Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force – For Whose Benefit?

Photo of “Williams-Transco Pipeline Crossing Struble Trail, Downingtown, PA” by Jim Wylie
By Bernie Greenberg and Jim Wylie (Southeastern PA Group)

Last year, Governor Tom Wolf established the Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) chaired by DEP Secretary John Quigley, with the goal of achieving a world-class pipeline infrastructure for this state. The responsibilities of the PITF included the siting and routing of pipelines, engaging in public participation and ensuring pipeline safety. The draft recommendations were released in November and the public comment period closed on December 31st. Over those 46 days over 1,500 comments were collected by the DEP website from environmental organizations, gas and pipeline industry representatives, property owners and other concerned citizens.

Just 20 calendar days later (on Jan 20, 2016), the task force will approve the final version of the recommendations. It seems like the real intent of this task force is to streamline the process for pipeline developers.

The Task Force draft recommendations do not adequately address in advance the environmental effects of pipeline proliferation as stated in Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution which provides that people have a right to clean air, water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania courts have mandated that Section 27 constrains every entity with the state government and requires that a thorough and comprehensive review be conducted BEFORE activities such as the expansion of gas pipelines which may have a deleterious impact on our land, water, air and communities.

The Task Force proposes a fast-track massive expansion of pipelines across our state without a proper environmental review. This expansion will disturb many of our precious streams, some permanently, clear thousands of acres of woodland, encroach upon farm fields, affect air quality and divide residential communities. The PITF has charged the DEP with monitoring water quality throughout the state as well as evaluating methane emissions from the many compressor stations to be built. This agency is poorly equipped to handle this expansion of activity – a projected quadrupling of pipeline miles by 2030. The same is true for the public utility commission (PUC) which is charged with monitoring pipeline failures. Furthermore there may not be adequate funds or volunteers to provide for emergency responses to the inevitable catastrophe.

Finally, do we even need or want more pipelines when we should be drafting a strategy for transitioning our energy to renewable sources, not expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure? The renewable energy industry should have a seat at the table when it comes to determining the future of our state. I recommend the creation of a task force dedicated to fully transitioning Pennsylvania ­to ­renewable energy instead of locking in these dirty fuels for the next several decades.

As it stands, It seems that the real beneficiary of the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force is the pipeline industry. Period.

To learn more about the Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce and to read letters submitted to the Taskforce by Sierra Club members in Southeastern Pennsylvania, click here.

Read the Pennsylvania Sierra Club's Comments to the Taskforce here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Don't Trade Away Climate Progress

The Sierra Cub opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Since it’s founding in 1892 the Sierra Club has been dedicated to helping people appreciate, experience, and protect the gifts of Nature in this complex and beautiful World. We have a long history of accepting the responsibility of looking beyond human needs and wants of the moment to identify mistakes made in the past and advocate for policies that, as stated in the Constitution of Pennsylvania, are dedicated “to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment.”

We support American policy meant to protect the health of our families and the safety of our communities—We oppose policies like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that promote the interests of those who use common natural resources for private gain, think of depletion and destruction as collateral damage, and do not serve the interests of the public and the environment.

Recently TransCanada challenged the decision not to permit the Keystone XL pipeline. Provisions of NAFTA enable foreign corporations to undermine this protective action that the United States had every right to take. These same destructive provisions, that allow corporations to sue in private trade tribunals over laws they claim reduce their profits, these court cases that would attack our safeguards in secret and independent of our democratic processes, are also built into the dangerous and far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership - only worse - adding just one more reason that this effort must be stopped in its tracks.

Our nation should not sign on to this destructive agreement.


Activists Challenge President’s TPP Pitch in State of the Union
PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Speaks at Rally  

ALLENTOWN, PA  Today the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition held a rally at the Allentown office of Congressman Charlie Dent to challenge President Obama’s call for Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in yesterday’s State of the Union Address.  The event also featured the release of the national letter of opposition to the TPP signed by over 1500 national, state and local organizations. The letter was circulated by the Citizens Trade Campaign, of which the PA Fair Trade Coalition is our state affiliate.  Today the letter was delivered to congressional offices throughout Pennsylvania by PA Fair Trade Coalition activists.  In Allentown the crowd of fair trade supporters demanded that Congressman Dent vote against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Phila Back, PA Fair Trade Coalition volunteer said, “Knowing how unpopular the TPP is, the President spoke about it for a scant 28 seconds last night.”

TPP, a NAFTA-style free trade agreement with eleven Pacific rim countries, was negotiated over five years in unprecedented secrecy.  The released text confirms that it is a threat to American jobs and wages as well as labor, environmental, food safety and financial safeguards while it reduces access to affordable medicine and internet freedom.

PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder said, "The TPP agreement is on track, the wrong track, to become the most harmful trade pact ever. Enough is enough. If we are serious about rebuilding the middle class and creating the millions of good paying jobs we desperately need, we must fundamentally rewrite our trade policies. NO to fast track, and NO to the TPP."

The national letter was signed by several local organizations including the Lehigh Valley Group of the Sierra Club.  Their spokesman Tom Church said, “ TransCanada’s recent challenge to the decision not to permit the Keystone XK pipeline – an action that could cost US taxpayers $15 billion – exploits provisions of NAFTA that enables foreign corporations to undermine American policy meant to protect the health of our families and the safety of our communities.  These same destructive provisions that wrongly empower corporations to attack our safeguards are also built into the dangerous and far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership – only worse – adding just one more reason that this effort must be stopped in its tracks.”

“Lehigh Valley Gas Truth is concerned that the TPP provides a fast track to future LNG exports, because the US would be required to sell its gas to other signatory countries regardless of any public health and safety or environmental considerations, and that means a lot more illness, eco-destruction, and violation of the rights of PA communities,” said Julie Edgar.

George Piasecki, United Steelworkers, Rapid Response PA Director, said, “TPP has been negotiated in secret for over six years and now they want  to sell it to the American public in just a few months with just an up or down vote in Congress. For too long we have let multi-national corporations dictate our trade rules at the expense of working families, resulting in a growing trade deficit, stagnating wages and job loss. These agreements prioritize corporate profits over workers paychecks and workers’ rights.”

“Last night the President repeated the misleading claims he has made about the TPP,” said Back.  “His claim about 18,000 tax cuts refers to tariffs on a miniscule quantity of goods.  Further, TPP Is not about the U.S. writing the rules versus China doing so - TPP’s rules are those demanded by its 500 official corporate trade advisers.”

Nancy Tate of LEPOCO stated, “LEPOCO has worked against unfair trade agreements since NAFTA, supporting workers in Latin America, the U.S., and now Asia, all of whom are threatened by the TPP.”   

The President has previously announced his intention to sign the TPP in early February, seeking a Fast-Tracked vote in Congress in the spring.  

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