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Environmental Activists Take The Hill Meeting With Members Of Congress

Members met with select Senators and members of Congress as well as having a presence in the halls throughout the day urging them to deny FERC a quorum until reforms are made.

Stephanie Scherr, Director of ECHO Action NH, represented New Hampshire as a part of a national delegation taking action in the halls of the Senate on July 20th. 

New Hampshire’s Congresswomen Anne Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter will be visited by members of the delegation. Ms. Scherr met with Tony Hobbs, Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter’s environmental staffer, to discuss FERC reform, concerns about gas expansion in New Hampshire and the potential for offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine.

Washington D.C. – On July 20, 2017, over a dozen activists representing a national coalition of affected community and environmental organizations harmed by the decision making process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), walked the halls of the U.S. Senate buildings in protest of an upcoming vote that would restore a quorum at the powerful agency.  President Trump has nominated Neil Chatterjee, former energy policy advisor to Mitch McConnell , Robert Powelson, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners,  and announced the nomination of Kevin McIntyre from the law firm of Jones Day known to represent pro-fossil fuel interests, to the FERC commission.  The intent to nominate Richard Glick, currently serving on Senator Cantwell’s staff, has also been announced but not advanced.  Protestors are urging Senators to delay a vote to appoint any new commissioners, and thereby restore a decision making quorum, until congress held hearings into the agencies abuses of power and law and installed needed reforms.

Those involved in the protest walked the halls throughout the day with signs having a range of different messages opposing the abuses by FERC and against the quorum, as well as low singing of the song “We Shall Overcome”. As protestors marched the Senate halls from 11 to 3 with their signs, other members of the coalition were meeting with targeted Senate staff urging the hearings and specific needed reforms. The coalition also delivered a letter to targeted members of Congress signed by 104 organizations representing communities from across the nation, outlining the legislative reforms of FERC and the Natural Gas Act that are needed to prevent FERC’s ongoing abuse. 

“FERC is an out of control agency with no real checks or balances on its power – the congressional power of the purse is elusive for FERC, the ability of a President, if willing, to remove a Commissioner is extremely difficult, and the courts have repeatedly take a pass on checking FERC’s multiple abuses of its authority and applicable laws.  Congress needs to hold hearing to understand the full breadth of depth of FERC’s abuses, to understand how communities, small businesses, farmers and state governments are being harmed and then put in place real reforms, not the recent window dressing fixes we have seen proposed.  The only way to prevent the ongoing abuses until reforms are installed is to deny FERC its quorum in the meanwhile,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, head of the regional Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a leader in the national anti-pipeline coalition.

“Here in Pennsylvania, we are familiar with Trump’s FERC nominee, Robert Powelson. Even people who’d never heard of him before, learned about him a few weeks ago when he said that citizens protecting their communities from pipeline projects were “engaged in jihad,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth. “It is an affront to anyone concerned with the devastation going on in our state’s shale fields and in the communities scarred by pipelines that someone who is so rabidly pro-fossil fuels and so contemptuous of the people he is in public life to represent has been nominated to serve on a Commission that is already notorious for its abuses of power. The Senate has the opportunity to stop FERC’s dangerous tradition of approving every pipeline it meets and it starts by rejecting nominees who will make a bad situation worse,” said Karen Feridun from Berks Gas Truth.

“People are increasingly seeing the damage that FERC’s failure to regulate pipelines is causing to local communities and the climate,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America. “After 40 years of FERC failing the American people, it is time that Congress took action to rein in FERC’s abuses and create a regulator that serves the country, not the fossil fuel industry.”

“New Hampshire responded to FERC’s voracious appetite for power by calling abuses in to their landowner helpline. Concerned residents reported everything from photos of a shed labeled a compressor station and open houses held during blizzards to incomplete reports with thousands of “to be determined” labels, routes abruptly changed and segmentation used to justify pipeline overbuild,” said Stephanie Scherr, Director of ECHO Action. “FERC employees chastised citizens and denied the existence of noisy, toxic, off-gassing blowdowns. There is no recourse for citizens, communities and even legislators, to fend off the abuses of a rogue agency with an appointed commission and no apparent accountability to the people or for their irresponsible decisions enhancing climate change. The Senate can begin much needed FERC reform by taking away the rubber stamp and not confirming nominees.”

“FERC is a rogue agency. They’re captured by the oil and gas industry and dedicated to an “all of the above” energy policy that will cook the planet and bulldoze our communities” said Drew Hudson, founder of 198 Methods. “Returning them to operation is like powering up the Death Star and giving the keys to the Empire. No Senator, and especially no Democrat, who cares to claim about the climate or the goals of the Paris climate accords should vote to restore their quorum.”

