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Rachel's Democracy and Health News

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #946 "Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?" Thursday, February 14, 2008printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

Things We Could Do Together
Ken Ward offers twelve things that green groups could do about climate change. For one, "a U.S. coalition framework could be agreed upon within weeks if we put our minds to it, and a national convening of U.S. environmentalists could and should be organized in September."
Virginia Town Bans Chemical and Radioactive Bodily Trespass
A municipality takes precautionary action against chemical exposures without informed consent ("chemical trespass"): Halifax, Va. joins the growing list of communities recognizing the rights of nature.
Model Municipal Ordinances To Control Corporations
In Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, California, and Virginia (so far), municipalities have passed laws denying specific rights to corporations. As you read through this extraordinary list of innovative statutes, let your imagination roam: what if your town took action to restrict corporate power? Who knows where it would end?
U.S. Moving Toward Ban on New Coal-Fired Power Plants
"What began as a few local ripples of resistance to coal-fired power is quickly evolving into a national tidal wave of grassroots opposition from environmental, health, farm, and community organizations and a fast-growing number of state governments."
Theories of Cancer
"The National Cancer Institute was generating maps of cancer mortality in an attempt to unveil other possible environmental carcinogens that could explain rising rates of cancer. And then Ronald Reagan was elected President, and everything changed. By the mid-1980s, I was hard-pressed to find the word 'carcinogen' in any pamphlet on cancer that I collected from my doctors' various offices."


From: Grist Magazine
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By Ken Ward

Hey, environmentalists! You passed the energy bill -- what're you gonna do now?

Here are 12 things that could be undertaken with present resources:

1. Use The Flood Threat.

Our climate story should be about the civilization-busting and mass extinction threat of Greenland and Antarctic ice-shelf break-up and rapid sea-level rise. This simple and honest story is far more powerful than the shifting laundry list of climate impacts we now put forward. The fatal flaw with any plan that skips around these terrible truths is that they are discernibly dishonest, and false optimism masks the only rationale that can move the U.S. to action. Climate change is not going to be solved because it creates jobs. It is going to be solved because Miami, New York, and San Diego are going underwater.

2. Increase Solar Power in Iraq.

We must jump climate from second-tier policy to macro-world view, on par with ending slavery or defeating fascism. One means to do this is advancing climate solutions to top-tier issues.

Why not, for example, propose that Iraq become the world's first solar nation? The U.S. has spent $4.6 billion on reconstruction of the Iraq electricity system. As of January 2008, electricity supply is 4,010 MW (PDF), less than half of demand (8,500-9,000 MW, with half the difference, about 2,000, supplied by neighborhood entrepreneurs running small diesel generators), and barely above pre-invasion levels. The grid is a constant target of sabotage. One thousand employees of Iraq Electricity Ministry repair teams were killed last year, and two of 17 transmission lines to Baghdad were operational in August.

Relying on World Bank estimates, the Iraq Ministry of Electricity plans to spend $27 billion in the next eight years to add 4,000 MW[1]. For $2 billion, and savings of $25 billion, the U.S. could provide solar systems, battery storage and inverters for 260,000 residences,[2] generating that same 4,000 MW, and leaving a functioning, maintainable, and defensible electric grid. The purchase would more than double global production of photovoltaics and a 50 percent set-aside for U.S. firms would represent a 12-fold increase over 2006 production.[3] Iraq is the one place in the world where solar power is significantly cheaper than fossil fuels ($1.7 billion/MW versus $.13 billion/MW).

3. Work Toward Unity.

What hubris leads us to believe that we can avert cataclysm without troubling to work together? No political issue of even middling significance is ever pursued without a coalition to set strategy, pool resources, and maximize political clout. We face the end of the world, yet for two decades we haven't ever held a serious national leadership meeting, let alone a national conference, to address it.

Our unwillingness to set aside organizational prerogatives and professional considerations has several debilitating consequences. We forgo power greater than the sum of our parts. We impose a heavy psychic cost on our staff and supporters by failing to admit reality. We communicate by our conduct of business-as-usual that we don't believe our own story.

A U.S. coalition framework could be agreed upon within weeks if we put our minds to it, and a national convening of U.S. environmentalists could and should be organized in September. If our different visions prove irreconcilable, then two coalitions should be formed to engage in a spirited public debate, carrying on a long American tradition stretching back to the Federalist Papers.

4. Find a Supply-side Solution.

Our solutions are utterly impractical within the time frame for global action. Some private sector leaders who have begun to grapple with slow, porous, end-of-the-pipe solutions are starting to talk about "upstream" responses.[4] Given the perilously short time frame for action, there is no practical alternative other than restricting fossil-fuel supply. Only an extractions cap and phase-down can guarantee emissions reductions on the scale now required, and only a unilateral withdrawal will establish market conditions in which renewables can replace fossil fuels.

5. Start an Emergency Climate Warning System.

The world is functioning in the dark, without means to measure, integrate, and analyze the massive changes now evident. Startling reports on unexpected phenomena -- melting Siberian peat bogs, reduced oceanic carbon uptake, speed-up in ice shelf movement, and so on -- go unmonitored.

An "Emergency Climate Warning System" for U.S. government funding of state-of-the-art systems brought online at breakneck speed (permanent camps on all major ice caps and shelves, regular sampling of major ocean currents, a crash program to expand capacity for deep-ocean monitoring, significantly expanded permafrost monitoring, super- computers, commitment of military resources as necessary, dedicated global satellite coverage of ice and oceans, and so on) is desperately important. The critical point is to create a resource pool -- money, power to draw on U.S. government equipment and personnel, and U.S. political muscle on nations and institutions -- and crisis management structure[5] that can cut across disciplinary lines and fund research based on climate change risk factors.

