Environmental Regulations, EPA, Nature, Saving the World

The $50 Million Dollar Man-agement of Gulf Ecosystem

On December 5, the final strategy for reversing deterioration of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem was announced.  News:  USDA has allotted $50 million financial assistance for restoration projects as Task Force efforts shift into action.

Key priorities of the strategy include:

1) Stopping the Loss of Critical Wetlands, Sand Barriers and Beaches
The strategy recommends placing ecosystem restoration on an equal footing with historic uses such as navigation and flood damage reduction by approaching water resource management decisions in a far more comprehensive manner that will bypass harm to wetlands, barrier islands and beaches. The strategy also recommends implementation of several congressionally authorized projects in the Gulf that are intended to reverse the trend of wetlands loss.

2) Reducing the Flow of Excess Nutrients into the Gulf
The strategy calls for working in the Gulf and upstream in the Mississippi watershed to reduce the flow of excess nutrients into the Gulf by supporting state nutrient reduction frameworks, new nutrient reduction approaches, and targeted watershed work to reduce agricultural and urban sources of excess nutrients.

3) Enhancing Resiliency among Coastal Communities
The strategy calls for enhancing the quality of life of Gulf residents by working in partnership with the Gulf with coastal communities. The strategy specifically recommends working with each of the States to build the integrated capacity needed through effective coastal improvement plans to better secure the future of their coastal communities and to implement existing efforts underway.

To review the final strategy: http://www.epa.gov/gulfcoasttaskforce

taking care of business
The business of cleanup.
Environmental Regulations, EPA, FEMA, Green Tips, Health, New England

10 Myths About FEMA Aid for Vermonters

Went to Vermont for a long weekend — just one week after Hurricane Irene.   If you ever want to spend some wonderful days on a motorcycle, Vermont is a great place to go because the land is so unusual:  a forever-series of great rounded heights followed by low, river-spun valleys to glide along.  But beyond the ordinary extraordinary-ness of Vermont, we were amazed by what we saw.

Riding through Vermont after Irene
Riding through Vermont after Irene

Like a hurricane

Irene was no longer technically a hurricane when it hit Vermont, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the aftermath.  We saw towns with water marks two feet up the sides of buildings all the way down Main Street.  We saw bridges so washed out that the earth below the deepest footing was gone and the bridge hung in mid-air, twisted like rope candy, like a Twizzler.  We saw people selling muddy furniture in their front yards — people who looked very, very tired.

Vermont is mostly a series of vertical peaks and drops, with brooks that are barely rivers that crawl between the steep slopes of wooded mountains, the water pushing itself either east towards the Connecticut River or west to the top of the Hudson.

When it rains in this landscape, all rainwater rolls directly down the inevitable, often vertical, flanks of mountain and drops into those thin, vegan rivers.

As above, so below

The more water above, the more water below, it’s a direct equation.  The only variables have to do with how wet the ground is when the rain comes.  And this year — the year of Irene — the ground was already saturated from a few wet weeks preceding.  That variable increases the probability of flooding.

Almost a foot of rain fell from the sky in one day in parts of Vermont; the other parts got a half-foot.  Together across acreage, that’s many feet, that’s actually a lake.  The lake slid down mountainsides and into slender streams that swelled and surged into small towns that appear in Vermont in the only place they can: at the base of the steep slopes, next to the rivers.

As for us, we drifted in on motorcycles not as inquisitive storm chasers but because we’d planned the getaway months in advance.  We became witnesses of the storm’s effects by happening to be there.  We witnessed the water.  We witnessed the damage.  We ate in restaurants with people who were kind even though their eyes were pale because they had just lost everything: entire organic farms, homes, barns, ski lodges… a way of life… a retirement… an idea about how life is or should be….

On the journey home we got tangled up in road closures and detours and impassible routes — a 3 hour ride took 8 hours.  We would dismount and witness one wash-out after another, get back on our bikes, turn around, and head back the way we came.  Our inconvenience so tiny compared to theirs.

