Pages tagged "pollution"

Closing Chicago's Toxic Cloud Factories

Last month I was in Chicago to attend the U.S. Climate Action Network’s national meeting. The keynote speaker was Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Her speech focused on the agency's recently proposed carbon pollution standards, the first-ever rule to limit carbon pollution from power plants. 

Gina made her presentation standing alongside this image, which made me smile:  

It’s an image I know well because it depicts a protest that Rainforest Action Network organized in 2011, along with our friends at Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and some bold Chicago activists. 

One morning, very early, we showed up at the Crawford Power Plant and climbed on top of a giant pile of coal to display a giant banner that reads "CLOSE CHICAGO’S TOXIC COAL PLANTS":

Our direct action that cold April morning was part of a multi-year campaign involving a huge coalition of Chicagoans to put pressure on the city of Chicago and the utility company, Midwest Generation, to retire their deadly "cloud factories".

Crawford was one of the last two remaining urban coal-fired power plants in the United States and their pollution was responsible for more than 40 deaths, 720 asthma attacks and 66 heart attacks annually.

I use the past tense because, thankfully, this coal plant has now been retired. And there is even better news: an exciting plan being formulated by a community/city partnership to regenerate the coal plant site with businesses that will offer good jobs to the local community in Little Village.

It is an inspiring example of what can happen when communities organize for a better future. But we still have more to do. We need to retire the remaining 356 coal plants in the United States, reduce our energy demands through efficiency measures and rapidly accelerate our transition to clean, renewable energy generation.

Please help make this a reality by taking action today! Send your comment to the EPA to demand a strengthened carbon emissions rule.

5 Photos That Show Why Barclays Bank Must Stop Financing Mountain Destruction

Barclays, the British banking giant, is the number one financier of companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining for coal.

Often referred to as MTR, mountaintop removal is a horrendous practice that destroys mountains, poisons water supplies and hurts communities. That's why more than 19,000 Rainforest Action Members have sent messages to Barclays demanding the drop MTR financing and is one reason protests confronted the banks annual share holder meeting in London this week.

Barclays executives should take a good long look at these photos. Maybe then they'll stop investing in mountain destruction.

Paul Corbit Brown MTR image

MTR uses explosives to literally blow off the tops of mountains and get the coal underneath.

MTR site

Hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful mountains and forest are being destroyed in central Appalachia by companies using MTR.

Contaminated Stream

The rubble from mountaintop removal mining is then pushed into valleys where local streams and water sources are contaminated.

Contaminate Well Water

Hundreds of families have had their wells destroyed by nearby mining practices. Cancer, birth defects, heart and long disease and shortened life spans plague communities near MTR sites.

Polluted vs. Clean

The difference between contaminated and clean water can be stark. It is time for Barclays to get on the right side of history and stop financing companies that poison water.

Photos by Paul Corbit Brown.

"Without clean water, we cannot survive."

RAN is proud to be an original supporter of ClearWater, which has launched an incredible new website today. Here are a few words from our friends at Amazon Watch about the important work ClearWater is doing and how you can get involved. "Without clean water, we cannot survive," Emergildo Criollo told me recently. You may have heard of Emergildo. An indigenous leader of the Cofan Nation in Ecuador's northern Amazon, he has been a relentless advocate for his people, speaking out about oil giant Chevron's toxic legacy in his territory. But today, even as he continues the fight to hold Chevron accountable, Emergildo isn't waiting for a cleanup that seems always on the horizon. Emergildo is taking matters into his own hands, helping to bring clean water to thousands of Indigenous people who have suffered without for decades. Rainforest Action Network is proud to stand with Emergildo, and the other Indigenous leaders who are part of an effort to address that dire need. It's called The ClearWater Project.


ClearWater began with a big goal: provide safe, sustainable access to clean water for every Indigenous family in the region, whose ancestral waterways have been poisoned by oil production and ensuing industrialization. In just two years, ClearWater has installed more than 500 family-sized rainwater harvesting and filtration systems that serve thousands of people in communities that have long suffered an epidemic of cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses that numerous health studies in the region blame on a lack of access to safe sources of water for drinking, bathing, and cooking. Our efforts have been able to make this impact because, from the beginning, ClearWater has been a collaborative partnership between the five indigenous nationalities here—the Cofan, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa, and Waorani—and international supporters, such as water engineers, humanitarians, activists, and philanthropists. ClearWater believes in collaborative, integrative, community-led solutions, where someone like Emergildo is coordinating amongst the different Indigenous nationalities to install new water systems, local youth are using GPS to map their biological and cultural resources, and frontline leaders are learning new media techniques to broadcast their concerns to the world. Clean water, health, and dignity. From this foundation, Emergildo and the Indigenous people of Ecuador's northern Amazon are building a movement for rainforest protection and cultural survival. I’m proud that Rainforest Action Network is a founding partner in this project, and I hope you’ll join us, too. Explore ClearWater's impact by navigating around this cutting-edge interactive map designed by another Amazon Watch family member, Gregor MacLennan, now Digital Democracy's Program Director. Learn more about ClearWater on our website or find us on Facebook and Twitter.
han-headshot   Han Shan is an Amazon Watch Advisory Board Member.

