Monthly Archives: July 2019

Weekly News Check-In 7/26/19

Welcome back.

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

This edition includes articles from the Weymouth Compressor Station and Granite Bridge pipeline fights; news about climate, clean energy alternatives, and clean transportation; and the latest from the fossil fuel industry and the battle against industrial scale biomass.

The blog editor is taking a week off – please watch for our next post on August 9th.

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Gas company misses deadline for testing soil at Weymouth site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
July 22, 2019

Residents and officials fighting a proposed natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River say it’s unlikely that construction of the controversial project could start this year after the gas company missed a deadline to submit additional hazardous waste soil testing.

The state Department of Environmental Protection last week entered into an administrative consent order with Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, to submit by Jan. 17, 2020, more environmental sampling and analysis related to hazardous waste cleanup of the site. Algonquin missed the first deadline of July 19.
» Read article   

FRRACS TV ad
Compressor TV ad urges governor to oppose facility
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
July 19, 2019

Opponents of a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin are urging people to ask Gov. Charlie Baker to speak out against the facility in a new 30-second TV infomercial.

“We are encouraging people to get involved,” said Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station. “We still have a big fight going on here.”

“Citing a compressor station in the middle of thousands of homes in Weymouth, Braintree and Quincy is by far the most irresponsible proposal a natural gas company has presented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Haugh said during the online advertisement. “Residents and local officials have fought for years against this proposal, but we need more help. We need Gov. Charlie Baker to speak out the Weymouth compressor station.”

The infomercial features a woman exclaiming, “Gov. Baker, where are you sir?” and the message ends with details about how to oppose the facility by reviewing FRRACS’s website.
» Read article   

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

 

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Liberty Utilities to make case for liquefied natural gas tank in Epping
Seacost Online
July 18, 2019

Liberty Utilities will host a safety demonstration of liquefied natural gas Wednesday, July 31 with expert Erik Neandross at the Epping Middle School gymnasium.

The demonstration comes as Liberty Utilities continues to work to gain approval to construct an LNG storage facility in West Epping as part of its proposed Granite Bridge project.
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge Pipeline articles

 

CLIMATE

Arctic Wildfires
Huge swathes of the Arctic on fire, ‘unprecedented’ satellite images show
Earth’s boreal forests now burning at rate unseen in ‘at least 10,000 years’, scientists warn
Harry Cockburn, the Independent
July 23, 2019

Vast swathes of the Arctic are suffering from “unprecedented” wildfires, new satellite images have revealed.

North of the Arctic circle, the high temperatures are facilitating enormous wildfires which are wreaking ecological destruction on a colossal scale.

It comes after the world’s hottest June on record which has been followed by a devastating heatwave in the US, with Europe forecast for the same treatment later this week.
» Read article   

Major U.S. cities are leaking methane at twice the rate previously believed
By Sid Perkins, Science Magazine
Jul. 19, 2019

The new findings come courtesy of data gathered by aircraft over six U.S. cities: Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City; Providence; and Boston. In 2018, researchers flew at altitudes between 300 and 800 meters and measured concentrations of methane, ethane, CO2, and carbon monoxide, among other gases.

It’s also much more than the amounts estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A 2016 report suggested methane emissions in the six major urban areas the researchers studied totaled only 370,000 tons. “It’s easy to say that the EPA inventory is low, but it’s not as easy to say why it’s low,” Kort says. One possible reason for this huge discrepancy: The EPA estimate includes leaks from the natural gas distribution system, but it doesn’t include leaks from homes and businesses. Those “beyond the meter” emissions could include, for example, tiny whooshes of incompletely burned methane from home appliances such as gas stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters. Taken together over a city of millions, such emissions could be substantial.

The team’s results are “a confirmation and expansion” of what was already known from smaller-scale studies in the Boston and the Washington, D.C.–Baltimore areas, says Steven Wofsy, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University, who wasn’t involved in the new analysis. The new study, conducted over six metropolitan areas, “shows this is not an isolated phenomenon,” he adds.
» Read article  

Days of 100-Degree Heat Will Become Weeks as Climate Warms, U.S. Study Warns
By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News
July 17, 2019

Nearly every part of the United States will face a significant increase in extremely hot days by mid-century, even if some action is taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, a new study says. If nothing is done to rein in climate change, it warns, the impact will be worse.

It found that the number of days when the average temperature will feel like 100 degrees in the Lower 48 states will more than double, from about two weeks at the end of the last century to 30 days by mid-century, even with some efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming.

And the number of days with a heat index of 105°F or more will more than triple to nearly three weeks, the study found.
» Read article   

Climate change will kill us with heat if nothing is done to fix it, study says
By Steve Marroni, Penn Live
July 16, 2019

The number of dangerously hot days per year will skyrocket this century if little or nothing is done about climate change, putting millions of Americans at risk.

Those are the findings released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists in their report, “Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days.”

The group says climate change is already manifesting itself in the form of deadlier storms, rising sea levels, droughts, wildfires and floods, but the heat extremes forecast in their analysis of the rest of the 21st Century shows an intensity of heat that will affect the daily lives of more Americans than ever before.
» Read article  

Could Climate Change Spark a Financial Crisis? Candidates Warn Fed It’s a Risk
By John Lippert, Inside Climate News
July 15, 2019

A few of the Democrats running for president have started warning about climate change in a way that voters rarely think about yet can profoundly affect their lives. To sum it up: If you think the housing crisis was bad, wait until you see how the climate crisis plays out for financial markets.

The candidates are urging the Federal Reserve—the United States’ central bank—to work with financial institutions around the world to confront climate risks that could trigger cascading collapses.

They also want regulators to ensure that America’s financial system is resilient to the impacts of climate change.

It’s not just that fossil fuel projects, like other infrastructure investments, are at risk from severe weather events, a risk that lenders and insurance companies must shoulder. It’s also that when the world finally weans itself away from the fossil fuels whose use is driving global warming, the business models of some of the most heavily capitalized world industries could crumble along with demand for their products.
» Read article   

» More climate articles

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Mass. delegation pushing to advance Vineyard Wind
By Michael P. Norton / State House News Service in Southcoast Today
July 24, 2019

Members of Congress have become involved in trying to move Vineyard Wind forward, a top Baker administration official said Tuesday, as lobbying intensifies to advance what state officials hope will be the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Undersecretary Patrick Woodcock told members of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Board earlier this week about the involvement of members of Congress since the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management indicated it would not decide on a key project approval this month, as anticipated.

