Pushing for the Green New Deal

The Sunrise Movement and their young allies in the new Congress are pressing for commitments to the Green New Deal from lawmakers and 2020 candidates.

In the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi at least created a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.  This falls short of what Sunrisers really wanted, which was a standing committee that would have subpoena power.  This would enable the committee to call department heads to House hearings to hold them accountable for policies to implement a Green New Deal or at least to address the climate change challenge.

However, the Sunrisers are pressing ahead.  Already several potential 2020 presidential candidates have expressed varying degrees of support for a Green New Deal, including Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker.

As reported by CNN, the proposed Green New Deal would move the U.S. toward “100% renewable energy, through a series of economic reforms, including a jobs guarantee and a heavy public investment in low or no-carbon infrastructure such as light rail for commuters.”

For a full report, go to CNN online at: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/08/politics/ocasio-cortez-sunrise-justice-democrats-green-new-deal-next-steps/index.html

Frack Waste and Planned Petrochemical Biggest Threats

According to a study published recently by FracTracker ( diminishing returns ) shale development in Ohio is using astonishing amounts of water in longer and longer laterals in unconventional wells to produce natural gas, and in the process is generating astonishing amounts of frack waste.  Much of this will be injected into Ohio’s 216 Class II injection wells, posing threats to ground water and potentially generating more earthquakes. 

Ohio also permits some frack waste to be spread on landfills without much regulation or monitoring.  Again, with landfill liners that leak and with landfill contents that leach into the ground, this will mean more threats to ground water, including from radioactive elements in the waste.  And, the General Assembly has a bill pending to liberalize the use of radioactive frack waste on roads and other surfaces from where this carcinogenic material will be aerosolized and breathed in by unsuspecting Ohioans.

The other big threat on the horizon is the planning for a massive petrochemical industry in the state, beginning along the Ohio River and involving NGL mining (ethane), ethane cracker plants, ethane pipelines, and plastics manufacturing plants.  These are all massive sources of air and water pollution.

Bottom line: Ohioans are facing threats to their health that are becoming increasingly more serious.  This in a state with a poor record of environmental regulation especially of the oil and gas mining industry and with a legislature where money from Big Oil and Gas rules.

Ohio Shale Development Using More and More Water

Currently Ohio shale development is using more and more water as it constructs longer laterals in unconventional wells and produces increasing amounts of frack waste.  The rate of increase in water use and waste generation is astounding.

According to research produced by FracTracker, Ohio is practically giving water away for shale development.  This water is then taken out of the water cycle permanently with potential lasting damage to Ohio groundwater sources. 

For a full report, visit the fractracker report at: https://www.fractracker.org/2019/01/diminishing-returns-in-ohio/

Our Messaging to People in Sacrifice Zones

FaCT and OHR speakers have been invited to address a number of community groups in Ohio.  Groups include those who want to know more about shale development and what risks it may pose to them and their communities.  Some groups may include folks considering leasing their land for shale development.  Some of these same folks may decide not to lease their land after hearing our presentation. We hope so.

Recently our own Dr. Cowden, in one of her presentations, included measures to take if you have to live with shale development, whether you signed a lease or not.  The fact is, many persons, perhaps even most persons in shale development areas may not even be offered a lease.  They don’t have enough land to make it worthwhile to drillers.  Yet, they will be living in proximity to shale development because of neighbors who have signed leases.

Some may say that we shouldn’t be telling people how to live with shale development.  We should just urge no lease signing, or if they are not offered a lease but find themselves in a shale development region, just urge them to move---to get out while they have a chance.

But it’s not that simple.  Many persons cannot afford to move out of shale development areas. I spoke to a woman recently who told me that she had gone away briefly on vacation.  When she returned to her home, she found a drilling rig being erected on the land next to hers.  She would have liked to have sold her house, but she found out that the drilling rig nearby had reduced the value of her home by $60,000.  Moreover, she said, she didn’t think she could even find a buyer.  Who would want to live next to a drilling rig?

So we have to cover all contingencies.  Our messaging should include urging refusal to lease land for environmental and health reasons and for reasons of community integrity as well as with warnings that shale corporations have often shortchanged or misled lessees. But for those who may not be lessees but cannot afford to move, we need to provide practical information to reduce the exposures and dangers their families will face once shale development begins in their communities.

