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Zero- and low-waste businesses band together against plastic pollution

News Feed
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Jessica Georges loves the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she lives. But a few years ago, she realized even the most pristine parts of town weren’t immune to plastic pollution. “You can’t walk three yards on most beach days and not run into some sort of plastic,” she told EHN. Increasingly bothered by what she saw, she created a low-waste business — Green Road Refill — to sell low-cost and low-waste goods to her community. Now, she and other low-waste businesses are strengthening their efforts to reduce plastic pollution via the National Business Coalition for the Oceans, a nationwide organization of businesses supported by nonprofit Oceana. The coalition focuses on advancing federal, state and local policies to improve ocean health, in part by curbing single-use plastics. Businesses involved in the coalition work for plastics policy change by sending letters, signing petitions, testifying at hearings and educating customers. “We’re really happy to be part of a coalition where others are bringing their perspectives and their solutions, and we can all join forces and create the systems change that’s necessary,” Lauren Sweeney, a coalition member and co-founder of reusable packaging company Deliver Zero, told EHN. Plastic policy progressOceana’s business coalition emerged in 2021, after a partnership between Oceana, government officials and regional businesses helped ban oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic and eastern Gulf coasts. It became clear businesses voicing their concerns had the power to convince lawmakers, said Claudia Davis, the coordinator of the coalition.The coalition provides tools to business owners to help them learn about policy issues related to the oceans and gives them accessible ways to participate in policy efforts. Davis organizes members to sign petitions, author opinion pieces to publish in news outlets, testify at hearings and meet with lawmakers about relevant legislation. Any business interested in ocean health can join. Now, 250 business owners, from diving shops to restaurants to refilleries (shops where customers can refill reusable packaging with home and personal care products), are involved. “We really want to encourage collective action from the business community, because that's what's going to deliver policy victories that make a change for the most people,” Davis told EHN. At the federal level, the coalition is working to pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which would set nationwide plastics reduction targets, ban certain single-use plastic products and create a nationwide beverage container refund program. The coalition is working to expand the number of states and local governments with similar plastic legislation. In 2022, the coalition worked with multiple businesses in New York City to pass the “skip the stuff” law, which prohibits New York City restaurants from providing single-use plastics in takeout orders unless the customer asks. While the law will help reduce plastic pollution, it will also help restaurants save money, Davis said.Sweeney and Larasati Vitoux, another coalition member who runs a New York City refillery called the Maison Jar, testified for the bill at a hearing in front of New York City’s Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection.“I think it really made a difference to have members of the community who were saying “This is important to me not just as an individual, not just because I want to see less trash in my community, but [because] it's gonna save me and all of us money in the long run,”’ Davis said.A business perspectiveLow-waste businesses can provide a crucial perspective to lawmakers concerned about how policy changes will impact the economy. “Other businesses will come forward and say these bills are terrible for business,” Sweeney said. “Actually, you can run a business without polluting the planet and the oceans. The goal of these organizations is to counter the narrative that plastic reduction solutions are inherently anti-business.”Bringing business voices to environmental advocacy work is critical, said Jennifer Congdon, deputy director for Beyond Plastics, an environmental nonprofit not involved in Oceana’s coalition. Policymakers can get a lot of reassurance from hearing that environmental policies pushed by advocates “are going to shift the economy, but they’re not going to harm the economy,” she told EHN. “There’s a path forward for economic growth.” "You can run a business without polluting the planet and the oceans. The goal of these organizations is to counter the narrative that plastic reduction solutions are inherently anti-business.” - Lauren Sweeney, Deliver ZeroAt Green Road Refill, Georges sells more than 40 plant-based products such as dish soaps, shampoos and detergents. Running a refill shop is difficult work with slim margins, said Georges and Katie Rodgers-Hubbard, who runs a similar refillery in Savannah, Georgia, called Lite Foot Company.Bills that restrict single-use plastics give businesses like theirs a leg up by shifting the external costs of plastic like its environmental and public health harms — back to the businesses. “That makes plastic less competitive against other materials and other methods of delivering goods to people,” said Congdon. Preventing plastic pollutionWhile they work toward policy action, the businesses themselves are helping to fight pollution, too. In 2023, Rodgers-Hubbard decided that running a low-waste business and joining other nonprofit efforts wasn’t enough. She started a new, nonprofit branch of her business: Lite Foot Environmental Foundation. The foundation is creating a grade-school curriculum to educate students about plastic pollution and reuse. They also host clothing and book swaps and clothing repair days to encourage the Savannah community to extend the life of belongings. “We’re hoping to push the narrative,” Rodgers-Hubbard said. “Let’s fix things, let’s buy things of quality.” And at Green Road Refill, Georges doesn’t only sell closed-loop products —her suppliers are closed-loop, too. She buys many of her products in 30- to 55-gallon containers from a company called Rustic Strength, which she then sends back to the company once the containers are empty. When considering what to put on her shelves, she prioritizes products with biodegradable and non-toxic ingredients. Georges also focuses on educating customers and gives talks to libraries and elementary schools about plastic pollution. She asks everyone who gets a refill at her shop to contribute to an art installation made of non-recyclable bottle caps—a great way to start conversations about reducing one’s plastic footprint, she said. She passes information and petitions from Oceana on to customers in her monthly newsletters. “When I first started, I had to really do a lot of work explaining what plastic was and why it's important to reduce your own plastic footprint,” she said. But now, the people who visit her shop are more familiar with refilleries and living a low-waste lifestyle. “Businesses that exist almost for the sole purpose of reducing single use plastic are growing,” said Sweeney. “This is an exciting sector and the U.S. could develop more leadership in this sector by actually passing policy more quickly.”

