National Geographic Builds on Its Recycled Fiber Commitment

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Last year, National Geographic Society (NGS) made news when it started incorporating recycled fiber paper into its flagship publication, National Geographic Magazine.  The move was big news because National Geographic is a major publisher of high quality magazines.  National Geographic’s inclusion of recycled fiber proves that a premier publisher can use recycled fiber in its paper without compromising quality.

Since then, National Geographic has increased its use of recycled fiber, and there is now 10% post-consumer waste (PCW) content in National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Little Kids, and National Geographic Traveler.  The increase in recycled fiber content sends a clear message to the magazine industry that other publishers can follow in the footsteps of National Geographic while pleasing their readers and advertisers.

Green America and Natural Resources Defense Council worked closely with National Geographic to assess the impacts of NGS’ paper use and identify opportunities to reduce its environmental footprint. In 2013, Green America and NRDC joined with NGS on the most rigorous study to date of the benefits of using recycled fiber versus virgin fiber in magazine publications. Conducted by an independent third-party for NGS, the study found that recycled fiber is superior to virgin fiber in 14 out of 14 environmental categories, such as energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

DSC_0280asThat’s why all publishers should adopt as high a percentage of recycled fiber as possible for their publications.  As Stephen Hughes, National Geographic’s Vice President for Global Sourcing states, “For National Geographic, our goal – and our challenge – is to balance our desires to utilize as high a percentage of recycled fiber as possible, maintain the highest quality and aesthetic standards, produce affordable products and minimize our impact on the environment.”

Green America congratulates National Geographic on its progress.  If you are a subscriber to NGS publications, please let them know that you support their environmental commitment.

Obama: Taking on Fracking?

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The Obama Administration has taken its first federal action to regulate fracking.  Unfortunately, the new rule won’t do much to address the growing problems that fracking causes.

The Bureau of Land Management issued the rules on Friday, March 20th.  The new rules only apply to fracking on federal lands, and would institute the following:

  • New well-construction requirements to ensure the protection of groundwater supplies;
  • Increased transparency by requiring companies to promptly and publicly disclose chemicals used fracking operations to the BLM through the website FracFocus;
  • Higher standards for wastewater storage.

While each of the above provisions represents an improvement over the current status of little of no regulation at all, the reality is that fracking should not be taking place on public lands period.

The growing evidence demonstrates that fracking harms air and water quality, damages local infrastructure, and is even causing an increase in earthquakes.

In addition, fracked gas is increasingly sent overseas, so the American public is not even using the resources taken from public and private lands in the U.S.  Corporations are profiting, but the American people bear the environmental and social costs of these exports without getting much benefit in return.

The Obama Administration’s embrace of fracking (with some regulation), alongside its support for increased oil drilling off the East Coast is all part of a failed “all of the above” energy strategy that is designed to appeal to conservatives, but in reality, just opens the door to increased pollution and climate emissions, while impeding the progress of clean energy in the U.S.

As a country, we can’t seriously embrace ambitious goals to address climate change (which the President says he supports), while also supporting increased fossil fuel production.  The problem with the new rules on fracking are that they try to put a band aid on the harms of fossil fuel production, when it is increasingly clear that the only sustainable course of action is to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Make sure to let the Administration know that you want a true clean energy future. Please join Green America in calling on the President to take real action on climate change by creating a real plan to address carbon emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and clean energy initiatives!

Green America Raises Concerns Around Natural Gas Export Facility

Today, Green America filed the following comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in regards to a proposed natural gas export facility in Oregon, Jordan Cove.  Like the many other gas export facilities proposed around the US, Jordan Cove will contribute to increased climate change and fracking, and will endanger the local community.

Natural gas is not a bridge fuel (its growth impedes the growth of true clean energy), and when we frack for natural gas and then export it abroad, we are damaging our communities and risking our future for energy that Americans are not even using.