Our salute is to perhaps write a little bit about it later.

FEMA: “it’s your money, take it”

For days after we returned home to safety in eastern New Hampshire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA was still setting up relief shelters in the area of Vermont we’d just navigated.  Berkshires, Bennington, Barre.  We had just seen it, we were glad to see FEMA arriving to help.

As such, we thought we’d run this information about what it takes to qualify for FEMA aid.  Some of this surprised us, it may surprise you too.   It turns out that some Vermonters who were affected by Tropical Storm Irene may have not registered with FEMA for assistance — because of misconceptions or lack of accurate information.

Here are ten myths around whether or not you qualify for FEMA aid.

Top ten myths and facts about qualifying for FEMA aid

Beautiful even in disaster
Vermont is beautiful even in disaster

MYTH 1: I thought my income was too high for me to qualify.
FACT: There is no income cutoff for FEMA aid. Anyone with disaster damage or loss in the declared counties may be eligible for help. FEMA grants may cover under insured or uninsured losses.

MYTH 2: My insurance agent told me I wouldn’t be able to get help from FEMA because I have flood insurance.
FACT: Everyone with flood insurance should register. FEMA may be able to help with uninsured costs.

MYTH 3: I don’t want FEMA assistance because it will affect my Social Security benefits, taxes, food stamps or Medicaid.
FACT: FEMA assistance does not affect benefits from other federal programs and it is not reportable as taxable income.

MYTH 4: I’ve already cleaned up and made the repairs. Isn’t it too late?
FACT: You may be eligible for reimbursement of your clean up and repair expenses.

MYTH 5: I thought FEMA only gave loans. I don’t want a loan.
FACT: FEMA only provides grants that do not have to be repaid. FEMA’s individual assistance program covers expenses for temporary housing, home repairs, replacement of damaged personal property and other disaster-related needs, such as medical, dental or transportation costs not covered by insurance or other programs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides low-interest loans to renters, homeowners and businesses of all sizes. Some applicants may receive an SBA loan application after registering with FEMA. No one is obligated to take out a loan. But if they don’t complete the application, they may not be considered for other federal grants.

Vermont still looks like Vermont
FEMA helps Vermont regrow

MYTH 6: I’m a renter. I thought FEMA aid was only for homeowners to repair their homes.
FACT: FEMA may provide grants to help renters who lost personal property or were displaced.

MYTH 7: I heard there’s too much red tape and paperwork to register.
FACT: There is no paperwork to register with FEMA. You can do it with one phone call that takes a short while, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with a speech disability or hearing loss who use a TTY can call 800-462-7585; or 800-621-3362 if using 711 or Video Relay Service. You can also register online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or via a web-enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov. The website helps reduce the number of forms to be filled out and shortens the time it takes to apply.

MYTH 8: I received disaster assistance last year. I thought I couldn’t get it again this year.
FACT: If you had damage from another federally declared disaster you may register for new assistance.

MYTH 9: Isn’t FEMA broke? Other people need the help more than I do.
FACT: FEMA has enough funding to assist all eligible survivors with immediate needs. You will not be taking from others if you register for aid yourself.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585; or call 800-621-3362 if using 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS).

FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

SBA disaster loan information and application forms may be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for people with speech or hearing disabilities) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET or by sending an e-mail to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Applications can also be downloaded from http://www.sba.gov or completed on-line at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

FEMA’ mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

MYTH 10: No one cares, Vermonters have to do it themselves, there is no help.

FACT:  There is help, the rest of us do care.  There is unemployment compensation, there are shelters and provisions, there is money.  Take the money!!

Good luck with the recovery effort, Vermont.  We know you can do it.

After Irene Bennington, Vermont
From the Bennington Monument, one week after Irene, you can see more rain approaching

photo credits:  images by kmhurley  at http: //www.kmhurley.com

Environmental Regulations, EPA, Nature, New England, New Green Economy, Saving the World

Green Communications Manager Job: New England

Occasionally these job descriptions & opportunities appear in my email inbox (via www.Indeed.com, the best web site for job seekers).  Job opps also pop up on LinkedIn automatically when a job opportunity more or less matches your current job title and experience.  This particular opportunity appeared today and may be of interest to readers of this blog.

The employer is asking quite a lot.  Salary is likely under-served, which is the first thing to find out – always – when approaching a non-profit.  It could be priceless experience — but only if you’re the type of person who doesn’t get resentful over a salary at about 1/2 of market rate.  (I am not one of those people, but have heard of them.)  If you’re very passionate about green initiatives, the environment, related legal pursuits and non-profits, run up to the net and see what they’re offering.

Even if you’re not in the market, this is a strong (if slightly over-served) job description for the role and the field.  Reading these things keeps your eye on the ball.

Senior Communications Manager – Conservation Law Foundation – Greater Boston Area
Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is seeking a talented communications practitioner with a journalist’s eye for a good story, a storyteller’s knack for engaging an audience, an editor’s fine point and a publicist’s rolodex. Reporting directly to the director of communications, the senior communications manager will have 5-7 years of communications experience, with solid writing, editing, messaging and pitching skills. You will be able to develop and implement strategic and tactical communications plans that advance the organization’s mission and build awareness through promotion of its core programs and priorities, special campaigns and positions on key issues. Your thirst for knowledge and continual education about environmental issues, including climate change, clean energy, clean air, clean water, ocean conservation, transportation and environmental justice allow you to see creative possibilities for generating media interest around CLF’s people, positions and success stories. Your background will include experience in the nonprofit sector, preferably in the area of environmental issues/advocacy. Current knowledge of and experience with communicating in the digital age a must, with strong media relationships in the Boston area/New England region a plus.

Your responsibilities will include:
• Working with program heads, state directors and staff advocates to develop strategic messaging that flows through the organization’s communications to its various stakeholders
• Developing and editing content for the organization’s website, blog, social media sites and print publications
• Working with outside designers and printers to produce publications and communications materials, including CLF’s quarterly publication, Conservation Matters
• Pro-active and reactive media relations that generate regular, strategic, high-quality media coverage of Conservation Law Foundation and its work
• Developing strategic and tactical outreach plans that advance the organization’s advocacy goals
• Writing press releases and press statements, op-ed pieces, letters to the editor
• Working collaboratively with development, marketing and membership teams to ensure consistency of communications across the organization
• Planning and implementation of press events
• Developing metrics for success, monitoring and reporting for executives, staff and boards
• Public speaking and media training
• Monitoring of editorial calendars
• Development and maintenance of media lists
• Mentor and lead team members responsible for website and marketing administration

Desired Skills & Experience
• Demonstrated ability to distill complex issues and legal language into accessible and compelling stories for a variety of audiences and stakeholders
• Highly-collaborative creative thinker with a minimum of 5 years experience with messaging, public relations, and editing
• Ability to multi-task on different projects with different deadlines and work on multiple initiatives in parallel
• Excellent writing, editing, and proofreading skills
• Confident pitchman/woman with ability to develop and nurture strong media relationships
• Passion for environmental issues and continuous learning
• Boundless energy and intellectual curiosity
• Can-do attitude
• Bachelor’s degree required, preferably with an emphasis in communications or journalism
• 2-4 years of experience working in environmental field
• Experience with WordPress, Convio, Photoshop and InDesign strongly desired
• Knowledge of fundraising techniques and strategies
• Strong commitment to CLF’s mission

Interested candidates are required to send a cover letter and resume to: Human Resources at careers@clf.org or mail to: 62 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110.

Application materials must be received no later than September 14th. Candidates of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

Company Description
Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. A non-profit, member-supported organization, CLF uses the law, science and the market to solve the region’s most challenging environmental problems from climate change to ocean conservation to transportation. Every day, CLF advocates stand up for New Englanders—in state houses, court houses and board rooms, regulatory hearings and community gatherings—to forge innovative paths to environmental progress and economic prosperity for our region.

Founded in 1966, CLF is recognized nationwide for taking on complex issues, sticking with them and getting results that make New England a better place to live, visit and do business, including: cleaning up Boston Harbor, restoring New England’s cod population, blocking oil and gas drilling on Georges Bank, preserving wilderness areas in Vermont and New Hampshire, reducing emissions from cars and trucks, laying the groundwork for widespread implementation of renewable energy, and winning some of the country’s strongest protections for clean air and clean water. CLF is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts with offices in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Environmental Regulations, EPA, Health, Nature, Saving the World, Science

DuPont Herbicide Halted By EPA

DuPont says it’s implementing “broad scientific and stewardship reviews” after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pulled DuPont’s herbicide called Imprelis off the market Thursday.

In EPA’s “Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order,” the EPA said that DuPont had test data that showed its herbicide Imprelis was harmful to Norway spruce, balsam fir and other trees when it was given EPA approval last August.

(So why was it allowed to market in the first place…?)

DuPont, in the meantime, has posted a job opening for Product Stewardship at DuPont at corporate headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.  Smart.

DuPont is the registrant of  Imprelis Herbicide (EPA Registration No. 352-793) with the active ingredient aminocyclopyrachlor (CASRN 858956-35-1).  Beginning in June 2011, EPA says it began receiving complaints from state pesticide agencies regarding evergreen damage related to the use of Imprelis.

To its credit, DuPont has been cooperating.  As of August 2011, DuPont has submitted to the Agency over 7,000 adverse incident reports involving damage (including death) to non-target trees – primarily Norway spruce (considered by many to be an invasive plant) and white pine (considered by some to be a pain in the butt, due to sticky pitch or sap, falling branches, abundant shedding of needles, shallow root system and great height which lend to tipping over).  The damage to nearby trees and plants has been observed to be related to the application of Imprelis.

Test data from DuPont has confirmed certain coniferous trees, including Norway spruce and balsam fir, as susceptible to being damaged or killed by the application of Imprelis.  EPA continues to collect information from DuPont, state agency investigations, inspections and data analyses. The Agency continues to investigate possible causes of the evergreen damage.

Based on death of “non-target” trees and other observations, EPA feels it has reason to believe Imprelis Herbicide is in violation of FIFRA based on DuPont’s own test data and information gathered during EPA and state investigations.

If this affects you or your work and you want to know more, go to this EPA page for DuPont Imprelis that provides more information.

Environmental Regulations, Green Tips, Health, Nature, New Green Economy, Saving the World

Trespassing Gas: Courts Say Pesticide Drift Is “Trespassing”

“I’m a farm girl,” says one Minnesota-based woman regarding this week’s hottest environmental story.  “And I understand the importance of producing a decent crop.  But nothing chaps my butt more than watching the choppers and planes spray the edges of my woods when they are working on the corn and potato fields.  Pine trees should not be brown.”

Farmer on beach
Farmers' properties border water bodies, forests and your kids' play area

Courts in the American Midwest ruled last week that if your chemical spray gets on my property, it’s considered trespassing.

The landmark ruling has potentially huge ramifications in terms of regulating chemical use in farming.  The ruling sets a precedent, giving the public another way for inter-property chemical waft to be discouraged via enforcement — beyond pollution laws such as the Clean Air Act.

Many Americans may not understand or appreciate the ins and outs of the Clean Air Act, but No Trespassing is a concept that almost all Americans can agree on.

The chemical drift problem

Historic!  The ruling has the attention of anyone concerned with regulatory compliance.

The debate about drifting chemical spray has been going on forever it seems. Namely: if an organic farm sits in close proximity to a non-organic farm, and the latter sprays chemicals that become traceable in the organic food, who’s responsible?

“If I stand by the fence separating your property and mine, and I spray DDT on my apple trees, how can I help it if the breeze blows a bunch of it over into your garden?”  That’s essentially what the defense says.

Courts say, “Nope, it’s trespassing, your stuff is treading upon and interfering with their private property.”  And, well, that’s true.

