Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NAACP Joins the Fight for Clean Energy

Due to the work of Jerome Ringo, John Grant and Marc Littlejohn, the NAACP approved a historic resolution addressing climate change for the first time in the organization's history at its Centennial Convention in New York.

During the legislative session of the NAACP Centennial Convention, delegates ratified a climate change resolution to support legislation that curbs global warming pollution. Calling on our nation’s elected leaders, the NAACP resolution pledges to “ensure that the response to climate change can take a higher ground than business as usual – one that ensures that we capture the real public benefits from the new energy economy.”

Jerome Ringo is past chairman of the National Wildlife Federation Board of Directors and president of the Apollo Alliance. John Grant is on the National Wildlife Federation Board of Directors and is CEO of 100 Black Men of Atlanta. Marc Littlejohn is manager of Diversity Partnerships, National Wildlife Federation

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

USDA Secretary Vilsack Speaks At NAACP Convention

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, left, participated in the NAACP's 100th Anniversary celebration in New York, N.Y., and reaffirmed his commitment to advancing civil rights at the agency - both for the department's customers and employees. He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is implementing a comprehensive and aggressive program to improve the department's record on civil rights by correcting past errors, learning from mistakes, and moving into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider.

The Obama Administration has already taken several actions to improve civil rights at USDA. In May, President Obama announced his plans to include settlement funds for black farmers in the FY 2010 budget to bring closure to their long-standing lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1999, the USDA entered into a consent agreement with black farmers in which the agency agreed to pay farmers for past discrimination in lending and other USDA programs. Thousands of claims have been adjudicated, but thousands of other claims were not considered on their merits because problems with the notification and claims process hindered some farmers' ability to participate. The total amount offered by the federal government is $1.25 billion.

President Obama's announcement followed a memorandum released by Vilsack in April, which detailed an aggressive plan to promote civil rights and equal access at USDA. The memo announced the following: Temporarily suspending all foreclosures within the Farm Service Agency's farm loan program, which is not only aiding farmers facing economic hardship but also providing the opportunity to review the loan granting process for possible discriminatory conduct; Creating a Task Force to conduct a review of a sample of program civil rights complaints that have been processed or that are currently being processed - the complaints and inquiries total over 14,000, including over 3,000 that have not been processed; and Granting greater authority to USDA's Office of Civil Rights.

The Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights will collaborate with the other agencies to develop and implement a proposal for data collection across USDA, make sure all complaints are incorporated as part of one data system; and develop USDA policy and training to ensure that all complaints are received and dealt with in a consistent manner within a specific timeframe. (USDA)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

NY Supreme Court Decision on Adverse Environmental Impact

On June 19th, the New York Supreme Court issued its decision in Entergy's Article 78 petition. As background, the Assistant Commissioner decided that adverse environmental impact (AEI) caused by the Indian Point cooling water intake structure already had been established and therefore, Entergy could litigate that issue in the SPDES proceeding. Entergy appealed that aspect of the Interim Decision because Entergy viewed AEI as a threshold question. In other words, if the intake structure does not cause AEI, then there is no need for the best technology available (BTA) analysis. The court dismissed the petition for lack of ripeness.

The court did not hold that Indian Point’s cooling water system causes adverse environmental impact. The opinion recognizes that Indian Point currently operates under a valid SPDES permit. The opinion says the draft SPDES permit, which states that the intake structures cause an adverse environmental impact and establishes cooling towers as the best technology available, are non-final agency action. Therefore, there is currently no valid BTA determination and the contents of the final SPDES permit (including whether AEI exists or whether cooling towers are the best technology available) are uncertain until the completion of the pending administrative process.

New York Supreme Court Decision