Our Grassroots Brigade Is Taking Action On Coronavirus

March 20, 2020
 Climate Democracy Water
In times of crisis, we look to our leaders to take bold actions to protect us. Food & Water Action has built the organizing power and our members are using it to push those leaders and protect people. 

When the coronavirus started sweeping the world, we understood that one of the crucial underpinnings of our work would be a huge focus — access to water. We also knew that fossil fuel corporations would try to use this moment as an opportunity to enrich themselves. 

We quickly started planning a two-pronged approach with one simple idea: it’s time to protect people over profit. 

Without Water, How Can You Stop A Virus?

You can’t stop the spread of disease if millions are unable to wash their hands. It is that simple. 

Though we’ve fought over the years to shed light on the water shutoff crisis in America and to combat it, the start of the COVID-19 crisis has been a crucial time for us to double down on our work. 

That’s why we’re demanding a national ban on water shutoffs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of all the hard work of our organizers, members, allies and other across the country in the last two weeks:

  • 13,223 people have co-signed our demand for a national ban on water shutoffs
  • 289 municipalities and states have stopped water shutoffs
  • More than 128 million Americans have been protected because of these actions

It is work like this that makes us proud of our members and our team. You can add your name now, too

BAN SHUTOFFS NOW!

Help Food & Water Action ban water shutoffs to protect the public from coronavirus.

Hey Fossil Fuels! Get Your Hands Off The Taxpayers’ Emergency Funds

Predictably, as the need for travel plummeted and sunk the already flailing profits of the oil and gas industry to new lows, billionaire fossil fuel execs started cozying up to Trump hoping for a government handout. 

Relief money belongs to the taxpayers — to everyday Americans who are sacrificing so much to stop the pandemic — and it needs to go to initiatives like economic stimulus packages, tests for sick Americans, and vaccine research. The last thing the taxpayers need is to subsidize an industry whose business is already putting us in danger by depleting our water, poisoning our air and soil, and contributing to climate change. 

That’s why we quickly acted to send a message to Congress: No Bailout For Fossil Fuel Companies! 

15,736 of our members agree, and the number is growing by the day. Will you sign on?

ADD YOUR NAME!

The Moment Is Here To Work Harder Than Ever To Protect People

We’ve been growing Food & Water Action’s team and membership for 15 years. We’ve seen a lot of wins, and we’ve developed scrappy, smart strategies to defeat the corporations that want to steer our legislators. 

Everything we’ve learned in these fights has brought us to this moment, when we are all able to band together and be truly useful in the fight to protect the public from disease and opportunistic predators like the fossil fuel corporations. 

Will you join us by making a monthly donation so we can continue this imperative work to protect our food, water, and climate?

I’LL CHIP IN!

Fight like you live here. 

We Banned Fracking. So Why Does New York Accept Fracking Waste?

February 10, 2020
 Climate Water

A shocking Rolling Stone investigation uncovered the radioactive dangers of fracking waste. Now a new bill aims to close the dangerous oil and gas loophole.

Five years ago, a huge grassroots movement, led in part by Food & Water Watch, stopped fracking in New York state. That much you probably know.

But did you know that a loophole in state law exempts oil and gas waste from the normal testing of hazardous materials? That means that in the past decade, over 650,000 tons and 23,000 barrels of oil and gas waste from Pennsylvania has been disposed of in New York landfills. Leachate from those landfills can contaminate nearby rivers and streams, some of which can be drinking water sources.

Fracking is depleting our water faster than initially known.

We need to change that. And we have the legislation to get the job done right now.

SIGN TO SUPPORT THE BILL!

Fracking Is A Public Health Threat

Fracking and drilling waste threaten our water and public health. An explosive investigation in Rolling Stone magazine shed some light on the dangers posed by this waste stream, which is being dumped into landfills, trucked hundreds of miles across several states, and even used as a de-icer or a dust suppressant on roads.

We banned fracking because it was a threat to New York. The waste created by fracking is extremely dangerous too; it can contain carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde, and includes radioactive materials as well.

