Sierra Watch, July, 2015 Issue

In This Issue





Oil Trains Rally

2nd Anniversary of the Lac Megantic Derailment

Please join fellow concerned citizens for a family-friendly rally on Saturday July 11th from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Schuylkill River Trails Park – entrance at 25th & Locust streets.

A 2:30 press conference will raise awareness about the dangers of the 100+ car oil trains that snake through Philadelphia neighborhoods and over the Schuylkill River every day, carrying highly flammable Bakken crude oil to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery.

The press conference will be followed by a remembrance of the 47 lives lost in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in an oil train explosion and fire on July 6, 2013. The remembrance concludes at 3:15 with a New Orleans style procession with decorated umbrellas (bring an umbrella, bling will be provided) led by the West Philadelphia Orchestra.

There will be treats, a marching band, and a variety of arts and other fun activities for children and adults alike throughout the afternoon.

Similar events are taking place across the U.S. between July 6th and 12th as part of a national Stop Oil Trains Week of Action. You can read more at the Delaware Riverkeeper Delaware Riverkeepers Events page


SPG/BCC Summer Picnic

Southeastern PA Sierra Club and the Beyond Coal Campaign are hosting a summer picnic........There is ample parking and Bartram's is accessible by the #36 trolley.

When: August 1, at 12:00

Where: The historic Bartram's Gardens, 5400 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia in the Eastwick Pavilion.

The site is the 45-acre former home of John Bartram, 18th century botanist and is a national historic site. It is accessible to the #36 trolley and is in Southwest Philadelphia.

Activities:

  • Free Kayaking & Canoeing 11 am - 3 pm
  • Shop at the Welcome Center for fresh produce, native plants and heirloom seeds. Pick up map for self-guided tour of the grounds ($1)
  • Guided tours: Hidden History at 12 pm & 2 pm; Garden Tour at 1 pm & 3 pm. Tours last approx. 45 min. Purchase tickets ($12) at the Welcome Center

Visit www.bartramsgarden.org for an overview of the many wonderful things to see and do at Bartram's

Heavy rain cancels. Raindate TBD. You will be notified by e-mail.

Please RSVP and tell us what you would like to bring.


PA Chapter Annual Members Outing - July 10-12

Little Pine State Park, Waterville PA

Free to all members!    It's not too late!

Visit www.pennsylvania.sierraclub.org to register, Deadline: Thursday, July 9th

Group camping, organized activities, speakers, potluck dinner Sat. night. After you register, you will receive more information.


Gardening for Pollinators

by Karen Melton

More than two-thirds of the world’s crops require pollination, including more than 100 crops grown in the U.S. The value of pollinator services in the U.S. is estimated at $3 billion per year. In addition to pollinating foods essential to the human food supply, the fruits and seeds resulting from insect pollination are a critical part of the diets of many species of birds and mammals.

Pollinators are increasingly at risk as a result of human activity, principally habitat destruction and the use of pesticides.

Many people know that honey bee colonies have been dying in large numbers for the past decade, but it is not as well known that the population of native wild bees such as bumble bees, which are excellent pollinators, has also declined precipitously.

In addition to bees, butterflies and many other insects including the common house fly are terrific pollinators. This article focuses on bees, and in particular native bees -- Honey Bees were introduced by European settlers.

There are thousands of bee species in North America and more than 300 can be found in Pennsylvania. They vary a great deal in where and how they nest -- many species of native bees are solitary nesters. Leave some areas of your garden or yard undisturbed, allowing for some brush or decaying wood that can provide nesting sites and material. For bees that live in wood, consider buying or building a nest box.

Bees consume nectar from flowers which provide sugars and they obtain protein and a variety of nutrients from pollen. In planning a garden to support pollinators, it is important to have flowers in bloom throughout the growing season. Bumble bees, for example, emerge from hibernation early in the spring and can still be seen late into the fall.

Native plants are much more attractive to native bees and other pollinator insects than foreign species. There are a number of native plant nurseries in the Delaware Valley and if you shop for plants at a big box store, tell them you are looking for natives. Traditionally they have carried only foreign plant species, but are slowly responding to demand for natives. You can find native plant lists at many websites – try the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Audubon Society, or the PSU Extension. The Master Gardener program sponsored by PSU Extension, maintains a demonstration pollinator garden at the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center (near Japanese House) where you can observe many native pollinator-attracting plants and shrubs.

