Virginia Withholds Key Permit for “Header Injustice Project”

CCAN Statement: “This was a needed win in these trying times”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2020
CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 240-630-1889
Anne Havemann, General Counsel, anne@chesapeakeclimate.org, 240-630-2146
Lauren Landis, Grassroots Coordinator, lauren@chesapeakeclimate.org, 757-634-9567

Richmond, VA — Today, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued a preliminary ruling against a controversial fracked-gas expansion project referred to as the “Header Injustice Project” by affected communities. Under the terms of the decision, the utility may re-apply for a permit but must comply with certain conditions that could prove extremely difficult to meet.  If the utility, Virginia Natural Gas (VNG), can show by December 31, 2020, that its main customer — the 1050-megawatt C4GT gas plant — has the financing it needs to build, VNG must also submit information about needed environmental justice analyses and confirm that it will protect VNG’s customers from unnecessary rate increases. 

The second condition related to cost protections might prove especially challenging for VNG to meet. To shield VNG’s customers from “holding the bag” for the costs of the project should the gas plant cease operation, the Commission is requiring that the capital cost of the project must be recovered over 20 years instead of the 70 years proposed. VNG’s own rebuttal testimony recognized that “[t]here is a very real risk that if the entire cost of the Project is required to be amortized over 20 years that the Project will be cost prohibitive and not be completed.” 

The Commission found that there was a “very real risk” that C4GT might shut down before VNG fully recovered the costs of the Project. In its 2020 session, the Virginia General Assembly voted to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which will raise the cost of all carbon-emitting facilities in Virginia, making it more difficult for merchant facilities like C4GT, which sell energy and capacity into the regional power grid, to make a profit. 

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club, represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates, intervened in the proceeding and consistently raised concerns about the potential impacts to ratepayers from the proposed 70-year cost-recovery period, among other issues. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also intervened as did the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Appalachian Voices and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. 

Anne Havemann, CCAN General Counsel, stated:

“This was a needed win in these trying times. The Header Injustice Project is so named because it is an absolute travesty in terms of environmental justice. Major components would go through majority-minority communities, and virtual hearings were held about an issue that would impact areas that have limited internet access. As a result, these communities, with little knowledge or say in the project, would have been the worst impacted by its harms: toxic air pollution, noise, threats of explosion. This is the textbook definition of environmental racism. 

“But, at the end of the day, it was the arguments around need and cost that moved the needle. This decision recognizes that there is great risk in continuing investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and affirms that ratepayers should not be forced to subsidize these projects. Virginia is on the pathway to 100% clean electricity. Fracked gas should no longer enter the equation. 

“We thank the SCC Commissioners who did the right thing today. The tide is turning in Virginia toward clean energy and toward justice. We hope that Governor Northam is paying attention and will use his authority to reject the other terrible fracked-gas projects proposed in the Commonwealth, including Dominion’s Buckingham Compressor Station.” 

Additional information: 

Virginia Natural Gas is calling the proposal the “Header Improvement Project.” But the organizations fighting it call it the “Header Injustice Project” because it would harm countless communities. 

The proposal is for three new gas pipelines, totaling 24 miles, and three new or expanded gas compressor stations from Northern Virginia, through the middle of the state, and to the shore in Hampton Roads. The primary purpose of HIP is to supply gas to the C4GT merchant gas plant proposed for Charles County City. This merchant plant would be located about a mile from the proposed Chickahominy Power Station, a separate gas-fired merchant power plant that would be the largest in the state of Virginia. VNG wants this network of fracked-gas infrastructure to be up and running by the end of 2022.

The project has been tangled in justice concerns from the beginning. The massive gas plant the project is intended to serve is one of two such plants proposed  to be built in a community with higher minority populations than the Virginia average. And one key component of the HIP project itself — the Gidley Compressor Station — is also proposed for a predominantly Black community. Yet there has been no environmental justice review carried out. 

Furthermore, holding regulatory hearings for the project during the COVID-19 pandemic raised concerns in itself because internet coverage in the area surrounding the Gidley Compressor falls below the state average, leaving residents unable to access information and participate in the process. The first hearing on the HIP proposal was held up by technical issues.

