Category Archives: Environment

A Wrong Turn For Southwest Pennsylvania

Photo: The bright lights and early emissions of the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex in Potter Township, Beaver County.

Petrochemical plants are an environmental and economic dead end

By Matt Mehalik
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Op-Ed

DEC 11, 2022 – Southwestern Pennsylvania could have a brighter and healthier future — if only our state and region made better economic investments. After all, you get what you pay for.

Instead, the region is on a path to a dead-end by pursuing a futile, harmful fossil-fuel based economic strategy. Just last month, Shell’s massive polyethylene resin plant began production near Pittsburgh and is already proving to be a threat to the area.

What’s worse, Pennsylvania taxpayers are bankrolling it. Pennsylvania granted Shell $1.65 billion in state tax credits in 2016, one of the largest tax incentives in state history. In addition, in November the state legislature and governor passed and signed a bill that provides over $2 billion in subsidies over 20 years for natural gas, hydrogen and petrochemical industries — with less than a half-day’s notice and no public hearings.

Additionally, the Department of Energy is looking to provide $8 billion in additional federal subsidies for fossil-based hydrogen hubs. Despite alternative strategies for accelerating decarbonization and promoting inclusive economic growth, our region’s leadership doubled down on a call for fossil fuel subsidies, as detailed in “Our Region’s Energy Future” by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development earlier this year.

The Shell subsidy alone would be enough to cover a payroll of $95,000 per year over 25 years for the 400-600 permanent employees the plant was expected to employ. Shell stated that at peak construction, the site employed more than 8,500 workers. However, these temporary jobs mostly went to construction workers from other states, and have dropped now that the plant is open.

Why should taxpayers continue to subsidize a mature industry that does not deliver jobs and prosperity widely to our communities, and that also locks in harmful air, water and climate pollution?

The Pittsburgh region still suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the country. Allegheny and Beaver County for example, have elevated cancer risks and rates of asthma, heart disease and early deaths. Pennsylvania as a whole has the greatest number of excess deaths due to exposure to fine particle air pollution from fossil fuel sources per person in the country. And half of the region’s pollution still comes from industrial plants.

Emissions from the new Shell plant will add to the already-devastating concentration of pollutants in our air, and undermine the country’s progress on meeting national climate goals. The Shell plant in Beaver County would be the second highest hazardous air polluter in the state, and the 20th most polluting in the country.

The Shell plant is permitted to emit 522 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 30.5 tons of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) per year. These chemicals are, according to the USEPA, known to “cause cancer and other serious health impacts.” VOCs for example, are also known to be damaging to lung tissue. The 159 tons of fine particles the plant will release per year will further contribute to respiratory and cardiac diseases in the region.

The people of Southwestern Pennsylvania should feel confident that the air we breathe won’t make us sick. We have the right to live and work in clean, safe and healthy environments. Why are we subsidizing the opposite of this vision, particularly when it undermines national climate goals as well?

The plant is estimated to release 2.2 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions per year: That’s the equivalent of the emissions from 474,000 passenger vehicles, which is more than half the number of vehicles registered in Allegheny County. The plant will also produce plastic resins that will be used to manufacture more single-use plastic goods in a world that already has too much plastic. Today, 36% of plastic production goes toward single-use plastics, specifically plastic packaging.

These are not investments we should be making or celebrating in a region that shows so much promise in going beyond the fossil fuel economy. Further, they are not a proven way to secure long-term jobs or economic growth. Studies show that wind and solar manufacturing would employ more people than comparable investments in oil and gas: More than 15,000 jobs for the same investment that is producing only a few hundred jobs at the Beaver County plant.

Our neighbors in New York State understand this. According to New York’s “Clean Energy Investment Report 2022,” New York added over 24,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector between 2015 and 2021. That’s a growth of 17% after the governor announced a $1.5 bllion investment in clean energy.

New York is continuing these fossil-free investments, and the growth is accelerating. These are not temporary jobs; rather, they are being built on a solid foundation because they are not based on extracting resources that will someday run out, and because they align with the health, climate and overall well-being needs of communities. They are long-term investments, not short-term stopgaps.

Community organizations in the region understand this. Reimagine Beaver County released a vision in 2019 that outlined a more economically viable future than petrochemicals, one made possible by investing in four major sectors of economic development: energy innovation, green chemistry and manufacturing, sustainable agriculture, and riverfront recreation and tourism.

Just think of where our region would be if we had embraced this vision, instead of propping up petrochemicals and fossil fuels.

That’s why the Breathe Project calls for imagining a brighter, healthier and more prosperous future than the one promised by fossil fuels and petrochemicals. This includes building a new workforce with diverse jobs in solar, wind and other clean technologies that will include everyone from blue-collar workers to high-tech researchers. It also includes transitioning to electric cars, buses and trucks; improving bicycle lanes; and providing more public transportation options.

While our policymakers continue to fail us, we’re glad that other leaders have stepped in. We recently appreciated a huge boost from Mike Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Beyond Petrochemicals campaign that will invest $85 million in new funding for local advocacy groups in these efforts.

As someone who grew up in the Monongahela Valley, I am ready to see economic and environmental optimism for our region, based on a different vision that recognizes that fossil-fuel-based industries are not in Pittsburgh’s best interests, now and into the future. It is time to go in a different direction. Stop throwing good money after bad investments. Stop subsidizing a mature, private industry that casts burdens on our communities while allowing a narrow few to reap large profits at our expense.

Our economic future should not, and will not, be hitched to subsidizing new uses for dirty materials like petrochemicals. We can have healthy people, healthy workers, a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We deserve a bright future.

Matt Mehalik is Executive Director of the Breathe Collaborative and its communication platform, the Breathe Project.

A New, Massive Plastics Plant in Southwest Pennsylvania Barely Registers Among Voters

Environmentalists in Beaver County alarmed by harmful emissions from the plant once it opens say they are discouraged by most voters’ inattention, but not deterred.

By Emma Ricketts

Inside Climate News
November 5, 2022

Photo: Shell’s new petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Emma Ricketts

Environmentalists Fear a Massive New Plastics Plant Near Pittsburgh Will Worsen Pollution and Stimulate Fracking


Oct. 27, 2017 – A New Shell Plant in Pennsylvania Will Soon Become the State’s Second Largest Emitter of Volatile Organic Chemicals


ALIQUIPPA, Pa.—From the tranquility of her garden in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Terrie Baumgardner worries that her grandchildren will grow up without access to clean air, clean water and a safe space to play outdoors.

For decades, Beaver County’s economy has been dependent on polluting industries—first steel, and more recently natural gas drilling. Many longtime residents, who remember the prosperity brought by the steel industry, have welcomed the construction of a massive new Shell petrochemical plant and the politicians that support it.

Baumgardner and other environmental activists are discouraged that local residents and politicians favor the continuation of fracking and the new mega plastics plant it has spawned, but they are not giving up their fight.

“People say that’s what we do in Beaver County—we trade our health for jobs,” Baumgardner said. “But it’s unfortunate, because it doesn’t have to be that way now.”

A reluctant activist, Baumgardner first became involved in environmental issues in 2011, when she learned about the dangers posed by fracking. Concern for the environment and health of local residents led her to canvas for signatures in 2016 as Shell moved toward building the plastics plant.

Spanning nearly 800 acres along the Ohio River, the plant is expected to open later this year. The facility will convert fracked gas into 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene per year.

Polyethylene, made from ethane, a form of natural gas, is the key building block in numerous common plastic products—from food wrapping and trash bags to crates and bottles.


Despite assurances from Shell that the facility will be safe for the surrounding community, environmental activists have warned that the plant will cause air and water pollution, and a protracted dependence on fracking.

Under Shell’s permit, the plant can release up to 159 tons of fine particulate matter and 522 tons of volatile organic compounds per year. Exposure to these emissions has been linked to issues in the brain, liver, kidney, heart and lungs. They have also been associated with miscarriages, birth defects and cancer.

“They’re going to unload all of these toxic chemicals, hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds and millions of tons of CO2 gas. What’s going to happen?” asked Bob Schmetzer, a local councilman from nearby South Heights and a long-time spokesperson for Beaver County’s Marcellus Awareness Committee. He has opposed the plant since it was first proposed 10 years ago.

Jack Manning, a Beaver County Commissioner, does not share these concerns. “I have great faith in the technology and in the competency of those that will be running the facility,” he said. “It’s a state-of-the-art, world-class facility.”

