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

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EPA Seeks Broader Protection of Streams and Wetlands

ACTION: Ask ask your Congressman and Senators Casey and Toomey to support the EPA Clean Water Rule.

Defining which kinds of streams and wetlands are covered by the Clean Water Act is an important question for the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The US Supreme Court has told the agencies to give a clear answer but the agencies proposed rule in 2011 met strong opposition from the farming community. On March 25 the EPA and the Corps took a major step for proper water pollution control and issued a new rule that will:

  • Reduce confusion about Clean Water Act protection
  • Clarify types of waters covered under Clean Water Act
  • Save businesses time and money
  • Provide more benefits to public than costs
  • Help states to protect their waters

If approved, the EPA rule would provide pollution control to many additional streams in Pennsylvania.

The proposed rule has gained Republican opposition in Congress, and the EPA has found it necessary to debunk the widespread myths.

The period for submitting your comment has been extended from July 21 to October 20, 2014.

Legal Action Forces Temporary Halt to Further Fracking of State Lands

Gov. Tom Corbett’s move to allow fracking beneath state forests and parks has been temporarily halted. A lawsuit brought by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF) against the Corbett administration has resulted in a preliminary injunction against the signing of any new lease until the Commonwealth Court hears oral arguments on the PEDF case in October. In a complicated manner the case is tied into funding for the Dept. Conservation and Natural Resources, the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, and balancing the state budget.

First Move to Possbile Drilling Off Atlantic Coast

Whale taking a dive. Photo from the NOAA Photo Library.

What the President giveth, so he can taketh away. On June 17 President Obama created the world’s largest marine sanctuary, in the Southern Pacific. On July 18, after a thirty year moratorium on drilling off the Atlantic coast, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved the use of seismic airguns for exploration of oil, gas, and sand of the coast from Cape May NJ to Cape Canaveral.

Whether the exploration shows that drilling will be economically feasible, environmentalists are presently concerned about the use of airguns which according to Oceana will produce “dynamite-like blasts—which are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time—that are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine.” One of several concerns is the effect of this sound on the fewer than 400 right whales that birth and breed of the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

The BOEM approval follows a public comment period on the preliminary Environmental Impact statement published March 30, and is provided as a balance between energy needs and protection of marine life. The fear is that the balance is tipped too far in the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

What Happens in Cove Point Doesn’t Stay in Maryland

Cove Point rally, Washington, July 13. Photo: Elizabeth Hoffman

As pointed out here in March, what happens at a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility at Cove Point, MD will no doubt have an impact on fracking activity in SW Pennsylvania. The Cove Point facility was built for the importation of LNG, but with the fracking boom the owner, Dominion Resources, is seeking the permission of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to convert the Cove Point to a LNG exporting facility. This conversion has met with strong resistance from Marylanders, and has stirred legal action by national environmental organizations. On July 13 hundreds of members of more than 40 organizations rallied in Washington DC to urge FERC and President Obama to halt the Cove Point conversion. The following day western Pennsylvanians were among the protestors at the FERC offices, 25 of whom were arrested. (more…)

‘Collapse of Western Civilization’ is Recommended Reading

NASA image

The year is 2393 and the author is looking back at how 300 years earlier our society could have possibly ignored the science of a changing climate and led itself into total catastrophic collapse. The authors of ‘Collapse of Western Civilization’ try to answer this puzzle by looking at where the power lay, and it was not in the hands of the people ‘who understood the climate system’, but the people who ‘had a strong interest in maintaining the use of fossil fuels’, the Carbon Combustion Complex. The eighty-nine pages are well worth reading.

Important Public Hearing on EPA Action to Curb Climate Pollution Extended Another Day, August 1

August 1, 2014
9:00 amto8:00 pm

In a historic move to mitigate global warming, on June 2 the Environmental Protection Administration proposed new rules for CO2 emissions from existing power plants. Hearings for public comment will be held in four cities, including Pittsburgh. Due to an overwhelming response, the Pittsburgh hearing will be extended into a second day:

9:00 am to 8:00 pm, Friday, August 1, 2014
William S. Moorhead Federal Building
1000 Liberty Ave,
Pittsburgh Pa 15222

To testify and request a specific time: contact Pamela Garrett at 919-541-7966 or at garrett.pamela@epa.gov. NOTE: There will be a lunch break from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. and a dinner break from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. For background and talking points, see BELOW.

In addition to the public hearing in Pittsburgh, comments on the EPA’s new rule covering the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants may be submitted via Email to A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov with docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 in the subject line of the message.

Comments may also be sent to President Obama via the Sierra Club Website

What the EPA Rules Aim to Accomplish (more…)

Rally to Support Curbing Climate Pollution from Power Plants, Pittsburgh, July 31

July 31, 2014
12:00 pmto1:00 pm

Artwork: Mike LaMark

ACTION. Demonstrate your support for national climate action.

Join hundreds of citizens from around the tri-state area at a rally and march outside the public hearing on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce climate change emissions. We need to send a strong message to the EPA and Big Coal that there’s overwhelming public support for national climate action –NOW!

Noon to 1 pm, Thursday, July 31
William S. Moorhead Federal Building,
1000 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh 15222

Big Coal and their climate-denying allies are already trying to weaken the EPA’s historic climate protection efforts. We need a massive turnout for these hearings to demonstrate overwhelming public support for the EPA’s historic effort to make sure the plan isn’t made ineffective by climate deniers. For more information contact Randy Francisco at randy.francisco@sierraclub.org

Join the People’s Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21

September 21, 2014

Join the bus to NYC!

ACTION: Register now for a seat on one of the Pittsburgh buses.

Plans for the largest mobilization of support for international action on climate change are moving forward. On Sunday, September 21 more than 100,000 citizens from around the country are expected to take part in a march starting at noon and moving through Times Square in Manhattan. This will be prior to the UN Climate Summit 2014 conference on September 23. (more…)

State Ethics Probe Into Deer Lakes Park Vote Extends from Futules to Kress and Fitzgerald.

As Allegheny County Council approached a vote to approve the fracking lease beneath Deer Lakes Park, it became apparent that at least one member of the council probably had a conflict of interest: Parks Committee chairman Nick Futules. Consequently, private citizen Tim Ludwig informed Mr. Futules that he had brought the matter to the attention of the State Ethics Commission. Recently Commission investigators interviewed several Council members to determine if Mr. Futules did in fact gain to benefit financially from approval of the fracking lease. It is now revealed that the investigation has expanded to include deal making between Councilman Ed Kress and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies Gains Momentum

With an inactive Congress and President Obama limited in what he can do, a movement to shift financial investment away from oil, gas, and coal companies is gaining strength. Driven by ethical and moral considerations of man-made climate change and its impact, on June 28 the Unitarian Church voted to join the fossil fuel divestment movement, followed by the announcement on July 11 that the World Council of Churches urged its 345 member churches to withdraw their investment in fossil fuels. (more…)

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