Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Petitioning President Obama: Keep Fossil Fuels Safely in the Ground


Mr. President,

We call on you to secure your climate legacy by halting all new drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands and waters, including stopping all new offshore drilling in the Arctic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic.

The world is in a deep climate hole and now that we find ourselves here, we must stop digging. As you said when you rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, “we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground.”

We couldn’t agree more.

The science is clear. [1] A safe climate means we need to stop drilling and mining for more fossil fuels; and we need to keep at least 80% of what we already have in the ground.

The first place to start is our precious public lands and waters. New oil and gas sales on these lands would expand known reserves of fossil fuels, which would clearly fail to harmonize our energy policy with climate science.

The historic Paris climate agreement was the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. To create that fossil free future we need a just transition to 100% renewable energy, and we need to implement a climate test to stop expanding reserves and keep our fossil fuels in the ground.

We thank you for your leadership to date, and we urge you to boldly secure your climate legacy by announcing that America’s public lands and waters will no longer be auctioned off to oil, gas, and coal companies.

To Sign the Petition, CLICK HERE.

Brought to you by: Other98 - Greenpeace USA- Oil Change International - Rainforest Action Network - Daily Kos - Environmental Action - Friends of the Earth - Courage Campaign- Stand- The Nation- WildEarth Guardians - Food & Water Watch - WatchDog.net

Fundraiser: Pie for PAI - Public Accountability Initiative

Pie for PAI, a celebration and fundraiser for the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) & LittleSis.org, is back this year by popular demand – it will be held Wednesday, March 30th at 6pm at Allen Street Hardware. Please join us for home-made pie and a drink at the bar. 

The details:
Pie for PAI
>Wednesday, March 30th
6 PM at Allen Street Hardware in the backroom (245 Allen Street)
$20 suggested donation
Free pie, cash bar
Please share/join the event on facebook 

A special request: we are looking for people to make/bring delicious pies! Past Pie for PAIs have been a huge success in large part because of our amazing pie-making crew. Please email Rob, rob@public-accountability.org, if you are interested in making a pie.

Below, you can find a few highlights from our year of watchdog research on the powers that be, in Buffalo and beyond. If you can't make it to the event but still want to support PAI, you can always make a donation online

Hope to see you there!

Kevin Connor
Co-founder, Public Accountability Initiative

* * *
Over the past eight years, PAI’s watchdog research on undue influence and corruption has spiked rotten deals, prompted resignations and recusals, and exposed corporate front groups, in Buffalo and beyond. 

LittleSis, our database and research community that tracks ties between politicians, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions, continues to grow and inform hard-hitting journalism and organizing.

Some quick highlights from our year:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Coalition Funded to Create a Clean Energy Economy

$4 million grant to help coalition push green energy initiatives

By Mark Sommer |  The Buffalo News | March 17, 2016

A coalition of eight local groups announced Thursday an effort to bring renewable energy and good-paying energy jobs to the Buffalo Niagara region.

Crossroads Collective will pursue its goals with $500,000 a year over the next eight years, thanks to a $4 million grant from the Boston-based Chorus Foundation. Buffalo joins communities in Kentucky, California and Alaska among the four chosen nationwide.

“When we say 100 percent clean energy, 100 percent clean jobs, we’re not saying 90 percent, we’re not saying 70 percent,” said Aaron Bartley, executive director of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo). “We’re saying our communities demand and need 100 percent good jobs now in sectors that will heal the earth, bring climate justice to our communities and confront the climate crisis that is confronting our world, and that are rooted in the needs of our people.”

Franchelle Hart, executive director of Open Buffalo, said the newly announced coalition wants to propel Buffalo into a cleaner energy future. Legislation will be pushed on a state level to codify renewable energy objectives. Low-cost home insulation will be expanded. Cultural initiatives will promote the green economy message. And there will be money for researching who benefits and how from the energy status quo.

A new report by the Partnership for the Public Good, one of the eight groups, indicates state energy policies that switch to green energy initiatives could provide significant health and economic benefits. The partnership’s Sam Magavern praised PUSH’s Green Development Zone, a 25-block area he said has become a national and even international model.

“Almost nowhere in the country have they figured out how to rebuild a blighted neighborhood with green affordable housing, with urban farming, with community gardening, with storm-water management, and to do it with the people in that community leading the charge, making the plans and getting some of those high-quality jobs in the process,” Magavern said of PUSH’s efforts.

“There is a better and cleaner way to deal with our energy needs,” said Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera. “We’re asking our state legislators and everyone to join in with us and codify this and make it a part of the law,” he said. 

~    ~    ~  

Rise Up for Climate Justice Rally - Sept. 24, 2015 | Photo N. MacFarlane

Save Energy & Money: Call for Tax Incentives on Geothermal Heat Pumps in the NYS Budget

Message from Bill Nowak,
Executive Director, NY-GEO.org

Dear Friends,

This is it. Can you help one more time?

