Great News as Earth Day Anniversary Approaches

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Environmental stories usually leave me frustrated and disappointed – with both sides. But not today. Finally, I read something that gives me hope for civil discourse in this country on the issues that matter most. If we’re all shouting at one another to make our point, who’s listening?

In western Pennsylvania, where fracking for natural gas is becoming commonplace, a group has formed to help raise the standards of the fracking industry so the practice is sustainable and safe for humans and the environment.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development, formed on March 20, is comprised of a combo of representatives from energy companies vested in fracking and representatives from environmental groups dedicated to safe practices. Their goal is to adopt higher performance standards for fracking companies in the areas of air quality, water resources, and climate. Folks from Consol Energy, Chevron, and Shell are sitting at the same table with members of the Clean Air Task Force and the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Even better than sitting down together – they’re getting something done without shouting.

By September, they will begin certifying companies following exemplary practices. The certification will be a badge worn by companies to show they are practicing safe and sustainable methods of fracking. So if a company comes knocking on your door offering you a lifetime of riches for drilling on your property, you can ask for their CSSD badge. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the “CSSD endorsement will be similar to the LEED certification given to energy-efficient buildings.”

I love it when we participate in civil discourse, particularly in areas of great diversity of opinion. I applaud both sides for coming together to find a way to get natural gas out of the ground without wrecking our water and future.

I hope this group can put a stop to things such as what happened in Ohio a few months ago when Hardrock Excavating illegally dumped thousands of gallons wastewater from a fracking operation into the Mahoning River. A mishap of miscommunication occurred, and no one let us folks know just across the border here in Pennsylvania. (Beaver County Times, March 31, 2013) The Mahoning River feeds directly into my beloved Beaver River where my husband and I spend many summer days kayaking and boating.

Beaver River

Beaver River

Lupo owns Hardrock Excavating. Lupo also owns D&L Energy, the company that operated the injection well that caused the 2011 earthquake near Youngstown, Ohio.

It’s time companies, such as Lupo are stopped, and companies who practice exemplary fracking operations are rewarded. We need to encourage the good guys and put the bad guys out of business.

When we do, all sides win. Our communities get much-needed jobs, we receive cheaper methods to heat our homes, and we protect our water from harm.

A Love Affair with Birds

great blue heron in the salt marshes of Florida

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

My grandmother taught me a love of birds many years ago back in Michigan. She had a bird feeder right outside the window so she could see it from her chair in the living room. She kept bird books on the table there and I loved to visit her in the winter to watch the colorful birds come to the white-covered feeder.

When I moved to Florida, I continued my love affair. I’m not an expert, but I know I admire birds, especially large ones. The great blue heron is found near any type of water, but I thought it was only in Florida. When I moved to Pennsylvania two years ago, I discovered they are year-round residents here as well. One morning when I woke in my new house, I looked outside the French doors in my bedroom to the balcony railing. A great blue was perched there looking down at the small pond below as small gold fish swam unaware of the danger lurking above. Too bad my camera was in another room.

Great blues forage alone so it was with surprise that I saw two flying over us as we cruised on the Beaver River recently. I assumed they must be migratory here, but according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they are year-round residents in much of the continental United States.

great blue heron on Beaver River in western Pennsylvania

Right now, the males are searching for places to nest in the trees, which provides an explanation of why these two kept perching on tree limbs instead of the usual foraging on the banks of the river. It also explains why these two traveled as a pair. Most likely, the male is looking for the right platform while enticing the female to join him.

We also saw a great egret on the river the same day.

great egret on Beaver River in western Pennsylvania

I’d never seen one of those in Pennsylvania, but they are abundant in Florida. These are migratory birds, but usually travel in flocks so I’m not sure why this one was alone. According to Cornell, during mild winters the great egret will remain in the north. We did have a mild winter last year. In that case, the male may have been doing the same thing as the great blue: looking for a nesting site in the tree. Then again, this great egret may have just been resting for a bit before heading to its winter home in the south. No matter the reason, it’s good to see the great egret here. At one time, they almost disappeared because women’s fashion required their plumes in gilded age hats of the late nineteenth century.

This time of year anywhere in the world, is a great time to see the birds preparing for the change in season.