Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for April, 2012

Solar Payback in California

Dear Gabriel,

As the most anti-environmental Congress maintains their relentless pursuit of dirty energy and dirty pollution in Washington, California is on the verge of a game-changing decision that could help nearly double the amount of customer-produced solar power in our state.1

The California Public Utilities commission (CPUC) will vote next month on a plan that would fix a loophole which currently allows utilities to unfairly limit benefits to producers of solar energy in California, (a program called net metering.)

Naturally, many utilities are fighting back hard. But if the PUC hears from enough Californians there’s a very good chance they could move forward with this important plan which would be a boon to solar power in the Golden State.

Tell the Public Utilities Commission: Support solar in California! Close the loophole that allows utilities to restrict access to net metering.

The net metering proposal under consideration is technical, but here’s how it works:

When a solar system produces more energy than it uses, that energy goes into the grid, and utilities credit the customer on their electric bill with the retail value of the energy provided.

Utilities are supposed to provide net metering credits to customers for renewable energy equaling 5% of California’s energy demand. But because no uniform standard exists for calculating the 5% cap, some utilities use a cheapskate formula that results in about half the net metering credits than the law originally intended.

The proposal at the PUC would fix the problem, making more net metering credits available to Californians. This would help ensure continued growth of rooftop solar around the state, and our clean energy industry.

That would be a very big deal for clean energy in our state. But PUC needs to hear from a lot of Californians to make it happen. Please submit a comment now:
http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=6881726&id=39180-266627-AGy71ix&t=7

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

The Land Is Wasted

Dear Gabriel,

Emmanuel Kuru’s livelihood was destroyed.

In August 2008, the Shell Oil pipeline that ran through his property in the Niger Delta burst, smothering everything in its path with crude oil. His life as a fisherman and a farmer was wrecked.

“The land is wasted. Oil kills everything. We are stranded.”

Shell’s oil spill took away Emmanuel’s livelihood, his drinking water, the economic value of his land — his very way of life.

His neighbors, and tens of thousands of people living along the Niger Delta, have suffered the same devastating fate caused by oil spill after oil spill. While the Niger Delta has been awash in pollution, Shell has been swimming in profits — $30.9 billion globally in 2011.

Tell Shell — Own up. Pay up. Clean up. Make this message loud, clear and inescapable — add your name to Amnesty’s petition demanding justice for Emmanuel and the people harmed by Shell in the Niger Delta.

Ahead of Shell’s Annual General Meeting this May, Amnesty will deliver the signatures of hundreds of thousands of activists from around the world in an unsparing public message to CEO Peter Voser and Shell shareholders.

Oil spills are endemic in the Niger Delta, and Shell is the biggest culprit. Why does the oil giant refuse to come clean about its spills in Nigeria? Just yesterday, Amnesty International and the Nigerian NGO, the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, released new analysis showing that at least 103,000 barrels of oil were spilled over 72 days in Emmanuel’s town of Bodo — more than 60 times the volume that Shell repeatedly has claimed leaked.

But thanks to activists like you, corporations like Shell can’t hide their human rights abuses anymore. Amnesty International is calling Shell out in a big way, urging the company to make a clear and public commitment to contribute $1 billion as an initial payment to an independent clean-up fund.

People like Emmanuel deserve justice: a full clean-up, real reparations and a beginning to an end to their nightmare.

It’s time to hold Shell accountable and ensure it cleans up its act in Nigeria. Add your name to Amnesty’s petition against Shell today.

In solidarity,

Tanuka Loha
Director, Demand Dignity Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Changing Lives In Rwanda

News from the Rwandan Orphans Project

Great Leaps Forward

It was April 2010 when the ROP Center moved from a dark and dingy warehouse to the beautiful site we occupy now. That move was a giant step forward for the organization, one that we’re still very proud of today. In the last two years a lot of ideas, work and money have been put into what was once just an abandoned school on the outskirts of Kigali, reshaping it into the wonderful orphanage and school it is today.

But this month that reminds us of our past has also brought with it some great news about the future of the ROP. Engineers Without Borders, a large international organization, has chosen to partner with the ROP to build a new school and education center on the land we acquired late last year. This comes as great news because it will be the first facility constructed on what will be the future home of the entire ROP Center, and it will feature classrooms and learning facilities custom built to address the needs and challenges of teaching and learning in Rwanda. Everyone from the children to the teachers to the administration is very excited to see the project get started in June when the first team of EWB engineers is scheduled to visit the site and begin planning the design and construction.

