Once a leader on clean energy and green jobs, Pa.'s progress has been slowed to a halt

Grid

June 30, 2016

by Matt Bevilacqua

Leanne Krueger-Braneky knew that Harrisburg would be tough, but she didn’t know just how tough. When the newly elected state representative was sworn in last August, the budget was already two months late. It wouldn’t pass until the following March.“I’ve had colleagues from both sides of the aisle pull me aside and tell me that this is truly the worst they’ve ever seen it,” says Krueger-Braneky,  a Democrat who represents Delaware County’s 161st District in the state House. “So I came in during a particularly intensive period in modern history in the Legislature.”

Soon, she’d learn that the same kind of governmental morass extends to other issues, including a major part of her platform: the environment. For eight years, Krueger-Braneky served as executive director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, which supports environmentally friendly businesses and business practices in the region. She hoped that by heading to the Republican-controlled General Assembly as a green-leaning Democrat, she could use her office to promote a message of sustainability statewide.

Then she came up against a web of opposition so deep-seated and far-reaching that it exceeded even her expectations.

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People Near Wyoming Fracking Town Show Elevated Levels of Toxic Chemicals

Inside Climate News

By Zahra Hirji

June 22, 2016

Researchers tested air pollution in Pavillion, Wyo., along with local residents, suggesting a link between the toxic chemicals released and biological impacts.

A new study brings researchers and environmental advocates closer than ever to tracing whether toxic chemicals spewing out of natural gas production sites are making their way into the bodies of people who live and work nearby.

The research, published last week, brought together for the first time air monitoring at oil and gas sites with what's called biomonitoring—the tracking of what's in human tissues or fluids. The results indicate harmful compounds were emitted from certain gas sites near the fracking town of Pavillion, Wyoming. Some of those chemicals, such as benzene and toluene, were then found in the air at surrounding farms and the analysis found traces in the urine of participants in the study.

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The Who’s Who of Methane Pollution in the Onshore Oil and Gas Production Sector

Center for American Progress

By Alison Cassady

Monday, June 20, 2016

Methane is a supercharged global warming pollutant that is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time scale. In the United States, the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane pollution—releasing 33 percent of all methane emissions in 2014.

As part of its broader climate change mitigation strategy, the Obama administration set a goal of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 percent to 45 percent from 2012 emissions levels by 2025. In May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, finalized limits on methane emissions from new sources in the oil and gas sector. Although the limits on pollution from new and modified sources are important, the EPA will also have to set strong standards for existing wells and equipment—meaning those that are already in operation—in order to achieve the administration’s methane emissions reduction goal. The EPA has initiated an information collection process to help shape a future rule-making on existing sources. The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, also is moving forward with rules to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas production on public and Native American lands.

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In the Birthplace of U.S. Oil, Methane Gas Is Leaking Everywhere

Bloomberg

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New Online Map Displays Threat that Existing Methane Pollution Poses to Pennsylvania

June 16, 2016

Today, Pennsylvania environmental groups and residents impacted by oil and gas development welcomed the introduction of a new tool that maps the locations of the 103,984 oil and gas facilities operating in Pennsylvania and the populations, schools, and hospitals within a half mile radius of those facilities. The tool, OilAndGasThreatMap.com, was created by Earthworks and Clean Air Task Force and was released on June 14, 2016.

Peer-reviewed science shows that living near polluting oil and gas facilities is associated with negative health impacts, including fetal defects and respiratory ailments. Pennsylvania, the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas, has been the site of several of these studies. One study from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 showed elevated risk of low birthweights to babies born near oil and gas drilling, while another study from Johns Hopkins University concluded that pregnant women in Pennsylvania who live in the most active natural gas production areas are 40% more likely to have a preterm birth and 30% more likely to have a high risk pregnancy. That same summer a study from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University conducted in Pennsylvania found that people who live near natural gas infrastructure have higher rates of hospitalizations, particularly for cardiovascular problems.

Read enough? Click here to send a letter to Governor Wolf and your representatives. 

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Elevated cancer risks surround oil and gas drilling -- report

EnergyWire

By Umair Irfan

June 15, 2016

More than 200 counties across 21 states face elevated cancer risks from toxic emissions stemming from oil and gas production in the United States, according to a new report from the Clean Air Task Force.

