Calendar

Hikes

Send your e-mail address to wbrainerd3@gmail.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 trails@friendsofrcsp.org

Upcoming Events

Symposium on Hydrofracking in PA

Friday, December 5, 4:00 PM
Upper Tarble Hall, Swarthmore College

A discussion on hydraulic fracturing, a topic of interest in Pennsylvania, with three panelists and Carr Everbach as moderator:
Andrew Place (Energy & Environmental Policy EQT Corporation),
Tracy Carluccio (Delaware Riverkeeping Network)
and Nels Johnson (The Nature Conservancy PA).

Admission is free and audience questions will be solicited during the symposium.

This issue affects our state and region, both economically and environmentally, and therefore should be of interest to Sierra Club members.

Contact ceverba1@swarthmore.edu



Past Events

Click on these links for summaries of past events, or scroll down:

Paddle To DC

Saturday, Nov 22, time TBD

Detail of this event are on the Conservation Page.


Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling:

Reeling from the Rock and Roll

Monday, November 17, 6:45 PM
Center for Business and Industry, 18th/Callowhill Sts, Rm 2-28

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:

  • In 2007, there were 115 unconventional gas wells in the Commonwealth. Now there are more than 7,000. Drilling has slowed down as necessary pipelines are being constructed to transport natural gas to consumers.
  • Companies owning leases and producing natural gas are global with corporate offices and interests outside the United States.
  • Bonding and escrow amounts may be inadequate to meet unanticipated consequences to the environment.
  • The number of jobs created by the gas industry is open to debate. Governor Corbett claims 200,000 jobs have been created, but that may be based on hires that do reflect worker turn over and/or ancillary jobs as opposed to actual positions in the industry. Based on other data, Winters estimated there are closer to 28,000 Marcellus shale jobs.
  • Water is a significant issue. Each well requires millions of gallons of water to fracture or frack the deep shale that holds the gas. Some water is used consumptively, that is it stays underground and permanently lost to the water cycle. Under certain circumstances, such as if an abandoned well is in the path of a fracking operation, chemical-laden frackwater can potentially pollute an aquifer. Some produced water is being treated for re-use in fracking other wells.
  • The fracking process includes the injection of sand as well as water and chemicals under high pressure. The sand props open the shale cracks so the gas can flow to the surface. In Pennsylvania this sand is often transported from the sand dunes surrounding the Great Lakes. These dunes are sensitive environments and are important for naturally filtering runoff and protecting fresh water resources.
  • Air quality on a drill site and around open waste pits is often problematic. It is inadequately monitored and has been shown to contain methane, volatile organic compounds, and other toxic chemicals. Frackwater that returns to the surface may contain small amounts of radioactivity. Diesel fumes from trucks and generators create additional problems while sand particles from mining and use at the site may cause silicosis .
  • The PA legislature approved study of the health effects of oil and gas drilling but failed to fund it. The Geisinger Health System is conducting independent studies in correlating ailments with the location of patients relative to natural gas operations. This would build on a Colorado study has found the incidence of heart problems in infants increases as their homes are located closer to drilling pads. However, because waste impoundments are recorded in different ways, tracking actual sites can be difficult. Further challenges related to work-related issues result because workers often remain on the job for a short period of time and live out-of-state. Another problem for public health officials in Pennsylvania is due to the fact that doctors who obtain chemicals used at a given fracking site to help them diagnose and treat their patients must sign non-disclosure statements..
  • Toxic produced water from fracking operations can be pumped under high pressure into deep underground injection wells. Such injection activities have been correlated with increased earthquakes in several states.
  • Natural gas operations are fragmenting forests. Many areas are clear cut for drill pads, access roads, and pipelines. Sharing right of ways between various pipelines and other utilities could help reduce such fragmentation.
  • Methane emissions from drill sites, compression stations, and l pipelines can aggravate global warming. Methane absorbs 84 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years and 20 times more over a 100-year period. Presently, methane constitutes 9% of all greenhouse gases.
  • The safest way to transport oil and natural gas is a pipeline, but some are old. There is concern that some will not stand the increased pressures (over 1,000 psi) in large transmission lines (40” or more). In rural areas, gathering lines from fracked wells run from the well pad to transmission lines. Some can be as large as interstate transmission lines and operate under pressures higher than 1000 psi. Regrettably, they are unregulated by federal or state governments.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does not have adequate staff to oversee natural gas operations. Further, since much of its funding is from fees for permitting, employees have an incentive to issue not deny them. While new regulations are needed, the financial incentive of saving money for the companies is usually required before necessary rules are enacted. The recent mandate to recapture emissions is one example.
  • Many natural gas operators have an articulated mission to protect public health, promote safety, and mitigate environmental impacts. However, on the job, shortcuts and cost-saving efforts by contractors can jeopardize these convictions. Several cases involving Range resources are quite important. Recently this company was fined over $4 million dollars for environmental violations. Currently Range is in a legal case involving polluted wells that were potentially contaminated by leaking impoundment pits and drilling wastes.
  • Philadelphia may become an energy hub. Already oil from North Dakota arrives daily by train to refineries in Marcus Hook. Pipelines are proposed to bring wet natural gas from Western PA and other parts of the country for additional processing and transport both in and out of the country.
  • To prevent incidents, call 811 before you dig. If you do not, you will pay for any damaged infrastructure (cables and pipelines) you cause. A gas pipeline under your property may be closer to the surface than ever after Sandy washed away topsoil. If you smell gas, making a call on your cell phone, turning on the lights, starting your car, or any source of ignition can cause an explosion. First get upwind and then call 911.

