Two Colleges In Pennsylvania Reach Carbon Neutral Goals

Two colleges in Pennsylvania, Allegheny College and Dickinson College, have reached their goals to become completely carbon neutral. In 2008, both colleges were emitting nearly 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air of the fifth largest carbon dioxide emitting state in the country. To achieve their carbon neutral goals, each college took to implementing new systems such as planting trees, using renewable energy credits, using student engaged challenges, and more. The two colleges explained that the entirety of their goal was not to become completely carbon neutral, but rather establish an environment that encourages the community to partake in sustainable practices. Read More.

Homepage Water News

Members of Seneca Nation paddle 290 miles for peace down Ohi:yo’ (Allegheny) River, Pennsylvania

Members of the Seneca Nation paddled down the entire 290 miles of the Allegheny River, called Ohi:yo’ (meaning beautiful river) in the Seneca language, in a journey called Paddle for Peace to Protect Our Waters. The journey has been organized by Seneca cause Defend Ohi:yo’, a group that helped stop corporations from dumping treated fracking water in the river just last year. The purpose of the journey is to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment and to protest a proposed pipeline project that will threaten the region’s rivers. <Read more>

One of many bends down the 290 mile length of Ohi:yo' (Allegheny) River
One of many bends down the 290 mile length of Ohi:yo’ (Allegheny) River
News Archive

Pennsylvania Families Win Settlement Against Fracking Operation

Almost 10 years ago, the Haney and Voyles families of Washington County, Pennsylvania, began suspecting that a nearby fracking operation was contaminating their community and threatening their health. Family members noticed their water smelled strange, and they suffered from frequent headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness and extreme fatigue to the point where Haney’s son was diagnosed with Arsenic poisoning. In 2012, the families sued Range Resources, and journalist Eliza Griswold documented their struggle in her 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning book “Amity and Prosperity”.
After seven years, the high profile fracking suit has ended in a settlement, information released to the public via an unintentional computer error. Range Resources will be required by law to pay the families $3 million dollars in damages. Read more

Backyard Talk

Depression, A New Side Effect of Fracking — Pennsylvanians who live near fracking are more likely to be depressed

By: Sharon Franklin

July 29, 2018

Stress and depression are higher among those living closest to more and bigger wells.

People who live near unconventional natural gas operations such as fracking are more likely to experience depression, according to a new study, by Joan A. Casey, Holly C. Wilcox, Annemarie G. Hirsch, Jonathan Pollak and  Brian S. Schwartz  “Associations of unconventional natural gas development with depression symptoms and disordered sleep in Pennsylvania.”

Background:  The study is the first of its kind published in Scientific Reports.  The University of California at Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University Researched reviewed the rates of depression in nearly 5,000 adults living in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region in 2015.

They found that people living near fracking-related operations are more likely to be depressed than the general population, and that stress and depression went up among people living closest to more and bigger natural gas wells. One of the study’s co-authors, Joan Casey stated “Previously we’ve looked at the links between unconventional natural gas development and things like asthma exacerbations, migraine headaches and fatigue. The next step was thinking about mental health, because we had a lot of anecdotal reports of sleep disturbances and psychosocial stress related to unconventional natural gas development.”

At the end of 2015, 9,669 wells had been drilled in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale.  By 2016, the region led the nation in shale gas production. There have been other small sample studies on the links between fracking and depression, however, this is the first to investigate a link between the two using a validated survey among a larger population. The researchers in this study compared data on the number of wells, the phase of extraction, and the volume of production in order to group residents into categories of “very low,” “low,” “medium,” and “high” levels of exposure to fracking operations.  To assess the severity of depression symptoms, the researchers utilized a patient health questionnaire that included questions such as, “How often have you been bothered by feeling down, depressed, hopeless?

The study’s results: Dr. Casey noted that the greatest increases in rates of depression occurred among people with mild to moderate symptoms living near high-volume fracking operations.  She states “People in the highest group of exposure were 1.5 times more likely to have mild depression symptoms than those in very low exposure group.

Casey added, “Based on our observations, it seems like living near unconventional natural gas development may not cause an increase in diagnoses of severe major depressive disorders but might exacerbate symptoms in those with mild or moderate depression and create some depression and stress in otherwise healthy people.”

The researchers minimized over reporting by not informing the subjects that the study was related to fracking.

While that strengthened the study’s results, Casey pointed out that it also limited their ability to examine the causes of depression in those living near fracking operations.“Some people in these communities might have positive associations with natural gas extraction… Maybe they’re leasing their land and getting economic benefits, so it’s actually lessening their symptoms, while others may only be getting exposures and have concerns about its health impacts, which could be worsening their symptoms.”

Additionally, the researchers reviewed electronic health records to determine whether there was an increase in physician-diagnosed sleep disorders or prescriptions for sleep aids in the region but did not observe an increase in those instances associated with proximity to fracking operations.

Unanswered Questions
The study addressed whether exposure to the chemicals being released into the environment could play a role in the increase of depression symptoms among those living near unconventional natural gas operations.

Casey said “I think we’ve probably now done enough epidemiological studies showing the links between unconventional natural gas extraction and health.”

  1.  “The next step will be to tease apart what our exposure pathways are.”
  2.  “Is this being caused by air pollution and volatile organic compounds?”
  3.  “Is it more about perception and psychosocial stressors than actual exposure?”

Casey concluded that they don’t know the answers to these questions, and to be able to move forward, they will have to start unraveling those mysteries.

Visit this link to learn more.


PA Confirms States First Fracking Earthquake

Pennsylvania officials say they’ve confirmed the state’s first fracking-related earthquakes took place last year in Lawrence County, northwest of Pittsburgh. As a result, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is stepping up its requirements for drilling in that part of the state, which is known for seismic activity. Read more.

Backyard Talk

Nuclear Energy: Sucking America Dry or Filling Our Pockets with Energy?

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Photo credit to Inhabitat New York City. Photo of Indian Point Nuclear Site on the Hudson River. Indian Point has been leaking radioactive material into the Hudson for several months and has had many operating issues in recent years. Located 24 miles north of New York City.

The struggle for natural gas and oil continue each day. While we deplete our oil resources we look for new ways of finding oil such as fracking and importing more oil, but this oil flow is slowly, but surely drying up too. Our nation is looking to divest our energy production in other facets such as green energy, wind, water and solar and even nuclear energy, that uses uranium rods as a fuel source.
Nuclear energy has been used for decades and over that time we have seen many catastrophes and accidents such as Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, in Pennsylvania or Fukushima Nagasaki Power Plant explosions in Japan, where residents are still threatened by toxic pollution and mass amounts of radiation. Not to mention, possibly the most famous disaster, Chernobyl Nuclear Site which is still abandoned and must be constantly monitored. Regardless of these disasters governments around the world claim nuclear is still very safe and good option to divest money away from natural gas.
In the US many states have chosen to renew expiring nuclear plant licenses and will continue to operate under federal standards. However, some are choosing to close their doors. In New Jersey, Oyster Creek Nuclear Facility has faced several difficulties and has determined the cost of updating safety standards and fixing operating issues would be more costly than just to end their licenses and permits early and close by 2019. In other states such as New York more and more nuclear power sites are feeling the same pressures. Exelon said the R. E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants will need to be shut down unless it receives financial help from NY state.  Entergy, another nuclear power company, said that it would close the James A. FitzPatrick plant, which neighbors Nine Mile Point on the shore of Lake Ontario in Oswego County, by early next year. The costs are too high to remain open, but could cost the state and nation more if an accident happens or operating standards cannot be met. 
The subsidies needed to keep these pants open will be immense and large in monetary value as well as impact. If these sites were to close the state will need to bring more energy from oil, coal and natural gas energy. Thus adding to the release of carbon emissions and pollution. Cuomo is all for these subsidies and bailouts in order to keep our energy consumption of oil and gas low. He even praised this work saying, “This Clean Energy Standard shows you can generate the power necessary for supporting the modern economy while combating climate change.”
So, the question stands, is nuclear power sucking America dry or is it filling our pockets with energy? You be the judge.
To find out more about current subsidies for New York nuclear plants click here: and to stay up to date with more environmental justice issues make sure to continue reading Backyard Talk- CHEJ’s Blog. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Homepage News Archive

Environmental advocate: Keystone landfill expansion debate is nationally important

Kyle Wind, Scranton Times-Tribune. 
Friends of Lackawanna hold an panel discussion on the expansion of Keystone Sanitary Landfill with the help of CHEJ.
Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s expansion proposal has national importance because its approval could affect how the Eastern Seaboard disposes of garbage in the coming decades, an environmental activist said Monday.
“I think this is a really important fight at a national level because we have to stop this foolish burying of waste and thinking somehow it has just gone somewhere else,” Lois Gibbs told 400-plus people at a Friends of Lackawanna forum on Pennsylvania’s trash disposal policy.
Ms. Gibbs founded the Love Canal Homeowners’ Association in 1978 amid the Upstate New York environmental crisis that became the catalyst for national legislation known as the Superfund Act. She founded the Center for Health, Environment & Justice in 1981 and continued her activism over the decades, which includes working with groups fighting against landfills.
“This is the largest landfill I have seen in my 37 years,” Ms. Gibbs said, eliciting reactions from hundreds of attendees ranging from murmurs to exclamations. “I cannot imagine what it’s going to look like with a 50-year permit. … I’ve never seen a 50-year permit.”
Keystone officials have cited their environmental record and say they believe the Dunmore and Throop operation is part of the way forward, but Ms. Gibbs sees expansions like Keystone’s plan as ensuring it remains cheaper to send trash to places like Northeast Pennsylvania rather than come up with better solutions.
Keystone consultant Al Magnotta attended the forum and described it as well-conducted and informative — but also felt it’s not quite that simple.
The average American generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day, according to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability and Commerce.
“At this time, there’s no other financially feasible disposal option available,” Mr. Magnotta said. “Thus, the way I see it, the solid waste disposal sites must be environmentally responsible and protect the health and safety of the public. That is the goal the owners of Keystone Sanitary Landfill have assigned me, and I intend to do my best to achieve it.”
Friends of Lackawanna, the grass-roots group that opposes Keystone’s expansion, organized the event to discuss why Pennsylvania is one of the country’s leading garbage importers and how the state can be a catalyst for better public policy.
Along with Ms. Gibbs, speakers included Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey; state Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald; John Quigley, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection; and Stephen Lester, science director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.
Mr. Casey talked about his proposed TRASH Act that so far hasn’t made it past the committee level. The legislation would allow states to set minimum environmental standards for trash coming from other states and allow states to charge a premium for accepting garbage through community impact fees.
Mr. Blake discussed the process of getting the health study surrounding Keystone’s proposal by the state Department of Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Mr. Quigley assured him DEP won’t make a decision on the expansion until study’s results are in, Mr. Blake said.
“We can’t expect decisions to be made by a regulatory authority without full information,” Mr. Blake said. “I am looking at writing legislation … to see if in fact we should make this a requirement going forward. It really ought to be every time a landfill starts or a landfill expands.”
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