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Some Retired Military Oppose Rolling Back Climate-Change Regs

Retired military such as West Point graduate Jon Gensler say national security planners are strongly opposed to Trump plans to roll back climate-change limits.
The Free Press WV

Many in the military community are opposing the Trump administration’s plans to roll back regulations to slow climate change.

Trump has said he wants to roll back the Clean Power Plan carbon limits to help industries such as coal mining. But uniformed officers with an eye on national security often will acknowledge that climate change is a real, immediate and growing threat.

West Point graduate and former tank captain Jon Gensler, a native of West Virginia, said people from his home state have to face reality the way their ancestors did.

“They had to make hard decisions. They had to put in long hours. We honor and revere them for their hard work,” Gensler said. “Why then now are we so gun shy of making the same hard decisions for our own future?“

Now a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, Gensler said Trump’s position is more than a little frustrating. He called it politically motivated and “extremely shortsighted.“

“Now we have a commander-in-chief who’s in direct disagreement with the generals who he claims to support and trust,” he said. “I think you would be hard pressed to find senior leadership at the Pentagon that doesn’t take the threat of climate change seriously, all the way up to and including his own Secretary of Defense.“

Gensler said Defense and State departments planners believe climate change is an extremely serious threat - one that puts the lives of American troops directly at risk. He called it a “conflict multiplier” that contributes to instability in areas such as Iraq and Syria.

“The roots of the Syrian civil war itself are tied to a decade-long drought that caused massive crop failures and pushed rural farmers into the cities, crowding the cities and breaking down the ability of the cities to provide services,” he said.

He said the U.S. military now finds itself responding to climate change-driven disasters such as a recent typhoon in the Philippines that killed 8,000 people. He said the U.S. lost more than 1,000 Marines and soldiers escorting fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan - deaths that could be avoided in the future by using more renewable fuels.

More information is available at AmericanSecurityProject.org.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Renewables Cheap, Growing Fast in Developing World

The Free Press WV

Renewable energy is growing fast in poor countries, and in a change from a few years ago, demand for coal is stalled or falling.

According to the international bodies that track the patterns, more solar and wind power is coming online than any other kind of energy.

Vrinda Manglik, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s International Climate and Energy program, says for a few projects in the developing world, new solar power can cost half of new coal.

She adds across much of the world, the price of renewable energy has come down so much it’s competing with current power sources – without subsidies.

“The World Economic Forum is reporting that solar and wind have reached grid parity in more than 30 countries,” she points out. “It’s expected that in the coming years that’ll be the case worldwide, but at the moment we’re just seeing more and more examples of it.“

Some in the coal industry, in the past, have described coal as a necessary low-cost option for places hungry for electricity.

But Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates 60 gigawatts of wind and 70 gigawatts of solar were installed last year.

Manglik says demand for coal in India has stopped growing, and it has started to fall in China. She cites a number of factors contributing to that, but says the price is key.

“The air pollution that is a big problem in China and India, as well as the climate agreement,” she states. “In addition to that, it’s basically the economics of it.“

About 1.2 billion people worldwide don’t have easy access to electricity. Most of them live in rural areas, disconnected from the power grid.

Manglik says it’s often cheaper, faster and easier to give them off-the-grid solar than it is to reach them with power lines.

“Solar home systems, solar lanterns, and the people don’t have to wait for the grid to be extended,“ she explains.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Will Trump Administration Ditch Climate-Change Regs?

The Free Press WV

What will the Trump Administration do with Obama air-pollution limits designed to slow climate change? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal government has to cut greenhouse gasses, including CO2 from existing power plants, but the feds’ Clean Power Plan has been stalled by court challenges about the specifics.

James Van Nostrand, a law professor and the director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University said the new administration will have a number of ways to withdraw, loosen or delay the plan.

“Even if it stays in place, the EPA would just choose not enforce it,“ he said. “And a lot of the U.S. commitments under the Paris agreement are really hinged on emissions reductions that we were going to achieve under the Clean Power Plan.“

The coal industry has attacked the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as part of what it calls a “war on coal.“

Donald Trump famously tweeted that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China, although he later said that was a joke.

Walton Shepherd, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council said while Trump makes up his mind about the issue, climate change is speeding up. But he also noted, so is clean energy, which he called the cure for carbon pollution.

“That’s not waiting, either,“ he said. “Wind and solar are the fastest-growing supply of electricity in the country, and there are now more people employed in solar energy than in the oil and gas or coal-mining industries.“

Shepherd pointed out that clean air rules to address climate change are deeply embedded in the law, and very popular across the country. He said that’s why George W. Bush could stall but not completely stop regulations to address climate change.

