Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sierra Club, Marcellus Shale, Fairness

From this morning's NPR broadcast . . . . The national Sierra Club sees natural gas development of the Marcellus Shale as one part of an overall strategy to reduce carbon emissions of coal burning. The report this morning includes interviews with local activists who oppose the drilling because of concerns about fracking and who are upset at the group's national leadership:
"Some local chapters of environmental groups find themselves battling their national leadership over issues like natural gas. The national groups see natural gas as a less-harmful alternative to coal. But local groups fear the damage that gas production could bring to their fresh water and landscapes."
Listen to the whole thing and read the transcript at:

The part of the interview that caught MY eye (transcript excerpt included below) was the following exchange with the Executive Director of the Sierra Club who criticizes the apparent NIMBY attitude of the local Sierra Club chapter's anti-fracking stance:

Mr. CARL POPE (Executive Director, Sierra Club): Well, it has caused friction and it's going to cause friction.

SHOGREN: Pope says the Sierra Club's leadership decided it had to come up with a practical prescription for how the country could slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. POPE: There are people who don't agree with the policy, because they think the Sierra Club's role should just be to oppose anything that has any environmental consequences. They don't think our role should be to say, okay, here's where we think we should get our energy.

SHOGREN: Pope says creating electricity from natural gas creates much less of the air pollution that makes people sick than coal does, and drilling for natural gas doesn't damage the land nearly as much as mountaintop coal mining has in Appalachia. It's destroyed peaks, forests and streams there. That's why the Sierra Club is promoting natural gas.

Mr. POPE: We see it as the cleanest of the fossil fuels.

SHOGREN: He's not surprised by the reaction of Sierra Club members who live above the Marcellus field.

Mr. POPE: What's happening with the new discoveries of natural gas is that parts of the country that historically didn't pay any environmental bill for energy production because they didn't produce energy are going to start paying a bigger share of the bill and people don't like that.

I think this last statement by Pope is fascinating. In essence he is making a type of justice argument that New York state (and elsewhere) energy consumers have not previously paid the full environmental price for decades of their energy use. Now, he argues, it's time for people living in the Marcellus shale region to "ante up," so to speak--in other words, it's only fair that people at the local level may have to bear the burden of environmental development that yields national and international benefits.

Thoughts? does Pope's argument make sense within an environmental justice perspective? within a Rawlsian fairness perspective?

By the way, the comments section accompanying the transcript are even more fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. just got a moment for a short comment. carl pope is showing how little he knows about this issue. no history of energy extraction in this region? how bout coal mining in ne pa.? gas drilling started in western ny. take a look at the number of gas wells there on a map. there's so many in some places you can't see the dots, its just a blob of black. gotta love liberals and their lesser of two evils logic.