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PSR National Board of Directors -- Winter 2013 Conference


This was a 3 day conference. What follows are highlights that I believe are important to share.

The optional congressional lobbying events occurred throughout the morning and  afternoon of the first day. Most board members did not participate in the lobbying.  For those board members not lobbying, like me, there was an opportunity to network with other board members. PSR’s values, shown below, were prominently displayed and referred to throughout this conference.


  • That life on Earth is precious, powerful and vulnerable;
  • That human life draws vital sustenance and coherence from the ecological and social systems in which it participates;
  • That the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge imposes the responsibility to protect life, not to endanger or destroy it;
  • That knowledge about global threats results from experience and scientific study including modeling and simulation, which inherently contain uncertainty;
  • That the necessary decisions based on such uncertainties must be evaluated in settings open to public review, so that the best possible approaches can be achieved;
  • That citizens have a right to informed participation in such decision-making processes made by both government and industry which affect their health, welfare and environment; and
  • That our commitment to future generations requires that problems of violence and militarism, global environmental degradation and social and economic inequities be addressed now and not be left as a toxic legacy to be solved by those who follow us.

Major Goals of this Conference:

  • Review PSR’s current financial revenue, expenses & position for 2013 & projections for 2014
  • Consider and approve 2014 budget
  • Strategize regarding potential deficit
  • Review Organizational goals for 2014:

1. Environment and Health foundation sources grow to $500,000 with inclusion of planning with
chapters to advance Recruit/Train and launch health ambassadors.

2. All Security effort will be focused on Humanitarian campaign with focus on chapter and coalition

3. Develop support for a half-time staff member for Radiation and Health.

4. Stabilize membership numbers to 5,700 (increase by 800 in 2014)

Guest Speaker Anthony Ingraffea

Anthony Ingraffea of Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Health Energy provided a comprehensive presentation on fracking. In short, the discovery phase of what is happening at all U.S. fracking sites as it applies to water and air safety is on track to be completed within 2 years. Initial data show that the danger from methane is far worse than what industry experts have anticipated.

Executive Director’s Report (Thomasson)

1) Continue to integrate and develop chapter and national collaboration.
“One PSR” calls have focused on sharing successes and strategies for good non-profit management and program ideas. These have been well-attended.

2) Increase membership and donors at PSR.
To better manage our members, we have decided on a database called Engaging Networks. This
will have a chapter component that will allow for chapters to utilize the same database in conjunction with national.
3) Recruit, train and activate health professionals, students and concerned citizens as representatives of PSR.
We have finalized our five-part series on advocacy skills for students or members: i) Overview of advocacy
ii) Lobbying for the health professional, iii) Skills in Public Speaking, iv) Writing for Advocacy, v) Fund-raising for Student Groups.

4) Markedly increase funding sources, especially donors, plus increase foundation support for the  Environment & Health committee as well as the Radiation & Health committee.

PSR Financial Report (Adam Pawlus)

The financial position is stable. However, there was less income than projected, and the steering committee will monitor income and expenses closely and recommend changes as needed to keep our staffing levels stable. There was discussion throughout this conference regarding how we prioritize expenses, however, we don't expect any drastic actions are warranted at this time. This a “heads-up” in case income does not improve.

Security (includes nuclear weapons reduction) (Martin Fleck, Ira Helfand)

PSR successfully pressured the administration to pursue bilateral negotiations with Russia and to commit to lower levels of nuclear weapons. Freed of re-election considerations, PSR delivered 1,823 letters to the White House calling for the president to follow through on his State of the Union comment that “...a willingness to lead” is necessary to mitigate the risk posed by nuclear weapons. Our letters joined with tens of thousands from Global Zero and built on the work we had contributed to in 2012 to deliver 50,000 petition signatures to the White House pressing them on the Nuclear Policy Guidance Review. In June, President Obama delivered a major foreign policy address in Berlin outlining a new U.S. Defense Policy under which we could pursue up to ⅓ additional reductions in our strategic nuclear arsenals through negotiations with Russia.

The publication of the Nuclear Famine Report, a video presentation by Dr. Ira Helfand, and international momentum building from ICAN, ICRC, the Medical/Public Health Deans’ Letter, and the Oslo Conference provide a strong basis for PSR to continue to develop this campaign. Over the past few months, 9 chapters have engaged with the campaign. Ira Helfand reported a revision to his Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear War indicating that there would be 2 billion lives at risk (not 1 billion as originally thought) if a regional 100-nuclear weapon war occurred between Pakistan and India. (The U.S. and Russia have over 3,000 nuclear weapons.)
Activities that educate the public about the dangers of nuclear weapons will be a prominent PSR focus for 2014.

