Global Climate Strike in West Chester Sept. 20!

West Chester Green Team

By Katrin

Don’t forget to come tomorrow to the Global Climate Strike in West Chester. It starts at 11:00 am at the Chester County Courthouse. We want to show the politicians that there are people out there who care for the future of our planet and are even willing to skip school or work.

After the rally there is going to be an
information event from 1:00 – 2:30 pm at the Academic Quad on the Campus
of West Chester University. Bring your strike signs and a lot of
motivation!

And if you’re still motivated, join us during the International Peace march on Saturday. At noon there is going to be a peace commemoration at the Courthouse and at 2:00 pm the Climate Action and Peace Rally starts.

Grab some friends and come to these important events. Time is running out – we need to act now!

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New! Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board

Chester County has just set up a Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board to make recommendations to the County, municipalities, the public, and businesses. The official description is below. The County will soon be taking steps to secure the needed 22 members. Citizens are entitled to 4 of the 22 seats.

The other 18 members are: 7 officials ex officio; 4 representatives of businesses; 2 each of land conservancies and utility companies; and 1 each of 3 other associations. When application and selection guidelines are published, we will know whether the organizations in each category will basically select the members, or recommend candidates to the Commissioners, or neither. Let’s hope that the Board will rapidly stimulate actual badly-needed changes in policy and practice.

COUNTY OF CHESTER ENVIRONMENTAL AND ENERGY ADVISORY BOARD

Purpose: The purpose of the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board is to provide recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, applicable County departments, municipalities, citizens, and businesses by:

Recommending best environmental and energy practices in the areas of buildings, facilities and operations; fuels, vehicles, and transportation; food; responsible purchasing; housing; energy sources; air quality; stormwater management; natural resource protection; and climate change.

Identifying environmental and energy policies the County has adopted and recommending ways to promote and educate about Chester County’s environmental and energy initiatives.

Identifying and recommending voluntary actions, projects, and programs for municipalities, businesses, non-profits, and other partners to implement county environmental and energy policies.

Reviewing and providing input into a Climate Action Plan.

Recommending environmental and energy related actions, projects, and programs to the Board of Commissioners for implementation

Membership: The membership of the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board shall be appointed by the Chester County Board of Commissioners and shall be selected so as to represent the citizens, businesses, and the County. The Membership of the Advisory Board shall include:

Four Chester County citizens

Four Chester County business representatives

One representative of Chester County Economic Development Council’s Smart Energy Initiative (SEI)

One representative of Chester County Association of Township Officials

One representative of Chester County Municipal Managers Consortium

Two representatives of Chester County’s land conservancies

Two representatives of Utility companies serving Chester County

Executive Director of Chester County Planning Commission

Executive Director of Chester County Water Resources Authority

Chester County Director of Open Space, Parks and Trails

Chester County Director of Emergency Services

Director of Chester County Conservation District

Director of Chester County Facilities Management

Director of Chester County Health Department

The Chairman of the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board may appoint experts to the Board, as necessary, however those appointed experts shall not have a vote.

Vacancies shall be filled by the Chester County Board of Commissioners. County staff board seats will be ex-officio members.

Terms: The term of each of the members of the board shall be two years, except that, when the board is first created, half of the members shall be appointed for three years and half for two years.

Stop the Attack on Pennsylvania’s Clean Energy Future

Our energy grid operator is impeding renewable energy; who knew? Here’s an easy way to ask Attorney General Josh Shapiro to safeguard Pennsylvania’s clean energy policies (which of course always need improving, and certainly not undermining!):

from Union of Concerned Scientists

It’s likely that the main connection you have to our electricity system is your local utility, which directly provides you with your electricity and bills you monthly. But behind the utilities, there’s another system made up of regional grid operators, which coordinate the transmission of electricity from generators to local utilities who then distribute the power directly to you.

Unfortunately, your energy grid operator, PJM Interconnection, has been advocating for a rule that would undermine state clean energy policies and prop up fossil fuels and make clean energy costlier for consumers like you.

It’s up to state attorneys general to defend state laws, including renewable energy standards and other clean energy policies, from attempts to undermine them like this.

