QUICK NEWS, 6-21: THE TIME IS NOW; THE WORST ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER?; NEW JERSEY OFFSHORE WIND; MUST SEE TV-HBO’S GASLAND
THE TIME IS NOW
The Time is Now’: Coalition Forms, Calls For Clean Energy Bill
Carl Levesque, June 18, 2010 (Wind Energy Weekly)
"…AWEA and a new coalition of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and biofuels organizations…[are calling] on the U.S. Senate to quickly pass comprehensive energy legislation that the group says will create millions of American jobs and decrease reliance on foreign supplies of fossil fuels by using domestic resources that are clean and abundant.
"The diverse and sizable coalition, which never before has come together, sent a letter to all members of the Senate as a follow-up to the President’s call to action on energy…[and] in advance of [the] meeting among Senate Democrats at which clean energy legislation was [discussed]…The coalition letter urges the Senate to move quickly with legislation promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, and biofuels."
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"AWEA CEO Denise Bode spoke to the urgency of the matter at a press conference announcing the coalition. Discussing the political dynamics in Washington, D.C., this summer, Bode underscored that first and foremost “our hearts go out” to the people of the Gulf Coast affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which is the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history…
"On Capitol Hill with time waning before the August recess and elections coming shortly after, Congress appears set to tackle energy legislation now, particularly as the nation grapples with tough energy questions in the wake of the oil spill…"
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"The members of the coalition include AWEA, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Biomass Power Association, Growth Energy, the Energy Recovery Council, the Geothermal Energy Association, the National Hydropower Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association…"
[Denise Bode, CEO, AWEA:] “This is the opportunity to get it done…The time is now.”
THE WORST ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER?
Where Gulf Spill Might Place on the Roll of Disasters
Justin Gillis (w/Barclay Walsh), June 18, 2010 (NY Times)
"[President Obama and senior administration officials have called the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” …The words signal sympathy for the people of the Gulf Coast…And if this is really the worst environmental disaster, the wording seems to suggest, maybe people need to cut the government some slack for failing to get it under control right away…But is the description accurate? …[Scholars] offer an intimidating list of disasters to consider: floods caused by human negligence, the destruction of forests across the entire continent and the near-extermination of the American bison…
"…Perhaps the worst disaster, they say, is always the one people are living through now…Still, for sheer disruption to human lives…no environmental problem in American history [matches] the calamity known as the Dust Bowl… [F]rom the Texas Panhandle to the Dakotas, poor farming practices in the early part of the 20th century stripped away the native grasses that held moisture and soil in place. A drought that began in 1930 exposed the folly…[B]y 1940 more than two million people had left the Great Plains States."
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"…[But what] exactly should be defined as an environmental disaster? How long should an event take to play out, and how many people have to be harmed before it deserves that epithet? …Among sudden events, the Johnstown Flood might be…[the] worst environmental disaster. On May 31, 1889, heavy rains caused a poorly maintained dam to burst in southwestern Pennsylvania, sending a wall of water 14 miles downriver to the town of Johnstown. About 2,200 people were killed…Perhaps a one-day flood is simply too short-term to count as an environmental disaster.
"…[I]f events that played out over many decades are included…Perhaps the destruction of the native forests of North America, which took hundreds of years, should be counted as the nation’s largest environmental calamity. The slaughtering of millions of bison on the Great Plains might qualify…[or] the human overhaul of the Mississippi River Valley…[though they] were not seen as disasters at the time, at least by the people who carried them out. They were viewed as desirable alterations of the landscape…"
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"…Consider the Lakeview Gusher, which was almost certainly a worse oil spill, by volume, than the one continuing in the gulf…[During California’s oil rush] in the early decades of the 20th century…a well halfway between the towns of Taft and Maricopa, in Kern County, blew out…[and] continued spewing huge quantities of oil for 18 months…The ultimate volume spilled was calculated at 9 million barrels, or 378 million gallons…[T]he Deepwater Horizon spill is not yet half that size…Today, little evidence of the spill remains…because the area is desert scrubland, and few people were inconvenienced…
"… The environmental effects of the gulf spill remain largely unknown. But the number of lives disrupted is certainly in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands; the paychecks lost in industries like fishing add up to millions; and the ultimate cost will be counted in billions…"
NEW JERSEY OFFSHORE WIND
Offshore Wind Energy Study Puts New Jersey in Lead Nationally in Creating Environmentally Safer Energy Source
June 18, 2010 (NJ DEP)
"A groundbreaking, two-year research project…shows minimal environmental impact would occur at sites proposed for several wind energy projects off the coast of New Jersey, which is a national leader in an effort to develop off-shore wind-to-energy power…
"Designed by scientists from the [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection], U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the study will help identify optimum sites off the Jersey coast for wind energy projects that would have the least impact on the environment."
