A Watershed Awareness/Rain Barrel Workshop will be held next week at the City-County building to teach residents how to protect local rivers and streams by improving watershed conditions on land.
Residents will learn how to manage and reuse storm-water runoff and reduce their contribution to combined sewer overflow, flooding and polluted urban run-off. Participants will also receive a voucher for a free 55-gallon rain barrel with installation hardware, as well as learn how to install the barrel and use it to harvest rainwater.
The workshop will be held from 6 to 8 p.m, Thurs., June 13, in the City-County Building lobby. Cost is $50 per person or $55 per couple; RSVP date is Tuesday, June 11. RSVP by calling Nancy Martin at 412-488-7490, extension 247, or registering online.
Hold onto your hats: Tomorrow’s Spring Hat Luncheon, a key date on the annual old-school society calendar, will be targeted by opponents of mountaintop-removal coal-mining.
Why’s that, you ask? Well, this year’s Hat Luncheon is co-chaired by Debbie Demchak. She’s married to newly appointed PNC Financial Services CEO William Demchak. And PNC has for years been the target of such protests because it invests in companies that blow the lids off Appalachian mountaintops for the coal inside.
Meanwhile, the Hat Luncheon benefits the city’s parks system — which, as the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy web page for the event notes, is “a keystone in our city’s status as both ‘livable’ and ‘green.’”
But as the Philadelphia-based Earth Quaker Action Team, which is organizing the protest, puts it, “the Hobet mine in Boone County, W.V., has destroyed the equivalent … of 22 Schenley Parks. Water sources are polluted by mountaintop-removal practices which release heavy metals like arsenic and selenium.”
EQAT, a peaceful, Quaker-led group, organized the April 23 protest at PNC’s annual shareholders’ meeting, held Downtown. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that protesters shut down that meeting by demanding that PNC get out of the mountaintop-removal business.
PNC is among the nation’s largest financers of mountaintop-removal, according to the Rainforest Action Network.
The Spring Hat Luncheon is set for tomorrow morning, on the Overlook in Schenley Park. EQAT promises “protesters in hats” and more starting at 10:30 a.m.
Three years after PNC quietly announced it was curtailing its investments in an especially destructive form of strip-mining, environmental groups say the bank’s still doing business as usual. And this morning, one such group voiced its displeasure with a two-pronged protest at the banking giant’s annual shareholders meeting, held Downtown.
At 10:30 a.m., some 40 protestors from groups including the Philadelphia-based Earth Quaker Action Team held signs, sang songs and leafleted both passersby and business-suited shareholders arriving at the meeting. Meanwhile, inside the August Wilson Center, said Earth Quaker spokesman Zachary Hershman, as many as 17 shareholders who were also protestors made their case directly to the PNC board of directors and other shareholders.
In mountaintop-removal coal-mining, the peaks of mountains are blasted away to get at the coal inside, and the rubble is shoved into nearby valleys. The process, especially common in states including West Virginia, turns forests into wasteland, pollutes hundreds of miles of streams, and causes sickness for neighbors, including increased incidence of cancer and birth defects. Mountaintop-removal produces 10 percent or less of the coal mined in the U.S., but a third or more of the coal mined in West Virginia.
Protesters’ props included a five-gallon container filled with rust-colored water, matching the water depicted in poster-sized photos of a sink and a drainage pipe in mountaintop-removal country.
“I live right down in it,” said protester Adam Hall, of Coal River Valley in southern West Virginia. Hall, who drove six hours to attend the protest here, said he lives 6 miles from a mountaintop-removal site and hears “a big bomb go off” daily, because of the blasting.
Hall, who works with the grassroots groups Coal River Mountain Watch and Mountain Keepers, says coal companies have brought poor health and economic despair to the region. “They have a choice,” he said of PNC. “They can hold their money out of funding mountaintop-removal coal mining or they can not. But that blood’s on their hands.”
Mountaintop-removal is “a human rights and a health issue,” said EQAT’s Hershman.
Reached for comment on today’s protest, PNC spokesperson Marcey Zwiebel said the bank doesn’t comment on the actions of third parties.
PNC has been targeted by mountaintop-removal protesters since at least 2009. Still, such protests might seem jarring to city-dwellers familiar only with PNC’s highly touted efforts to construct and renovate “green” buildings that use less energy, water and other resources. The company calls itself “A Leader In Eco-Friendly Development."
But as long as the bank backs fossil-fuel companies, says Hershman, it will be guilty of “greenwashing.”