7 Facts You Didn’t Know About What You’re Eating

Sometimes the problem of climate change and environmental destruction seems so large that it feels insurmountable. We've changed our light bulbs to those weird looking things, and we signed up for the Pledge of Resistance. What more can we do? The answer is as close as your kitchen. A United Nations Environment Program report in 2006 stated that "rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars." So what's the magic light bulb fix for that? Switching to a plant-based diet would be a good start in helping to alleviate such a burden. Where do you start? How about joining Rainforest Action Network on March 20 by taking the Farm Animal Rights Movement’s pledge to eat only plant-based foods. And in the meantime, arm yourself with these facts that show how even a small change can make a big difference.

1. About 70 billion farm animals are killed every year for food—that’s over 100,000 animals every second.

Besides the ethical implications, those animals all need places to live, food to eat, and water to drink, and that’s no easy, or clean, feat. vegan_1

2. It takes 1500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.

As droughts become more prevalent, keep in mind that not eating one pound of meat saves as much water as eliminating four months of 5-minute showers. vegan_2

3. Animals raised for food in the US produce 31,000 pounds of manure a second.

When you gotta go, you gotta go. But when you’re going that much, where does all of it end up? vegan_3

4. That manure has to go somewhere.

The number 1 dairy producer in the US, California, identified agriculture, including cows, as the major source of nitrate pollution in more than 100,000 square miles of polluted groundwater (61% of the entire state). vegan_5

5. Pig, chicken and cow waste has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.

That’s over 8 times the length of the Nile, the longest river in the world. vegan_4

6. All is not lost. The United Nations Environment Program has the solution:

“A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.” vegan_6

7. By switching to a plant-based diet, you’re helping yourself, the Earth, and you’re creating 70 billion smiles.

That’s something we can all feel good about.  Take the pledge today. vegan_7

Shut It, You Long-Haired Hippie

An "anti-public service" message from Donny Rico (originally published by Amazon Watch) Donny Rico here to deliver a message to all you long-haired hippie activist types complaining about the environment and human rights. Be warned: things have changed in America and you need to keep your mouths shut. Corporations are the top of the food chain and you need to keep your place or you'll be what's for dinner. Got it? See, me and Chevron are paving the way for corporate freedom in America. Freedom from accountability, freedom from watchdog punks and freedom from caring about how our actions affect the rest of yous. When those pesky Ecuadorians spouted off about the fact that Chevron did a piece of work and chose to dump billions of gallons of toxic waste in their rainforest, we decided to turn the tables and it worked like a real charm. Chevron's tired of being the victim just because over a thousand people died of cancer in Ecuador and we wrecked the Amazon rainforest.


Now, I hear some of you babbos got it in your heads to call on the U.S. Senate to investigate or some such garbage and try to put a stop to this. That ain't gonna work. But go ahead and try and see what Chevron has to say about you and your 36 environmental, human rights and corporate accountability groups getting involved. You're just asking for us to label you as "co-conspirators" and sue your asses under RICO, too! See, RICO ain't just some law to go after the mob, it's the wave of the future. Thanks to RICO, anyone, and I DO MEAN ANYONE who speaks up about Chevron's... ahhh... problems in Ecuador is a "co-conspirator" in the RICO world. That means we can drag yous all to court, subpoena all your emails and documents, and force you to shell out boatloads of cash to lawyers just to defend yourselves. And your reputation? Fuggetaboutit! See we got enough cash to crush your reputations. We'll just call all your friends and tell ‘em you're extortionists. You guys already gotta ask people for money just to stay afloat, so who's gonna give it to ya if we make you look like crooks? So be smart. Keep quiet and let Chevron do its thing. Oh, and that goes for all of yous activist types and do-good lawyers. If you think big energy companies are gonna let you organize people who got a beef with fracking and new pipelines – think again. We got enough legal muscle and friendly judges out there to go after anyone who does anything to threaten our bottom line. So if you go tellin' people not to buy our products and instead get some organic-vegan-cotton throw pillow or some such tree-hugging junk, well then you're conspiring to cost us money. And THAT is a RICO crime, got it? If you still don't get the message, watch my little video and you'll learn real fast. See, this ain't gonna end with Chevron. Once we get away with charging our own victims in Ecuador as crooks, there's no limit to who we can go after. Freedom of speech don't mean you can say things we don't like – you've been warned. Donny Rico, out!