Project officials last week indicated the entire effort is at risk without a favorable federal response by the end of August. Federal officials say they are operating within a review window that extends to March 2020.
» Read article   

State lawmakers advance Vineyard Wind project
The Barnstable Patriot
July 23, 2019

Vineyard Wind continues to undergo an extensive and comprehensive public and regulatory review process that involves evaluation by more than 25 federal, state, and local regulatory bodies, including the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Cape Cod Commission, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and local conservation commissions.

To date, Vineyard Wind has received permits or approvals from the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), an independent state board responsible for review of proposed large energy facilities, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office, the Cape Cod Commission, the Barnstable Conservation Commission, the Martha’s Vineyard Conservation Commission, and the Nantucket Conservation Commission.
» Read article   

Project Update: Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Bipartisan Legislation to Advance Vineyard Wind Project
Vinyard Wind Press Release
July 23, 2019

The Massachusetts Legislature has enacted bi-partisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Julian Cyr (D – Truro) and Rep. William L. Crocker (R – Barnstable) authorizing the Barnstable Town Council to grant an easement for a portion of Covell’s Beach that will allow for construction of the interconnection between Vineyard Wind, the United States’ first large-scale wind farm, and the New England power grid.The legislative vote follows a Host Community Agreement (HCA) between the Town of Barnstable and Vineyard Wind, which was unanimously supported by the Barnstable Town Council in October 2018.

The HCA includes annual payments to the Town of at least $1.534 million each year in combined property taxes and host community payments, totaling a guaranteed $16 million in Host Community Payments. The Town Council has dedicated those resources to municipal water protection efforts.
» Read article   

State net-zero carbon goal under review
By Matt Murphy, State House News Service, Worcester Telegram
July 23, 2019

… a group of 25 lawmakers, led by Reps. Majorie Decker of Cambridge and Sean Garballey of Arlington, appeared in support of a Decker-Garballey bill to convert to 100% renewable energy by 2045.

The bill would also set a target of 100% renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2035.

“What has happened is we have states who now must lead on this issue because the federal government is not only doing nothing about it, but doing everything they can to deny science,” Garballey said.

Garballey called it “a shame” that states like California, New York and Hawaii have committed themselves to achieving a 100% renewable electric system and Massachusetts hasn’t. In addition to helping fight the effects of climate change, Garballey said the transition will be a huge engine for job growth.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Auto agreement with CA
Automakers, Rejecting Trump Pollution Rule, Strike a Deal With California
By Coral Davenport and Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 25, 2019

In coming weeks, the Trump administration is expected to all but eliminate an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. California and 13 other states have vowed to keep enforcing the stricter rules, potentially splitting the United States auto market in two.

With car companies facing the prospect of having to build two separate lineups of vehicles, they opened secretive talks with California regulators in which the automakers — Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW — won rules that are slightly less restrictive than the Obama standards and that they can apply to vehicles sold nationwide.

The agreement provides “much-needed regulatory certainty,” the companies said in a joint statement, while enabling them to “meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations.”
» Read article   

Long distance solar EV Lightyear One has 725 km range
By Electrive.com
June 25, 2019

“The main goal of this car is to go where electric cars reach their limits,” says Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear. “Research has shown that range and lack of charging capability are still the biggest concerns with electric mobility.”

That’s why the car’s roof and hood are made of five square meters of safety glass solar cells. This should be so stable that an “adult man can walk on them without causing bumps”. According to a calculator on the company’s website, the solar cells will be able to generate electricity for a range of up to 33 kilometres a day (seven kilometres in winter).
» Read article  

» More clean transportation articles

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

U.S. Shale Is Doomed No Matter What They Do
By Nick Cunningham, Oilpriice.com
July 21, 2019

With financial stress setting in for U.S. shale companies, some are trying to drill their way out of the problem, while others are hoping to boost profitability by cutting costs and implementing spending restraint. Both approaches are riddled with risk.

There are [a] few reasons why natural gas prices might not rebound. For instance, any increase in natural gas prices will only induce more renewable energy. Costs for solar, wind and even energy storage has plunged. For years, natural gas was the cheapest option, but that is no longer the case. Renewable energy increasingly beats out gas on price, which means that natural gas prices will run into resistance when they start to rise as demand would inevitably slow.

A second reason why prices might not rise is because public policy is beginning to really work against the gas industry. IEEFA pointed to the recent decision in New York to block the construction of Williams Co.’s pipeline that would have connected Appalachian gas to New York City. In fact, New York seems to be heading in a different direction, recently passing one of the most ambitious and comprehensive pieces of climate and energy bills in the nation. Or, look to Berkeley, California, which just became the first city in the country to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. As public policy increasingly targets the demand side of the equation, natural gas prices face downward pressure.
» Read article

Babies Born Near Oil and Gas Wells Are Up to 70% More Likely to Have Congenital Heart Defects, New Study Shows
By Julia Conley, Common Dream
July 19, 2019

Led by Dr. Lisa McKenzie at the University of Colorado, researchers found that the chemicals released from oil and gas wells can have serious and potentially fatal effects on babies born to mothers who live within a mile of an active well site—as about 17 million Americans do.

The researchers studied more than 3,000 newborns who were born in Colorado between 2005 and 2011. The state is home to about 60,000 fracking sites, according to the grassroots group Colorado Rising. In areas with the highest intensity of oil and gas extraction activity, mothers were 40 to 70 percent more likely to give birth to babies with congenital heart defects (CHDs).

“We observed more children were being born with a congenital heart defect in areas with the highest intensity of oil and gas well activity,” said McKenzie in a statement.
» Read article  

Study from CU Anschutz researchers suggests link between oil and gas density, child heart defects
Industry claims researchers’ science is “misleading”
By Jennifer Kovaleski , Blair Miller, Denver Channel 7
July 18, 2019

A study from three University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus researchers funded by the American Heart Association published Wednesday in a peer-reviewed science journal found suggestions that babies born to mothers who live in areas with high oil and gas development are more likely to have congenital heart defects than those born outside of high-density areas.
» Read article   

GE Gas Turbine
GE gas plant to close 20 years early, become battery storage site — sign of the times?
By Phil Dzikiy, Electrek
June 24, 2019

General Electric will demolish a California natural gas-fired plant with 20 years remaining in its useful life, deeming the plant “uneconomical” as inexpensive solar and wind grab a larger share of power in the state.

