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Proponents of Hold on County Park Fracking Rebut P-G Editorial

ACTION: Residents of Allegheny County Council are asked to urge their representatives on County Council (District and At-Large) to vote FOR the hold on fracking in county parks. (Click on Member’s photo after checking map of County districts.)

On December 4 an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested that the hold on fracking of Allegheny County Parks made no sense. In an OpEd rebuttal Joni Rabinowitz and John Detwiler of the Protect Our Parks campaign pointed out that the intent of the citizens’ ordinance now before County Council is a prudent and sensible measure to allow evaluation of the possible economic and environmental impacts of the fracking of Deer Lakes Park. While those impacts are being assessed, the ordinance places a two-year hold on any fracking leases for the remaining eight parks.

Obama Administration Launches Climate Education Initiative

Photo: Sierra Club

In support of actions underway to curtail climate change, the Obama administration has embarked upon a program to educate and train students and the citizenry in general about the global challenge and what can be done. Among the commitments are regional climate-science workshops for educators, digital games for climate education, the 2015 Earth Week with a “It’s Our Turn to Lead’ theme, etc. This initiative fits nicely with the inclusion of climate education in the Next Generation Science Standards developed by the National Research Council. So far twelve states have adopted these standards, but Pennsylvania is not one of them

Warning to Political Leaders – Reliance on Shale Gas is a Risky Business

Riding the shale gas treadmill. Photo from the PA DEP

At the national level there is grandiose talk of a shale revolution that will restore our ‘energy independence’. At the state and county levels income from fracking is seen as a partial solution to budget woes. And Gov. Corbett declared ” let’s make Pennsylvania the Texas of the natural gas boom.” Problem is, this may all be a short-term ‘bubble’ and not a ‘boom’. A new analysis from the Post-Carbon Institute challenges the basic data the the ‘boom’ talk is based on – the forecasts of the D.O.E.’s Energy Information Administration.

Based on a an exhaustive, county-by-county analysis of the 12 major oil and gas shale plays in the U.S. (more…)

Pittsburgh Chosen as One of “100 Resilient Cities” Worldwide

Green City from ClipartLogo.com

On December 2 Pittsburgh was designated as one of 35 cities newly included among world’s 100 Resilient Cities, along with Boston, Chicago, Dallas, St Louis, and Tulsa. Ten American cities were named in the first round of 33 cities in December 2013. Pioneered and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the 100 Resilient Cities program is “dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.” In addition to facing the challenge of its industrial legacy, Pittsburgh will address climate change mitigation, with funding needed to support current efforts to develop a flood management system and expand green infrastructure. The city is expected to hire a “chief resilience officer” for two years

Sierra Club Releases Video ‘Fracking 101’

Shale gas flaring.

Here is a simple explanation of ‘fracking’ that you can share with your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, et al. The Sierra Club’s Fracking 101 is an animated video that explains the basics of “fracking” and the dangers this natural gas collection method poses to our environment and our public health. Narrated by the well-known Oscar-nominated actor Edward James Olmos the video illustrates the dangers of methane gas as a dangerous climate disruptor, the toxic contents of fracking fluid, and the health hazards faced when those fluids contaminate our water and air supply.

Allegheny Group Exec. Comm. Election Results

Thanks are due all 197 Sierra CLub members who returned ballots for the election of members of the local Allegheny Group’s nine-person Executive Committee. The winners of the election are Gwen Chute, Veronica Coptis, Matt Peters, and Chris Shepherd. Their two-year term of office will end January 2017.

Council Hears Citizens Call for Hold on Fracking County Parks

Some of sixty citizens at Allegheny County Council meeting, Dec. 2. Photo: P. Wray

ACTION: Residents of Allegheny County Council are asked to urge their representatives on County Council (District and At-Large) to vote FOR the hold on fracking in county parks. (Click on Member’s photo after checking map of County districts.)

On December 2 forty citizens testified before the members of Allegheny County in support of an ordinance requiring a 2-year hold on fracking beneath the county’s regional parks, other than Deer Lakes Park. The ordinance is the result of a citizens’ petition signed by over 1,800 eligible county voters. With a well-presented and broadly varied set of reasons the Council members heard unanimous support for the ‘fracking hold’ ordinance placed before the Council. For two hours the Council members heard from the citizens, without making any response. The ordinance now goes to the Government Reform Committee chaired by Council President John DeFazio.