Jessica Georges loves the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she lives. But a few years ago, she realized even the most pristine parts of town weren’t immune to plastic pollution. “You can’t walk three yards on most beach days and not run into some sort of plastic,” she told EHN. Increasingly bothered by what she saw, she created a low-waste business — Green Road Refill — to sell low-cost and low-waste goods to her community. Now, she and other low-waste businesses are strengthening their efforts to reduce plastic pollution via the National Business Coalition for the Oceans, a nationwide organization of businesses supported by nonprofit Oceana. The coalition focuses on advancing federal, state and local policies to improve ocean health, in part by curbing single-use plastics. Businesses involved in the coalition work for plastics policy change by sending letters, signing petitions, testifying at hearings and educating customers. “We’re really happy to be part of a coalition where others are bringing their perspectives and their solutions, and we can all join forces and create the systems change that’s necessary,” Lauren Sweeney, a coalition member and co-founder of reusable packaging company Deliver Zero, told EHN. Plastic policy progressOceana’s business coalition emerged in 2021, after a partnership between Oceana, government officials and regional businesses helped ban oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic and eastern Gulf coasts. It became clear businesses voicing their concerns had the power to convince lawmakers, said Claudia Davis, the coordinator of the coalition.The coalition provides tools to business owners to help them learn about policy issues related to the oceans and gives them accessible ways to participate in policy efforts. Davis organizes members to sign petitions, author opinion pieces to publish in news outlets, testify at hearings and meet with lawmakers about relevant legislation. Any business interested in ocean health can join. Now, 250 business owners, from diving shops to restaurants to refilleries (shops where customers can refill reusable packaging with home and personal care products), are involved. “We really want to encourage collective action from the business community, because that's what's going to deliver policy victories that make a change for the most people,” Davis told EHN. At the federal level, the coalition is working to pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which would set nationwide plastics reduction targets, ban certain single-use plastic products and create a nationwide beverage container refund program. The coalition is working to expand the number of states and local governments with similar plastic legislation. In 2022, the coalition worked with multiple businesses in New York City to pass the “skip the stuff” law, which prohibits New York City restaurants from providing single-use plastics in takeout orders unless the customer asks. While the law will help reduce plastic pollution, it will also help restaurants save money, Davis said.Sweeney and Larasati Vitoux, another coalition member who runs a New York City refillery called the Maison Jar, testified for the bill at a hearing in front of New York City’s Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection.“I think it really made a difference to have members of the community who were saying “This is important to me not just as an individual, not just because I want to see less trash in my community, but [because] it's gonna save me and all of us money in the long run,”’ Davis said.A business perspectiveLow-waste businesses can provide a crucial perspective to lawmakers concerned about how policy changes will impact the economy. “Other businesses will come forward and say these bills are terrible for business,” Sweeney said. “Actually, you can run a business without polluting the planet and the oceans. The goal of these organizations is to counter the narrative that plastic reduction solutions are inherently anti-business.”Bringing business voices to environmental advocacy work is critical, said Jennifer Congdon, deputy director for Beyond Plastics, an environmental nonprofit not involved in Oceana’s coalition. Policymakers can get a lot of reassurance from hearing that environmental policies pushed by advocates “are going to shift the economy, but they’re not going to harm the economy,” she told EHN. “There’s a path forward for economic growth.” "You can run a business without polluting the planet and the oceans. The goal of these organizations is to counter the narrative that plastic reduction solutions are inherently anti-business.” - Lauren Sweeney, Deliver ZeroAt Green Road Refill, Georges sells more than 40 plant-based products such as dish soaps, shampoos and detergents. Running a refill shop is difficult work with slim margins, said Georges and Katie Rodgers-Hubbard, who runs a similar refillery in Savannah, Georgia, called Lite Foot Company.Bills that restrict single-use plastics give businesses like theirs a leg up by shifting the external costs of plastic like its environmental and public health harms — back to the businesses. “That makes plastic less competitive against other materials and other methods of delivering goods to people,” said Congdon. Preventing plastic pollutionWhile they work toward policy action, the businesses themselves are helping to fight pollution, too. In 2023, Rodgers-Hubbard decided that running a low-waste business and joining other nonprofit efforts wasn’t enough. She started a new, nonprofit branch of her business: Lite Foot Environmental Foundation. The foundation is creating a grade-school curriculum to educate students about plastic pollution and reuse. They also host clothing and book swaps and clothing repair days to encourage the Savannah community to extend the life of belongings. “We’re hoping to push the narrative,” Rodgers-Hubbard said. “Let’s fix things, let’s buy things of quality.” And at Green Road Refill, Georges doesn’t only sell closed-loop products —her suppliers are closed-loop, too. She buys many of her products in 30- to 55-gallon containers from a company called Rustic Strength, which she then sends back to the company once the containers are empty. When considering what to put on her shelves, she prioritizes products with biodegradable and non-toxic ingredients. Georges also focuses on educating customers and gives talks to libraries and elementary schools about plastic pollution. She asks everyone who gets a refill at her shop to contribute to an art installation made of non-recyclable bottle caps—a great way to start conversations about reducing one’s plastic footprint, she said. She passes information and petitions from Oceana on to customers in her monthly newsletters. “When I first started, I had to really do a lot of work explaining what plastic was and why it's important to reduce your own plastic footprint,” she said. But now, the people who visit her shop are more familiar with refilleries and living a low-waste lifestyle. “Businesses that exist almost for the sole purpose of reducing single use plastic are growing,” said Sweeney. “This is an exciting sector and the U.S. could develop more leadership in this sector by actually passing policy more quickly.”



Jessica Georges loves the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she lives.


But a few years ago, she realized even the most pristine parts of town weren’t immune to plastic pollution. “You can’t walk three yards on most beach days and not run into some sort of plastic,” she told EHN. Increasingly bothered by what she saw, she created a low-waste business — Green Road Refill — to sell low-cost and low-waste goods to her community.

Now, she and other low-waste businesses are strengthening their efforts to reduce plastic pollution via the National Business Coalition for the Oceans, a nationwide organization of businesses supported by nonprofit Oceana. The coalition focuses on advancing federal, state and local policies to improve ocean health, in part by curbing single-use plastics. Businesses involved in the coalition work for plastics policy change by sending letters, signing petitions, testifying at hearings and educating customers.

“We’re really happy to be part of a coalition where others are bringing their perspectives and their solutions, and we can all join forces and create the systems change that’s necessary,” Lauren Sweeney, a coalition member and co-founder of reusable packaging company Deliver Zero, told EHN.

Plastic policy progress


Oceana’s business coalition emerged in 2021, after a partnership between Oceana, government officials and regional businesses helped ban oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic and eastern Gulf coasts. It became clear businesses voicing their concerns had the power to convince lawmakers, said Claudia Davis, the coordinator of the coalition.

The coalition provides tools to business owners to help them learn about policy issues related to the oceans and gives them accessible ways to participate in policy efforts. Davis organizes members to sign petitions, author opinion pieces to publish in news outlets, testify at hearings and meet with lawmakers about relevant legislation. Any business interested in ocean health can join. Now, 250 business owners, from diving shops to restaurants to refilleries (shops where customers can refill reusable packaging with home and personal care products), are involved.

“We really want to encourage collective action from the business community, because that's what's going to deliver policy victories that make a change for the most people,” Davis told EHN.

At the federal level, the coalition is working to pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which would set nationwide plastics reduction targets, ban certain single-use plastic products and create a nationwide beverage container refund program.

The coalition is working to expand the number of states and local governments with similar plastic legislation.

