June 2009 Newsletter

Dear friends,

My daughter Annalise is happily in Ecuador starting her senior thesis research on water, sanitation, and health this summer. And I’m looking forward to working vacations in Seattle and in the Sierra as well a meetings in China. You can find some interesting ideas on how to address climate change at the end of this message.

Much of my current news comes from the Green Science Policy Institute. We are providing science in support of California SB772, a bill to remove toxic chemicals from baby products, which recently passed the California Senate — with votes from five Republicans! Our Midnight Memorial Cat Group brings together scientists and veterinarians to look at the connections between environmental exposures and feline hyperthyroid disease. We are also putting on Fire Retardant Dilemma meetings in Berkeley on September 25 and Beijing on August 22 with the goal of bringing scientists together to look at the human health impacts of toxic chemicals.

Happy summer,

PBS’s Frontline “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground” Airs TODAY
Speaking at Isis Warehouse Sale This Weekend at Fort Mason
New Rave Re-Review for Breaking Trail
Midnight Memorial Cat Group
Green Building Project
New Faces at the Green Science Policy Institute
Fire Retardant Dilemma in Beijing on August 22nd
Fire Retardant Dilemma in California on September 25th
California Senate Bill to Remove Toxics from Baby Products (SB772) passes Senate
Upcoming Lectures & Events
Downstairs Studio Apartment available August 15
How to Prevent Climate Change from our Friends Laurie & Alan

To learn how brominated fire retardants and other toxics from our electronics are harming the developing world, tune in TODAY to PBS’s Frontline for “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground, Dirty Little Secrets of the Digital Age.” This broadcasts Tuesday, June 23rd at 9:00 p.m ET. Click here to check local listings and to see a preview.

I will be speaking and signing “Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life” this Saturday at 3pm at the legendary Isis Warehouse Sale, which is coming to San Francisco for the first time. Save up to 70% on ISIS outdoor clothing for women at Fort Mason center, Herbst Pavilion, this weekend. Sale hours on Friday are from 12pm-8pm, Saturday from 10am- 6pm with my lecture and book signing at 3pm, and Sunday 10am-4pm.

Entrance to the ISIS Warehouse Sale is at the intersection of Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street. It’s also accessible by municipal transit lines. For more information, 866-875-8689 http://www.isisforwomen.com/warehouse-sale-san-franciso.html

Here’s an enthusiastic re-review of Breaking Trail,

“I just wanted to let you know that I made a mistake when I reviewed your book in Rock & Ice a while back. I wasn’t sure exactly how to rate books at that point having not done many reviews. I regret that now. After spending the last years reviewing, I realized that …your book was the best climbing book I’ve ever read by a long shot and one of the finest books I’ve read. I really enjoyed it. I just wrote to tell Alison Osius how I felt, and now she is reading it.”

And here’s the review from Alison Osius, the first woman president of the American Alpine Club about Breaking Trail:

If you would like to see a series of photo-adventure albums, (dramatic color slide shows with text) to accompany Breaking Trail or to order an autographed copy go to

GSP is helping put together a series of conference calls between health scientists, veterinarians, toxicologists, and epidemiologists to work together to study a possible relationship between environmental exposures and the current epidemic of hyperthyroid disease in cats.
I named the group after my beloved cat Midnight who died of this disease. You can read the op-ed I wrote in the LA Times about her death at

A team of green builders, architects and chemists are spreading the word that the second greatest use of halogenated flame retardants is in building insulation. When builders are informed of the potential adverse health and environmental impacts, they can choose safer materials.

To help get out this message, I have accepted an invitation to join the Editorial Advisory Board of Environmental Building News, a well-respected publication serving the green building community.

The Institute is in transition. We are sad to be saying good-bye to Elana, as she is heading East to begin business school at Yale this fall. Elana has been integral to our work at GSP and she will be missed. We warmly wish her the best of luck.

Filling her shoes, we are happy to welcome Kate Hug, a Reed College graduate, who will bring new perspectives to the Green Science Policy Institute. We would also like to welcome Tara Rosebaugh, who will be helping with books sales, lectures, and our data base. Heidi Botts will continue to work with us on events and special projects.

You can contact Kate at info@greensciencepolicy.org and Tara at helper@arleneblum.com.

