Enjoy, Explore, and Protect the Planet Sierra Club Allegheny Group, Pennsylvania Chapter

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EPA Proposes Reducing Methane and VOC Emissions in the Gas Industry

Shale gas flaring.

As calls to ban it go unheeded and despite the boom-and-bust nature of the industry, fracking remains a reality in states like Pennsylvania. Now at least the Federal government has moved to reduce one of the concerns, the emission of methane, which has a global warming potential at least 28 times greater than that of CO2. On August 18 the EPA proposed a rule to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 – 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Some highlights are:

  • Covers new and modified sources including well pads, pneumatic devices, compressors, and gathering lines.
  • Will require regular leak detection and repair at all wells, a key means of reducing chronically leaky systems.
  • Expected to reduce pollution 340,000 to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 7.7 – 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
  • To protect public health, will curb emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carcinogens like benzene.

The EPA is expected to announce several public hearings later this fall, and to finalize the standards mid-2016. (more…)

What Deniers and Doubters Need to Know – July was Hottest Ever Recorded

Know anyone who denies or is not sure if the earth is actually getting warmer? Perhaps you can let them know that according to the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), July 2015 was the hottest month since records began in 1880, being 1.46 deg. F above the 20th century average. And that was just one of several anomalies that are consistent with the nature of a changing climate. It is also consistent with the finding that the historic drought in California is worsened by the global warming. NOTE. See the VIDEO on how to talk about climate change

Chatham Maintains Top ‘Cool College’ Ranking Locally

In its annual ranking of colleges according to their respect and practice of environmental values, the ‘Sierra’ magazine placed Chatham University 22nd in the nation. Dropping slightly from 20nd last year, Chatham clearly remains the ‘coolest’ of local colleges. Penn State is ranked 35, an improvement from 48 in 2014. Carnegie Mellon improved from 65 to 58 last year, Allegheny saw a big jump from 110 to 66, Pitt improved from 97 to 77, while Westminster remained at 123 out of all 153 colleges that responded.

Shell Gets Obama’s Approval to Drill Deeper in the Arctic

With the safety vessel MSV Fennica now at a drilling location in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaska coast, on August 17 the Obama administration gave Shell final approval to go beyond shallow exploratory drilling and drill down into the oil-bearing seabed. Coming just before the President’s August 30 visit to Alaska, this action contradicts his stated commitment to combat climate change. In an unusual break with Obama, Hillary Clinton opposed the approval, stating “Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk of drilling.”

Room for Better Investment Policy at Local Colleges

One of the measures used in the recent ‘Sierra’ magazine’s Cool College rankings was investment. The magazine determined if a college had a committee on investment responsibility (15 pts), made socially or environmentally responsible financial investments (20 pts), had a policy or directive to consider the social and/or environmental impacts of financial investment decisions (20 pts), and made a snapshot of financial investments accessible to the public (20 pts). For a possible total of 75 pts Chatham earned 40 pts, Allegheny, Carnegie Mellon, and Penn State 20 pts each, Pitt 15 pts, and Westminster 0 pts. For comparison, of the 153 responding colleges 13 scored all 75 pts, and 57 scored 0 pts.

Public Hearing on Rule to Protect Streams from Mining, Pittsburgh, Sept. 10

September 10, 2015
5:00 pmto9:00 pm

Photo: Mountain Justice

A scientifically-based new Stream Protection Rule proposed by the Office of Surface Mining will protect more than 6,000 miles of streams from the impacts of both surface and underground coal mining. With only six hearings scheduled in the country, here in Pittsburgh the public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule at:

5:00 to 9:00 pm, Thursday, September 10
Double Tree Hotel in Green Tree
500 Mansfield Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15205

The Center for Coalfield justice is partnering with the Sierra Club to provide free transportation to and from Pittsburgh for the hearing. (more…)

World Population to Increase One Third by 2050

NASA image

The abstract of a paper at an American Statistical Association meeting on August 10 was brief but ominous – “The world’s population will increase from today’s 7.3 billion people to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion at century’s end, experts in demographic forecasting have predicted.” That will be an increase of 275 pct over the hundred years since 1950.

Basing his paper on a recent report, John R. Wilmoth of the UN Population Division, explained that most of the increase will be in Africa, rising from the current population of 1.2 billion people to more than 3.4 billion by 2100. Due to a high fertility rate the population of Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, is expected to increase from 182 million in 2015 to over 400 million by 2100. (more…)

DEP Drops Noise and Storage Tanks from its Proposed Oil & Gas Rules

The state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) is in the process of finalizing regulations related to oil and gas operations. Having some bearing on fracking, the regulatory process is being carefully watched by both environmental groups and the industry. Following receipt of 30,000 comments and the holding of twelve public hearings prior to March 14, 2015, the DEP is revising its draft regulations. On August 11 the DEP announced two ‘significant’ changes for the final rule: DEP has decided not to include the provisions for noise mitigation and centralized storage tanks for wastewater in the final regulations. Because of the complex nature of noise mitigation, it was determined that a separate process is more appropriate to address those concerns. In terms of centralized storage tanks, the department decided to remove this provision because these facilities will continue to be regulated under the residual waste regulations.(more…)

Obama Tackles Climate Change with Clean Power Plan

NASA image

With the EPA setting a 2030 goal of reducing the US carbon emissions by 32 pct from the 2005 level, President Obama has taken a major step towards stemming climate disruption, and has boosted the chance of solid progress at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December. A clear picture of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) by set forth by the EPA on August 3 has been provided by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council but some factors driving the need for the CPP were listed by the Environmental Defense Fund as: (more…)

Fracking Plays Reduced Role in EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Photo: PA-DEP

Replacing coal with ‘fracked’ natural gas was a commonly expressed concern at the EPA’s public hearing on a Clean Power Plan in Pittsburgh on July 31 last year. Evidently the EPA heard that concern, and acted accordingly. In a detailed blog Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists summed up the measures that the CPP takes to limit the rush to gas in four ways as:

  • Increasing the role of renewable energy.
  • Allowing renewable energy to displace coal and natural gas generation.
  • Phasing in the coal to gas switch..
  • Ensuring that there aren’t perverse incentives to build new natural gas plants.

Impact of Clean Power Plan on Pennsylvania

Photo: NREL

A key element of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is to allow each state to devise its own means of achieving a reduction of 32 pct from 2005 levels by 2030. That is a major responsibility for Pennsylvania since we are the third highest emitter of carbon emissions among the fifty states. In a statement Gov. Tom Wolf described EPA’s goals as challenging but achievable. Perhaps anticipating opposition from the coal industry, utilities and their conservative friends in the state legislature, the Governor went on to say that “clean coal is a part of our energy portfolio, as is natural gas, solar, wind, and other sources of power, and all of this has to be part of a comprehensive strategy.”

For a comparison of Pennsylvania’s goal of 32 pct reduction from 2012 level by 2030 with those of other states see Table 2 in the NRDC’s summary of the Clean Power Plan.

‘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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