One of the nation's largest coal producers [Alpha Natural Resources] will pay a $27.5 million fine and is set to spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into waterways across five Appalachian states.
The government says the company and its subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times between 2006 and 2013.
The government says they discharged heavy metals harmful to fish and other wildlife directly into rivers and streams.
OK, so I think it's obvious that Alpha Natural Resources - headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia - is a horrible company. It's also a highly lucrative one, with plenty of money to throw at Virginia politicians in order to buy our legislature. How much money are we talking about? According to VPAP, Alpha has given a whopping $2,522,084 to Virginia politicians since 2003, of which 74% went to Republicans and 20% to Democrats. Among Alpha's favorite Virginia politicians are some of the "worst of the worst" when it comes to the environment and clean energy -- Ken Cuccinelli ($102,500), Jerry and Terry Kilgore (nearly $280,000 combined), Bill Howell ($55,000), etc. On the Democratic side, top recipients of Alpha's dirty money include Phil Puckett ($87,500), Dick Saslaw ($53,500), and the Terry McAuliffe Inaugural Committee ($25,000). I urge everyone to donate Alpha's money to Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards or similar groups fighting to protect the environment from corrupt polluters like Alpha.
This morning, Vice Chair of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club Ivy Main wrote scathingly about a just-passed bill "that will cost Dominion Power's customers more than half a billion dollars as a down payment on a nuclear plant that hasn't been approved and isn't likely to be built."
As Main notes in her article, "environmental groups and good-government advocates have long decried the influence of corporate money in Virginia politics," including a "rising tide of utility and coal company contributions to Virginia politicians, coinciding with a series of votes enriching these special interests." Dominion Virginia Power is, by almost any standard, at the head of this tawdry list, having spent over $6 million since 2004 to essentially purchase Virginia's political system for the benefit of...well, not you and me, that's for sure.
The result, as Main points out, "has been spectacularly successful for Dominion, which rarely fails to get its way" on anything it wants. That includes this latest monstrosity of a bill, which "lets the company charge ratepayers for expenses it isn't entitled to pass along under current law," with ratepayers (that's you and me) getting "the satisfaction of assuming the sunk costs of a new nuclear reactor that will probably never be built, plus whatever more money the utility spends on it going forward." Great deal, huh?
Making matters even worse, if that's possible, is that this corporate welfare is going towards a really bad company (dirty energy Dominion) and a power source - nuclear - which is extremely expensive, thus can't compete economically and must rely on enormous government subsidies. Which is why there hasn't been ground broken on a new nuclear power plant in the U.S. since 1974. That's right, 40 years ago, when disco was all the rage, Gerald Ford was taking over from Tricky Dicky, the Soviet Union was still going strong, and the Vietnam War was winding down. This power source is just outrageously expensive, not even close to competitive at this point with other alternatives - including solar, wind, energy efficiency, you name it pretty much.
I've written about this subject extensively over the years (and worked for 17+ years at the U.S. Energy Information Administration as an energy economist), but it bears repeating: nuclear power is at the bottom of the energy heap in terms of cost-effective energy solutions (it trails energy efficiency, wind, solar, geothermal, natural gas...pretty much everything.
So, why on earth did a bunch of Democrats - including strong progressives and environmentalists - vote for this corporate welfare bill to help subsidize Dominion's costly nuclear boondoggle? I asked around, and got a few responses.
(For an explanation regarding why subsidizing nuclear power is such a dumb idea, see here. For an explanation of why we should be focusing on energy efficiency instead, see here. - promoted by lowkell)
The Virginia General Assembly has punted on ethics reform, preparing to pass watered-down legislation that does very nearly nothing. At the same time, legislators are about to passjust passed a law that will cost Dominion Power's customers more than half a billion dollars as a down payment on a nuclear plant that hasn't been approved and isn't likely to be built.
These are not separate issues.
