Wednesday, March 16, 2011

EPA Proposes First National Standard for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants

EPA Proposes First National Standard for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants
“Mercury and Air Toxics Standards” Represent One of Strongest Health Protections from Air Pollution Since Passage of Clean Air Act
WASHINGTONIn response to a court deadline, today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants.  The new Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – which eliminate 20 years of uncertainty across industry – would require many power plants to install widely available, proven pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, while preventing as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year. The new proposed standards would also provide particular health benefits for children, preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. The proposed standards would also avert over 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions and 850,000 fewer days of work missed due to illness.
This rule will provide employment for thousands, by supporting 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs.
“Today’s announcement is 20 years in the making, and is a significant milestone in the Clean Air Act’s already unprecedented record of ensuring our children are protected from the damaging effects of toxic air pollution,”  said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “With the help of existing technologies, we will be able to take reasonable steps that will provide dramatic protections to our children and loved ones, preventing premature deaths, heart attacks, and asthma attacks.”
Toxic air pollutants like mercury from coal- and oil-fired power plants have been shown to cause neurological damage, including lower IQ, in children exposed in the womb and during early development.  The standards also address emissions of other toxic metals linked with cancer such as arsenic, chromium and nickel.  Mercury and many of the other toxic pollutants also damage the environment and pollute our nation’s lakes, streams, and fish. In addition, cutting these toxic pollutants also reduces fine particle pollution, which causes premature death, heart disease, workdays lost to illness, and asthma.
"The American Lung Association applauds the release of this sensible public health measure.  When it becomes final, the cleanup rule that the EPA is putting forward today will save lives, protect the health of millions of Americans and finally bring about an action that is 20 years overdue. This must happen,” said Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association.
Power plants are the largest remaining source of several toxic air pollutants – responsible for half of mercury and over half of acid gas emissions in the United States.  In the power sector alone, coal-fired power plants are responsible for 99 percent of mercury emissions. Currently, more than half of all coal-fired power plants already deploy the widely available pollution control technologies that allow them to meet these important standards. Once final, these standards will ensure the remaining coal-fired plants, roughly 44 percent, take similar steps to decrease dangerous pollutants.
The updated standards will provide a first-ever level playing field for all power plants across the country, ensure that they play by the same rules, and provide more certainty to business.  The proposed rule provides up to 4 years for facilities to meet the standards and, once fully implemented, will prevent 91 percent of mercury in coal from being released to the air.
More than 20 years ago, the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments mandated that EPA require control of toxic air pollutants including mercury.  Since then, EPA has taken action to reduce mercury emissions from many high-emitting sources – however, there is still no national standard for mercury emissions from power plants.  Today’s announcement is long awaited, coming 11 years after EPA announced it would set such limits for power plants, and following a February, 2008 court decision that struck down the previous Administration's mercury rule.  In October, 2009, EPA entered into a consent decree that required a proposal to be signed by March 16, 2011, and a final rule to be completed by November, 2011.
The proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are in keeping with President Obama’s Executive Order on regulatory reform.   They are based on the latest data and provide industry significant flexibility in implementation through a phased-in approach and use of already existing technologies.  
The proposed standards also ensure that public health and economic benefits far outweigh costs of implementation.   EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, the American public and American businesses will see up to $13 in health and economic benefits. The total health and economic benefits of this standard are estimated to be as much as $140 billion annually. 
Also in keeping with the President’s Executive Order, the proposed standard puts a premium on important input and feedback from stakeholders to inform any final standard.  The public comment period, which will last sixty days from posting to the Federal Register, will allow stakeholders including the public, industry and public health communities, to provide important input and feedback, ensuring that any final standard maximizes public health benefits while minimizing costs.
As part of the public comment process, EPA will also hold public hearings on this proposed rule. Additional details on these events will be announced at a future date.
 Media Contact:
Margot Perez-Sullivan,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Working to Level the Playing Field for Social Equity, Justice and the Environment

For More Information, Contact Mike Thornton
Social Equity Strategies (SES)

Working to Level the Playing Field for Social Equity, Justice and the Environment

Sacramento CA March 14th 2011

On March 1st, 2011, former KVMR-FM News Director and Sierra Fund Organizer Mike Thornton created Social Equity Strategies (, a media consulting and public relations firm designed to assist organizations working on social equity and justice, environmental justice and environmental issues in the Sacramento and Northern Sierra regions of California. Social Equity Strategies assists organizations with crafting "Winning Communications Strategies," garnering positive media coverage for their causes and increasing positive name recognition for their organizations.

"There are many great organizations doing important work on a myriad of issues related to social and environmental justice as well as striving for solutions to these issues that achieve social equity,” says consultant, Mike Thornton. "Most of these organizations are relatively small and don't have the staff, time and/or skills to promote the great work they're doing. Sometimes, as well, these organizations haven't really considered the importance, to their work, of getting positive media coverage. More broadly, increasing positive name recognition with the general public can not only help them achieve their programmatic goals and objectives, but in can also have a positive impact on fundraising, membership, board of directors recruitment and attracting qualified staff."

