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A Sierra Club Member's DIY Car

December 14, 2012


Sierra Club members are known for camping, hiking, and campaigning to protect the outdoors. Building cars? Not so much.

But Gary Krysztopik of San Antonio, Texas, isn’t your typical environmental activist. He's an electric vehicle advocate working on developing an open-sourced electric vehicle kit that will allow anyone to build his or her own EV. Now all you’ll need is some space in the garage to put it together.

"My goal is to make building an electric vehicle as easy as possible," says Gary, who started his company ZWheelz in 2007. "It's mainly for people who want to commute back and forth. It allows for a very easy entry point to get an EV."

Continue reading "A Sierra Club Member's DIY Car" »

L.A. Commits to Solar

December 12, 2012


On December 6, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a landmark agreement to purchase power from a solar project to be built on the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Nevada—the first-ever commercial solar project on Native American lands. The project will provide power to more than 110,000 L.A. homes.

"Today, we're signing the largest solar contract in the history of the L.A. Department of Water & Power," Villaraigosa said. "Our contract with the K Road Moapa Solar Project will provide 250 megawatts of solar power. That's enough energy to power over 113,000 homes." Below, Villaraigosa with Sierra Club leaders and Moapa Paiute President William Anderson at the ceremony. Sierra Club President Allison Chin is next to the mayor.


The Sierra Club has been actively promoting the agreement between the City of Los Angeles and the Moapa Band of Paiutes, and partnering with the tribe to retire the dirty Reid Gardner coal plant, which sits immediately adjacent to the Moapa reservation about an hour northeast of Las Vegas.

"This groundbreaking agreement is great news for everyone involved," said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "From the Moapa Band of Paiutes, who are building the solar farm on their land; to the residents of Los Angeles, who will reap the benefits of cleaner electricity; and to all Americans demanding a transition to clean energy; we salute the grassroots organizing by local citizens and strong leadership from city officials that brought this project to fruition."


Chin, above with Villaraigosa, spoke at the event. Sierra Club Communications Director Bob Sipchen, below, an L.A-area native and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist formerly with the Los Angeles Times, was also on hand for the ceremony.


"The Moapa Solar Project will be a boost to the Paiutes and the Sierra Club's ongoing efforts to replace coal with clean energy in southern Nevada," Chin said. "Paiute families are suffering from high numbers of asthma attacks, heart conditions and even cancer that's associated with coal pollution from the Reid Gardner plant."

Below, Chin with educator & Angeles Chapter volunteer Wendy Legacki, and Club organizers Jasmin Vargas and Aisha Farley.


Continue reading "L.A. Commits to Solar" »

Spokane Speaks Out Against Coal Exports

December 06, 2012


Eight hundred people turned out in Spokane on December 4 to the fifth of seven "scoping hearings" across Washington State on the environmental review process for a proposed coal export facility at Cherry Point, 400 railroad miles to the west on the Washington coast.

"Of the 800 people who came to debate the merits of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, I'd estimate at least 700 were opposed," says Crystal Gartner, a Spokane-based organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "A sea of red 'No Coal Exports' t-shirts dominated the hearing venue."


The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Exports campaign, working as part of the Power Past Coal coalition, has been organizing opposition to the coal export terminal and the vastly increased number of coal trains that would transport coal in open cars from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to the coast.

Sierra Club organizers Crystal Gartner, Mike Scott, Krista Collard, Marc Heileson, and Cesia Kearns

Over the past year, Sierra Club volunteers and staff in Spokane have gone door-to-door to hundreds of homes, made phone calls to thousands of local residents, and collected over a thousand petition signatures opposing the coal export terminal in advance of the December 4 hearing.


"Spokane is the choke-point for all rail traffic in the Inland Northwest," Gartner says. More than 60 coal trains a day carrying coal in open cars would pass through the city if the coal export terminals now being proposed are built.

Continue reading "Spokane Speaks Out Against Coal Exports" »

The Indianapolis Two Thousand

November 30, 2012


That's right, the Indy 2,000—as in two thousand petitions the Sierra Club delivered to Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) on November 28, marking the official launch of the Club's Indianapolis Beyond Coal campaign. The petitions call on the electrical utility to retire its Harding Street coal plant, one of the dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the nation.


[Click on the image above to watch a video about the Harding Street plant.]


Indiana Beyond Coal organizer Megan Anderson, below at center, holding stack of petitions, was among the roughly 50 activists who rallied in downtown Indy and delivered the petitions to IPL headquarters.


