TransCanada (the Keystone XL folks) and Mountaineer Gas are currently developing a 3.5-mile pipeline to supply natural gas to West Virginia. The Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project will run from Bedford County, Pa., through Hancock, Md., under the C&O Canal and Potomac River and then connect to another natural gas pipeline in Morgan County, W.Va.
Since the pipeline will traverse one of the narrowest parts of Maryland to reduce the risk of interruptions, it doesn’t seem like there should be much controversy to this project. But, the project would involve tunneling under the Potomac River, which is the main drinking water source for the Washington metropolitan area and other smaller communities upriver.
For months, local environmental groups have campaigned against the “Potomac Pipeline” due to the potential risk of contaminating the drinking water supply for millions of people. The route proposed would run through karst geology – the land beneath the river that rapidly dissolves and is full of fractures, caves and pools. Essentially, any leak in the pipeline would easily spill chemicals or gas into underground aquifers.
In addition to the degradation of streams, any drilling under streams could drain down bore holes and impact the integrity of the pipeline, causing underground ruptures and explosions.
Currently, Maryland’s Department of Environment (MDE) has not conducted a full environmental review of all potential impacts of a federal project on the state’s water resources. In fact, MDE has misled the public by not identifying the owner operator of the transmission line as TransCanada. They even stated that drilling fluids don’t include toxic compounds but has not provided data sheets for all compounds used to horizontally drill below the Potomac River bed. Lastly, they diminished the number of drinking water wells that may experience contamination by saying the presence of karst geology is not definite.
It looks like MDE and Governor Larry Hogan are poised to support the pipeline. This is really disappointing since this is the same administration that signed a fracking ban into law last year.
The truth is that TransCanada is the only party to benefit from this project. The pipeline only creates temporary jobs and it does not provide a need for natural gas in the Eastern Panhandle. Landowners and farmers are already fighting to protect their property rights with threats of losing their land under eminent domain.
Maryland is a key state leading the country in boosting state renewable energy standards. It would be a shame for state and federal regulatory agencies to minimize the public health risks from this pipeline and roll back progress.
If you’d like to take action to stop the Potomac Pipeline, submit a public comment by February 26. You can also “March on the Mansion” in Annapolis on February 15 to protest the pipeline at Governor Hogan’s house.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is so awful that he drove 10 out of 12 members of the National Park System advisory board to resign. The federally chartered board that designates national historic and natural landmarks threw up the deuces after they grew tired of Zinke's shenanigans. At no point since Zinke has taken office did he meet with the board. The terms for most of the members were set to expire in May, but things had gotten so bad they just bounced.
(Remember, this is the second time we've seen an entire council resign during this administration. The
President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned in August last year after Trump's "controversial" (read: racist) comments about protests in Charlottesville.)
In December 2016, President Obama issued Director's Order No. 100 before he left office - a directive calling for climate change to be a focus in the management of natural resources in our park system. Its purpose states:
The National Park System and related areas face environmental and social changes that are increasingly widespread, complex, accelerating, and uncertain. Addressing these challenges requires updates of National Park Service (NPS) policy to reflect the complexity of decisions needed for resource stewardship. This Director’s Order (Order) is intended to guide the Service in taking the necessary actions to support resource stewardship to fulfill its mission in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, the order was rescinded on August 16, 2017 by Zinke. The NPS advisory board had played a role in the creation of D.O. 100 in an effort to further the scientific literacy needed for leadership making resource management decisions surrounding key issues like biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change. The Department's current leadership has shown no interest in learning about or continuing to advance an agenda that address the effects of climate change, protections needed for our ecosystems or allocated resources for education.
Last month, Trump signed a proclamation to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by half. The move was the largest rollback of federally protected land in history. It sets a precedent for more ecological and culturally significant lands to lose its protected status for industrial development.
Energy Fuels Resources, a uranium mining company, lobbied hard for these reductions. In a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke, company CEO Mark Chalmers complained that the monument protections could "affect existing and future mill operations." The newly drawn boundaries of Bears Ears now have the uranium deposits outside the protected area.
