All you have to do is create a free account and start listing away whether you want to grow bok choy, carrots, and green tomatoes or have some free space in your backyard.
I cant help but think this could be a neat way for people all over the city to interact and create more legal green spaces in each others communities.
As CP reported in April, access to land remains one of the main sticky issues facing urban gardeners in Philly. Thats not to say anythings wrong with guerilla gardening or that We Patch cant be used to help spruce up some of the 4,000 vacant lots in the city.
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society offers a manual and video for how to reclaim vacant lots in the city. But until vacant land gets cheaper or the city comes up with a sustainable program for turning vacant lots into urban gardens (never mind the question of whether thats the best thing to do with them), why not garden on friendly land and meet new people in the interim?
So far theres only one listing in Philly. Before Philebrity posted about the project, there were none.
At this rate, maybe well see what We Patch tastes like in the fall.
New standards approved for salts in gas drilling wastewater but it's still OK to discharge carcinogens!
|Photo | Isaiah Thompson|
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved new regulations aimed at protecting Pennsylvania surface waters from potential impacts of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The regulations can still be challenged by the House or Senate environmental resources committees, but given Governor Rendell's support of these measures, it seems unlikely.
Probably most significant is a limit on Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) salty chlorides and sulfides in discharged fracking water.
Lest the gentle reader think a stream's "saltiness," isn't a big deal, check out the contamination and massive fish kill that resulted from elevated TDS levels in Dunkard Creek in western Pennsylvania.
Interestingly, Marcellus Shale Coalition executive director Kathryn Klaber issued a statement yesterday saying rather inexplicably that the standards would "not provide any additional environmental benefit."
While environmental watchdog groups like Penn Environment and Clean Water Action praise the new rules, they point out that these regulations don't cover other toxic discharges like carcinogens benzene and arsenic.
"This rule is about setting a discharge standard, but we don't have that for chemicals," Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action, told me over the phone. "There are contaminants being discharged in Marcellus Shale wastewater that there need to be more standards for."
Erika Staaf, Clean Water Advocate for Penn Environment, agreed, pointing me to a report authored by the Environmental Working Group's Dusty Horwitt, who reports that gas companies may be regularly injecting "toxic petroleum distillates" which contain benzene into wells:
Companies that drill for natural gas and oil are skirting federal law and injecting toxic petroleum distillates into thousands of wells, threatening drinking water supplies from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. Federal and state regulators, meanwhile, largely look the other way.
These distillates include kerosene, mineral spirits and a number of other petroleum products that often contain high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen that is toxic in water at minuscule levels. Drillers inject these substances into rock under extremely high pressure in a process called hydraulic fracturing that energy companies use to extract natural gas and oil from underground formations.
Ready for the really scary quote?
In a worst case scenario, the petroleum distillates used in a single well could contain enough benzene to contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water to unsafe levels, according to drilling company disclosures in New York State and published studies. ... That is more than 10 times as much water as the state of New York uses in a single day.
Uh, or you know, not really.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said it plans to "investigate aggressively" after natural gas and drilling fluids spewed from an out-of-control well in Clearfield County on Thursday night and all Friday morning.
As Tara Lohan at Alternet reminds us, This spill is likely a toxic mix of who know what (because industry wont reveal whats in their fracking fluid). So yeah, its not just off-shore drilling that is an environmental and human health threat and its not just oil.
CPs own Isaiah Thompson reported on the many environmental dangers of fracking and Marcellus Shale drilling in this story, which is as good a primer as any:
Perhaps more importantly, the need for natural gas is skyrocketing. In Pennsylvania, natural gas prices quadrupled between 2002 and 2008. This surge is driven largely by the fact that the energy sources that powered the last two centuries oil and coal are running out. Not to mention, they are both primary contributors to climate change. Among the fuel sources often discussed as short-term alternatives, natural gas has a special allure. It's a fossil fuel, yes, but it's cleaner than coal, immediately available (unlike solar and wind), and we don't have to buy it from the Middle East. In 2008, billionaire oil magnate T. Boone Pickens made headlines with his so-called "Pickens Plan" to move the U.S. off foreign oil, which relied upon natural gas as the "energy bridge" to the future.
The Marcellus Shale holds enough of it to power an energy bonanza that could rival the California Gold Rush.
The mighty gas-drilling industry powered by the even-mightier oil industry proclaims the shale a godsend. Its gas will create jobs, generate tax revenues and spur growth. The shale, drilling proponents say, is the magic carpet that will carry the United States to the future of energy independence.
But to its critics, the shale is the opposite: a catastrophe of opportunity. They point to the alleged dangers of fracing, which then-Vice President Dick Cheney managed to get exempted from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, thus stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of the ability to regulate it. (U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pennsylvania, has proposed legislation that would remove this exemption.) Environmentalists point to numerous reports of various kinds of contamination associated with fracing particularly an ongoing investigative series by the nonprofit journalism group ProPublica, which has catalogued such troubling episodes as the April 2009 incident in which 16 cows in Louisiana dropped dead after drinking "a mysterious fluid adjacent to a natural gas drilling rig," as well as the time, in September 2009, that nearly 8,000 gallons of fracing fluid leaked from a gas-drilling pipe system into a freshwater stream in Dimock, Pa., a small town near the New York border.
Love it or hate it, fracing has arrived in Pennsylvania. The state has permitted some 2,765 wells since 2005; in 2010 alone, that number stands to double. The pressure to lease state-owned forestland for Marcellus Shale drilling has been building for years. The development of new technology, coupled with the ever-growing need, made for the perfect storm.
|Courtesy of Pennsylvania DCNR|
When City Paper's Isaiah Thompson wrote a bang-up piece on companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, and the environmental and political concerns that go along with it, a brilliant commenter named "Why Whyserson" said thusly: "This would be an important story in Philadelphia if they were drilling in Fairmount Park."
As it turns out, it's not as easy as that. (Can you believe someone commenting on a website oversimplified things?!) If companies drill in the Delaware River Basin, aka our watershed, this indeed will be quite an important story in Philly and in fact, conservation officials say that about 300 square miles of watershed land have already been leased.
All of these details can get rather complicated, which is why Damascus Citizens for Sustainability is hosting a lecture titled "Gas Mining: What is there to be worried about?" tonight from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Blauvelt Theatre at the Friends Select School (17th Street and Ben Franklin Parkway). It will address how drilling could affect Philly's water, and what City Council and citizens can do. Mr. Whyserson, why not join us?
In this weeks' Editor's Letter, I introduced you to Jay Parekh and Aakash Mathur, two recent Penn grads with a product called Hydros Bottle that's an on-the-go water filtration system, a water bottle with the filter right in the cap.
Parekh wrote in the comments section that they're running an Earth Day special for the Hydros Bottle: "If you'd like to go green for Earth Day and cut out bottled water from your diet, use the coupon code 'EARTHDAY2010' to get free shipping on your Hydros Bottle! Enter code at www.hydrosbottle.com."
So get on that.
So did you get out on Saturday for Philly Spring Cleanup part trois?
We were out sweeping the 1300 blocks between Tasker and Snyder (thanks to all the detritus that blows in off of Broad Street), and got more than a few strange looks from neighbors who perhaps thought we were the Census taker/death panels Glenn Beck told them were coming.
One charming gentleman, as we were cleaning in front of his house, took the opportunity to announce that he was a Yankees fan and ask sneeringly, "How's your team doing?" and then make some dig about the Phillies' "20 owners." Ouch, right where it hurts in the ownership group.
But for the most part, people were generous, supportive. In addition to the coffee and donuts East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association plied us with, a guy on Broad had a table set up with pretzels and coffee he was dispensing to volunteers and anyone else who happened to walk by.
Though there were a plethora of other projects happening across the city, most of what we ended up doing sweeping gravel, trash and plant waste out of gutters is stuff that probably used to get whisked away by the city's long-suspended residential street cleaning. But hey, it's best not to think of such things. It's all about community, right?
No word yet on the total tonnage of junk removed from city streets this year.
(Send any particularly interesting photos from your cleanup day to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post them here.)
Which is weird, cause the GAO just told us it wasn't gonna go public for another month. No matter. You can read all of it here, and though we haven't had time to sort through all of it yet, here are a few highlights:
The reanalysiss crude oil benefit assumptions are not consistent with current market and industry conditions and future outlook, which raises questions about the reliability of the reanalysiss crude oil benefit estimate.
The reanalysiss containerized cargo benefit assumptions may not fully reflect current conditions and cannot be adequately assessed without additional information.
The Corps reanalysis addressed many of the limitations that we had identified in 2002 in the projects original economic analysis by using more recent information to correct invalid assumptions and outdated data, recalculating benefits and costs to correct miscalculations, and accounting for some of the economic uncertainty associated with the project. In addition, as we recommended, the Corps had independent experts review the reanalysis before submitting it to Congress.
Sez Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper who is staunchly against the dredging project, in a press release: "This report confirms that the Army Corps still has not provided an accurate picture of the Delaware deepening and its ramifications for our region. If the Army Corps had spent as much time in providing accurate economic and environmental analyses as it has in evading the requirements of environmental protection laws, we would have an accurate picture of the impacts of this project."
We'll report back with a more thorough analysis of the report early next week.
|Photo | Neal Santos|
UPDATE: The report is out now! Check here for more information.
The dredging of the Delaware River, as we all know, is well under way.
But the Government Accountability Office, which in 2002 put out a report saying the Army Corps overstated the dredging's economic benefits by $26.8 million, was due to release a reanalysis of the Corps' new economic claims at the end of March.
Here it is April, though, and it isn't out yet. The Clog just got off the phone with a GAO spokesperson, and it turns out that the GAO has indeed completed the report, and delivered it to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. But the committee asked for a 30-day restriction, which means that the report won't be made public until the end of April.
And that means we'll have to wait another month to know if a project that's already happening is indeed worth our money.
Contaminated mud from Marcellus Shale gas drilling spills in state forest; Rendell may be changing mind on additional leasing
|Constance Merriman, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)|
Just a week ago, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a budget which relies on more than a $100 million in revenue from new leasing of state forest for drilling in the Marcellus Shale (a third of the state forest has already been leased for drilling).
That decision, as I reported in February, ran contrary to the advice of former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary Michael DiBerardinis, who warned shortly before resigning that further leasing would "scar the economic, scenic, ecological, and recreational values of the forest," as well as overburden the Department's limited staff.
Among the dangers associated with Marcellus Shale drilling is the potential for spills a danger heightened by the rapid pace at which the industry has developed.
Yesterday, the Scranton Times-Tribune reported that 8,000 to 12,000 gallons of contaminated mud were spilled at Sproul state forest in Clinton County, Pa. a site operated by Anadarko E&P Co. Inc. that was part of the governor's most recent lease of forest land for drilling, in January.
While about half of the mud spilled over the boundary of the well pad, it didn't spread far enough to contaminate any surface waters, ground water or wetlands in the area, said Mr. Spandoni. A contractor began cleanup work Friday night. DEP officials have taken mud samples to determine a proper disposal method.
The mud is used as a cooling agent in drilling operations. Since the mud that spilled is synthetic-based, it doesn't contain any diesel fluids as some other agents do, said Mr. Spandoni.
This certainly isn't the first case of "errors" resulting from hydraulic fracturing operations: There were 56 "illegal discharges" in 2008 and 2009.
Nor is this the first spill affecting state forest land: City Paper has learned of two more incidents (confirmed with the Department of Environmental Protection) at a site adjacent to state forest in Clearfield County. In August 2009, a drilling pit utilized by EOG Resources Inc. leaked drilling fluids into a nearby spring; in October, there was a spill of "a water/chemical mixture used for cleaning wells" at an adjacent well, also operated by EOG.
These spills resulted in impacts to Alex Branch and Little Laurel Run streams, which are wild trout fisheries, and a freshwater spring used by local hunters.
Representative Greg Vitali, working with a coalition of environmentally-minded House representatives, has sponsored a bill calling for a moratorium on the leasing of more state land for drilling.
Despite what he says was a deal made between House "green dog" Democrats, who opposed such leasing, House leadership, and Governor Ed Rendell, the governor came out in favor of leasing additional land for this year's budget.
But, according to the Times-Tribune, he was singing a different tune yesterday:
Mr. Rendell expressed optimism Monday the state can meet next year's revenue target without leasing additional acreage of state forest land. He said more details will be forthcoming. Mr. Rendell also said for the first time he supports a moratorium bill.
If this is true, it's big news. Maybe Rendell has decided he doesn't want his legacy to have been pillaging the state forest to plug budget holes, after all.
Editor's note: Yesterday, activists gathered outside of the EPA's Region III office at 16th and Arch to protest the truly hideous practice called mountaintop removal, in which coal companies literally dynamite mountains to gain easier access to the coal inside. We dispatched intern Emily Currier to the scene; she files this report:
To show solidarity for the people of Appalachia, a group of about 30 people, from college students to lifelong activists, rallied outside the Philadelphias EPA Region 3 office in the Monday morning cold. While coal mining may seem like a foreign concept to urbanites, many decisions about mining are made right here. Philadelphias EPA Region 3 office calls the shots in the Mid-Atlantic Region, meaning Delaware, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Currently, the office is reviewing 23 permits for mountaintop removal, a devastating form of strip mining that literally levels entire mountains.
Philly Against Coal, Philly Rising Tide, and Rainforest Action Network organized the demonstration to speak for people in West Virginia who, they say, dont have similar access to government officials. This morning's protest coincides with one at the EPA regional office in Atlanta.
Mountaintop removal has become a nationwide issue. From Philadelphia to Atlanta people are standing up to say its unacceptable," says Joshua Kahn Russell, a rally organizer and a Rainforest Action Network member.
The protesters, many of whom donned green hard-hats or white "Wind Field Tech" jumpsuits, held up predictable enough signage: Mountain Justice, Windmills Not Toxic Spills, etc. To chants of Its time to take a stand, EPA, lend us a hand, Robin Markle, of Philly Rising Tide, and Josh Yoder, a Temple student, approached EPA security to try to get a letter delivered to Shawn Garvin, the EPAs regional administrator.That latter requested thatEPA officials to do a flyover of the Appalachian Mountains and stop issuing permits. It pointed to recent scientific evidence about the sheer destructiveness of mountaintop removal.
An hour after the protest began, Markle and Yoder emerged from the office, and said their requests were granted. The letter was delivered and Jeffrey Lapp, an EPA official, came down to meet with the activists and agree to set up a future appointment. Which is, of course, something, and better than nothing.
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