Nature | Environment

Nature, Environment

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Free Press WV

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline cleared another regulatory hurdle on Friday when the U.S. Forest Service gave approval for the pipeline to be built through the George Washington National Forest and the Monongahela National Forest.

The decision received applause from pipeline developer Dominion Energy and criticism by environmental groups.

The $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline would span 600 miles from Harrison County and across Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina. It’s a project by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.

The project has gained approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the pipeline still lacks crucial water permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and from West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

The Forest Service, in a statement, said its decision supports federal policies emphasizing energy infrastructure, jobs, economic growth and the agency’s efforts to provide for multiple use.

The Forest Service said amendments in the plan would provide for continued social, economic, and ecological sustainability of the George Washington National Forest and the Monongahela National Forest.

Environmental groups contend the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cause environmental harm by cutting a new right-of-way through the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests.

“This unnecessary new right of way is one of the many reasons Sierra Club opposes the pipeline,” the Sierra Club wrote in a response to the Forest Service’s decision.

Environmental groups contended an impact statement by the Forest Service failed to include critical information about impacts to wildlife habitat, endangered species, sedimentation, and other issues.

“We believe this decision is based on seriously deficient and incorrect information,” stated Lew Freeman, chairman of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a coalition of 52 conservation and environmental organizations in Virginia and West Virginia.

“The action imperils some of the nation’s most treasured natural resources and reflects a rush to judgment that is contrary to the standards of deliberation that we have a right to expect from the Forest Service. The decision should be strongly challenged.”

Pipeline developer Dominion Energy released a statement saying the Forest Service’s decision is evidence of a responsible way to develop infrastructure while preserving the environment and protecting natural resources.

“The agency’s favorable decision was reached after more than three years of careful study, meaningful engagement with the public and other agencies, and extensive field surveys by expert wildlife biologists,” Dominion stated.

“Through close consultation with the agency, the project has made numerous adjustments to avoid environmentally sensitive areas in the national forests, including sensitive wildlife habitats. Total mileage in the national forests was also reduced by more than one-third.”

~~  Brad McElhinny ~~

Contents, Safety Sheets Posted in Parkersburg Warehouse Fire

The Free Press WVWest Virginia environmental and safety authorities have posted online more information on the contents of industrial warehouse that burned for a week in Parkersburg as well as safety data.

The blaze began October 21 in the 420,000-square-foot (39,000-square-meter) property owned by Intercontinental Export Import Inc., or IEI Plastics.

The list includes various types of plastic pellets.

The company has proposed a cleanup plan now under review.

Meanwhile, the state on Tuesday was handed a $1.44 million bill for Wood County’s expense.

The largest expense of more than $916,000 was from a Pennsylvania contractor that specializes in putting out industrial fires.

Another expense of about $390,000 was for air-quality testing conducted by the Little Rock, Arkansas-based Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health.

Hunters Seek ATV Access

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s largest wildlife management area is now open to hunters, but not as open as some hunters want it to be.

A vocal contingent of hunters in Logan and Mingo counties says it should be allowed to ride all-terrain vehicles on the 24,245-acre Tomblin WMA, even though state law forbids it. Senator Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, and Delegate Ralph Rodighiero, D-Logan, plan to push legislation that would allow ATV use on the tract.

“We met with 69 hunters [on Monday] to talk about it,” Ojeda said. “They overwhelmingly were in favor [of ATV access]. When the [Division of Natural Resources] set up these areas, they never told [hunters] the full story — that when they set up these WMAs, they would deny people the ability to go into those areas with four-wheelers and side-by-sides.”

Randy Kelley, the DNR’s elk project leader, helped draw up the complicated agreements that allowed the agency to acquire the lands from mining, timber and land-holding companies. Kelley said some of the tracts have been under DNR ownership since 2015, and others since 2016.

“The public has been aware that these lands are designated wildlife management areas, controlled by the state,” Kelley added. “They know we don’t allow four-wheelers on public hunting areas. They know we don’t allow people to set up bait sites. They know we don’t allow people to set up permanent tree stands.”

Wildlife management areas aren’t exactly new to southwestern West Virginia. The 13,503-acre Laurel Lake WMA, located to the west of the Tomblin tract, has been established for decades. Kelley said ATV intrusions occur on Laurel Lake from time to time, but not because people are unaware of the law.

Even so, Ojeda said local hunters have been up in arms since October 29, when DNR Natural Resources Police “came in at night, blocked off the roads with gates and put signs up” to formally put an end to ATV use on the Tomblin tract.

Kelley said DNR law enforcement personnel had good reasons for putting up the signs when they did.

“It was done at that time to actually reduce conflict and reduce the potential of locking somebody inside [the WMA],” Kelley continued. “It was done on a Sunday because you can’t hunt on public lands on Sunday, which reduced the chance someone would be in there; and it was done toward the end of the day so that if people were in there violating the law, we wouldn’t accidentally lock them in.”

Kelley said law enforcement personnel had been lenient toward ATV users up to that point and had been trying to get them used to the idea that the land would eventually be closed to ATVs altogether.

“Law enforcement didn’t write tickets,” Kelley added. “They knew folks were doing things, even saw folks doing things. But they didn’t start writing tickets right away. They even made it known that if someone had placed [a tree stand or a feeder] back on the hill, and it was too far away to retrieve on foot, then we would work with them to go get it.”

He said, “There’s no doubt that [DNR personnel] didn’t talk to everyone who has been in there, but, without a doubt in my mind, they all knew where they were and what they were doing was not legal.”

Ojeda said the ATV prohibition will deny many local residents the ability to hunt on the property.

“We’ve got a lot of people in this area who lack the ability to climb to the top of those mountains,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people hunting on [licenses for the disabled]. We’ve got coal miners with black lung. They can’t get around on rough terrain without their four-wheelers or side-by-sides, especially if they need to drag a deer out of the woods.”

He said the inability to use ATVs would deny many Logan and Mingo county residents the ability to put food on the table.

“Those people are looking at me now and saying they’ll no longer buy hunting licenses,” he added.

DNR Director Steve McDaniel said local residents have had two years to adjust to the presence of a new, large wildlife management area.

“It took us that long to finalize the various conservation agreements that allowed us to obtain the land,” he said. “Eventually, though, there came a time when we had to start enforcing the law, and the law is that ATVs aren’t allowed on state-owned or state-leased wildlife management areas.”

McDaniel said the agency plans to allow hunters to drive onto the property, in some places all the way to the mountaintops, and fan out from designated parking lots similar to those on many WMAs.

Kelley said some of those parking areas are already open, mainly along the WMA’s perimeter. He expects to open more parking areas and access roads to the property’s interior, as soon as the DNR obtains easements onto lands currently under mine-reclamation bonds.

“Some of those should be open by the end of this year,” he said. “A lot more of them will be open within a year from now. A few others will eventually be open, but on those it will probably be three to five years before the bonds get released.”

Ojeda said the DNR’s prohibition on ATVs “is cutting down on people’s ability to enjoy these lands.”

Kelley said that simply isn’t the case.

“The Tomblin WMA is almost 25,000 acres,” he explained. “We’ve taken an area that basically was controlled by people holding hunting leases — 100 to 150 people or less — and we’ve opened that area up to everybody, including those 100 to 150 people.

“Far from closing off opportunities for people to hunt, we’re offering opportunity for a lot more people to hunt, including residents of West Virginia that don’t live in Logan County or who can’t afford to be in on a lease agreement that might cost $1,000 a year.”

DNR officials said opening the Tomblin tract to ATV use would create a “slippery slope” that might lead to ATV use on other WMAs throughout the state. If, however, Ojeda and Rodighiero succeed in getting legislation passed to overturn the current ATV prohibition, McDaniel said his agency would have no choice but to uphold the law.

“Part of our job is to enforce state law,” he added. “We’ll do what the Legislature tells us to do.”  ~~  John McCoy ~~


The Free Press WV

►  Big cheetah-like feline captured in Pennsylvania

Police captured a big African cat, resembling a cheetah, running loose through the streets of a Pennsylvania city.

Reports about the spotted feline started coming in on November 3 in Reading, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia. When officers tracked it down, they initially thought they’d found a cheetah.

The Animal Rescue League of Berks County says they got a call from the city’s police department about the big cat on Saturday.

When staff responded, they found a cat called an African serval. The cats are illegal to own in Pennsylvania without a license, and the state’s game commission says no one in Berks County has such a license.

The 1- to 2-year-old female was declawed and very friendly, leading animal workers to presume it had been a pet, raised in a home since it was a kitten.

The animal could be worth $20,000 to $30,000 on the black market, said Tom Hubric, the animal rescue league’s interim executive director.

He speculated the owner may have wanted to breed the serval with a domesticated cat to create what’s called a Savannah cat. Those are legal to own, he says.

The cat was transported Thursday to a big cat rescue facility that can give it the special diet and extensive exercise it needs.

“She’s just a magnificent animal and she’s captivated everyone who has seen her,” Hubric said.

►  A look at travel books to inspire trips or to give as gifts

Travel books can get you dreaming. They can provide practical information for your trips. And they can also just tell a good story.

Here are a few books out this season to consider buying for your own use and entertainment, or to give as a gift for Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever you might be celebrating in the coming months.

The Free Press WV


They’re way too big and heavy to tuck in your suitcase. But these beautifully illustrated volumes with big themes will get armchair travelers smiling and real-world travelers planning.

—“The Cities Book: A Journey Through the Best Cities in the World” from Lonely Planet looks at 200 cities from Abu Dhabi through Zanzibar, offering everything from the best time to visit to ideas for a perfect day.