“To call FERC a regulatory agency is a travesty. A company proving that they have customers should not nearly automatically guarantee approval. What we need is a true regulatory structure  – an agency that looks at project impact to public health and safety, impacts of eminent domain on landowners, impact of environmental effects in the vicinity of pipeline infrastructure, including compressor and metering stations, and the impacts of each project to climate – not in a vacuum, but cumulatively – taking total GHG output over project lifetime. This critical juncture is the time to seize the opportunity to stop, recalibrate and restructure,” said Rosemary Wessel, Founder & Program Director of No Fracked Gas in Mass.

To undertake decision making, including approval of pipelines and other infrastructure, FERC requires a minimum of three of five Commissioners be in power. Powelson and Chatterjee have received approval from the Senate Committee to advance with a 20-3 vote and are currently awaiting a full Senate vote on their nominations. If accepted, then FERC will have it’s necessary three sitting commissioners to hold a quorum and vote on the multiple proposed pipeline projects that have been put on hold since February. 

Leo W Gerard: Workers Want A Green Economy, Not A Black Environment

The BlueGreen Alliance

To justify withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, President Trump said during his press conference yesterday, “I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

From terrible experience, Pittsburghers know about pollution.

Before Pittsburgh’s renaissance, the streetlights Downtown frequently glowed at noon to illuminate sidewalks through the darkness of smoke and soot belched from mills. White collar office workers changed grimy shirts midday. To the west 130 miles, the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned – several times.

Pollution sickened and killed. It triggered asthma and aggravated emphysema. In Donora, just south of Pittsburgh, an air inversion in 1948 trapped smog in the Monongahela River valley.  Poisonous steel mill and zinc plant emissions mixed with fog and formed a yellow earth-bound cloud so dense that driving was impossible. Within days, 20 people were dead. Within a month, another 50 of the town’s 14,000 residents succumbed.

Some viewed pollution as a blessing, a harbinger of jobs. Air that tasted of sulfur signified paychecks. For most, though, pollution was a curse. It meant scrubbing the grime off stoops daily. It meant children wheezing and gasping for air. It meant early death.

The preventable deaths are why my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), has fought against pollution for decades, long before scientists conclusively linked it to global climate change. That connection made combatting pollution even more urgent. It crystalized our obligation to save the planet for posterity. Signing the Paris Climate Accord last year committed the United States to preserving what we all share, the water and the air, for our children and their children. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement moves the United States, and the world, back in time to rivers so toxic they burn and air so noxious it poisons. Trump’s retreat makes America deadly again.

Don’t get me wrong. The USW supports job creation. But the union believes clean air pays; clear water provides work. Engineers design smokestack scrubbers, skilled mechanics construct them and still other workers install them. Additional workers install insulation and solar panels. Untold thousands labor to make the steel and other parts for wind turbine blades, towers and nacelles, fabricate the structures and erect them. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord diminishes these jobs and dispatches the innovators and manufacturers of clean technologies overseas where countries that continue to participate in the climate change agreement will nurture and grow them.

Eleven years ago, the USW joined with the Sierra Cub to form the BlueGreen Alliance because USW members believe Americans deserve both a clean environment and good jobs. The USW believes Americans must have both. Or, in the end, they will have neither.

The Alliance, which now includes more than a dozen unions and environmental groups, has collaborated with industry leaders to find solutions to climate change in ways that create high -quality jobs.

It’s an easy sell to many corporate leaders. Shortly after the election last fall, hundreds of companies and investors, including the likes of Nike and Starbucks, signed a letter asking Trump to abandon his campaign rhetoric about withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

In April, more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including giants Google, BP and Shell, also wrote Trump urging against reneging on nation’s climate commitment. They said that because the agreement requires action by all countries, it reduces the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies that comply with environmental regulations.

More recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump that disavowing the accord would injure U.S. business, the economy and the environment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Trump that if he turned his back on the accord, Musk would resign from two White House advisory boards.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, also urged Trump to keep the United States’ commitments under the 195-nation pact, rather than joining Syria as an outlier. Syria and Nicaragua are the only non-signatory countries, but Nicaragua declined to sign because its leaders felt the accord was not strong enough.

The streetlights never switch on at noon in Pittsburgh anymore. The Cuyahoga River now supports fish that live only in clean water. Donora’s sole reminder of those dark days in October of 1948 is a Smog Museum.

