Robert J. Byers: The tortured hills of West Virginia
I once reported from the site of a mine blowout in Raleigh County. It had been a snowy, rainy spring, and the mountain high above Rock Creek its insides honeycombed with a waterlogged section of abandoned mine simply burst, sending a cascade of water, mud and rock raining down on the families below.
Their cars sat immobile, ringed by a 5-foot-deep sea of mud, studded with pieces of coal. The rear windows of their homes the ones facing the mountain were cracked and broken, and a tree trunk had found its way inside a back room.
My eyes followed the outstretched arm of a homeowner as he pointed up to the face of the mountain, where a gash continued to bleed a stream of muddy water. The symbolism of the mountain broken and weeping was hard to miss.
The coal company spokesman gave me the usual act-of-God line I mean, volcanoes erupt and life in the coalfields marched on.
Never mind that a week before, an abandoned mine in Cabin Creek had burst and flooded two homes.
A few years later, another blowout would send acid-laden water into lower Davis Creek, killing off the newly recovered fish population there.
Its now 22 years from the day that I stood along the banks of Rock Creek, and we again have had a wet spring. The people of Hughes Creek in eastern Kanawha County had to evacuate their homes in March for fear that the mountain lining their hollow will be the latest to break open, showering them with its damaged insides.
How little it seems that weve learned in that time about our mountains, about how to co-exist with them.
West Virginia has a love/hate relationship with its mountains.
When were away for a while, we often talk fondly about getting back to the mountains, to their warm embrace.
But, like an abusive lover, we always expect our hills to be there for us no matter how badly we treat them.
x p WV & Good Reads
CHARLESTON, W.Va. Last years chemical leak quickly spread throughout West Virginia American Waters Charleston-based distribution system. The water company has announced it will start a continuous monitoring program on the Elk River. Such monitoring is a critical element of a safe water system that detects contamination before it reaches customers.
In a January report to the Legislature, West Virginia American Water described plans to install monitoring equipment to measure water properties like acidity, temperature, salts, minerals and trace organic chemicals.
Unfortunately, the instrument they chose to detect organic chemicals total organic carbon has serious limitations and is blind to a broad class of chemicals which includes, remarkably, MCHM, the chemical culprit of last years water crisis.
Thousands of pounds of MCHM remain in the soil at the Freedom Industries site just one mile upstream of the Elk River treatment plant intake. The chemical class not detected also includes significant components of diesel fuel and other chemicals, all potential spill candidates and transported by truck and train in the Kanawha Valley.
x p Envir & Energy
Ethics and Extreme Extraction: Local Reflections on Global Issues
By S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV
Ethics is an increasing issue in unconventional resource extraction. Taken individually, the issues which have been heard from the beginning have had an ethical component. The complaints include destruction of aquifers, air pollution, reduction of property values, costs deferred to the public including roads, record room crowding, traffic (including emergency vehicles) held up, mud slides and so on.
These have largely been thought of as individual matters and as a loss to individuals. They have been shrugged off by business and government, and largely ignored by the general public which feels little involvement and powerless to stop the well funded extraction companies, supported by endless public relations ploys and advertising.
As understanding diffuses (slowly) to the public at large, and more and more people come to know someone involved, the unifying theme of ethics becomes stronger. People are not without empathy.
Another slowly dawning awareness was discussed by Professor Garrett Hardin in an article published in Science, the Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, all the way back in 1968. This article is well worth the readers time if not familiar with the phrase tragedy of the commons. It is the perception that in reality much of the physical world belongs to all of us. All of us in the present, and all who follow. Life is short, and while we live and die in the present, we are bound, for our descendants sake, to plan for the extended future as far as we can see it. It is gross incompetence in the use of our minds to ignore that responsibility. It is ethical bankruptcy. It is properly the stuff of ethics and religion. It is a threat to civilization.
Not only has the fossil fuel industry continued trading human lives for profit, but, since it is difficult to convince free people to poison their own water sources or blow up their own backyards, it has increasingly killed democracy in order to keep killing people for profit. is part of of an article titled, The Church Should Lead, Not Follow on Climate Justice. The author spoke at a conference at Harvard Divinity School, Spiritual and Sustainable: Religion Responds to Climate Changeand in June will join many global thinkers at a process theology conference on climate change in Claremont, California. Although his emphasis is on climate change brought about in considerable part by burning fossil fuels, much of the argument applies to other aspects of extreme extraction.
From an Article by Glynis Board, WV Public Broadcasting, April 12, 2015
A new report was published this month that looks at how states are dealing with dangerous waste produced during shale gas development. Not well, according to the report.
The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the disposal of toxic or hazardous materials. Such waste includes things that may contain heavy metals, chemicals, dangerous pathogens, radiation, or other toxins. Horizontal drilling produces both liquid and solid waste streams which can contain heavy metals, dangerous chemicals, salts and radiation. But you will never hear it referred to as toxic or hazardous by anyone, officially.
Amy Mall, senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based nonprofit, explains that thirty years ago the EPA exempted oil and gas waste from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). So right now, oil and gas waste, regardless of how toxic it is, can be treated like normal household waste in many parts of the country, Mall said.
Theres a new report: (Wasting Away Four states failure to manage oil and gas waste in the Marcellus and Utica Shale) that examines this subject published by Earthworks a nonprofit concerned with the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development. Lead author Nadia Steinzor explains that the EPA didnt exempt the industry because the waste wasnt considered a threat, but because state regulation of this waste was considered adequate. Of course, this was a couple decades before the horizontal gas drilling boom.
Steinzor and her colleagues decided to see what they could learn about waste practices in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, where Marcellus and Utica shale gas are being developed.
