Weekly News Check-In 6/28/19

Welcome back.

Each week we scour 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. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

— The NFGiM Team


It’s so hot in Europe, the temperature map is screaming
By Miyo McGinn, Grist
June 26, 2019

Screaming hot
This week’s weather is being compared to the 2003 heatwave that was responsible for over 30,000 deaths across Western Europe — mostly of the sickly, elderly, and homeless — and estimated financial losses of over 13 billions euros ($14.8 billion).

The only reported casualties of the heat so far are three elderly French people who died after suffering cardiac arrests while swimming today, prompting officials to issue statements warning the public of the dangers of jumping into cold water when it’s so hot.

Unfortunately, this is just the start — the heatwave is expected to continue through next week, and governments are preparing for water shortages, increased risk of fires, and an influx of hospitalizations from dehydration and overheating as temperatures creep higher in the coming days.
» Read article  

As Coal Fades in the U.S., Natural Gas Becomes the Climate Battleground
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
June 26, 2019

Nationwide, energy companies plan to add at least 150 new gas plants and thousands of miles of pipelines in the years ahead.

A rush to build gas-fired plants, even though they emit only half as much carbon pollution as coal, has the potential to lock in decades of new fossil-fuel use right as scientists say emissions need to fall drastically by midcentury to avert the worst impacts of global warming.
» Read article

77 Health Organizations Call for Climate Action to Fight Public Health Emergency
By Olivia Rosane, Eco Watch
June 25, 2019

“We are here today to declare that climate change is a health emergency. Climate change is already harming the health, safety and wellbeing of every American living today and if it is not addressed, will bring untold harm to all our children and grandchildren,” former Acting Surgeon General and Retired U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak said in a transcript of a press call emailed to EcoWatch.
» Read article 

‘Climate apartheid’: UN expert says human rights may not survive
Right to life is likely to be undermined alongside the rule of law, special rapporteur says
By Damian Carrington, Environment editor, The Guardian
June 25, 2019

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said.

Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.

Alston is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”
» Read article 

Trump administration issues guidance for federal agencies to weigh climate impacts
By Valerie Volcovici, Reuters
June 21, 2019

“Time and time again, courts are ordering agencies to consider the impacts of climate change in their environmental reviews,” said Christy Goldfuss, former CEQ chair during the Obama administration. “With record-breaking storms and the recent devastating floods in the Midwest, climate impacts are looming large – the Federal government ignores them at their own peril.”
» Read article 

White House tells agencies they no longer have to weigh a project’s long-term climate impacts
By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
June 21, 2019

The move, which comes two days after the Environmental Protection Agency scaled back greenhouse gas requirements for power plants, is the Trump administration’s latest effort to sideline climate considerations in federal decision-making. But legal experts warned it could cause further problems for the administration in court, where judges have suggested officials need to do a better job of assessing the climate impact of their decisions.
» Read article

Clean Power Plan replacement triggers rush to court
Climate activists say they expect to have the Affordable Clean Energy rule invalidated in court.
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 20, 2019

Environmental advocates and state attorneys general on Wednesday signaled they would file lawsuits to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which they say will be significantly less effective than the Obama-era Clean Power Plan it replaces.

The EPA finalized the rule on Wednesday, and as a result expects carbon emissions from the electric sector to fall by as much as 35% below 2005 levels by 2030. But opponents of the new rule say updates to power sector regulations should result in far greater decarbonization, and by failing to consider more effective emission control options the agency violated the Clean Air Act.
» Read article 

India weather: Temperature passes 50C Celsius in northern India
By News Corp Australia
June 3, 2019

Temperatures passed 50 degrees Celsius in northern India as an unrelenting heatwave triggered warnings of water shortages and heatstroke. The thermometer hit 50.6 degrees Celsius in the Rajasthan desert city of Churu over the weekend, the weather department said.

The Indian Meteorological Department said severe heat could stay for up to a week across Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states. Several deaths from heatstroke have already been recorded. About 200 million people live in northern India.
» Read article 

» More climate articles


For the first time, the U.S. got more electricity from renewables than coal
By Irina Ivanova, CBS News
June 27, 2019

For the first time, the U.S. has generated more energy from renewables than from coal, marking a landmark for non-polluting energy.

A full 22% of the electricity generated in the U.S. in April came from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which released the official figures this week after early projections emerged in May. Just 20% of power production in April came from coal. The shift away from King Coal is due to seasonal factors as well as a long-running decline in the number of U.S. coal plants.
» Read article  

Nuclear Power & Natural Gas Hit A Wall In US: Now What?
By Tina Casey, Clean Technica
June 22, 2019

Two developments in the US energy landscape this week call into question the “clean energy” status of nuclear power and natural gas, too. In Rhode Island, state officials torpedoed a proposed natural gas power plant after a massive wave of public opposition. Meanwhile, federal officials greenlighted the sale of New Jersey’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey to the company Holtec Decommissioning International, which will take it down atom by atom. So, now what?
» Read article  

Engineers lead study for replacing natural gas
By Real Estate Weekly
June 21, 2019

BuroHappold Engineering has been selected by local nonprofit Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) to lead the development of an GeoMicroDistrict Feasibility Study, which will explore the potential of replacing natural gas infrastructure with a network of neighborhood-scale district heating systems, or “GeoMicroDistricts.”