“That administration also tried very hard to dismantle clean-air protections,“ he added. “And quite simply, they abandoned their efforts in the face of public opposition.“

The first clues about how the new administration will approach climate change may come when Trump announces who will head the EPA. Some have suggested he may even attempt to dismantle the agency, although that would be a radical step.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

25 Pipelines Proposed for the East

Coal may be declining, but fracking is booming.

Over two dozen natural gas pipelines are planned for the region, many of which cross our favorite outdoor playgrounds. Other pipelines will use eminent domain to traverse private property. All of them will affect the future of energy, health, and recreation in the East.

Dominion Power stands behind their Atlantic Coast Pipeline as a necessary means to meet energy needs throughout the region. “Demand is expected to increase by 165% over the next two decades,” Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby says. “Our existing infrastructure is simply not capable of meeting these needs.” As communities grow and businesses expand, energy demands also increase within those developments, Ruby says.

Touting natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” Dominion and other energy companies are hoping to build a massive pipeline infrastructure that could extend fossil fuel dependence for another century or more. Currently 34 percent of our energy comes from natural gas.

19 pipelines are proposed for Appalachia. If built, we would blow past our climate change commitments made in Paris, according to Oil Change International.  And a recent report by Synapse Economics shows that gas pipelines aren’t needed to feed electrical demand. They conclude: “Given existing pipeline capacity [and] existing natural gas storage…the supply capacity of the Virginia‐Carolinas region’s existing natural gas infrastructure is more than sufficient to meet expected future peak demand.”

Each individual pipeline costs upwards of $50 million, with several reaching into the billion-dollar price range. The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline comes with an estimated price tag of $3 billion, while the Atlantic Coast and Northeast Energy Direct lines ring up at over $5 billion. Such high costs will force the region and the nation to commit to fossil fuels for many more decades. More pipeline infrastructure also means more drilling and fracking in order to supply the lines with enough gas.

The Free Press WV


But the multibillion dollar investment in a natural gas infrastructure—including massive subsidies from the federal government—is taking away from investment in renewable energy. If the U.S. had given the same subsidies to solar and wind as it has to oil and gas, we could meet most of our energy needs today with renewables.

Solar and wind power now make up over 75 percent of new electric capacity additions in the United States—representing over $70 billion in new capital investment in 2016 alone.

So why aren’t we building a renewable energy infrastructure instead of a fossil-fueled pipeline network?

No one is claiming that renewables can provide all of our electricity overnight. Massive hurdles in energy storage still need to be cleared, and the better battery grail remains elusive. But a smart grid of renewable technologies seems like a better long-term investment than thousands of miles of fracked-gas pipelines.


Is Natural Gas Better Than Coal?

Ruby argues that natural gas provides a vast improvement over the coal. “Natural gas produces half the carbon emissions as coal,” Ruby claims. “Our project will help the region reduce carbon emissions and meet the regulations of the new Federal Clean Power Plan.”

Natural gas companies also claim that access to local shale gas supplies in Pennsylvania and West Virginia will prove more cost-effective than transporting the gas from the Gulf Coast. Pending their completion, pipelines like the Atlantic Coast project could save the consumer base hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs. “Cheap energy options lead an improved economic competitiveness of the region,” says Ruby.

But is the environmental and public health cost worth it? “The pipelines in and of themselves are devastating for the communities that they pass through,” says Maya van Rossum, spokesperson for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “They cut through wetlands, creeks, rivers, and inflict an immense amount of ecological harm that cannot be undone.”

And according to Ramon Alvarez of the Environmental Defense Fund, natural gas is only better than coal if leakage in the gas pipelines and extraction is less than 3.2 percent. Leakages regularly soar above this limit. Methane—the leaked gas—is an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Fracking, a drilling method that involves injecting high-pressure toxic fluids into the ground, has been linked to increased earthquakes and groundwater contamination. It uses mercury, lead, methanol, uranium, and formaldehyde to blast through the ground, and many of these chemicals end up in communities’ drinking water.

Pipeline construction itself causes air pollution and acid rain that harms the surrounding soil and vegetation, invades natural wildlife habitats, and contaminates water supplies. Once completed, pipelines continue to cause disruption by maintaining rights-of-way that permanently splinter natural landscapes and block regular animal movement, while also emitting air pollution from compressor stations that jeopardize public and environmental health.

