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SkyTruth on Mountain Top Removal in the Applachians
Transcript of SkyTruth on Mountain Top Removal in the Applachians
Here’s this huge catastrophe, total technological breakdown unfolding in front of our very eyes and the regulatory industries, and the responders and even the industry players were really caught off guard by this.
So everybody was scrambling to figure out what was happening and just how bad it was. Now I don’t want to let them off because they should have known that something could have happened. Amber: We are here today with John Amos. He is president of SkyTruth. John, can you just tell us a bit about what SkyTruth is and your role there? John: Sure, hi Amber. Thanks for asking me about SkyTruth and thanks to all your students for your interest in us. We’re a nonprofit organization based in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, not far from Washington D.C. We’ve been around for about 10 years. We are an organization that specializes in using remote sensing — generally speaking, that’s using satellite images, aerial surveys, photography and other aerial data — to study and investigate and perhaps most importantly to communicate to people about environmental issues. So we use technology to allow people to see with their own eyes what’s happening anywhere on the planet. What's your background? John: Sure. Well my background is as a geologist. I have an undergraduate degree in geology from Cornell University and I got my Masters in geology from the University of Wyoming. That’s obviously kind of a fossil fuel resource-focused course of study so I spent the first ten years of my career actually using remote sensing as an exploration tool to help oil and gas companies, mining companies and big government agencies to look for oil and gas and mineral resources around the world. That was before I started SkyTruth. Once I made that change in my career it was obvious that SkyTruth was going to be focused quite a bit on resource extraction issues, specifically fossil fuel resources. Can you tell me about projects you are working on now? So a lot of work, a lot of the projects we have engaged in over the last ten years have revolved around looking at the environmental impacts of things like oil and gas drilling and this new technique of "fracking" (hydraulic fracture), looking at the impacts to landscapes and habitats and to surface waters — ...right now the projects we are working on are looking at imagery and other kinds of GIS data to produce maps and visualizations that help guide citizens volunteers throughout the mid Atlantic who are responding to the shale gas drilling issue by learning how to monitor water quality in the streams and rivers around where they live. This is a really interesting grassroots movement of citizen water monitoring and we are working to help those people use their time more effectively and pointing them in the areas where the drilling activity is most intense. The other project we are working on is a new extension of that water monitoring into the coal mining of Appalachia. There are too [also] people who are concerned about impacts of mining on the land [as opposed to water]. We’re really focusing on impacts to the water supply, drinking water, the lifeblood of any landscape especially one that people rely on. So we‘re looking to help folks monitor the water quality there. And an exciting global project we are embarking on is looking at a large, multi-national environmental organization that is trying to protect marine resources around the world by systematically establishing large, marine protection areas. These are areas were some activities like oil and gas drilling and fishing will be managed and, in some cases, off limits. One big problem they have is the problem of illegal, undocumented, unreported fishing. When you are out 100, 200, or 2000 miles to sea, it’s kind of hard to police those areas and make sure people are sticking to the rules. So we are using — or I should say, developing — a technique that relies on radar satellite imagery to monitor big marine protected areas for special activity and to discern whether that activity is legal or illegal. Amber: OK. You mentioned that is was a multi-national group. Can you tell me who that group is?
John: Yes. The Pew Environment Group under the Pew Charitable Trusts. It’s a big program for conservation called Global Ocean Legacies program. That’s what we are doing as part of the larger program.
http://www.pewenvironment.org/ John: You know, that is so hard of a question to answer because there is such a range of impacts that we are able to observe with imagery and so there are things that are quick and focused and intense in their nastiness, and then there are things that are broad and distributed and slowly unrolling in their nastiness. I can’t really pick my favorite, if you want to put it that way.