But the United States remains the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas polluter. It has an obligation to lead the world in combating climate change. Great leaders don’t shirk responsibility.

Activists To March Against Monsanto May 20th

Protester against Monsanto. Image by Die Grünen Kärnten FLIKR

NH March Against Monsanto Rally and March at the NH State House

WHAT: A Peaceful March through downtown Concord and a rally with speakers to provide information about a Global Call to Action at informing the public about genetically engineered food and calling it into question. There will be information about saving our Bees, Monarchs and much more. Tyler Road, a local band, will kick off the rally for the third year in a row with their organic themed song, “You Can’t Bio-Engineer Love” by Dave Carroll. Experts and speakers will be followed by the march through Downtown Concord. An organic seed swap table will feature generously donated High Mowing Seeds, as well as, a collection of organic, non-GMO food for the McKenna House. Free. Family Friendly.

DATE: Saturday: May 20, 2017

TIME: 11:00AM-2:00PM

LOCATION: Concord City Plaza, in front of the NH State House, 107 N Main St. Concord NH 03301

March Against Monsanto Concord, NH Rally and March! May 20, 2017 11:00 a.m.
Rain or Shine! ~ City Plaza, Next to the Famer’s Market ~ Concord, NH

Join a world-wide event with millions of people marching in solidarity. The peaceful rally intends to educate with speakers and information tables to call into question the long term health risks of genetically engineered food for the protection of our food supply and pollinators. Tyler Road, a local band, will kick off the rally with their organic themed song, “You Can’t Bio-Engineer Love” by Dave Carroll. Speakers include bee keeper Ann Antonucci, NH State Rep Jim McConnell, Marty Michener, PH D Ecologist, Laura Wolfner, M.A. Molecular Biologist & M.A. Archealogist, and Bonnie Wright, from Non-Toxic NH, NH Right to Know GMO. The march will follow through Downtown Concord.

The goal of the day is to identify the risks to pollinators, promote organic solutions, supporting local farms and will share information about Monsanto’s herbicide Round-up, which has been declared a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. We support food and seed sovereignty. You, your family and friends are invited. People are encouraged to bring posters, costumes and noise makers. There will be excellent opportunities for photos and interviews. This is for our present and future seven generations to come. Our time is now to stand united and create positive change. We would like to thank NH Sierra Club and NH Peace Action for co-sponsoring this event.

We will collect donations of GMO-Free or organic foods for the McKenna House Homeless Shelter in Concord, NH.

Event Organizers: Fawn Gaudet~NH March Against Monsanto Community, MAM NH, Catherine Corkery~NH Sierra Club, Doreen Desmarais~NH Peace Action, NH Rebellion, Carline Carpenter~NH March Against Monsanto Community, MAM NH

List of speakers: 

Amy Antonucci, Local Bee Keeper
State Representative, James McConnell
Marty Michener, PH D Ecologist
Laura Wolfner,  M.A. Molecular Biologist & M.A. Archealogist
Bonnie Wright, Activist~ Non-Toxic NH, NH Right to Know GMO

Tables and Supporters:

NH March Against Monsanto Community
March Against Monsanto NH
Bees and Pollinators Against Monsanto
NH Right to Know GMO
NH Sierra Club
NH Peace Action
Non-Toxic NH
NH Rebellion
Rights and Democracy
League of Conservation Voters
“Half Hour to Health” Crossroads Chiropractic radio show on WTPL “The Pulse 107.7 FM”
“Queen City Chronicles” hosted by Jon Hopwood on Manchester Public Access Television WMNH
NH Organic Farmers Association
Peppercorn Natural Foods Plymouth, NH
Kearsarge Gore Farm Certified Organic Produce in Warner
Others

New Report Shows Significant Gains Could Be Made If Governor Sununu Reduces Power Plant Pollution

Tilton, NH – As the federal government attempts to roll back programs that limit air pollution, Toxics Action Center, Environment New Hampshire and other partner groups released a new report showing that Governor Sununu could increase the benefits of reducing power plant pollution. The report, Doubling Down on Climate Progress, concludes that increasing the emissions reduction goals from 2.5% to 5% doubles the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would cut dangerous pollution from power plants in half by 2030 and double our investment in clean energy – enough to weatherize 380,000 homes, or well over half of the homes in the state.

