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July 1, 2014 / franteplitz

Clean Energy Now! No Fracked Gas Exports!

July13-fbcover[1]Momentum is building around the country – and on July 13 our nation will see its first national mobilization against the export of fracked natural gas and in support of the clean energy economy we so desperately need.

Green America is proud to join our allies in supporting the rally and march on July 13 in Washington, DC: Stop Fracked Gas Exports: Cove Point and Beyond!

Green America members and colleagues have taken a firm stand against the development of a fracked, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant at Cove Point, MD on the Chesapeake Bay. The plant has known threats to human and environmental health – and yet the government has failed to require that a full Environmental Impact Statement be conducted before proceeding with plans for the facility.

We have urged the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the Cove Point LNG export facility. Water pollution, air pollution, explosions, increased likelihood of earthquakes, and increased gas costs here at home are key reasons to oppose the export of fracked gas.

Now more than ever we need to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that will serve us for generations to come. Every dollar that goes to dirty energy is a dollar taken away from a clean energy future.

Having delivered our statements signed by thousands of concerned individuals and business leaders, we’ll next make our views visible with a major coalitional rally and march in the nation’s capital. Our message is simple: No gas exports from Cove Point and beyond; Invest now in renewable energy and energy efficiency!

Sign up
for the rally and march today! And meet fellow Green Americans at noon at the northeast corner of 3rd St, SW and Independence Ave., SW — look for the Green America sign!

June 25, 2014 / Elizabeth

Well, what phone should I buy then?

2014gam98apr-may-fix-it-flow250wAs word spreads about the dangerous chemicals used in electronics manufacturing, we have been getting asked “well, what phone should I buy then?”

For smartphones and other electronics, the best way to ensure your next phone does not contribute to worker abuse is to buy a used or refurbished phone.  Before you make the choice to buy though, you may try to fix the phone you have (if broken) or simply pledge not to upgrade needlessly.  Phone manufacturers and service providers like to encourage customers to upgrade their devices at least every year, but phones can in fact work for much longer.

We put together a flow chart to help you choose your next phone.

FIX:
iFixit is also a great resource to learn how to repair your electronics and order needed parts.

BUY USED:
Mobile Karma is a great resource for used phones, and they help to divert phones from ending up in landfills.

RECYCLE:
If and when your phone does stop working, recycle it with an e-Stewards recycler.

e-Stewards recyclers are certified monitored by the nonprofit Basel Action Network to ensure that they recycle e-waste responsibly and do not ship it overseas where workers in scrapyards are exposed to dangerous work with without protection.

Green Americans know that when we make purchases we are voting with our dollars, and we want to know that our spending does not finance unsafe working conditions or unfair treatment. By pledging not to upgrade, fixing your phone, or buying you are helping to curb the ever-growing demand for new, exploitative phones.

Do you have any other tips for choosing electronics responsibly?

June 24, 2014 / Elizabeth

Putting an end to Human Trafficking in Thailand’s fishing sector

Last Friday, the US State Department released its 2014 Global Trafficking in Persons Reportan annual report that documents human trafficking around the world and each country’s efforts to combat the issue.   In this report, State downgraded Thailand to Tier 3, demonstrating that the Thai government is not compliant with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, particularly with regard to its treatment of migrant workers. This is especially evident in the fishing sector.

In fact, there are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand. The majority of them, 80 percent, came from Myanmar and work in the most dangerous, dirty jobs, including seafood harvesting and processing, manufacturing, and domestic work.

This decision came after Green America and our allies sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to make this decision so that economic sanctions could be imposed to influence the Thai government’s efforts in preventing human trafficking.

You can read the original letter we sent to Secretary Kerry as well as the thank you letter we sent with our allies on Friday applauding this decision.

While it’s not good news that Thailand has fallen to Tier 3 status, we hope that this decision will lead to urgent action in Thailand to improve the situation for migrant workers.

In the last year, reports from, CNN, BBC, Reuters, The Associated Press and The Guardian have drawn unprecedented attention to the issue and consumer pressure campaigns have also launched to push companies to be accountable as well.

We believe the Tier 3 ranking, as well as the research and recommendations contained in the report, will be an important informational tool for international and Thai institutions, companies and investors that continue to press Thai authorities to move beyond their current approach.  Its our hope that by next year Thailand can be revoked of its Tier 3 status.

