Sunday, July 31, 2011

Debt crisis could jeopardize Free TV in Rochester; do we care?

 

If you are still one of those luddites like me who can only get local Television by antenna (via the digital converter box, of course), there is the threat that that this free service that we have known ‘forever’ is going to be gone. The great wailing and gnashing of teeth has begun on local TV and from the sounds it, it’s pretty serious. Check this out:

Debate over debt ceiling could impact local TV viewing | www.WHEC.com “The debate over raising the debt ceiling and cutting spending could have an impact on TV viewing. Some of the proposals in Washington include allowing the FCC to reduce the airwaves used by local TV stations including ours” (July 28, 2011)

And:

Is "Free TV" coming to an end in the Rochester area? - Local News - Rochester, NY - msnbc.com The president of the New York State Broadcaster's Association believes one of the plans to resolve the debt ceiling crisis could put an end to free, "over the air" television in the Rochester area. Dave Donovan says a proposed auction to sell broadcast frequency space used by television stations to cell phone companies would knock four of the five Rochester TV stations off the air. (July 30, 2011)

But would it be a travesty to lose this ‘free’ service that is, of course, riddled with ads? What would we miss if local TV just died? We’d miss all those local sports scores, all those gory accidents that our unsustainable and unsafe transportation system fosters, all those pets being abused, those weather reports that still deny Climate Change (despite the recent heat wave’s relationship to Climate Change predictions). And, allegedly, we’d miss all those public service announcements that are provided for the public interest--not.

In short, what we’d miss is not much except a deluge of non-news and non-weather that has little relevance to important matters that the public needs to know. When is the last time you saw our local TV investigate an environmental problem or explain how Climate Change will happen here? When is the last time you heard a report about the local concerns about possible hydrofracking in our area, or safety and maintenance issues involving local nuclear power plants? When is the last time you heard or watched a program on the miserable foreclosures endured by those who did not cause our economic problems?

Mostly, local TV is run by corporations who are pushing their agenda: Laissez-faire Capitalism not only provides you with a lot of neat stuff, in fact it solves everything. The message from those free signals now in trouble is that everyone is doing just fine during this economic crisis, getting all the jobs and medical care they need

Let’s be honest: Local TV is a great wasteland that numbs the mind. Local free TV does little to provide what the public needs to know to be an informed citizen, like how to recycle properly. They don’t remind vehicle owners, whose business they constantly solicit, to let bikes share our roadways too.

The media throughout the world is in crisis. And the Internet is not wholly to blame. The media, bought up and consolidated by ideologue media moguls, provide the public with nonsense they don’t need and little of what they do. There is an outcry for critical information that is being met by bloggers and new media concepts like ProPublica.

We need information for folks in all walks of life in order to have a decent democracy and a clean and sustainable environment. But the corporate media, who have dominated those free antenna bandwidths, have squandered this resource by filling those airwaves with rubbish not fit for a society as resourceful and intelligent as ours.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Action you can take for our environment from the Rochester Sierra Club and the City of Rochester

 

Remove invasive species in the Cobb's Hill forest.

The City of Rochester is looking for volunteers to battle the invasive species in the Cobb's Hill Forest. 

On Thursday, July 21, 16 people pitched in to reduce brush from all the Norway maples that were removed from one section of the Grove.  It was a hot day, and some volunteers helped by watering the plants put in last Fall and this June to replace the fallen Norway maple trees.  They also lopped branches off fallen trees to reduce the size of the brush piles.  They got a lot done!   There is a lot more work to be done and the City needs HELP.

Please join us for whatever time and energy you have on any of the following dates to help restore this beautiful forest.  Work varies from watering plants, pulling out  creeping invasive vines, lopping branches from fallen trees, or rolling logs to line the trails.  There is something for everyone, and young adults are welcome too.  Call the Friends of Washington Grove at 585-820-2018 for information or write to:  washgrove@gmail.com

  • Wed. Aug 3 8:30-11:30 AM removing invasives, reducing brush
  • Tues. Aug. 30, 9:30 AM -12:00 PM remove invasives, reduce brush
  • Sat. Sept. 10 trail work , remove invasives
  • Thurs. Sept. 29 planting?  remove invasives
  • Sat. Oct.  8 remove invasives, trail work
  • Wed. Oct. 26 remove invasives, trail work

We meet at the entrance to the forest on Nunda Blvd at 8:30.  Bring gloves, water to drink, loppers, or gallon jugs, or tree pruner saws if you have them.

Environmental data must include Climate Change data – Climate Change indicators

 

Recently, at a meeting to update ACT Rochester talks included adding Climate Change indicators to their Environment page. Although this may seem arcane to some, it’s crucial that the data we use to plan our future include the likely changes that Climate Change will bring to our area. We can only do that if we have accurate data that reflect all areas of concern in our changing environment.

So, let’s start with the beginning. What is ACT Rochester?

ACT Rochester, a program of Rochester Area Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Rochester, functions as: a trusted data provider, a neutral convener, an advocate for change. Reshaping our approach to community problem-solving requires objective, timely and independent data. ACT Rochester stimulates community solutions to our most critical challenges by changing the culture of public discussion and debate. ACTRochester.org includes a wide-array of over 180 community indicators. Community indicators measure the overall health of a community when they are viewed together and are a key ingredient to systemic change. ACT Rochester also interprets this information through trend summaries, charts and graphs. Current efforts to advance our region as well as links to more than 300 local community resources can be found for each of the twelve quality of life categories. ACT Rochester.

We need in every community a neutral fact gatherer because, especially with environmental matters, various groups, governments, businesses, and others tend to create informational silos of cherry-picked information that suits their agenda. Not necessarily because they are trying to do that, but because it’s the nature of groups with limited funds to focus on their interests. So, we need independent fact gathers and a consensus on what constitutes ‘objective’ information on our environment.

Environmental information free of an agenda of some sort is hard to come by. And this is important because grant-writers who often times try to fund monies for environmental projects need objective environmental information about their area to get funded. All parties trying to create a sustainable environment must work from the same page—the same data so that they don’t unintentionally try to solve problems by only finding data that suits their agenda.

Next step: One of the major changes in gathering environmental information is the growing realization that the profound changes Climate Change will bring to all environmental issues. Check out my recent essay “Hydrofracking in NYS through the lens of Climate Change”, which describes how even the present issue of hydrofracking must be seen, as the US Fish and Wildlife Service says, through the lens of Climate Change.

“As a Service, we are committed to examining everything we do, every decision we make, and every dollar we spend through the lens of climate change, fully confident in our workforce to rise to this challenge and to lead from in front and from behind.” page 5, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Rising to the Urgent Challenge, Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change

So, to do that you need to ‘see’ environmental events through Climate Change indicators. These are best described by the Environmental Protection Agency who has already defined many of the indicators we need to focus on.

