Send your e-mail address to email@example.com, and he will notify you of upcoming hikes.
Monthly Service Project at Ridley Creek State Park
lst Saturday of the Month - Ridley Creek State Park (Media PA) Volunteer Trail Work Assemble 9:00, work until no later than noon at Park Office (Hunting Hill Mansion) Rear Entrance Wear long pants, otherwise dress for the weather. Bring, water, work gloves if you have them, insect repellent with 20-30% DEET, also bring friends & family. RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on these links for summaries of past events, or scroll down:
The January 20, 2015 educational program of the Sierra Club and Community College of Philadelphia Coalition for a Sustainable Future was about nuclear energy. Speakers were John Nagle, a former nuclear engineer, and Jeff Schmidt, formerly executive director of the PA Sierra Club. The program was held at CCP's Center for Business and Industry, 18th and Callowhill Streets.
There are 72 reactor sites nationwide, seven within 100 miles of Philadelphia: in NJ Oyster Creek, Salem, Hope Creek, and in PA Susquehanna, Limerick, Peach Bottom, Three Mile Island. All are either boiling water or pressurized water reactors. In the former water is converted to steam by contact with hot nuclear fuel and directed through a turbine to generate electricity. In the latter steam from the reactor heats a heat exchanger which generates steam to turn the turbine, thus keeping the turbine free from radioactive exposure. The typical reactor generates 1000 megawatts or 1 B watts.
The old Atomic Energy Commission was charged with regulating and promoting nuclear power. Because these missions were inconsistent, the AEC was dissolved. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a single, clear mission.while the US Department of Energy promotes nuclear power. The AEC originally licensed plants for 40 years, expecting they would then be ready for retirement, but 75 reactors, including all in our region, have been granted life extensions. Few US plants have been closed for wear and tear. A few have been closed by their owners because they were no longer profitable.
Under construction are five nuclear plants, four with newer designs using passive, structural systems for emergency response.
A trend in the industry is toward small reactors built underground. In case of an accident they have relatively little radioactivity to contain. Soil absorbs heat. Underground plants are less accessible to terrorists. They let the plant operator generate only enough electricity to meet demand. Additional small reactors can be added where needed. There are small modular (prefabricated) reactors in Pakistan and India.
Often reactor fuel is changed every 24 months. There are 68,000 metric tons of high level nuclear waste nationwide. Low level waste is stored at a few regional sites. High level is currently stored at the reactor sites, though by 2048 the federal government hopes to have one large site. Plutonium, half life 50,000 years, can be destroyed by nuclear burning.
Japan's Fukushima disaster prompted safety reviews in the US. Engineers hypothesized plant performance in an emergency if it were unreachable for 24 hours. Nagle said one reason Fukushima was so bad is Japan was reticent to ask for our help. The US could have provided electricity there through a submarine.
Worldwide 70 nuclear plants are under construction, 27 of them in China. Even Japan plans to build more
Jeff Schmidt followed Nagle and explained why the Sierra Club opposes nuclear power. The Club doesn't consider nuclear power an acceptable way to address climate disruption.
Years ago the Club tolerated nuclear power so far as to support a moratorium on new construction until problems were solved. But after Three Mile Island in 1979 it turned against new nuclear plants and asked for existing plants to be phased out as replacement clean power could be brought on line.
There is no threshhold below which radiation is known to be safe. At any level it could threaten health. Every release of radiation contributes to an increase in "background radiation".
Mining of uranium requires machines that emit carbon dioxide. The native Americans who mostly do the mining suffer from leukemia, while coal miners suffer from black lung disease.
Spent nuclear fuel, considered high-level nuclear waste, will remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years. No technology can promise safe isolation of the waste from the biosphere that long. What would we say to future generations whom must tend our waste while deriving no benefit from it?
A nuclear accident can be catastrophic. At TMI fuel melted through the reactor core and has costs billions to clean up to date. The accident at Chernobyl will cause thousands of cancers and has rendered hundreds of square miles uninhabitable for many generations. The clean-up continues. The Fukushima acccident may cost $250 B to clean up, and radiation from that accident has shown up in Pacific Ocean waters off the U.S. west coast. September 11, 2001 might have been worse had a jetliner filled with fuel been targeted to hit a reactor.
Proliferation of nuclear weapons technology among nations, some of them malicious, is another threat. Nuclear materials used for power generation can be diverted for weapons construction. Terrorists could steal nuclear material to create dirty bombs.
The nuclear industry is heavily subsidized by the federal government.. The US Department of Energy has spent hundreds of billions on research on reactor design and waste disposal. Congress caps liability for nuclear plant owners in case of an accident at a few hundred million dollars when cleanup costs may be orders of magnitude higher. Taxpayers will be asked to cover the difference.
For electricity generation the Sierra Club prefers increasing energy efficiency and renewables to nuclear or fossil fuels. Sierra Club doesn't want to trade one dirty energy technology for another.
In the Q and A someone asked if it were true that living within 100 miles of a nuclear plant was equal to getting a chest xray per year. Nagle said no. The increased radiation is infinitesimal. You get more from an airplane ride or if you stand next to a granite building or a coal-fired power plant.
Thorium is a relatively safe fuel because it does not decay into other radioactive elements.
One nuclear plant in a year saves as much carbon dioxide as is emitted by 29,000 cars, if you don't count the CO2 emitted during uranium mining and fuel refinement.
Detail of this event are on the Conservation Page.
Roberta Winters of the League of Women Voters spoke to the Sierra Club and CCP for a Sustainable Future Monday night November 17 at the Center for Business and Industry, 18th and Callowhill Streets, Philadelphia. Her topic focused on the opportunities and challenges of natural gas operations in Pennsylvania. Among the points she shared were:
The League of Women Voters supports a severance tax on gas extracted from Pennsylvania. However, it must be set at a rate consistent with other states and during the lifespan of the well. Often the output of a fracked well is highest during the first few months of production. ßThe League also supports a moratorium on natural gas drilling in public lands.
Watch for details here.
The PFFFF, with guest MC and longtime Philly Folk Fest host Gene Shay -- and many local music notables! $20 will get you 12 musical acts, food, and beer and wine. Thanks to host Chris DiGangi, for making this backyard party a Sierra Club benefit event.
For details click HERE
Marilyn Howarth MD spoke on air pollution to the Sierra Club on Monday September 15 at the Center for Business and Industry, 18th and Callowhill Streets. She directs the Center for Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) at Penn, one of 21 environmental health centers around the US funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). CEET studies the effects of pollution on cells, children, lungs and genes.
In 1952 a fog of particulates, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides caused chiefly by coal used to smelt iron settled on London. A temperature inversion kept it from moving for two weeks. Many died. Howarth could not remember such an event in Philadelphia. On an air pollution index we are always below 200. China is above 400 every day except during the Olympics.
Air pollution causes cancer, heart disease, and lung diseases including asthma. In parts of Philadelphia 21-27% of people have asthma, one of the highest rates in the US, where the average is 9.3%
Regulation of the air in the US began in 1970 under the Nixon administration with passage of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which established the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six criteria pollutants with known health effects: ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and lead. At the time lead was still in gasoline. Ozone is formed by nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and sunlight. In the stratosphere ozone protects us from cancer-causing UV radiation. At ground level ozone irritates the lungs. Originally scientists tracked large particulates but could discover no correlation with disease. Only later did they find it was fine particulates, 2.5 microns or less long, that influenced health.
In yearly state implementation plans, states are required to enforce criteria pollutant standards set by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). If they didn't EPA could take away federal money allocated to them for highway construction, but EPA has never done this.
The CAA amendments of 1990, passed under the George HW Bush administration, added 187 hazardous chemicals to the criteria pollutants as substances EPA can regulate. They include benzene, common near highways, and formaldehyde, common along the Gulf of Mexico. The amendments also required companies to prepare risk management plan for disasters.