The Assembly and Senate have included the 25% (up to $5k) geothermal tax credit and the sales tax exemption in their proposed 2016-2017 budgets. 

 The budget is scheduled to be approved by April 1. Things are fast and furious in Albany right now in negotiations between the legislature and the governor’s office.  The instinct to preserve state revenues is engaging in hand to hand combat with the instinct to help the environment and people of New York during this budget process.

 We can win this one or we can lose it and NY-GEO is leaving no stone unturned.

 PLEASE HELP US TODAY – We need you to take 2 easy steps:

1. Please call Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 - press 2 to leave a message or 3 to speak with an aide.  See below for both short and long sample messages.

 A sample short message for the phone:

Please include BOTH the geothermal tax credit (S 6249) and sales tax exemption (S6250) in the final 2016-17 budget.  Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) cut greenhouse gases, save New Yorkers money and create green jobs.  These incentives would give GHPs parity with Solar PV.

2. Then send an email message to the Governor's aides and the legislative leaders who are negotiating the budget:

March Climate Madness: Colleges Turning Up the Heat

[Click image to enlarge]

Over 100 million Americans have filled out NCAA college basketball tournament brackets this week -- it's March Madness!

But some colleges are now playing a new game that's associated with a different form of madness. This calls for a new type of brackets.

Above are shown the Koch Brackets, 32 colleges that receive money via Donors Trust, a shadowy conduit for a network of conservative/libertarian financiers that oppose environmental regulations and fund efforts to deny that burning fossil fuels causes global warming.

So, which colleges are helping the Koch fossil fuel barons turn up the heat on the planet? The brackets above show the dollar amounts for the top 12. 

In genuine free-market fashion, the outcome is predetermined by dollar amount, with powerhouse George Mason University ($3.1 million) lapping the field. This is based on Donors Trust’s most recent filing of Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service, which lists all grants from the year 2014. 

The Northern Virginia school and its Mercatus Center are to libertarian think tanks what Connecticut is to women’s basketball. 

For more information, read Jane Mayer’s book, Dark Money, which traces the lineage of the Koch brothers, Donors Trust, and conservative philanthropy’s quiet entry into big-time academic spending.

Source: Analysis - The Koch Brothers, by Peter Dykstra, Environmental Health News, March 17, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Federal Jury Awards $4.2 Million to Families with Water Polluted by Gas Drilling

Two Dimock, Pa., families who declined a Marcellus Shale gas driller's offer in 2012 to settle their claims of water contamination were awarded $4.24 million Thursday by a federal jury.

The verdict in U.S. District Court in Scranton was a blow to Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., which had maintained that its drilling was not responsible for the elevated level of methane in the families' water wells.

The eight-member jury found that Cabot's drilling was negligent and created a nuisance for the families of Scott Ely and Monica Marta-Ely and Ray and Victoria Hubert. It awarded the Elys $2.75 million and the Huberts $1.49 million.

In 2009, more than 40 Dimock residents sued Cabot, claiming that the Houston gas producer's rush to drill the Marcellus Shale had polluted their wells.

All but the Elys and Huberts settled in 2012 after tests showed wells contained elevated levels of methane, but none of the chemicals associated with gas drilling.

Read more at Philly.com

Interview of the Attorneys for the Plaintiffs in the Water Pollution Case

Cabot Oil & Gas company was found by a federal jury to be responsible for contaminating two couples’ wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Listen to Susan Arbetter interview Leslie Lewis and Elisabeth Radow, the co-counsels for the plaintiffs, about the case at the Capitol Pressroom online (advance the tape slider to 22:10 minutes to begin).

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Climate Change: Human Activity is Causing Sea-level Rise -- We Must Take Action

WNY can be a key player in the effort to fight the impact of climate change

EDITORIAL  |   The Buffalo News

on February 27, 2016 - 12:01 AM

If this week’s alarming report on rising sea levels doesn’t get everyone’s attention, it’s hard to see what will, short of bodies floating in the water. Scientists reported on Monday that the oceans are rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries – since the founding of ancient Rome – and that flooding is increasing more frequently in coastal cities and will only get worse.

Isn’t it time to be serious? The scientists make a credible case that the cause is human activity, but it’s not even necessary to accept that to understand that rising seas are a fact – for whatever reason – and they portend expensive, life-altering calamities.

Two critical things need to happen if humanity is to respond most effectively to the threat. Defensively, coastal cities such as Miami Beach, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; Norfolk, Va.; and New York City need to buffer themselves against the coming tide. The need for that has already been documented.