Help Get Dirty Fracking Waste Out Of New York

Hundreds of organizations across New York signed a letter to state legislators urging swift passage of S.3392/A.2655. Now we need you to join the fight to keep dirty fracking waste out of New York. 

CLOSE THIS LOOPHOLE!

Congress Betrays American Public By Gutting Forever Chemical Action from NDAA

December 6, 2019
 Water

Passing the WATER Act Is Now More Important Than Ever


Washington D.C. – Politico reports that in the face of Senate Republican opposition, House Democrats have dropped their bid to include two vital pieces of per- and polyfluorinated compounds (PFASs) regulation in the annual must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This comes on the same day that the new film chronicling a 20-year judicial battle against DuPont, ‘Dark Waters,’ releases nationally.

The NDAA provisions would have finally designated PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, forcing polluters to pay to clean up the worst contamination, and would have set an enforceable limit for PFAS in drinking water.

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

“The exclusion of these provisions would be a betrayal to the American people. Congress has effectively sacrificed the health of our children, communities, and environment by removing these PFAS regulations from the NDAA. We know that American voters want action on PFAS now — across the country, states one by one are cracking down on PFAS contamination — but without federal action, thousands of communities across the country will continue to face toxic chemicals in our food and water.

“In the face of such inaction, it is now more critical than ever that Congress pass the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act to help states and communities remove these toxics on their own. The WATER Act would provide the funding needed to improve our nation’s water and sewer systems. We’re not giving up and we’ll be watching each and every member of Congress. It’s time to step up, cosponsor the WATER Act and take the urgent action needed to ensure safe water for all.”

 

Baltimore City Passes Monumental Water Affordability and Equity Bill

November 18, 2019
 Water

After banning privatization, Baltimore once again leads in water justice

Today, the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to pass the Water Accountability and Equity Act, a sweeping overhaul of the city’s outdated water billing system. It sets up a percentage-of-income affordability program for low-income households, a customer advocate’s office with a mission of promoting fairness to customers, and a structure for appealing high bills and other problems commonly faced by customers. Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young introduced the bill last December when he was city council president and plans to sign the bill into law.

Baltimore has become the second city after Philadelphia to set up a percentage-of-income water affordability program. Detroit and Chicago are considering similar legislative efforts, and as the nation’s water affordability crisis deepens, other communities will likely pursue this model.

“Baltimore has shown its commitment to being a leader for water equity in this country,” said Rianna Eckel, Senior Organizer Food & Water Action. “In November 2018, Baltimore became the first major city to ban water privatization, and with that vote, the city committed itself to a public solution for its growing water billing issues. This legislation is the culmination of years of efforts to improve the public system. The new percentage-of-income water affordability program will tackle our city’s water crisis head on and ensure all Baltimoreans have access to affordable water. ”

“I am committed to ensuring their successful implementation to make our water system work better for all Baltimoreans,” said Mayor Jack Young. 

“This legislation is focused on structural change — on accountability and transparency within the Department of Public Works,” said City Council President Brandon Scott.

UPDATE: Baltimore Water Equity Bill Next Vote on Monday

October 24, 2019
 Water

BALTIMORE WATER UPDATE: no water bill press conference on Monday, interview availability instead.

On Monday, October 28 the Baltimore City Council will hold a second reading and vote on the Water Accountability and Equity Act. Advocates will be available for interviews upon request before and after the vote. We are urging the Council to stand with the people of Baltimore, reject the proposed gutting of the legislation by the Department of Public Works Dir. Rudy Chow, and vote in favor of the bill.

If the majority of the Council votes to pass the bill through second reading, it will move to a third reading and final vote on November 4. At that vote, the council can approve the legislation and send it to Mayor Jack Young, the original sponsor of the legislation, for his signature.

Years of powerful grassroots campaigning across communities in Baltimore demonstrate the significant public support for the comprehensive bill to make water permanently affordable for low-income households and to create an independent and accountable dispute resolution process. 