Transportation, both on-road (trucks) and off-road (trains, ships, planes), emit 65% of hazardous air pollutants in PA, 68% in NJ. Transportation and power plants are the main sources of PM 2.5.
in 2001 the American Trucking Association sued EPA, claiming the agency should have considered the cost of its regulations. A unanimous US Supreme Court said no cost-benefit analysis was required and air pollutants could be regulated as health hazards.
Why isn't our air cleaner?
Howarth would like electricity to be generated from fuels other coal but doesn't think the US has the political will to build enough wind, solar, or geothermal installations to take its place. She favors nuclear energy. The number of people injured by a coal-burning power plant rivals the number injured by a nuclear accident.
Someone pointed out the School Reform Commission will not allow NIH to measure the indoor air quality of Philadelphia school buildings. Howarth said many schools have mold.
Saleem Chapman -- Env. Justice Organizer,
Clean Air Council
Jen Hombach -- 350.org Philadelphia (tentative)
Refreshments will be served. For further information contact: email@example.com
Potluck picnic at Betzwood Picnic Area, across river from Valley Forge - bring some to share. Sierra Club members and friends invited.
Speaker - Rick Wolf, retired park ranger
Hamburgers, hot dogs w/ vegetarian option and beverages provided by Sierra Club. Bring side dish to share. $5 donation optional. Please bike or hike to the picnic site if possible - parking is limited. Rain or shine - heavy rain cancels. For last minute status, call Anne at 610 308-2840
Starting at 10:00am to Betzwood Picnic Area from:
Betzwood Park is on the north/east side of the Schuykill River. See the park and trail map of Valley Forge.
On Monday June 9 about 45 people listened to three speakers on wind energy. The event was sponsored by the Sierra Club and CCP Coalition for a Sustainable Future at the Center for Business and Industry, 18th and Callowhill Streets.
Laura Jackson, a retired high school environmental science teacher from Bedford County and long-time Sierra Club member, was generally critical of industrial wind turbines as they are now constructed. They kill birds and bats, fragment forests, increase impervious surface and stormwater runoff, and generate low-frequency noise and shadow flicker. The last is rapid change from light to dark as blades pass before the sun. New designs like oscillating metal plates on a rooftop may mitigate these problems.
PA has about 700 windmills. New ones are up to 550' high from the ground to vertical tip. They sit on a base of reinforced steel and concrete that may be 10’ deep and 60’ across. Big wind turbines have a nameplate capacity of 2.5 megawatts, but most generate just 25% of that capacity because PA wind isn't strong. We rank 30th out of 50 states for wind potential. Coal-burning power plants often reach 75% of capacity. It could take 2,500 windmills to replace one such plant.
Jackson was especially critical of plans to build industrial wind turbines on Stone and Jack's Mountains in Mifflin County, in a flyway used by golden eagles and other raptors. When a bird swerves to avoid a wind turbine it leaves behind the updraft a mountain generates, forcing it to flap its wings to stay aloft. This uses up vital body energy. Jacks Mountain is recognized as core forest habitat and home to the state threatened Allegheny woodrat. it is also an important habitat for the timber rattlesnake, a species of concern in PA, and contains high quality watersheds that will be degraded by the construction of up to 95 wind turbines on the top of these very steep mountains.
Industrial wind turbines generate relatively few jobs per project. One project of 60 needs 11 maintenance workers. In the question period afterward a listener said coal mining generate far fewer jobs than it once did.
Phil Wallis, executive director of Audubon PA, said 30% of birds have lost at least half their habitat because of global warming. There should be no offshore windmills in less than 50' of water, over which shorebirds fly.
The effects of windmill-caused forest fragmentation haven't been studied, but they are likely to parallel those of drilling-caused forest fragmentation, which have been studied. Birds living on the edge of the forest will do better than those living in the forest interior.
Rooftop solar has lately become cheaper. Installers now offer better financing until electricity savings pay for the panels. Because it is less disruptive to the environment and less threatening to wildlife, solar is the preferred form of renewable energy, at least until windmills are redesigned.
