Environmental Justice: Promises Made ...


Environmental Justice: Promises Made ...

I had the great opportunity to join Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships (EJCP)team in Detroit before Labor Day for the 2011 Conference on Environmental Justice: One Community–One Environment, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency. And the Sierra Club — we were a co-sponsor.

EJCP Director Leslie Fields and staff members Rhonda Anderson and Spillman Truhart worked closely with EPA staff to plan the conference and Sierra Club contributed significantly to the presentations. These included technical trainings — by Beyond Coal Campaign volunteer leader Verena Owen on air permitting, and by EJCP staff member Rita Harris on using the toxics release inventory to chart local pollution. Melissa Damaschke provided a training about the People's Water Board Coalition and strategies for reducing water waste in support of the coalition's overall drive to avert the privatization of Detroit's water service. And both Melissa and Rita provided one-on-one coaching to attendees of the Eco-Cafe exhibition session.

Picture 59

The national gathering featured a luncheon that honored University of Michigan Professor and author Bunyan Bryant, left, leaning out, and lifelong Detroit activist and author Grace Lee Boggs, center, both central thinkers in the development of the environmental justice movement. Faciltator Donell Wilkins is at right.

Michelle Martinez, a local organizer with the Beyond Coal Campaign, addressed the linkage of workforce development and transitioning to clean energy.

I appreciated the opportunity to join Sierra Club EJCP  organizer Rhonda Anderson's tour of the "48217" area in southwest Detroit, a case study of a community ravaged by  environmental injustice. Rhonda very compellingly presented an established, culturally rich and diverse community, now largely converted to an industrial zone, threatening the health and economic viability of its remaining residents. 

Marathon Oil has already placed its bets on dirty tar sands oil, expanding its refining facility a few years ago in southwest Detroit, where the legacy of environmental racism in the poisoning of the land, the air and the water should have made additions to Marathon's toxic releases inconceivable. Sierra Club and the 48217 community fought against it but were unsuccessful in blocking the expansion. The coalition did manage to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement, to provide among other things for an emergency response plan for the refinery's neighbors. Yet even with our tour in progress, Marathon had a huge flare and release and sent its workers home, but failed to honor its agreement and inform the neighbors.

A longtime community leader, Rhonda has been in the forefront of the effort to give voice to the disempowered, stop the assault on Detroit's poorer communities and turn them around. Rhonda has also mentored and encouraged others to step up to community activism, including Vincent Martinez, who joined her in leading the tour.

A major blow to the cause of environmental justice was dealt right in the midst of the conference. The EPA announced its settlement with the State of California in the civil rights case Angelita C. v. California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act VI is a potentially powerful lever for promoting environmental justice, authorizing federal agencies to withdraw funds from any recipient of federal funding, including state agencies, whose activities have a discriminatory impact based on race, natural origin or color. As detailed at the conference, despite concerted pressure over the years from EJ activists, EPA has allowed a flawed complaint investigation system to let cases languish and deny relief to communities disproportionately harmed by pollution. In the Angelita C. settlement, EPA found that California's Department of Pesticide Regulation violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by allowing unhealthy levels of the highly toxic fumigant methyl bromide near schools with predominantly Latino children, while children in majority white schools were not put at risk. Nevertheless, EPA failed to refer the case to the Justice Department and instead concluded a backroom deal that provides no relief to the families and requires little more than monitoring. Conference attendees deplored the settlement and resolved to demand that EPA redress the further injustice in this case, and more generally fulfill its obligation under the Civil Rights Act to effectively process and prosecute similar complaints.

I came away from the conference with my understanding deepened of the disproportionate toll — in sickness, lost lives and lost communities — being paid for our addiction to dirty energy of all kinds. It was gratifying to see the recognition of the Club's active role in the environmental justice movement and to be associated with the Club's dedicated EJCP volunteers and staff, whose persistent efforts over many years have established the Club's as a credible voice for justice and community empowerment. As the stories and presentations of the EJ Conference made so very clear, the ravaging of low income- and people-of-color communities is all about power. Power in the wrong hands. Power in right hands supports and creates sustainable communities. The EPA One Community–One Environment conference illustrated both realities.  

