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Archive for March, 2012


Mayor Gray’s Proposed FY2013 Budget!

Fri Mar 30, 2012 at 10:42:06 AM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

Interested in how Mayor Gray’s proposed budget will impact local environmental programs?

Join the DC Environmental Network, DC Fiscal Policy Institute and other environmental NGOs for two very important budget briefings:

1. District Department of the Environment (DDOE):

On April 12th at 10:00 AM at 1200 First Street NE (Room 718), DDOE Director Christophe Tulou and staff will brief the DC Environmental Network, DC Fiscal Policy Institute and other organizations on the Mayor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget and potential impacts on programs important to the environmental community.

The mission of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is to protect and enhance human health and the environment through preservation, conservation, restoration, education, enforcement, and energy-efficient practices to improve the quality of life in the District of Columbia and build a world-class green city.

DDOE is the lead agency for creating, promulgating and enforcing District of Columbia environmental standards, in addition to implementing, through grant requirements and other mechanisms, federal environmental laws and regulations. The Department also provides certification, review and technical analysis services to both the District government and District residents through inspections, training programs, and permitting processes, in addition to providing energy-related policy, planning and direct services. Finally, the Department develops and implements innovative solutions and programs designed to improve environmental quality and sustainability in the District.

Possible areas of interest: Sustainable Energy Utility, Sustainable DC Initiative, MS4 Enforcement Programs, Coal Tar Enforcement & Education, Special Purpose Funds (Bag Fee, etc.), Lead Safe & Healthy Homes, Fisheries & Wildlife (partial).

RSVP Here to Attend DDOE Budget Briefing!

2. District Department of Transportation (DDOT):

On April 13th at 1:00 PM, DDOT Director Terry Bellamy and staff will hold a briefing on budget issues important to the environmental community. Location: DDOT, 55 M Street SE, Suite 400.

The District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) mission is to enhance the quality of life for District residents and visitors by ensuring that people and goods move safely with minimal adverse impact on residents and the environment.

DDOT executes its mission through the work of the following divisions: The Infrastructure Project Management Administration designs and builds roads and bridges, rails and other transportation projects; the Progressive Transportation Services Administration provides public transportation service through Metro and the Circulator bus system; the Transportation Operations Administration ensures a safe and user-friendly transportation environment; the Planning, Policy and Sustainability Administration develops strategic goals for the agency; the Urban Forestry Administration maintains the District’s street trees, providing our community with traffic calming, improved air quality, increased ground water retention that minimizes runoff and flooding, temperature moderation, and aesthetics.

Possible areas of interest: Klingle Valley Hiker/Biker Trail, Urban Forestry Administration; Bicycle & Pedestrian programs, DC Streetcar, Bicycle Lanes, Capital Bikeshare (partial).

RSVP Here to Attend DDOT Budget Briefing!

Committee on Environment, Public Works and Transportation DDOE/DDOT Hearing:

These two budget briefings are just in time to help us all prepare for Councilmember Mary Cheh’s Committee on the Environment, Public Works & Transportation performance/budget hearing for both DDOE and DDOT. This hearing will be held on April 25th @ 11:00 AM at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Council Chamber (Room 500). Persons wishing to testify can call 202-724-8162 or email

District of Columbia FY2013 Budget Information:

DC Fiscal Policy Institute FY2013 Budget Toolkit

Susie Cambria’s Budget & Policy Corner

The Mayor’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2013 MAIN PAGE

Budget Details for DDOE & DDOT

All are welcome!


Department of the Environment Budget Briefing!

Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 08:47:50 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

Interested in how the Mayor’s proposed budget will affect local environmental programs?

Today District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray released his proposed FY 2013 budget to the DC Council.

The DC Environmental Network and DC Fiscal Policy Institute have asked government agencies for a special opportunity to learn about and discuss how Mayor Gray’s budget will impact programs to fight global warming, restore area rivers and creeks, restore our urban forest and protect the health and economic well being of District residents.

On April 12th at 10:00 AM (1200 First Street NE, Room 718), join the District Department of the Environment, DC Environmental Network and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute for the first of three budget briefings.

RSVP to attend here!

