Tell EPA Not to Remove Pollution Controls from Oil & Gas Companies

Let’s start with the basics:

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency currently has guidelines that allow states to control emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.
  • The oil and gas industry is the largest single industrial source of dangerous chemicals in smog and major contributors to emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • The deadly duo of Trump/Pruitt wants to get rid of those guidelines.
  • With five refinery communities in the Bay Area plus the traffic we all love so well, oil and gas industry emissions affect our health, and the health of those we love, every single day.
  • The public has until April 23, 2018 to comment on the proposed withdrawal of the guidelines. 

These guidelines gives states non-binding “control techniques guidelines” (CTG) with information on recommended techniques for emissions by the oil and gas sector, with leeway for states to choose other techniques if they prefer. However, if there are ozone smog problems, when EPA issues a CTG, under the Clean Air Act a state must revise its clean air plans to require “reasonably available control technology” for oil and gas industry equipment. The EPA estimates that the guideline has the potential for annual pollution reductions of over 64,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, which create smog; nearly 200,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane; and 2,400 tons of other hazardous air pollutants that can cause serious health effects. Without the CTG, oil and gas company equipment could spew pollutants even where there are reasonably available ways to control the pollution.

In other words: get rid of the guidelines, unnecessarily increase air pollution and increase the harm to our health and the health of our environment.

Submit comments here by April 23, 2018, 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time (8:59 PM in California). More info, including talking points, here; more info, including a link to other people’s comments, here.

Want to do more environmental action?

Are You Watching Big Brother TV?

Never heard of Sinclair Broadcast Group before? The largest owner of television stations in the country, Sinclair currently owns or operates more than 170 stations in nearly 80 markets, with affiliate stations on networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Sinclair, which struck a deal in 2016 with the Trump campaign to give it better coverage, has a strong right-wing slant.

If you didn’t already know about Sinclair, we bet you got a rude intro on March 31, when a video by Timothy Burke of Deadspin went viral — the blood-curdling Orwellian mashup shows dozens of local Sinclair affiliate “news” anchors reading in lock-step a promotional campaign condemning national news outlets for pushing “fake stories,” an obvious echo of Current Occupant’s inflammatory tweets and remarks about “fake news.” John Oliver lambasted the move, calling the anchors “members of a brainwashed cult.”

This list of Sinclair stations shows that many are in rural areas which often have no alternative stations for people to choose. And as Media Matters’ Pamela Vogel pointed out in an April 2, 2018 video interview:

For poor, working class folks or black and Latino communities specifically, they’re less likely to have cable which means that the choices for trusted news are very limited to the local stations for the most part, if you’re still using TV to get your news. It really just sort of magnifies the exploitation level, in my opinion, of what’s going on here. And I think what’s also interesting when you tune into– if you’re somebody who watches cable news and you tune into CNN, or Fox, or MSNBC you kind of know what you’re getting yourself into, you know what you want to watch.

Not content with its current monopoly, Sinclair is trying to buy Tribune Media, a merger that would put Sinclair’s right-wing programming, including must-run stories, in front of more than 70 percent of households. Tribune owns 42 stations in many of the country’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Denver, and reaches more than 50 million households. Their application is currently pending before the Federal Communications Commission. 

House Resolution 3478, introduced in July 2017 by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA 2) and David Price (D-NC) “would protect local television markets across the country from corporate consolidation by permanently ending the so-called ‘UHF discount,’ an obsolete FCC loophole that the Trump administration wants to revive to benefit right-wing media conglomerates. If the UHF discount is allowed to go into effect, a series of pending corporate mergers, including one with the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, would dramatically reduce competition among local TV stations across the country.” Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA 11) was an early co-sponsor of H.R. 3478, but Reps Lee and Swalwell have not yet co-sponsored.

There are many ways you can help preserve independent media. What you can do:

Call your Members of Congress and urge them to prevent the Sinclair-Tribune merger. Thank Rep DeSaulnier for co-sponsoring H.R. 3478, and ask Reps Lee and Swalwell to co-sponsor it.