In addition to being preferred by pollinators, native plants are easier to grow and maintain and need less water because they are adapted to our climate and soil conditions.

Pesticides on leaves, flowers or nesting material kill bees. They also kill butterflies, butterfly eggs, and caterpillars – a critical food source for birds. When purchasing plants, make sure they have not been treated with pesticides. For organic methods of dealing with garden pests, look for the You Bet Your Garden section on the WHYY.org website, hosted by organic gardener Mike McGrath.

Neonicotinoids, or “neonics” are a class of insecticides that are believed to be a contributing factor to the collapse of bee populations around the world. These pesticides remain in the tissue of plants and in the pollen harvested by bees. There is a ban on some neonics in the EU while more study is done, although manufacturers Bayer CropScience and Sargenta are suing the UE in response.

In the U.S., efforts to institute a ban have been unsuccessful. In the absence of government action many gardeners have joined campaigns to convince major garden centers to go neonic-free. BJ’s Wholesale Club, Home Depot and Lowes have pledged to work with their suppliers to eliminate or at least label neonics. Retailers respond to consumer demand, so when you buy plants be sure to ask if they are pesticide free.

Some Favorite Native Perennial Nectar plants for Bees and Butterflies:

PlantCommon Name
Syringa VulgarisLilac
Coreopsis grandiflora Early Sunrise
Echinacea purpurea Cone Flower
Asclepias Butterfly Weed, Milkweeds
Eupatorium purpureum Joe Pye Weed
Solidago canadensis Goldenrod
Monarda Bee Balm

Recommended Resource: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Douglas Tallamy, Chairman, Dept of Entomology, Univ of Delaware.


Still Working to Become the Greenest City in America?

On May 19th Philadelphia voters chose Jim Kenney by a wide margin as the Democratic candidate for mayor on the ballot this November. In an overwhelmingly democratic city, this means Kenney will very likely be the next Mayor.

While a member of City Council, Kenney created the first standing committee on the environment, and championed many green initiatives. Here are some of the policies he has pledged to promote if elected Mayor: improving commercial energy efficiency; investing in public transportation infrastructure; a permanent moratorium on drilling and fracking in the Delaware River Watershed; a green procurement policy for goods and services; creating a program for commercial and construction recycling in Philadelphia; putting the city on a path to meet the EPA guideline of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; and building 30 miles of protected bike lines.

These and other proposals are further detailed in his "21st Century Transportation and Environment for Philadelphia" policy paper on the Kenney2015 website.


Congressman Boyle Holds Town Hall on Climate

A standing room only crowd of more than 100 attended a Town Hall on Climate in Jenkintown on June 30th.

Sierra Club helped to spread the word along with other area environmental groups. Adam Garber of PennEnvironment moderated a panel including Congressman Brendan Boyle, Drew Shaw from the Montgomery County Planning Commission, Hannah Ryan, a pediatric nurse and a speaker from the local EPA office.

A focus of the evening was the clean Power Plan, an EPA rule due to be finalized this summer. It sets state-specific standards for carbon emissions and requires each state to come up with a plan to meet that standard. Critics of the standard claim it will have an adverse impact on the economy, but Congressman Boyle described how a healthy environment and strong economy go hand in hand.

Attendees applauded enthusiastically as each panelist gave his or her perspective on climate change and the urgency to take action. Q&A between the panelists and audience rounded out the event.


Philadelphia Hosts NY Climate / Justice Organizers

By Susan Edwards

Excitement was in the air. Almost 200 activists from unions, community groups, environmental and environmental justice groups as well as faith communities gathered in Philadelphia on June 2nd to learn how to put together a powerful movement that could move cities to action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and paving the way for a clean energy economy while putting principles of economic and environmental justice at the forefront.

The forum entitled “Labor, Community, and the Climate Crisis: Building Alliances for Economic and Environmental Justice,” was held at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall where participants heard first hand from several leaders in New York City's Climate Works for All Coalition and People's Climate Movement about how they are working to move New York City forward. The event was co-sponsored by 37 organizations, attended by activists from as many as 60 organizations and attracted one of the most diverse audiences ever seen for a climate event in Philadelphia. The program was moderated by Bryan Mercer, Co-Executive Director of the Media Mobilizing Project, which uses media to organize poor and working people.

