Members of National Nurses United protest petroleum coke storage in Chicago in May. (Photo by Bob Simpson via Creative Commons)
“Whatever it is a nurse can do, I probably have done it,” says Beverly Van Buren, an operating room nurse at St. Louis University Hospital who has also worked in nursing homes, podiatry, the military reserves and other posts in her nearly four-decade career.
“And I have loved it – it has been a fantastic journey,” she said.
The latest stage of Van Buren’s journey features a growing mission among nurses nationwide: the pursuit of environmental justice, fueled by a growing awareness of the environmental factors that could be linked to, causing or exacerbating the cancers, respiratory ailments or other conditions that affect their patients.
Nurses have individually become increasingly aware of the role of the environment in health, and over the past two years the National Nurses United labor union has launched a concerted campaign to mobilize on environmental justice issues — including the role of fossil fuels in both local pollution and climate change.
Groves Woods in Trumbull County, Ohio, — in the northern area of the Utica hotbed of shale drilling — is among dozens of natural area preserves owned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History because of its ecological habitats. (Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski)
Conservation experts say fracking and other shale gas activities can add to the dangers faced by Ohio’s rare species.
Yet as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) allows more and more natural gas activities in the state, its natural heritage program remains dramatically scaled back. That limits ODNR’s ability to identify and protect important habitats in sparsely surveyed areas.
Additionally, Ohio law exempts oil and natural gas activities from certain environmental requirements. It also allows massive water withdrawals for fracking and other activities. These and other factors can compound conservation threats.
Last Friday, experts at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s annual conservation symposium spoke about a wide range of threats faced by birds, bats, butterflies, mussels and amphibians — one hundred years after the last known passenger pigeon died in Ohio.
Chicago residents protest petroleum coke storage piles in April. (Photo by Bob Simpson via Creative Commons)
Marcy Juarez, a hospice worker living on Chicago’s Southeast side, says she still can’t open the windows on hot days, because of gritty black dust that blows in.
Her children have urged her to sell the house, but she’s lived there for 35 years, recently remodeled, loves the community and can’t imagine leaving.
Mari Barboza and her family still feel they can’t enjoy a barbecue outside, since the afternoon last summer when a cloud of black dust ruined the food at her mother’s 60th birthday party.
Other residents of Chicago’s Southeast side likewise say their homes, cars and patio furniture are still frequently coated in black grime, as one woman exhibited on a wipe soiled with thick black residue at a community meeting July 28.
They say their lives continue to be seriously impacted by the piles of petroleum coke (petcoke) that the Koch Industries subsidiary KCBX Terminals is storing in the community, despite KCBX’s moves to comply with rules that the city health department issued in March.
Now KCBX is requesting variances from the health department rules, and in its request filed June 9 the company threatened to sue if it doesn’t get the exemptions.
The E.D. Edwards power plant near Bartonville, Illinois. (Photo courtesy Illinois Sierra Club)
When Houston-based Dynegy Inc. bought the E.D. Edwards coal plant near Peoria, Illinois last year, Gary Hall was among many local residents who were not happy.
Ameren essentially paid Dynegy to take over the financially flailing plants. Given trends affecting coal plants nationwide, including pending EPA carbon rules and competition from cheap natural gas, many environmentalists and energy experts think the E.D. Edwards plant and other aging coal plants may close in coming years.
“This company comes in from Texas, buys plants like this so they can sell the stuff that’s in it and get out,” said Hall, a retired Caterpillar worker and member of UAW Local 974. “It’s like an old car, you get more money from the parts then selling the car. But what’s going to happen is those poor people, our brothers and sisters who work in there will end up with no jobs.”
Michigan’s state capitol building. (Photo by Matt Katzenberger via Creative Commons)
A Michigan lawmaker wants to expand the state’s definition of renewable energy to include more fuel made from municipal and industrial solid waste.
