BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Apr 17

Will lessons ever turn into action?

A year ago today, the families of 15 people—including 12 volunteer firefighters—in the town of West, Texas started their day not knowing that they had given their last goodbye to their loved ones. The small community of 2,800 was devastated when a fire broke out at a fertilizer plant, leading to an explosion that felt like a 2.1 magnitude earthquake. The blast killed 15, injured hundreds, destroyed 120 homes and damaged 200 dwellings.

Video of the explosion from three different angles from WTSP.

Business owner Bryan Anderson was in his truck with his son Kaden when the explosion occurred near the middle school, he said, “It blew us across the road. The glass and debris and airbags.” He and Kaden were injured but survived. Even today his son is frightened by loud noises and attends therapy weekly. “It’ll never be the same,” said Anderson. “But every time I really do get down I think of all the people that have it way worse than me. I’ve got a bunch of phone numbers in my phone that I can’t call anymore, and I could be one of those. Kaden could be one of those.”

A new study shows that almost 10,000 schools—attended by an estimated 4.6 million children—are located within a mile of a chemical facility.

Many survivors of the blast still struggle today. The human toll of this tragedy is terrible. But, the fact that little to nothing has been done to prevent future events like this is a travesty. The dangers posed to our families by chemical plants are all too real. In fact, a new study showed that almost 10,000 schools—attended by an estimated 4.6 million children—are located within a mile of a chemical facility. In West, Texas, schools and homes were much closer than that. 

While the Obama administration mulls changes, nothing has been done to change fertilizer rules since the explosion. Presidential Executive Order 13650, calling for a federal, interagency report due within a few weeks, is a hopeful beginning but, the devil is in the details, and it yet remains to be seen what concrete steps emerge from that process. Texas Governor Rick Perry says any new rules should wait until after the state completes its investigation. But, in Texas alone, the State Fire Marshall says there are 26 facilities storing large amounts of fertilizer like the plant in West. 

But, without federal leadership and action in states around the nation, we’re—sadly—probably going to see more terrible tragedies like West. But, they won’t be accidents. Because an accident is something you didn’t see coming.

Posted In: Texas, Work, Environment and Public Health
Apr 17

The Green Jobs Source for Thursday, April 17, 2014

THE TOP 10 FOR APRIL 17 

One year after – The community of West, Texas is still recovering a year after a deadly blast at a fertilizer plant killed 15 people and injured hundreds. (Wall Street Journal) 

Scary – In Houston, Texas, nearly 100 schools are near toxic chemical facilities. Nationally, 4.6 million children attend schools near chemical facilities, according to a new study. (Houston Public Media) 

Things are looking up – Clean energy investment is off to a good start this year. Will it be a big year? (Christian Science Monitor) 

Building a better battery – Former Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and a celebrated battery researcher focus on how utility scale battery technology to store renewable energy will be a game-changer. (The Atlantic) 

Land of Lincoln – Labor and environmental organizations—including the BlueGreen Alliance—held a meeting to discuss clean energy in Illinois. (Peoria Public Radio) 

$4 billion – That’s the amount of investment the Energy Department is offering in loan guarantees to projects that reduce or capture greenhouse gases(The Hill) 

Sustainable energy in the developing world – Take a look at some of the investments and policies needed to bring clean, sustainable energy to the developing world. (Nature) 

Just a bit outside – The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s forecast for the future of renewable energy in the U.S. is really off. (Clean Technica) 

Window is closing – An in depth look at the latest United Nations report says the options for limiting climate change are narrowing. (The Economist) 

Not enough – A commentary says that not enough is being done to avert the next Deepwater Horizon(New York Times) 

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

The Hill: Obama makes new solar energy push

New York Times: It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine

New York Times: ‘Active Cleanup’ of Oil Spill Is Ended on Louisiana Coast

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Apr 16

Michiganders are paying more every year to clean up severe weather

The following blog has been crossposted from  on APRIL 15, 2014. The original is online here.

This guest post is by Sue Browne, Regional Programs Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance in Michigan.



Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog.

 

It’s hard to believe that last year’s bad weather cost taxpayers like you and I around$277 million in damages across the state—a $67 million increase from the year before. Had our infrastructure been better prepared in the first place, this money could have been spent elsewhere in many different ways.

Of course we can’t prevent dangerous weather from happening, but we can do more to prevent the electric grid, wastewater treatment systems and more from breaking down on us as easily the next time around.

The link between the state of our infrastructure and severe weather is clear. Today extreme temperature swings are causing pot-hole ridden roads to be even worse and even a few extra inches of rain and gale force winds are causing some dams and levees to leave homes and schools more—not less—vulnerable to flooding. More and denser snow pack thawing last spring caused widespread flooding in the Upper Peninsula. Sixteen counties were declared major disaster areas, costing a cool few million dollars in damage from just one storm. The bills add up pretty quickly over the year.

To put it in perspective, the amount of money spent on repairing damages last year is around 84 percent (pdf) of the entire budget of the Michigan Department of Education’s spending for 2015.

If the growing amount of money—in the hundreds of millions of dollars—we’re spending to clean up communities isn’t enough to tell you there’s a problem, theAmerican Society of Civil Engineers’ “D” grade for Michigan’s infrastructure is proof we’re really not making the grade. We can’t afford to let these priorities take a back seat any longer.

The breaking, crumbling, cracking and inefficiencies of the systems we rely on everyday—to get us back and forth to work, power homes and schools, keep us safe from floods, make sure we can call the police and fire during emergencies, and more—are a problem and a rare opportunity to create jobs and better protect us all.

In my work for the BlueGreen Alliance, I talk to people everyday who understand the need for us to Repair America’s infrastructure. Also, there’s no shortage of people who have the know-how to fix these problems and who also see the issue of infrastructure screaming out for our attention.

These are the jobs (pdf) that can put construction laborers, equipment operators, and maintenance workers into positions right away. Indirectly, industries that service those sectors and supply chain, including the manufacturing of materials, components, and equipment would also see economic benefits. Communities would benefit overall through increased demand for goods and services such as retail, housing, and financial services.

Overall, investments to repair infrastructure in Michigan could create or sustain more than 119,300 jobs each year throughout the economy.

It’s time to put some ideas to work for Michigan that will help us protect ourselves, produce good jobs and prosper for a long time to come. Worse weather is in the forecast and we must do more to prepare for it. How can we lose when creating jobs and economic growth, reducing post-storm clean up costs and having the peace of mind that we can better weather the next storm or tornado are all the priceless payoffs of making these investments?

Help us to raise public awareness about the importance of the systems we rely on every day in order to make something happen. There are three things that you can do now. Also, find out more information HERE.

  1. Click HERE to share your story.
  2. Copy, paste and Tweet the following along with a photo of infrastructure that needs to be repaired in your own community:
    Our infrastructure is falling apart. Let’s #RepairAmerica and create good jobs & healthy communities.
  3. Click HERE and post your photo on our Facebook wall (and like us there if you don’t already).
Posted In: Michigan
Apr 16

Public Transportation Surges in Los Angeles

This crosspost is from Callum Beals, an editorial intern at Sierra. You can find the original here

April 10, 2014

Chinatown station on the LA Metro Gold LineThe American Public Transportation Association is partying like it's 1956. That's because Americans took 10.65 billion trips on public transit systems in 2013 -- numbers not seen since the 1950s. In its annual ridership report, APTA stated that more Americans were using trains, buses, and subways as an alternative to commuting to work by car.

The 2013 numbers narrowly surpassed the post-1950s high of 10.59 billion in 2008, when gas prices ballooned. According to APTA, what makes the 2013 numbers so exciting is that gas prices are lower now than they were in 2008.

Public transit powerhouse New York City saw a 4.2% heavy rail ridership increase. More surprisingly, Los Angeles posted a 4.8% heavy rail increase coupled with a 6% light rail increase for 2013.

The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is betting big on public transit as the future of the area. "It has to be," said Marc Littman, the LA Metro's deputy executive officer of public relations. "Mobility is the linchpin of the economy."

By the end of 2014, the LA Metro will have started construction on multiple new heavy and light rail projects that will become operational over the next decade. "Voters in LA are so fed up with traffic that in 2008 they voted to tax themselves three times over," said Littman. The taxes he is referring to are all part of Measure R, a 2008 county ballot that will award around $40 billion of taxpayer money to traffic relief and transportation upgrades over the next 30 years.

While traffic reduction was undoubtedly at the forefront of voters' minds, so too was an increasing environmental consciousness. "You can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 20 pounds of COper day," says Littman. "We've tapped into people who are fed up with traffic as well as those that are environmentally conscious."

This green rider is exactly who APTA believes is behind 2013's surge in public transportation ridership. In an interview with the Associated Press, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy proclaimed, "People are making a fundamental shift to having options for getting around. This is a long term trend. This isn't just a blip."

Quantifying the affect of environmentalism on increased public transit ridership is difficult, but the fact that 2013's levels resemble those of the 1950s can't be ignored. With the rise of the automobile and suburbia, public transit has long been a secondary option for commuters.

Littman believes that Americans, especially Los Angelenos, want a return to a sprawling public transit infrastructure. "In Los Angeles, there were more than 1000 miles of track 100 years ago, and people want it back. It's kind of like that baseball movie [Field of Dreams]. If you build it, they will come."

To get involved with local public transit projects, visit publictransportation.org

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/Merkuri2

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

Posted In: Infrastructure, Transportation, Sierra Club
Apr 16

The Green Jobs Source for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

THE TOP 10 FOR APRIL 16 

Meetings – Representatives from the electric power industry are meeting with the White House to talk about the Environmental Protection Agency’s forthcoming rules to reduce carbon emissions in current stationary sources, like power plants. (The Hill) 

10 percent – U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell nearly 10 percent between 2005 and 2012 and we are more than halfway toward our pledged United Nations emissions reduction target. (Reuters) 

Backup plan – An editorial says the world should have a backup plan to deal with climate change(Washington Post) 

Thirsty – water desalination plant—which will take salt water from the sea and make it drinkable—is in the works for Beijing.(New York Times)

#iheartrenewables – This week is #iheartrenewables week, so show your love on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. (Treehugger)

100 percent renewables – An infographic explains what Oregon would look like being powered by 100 percent renewable energy(Sustainable Business Oregon) 

Linked – A new study ties climate change to the frigid winter experienced by the Eastern U.S. to the epic California drought.(Think Progress) 

A blue-green partnership – Sierra Club and the Amalgamated Transit Union—both members of the BlueGreen Alliance—are highlighting the connection between transportation and climate change. (Streets Blog) 

Methane – An NRDC blog looks at the first step of President Obama’s plan to reduce methane emissions(NRDC Switchboard) 

Limit – California’s Department of Health will adopt the first-ever drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium, which is a carcinogen found in water around the state. (Los Angeles Times) 

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

New York Times: Despite Rise in Spills, Hazardous Cargo Rides Rails in Secret

Politico: EPA scores big win to limit mercury

New York Times: A Cleanup Plan for a Toxic River 

Portland Oregonian (OR): Oregon environmentalists, public health activists to return products containing potentially toxic chemicals

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Apr 15

The Green Jobs Source for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

THE TOP 10 FOR APRIL 15 

Tell us something we don’t know – An article points out that political fights have gotten in the way of progress on climate change(New York Times) 

A year later – Texas regulators are still trying to improve the information flow about dangerous chemicals between state agencies and fire departments a year after the West, Texas explosion. (E&E News) 

Letters – Several letters to the editor highlight climate change as a vital issue to our future and take to task an opinion piece on the issue printed recently. (New York Times) 

Above the law? – Public workplaces in New York—including cities, towns, highway departments, and schools—aren’t paying their workplace safety violation fines(Rochester Democrat & Chronicle) 

Mining data – The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released its preliminary data for 2013 that showed workplace injuries went down in the mining industry but fatalities went up compared to previous years. (Occupational Safety and Health) 

Tax credits – A business group is pushing federal officials to renew tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficiency.(Radio Iowa) 

Silver State renewables – An opinion piece looks at Nevada’s leadership on renewable energy(Reno Gazette Journal) 

Energy efficiency – The latest United Nations report on climate change highlights the benefits of energy efficiency to both save money and address our warming world. (Christian Science Monitor) 

Concerning – Take a look at where you can find toxic chemicals in five unexpected places in your life. (Huffington Post) 

Toxics and railroads – A federal lawsuit brought by chemical groups wants all rail cars hauling certain toxic chemicals to meet stricter safety standards. (KSTP) 

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

Clean Technica: The World Should Urgently Invest In Renewable Energy 

Los Angeles Times: Southland air regulators seek to hold ports to pollution targets

The Hill: Study: Methane releases from natural gas drilling higher than EPA estimates

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Apr 14

Time to power up electric grid investments

We all have a general awareness about the power of severe weather—that it can cause a lot of damage and that it can destroy millions of dollars of property in a matter of minutes or seconds, for example. What we didn’t know was the full extent of what it is all costing us. A new report out by Climate Central reveals some sobering facts that show just how prevalent and destructive extreme weather has been over the past few years, and how we need to so something about it. 

Sticker shock 

Climate change is getting worse. Weather-related events caused 80 percent of all outages between 2003-2012. Michigan led all of the states with 71 major weather related outages. Michigan residents certainly paid for it too—to the tune of $277 million—which is what it cost to repair all weather related damages in the state last year. All in all, from 2011-2012 Americans spent $188 billion in repairs on extreme weather damages. 

Apart from having clean water, electricity is a basic need that we all depend on. When outages are interrupting our lives more and more frequently, like they are today, it’s time to talk more about what we can do about it.

Map of Hurricane Sandy 


A basic need we can’t do without 

According to the Climate Central report, “The U.S. electrical system is one of the country’s most critical infrastructure components. Distributing electricity to homes, businesses, and industry, as well as large sections of the transportation sector, the bulk power system is a vast and interconnected grid that people depend on in all parts of their daily lives.” 

One of the ways we can address this problem of power outages is to strengthen the electric grid in the first place. Making the repairs that will prevent widespread power outages in the future will create jobs and stimulate growth in communities. Looking at Minnesota alone, an investment of $400 million per year on electricity infrastructure over the span of five years is creating or sustaining an estimated 5,200 jobs throughout the economy each year. 

Power outages aren’t simply an inconvenience. They cost us lost time and money that adds up and holds back the economy over the long term. Weather-related power outages cost Americans between $20 and $55 billion per year. That’s all money that could be much better spent boosting our bottom line.

America's electricity network
Courtesy of mapoftheweek.blogspot.com

 

The problems that plague the electric grid are indicative of so many of our infrastructure systems like inefficient water management systems, crumbling roads and bridges and much more. It’s time to repair the electric grid so that when the power goes out we don’t also lose access to clean water, so that strong winds and down power lines don’t pose the same threat they do today, and to get to work on the greater vision to Repair America. Join us today!

Posted In: Infrastructure
Apr 14

The Green Jobs Source for Monday, April 14, 2014

THE TOP 10 FOR APRIL 14

Renewables key to addressing climate – The Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change’s (IPCC) newest report says a rapid shift to less-polluting energy is vital to tackling climate change. (USA Today)

Avoiding the worst – The IPCC report says greenhouse gas emissions have doubled despite action to reduce them, but also gives a ray of hope by asserting that there’s still time to avert the worst impacts of climate change. (Wall Street Journal)

Years of Living Dangerously – The Showtime documentary The Years of Living Dangerously focuses on climate change and gets a close look from TIME’s Bryan Walsh. (TIME)

West, Texas – On April 22, over a year after the explosion in West, Texas that killed 14 people and injured 250, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board will hold a public hearing to review preliminary findings of the agency’s investigation. (Occupational Safety and Health Online)

Things are looking up – New project finance and public market figures show that clean energy investment rose 14 percent in the first quarter of this year. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)

Efficiency – Cities are working together=—and competing—to improve energy efficiency. (Midwest Energy News)

Toxics – A piece by the American Sustainable Business Council looks at how America can move to safer chemicals and keep our water clean. (Triple Pundit)

Headliner – Hillary Clinton will headline Harry Reid’s National Clean Energy Summit this September. (Today’s Energy Solutions)

Keeping renewable support – An editorial calls for keeping North Carolina’s renewable energy standard, which is under attack by far-right lawmakers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). (Charlotte News Observer)

Threatening growth – A new study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says that efforts to undermine the renewable energy standard in Kansas and eliminate the production tax credit are threatening further growth of the wind industry. (Garden City Telegram)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

New York Times: How to Think Like the Dutch in a Post-Sandy World

Los Angeles Times: Vernon battery recycler denied permission to resume lead smelting

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Apr 11

The Green Jobs Source for Friday, April 11, 2014

THE TOP 10 FOR APRIL 11

Laying the groundwork – A bipartisan group of four Senators laid out the framework for a transportation bill  that would renew funding. The current bill expires in October. Additionally, here are five recommendations on how to fix the Highway Trust Fund. (Washington Post)

Troubling news - According to a UN report, greenhouse gas emissions grew twice as fast over the last 10 years as in the 30 years prior. (The Guardian)

Transportation tour – Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx kicks off a “Invest in America, Commit to the Future” tour to tout the importance of transportation investments. (Department of Transportation)

Electric grid Achilles – PG&E, the owner of the electricity sub-station attacked and knocked out by gunman last year, offer a $250,000 reward for information. (Wall Street Journal)

Solar panel split – Citing illegal subsidies on Chinese solar panels, the European Union announces it will inflict hefty duties on the importation of these products. (Chicago Tribune)

Plan B – As efforts to curb carbon emissions on a global scale move along slowly, experts begin to consider other ideas like sucking carbon dioxide out of the air or reflecting sunlight into space. (Washington Post)

A first – The Swedish-based home furnishing company IKEA has purchased its first American wind farm in Illinois. ( The Hill News)

Pollution exposure risky – Officials in the UK issued research showing around 28,000 deaths were caused in 2010 by extended exposure to pollution. (BBC News)

One step back – Vermont lawmakers attempt to scale back legislation to better regulate toxic chemicals. ( Vermont Digger)

Preserving the Everglades – A plan to help preserve and protect the Florida Everglades was moved along yesterday when the Florida Water Management District agreed to foot half of the cost of the program. (Sun-Sentinel)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

The Intelligence Wheeling News-Register: Gas Workers Risk Silica Exposure

Associated Press: Airlines’ on-time record took a beating in February

Washington Post: Images of Earth

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.

Apr 10

The Green Jobs Source for Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE TOP 10 FOR APRIL 10

Power out – The number of weather-related power outages have doubled since 2003, according to a new report by Climate Central. (Climate Central)

Mitigation warning – The UN’s third report on climate change—due to be released this Sunday—suggests renewable energy is a key tool in fighting climate change. (Wall Street Journal)

Don’t go back – A Toledo Blade editorial urges lawmakers not to roll back the progress of a clean energy law that has shrunk electricity bills and brought about progress in the state. (Toledo Blade)

65 percent – That’s the percentage of Americans who support the renewable fuel standard, according to a new survey—a number that’s risen since 2012. (The Hill News)

Fire alarm – The administration unveiled a new plan to fight and prevent wildfires as part of the president’s Climate Action Plan. ( The Hill News)

Victory for clean energy – A bill extending and expanding current tax incentives for clean energy was introduced yesterday and provides funding through “victory bonds.” (The Hill News)

Trade case – An ongoing trade case against Chinese solar imports threatens to raise the price of solar panels imported to the U.S. by around 20 percent. (Green Tech Media)

Great Lakes cleanup – A bipartisan group of 46 lawmakers stood together demanding the Obama administration restore budget cuts made to the Great Lakes cleanup fund. (Detroit News)

Improving air quality - In preparation for a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders in China, officials threaten to impose air pollution controls to cut emissions. (Reuters)

State of change – North Carolinians deal with the growing pains of how to handle growing environmental problems. ( WRAL)

BLUE-GREEN LINKS

Higher Education: Cot mattresses emit chemicals, study finds

CBS News: Food quality at risk if climate change continues, study says

Contra Costa Times: Puerto Rico probes darkening of Vieques bio bay

European Voice: Commission unveils overhaul of renewable energy subsidies

That's it for The Source today. Don't forget to tell your friends about this great resource. You can sign up here.