This is just another remarkable milestone in the short history of the ROP. In just a few short years we have gone from an overcrowded warehouse with a leaky roof and no electricity to our current home that, while great, we are having to rent for a large fee each month. Now we are on the verge of building on our very own land, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the ROP.

The new ROP school will be just one facility of many we hope will someday occupy our sprawling land in the Kibaya valley. Of course we also hope to build new living spaces and other necessary needs for the orphans and vulnerable children who live with us. But we also want to expand the ROP to be more than an orphanage and school. One day we would like it to be an all encompassing community center where local impoverished families can seek help educating and caring for their own children through our academic and vocational training programs, where they can seek the advice and assistance of our social workers, and benefit from other programs.

While the ROP is still a small grassroots organization, our dreams and ambitions are large. We feel that, with the ongoing support and enthusiasm of our donors (people like you) we can reach them and even surpass them. So stay tuned. More good news to come!

Ready To Act

Dear Gabriel,

Act.

That’s what 15,000 of you told me Amnesty does best. Here are some other things I learned from last month’s survey responses:

You believe Amnesty International makes an impact on human rights by mobilizing supporters like you.

You’re ready to act — you want to attend rallies, get online and use social media to contact elected officials, write letters, and connect with families and friends.

You’ve got priorities. You want to work on behalf of individuals, defend the human rights of women, and respond to crisis situations around the world as they develop. And we see strong interest in working on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; immigrant rights; and corporate responsibility.

A big thank you to everyone who took the survey. We are already using the information to develop cutting-edge tools that will create an even greater impact and help us respond quickly to developing situations.

Let’s get started today. Congress is about to vote on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This legislation aims to protect women from violence and exploitation, but at this moment, many critical parts of the bill — provisions that would protect Native American women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and immigrant women in particular — are in danger of being left out.

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill within a week – Tell your Senator that we need a strong Violence Against Women Act that protects ALL women.

Thanks again for all you do for Amnesty,

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

Turtles, Dolphins & Oil

Dear Gabriel

It can take a female loggerhead up to 30 years before ever laying one egg. And all it takes is one layer of oil to cause damage or death to the baby sea turtles inside.

Two years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill proved how disastrous drilling can be for wildlife. Now Congress is proposing to open even more areas to drill in the Gulf of Mexico – putting adult and baby loggerhead sea turtles at risk. Will you help us keep them safe?

Help us protect Florida’s animals from the threat of oil spills – just $10 will make a difference!

Loggerhead turtles are already threatened with extinction, and their numbers continue to fall as their habitats are destroyed. Eighty percent of loggerheads in the U.S. call Florida their home – so damage to their nesting beaches could be catastrophic to the species’ survival. But in the past several months, members from both chambers of Congress have pushed for legislation to open up the Eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling – an area that has been historically off limits.

We are pushing back, and have organizers on the ground in Florida to show Congress how strong our movement is. So far we have been successful, but the threats to Florida’s wildlife keep coming, and we need your help.

Your support helps keep Florida’s nesting grounds clean and safe. Give $10 or more by April 30 and help protect sea turtles and other wildlife from danger»

All it takes is one spill like the Deepwater Horizon accident to put turtles, dolphins, and manatees at devastating risk. It’s just not worth it.

It’s up to us to prevent needless deaths. You and I are the oceans’ protectors, and with our combined efforts, we can keep Florida’s waters safe from oil drilling.

For the oceans,
Emily Fisher
Oceana

Accountable Tax Reform

From Nation of Change
by Simon Johnson
22 April 2012

That Old Tax Magic

Tax time in the United States – the dreaded mid-April deadline for filing annual income-tax forms – has come and gone. The system, Americans have been reminded, has become painfully complex, with many a loophole through which one might try to squeeze. The fear of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service lurks in homes across the country.

At such a sensitive time, it is no surprise to hear politicians pitching the idea of “tax reform” – suggesting that they can simplify the system, close loopholes, and use the proceeds to reduce tax rates. The allure of such appeals is that a crackdown on others’ tax avoidance will mean that you personally will pay less in taxes.

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Simon Johnson, click here.

In the policy jargon increasingly heard in today’s political discourse, tax reform will be “revenue neutral” – meaning that it will not worsen the budget deficit or drive up the national debt. The broader subliminal message is that you can have whatever you currently expect in terms of government services for less than it costs you now.

