Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Driller charged over contamination in ‘Gasland’ town

Over harmless methane emissions

Cabot Oil Gas Corp. was charged Monday, June 15, 2020, following a grand jury investigation that found the company failed to fix faulty gas wells in Dimock and surrounding communities that leaked methane into residential water supplies.

An energy company faces felony charges that it polluted residential water wells in a Pennsylvania community that has long been a battleground in the national debate over natural gas drilling and fracking.

Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. was charged Monday following a grand jury investigation that found the company has failed to fix faulty gas wells that are leaking methane into residential water supplies in Dimock and surrounding communities.

The company has racked up hundreds of civil violations since 2007, and it has been banned from drilling in a 9-square-mile area of Dimock.

“We find that, over a period of many years, and despite mounting evidence, Cabot Oil & Gas failed to acknowledge and correct conduct that polluted Pennsylvania water through stray gas migration,” the grand jury wrote, criticizing Cabot’s “long-term indifference to the damage it caused to the environment and citizens of Susquehanna County.”

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office charged Cabot with a total of 15 criminal counts, including illegal discharge of industrial wastes and unlawful conduct under the state’s Clean Streams Law. Maximum fines are $50,000 or $25,000, depending on the count.

“Cabot took shortcuts that broke the law, damaged our environment, harming our water supplies and endangering Pennsylvanians. They put their bottom line ahead of the health and safety of our neighbors,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a video statement.

Cabot said it would respond once it had fully reviewed the charges, but that it values “community commitment and environmental compliance.”

“Cabot will continue to work constructively with regulators, political representatives, and most importantly our neighbors in Pennsylvania to be responsible stewards of natural resources and the environment,” Cabot said in a written statement.

The company has long insisted the gas in Dimock’s aquifer is naturally occurring, saying its pre-drill testing of thousands of private water wells in the area show a high percentage with methane. The grand jury asserted that Cabot’s initial sampling of wells and groundwater did not include tests for methane. State environmental regulators eventually determined that Cabot’s drilling and fracking operations leaked explosive levels of methane into private water supplies.

It was an exploding water well on New Year’s Day 2009 that first aroused public attention in Dimock, a patchwork of homes and farms about 150 miles (241 kilometers) north of Philadelphia.

Residents said they suffered ill health effects from the contamination of their water with methane and drilling chemicals, including nausea, dizziness, skin rashes, impaired vision and breathing difficulties. Property values plummeted, too, they said.

Methane is not known to be harmful to ingest, but at high concentrations it’s flammable and, if it escapes into enclosed areas, can cause asphyxiation.

Homeowners sued and later settled with the company.

One resident, Eric Roos, told the grand jury in 2019 that he wants to move, but can’t. “I don’t know who will buy my house now. How can I leave?” he said, according to the grand jury’s report.

Dimock resident Ray Kemble, who has long publicly denounced Cabot and is currently battling it in court, welcomed the news that it faces criminal charges.

“I’m ecstatic, man. I feel vindicated now,” he told The Associated Press. Kemble, who says his water supply was ruined by Cabot, said he wants the company shut down.

The contamination in Dimock became the subject of fierce debate among pro- and anti-drilling forces. An Emmy Award-winning 2010 documentary, “Gasland,” showed residents lighting their tap water on fire. Drilling supporters have long accused Dimock residents of seeking money and attention.

The criminal charges against Cabot stem from a two-year grand jury investigation into Pennsylvania’s huge Marcellus Shale gas industry. Last week, Shapiro’s office announced a deal with another company, Range Resources Corp., Pennsylvania’s most active shale gas driller, to plead no contest to environmental crimes over its handling of contamination at a pair of well sites in the southwestern part of the state.

Shapiro said Monday that the grand jury’s ongoing probe “will result in more criminal charges.”

Unlike Range, he said, Cabot “continues to abdicate their responsibility.”

“Cabot knows what they’ve done. The residents of the commonwealth whose lives have been impacted know what Cabot has done. The game that Cabot continues to play, risking the lives of people across the commonwealth for a profit, well, that cannot go on any longer,” he said.


Could entomophagy end U.S. and African protein shortages?

Paul Driessen

Nearly two centuries ago, amid a fungal infestation that destroyed Irish potato crops and brought famine, starvation, death, and the emigration of countless men, women and children, Gulliver’s Travels author Dr. Jonathon Swift offered “A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.”

Dr. Swift suggested that children too young to work could be eaten in place of potatoes. As he explained, “a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasee, or a ragoust.” Surely, he said, this is preferable to aborting unborn or murdering newly born children.

Of course, his proposal was only in jest, a sly response to the callous disregard many of his countrymen displayed toward the Irish tragedy and the plight of poor families throughout the United Kingdom.

Today, despite enormous advances in seeds, fertilizers, irrigation, mechanized equipment, pest control and agricultural practices, famine still stalks dozens of countries, especially in Africa. Millions still live on the edge of starvation, all too often kept there by despicable government agencies, pressure groups and financiers that despise modern agriculture, promote “agro-ecology” and even oppose Golden Rice.

Africa’s poverty, malnutrition, despair and premature death have been made even worse this year by one of the worst plagues of desert locusts in memory. Swarms numbering in the billions descended on East Africa, which was completely unprepared to cope with them. The first swarms unleashed even larger second and third waves, with swarms larger than Manhattan.

The insatiable insects are devouring millions of square miles of crops, pasture lands, gardens and forests, creating massive food shortages that could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths from starvation.

Meanwhile, coronavirus outbreaks among workers forced meat packing plants to close. Wendy’s took burgers off the menu at many locations, and the fast food chain’s customers are again asking “where’s the beef?” – echoing the iconic television commercials from 35 years ago. Pork is also in short supply, even as American pork shipments to China quadrupled in recent months. Chicken too is scarce.

But now we may have a fortuitous alignment of the stars, a happy confluence of events, wherein a modest proposal for abundant food in the form of locusts could benefit the hungry “publicks” of two continents.

Up to now, we have had an unhappy confluence of sick ideologies: the belief that too many people are a cancer on the Earth, depleting fossil fuels that are destroying our climate and planet, and ignoring what former Obama science advisor John Holdren insisted was a vital need for modern societies to de-develop, de-industrialize, and dictate to still-poor countries how much they will be permitted to develop.

The ideologies have forced too many Africans to continue living primitive subsistence lifestyles or pack into impoverished cities that lack basic energy, water, roadway, communication, refrigeration, hospital, sanitation, and employment opportunities. The locust plagues could turn this awful situation around.

Enormous nets strung between two trucks or airplanes could harvest millions of locusts at a time. Thousands could be employed constructing and operating food processing facilities, hauling insects to them, running them through roasting ovens and freeze drying machines, packing and shipping the finished delicacies to hungry families around Africa and North America, and teaching people to savor them.

Thousands more jobs could be created managing the new export and import businesses. Commercial airliners sidelined by COVID would be rejuvenated. Millions of people could go almost overnight from hunger to enjoying what Popular Science magazine has described as delicious, nutritious food, rich in protein and all nine amino acids essential for human development.

The new meat substitutes would give entirely new meanings to “in-flight meals.”

There is yet another benefit. These activities and facilities would require reliable, affordable electricity, on a far larger scale than can possibly be provided by wind turbines and solar panels. They will require coal, gas, nuclear and hydroelectric power plants. However, environmentalist pressure groups, UN agencies, the World Bank and multilateral (anti)development banks have been telling Africans that wind and solar power must be their energy future. They and the EU clearly won’t finance those power plants.

But perhaps Chinese agencies and companies will finance and build them, as they have in many other countries – often under exploitative, extortionist loan arrangements, to be sure. The projects could also be incentivized by a desire to resurrect China’s tarnished reputation for having unleashed the Wuhan virus on unsuspecting nations. They might also secure special prices on locust products that would be right at home in China’s wet markets and on its television equivalent to “Bizarre Food” with Andrew Zimmern.

Popular Science expresses deep concern that “raising cattle requires a lot of space and water, and more room for cattle means less [sic] trees, which in turn means a diminished natural capacity of the planet to process carbon dioxide.” Its writers clearly have no clue that modern non-organic farming with biotech crops enables fewer farmers to raise more crops, from less land, with less water and fewer pesticides, than any other farming methods in history – or that cattle typically graze on lands that have limited value for growing crops. They obviously have not read any of my reports and articles about the monumental impacts that wind, solar, battery and biofuel technologies have on farm, scenic and wildlife habitat lands.

Instead, PopSci cites a 2013 report by the ever-helpful UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which has worked for years with radical environmentalist groups to oppose modern farming, biotech and even hybrid seeds, synthetic insecticides and fertilizers, and even mechanized equipment like tractors. PopSci and the FAO extol the virtues of “entomophagy,” a fancy progressive term for eating bugs, not beef.

Indeed, they say, this could be “the answer humanity is looking for.” (If that’s the answer, it must have been a very foolish question.) The FAO report offers techniques for processing “edible insects” into tasty consumable products that can improve people’s diets and livelihoods, create thriving local businesses, and even promote “inclusion of women.” It has sections on overcoming the yuck factor and setting up industrial-scale processing operations. (I should have known the FAO would be ahead of me on that.)

The FAO study says bugs can have twice as much protein as beef and 1.5 times as much as fish and poultry. PopSci sings the praises of grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, ants and mealworms – whole or powdered – as snacks, desserts, guacamole or entire meals.

Mealworms have “an earthy flavor, similar to mushrooms or beets,” says Joseph Yoon, chef and founder of Brooklyn Bugs, a “catering company and education platform” in New York that serves an entire menu featuring insects. You can add them to brownies – or toss some salt on sautéed mealworms to get “protein-boosted potato chips.”

Since they are committed to saving the planet from fossil fuels, climate change, big corporations and modern technologies, people attending the next UN climate confab in November 2021 in Glasgow should expect to dine on an entire smorgasbord of tasty locusts and other bugs. Perhaps they can be paired with haggis, Scotland’s savory traditional pudding of bone broth, sheep heart, liver and lungs, onion, oatmeal, suet and spices, cooked together in the animal’s stomach.

Back here in the States, for the same reason, those delectable African locusts could figure prominently at the upcoming Democratic National convention in Wisconsin’s Brew City this August. They would pair very nicely with those pilsner beers that made Milwaukee famous.

Personally, though, I’ll stick with hearty beef, lamb, chicken, ribs – and really big bugs: shrimp, lobster, crabs and crawfish – served up at the Republican National Convention, accompanied by a good IPA.

Via email

Reality Is Gradually Catching Up To Green Energy

If you dutifully read your U.S. mainstream media, you undoubtedly have the impression that “clean” and “green” energy is rapidly sweeping all before it, and soon will supplant fossil fuels in powering our economy.  After all, many major states, including California and New York, have mandated some form of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, or in some cases even earlier.  That’s only 30 years away.  And reports are everywhere that investment in “renewables,” particularly wind and solar energy, continues to soar.  For example, from Reuters in January we have “U.S. clean energy investment hits new record despite Trump administration views.”   In the New York Times on May 13 it’s “In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.”   The final victory of wind and solar over the evil fossil fuels must then be right around the corner.

Actually, that’s all a myth.  The inherent high cost and unreliability of wind and solar energy mean that they are highly unlikely ever to be more than niche players in the overall energy picture.  Politicians claim progressive virtue by commissioning vast farms of wind turbines and solar panels, at taxpayer or ratepayer expense, without anyone ever figuring out — or even addressing — how these things can run a fully functioning electrical grid without complete fossil fuel backup.  And the electrical grid is the easy part.  How about airplanes?  How about steel mills?  I’m looking for someone to demonstrate that this “net zero” thing is something more than a ridiculous fantasy, but I can’t find it.

To stay grounded in reality, there is no better source than the multiple-times-weekly email from the Global Warming Policy Foundation.  If you do not already receive these emails, you can go here to subscribe. As is typical, today’s email searches out back pages and specialized sources to bring us multiple pieces showing green energy running into its inevitable wall, with no known way to get past.  (Full disclosure:  I am on the Board of the GWPF’s American affiliate.)

We go first to green energy champion Germany, where Bloomberg reports on June 5 that “Germany’s Green Power Finance Is Becoming Unaffordable.”   Excerpt:

The German program that’s spurred the nation’s switch to green power is buckling under the weight of surging costs and needs an urgent fix. That’s the assessment of one of the scheme’s chief designers, Hans Josef Fell. . . .  Yet the system’s increasing costs have become glaring in the during the coronavirus pandemic, the veteran Green Party lawmaker said. High and guaranteed payments made to investors in clean power plants are the problem Fell said in an interview.

It seems that to get its wind and solar facilities built, Germany put in place guaranteed payments to producers that would kick in if market prices for power were insufficient.  The guaranteed payments are divvied up and added to consumer electricity bills.  This year, with prices for alternative fossil fuels plummeting, the guaranteed payments are projected to come in at some 26 billion euros — which is around $100 per month for every German household, on top of electricity prices that were already about triple the U.S. average.  Of course, Chancellor Merkel is proposing a “fix,” which is a government bailout as part of a supposed coronavirus relief package.  That may work for a little while.  Then what?

Also from Germany, we have a piece from the Financial Times of June 8 with the headline “Environmentalists on back foot as Germany’s newest coal plant opens.”   What?? — Opening a new coal power plant right in the midst of a transition away from fossil fuels??  What happened here is that they are closing all their nuclear plants, and they need something that works all the time, unlike the wind and the solar.  Just in January, Germany enacted legislation to completely phase out coal power generation by 2038; and then in May, they went right ahead and opened this new Dateln 4 coal plant.  The Financial Times piece quotes Greenpeace activist Lisa Göldner as calling the new plant a “climate crime.”  Meanwhile, the crew members of a barge bringing coal to the plant are described as “whooping and whistling in mockery” at environmental protesters seeking to block the opening of the plant. 

The fact is that Germany has nowhere further to go by building more wind and solar facilities.  When the wind blows on a sunny day, they already have more power than they can use, and they are forced to give it away to Poland (or even pay the Poles to take it).  On a calm night, no matter how much wind and solar they build, it all produces nothing.  Without the coal plant, the lights go out.  Talk about climate virtue all they want, but no one has yet even begun to work on a solution to get past this hurdle.

Which brings me to the most important piece in the GWPF email, from Cambridge Professor Michael Kelly, appearing in something called CapX on June 8, with the headline “Until we get a proper roadmap, Net Zero is a goal without a plan.”   Kelly makes the point that seems to me obvious, but that somehow has slipped past the New York Times and all the rest of the MSM, which is that if wind and solar energy are ever going to surpass niche status, there is a gigantic engineering problem to solve.  Somebody has to engineer an electrical system based on the intermittent sources that works 24/7/365.  But in fact, even as major states and countries have piously proclaimed commitment to “net zero” energy, nobody has even started the engineering project.  And as soon as you start to consider the question, you quickly realize that the whole endeavor is almost certainly impossible.  As an example, Kelly addresses batteries:

Take batteries. It is estimated that current battery manufacturing capabilities will need to be in the order of 500-700 times bigger than now to support an all-electric global transport system. The materials needed just to allow the UK to transition to all electric transport involve amounts of materials equal to 200% the annual global production of cobalt, 75% of lithium carbonate, 100% of neodymium and 50% of copper. Scaling by a factor of 50 for the world transport, and you see what is now a showstopper. The materials demands just for batteries are beyond known reserves. Would one be prepared to dredge the ocean floor at very large scale for some of the material? Should securing the reserves not be a first priority?

And that’s just one of the issues.  Others include vast costs constituting a multiple of current energy costs; the environmental impact of mining and transporting huge amounts of materials; need for vast amounts of rare elements, far beyond known world reserves; incredibly huge amounts of material to recycle when facilities wear out; and on and on.

Read enough of this stuff and you gradually realize that almost everything you read about supposed solutions to climate change is completely delusional.


Australia: Investors face pressure over miner set to destroy Aboriginal artefacts

It's almost automatic for Aborigines to stand in the way of development projects.  The role of white Leftists in the background probably explains most of it

The world’s largest asset manager and a top superannuation fund are facing pressure to explain investments in a Chinese conglomerate set to destroy ancient Aboriginal artefacts at a coalmine in regional NSW.

China Shenhua Energy, the world's largest thermal coalminer, is planning to construct an open-cut mine next to the Liverpool plains near Gunnedah in the "food bowl" of the state.

The mine has been fiercely opposed by the site's traditional owners, the Gomeroi people, who fear it will lead to destruction of historic and culturally significant artefacts including grinding grooves showing markings of ancient warriors sharpening spears for battle, burial sites and sacred trees.

Funds management giant BlackRock, which manages more than $10 trillion in assets including substantial amounts of Australian retirement savings and money for the Future Fund, has billions of dollars invested in China Shenhua Energy, records show.

CBUS, the $54 billion super fund for construction industry workers, also confirmed a small investment in the firm, which is majority controlled by the Chinese government.

Failures by mining companies to preserve Indigenous artefacts have come into sharp focus after resources giant Rio Tinto last month decimated a 46,000-year-old site in Western Australia against the wishes of its traditional owners.

The Rio blast sparked an emergency Senate inquiry into how state and federal laws protect Aboriginal heritage.

There has also been rising scrutiny in the investment world over responsible and sustainable investing and best strategies for lifting corporate environment, social and governance standards.

The Gomeroi people last month filed submissions in the Federal Court against federal environment minister Sussan Ley in an attempt to overturn the mine's 2015 approval.

Gomeroi woman Dolly Talbott called on major institutional investors to boost transparency about where they put their clients' money.

"If you believe in preserving and looking after sacred sites, they need to know where they’re putting their money and what these companies are doing."

She said all Australians should be angered about cultural artefacts that will be destroyed if the mine proceeds, which include ceremonial corridors, burial sites and other items.

"Our direct ancestors are buried out there. You don’t go and blow up European burial sites so why should they be able to do that to us?" she said.

CBUS confirmed it owns around $4.5 million worth of shares in the company through a passive index fund.

The fund said it was considering divesting its stake as part of its broader climate change strategy and would ask its investment managers to incorporate First Nations heritage issues into engagement strategies.

"The sacred sites of our First Nations Peoples should be protected," CBUS head of responsible investment Nicole Bradford said.

BlackRock has positioned itself as a leader in socially responsible investing and last year pledged to reduce its holdings of thermal coal. The firm's founder, Larry Fink, has also been a prominent supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Market Forces campaigner Will van de Pol said the outrage over Rio Tinto's blasting should serve as a reminder for super funds about the role they play in actively managing investments.

"The Western Australia example should serve as a turning point that should have come long ago," Mr van de Pol said. "But at least from now on, we need to see super funds ensuring that that sort of destruction never happens again on their watch."

"As a firm committed to racial equality, we must also consider where racial disparity exists in our own organisations and not tolerate our shortcomings," Mr Fink said in a public letter on May 31.

An archaeological report commissioned by China Shenhua Energy said it could preserve roughly half of the more than 60 significant artefacts identified by adding fencing or moving them to another location.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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