In articulating this critical need, the reality and risk of ice-shelf collapse/sea-level rise is brought home, and opponents are sidelined, as "conducting more research" is the obstructionists' main plank. A means of expression consistent with academic standards and scientific methodology is made available, permitting scientists to demonstrate the depth -- near anguish -- of their concern while side-stepping the fossil-fuel-sector-sponsored mire of debate.[6]

6. Campaign for Civil Defense.

Climate civil defense campaigns should be launched in every major sea- level U.S. city, pressing municipal governments to review plans, zoning, and crisis management with rising sea levels and storm surges taken into account. Using the Boston and New York City studies as models, these assessments will quickly show that the levees and hurricane barriers required to meet even outdated forecasts are well beyond local and state government capacities.

Climate civil defense planning is both morally urgent and also a powerful strategic angle in climate campaigning. An abstract policy debate is transformed into a bread and butter political matter of contracts, budgets, zoning, and construction. The colossal price tag for damages and the cost of averting them opens the road to liability litigation and creates a political football that can usefully be kicked up the line to states and the federal government. A distant, abstract risk is made tangible. Opponents are forced to argue on specifics and against prudent measures.

This new narrative is a more durable platform for action. Consider how differently campaigning for carbon taxes would play out if the purpose is to protect Manhattan, Miami, and San Diego from New Orleans-type storm surges. As an organizing device, civil defense campaigning is richer, less cerebral, and more relevant than our current, almost entirely symbolic agenda -- and has great visuals (imagine kicking it off with a surreptitious painting of blue lines in downtowns and corporate headquarters!).

7. Follow the Money.

Investments in renewables are expected to reach $750 billion by 2016 according to Ernst & Young: a large increase over the baseline, but insignificant compared to an anticipated $22 trillion in overall energy supply investment needs by 2030, projected by the International Energy Agency in "World Energy Outlook 2007." Several factors tend to mask this mammoth gap. Growth in renewables is celebrated without reference to the bottom line, and the fossil-fuel sector has been successful in removing relative investment rates between energy sources as a factor in measuring corporate performance on climate, being two examples.

It is dangerous to pretend that investment on such a colossal scale does not preordain the conclusion.

The only current efforts that take direct aim at fossil fuels are the successful drive by the NRDC and Environmental Defense to press Citibank and other investment bankers not to invest in coal-fired generating facilities, and the broader campaign by the Rainforest Action Network, also focused on Citibank, to withdraw from fossil- fuel-sector investments. These efforts should receive significant support, but the central investment question must be broached more directly. Global corporate campaigns should be launched calling for a broad shift in energy sector investment. BP and ExxonMobil would be appropriate targets for a South Africa-style divestment campaign, bolstered with employment boycotts,[7] seeking to invert current fossil fuel/renewables investment ratios.

8. Define the Political Bright Line.

We must make the best of our last opportunity in a presidential election to define a global solution and set the bar for climate leadership. This cannot be achieved by pressing candidates to endorse a laundry list of policies, but neither can it be accomplished by securing broad statements of concern. We must put forward objective criteria by which genuine leadership is distinguished from pandering. We might, for example, define five qualities of leadership on which our endorsements will hinge.

Honesty. The definition of precautionary global action is in free fall, but candidates should be pressed to accept the present precautionary position -- fast-as-practical return to a 350 ppm concentration of atmospheric carbon [dioxide] and swift-as-possible decline to pre-industrial levels.

Courage. We cannot both avert cataclysm and increase our use of coal (PDF), and no honest candidate will try to straddle this fence. Wisdom. As the crisis deepens, there will be ever greater pressure for techno-solutions (such as spreading billions of tiny umbrellas in orbit, or putting gigantic pipes on the sea floor to increase ocean water circulation). The wise candidate will oppose quick fixes because the cure may be as bad as the bite, and because moving to an environmentally sound planetary society is essential if we are to escape the host of other crises looming in the wings.

Vision. A global solution will only be acceptable to peoples and nations of the world if it is fair and does not quash dreams. This will require adjusting western lifestyles in ways acceptable to first- world populations, appealing to emerging middle classes, and reinvestment of global wealth into a global solution (see Ross Gelbspan's "Clean Energy Transition," or EcoEquity's "The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World" [PDF]). A functional response depends on U.S. leadership to focus technical development, restructure global markets, and pay the bulk of implementation. Even a low-ballpark number -- perhaps $1 trillion -- will be much higher than any of the figures now bandied about.

Leadership. The world's only superpower must lead the drive for a last-minute solution, and only America has the dynamism, na�vete, and hope in national character necessary to tackle this staggering challenge. To move the nation to action requires leadership from in front, something candidates can demonstrate by handling ideological obstacles to a muscular exertion of American power (market intervention for Republicans and anti-internationalism of the Democrats). Of these things, the toughest challenge -- for both candidates and environmentalists -- is taking the no-coal pledge. All four major presidential candidates up for major-party endorsements support expanded reliance on coal. Unless we are able to exert significant pressure, environmentalists should endorse no candidate for president in 2008.

9. Retire the Light Bulbs.

We have exaggerated the importance of personal responsibility to the point where even environmentalists believe that climate action is primarily a matter of American lifestyle choices. To drive home the point that functional climate solution can only be achieved by American leadership on the global stage, we must dispel the notion that personal decisions are anything other than symbolic. This can be conveyed most dramatically by symbolically retiring the light bulbs.

10. Involve the U.S. in the Global Stage.

The energy bill is now energy law, for good or ill, and it's time to declare domestic victory and focus on a last-minute global drive under U.S. leadership. Our mono-focus on U.S. domestic emissions reductions is ill-served to set the bar for a functional solution and insulates U.S. campaigning from the global stage.

There is no single global goal more important than winning in the U.S. And it is time for U.S. environmentalists to invite global action aimed at the U.S. government by other nations, peoples, and environmentalists -- private sector and public. An significant investment of U.S. and European NGO funding is required to launch effective global efforts, which must be of a never-seen-before scale. To jump start a global energy-sector corporate-divestment campaign, for example, might require thousands of campaigners covering 100 nations, a global advertising budget, a legal team to bring NAFTA anti-trust actions against U.S. subsidies, and an international student employment boycott campaign, perhaps launched in an international convening in Philadelphia.

