Calling On All Presidential Candidates to Join Warren, Sanders in Opposing Water Privatization

October 9, 2019

Washington D.C. – Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a Climate Justice Plan that included a promise to support public ownership of water systems. She joins Senator Bernie Sanders in publicly opposing water privatization. Now, we’ve heard commitments from two Democratic Presidential candidates that they will oppose water privatization and support public control of water services. Food & Water Action calls on every Presidential candidate to recognize water as a human right, support the WATER Act and join the fight to keep water public.

Food & Water Action Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“Safe, affordable water for all is non-negotiable but access is at risk if elected officials relinquish control to private, profit-driven water corporations. More and more communities across the nation are facing dangerous water crises, from lead poisoning to infrastructure failures, from PFAS contamination to mass water shutoffs. That’s why communities need a strong federal commitment to safe water by passing the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act in Congress. Previous ploys to privatize water service show time and time again that giving over control of water to corporations exacerbates these problems and means worse service, increased costs, and less accountability.

“We welcome Senator Warren joining Senator Sanders in opposing water privatization and call on all presidential candidates to do the same.

“As the country continues to grapple with how to respond to climate change, federal investment in publicly controlled water should be at the forefront of the conversation as part of a just and fair transition to 100 percent renewable energy. We need presidential candidates who recognize the importance of keeping water in public hands, no ifs, ands, or buts.”

50+ Groups and Delegates Demand Northam Stop Two New Pipelines & Gas Plant

September 25, 2019

Virginia cannot approve more dirty energy investment if it really wants to tackle climate change impacts

Richmond, VA — Today, Delegates Lee Carter, Del. Sam Rasoul, Food & Water Action, and a coalition of over 50 groups across Virginia officially released a letter urging Governor Ralph Northam to stop investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure. The letter specifically calls on the governor’s administration to deny state permits for two new pipelines in Northern Virginia and in Pittsylvania that will lead to more dependence on fossil fuels and the development of new dirty fuel infrastructure in the state.

“At a time when scientists are nearly unanimous in calling for the end of fossil fuel use, there can be no reasonable justification for building new natural gas pipelines,” said Delegate Lee Carter. “These two projects – one of which is in Manassas – will endanger those who live nearby, will directly damage the environment during construction, and will massively contribute to the ongoing climate crisis which we should instead be working to stop.”

Virginia is currently reviewing air and water permits that would allow the Southeastern Trail Expansion project to build out a new pipeline in Northern Virginia and expand several compressor stations. In Pittsylvania, the MVP Southgate Extension would also add 30 new miles of pipeline in Virginia.

“Virginia’s state agencies must thoroughly review the water and air permits being sought by these new projects. I believe that after weighing all of the risks associated with these projects, the agencies will reject these permits,” said Delegate Sam Rasoul. “We have a choice as a state now to head in the direction of a Green New Deal. Virginia does not need any more fracked gas pipelines nor fracked gas plants that will endanger the health and safety of Virginia communities.

The group letter criticizes past decisions to allow the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipelines that will be transporting fracked gas across the state. Both of those pipelines have garnered strong opposition because of the negative health and safety impacts they will have on Virginia communities, in particular, vulnerable communities that already bear the disproportionate brunt of fossil fuel negative impacts.

“Governor Northam should direct state agencies to deny permits for any new fossil fuel infrastructure if he’s truly committed to the 100% renewable energy future he announced last week,” said Jorge Aguilar, the southern region director for Food & Water Action. “The governor’s commitment to addressing climate change will mean nothing if his agencies are still approving pipelines and gas plants behind the scenes.”

“People of faith know that more pipelines endanger our neighbors both near and far,” said Jonathan Lacock-Nisly, Director of Faithful Advocacy for Interfaith Power & Light, which engages congregations in addressing climate change. “We urge the governor to instead join caring congregations across Virginia in shifting to cleaner power.”

This release comes on the heels of Northam issuing Executive Order 43 last week, which failed to make any mention of halting current fossil fuel infrastructure projects like the Chickahominy gas plant in Charles City and other pipelines, which will also wreak havoc on the environment and communities of Virginia.

“The fight against Chickahominy Power gas plant demonstrates what is at stake for all of us, starting with the frontline community whose well water is directly under threat and who will be near to the 6.5 million tons of greenhouse gases emitted annually from the plant,” said Dr. Mary Finley-Brook, PhD, Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative. “After stealing our water and poisoning our air, this gas plant will become a stranded asset when we move to truly clean renewables.”

Full letter here.

Clean Water Act Hearing Shows Nationwide Devastation

September 18, 2019
Hoosick Falls resident Michael Hickey poses with Representative Antonio Delgado to urge Congress to stop PFAS pollution.

Washington, D.C. — Today, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on the Trump Administration’s priorities related to PFAS and other clean water matters in the subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.  The hearing featured testimony from Michael Hickey, an impacted community member who exposed toxic chemicals polluting the water in the New York village of Hoosick Falls.

