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

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Hillary and Climate Change

NASA image

The fact that Hillary Clinton chose climate change as the topic for her second campaign platform ‘energy and climate’ was encouraging for environmentalists, as was her plan to install half a a half-billion solar panels by 2021 and to use renewable energy to power every home in the country within 10 years. But back in April fears were already expressed that Clinton’s approach to climate disruption would be ‘cautious’, especially regarding the Keystone Pipeline as well as fracking. Those concerns were apparently justified when last week Clinton refused to take a stand on Keystone, fracking and drilling in the Arctic. A graphic comparison of Clinton’s positions with those of Sanders and O’Malley sums it up nicely. Meanwhile the Republican candidates are either silent on the climate crisis, or simply deny its existence.

Enviros Rally in Support of EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Photo: R Francisco

At mid-day on July 29 close to one hundred people gathered in the courtyard of the Allegheny County Courthouse to support the EPA’s proposals to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. A number of speakers emphasized the need to reduce unhealthy emissions and greenhouse gases. With the final rules published in June 2014, each state is required to devise its plans for how to meet the mandatory reductions, which for some states will be relatively easy to do. Although welcomed by the health and environmental communities, the coal industry is expected to fiercely resist the rules, in Congress and in the courts.

Shell – For Whom the Bridge Tolls

For forty hours they hung from the bridge and stopped the icebreaker MSV Fennica from emerging out to sea. (See the Videos) The icebreaker was needed in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska now that the Obama Administration has allowed Shell to drill two exploratory wells there. Prepared to hang from the bridge for several days, the thirteen activists achieved in drawing attention to Shell’s billion-dollar drilling project (see the Videos). Eventually a Federal judge placed a $2,500 per hour fine on Greenpeace, the attendant kayakers were moved away by police, three of the bridge-hangers were lowered, and the icebreaker sailed through the gap and out to sea, putting an end to one of the most remarkable examples of direct environmental activism.

Hydro Coming to the Mon

Art work: P Martin

Harnessing the full potential of the waterpower of our region is a slow process. The hydroelectric power plant at the Kinzua Dam in Warren County was opened in 1965 and there is a public hydropower plant at Lock No 6 near Freeport. Now the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved a $15 million hydropower project at the Braddock lock and dam, with a 24-hour capacity of 5.25 megawatts – enough power for 5,200 homes. The company building the Braddock plant, Hydro Green Energy of Dallas, has proposed a similar operation at the dam on the Allegheny near Oakmont and on the Mongahela near Morgantown.

Two European Climate Conferences Set Tone for Paris in December

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Two important conferences on the climate crisis were held in Europe last week. On July 21 at the Summit of Conscience for the Climate meeting in Paris the “Why do I care?” campaign was launched. The French government had invited Nobel prizewinners, philosophers, and spiritual leaders to make the moral case for the world to act urgently. Amid a broad range of speakers, Arnold Schwarzenegger stated “I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction, this is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now.”

Last Barrier Removed for Shell to Explore Oil Drilling in the Arctic

On July 22 the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Protection removed the last hurdle for Royal Dutch Shell to conduct exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea off the northeast coast of Alaska. But the agency did impose the condition that the two wells would be drilled one at a time and not go down into the oil-bearing regions. Referring to the 75 pct risk associated wiht drilling in this area, a statement from the Sierra Clubs Exec. Dir. Michael Brune reads: (more…)

New Rules for Stream Protection in Appalachia Viewed as Inadequate

Photo: Mountain Justice

A delayed effort by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to improve the rules governing the protection of streams and ground water from coal mining has met with resistance from mining companies and environmentalists.  The OSM issued its proposed rules on July 16 and a public comment period will close September 16, with a public hearing in Pittsburgh scheduled during that time.   Included in the proposal is improved monitoring and data collection of water quality, but of concern to issue to environmentalist groups dealing with mountain top removal in Appalachia is the maintenance of the buffer zones between mining operations and streams.  In 2008 the Bush administration modified the Buffer Zone Rule to provide a ‘minimum’ distance. After a court case in February 2014 the 100 feet wide buffer was restored.  Now the OSM proposes to weaken the Buffer Zone Rule.

Peoples’ Tribunals to Place Fracking on Trial.

Photo: Phil Coleman

At hearings in Britain and the United States a coalition of human rights lawyers and academics will put fracking on trial. Based in Rome, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) identifies and publicizes cases of systematic violation of fundamental rights, especially cases in which national and international legislation fails to defend the right of the people. For example, in the past PPT tribunals have heard cases involving victims of the Chernobyl disaster, gold mining in west Papua, and Union Carbide’s gas leaks in Bhopal.

Grassroots-based mini-tribunals will address the question “Does sufficient evidence exist to indict your State on charges of failing to protect the human rights of persons impacted by fracking?” and will precede the plenary tribunals in March 2017.

End of a Dream – Ryerson Station SP Dam will Not be Re-built

Photo of dry Duke Lake, Ryerson SP. Steven Sunshine, The Center for Public Integrity.

It was a goal of the former head of the state park system, Dr. Maurice Goddard, to make sure that every state park possessed opportunities for water-related recreation. When Ryerson Station State Park was opened in Greene County in 1967 a dam formed Duke Lake. Underground long-wall mining by Consol Energy caused the dam to fail and in 2005 the lake was drained.

After a legal battle lead by the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ) the company agreed in 2011 to pay $36M towards restoring the dam. On July 24 2015 DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn announced that the ground beneath the old dam was still unstable and Lake Duke would not be restored. Instead, the DCNR is now accepting proposals for the best use of the $36M settlement funds to improve the state park and the Duke Lake Task Force will meet in August to prepare such a proposal. For more information contact Veronica Coptis at veronica@coalfieldjustice.org.

‘Ban the Oil Bomb Trains’ Campaign Launched Nationwide

Photo: Robert Donnan

Beginning with the two-year anniversary of the oil train disaster in Quebec that killed 47 people, this past week saw the launch of a national campaign to end the dangerous shipment of crude oil by rail. Of primary concern are the shipments through cities, often through low-income communities down near the tracks.

To measure the risk of ‘oil bomb train’ accidents in Pennsylvania the FracTracker Alliance organized a count of oil trains passing through Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. Concerned citizens are encouraged to sign Sen. Bob Casey’s petition to members of Congress and the MoveOn petition to President Obama. (more…)

Grants Available for Local Groups Working on Gas Pipeline Issues

A number of grants from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club are available for local groups and organizations that are working on shale gas pipeline issues. The grants of $1,000 or less may be used to conduct research, organize meetings, provide information to members and the public, advocate their concerns, and engage the media. For an application form click HERE.

‘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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