In 2022, the coalition worked with multiple businesses in New York City to pass the “skip the stuff” law, which prohibits New York City restaurants from providing single-use plastics in takeout orders unless the customer asks. While the law will help reduce plastic pollution, it will also help restaurants save money, Davis said.


plastic


zero waste

Sweeney and Larasati Vitoux, another coalition member who runs a New York City refillery called the Maison Jar, testified for the bill at a hearing in front of New York City’s Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection.

“I think it really made a difference to have members of the community who were saying “This is important to me not just as an individual, not just because I want to see less trash in my community, but [because] it's gonna save me and all of us money in the long run,”’ Davis said.

A business perspective


Low-waste businesses can provide a crucial perspective to lawmakers concerned about how policy changes will impact the economy. “Other businesses will come forward and say these bills are terrible for business,” Sweeney said. “Actually, you can run a business without polluting the planet and the oceans. The goal of these organizations is to counter the narrative that plastic reduction solutions are inherently anti-business.”

Bringing business voices to environmental advocacy work is critical, said Jennifer Congdon, deputy director for Beyond Plastics, an environmental nonprofit not involved in Oceana’s coalition. Policymakers can get a lot of reassurance from hearing that environmental policies pushed by advocates “are going to shift the economy, but they’re not going to harm the economy,” she told EHN. “There’s a path forward for economic growth.”

"You can run a business without polluting the planet and the oceans. The goal of these organizations is to counter the narrative that plastic reduction solutions are inherently anti-business.” - Lauren Sweeney, Deliver Zero

At Green Road Refill, Georges sells more than 40 plant-based products such as dish soaps, shampoos and detergents. Running a refill shop is difficult work with slim margins, said Georges and Katie Rodgers-Hubbard, who runs a similar refillery in Savannah, Georgia, called Lite Foot Company.

Bills that restrict single-use plastics give businesses like theirs a leg up by shifting the external costs of plastic like its environmental and public health harms — back to the businesses. “That makes plastic less competitive against other materials and other methods of delivering goods to people,” said Congdon.

Preventing plastic pollution


plastic solutions

While they work toward policy action, the businesses themselves are helping to fight pollution, too. In 2023, Rodgers-Hubbard decided that running a low-waste business and joining other nonprofit efforts wasn’t enough. She started a new, nonprofit branch of her business: Lite Foot Environmental Foundation.

The foundation is creating a grade-school curriculum to educate students about plastic pollution and reuse. They also host clothing and book swaps and clothing repair days to encourage the Savannah community to extend the life of belongings. “We’re hoping to push the narrative,” Rodgers-Hubbard said. “Let’s fix things, let’s buy things of quality.”

And at Green Road Refill, Georges doesn’t only sell closed-loop products —her suppliers are closed-loop, too. She buys many of her products in 30- to 55-gallon containers from a company called Rustic Strength, which she then sends back to the company once the containers are empty. When considering what to put on her shelves, she prioritizes products with biodegradable and non-toxic ingredients.

Georges also focuses on educating customers and gives talks to libraries and elementary schools about plastic pollution. She asks everyone who gets a refill at her shop to contribute to an art installation made of non-recyclable bottle caps—a great way to start conversations about reducing one’s plastic footprint, she said. She passes information and petitions from Oceana on to customers in her monthly newsletters.

“When I first started, I had to really do a lot of work explaining what plastic was and why it's important to reduce your own plastic footprint,” she said. But now, the people who visit her shop are more familiar with refilleries and living a low-waste lifestyle.

“Businesses that exist almost for the sole purpose of reducing single use plastic are growing,” said Sweeney. “This is an exciting sector and the U.S. could develop more leadership in this sector by actually passing policy more quickly.”

Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of

Getting to systemic sustainability

At the 2024 Earth Day Colloquium, World Resource Institute President and CEO Ani Dasgupta says systemic changes in a handful of countries will be critical to meeting global emissions goals.

