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Old guy, new nature leaf

I’m an amateur naturalist and a pro (technically, I’ve earned $5.81 on Adobe Stock so far) photographer, with tons of photos and years of personal observation of what’s going on in the ever-fascinating world of nature.

So I’m going to post a pic and a bit of text every day. I hope you find it interesting, or enlightening or refreshing.

Any comments — and I’d love to hear your thoughts — can be directed to me at bobqsix@Verizon.net.

Pictured is Opie, our precious 17-pound rescue dog and best woods buddy ever.

Enjoy and please come back often.opie edit (640x426)

 

Super Yawner: I’ll be watching the Puppy Bowl

bowl

By Bob Quarteroni

Finally. A game that lived up to the hype.

Spectacular offense. Stirring defense. A comeback for the ages.

Bob Quarteroni (PennLive File)

Everything a fan could ask for, and more.

So what if it was marred by a little biting, kicking, scratching and the occasional time out so that the umpire could use his pooper scooper on the field?Pa

Games like this don’t come along often, and we’re thrilled we had a chance to see it.

Of course, what we’re talking about is the real football game that took place Sunday, the vaunted Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, not that over-commercialized, over-hyped, overstuffed Super Bowl thing, Patriots blah, blah, blah. Been there, done that.

Team Ruff and Team Fluff – dozens of yapping, bouncing, happy little puppies – battled it out for the Lombarky Trophy. And if that wasn’t enough, there was Kitty GaGa for the halftime show (though, one will admit Lady GaGa was spectacular, when we peeked).

And talk about enthusiasm!  Nothing is more happily crazy than a puppy trying to get a squeaky toy off his equally nutso counterparts.  And they are pure amateurs. All they get for their efforts are a little more kibble and a good nap.

This, I would say, is sports the way it should be. Simple play, simple fun, lots of smiles, no tears, recriminations, or heart break.

Which can’t be said for the Super Bowl, a football game that has somehow been transmuted into a near-sacred ritual with rabid fans, zillions of involved dollars and a nation essentially closed down while the overpaid gladiators fight for a glory that, at its core, means nothing at all.

It’s what god used to be. But that game always ended up the same and the masses got bored. No cheerleaders either.

As smart as he was, George Orwell never would have seen Trump coming: Bob Quarteroni

As smart as he was, George Orwell never would have seen Trump coming: Bob Quarteroni

Sales of 1984 have skyrocketed during the last couple of weeks. George Orwell, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you

As Bill Shirley of the Los Angeles Times said way back in 1985, “Millions of people will not attend a church service of any kind Sunday. Instead, they will participate in a form of secular religion; they will worship at the altar of the great god, football. This Sunday is, after all, Super Sunday.”

In this case “fan” is startlingly close to its original meaning:  According to the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins, “fan– as meaning an ardent supporter — is short for fanatic, traced back to the Latin word ‘fanaticus,’ which means ‘inspired by god.'”

And to see the zealotry of so, so many — 111.3 million viewers made this Super Bowl the fourth most-watched TV program in US history — so deeply involved in this is to see a far more fervent worship than at any church, temple, or synagogue.

Which to my decidedly cranky way of thinking is more than just a bit out of balance.

Scholar Michael Novak spoke of three sports – baseball and basketball along with football  — as “the holy trinity.”

Writing in the Wilson Quarterly (this comes from the same Los Angeles Times article noted above), he said “The elements of religion are visible in them: dramatic re-enactments of struggles representing life and death, involving moral understanding and development, evoking awe for powers not wholly in an individual’s control, and employing public liturgical figures who stand in for the people as a whole.”

You think I make too much of this? Perhaps.

Puppies! And Punxsutawney Phil, kittens and guinea pigs ready for Puppy Bowl

Puppies! And Punxsutawney Phil, kittens and guinea pigs ready for Puppy Bowl

The Puppy Bowl will air on the Animal Planet on Feb. 5. The pregame show starts at 2 p.m. The game kicks off at 3 p.m. with Punxsutawney Phil.