11. Reclaim Earth Day.

Letting environmental education and such visible symbols as Earth Day slip away was a very poor decision, in retrospect. The constellation of corporate sponsorship, school-controlled programming, lifestyle- based environmentalism, and recycling-type service projects has evolved into competing eco-lite world view that diminishes environmental action and dumbs down environmental values. It is hard to imagine a "labor education" movement espousing "voluntary unionism" and holding a corporate-sponsored May Day, yet this is exactly how our educational adjunct functions.

The simple remedy is to reclaim Earth Day -- our most important, unifying symbol -- and to use this platform to speak to environmentalists, not the general public. In order to address our own ranks, we must acknowledge our fear, not ignore it. We are in difficult circumstances that will only grow worse, and the odds of winning are very low. By admitting these terrible truths, we will be liberated from the fog of deception and paralysis in action that leads us now to live schizophrenic lives. When we have reconstituted a clear-minded, undoubtedly smaller and healthier core, then we can put forward a pragmatic platform that would work -- even if the chances it will be implemented are slight.

Earth Day, perhaps the only day of the year when working environmentalists are exposed to music and art, represents our heart and spirit.

12. Revive Eco-fundamentalist Values.

Environmentalism, as a world view rather than one civic good among many, has a tiny base in the U.S. Lured by visions of majority support, and driven by the demands of fundraising technologies, most of our institutional energies have not been focused on this core. Now, when we require a cohesive, disciplined, and energetic base, we find that our castles are built of sand.

One response to our predicament that has gained surprising support is to give up being environmentalists. Because they are values rather than views, I, like most environmentalists, am unable to toss out my beliefs merely because they are unfashionable.

It is idiocy of the highest order to try. Even if climate cataclysm were averted by some technical wizardry, the world is still faced with a host of other calamities waiting in the wings; crises that environmentalists are largely alone recognizing and striving to address. To dispense with environmentalism would be to throw away the only tool humankind has fashioned to dig ourselves out of this hole.

Only environmental principles of action provide the rationale for a precautionary solution. Only environmental vision contemplates wholesale revamping of global structures, and considers the benefits. Only environmentalists believe that there is a moral cost to extinction. Only environmental values will permit humanity to live happy, free, and productive lives in large numbers over the long term.

Environmentalism must undergo a revival, not burial. To accomplish this, we must first rid ourselves of the notion that our primary purpose is to craft policy. Even most critics of the U.S. climate agenda spend their energies debating substance, but it is not our job to lobby for carbon markets or mileage standards, nor should efforts to reshape our approach be concerned with devising alternative policies, for three reasons:

Nothing we now advocate is remotely within reach of a global solution, and no amount of tinkering can fix it. The political cost of abandoning a two-decade-old agenda is small compared to the gains in freeing our time, energy, and thinking.

The global response now required is on a scale greater than World War II, the Marshall Plan, and Eastern Bloc reconstruction combined. We can only paint that effort in broad strokes and cannot possibly conceive the details. Trying to do so is as useless as 1930s interventionists trying to develop World War 11 military strategy. It is our job to change political conditions in the world's only superpower, so that American power, money, and might are brought to bear on a functional, global solution and dangerous techno-fixes are avoided. I have argued that this outcome is most likely when climate impacts become severe enough to disrupt business as usual. Only then will we enter fluid political circumstances, when a brief window of opportunity for large-scale social change may open. Victory in such conditions is won by small, zealous numbers, not weak majorities. Whether by this or some other strategy, our goal is to win an abrupt shift in U.S. policy, accepting that civilization is on the line and that bringing American might to bear in a desperate, last-minute drive by humanity is the only practical means to put a global solution in place. Very few Americans are willing to face these terrible realities. Self-identified environmentalists, it turns out, aren't much better at it than anyone else, but there is a core of people with existential world views -- many of whom do not consider themselves environmentalists -- who are fearful, desperate for plausible action, and increasingly angry with transparently half-hearted measures. These are true environmentalists, whether they use that term or not, and it is toward this core that our institutional resources and energies should be directed.


Some may argue that these 12 items are hardly simple -- and it is true that this agenda would take hard work, a marked change in thinking, and internal conflict of a sort we have not recently experienced. But we have all the necessary resources already in hand. The green groups and Environmental Grantmakers Association have the money (over $1 billion in climate funding alone), staff, membership, public respect, political capital, technical skill, and infrastructure to take on this agenda and more. The only roadblocks are internal.


In editing this story, we changed the title (in Grist it was originally "A post-energy-bill agenda,"), added some additional clarifying links in the text, and modified the units of measurement to accord with standard international units (e.g., megawatts = MW). -- Rachel's News editors


[1] Iraq Minister of Electricity, December 10, 2007, http://trade.go v/iraq/.

[2] Based on formula in Solar Eagle: A Study Examining Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Power as an Alternative for the Rebuilding of the Iraqi Electrical Power Generation Infrastructure (PDF), C. Austin, R. Borja, J. Phillips, Naval Post Graduate School, June 2005.

[3] Solar Iraq would total 3,750 MW solar photovoltaics. Total solar PV world production in 2006 was between 1,744 MW (2007 Marketbuzz Report) and 2,521 MW (Earth Policy Institute); and U.S. solar PV production, according to Earth Policy Institute, was 154 MW.

[4] Assessing US Climate Policy Options, R. Kopp, W. Pizer, Resources for the Future, November 28, 2007.

[5] I would vest WCWS [ECWS?] control with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

[6] See, for example, the Bali letter, presented here by the American Coal Council: http://www.clean-coal.info/drupal/open_letter_UN_cli mate_change.

[7] College campuses are ripe for divestment campaigns, and students could both target university investments and launch employment boycotts against major oil companies. Government-controlled funds, union pension funds, private foundations, and other NGOs are also inviting targets.

Copyright 2008. Grist Magazine, Inc.

