Bethlehem Authority: a long history of superior forest stewardship

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Stephen Repasch is Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority.

Gadfly should check out the web page of the Bethlehem Authority on the City’s website to learn about its role in the climate picture. I’ve excerpted a few lines below from the “Watershed Forest Management” section:

“Dating back to the purchase of the watershed properties, the Bethlehem Authority (Authority) and the City of Bethlehem have a long history of superior forest stewardship that is distinguished from most private land owners in the region. Through the efforts of long time City Forester, John Anspach, the watershed forests have been a model for proper forest management activities. Plantations of various indigenous species were developed and nurtured under Mr. Anspach’s guiding forestry principles. . . .

In 2011, following over a year of negotiations, the Authority entered into a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that was part of TNC’s Working Woodland’s Program. TNC is an international private nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The outcome of this arrangement was the development of a comprehensive Forest Management Plan (FMP) that became Forest Stewardship Council or FSC® certified in 2012. FSC ® is the preeminent sustainable forest certification entity in the world today.

The FMP has the following overarching goals that will drive the management activities on the Authority properties:

· Preserve the high drinking water quality and quantity of the sources by maintaining or improving the capacity of the watershed to produce these values and maintaining or improving watershed security to insure the safety of the supply.
· Improve the capacity of the watershed and its properties to produce financial return that will better enable BA to protect and enhance the long term value of the asset. This includes sustainable timbering, potential renewable energy and monetizing ecosystem services (carbon, NRCS cost share, easements, leases etc.).
· Promote ecosystem health, diversity, and sustainable management of all resources through compliance with all federal, state, and municipal requirements, FSC standards of operation and other best management practices.
· Within constraints of other objectives, maintain or improve opportunities to allow the public active and passive recreational access to BA lands.

The FMP was developed to guide the management activities of the Authority properties in the Wild Creek and Tunkhannock Creek Watersheds. These properties are part of the Working Woodlands program of TNC, and, as a result, will be managed in accordance with the FSC® US 2010 National Standard as part of TNC’s group certificate. In addition, as part of Working Woodlands, these properties will be verified to the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and provides carbon credits that are sold on the voluntary market to offset the carbon footprint of large companies. By sequestering carbon dioxide, through 2018 the Authority has received credits for revenue totaling over $946,000 from Chevy Corp. and Disney Corp. and has a commitment from Disney to buy carbon credits though 2022.

The vision for all properties within TNC’s Working Woodlands, is to restore and sustain high quality ecological values within economically productive forests. The Authority properties serve as the primary and secondary drinking water supply for over 116,000 customers, and as such have considerably high conservation value. In addition, the mesic till barrens community type of the Pocono Plateau, which dominates several thousand acres of Authority property, is home to rare and endangered species of plants, birds and insects and is considered to be the only natural community of its kind in the world.

The conservation easement provides that: the properties will be retained predominantly in their natural, scenic, and forested condition, free of additional forest fragmentation or additional development; any rare plants, animals, or plant communities will be protected; and any use that will significantly impair or interfere with the conservation values or interests of the Authority will be prevented. The easement will assure long-term, professional, independent third-party certified forest management of the property for the production, management and harvesting of economically valuable timber and related forest products while ensuring the conservation values are protected or enhanced. The easement also ensures the protection of forest and other natural resources and allows for the potential of economic return from the protection, management, maintenance, and improvement of ecosystem services provided by the property, including but not limited to the protection of water quality and quantity, carbon sequestration, and the protection of wetlands, rare species and natural communities.

The FMP will be periodically reviewed and updated to ensure that strategies to be undertaken are in compliance with TNC’s Compatible Human and Economic Use Activity Standard Operating Procedures (CHU SOP) and are in accordance with the Conservancy’s Group Certification program and the FSC® US National Standard.”


Thinking green on a white morning

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

It was a weekend to think green – like “Green New Deal.”

The weekend of the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey joint Congressional resolution (not a legislative proposal)  “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”

Gadfly, as you followers can tell, he thinks, spurred by the fact that Bethlehem is ahead of the curve on local Climate Action Plans, is trying to school himself better in this area.

Here’s four texts he spent some time on this weekend.

1) The primary source: “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”  A 10-year national mobilization scheme. Always start with the primary source.


  • building resiliency against climate change-related disasters
  • repairing and upgrading the infrastructure
  • 100% clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources
  • energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘‘smart’’ power grids
  • all buildings with maximum energy efficiency
  • massive growth in clean manufacturing
  • removing pollution/greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector
  • overhauling transportation systems to remove pollution/greenhouse gas emissions
  • mitigating/managing the health/economic/other effects of pollution/climate change
  • removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere
  • restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems
  • cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites
  • identifying other emission and pollution sources
  • international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services

2) Ocasio-Cortez/Markey press conference (17 mins.)