February 12, 2015

Chairman Cheryl A. LaFleur, Commissioner Philip D. Moeller,

Commissioner Tony Clark, Commissioner Norman C. Bay,

Commissioner Colette D. Honorable

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First Street, NE

Washington, DC 20426

Re: Jordan Cove Liquefaction and Pacific Connector Pipeline Projects (Docket Nos. CP13-483-000 and CP13-492-000)

Dear Commissioners:

Green America is a national non-profit organization with 180,000 individual members and 3,500 business members nationwide, and several thousand individual members and over 100 businesses in Oregon.  Our green business network is the largest network of certified green business in the United States.  Green America is also a member of the American Sustainable Business Council, which represents over 150,000 businesses nationwide.

On behalf of our members, we are expressing concerns about the possible environmental impacts of the proposed Jordon Cove Liquefaction and Pacific Connector Pipeline Projects. We are also concerned that FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) underestimates the impacts and risks associated with this project.

In particular, we have concerns about the following:

Climate Change Impacts. The Draft EIS fails to take account of the climate change impacts of Jordan Cove and the Pacific Connector Pipeline Project. Jordan Cove would likely become the largest greenhouse gas emitting project in Oregon within the next decade. The project would release an estimated 2.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and equivalents. Oregon has set aggressive goals for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and Jordan Cove would work to undermine them.

The power plants used to liquefy natural gas would operate with a capacity of 420 megawatts, which is enough energy to power 400,000 homes. In addition, the venting of natural gas will also significantly increase emissions, and there will be methane leaks from the pipeline and at the plant. Methane has heat trapping properties 87 times as great as carbon dioxide.

Green America requests that FERC more fully research the greenhouse gas emissions of the projects and their impacts on Oregon and its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Increased Fracking. Jordan Cove and other LNG shipping facilities are accelerating US exploration of natural gas, much of it through fracking. Research is increasingly highlighting the negative environmental impacts of fracking on local communities. Fracking is tied to water and air pollution, significantly increased seismic activity, and degraded infrastructure. Jordan Cove would work to increase these impacts in order to ship natural gas overseas. Thus, the natural gas in question would not even benefit US communities, and shipping natural gas overseas could also contribute to an increase in the price of natural gas for US consumers.

Green America requests that FERC better account for the impact of the Jordan Cove project on communities impacted by fracking.

The danger to the community surrounding Jordan Cove. In FERC’s draft EIS, the agency states that it believes “the facility design proposed by Jordan Cove includes acceptable layers of protection or safeguards which would reduce the risk of a potentially hazardous scenario from developing into an even that could impact the off-site public.” However, two well-recognized scientific experts, Jerry Havens, of the University of Arkansas, and James Venart, emeritus professor at the University of New Brunswick, have called FERC’s assessment into question. The two scientists point out that the use of propane and ethylene, two highly flammable gases, create a risk for explosion and that the 40 foot impermeable barriers around the proposed plant could actually retain vapor leaks contributing to an increased hazard in the event of an explosion.

The risks are not theoretical. Explosions in the last decade in Algeria and more recently in Washington State have left environmentalists, emergency responders, and citizens living near proposed LNG facilities in the U.S. understandably concerned.

LNG can vaporize and form highly explosive clouds in pipelines and other parts of the facility if its container leaks. In a phenomenon called rapid phase transition, the heat transfer from spilling enough water at room temperature on the subzero LNG can cause a tremendous “cold explosion.”

FERC should more thoroughly evaluate the risk of explosion at Jordan Cove and the potentially catastrophic impact on local communities.

Based on the known climate change impacts and increased fracking impacts, combined with the potential for catastrophic explosions, Green America believes that a complete and rigorous assessment of the costs versus benefits of Jordan Cove would result in a recommendation that the project be terminated.

We would be happy to discuss any of the above concerns with FERC Commissioners and we thank you in advance for your attention to these comments.

Sincerely,

Todd Larsen

Corporate Responsibility Division Director

Green America

Alert! Omnibus Spending Bill Favors Wall Street and Wealthy Donors

Congressional Democrats, in an attempt to prevent another government shutdown this year, may agree to let some troubling provisions into this year’s omnibus spending bill. Among the concessions made to the newly GOP-controlled legislature, the bill would strip critical restrictions on Wall Street under the Dodd-Frank Act. It would also permit a 3-fold increase in the amount of money a wealthy individual would be able to contribute to campaign funding. As of this afternoon, a number of Democrats, led by progressives, have held up the legislation. But, the White House has made clear that it won’t veto an omnibus spending bill with the problematic language included.

