Long Island smackdown

From my soapbox this morning:

The authors of this article needed to do more research before writing it. There is a basic misunderstanding of the technology itself, for instance, shale gas extraction has yields much, much lower than conventional gas reservoir yields. There is a downplaying of the capability to move quickly to renewable energy; check out thesolutionsproject.org. There is a lack of understanding of shale gas economics. There is very little local job creation with shale gas development and it is a boom-bust proposition. Check out what happened to towns like Montrose, PA, that have been left worse off than they were before shale gas. There is a lack of understanding of geology. At current methane prices, there are no areas of either the Utica or the Marcellus shales in NYS that are able to be drilled profitably. NY’s section of the shale plays is too thin and shallow or is overmature.

It’s a good thing that NY did delay because it has only been in the last couple of years that a lot of the independent, peer-reviewed science has been published. It is documenting numerous impacts to air, water, climate, and public health. You can read studies here: http://psehealthyenergy.org/LIBRARY. This link:http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/ offers summaries of major studies and reporting through June 30 of this year, with an update due early in 2015.

If long Islanders want to help NY become truly energy independent, they will support off-shore wind. Here in Broome County, we are making major commitments to solar technology research and development, as well as energy efficiency, energy storage, and other renewable energy types. We need to move further into 21st century energy, not try to drag us back into 19th/20th century, polluting fossil fuels.

A comment on this: http://www.theislandnow.com/…/article_f8d4c4da-6b55-11e4-b9… Actually, the comment was sent for moderation, so it may not make it onto the site, but at least I got it out of my system.

Dear Governor Cuomo

IMG_0083

I sent this letter to New York Governor Cuomo today on the election and shale drilling and equal protection and climate change and science and more.  I know it is overly long – although I could have written much, much more – but I am proud that I managed to get this done before the election, despite the disruption that recent family health issues have caused. I decided to write this today, even though I have 385 email messages to view, so apologies to anyone awaiting a personal email.
JC

Dear Governor Cuomo,

The election is eight days from today, but I do not think I will be able to vote for you because you are not doing enough to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers equally.

I live in Vestal and I and my Southern Tier neighbors are at risk from the health and environmental impacts of shale gas production, processing, transport, and waste disposal, a risk from which you have not protected us.

Some of the impacts that have already occurred are road damage in Vestal from the overweight trucks transporting drilling supplies to sites in Pennsylvania, inability to get mortgages on leased land, crime associated with gas industry workers staying on the NY side of the border, leaking pipelines, increased truck traffic, light and noise pollution, airborne silica sand along rail lines and during trucking transfers, and an explosion at a Windsor compressor station.

Other impacts are probable but not being tested, such as degradation in air quality.  Some impacts are obscured by the lack of tracking of the fossil fuel industry.  For example, waste products are shipped by truck without the exact composition being known, so that if they are disposed of at a landfill the effects on the leachate are unknowable.  Given that some of this leachate is treated in Endicott, this is a local concern as well as a regional one.  Meanwhile, it is still legal to spread drilling wastewater on roadways in New York, despite the fact that we know that Marcellus wastewater is often high in radium, which is a radioactive, toxic element known to bio-accumulate and cause serious health problems, including cancer.

Other impacts are, of course, global in scope.  The latest readings of atmospheric carbon dioxide are at record highs and we know that humans burning fossil fuels have been the driving force in that.  Also, the atmospheric methane level is at a record high.  Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, 86 times more potent in a twenty year timeframe. After a long period of stability, atmospheric methane levels began rising in 2007, coinciding with “shale boom.”  Several new scientific studies say that replacing coal or diesel fuel with fossil methane will not help our climate situation.  Shale development will not cut the risk of the next record flood here in Vestal or the next superstorm roaring up the Atlantic coast.

I have been trying to follow the DEC’s SGEIS and regulatory process for years now.  I say “trying” because the process itself is obscure.  Besides the obvious problem of the Minerals division trying to promote fossil fuel production while also trying to regulate it, there is the larger problem that the DEC’s work has been hidden from the public for years now. Because there has been a large number of independent, peer-reviewed scientific research studies published in the last two years, the last publicly available draft of the SGEIS is totally outdated, but we have no idea whether or not the DEC has been continuing to update the SGEIS as these new scientific studies and data from other states who are drilling have become available.

