Weekly News Check-In 6/21/19


Welcome back.

We scour many news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. What follows is a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – ranging in scope from global to local.

Click any Read Article link to go directly to the published source. To explore related articles on the No Fracked Gas in Mass website, click the HEADINGS above the articles.

Look for a fresh reading list every week.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE NEWS

E.P.A. Finalizes Its Plan to Replace Obama-Era Climate Rules
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
June 19, 2019

The Trump administration on Wednesday replaced former President Barack Obama’s effort to reduce planet-warming pollution from coal plants with a new rule that would keep plants open longer and undercut progress on reducing carbon emissions.

The rule represents the Trump administration’s most direct effort to protect the coal industry. It is also another significant step in dismantling measures aimed at combating global warming, including the rollback of tailpipe emissions standards and the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
» Read Article 

Scientists amazed as Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years early
Matthew Green, Reuters
June 18, 2019

Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.
» Read Article 

Climate change: Arctic permafrost now melting at levels not expected until 2090
Series of ‘anomalously warm summers’ caused ground to thaw, researchers say
By Alessio Perrone, The Independent
June 15, 2019
A “series of anomalously warm summers” has dramatically accelerated melting rates at three sites despite average annual ground temperatures remaining low. Ponds and hillocks have formed as a result.
» Read Article  

Half of Greenland’s Surface Started Melting This Week, Which Is Not Normal
By Brian Kahn, Gizmodo
June 13, 2019

A major warm spell has caused nearly half the surface of the Greenland ice sheet to start melting, something that’s highly unusual for this time of year. And while this spike may pass, the gears could already be in motion for record-setting melt on the ice sheet’s western flank.
» Read Article 

U.S. Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year Two—A New Sabin Center Working Paper
By Dena Adler, Climate Law Blog, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
June 7, 2019

The Trump Administration is losing on climate in the courts. More than two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change-related regulatory rollback brought before the courts has yet survived legal challenge.   Nevertheless, climate change is one arena where the Trump Administration’s rollbacks have been both visible and real. In total, the Sabin Center’s U.S. Climate Deregulation Tracker identifies a total of 94 actions taken by the executive branch in 2017 and 2018 to undermine and reverse climate protections.
» Read Article 

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS  

‘This Pipeline Will Not Be Built,’ Indigenous and Climate Leaders Tell Trudeau After Canada Approves Trans Mountain Expansion
The federal government’s decision on the dirty energy project came just a day after the House of Commons voted to declare a climate emergency
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
June 19, 2019
Climate activists and Indigenous groups held an emergency rally in downtown Vancouver Tuesday night in response to the government’s announcement and are planning a march in solidarity with the Tiny House Warriors—who, for years, have challenged Kinder Morgan and now the Canadian government by constructing small structures in the pipeline’s proposed path—for Saturday.

“It is our basic responsibility as settlers to support Indigenous struggles. Indigenous people worldwide are on the frontline against resource developments that are pushing our biosphere to the brink of climate and ecological collapse,” said march organizer Bobby Arbess. “We must help stop the massive expansion of tar sands driving the Trans Mountain project. It represents a lethal tipping point that is not morally acceptable in a climate emergency.”
» Read Article 
On Monday, Canada declared a ‘climate emergency.’ On Tuesday, it approved a pipeline expansion.
By Emily Rauhala, Washington Post
June 18, 2019
The move will be welcomed by the country’s struggling oil sector and the many Canadians whose fortunes are tied to it. Landlocked Alberta produces four-fifths of Canadian crude but struggles to get it abroad, and so must settle for selling at steep discounts against global benchmarks — hitting the province hard.

But many Canadians have protested the expansion proposal out of concern for oil spills and the continuing promotion of climate-changing fossil fuels. They question whether this is the moment to increase Canadian shipments of oil.
» Read Article 

Australia, in a Victory for Coal, Clears the Way for a Disputed Mine
By Somini Sengupta
June 13, 2019
Plans for a fiercely contested coal mine in northeastern Australia received a long-awaited government green light on Thursday, less than a month after conservative politicians who champion coal triumphed in national elections.
» Read Article 

 

BIOMASS NEWS

New Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership reaches starting line
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 19, 2019

Blog editor’s note: Environmental groups will be keeping an eye on developments here, especially in light of Baker Administration support for commercial biomass interests.
» Read Article 

 

UTILITIES NEWS – ELECTRIC

Utilities are ‘the new cyber battlefield,’ as US ramps up pressure on Russia’s electric grid
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 18, 2019

The United States has increased efforts to insert malicious code into Russia’s electric grid, a development the The New York Times warned “enshrines power grids as a legitimate target” in the nations’ cold war of cyber one-upmanship.

While President Trump denied the story on Twitter, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said it meant a cyberwar between the two countries is a “hypothetical possibility.”

With utilities in the cross-hairs of malicious actors, experts say there are health, safety and economic risks for those who rely on the grid, particularly if escalation continues.
» Read Article 

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid
By David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, New York Times
June 15, 2019

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
» Read Article 

The rise of EVs could overwhelm the grid, but PG&E has a better plan
A new framework gives utilities a way to identify and seize electrification value with managed charging
Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
June 13, 2019

The power demand from the 20 million electric vehicles (EVs) expected to be on U.S. roads by 2030, up from today’s 1.1 million, could overwhelm the nation’s grids.

But the coming EV load could deliver great value to utilities and their customers if it is shifted away from high-priced peak demand periods. That would increase utilities’ electricity sales without adding stress to their grids, while also lowering drivers’ charging costs. Investing in the communications systems and planning needed to properly manage charging can deliver transportation electrification’s full value, stakeholders told Utility Dive.

EVs are the biggest “electric load opportunity for utilities” since the 1950s air conditioning explosion, a May 2019 Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) study reports. But without proper planning to integrate that load, “EVs could lead to grid constraints and increased transmission and distribution peaks” that require new “peaker plants, unplanned grid upgrades, and other costly solutions.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Another Deceptive Letter Bashing the Electric Car Tax Credit Circulating Congress, Courtesy of FreedomWorks
By Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog
June 16, 2019

As the Drive America Forward Act, which would lift the cap on electric cars eligible for the credit, has gained co-sponsors across party lines, those industries most threatened by the widespread adoption of EVs are clearly fighting back, through the media and in these letters to Congress, as well as extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill. Without fail, these efforts to skew public and political opinion on the tax incentives include these deceptive talking points and oil-funded reports deployed in Rep. Mooney’s letter.

As Elliot Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists recently wrote for Common Dreams, the “oil and gas industry’s anti-EV tax credit campaign is a prime example of how fossil fuel interests construct a disinformation echo chamber to drown out government efforts to address the climate crisis.”

Negin continues:

“This is basically how it works: The industry underwrites a network of faux free-market groups to surreptitiously advocate on its behalf; it pays seemingly independent think tanks to publish deceptive studies; and it bankrolls the campaigns of federal legislators, who then cite industry-funded studies and invite industry-funded spokespeople to testify before Congress.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES NEWS

North Adams, Williamstown teaming up to educate residents on benefits solar energy
By Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle
June 18, 2019
» Read Article 

 

NATURAL GAS HEALTH RISKS

Physicians call for halt to natural gas fracking projects
By Jeffrey Mize, The Columbian
June 19, 2019

Two physicians groups have issued a 145-page report calling for an immediate halt to projects involving hydraulically fracked natural gas in the Northwest.

“Fracked Gas: A Threat to Healthy Communities” identifies six major projects, including a proposed $2 billion plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas into methanol for export to Asia.
» Read Article 

 

ATLANTIC BRIDGE NEWS

Confused About The Weymouth Compressor? Here’s What You Need To Know
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
June 19, 2019

For the last few years, a coalition of South Shore towns and local activists have worked to block the construction of a natural gas compressor station in North Weymouth. The project involves multiple permits and court cases at the state and federal level, making it hard for even the most avid news consumer to follow. Blog editor’s note: This excellent reporting untangles a complex story and illuminates a critical local battle against gas infrastructure expansion.
» Read Article 

Compressor foes state their case at hearing
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
June 17, 2019
The compressor station proposal has drawn strong local opposition from officials and residents who said the plant would vent pollution and toxic gases and that it could explode in the densely populated and industrialized neighborhood. There are more than 1,000 homes near the proposed site.
» Read Article 

Weymouth residents fight proposed compressor station near Fore River bridge
By Julie Leonardi, Boston 25 News
June 17, 2019

Residents in Weymouth continue to fight against a proposed natural gas compressor station near the Fore River bridge.
» Read Article

 

COLUMBIA GAS / MERRIMACK VALLEY DISASTER

Kempic “confident” disasters won’t happen again
By Jessica Valeriani, Andover Townsman
June 13, 2019
He credits his confidence to two features the utility has been including in their restoration work. The first is a regulator at each house which shuts off gas, preventing over-pressurization. The second feature is an excess flow valve, located right on the service lines. Kempic said the valve shuts off gas automatically if a line is unintentionally struck by digging equipment.

Blog editor’s note: Begs the question… why weren’t/aren’t these safeguards already required standard equipment? If Columbia Gas built cars, would they be expressing renewed confidence in the safety of their product because from now on, vehicles will be provided with brakes and steering?
» Read Article 

 

TALES OF VICTORY

Invenergy Defeated, Power Plant Denied Permit
CLF and Burrillville residents prevail against energy giant
By Jake O’Neill, Conservation Law Foundation
June 20, 2019
Rhode Island’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) decided today that it would not grant a permit necessary for the construction of Invenergy’s fossil fuel plant in Burrillville. After years of legal challenges from CLF and residents, the plant will not be built.

“This is a huge victory for Rhode Island and for the health of our communities,” said CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer. “In the face of climate emergency, opening a fossil fuel plant that will spew carbon pollution for decades is simply reckless. After years of lies and misinformation, Invenergy’s efforts to pave over a forest to build this dirty plant have been dealt a substantial loss. Today’s decision is proof that communities can stand up to big gas and win.”
» Read Article 

 

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret
A Guardian report from 11 countries tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations
By Erin McCormick, Bennett Murray , Carmela Fonbuena , Leonie Kijewski, Gökçe Saraçoğlu , Jamie Fullerton, Alastair Gee and Charlotte Simmonds, The Guardian / United States of Plastic
June 17, 2019
“People don’t know what’s happening to their trash,” said Andrew Spicer, who teaches corporate social responsibility at the University of South Carolina and sits on his state’s recycling advisory board. “They think they’re saving the world. But the international recycling business sees it as a way of making money. There have been no global regulations – just a long, dirty market that allows some companies to take advantage of a world without rules.”
» Read Article 

As the world grapples with plastic, the U.S. makes more of it — a lot more
By Center for Public Integrity
June 13, 2019
Plastic waste is piling up, increasing amounts of it going to landfills as U.S. recycling programs — dependent on Asian countries that no longer want our scrap — struggle to adjust. In March the United Nations, “alarmed” by the environmental and public health consequences of plastic items intended to be used once and thrown away, urged countries to “take comprehensive action.”

Against this backdrop, the United States is about to make a whole lot more of the stuff.
» Read Article 


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