Bad border bill puts environment at risk

June 19, 2012

Border Bill Press Conference, Capitol Hill (MCC Photo/Jesse Epp Fransen)

What if within 100 miles of all U.S. borders, decades’ worth of public health, tribal, and environmental laws were disregarded? Today on Capitol Hill, this question brought together a diverse coalition of environmental, Latino, Native American, ranching/hunting, and faith-based advocacy groups attending a press conference expressing opposition (see photo) to H.R. 1505 (also called the Border Bill, or Bishop Bill).

Of the many bad bills included in the Lands Package (H.R. 2578) to be voted on this afternoon, House Rep. Rob Bishop’s Border Bill is probably the worst. The Border Bill gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unprecedented carte blanche on federal and tribal lands within 100 miles of U.S. borders. See a map of lands affected here.  The bill is a huge overreach that would allow DHS to disregard dozens of environmental and tribal laws (see bill text).

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has called this bill “unnecessary, and bad policy.” Unnecessary, because stewards of public lands currently work alongside DHS and Border Patrol with success. Bad policy, because it overturns over a century of bedrock environmental and tribal laws on large swaths of public lands.

Read the rest of this entry »


Poverty in Appalachia

March 28, 2012

Duane Beachey of MCC Great Lakes SWAP program, writes about poverty in Appalachia and the complex relationship between economic development and resource extraction interests.

What struck me most living in Appalachia was not the poverty, which I expected, but the wealth that goes out of these counties. In 2010, a billion dollars worth of coal was sold out of the half dozen or so coal counties in southeastern Kentucky alone. Yet the poverty rate is the highest in the counties with coal. All of the poverty indicators—unemployment, disability rates, and people on food stamps—are some of the highest in the nation. The economic problem is that most of the mineral rights to the coal were purchased by outside investors years ago. So all of the wealth leaves the county except for the wages paid to relatively few people who work for the coal companies and supporting businesses.

Read the entire article here.


Action Alert: Urge the EPA to Ban Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

February 16, 2012

A couple in West Virginia did not expect Arch Coal to destroy the mountaintop in their backyard when they built their home. Blasts shook their foundation, contaminated their well, and eventually forced them to accept a below-market buyout for their land. (Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman-www.ohvec.org; Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org)

Over the past 20 years, mountaintop removal mining has left thousands of communities in extreme poverty, destroyed 14 million acres of forest and 2,000 miles of headwater streams, and increased levels of birth defects, respiratory disease, and cancer.

Mountaintop removal puts nearby communities at risk from: mudslides, flooding, loss of crops, polluted water wells, cracked house foundations, and increased levels of birth defects, respiratory disease, and cancer.

Please join us in signing the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Ministries’ petition to the EPA, endorsing the statement below:

We are called to protect Earth, for as the Psalmist declares: The Earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. I urge you to protect God’s Creation by acting as a steward of the abundant Creation God has given us to share equitably among all people. Please stop the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Read the full action alert here.

Mountaintop removal resources  |  Eco-Justice Ministries worship resources


Action Alert: Thank the EPA for objecting to 19 mountaintop removal permits

February 8, 2012

Mountaintop removal coal mining destroys the natural environment and ecosystem, contaminates drinking water, threatens longstanding  Appalachian culture, and has contributed to higher unemployment in affected communities.

We are grateful for the EPA’s careful scrutiny of and objections to 19 mountaintop removal mining permits in Kentucky this past September, and we hope that the agency continues to stand against this damaging practice.

Please send a letter to Administrator Jackson and the EPA thanking them for their careful scrutiny and objection to these permits!

Read the full action alert here.

Mountaintop removal resources


COP17 Durban Agreement Falls Short

December 20, 2011

Youth for Eco-Justice at a demonstration in Durban. WCC/LWF/W. Noack

In early December, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met for the 17th time in Durban, South Africa to discuss the international community’s response to climate change. Though the governments agreed to continue working on a comprehensive treaty, this agreement falls short of providing climate justice to the most vulnerable.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) joined the strong presence of faith communities advocating in Durban. The quotes below reflect the urgency needed to combat climate change and to foster climate justice.

The WCC’s official statement reads, “In Durban, religious communities have come together in various ways to express that climate change is also a moral and spiritual crisis. We proclaim together: We have faith. Act now for climate justice” the statement requested.

Expressing his views regarding the COP17, the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, “Though a minimum deal was achieved at the last minute to keep the Kyoto Protocol, make some steps towards a new legally binding agreement in 2015, and implement the Green Climate Fund, the overall Durban outcome is far from being enough to respond to the currently disappearing countries and future generations.”

“We need to listen to vulnerable countries and populations, and think of the legacy we are leaving to our children. Churches should continue to act and pray, especially during this time when we prepare for Christmas, the event when God sent his Son, Jesus, to save our beloved planet,” he added.

Read the rest of the article here.


Lakota Tribes “Refuse to Cooperate” With Tar Sands Proponents

November 4, 2011

From Jason Cappola of Truthout, 11/2/2011:

The Keystone XL pipeline and a message from indigenous resistance.

As people gather to protest the greed and corruption of Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and throughout the world, the territories of indigenous peoples and nations have been the front lines of this conflict for a long, long, time.

A protester against the Keystone XL pipeline is arrested outside the White House in this screengrab from "The Indigenous Call: Take Back Our Future."(Image Credit: StopKeystoneXL)

Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Pukatawagan Cree Nation, is an anti-tar sands campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, and is responsible for coordinating an indigenous team which operates both in the United States and Canada supporting locally led tactics and strategies aimed at stopping the Canadian tar sands expansion and its encroachment into traditional and treaty territories of first nations in Alberta and British Columbia.

This intervention, says Thomas-Muller, also includes the United States and binational pipelines such as the existing Keystone pipeline as well as the currently proposed Keystone XL, which will travel over 1,500 miles from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast….

Read Truthout‘s entire article here.

See “The Indigenous Call: Take Back the Future” video from StopKeystoneXL here.

Join a nonviolent rally around the White House on November 6 sponsored by Tar Sands Action.


Creation Under Attack

October 24, 2011

Emily Wilson-Hauger reflects on the importance of advocating for environmental justice in the Third Way Cafe.

I recently helped draft a petition letter to President Obama and Congress urging them to support the integrity of the Clean Water Act and halt any efforts to undermine this important environmental law. As I sat at my desk on Capitol Hill and reflected, I wondered if this letter really could effect change.

Photo by Tammy Alexander

The following weekend, I traveled to West Virginia to enjoy autumn in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the country. Sunday afternoon our group set out on a hike along a small river. As we hiked down into the streambed, the postcard-worthy downstream view immediately distorted. The bedrock was an uncharacteristically coppery color; the strange milky color of the water had piles of strange floating foam; and the awful sewage smell made us want to retreat back up the trail. On the drive out, we then observed houses with foundations visibly crumbling and families living in severe poverty.

After some research on the North Fork Watershed of the Blackwater River, I found that…

Read more here.


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