Write today and urge your state attorney general to speak out against PJM’s proposed rule and to stand up for clean energy momentum in your state.

It’s crucial that state leaders like your attorney general speak out against this dirty rule and stand up for the voices of consumers and constituents.

Sign the petition to AG Shapiro at Union of Concerned Scientists

Solar energy on the ground

Chance to comment on pipeline transmissions by Aug. 27

See original post here.

Public Comment on Proposed Rulemaking regarding Hazardous Liquid Public Utility Safety Standards

This letter is intended to be a unified comment to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission from Pennsylvanians who have been impacted by pipeline construction across the state. Please read our letter and list of recommendations for regulations that will protect the health and safety of our communities and show your support by signing below!

If you would like to write and submit your own public comment to the PUC regarding new pipeline regulations, we also encourage you to do so! Learn more here.

THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT COMMENTS TO THE PUC IS WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2019. IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT YOUR NAME IS ADDED TO THIS LETTER, PLEASE RESPOND BY 5 P.M. TUESDAY, AUGUST 27.

Chairwoman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, Third Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Public Comment on Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Hazardous Liquid Public Utility Safety Standards (Docket L-2019-3010267)
CC: Governor Tom Wolf

Dear Chairwoman Brown Dutrieuille,

Thank you and the commission for soliciting public comment on new safety rules for hazardous liquid pipelines. This is a critical step in allowing the public to express concerns and have their input considered.

Pipeline construction and safety is of great concern in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Although much public and media focus has been on the Mariner East project, tens of thousands of miles of pipeline upgrades and installation is anticipated in the next 10 years, according to state officials. It is critical to enhance regulations now.

The safety of our families and communities is the single most important consideration in the pipeline discussion, and the PUC has ultimate responsibility to ensure that proper rules are in place.

We welcome the opportunity to comment and appreciate the fact that the PUC is looking at all aspects of pipeline safety, from construction methods to leak detection, from public notification to the role of land agents in seeking property rights-of-way.

Our comments on enhancing rules for hazardous liquid pipelines are attached. Thank you for considering these as well as the comments of many other citizens across the Commonwealth.

Sincerely,

Danille Friel Otten
PA State Representative, District 155


• Cover Over Buried Pipelines

According to Pipeline Safety Trust, federal regulation pertaining to pipeline transmission depth requires that transmission lines such as Mariner East be buried 48 inches below the surface. Some other locations, such as railroad crossings and certain bodies of water, require deeper pipelines. This federal regulation is concerning because depth requirements only apply to installation and do not need to be maintained over time and apply only to pipelines installed since 1970. This standard must be changed so that existing highly volatile pipelines are required to meet modern depth requirements, and the depths must be adjusted further to ensure public safety. According to the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center, the maximum soil freeze depth in Pennsylvania is 54 inches. Pipelines should be at least six-foot-deep to put them below the freeze line.

• Pipeline Conversions

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has found that it is extremely dangerous to convert oil or gas pipelines to highly volatile gas liquids. Regulations must state that gas and oil pipes shall not be converted to highly volatile gas liquids pipes since it is contraindicated by the industry. Furthermore, regulations must state that pipes made with substandard steel or deteriorated, or defective protective coatings shall not be used on any Pennsylvania pipelines. This information was detailed in Pipeline Safety: Guidance for Pipeline Flow Reversals, Product Changes and Conversion to Service published by PHMSA in 2014. More information can be found at http://www.phmsa.dot.gov.

Also, of concern regarding pipeline conversions are the property rights of landowners who have existing easements. Generally, incident risk is greater for highly volatile gas liquids pipelines than for traditional oil and gas pipelines. A certificate of convenience and necessity and easement agreements should not be transferable. Whenever they propose changing the product that runs through an existing pipeline or adding a new pipeline to the easement, pipeline operators must be required to obtain new certificates and easement agreements.

• Warning Systems & Public Notification

On May 30, 2019 Timothy Boyce, director of the Delaware County Department of Emergency Services testified before the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee at a public hearing. In his remarks, Boyce noted the lack of state funding for emergency preparedness around potential pipeline incidents and the lack of plans in place for a community-wide evacuation especially in the first 30 minutes of an incident.