The report indicates that states are well behind the curve in adapting to the natural gas boom: good characterizations of the waste is incomplete according to a 2014 study thats cited; and not much information is available about where the waste is coming from, going to, or how it gets there.
West Virginias Oil and Gas Waste Management
MORGANTOWN DOMINION POST editorial Monday 20 April 2015
Can the WV-DEP reform itself?
Environmental well-being is primarily a function of regulatory well-being. That at least is the idea in the state Department of Environmental Protections (DEP) realm.
The DEP is still the principal agency that West Virginia deploys to monitor its hills, rivers and streams and its air. But is that as true as we would like to think?
While some try to portray the WV-DEP as yet another regulatory bogeyman, others call it the Department of Environmental Prevarication.
In the past, we have leaned more toward the latter description. However, in recent weeks, the DEP has taken initiatives that give one reason for hope. For instance, this past week, the DEP ordered more than 90 coal prep plants to disclose potential pollutants that could be dumped into waterways. The DEP said that order will better protect state streams and that any additional costs should not be significant compared to the liability for polluting waterways.
That agency also recently hosted a public hearing on water quality standards, part of one programs annual quarterly meetings. These meetings agendas also dont dawdle on fluff, either.
The most recent agenda took up proposed changes to aluminum and selenium criteria and an update on algae monitoring done in 2014. The DEP has also become much more visible in the states annual spring highway cleanup, through the Adopt-A-Highway program.
Clearly, for those who take a dim view of the DEPs efforts and we often count ourselves among them there are also reasons to think nothing has changed. For example, the states Environmental Quality Board recently said the DEP violated state law when it allowed a company to operate two underground injection wells with a rule it issued, instead of a state permit.
Or the WV-DEPs almost cavalier approach to reports of black water flowing into a Raleigh County stream. Only after it responded in a timely manner on the fourth report was a coal company cited.
Biggest five or six? mass extinctions ever
Apr 24, 2015
by Eleanor Imster in Videos » Earth, Science Wire
Over 99% of all the animal species that have ever lived are now extinct. Here are Earths biggest extinctions, in under 5 minutes. New video from AsapSCIENCE.
More from AsapSCIENCE: Animals we wish still existed:
Watch the Arctic ice pack vanish
Apr 23, 2015
by EarthSky in » Earth, Science Wire
Decades ago, most of Arctics winter ice pack was made up of thick, perennial ice. Not anymore. Watch the change in this one-minute animation.
Each winter, sea ice expands to fill nearly the entire Arctic Ocean basin, reaching its maximum extent in March. Each summer, the ice pack shrinks, reaching its smallest extent in September. The ice that survives at least one summer melt season tends to be thicker and more likely to survive future summers. Since the 1980s, the amount of this perennial ice (sometimes called multiyear) has declined.
This animation tracks the relative amount of ice of different ages from 1987 through early November 2014. The first age class on the scale (1, darkest blue) means first-year ice, which formed in the most recent winter. (In other words, its in its first year of growth.) The oldest ice (>9, white) is ice that is more than nine years old. Dark gray areas indicate open water or coastal regions where the spatial resolution of the data is coarser than the land map.
As the animation shows, Arctic sea ice doesnt hold still; it moves continually. East of Greenland, the Fram Strait is an exit ramp for ice out of the Arctic Ocean. Ice loss through the Fram Strait used to be offset by ice growth in the Beaufort Gyre, northeast of Alaska. There, perennial ice could persist for years, drifting around and around the basins large, looping current.
Around the start of the 21st century, however, the Beaufort Gyre became less friendly to perennial ice. Warmer waters made it less likely that ice would survive its passage through the southernmost part of the gyre. Starting around 2008, the very oldest ice shrank to a narrow band along the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
In September 2012, Arctic sea ice melt broke all previous records. ...
Fly through Hubbles 25th anniversary image
Apr 23, 2015
by Deborah Byrd in Videos » Science Wire, Space
Fly through the Hubble Space Telescopes 25th anniversary image of star cluster Westerlund 2 in 3-D!
This visualization from NASA provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubbles 25th anniversary image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core.
The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars. Note that the visualization is intended to be a scientifically reasonable interpretation and that distances within the model are significantly compressed.
still from vid
Spectacular Calbuco volcano in Chile!
Apr 23, 2015
by Deborah Byrd in Photos » Earth, Science Wire
After remaining dormant for 42 years, the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted twice on Wednesday (April 22, 2015). An ash cloud rose at least 15 kilometers (9 miles) above the volcano, menacing the nearby communities of Puerto Montt (Chile) and San Carlos de Bariloche (Argentina). Some 1,500 to 2,000 people were evacuated; no casualties have been reported so far. The first eruption sent up vast plumes of smoke. The second eruption later that night sent up red-hot rocks and produced a spectacular display of volcanic lightning. Airlines cancelled flights. Lava flowed into Chapo Lake, which lies lies immediately southeast of the volcano, on the same day.
The Chilean Emergency Management Agency and the Chilean Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) ordered evacuations within a 20-kilometer (12 mile) radius around the volcano.
The eruption also prompted concerns that the dust could contaminate water, trigger respiratory illnesses and halt air travel.
Dario Almonacid posted the video below to YouTube on the day of the eruption.
4/24/15: top 5 posts on RightWingWatch.org this week: gay X-Men, OKC bombing false flag, Frothy's BS
Best of the Blog 4/24/2015
Here are the top five most popular posts on RightWingWatch.org this week
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Rick Santorum: Obama Established A Secular Theocracy
Janet Porter: Gay Marriage To Blame For Noah's Flood, Will Usher In End Times
EW Jackson: Slavery In America Wasn't A 'Racial Issue'
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