Add up the commitments from the Paris Agreement, the Glasgow Climate Pact, and various commitments made by cities, countries, and businesses, and the world would be able to hold the global average temperature increase to 1.9 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, says Ani Dasgupta, the president and chief executive officer of the World Resources Institute (WRI).While that is well above the 1.5 C threshold that many scientists agree would limit the most severe impacts of climate change, it is below the 2.0 degree threshold that could lead to even more catastrophic impacts, such as the collapse of ice sheets and a 30-foot rise in sea levels.However, Dasgupta notes, actions have so far not matched up with commitments.“There’s a huge gap between commitment and outcomes,” Dasgupta said during his talk, “Energizing the global transition,” at the 2024 Earth Day Colloquium co-hosted by the MIT Energy Initiative and MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and sponsored by the Climate Nucleus.Dasgupta noted that oil companies did $6 trillion worth of business across the world last year — $1 trillion more than they were planning. About 7 percent of the world’s remaining tropical forests were destroyed during that same time, he added, and global inequality grew even worse than before.“None of these things were illegal, because the system we have today produces these outcomes,” he said. “My point is that it’s not one thing that needs to change. The whole system needs to change.”People, climate, and natureDasgupta, who previously held positions in nonprofits in India and at the World Bank, is a recognized leader in sustainable cities, poverty alleviation, and building cultures of inclusion. Under his leadership, WRI, a global research nonprofit that studies sustainable practices with the goal of fundamentally transforming the world’s food, land and water, energy, and cities, adopted a new five-year strategy called “Getting the Transition Right for People, Nature, and Climate 2023-2027.” It focuses on creating new economic opportunities to meet people’s essential needs, restore nature, and rapidly lower emissions, while building resilient communities. In fact, during his talk, Dasgupta said that his organization has moved away from talking about initiatives in terms of their impact on greenhouse gas emissions — instead taking a more holistic view of sustainability.“There is no net zero without nature,” Dasgupta said. He showed a slide with a graphic illustrating potential progress toward net-zero goals. “If nature gets diminished, that chart becomes even steeper. It’s very steep right now, but natural systems absorb carbon dioxide. So, if the natural systems keep getting destroyed, that curve becomes harder and harder.”A focus on people is necessary, Dasgupta said, in part because of the unequal climate impacts that the rich and the poor are likely to face in the coming years. “If you made it to this room, you will not be impacted by climate change,” he said. “You have resources to figure out what to do about it. The people who get impacted are people who don’t have resources. It is immensely unfair. Our belief is, if we don’t do climate policy that helps people directly, we won’t be able to make progress.”Where to start?Although Dasgupta stressed that systemic change is needed to bring carbon emissions in line with long-term climate goals, he made the case that it is unrealistic to implement this change around the globe all at once. “This transition will not happen in 196 countries at the same time,” he said. “The question is, how do we get to the tipping point so that it happens at scale? We’ve worked the past few years to ask the question, what is it you need to do to create this tipping point for change?”Analysts at WRI looked for countries that are large producers of carbon, those with substantial tropical forest cover, and those with large quantities of people living in poverty. “We basically tried to draw a map of, where are the biggest challenges for climate change?” Dasgupta said.That map features a relative handful of countries, including the United States, Mexico, China, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Indonesia. Dasgupta said, “Our argument is that, if we could figure out and focus all our efforts to help these countries transition, that will create a ripple effect — of understanding technology, understanding the market, understanding capacity, and understanding the politics of change that will unleash how the rest of these regions will bring change.”Spotlight on the subcontinentDasgupta used one of these countries, his native India, to illustrate the nuanced challenges and opportunities presented by various markets around the globe. In India, he noted, there are around 3 million projected jobs tied to the country’s transition to renewable energy. However, that number is dwarfed by the 10 to 12 million jobs per year the Indian economy needs to create simply to keep up with population growth.“Every developing country faces this question — how to keep growing in a way that reduces their carbon footprint,” Dasgupta said.Five states in India worked with WRI to pool their buying power and procure 5,000 electric buses, saving 60 percent of the cost as a result. Over the next two decades, Dasgupta said, the fleet of electric buses in those five states is expected to increase to 800,000.In the Indian state of Rajasthan, Dasgupta said, 59 percent of power already comes from solar energy. At times, Rajasthan produces more solar than it can use, and officials are exploring ways to either store the excess energy or sell it to other states. But in another state, Jharkhand, where much of the country’s coal is sourced, only 5 percent of power comes from solar. Officials in Jharkhand have reached out to WRI to discuss how to transition their energy economy, as they recognize that coal will fall out of favor in the future, Dasgupta said.“The complexities of the transition are enormous in a country this big,” Dasgupta said. “This is true in most large countries.”The road aheadDespite the challenges ahead, the colloquium was also marked by notes of optimism. In his opening remarks, Robert Stoner, the founding director of the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design, pointed out how much progress has been made on environmental cleanup since the first Earth Day in 1970. “The world was a very different, much dirtier, place in many ways,” Stoner said. “Our air was a mess, our waterways were a mess, and it was beginning to be noticeable. Since then, Earth Day has become an important part of the fabric of American and global society.”While Dasgupta said that the world presently lacks the “orchestration” among various stakeholders needed to bring climate change under control, he expressed hope that collaboration in key countries could accelerate progress.“I strongly believe that what we need is a very different way of collaborating radically — across organizations like yours, organizations like ours, businesses, and governments,” Dasgupta said. “Otherwise, this transition will not happen at the scale and speed we need.”

Revealed: the rural Californians who can’t sell their businesses – because LA is their landlord

Los Angeles has long owned large swathes of the Owens valley. An investigation reveals how the city has tightened its gripThis article is reported by AfroLA and co-published by AfroLA, Guardian US and the Mammoth Sheet. It’s the first of several stories examining the impact of Los Angeles’s extensive landownership in the Owens Valley.A red horse statue perched on a 12ft pole greets drivers coming to the town of Bishop from the south. It’s one of the first landmarks here, part of Mike Allen’s corrugated metal feed store – a local institution that sells camping gear, livestock feed and moving equipment in this expansive region of inland California. Continue reading...