"The Harding Street coal plant is less than seven miles from the heart of Indianapolis," Anderson said. "We collected the petition signatures over the past two months. Right now everything is on the line—decisions being made right now will determine our energy future for decades to come."

Photo courtesy of NUVO News

The Harding Street Station, as the plant is officially known, is the largest source of carbon pollution in Indianapolis. The Clean Air Task Force attributes 75 deaths, 120 heart attacks, and 1,300 asthma attacks each year to the plant's toxic emissions.


"While other utilities across the country move toward clean energy solutions like wind power and energy efficiency, IPL wants to charge customers millions of dollars to stay dependent on coal and continue to expose Indianapolis to toxic coal pollution," Anderson, at left, said at the November 28 rally.

"These upgrades will fail to address dangerous carbon pollution and coal ash. Indianapolis has a better vision for a clean energy future that protects both our health and our utility rates."

Anderson spearheaded the petition drive and recruited Sierra Club members and others to be "letter captains." Leading up to the petition delivery, Club volunteers and staff held phone banks, produced fact sheets, did online and social media outreach, and tabled and canvassed with volunteers at events in Indianapolis and other locales around central Indiana to gather petition signatures.

Continue reading "The Indianapolis Two Thousand" »

Learning the Lessons of Big Coal on a Missouri Nature Hike

Missouri Beyond Coal

One way to start a movement is to show people what's at stake.

That's what Beyond Coal organizers in Missouri had in mind earlier this month when it helped organize a hike through some of the last old growth forests in the state along the Missouri River floodplain, where the Labadie Coal plant hogs the horizon.

"We've come to realize that many in Missouri don't know where we get our energy from and the problems associated with coal-fired power," said Sara Edgar, a Beyond Coal organizer. "This hike was meant to begin to change that. We are working hard to build a grassroots base here."

Missouri Beyond Coal 1

The educational hike at St. Albans and Labadie, organized by Beyond Coal and Labadie Environmental Organization, drew 55 people despite the poor weather, and concluded with pumpkin pie at a local farmhouse.

Continue reading "Learning the Lessons of Big Coal on a Missouri Nature Hike" »

Big Tar Sands Rally in Washington, D.C.

November 21, 2012


On Sunday, November 18, Sierra Club president Allison Chin joined founder Bill McKibben and 3,000 other demonstrators in Washington, D.C., for a march on the White House and a rally against tar sands development and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.


The demonstration, organized by, the Sierra Club, and other public interest groups, followed a "Do the Math" climate event at Washington's historic Warner Theater.

Marchers carried a 500-foot-long "oil pipeline" and held signs with quotes from President Obama about his commitment to tackling the climate crisis. Among them was his comment on election night: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."


"We're asking the president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline," said Chin, below with McKibben at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington. "But we're also asking him to embrace a positive, solution-oriented climate legacy. Mr. President, the tar sands are your climate legacy—it's what you do here that history will remember."


Continue reading "Big Tar Sands Rally in Washington, D.C." »

Get Those Butts Off the Beach (A Yeoman Effort in New Jersey Before the Storm)

November 20, 2012


Earlier this fall—well before Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the New Jersey coast and changed the conversation about climate disruption and its consequences—the Sierra Club's New Jersey Chapter and recycling pioneer TerraCycle teamed up to do a beach cleanup in the coastal community of Belmar.

[Editor's note: Sandy destroyed half of Belmar's newly completed 1.2-mile boardwalk, and left neighborhoods near the beach under three to four feet of water. Find out how you can aid relief and recovery efforts in Belmar at the bottom of this post.]


The Belmar beach cleanup was organized in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup Day, which the conservancy has mobilized for the last 25 years. More than 52 million cigarette butts have been collected from beaches on cleanup days over that span.


"Eighty-five volunteers collected over 4,300 cigarette butts, 700 bottle caps, 600 wrappers, and 330 straws off the beach," says New Jersey Chapter organizer Nicole Dallara. "The discarded cigarette butts were then sent to TerraCycle, which 'upcycles' them into new products like shipping products, plastic lumber, railroad ties, and other items after the waste gets converted into plastic pellets."


Continue reading "Get Those Butts Off the Beach (A Yeoman Effort in New Jersey Before the Storm)" »

How Rafting Brings Out Courage in Inner City Outings

November 16, 2012

Rodrigo Mendez. Photo courtesy San Francisco Foundation. Rodrigo won a 2012 young leader award from the foundation.

