“My poster focuses on a young girl holding a pinwheel, which alludes to wind turbines, while the sun behind her alludes to solar energy … She looks up from the precipice, wearing on her face the symbol of the march: a green heart,” Jean said about his design.
If possible, on September 21 travel to New York City and join tens of thousands in the People’s Climate March two days before the United Nations Climate Summit 2014….Or, join us here in Davis for exhibits, speakers, films, and actions. It’s a modest way to join with others across the nation to urge government leaders to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming.
This is an invitation to change everything.
When Bill McKibben published “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change” in the June 5th edition of Rolling Stone, he wrote this confident sentence under the title:
When world leaders gather in New York this fall to confront climate change, tens of thousands of people (and maybe you) will be there to demand they take action before it’s too late.
McKibben credits most of the world’s leaders with doing what most of us have done – the easy things – but they haven’t set the world on a new course. For example, President Barack Obama pushed through more demanding mileage standards for cars, but he’s also opened huge areas of our land to oil drilling and coal mining, making the U.S. the world’s biggest petro producer.
Here’s a portion of McKibben’s essay worth reading.
Like other world leaders, Pres. Obama tried, but not nearly hard enough. Consider what he told The New Yorker in an interview earlier this year: “At the end of the day, we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.” And “I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or FDR faced.”
We do, though; we face a crisis as great as any president has ever encountered. Here’s how his paragraph looks so far: Since he took office, summer sea ice in the Arctic has mostly disappeared, and at the South Pole, scientists in May made clear that the process of massive melt is now fully under way, with 10 feet of sea-level rise in the offing. Scientists have discovered the depth of changes in ocean chemistry: that seawater is 30 percent more acidic than just four decades ago, and it’s already causing trouble for creatures at the bottom of the marine food chain. America has weathered the hottest year in its history, 2012, which saw a drought so deep that the corn harvest largely failed. At the moment, one of the biggest states in Obama’s union, California, is caught in a drought deeper than any time since Europeans arrived. Hell, a few blocks south of the U.N. buildings, Hurricane Sandy turned the Lower East Side of New York into a branch of the East River.
And that’s just the United States. The world’s scientists earlier this spring issued a 32-volume report explaining exactly how much worse it’s going to get, which is, to summarize, a lot worse even than they’d thought before. It’s not that the scientists are alarmists – it’s that the science is alarming. Here’s how one Princeton scientist summarized the situation for reporters: “We’re all sitting ducks.”
The gap between “We’re all sitting ducks” and “We do not face a crisis” is the gap between halfhearted action and the all-out effort that might make a difference. It’s the gap between changing light bulbs and changing the system that’s powering our destruction.
McKibben claims people who work for environmental justice, labor unions, people in faith groups, students, and middle class white folks are all united in this cry to change everything. There are examples in history when large numbers of people took to the streets and they succeeded in changing the course of history.
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club writes, “This isn’t just about getting a bunch of people to New York to march for an hour then go home. This is about making sure that the tipping point in the fight to halt climate disruption tips in the favor of the average citizen and clean energy prosperity, and that the world’s leaders see that the support to do so has reached a level that can no longer be ignored.”
So take heart. If you can’t be in NYC, join the Davis climate movement on September 21. Go to www.yolanoclimateaction.org for updates on how to be part of the local action.
Repost from Common Dreams [Editor: The fact of climate change is CRITICAL CONTEXT for any decision on Valero’s grab for inexpensive, dangerous and dirty North American crude oil. Valero is aware of this, thus the manipulative claim that their project would actually reduce greenhouse gases in the wider Bay Area, while ignoring the truly LOCAL air quality impacts in Benicia, and obfuscating the finding of significant and unavoidable air quality impacts uprail. – RS]
A draft of the UN panel’s synthesis report on the global scientific community’s assessment of human-caused global warming offers the starkest and most strongly-worded warning yet of the dangers ahead
August 27, 2014, by Common Dreams, Jon Queally, staff writer
Climate change is here. Climate change is now. Climate change will be significantly more dangerous, deadly, and expensive if nothing is done to correct humanity’s course, but aspects of future shifts are probably already irreversible.
That’s the assessment of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has sent world governments a draft of its final “Synthesis Report” which seeks to tie together previous reports the panel has released over the last year and offers a stark assessment of the perilous future the planet and humanity face due to global warming and climate change.
Based on a clear and overwhelming consensus among the world’s leading scientists, the draft says that failure to adequately acknowledge and act on previous warnings has put the planet on a path where “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” of human-caused climate change will surely be felt in the decades to come.
In a clear statement regarding the dangers of continued inaction, the draft report declares: “The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”
Obtained by several media outlets—including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and Bloomberg—the draft includes not new information per se, but employs stronger language and contains a more urgent warning than the previous reports from the IPCC which it attempts to synthesize and summarize.
Asked for his reaction to the draft, Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann wrote this to the AP in an email: “The report tells us once again what we know with a greater degree of certainty: that climate change is real, it is caused by us, and it is already causing substantial damage to us and our environment. If there is one take home point of this report it is this: We have to act now.”
As IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri explained in a statement, the last report—which still faces a final review, editing, and approval process—is designed to integrate “the findings of the three working group contributions to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and two special reports” and “provide policymakers with a scientific foundation to tackle the challenge of climate change.” Taken together, the IPCC reports and their recommendations are designed to help governments and other stakeholders work together at various levels, including a new international agreement to limit climate change, he said.
According to the Associated Press, which reviewed the 127-page document, the IPCC draft
paints a harsh warning of what’s causing global warming and what it will do to humans and the environment. It also describes what can be done about it.
“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the report says. The final report will be issued after governments and scientists go over the draft line by line in an October conference in Copenhagen.
Depending on circumstances and values, “currently observed impacts might already be considered dangerous,” the report says. It mentions extreme weather and rising sea levels, such as heat waves, flooding and droughts. It even raises, as an earlier report did, the idea that climate change will worsen violent conflicts and refugee problems and could hinder efforts to grow more food. And ocean acidification, which comes from the added carbon absorbed by oceans, will harm marine life, it says.
Without changes in greenhouse gas emissions, “climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century,” the report says.
Using blunter, more forceful language than the reports that underpin it, the new draft highlights the urgency of the risks that are likely to be intensified by continued emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.
The report found that companies and governments had identified reserves of these fuels at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level.
That means if society wants to limit the risks to future generations, it must find the discipline to leave a vast majority of these valuable fuels in the ground, the report said.
It cited rising political efforts around the world on climate change, including efforts to limit emissions as well as to adapt to changes that have become inevitable. But the report found that these efforts were being overwhelmed by construction of facilities like new coal-burning power plants that will lock in high emissions for decades.
From 1970 to 2000, global emissions of greenhouse gases grew at 1.3 percent a year. But from 2000 to 2010, that rate jumped to 2.2 percent a year, the report found, and the pace seems to be accelerating further in this decade.
The IPCC draft will not be finalized until after governments have a chance to weigh in on the report and following a meeting in Copenhagen slated for late October.
In September, the United Nations is hosting its next international climate summit in New York City and climate campaigners are hoping to capitalize on the meeting by planning what they are calling the “People’s Climate March” during the same week as a way to apply pressure on world governments to finally act on the issue.
If nothing else, the leaked IPCC draft report will serve to galvanize and add weight to the climate justice movement, which has consistently demanded that world leaders respond to the crisis with action—not words.
As David Turnbull, director of campaigns for the group Oil Change International, which is signed-on to support the New York march, said recently: “Politicians have come together too many times with nothing more than rhetoric and empty promises in tow. Next month, thousands of true leaders will be marching on the streets of New York demanding real action. The question is, will our elected leaders follow.”
Repost from The Benicia Herald [Editor: A year ago, almost to the day, I wrote an Op-Ed for The Benicia Herald titled, “Valero crude-by-rail: ‘Down-wind’ and ‘up-rail’.” A few months later, I was contacted by Milton Kalish and Lynne Nittler of Davis, and we’ve stayed in touch. They – and their wonderful group of activist friends in Cool Davis, Yolano Climate Action and 350 Sacramento – have continued their CBR organizing efforts with great energy and creativity. This open letter by Lynne serves as a detailed primer of all the reasons why CBR must be stopped. A must-read. – RS]
Open letter to Benicia: Stop crude by rail
July 10, 2014 by Lynne Nittler
IN RESPONSE TO JIM LESSENGER’S OPED OF JULY 4, “Open letter to the City Council: Support CBR,” I write today urging Benicia to deny the proposed Valero Refinery Crude-by-Rail Project until all safety measures listed below are in place.
I have been carefully following the proposed Benicia project, reading articles from a wide variety of sources including many reports and, most recently, the Draft Environmental Impact Report.
I follow a number of environmental topics closely, particularly those related to climate change. I am on the board of Cool Davis, a nonprofit organization that helps the city of Davis implement its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
I have an “uprail” perspective that is important to add to the conversation on the Valero proposal, as the impact of the daily trains would be significant in my community.
I have six reasons Benicia should deny the CBR project. They are as follows:
1. The project is far from contained within Benicia’s 3,000-acre Industrial Park.
Benicia is fortunate to have a buffer area of industries and vacant land around Valero Benicia Refinery. Valero has even promised that the oil trains will not cross city streets during Benicia’s rush hours (though neither Valero nor the city of Benicia can enforce that promise).
Davis and other uprail communities are not so fortunate. The trains will pass through downtown Davis, including residential neighborhoods, the center of downtown, university housing and the entire Mondavi Performing Arts Complex and Conference Center.
Train travel through Davis is made more dangerous because there is a curve with a 10-mph left-handed cross-over between the main tracks several hundred feet east of the Amtrak station, right downtown. All other crossovers on the line are rated for 45 mph. This 10-mph spot in particular is an accident waiting to happen.
While the trains would hopefully avoid rush hour in Benicia, that will surely not be the case for all uprail communities.
2. Valero owns the property but should not be allowed to set profits ahead of public health and safety.
No corporation operates in a vacuum. Valero’s decision to import North American crude has profound effects beyond its own improvement that cannot be ignored.
Valero’s change to crude by rail from crude by ship would allow it to import both Canadian tar sands and Bakken crude, and would add additional dangerous trains to the tracks all the way back to their points of origin, most likely in North Dakota or Alberta, Canada. That means the trains endanger and disrupt towns and cities across our country on their way to Benicia. These tracks are already impacted by oil trains taking precedence over trains transporting grain and other local crops and commuter trains. More importantly, people are endangered by the highly volatile Bakken crude — there have been 12 significant derailments since May 2013, with six explosions — and our precious marshes and waterways are threatened by the possibility of toxic spills of tar sands bitumen, which quickly sinks to the bottom and cannot be removed. The Kalamazoo River, Mich. cleanup of 1 million gallons of leaked tar sands dilbit is still unsuccessful after four years and $1 billion.
In California, the trains would come over the Sierra Nevada Mountains or wind through the Feather River Canyon (rated as a “rail high-hazard area” by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services), or possibly even come from Oregon down through Redding and Dunsmuir, site of a 1991 derailment of a fertilizer tank car that killed fish for 40 miles. In any of these routes, major rivers would be crossed where an accident could contaminate much-needed drinking and irrigation water.
3. The project will clearly affect the environment.
A wider view of “environment” raises serious concerns. California considers the cradle-to-grave lifecycle of products. Extracting, refining and burning heavy, sour crude is a nasty job, start to finish. That’s why tar sands is called a “dirty” fossil fuel, noted for its energy-intensive carbon footprint. This deserves a full discussion which is beyond the scope of this letter. The recently completed Valero Improvement Project was intended to allow the refinery to handle refining the heavy, sour crude as efficiently as possible, which is laudable, but that is not to say it is a clean process. Setting aside the forests destroyed and the unlined toxic tailing ponds leaking into the waterways in Canada at the point of extraction, we must note that processing tar sands bitumen will produce more of the byproduct petcoke that is so polluting it cannot be burned in the U.S. (It can be sold abroad and burned for energy there. Ironically, when it is burned in China, some of the smog blows back across the ocean to Southern California.)
The heavy crude is high in sulfur and toxic metals, which corrode refinery pipes. The Richmond refinery fire in 2010 was traced partly to corrosion from refining tar sands. Emissions must be carefully monitored to ensure toxic fumes do not escape to neighborhoods or endanger workers.
The 2003 “improvement” project enabling Valero to refine heavy crude opened the door for California to refine more of the world’s dirtiest bitumen, running contrary to our state goals under AB 32 to conserve energy and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by moving to renewable energy sources. In fact, according to California Energy Commission figures, California reduced its total consumption of oil from 700 million to 600 million barrels in the last year, primarily through conservation — i.e., adopting lower-emissions vehicles and Energy Star appliances, changing transportation habits to walk-bike-public transport, and making our buildings more energy efficient. We are moving away from our dependence on oil by reducing our consumption of it.
4. The project will be safer, but not safe.
The outgoing chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has some strong words for the rail industry and the way certain hazardous liquid is transported.
Deborah Hersman’s strong remarks are tied to older-model rail tank cars known as DOT-111s, which carry crude oil and ethanol through cities across the U.S. and Canada. Hersman told an audience that DOT-111 tank cars are not safe enough to carry hazardous liquids — in fact, she said her agency issued recommendations several years ago. “We said they either need to remove or retrofit these cars if they’re going to continue to carry hazardous liquids,” Hersman said on April 22, 2014.
Right now, four California legislators are urging the Department of Transportation to take action on critical safety measures. After a hearing of the joint houses of the Legislature on June 19 chaired by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, Congressmembers John Garamendi, D-Davis, Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, Mike Thompson, D-Napa, and George Miller, D-Martinez, sent a letter to Anthony Foxx, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, stating that “we cannot allow communities to be in danger when viable solutions are available.”
The summary of their requests, dated July 1, 2014, is as follows:
• Provide a report on the level of compliance by the railroad and petroleum industry to the May 7 Emergency Order.
• Issue rulemaking that requires stripping out the most volatile elements from Bakken crude before it is loaded onto rail cars.
• Expedite the issuance of a final rulemaking to require the full implementation of the Positive Train Control (PTC) technology for all railroads transporting lighter crude, and provide a status report on the progress of PTC implementation to date.
• Expedite the issuance of rulemaking that requires phasing out old rail cars for newer, retrofitted cars.
The Benicia decision comes at a critical moment. Benicia’s approval of the Valero proposal before DOT takes action would undercut what our legislators are trying to do to protect not just Benicia citizens, but all uprail citizens all across the U.S. Regulating that the volatility of crude be reduced will force the industry to build small processing towers — aptly called stabilizers — that remove natural gas liquids (a product that can be saved and sold) from the crude before it is loaded, as they do in other parts of the country (Eagle Ford shale reserves in Texas, for example).
Obviously, creating this necessary infrastructure will increase the cost of Bakken crude. The industry will no doubt balk at the additional expense, as will the refineries. On the other hand, it’s immoral to expose many millions to explosive trains of Bakken crude when there is a remedy! One Lac-Mégantic tragedy is enough.
The trains rumbling into Benicia are the first trains to pass daily through our region to the Bay Area, but others will follow. The approval of this project cannot be viewed in isolation. This fall the DEIR will be available for review for the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery Rail Spur Project that would bring another daily train through my community in Davis, through yours in Benicia, across the aging Benicia rail bridge, along the beautiful Carquinez Strait, through the East Bay and on down the Capitol Corridor to San Luis Obispo County. Based on California Energy Commission data, the Sacramento Bee says we can expect five to six trains daily in the next few years as California receives 25 percent of its crude by rail.
We put ourselves at grave risk to proceed with any rail projects now until we firmly lock in place the safety measures requested by our U.S. congressmembers. In this country, protection for the public must come first.
5. The CBR proposal makes no economic sense for Benicia and for the nation.
We live in a WORLD economy. Rather than destined for domestic purposes, the refined oil from all five Bay Area refineries is sold on the world market for greatest profit. That’s why gasoline rates at the pumps have not decreased during this oil boom.
Considered from the perspective of the weather of our planet, which will become a pivotal concern in the coming years, it makes no sense, financial or otherwise, to extract another drop of fossil fuel from the Earth. We need to put all our attention on renewables and conservation, and cut back drastically on our oil consumption. Realistically, this means refineries will need to produce far fewer products, and the oil extraction frenzy will die down.
6. The Valero refinery cannot befriend Benicia and then turn around and foul the air, risking the health and safety of our children.
Valero may mean well when it makes charitable contributions, but its intentions mean little if it then creates unsafe conditions for those who are in receipt of its generosity. It is not surprising that salaried employees, wage earners and grant recipients would stand up in favor of most anything proposed by the “friendly giant.” But it is incumbent on us all to look at the big picture — and a big picture that contains oil trains is not a pretty one.
In summary, I recommend a “no” vote on the Valero Crude-by-Rail Project until all safety measures requested by our four local congressmembers in Washington are firmly in place, and enough new tank cars are designed and produced to safely convey the crude oil from its source to Benicia, ensuring that no communities or waterways are in danger.
This “no” vote would send a strong message to DOT that their work is urgent, and that the regulations they make will be closely monitored. A “yes” vote, however, would undercut the important work our legislators are doing on our behalf.
Lynne Nittler lives uprail from Benicia in Davis. She devotes much of her time to Cool Davis, a nonprofit that focuses on helping Davis reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to a changing climate and improve the quality of life for all. She has followed the oil train issue closely since last September.