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[1THING] Blog: Archive for December, 2017

[ BLM sage-grouse guidance favors oil and gas development over habitat protection ]

Alex Thompson

The U.S.

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[ BLM sage-grouse guidance favors oil and gas development over habitat protection ]

Alex Thompson

The U.S.

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[ Trump admin’s last-minute gift: pushing mining next to cherished wilderness ]

Three days before Christmas, the Trump administration quietly issued a decision that allows the renewal of mining leases to move forward near Minnesota’s cherished Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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[ Trump admin’s last-minute gift: pushing mining next to cherished wilderness ]

Three days before Christmas, the Trump administration quietly issued a decision that allows the renewal of mining leases to move forward near Minnesota’s cherished Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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[ Fracking Linked to Low Birthweight Babies ]

Pregnant women living near fracked gas wells are more likely to have a low birthweight baby – that’s the finding in a new study from Princeton University.

The researchers compared standard birthweight records collected by Pennsylvania hospitals with the locations of the parents’ homes. Low birth weight has long been considered an important indicator of later health problems.

Princeton economics professor Janet Currie says they found a strong correlation – that the low birth weights were highly localized and much more likely to be found right next to the well sites.

“What is surprising is, we found a fairly large effect for people living very close; but by the time you got to two miles away, we did not detect any effect,” she notes.

The industry argues that air pollution from gas wells and equipment such as compressor stations disperses quickly after it’s released.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is finalizing tighter regulations for emissions from new oil and gas facilities.

But Patrice Tomcik, with Moms Clean Air Force, notes that the new rules don’t cover wells, compressor stations and pipelines already in service.

“We need a solution for reducing the methane pollution from these existing sources that are sickening our families today,” she says.

Emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, also carry other pollutants including volatile organic compounds. Tomcik says about 1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within half a mile of oil and gas facilities.

Beth Weinberger, a public health consultant with the Environmental Health Project, says previous research indicates preterm births and similar issues may be due to volatile organic compounds such as benzene, or small, soot-like particles such as those found in diesel exhaust, pollutants associated with drilling operations.

“We know much of what’s in the emissions, and in each of the studies, the researchers have found associations between exposure to gas drilling and birth outcomes,” Weinberger says.

The Princeton research suggests keeping drilling away from homes, through zoning or well set-back rules.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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[ Solar Power Continues to Grow in PA ]

Solar power is growing in Pennsylvania as individuals, businesses and communities take action to reduce carbon emissions.

Since the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, local and state efforts to combat climate change have become critical.

According to Jason Grottini, director of design for Envinity, a clean energy company, Pennsylvania is creating incentives to encourage both commercial scale solar installations and smaller systems for home and business.

“We have very strong net metering laws, which allows homeowners and businesses to sell their excess power back to the utility,” says Grottini. “We recently passed some legislation that all the renewable energy that our public utilities are required to generate must come from inside Pennsylvania.”

He adds improvements in efficiency and reductions in the cost mean those who install home based solar systems can expect an 8 percent to 10 percent return on their investment.

Critics complain that the growth in renewable energy depends on government subsidies and incentives. But Ed Perry, an aquatic biologist with the National Wildlife Federation, points out that the very profitable fossil fuel industry gets plenty of government help every year.

“They get over $15 billion a year in tax breaks that are built right in to the tax code,” he says, “so that they don’t have to go back to Congress each year, like the wind and solar industry does, to get these tax credits.”

He says tax incentives for renewables are not special treatment – instead, they level the playing field.

Scientists estimate that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change will require reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. Perry notes that even with cancellation of the federal mandate to reduce carbon emissions, progress continues.

“Already, despite the fact that the Clean Power Plan is not in effect, Pennsylvania is on that path,” says Perry.

Forty-two mayors nationwide have adopted the goal of achieving 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2035.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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[ Climate Change Tops Environmental Year-in-Review ]

Catastrophic hurricanes, severe flooding and raging wildfires fueled by drought have been prominent features of an eventful year for the environment.

Rainforest Trust’s first-annual Environmental Year-in-Review put the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on fighting global climate change at the top of the list of major events for 2017. Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, pointed out that the withdrawal took place despite a scientific consensus that the warming climate is the driving force behind the extreme weather.

“What we’re basically seeing is hurricanes that are much more intense, flooding that is going to be much more catastrophic,” Salaman said. “This year, we’ve already had estimates of upwards of half-a-trillion dollars worth of property damage.”

He said acting locally by planting a bee-friendly garden or volunteering to help clean up a local park in the coming year are easy steps people can take to begin to make a difference.

But Salaman emphasized that global action is required, too.

“Our most important resolution will certainly be towards protecting habitat,” he said; “and really importantly, preserving rainforests that are really the lungs of the planet and the biggest stabilizing factor for the global climate.”

He noted that as little as $2, the price of a cup of coffee, can permanently protect an acre of rainforest.

And while the federal government may have opted not to fight climate change, Salaman said other levels of government are stepping up to the challenge.

“The good thing is that many states and cities have come together across the U.S. to balance this and really double their efforts towards reducing carbon emissions and becoming much more sustainable,” he said.

The Environmental Year-in-Review is online at rainforesttrust.org.

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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[ Draft offshore program reflects administration’s zeal for drilling ]

Tim Woody

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[ Draft offshore program reflects administration’s zeal for drilling ]

Tim Woody

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[ Do-It-Yourself Projects To Help Save on Energy Bills ]

The typical American family spends nearly $2,000 a year on their home energy bills. But you don’t need to break the bank to keep your home comfortable.

These do-it-yourself projects will help prepare you for the colder days and weeks ahead:

Insulating Hot Water Pipes

Insulating your hot water pipes can reduce heat loss and raise water temperature by up to 4° Fahrenheit.

It takes 3 hours or longer to complete (depending on the house size) but insulating hot water pipes can save you up to 4% on your energy bill—if you’re willing to put the time in!

Sealing Air Leaks with Caulk

If your house is drafty in the winter, then caulking is a quick-and-easy way to save up to 20% on your heating bill.

Here are the step-by-step directions. Completion time is usually 1-2 hours.

Weatherstrip Air Leaks

Weatherstripping is another affordable option to cut down on air leaks.

You can tackle this one in about an hour to get up to 10% in energy savings.

Here are the step-by-step directions.

Find out more from the OFFICE of ENERGY EFFICIENCY & RENEWABLE ENERGY including more projects you can tackle to save money on your energy bills.

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