The Inland Empire Energy Center (IEEC), a 750 megawatt plant, is slated for closure by the end of the year. GE told Reuters, “We have made the decision to shut down operation of the Inland Empire Power Plant, which has been operating below capacity for several years, effective at the end of 2019.”

The complete Inland Empire Energy Center Decommissioning and Demolition Plan has been published on the commission’s website. It notes that IEEC is selling the project site to Nova Power “for the purpose of developing a battery energy storage system (BESS).”

The plant relies on GE’s H-Class turbines, which is now considered a legacy technology. Experts told Reuters the turbine has a number of technical issues. GE noted the plant is now “uneconomical to support further.”

GE’s plant was first approved in 2003 and only came online about a decade ago, according to the California Energy Commission. Now the plant is set to close, only having gone through one-third of its designed useful life.
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles   

 

BIOMASS

As I See It: Burning wood no way to fight climate change
By Nisha Swinton and Regina LaRocque , Opinion: Worcester Telegram
July 19, 2019

A 2018 law sets a course for slowly expanding Massachusetts’ renewable portfolio standard (RPS). These state-based programs are among the most effective tools we have to encourage more clean energy. But when they are poorly designed, they can actually throw money at dirty power sources — anything from burning wood to animal waste and landfill gas. The current proposal would benefit powerful special interests, spew carbon into the atmosphere, and leave nearby communities to suffer from the effects of increased air pollution.

Increasing the burning of biomass is not a transition to clean renewable energy, but rather a dangerous distraction that will cost ratepayers money while undermining efforts to enact real clean energy policies. Rep. Denise Provost has introduced a bill that would remove biomass from the state’s Alternative Portfolio Standards program. Passing that bill would be a good start; but Gov. Baker should withdraw this proposal and implement a plan to stop the expansion of dirty energy sources that pollute our air and warm our planet.
» Read article   

Columnist Lindsay Sabadosa: Racism is not just about words
Daily Hampshire Gazzette
July 16, 2019

… the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has recently proposed changes that would allow electricity retailers to meet increased renewable energy goals by purchasing energy from polluting biomass power plants.

This would fly in the face of the stringent science-based standards Massachusetts adopted in 2012 that recognized the environmental and public health impacts of biomass energy. Massachusetts is currently the only state in the nation that considers greenhouse gas emissions as criteria for biomass eligibility in its renewable portfolio standard, and only highly efficient plants can qualify.

The proposed regulations would roll this back without any science-based justification for the change, at a time when climate scientists are telling us we need to do more to protect our forests and reduce our carbon emissions.

How does that relate to anti-racist policies and environmental justice? Western Massachusetts, home to some of the poorest and most disenfranchised communities in the state, would be the most affected and likely the location of any new biomass plant.

DOER’s proposed changes would ensure that the Palmer biomass plant proposed in East Springfield would qualify for $5 million to $10 million per year in renewable energy credits, in perpetuity, while adding more air pollution to a low-income community that already suffers alarmingly high rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic health problems.
» Read article   

» More biomass articles   

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Weekly News Check-In 7/19/19

WNCI-2
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.

This edition includes articles about the Weymouth compressor station and Columbia Gas TGP 261 upgrade project. We also found interesting news on climate, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, fossil fuel industry, the EPA, and electric utilities.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

ARENA, Weymouth: Correcting compressor station misstatements
Letter to the Editor by Alice Arena, FRRACS, Patriot Ledger
July 17, 2019

I would like to correct the record in your article from Friday July 12, 2019, “Top regulator upholds air permit…” Mr. Steven Dodge, lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, makes two misstatements.

First, FERC has no opinion of the siting of a facility. The commission only approves the project itself, no matter where placement is considered. FERC does not consider safety or risk. Second, Enbridge only considered Weymouth from the beginning due to financial considerations, not considerations of public safety or safe and reliable delivery.
» Read article   

Mass. OKs Air Permit For Controversial Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
July 12, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday granted an air permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, removing another hurdle for the controversial project to proceed.
A statement from MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta noted that the “ruling relies on an evidence and science-based evaluation of air quality and health impacts associated with the proposed project [and] takes into account all applicable state and federal requirements.”
In a written statement, Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said he was disappointed with the decision, “but not surprised given how this process has been conducted thus far.” He called the process unfair to Weymouth and all South Shore residents.
“This entire process has demonstrated that our regulatory entities seem to be beholden to industry interests,” Hedlund said.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS / TGP 261 UPGRADE

Equitable transition to renewable energy can create millions of jobs (Letter to the Editor)
By Letters to the Editor | The Republican and MassLive
July 16, 2019

In her recent letter to the editor, “Energy moratoriums a danger to Western Mass. business,” June 30, page C4, Springfield Regional Chamber President Nancy Creed criticized the moratoria on new gas hook-ups imposed by utilities like Columbia Gas.

She neglected to mention that we have 11 years to avert worldwide climate disaster, according to the IPCC. A move away from “natural” gas is decades overdue.
» Read article    

» More TGP 261 upgrade articles

CLIMATE

Climate Litigation Has Become a Global Trend, New Report Shows
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog (Originally published on Climate Liability News)
July 15, 2019

Climate change-related lawsuits, once mostly limited to the U.S., have now been filed in nearly 30 countries, targeting governments and corporate polluters, according to the latest analysis of the trend.

A new report was published this month by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. It tracks the progress of the suits — filed since 1990 — as they have expanded beyond the U.S., and predicts the trend will continue.