Virginia has had an ethics problem since long before Bob McDonnell met Jonnie Williams. As many people have noted, the real scandal is how hard it is to break our ethics laws. So long as you fill out a form disclosing the gift, it's legal for politicians to accept anything of value from anyone, to use for any purpose. By this standard, McDonnell's biggest failure was one of imagination.
The legislation that appears likely come out of the General Assembly merely puts a $250 cap on the price tag of any one gift, with no limit on the number of lesser gifts and no limit on the value of so-called "intangible" gifts like all-expense-paid vacations. The mocking of this bill has already begun.
Conveniently, the bill deals with a tiny side stream of tainted cash compared to the river of money flowing from corporations and ladled out by lobbyists. Corporations don't usually give out Rolexes and golf clubs. Instead, they give campaign contributions. Here again, Virginia law places no limits on the amount of money a politician can take from any donor. Five thousand or seventy-five thousand, as long as your campaign reports the gift, you can put it in your wallet.
And here's the interesting part: you don't have to spend the money on your campaign. If gerrymandering has delivered you a safe district, you can use your war chest to help out another member of your party-or you can buy groceries with it. The distinction between campaign money and personal money is merely rhetorical. A spokeswoman for the State Board of Elections was quoted in the Washington Post saying, "If they wanted to use the money to send their kids to college, they could probably do that."
President Obama talks a lot about standing up to the industrial carbon polluters disrupting our climate. So why does he act like the decision on Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - a carbon bomb & one he doesn't have to beg Congress to defuse - is so hard? Why are he and Secretary of State John Kerry standing by in silence as his State Department hires oil contractors to write the environmental review?
The administration's approach to the pipeline is a throwback to the time when endangered species were defenseless in the face of corporate moneymaking. It is a reminder that even though our environmental laws use science, not profits, as the basis of our environmental decisions, any company with bottomless pockets used to be able to game the system and get away with it.
That's why Keystone is about more than one pipeline. It is about establishing once and for all whether we have moved on from the disastrous Bush-Cheney view of environmental policy. [...]
Depending on the outcome, I worry that the American public won't just lose faith in Keystone. It will lose faith in the government's ability to fund, carry out, understand and implement scientifically based environmental policy. President Obama doesn't want that to be his legacy. Neither do I. And I am hardly alone.
As Media Matters explains: "Conservative media have been casting doubt on climate change because of a colder-than-average winter in the lower 48. But the global temperature in January was the fourth warmest on record, 1.17°F warmer than the 20th century average." Apparently, this is too difficult a concept for "conservatives" like Charles Krauthammer and George Will (aka, fossil fuel tools, "useful idiots") to understand. Of course, it's kind of hard to understand something when you are in bed with an industry that has a HUGE economic stake in making sure that people do NOT understand that very something. Amazing how that works, huh?
The following press release is from NextGen Climate Action, "a political advocacy organization founded by clean-energy advocate and philanthropist Tom Steyer to champion policies that will help to address climate change and promote clean energy, preserving American prosperity." Polling released today by NextGen Climate Action indicates a great degree of skepticism among the American people towards the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands export pipeline.
For instance, the polling finds that although 81% of Americans have heard the relentless disinformation campaign from fossil fuel interests that Keystone will provide "energy from a trusted ally," when actual facts are presented - that this oil is slated for export; that foreign oil companies are overwhelmingly in charge of how this pipeline is developed and where the oil will be sold; etc. - support drops precipitously.
And, when presented with the information that "[b]usinesses connected to the Chinese government have invested $30 billion...in the tar sands of Canada, which is where the oil for the Keystone XL Pipeline will originate," 84% of Americans say they are concerned about this fact either "a lot" or "a little," compared to just 15% who say "not at all."
By a huge 64%-11% margin, voters say that if they found out their Senator had been "successfully lobbied by a foreign-owned oil company," it would make them less likely to vote to re-elect that Senator.
