Great Lakes States Taking Action Against Plastic Micro Beads

by Morgan Wieziolowski

Widener University Political Science Major

Thousands of plastic micro beads are building up in the great lakes because sewage plants fail to catch them before they reach the lakes. These beads are made of harmful plastics and are slowly accumulating, polluting the water. The high concentrations of these plastics can cause severe damage to the ecosystems at and near the great lakes, damaging fish populations and spreading toxins. These micro beads can be found in common facial and body cleansing products for exfoliation, therefore then end up down the drain and eventually into the water system. Obvious alternatives for these plastics are sea salt and crushed apricot seeds, which are biodegradable. 5 Gyres is a non-profit organization that works to decrease aquatic plastic pollution, and is involved in lobbying for legislation against this kind of pollution. 5 Gyres is also involved in making consumers aware of the damage, and assisting consumers in finding products that do not contain the plastic micro beads. An app for smartphones was even created that can scan products and determine if it contains the beads or not.

Many large companies and corporations that produce these micro beads have already made agreements to the public, and to non-profits to phase out the use of micro beads in their products or stop the use of them all together. This is a positive step forward in the campaign against this pollution but it does not mean that these corporations will follow through with their promises. Legislation is being drafted in Great Lakes’ states to prevent the use of plastic micro beads in facial/body cleansers by companies. A bill or enforcement by the State governments would make even more of a positive impact on the environment. 5 gyres has also joined an international campaign called “Beat the MicroBead” with Stichting De Noordzee of the Netherlands, and the Plastic Soup Foundation to continue with their efforts against these harmful plastics.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/great-lakes-microbeads_n_4178363.html?utm_hp_ref=green

By Sarah Zappulla

Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

The town of Dryden, located in New York, is a quiet space full of farms and ranches.  However, in August 2011, the town passed a zoning law that bans fracking after a long time of lobbying against it.  The ordinance created a lawsuit being looked over by the Court of Appeal, the highest court.  The ruling will settle the issue of being able to drill or not.  Fracking is increasing significantly; other places have created bans against fracking causing legal action to up rise.  The passing of these ordinances and lawsuits of hydraulic fracturing is going to define the future of oil and gas industries in New York.

Local governments are taking a stand and putting in time and effort to stop fracking.  The State Health Department has gotten involved with the issue.  A study was ordered by the Department of Environmental Conservation to guide decisions on fracking.  People who support hydraulic fracturing believe a new industry can be introduced creating more jobs and decreasing the unemployment rates.  On the other hand, others especially environmentalists know the impacts on watersheds and aquifers are not good due to the water use and release of chemicals released into the ground.

Recent polls show that 43% of voters oppose fracking and 38% approve.  There still have been no decisions about fracking.  This can be a result of next year’s second term elections.  If you look at hydraulic fracturing as a great economic booster, then it benefits NY.  However, is that short-term economy booster worth the long-term environmental effects?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/nyregion/court-case-on-fracking-ban-in-dryden-ny-may-have-wide-implications.html?ref=science&_r=0

Pittsburgh Protests

by Lauren Angelucci

Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

Over 1,000 marchers filled the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for what is said to be the BIGGEST protest and joining of activists in the city since 2009. The “peaceful yet loud” march was lead by marchers who were against continued reliance on coal and natural gas fracking. They were also seeking the clean energy development and “just economy”. As they marched down Allegheny Park, they ended their day of “action” by having a meeting with several members of PNC bank branches about fossil fuel energy development. People from all over came from different organizations and activists group protesting anything from transit cuts, to climate change issues, to tar sands development. The overall Pittsburgh meet up came to about 7,000 activists, all hoping to get their messages out there. “We just want to let them know that we have a voice in Washington, and we’re going to be heard”, said a local contributor to the march. And though there were tireless efforts for members of the elite government to notice people, one example includes one group of anti-drilling activists who were told to “make an appointment”, when asked to have a private meeting with one official. Though the day was said to be very calm and orderly, 7 arrests were made by one group who chose to step out of the norm called the Earth Quaker Action Team, and they were all charged with trespassing for refusing to exit a building when requested to. 

      I  think that sometimes sitting down and not doing anything for something you believe in is as easy as going to the gym and sitting there, because NOTHING will happen. Many people have these very opinionated views of the world, but would never open their mouth when it mattered. And thats why the activists who put their beliefs on the line should be praised. When we learned about other sorts of grassroots movements in our class readings, such as the property rights movement and wise use movement, it goes to show that as Americans we know it is our right to stand up for what we believe in. Though often unsuccessful, these Pittsburgh activists, though all very different in opinion, all came together to use their free speech amendment. Their colorful, vibrant, and very forward signs also stood out to show the effortless time and dedication these people put into painting and getting up early and standing all day just for the hope that maybe someone would notice them and give them five minutes of their time. I think that 5 minutes of talking in exchange for 8 hours of standing is very fair. Maybe its just me and my feeling bad for these people, but I don’t know why some members of congress or government wouldn’t give these people the time of day. Many things I feel are very one sided in government and I think the people that organize and base their years around these events are the reason we have OPINIONS in America, and that is what keeps us on our toes. And though violence and stubbornness in the protesting process I think is a bit of an abuse of power, without these people and their protests and passion, it would not be America, and we should honor that. 

