Monday, April 22, 2013


By Tom Church 

         It’s hard. Sometimes it’s impossible. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. The great Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson sang “ I'm gonna live the life I sing about in my song , I’m gonna live for the right and always shun the wrong;  you can't go to church and shout on a Sunday, go out and get drunk and raise Hell on a Monday”.
   But we all have trouble doing “the right thing” sometimes. We're not Saints. Sometimes doing the right thing isn't easy. It’s relatively easy to point out what’s wrong but quite another to propose an alternative. One that you and others can buy into.

        In my household we’re concerned about the environment in so many ways. Do we have a hybrid or electric car? Do we have solar panels on our house for electricity and water heating? Do we even make sure we turn off lights and unplug power drains when we don't need them on?
        Ray, the instructor in a Solar Voltaic course I took, told a story of a guy who hired him to put in a bank of panels. The next year the guy called and wanted more. When the installer showed up at the house it was lit up like a Christmas tree.  TV’s were on with nobody watching. You know the scene. Ray suggested they make some changes in their habits. They cut back for about six months. Then called back. Let’s install the extra panels. It was too hard to be so careful. Where’s that at? “Doing the right thing” was too hard.

        Or sometimes we're forced into doing the right thing.

        There’s a lake in the Poconos where the association of property owners was told that a group of investors were seeking permission, and probably going to get it, to install a large electrical turbine at the dam to sell electricity to the power company. What happened? The owners were able to come up with the money to do it themselves and maintain their control. How many of us could have done that? Some years later they were selling enough that they were making money on their investment. They were forced into it, but it paid off for them in the long run. How many of us have the foresight and resources to do this? Not many.

        Speaking of resources, what about the finite resources available to us on this planet. Charles Eisenstein’s book “Sacred Economics” is about this common wealth of resources, how they've been stolen, and labeled private commodities and sold for private gain. These thieves mine and sell this common wealth, minerals and water and whatever they can think of, until it’s exhausted. Then they move on to the next higher hanging fruit. Some even advertise that they are doing good things for the environment. Go figure. Free Enterprise. Yes, it costs them to exploit us and they provide services, but this killing the tree to get the fruit is not good for anyone. Except them. Not their grandchildren.

        We're on a budget. Like any household.  Just because we have it doesn’t mean we should spend it until it’s gone. And like any other household, we have to renew our resources to continue. And it’s been proven through the short history of man that we have the ingenuity to change our focus and solve problems in new ways. To go to resources that can be renewed. We need a major re-focus to “do the right thing” before we’re not here to do anything.

        Maybe it’s time for me to go back online and check on those hybrids and solar panels.

Do you practice what you preach? in the comments section please let us know what you are doing to conserve

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rock Run A beautiful wild and natural area, about to be destroyed by Gas Drilling

Rock Run is an exquisitely beautiful, exceptional value stream that runs through the heart of the Loyalsock state forest. It has been called the prettiest stream in Pennsylvania.

But all of that may change!

Anadarko Petroleum Corporation may soon be drilling for natural gas in this area!  

A patchwork of mixed mineral rights ownership lies under much of the Loyalsock. That's because while Pennsylvania Lumber Company sold the land to the state, it sold the mineral rights to others. The state ultimately acquired some rights, while rights to other tracts were bought by others and have been bought and sold over the years.

But  an unusual deed restriction gives the state DCNR an opportunity to restrict development on 18,870 acres of the Loyalsock where the state does not own mineral rights, including a portion of the Rock Run headwaters.

The mineral rights to that tract were once owned by  Clarence Moore. The wording in the deed contains an unusual restriction in which the right of the mineral rights owner to access oil and gas from the surface was terminated after 50 years — in 1983.

This 50-year limitation on surface access was challenged by Moore, but upheld by Commonwealth Court in 1989 which concluded that "access subsequent to March 28, 1983, is controlled by the Commonwealth." That conclusion was upheld again by the state Board of Claims in 1999.
The state has a unique opportunity to protect Rock Run and a sizable chunk of Loyalsock State Forest, although we are are worried the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages the Loyalsock and other state forests, will not exercise its authority on the matter.

In a letter to the DCNR, The Sierra Club and other groups feel the DNCR needs to specifically grant a right-of-way to Anadarko to work on the surface, but it cannot do so under state law if the right-of-way would "so adversely affect the land as to interfere with its usual and orderly administration." The letter states drilling would likely adversely affect Rock Run, which is designated an exceptional value stream. DNCR officials confirm that they are still in negotiations with Anadarko over drilling in the area.

Recently the DNCR held a a closed-door meeting with with invited "stakeholders", which were certain elected officials, a representative of the Sierra Club and a select few other environmental groups to discuss drilling for natural gas on nearly 25,000 acres in the Rock Run area of McIntyre Township.