In the intervening days our attention has been considerably focused on the demonstrations and rally in Washington, D.C. against the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Obama administration's decision to shelve the ozone rule. Clearly the President needs to hear in the most-certain terms that embracing the dirtiest oil on the planet and betraying his commitment to clean up the air and water pollution harming the least responsible people the most is the wrong path. For background and what you can do, go here.

Fortunately, we also had some good news last week, with the announcement that three coal plants in Virginia, including two of the nation's most polluting, will be shut down in the next five years.

Picture 60

Club activists rally in Alexandria, Virginia, with the Sierra Club's traveling giant inhaler, to move beyond coal.

Two upcoming events I urge you to participate in:

September 24: The Moving Planet Day of Action to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels is immediate opportunity we must maximize to demonstrate the broad public support for choosing the right, clean energy path. Find an event in your community here.

October 3: Join me for an Open House Conference Call. I'll be reporting on the Club's Annual Meeting September 22-24. (And yes, the board will be participating in a Moving Planet event in San Francisco.) RSVP here.

Robin Mann


‘Shindiggers’ Shake St. Louis


What a great privilege to spend two days last week with Sierra Student Coalition leaders at their annual Shindig.  National SSC Director Quentin James and SSC ExCom Chair Adriana Gonzales and their team assembled a wonderful group of new and veteran student leaders in St. Louis for this annual gathering to design their campaign plans for the coming year. 

This year's Shindig was also the launch pad for the SSC's new 5-Year Vision and Organizational Plan. The SSC's goal "to train and empower youth and to run effective campaigns that result in tangible energy and climate change victories," will be accomplished through the four programs of youth empowerment, energy, anti-oppression and training.

No question, the SSC knows how to have fun! But don't be misled by their wacky humor, ebullient camaraderie, and enjoyment of late-night dancing. This is as serious and passionate a group of activist leaders mobilized to confront coal and oil and bring on the clean energy future as there is. They were fired up about building on their highly successful Campuses Beyond Coal work — to get a full third of the campus coal fleet offline by 2020, building the new Campuses Beyond Oil and Stop Oil Sands campaigns, and expanding their capacity to mobilize more campuses and collaborate with more chapters and groups.
   Picture 41

[Snapshots from the Shindig's Ustream video — there was lots of planning footage, too, but these captured the fun.]

Reflecting on my two days with the "Shindiggers," two images come to mind that reflect their character. The first is from a session convened on instilling anti-oppression into their training programs. SSC members are highly motivated to respect difference and ensure inclusiveness in all they do. Even after an already long meeting day, the assembled group brought the same intentionality and intensity of focus to this task as was brought to discussions of campaign strategies and tactics. The SSC wants to win, but the victories must be for all to share.

Another lasting image is from the COP-17 planning session. A dozen leaders crammed into a hotel room for a late evening, two-hour planning session for the upcoming climate talks in Durban, South Africa. Two additional participants joined via Skype. A climate briefing for newcomers was followed by talk of strategy. The SSC aims to build on their successful efforts in Cancun to engage with Chinese and other youth delegates in collective calls for action.  Then came a frank exchange about individual motivations for going to Durban — there is a keen sense of responsibility for the carbon emissions it will take to fly there. Let there be no doubt that the students attending Durban on behalf of the Club are passionately committed to making the most of the opportunity to build the international youth climate movement and secure the planet's future. 

It is hard not to come away from that gathering inspired by the capability and determination of what has been called the "student arm of the Sierra Club" yet what is, really, the organization's lifeblood.  

The planned demonstrations in Washington calling on President Obama to turn down the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline were much on the minds of the activists at Shindig, and our attention is focused on them this week.  The students are highly motivated to go back to their campuses and help build the groundswell of demand for the president to do the right thing by denying this environmental outrage.

