PA DEP Considers Natural Gas a “Homegrown Alternative”

While natural gas is regarded as an “alternative” to oil and gasoline in the fossil fuels marketplace, it’s not a truly “Alternative Fuel” because it’s not Renewable. It is inaccurate and, some might say, misleading for the DEP to lump natural gas and with genuinely green alternatives when awarding Alternative Fuel Incentives Grants from the state’s Alternative Fuels Incentive Fund. Referring to natural gas as a “homegrown alternative” is disingenuous at best, as it echos verbatim popular Gas Industry jargon.

“This round of AFIG projects will promote and build markets for advanced alternative or renewable energy technologies. The intent is to provide a stimulus for opportunities that better manage our fuel resources in a way that also improves our environment, supports economic development and enhances our quality of life.

“The Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants Program provides grants to improve this Commonwealth’s air quality and reduce consumption of imported oil through the use of homegrown alternative fuels that will help the economy and environment in this Commonwealth.

“DEP is particularly interested in supporting proposals that provide environmental benefits, are market-driven, create jobs, and produce economic development within the commonwealth. Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with organizations within Pennsylvania in completing their proposal.

“The deadline for the grant applications is June, 17, 2011.”

To learn more about the AFIG grants: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/alternative_fuels_incentive_grant-move_to_grants/10492

Until the DEP can prove an Environmental “benefit” to the life-cycle of shale gas – including the violent extraction process known as fracking – perhaps they should refrain from handing out AFIG grants to develop the market. The DEP appears to be getting way ahead of itself, in particular by soliciting applicants who will study “the Retrofit and Purchase of New Alternative Fuel Vehicles.” Forget about the cart, they’re putting an entire gas-powered fleet before the horse!

Not So Fast, Natural Gas
No one disputes that NG burns cleaner than oil and gas, and probably even coal, but the DEP doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact that fracking in The Marcellus Shale is proving to be particularly tricky and pollutive. It’s unlike any other shale gas companies have fracked, in part because of our large, interconnected watershed regions. It’s as if the DEP has already dismissed the environmental impacts, and has moved on to the larger issue of solving the problem of our flailing economy through large-scale industrial gas development. The health of the Commonwealth has not yet been factored in.

It’s precisely because Pennsylvania needs these jobs that the DEP should fund studies about the health hazards associated with fracking. Their attention should be on the “funky” chemical cocktail that drillers are injecting into our landscape, many of which remain “proprietary” and as yet unknown. Chemicals disclosed thus far include known carcinogens, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors and VOCs. They include things like benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. Benzene, for example, is a known carcinogen which is extremely toxic in concentrations as small as one part per million. Studies links chemicals used in fracking fluid to diseases such as:
Bone Cancer
Liver Cancer
Breast Cancer
Gastrointestinal Diseases
Respiratory Diseases
Developmental Disorders
Brain & Nervous System Disorders

If for no other reason, the DEP should be promoting the study of fracking fluid to protect Pennsylvania workers. As blogger Luis Fabregas (is that even his real name?) so aptly puts it at txsharon.blogspot.com: “If fracking were an infectious disease, it would be stopped immediately.”

Growing legions of Pennsylvanians are deeply concerned about fracking’s impact on their water, air and forest land. They aren’t eco-terrorists, they simply want to know more. And they expect far more prudence and caution at the state level before we move full stream ahead. They want the DEP to catalogue the chemicals, justify water withdrawals, vigorously regulate wastewater disposal, and fund emergency management and health impact studies before “the Department” focuses its economic resources on industrial gas development grants. They should be required to demonstrate how Natural Gas “improves our environment” first.

Act Now!
Pennsylvania needs jobs and America wants natural gas, but the PA DEP’s primary mission should be to protect the environment not our economy. DEP oversteps when it promotes a single industry, and a highly controversial practice, above all others. Call Carmen LaRosa or Mark Brojakowski at the DEP grants center, 717-783-8411. Ask them to please clarify the AFIG grants language. Tell them it should be called the “Gas Incentives Grant.”

PA DEP Grants Center Main: 717-705-5400

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