Out of the mouths of babes

Deadline for public comments: December 10, 2018 

What could be meaner than taking food out of the mouths of children? The latest assault from the Grinch Administration is a proposed regulation that would change how the government evaluates legal immigrants for green cards and visas. If this regulation takes effect, it could literally result in immigrants foregoing necessary assistance for themselves, or for their kids, in order to keep their status. You have until Monday December 10 to protest this outrage by submitting a comment. Go to www.regulations.gov/document?D=USCIS-2010-0012-0001 and click the dark blue “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions for submitting a comment. Be sure to reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

The government already considers whether an immigrant is likely to become a “public charge” before granting a green card and many kinds of visas. Until now, this has referred to receipt of cash benefits – and, despite what fearmongers would have you believe, only 3% of non-citizens use these benefits. Under the proposed change, the “public charge” analysis could include receipt of Section 8 housing and food assistance, potentially forcing legal immigrants to give up benefits that they and their families need in order to keep their immigration status. This is cruel and unreasonable, especially because:

What you can do:

From the official website:

You may submit comments on this proposed rule, including the proposed information collection requirements, identified by DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012, by any one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal (preferred): www.regulations.gov. Follow the website instructions for submitting comments.

  • Mail: Samantha Deshommes, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20529-2140. To ensure proper handling, please reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 in your correspondence. Mail must be postmarked by the comment submission deadline.

If your citizenship status is secure, please do this action. Please personalize this suggested language (because verbatim comments may be grouped together and not counted separately), and submit by December 10:

I am writing with reference to DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012. I oppose the proposed regulation restricting green cards from families who use public assistance. This regulation would violate my state’s right to provide benefits to families in short-term crisis and increase federal meddling in local issues. I object to depriving more than 40 million children of food, health care, and shelter. I want my tax dollars to support and show basic decency toward aspiring Americans, not to keep out people who need temporary help on their journey toward citizenship.

 

 

Don’t Let the Government Destroy Important Environmental Documents

Deadline: November 26, 2018

The Current Occupant’s tradition of lying is by now well-known, but sometimes it’s easier if something just … happens to the truth, especially to documentation of the truth. And so Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of the Interior (at least as of this writing), has sent National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) a massive “Request for Records Disposition Authority” – or in normal language, a request to destroy a huge quantity of records concerning environmental protection.

What kind of records? The request involves documents about oil and gas leases, mining, dams, wells, timber sales, marine conservation, fishing, endangered species, non-endangered species, critical habitats, land acquisition, and lots more. Documents from every agency within the Interior Department, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and others. Documents going back more than 50 years. Thousands of cubic feet of paper documents. Gigabytes of digital documents.

And there’s more. Besides documents that already exist, the proposed schedule of destruction will also apply to all future documents created in these categories (whether on paper or born digital). In other words: Records supporting environmental concerns could, literally, vanish in favor of the administration’s industry supporters and financers.

More details about the NARA procedure in general and this request in specific in this excellent resource.

What You Can Do

(1) Contact your Members of Congress:

  • 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

Sample Script:

My name is _______, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has asked the National Archives for a massive destruction of records that normally are kept for historical purposes. This is an unusual and troubling request. I am asking you to investigate this request and to stop the destruction of important and valuable records. The National Archives ID number is DAA-0048-2015-0003.

(2) Email to request.schedule@nara.gov with a Public Comment. Deadline: November 26, 2018.

Sample Script:

My name is _______, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am writing about action DAA-0048-2015-0003. I am against this massive destruction of records. This content would normally be kept and preserved by the U.S. Dept of Interior. I am asking National Archives to deny Secretary Zinke’s request so that these records are kept as they should be.

[Sign with your name, other contact info you wish to give out.]

 

Scary times at IEB’s October All Members Meeting

Halloween arrived early at the Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting on October 28, with many of us showing up in costume. Even the infamous Trump Chicken joined the festivities.