The provisions of the bill are troubling, because they will remove restrictions on Wall Street banks that prohibited them from using federally-insured deposits to underwrite derivatives trading. Derivatives are transactions in which two parties bet on the future price of a good, often commodities, to cushion against unexpected price shocks. In the early 2000’s derivatives were applied to the mortgage-backed securities market, and largely contributed to the financial collapse of 2008. The Dodd Frank Act required banks to underwrite derivatives in separate departments, forbidding the use of deposits for this purpose.

The new language in the spending bill allows banks to once again underwrite derivatives trading with deposits – that’s the cash that YOU as customers trust the banks (and subsequently the government) to keep safe for you. Just six years ago, we saw the bubble created by this activity and the devastation it caused across the country when it burst. Removing these regulations from banks only encourages more risky behavior, and could very well lead to another bubble situation.

These unfortunate amendments in the bill were allowed to pass without much of a fight so that other goals could be achieved. According to the Washington Post, “White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that ‘it is certainly possible that the president could sign this piece of legislation,’ even though it would undo a pillar of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul by freeing banks to more readily trade the exotic investments known as derivatives. The legislation ranks among the administration’s biggest domestic achievements.

Republican leaders predicted that the House would easily approve the sprawling spending bill and send it to the Senate, which would face a midnight Thursday deadline (but as of this writing, the bill has hit snags from both Democrats and Republicans). The measure provides funding through September for the Pentagon and dozens of other federal agencies and contains hundreds of individual policy instructions… The bill includes some good news for the White House, including fresh funding to battle the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. And it would do nothing to upend Obama’s contentious executive action on immigration or his health-care law.”

Not every battle can be fought and won at the same time, but the concessions made in this bill to Wall Street and wealthy donors stand to create real problems for American democracy. As wealthy individuals have an increasingly powerful say in the political process, and financial institutions grow to enjoy lax regulation once again, the officials we elect have less and less power to represent their constituents. Today, we urge you to contact your representatives and tell them to stand up to Wall Street and the wealthy and fight for regulations that protect our people, planet, and our democracy.

Writing by Sam Catherman

Amazon Takes a Step Forward on Climate?

Amazon has added a line to the sustainability page of the Amazon Web Services site stating: In addition to the environmental benefits inherently associated with running applications in the cloud, AWS has a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint. It’s always good news when a large company recognizes that it needs to shift to renewable energy. Since Amazon has not provided a timeline or any evidence of new investment in clean energy (current or planned), nor have they answered press queries, it’s hard to know if it’s time to break out the champagne. For years, Amazon has been the holdout in the tech industry on making any commitment to clean energy or even disclosing its carbon emissions. By comparison, competitors like Apple, Google, and Facebook have taken measurable action, and most companies disclose the carbon they are emitting and the steps to reduce their emissions. And, according to Clean Technica, Amazon is planning to build a new data center in Ohio that will largely be powered by coal. Clean Technica estimates the data center will use enough energy to power over 70,000 homes. So, while Amazon clearly understands that their customers want to see them adopt renewable energy, it is essential that we keep the pressure on them to be more transparent about their emissions and how they are planning to reduce them overall (Amazon’s climate footprint goes well beyond its data centers). Take action with Green America to urge Amazon to:

  • Issue a sustainability report following Global Reporting Initiative guidelines
  • Respond to the Carbon Disclosure Project so that Amazon can report out on and reduce their climate emissions. Nearly 70% of S&P 500 companies and more than 80% of Global 500 companies disclose climate related data through the Carbon Disclosure Project.
  • Make a real commitment to increase the percentage of renewable energy powering their servers with actual investments in clean energy and a clear timeline, to make good on Amazon’s pledge of 100% renewable power. Also, immediately halt construction of data centers that rely on coal-fired power.
  • Institute a take back program to responsibly recycle electronics.