“Coal Blooded”: New Report Says Coal Plants Disproportionately Impact Communities Of Color

A new report from the NAACP called "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People" (co-authored by former RAN staffer Adrian Wilson) paints a grim picture. Grim, but not surprising. Of the 378 coal plants across the country, 75 are considered to be the most toxic and receive an “F” on the report’s environmental justice report card. Four million people live within three miles of those plants. In fact, some 78 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. The report investigates the overall toxicity of emissions, or "dirtiness," of America's coal plants, and combines these emissions ratings with demographic data to rank a coal plant’s effect on neighboring communities. It looks at race, income and population density when looking at the dirtiest coal plants. Climate justice is the intersection between climate change, fossil fuel extraction and combustion, and social justice. It’s the point where low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by these environmental and climate catastrophes. “Coal pollution is literally killing low-income communities and communities of color,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, who added that it is an issue of environmental justice. “There is no disputing the urgency of this issue. Environmental justice is a civil and human rights issue when our children are getting sick, our grandparents are dying early, and mothers and fathers are missing work,” stated Jealous. The report is a combined effort of the NAACP, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. Read the full report here.

Charlotte Rolls Against Coal!

Last weekend, over a thousand Charlotte citizens turned out for a cancer fundraiser styled as a 24 Hour bike ride.  Participants were encouraged to ride with a team, and many organizations and businesses were represented.  Duke Energy’s team was present, as was team Bank of America in matching red and blue spandex. This year, as the bankers hopped on their bikes, they rode alongside team Roll Against Coal!, an intrepid group of Charlotte-based RAN members out to raise public awareness of coal pollution and money for cancer research at the same time. Long outdoor bike rides are often hazardous to the health of Charlotte residents, thanks in large part to air pollution from four coal-fired power plants that ring the city.  Last year, coal-fired power plant pollution contributed to 24 bad air days that endangered Charlotte’s children, the elderly, and neighbors with asthma.  Our team of biking activists carried this truth onto the bike route, with decorated bikes and tunics reading Roll Against Coal! and emblazoned with a heart and lungs graphic. As the field of cyclists zipped around the three-mile route, many stopped for refreshments at RAN’s lemonade stand, where we were happy to serve up some coal-free lemonade (99% juice!) with a side of truth.  Over a hundred cyclists stopped to talk with us about coal’s assault on public health, from air pollution in Charlotte, to cancer rates that are twice the national average in the moutaintop removal coalfields of Appalachia. Upon learning that Bank of America is the leading funder of coal pollution in the United States, dozens of doctors, surgeons, and even Bank of America employees signed letters to the bank’s CEO Brian Moynihan, calling for an end to coal funding.  Every cyclist we spoke to agreed: instead of financing the coal industry to pollute air and water near mine-sites and coal plants across the country, it is time that Bank of America prioritize health and clean, renewable energy investments.  To make sure Bank of America got the message, our team delivered letters to several bank executives who were present at the bike ride. We believe that all people deserve clean air, clean water, and healthy lives.  If our society is ever to end cancer and truly safeguard public health, we have to end our dependence on dirty and dangerous energy.  It is time for Bank of America to stop funding coal’s cancer and aggressively fund the renewable energy cure.

Deep in the Amazon, A Story is Waiting to be Told

Media technologies and professional skills are valuable tools that enable Indigenous communities living in rainforests around the world to communicate about the crisis of deforestation through sharing their stories, language, and art. Amazon Voice, a great new NGO that is working directly with the local Amazon communities based on a foundation of reciprocity and mutual respect, is giving Tzama, an Indigenous Amazon native from the Tawasap Shuar community in Ecuador, a chance to tell his people's story, his way. Tawasap is at risk. "See?” Tzama says, pointing to nearby trees planted by his great-grandfathers. “They are white these days. Normally, they are covered in fur, plants, greenery. Now nothing grows on them." Interview being conducted for the Kantza film project Shuar culture, too, is losing knowledge and numbers, but they are committed to preserving cultural memory for generations to come. "We need to document. We need the equipment, there is no more time to waste, the time is now,” says Tzama. Kantza is a film project envisioned and produced by Tzama and members of the Shuar nation, which can be supported through Kickstarter. "The things I could show you if I had a long-distance video camera," says Tzama. Those cameras, along with microphones and MacBooks, will be on the way, thanks to Amazon Voice teaming up with villagers who hope to use new tools like long-distance video cameras to create groundbreaking media projects. "We want to work together with the world,” says Tzama. “Everyone benefits from the rainforest. Everyone needs to be working together to care for it. We want to show that we, the Shuar, are here, existing, living. We are not calling on you to help us because we are in need. We are inviting the world to collaborate with us to care for the rainforest, to help themselves."

