Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A note from Senator Jeff Merkly of Oregon is worth noting:

When asked for their thoughts on climate change, a popular line for the other side – including some Presidential hopefuls – is this: “I’m not a scientist.”
I’m not a chemist, but I believe that H2= water.
I’m not a physicist, but I'm sold on gravity.
I'm not a cartographer, but I'm pretty sure the earth isn't flat.
And I’m not a climate scientist, but the scientists have made it clear that climate change is a real and present threat to all of us.
Carbon in the atmosphere is up dramatically.  The oceans are far more acidic. And average temperatures are jumping.  These are facts.
We can have a debate about how we address climate change, but the time for debate on whether it’s happening is long, long past. Climate change denial is simply irresponsible.  The economic and environmental impacts are already falling heavily on certain communities and it puts future generations everywhere at risk.
America is ready for bold action that starts saving our planet and our future. Anyone running for office – from President on down – would be wise to remember that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Earth Hour

Don't forget to switch off your lights for Earth Hour at 8.30pm (20:30) on the last Saturday of March - it's a global climate change campaign held every year . Make it an event to share with friends and family!
Paper doll people in shades of blue link hands while standing on top of the world
It's time to switch off the lights during Earth Hour.
© Weibell

About Earth Hour

Earth Hour is a global WWF (formerly known as World Wildlife Fund) climate change initiative. It is an eventthat aims to create awareness of people taking responsibility towards a sustainable future by turning the lights off. Earth Hour is not to be confused with Earth Day.

What do people do?

Millions of people turn off their lights for Earth Hour at 8.30pm (20:30) in their local times on the last Saturday of March. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas have stood in darkness during previous Earth Hours. Some people enjoy Earth Hour with a candle-lit dinner or a candle-lit bath, while others host large events or parties, either in darkness or with candles, to celebrate Earth Hour.
Businesses and government organizations, as well as community and political leaders also take part in Earth Hour. It's about giving people a voice on the planet’s future and working together to create a sustainable low carbon future for planet earth.


Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. This event saw 2.2 million homes and businesses turn their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change that year. Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating in 2008. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness for Earth Hour. In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour.
WWF, which organizes the annual Earth Hour event, aims to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment. It also focuses on building a future where people live in harmony with nature. The organization functions through a network of more than 90 offices in more than 40 countries worldwide. Its first office was founded in Morges, Switzerland, on September 11, 1961.