President Obama clears the air on Keystone XL

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For many months, it’s been hard to determine the President’s exact position on the Keystone XL pipeline.  The President has frequently said that he is relying on the State Department’s review of the pipeline in order for the Secretary of State to decide whether to approve or reject it, and that review has been delayed several times.

However, with the House of Representatives’ vote today in favor of the Keystone XL, the President made his clearest statement yet on the pipeline, and it was breath of fresh air.  According to the Washington Post:

In a news conference Friday in Burma, the president rejected two of the most frequent arguments the project’s proponents have made on its behalf, saying he had “to constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices.”

“It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold to everyone else,” he said. “It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

These are two of the most potent critiques of the pipeline, and are completely based in fact.  Analysis from Cornell Global Labor Institute demonstrates that the Keystone XL will only produce 35 permanent jobs.  No one disputes that oil produced by the Keystone XL is destined for boats that will take if overseas. The Keystone XL will provide no benefit for average Americans or the American economy as a whole. The statements likely mean that President Obama will veto any legislation requiring that the US move forward with the Keystone XL.

The President could have gone even further and noted that the Keystone XL will also expand tar sands production, a technology that has devastating local impacts and huge climate impacts. He has said that his administration will reject Keystone if it will “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” which it certainly will do. In light of the historic US-China agreement to reduce carbon emissions, the US needs to invest in rapidly escalating clean energy, not projects that increase carbon intensive energy worldwide.

Hopefully, the next announcement on climate from President Obama will be about scaling up clean energy in the US.  Here at Green America, we’d recommend that the President get behind Clean Energy Victory Bonds, which will allow all Americans to safely invest in the clean energy economy, and provide $50 billion for solar, wind and energy efficiency.

You Don’t Have to Be a Rockefeller

It’s not often at Green America that we highlight members of the 1% as an example to follow, but recent action by the Rockefeller family now serves as a model for many Americans. The Rockefellers have instructed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to divest its holdings of fossil fuels, joining a growing list of foundations that are taking this stand against irresponsible fossil-fuel polluters. Since the family’s wealth — much of which is now in charities — was made from Standard Oil (now Exxon), the move is particularly meaningful.

The divestment decision comes after years of the Rockefellers engaging with Exxon and trying to encourage the company to be more sustainable, without much success (for 10 years Green America and its members also put direct pressure on Exxon). Exxon and the other major fossil fuel multinationals have made it clear that they plan to pursue a strategy of increasing the production of fossil fuels for decades. That means increased drilling in fragile ecosystems, with the inevitable major spills on land and seas. That means more fracking and more tar sands fields. It also means pumping way more carbon into the atmosphere and warming the planet to levels it hasn’t experienced in millions of years, creating massive disruptions to civilization as we know it, and speeding the extinction of thousands of species.

ThatFossil Free’s why more and more philanthropies, universities, houses of worship, and individuals are saying “enough is enough” and moving their money out of fossil fuels and reinvesting in a green economy.

You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to take part. Here’s four steps to take action with your money:

  1. Divest from climate polluters and reinvest in clean energy. 
    Green America’s Fossil Free Investment campaign has the most complete resources available.
  2. Break up with your megabank.
    Megabanks continue to invest billions in coal and other fossil fuels, even after pledging to go carbon free.  Green America’s Break Up With Your Megabank Campaign has all the resources you need to move your money to banks and credit unions that invest in local communities and green companies.
  3. Take the Divest/Invest Pledge.
    The Divest/Invest coalition is asking people to take their pledge to divest to demonstrate the growing numbers of individual investors who are saying no to fossil fuels in their portfolios.
  4. Share this information widely.
    Encourage family, friends, your house of worship, school, etc. to divest their money from fossil fuels as well.  The faster the movement grows, the more pressure there will be on polluters.

The People’s Climate March – 400,000 strong – demonstrated that Americans are willing to take action for climate change and are not going to wait for Washington or all Street to take action. We can all take action with our money for the climate. In the 1980’s the divestment movement made a huge impact on ending Apartheid in South Africa. Now, it’s our turn to divest our money from fossil fuels and invest in the clean energy economy we need.

Take action today!