Hello and Happy Magical May!! It’s a beautiful Spring day in Hopland; I’m visiting papa for the weekend and it has been glorious! We explored a new meadow today down by the olive and grape vineyard, hiked to the waterfall, took a solar powered hot tub, ate fresh asparagus from the ground and checked out the hydro system, generating 25 kilowatts/hr whereas the average American home uses 18 kilowatts/hr — saving $50,000/year in energy bills. I like it.

So the inspiration for this blog: two recent victories for the environmental movement. Hell yeah, one corporation at a time we’re winning! Only 4-7 years left to make major changes in our current energy trajectory before the changes to our planet are too catastrophic for recovery, according to UN International Panel on Climate Change scientists, and confirmed by our own James Hansen.  I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to motivate me out of bed in the morning!

Victory #1: Back in March, if you recall, 4,000 plus people marched on the Capitol for March 2nd’s Capitol Climate Action, the largest civil disobedience for climate change in US history. We were protesting the use of dirty coal to power our nation’s Congress and advocating clean energy such as renewables.  Just days ago House and Senate leadership announced that they were switching out the dirty coal for natural gas, in most cases (they’re getting there….). And who says direct action is ineffective??


Capitol Power Plant to stop use of coal

Posted: 05/01/09 06:10 PM [ET]
“For years, the Capitol Power Plant has been the largest source of carbon emissions on the Capitol Complex,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a statement.

“The Architect’s switch to cleaner burning natural gas shows that the House and Senate are leading by example in reducing our emissions.  I look forward to working with the Architect’s office to achieve even greater energy savings and efficiency through our greening programs.”

Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) previously announced they intended to stop the plant’s use of coal.

In explaining situations where coal would still be used, Pelosi and Reid in a joint statement referenced a letter sent to them last week by the overseer of the Capitol Power Plant (CPP).

If the heating needs of the Capitol and surrounding office buildings exceed the capacity of the natural gas pipeline currently serving the complex, which still needs to be enlarged to allot for the increased usage of natural gas, coal may have to be used, acting-Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers wrote in the letter.

Also, if abnormally cold conditions place larger than normal demands on the CPP or if any of the gas burning equipment breaks and needs repair, the plant may have to revert to burning a percentage of coal during that interim.

In February, Pelosi and Reid requested the Capitol Power Plant switch to natural gas – a more environmentally friendly form of energy – for all of its energy production by the end of 2009. In their announcement on Friday however, they did not set a firm timeline.

As part of the transition to using only natural gas, Ayers has requested $10 million to redesign and convert the remaining coal burner to be natural gas capable, a process that he said could be complete as early as November, 2010.

The CPP has traditionally used a combination of fuel, natural gas and coal to create steam energy to heat and cool the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings. The plant is currently the largest source of pollution in Washington.

Ayers said in his letter that the AoC was still in the process of refining the “master plan” for the future of the Capitol Power Plant and has asked the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Academies to review it for feedback.

Victory #2:  Another plant bites the dust.

Over three years have passed since Elouise Brown [http://www.earthfirstjournal.org/article.php?id=288], a Navajo army veteran, set up camp in the Four Corners region of New Mexico to protest the building of a new coal-fired power plant (Desert Rock). Desert Rock, funded by Sithe Global, would be the third coal plant to be built in this region. The fight came to an end (for now) this week when the EPA withdrew the air quality permit they issued last summer for Desert Rock.

This past semester my Greenpeace student group traveled to New Mexico to build the volunteer base in New Mexico that in on call to fight global warming. While in New Mexico the students doubled the volunteer base in the state and helped elevate the issue of Desert Rock to citizens in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We also had the privilege to visit Elouise Brown at the proposed site of Desert Rock. We spoke with her about the fight against coal in the region and had the opportunity to take a photo [http://usaphoto.greenpeace.org/20090329sithecoal/] that sent a clear message to Sithe Global. Just a few days later on Fossil Fool’s Day, Field Organizer Eva Erbskorn along with 20 other activists held an event outside the Manhattan office of Sithe Global. When Sithe Global CEO Bruce Wrobe came down to find out what they were there Eva was quick on her feet and within a matter of minutes had put in a call to Joe who contacted Elouise right away. Although caught off guard, Eva insisted that he hear from someone from the source and handed her cell phone with Elouise on the line over to Mr. Wrobe. The two spoke for 30 minutes. But I suggest hearing about it straight from Eva [http://members.greenpeace.org/blog/greenpeaceusa_blog/2009/04/03/fossil_fools_day].

