Governor Corbett suggests "drilling for natural gas below campus"

Governor Corbett has proposed a new move to expand natural gas's scope in Pennsylvania and to fill the budget hole that higher education faces. Drill for gas below campus. So reports the Erie Times News in this story.
Gov. Tom Corbett told the Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees that the state's universities could ease their financial woes by tapping into Marcellus shale deposits beneath their campuses.

Speaking at Edinboro University during his first visit to northwestern Pennsylvania since taking office, Corbett said six campuses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education sit on the Marcellus shale formations now being tapped for natural gas.

The proposed state budget would cut the state's higher education system a whopping $220 million. The state higher education system faces Penn State faces a 52% state budget decrease, amounting to a 2% cut in the PSU budget, and approximately $182 million. What does the Penn State system's map look like relative to the Marcellus Shale map in Pennsylvania?

A Penn State campus system map.A Marcellus Shale play map in Pennsylvania.

Penn State has an awful lot of land on that map. Why not tap the campus gas reserves? They can feed the new power plant that University Park will get. Right? And then we can float education on gas. Right?

"Disregard" or "Accountability" from the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission

As we reported yesterday, a host of activists descended upon Governor Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission's second meeting yesterday in the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg, PA.

Activist Gene Stilp's antics have garnered a fair amount of attention. According to Philly.com, he wore a "carefully pressed blue suit [and] blended in well at Wednesday morning's meeting of the all-white, mostly over-45, and mostly male Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission." He proceeded to call the Commission " the biggest prostitution ring outside of the legislature," and then looked Lt. Governor Jim Cawley in the face and said "You are the biggest prostitute in the ring." He was escorted out of the room.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Conrad Volz, a professor from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health said of produced water, "It's not water -- it's toxic fluid that flows back!" Jerry Mead of The Academy of Natural Sciences told the commission "his graduate student had documented instances of leaking fracking fluid."
DEP Secretary Krancer"quickly responded that the agency will not be shy with enforcement."

"If you give me those pictures, we will go after those operators and we will fine them," he said.

Lt. Governor Cawley has stated that he believes in transparency and accountability. He is reported to have said that he thinks that what the Commission finds is more important than its make-up. Activists dispute that claim saying that the Commission is tipped heavily in favor of the industry. Conrad Volz called the panel "'fatally flawed for not including any public health officials. Others used stronger language, referring to the commission as 'a sham.'"

But The Gazette also reports that not all of those present oppose drilling.

Jackie Root, a Tioga County resident representing a new landowners group, said the commission also needs to hear from those who have benefited from leasing. Development should be managed, not banned, she said, adding that a moratorium on drilling would "impinge on our rights to develop our assets."

But activists outnumbered those in favor. Jessica Buckland*, "a mother from Centre County, choked up as she talked about her 3-year-old son and her passion for mountain biking. "You buy politicians and favors -- I don't have that kind of clout."

Her complete comments are included here:
"I might cry while I read this statement. Lest you think these tears are those of a hysterical woman, know that they are sadness, fear, and anger. They are tears of anger.

I am here before I am directly affected. I am here for me and all Pennsylvanians. I am a mother, a mountain biker, a Pennsylvanian, and constituent. I live in Centre County, Pine Grove Mills, about 90 miles away. You in the industry have no right to invade and pollute our state and our land. Your blatant disregard for our rights is unAmerican. You lie, manipulate, destroy in the name of progress. You buy politicians and favors. I do not have that kind of clout or money. But I DO have something that you do not: fierce love for my state and land.

This means that I actually have more invested in this land than you. This means I am actually more powerful than you...and there are many others like me.

I will not be ignored. WE WILL NOT BE IGNORED. We will not let you destroy our land. We do not believe your lies.

I demand accountability, transparency. And I demand that my representatives, my government and my commission represent my views--our views--, my tax dollars, and my love for our land. And I demand that you start with a moratorium on drilling."
We will be following up with more as the news comes in from other activists across the state and we hope to speak with some members of the commission as well.
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*Jessica Buckland is married to Sustainability Now co-host Peter Buckland.