In Charleston, for example, the number of flood days has increased to 219 in recent years from just 34 in 2005, based on measurements of a tide gauge. Other cities, including Annapolis, Md., and Key West, Fla., have also seen dramatic increases in the number of flood days. Climate Central, a research organization in Princeton, N.J., has calculated that about three-quarters of tidal flood days along the East Coast are occurring because of rising sea levels caused by human-driven carbon dioxide emissions.

The consequences of warming are already being felt and will, experts say, inevitably become worse before humans have any chance even to slow the pace of climate change. It will be crucial to prepare.

But Americans, and the world, owe it to future generations to acknowledge that their activities are causing much of this problem and to act accordingly. Fundamentally, that means moving away from carbon-based fuels and to renewable sources, including wind, sun and even sea.

This is an inevitable shift, since other resources – coal, oil, natural gas – are finite. Solar and wind energy are renewable, although reliability varies. The technology for harnessing wind and solar on a large scale is still being developed, but the technology will improve, as is always the case, creating greater efficiency and reliability and lowering the cost. This is going to happen. The question is how quickly and, clearly, faster is better.

That will be good for mankind and it will be good for Western New York, too. Not only is this one of the windiest places in the Northeast and already home to wind farms taking advantage of the power provided by air movement, but Buffalo is about to become home to the largest solar manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere. Those are critical technologies to develop and to refine if the world is to turn back from the kind of crises that a warming climate not only threatens, but is already producing.

The naysayers remain, and probably always will. No amount of evidence will change those minds. Some of those in denial, like Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., are particularly rabid in their insistence that the doubters are right and the vast majority of scientists are wrong. It’s time to leave them behind.

When experts with credibility report that seas are not only rising, but rising faster than they have since before Jesus walked the Earth, then it’s time to be done with those who are so invested in denial that they risk the well-being of millions of people.

Instead, governments and businesses must get on with the urgent task of protecting the coastal populations at increasing risk and acting, finally, in the interests of our descendants who will praise or curse their forebears who either acted to protect the planet or who, selfishly and against all evidence, chose to do nothing.

~   ~   ~

NY Renews: Statewide Action is Proving the Best Route to Effective Climate Policy

Can This New York State Campaign Finish What the Paris Climate Talks Started?

The COP21 agreement is filled with holes—this diverse, statewide coalition aims to fill them.

By Rebecca Nathanson  | January 11, 2016 |  The Nation

Several weeks ago, as climate-justice activists dispersed from Paris after the United Nations climate-change summit, a couple hundred people sat cheering in a Harlem church, its walls adorned with posters reading, “There can be no environmental justice without social justice.” Community leaders, directors of national environmental organizations, union members, a Hurricane Sandy survivor, the church’s pastor, the state attorney general—one at a time, each took the mic to rally the audience and attest to the urgent need for the evening’s gathering. Down in the pews, the crowd responded in agreement, applause interspersed with chants of “Sí se puede!”

Just days earlier, in Paris, 195 countries had reached a climate deal that was at once historic in its broad, multinational scope and modest in its purely voluntary aspirations. In its wake, Hans Schellnhuber, one of the world’s most renowned climate scientists and a top adviser to Pope Francis, had declared, “It will be the job of civil society…to finish the job that national governments have begun here in Paris.”

Now, part of civil society had gathered together to meet that challenge. Its vehicle of choice was NY Renews, a new statewide campaign that will attempt to make tangible what Paris made aspirational. Standing on the church stage, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman received the loudest ovation of the night when he pledged his support for the initiative, exclaiming, “I’ve never seen an event like this.”

While NY Renews has been in the works for months, the timing of its launch placed the campaign’s demands in direct comparison to the agreement reached at the Paris summit on December 12. What could be the agreement’s best parts, such as naming 1.5 degrees Celsius as a goal for the eventual maximum temperature rise, amount to loose aims with no enforcement—and still fall short of what science demands. If every country kept its promises, the earth would still warm by 3.5 degrees Celsius, putting the temperature far above preindustrial levels.

“Think of it as a starting gun in a race,” said Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club, at the NY Renews launch event.

NY Renews aims to build off the Paris agreement and fill in its gaps. The campaign comes from a coalition of at least 45 organizations throughout New York State that helped organize last fall’s People’s Climate March. It targets the state legislature in Albany with numerous demands: to create clean-energy jobs, make the state’s climate commitments legally enforceable, ensure accountability for meeting those commitments, and establish a just energy policy. More specifically, the campaign calls for the state to use 100 percent clean energy by 2050, with benchmark goals in the interim and every state agency oriented to helping meet those goals.                 

As Eddie Bautista, the executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, a member of the NY Renews coalition, explained before the event, “This will be an exciting and unprecedented moment for us to grapple with the policy at the state level, seeing as how we know how the Paris agreement is not going to protect the most vulnerable communities in the world.” In the wake of the agreement, he continued, “it becomes even more important for local action to drive how policy and how resiliency and adaptation get advanced.”