Source: http://www.post-gazette.com/city/2013/10/21/A-few-environmental-protesters-arrested-in-Downtown-Pittsburgh-march/stories/20131021009

California: Going Green, Going Gold

by Sarah Cox

Widener University Political Science Major

California wants to lead America to a greener future, and they are well on their way in doing so. California once suffered from smog attacks in Los Angeles which led to the first state wide air protection laws. With California’s Environmental Quality Act, greenhouse gas emissions are being cut, cap and trade emissions are being cut, renewable energy must account for 1/3 of California’s electricity, and low carbon fuel standards must fall by 10% by 2020.

It is inspiring to other states the measures that California is taking toward a cleaner, healthier environment. The way California handles their environmental issues is the way more states should, head on. Improving the environment doesn’t mean compromising your way of life or even your gas guzzling car. Arnold Schwarzenegger loves the environment as much as he loves his Hummers. He took the initiative to improve the environment while not taking away from luxury.

The model California sets may seem scary to some industries, but it shouldn’t be. The cap-and-trade system will go through three phases. First it will gradually expand its reach, lower the carbon cap and auctioning and allow a growing proportion of emission permits. This will allow companies to buy allowances of how much emissions they can produce. This will set a new wave for the future of industry and environmental health.

Another strong influence states should follow is the law which requires carmakers to slash vehicle emissions. Bottom up tactics such as this are effective because manufactures agreed to higher national fuel efficiency standards.

Nine other states are already following in California’s model and more should as well.  Fewer voices are raised against the state’s environmental approach, hinting towards a higher approval rating and a higher quality of air, land, and life.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21573547-california-wants-lead-america-greener-future-gold-and-green?zid=313&ah=fe2aac0b11adef572d67aed9273b6e55

California Changes Environmental Protection Laws

by Emily Bonney

Widener University Political Science Major

The Environment v. Economy debate has reared its ugly head in the most unlikely of places this time – California. Known for their trailblazing environmental policies, politicians are now considering making changes to the landmark California Environmental Quality Act by weakening the strict regulations on urban development. Even more surprising is the switch in roles of the players. It is being supported by the Democratic Party and Governor Jerry Brown (D). Democratic Leader Steinburg of the California State Senate proposed changes including “exempting urban projects from parking and aesthetic reviews, and speeding up the pace of litigation” and Business leaders are on the side of the environment now, declaring the proposal “Steps backwards” and urging lawmakers to vote against the bill. Some of the main issues are that the current legislation is being used to block development by environmentalist groups as well as competition. Senator Steinburg additionally adds a caveat that would exempt the Sacramento sports arena from environmental review to stop the city’s basketball team, the Kings, from moving to Seattle. In a follow-up article, the State legislature did pass these laws.

California has long been lauded as the leader in environmental policy and this change of heart speaks heavily of the times upon us. The resulting decision in favor of weakening the policies also brings the question to light – what comes next? The breaking of the steadfast resolve in this green state is shocking to behold. Urban development will now be easier, but it will be interesting to know what California has planned to do to combat the inevitable rise in pollution that comes with increase in business and population in these concentrated areas. Urban development draws more jobs and therefore more people in, which could boost the economy; one aspect Democratic leaders might have been considering in the current economic climate. But at what cost to the Environment? Coming in third behind the peninsulas of Alaska and Florida, California has the longest coastline in the US. The state also holds 278 State Parks. If this is only the beginning, what example has California set for the rest of us?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/11/us/california-takes-steps-to-ease-landmark-law-protecting-environment.html?_r=0

States Take the Lead on Electric Car Policy

by Aubrey Dangelo

Widener University Political Science Major

It’s not surprising that most Americans opt for gasoline-powered cars as opposed to their electric counterparts, despite the fact that electric cars are a good economic investment because they are cheaper to “fuel” and have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline-powered cars. Americans often favor instant gratification, and while electric cars are cheaper in the long run, electric cars are more expensive than other vehicles, and people tend to prioritize the initial cost of the vehicle as opposed to the amount of money they will save over a long period of time. Not to mention the fact that for most people, electric cars seem inconvenient because a lack of charging stations.

For citizens of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, though, the idea of owning an electric car may soon become much more enticing. These eight states announced on October 24, 2013 that they plan to work collaboratively to adopt new legislative measures that will promote the sale and use of electronic cars. The two most significant laws that they plan to adopt are a laws that will make charging stations more accessible and laws that will give government subsidies to people investing in electric cars. If other states would join in on this effort, the United States could reduce its carbon footprint dramatically. The United States dominates in world economics and cultural influence, and it is time for it to become a leader in environmental protection, as well.

PA’s Impact Fees: Corporations Try to Shift the Burden Onto Someone Else

by Paul Berger
Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

In PA, it is against the law for companies to shift the burden of an impact fee onto the land owners according to act 13. “A producer may not make the fee … an obligation, indebtedness or liability of a landowner, leaseholder or other person in possession of real property, upon which the removal or extraction occurs.” This means that the companies themselves have to pay these impact fees and the landowners dont have to sacrifice any of their royalties to help pay the fee. Some companies, like Chesapeake Energy and Chevron have found ways around the law and are still requiring landowners to partially pay the fee. They put it in their lease with the landowner that “landowners agree that Pennsylvania impact fees would be deducted from their royalty payments in proportion to their interest.” This means that if a landowner is receiving 15% of the profits, they must pay 15% of the impact fee. As of right now, Chesapeake has said that they have not actually made landowners pay the partial fee. They have found other way to charge landowners, like through post-production costs. I honestly think that this was put in their lease so that sometime in the future when the law has settled down and is somewhat forgotten, the companies could bring up the partial fee and make landowners pay for the partial fee because it is in their lease.