This article is reported by AfroLA and co-published by AfroLA, Guardian US and the Mammoth Sheet. It’s the first of several stories examining the impact of Los Angeles’s extensive landownership in the Owens Valley.A red horse statue perched on a 12ft pole greets drivers coming to the town of Bishop from the south. It’s one of the first landmarks here, part of Mike Allen’s corrugated metal feed store – a local institution that sells camping gear, livestock feed and moving equipment in this expansive region of inland California.But Allen desperately wants to sell it so he can retire.“I own the building, the inventory, and the asphalt for the parking lot,” Allen said. “But I don’t own the land under it.”And so Allen can’t get rid of it.The land under Allen’s store belongs to an owner 300 miles away: the city of Los Angeles, specifically its department of water and power (DWP).LA has owned large swathes of the Owens valley, where Bishop is located, for more than a century. The city first swooped in in the early 1900s, at the dawn of California’s water wars. As the metropolis grew at breakneck speed, its leaders searched for ways to sustain that population, and when they entered the Owens valley, they found what LA lacked: plenty of water.The Owens River before aqueduct before 1968. Photograph: Library of CongressOver the next decades, LA agents secretly, and aggressively, worked to buy up Owens valley land and take ownership of the water rights that came with those parcels. By 1933, DWP had gobbled up the large majority of all properties in the towns of Bishop, Big Pine, Independence and Lone Pine.Today, DWP owns 90% of privately available land in Inyo county, which encompasses the Owens valley, and 30% of all the land in neighboring Mono county. Aqueducts transporting water from both counties provided 395,000 acre-feet of water to LA last year – about 73% of the city’s water supply.Stories of LA’s brazen land grab in the Owens valley have been told for decades – it was loosely depicted in the 1974 film Chinatown. And the fierce legal battles that have ensued, including over the environmental impact, have made regional headlines for years.But residents, business owners, and some municipal leaders in this rural region say LA’s landownership in the valley has taken on a new, and crippling, dimension in recent years.DWP has taken steps to exert even greater control over its land holdings in the valley. An AfroLA review of hundreds of documents obtained through records requests, as well as interviews with municipal officials, residents, legal experts and business owners, reveals DWP started changing the terms of leases in 2015, and formally added restrictions on the transfer of leases from one owner to the next in 2016.DWP’s moves have meant that hundreds of families who have built lives in the Eastern Sierra region have seen their plans upended, often being left with the stark choice of abandoning their livelihoods or fighting DWP.For Allen, the owner of the feed store, the 2016 changes mean that he can’t retire to Montana, where his wife moved seven years ago.Selling the store had always been Allen’s retirement plan. But since the new owner will not be able to transfer their lease or sell the business to recoup their investment, he hasn’t found a buyer. Meanwhile, his own lease has gone into holdover status: he continues to pay his rent and abides by the terms of his lease, but he can be evicted at will with 30 days’ notice.Leases lapsing into holdover status have long been an issue, but between 2015 and 2023, more leases have gone into holdover than did before.Allen now faces a brutal choice: continue to make month-to-month payments on an inactive lease, or surrender the building to DWP and abandon his business. If he lets the lease go back to DWP, he has to liquidate all of his inventory and demolish all of the improvements he has invested in over the years – including the asphalt in the parking lot and the building itself. That’s just a standard clause in DWP leases.Since DWP implemented the changes, at least 13% of leases in Inyo county have reverted back to DWP control, an analysis of property tax records reveals.Los Angeles is not alone in importing water from hundreds of miles away. San Francisco obtains most of its water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and water system in Yosemite, and the California state water project gets most of its water from rural areas in northern California. LA’s also not the only city that secures its water supply through land holdings – New York City has similar landlord-tenant relationships. But DWP in the Owens valley is the “poster child” for negatively impacting the broader local economy, according to Greg James, special counsel for Inyo county.An irrigation ditch feeds into Bishop Creek in north-west Bishop. Photograph: Dana Amihere/AfroLAAs water becomes increasingly scarce in a more extreme climate, urban communities like Los Angeles will increasingly need to rely on imported water, obtained at the expense of the environment and economies of rural and Indigenous communities. Los Angeles claims to be working toward diversifying its water portfolio through stormwater capture, recycled water and conservation as well as importing water from the Colorado River basin and northern California. But even after conservation efforts, LA projects it will still need to get about 30% of its water from the Owens valley by 2045, meaning the city and the valley are locked in a relationship for the foreseeable future.Los Angeles DWP did not respond to a detailed request for comment from AfroLA. DWP’s Eastern Sierra division also did not respond to a request for comment.The Land of Flowing WaterInyo county is a land of extremes. The region is larger than the state of Vermont but fewer than 20,000 people call it home. In its west, the peaks of the Eastern Sierra tower 10,000ft above the Owens valley. In its south lie the desert landscapes of Death valley. Brave hikers can trek from Mt Whitney, the highest point in the continental US, to Badwater Basin in Death valley, the lowest point.During winter, the Owens valley ground is parched. But come spring, when snowmelt runs from the Sierra and White Mountains down to the Owens River, the valley turns lush green. The Paiute, who have lived in the valley for thousands of years, named it Payahuunadü, the Land of Flowing Water.The White Mountains peek through rain and snow pouring over the Paiute’s sacred Volcanic Tablelands, the northernmost edge of the Owens valley. Photograph: Dana Amihere/AfroLAWilliam Mulholland, LA’s famed water and infrastructure czar, realized the valley’s potential when he camped in the area in 1904. LA agents soon went on a buying spree, locking in land and water holdings.In the late 30s, the city briefly authorized the sale of about half of Bishop’s properties back into private ownership, but by the mid-40s, DWP had stopped that practice. Between 1967 and today, DWP added 10,000 more acres in the valley to its holdings.Today, LA owns 252,000 of the county’s 6.5m acres. The federal government, which owns the land in Death Valley national park and Inyo national forest, holds much of the rest.DWP’s extensive holdings make it the de facto landlord for many of Inyo county’s residents. DWP leases the majority of the region back to those living there – to the county government, to ranchers, to veterinarians and retailers, to families who have lived here for generations and people compelled to move in because of its stunning outdoors.Living here had long been affordable, too. LA’s leases were inexpensive, and for decades, the lease process was simple and straightforward, valley residents said. Much like the way many mobile home parks operate, property owners own the structures of their homes and businesses, but not the land underneath. DWP leases them that land through agreements with fixed terms, at fixed rates. Lease holders pay either month-to-month or yearly. When a lessee previously sold their home or business, the lease for the property transferred to the new owner after a credit score check, lease holders recalled. Lease transfers were hardly ever rejected, they said.That changed in 2016. That year, DWP ruled the way it had been treating leases conflicted with the 1924 Los Angeles city charter, which outlaws the sale or lease of city property except at public auction. From then on, DWP has only allowed leases to be transferred once. That meant an existing tenant could pass on their lease, but the new tenant could not, and instead would have to let the land revert back to LA control.If leases go out to bid, DWP auctions the lease off to the highest bidder. Under the old system, the lessee was able to profit directly from the sale of their business. Now, DWP reaps the financial benefits of the auction.DWP retroactively applied this policy to leases established before 2016. For lessees like Mike Allen, who have leased for decades, it has devalued their businesses and made them difficult to sell, because a new owner has no guarantee of recouping their costs.The department carved out an exemption for families, allowing leases to transfer within a family an unlimited number of times.