Pennsylvania Currents - Spring | Summer 2016

June 7, 2016
Pennsylvania Currents - Spring-Summer 2016

In this issue

Pennsylvania Proposes Rules to Cut Climate Impact of Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry is the #1 source of methane pollution in the U.S. and methane supercharges climate change. It is a greenhouse gas over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the near term. Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the nation and is responsible for roughly 1% of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Pennsylvania has an incredible opportunity to make a significant reduction in the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution, if the state acts. Yet, to date, Pennsylvania has relied on the natural gas industry to police itself by voluntarily looking for and fixing leaks. This approach has been a failure.

But there is hope. Governor Tom Wolf proposed a four part plan to replace the current voluntary system with required actions that will force industry to address methane emissions. The Governor’s plan would reduce leaks at new and existing unconventional natural gas well pads, compressor stations and processing facilities, as well as reduce emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution pipelines.

This however is just the first step. It is now up to all Pennsylvanians to ensure this proposal becomes a reality.

Take Action To Stop Methane Pollution!

Governor Wolf should be applauded for his action to require every natural gas operator meet air pollution standards that reduce methane leaks. Thank him and let him know that you’ve got his back when it comes to implementing strong actions that will go far towards addressing the methane emissions that foul our air, hurt our health, and warm our planet. Also, let your state legislators know they should support this effort to get methane pollution under control before it’s too late! Visit cleanwateraction.org/pa for more information.

Lead in our Water: A Wakeup Call from Flint

The debate stirred by the crisis of lead contaminating drinking water in Flint, MI has flowed into other cities across the country, including Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) was cited in news stories as among 18 jurisdictions in Pennsylvania with high levels of lead exposure. They’ve also been accused of using a flawed water testing protocol, which includes removal of the aerator, flushing the line before collecting a sample for testing and sampling fewer homes with lead pipes than is required by law.

In response, City Councilwoman Helen Gym called for a hearing to review the issue. During the hearing, The Councilwoman focused on the health impact of lead in the water on children as well as best practices and other measures to prevent water service line contamination. Councilmembers also posed specific and rigorous questions to a panel that included representatives from the PWD and the Health Department. Water Commissioner Debra McCarty commented at the hearing that the possibility of lead contamination in city water arises when water without the proper anti–corrosive properties passes through lead service lines, indoor plumbing or faucets. To ensure corrosion control efforts are effective, the Water Department is asking Philadelphia households at risk for lead contamination to participate in a sampling program.

Testing is intended to measure lead that may be leaching from the lead supply line common to most residents. The Environmental Protection Agency had not previously offered a specific guidance. Post-Flint, a letter was issued in February outlining a protocol based on the implementation of the Lead and Copper rule. In light of national fervor on this issue, that directive may well become a standard.

While accurate testing is important, Clean Water Action is working to ensure that this concern doesn’t cloud and obscure the need to come up with a plan to remove the lead supply pipes and educate the residents on how to protect themselves. We met with officials from PWD and learned that prior to Flint crisis they’d already been planning a public education program and implementing a testing protocol that would exceed the recommendations of the Lead and Copper rule Task Force. Clean Water Action is looking to play a role in helping with the program, in particular conducting direct outreach to secure residential volunteers for the testing expected during the summer of 2017.

Film Festival Highlights Dangers of Extreme Energy Production

The reasons to stop extreme energy, especially fracking for natural gas, were the subject of a Clean Water Action sponsored film festival at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. On Saturday, February 13th important films about the safety of fracking were introduced to an attentive crowd. Clean Water Action’s STOP EXTREME ENERGY FILM FEST allowed all to hear some important stories from workers in the industry who have been harmed by working in the shale gas fields.  Both of our guest speakers were featured in Josh Fox’s, Director of Gasland, new film, GASWORK. Mr. Randy Moyer was a driver who transported wastewater from fracking operations. Mr. Moyer was not told about the hazards of what he was transporting resulting in health problems from having toxic wastewater spilled upon him. Mr. Randall Scott Mick, a former Master Driller with Chesapeake Energy told his story of lack of adequate training. Mick spoke about his experiences meeting landowners who had their drinking water and sometimes their very health ruined because of the effects of natural gas operations. Also shown was the WAY WE LIVE, a film by Tom Jefferson which chronicles the broad continued movement to stop extreme energy.

A Study in Success: How a Group of Concerned Residents Fought for Better Air and Won

Earlier this year residents living downwind of the Shenango Coke Works just outside of Pittsburgh on Neville Island received some surprising news. Owner DTE Energy announced that they would be closing the plant in the spring. The reason they gave for the closure is the “global over-capacity of the steel-market.” This came as a shock because as recently as the end of 2015, spokespeople from the plant said they were committed to spending the time and money to end violations and improve the facility, which is what we’ve fought beside residents so long for.

The Shenango Coke Works was a long standing source of concern for residents due to its near constant violation of public health standards for air pollution. For too long too many people were made sick or had existing conditions like asthmas worsened by their emissions. There is no doubt that the closure of Shenango will make the region a healthier place to live. The closure also marks the end of an effort to improve air quality in the area that dated back to late 90’s. In that time Clean Water Action helped organize residents, municipalities, and businesses to influence the Allegheny County government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the company itself.

What does the future holds for this site? Speculation has risen that it could be used for light industrial use or manufacturing.  Clean Water Action and area residents are now working to ensure one source of pollution isn’t replaced with another. The site should be remediated and repurposed in such a way that would benefit the entire community. That is why Clean Water Action has begun a campaign to pressure DTE to turn the site into a solar farm that could not only provide energy but help replace some of the lost jobs from the closure.

This isn’t a radical idea. In fact, it isn’t even a radical idea for DTE Energy. The company has a history of doing this very thing in Michigan where they are based. In Michigan, DTE Energy has transformed former industrial sites and empty lots by building solar farms that provide anywhere from 1 to 45,000 megawatts of clean and renewable energy to residents.

DTE must treat Pittsburgh the same way and Clean Water Action looks forward to continuing to work with these resilient neighborhood residents on the next phase of this campaign.

Heavy Seas Supports Clean Water

Clean Water Fund is proud to announce a partnership with Heavy Seas Beer. This craft brewery’s motto is: without clean water there is no beer! While their business depends on clean water for its success, owner Hugh Sisson also recognizes that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what you do we all deserve access to clean water. It’s why Heavy Seas has committed to donating a portion of each case of beer they sell to helping our efforts in Pennsylvania to protect water from pollution.

Let’s Not Wait to Stop Coal Plant Pollution

Last year, Pennsylvania scored a big victory when EPA enacted a new federal rule finally restricting some of the most toxic pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and lead, that coal burning power plants discharge into our state’s waterways. With 30 coal plants impacting every major watershed in the state, Pennsylvania has a lot at stake in making sure we get immediate benefits from these new reductions.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has a long history of delaying improvements to water pollution permits. While permits are supposed to be renewed every five years, currently many coal plants have not had their permits renewed in 10-15 years! Clean Water Action will be pushing the state to get new federal water pollution restrictions into coal plant permits immediately. We shouldn’t have to wait for clean water.

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