“Collecting and interpreting environmental indicators play a critical role in our understanding of climate change and its causes. An indicator represents the state of certain environmental conditions over a given area and a specified period of time. Examples of climate change indicators include temperature, precipitation, sea level, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. EPA's Climate Change Indicators in the United States (PDF) (80 pp, 13.3MB) report will help readers interpret a set of important indicators to better understand climate change. The report presents 24 indicators, each describing trends related to the causes and effects of climate change. It focuses primarily on the United States, but in some cases global trends are presented to provide context or a basis for comparison. EPA will use these indicators to examine long-term data sets to: Track the effects/impacts of climate change in the United States; Assist decision–makers on how to best use policymaking and program resources to respond to climate change; Assist EPA and its constituents in evaluating the success of their climate change efforts” Climate Change Indicators in the United States | Climate Change | U.S. EPA

The value of all this is immeasurable because this data provides all interested parties, including the public, a more useful way of viewing environmental data. Even reporters can capitalize on this new and critical way to view local environmental stories. Events like massive fish die-offs that we occasionally see in the news and heat waves, which are Climate Change indicators, can be properly reported as possible indicators of Climate Change that are happening around us. This is not a bias, or someone’s pernicious agenda, it’s the proper lens now from which to view all environmental news.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of including Climate Change indicators in all environmental data gathering and environment reporting will be to convince the public that Climate Change is something that has to be addressed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some things you can do about Climate Change in Rochester, NY:

 

In the Rochester, NY area check out this event:

Say No to fracking and Yes to renewables | Moving Planet Do you want our leaders in Albany hear your voice? Do you want to make sure that our Finger Lakes region and Monroe County remain unscathed by fracking for natural gas? Would you like to see an investment in renewable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal? At the Public Market on Sept. 24th, we'll provide ways for you to let your voice be heard. Petitions and letters destined for our leaders in Albany as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be available, plus we'll have up-to-date info on what is happening with the fracking regulatory process and renewable energy legislation. Plus, kids of all ages can make mini-windmills and solar collectors!” 

Also, check out more stuff you can do from 350.org.

1) If you live in the USA, please check out the civil disobedience campaign at www.TarSandsAction.org -- it's not a campaign coordinated directly by 350.org, but it has the potential to be a game-changer in the movement to fight the climate crisis.   2) If you're on social networks, please share the petition to President Obama with just a couple of clicks on Facebook and Twitter. You can also forward on the email below to get them to sign onto the campaign.  3) If you want to get involved in this movement locally, join Moving Planet, a global day of action coming up on September 24. In cities all around the world, there will be bike parades, rallies, teach-ins, and events of all kinds designed to move the world beyond fossil fuels.  Many thanks for helping to build this movement. Onwards, The 350.org Team

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oppressive heat this week will be the summer norm in Rochester, NY

 

It’s worth your while to read the recommendations by the New York State Department of Health on measures to take during this heat wave. There are a lot to things to consider on a hot day. Just being able to tough them out while on the job like a bunch of heat heroes (which seems to be the focus of our local media) isn’t one of them. There are heat strokes, heat exhaustion, sunburn, and heat cramps to consider –not to mention searing the inside of you lungs because of ground-level ozone. Athletes have to ask themselves if it’s worth the risk to their lungs if they exercise hard in this kind of weather. This will be a more common alert in the future and probably more strident:

State Health Department, Office of Emergency Management Issue Tips to Weather Heat Wave ALBANY, NY (July 20, 2011) -- With much of the State under an Excessive Heat Watch today as temperatures are forecast to climb into the mid- to upper 90s over the next couple of days, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) offered New Yorkers the following advice to get through the expected oppressive heat. "High temperatures are common during the summer in New York, but when temperatures reach extreme levels for extended periods of time, the intense heat can be dangerous to your health," said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D. "Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses can cause serious health problems, especially for the elderly, infants and young children, people with respiratory ailments or chronic medical conditions, and anyone who works outdoors. We urge all New Yorker to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and what to do if someone has them, and also take steps to keep cool and remain healthy when temperatures are high." (July 20, 2011) New York State Department of Health

Things are getting hot:

Deadly Heat Wave Moves Toward Northeast - A blistering, eastern-moving band of heat hovering over the Plains and southern United States has killed two dozen people this week, and forecasters expect it to scorch the Northeast in the coming days, pushing temperatures toward 100 degrees on Friday. The wave of heat transformed a large swath of the nation’s midsection into a sauna, with at least 17 states reaching the 100-degree mark on Tuesday, and many more experiencing temperatures into the 90’s — a result of high pressures compressing and cooking the air. States from Texas to Montana and the Dakotas had widespread heat warnings or advisories in place by Wednesday evening, affecting over 140 million Americans. And so far, at least 22 deaths across the nation have been attributed to the heat wave, the National Weather Service reported. (July 21, 2011) The New York Times

As a matter of fact, not only won’t you see a link in the local media between this heat wave and Climate Change, the media goes out of their way to suggest that the two aren’t related at all:

“Before you complain about the heat, consider this. This is what the Rochester area looked like in January. The National Weather Service reports this past winter was the coldest and snowiest winter overall across the region in eight years.” (July 21, 2011) Where To Go To Beat the Heat - YNN, Your News Now

This is all very curious because major studies like these below say it’s getting warmer and more days of extreme weather, both hot and cold (but mostly hot), are in our future:

If you don’t ‘get’ Climate Change, you only hear a seemingly confusing conversation about hot weather and snow storms. Global Warming looks crazy to the uninformed on days when the snow is piling up. But it’s not crazy; it’s just not simple—our climate system is very complicated. That is why we need scientific studies—they tease out the reality of Climate Change from your prejudices, pre-conceived notions, and the relatively short and quick view of reality we get from day to day.

From an accelerated Climate Change perspective, based on many studies, here’s a glimpse of what’s in store for our region because we didn’t address Climate Change long ago—even if we stopped anymore greenhouse gases from getting into our atmosphere right now: a migration north for our endemic plants and animals as our climate adopts a Southern visage (though, most ((especially plants)) won’t move quickly enough), droughts in later summer, more weeds (they capitalize on the Carbon Dioxide high better than our crops) more flooding in early spring, more extreme Great-Lake effect storms, lowering of Great Lakes water levels, more coastal flooding, more extreme heat in our cities because of the urban island heat effect, more diseases (like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus) and more potent cases of poison ivy, more air quality loss, more tax money to buttress our water and transportation infrastructures, more agriculture changes, more changes in sport fishing as trout need cold water, more changes in the dairy industry, more changes in the spruce/fir forests of our region, less snowpack in winter recreation (did you know that NYS has more ski areas than any other state in the nation?), and an increase in ozone pollution.

Were you watching the thermometer on Thursday?

