This is the big shot in the arm we need if future generations are to have a chance at a decent future! I do not say this as an alarmist, but as a pragmatist and realist given what I know as an environmental science and policy specialist. The climate data is against Greta’s and future generations if we don’t change our greenhouse gas emissions NOW! This means how we consume fossil fuels and at the quantities we consume them. The USA remains the only country that is still debating whether human caused global warming/climate change exists and is an immediate problem. We are now the only country (out of 190) that are standing outside the Paris Climate Accord.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, is doing its best to roll back all efforts put in place by the previous administrations that would help us move toward reduced fossil fuel use and/or cleaner fossil fuel use, reducing greenhouse gasses (GHG).
For example, since this Summer alone, EPA is: 1) deleting parts of the 2015 Coal Ash Rule and/or postponing the rest until 2028 so coal-fired power plants burn and pollute as usual. Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the EPA, issued the proposed regulation, which relaxes rules set in 2015 imposing stringent inspection and monitoring rules at coal plants and requiring plants to install new technology to protect water supplies from arsenic, lead, selenium and other toxic effluent. Coal plants are the top source of United States carbon dioxide emissions, the principal greenhouse gas warming the planet. The new measures lower pollution limits, extend the deadline for power plants to comply with new technologies until Dec. 31, 2028, and exempt many coal plants altogether.
2) EPA is rolling back methane standards from oil & gas facilities and extraction operations. EPA itself has acknowledged that its rule-making would increase greenhouse gas emissions and would likely degrade air quality and harm public health. In spite of this, President Trump and EPA Administrator Wheeler want to give their friends in the oil and gas industry a free pass to put our health and planet in danger by recklessly rolling back these protections. Cutting methane emissions 45 percent by the year 2025 from the oil and gas industry alone will have the same 20-year climate benefit as shutting down one-third of the world's coal-fired power plants.
This demonstrates how oil & gas majors are going full bore with future speculation on extraction sites and infrastructure. Raising capital for this "fossil fuel future" will blow us past a 1.5C Paris Agreement and a safe future for our grandchildren. We have ample data showing that we have reached our capacity of carbon output for this century with the wells already drilled. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that existing wells will actually bring us to 1.8C. If we don’t stop our current levels of GHG emissions, we will experience 1.8C by 2035 and 2.7C degrees above pre-industrial atmospheric temps by 2050. The UN has pointed to 2.0C as a tipping point not to be exceeded and seen as globally catastrophic.
If you happen to be an investor, over-investment in oil and gas creates risks for investors, regardless of whether the world is effective in tackling climate change. Either investors face assets being stranded as demand for fossil fuels falls in a transition to a low carbon economy, or the over-investment contributes to excess emissions from fossil fuels, the failure to transition and the financial costs of a dramatically changed climate."
Where are we going, people? Time to wake up and smell the benzene!! The Paris Agreement is the second global climate change pact that the United States joined under a Democrat and abandoned under a Republican. George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. I have always heard it said, “if you’re not at the table, you could be on the menu!”
How does this all relate to us here on the Grand River?
First, the obvious, we live in Oklahoma! We claim the former oil capitol of the world (Tulsa) and now claim the largest oil hub in the lower 48 (Cushing), the pipeline crossroads. Closer to home, however, GRDA operates two coal-fired power plants and maintains a large coal ash dump along with several wastewater ponds. These have been found to have contaminated the groundwater with arsenic and other contaminants. In addition, a tar sands pipeline runs from Illinois to Cushing, OK and it crosses under the Neosho River near Chanute, KS north of OK state line. In 2010 a similar pipeline blowout spilled thousands of gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in MI. To this day the river is not cleaned up and all the homes and businesses along that several miles of river are gone. Many people became sick and some died.
LEAD Agency has studied and documented the mercury in the fish resulting from the fallout of mercury from GRDA and other regional coal-fired power plants that drop mercury into our watershed. In addition, the groundwater under the GRDA facility is contaminated (what that means for the underlying aquifer and the Grand River is unknown). What would happen if there was a tar sands spill in the Neosho River, or if a coal train or train carrying oil (bomb train) were to spill its content s into our river and, thus, into Grand Lake?
Two things are happening that are contradictory and problematic to our world. Fossil fuels are not the future for energy and transportation, yet infrastructure to accommodate those fuels is rapidly developed and pushed on communities as if these fuels ARE THE FUTURE! At some point investors will pay the price for over investment in infrastructure, exploration and extraction that the market can’t bear.
Look at tar sands. Production with tar sands in Alberta Canada is going down to the point that all the majors have gotten out. Yet, pipelines from there are a priority in the US! Over production of natural gas has greatly reduced the price, yet production continues to the point that 5 new plants are being built in the Ohio river valley to manufacture pellets for feed stocks to make plastic, most of which will be exported to Europe, just so that the shale fracking boom in PA and surrounding area can continue. All while the world chokes on plastic!! And, methane rules are being reduced to accommodate more drilling, especially in national parks and wildlife areas where it was banned in the previous Administration.
Mercury and plastics are in our Grand Lake and her feeder streams, along with other petroleum based contaminants. We don’t want tar sands either, that can’t be cleaned up! And, as we see from other articles in this newsletter, we are suffering from toxic flooding as well. I think the picture is emerging that we cannot count on our government right now to do the right thing. It is going to take US, the citizens, to steer our country in the right direction. After all this is a democracy isn’t it?? That’s how it should be! Let your elected leaders know you are tired of this and tell them what you want. Elect someone else if you are not happy with them. They are elected to serve us. We pay their salaries. They serve us, not the corporations that fund their campaigns or the lobbyists that flood their offices. They work for the people!!!
From YOUR Grand Riverkeeper: Earl L. Hatley