These senators must think they know more than health pros

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Letter from Laura Leete
Whitehall
The writer is a retired science and health teacher. 

January 27, 2017

While agreeing with Brian O’Neill’s column about the harmful effects of leaking methane into the atmosphere (“Put Methane in Its Place, Not the Atmosphere,” Jan. 15), which has a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than carbon dioxide, I also find the use of carcinogenic chemicals in the fracking process a grave threat to human health.

My state senator, Guy Reschenthaler, and nine co-sponsors of an amendment to a 1960 air pollution bill do not seem to share my concern for clean air, as they are seeking to bar the state Department of Environmental Protection from imposing any air pollution standards stronger than those of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Obviously, they seem to know more than the doctors and health care professionals in the Pennsylvania Medical Society who have called for a moratorium on fracking due to worsening asthma, premature births, neurological and mental symptoms, and other adverse effects near drilling sites. Also ignored by these senators is a new study by the Yale School of Public Health that found numerous carcinogens used in fracking also have the potential to contaminate air and water of nearby communities and to increase the risk of childhood leukemia.

The study further notes that 1,000 chemicals may be released into air and water. Information on their cancer-causing potential was lacking on 80 percent of the compounds. Fifty-five of the remaining 119 compounds were identified as confirmed or possible carcinogens; 20 are linked to increased risk for leukemia or lymphoma.

Perhaps some of the $9.5 million contributed to state candidates since 2009 and the $59 million spent lobbying against sensible regulation would be better spent on finding a cure for cancer.

http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/letters/2017/01/27/These-senators-must-think-they-know-more-than-health-pros/stories/201701250042

Click here to take action to #CutMethane.


Trump administration issues temporary media blackout at EPA, freezes grants

StateImpact Pennsylvania 

By Susan Phillips and Jon Hurdle

January 24, 2017

The Trump administration has implemented a temporary media “black out” at the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a report by the Associated Press that cited emails to EPA staffers. EPA press releases, blog post updates, and social media posts are banned for an indeterminate amount of time. All media requests are to be forwarded to the Agency’s office of administration. The Trump administration also imposed a freeze on new grants and contracts. A spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection says it’s too early to know what this could mean for the state’s environmental protection programs.

“However, suspension of EPA grants for any duration of time would significantly disrupt the work of the agency to protect public health and the environment,” said DEP spokesman Neil Shader. “EPA grants to DEP amount to approximately $36 million per fiscal year, and cover a variety of issues, ranging from clean water protection, municipal stormwater projects and watershed restoration (like the Chesapeake Bay) to hazardous site cleanup to air quality.”

A staffer for EPA Region 3, which includes Pennsylvania and Delaware, told StateImpact that their only knowledge of the media blackout and grant freeze came from media reports.

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DEP Unveils Methane Controls for Shale Gas Sites

[NOTE: These methane pollution standards for new natural gas sites are a great first step from the Department of Environmental Protection to address the serious health and climate issue of methane leaks. The Council has advocated for the Wolf Administration to develop methane standards for new and existing gas industry sources for two years through speaking at public meetings and getting its members to take a variety of actions. Next on the to-do list for DEP are strong regulations that would cover all of the existing natural gas infrastructure currently polluting Pennsylvania's air.  Keep your eyes posted for how to comment on these general permits in the next few weeks after DEP officially publishes them.  - CleanAirPA]

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Laura Legere / Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania environmental officials unveiled plans for new permits aimed at limiting methane and other air pollution from shale gas well sites and compressor stations on Thursday, adding specifics to a methane reduction strategy Gov. Tom Wolf announced as a priority at the start of the year.

The new draft general permits mark the state’s first attempt to regulate methane emissions from natural gas well site operations directly rather than through a permit exemption process or by curbing emissions of the potent greenhouse gas as a side benefit of other pollution controls.

Minimizing methane emissions across the natural gas production system is seen as a way to ensure that the climate benefits of burning gas for electricity instead of coal are realized.

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U.S. scientists officially declare 2016 the hottest year on record. That makes three in a row.

Washington Post

By Chris Mooney

January 18, 2017

In a powerful testament to the warming of the planet, two leading U.S. science agencies Wednesday jointly declared 2016 the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record set just last year — which itself had topped a record set in 2014.

Average surface temperatures in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015 and featured eight successive months (January through August) that were individually the warmest since the agency’s records began in 1880.

The average temperature across the world’s land and ocean surfaces was 58.69 Fahrenheit, or 1.69 degrees above the 20th-century average of 57 degrees, NOAA declared. The agency also noted that the record for the global temperature has now successively been broken five times since the year 2000. The years 2005 and 2010 were also record warm years, according to the agency’s data set.

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Brian O'Neill: Put methane in its place, not the atmosphere

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Brian O'Neill

January 15, 2017

It’s not often we see legislation that eases the way for the emission of methane and other volatile organic compounds we’d be better off not breathing, but America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature is considering just that.

