Scientists Predict Increased Rain, Floods for Pennsylvania

by Walter Brasch

Pennsylvanians will experience increased rainfall and floods if data analysis by a Penn State meteorologist and long-term projections by a fisheries biologist, with a specialty in surface water pollution, are accurate.

Paul Knight, senior lecturer in meteorology at Penn State, compiled rainfall data for Pennsylvania from 1895-when recordings were first made-to this year. He says there has been an increase of 10 percent of rainfall during the past century. Until the 1970s, the average rainfall throughout the state was about 42 inches. Beginning in the 1970s, the average began creeping up. “By the 1990s, the increase was noticeable,” he says.  The three wettest years on record since 1895 were 2003, 2004, and 2011. The statewide average was 61.5 inches in 2011, the year of Tropical Storm Lee, which caused 18 deaths and about $1.6 billion in damage in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and devastating flooding in New York and Pennsylvania, especially along the Susquehanna River basin.

Dr. Harvey Katz, of Montoursville, Pa., extended Knight’s data analysis for five decades. Dr. Katz predicts an average annual rainfall of about 55 inches, about 13 inches more than the period of 1895 to 1975. The increased rainfall isn’t limited to Pennsylvania, but extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Both Knight and Dr. Katz say floods will be more frequent. The industrialization and urbanization of America has led to more trees being cut down; the consequences are greater erosion and more open areas to allow rainwater to flow into streams and rivers. Waterway hazards, because of flooding and increased river flow, will cause additional problems. Heavy rains will cause increased pollution, washing off fertilizer on farmlands into the surface water supply, extending into the Chesapeake Bay. Sprays on plants and agricultural crops to reduce attacks by numerous insects, which would normally stay localized, will now be washed into streams and rivers, says Knight.

Pollution will also disrupt the aquatic ecosystem, likely leading to a decrease in the fishing industry because of increased disease and death among fish and other marine mammals, says Dr. Katz.

Another consequence of increased rainfall is a wider spread of pollution from fracking operations, especially in the Marcellus Shale.

Most of the 1,000 chemicals that can be used in drilling operations, in the concentrations used, are toxic carcinogens; because of various geological factors, each company using horizontal fracturing can use a mixture of dozens of those chemicals at any one well site to drill as much as two miles deep into the earth.

Last year, drilling companies created more than 300 billion gallons of flowback from fracking operations in the United States. (Each well requires an average of 3-5 million gallons of water, up to 100,000 gallons of chemicals, and as much as 10 tons of silica sand. Flowback is what is brought up after the initial destruction of the shale.) Most of that flowback, which once was placed in open air pits lined with plastic that can tear and leak, are now primarily placed into 22,000 gallon steel trailers, which can leak. In Pennsylvania, drillers are still allowed to mix up to 10 percent of the volume of large freshwater pits with flowback water.

In March 2013, Carizo Oil and Gas was responsible for an accidental spill of 227,000 gallons of wastewater, leading to the evacuation of four homes in Wyoming County, Pa. Two months later, a malfunction at a well, also in Wyoming County, sent 9,000 gallons of flowback onto the farm and into the basement of a nearby resident.

Rain, snow, and wind in the case of a spill can move that toxic soup into groundwater, streams, and rivers. In addition to any of dozens of toxic salts, metals, and dissolvable organic chemicals, flowback contains radioactive elements brought up from deep in the earth; among them are Uranium-238, Thorium-232, and radium, which decays into radon, one of the most radioactive and toxic gases. Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer, after cigarettes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A U.S. Geological Survey analysis of well samples collected in Pennsylvania and New York between 2009 and 2011 revealed that 37 of the 52 samples had Radium-226 and Radium-228 levels that were 242 times higher than the standard for drinking water. One sample, from Tioga County, Pa., was 3,609 times the federal standard for safe drinking water, and 300 times the federal industrial standard.

Radium-226, 200 times higher than acceptable background levels, was detected in Blacklick Creek, a 30-mile long tributary of the Conemaugh River near Johnstown, Pa. The radium, which had been embedded deep in the earth but was brought up in flowback waters, was part of a discharge from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility, according to research published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Increased rainfall also increases the probability of pollution from spills from the nation’s decaying pipeline systems. About half of all oil and gas pipelines are at least a half-century old. There were more than 6,000 spills from pipelines last year. Among those spills were almost 300,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil from a pipe in Arkansas, and 100,000 gallons of oil and other chemicals in Colorado.

Increased truck and train traffic to move oil and gas from the drilling fields to refineries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has led to increased accidents. Railroad accidents in the United States last year accounted for about 1.15 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than all spills in the 40 years since the federal government began collecting data, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of the spills were in wetlands or into groundwater and streams.

