Sierra Watch, February, 2015 Issue

In This Issue

Beyond Coal Campaign Looks to 2015

Reducing Threats From Smog, Supporting The Clean Power Plan

Written by Karen Melton

Local volunteers for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign, with leadership from new Southeast campaign coordinator, Gary Lytle, will focus in 2015 on reaching out to diverse and non-traditional allies, moving Pennsylvania forward on reducing the health threat of SMOG, and supporting the EPA Clean Power Plan.

See PA Appoints First Diversity Chair in this issue about volunteer Sue Edwards’ new role as Sierra Club state-wide chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The next issue will provide an update on the Clean Power Plan.

Air quality in Pennsylvania has improved since passage of the Clean Air Act, but when it comes to SMOG, Pennsylvania lags behind many states. Smog is a mixture of ground level ozone and other pollutants that forms when emissions from sources such as coal-fired power plants, manufacturing and traffic react with sunlight. The ozone layer in the stratosphere deflects damaging levels of ultraviolet light back into space, but ozone at ground level is toxic to plant and animal life alike. Coal-fired power plants are the largest emitters of smog-causing pollution in PA.

The current national standard set by the EPA in 2008 for ground level ozone is 75 parts per billion (ppb). States are required to develop and implement plans for meeting that standard; however, 8 million Pennsylvanians, including those in the Philadelphia region, still live in non-attainment areas. Asthma rates for African American children in Philadelphia are double the national average.

In April 2014 the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) put forward a plan to limit smog-causing pollution from major point sources. It included numerous loopholes such as the ability to average emissions across multiple facilities and the ability to average emissions across 30 days instead of 24 hours.

Most importantly, although most coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania have advanced emission control technology called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) installed, the DEP proposal would not have even required them to use it.

Sierra Club led a coalition that publicly opposed the weak proposal, which drew comments from the EPA that it would not meet with approval, and from Connecticut and New Jersey that it would put compliance of their own states at risk. In fact, the plan was so bad that it would have allowed the largest power plants in the state to actually increase their pollution.

Under citizen pressure, the DEP updated the proposal. While it is an improvement, it still allows far too much pollution. SCR is still not defined as the reasonably available control technology; the allowable proposed emissions limit for plants with SCR is much higher than can be obtained with good operating procedures; and the draft still allows for 30-day averaging.

Unfortunately people do not get to breathe on average. Bad-air days are exactly the ones we need to eliminate, rather than looking for ways to hide them in the data. The challenge in Pennsylvania this year is to get DEP to come up with a viable plan.

At the same time PA is failing to make adequate plans to meet the 2008 standard, the EPA is conducting a 5 year review of the standard, as mandated by the Clean Air Act. In January hearings were held on further reducing allowable emissions. Health experts say the science indicates 60 parts per billion would save many lives and reduce health risks. A majority of those who testified at the hearings urged the EPA to adopt that as the new acceptable level, while industry testified that it should be left at the current level.

PA Chapter Appoints New Diversity Chair

Sue Edwards, Beyond Coal Volunteer

Written by Karen Melton

Sue Edwards of the Southeast Group of the Sierra Club has been named the Pennsylvania Chapter’s first-ever Diversity Chair. This new position demonstrates the Chapter’s commitment to become a more culturally diverse organization.

Edwards, who has been volunteering with the Beyond Coal Campaign for the past four years, will be working closely with the Chapter’s leadership to identify best practices to reach out to nontraditional allies. Edwards will work with the Chapter and groups to find opportunities to work with communities that are generally overlooked by the Sierra Club.

Environmental justice concerns are becoming increasingly important as the impacts of pollution and climate change hit communities of color and low income communities especially hard. Just one indication of this is that while 51 percent of US residents live in areas in violation of EPA’s air quality standards, 71 percent of African Americans live in these areas.

