Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Free Film: CONTAINMENT - Nuclear Waste - What Can Governments Do to Protect Living Things Now?

Come See a Free Film: CONTAINMENT

Open to the Public
6:30PM, TUESDAY, February 21st
DAEMEN COLLEGE ~ Schenck Hall (Rm. 107)
4380 Main Street, Amherst [Map]

Panel Discussion after the Film:

 Hosted by:
Sierra Club Niagara Group
with NIRS, CEC, SNI/WaterWalkerz,  
Daemen College Global & Local Sustainability Program, and Paul A. Saffrin Center for Sustainability & Civic Engagement

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Trump's Wrong-Headed Energy Plan Ignores Clean Energy Revolution and Climate Change

Trump’s “America First” Energy Plan Leaves America Behind

On the eve of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources confirmation vote for Rick Perry to be Secretary of Energy, it’s important to take a close look at the Trump administration’s plans for America’s energy future. The administration’s new webpage on “An America First Energy Plan” is—like much of the president’s rhetoric—wrong-headed, short on details, and divorced from reality.

In fact, it’s most notable for what it doesn’t say — there’s not a word about the clean energy revolution, a boom in wind, solar, and energy efficiency that is creating millions of jobs, saving billions of dollars, and even saving lives by cutting pollution. This misleading plan not only fails to put America first — it threatens to pull America back to the 20th century. NRDC will fight to make sure that the Trump administration doesn’t succeed at making America’s energy choices worse.

Here’s a look at a breakdown of the Trump plan [in italics] contrasted with the authors' comments on what that plan gets wrong [no italics]:

The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans ...

One of the best tools at our disposal to slash energy bills is energy efficiencybut it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Trump plan. Since 1987, federal energy efficiency standards on appliances and equipment have saved Americans a cumulative total of $2 trillion on energy costs. Standards set in 2016 alone will save $75 billion on utility bills. With such tremendous cost-cutting power, it’s no wonder that federal efficiency standards have long enjoyed bipartisan support. Leaving efficiency out of an energy plan is a major oversight.

Despite wild swings in fossil fuel prices, America’s electricity bills and the per-kilowatt-hour rates recorded on them have been relatively stable and affordable for decades, thanks in good part to leadership at the state level in support of energy efficiency and renewable resources. In fact, after adjusting for inflation, U.S. electricity is cheaper today than it was more than a quarter-century ago, in 1990. And in some regions, solar and wind energy are already cost-competitive with fossil fuels, helping to lower everyone’s utility bills.

…and maximize the use of American resources… 

In 2015, nearly 70 percent of new electric generation came from American wind and solar power. Yet these American energy resources aren’t mentioned at all in the Trump plan — even though many heartland states, both red and blue, want more, as clean energy is helping revive both rural and rust-belt economies. And let’s not forget that Rick Perry’s home state of Texas is a national leader in wind energy. Today, more than 2.5 million Americans work in clean energy, from skilled factory workers making batteries for hybrid vehicles to military veterans who now scale turbine towers as wind energy technicians. China plans to create 13 million jobs by 2020 by investing in clean power. Where are the clean energy jobs in the Trump plan?

...freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.

Thanks to strong clean car and fuel economy standards set under the Obama administration, we’re already loosening the grip of oil dependence. The standards, which will double mileage for cars and light trucks by 2025, will also cut oil consumption by 1.5 million barrels per day — equivalent to current U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf. Standards save money for consumers, too —  nearly $4,000 over the lifetime of a vehicle. According to the BlueGreen Alliance, clean car standards will also create more than half a million jobs nationwide.

For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry.

The data clearly shows that environmental safeguards, rather than being a burden, have drastically cut pollution over the past 40 years while the economy has enjoyed tremendous growth. As the U.S. Environmental Protection reports, from 1970 to 2015, the Clean Air Act helped cut 70 percent of the soot and smog from American skies while the economy grew 246 percent. More than double the growth, less than half the pollution. That’s progress. Meanwhile, due to energy efficiency progress accelerated by appliance and equipment standards and building energy codes, the historical link between economic growth and total energy use was broken four decades ago and has not reappeared. GDP increased by 30 percent between 2000 and 2015, while total energy consumption remained flat.

President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.

