Marcia G. Yerman

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Sexual Assault and Undocumented Women in Trumpland

Sexual Assault and Undocumented Women in Trumpland

Since Trump took office, there is increased concern for a demographic facing sexual assault: undocumented women.

June 4, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

Pope and Bloomberg agree that the impetus for change is not going to come from Washington. They see cities as the drivers of change and the “key” to tackling the problems of climate change.

May 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

On Election Day, I cast my vote full of hope.

On Wednesday morning, I went to bed at 3 a.m. — after watching eight hours of election returns. When I woke up, I had a severe case of dread. Not an existential dread. Rather, a version that I could feel in every fiber of my body.

I have been writing about the environment for six years.

As I looked over all the articles I have produced,

November 17, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Interview with Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota

Interview with Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota

“I have three grandchildren. I don’t want to have to tell them that when we had the chance to tackle climate change for future generations, we ignored it.”

October 5, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

Interview with Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota

This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Senator Al Franken of Minnesota:

At our annual Play-In for Climate Action in Washington, D.C., mothers and children from around the country came together to demonstrate their concern for the health of our nation’s children. Given that the current administration is comprised of climate deniers and fossil fuel advocates, what do you believe the immediate future holds for the health of kids?

“I have three grandchildren. I don’t want to have to tell them that when we had the chance to tackle climate change for future generations, we ignored it. I was honored to be in Paris to support the climate talks, and I believe President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate agreement we reached there is a catastrophic mistake that puts the short-sighted interests of his friends in the fossil fuel industry ahead of the safety and security of our kids and the future of our planet. Climate change isn’t just a problem with future consequences that we can kick down the road — it’s already threatening the livelihoods of people across the globe, and it’s a problem that requires sustained international action. That’s why I believe now is not the time to turn our backs on the rest of the world and bury our heads in the sand. We must recognize the basic fact that climate change is a real, man-made, existential threat to the planet that demands broad international action.”

You were very proactive in pushing back against Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry, aggressively questioning them both during confirmation hearings and regarding recently, the “red team, blue team” proposal to evaluate U.S. climate science suggested by Pruitt. Why do you think this administration refuses to accept the science?

“There is clear consensus among scientists that climate change is real and already causing social and economic damage in the United States and across the planet. In states like Minnesota, climate change is already affecting crops, lakes, wildlife, and forests, and throughout the country, effects of climate change have been seen through devastating forest fires and more frequent and extreme weather events. I believe it is the defining issue of our generation — an issue that demands immediate action. But unfortunately, there are some groups that have been trying to prevent action through a “web of denial.” These groups have spent many millions of dollars muddying the water, distorting the science, deceiving the American people, and ultimately delaying the response we desperately need.”

The Department of Environmental Justice, which had been part of the EPA, has been abolished. What safeguards to you see for poor, minority, and front-line communities suffering disproportionately from the impacts of toxic pollution?

‘It’s incredibly concerning that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is closing the Office of Environmental Justice. It shows a complete disregard for threats facing the well-being of low-income people and communities of color. Congress tasked the EPA to protect public health through the passage of legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Now more than ever, it is critical that my colleagues and I — along with environmental groups and community members across our nation — press the EPA to maintain safeguards for public health.”

America’s military experts have repeatedly called for action to address climate change because of the instability it will wreak globally. Do you plan to push this angle to your Senate colleagues as an on-the-ground reality that has already been evidenced?

“You’re absolutely correct. In 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) stated that climate change is a “significant challenge for the United States and the world at large,” calling it a “threat multiplier” as part of a DOD review. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has stated: ‘‘I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation.” This is certainly something that I discuss with my colleagues, and the National Defense Authorization Act that the Senate just passed requires a study about the effects of climate change to our military installations over the next 20 years. I see this as a positive step and will certainly continue to try to work with my colleagues across the aisle to act on climate change.”

With President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Accords, the high percentage of Americans who see climate change as a serious threat, are feeling very frightened. You recently joined with David Letterman to present a web series called “Boiling the Frog,” which spotlights the crisis. It uses instruction through humor. Can you tell us the genesis of this project, and what you hoped to accomplish?

