This story was originally posted on Jackie James Creedon's Blog, The Whole Truth on May 14, 2013.
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On Wednesday May 8, Andrew Baumgartner, Tonawanda Community Fund (TCF) intern attended the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2′s seminar titled “Leveraging Environmental Monitoring – Key Steps in Producing Credible Data” at University of Buffalo (UB) North campus. Here is his review from the seminar.
Me, designing and reporting TCF soil study
The purpose of the workshop was to help teach “citizen scientists” how to produce useful data and reports that can be used in community based environmental monitoring, data that could open up new doors for community groups like the Tonawanda Community Fund. Although it’s always been possible for community groups to do their own preliminary research, the EPA now recognizes the effectiveness of this type of research and is promoting concerned citizens to act as partners in change. This was only the third workshop of this type in the country. Judith Enck, our EPA region 2 administrator, is a big proponent of citizen science, so we have her to thank for bringing this seminar to Western New York
The first half of the program focused on the details behind what’s considered “good” citizen science and things to keep in mind when designing projects, both from a scientific and an activist point of view. EPA representatives touched on a little bit of everything, from statistics to the organizational structure of a community based project. For the less technical people in the room like myself, this all went by a little fast and was fairly brief. Focusing on mostly air and water sampling, the information didn’t always directly apply to the soil testing like that of the Tonawanda Community Fund (TCF), but did get across the main idea of the need to look heavily into the design of a study before starting. Things like background samples, co-location of test sampling, contamination all need to be taken into account before proceeding. Since community groups usually don’t have a lot of extra cash sitting around, this is easier said than done.
Sampling, whether it’s the equipment or the lab analysis, is expensive so community groups have to pick and choose between spending money on gathering more data or validating data already obtained. This is where the EPA comes in. When having to make decisions like these, the EPA can be a great ally. Also available are local colleges and universities who can help out and provide everything from professor input to undergraduate volunteers to help provide the most credible data for the money spent. We understand how this resource can be helpful because UB and the State University of NY at Fredonia are currently collaborating with us on a soil testing project in Tonawanda.
The second half of the program focused on what to do once the community based data was obtained. Groups can then use their reports to apply for grants and gain more support both politically and residentially for their cause. The main purpose of a preliminary study is to show whether or not further study is warranted, and it’s hard to say exactly where to go from there until you have a judgment call on what the data actually means. Touching on an example used, an air sample showing toxins could mean either that the air is polluted, or that am amtrack train was idling nearby giving a “false positive”. This judgment call is up to whoever is reading the report, whether it be somebody at the EPA, a local professor or a politician. This is why it’s so important that citizen scientists focus on gathering “good” data not just data. Even if a study does show high levels of whatever toxin you’re looking for, there’s a long process of rationalization that has to be done afterwards to determine whether or not those numbers reflect what’s going on in the community as a whole.
TCF members taking soil samples in Tonawanda: Me, Chuck Matteliano (L) and Jackie James Creedon (Background)
While I was working with the TCF on our preliminary soil study in Nov. 2012, I kept these things in mind during its design. We had to think about contamination, background sampling and the overall scientific validity of our work. To prevent contamination, we made sure that our samples were taken several feet away from the curb, grills, lawnmowers, driveways and anything else onsite that could be another potential source for the contaminants (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH’s) we were looking for. We took our comparison sample upwind, in Grand Island, of the suspected pollution source. This was used to compare samples from an area of suspected contamination to that of what we considered “normal” soil in the area. We wanted to be able to take more background samples, as well as co-locate samples as suggested in the EPA seminar, but our financial limitations acted as a roadblock. Our report was finished in the spring of 2013 and given to both the EPA and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for their interpretations of our study.
This summer (2013), the TCF will be doing an extension to our original soil study by taking 12-24 more samples in neighborhoods around the Tonawanda industrial corridor. If you live in Grand Island, the Tonawanda’s, North Buffalo, or Kenmore, and are interested in having the soil tested in your yard, contact TCF at 716-873-6191.
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In recognition of Earth Day 2013, Ecology and Environment, Inc. is pleased to announce the 2013 WNY Earth Day Awards. Awards will be given in the following categories:
Given to two or more organizations that collaborated on an environmental or sustainability-oriented project or program. The award will be given to the organizations (non-profit, for-profit, government agencies, K-12 schools, universities, etc.) that achieved the most noteworthy impact as a result of their collaboration.
Next Generation Award
Given in recognition of the program or event that most creatively and successfully educated and trained the next generation (children ages 4-18) in sustainability, ecology, biology, or other related areas. Did you do something impactful with kids or students in the last year? What was the goal, how did you creatively approach the challenge, and what was achieved?
Sustainable Business Award
Given to the for-profit enterprise that demonstrated the most significant impact (relative to its size) on behalf of its clients or by changing its internal operations or business model to advance the goals of triple bottom line thinking. Large and small businesses are welcome to apply. What have you achieved or undertaken over the last 12 months in terms of the impact of the products, processes of manufacturing those products,services you provided or the cumulative effects of improvements to your operations?
Earth Day Program Award
Given to the organization that most creatively and successfully leveraged Earth Day in a positive way,
either through a community event or program or through an internal event or program. What are you
doing for Earth Day this year, and why is it award-worthy?
Given to an individual whose significant and longstanding service to the people and the environment of Western New York should be recognized and celebrated. Frequent or prominent leadership is commendable but not a requirement for this award—behind-the-scenes leaders will also be considered.
Any organization, team or individual within the 8-county Western New York region may apply. Projects must be currently underway or have been completed within the last 12 months.
To be considered for an award, please send your submission to Bob Gibson (email@example.com) by Wednesday, April 10th. Please indicate the award or awards for which you would like to be considered, and attach your entry as a Microsoft Word document. Entries must be limited to two pages, but additional supporting information may also be attached, such as PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, photos, or videos.
If you would like to nominate someone for the Impact Award, please let us know why you feel the individual
should be considered, limiting your response to a one to two page Microsoft Word document.
Selection and Announcement
E & E will convene a panel of 5 judges representing a cross-section of experts frombusiness, academia, NGOs, etc. to review the submissions and determine this year’s winners. The winners will be notified the week of April 15-19, and the awards will be presented during an Earth Day event at the UB Solar Strand on the North Campus from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm on Earth Day, Monday, April 22.
If you have any questions, or require additional information, please contact Bob Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Ever wonder what a NY State that runs on all renewable energy would be like? Or what kinds of trade-offs might be required between what people say they want (for example, cheap photovoltaics [PV], which only seem to exist when you stick someone ELSE with the costs to buy and install them) and what we as a state collectively might be able to afford (commercial scale wind, biomass, biogas and maybe some tidal from Long Island Sound, with a bit of PV). What if there was ONLY a couple of hundred billion dollars available for this conversion over, say, the next 20 years, and not the trillion plus dollars that the mostly PV route seems to imply? Aside from crimping some peoples lifestyle, would the "cost" of being near wind turbines be too much for the few who seem to be the decision makers in NY or just Western NY? And yes, such approaches COULD employ a lot of NY'ers if done correctly (or a bunch of people residing elsewhere if done incorrectly), but is the "collective we" willing to pay for this job creation via the price we pay for electricity? And this says nothing about how subsidized ALL forms of energy are in the USA these days, or whether these subsidies should continue to exit, or which ones of them....
Anyway, here (http://growwny.org/images/stories/documents/bwag031513_PeaceCenter1a.ppt.pdf) is a link to a presentation that will hopefully get you asking some of these questions, such as how much are you really prepared to pay to go all renewable, electricially wise. However, the task of replacing the energy we use for transportation - at present, mostly oil - is not really addressed. Most people don't seem will to deal with Peak Oil - maybe the price of oil products is not high enough yet. In case you are curious why you should be concerned, here are some of the answers in graphical form. But that's a whole different discussion....
Sources: US Energy Information Agency (http://www.eia.gov - old links expired, however)
Anyway, this presentation is not an official position of any organization, just my own two cents worth. Got any comments?
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Reprinted with permission from Re-ENERGIZE BUFFALO for "All things GREEN: Energy, Environment and Economy"
The journal New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy has just released a special issue. It covers concerns related to shale gas extraction with respect to scientific, economic, social, environmental and health policy. All of the articles in the special issue are available online (see link below).
The issue opens with an Editorial entitled "An Energy Policy that Provides Clean and Green Power" by Craig Slatin and Charles Levenstein. They write:
Now shale gas extraction conducted through the technological process commonly referred to as “fracking” is touted by the oil and gas industry as the next great energy boon. They tell us that gas will be so plentiful that it will answer all of our energy-related problems. Best yet, it will end the unemployment crisis that lingers past the Great Recession, leading to millions of jobs over the next several decades. Its promoters claim that we can have energy independence and a fuel that burns cleaner than coal—while they spread denial that the threat of catastrophic climate change is real or has much to do with human activity.
Let’s not be deceived: shale gas extraction will neither fulfill the prophesies nor be useful in the transition to just, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economies across the globe. It is business as usual. It is owned and operated by industries with more than a century’s legacy of greed, corruption, war provocation, pollution, illness, injury and death, environmental degradation, and a steady stream of propaganda and lobbying to limit its regulation by governments.
One claim of industry propaganda is backed by a reference to a publication from an independent source. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the Marcellus Shale deposit “contains about 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas," a figure which is 80 percent less than that supplied to the U.S. Energy Information Agency by industry consultants.
The Editorial concludes with a call for the need of a national energy policy that addresses climate change and protects human health and welfare:
Whatever short-term assistance the American economy gains from the continued use of fossil fuels, the highest priority must be placed on establishing a national energy policy, coordinated with an international set of energy policies, that aims for immediate measures to avert catastrophic climate change and establish a transition toward producing and delivering clean, green, and sufficient energy as part of the foundation for sustainable development. Attention to the health and welfare of workers and communities affected by these changes must be an essential priority of this new energy policy.
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OPINION / COMMENTARY
Editor's Note: The following public submission is a response to the New York State Hydrofracking Regulations Comment Period. If you would like to share the comments you submit to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation with GrowWNY.org, please do so here.
Here are my comments submitted to the NYSDEC about the proposed onslaught of fracking based natural gas exploitation in the (initially) Marcellus Shale Resource (Utica Shales are next). Sorry about the multiple entende aspects of the title, but, in this case, the gas and oil Exploration and Production (E&P) business and their spokepersons/lobbyists sort of are getting their just karmic desserts. "Fracking" is now a word, and that is a victory of sorts for us environmentalists. And while it is so much easier to say "fracking" than "High Volume Horizontal Fracturing Stimulation of non-permeable hydrocarbon formations", "fracking" also has other meanings, and to many people, these ALSO are an accurate summation of "High Volume et al...", which itself is a term of propagandists to make something seem less hazardous than it might actually be. Sometimes there is lots of power in a word or a phrase, so by all means, please use "fracking" when discussing this methane mining practice with the DEC, or anyone else...
Of course, fracking is unneeded in NY State if we would just use more common sense, and install wind turbines. The two are no longer economically compatible and are getting less so on a political (but crossing party lines in many cases) basis, so you need to choose, and whether fracking is or is not allowed will determine the rate at which renewable energy will displace pollution based electricity in NY State......