Where’s the accountability?”

Appearing on-line in Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Monday, December 14, 2020 Opinion by Eric Engle, Parkersburg, WV

I was startled out of the lull of nightly streaming with my fiancée when news broke on my iPhone about an explosion and fire at a Chemours facility.

At first, I thought it was the Washington Works plant near my home in Parkersburg. I was not at all relieved to learn that it was, in fact, a facility about 10 miles outside of Charleston, in Belle. That facility earlier this year was fined by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in the amount of $14,193 for failure to properly manage hazardous waste.

That fine is not even half the cost of an average new car these days. Here we are, just over two months after this “penalty,” and one person is dead, three are injured, and a shelter-in-place order had to be issued for a 2-mile radius around the plant site for approximately four hours on a cold night — the relevance of the cold being that the order required households to turn off their heating units for air-safety reasons.

Where’s the accountability?

To switch gears a bit, the latest data as I write shows that 64,394 West Virginians (and counting) have been infected with COVID-19 and 978 West Virginians (and counting) have died. Hospitals and medical personnel are overwhelmed. The accompanying economic crisis has led and is leading to unemployment, low earnings, evictions, utility shutoffs and other untold suffering. The Justice administration, meanwhile, is sitting on about $800 million in unspent federal funding for the state and a deadline to use it of Dec. 31.

Where’s the accountability?

Then there’s climate change. Recent reporting by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone titled “How Climate Change is Ushering in a New Pandemic Era” details how our warming planet is “expanding the range of deadly diseases and risking an explosion of new zoonotic pathogens from the likes of bats, mosquitoes, and ticks.” The article states: “By one count, an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of those, more than 800,000 could have the ability to infect humans.”

Recommended Reading for January

December  2020 –  Jan. 2, 2021 MOVCA Selected Media Postings

Compiled by Cindy Taylor

Appearing in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Saturday, December 26, 2020  Op-Ed by Thomas Minney & Beth Wheatley, The Nature Conservancy in WV

“Energy, climate innovation a building block to W.Va.’s future”


Saturday, Dec. 5, 2021 Letter-to-the-editor by Ron Teska, Belleville, WV

“Hungry Hook”


Saturday, Dec. 5, 2021 Local News Article by Tyler Bennett

“Mid-Ohio Valley transportation planners seek public input”


Appearing in The Marietta Times:

Monday, December 14, 2020  Letter-to-the-Editor by Jim Grecni

“We should not tolerate corruption”


Appearing on-line in Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Tuesday, December 29, 2020  Opinion by Michael J. Hicks, professor at Ball State U, Muncie, Indiana

“Michael J. Hicks: Coal isn’t returning, and it has hurt growth in WV”


Tuesday December 15, 2020  News article by Mike Tony, Staff writer

“Report suggests WV must embrace renewable energy for economic growth”


Monday, December 14, 2020 Opinion by Eric Engle, Parkersburg, WV

“Eric Engle: Where’s the accountability?”


Saturday December 5, 2020 Op-ed by Ted Boettner

“Ted Boettner: Embracing clean energy vital to WV’s future”


Appearing in The Athens News:

Tuesday, December 1, 2020  Letter to the Editor by Aaron Dunbar, Lowell, OH

“Repeal House Bill 6”


Appearing on-line in WV Public Broadcasting and WOUB (PBS):

Monday, December 28, 2020 News Article by Andy Chow/ Statehouse News Bureau

“2020 Year In Review – Despite Nuclear Bailout Scandal, Republican Leaders Keep HB6”

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 News Article  (audio and text) by Karen Kasler/Statehouse News Bureau

“Chair of Committee Hearing Nuclear Bailout Repeal Bills Puts Forward A Delay”

Appearing on-line in The Bargain Hunter (Weekly news magazine serving Ohio Counties: Holmes, Tuscarawas, Wayne, and the surrounding area. Stark, Medina, Summit and Cuyahoga):

Friday, January 1, 2020 Column by Randi Pokladnik

“Ignorance is bliss in the U.S.”


Sunday, December 20, 2020 Column by Randi Pokladnik

“The North Pole is in trouble”


Saturday, December 5, 2020 Column by Randi Pokladnik

“Christmas gifts for the environmentalist in your life”


Appearing on-line in Mountain State Spotlight(independent, civic news organization):

December 8, 2020  Environment Article by Ken Ward, Jr.