The 117 million people whose drinking water supplies depend on Waters of the U.S. protections would hardly call it unnecessary. And when climate change creates international instability, dries up crops and ranchland, swamps low-lying communities and drives extreme weather that cost taxpayers $100 billion in 2012 alone, an action plan is surely in order. The Clean Power Plan aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 40 percent. Efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings will play a big role in this, with a goal of cutting 3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030. There’s no reference to back up the wage increase mentioned in the Trump plan, but studies on the Clean Power Plan have shown that it would create as many as 274,000 jobs and deliver climate and health benefits worth $53 to $93 billion every year — including saving thousands of lives.

VISITING SPEAKER: Making Residential Heating & Cooling Climate Friendly in NY State

Arjun Makhijani is President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, MD. A recognized authority on energy issues, Dr. Makhijani is the author and co-author of numerous reports and books on energy and environment related issues. He has testified before Congress, and has appeared on ABC World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News, CBS 60 Minutes, NPR, CNN, and BBC, among others. He has served as a consultant on energy issues to utilities, including TVA, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and several agencies of the United Nations. His 2008 book, Carbon Free, Nuclear Free (downloaded for free  at maps a U.S. course correction to curb climate change and achieve energy independence.

Senate Must Vote No on Pruitt as EPA Head - Approval would be like Putting the Fox in Charge of the Henhouse

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Putting Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA risks irreversible damage to the planet

By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
February 4, 2017

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt has spent the last six years suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over the extent of its authority, particularly its efforts to regulate the oil and gas industry and restrict coal-fired power plants. These industries belch out the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, yet Pruitt has led or been part of 14 lawsuits (most of them in concert with industry) challenging rules that limit them or otherwise protect the nation’s air and water.

It’s hardly news that some public officials are shills or apologists for powerful polluting industries. But to select someone with a record like Pruitt’s to lead the EPA is mind-boggling, offensive and deeply worrisome. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the appointment Thursday despite a boycott by Democratic members, but the full Senate should say no.

Yes, Trump won the election, and as president, he’s entitled to appoint people who reflect his political views. But when the president’s policies and appointees pose such a fundamental threat to the nation, even a Senate controlled by his fellow Republicans — whose first loyalty should be to the people of the United States — must put the nation’s best interests ahead of party loyalty.

Pruitt shares Trump’s ignorant skepticism about the global threat from climate change. Like Trump, Pruitt disbelieves the scientific consensus that human actions play a significant role in heating up the planet and that a crisis looms. That alone disqualifies him from running an agency charged with protecting the environment — because if there is any single issue that poses an urgent threat to the planet in the century ahead, it is climate change.

In addition to his objectionable efforts to weaken the EPA, Pruitt is a key figure in a cabal of Republican attorneys general who sued to undercut the subsidies for low-income insurance buyers under the Affordable Care Act, to kill the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, and to void the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Those efforts suggest Pruitt is not a principled law enforcement figure so much as an ambitious partisan.

There is a legitimate philosophical argument to be had over the proper extent of federal regulations. But Pruitt wouldn’t run the agency as just another small-government Republican interested in paring excessive limitations on business. He actually disagrees with the fundamental mission of the EPA. He has argued that the federal government should play a lesser role in environmental protection, and that primary control should be given to the states. This is wrong-headed.  Putting West Virginia in charge of its coal industry or Texas in charge of its oil industry would lead to horrific environmental damage not just there, but in neighboring states downwind and downstream.

Pruitt’s own performance in Oklahoma stands as evidence of this. When he first won election with the backing of the energy industry, he dissolved the office’s environmental prosecution team and created what he called the Federalism Unit to “combat unwarranted regulation and overreach by the federal government.” Pruitt testified in his confirmation hearing that his office handled 15 environmental protection cases, but critics in Oklahoma say he inherited a dozen of those from his predecessor.

Pruitt’s political career in Oklahoma was heavily supported by the oil and gas industry. He submitted letters ghost-written by oil industry officials to the EPA, Interior Department and the White House challenging various regulatory schemes the industry opposed. He refused in his nomination hearing to promise to recuse himself from decisions tied to the lawsuits he’s involved with, and which he would now be responsible for defending. His appointment would be a classic case of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. And he poses a particular threat to California: He has raised the possibility that his EPA could rescind federal waivers that California’s environmental regulators have used to help cut greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles by nearly a third since 2009.

As reprehensible as most of Trump’s actions and appointments have been so far, their broader consequences, for the most part, are reversible at some later date. (Although not for individuals, such as a refugee who gets killed because Trump sends him back to a country where his or her life has been threatened.) Putting Pruitt in charge of the EPA, however, poses an irreversible risk to the planet, and the Senate needs to ensure that doesn’t happen.

To view the Editorial at the Los Angeles Times, click here.

