The Dernogalizer

June 30, 2010

Mark Begich Wants Clean Energy and Climate Bill

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:35 pm
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It’s good to see a Senator from Alaska talking like this

Punching Back Against Ethanol

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 10:29 pm
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I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of commercials on television promoting corn ethanol to take advantage of the BP oil spill.  Friends of the Earth punches back in this video.

Ed Markey’s Oil Spill SOS Bill

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:22 pm
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I got this last Friday but was slow to put it out.  Definitely looks like legislation worth supporting!

Markey Introduces Oil Spill “SOS” Bill

Legislation would divert big oil subsidies to scientists, in order to improve spill prevention and response

June 25, 2010 – Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced the “Stop Oil Spills Act,” a bill to fund research into new oil spill prevention and response technologies. (more…)

June 29, 2010

Much-Lauded Strict Mountaintop Mining Guidelines Not So Strict

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:41 pm
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I’m concerned that the EPA’s mountaintop removal guidelines they announced in April aren’t translating into the kind of result activists were expecting.  The rules were supposed to mark “the end of an era” and make it difficult if not impossible for coal companies to get permits for mountaintop removal.  By today, the Rainforest Action Network(RAN) called to attention the EPA’s first decision under the new guidelines, which was to grant three new valley fills.  See below, and stay tuned.

SAN FRANCISCO– Just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the Army Corps of Engineers a green light for the Pine Creek mine permit, a mountaintop removal (MTR) mining site in Logan County, W.Va. This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under the new mountaintop mining guidelines, which came out last April and were anticipated to provide tougher oversight of mountaintop removal coal mining.

The new MTR guidelines were understood to provide greater protection for headwater streams by curbing the practice of dumping waste in neighboring valleys to create what is known as valley fills. The Pine Creek permit is the first test of these guidelines, and green lights three new valley fills (each over 40 acres large). It was anticipated that these guidelines, by requiring mining operators to control levels of toxins in nearby streams, would significantly reduce the dumping of mining waste in valleys, which the EPA said was scientifically proven to contaminate drinking water and wreck ecosystems.

“This is a devastating first decision under guidelines that had offered so much hope for Appalachian residents who thought the EPA was standing up for their health and water quality in the face of a horrific mining practice,” said Amanda Starbuck of the Rainforest Action Network. “The grand words being spoken by Administrator Jackson in Washington are simply not being reflected in the EPA’s actions on-the-ground. This continues the inconsistent and contradictory decisions that have plagued the EPA’s process on mountaintop removal coal mining all along.”

In announcing the new guidelines in April, Administrator Jackson told reporters: “We expect this guidance to change behaviors, to change actions, because if we keep doing what we have been doing, we’re going to see continued degradation of water quality… Minimizing the number of valley fills is a very, very key factor. You’re talking about no or very few valley fills that are going to be able to meet standards like this.”

The Pine Creek Surface Mine permit will allow Coal-Mac, a subsidiary of coal giant Arch Coal, to mine through more than 2 miles of streams that are already suffering dangerous levels of pollution from surface mining (see editors note for more details). Extensive mountaintop removal mining and the subsequent environmental and water quality damage have already ravaged Logan County W.Va., which is the location of the infamous Spruce mine.

In response to the possibility of more blasting in Logan County, West Virginia resident Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environment Coalition said: “In approving the Pine Creek permit, the EPA has failed our community. Any more mountaintop removal mining in Logan County is going to further degrade the watershed, increase pollution-related health impacts and increase the likelihood of more flooding.”

“Moving forward, it is clear that the EPA cannot end mountaintop removal coal mining pollution without abolishing mountaintop removal all together,” continued Starbuck.

Since 1992, nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been filled at a rate of 120 miles per year by surface mining practices.  A recent EPA study found elevated levels of highly toxic selenium in streams downstream from valley fills. These impairments are linked to contamination of surface water supplies and resulting health concerns, as well as widespread impacts to stream life in downstream rivers and streams.  Further, the estimated scale of deforestation from existing Appalachian surface mining operations is equivalent in size to the state of Delaware.

A paper released in January 2009 by a dozen leading scientists in the journal Science, concluded that mountaintop coal mining is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits all together. “The science is so overwhelming that the only conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be stopped,” said Margaret Palmer, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and the study’s lead author.