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From: The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
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On February 7, 2008, the Town Council of Halifax, Virginia, voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance banning corporate chemical and radioactive bodily trespass. Enacted to confront concerns about the proposed uranium mine in adjacent Pittsylvania County, the ordinance establishes strict liability and burden-of-proof standards for culpable corporations and government entities that permit and facilitate corporate bodily trespass.

The ordinance also strips corporations of constitutional protections within the town. The Town of Halifax thus becomes the 10th municipality in the nation to refuse to recognize corporate constitutional "rights," and to prohibit corporate rights from being used to override the rights of human and natural communities.

The ordinance adopted by the Halifax Town Council also recognizes the rights of natural communities and ecosystems to exist and flourish within the town and provides for the enforcement and defense of those rights, and prohibits corporations from interfering with the civil rights of residents, including residents' right to self-government. The ordinance was drafted for the Halifax Town Council by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit law firm.

Ben Price, Projects Director for the Legal Defense Fund commented that "The people of the Town of Halifax have determined that they do not consent to be irradiated, nor to be trespassed upon, by toxic substances that would be released by Virginia Uranium, Inc., or any other state-chartered corporation. The people have asserted their right and their duty to protect their families, environment, and future generations. In enacting this law, the community has gone on record as rejecting the legal theory behind Dillon's Rule, which erroneously asserts that there is no inherent right to local self- government. The American Revolution was about nothing less than the fundamental right of the people to be the decision-makers on issues directly affecting the communities in which they live. They understood that a central government, at some distance removed from those affected, acts beyond its authority in empowering a few powerful men - privileged with chartered immunities and rights superior to the people in the community -- to deny citizens' rights, impose harm, and refuse local self-determination. The people of the Town of Halifax have acted in the best tradition of liberty and freedom, and confronted injustice in the form of a state-permitted corporate assault against the consent of the sovereign people."

Shireen Parsons, the Legal Defense Fund's Virginia Organizer, commended the action of the Halifax Town Council, stating that, "The council members demonstrated courage and solidarity in their commitment to justice and their duty to govern in the interest of protecting and preserving the health, safety and wellbeing of the people from whom they derive their power. This is the beginning of something wonderful in Virginia."

Halifax Town Council member Jack Dunavant said of the decision, "This is an historic vote. We, the people, intend to protect our health and environment from corporate assault. It's time to invoke the Constitution and acknowledge the power of the people to protect our own destiny and end this era of corporate greed and pollution."


The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has worked with communities resisting corporate assaults upon democratic self-governance since 1995. Among other programs, it has brought its unique Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools to communities in 26 states in which people seek to end destructive and rights-denying corporate acts routinely permitted by state and federal agencies. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 100 municipalities have enacted ordinances authored by the Legal Defense Fund.

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The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) in Chambersburg, Pa., provides a Local Ordinance Drafting service for municipal governments in Pennsylvania.

This project has been immensely successful at bringing community empowering ordinances to local governments.

Two popular ordinances drafted by the Fund are: (1) The Southampton Township Farm Ownership Ordinance -- modeled after the statutes of eight mid-western states (Anti-Corporate Farming Laws in the Heartland) which prohibit corporate ownership of farms; and (2) The Wayne Environmental Protection Ordinance -- which grants the power to the Township Supervisors to exclude corporations with criminal histories from operating within the Township. The Wayne Ordinance was passed in 1998 by Wayne Township, Mifflin County. The Southampton Ordinance was developed in March of 1999, and has become law in a dozen townships. CELDF ordinances have been presented for passage to local governments in Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Other ordinances available for passage include (1) The Corporate Ownership and Disclosure Ordinance -- requiring corporations doing business in a local area to file their articles and bylaws with the local government, (2) The Solar Ordinance -- requiring the installation of solar hot water heaters in any new residential housing developments; (3) The Recycling Ordinance -- requiring local governments to use high content, chlorine-free recycled paper for office operations; and (4) The Noxious Odors Control Ordinance - regulating noxious odors released from large agricultural operations.

The Legal Defense Fund not only incorporates progressive statutes and language into local Ordinances for passage at the local government level, but also accepts requests from Townships for customized Ordinances that they can present for passage.

Currently, the Environmental Protection Ordinance is listed with the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) as a Model Ordinance for passage by Township Supervisors and Borough Councils in Pennsylvania.

Through this program area, CELDF has drafted the following Ordinances for use by local governments and grassroots community organizations (click on Ordinance title to read full text):

Mahanoy Township Sustainable Energy Ordinance -- sets up a local energy policy that prohibits any new unsustainable energy production within the municipality, and commits the community to a gradual transition to sustainable energy production for homes and businesses.

Montgomery County Anti-Corporate Takings and Securing Local Self- Governance Ordinance -- Prohibits corporations from taking private property by power of eminent domain.

Blaine Township Corporate Land Development Ordinance -- Prohibits use of corporations for land development, with limited exceptions .

Blaine Township Corporate "Rights" Ordinance -- eliminates constitutional privileges from corporations at the municipal level. The Ordinance, in effect, eliminates Fourteenth Amendment protections. Proohibits corporate contributions to candidates for elected office within the Township.

Blaine Township Corporate Mining and Democratic Self-Governance Ordinance -- prohibits mining corporations from purchasing mineral rights or land for mining, and prohibits mining corporations from interfering with the civil rights of residents, including residents' right to self-government.

New Ordinance Prohibiting Land Application of Sewage Sludge - Updated and more powerful than The Rush Township Sewage Sludge Ordinance, this new Ordinance was drafted with municipal government and citizen input in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. It bans corporations from engaging in the land application of sewage sludge, recognizes citizen right to sue on behalf of ecosystems and codifies the right of citizen enforcement.

Southampton Anti-Corporate Farming Ordinance -- (The Southampton Family Farm Protection Ordinance) -- prohibits agribusiness corporate ownership of farmland and limits corporate involvement in farming. Adopted by ten local governments in Fulton, Bedford, Bradford, Indiana, and Cumberland Counties in Pennsylvania.