  1. What is Earth Hour?
    Earth Hour is a worldwide grassroots movement uniting people to protect the planet, and is organised by WWF. Engaging a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues, Earth Hour was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide, and the one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement.
  2. What is Earth Hour Blue?
    Earth Hour Blue is an all-new digital crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform for the planet launched in 2014 to capture the power of the crowd and engage people around the world beyond the lights out event. The crowdfunding section of the platform allows participants to financially support and deliver positive, tangible changes to the environment and communities all over the world. Individuals can also use Earth Hour Blue’s crowdsourcing platform, which will call for people to add their voice to some of the biggest environmental campaigns across the world.
  3. When does Earth Hour take place?
    Earth Hour 2015 will be held on Saturday 28 March between 8.30PM and 9.30PM in your local time zone. The event is held worldwide towards the end of March annually, encouraging individuals, communities households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to the planet.
  4. What does Earth Hour aim to achieve?
    Earth Hour aims to encourage an interconnected global community to share the opportunities and challenges of creating a sustainable world.
  5. What does Earth Hour ask people to do?
    The first thing anyone can do to get involved is to turn off their lights on Saturday. But there is much, much more. Our full ambition is for people to take action beyond the hour. Whether it’s supporting a crowdfunding or crowdsourcing campaign on or getting involved in Earth Hour campaigns in their own country, or starting the movement in their own community. The vision is always to do more, so make the light switch the beginning of your journey.
  6. How long has Earth Hour been going for?
    The first Earth Hour event was on March 31 2007. WWF-Australia inspired Sydney-siders to show their support for climate change action. More than 2.2 million individuals and 2,000 businesses turned their lights out for one hour in the first Earth Hour event.
    Earth Hour 2015 will mark the ninth year of the campaign.
  7. Is Earth Hour an annual event?
    Earth Hour is more than an annual event – it is a movement that culminates in an hour of inspiration across the world held towards the end of March each year.
  8. What exactly has Earth Hour achieved before launching Earth Hour Blue?
    • WWF Uganda started the world’s first Earth Hour Forest
    • More than 250,000 Russians voiced support for better protection of their country’s seas and forests
    • Argentina used its 2013 Earth Hour campaign to help pass a Senate bill for a 3.4 million hectare Marine Protected Area in the country
    • Thousands of wood-saving stoves were distributed to families in Madagascar
    • Solar-powered lights were installed in three villages without electricity in India
    • In Paraguay, WWF used the Earth Hour platform to build public support to gain an extension of the logging moratorium, helping to reduce deforestation
    • Education programs for schools were launched in Thailand and Taiwan
    • Hundreds of thousands of LED lights were installed by girl scouts in the USA
    • More than 2123 mitigation actions submitted by Earth Hour City Challenge 2014 participating cities
    But this is just the start, there are so many more Earth Hour stories out there we’re still discovering, and of course much more to do.
  9. Back to the event. Isn't switching the lights off dangerous? What about public safety?
    Earth Hour only asks people to turn off the non-essential lights for one hour - not lights that affect public safety. Earth Hour is also a celebration of the planet so it’s important to enjoy the moment in a safe environment.
  10. What lights can be safely switched off?
    That is a decision that has to be made individually but usually the overhead lights in rooms (whether it is your house or a business), outdoor lighting that does not impact safety, decorative lights, neon signs for advertising, televisions, desk lamps, the list goes on and on.
    There are a few lights we can say with certainty that should NOT be turned off, including safety lights in public spaces, lights for aviation guidance, traffic lights, security lights, just to name a few. We ask people to use common sense. Before you turn off any lights for public spaces, Earth Hour recommends you check with local officials or community centres.
    In your own home, use common sense with respect to safety. Keep small night lights on for basic safety especially in halls and on stairs. Make sure you have alternative light sources handy before Earth Hour starts, like torches or flashlights. That way if you need to see, you have a light source close at hand, and you can still respect the spirit of Earth Hour and keep yourself and your family safe.
  11. What candles should I use for my Earth Hour event?
    If you plan on burning candles during Earth Hour, make sure you use 100% beeswax candles or soy candles, which are gentler on our planet - smoke free, non-toxic and non-allergenic. They are also made of natural products, not petroleum-based materials, so they are effectively carbon neutral (the CO2 they emit has already been taken from the atmosphere to produce the wax). Many communities are now replacing candles with LED lights for their event, as a way to promote energy efficient lighting - a key for any sustainable future. If you're using candles, though, make sure you take care. We suggest you carefully follow these tips:
    1. Candles should only be used under adult supervision
    2. Candles should never be left unattended
    3. Candles should be kept away from children and pets
    4. Extinguish candles before going to sleep
    5. Keep candles away from flammable liquids and gas-combustible materials
    6. Candles should be kept clear of any combustible materials such as paper, curtains and clothing
    7. Candles should not be placed in windows as they can be blown over. Blinds and curtains can also catch alight
    8. Candles should be placed on a stable, dry, heat-resistant surface away from drafts
  12. What is Earth Hour’s position on technology?
    Earth Hour embraces technology to spread the message of positive environmental action across the world, and to replace more inefficient means of living our lives. Technology is key to a sustainable future that is aspirational. From LED lights, to hybrid vehicles, to developing replacements for unsustainable use of resources  - Earth Hour has thrived off the back of the development in digital technology.  
  13. Will my city go completely black during the event?
    Earth Hour is not a black out. It is a voluntary action by its participants to show their commitment to an act of change that benefits the planet. For many businesses in city skyscrapers or for many government buildings, the lights are turned off at the end of the business day the Friday before Earth Hour. So Earth Hour is more of a fade-out in some ways than a black out. There is usually no instant dramatic difference, but rather a gradual dimming of lights starting the day prior. Many major icons and neon signs are switched off for the hour and they are extremely noticeable. You may be able to see dramatic changes in large business districts or at iconic landmarks and buildings around the world and in your city.
