The Ten Commandments of Movement Solidarity

Reprint from an essay by Josh Schlossberg – From The Energy Justice Network

http://www.energyjustice.net/content/ten-commandments-movement-solidarity

Ten_CommandmentsAfter a decade of grassroots advocacy, my personal belief is that the greatest obstacle to positive change in the world isn’t corporations, the government, or the 1%, but lack of movement solidarity.

And no, I’m not pretending to be some modern day Moses bringing the divine truths down from the mountain. I’m just someone who has participated in the entire spectrum of the environmental movement — from mainstream to “radical,” on both coasts — who has witnessed a lot of unnecessary failures over the years, in large part because people can’t figure out how to work together.

Since my work these days focuses on the health and environmental impacts of dirty energy —  nuclear, fossil fuels, and biomass/trash incineration — most of the specific examples I give in this article will come from that realm. However, chances are the “Ten Commandments of Solidarity” can also apply to your movement, whatever it is…unless it’s evil. In which case, it won’t, so don’t bother.

Now, I’ll admit that limiting this list to just ten points is arbitrary, so if you’ve got other “commandments,” please post them in the comments, where I’ll ignore them…Just kidding, I’ll read and carefully consider them, because that’s what solidarity looks like.

1. Thy movement shalt not have ambiguous goals

Whatever your movement, even if you can’t figure out exactly what you want, you can almost guarantee that your opposition can. For instance, a corporation that logs forests typically wants to cut down as many trees as it can and sell them for as high a profit as possible, for as long as is feasible. Its goals are crystal freaking clear — unlike the streams it silts up in pursuit of the dollar.

Unfortunately, Big Timber’s counterpart, the forest protection movement, doesn’t have the same clarity of purpose. Instead of these organizations banding together to achieve a concrete goal, such as passing a Congressional bill to protect National Forests, they have split off on literally hundreds of different missions under the banner of forest protection — including pushing for more logging.

This isn’t to say that simply declaring a specific goal, like banning private land clearcutting, means it will happen. In many cases, especially for some of the bolder goals, it might never. But what many — most? — forest protection groups have done is thrown in the towel before they even set foot in the ring. While it’s true that you can fight the good fight and still get knocked out, you can damn well guarantee defeat if you throw the fight before the bell is even rung.

In my opinion there’s one way, and one way only, to go about advocacy of any sort. And no one has explained it better than David Brower, the archdruid himself: “Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function.”

Suffice it to say, were Brower alive today, he’d have some, um, suggestions for the ever-shifting and seemingly arbitrary goals of the 21st century’s forest protection movement.

2. Thou shalt not contradict movement goals

A movement is only as powerful as its message. In fact, messaging is pretty much the only tool the grassroots has to enact change. When speaking to the media, commenting on policy, or protesting in the streets, make sure you aren’t advocating for anything that would stand in the way of your movement reaching its ultimate goals.

For instance, if your organization opposes biomass power plants because of their impacts on public health from air pollution, you can’t support slightly smaller and/or barely more efficient biomass facilities with even less effective pollution controls without invalidating your main talking point. 

Which isn’t to say that you can’t have your priorities straight and focus on the biggest, most conspicuous 50-megawatt facilities and not devote many resources to, say, opposing a college’s 2-megawatt combined-heat-and-power facility. But, actually endorsing one of these incinerators not only contradicts your public health concerns, but makes the work of those in the movement who are fighting those facilities that much harder.

3. Thou shalt not confuse partial agreement with solidarity

It may seem easy to tell the difference between organizations and individuals who support your movement and those who do not, but it’s a common mistake within the grassroots and a major reason for a given movement’s seemingly inevitable fragmentation.

While it’d be nice to take the “big tent” approach and invite anyone claiming to be an ally into a pivotal role in your movement, the reality is that’s one of the best ways to ensure its demise. On the surface, they may appear to support all of your movement’s goals, but a deeper look may reveal otherwise. For instance, not everyone who opposes a particular nuclear power plant is necessarily against the entire concept of nuclear energy. While they may share the anti-nuclear movement’s goal of shutting down one specific facility, a closer look may reveal them to merely be in favor of a more technologically-advanced nuclear reactor.  

