will california be first to ban foam containers?
This year, California’s State Senate and two key committees in the State Assembly approved SB 568, which would be the nation’s first statewide ban on expanded polystyrene (StyrofoamTM) con-tainers. If approved, the measure would require the foam used in food and beverage containers to be phased out by 2016. Intense lobbying by industry forced the bill’s supporters to hold it over for consideration in 2012, which will allow Clean Water Action and allies to continue building support for the ban. Fifty-four California jurisdictions have already enacted foam food container bans.
The ubiquitous foam poses a number of threats:
It leaches toxic and cancer-causing styrene when used with hot, fatty or acidic foods.
Workers’ health is harmed in the manufacturing process.
Litter from foam containers is a significant contaminant in many waterways and in the ocean, where it breaks down into tiny particles that fish, birds, and other wildlife mistake for food.
Litter costs California taxpayers billions in cleanup costs each year, but small pieces of foam can’t be cleaned up. Human exposure to styrene is so pervasive that 100 percent of all people tested by the U.S. EPA were found to contain measurable levels of this potentially health-harming substance.
“Making the switch to smarter packaging will protect waterways and public health, and help build the green economy here in California,” says Clean Water Action State Director Miriam Gordon.
fracking fights: protecting our water
Explosive growth in the natural gas development industry is forcing communities in many states to deal with “fracking” issues most have never faced before — on an unprecedented scale. The controversial drilling method has been subject to very little in the way of state or federal legislation so far. Given the many potential water impacts, people in affected communities are justifiably angry and are demanding action.
Fracking is intended to break up underground rock lay-ers and allow gas that is trapped there to flow out. But the process typically starts with toxic water and the “frackwater” that flows back out of the drill holes (“flowback”) is often even more contaminated from its contact with minerals and radioactive materials underground. People’s drinking water is at risk, along with areas surrounding or downstream of frackwater storage or disposal sites. Most sewage plants are not designed to process toxic frackwater. Recently, concerns have also emerged around fracking’s potential to increase earthquake risk in some areas.
Clean Water Action is becoming a national leader on this issue, helping people in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey and other states organize for a stronger say in how fracking will be regulated to protect water and health. Clean Water Action and local groups want better disclosure of fracking fluid’s potentially harmful ingredients. They also want unsafe disposal practices to end, and moratoria on new permits until tougher regulations are in place.
So far, in addition to forcing states and the federal govern-ment to take water protection concerns much more seriously, Clean Water Action and allies are making real progress:
Pennsylvania has stopped the dumping of untreated frackwater in rivers and streams. The state is now also considering a bill to require longer distances between gas wells and drinking water wells.
Maryland has put a moratorium on new fracking permits until a study of its impacts has been completed.
Clean Water Action’s Michigan members have sent more than 11,000 letters to Gov. Snyder this year, urging him to act. This November, environmental leaders in the state legislature introduced several bills that would strengthen state protections against fracking’s water pollution risks.
New Jersey is considering legislation that would ban fracking in the Garden State.
The U.S. EPA is poised to issue new rules to limit frack-ing’s air pollution impacts. Take action here.