Americans overwhelmingly (by an 80%-17% margin) want TransCanada to commit that their oil will stay in the United States before the U.S. government makes a final decision on whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
Americans are not at all pleased to hear that "Canadian officials knew long ago that the US State Department's report [on Keystone XL] would be favorable. In fact, they are SO displeased that they favor, by a 68%-24% margin, an "investigation into whether the US State Department had inappropriate communications with foreign interests."
Also on the State Department report, Americans believe (by a 60%-25% margin) that it should have "taken into account the fact that some Canadian oil executives say they must have the Keystone XL Pipeline in order to justify the cost of extracting oil from the tar sands."
Finally, after being told that "[d]uring the first year of its operation, one portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline had 33 separate oil spills," Americans become less likely to support Keystone XL, by an enormous 58%-9% margin.
Note that these results are not partisan, as Americans of all political persuasions (and from all parts of the country) are largely in sync on these questions. All of which raises the crucial question: who are U.S. political leaders listening to, exactly? Large majorities of U.S. voters or foreign oil interests? We certainly know who they should be listening to, especially given that Keystone can't possibly pass the President's - or anyone else's - climate test.
Environment Virginia launched a new online video campaign featuring interviews with Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran to encourage Virginians concerned about global warming to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act on climate.
Washington, DC –Environment Virginia launched a new online video campaign to encourage Virginians concerned about global warming to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act on climate. The video features exclusive interviews with U.S. Congressmen Gerry Connolly (VA-11) and Jim Moran (VA-8), who say they’re prioritizing tackling climate change and Virginia would benefit from implementing climate solutions, like cutting carbon pollution and investing in clean energy.
The video comes in the midst of the EPA’s public comment period for the proposed standard to limit the carbon pollution fueling global warming from new power plants. Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran explain why they support the EPA’s proposed new rule and ask citizens to make a supportive comment before the public comment period closes on March10.
“If we want a safer climate and future for our kids, we can’t keep letting dirty power plants pollute,” said Madison Poche of Environment Virginia. “This video is a call for thousands of Virginians to come together and say: No new dirty power plants.”
The only thing I'd add to the following brilliant essay, by Charles P. Pierce of Esquire, is that nobody - Bill Nye or anybody else - should be lending legitimacy to climate science deniers -- or evolution science deniers or 9/11 deniers or Holocaust deniers -- or any other ignorant/evil a**holes by "debating" them. Oh yeah, and I guess I'd also add that normal, sane people - let alone the President of the United States - shouldn't be giving right-wing nutjobs and trolls like Bill O'Reilly legitimacy either by agreeing to be "interviewed" (actually yelled at) by them. Why, why, why, why, why, a thousands times why, does anyone do this?!? (note: bolding added by me for emphasis)
This week, a Very Special Episode of How We're Fked As A Species.
Centuries from now, when the several remaining humans are huddled around a dwindling fire and pondering how each of them will kill the others and eat their still-warm flesh, the most boring among the remnant will pose the question, "Who is to blame for all of this?" Someone will mention the Koch Brothers. Someone else will bring up BP, and maybe our old friend, the Keystone XL pipeline will get a moan-out while the silent one in the corner sizes up the available rocks and studies the heads of his companions. If I'm not around, I hope at least one of them will summon up his last remaining breath and say, "The noodlebrained bag of useless flesh named David Gregory," before collapsing in a heap in the corner, whence he will awaken an hour later to find one of his companions sizing up his quadriceps for a light snack.
Yesterday, and I am not exaggerating a bit here, David Gregory and the Meet The Press gang presented the definitive argument not only for their mutual expulsion from the company of sentient primates, but also the single best example of why the entire elite political class of this country is one day going to be subject to a massive class-action negligence suit on the part of whatever rodents are left. Let us stipulate from the outset -- among the people who actually know what they're talking about, there is no debate about climate change. None. It is occurring. Humans are exacerbating it at an unacceptable rate and, if something isn't done, beachfront property in Indianapolis one day is going to be at a premium. Neither political party has shown itself overly willing to confront this reality, but only one of them mocks the science and slanders the scientists. Having largely ignored the primary environmental issue of the past millennium, the Dancin' Master decides to take the bull by the ass and stage a "debate" between Bill Nye, a mechanical engineer turned television science guy, and Marsha Blackburn, a congresswoman from Tennessee with a BS from Mississippi State. The rodents are going to have a helluva case, I'm thinking.
Yep, the rodents. And the cockroaches too, who will be one of the few varieties of fauna left after our fine species (exemplified by imbeciles like Marsha Blackburn - who, it should be noted, has received over $300,000 from the oil and gas industry - the egregious David Gregory, and the utterly inarticulate/airheaded Chuck Todd) finishes wiping out most of the species on Earth, quite possibly including our own. Heckuva job...
Meet The Press, NBC News' Sunday morning political talk show, is hosting a "debate on climate change" tomorrow featuring children's TV host Bill Nye and polluter-funded politician Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
Deniers like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) admit in unguarded moments that they only deny climate science because they hate the solutions. Will host David Gregory force Rep. Blackburn to talk about inconvenient truths and the need for tough medicine, or let her spin him into talking about how it's cold outside? How is it "serious" to talk about facing the deficit, but if you don't feel like talking about climate solutions, you're allowed to deny the problem exists?
Unfortunately, "Meet the Press" cannot deal with any issue without framing it as a binary debate between two opposing partisans, with the assumption being that "the truth" lies directly between their views. The fact that, in this debate, the entertainer represents the "side" of the overwhelming scientific consensus is less important to the producers of "Meet the Press" than the fact that one "side" is also the consensus of the Democratic Party, while the view of a small fringe in the scientific community is the official position of the Republican Party. The political debate apparently trumps any responsibility the program might feel to present to its viewers an accurate picture of the debate, or non-debate, over anthropogenic global warming among actual climate scientists.
I predict with absolute certainty that one of Gregory's questions to Nye will be some variation on "How can there be global warming if it just snowed a bunch?"
Next week's debate: Do cigarettes cause cancer? An oncologist debates a tobacco executive!
For those who wonder where the enforcement, if any, for environmental law is at this point, take heart. For those particularly aggrieved and deprived of clean water in Danville, VA, take heart too. And finally, for those of us in NC, West Virginia, PA and other sites of recent environmental degradation, here is some hope... It isn't huge, but it's a start.
RALEIGH, N.C. - Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into North Carolina's environmental agency following a massive coal ash spill on the Dan River.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh issued a grand jury subpoena demanding records from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. They include emails, memos and reports from 2010 through the Feb. 2 spill.
The Blue Virginia front page provides an excellent call by Andy Schmookler for liberals to come alive in 2014 and presumably to gain seats in the US House and hold onto the US Senate. His message could not be more important or timely. Congressional elections aren't far away. Virginia gained the top three executive positions and the Virginia Senate, but there is so much more to do. As if you need any reminder, your neighbor to the south provides a cautionary tale to never, ever give up. What's at stake is not only everything we hold dear, but also our ability to even live in our country or on this planet. The stranglehold by the corporate elite on environmental protection is that gripping. The Koch-Peter Peterson-Art Pope anti-environmental (indeed, anti-human) wrecking crew has succeeded at dismantling environmental protection in state after state. And the evidence is stunning. In the course of less than two weeks North Carolina shows what happens when you West Virginia a once progressive state.
Hey look, another Republican who wants more big government regulation to protect polluting special interests! Kristi Swartz of E&E News reports this time it's an anti-wind state senator in Alabama:
Industry and federal government officials say advances in turbine technology could transform wind development in the Southeast, adding another renewable fuel option to an area once dominated by coal. But as outside developers are eyeing places to build taller towers and longer blades, emerging lawsuits and legislation could drive them away. [...]
"As a conservative Republican, I am typically for less regulation, but I also recognize that the absence of regulation can create anarchy," [State Sen. Phil] Williams [R-AL] said.
Just last month, the Virginia state senate narrowly defeated a bill by Sen. Tom Garrett (R-Louisa) to put up new hurdles to wind energy in Virginia was narrowly defeated.