This isn’t to say you can’t have friendly and respectful working relationships with those entities or individuals whose goals mostly, or even partially, overlap. But you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you actually expect them to have solidarity with your movement. A difference of opinion doesn’t always mean they are weak-willed or in the pocket of industry, but it usually does mean they are coming from a different place, and therefore it’s unlikely for any amount of sweet-talking or brow-beating to change their mind. Solidarity in the anti-nuke movement can only be achieved by those who are, well, anti-nuke. Opposing one facility while supporting another is still pro-nuke. 

Of course, if they do reconsider their position, you can leave the past in the past and welcome them with open arms. But letting them in before they recant just weakens the movement. The best way to achieve movement solidarity is by creating it slowly but surely, building a strong foundation upon which to expand — instead of on shifting sands that can topple the entire structure.   

4. Thou shalt not sidestep calls to action

If someone in your movement has an initiative, be it a rally, a call-in day to elected officials, or even an online petition, even if it’s not your favorite thing in the world, help them out with it at least a little bit. If you have constructive criticism to offer in regards to their project, or even have concerns that it doesn’t align with movement goals, then privately speak to them about the issue. But don’t shun them out of disagreement, or because it’s a bit of a hassle, as that will only foster hurt feelings, and be the beginning (or widening) of a rift in the movement.

If you’re jazzed about the proposal, then of course, offer as much support and resources as you can. But even if you’re lukewarm or just don’t have the means, it literally only takes a few minutes to spread the word via email or social media. Even if doing so doesn’t make or break the initiative (it might), rest assured that your ally will make note of your support, and keep your efforts in mind in the future.

This quid pro quo support of organizations is the currency of grassroots movements. Therefore, the movement aside, it’s in your own best interest to make sure your credit’s good.

5. Thou shalt not respond emotionally to criticism

The only thing more important than criticism from inside a movement is how you respond to it. Whether it’s a well thought out, point-by-point refutation or just a knee-jerk outburst from someone having a bad day, sit with the information — not the tone — before responding to it, so as to filter out the hurt and/or anger.

No matter what they’ve said, if they are a fellow movement member, chances are it’s not important enough to ruin your working relationship over. Many times, in fact, it’s simply a misunderstanding that can be cleared up quickly. But even if it’s not, responding in anger will only make the situation worse, guaranteed.

Criticism from outside the movement is another matter entirely, as in that case it’s coming from those who don’t share your mission, such as a gas industry lackey beating up on your anti-fracking stance. If it’s simply verbal abuse without any specific points being addressed, then feel free to ignore it. But if there is actually a coherent argument, it can be seen as a sign of weakness to ignore it entirely, especially if it’s done on a public forum.

If you choose to respond to an external critique, make certain you do so calmly and without malice, as you never know who might be watching the interaction. Don’t think of it as an attack you need to defend yourself against, think of it as an opportunity to educate the public on a particular point, and a model as how to respond to the opposition.

6. Thou shalt not ignore internal conflicts

For those of us who have bought into the whole evolution concept, we believe that modern day humans are descended from an ape ancestor. And while the Great Apes family is generally a social one, it is also one prone to frequent conflict and strife. Typically, these conflicts don’t end in bloodshed, but the disturbances are often enough to tear the social fabric.

In a movement, conflicts will always come up, and how they are dealt with by other members of the movement can often determine how much of a problem it will ultimately become. If the conflict is between individuals, it’s not always necessary to take a side, but it’s in the movement’s best interest for someone to intervene before things get out of hand.

It’s easy to step aside as tempers flare and mud is slung by telling yourself it’s a personal conflict and not your place to get involved. But if there’s turmoil inside your movement, guess what? You’re already involved. To decide not to act is taking action — it’s deciding to allow the fighting to get worse.

7. Thou shalt not turn a blind eye to attacks

If the work or character of fellow movement members is attacked from the outside, you have a duty to come to their aid. This doesn’t mean you need to respond to negativity with more negativity, nor does it mean you have to defend everything this person has ever said or done, but at the very least get involved in the discussion.

One unparried attack may signal weakness to the opposition which, like a predator searching for the easy kill, might embolden them enough to intensify the onslaught — and you just might be their next target.  

 8. Thou shalt not abuse thy power

Most of the interactions between grassroots movement members happen on a level playing field, where no one is really in charge of anyone else. But, in the case of managing someone as an employee or volunteer, a power dynamic comes into play.