“This budget continues to fund my administration’s top priorities – education, public safety and jobs and economic development – while respecting the fiscal discipline required to safeguard those services for the future,” Mayor Gray said. “We had to make difficult choices, but we believe this budget maintains the right level of government services, including protecting our most vulnerable citizens, without raising taxes.”

Come decide for yourself!

RSVP to attend here!


VIDEO: DC Sustainable Energy Utility

Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 08:33:00 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

Learn about the District’s most aggressive efforts to reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming!

On March 1st the DC Environmental Network held a very informative brown-bag with over 50 participants to discuss the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DC SEU). The DC SEU is arguably the biggest and best funded entity in the District of Columbia whose programs result in reductions in carbon emissions.

The DC SEU is designed to help District households, businesses, and institutions save energy and money through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Led by the non-profit Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), the DC SEU is a project of the Sustainable Energy Partnership under contract to the District Department of the Environment (DDOE).

You can watch our panelists give their introductory remarks here:

Theodore “Ted” Trabue, Managing Director, DC Sustainable Energy Utility

John Macgregor, Chair, Politics & Prose Climate Action Project

Dan Moring, Program Manager, IBC Engineering Services, Inc.

More information coming soon!


Nuclear Power: Do We Really Need a Wake-Up Call?

Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 06:14:34 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

On March 21st at Noon, join Global Green USA , the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and the DC Environmental Network for an important wake-up call with seven nuclear experts and activists from the former Soviet Union and Norway, to discuss lessons learned from the March 11, 2010 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, and the current state of thinking about alternative energy futures, climate change, and nuclear safety and security on this planet.

“We all need a loud wake-up call when it comes to understanding the threat which nuclear power and weapons pose today.  Our expert panelists from Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Norway are frontline heroes in the fight to educate the planet about the very real and tragic events in Fukushima and Chernobyl…something that is guaranteed to be repeated if we don’t change our ways here in the District and across the globe.”

– Paul Walker, Global Green USA

 RSVP to Attend this Important Wake-Up Call!


Just one year ago, March 11, 2011, Japan was hit with a 9.0 earthquake, the largest ever recorded in Japan, and an enormous tsunami, which killed tens of thousands of Japanese citizens and caused the worst nuclear power disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The nuclear power reactors at Fukushima suffered severe damage including fires,explosions, and core meltdowns, releasing radiation into the atmosphere and permanently crippling the reactors.  Decommissioning and cleanup of this disaster will now take decades and hundreds of billions of dollars; no one really knows whether the surrounding region will ever be inhabitable again.

What does this portend for nuclear power and sustainable alternatives today?

Seven environmental and nuclear experts from Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Norway will provide their perspectives on both the Fukushima and Chernobyl catastrophes, and how best to plan our “energy futures” today.


– Kaisha Atakhanova, Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Director, Social EcoFund.  Biologist specializing in genetic effects of nuclear radiation.  Recipient of Goldman Environmental Award in 2005.  Presentation: “Nuclear Legacies: Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Lessons for Rio+20.” Presentation: “Management, Transportation, and Storage of Nuclear Materials and Waste: Challenges and Solutions.”

– Dmytro Khmara, Kiev, Ukraine.  Energy Program Coordinator, National Ecological Center of Ukraine.  Physicist focused on life extensions of aging nuclear power plants. Presentation: “Chernobyl: The Last and Worst Problem of Ukraine’s Energy Policy?”

– Natalia Mironova, Chelyabinsk, Russia.  President, Movement for Nuclear Safety.  Political scientist involved in research and activism around nuclear safety and security, especially regarding the “Mayak” high-level nuclear waste repository in the Chelyabinsk Oblast.  Presentation: “Nuclear Power and Energy Options in Russia – Current Trends.”

– Tatiana Mukhamedyarova, Chelyabinsk, Russia.  Member, Movement for Nuclear Safety.  Psychologist and interpreter involved in socio-economic aspects of energy policy, especially in the Chelyabinsk Region of Russia including the US-Russian Mayak high-level waste storage facility. Presentation: “Social Implications of National Energy Strategies”

– Andrey Talevlin, Chelyabinsk, Russia.  Founder, Public Fund.  A public interest lawyer focused on the environmental impacts of nuclear power and radioactive waste.  Teaches law at Chelyabinsk State University. Presentation: “Nuclear Power Safety and Security in Russia – Legal Frameworks and Regulations.