The goal of the Study is to assess the feasibility of designing, developing, implementing, and scaling up these systems in the Greater Boston area to reduce reliance on natural gas and move towards renewable energy sources.

It will focus on the use of ground-source heat pump technology, which uses electricity to transfer heat from the ground to a network of hot water pipes, to provide heating, and potentially cooling, for the buildings within each District.

Ground-source heat pump technology is highly efficient and, when paired with clean electricity, is considered a renewable heat source. HEET is scheduled to release the final plan in the early fall of 2019.
» Read article  

Congress pushes for storage, renewables to have same private investment incentives as fossil fuels
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 17, 2019

“Clean energy technologies have made tremendous progress in the last several decades, and they deserve the same shot at success in the market as traditional energy projects have experienced through the federal tax code,” Coons said in a statement.

Updating the tax code “levels the playing field” for a wide array of energy sources, said Coons. “Clean and traditional alike.”
» Read article   

» More clean energy alternatives articles


State Funding For Electric Vehicle Rebates Dries Up
By Craig LeMoult, WGBH News
June 24, 2019

After September, Massachusetts won’t give rebates to people who buy electric vehicles. The state program behind the rebates is running out of money.

For the last five years, the state has been giving $1,500 rebates to people who buy electric vehicles. The MOR-EV program has given over $30 million to more than 14,000 electric vehicle buyers. But as electric vehicles get more popular, money for the program has been running dry, and state lawmakers have failed to extend the program.
» Read article 

To compete in the global battery arms race, the US must spur its domestic market, analysts say
Industry experts say the United States has to create incentives for lithium-ion battery products to encourage manufacturers and decrease its dependence on Chinese imports.
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
June 24, 2019

Spurred by increased global demand for electric vehicles (EVs), energy storage systems and consumer electronics, lithium-ion batteries have become invaluable in today’s global society. And while China recognized early on the importance of establishing a manufacturing base, the U.S. failed to take a similar approach.

The result of those decisions is market dominance on one side and a heavy dependency on imports on the other. To close America’s gap in the battery production sector, industry experts told Utility Dive that having a reliable domestic market driven by government incentives is key to challenge China’s superiority.
» Read article  

Green is the New Black with Asphalt Made from Algae
The next generation of roads might be made from discarded plant product rather than oil-based bitumen.
By Jessica Lombardo, forconstructionpros.com
May 29, 2015

This innovation offers a new possible option for the road building industry, which is entirely dependent on petroleum today. The types of bioasphalt developed so far relied on oils of agricultural origin (which could be needed for human nutrition) or from the paper industry, mixed with resins to improve their viscoelastic properties. Microalgae cultivation does not require the use of arable land so it offers an attractive solution.
» Read article 

» More clean transportation articles


Health officials want studies of natural gas projects
By Christian M. Wade, Statehouse News
June 25, 2019

While many of the battles over pipeline expansions have largely focused on environmental costs and safety concerns, officials say health risks shouldn’t be overlooked.

Steve Jones, a retired physician and volunteer for the Sierra Club, said many people just aren’t aware of the serious health risks.

“Those familiar blue flames on a gas stove produce nitrogen dioxide, which is a potent respiratory irritant,” he said at Tuesday’s briefing. “Unfortunately many parents, public health staff and boards of health do not know that gas stove cooking increases the risk of asthma.”
» Read article 

» More natural gas health risk articles


Shale Pioneer: Fracking is an “Unmitigated Disaster”
By Nick Cunningham, Oil Price
June 24, 2019

Fracking has been an “unmitigated disaster” for shale companies themselves, according to a prominent former shale executive.

“The shale gas revolution has frankly been an unmitigated disaster for any buy-and-hold investor in the shale gas industry with very few limited exceptions,” Steve Schlotterbeck, former chief executive of EQT, a shale gas giant, said at a petrochemicals conference in Pittsburgh. “In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change.”

He did not pull any punches. “While hundreds of billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to hundreds of millions of people, the amount of shareholder value destruction registers in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said. “The industry is self-destructive.”
» Read article 

U.S. Natural Gas Prices Have Collapsed
By Jude Clemente, Forbes
June 23, 2019

U.S. natural gas prices have collapsed since Memorial Day. The prompt month NYMEX gas contract is down over 16% so far in June.

Natural gas is at its lowest price level since May 2016. Now around $2.20 per MMBtu, gas this time last year was ~$3.00. Nobody saw this coming, especially when prices in mid-November spiked to nearly $5.00.
» Read article  

Former Shale Gas CEO Says Fracking Revolution Has Been ‘A Disaster’ For Drillers, Investors
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
June 23, 2019
“Excluding capital, the big eight basin producers have destroyed on average 80 percent of the value of their companies since the beginning of the shale revolution,” Schlotterbeck said. “This is not the fall from the peak price during the shale decade, this is the drop in their share price from before the shale revolution began.”

