Sierra Watch, April, 2015 Issue

In This Issue


by Anne Lovatt

One September, at least thirty-five years ago, I went to Cape May Point for a weekend get-away during the fall bird migrating season. I expected to see lots birds and was not disappointed. However, I was not expecting to be awed by the sight of so many lovely insects. Right at the end of the point, where the Delaware Bay meets the ocean, the beach was covered, I mean covered with those dazzling black and orange monarch butterflies. What were they doing on the beach, I wondered, being young and not very knowledgeable about anything yet. The answer is that they were doing what many people do on the beach – resting. Resting up for their long flight across the bay to Delaware. From Delaware, they continue their 3500 kilometer journey to the mountains of central Mexico. Precisely how the insects find their way to this refuge has long eluded biologists. They hibernate here until about March or May when they awaken, find a mate and begin their migration to the North. It’s the most amazing migration in nature.

Sadly, if you were to go to Cape May now during the migrating season, you would not be as awe-struck as I was because there are so many fewer monarchs. Their population has diminished by as much as 90% by some estimates since 1993. Clearly the beautiful monarch is in trouble. The main cause is destruction of habitat but other factors include insecticides, and ill-legal logging. But we can help!

Once the insect becomes an adult and finds a mate, the female lays her eggs on a particular plant – the milkweed Asclepias, growing all along its migratory route. The larvae then feed on the leaves when hatched. However, it too is dwindling with suburban development and loss of open space and getting harder to find. Anyone who has any outdoor space can plant it. If one has none, local and state parks can be petitioned to plant it or to allow others to do so. Milkweed can usually be purchased where native plants are sold. Below is a list of some establishments in the SPG area that do. A cheaper way is to start from seeds. Seeds can be found often at farmer’s markets or purchased from Amazon. This link gives detailed directions on the proper procedure for the care and planting of the seeds as well as other things that can be done to help save the creatures from extinction. .

There are a number of native plant outlets in the Philadelphia area, such as:

Also, many Arboretums sponsor native plant sales. Some Philadelphia area arboretums include Tyler, Morris, Awbury and Jenkins. Look online or call for their plant sale schedules.

Local Sierra Club volunteer Karen Melton has young milkweed plants available to give to area gardeners. You can contact her at

Radnor Township Buys 100% Green Power

by Robin Mann

SPG applauds Radnor Township’s recent decision to purchase 100% green renewable energy as part of implementing its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Action Plan. In July, 2012 Radnor Township acted at the urging of SPG members and others to endorse the Mayors’ Climate Agreement, and commit to conducting an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions and developing a plan to reduce those emissions.

Radnor has now elected to take advantage of the Pennsylvania Municipal League’s electricity procurement program, which offers member municipalities the opportunity to purchase competitively priced electricity generated by Constellation New Energy. But Radnor went a step further, agreeing to purchase Constellation’s 100% clean renewable wind energy option. While Constellation’s national wind power option at 6.539 cents per kwh is modestly more expensive than its conventional power option, it is considerably less expensive than PECO power generation at 9.05cents per kwh.

Commenting on this important step in implementing the township’s emissions reduction plan, Environmental Advisory Council Chair Josh Hilbert noted, “the switch to 100% wind power was one of the most impactful actions that Radnor Township could take to reduce it's carbon footprint. By implementing this important measure from Radnor's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Action Plan, carbon emissions attributable to Township operations were reduced by 25%.” SPG appreciates Radnor’s demonstrated leadership in advancing clean energy and climate protection. Why not urge your community to get on board and purchase 100% clean, renewable energy?

EARTH DAY(s) 2015

5th Annual Earth Day Fair at 30th Street Station

Wed., April 22, 9 am - 2 pm
Amtrak is hosting this tabling event in the North Arcade Waiting Area.

NarbEarth Day

Sat, Apr 25 noon – 4:00pm. Next to the Library at 80 Windsor Ave., Narbearth, PA 19072
The Narberth Civic Association presents the 26th Annual NarbEarth Day, the fun family festival of environmentally friendly living and sustainability, a Narberth tradition since 1990. Free admission to all. Visit Narberth for a listing of exhibitors. Visit the Sierra Club table while you are there!

Annual Darby/Cobbs Creek Cleanup

Sat. April 25, 9 am
Celebrate Earth Day hands-on by helping to clear streams of trash and other items. Choose from 30 different sites in the watershed area. Go to DCVA, click on Watershed Cleanups and follow instructions to get registered.

West Chester University Earth Fair

Fri April 24, 11 am

Drexel University Earth Week


Local Sierra Club Goes to Washington

In March a local delegation of six, including 5 volunteers, spent several days training and then lobbying on the hill along with 60+ other Sierra Club staffers and volunteers from around the country. We visited with staff of both PA senators Casey and Toomey and four area house members, Brady, Boyle, Fattah and Meehan. The message was simple – we want the EPA to do its job. We do not want Congress to pass legislation that undercuts the EPA’s authority or funding.

Final regulations are planned in 2015 for existing power plant emissions of CO2 (known as the Clean Power Plan) as well as for smog. These regulations are coming under attack by industry and polluter-friendly members of Congress.

Power Plants are the single largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as CO2 that contribute to climate change. U.S. coal and gas-fired power plants emit more than 2.3 billion metric tons per year.

Smog pollution sends thousands of children to emergency rooms every year, costing billions in healthcare, lost productivity and premature deaths. The EPA held hearings in January on whether to reduce the current standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65 or 70 ppb, while also seeking testimony on a standard of 60 ppb. A majority of those who testified argued in support of 60 ppb to protect human health. It is estimated this standard would prevent nearly 2 million asthma attacks and missed school days every year, as well as nearly 8 thousand premature deaths.