FAQ: Southampton Anti-Corporate Farming Ordinance

Wayne Township Environmental Protection Ordinance -- (The Wayne "Three Strikes and You're Out" Ordinance) -- enables local governments to prohibit corporations from doing business in certain localities if the corporation has a history of violating statutory and regulatory laws. Adopted by local governments in Fulton and Mifflin Counties in Pennsylvania. A version of this Ordinance is under review by groups in Humboldt County, California as the model for a potential Countywide referendum.

Summary of Wayne and Southampton Ordinances -- Local Control and Corporate Power -- an overview of the two ordinances listed above.

The Thompson Corporate Personhood Ordinance -- eliminates constitutional privileges from corporations at the municipal level. The Ordinance, in effect, eliminates Fourteenth Amendment protections from corporations in a municipality, and will be used to establish a test case for corporate personhood in the U.S. Supreme Court. One local government in Pennsylvania is considering the Ordinance.

Anti-Corporate Water Withdrawal -- prohibits corporations from owning, withdrawing, or hauling water from the community. Eliminates constitutional privileges from corporations at the municipal level.

The Rights of Nature Ordinance -- asserts that natural communities and ecosystems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and prosper and prohibits corporations or business entities -- or persons acting in corporate or business capacities -- from denying those rights, or interfering with the vitality or functioning of those communities or ecosystems. It further prohibits the Township from enforcing any law which would abridge the rights of natural communities and ecosystems.

The Rush Township Sewage Sludge Ordinance -- Authorizes a municipal government to assess a fee for every ton of sewage sludge applied by sludge corporations to farmland or mine reclamation sites in a municipality. The fee is then used to test whether the content of the sewage sludge meets state regulatory requirements. This Ordinance has been adopted by more than seventy communities across Pennsylvania. However, industry influence in the state assembly threatens to preempt local democracy and perhaps nullify the Ordinance.The Legal Defense Fund has developed a New Ordinance Prohibiting Land Application of Sewage Sludge, which is designed to challenge such usurpations and assert local control.

Sewage Sludge Land Application Registration Form (PDF File)

Saint Thomas Township Surface Mining Ownership and Control Ordinance -- prohibits non-family owned corporate or synidicate ownership of any real estate used for surface mining, or corporate engagement in surface mining in the Township, and provides for certain limited exceptions to corporate or syndicate ownership, and for enforcement and penalties for violation of the Ordinance.

Windsor Township Product Retailing Ordinance -- prohibits persons from using certain corporations or syndicates for the retail selling of products; provides for certain limited exceptions, and provides for enforcement and penalties for violation of the Ordinance.

Windsor Township Corporate Land Development Ordinance -- prohibits persons from using certain corporations or syndicates for land development; provides for certain limited exceptions, and provides for enforcement and penalties for violation of the Ordinance.

Township Ownership and Control Disclosure Ordinance -- requires corporations doing business in local government jurisdictions to file copies of the corporation's articles of incorporation and bylaws with the local governing authority. This Ordinance is currently under review by two local governments in Pennsylvania.

Township Defense of Civil Liberties Ordinance -- nullifies authority granted to federal agencies illegitimately conferred by Congress under the authority of the USA PATRIOT Act that infringe upon the civil liberties and civil rights of the residents of the Township. Nullifies the USA PATRIOT Act, the Homeland Security Act, and regulations and Executive Orders implemented under the authority of those laws for residents of the Township, the Township Supervisors, and employees of the Township. It further prohibits Township employees from engaging in unlawful detentions or profiling of citizens in violation of their rights and liberties as defined by the Fourteenth Amendment and prohibits Township employees from voluntarily cooperating in the violation of those rights.

National Animal Identification System Ordinance -- Nullifies the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) at the municipal level; eliminates ability of agribusiness corporations to privately enforce the NAIS; eliminates all corporate claims to constitutional "rights" and powers; recognizes right for independent family livestock farmers to make a living from farming.

Sustainable Energy Ordinance -- Prohibits unsustainable energy production within a municipality, defined as energy produced from fossil fuels and nuclear sources; establishes a Sustainable Energy Policy at the municipal level; mandates transition towards renewable energy use within the municipality; provides municipal monies for that transition; eliminates all corporate claims to constitutional "rights" and powers.

Corporate Chemical Trespass Ordinance -- Recognizes the right of people to be free from involuntary corporate chemical trespass; requires a municipality to sue corporations and corporate managers for compensation for trespass; eliminates all corporate claims to constitutional "rights" and powers; creates a category of criminal violation for chemical trespass; provides municipal monies for chemical testing.

Anti-Corporate Waste Hauling Ordinance -- Prohibits corporations from hauling certain types of toxic, hazardous, and nuclear waste through a municipality; eliminates all corporate claims to constitutional "rights" and powers.

The Monroe Odor Control Ordinance -- requires agribusiness corporations to use best management practices to control noxious odors emanating from their facilities. This Ordinance is currently under review by two local governments in Pennsylvania.

Rockland Township Water Supply Protection Act -- (The Rockland Water Usage Ordinance)- requires any new, corporate, large users of water supplies within a local jurisdiction to prepare a Water Impact Study to show that industrial and commercial use of water will not have an adverse impact on groundwater supplies. This Ordinance has been adopted by five local governments in Pennsylvania and is under consideration by three other local governments.

Fly Control Ordinance -- Requiring Best Management Practices - requires all new large-scale agricultural operations to adopt a management plan for the management of flies, and to pay a permit fee that enables the municipality to create an oversight and enforcement authority for those facilities.

Ordinance Banning Genetically Modified Crops, and Vindicating Local Self-Government. -- bans the use, sale, and transfer of genetically modified crops within a municipality, and eliminates the authority of agribusiness corporations to sue the municipality over the local law.

Township Environmental Impact Statement Ordinance -- requires all corporations proposing a particular project within a particular municipality to draft an Environmental Impact Statement, and then select the "most environmentally sound" alternative to the project being proposed.

Ordinance Establishing Preferential Bidding for Locally Owned Businesses -- enables a local government to select an entity other than the "low-bidder" for the awarding of contracts and bids, enables a local government to prefer locally owned businesses over other business entities submitting bids for particular projects.