Manning blamed people’s apprehension on unfair comparisons between the environmental impacts of the plant and those of the steel mills that used to occupy the area. “Those heavy particulates are a different type of pollution,” he said.

Shell has assured residents of the safety of its plant. “At Shell, safety is our top priority in all we do and that includes being a good neighbor by communicating about plant activities that could cause concern if not expected,” Virginia Sanchez, a Shell spokesperson, said in a statement. “When we are in steady operations, it is our goal to have little to no negative impact on our neighbors as a result of our activities.”

For activists, these assurances do little to allay concerns. On a grassy hillside overlooking the massive complex, Schmetzer spoke with his friend and fellow activist, Carl Davidson. While the plant is not yet operational, the grinding sounds of industrial machinery and screeches of train cars disturbed the clear fall day.

Photo: Bob Schmetzer and Carl Davidson, standing above the petrochemical plant. Credit: Emma Ricketts


Davidson, a self-professed “solar, wind and thermal guy,” wore a Bernie cap and alluded to his youth as a student leader of the New Left movement in the 1960s. While he estimates that around one-third of residents were concerned about the plant’s potential impacts from the beginning, he expects this number to grow once it opens. “People are starting to see two things,” he said. “Number one, there is all kinds of pollution that they didn’t know about. And second, all the jobs that were promised aren’t real.”

The plant sparked hope for a revival of economic prosperity in the area. However, now that construction is largely complete and thousands of workers have finished working on the site, the plant is expected to only employ about 600 people going forward, according to Shell.

While opponents wait anxiously for the plant to begin operations, they don’t think it will influence next week’s elections. The Shell plant has been a non-issue in the tight race for the 17th Congressional District in Beaver County between Democrat Chris Delluzio and Republican Jeremy Shaffer, both of whom support continued fracking.

In the state’s closely watched U.S. Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, both of whom support fracking, the environment has barely come up in a nasty campaign focused on abortion rights.

Similarly, fracking and the environment have hardly been mentioned in the governor’s race between Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, and Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump supporter and election denier.

Beaver County, while only counting for 1.3 percent of the votes cast in any given election in Pennsylvania, is a bellwether, according to Professor Lara Putman of the University of Pittsburgh. “It is socio-demographically similar to counties that, collectively, make up about one-quarter of Pennsylvania’s population. So in that sense, when Beaver shifts other places are usually shifting as well,” she said.

Baumgardner called the political candidates’ silence “disheartening.”

“I wish they would have the courage to speak up, to take a position and stick with it,” she said.

However, she understands the political risks associated with taking an environmental stand in a community that believes its economic fortunes are tied directly to pollution. She just wishes this wasn’t still the case. “We have alternatives,” she said. “We just need our political leaders to embrace them and get serious about renewables and removing the subsidies on fossil fuels.”


According to Davidson, the key to awakening the public is to ensure that alternatives are tangible. Good ideas aren’t enough to make people give up the job opportunities they have, he said. Clean energy projects are great in theory, but until workers can see a real job with similar wages, many will continue to support the status quo.

Progress might be slow, but Baumgardner, Davidson and Schmetzer remain hopeful that the realities of the plant will sway public opinion once residents’ senses are assaulted with the acrid smells and cacophony of relentless sound they expect the new plastics plant will emit. They each stand ready to educate people on its health and environmental impacts, as soon they are ready to listen. They may be discouraged, but are not deterred.

“Nothing is going to shut me down as long as my grandkids are here,” Baumgardner said.


Emma Ricketts is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She focuses on politics, policy and foreign affairs reporting, with a particular interest in climate change and environmental issues. Previously, Emma practiced as a lawyer in a New Zealand-based commercial litigation team where she focused on climate-related risk.

West Virginians Lead Blockade of Coal Plant That Made Manchin Rich

‘This is what the fight for a habitable planet looks like in real time.’

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

April 9, 2022 – Organizers of the “Coal Baron Blockade” protest which targeted right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s coal empire Saturday afternoon reported that state police almost immediately began arresting campaigners who assembled in Grant Town, West Virginia.

“Sen. Joe Manchin’s policies hurt poor people and hurt our environment so deeply that activists are ready to put themselves on the line,” tweeted the Poor People’s Campaign, which joined grassroots group West Virginia Rising and other organizations in the blockade.

