Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Announcing the NEPA Green Sustainability Group!

We have just created our own local group via meetup.  The group is for anyone interested in sustainability, self-sufficiency and urban / suburban green living. Our focus is on sharing information and networking.  The group will be co-hosted by myself and NEPA Green member and organizer Amos Elroy.

We hope to learn by doing through shared projects and other activities while getting to know each other - and having a good time. We will be meeting on the second Thursday of the month at our house in Pittston.  Hope to see you there!


Friday, July 31, 2015

Bringing this Blog Up to Speed

I began this blog in 2010 when I was embroiled in the anti-fracking battle that was sweeping through the state of Pennsylvania.

Things didn't go our way in 2010 but fighting for mother earth changed me.  It changed the way I think and, because of that, it changed the way I live my life.

Over the last five years I have planted, composted, recycled, upcycled and harvested.  I have learned about saving energy and saving money.  I have transitioned from vegetarian to vegan.  I have learned to counter the things that I can't control by those that I can.

I am not expert by any means and there is (and will always be) a lot more to learn but I thought that it might be fun to revive this blog and share this wonderful journey with whoever wants to tag along.  

This year we have two raised bed gardens, an ordinary garden and medicine wheel herb garden.  Next year we will have rain barrels and - if we're very lucky - a small flock of chickens.  In year three, I'm hoping we can learn more about renewable energy and decrease our dependence on the utility companies I will never be able to completely forgive.

I am especially excited about the chickens.  I won't feel bad about eating eggs if I know that the birds are happy and cared for, of course.  But it isn't just, or even mostly, about the eggs.  This is something I have always wanted to do.

We have plans to become active within the community.  This includes establishing a group to network and support others interested in sustainability and related topics, sharing information and possibly some community service activities when doing this feels right. 

Hope you'll check back to see how it goes!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

EPA fracking forum moved, then cancelled - to be moved again

I registered for the upcoming August 12 EPA frack gas drilling forum in Binghamton N.Y.  It was a little over an hour away and I really did want to go.  A few days ago the forum was moved to Syracuse.  Today it is canceled altogether.  Tentatively rescheduled for September, it is to be held in upstate N.Y. 

This foils a lot of plans of course.  Environmental groups have rented buses.  People put in for personal time.  Arrangements for babysitters have been made.  The EPA changes were all last minute.  People put a lot of effort into scheduling.   Having to do it all over again can be exhausting.

Binghamton was convenient for me.  Syracuse, which would involve an overnight stay was unlikely.  Upstate N.Y. will be impossible.  And I'm not the only one.  If you look at any PA. / N.Y. map, you will see that that virtually all of the region's high density areas are finding themselves further and further away from the EPA forum.

Remember the July Public Utility Committee hearing?  To attend, I drove about as far north as you can go and still be in Pennsylvania. On the long empty road outside of Dimock, I stopped my car to get directions from an old man with a Amish style beard.  He was riding a bicycle that was too old for gears and it was getting dark underneath the trees.

He didn't know how many miles there were between us and the PUC.  "I'm trying to get there too," he said.  Later that night, moved by his tenacity, I got up in front of an overflow crowd and spoke in public for the first time ever.

We won't all make it to upstate N.Y., but we can demonstrate bravery and determination - whatever our limitations. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Can NEPA Zoning Officials Really Do?

Today, the Citizen's Voice is running an article on the Luzerne County Zoning Board and its actions in regard to Encana Oil & Gas. The title reads 'local officials retain some power over drilling." 

"We - local land use authorities - can regulate the 'where;' we cannot regulate the 'how.' That power, to regulate the 'how' of natural gas drilling, rests entirely with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Larry Newman said after last week's hearing on granting Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. conditional use to drill 10 natural gas wells in Lake and Fairmount townships.

Municipal and county planning and zoning authorities do have some say in the matter of natural gas drilling in their communities, state officials say.  "They're not completely pre-empted by any means under state law," Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said. "They do have a role."

Having just attended the Encana slam-dunk, my impression of the zoning board was that they were intelligent, polite and at least somewhat concerned about the threats Fracking pose. When they said they were powerless, I believed them.  Then I did my homework.

Numerous zoning boards have said no to fracking and some have taken the battle as far as the supreme court.  They are not all successful.  They do demonstrate, however, a commitment to the public trust - something our board seems to lack.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Luzerne County Zoning Board Approves 5 New Frack Wells

Everybody knew, going in, that Encana would triumph but we showed up anyway.

It was an overflow crowd mostly because the hearing was held in a relatively small room.  At least half of the people present were put outside the door in rows of metal folding chairs.  We couldn't hear anything.  And even after sunshine law concerns (by the board solicitor's own admission) prompted officials to usher us in, it bothered me that arrangements had been made to keep us out.

Encana had a slide show.  The presentation was made by a chirpy girl in too cute little sun dress.   She showed us photos of model well pads surrounded by wide expanses of flawless emerald green grass and bulleted lists of agencies who had rubber stamped the drilling so far.  The information provided was designed to make the wells appear safe and attractive.

A few members of the public were prepared.  They had read the zoning laws and had come up very valid objections.  Others talked about safety even though it was not on the table.

The county zoning board, told us that they had no real power in regard to gas and oil extraction.  They can deal with issues such as dust, odor, and noise, they maintained, but just about everything else is somebody else's responsibility.  I won't say that our officials don't care because I'm pretty sure that a few of them do.  But how deep does their commitment to the public trust run?

The county, state, and municipal response to every move the gas companies make is the same.  They can't stop it, they tell us - their power is restricted to little more than an increment.  But each increment takes us closer to looming disaster.  Each person who moves fracking forward acts against the people of Pennsylvania and the state as a whole.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Toxic Fracking Water & Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority?

A recent Citizen's Voice reported a WVSA and Encana proposal for a new local toxic water treatment facility.  Quote follows.

The plant the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is considering would treat and dilute the used fracking water, then sell it back to the gas companies to re-use.

Authority officials believe there is a need for such a facility in the region, Minora said. Asked if the authority could make money from it, he replied, "Certainly - that's why we're doing it. If there isn't, why do it?"

I can answer that:  Because it is beneficial to the people of North East PA and the state of Pennsylvania  as a whole.  But before the WVSA can decide if it's beneficial for our region, they have to remember we're here.  Here are some of the questions officials concerned about something other than money might ask:

What kind of accidents occur at similar toxic waste treatment facilities?  How often do they occur and how far-reaching are the possible aftereffects?  How much water is reused?  Does the transport of toxic waste to the facility endanger an even larger population than current practices?  Numbers, if anyone has bothered to collect them, would be fantastic.

Remember this is not about safety or conservation.  It is about cash.  Fracking is a dangerous, ecologically disastrous operation that puts us all at risk.  Toxic, carcinogenic chemicals will leech into our ground water even in the absence of accidents and accidents themselves abound.  Now we are processing the stuff locally.  What are the risks?

Environmental groups are concerned about the huge amounts of water taken from our fresh water supply.  Encana knows this.  My gut feeling is that this is just another PR move.  One Encana hopes will shut people up.  And having some more local officials on board never hurts.  Especially in Luzerne county.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Luzerne Co: First Frack Gas Well Grand Opening

Quote and photo from today's CV.  Little commentary is needed: 

"Drilling is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation, and Wiedenbeck said Encana's estimate is it will take about 30 days to finish.  People essential to the operation - the "company men," officially known as the rig supervisor and the tool pusher - will stay on the site around-the-clock in personnel trailers. The rest of the crew will stay at local hotels, Wiedenbeck said. They will work in shifts: 12 hours on, 12 off, she said.

The first step in drilling is to set the casings. These are steel pipes about 30 feet to 40 feet long with cement poured around them. The rig drove the pipes into the ground, one after another.  After the well is drilled 800 feet deep, it will be cased, and drilling will continue to 2,500 feet and another layer of cement will be added, Wiedenbeck said.  "It's like a casing within a casing," Bender said.

The casing will go about 50 feet deeper than the aquifer, or water table, and is intended to keep water from getting into the well or well contents from getting into the groundwater."

The safe operation of this well is dependent on technology from our friends at Haluburtin.   Look it up.