Imagery is useful for both kinds of incidents and everything in between. Obvious examples of this are if you were interviewing me at this time in 2010, I would be inclined to pick the BP oil spill as the worst that we have seen just because the extreme intensity of that event — a larger and well defined region highly observable day in and day out in the satellite imagery. Tough to hide a problem like that, but on the scale of things environmentally, just because it was the most observable doesn’t mean it’s the worst. So when we look at things like tar sand extraction up in Alberta, that’s a huge issue that has the potential to get many times bigger than it already is and right now we can look at that and see that each gigantic surface/strip mining footprint that is quite apocalyptic-looking, not dissimilar to what we see in Appalachia with mountaintop removal mining. There’s another form of tar sand extraction that happens underground and potentially looks for an area ten or more times larger than the area that will be subject to surface strip mining and some environmentalists look at these forms of extraction and argue that the underground form of extraction is going to be largely out of sight and potentially is going to contaminate much bigger cumulative groundwater resources than the surface mining. So that’s a long ways thing. I can’t answer your question Amber. http://www.emeraldcoastkeeper.org/ Anyway, with satellite imagery we could distinctly observe the oil slick that was being formed at the ocean’s surface. Now remember, this was happening a mile deep at the sea floor. And this oil was floating up through a mile of ocean water and was seen as the oil slick at the surface in the satellite imagery. We were able to measure the size of that oil spill and make very conservative assumptions about how thick the oil spill had to be for us to be able to see it on satellite imagery. We were a lot closer than BP and the Coast Guard and I think that really got a lot of people’s attention and made them realize that there are technology tools out there that are not necessarily purview anymore to industry, and government and intelligence agencies. Our benchmark — our rule-of-thumb conservative assessment — was that the oil has to be at least 1 micron thick for us to see it on satellite imagery. That’s a thousandth of a millimeter thick, so we think a pretty conservative number to use. And using that number and quantitating some statements about the thickness of the spill that BP executives were making at press conferences, we were able to determine in the first week that the rate of oil coming out of the well was at least 25 times greater than the official BP and Coast Guard estimates. And we turned out to be wrong; we were only capturing half of it.
http://oilspill.skytruth.org/main# Ultimately, when a team of scientists assembled by the federal government estimated that the flow rate from the well, they calculated that it was even twice as big as SkyTruth’s estimate. What do you think is the most alarming activity you have uncovered using remote sensing? So with public, free, easily-accessible satellite imagery and desktop software (and some expertise), we were able to basically blow the lid off the size of the spill. That certainly attracted a lot of attention to SkyTruth for a while that we weren’t used to but I think it was a really strong lesson that government ought to be better at recruiting help from scientists, from academics, and from the public when there’s an emergency of national consequence like this. Industry needs to be aware that we are watching. We have the capability to do that now. Amber: That kind of makes me wonder, how do you get your work? Do people come to you and want you to investigate certain things? Or do you kind of go out and say, "We are going to look at oil spills," or "We're going to look at strip mining"? How does it all start? see more videos: http://skytruth.org/about.htm John: It’s all of the above. We do act as kind of a free consultant on what can be done with remote sensing technology and environmental issues and people approach us. Those people are usually with environmental advocacy organizations or government agencies and they’ll call us up or email us and say “Hey we have this problem we are interested in. What can we do to answer these questions using remote sensing or satellite imagery and can you help us with that.” So we do get a certain amount of project work just by our interaction with the environmental community and the regulatory community. Mostly the environmental community.
But we also kind of proactively stay engaged on environmental issues such as fracking, mountaintop removal mining, other issues like that are getting a lot of attention and raising a lot of concern and we determine where we think we can have the most value to educating the public on those issues, to informing decision makers, and informing the public debate on those issues and we design our own projects to accomplish that. Who is on your staff? Are they scientists? Well I’ll give you the rundown on the staff because we are so compact. As I said I’m a geologist. Our Chief Technologist Officer Paul Woods is a software developer and entrepreneur so he’s our in house tech guru. David Manthos is our new Outreach and Communications Director. Recently out of college, he’s been helping us discuss projects, build partnerships with other organizations to help us streamline the way we work with academics and non-profits and other entities. So pretty close group but we also have volunteers with a range to technical skills and that runs the gamut from GIS and digital mapping, image analysis, image processing, database management and data mining. We’re doing more and more of that as time goes by. We look for people with not just technical skills, but also very important with great communication skills: writing, blogging, working with social media these are increasingly important ways for us as a small organization to get our work in front of as big an audience as we can. Amber: You mentioned working with other academic institutions. What other universities are you working with? How does working with other universities and students benefit SkyTruth? Our mission is not just SkyTruth becoming a bigger entity with full-time professionals...it’s us engaging the interested public in the act of skytruthing Our mission is not just SkyTruth becoming a bigger entity with full-time professionals cranking out SkyTruth images and reports and graphics, it’s us engaging the interested public in the act of skytruthing and we define that as people going out and look up the place that they care about and see what it looks like in imagery and identify what’s going on there and if they see a problem or concern and monitoring that.