Conservationists and Tribal Nations have pointed out the health risks associated with uranium mining, but many politicians chalk it up to scare tactics. Clearly, they don't care about the impact uranium's toxicity already has on Navajo families.
Since 2008, the EPA and other federal agencies have worked together to address the uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation as part of a historic $600 million settlement agreement. From 1944 to 1986 hundreds of mining operations were opened because of the high demand for atomic weapons at the end of World War II. Across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, Navajo people worked in or near the mines, raising their families within close proximity of radioactive substances. As the Cold War waned, mining companies left, abandoning more than 500 mines across 27,000 square miles of land.
Many died of cancer and kidney failure, and others still have a high rate of uranium contamination from drinking water, land and the houses they live in. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Navajo families in this area have higher uranium levels than the rest of the U.S. population. It's another case of environmental racism.
Zinke has raised prices to national parks, overturned a ban on coal mining on public lands and eliminated climate sciences from programs. He has yet to fill many executive level positions at Interior, such as a director for NPS, and ended many environmental safeguards. Most recently, a plan was announced to allow offshore drilling in previously protected waters. And let’s not forget his efforts to lift the ban on importing trophies from elephants and lions hunted overseas.
It's clear this administration is needlessly putting our monuments, parks, ecosystems and natural resources at risk. Just because there's a way to make money off the lands, doesn't mean that we should. Zinke is rivalling to be worse for the environment than EPA chief Scott Pruitt.
I was in Paris last week where temperatures reached 97 degrees Fahrenheit, and at one point had a heat index of 105 degrees. My husband and I did our best to stay in the shade and cool off indoors while exploring the city, but we were miserable until the temperature broke. Our love for the efficiency of the Parisian metro system waned when we had to ride trains that didn’t have air conditioning. Even our accommodations for the first two days only had a rotating fan. Our Airbnb host said, “This is Paris. There’s no air conditioning. What did you expect?”
Well, sir, I expect for businesses, and dwellings and public transport to have air conditioning, or a fan big enough to blow my edges away. Sitting on a broken down train for 30 minutes when it is 100 degrees is not part of my ministry. (Nor is walking through the halls of Versailles with no air circulating. But that’s another story.)
More people die each year from extreme heat than all other natural disasters combined.
Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, but hundreds of people will die this year due to heat exposure and humidity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 618 people are killed in the U.S. every year due to extreme heat. By the summer of 2030, climate change could cause an additional 11,000 heat-related deaths in the U.S.
Those of us living in cities are at a higher risk of heat-related illnesses due to the urban heat island effect, where manmade surfaces and human activity causes cities to be warmer than surrounding non-urban and rural areas. Not only are roof and pavement surfaces often 50 – 90 degrees hotter than the surrounding air, elevated temperatures in heat islands can increase levels of air pollution and impair water quality.
Children, the elderly, individuals with chronic illnesses, people working outdoors and low-income families in poor housing conditions are most vulnerable to temperature extremes. Race and poverty also contributes to more non-white Americans (primarily black Americans) dying from heat-related causes than white Americans. Poorer neighborhoods tend to have less tree cover and more asphalt compared to affluent neighborhoods. Studies also show they have less access to air conditioned facilities.
Summer has just arrived and Phoenix has already set daily records with temperatures reaching 120 degrees, causing a surge of heat emergencies. Heat exposure is said to be the possible cause of 12 deaths in the metro Phoenix area last week. The heatwave is also responsible for the deaths of another 18 people in other parts of Arizona, Nevada and California.
We’re starting to see milder winters, prolonged heat waves and more days with elevated temperatures due to a warming climate. Without additional adaptation, we will see an increase in heat-related deaths, illnesses and hospital visits, especially in metropolitan areas. We’ll also continue to add higher concentrations of greenhouses gases due to high electricity demands during the summer months.
Current support services during heat waves include providing water, air conditioning and access to cooling centers, but cities must do a better job of implementing green infrastructure as part of its urban planning. More local governments need to take steps to reduce energy demands and help residents reduce their vulnerability to heat with cool or green roofs, cool pavements, trees and vegetation.