Nearly every Inner City Outings leader and kid can tell you when they first heard about the Sierra Club program that connects city youth with nature. For Rodrigo Mendez of San Francisco, ICO reached him through Mission Graduates, which helps kindergarten through high school students with their education. 

"They came to our school. It seemed pretty cool when I saw the pictures of people rafting, so I decided to sign up for the trip," he says.

DSC08402Many kids have no idea what to expect on an ICO trip. That’s because ICO reaches youth who rarely see the outdoors outside an urban setting, or even know that such beautiful, natural places exist. ICO serves 14,000 kids a year and carries out more than 800 outings across the country.

Rodrigo, like many ICO kids, signed up because "many of my close friends decided to sign up." But like many ICO kids, it was the experience that opened his eyes to what was out there beyond the city limits.

"I can't really describe my first experience, but I will say that it was the best day of my life," he says. "One, because I was interacting with nature again. Two, there was a lot of adrenaline involved. I love extreme sports so that made it even better. It was like being at a fair full of games. At that time I was 17 and I went to the south fork of the American River. So awesome."

Now Rodrigo is an ICO volunteer and apprentice guide.

"I told myself that I wanted to be part of it, and the good news was that ICO trained people for free," he says. "All I had to do was apply."

Continue reading "How Rafting Brings Out Courage in Inner City Outings" »

Red Means Stop for Big Coal Exports in the Pacific Northwest

November 12, 2012

Washington Coal

Big Coal is beginning to realize the power of numbers.

Last week, 1,000 people, dead-set on opposing plans to use the Washington coast as a launching point for Big Coal exports, filled the small town of Mount Vernon in solidarity. It was the third in a series of public hearings concerning the environmental review process and the issue of hauling tens of millions of tons of coal each year through Washington communities, farmlands, and natural landscapes.

"This is the result of nearly a year-and-a-half of work with local residents led by the Sierra Club. Last summer, we held our very first volunteer meeting at a room rented at the local train depot. Over 50 people attended that meeting," said Robin Everett of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.

Anti-coal activists, sporting red t-shirts, flooded the room. Pro-coal people wore green. The difference couldn't be clearer.

"If red means stop and green means go, the sentiment at Monday's public comment meeting on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal was in big, bold, capital letters: 'STOP,'" wrote The Skagit Valley Herald.

Continue reading "Red Means Stop for Big Coal Exports in the Pacific Northwest" »

Oregon Activists Fired Up to Fight Natural Gas Exports

November 08, 2012

Ted Gleichman-September 25 2012-High resolutionIt's hard to imagine the mouth of the Columbia River, where American explorers Lewis and Clark traversed during the 19th century, being overrun with a huge natural-gas export terminal and massive pipelines, just to stuff the pockets of dirty-energy companies.

But as crazy as that sounds, a proposal to build this terminal and its pipelines is in the works, along with another one in southern Oregon. And if you're at all involved in the movement to stop natural gas companies from exporting their product to lucrative foreign markets, then you have an ally in Ted Gleichman, a Portland resident who is doing everything he can to keep the natural legacy of Oregon and the Columbia River intact.

"The challenge is fighting multi-billion dollar projects that create short-term jobs but at a very high direct environmental cost, in terms of damage to Columbia River estuaries and the damage pipelines at the width of interstate highways will do," Gleichman says.

The proposal along the Columbia is for a $7.1 billion set of projects that would connect natural gas drilling and fracking in Canada and the Rockies to an export terminal near historic Astoria, Oregon, to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia -- where the price is five times the price in North America. More than 200 miles of enormous pipelines would run south from the Canadian border through Washington state, tunnel under the Columbia River, and cut through northwestern Oregon to a massive industrial plant -- complete with three 20-story gas-storage tanks -- at the heart of salmon breeding grounds.

FERC Hearing-Warrenton Oregon-October 15 2012
Activists at a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearing.

Gleichman and other Sierra Club activists are helping to lead the charge to stop this export proposal, and another in southern Oregon. They've joined a coalition of other organizations -- Columbia Riverkeeper, Rogue Riverkeeper, Earthjustice, to name a few -- that are wondering what this barrage of natural gas and Big Coal export proposals would mean for the Columbia River and the Oregon forests and coastline.

Continue reading "Oregon Activists Fired Up to Fight Natural Gas Exports" »

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