Category Archives: fossil fuels

As Trump Rolls Back Environmental Regs, Coal Operations Expand

coal mining imageThe following story, authored by SAFE board member Karen Kahn, is reposted from the Nonprofit Quarterly.

Rural Action, an Appalachian Ohio nonprofit, has spent two decades working to clean up a watershed in Southeastern Ohio polluted by old coal mines. Now, the organization and its supporters are fighting the permitting of a new surface mine proposed by Oxford Mining Co.

Rural Action, in partnership with the federal and state governments, universities, and other nonprofits, has invested $9 million to date to clean up the watershed. Of that, nearly $3 million has been spent on Sunday Creek, which is directly threatened by the new mine operation.

The group’s work has had a significant impact on water quality over the years. The west branch of Sunday River Creek had no fish when the work began, and now hosts 17 different species.

At a recent public hearing, Michelle Shively, Rural Action’s Watershed coordinator, said, “We hope that the Ohio EPA and Oxford Mining Co. will take into account the tremendous investment and resulting water quality improvements that have occurred in the Sunday Creek watershed and take the necessary precautions to not endanger the biological communities and quality habitat downstream.”

Andrea Reik, a local resident who spoke at the public hearing, asked a question that must have been on many minds. “Why would we go backward? It makes no sense. It’s crazy, and we need to continue saying no.”

In the face of global climate change, Reik is asking the right question. Why continue to destroy, as she said, “precious resources” with new mining operations that would bring 100 temporary jobs to the area but further risk global collapse? Why not look to new opportunities that will grow jobs for a green energy economy, that build on the work of Rural Action to bring back a diverse, healthy watershed? Jobs in coal mining should not be the only option for the people of the region.

But that’s not the logic of the Trump administration, which campaigned on a promise to bring back coal mining jobs. It’s now working hard to dismantle regulations that make mining less profitable—probably the only reason that Oxford Mining is proposing to reopen mine operations.

One of the administration’s top goals is to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate action plan. The administration announced its plan to repeal the regulations last October and is now in the process of holding public hearings. Three of the four hearings are in coal-friendly areas of the country, but on February 28th, a hearing was held in San Francisco. According to Mother Jones, “dozens of angry Californians filed into the San Francisco Public Library” to oppose the proposal.

“The rescission [of the Clean Power Plan] is a political act to fulfill Trump’s promises to polluting industries,” said Marc Sapir, a family physician and former public health officer at the hearing. “If this EPA cared one iota about the nation’s public health and well-being, it would engage the appeals court in defending the Clean Power Plan.”

Mother Jones reports that an EPA fact sheet removed from the EPA website (along with any references to climate change) reported that the Clean Power Plan would prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children in 2030. As the proposal for a new mine in the Sunday Creek watershed makes apparent, the plan also would have reduced mine pollution in our nation’s waterways.

The residents of southeastern Ohio unfortunately won’t be able to count on the federal government to protect their waterways. The administration has already rolled back the “stream protection rule,” which was intended to protect Appalachia’s streams and rivers from being filled with coal mining debris. The EPA has also put a moratorium on the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule, which expanded protections of 20 million acres of wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

These actions come on top of a mass exodus of scientists and other staff at the EPA, as the organization is revamped to prioritize profits over the rights of U.S Citizens to clean air, water, and land.

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PA to MA: The Fracking Connection

by Patricia A. Gozemba

Tuesday, March 6 at 7 PM – 9 PM 45 Pauline St, Winthrop, MA

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Clean Water Action, Mothers Out Front, and Mass Power Forward are bringing people from the fracking fields of the Marcellus Shale in PA to MA to share their stories of the daily horrors that they live with from the unregulated fracking industry.

The fracking industry is thriving. The people and their communities are not. There continues to be a big push in MA by our utilities to build new pipelines, paid for by ratepayers like us, to get the PA gas to the coast for export. The utilities tell us that the pipelines will secure a supply of gas to heat our homes in the winter. Conservation Law Foundation and a slew of other independent analysts point out that this is hogwash and just an opportunity for utilities to make more money.

Hear the folks who live in the fracking fields tell their story.

You’re Invited to “We’re In This Together: Battling for Clean Energy and Fighting Fracking from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.”

Join with concerned environmentalists on Tuesday March 6th from 7-9 pm at the Lyceum Room in the Edward B. Newton School for an evening with community leaders from the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania. They live at the other end of the fracked gas pipelines that connect to Massachusetts. Speakers sharing their powerful stories will include Lois Bjornson, Craig Leland Stevens, Brian Latkanich and Jane Worthington whose communities are surrounded by fracking wells and facilities. This event is free and open to the public. Sponsored by Clean Water Action, Friends of Belle Isle Marsh, Mothers Out Front and the Mass Power Forward coalition.

The Hidden Costs of Salem’s Gas Leaks

SAFE Public Forum, November 28, 2017

How many dangerous gas leaks lurk under the streets of Salem, MA, is a question of debate. But SAFE knows that there are many gas leaks and we’re concerned because 95% of gas is methane—a potent force in climate change. Additionally, methane leaks kill trees, are potentially explosive, hurt human health, and cost ratepayers.

On six days of observation in August and September of 2016, SAFE working with nationally recognized experts on gas leaks–Bob Ackley, President of Gas Safety Inc., and Professor Nathan Phillips of the Department of Earth and Environment of Boston University–surveyed the 93 miles of roadway in our city with cutting edge technology, a Picarro Gas Analyzer , a data collection device.

In a SAFE sponsored public forum on November 28, 2017, THE HIDDEN COSTS OF SALEM’S GAS LEAKS, we shared our timeline, process, and further questions regarding gas leaks in our city. Mayor Kim Driscoll explained her experience of being with Ackley and Phillips as they collected data. Phillips explained the threats of methane’s contributions to climate change, Ackley detailed the safety challenges of gas leaks, and SSU Prof. Marcos Luna briefly described his process of analysis and shared maps of the entire city locating all of the points of gas leak detection.

In October, 2016, Phillips reported that he and Ackley had reviewed the raw data and had found evidence of hundreds of methane leaks.

As required by state law, National Grid in December of 2016 reported to the MA Department of Public Utilities all of the gas leaks in each municipality that it serves. HEET mapped those reports. Salem had 62 unrepaired gas leaks .

How would SAFE reconcile the widely varying reports of methane leaks?

In an act of professional generosity, Ackley and Phillips shared their data with SAFE which then enlisted Professor Marcos Luna of Salem State University, Chair of the Graduate Program in Geographic Information Services, to analyze the data and plot it for SAFE and the city of Salem. By early fall of 2017, Luna estimated that conservatively speaking there were 232 leaks of the size that NGRID typically reports to DPU and upwards of 1,000 leaks of varying sizes.

SAFE is grateful for the generosity of the experts who are collaborating with us in working to solve the problem of identifying and hopefully remediating the methane leaks in Salem. We invite you to view the above video of the forum and send questions or comments to SalemSAFE@gmail.com. You may also post your questions and comments to www.facebook.com/groups/SalemSAFE

–Patricia A. Gozemba, Co-Chair of SAFE

SJC nixes ‘pipeline tax’/Says Baker administration order violated intent of earlier laws

Ratepayers will not have not pay a special tax so that new natural gas pipelines can be built in Massachusetts.

From Bruce Mohl (Editor, CommonWealth Magazine) —

THE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT ruled on Wednesday that the Baker administration can not authorize the state’s electric utilities to tap their ratepayers for the money to finance a new natural gas pipeline into the region…

A new pipeline was expected to bring more cheap gas into the region and reduce electric prices, but opponents said a new pipeline would only increase the region’s over-reliance on a fossil fuel that is contributing to global warming…

The ruling means efforts to build a new natural gas pipeline into the region are effectively dead, although pipeline backers have said they will find another way to get the job done…

Attorney General Maura Healey joined the plaintiffs in opposing the DPU order. In a statement, she said “we know from our 2015 electric reliability study that there are cleaner and more affordable options for meeting our energy needs. The court’s decision makes clear that if pipeline developers want to build new projects in this state, they will need to find a source of financing other than electric ratepayers’ wallets.”

Read more.

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One of the ads against the pipeline tax. From www.NoCompressor.com

Utilities under pressure to fix small gas leaks

Gas leaks that are a distance from buildings didn’t used to have to be repaired. That’s all hopefully changing.

From Christian Wade, who covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News:

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A recent Boston University study of 100 gas leaks in Greater Boston found that about 15 percent of those categorized as nonhazardous, “Grade 3” leaks are actually more serious Grade 1 leaks, [Audrey Schulman] said…

…Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, primary sponsor of the gas-leak measure, said utilities are focused on replacing old pipes rather than fixing leaks, which is slowing the process.

Consumers are unfairly saddled with the cost, she said.

“For the ratepayers, replacement is far more expensive than repair,” said Ehrlich. “This bill puts the focus back on repairs.”

Read more.

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Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, was the primary sponsor of the gas leak measure. “For the ratepayers, replacement is far more expensive than repair,” she said. “This bill puts the focus back on repairs.”

SAFE’s video of “Gas Pipelines and Salem’s Water Supply” now on YouTube and SATV

The June 28th presentations by Wayne Castonguay, Erin Bennett, PhD, and Cathy Kristofferson can now be seen on YouTube here.

In Salem, the video will air on channel 3 on these dates and times:
Friday, July 15, 2016: 9:30 PM
Monday, July 18, 2016: 6:00 AM
(go to SATV’s online schedule for future airings)

“Avoiding Flint – Protecting the Climate”
For more info, email salemsafe@gmail.com
Part I (0 to 32 minute marker)
Introductions by Jeff Barz-Snell, Co-Chair of SAFE
“The Voice of the River,” by Wayne Castonguay (Executive Director of the Ipswich River Watershed Association)

Part II (32 minute marker to 1 hour and 44 minute marker)
“Glyphosate 101: What is this stuff & how does it behave in the environment?” by Erin Bennett, PhD (Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor)
“Update on Gas Pipelines,” by Cathy Kristofferson (Liasion for Stop Northeast Energy Direct: StopNED) and Paula Terrasi (also with StopNED)

SAFE’s YouTube channel

wayne castonguay

“Gas Pipelines and Salem’s Water Supply,” Parts I and II, are now on YouTube

Go to SAFE’s YouTube channel to watch the recording of the June 28th event.

Video published on Jul 9, 2016

Avoiding Flint – Protecting the Climate
Sponsored by SAFE

Part I (0 to 32 minute marker)
Introductions by Jeff Barz-Snell, Co-Chair of SAFE
“The Voice of the River,” by Wayne Castonguay (Executive Director of the Ipswich River Watershed Association)

Part II (32 minute marker to 1 hour and 44 minute marker)
“Glyphosate 101: What is this stuff & how does it behave in the environment?” by Erin Bennett, PhD, (Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor)
“Update on Gas Pipelines,” by Cathy Kristofferson (Liaison for Stop Northeast Energy Direct: StopNED) and Paula Terrasi (also with StopNED)

Ends with a question-and-answer period.

Go directly to “Gas Pipelines and Salem’s Water Supply,” Parts I and II.

for facebook gas pipelines and Salem's water supply
The Flint, Michigan water crisis