And we need to put vulnerable populations first. Installing green roofs on new buildings in gentrified areas only serve a subgroup of the population that generally aren’t categorized as being vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Cool roofs should be added in low-income housing communities. Something as simple as planting trees along the streets in high-poverty neighborhoods can make walking to the grocery store or waiting for public transit more bearable.
Additionally, green infrastructure reduces stormwater runoff and noise pollution, improves air and water quality, decreases crime, enhances community aesthetics and creates community cohesion.
Creating programs that provides funding for residents to invest in greening their neighborhoods are cooling measures that need to be considered to reduce the risk of heat emergencies and deaths. We need cities to reduce the burden for those who are most susceptible to extreme temperatures, and green infrastructure is the next viable solution.
President Trump not only fast-tracked the approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, but also the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is a multi-state natural gas pipeline that will originate in West Virginia and run south through Virginia to eastern North Carolina. The ACP is a joint project between Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. The natural gas, produced by fracking in West Virginia, will be transported to North Carolina and Virginia to serve the energy needs of public utilities for customers.
Here's what you need to know:
Currently the project is under federal review for a revised route that will avoid portions of the GWNF and MNF to protect habitats for endangered animal species. Leslie Hartz, vice president of pipeline construction at Dominion Energy, says Dominion and its partners believes the pipeline “can be built in an environmentally responsible way that protects the public safety and natural resources of our region.”
However, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) must identify issues and concerns that still need to be addressed in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). FERC is the lead agency that authorizes the construction and operation of interstate natural gas pipelines, but as a cooperating agency, the USFS will make a decision on authorizing the ACP on National Forest Service land.
At the moment, there are several anti-pipeline groups that have filed a motion with FERC to rescind or revise the draft impact statement. Environmental advocates are asking the public to take action. Here’s what you can do:
On December 10 2016, Fueling U.S. Forward and Reaching America partnered with the City of Richmond and Radio One to sponsor a toy drive and holiday concert at the Trinity Family Life Center in Richmond, Va. The event had several Grammy-level gospel recording artists such as VaShawn Mitchell and Charles Jenkins, and a panel discussion on the role energy plays in their everyday life, including the holidays.
At the end of the concert, four people were randomly picked to have their most recent electric bill paid up to $250.
The majority of attendees at this event were black. It was held at a black church, had black gospel artists and was advertised through Radio One, a network with a large black listener base.
Don't think for a moment that this was a coincidence.
The Koch brothers have come up with a new approach to advancing a fossil fuel agenda. They're using low-income and minority communities to promote coal, oil and natural gas.
For more than 30 years, Charles and David Koch have provided tens of millions of dollars to groups that deny climate change and derail science-based policies that would limit carbon emissions.
In the spring of 2016, Koch launched a new PR campaign – Fueling U.S. Forward – telling low-income families that oil and natural gas is the best way out of poverty. Fueling U.S. Forward is now a nonprofit organization “dedicated to educating the public about the value and potential of American energy.” It has a $10 million-a-year campaign budget that is funded by Koch Industries.
It's the same marketing tactics and argument used by tobacco lobbyists: stricter regulations on goods would disproportionately affect low-income areas.
This time, the argument is that wealthy individuals that subsidize electric vehicles and install solar panels on their homes contribute to rising gas prices. Somehow efforts to promote clean energy and build a green economy deprives taxpayers.
Fueling U.S. Forward has hosted events aimed at getting the support of black voters, including: presenting scholarships to local high school students at a Baptist church in North Carolina and sponsoring the National Political Convention, a conference hosted by the National Policy Alliance (NPA) – a network that brings together African-American political groups.
Linda Haithcox, NPA’s executive director, said their aim is to stand up for poor and underserved communities, and that NPA’s position on energy policy hasn't changed even though they received funding from Koch Industries and other energy groups.
Unfortunately, you cannot stand up for black communities while also taking money from companies that profit from poisoning the same people.
If the NPA and other black political groups want equitable access to clean energy sources for all consumers, then it must divest from companies that promote cheap and dirty energy. Poor people and communities of color pay the price with their health for the Koch brothers and other oil and petrochemical magnates to become wealthy. Utility and energy companies pollute the air we breathe and water we drink to keep the price of energy low.