Again: Republicans aren't pro-business, or anti-government, anti-regulation, or anti-subsidies. Some have principles, sure. But many support what their big business patrons want them to support, and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop clean energy from infringing the slightest bit on their supporters' government-protected polluting monopoly.
On Sunday, a security guard spotted a leak at an enormous Duke Energy coal ash pond. It's now estimated that 82,000 tons of coal ash flowed into the Dan River along with 27 million gallons of water. Matt Wasson, the program director of Appalachian Voices pictured here collecting a water sample, warns the river's dozen or so fish species are at risk:
Wasson, calling the incident "a massive disaster," said six inches of coal ash covered the bottom of the river Tuesday about two miles downstream from the spill site. "It's like a lava flow moving slowly toward Danville on the bottom of the river," Wasson said.
Selenium toxicity could be a concern for humans for months or years as a result of the spill, Wasson said. Arsenic could reduce the number of fish available in the Dan River for years, harming the food chain on which they depend for food.
"It's fair to say possible impacts of this on fish populations could extend for years," he said.
When politicians talk about the cost of coal energy vs. clean energy, they never (OK, maybe if their name is Jim Moran or Sheldon Whitehouse) talk about costs like these. What's the cost of threatening the Dan River's drinking water and entire fish population? When politicians like State Sen. Tom Garrett claim to be terribly concerned about the impacts of wind power on birds, why aren't they outraged that bald eagles will now be eating coal ash-poisoned fish out of the Dan River?
With the 2014 Winter Olympics about to begin at Sochi, Russia, the Russian government is getting a lot of bad press. And rightly so.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin is taking heat for his government's human rights abuses, its opposition to gay rights, its treatment of Olympic construction workers and local Sochi residents, and its current efforts to silence a variety of protestors who are speaking out against the government's actions.
All the issues I have heard the protestors raise are important. But there is another issue, at least as important, that has been getting far less attention. And that is the destruction of massive swaths of pristine, globally important natural environments to make way for this year's Winter Games.
While, unfortunately, every Olympic Games involves destruction of land in the building of sporting venues, housing, etc., the Russians' preparations for the Sochi Olympics are off the charts in destructiveness.
Last week, Dominion Virginia Power, the largest utility in Virginia, successfully blocked a solar net-metering bill from moving forward in the Special Subcommittee on Energy in the House of Delegates Commerce & Labor Committee. Days earlier, Dominion had attempted to hijack a bill meant to boost the installation of solar on multi-family housing communities. According to Virginia Sierra Club’s Ivy Main, Dominion lobbied for “substitute language that would give the utility the exclusive right to build and own community systems and sell the power to the customers” thereby forcing multi-family residents to purchase solar only from Dominion. The utility company was unsuccessful, but still managed to stop the bill in its tracks.
Solar advocates and industry members successfully beat back Dominion Power’s bid to hijack the multi-family net metering provisions of HB 879 (Yost) and HB 906 (Krupicka). Alas, Dominion got its revenge Thursday in the House Commerce & Labor energy subcommittee, where the Republican majority had clearly come prepared to kill the bills. The two bills, plus Delegate Surovell’s solar gardens bill, HB 1158, were tabled with little debate, though with dissenting votes from the subcommittee's three Democrats.
The ten delegates who were against the solar bills all came from the Republican party but more importantly, Dominion’s campaign contributions to these ten delegates may have led to the delegates’ opposition to the pro-solar bill.
I like the way Chris Hayes explains this, as an addiction which we desperately need to quit but keep pushing off because...why?
There's no good reason, frankly, but there are a lot of bad ones: greed (by the fossil fuel industry in this case); cowardice (by the politicians terrified to confront the fossil fuel industry); denial and hedging (e.g., the abysmal/pathetic "all-of-the-above strategy" articulated not just by Republicans, but also sadly by Democrats - President Obama and many others - who should and DO know better!); ignorance (including by those who've been duped by the fossil fuel industry's relentless propaganda), etc. Meanwhile, the laws of physics continue to work their inexorable way on our planet, in this case via the well-studied, non-controversial-among-scientists (it's only "controversial" among those with a financial interest in making it "controversial," among the cowards and useful idiots in the media who continue with their erroneous "both sides" "reporting," etc.), with disastrous consequences today and even more disastrous consequences in the future.