First news on today's protest and public comment at the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission meeting

The press reports are starting to come in from today's meeting of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Governor Corbett has tasked the Commission to "develop a comprehensive, strategic proposal for the responsible and environmentally sound development of Marcellus Shale." Many people are skeptical that this is little more than a rubber stamp commission.

The governor and the commission itself have been accused of being top-heavy with gas industry representatives. Thirteen of the commissioners come from the gas industry. That number may now be twelve as the governor asked the Chesapeake Energy representative to leave over the disaster in Bradford County. Four environmental groups including the Nature Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are included.
The remainder come from state and local government officials and a geologist. That geologist is Penn State professor Terry Engelder who is a vocal gas drilling proponent.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported earlier this year,
Thirteen of the members contributed a total of $557,000 to Mr. Corbett's political campaigns since 2008; 12 have ties with companies whose executives or political action committees contributed another $562,000; one is the son of a $300,000 contributor. All together that amounted to just over $1.4 million.
The lack of parity strikes some as slightly less than fair. But there is, to some, a whiff of insider dealing and political corruption. Some people with those views, and more, came out in force to today's meeting.

Pennsylvania news is already abuzz. Laura Olson of the Post-Gazette writes:

More than 100 protesters attended a noon rally outside the Department of Environmental Protection headquarters, where the commission is holding its day-long meeting. Following the rally, many went inside, planning to participate in the public comment period later this afternoon.

The dozens who filled the inner hallway blocked entrance to the meeting room and heckled several of the commission members as they tried to squeeze through the crowd.

One local activist, Gene Stilp, walked into the morning session and began handing out "delinquent drilling tax bills" to the commission members. He was quickly escorted out of the room, after saying the lieutenant governor was a "prostitute," because of his and Gov. Tom Corbett's campaign contributions from the gas industry.

According to the Capitol Ideas blog,

Don Waltz, a Pitt professor who appeared in the anti-drilling documentary "Gasland," faulted administration officials for not including representatives from the state Department of Health on the shale panel.

"The commission is fatally flawed," he said. "It is here to look at public health, but there is no one there from the Department of Health."
As one Facebook commentor wrote, "Korporate Kangaroo Kommi$$ion DESERVES to be disrupted!!!" The distrust is deep.

You can find information on the disruption on other sites including PennLive. They did, however focus some on what the day's meeting was supposed to do: air the scientific evidence of the environmental impact of drilling. Among the issues are damages to warblers, salamanders, and trout. Perhaps we can add to those serious habitat fragmentation, air pollution, water pollution, climate problems, soil compression, and the potential for proliferating invasive species because of clear cuts.

ABC 27 said a bit about the public comments period and Commission head Lt. Governor Jim Cawley's reaction.

Each person had two minutes to speak and most were anti-drilling protesters.

Afterward, Cawley said the commission is devoted to transparency. He says some speakers' claims aren't backed up by science and fact, but he insists that he and Corbett are devoted to public health and safety.

The protestors would be happy to know that the commission is devoted to transparency. Based on what they are posting to Facebook, they hope to be a part of its process by informing it on at least public perception. As social scientists will tell you, the facts are sometimes irrelevant in the face of people's values and beliefs. If people value the land on which they live and that surrounds them, well blowout frequency might be irrelevant to them. Land or water or air will always trump a well pad.

We at Sustainability Now are most interested in the public comment period. We want to know what you said if you were there or what your perceptions were. As one other Facebook participant Lynne Whelden said, "I know we're only a flea on the hindquarters of gasocracy unlimited. But today we made them itch." Did you make them itch?

If you so desire, you can leave your comments in the comment section below or email them to sustainabilitynowradio@gmail.com and we might put them in a follow-up post.

'The Interview' with Mary McConnell

Last week, DotEarth blogger Andrew Revkin told a Penn State audience that on the balance, he believed that the proliferation of information on the internet will go toward good, true, and accurate information. We certainly hope so. In that vain of hope, we offer this tragic piece of on-the-ground citizen journalism.