Presented by the Sierra Club of Southeastern PA and CCP Coalition for a Sustainable Future: Our speakers are Richard Egan of the Delaware River Sojourn and Tim Fenchel of the Schuylkill River Sojourn. Each June hundreds of people paddle down the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers in kayaks or canoes. The full trip takes seven days although most people stay just one or two days. For adults the cost is $80-85 per day. Kids and people without paddling experience are welcome.
Rich Egan, chair of the Delaware River Sojourn, spoke. The 2014 event starts at the Zane Gray house in Lackawaxen PA in Pike County and ends at Neshaminy State Park in Bucks. In between people paddle about 70 miles and ride by car or bus the rest of the way. At night they camp in riverside parks if they choose. Breakfast, lunch and some dinners are included as is boat rental.
Tim Fenchel spoke for the Schuylkill River Sojourn. It starts at Schuylkill Haven in Schuylkill County and in seven days covers 112 miles, all by boat, ending at Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. Meals camping fees, and boat rental are included.
The 2014 Schuylkill Sojourn is scheduled for Saturday June 7 - Friday June 13. The Delaware Sojourn is Sunday June 22 - Saturday June 28.
The Delaware Sojourn costs $560 for all seven days, but kids under 21 pay half price, and first-time Sojourners get a $25 discount.
Fees charged boaters don't cover costs, so both Sojourns rely on grants from the state and supportive organizations. They also hold fundraisers.
The first few days of the Delaware and Schuylkill Sojourns are the most popular. The Delaware starts with 100 people and ends with 40. The Schuylkill starts with 120, ends with 80. Altogether 225-300 people participate in each Sojourn. The first three days of the Schuylkill Sojourn are already sold out.
The Schuylkill Sojourn and the Schuylkill River Trail are projects of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, one of five national heritage areas in PA. Others are Rivers of Steel, Oil, Delaware and Lehigh River, and Lackawanna.
At the end there are buses to take people back to their cars at Schuylkill Haven or Lackawaxen.
Phoenixville News article - Schuylkill Sojourn and Pedal/Paddle registration now open
This forum and luncheon will feature:
Go HERE for details on how to register.
Monday March 10, 2014, 6:45 PM
Center for Business and Industry, 18th and Callowhill Sts, Room C2-5
Holly Shields of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) will talk about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards a building must meet in order to be certified green.
Experts look for a sustainable site, reduced water use, energy efficiency, use of recycled materials, and good indoor air quality.
Green building saves money, protects health, and limits the impact of human activity on the environment. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
John Norbeck, director of PA State Parks 2010-2012, spoke to 44 people at the Community College of Philadelphia January 27, 2014. He had to resign his position because he opposed drilling for gas or oil in parks. If he hadn't the Corbett administration, which favored drilling, would have fired him.
Companies have offered to drill under parks horizontally from outside their boundaries, rather than verticMapually from within their boundaries, but Norbeck was unconvinced. Drilling spoils the viewshed, makes noise, fouls the air, and when gas is burnt lights up the night sky. Drilliing inside or just outside a park would wreck the serenity people go there to enjoy.
The 1955 state Natural Resources Act says state parks are to be preserved for future generations. To Norbeck that meant no drilling or timbering. These activities are legal in state forests.
He commended Jeff Schmidt, newly retired state director of the Sierra Club, for making his resignation a public issue. A public hearing in Philadelphia called people's attention to firing. Perhaps because of this publicity the Corbett administration has since announced it has no plans to drill in state parks.
But the issue is not dead. The state owns mineral rights under 80-85% of its 120 state parks, 61 of which lie atop Marcellus shale. The law says the owner of mineral rights must be given access to them. If the state doesn't buy the 15-20% of mineral rights now in private hands, our parks remain vulnerable.
Much of the gas the state doesn't own lies under parks acquired by Maurice Goddard, Secretary of the PA Department of Forests and Waters, 1954-78. In trying to put every Pennsylvanian within 25 miles of a state park, he stretched his capital by buying only surface rights.