  • resolution has many co-sponsors
  • green dream
  • great programs start with vision of the future
  • Pelosi on board
  • beginning of education phase of this idea
  • silent on any individual technology
  • some Republican support
  • also an infrastructure bill
  • appeals to swing voters
  • about the role of government
  • smart investment generating returns
  • small tax breaks as fossil fuels have gotten
  • green generation has risen up
  • among top issues in election cycle
  • people want ambitious plan
  • many different paths to the goal
  • charge of gov. expansion is hypocritical
  • Federal gov. scientists defying president
  • make default clean energy
  • this resolution outlines scope of bills that will follow
  • will be voting issue in 2020
  • resolution deals with principles

3) The politics: Ella Nilsen, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making the Green New Deal a 2020 litmus test.” Vox, February 7, 2019.

  • will be a litmus test
  • “Once this resolution is announced, there will be a really clear litmus test for what they support,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, spokesman for climate activist group Sunrise Movement. But there’s something larger at work here. The Green New Deal is fundamentally about making climate change a central Democratic priority in 2020 — without shoving aside health care and the economy. After years of this globally important issue languishing on the national agenda, it has come roaring back.
  • Some 2020 Democrats have also been cautious about a full-throated endorsement. While the Green New Deal has been endorsed by declared or potential candidates including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Bloomberg, and Cory Booker, exactly what that means is fuzzy. Staff for 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told Axios she supports the “idea” of a Green New Deal.
  • The fact this proposal is a catch-all of the most progressive programs means it probably isn’t going anywhere in the House, where House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone has already called the plan too ambitious and unlikely to generate consensus among moderate Democrats in the House, never mind the Senate.
  • “The goal of trying to reduce fossil fuels and get to a carbon neutral economy is important and something that I agree with,” Pallone told the Asbury Park Press last month. “The Green New Deal says you can do it in 10 years. I don’t know if that’s technologically feasible. … Beyond that it’s probably not politically feasible.”
  • But to Ocasio-Cortez and Green New Deal backers, that’s not the point. They are banking that the idea will keep spreading. Even some in the House who are skeptical of whether the plan is feasible agree that the branding of the Green New Deal — harkening back to the days of FDR — is a brilliant marketing strategy.
  • Progressives are clearly using the Green New Deal to push the debate in their direction. The left wants to make sure they have fully vetted and influenced the ideas of any Democrats that have a shot at winning the White House.
  • If Democrats take back the White House and the Senate in 2020 — a big though not impossible if — activists want to have bills ready to go in 2021 to tackle climate change. Realistically, the bills that come out of the House in the next two years probably won’t be as bold as the proposal Ocasio-Cortez is floating.
  • But activists won’t be totally satisfied until 2020 candidates do two things: embrace Ocasio-Cortez’s plan and pledge not to take fossil fuel money. “We’re focusing on getting all the 2020 contenders to endorse the full vision of the Green New Deal and get specific about it,” O’Hanlon said.

4) The other side, which we always must look at: Jonah Goldberg, “Green New Deal backers embrace their fantasies.” Tribune, February 9.

  • It’s worth noting that it’s not legislation as people normally understand the term. It’s a resolution titled “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” In other words, even if it passed — a considerable if — nothing would really happen.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t taking it too seriously.
  • It’s not a very serious proposal
  • Well, at least the plan isn’t too ambitious. Retrofitting “every building in America” can be done in 10 years, but eliminating all the gassy cows will take a bit longer. Maybe we’ll move them all to Hawaii, which with the near-abolition of airplanes will be effectively cut off from America anyway.
  • Even if you take these goals seriously, as a practical matter it’s a fantasy masquerading as green virtue-signaling.
  • But it’s a fantasy based on a worldview that should be treated seriously because it’s so dangerous. NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Ocasio-Cortez whether she was comfortable with the “massive government intervention” critics say is required by such an undertaking.
  • The free market hasn’t been given free rein, and over the last 40 years the free market and government regulations alike have made laudable environmental progress. In 2017, the U.S. had the largest reductions of CO2 emissions in the world for the ninth time this century. Rather than celebrate and build on that reality, the Green New Dealers would rather embrace their fantasies — and waste a lot of time and money in the process.

Now, to Gadfly followers much more knowledgeable than he, an invitation for things to read and to think about.

Reducing carbon emissions and making money H.R. 763

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Remember that Bethlehem under the leadership of CM Reynolds and the good volunteer folk on the Environmental Advisory Council chaired by Lynn Rothman and with the cooperation of City Hall has a Climate Action Plan abirthing.

Martha Christine, “The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act deserves bipartisan support.” Morning Call, February 10, 2019.

Here is one of Martha’s latest drumbeats in favor of the The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act H.R. 763.

Valentine’s Day brings thoughts of love, friendship and cooperation. But can members of the federal government cooperate? Yes, and it’s happening right now.

The House has introduced a bipartisan bill to address climate change. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) will reduce carbon emissions while providing a monthly dividend check to offset higher costs of energy. It will create new jobs and improve health. It’s revenue neutral so it won’t grow the government.

Senators are cooperating, too. They’ve re-introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce drug costs. I believe Republican and Democrat senators will work together to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The Chamber of Commerce has recognized that bipartisanship benefits business, so they should also endorse this business-friendly legislation. Even the president has called for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.

So, there’s hope for bipartisan action on climate change. I love the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act — a simple, effective solution to climate change. I encourage you to urge Representative Wild and Senators Casey and Toomey to love it, too!

You can find email links to Wild, Casey, and Toomey on the Gadfly sidebar.

Martha introduced me to the national organization the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

The local Lehigh Valley chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby meets the Tuesday after the 2nd Saturday of the month at:

Friends (Quaker) Meeting House
4116 Bath Pike (Route 512)
Bethlehem, PA 18017

6 pm: potluck supper, welcome & introductions
6:30 pm: business meeting

That means tomorrow, Tuesday, February 12!

It’s Monday, February 11, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Non-profit food waste creating energy could be a driver for changing minds

My hint was that Bethlehem build and fuel its own plant, not feed Easton’s I apologize for my lack of clarity. I am aware that we live in a wonderful yet somewhat backward place where services like city-provided garbage pickup in fixed routes with automated trucks doesn’t happen. We don’t have self-check machines at our main circulation desk at our library, etc. What we *do* have are big non-profit organizations who often cooperate for the good of the city in which they operate.

I admire the work that Peter and his colleagues are doing to fight the good fight for our region and the world. Non-profit food waste creating energy for the betterment of the entire city could be a driver for changing the minds of more taxpayers, and sooner rather than later.

John Marquette

Must deal with food waste properly NOW

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.


I don’t know any of the details of Easton’s plan, but let’s hope they avoid the nasty pollution problems that come with many such plans.

Asking whether food waste from Bethlehem’s educational institutions could fuel this plant in Easton seems to me like the wrong question. [See John Marquette’s post yesterday.]

Bethlehem should be requiring all residents, businesses, & institutions to compost food waste and should provide free curbside pickup / composters for residences. Composting returns food waste to the soil, where it belongs. Several cities already do this, and the state of Vermont plans to require all food waste to be collected separately. (Actually, that might already be in place.)

If the EAC/city can find a clean, sustainable waste-to-energy model to process food waste (there are some in Europe, I believe), that might be worth discussing, but they need to deal with food waste properly NOW.


Where does our food waste go?

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park.

 Christina Tatu, “In first for Lehigh Valley, Easton sewer plant looks to food scraps to generate power.” Morning Call, February 4, 2019.

Gadfly: where does your household waste go?

The Easton Sewer Authority announced plans to design and build a system to use food scraps to produce methane to power their waste water treatment plant. They believe that there is enough food waste being created by service area restaurants and residents to drop their power bill by $450,000 a year.

The cost of the waste-to-energy plant is projected at between $1.5 and 2 million, which suggests a payback period of no more than four years. The plant already produces some of the methane they burn to power the plant. Easton Sewer Authority plant management believes they’ll get enough food waste from their service area’s customers to make up the difference with the new system.

Because of Bethlehem’s fractured household waste collection process, it’s not likely that city residents could include compostables in their curbside collection along with recyclable material and the stuff that goes to the landfill. But that’s not the end of the story.

Lehigh University, Moravian College, Bethlehem Area School District, Moravian Academy, and the parochial school systems generate food waste daily. The proposed Easton plant needs 12,000 gallons of liquid food waste a day — or about 48 tons.

Could Bethlehem power its water treatment plant without having to collect residential compost?


Keeping an eye on the politics of climate change

(The latest in a series of posts relating to Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan
and Environmental Advisory Council)

Gadfly is keeping one eye out for hopeful indications that climate change will get more political attention.

See Kamala Harris — newly announced presidential candidate — foregrounding it.

Colby Itkowitz, “Kamala Harris just set the litmus test for Democrats in 2020 on health care, climate change and guns.” Washington Post, January 29, 2019.

Harris also came out in support of a Green New Deal, a plan to address climate change and income inequality promoted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). In tweeting about it in December, Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “Our goal is to treat Climate Change like the serious, existential threat it is by drafting an ambitious solution on the scale necessary – aka a Green New Deal – to get it done.” At the town hall, Harris adopted similar language: “I support a Green New Deal. And I will tell you why. Climate change is an existential threat to us, and we have got to deal with the reality of it.”

See the CNN Town Hall (mins. 28:45 – 30:45), where Harris talks of going with science fact rather than science fiction.

On a different note, the DNI Director Dan Coats report (p. 23) that was the basis for the newsworthy “Worldwide Threat Assessment” meeting yesterday didn’t mention threat on our southwestern border but did mention climate change.

Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.

Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.

Good signs that good things might get done?

It’s Wednesday, January 30, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?