How welcome it was to hear our friends in the Transport Workers Union and Amalgamated Transit Union voice their opposition to the pipeline, invoking the "J" word the other day.  Larry Hanley, president of the ATU was quoted as saying,  "We think there are lots of ways to produce lots of jobs, and you don't have to foul the environment. We think there are issues that trump the simple question of jobs." Amen!

-- Robin Mann

Q and A on Bloomberg Gift with Robin Mann and Michael Brune


Please join Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune and me for a special Club-wide call to discuss the very exciting $50 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies to the Beyond Coal Campaign announced on July 21.

We will provide initial details on plans for putting those funds to work, and answer your questions.

The call is on Thursday, August 4, at 5 pm Pacific/6 pm Mountain/7 pm Central/8 pm Eastern. Call 1-866-501-6174 — 1892-005#. (Full schedule of conference call here.)

RSVP so we know how much popcorn to make.  :)


P.S. If you want to be better prepared for conversations about Beyond Coal with neighbors and friends, you may want to vist the Talking Points section of Clubhouse for the excellent Coal Messsage Box and Hard Questions (and Answers) about Coal.

-- Robin Mann

Bring on the Backlash!!!


Everyone who relies on clean water for fishing and swimming, and indeed for all of the functions of water in our environment, should be outraged at the reckless and destructive vote in the U.S. House this week to cripple the Clean Water Act.  The Dirty Water Act all over again, only this time, unlike in 1995 when Newt Gingrich led the attack, there weren't even any hearings to examine the repercussions of savaging the nation's foundational clean water law.  The other big difference this time is that it is erstwhile pro-environment Democrat and Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Nick Rahall, acting at the behest of King Coal, who joined his Republican colleague Rep. Mica, darling of Florida's real estate developers, to lead the charge.  Shame on them and all the shills! 

And bless elder statesman Sherry Boehlert, former Republican Congressman from New York, for speaking out to decry the renewed assault on the Clean Water Act.  Rep. Boehlert, a strong supporter of clean water protection, led his fellow Republican moderates to join Democratic colleagues to thwart a veto-proof victory in the House for the Gingrich Dirty Water Act.  On Wednesday, Rep. Boehlert called for a repeat of 1995's public backlash, not just against this terrible new bill but the whole anti-environmental agenda.  His Huffpost Green piece concludes: 

"It's sad that we have to repeat all this now, with a new class of conservatives, filled with even more irrational exuberance, trying to undermine basic environmental protections, and led again by some senior members who should know better. But I hope the rest of the story is also repeated, with the scale and scope of the rollbacks waking up the public and leading to the tide being reversed."

Bring on the backlash!  Stand up for clean water!  No one should be spared who had the temerity, or rather timidity, to vote for this bill!   Take action to hold your legislator accountable or thank them for supporting clean water.    

Speaking of shills for developers, a serious blow was also dealt this week in Puerto Rico.  Gov. Fortuno issued a blatantly dishonest plan for the Northeast Ecological Corridor, billed as a conservation plan, but actually calling for fragmenting and developing parts of this ecological treasure and vital Leatherback turtle nesting area.  But we have the opportunity here, as well, to turn the situation around by showing solidarity with our Puerto Rican Chapter as they build the public backlash against the Governor's destructive ploy.  As Sierra Club organizer Camilla Feibelman reminded us, borrowing from Yogi Berra and Frank Jackalone, "It ain't over 'til it's over, and even then it ain't over!"  So let's all stand up for sea turtles and take action to help protect Puerto Rico's natural jewel.

And here's an action to take of a different sort:  answer the Nominating Committee's call to consider serving on the Sierra Club's Board of Directors, and be part of leading the organization forward.  The NomCom is looking for Club members who want to take on this exciting and challenging, and also rewarding and satisfying role, bringing their strategic and creative thinking to help guide the Club in maximizing our reach and impact in pursuit of the Club's mission.  The application information is here. The deadline to apply is July 31, 2011. 

Finally, I'd like to invite you to a very special upcoming Open House conference call about technology and activism. On Wednesday, July 27th, the Activist Network will host two panelists - Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, and Jared Duval, my fellow Board member and author of Next Generation Democracy: What the Open-Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change. It should be a very interesting discussion about the latest wave of activism, spurred by the Internet. RSVP and call-in details here.

