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Archive for January, 2014


Suppport Clean, Not Dirty Energy!

Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:13:45 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

On Monday, February 3rd at 10: AM at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, join the DC Environmental Network, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, DC Divest, Global Green USA, Green Cross International, Interfaith Power & Light, Sierra Club, Washington, Parks & People and others as we call on the DC Council to take action and pass Bill 20-418, the “Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Amendment Act of 2013.  Sign-Up to Participate Here!

Our Statement

We write to convey the environmental community’s serious concerns about the slow progress being made to pass Bill 20-418, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Amendment Act of 2013.” This bill is an important modification to the District’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). We urge the Committee on Government Operations to schedule a mark-up soon and send this bill to the full Council.

On July 10th, 2013, over six months ago, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced B20-418, the “Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Amendment Act of 2013,” at the request of the DC Environmental Network, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club and others. Councilmember David Grosso co-sponsored this legislation.

As you know, this simple and long overdue bill is an important and necessary update to the Renewable Portfolio Standard passed in 2005 to increase the amount of clean energy District residents use and to clean up some of the loopholes that have made it possible to incentivize dirty forms of energy, including black liquor and other combustibles, which are not consistent with the RPS’ original intent.

On October 16th, 2013, your committee held a hearing in which the DC Environmental Network, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, DC Divest, Sierra Club, Interfaith Power & Light, Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, Office of the People’s Council and others testified in support of this legislation. The District Department of the Environment, which had originally planned on introducing the same legislation, and the Public Service Commission, gave excellent testimony on how this bill could be implemented in a timely manner.

The environmental community worked in November and December to keep the momentum going and pushed hard for support and a mark-up of the bill.

Today, already a month into the New Year and even as Maryland moves positively towards passage of a similar bill, the District’s effort to fix this flaw in our RPS seems to be stalled.

As some of us communicated in our testimony last October, there is no credible reason for delaying the passage of this legislation despite what opponents have suggested:

– Opponents of the legislation argue that Bill 20-418 would remove the entire category of biomass from the District’s RPS. That is incorrect. Rather, the bill places common sense standards on the eligibility of biomass by removing decades-old paper mills and old, inefficient biomass facilities from the top Tier of DC’s RPS while continuing to support new high-efficiency biomass systems. District residents should be getting the most bang for their RPS buck by incentivizing the construction of new clean energy facilities instead of sending money to faraway paper mills and power plants that would be operating even without a subsidy.

– Opponents also argue that that black liquor and other paper mills residues are “carbon neutral” and that the District should wait for guidance from the EPA. Unfortunately, the EPA report on biomass carbon emissions may not come out for several months, and it will not offer any useful guidance on how jurisdictions should manage their RPS laws.  The fact remains that the biomass facilities that qualify as Tier 1 energy in DC’s RPS were built decades ago and cannot, therefore, contribute to reducing CO2 or any other pollutants below current levels. Paper mills will continue to burn black liquor regardless of “carbon neutrality.” The only way to reduce pollution below current levels is to build new clean energy facilities to displace high-emitting fossil fuel generation.

More importantly, evidence for the need to take action keeps piling up every day.

Eugene Robinson, opinion writer at the Washington Post, recently cited a new study in the journal Nature that demonstrates “the eventual effect of human-generated carbon emissions could be greater than anticipated. Because of the impact of warming on cloud cover, the researchers calculated, average global temperatures could rise a full 7 degrees by the end of the century. This “would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous…” (Dire Signs from a Warming World, Washington Post, January 27, 2014)

The District of Columbia should be using all the tools at its disposal to incentivize the use of clean energy, including wind and solar, and to address climate change and carbon emissions. We already have a Renewable Portfolio Standard.  If we pass Bill 20-418 and fix the loopholes, we can take a positive step towards helping create a clean energy economy, a critical component of the city’s Sustainable DC plan.

Our Ask:

We urge the Committee on Government Operations to quickly move Bill 20-418, the “Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Amendment Act of 2013,” and send it to the full Council. This is something we should be able to do quickly and it will have a positive impact on the District’s efforts to become a clean energy leader in the nation.

Sign-Up to Participate Here!

All are welcome!


United for a Healthy Anacostia River!

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 08:56:10 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network Invites All Metro-Based Environmentalists and Others to Our Monthly Brown-Bag Discussion & Networking Opportunity!

On February 6th at NOON, join the DC Environmental Network for our monthly brown-bag networking opportunity featuring a discussion about the Federal City Council’s Anacostia Initiative to educate decision makers and others about bottom sediments polluted by legacy toxics. This brown-bag will be held at the offices of the DC Environmental Network/Global Green USA, 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor. RSVP HERE!

Our panel will include:

Anthony Williams, Former District of Columbia Mayor, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Federal City Council
Doug Siglin, Executive Director, Anacostia River Initiative
James Foster, President, Anacostia Watershed Society
Mike Bolinder, Anacostia Riverkeeper
Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

The Anacostia River is a huge part of what is the District of Columbia. Rivers and creeks weave through many of our neighborhoods and define who we are as a people and are a barometer for how much we care about our communities. RSVP HERE!