  14. If everyone turns their lights back on at the same time will there be a power surge?
    People celebrate Earth Hour in a variety of ways for different lengths of time, with many continuing to keep their lights off well beyond the designated hour. After eight years, it’s clear everyone will not switch back on his or her lights simultaneously.
  15. Why is Earth Hour the event held in late March?
    The second-to-last and last weekend of March is around the time of the Spring and Autumn equinoxes in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively, which allows for near coincidental sunset times in both hemispheres, thereby ensuring the greatest visual impact for a global ‘lights out’ event. Earth Hour 2015 will be held on Saturday 28 March between 8.30PM and 9.30PM in your local time zone.
  16. How many cities/countries/landmarks took part in Earth Hour 2013?
    Earth Hour 2013 took place in more than 7001 cities and towns in 154 countries and territories across all seven continents. Hundreds of millions of people switched their lights off for an hour, and the campaign experienced its biggest growth since 2009. There were around 3395 landmarks that participated.
  17. What does a commitment to Earth Hour mean?
    By registering for Earth Hour 2015, individuals, communities and businesses are making a commitment to turn their lights off for an hour at 8.30PM on Saturday 28 March in acknowledgement of an act they will undertake for the benefit of the planet. We hope that these individuals, communities and businesses will take action beyond the hour through Earth Hour Blue.
  18. Who can participate?
    Earth Hour is a campaign for anyone and everyone who wants to share a commitment to make this planet better.
  19. How can I do more for Earth Hour than just switching off my lights?
    You can fund a project or add your voice to support projects anywhere around the world on Earth Hour Blue.
  20. What energy/carbon reductions have resulted from Earth Hour in previous years?
    Earth hour does not claim that the event is an energy or carbon reduction exercise - it is a symbolic action. Therefore, we do not engage in the measurement of energy or carbon reduction levels. Earth Hour is an initiative to encourage individuals, businesses and governments around the world to take accountability for their ecological footprint and engage in dialogue and resource exchange that provides real solutions to our environmental challenges. Participation in Earth Hour symbolises a commitment to change beyond the hour.
  21. Aren't you using a lot of electricity and resources to promote this event?
    Earth Hour takes every effort to minimise our footprint, not just for the hour but also all year round. Earth Hour Global has a core team of just nine people based in Singapore and relies on a dispersed open-sourced model, meaning that the movement is run locally through WWF and communities all over the world.
    All of Earth Hour Global’s emissions are offset and the campaign embraces digital technology to minimise the usage of natural resources and to spread our message.
  22. Earth Hour is advertised all over the world. Does Earth Hour pay for this advertising?
    Earth Hour Global secures millions of dollars of free advertising space with the help of partners such as Starcom, Discovery Networks International and many others. Earth Hour Global does not spend any money on paid advertising space. Earth Hour’s advice to teams around the world running local campaigns is to only seek either pro-bono or if absolutely necessary, low-bono advertising space.
  23. Whose idea was Earth Hour?
    Earth Hour came from a think tank initiated by Earth Hour CEO and Co-Founder, Andy Ridley, resulting in the formation of a partnership between WWF Australia, Leo Burnett and Fairfax Media to address the climate change issue.
    In 2007, there was still a degree of scepticism and denial about the issue of climate change. Earth Hour came as the inspiration to rally people to the reality of climate change and start a dialogue about what we as individuals can do to help address the greatest problem facing our planet today. Leo Burnett partnered with WWF to promote the idea and help make the campaign a reality in Sydney, a campaign which has now gone beyond climate change to symbolise the growing global pursuit of a better, healthier world.
    Read more about Andy Ridley’s story.
  24. What is Earth Hour’s relationship with WWF?
    Earth Hour is an initiative of WWF. In 2007, WWF initiated Earth Hour as a way of engaging a broad section of society in the environmental issues challenging citizens across the world. WWF embraced the idea of an open sourced campaign that would allow communities and organisations to become part of a global movement to protect out planet.
  25. Do you have requirements or regulations about who can or cannot partner with Earth Hour?
    Any partner must uphold and support the aims and principles of Earth Hour. These include encouraging individual and community engagement on environmental issues. Encouraging conscious decisions to change the way we live in order to affect environmental reform, without the use of scare tactics or shaming. The specific decisions about whether or not to partner with a group or corporation are made at local level by Earth Hour country and city teams based on what suits their needs and community in achieving the goals of Earth Hour.
  26. Does Earth Hour welcome the support of other NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and NFP's (Not for Profits)?
    Absolutely. In fact, the success of Earth Hour would not be possible without the support of other NGOs and NFPs. Global organisations such as the World Organisation of the Scout Movement and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have been pivotal in spreading the Earth Hour message, while in some countries where there is no WWF presence, Earth Hour campaigns are orchestrated entirely by other NGOs and NFPs.
  27. What does the Earth Hour logo mean?
    The standard Earth Hour '60' logo represents the 60 minutes of Earth Hour where we focus on the impact we are having on our planet and take positive action to address the environmental issues we face. For Earth Hour 2011 the ‘60+’ logo was introduced representing a commitment to add to Earth Hour a positive act for the planet that goes beyond the hour. Take up the ‘plus’ and get involved with Earth Hour Blue.
  28. I represent a hotel. What the best way for my organisation to celebrate Earth Hour?
    You can click here for the hotel's guide. Everything you need to know about running an Earth Hour - tips and tricks, email templates for staff and partners, going beyond the hour and more - specially for hotels.
  29. I'm new to Earth Hour, where can I start?
    You can click here for the all-round event guide! This comprehensive guide contains a list of FAQ regarding Earth Hour as well as ideas and suggestions of various activities different groups can carry out during and after Earth Hour.