Unfortunately, the real scares are coming from recent news. From the deadly violence at the Synagogue in Pittsburgh to Trump’s avalanche of incendiary rhetoric — the stakes for the November 6 midterms are higher now, if that’s possible, than they’ve ever been.

Before we got down to national politics, Jodi Reid, Executive Director of CARA, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, led an informative discussion about some of the statewide propositions on the ballot. CARA has posted recommendations on all eleven props, including fact sheets for Props 1, 2, 8, and 10. Jodi walked us through the list and took our questions. In brief:

  • Yes on Prop 1. Passing Prop 1 would authorize $4 billion in bonds for housing related programs for low income residents, veterans, and other specialized populations. California has not had funds for housing in some time and local communities don’t have the resources to build housing themselves.
  • Yes on Prop 2. This would allow funding from Prop 63 to be utilized for mental health services in concert with homeless assistance. The two are needed in order for housing to succeed for the homeless. A “yes” on Prop 2 would  authorize funding already allocated to be used in this context and would not require new funding.
  • Yes on Prop 8. Authorizes state regulation of kidney dialysis clinics and limits charges for patient care. As of now, CARA stated that two major corporations provide all the kidney dialysis services, overcharging $150K more per patient than needed without the funds going to patient care. The proposition would set profits to a 115% cap above revenue.
  • Yes on Prop 10. This would allow local cities to adopt rent control and repeal the Costa-Hawkins rental housing act (1995). CARA points out that tens of thousands of housing units have been created since ’95 that have not fallen under rent control. In response to a question, Jodi noted that passage of Prop 10 would not establish vacancy control.
  • Several of the ballot proposals are controversial even among progressive groups that are usually allies. For example, CARA supports Prop 3, which authorizes almost $9 billion in bonds to fund various water and environmental projects, citing the need for safe drinking water to all areas of the state. However, the Sierra Club opposes the measure on the ground that it will mean building more dams, harming the environment; they also have concerns about the (lack of) oversight for how the funds are spent. At the Propositions breakout session (see more below), Governance Committee (GC) member Ted noted that Prop 3 affects only state-regulated water systems, and said that it won’t directly affect the East Bay’s water supply because we get our water from EBMUD.
  • Finally, check out calmatters.org to see their one-minute videos summarizing the pros and cons of each Proposition. There’s no faster way to get up to speed.

Next up, GC member and senator teams co-lead Linh highlighted the critical importance of a “boring” (her word) topic: rules changes for federal agencies. In particular, “any executive agency seeking to change any existing regulation has to invite and review public comments.” Public means YOU! Making comments may be our only chance to prevent or slow down the administration’s attempts to roll back decades of environmental, workplace and safety protections. Linh urged members to take advantage of this opportunity. Some proposed changes are anything but boring: for example, one such proposal would allow for indefinite detention of immigrant families with children! You have until November 6 to voice your opposition to this change, so speak up!

GC member and outreach team co-lead Nick reminded us that the 2018 Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort will likely not end on November 6, since that’s a primary day for one of the U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi. If no candidate receives a majority, which seems likely, a runoff will be held on November 27. Nick is lining up postcard events for the possible run-off.

Lastly, GC member Charlotte urged everyone to participate in one or more of the remaining GOTV events between now and next week’s midterms. The biggest is our  two-day all-day (9 AM to 9 PM) “The Last Weekend” Phone/Text Bank Extravaganza in Oakland. Whether you’ve already done tons of phone banking or have been quietly sitting on the sidelines, this is a must-do! Sign up here.

With the formal part of the meeting over, we enjoyed pizza courtesy of a generous donation from IEB member Nancy Olson. Three breakout sessions followed: Charlotte led people in writing postcards and also letters to voters through Vote Forward, GC members Ted and Toni engaged people in a more in-depth discussion about some of the state propositions, and GC member and volunteer team lead Andrea welcomed new members who wanted to know more about IEB and learn how to get involved.