“You know, we have firefighting plans, we have hazard control plans, we have air monitoring plans, but we don’t have a commonality people plan,” Boyce said. “Not everybody has a smart phone. Not everyone can self-evacuate.” 

It is imperative that leak and incident detection systems are integrated with County Emergency Services in order to properly understand and mitigate risk. Integrated leak and incident detection systems must be installed prior to pipeline operation, and a notification system must be in place to warn the public in the event of a pipeline emergency. Emergency response plans need to be developed to adequately prepare the public in the event of an emergency. These plans must be created in coordination with all levels of government including local municipalities and be tailored to individual communities. Emergency notification and evacuation plans must include individuals with disabilities and be compliant with the American Disabilities Act.  

• Public Education and Preparedness

The Commission should work to develop plans that provide the general public with proper comprehensive information and education regarding pipeline safety. The public should be provided with resources that unambiguously explain any risks posed by pipelines and how to respond in the event of an emergency. A lack of transparency regarding pipeline risk will undermine public safety and trust.

As an example, the Exelon nuclear power plant in Limerick, PA provides an annual communication that outlines the risks, how to know when to follow emergency procedures, exactly how they will be notified, complete with a map of escape routes, and shelters based on the location of evacuees. If, for example, a parent is at home or at work when an emergency response is required and their children are at one of the schools within the potential impact radius, they will know where their children have been evacuated to and how to most safely be reunified with their family members.

• Definition of Public Utility

The term “public utility” must be redefined to clarify and designate that the majority of the product or service must be essential, and the end user must be the public. Public utility status should not be a designation given to corporation for the purpose of manufacturing and/or export of non-essential consumer products. Mariner East was designated as a public utility even though only a small percent of the pipeline capacity is providing resources to Pennsylvania consumers for energy and most of the capacity is being sold to the plastics manufacturing industry. This would give local governments greater ability to regulate public health and safety issues when it comes to infrastructure expansion, especially in high consequence areas.  

• Leak Detection

HB 1735, introduced in May 2019 by Rep. Danielle Friel Otten with nine co-sponsors to date, would provide standards and a fee-generated funding mechanism to cover the cost of real-time leak detection systems that communicate directly with the appropriate first responders. The bill takes into account the size of the pipeline within the municipality, miles of pipeline, pressure in the pipeline, volume of product flowing through the pipeline, population density within potential impact radii, setbacks, report of the pipeline operator on pressure, contents and location of pipes to other pipes in the easement, in establishing a fee imposed on the pipeline operator.

This board would also enhance public notification as outlined above in “Public Education and Preparedness”.

The PUC should consider implementing such a program and funding mechanism for local municipalities within this rulemaking procedure in order to shift the cost burden of early detection and public warning systems off the taxpayers to where it belongs, the pipeline operators.

• Land Agents

Some land agents used by drilling/pipeline companies have harassed, bullied, and misled landowners. With this in mind, we recommend that the Commission require the Real Estate Commission to certify and register land agents engaged in the acquisition of oil, gas and mineral rights (including rights for a pipeline), and those acting to secure right of way for public utilities. Landowners will have the peace of mind that they are negotiating with a state-certified individual. In addition, they will have recourse and a place to turn if the land agent behaves in an unprofessional manner.

• Safety Setbacks

Although the PUC does not have jurisdiction over pipeline routes or siting, we urge the Commission to coordinate with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding ensuring that routes are approved with community impacts in mind, particularly looking at health and environmental impact.

Safety setbacks are critical in preventing damage from pipeline malfunctions. There should be a minimum setback for new volatile pipelines that meet or exceed the potential impact radius. For example, if based on a risk assessment the potential impact radius for a pipeline is 1,500 feet, the minimum setback should be no less than 1,500 feet. There are currently no setbacks in place for Pennsylvania pipelines, and this imposes an involuntary risk upon many residents of the Commonwealth.