“The heat is on... in a big way in much of upstate New York. As of 12:44pm on Thursday, the old record high temperature for Rochester of 97 degrees, set in 1994, was broken with the temperature getting to 98, and likely still climbing. We also hit a record for power usage according to R G and E. Officials tell WHAM News that power usage on Thursday reached at least 1,752 megawatts, beating the old record of 1,744 megawatts set back in 2006.” (July 21, 2011) Temperature Hits A Record | NEWSRADIO 1180 WHAM

Besides the havoc on our bodies and psyches (people get crankier and there are more mental health problems in oppressive heat), the burden on our power systems are tremendous. Everyone running their air conditioners puts a big load on our power system, with threats of outages. ( More than 3,000 in Greece, Rochester without power in today's heat –(July 21, 2011 Webster Post ) And the use of more water to keep ourselves, our plants, and our power stations cool means more water has to be pumped, which uses more power to move—as moving water around is a major contributor of power consumption in our area. More power, more expense, more fossil fuels being burned, more heating of our atmosphere. Read all about it:

Record demands for power reached Upstate New York's three major electric utilities all set records for electricity demand Thursday as temperatures soared and air conditioners strained to keep up. Statewide, demand was the third-highest on record. Demand appeared to be lower in upstate areas Friday. But exceptionally hot weather in metropolitan New York — the mercury hit 104 degrees Friday afternoon in Manhattan's Central Park — caused the Big Apple to consume a huge amount of electricity and the statewide use figure was near a record level in late afternoon. (July 23, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

Here’s the thing: This is our future. We are going to have to adapt to a warmer environment and that doesn’t mean one that slowly and gradually warms so we can adapt to it at our leisure. It means radical changes with more intense weather (including massive snowfall and rain in the late winter and early spring) and very hot weather days that threaten public health—increasing continually year after year.

Only by addressing Climate Change are we going to relieve future generations from more hot days and extreme weather. Because we didn’t act earlier, we are already condemned to some very hot days for some time into our future. The Carbon Dioxide we have already put into our atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, and there’s a lot, has to work its way through our system. We are enduring this and a hotter future because of our activities—not because things are just that way and we are simply victims of some nebulous and mean fate we don’t deserve. We are doing this to ourselves.

But we can do a lot to change this very-hot-future-scenario. We can demand that our government support renewable energy and come up with a Climate Action Plan (like the one in Chicago) to create the kind of massive support for Climate Change measures that will actually work. Small and feel-good measure won’t do the trick—changes have to be made world-wide and by everybody.

To learn more about Climate Change and the incredible changes coming up, make sure you and your family attend Rochester’s Greentopia Festival this September where you can hear Bill McKibben, our foremost leader on Climate Change activism.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Anti-environmentalists and Climate Change deniers exposed: What is ALEC up to?

 

Why do we pollute and fight against environmental regulations when we know they protect our environment? Seems counterintuitive and counterproductive to me. Maybe ALEC is pushing its agenda, a secret agenda. Maybe we who are trying to keep our environment healthy with regulations to reign in the excesses and the craven disregard (think Browndfields) from corporate practices would have a better idea what’s going on with ALEC exposed. Who is ALEC. Find out here:

‘Nichols, a political reporter for The Nation, recently wrote the introduction and co-authored two in a series of articles about the relationship that state-based legislators have with a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a group that brings together state legislators and representatives of corporations to draft model bills that can then be introduced at the state level of government. An archive of ALEC documents was recently leaked to the Center for Media and Democracy.” (July 21, 2011) How ALEC Shapes States' Legislation Behind The Scenes : NPR

What can you do about all this political and corporate secret stuff to make sure our environmental rules and regulations are not being undermined? Go here:

Rewriting the Rules about the Environment, Energy, and Agriculture |This page shows how bills pushed by ALEC corporations work to undermine environmental protections, limit the ability of local government to manage land use, and protect corporate polluters. These "model bills" and resolutions thwart efforts to address climate change, streamline siting of nuclear power plants, and oppose efforts to address hazardous coal waste. Through ALEC, corporations have both a VOICE and a VOTE on specific changes to state laws on these issues through these model bills. Do you? Environment, Energy, and Agriculture - Alec Exposed

Could ALEC be fighting efforts to deal with Climate Change, so we can survive into the future? Those with a particular political agenda that don’t care or understand how our environment works should not be tearing up our environmental safeguards in secret just so they can make some more money.

Like Climate Change and keeping our environment healthy aren’t impossible enough, we have to deal with sneaky political shenanigans by corporations that thwart the very little that does get done to protect our environment.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Oppressive heat going to be the norm in Rochester, NY

 

It’s worth your while to read the recommendations by the New York State Department of Health on measures to take during this heat wave. There’s a lot to things to consider on a hot day and just being able to tough them out while on the job like a bunch of heat heroes (which seems to be the focus of our local media) isn’t one of them.

State Health Department, Office of Emergency Management Issue Tips to Weather Heat Wave ALBANY, NY (July 20, 2011) -- With much of the State under an Excessive Heat Watch today as temperatures are forecast to climb into the mid- to upper 90s over the next couple of days, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) offered New Yorkers the following advice to get through the expected oppressive heat. "High temperatures are common during the summer in New York, but when temperatures reach extreme levels for extended periods of time, the intense heat can be dangerous to your health," said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D. "Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses can cause serious health problems, especially for the elderly, infants and young children, people with respiratory ailments or chronic medical conditions, and anyone who works outdoors. We urge all New Yorker to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and what to do if someone has them, and also take steps to keep cool and remain healthy when temperatures are high."  (July 20, 2011) New York State Department of Health

There are Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion, Sunburn, and Heat Cramps to consider –not to mention searing the inside of you lungs because of ground-level ozone. Athletes have to ask themselves is it worth the chance to exercise hard in this kind of weather if they are doing more harm than good.

This is all pertinent because all the studies on Climate Change for our region show that we are going to have more extremely hot days and more heat waves. Were you watching the thermometer yesterday? Temperature Hits A Record | Local News - ROCHESTER'S NEWS LEADER NEWSRADIO 1180 WHAM )

Besides the havoc on our bodies (people get crankier and there are more mental health problems in oppressive heat also) the burden on our power systems are tremendous. Everyone running their air conditioners puts a big load on our power system, with threats of outages. ( More than 3,000 in Greece, Rochester without power in today's heat - Webster, NY - Webster Post ) And the use of more water to keep ourselves, our plants, and our power stations cool mean more water has to be pumped, which uses more power to move—as moving water around is a major contributor of power usage in our area. More power, more expense, more fossil fuels being burned, more heating of our atmosphere. Get the idea?

Here’s the thing: This is our future. We are going to have to adapt to a warmer environment and that doesn’t mean one that slowly and gradually warms so we can adapt to it at our leisure. It means radical changes with more intense weather (including massive snowfall and rain in the late winter and early spring) and very hot weather days that threaten public health—continually.

Only by addressing Climate Change are we going to relieve future generations from more hot days and extreme weather. Because we didn’t act earlier, we are already condemned to some very hot days for some time into our future. The Carbon Dioxide we have already put into our atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, and there’s a lot, has to work its way through our system warming things up. We are enduring this and a hotter future because of our activities—not because things are just that way and we are simply victims of some nebulous fate. We can do a lot to change this very-hot-future-scenario. We can demand that our government support renewable energy and come up with a Climate Action Plan (like the one in Chicago) to create the kind of massive support for Climate Change measures that will actually work.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It’s not fashionable to link excessively hot days like today with Climate Change, but there you are.

 

It seems like just about everyone will be trying to find reasons why this particular heat wave isn’t a part of Climate Change.

Deadly Heat Wave Moves Toward Northeast - NYTimes.com A blistering, eastern-moving band of heat hovering over the Plains and southern United States has killed two dozen people this week, and forecasters expect it to scorch the Northeast in the coming days, pushing temperatures toward 100 degrees on Friday. The wave of heat transformed a large swath of the nation’s midsection into a sauna, with at least 17 states reaching the 100-degree mark on Tuesday, and many more experiencing temperatures into the 90’s — a result of high pressures compressing and cooking the air. States from Texas to Montana and the Dakotas had widespread heat warnings or advisories in place by Wednesday evening, affecting over 140 million Americans. And so far, at least 22 deaths across the nation have been attributed to the heat wave, the National Weather Service reported.  (July 21, 2011) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

As a matter of fact, not only won’t you see a link in the local media, the media will go out of their way to suggest that this heat wave is not connected to climate change at all:

“Before you complain about the heat, consider this. This is what the Rochester area looked like in January. The National Weather Service reports this past winter was the coldest and snowiest winter overall across the region in eight years.” Excessive Heat Warning: Where to Go to Stay Cool - YNN, Your News Now   It's hot out there and it's only expected to get hotter. The National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning for Rochester and the Finger Lakes for 12 p.m. through 7 p.m. Temperatures are expected to rise into the 90s but it will feel like more than 100 degrees with a rise in the humidity. (July 21, 2011)  Rochester - YNN, Your News Now

This is all very curious because major studies like these say it’s getting warmer and more days of extreme weather, both hot and cold (but mostly hot), are in our future.:

  • Regional Climate Impacts: Northeast "Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2°F, with winter temperatures rising twice this much.150 Warming has resulted in many other climate-related changes, including: "--from Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009)
  • USFWS - Conservation in a Changing Climate "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service climate change strategy, titled “Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change,” establishes a basic framework within which the Service will work as part of the larger conservation community to help ensure the sustainability of fish, wildlife, plants and habitats in the face of accelerating climate change. The plan is implemented through a dynamic action plan that details specific steps the Service will take during the next five years to implement the Strategic Plan. " Rising to the Urgent Challenge Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change
  • State of the Birds 2011 Report — Public Lands and Waters "This year’s report provides the nation’s first assessment of the distribution of birds on public lands and helps public agencies identify which species have significant potential for conservation in each habitat. The state of our birds is a measurable indicator of how well we are doing as stewards of our environment. The signal is clear. Greater conservation efforts on public lands and waters are needed to realize the vision of a nation sustained economically and spiritually by abundant natural resources and spectacular wildlife. "

We got to ask ourselves, how hot and for how long will it take for the public to get it. To get it you have to realize that just more extremely hot days are a part of the evidence. To see what the Like Changes are for Climate Change in our region, go here: “Likely Changes.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

As if Climate Change won’t wreak enough havoc on the Great Lakes, Asian Carp compounds all the problems

 

Climate Change has and is going to profoundly affect our Great Lakes, in whose ecology Rochester, NY resides. Everything will be affected: plants, wildlife, fish, invasive species, water levels, storm intensity--you name it. Read this one study just to get a flavor of what’s been happening and what’s coming.

Great Lakes National Parks in Peril The Threats of Climate Disruption At stake are the resources and values that make our national parks the special places that Americans love. Principal Authors Stephen Saunders Dan Findlay Tom Easley The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization Contributing Author Theo Spencer Natural Resources Defense Council July 2011

So, take Climate Change disruptions and the Asian Carp and we’ve got some major issues to attend to. Check out this comprehensive series in the Detroit Free Press to get your head around the Asian Carp issues in the Great Lakes.

The truth about Asian carp | Detroit Free Press | freep.com "About the series Free Press reporter Tina Lam and photographer Brian Kaufman spent months reporting this project, including traveling through seven states on a 2,600-mile journey to get a closer look at the impact of Asian carp. They interviewed more than 90 scientists, environmentalists, anglers, wildlife officials, commercial fishermen, boaters, fish farmers, processors and barge operators. " Detroit Free Press | Detroit news, sports, community, entertainment, and classifieds. Serving Detroit, Michigan | freep.com

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Electric demand controllable for now, but in the Climate Change future maybe not so much

 

This commonplace story today about the present heat wave and the assurance by our electric providers that they will be able to meet demand is something that should be on our radar.

“With the mercury heading for the upper 90s later this week, Rochester Gas and Electric said Monday it anticipates no problems meeting demand for electricity. Usage typically soars on hot days when air conditioners work hard to keep things cool. The all-time record electricity demand by RG&E customers was set on Aug. 1, 2006, when temperatures in Rochester hit 94 degrees.” (July 19, 2011) Heat brings higher electricity demand | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com

Because temperatures are already going up in the Northeast, there will be more days of extreme heat and they will put a considerable load our electric demand. Check this out:

Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2°F, with winter temperatures rising twice this much. Warming has resulted in many other climate-related changes, including: More frequent days with temperatures above 90°F; a longer growing season; Increased heavy precipitation; Less winter precipitation falling as snow and more as rain; Reduced snowpack; Earlier breakup of winter ice on lakes and rivers; Earlier spring snowmelt resulting in earlier peak river flows; Rising sea surface temperatures and sea level"--from Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009)

That ‘frequent days with temperature above 90°F’ should catch your eye because this is going to be our future here in the Rochester region. Even if we stop all Carbon Dioxide emissions right now. It’s the penalty we have to endure because we didn’t act on this issue decades ago.

And this is all significant because everyone turning on their air conditioners at the same peak time puts a tremendous load on our electrical grid and this will be the new normal in Rochester’s climate. The solution won’t be to pour on more coal or gas because those are fossil fuels and they will warm up our summers even more. When you are stuck in a hole, don’t keep digging.

The answer is to increase renewable energy, storage capacity in our batteries, smart grid technology, energy efficiency, and decrease demand.

Another tact we should be taking at this moment, a teaching moment, is to remind the public of the increase in extreme heat when mentioning heat demand in the news. The public needs to be continually reminded that the present heat wave can be dealt with, but those future heat waves--maybe not so much.

