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Items from the desk

A few things passed the energy and environment desk last week that are worth noting. Here they are, in no particular order:

LNG bill passes U.S. House

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed H.R. 351, the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio). The vote count was 277-133. Midstate representatives Scott Perry (R-York), Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne), Joe Pitts (R-Chester) and Charlie Dent (R-Lehigh) voted in favor.

According to this Reuters article, the measure is meant to speed permits for exports of liquefied natural gas. It would force the U.S. Department of Energy to accept or reject within 30 days applications to export LNG.

The article also states that, despite its good intentions, the bill likely won’t make much difference, because bureaucracy and global economics won’t allow energy companies to build the needed infrastructure any faster.

It now heads to the Senate.

Chemicals in the fracking

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), who among other things is known for testing out Colorado’s marijuana legalization efforts, last month said he was looking to reintroduce a bill tied to health care and fracking.

The law that modernizes regulation of the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania, Act 13, has a provision for physicians to learn what chemicals are in fracking fluid, a proprietary mix kept secret by drillers. But to get the recipe, the doctor must be facing an immediate medical emergency and, either in written or verbal agreement, depending on the situation, agree to confidentiality.

Leach noted that the law is murky, though, on whether a physician can then share that information with another doctor treating the patient. It’s also unclear what a doctor should do if he or she feels the information represents an immediate public health risk. It also doesn’t make clear how to determine with which drilling company the confidentiality agreement should be executed.

His bill, proposed last session as Senate Bill 544, aims to fix all of that. Last session, it was referred to, and died in, the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

As a matter of public safety, it seems common sense that this should at least be considered by the General Assembly.

Solar multi-tasking

How many of you business leaders out there love it when you make use of something that would otherwise be wasted? Getting more bang for the buck? I often think about how certain hybrid cars are powered by the friction created when braking.

This article in The Washington Post gave me that “now that’s a great idea” feeling.

The short of it: Between 35 percent and 50 percent of most cities are paved. Of that, 40 percent is used for parking. The concrete or asphalt or cement is just there, catching rays. Why not put a solar array above it and generate some power for the office building next door, or that new Tesla or Chevy Volt?

The concept of the solar carport not only reduces the “urban heat island” effect, it’ll keep your employees’ cars shaded and potentially save you some money in the long run. Good, right?

Yes, I know, the upfront costs. The Post notes it’s one of the most expensive kinds of solar arrays to build because of the extra poles and engineering necessary. But a few companies, including Munich Reinsurance America and Dow Jones & Co., have adopted the technology.

Heck, The Post even notes FedEx Field in Landover, Md., home to the Washington Redskins, has employed it and can power 20 percent of the stadium with it.

Just something to think about.

Joseph Deinlein

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