Looking at new imagery when it becomes available, again defining what’s changed from the previous imagery they looked at and then letting everyone know about that and what they have seen. That’s a common topic of image analysis and image annotation and publication. We’re working toward developing tools that help people to become skytruthers if they are interested and what we don’t know is how much can we expect from non-experts? How much can we ask of them in terms of sophisticated mapping or image analysis? The students give us a chance to test out our approaches and hopefully that helps us learn what are the most effective ways to engage non-experts in helping SkyTruth in places around the world. http://skytruth.org/key_personnel.htm Amber: Speaking of our students, they are working on a mountaintop removal project in one of their courses right now (with data and guidance provided by SkyTruth). Can you tell us a little bit about mountaintop removal and why it’s such an important topic? John: Sure how much time do you have? In 5,000 words or less? This is a hugely important topic for a number of reasons. Of course we are here in West Virginia so we feel this more acutely than a lot of other people do. Coal is still a very important energy source for America and the world. It’s becoming less so as natural gas emerges as a cheaper and cleaner-burning energy source — although not necessarily cleaner when you look at the end-to-end emissions of natural gas, but that’s another thing to talk about. But coal mining is still very important and it impacts the landscape in very obvious and some subtle ways. The very obvious is you have this massive reengineering of the terrain and that affects almost everything that you can think of at the surface — the impacts of the habitats, the functioning of the ecosystem, the functioning of the water cycle, the hydrologic cycle. When you change the topography dramatically, when you change the landcover, when you strip off the soil when you have huge piles of bare, crushed rock, it changes the chemistry, it changes the erosion, the propensity of areas to be subject to flash flooding or landslides or mudflows, and of course it affects the chemistry of the water flow downstream. So understanding how that is all happening and why requires some pretty detailed knowledge about the mining activity itself — exactly where the mining activity is happening in the watershed and when are those things happening. Mining is a multi-year, multi-decade process so it is important to know when the mining activity has commenced, when new sites are being excavated or valley fills being created, so you can correlate that with other measures — of water quality downstream, measures of flooding frequency, biologic surveys, wildlife surveys, and things like that. So we can predict how proposed future mining activity is likely to affect all of those other important things that we care about.
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WorldOfChange/hobet.php ... back in 2007 we were approached by a group called Appalachian Voices, that was working on a mountaintop mining campaign. They were trying to find out what turned out to be a very simple thing, namely, how many square miles of Appalachian landscape have been turned over to mining activity? What they wanted to know was how many acres of ridgetop and valley had been cut and filled by mining for coal. And I thought, “Well, jeez, that must be easy. Why don’t you call up the state agencies that regulate coal mining? I mean, they must know this number.” And the phone went silent for a second, and then the guy on the other end of the phone laughed, and he said, “Well you would think that, wouldn’t you?” And it turns out, it’s not true. So nobody had that number. Not even the regulatory agencies actually knew how much landscape was being used up by the mining activity, which was kind of astonishing. So we said, “Well, we can figure that out. We can measure that with satellite imagery. It’s very observable from remote satellite imagery.” John: So we did this analysis, getting Landsat satellite imagery — back then we had to actually get the imagery. Getting it from the 1970s, 80s, 90s and mid-2000s and doing this landcover classification and editing processes — that your students are doing quite well — to identify all the area that is impacted by this mining. Then what we found was really fascinating. Some scientists started coming to us and asking for the datasets, because nobody had that until we produced it. And one of the really neat and potentially important pieces of science that came out of that was lead by Dr. Emily Bernhardt at Duke University where she correlated our mining footprint database with measures of conductivity and contaminant mobilization downstream from site. ...So she had this big water quality database showing mobilization of things like selenium, which is a really nasty thing to have in your drinking water, but she had no way to tie that particularly to mining activity upstream until our database was created. And once that was produced, that relationship could be produced, and the consequence of that is that the Environmental Protection Agency was able to say, “Wow, now the science exists.” "...for us to look at permits for proposed mines that haven’t been built yet, and make a prediction about what the downstream contaminant consequences are going to be of that proposed mining activity." And based on that, they, for the first time in EPA history, used their regulating authority to revoke the mining permit the Army Corps of Engineers had already issued. And that sent shockwaves throughout the mining industry. It’s been in courts ever since. A state supreme court overturned the EPA, saying they didn’t actually have the authority to revoke that permit, the appeal process by EPA is continuing. But without the existence of our dataset, that work wouldn’t have been possible. So here’s an example where the SkyTruth imagery has been used to produce data that doesn’t exist anywhere else that can have a potentially a pretty major policy impact at the national level. John: There are consequences to everything we do. There’s no free lunch. There are environmental impacts from wind power development, from industrial scale solar development; everything has it’s own set of drawbacks. Our philosophy at SkyTruth is:
You can’t make good choices if you don’t have all the information — not only about the pros, but also about the cons. John: We find the industry and politicians are exceedingly good at talking about the economics of reducing fossil fuels — the jobs, the so-called energy security, all the positives. That’s great, those positives are fantastic. Now what are the drawbacks? They get strangely silent. Then we see it’s our job to fill the void, and provide some balance to the national argument about how we use energy and what kind of energy we use, by bringing the drawback to the light of day so that anybody who cared to take a thoughtful look at issues is going to be armed with all the information or at least more of the information they need to make a better decision about the inevitable tradeoffs. http://appvoices.org/ Amber: We’re talking about politicians taking it and swinging it toward their side. You’re dealing with a lot of controversial projects, as a result, as in the EPA using your data, and their investigating it and distributing it to many groups and different people. How do you go about ensuring the accuracy of your output whenever you’re reviewing the imagery? John: Well, that’s a constant imperative for us. We’re scrupulous about not saying more than we can based on the data that we have in front of us. I think that’s pretty important. We have our opinions on things, just like everybody does, but we try to be really clear about when we’re veering into opinion-land and away from data-land. So that is an important thing for us. One of the things we’re concerned about when we try to adopt a crowd sourcing approaches to doing image analysis is exactly that: “How do we ensure the quality of the product?” And I think that’s going to be an iterative learning process for us and for the people who are doing skytruthing in terms of, again, what can we ask people to do that they’ll be able to provide at a consistent level of quality that we’re comfortable with. We don’t know the answer to that yet. So for the work that we do internally, it’s a lot more straightforward. If I’m comfortable with what we’re saying about the imagery and my colleagues — from a career in image processing and image analysis, I have a Rolodex full of people who are experts in radar satellite image analysis, and experts in processing infrared channel imagery from aircraft scanner instruments, I’ve got people I can go to when I have questions and say “What do you think about this? Am I right in thinking that this is what I’m seeing, or are there some other explanations that are more likely?” So I have a crew that I can call on, and I do that routinely. Skytruth and you John: First of all, it’s a very basic, common use of remote sensing imagery. Can you do landcover analysis? Can you say what’s happening down in the landscape at this spot versus that spot? So I think it’s a learning opportunity for anybody with an interest in this, potentially as a career, this is one of the fundamental types of analysis that you’re going to get good at. But more than that, I want the students to appreciate that this kind of analysis is an iterative process. Because if you’re looking at the Earth from a couple of hundred miles in space, there’s always going to be some ambiguity. There’s going to be ambiguity in the quality of the data from place to place. There’s going to be ambiguity in the tools you’re using and the judgements that you’re making about what you’re seeing in that imagery. Amber: Going back to the project our students are working on now — mountaintop removal — I’d like to know: What do you want our students to glean from this process of classifying images? Is that my house? Amber: So, I think, based on that, how has SkyTruth’s contribution toward improving mountaintop removal mining practices in the Appalachian coal region, how has it helped movement there in the Appalachian region, but also has it affected anywhere outside of the area, where mountaintop removal is occurring elsewhere? John: That’s a great question, and I think that answer is in progress. The mountaintop removal mining battle is being fought on a couple of different fronts. One is at the nitty-gritty level of state and federal regulations and how those regulations are being implemented by the responsible agencies. That’s just one arena. And then the other is the battle of public opinion, and that may be more important a battle to win. So another way that scientists have used our mountaintop mining dataset is to look at correlations between mining activity and public health. And public health — much more than environmental impact — public health is something that everybody relates to as a concern. It’s not a political thing, or at least not as political as the environment seems to have become. And I actually look at most of what motivates me at SkyTruth as being about people and ensuring we’ve got a healthy, vibrant, functioning planet to live on for our sake, as well as everything else. So in terms of public opinion, some scientists from West Virginia and the University of Washington took our dataset and correlated it with the incidence of birth defects and they actually found that the incidence of birth defects were statistically higher in communities based on how close John: And again, that’s just their perception of their health, not actual scientific measures of their health. But I think your perception of how healthy you and your family are is certainly a major part of your quality of life and well-being, so it’s an important thing to measure. So in terms of public opinion, these health studies, both of them got quite a lot of media attention, and in other parts of the county — it wasn’t just in Appalachia. John Amos big, landscape-altering things like coal mining and gold and copper mining and other metal mining and tar sand mining. So we have done a little bit of work mapping and quantifying changes in forests in Appalachia as a result of intensive logging activities. prezi.com tutorial Audio clips Most slides in this presentation include audio clips of an interview with the SkyTruth president, John Amos. When audio is present, it will begin automatically when you view that slide. Audio controls can be found at the bottom of the white box, here. Slides To progress to the next slide,
click the right arrow found at the bottom-center of your screen. John: In addition to your program we of course are working closely with Shepard University here in Shepardstown — a small school, but it has some very high-quality faculty and students and we have student interns working with us doing projects that earn them credit or other progress toward their degree and some that are just volunteering because they like our mission of what we do and they would like the exposure to a professional office setting doing real technical work that gets published. That’s very important to us for a couple of reasons. One, we can access smart people who can help us get some meaningful, technical work done. That’s part of the equation. The other part of it is that very often we are dealing with students — they’re not necessarily experts in the technical fields that we are working in, they’re not experts yet, we’re helping them down that road. But because they are relatively new to some of the technologies and the things that we use students provide a really important set of test subjects, if you will, guinea pigs, to do skytruthing. More controls To return to the previous slide, click the left arrow, found at the bottom-center of the screen. You can also view the presentation as a whole by clicking the Home button...
and zoom in and out using the mouse wheel or the zoom buttons. (Note: Depending on the dimensions of your screen, these arrows might be pointing at nothing.) Use this button if you accidentally pan or zoom into nothingness. (Or after clicking the Home button in the next step.) Go to the next slide... As the audio plays, you can pan and zoom around the presentation. The audio will only end if:
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or it runs to the end. Mountaintop removal mining impact study results by state:
Kentucky 574,000 acres 293 mountains
Tennessee 78,000 acres 6 mountains
Virginia 156,000 acres 67 mountains
West Virginia 352,000 acres 135 mountains
TOTAL 1,160,000 acres 501 mountains 1984 1995 2006 2012 Hobet Mine - West Virginia A note on the audio Due to some unfortunate technical issues, the audio from the interview has a strong echo effect, making it difficult to hear in certain parts.