Stepping Up


Demanding Action from the EPA

Last month, I had the opportunity to join Club leaders at two of EPA's three Mercury and Air Toxics Rule public hearings, in Philadelphia and Atlanta. This was a critically important opportunity for the Club to help ensure that the EPA and the Obama administration heard resounding public demand for ending the free ride for coal and oil fired power plants to spew deadly and dangerous pollutants into the air. From what I witnessed, and have heard about the other hearing in Chicago, I have to say: "Mission Accomplished! Message Delivered!"

It was  so gratifying to see Club organizers and chapter and group leaders working in concert and collaborating so effectively with partner organizations to mobilize diverse voices to pack the hearings all day, to speak at press events, and to focus media attention on the tangible benefits of the rule for real people. I am especially struck by the wide cross-section of civil society coming together to call on EPA to put public health first, ahead of industry demands for yet more delay in cleaning up dirty plants. 

In addition to many Club volunteers and staff, some traveling long distances to be able to comment to EPA in person, a sampling included:

  • Rev. Mitchell Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network and Rabbi Daniel Swartz and other leaders from the faith community;
  • physicians such as Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Yolanda Whyte, as well as Dr. Mellinger-Birdsong on behalf of the American Assoc. of Pediatrics;
  • young mothers, like Gretchen of Philadelphia, and prospective mothers speaking out about the risks of power plant pollution to unborn and young children;
  • academics, including an Emory Univ. neuroscientist, who presented well-documented evidence of the impacts of lead and mercury on the developing brain;
  • Georgia State Representative Pedro Marin and former Representative Sam Zamarippa, representing largely Latino districts in Atlanta, who asked Club intern Elizabeth Lopez to read their letters of support for strong air toxics rules into the record to improve the air quality for their constituents; and
  • recreational anglers, and representatives from the EJ community emphasizing the special risks of mercury poisoning for communities reliant on subsistence fishing. 

 A couple of participants left a special impression on me as I think of all the people stepping up on the issue. The first was Simon Montelongo, a young teen member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, who learned of mercury contamination of fish on fishing trips with his grandmother, described studying the path of pollution through the food chain in school, and expressed support for cleaning up the power plants so one day members of his tribe will be able to take their children fishing to waters where the fish are safe to eat. Secondly, there was Herbert Williams  who opened his Atlanta barber shop for the standing-room-only mercury hair-testing event at noon. When I caught his attention just long enough to add my thanks to him for providing the venue, he said he was very glad to do it. "Clean air and a clean environment are very important to me."

You can read more about the hearings in Scrapbook

There is still time for you to add your voice calling on EPA to adopt the proposed rule intact and on time.

38 Miles Per Gallon — in 1943

I know many of us had the opportunity to take advantage of the Memorial Day weekend for some rest and recreation, catching up with friends and family, and reflecting on the service and sacrifice, past and present, of our military and their families. I took the opportunity to visit a new park in Philadelphia and take along a recently arrived compilation of letters between my father, who was Army Air Force pilot, and the family back home, mainly my grandfather. 

My grandfather clearly struggled for newsworthy content — there is an overabundance of coverage of the weeds in the victory garden and the crabgrass — but it was wonderful fun to come across the references to the old Crossley car he was using for short trips to work and for errands. While he referred to it as a "bunch of junk" he was clearly pleased to report to my father, especially given the gasoline rationing at the time, that he had it greased and oiled and figured out his gas consumption to be 36-38 mpg. That was in August 1943. That puts into all the more sharp a perspective for me how incredible it is that nearly 70 years later, with the decades-long handwringing over oil dependence, and the wars, the U.S. fleet mileage average is a pathetic 21 mpg.  By now, the technology is readily available and oil dependence has proven all the more disastrous, and nonetheless it will take strong public demand for the Obama administration to step up and put the country on the path to the kind of achievable but ambitious fuel economy standards the situation demands. As much as we need to invest heavily in transportation solutions other than cars, we also need to ensure that the cars on the road are the most efficient possible. Right now the Department of Transportation is taking comment on the environmental impacts of setting new vehicle fuel efficiency standards. We, and our friends and family, can all help ensure Secretary Lahood hears overwhelming support for a vehicle standard of at least 60 mpg by 2025.  Take action here.