Mr. Schlotterbeck credited the shale rush with lowering power and natural gas bills nationwide and offering significant economic benefits since 2008, when he said the shale revolution began.

“Nearly every American has benefited from shale gas, with one big exception,” he said, “the shale gas investors.”

Residents of communities where shale gas drilling and fracking have caused disruptions and health issues might take exception to Mr. Schlotterbeck’s categorical description of the beneficiaries of shale gas, as might climate scientists who have warned that the shale industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are so severe that burning gas for power may be worse for the global climate than burning coal.
» Read article 

» More fossil fuel industry articles


State adjudicator OKs Weymouth compressor station air permit
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
June 27, 2019

Opponents of a natural gas compressor station proposed for a site in Weymouth were dealt another blow Thursday as a state adjudicator recommended the approval of an air-quality permit for the project.

Hearing officer Jane Rothchild of the state Department of Environmental Protection said the department should uphold a permit issued to gas company Spectra Energy-Enbridge and reject an appeal filed by Weymouth, Quincy, Braintree, Hingham and a citizens group, which together had argued that the proposed station would worsen air pollution in the Fore River Basin and endanger the lives of nearby residents.

South Shore legislators and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch called on Rothchild to reject the plan so the project can be vetted based on all the evidence.

Instead, Rothchild allowed the permit with slight modifications. For example, she recommended that Weymouth, Braintree, Hingham and Quincy be notified prior to a substantial blow down, or release of natural gas. She also suggested limiting blow downs to two per year.
Blog editor’s note – I feel a need to point out the absurdity of those last two sentences. First, are residents and people who work or go to school in this neighborhood supposed to evacuate during blowdown days? Second, a compressor station performs blowdowns based on system requirements, not based on some predetermined, limited, annual schedule. It’s about physics, not event planning….
» Read article

Activists use art to draw attention to Weymouth compressor controversy
By Joe DiFazio,The Patriot Ledger
June 23, 2019

It couldn’t have been a more picture perfect day Sunday for organizers of Painting in the Park, an event at King’s Park in Weymouth held by activists opposed to a proposed natural gas compressor station along the Fore River. Organizers said they wanted to promote the beauty of the park they fear would be destroyed by putting a compressor station next to it.

Margaret Bellafiore, an art teacher from Weymouth who is also on the board of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS), said the event was art activism.

“We’re using art to show the cause,” Bellafiore said. “This is a beautiful spot, we want to keep it this way. We don’t want the compressor built.”
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles  


Here Comes the World’s Biggest Virtual Power Plant — And it’s Behind the Meter
By Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
June 20, 2019

The project will aggregate 10,000 distributed energy assets which, as one resource, will sell power into the nation’s wholesale energy market, still short on capacity from the loss of the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011.

The Japanese virtual power plant will initially use only batteries, but at a future date can incorporate other various distributed energy assets, such as solar, electric vehicle chargers and smart home thermostats, said Sternberg in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge. The project also has the capability to be configured into a microgrid, although that is not part of the current plan.

“This type of technology is coming to the US sooner rather than later,”
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles


FERC commissioner LaFleur to leave late August, restoring Republican majority
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
June 20, 2019

With a majority at the commission, Republicans will have more power, unless further checked by the courts, to confine GHG considerations in gas project reviews to emissions directly tied to the projects. LaFleur and fellow Democrat Richard Glick have argued for further consideration of upstream and downstream indirect emissions, such as those associated with gas production or end-use combustion.
» Read article  

 » More FERC articles


Editorial: The right to live without environmental pollution
By Greenfield Recorder
June 21, 2019

Earlier this year, a number of biomass-burning facilities were recipients of $3 million in state funding awarded by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration through the Renewable Thermal Infrastructure Grant Program, an initiative focused on expanding the availability of renewable thermal technologies. Following that, the state Department of Energy Resources proposed changes to its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which dictates what type of energy companies can receive government subsidies. The changes would rewrite the restrictions, allowing large wood-burning power plants to receive government funding.
» Read article 

» More biomass articles

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2 thoughts on “Weekly News Check-In 6/28/19

  1. Judith Gitelson

    As always, Rose, I really appreciate your hard work in putting all this together. It would be very hard for us to ferret out this very important stuff on our own.

    I hope you and Wendy are having a good summer.


    On Sat, Jun 29, 2019 at 4:45 PM No Fracked Gas in Mass wrote:

    > Jake L posted: “Welcome back. Each week we scour 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. Here’s a distillation > of the most interesting and useful news unc” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RoseWessel

      Thanks for the kind words, Judy, but the Weekly News Check-In is the work of our No Fracked Gas in Mass Program Associate, Jake Laughner. Originally brought on board to help with posting Events and news stories, he’s taken on a much more active role in researching a broad range of subjects that inform and influence the work we do (as well as diving in on Berkshire Co. participation in statewide campaigns like upgrading building codes)!

      Hope you’re having a good summer as well and managing to stay cool!



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