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Archive for January, 2011

31
Jan

Anacostia River: Cleanup Status at Kenilworth, Washington Gas & Poplar Point Contaminant Sites

Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 06:59:19 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network Invites All Metro-Based Environmentalists to a BROWN BAG LUNCHEON:

featuring:

– Dottie Yunger, Anacostia Riverkeeper (moderator)

– Representatives: DC Department of Environment, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

– Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network

– Brent Bolin, Director of Advocacy, Anacostia Watershed Society

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT!

Background:

EPA has identified six contaminant sites of concern in the Anacostia Watershed—the Washington Navy Yard, Southeast Federal Center, Poplar Point, Kenilworth Landfill, Washington Gas Light and PEPCO Benning Road. These sites are contaminated by a range of toxics, including PCBs (Polyclorinated biphenyls), PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and heavy metals—toxics that endanger the health of the river and the communities that live, work, and play nearby. Over the years, clean-up efforts have been sporadic at best.

Meanwhile, the Anacostia River and the people and wildlife that inhabit it suffer. Two- thirds of the brown bullhead catfish, a popular catch for local fisherman, have cancerous lesions and sores. Three of these sites are in census tracts where residents have household incomes of less than $40,000. These economically disadvantaged communities are bearing the brunt of contaminants in the watershed.

There are many DC based environmental organizations that share significant concerns about toxics in the Anacostia River –  Anacostia Riverkeeper, Anacostia Watershed Society, Anacostia Watershed Citizens Advisory Committee, DC Environmental Network, Groundwork Anacostia River and Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program. These groups are working hard to convince decision makers at the local and national level to take transparent and legally enforceable actions to address the contamination at the six sites. On September 1st, 2010, then DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray, Councilmember Marion Barry, Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., and Councilmember Tommy Wells signed a pledge to work towards these same goals.

Mayor Gray, Councilmember's Barry,Thomas & Wells Take Pledge!

Purpose of Our Briefing & Discussion:

The numerous government agencies at the local and federal level play different but important roles in the cleanup, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, District Department of the Environment, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Understanding the roles of these agencies is important to ensuring timely cleanup and informed public participation. In the spirit of the New Year, interested stakeholders from both government and the NGO community will meet to:

– Provide an overview on roles and responsibilities of DC, EPA, and DOI.
– Provide updates on cleanup status for Kenilworth, Washington Gas, and Poplar Point.
– Discuss strategies for improving communication and public participation as cleanups progress.

Anacostia Riverkeeper Dottie Yunger will moderate this first Anacostia River discussion of the year. All are welcome to participate.

DATE: Wednesday, February 23, 2011

TIME: 12:00 NOON to 1:30 PM

PLACE: Global Green USA (offices of Friends of the Earth), 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor. Near Farragut North & McPherson Square Metro Stations

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT!

CALL-IN NUMBER: 775-269-3893 When prompted enter 399602

For more information contact Chris Weiss at 202-518-8782.

25
Jan

DC Climate Update: What Can We Do at the Local Level?

Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 03:51:26 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network Invites All Metro-Based Environmentalists to a BROWN BAG LUNCHEON:

featuring:

– Mike Healy, Skyline Innovations and Board Member, MD/DC/VA Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA)
– Felipe Witchger, Lead Organizer, Energy & Partnerships, The DC Project
– John Macgregor, Politics & Prose Climate Action Project
– Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network (moderator)

Background:

The Wall Street Journal reported today that sources are suggesting “there will be no (federal) climate or carbon bill in the next two years.” Additionally it looks like Carol Browner is leaving her position as “energy czar” and President Obama probably will not maintain this high level position in its current form, possibly to appease business leaders. Congressional Republicans are looking to push back on some of the limited progress that has been made to curb carbon emissions. All of this is happening even as we see new evidence of global warming and its potential impacts each day.

What does that mean to us here in the District of Columbia?

