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December 05, 2016
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Mixed Greens

Knowledge and power

From time to time I’m asked to give a little talk about how we are going to transition to solar energy and the burgeoning opportunities for solar development in Sullivan County. Invariably, a few listeners’ eyes glaze over as I describe the many relevant factors—from technical breakthroughs to investment options, tax issues and town zoning decisions. But the fact is, we are all going to have to get a lot more knowledgeable about how electricity is produced and delivered and paid for, and actively engaged as consumers and as citizens at many levels of decision making.  Read more

The tempest

As I started working on this month’s column, Hurricane Matthew was gathering force in the Caribbean, and more than two million people had been ordered to evacuate coastal areas between Florida and Virginia. By Monday morning, news outlets were calculating the death toll at more than 1,000, including 20 in the U.S., most of which are related to flood waters from the torrential rains that accompanied the storm. Some reporters noted that the record levels of water rise for rivers and streams followed familiar patterns established in past storms such as Floyd in 1999.  Read more

Strength in numbers

If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking about solar energy for your home, and hearing about different ways of making it work as prices for solar panels have come down and incentives have increased. But as with so many great ideas, the prospect also raises some questions, both technical and financial. Is your home or business a suitable location, with enough uninterrupted sunlight for a significant portion of the day to generate power? Will you have to cut down trees? Is your roof strong enough and oriented to take advantage of the sun? Will you see significant energy cost savings?  Read more

Back to Kindergarten

To riff on the immortal George Carlin: Some people think inside the box; some people think outside the box; I think we need to get rid of the box. Perhaps it’s the ethos of the political season, but lately I find myself thinking about how I think—the assumptions I bring to my thought processes, and the influences that I know have shaped my habits of thinking since childhood.  Read more

Twitter

On these midsummer mornings, birdsong often wakes me a little after 4:30. I’d be absolutely furious if I were awakened by a neighbor’s car siren or chain saw at such an early hour, but somehow the happy twittering of birds in the early sunrise hour triggers for me a little interval of quiet reflection before the day begins. And occasionally, something I’ve heard or read comes back to me with fresh significance as I mull it over.  Read more

A policy puzzle

There’s a network of renewable energy mavens at work across New York State, pouncing on each new official plan, hoping for wise energy policy and formulating thoughtful responses shared through the public comment process. Everyone sprang into action on April 19 when the New York State Public Service Commission issued “The Clean Energy Standard,” a staff white paper that outlines strategies for meeting renewable energy goals laid out in the New York State Energy Plan.  Read more

Citizens at work

On April 27, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced plans to expand air-quality monitoring near shale-gas compressor stations. The announcement came just five days after the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) published a report on the results of EPA air monitoring around a Williams Central natural gas compressor station in Brooklyn Township, Susquehanna County.  Read more

A question of values

Climate scientists and economists have developed some pretty good models for calculating the economic impact of climate change and the cost of delayed action. A 2014 meta-analysis of 16 peer-reviewed studies by the White House Council of Economic Advisors projected that the cost of mitigating climate change increases by 40% for each decade of delay in meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets.  Read more

Out of sight, out of mind

The trend in consumer protection seems to be “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” For example, look at Senate Bill 2609, nicknamed the DARK Act (“Denying Americans the Right to Know”), legislation that would void state laws passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine that require labeling of genetically modified foods, and would even make it illegal to label products GMO-free until guidelines are developed at some unspecified future date. Last week the Senate Agricultural Committee approved the bill for a full vote.  Read more

Hinges of destiny

In 2011 and 2012, the towns of Bethel, Forestburgh, Highland, Lumberland and Tusten in New York State enacted zoning laws banning a host of environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure related to gas drilling. It was the culmination of five years of sustained citizen effort to educate ourselves and persuade our town officials that we had the authority and the obligation to take action.  Read more