“Federal regulators are rewriting environmental rules so a massive pipeline can be built across West Virginia”

Available on-line The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition OHVEC.org

December 8, 2020 OVEC Press release:

“550 Groups Ask Biden to Solve Plastic Pollution Crisis With Eight Executive Actions”: Presidential Plastics Action Plan Urges Incoming President to Stop New Plastic Production, Regulate Petrochemical Industry, Reduce Plastic Pollution

Appearing on-line on Ohio River Valley Institute (an independent, nonprofit research and communications center – “Sound research for a more sustainable, equitable, democratic, and prosperous Appalachia”:

December 14, 2020   Research article by Eric de Place

“Plastic Market Trends Are Bad News for Appalachian Cracker Plans: What Peak Plastic Means for the Petchem Buildout”

Appearing on-line on EarthJustice website (a nonprofit public interest environmental law organization)

December 17, 2020  News release Contacts:  Miranda Fox, Earthjustice; Autumn Long, SUN; Emmett Pepper, EEWV;   Gary Zuckett, WVCAG.

“FirstEnergy Drops $250 Million Proposal for Aging Coal-Powered Plants”


Appearing on-line on Solar Power World

December 21, 2020 (updated Dec. 28) News Article by Kelly Pickerel, editor in chief of Solar Power World

“Solar investment tax credit extended at 26% for two additional years”

Appearing on-line on WTAP

December 29, 2020 News article by Laura Bowen, WTAP reporter

“Fire leaves Ritchie County without paper recycling center”


Appearing on WOWK TV (Huntington)

December 21, 2020  Community Feature by Natalie Wades   (Video and Article)

“Environmental groups want stricter regulations for Ohio River”

(Eric Engle, Ex. Committee of Sierra Club WV Chapter, and Angie Rosser, Ex. Director of WV Rivers are interviewed)

Grassroots Actions –  PETITIONS to sign:

 Sierra Club’s Petition:

“Demand the EPA Protect the Ohio River from Pollution”


Join us in petition the U.S. EPA to create numeric nutrient standards for the Ohio River

Report available on-line WVU College of Law, Center for Energy and Sustainable Development

December 14, 2020 Report released by WVU College of Law, Center for Energy and Sustainable Development

“West Virginia’s Energy Future: Ramping Up Renewable Energy to Decrease Costs, Reduce Risks, and Strengthen Economic Opportunities for West Virginia”

https://energy.law.wvu.edu/research-publications     Full report:

Report available on-line by Concerned Health Professionals of NY & Physicians for Social Responsibility

December 14, 2020 Released by Concerned Health Professionals of NY & Physicians for Social Responsibility headed by Dr. Sandra Steingraber. This Fracking Science Compendium, 7th ed. :

Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) Seventh Edition

NATIONAL Attention to Appalachia: US House Committee on Natural Resources:


December 9, 2020 9am House Committee on Natural Resources: Democrats presented:

“Environmental Justice Now Tour: Appalachia” (The virtual forum was recorded live, link below)


Panel: Julie Bledsoe, Statewide Organizing for Community empowerment; Alex Cole, Ohio Environmental Coalition; Gabby Gillespie, Southern Appalachian mountain stewards Sierra Club Organizer, Virginia

Climate action necessary

Appearing in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Saturday, January 2, 2021   Letter to the Editor by Aaron Dunbar, Lowell, OH

“No, Joe, we’re not in a ‘climate crisis’” writes Rich Lowry of the National Review, in an ill-informed and irresponsible article published in the News and Sentinel on Dec. 29.

As was pointed out by the individual who brought this piece to my attention, there is far, far too much wrong with Lowry’s assertions for me to be able to respond to them all in a single letter.

Essentially, Lowry admits to the reality of anthropogenic global warming (a scientific fact), but argues that the crisis does not warrant any kind of urgent response, and that we human beings will simply “adapt” to rising sea levels, soaring global temperatures, intensifying storms, and the host of other disastrous conditions brought about by our failure to curb excess greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s interesting to note that this stance, that climate change is real but that we shouldn’t be too worried about it, has become an almost inevitable response from the camp of former climate change skeptics and deniers. The evidence has become too overwhelming for them to go on denying the problem altogether, so instead they simply try to downplay the threat and tell us to keep our fingers crossed for the best.

