There’s an ideological war going on that’s destroying the credibility of environmentalism as legitimate issues of many are engulfed in the advocacy of a few.
Yesterday, I published an interview with Karen Orlando, one of our guest bloggers and a frequent commenter on this site. Karen is an environmentalist – a serious one – who wants to achieve things. She recognizes there are tradeoffs and ways to go about influencing events by becoming educated, knowing the facts and participating in the processes established for public input when projects are proposed. Her experience with the Rockaway Pipeline and Port Ambrose projects, though, left her aghast at the way those processes were taken over, co-opted, by ideologues who didn’t care a whit for the facts and were then reported by a gullible press that didn’t grasp them any better.
I encourage everyone to read the interview with Karen because these are the frustrations not of a oil and gas advocate and landowner like myself but, rather, of someone with real concerns who wanted to make a difference and saw the entire process be corrupted by individuals and groups whose mission wasn’t improving things, but simply stopping things as part of an ideological war against oil and gas. Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening everywhere these days as exceedingly well-financed ideologues attempt (and, too often, get away with) taking over public input processes with the goal of furthering their war. Environmentalism is the loser.
The newest fronts in this ideological war is the battle over pipelines. It’s everywhere and everywhere completely irrational. NGI Daily published an excellent piece the other day laying out the problem and quoting FERC Commissioner Tony Clark (emphasis added):
“In years gone by, intervention in regulatory proceedings tended to be driven by those most directly affected by the energy project…but today there is an increasing trend towards ‘just say no’ intervention. This intervention is designed to block entire classes of infrastructure projects — either through outright denial or through a strategy of defeat through delay,” Clark said. “It is not opposition based on a particular project or its location; it is an opposition to all infrastructure as a matter of ideology. Often this opposition is from those expressing concern about climate change and carbon emissions.
“The irony is that much of this infrastructure is being necessitated by the very regulations that are being promulgated in the name of reducing carbon intensity in the electric generating sector.”
Clark has nailed it; some of those who claim to be interested in saving the climate show up to oppose the only obvious practical solution to the issue that brought them there. All they want to do is to “just say no.” How can this be? People seriously worried about the climate see natural gas as an integral part of the solution, but these folks don’t want to hear of it.
Well, the answer is that the stated motivation cannot be the real motivation unless every one of those “just say no” intervenors is as dumb as a box of rocks, There are plenty who fit that category and plenty of us who might like to think they’re all that misinformed, but this ignores the reality there are some very crafty people on the other side who are not misinformed but, rather, have a completely different agenda and have lots of money. They’re killing environmentalism and destroying whatever opportunities there are to work together on issues of emissions – all for the sake of an ideological war against oil and gas. Facts and reason have no sway with them except to the extent they can be marshaled into use in the war.
We have another example in challenges of landfill permits. It’s happening multiple places where those landfills are accepting drill cuttings for disposal. The ideologues have seized upon this as another choke point in their war against natural gas development, one of the most recent cases being an expansion of the Chemung County Landfill operated by Casella Resource Management. Located in the Southern Tier of New York, the landfill has been in existence for many years and has taken large quantities of drill cuttings from Pennsylvania gas wells for disposal. It was targeted for expansion long before taking those drill cuttings and plans for this have been before the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for some time now. There is also a public comment period on those plans, which ends this coming Tuesday, December 8.
Predictably, the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club is opposed and is organizing against the expansion, sending out an e-mail blast that includes this nonsense (emphasis added):
Tell the DEC not to grant the permits that will allow the Chemung County landfill to take more radioactive drilling waste…
Casella Waste Systems, which operates the Chemung County Landfill, is seeking to expand operations at the landfill to take more shale gas drilling waste from Pennsylvania, even though the landfill is already a top destination in New York for Pennsylvania drilling waste.
Despite widespread concerns, DEC is ignoring New York’s low-level radioactive waste laws and regulations which prohibit placement of low-level radioactive drilling wastes in municipal solid waste landfills such as the Chemung Landfill.
DEC claims that drilling wastes are exempt from the low-level radioactive waste laws, not because they are not radioactive, but because they are “naturally-occurring.” We contend that shale gas drilling wastes are processed and concentrated and are subject to the laws.
This hyperbole is countered by the absolutely thorough documentation found on Chemung County’s website, but notice how the Sierra Club simply asserts “widespread concerns.” They say it’s controversial, so it is. This is how ideological war proceeds. They also say this will make it possible to take more drill cuttings, even though it’s clear from the data the volume is actually decreasing and New York only takes 6% of the cuttings. Finally, they implant the false idea this is “radioactive waste” when, in fact, it’s simply rock with a certain amount of radioactivity in it and, guess what, most rock does contain radioactivity. The facts are nicely laid out in this presentation but here is the money slide:
As the presentation explains, the maximum level of Radium that can be accepted at a Sewer Treatment Plant is 600 pCi/l, blue line. The treatment plant can only discharge 60 pCi/l to a stream, green line. Chemung County Landfill leachate is well below the discharge limit (indicated by the red dots), so far below the limits, in fact, that it barely registers. The Sierra Club, in other words, is full of it and take note they never claim the radioactivity a danger; they simply use the word as part of their ideological war against natural gas development. Their opposition has nothing to do with the landfill itself. As another of our readers and guest bloggers wrote to the DEC:
I support the permit request by Casella Waste Systems to take drilling waste at the Chemung County Landfill. The radon from this waste is naturally occurring, underlies nearly all of the Southern Tier of NY and is easily dealt with current regulations. The scare mongering of the Sierra Club and others should be disregarded.
Amen to that and others who wish to make similar comments (many of you, I hope) can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a minute and do it.
The sad part of all this is that both Karen Orlando and the reader who brought this to our are strong advocates of the Clean Power Plan. They are true environmentalists who see natural gas as a solution. Yet, their voices are constantly in danger of being drowned out by the warriors in an ideological war against natural gas. These ideological warriors are killing environmentalism.