Leadership Skills for Work with Diverse Communities and Coalitions

Finally, I want to highlight a great capacity building opportunity for chapter volunteer leaders — the Club's new diversity training program, entitled "Leadership Skills for Work with Diverse Communities and Coalitions." This training series will enhance your chapter's ability to build connections and relationships with diverse communities and community organizations, and pursue shared goals. Launch is scheduled for later this month. Contact Greg Casini to find out more.

 -- Robin Mann

Meet the New Directors at Monday 'Open House'


I want to invite you all to an “Open House” conference call on Monday, where I will share some updates from this weekend’s board of directors meeting and introduce several of our newly elected directors.

The call is at 5 pm Pacific, 6 Mountain, 7 Central, and 8 Eastern. Call 866-501-6174 — 1892-005#. RSVP..

Congratulations to New Directors

Jonathan Ela of Madison, Wisc., Jessica Helm of Rocky Point, N.Y., Rob Wilder of San Diego, Calif., and Aaron Mair of Schenectady, N.Y. were elected to the Club board of directors in April, and incumbent Larry Fahn, of Mill Valley, Calif., was re-elected.

On Monday, we'll give the beginning of the call to new directors to introduce themselves.

Board Updates on Diversity Initiative and Chapter Fundraising

I'm writing this before the meeting, so I can't give a full report, but two of the important items we'll be addressing this weekend are next steps to implement the Club's Diversity Initiative and taking stock of recent work to facilitate and support chapter fundraising.

An important element in the plan for building inclusion and a diverse Club community is providing the necessary training and support to chapters to undertake this important but challenging work. The Diversity Steering Committee has been leading this process and will be launching the Pilot Diversity 101 Training in June.

Meanwhile the Advancement Department has been working to provide tools and support for chapters to seek grant funding, while fundraising trainings by the Chapter Fundraising Support Team have offered tips and tools for cultivating stronger funding support from individual donors. We will hear how well these efforts are beginning to bear fruit and consider ways to build on that progress.

More details about those items on Monday and in the next Power to Change.

Green Sneakers in Maine

I also want to take the opportunity on Monday to highlight the recent success of the Maine Chapter's Green Sneakers project. Their local public education and outreach promoting home energy efficiency was the catalyst for the first efficiency loan issued under Maine's new PACE program. I have invited one of the lead volunteers in green sneakers to join us and share some details.

 Hope to "see" you on Monday!

—Robin Mann

P.S. I was recently in Louisiana commemorating the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill and I learned about how residential curbside recycling had returned to New Orleans citizens. The program had been closed since Katrina, but Club Environmental Justice organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley and local Club leaders led a concerted grassroots effort to make it a big issue in last year's mayoral and city council elections. Read more here.


Heroes, Sung and Unsung


Congratulations to Goldman Winner Hilton Kelley

Picture 20 It was a distinct honor to meet Hilton Kelley last night at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. On Monday, he received the Goldman Environmental Prize for North America at the San Francisco Opera House for his outstanding work to bring environmental justice to the community of Port Arthur, Texas, then he headed across the country for several receptions here on the east coast.

He was nominated for the award by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. He grew up in Port Arthur, and returned there from the west coast several years ago to find his community suffering from poisonous air emissions from some of the nation's largest petrochemical companies. Read more about his wonderful work here.

Recognizing Unsung Heroes

Now is a great time to think about recognizing a fellow Sierra Club volunteer leader for exemplary service. In our midst are as yet unsung heroes who have made a significant contribution to the environment. Nominations for the Club's 2011 Annual Awards are due to the Honors and Awards Committee by June 1. There's a wide range of categories. Please check out the details here and consider nominating someone who inspires you!

PowerShift, Earth Day, and John Muir's Birthday

Speaking of inspiration, Washington, D.C. is coming alive this weekend as young activists converge on the nation's capital for the 2011 Power Shift. This annual event brings thousands of student and youth activists together for trainings, action and lobbying, as its leaders say "demanding real change on energy and climate and refusing to stop until it is achieved."  I am looking forward to reuniting with Sierra Student Coalition friends meeting new ones, and reaching a whole new level of learning about activism at my first Power Shift.

Picture 22Many of us are also busy planning or preparing to participate in Earth Day celebrations and actions next week. Earth Day is April 22, the day after John Muir's birthday, of course. If you don't already have something lined up, I hope you will find an opportunity to celebrate the natural world we live in. We all need to carve out time to explore and enjoy the planet we work hard to protect.

To celebrate John Muir's birthday, I urge you to watch John Muir in the New World, a new film on PBS American Masters airing on Monday, April 18.

Happy Earth Day!

Robin Mann, Sierra Club President

P.S. What does coal have to do with...underwear? You'll have to ask the students at Miami University in Ohio, who staged a pants-less rally to “Expose Coal” in front of their campus coal plant on March 31. Or you can watch the video below.

Not on My Watch


I just became a grandmother.

Elsie Ford Mann arrived early Sunday morning, weighing in at 7 pounds and 11 ounces. What a thrill to pay a quick visit to meet her and to see that all is well with her and her parents.

They are very much on my mind.  And suddenly the world looks different to me. 

The other day, before Elsie arrived, I had my temperature taken for a routine check-up. The nurse slid a sensor across my forehead. It made me think of the "more invasive" way they took your temperature when I was a baby, and how much our mid-20th century medical methods and instruments have changed. Elsie will be spared considerable discomfort and risks from having her temperature taken. There have been all kinds of advances that help Elsie's and other parents provide a safer environment for children born today.

But what about her exposure to toxins? I look at the biggest sources of mercury and other toxins that threaten my granddaughter — coal-fired power plants — and they are frozen in time. Today, there are plants spewing mercury and other airborne toxins just as they were when I was born, almost 60 years ago. There are ways to modify those plants to limit their pollution — improvements that could and should have been installed years ago — but the industry has managed to get them delayed. 

Better yet, there are new, cheaper cleaner energy sources that befit a modern society and won't poison the air and cause other serious environmental and health problems. To all you grandparents out there — and parents, too — I know we can do better. And I know that we need to band together to demand better from our public officials, because right now they are feeling a crush of pressure from a coal industry that wants to thwart the EPA and avoid pollution controls and buy time to maximize their profits. 

All together now: "Not on my watch!"

You can find out more about the dangers of mercury and how can be tested (a lock of your hair is all it takes) in the Club's Stop Polluters campaign at sierraclub.org/stoppolluters.

-- Robin Mann
Sierra Club President, a.k.a. Elsie’s grandmother

P.S. I want to let you know about two upcoming Monday evening conference calls —

  • March 28 (Monday) — Clubhouse Guided Tour
  • April 4 (Monday) — Intro to Activist Network
  • April 11 (Monday) — Guided Tour of New Features in Activist Network

    5 pm Pacific / 6 pm Mountain / 7 pm Central / 8 pm Eastern
    866-501-6174 — 1892-005#

P.P.S. Club members, you should have received your ballot for the board election. Please read the candidate statements and vote.

Solidarity — from Ohio to Wisconsin


The Rally to Save Ohio's Middle Class was in full swing on the steps and lawn of the State Capitol in Columbus when I arrived to join Sierra Club's contingent. It was a bright sunny day, and the boisterous and energized crowd — Reuters estimated 5,000 people — was in full throat against the legislative assault on public sector workers.

A wonderfully rich cross section of Ohioans — teachers, firefighters, corrections officers, steelworkers, utility workers, just to name a few, were gathered in solidarity. Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, preceded me at the podium and gave a shout out to the Sierra Club for our support of workers. She told me before I went on how compelling the Club's message of support across the country has been. 

Picture 9

[There I am at the rally — thanks to MacKenzie Bailey for the photo.]