Governor Cuomo has already announced a goal of using 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by that same year. By 2050, he aims for emissions to be 80 percent below their 1990 level. The campaign hopes not only to push Cuomo further but also to codify the existing initiatives into laws, ensuring that future governors adhere to their mandates. “While there have been some good initiatives under this governor, we believe that our campaign pushes the state more broadly and more aggressively and more transparently in a direction where we need to go in terms of reducing our carbon footprint,” Bautista told The Nation.

With climate change a non-starter in Congress, statewide action is proving the best route to effective policy. “A lot of the reason why the US was even able to go to Paris and negotiate anything was because states have started to adopt more aggressive climate policy, and that’s no accident. That’s because people really built impressive political power in states,” explained May Boeve, the executive director of 350.org, which has a New York City affiliate that is active in the coalition.

Still, what’s most interesting about NY Renews may be the way it’s using this newfound political power. Whereas the Paris agreement failed to include a legally binding commitment from rich countries to appropriate sufficient funds to help developing nations mitigate the impact of climate change, NY Renews is making the inclusion of the most vulnerable central to its mission. In focusing on the needs of low-income communities, communities of color, and the communities that were most ravaged by Hurricane Sandy three years ago, it adds social, racial, and economic-justice components to its organizing—an acknowledgement that, although climate change affects everyone, it does not affect everyone equally.

“This is increasingly the direction the movement is moving,” Boeve observed. “We’re seeing across different movements and sectors the need for transformational change in the way decisions are made about the climate and the environment, about workers, about immigration, about healthcare, and increasingly recognizing that we need each other in order to be successful.”       

Beyond taking the Paris agreement as a jumping-off point, NY Renews is harnessing the momentum of the September 2014 People’s Climate March, where more than 300,000 people marched through Manhattan. Like this campaign, that event brought together people from a diversity of movements and organizations, highlighting the front-line communities that are already combating the impact of climate change. Now that coalition hopes to channel the march’s explosive energy into concrete policy change.

The reality of NY Renews remains to be seen—its own aims are still aspirational, after all. How it will channel the discussions and mobilizations around Paris into concrete support, how it will balance the needs of the variety of groups and movements it incorporates, and how it will transform its ideas into tangible political power—these are questions to which the answers can only be guessed right now. But these challenges are also what lend it the potential for success.

As Schneiderman said to the cheering crowd in that Harlem church on December 16, “NY Renews is how you keep the Climate March marching.”

~   ~   ~

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli helped launch the NY Renews campaign in Buffalo:
He told the crowd of more than 100 activists and leaders from a variety of local church, environmental, labor and community organizations about the creation of a $2 billion Low Emissions Index for the state’s pension fund that will reduce or eliminate investments in polluting companies and encourage others to reduce their carbon footprints.

An additional $1.5 billion in promote green investments, he said, will bring the fund’s total environmentally friendly commitment to $5 billion. Echoing an earlier speaker, Jim Anderson of Citizen Action, he added, “We all have skin in the game. We all need to contribute.”

The NY Renews campaign will contribute by pushing for laws that will enforce the state’s climate goals, create jobs in clean energy and set up a fair energy policy that includes people at all economic levels.
See the full report: State comptroller’s Buffalo visit after Paris climate summit encourages push for environmental legislation at BuffaloNews.com

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Film Screening: Friday Free Film Nights at Singer Farm Naturals

WHAT: New Documentary Film --  INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective

WHEN: FRIDAY, March 11 at 7:00PM

WHERE: Legacy Barn, Singer Farm Naturals, 6730 Lake Road, Appleton, NY 14008 [Map]

Free and Open to the Public

INHABIT explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design process called "Permaculture". Permaculture is a design lens that uses the principles found in ecosystems to help shift our impact from destructive to regenerative.

Focused mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States, INHABIT provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.

Watch the film trailer:

Visit the Legacy Common Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/legacycommon/


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Citizen Lobbying: Training Workshop -- League of Women Voters

SUBJECT:    League of Women Voters Training Workshop: Citizen Lobbying

TIME:            Saturday, March 12, 2016, 9:30-11:30 am

PLACE:         Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Road, Amherst, NY

PROGRAM:  Learn how you can make a difference by lobbying your elected officials and other politicians.

The League of Women Voters Buffalo/Niagara will host a training workshop on Saturday, March 12, 9:30-11:30 am.

The workshop will explain the essentials of the League lobbying process. It will feature a role-playing skit where league members will model lobbying essentials, followed by a question and answer period and the sharing of ideas. In addition, a packet of materials will be distributed. Refreshments will be served.

Do join us for this informative and active workshop, which is free and open to League members and the public.

Please RSVP by calling the League office at 716-986-4898 by March 9 or online at lwvbn@lwvbn.org.

Remember, Democracy is not a spectator sport. Citizens can make a difference!