Sign the Petition: Amend the Constitution to get money out of politics

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Support a constitutional amendment that would declare our independence from money in politics

Government by the People

Take Action

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
– July 4, 1776

With those words, Thomas Jefferson and the other drafters of the Declaration of Independence set an aspirational goal for our nation.

But the very foundations of the democracy they envisioned are under assault from big polluters and corporations who claim to be more equal than people, with special rights being granted to corporate “persons” to buy and sell our elections with their unlimited, undisclosed money.

Our Supreme Court’s disastrous decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon are destructive to the ends of protecting our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When big polluters can shout down normal citizens with unlimited SuperPAC money, our clean air, water, and climate suffer.

But we can fight back.

Send a message to your senators asking them to support a new constitutional amendment that would overturn these decisions and let the peoples’ voices be heard again.

The proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by environmental champion Senator Tom Udall,[1] would give Congress and the states the ability to regulate money in politics. With this, they can end the era of unlimited, undisclosed money from big polluters like the Koch brothers and Shaun McCutcheon.

While the amendment already has over 40 supporters in the Senate, it’s going to take grassroots pressure from people like you demanding they pass it.

Add your voice to thousands of others and declare our independence from money in politics.

Our government should respond to the voice of the people, not a few super-rich donors. When big polluters and their unlimited SuperPAC money speaks, they drown out the voices of the people who suffer because of dirty air, contaminated water, and a warming, unstable climate.

To make sure we can fulfill the aspirations our government was founded on, we must declare our independence from big polluter money. Tell your senators to support a constitutional amendment.

Thank you for everything you do for our environment and democracy,

Courtney Hight
Director, Democracy Program
Sierra Club

P.S. After you take action, can you help spread the word? Forward this email to your friends and family, or share the alert on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the buttons below:

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References

[1] Full text of SJR19, 113th Congress

Sierra Club – NC Legislative Update 07-03-14

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

The House passed the coal ash bill today - S 729 “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014” – which was spurred by the Dan River coal ash spill. You may recall that In February 2014, 39,000 tons of coal ash and 24 million gallons of wastewater laden with toxic heavy metals were discharged into the Dan River from a broken stormwater pipe beneath an unlined Duke Energy coal ash pit.

Coal ash has been virtually unregulated in the state, so the task of creating a regulatory framework to address both the 33 coal ash ponds in the state, but also the massive amount of dry ash generated by the Marshall plant in Catawba County, has been daunting.  Rep. McGrady (R – Henderson), Rep. Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg) and Rep. Hager (R – Burke, Rutherford) carried the bill on the House side. Sen. Apodaca (R- Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania) and Sen. Berger (R – Guilford, Rockingham) did so on the Senate side.

S 729 represents some significant strides in dealing with the coal ash problem in North Carolina, but it hasn’t gone far enough to address the continuing dangers many communities face from coal ash pollution.

A problem section was added by the House that appears to undermine ongoing citizen litigation to address groundwater contamination from coal ash ponds at multiple locations in North Carolina. Basically, the House bill rolls back current law, recently clarified in state Superior court, that gives DENR both the authority and the responsibility to require Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of groundwater pollution coming from its unlined coal ash pits. We will continue to ask the House and Senate to remove this provision before final passage of the bill.

The House bill also failed to remedy the Senate bill’s lack of clear standards to ensure that closure methods are protective of groundwater near coal ash sites. All 14 coal ash sites in the North Carolina are leaking toxic heavy metals into the groundwater.  Without clear guidelines, this bill could allow coal ash at 10 of these sites to stay in place, continuing to pollute our groundwater, lakes, and rivers.

While the bill is not as strong as we’d hope would come out of the House, some positive elements of the coal ash legislation include:

  • bringing coal ash under solid waste management laws;
  • phasing out the antiquated and dangerous wet coal ash disposal method;
  • setting a timeline, with fixed dates to close out all 33 wet coal ash ponds;
  • requiring removal of ash from ponds to dry, lined storage away from the water at 4 sites (but not necessarily at the other 10 sites – that’s left to be determined by new Coal Ash Commission);
  • setting minimum standards for landfill disposal of coal ash;
  • setting standards, requiring permitting and buffers for large structural fill projects; and
  • requiring a public process, public hearings, and public comment for coal ash site closure plans.

