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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.

Gas-fired Power Plant Proposed on the Yough

ACTION: Submit your comments on the permit application, and sign the petition.

The Tenaska energy company of Omaha, NE is seeking to construct a $500 million gas-fired power plant in South Huntingdon, Westmoreland County. It is feared that the plant will discharge toxins directly into the Youghiogheny River, and that will use 5 million gallons of water per day from the Yough. Comments on the company’s required NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit are due on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. Although construction of the plant may be delayed until next year, Tenaska need the NPDES permit now. (more…)

DEP in Trouble with Smog Regs and Keeping the Public in the Dark

DEP Mission: To protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment. We will work as partners with individuals, organizations, governments and businesses to prevent pollution and restore our natural resources.

It is not usual for one state agency to criticize another state agency, but then again, that is the job of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) which was created by the General Assembly in 1982. Recently the IRRC warned that the DEP’s proposed rules for the emission of smog-causing NOx and volatile organics were inadequate. The IRRC comments were based on a review of the DEP’s proposed rules by the EPA, and suggest that DEP will have to produce stronger rules.

A second scolding of DEP concerns the limited public access to DEP information regarding fracking operations. (more…)

California’s Drought is Worst Ever Recorded

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.

The major part of California is now classified by the US Dept. Agriculture as experiencing an Exceptional Drought, a situation that is the worst on record. (A video shows development of the drought since January 2011.) On a longer time span California has know severe droughts, but the difference now is that there are 38 million people living in the state, all using water, and a water-hungry agricultural industry that provides 16.4 pct of the nation’s crop and livestock.

PA Ranked Mediocre in Solar Power Installation

At 3 Watts/person, Pennsylvania ranked number 19 in the nation in terms of Solar Electricity Capacity installed per capita in 2013. Not surprising, Arizona was No. 1, Hawaii No. 2, and California No. 3. But included in the Top Ten were those ‘cloudy’ states like MA (4), NJ (6), VT (8) and DE (10). Location has a lot to do with the potential for solar power capacity but not everything. For example, in the Appendix to a recent report sunshine-rich Texas is ranked No. 22 at 2W/person and with 1W/person installed in 2013 Florida is No. 26 and Utah is No. 28. As emphasized in the same report, state policy is important, and it is worth noting that in Pennsylvania the state’s “Sunshine Program has had $0 available for payments of rebates” since Nov 23, 2013.

‘Sustainable’ Fracking Center Takes More Hits

In the spring of 2013 the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) was created to develop performance standard certification for the fracking industry with respect to air and water pollution. Almost from its inception the center was met with criticism by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, groups that claimed fracking was inherently unsustainable. Now a Public Accountability Initiative report concludes that CSSD “looks more and more like another front to improve the oil and gas industry’s image.” (more…)

EPA Hears from Hundreds About Need for Action on Climate Change

Overflow from Climate Action Now press conference, July 31. Photo: P. Wray

ACTION: Still an opportunity to send your own comments to the EPA.

At the last of four public hearings around the country, at the end of July more than 250 people turned out in Pittsburgh up to express their opinion on the EPA’s new rules to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 pct by 2030. By far the majority supported EPA’s proposal, with testimony from environmental, community, and faith-based groups as well as individuals. Common threads throughout were the need for immediate action, a warning about shifting from coal to fracked natural gas, the need to improve energy efficiency, and creation of jobs via increased use of clean energy. (more…)

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

Join the People’s Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21

September 21, 2014

Join the bus to NYC!

ACTION: Contact pjwray@verizon.net for a seat on one of our 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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