New York’s Coolest Summer Volunteer Days? The Billion Oyster Project’s, Of Course

If you like oysters or food, or care about conservation or science or New York City Harbor for that matter, here’s something for your bucket list: Billion Oyster Project (BOP) Volunteer Days. As a Foundation that cares about all of the above, we can assure you that it does not disappoint.

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BOP Volunteers from Moore Charitable and Waterkeeper Alliance. A great day on Governor’s Island!

Yesterday, The Moore Charitable Foundation team and our summer interns spent the day on Governor’s Island, along with volunteers (and friends!) from Waterkeeper Alliance, first touring the New York Harbor School’s oyster hatchery and new math & science facility. Then we got down and dirty – working in the hatchery and building wire cages for the growing BOP oysters to be placed in the harbor.

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BOP oysters thrive in conditions that simulate their natural environment – but do even better when placed on a healthy reef. 

The BOP matches their hatchery to the natural conditions (a.k.a., the oyster reefs in the New York Harbor) in order to best prepare the oysters for life on their own once placed in the wild. Simulating these natural conditions for the growing oysters helps to increase their resilience and survival rates once on the reef – and fortifying the reef is the name of game, as this complex ecosystem provides increased protections for each individual oyster and speeds up the spawning process rate, which in turn enhances the population. A little known fact: the sex of an oyster cannot be determined until it spawns, and reefs ensure that both male and female oysters are in the same vicinity when spawning occurs.

BOP has recently obtained a large new boat which will be used for placement of these oysters into the harbor and are preparing for a big placement project in the next few days.  The goal is to create reefs in all 5 boroughs of Manhattan, and BOP staff are working hard to prep all the materials – including the cages we built – needed to get this project underway. These volunteer days help BOP get even closer to their goal.

The energy at the Harbor School is palpable, and it’s not hard to see that BOP reach and influence is spreading like wildfire throughout the city. The number of partner restaurants, for instance, has grown from 8 to 50 over the past year, and curiosity about the initiative abounds far beyond the City limits. We were thrilled to have done just a little bit of our part to help move the needle for these big summer projects – and encourage all of you within reach of the City to consider volunteering for a day this summer.

From Riverkeeper: NRC officials finally admit: Indian Point is not safe as they told us

This year marks Riverkeeper‘s 50th Anniversary, and tonight The Moore Charitable Foundation and founder Louis Bacon are excited to celebrate this milestone at their annual Fishermen’s Ball. As we honor their critical work in protecting the integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguarding the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents, we also look forward to arguably the biggest current campaign: shutting down Indian Point Power Plant. Here is a recent blog post by Paul Gallay, President of Riverkeeper, reposted from their blog, The Watchdog. 

05.05.16: Yesterday, we learned that Entergy and staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had not done a proper estimate of the damage that an accident at Indian Point would create. The NRC threw out its assessment of the costs of such a catastrophic event at the troubled nuclear plant.

Photo: Indian Point, Leah Rae / Riverkeeper

Photo: Indian Point, Leah Rae / Riverkeeper

With this reversal, the NRC admits that their analysis was misleading, used erroneous data and was in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. It also means that another analysis needs to be conducted.

This decision is a victory for New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had argued that NRC staff systematically undercounted the cost and impact of a serious nuclear incident. It is also a victory for the 20 million people within a 50-mile radius of the plant, who are continuously placed at risk by this aging, unreliable plant.

A more honest assessment of the damage an accident at Indian Point could be a game changer in the fight to shut Indian Point. A rigorous analysis should show that all this talk about being “safe, secure and vital” is just bunk.

Indian Point has had seven unplanned shutdowns in just a year; a huge spike in radioactive groundwater contamination, and an unprecedented degree of failed bolts in the core of the Unit 2 Reactor. Together, these failures prove that the continued operation of the two reactors is a game of Russian roulette with our lives and our environment at stake.

Meanwhile, a huge increase in the availability of replacement power in the past several years, along with improvements in energy efficiency, mean that Indian Point’s power is no longer needed to keep the lights on, even on the hottest summer day.

The steady drumbeat of failure at Indian Point since last May proves that the only way to provide safe, sustainable power for the New York metro region is to close Indian Point. It’s time to stop pretending this aging nuclear facility is safe and necessary. It’s time to be honest with ourselves about the danger it poses to us, each day it remains open.

Learn more about Riverkeeper here.

Why Not to Use Wood Pellets

In honor of Earth Day 2016, and its focus on planting trees, here’s a blog about about wood pellets, and why you should think twice about them.