Scandinavia’s clean energy and grassroots change

Published on Monday, 23rd March, 2015 at 07:12 under the columns category, by Larrie Wanberg.
From Finland’s bio-energy to America’s growing solar movement, clean energy is on the rise.
Ytre Vikna wind farm
This facility is located in the county's Vikna municipality.Ytre Vikna wind farm
Photo: Nord-Trøndelag County/W. Commons

Scandinavian countries are leaders in clean renewable energies—each in their own specialties, yet collectively as a model for the rest of the world.

Norway, as an example, is a long-standing world leader in hydroelectric power that benefits 99% of its citizens. In thermal energy, Norway has about 15,000 residential buildings using vertical “boreholes” to heat and cool buildings. Oslo has two of Europe’s largest storage systems of thermal energy, including Akershus University Hospital (228 boreholes) and Nydalen Næringspark (118 boreholes). Solar energy is popular in homes, mountain cabins, and larger boats. Wind energy is produced from five onshore wind farms with eight more funded for 2020 to triple production. Norway also builds offshore wind turbines and is experimenting with “wave power” from ocean currents.

Iceland is the thermal “capitol” of the world, where two-thirds of energy use comes from geothermal energy that heats 90% of homes. Recently, deeper molten magma was discovered that beat the world record for hottest geothermal heat at 450 degrees Celsius, increasing the potential efficiency for steam to generate electricity as renewable energy.

Denmark is an epicenter of wind energy development that manufactures wind turbines across the world, including a production plant in Grand Forks, N.D. In 2014, Denmark set a world record for wind production, attaining 39.1% of its overall electricity from clean energy.

Sweden’s economy has grown, while much of Europe has faltered, largely by the country’s investment and production in renewable energy. Forty-seven percent of Sweden’s consumed energy comes from renewable sources. The White House recently pointed to Sweden as an aspiring energy model for U.S. goals for renewable energy.

Finland, a forested land, leads in bio-energy by using lumber waste to produce renewable energy, while integrating other clean energies. Bio-energy is also used in under-developed countries and urban areas to produce electricity by converting garbage to heat that is converted to electricity.

One of the most interesting trends in energy development is how entrepreneurs at a grassroots level are impacting the industry. The growth in the industry is seemingly driven by how many jobs can be created, how to deal with climate change, and how innovations in usage can reach wider markets.

Solar energy is growing rapidly on a global scale, largely because costs are coming down, improved technologies are available, and it has the potential to create a volume of new jobs for installers.

Architects design “green” buildings that use solar panels on the roofs. Some homeowners use solar energy to live “off the grid,” by generating electricity and selling excess power back to the utility company.

RVers who want to be self-sufficient and avoid hook-ups apply solar panels to their roofs and store energy with batteries where the gas-powered generator used to be. They use propane for the stove and refrigerator.
As a vintage RV owner, I talked with an entrepreneur named Andy Graham, who attached a solar panel to the roof of his van with strong Velcro. He liked to park on California beaches while brokering energy sales across the country—online and on the phone. He powered two laptops, a music system, and a small cooler without draining his vehicle battery (see

I asked him what his idea was for future solar sales. Andy said, “I’d go to a homeowner and offer to attach a ‘mini’ solar demo model to the roof with industrial Velcro and suggest that the owner try free for 30 days … Then, we’d install a full system after the homeowner tried it and liked it.”

Communities too are organizing through electric co-ops to provide clean energy to its members. Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC) in Pelican Rapids, Minn., is one of the first communities to add solar power as an option to their 26,000 members. “It’s like a community garden concept,” said CEO Tim Thompson, “where we build an array of solar panels and offer members to buy a panel or two for their use. It costs $1,500 financed over three years, so a member’s bill is only $42.00 per month. The offering sold out quickly and we are considering a second unit.”

Thompson highlighted a geothermal offering, called EARTHWI$E, whereby LREC installs horizontal piping in the yard of a home at the co-op’s expense and charges a modest tariff to the electric bill, depending on heating and cooling requirements of the member’s home—ranging from $32-$65 per month. For more information on these initiatives, see

For energy-minded readers connected to the web who enjoy short talks by experts, I’d suggest two Ted Talks on renewable energy. One is a talk on “The Future of Renewable Energy” by a serial entrepreneur who experiences the global use of innovative solar power, viewable at

Another is a former Governor of Michigan who proposes a fresh model of creating jobs and building a national energy policy through private investment. Her talk, “A Clean Energy Proposal—Race to the Top,” is at

I’m toying with the thought of joining the “tiny house-on-wheels” movement, powered by solar for electricity, and parking it in one of a dozen developments around the country, where new micro-communities are being organized. At least, it’s entertaining to think about the way society is changing and the movement toward mobility and simplicity (as seen at, but I wouldn’t know what to do with all my stuff. “Less is more,” they say, but I kind of like “more.”

This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lawmakers Move to Regulate Pipelines, After a Record Spill in a Drilling Boom

North Dakota has 20,000 miles of largely unregulated 'gathering lines,' and that number is expected to increase by around 60% over the next five years