John Braxton, union leader and Jobs with Justice activist; Mitch Chanin, a member of 350 Philly; and Sue Edwards, a Sierra Club Beyond Coal volunteer, organized the event.

John Braxton, past co-president of the union representing Community College of Philadelphia faculty and staff, opened the program with an introduction to the need for climate action. He emphasized that the climate crisis and economic injustice are two problems with one solution: a massive green jobs program with training and income support for workers who lose fossil fuel jobs. He was followed by a welcome from the hosting union – which have installed solar panels on their office roof -- and a perspective from long-time hospital workers union leader, Henry Nicholas. Then the first featured speaker, Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, gave a rousing talk, full of humor, describing the ways that communities of color and low-income communities are laced with toxic sites that affect people both as workers and as residents. NY City identified six neighborhoods where it lowered environmental standards to retain industry. All six are vulnerable to storm surges and flooding. He questioned why it makes any sense to site heavily polluting industries on the waterfront. He spoke admiringly of environmental justice (EJ) activists who didn't go to school for environmental studies but are actually ”street PhD's,” considering all they've learned. Finally, he said that “resiliency” usually means bouncing back, but in an inequitable situation, we need to bounce forward.

Jon Forster spoke next. A research scientist, he is co-chair of the People's Climate Movement-NY as well as a vice president of District Council 37 of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees). About 80 percent of the members of his union are people of color, many of whom were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and many of whom are first responders. He recalled the power of the 400,000 who attended the People's Climate March in September 2014, breaking down the silos between labor, faith, environmental, and environmental justice communities. He lifted up the importance of the Jemez Principles, which were developed in 1996 led by the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice to facilitate respectful and democratic organizing among different cultures. Forster emphasized the need for a just transition that provides displaced workers from fossil fuel jobs with assistance, such as free training with wage support and enhanced retirement benefits. He ended by saying we have to build a movement, not just mobilize for an event.

Josh Kellerman, Senior Policy and Research Analyst at ALIGN (the Alliance for a Greater New York) and lead author of the report titled “Climate Works for All: A Platform for Reducing Emissions, Protecting Our Communities, and Creating Good Jobs for New Yorkers,” explained that in the Climate Works for All Coalition, environmental groups are not making decisions on their own, but are part of a larger whole. There is an ongoing process of trust-building among the members of the coalition. The NYC Central Labor Council has been a core member of the Climate Works for All Coalition, and the AFL-CIO endorsed the climate platform.

During the discussion that followed, the point was made that if we want to get labor organizations to pass strong resolutions on climate, it will be important to craft these carefully on unifying issues. Electrical workers and public sector unions are a good place to start.

One of the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy is that NYC’s electric power grid was seriously affected by the storm. Some areas went months without power through the winter months. Activists are stressing the importance of installing solar and wind micro-grids so there is an option for neighborhoods to de-link from the existing grid in emergencies.

How to pay for a transition to clean energy? Public housing retrofits will need federal HUD funds. Retrofitting large buildings that are privately owned must be paid for by the owners. Such buildings use a large percent of total energy consumption. For the rest, we'll need government involvement such as during World War II.

Mention was made of some exciting developments in NY. For example, training modules about climate change are being developed for neighborhoods. Laws have been enacted requiring that by 2030, all new buildings and any buildings refinanced or sold must meet “passive” building design standards. Passive design is not an attachment or supplement to architectural design, but a design process that is integrated with architectural design to reduce energy use and a building’s carbon footprint.

The wrap-up at the end of the program emphasized that we can't be satisfied with what we've done so far. Those who aren't yet taking climate into account must look for ways to bring it into their thinking. Those who are not in touch with community and EJ activists need to find ways to get to know and support those efforts. And anyone who is ignoring the plight of workers who may be displaced if we succeed in cutting greenhouse gas emissions will have to re-think their language and adjust their goals. There must be concrete measures for a just transition to good jobs at the heart of our demands.

Follow-up to this excellent forum is being discussed. Stay tuned!


Celebrate and Defend the Clean Water Rule!

by Robin Mann

Clean water enthusiasts across the nation cheered enthusiastically on May 27, 2015 when the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the final Clean Water Rule, clarifying which of the nation’s waters are protected from pollution and destruction under the federal Clean Water Act. In issuing the rule, the Obama administration was seeking to end the destructive and costly uncertainty that has plagued clean water protection for over a decade. But immediately, members of Congress introduced legislation in both the U.S. House and Senate to block the rule, acting at the behest of industry interests. We are calling on our members of Congress to stand up TO industry pressure against the Clean Water Rule and stand up FOR clean water. Let’s make sure they hear from us!