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Scott Pruitt Will Make America Great Again — For Polluters

President Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency might put it on the endangered species list.

In this exclusive web essay, Bill Moyers takes on President Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has a track record of putting the business interests of the energy sector before the environmental and health interests of the public. He has spent his career fighting the rules and regulations of the agency he is now being nominated to lead. His expected confirmation threatens to make America great for polluters again.
Read the full transcript at…/an-epa-nominee-drafted-by-business-

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PUBLIC HEARINGS: Northern Access Pipeline - NYS DEC

NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation 


Informational Get-Together: Monday, February 6th at 6PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 94 Buffalo Road, East Aurora, NY. [Facebook Event]
WECAP-Wyoming, Erie and Cattaraugus Communities Act on the Pipeline;
Sierra Club Niagara Group

The Legislative Public Hearings are scheduled as follows:

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: St. Bonaventure University
Doyle Hall
3261 W. State Road
Bonaventure, NY 14778

Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Iroquois High School
2111 Girdle Road
Elma, NY 14059

Date: Thursday, February 9, 2017
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Niagara County Community College
3111 Saunders Settlement Road, Room E-140
Sanborn, NY 14132

DEC Hearings Information: Facebook Event
Sierra Club Niagara Group, WECAP, Pendleton Action Team 

If you cannot attend one of the hearings, email or mail your comments to: 
Michael Higgins, NYS DEC - Division of Environmental Permits, 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-1750
Phone: (518) 402-9179, Fax: (518) 402-9168
NYS DEC provides all the details on the Public Hearings here

UPDATE 2.7.2017
Article in The Buffalo News: 
National Fuel pipeline would cut through 192 streams in Western New York

Sunday, January 29, 2017

RALLY: Support Senator Schumer in Resisting Trump's Dangerous Agenda

RALLY In front of Senator Schumer’s Office
Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 12:00pm
130 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo 

Trump's Agenda is a Danger to 
Our Environment and Communities!
His administration of corporate cronies will protect elite interests while threatening our water, air, and food, undermining civil rights, and risking climate chaos.

On February 2, New Yorkers will rally at Senator Schumer’s offices across the state urging him to resist Trump’s agenda!

As the nation’s top Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer must continue to stand strong against Trump’s catastrophic Cabinet appointments and his climate-destroying plans. 

Let’s show our Senator he has 
strong support in Western New York! 

Join Sierra Club, Climate Justice Coalition of WNY, PUSH Buffalo, 350.0rg, Food and Water Watch, WNY Peace Center, NYPIRG and many others

Questions? Email

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Women March in Unprecedented Numbers in DC, Buffalo and Beyond in Support of Women's Rights, Safety and Health - January 22, 2017

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THE BUFFALO NEWS - January 22, 2017

Buffalo protesters join masses at Women's March in D.C.

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THE HILL - January 21, 2017

Sanders on women's march: Trump 'made a big mistake' 

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THE BUFFALO NEWS - January 22, 2017

Thousands attend women's rally against Trump in Buffalo

Nationwide Protests 'Inspiring' and must keep 'Moving Forward' to Protect Our Democracy, says Author

Democracy & Government                 

A Great and Joyful March, But It’s Not Enough

Saturday's protests were inspiring but just the first step in fighting back against those who would end democracy.

 Thousands of people take part in the Women's March on Jan. 21, 2017 in New York City. The midtown Manhattan event was one of many anti-Trump protests nationwide that came a day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

“Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.”

On Sunday morning, that came flying out from the Twitter account of @realDonaldTrump, raising the question, “What have you done with the real, @realDonaldTrump?”

It sure didn’t sound like the troll we’ve come to know. A couple of days in, maybe the awesomeness of becoming the leader of the free world had penetrated his roiling psyche and settled him down.

Nah. Clearly, he hadn’t written it. Because just two hours before, in a tone far more like the narcissistic whinge we’re used to, the Trump account tweeted, “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.”

Not voting? Celebs? That sound you heard was my cognitive dissonance alarm hitting DEFCON 1.

In both instances, the bad and not-quite-as-bad Trump personas were writing about Saturday’s worldwide protests, women’s marches in more than 500 cities in the United States — at least 3.7 million Americans — and more than another hundred demonstrations internationally, from London and Paris to that handful of hearty souls who displayed their protest signs in Antarctica.

There were half a million people in Washington, DC, just the day after the less-than-superb turnout for Donald Trump’s inauguration and some 400,000 here in New York City, if not more. According to Sarah Frostenson at Vox, “… Political scientists say they think we may have witnessed the largest day of demonstrations in American history.”