Many local landowners and environmentalists believe that this money would be better spent investing in a renewable energy infrastructure that would set us on a path toward cleaner energy and healthier, more sustainable communities.

Joanna Hanes-Lahr, a resident in Annapolis, Md., worries about pipeline safety amid increased rates of leakage and rupture. She is concerned about drinking water, gas explosions, and increased air and water pollution. She and others believe that a renewable energy infrastructure makes more sense ecologically and economically.

“We don’t need the fracked gas,” she says. “Clean energy is here today.”

What about jobs?

The pipeline industry promises to create new jobs, but they neglect to mention the expenses that accompany them. Pipeline construction often threatens the status of community projects, tourism, and scenic viewsheds which attract many more jobs and visitors. Wintergreen and Nelson County may encounter a loss of $80 million and 250 jobs as a result of two large projects—a new resort hotel and marketplace—that would be postponed or canceled due to pipeline construction.

Already, solar and wind industries employ more workers than oil and gas. The solar industry has hired more veterans than any other industry, retrained coal workers, and has created one out of 80 jobs in the U.S. since the Great Depression. And wind is not far behind. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind technician is the fastest growing job category.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network has also found that the clean energy sector provides more jobs and a better quality of employment than natural gas jobs. Natural gas employees “spend six months to build something and then [they’re] out,” says van Rossum. “For every million invested in clean, renewable energy versus fossil fuels, you get 3 to 5 times the number of direct jobs created. You also get a lot more long-term jobs.”


Where are the pipelines proposed?

Some of the outdoor community’s most treasured sites may be destroyed by pipeline implementation, including the beloved backbone of the Blue Ridge: the Appalachian Trail. The proposed PennEast, Atlantic Coast, and Mountain Valley pipelines cross the Appalachian Trail on several occasions, which will cause permanent disruptions to the trail and surrounding forest.

“The natural gas companies have not done a good job articulating a plan that will not have an impact on hikers [because] they are looking at boring under the trail, which is not compatible with the trail experience,” says Director of Conservation Laura Belleville.

Pipelines have also been proposed through Delaware State Forest in Pennsylvania and High Point State Park in New Jersey, the latter of which boasts the highest point in New Jersey. “Now, when you go to look from that high point, what you’ll see is just a swath of denuded forest with a pipeline cut through it,” says van Rossum.

In West Virginia and Virginia, Monongahela and George Washington National Forests and the Blue Ridge Parkway will be permanently marred by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will require regular clearcutting along its entire length.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline similarly endangers Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest, while the Leach Xpress Pipeline moves within 2 short miles of The Wilds Preservation Area and Wayne National Forest in Ohio. Farther south, the Dalton Expansion Project will cross the Etowah River and has already poisoned the waterway after an oil spill during the preparatory construction process. The Sabal Trail Pipeline that winds through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida crosses above the Falmouth Cathedral Cave System, parts of which lie only 30 feet below the earth’s surface and are liable to collapse as a result of the pipeline’s intended path.

The Sierra Club has already opened cases against pipelines where “environmental effects have not been adequately addressed in public areas,” says Thomas Au, the Oil and Gas Chair of the Pennsylvania chapter. Right now, the Constitution Pipeline and Atlantic Sunrise Pipelines worry Au the most. These proposed pipelines pass through Ricketts Glen State Park and across the Lehigh, Susquehanna, and Conestoga Rivers.

Private landowners are also in jeopardy. Pipeline companies are frequently given permission by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use eminent domain to construct and maintain pipelines across private property. Even if property owners refuse to sell their land, the companies can seize the land anyway.

That’s what happened to the North Harford Maple Farm in New Milford, Pennsylvania, where the Holleran family runs their maple syrup business. But the Constitution Pipeline will run straight through the Holleran’s property and take down the maple trees that they and their loyal customers depend on.

Even worse: most people who will lose their land to pipelines will not receive any energy benefits in return. Eminent domain seizures mostly accommodate the interests of those on either end of the pipeline while taking resources from the communities in between.

Many of the proposed pipelines will take new paths rather than follow existing rights-of-way, like highways and electric lines. Choosing to use pre-established pipeline routes reduces waste by conserving the amount of land in use—a perk that appeals to environmentalists and landowners alike.

“When we saw what Dominion had crafted for its pipeline route, we were a little horrified,” says Jon Ansell, Chairman of the Friends of Wintergreen. “There are better choices using the principle of co-location.” The Nelson County, Va., organization hopes to protect Wintergreen Resort from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by examining alternative routes that use more existing rights-of-way.