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"The draft final report [of the $7 million study]…shows there would be negligible impacts to bird, fish and marine mammal life caused…[by] turbines which could be located from 3 to 20 miles out to sea…
"The study area included 75 miles of coastal area…and explored approximately 1,360 square nautical miles. It looked at the abundance, distribution and migratory patterns of avian species, fish, marine mammals and sea turtles. It factored in shipping lanes, pipelines, tug and barge transit routes and undersea utility lines, while mapping artificial reefs, commercial and recreational fishing areas, and marine protected areas."
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"The information generated can be used to support evaluation of a pilot turbine project proposed by Fisherman’s Energy that would be located some three miles off the coast, as well as three lease areas approved by the federal government for future meteorological studies to be done by three private companies at sites 8 miles, 16 to 18 miles, and 20 miles off the coast…
"…[Among the key findings:]…Bird density was found to significantly decrease…further offshore…Of all birds visually recorded, only a small percent were observed flying in the potential turbine rotor swept zone…Dolphins are the predominant species and most frequently observed in the study area. The densities of other marine mammals, including whales and seals, are low…There were low sightings of sea turtles…Mitigation procedures could be used to limit negative impacts on birds and marine mammals, including brief turbine shut downs during peak avian migration seasons and noise reduction techniques during construction to ease the strain on hearing-sensitive dolphins…"
MUST SEE TV-HBO’S GASLAND
The Costs of Natural Gas, Including Flaming Water
Mike Hale, June 20, 2010 (NY Times)
"Gasland a documentary making its television premiere on HBO on Monday night after winning a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, is maddening in several distinct ways.
"The first is the way its director, Josh Fox, intended…[A] soberly muckracking film about the health and environmental dangers of the current nationwide rush to drill for natural gas, [it] will light a flame in you…[like] the flames Mr. Fox films sprouting from people’s kitchen faucets or from the surfaces of polluted creeks, in places where methane has turned water into a fire hazard."
"Mr. Fox lives in northeastern Pennsylvania above the vast Marcellus Shale formation…[into which] energy companies have rushed to sink wells employing the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped underground to extract natural gas trapped in the shale. The film came about, he says on screen, when he received an offer from a company to lease his 19.5 acres with an upfront payment of nearly $100,000. Rather than take the money, he begins investigating stories he has heard of ruined water wells and sickened families…
"…[V]isiting landowners and drill sites in states like Colorado and Wyoming, where fracking has been practiced for years…he finds flammable, foul-smelling water, sick people and animals, and families who no longer use their wells but truck in all their household water (usually bought at Wal-Mart). In some cases oil companies provide the water after settling lawsuits."
"The accumulation of stories and sympathetic faces is persuasive; it’s buttressed by testimony from scientists like Theo Colborn and Al Armendariz, named regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency in Dallas…Comparisons to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will be unavoidable…The oil and gas industry has already been busy condemning the film and disputing Mr. Fox’s assertions…[H]e makes it [easy] for the film’s critics to attack him…[and] difficult for sympathetic but objective viewers to wholly embrace him…
"Like a less manic Michael Moore…Mr. Fox shows a general preference for vivid images — bright red Halliburton trucks, beeping but unidentified scientific instruments — over the more mundane crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s of investigative journalism… As the film progresses, the lines between fracking and oil and gas production in general become blurred…"