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Archive for the ‘Building the River Movement’ Category

Send a message to President-elect Obama

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Next week I go to Washington DC in my role as the Board Chair for the national Clean Water Network to meet with President-elect Obama’s transition team.

We have a lot to ask our new president - basically to roll back every executive order signed by Bush in the last eight years and to increase protection for water resources in the coming four, hopefully eight years.

A word of caution, though. Everyone has really high, very high, excruciatingly high expectations of this president and for good reason. The stature of the United States has declined precipitously in the past eight years. We are not the power we think we are. We may flex muscles abroad, but we are weak here at home. Getting our drinking and waste water infrastructure up to par would require something like $400M/year for the next ten years. We must find a more sustainable way to live so that we don’t put ourselves in a position for corporatization of water resources. Or worse, run out of fresh water.

President-elect Obama cannot do everything we want. He will not be able to give us everything we ask. He will fail at some level and that’s not a fault but an inevitability. TCWN will continue to criticize bad decisions whether they are from this president or the next. We will not change our position because we perceive this administration to be friendly. In fact, we plan to make more demands. President-elect Obama thinks preserving a healthy environment is important. We intend to make him live up to that idea.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to pass on to the transition team, post it on this blog. I’ll make sure they get addressed.


The Bush Administration is going out with a bang!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

As if he hasn’t done enough damage in his 7 years and counting, he’s now rolled back a rule from the 80’s protecting streams from mining waste. This guy is on a bend to destroy this country wholly up until his last minutes.  I recall reading that Teddy Roosevelt was on his knees drawing up national monuments and passing them through executive order  the night before signing a bill saying he wouldn’t designate any more monuments.  It’s great when it works for us and now we’re seeing what happens when it works against us.

Yesterday, the Bush Administration’s EPA agreed to relax the conditions under which mining companies can dispose their waste.  They can now dispose it within 100′ of a stream.

I have confidence that our president elect will attempt to roll these orders back, but you can’t always be sure.  In concert with the Tennesseans for Wilderness Planning, we can make available to you draft letters that support rolling back this rule to previous protection levels that you can send to Tennessee’s federal delegates.  Reply to this blog and I’ll send you a copy of the draft letter.  If you don’t know who your legislator is, I’ll find out for you.

Also, check out this site: http://www.ilovemountains.org/ for more information what you can do to send the message that our streams deserve a break from the worst of environmental pollution - mining waste.

By the way, I was speaking at the Knoxville Technical Association on Monday.  A representative from National Coal attended the meeting and was very curious about the 303d list.  Hmmm…. I’m sure the reason for their interest will become clear later…


Giles County Update

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

I’ve just returned from Giles Co. where I spoke to the Environmental committee about water corporatization and options for grants if the spring stays in public ownership.

First let me say that the community has done wonders educating their decisionmakers on the evils of water corporatization.  Many members of the committee did not want to see the spring sold to an outside company.  My job was merely to bat in the final player and I think that was done. It looks like the majority of the county commission is supportive of keeping the spring in public hands.  Phew!!

However, Ice River Springs, a Canadian company still has their paper work into the state.  They are still players in Tennessee’s water market and frankly, until they leave, they will always be a threat.

We are still going to monitor the events of Giles County and update those to you.


Water Privatization - or rather Corporatization

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I was fortunate to spend last weekend at the Omega Center in upstate New York with environmentalists from all over the U.S. to discuss water issues that are on the horizon. Of major concern was the corporatization of water. Industries for years have been trying to get into the water game and the results have been bad to tragic. Many communities across the United States have encountered increased rates and decreased service as corporations bow to the bottom line instead of the public interest. Turning on the tap and getting air instead of water is not something Americans are used to nor should it be expected in a first world nation.

As you’ve read in Dana’s post, we have seen the threat writ large in Giles County. That community has been fighting an assault on their precious spring for almost two years. Last week they had a win. But Ice River Springs and their cohorts will be back. Maybe in your community.

This is how they operate. They look for rural, cash strapped communities that have springs or headwaters. They approach the County Commission or similar governing body with promises to improve existing infrastructure or create new treatment plants, filter water and sell it back to the community guaranteed as safe. They will also bottle the rest and sell it outside the area and sometimes outside the country, thereby providing jobs and increased income to the community. Sounds good? It is too good to be true and so it is not.

This is generally what happens. The company will lay off half of the existing employees at the drinking water plant if there is one. If they build, they will not hire the amount of people they say they will. Remember it is about the bottom line, not resource management. When the company has financial trouble they will skimp on infrastructure improvements and other forms of upkeep. When the company goes into bankruptcy, the community will have no water. It will simply be turned off. Once the community wakes up to these realities, it is left with very difficult choices. It must either buy out the remaining contract in an attempt to get the spring/facility back into public hands. If the company is an international company, the company can sue the community under Chapter 13 of NAFTA.

Giles County dodged a bullet last week and the community continues to be vigilant about corporatization of the Campbellville Spring. If you have a resource in your community, do all you can to keep it in public hands, not private. If you hear of a company making promises to your community leaders about privatizing your water, call us immediately. We will help you keep your resource in public hands so that the public will always have control of the most precious resource we need to live - WATER.


Where’s the Creek?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Have you ever been driving along a stretch of road that you have driven hundreds, if not thousands, of times before, then you see something odd- out of place?  You can’t quite place it so maybe you make a u-turn and drive back past it.  Then you wonder, “how long has it been like that? and “how could I have missed that?”

Well, that happened to me a couple of weeks ago.  See, I was driving through Jefferson City on Andrew Johnson Highway, like I do almost every day, when I saw this:

Mossy Creek in Jefferson City

This used to be Mossy Creek- where the pipe is.  Here is what it looks like just half a mile from here:

Mossy Creek in Jefferson City

I have no idea what is going on with the creek.  Mossy Creek holds historical significance to Jefferson City so I have a hard time imagining that whatever is going on is acceptable to the community.

I find it alarming that a creek can be here one day and gone the next.  I’m told this kind of thing happens often in Tennessee.  Even more alarming.

I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.  If you have anything like this going on in your community, we sure would like to know about it.  We can’t be everywhere, so we are relying on you to be our eyes and ears.  Together, we can protect our precious creeks and streams.