Andrea with new members
Andrea at the new members breakout

Several of us came in costume! The clear Adorable & Clever winners:

NASA Space Force astronaut and assistant. Photo by Toby St John
NASA Kid & Dr. Horrible team up to save America! Photo by Toby St. John

Governance Committee members Ted and Ann (aka “Blue Wave”):

Ted and Ann aka Blue Wave

Henry the Indivisi-bulldog brought his family, IEB team co-leads Kristen and Tom!

Henry, Kristen and Tom

Scariest Costume winner was IEB and CA-11 team member George, who said: “Nnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnn”, which we translated as meaning: “Just because I’m a person of the undead persuasion doesn’t mean the electoral outcome isn’t important to me. A Blue vote is a smart vote. And smart brains taste better! Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!”

Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!

And finally: Blue Wave beats up Trump Chicken!

 

Andrea Lum contributed to this article.

 

It’s red or blue, not pink or blue

Deadline: Right Now! – His comments about grabbing women by the “private parts” inspired an airplane passenger to grope his unknown seatmate on October 21, 2018. Now, according to a Dept. of Health and Human Services memo obtained by the New York Times,* the Current Occupant is considering creating a rule to determine “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” as dictated by genitalia, original birth certificates, and genetic testing. In other words, everyone’s either male or female, registered according to what’s in their diaper, and how they’re registered is how they stay – and, no doubt, how their rights are determined. Banning trans folks from the armed services? We’re talking about banning them from legal existence. Non-binary? Nonexistent. Erasure.

What you can do: Be out about this. Which here means, whoever you are and however you identify – straight, LGBT, queer, cis, non-binary, whoever and however – talk about this. For some among us, this is a fight for existence, and it’s going to depend on visibility, acceptance into society, and normalization. So talk about this. Talk on social media and in your daily life. Talk with friends. Talk with like-minded people – this may not be on their radars, and it needs to be. Do you know people of faith? Ask them to talk to their fellow-congregants and even to preach about it. Here’s an amazing statement from a Lutheran minister; here’s a beautiful prayer from the Bay Area’s own Rabbi Reuben Zellman. Do you know scientists? Ask them to talk and write about it – science is on our side and people, we have to listen to the science.

What else you can do:

  • Use the hashtag #WontBeErased when you talk about this subject.
  • Are you on facebook? Want to add a #WontBeErased frame from the National Center for Transgender Equality to your profile photo, or a facebook cover photo? You can get them here.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality #WontBeErased page also has a printable signs, message tips and more, if you want to hold an event.
  • Read Hell No to the Memo, published by Out Magazine, for a list of more action items

And stay tuned – if this rule is proposed, we’ll be asking you to comment on it!

Graphic copyright National Center for Transgender Equality

* Because the New York Times is behind a paywall, we usually use alternative sources. However, when, as here, the Times’ investigative journalism is the source of a story and they are the sole source for a document, we think it’s important to provide a direct link.

 

ISO Happy Ending: Comment by 10/31 on Emissions Standards for Power Plants

Once upon a time, there was an administration that protected its people from dangerous modern fire-breathing dragons. Then in August 2018, the big bad wolf-ogre-gremlin-current administration announced plans to undo Obama rules limiting harmful emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The plot: to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and put in its place a wicked changeling, a watered down alternative dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy rule.

But as in all good stories, there’s time for a dramatic rescue! The law requires that the public can comment on this proposed change until Oct 31, 2018.

How to comment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept comment on the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule through October 31, 2018.  Comments should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355 and may be submitted by one of the following methods.