Mar 11, 2015

Two months after the biggest fracking-related spill in recent North Dakota history, state lawmakers are pushing legislation that could help prevent similar disasters in the future.
More than 2 million gallons of toxic wastewater gushed from a hole in the type of pipeline known as a "gathering line" near the town of Williston between the last week of December and first week of January. The spill contaminated at least two local waterways. The rupture went unnoticed for about 12 days before a pipeline worker discovered it.
Gathering lines carry oil, gas and wastewater laced with heavy metals, high salt levels and possibly radioactive material from wells to other sites, for processing or disposal. The number of such lines continues to soar in the midst of the nation’s fracking boom.
North Dakota has 20,000 miles of gathering lines, mostly in rural areas, and that number is expected to increase by around 60 percent over the next five years. State regulators know the location of only about one-third of the existing gathering lines—all the lines installed after August 2011. The recently ruptured line falls into this minority; it was installed last summer.
Of the more than 240,000 gas-and-crude gathering lines nationwide, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulates only a fraction of them—mainly the lines that cut through cities. Few states have any regulations on the books for such pipelines.
Wastewater, or produced water, lines are another animal: No one knows how many exist, they don't fall under federal jurisdiction, and most states aren't tracking them. "The whole gathering-line issue is a big question mark," said Samya Lutz, outreach coordinator for the advocacy group Pipeline Safety Trust. "Produced water would be another question mark on top of that," Lutz added.
Now, two competing bills in the North Dakota legislature would take the first steps to regulate wastewater-and-crude gathering lines, because those lines have proved to be most at risk of spills. The bills are currently written to target future pipelines, not the thousands of miles of active pipelines for either produced water or crude oil.
Lawmakers told InsideClimate News that they expect a final bill will be sent to Gov. Jack Dalrymple and very likely signed into law this spring. When that happens, North Dakota will likely be the first state to begin to regulate gathering lines for wastewater.
Both bills would require operators to put down financial security in the form of a bond for such lines before construction. The bills also require new gathering lines for waste or crude to be fitted with technology for monitoring and leak detection.
"What we want to ensure is that we are preventing as many incidents from happening," according to Rep. Corey Mock, a Democrat from eastern North Dakota. Mock helped draft one of the bills.

A Surge in Spills
In North Dakota, the number of drilling-related spills occurring annually has steadily increased in recent years, according to an analysis by Inside Energy, a news site. In 2010, there were about 1,000 spills reported. In 2013, there were around twice as many reported.
Since the start of the year, there have been six large spills in North Dakota: five dumped at least 450 gallons of fracking byproduct, and one spilled nearly 500 gallons of oil, according to the state's online spill databases.
Among those accidents was the largest wastewater spill in North Dakota since the fracking boom kicked off in the early 2000s. On Jan. 6, the spill near Williston was discovered by an employee of the pipeline's operator, Meadowlark Midstream Company, LLC. Some 2.2 million gallons gushed through a hole 2 inches in diameter­­­––the width of two quarters side-by-side.
Water sampling shows the spill affected at least two local waterways in the Missouri River watershed—Blacktail Creek and Little Muddy River—as well as groundwater around the rupture site. Officials say the spill doesn't pose a health threat—and that no water wells have been impacted. The pipeline in question measures 4 inches in diameter and is made of a composite material called Fiberspar.
The pipe was immediately shut off after the leak was discovered. The ruptured section of the pipe has been replaced but the line remains shut off. The cause of the spill is still being investigated. According to local news organization Inforum, the pipeline was outfitted with equipment to allow remote monitoring, but the company wasn't using the technology. Instead, workers checked for leaks using handheld devices.
The wastewater comes from deep underground. When a well is first tapped, flowback, a mix of the slurry cocktail used to blast open the rock and minimal amounts of produced water, comes back up. Once oil and gas start to flow out, produced water continues to gush up for months.

