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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Picture yourself here protecting our parks

PennFuture is part of a statewide coalition of more than 20 groups working to protect public lands, including a key section of the Loyalsock State Forest, from new gas drilling. Since late 2012, we've been keeping readers informed of the intensive legal, advocacy, and policy work by this broad-based coalition of conservation, outdoors, and civic groups. You've answered the call: emailing and calling your legislators and the Governor, attending public meetings, and more. Yet, there is more to do. We've come up with a new fun way to participate -- and showcase your favorite Pa. outdoors spot to boot -- so please join in.

Take part in our coalition's new online photo campaign to keep our state parks free from drilling and stop any further gas leasing in our state forests. We’re asking you to help us get 200 pics posted by Memorial Day -- and as readers and supporters, we suspect you already spend time exploring the great outdoors.  It’s easy:

  1. Visit and print out the sign to the left. Or create your own variation on the message.

  1. Next, take a picture of yourself (yes, a “selfie!”) holding the sign outdoors. Bonus points if you’re at a state park or state forest. People, kids, pets all welcome in the pic -- be creative!! Check out the page for what other folks have done.

  1. Email your picture to and we’ll put it up on Tumblr.

  1. Post to Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook with the hashtag #FrackFreeParks.

Questions? Please email us. A little camera shy? Take a look at several of our four-legged creatures standing in to add their voices! Want to help this go viral across the state? Send the link to friends, family, your book and fishing clubs, or yoga class. 

Remember, our legislature votes on the state budget in June. Your voice today is crucial to protecting those special places that belong to all citizens of the Commonwealth.

Kate Gibbons is northeast Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Wilkes-Barre.

Finding the green

The Pennsylvania Growing Greener coalition has a great new guide to assist in identifying funding opportunities. 

As funding programs are being reduced or eliminated altogether, it is becoming increasingly difficult for non-profits and local governments to access much needed resources.  

The purpose of their single-source guide is to provide an overview of funding opportunities that may be of help to you. The guide contains a thorough listing of state funding programs for conservation, preservation and recreation projects, including the more recent funding made available from Act 13 of 2012.

In addition to a list of specific grant opportunities, you’ll find tips on how to apply and where to go for more information.

The guide is available for download on Growing Greener's website and will be updated regularly as new information is gathered so be sure to check back often. 

Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's Director of Outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets at @RexBainbridge. 

Clean Energy Wins: Post-primary edition

We now know which gubernatorial candidates will be representing the two major parties on November's ballot -- York businessman Tom Wolf and incumbent Governor Tom Corbett

Now that we're down to two, it's ever more essential that we make our voices heard so the next governor understands that an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians support clean energy. 

Earlier this year, we announced the launch of Clean Energy Wins -- a campaign geared toward the 2014 governor's race. 

The mission of Clean Energy Wins is simple: to engage bipartisan gubernatorial candidates, policymakers, clean energy businesses, and citizens about the economic, job creation, and environmental benefits of clean energy — and to identify practical policies that can be implemented to realize those benefits. 

In March, PennFuture released the Clean Energy Wins policy roadmap, a report that will help inform the state's next governor and the General Assembly about policies that can grow Pennsylvania’s clean energy economy. (It's a great read, I promise.). 

Since then, we have briefed gubernatorial candidates and policymakers of all political stripes on the roadmap, presented at events, and hosted virtual briefings on the report. There will be more to follow this summer and into the fall. 

But we can't do this without you. Please add your name to our Clean Energy Wins campaign and tell us why you are a clean energy voter.

Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's Director of Outreach and is based in our Philadelphia office. He tweets at @RexBainbridge.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What does the Wizard of Oz have to do with climate change?

Both Antarctica and the Wicked Witch of the West are wailing: “I’m melting, melting!” And once they are gone, there is no coming back.

That’s right, the West Antarctic ice sheet is melting at a pace that is deemed irreversible. What that means for humans: a four foot rise in sea level is anticipated just from those few glaciers. That number doesn't account for the snowball effect (pun intended) that warmer temperatures will have on the rest of Antarctica and the ensuing ice loss, which puts the figure around 10 to 15 feet of global sea level rise in the coming centuries.

The New York Times points out that these jarring conclusions come from two scientific papers that were released independently of one another on Monday by the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters. The scientists point to warm ocean currents influenced by strong winds that encircle Antarctica as the main culprit of the melting ice sheet in the Amundsen Sea. Those warm currents are, in turn, largely influenced by climate change.  This shouldn’t come as a major shock. In fact, scientists—most notably Ohio State University geologist, John Mercer— identified the trend in this area as irreversible as early as 1968. What makes this region in West Antarctica particularly unique is that it is the largest sheet of grounded ice left in the world, and it is grounded below sea level which makes it even more susceptible to the warmer ocean currents.

“Oh what a world, what a world!” cries the Wicked Witch of the West as she meets her demise. Perhaps we humans could go down a different path? 

Nicole Catino is PennFuture's 2014 Student Conservation Association Green Cities Sustainability Fellow and is based in our Pittsburgh office.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where do #PaGov candidates stand on regulating methane from natural gas drilling?

As part of PennFuture's 2014 candidates' survey, we asked candidates how they would address methane leakage, a greenhouse gas associated with natural gas drilling. Gov. Corbett was invited to participate but did not respond. 

