Caryn Hunt

Philadelphia City Council Upholds 50-foot Stream Buffers

Finally, and for the third time, City Council upholds 50-foot stream buffers in Philadelphia. Part of the zoning code recommended by the Zoning Commission and passed by Philadelphia’s City Council in 2011 included a 50-foot setback from rivers and streams for future building. This is a commonsense precaution against disaster, discouraging development in the floodplain,…

NJ Senator Lautenberg Introduces Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 would reform the thirty-plus year old Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), which is woefully inadequate and has allowed tens of thousands of industrial chemicals to be introduced into the marketplace without rigorous testing for safety to human health.

Some of the health issues traceable to environmental toxins include growing rates of asthma, diabetes, infertility, learning and developmental disorders like autism and certain cancers.

The original TSCA grandfathered in 62,000 industrial chemicals that were in use in 1976. Their safety has never been reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Because the law requires the EPA to prove the harmfulness of a toxic substance, the EPA has only been able to successfully restrict the use of a handful of substances known to be toxic to human health. There is currently no burden on companies to prove that the chemicals they use in their products are safe. In fact, the exact chemical ingredients of many products are kept secret from consumers.

The Safe Chemicals Act would change that. It would require manufacturers to prove that the chemicals they use are not harmful. It would give the EPA more power to restrict unsafe uses. And it would provide the public with much more information about the chemicals in their lives. One significant provision is that the Act would require limiting exposure to some of the worst chemicals- chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBTs).

Multiple Stressors Indicated in Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

Scientists have sequenced the bee genome and studied a multitude of pathogens from the varroa mite to the Nosema ceranae, to the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IVAP), as well as other environmental stressors such as pesticides to explain bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is the phenomenon where worker bees in a hive vanish, leading…

Green Will Save Us

I am a huge fan of Van Jones and his “Green for All” message . The man’s a modern day Prometheus. The message he developed, the connection he made between a community in need in his base of Oakland, CA, and the call to slow global warming, an ailing planet, is brilliant. The man deserves…

Philly On Wheels

Think transit, not recreation. That’s the paradigm shift cities like Lyon, Paris, Minneapolis and Miami made when instituting their bike sharing systems. In Philadelphia, where the average person views biking as a potential blood sport, the ground is being well prepared to take it to the next level. Bicycling has doubled in Philadelphia over the…

Transparency Urged for Northeastern

Community leaders met January 6th in a Port Richmond recreation center to discuss Temple University Health System (TUHS) plans for Northeastern Hospital amid rumors it will cut services.  Staff within the system have been told that Northeastern is restructuring. Employees at Temple University Hospital have been told Temple will expand its obstetrics department (OB) once…

Obama on Climate Change

President-Elect Barack Obama outlined a bold new policy direction for the US to slash greenhouse emissions 80% by 2050. He stated his intention to implement a “cap and trade” system whereby countries agree to cut carbon emissions but allow industries to buy and sell credits to reduce the financial burdens of meeting those goals. His…

Next Great City Report Card

Members of the Next Great City Coalition gathered Tuesday outside City Hall to applaud advances made by Mayor Michael Nutter and his administration toward accomplishing the ten near-term sustainability goals outlined by the Coalition during the last Mayoral election. “Ten months into office, Mayor Nutter and his administration as well as the support of City Council members have helped us to accomplish five of our ten recommendations and have made progress on three more,” said Christine Knapp, Outreach Director for PennFuture , the Coalition’s lead organization.

Knapp noted progress on many of the Coalition’s recommendations including legislation passed to update Philadelphia’s Zoning Code, a restructuring in the way fees are levied on commercial properties to contribute more fairly to treatment of stormwater runoff, and initiatives to reform and fund the Park Department. But by far the most stunning advance has been the shift citywide to single stream recycling and the administration’s commitment to move to weekly collections by the end of the year.

Knapp also noted advances in tree planting, renewable energy purchase by the city and the retrofitting of city trucks to reduce diesel emissions. The City announced a program funded jointly by the EPA and monies from a City settlement with Sunoco to retrofit 88 diesel firetrucks to significantly reduce soot, smog pollutants and carbon monoxide emissions. This was part of the Next Great City’s recommendation to reduce the incidence of asthma in Philadelphia.

Noting that in school, 8 out of 10 correct is good but not in the “A” range, Mayor Nutter reaffirmed his commitment to do better and to accomplish all the goals set out in the agenda. “This is about serious business here in Philadelphia. And whether it’s green jobs, whether it’s changing our building code, whether it’s preserving the planet and being able to pass it on to our children and grandchildren, these issues have significance for city government as well,” said Nutter, “Whether it’s saving money on energy costs, or how we design buildings, the issue of good land use planning and how sustainability fits into that, obviously retrofitting vehicles, dealing with air pollution, water supply, stormwater management, all of these issues are significant here in Philadelphia and there’s no reason in the world why we not be able to get to the goal that I laid out very early on, and that is making Philadelphia the number one green city in the United States of America.”

The Mayor made an appeal to vote “yes” on the Parks initiative coming up for vote on November 4th. The ballot question proposes to merge the Fairmount Parks Commission with the Recreation Department and will, he said, be a more effective agency. “What we’re talking about is better management, greater efficiency and productivity, the synergy of these two great systems combined,” he said, “I believe that we will get more out of the combined systems than we will ever get from them separately.”

Nutter thanked the Coalition for “framing the conversation” during the Mayoral election. Since taking office, Nutter has appointed Mark Alan Hughes as Director of Sustainability, and a Sustainability Cabinet to coordinate work with every department on sustainability issues. The Next Great City, funded by the William Penn Foundation, is a coalition of 107 civic, nonprofit, environmental and labor organizations working to promote sustainability issues citywide. They published their 10 step Agenda for sustainability in January of 2007.

2008-10-21 14:51:33

Scientists Look at Climate Change for PA

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)  has released an update to their report detailing the effects of climate change impacts on Pennsylvania weather, natural environment and industry. Climate Impacts scientist Dr. Melanie Fitzpatrick presented the broad strokes in a press conference Wednesday held at the Academy of Natural Sciences. “Scientists across the country are calling…

Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Crisis

Chestnut Hill Hospital recently announced its plan to close their maternity department on November 4th, bringing the number of Philadelphia area maternity facilities to close in the last ten years to 15. In every case, citing high malpractice insurance and low reimbursement rates, unprofitability of the maternity ‘line’ was the reason given. According to the…