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newsJune 1, 2013

How Climate Change And Budget Cuts Could Make This The Most Dangerous Hurricane Season Ever

By Kiley Kroh on May 31, 2013 | Think Progress

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins tomorrow and despite warnings of an above-average season and increasingly intense storms driven by climate change, key agencies are facing mandatory cuts that threaten their ability to prepare and protect at-risk communities.

In releasing its annual hurricane season outlook last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an “active or extremely active” season, with 13 to 20 named storms — 7 to 11 of which could become hurricanes, including 3 to 6 major hurricanes.

These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

In addition, climate change is fueling more intense and destructive storms. As Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains, “Climate change is causing a greater number of intense storms. The total number of storms has remained constant, but the proportion of high-intensity events has gone steadily upward in most parts of the world. Scientific models and real-world observations both suggest that the frequency of intense storms is going up.”

As climate change warms the oceans, water evaporates faster — driving stronger winds, more rain, and more powerful hurricanes. And as sea levels rise, the storm surges from hurricanes will be more destructive, posing a serious threat to coastal communities.

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May 8, 2013

Pittsburgh health summit finds link between pollution, health problems | By Don Hopey | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

High levels of air pollution make the Pittsburgh region a risky area to live when it comes to asthma, cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to studies presented by a parade of researchers at Tuesday’s public health summit Downtown.

The researchers, who spoke at the day-long meeting sponsored by Allegheny General Hospital and the Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project, said myriad studies show an unquestioned link between poor health outcomes and air pollution, even pollution at lower levels than those found in the region today.

Ron White, a senior associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and owners of R.H. White Consultants Inc., told an audience of 200 that his review of scientific studies done since 1970 consistently shows that public exposure to Pittsburgh’s air pollution has resulted in “adverse health effects,” including premature death, exacerbation of lung and heart disease resulting in hospitalization and emergency room visits and reduced infant birth weights.

Hydraulic Fracturing Faces Growing Competition for Water Supplies in Water-Stressed Regions

A new Ceres research paper on water use in hydraulic fracturing operations shows that a significant portion of this activity is happening in water stressed regions of the U.S., most prominently Texas and Colorado, which are both in the midst of prolonged drought conditions. It concludes that industry efforts underway, such as expanded use of recycled water and non-freshwater resources, need to be scaled up along with better water management planning if shale energy production is to grow as projected.

The report, announced today, is based on well drilling and water use data from FracFocus.org and water stress indicator maps developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI). The research shows that nearly 47 percent of the wells were developed in water basins with high or extremely high water stress. The research was based on FracFocus data collected on 25,450 wells in operation from January 2011 through September 2012.

“These findings highlight emerging tensions in many U.S. regions between growing hydraulic fracturing activity and localized water supply needs,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, in announcing the report, Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Growing Competitive Pressures for Water, at Ceres’ annual conference in San Francisco.

Tool Allows Users To View Environment-Related Health Issues

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has launched an online mapping tool that shows which communities across the state are most at risk for health problems caused by the environment, HealthyCal reports.

The tool — promoted as the first of its kind in the U.S. — examines about 1,800 ZIP codes across the state and ranks them according to 11 different environmental quality measures.

It also combines the environmental results with demographic measures — such as age, poverty and asthma rates — to produce a “population burden score” that measures a community’s risk for health problems related to environmental factors.

May 1, 2013

Partnership between drillers, environmentalists a gimmick

Dr. Thomas Jiunta is spokesperson for the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition.

The Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), is a public relations tool, created by the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. Its goal is to help sugarcoat a method of natural gas extraction called fracking. Public perception of this technique has suffered because of the many problems caused.

To call the CSSD a partnership between environmental groups and the shale gas and oil industry is misleading at best and a convenient lie at worst.

The Clean Air Task Force, one of the “environmental partners” in this coalition, was formed mainly to help reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired electric plants. Their effort is hypocritical and misguided in light of recent scientific studies indicating that methane, (natural gas), is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Sierra Club Campaign Director Deb Nardone says, “If we have any chance of avoiding climate disaster, the majority of natural gas must stay in the ground.”