“Holding government and businesses to account for failing to combat climate change has become a global phenomenon,” said Joana Setzer, research fellow at the Grantham Research Institute and co-author of the report. “People and environmental groups are forcing governments and companies into court for failing to act on climate change, and not just in the United States. ”

Climate change is also becoming a wider cause for concern by investors, who have begun pushing harder to companies to disclose the risks to their businesses.  According to the report, “failing to report climate risks and/or comply with recommendations is likely to increase litigation risk.”
» Read article  

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Berkeley becomes first U.S. city to ban natural gas in new homes
By Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle
July 17, 2019

Berkeley has become the first city in the nation to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to ban gas from new low-rise residential buildings starting Jan. 1.

The natural gas ordinance, introduced by Councilwoman Kate Harrison, requires all new single-family homes, town homes and small apartment buildings to have electric infrastructure.
» Read article   

Vineyard Wind Project Receives Potential Setbacks
Offshore wind turbines
By Sarah Mizes-Tan, WCAI
July 11, 2019

Vineyard Wind’s proposed 800 megawatt offshore windfarm received news of setbacks this week – most notably, a delay in the release of a final environmental impact statement from the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The final statement was due at the end of this week, but has been delayed with no future relase date given. The company had planned to break ground on the wind farm at the end of 2019, but this delay could push that timeline back.
» Read article    

In Setback for Vineyard Wind, Conservation Commission Denies Cable
By Noah Asimow, Vineyard Gazette
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Developers who plan to build the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard saw their first major setback this week, when the Edgartown conservation commission voted to deny the construction of two undersea cables that would connect the 84-turbine, 800-megawatt wind farm to mainland Massachusetts.

The conservation commission voted 5-1 Wednesday night to deny the cables.
The surprising vote puts the giant renewable energy development on hold and marks the first denial of a project that has already received approval from a half-dozen regulatory agencies throughout the Cape and Islands, including the Cape Cod Commission, the Nantucket conservation commission, and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
» Read article    

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Arizona’s new EV growth plan could save customers billions, groups say
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 12, 2019

The commission is moving ahead with plans to expand Arizona’s use of electric vehicles, and has approved guidelines for EV pilot programs that include a focus on infrastructure, education and outreach.

The guidelines also include an analysis of where to locate charging stations, best practices and consumer protections, rate design, incentives and rebates, and cost recovery for the pilot programs. Regulators directed utilities to submit EV pilot programs for review.

Several groups applauded the decision, which they say will improve air quality and save Arizona customers billions of dollars.
» Read article   

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Disputed ground: The future of landfill gas-to-energy
Gas capture at landfills creates electricity and revenue, but also has economic and environmental disadvantages.
By Max Witynski, Utility Dive
July 15, 2019

Operators champion landfill gas as a source of renewable energy and revenue. But as communities seek to divert more organics and climate anxiety intensifies, the practice has been decried as greenwashing.

The full story of landfill gas (LFG) is complicated. Capturing LFG creates beneficial use opportunities and earns operators revenue, in addition to reducing the global warming potential of the gas that is successfully captured. However, the system may be imperfect from an economic and environmental standpoint. Other forms of electricity generation from waste have efficiency advantages, and the ability of LFG capture systems to effectively mitigate net greenhouse gas emissions is contested.
Still, major landfill operators often refer to the positive effects of their LFG projects as being on par with other renewable sources.
» Read article  

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

E.P.A. Broke Rules in Shake-Up of Science Panels, Federal Watchdog Says
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 15, 2019

The Trump administration failed to follow ethics rules last year when it dismissed academic members of Environmental Protection Agency advisory boards and replaced them with appointees connected to industry, a federal watchdog agency concluded Monday.

The agency, the Government Accountability Office, found that the administration “did not consistently ensure” that appointees to E.P.A. advisory panels met federal ethics requirements. It also concluded that Trump administration officials violated E.P.A. guidelines by not basing the appointments on recommendations made by career staff members.

Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s first E.P.A. administrator who resigned last year amid ethics scandals, remade the agency’s science advisory panels because he said they did not fairly represent the United States geographically, or the industries affected by regulations.
» Read article 

E.P.A. Plans to Curtail the Ability of Communities to Oppose Pollution Permits
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
July 12, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to weaken rules that for the past quarter-century have given communities a voice in deciding how much pollution may legally be released by nearby power plants and factories.

The changes would eliminate the ability of individuals or community advocates to appeal against E.P.A.-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges. However, the industrial permit-holders could still appeal to the panel, known as the Environmental Appeals Board, to allow them to increase their pollution.
» Read article    

» More EPA articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Rural co-op transition to renewables impeded by coal financing obligations, NGOs find
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
July 8, 2019

Rural electric cooperatives are struggling to access the cash flow necessary to participate in the clean energy transition as they are locked into long-term generation contracts, often driven by outstanding coal plant debt, according to a new study.

The federal government is on the hook for about $8.4 billion of loan guarantees on existing coal assets for co-ops, according to a June report published by the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), Clean Up the River, Environment Minnesota and We Own It. The groups identified a series of potential solutions on a federal level, including a potential bailout for co-ops with federal debt.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

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Weekly News Check-In 7/12/19

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.

This edition includes articles about opposition to the Weymouth compressor station and Columbia Gas’ TGP 261 upgrade project in Agawam. Even more on climate, clean energy alternatives, energy storage, the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities… and “what could possibly go wrong?”

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Mass. OKs Air Permit For Controversial Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
July 12, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday granted an air permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, removing another hurdle for the controversial project to proceed.

A statement from MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta noted that the “ruling relies on an evidence and science-based evaluation of air quality and health impacts associated with the proposed project [and] takes into account all applicable state and federal requirements.”

In a written statement, Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said he was disappointed with the decision, “but not surprised given how this process has been conducted thus far.” He called the process unfair to Weymouth and all South Shore residents.

“This entire process has demonstrated that our regulatory entities seem to be beholden to industry interests,” Hedlund said.

Blog editor’s note: The image above shows what it looks like when a properly sited compressor station blows up (and they do, occasionally). Precisely why these facilities should never be sited in dense, urban areas like Weymouth’s Fore River Basin. Also the pollution issues….
» Read article   

COMPRESSOR OPPONENTS GAIN BIG NEW ALLY: MASS. SENATE
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
July 11, 2019

Nearly three-quarters of the Senate penned a letter Thursday urging the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner to rescind approval for a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, a significant escalation from what had been mostly staunch local opposition.