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 A coalition called the Stop the Abuse of Virginian Energy (SAVE) Coalition has formed to stop this project. Learn more here: www.stophip.org

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. To learn more, visit www.chesapeakeclimate.org 

D.C. Sues Big Oil for Lying About Climate Change

AG Karl Racine Files Consumer Protection Lawsuit Against Exxon, BP, Chevron, and Shell One Day After Minnesota AG Filed Consumer Protection Case Against Exxon & Koch Industries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine today filed a consumer protection lawsuit against four of the world’s biggest oil companies — Exxon, BP, Chevron, and Shell — for knowingly concealing the role their products play in causing climate change harm.

The D.C. lawsuit comes one day after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a similar consumer fraud lawsuit against Exxon, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute. A consumer protection suit filed against Exxon by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey last year is now proceeding in state court.

“Two new lawsuits filed against Big Oil in two days shows the strength and momentum of legal efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for lying about climate change,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity. “It has been a very bad week for corporate polluters and climate deniers, and a very good week in the fight to hold Big Oil accountable for its lies and deception. We applaud Attorney General Racine for bringing this case. The residents of D.C. deserve their day in court.” 

“The District of Columbia today stood up to mega polluters like ExxonMobil who have harmed vulnerable DC residents for decades,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “The heatwaves are bigger and the flooding from the Potomac is greater. The lawsuit filed today accurately asserts that these fossil fuel companies misled consumers about the harm of their products and the impacts of climate change. Now legal justice and compensation must flow to the Capital’s injured residents.”

A copy of the D.C. lawsuit is available here  https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/DC-v-Exxon-BP-Chevron-Shell-Filed-Complaint.pdf

This is the second consumer protection action filed in D.C. against Exxon in recent months. In May, the non-profit group Beyond Pesticides filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Exxon that asked the D.C. Superior Court to order the oil giant to cease its “false and deceptive marketing” about its role in climate change.

Background on Climate Accountability Lawsuits:

The consumer protection lawsuits filed by Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia are among a growing number of cases that seek to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate change deception. Since 2017, more than a dozen city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and Washington have brought lawsuits under different claims to recover billions of dollars damages caused by the oil and gas industry’s deception about climate change. Learn about those other cases here.

Contact: Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity, mike@climateintegrity.org or 919-307-6637
Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org or 240-460-5838

The Center for Climate Integrity, a project of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, launched in 2017 to educate the public and policymakers about the massive costs of coping with the damage attributable to global warming and to support efforts to make climate polluters pay their fair share.

For more information on what ExxonMobil and others in the industry knew about climate change and when, check out the Center for Climate Integrity’s “Smoking Guns” document archive or visit PayUpClimatePolluters.org.

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Add “Prison Reform” to your Climate Activist To-Do List. Yes, really.

Racial Injustice in the time of COVID-19 

As we’ve seen so often during the coronavirus crisis, we know that COVID-19 does not impact all people equally. In the United States, we have seen the virus expose the dark divisions in health and income disparities between white Americans and Black and Latinx Americans. Moreover, the ongoing protests surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others at the hands of police have revealed the systemic racism that keeps populations in our society unequal. Activists and educators have pointed to the statistics that show even more severe inconsistencies between Black and white Americans in the level of services accessible in the form of access to jobs, healthcare, affordable housing, and education. However, out of all populations that COVID-19 is hitting the hardest, Americans in prison are dying at a disproportionate rates and spreading COVID-19 faster than outside populations, due to the intersections of of racial injustice, poor health outcomes, and lack of basic medical care that is lacking in our prisons and jails. 

These disparities should cause alarm for anyone wishing for America to move towards a more just and equal society. For us as climate activists, we already know the data shows us that communities of color bear the brunt of fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts. We should examine how to help every community in our society have a higher chance of survival against the virus, so that we can begin to create the truly green and safe future that we strive towards. 

How does the legacy of white supremacy impact the current criminal justice system? 

In the United States, 70 percent of American prisoners are non-white – part of this has been fueled by decades of mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes that fall under the categories targeted by the “War on Drugs” or “broken windows” policing strategies. Legal scholar Michelle Alexander in her award-winning book “The New Jim Crow” argues that the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a system that upholds racism, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. “People of color are being incarcerated at far higher rates than their counterparts, while neighborhoods that are economically or politically disenfranchised will also have an accumulation” said Barun Mathema, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. A 2016 study by the Sentencing Project found that Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states.

What does this mean during COVID-19? During the COVID-19 crisis, these inequalities are even more magnified. People in prisons are often at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 due to close proximity, inability to practice social distancing, lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene, high incidence of underlying medical conditions, and lack of adequate medical care in prisons and jails. Even in non-pandemic times, prisons and jails fail at providing the most basic of physical and mental healthcare. And noting the earlier statistics on which groups make up the majority of prisons (Black and Brown people of color), we see that the intersections of race and COVID-19 are a death sentence for the most vulnerable populations in our country. This needs to change. 

