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Archive for October, 2012


Power Grid Confidence!

Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 03:43:43 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network Invites All Metro-Based Environmentalists to a Brown-Bag Discussion:

Mark your calendars! On October 17th at Noon at the DC Environmental Network headquarters (1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor), interested environmentalists and others will be holding part two of our discussion about what the Washington Metro Region might do to restore confidence in our power grid. RSVP Here!


On September 6th, the DC Environmental Network convened a discussion to engage the local environmental community to start to develop a consensus position on what might be done to restore confidence in the region’s power grid.

Video of our September 6th discussion:

Some of what came out in our discussion included:

– Reliability is a necessary precondition for a utility’s delivery of electric service. Germany’s grid has outages at a rate of 21 minutes per year. Pepco’s reliability, ranked in the bottom quartile among all US municipalities, exposes rate payers to multiple outages annually, involving days, hours and minutes without power. The health hazards this creates are unacceptable and the economic cost to rate payers, personally, and to local governments and businesses is measured in the billions. Future grid reliability must be built around features that protect vulnerable populations and institutions from the impact of severe weather episodes.

– DC needs the Council to demand accountability for lack of grid reliability. The DC public has not simply lost confidence in Pepco’s ability to deliver electric service, there is widespread concern that some legislators and the regulators who hold the utilities accountable are “in Pepco’s pocket.”

– Why is DC’s grid unreliable? First and foremost, Pepco’s top management is not committed to assuring that everything they do help make for reliable electric service. Additionally, the current grid is nearing the end of its lifecycle. It cannot be patched-up to meet future demands, applications and environmental conditions. These problems cannot be addressed by a utility whose overarching priority remains the financial interests of its investors and top managers.

– So, what features should a reliable 21st century grid include?

  • additional selective undergrounding is advisable, but because Pepco’s cost estimates exceed independent estimates by a factor of 8, this may be too unfeasible;
  • it should address role of and 21st century needs for power in all aspects of everyday life; and,
  • the capacity to handle the dynamic functions of local power generation, load management and electricity storage;
  • “control” functions enabling it to cull data from the grid and act on it;
  • these features should be interconnected and interact in ways that improve efficiency, reliability, cost and sustainability.

– What will a new grid cost? How long will it take to build? Who may invest in the grid and who will bear the costs? How can benefits be calculated?

Design, construction and investment in a 21st century reliable grid should not be limited to utilities, ratepayers and local jurisdictions.  In addition to helping spawn new businesses — e.g., EVs and EV charging stations —  a 21st century grid should open new business opportunities for the utility as well as for entrepreneurs and local governments.

– Key reliable grid implementation milestones:

  • Selective burying of power lines
  • Full rollout of targeted smart grid
  • Rollout of distributed generation
  • Rollout of commissioning of buildings for EE and data capture
  • Energy storage
  • Annual grid infrastructure investment indices: thousands of construction, hundreds of permanent jobs; outage times; wholesale electric rate reductions

Our October 17th discussion will include the perspectives of decision makers from MD, DC and VA. Local leaders will share their thoughts and ideas and will participate in an open discussion.

RSVP Here!  All are welcome!


DC Environmental Network Elections Forum!

Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 03:00:55 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network Invites All Metro-Based Environmentalists to a Brown-Bag Discussion:

On November 1st at NOON the DC Environmental Network will be holding our monthly brown-bag networking opportunity. We will be hosting an open discussion about the upcoming elections on November 6th.  Our brown-bag will be at the headquarters of the DC Environmental Network, 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor.

RSVP Here!

Although this will not be an official candidates forum, any candidate or campaign representative who attends and wants to make a 3-5 minute statement at the beginning of the discussion are welcome to do so. Candidates or campaign representatives are also welcome to participate in the discussion segment of our brown-bag.

This discussion will be designed to educate DC Environmental Network participants about what is at stake in this election cycle and possibly inform folks about the environmental records of some of the candidates.

There will be no endorsements associated with this event but groups who make endorsements are welcome to share their rationale for endorsing one way or another. We already have numerous campaigns signed up to participate. All are welcome.

RSVP Here!


DC Council Healthy Schools Act Roundtable!

Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:49:24 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network encourages all interested parties to participate in the upcoming hearings being held by DC Council Chairperson Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Mary Cheh. One hearing will be focused on implementation of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 and the other will be focused on DC Public Schools (DCPS) food service programs. Both will focus on health and environmental concerns important to many NGOs in the District. All are welcome.

From the offices of Councilmember Mary Cheh:

Dear Healthy Schools Friends,

I want to let you know that the D.C. Council will be holding two hearings on healthy schools issues in a few weeks:

On Monday, October 29, Councilmember Mary M. Cheh will be holding a hearing on the implementation of the Healthy Schools Act and the District’s Environmental Literacy Plan.  This hearing will explore school nutrition, physical education, health education, wellness programs, school gardens, farm-to-school programs, and environmental programs in public and charter schools in the District of Columbia.  The hearing will also examine the District’s new Environmental Literacy Plan, which was required by the Healthy Schools Act.


On Thursday, November 1, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson will be holding a hearing on the DCPS Food Services program.  The purpose of the hearing will be to discuss the challenges that the DCPS food service program has faced, the DCPS food services contracting process, and how DCPS food service program can be further improved without sacrificing food quality.


These hearings will be broadcast on Channel 13 and streamed online at We would welcome testimony from all interested stakeholders – parents, teachers, experts, advocates, and community members.  Please feel free to spread the word about these hearings.

Offices of Councilmember Mary Cheh
Chairperson, Committee on the Environment, Public Works & Transportation

All are welcome!


How Green is Mayor Gray?

Thu Oct 04, 2012 at 10:32:49 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

Dear District of Columbia Environmental Community:

I am writing you today to invite you to an important discussion about the recent firing of former DDOE Director Christophe Tulou and the future of environmental initiatives in the District of Columbia.

Our discusson is scheduled for Today at Noon (1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor) and will feature:

Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus, Friends of the Earth
Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network
– Representatives from the Environmental Community, Government and the Media.

(Your presence is preferred but a call-in number may be available. Contact me if you are interested in participating in this manner.)



Everyone knows Mayors across the country can sometimes have disagreements with their appointed agency heads and no one is suggesting Mayor Gray does not have the right to dismiss an agency director. What is confusing for many in the environmental community is that from our perspective, Director Tulou was strongly representing the interests of the Mayor and moving sustainability initiatives forward in a meaningful way. SEE POST.

Additionally, a recent series of articles in the Washington Times have painted a picture that is not consistant with the official statements of the Gray administration:

– Possible illegal firing of former DDOE Director Tulou. See “Whistleblower Claims Firing Follwed Red Flag on D.C. Green Project Delay”, Washington Times, September 30, 2012.

– Evidence that former Director Tulou was doing his job. See “Former DDOE Chief Cautioned Officials on River Clean Up Delays”, Washington Times, September 27, 2012.

– Evidence of mis-handling of the process to explain the Mayor’s decision to DDOE employees. See “D.C. Environment staff Unsettled by ‘Attila the Hun’ Talk After Firing”, Washington Times, September 25, 2012.

Extremely troubling to many of us who regularly work with the talented staff at DDOE:

“One who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity, citing fears about job security, said the remarks had a “devastating impact on staff morale.”  – Washington Times, September 30, 2012

Another concern is that Mayor Gray is stepping back from his stated goal of “making the District the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable city in the nation.” In fact one of Mayor Gray’s spokesman, Tony Robinson, seemed to put in question the central role of DDOE:

“… but Robinson [Spokesperson for City Administrator Allen Lew under Mayor Vincent Gray] also anticipates that Lew, who manages the day-to-day operations of D.C. government, will take a hard look at DDOE as new leadership is installed. “I do think it would be fair to say the city administrator is taking a look at the agency to ensure that it’s working the way it’s supposed to,” Robinson said, “in that it’s carrying out its regulatory responsibility but also at the same time it’s not overstepping its role as regulator and moving into the role of advocate.”” – Washington Business Journal, September 7, 2012


It is in this confusing environment, with so many unanswered questions and mounting concerns,  that the environmental community needs to convene and discuss what we need to do in order to protect the progress we have made on many fronts. We will attempt to answer some of these questions:

– What happened and why?
– Does this signal a new direction for this administration on sustainability issues?
– Will this change impact the vision and direction of the Mayor’s Sustainable DC initiative?
– Is the Mayor still committed to his stated goal of “making the District the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable city” in the nation? Will current changes impact, for example, meaningful stormwater and wetlands regulations that are at a critical stage of development?
– What can the environmental community do to make sure we do not backslide on current environmental initiatives and keep the momentum in the District moving forward?
– Who should lead the District Department of the Environment (DDOE)?

We hope tomorrow’s meeting will start an important discussion that will help us continue moving forward in the District and region. Come prepared to  share your thoughts.  RSVP Here!

All are welcome.

Chris Weiss
Executive Director
DC Environmental Network


DC Council Convenes Recycling Roundtable

Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 10:25:03 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

DC Environmental Network (DCEN) & Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CORR) submit joint testimony.

On September 28th Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation held a public oversight roundtable on recycling and waste disposal in the District of Columbia.

Many organizations testified including the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Alice Ferguson Foundation, Sustainable Community Initiatives, Waste Division DC, Free State Farms, Sierra Club (DC Chapter), Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery and the DC Environmental Network. Bayshore Recycling, Progressive Waste, C&D Recycling & Broad Run Recycling represented the business community. Bill Howland, Department of Public Works, represented Mayor Gray.

Matt de la Houssaye, Program Associate for Global Green USA, testified on behalf of the Coalition for Resource Recovery (CORR) and the DC Environmental Network. He described Global Green USA programs focused on food-service packaging, recyclable alternatives to wax boxes in the meat and produce industries and food waste recovery systems and technologies.

More importantly, Matt communicated a willingness to share recycling and waste expertise that Global Green USA has accrued in New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles and in many other communities throughout the United States.

Read Testimony Here!