The obscurity of the process has been compounded by the DOH “review” of the the health findings of the DEC’s work.  Although this has been referred to as a study, it is not.  A real health study would follow the national/international guidelines of a health impact assessment (HIA) and would be conducted as a clearly defined, public process. It would consider health impacts on different groups of people, such as children, the elderly, and pregnant women/infants. It would look at the interplay of exposures to many different substances and the interactions among them. It would look at impacts for those in close proximity to wells and related infrastructure and those further away, including air quality, possible food and water exposures, and climate impacts.  It would also consider socioeconomic changes, such as rates of crime and homelessness, property value, cost of living, stresses on community services, and gains and losses in different job categories.

The economic section of the draft SGEIS is particularly outdated and unrealistic, having been built on what we now know are totally impossible expectations, that the industry could get economically viable amounts of gas anywhere in the Marcellus and Utica.  The price of methane is so low that it is unlikely anywhere in New York can presently produce shale gas economically, with the danger that small companies would take that risk using borrowed money and leave behind wells that cause pollution that the state would need to clean up when the company goes bankrupt.  New York already has thousands of leaking, abandoned wells awaiting proper plugging; we should not compound the problem with even limited amounts of shale drilling.

Governor, you say over and over that the science must decide, but that you are not a scientist. You say that scientists disagree.  The actuality is that industry-funded science is presented and used in a way that makes it seem that shale drilling is safe, while independent science presents data and possible explanations for that data which show that there are environmental and health impacts occuring. A recent example of this is the media coverage of a recent federal Department of Energy study of a single PA deep shale well for eighteen months, which showed that fracking chemicals had not reached an aquifer 3,000 feet distant, which is being touted as “proof” that “fracking” doesn’t pollute water.  Meanwhile, a PNAS study of the official DEP records of PA wells drilled from 2000-12 which covers tens of thousands of wells and their failure rates (Abstract here: http://psehealthyenergy.org/site/view/1217 with link to full report) shows that leakage rates for new shale wells in Northeastern PA are significantly higher than those for conventional wells and for shale wells drilled in the rest of the state. Leaking wells equals methane migration into groundwater, soils, and/or through faults, wellbores, or cracks equals pollution of the water, land, air, and atmosphere. The fact that NE PA is particularly vulnerable to leaking shale wells is disturbing for those of us in the border area of New York as the Marcellus geology here is similar. Yet this much larger study is not getting the press attention of the DOE study which is much less helpful in assessing the situation in New York.

The situation is sadly reminiscent of the doctors and scientists in the employ of the tobacco industry who swore to Congress that smoking did not cause cancer, while independent doctors and scientists were raising public health alarms not only about smokers’ health but also about those exposed to second-hand smoke or in utero tobacco exposure.

For you or any governor to authorize shale gas drilling in the Southern Tier would be like deciding to lift the smoking ban here while continuing to protect other parts of the state.  Our health and well-being here in Vestal is every bit as important as your health in Albany or the health of my sister in NYC or my daughter at ESF in Syracuse.  With the current scientific literature, there is no way that the DEC and DOH can say that unconventional shale gas drilling and its attendant processes are safe. We in the Southern Tier are due protection from its risks equal to those in other regions.

Your television ads tout “Next-Gen energy” here in Broome County and we are justifiably proud of that. Do not compromise that pride by also saddling us with the outmoded 19th and 20th century fossil fuel dependence that is worsening global warming. It’s time to back up your rhetoric after Sandy about combating climate change with action.  NO to new fossil fuel development and infrastructure!  YES to renewable energy, clean energy storage, and energy efficiency initiatives!  YES to equal health and environmental protection for everyone!

Sincerely,
Joanne Corey

SoCS: two degrees

Two degrees Celsius is the threshold between what is considered impactful but manageable global warming and catastrophic global warming. Climate scientists will tell you it isn’t that clearcut. We are already seeing major impacts at only one degree-ish. At two degrees, we may get major feedback loops happening, like the melting of permafrost and the release of methane hydrates from northern seas and oceans which would accelerate warming further.

Two degrees C. has been translated into 350 ppm carbon dioxide. We have now topped 400 at times in the atmospheric readings on the Big Island of Hawai’i – I think it is Mauna Kea, but it could be Mauna Loa – and the levels keep rising.

What is disturbing me even more is that global atmospheric methane, after a long period of stability, began rising in 2007. Methane is more short-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but is a much more powerful greenhouse gas – 86 times more powerful in a twenty year context and 106 times more powerful in a decade. Given that our timeframe to get global warming under control is now very short, methane in the atmosphere is particularly troubling as it has such a strong effect in the immediate future.

So, why do I hear the word degrees and immediately go into my global warming spiel?  I write about this a lot, as an offshoot of my commentary on the dangers of shale oil/gas aka unconventional fossil fuels aka fracking.  I have spent countless hours writing and researching and commenting on these topics.  It started as a personal thing as my state, New York, is currently under a moratorium, while our neighbor state Pennsylvania is drilling extensively. And I live in a border town.