President-elect Joe Biden, Lowry insists, “needs a crisis atmosphere, the facts and science be damned.”

The premise that Biden would need to manufacture any kind of crisis to exploit is immediately absurd — one might think that the global pandemic of the past year would be perfectly sufficient for this purpose, were Lowry’s assertion anything more than baseless paranoia.

In any case, the “facts and science” Lowry refers to are abundantly clear. In 2019, over 11,000 scientists from around the globe signed on to a warning of “untold suffering” should the climate crisis continue to go unaddressed. “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” say the authors, in a statement that’s about as straightforward as they come.

Lowry, meanwhile, repeatedly cites Bjorn Lomborg as the only source in his article; a single individual with a reputation for cherrypicking scientific data on climate change, and who’s been formally accused of scientific dishonesty under Denmark’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

A focus on singular, contrarian “experts” with dissenting, discredited viewpoints is, again, an exhaustingly common tactic used by those who wish to discourage swift and meaningful action on climate change.

Every single President going back to at least JFK has received some warning about the threat of climate change. It may well have been the case that we could’ve averted a crisis had we started taking action half a century ago. But we didn’t, largely due to the insistence of pseudoscientific naysayers with an iron grip on public consciousness.

We now have no choice but to take bold, unified action on climate if we wish to have any chance of averting catastrophe, as we should have started doing several decades (and administrations) ago.

The urgent threat of climate change

Appearing in The Athens News:

Wednesday, December 30, 2020  Letter to the Editor by Aaron Dunbar, Lowell, OH

What do the U.S. Pentagon, insurance companies, the Federal Reserve, state pension funds, Democrats, Republicans, socialists, environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry have in common?

To varying degrees, every single one of these groups has come to recognize the urgent threat of climate change.

Even companies like Shell and ExxonMobil, both criminally responsible for and historically in denial of climate change, have been left with no choice but to admit that it’s happening, even as they continue to sabotage solutions and delay action for as long as doing so is profitable.

My question, then, is why aren’t we taking action?

A quote attributed to Frederic Jameson states that “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.”

I believe this perfectly encapsulates our nation’s failure to grapple with the destruction of the biosphere, and indeed the upending of life across our entire planet.

Climate change activists are too often painted as starry-eyed naifs, unable to comprehend how the “real world” works. I happen to subscribe to the exact opposite viewpoint.

An almost religious adherence to systems that we know to be self-destructive is not rational behavior. It is pure hubris to suppose that our insatiable desire to consume without restriction will win out over the laws of nature that have stood in place, unchanging, since the dawn of time.

The same corporate villains who are so quick to cry “socialism!” at the least talk of regulation are in fact heavily subsidized by our government to the tune of $20,000,000,000 annually. The oil and gas industry, while shouting from the rooftops about providing jobs, has cut at least 118,000 workers over the course of 2020. To borrow a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., our country’s toxic dynamic with the fossil fuel industry is one of “socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.”

As I write this our members of Congress, many of them beholden to the very corporations destroying our planet, are unable to agree on sending out a round of life-saving $2,000 stimulus checks to average Americans, even after handing out billions to the oil and gas industry, large amounts of which went to straight to CEO bonuses, rather than to workers.

2021 must be the year we put an end to this corruption, and begin transitioning toward a clean, just society for all.

An age of climate, capture and COVID-19

Appearing in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Saturday, December 19, 2020 Op-Ed by Eric Engle, chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, board of directors member of WV Rivers Coalition and co-chair of the WV Sierra Club Executive Committee.

“Op-ed: An age of climate, capture and COVID-19”

I was startled out of the lull of nightly streaming with my fiancee last night when news broke on my iPhone about an explosion and fire at a Chemours facility. At first I thought it was the Washington Works plant near my home in Parkersburg. I was not at all relieved to learn that it was in fact a facility about 10 miles outside of Charleston in Belle, W.Va.; a facility that earlier this year was fined by the WV Department of Environmental Protection in the amount of $14,193 for failure to properly manage hazardous waste (see consent order from the Division of Water and Waste Management dated Oct. 1, 2020).

