Sunday, May 3, 2009

VERITAS: Truth Will Out

Hello World Family,
Falcon, here.

This is a serious post, with not a lot of humor, because we are at a point collectively where the proverbial party is long over. Those of you who have read my personal My Space bio know the quote from Orwell about truth being a truly revolutionary at during times of universal deceit. Well, I cannot think of a better time to use this quote in our history than right now.

During the past few weeks many of you know that I attended some pretty heavy events. Visiting Congress again was heavy duty work, but some things had to be put forward. It was an important moment, because just a couple of days before the climate change lobby began on the part of we outdoor enthusiasts, the EPA sided with the Supreme Court and stated that climate change is in fact a global health hazard. This is a massive decision because it puts to rest those who have been living in the land of make-believe that global warming was myth.

This was one of those preposterous arguments that as a scientist I always thought was insane. We had solid evidence in the early 1970’s that CO2 and other trapped gasses were warming up the atmosphere and would have catastrophic consequences. Although most models were not able to predict the swiftness with which our proverbial manure hit the fan, it was all there. But, there was a campaign of deceit, and that was such a solidly well run masquerade that many were fooled by it, and as a result, are having some serious problems coming to grips with the reality of our situation.

The time for amazement is over, action is needed. Contact your elected officials and do everything you can to make sure that they understand that ACES is extremely important to the entire world, not just the U.S.

The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act isn’t perfect. It does have a chance of passing Congress, which won’t happen if people are still arguing about whether climate change is real or not. In the not too distant future, we will be put in the unenviable position of simply going through the motions because the tipping point will have passed, and we will all be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to start with something, and this is the something most can agree on. Let’s get it done.

I know, there’s a lot going on, and back to veritas…truth seems to be lacking in some respects in a variety of corners. Many people are just proverbially punch drunk about what is going on around them. Their 401K has been cut in half or worse from where it was just a year ago.

Another example of universal deceit: markets built on leveraged goods and exotic financial bundles along with Ponzi schemes bankrupt many around the globe. Most of that was built on absolute lies and misinformation. Bernie Madoff ran a simple Ponzi scheme for years. There were those who spoke out and said that this investment firm could not be playing by the rules and producing the results it claimed. Yet, the lies continued, and people were told the lies again and again. Some of those people lost their entire life savings, some lost whole scholarship funds that were putting thousands of students through college.
All the while, Madoff kept on lying; to himself, to his investors, and to his conscience. Many people thought he was a good man. He was a good man with a greedy undercurrent and a very bad plan.
Truth telling was absent from the room, and many have had to come to grips with the fact that someone they knew and trusted for years lied to them. It is a bitter pill, and its consequences are far reaching.

I have seen interpersonal demonstrations of this as well. For example: A man defending to the last a position of a friend he believes he knows well…and not knowing that this guy has suppressed, repressed, lied, and denied his way through his life, right in front of him. This man believes he is acting on good cause for his friend, but he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. The friend has failed to take responsibility for actions that are farther reaching than he thinks, and the friend thinks he is a good man…and he is: a good man with perhaps a poor plan.

Now, concerning Environmental Justice...
The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) held its first annual Environmental Justice Conference in Harrisburg April 26-28, 2009. Drexel University along with a host of sponsors brought neighborhood activists from EJ communities, scientists, doctors, EPA, DCNR, and other officials together to discuss what the DEP could begin to do to correct some of its approaches in certain communities. Don’t get me wrong, there have been successes, but the DEP itself realized it needed to inquire about how to improve what to do. I am glad they asked.

First, the DEP needs to issue a moratorium on the use of chloramine in drinking water across the state. I know, you want to reduce cancer risks caused by agents that form with leaf and debris with chlorine, but chloramine has some serious problems. It dissolves rubber (not good for infrastructure in any neighborhood, much less disadvantaged ones), eats pipes and will leech lead, iron and other heavy metals into the drinking water at the faucet. Now, you can get a relatively inexpensive pitcher with a filter that will remove impurities, but that doesn’t solve the problem with the whole house. Children have to bath in this lead infested water, and testing at the plant does nothing to counteract the problems from aging pipes in the hook up to the house. It is kind of ironic holding an Environmental Justice conference while allowing something that could be potentially devastating to hundreds of thousands of households go through without due pause.
Here’s the big blow: in cities where chloramine was employed, the lead levels went up in those tested by 72%!!! This is completely unacceptable. The science simply doesn’t support putting this in to municipal systems. More research and some lucidity is called for. The PUC (Public Utility Commission) should hold additional hearings and put the brakes on this implementation.