The key thing is fairly obvious: make the best use of your (probably underpaid or unpaid) worker by being a good boss or manager. This means being on top of your organization’s priorities and maximizing the use of your worker’s time. Do your best to provide clear direction (which can include constructive criticism) while offering support, without bottlenecking their work.

If you have a legitimate and professional reason to fire this person, realize that there are very few people out there willing to devote themselves to the often thankless and undercompensated (or uncompensated) work of an advocate, and therefore — unless you honestly believe the person does more harm than good — it’s your responsibility to the movement to help them on their feet (think severance pay and a recommendation) so they can smoothly make the transition to another role in the movement.

Nonprofit workers burn out very quickly and a lot of it has to do with poor management. If you’re not good at being in charge, there are many resources out there to help you learn how to get better. And if you’re not willing to improve, for the good of the movement, you might want to think about stepping down, so someone who can handle the responsibility can take the reins.

9. Thou shalt not align thy movement with a political party

One political party may be more of an obvious ally to your movement than another and it may be tempting to hitch yourself to their wagon. But while one party may be more likely to support your cause, such as the Democratic Party and the dirty energy resistance, chances are there are many, many examples of them harming your cause, like the left’s support for dirty biomass/trash incineration.   

The greatest risk of a movement backing a political party or candidate is its disinclination to offer criticism when they do wrong. As we’ve seen with President Barack Obama, blind endorsement by the environmental movement has resulted in him taking its support for granted and given him the go ahead to start backsliding on his promises in regards to climate change.

Loudly and publicly applauding a politician’s good vote or strong policy should be encouraged, so long as you’re also critiquing the bad votes and weak policy.

10. Thou shalt not avoid personal relationships

A movement isn’t just about a cause, like replacing industrial-scale dirty energy with distributed clean energy, it’s about people. In our age of internet activism, it’s vital to take opportunities to connect with movement members as living, breathing creatures. Take some time to have some in-person meetings (if you’re far away from each other, go to a conference), share a meal or a beverage, or go on a hike together.

Nothing bonds a movement together tighter than personal relationships — you’re much more likely to do what it takes to achieve solidarity with an actual human being you care about than a disembodied avatar on the other side of a screen. 

 

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Welcome to the CRC: we are still meeting-Join Us

don't forgetThe next four meeting of the Community Rights Coalition of Jefferson County will be July 12th and the 26th AND August 9th and 23rd.  We have begun working on group solidarity, values and goals.    Please join us at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship hall – 2333 San Juan Avenue Port Townsend, WA  All meetings start at 10:00 AM and end at noon.

An important announcement:  Doug Milholland, a member of the CRC is running for Washington’s 6th district.  He is running as a Green Party candidate.  At the next CRC meeting on July 12, we will be discussing whether we can support his campaign in any way as an organization. Here is a link to his website:  http://milhollandforcongress.com/.   In the meantime there is a special event planned by his campaign organization on July 5th at the Uptown Community Center 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM.  Music, food, a chance to hear what Doug has to say. Come on out and hear what he has to say.

 

 

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General Assembly of Community Rights Coalition meets May 3

GA meeting annoucement w birdsALL FRIENDS WELCOMED!

Come one, Come all friends

The Community Rights Coalition of Jefferson County will hold a bi-monthly General Assembly meeting

this Saturday, May 3rd from 10:00 AM to Noon.  All Friends are welcome.

Address: Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship hall – 2333 San Juan Avenue Port Townsend, Washington.

Agenda Items include:  update on weed board tax funding,~ upcoming values and consensus training~ Navy Trident fleet upgrade issues~ grumblers over Eby and the peninsula~and organizing panel discussion event.

Then off to the Saturday Farmers Market for a bit of sun and camaraderie

Definition of Camaraderie:   - [ kaàmə ráadəree ]

1. friendship: a feeling of close friendship and trust among a group of people synonyms: friendship · amity · companionship · solidarity · company · comradeship

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Democracy lost at Weed board hearing on creating a new tax (with video)

quote 2 democracy derailed is democracy deniedHearing goes to the weed board – citizens comments are not heeded– county to create large budget for weed board with little democratic process followed.

