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

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Obama Vetoes Keystone Pipeline Bill

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ACTION. Thank President Obama for his veto of the ‘Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act‘.

It is no longer news, and it was expected, but it is nevertheless worth recording that on February 24 President Obama vetoed a bill that would have granted approval of the Keystone XP Pipeline. There do not appear to be sixty-six votes in the Senate to override the veto. The next step will be a recommendation on the Keystone project from the Secretary of State prior to Obama’s final decision. There do not appear to be sixty-six votes in the Senate to override the veto. The next step will be a recommendation on the Keystone project from the Secretary of State prior to Obama’s final decision.

Shell Scuttles Alberta Tar Sands Project

As pointed out by the folk at Climate Progress, Obama’s veto of the Keystone Pipeline bill is not the only problem for the extractors of oil from the Athabasca tar sands. On February 23 Royal Dutch Shell announced that it has withdrawn its application for a tar sands mine in northern Alberta. This is consists with reports of Shell cutting back on projects worldwide, a stance that places in question the future of the proposed Beaver County ethane crack plant.

Fracking in the Sahara – Say What?

The world’s third largest reserve of natural gas sits right on Europe’s southern doorstep – in Algeria. In 2012 Shell and Exxon signed an agreement to explore for recoverable gas in Algeria’s interior, that is, over the Atlas Mountains and into the Saharan desert. In July 2014 the Algerian government announced plans to drill four wells in the desert to determine the feasibility of fracking in the desert. That move has raised the hackles of the sparse population in the water-starved desert. And we worry about depleting water supplies in this country?

Weird Weather and Our Changing Climate

ACTION: Contact your Congressman and ask him what he is doing to curb climate-change.

Boston nears a snow record with 102 inches, San Francisco was rain-free in January, and in Alaska the warm weather breaks records. So is this screwy weather pattern really a symptom of our changing climate? In a well-written piece climatologist Jennifer Francis explains how the weather behavior fits a model of climate change, and engages in an interesting set of comments at the end of the article.

While Fracking Dips, Solar Power Grows

It is consistent with the boom-and bust nature of the oil and gas industry that capital investment is dipping and jobs are being cut. In contrast, the sustainable solar power industry is booming with job-growth that is paradoxically highest in conservative parts of the country. To spur the growth further, Google has launched a $300 million program to help distributed rooftop solar panel installation. Not to be outdone, on February 10 Apple revealed plans for a $850 million 280-megawatt solar farm near its Cupertino offices. And abroad the Indian Government commitment to solar power is backed by having received investment commitments of around $200 billion from 213 companies to create 266 giga-watt of solar power in the next five years.

Confirmation of Quigley as DEP Secretary is Under Attack

ACTION: Please urge your State Senator to vote for confirmation of John Quigley as Secretary of the Dept. Environmental Protection. Locate your Senator and get contact info HERE.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s nominee for Secretary of the Dept. of Environmental Protection has a background far different than those of the DEP Secretaries in the Corbett administration. A former DCNR Secretary, John Quigley earned the respect of conservationists with his opposition to fracking in state forests. Quigley’s confirmation requires a favorable vote by at least 26 Senators, but friends of the fossil fuel industries are already working to defeat the confirmation.

Debate of ‘Geo-Engineering’ to Limit Climate Change Heats Up

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While a small residue of industry-backed researchers remain in denial, the rest of the scientific world is moving forward. But they face a serious dilemma; What if the world leaders do not move quickly enough to slow GHG emissions, and the feared climate ‘tipping point’ is reached and there is no going back? That dilemma has lead some scientist to consider controlling the climate on a planetary scale, by creating in the atmosphere a ‘screen’ that will reflect some of the sun’s radiation and thereby prevent overheating, or sequestering the CO2.

In 2009 the Royal Society in London acknowledged that this ‘geo-engineering’ approach had its potential benefits and possible environmental drawbacks. Preferring the term ‘climate intervention’, last month the National Academy of Sciences published tandem reports on CO2 sequestration and reflecting sunlight. They conclude that ‘intervention’ is not a substitute for CO2 reduction and adaptation, but concede that research should be continued, and the debate continues.

Gas Drilling Project in Harmar Twp. Withdrawn

Citing Gov. Wolf’s proposed severance tax on fracked gas, Huntley & Huntley announced that it is “re-evaluating its leasing efforts in Southwestern Pennsylvania and on February 18 the company withdrew an offer to lease 90 acres in Harmar Township. It is not clear whether poor market conditions for natural gas or strong citizen opposition were also factors, but fracking opponents in Harmar were pleased. H&H still have a lease proposal for 150 acres in nearby West Deer Twp, with a town hall meeting scheduled for March 11 (for time call the township office 724.265.3680).

Obama Adds to his ‘Conservationist’ Legacy

Browns Canyon NM

Browns Canyon NM - BLM

Using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906, on Feb. 18 2015 President Obama created three new National Monuments. Understandably, designation of the historic Pullman factory town near Chicago and the Honouliuli Internment Camp in Hawaii attracted more attention, but also protected was 21,000 acres around the Arkansas River in Colorado as the Browns Canyon NM after a forty year fight by conservationists. Thus the President continues to strengthen his ‘conservation’ legacy, along with recent creation of the San Gabriel Mountains NM and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks NM in New Mexico, and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine NM.

EPA Gives Climate Change Evidence for Obama to Justify Keystone XL Pipeline Veto

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In 2013 President Obama said he will consider greenhouse gas emissions as a critical factor in his decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline. He is expected to soon make that decision after he vetoes the Congress’s pro-pipeline bill S.280 sent to the President on February 11.

In a letter dated February 2 the EPA notified the State Department that after fully considering all the comments on its draft Environmental Impact Statement of January 2014 the EPA wrote that “Until ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of oil sands are more successful and widespread, the Final SEIS makes clear that, compared to reference crudes, development of oil sands crude represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” Those extra emissions are estimated to be equivalent to 6 million passenger vehicle or eight coal-fired power plants. The President’s final decision on the Keystone pipeline will take place after he receives the final recommendation from the State Department on the trans-border project.

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