Connecting the Dots: COVID-19, Climate, Injustice

Some of you might be asking now: Why should we work to make reforms now to the criminal justice system during COVID-19? Racial injustice has fueled this crisis in America’s prisons, and just as with calls to reform police departments because of brutality, we should also seek to reform this system for the better overall public health and sustainability of our communities. 

If it weren’t enough that prisons are pushed to extremes during a pandemic, we face the duality of knowing that climate change impacts are hitting us already, and the more extreme impacts that we know will come if fossil fuel pollution is left unchecked. If we recognize that people of color are the ones most often on the frontlines of climate change, we must also recognize that prison populations are also on the front lines of climate change. Organizer Jay Ware notes that imprisoned people also suffer from climate catastrophes, “whether this is families fleeing climate change in the Global South being detained and separated into immigrant detention facilities or other black, brown, and poor white prisoners from typically toxic neighborhoods ecologically who are held in toxic prisons.” Not only are the climate impacts experienced prior to incarceration by families and communities, but for people currently living in prison, climate impacts of intense heat, extreme cold, and flooding inflict both physical and psychological suffering

“Every time a large-scale hurricane approaches a coastal stretch of the United States, gruesome stories surface concerning prison officials who refuse to evacuate their prisons. The consequences of this malign neglect can be devastating, and sometimes fatal. During Hurricane Katrina, thousands of prisoners were left to rot in waist-high water; in 2017, Hurricane Harvey saw 3,000 prisoners in Texas stranded without food or water for days; in 2018, prisoners within the evacuation zone on Florida’s coast were left to fend for themselves when Hurricane Michael hit; and when Hurricane Florence rolled through South Carolina, the state declined to evacuate more than a thousand people across multiple prisons.” – Kim Kelly, “The Climate Disaster Inside America’s Prisons” 

Furthermore, with the threads of mass incarceration, health inequality, and the climate crisis seemingly intertwined – some officials look to prisons for help in fighting climate change. In California, during the unprecedented fire season in 2018 and onwards, prison labor has been used to fight wildfires. Prisoners in California’s Conservation Camp program were fighting the fires alongside civilian employees, earning just $1.45 a day for their work, significantly less than minimum wage that their counterparts earn, but carrying all of the dangerous risks that fighting fires entail. If you do not see the issues with labor exploitation during a climate crisis, the ACLU makes it clear: “We should use incarceration as a last resort to protect public safety — not to create or maintain a pool of cheap labor for the government.” 

Next Steps on Criminal Justice Reform 

So where do we go from here? What would reform look like? An immediate next step that all climate activists must take is to dedicate some of your time as activists to guarantee that the human rights of all Americans are being protected, now during the COVID-19 crisis and into the future when we know that climate impacts will arrive in our cities and communities. 

Since it has been noted that one of the main causes of COVID-19 spreading quickly throughout the prison system is due to prison overcrowding – one solution proposed is to reduce the overall number of people in prison – something that health experts and criminal justice reform advocates now agree on. Activists have been calling for this for many years, because we already know prisons are stacked with more and more individuals serving extremely long sentences for nonviolent offenses.  

Human Rights Watch, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to human rights issues, recommends releasing: 

  • those held for minor offenses
  • those nearing the end of their sentence
  • those jailed for technical violations of probation or parole
  • incarcerated children, older, and otherwise medically vulnerable people, and people who are caregivers to vulnerable people
  • detainees who have not been charged
  • detainees held in pretrial detention, unless they pose a serious and concrete risk to others

in order to best stop the rampant spread of COVID-19 and other health ailments. 

Research released in April by the ACLU found that if prison reform measures were taken, the U.S. could “save as many as 23,000 people in jail and 76,000 in the broader community if we stop arrests for all but the most serious offenses and double the rate of release for those already detained.” 

And it’s not just activists sounding the alarm on this issue either – our government must take notice and take action towards reform. On April 6, Attorney General William Barr sent a memo to federal prosecutors urging them to consider Covid-19 risks when making bail decisions. The memo cited the risk of in increasing jail populations during the pandemic, as well as concerns about risks to individuals. The memo still instructs prosecutors to detain people who pose a public safety threat, despite concerns about the virus. If the Trump Administration recognizes this as a problem, it’s clearly even more serious than they let on. 

