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Rally Calls for Action on the Climate Crisis

Climate Action Day events end at the Point. Photo: M. Dixon

Despite the earlier forecast for rain and the fact it was Father’s Day, on June 21 close to two-hundred people gathered at the First Pittsburgh Climate Action rally on the Northside (see the video).  Opening the event was a Proclamation of the Climate Action day by Pittsburgh Councilman Dan Gilman, followed by a powerful speech by Mayor Bill Peduto who stressed the importance of the messages in Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical.  Speakers from a diverse group of organizations then outlined the risks associated with the coming climate crisis, and some steps that we can take, including institutional divestment, a carbon fee, and an effective state-wide green energy program.  See photo gallery produced by Mark Dixon.

In the morning a pilgrimage above the Ohio River connected the air pollution from the Neville Island coke plant to climate change, and to conclude the day’s events there was a procession from the rally to the fountain at the Point.  The day’s events were organized by ‘Pittsburgh350’, with thirty co-sponsoring organizations.

PA Senate Gives Frackers a Water Break

For years the coal industry polluted our streams with acid mine drainage (AMD), and now that toxic waste is stored in lagoons. After it has been treated, the fracking industry would like to use that water instead of using fresh water. Fearing that under the Clean Streams Act they may become responsible for cleaning up the AMD sites the industry supports SB 875, which removes such liability. Environmentalists oppose the use of AMD water because it would not be treated to the ‘drinking water standard’ before being used by the industry. To the disappointment of the environmental community, on June 25 SB875 passed the Senate 34-15. The only Senator from Western Pennsylvania who voted against SB875 was Jay Costa. The three other Dems from our region voted for the bill: Brewster (Monroeville), Fontana (Pittsburgh) and Wozniak (Johnstown). The bill now goes to the House.

US Senate Passes Ominous “Fast-Track” Bill

ACTION: Send a message to your Congressman now.

Ahead of an eventual vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this week the U.S. Senate passed a “fast-track” bill to the keen disappointment of progressive community. Fast-Track will restrict Congress to a straight up-or-down vote with no amendments and a maximum of 20 hours debate, removing the opportunity for our representatives to ensure that a trade pact such as the TPP protects communities, workers, and the environment.

In response to the Senate vote, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune released the following statement:
This isn’t the end — it’s merely a setback. The fight against fast track brought together a huge, new, and diverse network of concerned Americans who are fighting for fair and responsible trade. There are now millions of energized fair trade activists that are united and ready to take on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, bring its dangerous flaws into the light of day, and make sure trade is done right.

Dutch Court Decides Stronger Climate Change Action is Necessary

It makes sense that as the scientific understanding of cause and impacts of our changing climate accumulates, someone, somewhere, is going to appeal for the judiciary action. That is what happened recently when the Dutch foundation Urgenda and 900 co-plaintiffs sued the Dutch government to adopt more stringent climate policies. On June 24 the Dutch Hague Court decided in favor of Urgenda (Urgent-Agenda) and ordered the government to reduce the country’s GHG emissions by at least 25 percent over the next five years.

This legal action is in line with the jurists’ Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations launched in London in March. Where the next legal action might be is uncertain, but according to Climate Progress a suit similar to the Dutch suit may be introduced in Belgium and in the Phillipines.

Obama Administration Justifies Action on Climate Change

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Just a few day after the EPA entered the second phase of a program to increase fuel efficiency and reduce of GHG emissions for trucks and heavy-duty engines, and two years since producing a Climate Action Plan, on June 22 the Obama Administration issued a report laying out the health and economic benefits of global action on climate change. In an interview with CNN, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy talked about the report and the fact that “Climate change is the biggest threat of our time.” She could have also mentioned the EPA’s proposal to reduce GHG emissions from airplanes.

Key points from the Health and Economic Benefits report are that:

  • Global action on climate change reduces the frequency of extreme weather events and associated impacts.
  • Global action now leads to greater benefits over time.
  • Global action on climate change avoids costly damages in the United States.
  • Climate change impacts are not equally distributed.
  • Adaptation can reduce damages and costs.