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Other multimedia found within the presentation (e.g. YouTube videos) do have clear audio, which you are encouraged to listen to. Enjoy the presentation! Tutorial Data Quality Amber: Based on that, how has SkyTruth’s contribution toward improving mountaintop removal mining practices in the Appalachian coal region, how has it helped movement there in the Appalachian region, but also has it affected anywhere outside of the area, where mountaintop removal is occurring elsewhere? John: That’s a great question, and I think that answer is in progress. The mountaintop removal mining battle is being fought on a couple of different fronts. One is at the nitty-gritty level of state and federal regulations and how those regulations are being implemented by the responsible agencies. That’s just one arena. And then the other is the battle of public opinion, and that may be more important a battle to win. So another way that scientists have used our mountaintop mining dataset is to look at correlations between mining activity and public health. And I actually look at most of what motivates me at SkyTruth as being about people and ensuring we’ve got a healthy, vibrant, functioning planet to live on for our sake, as well as everything else. So in terms of public opinion, some scientists from West Virginia and the University of Washington took our dataset and correlated it with the incidence of birth defects and they actually found that the incidence of birth defects were statistically higher in communities based on how close they were to active coal mining operations. Now that doesn’t establish cause and effect, but that’s a correlation of proximity. The mechanism underlying it is not understood yet. "And public health — much more than environmental impact — public health is something that everybody relates to as a concern. It’s not a political thing, or at least not as political as the environment seems to have become." And I actually look at most of what motivates me at SkyTruth as being about people and ensuring we’ve got a healthy, vibrant, functioning planet to live on for our sake, as well as everything else. So in terms of public opinion, some scientists from West Virginia and the University of Washington took our dataset and correlated it with the incidence of birth defects and they actually found that the incidence of birth defects were statistically higher in communities based on how close they were to active coal mining operations. Now that doesn’t establish cause and effect, but that’s a correlation of proximity. The mechanism underlying it is not understood yet. And related to that, they found that people, when they were asked to gauge the quality of their health and their family’s health, statistically, the closer people were to active mining operations the poorer health they reported. John: And again, that’s just their perception of their health, not actual scientific measures of their health. But I think your perception of how healthy you and your family are is certainly a major part of your quality of life and well being, so it’s an important thing to measure. So in terms of public opinion, these health studies, both of them got quite a lot of media attention, and in other parts of the county — it wasn’t just in Appalachia. And I think that’s important for getting electricity users around North America to start thinking about what the consequences are of not turning off the lights when you’re done with them, when you leave the room. Of not conserving electricity, because “Hey, when I flip the switch it comes on,” so it’s there, and it seems to be infinite. So I think I don’t know what impact our work has had yet, but I think it has provided unique information that has given those working on this issue more tools in their toolkit — both the in the trenches, nitty-gritty, regulatory level of fighting this, and in the arena of public opinion. And I don’t know what that does to the practice of mountaintop removal mining. "I don’t think that coal mining should just suddenly come to a halt, that just is not going to happen, and it would be probably catastrophic for our economy and lifestyle..." Thanks for watching! John: But I think that we need to think about different ways to do the mining that are more protective of watersheds and how water drains down stream. And I think we need to get more assertive about electricity conservation and a real effort in developing alternative forms of electricity generation that are economical. And none of that is going to happen without ratcheting up the pressure to stop the status quo. Skytruth alerts system Amber: Well we’re starting to run out of time, but before you go, we’ve noticed that on your site you have an automated pollution alert system. Can you tell us a bit more about how this works, and how you accomplish scanning so much imagery to find out where this is happening? John: This is a fun and really handy little tool that we built for ourselves called SkyTruth Alert, at Alerts.SkyTruth.org. they were to active coal mining operations. Now that doesn’t establish cause and effect, but that’s a correlation of proximity. The mechanism underlying it is not understood yet. And related to that, they found that people, when they were asked to gauge the quality of their health and their family’s health, statistically, the closer people were to active mining operations the poorer health they reported. Initially, we built it so that we could have an easy way of finding out when and where a pollution incident was happening that we might want to investigate with imagery. And we also work with partners who fly small aircraft to investigate small pollution incidents. We wanted a way to tell them, “Hey, if you can get a pilot up in the air, we hear there’s a big coal sludge spill happening in Tennessee. Can you get out there and get some photography of that, that we might be able to use?” Listen to the story here. So, we built Alert — and this is what Paul Wood specializes in — he built software tools that scrape data from government websites. There’s a lot of useful data on government websites, at both the state and federal level, but very often it’s hard to find, it’s kind of inscrutable when you do find it, not really clear what this stuff is and how to use it. http://alerts.skytruth.org/ John: So we identify these data sources and automate the process of downloading the data, extracting the useful information out of it, so that we can then put that data on an interactive map. And that’s