Hundreds of campaigners participated in the blockade of Grant Town Power Plant, which receives coal waste from Enersystems, the company owned by the West Virginia senator’s son. Manchin earns $500,000 per year from Enersystems—”making a very lucrative living off the backs of West Virginians,” said Maria Gunnoe, an organizer of the action, this week.

At least 10 demonstrators had been arrested as of this writing.

“This is what the fight for a habitable planet looks like in real time,” said Jeff Goodell, author of The Water Will Come, of the dozens of campaigners who risked arrest.

Speakers and other participants highlighted the need for a just transition away from fossil fuels including coal, carrying signs that read “Solidarity with all coal workers.”

“My dad worked in a chemical plant until he retired with a disability from acute exposure,” said Holly Bradley, a ninth-generation West Virginian. “We can all find common ground, but Joe Manchin is making it impossible.”

Continue reading West Virginians Lead Blockade of Coal Plant That Made Manchin Rich

U.S. Steel Cancels $1 Billion Upgrades to Local Facilities; Plans to Close High Emissions Batteries at Clairton Coke Works

Clairton Coke Works

By Kimberly Rooney
Pittsburgh City Paper

April 30, 2021 – U.S. Steel Corporation is cancelling its $1 billion upgrades to its Mon Valley Works facilities, which includes Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, and the Clairton Coke Works in Clairton. While the cancellation will likely result in some job losses in the region, it will also reduce the levels of harmful air pollution in the Mon Valley and beyond.

The upgrades, which were announced May 2019, would have included a casting and rolling facility and a cogeneration plant. After several delays due to COVID in 2020 that increased the upgrade costs to a promised $1.5 billion, U.S. Steel pushed the start date of those upgrades to the fourth quarter of 2022. But today, the company announced it would be scrapping those plans entirely.

In addition to cancelling these updates, U.S. Steel plans to permanently idle batteries one through three at Clairton Coke Works by the first quarter of 2023. Batteries one through three are the oldest at the Coke Works and can allow twotothree times more emissions than the rest of the facility, according to environmental groups.

According to the EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, toxic air pollution contributes to high risk of cancer, and Clairton Coke Works is responsible for many of the airborne carcinogens in the region. Asthma rates among children in Clairton are three times higher than in the rest of the county.

“For too long, U.S. Steel has run roughshod over our environmental protections and churned out dangerous levels of harmful air pollution,” says PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center clean air advocate Zachary Barber. “Closing these batteries is a necessary and longoverdue step toward reducing that damage and cleaning our region’s air.”

Clairton Coke Works received a $1 million fine from the Allegheny County Health Department in 2019, as well as another $383,450 fine in March 2021. A study from the University of Pittsburgh also confirmed this week that the fire at the Coke Works in December 2018, which destroyed pollution controls, increased asthma exacerbations for residents in the surrounding area.

U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt cites the goal for the company to become carbon neutral by 2050 as a motivation for canceling the plan upgrades. As part of that goal, U.S. Steel will shift toward electric arc furnaces, such as Big River Steel, of which U.S. Steel bought a minority share in 2019, in Arkansas.

There are currently about 130 fulltime workers at the three Clairton Coke Works batteries that will be idled. U.S. Steel plans to avoid layoffs by reducing the workforce through retirements and reassignments. According to Pittsburgh Works Together, a cooperative venture mostly comprised of fossilfuel companies and the labor unions that represent their workers, the closures will result in the loss of hundreds of potential construction jobs for the region.

“I am deeply disappointed that the company has broken its promise to the Mon Valley and its own workers by scrapping a plan that would have made the Mon Valley Works the first project of its kind, provided cleaner air for our community and good jobs that would have helped this area prosper for decades,” says state Rep. Austin Davis (DMckeesport), whose district includes the Clairton Coke Works. “I believe that we can create familysustaining jobs and a clean environment.”

From March 30 to April 7, the Mon Valley was one of the top10 worst places for air quality in America. Advocates such as Barber have long criticized Clairton Coke Works’ dangerous emissions, and PennEnvironment had previously called for the batteries to be taken offline when air quality was poor.

“While we are pleased by this development, we still must remain vigilant — especially in light of U.S. Steel’s decadeslong history of legal violations and broken promises,” Barber says. “Local leaders must keep working to ratchet down industrial pollution to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe every day of the year.”

And it’s possible these upgrade cancellations will have longterm effects on U.S. Steel’s future in the Mon Valley and the Pittsburgh region. As University of Pittsburgh economist Chris Briem notes on Twitter, the status of the Clairton Coke Works and the Edgar Thompson Works is bleak without any upgrades to those legacy facilities.

In ‘Marshall Plan’ For Region, Pittsburgh’s Mayor Peduto Hopes Biden Can Pull Spending Plan From Dysfunctional Washington

By Daniel Moore
PostGazette Washington Bureau

DEC 8, 2020 – WASHINGTON — The architects of a newly unveiled 10year, $600 billion climate plan to revitalize Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley region are moving forward with a difficult task of building political willpower in Washington while gaining the trust of rural communities tied to the coal and natural gas industries, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told a group of sustainable development advocates Tuesday.

That coalitionbuilding — a communications strategy to be forged over the next six weeks among academic institutions in Pittsburgh and seven other cities — is a critical step toward executing the plan Mr. Peduto described as both idealistic and grounded in reality.

It is also necessary as a divided Congress gears up for a fight next year over PresidentElect Joe Biden’s proposal to pull the country out of an economic downturn while investing in clean energy development. Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans for a COVID19 relief bill have dragged for months, raising the question of whether Mr. Biden’s plan could garner enough support.

“We have been in touch during the [plan’s] research phase with the Biden campaign and their ‘Build Back Better’ authors,” Mr. Peduto said, referring to PresidentElect Joe Biden’s jobs and economic recovery plan.

Peduto joins mayors from W.Va., Ohio, Ky. to call for public/private support in climate-friendly industrial growth

Since Mr. Biden won the White House last month, Mr. Peduto and other local officials “have had contact with the transition team,” he said, “working to see what we can try to be able to get on the radar in Washington during the first 100 days of a new administration, while simultaneously working with grassroots organizations.”

Continue reading In ‘Marshall Plan’ For Region, Pittsburgh’s Mayor Peduto Hopes Biden Can Pull Spending Plan From Dysfunctional Washington

Book review: ‘THE MINISTRY for THE FUTURE’

It’s unwise to ignore Mother Nature, and not to find ways to live in harmony with her, and all other beings as well

By Kim Stanley Robinson
Orbit ($28)

Reviewed by Tom Cox

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Make no mistake, Kim Stanley Robinson’s new novel, “The Ministry of the Future,” is a good old-fashioned monster story. As with most monster stories, there is an inciting incident witnessed by a few wide-eyed and hysterical nobodies, but their cries are deemed “unreliable.” Who knows what they saw? It only affected those people. And besides, what do they expect us to do, empty the beaches on a holiday weekend just because somebody thinks they saw a shark?

In many of these tales, the monster is a metaphor for something else, such as “Babadook” (grief), “Rosemary’s Baby” (motherhood), “Get Out” (racism), and “Frankenstein” (humanity). But some of the scariest monster stories give us nightmares about the normal things we see in life. Not vampires, werewolves, blobs or radioactive lizards but crazed fans, preppie New York investment bankers or creepy hotel clerks. In “The Ministry of the Future,” Mr. Robinson aims his flashlight into the black waters to reveal just such a monster: climate change. Yeah, we’re going to need a bigger boat.

True to good monster lore, our story begins with an attack: a record-setting Indian heat wave knocks out power and roasts 20 million of the planet’s most vulnerable in two weeks’ time. Enter Mary Murphy, head of the Ministry of the Future, a rather toothless U.N. watchdog agency based in Zurich and created by an international treaty. Nevertheless, Murphy is serious about making a difference in the world and about her agency’s stated mission: “to advocate for the world’s future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future.” Despite the Indian tragedy, her attempts to enact real and drastic reduction in carbon emissions is resisted. National sovereignties are cited. Fingers of blame are pointed at the long-term carbon culprits, who in turn accuse the most recent contributors. Financial institutions entrench behind privilege and market share. The monster is not our problem.

When the rebuffed Murphy is confronted and briefly held captive in her own home by an addled survivor of the Indian carnage, she recognizes in his frantic demands not a criminal element but perhaps humanity itself (her own humanity?) crying out for drastic steps to be taken — acts of eco-terrorism and even the assassination of select carbon perpetrators. After the man is captured and her safety assured, Murphy finds it hard to dismiss his humble sacrifice and haunted eyes. Does confronting a monster like climate change call for more drastic steps? If black ops are used to fight terrorism, why not this? Maybe it’s time to get our hands dirty. She soon discovers, however, that her darkest notions of such an unauthorized, covert and lethal outfit already exists.

Whereas Mr. Robinson’s earlier novels on climate change, “New York 2140” and “2312,” are set far in the future and deal with the long-term aftermath of the destruction it caused, “The Ministry of the Future” dares to set events within our lifetimes, or at least within the lifetimes of our children. Thirty years from now, the devastation is just beginning. Things can still be done to stop the monster, but only if drastic and expensive steps are immediately undertaken and only if the whole world takes it seriously. If you have met the world, however, you know that this probably isn’t going to go well.

Mr. Robinson’s intrigue and geopolitical drama are well supported by his meticulous research into every sort of environmental theory, proposed solution and geo-engineering possibility, which he deftly incorporates into his work. If you’ve been looking for an environmental monster story in which the heroes are scientists who aren’t above taking off their gloves and getting their hands dirty, this might just be the campfire story for you.

Tom Cox is a writer living in Penn Hills.

Covid19 and Unions in Beaver County

Covid19 forced Shell to focus on workers’ health &safety at its construction site in Beaver County.

By Randy Shannon
Beaver County Blue

For months 8,000 workers were laboring, eating, and bus riding in close quarters. Some local construction workers said it was the safest cleanest site they had known. When Covid19 came around construction workers were worried but they couldn’t say anything. When a few cases showed up in Beaver County including one at Eaton Corp and one at Anchor-Hocking, then family members – spouses – decided the money Shell paid wasn’t worth risking the lives of their families.

Tina Shannon, the leader of Progressive Democrats of America starting receiving a few messages from people she knows, who had significant others working at Shell. They were concerned that the filth and the packed lunch rooms and buses would spread the virus.

The next day Tina posted a Call-In Day Event Page on Facebook and a massive email, asking people to call the County Commissioners and tell them to demand Shell shut down the construction site. As she publicized the Event, she got a lot of positive feedback. One local union friend did, however, respond by suggesting that her demand would “rob thousands of employees and their families of a living.”

Tina’s response, on March 18th, was: “Drawing everyone from throughout the County into this one place is a recipe of how to spread a virus. This is unconscionable. Take a look at Italy and then compare our very conservative numbers. We’re going to have to have federal legislation to give people income to get through this.”

In two days local folks, including people in Pittsburgh (located downwind) had bombed the County Commissioners with phone calls. The third day the County Commissioners held a press conference announcing that they wanted Shell to shut down construction immediately to prevent spread of Covid19. On March 18th Shell announced it was closing while claiming that it was safe and clean. Continue reading Covid19 and Unions in Beaver County

Jessica Benham Endorsed by Pittsburgh Trades Union

Jessica Benham - PHOTO: COURTESY THE CAMPAIGN

Photo: courtesy the campaign: Jessica Benham

Following Democratic committee snub

Pittsburgh City Paper

Disability-rights advocate Jessica Benham (D-South Side) has been running for Pennsylvania state House District 36 for several months and picked up a number of Democratic endorsements along the way, including Pittsburgh City Council President Theresa Kail Smith (D-West End) and state Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-West View).

But on Sunday, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee (ACDC) endorsed Benham’s opponent Heather Kass (D-Carrick) despite Kass’ past social media posts where she praised Donald Trump, decried the Affordable Care Act, and shared a far-right meme about Hillary Clinton.

The Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council issued a rebuke of the ACDC endorsement of Kass, saying, “There is no room — in the labor movement or in the Democratic party — for someone who trashes the Affordable Care Act and pushes propaganda from right-wing think tanks that exist to attack unions, hurt workers, and help corporate interests.”

WESA reported that AFLC didn’t endorse any candidate, but that Benham came closest to the threshold of votes needed to get the labor council’s endorsement.

Today, a local union that sits within the AFLC has announced it is endorsing Benham in the District 36 race.

Operating Engineers Local 66 is backing Benham and Local 66 business manager Jim Kunz says in a press release that Benham “will be an advocate for our workers and for family-sustaining union jobs in the natural gas industry, ensuring that our members will have a voice in conversations about jobs and the environment.”

OE Local 66 represents more than 7,900 members in 33 Western Pennsylvania counties as well as three counties in Ohio. Members complete construction and other work for contractors, private businesses, and municipalities. OE Local 66 members are currently working on the ethane cracker plant in Beaver County and a power plant in Lawrence County.

“In my ongoing conversations with them, we have discussed the necessity of a public policy that protects our environment without leaving workers behind,” said Benham in a press release.

“When I talk about clean air and water, I want to center everyone who is impacted.”

Benham says she looks forward to working with unions, community members, and environmental advocates to move the region toward a sustainable energy future.

Continue reading Jessica Benham Endorsed by Pittsburgh Trades Union

Fracking-Well Blast 60 Miles From Pittsburgh Leaked More Methane Than Some Countries Emit In a Year

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

Dec 17, 2019 – In 2018, a natural-gas well exploded near Powhatan Point in Ohio, a small town that sits along the Ohio River, just 60 miles from Pittsburgh as the crow flies. The fracking well was owned and operated by a subsidiary of oil giant Exxon.

According to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this single explosion emitted a gargantuan amount of methane into the atmosphere. Over the 20 days it took for Exxon to plug the well, more than 57,000 metric tons of methane was released, at a rate of about 120 metric tons of methane per hour.

This figure, from one well in less than three weeks, eclipsed the annual amount of methane that is emitted by the oil and gas industries of France, Norway, and the Netherlands combined. The Ohio blast is now the largest known methane leak on record in the U.S. and was twice as large as the previous largest leak that occurred at an oil and gas storage facility in California in 2015.

@NaomiAKlein: Terrifying story about a blowout in Ohio that released “as much methane as the entire oil and gas industries of some nations release in a year.” EDF – which has aggressively pushed NatGas as a “bridge fuel” – explains that this could be happening every day https://nyti.ms/34tdR7f

The findings mark a step forward in using space technology to detect leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas sites worldwide.

Methane is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. Studies vary, but methane is generally considered to be between 25-84 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The study determined the scope of the leak using satellite technology, and the authors praised the mapping system to reveal just how damaging the incident was in terms of how much greenhouse gas was emitted. Continue reading Fracking-Well Blast 60 Miles From Pittsburgh Leaked More Methane Than Some Countries Emit In a Year

Pennsylvania Is Ready For A Just, Clean-Energy Future

By Colleen Kennedy
OurFuture.org

Oct 7, 2019 – Pennsylvania is ready for a just, clean-energy future. Ever since 1859, when Edwin Drake ushered in the modern era’s addiction to fossil fuels when he struck “rock oil” in Titusville, our state has been at the front lines of the extraction industry’s booms and busts. We are way past ready for a Just Transition to renewable sources of energy and a sustainable future for us all.

For a century and a half, we’ve watched corporations pull poisons from the ground, then leave the health and safety of our communities in ruins as they move on with all the riches. From poisoned rural waterways to the nearly catastrophic explosion at a South Philadelphia oil refinery earlier this year, no part of the state has been left unscathed. But even after a century and a half, the extraction industry still thinks the people of Pennsylvania can be fooled by its false narrative. We won’t.

Rose Tennent, a longtime conservative pundit and surrogate for the Trump campaign, now leads this unholy choir in Pennsylvania. She recently penned an op-ed decrying Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to ban fracking entirely under her presidency.

Presumptuously claiming to speak for all Pennsylvanians, Tennent argues Warren’s proposal will kill the “desirable” jobs that have accumulated in the state as a result of the fracking industry, which she irresponsibly calls “responsible.”

Let’s talk jobs first – because the statistical data Tennent relies on is grossly inaccurate. She overstates the positive impact the fracking industry has had on communities.

Speaker Mike Turzai, Tennent’s extraction-loving wing man in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, doesn’t even bother to remove industry emblems from the handouts he uses to promote fracking. Like Tennent, he touts the number of jobs he says fracking has created in the state. But we need to look beyond this headline to get to the truth. Continue reading Pennsylvania Is Ready For A Just, Clean-Energy Future