While some helpful amendments were added by House members, overall the House failed to significantly improve the bill from the Senate version. House members on both sides of the aisle pushed for a stronger bill but most were pleased, at the end of the day, to pass a bill that moves the state forward in a number of significant ways on coal ash. The final vote on the bill in the House was 94 -16.

Opportunity for Action:

Please thank House members who put forth positive amendments (listed below) to improve the bill. Some good amendments passed, others failed, and many were tabled (a procedural move to avoid a vote). Much like in the fracking bill debate, some of the most high-profile amendments were tabled instead of allowing a vote.

Passed:

  • Rep.Murry (R-Wake) – removed a requirement making capping in place mandatory for low-risk sites, expanded and improved closure options and added a study to incentivize the reuse of coal ash.
  • Rep.G. Martin (D-Wake) – added dam safety and security measures for dams at coal ash ponds.

Tabled (to avoid putting members on the record with a vote):

  • Reps.Goodman (D-Hoke, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland),Wilkins (D-Granville, Person),G. Graham (D-Craven, Greene, Lenoir) andWray (D-Halifax, Northampton) tried to add the coal ash plants in their districts (Belews Creek, Weatherspoon, Roxboro, Buck and Lee) to the high priority site list for clean closure.
  • Rep.Baskerville (D-Granville, Vance, Warren) offered an amendment that would have prohibited Duke Energy from transferring the cost of coal ash cleanup to ratepayers.
  • Rep.L. Hall (D-Durham) offered an amendment that would have eliminated the variance procedure (added in the House version of the bill), which allows DENR to give leeway to Duke Energy on coal ash cleanup deadlines.

Failed:

  • Rep.Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) offered an amendment in committee that called for a baseline mortality and morbidity study in areas around coal ash ponds to better gage the effects of coal ash on public health.
  • Rep.Stone (R-Harnett, Lee) offered an amendment that would have added the Cape Fear plant, in his district, to the list of high priority sites, which will get fully cleaned up and all coal ash removed within 5 years. Stone’s amendment passed with a 57-54 vote but then leadership scrambled to flip votes, pulled a procedural move to reconsider the vote, and a second vote was taken of 54-58.
  • Rep.Luebke (D-Durham) offered an amendment to require standards for smaller structural fill projects.
  • Rep.Hamilton (D-Brunswick, New Hanover) offered a good amendment that would have eliminated the possibility of disposing coal ash in open pit mines.
  • Rep.Meyer (D-Durham, Orange) offered an amendment that would have eliminated cost as one of the factors that the new Coal Ash Commission may consider when reviewing coal ash pond closure plans, thereby prioritizing environmental and public health considerations.
  • Rep.Fisher (D-Buncombe) offered an amendment to add a seat on the new Coal Ash Commission to a person who lives near a coal ash plant.
  • Rep.Harrison (D-Guilford) offered an amendment that would have deleted the very concerning section on compliance boundaries that appears to undermine ongoing groundwater contamination lawsuits by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. This amendment highlighted the most notable difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Looking Ahead:

Next the bill will go to the Senate for a vote of concurrence, likely next week. It is expected that the Senate will vote not to concur and will appoint conferees.  The House will also appoint conferees.  A final bill will be negotiated by members appointed as conferees. (note: conference committees are not open processes).

And later this year, in December, the EPA is scheduled to come out with a federal rule to address coal ash cleanup. The challenges that North Carolina has faced in developing comprehensive coal ash legislation shows that a strong EPA rule is needed more than ever to set national standards for coal ash disposal.

Thank you for all your efforts to communicate with legislators about this issue.

