The future of transportation has arrived: CLF joins coalition in support of the electric vehicle

Jul 20, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

As American dependence on foreign oil only grows stronger, high unemployment remains steady, and pollution continues to rise, the current state of domestic affairs seems bleak.  One bright spot, however, aims to address and make a serious dent in these national crises: the electric vehicle (EV).  So bright is the future of EVs that over 180 businesses, municipalities and public interest groups – including the CLF – have signed a statement of support to advance EVs in the U.S.

With the magnitude of national problems and the strong universal support for the EV solution, I set out, as a newbie to EVs, to understand what all the hype is about.

Edison with an electric car in 1913. (Photo credit:

While long touted as environmentally friendly and in many aspects superior to fossil fueled vehicles, the EV remains little understood, especially to a novice like myself.  Typically, when I hear EV I think Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid, but as the name implies, these are hybrids of gasoline engines and rechargeable electric batteries.  An EV is different as it runs on 100% electric power, foregoing the need for gasoline, excessive emissions, and perhaps most importantly, excessive prices at the pump.  In fact, using the national average of $ 0.11/kwh, it costs a mere $ 2.75 to fill up an EV Nissan Leaf to travel 100 miles!  To travel 100 miles in my modest Subaru Impreza at my local gas station’s regular unleaded price of $ 3.72, it costs $ 16.90!

The Tesla Roadster, the industry's fastest production EV at 3.7 0-60 mph and 245 mi. range. (Photo credit: Tesla Motors)

But someone like myself may ask: Where do I charge up?  The answer is simple: At home!  While the infrastructure for public charging terminals is still under development, imagine if you could essentially have a fuel station at your home, open 24/7, and charging next to nothing rates.  Well no need to imagine, as home charging stations for EVs are the mainstay of the current EV fleet, with charging times ranging from 3 to 7 hours to charge a car from empty to full.  With prices ranging from $1000-$2200 installed, home charging stations can appear pricey.  But no need to fear the sticker, as you will easily make that cost back in a year, as my Subaru Impreza has an EPA estimated annual fuel cost of approximately $2,500, compared to the EV Nissan Leaf’s annual fuel cost of around $550!

Finally, for those of us who have a hard time conceptualizing a world where cars run on electricity, Nissan has an interesting ad that flips the perspective to a world where everything runs on gasoline; suffice it to say, you don’t want it.

What can the EV do for American job growth?  For starters, EVs have already been successful in jumpstarting job growth and placing the U.S. in a competitive position in the manufacture of EV components.  Within three years, more than 20 different EVs will be on the market, with EVs and their components being built in at least 20 states.  Furthermore, the future of EV infrastructure will provide countless job opportunities for Americans, which will not only strengthen our economy, but do so in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.

While cost savings and job growth are both attractive benefits to EVs, perhaps the greatest benefit is to environmental and public health.  The transportation sector is a significant cause of both global warming and air pollution, which affects everything from the global climate to those with sensitivity to air pollutants, such as asthmatics.  EVs have little or no tailpipe emissions, and even when power plant emissions are factored in, still have lower overall emissions of CO2 and other harmful pollutants, than traditional fuels.

Finally, where utilities provide clean energy options – natural gas, wind, solar, etc. – EVs could become truly zero emission vehicles, turning one of the America’s biggest environmental and public health problems into a solution for the world to follow.

As America faces some of the most difficult economic and environmental times in our nation’s history, the EV stands as a simple solution to tough problems.  It is not often that a decision can be made that saves you money, creates jobs and improves environmental quality.  The EV does all three.  The only thing standing in the way of success is ultimately the consumer, of which I will happily become one at the next chance I get, knowing that my EV will essentially pay for itself, while creating American jobs and saving the environment.

Editor’s note: Cory McKenna is a Cavers Legal Intern at CLF Maine. He is a student at the University of Maine School of Law.

Best (and Worst) of the Beaches

Jul 4, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

 It’s July 4th – as you head out to your favorite swimming spot, consider this…

While New England is home to many clean, scenic beaches, the sad truth is that hundreds of beach closures occurred in 2010 across the New England states.  Check out NRDC’s new report, Testing the Waters to see where your state ranked, and how clean your favorite beach was last year. (Spoiler alert: if you’re in Maine, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island, there’s room for improvement).

Why are these problems so pervasive?  Polluted stormwater runoff and sewage overflows are the major culprits – making beach closures more likely after it rains.  In Massachusetts, 79% percent of ocean beach standards violations happened within 24 hours after a rainstorm, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  

The solutions are not cheap – to tackle this set of problems problem will require a sustained commitment to fixing and improving underground sewer pipes, enlarging wastewater treatment plants, and installing green stormwater treatment to capture and clean runoff from roads and parking lots.  

The cost of doing nothing is also significant.  The US EPA estimated that in one year, 86,000 people lost a chance to swim because of beach closures in areas affected by stormwater pollution.