"I have nearly 30 years of experience working in social services, journalism, community organizing and advocacy. Along the way, I've had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best people in all of these fields." says Thornton. "Social Equity Strategies is an opportunity to put this experience to work in the service of any number of good causes. In addition it's a way to play a role in helping to build a much needed ‘progressive infrastructure.’ Equity opponents have spent the last 40 years building up an interlocking network of funders, think tanks, media outlets and supporters who work in concert to promote and enact policies that hurt many, while richly benefiting an elite minority. We need a counter movement to take back the initiative and provide an alternative narrative. Policies that are based in progressive values are better for America and the world as a whole. We can make this case, not by ‘moving to the middle,’ but by clearly articulating what we believe in and why we believe in it.”

Social Equity Strategies offers project centered consultation services and communication strategy workshops. For more information visit the Social Equity Strategies website or email

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

“Don’t defund affordable housing”

An important event happening at the State capital tomorrow (Thursday) at Noon

March 8th, 2011
For More Information Contact
Mike Thornton
530-262-7335 (Cell)
Media Advisory
“Don’t defund affordable housing”

Where: South Steps California State Capital, Sacramento, CA.
When: 12:00PM, March 9th 2011
Visuals: 50 red tents surrounding a pyramid of sleeping bags
Interviews Available: Affordable Housing Residents, Former and Current Homeless Persons, Housing Activists and Advocates
Sacramento Housing Alliance

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Role of Community Radio

There's a good discussion of how a community radio station should handle racist commentaries, going on at Jeff Pelline's Sierra Foothills Report
This has to do with the radio station I was once News and Public Affairs Director at, KVMR-FM in Nevada City CA.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Officially registered to do business with the State of California as a few minutes ago.
It's actually a relatively easy process and I suggest that any and all progressive business folks do so!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

White House Internship Program

This came in from Ridership for the Masses in Sacramento today.
It would be great if we could get some "real" future "leaders" to apply and (hopefully) get accepted!!

Here's the info:

The application deadline for the White House Internship Program’s fall 2011 session is Sunday, March 13. Please take the time to think of five future young leaders you believe would serve as great White House Interns, and personally encourage them to apply. Below is more information that might be helpful to prospective White House Interns:

- Check out this blog from a former White House intern with a disability:

- Visit the White House Internship website:

- Apply to the White House Internship program:

- Learn more about the selection process:

A White House Internship provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. This hands-on program is designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office of the President and prepare them for future public service involvement.

Please encourage all eligible young leaders to take advantage of this incredible opportunity!
The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW · Washington DC 20500 · 202-456-1111

What Conservatives Really Want

George Lakoff
Lays out in this article (among other things) what I believe is perhaps the single most important point/strategy that progressive need, but fail to learn over and over again.
Those of us working for truly progressive solutions must refuse to be trapped by allowing conservatives to frame the debate through the acceptance of their language and descriptions of a given issue,

He says it more eloquently below 

—Dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011
The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.
The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.
Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.
Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the President has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.
Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.
In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama accurately described the basis of American democracy: Empathy — citizens caring for each other, both social and personal responsibility—acting on that care, and an ethic of excellence. From these, our freedoms and our way of life follow, as does the role of government: to protect and empower everyone equally. Protection includes safety, health, the environment, pensions and empowerment starts with education and infrastructure. No one can be free without these, and without a commitment to care and act on that care by one’s fellow citizens.
The conservative worldview rejects all of that.
Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.
But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?
The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.
The market itself is seen in this way. The slogan, “Let the market decide” assumes the market itself is The Decider. The market is seen as both natural (since it is assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate moral authority, there should be no power higher than the market that might go against market values. Thus the government can spend money to protect the market and promote market values, but should not rule over it either through (1) regulation, (2) taxation, (3) unions and worker rights, (4) environmental protection or food safety laws, and (5) tort cases. Moreover, government should not do public service. The market has service industries for that. Thus, it would be wrong for the government to provide health care, education, public broadcasting, public parks, and so on. The very idea of these things is at odds with the conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to people who don’t deserve it. Taxation cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life, a civilized society, and as necessary for business to prosper.
In conservative family life, the strict father rules. Fathers and husbands should have control over reproduction; hence, parental and spousal notification laws and opposition to abortion. In conservative religion, God is seen as the strict father, the Lord, who rewards and punishes according to individual responsibility in following his Biblical word.
Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science should NOT have authority over the market, and so the science of global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend conservative values themselves, the devil’s own means can be used against conservatism’s immoral enemies, whether lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women’s doctors.
Freedom is defined as being your own strict father — with individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do. To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.
This is the America that conservatives really want. Budget deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life.
What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.
Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-American — the top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.
Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.
Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called Democratic Communication Disorder. Republican conservatives have constructed a vast and effective communication system, with think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast holdings of media, and booking agents. Eighty percent of the talking heads on tv are conservatives. Talk matters because language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have not built the communication system they need, and many are relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values and complex truths.
And Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done. “Benefits” are pay for work, not a handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.
Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.”
Is there hope?
I see it in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands citizens see through the conservative frames and are willing to flood the streets of their capital to stand up for their rights. They understand that democracy is about citizens uniting to take care of each other, about social responsibility as well as individual responsibility, and about work — not just for your own profit, but to help create a civilized society. They appreciate their teachers, nurses, firemen, police, and other public servants. They are flooding the streets to demand real democracy — the democracy of caring, of social responsibility, and of excellence, where prosperity is to be shared by those who work and those who serve.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This Story Brings up So Many Issues!

