Sierra Watch, January, 2016 Issue

In This Issue



Take A Hike With Sierra Club
  Sun, Mar 13, 1pm in Wissahickon Park

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Sierra Club is leading an outing on Sunday, March 13, 2016. The hike will be approximately 3 miles and takes place in Wissahickon Valley Park; it is a moderate hike geared towards adults. We will leave at 1 PM from the administration building (where the bathrooms are) at Houston Playground, located at the corner of Sequoia Rd. and Grakyn Rd.. Parking is available on local streets, and the playground can be reached by bus lines, such as the 9 and 27.

Following the hike, refreshments will be served and we will learn from Sierra Club leaders about the club's efforts on the Beyond Coal campaign to reduce emissions from coal plants in Pennsylvania. Participants are encouraged, however, to bring their own lunch and snacks, especially if they have food allergies or dietary restrictions. We will also learn about some of the conservation topics and restorations that have taken place at this area of the park.

Participants should dress warmly, appropriate to the weather, and bring appropriate shoes, preferably hiking shoes; they should also carry drinking water. Please note that to participate in any Sierra Club outing, you will need to sign a liability waiver. Additionally, any minors will need to have a liability waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian.

So our leaders have an idea of how many participants to expect, and so we can plan to have enough food, please either RSVP via the Facebook event or by emailing Sam Ackerman at smackrmn@gmail.com or Bryan Crenshaw at ebciii@bcrenshaw.com; we are also available to answer any questions about the outing.





Report From Paris & Kenney's Plans
   
Mon, March 14 at Com. Col. of Phila

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Dick Whiteford will tell us what happened in Paris, what was in the agreement, the protest news event that some top scientists held, how little American news coverage there was, and how to keep the world temperature increase below 2 degrees C.

Andrew Sharp of the Philadelphia City Office of Sustainability will tell how well Mayor Nutter achieved the goals of his Greenworks plan. He'll also describe Jim Kenney's plans to improve transportation and protect the environment.






Pipeline Forum
  Thur, Mar 10, 7pm in West Chester

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What are the risks of environmental catastrophe?
What is the safety record of the pipeline industry?
What is the impact of increased gas infrastructure on climate change?
What are the options for homeowners living near pipeline right of ways?

Mariner East 2 construction is scheduled to start this summer - if Sunoco gets the permits they need to begin the trench cutting and horizontal drilling that is needed. 

In a letter to Senator Andy Dinniman the PA Public Utilities Commission (PUC) spelled out the status of Sunoco's status as a public utility - they are, and they can use that status for any pipelines that Sunoco builds within the Mariner East corridor. [Read the full letter HERE] However, the PUC only has jurisdiction over intra-state development (pipelines that begin and end within PA that deliver fuel to Pennsylvanians.) 

Recently the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of a Clean Air council led complaint against the "public utility" status of a pipeline (Mariner 2) set to ship products overseas with little utility to citizens in PA.  Further, the court agreed that not just landowners but people living near proposed construction have standing to challenge this pipeline.  It is an incredible opinion. 

Sierra Club members have been working on various front lines of this battle.
Join us on March 10 to ask your questions.
     Thursday, March 10 at 7pm
     West Chester Borough Hall,
     401 E Gay St 19380 

Speakers:  
      Lynda Farrell - Pipeline Safety Coalition
      Eric Friedman - Impacted Resident in Delco
      Justin Wasser - Sierra Club: Keeping Dirty Fuels in the Ground





Supreme Courts Puts Temporary Hold on Obama's Clean Power Plan; Sierra Club Stays the Course

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The Supreme Court has temporarily suspended the Clean Power Plan pending review of the EPA's authority to impose regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Power Plan calls for each state to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2022. The Plan is an important component of Obama's effort to meet the criteria set forth at the Paris Climate Conference to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees centigrade (or if possible, below 1.5 degrees). Given changes in the Supreme Court, a decision may not be made until sometime in 2017.

Governor Wolf has announced he will move forward to finalize a state implementation plan. Sierra Club likewise is "staying the course" and expects the Plan will hold up under Supreme Court review. It is important for Pennsylvania to submit a plan to the EPA as soon as possible so we will be able to offer opportunities for low income residents to reduce their electric bills by becoming more energy efficient and also be able to provide funding to help workers and communities transition to a clean energy economy. These opportunities are available to states that submit plans early.