– Pavel Tishakov, Oslo, Norway.  Project Manager, Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA).  Focused on IAEA nuclear safety projects in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia) and Northwest Russia.  Presentation: “Norwegian contribution to nuclear safety in Bulgaria, Romania, and North-West Russia.”

See more detailed bios here!

RSVP to Attend this Important Wake-Up Call!

All are welcome!


NEW Diesel Health Risk Studies

Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 03:59:49 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) has worked on diesel emission reduction strategies since it was started in 1996. Early in this decade, working with Councilmember’s Mendelson, Graham & Catania, DCEN helped increase momentum at Metro to convert some of the most aging dirty diesel buses to cleaner fuels. Over the years DCEN has advocated for tough idling laws and supported efforts to convert the District’s government vehicles to cleaner technologies. In 2009, working with representatives of the Clean Air Task Force, DCEN held a DC Council briefing to educate decision makers and staff about the dangerous health impacts of diesel pollution and suggested some strategies the District might take. We are currently advocating for a clean construction ordinance to protect workers and all District residents who come across pollution spewing tractors and other construction machinery.

The data in these new reports by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is critical to understanding impacts to human health when we use diesel engines.

Released March 5, 2012:

PRESS STATEMENT from Conrad Schneider, Advocacy Director, Clean Air Task Force, on the release of two major studies of health risks from diesel pollution from National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

“Supporters of cleaning up pollution from millions of older diesel engines across the country just got a powerful boost with the release of two research papers from the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

– NCI press release-

– NCI Q&A –

Industry groups fought in court for years to suppress both reports, but they have now been finally released to the public.

“The two studies, perhaps the most comprehensive ever to examine the public health risks of diesel pollution, looked at a group of 12,000 mining industry workers exposed to diesel carbon particles, and found an astonishing three-fold increased risk of both lung cancer and premature mortality among this study sample.

Furthermore, the researchers found that lifetime exposure to diesel exhaust in some U.S. urban areas with high levels of diesel carbon pollution could carry similar risks.

According to the study, particularly at risk are other workers besides miners who are continuously exposed to diesel exhaust, such as the 1.8 million heavy truck drivers and 460,000 heavy construction equipment operators in this country as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008.

“These studies could not have been released at a more opportune time, as right now Congress is considering two programs that would support reductions of the deadly diesel emissions that threaten workers in these two occupations – truckers and construction workers.

“First, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), reauthorized almost unanimously by Congress in 2010, provides funding for grants and loans to diesel operators to reduce diesel emissions, but is woefully underfunded in the budget currently being considered by Congress.  Instead of the $100 million per year authorized by Congress, the Obama Administration has recommended only $15 million for DERA funding for FY2013, clearly inadequate given the enormous health risks posed by diesel pollution.

“Second, as early as this week, the Senate will move the next Transportation Bill forward, the current version of which includes ‘Clean Construction’ provisions requiring and funding the use of cleaner diesel equipment on federally-funded construction projects in areas of poor air quality.  The latest House version of the bill does not.

“Given what we now know about the lung cancer risks from long-term exposure to diesel emissions, Clean Air Task Force and the grass-roots Diesel Clean-Up Campaign call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that the “Clean Construction” provisions are included in the Transportation Bill, and to restore full funding for DERA.”

For more information on the impact of diesel emissions and the national effort to clean them up, please visit the Diesel Clean-Up Campaign website at   For CATF’s diesel exposure studies that suggest commuters and children on school buses may be exposed to significantly elevated levels of diesel exhaust similar to those observed in some occupational settings, please see:



Bill Would Place Nation’s Capitol at Forefront of Pesticide Reduction

Sun Mar 04, 2012 at 11:14:59 AM EST

By Paul Tukey, Safe Lawns Foundation

Dr. Jerome Paulson of the Children's National Medical Center testifies on behalf of pesticide reduction on Monday, flanked by Dr. Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Paul Tukey of the Safe Lawns Foundation on Monday. (Chris Weiss photos)

Dr. Jerome Paulson of the Children’s National Medical Center testifies on behalf of pesticide reduction on Monday, flanked by Dr. Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Paul Tukey of the Safe Lawns Foundation on Monday. (Chris Weiss photos)

WASHINGTON, D.C.– (ENEWSPF) –February 28, 2012. Interviewing witnesses with the precision of a prosecutorial judge, District of Columbia councilwoman Mary Cheh set the stage for an American pesticide showdown Monday afternoon.