The problem with this vision of tax reform is that it is magical – an attractive illusion with no basis in reality. Consider the recent pronouncements of Mitt Romney – now the presumptive Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in November. Romney wants to cut tax rates, mainly benefiting those at the upper end of the income distribution. He also wants to close loopholes, but none of the details that he has offered add up to much. His boldest proposal – eliminating deductions for interest paid on mortgages on second homes – is trivial in terms of generating revenue.

Obama is only slightly better. While he talks less about “tax reform,” he is currently communicating the message that merely raising taxes on rich people – the infamous 1% – will bring the budget and national debt under control. That, too, is a pipedream.

Americans – and taxpayers in many other countries – need a more transparent approach to assessing candidates’ budget proposals. In the US, there are groups that offer their own assessments. For example, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget performed an admirable service in “scoring” the fiscal plans of rival candidates for the Republican nomination.

The problem is that in an election with high stakes and deep polarization, who, exactly, can voters trust? Everyone has an agenda, perceived or real. The veracity of any organization that is funded by particular individuals, or through less transparent corporate channels, will be called into question.

What the US and many other countries need is an independent, competent, and experienced body that leans neither right nor left. Fortunately, the US has the Congressional Budget Office, which scores legislation in terms of its budgetary impact, assesses official budget proposals, and formulates its own economic projections. (I serve on the CBO’s Panel of Economic Advisers, which comments on the draft forecast twice a year, but does not assess budget proposals or anything else.)

Because the CBO reports to the relevant congressional committees – those dealing with tax and budgets – both Republicans and Democrats watch its every move. But the CBO, created in the 1970’s precisely to bring greater transparency and accountability to the rather byzantine congressional budget process, really is independent and run by professionals.

The CBO does not, however, score proposals by political candidates, and that is part of the problem. In the run-up to the pre-election debates between Obama and Romney, both sides should agree to submit detailed budget proposals in the correct format for CBO assessment. The relevant congressional committees also should agree to this exercise.

Read entire article at Nation Of Change.

Mining Law of 1872?

Dear Gabriel,

Chicago Peak is located in Western Montana’s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area, and is a holy place for the Salish and Kootenai native tribes.

In other words: It’s a terrible location for a massive proposed copper and silver mine.

But under the shockingly antiquated General Mining Law of 1872, the National Forest Service says it has no choice but to approve the mine. Even worse, this relic of a law will hand nearly $20 billion dollars worth of publicly owned minerals to Canadian company Revett Minerals, totally for free.2 We get nothing.

This mine is only one example. Overall, Congress’s failure to update our 140-year-old mining law is one of the most egregious, expensive and destructive failures in federal land management.

Tell Congress: It is long past time to update the General Mining Law of 1872! Click here to automatically sign the petition.

The General Mining Law of 1872 is literally an artifact of another era. In 1872, Women could not vote in America. There were only 37 States in the Union. And our government sought to settle the vast Western territories by handing out mining rights to fortune-seeking settlers.

Yet today, this relic continues to govern hard rock mining of metals like copper, uranium, silver and gold. The result is a massive giveaway to giant mining companies that rips off taxpayers to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.3 Under the law:

• Mining leases can be purchased at 1872 prices of $2.50 — $5 an acre.
• Companies can mine publicly owned mineral resources without paying any royalties. We just give it away!
• Federal land managers must prioritize mining over all other land uses.
• The law contains NO environmental protections — which has led to the pollution of more than 40% of Western U.S. watershed, and left us holding the bill for an estimated more than $30 billion in mine cleanup and reclamation.

Tell Congress: Update the Mining Law of 1872! Click here to automatically sign the petition.

In today’s world of giant, international mining conglomerates using massive pieces of equipment and polluting huge volumes of water to rip up the earth — as opposed to Wild West times of risk-taking prospectors and their pack mules seeking fortune — this law should be a page in history books, not our actual law books!

Congress has twice tried and failed to reform the law. But it’s long past time for an updated mining law that allows land managers to protect unique public lands from mining, implements strong environmental standards for mines, collects funds for mining reclamation, and puts a fair royalty on the extraction of these publicly owned resources.

It is crazy that our mining law pre-dates the invention of the telephone and the light bulb. Tell Congress to stop this massive, outdated giveaway. Click below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=6038698&id=38593-266627-COAUwNx&t=10

Thanks for helping to bring our mining laws into the 21st century.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Tag Cloud