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

July 12 – Evergreen Nature Preserve Service Outing

Join us next weekend, Saturday July 12th, for a fun day of service, getting outdoors, and meeting new folks! Check out some photos from last month’s service outing (click on photo below) and I’m sure you’ll want to experience this beautiful Mecklenburg County resource.

Evergreen Nature Preserve

Preserve Our Preserves Service Outing

Saturday, July 12, 2014

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Winterfield Elementary School

3100 Winterfield Pl, Charlotte, NC

For the last 2 years, The Central Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club has been engaged in invasive species removal  at Ribbon Walk Nature Preserve, and we have done such an outstanding job  the Parks and Recreation Department has asked us to do the same for Evergreen Nature Preserve. Invasive species, also called “introduced species”,” non-native” or “non-indigenous” are plants that adversely affect the habitats or bioregions they invade.  The invasive species dominate the region and crowd out native species which had previously provided habitat and food for birds and other wildlife.  There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from clearing a section of forest of invasive vines and seeing the natural open landscape restored.  We would love to have you join us at Evergreen to pitch in and restore this little slice of nature right in the heart of East Charlotte.

What to bring: Wear sturdy shoes for work and walking. Bring a water bottle and a snack if you would like to nibble while you work. Work gloves recommended. Tools are provided but you are welcome to bring your own loppers, trowels, knives, etc.

Liability Waiver: All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver. If you would like to read the liability waiver before you choose to participate in an outing, download a copy at NC Sierra Club Sign In Waiver

For questions or more information. contact Outings Chair David Underwood at 704-675-2390 davidmunderwood@mail.com

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New Video: Why Does Duke Energy Hate Solar Power in North Carolina?

NC WARN has launched a statewide campaign to expose Duke Energy’s efforts to destroy North Carolina’s growing solar power industry at the rooftop and large-scale levels. To learn more about their campaign, got to Why Does Duke Energy Hate Solar?

Get everyone you know to send a short email to NC Utilities Commission Chair Ed Finley (statements@ncuc.net) about the upcoming solar hearing in Raleigh. This particular hearing is about large-scale solar but has implications for rooftop systems as well. Tell Commissioner Chair Ed Finley why large-scale solar is valuable for North Carolina. Please reference docket E-100 Sub 140 in the subject line.

Looking to become a Solar Energy installer?

CPCC Center for Sustainability is holding a 40 hour continuing education course on installation and design of solar photovoltaics.

This course covers instruction on the physical principles, equipment, system components, and site analysis, and provides training in the basic skill set for design and installation of solar photovoltaics power systems. Design of Grid tied solar systems for residential and commercial buildings will be taught. A portion of the course will discuss standalone systems. It has 40 hours of instruction the last part of which is the completion of the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. The course will be offered over 2 intense weekends to enable full time workers to fit the course into their schedule. Completion of the coursework is sufficient training for students to be eligible to take the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam for solar photovoltaics installers. The NABCEP certification is the “gold standard” for professional accreditation in renewable energy systems. The test is included in the 40 hours of training.

CPCC CforS ENV7200

Help fix the NC coal ash crisis

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club

Dear friends,

As the 2014 session of the NC General Assembly heads into its final days, one major environmental bill remains in the balance –  one that will succeed, or fall short, of addressing the coal ash crisis in our state.

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As the House takes up S. 729, “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014″, there is critically important issue remains to be addressed in the coal ash bill. We need you take action today.

The February coal ash spill into the Dan River was the third largest in our nation’s history. The spill highlighted the dangerous practice of  storing 103 million tons of toxic coal ash in unlined pits next to our state’s waterways– and to end that practice requires the legislature’s attention, action and leadership.

The Senate has acted.  S 729 “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014″, was approved unanimously last week.  It goes a long way towards addressing the pollution entering our waterways and groundwater from Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds in the state.

But it has one serious shortcoming.

The Senate’s bill does not adequately ensure that all coal ash ponds, including those categorized as “low risk”, will permanently isolate coal ash from water to prevent further water pollution. Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals that are water soluble and at every coal ash site in NC these chemicals are leaking into groundwater supplies.  A proposed solution called “capping in place”, which leaves the coal ash in the ground with a landfill liner on top, can still lead to polluting ground and surface water.

The NC House will take up the coal ash bill at any time now.

Please contact your House Representative today.  Ask that clear criteria be established that would make sure that alternative closure methods selected for all 33 sites would only be allowed if Duke Energy could stop the water pollution from coal ash.

Click here to contact your representative today!

Thanks for standing up for clean water,

Zak Keith
Lead Organizer for the NC Sierra Club

P.S. – This bill could move quickly, please send your message today!  We need your state House Representative to know that without permanent separation of coal ash and ground water, covering coal ash pits is not a solution.

Take Action: Gather Comments to EPA on Carbon Pollution

Climate Change

President Obama promised that his administration would take action to confront the climate crisis — and now the EPA has finally proposed the first-ever safeguards against carbon pollution from our nation’s aging power plants.

This is a big deal, and the big polluters know it.

This is the beginning of what could be the biggest climate fight in history. Fossil fuel billionaires are mobilizing like never before. They’re already sending their lobbyists to Washington and spreading their fear-mongering talking points on Fox News.

Don’t let the fossil fuel billionaires get the last word. Flood the EPA with official comments saying that America is ready for strong climate action!

So what do I do with my signed comment forms? Bring them to our next monthly meeting or mail them to the NC Beyond Coal team at Sierra Club, 34 Wall Street Suite 709, Asheville, NC 28806. For questions or comments, contact contact Zak Keith or Emma Greenbaum.

Thanks for  being a Climate Action Champion!

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Speak Out! – EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standard, July 29th, Atlanta

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EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standard
We invite you to join us!
Tuesday, July 29, from 9am to 8pm
At
lanta, GA

Concerned citizens from around the region are planning to attend the EPA’s public hearing in Atlanta on the newly-proposed Clean Power Plan to set limits on carbon pollution. The hearing will convene at 9:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 p.m. EST and you will need to register here to offer comments. The last day to pre-register in advance will be Friday, July 25, 2014.

For more information about the hearing, visit EPA’s Carbon Rule hearing page; for more information about the proposed rule, check out Mary Anne Hitts’ recent piece on The Next Steps for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards webpage.

If you are interested in participating, contact Zak Keith or Emma Greenbaum today!

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EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standard

When: Tuesday, July 29th, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Where: Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Atlanta, GA, 30303

Register: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/forms/public-hearings-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule#register

Interested in coming but not sure what to say? Contact

Can’t make it to Atlanta? Submit a comment online, here.

 

Hearing Set for NC Fracking Stormwater and Water Quality Rules – July 1

Fracking NC

Public invited to comment on stormwater and water quality rules for oil and gas development

DENRRALEIGH – State officials will host a public hearing on July 1 in Sanford on a proposed rule that would put in place stormwater management requirements for oil and gas exploration and production sites, and proposed revisions to four land application and wastewater reuse rules.

The public hearing is being hosted by the state divisions of Water Resources, and Energy, Mineral and Land Resources on behalf of the N.C. Environmental Management Commission. The hearing starts at 6 p.m. at the Dennis Wicker Center at 1801 Nash Street in Sanford. People wishing to speak during the hearing are asked to register starting at 5 p.m. The hearing will be recorded.

Rules discussed at this meeting will include only those related to stormwater, land application and wastewater reuse. The bulk of the rulemaking necessary for development of the state’s oil and gas regulatory program falls under the authority of the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission. The Mining and Energy Commission’s rulemaking process is separate from this rulemaking by the Environmental Management Commission. Public hearings for the Mining and Energy Commission’s rules are scheduled for August.

Written comments from the public will be accepted at the meeting and may also be submitted until 5 p.m. Aug. 1. Written comments should be sent to: Evan Kane, Division of Water Resources, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699-1617. Written comments may also be sent by email to: Stormwater_and_LandApp_Rules@lists.ncmail.net.

The complete text of the proposed rule and proposed revisions to existing rules are available online at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq/rules.