Concluding Thoughts 

Finding solutions for all of the intersecting systems of climate justice, racial justice, and mass incarceration can feel overwhelming. But we can draw some conclusions from analyzing all of this information: The same systems that result in a fossil fuel-burning power plant located closer to a Black neighborhood is the same system that resulted in higher incarceration rates for Black Americans and ultimately higher rates of transmission of COVID-19. If we want to fix one of these problems, we actually need to solve both, because climate justice is inherently linked to rectifying racial injustice. 

If we want to create a more sustainable future with clean energy, access to family-supporting jobs, and homes safe from climate impacts of extreme heat, storms, and rising seas, we first need to work to improve the systems that keep us unequal: the unequal access to affordable healthcare and safe homes. For a truly just transition, there can be no one left behind. 

Here are some organizations that are working on this issue in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region that I would encourage you to learn more from and support: 

If you’re confused or have more questions, I would love to talk with you more about this issue, please feel free to email me at stacy[at]chesapeakeclimate.org 

Resources for Further Reading: 

References

Groups Sue Trump’s EPA Over Rollback of Toxic Emissions Standards

Under the cover of Covid, EPA is putting thousands of lives at risk 

For Immediate Release – June 19, 2020

Contacts: 
Siham Zniber, Press Secretary, | szniber@earthjustice.org
Neil Gormley, Earthjustice attorney, | ngormley@earthjustice.org | 202.797.5239
James Pew, Earthjustice attorney, | jpew@earthjustice.org  | 202.745.5214
Brian Willis, Sierra Club, Brian.Willis@sierraclub.org
Lisa Caruso, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, lcaruso@cbf.org | 202.746.2504
Katie Edwards, Clean Air Council kedwards@cleanair.org

Washington, D.C. – Today, civil rights and environmental organizations represented by Earthjustice sued Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency for gutting the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which regulate toxic emissions from coal- and oil-burning power plants. Since MATS took effect in 2015, it has reduced mercury and other air pollutants, which are linked to brain poisoning, breathing illnesses, heart disease, and cancer, among other health impacts that particularly affect children and communities of color. MATS is estimated to save as many as 11,000 lives each year. 

Despite unusually widespread opposition, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler – a former coal lobbyist – reversed the legal finding that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate power plants’ hazardous emissions, based on a new cost benefit analysis that economists say has “deep flaws.” The move weakened the rule’s legal foundation and invited court challenges from industry groups hostile to these protections. Coal company Westmoreland Mining Holdings quickly took the opportunity that Wheeler handed to them and went after MATS in court last month. Earthjustice clients are also intervening in Westmoreland’s lawsuit to stop coal barons in their tracks.

 “Wheeler deceitfully created a bogus excuse for coal companies to challenge the MATS rule in court even though he knows the rule saves thousands of lives every year,” said Earthjustice attorney Neil Gormley. “If Wheeler’s giveaway to his former clients is successful, our children will be poisoned while we’re preoccupied with the pandemic. This corrupt attack on our communities is immoral and must be stopped.”

EPA’s own analysis underscores the public health benefits of air pollution regulations. Thanks to MATS mercury pollution has decreased by more than 81 percent.  

“It’s just common sense to protect the most vulnerable populations from the highly toxic air pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants. The technology to keep people safe is being used today and it is affordable. Eliminating these basic protections is simply unconscionable,” said Anne Hedges, Deputy Director of the Montana Environmental Information Center.

“The Trump administration is needlessly jeopardizing standards that have advanced Bay cleanup efforts and protected the region’s most vulnerable children for years. We cannot allow this cynical move to undermine critical health and environmental protections that power plants are already meeting. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is proud to return to court with partners we’ve fought alongside since 2005 to make sure that does not happen,”said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Staff Attorney Ariel Solaski.

“Given Andrew Wheeler’s long history as a coal lobbyist, it’s no surprise  that his intent was to weaken the mercury standards and practically invite a coal company to then sue in court challenging the now-compromised rule,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Campaigns at the Sierra Club. “ We will continue to defend these life-saving standards and defeat Wheeler’s continuing attempts to fudge numbers in order to justify throwing out other clean air and water safeguards.”

“The Trump Administration’s efforts to gut clean air protections during a crisis of public health and justice is unconscionable,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “This is an issue of environmental justice. Communities with higher air pollution rates face higher death rates from COVID-19, and Black and brown residents of this country are dying from the virus at three times the rate of white Americans. Now is the time to increase protections, not gut them.”