A Multi-Faith Conversation on Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical, July 2

July 2, 2015
7:00 pmto9:00 pm

Come and join in the conversation about the recently released encyclical, already generating controversy for its teaching on climate change and the global economy.

7 pm – 9 pm, Thursday, July 2
Episcopal Church of the Redeemer,
5700 Forbes Ave, Squirrel Hill, Pgh 15217

Discussion leaders are:

  • Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre, The Church of the Holy Cross Homewood. (Moderator)
  • Mimi Darragh, social minister at St Sylvester Catholic Parish
  • Rabbi Amy Levin, Congregation Beth Shalom
  • Barbara O’Donnell, Sisters of the Humility of Mary,
  • Rev. Paul L. Lubold, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, North Park
  • Som Sharma, Director, Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium
  • George Hoguet, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing
  • Representative from the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh

This event is the beginning of an on-going dialogue in our region leading up to the UN Paris Climate talks that will begin at the end of November. For more information contact environment@thomasmertoncenter.org or call 412-661-1529.

Pope’s Encyclical Expected to Bolster Moral Basis for Climate Action

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ACTION. Send your comments on the Pope’s Climate Encyclical to your Congressman.

On Thursday, June 18, Pope Francis is expected to call for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem before the end of this century”. Not only will his papal encyclical on climate set a moral standard for our treatment of the earth, but it will provide a strong impetus for real action at the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December. (See the mock movie trailer of Pope Francis in an epic fight against the evils of coal, oil, gas and global apathy. ) (more…)

Range Resources Offers $500 for Liability Release

Riding the shale gas treadmill. Photo from the PA DEP

With more than a billion in assets, Range Resources has offered $500 to residents near the Deer Lakes Park fracking site if they agree to release the company from liability for a number issues related to fracking. The irony of this appeal for trust is that Range Resources has just been fined $8,9 million by DEP for failing to repair a leaking gas well in Lycoming County and follows a $4.15 million DEP settlement for six leaky wastewater impoundments in Washington County last year. To be a Deer Lakes Park Watchdog click HERE

AMA Calls for Full Disclosure of Chemicals Used in Fracking

The general public and physicians have been worried for some time about the fact that we do not know what chemicals are present in the fluids used by the fracking industry. At their annual meeting the American Medical Association adopted a policy in support of full disclosure of chemicals used in fracking. As pointed out by the Post-Gazette, in Pennsylvania companies are required to only report to the DEP the chemicals used in fracking. As might be expected, the industry claimed that the AMA’s concerns were misguided.

EPA’s Water Study Challenged

A four-year study by the EPA recently concluded that there was no major risk of widespread water contamination from fracking. That conclusion has been challenged by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. In a June 12 article the Club’s Exec. Dir. Michael Brune concluded: “We didn’t need 1,000 pages to figure out the obvious. We don’t even need 1,000 words. Here’s what we know: Fracking is a nationwide game of Russian roulette that puts an essential resource — drinking water — at risk every single day. The sooner it stops, the better.

EPA Concludes Fracking Has No Widespread Effect on Drinking Water, but May Have Isolated Impact

ACTION. Draft Assessment Report is now open for public comment.

A just completed four-year study by the EPA has concluded that there is no “wide-spread, systemic” contamination of drinking water, although isolated pollution of ground water does occur. Just how hard the EPA looked for evidence has been questioned, especially in light of the refusal of industry to fully cooperate. For numerous local comments on the study see the end of the Post-Gazette article.

Comments on the draft Assessment Report on the Potential Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources may be submitted to the Scientific Advisory Board by clicking here and referring to Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OA-2015-0245. Deadline for comments on the Report is August 28.

‘Hard to Recycle’ and ‘Household Chemical’ Collection Events In 2015

Again the Pennsylvania Resources Council is managing collections of e-waste, household chemicals, materials for reuse and more in Southwestern PA.

Hard-to-Recycle Collections. Individuals can drop off “e-waste” such as computers, cell phones, printer/toner cartridges, CFLs and expandable polystyrene packaging material at no cost. For a nominal fee, individuals can drop off alkaline batteries, fluorescent tubes, small Freon appliances and tires. For detailed questions call 412-773-7156 or click HERE.
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