“For 100 years they’ve never cared,” said Mark Lacey, a Lone Pine resident and rancher who sits on the Owens Valley Committee, a non-profit that helped negotiate environmental mitigations in a water agreement between LA and the county. “Now all of a sudden, you know, somebody decided, ‘Well, we’re going to actually follow the letter of the law based on the LA city charter that says, you know, we can’t do this. We have to put [leases] out to bid.’”Many lessees often only learned of the changes when they went to renew their leases, or tried to transfer them.Tom Talbot was the valley’s veterinarian for more than 45 years. Talbot owned Bishop veterinary hospital, a yellow cottage on the north side of Bishop near the intersection of Route 395 and Route 6. It’s the only full-service vet practice for hundreds of miles in every direction.In 2015, Talbot wanted to retire from medicine while still healthy enough to ranch full-time. But when he went to sell the hospital and transfer his lease, he said, he found completely rewritten rules.Bishop veterinary hospital on the north side of Bishop, the only full-service vet practice for hundreds of miles in every direction. Photograph: AfroLA/HandoutTalbot had hoped his son-in-law Tyler Ludwick, and Nicole Milici, who had volunteered working at the clinic since she was a teenager, would jointly take over the business.But the new transfer policy meant Milici could not be put on the lease. As a relative, Ludwick could. “We’re 50% partners in the business,” said Ludwick. “But it’s all me on the lease.”The lease structure forced Ludwick to take on more risk, he said in an interview, leaving him at the mercy of changes to his lease terms. But it was just the start of the veterinarians’ problems.“It’s just a giant handcuff that completely stymies any possibility of growth, equity, business advancement, because you don’t have anything real to sell,” Ludwick said.Ludwick’s lease has been expired for years, and DWP hasn’t renewed it. Without a lease active for the long run, it’s been hard to secure funds for repairs and improvements, he said.The yellow and brick building that houses the clinic is 60 years old and “rotting out from under us”, said Ludwick.After Talbot transferred his lease to Ludwick, lease policies changed again. Starting in 2016, the family transfer policy was limited to transfers between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and between spouses. As Talbot’s son-in-law, Ludwick would never have been able to take over the lease.Ludwick and Milici recently purchased an out-of-business Ford dealership on some rare non-DWP-owned private land. They built a brand new veterinary hospital on the land and they plan to use their current lease to provide specialty care, such as physical therapy.“The good news is we got something that is ours,” said Ludwick. “It gives us freedom.”The snow-capped White Mountains rise behind Line Street in downtown Bishop. Photograph: Dana Amihere/AfroLAReagan Slee, owner of a sporting goods store, went through a different set of disappointments.In 2019, DWP changed its stance on selling properties to lessees. The new policy allows some business owners the chance to purchase the land they are leasing. Slee’s store, filled with hunting and fishing gear, was at the top of that list.Appraisers appraised, surveyors surveyed, and more than a year later Slee had a purchase agreement with the city of LA. That’s where progress stopped.“The price was fair,” Slee said. He put money in the bank, then waited. More than 18 months have passed since Slee signed his purchase agreement.“There was some excitement a year or two ago where we thought, ‘OK, this is finally going to happen,’” Slee said. “But now, I would be surprised if they called and said, ‘Hey, we’re ready to move forward.’”Slee’s lease expired in 2017, so he, too, is in holdover status. It would take more than a year to draft a new lease in order to sell his business, he said.Meanwhile, Slee struggles to upgrade or perform maintenance on his store. “You’re invested in something that is unknown, that is not yours and then there is no date attached to it. The value of the business is worth almost nothing, because if I was to go sell, it can’t be transferred.”According to Slee, DWP could keep the lease in holdover for 15 years, or it could pull the plug tomorrow. DWP did not respond to questions about Slee’s case.Since the transfer policies went into effect nearly a decade ago, approximately 20 leases have changed hands, according to AfroLA’s review of tax assessor data.Meanwhile, at least 49 of DWP’s 354 leases and use permits in Inyo county have been removed from circulation and not put back out to bid. Use permits, which function similarly to leases, are “agreements for private use”, according to the aqueduct operations plan. These include people’s backyards, pasture for horses and other uses.Tamara Cohen, a former Inyo county public health officer who served for 23 years, saw the use permit for her backyard return to DWP control. For years, she lived on a multi-home lot with two business partners, Kenney Scruggs and Benett Kessler, and a shared 1.3-acre backyard. The homes and the land underneath them were in a trust, with Scruggs’s name on the use permit. When Scruggs died, the DWP agreement passed to Kessler. And when Kessler passed away, Cohen was ready to take it over in turn. Instead, a DWP real estate officer paid her a visit, and told her to vacate the yard within 60 days.The rules had changed since 2013, when Kessler, an investigative reporter who spent her career monitoring DWP, took over the agreement, Cohen recalled the agent saying. Because the agreement was held in a trust, the agent said, it was taken out of circulation and would need to go to auction instead of being transferred.The agent didn’t seem happy about the prospect of an auction either, Cohen recalled: “[He] was pretty clear with us that going for the bid process was just really a hassle for him to do,” said Cohen. “He said they are trying to get rid of these kinds of [backyard] leases.”Cohen was later given until the end of the original agreement, an additional 18 months, to clear out and vacate the land. This included ripping out a patio and Scruggs’ garden. Now there is nothing but dirt and locust trees. Last spring, Cohen spent $7,000 to remove the dead vegetation on DWP’s property in order to prevent flooding and fires.“It’s disconcerting. The trees have come down on what used to be leased land and it’s scary – it’s such a fuel for fires,” Cohen said, pointing to the dead locust trees that line the creek behind her home. “That used to be a lease that was maintained, and now it’s not. It’s a fire risk.”The cost of droughtThe circumstances LA found itself in when it applied the lease changes were similar to the ones it faced when it arrived in the Owens valley more than a century ago: it was desperate for water.If LA’s 200,000 residents were thirsty in 1904, today, the city has a daunting task of servicing 3.8 million people living in an ever-warming climate. Much of the south-west US has faced crippling drought conditions at various points in past decades, with states and cities competing for few resources.DWP has also seen its operations in the Eastern Sierra curtailed. The origins of a trio of lawsuits settled between the late 80s and the early aughts are long and complicated. But the outcome of the suits, initiated over rules on environmental protections, legally requires DWP to leave hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water in Inyo and Mono counties for the towns; people, including Indigenous nations; and wildlife of the region.Tom Talbot’s cattle are rounded up for vaccinations at his ranch in Round valley last year. Photograph: Katie Licari/AfroLAThe drought lasting from 2011 to 2016 marked the driest years ever recorded in California. In 2014, internal DWP documents show, department staff recognized it needed to make changes to “prevent waste of water” in some of its most important leases: those of Inyo county’s ranchers.The majority of acres leased by DWP in the Eastern Sierra are to ranchers, who graze their herds in the shadows of rugged Sierra