Climate Change Negotiations Continue in Paris

The United Nations climate summit in Paris—known as the COP21—wraps up this week, and negotiators from countries around the world are still hammering out a deal. At issue: Targets for limiting world temperature increases, plans for cutting carbon emissions and to what extent wealthier nations should pitch in to help developing ones—especially those that are most at risk from the consequences of climate change.

Activists from around the world—including local activists—are watching the talks with a lot of anticipation and some wariness. Pittsburgh’s Angela Wiley, 24, who has traveled to UN climate talks in Lima, Durban and Warsaw in addition to this year’s summit in Paris, says she’s concerned the agreement may be lacking real teeth.

“Those moments of alarm where I feel like the COP is similar to other COPs are the moments where I’m afraid that maybe the negotiators have decided to not compromise with one another or really look for the solutions that we need,” Wiley says. “So when we hear that human rights may not become an operative part of the text in Paris, that alarms me.”

Negotiators are expected to announce an agreement over the weekend.

To read Wiley’s thoughts on week one of the negotiations, check out her blog post for the Sierra Student Coalition.

LISTEN: “Your Environment Update for December 9, 2015”

Inside the World of ‘Small’ Oil

The fracking boom in western Pennsylvania is largely driven by large energy corporations. But believe it or not, there are still thousands of small mom-and-pop oil producers scattered throughout the state—pulling oil from the ground the same way they have for generations.

Most of these small producers pump what is known as Pennsylvania Grade Crude—a variety only found in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York. It doesn’t look like typical, black crude oil. This stuff is clearer, yellowed and waxy and is used to make everything from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals to wood varnish. Mark Cline—a well owner and president of the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association—is proud of it.

“[It’s] the best oil in the world,” Cline says.

But Cline says his traditional way of pumping crude could become an accidental casualty of the fracking boom. As drilling in the Marcellus shale has exploded, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has been updating its regulations—which Cline says affect traditional producers unfairly.

“The whole industry is about to die because these new regulations are so bad that we can’t comply with them,” Cline says.

Cline says the state already had rules for his kind of drilling, and traditional producers shouldn’t have to comply with expensive new ones meant for the shale industry. The DEP says they respect the historic drillers, but the new regulations are necessary to prevent groundwater contamination and air pollution.

Reporting by Katelyn Ferral