“Pennsylvania’s coal plants are uniformly located in areas where at least 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, as seen here, qualifying them as Environmental Justice Areas. This completely unnecessary and dangerous rollback of public health standards would directly harm our most vulnerable populations,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council.

Earthjustice filed this lawsuit on behalf of Air Alliance Houston, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Clean Air Council, Downwinders at Risk, Montana Environmental Information Center, and NAACP.

Read this Earthjustice report for more on the history and benefits of MATS. 

A copy of the filing can be found here.

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Fall Internship: Fundraising & Development

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is looking for an intern to support our efforts to reduce pollution in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC as a part of our Development team through the Fall semester.

ABOUT CCAN

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the only group in the Chesapeake region of Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. dedicated exclusively to building a powerful grassroots movement to fight climate change. Our mission is to build the kind of movement it will take to put our region on the path to climate stability, while using our proximity to the nation’s capital to inspire action in neighboring states, around the country and around the world.

ABOUT THE INTERNSHIP

The Fundraising & Development intern will work closely with our Development team to build our fundraising program and assist in planning major fundraising events and campaigns. They will gain valuable experience in fundraising and event planning that can be used to launch a career in fundraising or simply to gain skills that will help you succeed in the nonprofit industry. As our fundraising program grows, our ability to respond to threats to climate progress with big, creative actions will increase. 

SPECIFICALLY, YOUR TASKS WILL INCLUDE

  • Drafting fundraising collateral, from brochures to email appeals to thank you notes.
  • Assisting with the planning of our annual Polar Bear Plunge.
  • Helping to develop our peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities.
  • Leveraging your own creative thinking to build CCAN’s fundraising program.
  • And learning the ins and outs of the organization that climate activist Bill McKibben has called the “best regional climate organization in the world.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR

  • Strong organizational skills
  • Excellent written and verbal skills
  • Comfortable learning new online platforms and technical skills
  • An interest in fundraising and donor development
  • A driving passion to enact structural change to address the causes of climate change and win
  • Prior database use and/or research skills are preferred but not required.

LOCATION
This internship would normally be based in our office in Takoma Park, Maryland. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the CCAN team is working from home until health professionals lift social distancing and telework guidelines. 

DETAILS
Internships are typically 15-20 hours per week from mid September through late January, exact timing to be determined based on your course schedule.

Internships at CCAN are primarily education-focused, to arm you with experience toward your career and life goals. Interns receive a limited reimbursement for incidental expenditures. We encourage you to pursue course credit for this internship, or external grant opportunities if those are available, and we will support these pursuits in any way we can.

APPLY NOW TO INTERN WITH US:
To apply, fill out the following Google Form Application, where you will be prompted to upload your resume and a cover letter. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled. 

Fall Internship: Maryland Grassroots

WORK WITH CCAN TO MOBILIZE OUR GRASSROOTS TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE IN MARYLAND. 

DESCRIPTION

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) works with partners across the state to promote renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Our campaigns focus on passing legislation that will dramatically reduce climate change pollution in Maryland, while cleaning up our air, improving the health of our communities, and creating good-paying new jobs.

We’re looking for smart, talented students for fall internships to stand up and take climate action. Apply today!

ABOUT CCAN

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the only group in the Chesapeake region of Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. dedicated exclusively to building a powerful grassroots movement to fight climate change. Our mission is to build the kind of movement it will take to put our region on the path to climate stability, while using our proximity to the nation’s capital to inspire action in neighboring states, around the country and around the world.

ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN

Not only did we fight to make Maryland the first state with natural gas reserves to legislatively ban fracking, we recently expanded renewable energy in our region by increasing Maryland’s renewable energy requirement to 50% by 2030. We are currently working with partners to establish campaigns around reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, and to get us closer to 100% clean renewable energy by 2040.

As we face Trump’s rollbacks on climate change policies, we must continue to act on the state level, and you will be on the front lines of our campaigns!

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR

  • A driving passion to enact structural change to address the causes of climate change and win
  • An eagerness to learn new advocacy and organizing skills and put them to work right away
  • A willingness to work hard
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

LOCATION

This internship is normally based in our office in Takoma Park, Maryland. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the CCAN team is working from home until health professionals lift social distancing and telework guidelines. 

DETAILS

Internships are typically 15-20 hours per week from early September through mid December. Exact timing to be determined based on your course schedule.

Internships at CCAN are primarily education-focused, to arm you with experience toward your career and life goals. Interns receive a limited reimbursement for incidental expenditures. We encourage you to pursue course credit for this internship, or external grant opportunities if those are available, and we will support these pursuits in any way we can.

APPLY NOW AND SPEND YOUR FALL INTERNING WITH US

To apply, please fill out this Google Form Application, where you will be prompted to upload your resume. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis

We support “Defund the Police.” Here’s why, and what’s next

We are at a crucial point in history for racial justice. There are no neutral actors here: Silence itself is a dangerous act. 

That’s why we at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network are raising our voices for a world where Black Lives Matter. Not just because Black and Latinx Americans care most on average about climate change. Not just because the climate fight would be nothing without a diverse movement. Not just because we need every community to join us in our fight for climate solutions for it to succeed. Not just because we need to be able to protest without entire populations fearing for their lives. 

But because the fight for a safe climate future is a fight to save lives. And millions of Americans are fighting for their lives right now.

At this critical moment, we are following the lead of Black-led organizations at the forefront of this struggle. We are signing on in support of the broad movement to reduce funding for police and reinvest in communities under the banner of “Defund the Police.”

On Tuesday night, CCAN Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to support this movement. Click HERE to see the resolution. 

In practical terms, here’s what that means for us at CCAN: 

  • We will support efforts spearheaded by Black-led organizations to pressure our legislators to meaningfully divest from police programs that directly or indirectly give rise to brutality, and invest in public services and other public safety measures that don’t involve police force or incarceration. This means weighing in on state and local budget hearings, and encouraging our supporters to do the same. More on that below. 
  • We pledge to not pay for police services at CCAN events — like protests and conferences — unless absolutely necessary. Often, police departments require activists to pay for police presence at public marches and rallies. Our refusal to pay such fees will force us to make sure we’re asking the right questions up front and will help us to choose venues and vendors that share our values. We expect to formalize this new policy in the coming weeks.
  • We will connect our supporters with anti-racism trainings and resources and maximize trainings for staff to ensure that racial justice is a centerpiece of our climate campaigns.
  • We will invest in voter education campaigns to help protect vulnerable communities from voter suppression efforts — and encourage all voters to support leaders who advocate for meaningfully divesting from police to better fund social programs instead. 

You may be wondering, what do we mean by “Defund the Police?” It doesn’t mean getting rid of all police overnight — or necessarily ever — and it won’t mean the same thing in every city, town, or locality. It means redistributing the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend on policing back into essential public services that have been gutted over the last few decades as police budgets ballooned. It means mental health professionals answering calls about mental health crises, and addiction experts answering calls about opioid abuse, instead of armed officers. It means tackling our social problems with tools that could help solve them rather than resorting to violence and criminalization, a system that was borne out of racism and has intentionally disrupted and devastated Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor communities since its inception centuries ago.

This effort draws parallels to the fossil fuel divestment campaign as well. We’re not proposing eliminating all forms of energy, just the dirty ones; we still need to keep the lights on and the internet flowing, now more than ever in the era of coronavirus. Similarly, we still need systems to keep our communities safe. We’re just opening our minds to what those systems look like. And we’re taking our cues from the groups, communities, and thought-leaders most impacted by the current broken system.

If you’re still skeptical, click HERE to watch a video with CCAN Board Members Terence Ellen and Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. discussing what “Defund the Police” means for CCAN and why it’s important for climate activists to support it.

Here at CCAN, we know that the fight for climate justice and racial justice are one in the same. People of color disproportionately bear the impacts of climate change, from extreme storms to flooding from sea level rise to heat waves to air pollution. It’s also no coincidence that fossil-fueled power plants and refineries are disproportionately located in black neighborhoods, leading to poor air quality and putting people at higher risk for coronavirus. The forces behind the climate crisis are the same forces behind racial inequality. As Eric Holthaus put it, climate change is “what happens when the lives of marginalised people and non-human species are viewed as expendable.” We have to work together for permanent and durable solutions that protect every single person of every single race — particularly the most vulnerable — now and in the future. 

That’s why we will continue to shine light on police brutality and work for solutions everywhere to this ongoing tragedy. And we ask you to do the same. Please do what you can to use your voice to demand justice. 

Here’s where to start:

The fight for justice becomes more crucial every day. We’re glad to be fighting with you. 

In solidarity, 

The entire team at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund

Environmental Groups Take Legal Action Over Air Pollution from Industrial Flares

Allies Send EPA a Notice of Intent to Sue over Agency’s Failure to Update Inadequate 34-Year-Old Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 11, 2020

Media contact: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project (443) 510-2574 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org

Washington, D.C. – A coalition of ten environmental organizations today sent the Trump Administration EPA a notice of intent to sue the agency over its failure to reduce toxic air pollution from the flares on petrochemical plants, gas processing facilities, and other industrial sites.

Across the country, thousands of industrial flares burn excess waste gases and release smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogenic benzene, and other pollutants that threaten the health of people living nearby, often minorities and communities with moderate incomes.

EPA has not updated the air pollution control standards for industrial flares in 34 years, even though the federal Clean Air Act requires that agency review them at least once every eight years to make sure they adequately protect the public and incorporate improvements in technology, according to the notice.

“At this time when people are more vulnerable to pneumonia from COVID-19 when they are exposed to air pollution, it is unconscionable that the Trump EPA has not done its job and updated these weak and antiquated standards,” said Adam Kron, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council, said: “The outdated technology EPA is allowing polluters to use to reduce emissions is endangering our communities. Thirty-four years of inaction is unacceptable; EPA needs to do its job and update its regulations.”

The organizations that sent the notice – the first required step in a federal lawsuit – are EIP, Clean Air Council, Air Alliance Houston, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthworks, Environment America, Environment Texas, Hoosier Environmental Council, PennEnvironment, and Texas Campaign for the Environment. 

Industrial facilities, like chemical manufacturers and natural gas processing plants, use flares as pollution control devices to burn and destroy dangerous organic compounds like benzene in waste gases. However, the flares are only effective as pollution control devices if they are operated correctly.

For example, operators inject steam into flares to keep them from smoking (which releases soot or fine particle pollution). But they often add far more steam than is needed.  EPA and industry studies have shown that flares that are over-steamed do not burn well, releasing large amounts of benzene and other toxic or smog-forming compounds that should have been destroyed during the combustion process. 

The types of industrial flares that are the subject of the today’s notice do not include flares on drilling sites or oil refineries. The general industrial flares being targeted for the improvements in the notice include those on chemical factories, solid waste landfills, gasoline terminals, and natural gas processing plants.

More than three decades after EPA established requirements for these general industrial flares in 1986, these standards no longer reflect the “best system of emission reduction,” according to the notice filed by the 10 environmental organizations.

For example, the current standards’ minimum heating value requirements are not based on where the flare is actually burning (the “combustion zone”) and therefore miss if an operator is injecting too much steam or air into the flare, dramatically lowering its efficiency.  Additionally, the current standards let operators average their measurements over long, three-hour periods rather than a shorter time, allowing for spikes that depart from proper operation.  In fact, EPA has estimated that improperly operated flares may release five times or more the pollution as a properly operated flare.

Recently, EPA conducted a rulemaking that not only pointed out the shortcomings of the current flare standards but also set out specific revisions that could correct these problems. In March 2020, EPA finalized revisions to National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) standards for ethylene production facilities that included revised flare standards similar to what the groups have requested here.  For just the approximately 100 flares covered by the rule, EPA estimated that revised flare standards have the potential to reduce excess emissions by approximately 1,430 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and 13,020 tons per year of VOCs. On a per-flare basis, that’s about 14 tons per year of hazardous pollutants and 130 tons per year of VOCs.

Quotes from Environmental Organizations:

Environment Texas: “In our Clean Air Act lawsuit against ExxonMobil, an expert on industrial flares testified at trial that illegal flaring emissions from the company’s Baytown petrochemical complex were probably three to four times higher than the amounts ExxonMobil reported — and that testimony went completely unrebutted,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas.  “These hidden impacts on surrounding communities are significant, as the reported violations alone already totaled 10 million pounds of harmful chemicals.”

In Texas, three of the top five largest unpermitted pollution releases from industrial flares in 2019 happened at the Exxon Mobil Chemical Baytown Olefins Plant east of Houston, which released 48 tons of air pollution from February 28 to March 12, 2019; 75 tons of air pollution from June 28 to July 13, 2019; and another 67 tons from August 1 to August 18, 2019, according to records of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Environment Texas sued Exxon Mobil over the plant’s air pollution.

PennEnvironment: “While many people may look back fondly and love the 80s, we’d all agree that technology and the things we know about air pollution have dramatically improved over the past three decades,” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “Health based standards from the 80s are in no way acceptable for protecting public health, our communities and our environment today.”  

Chesapeake Climate Action Network: “For too long, fossil fuel companies have been allowed to emit dangerous levels of pollution at industrial facilities that are all too often located in minority communities,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Virtually unchecked industrial flaring at these facilities harms the climate, health, and justice, and the EPA must fix its illegally outdated rules as soon as possible.”

Hoosier Environmental Council:  “With a ranking of 43rd in air quality, 40th in health outcomes, and 13th in COVID-19 deaths per capita, there is a great urgency in Indiana to strengthen air quality protections to reduce harm to an already vulnerable population,” said Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. “We urge the EPA to revise the badly out-of-date flare standards; revisions would improve air quality in at least five of six regions of Indiana.”

Texas Campaign for the Environment:  “Industrial flares light up the skies with toxic pollution near the homes, schools and workplaces of many Texans,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “People rightly fear for the health of their families and neighbors, particularly overburdened communities of color,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment.

For a copy of the notice, click here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is an 18-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health.

Clean Air Council is a member-supported environmental organization dedicated to protecting and defending everyone’s right to a healthy environment.

Environment Texas is a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water, and open space.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

PennEnvironment is a statewide, citizen-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group working for clean air, clean water, tackling climate change and preserving Pennsylvania’s incredible outdoor places.

Texas Campaign for the Environment is a grassroots organization that empowers Texans to fight pollution through sustained grassroots organizing campaigns that shift corporate and governmental policy.

Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups that work for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate.

Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working to reduce the public health impacts of air pollution and advance environmental justice.

The Hoosier Environmental is Indiana’s largest environmental public policy organization, working to address environmental justice, protect land and water, and advance a sustainable economy.

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Maryland Public Service Approves Dan’s Mountain Wind Farm in Western Maryland

CCAN applauds the 4-1 decision and calls on the PSC to do more to unlock offshore wind power and address a backlog of solar farm projects across Maryland

TAKOMA PARK, MD — The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC)  today voted 4-1 to approve a long-delayed wind farm project on Dan’s Mountain in Allegany County. The 70-megawatt project will create hundreds of jobs and provide a million dollars per year in tax revenue for a county hit hard by the ongoing COVID-19 recession. 

Now the Commission must turn its attention to speeding up the approval process for a backlog of solar energy projects in the state and assisting state legislators in maximizing Maryland’s offshore wind power potential against threats from the Trump Administration. 

Statement from Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network: 

“The Maryland PSC did the right thing today in approving the Dan’s Mountain wind farm. The project is supported by the Western Building Trades Union and will create hundreds of good-paying jobs while cleaning up our air and reducing climate emissions. The irony of this 70-megawatt project sitting atop land formerly stripped-mined for coal is not lost on Marylanders, especially young people who can now better glimpse a clean energy future. 

“But now the PSC must further unlock that future. Annapolis legislators are asking the PSC to help advance 400 megawatts of offshore wind power with 2,000 new jobs at stake. Plus the PSC must act faster to unlock a backlog of delayed solar projects across the state, caused in large part by the slow action of a state entity called the Power Plant Research Project.

“As for the Dan’s Mountain wind farm, we believe the PSC struck the right balance in weighing the economic and environmental benefits of the project versus the legitimate concerns of some local residents who fought long and hard against the project. Some of those opponents have fought shoulder to shoulder with CCAN against fracked-gas pipelines in Western Maryland and in favor of a fracking ban. We respect those opponents and their concerns about wind power. But we are convinced that, in the fight against fossil fuels and for the long-term preservation of our Appalachian Mountains, land-based wind farms have a role to play when properly sited and carefully regulated. Again, we believe the Maryland Public Service Commission struck the right balance today and should be applauded.”

Background: 

Solar Delay: The PSC and the Power Plant Research Project are dragging their feet on acting on more than 40 “shovel-ready” solar projects. It now takes 1.5 years on average to get a solar farm approved in the state. The wait is longer than in most states and is undoubtedly discouraging new companies from coming here. 

Threats to Offshore Wind: in December 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a plan to subject certain energy generation technologies to a high and arbitrary Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) requirements in their bids in the PJM capacity market, of which Maryland is a member. As a result, technologies like offshore wind could be entirely excluded from this market. A group of 62 Maryland State Delegates have asked the PSC to move as quickly as possible to adjust the guidance on the open offshore wind-bidding process, to request that bidders submit contingency bids outlining one proposal without capacity payments and a second with capacity payments.

CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, 240-630-1889, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org
Mike Tidwell, Director, 240-460-5838, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org 

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.