House Wants $1.5 Million Study
Two bills have been proposed to regulate North Dakota’s gathering lines for wastewater and crude—but only one can survive.
The House unanimously voted to approve House Bill 1358 on Feb. 23, and it has since been sent to the Senate and a committee meeting is scheduled for March 13. This bill would require gathering-line monitoring and leak detection, but it doesn’t prescribe a specific technology. Instead, the bill would let regulators use their best judgment. The change would apply to gathering lines that go into service after Aug. 1, 2015.
The House bill also mandates a study to be carried out by researchers at the University of North Dakota. This $1.5 million study would evaluate and prescribe the best way to monitor and respond to leaks at produced-water gathering lines.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 2374 on Feb. 20, and that bill has been passed over to the House for review starting March 6. It requires specific pipeline monitoring technologies for all wastewater-and-crude gathering lines installed after April 1, 2016. Another key part of the bill calls for a legislative study to identify the best technology to detect and prevent pipeline leaks.
Dave Glatt, from the Department of Health, the agency responsible for responding to pipeline spills, wrote in an email to InsideClimate News that either bill "is anticipated to benefit our department and the environment" by providing extra funds for cleanup and requiring technology that should reduce the number and severity of future pipeline issues.
Both bills are missing some key areas of regulatory oversight, according to Lutz, of Pipeline Safety Trust. For example, neither bill proposes public notification of new gathering lines nor public access to monitoring results. She also pointed out that both bills ignore gas gathering lines.
"If safety to the environment" is the issue driving these bills, then inspection and monitoring "should be done at all the gathering lines," she said. Most gathering lines nationwide, and in North Dakota, carry gas.

Nobody Had Any Rules
This isn't North Dakota legislators' first attempt to regulate gathering lines. Back in 2013, Rep. Anderson, the originator of HB 1358 and a Republican from a district with extensive drilling activity, proposed a similar bill requiring monitoring and leak detection for all gathering lines in the state, including those for wastewater.
Although the bill failed, the Industrial Commission, the state department for oil and gas, expanded its jurisdiction to include gathering lines shortly thereafter. Then the department started requiring operators for gathering lines installed after August 2011 to submit basic information about the lines, including route location and material being transported.
In 2013, the Industrial Commission had planned to review other states' practices to use as a model for the state. According to agency spokeswoman Alison Ritter, this line of inquiry provided a dead end—because nobody had any rules.
Since then, Ohio and Texas have passed regulations specifically for oil-and-gas gathering lines. Texas requires financial security for its lines, while Ohio mandates that companies report new lines and perform inspections to identify any leaking. In Colorado, California and Pennsylvania, there aren't specific rules for gathering lines. Instead, general safety rules for reporting and responding to spills likely apply.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tallahassee, We Have a Problem: The Harm Done by Florida’s Climate Leadership Void

Erika Spanger-Siegfried, senior analyst, Climate & Energy Program March 9, 2015 What could justify the Governor of Florida, a state widely considered “ground-zero” for climate change in the U.S., to prohibit the use of that term by state staff? In Florida, more than a million people live within 3 feet of the high tide mark. Sea level is expected to easily rise that much along Florida’s shores later this century. Thousands of homes and businesses are in the path of that rising sea, and millions of lives would be impacted. A leader entrusted with Florida’s welfare would treat this problem like the unfolding crisis it is, right?

I can’t see what narrow politics motivate the Scott administration to do the opposite, but as long as such motivations hold sway, Floridians are going to be hurt. Florida has the greatest number of people of any U.S. state – more than a million – living within reach of sea level rise projected later this century.

I’m one of the lucky people that got to spend time in Florida this winter – in Miami and on Longboat Key. I was mostly in vacation mode. But you only have to know a fact or two about sea level rise to also be bewildered by what you see here: A landscape teeming with homes and businesses, lives and livelihoods, all well within reach of 21st century sea level rise. And many people operating like it’s business as usual. It is not. Something’s broken

We saw a friend in Holmes Beach who had put his much-loved home on the market recently because he can no longer afford the flood insurance. (The house is about a quarter mile from the water, not that that matters much in Florida, the flattest state. All of Holmes Beach is now within the Special Flood Hazard Area.) He and his wife were discouraged, having put decades of time, money and care into the house. But recently retired and on a fixed budget, the jump to a $10,000 annual insurance premium was just beyond their means. And most of ours! That’s the sad part.

