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Obama criticized for opening door to arctic oil drilling, wildlife destruction

ENVIRONMENT — The Sierra Club is making some good points, backed by science and history, regarding the current trended toward allowing oil drilling into waters that would impact the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

I've been there to see it first hand, and have followed the campaign to drill in the refuge and remote associated waters. A Deepwater Horizon-type oil spill in the arctic would cause unspeakable harm to the fragile ecosystems.

The Obama administration inched a little closer to disaster last month when it issued almost-but-not-quite final approval to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer, the club says.

"Letting Shell into the Arctic makes no sense," says Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "It's a case of taking huge risks to get something we don't need…. When this or any other administration flirts with selling more oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, we'll be there, in the courts and in the streets."

Updated: Spokane River flow rules below paddlers’ expectations

UPDATED Jan. 28, 10:55 a.m. with more explanation from Department of Ecology.

RIVERS — The state of Washington adopted new state rule on  instream flows for the Spokane River today, but the levels are likely to disappoint rafters and environmental groups, who had pushed for higher flows, according to a story filed by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.

The instream flow for the river’s main stem varies by season, peaking at 6,500 cubic feet per second in late spring where the river roars through downtown Spokane, and tapering to 850 cubic feet per second in late summer. Each cubic foot of water is about 7 ½ gallons.

River advocates posted this detailed reaction of their disappointment for the adopted rules:

Today river advocates criticized the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) for adopting a flow rule for the Spokane River that allows further dewatering of the popular urban river.  The Spokane River flows from Lake Coeur d’Alene through eastern Washington to its confluence with the Columbia River.   The River supports important fisheries and wildlife, and a vibrant boating and recreation industry.  Two thousand people sent comments to the agency opposing the draft rule and asking that river flows be protected.

“This is a terrible decision for the Spokane River and our community,” said Paul Delaney, a co-founder and board member of the Northwest Whitewater Association in Spokane who has been running the river for 35 years.  “They never talked to us.  They never did the basic use surveys of thousands of people who use the river.  And then the agency disregarded basic survey information we provided on boating use of the Spokane River.  In the end, the agency’s decision jeopardizes the Spokane River and the water future for this part of eastern Washington.”

The state rule sets flows for the Spokane River, including summertime low flows at 850 cubic feet per second (cfs).   Flows that are not protected eventually will be taken for out-of-stream water uses, including Idaho pumpers, the City of Spokane, and the Office of the Columbia River’s Spokane-Rathdrum ASR project.   

Although Ecology has defended its decision by pointing to a study that concludes that the 850cfs flow is good for fish, scientists have since pointed out that the study is inadequate for setting flows needed by Spokane River fish.   The proposed flows are also inadequate for salmon fisheries, which are proposed for restoration in the Spokane River.

In setting flows, the Department of Ecology failed to consult with boaters who use the Spokane River.  American Whitewater undertook a survey asking Spokane River boaters about their flow preferences.  Survey results show that all boaters prefer flows higher than 1000 cfs and most prefer flows in the range of 5000 cfs.   Flows less than 1000 cfs are considered unfavorable to boaters and can cause damage to some craft.

“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows is a dangerous move for Washington State’s rivers,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, senior water policy advisor with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP).  “Water may be political currency, but we also have stewardship responsibilities to protect the state’s rivers.”

Ecology also failed to do basic assessment of the scenic values of the Spokane River as it flows through the gorge.  CELP released an atlas of 37 key observation points of the Spokane River’s downriver reach, starting at the Monroe Street bridge in downtown Spokane.  The study documents five different flows ranging from 2,800 to 1,000 cfs.

“We need to protect our rivers; the water frontier is over,” said Osborn.   “The law is clearly on the side of the Spokane River:  ‘Perennial rivers and streams of the state shall be retained with base flows necessary to provide for preservation of wildlife, fish, scenic, aesthetic and other environmental values, and navigational values.’”

Brook Beeler, DOE communication manager, submitted further explanation from agency officials:

The rule to preserve and protect flow was written to balance all of the community’s needs for the river, including fish, recreation, water use and hydropower.

The river is a complex system and its flow is dependent on a variety of factors. They include seasonal weather, groundwater use, and operation of hydropower facilities on the river. The higher flows requested by many recreational users have rarely been seen in summer on the Spokane River since the Post Falls Dam was constructed in 1907.