It means state and local governments and the communities within them have to continue to be the driver for policies and programs that reduce energy use and significantly curb carbon emissions. The District and surrounding region is very lucky to have a highly motivated group of organizations and activists who are working hard to fight global warming. We will have brief presentations from some of these climate heroes on what are priorities might be with a new Mayor and a re-configured DC Council.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT!

What climate policy changes are on the table today in the District?

Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (Ward 3) recently introduced two bills to bring cleaner and more reliable electricity to DC. We will also discuss what needs to be done to improve and help pass these two bills.

– The first bill, the Reliable Electric Service Amendment Act of 2011 ( click to view), would establish reliability performance standards and authorize the Public Service Commission, the entity responsible for overseeing the electrical grid in DC, to impose penalties on utilities that do not meet those standards. According to a recent Washington Post report, outages in the District occur more frequently and for longer than in other areas. Among the provisions in the bill are benchmarks that would improve the District’s electric reliability from the bottom 20% for reliability to the top 20% by 2020. “The reliability of the District’s electricity system is among the worst in the country and the Public Service Commission has allowed PEPCO to continue making large profits,” said Cheh. “It’s time for the District to establish clear standards for reliability and hold utilities accountable for failing to meet them.”

– The second bill, the Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011 ( click to view), would reduce the load on the District’s distribution grid by increasing the amount of solar energy used in DC. The legislation would increase the solar-energy set aside of the existing Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to 2.5% by 2020. It would also require utility companies to purchase solar-energy credits from systems located within the District or served by the District’s distribution grid. “Solar energy is thriving in the District, but more needs to be done,” said Cheh. “By creating new incentives for solar systems, we get cleaner and more reliable electricity in DC.”

Join us for this important discussion!

DATE: Thursday, February 3, 2011
TIME: 12:00 NOON to 1:30 PM
PLACE: Global Green USA (offices of Friends of the Earth), 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor. Near Farragut North & McPherson Square Metro Stations

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT!

CALL-IN NUMBER: 775-269-3893 When prompted enter 399602

For more information contact Chris Weiss at 202-518-8782.

24
Jan

Living Wages, Healthy Communities Coalition to Hold Community Advocacy Day!

Mon Jan 24, 2011 at 11:49:24 AM EST

by Chris Weiss, Director, DC Environmental Network

On January 27th, join the DC Environmental Network (DCEN) in asking your City Council-members to demand that Walmart sign an enforceable Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) guaranteeing that it will protect our environment, treat its workers with dignity, provide full-time living wage jobs with good benefits, and help our neighborhoods improve their economic standing and quality of life.

The DC Environmental Network is particularly interested in Wal-Mart respecting the current direction of existing environmental standards in the District that can help mitigate the impact multiple stores can have on our local environment. Our environmental asks include:

  • Wal-Mart shall commit to the District’s Green Building Act requirements that go into effect for private developments in 2012;
  • Wal-Mart shall commit to matching stormwater retention standards for Federal buildings in the District of Columbia, through use of green infrastructure techniques to help clean up area rivers and creeks;
  • Wal-Mart shall commit to responsible traffic alleviation studies and measures that promote walkability and increase the quality of life for residents;
  • Wal-Mart shall commit to working closely with the District Department of the Environment and the Sustainable Energy Utility to develop a climate action plan for District of Columbia stores that is worthy of our nation’s capital city and its communities.

Let me know if you would like to participate in our Community Advocacy Day!  Contact me at cweiss@dcen.net or call 202-421-7319. See additional details below!

23
Jan

Environmentalists Win Clean Water Victory!

Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:38:39 PM EST

by John Krohn, Manager Legislative Affairs, National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)

Last November, John Krohn (NACWA), George Hawkins (DC Water) and Christophe Tulou (DDOE) shared their efforts to convince federal agencies to pay their fair share of the cost of managing stormwater. See Earlier Presentations. John reports on a successful effort on the part of many. CW

John Krohn, National Association of Clean Water Agencies

On Tuesday, January 4th President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that reinforces the federal government’s responsibility to pay reasonable service charges to state or local governments to address stormwater pollution originating from federal properties. The legislation clarifies that federal agencies are responsible for paying reasonable charges associated with implementing the Clean Water Act’s requirements for stormwater management. The law specifies that as long as the charges are non-discriminatory, based on a fair approximation of the proportionate contribution of stormwater pollution contributed by the federal property, and are used to pay for costs associated with any stormwater management program, then these fees must be paid by federal agencies. Passage of the law has been covered by national and local media sources and will assist cities like Washington, D.C. and others in collecting funds from Federal facilities that benefit from local stormwater services.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) was a key leader in moving this issue forward. Their efforts began when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) initially determined that federal agencies in the District of Columbia would not be required to pay a recently enacted stormwater fee levied by DC Water and the District Department of the Environment. The fee sought to meet requirements of the city’s Long Term Control Plan to correct CSO overflows and to meet the conditions of their MS4 permit.

John Krohn cleaning up Area Rivers.

Following the fed’s decision, NACWA took a leadership role and immediately worked with Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) to have legislation introduced in both Houses of Congress. NACWA also organized a coalition of over 15 key municipal and environmental organizations that helped press for passage of the legislation. John Krohn, Legislative Manager at NACWA, was an integral part of this effort and briefed the DC Environmental Network on the issue in November 2010. John, other NACWA staff, and other activists were busy building support to ensure passage during the very hectic last days of the lame duck session of the 111th congress.

In the coming weeks federal inter-agency guidance is expected to be issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) outlining how the law should be implemented. NACWA is working to ensure that this guidance is favorable towards municipalities in that stormwater fees will not require a special appropriation to be paid and that the law is applicable to previously existing disputes where stormwater fees remain outstanding.

Questions? Feel free to contact John or get in touch with him at a local meeting or event of the DC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation where John serves as Vice-Chair.

18
Jan

The Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011: Critical for Our Solar Community

Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:23:53 PM EST

By Yuri Horwitz, Board Member, Maryland/DC/Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA)

District of Columbia Council Member Mary Cheh recently introduced one of the more important pieces of legislation the District’s solar community has seen in some time: the Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011.  This bill sets a framework and goals for the District that will ensure the development of a robust solar community; creating jobs, providing a price hedge against rising energy costs, strengthening the local transmission grid, and producing significant localized environmental benefits.

The bill accomplishes this in two ways.  First, it increases the solar renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements for the District so that these requirements look more like Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and other states with similar policies in place.  This sets up the long-term foundation for the solar community, and positions the District as one of the leading cities to attract and retain investment in solar.  Second, it ensures that only solar systems actually located on the District’s distribution grid qualify towards DC’s RPS, or our solar energy goals. This has the added effect of stimulating local economic development while ensuring DC reaps the many benefits of distributed solar energy. 

So what is a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)?

A renewable portfolio standard is a legislated policy that requires energy suppliers to provide a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable energy in a state, or in this case, the District.  This means that for every unit of electricity provided to the district, let’s say 100 megawatt hours, some percent must come from wind, solar, biomass etc. 

The District’s RPS has a specific requirement for solar, so that for every unit of electricity some percent must come specifically from solar systems.  Energy suppliers can then either (1) supply this solar electricity from solar systems they build, or (2) pay someone (like a homeowner) to supply it for them.  This is done by purchasing the solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), something akin to carbon credits, associated with the solar system. SRECs are key to making solar affordable and they are fundamental for making solar systems economical for homeowners and businesses. 

RPS legislation like the District’s is very common. Altogether, 36 states have a RPS or similar legislation and 16 states have a RPS with a solar carve-out similar to that in DC. The Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011 makes some critical tweaks to the RPS that will ensure its effectiveness in the future.

Why is solar beneficial to the District of Columbia?