June 18, 2014 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

U.S. Patent Office Cancels Redskins Trademarks

Today the United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans”. This beautiful ad shows better than anything we could write why this name needs to go away for good.

In addition, you can read our article on “Native American Marketing Images” for more ideas on how to support justice and respect when it comes to using these images and mascots–or not using them. It was written quite some time ago, but the advice is still sound.

 

 

 

 

June 18, 2014 / Sam Catherman

President Obama: “Invest in What Helps, Divest from What Harms.”

This past weekend, President Obama delivered a commencement speech to UC Irvine, in which he urged the graduating class to take challenges related to climate change seriously.  In his address, the President called out members of Congress for resisting efforts to address climate change, asserting that there was no substance behind some peoples’ rejection of the scientific consensus on the issue.

The President used his speech to announce a $1 billion dollar fund, the National Disaster Resilience Competition, to be made available to states having endured a  national disaster between 2011 and 2013 for the purpose of rebuilding infrastructure to better withstand shocks from the environment.

He also stated that this graduating class’s generation, which includes the largest age group in the country (22), faces many challenges and opportunities in dealing with this issue ahead.

“We need scientists to design new fuels.  We need farmers to help grow them.  We need engineers to invent new technologies.  We need entrepreneurs to sell those technologies. We need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components.  We need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a clean energy age.  We need diplomats and businessmen and women, and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip past the dirty phase of development and transition to sustainable sources of energy…You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.”

The President’s address should serve as a reminder that we face the challenges posed by climate change together. While there are many steps we can take individually to reduce our carbon footprint and increase resilience to climate change, we also need to act on a large scale. Clean Energy Victory Bonds are a coordinated effort we can make by collectively investing in the technologies that will power the future without releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By calling your representative and urging him or her to sponsor the CEVB Act of 2014, we can make significant progress towards funding clean energy technologies, reducing our carbon footprint, and increasing our long-term resilience to the effects of a changing climate on our towns, cities, and our country as a whole.  Clean Energy Victory Bonds already have 28 co-sponsors (and growing) – reach out to your Rep today and help keep the momentum going!

June 18, 2014 / franteplitz

Chesapeake Region Businesses Oppose Fracked Gas Exports & Call for Clean Energy

It’s particularly difficult for me to understand the denial that fracking has devastating consequences. It’s all about fast money for corporations. — Michael Penny, Savvy Rest, Inc.

This terminal will expand and lock-in unsustainable fracking for a generation, permanently damaging communities and causing a vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, most importantly for FERC and in direct opposition to their mission, Cove Point will raise prices for American electric consumers, while reducing reliability through lower fuel availability – which after the Polar Vortex – should be reason enough to deny this project. — Richard Graves, Ethical Electric

Dozens of small business leaders in Maryland; Washington, DC; and Virginia are speaking out against the proposed export of fracked gas from Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay. As business leaders, they know they need to monitor and weigh-in on energy issues that will define energy policy locally and nationally for years to come. These businesses have come to recognize that a Cove Point gas export facility will ultimately only enrich the gas industry – while local communities will face the many dangers inherent in “fracking” gas, transporting it through pipelines, liquefying the gas, and shipping it overseas.

This past week, business leaders in the Chesapeake region delivered a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expressing their concerns about the Cove Point gas export project proposed by Dominion Resources. First off, the businesses are concerned about the lack of due diligence on the part of FERC, noting that a full Environmental Impact Statement has not been conducted for this project—despite the many dangers to human and environmental health associated with this project. The facility would harm regional air and water quality, further incentivize fracking for natural gas, and worsen the climate crisis. Businesses also understand that exporting gas will also drive up energy costs here in the United States. As business leaders, they realize that their long-term economic success will best be achieved through a transition to renewable energy, not through increased reliance on fossil fuels.

Their conclusion? The Cove Point liquefied natural gas plant needs to be rejected.

If, however, FERC fist wishes to conduct a solid Environmental Impact Statement, businesses believe the Statement would need to:

• Assess the broader consequences of the Cove Point plant on expansion of fracking and of the gas industry;

• Evaluate the cumulative, lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that Cove Point would cause, from fracking wells to pipelines to tanker ships to smoke stacks;

• Include an independent, quantitative risk assessment of explosions that could affect neighborhoods in the plant’s vicinity. It is not credible for FERC to rely solely on data from Dominion.