This is important because if the media does not connect the dots between handing the electric demand and Climate Change the public will continue to believe that everything is normal, that Climate Change doesn’t affect their lives, and so they can go vote for Climate Change deniers, buy any fossil fuel intensive vehicle they want, and just forget about Climate Change altogether. This is mostly what is happening now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hydrofracking in NYS through the lens of Climate Change

 

Although our governments, politicians, business community, and even our environmentalists do not (or will not) connect the dots of hydrofracking with Climate Change they cannot be isolated from each other. Natural gas, however extracted, is a greenhouse gas (GHG) when burned and it must be addressed as such.

Because of the scale of our energy issues, the scale of the gas to be extracted (some have referred to the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale boon as comparable to two Saudi Arabia’s worth of fossil fuels) and the scale of our Climate Change crisis, now is the time for the media and our government officials to connect natural gas with greenhouse gas emissions. The gravity of our accelerated Climate Change crisis, where there will be many likely changes to our region’s environment, compels us to view all environmental issues through the lens of Climate Change. This isn’t my expression; this is the language of the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

“As a Service, we are committed to examining everything we do, every decision we make, and every dollar we spend through the lens of climate change, fully confident in our workforce to rise to this challenge and to lead from in front and from behind.” page 5, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Rising to the Urgent Challenge, Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change

Addressing Climate Change must be our primary objective from now on, not just when it’s convenient. Not just when a few organizations get together and decide to install florescent light bulbs. Climate Change needs to be addressed when a major boon for extracting and then burning more fossil fuels is on the table. This is the time to stand up and connect the dots. Until that is done, the public cannot truly believe their government or environmentalists are serious about Climate Change.

Granted, this is going to be hard to do as New York leaps towards something akin to the heady days of the Texas oil rush. Everyone with gas under their land can be a zillionaire—just like the Beverly Hillbillies. So, all sorts of benefits are dangled before the eyes of New Yorkers: more jobs in a bad economy; farming isn’t paying like it used to so leasing your land to drilling can help compensate; New York State has very tough drilling regulations and we’ve learned from other states’ issues with hydrofracking; and the clincher, hydrofracking in NYS will make us energy independent so we won’t have to go to war over oil anymore. Hydrofracking is being presented in the media as a panacea that will resolve all our energy problems—except water issues.

The downsides of hydrofracking presented in mainstream media are mostly water issues: it might contaminate our water supplies; it draws a considerable amount of water from our lakes and streams, and more including our drinking water might catch on fire. But, nowhere is it mentioned that hydrofracking and burning more natural gas will exacerbate Climate Change. It’s just not talked about—even though it is impossible to refute.

What if we connected the dots and admitted that this rage for natural gas will warm the planet further? It would look like this: We would drop hydrofracking altogether. We would strip away subsides that we give to the oil industry (in the billions) and give these incentives to wind, solar and geothermal power. Along with battery storage improvements, smart grid technology, energy efficiency, and conservation, we could do without the havoc that is going to be caused by hydrofracking. And, there’d be jobs galore. And we might just cool down the planet.

The study that the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) just released on hydrofracking does mention the mitigation of greenhouse gases. But it only addresses escaping GHG during the drilling process. It doesn’t talk about natural gas being a GHG—even though the NYSDEC OFFICE OF CLIMATE CHANGE helped write the report: Preliminary Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (July 2011) - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

The truth is that we are not serious about the Climate Change crisis. The press won’t include Climate Change in their daily reporting. The government won’t include Climate Change in their drilling regulations. Environmentalists won’t use Climate Change when talking about hydrofracking. The public won’t talk about Climate Change at all—unless it’s something vague and fortuitous. Through the lens of Climate Change hydrofracking is a continuance of an energy option that will ensure a further acceleration of atmospheric warming. There’s nothing in our collective present activities to suggest that we are able to move on the scale needed to actually reverse the human release of GHG. This present hydrofracking issue in NYS is a clear example of how we go about avoiding our generation’s responsibility.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Climate Change and turtle extinctions

 

Over 40% of any species loss, let alone the humble turtle, could be traumatic for our environment as we don’t know exactly what part each species plays entirely. Our grand experiment of human development has put an enormous strain on our environment long before we actually knew how something as vast and complex as our environment works. For example, if the turtle is lost to us, who can say, as this effect radiates through our environment, what affect this will ultimately have?

2011 Designated YEAR OF THE TURTLE! Year of the Turtle “Turtles are disappearing from the planet faster than any other group of animal. Today, nearly 50% of turtle species are identified as threatened with extinction. However, it's not too late for our turtle heritage to be salvaged. The United States has more endemic turtle species than anywhere on Earth; a turtle biodiversity hotspot. Our careful stewardship can preserve the rare species and keep 'common species common.'”

One of the reasons for the turtle’s decline—besides habitat loss and degradation, overharvest of wild turtles for food, traditional medicines, and pets; mortality from roads, agricultural machinery, fishing bycatch, and predators; invasive exotic species and diseases; and loss of unique genetic makeup due to hybridization—is Climate Change.

Though we don’t know everything about every role of every species on this planet, we can be reasonably assured that tough as it is to live with humans, who want the entire environment, Climate Change which is now caused by humans will make their lives tougher. Whether you personally care about turtles or not, it should ring a note of alarm that almost every aspect of our environment now has to include Climate Change.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New report on Climate Change for our region, now more please

 

Annoying as these kind of reports are going to be to some, we are going to see more and more studies on how Climate Change is going to affect our region. It’s not because the progressives are getting perverse, it’s because governments and authorities have to map out strategies to deal with a changing environment—a warmer Northeast. This most recent report predicts for several Great Lakes national parks: higher temperatures; less winter ice; erosion of shorelines and dunes; loss of wildlife; and loss of birds.

These issues, of course, must be added to the usual environmental degradation going on—invasive species, pollution, and more. In these extraordinary times all our environmental issues will have to be addressed through the lens of Climate Change.

The reaction to this study by the public and the media will be the usual reaction—they will ignore it. But this study and more should be conducted on all aspects of our local environment. Warming up our atmosphere, even just a little, will wreak havoc and we must know what kind of havoc—and we must stop it. We need more studies like this:

RMCO - Great Lakes National Parks in Peril -caused climate disruption is already damaging national parks in the Great Lakes region, according to a new report by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The report focuses on the five largest Parks on the Great Lakes, which attract a combined four million visitors annually: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (NL) in Indiana; Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, Pictured Rocks NL, and Isle Royale National Park (NP) in Michigan; and Apostle Islands NL in Wisconsin. (July 13, 2011) Rocky Mountain Climate Organization

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Looming Budget talks suddenly dominated by Climate Change, jobs, pension security for the elderly, and health care

 

Today the president and all the political parties agreed that the looming budget crisis on August 2nd will now focus on assuring the American public that our government will follow the guideless in its “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” . This will help us immediately adapt to Climate Change and provide millions of jobs through renewable energy efforts. Then, both the US Senate and the House of Representatives took time out to review Senator Sanders talks on the budget crisis and realized how many American would be hurt if they continued to use the American people as a scapegoat for the wars we have waged, the tax breaks for the rich we keep giving, and the ideologies that don’t include the physics of Climate Change. This change of heart was difficult but all political sides decided to put the health of our environment and our public before political bickering. And, in cooperation with our political leaders our mainstream media followed suit by promising to report news, stop using their income to acquire more news outlets, and pay investigative reporters for real news.

