Friday, March 28, 2014

EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Clarify Protection for Nation’s Streams and Wetlands

EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The proposed definitions of waters will apply to all Clean Water Act programs and the proposed rule does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Act.
The agencies are launching an outreach effort over the next 90 days, holding discussions around the country and gathering input needed to shape a final rule. Learn more about the proposed rule and how to comment when the rule is available in the Federal Register.
Read the op-ed "Clearer Protections for Clean Water" by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about the proposed rule here. (EPA)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Segregated Cities in the United States of America

Top ten most segregated major cites in the U.S.

According to a 2013 report by professors John Logan and Brian Stults at Brown University and Florida State University, racial segregation rates are still very high in the United States. Analyzing the 2010 Census data, Logan and Stult evaluated segregation in major cities.

In Los Angeles, White people live mostly on the coast around Santa Monica and Brentwood, and the north side of the city beginning with Hollywood Hills. The map below shows the racial lines of Los Angeles.

The red dots represent white people, blue represents Black, orange represents Hispanic, green represents Asian, and yellow is other, according to maps of 2010 Census data by Eric Fischer.

(Atlanta Black Star, 3/24/2014)

Bill Magwood To Head OECD Nuclear Energy Agency

NRC Commissioner William Magwood will take over as head of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in September of this year following the retirement of current chief Luis Echavarri.

Bill Magwood was appointed to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2010. Previous to that he was the director of nuclear energy at the Department of Energy. He was also chairman of both the Generation-IV International Forum and the OECD's steering committee on Nuclear Energy.

Echavarri retires at the end of April after 17 years as director general of the agency. (World Nuclear News, 3/21/2014)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Congressional Black Caucus Hip Hop Climate Change Tour

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are trying to get young African-Americans excited about fighting climate change. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), left, and Rep. AndrĂ© Carson (D-Ind), right,  plan to encourage young African-Americans to take a greater interest in fighting climate change as part of a six-college tour organized by the non-congressional Hip Hop Caucus, which will highlight the effects climate change has on black communities. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy also plans to make an appearance on the tour.

According to Ellison:
“When you think of environmentalists, people think of, quite frankly, some white person, probably wearing Birkenstocks or something and tying themselves to a tree.
Now, I love the Redwoods and vacation there and think they're a jewel of our nation, but we've got to expand the idea of who are the environmentalists.”

“If you've ever wondered about test scores between black students and white students, if you've ever wondered about health disparities, if you've ever wondered about who gets to make it through the flood and the big bad storm and who doesn't, you really don't have to look any further than this issue of climate change.”
The African-American community is disproportionately affected by climate change because more black people live in urban areas that face the greatest exposure to air and water pollution

Ellison and Carson plan to raise awareness about the health effects of climate change on the African-American community. They pointed out that black communities tend to suffer from more asthma cases.  The Department of Health and Human Services reports that African-Americans are 20 percent more likely than white people to have asthma.

Two lawmakers called for the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline and for the EPA to move forward with new rules for power plants, two of the most heated rules surrounding climate change. Ellison and Carson hope to recruit more members of the Congressional Black Caucus to join the tour.

The tour will begin next Thursday at Hampton University in Virginia and includes stops at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Wayne State University in Detroit, Central State University in Ohio, North Carolina A&T and Clark Atlanta University. (The Hill, 3/21/2014)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Week In Review


By Norris McDonald

This was a very good week.  Two very exciting events included 1) meeting two of my latest program partners in person: Wayne Hubbard and Candice Price of Urban American Outdoors and 2) opening a Seattle Office.  Wayne and Candice were in town for a meeting at The White House.

Wayne Hubbard, Candice Price, Norris McDonald

We had an excellent chat over lunch at our office.  We are trying to implement some very exciting programs together.  It is always refreshing when people want to work together for the greater good.

We also came to an agreement with Paris Yates to open an AAEA Office in Seattle, Washington.  The AAEA Seattle Office will cover environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest.

Paris Yates

Paris was born and raised in Seattle Washington. Over the past two decades, Yates has worked at local government and state parks departments operating and maintaining parks and recreation grounds and facilities. He has also worked with local community leaders and environmental agencies volunteering for projects designed to get residential people of color involved in their natural environment and access to federal environmental incentives. Yates holds an A.A.S. in Horticulture from South Seattle Community College and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

East Harlem Natural Gas Explosion

Two Manhattan apartment buildings exploded on Wednesday in East Harlem and the death toll currently stands at seven people with many others missing.  A gas leak-triggered the explosion that reduced the area to a pile of smashed bricks, splinters and mangled metal.  The explosion injured more than 60 people, with searchers still trying to locate others.   The site is at Park Avenue and 116th Street and the blast erupted at about 9:30 a.m., around 15 minutes after a neighboring resident reported smelling gas. The Con Edison utility said it immediately sent workers to check out the report, but they didn't arrive until it was too late.

A tenant in one of the destroyed buildings said residents had complained to the landlord about smelling gas as recently as Tuesday.  A few weeks ago city fire officials were called about the odor, which was so bad that a tenant on the top floor broke open the door to the roof for ventilation.
The fire department said a check of its records found no instances in the past month in which tenants of the two buildings reported gas odors or leaks.

Con Ed said there was only one gas odor complaint on record with the utility from either address, and it was last May, at the building next door to Borrero's. It was a small leak in customer piping and was fixed.
Con Ed said it remains to be seen whether the leak was in a company main or in customer-installed inside plumbing. The gas main that serves the area was made of plastic and cast iron, and the iron dated to 1887.
Age is not in and of itself an issue with cast iron. Con Edison has a cast iron replacement program and the pipe was not slated to be removed in the next three-year period.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team is investigating. The agency investigates pipeline accidents in addition to transportation disasters.  The NTSB team investigators will be looking at how Con Edison handles reports of gas odors and issues with the pipe and will be constructing a timeline of events.  (AP, NECN, 3/12/2014)

Monday, March 03, 2014

New York City Council Environmental Justice Hearing


By Norris McDonald

AAEA New York Director Dan Durett and I testified at the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection on Friday, February 28, 2014.  The title of the hearing was: "Oversight - Air quality impacts and ways to measure and address them in NYC environmental justice communities."  The committee has a new chairman, Donovan Richards, and apparently a refreshing new interest in examining environmental justice issues in New York City.

Donovan Richards, Norris McDonald

AAEA - NY is promoting a New York City Environemental Justice Act that would provide protection for environmental justice communities. AAEA derived the legislation from a draft of the National Environmental Justice Act [at the link behind the NY EJ Act].

It was an incredible four hour hearing.  Stakeholders from throughout the city testified to the need for protection from disproportionate pollution.  Leading environmental justice activists presented the chair and committee with testimonial after testimonial about the vulnerability and lack of protection from pollution. 

The first panel included the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Assistant Commissioner Thomas Matte. 

My testimony focused on asthma and AAEA New York Office Director Dan Durett's testimony focused on pollution sites.

Hearing video [AAEA appearance begins at 2:20.50]