The Jefferson County Noxious Weed board held a hearing on April 21, 2014 and although advertised as being a public hearing on the discussion of the proposed assessment, the funding is already a done deal.  And although the local paper reported the weed board is asking for $93,000 to pay for their activities, a weed board representative reported at the April 21 hearing that the amount will be in excess of $122,000. Plus another $50,000 would be collected to pay a contractor to set up the assessment on landowners.

The audience of about 20 people spoke against the assessment.  Many of the citizens were told they could not speak about their dislike for the assessment and could only speak about what to charge landowners, and who would be charged the annual tax.

That did not keep the citizens from speaking out  against lack of democracy in deciding to create a new tax or about the increase use of chemicals to control plants and the shoddy way the volunteer weed pullers are organized. The majority of citizens who attended the meeting believe that with proper volunteer organization and education of landowners, plants can be controlled without the use of toxins.spraying weeds tax composit

The Jefferson County Noxious Weed board has increased the amount and location of chemical destruction of plants from twelve locations from 2010 to 2012 to eleven or more locations in 2013 alone.  These new locations included pathways, park trails, lanes next to homes and gardens and rural areas where people manage their own water supply.  Members of the Jefferson County Ecological Roadsides (JCER) reported that they are unable to locate online or through weed board representatives, records of spray use for 2013 and have only locations reported by the local media.  There are no known published records of the amounts, types or locations of sprayed areas as required by law.  Locations on the county website have been moved.

As reported by records from 2010 to 2012 the  weed board is using mostly glyphosate-based chemicals.  These chemicals have been banned in many countries around the world and are being evaluated by Environmental Protection Agency for destruction of prime habitat for endangered and threatened species as well as a cause of major illness in humans.

Jill Silver, Noxious Weed Board member told the audience that the weed board will not stop using the chemicals and the money will be used to hire more people who will be licensed spray applicators. Silver reports that using chemicals to control plants is a last resort to control of plants, but that the chemicals are effective in their use.

Here is a series of links to short videos of citizen testimony and Jill Silvers response during the hearing.  All citizens spoke against the assessment and increased budget.  (Video provided by Nancy Botta). Thank you Nancy!

  • #1 – Jill Silver of the Noxious Weed Board tries to keep people from speaking about the assessment and the use of the money to increase use of Toxic Chemicals.  Ellen O’Shea speaks anyway.  She reports that the process in place is not democratic and that the citizens should be asked first if they want a new tax before organizing a assessment process.  O’Shea believes that just asking the commissioners if they want new taxes will do nothing to support a democratic process.  http://vimeo.com/92686596
  • #2 – Val Phimister – a property owner asks good questions and reports that the land classifications are not equal – which owners should be responsible…all of us foot the bill…or the land owners who refuse to control plants should clean up their own mess. Use of chemicals to control plants should be controlled. And finally this question: “What is it about Silent Spring that you didn’t understand?” – http://vimeo.com/92695189
  • #3 – Mike Regan – citizen has concerns and questions about process of creating a new tax and how much people will have to pay.  Why are public comments being re-directed?  Will the county commissioners know how many citizens are against the new tax assessment? http://vimeo.com/92758469
  • # 4 – Mike Phimister – concern about the non-democratic process of setting up a new tax assessment.  Asking citizens to come to a hearing in which the deal is already done is not democracy.  Weed Board member states that by law the only way to get money is to assess landowners.  Also the voters will not be able vote on whether the new assessment will go through.  Mike asks will anyone associated with the weed board will be able to be hired for the job.  Jill of the weed board says the hiring process will be open to anyone and the best person will be hired. http://vimeo.com/92770594
  • # 5 = Tom a property owner has concerns about the assessment. Especially concerned about Misc non-classified lands such as boats.  He states the boats bring in lots of invasive species.  -  tax code used to set up assessments is complicated and excludes many who are not controlling invasive plants.  Everybody needs to pay no matter what exemptions they have.  – http://vimeo.com/92782838
  • #6 – Gail Chatfield tries to speak and told to keep her comments only about assessments and not whether there should be increase in funding for the Noxious Weed board.  Gail asks “Will there be a vote on whether there will be a new tax in the county?”.  Two weeks ago the local news reporter reported that this hearing would be about the need for an assessment, now it is only about how much to charge – poisoning the roadsides is now a matter of convenience,  and the need to curtail the spraying activities of the Jefferson County Noxious Weed board. Jill of the weed board states that by law the county commissioners make the decision, not the people.  There will be no public vote – http://vimeo.com/92795493
  • #7 Norm Norton – citizen and farm owner.  In 2010 the County Noxious Weed board resumed using chemicals after a 30-year moratorium on not using chemicals.  Citizens were told at that time that a one-time use of chemicals would be used to control and not eradicate unwanted plants. Now there is a constant and increased use of dangerous chemicals being spread by foot and other traffic throughout our homes, yard, and bodies. This issue should go to the voters in November.  Let the people decide.  http://vimeo.com/92839246
  • #8 Ellen O’Shea speaks against the assessment because the Jefferson County Noxious Weed board, WSU Extension, and the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners have gone against the will of the people in breaking a 30-year moratorium on using chemicals to control plants on county roadsides and right-of-ways. The lives of many species and humans are at risk. The weed list includes essential food for butterflies and valuable medicinal plants. Asks to consider why these pioneer plants here – could be to repair the Earth that humans are destroying. http://vimeo.com/92848864
  • #9 Doug Milholland – Citizen – concerned about the process in which decisions are made to cause an assessments.  He asks that the Jefferson County Board of Commissions put forth an advisory ballot in November on the issue to determine the will of the people – http://vimeo.com/92862729
    • #9 – Bob  Anderson, landowner from Quilcene concerned about assessments  and has read the Washington state rules about assessing people.  The state believes a super majority should be in agreement before an assessment happens.  Bob is able to get Jill of the weed board to retract a statement that says that the weed board is mandated by the state to find funding via the general fund or a tax assessment.  The state does not get involved in funding weed boards. http://vimeo.com/92862729 (last part of video)
    • #10 closing statements and arguments - Jill Silver board president of the Jefferson Count Noxious Weed board responds that education and organizing volunteers will also be used but pulling is time consuming.  Jill says that the county road crew needs a better mowing schedule. But, the weed board will not stop spraying. Jill speaks about the benefits of using glyphosate-based chemicals to control plants. Discussion about the number of plants being added to the target plants list yearly.  Many are valuable to nature and humans.  http://vimeo.com/92888963
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CRC General Assembly to meet April 19th- update on Weed board proposal to increase thier budget

