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The Fair Climate Connection

June 9, 2011

Greetings!
 
We use this newsletter as a means to communicate news, events, best practices and upcoming opportunities related to fair climate solutions.
  
Have any field strategies, stories, events or successes you'd like to share in an upcoming issue of this newsletter? Email FairClimateProject@nwf.org so we can feature you!
  
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In this issue...
Invisible but Not Make-Believe: the Real Threat of Mercury to Kids
Learning from the Mississippi Floods: Policy Reforms That Save Money and Prepare Communities for Climate Change
Senators Opposing End of Oil Subsidies Received Five Times More in Big Oil Campaign Cash
Viewpoints: Pro & Con-- Should the EPA issue stronger limits on mercury emissions?
Funding Opportunities

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About Us

The goal of NWF's Fair Climate Project is to build and engage a national network of leaders representing underserved communities to advance equitable and just solutions to climate change. We work to forge connections between community leaders and decision makers to jumpstart local projects and national initiatives that promote green communities, clean energy, and green jobs.


Clean air, clean water and abundant wildlife sustain Americans from all walks of life. We all have a shared responsibility to protect these resources for our children's future.  At NWF, we are working to bring together diverse voices to affect decisions that will create safe and healthy communities for all.

Follow-up Links
 
air pollution
Coal-fired powerplants are responsible for 50% of the mercury and air toxics emissions in the U.S. The proposed EPA rules (that need YOUR support) would reduce these emissions by over 90%.
Invisible, Not Make-Believe: the Real Threat of Mercury to Kids

by Katharine Pelzer, The Fair Climate Project 
  
I'm not ashamed to admit it: when I was a child, I ate paint chips.  Something about the sweetness of the lead and the crunchiness of the chip proved irresistible as I worked to unsheathe my molars from my gums.
  
Now before you go on to presume what this has done to my IQ, I want to say that I wasn't the only one in Generation X to fall victim to the toxic (yet tasty) snack. After all, the majority of paint contained lead until the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lead as a paint additive in 1977. While lead improved drying time and increased sheen and durability, it also introduced a potent neurotoxin into households, causing nervous system damage, stunted growth, and delayed development.
  
This is what regulation is for. When a known toxic substance is threatening the lives of children in their own homes, we need to demand that our government do something to stop it.
  
Just as the Consumer Product Safety banned lead in paint to protect public health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally working to develop similar common-sense regulations to limit the amount of arsenic, lead, and mercury billowing out of smokestacks, 20 years after such regulations were first proposed.
  
You don't need me to tell you that mercury isn't exactly something you want to inhale-we've all known that for decades.
  
But, for the record, mercury is a highly potent neurotoxin that adversely affects the function and development of the central nervous system. I'm talking problems with language, memory, attention, and visual skills, not to mention aggravated asthma, heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and premature death.
  
The 600 coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury contamination in the U.S., responsible for approximately 50% of human-caused mercury emissions.  Other sources include waste incinerators that burn mercury-containing products and chlorine manufacturers. However, unlike these sources, power plants are not currently required to limit their mercury pollution.
  
The EPA's proposed mercury and air pollution standards would reduce mercury and toxic air emissions from power plants by more than 90%. This will help prevent thousands of cases of premature death, asthma attacks and emergency room visits, especially in our most vulnerable communities.
  
It is crucial that the EPA enforce the law and fulfill its obligation to protect public health from these dangerous pollutants. The pollution control technology is readily available, and the EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce toxic pollutants, we will receive $5-$13 in health benefits.
In the face of mounting industry pressure to weaken these limitations, the EPA needs to know that they have the support of US citizens as they move forward to set stringent standards that will protect public health from preventable mercury pollution.
  

 

After all, isn't it about time?

 

 Learning from the Mississippi Floods: Policy Reforms That Save Money and Prepare Communities for Climate Change by  Will Hewes, Associate Director for Climate Policy at American Rivers, as featured here  

Joplin, Missouri after the tornado that hit on May 22, killing 161 people.
Joplin, Missouri after the tornado that hit on May 22, killing 161 people. (via Newsweek, Valentina Abinanti / Polaris)


The recent Mississippi River floods have shown us how profoundly vulnerable we are to extreme weather. The record rains have drowned crops, inundated homes, and ground economic activity to a halt in many places. They've created agonizing choices that involve choosing which homes will be ruined and which will be saved.

 

This is a situation caused partly by crazy weather and partly by the way we've built our communities and attempted to manage floods in the past. It's a situation that we'll have to deal with more and more in the future as a changing climate brings changing precipitation patterns and bigger floods and droughts.

 

Today, American Rivers is releasing a new report, Weathering Change, with a detailed set of recommendations for how we can reduce our vulnerability to these types of disasters. By doing a better job of managing water here and now, we can stay safe no matter what the future holds.

 

To learn more about social vulnerability and climate change in the US Southeast, check out Oxfam America's new report on the subject.

 Senators Opposing End of Oil Subsidies Received Five Times More in Big Oil Campaign Cash
by Steve Kretzmann, Oil Change International as originally featured here 
Take action against corrupt subsidies by clicking on this image.

U.S. Senators that blocked a vote on legislation to end taxpayer subsidies to oil companies have received five times more in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests than those who voted to begin debate, according to Oil Change International and Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
 
The 52 Senators that voted against cloture today on S. 940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, have received $370,664, on average, in campaign contributions from the employees and political action committees (PACs) of oil and gas companies during their time in Congress, while those who voted to consider the legislation received just $72,145, on average.
 
"Giving profitable, price-hiking Big Oil companies billions in taxpayer subsidies is plain wrong," said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund. "The Senators who voted to prevent consideration of this bill today have made it clear-they stand with their big oil donors over their constituents struggling to fill their tank."
 
"Americans know these subsidies are just another special interest handout that is repaid with lavish campaign contributions," said Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International. "Congress will need to have the backbone to bite the hands that feed them if we're ever going to end subsidies to Big Oil." 
 
Overall, those opposed to the legislation have received $17,791,875 in campaign cash from oil and gas interests over the years, while those who voted in favor received $3,751,551. In addition, oil and gas companies spent $39.5 million on 633 lobbyists in the first quarter of 2011.
 
Data on each Senator is available here.  

 Viewpoints: Pro & Con: Should the EPA issue stronger limits on mercury emissions?

 by Dr. Yolanda Whyte, Atlanta, GA, as originally featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

mercury
"Physicians like me will celebrate the day when fewer children come to my office for treatments due to aggravated air pollution illnesses and diseases."


As a doctor, I see all too often the impacts to public health because utilities have not planned for how and when to reduce the harmful pollution that comes from burning coal and other fossil fuels. As a pediatrician, I work with children, who are the most vulnerable and most sensitive to dangerous pollutants in our air and water.

 

I've treated hundreds of children whose health is compromised by pollutants in our air and water, so I was pleased to see that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed new rule earlier this spring to limit the amount of mercury and other air toxins that power plants can emit into the air, and scheduled a public hearing on it in Atlanta today. This rule will establish nationwide standards for mercury and toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, and it is crucial to protecting public health and the environment.

 

Methylmercury is the type of mercury that poses the most danger to humans, like the children I care for. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that causes a range of developmental and learning disorders when, for example, it passes from pregnant or nursing mothers to their babies. Once a mother or child is exposed, mercury remains in the body and builds up over time. Children are at risk of negative impacts to cognition, memory, attention, language, fine motor skills and visual spatial skills when they or their mothers are exposed to mercury. In fact, babies have been born with severe disabilities even when their mothers show no signs of exposure. Yet we are all exposed.

 

Here in the Southeast, there are about 300 coal units and in 2005, these plants were responsible for emitting more than 20,000 pounds of mercury into the air. This mercury eventually rains into bodies of water, where it accumulates in fish that then are eaten by humans. To understand how pervasive this problem is, consider that every state in our region has mercury-based fish consumption advisories, and most people have some degree of mercury accumulation in their bodies.

 

Read more here.  

 

Funding Opportunities 

 

DOC Economic Development Administration Public Works, Economic Adjustment, and Global Climate Change Mitigation Programs Opportunity - ~$25 million

Application Due: June 10, 2011
Eligible Applications: State and local governments, federally recognized tribes, nonprofits, private institutes of higher education
 
DOC's Economic Development Administration (EDA) helps distressed communities establish a foundation for durable regional economies throughout the United States. EDA generally allocates funds for the Global Climate Change Mitigation Incentive Fund (GCCMIF) to support projects that foster economic competitiveness while enhancing environmental quality. EDA anticipates that these funds will be used to advance the green economy by supporting projects that create jobs through and increase private capital investment in initiatives to limit the nation's dependence on fossil fuels, enhance energy efficiency, curb greenhouse gas emissions, and protect natural systems. 
  

DOE Weatherization Formula Grants- Likely to be approximately $210 million

Application Due: Varies by program year
Eligible Applications: Agencies that administer the WAP program
 
DOE requests proposals for the Weatherization Assistance Program Formula Grant. The purpose of WAP is to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings owned or occupied by low-income persons, reduce residential expenditures, and improve health and safety. Lead applicants must be agencies that administer the WAP program. Proposals due date varies by prime applicant's program year. Grantees will be notified as soon as an update on FY 2011 funding becomes available. For planning purposes, until a final budget is passed and signed by the President, grantees should proceed with their respective plans using the same funding level as the DOE 2010 appropriated funds. For more info, contact Meghaan Hampton at

Meghaan.Hampton@netl.doe.gov or go to: https://www.fedconnect.net/FedConnect/?doc=DE-FOA-0000446&agency=DOE