An EPA action that has received less attention, but is also coming under industry and Congressional attack, is a weak but important regulation passed in December 2015 that for the first time would begin to require monitoring of coal ash toxic by-products. Coal ash, left over after coal is burned contains high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. Exposure to these toxins increases the risk of cancer, birth defects, asthma and other illnesses. In fact the EPA found that living near some coal ash ponds is more dangerous than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. 1.54 million American children live near coal ash storage sites.

Our meetings on the hill were cordial and generally well received. We were delighted to learn that a new member of the PA delegation, Congressman Brendan Boyle from the 13th House District (parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties) is a strong supporter of the environment and these EPA standards. We look forward to working with his office.

Film Series at the Vet Center

For the past year the local Beyond Coal team has hosted a speaker series on climate change at a Center City Veterans Center. A number of the veterans, calling themselves Veterans For Clean Air, have become active partners in Beyond Coal activities, attending marches and hearings locally as well as in Harrisburg, NY and D.C. This year, local science teacher Kevin Little has added a film series to the calendar of events, showing climate change related documentaries and leading discussion at the vet center every first and third Saturday morning. Currently he is showing Years of Living Dangerously, a 9-part series on climate change that aired on Showtime last summer.


SPG is in the process of interviewing candidates for local elections. The primary is May 19th. We will post our endorsements on the website before then. Volunteers are needed to work for election of these candidates in the fall. If you would like to be part of that effort, contact Bill Brainerd at 610-325-3127 or Electing environmentally friendly public servants is an important part of the club's work and important for our future.

Longwall Mining and The Sierra Club Veterans Project

The Sierra Club of Southeastern PA and CCP Coalition for a Sustainable Future Present:


Monday April 27 at 6:45 PM
Center for Business and Industry, 18th and Callowhill Sts, Rm 2-28

Steve Kunz will show slides of a destructive form of underground coal mining that is driving people from their homes and drying up streams in southwestern PA.

Sue Edwards, Sierra Club PA Diversity Chair, will discuss why engaging with nontraditional allies is a priority for the Club. Beyond Coal Campaign organizer Gary Lytle will discuss a local program with Vietnam veterans. They have become strong allies, calling themselves "Veterans for Clean Air."


by Pat Beaudet

On April 25th, the PA Chapter will hold its Annual Stargazer Award Dinner to honor those volunteers who have made an outstanding contribution to the club during the year. This year's recipient from SPG is Sue Edwards.

A long-time peace activist, Sue became increasingly concerned about climate change which she believes is the most important problem facing the world today on every level. In 2010 she wanted to find a group to work with on that issue. Her research led her to the Sierra Club and the contact information for local staff organizer William Kramer for the Beyond Coal Campaign which focuses on the many aspects of climate change including dirty power plants, clean air, health issues and renewable energy. Together she and William expanded the campaign's reach to include people of color by speaking at Home & School Associations and churches, as well as attending health fairs to educate people on the connection between air quality and asthma. Also during that time Sue participated in the club's diversity training program which solidified her interest and gave her new skills.

Sue has been so committed to the Beyond Coal campaign and to the club's goal of engaging more diverse populations, she even led the campaign during a 5-month staff transition from June 2014-October 2014. She continues to volunteer now that Gary Lytle has become the new staff member. In January 2015 her training and on-the-ground experience earned her the position of the PA Chapter's lst Diversity Chair.

Congratulations, Sue!

Sierra Club Social Events

Collegeville MeetUps (Montco)

The Beyond Coal Campaign is organizing periodic social events around the area to engage with people that are concerned about our environment.

This is an opportunity to meet local Sierra Club leaders and discuss the ideas people have for hometown action and environmental stewardship in a relaxed and informal setting. Once a month, we'll provide live music and appetizers at a free family-friendly gathering with the hopes of making new friends and reconnecting with members who have been historically disconnected from Sierra Club events.

The Collegeville area event has been at Java's Brewin' in Limerick on the last Sunday of each month - 2pm to 4pm.

Watch this space for details -

Send mail to Gary Lytle ( with questions or suggestions.

Stop the pollution exemption for Brunner Island!

The Department of Environmental Protection has proposed a plan that will significantly reduce smog-causing pollution from most power plants in the state. But it will not require any pollution reductions from the Brunner Island power plant! We need to tell DEP and Governor Wolf that this is unacceptable.

Our next chance to do that will be at the Citizen's Advisory Council meeting on 4/21 at 10am at 400 Market Street in Harrisburg. This committee has yet to provide a recommendation on the rule, and could still send DEP staff back to the drawing board.

As you know, the Susquehanna Valley suffers from dangerous levels of air pollution, earning an "F" from the American Lung Association, and failing to meet federal standards for smog. The Brunner Island power plant is the largest polluter of smog-causing NOx in the region. It is also the only large coal-fired power plant left in the state that has not installed state-of-the-art pollution controls for NOx. This proposed rule would reward them for foot-dragging with an exemption from new stricter limits, rather than require them to install the controls their peers already have. That means more smog for the Susquehanna Valley and southeastern PA.

On the bright side, DEP has responded to our concerns in the past. The original version of the rule, published a year ago, did not require ANY coal-fired power plants to reduce their smog-causing pollution at all. After public outcry and two revisions, most plants will have to reduce their pollution by up to 70%. Let's make sure that Brunner Island is held to the same standard!

Click to View Volunteer Opportunities on VolunteerSpot

If you would like to make your voice heard, either by attending the 4/21 meeting or taking action in the future, or just have any questions, please contact Tom Schuster (