Environment & Health (Barb Gottlieb)

Environment & Health continues to work vigorously on issues of climate change, energy, and environmental toxins. Earlier this year we proposed the following as two-year goals. While some aspects of implementation may have changed, these remain our goals:

Climate Change
-- Bring the health voice to administrative actions such as the EPA’s federal carbon rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing electricity generating plants.
-- Mobilize health professionals to help close six coal-burning power plants.
-- Develop a cadre of 15 to 25 new health ambassadors in 3-5 states, willing and able to speak to legislators, the public and the media about the harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing and actively advocating for regulation or continued moratorium.
-- Develop 6 expert health spokespeople who will be the “go-to” sources on health impacts of climate change and solutions for news media in their state or region.
-- Publish PSR’s Environmental Health Policy Institute ten times a year. The Institute is our online forum that harnesses the power of expert voices to educate and mobilize the health community.
-- Support development of strong federal and state chemical regulation.
-- Elevate the issue by producing twelve stand-alone resource materials on the impacts of chemicals on health that will be placed in at least ten medical or health association-type publications.
-- Produce an updated version of the Pediatric Environmental Health Toolkit, expanded to address prenatal and neonatal health effects of toxins, and roll it out through our chapters.

Website & Communications

Member Communications
PSR communicates with its members through our printed newsletter PSR Reports, e-news, e alerts, personal phone calls and direct mail. Email is utilized as much as possible; however, we know that many of our members do not provide email addresses and mail is their preferred way to stay in touch.

External Communications
PSR renewed our subscription to the Vocus system, hosted by Rethink Media, which allows us to distribute press releases to targeted journalists. Program staff will also be identifying and attempting to build relationships with relevant online blogs to increase our exposure through new media outlets.

After an extensive review of PSR’s current database of record and other databases, we have selected Engaging Networks as our new database. Engaging Networks offers a robust donor database and online activist capabilities.

Governance & Leadership Committee

The following motions were presented, discussed and passed:
1. Merging Regional Directors and At-Large Directors into the single category "Directors"
2. Reducing the maximum size of board seats from 26 directors to 25 (4 Officers plus 21 Directors)
3. Definition of PSR Students is expanded from "Medical" to the more inclusive term "Health Professionals"
4. The Health and Radiation committee in which Steve participates was voted to become a full-time committee. (It was previously enacted as a temporary committee.)

ONE PSR (Thomasson, Plumb, McCue)

While the One PSR calls originally focused on acknowledgment and information exchange of chapter program strengths, they have gradually come to incorporate and focus on chapter development as well. An important function of the One PSR process currently is to share administrative skills, strengths and concerns among the chapters. At the conclusion of this board meeting, work on preparing for the 2014 Chapter Leader Meeting will begin in earnest. This meeting is to be held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa over the weekend of May 8-10. To kick off the event, there will be a reception on Thursday evening May 8th. All chapters in attendance are encouraged to bring materials created in their chapters such as handouts, fliers, photos, power-points to share at a tabling exhibit to be available throughout the meeting to better orient each chapter to the others and encourage sharing ideas.

Development & Membership

PSR continues to fund-raise with its direct mail vendor and with in-house mailings and online campaigns. There is increasing success with the latter. However, PSR’s membership continues to decline and it is highly recommended that we invest in membership recruitment efforts both internally and externally, including a direct mail acquisition.

Online giving at PSR has been on a steady increase for the past three years. We are also beginning to develop our end of year campaign for online giving, which as we have observed from 2012, is most successful when we have a  matching gift opportunity. We are currently identifying potential sources of a gift match for 2013.

We also have sustaining members who support PSR through monthly online donations. This mechanism of giving is virtually hassle free for the donor. Monthly sustaining donations via check are cumbersome, and as a result we don’t have many donors who do this.

Safe Energy (Morgan Pinnell)

This year the Safe Energy program has reaped the fruits of many years of work with the successful cancellation of 7 new reactors (Calvert Cliffs, Nine Mile Point, Shearon Harris, Levy County, and planned small modular reactor(s) in Iowa) and 5 existing reactors (Vermont Yankee, Kewaunee, San Onofre, and Crystal River). These enormous victories are coupled with no new nuclear loan guarantees in President Obama’s FY2014 budget, nor really any new nuclear loan guarantees on the horizon. The Vogtle loan guarantee (the only nuclear reactor loan guarantee that has been offered) still remains in conditional status, 3 years since it was approved, and has passed two deadlines for finalization already this year. The nuclear renaissance is surely dead, and we helped kill it.

Social Justice Committee (Ringler, Gould)

The Social Justice Committee has followed the unfortunate lack of progress at the national level in legislation to prevent firearm violence.

This committee has focused on the Transpacific Partnership (the TPP). The TPP is still a sleeper issue, which many people working in PSR's issue areas do not know about. The lack of public information is deliberate – negotiations for the TPP are being conducted in secret, with even members of Congress not being allowed to have information about the deliberations. There will be an effort to Fast Track a vote in Congress about this, possibly very soon. Fast Track means that Congress will be asked to vote for the TPP without knowing the provisions, i.e. "Just Trust Me!"

The remaining presentations focused on internal business.