The problem: Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 excluded certain wetlands and small streams from protection under the Clean Water Act. The Bush administration interpreted those rulings in an excessively broad way with guidance denying clear protection to a vast extent of headwater streams and wetlands that had longstanding protection and were in no way similar to the waters addressed in those cases. Clean water advocates and many others have urged the agencies to issue a new rule clearly defining the “waters of the United States,” and restoring protection to the headwater streams and wetlands jeopardized by the previous administration’s policy.

Industry backlash: Industry interests that benefited under the Bush administration’s flawed approach have sought to limit the reach of the new rule in restoring longstanding protections. The American Farm Bureau Federation has been fanning resistance to the rulemaking, claiming “Nearly every drop of water that falls would be regulated by the federal government. … It could be a gutter, a roadside ditch or a rain puddle.” The National Association of Home Builders, in a press statement the day the rule was released, claimed, “the rule significantly expands the definition of a tributary to include any dry land feature that flows only after a heavy rainfall.”

Anticipating these and other false characterizations, the EPA has issued “The Clean Water Rule: Fact Check”

It refutes the ludicrous claims about puddles and gutters. It explains that the rule provides the basis for permitting activities in waters; it doesn’t prohibit them. And it details how, in fact, the agencies have leaned over backwards to accommodate agricultural interests, expanding on and codifying into regulation exemptions for farming practices.

The facts notwithstanding, members of Congress have been convinced to sponsor legislation blocking the rule from taking effect or denying the agencies the funding to implement it.

Importance of headwaters: The Supreme Court rulings established a “significant nexus” test that waters must meet to be considered “waters of the United States” and protected under the Clean Water Act. An extensive scientific analysis underpins the agencies’ determination that small headwater streams and many so-called “isolated” wetlands have a “significant nexus” with and therefore affect the health of larger waters downstream. As reported in the June 2015 UpStream Newsletter, Pennsylvania’s renowned Stroud Water Research Center was part of the team of freshwater scientists tapped by the agencies for the analysis. [See http://www.stroudcenter.org/newsletters/2015/issue3/epa-water-rule.shtm]

A strong scientific basis establishing the connectivity of headwater streams and wetlands to downstream waters is important for jurisdictional purposes. But the basic concept isn’t that hard. The headwaters perform vital functions that affect the health of waters downstream, and the life that depends on them. As Fly Rod and Reel Magazine Conservation Editor Ted Williams observed recently, reacting to industry and Congressional opposition to the rule, “The Clean Water Act says this: ‘The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that there should be no discharges of oil or hazardous substances into or upon the navigable waters of the United States.’ It doesn’t say, ‘except by gravity.’

And as EPA and the Corps have noted, climate change adds to the importance of protecting what’s left of our headwaters:

“Climate change makes protection of water resources even more essential. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Impacts from climate change like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures threaten the quantity and quality of America’s water. Protecting streams and wetlands will improve our nation’s resilience to climate change.”

Take Action: Call your members of Congress and urge them to support the Clean Water Rule and to oppose all measures to block the rule or undermine its effective implementation.


Philly Bike Share and Bicycles Coalition

by Bill Brainerd

On Monday June 15 two leaders of the bicycle community spoke to the Sierra Club in the Center for Business and Industry, 18th and Callowhill. The first speaker was Bob Previdi of the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley. The Coalition started in 1972, has 2,000 members, and has 16 fulltime staff. Its goals are Vision Zero (meaning No Traffic Deaths), Better Mobility, and Safety for All.

There were 94 traffic deaths, including car and truck drivers, bikers, and 33 pedestrians in Philadelphia last year. There were just 23 deaths by fire. The commonest injuries Thomas Jefferson University treats are falls; the second most common are traffic accidents. They cost Philadelphia $1 B a year. Deaths inside cars are decreasing thanks to seat belts and air bags, but deaths outside are increasing.

Stockholm, London and Paris have studied the causes of traffic accidents and substantially reduced their frequency. The Bicycle Coalition thinks Philadelphia traffic deaths can be cut in half by 2020. Chicago thinks deaths can be eliminated by 2022. The City should

  1. Convene a task force to study where accidents happen and why.
  2. Increase the repaving budget.
  3. Enforce laws more vigorously.
  4. Educate the public especially schoolkids.