Clean water is essential to a thriving New England.  That is why CLF is applying legal leverage to improve management of sewage and stormwater runoff across the region.  We’re working toward a day when the pollution that causes beach closures will be a thing of the past, and swimmers will have their pick of beautiful New England beaches – whether or not it’s recently rained.

Celebrate the Earth with CLF this Saturday at EarthFest!

May 20, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Do you love the Earth? Fantastic concerts? Free stuff? Learning about the awesome work of your friendly neighborhood environmental non-profits? No matter what you and your family are into, celebrate it with CLF at EarthFest this Saturday, May 21, at the Hatch Shell in Boston. This annual event, presented courtesy of Radio 92.9, features hundreds of environmentally-friendly vendors and sponsors along with local non-profits doing green work in your community. And if that’s not enough rockstars for you, stick around for a stellar lineup featuring Atomic Tom, Sponge, LIVE’s Ed Kowalczyk and Ok Go, among other acts of musical greatness.

So tomorrow, come out and show your support for CLF and New England’s environment! Stop by our booth for environmentally-themed games, prizes and more. We’ll be strategically located between Lovin Spoonfuls and Boston Harbor Alliance in the non-profit exhibitor area between the Main Events area and the Vendor Cafe. We’ll see you there!

Let’s review:

Radio 92.9 EarthFest
Saturday, May 21
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Hatch Shell, Boston, MA

Enviros Challenge Brown on Response to ‘People Not Polluters’ Ads

May 13, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Conservation Law Foundation joined more than 30 national, regional and local environmental organizations today on a letter to Massachusetts senator Scott Brown chiding him for his response to a series of ads taking him to task for his votes on environmental issues. Brown’s public remarks and a Boston Herald editorial have attempted to deflect attention away from the issues raised in the ads and onto the tactics of the League of Women Voters, the organization behind them. The letter details Brown’s recent votes for two pieces of legislation that, if enacted, would severely impact public health, including the health of children. Brown has said in the wake of the ads that “as a father, I would never do anything to put my two daughters or anyone else’s children in harm’s way.” The letter supported the ads as being “scientifically accurate.” In a press release, CLF’s Seth Kaplan urged Brown to respond to the issues at hand, saying, “By voting to undermine EPA’s ability to protect public health and the environment, he is choosing to protect out-of-state polluters, not his constituents.”

VT Yankee — Source of Contamination Still Unknown

May 11, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

As the pipes of the aging Vermont Yankee badly corrode, the arguments for its soundness are disintegrating just as fast. A recent New York Times article highlights the poor oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of America’s outdated nuclear facilities. Without the NRC doing its job, this leaves Entergy, Vermont Yankee’s owner, on its own. Despite every claim Entergy makes to the public, the records show a deteriorating plant and sloppy maintenance and inspection.

In January, an Entergy letter shows elevated levels of tritium in the groundwater at a new and unexpected location.  Entergy was ordered to submit bi-weekly reports until the source was found and corrected.  Four months later, we are still waiting.  The reports describe ways to find the location of the leak, yet action has been limited.

Bottom line – Yankee’s pipes are corroded beyond the point where they can be regulated.  Elevated levels of tritium were found near groundwater wells GZ-24 and GZ-6 around January 15.

Entergy released a sworn affidavit in February vaguely describing how they had “established an investigation team to systematically and methodically identify the source of the elevated levels of tritium in groundwater monitoring well GZ-24.” Although this report clearly downplayed the issue, Entergy insisted it was taking the leak seriously. However, in the subsequent biweekly reports, it becomes clear Entergy did not follow up on its word. The next report released claimed they had “implemented the action plan,” but all that was described was that sampling had indicated “fluctuating levels of tritium” at elevated levels.

Throughout the rest of the reports no action has been taken. Shockingly, even in Entergy’s most recent update, on May 6, there is no mention of a source being found, only that they have “identified six lines as potential sources” and that pressure testing will be conducted, something that was mentioned in the first affidavit.

It is clear that Entergy is not serious about cleaning up Vermont Yankee. Governor Shumlin and Vermonters have demanded that the plant be shut down. Time after time, Entergy shows it is not taking the action needed to responsibly run a nuclear power facility.

See Entergy reports here:  2-11-2011;  2-25-2011;  3-11-2011;  3-25-2011; 4-8-11;  4-21-11; 5-6-2011

No more refills: How global warming is affecting your morning cup of joe

May 9, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Photo credit: puuikibeach, flickr

You know what they say: There’s no such thing as a free refill. This morning, the Boston Globe presented a front-page article about how coffee prices are at an all-time high and will increase further as supplies of what is a vital substance (for me and so many others) continues to decline.

The article comes exactly two months after a March 9 article in the New York Times reported on the scientific evidence that global warming is damaging global coffee production, noting that leading voices in the coffee industry describe the potential for the virtual extinction of Arabica, the bean behind most high-quality coffee.  But the Globe article makes no mention of global warming.

