Local Governments and Plastic Shopping Bags: To Ban or Not to Ban?

by Morgan Wieziolowski

Widener University Political Science Major

In the cities of Portland, Eugene, and Corvallis, Oregon the distribution and use of plastic shopping bags are no longer legal. The city of West Linn, OR is moving on legislation to also ban these bags. Plastic bags are polluting the environment, collecting in the rivers and the Pacific ocean. These bags destroy ecosystems, water ways, habitats and also kills/injures animals. In some places in the Pacific, it even “out weighs plankton”, now that’s a pretty significant amount of plastic. Plastic bags are also difficult to recycle because even countries like China no longer accept these plastics to be recycled. It is actually an expensive process to recycle these bags and is much cheaper for companies, people, and the government to put them in landfills. Basically there is no easy way around the use and pollution of these plastic bags. Legislation that would ban the use of these bags would force companies and businesses using these bags for economical reasons to stop, and would prevent any financial burdens of anyone having to attempt to recycle them. The idea is to change our actions and choices, so that people use alternatives. Brilliant idea- who would have thought there were substantial alternatives to things like plastics, and even energies?!



The Western Black Rhino & the Pennsylvania Legislature

by Sarah Cox

Widener University Political Science Major

The Western Black Rhino was considered critically endangered for many years, and just recently has been declared extinct. Endangered species laws are up for debate and voting in congress, and they seriously need to step their game up. The extinction of the Western Black Rhino should be a warning to show if things do not change, we will lose many more species of animals.

The latest update to the list of Threatened Species has more than 60,000 species. 25 percent of the mammal on the list can be extinct in the near future, there are also various plant species under threat of going extinct as well.

There is a bill that is currently seeking approval for the endangered species protection act. The act will require approval of protection proposals by a state regulatory agency. The president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said the legislation promotes “accountability, transparency and uniformity.” It gives “all stakeholders, and the general public, an opportunity to weigh in on proposed regulations,” Barr said.

However, the new bill in fact isn’t looking out for endangered species, but it is the number one priority for Marcellus shale drillers. They will try to rush the bill through congress because for them, time is money.

Marcellus Shale lawyers are pushing this legislation in order to run through most of Pennsylvania without any regard for endangered species of fish, animal or plants. These species are obstacles to their wells, frack pits and pipelines as well. They want these species gone. They are going to show little to no regard for the animal life, as they already do for the communities that are in their way as well.


New Solar Solutions for American Communities

by Aubrey Dangelo

Widener University Political Science Major

A new non-profit organization is taking the lead in residential solar panel installation in local communities throughout the United States. SmartPower is working to make solar power more affordable for homeowners and to change the marketing techniques used by many solar power companies. It is interesting to see that national organizations are trying to make an impact on solar energy production in light of the recent failure of President Obama’s investment in the solar company Solyndra. When only three percent of people in the United States use some form of solar energy, someone has to take initiative in helping to promote the use of solar energy, and citizens of the United States are not likely to be interested this kind of action coming from the Federal government due to the fact that Obama’s recent activity in this area has not been successful.

SmartPower has praised the efforts of the government of New Jersey for continuing to lead the way with incentives for installations of renewable-energy in residential and commercial buildings. SmartPower ranks New Jersey as the second best state in the nation in terms of homes and businesses with solar panels installed. The Solar Energy Industries Association says that New Jersey also has the most favorable net-metering standards in the country. If non-profit organizations geared towards solar energy production combine with state and local governments, the country could make a lot of progress on the problem of a lack of solar energy use in this country.

In Pennsylvania: Environment and Business= Teamwork

by Lauren Angelucci

Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

Pennsylvania waterfronts are getting a big confidence boost due to recent proposed tax credits for development nonprofits. The Riverlife Task Force has laid plans to revitalize the shorelines in PA. Results have shown that the $130 million in investments that have gone toward the river fronts has now resulted in $4 billon in adjacent development to the community around the river fronts. The development went towards sports complexes, office buildings, hotels, and even residents. Overall, this means that for every dollar invested to the riverfront projects their has been $30 put towards investment adjustment to the rivers. Legislators are trying to spread this statewide hoping that a $10 million tax credit for developers who donate to Riverlife and other like-force’s will encourage involvement. Though Pennsylvania will take a blow to their yearly revenue it is said that the credits will bring value to the towns and areas the river fronts are in.

The state and business merge in the benefit of the community is the great way to show support statewide. Pennsylvania is a state with a bundle of resources, and preserving them and up keeping them is so important. When business is thriving they are always going to be willing to give back especially if it is benefiting them in a positive light. Even if it takes a little bit of a “blow” to the states revenue, it is taking one factor, and helping two in return. Businesses are given an initiative, and in return the river fronts thrive, and the community thrives. It would be great if this went statewide because then not only one area would be of focus, but thousands of more Pennsylvania businesses would thrive as well. Sometimes the environment is not on the radar of people who have other things going on, so these are the kind of things that need give people who have the funds to support these Task Force’s, the extra push to want to give back and help their environment that surrounds their community.

Rockefeller Foundation Assists Cities With Superstorm Prevention Plans

by Shana Kessler

Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. New York City is still feeling the effects, with 350 people still without homes and much clean-up and prevention to still execute. Hurricane Sandy was a moderately severe hurricane that incapacitated a metropolitan city in ways no one ever expected, and less wealthy cities with less preparation could be in for a terrible surprise with the rate of climate change. Urban areas are increasingly crowded and more at risk than ever. What constitutes enough preparation for a storm like Sandy, or worse? Who is most vulnerable to these storms, and what can be done to prevent the lasting ramifications in future hurricane seasons?

The Rockefeller Foundation has set up a $100 million effort to help cities like New York to face up to these inevitable superstorms and come out strong on the other side. 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge looks to assemble infrastructure investment, improve the coordination within the state, local and national governments, and open access to software and services that can help with the prediction and awareness of the coming storms. More than 1,000 cities have sent in grant proposals that Rockefeller is now sorting through – cities concerned with their infrastructure, the erosion of coastlines, and other factors that make them vulnerable, and who know they cannot depend on the coordination of the government. By applying for grants, cities agree to appoint a Chief Resilience Officer to create and implement a plan involving the private sector, civic society and community stakeholders. In return they get financial assistance, services, and support through things such as risk analysis software, architectural design studios to educate professionals on land use analysis and hydrology mapping, and so on. Efforts are aimed at unlocking more private infrastructure capital where public funding is not enough. If the initiative leads to less lives and property lost, and less economic disruption, then the program will be deemed successful.


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.


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?