Of 2,500 miles of streets in Philadelphia, 900 need repaving, yet the City repaves just 60 a year. The budget should be doubled.

Construction shouldn't be allowed to block the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians out into the street. The City has just one person to issue blocked sidewalk permits and enforce them. The Parking Authority should be able to ticket offenders who have no permit.

A protected bike lane is one with the curb on the right and parked cars on the left. The parking lane is moved away from the curb to make room for bikes, as on 9th Avenue in NYC. Philadelphia could have 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020 and 75 miles of unprotected bike lanes by 2030.

If your bike is stolen, you have a better chance of getting it back if it's registered with police. Go to any police station. They will park or number your bike, making it easier to identify.

The Bicycle Coalition speaks up for walkers too. Bikers who go too fast where there are pedestrians are rude. One cause of their lawlessness is the number of stop signs in Philadelphia. There are too many.

The second speaker was Cara Ferrentino of the Mayor's Office of Transportation, manager of Philadelphia's new Bike Share program, named Indego because it's sponsored by Independence Blue Cross. The City owns all bike and station equipment and the program is operated by a local company called Bicycle Transit Systems. Sponsorship dollars and user fees, not City funds, finance Indego operations. Philadelphia is the 60th US city to have Bike Share. Worldwide 150 cities have it. So does Montgomery County.

600 bikes are parked at 71 stations in Center City. There are three different options for using the system. First, for $15 a month, paid in advance by credit card online or cash at certain stores, one may take an unlimited number of one-hour rides per month. When your hour is up, return to your bike to any station and check another out again, or pay $4 to keep the same bike for an additional hour. Second, for $10 a year, one can take a one-hour ride for $4, payable by credit card. Third, one can walk up to any station kiosk and pay $4 by credit card for every half-hour of a ride.

Indego is good for one-way and late night trips after SEPTA has stopped running. There is no charge for returning a bike to a rack other than the one where you got it. Bikes are available 24/7/365. Bikes are heavy--45 pounds--so they can't go too fast. They have one large rear basket and a small front basket. They have bells with generator lights front and rear. They are maintained by Bicycle Systems Inc., a Philadelphia-based company whose staff have launched and operated bike share programs in many other cities.

Stations were sited with care by the City. Large circular red stickers were placed on sidewalks at potential sites, asking people to text whether or not possible locations were good spots for bike share. In addition, an online map allowed the public to vote on all 95 potential bike share sites. 10,000 comments from 5,600 people were received through this effort. Most stations are purposely near transit stops, libraries, community centers, parks, medical centers, or grocery stores. Indego wants to appeal to people of all income levels. It knows $15 is too much for some people and will be working on reduced price membership options for future phases of the program. 25% of the City's poor live in the bike share service area. The City is leading an effort called the Better Bike Share Partnership, which focuses on reducing barriers to bike share use by low-income individuals through station siting, the development of a cash-payment option (the first of its kind in the nation), and by hiring neighborhood ambassadors to lead rides and learn-to-ride classes.

Riders are responsible for their own insurance.

Since the April 23 launch, 90,000 rides have been taken, 4,000 people have paid $15 to join, and there have been 12,000 walkup rides. Indego will expand north, west and south in spring 2016 depending on funding availability.


Lobby Day for Clean Energy

On June 16th Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and PennEnvironment welcomed about 50 volunteers from around the state in Harrisburg to show support for environmental funding in Governor Wolf’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

The Governor’s proposal included $170 million for clean energy and efficiency -- $50m for solar power, $20 M for wind power incentives, $30 M for high-efficiency combined heat and power projects, $20 M for clean energy investments in agriculture, and $50 M for energy efficiency programs.

It also included additional funding for the Department of Environmental Protection, which currently has only 83 inspectors tasked with covering more than 24,000 oil and gas wells, plus additional funding for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The volunteers met with 40 House and Senate members, and delivered information packets to the remaining offices.

An afternoon rally featured speakers including Khari Mosely from the Blue Green Alliance, Steve Hvozdovich from Clean Water Action and PA Sierra Club Chapter Director Joanne Kilgour.

As our newsletter goes to press the legislature is in the process of passing a repeat of the last administration budget which Governor Wolf has said he will veto.