Distributed solar generation provides significant local benefits, especially for the District of Columbia, which currently imports almost 100% of all of its energy supply.  These benefits include increasing the stability and reliability of the local distribution grid and diversifying the District’s fuel sources to decrease the price vulnerability District rate-payers incur by relying solely upon fossil fuel sources, which have significant variable costs.   

Additionally, solar generators will have a positive impact on the city’s environment, especially as it relates to local pollutants such as NOx and SOx, and in reducing the heat-islanding affects found in DC.  Solar energy significantly reduces the demand for energy during the middle of the day, and specifically during the summer.  This aligns with peak demand, and disproportionately offsets highly polluting “peaker” units. 

The solar industry has also created over 600 jobs in the District of Columbia and this bill forges the foundation necessary for sustainable industry growth for years to come, creating many more local green collar jobs.  Increased solar jobs and distributed solar installations also represent a significant revenue stream for the city through increased tax revenues.  

What are the benefits of the legislation for a homeowner?

Homeowners save a substantial amount of money on their electricity by securing solar power, between 30-50%, depending on the size of their solar system. The average savings is between $400-800 annually. Homeowners and business can also sell the green attributes associated with their energy production in the form of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) to energy suppliers to help meet the District’s RPS goals.  A homeowner will earn between $900-1800 each year selling SRECs. This is why an effective renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is so critical for solar financing.

The Distributed Generation Act of 2011 provides homeowners and businesses that are interested in going solar with a significant economic incentive to do so.  The legislation creates a long-term and sustainable market for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) which solar system owners can sell to energy suppliers.  SRECs are the single most important component to ensuring that solar energy is affordable by aligning the high up-front costs of the technology with its long-term benefits.  The legislation ensures that the market for SRECs will remain stable and strong into the future, which will spur solar development and investment in the District.

For the District’s environmental community, this bill couples a move towards a more sustainable future, while also creating jobs and helping local industry.  It is well crafted, with significant support from the solar industry, and it is a piece of legislation worth your support. If you want DC to lay the foundation for a sustainable solar community and spur solar development in the city, we urge you to contact your council member.

The DC Environmental Network will be working to help pass this important legislation. If you are interested in getting involved contact Chris Weiss at cweiss@dcen.net.

18
Jan

Living Wages Healthy Communities Coalition March to Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 11:22:32 AM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

Over 50 members of the Living Wages Healthy Communities coalition, including environmental, labor and faith leaders, marched in the 5th Annual MLK Peace Walk to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in the same spirit ask Walmart to Respect DC by supporting living wages and green buildings to help keep communities whole. The DC Environmental Network is a active member of this important progressive coalition.

15
Jan

Join DCEN and the Living Wages Healthy Communities Coalition to Honor Martin Luther King!

Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 12:23:31 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) is working with the Living Wages Healthy Communities Coalition to develop a Community Benefits Agreement with Walmart. Walmart is proposing developing 2-4 new stores in Washington, DC. We are hoping our efforts in coordination with this Living Wages Healthy Communities Coalition  will result in development that not only protects but enhances the quality of our local environment.

We believe being part of this broad coalition is a good model for creating sustainable communities. (This model was successfully used to create environmental, housing and job standards for all new developments along the Anacostia River a few years back.)

We are hoping our efforts here will influence how the District approaches growth and development throughout the city. We invite the environmental community to be part of our coordinated efforts.

In the meantime come join us on Monday, January  17th at 9:00 AM at Anacostia Metro Station and look for the Respect DC banner. Environmental, labor, religious and other community focused organizations and individuals will march together to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and urge Walmart to respect District communities and help create developments that make sense and don’t hurt our fragile urban environment.

WHAT: MLK Peace Walk with the Living Wages Healthy Communities Coalition
DATE & TIME: Monday, January 17th at 9:AM
PLACE: We will meet at the Anacostia Metro Station. Our banner will be displayed right outside the main entrance.
RSVP: Let me know you are coming! RSVP to cweiss@dcen.net .

Apologies for the late notice. I look forward to seeing some of you on Monday!