Reprieve in Sight for Proposed Fracking of State Lands

Lackawanna State Forest. Photo: DCNR

It appears that the proposed leasing of state lands for fracking may die in January. One of Gov. Tom Corbett’s efforts to fill the budget gap was to raise $95 million by leasing the rights beneath state lands for fracking. Two cases in the Commonwealth Court are unlikely to be decided before Tom Wolf moves onto the Governor seat. (See Wolf’s own petition re. state lands.) In the first case the Delaware Riverkeeper Network challenges the lifting of Gov. Rendell’s moratorium on fracking of state lands, citing the state’s environmental rights amendment and the recent decision on Act 13. In the second case the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation challenges the Governor’s authority to use the leasing proceeds for the general fund.

NOTE. A recent article in the P-G describes the threat of fracking at the 35 National Parks within or near the multi-state Marcellus Shale formation

‘Breathe Cam’ – Innovative Tool for Monitoring Poor Air in Allegheny County

Artwork: Mike LaMark

Given that the air in Allegheny County is among the country’s worst, detailed measurement and identification of the source of that bad air is necessary. So far the public has had to rely on the county health department’s stationary monitors currently at 14 locations. Now the Breathe Project has worked with folk at CMU to provide panoramic views of air pollution via Breathe Cam. As explained in a radio interview with CMU Robotics Professor Illah Nourbakhsh, the Breathe Cam “is designed to give area residents direct access to the world’s most sophisticated technology for documenting visual pollution in the air they breathe.” As Nourbakhsh explains the solid need for such public tool, he mentions the grassroots action to control pollution from the Shenango coke plant on Neville island.

‘Public Concern About Fracking’ Hidden in ACHD Report?

With a series of public meetings and on-line comments the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) recently surveyed the public concern about health risks for County residents. A total of 1,081 residents completed the survey, and the results are now available. Not surprisingly, air pollution was the number one concern, followed by access to mental health providers, poverty, abuse of alcohol, obesity, etc.

No individual counts for the various risks were provided, although there was a detailed analysis of the distribution of responders among Zipcode areas. Fracking was listed as the major concern among 383 ‘Other’ responses, but again, no count was provided. The question remains: How many of the 383 ‘Other’ responses were for ‘Fracking’ and how many among the 698 categorized responses were for say ‘Air Pollution’? And how will the Health Department use the results of this survey?

Denmark Takes a Green Lead and is Perceived as Least Corrupted Nation

Photo courtesy of Oceana

An article in the latest issue of Sierra describes how Danes use more wind power per capita than anyone else in the world, and their country plans to be off coal by 2025 and free of all fossil fuels by 2050. Not sure whether it is just coincidental, but in the fourteenth annual Corruptions Perceptions Index published by Transparency International, Denmark is viewed as the least corruptible nation. New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland fill the top six slots. The United States is ranked No. 17, followed by Brazil (69th), India (85th), China (100th) and Russia (136th). Not sure if there is a link here between perceived corruption and ability to move on climate change.

Citizens Turn to EPA to Clean Up Coke Plant on Neville Island

Part of the audience calling for EPA action to reduce pollution from Shenango coke plant. Photo: C. Steenblok

ACTION: Request that the federal EPA help clean up Shenango Coke plant.

One of the worst sources of air pollution in the region is the Shenango coke plant on Neville Island, just a few miles down stream from the point. Through their grassroots organization, Allegheny County Clean Air Now (ACCAN), in August residents of boroughs north of the plant have called on the Allegheny County Health Department to force the owners of the plant to comply with Federal regulations, limit production on ‘bad air days’, and impose an effective fine schedule. At a November 19 meeting in Avalon about 150 citizens told representatives of the health department of their experiences with the bad air from the coke plant. With the help of the Clean Air Council the residents are now petitioning the EPA “to force Shenango to abide by the law”.

Ten Current Reasons to be Hopeful about Tackling Climate Change

Avoiding the worst of climate change is challenging, requiring more from ourselves and our leaders, but there are some signs for hope. In a detailed article Karl Mathieson of the Guardian provides ten good signs:

  1. Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues
  2. China has ordered coal power plants to close
  3. The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds
  4. People are taking their money out of fossil fuels
  5. Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians
  6. Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power
  7. European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000
  8. Cutting emissions has become a business imperative
  9. Oil is becoming much more expensive to find
  10. Electric car sales are doubling each year
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