In response, Food & Water Action Public Water For All Campaign Director Mary Grant said:

“Years later, people like Michael Hickey should not still have to trek to Washington D.C. to share their personal stories about losing loved ones to PFAS contamination in order to convince Congress and EPA to protect our water.

“Countless scientific studies exist now that all clearly prove: forever chemicals like PFAS are making us sick. The EPA has no excuses left – it’s time to do better.

“Congress must stop further PFAS pollution, clean up sources of contamination, and make polluters like the military pay. Hoosick Falls is just one of many communities spanning across our country facing a serious public health crisis due to preventable PFAS contamination. Isn’t it time to put an end to this?”

Michael Hickey said:

“The EPA is failing to do its job to protect us. We need a real action plan that treats PFAS contamination with the urgency and importance it needs. I didn’t lose my father to smoking, or drinking, or genetics. I lost my father because he simply was exposed to these chemicals.

“We can prevent more untimely deaths due to PFAS contamination if the EPA takes real action. There are no ‘safe’ levels of PFAS in our drinking water. The EPA needs to immediately protect people and the environment from these dangerous chemicals with more than half-baked regulation proposals.

“We need federal funding, enforceable and immediate usage limits, widespread testing and clean up, transparency, and to hold the polluters accountable. Our country deserves it.”

See Hickey’s full testimony here:

Clean Water Threatened by Trump Repeal of WOTUS

September 12, 2019

Pipe releasing contamination and pollutants into a clean water source.

The Trump administration has endangered clean water for all with the repeal of the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Its replacement will leave more than 50 percent of US wetlands and nearly 20 percent of our rivers and streams unprotected.

In response, Food & Water Action Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision from the Trump administration can be summarized in four words: no more clean water. Without a strong Water rule, a wide array of our nation’s most precious water resources, which provide drinking water for more than 117 million residents in our country, will no longer be protected from pollution.

“Without protections in place, the expansive and insatiable agricultural businesses that run factory farms across our country will not bat an eye when it comes to releasing waste and pollutants into our vital drinking water resources. Unfettered profits will be the law of the land now, rather than the protection of the human right to clean and safe water. Today’s announcement renders Trump’s oft-repeated claims of being ‘committed to crystal clean water for our nation,’ yet another disingenuous mockery.

“The only incentive to gut water protections like this is to create a safe haven for agrochemical industrial interests against the wellbeing of public and environmental health. It’s no accident that today’s announcement was made during an event at the National Association of Manufacturers, an anti-regulatory, anti-climate group that has found a pro-pollution partner-in-crime in the White House. Three cheers to our nation’s worst polluters – enjoy your newly unregulated agenda to profit from destroying our water. We’ll be here fighting to protect clean and safe water for all, against such irresponsible and foolish corporate kickbacks.”


Group Calls on Presidential Candidates to Pledge Administrations Free of Fossil Fuel-Promoting Appointees

September 12, 2019

For Immediate Release – Sept. 12, 2019
Contact: Seth Gladstone – sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org

UPDATE: Senator Bernie Sanders has signed Food & Water Action’s pledge, confirming that if elected he will only appoint relevant staff that oppose all fracking and new fossil fuel development. Sanders is the first candidate to sign the pledge.

Washington, D.C.– Today the political advocacy organization Food & Water Action issued a pledge to the Democratic presidential candidates, calling on them to commit, if elected, to only appoint relevant staff that oppose all fracking and new fossil fuel development. The issuance of this pledge comes on the heels of multiple candidates – Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris – stating last week that they support banning fracking everywhere. Senator Bernie Sanders has been on the record with this position for a long time.

The text of the pledge, sent to all the Democratic candidates today, is as follows: As president, I pledge to only appoint individuals to environmental, energy, foreign policy and national security positions in my administration that affirm the extent of the climate emergency we face, and support: banning fracking everywhere; halting all new fossil fuel infrastructure development; and banning fossil fuel exports.

“We are pleased to see a handful of presidential candidates now asserting their support for banning fracking everywhere. But as we know so well from the Trump administration and many before it, much of the policy issued by the White House is formulated and implemented by cabinet members, agency heads and key staff – many of whom have their own beliefs, agendas and motivations,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Action. “If presidential hopefuls are truly serious about tackling fossil fuels head-on, a commitment on appointments must reflect this.”

Current analysis from Food & Water Action indicates that Senators Harris, Sanders and Warren all support banning fracking everywhere, though only Sen. Sanders has articulated this in a written, published climate/energy plan. Senators Harris and Sanders would halt all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Sen. Warren would not. Additionally, Sanders would ban all oil and gas exports; Warren would only ban crude oil exports. Harris is not opposed to oil and gas exports.

