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

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Rush to Frack Has Caught DEP Napping

For whatever reason, our state’s Department of Environmental Protection is failing to keep up with the task of inspecting and publicly reporting water pollution resulting from fracking operations. Speaking at a July 22 press conference to announce his Special Performance Audit of DEP’s oversight of the shale gas industry, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said “DEP is underfunded, understaffed and inconsistent in how it approaches shale gas development. It’s like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20 foot garden hose.” Shortly before the audit the DEP reported 209 instances where drilling had polluted water supplies. (more…)

Obama Sets Up Task Force to Protect Bees and Butterflies

Artwork: Mike LaMark

Earlier this year we wondered what Rachel Carson would have thought about the remarkable collapse of honey bee colonies here and abroad. The official view of the Environmental Protection Agency is that the causes are numerous, with mites and neonicotinoid pesticides being the main culprits. Last year the European Union acted and banned the use of four pesticides for two years in order to protect bees. (more…)

Global Warming Heats up in May and June

Map courtesy of NOAA.

ACTION: Attend the Peoples Climate March, September 21 in NYC.

This year May and June were globally the warmest on record. We may not have seen that increase in Pittsburgh, but in Greenland the record high temperatures indicated that catastrophic thawing of the ice cap is even more likely. In areas of California and Nevada the drought conditions remain ‘Exceptional’ and elsewhere in the West a wetter ‘Extreme’.

Governing global warming on land is the behavior in the oceans, which have absorbed more than 90 pct of the global warming. In June much of the global warming was due to a record jump of 1.15 deg. F. in the global sea surface temperature. What concerns scientists is how much our climate will be disrupted when the El Nino phenomenon kicks in later this year, and brings more of the deep ocean warming to the surface.

US Lags in Energy Efficiency

Cutting back on our energy consumption is perhaps the easiest way to mitigate climate change. But in a recent assessment of national energy efficiency efforts the US finished 13th among sixteen of the world’s major economies. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy used 31 categories to rank the nations as follows: (1) Germany; (2) Italy; (3) the European Union; (tied for 4) China; (tied for 4) France; (tied for 6) Japan; (tied for 6) United Kingdom; (8) Spain; (9) Canada; (10) Australia; (11) India; (12) South Korea; (13) United States; (14) Russia; (15) Brazil; and (16) Mexico.

The relative state of the US effort to save energy is disappointing, given the fact that in 2012 it was the world’s second largest emitter of CO2 and therefore a leading candidate for substantial reduction in energy consumption.

Going to a Clean Beach this Summer?

Photo courtesy of NRDC

Wonder how clean the water is at your favorite summer shore? The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has issued a guide to the quality of the water at the nation’s beaches. Out of the 30 states, Pennsylvania ranks 22nd for thirteen beaches along our Lake Erie shoreline. Thirty-five beaches have been named Superstar Beaches, with 7 in NJ, 4 in NC and VA, 2 in MD, and 1 in DE. Enjoy your dip.

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: (more…)

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. (more…)

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
11:00 amto12:00 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!

11:00 am to Noon, Thursday, July 31
August Wilson Center,
980 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh 15222

Big Coal and their climate-denying allies are already trying to weaken the EPA’s historic climate protection efforts, and they will hold their own rally. We need a massive turnout for OUR rally 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 Rachel Martin at rachel.martin@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…)

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