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

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County Council Set to Act on Petition to Hold Off on Further Drilling Beneath Parks, Dec. 2

December 2, 2014
5:00 pmto7:00 pm

ACTION: Allegheny County residents urged to attend this meeting.

On November 6 members of the Protect Our Parks campaign delivered a citizen’s petition to Allegheny County Council calling for the placement on the Council’s agenda an ordinance that will place a two-year hold on leasing of mineral rights at eight Regional County Parks. It is expected that Council will act on this petition, which was signed by more than 1,800 registered voters:

5 pm, Tuesday, December 2
4th Floor – Gold Room
County Courthouse
436 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Register to speak before 5 pm Monday, Dec. 1. Each speaker will have up to 3 minutes to speak. You can also show your VALUABLE support by simply attending.

Obama’s Pledge of $3 Billion Helps Close In on Green Climate Fund’s $10 Billion Target

Over the past few years the development of an international agreement on tackling climate change has faced two mayor obstacles. One has been the reluctance of what is now the major emitter of greenhouse gas emissions – China – to take a significant role in the negotiations prior to the December 2015 Paris meeting. This obstacle was overcome by President Xi Jinping’s November 12 commitment to reduce China’s emissions by 2030, a move substantiated by further Chinese coal reduction action on November 19.

The second major obstacle is the need for developed countries to financially help developing countries steer clear of dependence on fossil fuels – an important rich/poor issue. At the Brisbane meeting of the G20 on November 15 President Obama pledged that the US will contribute $3 billion to the UN Green Climate Fund. Next day Japan pledged $1.5 billion, followed by a pledge of $720 million by Britain. Earlier commitments by Germany ($960 million) and France, ($1 billion) with $100 million each from Switzerland and Korea, helped raise the current total in the Green Climate Fund to $9.3 billion. This is just short of $10 billion target for the fund, a target that although perhaps not sufficient, should greatly ease negotiating for the Paris conference.

Time to Begin ‘Solarizing’ Allegheny County

ACTION: Groups may apply to participate in community-based two-year campaign to double solar installations in the county.

Despite a lack of support for solar power from Gov. Corbett and the state legislature, the latest tally of solar installations in Pennsylvania is 7,272 according to a professional tracking system. Unfortunately, only 445 are in the nine-county SW corner of the state (Allegheny – 210, Westmoreland – 69, Washington – 54, Beaver – 43, Butler – 26, Fayette – 24, Armstrong – 9, Lawrence – 7, and Greene – 3). To help improve this situation an effort is underway to double the number of installations in Allegheny County. At a Pittsburgh City Council hearing Sharon Pillar of Smart Power explained how ‘Solarize Allegheny’ intends to expand solar power use by conducting 20-week campaigns in core communities like South Oakland over the next two years. Communities interested in participating in this program can apply HERE. For more information, contact Sharon Pillar at 412-215-5995 or spillar@smartpower.org.

Keystone XL Pipeline Delayed by Senate Vote

ACTION: It is not too late to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline project.

Needing 60 votes for passage, with a vote of 59 to 41 the U.S. Senate on November 17 failed to approve the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Not unexpectedly, both our state’s Senators voted in favor of the bill, S.2280, but Sen. Casey’s vote was still a disappointment. A few days earlier the House did pass a similar bill, H.R. 5682, by an overwhelming majority of 252 to 161. Among those voting in favor of pipeline were two of Pennsylvania’s five Democratic Members, Rep. Mike Doyle being one of the two. Environmentalists now wait to see if the upcoming State Department report recommends rejection of the pipeline project and the President acts accordingly. If Obama rejects the pipeline and a pro-pipeline bill is introduced in the next Congress it will require 67 votes in the Senate to override a Presidential veto.

Clean Rivers Campaign Demands that ALCOSAN Adopt ‘Green’ Solutions to Sewer Overflow Problem.

CRC audience in the chapel at First Presbyterian Chruch, Nov. 18, 2014. Photo: T. Hoffman

On a cold evening in mid-November more than 150 members of community, faith, and environmental groups called for Ratepayer Justice from ALCOSAN. They demanded that the county sanitary authority (ALCOSAN) apply a ‘green-first’ approach to reducing the combined sewer overflow that occurs during rainstorms and contaminates our rivers. Led by the Clean Rivers Campaign the assembly also heard that ‘green’ solutions will cost far less, will provide career not temporary jobs, and will improve the quality of life in many neighborhoods.

To satisfy the requirements of the Clean Water Act ALCOSAN has agreed with EPA to to solve the overflow problem. ALCOSAN’s initial proposal to EPA was a $3.6 billion project involving ‘grey’ components like building huge tunnels under the rivers. In January the EPA rejected a second proposal, costing $2 billion, and ALCOSAN is now developing a greener proposal. Nevertheless, rates for ALCOSAN customers will increase 50 pct over the next three years with further increases in store for what could be the largest public works project in the county’s history – costing more than Heinz Field, PNC Park, Consol Center, and Convention Center combined.

Two days later the Clean River Campaign protesters attended the ALCOSAN Board meeting.

Obama and Xi Jinping Provide Fresh Hope for Universal Action on Climate Change

NASA image

ACTION: Thank President Obama for historic action on climate change.

What a welcome surprise, and what satisfaction for those who took part in the September 21 Climate march in New York! Shortly after the November elections shifted Congress even further into the arms of the fossil fuel industries, the Presidents of China and the United States joined in a bold plan to tackle climate change. This cooperative declaration removed one of the major excuses (more…)

Growth in Solar Power, Especially in China

Putting teeth in its fresh commitment to shift away from fossil fuels is the fact that in 2013 China led the world in growth of installing solar energy. While the rate of installation dropped in European countries like Germany, China installed 12 GW of solar PV power generation capacity in 2013, an increase of 232 pct over 2012. To place China’s increase in perspective, the worldwide increase in 2013 was 38.7 GW to reach 140.6 GW at the end of 2013.

In 2013 the US installed 4.75 GW of solar power, (more…)

Local Activists Join Protests Against Expanding Fracking Infrastructure at FERC Offices in DC

Artwork: Mike LaMark

On November 2 activists began a week of protests against the Federal governments approval of fracking infrastructure projects, including pipelines in NY and MD and the Cove Point LNG exporting facility at Cove Point MD. Site of the protests was the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) offices in DC. Among the protesters were participants in the cross-country Great March for Climate Action, a march that recently stopped in Pittsburgh. Also protesting were members of the anti-fracking community of Western Pennsylvania, including representatives of Marcellus Outreach Butler. At times the protests turned nasty, with numerous arrests throughout the week.

US Moves to Meet World-Wide Growth in Demand for Coal

Coal miners in our region began to lose their jobs as companies adopted long-wall mining practices in the Sixties. Then came competition from cheaper open-cast mining in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, mining which is the subject of an interesting article in the Guardian. Now the Wyoming ‘miners’ are worried about the impact of the switch to cheaper natural gas for power production along with the EPA’s planned restrictions on GHG emissions. So the coal companies look at the growing demand for coal in Asia and look forward to exporting their coal from ports on the West Coast. The problem is, burning coal has a strong impact on the planet’s atmosphere whether it is burned in Pennsylvania or South Korea, even if the new power plants are more effective in reducing GHG emissions.

Linking Current Cold Spell to Climate Change?

NOAA’s weekly temperature forecast on Nov 13.

To some of us it is very tempting to associate this unusual mid-November cold spell to climate change. And we are not alone, for it is a question of interest to climatologists. Their answer seems to be ‘maybe’. There is certainly a connection between (more…)

Ten Current Reasons to be Hopeful about Tackling Climate Change

Avoiding the worst of climate change is challenging, requiring more from ourselves and our leaders, but there are some signs for hope. In a detailed article Karl Mathieson of the Guardian provides ten good signs:

  1. Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues
  2. China has ordered coal power plants to close
  3. The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds
  4. People are taking their money out of fossil fuels
  5. Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians
  6. Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power
  7. European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000
  8. Cutting emissions has become a business imperative
  9. Oil is becoming much more expensive to find
  10. Electric car sales are doubling each year
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