Chevron's Worst Year Ever, Episode 3: Richmond, CA

This has been one of the worst years ever for Chevron. From it’s ongoing massive legal losses in Ecuador, to offshore disasters in Brazil and Nigeria, to the tragic deaths of its employees in several locations, including right here in California. This is the third in a series of statements we're posting as we prepare for a week of what is sure to be inspired 99% Spring protest against Chevron’s irresponsible and destructive business practices (read the first statement, by Kazakhstan's Sergey Solanyik, here, and the second, by Ecuador's Luz Trinidad Andrea Cusangua, here). a These statements are by people from around the world (and from right here in the Bay Area) letting us know what it really means to live in the communities where Chevron operates. Many will travel to San Ramon, CA to bring their calls for justice directly to the company’s executives, board members, and shareholders at Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting on May 30. You can view all of the statements at If you want to join the protest on May 30, RVSP and find details here. Today's statement comes from right here in our own backyard — Richmond, CA, home of one of Chevron's two massively polluting California refineries. Nile Malloy and Greg Karras of Communities for a Better Environment work with the local communities in Richmond who have to live with the impacts of having the largest stationary source of greenhouse gas emissions in all of California as a neighbor. In their statement, Nile and Greg ask: "Will Chevron commit to support policies that protect community health and our environment from increased and prolonged pollution caused by refining heavier, dirtier oil?"


Chevron’s Richmond Refinery is the largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter in California and the largest source of CO2 and criteria air pollutant emissions in Richmond. Industrial air pollutant emissions in Richmond are up to ten times the regional or statewide averages on a per capita basis, and compared with the statewide average for all business activity, oil refining creates ten times fewer jobs (see: A less-pollution, more-jobs land use policy to make Richmond a Green Zone). Chevron has the opportunity to use more renewable energy on-site at its refineries and to increase energy efficiency while processing oil to reduce emissions locally. Chevron can afford more GHG reduction and clean energy jobs locally instead of offsetting local emissions abroad. In new projects that require environmental review, local communities should get the health, climate reductions, clean energy, and economic benefits locally. [caption id="attachment_55" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Part of the Richmond Refinery - CBE 2011"]Part of the Richmond Refinery - CBE 2011[/caption] We understand that adding solar energy generation to Chevron’s Richmond refinery and other refineries is a bold opportunity that will encourage the local community to have access to clean jobs while protecting the health and vitality of low-income and working class communities of color around the planet. As the largest corporation in California, Chevron could be a real leader in climate protection by reducing emissions locally. This would be a bold statement to the rest of the industry to redress air quality, water, environmental and climate liabilities that have historically put families and children in harm’s way. The Chevron of the future could leverage its clean and green capacities to strike a better balance with the local communities where it operates and propose real climate solutions for the world. But this will require bold creative change. Four requests to Chevron’s CEO, Management, and shareholders come forth from our communities’ experience with Chevron in Richmond and California at this time.

Renewable repower

Will Chevron commit to a program that, to the extent possible, repowers its refineries with renewable energy? The basis for this request is outlined above.


During 2007–2010 Chevron proposed a Richmond refinery project that could have increased air emissions locally, in part because of a planned shift to heavier, inherently dirtier crude oil that the company did not disclose to the public in its environmental impact report (EIR), though it was disclosed to investors. This led to understandable community concern, and to court rulings that blocked or delayed the project, including an appeals court ruling by three Republican-appointed judges that faulted this nondisclosure. Instead of accepting its responsibility for these errors and its construction workers’ resultant job losses or deferrals, Chevron engaged in a divisive PR campaign that attempted to blame them on community health advocates and environmental laws. This is unethical. Will Chevron renounce and no longer pursue this unethical tactic?