“Right now, we’re counting on Governor Sununu to take action to protect our health and the climate,” said Dan Westervelt, Vermont and New Hampshire Community Organizer with Toxics Action Center. “Tomorrow, on April 20th, the public comment period of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the regional clean air and climate protection program, will be opened. We are urging Granite Staters to call on Governor Sununu to double the strength of the program so we can reap the benefits we receive from less pollution and more clean energy.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) is the best regional clean air and climate protection program in the country. This program limits dangerous pollution from power plants in New Hampshire and across the region – helping to slow the warming of our planet. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute.

The report, co-authored by the Frontier Group, illustrates the opportunity before the governor. It finds that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (compared to simply keeping the program on its current trajectory) would:

  • Avoid up to an additional 100 million tons of pollution over a decade, the equivalent of making more than 1 million homes run entirely on solar power.

  • Help New Hampshire invest twice as much in clean energy – on the order of $84 million over ten years, or enough to weatherize 380,000 homes.

“Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline served as a wakeup call for us to fund and support RGGI,” said Pat Martin, an activist who worked on stopping Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline with the community New Hampshire Pipeline Awareness Network (NH PLAN). “To tackle the climate crisis, we need to quickly shift away from dirty fuels like coal and gas, and move to renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative can help us get there faster.”

The report also reviewed the impressive benefits the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has achieved for New Hampshire since it was created in 2005. Key findings include:

  • It has helped to cut global warming pollution from power plants 67%. That is the equivalent of retiring 1.6 coal-fired power plants. On average, power plant pollution in the region has been falling by almost 5 percent per year. In 2016, pollution went down by 4.8 percent.

  • It has helped to clean our air, saving 10 lives over its first six years in operation.

  • It has driven a $116 million investment in clean energy, energy efficiency and consumer benefit programs in New Hampshire. Across the whole region, those programs have locked in more than $4.6 billion in long term savings on our energy bills. That’s an incredible $3.5 in savings for every dollar spent on clean energy.

“The energy efficiency project that we did at the Winnisquam School District took advantage of approximately $31,000 in (RGGI-funded) rebates for lighting and variable frequency drive pumps” said former State Representative of Belknap 4, Ian Raymond. “Of the funding for the project, $31,770 came from RGGI. We replaced old pumps with newer energy efficient pumps with Variable Frequency Drives, and replaced approximately 2400 lighting units with energy efficient lights. All of the efficiency upgrades all together has saved the taxpayers $1.38 million so far and is projected to save over $5 million over the life of the project.”

In February, more than 500 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast called on Governor Sununu and other regional governors to double the strength of the program and close several loopholes.

“As good as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is, we can make it better,” said Madeline Page, of Environment New Hampshire. “We need Governor Sununu and governors across the region to accelerate our progress in the fight against global warming, and magnify the important benefits that come from reducing pollution.”

 

Shaheen, Hassan Join 30 Senators to Introduce Bill to Rescind President’s Anti-Climate Executive Order

**The Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act highlights potential threats that Trump’s executive action poses to the economy and environment** 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined more than 30 U.S. Senators today to introduce legislation to rescind President Trump’s Executive Order that reverses several landmark U.S. initiatives to combat climate change.   

The bill, titled the Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act, would block federal agencies from implementing the actions outlined in the Executive Order signed Tuesday by President Trump. These actions include reevaluating the Clean Power Plan, which is currently on track to provide $54 billion in climate and health benefits each year, prevent thousands of premature deaths and asthma attacks in children, reduce electricity bills for homes and businesses, and create thousands of good-paying jobs. 

Yesterday, Senators Shaheen and Hassan released the following statements on President Trump’s Executive Order:

“President Trump is ignoring the mountain of evidence on climate change and plowing ahead with a dangerous agenda that threatens the health and well-being of New Hampshire,” said Shaheen. “Rolling back carbon emissions rules and clean energy initiatives is a shortsighted political move that prioritizes the interests of big oil and coal companies over every day Americans. In New Hampshire, we see the effects of climate change every day and it is a direct threat to our environment, economy and way of life. We owe it to future generations to build on the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

“From our White Mountains to our beautiful Seacoast, New Hampshire’s beautiful natural resources define us as a state and I am extremely concerned by President Trump’s efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan’s common-sense environmental protections,” said Senator Hassan. “Granite Staters know that protecting our environment while building a stronger, more affordable energy future is critical for our families and our businesses. New Hampshire has been a leader in efforts to cut carbon emissions, conserve our natural resources, and combat climate change and we need to see similar efforts at the federal level. That’s why I have been a strong supporter of the Clean Power Plan, and I will continue fighting for a cleaner environment and stronger renewable energy future that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and helps our citizens, businesses, and economy thrive.” 

A copy of the bill is available HERE.

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