It is important to note that instream flow rules do not add water to the river — they are a regulatory threshold to determine whether there is water available for new uses. The rule doesn’t require business, water providers or local government to add water to the river. In order to increase river flow, the hydropower operations on the river would need to change, which is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license process – not the instream flow rule.

Existing water rights like the city of Spokane’s right and other water providers cannot be affected by the rule. New requests for water in Washington will be individually evaluated to determine if water is available and in the public’s interest to issue new water use permits.

We are committed to working with local governments, environmental advocates, local businesses and the community on water management decisions to preserve a clean and flowing Spokane River.

For more information, see these links:

Sierra Club announces free electric vehicle charging station in downtown Boise

The Idaho chapter of the Sierra Club is opening a free electric vehicle charging station in downtown Boise, and encouraging other businesses and government offices downtown to do the same. “For a business, it’s a fairly simple and inexpensive perk that they could give for their employees, to put in a couple of charging stations,” said Harold Orien, chapter president.

The Sierra Club’s station, located at its downtown office at 503 W. Franklin St., will officially open tomorrow, when an 11 a.m. press conference is planned, but it’s already up and running. There’s just one charging station, and most cars are expected to need to charge for about two hours, so it likely will be able to accommodate up to five vehicles a day. There’s no charge for using the station. “We are going to allow anyone that wants to use it to simply register and come in,” Orien said. “We’re just trying to encourage overall the usage of electric vehicles and charging stations.”

He noted that the station is near the state Capitol, City Hall, and downtown shops, restaurants and offices. The club hopes to encourage people to use electric cars for commuting to work and when visiting downtown businesses or attractions, to reduce pollution caused by gas-burning vehicles.

The Sierra Club’s charging station will work for all brands and models of electric vehicle. Most take two to three hours for a 50 percent charge; Orien said the idea is to charge the cars back up to where they were before the trip downtown, so they can make the return trip on electric power. “We’re going to monitor the usage of it and then add more stations as needed,” he said. For more information, call the Sierra Club at 384-1023.

State, county lose round in PCB dispute

OLYMPIASpokane County’s new wastewater treatment plant will need a new permit that measures the amount of a cancer-causing chemical it’s putting in the Spokane River, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled.

Judge Eric Price agreed with a state Pollution Control Hearings Board that the wastewater facility is adding polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, to the river in the water it discharges after treatment. He also agreed that PCB reduction provisions of the current discharge permit are so inadequate they must be replaced with numeric limits. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

National Parks Subway Map

As visiting season approaches, check The Sierra Club's fun 'subway-style' map of U.S. national parks. It serves as a great reminder of how many national parks there are in this country. What is your favorite? Check this full list of all our national parks and get to plotting your next adventure! Click here for a bigger picture.

What’s wrong with coal?

Check this short and sweet video from the Sierra Club on coal energy. (Fittingly titled Coal 101. )You couldn't find a more simple explanation for phasing out coal and the need for alternatives.  On the latter point, there are signs of hope with the amount of electricity from renewable energy doubling over the last few years as Iowa and South Dakota received more than 20 percent of their energy from wind.

Sierra Clubbers lead strolls in local natural areas

OUTDO – Sierra Clubbers are leading a series of evening walks with an environmental emphasis through Spokane-area natural areas that runs through September.

Hikes so far have been in Riverside State Park and on Mount Spokane.

Read on for the remaining list with details on each hike and the contacts.

“Hanford: Our Nuclear Neighbor” discussion next Wednesday at Gonzaga

Columbia Riverkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper and Sierra Club will host an evening discussion about Our Nuclear Neighbor: Hanford, connecting its historic downstream impacts, to the Columbia River, and downwind, to Spokane. The event will take place at Gonzaga University School of Law, Barbieri Moot Court Room at 6pm on May 8th.

Historically, Hanford discharged contaminated wastewater directly into the Columbia River, giving it the distinction as the most radioactive river in the United States. But, Hanford's pollution didn't just run downstream. Hanford also released radioactive contaminants such as iodine-131 and plutonium into the air. These pollutants blew north and east, coating Spokane.

The Columbia Riverkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, and Sierra Club are watchdog organizations, protecting our rivers from pollution. But, Hanford, the most contaminated site in the western hemisphere, presents a unique challenge. Twenty-five years into the cleanup, some of the most difficult and dangerous cleanup projects remain.

Conservation groups urge feds to keep wolves protected in Pacific NW

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Contacts for 24 conservation organizations say they sent a letter to President Barack Obama today asking for continued Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Pacific Northwest.

