One Pennsylvania Town Shows How to Properly ‘Zone’ Fracking
By Peter Hart
Pennsylvania is home to more than 10,000 fracking wells, which forces communities to live with air pollution, water contamination and an array of health problems linked to drilling.
The frackers want to drill more wells, and the state's Democratic governor is not going to do anything to slow it down. But local communities are finding ways to fight back—and win.
The latest good news comes from Oakmont Borough, a small suburb of Pittsburgh along the Allegheny River. Residents there have waged a years-long battle against the fracking industry, which has been making a determined push into Allegheny County.
Fracking is a Desperate Industry Looking for New Profits
Here's why these companies are so eager to drill more wells: The fracking industry has problems turning a profit. The only way out for these financially stretched corporations is to double down—and that means moving to areas of the state that aren't as heavily fracked as some parts of western Pennsylvania.
Residents in Allegheny County have seen the havoc that fracking has created elsewhere, and they are determined to fight to keep it away from their schools and homes. Their tool of choice has been municipal zoning codes.
Putting Fracking Under Local Control
Every city or municipality creates a set of rules about what you can build, and where you can build it. Unfortunately, drilling companies often take advantage of the fact that many towns have not developed zoning ordinances that regulate fracking, or have outdated ordinances that do not address the issues facing their municipalities today. But if residents and local leaders get organized, they can put serious limits on the fracking industry before a well is approved.
That's what Food & Water Watch's Municipal Ordinance Project (MOP) is set up to do. We know that local officials in Allegheny County are the ones who should make the decisions about how to protect their own communities, and that safety and environmental concerns are front and center.
Oakmont Stands Up to Surveyors
Here's how it worked in Oakmont. In June 2017, a fracking company called Huntley & Huntley notified the borough that they were about to start 'seismic testing,' a process that involves setting off explosive charges in deep holes to measure the seismic waves, which can help indicate where gas may be trapped.
Oakmont residents didn't like the sound of that, and we worked together to pass an ordinance to regulate this intrusive process. Soon after, Huntley & Huntley reversed course, and announced that they weren't going to conduct the surveys as planned.
But they weren't going away—and resident groups like Citizens to Protect Oakmont were ready to go bigger. They started meeting that summer to craft an updated zoning ordinance that would offer some protection from drilling. By December, they offered a list of suggestions, including a 2,000-foot setback from residential property lines and the removal of fracking from the Light Industrial district of the borough.
The Borough Council, however, considered a weaker set of rules, which could have opened up residential areas to fracking. Local residents weren't having it; they were a force to be reckoned with at Council meetings, and in the end their tireless advocacy paid off: In February, the Council voted in support of the new ordinance.
What This Victory Means—Here and Elsewhere
This win is a testament to what is possible when neighbors come together to fight to protect their community. The fracking industry is desperate to find new places to drilling. If we want to stop them, we have get organized before the fracking starts."
Local leader Ed Grystar said it best: "The vote to approve Oakmont's Oil and Gas zoning ordinance is an example of the power of ordinary citizens organizing to protect the health and safety of their town. From the beginning in May 2017, we worked to change the narrative of what's acceptable by educating and mobilizing our neighbors."Residents in other parts of Pennsylvania are ready to follow Oakmont's lead.
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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