Stop Gas ExportsSmall businesses, community organizations, environmental groups, health professionals, and others are stepping forward to oppose gas exports. What do they want instead? Increased investment in our nation’s renewable energy sectors and in energy efficiency. Smart businesses and smart policy makers know that building a clean energy economy is our best course of action. Thousands will be gathering on July 13 in Washington, DC to deliver this message to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the President. Join us!

June 10, 2014 / Elizabeth

Lisa Jackson: Take a stand for the workers that make iPhones!

Image

Credit: Eric Vance, EPA photographer

Today Green America and more than 80 allies, including environmental and human rights organizations, socially responsible investment firms, and occupational health professionals, sent a letter to Lisa Jackson, VP of Environmental Affairs at Apple.

Jackson is the former administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. At the EPA, Jackson monitored benzene levels in the water and air to ensure no one was exposed to dangerous levels of this known human carcinogen and championed toxins-reduction in the environment. Our letter calls on Jackson to use her expertise and influence within Apple to make worker health and safety a priority in her second year at Apple.

You can read the full text of our letter and view all signers here>> 

To send your own message to Apple executives, use our new mock “app”: Want to end smartphone sweatshops? Here’s the App for that!

June 9, 2014 / Sam Catherman

EPA Proposes New Rules for Existing Power Plants

On Monday, June 2nd, the EPA released a set of proposed regulations that would decrease CO2 emissions levels by 30% from 2005 levels. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the proposal this week, representing a broad spectrum of opinions. While reducing carbon pollution in the air is undeniably a good thing, by just how much will our emissions as a nation be reduced? What will become of our current access to cheap, abundant electricity? Will it be enough to avoid adverse effects from climate change? These are all important questions that can be difficult to discern from news headlines and opinion articles. Hopefully, this post will help to contextualize the rules, explain what they mean, and how they will affect our economy and global climate in the coming years.

www.freefoto.com 13-35-67 Ian Britton 2007What do the rules say?

The EPA has proposed a rate-based (lbs CO2 per MwH produced) cap on carbon emissions from existing power plants across the U.S. You can think of a rate-based limit as the gas mileage on a car – if your vehicle doesn’t drive a certain number of miles per gallon of fuel used, then it will not meet its emissions standards. The purpose of a rate-based limit as opposed to an absolute limit is to allow states flexibility in meeting their target. In states where coal power is more heavily-used, for example, emissions targets can still be met by offsetting the CO2 produced by older, dirtier power plants with the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, or by creating an emissions trading scheme to ensure that the net amount of emissions for the state are below the permissible amount. As long as your state is able to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030, it doesn’t necessarily matter how you do it.  Giving states flexibility, however, does not mean the end of dirty coal as we know it. As long as coal states are able to offset their emissions through other means, they can continue to put peoples’ health at risk by producing soot and coal ash along with their electricity.

How will they affect the economy?

Cries from conservative organizations over the proposed rules claim that ratepayers will bear the majority of the burden of meeting the regulations, that the entire economies of coal-dependent states like West Virginia or Wyoming will crumble, and that hundreds of thousands of American jobs will be lost to overseas competition. There are a few good reasons why these things likely won’t happen. First, the projected increase in average electric bills doesn’t amount to more than a few extra dollars a month. More importantly, however, are the employment opportunities this proposal creates. Retrofitting old power plants and installing clean energy technology, essentially “rewiring” the country to run on clean power, will create many more jobs than continuing to use dirty sources of energy will preserve. Finally, burning coal costs the US hundreds of billions of dollars per year in costs from health impacts, missed work days due to health incidents, and environmental damage (and its impacts on the economy).  Switching to clean sources of energy will reduce these costs dramatically.

How will they affect the climate?

Here is where the EPA still has room for improvement. Although a 30% reduction sounds like a lot, it’s important to note that since 2005, we have already cut our CO2 emissions by about 15%. That’s already halfway towards meeting our goal. By leaving ourselves 16 years to achieve this level, we leave an awful lot of time to continue burning fossil fuels as we do today. Additionally, growing economies like China and India currently have no such plan to reduce their emissions, and they are in no position to slow down their growth rates any time soon. China has indicated it is more open to reducing carbon emissions since the release of the EPA’s rules, but developing countries would be more likely to adopt rigorous targets if the U.S. acts as a strong leader. While the proposed rules are a meaningful step in the right direction, the EPA could undoubtedly implement stronger guidelines to reducing CO2 emissions from the nation’s electric power sector. It is our hope that we as a nation and a global community can continue to strive towards the common goal of cutting greenhouse gases from our energy diet – if not for our own sake, then for the generations that follow.

