Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday: Clear the Room

Everything else out of the way first.

1. You know how they say, "Where's the outrage?" Well, the Tribune-Review provides it, while the rest of the world plays catch-up:

Gov. Ed Rendell's acceptance of two no-bid, below-market leases of state land for natural gas drilling is yet another example of how his penchant for awarding contracts behind closed doors costs taxpayers dearly. (Trib, Edit Board)

If business like this cannot be competitively bid out, so that (if nothing else) we can be assured of getting the best value for sacrificing what were protected lands, what hope is there in this world for the rest of us? One has to wonder what both PA gubernatorial candidates think of this maneuver. It leaves something of the vulgar taste of the Marc Rich pardon; one hopes Rendell will further discuss the quickee land deal before he moves on to Transportation.

2. Oh, I get it, it's "Opposite Day" at the Trib. The headline reads, "Economy dampens turnout at Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade" and...

"There's a lot of unemployment right now," said Dan Gilman, 29, of Fox Chapel, who watched the parade pass on the Boulevard of the Allies with his wife and two young children. "If the economy were booming, everybody would be out here celebrating. But a lot of people are disenchanted." (Trib, Chris Togneri)

Wow, I'm reading this online obviously ... but if they pinned an A-1 above the fold story on this hook I'm howling. *-CLARIFICATION: Different Dan Gilman, 29.

3. It's go time. You hear?

"No question, it's going to be a tough year," said Michael Lamb, the Pittsburgh controller. "But there's eight weeks to go; today's the day when this race really starts." (P-G, James O'Toole)

Expectations recalibration on my mark ... mark.

"It's a scary year for Democrats," said state Rep. Nick Kotik, D-Robinson, as he strode toward Grant Street. "It's not just what's happening in Washington. [Gov. Ed] Rendell is an anchor in my district. That's going to hurt Onorato as well," he said, referring to the Mr. Corbett's rival, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. (ibid)

There's a moment of opportunity here, clearly.

"The leadership of our party sometimes was more concerned with politics than policy," [Sestak] said, endorsing the widespread perception of an anti-incumbent mood among voters. (ibid)

The President (et al) is going to campaign for this guy. Makes sense. Sestak is sixish points down, it's a winnable enough seat for Democrats among some bad options, if Obama can help push him over the top (in PA of all places!) he could flip the post-election narrative no matter how bad it gets, at least as it relates to him. I imagine that will be sort of a Joe Biden relationship on the campaign trail but practicality works.

4. Whatever can be done to effectively help forestall the onslaught of widespread drilling and hydrofracturing in our general vicinity, that's super. All we have to do is hold out until the trickle of evidence arising from elsewhere grows to a torrent, and it becomes obvious that energy schmenergy, jobs schmobs, this is not the world's best idea. We don't want to become an exhibit ourselves.

The tests in Pavillion found that 17 of the 19 wells tested contained petroleum hydrocarbons as well as napthalene, phenols and benzene, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a report issued late on Tuesday. (Reuters, Jon Hurdle; h/t Fractracker)

This is the big thing that the industry has been maintaining can't possibly be happening. Everyone has been manipulated by a fringe avant-garde radical filmmaker, has been the idea. The goal posts will have to be moved accordingly.

4b. The Great Briemholio: Equitable Gas is angering his bunghole!

5. Here is supposed rendering of the Penguins' known short-term plans for the lower hill area, as provided by Reuse the Igloo!

I can't personally vouch for the accuracy of the "Yes or no, all surface parking through 2015?" question, I almost have to imagine it's in dispute. But I like this photograph for several reasons. First of all it really gives a sense of the canvas being worked upon, and how much land is developable with and without the arena, allowing for thoroughfares in both cases. Second, one has to wonder -- if this picture manifests, how much will it cool off the Downtown parking market? Do the lease bidders know about this? Finally, it reminds me of something Carl Redwood offered a while back-- he thought it appropriate that the community receive a tiny taste of parking revenue on this trapezoid. "At least they're bidding out the garages," he pointed out, so the city gets something in return. "They're just giving this one to the Penguins."

6. This just needs to be added:

As of Sunday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl hadn't updated his personal Twitter account since Thanksgiving, and a reporter's request to be his friend on Facebook has been awaiting confirmation for months. (Trib, Adam Brandolph)

I'd have to ask that reporter: well? Are you his friend? If not, you're still welcome to like him.


  1. On 4: When you say, "This is the big thing that the industry has been maintaining can't possibly be happening," you don't specify what you mean by "This". I suspect that is because as the article notes, the EPA hasn't yet drawn any conclusions about the source of the chemicals.

    On 5: That's not an accurate indication of the land the Arena occupies (neither size or location).

  2. On 4: It might be proper for the EPA not to have officially drawn any conclusions about the source of the chemicals, but BENZENE for example doesn't grow on trees. This is where the common sense to which I referred earlier comes into play, IMO.

    On 5: It's not? That'd be surprising. They're all architects.

  3. From eyeballing google maps, it looks like Brian is on to something, architect or not. At the very least, the Reuse the Igloo drawing must be excludng the surrounding walkway/entrance stuff that I would think you'd need to keep if you wanted the place to be useable.