So what on earth are we waiting for, especially given that clean energy is now increasingly cost competitive with fossil fuels even without incorporating all the negative "externalities" of fossil fuels into their price (note: if we did that, clean energy would blow fossil fuels away, right now, on a purely economic basis)? Because we're a bunch of addicts, in denial, constantly talking about how we'll quit drinking after our best friend's wedding next weekend...
As for the Keystone XL pipeline, it is - as a series of experts explained a couple months ago at Georgetown University in a summit sponsored by billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer - the "dirtiest of the dirty," the "worst of the worst," and simply not compatible with protecting the climate. Keystone XL certainly doesn't pass President Obama's "climate test," but more importantly it doesn't pass climate scientists' climate test. The bottom line: if we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we're screwed, as are vast numbers of other species on our planet. If that matters to you, then you should speak up and urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, and also to stop promoting the absurd, counter-productive, procrastination-and-cowardice-over-science "all-of-the-above" nonsense. The species you save could very well be your own.
P.S. You can join one of the many Nationwide Vigils to Protest Keystone XL at 6 pm this evening, including at Lafayette Square in DC, the Dunn Loring State Department office in Vienna, the Richmond Federal Building, TD Bank in Leesburg, the Norfolk Federal Building, and the County Courthouse in Harrisonburg.
I've previously written about presentations by Sister Maureen Fiedler and Nicole Condon of DC Water on Monday evening in Arlington, Virginia. The topic was potential hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the George Washington National Forest, and what risks that would pose to the DC metropolitan area's drinking water supplies. Speaking first was Dusty Horwitt of Earthworks, an attorney who "has used his experience in journalism, law and politics to conduct investigative research and advocacy on metal mining, oil and natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing." Here are a few key points by Dusty Horwitt:
New York state has had a moratorium on shale gas drilling and fracking for the past 5 years. The state has estimate that if New York City's "water supply was contaminated by fracking and drilling, the state or city would have to build a water filtration plant at a cost of at least $8 billion, with $200 million a year to operate that plant - a very, very expensive proposition."
There are many of the same concerns regarding the George Washington National Forest watershed. Three of the DC area water providers - DC Water, Fairfax Water, the Washington Aquedact (provides water to DC, Arlington and Falls Church) - "have all written to the Forest Service asking [them] not to allow horizontal drilling and fracking in the George Washington National Forest, because of risks that that would pose to the Potomac River, from which more than 4 million of us get our drinking water here in the Washington area."
The U.S. Forest Service could make a final decision at "any time."
The George Washington National Forest also contains headwaters for the James River, which provides water to 500,000 people in Richmond.
About half of the George Washington National Forest sits on top of the Marcellus Shale.
Why fracking - the "new 'f word' - has become such a big issue now because the oil and gas drilling industry has shifted heavily in recent years from conventional to unconventional formations. Getting oil and gas out of unconventional formations like shale requires large amounts of water, equipment and chemicals -- industrial activity at a large scale (e.g., up to 4,400 truck trips per well pad to haul fluid in and to haul wastewater back out after the fracking operation is finished).
There are a lot of risks involved in fracking, for instanced related to chemicals. Many of these chemicals are known to be "highly toxic," while some of them are simply unknown, as the companies have not provided the information to the government.
One of the main concerns is that some of these chemicals could spill and leak into the headwaters of the Potomac River and make their way downstream. Benzene, for instance, is a highly toxic chemical in drinking water at anything greater than 5 parts per billion.