Pipelines ultimately inflict lasting wounds but provide only a short-term energy fix. Together, these pipelines will cut across 3,500 miles of Appalachia and beyond.

~~  Duane Nichols ~~

“When & Where to Visit” for Fall Color This Weekend

The Free Press WV

Best spots to visit currently include Babcock and Watoga state parks; the Summersville area, including the overlook at Summersville Lake; Cranberry Glades; and Williams River. Areas of elevation ranging between 2,000 and 3,500 feet have the most color. Areas over that elevation are losing leaves quickly.


Things to see and do
This weekend, take advantage of the mild October weather and go for a leisurely stroll on the Sunrise Carriage Trail for FestivALL Fall’s Leaf Walk, featuring artists and live music along the way. In downtown Berkeley Springs, nationally and regionally known artists open their studios to the public to show how they create their own unique artwork. And master fiddlers from across the Mountain State converge in Elkins for the Augusta Heritage Center’s Annual Fiddlers’ Reunion, part of Augusta’s October Old-Time Week. For a list of upcoming events this fall, visit https://gotowv.com/events/calendar/.

Natural Gas Industry Energizing Education in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s natural gas industry is providing significant financial and in-kind support to a variety of educational and youth-focused initiatives in the areas of STEM programming, workforce development, youth athletics, teacher training and general student needs.

“With school in full swing across the Mountain State, West Virginia’s natural gas industry is committed to improving and enhancing educational opportunities for state children,” said Steve Perdue, Interim Director of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA).

Perdue said programming focused on educating students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a priority for many WVONGA members. Recent initiatives include:

–    Chevron and Southwestern Energy’s support of the STEM Network Schools program through the Education Alliance.

–    Chevron’s support of the Oglebay Institute effort to align science curriculum in grades 1-8 in Marshall County and professional development training for teachers at Sherrard Middle School.

–    EQT’s support of the Clay Center’s Power Your Future mobile STEM exhibit.

–    XTO Energy’s Mickelson ExxonMobil Teacher’s Academy support for professional development for Union Elementary School teacher in Upshur County.

–    Antero, MarkWest Energy, XTO Energy and EQT’s support for the Challenge Program in Doddridge, Marion, and Harrison Counties.

–    Dominion’s K-12 and Higher Education Partnership grants will engage students in a variety of energy- and environmental-focused science, math and technology programs.

WVONGA members are involved in myriad ways with schools in their operating region.

Rick Coffman, superintendent of Ritchie County Schools and former Superintendent of Doddridge County Schools, said, “I’ve witnessed firsthand the tremendous impact the natural gas industry continues to have on our education system. Property tax revenues generated by industry activities are providing needed funding for our schools, while ongoing and direct company involvement with local schools is helping to enhance the educational experience for all students.”

Other examples of natural gas industry support with West Virginia schools and students include:

–    Noble Energy’s support for the Energizing Our Youth after-school wellness program in Marshall County.

–    Antero’s Oil & Gas Dodgeball Tournament, which raised funds for Harrison County summer reading and nutrition programming, among other initiatives, and, separately, the company provides monetary contributions to high school athletic departments across northcentral West Virginia.

–    XTO Energy’s scholarship support for students attending the Department of Environmental Protection’s Junior Conservation Camp in Jackson County.

–    Dominion’s contribution of 5,000 pairs of tennis shoes to school students in flood impacted regions of the state.

–    EQT’s support of literacy programs for elementary students in McDowell County through Operation Outreach.

–    MarkWest Energy’s support for the construction of an outdoor classroom in Doddridge County.

–    Chevron and Noble Energy’s support for local back-to-school fairs, providing backpacks, school supplies and other materials for students.

Perdue said the industry’s educational involvement isn’t limited to K-12.

EQT will award 60 $1,000 scholarships to students across the state (one from each of WV’s 55 counties + 5 ad hoc), as well as six full-ride scholarships to students looking to study a field relative to the natural gas industry.

“We recognize the need to prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow,” Perdue said. “Our members support workforce development and career-readiness programs at our institutions of higher education across the state.”

Perdue cited the industry’s support for the establishment of the Energy Land Management Program at WVU.  One of only 10 such programs accredited by the American Association of Professional Landmen in the country, this program now has more than 100 students enrolled and on their way to careers in the oil and natural gas industry.

