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Archive for September, 2010


DCEN REPORT: Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States

Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 11:07:44 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network

“All he wanted was to be moved across the highway so he and his wife would not be exposed to the fumes.”

Steve Lerner, author of “Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the U.S.” described the desperate situations Americans in 12 communities across the country experienced solely because their homes were adjacent to a military facility or factory that leaked toxic chemicals. It was hard to imagine any of the 34 people who listened to Steve’s presentation having to experience the same fear and helplessness upon finding out their health was in danger and the very survival of their communities was at stake.

As Steve told the story it became clear that one thing that separated these communities from the people in the room was poverty. Steve made a compelling case that more often than not it is the poor that ends up having to put up with factories and military facilities that do not take the steps necessary to protect the communities that surround them.

I thought this presentation and conversation was important enough to make it available to those that could not attend.  What follows is part 1 & 2 of his presentation. I will add on the important discussion that followed sometime next week. Here is part 1 of his presentation:

Here is part 2 of his presentation:

More to follow.


DCEN REPORT: DC Mayoral Candidate’s Environmental Forum

Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 04:02:14 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network

Over 100 District of Columbia environmental leaders participated in a Mayoral Forum sponsored by 25 District focused environmental and human service non-profits. The forum included Mayoral Candidate Vincent Gray. (We invited all Mayoral candidates but did not get word Mayor Fenty would not be able to make it until a few days prior to our event because of scheduling difficulties.) The goal of this forum was to give environmental voters an opportunity to hear what the candidates had to say about the environment. This forum was not connected to any endorsement process. It was organized solely for educational purposes. The format was simple.  Ten different organizations spent 70 minutes asking question’s of Chairman Vincent Gray on issues of concern to the environmental community. Below are very brief summaries that were prepared by 6 of the ten organizations that asked the questions.  These summaries are not  meant to be verbatim summaries but will give you a general sense of what occurred and what was said. Enjoy!

1. DC Farm to School Network Question asked by Andrea Northup:

The environmental community commends you Council-member Gray for co-championing the Healthy Schools Act that went into effect August 1st, 2010.  We have high hopes for its ambitious goals to improve child health and “green” the District’s schools, including the creation of a farm to school program.  But the success of the Act will require much collaboration across District agencies, community partners and school stakeholders – as will other broader efforts to improve the health, nutrition and sustainability of the District and our surrounding environment. As we speak, schools are not yet receiving the financial incentives in the bill that they were promised for improving the nutrition of school meals and serving fresh, local foods – among other requirements.  Will you see that the Healthy Schools Act is FULLY implemented, so that schoolchildren have healthy, “green” schools where they can learn and thrive?  Do you promise to fully support District agencies and foster inter-agency collaboration as the District moves towards a more healthy, just and sustainable food system?

Candidate Vincent Gray’s Response:

Council-member Gray responded with yes, he’s proven time and time again that he has championed a spirit of collaboration in the Council, and would work to do the same among agencies that were to report to him.  On the issue of the Healthy Schools Act in particular, he would task his Deputy Undersecretary for Education with ensuring that the many government agencies tasked with implementing the act communicate and collaborate.I hope that if Gray were to take office, he would hold true to his promise to foster more collaboration among the council and the mayor’s office, as well as among the many agencies that are involved with these cross-cutting environmental issues.  It will really be crucial to the environmental health and safety of the District.Great forum!  Quick, exciting, and a great way to both expose him to the issues we care about and hear what his priorities are.

2. Defeat Poverty DC Question asked by Ed Lazere:

What will you do to make sure that green initiatives that result in more jobs in the District can be used to reduce chronic unemployment in DC’s poorest wards? What is needed to make sure unemployed DC residents can qualify for these jobs?

Candidate Vincent Gray’s Response:

Three-pronged approach – 1) enhance DC’s community college, including a focus on green jobs 2) Focus on repairing DC’s Department of Employment Services and 3) Enhance Career and Technical education in DC public schools. The response suggests a reasonable approach to improving workforce development services in the District.  A Mayor who put a lot of energy and time into these three things would make a big difference.  One missing element, perhaps, is how to assist DC residents who have greater needs, who aren’t in school anymore but are not ready for community college.  These are residents with problems such as low literacy, limited job history and therefore weak “soft” job skills (punctuality, healthy attitude while at work, etc), or substance abuse.  These residents will need more help, including counseling and coaching, to take advantage of the 3 opportunities Gray mentioned.  The forum format was good.  I liked having different groups ask questions.  It would have been ok to be longer and allow questions from the audience.  The space was not great.

3. Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop Question asked by Anya Schoolman:

The Mt Pleasant Solar Coop is pushing for affordable solar for every resident in Washington DC. We see it as a way to build great green jobs and business here in the District and a way to bring down our energy costs for the next 25 years.  We are hoping to create a national model and forge a road to the clean energy economy. A key next step is the creation of solar gardens—the idea is to pass a simple piece of legislation that would allow anyone in the City to own a grid tied solar panel—and get credit on their electric bill–even if the panel  isn’t on their own roof! This would mean that anyone in DC could go solar, even if they lived in an apartment building or condo or public housing. My question is: would you help us pass such legislation and support its implementation and What other ideas do you have to expand and support solar in DC?

Candidate Vincent Gray’s Response:

Gray’s response was that it was an interesting idea and that he would be interested in seeing a draft. He also committed to not diverting rate payer money from the RETF for other uses and dedicated himself to the maintaining the integrity of special use funds. He is well briefed on the particulars.

4. Sierra Club of Washington, DC Question asked by Jim Dougherty:

Its been observed that the environmental movement has gone through three phases. For its first 75 years it focused on protecting wild places, like parks and mountains. Then, in the 1960s, we woke up to the threat posed by pollution, and reoriented our programs to address the prevention and control of pollution. At the turn of this century, we first fully appreciated the gravity of the threat to the integrity of our atmosphere, and have thus begun to focus on global warming as a priority. In the Sierra Club we have one foot firmly planted in the 19th Century. Protecting wild places is just hard-wired into our organizational DNA. Which is why we’re now entering the 17th year of our campaign to protect Klingle Valley.But for the past 25 years most of our park-defense work has focused on the Anacostia. Its mostly there where the big bad development proposals have been targeted, starting with that horrendous power plant that they build on Benning Rd. in the 1930s, and including the Chidren’s Island Amusement Park, the Barney Circle interstate highway project, the jail, the soccer stadium, etc. We see this as an environmental injustice, because these projects would never have been proposed for park land along the Potomac. Our general view is that if it wouldn’t be proposed for Theodore Roosevelt Island then it shouldn’t be proposed for Kingman Island. If its not appropriate for Hain’s Point, then its not appropriate for Poplar Point. Which brings me to Poplar Point. When we negotiated the Anacostia Framework Plan back in 2002 and 2003, the basic plan called for intensive development downriver – especially on the west side. And it called for extensive protection upriver – especially above Massachusetts Ave. and E. Capitol St. In the middle it called for a transition. And Poplar Point fell within the transition.The Plan called for about one million square feet of commercial development, clustered around the Metro station. But the Mayor has recently proposed to build 6 million square feet – 1.5 Pentagons’ worth – of residential and commercial of development at the Point. We say that this violates the Plan and is just plain bad policy. What is your position on this?

Candidate Vincent Gray’s Response:

I agree that limited development at Poplar Point is the way to go – along the general lines of what was proposed in the Plan. We need new development but I favor a balanced approach.

5. Coalition for Smarter Growth Question asked by Cheryl Cort:

Will you ensure that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) does its part to implement improvements to major bus routes? Including recommendations from WMATA bus priority corridor studies that called for dedicated bus lanes and signal priority?

Candidate Vincent Gray’s Response:

Gray said yes. First, Gray committed to fully funding WMATA and supporting bus lanes.Demonstrated commitment to maintaining DC’s support of WMATA as a whole, embraced improvements to bus service by expressing support for dedicated bus lanes.

6. McMillan Park Committee Question asked by Tony Norman:

The McMillan site is one of the few large tacks of land in the City. it is also a historic site, yet the city selected a master developer without putting the site up for public bid and the city intends to subsidize the developer to the amount of $65 million or  more. When you become Major will your administration review this project in terms of putting it up for public bidding so the City would not have to subsidize this project?

Candidate Vincent Gray’s Response:

I worked with Tony for  a number of years and respect his work and this process has been going on (recently) for about three years and whatever happens, not everybody will be satisfied but when I become Mayor I will ask the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development to review the project and the process and I can assure you at the end of day you will be satisfied.  Tony Norman said, “I was not completely satisfied with this response because it is still vague and non-committal;  However if he commits to fairly reviewing the project and the process in terms of respecting historic and open space interest on the site that is the best we can get at this juncture.I found the forum to be well structured and fair to all the sponsoring organizations.”