The Dogwood Alliance, a North Carolina environmental group, recently conducted a thorough investigation of the wood pellet industry, which, up until now, has been thought to fortify the economy of the southern United States. State and European officials have long touted the benefits of the industry on rural communities, citing primarily the growth of jobs. However, multiple findings of the report indicate otherwise: “The bottom line? The wood pellet export market is simply not a very smart 21st century economic development strategy…”

Wood pellets are exactly what they sound like— small wooden kernels composed of sawdust and lumber industrial waste, though evidence indicates that young, lower-grade trees are also cut down. Cutting down trees is sometimes rationalized because trees are a renewable energy source— a newly planted tree can replace a fallen one. Yet trees are weapons against climate change. “It’s just crazy that there’s an idea out there to cut down the things that are supposed to protect us from climate change. It’s backwards thinking,” said Adam Macon, campaign director at Dogwood Alliance in a National Geographic article.

Standing, living forests have economic value and enable diversification. Forests play a large part in attracting businesses and residents and, more obviously, keep the timber market alive. Forest protection and restoration alone can provide for economic growth and well-being. The restoration industry is a $25 billion dollar per year industry, employing more people than the logging, steel, and coal industries. And of course, economics aside, they purify our water, protect us from storms, and provide for climate stability.

In large part, the growth of this industry has been fueled by Europe’s attempt to cut back on coal consumption. This has led to mass amounts of deforestation in the southern United States, where corporations produce wood pellets as an energy replacement. Yet, quite ironically, new studies have shown that switching to wood in order to reduce carbon emissions actually releases more carbon into the atmosphere. Predictions estimate 35 to 100 years for new plants to re-absorb lost carbon from wood pellet burns—in effect, more permanent emissions.

The South has long been wedded to wood products, as it is home to many saw and paper mills. More wood pellets mean less of these traditional jobs. Furthermore, the industry is entirely dependent on foreign government subsidies. These subsidies are not meant to last, and all signs indicate that it exists purely as a temporary market. Essentially, our natural resources currently serve short-term benefits to foreign governments and a few company executives, and when these exploiters abandon the industry, Danna Smith of Dogwood Alliance warns that “our rural communities will be left high and dry with a degraded landscape, stranded assets and lost jobs.”

Food for thought from The Moore Charitable Foundation and Louis Bacon – Happy Earth Day!

 

Cape Fear River Watch: Advocating for a Bright Future for North Carolina’s Largest Watershed

“Support from the Orton Foundation allows Cape Fear River Watch to aggressively fight pollution associated with unsustainable factory farms throughout the watershed. This work is improving the Cape Fear River for all North Carolinians; strengthening our environment, our economy, and our quality of life”  – Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper

In this month of March Madness (Go Tar Heels!), as we play out our #MooreRivers and #MooreWaters focus, let’s circle back to The Cape Fear River.

The Cape Fear River system is the largest in North Carolina: it encompasses a 9,000-square-mile basin that includes streams flowing within 29 of the state’s 100 counties. With Greensboro, Burlington, Chapel Hill, Sanford, Fayetteville, Dunn, Clinton, Warsaw, Burgaw, Wilmington and many other municipalities situated within its boundaries, its basin has become one of the most industrialized regions in North Carolina: nearly a third of the state’s population rely on the river and its tributaries for freshwater, transportation, recreation, natural habitats for abundant wildlife species, and other uses. The Cape Fear Estuary—a 35-mile section of the river between Wilmington and the Atlantic Ocean, part of which forms a section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, features saline waters critical to habitats and breeding grounds for many animals, including fish, crabs, and shrimp.

With all of these pressures, and so much at stake, Louis Bacon and The Moore Charitable Foundation’s North Carolinian affiliate The Orton Foundation are very grateful that one organization in particular acts as a watchdog and advocate for this mighty but stressed river. Gumboots on the ground and in concert with partners such as the Southern Environmental Law Center and the NC Coastal Federation, Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW) loves this body of water perhaps more than any of us. Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette is at the helm.

A member of Waterkeeper Alliance, CFRW’s mandate is as follows:

  • Education. CFRW organizes environmental seminars covering issues affecting the Lower Cape Fear River Basin. They encourage working internships for students and offer water-quality education programs to schools, civic groups, developers, homeowner associations and others. They provide storm water management training for local government staff.
  • Advocacy: Riverkeeper and Riverwatch members work on water quality related issues such as stopping heavy industrial pollution, concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs (elaborated below), and fish restoration in the Cape Fear River.
  • Action: CFRW encourages participation on and in the river, from paddling to cleaning up, to monitoring water quality and conduct research.

A Focus on CAFOs:

By documenting and showcasing the illegal pollution associated with factory farms throughout the Cape Fear Basin, CFRW is forcing factory farms to improve their practices. This is critical work because there are more CAFOs in the Cape Fear River Basin than any other place on Earth, resulting in over 5 million hogs, 16 million turkeys, and 300 million chickens produced annually in the region. The enormous amounts of pollution discharge from both swine and poultry CAFOs contain nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, heavy metals such as copper, toxic gases including methane, hydrogen-sulfide and ammonia and deadly bacteria and viruses such as MRSA and salmonella.

Despite extensive evidence demonstrating significant contributions of nutrient and bacterial pollution from CAFOs to public waters, the state if North Carolina has failed to uphold its delegated responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. Out of the over 2,000 swine CAFOs in North Carolina, only 14 have been required to obtain a Clean Water Act permit, while the majority operate under a State General Permit that wrongly assumes that all pollution is contained on-site. In truth it leaches into the water table, is sprayed onto field polluting the air and properties of communities, and has widespread devastating effects on people, air and water.

Through group water sampling, ongoing legal cases, and committed collaboration with other partners, CFRW’s work has resulted in cleanup efforts at these facilities. As well, CFRW educates and organizes communities in order to keep new slaughterhouse operations out of the Cape Fear Basin.

We encourage readers to learn more about Cape Fear River Watch here.

Riverkeeper: A Model of River Advocacy and a True Champion of the Hudson River


Riverkeeper
works to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. The Moore Charitable Foundation and founder Louis Bacon are proud and long-time supporter of Riverkeeper and stand behind its work up the Hudson, and in and around the bays of New York City.

riverkeeper-patrol-1A little history: In 1966, the Hudson River was dying. Treated as essentially an open sewer from Albany to New York City, it had been poisoned and stolen from the public. A group of concerned former marines, commercial fisherman, factory workers and carpenters finally had enough. Stepping up to bring the polluters to task, they formed the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA). It was a mighty turn of events, and fifty years later, evolved into the form of Riverkeeper, with Paul Gallay as Hudson Riverkeeper, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as Chief Prosecuting Attorney and John Lipscomb as Boat Captain, with many other tireless workers and partners, the organization has become a trusted model of education and action for river advocacy around the world, and the force that turned – and keeps – the Hudson River glorious again.

In 2015, Riverkeeper fulfilled its role as watchdog for the Hudson in many ways, including the following:

  • Holding back oil terminal expansion: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) changed course on a proposed oil terminal expansion in Albany
  • Tappan Zee Bridge/endangered sturgeon: Monitoring and outreach around the massive Tappan Zee Bridge construction project. Riverkeeper made known the dramatic spike in sturgeon deaths reported to New York State coinciding with the bridge project
  • Water quality sampling: Expanded the water quality testing program and took more than 6,200 measures of water quality from 315 locations, including new monitoring projects at Ossining Beach and in the Saw Mill River, and a pilot project in the Mohawk River
  • Biggest shoreline cleanup ever: More than 2,000 volunteers netted 40 tons of trash and planted/maintained trees along Hudson Valley and New York City shorelines during the fourth annual Riverkeeper Sweep on May 9, 2015
  • Improving New York City’s waterways: Attacked stormwater pollution on Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal by systematically targeting industrial operators that lack Clean Water Act permits. Notices of intent to sue led many previously non-compliant operators to obtain permits and adopt best management practices as part of a stormwater pollution prevention plan.

Now – or rather, still, we have Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. In 2015, Riverkeeper concluded two federal and state-level historic hearings in the battle to deny Entergy another 20 year license, spotlighting the plant’s eight mishaps during the year, including a transformer explosion and fire; highlighting its massive incidental killing of over a billion fish per year; and documenting how this security threat to metro New York can be replaced safely and inexpensively while ensuring reliable electric service.

It is up to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, currently examining the inputs, to determine whether the plant’s licenses should be renewed. We strongly encourage readers to click here to learn more about the threats of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant to the Hudson River and surrounding residents, to take action in favor of a sustainable energy future, and stand with Riverkeeper. 

In 2001, Louis Bacon, Founder and Chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliate foundations was honored to be the 2001 recipient of Riverkeeper’s Environmental Leadership Award.