But consider that even Christianity Today, a normally sober journal that says it looks at “important developments in the church and in the world,” actually ran an article in February of last year that started this way: “Approximately 4 in 5 US evangelicals believe God doesn’t ‘determine’ who wins and loses the Super Bowl. In fact, most think God doesn’t even care, according to a new survey.”

So we’re actually wondering if God watches the Super Bowl?  How nice.

No, you can call me crazy for preferring the Puppy Bowl to this exaltation on the turf, but I think you fans are batty for getting this super-amped over what is supposed to be a pastime, a diversion, a fun event, not a pious prostration at the communion shrine of touchdowns.

So I went puppy and I think I made the right choice.

Long ago, preacher Henry Ward Beecher said “The dog is the god of frolic.”

And that’s a sane, balanced divinity I am happy to worship.

Bob Quarteroni, a frequent PennLive Opinion contributor, is a former columnist and editor at the Centre Daily Times. He lives in Swoyersville, Pa. Readers may email him at bobqsix@verizon.net.   

ATVs: A Terrible Violence

tv

 

By Bob Quarteroni

 

Attack? Trespass? Violate?

That’s not what ATV is supposed to stand for but, sadly, far too often that’s the legacy of all-terrain vehicles on state game lands.

It’s a shame. And it’s also illegal.

It’s clear as can be on the Department of Natural Conservation and Resources “Places to Ride” web page:

“State Parks and State Game Lands are NOT open to ATVs.”

Which was little comfort when I wandered SGL 207 in Mountaintop, seeking the “beautiful unnamed lake” I had read about.

I found the lake. But I also found a rat’s nest of chewed up ATV trails, mud pooling in the holes and roots exposed, raw and angry looking.

This is inexcusable. There are more than enough places for responsible ATV riders to enjoy their “sport,” including our expansive state forests (there’s a complete list on the DCNR website).

It’s a serious problem, and not just locally, but across the country.

A story in an Athens, Ga., newspaper reported that “More than 83 percent of wildlife managers in a recent survey say that they have seen ‘resource damage to wildlife habitat’ caused by ATVs, following closely behind by 72 percent who cited ‘disruption of hunters during hunting season’ as another impact.”

And the Isaak Walton League found that “More than 57.2 percent of state fisheries managers surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that ATVs ‘negatively impact fishing and fishing habitat in my state.’”

When I worked at Eckley Miner’s Village I had trouble comprehending just how many ATV trails, pools, eroded cliff banks and tortured hillsides had been carved out of the old coal lands – and the adjacent pristine forests.

I make no bones over the fact that I personally don’t like ATVs. When I’m out fishing a mountain trout stream on a beautiful day, enjoying the quiet, the noise and smell of a parade of ATVs intruding into my quiet little space does not make me happy.

But they can ride – legally – all over the place.

I just want them to at least keep off the state game lands and our beautiful state parks, the last and best bastions of natural privacy left to us.

While it’s probable that the vast majority ride by the rules, a small — but extremely visible — segment of the ridership have a wanton disregard for not only the laws, but for nature and for civility.

Motorcycle operators like to point out that perhaps only one percent of those riders cause any problems.

The trouble is that that one percent is so seemingly proud of what they do that they often wear “One Percenter” logos or sport the same tattoos.

Nevertheless, motorcyclists have made a clear and strong commitment to not only policing their own ranks but to show, by charity “runs,” fundraisers and other similar good works, that they are law-abiding citizens and good neighbors.

The ATV community must do the same.

As the DCNR says, “Every ATV and snowmobile rider must be an ambassador for the sport. Please give careful consideration to your effect on the trails, environments and others. The future of your sport depends on it.”

So here’s three simple alphabetical suggestions on how to make things better.

A: Address the problem, ATV operators, by letting any outlaws know that they are breaking the laws and hurting the reputation of reputable riders. Peer pressure can work wonders.

T: Teach young and upcoming riders the proper way to ride, legally and safely, and where they are allowed to ride.

V: Value the land by sticking to legal trails and paths.

A very good, thorough, overview on this, “Protecting the Trails,” can be found at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/recreation/atv/atvprotectingthetrails/index.htm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, a frigid winter…and the fly fishing is still great…

fly

By Bob Quarteroni

What’s the best thing about winter fly fishing around here?