May 29, 2014 / Sam Catherman

As Solar Prices Fall, Banks Take Notice

Following a series of reports from major Wall Street institutions, Barclays announced this week that it would downgrade the entire U.S. electric utility sector bond market ratings against the U.S. corporate bond index due to the “challenge from ratepayers’ increasing opportunities to cut electricity consumption with solar and battery storage.” Translation: the cost of powering homes and businesses with solar energy is continuing its trend downward as more consumers opt to get their electricity from the sun instead of from traditional utility grids.

www.freefoto.comThough Barclays warns against optimism over rapid growth in the solar industry, their downgrade represents a shift in paradigm regarding energy markets. Traditional electric utility bonds were long considered a solid, conservative investment, and they provided investors with steady returns while allowing people in most areas of the country to enjoy the use of consistent, reliable electricity. Electric utilities currently make up about 7.5% of Barclays’ U.S. Corporate Index by market value.

But as the grid ages and the price of fossil fuels rises, utilities struggle to maintain their position as the most cost-effective means of powering the modern world. Generating electricity with the sun’s energy and storing it in hi-tech batteries is sounding like the best bet for more people each day, and the financial world is catching on quickly. Though nobody can forecast the future, there is a growing consensus that advances in solar power and storage technologies will likely be the main challenge to utilities in the coming years.

Hawaii is the bellwether for this trend, seeing solar prices that are already competitive with traditional grid power in the energy markets. Analysts predict that California will see the same shift by 2017, with New York and Arizona following in 2018. While these trends do not forecast a certain dominance of solar power in energy markets in the coming years, they reflect the sentiment that solar technologies will disrupt the status quo very soon.

This isn’t great news for anyone with a stake in traditional electric power generation, but it represents a step in the right direction for socially-minded investors. An average household could prevent almost 14,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most closely linked to climate change, emissions over the course of one year by generating their electricity with solar technologies instead of fossil fuels. A wider adoption of solar power will also result in a reduction of other harmful pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in our air. Through increased investment in new energy technologies, we can shift our society away from dirty, antiquated energy sources and towards a profitable, sustainable, and healthy future. For more information on fossil-free investment options, visit http://www.greenamerica.org/fossilfree.

 

May 8, 2014 / Elizabeth

The Problem with Benzene and Apple’s Off-Shore Solution

Chinese electronics workers are likely exposed to three times as much Benzene as US workers

Since launching our Bad Apple: End Smartphone Sweatshops campaign we’ve received a number of questions about benzene, one of the chemicals known to be causing worker illness, including leukemia, in electronics factories.

Benzene is both dangerous and ubiquitous.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies benzene as a “known human carcinogen” yet it is found in gasoline and cigarette smoke.  Like all chemical substances, the danger of exposure to benzene is in the dosage, both in terms of concentration and length of time of exposure.

In the US, OSHA has set the permissible exposure limit (PEL) to airborne benzene in the workplace to no more than 1 ppm for no longer than eight hours, or 40 hours per week.  Exposure at greater concentration for longer periods of time can have both acute and chronic health effects (detailed below).  It’s worthwhile to note here that while OSHA has set a PEL of 1 ppm, the World Health Organization recommends no safe level of human exposure to benzene[1] and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends only 0.1 ppm as an exposure limit or the lowest amount feasibly possible[2].  Additionally, the EPA, which was formerly run by Secretary Lisa Jackson, now Apple’s VP of Environmental Initiatives, monitors benzene limits in the air and in water.  The EPA’s maximum contaminant level for benzene (liquid form) in water is only 5 ppb (parts per billion), though the goal set by the EPA for benzene contamination is set at zero.

Benzene GraphAccording to the Ban Benzene campaign, the permissible exposure level for benzene in China for an eight hour day is set at 1.878 ppm, or roughly double the safe limit established by OSHA.  This is compounded by the fact that electronics workers in China work far more than 8 hours per day.  Workers in Apple supplier factories have been known to work up to 12 hours per day, and average 60 hours or more per week (according to investigations by China Labor Watch and the Fair Labor Association).[3],[4].  Assuming that these factories actually comply with legal limits, this means that workers in Apple’s supplier factories could potentially be exposed to roughly three times the legal permissible limits set for workers in the US.

Acute exposure to this cancer causing chemical can have the following major health effects on workers who are exposed to Benzene:

Read more…

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