The state of the Anacostia River:

Even as 17,000 people eat fish caught from the Anacostia River each year the Anacostia continues to hold the sad distinction of being one of the more polluted waterways in the nation. Contaminants (PCBs & PAHs) in the river’s bottom sediments are at levels 2-10 times higher than probable effects thresholds for living organisms. Unlike other rivers 2/3 of catfish pulled from the Anacostia River have tumors or lesions.

Over the last few decades there have been numerous efforts to deal with the raw sewage and polluted stormwater that makes its way into the Anacostia River. There has also been some attention given to land-based toxic hotspots at the Washington Gas Station site, Kenilworth Park Landfill site and Poplar Point site.

It is only in 2011 that stakeholders began to look seriously at addressing contaminated bottom sediment in the Anacostia River but already progress is slow or stalled. Even with assurances last April by District Department of the Environment (DDOE) Director Keith Anderson that a Remedial Investigation (RI) of the bottom sediments would be complete in February 2014 and a Feasibility Study (FS) would be complete in 2015, it is unlikely DDOE would meet these deadlines as a work plan has not yet been released.

This stalled schedule also begins to impact Mayor Vincent Gray’s goal of a fishable and swimmable Anacostia River by 2032.

United for a Healthy Anacostia River:

To jumpstart this process, the Summit Fund of Washington recently partnered with the Federal City Council to, among other things, create a framework to increase awareness of the need to clean up toxic chemicals found in the bottom sediment of the Anacostia River. The DC Environmental Network and others are getting organized to support this effort and have joined a new coalition “United for a Healthy Anacostia River.”

On February 6th at NOON, join the DC Environmental Network brownbag luncheon to give representatives of the Federal City Council and all of us an opportunity to learn about and discuss efforts to create new energy and educational opportunities focused on the toxic bottom sediments in the Anacostia River.

This DCEN event will be a special opportunity for all of us to join the new coalition “United for a Healthy Anacostia River” and take action on this important endeavor.

All are welcome. RSVP HERE!


Pushing the Sustainability Envelope?

Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 12:01:04 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

On Wednesday, January 8th at 11:00 AM, join the DC Environmental Network and testify at a DC Council Public Hearing and help fix Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013!”

Legislation & Hearing Notice:

Text of “Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013.”

DC Council Joint Hearing & Sign-Up Information.


As the new year begins District residents have important work to do to make sure we make progress towards making DC a more sustainable city. In early October, the DC environmental community was alerted to the introduction, by Mayor Vincent Gray, of legislation that is described as “supportive” of his vision to make the District of Columbia, “in one generation,” the “healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States.”

On November 7th the DC Environmental Network held our monthly networking opportunity giving over 50 environmental leaders and District residents an opportunity to to hear District Department of the Environment (DDOE) Director Keith Anderson talk about the goals of Mayor Gray’s legislation. Participants also had an opportunity to comment and ask questions about the proposal.

The Mayor’s proposal claims to do a lot of things including (partial):

– Ban polystyrene.
– Improve public engagement in the operation of District energy programs and improve benchmarking.
– Protect public health by making sure contractors who perform radon mitigation services meet professional standards.
– Create standards for beekeeping.
– Improve current tree protection laws.

Although some of the provisions are a positive step forward it is clear that we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work to make sure this legislation results in real, meaningful benefits for District residents and the environment they live and work in.

DCEN will be opposing some of the provisions.

The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) has identified numerous problems with Mayor Gray’s legislation and will be testifying in opposition to some of the provisions including (partial): abolishing the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) Advisory Board; requiring implementation of a polystyrene ban in 2018 (DCEN would like to see implementation a bit sooner); and ability to use tree funds for maintenance and other non-tree canopy expansion efforts. DCEN will be working to secure amendments to some of these provisions and will, when possible, score votes for appropriate amendments in our 2014 DC Council report card.

On Wednesday, January 8th at 11:00 AM, testify at a DC Council Public Hearing and help fix Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013!” The Hearing will be in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. You can either testify or just listen to the proceedings.

Learn more by watching some of the discussion from our November 7th DCEN networking event:

– Keith Anderson, DDOE Director, outlines what is in Mayor Gray’s omnibus legislation. Click Here!
– Maisie Hughes of Casey Trees describes key concerns about the Mayor’s bill as it relates to urban forestry issues. Click Here!
– Open Discussion Segment Part A. Click Here!
– Open Discussion Segment Part B. Click Here!

DCEN will be hosting a conference call on Monday, January 6th at 3:00 PM for anyone interested in testifying and need a little more information about what might need to be said at the hearing! If you are interested in participating, contact Chris Weiss. Click Here!

Hope to see some of you on January 8th!