PennFuture: Other states have adopted strong regulations to reduce fugitive methane emissions associated with natural gas development. What is your view on the importance of controlling methane emissions from natural gas development, and what would you do as governor, if anything, to reduce methane emissions?

Tom Wolf:
Pennsylvania is a major emitter of greenhouse gas, and I know we need to adopt stricter regulations and support innovative tools for reducing our emissions, especially as the natural gas sector continues to grow. As governor, I will work with key stakeholders to set new testing and monitoring regulations, and I will work with the private sector to promote the development of new technology that quickly and effectively detects fugitive methane emissions.

Additionally, I will focus on reducing our overall greenhouse gas emissions by having Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. I will work with the initiative and the member states to set emission caps that are fair to Pennsylvania, and I will use a portion of the revenue generated from the sale of permits to invest in renewable energy technology.

Allyson Schwartz:
Controlling methane leaks at well pads and in natural gas transmission is vitally important to our communities and to slowing climate change.

As governor, I will order a comprehensive review of Pennsylvania’s existing safeguards to ensure that Pennsylvania has the strongest possible protections to prevent methane leaks, reduce air and water pollution, and ensure sound well-drilling and construction standards. I will enact the strongest possible protections, based on the best science, to reduce air pollution, limit methane leakage, and protect drinking water.

Katie McGinty:
I believe, first and foremost, that we must continue to support and push for real-time additional research on the issue. We must look at this issue from a broad spectrum including ALL of the sources associated with fugitive methane emissions. It is then critical and our responsibility to put in place a comprehensive plan to address this important issue. From cost-effective measures to monitoring and regulating, members of my administration, along with stakeholders from across the state and various industries will be tasked with providing a roadmap to reduce these emissions. In my energy plan released earlier this year, I pledged to call for the implementation of best practices to minimize the environmental footprint associated with gas development, including but not limited to: develop and enforce appropriate casing and cementing practices in well development to guard against methane migration when elected Governor.

Rob McCord:
Natural gas offers a lot of environmental benefits for electricity generation over coal, but those benefits are mitigated if the industry doesn't control fugitive emissions from the well pad or any other point along the development and transmission infrastructure. My natural gas plan specifically requires drillers to use the best technologies and practices to not only prevent methane emissions, but also to reduce emissions of other air pollutants, track and recycle wastewater, and ban flaring.

I worry that because of relatively low natural gas prices, companies do not feel they have the financial incentive to prevent emissions. While that will change as prices eventually rise, we cannot afford to wait. We also shouldn't wait to start being smarter about how we use natural gas. Persistently low gas prices also create little incentive for developers, utilities, or consumers to conserve this fuel. I want to expand energy efficiency and conservation programs under Act 129 to natural gas. More than half of all Pennsylvania homes use natural gas for heat. These consumers could be realizing tremendous savings if Pennsylvania would join the more than one dozen other states that have instituted natural gas efficiency standards.

Paul Glover:
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Hydrofracking is already damaging Pennsylvania’s water, homes and roads, through methane releases into water and air. An estimated five percent of well casings are expected to fail soon after installation. Even “properly” managed wells spread fumes. With 100,000 wells projected, we would need not only an army of field monitors but an army of incorruptible monitors backed by a DEP with courage and teeth. It will be impossible to tax fracking enough to offset the permanent damage to water, health, communities and businesses. Wells are already exploding, containment pits are leaking, and trains are derailing. Thus, a West Virginia-style catastrophe looms.

I am the only candidate for governor of Pennsylvania who would ban hydrofracking. A moratorium on fracking is merely a stay of execution. Anything less than a ban is irresponsible. Mere regulation of fracking is not mature compromise, but capitulation to greed.

Therefore, wherever current drilling contracts can’t be broken, prohibitive remediation bonds should be imposed. We should make criminally liable the chief executive of any company whose wells leak, and we should close those wells. We should ban inter-county and interstate transport of fracking fluids. We should end pipeline extension, particularly for export facilities. We should encourage township bans. I would nominate PUC commissioners who agree.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cash for cold - Turn in your old woodstove or boiler and get paid

Ahoy there, mate!

Do you have an old woodstove or outdoor wood-fired boiler that you are looking to get rid of? If so, the perfect opportunity awaits you! The Allegheny County Health Department is offering a bounty for them at $500 a pop (cash incentive) for non-Phase II outdoor wood-fired boilers and $200 a piece (gift card) for uncertified woodstoves.  The gift cards are available for Home Depot, Lowes, Kmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GetGo, and Giant Eagle. 

Why are they doing this, you ask? Simply to reduce fine particulate pollution from wood smoke and address citizens’ growing concern about wood burning. So really you are getting paid to dispose of outdated equipment that does not meet current national emission standards AND you will be able to breathe easy at night. It’s a win-win for the wind and you.

But you must act quickly! Allegheny County residents must register by tomorrow, May 9 or by calling 412-578-8106.  A collection event will then be held on Saturday, May 17 from 1 to 4 pm at the swimming pool parking lot on South Ridge Drive in North Park.

What are you waiting for? This “cash for cold” opportunity is one you don’t want to miss!

Nicole Catino is PennFuture's 2014 Student Conservation Association Green Cities Sustainability Fellow and is based in our Pittsburgh office.