A primary reason for increased rainfall (as well as increases in hurricanes, tornadoes, ocean water rises, and other long-term weather phenomenon) is because of man-made climate change, the result of increased carbon dioxide from fossil fuel extraction and burning. It’s not a myth. It’s not a far-fetched liberal hoax invented by Al Gore. About 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists agree we are experiencing climate change, and that the world is at a critical change; if the steady and predictable increase in climate change, which affects the protection of the ozone layer, is not reduced within two decades, it will not be reversible. Increased rainfall and pollution will be only a part of the global meltdown.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and emeritus professor. He is a syndicated columnist, radio commentator, and the author of 20 books, the latest of which is the critically-acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the effects of horizontal fracturing. He is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor and multimedia writer-producer.]

Climate Change: Impact on Pennsylvania

The White House just released its report on climate change and has issued this fact sheet on its predicted effects in Pennsylvania and the Northeast:

FACT SHEET: What Climate Change Means for Pennsylvania and the Northeast

Today, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment-the most comprehensive scientific assessment ever generated of climate change and its impacts across every region of America and major sectors of the U.S. economy. The findings in this National Climate Assessment underscore the need for urgent action to combat the threats from climate change, protect American citizens and communities today, and build a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids.

The National Climate Assessment is a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution, prepare America’s communities for climate-change impacts, and lead international efforts to address this global challenge. Importantly, the plan acknowledges that even as we act to reduce the greenhouse-gas pollution that is driving climate change, we must also empower the Nation’s states, communities, businesses, and decision makers with the information they need prepare for climate impacts already underway.

The Obama Administration has already taken a number of steps to deliver on that commitment to states, regions, and communities across America. In the past year alone, these efforts have included: establishing a Task Force of State, Local, and Tribal Leaders on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change; launching a Climate Data Initiative to bring together extensive open government data with strong commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop planning and resilience tools for communities; and establishing seven new “climate hubs” across the country to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate.

PENNSYLVANIA is part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment U.S. Northeast Region. The regional phenomena identified by the Assessment may not occur in every state that is part of a particular region. According to the third U.S. National Climate Assessment Highlights report:

“Sixty-four million people are concentrated in the Northeast. The high-density urban coastal corri­dor from Washington, D.C., north to Boston is one of the most developed environments in the world. It contains a massive, complex, and long-standing network of supporting infrastructure. The North­east also has a vital rural component, including large expanses of sparsely populated but ecologi­cally and agriculturally important areas.

Although urban and rural regions in the North­east are profoundly different, they both include populations that are highly vulnerable to climate hazards and other stresses. The region depends on aging infrastructure that has already been stressed by climate hazards including heat waves and heavy downpours. The Northeast has ex­perienced a greater recent increase in extreme precipitation than any other region in the U.S.; between 1958 and 2010, the Northeast saw more than a 70% percent increase in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events). This increase, combined with coastal and riverine flooding due to sea level rise and storm surge, creates increased risks. For all of these reasons, public health, agriculture, transportation, commu­nications, and energy systems in the Northeast all face climate-related challenges.” (NCA Highlights, p. 70)

Regional Findings of the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment: NORTHEAST

·         “Heat waves, coastal flooding, and river flooding will pose a growing challenge to the region’s environmental, social, and economic systems. This will increase the vulnerability of the region’s residents, especially its most disadvantaged populations.

·         Infrastructure will be increasingly compromised by climate-related hazards, including sea level rise, coastal flooding, and intense precipitation events.

·         Agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised over the next century by climate change impacts. Farmers can explore new crop options, but these adaptations are not cost- or risk-free. Moreover, inequities exist in adaptive capacity, which could be overwhelmed by changing climate.

·         While a majority of states and a rapidly growing number of municipalities have begun to incorporate the risk of climate change into their planning activities, implementation of adaptation measures is still at early stages.” (NCA, Ch. 16: Northeast)

Selected Findings and Information from the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment Relevant to PENNSYLVANIA

·         Water: “Throughout the Northeast, populations are also concentrated along rivers and their flood plains. In mountainous regions, including much of West Virginia and large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, more intense precipitation events will mean greater flood risk, particularly in valleys, where people, infrastructure, and agriculture tend to be concentrated.” (Ch. 16: Northeast)

·         Energy: “Warmer winters will decrease the amount of natural gas required to heat buildings, especially in the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest. Rising sea levels, combined with normal and potentially more intense coastal storms, an increase in very heavy precipitation events, and local land subsidence, threaten coastal energy equipment as a result of inundation, flooding, and erosion.” (NCA, Ch. 4: Energy)

·         Health: “During extreme heat events, nighttime temperatures in the region’s big cities are generally several degrees higher than surrounding regions, leading to increased heat-related death among those less able to recover from the heat of the day. Since the hottest days in the Northeast are often associated with high concentrations of ground-level ozone and other pollutants, the combination of heat stress and poor air quality can pose a major health risk to vulnerable groups: young children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions including asthma.” (NCA, Ch. 16: Northeast)

·         Heat Waves: “Extreme heat events have long threatened public health in the United States. Many cities, including St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cincinnati, have suffered dramatic increases in death rates during heat waves. Extreme summer heat is increasing in the United States, and climate projections indicate that extreme heat events will be more frequent and intense in coming decades. However, early action provides the largest health benefits. There is evidence that heat-health early warning systems have saved lives and money in U.S. cities like Philadelphia, PA.” (NCA, Ch. 9: Health)

·         Flood Risk: “Throughout the Northeast, populations are also concentrated along rivers and their flood plains. In mountainous regions, including much of West Virginia and large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, more intense precipitation events will mean greater flood risk, particularly in valleys, where people, infrastructure, and agriculture tend to be concentrated.” (NCA, Ch. 16: Northeast)

·         Adaptation: Pennsylvania has “enacted polices to encourage the use of green infrastructure and ecosystem-based approaches for managing storm water and flooding.”(NCA, Ch. 28: Adaptation)

Examples of Efforts Underway in PENNSYLVANIA to Address Climate Change

In PENNSYLVANIA, many efforts are already underway to mitigate and respond to the impacts of climate change, including:

Preparing Communities for the Consequences of Climate Change:

Many important preparedness, resilience, and adaptation efforts are already being led by local, state, and regional entities across the country. Mechanisms being used by local governments to prepare for climate change include: land-use planning; provisions to protect infrastructure and ecosystems; regulations related to the design and construction of buildings, road, and bridges; and preparation for emergency response and recovery.  These local adaptation planning and actions are unfolding in municipalities of different sizes, and regional agencies and regional aggregations of governments are also taking actions. And States have also become important actors in efforts related to climate change.

·      Mayor Michael Nutter (Philadelphia, PA) serves on the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force for Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Mayor Nutter has shown his strong commitment to sustainability though the Greenworks program which integrates sustainability work across city government. In partnership with the DOE, under Mayor Nutter’s leadership the City of Philadelphia has advanced building energy efficiency and solar programs. The Philadelphia Water Department has also worked closely with the EPA on innovative green stormwater management infrastructure. Through Greenworks Philadelphia has made progress mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and is currently working with municipal agencies on preparing for the changing climate.

Cutting Carbon Pollution in PENNSYLVANIA:

In 2012, power plants and major industrial facilities in Pennsylvania emitted more than 140 million metric tons of carbon pollution-that’s equal to the yearly pollution from more than 30 million cars. Through the Climate Action Plan and state initiatives, there are many efforts already underway to mitigate and respond to the impacts of climate change in Pennsylvania, including:

·         Investing in Clean Energy: Since President Obama took office, the U.S. increased solar-electricity generation by more than ten-fold and tripled electricity production from wind power.  In Pennsylvania, renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources increased nearly 100 percent.  Since 2009, the Administration has supported tens of thousands of renewable energy projects throughout the country, including more than 1,154 in Pennsylvania, generating enough energy to power more than 170,000 homes and helping Pennsylvania meet its own goal of generating 18 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021.

·         Improving Efficiency: Using less energy to power our homes, businesses and vehicles is critical to building a clean and secure energy future.  President Obama has made essential investments in research and development for energy efficiency advances, and set new standards to make the things we use every day – from cars to microwaves – more efficient.  

o     President Obama established the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history.  These standards will double the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks by 2025, saving the average driver more than $8,000 over the lifetime of a 2025 vehicle and cutting carbon pollution.

o     Since October 2009, the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have jointly completed energy upgrades nearly two million homes across the country, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone.

o     As part of the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, Pittsburgh committed to reducing energy intensity 20 percent by 2020 in 1.77 million square feet of its buildings. Allegheny College in Meadville committed to reducing intensity by the same level for its 1.3 million square feet of building space. Philadelphia Housing Authority has also committed 20 percent reduction in energy intensity by 2020 in 7.3 million square feet of buildings in its authority.  Action Housing, a multifamily residential partner, has committed to reduce energy intensity 20 percent in 10 years in 815 thousand square feet of affordable housing.

For more information about the third U.S. National Climate Assessment, please visit www.globalchange.gov or contact engagement@usgcrp.gov.

The Oklahoma City Tragedy

This morning I mourn for the twenty children killed by a massive tornado which swept through the Oklahoma City metropolitan region.  Moore, OK, just south of the City, was the hardest hit area by a twister which was two miles wide and went for twenty miles.

I don’t mourn for the adults.  These are idiots and morons who continue voting for the likes of Tom Coburn, James Inhofe and Dan Boren.  Folks, if you refuse to believe in science, in the facts of global warming then you get what you deserve.  This is classic evolution evolving:  stupid people dying from their own stupidity.

I’ve been in Oklahoma City twice while driving to Santa Fe.  Going through Oklahoma is a challenge when you’re gay and liberal: it is the reddest state in America and these morons just keep voting for men like Inhofe who is owned by the fossil fuel industry and reject the overwhelming science of climate change.  The result are more and more extreme storms and more devastation killing more people.  If you’re too stupid to accept science then you’ll die.  Hopefully before you can reproduce.  That’s simple evolution.

Skeptic Comes Around on Climate Change

With 97% of the world’s scientists already on board about the perils posed by global climate warming one of the last prominent holdouts has come around.  Professor Richard Muller, in a study financed by the Koch Brothers, strayed from their anti-science doctrine and announced it is real and caused by humans.

Climate change deniers have formed their own, small, Flat Earth Society with massive funding from energy billionaires to brainwash America that science is evil and cannot be trusted.  ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and other hugely rich financiers have a stake in the argument:  their vast profits from the burning of fossil fuels.  They argue we cannot afford to cut back severely on the use of fossil fuels and that doing so will adversely affect the American way of life.

Yes, it will.  Yes, it will be expensive and hurt the economy but the alternative is the extinction of homo sapiens.  As we destroy our planet the survival of our species is at risk.  Are we really stupid enough to sit around doing nothing and die off because we allowed some idiot billionaires to convince us not to do what must be done?  In the U.S. the answer to that question, so far, is yes.

The conversion of Prof. Muller is important if it convinces some of the brainwashed masses they’re wrong.  Is it too late?  The drought in the Midwest and the wildfires say it might be.  No one knows if we’ve passed the tipping point where nothing we do will change the path we’ve set for our future.  Some people are afraid the tipping point has passed.  All we can do is wait and see.  I fear for the next generation and what they face because we did nothing.

Casey supporting “Dirty Air Act”

This week we learned that Senator Casey joined with 8 Senate Democrats in sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting that they do not regulate global warming pollution. The other Senators are Byrd (WV), Rockefeller (WV), Begich (AK), Sherod Brown (OH), Carl Levin (MI), McCaskill (MO), and Baucus (MT). View the letter at http://rockefeller.senate.gov/press/record.cfm?id=322365

This is shocking because the League of Conservation Voters just released their 2009 National Environmental Scorecard and Senator Casey had a 100% environmental voting record.  Why would Senator Casey indicate his support for such an extreme measure?

Please let Senator Casey know that his decision to support the “Dirty Air Act” will undermine the Clean Air Act and threaten America's ability to protect the environment for future generations.  

Summary: Sierra Club Rally to Support the EPA and the Clean Air Act (10/27/09 in Philadelphia)

On Tuesday the US Senate Environment and Public Works committee started hearings about the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

To kick off the festivities the Sierra Club gathered with citizens at 17th and Arch (EPA Mid-Atlantic Office) to Rally in Support of the EPA and the Clean Air Act. Speakers included Dennis Winters (Chair of the PA Chapter of the Sierra Club), Joe Minott (Executive Director of the Clean Air Council), Pam Johnson (member of SEIU 32BJ), Bill Walsh (District Director for Congressman Sestak) and Jason Brady (Sierra Club) who read statements from Congressman Brady and Senator Specter.

With the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) in June and the start of hearings for the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the Big Coal and Big Oil companies are reading the writing on the wall. With no intention of supporting clean energy, they are committed to undermining a clean energy future for America. Their high paid lobbyists are working to convince Senator Specter to eliminate the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Air Act in regards to global warming pollution from coal fired power plants. This is unacceptable because without the EPA no one will be keeping an eye on the coal fired power plants.

Please take a moment and call Senator Specter and ask him to create a clean energy future that includes the EPA enforcing clean air laws for coal fired power plants. The number for his Philadelphia office is 215-597-7200.

Sierra Club Wins Major Court Battle Over Coal

The Sierra Club has won a major victory forcing the EPA to regulate coal fired power plants for carbon dioxide emissions.  Coal power plants are the single largest pollutant of CO 2 in the U.S.  The EPA under George W. Bush refused to enforce the law and regulate the industry.  It was so bad most career civil servants quit the EPA because they were not allowed to perform their duties.  Christie Todd Whitman, Bush’s first appointment to head the EPA, quit in protest also.

In the Sierra Club lawsuit the court has determined that the EPA must regulate emissions from new coal power plants being designed and built (about 100 of them are on the books).  Coal plants must be forced to capture and store the carbon dioxide emitted by the dirty fuel (clean coal is a myth).  Coal plants produce 30% of all the CO 2 polluting the atmosphere in America.