Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Post 100

Hello There.

Administrator Jackson made a pretty bold statement last night in Cali. EPA will be looking into 6 chemicals that are of particular concern and many states have begun to take action in reducing, eliminating, and regulating.

Environmental Health News stated:

"Jackson said the EPA is gathering data from industry on the six chemicals so the agency can assess their safety and develop action plans with firm deadlines to limit exposure. The EPA may restrict their use or require labels on consumer products to warn of risks. The agency already has such authority under the existing law, she said.

The EPA will start with the six high-profile chemicals, then add more. EPA officials said they will post four "chemical action plans" in December describing how they will handle the initial compounds, and then post plans for more chemicals in four-month intervals.

Some 80,000 chemicals—some of them widely used in consumer products--are in commerce today, and some lack detailed health and safety data. Jackson said the agency and the manufacturers will review and act on chemicals with the highest priority in a timely manner.

“As more and more chemicals are found in our bodies and the environment, the public is understandably anxious and confused. Many are turning to government for assurance that chemicals have been assessed using the best available science, and that unacceptable risks haven’t been ignored,” Jackson told an audience of several hundred people during a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Tuesday night.

An audience member asked if the EPA would add the right of citizens to sue for non-compliance of the law, a provision that lies within the Clean Water Act.

“That’s a great idea,” she said, and “it was certainly something to consider.”

She credited citizens and states with taking their own steps to manage industrial chemicals, and said it differentiated new environmentalism from old environmentalism.

“The power of citizenry should never be ignored,” she said. For example, mothers of infants concerned about chemical exposure have prompted many manufacturers to produce BPA-free baby bottles."

This is a great sign, but we must not forget that regardless of the champions we have in office, we must participate in helping to reduce toxic chemicals from our bodies, the products we buy, and the earth.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

chemicals, politics and bullshit

Good morning world! It's pretty much a perfect Fall morning and as I continue my morning reading and drink my french pressed breakfast blend, I remember why I do this work.

Federal judge throws out most of C8 suit against DuPont

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge on Monday dismissed most of a lawsuit filed against chemical giant DuPont Co. by Parkersburg residents over the pollution of their city's water with the toxic chemical C8.

U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin dismissed claims of negligence, nuisance, trespassing and battery, almost a year to the day after refusing to allow Parkersburg residents to pursue their case against DuPont as a class-action lawsuit.

Goodwin allowed residents to continue to pursue only a part of the lawsuit that seeks to force DuPont to pay for medical monitoring for early detection of any illnesses linked to C8 contamination.

In a 41-page ruling, Goodwin concluded residents did not have a case on most of their claims. The judge also found that court is not the proper place to decide what to do about any problems caused by DuPont's discharge of C8 into the Parkersburg community.

"The potential effects of these chemicals on human health are of great public concern," Goodwin wrote. "Issues of institutional competence, however, caution against judicial involvement in regulatory affairs.

"Courts are designed to remediate, not regulate," Goodwin wrote.

C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA. DuPont has used the chemical since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg. C8 is a processing agent used to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.

Around the world, researchers are finding that people have C8 and other perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, in their blood at low levels. Evidence is mounting about the chemical's dangerous effects, but regulators have yet to set a federal standard for emissions or human exposure.

In September 2004, DuPont agreed to a $107.6 million settlement with residents of communities around Parkersburg. The money is funding two major studies of C8's health impacts, and DuPont could end up on the hook for another $235 million in medical testing costs if a link to illness is proven. DuPont also installed treatment systems to get the chemical out of local water.

Wood Circuit Court Judge George W. Hill had certified those communities' case as a class action. At the time the settlement deal was made, though, C8 had not yet been found in the Parkersburg city water supply.

Later, C8 was detected there, and a follow-up lawsuit was filed. It ended up in front of Goodwin because of a 2005 law that said federal courts must handle proposed class actions that involve significant amounts of money or parties from different states.

DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said, "We are still in the process of reviewing Judge Goodwin's order, but pleased he has dismissed virtually all the claims. The company will continue to defend itself as the case proceeds."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at or 304-348-1702.

I get a lot of calls from communities that ask for the name of a good lawyer. That a polluting facility in their town is harming the future of their children and their families. The hardest part of that conversation is what I have to say next. You can't stop polluting facilities by suing. You need to organize. You need to knock on your neighbors doors and invite them over for a coffee along all the other neighbors on your block. You need to strategize and find out who holds the real power in your town and figure out what will bring them to their knees, because it isn't a lawsuit. They will always have more money. When I suggest that they find out if those with power have kids at their school or go to the same church they begin to feel uncomfortable. I can hear in their voice that they think I'm radical. That its going to start trouble. But that's exactly what we need to be doing when we are being poisoned. We need to start trouble.