Sleep in. There’s no reason to get up at the crack of dawn when you need to wait for the best, that is the warmest, winter hours: late morning to early afternoon.

What’s the other best thing about winter fly fishing around here?

It can be really, really good. By far the biggest trout I ever caught was December 26 one year on the Nescopeck, on an admittedly ugly day: gray, with flurries and ice forming in my ferrules at a monotonously annoying pace.

But, on a bead-head nymph fished agonizingly slowly along the bottom, I landed a brown trout that was by far the biggest I’d ever caught. He was so massive his jaw was hooked like a salmon and red colored. I’m not sure how big he was, but I’d say somewhere around two feet, give or take a few fisherman lie inches.

Winter fishing has loads of other benefits. Foremost, it lets you get out and enjoy the outdoors at a time when you wouldn’t normally be afield.

Second, it almost guarantees you solitude and sole access to whatever spot you choose.

And with the number of streams that are open all year around here, you have a rich assortment to choose from.

Winter fishing has its own set of rules, all superbly summed up in two short paragraph by Allan Schreffler, Northeast Region Education Specialist, Fish and Boat Commission, stationed in Sweet Valley.

“Winter is great time to go fly fishing for trout,” he said. “The streams are empty and trout haven’t been targeted in a few months, which makes them not as picky. During the winter the best time to fish is when the trout will be most active, late morning through midafternoon when the day is the warmest and water has warmed up a bit.

“Your flies should be fished ‘low and slow,’ as the trout will be lethargic and nymphs and streamers bounced along the bottom of the stream will produced more strikes than flies that are being stripped or moved quickly. Dressing appropriately is the most important thing on any winter time outing. Proper layering and avoiding wearing cotton will make sure you can fish comfortably all day and protect you against the elements.”

A few additional observations. When it comes to boots, I swear by my waist-high Cabela’s boot foot waders because they are warm and the thick rubber and felt soles provide excellent insulation along with unbeatable traction. Additionally, you can cinch them so tightly around the waist that even if you do take a spill, little or no water will get in.

Whatever boots you wear I highly recommend polypropylene tops and bottoms; they’ll keep you warm better than anything else I can think of.

I don’t recommend wearing as many pairs of socks as possible. The more socks, the tighter the fit, the less blood circulating to your feet. One good pair of heavy wool socks is fine. And wool maintains heat much better than cotton, even when wet.

When it comes to gloves, those with finger tips that can be pulled on and off at will are essential. You need to keep your fingers warm but you also need to be able to do the delicate work of tying on flies, changing leaders, etc.

To keep my hands warm, I carry an electric hand warmer, available on Amazon and other online retailers. It’s an indispensable aid in getting feeling back in your fingers after you’ve been wrestling off a trout or retrieving a snagged fly in ice-cold water.

One important gear tip: In cold weather, your ferrules will ice up; count on it. You can mitigate this somewhat by greasing your guides. You can use fly floatant or Vaseline jelly and there’s even a product made by Loon, Stanley’s Ice Off Paste — for this.

As for where to fish, we are blessed with any number of approved trout waters open year round. A complete list can be found at “Regulated Trout Waters” in the Fish Commission summary book, which is also available online.

My personal favorite is the Nescopeck, which stays ice free when some higher altitude streams freeze up. I also like Hickory Run and Tobyhanna Creek, both productive in past winters.

Wherever you go, you’ll get a whole new outlook on both fishing and nature, and you might be surprised how much you enjoy it.

As poet Robert Frost said, “You can’t get too much winter in the winter.”

 

The evil of puppy mills, and the Amish scum behind many in Pennsylvania

 

By Bob Quarteroni

 

New York Times, Jan. 2, 2019

“California this week became the first state in the nation to bar pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they come from animal shelters or rescue groups.

“The law targets the controversial breeding facilities known as puppy mills or kitten factories, which often operate with little or no oversight and ‘house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care,’ according to a fact sheet for the legislation.”