I have been at many, many protest marches in my life, going back to the big anti-Vietnam demonstrations of the late ’60s and ’70s, and I have never experienced anything like what happened this weekend. We arrived at our designated stepping off point on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., right on time, but the block was so packed it already had been penned off. A marshal suggested we move up to the next street above and work our way back down to where we were supposed to be but it was impossible and in the process I managed to get separated from my friends — too much of a crowd between us to get back to one another; a situation complicated by a dying cellphone.

A scene from the crowd in the march in New York on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Photo by Michael Winship)
A scene from the crowd in the march in New York on Saturday, 
Jan. 21, 2017. (Photo by Michael Winship)
And so there I stood, alone in the crowd, waiting for something to happen, soaking in the excitement and anticipation everyone shared at being there, enjoying the collegiality, reading the hundreds of signs, from the woman carrying a 5×7 card with the words, “A tiny sign for a tiny man” to the guy not far from me whose placard read, “A woman made this sign for me.”

Apparently, our numbers were so unexpected it took a while for the organizers and police to figure out what to do with us all, so it was 2:30 p.m. or so before we finally began to move, slowly swinging south onto Second Avenue on the east side of Manhattan. This wasn’t so much a march as a slow group shuffle; there were so many people crowded onto the street we could only move a little bit at a time, like an escaped chain gang bound at the ankles.

We worked our way down to 42nd Street and then west. I was tempted to peel off at Grand Central Station and head home — the hour already was late — but I was determined to make it all the way to the end, to reach Fifth Avenue and 56th Street and summit at Trump Tower.

By the time we made our way onto Fifth Avenue the sun was going down but we kept moving, singing, chanting, cheering. A 6-year-old girl, perched on a grown-up’s shoulders, urged us on: “We are the popular vote! This is what democracy looks like!” she shouted and we echoed everything she said. This was her personal favorite: “Donald Duck for president!”

Saturday was a stunning affirmation of defiance, a rebuke and warning that resistance has just begun, yet only if we have the patience and grit to keep it moving forward.

We got to a block from Trump’s gilded pleasure dome and then were turned away by parade marshals
and police. We could get no closer; barriers blockaded the way. Amicably, the protesters broke up, walking east and west on the cross streets, many filling the bars and restaurants, others crowding into the subway stations, headed home.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to shrug off the significance of what happened on our streets Saturday. Referring to the Washington march, he said, “There were people who came to the Mall, as they do all the time, sometimes in smaller numbers.” Ho-hum, he seemed to say.

“A lot of these people were there to protest an issue of concern to them and not against anything,” Spicer said, personifying the self-deception that believes the lie.

Sorry, Sean — Saturday was a stunning affirmation of defiance, a rebuke and warning that resistance has just begun, yet only if we have the patience and grit to keep it moving forward.

I’ve told this story here before, but the lesson remains: In the wake of the murder of protesting students at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970, the big antiwar demonstrations that followed and the nationwide student strike that shut down hundreds of colleges and universities, the idea was not just to demonstrate but to mobilize and continue to work toward an end to the Vietnam War. Once the dramatic marches had come to an end, all too many simply took advantage of an early end to the semester and headed for the beach. Little was accomplished and the war continued for another five years. Those of us who wanted to keep the peace work going — the stated intention of the strike — were met with diffidence at best and at worst, outright apathy and resentment.

“Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are,” Gloria Steinem said at Saturday’s rally in Washington. “Pressing ‘send’ is not enough.” She’s right, but marching won’t be enough either as we go up against a committed band of zealots determined to end all remaining vestiges of the New Deal and the Great Society and to further enrich the wealth of the 1 percent — especially, of course, themselves.

“This is the upside of the downside,” Steinem said on Saturday. “This is an outpouring of energy, and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life. It is wide in age, it is deep in diversity, and remember, the Constitution does not begin with ‘I the president,’ it begins with ‘we the people.’”

The work must take place at every level, from local on up: organizing, keeping yourself informed,
sending letters and emails, making phone calls, attending town meetings, running for office or working for the candidates who best represent your interests.

And this, perhaps above all: confront your member of Congress. Don’t let him or her off the hook. Make sure your representative doesn’t sell you out to the Big Interests, or deceive you with empty rhetoric. If they do – throw the rascals out.

There is no time to lose. With each day, a cornice of our republic crumbles and the body of democracy struggles to keep itself from stumbling and falling into the abyss. No joke.