The idea is to make federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations the maximum, not the minimum, to protect oxygen-breathing life forms in Pennsylvania, a group you and your children are likely among.

The 10 Republican senators co-sponsoring the Pennsylvania bill all have been amply compensated with campaign contributions from the natural gas drilling industry, but let’s save details on that impressive cash outlay until later.

Senate Bill 1327 seeks to amend a state air pollution bill dating to 1960. The amendment would bar the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from imposing any air pollution standards “more stringent than those promulgated’’ by the EPA. This would happen just as the new Donald Trump administration appears keen to relax those EPA restrictions.

Read enough? Click here to take action to #CutMethane.

 

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Media Tours Aliso Canyon – Site of Gas Leak That Displaced Thousands Of Nearby Residents

[NOTE: Aliso Canyon shows us that oil and gas infrastructure can fail and have real health impacts for the surrounding communities. While this leak was related to a storage issue, it still underscores the importance of having strong protections in place to make sure that we're using the best practices and technology to keep our communities safe. Pennsylvania can't wait any longer to develop the strong protections that would prevent an infrastructure failure like this.  

Want to get involved and push Pennsylvania to adopt strong public health protections for oil and gas operations? Let us know by filling out this form.

- CleanAirPa.org]

CBS Los Angeles

January 12, 2017 - 6:54 PM
ALISO CANYON (CBSLA.com) — For the first time since the massive methane gas leak was finally capped nearly a year ago, the media was allowed to tour the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch.

The 2015 four-month natural gas leak, which scientists called the largest in U.S. history, displaced at least 7,000 Porter Ranch residents for months because the toxic fumes were making them sick.

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‘Short-Lived’ Methane Could Raise Sea Levels for Another 800 Years

A new study shows that sea levels will keep increasing long after emissions leave the atmosphere.

The Atlantic 

By - ROBINSON MEYER

January 10, 2017

There’s a pretty story we tell ourselves about environmental problems: Once you fix them, they immediately start to improve.

Smog works like this. In cities where air quality is a problem, smog tends to worsen on weekdays, because millions of people are commuting and factories are fully productive. On weekends, when fewer people drive, the air tends to clear.

Likewise, when the country chose to address its smog problem, it got better. In 1970, Congress passed the Clean Air Act and told the EPA to start regulating air pollution. Smog across the country began to dissipate, and certain lung conditions became less common. Air pollution is not the problem today that it was in the 1960s and early 1970s because the United States addressed it.

It is a pleasant story. It’s true for some issues. For global warming, it is a fable.

Greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere today will cause the seas to rise for centuries to come, even if those gases leave the atmosphere relatively rapidly, finds a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study specifically examined short-lived greenhouse gases like methane. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas, and it contributes about a third of modern-day global warming. It’s very powerful, trapping heat 25 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide, but it’s also ephemeral. On average, a molecule of methane is absorbed in the soil or destroyed in the atmosphere 12 years after it is emitted. A molecule of CO₂ can float around for centuries.

Yet the paper shows that the consequences of that methane molecule will last for more than a millennium, causing the the seas to rise higher and higher all the time. That’s because sea-level rise is not only caused by extra water, but by hotter water. As the oceans absorb heat, they expand—and it takes a very long time for this heat to leave.

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Methane's On The Rise, But Regulations To Stop Gas Leaks Still Debated

NPR

By Christopher Joyce

January 2, 2016

There's more methane gas in the atmosphere than there used to be, by every scientific measure. The Obama administration has been trying to stem the increase of this powerful greenhouse gas, but the incoming Trump administration appears bent on keeping the government's hands off methane.

The gas comes from agriculture, especially flooded agricultural lands like rice fields, as well as from the digestive tracts of livestock. But it's also the main component of natural gas; some methane escapes from leaky oil and gas operations.

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With Trump as president, states must be more vigilant about clean air

Allentown Morning Call - Letter to the Editor

by Lisa Ditalia, Bethlehem

January 3, 2017

As the new administration in Washington, D.C., will be ever more populated with climate deniers, it will fall to Gov. Wolf to ensure that Pennsylvanians are being proactive around the climate consequences of our state's rampant fossil fuel development. If we are part of the problem, we need to be part of the solution.

With the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan to combat carbon pollution held up in the courts, we can at least act on methane pollution from fracking activity.

Read enough? Click here to take action to #CutMethane.

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Earthquake protections to be built into Pa. permits for fracking waste disposal wells

Power Source

By Laura Legere

December 22, 2016

Pennsylvania environmental regulators are on the verge of approving two planned disposal wells for oil and gas waste fluids, on the condition that the operators take steps to limit the chances the wells will cause the kinds of earthquakes that have rocked other oil and gas producing regions.

Department of Environmental Protection officials said they will soon issue long-delayed permits to Pennsylvania General Energy Co. and Seneca Resources Corp. for disposal wells in Grant Township, Indiana County, and Highland Township, Elk County.

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