Recycling Ordinance -- requires a municipality to use a certain percentage of recycled paper products.

Solar Ordinance -- requires new housing developments to install solar- powered hot water heaters within those residences.

Ordinance Creating an Environmental Advisory Council to the Township - creates an Advisory Council within a local government to advise the local government on environmental issues.

Sunshine Act Local Ordinance -- creates a higher standard for local government than under State Sunshine Act laws, for the production of documents by a local government to a requesting resident of that municipality.

"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling power. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing." -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (One Thousand Americans, George Seldes, page 5.)

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From: Earth Policy Institute
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By Lester R. Brown

In a report compiled in early 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy listed 151 coal-fired power plants in the planning stages and talked about a resurgence in coal-fired electricity. But during 2007, 59 proposed U.S. coal-fired power plants were either refused licenses by state governments or quietly abandoned. In addition to the 59 plants that were dropped, close to 50 more coal plants are being contested in the courts, and the remaining plants will likely be challenged as they reach the permitting stage.

What began as a few local ripples of resistance to coal-fired power is quickly evolving into a national tidal wave of grassroots opposition from environmental, health, farm, and community organizations and a fast-growing number of state governments. The public at large is turning against coal. In a September 2007 national poll by the Opinion Research Corporation about which electricity source people would prefer, only 3 percent chose coal.

One of the first major coal industry setbacks came in early 2007, when environmental groups convinced Texas-based utility TXU to reduce the number of planned coal-fired power plants in Texas from 11 to 3. And now even those 3 proposed plants may be challenged. Meanwhile, the energy focus within the Texas state government is shifting to wind power. The state is planning 23,000 megawatts of new wind-generating capacity (equal to 23 coal-fired power plants).

In May, Florida's Public Service Commission refused to license a huge $5.7-billion, 1,960-megawatt coal plant because the utility could not prove that building the plant would be cheaper than investing in conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy sources. This argument by Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental legal group, combined with widely expressed public opposition to any more coal-fired power plants in Florida, led to the quiet withdrawal of four other proposals for coal plants in the state. Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who is keenly aware of Florida's vulnerability to rising seas, is actively opposing new coal plants and has announced that the state plans to build the world's largest solar-thermal power plant.

The principal reason for opposing new coal plants is the mounting concern about climate change. Another emerging reason is soaring construction costs. And then there are intensifying health concerns about mercury emissions and the 23,600 U.S. deaths per year from power plant air pollution. (See data at www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/U pdate70_data.htm.)

Utilities have argued that carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal plant smokestacks could be captured and stored underground, thus helping keep hope for the industry alive. But on January 30, 2008, the Bush administration announced that it was pulling the plug on a joint project with 13 utilities and coal companies to build a demonstration coal-fired power plant in Illinois with underground carbon sequestration because of massive cost overruns. The original cost of $950 million when the project was announced in 2003 had climbed beyond $1.5 billion by early 2008, with further rises in prospect. The cancellation effectively moves the date for any coal plants with carbon sequestration so far into the future that this technology has little immediate relevance.

Some utilities are being refused licenses for coal plants because they have not examined alternative methods of satisfying demand, such as increasing the efficiency of electricity use. For example, insulating buildings greatly reduces energy needs for heating and cooling. Shifting to more-efficient light bulbs would save enough electricity to close 80 U.S. coal power plants.

The Sierra Club, the national leader on this issue, is working with hundreds of local groups to mount legal challenges in state after state. Other national groups that are actively involved include the Rainforest Action Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense. Information on the grassroots momentum to oppose coal plants is tracked on the Web site Coal Moratorium NOW!.

States that are working to reduce carbon emissions are banding together to discourage other states from building new coal plants simply because it would cancel their own carbon reduction efforts. In late 2006, for instance, the attorneys general of California, Wisconsin, New York, and several other northeastern states wrote to Kansas health officials urging them to deny permits for two new coal power plants of 700 megawatts each. The permits were subsequently denied, citing that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant and should be regulated, as determined in an April 2007 Supreme Court ruling. And in a letter on January 22, 2008, a similar grouping of states urged South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control to refuse a permit for the proposed 600-megawatt Pee Dee coal plant.



From Earth Policy Institute

Lester R. Brown, Chapter 11 :"Raising Energy Efficiency" and Chapter 12: "Turning to Renewable Energy" in Plan B 3.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008).

Lester R. Brown, "Ban the Bulb: Worldwide Shift from Incandescents to Compact Fluorescents Could Close 270 Coal-Fired Power Plants," Eco- Economy Update, 9 May 2007.

Janet Larsen, "Setting the Record Straight: More than 52,000 Europeans Died from Heat in Summer 2003," Eco-Economy Update, 28 July 2006.

Lester R. Brown, "Wind Energy Demand Booming: Cost Dropping Below Conventional Sources Marks Key Milestone in U.S. Shift to Renewable Energy," Eco-Economy Update, 22 March 2006.

Janet Larsen, "Coal Takes Heavy Human Toll," Eco-Economy Update, 24 August 2004.

Frances C. Moore, "2007 Second Warmest Year on Record: Northern Hemisphere Temperature Highest Ever," Eco-Economy Indicator, 10 January 2008.

From Other Sources

Opinion Research Corporation, "A Post Fossil-Fuel America: Are Americans Ready to Make the Shift?," a National Opinion Survey Produced for Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN), 18 October 2007.

Steven Mufson, "Coal Rush Reverses, Power Firms Follow: Plans for New Plants Stalled by Growing Opposition," Washington Post, 4 September 2007.

Ted Nace, "Stopping Coal in Its Tracks: Loosely Affiliated Activists Draw a Hard Line and Hold It," Orion Magazine (January/February 2008), p. 64.

National Energy Technology Laboratory, Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants: Coal's Resurgence in Electric Power Generation (Pittsburg, PA: U.S. Department of Energy, 1 May 2007).


