Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Statement on President Obama’s Climate Plan

Contact:  Kim Teplitzky, 412-802-6161kim.teplitzky@sierraclub.org
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Statement on President Obama’s Climate Plan
Washington, D.C. – Today President Barack Obama announced his administration's next steps for building a legacy of action to fight the climate crisis. The plan includes new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scales up responsible clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new commitment to power 6 million homes by 2020, and uses the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.

Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Director Jeff Schmidt released the following statement in response:

"This is change Pennsylvanians have been waiting for on climate.  

“President Obama is finally putting action behind his words, which is what the Sierra Club, our 2.1 million members and supporters, and coalition partners have worked mightily to achieve. Today, we applaud him for taking a giant step forward toward meeting that goal.

"By committing to establish new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scale up responsible clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new goal to power 6 million homes by 2020, and use the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, the President is stepping up to reduce climate-disrupting pollution that is destabilizing our climate while threatening our economy and endangering our communities and families with extreme weather and dramatic sea level increases.

“Here in Pennsylvania we know the benefits of increasing energy efficiency with our Energy Savings Act that has helped families and businesses save millions in electricity costs over the last two years. We have seen the good jobs created by the expansion of clean renewable energy sources.    We also know the threat of continuing our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels like coal and natural gas that have left a toxic legacy in our state that puts our air, water and land at risk. 

“We look forward to a day when the Administration sees fracked gas for what it is - a fossil fuel of the past and a threat to public health. Nevertheless, the President’s plan gives us hope that he will cement his climate legacy and protect future generations by ending destructive oil drilling in the Arctic, rejecting dangerous nukes, halting mountaintop removal, abandoning dirty fossil fuels in favor of clean energy - and by making the critically important decision to reject the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline.”


Friday, June 21, 2013

Acid Rain: Not Just an 80's Throwback

By Phil Coleman, Co-Editor The Sylvanian

In the 1980’s, the general public became aware of acid rain. Ecologists had been aware of acid precipitation for some time before that, but, as is usually the case, time passed until the term caught on. “Rain” is a better catch word than “precipitation.” And the fact was that sulfur and nitrous oxide compounds were in the air and coming to earth in rain, snow, sleet and plain old dust.

These compounds and a handful of others – especially mercury – were poisoning lakes and stunting trees, as well as giving people health problems. Acid rain was a growing problem because industrial processes were growing. The most serious contributor was the burning of coal. Coal-fired power plants, without adequate emissions cleaning processes, were the worst perpetrators.

Another Look   

But then along came the global climate crisis. Carbon dioxide emissions are affecting the ozone layer, causing the temperature to increase, glaciers to melt, and oceans to rise, and the climate to change, which makes farm land into desert and encourages violent storms. 

Global climate disruption is a serious world problem. And the culprits who produced acid rain are the same culprits who are the principal producers of climate disruption -- coal-fired power plants. Faced with a new problem, the coal industry developed a theory that carbon from coal plants could be “sequestered” by being pumped underground where it wouldn’t harm the ozone layer.

The industry called this “Clean Coal” technology. Sequestering carbon is technically doable if you ignore the expense involved, the energy required to transport and pump the carbon, and the increase in coal burning required to produce a unit of electricity. But the industry loved it. Companies petitioned the government to fund studies and trials to sequester carbon. They didn’t wait for the results: billboards proclaiming “Clean Coal” went up all over coal country.

The industry is much better at advertising than is the environmental community. Our response was vigorous but not as effective. And no one is talking about acid rain anymore.


We all admire the juggler who can keep three or more balls in the air at once. But most of us most of the time are not jugglers. We can’t keep two slogans going at once. When we learned about global warming, we lost track of acid rain. The facts haven’t changed, but our attention was diverted. Isn’t it remarkable that the power plant wanted to continue polluting our rivers and lakes and stunting our forests even while they were proclaiming Clean Coal?

Fortunately, not everyone has dropped the ball. Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has been at work forcing the dirtiest power plants out of business. Using the Clean Air Act, they filed suit just last year against the Homer City, PA, power plant, one of the biggest polluters and one of the slowest to clean up.

The global climate crisis is a serious global problem. But let’s not forget that acid rain is an ongoing and closely-related problem. And Pennsylvania is one of its targets.

Photo Courtesy of glogster.com 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sierra Club Responds to Forced Resignation of DNCR Secretary Allan


Today, Governor Corbett's office put out a very brief press release announcing the abrupt resignation of DCNR Secretary Richard Allan, effective immediately.  No explanation was given. 

Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Director Jeff Schmidt issued the following reaction to the announcement:

"We believe that Governor Corbett's request for Secretary Allan's resignation is at least in part a result of the lack of transparency and willingness to involve the public in DCNR's public lands management decisions.  A current example of this failure is the way Secretary Allan has acted in relation to Anardarko Petroleum Company's desire to drill for natural gas in pristine parts of the Loyalsock State Forest in Lycoming County.   

Under Secretary Allan's leadership, DCNR has been engaging in backroom negotiations with Anadarko, while refusing to provide the public important details about Anadarko's plans.  Our environmental and sportsmen’s coalition representing more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians has been frustrated by Secretary Allan's stonewalling and hostility to public involvement. 

We applaud Governor Corbett's decision to remove a cabinet secretary who has grossly mishandled public involvement, and shown open hostility to established public lands stakeholder organizations—unprecedented in both Republican and Democratic past administrations.  We hope this action is an accountability measure in response to Secretary Allan's tone deaf handling of public involvement in public lands management decision-making. 

We continue to call on Governor Corbett to take swift action to halt the backroom dealing with Anadarko.  We ask Governor Corbett to act to protect the Loyalsock State Forest from gas drilling, by exercising the Commonwealth's legal authority to deny Anadarko and others surface access to the State Forest lands for drilling.  We call on Governor Corbett to appoint an experienced public lands manager with no ties to industry to replace Secretary Allan.  Secretary Allan and a number of his appointed Deputies came to the job with no public lands management experience.  We believe that lack of experience contributed greatly to the failure to engage the public, including those with whom he disagrees, unlike his predecessors in both Republican and Democratic administrations. 

We note that there has been controversy over the lack of transparency and hostility to public involvement in both Pennsylvania environmental agencies:  Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) since Governor Corbett took office.  We further note that both DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, and now DCNR Secretary Richard Allan, are no longer cabinet secretaries.  In the case of DEP, one major controversy has been over the failure to provide complete data about drinking water contamination from gas drilling.  In the case of DCNR, a major controversy is the refusal to disclose fully the plans of the drilling company and DCNR's backroom negotiations."

For more information, contact Jeff Schmidt at (717) 232-0101


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shine Light on Gas Drilling Plans in Loyalsock State Forest, Governor Corbett


Organizations representing over 100,000 Pennsylvania citizens are calling on Governor Tom Corbett to make public the plans by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation to drill in a wild part of the Loyalsock State Forest in Lycoming County known as the “Clarence Moore lands.” The process, which will affect some of the Commonwealth’s most sensitive public lands, lacks transparency and input by the public, to whom these lands belong. The coalition calls for public release of the proposal and a ninety-day comment period, including statewide public hearings.

The 25,621-acre Clarence Moore lands are home to extraordinary natural and recreational resources including the Exceptional Value watersheds of Rock Run and Pleasant Stream, the Old Loggers Path hiking trail and a National Audubon Society-designated Important Bird Area. To date, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has held one public meeting on potential gas drilling in this area, describing the meeting as “the completion” of its interactions with the public.  Because of unique legal circumstances, DCNR has unusual power to prevent surface disturbance in most, if not all, of this significant public wild area.

 “Any decision to open the Clarence Moore lands to gas development will permanently change their wild character. Because these are public lands belonging to all citizens of the Commonwealth, that decision requires a transparent public process.” said Mark Szybist, staff attorney at PennFuture.

"Sierra Club members from throughout Pennsylvania visit the Loyalsock State Forest to swim, fish, hike and birdwatch.  They want DCNR to stop the backroom negotiations with Anadarko.  They want to know the details of what is proposed, and they expect DCNR to allow the public ample time to comment," said Jeff Schmidt, Director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter.

"Full disclosure of Anadarko's plans and the opportunity to share it with our stakeholders in the hiking community is imperative for a robust public hearing process that will provide for the protection of the Old Loggers Path," said Curt Ashenfelter Executive Director of the Keystone Trails Association. 

The coalition delivered this letter to state officials including Governor Tom Corbett, DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan, and Acting Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, E. Christopher Abruzzo. The letter was signed by leadership from: Responsible Drilling Alliance; PennFuture; Pennsylvania Forest Coalition; Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter; Keystone Trails Association; PennEnvironment; League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania; Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association; Audubon Pennsylvania and Lycoming Audubon; Pennsylvania Division Izaak Walton League; Shale Justice Coalition; and Organizations United for the Environment.