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) (May 15, 2018) — “Pennsylvania has the fourth highest number of puppy mills, that’s according to the Humane Society of the United States.

“The organization has released its 2018 Horrible Hundred report of the worst puppy mills in the country. They say nine on the list are located in Pennsylvania.”

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Boy, if that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach as a Pennsylvania resident, someone ought to check you for a pulse.

Outrageous. Venal. Vile. And all for a little profit and a misguided conception of what makes a “good” dog or cat.

I get particularly exercised over this because my entire 70-year life has been immeasurably enriched by all the rescue dogs – and there have been many, most gone but none ever forgotten – who I have been privileged to know and love.

None so much as Opie, the love of my life, a little ball of love saved from a high-kill shelter in the south by the good folks at Blue Chip Animal Rescue, a local – and much loved — no kill shelter.

Opie has brought such joy, magic and love into my life that’s it’s truly indescribable. We’re an interspecies Romeo and Juliet and I’m damn proud of that fact.

But in the eyes of purebred lovers – which keep the puppy mills going because an estimated 90 percent of the dogs and cats sold at pet stores come from puppy mills – “mutts” like Opie are damaged goods.

 

 

How wrong they are.

Sure, he had a rough three years before we got him and has little fur on his back, problems with his paws that might have come from being restrained, and other blemishes and imperfections, but his love and truly unique personality and sheer joy at being alive trump any alleged bloodline.

But pet store buyers don’t look under the surface and in their quest for a “perfect pet” they allow the festering puppy mills to thrive.

If you’re not familiar with the vile world of puppy mills they are essentially concentration camps for dogs, as cruel and mean as Auschwitz and Treblinka.

The Animal Center at Michigan State University describes them this way:

“Puppy mills are facilities where dogs are forced to breed their whole lives until they are physically incapable…. At that time, the dogs are either sold to other breeders, left on the side of the road, neglected, or even killed. The dogs spend twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in cages, with often little to no contact with people or the outside world. The facilities that are classified as puppy mills are kept in deplorable and unsanitary conditions, lack proper veterinary care for the dogs, yet often have USDA licenses….”

Yep, your government at work.

Pennsylvania has hundreds of puppy mills but they are overwhelmingly located in Lancaster County and –surprise, surprise (at least to me) — run by the plain people.

According to PAWS, “Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has been called the puppy mill capital of the U.S., and the trade is largely dominated by the Amish…. There are about 300 licensed breeders in Lancaster County alone, and rescue workers estimate another 600 unlicensed facilities operate in barns and sheds. Those breeders go to great measures to avoid discovery. Secretive and profitable. Breeders can make upwards of half million dollars a year.”

Another folksy architype down the drain.

An ABC report found a very simple reason for the Amish breeders: greed. According to Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue who spends his time trying to rescue dogs from Lancaster County breeders, “Dogs in this community are viewed as livestock. Nothing more. Chickens or pigs or goats. It’s just a source of income for them.”

Thankfully. Some state legislators have seen the light and have introduced legislation to make us California East, at least when it comes to puppy mills.

According to the Jan. 19 Daily Local News of West Chester, state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, and Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, announced reintroduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit the sale of commercially raised dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores across Pennsylvania.

The bill is dubbed Victoria’s Law, in honor of a Victoria, a 10-year-old German Shepherd puppy mill survivor.

“We’ve tried so many times to stop puppy mills in Pennsylvania and I am confident that Victoria’s Law will be the economic noose that ends them once and for all,” Dinniman said. “If we can cut off their source of revenue, we can put them out of existence and ensure that no more dogs, like Victoria, are hurt by this cruel and inhumane practice.”

Let’s hope it passes and we can stop the moral stench emanating from Lancaster County and all the other stables of animal evil across the state.

For the sake of all the other Opies out there waiting to make someone as happy as he’s made me — and for the thousands upon thousands of poor creatures being tortured in puppy mills –it is clearly time to muzzle, forever, these rabid enterprises.

 

Bob Quarteroni, a frequent PennLive Opinion contributor, is a former columnist and editor at the Centre Daily Times. He lives in Swoyersville, Pa. Readers may email him at bobqsix@verizon.net. His nature blog is http://www.bobqnature.com.