Although federal protection on gray wolves in most of Eastern Washington was lifted at the same time wolves were delisted in  Idaho and Montana, wolves remain protected by state endangered species laws.

Wolves setting up housekeeping from the east flanks of the Cascades and into Western Washington would enjoy federal and state endangered species protection.

But groups, including Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resource Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and others sent the letter, noting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving toward a decision on whether wolves in the Northwest and other areas will retain protection. 

  • Just for balance, I'm going to throw in a few observations to the points the groups make in a joint media release.

“Wolves are only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest and need the continued protections of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves once roamed across most of the Pacific Northwest, but today they occupy just a fraction of their former range.”

  • Wolves  have just begun to work on game herds and kill livestock in Oregon and Washington.

About 100 wolves are dispersed among AT LEAST five Oregon packs and eight in Washington. All but two of these packs — the Lookout and Teanaway packs — lost federal protection along with the northern Rocky Mountains population, delisted by an act of Congress. The conservation groups are asking the administration to retain protection for these two packs and to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the Pacific Northwest, including in western Washington and Oregon and parts of California. 

“Wolves called the Pacific Northwest home for 10,000 years,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “The fact that they are returning to the Cascades on their own is a good sign, but if we want them to survive and fully recover they will need our help.”

  • Efforts should start now to translocate wolves from Eastern Washington to the Mount St. Helens and Olympics areas to let Western Washington share the diversity/benefits/burden of having wolves. This would speed up recovery and expedite delisting of wolves in the region.

The need for continued protection of wolves in the Pacific Northwest was driven home when the Lookout Pack — the first breeding pack to be confirmed in Washington in more than 70 years — was decimated by poaching. The poachers were fortunately caught and prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act.

Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho research has shown that by forcing elk to move more, wolves have allowed streamside vegetation to recover, benefitting songbirds and beavers. Studies also show that wolves provide benefits to scavenging animals such as weasels, eagles, wolverines and bears, and help increase numbers of foxes and pronghorns by controlling coyotes, which wolves regard as competitors. Thousands of visitors to the park have been thrilled to see wolves in their natural habitat.

  • True, but wolves had the room to work freely and naturally in Yellowstone. They don't have that room or prey base in Stevens or Pend Oreille counties, and it's certainly not clear that any sort of public majority wants them on the Olympic Peninsula. Elk herds are not out of balance in Eastern Washington with the single exception of Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, where hunting appears to be a workable solution.

Read on for more from the media release by the 24 conservation groups.

Friday Quote: Robert Hass on the power of rivers


“The history of this country is so much a history of the culture of rivers. … Rivers are a deep sentimental part of American lore.

On the one hand, there is this almost religious and eschatological dimension to the idea of a river in American culture; on the other hand there are the actual rivers—canalized, abused, polluted, much used, and much denied. There's that joke, 'Denial is a river in Egypt.' Well denial is every river in America. We don't have to look at how we've treated them and what it says about our relationship to the land. In a way, a river is a kind of symbol of the repressed ecological problems in American society."


—Robert Hass, co-founder of River of Words and U.S. Poet Laureate (1995-1997), taken from Ecological Literacy: Educating our Children for a Sustainable World.



Mt. Spokane ski expansion plan comment ends Tuesday

PUBLIC LANDS — A years-old effort to expand lift-assisted skiing to the “back side” of Mount Spokane State Park will enter its final stage with Tuesday’s deadline for public comment on environmental impacts.

Details are on the Washington State Parks planning website.

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has been seeking permission from Washington State Parks to add a lift and expand the downhill ski area into the forested northwest side of the mountain. Ski area managers say they need to expand their terrain to remain competitive with other area ski resorts.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists have warned that clearing ski runs could impact wetlands and other wildlife habitat in the remaining third of the upper mountain not already impacted by the ski area.

Groups such as The Lands Council, Spokane Mountaineers and Sierra Club oppose the expansion, saying the resort should spend money upgrading existing facilities rather than invading an intact forest and meadows favored by backcountry skiers.

Comments should be directed to:

Project lead: Randy Kline, Environmental Program Manager
E-mail: randy.kline@parks.wa.gov 

Mail: P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650

Also underway, the State Parks Commission is seeking input about the future of Washington State Parks  including Mount Spokane and Riverside State Park.


Mt. Spokane Ski Area Expansion

Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

Mt. Spokane Coalition

Washington State Parks – Beyond 2013

Look who got the Best (outdoor) Internship on Earth

OUTDOOR JOBS — A few months ago, I wrote a story for college-age students who might be interested in what the Sierra Club calls The Best Intership on Earth.

The key: You had to make a video application. 

Check out the vide above to see how Kokei Otosi responded and landed the job.

Click here to see the intern's website and follow her job in words and videos as she participats in an annual summer program uniting young adults with a passion for the environment with community outreach programs that focus on outdoor experiences.  

Kokei will travel around the country, documenting these experiences in video blogs for the Sierra Club and www.PlanetExplore.com.

Kokei will also march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, mobilize youth at Outdoor Nation, camp with Military Family Outdoors and rock climb on the Great Lawn at the White House.

Applications for 2012 internshiip will open in the winter. Check here for info.

This student internship is outdoors dream job

OUTFIELD — If you know an outdoors-oriented student looking for a summer job, here's one with perks that caught my attention, including $2,000 worth of top-quality outdoor gear, a $2,500 stipend and expenses-paid backcountry trips in multiple states.

The Sierra Club is billing its summer youth ambassador job as the best student internship on the planet.

But the deadline to apply is March 16.

I talked to last year's intern for a story coming in Sunday's Outdoors section. Evan Geary, 23, a graduate of New York University in film, said his three months of outdoor experiences last summer spanned five states and included river rafting in California, backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and working with underprivileged kids on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound.

The youth ambassador, who must be at least 18 and a student or recent high school or college graduate, is based at the San Francisco headquarters and travels to join organized Sierra Club groups and post video blogs about their experiences.

The intern should have a love of the outdoors and the knack for communicating that enthusiasm to others.

Sierra Club Productions equips the intern with video gear. Editing abilities are a plus, but the most important requirements are a good eye for a story and a gift for interviewing people who are passionate about the outdoors.

Internship details, video information

  • Get all the details about the Sierra Club Youth Ambassador Summer Internship at the Sierra Club website.
  • Deadline to make the video application is March 16.
  • The website also includes examples of the short videos Evan Geary made last summer as a Sierra Club intern – including the video he sent in with his application to bag the job.

The youth ambassador will spend the summer video-blogging on different Sierra Club outings sponsored by Inner City Outings, Building Bridges to the Outdoors, and Volunteer Vacations programs.

Spokane group has cure for kids with ‘nature deficit disorder’

Get Adobe Flash player

NATURE — Saturday’s snow storm contributed to the adventure for about 100 kids 8-12 years old on a Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings boat cruise to view the annual gathering of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“We spotted between 80-100 eagles perched and watched a dozen or so catch fish,” said Chris Bachman, ICO director in Spokane. “This despite the blizzard we encountered which just added to the experience. Lots of kid and adult smiles.”

The eagle cruise is just one of about 16 trips ICO organizes to help provide kids with outdoor experiences that connect them into real-world knowledge and serve as a healthy alternative to violence, alcohol, drugs and boredom.

Chris Bachman, who won a national Sierra Club award in September for working with youth, is featured in Monday’s S-R print edition story as he talks about his devotion to getting kids in the outdoors.

Read on for a few insights he offered that won’t make the paper.

What does energy security mean to you?

Ever since Seinfeld, I’ve been addicted to contests. No, not that kind. But when the contest involves writing about clean energy and possible winning a sweet new bike, I’m in it to win it. (Example: “Clean coal is a bigger oxymoron than jumbo shrimp.” Yeah.)

You may know Brad Hash from his Beyond Coal campaign with the Sierra Club and a Down To Earth KYRS interview in June. Although based in Missoula, he has been a fixture in Spokane lately, working hard for eastern Washington so we can phase out coal use - no easy task today since coal is the workhorse of the nation’s electric power industry, supplying more than half the electricity consumed by Americans.

His organization is sponsoring a competition called ”Shifting Energy Habits: A contest of words to transport us.” In one typed page or less, tell them what energy security means to you. Any literary style you choose. Grand Prize: a brand new commuter bicycle from Spoke’N Sport retailing at $550! Entries are due September 28th and you can submit to acontestofwords@gmail.com.

The winners will be announced at Shift to Green: Spokane’s Transition To Clean Energy on Sept. 30th from 5 to 7pm on Isabella’s rooftop (35 W. Main Ave), which is a wrap-up of the Sustainable September events. There will be live music, food, speakers including County Commissioner Bonnie Mager, Mayor Mary Verner, and invited speaker Sen. Lisa Brown.

After the jump, check out the remainder of Brad’s events for Sustainable September.



Save the date: Spokane River History Tour

Several years ago, before DTE, there was a History class at Eastern Washington University taught by a one Dr. Bill Youngs.  The shared learning of Andrew Carnegie and the Industrial Revolution lead to a confused afternoon in Riverfront Park some five years later and some fifteen hours or so before we were to lead people through the park on a historical tour of Expo‘74 and what it meant for the environment.  Confused?  Keep following. 

It served us well to accidentally and happily both be in the same History class at EWU.  Just as it served us well to coincidentally bump into Dr. Youngs one afternoon in the park as we were preparing on how we’d give our Expo ‘74 tours that we had agreed to as part of Earth Day Spokane 2009.  The book we were using to prepare for the tour was The Fair and The Falls: Spokane’s Expo ‘74, Transforming an American Environment, written by none other than Dr. Youngs. 

We share two unplanned fortunes with Dr. Youngs, which is why we think you should plan on having one.

*Photo from 1888 courtesy of Wikipedia.

You are invited on Saturday, July 10th to the Spokane River History Tour - 2010 ~ Bicentennial year of Spokane House ~

spend a day reliving Spokane history:

 - listen to powerful stories of our past from two of the Northwest’s leading historians - Jack Nisbet and William Youngs

 - look at the Spokane River and Spokane Falls through the eyes of history

 - watch the sunset overlooking Spokane Falls, reflecting on the past and future of Spokane

for short walks, you will need comfortable shoes - limited to 30 people - $25 donation suggested to cover costs) RSVP with John Osborn, MD: john@waterplanet.ws 509.209-2899

Does this look like the face of the guy who might become the Sierra Club’s top fundraiser?

You’re probably surprised but it’s true.  Thanks to a clever campaign from the Sierra Club, professional loud-mouthed buffoon Rush Limbaugh might hold that title if donations keep rolling into the Sierra Club in his name.  Here’s the back-story from the Sierra Club:

On Monday, May 17, Rush Limbaugh asked his listeners “When do we ask the Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak?” and blamed “the greeniacs” for driving oil drilling offshore.

Since then, our supporters have responded with outrage…and donations! We want to let Rush know that we appreciate his fundraising efforts on the Club’s behalf. And you can help!

Help make Rush Limbaugh the Sierra Club’s top fundraiser! Make a donation in his name and when you do, we’ll send Rush a special thank you note for your gift!

You and Rush will have the satisfaction of knowing your contribution will support Sierra Club’s efforts to promote clean energy solutions and put an end to offshore drilling.

Meet the Sierra Club’s next Executive Director

We know many of our readers are also involved in many great organizations working on environmental justice, conservation issues, environmental protection, and just generally a heightened awareness about the issues we talk about most on DTE.  So we felt it important to bring you some recent news from one of those organizations - the Sierra Club

After nearly a year searching for a new Executive Director following Carl Pope’s decision to switch roles, the Sierra Club has chosen Michael Brune as their next Executive Director.  In a letter from Carl Pope, he writes: “Mike comes to the Sierra Club from Rainforest Action Network (RAN), where he has served as Executive Director for seven years. He has been called ‘a hard-nosed activist with a twist.’ At age 26, he led a winning campaign to convince Home Depot to stop selling wood from endangered forests, which Time magazine called “the top environmental story of 1999.” The announcement led to the protection of 5 million acres in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Under Mike’s leadership, RAN won more than a dozen landmark commitments from America’s largest corporations, including Citi, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Kinko’s, Boise, and Lowe’s. After a smooth transition in March, Mike will begin guiding Sierra Club staff and operations and lead the Club through the most exciting and critical period in our history.”

Visit the Sierra Club’s Executive Director page to learn more about Michael Brune, to offer him a note of congratulations, and to share the news with your social network followers.

Tuesday Video - what Sierra Club did in 2009

It’s vogue right now to bash 2009, and the entire decade for that batter - saying how it’s been a long nightmare and how you’re glad it’s over.  And admittedly, we’ve joined the chorus a few times.  But ever the optimists, and up to date on one of our favorite organizations - the Sierra Club -  we bring you this short video highlighting the work of the Sierra Club in 2009.  For more information on what the Sierra Club has done, and specifically in your particular region, explore THIS MAP that profiles the work of volunteers in local chapters and communities all across the country.

Flawed plan on phosphorous pollution

We received an action alert email from John Osborn concerning Washington’s new plan to control phosphorous pollution and increase oxygen in the Spokane River. Please read below to be prepared for public comment and for more information on the Sierra Club’s undertaking of this issue, read here.

From John Osborn: The public comment period extends through Oct. 15, 2009. The cleanup plan — referred to as a “total maximum daily load” (TMDL) — will guide work toward a healthier Spokane River in compliance with water quality standards for dissolved oxygen.

Points to make in your comment to the Dept of Ecology on the Spokane River’s plan for reducing phosphorus:

The latest draft TMDL has improved – thanks to Sierra Club’s work. Dischargers dumping to the Spokane River now must meet hard pollution targets. But the draft plan falls far short of what the Spokane River needs.

Tuesday Video II—- “Crossroads On The Columbia”

Spokane will get the chance to hear about a northwest David versus Goliath story when tomorrow night at REI from 7-9pm, you can check out a film screening and discussion on the controversy surrounding the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals on the Columbia River. The film is titled “Crossroads On the Columbia,” about “the passion and power of grass roots activism set against the backdrop of the beauty, heritage and history of the Columbia Pacific Region make this a compelling story of America at the crossroads of fossil fuel dependence, renewable energy and decisions over who controls our air, water and economy.” Dan Serres, Conservation Directory of the Columbia Riverkeeper, will talk about the negative impact of the terminals—-from importing millions of tons of new fossil fuels, clear cutting forests, and threatening endangered species—-near Astoria, Oregon. In addition, you’ll learn about “No LNG movement”—- a coalition that has pushed for community rights and a clean energy future in the northwest.

For more information, please contact MonicaLVaughan@gmail.com or (541) 521-1832



Who says print media is dead

It’s difficult to admit our love for print media sources one day when talking about Tweets, Kindle postings and Facebook updates the next.  And even more so for environmentalists who ought to be preaching saving trees by doing away with magazines.  But in a sense we’re old-school newsies, and every two months when our issue of Sierra Magazine hits home we’re as giddy as ever to turn the pages.

Sierra Magazine, a publication of the Sierra Club, offers some of the most comprehensive coverage of environmental issues you can find - a great perk of being a member.  Since we don’t want to keep it to ourselves, here’s a taste of what’s in the latest issue:

  • Two months worth of environmental news - one page of brief descriptions - and even better - when you read it online you get hyperlinks galore.  Check it out HERE.  
  • A great feature on one man’s quest to visit every National Park and how that inspired Ken Burn’s newest documentary.  Read it HERE.  
  • Sierra Magazine has been running in-depth stories about America’s coal addiction for several months now.  Titled “Bad Energy”, these stories are always well researched, well written, and well…. depressing.  Read the latest titled “The Great Alaska Coal Rush”

Friday Quote

Here at DTE we’ve lived by a long-standing credo that says, “the verdict is still out on science.” Albeit we say it very tongue-in-cheek. In fact, we have over the course of 2-plus years doing this blog, become somewhat science geeks. And how can you not when you spend so much time pouring over scientific research, reports, and observations. So it was to our amusement and gratitude that Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, pointed out in the recent issue of Sierra magazine that, “respect for scientific integrity appears to be a hallmark of the new [administration].” As reflected by Obama’s early appointments: marine biologist and former American Academy for the Advancement of Science president Jane Lubchenco to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Nobel laureate Steven Chu to head the Energy Department, and eminent physicist John Holdren as science adviser, to name a few. Pope makes a point by showing what happens when, “science is brought to bear on environmental issues,” by quoting a passage written by John Holdren with coauthor Peter Gleick in 1981…. 1981!!!

“The most important environmental liability of oil as an energy source is probably not air pollution or oil spills but the chance that war will be waged over access to the world’s remaining supplies. The most important environmental liability of coal is not the occupational toll of mining … rather it is the threat of global climate change posed by accumulating atmospheric carbon dioxide… . The most important environmental liability of nuclear fission is neither the routine nor accidental emissions of radioactivity, but the deliberate misuse of nuclear facilities and materials for acts of terrorism and war.”
John Holdren with coauthor Peter Gleick –

Friday Quote - dirty word version

In October, the Sierra Club launched a campaign against coal, to be specific, the propaganda and spin that the coal industry has been perpetuating for close to two years.  Called, “Coal is Not the Answer”, the campaign featured a slogan writing contest for people to write in and tell the truth about coal.  About 5,000 slogans were submitted and the top ten were put on a driving billboard and delivered to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCE). 

Here are the top ten:

“Clean Coal: Yesterday’s Solution Tomorrow’s Pollution.”
“Coal: Party Like It’s 1899.”
“Coal: It Will Take Your Breath Away.”
“Coal Is So Bush League.”
“Coal: It’s What’s In Your Lungs.”
“Coal: A Dirty Four Letter Word.”
“Coal: Is This The Best We Can Do?”
“Coal: The Other Second Hand Smoke.”
“Coal: Called A Fossil Fuel For A Reason.”
“Bad For Today. Worse For Tomorrow.”

Another Green Monday

We’re excited. There’s a bit more daylight each day. There’s news of the work being done to remake our nation. There’s hope but not without a realization of sacrifice. Perhaps Obama best described it best last Tuesday when he said we cannot “consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.” Here are some noteworthy stories, local and national, you may have missed:

March Madness starting early on the campus of Eastern Washington University. Though Eastern’s basketball team is pretty good this year and has a shot at making the Big Dance (gloats two proud EWU alumnus) the sort of madness we are talking about here is RecycleMania, a 10-week competition that pits colleges and universities in a nationwide contest to see who can reduce, reuse and recycle the most campus waste.  Last years winner, Kalamazoo College in Michigan, recycled 59 percent of its trash - based on a per capita scale - and will defend its title against over 200 colleges and universities across the country.  Read more about RecycleMania in EWU’s student newspaper, The Easterner, HERE.  

Who’s protecting the Spokane River?  Defending and supporting the Spokane River often feels like trying to explain to people why you drive a dilapidated vehicle - though it likely has deeper meanings to you, they don’t get it and to them it’s a piece of junk.  And only when someone who can relate to your story hears it do you feel validated.  The Spokane River is a dirty river.  The Spokane River has been a dirty river for a long time.  And if it weren’t for people like Rick Eichstaedt with the Center for Justice, the Spokane River would likely be doomed for a disastrous future.  In light of recent wastewater treatment issues surrounding the Spokane River, Spokane journalist extraordinaire and Center for Justice’s Communications Director Tim Connor interviewed Rick about how we got here and where we are going.  It’s a fascinating interview and if you’re the driver of a dilapidated vehicle, a must read.  Check it out HERE.  And then read through some other Spokane River news in the Center for Justice’s “Justice Calling Newsletter.”

Change has come to the Sierra Club as well.  Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club since 1992, is stepping down from that title to take on a new role as a chairman for a Sierra Club organization with a focus on climate change.  A predecessor has not been found and Pope will stay on as Executive Director until so.  Under Pope, the Sierra Club enjoyed a nearly quarter-million increase in membership while increasing its visibility and role in protecting millions of acres of wilderness.  DTE became members under Pope and will always remember the increasing pressure applied on former President Bush’s careless actions towards wilderness and the environment - all the way up to the day he left office.  Read more from The New York Times HERE. 

Cannon Hill park photo courtesy of Historic Spokane.

Big stormwater proposal eases Spokane River pollution. A story in the Spokesman-Review should definitely garner much attention today for South Hill residents. It’s about a stormwater runoff resolution that will change the landscape, diverting three blocks of excess into a subterranean trench on the west side of Cannon Hill Park near Lincoln Street, keeping pollution out of the river. The collection area model has worked well in other cities but hasn’t been tried in Spokane. Neighborhood council Chairman Dennis Anderson said the idea has won support because “it’s a win-win situation from an ecological point of view.” A resolution endorsing the proposal goes before the City Council during its 6 p.m. meeting tonight. More 

Fear the Goog

Ah bloody hell – say it aint so. The Times of London recently reported that Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist has concluded that, “performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea.” Wissner-Gross, whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon, concluded that performing a Google search generates about 7g of CO2 while boiling a kettle generates about 15g. We’d tell you try and contradict this evidence but unfortunately all we can tell you is to Google it.

On a brighter Google note - the Sierra Club recently announced that - you can now add a Sierra Club iGoogle “theme” to your Google search page. Besides putting lots of customizable features and widgets at your fingertips, the Sierra Club iGoogle theme features a dynamic banner photo that highlights some of the places and creatures that the Sierra Club works to protect.  To choose the Sierra Club iGoogle theme, click HERE.

The Dirt on Coal

Let’s just put it on the table here - the term “clean coal” is a joke.  Coal is an extremely high polluting energy source that emits more carbon per unit of energy than oil and natural gas, and represents a significant portion of greenhouse gases.  So whenever you hear the term “clean coal”, just laugh as you would when you watch your favorite Seinfeld episode.

With that in mind, read through these coal “Did you knows” from the Sierra Club and enjoy the creative photographs from Lauren Burke after the jump.  And be sure to read author Silas House’s phenomenal piece in the Sierra Club’s “Sierra” magazine titled, “The Dirt on Coal”. 

  • 78 Pounds - Amount of coal it takes to run a dryer for a month in an average U.S. household that relies on electricity from a coal-fired power plant
  • 162 Pounds - Amount of coal it takes to light a house with incandescent lightbulbs for a month
  • 170 Pounds - Amount of coal it takes to heat water for an average U.S. household for a month
  • 235 Pounds - Amount of coal it would take to warm an average U.S. household with space heaters for a month
  • 1,140 Pounds - Total monthly coal consumption for an average U.S. household (including appliances not listed above), resulting in 3,369 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions

Uh-oh: Year-end lists

The wild year that was 2008 is coming to its uncertain conclusion, and now is the time media publications let loose a flood of year-end lists. (Presumably so some journalists can take vacations.) Time Magazine has one such list: 10 Green Stories. While we don’t want to spoil the ranking, the inclusion of a little-known decision on coal makes this one worth noting. “Dirty, cheap coal provides 49% of the electricity in the U.S. and 30% of the country’s carbon emissions — which means that if the more than 100 new coal plants currently in the development pipeline get built, the planet is doomed to get warmer. That’s what made a decision on Nov. 13 by an obscure appeals board at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) so important. Responding to a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club over a new coal plant being built in Utah, the board ruled that the EPA had no grounds to refuse to regulate the CO2 emitted by new coal plants. Immediately, that made it virtually impossible for the EPA to certify any new coal plant, freezing development. In the long term, it gives the incoming Obama Administration an opening to force the coal industry to clean up — or shut down.” Full list here. (Spoiler alert: DTE will begin to compile their 2008 bests with a nod to what’s next. Get ready. Perhaps a mini-vacation is in the works too.)

Unproven cost and design principles appear to be good enough for Spokane County officials

The Spokesman-Review reports that county officials are pushing hard to go ahead with the bid by CH2M Hill Constructors Inc. to build and operate a $142 million wastewater treatment plant that would help remove pollutants, like phosphorous, from the Spokane River. While others, like the Sierra Club, continue to object stating that the county shouldn’t sign a 20-year contract for a plant that, as currently designed, is ineligible for requisite permits and state funding, isn’t proven to be totally effective, both technology speaking and cost wise, and whose company (CH2M Hill) has a less than polished record (Example: On July 7th, 2005, a CH2M Hill subsidiary spilled 85 gallons of radioactive waste at Hanford). “It is fiscally irresponsible for the County to sign a 20 year contract with a private corporation for the design, construction and operation of a plant the design and cost of which are unclear.” This from a letter drafted by Rachael Paschal Osborn, The Sierra Club’s Spokane River Project Coordinator with assistance from Center For Justice attorneys. Veolia Water North America, the company whose similar proposal many think is more cost effective in the long run, is overwhelmingly believed to be capable to remove more phosphorous from the river. “All along we tried to say, that with the lower phosphorus guarantee, we should be given some credit. But we were told that they did not consider it and the environmental impact was not significant,” said Veolia project manager Sean Haghighi. “They probably have a higher level of comfort with (CH2M Hill), I guess.” It’s worth mentioning that County Utilities Director Bruce Rawls worked 17 years for CH2M Hill before coming to the county 14 years ago. DTE will continue to monitor this sensitive issue. If you would like to contact the Spokane County Commissioners for answers or to voice your opinion - click HERE

Sierra Club’s letter to Spokane County about the wastewater treatment plant

Photobucket Rachael Paschal Osborn, The Sierra Club’s Spokane River Project Coordinator, has issued a direct letter asking County Commissioners to not enter a multi-million dollar contract with CH2M Hill to design, build, and operate a wastewater treatment plant that can’t meet discharge limits. Drafted with assistance from Center For Justice attorneys, she also cites fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the County for signing into a contract with unclear costs, and provides details where federal agencies levied fines against CH2M Hill for misconduct and failing to act on reported safety and environmental hazards. (Example: On July 7th, 2005, a CH2M Hill subsidiary spilled 85 gallons of radioactive waste at Hanford.) It’s a very convincing, well-researched document, and DTE hopes the message will serve as a spark for the County to rethink their position on a wastewater treatment plant contract that, by all evidence, is ill-advised. Full letter HERE.