Of course this story above is complete nonsense.

In the real world, it is not the best of all possible worlds. It is the worst, where those who don’t start wars pay for them, where those who save for retirement have to give them away to those who cause the crisis, where millions who need medical care have to give that up, and where the planet warms up and we are completely incapable of addressing it.

It all goes on while mainstream media reports on everything else—because they care about profits and not informing the American public of what they need to know.

How did such a smart species as our come to create such a mean, doomed existence that only favors the few?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gore trying to ‘re-energize his base’ with new Climate Change site

 

More often than not now, with our dysfunctional media that has turned news into mere pawns on the myriad of chess boards of ideology, you just gotta laugh.

When trying to find more information on Al Gore’s new Climate Change site, Climate Reality, on Google I came across the phrase ‘re-energize his base.’ Al Gore is not, I presume, not running for political office at the moment, so ‘his base’ must be who?

Would ‘his base’ be Democrats, the US population, or just everyone who is not a Climate Change denier? Would Al Gore’s base that he is trying to influence be those who believe in physics, where say, gravity rules?

Of course, I’m trying to be a little humorous myself here. We know what Gore trying to ‘re-energize his base’ actually means. It means that Al Gore is pushing straight at those who would have our planet warm up rather than switch from burning fossil fuels. So the best strategy to combat that is dismissive lunacy—the phantasmagoric association with Gore having been a politician and who might run again and if he does that he’s going to be more anti-fossil burning than Obama. It’s the kind of hazy mix of fear, outrage, conspiracy theories, and silliness that rules the news these days. Hey, it’s works with ‘the base’.

And this is the point. We dispense with little actual news in these days of media upheaval, where every media outlet is trying to rule how the major get their news—ad hoc, cherry-picked, and finely spun to one’s ‘base.’ The base is the Holy Grail, the major of folks who already believe in your ideology, folks you cannot let go no matter what—even if it means dismissing physics and everything else you were ever taught in school.

We are frogs boiling away happily in our cauldrons of claptrap and ignorance. And that ‘we’ is the public, the public everywhere. As we hold on to the illusion that our political ideology not physics, we are going to heat up as certain as greenhouse gases trap heat. Look, Climate Change is not going away; it’s getting worse:

Economists find flaws in federal estimate of climate damage — The Daily Climate A new report concludes that each ton of carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere inflicts as much as $900 in environmental harm - almost 45 times the amount the federal government uses when setting regulations. The gap, advocates say, disguises the true value of emissions reductions. Uncle Sam's estimate of the damage caused by each ton of carbon dioxide is fundamentally flawed and "grossly understates" the potential impacts of climate change, according to an analysis released Tuesday by a group of economists. The government's figures "could lead to a degree of inaction on climate change that frankly is not supported by either the economics or the science at this point." - Kristen Sheeran, E3 Network The study found the true cost of those emissions to be far beyond the $21 per ton derived by the federal government.  (July 13, 2011) The Daily Climate

S, what are we going to do? Ignore the heat, thinking things have always been this way like a bunch of boiling frogs, or look around and see what is going on? Many are searching desperately to reach the public who is already inundated with crisis after crisis and doesn’t want to hear about something they have heard is far off into the future. (It isn’t; it’s happening now.) There are many ways one get the public to pay attention to the most important issue of our age. One way is this:

“What is The Climate Reality Project? Climate change is not your fault for the car you drive, the lights you turn on, or the food you eat. The climate crisis is our problem. Real solutions, systemic solutions, innovative solutions, can only come when we address it together. That’s what The Climate Reality Project will do. Without doubt. Without delay. And with your help. The Climate Reality Project is bringing the facts about the climate crisis into the mainstream and engaging the public in conversation about how to solve it. We help citizens around the world reject the lies and take meaningful steps to bring about change. Founded and chaired by Al Gore, Nobel Laureate and former Vice President of the United States, The Climate Reality Project has more than 5 million members and supporters worldwide. It is guided by one simple truth: The climate crisis is real and we know how to solve it.” Climate Reality

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

As bicycles as transportation increases in Rochester, NY accelerated Climate Change could go down

 

There are bicycle enthusiasts who crave for a bicycle infrastructure in our region so they can bike more. We are hearing about developments in that area:

“The city wants to make it easier for people like Lyons to hop on a bike rather than in a car. It has begun implementing its Bicycle Master Plan, as much a mindset as it is a blueprint for creating a bicycle-friendly community. This year several City of Rochester streets will be stripped and signed to designate bike lanes. Also, the use of the cycling road sharing symbol, sharrow, will begin to appear.” (June 23, 2011) Riding into the future: Bicycle master plans encourage two-wheeled travel around Rochester | Democrat and Chronicle

But monies being devoted to bicycles as transportation are not only happening in Rochester, federal dollars are turning up for projects around the country.

Nancy Folbre: The Bicycle Dividend - NYTimes.com More Americans are biking or walking to work these days, in part because public-sector investment is improving the infrastructure they need to get there safely. Further public investments in bike paths and bike lanes are likely to offer a big social payoff. Federal spending on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure has more than doubled since 2006 but amounted to less than $4 a person in 2010. (July 4, 2011)  The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

All this makes sense because increasing bicycle use is cheaper than many of the other transportation alternatives in any one community. And, though played down by many bicycle enthusiasts, a vast increase in bicycle usage can also profoundly affect the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In many articles this aspect of the increase in bicycles as transportation is mentioned and some it is not.

As using bicycles to complete a communities Climate Change action plan is going to be commonplace, we hope to see this connection between bicycle use and Climate Change being used more often by the media. As bicycles as transportation increases in Rochester, NY accelerated Climate Change could go down if the media began connecting the dots between the two.