It isn’t just the organic farming versus non-organic farming issue that’s at stake here. There are many health concerns for people and pets and plants and wildlife associated with pesticides and herbicides.

In simple terms:  if your chemical spray collects in significant amounts in my food or drinking water, then you and I have a very big problem.

Pesticide drift: let’s take this outside

If you have a bonfire, I may well get some smelly, unhealthy smoke in my property lines.  Fair enough.  Handling moderate amounts of other people’s stink is simply part of the human experience.

The buck stops when one tribe significantly messes with another. In pesticides and spray chemicals, the buck stops when the concentration of chemicals drifting into your household or property boundary becomes either excessively toxic or otherwise measurably taints your ability to function in society (i.e., have trees that are not brown, trust that your water supply is clean, or make a living selling a product you choose — such as organic products).

On a more personal note, I’m not always convinced about the organic food industry and the hype around it — but I would say this: if you farm near me and if I find significant toxic chemicals from your chemical spray in my garden produce or in my kids’ swimming hole, I hope you’ll excuse my return chemical spray in the direction of where your kids play and drink and picnic.

And those side effects you won’t appreciate?  Well, touche.

Fair ruling

Chemicals crossing boundaries as trespassing is a fair ruling.

The legal system being what it is, the ruling will be appealed, so keep your eye on the story and use your voice. Even if you just comment on blog articles, use your voice. Pesticide-drift-as-trespassing is a new, hot topic and everyone is looking for everyone else’s opinion – so now is the time to have one.

Environmental Regulations, Green Reviews, Green Tips, Health, Nature, New England, New Green Economy, Saving the World, travel

Jen White, Kathleen Hurley join Mountain Spirit Institute as advisors

Jennifer White of New London, NH and Kathleen Hurley of Portsmouth, NH, have been recently named “Advisors” to Mountain Spirit Institute (MSI).  MSI is a non-profit educational organization based in Sunapee, NH.

Mount Washington, White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA

MSI programs have been compared to Outward Bound ventures insofar as both strive to engender self reliance, compassion, service, centeredness, physical fitness and interpersonal community-building while developing sensibilities towards stewardship and understanding of the natural environment.  MSI programs aim to endow participants of all ages with a greater appreciation and understanding of their own resources and of the people around them — as well as a better sense of their place in the world.

MSI is based in New England.  Summer 2011 programs cater to New Englanders or people prepared to visit the New Hampshire / Vermont region.

Hurley and White as MSI advisors

In the newly created advisory role, both Hurley and White will contribute expertise and advice to the organization based on their respective fields of experience.

Mountain Spirit Institute, founded in 1998, runs wilderness based programs both domestically and internationally, as well as a wide variety of workshops and retreats. The newly created advisory role broadens the scope of the institute while providing support to the board of directors. The role also engages those individuals in the community who are interested in, and have strong skill-sets and knowledge related to, MSI’s mission.

Hurley

Kathleen Hurley brings a wealth of corporate and online communications skills plus enthusiasm, writing and publishing acumen and keen business management experience to MSI’s advisory board. Kathleen has been a contributing writer to various New England magazines, and a director-level Marketing and Communications executive for almost a decade. Hurley was also a founding member of the steering committee for the successful Sunapee SunFest, a holistic health, alternative energy, music, arts, and sustainability festival which Mountain Spirit Institute created and ran for a number of years in mid 2000’s.  Hurley currently serves as the Director of Corporate Communications for Actio Corp, Boston, MA.

White

Jennifer White brings a purpose-driven, holistic approach to sustainability education at MSI. White has been an educator for over fifteen years in a wide variety of academic and community settings, and has a multidisciplinary background in physics, psychology, systems science, permaculture design, and sustainability. She served as the Executive Director of a national nonprofit called the Simplicity Forum, and was the Co-Founder and Director of Education for the Green Heart Institute which was created to help people “understand the global impact of their choices, connect with their values and live sustainably from the heart.”