The U.S. is still a fossil fuel-based economy, yet, families already struggle with transportation costs and paying their electric bill. What exactly do black communities have to gain by publicly supporting a fossil fuel agenda? Respiratory illnesses, cancer, heart disease, birth defects and high hospital bills?
Richmond continues to reign as one of the nation’s top asthma capitals, even taking the top spot in 2010, 2011 and 2014. Pollution, particulates and poverty are the biggest offenders.
The wealthiest people in the world have the biggest carbon footprint, but the poorest are the most vulnerable.
With a governor’s race underway this year, let’s prioritize the environmental injustices happening in our own backyards. Don’t be fooled by political leaders and energy companies that say they’re keeping energy prices low for us. They’re doing it for themselves to make a profit.
On February 2, Maryland lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to boost the state’s renewable energy standards and override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. The bill will increase the requirements for customers to receive 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020; up from the current goal of 20 percent by 2022.
It’s being hailed by environmental advocates as a state legislative victory against an anti-environmental agenda of President Trump.
The new measure will require utility companies to buy more energy from wind turbines and solar panels to meet the new demands.
Hogan vetoed the legislation calling it a “sunshine tax” and claimed it would be an additional burden on utility rate-payers. Republicans also object to the costs that will be passed onto customers.
However, the State Department of Legislative Services estimates that consumers may only pay between $.48 or $1.45 more per month with the new requirements.
Maryland currently has seven coal-burning power plants that contribute to the state’s failing air quality grades for ozone pollution by the American Lung Association. Nearly three-quarters of Marylanders live in areas that have a ‘D’ or ‘F’ in air quality.
The 25 percent increase is the equivalent of taking more than 563,000 passenger vehicles off the road every year.
Democrats believe this bill will boost the renewable energy industry in the state and create more jobs, in addition to reducing carbon emissions and air pollution. Approximately 4,600 direct jobs are expected to be created from the 25 percent increase in clean energy standards.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, there are more than 183 solar companies in Maryland that employs more than 4,200 people. These companies provide an array of products and services ranging from installations and manufacturing to financing and project development.
Del. Cheryl Glenn (D – Baltimore) said that companies are now looking to invest in manufacturing components for wind energy at the former Sparrows Point steel mill, an opportunity to generate more jobs for the community.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act is part of Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) which requires electricity supplies to “procure a minimum portion of their electric retail sales by eligible renewable energy sources.” This is part of an ongoing effort to sustain the growth of the renewable industry compared to other states.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act will go into effect in early March.
Within hours of Donald J. Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States, the new administration made its position clear on the environment with the removal of almost reference of climate change on the White House website. The Trump administration launched the America First Energy Plan – a policy that aims to revive our coal industry and boost the economy through untapped natural gas reserves on protected, federal lands. The plan also calls for a commitment to clean coal technology.
Unfortunately, this is not an America first plan. Lifting restrictions and removing what is deemed “harmful and unnecessary policies” is not responsible environmental stewardship. It puts the needs of polluters first and Americans last. The fossil fuel industry benefits the most, not the average American. This drill, baby, drill proposal endangers the health, well-being and economies of our communities.
Sound energy policy cannot consist of clean coal technology because “clean coal” does not exist. Burning coal still produces carbon emissions and toxic waste and there are few technologies that exist for carbon capture and sequestration. Additionally, it’s cheaper for companies to pollute and have taxpayers pay for cleanup than it is to invest in environmentally friendly operations. It would take an act of Congress for these corporations to have an incentive to clean up.
In 2016 alone, there were more than 24 oil pipeline accidents in the United States. Thousands of Americans are still on a boil water advisory because of toxic waste in their water supply. In order for Americans to be truly first with our energy policies, we must ensure that politics doesn’t put our health and safety at risk.
There is a way to stimulate the economy and put Americans to work – through a green economy. We cannot just say the EPA will solely focus on protecting clean air and water resources, without enforcing regulations that make it happen. We must use sound science and move toward building a sustainable future. Americans will be last with an energy policy that puts fossil fuels first.
Environmental advocate. Communications professional. Sports fan. I love television and press conferences.