Thursday, March 20, 2014

Meet Andrew Brady, Organizer with USILive

Andrew Brady, who organizes the online campaign USILive, which is supported by unions such as UNITE the Union (UK), the Teamsters, & the Metalworkers (Brazil) is coming to Philly to talk about the work he's doing to build a global, online solidarity network.

Come out and meet him!
When: Thursday, March 27 at 4:00pm (Click here to copy from our Google Calendar)
Where: SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201, 455 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19123 (map)

We're having a formal meeting at SEIU 32BJ District 1201 at 4 pm, and then we'll probably walk over to a local bar for a happy hour afterwards.

For the latest info, see the Facebook Event:

Interview with Andrew Brady

FREE Screening of Gasland Part II

Join us for free screenings of the award-winning sequel to Gasland, directed by Josh Fox, that updates us on the state of fracking within the U.S. and highlights stories from around the globe.

What: Gasland Part II
When: Tuesday, March 25th Two showings: 3:00 and 5:30 p.m.
Where: Room S2-3 of the Winnett Student Life Building, Community College of Philadelphia (on the west side of 17th Street, 1/2 block south of Spring Garden Street)

A short discussion about fracking in Pennsylvania and what we can do about it will follow the film.

Open to all.

FREE popcorn and Lancaster County apple cider.

Cosponsored by:
CCP Coalition for a Sustainable Future
Sierra Club
Green Cycle Alliance (CCP's environmental and cycling student club)
Food & Water Watch

Also coming up in April, date TBA: Groundswell Rising, a Philadelphia premier of another film about citizens rising up against extreme energy extraction.
Contact: Margaret Stephens
Community College of Philadelphia
1700 Spring Garden Street, W3-10
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 751-8869

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Philly Beyond Coal Campaign Protests Coal-Industry Water Pollution at EPA Region 3 Headquarters

Philly Sierra Club Beyond Coal activists teamed up with activists from Rising Tide, Protecting Our Waters, Earth Quaker Action Team, Mountain Justice and other allies from Appalachia to put on the second rally at the EPA this year, and the third event the group has staged since the organizations started working together in late 2012. The two actions were the most successful series of rallies that the Philly Beyond Coal Team has organized in the last three years, because of the high turnout, diversity of groups involved in planning and turnout, volunteer-led process used in planning that involved groups from Appalachia and Philadelphia who hadn’t worked together, the creativity and forcefulness of the events, and the press coverage received (two media outlets covered each event for a total of four media hits).  It’s telling that the TV news crew that questioned the EPA for their reaction to the second protest were told, "The state of West Virginia is overseeing the clean-up and the EPA is ready to help if asked."  This reply makes it clear that the EPA is leaving water quality up to states that are in cahoots with the coal companies.

In blowing snow and subfreezing temperatures, dozens of Sierra Club and Rising Tide Philly activists marched from Love Park to the EPA Region 3 headquarters carrying a 30 foot long black plastic “river,” (made by volunteer Dave Moscatello) part of it polluted with spots of chemicals labeled with their side effects, and part of it blue and filled with fish—the goal we seek. A “hazmat-suited EPA representative” (Eli Schewel of Rising Tide Philly) led the march. Drums punctuated the air as the group arrived at the EPA, where the sidewalk began to fill with fellow demonstrators asking, “What is the EPA going to do about coal industry pollution of Appalachian rivers and streams and threats to communities' health?”

Against a backdrop of the blackened “river” and a huge puppet representing the EPA, Johanna DeGraffenreid from Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia spoke about the devastation and illness that plague Appalachia wherever mountain top removal coal mining occurs.  She also talked about the numerous leaks and spills of coal ash, coal ash slurry, and coal industry chemicals in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina that have left residents worried about their health and the safety of their children—all with no response from the EPA.  She explained that state departments that are charged with protecting the environment are in bed with the coal industry and turn a blind eye to these recurring tragedies.  And the EPA Region 3 office here in Philly is charged with overseeing coal-mining pollution in the mid-Atlantic states.  She asked when they are going to fulfill their duty.

Coryn Wolk from Philadelphia's Protecting Our Waters extended the theme of fossil fuel pollution by highlighting the parallel struggles in Pennsylvania with natural gas fracking, which causes water despoliation and the resulting incidence of illness and birth defects. She talked about the need to fight on both fronts and to work together to get EPA to stop the poisoning of our communities both in Philadelphia and Appalachia.

Sierra Club volunteer Sue Edwards added that the bitter cold we were experiencing is part of the story of global warming, which alters the jet stream and causes disrupted, record-breaking, weather of all kinds.  What is needed, she said, is shifting from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.  She led a chant:  FOSSIL FUELS LEAK AND SPILL, WIND AND SUN NEVER WILL!  More chants followed, including one spontaneously led by Vietnam veteran Gerald Brown:  EPA, CLEAN IT UP!  ALL THIS FILTH HAS GOT TO STOP!  He was there with a group from the Veterans Multi-Service Center who have become frequent participants in hearings and rallies aimed at stopping fossil fuel pollution.

The Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign in Philadelphia garnered coveted TV news coverage when  WCAU ran an accurate thirty second segment on the early evening news, including a quote from an EPA spokesperson saying, “a clean-up is underway.”  What we need is an end to the spills, not just a clean-up in the aftermath.  A photographer from the Metro, the daily free commuter newspaper read by thousands, took photos, one of which ran on page two the next day with a caption that succinctly expressed why we were there:  Protesters ask "Where is the EPA?  Protesters with the Sierra Club marched to the US Environmental Protection Agency's offices in Center City to denounce mountaintop-removal coal mining and chemical leaks in West Virginia that led to hundreds of thousands of people without access to potable water.

News Coverage on WCAU TV

Pictures on Flickr

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Crowd Tells EPA Region 3 Office in Philadelphia: You Hold the Key to Health of Appalachia

[Philadelphia, PA] Over 75 chanting, singing people braved the single-digit wind chill on Jan. 29 to rally outside the EPA regional office  in center city Philadelphia, calling for action to end the destruction of Appalachian mountains, streams and waterways. EPA Region 3 covers the Mid-Atlantic including Virginia and West Virginia where coal companies have leveled more than 500 mountains using millions of tons of dynamite and have polluted thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

Activists from Sierra Club in West Virginia, Southwest Virginia and Pennsylvania joined with members of Rising Tide,  Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), the Alliance for Appalachia, Occupy Sandy, Swarthmore College Mountain Justice, Protecting Our Waters, and veterans from a Philadelphia vet's service center to pressure the EPA to take action to protect Appalachian waterways.

The rally included Marley Green, Sierra Club field organizer from Virginia, who spoke about the importance of getting EPA action to end the practice of Mountain Top Removal (MTR) coal mining.  Junior Walk from West Virginia described the nightmare of destruction in his community, showing jugs of brown well water contaminated by mountaintop removal.  He reported on a meeting with EPA officials earlier in the day, which he said left the Appalachian activists unsatisfied.  “They think the answer is to allow more coal mining!” he said.

Confronting a large puppet representing the coal industry (with dollar signs for eyes) were people in EPA hazmat suits,  and a “die-in” representing people poisoned by their water.  A large black chain represented the way communities are locked into dirty water and its health impacts.  As the names of the heavy metals and other pollutants were read out, people “died”by falling onto the frigid sidewalk.

Gulf War veteran Thomas Freeman spoke about having defended his country and still needing to defend its people from environmental destruction.

Eli Schewel of Rising Tide talked about the importance of combating environmental injustice and the positive development of unity among the variety of forces that went into planning this demonstration.

Sue Edwards, Sierra Club Beyond Coal volunteer, talked about how it takes an act of faith to come out in the cold trying to change decisions that seem beyond our control.  She cited how each step we take builds our capacity, shows us our hidden talents, builds our skills, firms up alliances, and brings us closer to winning, “because we're on the right side of history.”

MTR mining, one form of “extreme fossil fuel extraction,” is particularly devastating to communities.  Once mountains are cleared of trees and reduced to rubble, the coal is extracted (using chemicals such as the one that leaked into the Elk River in West Virginia recently), and the remaining soil and rock is dumped into surrounding river valleys. The streams in those valleys become dead zones and well water becomes unfit for use as large quantities of poisonous chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead leach into waterways at toxic levels.  The EPA and independent scientists have repeatedly documented that waters downstream of mountaintop removal are harmed by high levels of pollution. In 2010,
the EPA issued a guidance to protect Appalachian streams. But this guidance is non- binding and states have shown repeatedly they are unable or unwilling to enforce the provisions.  Coal industry influence smothers democracy.

-- Karen Melton and Sue Edwards

The Alliance for Appalachia is a regional coalition with the goals of ending mountaintop removal mining, putting a halt to destructive coal technologies, and supporting a sustainable, just economy in Appalachia.

Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) is a Quaker organization working to build a just and sustainable economy through nonviolent direct action. The EQAT project BLAM! (Bank Like Appalachia Matters!) is a strategic effort to get PNC Bank out of the business of financing mountaintop removal.

Rising Tide is an international grassroots network organizing actions against the causes of climate change and towards a just transition to a non-carbon society. It was organized in 2000 to coordinate responses to the UN Climate Conference.

The Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation.



Press Coverage:
Metro, Jan 30., 2014 on Page 4
WHYY Radio and on Jan. 30, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mountaintop Removal Mining Information Session and Social Event

Sierra Club Social Event
Followed by Lecture/Discussion on Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining Monday, January 20 - MLK Day
Ross Commons, 2nd Floor, 34th & Powelton, Drexel University

   6:00pm - Socializing, Food, Live Music
   7:00pm - Short Videos and Discussion
   8:30pm - Goodbye

n Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a Sierra Club social event will be held on the Drexel campus, followed by a educational session. Guest speaker, Frank Schaller, will give a short presentation, and a Sierra Club activist will lead the discussion on the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining and what we can do about it. 

Live music will be performed by the band, Kate and Charlie, who will play popular acoustical selections. Complimentary food, beverages (non-alcoholic) and desserts will be served. Come out and enjoy this Happy Hour event celebrating the New Year and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
282 N 34th St - Ross Commons

In addition to the Drexel Sierra Student Coalition and members of the Philadelphia Veterans Center, the general public is invited. We will ask attendees to sign a petition and encourage them to attend the Jan. 29 rally at the EPA in support of clean water regulations for regions impacted by mountain top removal mining.

Dustin White of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Describes the Appalachian View of Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining.

Eli Schewel Explains the Conductivity Rule and Why Its Important for EPA to Adopt It

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

EPA Holds a Listening Session in Philly On Carbon Regulations for Existing Power Plants

EPA Listening Sessions on carbon regulations for existing power plants were held in 11 cities around the US in October & November 2013.  Philadelphia's was on Nov. 8—the only session to be held in a state that is both a major producer and user of coal.  Despite that, of the 94 people who testified at the session, only 16 spoke against the rule, while 76 spoke in favor, and 2 were neutral.

The fossil fuel industry paraded out their usual hackneyed denialist rhetoric. Here are a few quotes from those speaking in opposition (as captured by Russell Zerbo of Clean Air Council):

Emil Myer, President IBEW Local 614, displayed ignorance of the science of climate disruption by making the irrelevant point, "Carbon is not a poison…It's the only thing that keeps plants alive."

Electric Reliability Coordinating Council made the fallacious claims that the rule would have "no real impact on global warming" and would "hamper or stifle innovation."

John Gibbs, Business Agent for IBEW Local 614, stated, "We're all used to the comforts of life," ignoring the fact that a substantial proportion of energy use in industrialized European nations are generated by sustainable alternatives.

Additional questionable claims made during the PA Coal Alliance's anti-regulation testimony can be found an article in a local business journal.

Speakers in favor of regulating carbon made a powerful case for regulation of dirty, antiquated forms of energy:

Jan Marie Rushforth of Rushforth Solar business said there are currently 174,000 gas and oil industry jobs, while there are 3.1 million renewable energy jobs.  She pointed out that the #1 cause of kids missing school is asthma, which is exacerbated by climate change.

Clifford Wagner, a science exhibit designer and one of the Sierra Club's supporters, said sea level rise could easily be 1 meter by 2050, and tidal wetlands will be decimated.  He was an early adopter of climate change thinking:  in 1988 he helped design a display on global warming for the Franklin Institute.

This being Philadelphia, 6 of those who testified identified themselves as Quakers, including the head of Friends Fiduciary, which provides prudent, cost-effective management of financial assets for Friends organizations.  The Friends Fiduciary Corporation Board decided recently that they will exclude from their portfolios those companies whose primary business is the mining or production of coal.

One of those who testified, Gary Witt, Assistant Professor of Finance at Temple University, identified himself as a registered Republican and a supporter of carbon controls.

A Swarthmore College student who testified in support of climate action, Laura Rigell, said she traveled as an observer to climate talks in Cancun and was about to go to the Warsaw climate talks coming up this week.

The day included a press conference at Independence Mall featuring 6 speakers:  Mitch Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Brian Kauffman, Executive Director of the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance; Ed Perry of the National Wildlife Federation (speaking as a sport fisherman); Walter Tsou, president of Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility; Gretchen Alfonso of Moms Clean Air Force; and Joy Bergey of Penn Future.  It was covered by Sandy Bauer of the Inquirer, as well as a writer and a photographer from WHYY public radio.  Brief clips of the coverage were aired on 11/9.  A crowd of about 30 people was present to hear the speakers.

Acknowledgements of Contributions From Sierra Club Volunteers

Eight Philadelphia area volunteers did phone-banking to encourage people to come out for the session:  Karen Melton, Gillian Norris, Matt Henry, Linda Yborra, Alexa Manning, Ashley Nagle, Martha Ralphe, and Sue Edwards. Randy Francisco, a Sierra Club field staff organizer from western PA, sent out e-mails that also brought people out.

Additionally, Gary Lytle recruited about 6 or 8 veterans to come from the The Philadelphia Veterans Multiservice and Education Center.  These were men who have participated in several Sierra Club activities recently.  Three of them gave testimony at the hearing.

Sue Edwards, Robin Mann, Jim Wylie, and Karen Melton each spent time signing people in as they arrived at the Federal Building to testify in support of the regulations.   Randy Francisco provided 50 colorful aqua T-shirts reading "Our Communities Need CLIMATE ACTION NOW," which were eagerly snatched up by attendees.

Sue Edwards
E Bryan Crenshaw III
Sierra Club Volunteer Activists