The Bedford Free Press has posted Mary McConnell's story as a property owner in Bedford Country. Her property sits on the Marcellus Shale where Columbia Oil & Gas is drilling. She has been facing an incredible maze of gas corporation wrangling, governmental and legal mess, and the despoliation of her land and water. She has to sleep with a gas mask because her house is full of methane.

The email lists that have been circulating these videos are full of shock on one hand and almost eye-rolling and yawns because stories like this are business as usual. Even among activists, these stories cease to shock. Their sheer persistence, pervasiveness, and even the fat that they seem to be more frequent isn't shocking anymore.

Who has been irreparably damaged?

Over the past several months we've talked to people who don't believe that we live in a democracy anymore. Some of them, Patrick Walker and Rosa Eberly to name two, have argued that we live in a Gasocracy - a people under a government by the gas companies and for the gas companies. Whether that view is correct or not, there are petitions out there now to impeach Tom Corbett precisely because of the new administration's collusion with gas companies. What do you think? Who should be at the government's helm?


Today is the meeting of Governor Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Commission that she spoke of. There is a contingent of activists going down today. We will be following up on that story with reports from activists who attend.


"Gross Negligence": Legal complaint filed in Susquehanna

A case has been filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.

Over 30 plaintiffs allege that Southwest Energy has made "releases, spills, and discharges of combustible gases, hazardous chemicals, and industrial wastes from its oil and gas drilling facilities." Further, they argue that these releases have caused them "to incur health injuries, loss of use and enjoyment of their property, loss of quality of life, emotional distress, and other damages." They charge Southwest Energy with gross negligence. According to the complaint, the well operators at Price Well #1 in Lenox Township in Susquehanna County continued to use a well with faulty cement casing that led to the contamination of well water with fracking fluid.

The plaintiffs are requesting several things:
i. The reasonable and necessary costs of remediation of the hazardous substances and contaminants;
ii. A preliminary and permanent injunction barring Defendants from engaging in the acts complained of and requiring Defendants to abate the aforesaid nuisances, wrongful acts, violations and damages created by them within the Price #1 Well Area;
iii. The cost of future health monitoring;
iv. Compensatory damages for the loss of property value, damage to the natural resources of the environment in and around the Plaintiffs¶ properties, medical costs, loss of use and enjoyment of their property, loss of quality of life, emotional distress, personal injury and such other reasonable damages incidental to the claims.
v. Punitive damages for Defendants for fraudulent misrepresentation and gross negligence
vi. Plaintiffs's litigation costs and fees; and
vii. Any further relief that the Court may find appropriate.
You can read the entire complaint below. This will set an interesting precedent in the state no matter which way it goes. What's your take on this?

Fracking United States District Court Complaint Final


More sources on natural gas drilling

We had an extended call today with Patrick Walker of Factoryville, Pennsylvania. He is something of an activist on Marcellus Shale gas development who seems quite well informed on the breadth of shale issues. Mike asked him what sources he checks to stay on top of the issue. Among them were the Susquehanna County Natural Gas Forum, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, FracTracker, and ProPublica. In previous shows and posts, we have had material from Responsible Drilling Alliance, Frack Country Blues (see image at right), Susquehanna River Sentinel, un-naturalgas.org, and Voices of Central Pennsylvania.

Up to this point we have not attended to the pro-gas development outlets or those that claim to be unbiased in some way. There are solid reasons for this: namely that we think that Pennsylvania's people and the water, land, air, and wildlife they share their livelihoods with are being abused by big gas and government collusion. At Sustainability Now, we do not make any claim at being balanced on an issue that we believe is so imbalanced against the common good in our commonwealth.

That said, we do think that there are a lot of sources out there that people should be aware of. At the very least, you can come to understand the sweep of the industry's positions.