The Pine Creek permit is currently awaiting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

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Notes to Editor
For more information on the EPA’s decision about the Pine Creek mine permit:
http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/guidance/pdf/CoalMac_ECP_letter_06-21-1…
http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/_kd/Items/actions.cfm?action=Show&item_id=…

For more information on the Pine Creek permit:
http://ran.org/content/stop-blasting-pine-creek-west-virginia

For background on EPA guidelines and conductivity levels:
The new EPA guidelines were designed to gauge the health of nearby streams based on their levels of conductivity, which is an indicator of water’s purity. The runoff from Appalachian mines contains toxins like magnesium, sulfate, bicarbonate, and potassium — all ions that raise conductivity levels. The higher the conductivity, the tougher it is for aquatic life to survive.

EPA is warning that water pollution from these mining operations dangerously increases the electrical conductivity of streams. Under the guidelines, the EPA believes any mining proposals with predicted conductivity levels of 300 or below is generally okay. Anything above 500 is considered by EPA “to be associated with impacts that may rise to the level of exceedances of narrative state water quality standards.”

There is a plan for monitoring water quality that involves 2 thresholds. Should bi-monthly testing show conductivity levels of about 300 then the “adaptive management plan” kicks in. The second threshold is when levels exceed 500 at which point “chemical improvements to the watershed” will be made. Should water quality be in exceedence of 500 a subsequent valley fill would not be allowed to be constructed. The EPA acknowledges that conductivity levels at the left fork of Pine Creek are already approaching 500 S/cm.

June 28, 2010

A Magnificent “Hands Across the Sand” Day of Action

A line of people across one of Florida's beaches

On Saturday, over 700 actions took place across the country in response to the devastation from the oil spill and the dire need for clean energy legislation to be passed out of the Senate.  I participated in an action in Annapolis at the Harbor, which had a nice turnout.  Somewhere between 60-75 people showed up to hear from various speakers including leaders in the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Environment Maryland.  The crowd was told about the need to prevent offshore drilling along the East coast, which is temporarily on hold by President Obama (who also proposed the drilling in the first place).  We held a short prayer, sang a song, and joined hands, creating quite a scene in the midst of the harbor.  I then got some delicious ice cream from a local business.

I’d encourage you to check out the Facebook page for the action, where a lot of great pictures reside.  A few are below.

June 25, 2010

Join a Hands Across the Sand Action Tomorrow Morning

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:45 pm
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Below is an e-mail from the Energy Action Coalition about a big opportunity to mobilize against offshore drilling and for moving to clean energy.  See below, and find an event near you.  I will be participating.

Matt,

Tomorrow is going to be the biggest day of action against offshore drilling in history. From over 700 locations people will join the nationwide Hands Across The Sand demonstrations to call for shifting Big Oil handouts to clean energy investments that can move us beyond oil.

This couldn’t come at a more important time. Last week President Obama made a call for a historic shift in our dependence on dangerous dirty energy, but stopped short of action. Next week President Obama is meeting with Senate leadership to chart a new path for climate and energy legislation. Will he seize this moment and lead?

With the administration’s stance shifting daily, a loud call from us could make all the difference. Massive grassroots pressure and leadership from President Obama could be the difference between business-as-usual policies and sweeping reform.

Call President Obama to urge him to lead the Senate toward bold, comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

Current legislation allows for more offshore drilling and is riddled with handouts for Big Oil and Dirty Coal. This is unacceptable. In light of the Gulf oil disaster there’s a window of opportunity to get real and meaningful reform that would shift support to clean energy and put a strong cap on carbon pollution. We have to seize it, and so does President Obama.

Help flood the White House with calls to President Obama to seize this moment with us.

With people joining hands on beaches and main streets in over 700 locations, tomorrow is bound to be historic. This sort of leadership from the grassroots deserves to be met with leadership from President Obama and our Senators, but we’ve got to make sure they hear about it.

Join Hands Across The Sand and make a call to the White House to bring your voice to Washington, DC.

Together we made this tragedy a Crude Awakening, and tomorrow we’ll draw our line in the sand against Big Oil handouts.

With hope,

Whit Jones
Co-Field Director
Energy Action Coalition

PS – We need huge turnout at the Hands Across The Sand events tomorrow. Share this on Facebook and Twitter to get the word out: This Saturday is the biggest day against offshore drilling ever. Find an event to #JoinHands & demand clean energy! http://bit.ly/9VQ02F

Weekly Mulch: As risks for oil and gas grow, USSF offers change

Filed under: environment — Matt Dernoga @ 11:33 pm
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The following is a cross-post from the Media Consortium’s Weekly Mulch on the environmental problems from  extracting natural gas.

