments on this case and is expected to issue a ruling sometime in 2014. If you have any questions or comments about this proceeding, please contact Larry Martin at email@example.com.
Divesting DC Investments from Fossil Fuel Companies
The DC Chapter turned out crowds of people for a November 26 DC Council hearing about whether DC should divest from its investments in the fossil fuel industry. Supporters of divestment cited the looming threat of climate change driven by human-caused fossil fuel emissions. A bill introduced by Council Chair Phil Mendelson would require city managers to move money out of companies in the fossil fuel business if those companies do not change their ways. For further information on this issue, see http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/11/27/3000351/divesting-hearing/.
We need people to follow the activities of the Energy, Smart Growth, and Zero-waste committees and to write bi-monthly summaries for the Capital Sierran. Anyone interested in helping out, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Zero-waste Committee met on November 21 and discussed proposed bills in the DC Council and various events being planned. An "event recycling bill", introduced by Councilmember Cheh, would require groups applying for certain event permits to divert at least 35% of the waste they generate to recycling services. Another bill known as "the styrofoam bill", introduced by Mayor Vince Gray, would ban the use of polystrene foam containers (of which styrofoam is a brand and which is not biodegradable) in the District. For further details on this bill, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/styrofoam-containers-may-be-on-the-way-out/2013/11/06/da7a766c-472d-11e3-b6f8-3782ff6cb769_story.html. The Committee is developing strategies to support those two bills and is looking for volunteers to help out. The Committee also discussed a number of other emerging waste-related issues in which its members may become involved. To learn more details of these initiatives, or to become involved, contact Committee Chair Hana Heineken at email@example.com.
The Smart Growth Committee is advocating for a more walkable, livable Washington.
In November, Smart Growth Committee Chairman Ryan Crowley and Committee member Brad Green testified before the DC Zoning Commission to express their support for a new zoning code that encourages transit access, affordable housing, cycling and walkable neighborhoods. For the last few years, the District's Office of Planning has been drafting a plan to update the city's zoning code, which was last overhauled in the 1950s. Advocates for a progressive zoning code have been pushing for policies that emphasize transit use, encourage car-free and car-light lifestyles, and facilitate walkable neighborhoods. At the November hearing, members of the Smart Growth Committee (formerly the Transportation Committee) spoke out in favor of reducing parking minimums (requiring a minimum number of parking spaces) in areas well-served by transit. Parking minimum rules require that a certain amount of parking be constructed in proportion to the number of units per residential building, regardless of demand or proximity to transit. Chapter advocates noted that eliminating parking minimums in downtown Washington and reducing parking minimums around transit areas will help encourage greater use of these transit options, lessening the need for trips made by automobile. They also pointed out that reducing parking minimums will help make housing more affordable, since parking construction costs are passed on to the home buyer.
For the next scheduled meetings of these committees as well as the Political committee, see www.dc.sierraclub.org/calendar.
Chapter Holiday Party a Great Success
The DC Chapter held its annual holiday party at Cause PhilanthroPub, a new venue this year. Thanks so much to Imhan Kim for organizing everything, and thanks to everyone else who worked on making it a great success. Here are a few snapshots of the event.
|Plenty of elbow room and good eating at Cause||DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Chapter Chair Kathy Robertson and Secretary Debbie Cooney|
DC Chapter Member Defends Endangered Species Act
On December 12, DC Chapter Board member Brock Evans testified before the House Natural Resources Committee. Representing the Endangered Species Coalition, Evans spoke against proposals to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Evans, past winner of the Sierra Club's highest award for conservation advocacy, the John Muir Award, has been fighting in defense of wilderness since the 1960s, and in support of the Endangered Species Act since the 1970s.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-548-4581.
Potomac Heritage Trail Hike with Potomac Region Outings, Sunday, December 15, 9:00 am... at Algonkian Park to Difficult Run. Join Sierra Club's Potomac Region Outings group for a hike along the Potomac Heritage Trail. This will be a moderately paced 12-mile linear hike with 2,000 feet of elevation change along the beautiful Potomac River in eastern Loudoun and western Fairfax counties, VA. We will meet in the Difficult Run Stream Valley parking lot (left side of Georgetown Pike, 3.6 miles west of I-495) and carpool to the trailhead at Algonkian Park. Contact Russ Norfleet, 703-501-7953 or Visit the Potomac Region Outings meet-up page for more information.
Transportation and the Environment Roundtable on Bicycle Infrastructure Master Plan, Monday, December 16, 11:00 a.m. Room 500, Johnson A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW. The DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment will host a Roundtable on the Bicycle Infrastructure Master Plan. The Bicycle Master Plan is the D.C. government's plan for improving bicycling infrastructure in the city. This Roundtable is an opportunity to speak up and show strong support for better bicycling. Please sign up here to testify at the hearing! For more information, including tips on how to testify, visit WABA's website.
Smart Growth Committee Meeting: Tuesday, January 14, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. at the Sierra Club Office, 50 F St NW, Eighth Floor.
2014 Keep Winter Cold Polar Bear Plunge, Saturday, January 25, 10:30 a.m., The Beach at National Harbor, 141 National Harbor Boulevard, Oxon Hill, MD. The DC Chapter of the Sierra Club will be joining our friends at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network for their annual "Keep Winter Cold" Polar Bear Plunge. This is an annual fundraising event that helps power our victories to move Maryland, Virginia and DC off of planet-heating fossil fuels and to clean energy. Once a year, activists, friends and families in the Chesapeake region demonstrate their commitment to combat climate change -- and keep winter cold -- by taking a quick dip in the icy Potomac River at National Harbor. Join "Team Sierra Club" when you sign up, and half the money we raise as a team will come back to the DC Chapter to support our work. Go to keepwintercold.org for more information and to sign up today!
For more information about volunteering, or to RSVP for an event, please email email@example.com or call 202-548-4581.
Looking for a hike or other outdoor adventure?
Click here to learn more about regional Sierra Club offerings.