Just in case this news doesn’t energize you to fight harder, hearing Elouise talk about why she has dedicated the last three years to stop Desert Rock is pretty motivating…

“The sole purpose of DDR [Dooda (‘No’ in Navajo) Desert Rock] is to defend and preserve our lands, water, air and people—not for ourselves but for generations to come. Our core philosophy is to protect our future from within—not with corporate bias, political influence or self-destructive economic development. We want cultural preservation for all humanity, equal and alike.”

I hope you join me in applauding her and so many others in this victory.

Kristin (this update was written by my amazing GOT co-coordinator, Kristin Wheeler)

EPA pulls the plug on Desert Rock coal-fired power plant

By Marjorie Childress 4/28/09 1:11 AM

ALBUQUERQUE — In a dramatic move yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew the air quality permit it issued last summer for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant, which is slated to be built on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region just southwest of Farmington, New Mexico.

The action drew praise from critics of the plant and blistering commentary from its proponents.

Assistant New Mexico Attorney General Seth Cohen, who has been one of the primary litigators working on the state’s appeal of the original permit, said the decision by the new administration at the EPA marked “a huge victory.”

“The EPA was supposed to file their final brief today in opposition to our arguments, but had asked for an extension, so we were hopeful,” Cohen told NMI. “Today, in effect, they agreed with us that EPA had cut corners in issuing the permit last summer. It’s a huge victory for public health and the environment in New Mexico.”

But Jeff Holmstead, former head of the air program at EPA and now head of the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm representing the plant’s developer, Sithe Global, said in a statement that he has “never seen anything like it.”

“I don’t think anyone ever imagined that the new team at EPA would seem to have such little regard for due process or basic notions of fairness,” Holmstead said. “Everyone understands that a new Administration has discretion to change rules and policies prospectively. But I’ve never seen any Administration try to change policies and rules retroactively.”

While a lot of attention has been paid in the last week to the EPA’s recent finding that carbon dioxide–the greenhouse gas that is belched from coal-burning power plants–poses a danger to human health and the environment, the decision to withdraw the Desert Rock permit yesterday rested on other issues put forward by the state of New Mexico.

The EPA found that the permitting process was issued prematurely, before complete analysis could be conducted of hazardous air emissions like mercury, or the impact of the facility on endangered species, or the impact on soil, vegetation, and visibility in the region. The permit also didn’t adequately examine particulate matter.

Also, in the review of “best available technologies,” developers of the project didn’t include a process called integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), the EPA said. Using IGCC technology–which turns the coal into gas before burning it–would make Desert Rock better able to control air pollution.

While many consider IGCC to be an experimental technology, it’s currently being used in at least two other coal-burning power plants, and the state argued in its appeal that it should have at least been studied as an option.

Yesterday’s decision effectively sends the entire permit back to the drawing board.

Holmstead argued that the permit was the most stringent of any such permit issued in the country. The application was submitted five years ago, he said, and dragged on for several years while the company and the Navajo Nation — a strong supporter of the project — tried to “address everybody’s concerns.”

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley said in a statement the decision was further proof that the U.S. government isn’t “honest and truthful in its dealings with Native America.” Shirley said that the EPA withdrawal of the permit will harm the Navajo people.

“I have people dying every day because of poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, gangs, and the U.S. Government is not there to adequately fund the direct service programs that cater to these needs,” he said.

Shirley concluded by saying that the message from the EPA is that it will hold projects “on Navajo land to standards that may well be impossible to meet — and that wouldn’t be applicable elsewhere.”

Cohen, however, said New Mexico respects the right of the Navajo Nation to develop its land, but it needs to be done in a way that protects air quality in New Mexico.

“There needs to be a substantial re-analysis, but we’ll work with the applicant to re-think the permit,” he said.

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry made similar remarks in a statement issued by Gov. Bill Richardson’s office that noted concerns related to carbon dioxide and climate change.

“Air emissions from Desert Rock would have singlehandedly undone our state’s climate change initiatives,” Curry said. “We stand ready to assist EPA Region 9 and the Navajo Nation to make significant improvements to the design of this facility including technologies that will address greenhouse gas emissions.”

So we’ve finally got some real leadership in Congress, from President Obama to the House, Senate, EPA and the latest, Kathleen Sebelius as our new radical Health Secretary.


And finally, but MOST importantly, here are three short but AMAZING must see YouTube videos: