About Air and Water

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Limits on Emissions Have Wide Support

By Steven Mufson and Jennifer Agiesta - Washington Post Staff Writers - Thursday, June 25, 2009
Three-quarters of Americans think the federal government should regulate the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases from power plants, cars and factories to reduce global warming, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with substantial majority support from Democrats, Republicans and independents.
But fewer Americans -- 52 percent -- support a cap-and-trade approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions similar to the one the House may vote on as early as tomorrow. That is slightly less support than cap and trade enjoyed in a late July 2008 poll. Forty-two percent of those surveyed this month oppose such a program.

The Washington Post-ABC News survey showed that support slipped slightly when people were asked whether they would be willing to pay higher prices in general or higher electricity bills in exchange for significant decreases in greenhouse gases. Although 62 percent of those surveyed said they would support regulation even if it raised the price of purchases and 56 percent would back cap and trade if it resulted in a $10 increase in utility costs, 44 percent said they would back a cap-and-trade system if it boosted monthly electricity bills by $25.

"I think there hasn't been enough regulation," said Janet Opkyke, 60, a freelance book editor in northern Michigan. "Way back when deregulation started, I thought it was the wrong thing to do. I thought it was a license for greed. And I'm glad to see it swinging the other way." She added, "I think greenhouse gases are very harmful, and we have to do something about it."

Cap and trade is a signature issue for President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership, and it is the centerpiece of the 1,201-page climate bill co-sponsored by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hopes to bring the measure to the House floor for a vote tomorrow -- before a week-long recess for the Fourth of July holiday -- but a dispute with Republicans over annual spending bills could delay that plan.

Pelosi called the bill "a wonderful collaboration," and most environmental groups and a large number of companies endorsed it yesterday, despite last-minute concessions made to win the support of farm-state lawmakers led by the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.).

"These changes will not help the cause of making real reductions in greenhouse gases," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. "And even some strong supporters of the Waxman-Markey legislation are now holding their noses, as if on the perimeter of a hog farm."

Nonetheless, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said yesterday in a statement that despite the changes, the group still opposes the "seriously flawed" climate legislation.

A cap-and-trade system sets a limit on the nation's emissions of greenhouse gases, then issues or auctions emission allowances that can be bought or sold by individuals, funds and companies. Over time, the cap is lowered to reduce the nation's emissions. Making emitters pay for carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, would provide incentives for developing renewable energy sources and new technologies to limit emissions from coal plants.

Debate over the cap-and-trade approach has focused on the cost to the average American. The Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that cap and trade would cost the average U.S. household $175 a year in 2020, but House Republicans have pushed the message that the legislation would cost many times that and drive millions of jobs offshore.

That message has failed to sway liberal and moderate Republicans, 60 percent of whom back a cap-and-trade program, but it appeals to the party's conservative base.

Tiffany Collins, 31, a part-time children's activity director at a church and a mother of four in Riverside, Calif., said she does not think greenhouse gases are causing climate change. She said she read a report on the Internet saying climate change was linked to changes in the sun's activity. But in any case, she does not support government intervention. "
I'm opposed to the government overregulating just about everything. It costs us money, and they don't do a very good job of it," she said.

One argument used by foes of climate legislation is that the United States should not take action unmatched by China and India, among the world's fastest-growing economies and sources of greenhouse gases. But the Post-ABC poll showed that six in 10 Americans favor U.S. action, even if other countries do less to confront climate change.

One of the sharpest dividing lines in attitudes toward climate legislation was age, with younger adults more receptive to cap and trade and federal regulation of greenhouse gases. Nearly two-thirds of those younger than 30 said they support cap and trade, and eight in 10 support federal limits on emissions. Among seniors, about four in 10 said they back a cap-and-trade proposal, and half favor federal intervention on emissions.

Sensitivity to increased prices is highest among those in households with incomes under $50,000. Nearly all of the drop-off in support for cap and trade or other greenhouse gas regulation comes among people who live in such households. Those in higher-income households were relatively unfazed by the increased costs.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone June 18 to 21 among a national random sample of 1,001 adults; results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.
Read more in the Washington Post

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Barnett Shale rights of way bill among 37 vetoed by Perry

By Dave Montgomery - Fort Worth Star-Telegram - June 19, 2009

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry on Friday vetoed 37 bills passed by the 2009 Legislature, including a measure that would have allowed natural gas pipelines in the Barnett Shale to be routed along state rights of way.

Perry also struck down a major expansion of pre-kindergarten programs sponsored by state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, along with bills sponsored by two other House members from Tarrant County. Sunday is the deadline for Perry to deal with legislation.

Perry signed the nearly $182 billion budget to run the state for the next two years. But he cut $288.9 million through line-item vetoes, mostly appropriations for bills that were either vetoed or failed to make it through the Legislature.

The budget includes $5 million that will allow the University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Nursing to establish a regional nursing education center. The program intends to double the number of undergraduate nursing students from 400 to 800 by 2012, according to a university news release. The appropriation was sponsored by state Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington.

"I am proud of the accomplishments lawmakers made this session and thankful for their solid leadership," Perry said. "However, there was some legislation that, in its final form, would have done more harm than good to our citizens."

Barnett Shale

In vetoing the Barnett Shale bill sponsored by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, Perry said he agreed that the measure "would provide a benefit to communities and reduce the impact on private property owners." But, he said, the measure, Senate Bill 686, conflicted with a similar bill he signed into law that permits gas corporations to lay and maintain lines under public rights of way.

Davis’ bill was a top priority for Fort Worth during the legislative session and was aimed at easing disruptions in residential areas as a result of natural gas drilling.

On Friday night, Fort Worth City Councilman Jungus Jordan said city officials would review the bill Perry referred to — House Bill 2572 — to determine whether the city could use it to meet its goal of routing natural gas pipelines away from residential neighborhoods.

"We’re going to have to sort through it," said Jordan, saying the city’s fundamental objective is to accommodate "the need for pipelines without interfering with the quality of life in neighborhoods."

Perry said HB 2572 "accomplishes the same objectives statewide while ensuring that pipelines are installed using the highest safety standards."


Patrick’s bill would have created a grant program to enable eligible school districts to implement or continue full-day pre-kindergarten programs.

Perry said that a similar grant program exists and that the $25 million appropriated for Patrick’s bill could be used to dramatically increase the number of students served through the program.

Passage of the bill was a major legislative accomplishment for Patrick, a former teacher who served on the Arlington school board. She could not be reached to comment Friday night.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, applauded Perry’s veto, saying it would have created "an additional and unnecessary government" pre-kindergarten program.

Tarrant County reps

Reps. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and Todd Smith, R-Euless, also lost bills to Perry’s veto pen.

Smith was the sponsor of House Bill 3148 that would have allowed certain defendants to petition a judge for an exemption from registering as a sex offender. The legislation would have applied only to age-based offenses involving consensual sex in which the defendant was no more than four years older than a victim who was at least 13 years old.

Smith, a lawyer, said the bill was designed to protect teens and young adults engaged in consensual sex from being branded as sex offenders. But Perry said the bill "fails to adequately protect young victims."

Veasey’s bill, House Bill 3481, would have permitted criminal records to be expunged in cases in which no charges resulted from an arrest or investigation. In vetoing the bill, Perry said it "precipitates an untenable injustice to victims and a hazard to public safety."

Veasey said the veto was unwarranted. "I’m shocked," he said. "I thought this was a good chance to give innocent people back their names."

Other legislation

Perry has used a lighter hand with his veto pen this year. Shortly after his first session as governor in 2001, he set the known record for vetoes by a Texas governor with 83. He vetoed 49 bills after the 2007 legislative session.

Gov. George W. Bush had far fewer vetoes during his tenure. His highest total for a legislative session was 38 in 1997.

Other vetoes Friday included:

A bill that would have made it easier for Child Protective Services to remove children from a home while investigating possible abuse. The governor agreed with critics that the measure would infringe on the rights of parents and guardians. At the same time, Perry ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services to develop statewide procedures for seeking court orders without compromising the rights of parents and families.

A proposal to require that drivers give bikes, motorcyclists and pedestrians at least a 3-foot space when passing,

A resolution that would have requested that Perry appoint a task force on horse and greyhound racing,

A measure that specifies what types of marketing and public opinion campaigns the Texas Department of Transportation can spend money on.

Perry signed legislation allowing public schools to buy electronic textbooks, saying it will "further propel Texas schools into the 21st century and ensure that our students have access to the most up-to-date information available in each subject."

And he said he would allow nine bills to become law without his signature, including a resolution that would have designated the Brady World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-off as the official state goat barbecue championship cook-off.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

Read more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is this "the industry standard" for covering up a drilling well sump hole so children can't fall in?

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - June 6, 2009

PHOTO BY EDDIE CROSSWHITE - copyright 2009 - used by permission
Driver Pipeline's work crew's responded to instructions this week to cover-up the deep well hole (sump holes) on the Daniel Drive DFW Midstreams Pipeline/ONCOR constuction site in East Arlington. Homeowner Eddie Crosswhite photographed the hole from his back yard after the crew was gone. The president of DFW Midstreams Pipeline, in a phone coversation with Faith Chatham Wednesday afternoon stated:
"They are supposed to be covering the sump hole when they leave each day. Do you know if that is happening?"
Faith assured him that she could find out.

A call to Mr. Crosswhite, whose's home shares a common boundary only a few feet north of this site, prompted him to shoot this picture. Harriet Irby shot video tape of one of the Zapada children, an adorable pre-schooler, playing in his side yard about ten feet from this uncovered, insufficiently-fenced, unsecured, toxic sump-hole filled with drilling chemicals, petroleum residue, salt water and sludge from the coring process. This is not a mud puddle. It is a deep-well hole filled with quick-sand-like drilling sludge.

Construction commenced on this site about nine weeks ago. The company has not fenced the site, despite knowlege that several children reside in the home sharing the southern boundary of this pipeline construction site.

Neither ONCOR/Luminant, owner of the utility right-of-way, nor DFW Midstreams Pipeline, nor their parent company, Texas Energy Futures, has exercised minimal work-site security precautions at the Daniel Drive pipeline construction site in this residential neighborhood.. Their one security guard usually sits in a car parked without a clear view of the opening between the Zapata children's back and side yards and the uncovered sump-holes on the construction site.

Blantant disregard for the health and safety of residents in this neighborhood opens investors in these companies to unnecessary risks.

See related article in The Arlington Texan with embedded links to Jim Grimes and the NEWS 33 teams coverage.

Persuaded by pipeline industry lobbyist citing the advantages of "self-regulation",and generous campaign contributions by individuals and industry PACS, Texas lawmakers have stripped municipalities and other governmental agencies (other than the Texas Railroad Commission) from authority to enforce local building codes and ordinances at pipeline construction sites. Lawmakers have granted the Texas Railroad Commission sole authority to enforce what few restrictions Texas places on the pipeline industry. Gas development in the Barnett Shale, in high-density inner city neighborhoods creates health and safety hazards on par with construction in backward third-world countries.

It doesn't take a petroleum engineer or environmental scientist to identify numerous violations to common decency and reasonable work-place safety practices at this site.

I don't believe there is a parent or grandparent employed at any of these companies would trust the less than "half-ass" poles forming a triangle around this well-sump hole we saw at the Daniel Dr. site Wednesday night to keep any of their children or grandchildren from falling in if they were, like the Zapata children, living within a few feet of this hazard!

Curiousity is natural. Children learn about danger by testing it. Small children disobey parents and go out in their yard when the get a chance.

We urge investors in Luminant, ONCOR, TXU, Texas Energy Futures, and DFW Midsrtreams Pipeline to complain to your investor relations officials about unnecessary risks at these company's work-sites and/or on their utility easements in Arlington.

Without reasonable regulation and sensible enforcement, chaos thrives. Where there is chaos, there are accidents. This job site reflects chaos and shows evidence of unmigitated stupidity.

PHOTO BY EDDIE CROSSWHITE - copyright 2009 - used by permission
This is not the only unsecured, uncovered sump-hole at a DFW Midstreams Pipeline construction site in East Arlington.

After videotaping this site, Mr. Crosswhite and Harriet Irby, photographed another one on the ONCOR/LUMINANT utility easement at a City of Arlington park adjacent to Hugh Smith Recreation Center on New York Ave. The coring/drilling site on the park is farther away from homes than the narrow distance between the Zapata home and Crosswhite home on Daniel Drive. However, parks attract children. All families do not keep their children home after dark. Instead of erecting a fence and installing a gate around the drilling site which they can lock, the company erected barriers on some sides and left at least one side open.

Other Problems:
At the Park, we saw a hose running from the sump hole into a creek outside of the utility easement (a possible E.P.A. violation to The Clean Water Act). The sump-hole was uncovered.

The security guard was on the parking lot, across the creek some distance from the worksite. It appears that the company uses security more to insure that their equipment is not stolen than to help prevent people, especially children, from wandering in and getting hurt.

Chemicals utilized in the drilling operation were not secured at either job site. What good does it do to regulate child-safety at day care centers, schools and residences when companies are allowed to to leave hazardous chemicals unsecured near children's play yards. We videotaped one of the Zapata children playing near stacks of buckets/pails of drilling chemicals stored by the pipeline construction crew between his home and the temporary plyboard wall they erected. The company refers to it as "sound-baffling" but it has no sound absorbant blankets on it like are normally used when companies are serious about sound-abatement. For the convenience of the workers, they left a generous opening between the plyboard so they could get to the chemicals, without concern that their opening (and other unfenced openings) makes it easy for children to wander onto the jobsite, and possibly fall into one of three deep quicksand-like sump holes on the site!
They drill down 15' to 20' and install the steel pipe utilizing horizontal drilling similar to when they drill the gas wells. They bring up salt water and sludge from the coring operation out of the well-holes (sump holes). These are deep, dangerous, wet, sump holes filled with drilling mud and drilling chemicals. They are wide enough for an adult to fall in and drown, let alone a child.

Industrial Development in parks and neighbors:

What good does it do for parents and schools and daycares to lock dangerous household chemicals in closets and kitchen counters when an industry is allowed to leave pails and buckets and barrels of chemicals on unfenced worksites adjacent to children's play-yards? Perhaps the pipelne industry will take work-site safety more seriously if Texas lawmakers grants the Department of Child Protective Services inspection authority for work-sites in residential neighborhoods and at parks. An industry which chooses to operate in residential neighborhoods deserves greater, not less, scrunity. Fines generated for safety violations involving risks to children's health and welfare could help fund additional social workers to inspect worksites and to cover regular CPS case work for at-risk children. To avoid CPS caseworkers coming onto their worksites, they may get serious and take child safety issues on worksites in residential neighborhoods seriously.

If the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society are put at the greatest risk as their parks and neighborhoods are invaded by industrial development, state lawmakers cannot continue exempting an arrogant industry from observing zoning codes, safety ordinances and construction/worksite regulations which other businesses have to observe.

Lawmakers should allow local municipalities to enforce reasonable regulations on pipeline transmission, construction, and gas and petroleum production and storage in high-density residential neighborhoods. Since children are at greater risk, companies who ignore basic child safety practices while profiting from developing gas (and transmission) in the Barnett Shale should fund additional services for those who bear the cost -- the children who live nearby.

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