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

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“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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[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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

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


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.

Gus Belews convio.png
Coal Ash Action Button - june - convio2.png

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!

Carbon Pollution Standards CommentsCarbon_Pollution_Postcard_Existing Plants

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



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


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


Interested in coming but not sure what to say? Contact

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


Take Action: Help Kids and Families Get Healthy Outdoors

Speak out today to help connect youth with the outdoors!

To find out more about our Sierra Club Inspiring Connections Outdoors (formerly Inner City Outings) program check out website or contact our ICO Chair Karan Barber.

Take Action: Help Kids and Families Get Healthy Outdoors

Take Action: Help Kids and Families Get Healthy Outdoors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Research shows that youth who have nearby access to parks and nature are more likely to get outdoors and be physical fit than those living in park poor communities.

Time in nature has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall mental health. Regardless of where kids live, every single one of them deserves the chance to explore and enjoy nature.

Take Action
Tell your representative to support the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act to help states create strategies to get our kids active, healthy, and outdoors.

The Power of a Plan

Coming Clean: The blog of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune

June 24, 2014

The Power of a Plan

Michael Brune Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. View my blog.

In his 19th-century curmudgeon’s classic, The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined a plan as “the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.” When the EPA released its “Clean Power Plan” this month for reducing carbon pollution from power plants, the agency was clear about the results it expects by 2030: Cutting carbon pollution from the power sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels, while also reducing other air pollutants (which by themselves cause thousands of premature deaths) by 25 percent.

Maybe you’ve heard that this plan is momentous — a real game changer. Or maybe you’ve heard that, by itself, it’s not nearly tough enough to get us where we want to be by 2030. Actually, both of those things are true. This plan really is a big deal and it’s the payoff for years of hard work by dedicated activists. And, yes, it can and should be made even stronger — and we’re going to keep working to make that happen. Because the plan focuses on action at the state level, the Sierra Club is particularly well positioned to do that, too.

So, kudos to the EPA. But you know what? We’ve already seen some important results from this plan that — if not quite “accidental” — were by no means a sure thing, either.

Because President Obama is walking the walk on his 2009 Copenhagen pledge to reduce emissions, U.S. international credibility on climate action was boosted overnight. Most notably, we had the first indication ever from China that it was considering capping its own carbon emissions — an announcement that came the day after the EPA rolled out its plan. An important climate summit is happening in Paris next year, and this plan puts the U.S. in a better position to help secure an agreement.

Here at home, the plan has left the fossil-fuel lobby (and the politicians who take their marching orders from the Koch brothers) flailing for a credible response. Many cited a discredited report from the Chamber of Commerce that wasn’t even based on the EPA’s actual plan. Apart from the Tea Party choir, their sermons fell on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, the plan has drawn considerable support from non-fossil fuel industries and businesses, including some utilities. I think there are at least three good reasons for that. First, the EPA bent over backward to make its plan fair and flexible. Second, the reality of climate disruption has long since been accepted by businesses that can already see its effects on their bottom lines. Third, as the EPA’s own analysis shows, these standards not only are a cost-effective response but also will generate new economic opportunities and thousands of jobs.

Most exciting of all has been the response of those who will be most affected by this new plan: the American people. Overwhelmingly, that response has been positive. Polls (including one a week ago from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News) have found two out of three Americans supporting the new standards. Best of all, in at least one poll, a majority stuck to that view whether they were Democrats, Republicans, or independents.

But, getting back to long-term results, do I think that by 2030 we will achieve the results the EPA is aiming for with this plan? No. I think we’ll do far better. By 2030, clean, renewable energy will be playing a much bigger role in our economy than the EPA is guessing, and that transformation will multiply the already significant public health, economic, and climate benefits we’re expecting from these carbon pollution reductions.

Should that be called an accidental outcome? If so, then it’s a happy one.

You can submit an official comment on the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan here.

Today at the legislature, Wednesday June 25, 2014, Coal Ash bill passes Senate

Protect Enviro DemocracyDear Friends,

The Senate cast a final vote today in support of S 729, the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014.  Some good amendments passed, including two by Senate Rules Chair Tom Apodaca, who repeatedly credited Sierra Club for our input.  A particularly important amendment was offered by Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) to limit the impact of a concession gained in the legislature last session by Duke Energy that amended the statute regulating sources of water pollution by extending the compliance boundary for groundwater quality standards all the way out to a facility’s property line, abandoning the previous 500-foot limit. Automatically placing a compliance boundary at a property line removes any obligation for polluters to address groundwater contamination until after it has contaminated neighboring property and could allow a polluter to buy up neighboring properties to expand the area in which they could legally pollute. Sen. Stein’s amendment removes the assumption that a compliance boundary is at the property boundary; a step in the right direction.

But our work is by no means over yet. Next the bill goes to the House. Of particular concern is that the House make changes to better protect communities near coal ash sites designated “low risk” that are not appropriate for capping in place because of the proximity of coal ash to the water table.  Please contact your House representative and ask them to ensure that the coal ash bill protects groundwater by requiring that ash be separate from the water table.

We will be back in touch with more on what you can do as this legislation heads into the final stretch, but for now, please know that your voices have been heard.

Thank you, Cassie

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations
Sierra Club – NC Chapter