The two-and-a-half page letter, signed with bipartisan support by 29 of the Senate’s 40 members, asks DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg to reject the proposal. It was released one day before his final decision on whether to uphold an air quality permit under appeal is due.

Warning that “public trust is lost” after the lengthy permitting process that saw outcry from environmental and health experts, the senators said the compressor plans sought by Algonquin Gas Transmission are a threat “to the Commonwealth as a whole” and could set a “dangerous precedent” for siting such facilities.
“The administrative proceedings surrounding the Weymouth compressor station application are fraught with errors, inaccuracies, and obstructions,” senators wrote. “Because of this, combined with the overall environmental and public health implications of the project, we believe that the DEP should rescind all permits pertaining to Algonquin’s application predicated upon the many permitting appeals filed by citizen groups and affected municipalities, and reevaluate the proposal in light of the facts and in a publicly transparent fashion.”
» Read article

At ‘wit’s end,’ Mariano pushes Weymouth air monitoring bill
By Chris Liskinski, State House News Service
July 9, 2019

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano urged colleagues Tuesday to advance legislation that would require additional air-quality monitoring near compressor stations, a bill he told constituents two weeks ago he would try to fast-track amid ongoing controversy over a Weymouth proposal.

Mariano, a Quincy Democrat, opened a Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy hearing Tuesday by saying he was at his “wit’s end” dealing with decades of pollution from industrial facilities in the area of the Fore River, which runs between Quincy and Weymouth.

Now, after what Mariano described as “egregious shortcomings” in the Baker administration’s approval of a Weymouth natural gas compressor station, he pushed for the legislation as necessary to ensure public health.
» Read article  

Shut up about the Weymouth compressor already, willya?
By Andrea Honore, Blue Mass Group
July 7, 2019

Here are some good reasons why you should care—even a little bit—about the Weymouth compressor project getting built. If it happens in Weymouth, it will happen to you.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

TGP 261 UPGRADE

Massachusetts mayor says access to cheap gas not worth the cost to climate
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News
July 8, 2019  

In December, the average price of 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas for residential customers nationally was $9.63, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration; in Massachusetts, it was $15.16, the fifth-highest in the country.

Still, Morse argues, bringing in more gas would just be business as usual at a time when the environment needs unconventional action. And if Holyoke can break old patterns, perhaps other communities will follow, he said.

“I hope we’re setting a precedent,” he said. “I hope we’re providing momentum to this conversation.”
» Read article

» More TGP 261 upgrade articles

CLIMATE

The Case for Declaring a National Climate Emergency
By Carolyn Kormann, New Yorker Magazine
July 11, 2019  

The resolution that Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and the Oregon representative Earl Blumenauer introduced to Congress on Tuesday (which was co-sponsored by more than two dozen other lawmakers), echoed the Green New Deal in calling for “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency.” It’s a symbolic resolution in Congress for now, given the Senate’s resistance to any climate-change policy, but it at least puts pressure on the 2020 Presidential candidates to keep discussing the issue as an emergency and debating climate solutions. It also reflects the reality of what’s needed, in the face of current facts.
» Read article  

Boston faces major challenge as sea levels rise
By Rick Sobey, Boston Herald
July 10, 2019

Boston is expected to have 12 to 19 high-tide flooding days this year, the NOAA projects.
By 2030, high-tide flooding is likely to happen about 15 to 25 days along the Northeast Atlantic, as a median regional value. By 2050, NOAA projects 40 to 130 high-tide flooding days for the region.

“Once communities realize they are susceptible to high tide flooding, they need to begin to address the impacts, which can become chronic rather quickly,” William Sweet, an oceanographer for NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, said in a statement. “Communities find themselves not knowing what to expect next year and the decades to come, which makes planning difficult. Our high tide projections can play a vital role in helping them plan mitigation and other remedies.”
» Read article  

It’s the End of the World as They Know It: The distinct burden of being a climate scientist
By David Corn, Mother Jones
July 8, 2019

It’s hardly surprising that researchers who spend their lives exploring the dire effects of climate change might experience emotional consequences from their work. Yet, increasingly, Cobb, Shukla, and others in the field have begun publicly discussing the psychological impact of contending with data pointing to a looming catastrophe, dealing with denialism and attacks on science, and observing government inaction in the face of climate change. “Scientists are talking about an intense mix of emotions right now,” says Christine Arena, executive producer of the docuseries Let Science Speak, which featured climate researchers speaking out against efforts to silence or ignore science. “There’s deep grief and anxiety for what’s being lost, followed by rage at continued political inaction, and finally hope that we can indeed solve this challenge. There are definitely tears and trembling voices. They know this deep truth: They are on the front lines of contending with the fear, anger, and perhaps even panic the rest of us will have to deal with.”
» Read article   

Big Oil’s ‘Natural Climate Solutions’ Feasibility Overblown, Critics Say
By Kendra Chamberlain, DeSmog Blog
July 6, 2019

There have been a slew of scientific papers over the years pointing to NCS as a useful tool in removing carbon dioxide from the environment. In their critique, Lang and Counsell have zeroed in on a TNC-led 2017 paper published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper’s authors estimate NCS “can provide 37 percent of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030” needed to stay below the 2° Celsius threshold of global warming.

The TNC paper’s claim that NCS can account for up to 37 percent of CO2 mitigation by 2030 has garnered quite a lot of attention by media, conservation organizations, and others as a “forgotten solution” to climate change.

A spokesperson from The Nature Conversancy agreed with Anderson’s assessment. “NCS by itself is no silver bullet. It’s not a matter of NCS or reducing fossil fuel emissions; the world needs both,” the spokesperson said. “But with [less than] 3 percent of all climate funding currently going to land use solutions, we think it deserves a much bigger place in the conversation.”

Counsell and Lang take the argument a step further. They claim that major oil companies have seized on the opportunity to promote NCS initiatives as a means to greenwash themselves while continuing to drill for fossil fuels.

“As long as the oil industry can say, look we’re doing something, we’re supporting tree planting, it just diverts the conversation from the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground,” Lang said, adding that major oil companies are incentivized to move the conversation away from fossil fuel reductions.