Here are several sites that we recommend:
Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)
American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA)
Marcellus Shale Coalition
American Clean Skies Foundation
Penn State's Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research (MCOR)
These all contain their own rhetorical styles and their own political, economic, or educational goals. The first four all favor natural gas development but for different reasons. IOGCC, ANGA, and the Marcellus Shale Coalition are clearly organizations that represent the interests of the gas industry for public and political purposes. However, the American Clean Skies Foundation focuses more on natural gas's possibility as a "pairing" or "bridge" fuel to more renewable energy sources. They cite that it burns cleaner than coal and oil (1/2 the CO2 emissions from burned gas compared to coal). In a sense, they are making the greenest argument in that group. The Penn State MCOR stands apart some because it is housed at a university. However, they say they "We are committed to expanding research capabilities on technical aspects of developing this resource and to providing science-based programming while protecting the Commonwealth's water resources, forests and transportation infrastructure."

Bucknell University's Marcellus Shale Initiative Publications Database

This newly constructed database allows you to view some peer-reviewed articles and policy work. They say that their mission is to "[s]upport objective research, provide a primarily print-based publications database, and critically evaluate information related to the Marcellus Shale natural gas play." The critical evaluation in this piece is what separates it from the others. As far as I have been able to tell, this is the least overtly political of all of the resources available. That is not to say that the people who are at the helm of this initiative at Bucknell are non-partisan. Like FracTracker which helps people access information using a geographic information system approach, this site enables access to quality research and documents they might no otherwise find. It is democratic empowerment simply through availability.

Like any complex and contentious issue, Marcellus Shale development certainly does not lack information or input. If you peruse some of the blogs above, you will find links to other blogs on this issue and the take of people from Tioga to Washington Counties. Most of the organizations listed here have good links to other sources. It is a rabbit hole. It can be daunting to know where to look. Hopefully, the sources in this entry can get you started.

If there are any others you'd like to alert readers and listeners too, please post them in the comments. The more the merrier.

New York's Attorney General Threatens Suit


Well blows frack water in Bradford County

In LeRoy Township in Bradford County near Canton, Pennsylvania, a well blew out last night while Chesapeake Energy was fracking the well. According to WNEP TV, there is "a massive operation" by officials and Chesapeake to control the spill. According to their story, "the well blew near the surface, spilling thousands and thousands of gallons of frack fluid over containment walls, through fields, personal property and farms, even where cattle continue to graze." However, there were no injuries.

However, the spill has already reached Towanda Creek which flows to the Susquehanna River. DEP will monitor water near the blowout. Watch the story here:

It is curious that the reporter in this story does not name the specific or types of chemicals that would come back up from a fracked well. The story mentions the high salinity of the water but nothing about known carcinogens like benzene or naphthalene, the biocides or lubricants involved, nor the radioactive materials or total dissolved solids (TDS) that "produced water" from a well contains. In a world where we hope that the news can serve us well, this particular aspect of reporting seems woefully lacking in its ability to provide the public with information that could serve its interest. If this case is like others, then the cattle at that farm will be quarantined for fear of milk or meat contamination.

This is also especially interesting given that "The Landman's Manual" was recently leaked (highly recommended reading). In this manual used by people who go to property owners to lease their land to gas companies. In it, they instruct landmen to do the following things. On fracking they advise the following:
"Hydraulic Fracturing, 'Fracking' - This technique to develop gas resources is coming under scrutiny, both in the mainstream media with articles appearing in the New York Times, and even in Hollywood with the movie 'Gasland'. Expect questions on this topic and be ready to diffuse land owner concerns."
Further, they say,
"If anyone knows about slick water fracturing, avoid the topic. DO NOT discuss the chemicals and other material used during slick water fracturing. The best strategy is to say that the chemical mixtures used are proprietary and are highly diluted with water when injected. Reassure landowners that no well contamination has ever been documented. Do not mention water contamination in Pennsylvania."
This news report seems to follow a slightly weaker version of this kind of policy. Avoid alarm, there is nothing to fear, and continue as if this is business as usual. In fact, the neighbor who has refused to leave seems like he has adopted this position.