Sierra Club will continue to meet with state legislators to encourage support for the CPP. Upcoming visits are with Senator Rafferty (44th district) on March 15th at 12:00 noon; with Senator Mensch (24th district) on March 24th at 11 am; and with Representative Godshall (53rd district) on March 28th at 10:30 a, . If you can join any of these meetings, especially if you are a constituent, contact Gary Lytle at gary.lytle@sierraclub.org or call him at 215-776-5358



PA Primary For House and Senate seats will be held April 26

This year the primary election for State House and Senate Democrats and Republicans is being held April 26, earlier in the year than usual. The Sierra Club Political Committee and volunteers are in the process of interviewing candidates on the important environment issues facing Pennsylvania. The results of the interviews in addition to the candidates' voting record are used to make voting recommendations to our members.

Sierra Club members will receive an e-mail prior to April 26 with our recommendations. Please keep these recommendations in mind when you go to the polls!



Reaching Out to Women Veterans with an Environmental Message

The Beyond Coal Campaign recently took another step forward in building a movement that reflects the communities in which we live and work. Members of the Beyond Coal activist team gave a presentation at the monthly “Chat & Chew” at a relatively new center for women veterans in Philadelphia. They received a warm response, with a lively Q & A session afterwards.

Gary Lytle presented a broad picture of the Sierra Club, its mission, the outings we take, and our several year history of developing a Philly Vets for Clean Air group at the Perimeter program just a few blocks from the women vets center.

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Sharita Colter, daughter of a veteran, talked about her experiences with the Sierra Club--going to and eventually speaking at rallies, lobbying visits in Harrisburg and Washington, and a trip to the Elk Tannery Lodge in upstate Pennsylvania.

A short video made by volunteer Bryan Crenshaw was shown consisting of interviews with vets from the Perimeter along with footage from their inner-city hikes and photos from demonstrations at the EPA as well as DEP hearings they had attended.

Sue Edwards shared the Sierra Club’s multi-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plans and talked about the out-of-proportion impact that pollution and climate change have on environmental justice communities. She explained that the Club is determined to become a multi-racial organization with diversity of all kinds and to partner with a variety of organizations and link up in shared struggles.

A slide presentation by Karen Melton provided a primer on climate change and environmental issues, taking many questions as she went along. Based on this initial meeting, the Center has invited the Sierra Club to come back for special programming once a month.

To learn more about how to volunteer or participate in Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Philadelphia program, please call Gary Lytle, 215-776-5358, or email gary.lytle@sierraclub.org. Or join our weekly conference call every Tuesday at 7 pm at: 866-501-6174, then pin 37008521892#.



Volunteer Profile – Peggy Hartzel

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For our first in what we hope is a series of volunteer profiles for this newsletter we feature Peggy Hartzel.  Peggy has been involved in activism starting in the late seventies when she fought the licensing of Limerick Nuclear Power Plant.  Of late she is very involved with the issue of Oil Trains transporting Bakken Crude.

Peggy has a fine arts degree in photography and has enjoyed documenting the changes in seasons and landscapes in Northern Chester County for the past forty years. She has raised three sons on home grown food, raised chickens and loved to hike the local hills.   In response the gas crisis she and her husband, Will started a renewable energy business, “The Stoveman”, selling and installing solar systems, wind generators and woodstoves in 1976!  At the same time she was raising sprouts and herbs for restaurants in Philadelphia and then became involved with creating the Community Supported Agriculture Movement!

More recently while teaching photography at the high school in West Chester, her students created a Power Down Friday campaign that successfully conserved energy and saved money for the district.  This became a model for other schools and eventually received an EPA Community Grant to partner with Practical Energy Solutions to form a Student Conservation Corps that performed Energy Audits at local businesses.

Since retiring Peggy has been spending more time volunteering with the Sierra Club and 350.org, making art work and supporting marches in Philadelphia, Washington, DC and New York City.  She has also traveled cross country frequently on Amtrak and was alarmed when two years ago her train was delayed by ten hours, due to coal and oil train traffic. Upon investigating this further she learnt of and began to document local Bakken Crude Oil Train traffic.  She discovered that trains sat in Reading all day and then traveled towards Philadelphia passing through several  local towns and right next to the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant and the Delaware river, putting communities and our water at great risk!

The danger of Bakken Crude is multifold

  • Bakken Formation crude oil is far more volatile and combustible than typical crude, making it an incredibly dangerous commodity to transport, especially over the nation’s antiquated rail lines.
     
  • The routes for these trains often travel through highly populated cities, counties and neighborhoods — as well as near major drinking water sources.
     
  • Bakken Formation crude is often shipped in massive amounts — often more than 100 cars, or over 3 million gallons per train.
     