“This whole discussion about natural climate solutions is exactly what the oil industry wants. It’s handing them the perfect PR exercise on a plate,” he said.
» Read article  

Baking Alaska: record heat spurs wildfires and “mass mortality events”
By Susie Cagle, The Bulletin – originally published in The Guardian
July 5, 2019

Alaska is trapped in a kind of hot feedback loop, as the arctic is heating up much faster than the rest of the planet. Ocean surface temperatures upwards of 10F hotter than average have helped to warm up the state’s coasts. When Bering and Chukchi sea ice collapsed and melted months earlier than normal this spring, the University of Alaska climate specialist Rick Thoman characterized the water as “baking”.

“I intentionally try to not be hyperbolic, but what do you say when there’s 10- to 20- degree ocean water temperature above normal?” Thoman told the Guardian. “How else do you describe that besides extraordinary?”

The hot water has affected sea birds and marine life, with mass mortality events becoming commonplace in the region. The National Park Service characterizes Alaska’s increasingly frequent sea bird die-offs, called “wrecks”, as “extreme”. “The folks in the communities are saying these animals look like they’ve starved to death,” said Thoman.
» Read article   

Stop Building a Spaceship to Mars and Just Plant Some Damn Trees: Researchers found that there’s room for an extra 900 million hectares of canopy cover
By Jackie Flynn Mogensen, Mother Jones
July 4, 2019

The study, however, has its limitations. For one, a global tree-planting effort is somewhat impractical. As the authors write, “it remains unclear what proportion of this land is public or privately owned, and so we cannot identify how much land is truly available for restoration.” Rob Jackson, who chairs the Earth System Science Department and Global Carbon Project at Stanford University and was not involved with the study, agrees that forest management plays an important role in the fight against climate change, but says the paper’s finding that humans could reduce atmospheric carbon by 25 percent by planting trees seemed “unrealistic,” and wondered what kinds of trees would be most effective or how forest restoration may disrupt agriculture.

“Forests and soils are the cheapest and fastest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere—lots of really good opportunities there,” he said. “I get uneasy when we start talking about managing billions of extra acres of land, with one goal in mind: to store carbon.”
» Read article

Forests for Carbon Storage
By George Wuerthner, The Wildlife News
July 4, 2019

Currently, there is a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that would ban logging on all of the state lands. The premise of the legislation is that logging contributes significantly to CO2 emissions. The legislation sponsors argue that the best use of Massachusetts state-owned property is to maintain intact forests for carbon storage.

If this legislation should pass into law it may signal a shift in how we view the value of our federal and state forests. Our forests greatest value is for carbon storehouse, not wood products.
» Read article

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis
Research shows a trillion trees could be planted to capture huge amount of carbon dioxide
Damian Carrington Environment editor, the Guardian
July 4, 2019

Crowther emphasised that it remains vital to reverse the current trends of rising greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, and bring them down to zero. He said this is needed to stop the climate crisis becoming even worse and because the forest restoration envisaged would take 50-100 years to have its full effect of removing 200bn tonnes of carbon.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Compost heating test going well!
Rose Wessel, Old Stone Mill Center (blog post)
July 12, 2019  

This is an entirely new, first of its kind, compost heating system being developed by AgriLab for heating our Office space at The Old Stone Mill here in Adams, MA. The heat extracted from this system will feed a radiant floor in the office, and possibly some additional space as well.
» Read article

US renewable energy transition to move faster than anticipated by 2022: FERC report
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
July 9, 2019

By June 2022, the pace of U.S. renewables growth is going to surpass fossil fuel growth by a significantly greater margin than what FERC had anticipated as recently as April, according to the commission’s May 2019 Energy Infrastructure Update, released Friday.
» Read article

Even FERC can’t deny the energy transition
By Christian Roselund, PV Magazine
July 8, 2019

The latest projections from the federal agency show no growth in fossil fuel capacity over the next three years, while new solar and wind more than make up for nuclear retirements. This is likely an overly conservative assessment.
» Read article

It’s New York vs. California in a New Climate Race. Who Will Win?
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
July 8, 2019

California and New York have recently set some of the world’s most ambitious climate targets, aiming to slash their net emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases down to nearly zero in just three short decades.

Now the race is on to see if either state can pull off this feat — something that no major economy in the world has yet achieved. For now, neither state has a clear advantage, and both must overcome unique obstacles to clean up their power plants, cars and buildings.
» Read article  

Puerto Rico Harnesses The Power Of The Sun For A Renewable Energy Future
By Marisa Peñaloza, Greg Allen
July 5, 2019

The first phase will cost $1.4 billion. Padilla says, optimistically, the entire rebuild will take about five years. As part of it, he says, PREPA will greatly boost the amount of power generated by renewable energy. “This is a key part of what an energy sector should look like,” Padilla says.
» Read article

Experiments show dramatic increase in solar cell output
Method for collecting two electrons from each photon could break through theoretical solar-cell efficiency limit.
By David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
July 3, 2019

In any conventional silicon-based solar cell, there is an absolute limit on overall efficiency, based partly on the fact that each photon of light can only knock loose a single electron, even if that photon carried twice the energy needed to do so. But now, researchers have demonstrated a method for getting high-energy photons striking silicon to kick out two electrons instead of one, opening the door for a new kind of solar cell with greater efficiency than was thought possible.

While conventional silicon cells have an absolute theoretical maximum efficiency of about 29.1 percent conversion of solar energy, the new approach, developed over the last several years by researchers at MIT and elsewhere, could bust through that limit, potentially adding several percentage points to that maximum output.
» Read article

Conservative Indiana Chooses Renewables Over Gas As It Retires Coal Early
By Jeff McMahon, Forbes
July 2, 2019

“Renewables are so cheap, said Mike Hooper, the senior vice president of the Northern Indiana Service Company (NIPSCO), that the utility can close its coal plants early and return $4 billion to its customers over the next 30 years.”

Empowered by the low price of renewables, NIPSCO decided to double the number of coal plants it will retire in 2023—four instead of two—and to retire its 12 Michigan City units ahead of schedule in 2028, getting the utility out of coal in ten years.
» Read article  

Los Angeles solicits record solar + storage deal at 1.997/1.3-cents kWh
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 2, 2019

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is preparing a potentially world record-setting power purchase agreement (PPA) for solar + storage at 1.997 cents and 1.3 cents per kWh, respectively.