  4. I do share Bram's suspicions about where the benzene came from.

  5. On 4: Obviously the chemicals came from somewhere. Whether they came from fracking operations, and if so, exactly how, aren't really issues amenable to "common sense".

    On 5: Look at a satellite map, say on Google. The location is definitely off--the center of the circle should be well to the southwest of the Boy Scout building, not in the middle of it. In other words, they are around half a circle off on location.

    And they definitely omitted the support structures. That isn't such a big deal as long as you are just trying to orient people, and not trying to make a case about land use. But I actually don't understand how or why they would get the location off by so much.

  6. Whether they came from fracking operations, and if so, exactly how, aren't really issues amenable to "common sense".

    If it wasn't there before fracking and was there after fracking, then I'm thinking the burden of proof should shift so that the people who want to frack should have to show where else the hydrocarbons or whatnot could have come from.

  7. Heh, what do you know -- the mayor's office hasn't updated the page on the official city website since the same time period.

    And come to think of it, it's still the old city web design. They had played around with new web design earlier this year but I guess it didn't take.

  8. MH,

    There is nothing in the article stating the chemicals weren't there before the fracking, and I suspect that in fact they didn't test before the fracking. That common issue leads to a possible regulation, namely that groundwater tests should be conducted prior to fracking in the relevant area.

    I'd also note the article concludes by citing an EPA source who apparently said they will now continue testing and "focus on possible sources of the contamination". Again, I'd suggest that is the way to go in investigating this matter.

  9. Hey guys THIS IS A TEMPORARY LOT....I do drawings for living...this one is easy...the circle is traced over the igloo before i obliterated it with photoshop. Oh and yes i took out a couple of trees between the upper and lower lots. THIS is what you will get...just look at any "temporary lot" at Tech Ctr, southside and count the years they have been there.

    Its easy to figure out the schedule:

    2012 Earliest that a budget for the infrastructure can be delivered.

    2013 Engineering completed and approved by City Planning AFTER it is rezoned and Lower Hill SP district as the Hill will demand.

    2014 Regrading & Construction of new roads startsin phases as to not lose parking income

    2015 Construction Complete

    Yes we can argue about the details, but look at every other redevelopment site of this scale and check to see how long they were vacant and then slowly developed (these are off the top of my head so don't crucify me if I am by a few years...but you see a pattern here:

    Washington's Landing 1986-2000 (14 years)
    Tech Center (1987-?? 2-4 sites left) (23 years)
    North Side (1999-?? approx 6 sites left) (11 years)
    South Side (1998-??at least 8 sites left) (12 years)
    Hazelwood (not started yet but in planning)

    This so NORMAL for brown and gray field sites... So tell me why the lower hill will go faster with no money in a new economy where banks wont lend commercially for even the most solid projects? This is not to be downer, but a realist (I have worked on everyone of the above sites during my 25 years here...cities are not overnight unless you are in the far east .

  10. The article also says the gas company is paying for some of those people to get clean drinking water. Which, you know, seems a bit suggestive of maybe the gas company knowing what is going on even if the EPA doesn't have it down to p < .05.

  11. Speaking of the mayor's office and technology for 20-somethings, I understand that Corey O'Connor has moved from Doyle's office to a job with Ravenstahl. Anyone know about it?

  12. Anon 9:16 - Mayor's office says nope.

  13. Anyone can pull up a satellite image on Google right now and see that isn't where the Arena is located. I'm not sure what else to say about that.

  14. By the way, I'm not disputing the idea it will take a while to fully develop this site. But I think the key question is whether that process will go faster or slower if we delay a decision on the fate of the Arena for another year or more.

  15. I'm sure the Penguins, the City, the SEA whomever has already factored in the conceivable future process delays. I'm not sure they factored in whether their idea of a Sec 106 process will hold up in all conceivable or even likely circumstances.

    Benzene, napthalene, phenols and various hydrocarbons may conceivably show up here and there in a well in trace amounts, very trace I would think for some of those compounds. ALL TOGETHER at once, near a drilling site? If a neighbor with a dog moves in next door and there's poop in your yard, you can add one plus one without convincing the Congress to fund regularly testing every water well in the nation in a routine manner. We can hardly even test for these things at industrial sites on inspection day.

  16. We don't know what other "neighbors" and "dogs" might be around. All of those listed chemicals are commonly used in various industrial processes, and I believe at least benzene and napthalene are associated with coal (I'm not sure about phenol).

    But the ultimate sourece is only part of the issue. As I noted, Bram was (and is still being) rather vague about what scenario he has in mind. Assuming for the moment the ultimate source is fracking fluid, it is important to specify how it is getting into the groundwater, since different possible paths have different policy implications.

    Of course generally, the problem is that for the next few decades at least, the vast majority of units of energy not supplied by burning natural gas will be supplied by burning oil or coal. We know there are environmental problems associated with those products as well, so before leaping to the conclusion that we should prefer oil and coal over gas, we need to do the hard work of identifying the actual risks, assessing possible remedies, and bringing that all together to determine the best available tradeoff.

    Again, "common sense" and analogies to common experience aren't really going to help us to do that. These are hard questions that require serious, scientific, investigation.

  17. O'Connor is not on the 5th floor.