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.


Post March Event

Tue, Oct 7, 6:00pm

We Marched, They Talked, What's Next?

Watch for details here.








The 10th Annual

Post Folk Fest Fester's Fest

Sat, Sep 13
223 Rebel Hill Road, Gulph Mills, PA 19428

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


Air Pollution:

Beyond The Clean Air Act

Monday, Sep 15
Center for Business and Industry, 18th/Callowhill Sts, Rm 2-28

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?

  1. Some dirty air floats in from abroad. 8% of CA's air pollution is from China.
  2. EPA hasn't set standards for many hazardous air pollutants.
  3. Standards for criteria pollutants, especially ozone PM 2.5, are lax.
  4. Enforcement is left to states and is discretionary. Power plants and refineries are exempt. States seek compliance with no sense of urgency, rather than enforce the law.
  5. President Obama's new rule requires only an average reduction of power plant carbon emissions of 30%. Some plants may not have to change.
  6. There are no federal indoor air quality standards, though commonly used cleaners and pesticides contain carcinogens and any chemical spread by an aerosol is sure to enter the lungs.

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.


Peoples Climate March

Sunday, Sep 21

Info about the march has moved to PCM page



Confronting Climate Change

- A Local & Global Imperitive

Tuesday, Aug 26 at 6:00pm
Mercy Wellness Center, 2nd Floor 2821 Island Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19153


Guest speakers:
  Saleem Chapman -- Env. Justice Organizer,
     Clean Air Council

   Jen Hombach -- 350.org Philadelphia (tentative)

Topics:

  • climate change threats to communities like Eastwick
  • shifting power to drive solutions
  • mobilizing to demand climate justice

Refreshments will be served. For further information contact: robinlmann@gmail.com


SPG Potluck Picnic

Sunday, June 22, 12:00pm to 3:00pm


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

Organized Bike Rides To The Picnic

Starting at 10:00am to Betzwood Picnic Area from:

Please RSVP for the picnic and organized bike rides at this EventBrite site - spgpicnic.eventbrite.com

Betzwood Park is on the north/east side of the Schuykill River. See the park and trail map of Valley Forge.

The Wind Debate


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.


The Delaware and Schuylkill

River Sojourns

Monday, April 21st


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



Natural Gas Development -

Impact on Southeastern PA

Saturday, March 22nd, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Fort Washington, PA

Sponsored by The League of Women Voters of Southeastern Pennsylvania

This forum and luncheon will feature:

  • Cynthia Dunn, CEO and President PennFUTURE,
  • Andrew Levine, Environmental Law Partner, Stradley Ronan Attorneys at Law,
  • Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network
  • Nicholas Walsh, Director of Strategic Planning and Development, Philadelphia Regional Port Authority

Go HERE for details on how to register.


The Sierra Club of Southeastern PA and CCP Coalition for a Sustainable Future Present

Green Building

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 wbrainerd3@gmail.com


John Norbeck

director of PA State Parks 2010-2012

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.