Federal law (49 U. S. Code § 60112) provides for sanctions against pipeline facilities deemed “hazardous to life, property or the environment”. The PUC should take the lead in defining what is unsafe and hazardous to the public in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This would establish a standard to define what is a reasonable risk to the commonwealth.

The PUC should develop a formula that takes into account the size of the pipeline within the municipality, miles of pipeline, pressure in the pipeline, volume of product flowing through the pipeline, population density within potential impact radii, setbacks, report of the pipeline operator on pressure, contents and location of pipes to other pipes in the easement and determine statistical value of life equation and threshold. If that threshold is met, the operator should be required to re-route, discontinue service, or increase setbacks by procuring additional easements and land rights.

• Accident Liability

Regarding insurance, Sunoco and other Highly Volatile Pipeline Operators have a limited liability partnership. Sunoco has indemnified their parent company, Energy Transfer, until 2032 for all environmental and hazard damages. Regulations must be amended to include proper insurance requirements for incidents on NGL and other volatile pipelines.

According to HMCRP Report 5: A Guide for Assessing Community Emergency Response Needs and Capabilities for Hazardous Materials Releases, written by PHMSA and DOT, unmitigated risks that expose one thousand lives to death could result in a billion dollars in damages. It is imperative that pipeline operators are prepared to pay for these damages. The financial burden must not be placed on the impacted community experiencing potential catastrophic loss at the hands of a corporation.

• Violations

Fines on pipeline violations must never be waived. Pipeline operators must be held accountable, and they will not be accountable if fines are waived. Additionally, the PUC should develop a threshold for the number of violations a single operator can incur before operations are stopped. The burden of the pipeline must be placed on the operators and not the people of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the cost of certain fines for pipeline violations should be increased.

• Line Markers

Failure to place Line Markers on extensions of pipelines often creates a risk of those pipelines being unintentionally damaged by digging. Line markers should display the depth of the pipe and should be checked annually for compliance.

• Pressure Testing, Operating Pressure, and Valves

Current regulations do not account for the differences between regular oil and gas pipelines and volatile gas liquids pipelines. Standards should be set to account for pressure and flow differences. This review should include minimum and maximum pressure testing values, operating pressure maximums, emergency shutoff valve locations, valve placement and security and construction standards.

• Environmental Justice (Vulnerability Scale and Cumulative Impact)

Regarding the heavy environmental impacts of pipelines, the PUC must work extensively with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to assess the cumulative impact of pipeline projects in accordance with Delaware Rivers Network v. FERC. This could encompass use of the Environmental Justice Protocol (EJP) and Vulnerability Scale as advocated by the Public Interest Law Center.

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Fracking Boom in U.S. and Canada Largely to Blame for Global Methane Spike, Study Finds

By Julia Conley, Common Dreams, Aug 15

New research by a scientist at Cornell University warns that the fracking boom in the U.S. and Canada over the past decade is largely to blame for a large rise in methane in the earth’s atmosphere — and that reducing emissions of the extremely potent greenhouse gas is crucial to help stem the international climate crisis.

Professor Robert Howarth examined hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, over the past several decades, noting the fracking boom that has taken place since the first years of the 21st century. Between 2005 and 2015, fracking went from producing 31 billion cubic meters of shale gas per year to producing 435 billion cubic meters.

Nearly 90 percent of that fracking took place in the U.S., while about 10 percent was done in Canada….

read more and see links at Common Dreams

Extreme water stress affects a quarter of the world’s population, say experts

by Emily Holden and Vidhi Doshi, The Guardian, Tue 6 Aug 2019

Qatar, Israel and Lebanon top list of places with worst shortages, as climate crisis threatens

A quarter of the world’s population across 17 countries are living in regions of extremely high water stress, a measure of the level of competition over water resources, a new report reveals.

Experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI) warned that increasing water stress could lead to more “day zeroes” – a term that gained popularity in 2018 as Cape Town in South Africa came dangerously close to running out of water….

read more and follow links at The Guardian

map including the highest stress area (and potentially highest conflict between countries) areas, the Middle East and Northern Africa, from World Resources Institute: