We need a new set of priorities

According to reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the world's climate scientists have reached three important conclusions: (1), Climate change is real; (2), the predicted consequences are happening; and (3), humans are causing it. It is time for the rest of us to acknowledge that climate change is the greatest threat to survival that the human species has ever faced.  Even confronted with the threat of nuclear weapons nations are still able walk away from the brink of the abyss as we did during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 60's and make the decision not to destroy ourselves.  But as we continue to put massive unrestrained amounts carbon into the atmosphere we are setting tipping points in motion which we no longer have the ability to control. The work done by Dr. David Archer, et al finds that, " - climate effects of carbon dioxide releases to the atmosphere will persist for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years into the future." (Atmospheric Lifetime of Fossil Fuel Carbon Dioxide, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. May 2009.)  This greenhouse gas does not just go away if we stop producing it. Once we break the delicate balance of environmental forces that have enabled human existence on this planet there is no quick fix that will save us.  The Earth will play out the scenario we have set in motion over a geological timescale that could take hundreds of thousands of years to rectify. Or it could permanently alter the environmental cycles in ways that preclude human beings. 

This is not alarmism.  We can safely burn only 565 more gigatons of carbon or we will generate enough CO2 to exceed the 2 degree Celsius global temperature rise that the world governments have agreed we must never go beyond to avoid catastrophic climate changes. The business plan of the fossil fuel industry is to develop and burn all of the 2,795 gigatons of the known available carbon reserves on the planet; five times more than the acceptable level. Those of us who have love or concern for someone who will be living in the world of 2050 need to examine and challenge the priorities of those who tell us to continue to develop fossil fuel and to impede conservation, green energy and sustainable living.

Nick Teti
May 1, 2014
The Akron Beacon Journal
Published: July 30, 2014 - 06:13 PM

Local governments in Ohio face an unnecessary struggle getting information they need to prepare effectively for accidents involving oil and gas wells and the shipment of crude oil on rail lines. Full and prompt disclosure is a must. It serves the objective of making sure public safety and the safety of first responders are leading regulatory priorities.

Several recent developments have underscored the need to re-establish a greater degree of local authority. The problem is that the legislature in 2004 placed exclusive control over oil and gas drilling with the state Department of Natural Resources. Shipments of oil by rail are largely regulated by the federal government.

Last week, the Ohio Environmental Council raised alarming questions about how the Department of Natural Resources responded to a fire at a drilling rig in Southeast Ohio. According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the department was not actively involved until three days after the well pad caught fire. It took five days for Halliburton, the drilling company, to disclose a complete list of all chemicals used in the drilling process.

Local governments are fighting back, too, seeking to reinstate some authority over the rapidly expanding oil and gas industry. But they are meeting resistance from drillers. Of late, the industry sued Broadview Heights over a “bill of rights” the city adopted in 2012. The city attempted to ban hydraulic fracturing, despite the state law denying such actions.

In Hudson, fire officials and residents are concerned about shipments of volatile Bakken crude across the state. The federal government now requires notification, but not if shipments are below 1 million gallons.

Changes to state and federal regulations on what must be disclosed, when and to whom deserve high priority. The best strategy would be to require complete disclosure to local officials in advance, including, in the case of oil and gas well drillers, proprietary information about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Attorneys from the Ohio Environmental Council point to the promising route, one suggested by a 1986 lawsuit involving a city of Oregon ordinance targeting a hazardous waste dump. As with oil and gas wells, state law barred local zoning and permitting requirements. But an Ohio Supreme Court decision upheld the ordinance, which required the dump to provide detailed records and levied a fee to fund city oversight.
The city of Athens has acted in a similar fashion to deal with oil and gas wells and waste disposal, its oversight aimed at protecting public safety through monitoring, and at recovering costs imposed on the community. The sound point is, local communities are on the front lines when things go wrong, their safety personnel and citizens bearing the brunt. At the least, they deserve to know fully and promptly what harmful substances are within their borders