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Archive for May, 2015

30
May

A DCEN Conversation with Our Attorney General!

Sat May 30, 2015 at 12:35:37 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

All Metro-Washington Environmental Organizations and Activists are invited to Our June Networking Opportunity.

ATTN: DC Environmental Network:

I wanted to invite you to a special DC Environmental Network brown-bag that will feature Karl A. Racine, the District’s newly elected Attorney General (AG). This important, informal opportunity to connect with the AG, will occur on Thursday, June 11th at NOON, and will be held at the offices of Green Cross International (Friends of the Earth), 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor.

Please RSVP here and make sure you reserve a seat at the table.

Some of our questions:

Attorney General Karl A. Racine

1. What happened with the changes both you and Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed during the current budget cycle?
2. What can Attorney General Racine do to modernize the AG office and engage on sustainability issues in ways similar to other states? Structurally, what CAN we do?
3. Does the AG have the power and independence to task a number of lawyers to serve as an ad-hock Environmental Protection Bureau similar to New York?
4. California, by law, has given their Attorney General independent authority, acting directly in the name of the People, “to take action to protect the natural resources of the State of California from pollution, impairment, or to ensure that California’s environmental laws are enforced fairly, creating a favorable environment for green industries and jobs, and to ensure that the benefits of a healthy environment are enjoyed by all Californians.” Should the District adopt this policy?
5. In next year’s budget, would the Attorney General consider adding environmental justice and health protections to the list of activities supported by the proposed “Consumer Protection Fund” or CPF?
6. How might the DC Attorney General avoid recusal from important issues, like the Exelon/Pepco merger?  Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh played an important role in representing the public interests of Maryland ratepayers and effectively used his office to make sure the concerns of the poor and the environment were front and center in the MD PSC process.

Why is the DC Environmental Network holding this event?

The DC Environmental Network has a number of goals connected to this preliminary discussion with the AG beyond trying to connect DCEN participants with the AG and build a constructive and open dialogue on issues of shared concern. Of course, this is a part of it.  DCEN is holding this event in response to both short AND long term goals that are potentially of critical importance to the sustainability community.

District Building b2

Our DCEN goals are:

► STOP Hemorrhaging of the Responsibilities and Powers of the Office of Attorney General (Short Term)

In recent years, with limited capacity of the local sustainability community, DCEN took a stand in support of District residents who voted to create an elected, independent Attorney General. DCEN also directly opposed efforts by former Mayor Vincent Gray and some DC Councilmembers, to transfer control over executive branch agency counsel from the AG to agency directors, effectively transferring power to then sitting Mayor Gray.

Of course the will of District residents to elect a new AG was ultimately honored and came to pass. The bad news is that, in a close vote last year, the DC Council voted to go against the will of District residents and significantly weakened the role of agency lawyers who are tasked to represent the interests of their client, District government. This change made these same lawyers answerable to agency directors (in effect the Mayor) putting at risk the ability for these lawyers to give impartial, independent legal advice to their “clients.”

This change, which was widely opposed by experts in the field, could directly impact the proper implementation of, and adherence to, environmental laws in the District.

Recently, newly elected Mayor Muriel Bowser, attempted to consolidate even more control by proposing language in the budget support act “that would let her own attorneys, rather than the now-independent attorney general’s office, review city laws for “legal sufficiency.” (These changes may have already been defeated by the DC Council.)

Additionally, Attorney General Racine proposed a budget to the DC Council that re-establishes a Consumer Protection Fund (CPF), similar to other states, to house settlement funds from consumer protection litigation. This fund would support consumer protection and community outreach; affordable housing protection and enforcement; public safety and criminal justice, protecting children and families, and juvenile rehabilitation; and protecting taxpayers, workers, and enforcing honest government. Environmental health protections and other sustainability options would not be funded by this settlement money.

(The Council will be holding a final vote on these proposed changes sometime soon.)

Please RSVP here and learn about the future of the District’s AG office.

► START Building a Modern AG Office that Engages More Directly (Much Like NY & CA) in the Defense of Environmental Laws (Long Term)

The District of Columbia is decades behind in evolving an Attorney General’s office that recognizes the importance of sustainability issues. Recent actions by the last two Mayors could move the District farther back in time and negatively impact the environmental health of District residents.

