Report: Lawmakers’ poor environmental performance

Long Pine Reservoir.Three conservation organizations have released their 2014 environmental scorecard, giving Pennsylvania lawmakers poor grades for protecting the environment in which we all live.

Place the right industry near the creek and the effect of all that work is gone.

The report had been delayed to await the results of a Senate vote on a House initiated bill that essentially makes voluntary previously mandatory requirements that developers protect the state’s high value waterways as they pursue corporate profits. The Senate approved, and as I write this the bill awaits the signature of Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Marcellus, to turn it into law.Read more

Firing fossils: messy, expensive, and too often deadly

Kingston coal ash storage on the banks of the Emory River.(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/11/2013)

Click thumbnail for full-size panoramic image

One of the highlights of a week-long conference I recently attended in Chattanooga, Tenn. was a bus trip a few miles north, to the Kingston Fossil Plant, one of 11 coal-fired electricity generating plants owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The plant burns coal to turn water into steam to drive generators to provide electricity to about 540,000 homes.

It also was the site, in the early morning of December 22, 2008, of a massive release of coal ash into nearby rivers and a lake. Without warning – at least without warning considered by plant managers, an 84-acre pile of ash broke loose to befoul the waters below – and above – the plant. The ash mass hit the Emory River with such force the downstream flow could not immediately absorb it, so the ash, and the river it rode, flowed backward several miles, and created “ashbergs” in the watercourse.Read more

Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster

Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster, by Walter M. Brasch(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/4/2013)

Well before most Pennsylvania residents were aware of a natural gas industry north of the Gulf of Mexico, it was taking root in the Commonwealth. “Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster,” by Walter M. Brasch, is the story of that enterprise.

The narrative begins in 2000, when Mitchell Energy, with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, finally proved that extracting natural gas from shale a mile and-a-half below the state’s surface was a practical – read profitable – undertaking.Read more

A little less black(top), please

Bass Pro Outdoor World opens onto a blacktop desert,trees and grass replaced by pavement.First printed in the Gettysburg Times, 7/19/2013)

The TV reporter stands in Manhattan, NYC, telling us the temperature where she is standing is 97F. A couple blocks away, in Central Park, it’s only 92, she says.

What she does not mention is Central Park is an island of trees and grass. She is standing, sweating, amid pavement, buildings and motor vehicles together pouring rivers of heat into their already oven-like ambiance.Read more

Coal barons’ chronic affliction: Mumpsimus.

Fighting for the future of PA Coal dot org, billboard adjacent to a solar-powered meat packer.(First published in the Gettysburg Times, 7/12/2013)

While the nightly TV news blathers on about fires in the west and floods in the northeast, with barely a mention what might be causing the growing catastrophes, a battle of a different, though related, sort may be brewing in the Pacific Northwest.

Many roads in Pennsylvania, especially in the western part of the commonwealth, are lined with billboards touting efforts to keep jobs and blaming the EPA for regulating jobs out of existence. Many of us believe the claims. Either we know a family that has lost at least one coal mining job, or we watch the evening news that every now and then mentions EPA Clean Air regulations causing electricity generators to switch to natural gas.Read more

Atomic States of America; a review

Nuclear power is clean, government-regulated, and safe – until something goes wrong. In a 92-minute documentary titled “Atomic States of America,” co-directors Don Argot and Sheena M. Joyce trace the development of nuclear power – and what have turned out to be some of its attendant risks. “The risk/reward is so different in nuclear powerRead more

Courts to rule on fracking regs

Citing a lack of regulations to complain about, a U.S. District Court judge Monday ruled against a requirement for a full environmental review of fracking in the Delaware River Basin. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania townships await a ruling by that state’s top court that may determine whether traditional municipal control over zoning applies to the controversial methodRead more

Some encouragement required

I’m watching an old black and white movie on television, “Cow Country,” made in 1953. It’s about times economic change in the 19th Century West, and cattlemen having a rough time adjusting. Their situation was like oil companies of the 21st Century saying wind and solar will not work – because it’s easier and moreRead more

Coal, nukes, fracking and 16.9-ounce plastic bottles

Throughout this nation’s history, we have counted on a plentiful supply of water. With 75 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, goes the old adage, clearly man was meant to spend 75 percent of his time fishing. Unfortunately, with 75 percent of the planet covered by water, the majority of the Earth’s surface,Read more

“UnClean Coal” not listed on billboards

King Coal loudly proclaims its place in our society, from the employment it claims to offer to the electricity it sends to our homes. Billboards along the Interstate insist that coal – often referred to as “clean coal” – is the way to go for continued prosperity and energy independence. But the billboards and televisionRead more

Wind helping blow coal away – in the U.S., anyway

The largest wind farm in the world may be coming to the Wyoming prairie. And smaller farms are in the works offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Wyoming project would comprise up to 1,000 turbines, generating enough electricity to serve a million homes. The project, in twoRead more

The Sky is Pink

“With the gas-bearing Marcellus Shale formation underlying 50 percent of the state (of New York), and with the gas industry proposing upwards of 100,000 gas wells (in the state), (Gov. Mario Cuomo’s decision to repeal a moratorium on fracking) could fundamentally transform New York.” With that, producer/director Josh Fox opens an 18-minute video foray intoRead more

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Lower-than-hyped revenue, plunging natural gas prices, and growing environmental concerns could spell trouble for the Marcellus Shale industry. It’s attempt to recover corporate value could be problematic for Pennsylvanians at both ends of the state, as natural gas producers leave the northeast for the, hopefully, more profitable western hills. While those away from the drillingRead more

Some Marcellus-related companies may be boosting profits by importing illegal workers

A newspaper story Thursday reported a federal indictment against a Texas-based company accused of bringing illegal workers to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fracking fields. Coincidentally, workers in West Virginia are staffing road-side positions, protesting the practice of some Marcellus-related companies bringing out-of-state workers to take jobs for which local workers are available. “We have a lotRead more

While we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, at least one American industrial giant invests in green technology in, of all places …

Masdar, a city in the middle of a desert with zero carbon emissions
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.

For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels.Read more

Sometimes it takes us all

Wind power, a Pennsylvania state politician recently said, is accomplishing one thing: spending taxpayer money. But there is growing evidence it is doing other, more positive things, such as creating jobs and supplying the electrical grid – with considerably less risk than the Keystone State’s other burgeoning energy source. Continue reading …Read more

Hydroelectric power – an alternative to burning dead carbon lifeforms

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the nation’s dams not currently being used to generate electricity could, if equipped, supply more than 12 gigawatts of power to run coffee pots, computers and cars. One gigawatt is enough to electrify about 300,000 homes. That’s more than seven counties the size of the 100,000-person one inRead more

Just how much does a gallon of gas cost, anyway

The U.S. Senate this week decisively shot down a proposal to eliminate subsidies to Big Oil & Gas. The tally was 51 senators, including two Republicans – from Maine – voting to end the subsidies, and 47, including four Democrats – from Alaska, Lousiana, Nebraska and Virginia – voting to keep them. The 100-seat senateRead more

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