— “Great Hiking Trails of the World” covers 80 trails in 38 countries on six continents, including Peru’s Inca Trail, Japan’s Shikoku Pilgrimage and the U.S. “triple crown” of hiking, the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails.

— “Timeless Journeys: Travels to the World’s Legendary Places” from National Geographic explores 50 once-in-a-lifetime destinations, from places that offer a window on lost worlds, like Pompeii in Italy, to living wonders like a Tanzania game preserve.


Moon Travel Guides has a new series, City Walks, exploring neighborhoods in seven cities: Berlin; Amsterdam; Barcelona, Spain; London; New York; Paris; and Rome. The walks include descriptions, maps, attractions, dining and shopping.


These books about places and travel offer laughs, eye candy, a good read or some combination thereof. And some of them just might make you jealous in that “why didn’t I think of doing this?” way.

—For New Yorkers, former New Yorkers and wannabe New Yorkers: “Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York” by cartoonist Roz Chast is absolutely laugh-out-loud hysterical. It’s an illustrated memoir about city life told through the eyes of a native New Yorker who moved to the suburbs, billed as an “ode/guide/thank-you note to Manhattan.” Gems include this aside: “Sixth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas are the same thing. But no one calls it ‘Avenue of the Americas,’ because GIVE ME A BREAK.” Topics include “stores of mystery” and “the ancient landmarks.”

—“Van Life: Your Home on the Road” by Foster Huntington grew out of the author’s three-year adventure traveling around North America in a Volkswagen van. The photos showcase all kinds of funky vehicles parked in picturesque locations, along with peeks at a few interiors, crowd-sourced from the author’s Tumblr account, The book also offers interviews with travelers who have lived the van life.

—“Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent” by Mike and Anne Howard grew out of the writers’ five-year adventure across seven continents as “the world’s longest honeymooners,” an experience they chronicled on their blog The book includes 75 featured destinations; top 10 lists of day hikes, festivals, beaches and more; and travel advice.

—“Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God,” by Lori Erickson is part memoir and part travel guide as the author reflects on her pilgrimages to 12 sites around the world, from Our Lady of Lourdes in France to Machu Picchu in Peru. The book also recounts her meetings with spiritual leaders, including the chief priest of the Icelandic pagan religion Asatru and a Lakota Indian man who directs a retreat lodge at the holy site of Bear Butte in South Dakota.

BEST OF 2018

The folks at Lonely Planet don’t just publish a list for where to go in the new year, they’ve published an entire book: “Best in Travel 2018,” with the travel media brand’s picks for best countries, regions, cities and trends in travel for the new year, along with suggestions on what to see and do there.

►  Global carbon pollution rises after 3 straight flat years

Global carbon pollution rose this year after three straight years when levels of the heat-trapping gas didn’t go up at all, scientists reported Monday.

Preliminary figures project that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are up about 2 percent this year, according to an international team of scientists. Most of the increase came from China.

The report by the Global Carbon Project team dashed hopes that emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas had peaked.

“We hoped that we had turned the corner… We haven’t,” said study co-author Rob Jackson, an Earth scientist at Stanford University.

Carbon dioxide emissions rose steadily and slowly starting in the late 1880s with the Industrial Revolution, then took off dramatically in the 1950s. In the last three years, levels had stabilized at about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide (36.2 billion metric tons).

Estimates for 2017 put it at about 40.8 billion tons (37 billion metric tons). Sixty years ago , the world spewed only 9.2 billion tons (8.3 billion metric tons).

“It’s a bit staggering,” said co-author Ralph Keeling, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist, noting in an email that levels have increased fourfold since he was born in the 1950s. “We race headlong into the unknown.”

Man-made carbon dioxide is causing more than 90 percent of global warming since 1950, U.S. scientists reported this month.

This year’s increase was mostly spurred by a 3.5 percent jump in Chinese carbon pollution, said study co-author Glen Peters, a Norwegian scientist. Declines in the United States (0.4 percent) and Europe (0.2 percent) were smaller than previous years. India, the No. 3 carbon polluting nation, went up 2 percent.

The 2017 estimate comes to on average of 2.57 million pounds (1.16 million kilograms) of carbon dioxide spewing into the air every second.

The study was published Monday and is being presented in Bonn, Germany, during climate talks where leaders are trying to come up with rules for the 2015 Paris deal. The goal is to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since preindustrial times, but it’s already warmed half that amount.

“It was tough enough and if this paper is indicative of long-term trends, it just got tougher,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who wasn’t part of the team of 76 scientists who wrote the report.

While he called the study authoritative, Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said he sees no need to do figures for 2017 that are not complete, saying it may be “jumping the gun a bit.”

Jackson said the team — which produces these reports every year in November — has confidence in its 2017 report because it is based on real data from top polluting nations through the summer and in some cases through October. Plus, he said past estimates have been correct within a couple tenths of a percentage point.

The top five carbon polluting countries are China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan. Europe taken as a whole, would rank third.

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