Trump Vs The Planet

“Alright, let’s fire these babies up!”

Brad Plumer of Vox lays out the implications of a Trump Presidency (and Republican control of Congress) for the environment:

And there’s no way around it: What he’s planning to do looks like an absolute disaster for the planet (and the people on it). Specifically, all the fragile but important progress the world has made on global warming over the past eight years is now in danger of being blown to hell.

Trump has been crystal clear about his environmental plans. Much of the media never wanted to bring it up, never wanted to ask about it in debates, never wanted to turn their addled attention away from Hillary Clinton’s email servers to discuss what a Trump presidency might mean for climate change. But all the indications were there:

  • Trump called global warming a Chinese hoax. He couldn’t have been blunter about this.

  • Trump has said, straight up, he wants to scrap all the major regulations that President Obama painstakingly put in place to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions, including the Clean Power Plan. With Republicans now controlling Congress, he can easily do this. Pass a bill preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating CO2. Done.

  • Trump has also hinted he wants to get rid of the EPA entirely. “What they do is a disgrace,” he has said. If Congress agrees, he could readily scrap other regulations on mercury pollution, on smog, on coal ash, and more.

  • Trump has said he wants to repeal all federal spending on clean energy, including R&D for wind, solar, nuclear power, and electric vehicles. Again, with Congress at his side, this is totally doable.

  • Trump has said he wants to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal. There’s nothing stopping him. (Technically, the US can’t officially withdraw for four years, but for all practical purposes, the Trump administration could ignore it.)

All true. And some experts calculate that the impact on climate of Trump will be an additional 3.4 billion tons of carbon emitted.

But it should also be noted that the trajectory of the blue dotted line representing carbon emissions under a President Clinton also leads to climate disaster. Incremental progress will be reversed by Trump. But as I noted earlier incremental progress is not enough.

Key point: nothing that President Trump does or says will compel you or me to emit more carbon. Keep working to change how you think and live. Keep working to change how the people around you think and live. Live the argument. Win the argument. And then win an election that brings about real and meaningful change.

The Wisdom Of Europe: No Fracking

While the US rushes headlong toward the short-term profits of fracking, Europe is more cautious. Latest example–France’s constitutional court just denied an American company’s challenge of a ban on fracking.

PARIS — France’s highest court on Friday upheld a government ban on a controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, in a defeat for a method that has revolutionized the oil and natural gas industry in the United States.

The Constitutional Council ruled against a challenge by Schuepbach Energy, an American company, whose exploration permits were revoked after the French Parliament banned the practice.

The fact that it was an American company they were slapping down must have been particularly enjoyable for the French jurists.

Fracking Up The Water

It’s still astounding to me that we are rushing headlong into widespread fracking without truly understanding what its environmental implications are. It’s a classic example of our inverted approach to technology in which a technology is accepted until someone proves it is dangerous, instead of having the wisdom to hold off on a technology until it is (reasonably) demonstrated that it is safe.

Anyhow, this sort of finding illustrates why this inverted approach is perhaps unwise:

In the state of Pennsylvania, home to the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation, 74 facilities treat wastewater from the process of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”) for natural gas and release it into streams. There’s no national set of standards that guides this treatment process—the EPA notes that the Clean Water Act’s guidelines were developed before fracking even existed, and that many of the processing plants “are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater”—and scientists have conducted relatively little assessment of the wastewater to ensure it’s safe after being treated.

Recently, a group of Duke University scientists decided to do some testing. They contacted the owners of one treatment plant, the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility on Blacklick Creek in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, but, “when we tried to work with them, it was very difficult getting ahold of the right person,” says Avner Vengosh, an Earth scientist from Duke. “Eventually, we just went and tested water right from a public area downstream.”

Their analyses, made on water and sediment samples collected repeatedly over the course of two years, were even more concerning than we’d feared. As published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, they found elevated concentrations of the element radium, a highly radioactive substance. The concentrations within sediments in particular were roughly 200 times higher than background levels. In addition,  amounts of chloride and bromide in the water were two to ten times greater than normal.

This may or may not turn out to be clear proof of how misguided our assessment of fracking turns out to be. But it is clear proof that we should do more to assess fracking’s full implications before pumping fracking fluid into every underground formation that contains the slightest whiff of shale oil.

We’re Fracked (Again)!

Pennsylvania officials are caught omitting evidence of toxic substances in a report on well water near a natural gas site:

In a deposition, a scientist for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection testified that her laboratory tested for a range of metals but reported results for only some of them because the department’s oil and gas division had not requested results from the full range of tests.

The scientist, Taru Upadhyay, the technical director of the department’s Bureau of Laboratories, said the metals found in the water sample but not reported to either the oil and gas division or to the homeowner who requested the tests, included copper, nickel, zinc and titanium, all of which may damage the health of people exposed to them, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Ms. Upadhyay said that the bureau did not arbitrarily decide to withhold those results. “It was not requested by our client for that particular test, so we did — it is not on our final report,” she said in a deposition on Sept. 26.

Ah, that explains everything. Why would you include notification of dangerous metals if no one had asked you for it?

This is a perfect example of all the lying and obfuscation that goes on around fracking, as corporations and governments race to cash in on the natural gas boom. Never was an industrial process so perfectly named.

 

Our Food Supply Is Fracked

This was so frustratingly predictable. There is evidence that fracking contamination is starting to poison nearby farms and livestock:

Earlier this year, Michelle Bamberger, an Ithaca, New York, veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, published the first and only peer-reviewed report to suggest a link between fracking and illness in food animals.

The authors compiled 24 case studies of farmers in six shale-gas states whose livestock experienced neurological, reproductive, and acute gastrointestinal problems after being exposed — either accidentally or incidentally — to fracking chemicals in the water or air. The article, published in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, describes how scores of animals died over the course of several years.

The death toll is insignificant when measured against the nation’s livestock population (some 97 million beef cattle go to market each year), but environmental advocates believe these animals constitute an early warning.

Exposed livestock “are making their way into the food system, and it’s very worrisome to us,” Bamberger says. “They live in areas that have tested positive for air, water, and soil contamination. Some of these chemicals could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals.”

In Louisiana, 17 cows died after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid, which is injected miles underground to crack open and release pockets of natural gas. The most likely cause of death: respiratory failure.

In New Mexico, hair testing of sick cattle that grazed near well pads found petroleum residues in 54 of 56 animals.

In northern central Pennsylvania, 140 cattle were exposed to fracking wastewater when an impoundment was breached. Approximately 70 cows died, and the remainder produced only 11 calves, of which three survived.

In western Pennsylvania, an overflowing wastewater pit sent fracking chemicals into a pond and a pasture where pregnant cows grazed: Half their calves were born dead. Dairy operators in shale-gas areas of Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Texas have also reported the death of goats.

Just one more reason to not eat animals. But more important, fracking, its lack of transparency, the way it is (not) being regulated, and the extraordinary rush to buy into the idea that natural gas will save the American economy, has the feel of a gold rush that fifty years from now will leave a poisonous, toxic legacy that will have everyone shaking their heads and wondering what we were thinking.