Just looking at two states, California and New York, it is exciting to see the possibilities. These jurisdictions are important examples of what we could have, to benefit the lives of District residents, here in our nation’s capital city:

– CALIFORNIA: “The [CA] Attorney General has a special role in protecting the environment and public health. The Attorney General is the legal representative of a number of state agencies that have environmental and public health responsibilities. These agencies include the Air Resources Board (which is responsible for administering the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32)); the State Water Resources Control Board; the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (lead agency under Proposition 65); the Department of Toxic Substances Control; the Coastal Commission; and the State Lands Commission. In her representative capacity, the Attorney General brings and defends lawsuits for these agencies and, in doing so, cleans up the air and the water and protects California’s wildlife and wild and scenic places. In addition, by law, the Attorney General has independent authority, acting directly in the name of the People, “to take action to protect the natural resources of the State of California from pollution, impairment, or destruction.” Attorney General Harris is committed to using her independent power to ensure that California’s environmental laws are enforced fairly, creating a favorable environment for green industries and jobs, and to ensure that the benefits of a healthy environment are enjoyed by all Californians.” – SEE CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL WEBSITE.

– NEW YORK:
“Enforcing a zero tolerance policy against any environmental threats in New York that imperil the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on, Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that the Environmental Protection Bureau continues to be a national leader on the environment. The Environmental Protection Bureau, located within the Office of the Attorney General’s Social Justice Division, plays a central role in protecting New York’s environment and public health. With a staff that includes some 40 lawyers and 10 scientists, the Bureau vigorously enforces both the State’s and Nation’s environmental laws. It also represents the State of New York in legal matters related to the environment. Attorney General Schneiderman has made environmental protection a centerpiece of his administration, tackling a wide range of critical issues such as climate change, nuclear power plant safety, air and water pollution, energy efficiency, hazardous waste, and safe and healthy communities.” –  SEE NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL WEBSITE.

This informal brown-bag will be an opportunity to get a perspective from the newly elected AG Karl Racine about these very important issues and help inform our efforts to create a governmental infrastructure that better serves District residents.

Please RSVP here and make sure you reserve a seat at the table.

RSVP today! All are welcome.

25
May

Support a Sustainable DC, Fund Critical Needs!

Mon May 25, 2015 at 02:21:20 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network, Global Green USA

One final IMPORTANT message before the DC Council makes a decision about a sustainable DC:

Sales Tax Email Graphic f

May 22, 2015

RE: DCEN Support for Mayor Bowser’s Modest Sales Tax Increase and/or Funding the Districts Most Critical Needs Connected to Affordable Housing, Homeless Services and Economic Security.

DC Environmental Network:

It sometimes seems that too often we all do not see the connection between sustainability and critical human needs.

DCEN believes we cannot have a city that works to clean up our polluted air and water, protect children from mold and lead poisoning, create the nourishing, health giving neighborhoods and parks that give our families a sense of well being and improves our quality of life while at the same time  NOT taking care of the most “critical” needs including affordable housing, increased access to healthy foods, and all the things that keep our bodies and minds strong.

All these things are connected and part of being a truly sustainable District of Columbia.

That is why the DC Environmental Network makes a point of supporting aggressive policy reforms focused on poverty reduction. That’s why, in recent years, we supported a living wage and an increase to the minimum wage for all District workers.

This approach of striving to work towards making DC a more truly sustainable city, makes it easy for DCEN to take the logical next step by joining the 57 organizations and faith leaders calling on Chairman Mendelson to protect investments  in “affordable housing, homeless services, and economic security”…and all the things that help support these critical needs.

SEE COALITION LETTER HERE!

Passing Mayor Bowser’s modest sales tax is not going to solve all of the District’s problems but it will help us hold our ground as a city and make sure at least some of the most critical needs are funded in the coming years. The good news is this policy is supported by most DC residents.

It is likely Chairman Mendelson will be presenting the details about how he is going to approach these important issues next Tuesday, the 26th of May. The Council Consideration of the FY16 Budget Request Act of 2015 and the FY16 Budget Support Act of 2015, will occur the following day (May 27th).

If your sustainability organization is interested in joining DCEN in support of these goals, let me know and we will make sure Chairman Mendelson knows what you think. You can email me at cweiss@dcen.net.

