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Sunny Schools

It brightened my day to see this news story from Australia, specifically regarding Victoria and New South Wales, about a plan to power 937 public high schools with 100-percent renewable energy.

It’s of particular interest to me since we have a home solar system, plus I have lobbied our local school board to have solar energy added to the our new high school, which is currently under construction.

There were some excellent quotes in the story from Australia with this link to a PDF further describing the project in Victoria.

This quote was my favorite:

“We believe that young people aren’t the leaders of tomorrow, they’re the leaders of today.”
Laura Sykes, Schools Program Director with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Another quote makes an equally valid point, focusing more on the political and global side of the issue:

“Why should any young person be made to study for a future when no-one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg

As far as our new Peters Township High School opening in 2020? One board member told me they would only be adding a solar system to our new high school “if someone gave it to them.” Any wealthy solar donors willing to change that vision “for the future?”

When our new Peters Township High School opens its doors will there be “2020 hindsight” on why solar energy wasn’t added to the plan?

When our new Peters Township High School opens its doors will there be “2020 hindsight” on why solar energy wasn’t added to the plan?

Below is a letter I sent to our school board 15 months ago:

October 22, 2017

To: Peters Township School Board Members

Greetings - Today I am writing you at length about an important design element I have not found anywhere in the new high school documents, that being any mention of "green design" or the use of solar energy. Perhaps this is just an oversight that can be addressed in the final design/build process as opposed to retrofitting the new school later.

The incorporation of solar energy is important on several levels, with some being much more obvious than others. Presently, there is no doubt with 99.9% of scientists and 100% of scientific societies that the devastating effects of climate change are upon us, due to global warming. The disinformation haze on this topic has blown away like the smoke that surrounded similar campaigns by the tobacco industry promoting cigarettes. Extreme weather graphically and tragically demonstrated to us in 2017 some of those effects in the recent "worst ever" hurricanes, droughts and fires.

Producing and burning fossil fuels are huge contributors to that current and future crisis, one that continues to dog our region with poor and failing air quality ratings. Contributing to all that, we see in the 2016 PUC report that Washington County leads the state with 1,432 of the newer gas wells. The tip of the iceberg so to speak, no pun intended.

With construction of Shell's $6 billion cracker plant, as many as four more crackers planned, and all the additional new pipelines for exports, Washington County's future is set, featuring thousands more oil and gas wells, dozens more compressor stations (in addition to the 40+ built in the past decade) to move production through pipelines, and many more gas processing plants to separate gas liquids such as ethane and propane. One only needs to reference industry permits through the Pa. DEP to know how much pollution this build-out is adding to our county and township air. A short drive out Rt 519 from Houston to Hickory will give you a strong sense of what I'm saying here.

Unfortunately, Peters Township is downwind from the largest portion of this O&G build-out in our county, as well as similar development in the panhandle of West Virginia and eastern Ohio. In addition to all that new air pollution being upwind, our township has become a "donut hole" in the midst of further O&G development in surrounding townships like Cecil, North Strabane, Nottingham and Union. At last check, there were over 600 gas leases signed by Peters Township residents.

EQT's Lutes Pad in nearby Nottingham Township is currently permitted for 24 wells, with 9 of those planned well laterals extending under Peters, nearly reaching Bower Hill Elementary. We are also adversely affected by air pollution from the Clairton Coke Works, which has logged 6,700 environmental violations over just the past 3-1/2 years.

Bottom line, with our topography of hills and valleys, air pollution from all around the region gets trapped in our valleys. As you are all too well aware, asthma is a huge problem with children and the sort of air pollution outlined above contributes greatly and increasingly, not only with the typical gas industry air pollutants but also PM2.5 from the 1,000 or more truck trips required to complete each new gas well.

We now have wonderful opportunities in our township to add "positives" to all those pollution "negatives" by once again taking the lead as a township and school district by incorporating solar power into all new construction and renovation projects. Costs of solar have come way down and the resulting financial payback window has narrowed, with immediate quality of life benefits for all. But more importantly, and beyond all that, you would be leading our youth into their future, a future that will have renewable energy, green buildings, electric vehicles, and a whole host of new technology, while moving away from the outdated and dangerous use of fossil fuels.

As the old saying goes, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." I think Peters should lead the way and hopefully you will join me in that strong belief and action.

Becoming a leader in renewable energy offers multiple educational opportunities for our youth as well, while they work to solve the climate crisis that our region has played a large role in creating, and now expanding. Even though many extreme weather events are already "baked in" to our short term weather future, setting an example by using as much solar power as possible --becoming part of the solution instead of an ongoing part of the problem-- is timely and just makes good common sense. This is a teaching opportunity.

I look forward to attending your upcoming meetings and would welcome the opportunity to present a power point on the climate crisis we now face, if indeed you need any further convincing. I am also prepared to present a power point on the runaway O&G production in our county and region, drawing on tens of thousands of photos I have taken during 40 aerial flights over our tri-state area, since it is not uncommon for most local residents to be totally unaware of the rapid development.

Here's to the future of Peters Township!

Sincerely yours -

Bob Donnan

Footnote: Since that letter was written, we have learned of EQT’s new SARAH WELL PAD permitted for neighboring Union Township with 44 wells!


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