I could literally write about this for hours, but I will spare you. I apologize if I was unclear at all in this post. It’s the whole stream of consciousness thing – no fact-checking or editing allowed…

This is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays.  This week’s prompt was “degree/degrees.”  Join us! Read how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2014/10/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-october-2514/


Badge by Doobster @Mindful Digressions

On being a NY fracktivist

My sign - side one
My sign – side one

I spend a fair, some might say inordinate, amount of time on the fight to keep fracking out of New York State and to limit and end its use elsewhere. I frequently write comments on articles about it, a small fraction of which I share here at Top of JC’s Mind or on Facebook.  (For those who don’t know, fracking is the shorthand name for a process that extracts liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons from rock by using a mix of water, sand, and chemicals at extremely high pressure to fracture the rock.  Tons of information about environmental and health effects are available here: http://concernedhealthny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CHPNY-Fracking-Compendium.pdf )

I also attend events, rallies, and meetings when I can.  Fracktivists (or fractivists, a spelling I don’t use as often because people sometimes glance at it and read it as fascists, which takes their mind in a totally wrong direction) in New York have taken to showing up with signs asking for a ban on fracking whenever Governor Cuomo appears in public, usually on his way to an event that has restricted access.  This bird-dogging, as it is called, has become even more important in the run-up to the November election.

While Cuomo claimed that, as governor, he would keep an open public calendar, he has taken to keeping his schedule secret until the last possible moment. Thus, it wasn’t until late Wednesday evening that we got word that the governor would be arriving at Binghamton University at 11:00 AM Thursday.  Isaac, our intrepid community organizer – did you know that community organizers can become president some day? – quickly got the word out and about twenty of us showed up, signs in hand, to greet the governor’s motorcade and chant “Ban Fracking Now!”

As important as it is for Cuomo to see us wherever he goes, it is equally important that members of the press talk to us.  We had three television stations, public broadcasting radio, and the local newspaper taking interviews.  We were happy that Dr. Sandra Steingraber was among our number that day.  She is a biologist and public health expert who is currently at Ithaca College, a nationally and internationally known expert in toxic impacts of industrial pollution who is spending the lion’s share of her time and effort these days in the fight against fracking.  All the media outlets interviewed her.  Here is a sample of coverage that we received:  http://www.binghamtonhomepage.com/story/d/story/fractivists-protest-gov-cuomos-visit/34621/XNJzJy-Dkk-O7Wrr4WZOig.

We have been at this for several years and may be at it for several more.  It’s tough to fight an industry that spreads its huge wealth around to politicians to keep our country using polluting, climate-killing fossil fuels, but we have to keep fighting because it is so important to our present and future.

