If you leave toxic waste alone long enough, eventually it will clean itself up. That's
what General Electric is telling New Yorkers about the nation's largest Superfund
site--almost 200 miles of the Hudson River.
Since PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) were banned in 1977 as suspected carcinogens,
the corporate giant has been dodging responsibility for removing the million or so pounds
its factories dumped into the river for decades. At long last, the EPA is scheduled to
announce a cleanup plan in December, so now GE is spending millions trying to convince the
public that the Hudson has purged itself. To counter the misleading media blitz, the
Sierra Club is airing ads of its own, accusing the company of polluting not only the river
but the airwaves, and informing citizens that the toxics are still there, "no matter
what General Electric tells you."
The Club is also making sure the EPA doesn't cave in to corporate pressure, with a
postcard campaign urging its administrator, Carol Browner, to stick to the December
deadline. "The Hudson is a major focus of life here--for recreation, commerce,
fishing," says Club volunteer Jim Mays of Ulster County. "It's the lifeblood of
North American Prairie: Harmful Hydro
Since the 1970s, Manitoba Hydro has rerouted rivers and dammed lakes in 50,000 square
miles of boreal forest. Flooding caused by the government-owned power project, which sells
almost half of the power it generates to the United States, has also washed out 3 million
acres of traditional Pimicikamak Cree land. Minnesota's Northern States Power, Manitoba
Hydro's biggest customer, now wants to purchase even more wattage. The North Star
Chapter's Harmful Hydro campaign is working to galvanize Minnesotans to stop the buy and
unplug altogether from the Canadian company.
"Many people think hydroelectric power is clean," says Kate Kempton of Sierra
Club Canada. "In fact, big hydro projects flood wetlands and forests, and the
vegetation rots under water, releasing methane--a gas that causes global warming."
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will most likely make its decision on the
power buy--and on the fate of the Cree and their lands--in early 2001. To comment, contact
Gregory Scott, Chair, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 Seventh Place East, Suite
350, St. Paul, MN 55101 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter direct from our Web site.
Southeast: Raising a Stink
Hog, chicken, and cattle manure from factory farms has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in
22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 others, according to the EPA. But in Kentucky
and North Carolina, the chickens are coming home to roost for these concentrated animal
feeding operations, or CAFOs.
Kentucky's Cumberland Chapter won a major victory in July when the state made permanent
the emergency regulations signed by the governor in February. Until then, big meat
companies like Perdue and Tyson evaded responsibility for environmental violations by
contracting with independent farmers to raise livestock that the companies slaughter and
process. The new laws hold the corporate giants jointly liable with farmers and keep CAFOs
from being built less than 1,500 feet from homes. Bernadine Edwards, who lives within two
miles of some 80 chicken houses, applauds the new rule. "I can't sit in my yard now,
or even have my grandkids come to visit," she says. "The stench and the flies
In North Carolina, Attorney General Mike Easley has cut a deal with the state's biggest
pork producer to eliminate open-air manure lagoons within five years. The Smithfield
Company, which owns 70 percent of the hogs in the state, will pay North Carolina State
University $15 million to find acceptable alternatives. "This agreement breaks the
gridlock; it's the first tangible step toward phasing out hog lagoons and spray
fields," says North Carolina Chapter director Molly Diggins.
Pacific Coast: Save the Southern Sea Otter
Joining forces to save the endangered southern sea otter and its habitat, the Angeles,
Ventana, Santa Lucia, Los Padres, and San Diego Chapters have undertaken a campaign to
restore at least 20 percent of their region's ocean, coast, and watershed resources by
2010. "We're especially working with youth groups who can adopt a beach or a tide
pool and help revegetate the otter habitat that has been destroyed by pollution or other
human encroachments," says Bruce Monroe of the Angeles Chapter. "We want to
encourage kids to become good stewards of the planet they will inherit."
Across the Nation: People Power
In an outpouring of support for public lands, more than a million Americans wrote to the
U.S. Forest Service, calling for a ban on logging, roadbuilding, and other harmful
activities in the last wild areas of our national forests and for protection of the
Tongass rainforest in Alaska (above), among other threatened places. Sierra readers
deserve kudos for contributing thousands of postcards from the May/June issue to a
record-breaking campaign. In all, nearly four times more statements were submitted in this
federal rule-making process than in the one on organic food standards in 1998, which set
the previous all-time high. Throngs of Sierrans and other environmentalists also dominated
close to 400 hearings nationwide, where they voiced their support for full protection of
wildlands. The agency will release its final proposal in December.
by Elisa Freeling
To spotlight Sierra Club activism in your area, contact Elisa Freeling at Sierra, 85
Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail email@example.com; fax (415)