State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, a Republican who represents a district near Kalamazoo, is sponsoring legislation that would eliminate what he calls “unnecessary burdens on the appropriate use” of burning solid waste, and would expand the definition to include byproducts like petroleum coke.
Opponents have called it a “gerrymander” of the definition of renewable energy at a time when the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard of 10 percent from renewables is set to expire next year.
Nesbitt says it’s a logical alternative to storing the materials in landfills.
“This is a very important discussion to have,” said Nesbitt, who chairs the state House Energy and Technology Committee. “There’s a lot of picking winners and losers. I think we need to really decide on what course and what standard we need to go for.”
(Photo by Mrs. Gemstone via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from Greentech Media with permission
By Martin LaMonica
One would think that last week’s landmark EPA proposal to limit CO2 emissions from power plants would be the main topic of discussion at a utility industry conference. But that wasn’t the case at the Utility of the Future conference in Washington, D.C.
Discussion of the EPA proposal certainly came up, but executives seemed to be more worried about technology disruption and the ability of regulators to encourage change in a smart way. The limited discussion about EPA carbon rules reflected how varied their impacts will be and how pressing other regulations are for utilities.
“We have policies embedded in our regulatory structures and our laws. The problem is that we don’t have a cohesive policy. We don’t have an endgame,” said Anne Pramaggiore, CEO of Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison.
(Photo by Even Regis via Creative Commons)
© 2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jean Chemnick
As U.S. EPA crafted Monday’s proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, the agency was asked by environmentalists to use a model that would incorporate both “systemwide” reductions and those that can be achieved at individual plants, while industry advocates warned that such an approach would be challenged in court.
In the end, the proposal released this week incorporates both “inside the fence line” and “outside the fence line” options, designating both as best systems of emissions reduction (BSER) for today’s power fleet.
Environmental groups say they’re OK with using coal ash in cement, but have concerns about other, “unencapsulated” uses. (Photo by Brian Knox via Creative Commons)
Legislation in Michigan to expand the use of coal ash in road construction and other applications has opponents concerned about potential environmental contamination and subsequent liability.
For at least the past decade, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has sought comprehensive regulations on reusing industrial byproducts like coal ash, the material generated from burning coal for electricity, as an alternative to sending it to landfills.
The “beneficial use” bills, which recently passed 68-42 in the state House, would formally regulate the use of over a dozen forms of industrial byproducts — including coal ash, foundry sands and sludge from paper and pulp mills — across a variety of sectors, including construction fill and on agricultural land.
Coal fly ash is a powdery residue that contains varying levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. Environmental groups have long been concerned about the possibility of these contaminants leaching into groundwater supplies, and some experts dispute the accuracy of methods used to test its toxicity.
Nurses and others call for tougher petroleum coke restrictions at a protest near the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. (Photo by Kari Lydersen for Midwest Energy News)
“Stunning, just stunning, just stunning,” said Sheilah Garland, shaking her head as she stared out the window of the bus rolling along a dirt road next to towering black piles of petroleum coke on Chicago’s Southeast Side.
As an organizer of National Nurses United, a labor union representing about 6,000 nurses in Chicago and 185,000 nationwide, Garland has seen a lot. She represents nurses working in grueling and traumatic situations on a daily basis. And the union has picked fights with powerful politicians, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
But Garland was shocked by the piles of petcoke, about six stories high, located across the street from homes. She was also perturbed to see employees walking onsite without respiratory masks.
The nurses union has joined local residents’ fight to get petcoke transportation and storage banned in Chicago. They see it as a serious public health issue and part of their larger social justice advocacy mission.
This map via the EPA shows states covered under the cross-state pollution rule. (Click to enlarge)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeremy P. Jacobs
In a landmark win for the Obama administration and public health advocates, the Supreme Court on Tuesday resurrected U.S. EPA’s program for air pollution that drifts across state lines after a lower court had thrown it out.
The 6-2 decision upholds EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR, a regulatory regime for 28 Eastern states that requires upwind states to cut emissions that cause downwind states to exceed the agency’s air standards.