My name is _______ and my zip code is ________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to urge the Senator/Representative to oppose the merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media. The merger would expand Sinclair’s reach to a massive 72% of US households, and threatens the fundamental principles of local broadcasting and independent media. Thank you.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Or send your MoCs the same message through Countable or the Coalition to Save Local Media. They both have great info and talking points, and you can also tweet or post to FB at the Coalition’s page.

File a public comment opposing the merger on the Federal Communication Commission’s website. The proceeding number is 17-179. You can also call the FCC at (888) 225-5322, but you may be directed to the website.

And there’s more!

Read Media Matters‘ Short History of the Right-wing Politics of Sinclair Broadcasting.

Use the cool Sinclair Finder app to find and contact your nearby Sinclair stations: just enter a location and the app gives you the closest stations, their phone numbers, and a suggested script. Pass it on to your friends and family!

We don’t usually include signing petitions in our calls to action, but this Credo Action page gives valuable info and shows the petition it previously delivered to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Credo Action told us it hopes to update the petition, but their script is a good concise summary that still works as a quick talking point:

Block Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media, which would create ‘the largest TV broadcast company in the nation’ and result in unacceptable levels of media concentration.

Listen, watch, support, and donate to progressive media:

  • Progressive Voices provides politically progressive content to consumers via mobile device and online.
  • Free Speech TV is a national, independent news network committed to advancing progressive social change.

Graphic copyright Timothy Burke, Deadspin

Racial Justice Task Force Forums

Racial justice community forums

The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Task Force was created by the Board of Supervisors in April 2016, and given a mandate to:

  • Research and identify consensus measures within the County to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system;
  • Plan and oversee implementation of the measures once identified; and
  • Report back to the Board of Supervisors on progress made toward reducing racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

The Task Force has developed draft recommendations for the County to reduce racial disparities in the justice system, and it will host three community Forums in May 2018 to present the recommendations and solicit community input and feedback before it takes them to Board of Supervisors in June 2018.

  • Monday, May 7, 6-8 PM: Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church 55 Eckley Ln, Walnut Creek
  • Tuesday, May 8, 6-8 PM: Delta Bay Church of Christ 13 Sunset Dr, Antioch
  • Wednesday, May 9, 6-8 PM: Catholic Charities, West County Service Center, 217 Harbour Way Richmond

You can also provide input to the Task Force online at this link. Click here to see a list of the Task Force’s 17 members, and meeting locations and agendas for each monthly meeting, held the first Wednesday of every month at 1 PM.

CoCo Sheriff Retaliates Against Advocates Helping Detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, under investigation for mistreatment of ICE detainees, has retaliated against the group that helped the detainees and helped spark the investigation.

On March 6, 2018, the office of Sheriff Livingston terminated the visitation program at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) that the non-profit advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) had operated to assist detainees and their families. Since 2011, CIVIC volunteers have been providing services to the families of detainees and post-release support to those who are released or deported. They are sometimes the only people the detainees can talk to about their cases, or their only contact with the outside world if their family is far away or can’t visit.

The Sheriff claimed that volunteers violated policy, but CIVIC asserts that the revocation was in retaliation for its part in bringing immigrants’ allegations of abuse at the facility to the light of day, which led to investigations by state and federal officials.

While CIVIC works with the ACLU to contest the revocation, here are several things we can do to help CIVIC and the detainees and their families:

  • Learn more about CIVIC here and sign up here to get updates and alerts from the Friends of CIVIC about how you can help.
  • Read the ACLU’s letter to the Sheriff’s office.
  • Attend events to support the detainees held at WCDF, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Call the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office at (925) 335-1500 to express your concern about the Sheriff’s current action, and urge them to restore CIVIC’s visitation program.
  • Please sign petitions that Together We Will Contra Costa launched, and which IEB and many other groups have co-sponsored, to ask local Democratic representatives who have endorsed Sheriff Livingston to rescind their endorsements.