For a detailed list of plants cancelled in 2007 and a list of currently proposed coal plants:

Coal Moratorium NOW!: Progress Towards a Coal Moratorium

Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign

For information on the growing momentum against coal:

Coal Moratorium NOW!

Coal Swarm

Leading organizations taking action against coal:


Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Rainforest Action Network

Sierra Club

To find out whether you receive electricity from coal plants associated with mountaintop removal mining:

I Love Mountains

For information on contacting your local and federal representatives to stop coal:

Architecture 2030: How to Stop Coal


Coal's future is also suffering as Wall Street turns its back on the industry. In July 2007, Citigroup downgraded coal company stocks across the board and recommended that its clients switch to other energy stocks. In January 2008, Merrill Lynch also downgraded coal stocks. In early February 2008, investment banks Morgan Stanley, Citi, and J.P. Morgan Chase announced that any future lending for coal-fired power would be contingent on the utilities demonstrating that the plants would be economically viable with the higher costs associated with future federal restrictions on carbon emissions. On February 13, Bank of America announced it would follow suit.

In August 2007, coal took a heavy political hit when U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who had been opposing three coal-fired power plants in his own state, announced that he was now against building coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world. Investment banks and political leaders are beginning to see what has been obvious for some time to climate scientists, such as NASA's James Hansen who says that it makes no sense to build coal-fired power plants when we will have to bulldoze them in a few years.

In early November 2007, Representative Henry Waxman of California announced his intention to "introduce legislation that establishes a moratorium on the approval of new coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act until EPA finalizes regulations to address the greenhouse gas emissions from these sources." If a national moratorium is passed by Congress, it will mark the beginning of the end for coal- fired power in the United States.

We may be on the verge of a monumental victory in the worldwide effort to stabilize climate. In our new book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, I propose cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. The first step is to stop building any new coal-fired power plants. If the United States imposes a moratorium on such construction, as Denmark and New Zealand have already done, it would send a powerful signal to the rest of the world, bolstering the effort to cut carbon emissions. The next steps are to quickly exploit the vast worldwide potential to raise energy efficiency and to massively develop renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, in order to phase out existing coal-fired power plants.

The world is moving toward a political tipping point on the climate issue. If it comes soon enough, we may yet avoid catastrophic climate change.

# # #

Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute.

For a more detailed discussion of this issue, see Chapter 2 in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, available for free downloading at www.earthpolicy.org.

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From: The Times Literary Supplement (London, U.K.)
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By Sandra Steingraber

Devra Davis SECRET HISTORY OF THE WAR ON CANCER 505pp. Basic Books. £16.99. 978 0 465 01566 5

Phil Brown TOXIC EXPOSURES Contested illnesses and the environmental health movement 356pp. New York: Columbia University Press. £19 (US $29.50). 978 0 231 12948 0

One advantage of being a long-time cancer survivor -- besides the obvious -- is that it provides a front-row seat in the auditorium of ideas about the disease's causation. Theories go in and out of fashion over the years, paradigms shift this way and that, and the patient is viewed differently by the medical community depending on which idea is currently on top.

I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1979, when I was twenty years old and just at the beginning of my career as a biologist. At that time, US newspaper headlines featured Love Canal, the upstate New York community whose residents had been evacuated a year earlier when 20,000 tons of industrial chemicals were discovered buried under their basements. Toxic-waste activism in the United States was in the ascendant, the newly formed US Environmental Protection Agency was committed and passionate, and major environmental legislation had been recently enacted by Congress to defend clean air and clean water in the name of human health.

After breaking the bad news from the pathology lab, my urologist asked me about tyres: automobile tyres. Had I ever vulcanized tyres? His second question was about textile dyes. Any exposure to the colour yellow? And had I ever worked in the aluminium industry?

Back at the university, I began to research the causes of bladder cancer. Indeed, there were data on dyes and bladder cancer going back to the nineteenth century. In fact, there was absolute proof that certain textile dyes caused bladder cancer in humans. And yet, mysteriously, this evidence had not resulted in the abolition of these chemicals from the economy. Other suspected bladder carcinogens, for which the evidence was highly troubling, if not outright damning, were produced and used by the industries in my home town. The National Cancer Institute was generating maps of cancer mortality in an attempt to unveil other possible environmental carcinogens that could explain rising rates of cancer.

And then Ronald Reagan was elected President, and everything changed.

No one asked me any more about my possible environmental exposures. In fact, by the mid-1980s, I was hard-pressed to find the word "carcinogen" in any pamphlet on cancer that I collected from my doctors' various offices. Meanwhile, in the medical literature, the search for cancer clusters that might point towards environmental contributors became a disparaged practice. The new focus of the National Cancer Institute was on "lifestyle" explanations for cancer.

As a young adult I hadn't really had enough time to develop bad habits. In fact, I was a vegetarian who ran four miles a day. Thus there was no explanation for my situation. "Some kind of fluke", said one of my doctors. Wherever I lived, I dutifully submitted to cancer check-ups. By the 1990s, the new explanation for cancer was genetic, and I started receiving lots of questions from young intake doctors about my family history. I had fun with this. I would describe in detail my mother, diagnosed with breast cancer, my various uncles with prostate and colon cancers, and -- the crowning point -- my aunt who died of the same kind of bladder cancer that I had. The young doctors took furious notes. I would always pause a few beats before adding, "Oh yeah. And I'm adopted". (There is no evidence for a hereditary link to bladder cancer. And there never has been.)

Today, I'm a forty-eight-year-old professor in Ithaca, New York, and during my last renal ultrasound, the technician asked me casually if I'd ever worked with textile dyes. I suppose Al Gore should get the credit: the environment is once again on the collective radar screen.

Two new books expose and explicate the ongoing social contest that is at the heart of our shifting understanding about cancer. They are both important and deserve to be read together. Devra Davis's book examines the historical forces at work when doubt is cast on the environmental evidence. Phil Brown's book explores the opposing social movements that are struggling to rescue this evidence and to bring about public health policy change based on it.