I’m delighted to be co-chairing the session, “BFRs, PFCs and other POPs: Public Health and Exposure” at the Dioxin 2009 meeting in Beijing, August 23 to 29.

The Green Science Policy is hosting its first Fire Retardant Dilemma Symposium in China on August 22nd 8:30am-12:00pm in Beijing the day before Dioxin 2009. The meeting will bring together leading scientists from the U.S. and China, as well as downstream users of the chemicals to share information and research results on the impacts of fire retardant materials and policies and how to protect human and environmental health by reducing toxics in consumer products.

Speakers will include:
Linda Birnbaum
, PhD, DABT, ATS, Director, U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Arlene Blum, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
Susan Shaw, DrPH, Director, U.S. Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI)
Tom Webster, DSc, Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health
Chinese Scientist to discuss PBDE and other halogenated fire retardant exposure measurements in China

Registration is free and open to the public, please e-mail info@greensciencepolicy.org for information or to register. Please pass this information on.

You are invited to attend:
The Fire Retardant Dilemma Session IX
When: Friday, September 25, 8:30am to 4:00pm
Where: 150 University Hall, 2199 Addison Street, UC Berkeley (Oxford and Addison). To attend, RSVP with contact info: FRDilemma@gmail.com
View past presentations at: http://greensciencepolicy.org/conferences.shtml

This symposium series brings together contributors from industry, government, academia, and citizens groups to share information and research results on the impacts of fire retardant materials and policies and how to protect human and environmental health by reducing toxics in consumer products.

This session will feature talks on human health effects and an author panel including:

Mark Schapiro, author of EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power
Randall Fitzgerald, author of The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health
Asa Bradman, PhD, MS, Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research
School of Public Health/UC Berkeley, Human health effects from exposure to PBDEs

California Senate Bill 772, Friends of the Earth and Mark Leno’s newly proposed California legislation to end a flammability requirement that has led to the use of toxic or untested fire retardants in baby products containing foam, passed the state senate — with five Republicans voting for it! Currently across the U.S., most nursing pillows, high chairs, strollers, changing pads, etc are treated with fire retardant chemicals to meet TB117, the California furniture and juvenile product flammability standard. There is no data showing these products pose a fire hazard.

August 22, 2009, 8:30 am-12pm
The Fire Retardant Dilemma in China: Fire safety, human health, and the environment
Beijing, China
Half day workshop, Location TBA
Register by July 15th to info@greensciencepolicy.org

August 23-29, 2009
“BFRs, PFCs and other POPs: public health and exposure”
29th International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants
(Dioxin 2009)
Beijing International Convention Center (BICC), Beijing, China
For more information visit http://www.dioxin2009.org

September 25, 2009, 8am-4pm
Green Science Policy Symposium
The Fire Retardant Dilemma: Part IX
150 University Hall, UC Berkeley
To register or for more information
To RSVP, send your name, position, and email contact:
FRDilemma@gmail.com or 510 644 3164

**October 16, 2009, 9am
Keynote for Appalachian College Association
Abbington, Virginia
(**This talk is not open to the public)


Sunny two room studio apartment in quiet woodsy neighborhood in North Berkeley Hills, with garden, fenced yard, off-street parking, near Tilden Park, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and shuttle service to UC Berkeley.

Private entrance. Small kitchen with gas stove, refrigerator. Full bathroom. Share washer and dryer with owner. Separate phone line. Wireless DSL. About 400 square feet. Looking for a responsible non-smoking tenant. Dogs are not allowed. Cats negotiable.

$900 monthly rent plus share utilities (Utilities are about $50 in the summer and $100 in the winter)

Deposit is 500 plus last months rent. Available August 15. One year lease.

Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel (williams.zabel@gmail.com) are old friends from our baby group who during their decades as environmental enforcement attorneys with the U.S. EPA in San Francisco have had extensive experience working on cap-and-trade and emission-offset programs in California, the main laboratory for this type of programs in the U.S.
Based on this experience, they are very concerned that the pending U.S. legislation to reduce climate change won’t help solve the problem. Please read their informative message below and contact them if you might like to help.
Dear Friends:
Please write Congress to oppose the Waxman-Markey Climate & Energy Bill (HR 2454), especially the “cap-and-trade” and “offset” provisions. The bill is gathering steam in Congress and a vote may be held in the House as soon as June 26th. The bill would have negative consequences for our economy and for our ability to fight global warming. In our view, it is fatally flawed. It would lock in an extended period of continued climate degradation which could lead to catastrophic climate change. It would fleece consumers, enrich fossil fuel and carbon trading interests, all without producing meaningful momentum towards a clean energy economy. It would harm international negotiations because an inadequate U.S. effort would dissuade other critical countries such as China and India from stepping up to the plate to reduce their own emissions. Finally, if passed, the bill will be hard to improve in future legislation, because the special interests that will profit from it will aggressively fight reforms. Please see our summary at http://carbonfees.org/home/WhyWaxman-MarkeyWontWorkJune-09.pdf.
As many of you know, we are speaking out in our personal capacity only, as parents, citizens, attorneys and a married couple (after ethical clearance from our U.S. EPA ethics officers). But our opinions are based on more than 20-years as environmental enforcement attorneys with U.S. EPA Region IX in San Francisco, including Allan’s extensive experience working on cap-and-trade and emission-offset programs in California, the main laboratory for this type of programs in the U.S.
It is hard to believe that this problem is brought to us by the new Administration (we are still pro-Obama) and by the Democratic leadership, but based on our experience, we believe the Waxman-Markey bill is completely misguided and a huge threat to our future.
There is a better alternative that would be both cheaper for consumers and vastly more effective at combating climate change. With similar ideas already touted by Sweden, France and China, carbon fees with rebates could become politically feasible if proposed by President Obama. See http://www.carbonfees.org/home/EnvirFinance03_09.pdf (shorter version) and http://www.carbonfees.org/home/Cap-and-TradeVsCarbonFees.pdf (longer version).
We include a sample letter to Congress below, followed by additional information about the bill and links to other resources.
Thank you!
Laurie and Allan

To send your own version of the sample letter below to your Congressional representatives, go to www.beavoter.org and enter your zip code.To write to President Obama, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.

Sample Letter to President/Congress
Dear President Obama/Congressperson/Senator:
I am writing to express my opposition to the Waxman-Markey bill (HR. 2454), especially its cap-and-trade and offset provisions. The bill provides for 2 billion tons of emissions offsets annually that could be used to meet all required emissions reductions until 2026. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (November 2008, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-151) has confirmed that it is impossible to judge the integrity of offsets (“it is impossible to know with certainty whether any given project is additional.” p.39). As a result, this bill would show progress on paper, while allowing degradation in the environment. It would enrich investors in offsets, fossil-fuel interests, certifiers and traders, without helping us move towards a clean-energy economy. Please help defeat this bill and its cap-and-trade and offset provisions. Energy efficiency standards, smart grid and transmission line studies and green job training are all steps in the right direction. However, there will not be very many “green jobs” unless we have a climate bill that actually corrects the competitive-price advantage that fossil fuels continue to enjoy over clean energy alternatives. Please consider the option of carbon fees with a monthly per capita rebate presented at http://www.carbonfees.org/home/EnvirFinance03_09.pdf (shorter version) and http://www.carbonfees.org/home/Cap-and-TradeVsCarbonFees.pdf (longer version). Thank you for your consideration.
Your concerned constituent, [Name, Address, Email]

Additional Information
Despite the best intentions of some proponents, the Waxman-Markey Climate and Energy bill is a huge giveaway to polluters and offset investors and would lock in years of additional climate degradation by:
1. Un-provable Offsets: Until 2026, all requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emission in the U.S. could be met by un-provable offset projects (you preserve an acre of forest in the Amazon (supposedly) while I keep burning coal here in the U.S.).
2. Cap-and-Trade: Uses a weak version of the cap-and-trade system that failed to produce meaningful reductions in Europe. Cap-and-trade is a complex system that is subject to manipulation, inaccurate emissions reporting and gaming. Its use in Europe and other programs has proved it is not an efficient way to cut emissions. The cap-and-trade in Waxman-Markey proposes very slow reductions, inconsistent with what the science says we need.
3. New Coal-Fired Power Plants: Allows new coal-fired power plants without sequestration for over a decade, at a time when we should be phasing out this huge source of greenhouse gases.
4. Inadequate Incentives for Clean Energy Investment: Because the bill does not insure that Clean Energy alternatives will become competitive with fossil fuels within a known time frame, it undermines investment in clean energy and slows the transition we need to make away from fossil fuels.
5. Huge Giveaways to Powerful Interests: The bill provides huge benefits to powerful interests, including fossil fuel companies and investors in offsets. These interests will fight hard against any effort to undo this complex and ineffective scheme if the Waxman-Markey bill becomes law.
6. Undermines International Negotiations: Enacting a fatally flawed ineffective bill will undermine our ability to be successful in international negotiations that are necessary to secure emission reductions in the developing world, particularly China and India. See article below from a French Minister.
Many of you have asked us, ”Isn’t it better than nothing?” Our answer is no; the bill would create the appearance of taking action, but lock in an ineffective approach. It would empower the special interests it benefits to fight against measures that would actually help solve the problem.
If you have any questions, we are available to discuss. Please call us at (510) 390-4224 or read our discussion paper proposing a better alternative at http://www.carbonfees.org/home/Cap-and-TradeVsCarbonFees.pdf

Links to Additional Resources
Friends of the Earth-How offsets are like the sub-prime mortgages: http://www.foe.org/subprime-carbon.
Friends of the Earth (as part of a coalition with many other environmental organizations) Statement: http://www.foe.org/climate-bill-passes-house-committee [an excerpt]: “The resulting bill reflects the triumph of politics over science, and the triumph of industry influence over the public interest. Regrettably, we cannot support this legislation unless and until it is substantially strengthened. The lives and livelihoods of 7 billion people worldwide will be affected by America’s response to the climate crisis. The response embodied in today’s bill is not only inadequate it is counterproductive.
“As passed through the Energy & Commerce Committee, the American Clean Energy and Security Act sets targets for reducing pollution that are far weaker than science says are necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. The targets are far less ambitious than what is achievable with already existing technology. They are further undermined by massive loopholes that could allow the most polluting industries to avoid real emission reductions until 2027. Rather than provide relief and support to consumers, the bill showers polluting industries with hundreds of billions of dollars in free allowances and direct subsidies that will slow renewable energy development and lock in a new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants. At the same time, the bill would remove the President’s authority to address global warming pollution using laws already on the books.”
WRI – Summary of the Bill: http://www.wri.org/stories/2009/04/brief-summary-waxman-markey-discussion-draft (note: some provisions were weakened between this summary and the current version of the bill)
International Support for Revenue-Neutral Carbon Fees/Taxes:
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Sweden-to-call-for-CO2-tax-as-apf-15477837.html?.v=1 (June 09)
France: http://www.grist.org/article/2009-06-11-france-carbon-tax-2011 (June 09)
China: http://www.china.org.cn/environment/policies_announcements/2009-04/22/content_17652059.htm (Apr 09) http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKPEK25104720090501 (May09); http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601130&sid=aLM4otYnvXHQ (June 09)
News Item Confirming Impact on International Negotiations:
French Minister calls Waxman-Markey “Far Off Mark”
Article from June 8th, 2009 BNA Daily Environmental Reporter
Daily Environment Report: All Issues > 2009 > June > 06/08/2009 > News > Climate Change: French Minister Says U.S. Emissions Proposal ‘Far Off Mark,’ Warns of Border Carbon Tax

PARIS­Targets for emissions cuts in a climate and energy bill currently before the U.S. Congress fall far short of international levels considered the minimum to fend off catastrophic climate change, but France still hopes a compromise can be worked out in time for a climate summit in December, the country’s junior environment minister said June 2.
In comments to a French Senate roundtable on environmental taxation, Chantal Jouanno, France’s secretary of ecology, said the Waxman-Markey bill, approved May 21 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by only 8 percent by 2020 compared with 1990. That level is “clearly far off the mark” of 25 percent to 40 percent cuts from 1990 levels cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as necessary to avoid disaster, she said.

Please contact us if you would like your name to be taken off this e-mail list or would like more information about the Green Science Policy Institute or Arlene Blum’s leadership and sustainability lectures or workshops

Arlene Blum PhD
Visiting Scholar, Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute
Telephone: 510 644-3164           Mobile: 510 919-6363
Web: www.greensciencepolicy.org, www.arleneblum.com