Food & Water Action was the first national organization in the U.S. to call for a ban on fracking everywhere. Food & Water Action mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold & uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

Court Will Hear Case Seeking Raccoon River Restoration and Factory Farm Moratorium

September 12, 2019

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Jackie Filson, [email protected], 202-683-2538
Adam Mason, [email protected], 515-282-0484
Aidan O’Shea, [email protected], 202-861-5240

Iowa residents’ suit seeks to protect right to clean water under the Public Trust Doctrine 

Des Moines, IA – Late yesterday afternoon, Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson ordered that a lawsuit to restore the Racoon River, heavily polluted with agricultural runoff, may proceed over the objections of the State of Iowa and agencies implementing the voluntary Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The court rejected the state’s arguments that the plaintiffs could not meet their burden to show how the water pollution injured them, that the plaintiffs were seeking relief the court could not grant without infringing on the Iowa legislature’s authority, and that plaintiffs should have pursued river restoration piecemeal through state agency actions, rather than holistically through the court. The lawsuit asks the court to order the state to adopt a mandatory plan to clean up the river and a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms in the watershed.

“This is a victory for Iowans, who deserve real protection from the state to secure their right to clean water,” said Kim Stephens, an Iowa CCI member, veteran, and mother. “To me this lawsuit is about guaranteeing clean water as a human right. I should not have to worry about if the water my children come into contact with is clean. But with over 10,000 factory farms in Iowa, I have over 10,000 reasons to worry if the water is dangerous.”

Emma Schmit of Food & Water Watch said, “This order is a serious win for Iowans. Judge Hanson’s rejection of Iowa’s motion to dismiss will prevent the state from continuing to sweep its water pollution problems under the rug. After years of our legislature failing to act, it’s exciting to see our courts take up the issue of Iowa’s polluted water.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch filed the lawsuit against the State of Iowa in March. The lawsuit alleges that the state has violated its obligation to protect the Raccoon River for the use and benefit of all Iowans by failing to regulate the pollution running off of industrial agriculture operations into the state’s waterways. This obligation is called the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires the state to protect the public’s use of waterways and not abdicate control to private interests.

Despite well-documented water pollution that has harmed the public’s ability to use the Raccoon River, Iowa has imposed only voluntary agricultural pollution controls. As a result, the suit alleges that the state is failing to uphold its Public Trust duty. The groups are represented by Public Justice, Food & Water Watch, Roxanne Conlin & Associates, and Channing Dutton, of Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake LLP.

The Raccoon River is the source of drinking water for some 500,000 Iowans, and the Des Moines Water Works, the largest water utility in Iowa, has one of the most expensive nitrate removal systems in the world. The utility’s struggle to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines residents was documented in its 2015 lawsuit against upstream counties alleging that their failure to regulate tile drains led to excessive amounts of dangerous nitrates in the utility’s Raccoon River source water. More recently, monitoring by the DMWW has detected blue-green algae and related cyanotoxins in the Raccoon River. In 2016, the utility warned the public about elevated levels of microcystin in the Raccoon River.

Recent news has shown Iowans across the state struggling with access to clean and safe water. Last month, it was reported that a child was poisoned by a toxic blue green algae bloom while recreating in an Iowa lake. Recent analyses from the Iowa Environmental Council and the Iowa Policy Project further demonstrate that Iowa’s voluntary strategy to reduce agricultural pollution of Iowa’s lakes and rivers is drastically under-funded and fundamentally inadequate.

“Industrial agribusiness is the problem,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director with Iowa CCI. “We know that farmers want to see their communities flourish and restore Iowa’s rivers and lakes. While we call for mandatory pollution controls, we also support rural policy reform that ensures farmers can afford to protect our water and our climate, because we all do better when we all do better.“

A bill to establish a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms was introduced in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives during the 2019 session. Despite growing concerns from citizens, and an increase in the number of legislative sponsors, leadership in the Iowa General Assembly refused to allow the bill to even be debated in subcommittee, causing the bill to die without any formal discussion by elected officials.

This lawsuit is a response to Iowa’s failed leadership, which has allowed the agribusiness industry to degrade Iowa’s waterways, leaving citizens with the burden of pollution and the cost of cleanup efforts. The suit seeks actionable, mandatory solutions that will restore the Raccoon River and make it safe for people to recreate in and for those who rely on it for drinking water.

“This is cause for celebration,” said Roxanne Conlin, co-counsel in the case with the plaintiffs. “The court has agreed to hear whether or not the waterways of Iowa should be protected for public use. We’re anxious to move forward.”

“Iowans’ right to use rivers and lakes is protected by the state constitution,” said Brent Newell, Food Project Senior Attorney with Public Justice. “We welcome this decision, which means the Court agrees that the public’s paramount right to use the Raccoon River for drinking water and recreation is not subject to the whims of the legislature.”

The case will now proceed to a trial where the court will decide whether the State of Iowa is violating its obligation to protect the public’s use of the Raccoon River and decide what steps the State must take to protect those uses.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement works to empower and unite grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities; involve them in identifying problems and needs and in taking action to address them; and be a vehicle for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes people to build political power to win bold and uncompromised solutions for the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect our health, communities and democracy from destructive economic interests.

Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.