Nevada mountains.Ranchers and DWP have a “symbiotic relationship”, said Scott Kemp, whose family ranches more than 1,000 cattle on department land, one of the largest herds in the valley. “We take care of the land … People from Los Angeles can come up here and fish, and do what they do.”A 2006 internal agency document describes the relationship as such: “The ranch lessees serve as stewards of the land and monitor and manage their leases consistent with LADWP’s goal of providing a reliable high quality water supply to Los Angeles. With the ranch leases providing this function, LADWP is able to concentrate its personnel on maintaining and operating water conveyances.”In 2014, amid the drought, DWP proposed to the ranchers to change their lease terms to limit the amount of irrigation water they receive as part of their leases in years of normal water supplies. The department also proposed to allow DWP to provide water at its sole discretion in years with low snowmelt from the mountains, and place restrictions on water for cattle to drink.Inyo county’s water department responded that those changes could violate the 1991 water agreement between the county and DWP.The proposed lease changes led to conversations between DWP and the trade group representing the ranchers. Both parties agreed on restrictions for how water, particularly for cattle to drink, would be used. They also agreed that ranch lessees from then on could only transfer their lease once. They agreed that DWP would keep the proceeds from leases that would be auctioned off instead of transferred.A year later, DWP attempted to cut water off from the ranch lessees a second time. In a 27 April 2015 letter, DWP informed ranch lessees it would cut off their water supply in three days. According to a letter dated two days later, “plainly stated, there is insufficient water to meet all water users’ needs”. Concerned community members and the county met with DWP. The solution? Diverting some water destined for Owens Lake, which helped keep toxic dust from the dry lakebed out of the air, to irrigation water for ranchers.Even though the transfer limits originated with the ranchers, the department applied the policy broadly. On 15 November 2016, commercial lessees and Inyo county supervisors grilled the aqueduct manager about the lease changes during a board meeting.The county supervisor Jeff Griffiths told the then DWP aqueduct manager he hoped he and the city understood the repercussions of imposing the lease-transfer restrictions the ranchers had agreed to on commercial lessees as well. “This could be the largest economic impact to the community since LA’s original acquiring of Owens valley land,” said Griffiths.Supervisor Jeff Griffiths on the steps of the Bishop Civic Center. Photograph: Dana Amihere/AfroLAA DWP memo on the origin of the one-time assignment policy that was included in emails between DWP real estate staff and the then board president, Mel Levine, in 2016 only addresses ranch leases, and explains the changes were designed to bring the lease transfer process into compliance with the Los Angeles city charter and state law protecting DWP lessees in Inyo county.But reporting by AfroLA shows the one-time assignment policy and the family transfer policy are being applied to commercial leases and use permits, such as Cohen’s backyard.The restrictions that have been imposed on how much water LA can pull out of Inyo county, either through negotiations with the county or the courts, have been extremely costly for the city.Internal DWP documents indicate that DWP has spent $30m-$40m annually buying water from southern California’s metropolitan water district to offset the water it now leaves in Inyo for the ranchers. The water DWP has been required to provide to Indigenous communities, for environmental mitigation and for agriculture since the water agreements costs the agency at least $124m annually, according to an internal briefing book.A way of lifeThough long constructive, the relationship between DWP and some ranchers has been strained by years of drought and lease changes.“DWP is nice to us in the wet years,” said Talbot, the former veterinarian, whose ranch is located in the picturesque Round valley just north of Bishop.In years water is plentiful, the department releases more water and provides flood control measures, Talbot said. But in dry years, DWP limits the ranchers’ water allocation to the minimum it is legally required to provide, he said.Many Inyo county ranchers have been affected by severe cuts DWP has made to water allocations in Mono county, which doesn’t have the same legal protections as Inyo county.Mark Lacey said he had to look for pasture land as far away as Oregon and Nebraska when DWP cut water to Mono county in 2015.“I got transportation costs going up and then coming back. And then I had to pay for that pasture while I was there, as well as everything I have from DWP,” he recalled. “The transportation costs were horrendous.”“After 2016, I couldn’t afford to do what I did. The price of cattle just didn’t allow me to make those moves,” he said. “Freight was too high. Pasture elsewhere either wasn’t available, or it was poor, [the price] was too high.”Lacey has seen every drought in the Owens valley since the 70s. He said the 2011-16 drought was not as bad as the 1980s drought, but the impacts were more acute because of the water shutoffs.For some in the county, the changes to the leases do not outweigh the benefits of LA’s land ownership. The county supervisor Jen Roeser said the agency’s presence in Inyo has been critical to maintaining the rural lifestyle residents enjoy.Roeser lives in a mobile home on a DWP lease she’s had for decades. “It’s our whole lifestyle. And our purpose in life that we felt we were given was to operate a quality business in the mountains,” she said, one of her dogs napping in the shade of the black locust trees.Roeser and her husband recently retired from running a mule packing business, which serves tourists hiking deep into the Sierra backcountry and also serves as one of the only ways to fight fires high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Bishop’s home to a week-long mule rodeo, and Roeser is a mule rodeo champion.Supervisor Jen Roeser leads a mule packing team at Bishop’s 2023 Mule Days, Inyo county’s biggest tourist event, held each Memorial Day weekend. Photograph: Katie Licari/AfroLA“[We’ve] introduced families and tourists to amazing experiences that impacted their lives and gave them memories that last generations, and we hear from hundreds of people every year that have memories that are still with them from pack trips. And these leases make that possible,” said Roeser.On the other side of the Sierra, Roeser explained, the lease rates of winter pasture land have grown increasingly expensive. DWP land, she said, is higher quality than alternatives.DWP, she added, also stimulates local economies as the county’s largest employer. It provides well-paying jobs – employing engineers and scientists and staff maintaining its infrastructure – with good benefits for local residents, including multigenerational families who live in the county but work for the city of Los Angeles, she said. DWP’s payroll in the Owens valley was approximately $60m.As Los Angeles takes steps to diversify its water sources, the Eastern Sierra region will still make up a critical supply of the city’s water needs. For the Owens valley, that means a continuation of good jobs, but also the continued presence of a landlord 300 miles away making decisions about its residents’ livelihoods. While decisions, often behind closed doors, are made, lessees like Slee and Allen wait.CreditsThis investigation was supported with funding from the Data-Driven Reporting Project, which is funded by the Google News Initiative in partnership with Northwestern University | Medill.The stories are the result of more than two years of records requests, interviews and data analysis by AfroLA. Guardian US provided assistance as a co-publishing partner in the editing, production and promotion of this story. Collaboration and co-publication with the Mammoth Sheet helped ensure that Owens valley residents have ready access to news that directly affects their lives and communities. Thank you to the many people who made reporting and sharing this story possible.For AfroLAJustin Allen, technology managerDana Amihere, editorJennings Hanna, interaction designerAlexandra Kanik, web developerKatie Licari, reporterStu Patterson, copy editorAlex Tatusian, visual designerFor Guardian USMatthew Cantor, copy editorWill Craft, data editorEline Gordts, editorThalia Juarez, photo editorAndrew Witherspoon, data editor