Additionally, Noble Energy and XTO Energy’s significant commitment to the Petroleum Technology Program at Pierpont Community & Technical College and West Virginia Northern Community College is facilitating the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are required for success in technician-level jobs within the upstream petroleum production industry.

“These are just small snapshots of the involvement our members have with the education community in the state,” Perdue said.  “The industry is very committed to doing all we can to help Mountain State youth grow and prosper.”

For additional information, contact Steve Perdue at 304.343.1609.

Data Shows West Virginia Complies with New Ozone Standard

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has recommended that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designate the entire state of West Virginia as being in attainment with the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The recommendation is based upon quality assured data submitted by the DEP’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) from its EPA-approved statewide monitoring network. If EPA doesn’t modify the state’s recommended designation, it becomes effective October 01, 2017.

“West Virginia already complied with the previous 2008 ozone standard statewide. I think the fact that our ozone design values have continued to decrease and we are meeting EPA’s most stringent ozone standard yet is a great testament to the success of our state and regional air pollution control programs,” said DEP Cabinet Secretary Randy C. Huffman.

On October 01, 2015, the EPA revised the primary and secondary ozone NAAQS, strengthening both the standards from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. Primary standards are health-based to protect people; secondary standards provide protection against decreased visibility and damage to animals, crops, vegetation and buildings.

The DAQ operates an air monitoring network across the state which measures the concentration of ozone and other pollutants in the air. The ozone design values for West Virginia’s monitors for 2013 through 2015 ranged from 59 ppb in Greenbrier County to 67 ppb in Charleston, Vienna and Weirton. Preliminary data for 2014-2016 also show all monitoring sites’ values below 70 ppb.

Ground level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). A chemical reaction occurs when pollution emitted by cars, powers plants, refineries, chemical plants and other sources is exposed to sunlight. Ozone at ground level is harmful due to its effects on people and the environment. Ozone is also the main ingredient in smog.

In West Virginia, ozone is most likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days, which is why Ozone Monitoring Season runs from April 1 through October 31. Ozone can be carried long distances by wind, so unhealthy levels in city environments can be transported to more rural areas.

Citizens can check West Virginia’s daily Air Quality Index at s daily Air Quality Index at s daily Air Quality Index at s daily Air Quality Index at s daily Air Quality Index at dep.wv.gov/daq/air-monitoring/Pages/AirQualityIndex.aspx or by calling 866.568.6649 x 274.

More information on West Virginia’s air quality is available on DAQ’s website: s website: s website: s website: s website: www.dep.wv.gov/daq/.

West Virginians Also Fighting for EPA Carbon Limits

West Virginia is one of the states suing the federal government to stop Environmental Protection Agency carbon limits. Arguments will begin this week in Washington, D.C., but some West Virginia residents plan to protest in favor of the Clean Power Plan in front of the courthouse.

Two vans of state residents will join people from around the country in front of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals when arguments start Tuesday morning. Roane County resident Mary Wildfire said West Virginians are ready to face reality.

“We all deep down know this is real,” Wildfire said. “I think we are preparing a world for our descendants that will leave them hating us as no generation in human history has ever hated its parents.“

The EPA’s ability to slow climate change by mandating cuts in carbon emissions under the Clean Air Plan has survived two challenges before the U.S. Supreme Court. But Attorney General Patrick Morrissey will argue that the agency overstepped its authority with some of the specifics in the plan.

The Free Press WV
West Virginians will be some of those protesting in favor of the Clean Power Plan outside a courthouse in Washington, D.C., when states including West Virginia sue to stop the plan. (Chesapeake Climate Action Network)


Many in the coal, oil and gas industries - and some of their political allies - have argued that climate change is a hoax. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has blamed China - in spite of evidence that they Chinese are moving rapidly toward renewable energy.

Wildfire said the climate is already changing, and she can see the effects around her rural home.

“It seems to be getting harder and harder to grow gardens,” she said. “And I’ve noticed there just aren’t the bugs there used to be. There isn’t the diversity and there aren’t the numbers, and that worries me.“

Wildfire said the state should, “demand its share of the clean power jobs,“ for example, by building solar panels.

“I don’t think that West Virginians should continue to be forced to accept dirty jobs, and polluting jobs, and jobs that threaten our lives or our health - as we have for the past century with coal,” she said.

The Clean Power Plan is a key part of the international plan to address climate change reached in Paris last year. The Paris Agreement looks likely to go into effect soon.

Comment Period Still Open for Doddridge County Frack Waste Treatment Facility

Antero Resources has been holding meetings for its proposed landfill and water processing facility, ironically named “Clearwater.” The 400-acre facility, a 25-year project located upstream of the Hughes River, will affect 11 wetlands and over 5 miles of streams in the area, as well as potentially affect the water source for several communities.

WV Rivers Coalition, in its letter to the DEP, states that there is no mention of a Groundwater Protection Plan in its stormwater permit, a document that must be made available to the public at all times, according to WV law.

“The landfill will discharge into streams that are located within the Zone of Peripheral Concern (ZPC) for the Hughes River Water Board, which sells bulk water to Pennsboro, Harrisville, and Cairo in Ritchie County,” states the letter. The ZPC is the riparian land between a 5- and 10-hour travel time upstream of a public water supply.

The Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) also does not include a section about spill prevention and response procedures, as required by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activities.


The stormwater permit is not the only permit being sought for the facility. A 401 permit is required to show that the company will comply with Clean Water Act regulations.

Nine speakers spoke for almost an hour about their concerns for the project at Tuesday’s stormwater permit hearing, which took place at Doddridge County High School and was sponsored by the WV DEP.

Charlotte Pritt, Mountain Party Candidate for governor, spoke about the health hazards of radiation found in frack waste, and called for a ban on horizontal hydrofracking.

Lew Baker of the West Virginia Water Research Institute noted that there should be continuous monitoring at the facility, not just at the water intake.

Bill Hughes of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition noted that this project is experimental and should never be done on this scale.

Cindy Rank of the WV Highlands Conservancy mentioned the inadequacies of the permit applications, and the fact that the effects of such a project should be looked at in aggregate and not separately.

April Keating, of Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, pointed out that 4,000 new wells were planned over the next 40 years, and the water supply would be adversely affected. She also noted that leaking pipelines and gas infrastructure, such as compressor stations, would affect

air quality and accelerate climate change rapidly, leading to numerous effects on the environment and economy.

The WVDEP is taking comments on the stormwater permit until September 3. Comments can be submitted electronically at , or by writing to:

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection

Permitting Section

Division of Water and Waste Management

601 57Th St

Charleston WV 25304

Study: Clean Power Plan Could Save Commercial Sector Billions

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV - A new study finds that if states implement the Clean Power Plan, energy savings would be greatest in retail and office buildings and total more than $11 billion a year nationwide in the commercial sector by 2030. The Obama administration’s plan is to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent by 2030.

Marilyn Brown, professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy and the report’s author, said one big way big buildings could save money is by using air-source heat pumps.

“This is a new generation,“ she said. “These are super-efficient. They’re on the market, their return on investment is great. Right now they’re so new we’re not seeing a lot of them, but if by 2030 they were to take hold, as I think they’re going to, they would make a very big difference.“

Brown said the air-source method heats, cools, dehumidifies and manages ventilation, making it much more efficient than a traditional rooftop system. The report estimates if the path to clean power is followed, commercial buildings nationwide would eventually save seven percent a year on their electric bills and reduce their natural gas bills by ten percent. West Virginia is among 27 states challenging the new regulations, claiming, along with industry critics, that the new regulations will hurt the economy.

The Georgia Tech study predicts with business as usual the electric bills of commercial building owners and occupants in the U.S. would rise by more than 21 percent over the next 15 years.

Elizabeth Beardsley, senior policy analyst with the U.S. Green Building Council, said the biggest challenge for the commercial sector is finding capital to make improvements to their buildings’ energy efficiency.

“We know that they pay for themselves over the time, and sometimes actually a pretty rapid payback,“ Beardsley said. “It still takes that initial effort to make a project happen.“

Beardsley pointed to creative financing options that would help homeowners and businesses defray upfront costs. The Clean Power Plan includes programs like that, including one which helps low-income residents.

Brown said it’s also important to track energy costs in commercial buildings, a technology known as benchmarking.

“That means that if a tenant wants to consider what the real cost of occupying a space in that building might be, it has some good sense of how efficient the office complex is,“ she added. “It’s a way of making the market work more efficiently.“

The full report can be read online HERE.

TENORM in KY Landfills: Loopholes, Questionable Business Practices

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV - Behind the low-level radioactive waste dumped in a Kentucky landfill are regulatory loopholes and questionable business practices, according to state and local documents.

Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, obtained correspondence between Kentucky and West Virginia officials, and said it showed that regulators didn’t coordinate. In the confusion, he said, several firms run by the same person dumped “Technologically-Enhanced, Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials” from West Virginia and Ohio fracking operations into the Estill County landfill. One company, Advanced TENORM Services, came to light first.

“The landfill records in Estill County, which showed a couple of other companies had shipped TENORM waste,“ he said, “one being Nuverra, I believe, and another being a Cambrian Services.“

According to state filings, Cory Hoskins operates Advanced TENORM Services out of the West Liberty, Ky., public library. Landfill records show him as the head of Cambrian Well Services and Nuverra, both based in Norwich, Ohio. Hoskins has not returned numerous calls and messages.

Mike Manypenny, a former Taylor County delegate and current congressional candidate, said dust from TENORM can lodge in the lungs and cause cancer. He worked in the Legislature to keep hot frack waste from creating problems in West Virginia landfills. West Virginia isn’t coordinating the frack-waste disposal with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, let alone other states, he said.

“We need to have a cradle-to-grave monitoring system to make sure that we know where these materials have come from, and where it ends up when it’s disposed of,“ he said.

The view from Kentucky is similar, said FitzGerald.

“Everyone seems to be mostly concerned about what’s going on in their own state,“ he said, “rather than assuring that wherever these wastes are going, that they’re going to a place that is properly operated and managed.“

State officials in Kentucky have decided to pursue civil but not criminal charges. They say the waste is safer where it is, rather than being dug up again.

More information on C is online at epa.gov.

Coal, Enthusiasm Fueling Prime Role for WV in Cleveland

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV —West Virginia’s delegation to the Republican National Convention received prime placement right by the podium for Tuesday’s vote to nominate the party’s candidate. One delegate, Ron Walters - member of the West Virginia state House of Delegates and a Trump supporter - said they received that honor because it presents a picture of strong support for Donald Trump.

“The Trump team has asked that we do the vote, and we’ve been given a prime location on the floor,” Walters said. “We’re just to the right of the podium as they’re looking at us, and we’ll have our hard hats on tonight.“

When Trump visited Charleston before the state primary, the coal industry group, Friends of Coal, gave him a white hard hat to wear at his event. Friends of Coal gave everyone in the delegation a similar hard hat, according to Walters. He said he has even been asked to donate his to the Smithsonian.

The link to coal mining was clearly no accident. West Virginia has been trending Republican - and voting that way in presidential elections - since the end of the last Clinton presidency. Walters, like many members of his party, was sharply critical of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies. He said Trump promises to put miners back to work.

“Our pin say ‘Trump digs coal.‘ You know how many people really like that pin and want to trade with us? All the delegation is in line with the Trump program, a hundred percent supportive,” Walters said.

Many critics have pointed out that Trump has not said how he would bring back the mining jobs. They note that given the low price of gas and the fact that easy-to-mine coal is gone, Trump is almost certainly making an empty promise.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

What A Waste!

Research Suggests the U.S. Discards Half of Its Fresh Produce
The Free Press WV
Around $160 billion of perfectly edible produce is discarded because it’s less than perfect

Here’s a shocking statistic: According to a recent report in the Guardian, new research suggests American retailers and consumers waste one-third of all foodstuffs. In total this represents around $160 billion of perfectly edible produce that’s thrown away annually due to what the report labels a “cult of perfection.”

A common assertion is that this problem is a result of supply chain issues. While it’s true some produce goes bad somewhere in between the fields, warehouses and supermarket fridges, this by no means accounts for the exorbitant disparity that exists.

The Guardian’s U.S. environmental correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg interviewed over two dozen “farmers, packers, wholesalers, truckers, food academics and campaigners” to find out what exactly is going wrong. Goldenberg found that much of the produce is wasted due to “cosmetic standards.” In other words, perfectly fresh food is being discarded because it doesn’t look good.

Jay Johnson, a fresh fruit and vegetable supplier to North Carolina and central Florida explained to Goldenberg, “it is either perfect, or it gets rejected.“ As a result, many farmers preemptively get rid of much of their produce to save on wasted transport costs.

Potato farmer Wayde Kirschenman from Bakersfield, Calif. confirmed as much in his interview with Goldenberg. “I would say at times there is 25 percent of the crop that is just thrown away or fed to cattle. Sometimes it can be worse.”

So why exactly is this happening?

According to Goldenberg, researchers still don’t have an exact reason. She notes that the World Resources Institute think tank is working toward an answer. Which is good, as the need to find answers is pressing. As Goldenberg notes:

“Food experts say there is growing awareness that governments cannot effectively fight hunger, or climate change, without reducing food waste. Food waste accounts for about 8 percent of global climate pollution, more than India or Russia.“

As for America, the EPA has found that discarded food is the biggest single component of landfills and incinerators in the country. As a result these landfills produce massive amounts of methane, which proves far more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

Roger Gordon is founder of the startup Food Cowboy, which aims to address issues around food waste in America. According to Gordon, much of the problem around produce waste comes down to the issue of supermarket profit.

“If you and I reduced fresh produce waste by 50 percent like [U.S. agriculture secretary] Vilsack wants us to do, then supermarkets would go from [a] 1.5 percent profit margin to 0.7 percent,” Gordon told Goldenberg. “And if we were to lose 50 percent of consumer waste, then we would lose about $250 billion in economic activity that would go away.”

So this is an issue of creating scarcity? Bizarrely, as Goldenberg continued, this may well be the case.

The farmers and truckers interviewed said they had seen their produce rejected on flimsy grounds, but decided against challenging the ruling with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dispute mechanism for fear of being boycotted by powerful supermarket giants. They also asked that their names not be used.

In other words, rather than the consumers, it’s the large supermarkets that are dictating the impossible standards that get implemented on the supply chain. As for the legal issues surrounding this dubious practice, one unnamed owner of an East Coast trucking company told Goldenberg that even if farmers want to challenge a supermarket they have very little recourse.

“There is nothing you can do,” said the owner, “because if you use the PACA [Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of 1930] on them, they are never going to buy from you again. Are you going to jeopardize $5 million in sales over an $8,000 load?”

As a result of this practice by the powerful retailers, the issues carry down the ladder of the supply chain to the farmer. In the end a feedback loop is created where the consumers only want to consume what they’re told they should accept as the standard. And in the process, almost half of all edible produce being farmed in the country is going uneaten.

WVDEP and Alpha Natural Resources Finalize $325 Million Agreement to Fund Mine Reclamation

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV – The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has finalized what was previously announced as an agreement in principle with Alpha Natural Resources, the state’s largest coal operator, which filed for bankruptcy in August 2015.

The agreement earmarks approximately $325 million to cover the reclamation of all of Alpha’s legacy liability mine sites in West Virginia, as well as the company’s continuing operations in the state.

“This agreement is a huge deal for our state. It ensures that funding will be available to clean up hundreds of mine sites across West Virginia,” said DEP Cabinet Secretary Randy C. Huffman. “Because of Alpha’s commitment to honor its reclamation obligations, and the DEP’s work in securing that commitment, the government and the citizens of West Virginia won’t be left holding the bag.”

The agreement was filed yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court by Alpha, which also filed similar agreements with other states it operates in and agreements with several federal agencies. The bankruptcy court also entered an order yesterday approving the agreements and confirming Alpha’s bankruptcy plan. A closing is expected later this month.

Under the West Virginia agreement, the surety bonds Alpha previously posted to obtain its mining permits will remain fully in place. But Alpha, the Mountain State’s last remaining self-bonded coal company, will post an additional $100 million in surety and other forms of bonds to replace all of its self-bonds at its active and inactive mining sites in the state. Additionally, Alpha will immediately post $39 million in letters of credit or cash bonds as financial assurance for the performance of its land reclamation and water treatment obligations at its other remaining self-bonded sites in West Virginia.
Alpha has also committed to – over time – replace the self-bonding for, and reclaim and treat water at, all of its remaining mining sites, in West Virginia and elsewhere, including sites at which it has ceased mining operations. To that end, Alpha and its secured creditors have committed to provide at least an additional $229 million in secured funding. Of that amount, Alpha has committed to provide at least $124 million for reclamation and water treatment over 10 years, with a further commitment to provide half of its excess operating cash flow over and above that amount for reclamation and water treatment at its legacy sites.

Contura, an entity formed by Alpha’s secured creditors to purchase the bankrupt coal operator’s Wyoming and other operations, has agreed to provide the remainder of the funding. That includes an additional $55 million in reclamation and water treatment funding over the next five years and a guarantee for Alpha’s excess operating cash flow commitment, up to an additional $50 million.

West Virginia’s share of the $229 million in funds committed to reclamation and water treatment will exceed 80 percent for at least the first two years.

This marks the first time that a large coal company has committed to remain in business and continue to operate for the primary purpose of reclaiming its legacy mining sites, according to Kevin W. Barrett, a Bailey & Glasser partner and special assistant state attorney general, who was contracted by DEP to work on the Alpha and other coal bankruptcy cases.

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