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

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County Council Begins to Tackle Fracking Lease – Sort Of

To partly justify the need to frack Deer Lakes Park, at an April 2, 2014 public meeting County Executive Fitzgerald suggested that the lakes in this park were polluted and un-fishable. This photo was taken on April 12, 2014 in Deer Lakes Park, the first day of Trout Season. Photo by Joy Strang.

Fifty-nine residents signed up to speak at the Allegheny County Council meeting on April 8 when an ordinance to grant County Executive Fitzgerald permission to negotiate the leasing of the mineral rights beneath Deer Lakes county park was on the agenda. Four speakers supported this leasing for fracking beneath the park – all four to some degree beneficiaries of the fracking industry. The remaining host of speakers each took their allotted three minutes to explain to Council in sometimes passionate, often humorous, but always in a well-reasoned manner, just exactly why fracking of any of our nine county parks is a bad idea.

After more than three hours of citizen testimony it was Council’s turn to discuss how to handle the ordinance. It appears that the steady drumbeat of citizen concern since last August is paying off. Nick Futules announced that there will be a public hearing on April 15 followed by Park Committee meetings.

LATE NOTE: The tenor of the Parks Committee meetings has been set by Committee Chairman Futules’ choice of pro-industry experts and exclusion of independent experts. Citizens are urged to monitor these meetings and take notes.

Climate Change Blockbuster: ‘Years of Living Dangerously’

NASA image

Here is a powerful TV series that may provide a jolt to the general public’s perception of climate change. Instead of just summarizing scientific reports, SHOwtime has explored the human impact of climate change. The Guardian calls the nine episodes of ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ a blockbuster ‘non-fiction thriller that you will not want to miss”. The series started 10 pm on Sunday, April 13, but that first episode can be viewed for free on YouTube.

Groups Not Entirely Happy with Shenango Coke Plant Agreement

On Neville Island just down the river from the Point sits one of the dirtiest air-polluting facilities in the state – the Shenango coke making batteries. During a 432 day period ending Sept. 30, 2014 Shenango was in violation of Allegheny County emissions standards 330 days. On April 8 the owners of Shenango, DTE Energy Services, agreed with the county to pay a $600,000 civil penalty and to accelerate their plant improvement schedule. Speaking on behalf of a collaborative of non-profits that has been fighting for healthier air in this part of the Ohio Valley, Tom Hoffman stated in part:

From what we have learned, given Shenango Incorporated’s history of chronic noncompliance and the substantial profits of their parent company, DTE Energy Services, the financial penalty in this agreement does not match the magnitude of the offense. The fact remains that Shenango cannot continue its pattern of reckless behavior. Shenango and Allegheny County Health Department must demonstrate a commitment to enforcing this agreement for the betterment of the community.

Cleaner Air from PAT Buses

By purchasing cleaner and more efficient new buses, a new report reveals that harmful emissions from PAT’s diesel-powered buses have been reduced dramatically. Between 2005 and 2013, estimated total annual emissions of particulate matter (PM) from the bus fleet fell 66 percent, and emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from the fleet fell by 72 percent. An earlier report showed that although diesel vehicles form less than 10 pct of the regions traffic, they account for half of the PM and NOx mobile emissions, with a concentration in the Downtown area.


Deer Lakes Park. Photo: Allegheny County Parks Dept.

In response to the formal proposal now before Allegheny County Council to ‘frack’ beneath Deer Lakes park, the Protect Our Parks coalition urges YOU to participate in the following events. Spread the word, show up, bring a sign, speak out! This PEOPLE POWERED campaign is where YOUR ACTION can have a DIRECT IMPACT on the outcome.

  • April 19. ‘Hands Around the Lake’ Rally. 1–3 pm, Deer Lakes Park. Details.
  • April 22. Earth Day at County Council Meeting. Pittsburgh. Details later.
  • April 23. Parks Committee Meeting – Lease Legal Questions. Details later.
  • April 30. Parks Committee Meeting – Economic Factors. Details later.

Activists Challenge Fitzgerald’s Park Lease at Info Meeting

Park protectors at press conference

ACTION: Allegheny County residents are urged to speak out at the April 8 County Council meeting.

Before an audience of about 400 people, on April 2 at Deer Lakes High School County Executive Rich Fitzgerald assembled an array of his political allies and industry friends to justify his relentless push to lease the mineral rights for fracking beneath Deer Lakes County Park. (See the VIDEO.) Before the meeting a press conference by the Protect Our Parks coalition set the tone for the evening by challenging the benefits claimed by the County Exec., such as the actual number of jobs created, the validity of the long-term economic gains, etc., and focusing on the potential impact on air and water quality, the inadequate emergency response capability, overwhelming public opposition, etc. With at least 75 people signed up to speak, the meeting lasted four hours. The process to approve or disapprove the fracking lease will begin in earnest at the April 8 meeting of County Council, after which Council is expected to hold its own hearing.

Little Blue Run Coal Ash Impoundment to Finally Close

Little Blue Run impoundment. Photo: LBRAG

At long last, the DEP has ordered the closing of the Little Blue Run impoundment where coal ash from the Bruce Mansfield power plant in nearby Shippingport has been stored since first permitted in 1974. For years Greene Township residents have called for this closing, claiming that the unlined 1,700-acre lagoon has been a serious source of groundwater contamination. In August 2012 closure was promised, and now a Closure Permit has been issued to owner First Energy. The negatives are that residents must wait until Jan.1, 2017 before First Energy stops dumping waste into the impoundment, and that instead of Little Blue Run, the annual 3 million tons of coal ash from Bruce Mansfield will be shipped up the Mon river to LaBelle.

Vertical Wind Turbines Coming to Pittsburgh

Conceptual view of vertical wind turbines mounted on roof. Image: WindStax and Desmone & Associates

Mention ‘wind turbines’ and those three-bladed structures along Laurel Ridge come to mind. But a variety of ‘vertical’ wind turbines are being developed since a helix type turbine collapsed at the Burning Man festival in 2007. This spring a more reliable type of vertical turbine will be placed on the roof of the Public Market Place in the Strip District. These vertical turbines have been developed and built by WindStax Wind Power Systems here on Smallman Street.

With the potential to bring wind power into an urban setting, this development will be closely followed. Not only can incoming power be moved away from the grid, but the impact of wind power on land and wildlife can be reduced. What is necessary is proven reliability, energy efficiency, and cost effectiveness

Opportunities to Help Make our Region a Better Place

The Allegheny Group is an active grassroots organization that relies on volunteer support. Here are some opportunities to join like-minded folk in a number of activities. Please contact volunteer coordinators Ken Yonek at kennethyonek@yahoo dot com or Bob Lauth at bobby2socks1@gmail dot com for more information.

PHONE BANKING at the Sierra Club Office, 425 N. Craig st. Pgh 15213. :

April 24 – Phone banking for volunteers for the Sierra Club table at the Venture Outdoors Festival on May 17.

TABLING is an important outreach activity that does not require any past-experience.

April 22 Washington & Jefferson College Earth Day Festival
April 24 – Rights for Mother Earth Panel, East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Time TBA
April 26 – Mount Lebanon Earth Day Festival, 11am – 3pm Mt. Lebanon Main Park (more…)

House Attack on Antiquities Law After Obama Expands a Coastal National Monument

Photo: Bureau of Land Management

ACTION: Urge Senators Casey and Toomey to vote against any measure that will weaken the Antiquities Act of 1906, such as HR 1459.

For over one hundred years the Antiquities Act of 1906 has been used by US Presidents to protect special natural, historical and cultural areas as national monuments. Today there are over 100 National Monuments, including Canyon de Chelly NM (AZ), Misty Fjords NM (AK), Fort Matanzas NM (FL), and Dinosaur NM (UT). On March 11 President Obama declared by public proclamation the addition of the 1,660 acre Point Arena-Stornetta stretch of coastline to the California Coastal NM in Mendocino County. On Wednesday this week the Republicans in the House aimed to clip the Presidential authority by passing the ‘Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act’ (HR 1459) with a vote of 222-201. Congressman Mike Doyle voted against the bill, which will now go to the Senate.

Bees and Butterflies and Rachel Carson

Artwork: Mike LaMark

Wherever Rachel Carson is, she must be shaking her head in dismay. What have we really learned since she wrote the story of how a pesticide like DDT could enter into the food chain from fruit to insects to birds? Today the collapse of bee colonies has been associated with the use of Bayer’s pesticide Clothianid, and July 2013 Earthjustice sued the EPA to suspend approval of Dow’s Sulfoxaflor, which is another member of the pesticide class known as neonicotinoids. Since last December the European Union has posted a two-year ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides but recent research suggests that the ban should be permanent. The EPA continues to study the matter. (more…)

Allegheny County’s Air Pollution Puts Residents’ Cancer Risk in Top 2 Pct in the US

Map: University of Pittsburgh

The latest Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis (PRETA) shows that Allegheny County still has a long way to go before this becomes a truly healthy place to live. Produced by Pitt’s Center for Environmental Health and Communities, the PRETA analysis shows that people residing in Allegheny County have a cancer risk more than twice that of those within surrounding rural areas. Hazardous air pollution is exacerbated by the river-valley terrain throughout the region, and the two locations with the highest estimated cancer risk are West Elizabeth (1,314 per million) and Clairton (1,155 per million) in the Mon valley. The chief causes of air pollution in these areas are diesel exhaust and the remaining industrial plants. What is new in this PRETA is the possible impact of the ethane cracker in Beaver County proposed by Royal Dutch Shell and with fracked gas as the feedstaock.

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