Edwards was selected as Diversity Chair because of her commitment to justice and for her experience in working with the culturally diverse group of veterans in Philadelphia. She attended the Sierra Club’s training on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and will be attending the White Privilege Conference in Louisville, KY, in March.

In the coming months, Edwards will be assisting the Club in forging a new relationship with the State Pennsylvania Conference of NAACP Branches and working with indigenous people in Lancaster County, who seek to stop a pipeline company from desecrating their sacred lands.

The national Sierra Club Board hopes to incorporate diversity work throughout the organization through its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) imitative.

Progressive Summit Report

Local Sierra Club Group Presents Panel “Veterans and African Americans: Necessary Allies in the Fight Against Climate Change.”

Written by Sue Edwards

Sierra Club staff and volunteers from the Beyond Coal Campaign, along with a veteran from Philly Vets for Clean Air (a group affiliated with the BCC) offered a workshop at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit in Harrisburg on Sat., Feb. 7th. Gary Lytle (Associate Organizing Representative), along with Karen Melton and Sue Edwards (volunteers) and Clifton Bennett (veteran) comprised a panel for a break-out group titled “Veterans and African Americans: Necessary Allies in the Fight Against Climate Change.”

It was attended by 20 - 25 people at the end of a long day. The panelists described how a lack of environmental justice results in serious health effects in African American and low income communities due to pollution and climate change. They explained how they began work with veterans in the Perimeter Program at the Veterans Multi-Service Center in center city Philadelphia to offer vets a new mission and purpose. A year-long education program, along with hikes and social events, was described. As part of the panel, a powerful video created by volunteer Bryan Crenshaw was shown that highlighted interviews with veterans. Two other veterans from Philly Vets for Clean Air were also in the audience and added comments.

One woman said that for her it was the best workshop all day!

In addition to this one panel, the three vets who went to Harrisburg got to hear plenary speakers Bernie Sanders and Krystal Ball, and they attended other break-out groups, their favorites being one on the Ferguson, MO, police killing of Michael Brown and one on fracking.

Also in the February, 2015 Issue

Call For Volunteers - Conservation Committees

Want to do more than sign petitions and make donations? Join a Conservation Committee. Help us organize, educate, lobby, mobilize, collaborate, influence and above all, learn about environmental issues that matter most to Sierra Club members in southeastern Pennsylvania. Volunteer as much or as little time as you want. No commitments, only opportunities to make a difference.

For further descriptions of these planned committees, go to the SPG Conservation Cmte Page.

Contact Jim Wylie ( to join a team or ask a question.

Call For Volunteers - Political Committee

Political Committee needs volunteers to learn about Sierra Club's endorsement process and assist in evaluating candidates. If you are interested, contact Bill Brainerd at or call 610-325-3127.

Martin Luther King Junior Day March Report

Sierra Club Beyond Coal Philadelphia has been a shining example of the City of Brotherly Love, with a sizable and active African American and Military Veteran volunteer base. On January 19, the MLKJ March allowed us to show our social justice partners that the environmental movement stands by their side! .. Read More

The Sierra Club and Community College of Philadelphia Coalition for a Sustainable Future present:

Saving Energy at Home
Monday March 9, 2015, 6:45 PM
Center for Business and Industry, 18th & Callowhill Sts, Rm C2-28

Steve Luxton of the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia will discuss how your home uses and loses energy. You'll learn how to assess your home's thermal integrity without having to hire a professional energy auditor. Virtually every house has room for improvement, whether it's upgrading a major system or simply unplugging that old Harvest Gold refrigerator. There are many low cost/no cost ways to trim your energy bill while benefiting the environment.


Free Admission. For reviews of previous programs, visit

Sierra Club Social Events

Green and Clean at Drexel U (Phila), 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 Philadelphia event is usually at Ross Commons on Drexel University's campus and the Collegeville area event has been at Java's Brewin' in Limerick, but will likely try several venues.

What this space for details -

Send mail to Gary Lytle ( with questions or suggestions.