Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Yale School Of Public Health Study Found PA Children 2 To 3 Times More Likely To Be Diagnosed With Leukemia If They Live Near Unconventional Shale Gas Facilities

On August 17,
Berks Gas Truth and the Delaware RiverKeeper highlighted a new Yale School of Public Health study that found Pennsylvania children between the ages of 2 and 7 are two to three times as likely to be diagnosed with leukemia if they live near unconventional oil and gas facilities. 

The research, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, focuses on drinking water as a pathway to exposure.

The authors undertook a comprehensive investigation of children who develop Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in order to confirm its findings that oil and gas development dramatically increases rates of cancer in kids. 

The study confirmed that the increased cancer risk cannot be attributed to income, pesticide exposure, race or other pathways. 

The authors’ analysis took into account a latency period of a year, suggesting that some of the children were exposed in utero.

“In 2019, we called on Governor Wolf to halt fracking activities and take the time to study the impacts of shale gas development on young people after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an investigative series on a spike in rare cancers in four rural counties. Three years later, we’re still waiting for the results of the studies he eventually ordered without slowing fracking even for a moment. This new study shows us that children born since 2019 statewide are among the young cancer victims who might have been spared if Governor Wolf had acted,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth

“Pennsylvania’s politicians – led by Governor Wolf – are sacrificing our children to the oil and gas industry.  There is no other way to view these study results and the history of fracking in Pennsylvania,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.  “I’m tired of Governor Wolf quoting his constitutional obligation to protect the rights of all Pennsylvanians, amongst them its children and future generations, to pure water, clean air and healthy environments while at the same time he supports the fracking industry, including helping them expand their operations by posturing Pennsylvania to become a leader in devastating technologies like carbon capture utilization and storage or hydrogen development.” 

The study’s authors noted that while 90% of afflicted children survive their leukemia, they face heightened risk of developing a second primary cancer later in life, as well as the potential for heart disease, cognitive dysfunction, increased depression and/or anxiety.  

The study also noted that while nationwide the incidence of cancer is in decline, the incidence of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in children has been increasing.   

“It is clear that not only are we devastating the health of these children when they are young, the oil and gas industry and their political supporters are inflicting harm that will follow them throughout the entirety of their lives. This is a moral outrage.  Governor Wolf and the next governor of Pennsylvania, as well as political leaders nationwide, all the way to the president’s office, have to do better and halt the ongoing expansion of oil and gas development.  We have better technologies that can create the energy we need and protect our children,” added van Rossum.

Setback Distances Inadequate

Among the study’s conclusions is that the existing Pennsylvania setback of 500 feet between oil and gas drilling operations and residential structures does not provide needed protection from the multiple pathways of exposure inflicted by the fracking industry including the release of contaminants via water and air.  

While a 2020 Grand Jury investigation advanced by the PA Attorney General’s office recommended setbacks in the range of 2,500 feet, that is a mere fraction of the 6,500 foot distance at which cancerous impacts on children was identified in the Yale study. 

“Attorney General Shapiro’s recommendations were not proportional to the damning evidence the Grand Jury provided in its assessment that the government had failed to protect Pennsylvanians from fracking. Setbacks are not a rational solution to such a serious problem. You can’t make fracking safe.  The pathways of devastating harm for health and the environment are too many and massive.  It is time for all of Pennsylvania’s leaders, including those seeking the Governor’s office, to follow the science, stop the expansion of fracking and instead advance truly clean and renewable energy options,” added Feridun.

The Yale Study will add to the wealth of scientific research documenting the devastating impacts of the fossil fuel industry and fracking on human health, communities and the environment.

Click Here for a copy of the study.