Like writers at Grist and Desmog Blog, the tragic irony that this is occurring on the anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster has not been lost on us. And it's hard to look at this and not feel frightened by these events. To paraphrase what Barb Jarmoska from the Responsible Drilling Alliance told us a two weeks ago on the show, we are in a precarious position in Pennsylvania. It's enough to wonder how responsibly gas extraction can be done.

It will be interesting to see how activists, officials, elected officials, and regulators act in days to come.

Some thoughts on the Deepwater Horizon disaster one year later

On April 20, 2010 11 men died on the BP/Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion, caused by equipment failure and inadequate monitoring and maintenance, led to the worst oil spill in United States history.

As the picture from May 1st, 2010 at below reveals, the spill released roughly 140,000,000 gallons of oil and covered more surface area than Florida, considerably larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. Though experts say an ecological Armageddon didn't occur, the damage has been severe.

Clearly, the loss of human life on the rig sits in the minds of families and friends. For example, Living on Earth aired a story last week on the human costs of energy. They reported, "Roy Wyatt Kemp of Jonesville, Louisiana, was 27. He worked for Transocean on the Deepwater Horizon. He had two children." There are 10 other such stories.

The plume has cost billions of dollars to the Gulf economy. The Times Picayune reports that fishermen are still having trouble selling their fish on markets. They report,

"Where I'm fishing it all looks pretty much the same," said Glen Swift, a 62-year-old fisherman in Buras. He's catching catfish and gar in the lower Mississippi River again. That's not the problem.

"I can't sell my fish," he said. "The market's no good."

People around the country and the world worry about fish contamination. And their fear may be founded. Biologists worry about cascading effects. What will happen to ecosystems and species that accumulate toxins from either the oil itself or the chemical dispersants used to clear the oil slicks.

It's very difficult, if not impossible, to know the long-term effects to marine life. We have reason to believe that upwards of 5,000 whales and dolphins may have died from the oil spill, approximately 50 times the natural death rate. It threatened thousands more sea birds like pelicans, placed the already threatened Kemp's Ridley turtle in more danger, and killed an unknown number of fish, shrimp, coral, and other sea life. These effects stack on heavily fished areas and an expanding dead zone caused by effluent and nutrient saturation from the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile, the oil industry and the GOP are pushing for more offshore drilling permits. Mother Jones reports

[Three] bills, all from Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, would open new areas for drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans, as well as Alaska's Bristol Bay. They would also speed up the process of approving drilling permits; after 60 days permits will be considered approved regardless of whether an environmental review is complete.

This comes at a time when the EPA is expected to have its funding cut heavily and have its regulatory abilities hampered for Clean Water Act, Clean Water Act, and the CO2 endangerment finding. According to The Center for American Progress, those cuts to EPA could easily be covered by enormous tax subsidies for oil companies that will cost the federal government $45 billion over the next 10 years.

However, the freeze on new offshore permits until this February and a more patient permitting process has slowed domestic oil production according to the Wall Street Journal. This coincides as well with President Obama's call to reduce oil imports by as much as one-third in the next decade. Our energy mixture in this country puts the gulf in a precarious position. First, we have experienced nothing short of an ecological catastrophe. Second, other parts of the economy have suffered horribly for our oil use and a lot of people have not been compensated. Third, people have died and their families and friends suffer from their loss. Fourth, the previous three call for stricter oversight because of a perceived lack of regulation and enforcement capability. But, fifth, domestic oil and gas demand is rising.

There is no simple lesson in an issue as complex as this one. The environmental blogosphere, exemplified by Grist's "10 Reasons to still be pissed off about the BP disaster," arrays streams of invective against BP and the Republican House of Representatives for not tackling this issue seriously. But it's not just the industry or the congress. I drive a Honda Accord that runs on gasoline. Unless we live in a super bicycle-friendly city most of us use cars, trucks, or buses to get to work. With vanishingly few exceptions, that's oil or some natural gas.

What's to be done? What should government do? What should industry do? What should your community do? What should you and I do?

It's hard to know how to be responsible when we are faced with a disaster of this magnitude. To borrow from Andrew Revkin, I hope that we can find a way to drive the car safely around the foggy corner.