White has a long history of dedicated volunteerism, but she is perhaps best known for appearing on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.   However, her extensive volunteering with community based organizations includes being a founding member of the Rocky Mountain Earth Institute and Transition Town Lyons, both in Colorado.   She is currently the Sustainability Coordinator and an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH.

Fun, educational ways to get involved

If you or someone you know might benefit from travel (some local travel, some international) with intent to heal – please see MSI’s Programs Page or contact Randy Richards at the email provided below.

In June 2011, a MSI group will be going to Vermont for a weekend for an in-depth retreat centered around wilderness and sustainable gardening.  Check it out here:  http://www.mtnspirit.org/csl.html  Spots are limited so MSI advises interested parties to contact MSI as soon as possible to express interest.

Release date: April 16, 2011
Contact: Randy Richards TEL: (603) 763-2668, randy@mtnspirit.org

This post may serve as a news release; content may be redistributed without consent of the author.  Happy blogging everyone!

Environmental Regulations, Health, Nature, New England, Saving the World, Science

Removing Fluoride From Drinking Water

Calgary’s drinking water will soon be fluoride-free.  City councillors have voted by a margin of 10 to 3 to eliminate the controversial additive from the city’s water.

The issue had become a divisive topic.  Fluoride has been in Calgary’s drinking water for over two decades.  The city still has to inform Alberta Environment of its decision so that the chemical can be removed.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the fluoride debate isn’t just in Calgary.

Should fluoride be mandatory for all citizens?

Interestingly, few argue that fluoride is anything but good for teeth.  Although the Fluoride Action Network points out that humans can have good teeth without fluoride as an additive; then they point out 49 other reasons to oppose fluoride as a mandatory chemical medication metered to the general public by the government. (The 50 reasons are worth a read.)

Activists have a problem with a pharmaceutical creation, a medication, being mandatorily fed to a population.  “What next?” is the thinking.  Maybe Valium is good for people, too.

Valium is not a good example.  But it illustrates the problem.   Just because a chemical compound is believed to be “good for health” by current health measures, should the chemical therefore be added to public consumables?

Who’s got fluoride?

As noted in  “Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General” (the Surgeon General was David Satcher, May 2000), community water fluoridation continues to be the most cost-effective, equitable and safe means to provide protection from tooth decay in a community.

“The report cites scientific studies finding that people living in communities with fluoridated water have fewer cavities than those living where the water is not fluoridated,” says the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). “For more than 50 years, small amounts of fluoride have been added to drinking water supplies in the United States….”

We’ve all been drinking this Kool-Aid.

And while fluoride in drinking water may be good for teeth, Kool-Aid with Vitamin C added could be said to be good for an immune system.  Keep it out of my drinking water.

Portland, Maine resident Oliver Outerbridge is leading an effort in Maine to stop fluoride as an additive in public drinking water.  “Our feeling is that adding fluoride to your drinking water is a decision that should be made by an individual. It should not be left up to the government to medicate the people,” said Outerbridge.

Well, if you put it that way….

Where’s the grief?

Many communities have rejected fluoridation.

Others say a low threshold must be established.  “If EPA just did simple arithmetic in a risk assessment, it would have to come up with a standard for fluoride in drinking water of less than 1 mg/L,” said Paul Connett, emeritus professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University, in a statement.

In Canada, about three-quarters of Alberta’s population have fluoridated water, compared to roughly 45 per cent nationally. In British Columbia, less than 4% of citizens have fluoride in the water.  And in Waterloo, Ontario, residents recently voted by a tiny margin to stop adding fluoride to their drinking water.

In Calgary, fluoride was added to the water in 1989.  City voters narrowly approved adding the substance at the time – so it was never welcomed by an overwhelming majority to begin with.

Wag the dog…?

A great followup to this blog post would be to track the supply chain.  Who’s supplying all this fluoride chemical compound to the utility companies and the public?  And who’s paying for it?

Because it sounds a little like the ubiquitous corn syrup story.  And it doesn’t sound quite right.