Some things you can say in your comments:

  • The bottom line: oppose repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, because it’s imperative to reduce fossil fuel emissions and the ACE is much weaker than the CPP.
  • EPA evidence in the record shows the CPP would prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year
  • The EPA’s own calculations show that the proposed ACE would result in an additional 1,400 deaths and 48,000 new asthma attacks yearly compared to the CPP
  • Under the CPP the federal government sets emission targets for states, but the ACE allows states to set the targets themselves, which promotes a “race to the bottom”
  • The goal of the CPP (backed by evidence in EPA’s regulatory record) was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The EPA’s own calculations indicate the proposed ACE would only reduce emissions by somewhere between 0.7 and 1.5%
  • EPA’s proposed ACE uses deceptive accounting gimmicks to artificially inflate the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to minimize the health benefits of the original CPP. This means its cost-benefit analysis is flawed and unreliable
  • The Regulatory Impact Analysis shows that under every illustrative scenario EPA analyzed, the ACE would result in more CO2, SO2, and NOx than the CPP
  • The EPA’s analysis radically under-counts the deaths, illnesses, and climate damages from power plants’ soot, smog, and carbon pollution. This is contrary to sound science and economics
  • The ACE proposal drastically undercounts the real costs of climate pollution for all Americans by ignoring global impacts. Climate pollution has worldwide impacts, but the proposal counts only those impacts that are expected to occur within U.S. borders.
  • The EPA’s own estimates show that, compared to the Clean Power Plan, the ACE plan would impose up to $10.8 billion in annual net costs on Americans in 2030, when accounting for compliance costs and the loss of the CPP’s benefits for climate and public health. By contrast, the CPP was designed to save consumers hard-earned money on electric bills
  • We cannot afford further delay in confronting the threat of climate change by repealing the CPP and replacing it with the much weaker ACE. Even the current administration’s reports contain overwhelming evidence that we need to cut fossil fuel emissions, including:
    • The 11/17 Climate Science Special Report – the combined work of 13 federal agencies including the EPA – which contains overwhelming evidence that human-generated carbon emissions are the dominant cause of global warming with all of its effects on the U.S. and the world, including floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, hurricanes and storms
    • The 8/18 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks showing that with our present rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is expected to experience a disastrous warming of 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century

More info:

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) was adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015.  Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally obligated to regulate carbon dioxide from major sources in the United States. That’s why, in 2015, the EPA released its first standard aimed at cutting carbon emissions from power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The power sector is second only to the transportation sector as a source of emissions in the US.

The CPP aimed to cut emissions from the electricity sector by an estimated 32% below 2005 levels by 2030—a modest but important first step.  Cost-benefit analysis consistently showed a net economic gain from the CPP. It was adopted after a robust, years-long regulatory process in which the EPA held numerous hearings and received millions of comments.

The Trump Administration was hostile to the CPP from the beginning and solicitous of the coal industry and fossil fuel sectors generally. Trump directed the EPA to begin the process of repealing the CPP and replacing it with what EPA dubbed the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule. That regulatory process is now pending and, as required by federal law, EPA is now accepting public comments on this proposed repeal and replace. The deadline for commenting on the proposed ACE is October 31, 2018.

Speak up for immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018, or write a letter to the Dept. of Homeland Security (must be postmarked by November 6, 2018).

In September we alerted you to new horrific steps the administration is taking to unfairly treat immigrant families. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed a rule that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit families to be detained in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so speak up and act now!

What you can do:

Use the suggested talking points below, and feel free to add your own thoughts, to either leave an online comment (option 1), or write and mail a letter (option 2):

  • Option 1: Click on this link to leave an online comment about Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children.
    • You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov and include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line.
  • Option 2: Write and mail a letter to:
    • Debbie Seguin, Assistant Director, Office of Policy,
      U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security
      500 12th Street SW
      Washington, DC 20536

Mix & match from these suggested talking points to include in your comment or letter, and feel free to use your own words and add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Also! A great idea suggested by Families Belong Together — hold a letter-writing party and get your friends to write together. Email info@familiesbelong.org for more information, or see the resources in FBT’s toolkit here.

If you missed our original article, here’s more background: The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants. Our September 12 article, when we first asked you to comment, is here.

Families Belong Together graphic by Instagram user @desdemona1

Help stop the jailing of immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018. Or copy the link into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas and Georgia, we learn that the administration has been stealing FEMA money to spend on jailing and deporting immigrants. Here’s another part of the unnatural disaster that is the administration’s immigration policy: a proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit the administration to detain families in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so read up and act now!