Sustaining what? For whom? For how many? Andrew Revkin from Dot Earth

Demographers estimate that by 2050 the Earth will house 9 billion people. As of now, humans only have one planet that we can live on. This is a bit of a conundrum.

That is the primary conundrum that Andrew Revkin explores on his blog, Dot Earth hosted by The New York Times. Revkin has covered human-environmental issues as a journalist for 30 years for a number of media and is the author of three books. Today, he came to Penn State and gave a presentation on this complex but inescapable issue.

First, human population is growing. Today, there are ~6.8 billion people and many more to come. Second, global development institutions and initiatives, expanding markets, technological innovation, and political, cultural, and climatic changes will change how those people live. To support that development will require a lot of thought and effort on how to supply the developing world with energy, and currently the industrial economies rely overwhelmingly on fossil fuels. Third, the human and ecological impacts of all of this development are large and many are damaging. They include climate change, large scale visible pollution, and massive species loss.

Revkin explains industrial human activities today with this metaphor: Imagine that you wake up in a car and you are in the driver's seat. You have never driven before and have not taken driver's ed. There is no manual for how to drive the car and well, the car is going about 50 mph and accelerating into a foggy night. If there is a curve ahead, will you know what to do?

He said, "I think it's still kind of even odds that we'll hit the guard rail or that we'll fly off or that some large part of us doesn't make it around that curve."

It is with a combination of skepticism and hope that Revkin invites readers into a more fruitful conversation. "We are a young species," he says. He doesn't blame us for what has happened. In a sense, it's as if we are just waking up to the ramifications of our intelligence. If we are seeing things differently, then we have a chance to do things differently by listening to scientists who have told us, repeatedly, that we live on a finite planet with finite resources. If we smartly design our artificial world from cities to economic instruments, perhaps we won't reach peak everything against peak us. Maybe there is some more optimal way to be without a global catastrophe. Maybe.

What is sustainability in such a world? Or as Revkin says, "Well sustain what?" Watch his short answer to Sustainability Now:

To have a sustained relationship with the planet around us requires a lot of innovation, a sense of resilience, and a sense of engagement that the human-planet relationship need not be the way that it's been...Take energy. What I say is energy for the long haul. What is an energy policy that works for the long haul? And that means having a durable sense of responsibility that it's not just about the now but about how you utilize resources that makes sure that people who come after you have some options as well and that nature has some space as well.
What is that responsible energy policy? Where do we put our efforts in this hot and crowding world? Over the past year we've talked about smart grids, about home and business software to help reduce consumption, about energy deregulation, the intransigence and polarization of our policy makers on climate and environment issues, and of course on Marcellus Shale gas development in Pennsylvania (Revkin posted about shale gas rhetoric and distortions today). Energy comes up again and again.

What would you ask Andrew Revkin as a follow-up to his response? Perhaps we can send them to him.


Can we measure happiness?

On today's show we are going to explore happiness. What is it? Can it be measured? Even more, can we develop an understanding of happiness that can steer our society, culture, economy, politics, and our educational systems? In the last few years, the nation of Bhutan has adopted Gross National Happiness as its indicator of human well-being instead of Gross Domestic Product. Even British Prime Minister, the leader of the Conservative Party, has indicated that he is interested in moving Britain toward happiness.

Is this just nutty thinking? Or does it have the possibility of moving human civilization in better directions? Is it puppy dog tails, bubble gum, and the idea that we can fuel cars on children's laughter or something deeper than that? Can we "get stuff done" with happiness?

On today's show, we'll be talking about happiness and Gross Domestic Happiness with Cole Hons of Penn State's Center for Sustainability and Karma Thinley, the senior program officer for the Department of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education in Bhutan and visiting Humphrey Scholar in Penn State's College of Education.

Listen in from 4-5 pm today at The Lion 90.7 fm. As always, feel free to call at (814) 865-9577in or leave comments below.


Gas driller might leave Mt. Pleasant over zoning changes

The Allegheny Front is reporting that a big shale gas drilling company is threatening to pull out of Washington County because of new zoning regulations. Range Resources, LLC, the first company in Pennsylvania to successfully combine horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from the Marcellus Shale is opposed to new zoning requirements put forward by the Mt. Pleasant Township supervisors. The new requirements haven't passed yet.

You can read and listen to the full story here. The proposed requirements are pasted here (you need javascript).

The industry has opposed the few local ordinances that have appeared across the state. Some local activists might want to propose such legislation but could find it difficult for their municipalities to enforce. Meanwhile, the state level seems disinclined to increase regulation. What's to be done?


Drilling responsibly?

That question drove today's show. Barb Jarmoska of the Responsible Drilling Alliance came on the show today. They are a group that "Seeking truth about the consequences of deep shale gas drilling." Jarmoska walked us through numerous problems that Pennsylvanians face when it comes to the shale gas drilling. It ranges from the well-known damage in our state forests to the migration of gas into roughly 70 wells in Bradford County and the corporatization of the state government.

What's to be done? Get involved with RDA and other groups. Give a listen here and feel free to leave comments below.


So where are Pennsylvania's Senators?

Released on March 31st: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and 30 colleagues today introduced a resolution calling for continued implementation of the Clean Air Act.

In the face of efforts by House Republicans and some senators to weaken the nation’s clean air protections, the resolution which specifies the benefits of the Clean Air Act has 34 original cosponsors who and will continue to seek additional support from their colleagues.

The landmark law saves 160,000 Americans from premature death every year and helps avoid tens of thousands of cases of lung disease, heart attacks, and emergency room visits. The act also has reduced major air pollution by 41 percent over the last 20 years even as the economy grew by 64 percent.

Sanders said, “It is absolutely unconscionable that in the year 2011 the Congress is debating amendments to gut the Clean Air Act and I am going to fight back. I also think that at a time when House Republicans might force a government shutdown unless the EPA backs down from protecting public health, we must not let the budget process be used to deregulate polluters.”

Whitehouse said, “Americans are expecting us to roll up our sleeves and get to work, solving today’s pressing issues – putting America back to work, and reducing the federal deficit. Instead, radical Republicans are using the budget process to push for extreme policy positions that would gut the Clean Air Act and roll back important public health protections. These same Republicans are literally demanding that we compromise our children’s health to get a short-term budget deal.”

Carper said, "For the last forty years, the EPA has use the Clean Air Act to foster economic growth and protect Americans from life threatening air pollution. Since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the EPA has saved thousands of lives and saved billions of dollars in health care costs, while keeping electricity rates – adjusted for inflation - constant. At the same time American jobs in engineering and design, as well as in manufacturing, installing and operating pollution control and clean energy technology are being created to meet our clean air needs. Put it another way, the Clean Air Act benefits outweigh the costs by a margin of 30 to 1. Talk about a return on investment. It just doesn't get much better than that.”

Kerry said, “Ever since Richard Nixon signed it into law, the Clean Air Act has saved tens of thousands of lives by curbing air pollution and helped jumpstart new technologies that created millions of jobs in the process. But somehow our political environment has become so divorced from reality, facts, science and history that today even a commonsense law like the Clean Air Act can be used as a partisan punching bag. This Resolution showcases just some of the Clean Air Act’s many achievements, and I hope it will remind my colleagues that under this law we were able to grow our economy and cut harmful pollution that threatens our families.”

The Senate is expected to vote soon on up to four amendments that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to reduce carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. An amendment by the Senate Republican Leadership would overturn EPA’s scientific finding that greenhouse gas emissions are a public health threat and allow the biggest polluters to spew carbon pollution without restrictions. It also would undermine fuel economy standards that are projected to save drivers of new vehicles up to $2,800 at the gas pump, save more than 2 million barrels of oil per day (roughly as much as the U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf), and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

House Republicans are also reportedly pushing for riders attached to their budget bill, which would shut down Clean Air Act enforcement of big polluters’ greenhouse gas emissions, to be included in a congressional budget deal.

Sanders’ resolution is also sponsored by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Environment Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Democrat Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).