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Session Daze - August 26, 2011

Mining can be dam costly in Greene County
Until 2005, Duke Lake in Ryerson Station State Park was Greene County's mecca for fishing, boating, swimming, and family picnics. Then, as CONSOL Energy was longwall mining coal nearby, severe cracks were found in the dam, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) was forced to drain the lake.

After extensive engineering studies showed that the multi-national energy behemoth was responsible, DCNR sued CONSOL for $58 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages. A court-ordered investigation by Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also found mining operations as the cause, so CONSOL was required to put a $20.3 million (the estimated cost of a new dam) in a state escrow account. Work on restoring the lake hasn't yet started.

CONSOL attorneys have now a filed a motion to get their money back and avoid responsibility for fixing the dam. An Environmental Law Judge will decide the issue. Meanwhile, families in Greene County just want their lake restored.

Michael Mann vindicated yet again
We're finding it hard to keep track of how many investigations have vindicated the work of renowned climate scientists including Penn State University Professor Michael Mann.

The prestigious National Science Foundation has now joined the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Commerce Department's inspector general, Penn State, and the Associated Press in clearing Mann.

Flood. Earthquake. Hurricane. Is Mother Nature sending us a message?
Michael Mann and other climate experts have been sounding the alarm for years that our continued addiction to dirty energy would result in more extreme weather events, and they would happen more often. Seems like our region is living out their predictions this week.

While some evidence exists, scientists are generally leery about linking single weather incidents to climate change, and data on earthquakes and climate change is still tentative. But this week's weather events – all dubbed “once in a lifetime" – may be the “new normal," unless we change how we use energy and what kind of energy we use. That's why PennFuture's Energy Center is leading the charge to protect and grow Pennsylvania's clean energy businesses and jobs.

Zoning matters. Seriously.
A modern zoning code will help Philadelphia protect its parks, encourage housing and retail development near transit stops, provide incentives for high-performance buildings, and make it easier for citizens to shape future development in their communities. The Next Great City coalition led the effort in 2007 to establish a Zoning Code Commission, thanks to the approval of 80 percent of the voters in Philadelphia. Now Next Great City is asking residents to sign a petition urging Philadelphia City Council to approve the updated zoning code.

Missed it by this much
Last night's Little League World Series semi-final game for the U.S. Championship had proud Pennsylvanians cheering as the strong Keystone lineup took on the odds-on favorite, California. And while the Pennsylvania players stayed strong and true, they couldn't overcome California's pitching dominance. The 2-0 final in Williamsport was disappointing, but we Pennsylvanians couldn't be prouder of our team.

Getting in shape for the Labor Day Parades
Session Daze will be off next week, exploring Penn's Woods and practicing our marching formation. Look for our next edition on September 9.

Now get out!
Speaking of Penn's Woods, here are a few favorite Pennsylvania hiking destinations of Steve Stroman, one of the Daze authors.