Sunday, May 24, 2015

Obama's Green Light on Arctic Oil Drilling - Bill McKibben Op-Ed

                                                        Adam Zyglis | The Buffalo News
Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial

"It’s as if the tobacco companies were applying for permission to put cigarette machines in cancer wards.”

By BILL McKIBBEN  |  MAY 12, 2015  | Opinion | The New York Times

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — THE Obama administration’s decision to give Shell Oil the go-ahead to drill in the Arctic shows why we may never win the fight against climate change. Even in this most extreme circumstance, no one seems able to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry. No one ever says no.

By “extreme” I don’t just mean that Shell will be drilling for oil in places where there’s no hope of cleaning up the inevitable spills (remember the ineptness of BP in the balmy, accessible Gulf of Mexico, and now transpose it 40 degrees of latitude north, into some of the harshest seas on the planet).

No, what’s most extreme here is the irresponsibility of Shell, now abetted by the White House. A quarter century ago, scientists warned that if we kept burning fossil fuel at current rates we’d melt the Arctic. The fossil fuel industry (and most everyone else in power) ignored those warnings, and what do you know: The Arctic is melting, to the extent that people now are planning to race yachts through the Northwest Passage, which until very recently required an icebreaker to navigate.

Now, having watched the Arctic melt, does Shell take that experience and conclude that it’s in fact time to invest heavily in solar panels and wind turbines? No. Instead, it applies to be first in line to drill for yet more oil in the Chukchi Sea, between Alaska and Siberia. Wash, rinse, repeat. Talk about salting wounds and adding insult to injury: It’s as if the tobacco companies were applying for permission to put cigarette machines in cancer wards.

And the White House gave Shell the license. In his first term, President Obama mostly ignored climate change, and he ran for re-election barely mentioning the subject until Hurricane Sandy made it unavoidable in the closing days of the campaign.

Theoretically his second term was going to be different. The president has stepped up the rhetoric, and he’s shown some willingness to go after domestic greenhouse gas emissions. His new regulations on coal-fired power plants will be helpful, as will his 2012 rules on fuel efficiency for cars and trucks. And his nonbinding pledge that America will cut emissions in future decades may make the upcoming climate talks in Paris less of a fiasco than earlier talks in Copenhagen.

But you can’t deal with climate on the demand side alone. If we keep digging up more coal, gas and oil, it will get burned, if not here, then somewhere else. This is precisely the conclusion that a study in the journal Nature reached in January: If we’re to have any chance of meeting even Mr. Obama’s weak goal of holding temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, we have to leave most carbon underground. That paper, in particular, showed that the coal reserves in the Powder River basin in the West and the oil in Canada’s tar sands had to be left largely untouched, and that there was no climate-friendly scenario in which any oil or gas could be drilled in the Arctic.

And yet Mr. Obama — acting on his own, since these are all executive actions requiring nothing from Congress — has opened huge swaths of the Powder River basin to new coal mining. He’s still studying whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, though the country’s leading climate scientists have all told him it would be a disaster. And now he’s given Shell the green light, meaning that, as with Keystone, it will be up to the environmental movement to block the plan (“kayaktivists” plan to gather this weekend in Seattle’s harbor, trying to prevent Shell from basing its Arctic rigs there).

This is not climate denial of the Republican sort, where people simply pretend the science isn’t real. This is climate denial of the status quo sort, where people accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children. They just deny the meaning of the science, which is that we must keep carbon in the ground.

Bill McKibben teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College and is the founder of the global climate campaign

Anti-Fracking Law: Public Comments Move Amherst Town Board to Revise

Planning Board to review draft of anti-fracking law

The Town Board during its meeting on Monday directed the Planning Board to review a draft local law that would ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” in Amherst.

Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks and release the natural gas inside. People who oppose the practice believe it poses many dangers to the environment and could result in health risks to residents.

During a public comment period, Rita Yelda, a member of the community group Amherst Against Fracking, said the draft, created by the Town Attorney’s Office, lacks strength because it doesn’t cite the proper definitions of hydraulic fracturing.