Second, the permit fees must be raised extensively on oil and gas well drilling, particularly those employing horizontal well drilling in the Marcellus Shale. In addition, liability and risk must be determined at every stage of the process, and right now, that is not being done. What happens if there is a leak in the system, and a land owners sink faucet becomes an inferno? They are drinking and bathing in water that could have contamination from the wells being drilled. It could effect the neighbors’ water. Who is going to be responsible for the contaminated wells? What if there is a runoff from the on-site pool in a downpour into municipal pipes? Municipalities do not have the capacity to effectively clean up those messes! There are only 3 facilities in the entire state of PA that remediate brackish water. Where is the acid water going to be processed for thousands of additional wells?

Let’s talk about water: it takes over a million gallons of water per frack, up to 10 fracks per well to run this drilling process. That is FRESH WATER! Where is it coming from? Lakes and streams whose levels will fall dramatically, TDS levels will rise to unacceptable levels, and communities will suffer. One in 20 jobs in the state come from outdoor recreation and enjoyment. What will happen to those communities that cannot tolerate any additional risk or burden?

The DEP has moved too quickly and must slow down to put rules into place that will protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources and put to rest concerns of contamination and liability for land owners and municipalities.

Lastly, additional inspectors for well must be hired immediately. Right now, there are a mere 16 inspectors for the entire state. We are at 16,000 wells and counting. Money must be set aside to do that, and that funding should come from companies doing business in that field.

By the way: those companies carbon footprint will be the size of sasquach if they don’t begin to employ more progressive technologies. Cap and trade is coming. What will make oil, gas, and coal companies more competitive in the global marketplace?

This is my open proposal to the industry. I was happy to be able to share this with the U.S. Congress, and now, I am sharing it with you.
Pass it on and make sure that those who need to know that there are many working alternative fuel and remediation technologies available get the truth.

After all, that is what it is all about now. Love comes with it, but truth must lead.

Have a great week!
With much love,

Sensible Progressive Action for Industry
Climate Change Initiatives
Coal, Natural Gas, Fossil Fuels
A hard truth must be faced concerning the fossil fuels industry: the cost to all shareholders (investors, public, environment, risk) is simply too high, and companies will not be able to support the full burden of their industry, regardless of what measures are taken to begin to control, cap, and reduce the flow of carbon into our atmosphere. Operations as they currently stand are going to fade, and they must if we are to survive beyond the next 100 years with a quality of life to which we are accustom. How do we continue to employ practices that keep industry going, while mitigating the harmful and costly side effects that we collectively can no longer bear? That is the challenge we must rise to meet. Please see some suggestions below.

Land Use
Companies who hold the rights to coal, natural gas, etc. also have control of millions of acres of land. Land in protected areas will continue to be such, but land that these industrial giants own, some of which is contaminated and not suitable for expanded energy interest must be converted safely, cost-effectively, and in a way that increases the business’ ability to make a profit while reducing their carbon impact. There are several options that exist today to assist these industries with this conundrum

Land that is currently contaminated (especially with coal ash and coal waste) can be phytoremediated on site to reduce risk to workers and community, environment and labor. Plants that phytodegradate (degrade, metabolize and/or attenuate) waste can be placed on these waste fields and mounds to mitigate its impact on the environment and improve land quality. Further, since degradators will be employed (rather than hyperaccumulators or phytovolitalizers), there is no need for on site incineration, saving money and risk associated with ash disposal. These botanical products are suitable for use in biofuel production, since phytodegradators are not in and of themselves, capable of transmuting contaminants in their mature state. That means that companies can now clean up sites with significantly reduced cost and risk, while creating a cash crop to reduce their carbon footprint, thereby saving them millions of dollars.

Water Use/ Water Quality

Those that also have contaminated waterways may employ the same techniques, only a combination of phytoremediators will have to be used for maximum benefit in a minimum amount of time. Hyperaccumulators in aqueous tracks are quite different than their land counterparts, and make excellent biofuel sources, since there are ways to remove their contaminants and still use their biomass for fuel. This will reduce overall risk for regional waters and keep TDS levels low. The Improving quality of both land and air can be achieved in most planting zones (6 or higher) in approximately 3 years. Most sites can be remediated in a shorter time. Each site would have to be examined for its particular types of contaminants and area of remediation, but overall, this is an excellent plan for reducing risk, cost, waste, and increasing benefits to the environment. It is a prime opportunity for these industries to become genuine friends of the environment while helping their industry stay viable and successful.

Gas drilling through Marcellus Shale is not cost effective if proper permitting standards, water quality concerns and compensation to municipalities, as well as charges for water use are included. Gas companies can now use biofuels on land sites that they control to make profits by benefiting communities and the forest. These are careful plantings of course, but profitable ones. It is far better than 10 fracks per well using approximately a million gallons of fresh water per frack, with high possibilities of leakage, contamination, and runoff problems. Horizontal drilling has always had high risk, and right now, Pennsylvania has not put in place regulation and guidelines to protect landowners and municipalities from litigation in mishaps. A smarter way to proceed is to begin to convert the industry to bio-collection and biofarms.

Additional Benefits

There is an additional benefit to utilizing this strategy around operating mines and sites. Phytodegradating plants also have the ability to absorb not only carbon, but particulate matter, including heavy metals from the air and metabolize and/or attenuate those metals in their root system, keeping that matter out of the air, improving air quality without contaminating soil. Green roofing can also be employed at plants and offices, along with strategically placed rain barrel systems to mitigate stormwater runoff and decrease the likelihood of aquifer contamination at critical areas.

There is extensive research on this science, done for thousands of years by Native Americans and now being done world wide by other countries. The U.S. lead research on phytoremediation in the 1990’s and is now playing catch up to the rest of world. It is now time to put solid science to work improving environmental quality of our most challenged industries so that there will be benefits for all.

Steel Industry
United Steelworks of America has been a partner in green consideration and innovation for the steel industry for nearly 40 years. A new era of partnership and innovation is now available to keep plants working and simultaneously reduce carbon and particulate emissions.

The steel industry (as well as cement plants) can benefit by employing phytoremediating plants on their property. Different plants can mitigate particulates in different ways, and aggressive hyperaccumulators combined with specially chosen degradation plants will provide an opportunity for mills to reduce their carbon footprint, improve air quality and participate more competitively in the global marketplace. This would be a new way to use a technology firmly in place worldwide. Pittsburgh and partners in the region can be on the cutting edge of this opportunity. Our region already has many challenges with air quality and health concerns. It costs PA millions of dollars per year to treat children, seniors, and sensitive populations for health related problems that arise directly from exposure to particulate matter and heavy metals produced by some of our most popular industries. Phytoremediation could improve 10-fold the health and well being of shareholders in our region, improving air, water and soil quality.

Job Creation and Innovation for Pennsylvania
Putting more people to work in areas where botanical remediation is employed means more quality work with fair pay in areas with less risk, more benefits and greater ways to advance without a lot of previous work experience. There are a variety of levels that can employ individuals from entry level to engineering. Natural resource graduates can quickly be used in this field to survey, plant, monitor, and maintain sites in partnerships with various industries: steel, coal, natural gas. I know everyone wants to know where the money will come from. Congress must work with the president to make sure that those businesses that are trying to put money into carbon reduction receive assistance in funding: tax breaks, reduction in their portion of Cap and Trade payments, and assistance in capturing the attention of venture capital.

Small Business Creation, Support, Venture Capital

There are so many small businesses in PA that have patented green innovative techniques and products that one can lose count. This provides opportunity for employment and expansion. All that is needed is assistance by politicians on a local, state, and national level to help on every level to improve regulations and zoning for opportunities to use these cutting edge technologies. If ideas are mired in red tape, innovation is stunted. Green zoning is way behind the curve, and local governments need the federal government to take the lead in helping them change antiquated rules and regulations. Encourage venture capital investment in the region by making sure that those in investment films know that Western PA has innovations worth investing in for future profits.

Small businesses need consultants who often have more expertise in areas in progressive sciences than they may have in-house. A network should be established to keep those in need with those who have the proper training and/or products.

Start-up capital is increasingly hard to find for even the largest and most stable of firms, but it is particularly difficult for small businesses in a new frontier. Organizational capacity for Environmental Justice Communities is a constant struggle. For women and minorities and those who have businesses in economically hard hit areas, banks are even more reluctant to lend. Something must be done or there will be a chasm that will be very hard to fill for decades to come. It is critical that those from historically disadvantaged areas be given access to more information and yes, capital to become more self enfranchised. They are more likely to hire within their own communities and expand there as they continue their success.


Education partners are critical to creating more opportunities in this green economy. CCAC is a leading partner, along with many unions in the region, but we are behind the proverbial eight ball when it comes to making sure high school students are ready for what is to come. Education curricula support must begin at pre-school if we are going to provide young people with the base to become life long learners and have a living wage. Flexibility will be the key for the future; things will change too quickly for anyone to become complacent. Companies like Bayer that provide Scientist in the Classroom, and the Carnegie Science Center in its education outreach programs (the latter I have worked with personally) are doing what they can, but so much more is needed. More funding and more scientists to spend a year periodically doing presentations and labs in the classrooms gives students inspiration and information necessary for the future. Educators cannot be expected to keep up with it all; we are all partners in our children’s education and enrichment. More saturating programs in science, math, and the arts are necessary in every classroom to improve readiness for 21st century work.

Additional information about the options discussed in this document are readily available. Please feel free to contact me about any abstracts concerning these techniques, as well as businesses and governments already employing the science discussed. It is critical that we collectively not only think outside the box, but dissolve the concept that there ever was one. This is the new frontier, and our future fate is tied to our courage to embrace our most innovative, creative, and environmentally sound concepts.

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