My sign - side two
My sign – side two

One-Liner Wednesday: Hildegard of Bingen

“The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured, it must not be destroyed.”
~~~ Hildegard of Bingen

I chose this quote for today because this is the feast day of Saint Hildegard of Bingen and because of the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday.

Join in with Linda’s One Liner Wednesday:  http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/one-liner-wednesday-sleeping-in/

 

What I meant to say was…

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

I try to be clear when I write prose – poetry is not as straightforward by design – but I am running into a problem. I tend to use words assuming readers will apply standard dictionary definitions, but I am finding myself increasingly having to explain at length what I mean by a certain term, so as not to be misinterpreted, as I did in my recent post My (Feminist) Story.

I do understand the difference between connotation and denotation, but it is a pity that many words that usefully describe philosophical or political views have become so skewed from their dictionary definition as to be unusable in practical terms. For example, the words “liberal” and “progressive” are heard more often as epithets than as accurate descriptors of actual policies. Past conservative presidents like Richard Nixon would now be considered liberal, given the positions of those who now describe themselves as conservative.

The word whose misuse most disturbs me is “science.” Science is about data, evidence, observation, reason, leading to conclusions consistent with facts and repeatable by other scientists. In order for papers to be published in scientific journals, they first must be reviewed by peers with knowledge of the field to ensure that the study’s procedures and conclusions meet research standards. Yes, there are studies that later need to be withdrawn when errors are found after publication, but that is rare.

I frequently write comments on news articles about unconventional fossil fuel extraction including “fracking,” renewable energy, and climate change. In my home state of New York, we are in a continuing battle over whether or not high volume hydraulic fracturing will be permitted. The governor has said that science will be the determining factor. The problem is that both sides say they have the science on their side.

The pro-fracking side has industry studies, which are almost never subject to peer review, bold pronouncements from the industry and their allies that fracking is safe, exemptions from key environmental provisions that apply to other industries, gag orders on court settlements of damage claims, and regulatory agencies that are a revolving door to the industry and that use subcontractors that also work with the industry to draft environmental review documents and regulations.

What we on the anti-fracking side have is – well – science. There was a trickle of studies at first, because scientific study takes time with additional time needed for peer review, but there have been more and more studies, especially in the last eighteen months, documenting environmental impacts on air, water, biosphere, climate, and public health. There is a new compendium of research on fracking here. (I can’t resist posting the link to the compendium at every available opportunity.)

Anyone who knows the definition of science should be able to tell which side is using science in their argument. I can understand that some people who are hoping to profit from fracking might delude themselves into believing the industry over the scientists. I don’t understand the press giving equivalency to the remarks of a peer-reviewed independent scientist and an industry spokesperson/propagandist.

The press should be clear with the definition of science. I know it has become common for politicians at all levels of government to say “I am not a scientist” as an excuse not to understand issues such as climate change. Frankly, people do not need to understand all the intricacies of scientific inquiry to believe a strong scientific consensus. They do need to understand the definition of science and to discern what meets the standards of science and what does not.

Three About The Number 7 (2014)

When poetry and fracking/disposal wells meet….

Three by M.E./Rhymes of the Times

1. Days in a week.

2. Lucky.

3. Amount of earthquakes within 14 hours.
===================================
In Oklahoma, a natural event for sure-
Caused ONLY by Mother Nature.

imagesCAV3WAS4

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Obama’s “All of the Above” Energy Plan

I just finished reading this article about how over 20 billion dollars of US government subsidies are directing at the fossil fuel industry and how the “all of the above” energy strategy is a failure from a global warming perspective.

It reminded me of the letter I wrote to President Obama after he visited Binghamton University in August 2013.

Today has been a heavy commenting day on fracktivist issues. You can all breathe a sigh of relief that I haven’t blogged them all, too. (If anyone is truly interested, I did cross-post a couple of my comments to Facebook, so I have access to links which I will share in comments, if desired.)

Slow recovery

Nearly every night on the news, there is coverage of devastation in some US state due to flood, wildfire, mudslide, tornado, hurricane, or ice/snowstorm. Solemn footage of some reporter surrounded by a tangle of building debris or downed trees and powerlines. If the disaster is widespread enough, the coverage may even go on for a couple of weeks. Invariably, though, the reporters and national attention move on to the next disaster scene, masking the truth that recovery, if possible, takes months or years.

I drove today though one of the neighborhoods in my town which was most severely affected in the September 2011 flood of the Susquehanna and its tributaries in the Southern Tier of New York. We had received ten inches of rain when the remnants of tropical storm Lee fell on ground already saturated by the fringe of hurricane Irene days before. First, there was flash flooding of the creeks, followed by record flooding of the Susquehanna. Some photos we took are here:

  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2019747698814.2103178.1397554070&type=1&l=f4365bbc43

 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2016067046800.2103029.1397554070&type=1&l=3df89ce2ba

You won’t see any of the neighborhood pictures here because it was cordoned off. Not even residents were allowed in for days. Even after the river had receded and water had been pumped out of houses and basements, storm water and sewage from the broken infrastructure system flowed into the basements, re-filling them. Some houses had to be pumped out four or five times.

Some houses were condemned. Some were repairable, but homeowners, many who had lived in their homes for decades, weren’t able to withstand the stress of rebuilding and worrying if it would happen again. A few properties were abandoned, while others were sold to speculators for pennies on the dollar. Some people were able to repair their homes with the help of federal flood insurance, while others relied on non-profits, friends, relatives, and savings to rebuild. Other homes were put on the market, some in a livable state and some not, but buyers were hard to come by.