The crowd's reception was great and folks in the crowd afterwards nodded approval as Teresa McHugh led us through carrying a "Sierra Club Stands with Workers" poster. It's inspiring to know our Ohio Chapter leadership has joined the battle for public sector bargaining rights in earnest, while at the same time mounting a counteroffensive on the assault on state parks and the defunding of the environmental protection and natural resources agencies. A new bill to drill in Ohio state parks was just introduced today. Go get 'em, Ohio Chapter! You rock!

Below is the message I delivered to the crowd on behalf of Sierra Club.

(Someone suggested I include this joke that's been making the rounds on Facebook, but I didn't get the email until after the speech. So I'm going to include it here:

A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, 'Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.)

I am proud to stand with you today, on behalf of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, and a proud, founding member of the BlueGreen Alliance of labor and environmentalists.

We are 14 million strong and we are mad!

I am here to show our support for Ohio's workers. In the last several days, thousands of our members have turned out and joined rallies like this one — in Wisconsin, Indiana, Washington, Georgia, Maryland, our nation's capital — showing our solidarity with our brothers and sisters everywhere confronting the orchestrated assault on working families.

Sierra Club has a proud history of working with labor to establish workplace safeguards and demanding workplace safety and protection from toxics exposure. Speaking in the wake of a battle with Shell Oil in 1973 over refinery workers' exposure to toxic chemicals, then Sierra Club Executive Director Mike McCloskey said: "The environmental movement can only succeed if it can find ways to advance its cause that are consistent with the other legitimate goals of our people, and job security is paramount among these. Environmental protection cannot come at the cost of social justice, and conversely, progress toward social justice will become ephemeral if it is earned at the price of a healthful environment."

Nothing has changed about that basic premise. What has changed is the redistribution of power and wealth in this country into the hands and pockets of corporate polluters. And they are driving a very destructive agenda — destructive to working families, destructive to good jobs, destructive to basic protections from pollution and destructive of our future.

The BlueGreen Alliance is in the forefront of the resistance to corporate polluters working to reverse worker protections and environmental safeguards. BlueGreen Alliance leaders came together a few days ago to decry the legislative assaults on the freedom to form unions and bargain for better lives.

They recognized the importance of negotiating safer, healthier workplaces and connected this fight with attacks on the EPA’s authority to regulate pollution under the Clean Air Act.

As Sierra Club's Executive Director Mike Brune said, "These attacks on workers, the attacks on the EPA’s ability to protect our land, water, air and health — they are all coming from the same place: corporations and their political allies. We can’t stand down now. We have to fight together as union members and environmentalists to protect our rights, to protect our families and to protect our environment. These rights are fundamental to our democracy."

(See United We Stand for Solutions for more.)

Here in Ohio the corporate polluters' destructive agenda includes taking away the basic rights of public sector workers, slashing the funding for the state Environmental Protection Agency and drilling in Ohio's state parks. We demand that state government protect the health and well being of working people and our communities and require the corporate sector to pay their share.

When Ohio ran out of funds to support safety and permit oversight of coal mining last year, coal companies refused to pay their fair share in fees to do business. Instead, they pressed the state to take the costs of doing business out of the worker’s compensation fund for miners who suffer black lung disease. What kind of corporate responsibility is that?

We can't let big corporate polluters use their influence and power to trample the rights of working people, pollute without penalty and degrade our parks and public lands. We need to join together to build a movement for a stronger, more equitable, healthy and clean future.

United, we can stop the corporate polluters from ramming through their destructive agenda.

United, we can save the middle class.

United, we can take back our future.

It is not about fighting over the scraps that corporate polluters would leave us. It's about working together to build a larger pie by moving America beyond reliance on dirty and dangerous energy, and the stranglehold of the corporate polluters, creating millions of clean energy jobs in our communities.

It's about moving America towards a prosperous future, with the good jobs our communities need, and an economy that works for all.

Sierra Club stands proudly with Ohio's Municipal Parks employees, with state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency employees, with all of Ohio's workers.

We are here with you, we have been with you, and we will be with you every step of the way.