The death of Nevada City native William Kelly — whose frozen body was discovered on Miners Trail under the Broad Street bridge Sunday night — is raising concerns about the treatment of the homeless in Nevada City.

It is not clear whether Kelly died from exposure — or even exactly when he died. But according to several people in the community, Kelly had complained that his gear, including his bedding, had been taken by Nevada City Police.

This is the second recent incident in which a homeless man was found dead on a freezing-cold night; Mark Rye was found in his sleeping bag outside a Grass Valley business Jan. 10.

Kelly, 51, was a descendant of the last Maidu chief, Chief Kelly, for whom Chief Kelly Road in Nevada City is named, said John Fletcher, who got to know Kelly during his volunteer work at the lunch program for the homeless organized by Divine Spark. The Maidu are a local indigenous tribe.

“He grew up here, went to school here from kindergarten to high school, and lived here all his life, as far as we know,” Fletcher said. “He was a sweet, kind man who had a problem with alcohol.”

John Fletcher and his wife, Irene, hosted a discussion with several of Kelly's friends on KVMR Tuesday afternoon.

“The last time we saw him was a week ago Monday when he came in for lunch,” Irene Fletcher said. “As he was leaving, I insisted that he take a couple of sandwiches with him, as there was no lunch on Tuesday. He put his arms around me and hugged me.”

“I lost my brother,” said longtime friend Dave Figge.

Several of Nevada City's homeless — who did not want to be named because they fear retaliation — said Kelly had complained several weeks prior to his death that his bedroll had been taken, and that it wasn't the first time.

“He had been (griping) his stuff had been stolen, and he was going to freeze his butt off,” said one man, who added that Kelly often would give him a blanket or even his own coat when he had none.

“To take his blankets away, you might as well have held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger,” a woman said.

According to KVMR News Director Paul Emery, Nevada City Lt. Lorin Gage said the last time anyone from his department had seized anything belonging to the homeless was on Jan. 25, and that no one had come to the department to claim their belongings. Gage could not be reached for comment as of presstime.

Kelly — who had not been seen by any of his friends since Thursday — was found after temperatures bottomed into the low-20s following a massive winter storm that dropped up to three feet of snow in some parts of Nevada City. His cause of death was pending toxicology results, said Nevada County Coroner Paul Schmidt.

Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher said he had known Kelly for about five years, since he began the homeless lunch program.

“He did come to me about two weeks ago, and complain his gear was taken by Nevada City police,” Streicher said. “His gear was repeatedly being taken from him — that's what he reported to us.”

Nevada County desperately needs more emergency assistance, and not just for the homeless, Streicher said.

“That's what needs to change,” he added.

Tuesday afternoon, several of Kelly's friends toasted his memory with a beer and a mini-bottle of whiskey, recalling as many funny stories about him as they could. A memorial is being planned for 5 p.m. Friday at the “bark house” on Broad and Union streets, Streicher said.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.

Social Equity Strategies

During the many years I've been working in the media and in political advocacy and organizing, I've often said; "There are so many great groups doing great work when it comes to social equity, economic justice, environmental and environmental justice and other related areas. Unfortunately they often don't have the staff, the time, the money or the abilities to tell their stories and promote what they're doing to the general public in order to gain political and financial support."
In addition, many times these great people and their organizations don't really understand the importance of doing this type of publicity and public relations work.
As we all know however, the opposition fully understands the need and utility of doing effective propaganda.
They spend lots of money and time doing it and when you couple this with the ability to hire lobbyists and make political contributions, it isn't hard to see why they so often win, even when they are clearly on the wrong side of each and every positive aspect on any given issue.
I'm hoping to do what I can to have an impact on this (in the Sacramento and Northern Sierra areas) by starting a new endeavor that I've called "Social Equity Strategies" (
The idea is to use the expertise and skills I've developed over my years working as a news director, producer and reporter at KVMR-FM Radio and my organizing and advocacy work at the Sierra Fund to provide assistance to these great organizations doing great work at a price they can afford.
I also think that my many years of working in mental health and social services and my own years of being "on the streets" give me a perspective and knowledge that most people in the
"Public Relations" and "Advocacy" fields just don't have!
I hope by doing this and beginning to write about these issues here (and in other places), we can all be part of building the people powered, progressive infrastructure needed to win these battles.
I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers and so I hope that we'll have an interactive discussion as we look for ways to help each other in what seems to me to be no less than a battle for the future.