There is a good story about a victory over a medical waste incinerator in South Bronx about the importance of community involvement:

"In the battle to close the incinerator, the most important thing was to get the word out in the community and bring people together. All of the invaluable help, advice, research, and allies that we have gained over the years came to us because people saw a community in motion. No expert in the world can win your struggle for you if the community is not coming together to speak out. Even if it is a few hardcore people doing a lot of the work, it is vital to continually find ways for community members to participate, through activities such as prayer vigils, rallies, petitions, and school classes making posters. We wanted the community to own the victory through their involvement, to make it strong for the future.

One important way we did this was through the participation of children and adults who were concerned about children's health. We had very strong involvement, particularly of the parochial schools in our area. Parents, principals, and teachers were very worried about increased school absenteeism from asthma, and complaints that outdoor recess made children feel ill. We spoke in classes and the kids responded with beautiful poems and posters. One of the children who spoke out against the incinerator later died of an asthma attach. We brought bus loads of kids wearing oxygen masks to our demonstrations, which not only made for great press, but also kept the issue of why we were there close to our hearts."

Lawsuits like the one above help bring greater attention to these types of issues, but it isn't where we win. We win when people like you do something unexpected and refuse to be bullied by polluting companies.

What are you going to do today to help bring attention to an issue you care deeply about?


Monday, September 28, 2009

ssfhhrsshhhttooooo . . . .

My cute green coat is out so I guess Fall is coming though we here in DC barely had any "I can't do anything but sit on my stoop, drink very cold sangria, and holla at the hotties because its so fucking hot" days, so it doesn't really seem like summer ever showed. Maybe next year.

But I did get through one more quarterly staff meeting, where we all are forced to sit in a room and pretend to like each other long enough to get the other people at the table to listen to you talk about why your campaign is so awesome they should work harder to help you win. Yup, we needed booze to get through that part too. At least no one got clotheslined . . . physically anyway.

So I'm searching for what's going on in Wired Magazine this week and found a how to guide on faking a roller derby fight. Love it!

My favorite part: "Clotheslining is illegal, so stunt or not, you'll likely be ejected from the game. Do it with flair: "Flash your fishnets, flip people off, and go have a beer." I'm there!

Roller derby sounds pretty amazing. If I ever run an organization, I might have to institute some derby rules or force people that can't get along to go for a round. Better than the softball bullshit people do here in DC. EPA v Sierra Club? la.m.e. EPA v impacted communities living near coal fired power plants in Ohio in a roller derby match? Oh yeah!

Drew Barrymore is releasing Whip It soonish, or has already, not sure. I love her. Of course, I also love inspiring football speeches in movies. And those moments when someone's not so much enemy but not really their friend either puts out their hand to shake.

Hey look - Kurt Anderson (from NPR) discusses how our little recession might be able to get our country back on track, you know where we re-evaluate our values and think maybe Florida shouldn't be trying to build 60,000 new homes when 30,000 are currently vacant.

Here is one good snipet of his internview with the AV Club:

AVC: White House Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel received a lot of criticism early on in this administration when he said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” But in your book, you side with him, arguing that a crisis can “allow some of the rot and dysfunction to be cleared away,” especially in regard to health-care reform.

KA: [Political journalist] Michael Kinsley once defined a gaffe as someone in Washington telling the truth. I think Emmanuel’s comment was absolutely true. In our society, maybe all societies, and even in our lives, when crises happen, we fix the things that may have caused them. A fire starts, so you get a smoke alarm. Your kid doesn’t have health insurance, and she falls down and breaks her chin; she’s convinced then she should buy herself health insurance. So I just think it’s undeniably true, and what I like about it is not so much that this or that health-reform bill will pass, but that it means that lots more stuff politically is on the table that wasn’t on the table before, because “Holy Christ, this system doesn’t work, this thing’s fucked up, that doesn’t work…” So, you know, more things are open for discussion than usual. If things are going okay, we tend to sit back on the couch and pop a brew and not think about it.

and this:

AVC: Because we were in the midst of this crisis, you mention that we still don’t have the proper perspective to realize what a monumental thing it was to elect the first African-American as president. Now, with things like the “birther” movement, charges of Marxism and socialism, and the people who showed up to town hall meetings with Obama-as-Hitler signs, even guns in some cases, this not-so-subtle racism seems to be bubbling up as the immediacy of the economic meltdown fades. It’s as if some people are just now scratching their heads and thinking, “Wait, how did we let this happen?”

KA: You’re absolutely right. I wonder to what degree the “birthers,” for instance, are consciously racist. And some of them presumably are, but I think some of them aren’t. As you were saying, it’s like, “Holy cow! We’ve got a black president. That can’t be in my America! Therefore, he is not the president, because he was born in Kenya!” It is a funny sort of delayed reaction. It’s interesting and funny if it weren’t so sad, but I think it’s a fringe thing. But you’re right, after the worst of the economic emergency has passed, there is a bit of, “Hey, wait a minute, look! He’s black!”

Read the whole interview here.