don't forgetIt’s that time again…

The next meeting of the General Assembly of the Community Rights Coalition of Jefferson County will be held this Saturday, April 19th, 2014 – 10:00 AM.  Please join us at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship hall – 2333 San Juan Avenue Port Townsend, WA.  All Friends are Welcome

Various agenda items will be discussed:

  • Upcoming meeting of the Jefferson County Noxious Weed board – they will hold a public hearing on the proposed taxation of county landowners to increase their budget from around $13,000 a year to over $90,000.  They will also ask the county board of commissioners to pay for a consultant to implement the assessment of landowners in the county.  Members of the CRC and Jefferson County Ecological Roadside (JCER) have great concern over the increase of a budget that may pay for more distribution of toxins on our county roads and rights-of-way.  Each year the Noxious Weed board has increased it’s use of chemicals such as glyphosate-based herbicides to destroy unwanted plants.  The hearing will be held on Monday, April 21 at the Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock located at 620 Cedar Avenue and Ness’s Corner Road in Port Hadlock.  The meeting will start at 5:30 PM.

OTHER AGENDA ITEMS

  • Update on effort to organize training for the CRC and other interested people on developing organizational values and resolving conflict non-violently
  • Other agenda items

The General Assembly meetings of Jefferson County Community Rights Coalition – are open to ALL FRIENDS. All GA meetings held on Saturday mornings and start at 10:00 AM and run until noon. The next 4 General Assemblies are:

  • May 3, 2014
  • May 17, 2014
  • May 31, 2014
  • June 7, 2014

PLEASE JOIN US!

 

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Protectors of the air, the water, and the earth: PT Airwatchers

 

 

trees and women river walkingThe following is an interview conducted on April 1, 2014 between Ellen O’Shea of the Jefferson

Community Rights Coalition of Jefferson County and Gretchen Brewer, Executive director of PT Airwatchers.

Summary:  Gretchen Brewer and Tamar Lowell of PT Airwatchers came to a Jeff Co. Community Rights Coalition (CCRC) General Assembly meeting on March 23, 2014 to give our group an update the efforts of PT Airwatchers to bring the mill to higher standards of keeping the air, water and soil clean around the mill.