During that meeting we delivered a letter to former DCNR Secretary Rick Allen repeating our request for the agency to hold a public hearing on its gas drilling plans. 
The letter was signed by 28 conservation, recreation and environmental organizations. 

Secretary Allen made it clear that his agency is interested only in hearing from those it chooses to. Participants said Allen told them that the closed-door meeting was the public meeting. 

The spectacular and unique resources of the Loyalsock draw visitors from all over the state. It includes some of the best hiking trails in the state forest system and the watershed of the exquisite Rock Run. 

Taxpayers bought this land pay for its maintenance.

The public owns it. DCNR should be listening Its  owners (all citizens of Pennsylvania)  but as the Corbett administration keeps bowing  to the Gas Drillers  This precious resource that The DNCR is charged with protecting,  is in grave danger.

And what does DCNR imply?  Pennsylvania citizens, you're not welcome. Your input on the outcomes is less important than that of the ones who want destroy it. 

If you feel this area is too important to drill, then click here to sign the petition to tell the Corbett Administration: Listen to the People's Voice - No Drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest

UPDATED: June 26, 2013 - 12:23pm

Photos courtesy of friends of rock run

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

President Obama should reject Keystone XL Pipeline: As I See It

By John Rossi

The U.S. State Department recently produced a draft environmental impact statement which gives a preliminary green light to the construction of a Canada-U.S. pipeline that will complete the link of the tar sands of Alberta to America’s Gulf Coast refineries and port facilities.

After a 45-day public response period, the Department will finalize its impact statement and pass it on to President Obama for his decision to approve or disapprove a permit for the pipeline. The president should not approve the pipeline. The petroleum it will carry is among the dirtiest produced in the world. The pipeline will vastly expand tar sands mining operations that are creating or exacerbating multiple environmental catastrophes. Here’s why.

To understand the environmental problems with the Keystone pipeline, we need to start with the raw material and how it is produced. The Athabasca tar sands in Canada’s Alberta province are the world’s largest and cover an area the equivalent of Florida. These sands contain bitumen, a semi-sold form of petroleum, a tarry-like substance, mixed with sand, clay, and water.

There are two major methods to turn this product in to oil. During the late twentieth century the end product was called “synthetic crude,” because of the huge amount of processing involved.

The main form of processing is mining. The tar sands are dug up in vast open pit mines. The “shallow surface layer,” about 250 feet of water-logged bog-like soil, clay and sand, are scraped off and the bitumen is removed by enormous earth-moving machines. The world’s largest surface mine by area is the Syncrude mine at its Mildred Lake complex. It covers about 33 square miles and is visible from space.

The mined “ore” is crushed and then very hot water is added to help transport it in slurry form to a separator. There, more hot water and chemicals are used to remove the petroleum. The resulting separator output is a mix of bitumen (60 percent), water (30 percent) and solids–mostly sand and clay (10 percent) which must be “cleaned” to remove the non-petroleum parts. Approximately 90 percent of the bitumen is recovered through this process.

The wastewater is sent to tailing lakes. The largest is about 31.5 square miles in size and is one of the world’s biggest man-made structures. It too is visible from space.

In-situ is the other method of bitumen extraction. It requires that wells be drilled through the formation and then steam injected into the wells to melt the bitumen. The resulting hot oil is pumped out. About 60 percent of the bitumen is recovered in this process which is much less destructive than mining.
Whatever method is used, all of this processing takes enormous amounts of energy; about 700 cubic feet of natural gas are used to produce a barrel of oil from bitumen in mining and about 1,200 cubic feet for a barrel of oil from the in situ process. In total the amount of natural gas being used to extract bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands is enough to heat about 3 million homes.

Dr. Marlo Raynolds, senior advisor to the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental research group that supports environmentally responsible development of the Alberta tar sands observes the perverse logic of current tar sands extraction: "What bugs me about oil sands is that it is a resource that is being inefficiently used. We're using natural gas, which is the cleanest fossil fuel, to make a dirtier fuel. It's like using caviar to make fake crabmeat."

Burning all this natural gas means that producing a barrel of oil from bitumen, the Pembina Institute notes, releases over twice as much air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide as extracting a barrel of conventional crude. Greenhouse gas emissions from extraction are between 3.2 and 4.5 times greater per barrel.

Simply put, extracted oil from the Alberta tar sands is one of the most wasteful and environmentally destructive methods of producing petroleum on the planet. And, this is not counting greenhouse gas emissions.

The Keystone pipeline allows an enormous expansion of tar sands oil extraction and vastly increases the scale of environmental devastation. Americans will not allow this kind of environmental ruination in our country and we should not import oil that facilitates it in Canada.

Consequently, President Obama should say no to the Keystone pipeline permit. To do otherwise is morally wrong and hypocritical, particularly from a leader who claims to support clean energy.

This article also appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot-News Online on March 29, 2013
John Rossi is the Climate Change Committee Co-Chair of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club. He can be contacted at

Take Action on the Keystone XL Pipeline NOW!
 Email the State Department at ““. The Department then, by law, has to respond to your written comment. Do this before April 15!
  1. Send a copy of your comments in letter form to President Obama.
  2. AND COPY this letter to John Kerry, Secretary of State.
  3. AND send a copy to Senator Robert Casey:
  4. AND send it as a letter to the editor to your local paper.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pennsylvania communities are facing a coordinated assault on environmental planning.

By Tom Au,  Pennsylvania Chapter Conservation Chair

Many Pennsylvania communities are facing a coordinated assault on  environmental planning. This takes the form of a campaign to "stop UN social engineering and communitarianism" by adopting resolutions and local ordinances to undo community planning and zoning.  Glenn Beck has released a book called " Agenda 21" arguing that Americans need to stop this "United Nations plot."

Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development

by John Dernbach
At a local government meeting on a land use plan, officials hear opposition based on the claim that it is tainted by Agenda 21.  A state public utility commission considering smart meters hears similar claims.  They are confused: what is Agenda 21 and why does it matter?

A well organized campaign against Agenda 21, spread by the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, and the John Birch Society, exists well outside the realm of ordinary environmental law work.  But it is beginning to affect that work.  The real target of this campaign, moreover, is not Agenda 21 but sustainable development—a common sense approach to reconciling environment and development that provides the basis for our environmental and land use laws.  Environmental lawyers thus need a basic understanding of what Agenda 21 is and what it is not.     

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive public strategy for achieving sustainable development. It was endorsed by the U.S. (under the presidency of George H.W. Bush) and other countries at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in 1992.  Agenda 21 stands for two broad propositions: 1) environmental goals and considerations need to be integrated into all development decisions, and 2) governments and their many stakeholders should work out the best way to integrate environment and development decisions in an open and democratic way. 

Agenda 21 contains an almost encyclopedic description of the best ideas for achieving sustainable development that existed in 1992.  On land use, it specifically counsels respect for private property.    It contains a detailed description of the role that many nongovernmental entities, including business and industry, farmers, unions, and others, should play in achieving sustainability. 

Agenda 21 endorses, and to a great degree is based upon, ideas that were already expressed in U.S. environmental and natural resources laws.  Its core premise is espoused in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.  Long before Agenda 21, NEPA set out "the continuing policy of the Federal government" to "create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans" (42 U.S.C. § 4331). 

Ironically, Agenda 21 was never taken seriously as such in the United States; there has never been much enthusiasm here for following international agreements.  It is not a legally binding treaty; it contains no provisions for ratification, for example.  Agenda 21 also says nothing about new ideas like green building, smart growth, and smart meters.  But sustainable development as an idea—achieving economic development, job creation, human wellbeing, and environmental protection and restoration at the same time—is gaining traction. 

In response, opponents are attacking sustainability by making false statements about Agenda 21.  They say that Agenda 21 is opposed to democracy, freedom, private property, and development, and would foster environmental extremism.  For many opponents, the absence of a textual basis in Agenda 21 for such claims (in fact, the text explicitly contradicts all of these claims) is not a problem.  First, they are attacking a document that is not well known, and so they count on not being contradicted.  Second, the false version of Agenda 21 fits a well known narrative that is based on fear of global governance and a perceived threat of totalitarianism, and on distrust of the United Nations.  Indeed, the absence of information to support such fears only deepens their perception of a conspiracy.  According to this view, moreover, people who talk about sustainable development without mentioning Agenda 21 are simply masking their true intentions.  

Far-fetched, you say?  Well, consider this: in 2012, Alabama adopted legislation that prohibits the state or political subdivisions from adopting or implementing policies "that infringe or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to 'Agenda 21'" (Ala. Code § 35-1-6).  This, of course, could chill a variety of otherwise ordinary state and local decisions.  Similar bills are pending in state legislatures across the country. 

In a variety of other places, elected officials and professional staff who have worked with stakeholders for years to produce specific land use and energy proposals find their work mischaracterized as the product of Agenda 21, even though they have never heard of it.   Agenda 21's lack of direct relevance to the specific proposals should, but does not always, provide an answer to such claims. 

The campaign against Agenda 21 has no serious empirical or textual foundation.  But it can work against sustainability and good decisions—and cost time and money—when clients and their lawyers don't recognize it for what it is.

Reposed with the permission of John Dernbach, who posted this article March 27, 2013, for the American College of Environmental Lawyers.