Conservation & Environment

WNC’s National Forests at crossroads

Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 @ 7:46 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

On Oct. 21, 2014 the U.S. Forest Service unveiled draft management area boundaries that put 692,700 acres — about 69 percent — of Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest in management areas that make “timber production, for the purposeful growing and harvesting of crops of trees to be cut into logs” the “primary or secondary use of the land.”

Today, the Nantahala-Pisgah is one of the jewels of the National Forest system, receiving more than seven million visitors annually and playing a key role in Western North Carolina’s $2 billion tourist economy.

People still love the forest for the water, wildlife, scenery, wood, plants and recreation it provides. Timber harvests for the last 12 years have been sustainable, averaging less than 800 acres annually, and there is an opportunity to increase that number while doing ecologically beneficial work.

Yet, the divisions of the “timber wars” of the ’80s and ’90s still persist.

When WNCA saw the proposal to add 163,000 acres to the “suitable timber base” and the 200,000 acres of trail corridors, backcountry areas and rare species habitat that remain unprotected, WNCA and its partners sounded the alarm.

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Take a Walk on a Leaky Uintah Basin Oil Well With a Whistleblowing Oil and Gas CEO

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 @ 9:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Three separate and very interesting things have happened over the past few months, and what makes them even more interesting is the timing, and the fact that they all happened within such a short period.

Sequentially speaking, the second and most recent thing that happened, is that a midwife in the highly conservative oil patch community of Vernal, Utah in the Uintah Basin observed something — a ghastly discovery that apparently no state or federal agencies, nor even the local TriCounty Health Department had yet observed– dead babies, and way too many of them.

Newsweek broke the story about Donna Young and the apparent cluster of stillborn Uintah Basin babies, and it turned out that the midwife of 19 years had put two and two together after experiencing the first stillborn birth in her nearly two decades of practice — then subsequently noticing abundant newborn graves in the local cemetery.

She then began to do her own research by tracking infant obituaries in the local Uintah County paper, and what she found turned out to be very shocking indeed. Upon further examination, her observations revealed the stark fact that the heavily fracked and drilled Vernal area had just witnessed an elevation in infant deaths — rising from numbers that closely resembled the national average back in 2010, to a number six times that by 2013.

The Uintah Basin has undergone a massive boom in oil and gas development in the last several years — a boom that like the explosion in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale has lead to an increase in oil production by hundreds of percent, in just a few short years.

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House Republicans Voted Against the Environment More Than 500 Times in the Past Four Years

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 @ 7:13 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The House of Representatives will end its legislative session this week having recorded at least 234 votes against the environment in two years. According to a December 1, 2014 count by the minority staff on the Energy and Commerce committee, the House floor held 551 anti-environment votes over the four years since Republicans took control—including votes on bills and amendments that weakened Environmental Protection Agency regulations, opened lands to coal and oil, made changes to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, approved the Keystone XL pipeline, and more. The report also includes times Republicans rejected pro-climate and environment amendments from Democrats. The EPA was the major target for the 113th Congress, with 145 votes to restrict EPA rulemaking and funding.

Since 2010, Democratic control of the Senate meant much of the GOP’s agenda had little chance of becoming law. That will change in January, and this report serves as one of the best previews of what the next Congress will plan for the environment. Both House Speaker John Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have promised to renew legislation approving the Keystone pipeline, rolling back the EPA’s cap on carbon pollution from power plants, the ozone rule, and others.

Senate filibusters and President Barack Obama’s veto pen still stand in the way, but Republicans plan on using must-pass appropriations bills to raise the stakes of these negotiations.

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We have the technology to make invisible pollution visible

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 @ 6:47 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Out of sight, out of mind. This certainly applies to methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

That’s because methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas and the primary constituent of natural gas, is invisible to the naked eye.

And it’s one reason methane emissions, while a significant threat to our environment, don’t get the attention they should from policymakers or the public when compared to, say, conspicuous oil spills.

But we have the technology to make the invisible visible. A video shows that fugitive methane emissions look very much like an oil spill in the sky. The footage comes from FLIR, a maker of optical gas imaging cameras and one of the largest companies in the methane mitigation industry.

The company participated in a recent briefing on Capitol Hill intended to educate policymakers on the negative environmental implications of methane emissions. People were gasping as they watched plumes of methane leaking from well sites, processing plants and valves – pollution that was now visible through the infrared camera.

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NC’s ongoing coal ash regulatory disaster shows urgency of EPA action

Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 @ 5:49 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

It’s been 10 months since a pipe broke beneath a coal ash waste pit at a shuttered Duke Energy power plant in North Carolina, sending 39,000 tons of toxic waste into the Dan River, a drinking water source for downstream communities in Virginia and North Carolina.

One might think that 10 months would have been enough time for the company and North Carolina state regulators to ensure that the coal ash pits at its 13 other power plants across the state were secured and not putting other water sources at risk – but one would be wrong.

Last week, environmental watchdogs announced they had found “massive coal ash pollution leaks” coming from Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station near the city of Salisbury in central North Carolina. Their tests show the leakage contains health-threatening levels of toxic metals including arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium. The pollution is contaminating the Yadkin River, which joins with the Uwharrie to become the Pee Dee; the Yadkin-Pee Dee is a drinking water source for communities in North and South Carolina.

How toxic is the pollution? The level of cancer-causing arsenic found in the leakage was triple the legal limit, and the level of neurotoxic barium was 6,000 times the health protection standard.

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