“To promote themselves as a green bank when their investments are the opposite, as people of conscience we can’t really abide by that,” said Hershman at this morning’s protest. “A green building doesn’t mean anything to people who are living in actual mining communities.”
At the protest, activists handed arriving shareholders an ersatz ballot which asked whether PNC should end all investments in coal companies that practice mountaintop-removal mining. Inside, Hershman said, activist shareholders gave mock awards for “malfeasance and environmental destruction” to outgoing board chair James Rohr and incoming chair William S. Demchak.
The activists also told the other shareholders and board members that disinvestment campaigns have resulted in the withdrawal of some $3 million in deposits from PNC, said Hershman this afternoon, after the protest.
He added that PNC officials sped up the meeting to discourage comment or discussion of the issue. “They hustled all the shareholders out,” he told CP. But, he adds, activists believe their point was made: “When we left we got a handful of thumbs-ups” from other shareholders.
Great, said activists — except that those restrictions didn’t seem to apply to any investments PNC had actually made. Since adopting the policy, according to the Rainforest Action Network’s 2012 Coal Finance Report Card, PNC “has continued to do business with most of the largest MTR companies and has exposure to more than 43 percent of the MTR coal mined in Appalachia in 2011, more than any other bank except for Bank of America.”
And last May, activists from the Earth Quakers and other groups walked from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to protest PNC’s continued investment.
In its Corporate Responsibility Statement, PNC “acknowledges the concerns that have been raised about the environmental and community impacts associated with extraction of fossil fuels, including … the surface mining practice known as mountaintop removal (MTR),” but says, “PNC expects to continue to fund businesses that rely on extracting coal and natural gas, many of which play important roles in the communities where we
Happy Earth Day!
In reporting a story on waste reduction strategies for municipalities for our green issue, I was struck by a recurring theme from across various programs. While places like Portland, Boulder, San Francisco and Pittsburgh have strategies for improving waste disposal, much emphasis is put on changing how we think about waste creation.
And there are plenty of inspiring local examples. The South Side Soup Contest, for one, uses Green Gears Pedicabs as transportation, and uses 100% compostable products, keeping nearly a half ton of waste out of a landfill each year.
Then there are folks like Eleanor Wilson, of Rosedale, who try to live a more sustainable, minimal-waste lifestyle. And She applied that same philosophy to her wedding.
There was one thing that bugged Wilson on her wedding day: butter packets.
The tiny, foil-topped packages were some of the only trash created at Wilson’s 2010 nuptials at Northmoreland Park.
Almost everything else was recyclable, compostable or re-usable. Entertainment came from family and friends.
“I had to stand up at the dinner and explain the butter packets couldn’t be composted, and where to put any trash — in a special bag we kept of to the side,” says Wilson, 33. “Most people thought composting on that scale was really neat and different, since not many events do it.”
Their wedding invitations were hand-made from recycled paper. ("My aunt thought the invitation was junk mail and accidentally threw it away. She kept watching for bells and bows and doves in the mail until we called her; she wasn't expecting a Buddhist poem on recycled paper.") Invitations also offered a telephone RSVP so as not to create additional waste. Her dress was a $5 thrift shop find, a “happy sunshine yellow sundress” which she later donated. “I’d like to think a little happy mojo from our wedding went with it to the next home.”
The wedding came almost a year into Wilson’s search for a minimal waste, sustainable lifestyle (Which she often writes about here. ) She had grown up with the ideas of recycling, reusing and repairing imparted from her grandmother. “But convenience is a difficult siren song to resist and I never really thought too carefully about it all.”
Until her job offered an opportunity to work an extra day a week to earn extra money. But then her boyfriend (now husband), made a suggestion.
“He said, 'Hon, What about spending less instead of earning more?’” she says.
Wilson took the idea and ran with it, tackling their spending "like a sumo wrestler.' That led to cooking their own food, riding her bike to work — at one time, 10 miles one way, and another time to a shuttle when her job relocated to more than 30 miles away. She reduced her utilities through websites like No Impact Man and My Plastic Free Life. At the height of using only her bicycle, she estimated saving $200 a month in fuel costs.
It's been a learning process, she admits. And some things are a give-and-take. The month of her wedding. for example, “We didn’t have hot water as I debated the merits of the various options,” she says. “One cold snap and I chose more wisely.”
Interested in throwing a zero-waste event and look for some insight? The Pennsylvania Resources Council offers businesses and residents resources for doing so. There is also a list of "Green" events on this citywide calendar.