New House Encouraging on Climate Change

After lobbying by newly-elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others in the Sunrise Movement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is forming a House Select Committee on Climate Change.  This is an encouraging step.

Unfortunately, until now little official attention has been paid to climate change in Congress, so it’s about time.  Mother Nature is beginning to speak in a louder voice lately.  Have you noticed?  Finally, someone in Washington is listening.

Of course, this alone will not solve the climate crisis, but at least the select committee will be another tool for focusing both public and congressional attention on this vital issue. Perhaps this committee will eventually be able to help steer the U.S. back into the Paris Accords and other worldwide agreements on climate change, and hopefully it will lead Congress to take more effective actions on the climate crisis.

Congress could made a good start on effective action by pushing for reinstatement of the Methane Rule. This would require capturing methane leaks before they get into the atmosphere. Methane is 86 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. So effective action on this specific challenge would be a solid contribution in the fight against climate change.

Finding Hope in the New Year

Every Sunday, after I come home from church, I have made a habit of watching Meet the Press which I have set my DVR to record earlier in the morning.  Meet the Press is the longest-running TV show of all time, dating back to 1947.  It is a distinguished program that serves to give an interesting review and analysis of the preceding week’s news and a look ahead at the weeks to come.  Maybe I’m a current events junkie, but I always feel the program adds much to my understanding of what’s going on in the country and world.

Today the program used a different format than usual.  Instead of employing a panel of reporters and other guests to cover a variety of topics, they covered just one topic—climate change.  It was one of their best programs ever!

The thing I liked most about it was that it offered some hope as we approach the end of 2018 and look forward to 2019.  Yes, it’s terrible that we pulled out of the Paris Accords, but the program revealed that in spite of that withdrawal, many local and state governments are confronting climate change and are doing something about it.  Foremost among these is the State of California, which, if it were an independent nation, would have the sixth largest economy in the world, so its influence should not be underestimated.

Another great take-away from this program is that it pointed out that there is a new awareness among the American people, as revealed in recent polling, that most believe that climate change is real and that it is human-caused.  And the numbers who are coming to understand this are increasing.  This is not too surprising when we consider that the Creation has been speaking to us quite directly lately with unprecedented wildfires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, coral bleaching, etc.

In this increased awareness there is hope.  If enough citizens come to understand the problem and its urgency, this can lay the groundwork for political leaders and policy makers to begin to respond effectively to the climate change challenge. 

So there is hope for 2019 and beyond.  For our part, as people of faith, we must keep on working with the knowledge that none of our efforts is wasted.  Though each effort in the cause of caring for creation may seem to us like a mere drop added to an ocean, the drops can and will add up eventually to the ocean of enlightenment and compassion that will save our world.  May it be so.

The Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota—- Yet Another Sacrifice Zone

While many are focused on the looming political struggle between the Trump Administration and Democrats who are about to take control of the House, many of the implications and real-world effects of Administration policy changes are being overlooked by most of the media.  However, the New York Times weighed in on December 26 with one of these real-world situations, namely the effects of Trump’s rollback of the Methane Rule.

This rule, formulated in the last days of the Obama Administration by the E.P.A., would have required recovery or at least control over excessive leaking of methane from oil and gas operations, including curbs on flaring, which pumps many pollutants into the air.

The Times reported that the E.P.A., in surveying activity at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota in June, found that plumes of methane were being improperly burned.  In one case, raw, unlighted methane was spewing into the atmosphere.  Other plumes included cancer-causing benzene being spewed into the air.  Moreover, alerts to these these hazards to health were not given to the local residents of the Reservation.  Again, think folks caught in a sacrifice zone, whose health is being sacrificed for the sake of energy company profits.

The Times described what it called “the flaming landscape” in the Berthold Reservation with “hundreds of controlled burns so bright in the cold night air that the sky turns a weird orange yellow, even as snow falls onto the frozen ground.”

 In terms of global warming, The Times reports that the chemicals that are being released in this flaring are 30 times as potent as CO2 in their greenhouse impact on the atmosphere.  There are no boundaries in the air, and of course, the atmosphere is world-wide, so this impacts all of us.

Here again we see that environmental justice is inseparable from social justice.  Our society can choose to sacrifice certain groups of people—the poor, Black folks, Native Americans, and relatively isolated rural communities; but inevitably, this license to do violence to some ends up doing violence to all.