This is the bewildering part: the day he put his house on the market, a realtor offered him $400,000 cash. The plan? To tear down his house, construct a 7-bedroom replacement, and somehow sell it for profit – on land that could flood daily in 40 years’ time. True, the new house would probably be elevated in some way. But what does that matter if it’s surrounded by water? In this example, one of presumably thousands across Florida, something fundamental is broken: sea level rise just isn’t part of the equation. Sure, it’s historically been safe to assume that land for sale will be dry land for the foreseeable future, but that is no longer the case. And we know it. So why, I wondered, is the real estate market acting like it doesn’t, and why are state leaders allowing this? At the time I assumed state leaders were playing too passive a role, and failing to take strong action. We’ve since learned they may have been overseers of climate inaction, prohibiting the use in state documents of “global warming” and “climate change,” the very processes foreclosing on the state’s future. Kept in the dark in the Sunshine State We can expect the neighborhood where I stayed on vacation to be underwater during every high tide with two feet of sea level rise—the amount of sea level rise expected in 40-50 years. And you only need a street to flood during some high tides – which is possible decades earlier – for it to start to feel unlivable. That neighborhood is like many hundreds of neighborhoods along Florida’s coast – in easy reach of a rising sea.

Every day, people in Florida are buying and selling homes that could face regular flooding within the lifetime of their mortgages. Every day people are making decisions for a future without climate change. But climate change is here. Editing it out of state documents and discourse serves only to keep people in the dark and increase their exposure to risk – financial and physical. Some have suggested that, as flood insurance premiums begin to align with real flood risks (hard enough news for a great many homeowners), property values will start to decline. Others have suggested they will decline as people decide that living with frequent tidal flooding is too difficult. Okay, but what happens then? A precipitous drop in values? Countless homeowners literally and figuratively holding underwater mortgages? The erosion of neighborhoods and communities as those who can get out do?

And some suggest that the next major storm could force the issue, as hard decisions are made about what does and doesn’t get rebuilt. But if this is what we’re talking about – waiting around for circumstances to overtake us – then the only people who should be invested in Florida’s at-risk coastal communities are those who can afford not to care what happens. If that’s where we’re headed, then regular people are going to get hurt. Florida badly needs open-eyed policies that drive disclosure, better information-sharing, and a statewide conversation about the future of coastal communities. Now turn that inside out and you have what state officials have delivered. What climate leadership looks like In Florida, the climate science has come through with stunning clarity – look at the problem from any angle and it’s the same thing: rising seas are going to claim large areas of this low, flat state this century (starting in the first half), and we have to do… something. But–with the notable exception of Southeast Florida’s hard work and other pockets–state leadership is behaving as if the science doesn’t exist, and insisting others do as well. Now, Florida is a very big and populous state, and I’ve been told it’s like several states stitched together. Are the solutions obvious? No. Is it going to be hard? Very. That’s why we elect leaders. Governor Scott, along with Senators Rubio and Nelson, should be playing Paul Revere on this issue, alerting anyone who will listen about the urgency, and appealing far and wide for help for their state. They should be passionately petitioning the federal government for aid for Florida’s vast coastal adaptation challenge. Stopping short of that, Governor Scott should be mobilizing state resources and capacity to the effort, and implementing policies to bring sea level rise squarely into relevant decisions. That’s leadership in the face of crisis, and exceptional leadership is what Florida needs. What they have too often gotten, however, is a distortion of the facts, distraction from the issues, an unwillingness to act, and now, we’re learning, obstructionism. Tallahassee, we have a problem and it’s you. About the author: Erika Spanger-Siegfried is a senior analyst in the Climate & Energy program at UCS. She currently manages UCS’s coastal and Mountain West climate impacts projects, designed to shed light through new research and outreach on ongoing local impacts, current efforts to cope, and the urgency of high-level action. Erika formerly managed the Energy-Water Initiative (EW3) and, prior to that, the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, a research effort to explore climate change, impacts, and solutions in the northeastern United States. She holds a master’s degree in energy and environmental analysis from Boston University. See Erika's full bio.