Another concern about fracking in the GW National Forest is waste disposal, as waste water can contain both the chemicals injected into the well, as well as the naturally occurring water ("produced water") that's in the formation. The problem with the "produced water" is that the Marcellus Shale is naturally radioactive, and there aren't any great ways to dispose of this radioactive water.
Underground injection can also cause chemical-laden water to leak into groundwater and trigger earthquakes.Migration of contaminants is a possibility as well, leading to instances of people's water actually becoming flammable.
This is a "very poorly regulated industry," with "significant exemptions from most major federal environmental laws" such as the "Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, hazardous waste laws, the list goes on."
So, the EPA "basically doesn't have the tools to protect us." And even where the EPA does have tools to protect us, "we've seen several times in the last few years where EPA has mysteriously pulled out...without much explanation."
Earthworks found in 2010 that at least 50% of fracking wells were not inspected at all, so "we don't have a lot of confidence that if this type of drilling and fracking were to proceed in the GW National Forest, that it would be regulated effectively."
Bottom line: "This type of drilling is simply too risky for our watershed and our water supply, as well as for the communities closer to the forest who would suffer other types of impacts including truck traffic and...intensive industrialization."
On Monday night, I attended a program in Arlington, Virginia about an impending U.S. Forest Service decision on whether to allow fracking and horizontal drilling for natural gas in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. As the organizers of the program explained, fracking in the George Washington National Forest "could threaten a range of resources - including the headwaters of the Potomac River, the D.C. area's major drinking water source."
I wrote yesterday about Sister Maureen Fiedler's work on fighting to bring the Bluegrass Pipeline to "something of a standstill." Now, I want to focus on a talk by Nicole Condon, Water Communications Coordinator at the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority ("DC Water"). Condon made a few important points about the potential risks for the DC metropolitan area's water supply from fracking the George Washington National Forest.
Given that the Potomac River is our "sole drinking water source," that the GW National Forest is "in our headwaters," and that forested areas "are extremely important for downstream water quality," there are "a lot of uncertainties that really need to be addressed before we can feel good about something like [fracking to be] happening in our headwaters."
"If contamination were to occur, we may be unable to determine what chemicals are involved," and that uncertainty makes it "extremely difficult to prepare for any kind of response in the event that these chemicals were to get into the water." In general, given the lack of information, it is "difficult to understand what the risk may be to our water supply."
"Until it can be proven that hydraulic fracturing will not have a negative impact on our drinking water supply, we want the Forest Service to exercise caution" and will continue to support "a prohibition on hydraulic fracturing in the GW National Forest."
Industry argues that a 15-year moratorium is too long, but DC Water believes that "15 years is a pretty small amount of time when you start thinking about some of the long-term impacts that could potentially occur in some kind of contamination issue or spill."
"The quality of our product and the health of our customers is our top priority."
President Obama Vows to Protect Future Generations from Climate Change
Richmond, VA - In response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Sarah Bucci, Campaign Director of Environment Virginia, delivered the following statement:
"Severe storms and sea-level rise are just two examples of the steep price Virginians and the planet are already paying for global warming.
"We applaud the president's commitment to cutting carbon pollution from power plants - the largest sources - as well as his leadership in cutting carbon pollution from cars and doubling the production of wind and solar power.
"It is clear from his speech and his actions that President Obama has no intention of looking his children or perhaps someday his grandchildren in the eyes and telling them he failed to act when faced with the greatest environmental challenge of our time.
"In addition, the President's pledge to protect more of the nation's pristine lands is both appreciated today and will certainly be a boon to all our families' future.
"Unfortunately the President's and the nation's continued embrace of oil and gas ensure that we will continue to create the pollution that fuels global warming threatening our health and our environment.
"Beyond the climate impacts, dangerous oil and gas drilling known as 'fracking' has contaminated drinking water, made nearby families sick with air pollution, turned forest acres into industrial zones, and has no place in a clean energy future for America.
"This country needs, and our families deserve, a truly clean energy future. We look forward to working with the President to enact his climate action plan and to get the nation on track for a 100 percent renewable energy future."
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