Are you a constituent of Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)? If so, please thank him for his hard work in support of immigrants, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 9:

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier says it’s time for Contra Costa County to end its relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Democratic congressman from Concord, who recently toured the Richmond jail that the county leases to the federal government for detention of undocumented immigrants, said that the Contra Costa County sheriff’s office’s move this week to ban volunteers from visiting immigrants inside the jail — to check on their well-being — was the last straw.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Read our article about the statement released by the ICE Out of California Coalition, signed by IEB and other groups.

Photograph by Boardhead (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Wake Up: We Still Need a Clean DREAM Act

This is our world now: the current occupant sells $50 hats with “American Dreamer” emblazoned on the front; ICE threatens repercussions against Oakland’s mayor for warning city residents of incoming raids; Congress has stalled for so long on passing a clean DREAM Act that somehow, unimaginably, the Republicans are starting to take ownership of it. How soon they forget that said current occupant caused this entire … mess … by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through which President Obama had protected more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

And while they continue their games, hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. DREAMers attend doctors’ appointments, pick their kids up from school, go to job interviews, wait in line at the Post Office – and there behind them, like a thread weaving through every moment, is the American government’s failure to find a way to give back to these people the freedom to live their lives.

It is existential terror. It must stop.

March 5, 2018, was the original date when protection for DREAMers was supposed to end. On February 26, days before the deadline, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have undone the two federal court injunctions that ruled it unconstitutional for the government to deny DACA renewals past that date. This leaves DREAMers in a situation where they can still potentially apply for a renewal of their status past March 5, but like everything related to this issue, that provision is subject to change at virtually any time.

You can help by calling your Members of Congress to demand that they pass a clean DREAM Act! What to say:

Thank you for your strong support of DREAMers. Please continue to work to include a clean DREAM Act in the next spending bill. These young Americans deserve to live without fear of having their families torn apart.

Both Senators Feinstein and Harris are supportive and have staff working on immigration cases, so you can reach out. And if you have any questions about current immigration policy, ICE actions, what is being negotiated in DC, or other issues, please come to our meeting with Senator Feinstein’s state director in Oakland on March 9, 2018.

ISF immigration rally
State Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), at the emergency immigration rally on February 22, 2018. Photo credit Indivisible SF.

 

Public domain image courtesy of StockSnap

Protect Offshore Drilling Regulations!

By Christina Tarr

It seems it’s not enough for the Interior Department proposing to open all coastal waters of the United States (including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but excluding Florida, apparently) to leasing for continental shelf oil and gas drilling (don’t forget to comment on that, by the way, and note that there will be public hearings on leasing for offshore drilling, including one in Sacramento on February 8). Now, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is asking to roll back offshore drilling safety regulations — the regulations that were put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This is part and parcel of  Trump’s effort to cut back on all environmental protections to increase profits for his friends in the oil and gas business. Naturally, groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association are in favor.

A few things (among others) that the proposed rules do:

  • Delete a requirement that drillers propose to use only a safe amount of pressure in new wells
  • Loosen controls on blowout preventers, which seal off wells in case of an accident, and which currently are required to have a back-up plan in case of malfunction
  • Amend a standard that currently requires that equipment demonstrate that it can withstand a surge in pressure
  • Do away with third-party certification, which requires that an independent party confirm that equipment meets standards

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which was created by the Obama Administration after the Deepwater Horizon spill, was never intended to promote oil production. It was kept separate from the leasing arm of the Interior Department to ensure that safety would not be compromised for profit. With these regulation changes, the BSEE now moves into a role as a promoter of industry, leaving no agency whose sole role is to promote safety. If we know anything about pipelines, it’s that they leak. The danger is increased exponentially when you are drilling miles offshore underwater. In essence, experts have concluded, the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill could have been prevented – and the proposed changes in regulations favor the oil industry and money over safety and the environment.

You can read a description of the proposed changes here, and you have until January 29, 11:59 PM EST to submit comments protesting the proposed rules. Submit comments here, and also read comments that have been made already.

Sample comment:

Do not weaken the current regulations on offshore drilling. The current regulations incorporate valuable lessons learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea, killing nearly a million seabirds and still causing effects in the Gulf. The proposed rules loosen controls on blowout preventers and third party certification that safety devices will work under the extreme conditions in which they are placed. The impact of another spill like the Deepwater Horizon, which the new rules practically guarantee, will far outweigh the benefits of reducing operating costs for oil companies that can well afford them.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement should be committed to the safety of offshore drilling operations, not with oil company profits. Strong regulation and an independent BSEE are needed to ensure that offshore drilling can coexist with other important uses of our coastline, including recreation, tourism, fishing and wilderness.

You can also sign up to receive more information about, or help plan, actions during the first two weeks of February to protest plans for the huge new federal offshore drilling program.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Fight for the Clean Power Plan

By Christina Tarr

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) represents one of the strongest actions to combat global warming taken by the United States federal government. So likely you’re not surprised to hear that the Trump administration, playfellow of Big Oil, Gas, Coal, and Global Warming Deniers, wants to “suspend, revise or rescind” it. We have until January 16, 2018 to submit our comments and say “hell, no!”

What you need to know: The CPP works by reducing climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired electric power plants. CO2 is the most widespread of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. Existing coal and gas-fired power plants together emit more CO2 than any other category of emissions sources in the U.S.—roughly one-third of America’s emissions—so reducing those emissions goes a long way to reducing our total CO2 output.  The CPP effectively reduces power plant CO2 emissions in 2030 by 32% from 2005 levels.

Under the CPP, the EPA assigned each state a goal to limit emissions from existing power plants, and gave the states broad latitude to meet those goals, such as switching from coal to natural gas or building new wind or solar farms—thus encouraging innovation.

Under the CPP, $20 billion in climate-related benefits alone would occur in 2030, as well as health benefits of $14 to $34 billion. The net benefits of the CPP, including the value of total health, environmental and other economic benefits, minus the cost to comply, were estimated to range from between $26 to $45 billion in 2030.

Trump’s EPA—headed by Scott Pruitt, who says “the war on coal is over”—is now reviewing the CPP with the intent to “suspend, revise or rescind.” The Trump administration challenges both the legal basis of the CPP and its economic analysis. (Of course, the administration is also full of people who deny climate change …)

What you need to do: Comment by January 16, 2018 to urge the EPA to keep the CPP. We need to move toward the future; instead of clinging to old, dirty technologies we need to move beyond them. The jobs are in clean power. We don’t want to cede the field on newer, cleaner power industries to other countries while we grow sicker and poorer. Please make your voice heard by submitting comments to EPA, and then by sending a copy of your comments to your Representative and Senators. 

Trump’s revised proposal is here.

Submit comments to the docket here by January 16, 2018

Read more about the CPP and Trump’s assault on it, and find talking points. Read our previous article.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. 

 

 

Urge Contra Costa to Return Juvenile Justice Fees

By Judith Tannenbaum

For over two decades, when a child faced criminal charges, Contra Costa and other California counties made the family pay for the child’s incarceration. This practice came to an end statewide this past October, when Governor Brown signed SB 190 into law.

Now, Contra Costa is considering restoring these fines and fees to families, which would make it the first county in California to do so.  On a reportback to Contra Costa’s Public Protection Committee, the Probation Department identified $175,000 in fees (as opposed to fines) that were illegally collected from families between 2010 and 2017.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the details of the proposed restitution at their December 12 meeting. The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition and others call for the Board of Supervisors to return money to everyone from whom it was taken unlawfully.

Full restitution includes returning money with interest to those charged as far back as 1991 when fees were first imposed, returning fees charged for ankle monitors, and compensation for collateral damage (including impact on families’ credit ratings).

What you can do:

▪    Please call your Contra Costa County Supervisor (contact infoand say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to urge you to make Contra Costa the first county in California to agree to return the fines and fees collected unlawfully from families of juveniles facing criminal charges. I ask that you vote to approve returning money to everyone from whom it was taken improperly.

  • Speak at the December 12 Board of Supervisors meeting during public comments

At present, the item is scheduled to appear on the Supervisors’ December 12 agenda. The agenda isn’t published yet, so please check to make sure that’s the date to show up.

Judith Tannenbaum is a writer and teacher. Her books include ‘Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin’.

Graphic © Juvenile Law Center