the SkyTruth Alerts map. John: The main sources of data in it right now are the official oil and hazardous material spills at land and at sea, that are reported for the entire U.S. including our territories out in the Pacific. And those reports come through an entity called the National Response Center. So six times a day we go to the National Response Center website and pull down the latest pollution reports from them and put those on the map. Amber: How do you know... Where does the data come from? http://www.nrc.uscg.mil/nrchp.html Since we’re working on the issue of oil and gas drilling and fracking, we also collect new oil and gas well permits from the states of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado. And other public drilling information including notices of violation for Pennsylvania, for when the state has cited a drilling company for environmental or administrative violations, we get that data too, and put that on the website. John: So you can go to the Alerts website, and on the interactive map you can zoom in to your own particularly geographic area, and then click on “Subscribe” to get an RSF feed for any new incident report that appears in your area of interest. Or you can get a daily email digest. I’m kind of lazy, I like the email thing, so once a day I get an email in my inbox with links to all the new reports in the SkyTruth Alert system for the areas of interest I’m monitoring. And then I use that to look up the satellite imagery from the various sources we access to see if I can say anything about those incidents based on the satellite images. What to know how to follow Alerts? The future of skytruth Amber: Now, you’ve been there from the beginning; where do you see the future of SkyTruth? Where do you want it to go? John: Well I keep running into or being approached by people with various skills who want to help. Some of them work for oil and gas and mining companies, and I think “these folks are like I was 15 years ago. The work all day doing GIS work or image analysis for a big energy company. And the end of the day they come home and they feel like they wish they were using their talents and skills to do something they could feel good about. And there may be a lot of people like that out there. So the future of SkyTruth is to find ways to harness that desire. The desire of people to do something that they can feel good about. To find constructive outlets, constructive ways that in the realm in which we work — which is digital data, mapping data, GIS data, remote sensing information — to find things that people can do and let them at it. While also finding ways to ensure the quality of that work and to continue to produce an ever-increasing amount of known SkyTruth process work with our own internal group of experts in various technologies and various environmental relations. So I see the future of growing SkyTruth as an invitation, but in tandem with that, growing SkyTruth is a movement that anyone can participate in. I know we will have succeeded when people use the word “SkyTruth” the way they use the word “Googling.” Amber: It definitely seems like that’s the way that even GIS is heading, with everything being available online and allowing people without GIS skills to do mapping. It’s kind of already happening, so it’s a cool thing to be involved in and to be a part of.
Thank you for taking time with me today and for all of your efforts with SkyTruth. I think our students will really appreciate hearing from you, whenever they’re working through their classification, to get meaning behind what they’re doing. John: Well thank you, Amber. We appreciate the opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what your students can produce on this vibrant and important mountaintop mining issue. High quality and repeatability is the goal you always want to strive for. But at a certain point in the process, you get into the area of diminishing returns, where increase in effort is not necessarily yielding quantum leaps in the quality of the end product. Learning when to say “when” is an important part of this kind of processing. So I think part of the appreciation has to be an understanding that perfection is impossible. Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Hold down the left mouse button to pan around the presentation. You can click on text, images, or slides to zoom directly to them. Manually zooming to text and images will not interrupt the audio, but clicking on items will pause audio. CLICK ME! Did he say "Fracking"? Yes. If you thought BAttlestar Galactica...just no. Better Watch this short video to learn more! [End of interview] Gulf of Mexico, BP oil spill... tar sand extraction, alberta http://blog.skytruth.org/2011/10/albertas-tar-sands-in-situ-extraction.html cool satellite animation: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Mining_Canada%27s_Oil_Sands.ogv More: Canada energy facts: http://www.centreforenergy.com/FactsStats/MapsCrossBorder/ In fact, we warned them that something exactly like this could have happened back in 2009 and if people would have been paying attention to oil and gas drilling incidents in the oceans around the world in the past 10 years they would have known it was probably just a matter of time before we would have to deal with something pretty big. Find more details on the busted pipeline unveiled by Skytruth and other details about the non-profit, check out this blog article: http://findmyaccident.com/fmablog/2012/05/15/skytruth-harnesses-satellite-technology-to-empower-environmentalists/ Also See: http://www.coalcountrythemovie.com/ Find her paper here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es301144q Even more from Bernhardt Lab: http://bernhardtlab.weebly.com/index.html More info on regulations: Table 10. Major U.S. coal producers, 2011: http://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/pdf/table10.pdf Even more (+ xls files) - U.S. EIA Annual Coal Report: http://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/ 1. National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Coal companies must provide an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for each permit. These statements assess the potential impact of mining on the environment. The Army Corps of Engineers is empowered to issue Finding of no Significant Impact (FONSI) documents which supersede any concerns that may be present in the EIA by explaining why the Corps has concluded that there are no significant environmental impacts resulting from the granting of a permit.