EO: Gretchen, How long has PT Airwatchers been organized and why did they form? 

Gretchen:  PT Airwatchers was organized in 2007 to respond to ongoing efforts to organize

Region view of Admiralty inlet and PT Mill

Region view of Admiralty inlet and PT Mill

people.  A hearing held by the Washington State Department of Ecology to hear testimony about a proposed renewal of the air operating permit at the Mill really got people ready for action.  People in this community have been complaining about pollution from the mill for year.  The smell from the mill is usually the first thing people notice. There was a lot of testimony at the hearing against the renewal of the air operating permit.  The Department of Ecology ignored the input.  So we organized our group-PT Airwatchers to address the issues of air, water and land pollution by the Port Townsend Paper Corporation.

 

EO:  What motivated you and your group to get organized?

Gretchen: We did our homework.  We were looking for real scientific data that would tell us about the smell.  We found that the smell from the mill comes equally from the mill stacks and the basin pollution. We found that there is legal precedence in that that kind of pollution that could affect people’s health and livelihood is called “chemical trespass”.

Chemical trespass is chemicals spread from somebody else’s activities which impact your life and property. Our groups have spent thousands of hours researching this pollution and also the mill and how it operates. We wanted to know the details.  It was a great effort by many people.  PT Airwatchers has more than 500 members, and there is a changing core of 100 people doing the research and organizing events such as educating the community.

EO:  Tell me about the Port Townsend Mill, what do they manufacture and how do they generate income?

Gretchen: The main product of the Port Townsend mill is the manufacturing of unbleached Kraft pulp.  The pulp is sold to make corrugated cardboard. The pulp is made from local trees that are known for their extra-fine fibers such as Western Red Cedar. The mill has been buying the slash of clear-cuts since 1929.  The mill also runs a Biomass burner to generate electricity.  Although originally set up with a promise of cheaper electricity to the local community, the electricity is actually sold to the bigger markets for higher revenue.  They already generate 14.9 megawatts to sell. So what they do is buy power that they need from Bonneville Power at sub-market rates and then sell the power they generate back to the power grid at market rates or higher.  They sell at a higher rate because they claim they are making green energy.  It is another way they generate income.

They also receive a subsidy from the US government because they are designated as “green energy” producers.  Two years ago California stopped buying this power from the grid because the state passed a law to buy local first. The state would buy energy from California producers first.  This kind of put a crimp in the mill’s plan to sell “green energy”.  Fracking of natural gas across the country has driven down energy prices and the need for electricity has decreased.

They make money by collecting government subsidies. They get a tax subsidy for using forest products.

They receive a farm subsidy from the Commerce Department for processing “black liquor”. Black liquor is the waste product from the kraft process when digesting pulpwood into paper pulp removing lignin, hemicelluloses and other extractives from the wood to free the cellulose fibers.  The black liquor is mixed with fuel oil and it is then burned for energy.  This action qualifies them for an alternative energy subsidy. They receive a Renewable Energy Credit or REC. They were sued by the WTO for unfair competition and the federal government stopped the subsidy.  The federal government renamed the credit to keep from being sued. The subsidy was then moved to the Department of Agriculture – farm subsidy department who reinstated the subsidy. In a nutshell they get a subsidy for reducing their own dependency on oil but then they mix the Black Liquor they burn with a fossil fuel.

 They also make money burning demolition waste from many sources.  They also reprocess fuel oil at the mill.

EO:  So what did PT Airwatchers find when they began to research the mill and its smell?

PT Mill Plume in relationship to community

Gretchen: We found a general problem with waste disposal.  The process of getting rid of manufacturing waste is affecting the water around the mill, the land on site stores ash from the mill, and the air over the mill and the community. The ash stored near the mill site is a by-product of burning vegetation, metal and other trash. There is also the issue of the amount of resources they use, like the 12 million to 14 million gallons of free water the mill uses every day. Citizens including businesses use less than 900,000 gallons per day. We also pay for the chlorination of the water they use. The water contract with the city is up for renewal in 2020.  Our group will have to monitor the situation at the mill and be ready with good testimony. We just want the mill to pay its fair share.