 

cage

The full-page article lost to a blizzard, lost deliverymen and a lack of color

paperSooooo I spent so much time on this and then the storm comes and they don’t even deliver it in Wilkes-Barre. They do in Hazleton but run the pictures in black and white. They post it online but with NO pictures. Is somebody trying t4o tell me something?

By Bob Quarteroni

 

‘What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”                                   John Steinbeck

Winter is not a season to be avoided, or one devoid of interest, color and spectacle.

It simply hides its wonders a little better than the other seasons, trading the green lushness of spring, the gaudiness of summer and the particolored splendor of autumn for more restrained wonders.

But take the time to look and you shall see revealed the magic of the natural world, as a few examples here attest.

A FOREST IN RAINDROPS

“Every raindrop that falls is accompanied by an angel, for even a raindrop is a manifestation of being.” Muhammad

A cold, pelting rain had been falling in the Darling Nature Preserve, near Blakeslee. When it stopped, in late afternoon, a crystal light washed everything new and lit the forest with untold sparkling raindrops, like these on a rose branch.

If you look closely at each raindrop you can see the forest reflected upside down. A fleeting vision, but one whose beauty is hard to match.

BRIGHT BEAUTY OF BITTERSWEET

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost

That indeed is one of the raps against winter: It’s dark, black-and-white and simply devoid of color.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as this oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) found behind our family cemetery in Courtdale, attests.

Also known as Oriental staff vine and climbing spindle berry, it is described as aggressively invasive, but this is one of only two patches I’ve run across in our region.

HOME SWEET HOME

“I prefer winter, the loneliness of it. Something waits beneath it—the whole story doesn’t show.” Andrew Wyeth

Exactly the case with these two lifeless-looking balls. In fact these goldenrod ball galls are the snug winter home of the goldenrod gall fly. Each gall contains a single plump larva, which overwinters inside the gall.

The quarter-inch-long larva slows its metabolism and utilizes glycerol as an antifreeze. If undisturbed by predators, the larva transforms into a pupa, and emerges in the spring as an adult fly. Adult flies only live about two weeks, during which time they mate and the females lay their eggs.

ARTISTRY OF NATURE

“It is through geometry that one purifies the eye of the soul.” Plato

Nature, the ultimate artist, loves dazzling us with shapes and arrangements of staggering beauty,

Reminiscent of an Alexander Calder mobile, button bush in winter shares his artistic vision because, he said, “I paint with shapes,” and, in endless variety and beauty, nature does so endlessly.

Pretty and useful. Native Americans used buttonbush in the treatment of kidney stones, sore eyes, rheumatism, headache, fever, bleeding and toothache.

YEAR-ROUND FRIENDS

“In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” William Blake

One of my favorite things about winter strolls is revisiting plants that have graced the woods from the first green shoots of spring through the beauty of flowering to autumn’s fruit, as with this wild hydrangea.

It any many others brighten the Back-Mountain trail waterfall and, mixing with the spray from the falls, make for an unforgettable experience any day of the year.

BEAUTY OF THE MIST

“I like the muted sounds, the shroud of grey, and the silence that comes with fog.” Om Malik

Only experience nature on sunny days and you deprive yourself of the near-mystical beauty that is a day heavy with fog, with air still as a thought and light that paints the shapes of nature in new and awe-inspiring ways.

In the total quiet, it’s like being the only person on the planet, and that is a magic to be savored, if you’re lucky enough to catch it.

Trump hates eagles; I hate Trump

By Bob Quarteroni

“The Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage…” DOI’s Mission Statement

And it does that, apparently, by seeing how many more bald eagles – and other birds and animals — can be keagleilled legally under its guidance.

Yes, a true Trump department, seeing the world through its own peculiar, destructive lens. As well as playing “last tag” politics. So venal and childish.

Bald eagles have been dying in enormous numbers because of lead in bullets.

Researchers at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge autopsied 168 bald eagles. Their tests found nearly half the birds had detectable levels of lead in their livers

Worse, 21 percent of the eagles most likely died from exposure to the toxic metal, its study found.

That sad story is repeated nationwide, including in our backyard. In January, a sick four-year-old female bald eagle found near the Frances Walter Dam in Luzerne County died.

A vet at Companion Animal Hospital in Tamaqua tested the eagle and “found very high levels of lead in its system, the highest she’s ever seen,” according to WNEP-TV. An X-ray showed a metal fragment, possibly from a piece of a bullet the eagle ate.

That’s what kills most eagles and other birds, including condors and: Ingesting lead shotgun pellets or bullet fragments.

They also ingest the bullet fragments while scavenging animals that have been shot but not recovered or by feeding on the entrails of game animals, like deer, which have been “field dressed.”

And it is not just eagles in the crosshairs.

“As many as 20 million birds and other animals die of lead poisoning each year as a result of the nearly 100,000 tons of lead that hunters, fishers and other sportsmen use, according to the Center for Biological Diversity,” according to the Huffington Post.

And we wingless birds aren’t in the clear either.

In England, an estimated 100,000 birds die annually from lead, causing Lord Krebs, emeritus zoology professor at Oxford to say, “People who eat wild game regularly, particularly young children, are at risk of some adverse effects. We don’t allow our children to chew on toys painted with lead paint, so why should we be allowing them to chew on game that contains fragments of lead?”

Because of this heavy metal carnage, hunting with lead bullets on federal lands was scrapped by the Obama Administration, that touchy-feely bunch of do-gooders, on its last full day in office.

But Hi-Ho Silver! Here came the Lone DeRanger to the rescue, actually riding a horse named Tonto (I couldn’t make this up if I tried, believe me).

Probably trying to impress Trump with his Putin like manliness, the new head of Interior, Ryan Zinke arrived at Interior his first day at work wearing a cowboy hat and riding, yep, Tonto.

No word if he bared his chest, ala Vlad the Displayer.

But this is tame stuff for Zinke. If you look into his background you’ll find stuff that would make him ineligible to be a circus clown.

According to Mother Jones, in 2014 the then Montana congressional candidate “…. made waves last week when, speaking at a campaign stop, he called Hillary Clinton the ‘Antichrist.’”

And he hosted an event for General Paul Valley, who, according to inlelligentdisconent.com, “called for a coup against the federal government (and) prayed for a terrorist attack against the United States to lead to the overthrow of President Obama.”

So, even before his spurs cooled, his first action on his first day in office was to scrap the Obama-era ban on hunting with lead bullets on federal lands.

A rather interesting interpretation of that “protect and manage” in DOI’s mission statement, one would say.

What was his rationale? He said the change would increase hunting, fishing and recreation opportunities on lands managed by Fish and Wildlife Service.

It would? That dog don’t even hunt a little bit.

Rather, it was to placate, who else, the National Rifle Association, ears still ringing from their backing of the insane “Hearing Protection Act.”

“This was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen’s community,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action “…This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence — it was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.”

Who cares that as many as 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning, according to The Center for Biological Diversity estimates.

Or that it “should be a no-brainer” to switch to nontoxic ammunition to save the lives of thousands of birds and other wildlife, prevent hunters and their families from being exposed to toxic lead and protect our water,” according to Jonathan Evans, the CBD’s environmental health legal director.

But it’s just another day, another environmental massacre for Team Trump, piled on top of denying global warming, attempting to gut the Clean Air Act, approving unnecessary oil pipelines and on and on ad infinitum.

Perfect. The Lone DeRanger, Tonto, No Reason Anywhere, all guided by the yellow-haired big chief of environmental madness. What could we possibly have to worry about?

Well, maybe what Tonto said in “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold”:

“Sheriff have sickness in head— cannot fix with medicine.”

Maybe in his 2nd term, Wolf can get the frackers to pay their fair share…

 

frakBy Bob Quarteroni

So, sanity to the north of us has been joined by sanity to the south of us, leaving an island of environmental lunacy here in Pennsyl(less)vania.

That’s because Maryland has joined New York in banning fracking, putting the good of the environment and its people above the good of the gas companies, the lawmakers sucking – tick-like — campaign money off of them, and landowners reaping rewards for puncturing the land.

And this was a real shocker because Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, is a rock-ribbed pro-business Republican.

But in a rare non-partisan  — and eminently sensible — move, he signed a bill totally banning fracking in the state, saying “The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits…”

Maryland follows New York, which in 2015 became the first state with significant shale gas potential to ban fracking. The Empire State’s decision came after seven years of extensive study of the environmental and health impact of fracking.

Which leaves us in the middle, bloated with gas but light on political will, commonsense and environmental concern.

But you say, you are dead wrong. Fracking is a good thing. Look at the jobs, look at the low natural gas prices, look at the economic development, look at the money flowing across the commonwealth from this mass gas dash.

To which I say, look at the drinking water contamination, health care costs, wastewater disposal mess, habitat destruction, methane pollution and its impact on climate change, air pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals, gas explosion blowout dangers and fracking-induced earthquakes.

That list could easily be tripled but you get the general idea of the true fun facts of fracking here in Gasland. The whole bloated mess is nicely summed up by Environment America.

“Over the past decade, fracking has spread rapidly, leaving a trail of contaminated water, polluted air, and marred landscapes in its wake. However, the true costs of fracking…are likely to be borne by the public, rather than the oil and gas industry. And as with the damage done by previous extractive booms, the public may experience these costs for decades to come.”

Aware of all this and more, both New York and Maryland did the right thing, and banned fracking.

Here? Just the opposite. Gov. Wolf, once called the most liberal governor in the nation by Inside.Gov, has drilled countless holes in that now hollow claim.

In late March, he released a report from a study that found  that Pennsylvania could support as many as four more ethane cracker plants, along with the one already ok’d in Beaver County.

And these cracker plants are such fun things.

According to Triblive.com, the proposed plant Royal Dutch Shell might build in Beaver County “would have the potential to rank among the top 10 air polluters in an area struggling with federal limits, based on estimates in its application for a state air permit.”

How a liberal like Wolf could have flopped on his back and started acting like a loyal spaniel for the gas industry leads to some interesting speculation. Worry about his political future? Realpolitiks?  Industry pressure? We can only guess.

But he’s all in on it, that’s for sure. Instances abound.

On Wolf’s Watch, the Department of Environmental Protection, responding to Right-to-Know requests, reported that it had approved 47 new natural gas power plants since the beginning of 2014.

As Will Bunch said in Philly.com, said “Pennsylvania should ban fracking — but that clearly won’t happen in the near future, not with so many members of our thoroughly corrupt legislature still milking the cash cow of Big Oil and Gas.”

Wolf’s lapdog act isn’t reserved for just the energy companies, he’s also being tickled in the belly by his fellow traveler, Donald Trump.

In a Pittsburgh speech at a fracking conference last September Trump outlined his scorched-earth policy, promising to lift environmental regulations and open federal lands to oil and gas production.

“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities — including right here in Pennsylvania. The shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for American workers and families.”

So, while we’re sandwiched by two going-clean states, we’re also saddled with two going-nowhere-on-the environment political big dogs, barking out miasmas to choke us all.

What can we do?

We have to channel the nascent grass-roots fervor that Trump’s election has aroused and use that energy to stand up to the power brokers, the pay-to-play politicians, the turncoat governors, the powerful lobbyists and the deep pocketed energy companies.

And we have to be willing to pay more — and I have no idea how much more that would be – for natural gas if we hope to have the wherewithal to hold the energy companies to more stringent operating guidelines, to hire sufficient enforcement personnel, to mitigate the environmental messes the companies inevitably cause and to keep fighting for clean renewable energy sources as an alternative to the gas blast.

What else can we do?

Especially when you consider the state of confusion we live in – the dirty meat in a clean gas-free sandwich — where the “most liberal governor” in the nation has to learn an environmental lesson from a staunchly conservative Republican governor

Forget political labels, just color Wolf opaque to reason and very, very stupid for not seeing the environmental light, as Maryland has so clearly done.