2. Clean Water Act (CWA)
Surface mines are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which is regulated under the CWA. In West Virginia, the DEP has primacy of enforcement of the NPDES permits with EPA acting as the federal oversight body. 3. If a mining plan calls for valley fills, a 404 permit must be obtained CWA section 404 (c): Discharge of Dredged or Fill Materials
The Corps does not have authority over water quality, that's the jurisdiction of the EPA who oversees this permit. However, since anything that interferes with the flow of the water of the United States is regulated by the Corps, the Corps administers valley fills.
see Big Pike Surface Mine vs EPA - http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/bigbranch.cfm 4. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) The SMCRA permit is the whole mining plan, top to bottom, including the blasting plan. The DEP administers SMCRA permits but, unlike the NPDES permits, the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation maintains oversight. SMCRA requires that "all surface coal mining operations back-fill, compact... and grade in order to restore the approximate original contour of the land with all high-walls, spoil piles and depressions eliminated." stages of black lung interview with
Dr. Emily Bernhardt. (5 minutes) A report like that http://crmw.net/files/Zullig_Hendryx_Health_related_quality_of_life_2011.pdf That Paper: The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996-2003
Melissa M. Aherna, , , , Michael Hendryxb, Jamison Conleyc, Evan Fedorkoc, Alan Ducatmanb, Keith J. Zulligb
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935111001484# Chad A. Stevens
In February 2009, two activists hung a banner on an excavator on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia. Several were arrested on trespassing charges.
http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/664 List of related peer reviewed articles: http://crmw.net/resources/health-impacts.php
Mentioned in video:
Palmer, M.S., E. S. Bernhardt, W. H. Schlesinger, K. N. Eshleman, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, M. S. Hendryx, A. D. Lemly, G. E. Likens, O. L. Loucks, M. E. Power, P. S. White, P. R. Wilcock. (2010) “Mountaintop Mining Consequences.” 5. Mining Safety and Health Administration Permit (MSHA) -oversees the regulatory structure of the mines. MSHA focuses on the safety aspect of the structures, not their environmental impacts. find a well near you, visit: http://fracfocus.org/ http://blog.skytruth.org/2012/11/skytruth-releases-fracking-chemical.html Natural-gas wells on public land in the Jonah Field of western Wyoming. Fracking is routine for most gas wells drilled now in the U.S. Photo courtesy EcoFlight.http://blog.skytruth.org/2011/04/fracking-safe-or-not.html Actor Mark Ruffalo holds a bottle of well water from Dimock, Pa., during a New Yorkers Against Fracking rally at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. http://www.komonews.com/news/business/For-NY-farmers-fracking-means-salvation---or-ruin-152300155.html Average number of employees by State and mine type, 2011, 2010:
http://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/pdf/table18.pdf Economics... Let's take a look at the stats http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/osar0012.htm Probably not what John had in mind when he mentioned the need to be assertive about energy conservation... Windmills or wind turbines are one of the alternative energy sources being implemented. skytruth Future skytruthers? Children exploring google earth...
http://www.tashacowdy.com/2012/08/22/a-whole-earth-inquiry/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/skytruth fracking approved in NC 2012: http://www.inquisitr.com/269247/fracking-approved-in-north-carolina-after-accidental-yes-vote/ http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es301144q http://www.npr.org/2010/04/16/126021059/the-quiet-deaths-outside-the-coal-mines These human lung samples show (from left) a normal lung, a lung with mild pneumoconiosis or "black lung" and one with complicated pneumoconiosis. http://deesongs.homestead.com/coalminer.html http://uwf.edu/environmental/facstaff/hobbs/ Photo: http://www.quantumingenuity.com/tarsands.html Photo: en.wikipedia.org Photo: csjalbany.org Photograph: Jeff Mcintosh/APguardian.co.uk Photo © Greenpeace / John Woods http://photo.greenpeace.orgcommonground.ca An Interview and related resources Intended for UWF ONline GIS Special Topics in GIS students: Mountain Top Removal classification project