My friend Kate, just recommended a book to me called Three Cups of Tea. I've only read three chapters on the train today (yup that's how long my commute is), but it's pretty amazing right when I need an amazing story of adventure to read. I'm heading out for a pretty big one myself in a couple weeks and the thoughts of whether I'm doing the right thing are waking me up at night, driving me to chain smoke menthols and might have been responsible for this past weekend's day/night of whiskey drinking. But regardless of how people react badly (I now just pretend that every reaction is Yeaaaa Renee) and my wondering mind, I know that I'm just not the kind of person to commute in the morning to an office where nobody speaks to each other and I can't explore some weird foreign culture everyday.

Anyways, Three Cups of Tea is pretty great. Wait. . . didn't I use to write about chemicals and politics and shit. . . . hmm . . anyways, I just wanted to share this quote I read this afternoon.

"And with the sort of serendipity that so often rewards impetuousness . . " I just think that is really beautiful. When you make big decisions the universe throws you something you never expected to help you along.

I promise to talk about chemicals and politics and shit next time.


p.s. Jim Carroll totally died!

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Beginnings . . . Hopefully

I always think Spring is the time for new beginnings, but lately I've had several friends that have taken giant chances on themselves and making very large changes in their life. I am so proud of my friends that have made these huge decisions because if you don't take a chance then you'll always be what you've always been. I think this new found faith in ourselves and each other is directly related our country's economic situation. The time is ripe for innovation and historically economic downturns and moments of hardship always bring out the best and most creative. Everywhere I turn people are starting gardens, selling talents that was once just something that you did on the weekend, and starting new businesses. Doesn't seem like the time to start a new business but recent college grad without a prayer of getting a good job the time couldn't be more perfect.

As you may know, I am and always have been an eternal optimist. It's just who I am. I often get into fights with people about it, which I did this past vacation with a bunch of 25 year Aussie boys who said that the only functional type of government is a dictatorship. (One of them runs an organization that encourages civic engagement.) I truly believe that there are always good things to be found in bad moments. I guess that's why I get paid shit and work my ass off in an attempt to help communities pass safe school siting laws. You need to be optimistic and extremely patient to do that kind of thing.

We must look at what our nation is facing, domestically and internationally, with the same optimism. There are good moments to find in the health care debate and the international financial system fiasco. There are lessons we must learn.

Just this past Saturday I was awake at an ungodly hour with tons of energy and so I went for a bike ride. Little did I know there were extra amounts of crazy in the district that day. I ran directly into a developing Tea Party Protest. My first reaction: AAAAAAAHHHHHAAAAAHHHH! and I sped away. The looks of disgust I was throwing in all directions made it difficult to ride in a straight line down 14th ST. I really had no idea this was happening. I was so confused and got the fuck out of Freedom Square and headed to the Lincoln Memorial where normal tourists take pictures and locals run laps around the reflecting pond.

After I had expended a bunch of energy I realized I had to go back up 14th St in order to get home. So I slowly cycled back, almost getting bulldozed by a Metro Bus. Wouldn't be a bike ride in DC if that didn't happen. I arrived back at Freedom Plaza at 14th and Penn, NW. The crowd had gotten bigger and I heard the faint crys of old angry white men scared shitless --- U. S. A. U. S. A. U. S. A. I just started taking pictures and breathed deeply.

Here are some of the photos I took:

I'm glad that I had seen some photos before so that I was able to at least walk around and not get punched for speaking out loud in the crowd.

There were tons of photos about the budget and deficit and big government. Those signs and messages totally make sense. I totally understand that people have those concerns.

Why am even talking about this, I'm sure you are wondering. These are a small amount of people in our country who are just projecting how terrified they are that they live in a different era now. That our country has changed and is still changing and their narrow minded points of view is becoming irrelevant. What I thought was fascinating about this protest were some of the signs and people I heard speaking about being so angry that they now have to participate in the democratic process.

This is what I talk to people everyday about. The government doesn't take care of you, you have to pay attention. Democracy only works when you are engaged and they aren't going to ask you to become engaged. You have to read the papers . . . all of them. Congress doesn't care about us. Our local governments don't care about us. We must make the system work ourselves. You must make the system what we want it to be. This is why we are broken right now. We were making so much money and had so many things in our living rooms that we didn't have time to pay attention. Corporations have been taking over and we have been playing Rock Band or shopping at Neiman Marcus.

Yes these people are crazy, but I am also happy to see people who never thought of themselves as having to do anything besides put a magnetic yellow ribbon on their SUV in order to be proud Americans taking to the streets as proud Americans.

Though our unemployment rate will stay in double digits for a while and our credit card interest rates will continue to rise, our nation really is seeing a new beginning. And you have to kick up a little dust in order to get the floor cleaned. We are entering a time where we don't want stuff, we want a good life, an engaged life, the life we want not the life we feel we should have because everyone around us says they want it too.

I just hope Obama starts kicking ass and threatening to bust some kneecaps really soon.

Renee Claire