Sincerely,

Chris Weiss
Executive Director
DC Environmental Network

UPDATE:  A sales tax is generally considered regressive, but it is what the mayor chose, and there is no chance the Council would replace it with an income tax.  The choice right now is this source or none at all. The tax increase is modest, just $2 a month for poor families, yet supports very progressive initiatives in the budget. DC recently cut taxes for low income residents, and there have been many progressive tax cuts over the years ( many pushed by DCFPI). As a result low income residents in DC pay lower taxes than every state except one (Delaware). That is why DCEN, DCFPI and other progressives support the tax increase.

19
May

DC Water’s Modification to Sewage Reduction Plan!

Tue May 19, 2015 at 01:18:53 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

DC Environmental Network:

[Apologies for the last minute notice. This was originally intended as a briefing for stakeholders, but because of changing circumstances, we decided to invite anyone who wants to participate.]

The DC Environmental Network, Global Green USA and Green Cross International are hosting a special briefing on DC Water’s proposed modification to the long term control plan to reduce combined sewer overflows to the Anacostia River, Potomac River and Rock Creek.

The briefing will occur tomorrow, May 20th, at 1:00 PM.  It will be held at the offices of Green Cross International, 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor. This event will include representatives from DC Water, EPA, and environmental advocates who have been stakeholders in this process for over ten years.

You must RSVP HERE to attend the briefing.

DC Water, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be celebrating the update of this proposed modification earlier in the day tomorrow and will then join us so that we can learn about what is in the plan.

The environmental advocacy community submitted comments focused on the early draft of the proposed modification and have wanted to get briefed on the details for some time. SEE LINKS:

Comments of Earthjustice, American Canoe Association, Anacostia Watershed Society, DC Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth, Kingman Park Civic Association, Potomac Riverkeeper & Sierra Club.

Comments of Professor Derek B. Booth, PhD, PE, PG (Consulting Geologist to Natural Resources Defense Council & Earthjustice.)

This will be an opportunity for us to see what is in the plan and decide if we have something to celebrate.

You must RSVP HERE to attend the briefing.

All are welcome.

4
May

A DCEN Conversation with AG Karl A. Racine!

Mon May 04, 2015 at 07:25:51 PM EST

By Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

All Metro-Washington Environmental Organizations and Activists are Invited to Our June Networking Opportunity.

[2013 DCEN Event on Attorney General Issues Featuring Walter Smith (DC Appleseed), Tommy Wells (DC Council, Former), Phil Mendelson (Council Chair)]

ATTN: DC Environmental Network:

I wanted to invite you to a special DC Environmental Network brown-bag that will feature Karl A. Racine, the District’s newly elected Attorney General (AG). This important, informal opportunity to connect with the AG, will occur on June 11th at NOON and will be held at the offices of Friends of the Earth, 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor.

Please RSVP here and make sure you reserve a seat at the table.

Why is the DC Environmental Network holding this event?

The DC Environmental Network has a number of goals connected to this preliminary discussion with the AG beyond trying to connect DCEN participants with the AG and build a constructive and open dialogue on issues of shared concern. Of course, this is a part of it.  DCEN is holding this event in response to both short AND long term goals that are potentially of critical importance to the sustainability community.  Our DCEN goals are:

► STOP Hemorrhaging of the Responsibilities and Powers of the Office of Attorney General (Short Term)

In recent years, with limited capacity of the local sustainability community, DCEN took a stand in support of District residents who voted to create an elected, independent Attorney General. DCEN also directly opposed efforts by former Mayor Vincent Gray and some DC Councilmembers, to transfer control over executive branch agency counsel from the AG to agency directors, effectively transferring power to then sitting Mayor Gray.

Of course the will of District residents to elect a new AG was ultimately honored and came to pass. The bad news is that, in a close vote in October of 2013, the DC Council voted to go against the will of District residents and significantly weakened the role of agency lawyers who are tasked to represent the interests of their client, District government. This change made these same lawyers answerable to agency directors (in effect the Mayor) putting at risk the ability for these lawyers to give impartial, independent legal advice to their “clients.”

This change, which was widely opposed by experts in the field, could directly impact the proper implementation of, and adherence to, environmental laws in the District.

Now, newly elected Mayor Muriel Bowser, may be attempting to consolidate even more control by proposing language in the budget support act “that would let her own attorneys, rather than the now-independent attorney general’s office, review city laws for “legal sufficiency.” These changes, by the last two Mayors, could (and have already) result in the removal of important “checks and balance’s” necessary to making the Executive responsive to the requirements of environmental laws.

Additionally of interest to DCEN, Attorney General Racine has proposed a budget to the DC Council that re-establishes a Consumer Protection Fund (CPF), similar to other states, to house settlement funds from consumer protection litigation. This fund would support consumer protection and community outreach; affordable housing protection and enforcement; public safety and criminal justice, protecting children and families, and juvenile rehabilitation; and protecting taxpayers, workers, and enforcing honest government. Environmental health protections and other sustainability options would not be funded by this settlement money.

Please RSVP here and learn about the future of the District’s AG office.

► START Building a Modern AG Office that Engages More Directly (Much Like NY & CA) in the Defense of Environmental Laws (Long Term)

The District of Columbia is decades behind in evolving an Attorney General’s office that recognizes the importance of sustainability issues. Recent actions by the last two Mayors could move the District farther back in time and negatively impact the environmental health of District residents.

Just looking at two states, California and New York, it is exciting to see the possibilities. These jurisdictions are important examples of what we could have, to benefit the lives of District residents, here in our nation’s capital city:

– CALIFORNIA: “The [CA] Attorney General has a special role in protecting the environment and public health. The Attorney General is the legal representative of a number of state agencies that have environmental and public health responsibilities. These agencies include the Air Resources Board (which is responsible for administering the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32)); the State Water Resources Control Board; the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (lead agency under Proposition 65); the Department of Toxic Substances Control; the Coastal Commission; and the State Lands Commission. In her representative capacity, the Attorney General brings and defends lawsuits for these agencies and, in doing so, cleans up the air and the water and protects California’s wildlife and wild and scenic places. In addition, by law, the Attorney General has independent authority, acting directly in the name of the People, “to take action to protect the natural resources of the State of California from pollution, impairment, or destruction.” Attorney General Harris is committed to using her independent power to ensure that California’s environmental laws are enforced fairly, creating a favorable environment for green industries and jobs, and to ensure that the benefits of a healthy environment are enjoyed by all Californians.” – SEE CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL WEBSITE.

– NEW YORK:
“Enforcing a zero tolerance policy against any environmental threats in New York that imperil the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on, Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that the Environmental Protection Bureau continues to be a national leader on the environment. The Environmental Protection Bureau, located within the Office of the Attorney General’s Social Justice Division, plays a central role in protecting New York’s environment and public health. With a staff that includes some 40 lawyers and 10 scientists, the Bureau vigorously enforces both the State’s and Nation’s environmental laws. It also represents the State of New York in legal matters related to the environment. Attorney General Schneiderman has made environmental protection a centerpiece of his administration, tackling a wide range of critical issues such as climate change, nuclear power plant safety, air and water pollution, energy efficiency, hazardous waste, and safe and healthy communities.” –  SEE NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL WEBSITE.

This informal brown-bag will be an opportunity to get a perspective from the newly elected AG Karl Racine about these very important issues and help inform our efforts to create a governmental infrastructure that better serves District residents.

Please RSVP here and make sure you reserve a seat at the table.

Some of our questions:

1. What are the possible implications of the budgetary (and other) changes proposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and Attorney General Karl Racine.
2. What can Attorney General Racine do to modernize the AG office and engage on sustainability issues in ways similar to other states? Structurally, what CAN we do?
3. Does the AG have the power and independence to task a number of lawyers to serve as an ad-hock Environmental Protection Bureau similar to New York?
4. California, by law, has given their Attorney General independent authority, acting directly in the name of the People, “to take action to protect the natural resources of the State of California from pollution, impairment, or to ensure that California’s environmental laws are enforced fairly, creating a favorable environment for green industries and jobs, and to ensure that the benefits of a healthy environment are enjoyed by all Californians.” Should the District adopt this policy?
5. Would the Attorney General consider adding environmental justice and health protections to the list of activities supported by the proposed “Consumer Protection Fund” or CPF?
6. How might the DC Attorney General avoid recusal from important issues, like the Exelon/Pepco merger,  like Maryland Attorney Brian Frosh did? AG Frosh is playing an important role in representing the public interests of Maryland ratepayers and is effectively using his office to make sure the interests of the poor and the environment are front and center in the PSC process.

RSVP today! All are welcome.