Talisman Energy well blowout

The Associated Press reports today that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited Talisman Energy, Inc. for a well blowout in the Tioga State Forest. The incident occurred on Monday January 17th at 12:10 pm. DEP says "that a needle valve on a casing wing valve failed" during the fracking process. The well sent "sent polluted drilling wastewater and sand shooting into the air but caused no injuries."

AP reports,

[DEP] cited a Talisman subsidiary for violating state laws governing clean streams, solid waste management and gas drilling. Spilled fluids appear to have been limited to the lined well pad, DEP said.

Soil samples were still being evaluated, the agency said. The well, about five miles east of Blossburg in Tioga State Forest, remains shut down, as are the other three wells on the same pad, DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni said.

A DEP press release quotes North-central Regional Director Nels Taber as saying, “This was a serious incident that could have caused significant environmental harm had it not been brought under control." Talisman is also conducting an investigation and promises to correct any errors.

This is the second well blowout in Pennsylvania in the last year. The other was EOG Resources blowout in Clearfield County, allegedly caused by an improper pressure control system. EOG was fined $400,000.


Career possibilities for a more sustainable economy

This invitation to a "Green Careers Symposium" just came in from Penn State's Center for Sustainability:
The Symposium will take place on February 15 from 7:30 am to noon. At the event, a small group of employers will have the opportunity to discuss their sustainability-related career opportunities with a small group of invited students. After a facilitated personal networking session, there will be a panel discussion on green careers open to the entire Penn State community.

Large and small for-profit companies and non-profit organizations will be attending this event. Most, but not all, of the participating organizations/companies will also be participating in Spring Career Days.

Green Careers Leadership Symposium Itinerary:

7:30am - 8:30am: Arrival and breakfast, informal conversation

8:30am - 9:30am: Speed networking event, during which each employer will have the opportunity to chat briefly with each student in attendance (the format will be similar to speed dating). This portion of the event is by invitation only.

9:30am - 9:45am: Break; doors open to all interested individuals from the PSU community

9:45am - 10:45am: Panel Symposium on green careers—open to the public
Participants include Penn State alumni who are in green careers. Panelists will speak briefly about their own green career journey, or some larger issue in green careers. The floor will then be open for questions from the audience.

10:45am - 12:00pm: Open networking opportunity
Some employers will leave immediately for the Spring Career Fair, which begins at 11:00 AM. Others will have enough time to stay and converse with students until as late as noon.
If you are interested in participating in the Speed Networking portion should contact the Center for Sustainability by using this contact form.


"Natural gas will be a significant improvement"

Penn State, under EPA guidelines and student pressure is almost certainly going to move away from coal. To what?

A large contingent of students has pushed for a larger renewable energy portfolio, mainly solar and wind but some. Others, like Byron Faye who spoke on Sustainability Now in December, don't oppose putting nuclear power into the mix.

But Penn State seems likely to go ahead with a large natural gas component. State College.com reports:
Senior Vice President for Finance Al Horvath told the trustees Friday that natural gas is the most viable alternative to the coal-burning set-up. Speaking with reporters later, Horvath said university officials worked with faculty members in the field to help develop the recommendation for the trustees board.

"The switch to natural gas will be a significant improvement in the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions," he said. He underscored that the project will deliver a 37 percent cut in carbon dioxide emitted from the campus steam facilities.

That's equal to taking 12,400 cars off the road for a year, according to the university.
In the economic and climate change calculus, many will call this a big win. CO2 emissions at university of Penn State's size are considerable. Given the fact that universities prepare the future workforce, this switch and its focus on greenhouse gas reduction are important. But at what cost?

Many do and will see this as a push toward more dangerous extraction processes that endanger Pennsylvania water. What will Penn State do to protect water? Will we ensure better practices than those that exist? How should this be handled? These questions have to come down to more than economic calculation.

When we had Erik Foley on the show, he talked about the environmental assessment that Penn State was putting on coal. Will Penn State do that more rigorously for natural gas extraction? As the institutional home of natural gas exploration, perhaps they can.


Sierra Club Winter Party

If you are interested in learning more about what the regional Sierra Club is doing, this coming Saturday, January 22nd is an ideal time to do it. They have been one of the leading critics of the Marcellus Shale natural gas rush and could certainly use more help.


Principles of a healthy, sustainable food system

The sustainable food movement's roots are branching.

In June 2010, The American Dietetic Association, American Nurses Association, American Planning Association, and American Public Health Association met to develop a set of shared food system principles.

For the first time, national leaders in the nursing, nutrition, planning, and public health professions worked collaboratively to create a shared platform for systems-wide food policy change.

Endorsed by coalition members, the principles were written to support socially, economically and ecologically sustainable food systems that promote health — the current and future health of individuals, communities and the natural environment.

You can read their combined statement here (pdf). What are your thoughts on sustainable food systems? How do you support it?


A local vision of education for sustainability

I (Peter Buckland) was recently invited to write an opinion piece for the Centre Daily Times on my vision of education. It is a broad appeal for democratic place-based education. I wrote:
There are three ways to retool school and society for a sustainable future: First, most schools are not democratic. Children generally do not have meaningful influence on school policies. But the sustainable future will require people to fully participate in civic life, to make the decisions that affect their lives. Given opportunities to help govern their schools with caring adults working with them, children will have an opportunity to learn the skills of self-governance by self-governing: informing themselves of issues and perspectives, persuading others to adopt new points of view, negotiating compromises and implementing solutions.

Second, most schools reflect the biases of the larger economic system, minimizing the crucial historic and current roles of indigenous people, nonwhite immigrants and women. We need to honor and focus on those roles and live into their cultural practices and beliefs. By grounding ourselves in part in movements for justice and how they changed society in the past, the sustainability movement can build on those successes.

Third, schools should better connect children with the places where they live. Here in central Pennsylvania, our children can learn the histories of Penns Valley, Bellefonte and surrounding towns. They can learn how the stream water in Galbraith Gap Run flows from Bear Meadows to meet Spring Creek. They can come to know the subtle changes in tree stands in Cooper’s Gap, learn to recognize by sight and sound the myriad birds that cohabitate with us and understand the cyclical seasons of the wild and domesticated plants and animals we live among.
Read the entire piece at this link. What do you think our local schools should be doing?