Monday, July 11, 2011

There are no Climate Change deniers working to save the foxes

 

When it’s your job and responsibilities to save wildlife you don’t have the luxury of false reality modeling. You have to know the lay of the land and have a good idea of the road ahead in order to save wildlife species already in danger of extinction. Climate Change will tax wildlife already threatened by human development, invasive species, pollution, and more. The agency committed to saving our wildlife--U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service--frames their attitude towards Climate Change in the way many other agencies who job it is to secure our environment while the planet’s atmosphere heat up—in no uncertain terms:

“There is no longer any doubt that the Earth’s climate is changing at an accelerating rate and that the changes are largely the result of human-generated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere caused by increasing human development and population growth. Climate change has manifested itself in rising sea levels, melting sea ice and glaciers, changing precipitation patterns, growing frequency and severity of storms, and increasing ocean acidification.” U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Rising to the Urgent Challenge Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change

It’s going to get complicated trying to keep our wildlife going in the midst of Climate Change while doing all that the US Fish and Wildlife Service already does. Without the public on the same page on Climate Change it may well be impossible.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Climate Change will change our Rochester, NY’s public health:

 

One of the most dramatic effects of Climate Change will be the increase in high ozone days, which Monroe County has already been sited: “Monroe County gets an “F” for high ozone days in this report: Monroe: State of the Air 2011 - American Lung Association

Not only will the young and old and those with compromised health have problems with ozone pollution, but healthy athletes who exercise hard outside will be in danger.  There’s not toughing out something the burns the inside of your lungs when you exercise harder. 

Find out about why you should pay attention to Climate Change in our area (which will have many “Likely Changes”) and how it will affect our Environmental Health

Report: Climate Change Could Worsen Ozone Pollution, Threatening Our Health and Economy | Union of Concerned Scientists Report demonstrates how climate change could increase "bad" ozone, threatening health and economy | Ozone pollution is bad for your health. Millions of Americans suffer from the harmful effects of ground-level ozone pollution—be they children too sick to go to school, high school football players not allowed to practice outdoors in the summer, 65-year-olds with lung disease unable to take a walk in the park, or farmers at risk when they harvest their fields. Ground-level ozone pollution exacerbates lung diseases such as asthma and can cause breathing difficulties even in healthy individuals  (July 7, 2011) UCS: Independent Science, Practical Solutions | Union of Concerned Scientists

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The dismal state of renewable energy in NYS.

 

Wind Power, renewable power, in the news in our region get little play in mainstream media nowadays.  Because of innumerable distractions, wind power, that renewable power source that could help mitigate Climate Change in our region, gets almost no attention in local mainstream media.  Hydrofracting, which at the end of the day still means more greenhouse gases burned and spewed into the air, gets most of the headlines.  

Folks aren’t paying attention to how Climate Change is happening in our region and what it will mean for future generations so mostly the ‘evils’ of wind power hit the news, when they appear at all. 

How to frack safely dominates the news, when no one mentions that a major thrust towards wind power could alleviate all the problems with drilling for natural gas—we could just drop it altogether.   But there’s too much money to be spent on drilling and burning fossil fuels and the media refuses to connect the dots between how we use energy and Climate Change, so like a bunch of boiling frogs we ignore the real problem and go on heating ourselves and everything else up. 

For a source of articles on wind in our area, at least this news service is keeping an archive.  Maybe, when we do start paying attention to renewable energy in our region, we’ll have a record of where our attention was on this issue. Northern New York Wind Power -from the Watertown Daily Times

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Needed: Rochester, NY climate action plan site

 

If you search awhile you can find the City of Rochester’s Climate Action Plan buried on this page: City of Rochester | City Adopts “Green” Resolution. But it’s not the full-fledged web site devoted exclusively to our city’s plan for adapting to Climate Change like they have for Chicago:

City of Chicago Climate Action “From the start, the charge and scope of the Chicago Climate Task Force was broad and ambitious. Dozens of experts and a nationally recognized research advisor committee took part in discussions. Leading scientists were consulted to describe various scenarios for Chicago’s climate future and how these would impact life in the city.”

Each community in the US and around the world is going to have to produce a Climate Action Plan because Climate Change is coming and each community is going to be affected. Despite the budgetary problems facing all our cities, no time should be lost in producing a full assessment of the particular issues that each community is going to face because of Climate Change and recommendations for their residents and businesses from each city on how to adapt.

It’s not something that can be pushed off to the future of better economic times might occur. Climate Change is going to affect transportation, public health, energy, and a whole lot more. Citizens are going to need advice from sources that they trust on how to prepare for the changes and how they can mitigate (or stop) their community from further contributions to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

There is no shortage of Climate Change information for our region. What needs to be done is to develop a site that brings together the latest scientific and governmental information as soon as possible. The city needs to come up with highly visible recommendations and plans for our region to address Climate Change that will give Rochesterians a sense that we are serious about this threat (check the “Likely Changes” coming to our area) and we are prepared.

Of course Rochester’s Climate Action Plan should be tailored to our region, as we have many specific issues that the confluence of our waterways, our transportation, and other factors that make us unique. But we should also have a resource, a web site that has made it easy to coordinate our efforts with other communities addressing similar problems. Something as large and looming as Climate Change needs solutions that are in concert, not in conflict, with each other so as to make the quick and massive changes needed.

It would be smart to get those plans complete and posted to the Internet as soon as possible for the public to view. Grant writers would have a resource for securing environmental grants for our area. Residents would gain information on how best to heat their homes and find programs to help them. There is no end of the advantage of getting out ahead of this massive problem, instead of waiting until Climate Change has us continually playing catch-up and maybe not even being able to catch up with it.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Fourth of July environmental thoughts

 

Just because it’s the Fourth of July, and the news media and government are asleep at the moment, I have a couple of environmental thoughts that stray a little from the usual hydrofracking and other local environmental issues.

The Fourth of July reminds me of our two great forefathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both friends and bitter enemies who patched their long-time and friendship and animosity with a dialogue through letters until they both died on the same Fourth of July--1826. Both Jefferson and Adams had wildly different ideas of what the new nation should look like—Adams leaning towards a structure that looked something like the old European model and Jefferson who thought the United States should be something totally new in governance. They were presidents during a time of a great upheaval in human thought on what a community of people should look like.

Adams thought the United States, despite the great war with Britain, needed the powerful guidance of a fatherly government and Jefferson thought we should put our trust in our fellow man and let the inner goodness of mankind prevail. I suppose neither won nor lost that argument.

We still cannot decide on how much power the government should have and how much should be left to the people. Especially on matters involving our environment.

My thoughts are that with our present political climate we are straying far from the idea of what our forefather’s wanted on this Fourth of July 2011. Our budgetary problems have blinded us from taking care of our environment. All kinds of public monies are being drained from protecting our environment because that’s what we do: when the money gets tight the environment is the first to lose funds.

Also, looming is a very contentious political campaign that is going to focus on everything little political squabble—except what to do about Climate Change. The media will not press the GOP on their position on the greatest threat to our existence ever, and the GOP has decided their best move to win power is to ignore it altogether. Given what we know about the state of our environment, this is insane behavior by such an intelligent and resourceful nation.

If Jefferson was right about his profound faith in the public, then we might see the public ‘get it’ on Climate Change and demand that our media press our leaders on adapting and mitigating Climate Change. If Adams was right, someone in power is going to have to take charge, get on the bully-pulpit, and encourage the public to back him or her in recognizing what we are facing.

But, it’s not 1826; it’s 2011. Since 1826 the concentration of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, has gone from 280 parts per million to our present 395 parts per million. It’s getting hot. The planet is a far different place than it used to be when Adams and Jefferson walked upon it. And time is running out to find a kind of government that is able to discern and tackle the environmental problems that threaten our future.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Is Rochester, NY a ‘potential resource’ for hydrofracking and if so why has no news service mentioned this?

 
RochesterUticaShale
When you search online for “Utica Shale” images, you get the picture: Rochester, NY lies entirely inside the Utica Shale.  Much if not all the news on hydrofracking drilling in New York State has dealt with the Marcellus Shale formation, which has its northern boundary very close to Monroe County's southern edge.  The Marcellus Shale is shallower than the Utica Shale, which is why gas companies will drill there first.  But, the Utica Shale is on the drilling block. 

Concern about hydrofracking in the Rochester area, as I understand, has been about the possible contamination by hydrofracking fluids in water sources near Rochester because of their proximity to the Marcellus Shale.  Meaning, it could be in the realm of possibility that that via natural fissures hydrofracking fluids near both Hemlock Lake (where Rochester gets some of its drinking water) and the Genesee River (where a few get their drinking water) could make their way into our region’s water sources.  

But, have Rochesterians got it right?  Have we been lulled by the prospect that hydrofracking would not be in our backyard—that we were concerned solely about our neighbors and potential water issues in our area, but not right under our feet? One has to wonder because of the language in the  just-released report (July 1, 2011) by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC): “Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program:  Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling And High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs”

On page three, you come to this:

“In New York, the primary target for shale gas development is the Marcellus Shale, with the deeper Utica Shale also identified as a potential resource. Additional low-permeability reservoirs may be considered by project sponsors for development by HVHF. The Department has received applications for permits to drill horizontal wells to evaluate and develop the Marcellus Shale for natural gas production by HVHF.”  (Emphasis added)

So is Rochester, NY a ‘potential resource’ for hydrofracking, and if so, why has no news service mentioned this?  If hydrofracking is being mapped out for the Utica Shale (as implied by the DEC’s mining regulatory program document), why isn’t a region as important as the Rochester, NY area mentioned?  

At the very least, it would seem a minimal courtesy serving Rochester’s public interest if the DEC and our local news services would spell out exactly what potential there might be for hydrofracking in our region.  It’s very strange to include the Utica Shale in the report and not mention one of the largest communities in it.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Natural gas drilling moves forward in NYS despite dangers of Climate Change

 

Despite a myriad of caveats, warnings, exclusions, and concerns New York State is getting ready to hydrofrack for natural gas. It’s how things are done today—and yesterday. Land with natural gas is natural resource, a negative externality as the economists tell us, something to be exploited because people want it and so you find a way to do it.

New Recommendations Issued in Hydraulic Fracturing Review - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation "New Recommendations Issued in Hydraulic Fracturing Review In Reversal of 2009 Report, High-Volume Fracturing Would be Prohibited in NYC and Syracuse Watersheds Drilling Banned Within All Primary Aquifers and on State-Owned Land Including State Forest and Wildlife Management Areas Drilling Permitted on Other Private Land with Rigorous and Effective Protections Advisory Panel on Implementation to Be Appointed The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tomorrow will release its revised recommendations on mitigating the environmental impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (high-volume fracturing). The recommendations contain these major revisions: High-volume fracturing would be prohibited in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, including a buffer zone; Drilling would be prohibited within primary aquifers and within 500 feet of their boundaries; Surface drilling would be prohibited on state-owned land including parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas; High-volume fracturing will be permitted on privately held lands under rigorous and effective controls; and DEC will issue regulations to codify these recommendations into state law. These recommendations, if adopted in final form, would protect the state's environmentally sensitive areas while realizing the economic development and energy benefits of the state's natural gas resources. Approximately 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale would be accessible to natural gas extraction under these recommendations. " (June 30, 2011) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) acknowledges that they will take all kinds of precautions to protect our water, our air, private and public property and even make sure that there’s “additional well casing to prevent gas migration.”

Gas migration is not like caribou migration where you can get in a plane and look down on thousands upon thousands of ungulates on a meandering mass migration across the Alaskan tundra. No, gas migration is the invisible gas leaks that might ‘migrate’ though the endless invisible, natural fissures that are part and parcel of shale deposits. These little cracks run along the share and they can possibility lead to wells, lakes, and streams. (See Marcellus Formation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) So, good luck with that.

But the real issue about drilling for natural gas in New York, is that instead of hyper-encouraging renewable energy—wind, and solar—we still, like mental contortionists, bend around every concern for environmental safety so we can burn more fossil fuels for energy and heat even though we know that we are continuing to contribute greatly to carbon dioxide build up in the atmosphere that is warming the place up.

If you are getting tired of reading, here are a few videos that neatly explain Climate Change and why, despite all the Climate Change deniers who are still typing furious away on their passion for irrational outrage, our public officials, in part of a major report called “America’s Climate Choices,” are going to go ahead and help us adapt to Climate Change anyway:

Five-video Series on America's Climate Choices Now Available “In conjunction with the releases of the four America's Climate Choices panel reports and the final summary report, the Division on Earth and Life Studies and the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate created five videos, one on the initial study process and one on each panel report. All five feature members of the committees that authored the reports discussing their findings and the research process that led to them. These videos are all available on the National Academies' YouTube channel”

In today’s world, where you gotta do what you gotta do, some gotta continue to drill for fossil fuels and some gotta try to adapt and mitigate Climate Change. The DEC report also says that in protecting the air, they will address the greenhouse gas impact: “Requires use of existing pipelines, when available rather than flaring gas.” Flaring gas. Flaring gas is not the problem. The problem is the millions of households that will continue to the natural gas to heat their homes with this fossil fuel and that issue is not even mentioned in the report.

For those who think that this is an extreme view, reminding everyone that natural gas is a fossil fuel and that burning it as an energy source that heats the planet, they should remember that our government is preparing for climate change in a major way:

Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) “This web page will introduce and lead you through the content of the most comprehensive and authoritative report of its kind. The report summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. It focuses on climate change impacts in different regions of the U.S. and on various aspects of society and the economy such as energy, water, agriculture, and health. It’s also a report written in plain language, with the goal of better informing public and private decision making at all levels.”

So, here’s my point: You got one branch of your government bending over backwards to provide fossil fuel for us to burn, why other branches of government are preparing and trying to prevent Climate Change from getting far worse. Climate Change isn’t a game where a ball gets batted, bounced, or kicked from one barrier to another. It’s physics: If you continue to put more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, the ball goes one way—towards serious, worst case scenario Climate Change.