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HELP MAKE CLIMATE ACTION HISTORY. Join the People’s Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21

ACTION: Register HERE for a seat on one of our two buses.

On Sunday, September 21, tens of thousands will march in New York City to demand that President Obama, the President of China, and other world leaders attending the UN Climate Summit 2014 on September 23 take action on Climate Change before it is too late.

The Allegheny Group and Thomas Merton Center have arranged for two buses to travel to New York:

  • Our two buses will depart Edgewood Town Center (off the Parkway East) at 3 am.
  • Arrive in New York in time for the 11:30 am start of the March.
  • The March will be less than three miles from Columbus Circle., going over to Sixth Ave, across 42nd Street and finishing on Eleventh Ave.
  • Depart New York about 4 pm and arrive back in Pittsburgh shortly after Midnight.
  • The fare is $68 per passenger.  Some scholarships are available.

To reserve your seat on the bus register HERE. If you are unable to join us on the bus, you may make a donation with ‘People’s Climate March’ on the Memo line of your check, payable to ‘Allegheny Group Sierra Club’, and mailed to:

Allegheny Group
c/o Sierra Club,
425 N. Craig St. Suite 202,
Pittsburgh PA 15213

For more information, contact Peter at pjwray@verizon.net.

Petition Calls for County to Curb Shenango Coke Plant Air Pollution

Artwork: Mike LaMark

ACTION: Sign the petition.

The Shenango coke plant sits on Neville Island a short distance down-river from the Point. For years polluted air from the plant has spread through the Ohio Valley and up to Downtown and beyond. In April 2014 the owners of the 52-year-old plant agreed with Allegheny County Health Dept. (ACHD) to pay a penalty of $600,000 for past pollution violations and promised to spend $750,000 on new emission control equipment. In May GASP filed a lawsuit against Shenango, charging that the agreement “did not do enough to limit pollution from the coke oven doors or combustion stack”. (more…)

Holes Pop Up as Permafrost Thaws in Siberia

Locally we are worried about methane emissions from fracking operations, but in Siberia and Alaska methane emissions from the thawing permafrost prmoise to be a bigger concern. Back in 2011 the US Dept. of Energy announced a $100 million research program to determine “what will happen when the Arctic permafrost thaws and carbon is released mainly in the form of methane?” Now we have a partial answer to that question. Strange ground holes 100 feet across and of unknown depth have recently been discovered in Siberia.

As explained in a PBS News Hour report this week, the holes are most likely to be produced by the release of methane from the melting underground ice, resulting in an eruption. Russian scientists measured methane concentrations in one of the holes at 9.6 pct or 53,000 times normal.

An Update on the Environmental Effects of Fracking

Photo: Phil Coleman

It is not often that any branch of the media devotes as much as 51 minutes to an in-depth discussion of the impacts of fracking, but that is what Diane Rehm did on August 20 with guests Mark Boling (Southwestern Energy Company), Amy Mall (NRDC), and Abrahm Lustgarten (ProPublica). Worth listening to or reading the transcript. The discussion shows that the impacts of fracking are now sufficiently understood that government inaction is in-excusable.

Egypt and Solar Energy

Egypt is currently experiencing an electric power crisis with daily blackouts occurring in cities like Cairo with its population of 7.7 million. Where is the use of solar power? What is causing such a crisis in the land of the sun god Ra? The causes are perhaps typical of many developing countries; poor condition of the electric infrastructure, greater personal use of electricity, a rapidly growing population, and a 3 deg C increase in average temperature between 1960 and 1990. So how much use is Egypt making of solar power? Currently electricity generation is fueled 70 pct by natural gas, 20 pct oil, and 10 pct hydro. For an overburdened Earth the good news is that Egypt is turning away from fossil fuels, ending its oil and gas subsidies and planning to produce 5 GW of renewable energy by 2017. Part of that new energy supply will come from wind farms, and part from new solar power plants like the 2 MW plant in Luxor.

Cool Colleges – Chatham Has Clear Lead Locally

As Pittsburgh becomes a national center for higher learning it is worth looking at how well the local colleges are practicing and nurturing sound environmental values. In the Sierra magazine’s Eighth Annual ranking of Cool Schools, Chatham University is the leading local school at No. 20, a marked improvement from move up from 61st in 2012. The Coolest College nationally is Dickinson College (Carlisle) at third with a top rating for investments. Penn State rose from 51 to 48 in 2013. Carnegie Mellon slipped to 65 from 61, Slippery Rock improved slightly to 89 from 92. Pitt entered the survey for the first time with a ranking of 97 but a zero count for investment. Allegheny College also entered this year, with the rank of 110 and Westminster entered with the rank of 123. Duquesne University has yet to participate in the magazine’s survey.

Chatham has made remarkable progress, having finished 114th five years ago when Carnegie Mellon was 31st and Dickinson finished 19th.

Enviro Group’s Suit Results in Setback for Cove Point LNG Plant in MD

Artwork: Mike LaMark

Because it could possibly accelerate fracking here in our region, we are following the fate of the proposed Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exporting terminal on the west shore of Chesapeake Bay. Early this month a Calvert County Circuit judge decided that the move by Calvert County Commissioners and Planning Commission to enact a special law in order to ‘fast track’ the LNG project was unconstitutional. The suit is but one of three Cove Point plant suits brought by the environmental group AMP Creeks Communities Council based in Accokeek MD.

Plug-In Electric Cars Gaining Ground

Graphic by M. LaMark.

The rate of sales of plug-in electric (PEV) cars is accelerating. The sale of 54,973 PEVs sold in the US in the first half of 2014 brings the total sold since the Tesla Roadster appeared in 2008 to 238,000 vehicles. This places the US as the leading country for PEVs, but China plans to catch up quickly. While removing gasoline emissions from the highways, there is the remaining fact that the electricity used to charge a PEV is from a coal-fired power station. Ford plans to help avoid that problem with a solar-powered charging station at it HQ parking lot. For PEV questions and myths click http://driveclean.ca.gov/pev/ and attend the upcoming PEV tailgate event in Pittsburgh, co-sponsored by the Sierra Club.

See also: Is it Time to Buy an Electric Car?

Rolf Larsen – Allegheny Group’s First Leader

Six days after the first Earth Day in 1970, the Allegheny Group was created under the leadership of a young attorney named Rolf Larsen. Rolf served as Group Chair for four years. In 1977 he won election to the Common Pleas Court and later to the Supreme Court, where he was a controversial but progressive jurist until 1993 A Life Member of the Sierra Club, Rolf remained a supporter of the Allegheny Group until he died August 11, 2014 at the age of 79.

Ten Current Reasons to be Hopeful about Tackling Climate Change

ACTION: Join the bus to the Peoples Climate March in NYC, Sept. 21

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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