Picture 6

[Thanks to the Transport Workers Union for this photo.]

-- Robin Mann

Letter from Austin


I'm heading to Austin this week for the Sierra Club board meeting, and I want to let you know about some opportunities and Club news: upcoming conference calls, including an Open House I'm hosting next Monday, lots of activity in our natural gas reform fight, plus the nomination committee is seeking new members.

Upcoming Conference Calls

5 pm Pacific / 6 pm Mountain / 7 pm Central / 8 pm Eastern
Call: 866-501-6174 — code: 1892-005#

Join me for an update from the board meeting in Austin. I'll leave plenty of time for questions.

I'll be joined by Amber Harris from CoolBiz Albuquerque, who I met at the recent Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference in Washington, D.C. She will share her experience with creating a local project reaching out to businesses to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions, a great model others may want to try. (We've uploaded two documents from CoolBiz Albuquerque on Clubhouse.)
5 pm Pacific / 6 pm Mountain / 7 pm Central / 8 pm Eastern
Call: 866-501-6174 — code: 1892-005#

Join Dave Scott, vice president for Conservation, Dick Fiddler, Task Force chair, and Bruce Hamilton, deputy executive director for discussion on proposed changes. Read the introduction and proposed amendments and submit your comments.
  • March 1 (and every other Tuesday) — Energy Activists Call
  • 5:30 pm Pacific / 6:30 pm Mountain / 7:30 pm Central / 8:30 pm Eastern
    Call: 866-501-6174 — code: 2239223#

    Sign up to be added to the Energy Activists email lists and get the most up-to date and time sensitive information on the Club's work on Capitol Hill on climate and energy issues.

  • March 2 (Wednesday) — Resilient Habitats Campaign Monthly Call
5 pm Pacific / 6 pm Mountain / 7 pm Central / 8 pm Eastern
866-501-6174 — 2000 802 1892#

I also encourage you to sign up for ReNew, the Resilient Habitats newsletter, an excellent way to stay informed about our work to protect wildlife and wild places in the face of climate change and other threats.
Check the conference call schedule in Clubhouse for updates.

New Natural Gas Reform Staff, Plus Gasland House Parties

I'm pleased to welcome Deb Nardone as the Sierra Club's first national Natural Gas Reform Campaign Director. She will direct a national campaign aimed at getting the natural gas industry to fully protect our water, air, wildlife, open spaces, and communities. She comes to the Sierra Club from the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited and has been a leader in protecting watersheds throughout Pennsylvania from unsound development and industrial activity.

Based in State College, Pennsylvania, Nardone will oversee the Club's aggressive campaign to support strong federal and state safeguards against the threats posed by the natural gas industry and hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. hydrofracking.

On a related note, the Hydrofracking Team is hosting more than 40 house parties screening the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland. Sign up to attend or host a Gasland House Party, and/or join the Hydrofracking Team.

Seeking Applicants for Nominating Committee for 2012 Board Election

We have three vacancies on the Nominating Committee, one of the most important jobs in the Club, which selects a slate of at least seven nominated candidates for election to the Board of Directors every year. Serving on the "NomCom" involves a substantial commitment of time and attention, but it is also gratifying and enlightening work. Experienced leaders are encouraged to apply. 

Please supply the following information to me by February 28, 2011:

A. Statement of Intent: why you are inspired to serve in this capacity (150 words max)
B. Brief Bio (150 words max)
C. Summary of Sierra Club experience
D. Two references (including phone number and email address)

More information here.

Hope to "see" you at the Open House on Monday.

—Robin Mann, Sierra Club president

P.S. Sign the Petition to Protect our Health from Polluter Attacks!

Polluting corporations are working hard to derail EPA safeguards, putting their profits above our health. Be part of our new Stop Polluters Campaign — we are going to hand deliver a petition with 100,000 signatures to get the White House's attention. We need Obama to stand strong when it comes to our familiies' health.

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

David Scott

Sign up to receive posts by email.

Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Rss Feed

Sierra Club Main | Contact Us | Terms and Conditions of Use | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Website Help

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2013 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.