Titled "Fossil Fumes," the paper uses U.S. EPA's National Air Toxics Assessment and National Emissions Inventory projections out to 2017. Looking at probable carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene, the report found that 238 counties housing 9 million people face cancer risks above EPA's one-in-a-million concern threshold level.

The counties facing highest risks were in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Colorado, regions with a high degree of oil and gas extraction infrastructure.

The report joins an online mapping tool released this morning from the Clean Air Task Force, Earthworks and the FracTracker Alliance. The tool maps 1.19 million oil and gas wells, compressors and processors, drawing a half-mile threat radius around each site.

The mapping tool includes video testimonials from people living in afflicted regions and geotagged infrared video of oil and gas facilities, showing billowing white wisps of gas pouring out of smokestacks and squirting through cracks in pipes.

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Cut pollution from oil and gas facilities

Observer Reporter

By Evelyn O. Talbott - Op-Ed

June 4, 2016

Over the past decade, Washington County has seen a surge of shale gas infrastructure. All this drilling activity has been touted by elected officials and industry advocates as the economic savior of Pennsylvania, a wellspring of jobs and wealth.

However, Washington County has a history of increased ozone levels in areas of traffic and industry density, making the area vulnerable to additional fossil-fuel insult.

Currently, there are no state regulations limiting methane pollution from natural-gas infrastructure, despite the fact that there are affordable and available control technologies, many of which are made right here in Pennsylvania. Toxic air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds, are also leaked from oil and gas facilities alongside methane. These toxic pollutants include many known carcinogens and also contribute to forming smog, or ground-level ozone, which is linked to asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just finalized a strong rule for new oil and gas facilities that will cut methane pollution. But we also need the EPA and the Wolf Administration to hasten its efforts to cut pollution from the existing oil and gas facilities.

I was involved with a study last year at the University of Pittsburgh that analyzed birth weights of infants born during 2007-2010 in Washington, Westmoreland and Butler counties. Mothers were categorized into exposure quartiles based on the density of gas wells. The least exposed mothers (first quartile) had a well count of less than 0.87 wells per mile, while the most exposed (fourth quartile) had 6.00 wells or greater per mile. A comparison of the most to least exposed revealed lower birth weight and a higher incidence of small-for-gestational-age children. These findings emphasize the need for region-specific studies of the characterization of exposure over an extended period of time to evaluate the potential public health significance of unconventional gas drilling.

Read more on the Observer Reporter's site.


Howarth alerts White House of growing methane danger

Cornell Chronicle

By Blaine Friedlander

June 2, 2016

As methane intensifies greenhouse gas in the atmosphere – propelling average global temperatures higher toward the brink of no return – Cornell’s Robert Howarth briefed the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy May 27 on its dangers and solutions.

“In Paris at the COP21 [the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties] last December, the nations of the world came together to recognize that we need to keep our planet well below a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise – compared to the pre-industrial baseline temperature for the Earth – and that anything above 1.5 degrees Celsius is dangerous,” said Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology. “If we don’t, we’re at an increased risk of hitting tipping points in the climate system that will lead to runaway global warming.”

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Here’s how harmful gas from fracking can contribute to climate change

The Guardian

May 31, 2016

One of the justifications for fracking is the use of natural gas as a bridging fuel between coal and a low-carbon future. However natural gas is mostly methane, which has strong global warming impacts in its own right. Natural gas therefore only provides climate benefits over coal if the leakage is no more than 2-3%.

We cannot measure leaks from every pipe joint. One alternative is to measure the sum of lots of leaks from a distance. Flights over US shale gas fields reveal large methane sources, but these areas also have cattle farms that produce methane and the two sources need to be separated.

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Spill the news

South Philly Review

By Susan Pat­rone - Letter to the Editor

May 26, 2016

Pound for pound, meth­ane is 80 times more po­tent than car­bon di­ox­ide for trap­ping green­house gases. In 2014, the gas and oil in­dustry leaked nine mil­lion met­ric tons of meth­ane pol­lu­tion in­to the air.

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