“Dave has a young son, and he’s been working to bring attention to tackling climate change because he also knows the stakes are too high for us to turn our backs on the rest of the world and bury our heads in the sand. While President Trump has decided to disregard science in order to repeatedly put special interests ahead of the environment, we’ve teamed up with the guys at Years of Living Dangerously to fight back. We hope to bring some much-needed attention to this critical issue, and ultimately, to help encourage people in Minnesota, Dave’s home state of Indiana, and all Americans to make their voices heard and join the fight to combat climate change.”

TELL CONGRESS: NOBODY VOTED TO MAKE AMERICA DIRTY AGAIN

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Oct 5, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Post Hurricane Harvey: Interview with Dr. Robert Bullard

Aerial view of Houston after Hurricane Harvey

This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Dr. Robert D. Bullard. Dr. Bullard is known as the “father of  environmental justice.” He has been a leading campaigner against environmental racism:

We have spoken previously about frontline and “fence-line” communities surrounded by a variety of fossil fuel plants in Port Arthur, Texas. Children there already suffer a disproportionate health issues from air pollution – resulting in elevated levels of asthma. How has Hurricane Harvey specifically impacted families of color and low income families in the shadow of these facilities?

Hurricane Harvey exacerbated pre-storm inequality and increased health threats to Port Arthur’s vulnerable communities. Port Arthur was considered an environmental “sacrifice zone” before Harvey — and home to world’s largest oil refinery complexes, including the 3,600-acre Motiva plant, Shell Oil, Saudi Aramco, and the 4,000-acre Texas-based Valero. The Keystone XL pipeline was planned to end in this 64 percent people of color city. The most vulnerable population impacted by the ‘triple whammy’ of flooding, pollution from chemical plants and refineries, and mental stress of hurricane evacuation are children.

Could you comment about many industrial sites in and around Houston refusing to give clear facts about how dangerous the materials in their refineries are, even during this crisis? ExxonMobile has released information that two of their refineries were damaged, and harmful pollutants were released into the air. Why did regulations for being transparent with the public get rolled back?  Why weren’t adequate precautions already in place for these companies?

Harvey shone the spotlight on the power imbalance between polluting industries and fence-line communities. Environmental justice leaders for decades have fought to get stronger regulations that protect fence-line communities from refinery pollution assaults. They have fought for greater transparency from industry and government regulators, at the state and federal level, who have resisted these calls and have responded by rolling back environmental enforcement and protection. This is a recipe for disaster. It means more illnesses, emergency room visits, and deaths. The call for eliminating regulations will aid and abet the ‘crime’ of increasing unnecessary health threats in vulnerable environmental justice communities. This is not only immoral and unethical; we believe it is illegal — or should be.

Harvey is a textbook example why the country needs a strong and independent EPA. Harvey raised questions about the adequacy of industry preparations for monster storms. The petrochemical failed the safety test. More than 1.3 million pounds of extra air pollution were released in the week after Harvey struck. There were explosions and fires burning at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby. Houston experienced flaring, leaks, and chemical discharges from oil refineries, chemical plants and shale drilling sites.

While the extent of the risk posed by Texas’ petrochemical industry in the wake of Harvey is unknown, we know that risks are not spread evenly across the Houston landscape.

Houston is segregated and so is industrial pollution. Pre-and post-Harvey pollution threats map closely with race and class. Houston’s communities of color face a ‘double jeopardy.’ Communities with higher percentages of people color and higher poverty levels face higher risks from chemical accidents and everyday toxic exposure. Poverty and race increase the likelihood of children living fence-line with risky chemical plants. Poor black and brown children are more than twice as likely to live in fence-line communities as poor white children. Houston has 133 schools that are within a one-mile radius of high-risk chemical plants — placing 101,720 students at risk.

A majority (9 of 16) of the Texas Superfund sites flooded by Hurricane Harvey are in low-income neighborhoods or communities of color. In order to be just, Harvey recovery plans will need to address these legacy environmental disparities.

The Department of Environmental Justice was eliminated from the EPA when Trump took office. What recourse do people on the ground have to protect their children from the results of extreme weather events  and the ensuing new air pollution dangers?

It is important to understand that the environmental justice movement — as all social movements in the United States — was not created by the EPA or government. The impetus for the environmental justice movement was grass-roots, community-driven resistance to environmental injustice — policies and practices by polluting industries and actions buttressed by local, state and federal government. Closing the EPA Environmental Justice Office will not close down the EJ Movement.

The pushback by the Trump administration on equal protection is a crystal-clear message to environmental justice leaders and their allies that our communities, our lives, and our children don’t matter to those currently in power. We say ‘No’ to this madness. We are educating, organizing and mobilizing our students and faculty mentors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and community based organizations (CBOs) across the climate-vulnerable Gulf Coast and South in a HBCU/CBO Climate Change Consortium to fight for programs and plans to build healthy, sustainable and resilient communities.

Our consortium emphasizes children and families. When we strive to protect the most vulnerable in our society, our children, we protect us all.

TELL CONGRESS: NOBODY VOTED TO MAKE AMERICA DIRTY AGAIN

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Sep 25, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Trump Gets Challenged on Climate Change Censorship

President Trump’s tweets get plenty of coverage. Yet, there are currently numerous actions by his administration that are designed to restrict the free flow of information from federal agencies. This is particularly significant in the fight against climate change. A combination of disinformation, suppression of facts that should be in the public domain, and the erasure of elements from federal websites are concerning from agencies set up to protect Americans.

In an effort to learn if staff members were told not to use established scientific language via a “gag order,” the Center for Biological Diversity filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. They directed their inquiries to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Energy. The purpose was to get documentation of directives on the type of verbiage workers could or could not use.

Staff was allegedly instructed to either “remove” or “not use” any vocabulary that related to climate change. Examples include, but are not limited to, “greenhouse gas emissions,” “global warming,” “climate disruption,” and “global warming.” Ironically, “Paris agreement” was also in the mix.

The agencies were also asked to report if they had destroyed any records.

Almost two months later on May 30, the Center sued the Trump administration in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The reason? There had been no response, thereby “violating deadlines established under the law.”

The first point in the legal papers states:

“The Center for Biological Diversity (“Center”) — An environmental conservation organization that works to protect native wildlife species and their habitats — challenges the failure of the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Department of State to provide records concerning the Trump administration’s censorship of these federal departments’ and their component agencies’ discussion or dissemination about climate change, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.”

I spoke with Taylor McKinnon, Public Lands Campaigner at the Center. He reiterated reports of EPA workforce harassment, and accounts of web pages taken down. It was apparent that staff and scientists were being intimidated.

“My response,” McKinnon said, “was we need to pry the hood off of this.” A key goal was to establish where the instructions were coming from.

Some records were delivered to the Center. However, for the bulk of what the Center was seeking – they were “stonewalled.” This is what prompted the lawsuit.

“We’re not going to allow the administration to drag its feet,” McKinnon emphasized. “We’re going to hold them to the letter of the law.”

With the belief that what was taking place needed to be “exposed,” McKinnon stated, “We think the information will say volumes.”

The conversation shifted to the EPA under the direction of Scott Pruitt. McKinnon expressed his concern over “fossil fuel corruption.” He underscored, “Pruitt is a catastrophe for America.”

The Center is also pushing back to save data. Along with conservation biologist Stuart Pimm and the Center for Media and Democracy, they have combined forces to save scores of environmental “data sets” on government websites, from removal by the administration.

Back in March, McKinnon released a statement that encapsulates the situation at hand:

“This is like telling government scientists not to mention gravity or the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. The Trump administration can deny the reality of the climate crisis, but it can’t make it go away by simply telling government employees not to mention it anymore. This kind of anti-science meddling leads us straight back to the dark ages.”

Suppressing information, employee gag orders and perpetuating disinformation is a form of political pressure that adds to the weakening of the federal agencies we depend on to protect our families. We deserve better from our elected officials.

Tell Your Elected Representatives to Say No to Trump’s Plans to Slash the EPA Budget

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

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Jul 12, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio...

Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Local Activism Pays Off

Individuals from all walks of life, who are concerned about the future of their children...

Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

The Military Battles Climate Change

Ret. Adm. David Titley said,"The ocean, atmosphere and ice do not caucus, do not vote,...

Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

EPA Adminstrator McCarthy Makes A “Moral Obligation To The Next Generation”

McCarthy, who doesn’t pull any punches, stated, “Climate change caused by carbon pollution is one...

Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September...

Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

Small Businesses Support President Obama’s Climate Plan

After extreme weather incidents like Hurricane Sandy, 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen....

Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »