Monthly Archives: July 2017

House slashes funding for clean energy, restores funding for fossil fuel research

Republicans targeted a Massachusetts wind project and social cost of carbon.

by Mark Hand, ThinkProgress
July 28, 2017 

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), left, sponsored an amendment that restored fossil fuel research funding to its 2017 level of $668 million. CREDIT: AP Photo/Zach Gibson

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a large spending bill for fiscal year 2018 that slashes clean energy spending and approves keeping fossil fuel research at current levels.

In a spending package known as the “minibus,” the House voted to set the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) budget at $1.1 billion, a 45 percent cut from the office’s fiscal 2017 budget of more than $2 billion. The Trump administration requested an even bigger cut for the Department of Energy office that would have lowered its budget to to $636 million, or 70 percent, below the 2017 budget.

The funding measure passed 235–192, with five Democrats voting for, five Republicans voting against, and six representatives abstaining. It still needs approval from the Senate before it passes into law — a thin possibility, given the largely partisan House vote.

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) succeeded in getting an amendment passed that restored the government’s fossil fuel research funding to the FY17 level of $668 million. The Trump administration had sought a 55 percent cut in the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development.

Meanwhile, funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which helps develop and commercialize new energy technologies, was eliminated.

Several Democrats proposed amendments to keep clean energy funding at current levels by taking funds out of the budgets for fossil energy, military or nuclear weapons spending, but all of the amendments were defeated by the Republican-controlled House.

» Read the full story

 

 

‘Hit First And Worst’: Region’s Communities Of Color Brace For Climate Change Impacts

by Shannon Dooling, WBUR Radio
July 26, 2017

The consequences of climate change, experts say, will disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color.
And those same communities often already are located among environmental hazards like trash incinerators, fuel storage tanks and the toxic remains that come with them.
Twenty-one percent of Chelsea’s residents live below the poverty line, and 60 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino. The creek is also one of 10 designated port areas in the state — places set aside to ensure industries that are dependent on waterways have a place to do business.

Those industries may bring jobs, but they also bring pollutants. And, because they’re located at the water’s edge, the sites up the stakes when it comes to sea level rise. A city of Chelsea flood map shows that many of these facilities will be threatened by flooding by the year 2030.

» Listen to the whole report

 

Senators Urged to Join Bernie Sanders in Opposing Dirty Energy Bill

By Jessica Corbett, Eco Watch
July 24, 2017

As Senate Democrats stay silent on an energy bill that environmental groups call “a pro-fracking giveaway to oil and gas interests that would commit America to decades more of dangerous fossil fuel dependence,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is receiving applause for speaking out against it.

“As a nation, our job is to move away from fossil fuels toward sustainable energy and energy efficiency. This bill does the opposite,” Sanders said in a statement. Sanders’ opposition to the bill was praised by environmental advocates who continue to pressure Democrats with thousands of phone calls to their Congressional offices.

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter called on others lawmakers to follow Sanders’ lead.

“By coming out in opposition to the dirty energy bill currently looming before the Senate (S.1460), Senator Sanders has once again demonstrated the real progressive leadership that is too often hard to find in Washington,” Hauter said. “With our climate and a livable future hanging in the balance, Senate Democrats need to wake up, state their sensible opposition to this foolish energy bill now, and ensure it doesn’t see the light of day.”

Earlier this month, more than 350 green groups sent a letter to pressure Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to oppose the bill. However, according to recent reporting by Bloomberg, “no Democrat has publicly voiced opposition” to the legislation, which is nearly 900 pages, even though it “would entrench natural gas into the U.S. energy portfolio for years to come.”

The bill, Sanders said, “would make us more reliant on fracking for natural gas for decades to come by expediting the review process for natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas. It would also provide millions of taxpayer dollars to research new offshore natural gas extraction techniques.”

» Read full story

CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY!

(And keep calling, urging them to oppose S.1460)

Congress is trying to rush through a pipeline fast-track bill that expedites LNG terminal approvals (creating “need” for more pipelines), requires increased deference to FERC from state, local and tribal governments, and much more. The House version – H.R. 2910 – just passed last week. The word is that the Senate bill (S.1460) could be voted on soon, and that Bernie Sanders is so far the only Senator to have spoken out against it!

Please make a quick call:

Capital switchboard: (202) 224-3121 – they will connect you to your Senators.

Basic message:  Please oppose S.1460 – it would fast-track LNG export and pipeline reviews, instead of giving them the additional scrutiny they need!  This energy bill moves us in the wrong direction in many ways.  The fossil fuel industry doesn’t need more handouts and FERC needs major reform, not more power to do the fossil fuel companies’ bidding.

Here is a fact sheet with more information about the bill; here is the full text.

While phone calls are best, here’s a quick link from Food & Water Watch with an editable form email that has the basics.

Please share this action alert (including with people in other states)!

Thank you for your help and for staying engaged!

 ( Short link for this page: bit.ly/StopS1460 )

People of Northfield have message for Weymouth in gas facility battle

by Northfield Selectman, Julia Blyth, Boston Globe
July 27, 2017

It was with great interest that I read about Governor Baker’s recent letter directing state agencies to investigate compressor station issues in Weymouth (“Baker pushes on gas facility,” Metro, July 18). As a selectman in Northfield, where a massive compressor station was proposed along Kinder Morgan’s now-canceled Northeast Energy Direct pipeline, I am glad to see the state stepping into an active role of hearing citizens and advocating for their health and safety.

Two years ago, with a compressor station looming, like Weymouth we did our best to research potential air and water pollution and associated health impacts. While our community has been spared (for now), I offer our example as encouragement to the concerned citizens of Weymouth: You are not alone in this struggle.

Many of my neighbors who first learned about the dangers of natural gas pipeline infrastructure when it was a threat to our town continue to actively oppose unnecessary pipeline build-out in Otis State Forest in Western Mass. We enthusiastically support energy policy that includes demand response, weatherization, and energy efficiency, as well as sensibly sited renewable energy and an updated grid that can handle distributed generation.

We must get beyond gas, for the sake of the climate, a truly reliable grid, and stable electricity prices.

Julia Blyth
Northfield

» Read original letter

Rep. Lynch Calls for Stronger Pipeline Safety Provisions

July 18, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As House Republicans bring legislation to the House Floor that would speed up the approval of pipeline projects, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Boston) offered amendments to H.R. 2910, the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, seeking to improve safety for communities near proposed pipeline projects and ensure environmental and safety standards are met before construction begins. In response to independent testing showing air pollutant levels higher than Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection standards near the site of the proposed Weymouth Compressor Station, Congressman Lynch filed an amendment to ensure that pipelines are not placed in communities that already face unsafe air quality levels.

“Rather than expediting pipeline projects, federal regulators ought to carefully evaluate whether a pipeline project meets proper safety and environmental standards before issuing federal approval. Local families in Weymouth, West Roxbury, and surrounding cities and towns have many questions about how recent pipeline proposals will impact public safety, public health, and the environment. By taking legislative action to improve environmental and safety standards, we can better protect our constituents from the risks posed by pipelines that are placed in densely populated neighborhoods with existing threats to public safety, such as unsafe air quality or an active blasting area,” said Congressman Lynch.

In particular, Congressman Lynch’s amendment would suspend the certificate of public convenience and necessity for project sites where certified independent air quality testing demonstrates existing violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards or existing violations of requirements relating to hazardous pollutants listed under the Clean Air Act.

In addition, Congressman Lynch filed an amendment to increase pipeline safety certification, particularly for projects where a pipeline developer has been the subject of an enforcement action by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). In November of 2016, a fatal gasoline pipeline explosion in Shelby County, Alabama killed one pipeline worker and injured five others, igniting two wildfires that burned over 30 acres of land. In April of 2016, a natural gas pipeline in Salem, Pennsylvania, operated by Spectra Energy, exploded injuring one person and damaging two homes. Congressman Lynch’s amendment requires the PHMSA Administrator to certify to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the project is compliant with existing PHMSA regulations regarding pipeline safety.

Congressman Lynch also offered an amendment to improve pipeline security by requiring FERC to consult with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) prior to the issuance of federal authorization to ensure compliance with TSA security guidance and best practices regarding pipeline infrastructure security, pipeline cyber security, pipeline personnel security, and other pipeline security measures designed to ensure the public safety.

» Read on Rep. Lynch’s site

State Sen. Adam Hinds visits anti-pipeline activists in Sandisfield

By Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle
July 24, 2017

SANDISFIELD — The new line is now buried, tucked into the earth with two other pipelines, right next to the Thoreau Cabin Pipeline Barricade. The barricade didn’t stop Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s two-mile Otis State Forest stretch of its 13-mile Connecticut Expansion Project, but the activists who put it here aren’t stopping, either.

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And today they had state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, to lend support to their ongoing mission to complicate any endeavor that involves expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure. 

Hinds stood in the open-walled cabin modeled after the one built in 1845 by Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond in Concord, “the birthplace of the conservation movement” said creator Will Elwell. And from this cabin one can see what it really takes to build a pipeline.

“When you look out and see … it’s discouraging,” Hinds said, looking around at roughly 40 activists — beyond them some forest wreckage and the newly packed earth — and said he was puzzled when the state settled in court with the Kinder Morgan subsidiary for an easement on land protected by the state constitution’s Article 97.

“Wait a second — why do we have a constitution and Article 97?” Hinds said he had wondered, referring to the company’s payment to the state of $1.2 million that included $640,000 for the land. 

And it was the wrestling of this land from the state that is still drawing outrage to this quiet corner, where moose eat lily pads from ponds and turkeys casually saunter.

Wild things flourish in the open here, and many keep hidden, perhaps in the mossy old growth forest not far from where the company is building this part of it’s $93 million line for gas intended mostly for Connecticut customers.

» Read full story

 

CT Gas Conversions Fall Short

by Andrea Sears, Public News Service (CT)
July 18, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – Gas companies fell far short of their goals to convert Connecticut homes and businesses to natural gas, and now environmentalists want construction of two new pipelines canceled. The state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy could be released later this week.

The 2013 CES called for a big boost in reliance on methane, with ratepayers subsidizing part of the cost of converting thousands of homes and businesses to natural gas.

But Martha Klein, chair of the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club, calls that a failed strategy and the companies’ own figures indicate that, even after cutting the projected number of conversions by almost half, the goal still wasn’t met.

“The interstate gas pipelines, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge, are completely not needed,” she states. “We will not be able to use the gas here. There are not enough customers.”

Three new gas-fired power plants are now in the approval process in the state and a fourth is contesting the denial of a permit for construction.

» Read the full story