A revised environmental impact report (EIR) for Chevron’s proposed revised Richmond refinery project is scheduled for public release and review later this year. As the project proponent, Chevron has primary control of project data to be disclosed in the EIR. Nondisclosure was a crucial problem with the previous review as noted above. Will Chevron commit to provide community members and the public a complete and transparent environmental review in this revised EIR? Specifically, will Chevron:
  • Fully and accurately disclose all project equipment specifications and data?
  • Measure, monitor, and disclose the refinery’s current and potential future oil input quality and resultant pollutant emissions?
  • Fully disclose, describe, and analyze measures to lessen or avoid the proposed project’s potential environmental impacts such as
    • replacing aging, inefficient and overly polluting refinery equipment?
    • limiting hydrogen production (which causes emissions) to this refinery’s needs?
    • limiting the inherent pollution potential of oil refined to current oil quality?
    • partially repowering the refinery with onsite and nearby solar energy?

Environmental justice

As peoples worldwide strive to “decarbonize” our energy supply in order to avert potentially catastrophic climate change, some in the oil industry are pushing the wrong way, toward highercarbon heavy and tar sands-derived oil. Though perhaps first raised to Management by the community in Richmond, it is now beyond dispute that refining heavier, dirtier oil burns more fuel in refineries—and that raises issues of environmental justice. Refining heavier, dirtier oil will at best use up limited remaining pollutant capture technology, foreclosing needed cuts in emissions to protect the health of nearby communities. At worst it could overwhelm available pollutant control technology, increasing emissions in communities that already are disparately exposed. Will Chevron commit to support policies that protect community health and our environment from increased and prolonged pollution caused by refining heavier, dirtier oil?


CBE seeks environmental health and justice and asks others to make these same commitments, but Chevron’s corporate governance is at issue here and now. Please consider these requests in the spirit of responsible corporate governance, and with the understanding that, with your help, it can be true that WE AGREE on them. [caption id="attachment_60" align="alignleft" width="142" caption="Top: Nile Malloy. Bottom: Greg Karras."][/caption] In Health, Nile Malloy and Greg Karras
This post originally appeared on City Brights.

How Low Can Chevron Go?

[caption id="attachment_18054" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Humberto Piaguaje and Guillermo Grefa (from left) traveled to DC to speak out against Chevron's kangaroo court earlier this month."]Humberto Piaguaje[/caption] How low can Chevron go? It seems the company is determined to find out. Having lost a major environmental lawsuit in both US and Ecuador courts based on the merits of the case, Chevron has resorted to a secret international arbitration panel to evade paying an $18 billion judgment in Ecuador. Apparently the way Chevron works is: If you can’t beat ‘em, find a new legal process that they’re locked out of. But after Chevron’s kangaroo court issued a ruling last week that sought to order an Ecuadorean court to stop the plaintiffs from pursuing enforcement of the verdict, the Ecuadorean court responded that it would not be complying:
"A simple arbitral award ... cannot force judges to infringe the human rights of our citizens," said the court, adding that abiding by the panel's order would be unconstitutional and would lead to the breach of international human rights conventions.
Yes, you read that right: As incredible as it seems, Chevron apparently thinks that the rule of Constitutional law and even international human rights standards should be put aside in order to protect the company’s bottom line. Chevron leadership continues to insist it will fight “until hell freezes over.” But the company’s board of directors and executive and legal teams are increasingly alone in that determination. Chevron shareholders are coming forward in droves to push the company to settle the ongoing litigation and take responsibility for its oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon:
For Chevron, which had $244 billion in revenues last year, the [$18 billion] payment is manageable. But the board has decided neither to pay nor to settle with the Ecuadoran plaintiffs — a choice that doesn’t sit right with some shareholders. Instead, Chevron is appealing to a three-man arbitration panel in The Hague to overturn the Ecuador court ruling. Several institutional investors and observers believe the 13-person Chevron board just doesn’t get it. “In most instances, the board should not get involved in the handling of litigation,” says Arthur Miller, a professor and authority on civil procedure at New York University School of Law. “[But t]he Ecuador situation may well be an example of a case that obliges the board to be proactive. It has enormous scale, and the public policy issues concerning human life and environmental damage are very, very serious.” The consequences for Chevron could be grave too. Pressure from investors is intensifying for the board to get a better handle on risk oversight, and some are suggesting that the company has not been forthcoming with disclosure about potential losses from the Ecuador case. At least 25 pension funds with a combined $300 billion in assets under management have asked Chevron’s leadership to negotiate a settlement with the Ecuadorans. In a letter last spring, 22 of them, including the International Brother of Teamsters, accused Chevron leadership of “poor judgment” and damage to shareholders over the “endless litigation.”

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