Devra Davis's Secret History of the War on Cancer is a big, sprawling book whose argument is more implicit than it should be. Her autobiographical style -- which served her so well in her earlier treatise on public health, When Smoke Ran Like Water -- often gets in the way of her analysis here. Nevertheless, Davis, who directs the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is an epidemiologist and public-health scientist at the top of her game. In her new book, she reveals what she knows about the interlocking structures of government and corporate interests, and how these relationships have affected the social construction of knowledge about cancer. Davis deserves to be taken seriously as a former adviser to the World Health Organization, a public-health servant in both the Carter and the Clinton Administrations, and the founding director of the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology in the National Academy of Sciences.

The basic thesis of this book is that 1.5 million lives have been lost, because Americans failed to act on existing knowledge about the environmental causes of cancer. This failure has been created by at least eight different factors, both acting together and independently of each other. The first is the cowardice of research scientists, who publish thoroughly referenced reports but pull their punches at the end, by claiming that more research needs to be done before action can be taken. Statements like these are then exploited by those who profit from the status quo. Like the cigarette industry during the 1960s, the chemical industry has learned how to buy time and create wholesale public doubt from small data gaps and remaining scientific uncertainties.

Meanwhile, Davis argues, regulatory agencies have become unresponsive to new scientific evidence altogether. Hamstrung by small-government- is-better reforms of the Reagan Administration, environmental and public agencies shrank even as the science began pointing to the need for more regulation. As for the government agencies and charities whose mission it is to eradicate cancer, these institutions, too, have had meaningful work on cancer prevention compromised by corporate interests. Throughout the 1980s, for example, the chief executive officer of Occidental Petroleum served as the chair of the National Cancer Institute's advisory board. Ultimately, the so-called War on Cancer is not really a war at all, argues Davis, but a cunning re- enactment.

The evolutionary history of epidemiology itself has also played a role in muffling the evidence for environmental harm. With its necessary focus on workers -- who are exposed to the highest amounts of suspected carcinogens -- epidemiologists require access to industry. The price for access, too often, is the promise of secrecy. Having struck a Faustian bargain, occupational epidemiologists can have -- and have had -- their funds withdrawn if they go public with their results.

A further factor involves the court system. Davis shows brilliantly the ways in which various kinds of scientific evidence -- such as animal research -- have been gradually declared inadmissible in legal cases, thanks to clever lawyering. "Basically", says Davis, "before you can collect damages, you must get cancer or some other awful disease, show that someone else already got it from the same things you did, prove that you had specific exposures to a particular agent, find the firm that caused your harm and can now pay for it, and prove that they knew the exposure was harmful."

The last two factors involve outright harassment of researchers, including Davis herself, and plain old terrible timing, which has occurred at least twice in the last century, as when major treatises on the environmental contributors to cancer were released, first on the brink of the First World War, and then again right before the Second World War. Indeed, Davis's crowning achievement with this book is her resuscitation of old publications, along with secret memos and various other original manuscripts, which show how much we used to know about the role that chemical exposures play in the burden of cancer. Some of these were subsequently doctored to serve particular purposes.

The Secret History of the War on Cancer is a remarkable piece of sleuthing from one of our most brave and knowledgeable scientists, on a topic that affects millions. Having closed Davis's book, one should immediately open Phil Brown's Toxic Exposures, which focuses on the ways in which environmental-health activists and their advocates in science are challenging the carcinogen-deniers that Davis writes about. Like Devra Davis, Brown, a medical sociologist at Brown University, has been a researcher in the field of environmental health for several decades, beginning with his groundbreaking work on the Woburn cancer cluster, made famous in the Hollywood movie A Civil Action. His new book represents many years of work. Toxic Exposures can be read as a guidebook for those wishing to understand the environmental-health movement, which, according to Brown, is the Civil Rights movement of our times. As he demonstrates, almost all cases of cancer clusters and contaminated communities, from Love Canal onwards, have been discovered by citizen activists -- not by scientists, nor government agencies. This is because no governmental agency or scientific body engages in routine surveillance that would uncover sentinel health events. It is also because cancer registries, which could function as early-warning systems, publish their results in obscure almanacs and do not actively investigate communities where cancer rates are elevated. Often, as Brown notes, these communities are never even informed that their cancer rates are statistically excessive.

But, in the cases where citizens have engaged in their own lay epidemiology and have become environmental detectives in their own communities, new avenues of scientific research have been made possible, which, in turn, have spurred on better environmental decisions. When sympathetic scientists work hand in hand with these activists, new forms of knowledge are created that challenge the lifestyle and hereditary foci of conventional epidemiology.

In one my favourite examples from the book, Brown describes how science alone failed to produce regulations sufficient to reduce lead poisoning among children. It was only the efforts of black and Latino rights groups -- most notably the Black Panthers and the Young Lords - in the 1960s that finally led to the social changes necessary to get lead away from children's brains. Once that happened, science had the human experiment it needed to prove that exposures to an environmental toxicant at levels once considered acceptable and unavoidable were not safe or necessary after all.

Brown's book systematically examines citizen-science alliances in three disease areas: breast cancer, asthma and Gulf War Syndrome as reported by US veterans of the first Iraq war. While individual readers who are not sociologists will no doubt be drawn, by personal experience, to one of the three, all offer important lessons about the construction of scientific knowledge. It was fascinating to learn, for example, how environmental -justice activists working on asthma clusters in urban areas are now forcing scientists to investigate the health effects of very fine particles, which are not yet regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the end, Phil Brown's analysis of contested illnesses makes a strong case for better health tracking to monitor diseases, and better chemicals tracking to monitor the flow of hazardous substances in consumer goods, in the jet stream, in our groundwater, and in our tuna-fish sandwiches. Toxic Exposures also makes clear that neither will happen without citizen participation in the scientific process.

Sandra Steingraber is the author of Living Downstream: An ecologist looks at cancer and the environment, 1997, and Having Faith: An ecologist's journey to motherhood, 2001.

Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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