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Tribute to Long-Time SC Member Bruce Sundquist

As he approaches eighty, Bruce Sundquist has retired from his numerous conservation activities, not the least of which was leading outing programs for the Sierra Club and the American Youth Hostels association. Jennifer Szweda Jordan has prepared a nice tribute at the Allegheny Front radio show .

Wilderness Bill to Protect the Arctic Coastal Plain

ACTION. Urge your Congressman to co-sponsor the “Udall-Eisenhower Artic Wilderness Act”.

In January 2007 then House member Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill to permanently protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. In honor of President Eisenhower and Senator Morris Udall, who promoted the protection of the pristine area, the bill was titled the “Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act”. On January 9 of this year Congressmen Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) reopened the call for protection of a 1.56 million acre portion of the coastal plain with H.R. 239.

Protesters at Wolf’s Inauguration Call for Fracking Ban

Using the recent ban on fracking in New York as an example, about 250 people marched and called for a similar ban at the Inauguration ceremony for Gov. Tom Wolf. Organized in part by Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, a number of protesters entered the formal ceremony and eight were taken into custody after causing a disturbance. Photos of the demonstrations are available here. The anti-fracking community will now have to wait and see how strongly Gov. Wolf protects state lands from fracking, strengthens regulations, and for what purposes he uses the promised severance tax.

Local Fracking Tied to Fate of LNG Terminal off NJ Shore

In a strange way Vladimir Putin and the folk in Washington County are connected. The connection lies in proposals to build Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals off the Eastern seaboard, proposals that take place in the risky world of Putin’s ambitions, Saudi oil output, and Chinese demand. Yet plans to build LNG terminals are being pursued. The terminal off the Long Island shore near Port Ambrose is being proposed for importation of LNG, and must be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, and is opposed by local Members of Congress as well as supporters of an off-shore wind form. It will require no such approval to change it to an exporting facility, and that will be good news for the gas drillers in Washington County.

Fracking Update: Boom busts; Data crowd-sourcing; Lonely NY ban; Pope Francis interview

When the Fracking Boom Goes Bust. This is the first of a six-part series by the Washington Post on how people and communities handle the down-side of the fracking ‘boom’ in Pennsylvania.

Citizens Fill in the Drilling Data What DEP Misses. Several non-profit, volunteer organizations have turned to crowd-sourcing to gather data about fracking activities, data that DEP is missing

Status of Fracking Bans Around the States. Although fracking has been banned in a large number of communities, with the City of Pittsburgh being the first, what makes Gov. Cuomo’s recent decision unique is that New York is the only state with a fracking ban. (See map.) A longer-term moratorium is proposed for Maryland.

Pope Francis Talks with Argentine Anti-Fracking Leader. In a taped interview with the director of an anti-fracking movie that was banned in Argentina, Pope Francis continues his with his message that we are “stewards, not masters’ of the Earth.

Guidelines for Methane Emissions from Fracking a Needed but Inadequate Move

Riding the shale gas treadmill. Photo from the PA DEP

President Obama is steadily rolling out his program to curtail climate change, as well as improve air quality across the nation. On January 14 the Administration announced a goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industries by 40 – 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. This follows the setting of GHG emissions standards for transportation in 2010 and 2012 and the creation of standards for existing power plants beginning in June 2014.

In general environmental groups welcomed the administration’s effort, but believed that it fell far short of what is needed. These are guidelines, relying on volunteer compliance by industry. Another concern is the application of the guidelines to only certain new sources, instead of ALL existing and new sources. Finally, the guidelines do not cover important methane emissions from the transmission and distribution of natural gas.

The EPA, as well as the BLM for drilling on Federal lands, will need to develop the methane emission standards before the end of 2016.

Wolf’s Nominees for DEP and DNCR Secretaries Restore Environmental Balance

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has announced his nominations for the two key posts in his administration; John Quigley as Secretary of DEP and Cindy Dunn as Secretary of DCNR. In contrast to the people in the same positions for Gov. Corbett, both Quigley and Dunn are professionals with strong experience in protection of the environment and our natural resources. Since serving as DCNR Secretary, Quigley is remembered as an outspoken opponent of any fracking in state lands. Dunn holds a MS in biology, and her experience goes back to working in Harrisburg for Audubon Pennsylvania.

In addition to Quigley and Dunn, Wolf can benefit from another person with a strong environmental background, his Chief of Staff Kathy McGinty, herself a former DEP Secretary and chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President Clinton.

Deep Coal Mine Proposed for Laurel Highlands

January 28, 2015
1:00 pmto3:00 pm

If permitted, the Rustic Ridge deep coal mine will occupy approximately 3,000 acres in Donegal, Jones Mills, Champion, and Indian Head at a popular entrance to the Laurel Highlands. DEP will hold an ‘informal public conference’:

1:00-3:00 pm, Wednesday, January 28,
Donegal Community Center,
113 Community Center Lane, Donegal, PA 15628.

Mountain Watershed Association staff will be available at the community center from 12:00PM – 1:00 PM and 3:00PM – 5:00PM to assist you with questions or in writing comments. For more information contact Beverly at 724/455-4200 ext. 1# or mwa@mtwatershed.com.

Europeans Broke Clean Energy Records in 2014

Photo courtesy of Oceana

Although domestic investment in clean energy surged in 2014, it was in Europe where records were broken. Denmark led with a world record for wind power production of 39 pct. Clean energy overtook nuclear power in Scotland with renewables providing nearly one third more power than nuclear, coal or gas in the first six months of the year. In the U.K wind power generated electricity for a quarter of the homes in 2014. And Germany is on track to break its own record with 27 pct of energy being from renewables during the first nine months of 2014.

Green Job Opportunities for Young Adults

Thanks to Conservation Consultants on the Southside for bringing to our attention news of job opportunities for young people in Pittsburgh and elsewhere around the country:

The Student Conservation Association is offering its eighth year of sustainability fellowships in Pittsburgh. SCA Green Cities Sustainability Fellows serve with organizations to implement a wide range of urban sustainability solutions, while gaining hands-on training as a team. First round interviews begin in February. SCA is a national service organization that provides a set of stipends for community service internship placements.

In his Inaugural Speech Gov. Jerry Brown Sets a High Standard for Tom Wolf

While we wait to see what Tom Wolf will have to say about the environment in his Inaugural speech on January 20, Gov. Jerry Brown has set a demanding standard. In his Inaugural speech on January 5 the California Governor called for immediate action to avoid a climatic catastrophe. He said in part:

Finally, neither California nor indeed the world itself can ignore the growing assault on the very systems of nature on which human beings and other forms of life depend

California has the most far-reaching environmental laws of any state and the most integrated policy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere. Under laws that you have enacted, we are on track to meet our 2020 goal of one-third of our electricity from renewable energy.” (more…)

Groups Sue EPA to Close a Fracking Industry Loophole

Shale gas flaring.

Since 1996 the oil and gas industries have been uniquely exempt from the EPA requirement that polluting emissions be recorded in the Toxics Release inventory. In 2012 environmental and open-government groups petitioned the EPA> to remove that exemption. The EPA has yet to respond to that petition.

Arguing that the boom in fracking operations has caused a large increase in unrecorded toxic emissions, on January 7 nine environmental organizations filed suit against the EPA, calling consideration of their 2012 petition regarding the exemption for hydraulic fracturing, natural gas processing, and related operations. Among those joining the suit with the Environmental Integrity Project were the Clean Air Council, NRDC, and PennFuture.

2014 was Earth’s Hottest Year on Record

Source: Japan Meteorological Agency website

NOTE: On January 16 NOAA and NASA confirmed that 2014 was the our planet’s hottest year on record.

A number of government agencies around the world have already reported that for our planet 2014 was the hottest year on record. Last winter’s freezing weather lowered the temperature for the US as a whole, but parched California did record by far its hottest year on record. Further north, 2014 was the warmest year of record for Alaska. And abroad, Australia appears to be set thhaving broken in 2014 its record average temperature in 2013.

EPA Issues First-Ever Regulations for Disposal of Coal Ash

Little Blue Run impoundment. Photo: LBRAG

Here is a piece of good news! A consequence of using coal to produce electricity is that the large amounts of the residual coal ash has to be stored somewhere. That ‘somewhere’ is often a large impoundment where toxic contents of the ash can seep into the ground water. On December 7 a segment of CBS’s ‘Sixty Minutes’ was devoted to the spill of a coal ash impoundment into the Dan River in Virginia. Twelve days later the EPA Administrator signed into effect the ‘Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities’ final rule.

This first-ever regulation of coal ash comes none too soon. An interactive map prepared by the Sierra Club shows the 1,400 coal ash sites around the country. Probably the largest of these sites is the Little Blue Run impoundment in Beaver County, owned by First Energy, and closed by the EPA after a a long campaign by local activists. The bad news is that First Energy now plans to barge the toxic ash up the Mon to a landfill in LaBelle in Fayette County.

George Will Gets it Wrong on Climate Change

NASA image

Readers of George Will’s January 9 piece in the Post-Gazette may have been surprised by his use of major regional climate changes during recorded time, to reject the predictions of climate Cassandras’, pointing out that past changes obviously were not due to the burning of fossil fuels. Rebuttal to Will’s piece was quick. Joe Rohm in Climate Progress pointed out that the authors of the two books Will reviewed went beyond Will in showing that regional changes in climate can have a devastating impact on human societies.

In his column Will argued that because past climate change was caused by other than human activity we can’t know that carbon pollution will cause harmful changes in the future. Rohm says that this is like “saying that because people who didn’t smoke have died of cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer, we can’t know that cigarette smoking also causes those diseases and is unhealthy.” Rohm ends by suggesting that to put the rapid warming of the planet in proper context, we need to look at the paleo-climate science.

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