Archive | Environmental

Covering their tracks

In keeping with his blatant goal of doing whatever he can to allow unimpeded gas drilling, PA Gov. Tom Corbett ignores any regulatory requirements that might get in the way:

HARRISBURG — The administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has cut funding for a wildlife research program by nearly 70 percent, eliminating state money for projects meant to examine the impact of natural gas drilling and climate change, according to a report.

Richard Allan, the secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, eliminated 13 of the 21 projects that staff in the agency’s Wildlife Resource Conservation Program had recommended for funding, StateImpact Pennsylvania reported Wednesday.

Allan failed to consult with program staff about which programs to keep and which ones to cut, and only one drilling-related project — evaluating plant growth along natural gas pipeline routes — remained after last month’s cuts, reported StateImpact, a collaboration of NPR and public radio stations in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

The program’s budget was cut from $780,000 to $251,683.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources attributed the funding cuts to declining revenue, and said some of the proposed research was duplicative. The Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter on Tuesday criticized the funding reductions as an “attempt to conceal the true environmental impacts of gas drilling.”

Who’d benefit from pipeline?

There has been a lot of press recently about the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. President Obama has rejected the plan for now, to allow time for more thorough environmental review. But the economics of the project are also in need of study…

…Transcanada, the pipeline developer, says it needs this line to significantly increase its ability to move Canadian oil to U.S. refineries and markets. Doing so, supporters say, would stabilize prices, increase national security by having this supply line in place and create more than 100,000 high-paying jobs.

Let’s look at the rest of the story:

The pipeline now moving through our political process is actually one of four phases to Transcanada’s Keystone XL Project…

…When you put all phases of this project together, what do you have? A direct, major pipeline from the Canadian oil resource to refineries and international shipping services.

Without this pipeline, Canadian oil is available primarily to the North American market. So without the completed pipeline, Canadian oil does provide us some security and price stability.

However, if the pipeline is completed to Houston, that oil will be available to the international market, where the highest bidder gets the oil and those buying and selling have no regard for U.S. security or price stability…

Save the bay

As you already know, I love the Chesapeake Bay. But since they lifted the building moratorium in the watershed about 15 years ago, it’s getting dirtier and dirtier – again. Here’s some encouraging news:

RICHMOND, Va. – A report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation concludes that storm water and sewage plant upgrades intended to help nurse the environmentally-battered bay back to health would create nearly 250,000 jobs.

The report released Tuesday is aimed at countering claims that the multi-state, multi-billion restoration directed by the Environmental Protection Agency will be harmful to the economy and result in job losses, the foundation’s president said.

“That is not borne out by the facts,” William C. Baker said in a statement. “Whether the target is EPA or the bay pollution limits, it is essential that the public understand that environmental regulations will create jobs to reduce pollution, and sustain jobs that depend on clean water.”

The report, called “Debunking the `Job Killer’ Myth,” relies on a variety of industry experts such as engineers, reports and other sources to assess the impact of water pollution projects within the six states and the District of Columbia that comprise the bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed. It also reviews job-killing threats dating back to 1976 and Henry Ford II claimed that clean air and fuel efficiency standards would “shut down” Ford Motor Co. to illustrate historic claims that environmental efforts are bad for the economy.

Fracking earthquakes

Oh, what’s a few earth tremors when it comes to sucking gas out of the earth? These anti-fracking types just need to count their blessings:

CLEVELAND (AP) – A northeast Ohio well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, a seismologist investigating the quakes said Monday.

Research is continuing on the now-shuttered injection well at Youngstown and seismic activity, but it might take a year for the wastewater-related rumblings in the earth to dissipate, said John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including the so-called fracking process to extract gas from underground shale that has been a source of concern among environmental groups and some property owners. Injection wells have also been suspected in quakes in Astabula in far northeast Ohio, and in Arkansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, Armbruster said.

Thousands of gallons of brine were injected daily into the Youngstown well that opened in 2010 until its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, agreed Friday to stop injecting the waste into the earth as a precaution while authorities assessed any potential links to the quakes.

After the latest and largest quake Saturday at 4.0 magnitude, state officials announced their beliefs that injecting wastewater near a fault line had created enough pressure to cause seismic activity. They said four inactive wells within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown well would remain closed. But they also stressed that injection wells are different from drilling wells that employ fracking.

Armbruster said Monday he expects more quakes will occur despite the shutdown of the Youngstown well.
“The earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you’ve caused them to occur,” he said. “This one year of pumping is a pulse that has been pushed into the ground, and it’s going to be spreading out for at least a year.”

The quakes began last March with the most recent on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve each occurring within 100 meters of the injection well. The Saturday quake in McDonald, outside of Youngstown, caused no serious injuries or property damage.

Youngstown Democrat Rep. Robert Hagan on Monday renewed his call for a moratorium on fracking and well injection disposal to allow a review of safety issues.

“If it’s safe, I want to do it,” he said in a telephone interview. “If it’s not, I don’t want to be part and parcel to destruction of the environment and the fake promise of jobs.”

He said a moratorium “really is what we should be doing, mostly toward the injection wells, but we should be asking questions on drilling itself.”

Blocked

It’s a win for drivers, all right – the moneyed interests that drive everything these days:

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal judge blocked California from enforcing its first-in-the-nation mandate for cleaner, low-carbon fuels on Thursday, saying the rules favor biofuels produced in the state.

The lawsuit challenging the state regulations, which were adopted as part of California’s landmark 2006 global warming law, was filed in federal court last year by a coalition that includes the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and the Consumer Energy Alliance.

Fresno-based U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill’s written ruling Thursday said the low-carbon fuel rules violated the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause by discriminating against crude oil and biofuels producers located outside California.

Out-of-state fuels producers hailed the decision as a win for California drivers.

GMO

Oops!

(AP) One of the nation’s most widely planted crops — a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide — may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected.

The U.S. food supply is not in any immediate danger because the problem remains isolated. But scientists fear potentially risky farming practices could be blunting the hybrid’s sophisticated weaponry.

When it was introduced in 2003, so-called Bt corn seemed like the answer to farmers’ dreams: It would allow growers to bring in bountiful harvests using fewer chemicals because the corn naturally produces a toxin that poisons western corn rootworms. The hybrid was such a swift success that it and similar varieties now account for 65 percent of all U.S. corn acres — grain that ends up in thousands of everyday foods such as cereal, sweeteners and cooking oil.

But over the last few summers, rootworms have feasted on the roots of Bt corn in parts of four Midwestern states, suggesting that some of the insects are becoming resistant to the crop’s pest-fighting powers.

Scientists say the problem could be partly the result of farmers who’ve planted Bt corn year after year in the same fields.

Most farmers rotate corn with other crops in a practice long used to curb the spread of pests, but some have abandoned rotation because they need extra grain for livestock or because they have grain contracts with ethanol producers. Other farmers have eschewed the practice to cash in on high corn prices, which hit a record in June.

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