  • The nation’s existing laws to protect and inform the public, first responders, and decision makers are woefully inadequate to avert derailments and worst-case accidents from occurring.
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Working with the Sierra Club, Peggy entered testimony concerning the safety issues at a PA Senate Transportation Hearing on Oil Train Safety last June.  People from all over North America met at a Bakken Crude Oil Train Conference in Pittsburgh in the Fall of 2015 to share strategies.  At this point her goal is to create awareness in local communities so that they can address emergency response plans, insurance and the safety issues of schools, hospitals homes and businesses next to the tracks in the “blast zone.”  Next step is to come together in various communities like Reading, Pottstown , Royersford and Phoenixville where Bakken Oil passes through.  While the Bakken Crude oil business is currently vulnerable, because of low oil prices, we need to address the risk and safety concerns at a local level with local and state government officials and to keep the fossil fuels in the ground.

For more information on Peggy Hartzel’s work on Bakken Oil Trains please check out http://southeastern.pasierra.org/ConsvOilTrains.html

Other websites for more information

http://www.fractracker.org/2015/03/danger-around-bend/

 



Solar Under Attack

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The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recently issued a decision that many solar advocates view as a disincentive for growth.

Prior to this decision, solar arrays owned by individuals were limited to 50 kilowatts.  Excess power is sold back to utilities which are required to pay retail rates.  This is known as net metering. Utilities pay wholesale rates for the power they purchase from utility-scale producers

The PUC ruling now limits solar installations to 200% of historical use by the property, or 50 kilowatts, whichever is lower.  Utilities had advocated for only 110%, arguing that they will have to increase consumer rates as more and more solar is installed.  The PUC said its decision was an effort to strike a balance between protecting consumers and encouraging renewables.

PA is not the only state where industry efforts to slow down the growth of solar are meeting with success.  This year Nevada substantially reduced net metering rates and increased fees charged to solar customers.  The combination is enough to negate any savings potential for solar and the installation business immediately plummeted.

Arizona recently began charging its solar customers a $50 monthly fee resulting in a 95% drop in solar applications.

Industry efforts to stop the rapid growth of solar have not been successful everywhere.  So far the California PUC has refused requests by Pacific Gas & Electric to raise fees on solar customers, and Georgia Power, the largest utility in that state, has itself gone into the solar installation business.



Don’t Miss the Eagles

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Bald Eagles that is.  You can watch two pairs of nesting Bald Eagles in Pennsylvania via live webcam.  A Pittsburg Bald Eagle pair caring for three eggs can be viewed at eagles.aswp.org.  

A Bald Eagle pair in Hanover caring for two eggs can be viewed at this link.

The parent Eagles take turns incubating the eggs continuously until they hatch in about 35 days.  All of the eggs were laid in mid to late February.



Book Review:
    Jane Mayer’s Dark Money:

    The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

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This book’s title might better read as Dark Money: The Hidden History behind why nothing has been done about Climate Change.  Jane Mayer, in this book, weaves a narrative of how, starting in the mid-70’s, a group of conservative billionaires led by the Koch Brothers, most of whom with ties to the fossil fuel industry, seeded the growth of their libertarian agenda of lower taxes, smaller government and the denial of climate change.  It debunks the myth that the Tea Party Movement is a recent grassroots phenomenon, but shows how these 0.1 percenters created philanthropic entities including think tanks and chairs in universities using tax free contributions to propagate ideas suited to the radical right.

Because they are considered charities, these philanthropic groups don't need to disclose the names of their donors.  These are the groups that are called 'dark money groups,' and they thus become kind of secret banks that affect American politics in a huge way without most people understanding who is behind them."  A significant dark money group mentioned here is the “Center for American Progress”.

In January 2015, at a private conference in Palm Springs, Calif., the political network led by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch announced plans to spend $889 million in the 2016 elections. The organization consists almost entirely of groups that don't register under the campaign finance laws and therefore don't publicly identify their donors.

One of the more startling revelations in Ms. Mayer’s book concerns the number of billionaires in the Koch network who have had “serious past or ongoing legal problems” and whose companies have been fined for violations of the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts. Koch Industries, she reports, has been perhaps the most flagrant and willful polluter and scofflaw. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s database, it was the No. 1 producer of toxic waste in the country in 2012.

It is highly telling (as told by Jane Meyer in a Radio Times interview and reported in the New York Times that some of these groups tried to discredit the author with accusations of plagiarism in order to muzzle the writing of her book.

A Radio interview of Jane Mayer about her book can be found at both Radio Times and at Fresh Air.


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