Groups are taking advantage of Earth Day to call for both government and corporations to either do more to protect the environment or to stop damaging it so much.
On Monday, there’s statewide Day of Action targeting the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. A coalition including 40 or more groups “demands that DEP fufill its mission to ‘protect Pennsylvania’s fair, land and water’ and ‘provide for the health and safety of its citizens.’”
The coalition says DEP’s been more concerned about expediting permits for the gas and coal industries than about residents who claim their health has been harmed by those industries. With DEP secretary Michael Krancer — a staunch ally of the gas industry — having stepped down, the groups are calling for better stewardship both by and of the DEP.
A march to the DEP regional headquarters, on Washington’s Landing, is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Participants should meet on the North Shore Trail, Downtown. The action is being organized by Marcellus Protest and the locally based Shadbush Environmental Justice Collective.
Similar actions are planned in Harrisburg, Meadville, Norristown, Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg.
Details are here or can email info@shadbush collective.org.
On Tue., April 23, a different coalition of groups will gather to protest PNC’s investment in mountaintop-removal coal-mining. Marchers will target PNC’s annual shareholders’ meeting, to be held at the August Wilson Center, Downtown.
Mountaintop-removal is a form of strip-mining in which the top several hundred feet of mountains are blown apart to reach the coal inside. The rubble is then pushed into adjacent valleys.
The practice, heavily used in West Virginia and other Appalachian states, results in habitat loss, polluted (or simply buried) streams and severe health consequences for people living nearby.
PNC has long been targeted for investing in MTR. Activists now charge that PNC, despite its promises to disinvest, is the largest investor in the practice.
Groups including Energy Action Coalition, the Earth Quaker Action Team and the Alliance for Appalachia will gather at 10 a.m. in Market Square, and march for a 10:30 rally at the August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Ave.
The groups will demand that PNC disinvest in both MTR and fracking for natural gas.
Participants can sign up here.
Today we published a package of stories devoted to practical solutions Pittsburgh can implement — or is implementing — to mitigate the causes and subsequent effects of climate change.
Waste reduction is just one component of such efforts. And while the city implements mandatory curbside recycling for plastics, cardboard, newspapers and paper (a full list can be found here), some items aren't collected. But there are several events throughout the year for hard-to-recycle items.
Here are some upcoming collections:
— The Zero Waste Pittsburgh Project will hold a collection from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sat., April 20 — at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills (near the Dingbat's parking lot). Televisions, computers, stereos, large speakers, ink and toner cartridges, phones, small appliances and CFL bulbs will be collected free of charge. Batteries, fluorescent tubes, small Freon-containing appliances and paper shredding will also be collected for a small fee. More information can be found here.
— The DEA will host a drug take-back day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sat., April 27, at all city police zones.
— Allegheny County will hold a household chemicals collection from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sat., May 4, at the parking lot of the North Park swimming pool. Items will be collected for a fee of $2 a gallon (cash only.) Acceptable items include aerosol cans, automotive fluids, batteries, pesticides and gasoline. A full list can be found here.
— The City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works, Bureau of Environmental Services will be collecting leaf and yard debris from all residents in a special curbside collection on Sat., May 18. Yard debris should be placed at your normal collection site on Fri., May 17. The material will be composted.
Pitt’s new lecture series on climate change begins tomorrow, and the first speaker is one of the nation’s top voices on the subject, Joseph Romm.
Romm is a physicist and author whose feisty blog Climate Progress is a crucial clearinghouse for climate info and perspective, from documenting the acceleration of our vanishing Antarctic ice to debunking the science-free pronouncements of climate-change deniers.
Romm’s free talk is about how climate change — whose effects are already being felt around the world in extreme weather and changing ecosystems — will affect the U.S.
The lecture is titled “To Hell and High Water: What You Need to Know About Climate Change,” a reference to Romm’s 2006 book, Hell and High Water. His latest book is 2010’s Straight Up: America's Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on the Status Quo Media, Politicians, and Clean Energy Solutions.
The talk kicks off Pitt’s University Honors College Climate Change Series, described in a press release as “a long-term program to educate students, faculty and staff members on issues regarding climate change.”
“There are some challenges to civilization that are of such urgency that every college graduate should understand them, and the implications of research on climate change are among them,” University Honors College Dean Edward Stricker said in the release.
Romm has testified frequently before Congress, and his writings and comments have been featured everywhere from The New York Times to National Geographic.
The talk is at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the J.W. Connolly Ballroom of the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., in Oakland.
Reservations are requested. Make yours here.
The feature-length film’s narrator and co-writer is geologist and educator Scott Tinker, who travels the planet visiting sites pertinent to everything from fracking, peak oil and “clean coal” to nuclear energy and renewables. He interviews leaders in government, business and academia about the attractions and risks of each energy source, and about the world’s growing demand for energy.
The well-reviewed film, directed by Harry Lynch, is currently touring university campuses.
Sounds worth seeing, but keep your antenna up: The film’s promo materials say it's "agenda-free" and tout its “balance.” Often in discussions of energy, that’s code for “let’s compromise on pollution” or “all energy sources have their downsides, so let’s keep using them all.”
It’s also curious that you can fart around on the website for quite a while — or watch the film's two-and-a-half minute trailer — without finding any mention of climate change, which is merely the single largest energy-related issue on earth. (The site seems to note it only by implication, as when mentioning "carbon policy.")
Tinker himself is director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, and is State Geologist of Texas. University geology departments are noted for their ties to the fossil-fuel industry, and I don’t guess those in Texas are any exception. Just sayin’.
Meanwhile, a writer on Treehugger.com — who recommends seeing Switch — has called out a Chesapeake Energy official for lying on camera about the risks of fracking.
Judging from its website, the film ends up touting energy efficiency as the way forward.
Anyway, see for yourself at 8 p.m. Tue., March 26, in Thaw 104, 4107 O'Hara St., on the Pitt campus, in Oakland. It's hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Geology Club.
A newly announced coalition meant to raise the environmental standards of shale-gas extraction has drawn favorable notice in the media. But a growing number of citizen groups and environmental organizations say the Center for Sustainable Shale Development won’t make fracking safer — and risks providing cover for risky gas extraction in the future.
The Center, spearheaded by the Heinz Endowments, was announced at a Downtown press conference Wednesday. The Center is a coalition of industry and environmental and philanthropic groups offering a voluntary certification process to make practices like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, less damaging to the environment and less risky to human health.
As noted this morning in Blogh, the Sierra Club criticized the Center’s standards as
“a Band-Aid” on the “gaping wound” of the climate crisis.
The Center was also taken to task by Ohio Citizen Action. In a release, the group points out that the Center has no representation by landowners, neighbors, taxpayers or medical experts. It also notes that the standards are voluntary — and that, while the Center’s certification would apparently apply to energy companies operating in Ohio, the Center doesn’t include any environmental groups based in Ohio, or the energy companies who dominate extraction there.
The whole press release is here.
And this afternoon, a coalition of Pennsylvania environmental groups issued a press release headlined “New Fracking Standards Not Supported by Environmental Organizations.” The groups — including Berks Gas Truth, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Green Party of Pennsylvania and the Mountain Watershed Association — say that evidence is mounting that “fracking cannot be done safely” and that it’s dangerous to think otherwise.
The release also points out that “sustainable shale” is an oxymoron (because natural gas is a nonrenewable resource). And the groups argue that the standards the Center touts as rigorous “don’t appear to be substantially different from the corresponding regulations the industry has been blatantly disregarding for years.”
The whole release is here.
Mike Krancer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, will step down April 15.
“His guidance on a variety of issues related to the environment has been vital,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a press release announcing the move. “DEP has been in good hands under his leadership.”
Krancer, a former assistant general counsel for energy firm Exelon Corp. and a former judge for the state's environmental hearing board, was a proponent of natural gas drilling and often touted its economic impacts. He's been a target of environmental and public health activists, who have criticized him for not being tough enough on natural gas drillers, disputing studies linking gas drilling to drinking water contamination and not fully disclosing waste-water contamination reports in the state.
E. Christopher Abruzzo, Corbett's deputy chief of staff, will serve as acting secretary until Corbett names a successor. Krancer will return to his Philadelphia-area lawfirm, Blank Rome LLP.
Updated 10:50 a.m.
We've received a statement from industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition CEO Kathryn Klaber:
"Secretary Krancer's constructiveness and pragmatism have served our Commonwealth well. Under his leadership, Pennsylvania has implemented world-class regulatory requirements for the industry, and responsible natural gas production has soared, resulting in more local jobs, cleaner air and strengthened American energy security. On behalf of our entire organization, we wish Secretary Krancer the very best in his future pursuits."
Isn't there a very clear, deliberative process laid out for making adjustments to a building…
Love this episode. I'm already looking forward to visit. :)
I believe there are other alternative ways to put qualified teachers in to the classroom…