Our group was not only concerned about the pollution from the mill but who would clean it up once the State and Federal government designates the area as a cleanup site.  It was only a matter of time because of lack of proper disposal that the waters and land would be designated as toxic.  We began to research if the Port Townsend Pulp Corporation had sufficient financial assurances in place to cover cleanup and that taxpayers would not be stuck with it.

EO: So what did you discover about the pollution of the waters around the mill. Surely local fisherman and oyster and other seafood businesses might be concerned about this? Admiralty Bay is known for its geoduck harvest.  What kind of harm is coming to this seafood industry? Is anyone testing the sea life?

Gretchen: The pollution of Port Townsend Bay, Admiralty Inlet and the Salish Sea are very much of concern to our group. The mill uses the bay for mill run off. The closer you get to the mill, the more polluted the waters become. The mill has established an Aerated Stabilization Basin also known as “the pond” to dump its fluid waste runoff. The pond is a 35-acre mid-sized lake located on the shore side of the mill.  It was dredged a few years ago and there is no record of what happened to the sludge.  The mill set up a so-called treatment of the pond. They implemented an oxygenation trial where they added extra 02 to the pond.  The O2 was pumped into the mill runoff fluids in order to increase biological activity.  They hoped that his activity would break down toxins in the fluids before it was discharged into the bay.  The process did not work. Instead, there was an increase of hydrogen sulfide which also increased the strong smell from the mill. In the process of injecting O2 into the water the anaerobic bacteria took over and continue biological action produced methane and hydrogensulfide.

The pond and its sludge have never been tested by outside sources.  However that may change soon.  Outside sources may be put in place to test and monitor the contents of that sludge and water. And then the results of this testing will be made available to the public.

There is also the issue of the ash waste – the mill burns wood and other waste and that creates ash. It is stored in a landfill near the mill on about 50 acres.  Our research shows that the ash is very acid and the mills permit to store the ash ran out in 2009. It is being regulated as limited hazardous waste. Ash from the boiler has a PH of 13 – basically it is like drain cleaner. It is very basic lye. It should be designated as hazardous waste.

Port Townsend Paper Company (PTPC) has operated an unlined landfill for disposal of ash and lime grits from its mill since 1983. In April 2011, The Washington Department of Ecology recommended to Jefferson County Public Health department that the agencies begin working with Port Townsend Paper Company to transition the landfill to a permit under the limited purpose landfill requirements of the Solid Waste Handling Standards. This could include re-establishing groundwater monitoring and financial assurance for the facility.

And in March of this year Port Townsend Paper Company revealed plans for an addition to their process that is a method of refining fibers to make a new product. We don’t know much about this. The permit public comment period is closed. The public wants a public hearing with the Washington State Department of Ecology and they want it to be held in Port Townsend so people can attend. The Department of Ecology said they would decide in April whether they will hold public hearings or not.

EO:  PT Airwatchers just lost an appeal to force the State Department of Ecology to create an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the mill site.  Can you explain what happened with that process?  Is there any recourse?

Gretchen:   If that appeal would have been successful, the Department of Ecology would have had to show that the mill will not have an adverse affect on the environment.  They would have to show numbers, testing results and other information and it would have to been presented clearly to the public and others.

The appeal was lost because it took so long for the courts to respond.  The original complaint was made before PT Airwatchers was able to learn the complexity and damages from the mill process.  We know a lot more now. Since that time of filing the appeal in 2010, PT Airwatchers has learned a great deal.  We are educating ourselves on every facet of the process and learning more and more about environmental law. During the appeal process, the State Department of Ecology was asked to require testing of the mill site, and each level of the appeal the court differed back to the State Department of Ecology who differed to industry. 

The appeal was then taken to the Washington State Supreme Court which ignored the impact on forest and forest soil and also on CO2 sequestering issue.  Industry has a fantasy that C02 put into the air differs according to what you are burning.

EO:  I am interested in the issue of Carbon Sequestration and I found the following explanation in wiki pages:

“Carbon sequestration means capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere or capturing anthropogenic (human) CO2 from large-scale stationary sources like power plants before it is released to the atmosphere. Once captured, the CO2 gas (or the carbon portion of the CO2) is put into long-term storage. Forests are major sources of Co2 sequestration.  When forests are clearcut, the level of CO2 released into the atmosphere goes up and is a large source of pollution and destruction of the Ozone layer around our planet “

Gretchen:  The Washington State Supreme Court ruled that burning trees is less damaging that burning fossil trash or other substrates. Other parts of the country have ruled differently on this subject. They (other state courts) are starting to understand that fallacy of the Biogenic C02 arguments.