Weekly Mulch: As risks for oil and gas grow, USSF offers change

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

BP oil has been spilling into the Gulf of Mexico for more than two months, and while attention has focused there, deepwater oil drilling is just one of many risky methods of energy extraction that industry is pursuing. Gasland, Josh Fox’s documentary about the effects of hydrofracking, a new technique for extracting natural gas, was broadcast this week on HBO. In the film, Fox travels across the country visiting families whose water has turned toxic since gas companies began drilling in their area. (more…)

June 24, 2010

The Senate is Going for It!

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:46 pm
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By the looks of it, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats are going to make a big push for clean energy and CLIMATE legislation next month, tied together with an oil spill response package.  Props to my MD Senator Ben Cardin for being a strong voice as always.  See below!

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/105355-dems-tout-thrilling-inspiration-best-caucus-ever

“Democrats put on a show of unity this afternoon, claiming a special caucus on energy legislation was an emotional and inspirational success of the first proportion.”

http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews.aspx?xmlpath=RSSFeed/HeadlineNews/ElectricPower/6140390.xml

Emerging from the hour-long meeting in the Capitol, Reid described the caucus as “inspirational” where members uniformly supported moving an energy bill to create “clean energy” jobs, reduce pollution and bolster national security by reducing US spending on foreign oil.”

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0610/38999.html

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning a high-risk, high-stakes strategy for bringing climate and energy legislation to the floor ahead of the August recess.  The gamble: yoking a bipartisan, fast-track measure to overhaul offshore drilling rules with a broad, contentious bill capping greenhouse gas emissions that otherwise would have almost no chance of passage on its own.”

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From a “Hill Source”  GO CARDIN!

- 20 members spoke in the one-hour caucus, with member after member standing up to say we need to bring a comprehensive bill to the floor in July that finally puts a price on carbon and hold polluters responsible

- Majority Leader Reid promised to bring a comprehensive bill to the floor in the next work period.

- Senator Cardin made a big push that pricing carbon is an essential component in solving the energy crisis. He reiterated that we cannot compromise on this measure, that we have to fight on a bill that we can be proud of as Democrats.

- Senator Landrieu discussed the devastation in the Gulf and the real impacts of our oil addiction both at home and across the globe.


- Senator Merkley spoke passionately about the need for oil independence.

- Senator Sherrod Brown said there is only one side to be on in this debate – and that Republicans must join Democrats to protect the security of the nation.

- Senators Begich and Shaheen said this is the year for action.

- Senators agreed that they would work together and with any and all brave, willing Republicans to bring the best possible bill to the floor this summer.

- The Senators also agreed, however, that that bill must include a mechanism to reduce carbon pollution, and on that point, they were steadfast in their commitment.

- Senators described the strategy of this legislation as more akin to the financial regulatory legislation than of health care, with Democrats bringing to the floor an impenetrable package that the Republicans could not roadblock.

- Senator Feinstein commented that in 18 years, no one has ever worked harder on  any bill than Senator Kerry has worked on climate change.

- Senator Kerry closed the meeting with a few remarks to drive the message home that this is our year for action.

- Senators Reid, Bingaman, Kerry, Lieberman, Boxer, and Cantwell then went to a stake-out where the reconfirmed their commitment to bringing a comprehensive energy bill to the floor this year.

Markey Questions Why BP Exceeding Dispersant Directives

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:18 pm
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Another press release from the desk of Congressman Ed Markey

Letters to EPA and Coast Guard Cite Recent Increases in Volume of Dispersants Used by Company

(June 24, 2010) – Responding to increasing use of dispersants by BP in recent days, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Coast Guard asking for an update on the analysis of the chemicals, and to respond to BP’s continued use of dispersants. The questions follow yesterday’s findings by government scientists that the underwater plumes identified are consistent with those that would be formed following the use of the chemicals, and ongoing concerns over the chemicals’ impacts on human and marine life health. (more…)

Markey: As NOAA Confirms Plumes Again, BP Denies Plumes…Again

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:14 pm
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From the media desk of Congressman Ed Markey

Chairman Releases Letters, Documents from BP Challenging Company’s Ongoing Denial of Plumes

(June 23, 2010) – Following the release of a government analysis showing, yet again, the existence of undersea plumes of oil from the BP oil spill, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today released documents he obtained from BP related to their denial of these plumes. The documents, and the follow-up letter from Rep. Markey to BP CEO Tony Hayward, include some of the preliminary information used in this government analysis to show the existence of plumes, even as BP continued to deny the presence of the underwater clouds of oil. (more…)

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