Available for interview: 

  • President Brandon Scott (other Council Members are potentially available as well)
  • Rianna Eckel, Senior Maryland Organizer, Food & Water Action
  • Reverend Dr. Alvin Gwynn Sr., Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore
  • Dean Dodson, SEIU 1199
  • Coty Montag, NAACP LDF 
  • A representative from the NAACP – Baltimore City Branch

###

New Data Exposes Incompetence of Leadership of Baltimore Department of Public Works

October 8, 2019
 Water

Documents reveal water line repair program helped only 8 low-income water customers

Documents obtained by the Maryland Legal Aid reveal that the Baltimore Department of Public Works (DPW) has utilized only 2 percent of the special assistance fund set up to help low-income residents repair water infrastructure that homeowners are responsible for maintaining. The documents were released today to media sources by the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition and can be accessed here and here.

In 2014, the City established the Hardship Fund for Emergency Water and Wastewater Services using proceeds from an exclusive arrangement with HomeServe, which provides optional service agreements to repair customers’ water and sewer lines on their private property. Through this contract, HomeServe is able to send their marketing materials using Baltimore’s city seal, making the solicitations appear as though they are actually coming from the city. The fund managed by HomeServe has $775,000 in allocated funds but has provided only $15,327 in assistance to low-income customers. In five years, only 8 customers have been helped.Screenshot shows only $15,327 of $775,000 in funds set aside for low-income water billing assistance in Baltimore have been used by the City's Department of Public Works.

“We requested this information through a Maryland Public Information Act request because we have struggled to have our clients enrolled in this program,” said Robin Jacobs, a Staff Attorney with Maryland Legal Aid. “We are concerned that the Department of Public Works is denying our low-income clients access to assistance that is available.”

“Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service has tried for years to enroll our clients in this hardship program and we simply never heard back from the Department of Public Works,” said Amy Hennen with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. “Our clients are really suffering and we fear that the Department of Public Works is unjustly denying them aid. That is why we urge the city council to pass the WAEA to create a strong, independent Customer Advocate’s office that can ensure low-income households are receiving available assistance.”

The Water Accountability and Equity Act (WAEA), which will go to a second-reader vote before the Baltimore City Council on October 28, will create two things: an income-based water affordability program to provide assistance based on need and a new Office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals to provide independent problem-solving investigations for all customers of the water and sewer system.

“The Customer Advocate would review whether customers are being unfairly denied support from the Hardship Fund and similar programs, including water bill discounts for the elderly and the ill, and the reimbursement program for sewage backups,” said Jaime Lee, Associate Professor and Director of the University of Baltimore School of Law Community Development Clinic. “Just as importantly, the Advocate would also increase transparency and propose systemic changes at DPW to help ensure that these programs aren’t just empty promises, but are actually used to improve the lives of Baltimore City residents.”

On September 26, DPW Dir. Rudy Chow introduced amendments to WAEA, which would remove the affordability program, water shutoff protections, shutoff notification requirements, and the entire Office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals. In their place, Dir. Chow proposed codifying the Department’s existing assistance program and procedures as well as his new appeals process with the Environmental Control Board — none of which would provide additional relief or help to customers denied access to the Hardship Fund or the reimbursement program for sewage backups.

“Dir. Chow has proposed a complete gutting of WAEA and it is unacceptable,” said Molly Amster, Baltimore Director of Jews United for Justice. “His amendments undermine the principles and objectives of the legislation, attempting to deny Baltimore residents the true affordability, accountability and equity in our city’s water billing system that we deserve and is long overdue. We need the City Council to rise to the challenge, stand with the people of Baltimore, and reject his weakening amendments.”

“This new information about the Hardship Fund shows yet again Dir. Chow cannot be trusted to assist low-income water customers in Baltimore,” said Mary Grant from Food & Water Action. “On the heels of his proposed gutting of WAEA and the recent report that his department is denying 85 percent of reimbursements for sewage backups, this new data points to a trend with his leadership and a refusal to work in the interest of the people of Baltimore. Baltimore needs an independent Office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals through the WAEA to inject accountability and justice into these decisions.”