“Biogenic carbon dioxide emissions are defined as emissions from a stationary source directly resulting from the combustion or decomposition of biologically-based materials other than fossil fuels.”

The mill planned addition to the Biomass burner was to support massive clearcutting on the Olympic Peninsula by burning the slash from clearcuts.  The clearcuts would be “cleaned up” using large equipment that would pull out the roots and slash of trees and vegetation, leaving the land to be disrupted permanently.

EO: What can we do to make real change on this issue?  If the courts won’t support us, then how do we keep our beautiful place on the earth from being trashed?

Gretchen: If we want to protect ourselves from the expanded Biomass operations of the mill, it is up to citizens.  We need to put constant pressure on local powers.  Citizen action is needed; maybe a “Community Bill of Rights” that would have legal teeth, all those things is needed now.  We have to be vigilant. We should have leaders that support the Precautionary Principal before a project is planned.  The planners and industry would have to show that the project will not harm the people and the environment.

The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.

Right now our leaders and the courts have said that waste is not waste if it is being sold as a commodity.

PT Airwatchers is not giving up.  We are part of an important lawsuit that was filed jointly with Green Peace and the Center for Biological Diversity. The suit filed in 2011 in the US District Court Northern District of California would force the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update emission limits or NSPS (New Source Performance Standards) on Kraft Pulp Mills. The EPA is supposed to update the NSPS every 7 years. The agency has not conducted an update NSPS on pulp mills for 21 years.

New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) are pollution control standards issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The term is used in the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970 (CAA) to refer to air pollution emission standards, and in the Clean Water Act (CWA) referring to standards for discharges of industrial wastewater to surface waters.

The Court ruled in favor of a joint group of attorneys that would develop an agreement with a strict timeline in implementing updated NSPS for Kraft Pulp Mills. On March 13, 2014 the EPA issued a final NSPS that will help us.  If the mill moves to replace any old equipment, it will have to meet the new standard.

Final Amendments were distributed by the EPA on March 23, 2014. Here is a link to that report. http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/pulp/nsps/CR_kraft_pulp_mills_3-13-14%20final.pdf

EO: That is really good news.  Much appreciation goes to your group.  It really does take persistence and deep study of how the courts, law and process work doesn’t it?  Is there anything else coming our way that would help us monitor our air, waters and land?

Gretchen: Long-term monitoring of possible pollution is what I have been asking for.  This equipment is new technology and I am hopeful that we soon will have accurate data about pollution in our community.

Link to ORCAA article on issues of Ultrafine particle pollution- http://www.orcaa.org/air/ultrafine-study-proposal

EO:  Gretchen, what does PT Airwatchers need to stay active and viable?

Gretchen:  We need donations to help pay for stamps and legal expenses and other expenses that come from being an advocacy group. And, we need a webmaster.  The website needs constant updates. We need people to show up at hearings and don’t let up on the pressure to get this mill site cleaned up. That would really help us.

Here is a link to the PT Airwatchers Website: http://ptairwatchers.org/ 

Update as of April 4, 2014 Port Townsend Paper company announced it will not seek expansion of its Biomass burner.  Here is a link to an article in the Peninsula Daily News - http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140404/NEWS/304049966/port-townsend-paper-corp-drops-biomass-expansion-plans

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CRC GA Meeting April 5th then off to the Farmers Market opening

PT market collage2The Community Rights Coalition of Jefferson County General Assembly will be held 10:00 AM to -12:00 Noon this Saturday, April 5th, QUUF  – 2333 San Juan Ave, Port Townsend, WA.   All Friends Are Welcome to Join Us.  After the meeting join us for lunch…
OFF TO THE FARMERS MARKET - As it is the first Saturday Farmer’s Market of 2014, many of us are really excited to adjourn and run up there for lunch and to buy our local veggies and more. 
 BUY LOCAL!!! 
Here is an incomplete agenda for the GA meeing:
  • More update on Port Townsend Mill
  • Update on Roadside Spray issue and move by Weed Board to ask for tax payer support to pay for their spraying ways.
  • Move to Amend update
  • CRC special training on Conflict Resolution, goal and value setting and planning for the year
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