Real environmental groups, along with the unwilling community stakeholders lives that have been negatively impacted by this gas drilling, seriously question whether this partnership will create any meaningful change from the industry. In fact, such a front group may cause more harm in the long run by trying to give the public a false sense of security that fracking can actually be done safely. This may be why the Sierra Club called this coalition “akin to slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

WATER FIGHT | Withdrawal plan attacked

By MATT HUTCHINSON | Williamsport Sun-Gazette

“Please do not destroy the beauty of the Lycoming Creek valley by robbing it off its water supply,” Janet Hall said.

Giovannelli said the issue boils down to “one man’s greed over everybody’s lives.”

Mark and Tracy Rice, of Park Drive, said they are concerned about potential water contamination and not having access to public water where they live.

In a sometimes unruly public hearing Tuesday night on a company’s plan to withdrawal almost 2 million gallons of water a week from the Lycoming Creek watershed in Old Lycoming Township, residents spoke out against the idea that would provide water to the natural gas industry.

The conditional use hearing held at the Old Lycoming Township Volunteer Fire Co. was one of at least three meetings that are scheduled to hear citizen concerns and hear testimony from Centura Development Co., 1001 Commerce Park Drive, the project’s applicant, and Bimbo Bakeries, 3375 Lycoming Creek Road, which opposes the project.

Bimbo Bakeries officials have said that they are concerned about water withdrawal because the company relies on wells in its food manufacturing process.

Additional public hearings will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. on May 8 and 22 at the fire company.

Tuesday’s hearing set the stage for the water withdrawal project and the Centura’s request to operate its proposed Marcellus Operations Center at 3231 Lycoming Creek Road, a permitted conditional use.

 DEP: Spill at well site seeps into house, miniature horse farm

By Laura Legere | Times Leader

Briny waste fluid spilled from a natural gas well site in Wyoming County on Tuesday morning and flowed onto a miniature horse farm and into the farmhouse basement and garage before it could be contained, the state Department of Environmental Protection said.

The spill at the Mazzara well site along Sickler Road in Washington Twp. was the second in fewer than two months at a Carrizo Oil and Gas well pad in the municipality.

Approximately 9,000 gallons of filtered waste fluid spilled at the site beginning about 9 a.m. after a hose came loose on a tank, DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said.

Brine from another gas well was being transferred from a truck to a storage tank on the site for reuse in an upcoming fracking operation, Wyoming County Emergency Management Agency Director Eugene Dziak said.

An unknown amount of the fluid escaped the pad, flowed down a hill, crossed a road and entered the basement and garage of a nearby farmhouse, Ms. Connolly said. It soaked property at the horse farm, whose owners were out of state, but a farmhand kept the animals safely away from the fluid, she said.

A second residence was also impacted by the spill, she said, but it was not clear how.

The fluid was contained and the flow was “reduced to a trickle” by around 3 p.m., she said. Cleanup crews were working on site to remove the spilled fluid and Carrizo arranged to provide fresh water for the horses to drink as regulators and company contractors test nearby water supplies.

Non-Profit Clears 2.6 Tons of Litter From Chartiers Creek

By Erin Faulk

Paddle Without Pollution, a non-profit organization, cleans waterways throughout the state, and had great success in April cleaning Chartiers Creek.

It’s kind of unbelievable, the things that end up in the water, Melissa Rohm said.

She’s certainly pulled enough garbage out of Pennsylvania’s creeks and rivers to know what people throw away, and where it can end up.

And when she and her husband, David, both avid kayakers, got tired of picking litter out of the waterways they love, they founded the non-profit organization Paddle Without Pollution to make a difference.

“In the summer of 2011, we launched our kayaks on the South Side downtown just for kicks, and thought we’d paddle to Heinz field and come back,” Melissa Rohm said. “We didn’t get very far when we started seeing just piles and piles of trash. When you’re down on the water, you get a really close-up view.”

Rohm said she off-handedly suggested organizing regular waterway cleanups—her husband came up with a name, and a plan. The organization now sponsors about 16 events a year, and uses volunteers in kayaks and canoes to clean up rivers, creeks, lakes, and wetlands across the state.

In April, the group tackled Chartiers Creek in Upper St. Clair and South Fayette, pulling a whopping 2.6 tons of trash from the water.

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