Mark Szybist, staff attorney, PennFuture, 570-208-4007, 
Jeff Schmidt, Director, Sierra Club PA Chapter, 717-232-010, jeff.schmidt@sierraclub.org
Curt Ashenfelter, Executive Director, Keystone Trails Association, 717-418-4661, ktahike@verizon.net

Friday, June 7, 2013

Perdue AgriBusiness Sets Sights on Lancaster for New Soybean Plant

Perdue AgriBusiness has submitted permits to construct Pennsylvania's first soybean processing plant using hexane in Lancaster County. This issue could have a serious impact on conservation in Pa. Patriot News reporter, John Luciew, has been covering the environmental divide. Please see the below articles recently published on this issue. 

June 05, 2013, 12:06PM
The chemical solvent hexane is at the center of the environmental debate swirling around Perdue AgriBusiness's plans to build a soybean processing plant in northern Lancaster County. Full story »
June 05, 2013, 7:30AM
Pennsylvania produced 25 million bushels of soybeans in 2012. And there are over 4,000 soybean growers in the state today. Both figures are more than ever before. Full story »
June 05, 2013, 6:03AM
The selling price of the land will be $2.478 million -- but only if Perdue receives all the state environmental permits in order to build and operate the plant. Full story »
June 04, 2013, 11:30AM
Some leaders and residents in this township of about 6,000 believe they will bear the brunt of the hexane vapors to be vented from the proposed soybean processing plant in neighboring Lancaster County. Full story »
June 04, 2013, 7:30AM
Perdue AgriBusiness says its plant would change the equation and reinvigorate the grain market here. Pennsylvania farmers stand to get the most value out of the grains they produce. Full story »
June 04, 2013, 6:03AM
It took elements outside of Lancaster County to throw a brake on the Perdue soybean plant, which the company had hoped to open in time to process this year's soy crop. Full story »

June 03, 2013, 7:59AM
Instead of pressurizing or steaming the soybeans to unleash the precious oil that's used in the snack food industry and for biodiesel fuel, the plant would incorporate a gasoline-like chemical solvent known as hexane. Full story »

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Medieval Climate Anomaly

                                          Marlin Turby, member from Dillsburg, PA

To declare that climate change is due from natural climate variability acknowledges that there is observed global warming and the consequent change in climate. Does it not? The argument therefore is not concerning global warming and climate change as a physical reality; rather, it is whether it is of natural or human (anthropocentric) origin?

For each side of the argument the following is true: climatologists -- working as peer reviewed scientists and abiding by the scientific method -- have accurately measured the temperature of the planet, as well as the warming in the past century, and verified the change in world climates. 

I conclude that all people, institutions, and think tanks, which say that global warming and climate change are merely natural climate variability, are fully acknowledging that the planet is warming and the climate is changing. Likewise, they acknowledge that scientists and their methods of research are legitimate.

Yet, for some reason, when scientists, using identical scientific methods and peer reviewed protocols, determine that the carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are the primary cause of warming, suddenly, scientists are involved in a conspiracy. There is a contradiction in their language to which they appear oblivious.

One climatological event sighted as evidence for natural variability was the Medieval Warm Period, 850 to 1250 AD and the Little Ice Age, 1300 through 1800 AD. The North Atlantic Ocean was unusually free of sea ice during the warm phase, which allowed sailing through the region and settlement in Greenland. This warming was felt in many areas; yet globally, temperatures were slightly cooler than those of today.  Afterwards and extending to 1800 AD there was a substantial cooling in northern Europe known as the "Little Ice Age".  

Taken collectively the Medieval Warm Period, MVP, and the Little Ice Age, LIA, are termed "The Medieval Climate Anomaly." It has been discovered that the MVP had two distinct causes: (1) an increase in solar output and (2) a decrease in volcanic activity.

Volcanoes emit particulates that are suspended in the atmosphere and are circulated by upper level winds in the troposphere for a number of years. These particles, called "aerosols," reflect incoming sunlight back into space. thus reducing the amount of sunlight the planet receives.

Carbon dioxide is also emitted from volcanoes, which as we know, warms the planet. Volcanoes tend to cool the planet in the short term due to aerosols and warm it in the long term from the CO2 that remains in the atmosphere for centuries. It is not an entirely linear arrangement, with numerous variables and feedback mechanisms contributing to the final net result.  

The atmosphere and world climates are influenced by the oceans. The "Thermohaline Circulation" is a massive river within the oceans that circulates globally. As the name indicates, it is driven by heat energy and saline density. This transfers tropical heat to the North Atlantic.

The melting in the North Atlantic during the MVP slowed the oceanic circulation thus contributing to the onset of the LIA. Today Greenland and the Arctic melt at alarming rates.

Does history repeat itself? We shall see.