Hello Atlanta, Boston, Houston, New York, Salt Lake, San Francisco, Seattle ... and any other place that has an airport:
Here in Los Angeles, LAX International airport is trying yet again to expand, and we have been working on a response to the environmental impact report (EIR). We're making our letter public in case you can use any part of it in your backyard. (What is an EIR?)
Transition Los Angeles and our predecessor organization, the Environmental Change-Makers, have been active voices in responding to local Environmental Impact Reports. When these projects solicit public comments, we ask questions, underline problems, and highlight discrepancies regarding the issues of climate change, peak oil, and biocapacity.
When Joanna Macy describes the three types of action required as we experience The Great Turning, she lists "stopping action to prevent further destruction," as well as "a shift in consciousness." Responding to EIRs with pertinent peak oil and climate-change points is a form of stopping action. As we raise these points again and again in front of our city's decision-makers, it is our hope that we can help cultivate a shift in consciousness.
We Transition groups are perhaps the sole champion for these ideas -- rallying against further construction and spending in the wrong direction, and rallying for preparedness. Think about it: who else is going to ask the question "how do you plan to complete this massive project without oil?" We have a job to do, to make that position be heard.
In our more recent EIR responses, we have structured our response document such that the cover letter is relatively short and gives OpEd type statements. Then we dive into their document and dissect it, piece by piece. We often include attachments (like the ASPO curve and the more recent EIA oil production forecast). We include footnotes -- in part because we have the info at our fingertips, but also so that it is clear to the reader that we didn't make this stuff up. We try to use really solid, reputable and respected sources -- government sources whenever possible -- because these will lend the most credibility to our statements.
Download our November 2010 response letter, including sample cover letter to one of our local politicians.
We regard this as Creative Commons -- if any of its text is useful in your local battles, you are welcome to use it.
Link to LAX airport's EIR process
1) Know the due dates. These dates are firm (apparently they're set by federal law). Presume that there is no allowance made for tardiness. Make sure your response is submitted to them in time.
2) Attend the hearings. EIR hearings are a federally regulated proceeding. Speakers take turns at the mike and their comments are typically recorded. There will be lots of people at the hearing. For you to get up and talk rationally about the effect that the combination of peak oil + global warming + economic contraction will have on air transportation will be an awareness-raiser of large proportions. Arrive early to have time to check out the process -- here in L.A. we have to sign in early to get a ticket to speak. You may be given a time limit, so collect your thoughts.
3) Understand the format. An EIR isn't an effective place for an all-out activist's rant. It is a place for rational, orderly, and considered comments. Learn where you are in the EIR process (Notice of Preparation, Draft EIR, Amendment, etc.) There is a graphic guide to our LAX process which I find helpful on page 3 of this pdf.
4) Fit your issues into their format. The government regulates the form and outline of the EIR. You know your (our) issues: peak oil, climate change, economic contraction, and preparing our society. Then creativity comes in -- finding ways to fit our issues into what they are required to review. When we first started doing this, there wasn't even a "greenhouse gas emissions" line item on their form! Now there is, so that's the logical place for the climate change portion of your argument. We've lately been putting peak oil under "mineral resources."
Note: Here in California, we have the CEQA checklist. You may have similar in your state. If you're working in California, don't overlook the very useful final sections: "cumulatively considerable" and "substantial adverse effects on human beings."
5) Your cc list is as important as your content. This is a chance to let your local political representatives and other activists know who you are and what you are fighting for. It is a chance to get them thinking about peak oil, climate change, economic contraction, and their intersection. On our cc lists we typically include our local (city) and state representatives, the U.S. Congressional Peak Oil Caucus, and climate change activists such as the Union of Concerned Scientists. Sometimes we include key local newspaper reporters.
These EIR response letters have, over time, helped our group become well-known to our local political representatives. At a recent in-person meeting on a totally different topic, the field agent of one of our politicians approached me with the specific intent of asking us to write for this particular EIR. We had intended to anyway, but it was quite interesting to have them be asking us.
Joanne Poyourow is a blogger at Transition US. She is the initiator who brought Transition ideas to many areas of Los Angeles. She is active on the core team of Transition Los Angeles, and she cofounded its predecessor organization, the Environmental Change-Makers. Before her involvement in the Transition movement, Joanne was a Certified Public Accountant in public practice, with experience in in taxation, business, and IRS audit defense.