Several residents following Yelda reiterated the importance of creating strong legislation that bans hydrofracking and its wastes in the Town of Amherst.

Following the comments from the public, Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette said the reason it was put on the board’s meeting agenda was to allow the Town Board to review it first to vet any issues, such as the ones that were addressed by residents.

Following the Town Attorney’s Office working with the Planning Board to possibly amend the draft, a public hearing will be held to allow further community input on the revised version.

Marlette added that although it has been about 13 months since the Town Board directed the Town Attorney’s Office to draft a law banning fracking in the town, it was not an excessive time period.

“Our intent is to pass a law and have all of the definitions in place for a strong law,” Marlette said.

Read the full report at the Amherst Bee

For earlier reports on the dangers of fracking waste, Click Here.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

PUBLIC MEETING: Amherst Town Board to Review Draft Hydrofracking Law

The Amherst Town Board will review a draft Local Law banning high-volume hydrofracking and fracking waste at the 7:00pm meeting on Monday, May 18 in the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St, Williamsville [Map].

The draft Local Law states the following Prohibited Uses:
  1. No land in the Town of Amherst shall be used for high volume hydrofracking (HVHF).
  2. To the extent not pre-empted by Federal, State or County rules, regulations or statutes, no byproducts of hydrofracking are permitted to enter or be disposed of in the Town of Amherst.
The Hydrofracking Resolution and draft Local Law can be downloaded using links shown under the "Attachments" section: Click Here

Citizens concerned about toxic and radioactive fracking waste from Pennsylvania being disposed in New York or spread on our roads should attend. Another concern is fracking of the Utica Shale which extends throughout our region.

We need the Town Board to subject the local law to a public hearing and a vote at their next meeting. If the local anti-fracking law passes the review today, it will be on the agenda for a public hearing and vote at the next Town Board meeting in two weeks.   

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pope’s Adviser has Strong Words for Climate Change Deniers

                                                           Tom Toles | The Washington Post
Pope’s top adviser blasts US climate skeptics
By Timothy Cama - 05/12/15  |  The Hill
Pope Francis’ closest adviser castigated conservative climate change skeptics in the United States Tuesday, blaming capitalism for their views.

Speaking with journalists, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized certain “movements” in the United States that have preemptively come out in opposition to Francis’s planned encyclical on climate change.

“The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” Rodríguez said, according to the Boston Globe's Crux blog.

Rodríguez’s comments came at the beginning of the annual meeting of Caritas Internationalis, an association of Catholic charitable groups.

He said many individuals both inside and outside the Catholic Church are awaiting Francis’s encyclical “with hope,” and especially watching how it might impact the United Nations’s December meeting that seeks to  reach an agreement on an international climate change pact.

That is Francis’s top stated goal for the encyclical, to encourage Catholics to fight climate change and influence the U.N.’s process.

But Rodríguez singled out the United States as the source of premature criticism, the Globe reported.

“I have already heard criticism over the encyclical,” Rodríguez said of the United States, adding that it is “absurd” to be so negative about an encyclical that no one in the public has seen.

The Heartland Institute, funded in part by the billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, has taken the lead on countering Francis’s encyclical.

The right wing group sent climate change deniers to the Vatican last month to try to convince top Catholic officials that human activity is not harming the planet, and there is no need for Francis’s action.
~   ~   ~   ~

Pope Francis: Environmental Sinners Will Face God’s Judgment 

“We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat,” Francis said. “But we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day, and it will be seen if they truly tried to provide food for him in every person, and if they worked so that the environment would not be destroyed, but could produce this food.
 -- Pope Francis, May 12, 2015 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PUBLIC MEETINGS: Niagara River Greenway

The Niagara River Greenway Commission will hold two meetings May 19 at the Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo [Map]. The executive committee will meet at 2:00 p.m. and the full commission will meet at 3:00 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public.

[Click image to enlarge]
Projects that are being considered for consistency review are as follows and posted at
  • City of Niagara Falls - Hyde Park shoreline and upland improvements
  • City of Niagara Falls - Niagara Riverview Trail improvements 53rd Street node
  • Town of Lewiston - Kiwanis Park courts restoration
  • Town of Lewiston - Colonial Village Park playground project
  • Erie County - Amos Sangster and Annie Crawford Memorial markers
To review the Final Niagara River Greenway Plan or to learn more about the commission, visit

The Niagara River Greenway Commission is a public benefit corporation charged with the planning and development of a greenway of interconnected parks, river access points and waterfront trails along the Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario at the site of the historic Fort Niagara.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Local Residents Travel to Meeting of Coal Plant Shareholders

NRG’s Coal-Powered Business Model Holds Back

 Local Clean Energy Vision

PHILADELPHIA -  As NRG Energy shareholders prepared to meet on May 7, 2015 for the power company’s annual meeting, residents representing four of the communities where NRG operates its coal-fired power plants called on the company to be a local partner in the shift away from coal to clean, renewable energy. Many of the residents are NRG shareholders and will be attending the company’s meeting in Philadelphia.

While NRG aims to reduce carbon emissions 90 percent by the year 2050, that goal puts communities that have dealt with coal pollution for decades on the hook for more pollution and years of uncertainty. NRG has a strong track record for clean energy investments in select communities, but residents are hoping to show shareholders that the majority of NRG’s business is anchored in the company’s coal fleet.

The Waukegan coal plant in Illinois, which NRG acquired in 2014, has operated on the shores of Lake Michigan for almost 60 years. Community members have called for a clear timeline on phasing out coal at the power plant for many years, but NRG has yet to commit, leaving open questions for local community leaders hoping to revitalize the city.

 "I believe that through a partnership with Waukegan, NRG has the opportunity to invest in the clean energy future we all want, and that NRG can help us change the landscape of Waukegan," Waukegan City Council Member David Villalobos, who lives near NRG’s Waukegan Coal Plant. "I'm here in Philadelphia this week to address NRG's Board of Directors to tell them that a transparent transition from coal to clean energy can help Waukegan plan and grow."

Residents from Tonawanda, NY have a similar call for a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels at NRG’s Huntley coal-fired plant near Buffalo.

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency provide tremendous opportunities for jobs, local economic development and cleaner air,” said Diana Strablow, a retired teacher from Tonawanda, NY near NRG’s Huntley Coal Plant. “I plan to ask NRG for a plan to ensure that the vision is ‘clean, renewable energy for all,’ and not ‘clean, renewable energy for some.’

Many residents will share their experiences with pollution from NRG’s coal fleet. NRG’s Cheswick coal plant near Pittsburgh, PA is one of the single largest sources of air pollution in Allegheny County.

“We are urging NRG to be a good neighbor in our community by installing and operating the best technology available while it continues to burn coal here” said Barb Szalai, a community member from Springdale, PA who lives near NRG’s Cheswick Coal Plant. “If NRG cannot do its part to clean up its pollution, we urge the company to be a partner in our community’s transition away from coal.”

The city of Baltimore, MD experiences exceptionally high levels of pollution. Earlier this year, After more than fifteen months of intensive engagement with industry and the public health community, Maryland's Department of the Environment finalized new protections against air pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan frustrated Maryland citizens when he dropped these vital safeguards the day he took office, an outcome that NRG lobbied for.

“Every community deserves clean air, and we’re calling on NRG to be a partner in our efforts to clean up our air in Baltimore. NRG knows that the giant centralized utility model is one of the past,” said Talya Tavor, a community member and local organizer from Baltimore, MD who lives near NRG’s Dickerson and Chalk Point Coal Plants.  “We're living in an era where people value energy freedom and customer choice. That freedom and choice should extend to ALL communities; not just some.”

Press Release Contact: Emily Rosenwasser, 

TALK: Bakken Oil Trains in NY - What You Need to Know

Presentation by

Sandy Steubing, Lead Organizer
People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE)

WHEN: Saturday, May 16 -- 2pm-3:30pm
WHERE: Crane Branch Library (Upstairs), 633 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo

Large volumes of explosive Bakken oil are being transported by tank  rail cars. The oil comes from North Dakota and much of this oil is  destined to refineries on the east coast. This year, North America is  averaging one Bakken oil train derailment per month and each  derailment results in multiple explosions and fires.

Many of these Bakken oil trains travel through densely populated urban areas such as Buffalo NY on their eastward journey to Albany NY or Philadelphia, PA.

Sandy Steubing, lead organizer for People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE), is on an Upstate New York tour lecturing about the  many "bomb" trains coming through Buffalo and Upstate NY. She will  focus on the environmental justice of those living near the rail  tracks, and the effects of extreme energy extraction on climate change.

Sandy began her activism in the early 1960's in San Francisco. She  brings with her a huge depth of knowledge to bear on the many dangers  posed by the Bakken oil trains.

Submitted by Charley Bowman,
Sponsored by the Renewable Energy Task Force of the WNY Peace Center, Mothers Out Front (Rochester), and Food & Water Watch (

Aftermath of oil train derailment and explosion in W. Va.. Foundation of a burned-out home at bottom.
[Click image to enlarge]

RIVERKEEPER FORUM: Unexpected Voices of the Great Lakes

 Join  Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper this Wednesday from 6:30pm-8:30pm for a very special event at the Albright-Knox Gallery: Unexpected Voices of the Great Lakes, a panel discussion featuring internally acclaimed photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose artwork is pictured below. Burtynsky will discuss how his connection to the Great Lakes shaped his craft and the predominant theme in his images, "nature transformed through industry." The panel discussion following Burtynsky's talk will include:
    •    Allan Jamieson, a member of the Wolf Clan of the Cayuga People. He has worked with numerous native communities on issues related to water access. He is a founder of Neto, a Native American nonprofit based in Buffalo that started the Buffalo Creek Treaty Canoe Paddle held annually on the Buffalo River.
    •    Sandy Smith Cunningham, an educator from Nichols School in Buffalo whose innovative seventh-grade science curriculum teaches the principles of chemistry through the lens of the Great Lakes and environmental resources. She has been deeply involved in Great Lakes education and outreach.
    •     Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Jedlicka is a recognizable local expert on water quality issues and Great Lakes policy. She will provide a rare insight and reflection of her own personal journey to lead one of the world's largest Waterkeeper organizations.

The panel also will include a student from South Park High School in Buffalo who is active in his school's efforts to educate and inform a new generation about the importance of the Great Lakes and its tributaries.

This event is a collaboration between Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the International Joint Commission's Great Lakes Water Quality Board.  

Please RSVP here. This event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York) on Wednesday, May 13 from 6:30-8:30pm!

The Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Team

[Click image to enlarge]

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Renewable Energy and Climate Leaders Earn Sierra Club Awards

Sierra Club recognizes award recipients for their environmental efforts

By T.J. Pignataro | | May 1, 2015

Paul McDonnell and Richard Steinberg
A green upgrade to the power system in the Buffalo Public Schools earned a trio of men a top award Thursday from the Sierra Club’s Niagara Group at the organization’s annual awards dinner.

Paul McDonnell, Jason McCarthy and Richard Steinberg were tapped with the Blake Reeves Award for Leadership from the group for their work to install solar panels in about 20 of the city’s school buildings.

It was the second award of the week for McDonnell, the facilities director at the Buffalo Public Schools who led a $1.4 billion school reconstruction program. McDonnell won the Nelson Rockefeller Award for public sector architects on Monday from the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

McDonnell told the Sierra Club the project came with no capital costs to the district with assurance the district would be charged the same price for electricity for the next 20 years.

“We’re going to be reducing our carbon footprint, and it’s a great educational opportunity for our kids,” McDonnell said.

McCarthy is the North District member of the Buffalo School Board and Steinberg is a Sierra Club member.

The Blake Reeves Award was named in honor of the founder of the local Sierra Club chapter.

The other award Thursday went to Charley Bowman of the Renewable Energy Task Force and the Western New York Peace Center.

Bowman holds a doctorate in biology from the State University of New York at Albany. He taught at the University at Buffalo for 27 years as a science professor. He was awarded the Bruce Kershner Conservation Award for “leadership in working with many climate change issues and his concerns for justice and peace being central to the mission of climate justice,” according to the Sierra Club.