There had initially been a tussle in Washington over funding FEMA’s response to Irene/Lee, but that was resolved. New York’s state government was very little help to us.

It wasn’t until the federal funding battle after Superstorm Sandy that New York State went to bat for us so that our area finally was able to get buyouts for some of our damaged properties, getting partial compensation to property owners and funds for the towns to tear down the houses and convert them to green space. It was too late for many of the affected homeowners, but it has helped some, and transformed the neighborhood into what I saw today.

The street is a patchwork of occupied houses with tidy lawns next to homes for sale – some repaired and some, surrounded by tall grass and overgrown shrubs, still in their flood-damaged state – next to lots where houses were recently leveled, covered in straw to protect grass seed, next to  larger-than-expected expanses of lawn where the demolitions were long enough ago  for the grass to have grown in. The nursing home that flooded is still sitting empty; they are building a new home in another part of town.

It still saddens me every time I drive through. For the neighborhood, nearly three years later, recovery continues, but it will never be complete.

 

24 Years of Lessons Learned

The nursery rhyme tells us that “Friday’s child is loving and giving.” While I don’t universally subscribe to the accuracy of nursery rhymes, as all Wednesday’s children will be grateful to hear, in the case of my younger daughter, who was born twenty -four years ago yesterday on the Friday before Trinity Sunday , the nursery rhyme was definitely true.  We didn’t know her sex until her arrival, but we had chosen the name Trinity for a girl, after a high school friend. It was an extra bonus that she was born so close to Trinity Sunday.

Her birthday this year fell on Pentecost, and at early morning Mass where she was both singing and ringing handbells, I began to reflect on the gifts that she has given to me as a parent and a person. (I recently wrote a post about the impending end of the resident-daughter-in-church-choir era here.)

Trinity reinforced a lesson I had begun to learn from her older sister:  that children come as their own individual selves, with a large portion of their temperament already formed. Even before she was born, Trinity reacted strongly to her environment. For instance, she would startle markedly in utero if there was a loud noise nearby. As an infant, she was so sensitive to sound that she would awaken if someone across the room turned the page of the newspaper.

This sensitivity extended to people and emotions as well. It was clear at a young age that Trinity had a social conscience. I remember her playing with paper dolls and creating conversations between them, as though performing a little play. She told me that this doll worked at helping people who were poor, but her sister liked to have lots of nice clothes and things so she had a job where she made a lot of money, but she also gave money to her sister that she could use to help people.

Trinity’s empathy also encompasses the environment. She went on to major in the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems at Cornell and will soon start a master’s program in Conservation Biology at ESF, with a goal of restoring native species to ecosystems. Her empathy does not extend to harmful invasive species!

Trinity also taught me the importance of solitude. Perhaps because she was so sensitive to the world around her, as soon as she could crawl, Trinity would sometimes go off to her room to play alone. As she got older, there was always solitary reading, writing, thinking, dreaming time built into her day. This alone time is vital for keeping her sense of personal balance and I expect will remain so. Her example taught me about being alone without being lonely.

Trinity was also spiritually aware from a young age. She was blessed with a sense of prayer and connection with God as a child. Unfortunately, dealing with the church as a human organization is more complicated. Her place in the church was severely tested in her early teen years, when we left our home parish over an emotionally abusive and unstable pastor. Trinity was halfway through the two-year preparation for her confirmation, so we joined a parish where many of her high school friends were members, so that she would have familiar classmates for the final year of preparation. It was still very difficult to decide that she wanted to be confirmed in a church that had hurt her and many friends and family very badly. She also had to write a letter to the bishop who had refused to protect us, asking to be confirmed. I never read the letter, but she apparently forthrightly told him of her struggles with the situation. She did decide to be confirmed and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, whose gifts she displays in her own quiet way. The red vestments and banners in the church, the symbol of the tongues as of fire, and the readings and prayers of Pentecost reminded me of her confirmation and her spiritual gifts yesterday on her birthday. Next Sunday will be Trinity Sunday, so I’m sure more reminders are in store. Each of us is a child of God in our own right; Trinity has always clearly shown that being my child does not make her God’s grandchild or child-once-removed, but always her own unique reflection of the Divine Light.

In other ways, Trinity has taught me to patiently and quietly deal with suffering. When she was sixteen, she was hospitalized for a week with severe colitis, which was diagnosed as Crohn’s disease. I stayed in the hospital with her and she was such a good patient, despite pain and some pretty harrowing test prep protocols. Given that we were already dealing with a chronic illness with her sister, Trinity’s diagnosis was a big blow to our family. After catching everything her sister had brought home from school before she was old enough to go to school herself, Trinity had been remarkably healthy during her own school years, so her level of equanimity in the face of illness was amazing to me. The next two years were filled with side effects from meds, follow-up tests, second opinions, diet changes, concerns about health care facilities when looking at colleges, etc. Finally, after transferring her care to a gastroenterologist near her college, she was put on a carefully monitored program to cut back and out the medication she was taking, which revealed that she did not have Crohn’s disease after all, for which we are all very grateful. I will always remember how calmly and maturely she dealt with a very difficult situation and an uncertain future.

I should probably close before I risk embarrassing Trinity any further. I don’t think she reads my blog very often, so perhaps she will be spared. Thank you, Trinity for the privilege of being your mom for the last twenty-four years. I wish you a great year to come, as you embark on grad school. I’m sure you will keep learning and that others will learn from you by example, as I have.