In a remarkable session on behalf of the DC Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation the tenured professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University drilled relentlessly into the nuances of a bill, B19-643, “The Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012.” Cheh, a Democrat, called every witness, asked every question and displayed extraordinary stamina in a session that grilled 18 individuals and lasted more than four hours.

I’ve sat through dozens, if not hundreds, of similar sessions and never seen anything quite like Cheh’s attention to detail. In addition to doctors and activists who testified on behalf of the bill, Cheh singlehandedly called pesticide professionals, citizens and a government witness.

The general goal of the Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012 is to review the myriad chemical compounds used as insect, weed and fungal killers and to eliminate all but the least toxic — except in cases of public health where no “safe” alternatives exist. Of the 18 witnesses called, five spoke in favor of the status quo that allows for unrestricted use of synthetic chemicals and 13 were in favor of some measure of pesticide reduction. SafeLawns testified on behalf of a complete elimination of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the landscape, citing several examples of success stories — including nearby Glenstone — where beautiful aesthetics are achieved without synthetic chemical products.

Cheh was especially inquisitive of three doctors who testified on behalf of pesticide reduction strategies.

“Children or adults (exposed to pesticides) can suffer from asthma, heart problems, irregular heart rhythms, recurrent infections, rashes, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, attention deficit-like behavior, altered vision, sense of smell, hearing, taste or touch, balance, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, seizures, weight gain, altered hormones — including premature puberty, growth disruption, ovarian and testicular dysfunction, thyroid problems, and diabetes,” said Dr. Alan Vinitsky, a pediatrician and internist from Gaithersburg, Md. “There can be increased infertility, increased miscarriages, increased congenital malformations, or a fetus can take on the pesticides, and be saddled with the pesticide burden at birth.”

The representatives of the synthetic chemical pesticide industry, on the other hand, generally pointed to EPA approval of their products as an endorsement for safety “when used as directed by the label.”

Kate Shenk of RISE, right, said she feared her local parks, playgrounds and schools would be overrun with pesticides if the District of Columbia disallows synthetic chemical pesticides. Kate Shenk of RISE, right, said she feared her local parks, playgrounds and schools would be overrun with pests if the District of Columbia disallows synthetic chemical pesticides.

“So you’re saying that these previous witnesses are not truthful?” asked Cheh of Kate Shenk, a recent college graduate who represented herself as a paid advisor to the Responsible Industry of a Sound Environment (RISE), the lead lobbying industry for the synthetic chemical fertilizer and pesticide industry. RISE representatives appear at virtually all U.S. legislative attempts to reduce pesticides. The organization’s goal is to advance the theory that without the synthetic chemical pesticides then children’s and environmental health will suffer — yet Cheh was clearly not buying into the paid rhetoric.

“We clearly have more work to do here to determine who is telling the truth,” she said.

Though the hearing was preliminary in nature, the bill is historically sweeping in its potential. Although all synthetic chemical pesticides would still be available under the bill in cases of public health situations where no reduced-risk alternatives exist, the spirt of the DC bill calls for elimination of synthetic chemicals except as a last resort.

In reality, the District of Columbia is a small market due to the relatively small population of less than a million people. Yet people on both sides of the argument were clearly aware of the District of Columbia’s strategic importance in the pesticide debate.

In other words, if an elected official in Maryland, or Virginia, or Oregon for that matter, hears that Washington, D.C., has banned or restricted pesticides, it will likely get that politician’s attention.

It’s too soon to tell how the DC legislation will play out, but if the day’s final witness was any indication, then history may be in the making.

“I’m here to testify on behalf of the Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012,” said Christophe Tulou, director of the DC Department of the Environment.

Why is that significant?

Because it would be Tulou’s job to do the extra work to monitor, manage and enforce the new pesticide law if it passes. Most government officials we’ve met in the past have voted against extra hours, tasks and procedures.

Both Cheh and Tulou are saying loudly and clearly: Bring it on.

Christophe Tulou welcomed the challenge of pesticide reduction in the District of Columbia.Christophe Tulou welcomed the challenge of pesticide reduction in the District of Columbia.