$14,000 is not even half of the cost of an average new model car these days. Here we are, just over two months after this “penalty,” and one person is dead, three are injured, and a shelter-in-place order had to be issued for a two-mile radius around the plant site for approximately four hours on a cold night; the relevance of the cold being that the order required households to turn off their heating units for air safety reasons. Where’s the accountability?

To switch gears a bit, the latest Johns Hopkins University data as I write shows that 57,060 West Virginians (and counting) have been infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus and 870 West Virginians (and counting) have died. Hospitals and medical personnel are overwhelmed. The accompanying economic crisis has led and is leading to unemployment, low earnings, evictions, utility shutoffs and other untold suffering. The Justice administration, meanwhile, is sitting on over $800 million in unspent federal funding for the state and a deadline to use it of Dec. 30. Where’s the accountability?

Then there’s climate change. Recent reporting by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone entitled “How Climate Change is Ushering in a New Pandemic Era” details how our warming planet is “expanding the range of deadly diseases and risking an explosion of new zoonotic pathogens from the likes of bats, mosquitoes, and ticks.” The article states that “By one count, an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of those, more than 800,000 could have the ability to infect humans.” The author got this count from a report by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) available at ipbes.net. The author pointed out that, in addition to the infections and death toll, “The global economic impact if the [COVID-19] pandemic was estimated at $8 trillion to $16 trillion in July 2020 — it may be $16 trillion in the U.S. alone by the fourth quarter of 2021 (assuming vaccines are effective at controlling it by then).”

For four years, we’ve had a presidential administration and a national and statewide Republican Party that has all but completely dismissed the threat of anthropogenic climate change. A new administration and a potentially extremely narrow lead for Democrats in the U.S. Senate brings hope for change, but we have to act incredibly fast now. A 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that we have to reduce global CO2 and equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and see global CO2e neutrality, or even negative C02e emissions, by 2050. This will help us stand the best chance of meeting the most ambitious 1.5C rise over preindustrial temperatures goal agreed to in the Paris Climate Accords, helping us prevent all of the climate catastrophe we can. Again, where has the accountability been?

Will a new Republican supermajority in the West Virginia Legislature and a continued Jim Justice administration take any of this seriously? Industry has successfully captured the GOP and has captured nearly all of the levers of power and influence in West Virginia (with a lot of help from Democrats to boot). Regulatory capture as it is called — corruption of authority when one constituency, in this case industry, co-opts the regulatory apparatus — is complete in West Virginia. We the people of West Virginia cannot allow this to continue. Everything is at stake. Our futures depend on us.

Time for Real Climate Efforts

Parkersburg News & Sentinel Letter to the Editor Nov 21, 2020

By Eric Engle

It’s become a fad of late for government, corporate and industrial entities to promise emissions reductions by the end of the decade and carbon neutrality by mid-century. These goals and commitments, at the very least, offer tacit acknowledgments of the climate crisis we find ourselves in and are a result of pressure by both shareholders and stakeholders. That’s admirable. But we’re not looking for the very least and what’s admirable; we’re looking for concrete action.

FirstEnergy, one of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the country, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, has joined the chorus and said it is committing to carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. I appreciate the few details the utility provided to the Associated Press about this commitment when the utility stated that it “plans to purchase electric or hybrid vehicles when replacing trucks in its fleet, including the large aerial vehicles used to repair power lines, building a large solar farm in West Virginia, and use advanced technology to help customers manage their energy use.” Electrifying transport, transitioning to renewable energy and maximizing energy efficiency while minimizing overall use are all critical. But this doesn’t even begin to get you to a 30 percent GHG reduction in 10 years or carbon neutrality by 2050. So what’s your plan? The devil, as they say, is in the details.

I also can’t help but notice the convenience of the timing of this announcement of climate concern. Could this be a PR distraction from a $60 million bribery investigation by the U.S. DOJ, the U.S. SEC, the Ohio Elections Commission and a panel of independent members of the company’s board of directors?

As of Jan. 20, 2021, we’ll finally have a presidential administration in this country with detailed plans and proposals for climate action, with and without Congress. It’s time for corporations, investors, industry, bankers and financiers, insurers, and all state and local governments, including West Virginia and the City of Parkersburg, to follow suit with detailed plans and proposals of their own — provision of undeniable proof of their commitments to climate action in the proverbial pudding.

Climate Change is Affecting our Hydrosphere

Column in The Bargain Hunter Nov 20, 2020

by Randi Pokladnik                        

When we talk about climate change, we often fail to recognize the role that our oceans play in the bio-chemical cycles of the planet. We know from biology class that the planet is made up of spheres. The lithosphere includes the surface crust, the biosphere is all the living organisms, the atmosphere includes the layers of air surrounding and protecting the planet, and the hydrosphere contains all the solid, liquid and gaseous water of the planet.

The hydrosphere extends from Earth’s surface downward several kilometers into the lithosphere and upward about 12 kilometers into the atmosphere.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 97% of our planet’s water is salt water, and 3% is freshwater. Most of this freshwater is inaccessible. Over 68% of the freshwater is found in icecaps and glaciers, and just over 30% is found in ground water. Only about 0.3% is found in the surface water of lakes, rivers and swamps.

Climate change is dramatically affecting our hydrosphere, mainly our oceans. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere (frozen water) cited these changes in our oceans: acidification, increases in water temperature, sea-level rise, loss of oxygen and sea ice retreat.

Scientists tell us the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide by Earth’s oceans has led to their “acidification.” What does this mean? Ocean water combines with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to create carbonic acid, the same acid in your soda pop. The higher the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere above the water, the more carbon dioxide that is absorbed.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “In the 200 years since the industrial revolution began, our oceans have seen a drop in pH of about 0.1 pH units.” This might not seem like much, but remember, the pH scale is logarithmic, so that drop means a 30% increase in ocean acidity.

As the oceans acidify, the organisms that inhabit the oceans are negatively impacted. Oysters and clams that make hard shells are particularly affected by acidification. The carbonate ions that organisms use to make shells instead combine with the excess hydrogen ions from the acids. This means less carbonate to make shells. Also, the lower pH of acids can even dissolve shells. A similar reaction is happening to ancient monuments affected by acidic rain.

“In the Pacific Northwest, baby oysters have died off by the billions. Their tiny shells dissolved before they were fully formed.” This will affect an industry that brings $11 million into the Pacific Northwest economy.

The oceans have seen unprecedented increases in water temperatures. A map produced by scientists of NOAA and NASA shows temperature increases in the oceans from 1955-2010. The overall increase in ocean heat content during those 55 years is equivalent to 2.5 billion times the energy released from the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

Data shows 90% of the heat increases on the planet have gone into the oceans, and they show significant warming at the surface, as well as in the depths of the oceans. The ocean warming also has led to sea-level rise as warmer water expands.

Another factor to consider is water has a high specific heat, meaning it holds heat for a long period of time. When water is warmed, it takes a long time for it to cool down. Ocean temperatures today are a result of the enormous amount of heat that has been absorbed in the past 55 years.

This heat can damage organisms. An example of this can be observed at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This reef is the largest coral reef in the world and home to more than 1,500 fish species. It is so large it can be seen from space and is one of the seven “natural” wonders of the world.

The reef is a source of food and provides protection from storms. In terms of its economic value, it represents $6.5 billion to the Australian economy, drawing more than 2 million tourists each year. In 2016 a massive heat wave killed 30% of the coral reef. This death, often called bleaching, happens when algae called zooxanthellae die. They are blue-green in color; therefore, once they die, the reef appears white. These algae have a symbiotic relationship with reef-building corals supplying energy and nutrients. Without them, the corals themselves often die.

Trout fishermen know trout like cold water, oxygen-rich streams. Warm water does not contain enough oxygen to support many fish species. As our oceans warm, they are losing oxygen gas. Andreas Oschlies, an oceanographer at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, has a team that tracks worldwide oceanic oxygen levels. He said, “We were surprised by the intensity of the changes we saw, how rapidly oxygen levels are going down in the ocean and how large the effects on marine ecosystems are.”

The decline is worse in tropical regions, which show a 40% decrease in oxygen levels over the past 50 years, but even polar regions are seeing oxygen declines. These drops are especially harmful to zooplankton, which are the base of the ocean food web. Other species are affected and may not be able to reproduce as readily or get adequate food supplies. As oxygen-rich areas shrink, economically valuable fish like tuna, which globally generate $42 billion annually, are forced to find new habitats.

Lastly, climate change is affecting sea ice, which in turn is affecting sea levels. Since 1880 the mean sea level has risen about 8-9 inches, and a third of that increase has happened in the last 25 years. This rise is due to both thermal expansion of warmer water and also meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets.

The United Nations reported eight out of the 10 most populated cities are coastal cities and 40% of the USA’s population lives near a coastline susceptible to flooding. Meteorologists tell us that as the sea levels rise, storm surge is worse. We saw this with Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm “Sandy.” Warmer water means more intense storms too.

If we continue on this path with little to no changes, our oceans could see pH values as low as 7.8. The last time the ocean pH was this low was 14-17 million years ago. At that time the Earth was experiencing warming, as well as a major extinction event.

We know what past warming scenarios brought to the planet, yet we still are ignoring the issue and are reluctant to make any significant changes to our lifestyles. One might say we live in a country of “willful ignorance.”

Campaign Signs for Bees

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) – For those in the Mid-Ohio Valley area who are wondering what they can do with their campaign signs in their yards, there is an alternative to simply throwing them out.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action group is asking those in the area to donate campaign signs that will be used for bee apiaries.

The winter is difficult for the survival of bees and the organization will be looking to provide this different route in order to re-use the signs to help build additional space for bees.

The donations work two-fold as this will also reduce the landfill size.

“When we talk about the climate crisis, we’re talking about a lot of interwoven aspects of it. And an over-reliance on plastic is a big part of that,” says Aaron Dunbar of the Climate Action group. “Obviously, it’s a petroleum product. Even if that weren’t the case, we’re running out of landfill space and plastic just doesn’t break down. So anything we can do to make things less single-use and to find better purposes for things that will otherwise just get thrown in the trash, I mean why not go for it and see what good you can do with it.”

If you are looking to donate your campaign sign, you can go to one of the three different locations listed below:

First Christian Church:1400 Washington Ave., Parkersburg, W. Va.

First Unitarian Universalist Church: 232 Third St., Marietta, Ohio

Seventh-Day Adventist Church: 1901 Park Ave., Parkersburg, W. Va.

Help economy AND climate recover

Parkersburg News & Sentinel Letter to the Editor Nov 14, 2020

by Aaron Dunbar

It’s safe to say that a lot of interesting things happened on Nov. 3. But chief among them to me was a segment during Fox News’ election night coverage, during which hosts examined a voter analysis of average Americans’ opinions on a range of various issues.

Now, bear in mind, this is Fox News being discussed. Not CNN or MSNBC.

According to Fox News’ analysis, a combined 70 percent of Americans either somewhat or strongly favor increasing our government’s spending on renewable energy.

Just think about that for a moment. This is the same network that once featured Laura Ingraham trying to drink a steak stuffed with incandescent lightbulbs through a plastic straw in order to “trigger” liberals (to be honest most of us were far more baffled than triggered.)

So how do you explain such an unexpected development?

As a member of the nonpartisan organization Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, I’ve spent the past year working with a great group of folks to reach out and engage with members of our community. Chief among our efforts has been to distribute campaign yard signs to voters throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley, not endorsing any particular candidate or party, but simply encouraging people to vote for candidates who prioritize climate change and a shift toward renewable energy.

I’ll never forget the moment when, toward the end of our first public event since the start of the pandemic, a gentleman came up to where we were assembled, and asked for one of our yard signs.

“I’m a Republican,” he said, “but I agree we really need to start doing something about this.”

I happen to believe that certain modes of political thought are more equipped to tackle the existential threat of climate change than others. But at the end of the day, this is an issue that affects all of us, whether left, right, or center. And average Americans realize that fact, no matter how loudly an extremely vocal minority may try to insist otherwise.

That’s why Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action supports bold action on climate such as the THRIVE Agenda, a powerful framework for economic recovery that will create new jobs and opportunities for working Americans, as well as offering up bipartisan solutions to lead us toward a brighter, cleaner future.

Climate change is a universal issue, and it’s time to begin uniting around solutions that work for all of us.

A fact-based conversation about fracking

Local columns in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Oct 31, 2020 Randi Pokladnik

Let’s have a fact-based conversation about fracking rather than attempt to “greenwash” the industry and completely ignore the externalities as Greg Kozera’s Oct. 17 op-ed did in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Fracking has been around since the Civil War in 1865. Horizontal high-pressure hydraulic fracturing aka fracking, became popular in the 1990s. It employs fracking along with the drilling of long lateral wells to extract oil and gas.

Economics was the main driving force behind the fracking boom. Charts found at the Energy Information Agency show oil demands increasing at the same time production was dwindling in the USA. Therefore, oil prices climbed, reaching a peak of $140 a barrel in 2009. This increase meant more money was available for oil companies to invest in a capital-intensive process like fracking.

Horizontal high-pressure hydraulic fracking requires major investments in infrastructure such as pipelines, compressor stations and fractionators it also requires water, sand and chemicals. The U.S. EPA and Department of Energy said that an average of seven million gallons of fluid are used for each well. If one percent are chemical additives, that means upwards of over 70,000 gallons of chemicals including biocides, surfactants, and anti-corrosive agents are required for each well. Additionally, a study by Yale Public Health found that of these hundreds of chemicals, over 80 percent have never been reviewed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Of the 119 that have been reviewed by IARC, 55 were found to be carcinogenic. Among the chemicals most frequently used in fracking, 24 are known to block the hormone receptors in humans, according to a 2017 study published in Science Direct.

Fracking has contaminated water wells and a 2020 article in the Journal of Petroleum Technology stated “wellbore integrity cannot be taken for granted.” The XTO Energy well blowout in Belmont County in February 2018 was from a “failure of the gas well’s casing or internal lining.” This blowout released the equivalent of an entire year’s worth of methane by oil and gas industries in countries like France.

Methane gas is much more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas and according to a study in Biogeosciences, a significant portion of the anthropocentric methane emission increases are due to the fracking boom in North America.

The waste water left over after a well is fracked is known as “produced water.” In addition to brine, which is a result of the prehistoric conditions which formed the oil and gas reserves, the waste also contains radioactive materials (Radium -226 and Radium-228) and any chemicals initially injected with the fluid.

In 1978, the EPA exempted oil and gas wastes from exploration and production activities from the hazardous waste management program Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This includes produced water, drilling fluids and drill cuttings. Yet, in 2002 the EPA admitted that just because the wastes were exempt this did not mean that wastes could not present a hazard to human health and the environment.

The oil and gas industries are also exempt or excluded from certain sections of these federal environmental laws: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to Know Act.

To claim that “millions of jobs” will go away if fracking is banned is misleading at best. The industry has been in decline for several years. An August 2020 article in OilPrice.com stated, “Driven by low prices not seen much in modern history, formerly high-flying shale drillers like Chesapeake Energy have gone bankrupt. The Service providers like Halliburton and Schlumberger have written off tens of billions worth of fracking-related equipment, closed facilities and laid off thousands of workers.”

Unlike oil and gas, solar and wind “feedstock” is free and as pointed out in a recent CleanTechnica article, “it takes years to design, build and activate any coal or gas-powered facility.” A 50 MW wind farm can be built in six months. Residential solar can be installed in a few days.

Internal reports show oil and gas industry scientists knew back in the 1980s about the negative effects their products would have on the earth’s climate. Yet, for nearly thirty years they spent millions of dollars promoting climate denial. They also realized clean renewable energy is quickly replacing dirty fossil fuels. In order to save their bottom line, they are now pushing plastics production as a use for fracked gas.

About 42 percent of the 300 million tons of plastic produced each year is used once and thrown away. This includes beverage bottles, take out containers and plastic wrap. Our planet is literally drowning in plastic, it is in the tap water, beer, fish, soil and air. Microplastics and toxic plasticizers permeate our bodies and we are paying for the convenience of plastic with our health.

Wind and solar energy development in the USA lags behind most developed nations. This is not because of a lack of technology or the ability of these sources to supply energy. It is simply a matter of politics and subsidies. HB 6 in Ohio is an example of how the energy industry pays politicians to thwart the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency. USA fossil fuel subsidies are $20 billion a year.

I suggest everyone take ten minutes to read the brief document called “The Green New Deal.” It calls for “achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers” and to ” eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.” It does not say we will do away with all fossil fuels.

The fact is our planet is in trouble. A wise person would think twice before investing in plastic-making companies that squander a finite resource to make beverage bottles and take-out containers. A wise person would address climate change while there is still time to make a difference.