The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Please speak up NOW. Leave a comment at this link (do not comment on this article, please click on the link, or type this into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 ) for Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children. You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov (include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line).

Mix & match from these suggested points to include in your comment, and feel free to add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants.

First he came for our auto emissions standards, now he wants to frack our federal lands . . .

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – submit comments by email by September 7, 2018. Note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116.
If email link doesn’t work, address is: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov  

In a coordinated attack on California, coming just after challenging our vehicle emissions standards, the Trump administration took the first steps toward opening up 1.6 million acres of public land and mineral estate in California to fracking and oil drilling. The Bureau of Land Management posted a notice of intent in the Federal Register on August 8, 2018:

the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bakersfield Field Office, Bakersfield, California, intends to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a potential Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendment for the Bakersfield Field Office Resource Management Plan. The supplemental EIS will analyze the impacts of hydraulic fracturing technology on BLM-administered public land and mineral estate in the Bakersfield Field Office Planning Area exclusive of the California Coastal National Monument and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The notice seeks comments on the dangers of opening up 400,000 acres of public land and an additional 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. This would end a five year moratorium on leasing federal land to oil companies in California: no federal lands in the state have been leased to oil companies since 2013, when a federal judge found that the BLM had leased land in Monterey County without fully considering the environmental impact of fracking.

Environmentalists are concerned that fracking — an extreme oil-extraction process that blasts toxic chemicals mixed with water underground to crack rocks — can increase the risk of earthquakes and contaminate groundwater. The public lands in question here sit over groundwater that supplies neighboring areas with water for agricultural and human uses. In addition, fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, which means toxic chemicals are even closer to underground drinking water supplies than usual, with unusually high concentrations of chemicals, many of which are dangerous to human health and the environment.

In a state where water is more precious than oil, we can’t take this kind of risk with our groundwater.

Comment now! Comments close on September 7, 2018. More info on commenting here (but don’t use the comment link on that page – it appears to be broken!) Send an email instead to: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov and note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116. 

Notes you can include in your comment:

  • Do not open our beautiful public lands to fracking and drilling. Do not sacrifice our health, wildlife and climate to profit big polluters.
  • Fracking involves the use of very toxic chemicals, which we don’t want on our public lands.
  • The toxic chemicals will invariably spread to nearby cities and towns, and the people affected are often the very poorest people.
  • These toxic chemicals get into the groundwater, especially in California, where fracking is dangerously shallow.
  • In a state where water is so precious — to agriculture, human populations, and wildlife — clean water is worth more than dirty oil.
  • We desperately need to keep these dirty fossil fuels in the ground and focus more on developing cheaper and cleaner green energy technologies. The climate is changing and we need to take step to move away from oil, not pour resources into using the dirtiest and most difficult to extract.
  • Why despoil our environment to extract a resource we should be moving away from?

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

Keep California Air Clean

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – October 2, 2018

Back in 2012, the Obama administration (remember them? Sniff…) set an ambitious target for emissions standards: Cars and trucks would achieve a standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

There are so many obvious reasons this is a good idea that it seems pointless to even mention them, but here are a few anyway:

Unfortunately, the current administration hates the environment. On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration released its long-threatened proposal to weaken antipollution and fuel efficiency standards, revoking the 54.5 MPG goal and freezing standards at about 37 MPG after 2021. But wait, it gets worse: the 1970 Clean Air Act grants a waiver to California allowing us to set our pollution standards at a tougher level than the federal government; 13 other states now follow our lead. Currently, 40% of all car sales in the United States take place in California and the thirteen other states operating under waiver — and California’s tougher standard is now the de facto national standard. Big Oil’s Friend in the White House wants to revoke this waiver, meaning that the new, lower federal standard will be the law of the entire land. This is a direct hit at California.

Here’s a great video from Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) explaining the whole story.

What you can do:

Submit a comment at Regulations.gov:  

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are taking comments on this ill-advised rollback until end of day (Eastern time) October 2, 2018; and you can write to them here.  Include these points in your comment:

  • Climate change is real. We need to reduce our use of fossil fuels.
  • The automobile industry needs a goal to work toward. It’s in no one’s interest to move the goalposts.
  • Clean air is important for public health.

Take action in California:

Governor Jerry Brown said, “California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 16 other states and the District of Columbia already sued the EPA in May in anticipation of this recent action, and now Attorney General Becerra is planning to lead 19 attorneys general in a new lawsuit against the actual proposal.

Write to Brown and Becerra and thank them for taking action to preserve our state and our nation’s clean car emissions standards:

Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Or by email

Attorney General Xavier Becerra
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

Phone: (800) 952-5225
Fax: (916) 323-5341
Or by email

Let your Members of Congress know your thoughts about the need for strong emission standards for automobiles, and the need for California to set its own standards. Include the same points as above:

  • 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

 

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

We Need to Save Wildlife. Again.

By Christina Tarr and Andrea Lum

Action deadline: September 24, 2018

A death knell rang on July 19 for hundreds of endangered animals and plants in the United States, as the Trump administration announced its plan to roll back two key provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. Yes, this means polar bears. In the most brazenly anti-environmental/pro-business stance possible, the administration also wants to eliminate language that tells officials to ignore economic impacts when determining how wildlife should be protected.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing iconic species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. In a recent press release, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl stated: “These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife. If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

What you can do:

Comment on the proposal: The comment period on this proposal opened on July 25. Please file your comments here by the deadline: September 24, 2018.

Some points you can include:

  • The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. Even with the ESA in full force, however, there are indications that as many as one-third of America’s species are vulnerable, with one in five imperiled and at high risk of extinction.
  • This crisis extends well beyond species officially listed as endangered, and now includes many garden variety creatures from monarch butterflies to songbirds. Experts note that some 12,000 species across the country are “in need of conservation action.” Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, disease, and chemical pollution are the leading wildlife threats. Climate change amplifies these threats. Changing climate and precipitation patterns will create new and increased risks of drought and flooding as sea level rise creeps up the coastlines. The effects on individual species remain mostly unknown, but are likely to ripple throughout ecosystems.
  • Now, with our wild places in decline, is not the time to start weighing the economic costs of development against the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Nor do we have time to let threatened species become endangered before we move to act on their behalf. Reject these provisions whose only intent is to hobble the Endangered Species Act. We need an ESA acting in full force working to preserve our endangered wilderness, and the species with whom we share the planet.

Next, call your Members of Congress: Let them know that endangered species matter to you, thank them for their work in protecting endangered species, and urge them to continue to do so whenever they can. For example, in the 2018 Farm Bill, both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris stood against anti-environmental provisions. Our representatives all have good records: read about Representative Barbara Lee’s support for the environment and environmental justice here, and see her conservation scorecard here. See Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s conservation scorecard here, and Representative Eric Swalwell’s here. Call them using the same comments you adapted from the above scripts, or a slightly different one, like this:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank [Senator/Representative ______].

I’m calling because I’m very concerned about the proposed threats to the Endangered Species Act by the Trump Administration. The ESA, and all environmental legislation, is very important to me.

[Here’s an example, you can say something about your own experience with wildlife]: Seeing bald eagles nesting in Milpitas and peregrine falcons nesting on the Cal campus encourages me to believe that we can coexist with nature, but we have to work at it. When development and the resulting habitat loss is the chief danger to all wild life, I appreciate anything you can do to curb our destruction of wild species and wild places. We are lucky to be close to so much wilderness in the Bay Area, but we have to work to ensure that wild places persist, both here and everywhere around the country. Thank you.

[For Senators only:  Thank you for working to keep dangerous anti-environmental riders out of must-pass legislation like the Farm Bill and the Defense Authorization Act.]

  • 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

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. Andrea Lum is on the IEB newsletter and website team, and is the IEB Volunteer Team lead.
Photograph of bald eagle by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash