Advocates of the fossil-fuel industry often claim that the expeditious transition to renewable energy will involve sacrifice on the part of everyday Americans. What has truly involved sacrifice for most Americans, and, for those of us in Appalachia particularly, has been the sacrifices on behalf of fossil fuels. Critics of renewables have sometimes referred to the alleged extreme land use of solar arrays and wind farms. What they do not mention, of course, is the vast exclusive use of oil and gas on public lands. More than 23 million acres of federal lands were leased to oil and gas interests in 2022 according to the Bureau of Land Management. Private and public lands allotted for solar and wind projects may be put to multiple uses.
Residents of eastern Ohio know well about sacrifices made in the past and to be made in the future for the oil and gas industry. Under HB 507 passed by both houses of the state legislature and signed by the governor, oil and gas companies, most of which are from out of state, are allowed to conduct hydraulic fracturing, i.e., fracking, immediately adjacent to public lands including state parks, What the residents will be sacrificing for this “greater economic good” is the intrusion of access roads, air pollution, increased truck traffic, extraction of millions of gallons of fresh water, and resultant brine waste–most all for the benefit of companies outside of Ohio.
In her book, “Saving Us,” Katherine Hayhoe has cited the tax breaks and cash grants, i.e., sacrifices in our federal budget, awarded to fossil-fuel interests, such as subsidies for exploration, drilling cost reduction, percentage depletion, at $20 billion. With additional negative externalities of carbon emissions and health costs, those sacrifices amount to $5.3 trillion.
We have already sacrificed job creation to fossil fuels. According to the Ohio River Valley Institute, the shale gas region in Appalachia comprises about 22 counties in PA, OH, and WV; these counties produce about 90% of the gas of the region, yet the region trails the nation on key measures of economic prosperity.
Little of the profit from oil and gas has entered the local area; trained workers and service providers are generally from outside the area. The revenue from local natural resources is not returning to Mid-Ohio Valley. Many of the jobs in oil and gas, particularly in the shale-gas industry, are held by outsiders, which has been confirmed with the reports of workers at these sites driving vehicles with out-of-state license plates. Oil and gas companies should at least be contributing to the local economy through severance taxes, impact fees, and other revenue-generating opportunities that will stay here, benefiting our region and offsetting the health and environmental costs these industries exact upon our population, land, and waters.
In a study by the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs on the economic impact of utility-scale solar energy, it was reported (even at the lowest level of estimation) that over 18,000 construction jobs, 207 annual operator jobs, which would be 80% Ohio-based, and $3.2 billion of total economic impact would result from this investment in this form of renewable energy.
Another steep sacrifice we are making for fossil fuels is the cost to our health in Appalachia. The Ohio Department of Health has reported that combined cancer rates in Washington County are 494.5, as compared to 464.5 statewide. West Virginia’s combined cancer rate is 487.4, and nearby Wirt County has the highest rate in the state. In an October 3, 2023, edition of the New York Times reported that climate change is the biggest single health threat in the world. And it is the fossil-fuel industry that is contributing the most to human-caused climate change with its relentless emissions.
As climate disasters mount through more intense hurricanes, rising ocean levels that are flooding low-lying shorelines, and violent storms, there is a rapidly increasing cost of disaster relief. The Harvard Gazette has noted that in the last five years there have been 18 serious disaster events per year, 911 deaths, and $153 billion in recovery costs. These figures are twice the rate of the previous decade. FEMA Public Assistance grants account for a growing part of our federal budget, yet the root causes of this violent weather are not being addressed.
Fossil fuels, especially natural gas, will be an important source of energy for many years. However, these resources do not need more sacrifice and subsidy but more taxes/fees with the dividend going to the American public, as exemplified in the Energy Innovation Act, which was just introduced in the Congress.
George Banziger, Ph..D., was a faculty member at Marietta College and an academic dean at three other colleges. He is a member of the Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Citizens Climate Lobby, and of the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action team.
On Sept. 18, about 75 Ohio citizens traveled from all over the state to attend the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission meeting. The meeting was to decide if thousands of acres of public land in Ohio, including Salt Fork State Park, Wolf Run State Park, Zepernick Wildlife Area and Valley Run Wildlife Area, would be open to bidding for oil and gas companies seeking to frack their acreages.
Legislation (HB 133) (passed in 2011 under then-Gov. John Kasich) opened up state lands to fracking. However, public outcry against the bill was so intense that Kasich “instituted a “de facto moratorium” on drilling in these areas by refusing to appoint members to a leasing commission mandated in the bill.
Fast forward to December, when Ohio’s majority Republican legislature fast-tracked HB 507, dubbed the “stuffed chicken bill,” through the lame duck session. In addition to opening state lands to oil and gas development, this bill also declared methane gas to be “green energy.” In a totally undemocratic process, the bill was quickly signed into law without any public comment period.
As mandated by the Ohio Revised Code 155.31, Gov. Mike DeWine appointed a five-person oil and gas land management commission. It includes two members with knowledge or experience in the oil and gas industry, and recommended by a statewide organization representing the oil and gas industry; one member of the public with expertise in finance or real estate; and one member representing a statewide environmental or conservation organization. The commission consists of Ryan Richardson (an attorney), Jim McGregor, Matthew Warnock (an energy attorney), Stephen Buehrer (an attorney) and Michael Wise (also an attorney, who was not present at the last two meetings.) Not one member has a background in environmental science, technology, engineering or the medical field. Yet they are charged with making decisions on whether or not to frack our state parks.
At the latest meeting, the commission was met by a very emotional crowd. People held up signs that read “deny” and “fake e-mails”. Several times members of the crowd yelled out things like “these are our parks” and “don’t frack our water.” Richardson, the commission chair, warned the crowd that she would clear the room if the comments were not stopped. At one point Buehrer, a commission member who represents real estate interests on the commission, responded, “We’re trying to conduct the state’s business here.”
It is ironic that these meeting are categorized as being open to the public. They are open but the public is not allowed to comment or ask questions of the commission at any time. Even though citizens are paying for state parks through their taxes, their voices have been silenced throughout this entire process. I have attended four of the OGLMC meetings this year and I can only describe the commission as ineffective and biased.
Some of the angst expressed by citizens in attendance was in part due to the way the commission and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has chosen to ignore “fake” e-mail comments that were in favor of fracking the parks.
“Dozens of citizens told Jake Zuckerman that their names and addresses were used without their knowledge on public comments supporting drilling for oil and gas in Ohio’s state parks.” Even though grassroots groups warned ODNR Director Mary Mertz, as well as the commission chair, that they had discovered fraudulent e-mails, Mertz “defended the decision to neither independently investigate nor remove from the official record, disputed, pro-fracking public comments.” Nevertheless, the attorney general has launched an investigation into the e-mails.
Thousands of Ohioans took time to submit real comments urging the commission to save Ohio parks. Many of these comments were technical with references to peer-reviewed studies on the effects of fracking on humans and ecosystems. By contrast, other than two sets of form letters, there were less than a dozen comments in support of fracking our public lands.
It was quite obvious that of the nine criteria to be used when considering fracking in Ohio parks (Ohio Revised Code 155.33), economics was far more important to the commission than any environmental damage or effects to the local tourism industry or visitors. The commission spent a great deal of time debating the current amount of royalties being paid by oil and gas companies for state lands. Matthew Warnock said the state legislature, which set royalties at 12.5 percent, set the value too low.
The four members present split over whether restrictions on fracking under parks sought by the Department of Natural Resources should be considered. These include: No well pads within 1,000 feet of the park boundary, a ban on use of park roads by oil and gas vehicles, rules about water and light pollution, as well as a temporary shutdown of some areas during hunting season. Because the commission could not agree on the ODNR restrictions, the matter was tabled until the next meeting.
The chair, Richardson, repeatedly claimed “I think the statute is very clear about what the scope of our authority is and is not, I don’t think we have the ability to simply say no.” But her statement is not factual. Why were nine specific criteria set for the commission to review if they did not have any recourse other than to say yes to all of the nominations? The relevant statute, ORC 155.33, says the commission can “approve or disapprove” lease nominations on the basis of the nine considerations, including economic benefit, environmental impact, geological impact, impact on visitors, and public comments and objections.
The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission is a prime example of regulatory capture, a form of corruption of authority that occurs when a political entity, policymaker or regulator is co-opted to serve the commercial, ideological or political interests of a minor constituency, such as an industry.
The commission is stacked in favor of the oil and gas industry, and the meetings are merely a puppet show with the strings being pulled by oil and gas interests. Citizens, hoping for an authentic process, diligently try to educate the commission on the many reasons why our Ohio parks should not be fracked. Yet, the commission, statehouse and DeWine have made it impossible for Ohio’s citizens to participate in a democratic process.
(Pokladnik, a resident of Uhrichsville, holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, master’s and doctorates in environmental studies and is certified in hazardous materials regulations.)
Electrification can be more economical and provides health and environmental benefits too. Why am I focusing on electrification? Last week was National Drive Electric Week (Sept. 22-Oct. 1) and we are entering the season where holiday decorations are powered by electricity for scary and fun displays, and lights hang from trees and bushes.
Infrastructure is not a sexy topic, it’s something most people don’t even think about until it breaks. What we choose to invest in as our infrastructure matters not just for immediate needs, but is about long term returns instead of increasing costs. Externalities are costs not always factored into the price you pay. We often end up paying more for healthcare, natural disasters, and environmental impacts. These costs can be harder to see.
Tracking the power grid emissions. PJM (https://pjm.com/) is the regional transmission organization which helps plan our region’s power balancing and includes a map on their homepage which shows the current price of electricity as well as power generation sources. Electricity Maps (https://app.electricitymaps.com/map) is a source of real time and historical power of cost, source, and carbon emission.
Have you considered how much you pay a year just to have gas service? I’m paying approximately $480 a year to maintain the connection even if I don’t use any natural gas. I plan to replace my furnace when it ages out with a cold climate heat pump. I’ll no longer need gas service and can factor in a $480 savings a year toward the cost of the install and operation of the new system. The Department of Energy is running a whole program on heat pumps for cold climates optimized down to -15 degrees F operation so these are not the heat pumps people say can’t handle the winter.
When we bought our house our gas hot water heater needed to be replaced so we installed a hybrid heat pump water heater as it had much higher efficiency compared to resistive electric since it moves heat from the basement to the water and had the benefit of dehumidifying the basement somewhat too. This change moved emissions from exhausting just outside of our house and in our neighborhood and moved those emissions to the power plant which can reduce even further as the grid becomes cleaner. Our house came with a gas stove which due to ongoing information on the indoor air quality including those from the American Chemical Society https://tinyurl.com/jmermbrf and Journal of Building Engineering https://tinyurl.com/uyr3k2sd we plan on replacing with an induction stove. Would like our future kid(s) to live in a healthier home environment with the added benefit of lowering the chance to get burns by eliminating the hot surface risk of conductive electric stoves.
I want to electrify my life except, the next step is my car. My approximately 100-mile round trip commute will be in an electric vehicle next year. I hope I can source renewable power generated here in the Mid-Ohio Valley and keep money here to benefit the community. I not only will be getting 60+ miles per gallon equivalent on the current grid carbon intensity according to the Union of Concerned Scientists calculator (https://evtool.ucsusa.org/) which beats my current 39 mpg. I’m making a huge impact in a few years in regards to carbon emissions (https://tinyurl.com/mrfhdkjb).
What might we do to prepare for an electric future? Have proactive policies in place to make it cost less focused on construction and major remodels.
Support development of renewables in the Mid-Ohio Valley. We can benefit from diversifying our tax sources, provide opportunities to diversify income for our county residents, and hedge risk in the economics of maturing technology.
Support “Agrivolatics.” If you are not familiar, it pairs solar with crops and livestock that benefit or have a net zero impact while providing stable revenue to the landowners.
Jonathan Brier is a Marietta resident, information scientist, and an Eagle Scout. He is a member of the Citizen Science Association, Association of Computing Machinery, American Association for the Advancement of Science, OpenStreetMap US, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, and a Wikipedia contributor. If you want to know more about citizen science or to reach him, visit https://brierjon.com or email: email@example.com
September 15, 2023 Press Release about letter to Oil and Gas Land Management Commission & Attorney General
“19 Ohio Organizations Urge State Officials to Halt State Land Leasing Decisions Until Investigations of Alleged Fake “Pro-Fracking” comments concludes” (MOVCA was a signatory. Link to letter provided.)
Available on the WV Climate Alliance:
September 20, 2022k Press Release
“Public Energy Authority Must Follow State Code and Appoint an Environmental Advocate”
September 27, 2023 10:30 -Noon Event #2 in the SWPA Bioeconomy Series hosted by ReImagine Beaver Co.
“Economic Design for the Long Run with Industrial Hemp” [Recording link provided.]
September 21, 2023 Article by Jessica Arriens, Senior Program Manager for Climate and Energy Policy at NWF
“Awesome Tax Credit Guidance – Autumn”
September 20, 2023 Press Statement
“ReImagine Appalachia Hails President Biden’s American Climate Corps”
September 7, 2023 Article by Annie Contractor and Molly Updegrove
“Your Community May Benefit from the New Recomplete Pilot Program”
RELEVANT TO OUR REGION/ MORE EDUCATIONAL ARTICLES, PERSPECTIVES, & RESEARCH
Available on The WHITE HOUSE:
September 20, 2023 Press Release about American Climate Corps
“FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Launces American Climate Corps to Train Young People in Clean Energy, Conservation, and Climate Resilience Skills, Create Good-Paying Jobs and Tackle the Climate Crisis’
“The dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting.” — U.N. Sec. Gen. Antonio Guterres
Global climate change is not a future problem. Effects that scientists have been predicting would result from global climate change are occurring now.
Summers are always hot. But this summer was different in profound ways. Record-breaking temperatures hit multiple cities. Records for heat fell everywhere. Globally, summer 2023 was the hottest summer on record.
The U.S. broke more than 2,000 high temperature records this summer. In July alone, nearly 200 million people — 60% of the U.S. population — were simultaneously under an extreme heat or flood advisory.
Today, with 3 months still left in the year, the U.S. has already experienced more billion-dollar weather disasters in 2023 than in any other year since authorities started tracking such data 40-plus years ago.
Catastrophic floods in the Hudson Valley; Unrelenting heat dome over Phoenix; Ocean temperatures hitting 101 degrees Fahrenheit off the coast of Miami in July (highest ever recorded); A rare flooding deluge in Vermont; A surprising tornado in Delaware; The first hurricane to hit southern California in more than 80 years. And in Iowa in late August, it was so hot that the CORN was literally sweating.
A decade ago, any one of these events would have been seen as an aberration. This year, they have been happening simultaneously as climate change fuels extreme weather.
Changes to Earth’s climate driven by increased emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are already having widespread effects on the environment world-wide: glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking, river and lake ice is breaking up earlier, plant and animal geographic ranges are shifting, and plants and trees are blooming sooner.
Not every place experiences the same effects: Climate change may cause severe drought in one region while making floods more likely in another. Following are some of the impacts currently being experienced across the planet.
Longer-lasting droughts: Hotter temperatures increase the rate at which water evaporates from the air, leading to more severe and pervasive droughts. The western US is experiencing a severe “megadrought” — the driest 22-year stretch recorded in at least 1,200 years. (125+ consecutive days without rainfall in Phoenix, AZ this summer.), shrinking drinking water supplies, withering crops, forests more susceptible to insect infestations.
More intense wildfires: Drier, hotter climate creates conditions fueling more vicious wildfire seasons. The number of large wildfires doubled between 1984 and 2015 in the western United States.
Stronger storms: Warmer air also holds more moisture, making tropical cyclones wetter, stronger and more capable of rapidly intensifying. The frequency of severe Category 4 and 5 hurricanes is expected to increase.
Melting sea ice: The effects of climate change are most apparent in the world’s coldest regions–the poles. The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as anywhere else on earth. In just 15 years, the Arctic could be entirely ice-free in the summer.
Sea level rise: The predicted 12 inches of sea level rise by 2050 will damage infrastructure, like roads, sewage treatment plants, and even power plants. Recreational beaches that many of us have grown up visiting may be gone by the end of the century.
Less predictable growing seasons: Farming crops is becoming more unpredictable–and livestock, which are sensitive to extreme weather, have become challenging to raise. Climate change shifts precipitation patterns, causing unpredictable floods and longer-lasting droughts. More frequent and severe hurricanes can devastate an entire season’s worth of crops. The dynamics of pests, pathogens, and invasive species are also expected to become harder to predict and costly for farmers to manage. These impacts to our agricultural systems pose a direct threat to the global food supply.
Human health: Climate change worsens air quality. It increases exposure to hazardous wildfire smoke and ozone smog triggered by warmer conditions, both of which harm our health. Insect-borne diseases become more prevalent in a warming world. In the past 30 years, the incidence of Lyme disease from ticks has doubled in the United States.
Climate change is already impacting weather, environment, agriculture, and humanity. But ultimately, if we all work to reduce emissions, we may avoid some of the worst effects.
The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for. — Ernest Hemingway
Until next time, be kind to your Mother Earth.
Linda Eve Seth, SLP, M.Ed., is a mother, grandmother, concerned citizen and member of MOVCA.
As a Mon Power ratepayer, I have to say I’m really tired of being on the hook for the refusal of the powers that be in West Virginia to move on from coal energy. To quote from a piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail by energy and environment reporter Mike Tony, “Mon Power and Potomac Edison already have a request pending before West Virginia utility regulators for a $207.4 million, 13% increase in customers’ base rate.”
Tony continues, “That’s the rate that accounts for all utility service expenses, including operating and maintenance costs, taxes and depreciation. Now the FirstEnergy utilities have asked the Public Service Commission for a roughly $167.5 million increase in customers’ rate to cover fuel costs effective Jan. 1, 2024. The PSC approved a $91.8 million rate increase to cover Mon Power and Potomac Edison fuel costs in December . The rate hike followed a $94 million rate hike the PSC approved for the utilities in May 2022, also for fuel costs. That followed a $19.5 million fuel cost rate increase approved in December 2021.”
Did you hear that cash register sound over and over again in your head as you read that last paragraph? You can thank West Virginia’s coal baron Governor, Jim Justice, his coal industry flunkies on the West Virginia “Public Service” Commission and a Republican supermajority in the state legislature. You can also thank the West Virginia Coal Association and the “Friends of Coal” campaign for the cultural manipulation tactics they’ve deployed to protect their air and water polluting, soil degrading, climate destabilizing and public health threatening status quo.
It’s not just West Virginia that’s engaged in total fossil fuels nonsense, though. A recent report from the organization Oil Change International shows that the U.S. accounts for more than a third of the planned oil and gas expansion globally by 2050. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), describes fossil fuels expansion efforts as “very unhealthy and unwise economic risks.” Birol was quoted in The Guardian newspaper as saying, “New large-scale fossil fuel projects not only carry major climate risks, but also business and financial risks for the companies and their investors.”
The IEA was created in 1974 to help coordinate a collective response to major disruptions in the supply of oil, according to its website. It’s not exactly a bastion of climate and environmental concern. Investors and fiduciaries would do well to heed the warning of an agency like the IEA that helps coordinate energy policy all over the world and has for almost 50 years. Just don’t tell that to State Treasurer and District 02 congressional candidate, Riley Moore (R-WV), or Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate, Patrick Morrisey (R-WV).
Moore and Morrisey have been on a years-long crusade against Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing — investment strategy that accounts for things like climate change and its impacts on finance. They call it “woke capitalism.” I guess now it’s “woke,” used derogatorily of course, to consider how the destabilization of life-supporting systems on our only home in the cosmos might impact a person’s or entity’s portfolio.
That makes about as much sense as the letter to the editor in this paper last week suggesting that the wildfires in Maui had nothing to do with climate change. Hawaii is an average two degrees warmer than in 1950 across its surface area. Hot, dry conditions and hurricane winds from a category 4 storm fueled by almost unfathomable ocean heat created the perfect conditions for a devastating wildfire. Anthropogenic (human-caused) global heating, aka climate change, was most certainly a detectable culprit in all of the above.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that threating the habitability of a planet of which we are an intimate part is a costly endeavor, not just in terms of physical harm and lives lost, but to the bottom lines of energy ratepayers, investors and the labor force. According to a recent analysis by the Stockholm Resilience Center, we have now transgressed 6 of 9 planetary boundaries: Biochemical flows (i.e. phosphorous and nitrogen accumulating in streams); freshwater change/use; land-system change; biosphere integrity; climate change (i.e. C02 and equivalent greenhouse gas accumulation and radiative forcing); and novel entities (i.e. plastics pollution). The remaining three boundaries (stratospheric ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading and ocean acidification) we perform some better on, though we’re close to exceeding the acidification boundary as well. These transgressions are costly.
I don’t want astronomical power bills. I don’t want stranded assets for retirement investments. I want West Virginia to remain an energy state–cleaner, safer, healthier, more sustainable, more efficient and more affordable green energy. I encourage you to reflect on what you really want and not just on bumper sticker and license plate logic like being a “friend of coal,” whatever that means.
Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
After a month of climate-induced catastrophes across the world–so called “thousand year” floods in eight countries in just the past eleven days! –I’ve been feeling as though my efforts to avoid single use plastics or take my own bags to the grocery store are almost too feeble to matter.
The pictures are all the same: brown rushing water, bodies, smashed cars, ruined real estate, survivors who have lost everything they owned. People who contributed nothing to the problem wandering in shock.
How was it decided that the air, the water, and the earth under our feet can be owned and trashed for the sole purpose of making a profit, but we all have to bear the consequences of that destruction in polluted air, water, and a warming planet? That maintaining and expanding that profit justifies almost any action. Contributions to politicians ensure that fossil fuels development is expanded. This year alone the U.S. has approved $1.5 billion in fossil fuel financing, more than any other country, and we continue to break records in domestic oil production. We see corruption large and small: Just this week, it was reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that a front organization for the natural gas industry, the Consumer Energy Alliance, used people’s names without their knowledge on petitions to allow fracking in Ohio State Parks, including those close to us, Salt Fork and Wolf Run.
There’s no question the fossil fuel industry is the wealthiest one the world has ever known. Since the Industrial Revolution first used fossil fuels to produce energy, large economies have been driven by carbon-emitting energy, agriculture, and industrial systems. What we often overlook is the invisible financial underpinnings of the fossil fuel economy, such as banking, capital investment, and insurance. The financial world is being disrupted in an unprecedented way by the climate crisis.
For example, insurance companies are pulling out of states because the climate risk of fires and floods is too great. State Farm and Allstate will no longer offer property insurance to new clients in California. Farmers Insurance will no longer write policies in Florida. The National Flood Insurance Program is $20 billion in debt and had to raise rates last year, making it even more unaffordable.
This represents a profound opportunity for climate activists and gives us something more meaningful to do than remember our shopping bags. Campaigns for cultural, educational, and religious institutions to divest their investments from fossil fuels pull the legitimacy or permission bestowed by the community for the fossil fuel industry to burn and flood the planet. This is called the “social license to operate,” a term created by the mining and extraction industries in the past 25 years. “A social license to operate exists when a mineral exploration or mining project is seen as having the approval, the broad acceptance of society to conduct its activities…Such acceptability must be achieved on many levels, but it must begin with, and be firmly grounded in, the social acceptance of the resource development by local communities (Joyce and Thomson 2000: 52).” Rescinding this approval gets to the root of the climate crisis.
The divestment movement was sparked by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org when he said “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage” (McKibben, 2012). Divestment allows institutions to align their actions with their mission and values to restore a livable future. Divestment in higher education is the single most common activity among college students this year in climate action. According to the Guardian this week, more than 250 US higher education Institutions have divested from fossil fuels.
This is something we all can research and act upon, maybe in divestment clubs? Where do you keep your savings? Where is your pension invested? What about bequests in your will? How about your church? Community cultural and philanthropic institutions? You can find out about investment funds at fossilfreefunds.org. 350’s Go Fossil Free campaign is a good place to start if you want to pursue divesting or start a campaign. Stand.earth has the most comprehensive database , listing 1596 institutions worldwide which have divested more than 40 trillion from the fossil fuel industry, and is a great source of ideas.
We can reduce an array of carbon emissions through the ways we decide to spend and save as well as by how institutions transact, invest, and trade. Your retirement plan, your bank, or your credit card company may be funding the climate crisis but it doesn’t have to.
Jean Ambrose is trying not to be a criminal ancestor.
This column often focuses on facts and figures, and those are important, but today I want to share stories from the front lines of climate change. We in the Mid-Ohio Valley are–for the moment–in one of the areas spared the worst of climate change effects, but some of the places and people we care about are increasingly in harm’s way.
Part of my childhood was spent on Fort Myers Beach, a barrier island off the coast of southwest Florida. My sister and I spent a lot of time at the public beach, watching the sunset from the pier and occasionally visiting the tiny restaurants and snack bars that dotted the small commercial district. My mother and her sister at one time worked at an old-fashioned drug store in that same commercial hub, my father in the produce section of a nearby grocery. When Hurricane Ian made landfall a year ago, that area was leveled–not a single building left standing and most of the pier washed away. While I had not missed the island enough to visit in the last forty years, knowing that every structure from that area where we spent so much time was destroyed — in a single storm — was a shock.
2023 has been the year of wildfires. The smoke from Canada that blanketed the eastern U.S. for several days was followed by the devastating fires on Maui, which killed 115 people, with more than 300 others still unaccounted for. And the fires keep coming.
WVUP journalism graduate Matthew Stephens edits the Cheney Free Press in Spokane County, Wash., where wildfires last month burned more than 20,000 acres and left two people dead. His reporting and photographs brought home the reality of the fires’ devastation. Stunned evacuees reported having to change course while seeking shelter because the fire spread so fast as to close off their initial escape route, burning some 10,000 acres in a matter of minutes. Traffic on one of the roads that remained open backed up nearly 20 miles at one point.
Animals that escaped or were in some cases turned loose when their owners fled have been held at a local fairgrounds, where veterinarians are treating them and volunteers are attempting to reunite them with their owners. When Matt was photographing the aftermath, he met a woman walking around with a bag of chicken feed, hoping that some of her chickens had escaped the flames. Miraculously, some had. The full coverage can be seen at https://www.cheneyfreepress.com/.
Most of us probably think hurricanes are Louisiana’s most common natural disaster, but right now, the state is on fire, a third of its parishes having declared wildfire emergencies. One of the driest summers on record has led to an average of 21 wildfires per day in the state, with more than 60,000 acres burned as of Aug. 30. Another WVUP graduate, now living near Fort Johnson, had to evacuate when the Vernon Parish fire reached to within a football-field length of her home.
On Aug. 30, Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Florida’s central Gulf coast, with 125-mile-an-hour winds and storm surges of up to ten feet. Bridges closed, stranding residents who did not evacuate in time. Much of Tampa, where I lived for eight years, was under water. Tropical Storm Lee, now forming in the Atlantic, is forecast to become a Category 4 hurricane over the next few days, with winds of 145 miles an hour.
What do these disasters have to do with climate change? Droughts, fires, and hurricanes are nothing new in our planet’s history; however, they are becoming more common as increased levels of atmospheric CO2 lead to warmer air and ocean temperatures. Warmer oceans, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cause hurricanes to strengthen and become more deadly. NASA has documented the effects of warmer air temperatures on rain patterns, with increased drought conditions in many areas and more intense rain events in others. The Mid-Ohio Valley has thus far not experienced the worst of our current climate extremes, but we cannot be sure that our good luck will continue.
Rebecca Phillips is a WVU Parkersburg retiree and a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action and the Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta.
August 1, 2023 Energy and Environment article by Curtis Tate
“Capito, Republican Senators Ask EPA To Scrap Proposed Power Plant Rules”
Available on The Allegheny Front:
August 25, 2023 Article by Rachel MeDevitt about series on climate change. Links to audio recordings.
“What Can One Person Do About Climate Change? Climate Solutions will help you get started”
RELEVANT TO OUR REGION:
Available on E&E News ENERGYWIRE: (politico pro.com)
August 18, 2023 ENERGYWIRE Article by Carlos Anchondo (MOVCA is signature and Eric Engle quoted)
“EPS oversight of CO2 injection wells stirs debate” Two letters to the agency this week highlight a dispute over whether Stages can adequately and safely oversee injection wells critical for carbon capture technology.
August 3, 2023 Inside Clean Energy article by Dan Gearino
“Labor and Environmental Groups Have Learned to Get Along. Here’s the Organization in the Middle” The leader of BlueGreen Alliance talks about what brings his members together and some of the big challenges.
The years between World War I and World War II were full of innovation, technological advances, and scientific growth. Many modern inventions — or the perfection of modern inventions — take root in that time. And, so it is with Teflon, a specialty plastic or fluoropolymer with some highly desirable properties, and also some deadly consequences.
While the invention of Teflon in 1938 came about by accident in the laboratory of Roy Plunkett, who was working on a refrigerant, being able to safely manufacture the substance took some time. At the intersection of modern chemistry and global history, developing a means to bond carbon and fluorine was seen as a solution to a problem — and one that had little to do with what goes on in the kitchen.
Around this time, prominent U.S. scientists were warning President Franklin D. Roosevelt that Germany would soon have a nuclear bomb. In response, the U.S. initiated a covert program to stockpile and weaponize uranium and create the atom bomb. This program was called The Manhattan Project.
In order to accomplish such a task, the government needed industry to develop a compound that would be virtually indestructible — one that could withstand the harshest conditions without breaking down. This was fundamental to the production of components necessary for the physical construction of the bomb. While scientists were looking to the bonding of carbon and fluorine for the answer, such a marriage was a dangerous and explosive proposition. First, they needed to develop the technology to merge them safely and in large quantities. In doing so, some of the resultant tech led to processes for making bomb components — and some was licensed by industry.
By 1944, DuPont still faced some difficulties with the mass production of Teflon. This became all too apparent when an accident occurred just before Thanksgiving at the company’s New Jersey facility — ripping apart a building and killing two workers. In the aftermath, the corporation decided to construct a plant specifically for the manufacture of Teflon. They selected Washington, W.Va., as the site of this new endeavor.
A photo of the newborn manufacturing facility kept in the Hagley Digital Archives shows a rather sparse looking place that is nearly unrecognizable as the Washington Works of today.
The rest, as they say, is history. Forever chemicals formed by the bonding of carbon and fluorine are essential to the production of Teflon and thousands of other consumer applications. However, PFAS are so slippery that their release into the environment proved most difficult to control. For decades DuPont used a riverside landfill for the disposal of Teflon waste. In time, a growing awareness of contamination issues led the corporation to relocate the contents of this landfill. They dug it up and moved it to Dry Run.
And, so began the Tennant family’s struggles — and the legendary battle over their cattle and the mysterious wasting disease that killed their entire herd.
Today this is all part of our chemical legacy.
The proliferation of PFAS had a 50-year head start on concerns over health and the environment. Evidence that exposure leads to the development of cancer and other health problems has done little to slow the spread. Industry keeps making new derivatives and putting them into use. PFAS can be found in the environment globally, in every body of water, and in the bloodstream of every human alive — from before birth.
If you are interested in a more thorough, academic exploration of the subject, I invite you to explore “Timebombing the Future” by Dr. Rebecca Altman.
Callie Lyons is the author of the 2007 book, “Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8,” which chronicles the discovery of PFAS or highly fluorinated compounds in Mid-Ohio Valley water supplies and beyond. She is a journalist and researcher for FITSNews and the FITSFiles true crime and corruption podcast.
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