School districts receive $900M from EPA to fund electric school buses

The Biden administration has issued the next round of funding aimed at cleaning up the country’s school bus fleet. On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded nearly $900 million in rebates to help more than 500 school districts buy about 3,400 clean school buses — 92 percent of them electric. …

The Biden administration has issued the next round of funding aimed at cleaning up the country’s school bus fleet. On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded nearly $900 million in rebates to help more than 500 school districts buy about 3,400 clean school buses — 92 percent of them electric. With this new round, nearly $3 billion in funding has been awarded to date from a $5 billion program created by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The first round of rebates, nearly $1 billion awarded in October 2022, enabled about 370 school districts to order some 2,500 electric school buses across the country. A second round of nearly $1 billion in grants issued this January provided 67 applicants with money to buy more than 2,700 clean school buses serving 280 school districts. Almost all of the roughly 500,000 school buses operating in the U.S. are diesel-fueled. Replacing those with clean buses could eliminate about 8 million metric tons per year of carbon emissions. Aside from their climate impact, diesel buses emit air pollution harmful to the health of the children who ride them and the communities they operate in. “This announcement is not just about clean school buses — it’s about the bigger picture,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a Tuesday media briefing. ​“We are improving air quality for our children, reducing greenhouse gas pollution, and expanding our nation’s leadership in developing the clean vehicles of the future. With increasing demand for electric school buses, we’ll see the development of new good-paying manufacturing jobs and investment in local businesses.” Electric school buses are two to three times more expensive than their diesel counterparts but can cost significantly less to fuel and maintain over their lifespans. Meanwhile, the boost in business for the biggest U.S. school bus manufacturers, which include Blue Bird, Thomas Built, and Navistar IC Bus, as well as Canadian electric bus manufacturer Lion Electric, is expected to drive down their costs in the future, said Zealan Hoover, director of implementation for EPA programs funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act. EPA has slightly reduced the per-bus rebates for this most recent round of awards compared to the first round of rebates issued in 2022 to ​“put downward pressure on prices,” Hoover said. ​“We want to find that sweet spot of preserving equity and access, while remaining clear that we want to see cost reductions as the sector scales.” That’s part of the EPA program’s broader goal to serve as a ​“bridge to a self-sustaining pace of decarbonization for the sector,” Hoover said. ​“Bringing down costs is certainly a challenge. But we know that the cost of electric vehicles compared to internal combustion vehicles is falling.” There’s still a long way to go to electrify the U.S. school bus fleet. As of May, the total number of U.S. electric school buses ​“committed” — a figure that includes buses operating, on order, or funded to be purchased — stood at 8,820, according to data collected by the World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative, which tracks all electric school buses, not just those funded by the EPA program. That’s 1.8 percent of the total U.S. school bus fleet — a ratio that has risen from just over 1 percent since mid-2023. Of those 8,820 electric school buses, 3,792 are ​“delivered or operating” in 48 states. Another 1,572 have been ordered from manufacturers, and another 3,456 have been awarded funds for purchase. Those numbers reflect the fact that securing the buses is a time-consuming process, one that involves placing the orders with bus manufacturers, getting the buses built and delivered, and installing the charging equipment needed to start using them. The EPA program has had its share of hiccups since it was launched in 2022. As of late last year, 9 percent of the school districts that won awards in the first round of rebates — 36 of them — had withdrawn their plans for using the money, while 43 percent had sought and received extensions beyond an April deadline for ordering the buses. Some of these school districts have found that they weren’t able to cover their share of the cost of the buses they’d planned to buy, Sue Gander, director of WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative, told Canary Media last year. Others have had trouble managing the cost of the charging equipment or the utility grid upgrades required to support them.

Court bid to prevent Spurs leasing rewilded London golf course fails

A football academy will be built on the site and campaigners say high court decision threatens other public parksPublic parks across London and beyond are being put at risk by a high court judgment in favour of Enfield council leasing a rewilded golf course to Tottenham Hotspur for a football academy, campaigners say.The court has ruled that Enfield council is allowed to hand over more than half of the 97-hectare (240-acre) Whitewebbs Park to Spurs, which has submitted plans to the council to build a new women’s and girls’ academy on the green belt site. Continue reading...

Public parks across London and beyond are being put at risk by a high court judgment in favour of Enfield council leasing a rewilded golf course to Tottenham Hotspur for a football academy, campaigners say.The court has ruled that Enfield council is allowed to hand over more than half of the 97-hectare (240-acre) Whitewebbs Park to Spurs, which has submitted plans to the council to build a new women’s and girls’ academy on the green belt site.Mr Justice Mould dismissed campaigners, led by local resident Sean Wilkinson, who argued that the council was bound by a statutory duty to ensure the wildlife-rich former council golf course remained open to the wider public for recreation.The campaigners have vowed to appeal against the verdict and continue to fight plans to fence off and build on a swath of the park, which was sold to the council to benefit the people of the borough nearly a century ago. Since the public golf course closed in 2021, Whitewebbs has been widely used by local people and wildlife including 80 species of bird and at least nine species of bat, as well as great-crested newts and badgers.Wilkinson, a retired teacher, said: “It would be dreadful if that verdict stood, not just for Whitewebbs but practically any open space in the London area and beyond. We’re seeing a revitalisation of the enclosure movement by big corporations and this is going to permit land-grabs by other sporting clubs and businesses.“There’s no difference between this kind of industrial sporting facility and a low-level factory development. Spurs want to create a fortified encampment in the park. We’re definitely going to fight this.”Campaigners are seeking the judge’s permission to appeal against the verdict. The campaigners’ solicitor, Harriet Child of the Public Interest Law Centre, said: “If this can happen to Whitewebbs Park, it can happen anywhere. It can happen to your local park, playground or playing field.“Public trust land was one of the great and radical advances to come out of the public backlash against development encroaching on people’s ability to access open space. It’s terribly sad that we’ve lost sight of that as a society.“This judgment shows a willingness to sell land to private companies that people fought so hard to protect for the public nearly 100 years ago.”Enfield council is handing Spurs a 25-year lease to the land for £2m. Campaigner Ed Allnutt added: “The works that will be carried out are irreversible and damaging. It’s not just people who use the park – it’s home to reptiles, badgers, and habitat priority listed birds. It is adjacent to the beaver habitat at Forty Hall. This is a huge construction project that will permanently change a beautiful, biodiverse landscape. The enclosure will largely benefit a huge private enterprise, Tottenham Hotspur, that is owned offshore, for an elite academy. It will be a permanent loss to the community and nature.”In his written verdict, Mould concluded that the proposed training facility was “not confined to commercial football training” and would “foster a large element of community access and support women’s and girls’ football locally”.Alice Roberts, the head of campaigns at CPRE London, an environmental charity, called on Spurs to withdraw its planning application for Whitewebbs and develop the facilities on another site.“We are enormously disappointed that a wealthy football club like Tottenham Hotspur feels it appropriate to take over a public park when they can well afford to purchase land elsewhere,” she said.“We strongly support provision for women’s football, but this is a wealthy, professional football club which has plenty of resources to buy land which is not public park land.”Roberts added: “I’m staggered that it’s possible for a council to sell a park to a very wealthy organisation with impunity.”When QPR sought to build a new training ground on public playing fields at Warren Farm in west London, a public outcry led to the football club eventually backing down. Warren Farm will instead become a publicly accessible nature reserve.Spurs’ plans for Whitewebbs, which will be considered by Enfield’s planning committee and are open to public comments until the end of the month, involve the club developing and managing 53 hectares of the park. A portion of this will be fenced off for the women’s academy, including indoor facilities and all-weather pitches, as well as a sports turf academy, surrounded by new tree-planting.An Enfield council spokesperson said: “Enfield council welcomes this judgment confirming that due process was followed at all times leading up to the decision to enter into the agreement for lease. The lease of part of Whitewebbs Park is set to bring significant benefits to the local community including the protection and enhancement of the park and woods, further investment in a new on-site cafe, toilets and other facilities as well as preserving open public access to over 80% of the park for all residents.”Spurs declined to comment.

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