scharrison's blog

Insane in the Methane: Trump scraps rules on natural gas leaks

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Bad news for those concerned about climate change:

The Trump administration is scrapping limits on methane leaks, allowing oil and gas companies to decide how much of the potent greenhouse gas can escape into the atmosphere from wells, pipelines and storage tanks.

The new rules, issued Thursday by the Office of Management and Budget, effectively rescind the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate methane, the largest component of natural gas. Although it dissipates faster than carbon dioxide, methane is estimated to be at least 25 times and as much as 80 times more potent in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Just a clarification: Methane doesn't actually "dissipate," it converts to carbon dioxide after about nine years of exposure to oxygen. But during that short atmospheric life cycle, it traps heat like a bandit. Which helps trigger the dissolution of methane clathrates in the oceans and permafrost, putting even more methane into the atmosphere. It's a perfect climate change storm, and Trump is pulling all the stops out:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: DeJoy goes postal, pads his portfolio

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Better give your crime boss Trump a cut of the profits:

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a United States Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict of interest, according to newly obtained financial disclosures and ethics experts. Outside experts who spoke to CNN were shocked that ethics officials at the postal service approved this arrangement, which allows DeJoy to keep at least $30 million in XPO holdings.

Raising further alarms, on the same day in June that DeJoy divested large amounts of Amazon shares, he purchased stock options giving him the right to buy new shares of Amazon at a price much lower than their current market price, according to the disclosures.

I wouldn't even dream of trying to speculate what DeJoy's investment goals are, but XPO and Amazon had a painful divorce last year:

MVP Southgate pipeline has key permit denied by NC DEQ

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Fantastic news for Alamance and Rockingham Counties:

nother natural gas pipeline in North Carolina has been derailed, at least temporarily, as the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has denied a water quality permit for the MVP Southgate project that would route through Rockingham and Alamance counties.

In a letter released this afternoon, Division of Water Resources Director Danny Smith wrote, “Due to uncertainty surrounding the completion of the MVP Mainline project,” it has determined that “work on the Southgate extension could lead to unnecessary water quality impacts and disturbance of the environment in North Carolina.”

This project has been flying under the radar of most North Carolina areas, since it is a relatively short spur compared to the now defunct ACP. But it is a very real (and frightening) issue for many of us in Alamance County. The "landmen" have been poking around on people's properties since last year, and some property owners have been taken to court for not allowing those trespassers access:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Until Congress gets its shit together, we need to do this. Most Federal grants come with a state or local government buy-in. And when this thing expires, NC needs to make that extra $100 (if not more) a permanent increase. p.s. This is not a complete reversal of my previous opinion, but I've seen several folks say that Governor Cooper should decline to participate, and that would be a mistake.

Coronavirus vaccine may be only 50% effective

Masks and social distancing will be with us for a while:

Scientists are hoping for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75% effective, but 50% or 60% effective would be acceptable, too, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Q&A with the Brown University School of Public Health. “The chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach.”

Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA’s commissioner, said last month that the vaccine or vaccines that end up getting authorized will prove to be more than 50% effective, but it’s possible the U.S. could end up with a vaccine that, on average, reduces a person’s risk of a Covid-19 infection by just 50%. “We really felt strongly that that had to be the floor,” Hahn said on July 30, adding that it’s “been batted around among medical groups.”

I know it's depressing as hell to see this on a Monday, but the sooner we get this through our heads the better. That 50% is about the same as influenza vaccines:

UNC officials pay lip service to health department concerns

Plunging ahead with in-person instruction during a pandemic:

In the memo, Stewart expressed concern over signs returning students have already contributed to spikes and clusters of infections. She recommended an all-online fall semester or, at a minimum, holding the first five weeks of the semester online-only. She also recommended the school restrict on-campus housing to those who would otherwise have nowhere to live, in order to slow community spread of the disease.

The chancellor described the Orange County Health Department’s recommendations as “another piece of information we have received.” But after consulting with UNC health experts and the UNC System — which will make the final decision on closures — the university decided not to follow the health department recommendations.

When (not if) the outbreaks occur, faculty and students will have to scramble (again) to adapt to online instruction, and the UNC Hospital itself will likely be buried in older Orange County residents unnecessarily infected. And if it is, they need to treat those people for free. I know it's a teaching hospital that also relies (at least partly) on tuition monies, but health issues should be paramount. And these comments will not age well:

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