Until the media presents and connects these kind of dots, we will not be able to take the action needed to face this fundamental challenge. Global warming is changing everything – from the coastal communities facing rising sea levels to our farms and forests where fundamental changes are underway.  Until we wake up and smell the coffee (if any is still available) we will not be able to make the move to a cleaner, more efficient society and economy.

EARTH DAY CHALLENGE DEADLINE EXTENDED: One more week to protect your New England!

Apr 22, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Photo credit: National Park Service

We’re excited to share that we’re very close to reaching our Earth Day Challenge goal of raising $41,000 which CLF board members have agreed to match dollar-for-dollar, making your gift work twice as hard! We’d like to extend an enormous thank you to all of you who reached for your credit cards and checkbooks– and for those of you who haven’t, to announce that you’re not too late! Just to be absolutely sure that we meet our goal, we’re extending our Earth Day Challenge deadline until midnight on April 30. You can help push us over the finish line by making a new or increased gift today!

Today, 41 years after Earth Day’s founding, its purpose of shining a spotlight on environmental issues is more poignant than ever. In the past few weeks alone, we have watched with terror as a nuclear disaster unfolded in Japan and, just two days ago, solemnly observed the one year anniversary of the BP oil disaster. Yet, in the current political climate, our national resolve to avert disasters like these and protect our environment is weak. That’s why every day is Earth Day at CLF.

Whether it’s working to ensure that appropriate caution is taken with the proposed Northern Pass transmission project in New Hampshire, or fighting to prevent Vermont’s state lands from being ravaged by ATVs, we shine a spotlight every day on the issues that concern you.

Tackling these challenges – and turning them into victories – is not possible without your help. Thank you in advance for all you do to help CLF protect our New England, today and every day.

Make this Earth Day count – Join CLF’s Earth Day Challenge!

Apr 1, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

In honor of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, CLF Board members from across New England have banded together to make an extraordinary $41,000 investment in CLF’s – and our region’s – future. Every new or increased gift you make now through Earth Day – April 22– can be matched, dollar-for-dollar, up to $41,000.

Your gift today will go toward solving the region’s toughest environmental problems, and help us ensure a healthy, thriving New England for generations to come. From Maine to Rhode Island, CLF stands up for your favorite places, for the health of your families and your communities, and for the prosperity of our region. Since the last Earth Day, we:

• Cleaned up the air in Somerset, MA by closing the doors on an old, polluting coal plant
• Won tougher standards for phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain, VT
• Preserved the fragile ecosystem of Great Salt Pond on Block Island, RI
• Saved Mainers millions of dollars on electricity infrastructure
• Helped NH cities and towns save energy and money by increasing energy efficiency

As Earth Day approaches, we are reminded that around the world and right here in New England, our land, our oceans and our air are in peril. On the heels of the 2010 elections, many in the new Congress are pursuing a clear anti-environment agenda, one that cuts directly to the core of the most fundamental protections for our health, safety and well-being. With leadership in Washington sorely lacking, CLF is uniquely poised to take the reins in protecting New England.

Today, we are asking you to help us continue our progress by taking part in our Earth Day Challenge. Your commitment enables CLF to safeguard our oceans, clean up our lakes, rivers and forests, promote clean energy innovations and build healthy, livable communities. We hope you will take part in our Earth Day Challenge by making a donation today to help CLF protect our small but mighty corner of the world.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your MA, ME and NH Senators to Stand Up for Clean Air!

Mar 16, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Take a deep breath. Are you taking your clean air for granted? Don’t.

Today, the EPA proposed a rule to reduce hazardous emissions from coal and oil-fired power plants, such as mercury, arsenic, heavy metals, acid gases and dioxins, which cause thousands of deaths every year. This “air toxics rule” finally implements instructions that Congress gave to EPA in the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. This much overdue effort, which builds upon decades of Clean Air Act implementation by EPA, protects the public health and serves as a reminder that if the EPA was stripped of its authority to enforce the Clean Air Act, essential safeguards like this wouldn’t exist.

The Clean Air Act is the most successful law our country has ever had to protect public health, preserve our environment and boost our economy. However, the key tool to ensure that protection is in jeopardy. Our senators are facing mounting pressure from our country’s biggest polluters to block the EPA’s ability to do its job, leaving harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources unchecked and threatening the health of our families and communities. Tell your senators that you expect them to protect you and your family, not big polluters.

New England states have shown leadership in passing progressive environmental laws to protect the health and homes of New Englanders. But it’s not just about us. Our region bears the brunt of pollution from power plants in the Midwest transported here by prevailing winds, which adds to pollution produced locally. Without federal EPA regulation, New England will remain vulnerable to harmful emissions literally blowing into our region.

Tell your senators today that you don’t take clean air for granted and that they shouldn’t either. Ask them to defend the EPA’s ability to do its job and enforce the Clean Air Act. Our region and our nation’s health, economy and environment depend on it.