NewsClips:

-- The Hill: Children Who Live Near Fracking Sites At Birth Face Increased Risk Of Leukemia, Study

Related Articles - Health Impacts Of Oil & Gas Facilities:

-- Environmental Health Project: Setback Distances And The Regulations We Need To Protect Public Health From Oil & Gas Facilities

-- Environmental Health Project: PA’s Natural Gas Boom - What Went Wrong? Why Does It Matter?  What Can We Do Better To Protect Public Health?  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Asthma And Air Pollution From Natural Gas Drilling/Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Evangelical Environmental Network Opposes House Resolution Disapproving Of Final Reg. Reducing VOC/Methane Emissions From Unconventional Oil & Gas Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Public Health Impacts Of Blue Hydrogen Production, Health, Environmental Protections Needed -- By Alison L. Steele, Executive Director  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project Profile: Dr. John Stolz, Duquesne University - Monitoring Impact Of Shale Gas Extraction On Private Water Wells, Groundwater In SW PA  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health News: PFAS, With Possible Link To Oil & Gas Drilling, Found In Washington County Water Supply By University Of Pittsburgh

-- Penn State Study: Potential Pollution Caused By Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Makes It Unsuitable For A Dust Suppressant, Washes Right Off The Road Into The Ditch  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes  [PaEN]

Related Articles - Legislation:

-- Senate Democrats, AG Shapiro Announce Legislation To Address Issues Raised In Grand Jury Report On Natural Gas Fracking [PaEN]

--  Coalition Launches Initiative To Promote Safer Setback Distances From Oil & Gas Drilling, Infrastructure [PaEN]

-- Oil & Natural Gas Facility Health Impacts Assessment Bill Introduced In The House  [PaEN]

[Posted: August 17, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

PA PUC: Cost Of Natural Gas Provided By Major Utilities In PA Increased As Much As 154% Over Last Year

The cost of natural gas provided to customers by the seven largest natural gas utilities in Pennsylvania increased from 31 percent to 154.6 percent over the last year, according to information from the Public Utility Commission.

Peoples Gas Company residential rates increased the most-- 154.6 percent-- and Columbia Gas customers saw the lowest increase-- 31.2 percent.

The major natural gas utilities saw these increases--

-- Peoples Gas Co. (residential) 154.6% increase

-- Philadelphia Gas Works  152.2% increase

-- Peoples Natural Gas Co. 142.3% increase

-- National Fuel Gas  134.7% increase

-- PECO Gas  86.3% increase

-- UGI Gas Division  41.5% increase

-- Columbia Gas  31.2% increase

Natural gas customers are seeing the biggest increase in energy charges because of the natural gas cost spikes on foreign energy markets caused by the Russian war in Ukraine and by increasing exports of U.S. natural gas in the form of LNG to Europe and Asia.  [Read more here.]

Over half of Pennsylvania households use natural gas as their primary home heating fuel.  [Read more here.]

On August 10, the Public Utility Commission also warned customers of major electric utilities their rates will increase by as much as 19 percent this quarter starting on September 1. These increases are also driven by the cost of natural gas-fired generation and hot weather demand.  [Read more here.]

Both natural gas and electric utilities adjust the rates they charge their customers for energy every quarter, either up or down, depending on the price of natural gas or electricity they buy.

Shop For Competitive Rates

Customers of both natural gas and electric utilities can shop for independent providers of natural gas and electricity and are not locked in to the price charged by utilities.

Only 14 percent of residential customers got their natural gas from competitive suppliers in 2020.  [Read more here.]

Natural gas customers can go to the PUC’s  PA Gas Switch website and electric customers to PA Power Switch websites to learn more about their options.

Next Quarterly Rate Changes

The next quarterly rate increases/decreases by natural gas companies will be starting September 1, October 1 and November 1, depending what schedule the utilities are on.

Here are the details of how utility natural gas charges increased in the past year, along with their next expected quarterly rate change date--


National Fuel Gas  134.7% increase

   May 1, 2021 Annual Review  $3.8520

   August 1, 2022                        $9.0436

   Nov. 1, 2022 (next increase/decrease)


Philadelphia Gas Works  152.2% increase

   June 1, 2021 Annual Review $3.5700

   June 1, 2022                           $9.0057

   Sept. 1, 2022 (next increase/decrease)


Columbia Gas  31.2% increase

   July 1, 2021 Annual Review $3.8512

   July 1, 2022                           $5.0583

   Oct. 1, 2022 (next increase/decrease)


Peoples Gas Co. (residential) 154.6% increase

   July 1, 2021 Annual Review  $4.0174

   July 1, 2022                          $10.2312

   Oct. 1, 2022 (next increase/decrease)


Peoples Natural Gas Co.   142.3% increase

   July 1, 2021 Annual Review $3.9015

   July 1, 2022                           $9.4567

   Oct. 1, 2022 (next increase/decrease)


UGI Gas Division  41.5% increase

   Sept. 1, 2021 Annual Review $5.1283

   June 1, 2022                            $7.2615

   Sept. 1, 2022 (next increase/decrease)


PECO Gas  86.3% increase

   Sept. 1, 2021 Annual Review $4.0245

   June 1, 2022                            $7.5016

   Sept. 1, 2022 (next increase/decrease)


Click Here for a table showing 2021 - 2022 quarterly price changes and next scheduled changes.  

Click Here for a table showing 2022 - 2023 quarterly prices changes and next scheduled changes.

NewsClips:

-- PA PUC Investigates 32%+ Rate Increase By Leatherstocking Natural Gas Company

-- PA PUC Holds Hearing On Valley Energy 11.8% Natural Gas Increase

-- Inquirer - Andrew Maykuth: Philadelphia Natural Gas Works Proposes To Cap Its Weather Normalization Charge To Prevent Future Billing Mayhem

-- WV Metro News: WV Public Service Commission Warns Utility Customers Of 173% Increase In Natural Gas Rates Coming This Fall

Related Articles:

-- TribLive Guest Essay: Time For Pennsylvania’s Real Energy Freedom - Sharon Pillar, PA Solar Center

-- Wilkes-Barre Times Guest Essay: Key To Lower Energy Prices Is Renewable Energy & Storage - Sharon Pillar, PA Solar Center

-- Baker Hughes PA Natural Gas Drill Rig Count Down 2 From Last Week - 23 [8.12.22]

[Posted: August 17, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

New Federal Climate, Energy, Healthcare Bill Signed Into Law; PA Groups React

On August 16, President Biden signed the new federal climate, energy and healthcare bill into law making the largest federal investment-- $375 billion-- in climate change fighting strategies, including investments in renewable energy production, tax rebates for consumers for energy efficiency and electric vehicles and more.

Key provisions include--

-- Clean Energy Investments: $30 billion for solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, geothermal plants and advanced nuclear reactors, including tax credits over 10 years. Replaces short-term wind and solar credits

-- Carbon capture and storage tax credit of $85 per metric ton, up from $50

-- Clean Energy Bank: $27 billion for ‘green bank’ to support clean energy projects particularly in disadvantaged communities.

-- Farm Aid: $20 billion to cut emissions in the agriculture sector, including includes $8.45 billion for EQIP, $6.75 billion for the RCPP, $3.25 billion for the CSP, $1.4 billion for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and $1 billion for conservation technical assistance. 

-- Energy Efficiency: $9 billion in rebates for Americans buying and retrofitting homes with energy-efficient and electric appliances.

-- Aid For Low-Income Communities: $60 billion to support low-income communities and communities of color, includes grants for zero-emissions technology and vehicles, highway pollution mitigation, bus depots and other infrastructure located near disadvantaged communities

-- Clean Energy Manufacturing: $10 billion in investment tax credits to build manufacturing facilities that make electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies

-- Electric Vehicle Tax Credits: Tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of new clean vehicles, and offers for the first time a credit of $4,000 for used electric vehicles for households with maximum income of $150,000 a year

-- Natural Gas Leak Fees: $900 per metric ton of methane emissions that exceed federal limits in 2024, rising to $1,500 per metric ton in 2026.

Reactions

The following statement was issued by the York County-based Evangelical Environmental Network on the signing of the bill into law--

“Today, we celebrate with President Biden, the majority of Americans, and the entire world that the United States is in the process of assuming its position as a global leader on climate change with the signing of The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). 

“The IRA marks the single largest investment to address the climate crisis, build community resilience in the face of extreme weather, and defend the health of our children from life-shortening fossil fuel pollution. 

“Together, with the two other members of the dynamic triplet – the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – the IRA will restore American Infrastructure, rebuild U.S. manufacturing, and revitalize American communities with much-needed, family-sustaining jobs.

“These bills stand to bring all Americans together by starting the process of addressing many of the problems that some have used to divide us. 

‘As evangelical Christians, the Bible is our guide to life, and Mark 12:29-31 (NIV) supplies Jesus’s most important commands:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 

“Together, these policies set the stage to love our neighbors and leave no one behind. From urban cities and former fossil fuel sites to America’s abundant rural and farming communities, all stand to gain. 

“Our children and grandchildren, to whom Scripture calls us to pass down a good inheritance (Proverbs 13:22), will especially benefit from the IRA’s investments in clean air, pure water, and a safer climate. 

“These bills provide the opportunity for all Americans to find an abundant life unhindered by pollution and begin the process of finally investing in communities who have long been forced to endure redlining and other racist acts. 

“It also provides hope to those communities who have suffered greatly to fuel America’s addiction to fossil fuels while sacrificing their own health and lives.

“While more action is needed, the IRA is a significant start. 

“We are thankful for President Biden’s leadership as well as Senator Manchin, Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and each member of the United States Congress that voted for these bills, putting people before politics and hope above despair.”

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Vice President for Environmental Programs and Restoration Alison Prost released the following statement:

“We have a lot to celebrate today. Combating climate change and saving the Bay are two sides of the same coin.  And while progress is being made, climate change is making saving the Bay more difficult.

“This law’s historic investments, especially in agricultural conservation practices, could be a real game-changer for the Bay and its tributaries, and for the bottom line of farmers in the region. 

“CBF thanks President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and House Speaker Pelosi for their dedication to getting this important legislation over the finish line.

“Most of the pollution cuts still needed to restore the Bay must come from agriculture, particularly in Pennsylvania. 

“Farmers are willing to invest their time, land, and limited funds to clean and protect local rivers and streams that feed into the Bay. But they cannot do it alone.

“This $20 billion funding infusion means USDA can afford to step up its commitment to helping Bay state farmers do their part to save this irreplaceable natural and economic resource. CBF urges USDA to seize this opportunity.”

Kelly Knutson, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, offered these comments--

“The impacts of climate change are already being seen and felt across the Delaware River Basin, which threaten over 13.3 million people who rely on the waters of the Basin.

 “It is essential that we forge a path forward to reduce the impacts of climate change on our communities and limit the devastation in the future,”

“We applaud Congress in addressing the urgency of a global climate crisis and look forward to supporting the administration on implementation. The Coalition recognizes this step forward and will continue to advocate for additional policies to further protect the region’s natural resources.” 

The Coalition was pleased to see these investments made in the law--

-- $250 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which includes $125 million for endangered species recovery efforts.

-- $2.6 billion for coastal and marine habitats to assist communities in becoming more resilient to worsening storms.

-- $3 billion to improve air quality and reduce pollution, particularly in disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color

-- $20+ billion in climate-smart agriculture, including U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs and technical assistance.

-- $200 million to the Park Service for deferred maintenance projects.

Resource Links: 

-- White House: Climate, Energy, Healthcare Law - By The Numbers

-- AP: What’s In New Federal Climate, Energy, Healthcare Law?

-- Financial Times: A Guide To The U.S. Climate, Health And Tax Package

-- Click Here for the text of the legislation

Related Article:

-- Congress Gives Final Approval To Climate, Energy, Healthcare Bill Sending It To President Biden

[Posted: August 16, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

Carnegie Museum Of Natural History: Chimney Swift Conservation In Southwest PA; Contribute Your Sightings


\By Patrick McShea, Educator,
Carnegie Museum Of Natural History

This article first appeared on the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Blog August 5, 2022-- 


In urban, suburban, and even rural areas of southwestern Pennsylvania, the high-pitched twittering cries of circling Chimney Swifts create a soundtrack for summer days. 

The birds’ aerial maneuvers are a mix of rapid wing beats and dynamic glides, and much of the action relates to feeding. 

Chimney Swifts eat on the wing, using their unusually large mouths to capture up to 5,000 flying insects per day. 

A summary of a Powdermill Avian Research Center study of the birds’ diet preferences can be found here:  Chimney Swift Research – Powdermill Nature Reserve.

When observed overhead, passing swifts are frequently described as resembling “flying cigars,” a visual analogy attributable to the birds’ five-inch-long, tube-shaped bodies, comparatively long, narrow wings, and muted grey-brown plumage. 

Our region is part of the species’ summer range, an enormous portion of eastern North America stretching from the Gulf Coast to just north of the Great Lakes.

In South America, an equally large region of the upper Amazon Basin in Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil supports the population during the winter.

The architectural reference in the species’ common name alludes to commensalism involving birds and people that dates to the European settlement of eastern North America. 

As a biology term, commensalism denotes situations in which one species obtains benefits from another, without harming or benefiting the provider. 

Historic records indicate that before colonial times the species now known to science as Chaetura pelagica used hollow trees for roosting and nesting. 

Accounts in New England of the species nesting in chimneys date to the 1670s, and along the Atlantic coastal plain the birds’ exclusive use of chimneys for nest sites was established by 1800.

Within hollow trees and chimneys, sheltered interior walls meet the birds’ requirements for nesting and roosting. 

Chimney Swifts are unable to perch. Instead, they cling to vertical surfaces with their feet, and use the stiff shafts that protrude from the ends of their tail feathers as a brace. 

For nests, swifts collect branch-end twigs with their feet, in-flight, then use their quick-drying adhesive saliva to construct a narrow platform with the tiny sticks on an interior chimney or tree cavity wall.

In his landmark 1940 publication, Birds of Western Pennsylvania, CMNH curator W.E. Clyde Todd summarized the species’ association with chimneys as “more than accidental and connotes a remarkable adaptation to the changed conditions brought about by civilization.” 

In the eight decades since, changes in the built environment of modern civilization have become less welcoming to Chimney Swifts. 

The population of Chimney Swifts has declined over 70% since the 1960s. 

Although reductions in flying insect abundance, along with still undetermined threats during migration and on wintering grounds, appear to be critical factors in the decline, potential nest and roost sites have also decreased due to the widespread practice of capping viable chimneys and demolishing those no longer in use. 

In 2013, the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) launched a regional initiative to publicize the species’ plight and address reductions in Chimney Swift nesting and roosting habitat. 

The 106-year-old conservation organization has since led a broad coalition of partners in an ongoing effort to construct, install, and monitor more than 150 Chimney Swift towers at appropriate locations in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

Although Chimney Swifts are known to fly and roost in large flocks during migration, the birds’ behaviors are far different during the breeding season. 

Only one pair will nest in a chimney or tower, and research indicates the same pair will return to the same nesting location in subsequent years.

The design of these sturdy towers, which mimic actual chimneys, is based upon construction plans detailed in the 2005 publication, Chimney Swift Towers: New Habitat for America’s Mysterious Birds, by Paul and Georgean Kyle. 

The couple are project directors of the Texas-based Driftwood Wildlife Association’s North American Chimney Swift Nest Site Research Project, an all-volunteer effort to expand public awareness about the beneficial nature and the plight of the species.

At sites where ASWP offers regular programming, five towers were constructed of stone to enable the structures to also function as entrance signs for the facilities. 

In Allegheny County’s seven parks, 12-feet high kiosk-style towers constructed of lumber, shingles, and other roofing materials are now familiar landscape features. 

Through a partnership with Allegheny County, the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, and the Peaceable Kingdom Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, a total of one hundred towers, most bearing colorful informational panels, have been installed to make these public properties more welcoming to Chimney Swifts.

Report Your Sightings Of Chimney Swifts

Observations of Chimney Swift activity near any of the towers can contribute to the ongoing evaluation of this regional conservation initiative. 

Allegheny County Park Rangers have been monitoring towers within the parks where they serve, and towers elsewhere are monitored by ASWP staff and volunteers, however wider public participation is welcome. 

For more information about Chimney Swift conservation, including a map of tower locations and an online form for reporting observations, please visit the website of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.


Patrick McShea is an Educator at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  He can be reached by sending email to: McSheaP@carnegiemnh.org


(Reprinted from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Blog.)

NewsClips:

-- PennLive - Marcus Schneck: Hummingbird Boom At Your Feeders Points To Migration Under Way

-- Reading Eagle: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Begins Fall Raptor Migration Count

-- Reading Eagle: American Kestrels Studied At Rentschler Arboretum In Berks County

-- Warren Times: Audubon Community Nature Center To Host Monarch Butterfly Festival Aug. 27

[Posted: August 16, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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