California is seeking more generation in order to meet its peak system reliability needs from 2019 to 2024, and last week launched a procurement track that would add 2 GW of new resources. LADWP noted projects such as the Eland Center are important toward meeting high capacity needs.

“We need to have more capacity on our system and this is an inexpensive way, and a clean way, to do that,” said Barner.
» Read article

Why I replaced my new gas boiler with a heat pump
By Jan Rosenow, RAP
June 26, 2019

But what about the embodied carbon emissions of the new heat pump? Would it not be better to wait until a heating system has reached the end of its life before replacing it? In response to my Twitter post, someone suggested to me that “knee jerk installations of heat pumps over natural gas boilers ‘to save CO2’ are not done until the useful life of the gas boiler has been met. Premature boiler changes will cause more CO2 than they will save.”

Here again, the numbers support the early retirement of gas boilers. The total embodied carbon emissions for a typical air source heat pump installed in a UK home are 1,563 kg CO2e. My heat pump avoids 1,313 kg CO2e per year. It means that after less than 1.5 years, a heat pump starts saving carbon compared to a gas boiler, even if the gas boiler is replaced before the end of its life. Hence, from a carbon perspective, it makes sense to replace a gas boiler even if it was just installed. Assuming a 20-year lifetime for the heat pump, the embodied carbon emissions per year are just 78 kg CO2e per year, or 4% of the operational carbon emissions from fuel use.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

ENERGY STORAGE

New York regulators assess potential for storage to replace peaking units in the state
By HJ Mai, Utlity Dive
July 3, 2019  

Replacing New York’s fleet of less efficient peaking units with energy storage systems and renewables will be key to achieving the state’s clean energy goals. New York aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and shift to 100% clean electricity by 2040.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year announced proposed regulations to accelerate this plan. The governor’s proposal includes lower thresholds for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from simple cycle and regenerative combustion turbines, and would phase in control requirements from 2023 to 2025. Gas-fired peaker plants, which generate infrequently, can account for more than a third of the state’s daily power plant NOx emissions when they run.
» Read article

» More energy storage articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

OPEC head: Climate activists are the ‘greatest threat’ to oil industry
By Miyo McGinn, Grist
July 5, 2019  

Climate activists and their “unscientific” claims are “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward,” said Mohammed Barkindo, the secretary general of OPEC (the cartel representing 14 countries with 80 percent of the world’s oil reserves) earlier this week.

He might have been talking about protesters more broadly, but the rest of his statement suggests that young people are being particularly irksome. Barkindo said some of his colleague’s children are asking them about the future because “they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry.” (I guess the birds and the bees isn’t the most uncomfortable conversation parents are having with their kids in OPEC households.)
» Read article

More Signs That Natural Gas Can’t Compete With Renewables on Cost
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
July 5, 2019

Right now, natural gas prices are artificially low because fracking companies have been producing record amounts of natural gas at a loss. As Schlotterbeck points out, this is an unsustainable business model. But it has supplied natural gas consumers with artificially cheap energy, giving natural gas a competitive edge over the dying coal and nuclear power industries.

The news that gas prices can only go up while renewables and battery costs continue to drop (and already are easily beating natural gas for power generation in places like California) means that in a free market economy, no new natural gas power plants would be constructed. That scenario is welcome in light of a new study released this week, which concludes that the climate pollution from existing fossil fuel infrastructure is enough on its own to push the planet past 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming by 2100.
» Read article  

The New Gas Boom
LNG Tanker
TRACKING GLOBAL LNG INFRASTRUCTURE
By Ted Nace, Lydia Plante, and James Browning, Global Energy Monitor
June, 2019

Through a massive increase in portside infrastructure, floating offshore terminals, and oceangoing LNG ves-sels, the natural gas industry is seeking to restructure itself from a collection of regional markets into a wider and more integrated global system. If successful, this transformation would lock in much higher levels of natural gas production through mid-century—a seem-ing win for the industry—except that the falling cost of renewable alternatives will make many of these proj-ects unprofitable in the long term and put much of the $1.3 trillion being invested in this global gas expansion at risk. Such an expansion is also incompatible with the IPCC’s warning that, in order to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, gas use must decline 15% by 2030 and 43% by 2050, relative to 2020.
» Read article  

Norway Wealth Fund To Dump Fossil Fuel Stocks Worth Billions In Environmental Move
By David Nikel, Forbes
June 12, 2019

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund will sell off more than $10 billion of stocks in companies related to fossil fuels following the rubber-stamping of Finance Committee recommendations in Norway’s Parliament today. As part of a broad shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the move from Norway’s center-right coalition government confirms several recent announcements including the phasing out of oil exploration and coal-related stocks.

The new guidelines mean Norway’s Wealth Fund can no longer invest in companies that mine more than 20 million tonnes of coal annually, or generate more than 10,000 MW of power using coal.
» Read article

“Shockwaves” as Norway’s $1Trill wealth fund plans to disinvest from upstream oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
March 8, 2019

The beginning of the end of the age of oil moved a step closer today, with Norway’s Government recommending that its $1 trillion wealth fund should divest from upstream oil and gas producers.

The news that the world’s largest wealth fund, known as the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG,) which is highly influential just by its huge financial size, will divest from companies that explore and produce oil, “has sent shockwaves through the energy sector”, according to the Financial Times.

Whilst the move is significant in driving the fossil fuel disinvestment momentum, the FT notes there are caveats: “the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has given a reprieve to the global oil majors” such as Shell and BP and “the fund appears to be allowed to still invest in oil and gas companies if they have activities in renewable energy.”

The move is primarily concerned about protecting the Norwegian economy from any future plunge in the oil price rather than climate concerns, although these are mentioned by the Government.
»
Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Senate passes cybersecurity bill to decrease grid digitization, move toward manual control
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 1, 2019  

The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act (SEIA) establishes a two-year pilot program to identify new classes of security vulnerabilities and to research and test solutions, including “analog and nondigital control systems.” The U.S. Department of Energy would be required to report back to Congress on its findings.

Recent news that the United States government has been working to insert malicious code into Russia’s electric grid has raised the specter of a cyberwar between the two nations. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterje told lawmakers last month that critical infrastructure in the U.S., including the electric grid, is “increasingly under attack by foreign adversaries.”
» Read article

» More electric utility articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Karnes County natural gas facility burns just before dawn 
Karnes County gas fire
By Jon Wilcox, Victoria Advocate
July 11, 2019  

A Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline facility in Karnes County caught fire Thursday morning.

About 5:40 a.m., emergency dispatchers received warning of the blaze and dispatched firefighters and sheriff’s deputies to the facility, said Emergency Management Coordinator and County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik.

Located at 8724 County Road 326, about two miles west of Runge, the facility pressurizes natural gas for pipeline transport, Dupnik said.

In spite of numerous safety features, a gas compressor at the location is suspected of failing and starting the blaze, he said.

No one was reported injured, and authorities have no reason to suspect foul play.
» Read article

Large gas explosion reported by LA Fitness in Florida, reports say
By WCVB, ABC News
July 6, 2019

A vacant pizza restaurant exploded Saturday in a thundering roar at a South Florida shopping plaza, injuring more than 20 people as large chunks of concrete flew through the air.

The blast sent debris flying along a busy road in Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale in Broward County. The restaurant was destroyed, and nearby businesses were damaged.
Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said there were at least 15 to 20 patients, two of whom were in serious condition, and there were no apparent deaths.
Responders found an active gas leak when they arrived, but they were not immediately sure if that was the cause of the blast.
» Read article

» More about what could go wrong…

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Weekly News Check-In 7/5/19


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.

This edition includes articles on climate, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, the Weymouth compressor station, Granite Bridge Pipeline, the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities, and the plastics/fracking connection.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE

Anchorage, Alaska Hit 90 Degrees for First Time on July 4th
By Olivia Rosane, Eco Watch
July 5, 2019

“At 5pm this afternoon, #Anchorage International Airport officially hit 90 degrees for the first time on record,” NWS Anchorage tweeted Thursday afternoon.

As the nation’s fastest-warming state, Alaska is dramatically impacted by the climate crisis. Its temperatures are rising at twice the global average and its springs average two to five degrees warmer than they did 50 years ago, according to The New York Times.

The warming is melting sea ice on the Bering and Chukchi Seas, which disappeared weeks ahead of normal this year in some places. This, in turn, leads to warmer surface ocean temperatures as the dark water absorbs more sunlight. Surface temperatures are currently ranging from four to 10 degrees above normal.
» Read article

Restoring forests could capture two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere
By Mark Tutton, CNN
July 5, 2019

The researchers identified ecosystems around the world that would naturally support some level of tree cover, but have become “degraded” — deforested for timber, for example, or turned into farmland that has since been abandoned. They excluded areas that are currently used as urban or agricultural land, or that would naturally be grasslands or wetlands, because these ecosystems can themselves be valuable carbon stores, as well as supporting biodiversity.

They concluded that there’s enough suitable land to increase the world’s forests by about a third. That would give the planet more than a trillion extra trees and 900 million hectares of additional tree canopy, an area about the size of the United States.
» Read article

Heat Wave Nudged the Planet to Its Hottest June, European Forecasters Say
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
July 3, 2019

The heat wave that smothered much of Europe at the end of June helped raise average global temperatures to a record for the month, a European weather forecasting agency has said.

The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts said Tuesday that global temperatures for June were about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.1 degree Celsius, higher than the previous record for the month, set in 2016. Europe itself was even warmer, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 2016 record.
» Read article

June was hottest ever recorded on Earth, European satellite agency announces

Experts say climate change contributed to record-breaking temperatures across Europe
By Conrad Duncan, The Independent
July 2, 2019

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, the EU‘s satellite agency has announced.

Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the EU, showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record for the month.
» Read article

Alaska’s heat wave fuels dangerous smoke, melts glaciers
By Yereth Rosen, Reuters
July 1, 2019

Record warmth and near-record warmth in most of the state has created flammable conditions from the Canadian border in the east to the Bering Sea coast in the west. In all, there were 354 wildfires covering 443,211 acres in Alaska as of Sunday morning, according to state and federal fire managers. Melting glaciers and mountain snowfields are bloating rivers and streams across a large swath of south central Alaska.
» Read article

Freak summer hailstorm buries Mexico’s Guadalajara city in 1.5 metres of ice
Governor blames climate change for extreme weather after heavy storm
By Conrad Duncan The Independent
July 1, 2019
Guadalajara hail storm

Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, Jalisco’s governor, suggested that the extreme weather had been caused by climate change after evaluating the damage yesterday. “I witnessed scenes that I had never seen before: the hail more than a metre high, and then we ask ourselves if climate change is real,” he wrote on Twitter.
» Read article

Senators target 50% national renewable energy standard by 2035, zero-carbon by 2050
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 27, 2019

Under the bill, each new kilowatt-hour of renewable energy would be eligible for a renewable energy credit from the federal government and the Secretary of Energy would be required to submit a plan to Congress aiming to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. Solar, wind, ocean, tidal, geothermal energy, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower and hydrokinetic energy all qualify as renewable resources under the bill.
Blog editor’s note: the bill includes biomass, which is environmentally destructive, carbon-emitting, and far from clean. Removing that energy source is a necessary amendment to this proposed legislation.
» Read article

New York City declares a climate emergency, the first US city with more than a million residents to do so
By Scottie Andrew and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
June 27, 2019

New York City officials declared a climate emergency in an effort to mobilize local and national responses to stall global warming.

It’s the largest city in the US, with over 8.62 million inhabitants.

The New York City Council passed the legislation Wednesday, calling for an immediate response to the global climate crises. The bill referenced several reports on the state of global warming and its impact, imparting that extreme weather events brought about by rising temperatures demonstrates that the planet is “too hot to be a safe environment.”
» Read article

New England Coastal Waters Warming More Than Anywhere Else In U.S.
By Lexi Peery, WBUR
June 27, 2019

Waters off the coast of New England have warmed up more than any other coastal areas in the United States — up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901. That’s according to a new analysis of recently collected federal ocean data by the independent research nonprofit Climate Central.

Their report also notes that fresh and salt waters across the United States are warming 40% faster than expected.
» Read article

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change
By Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico
06/23/2019

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.
» Read article

Report: Sea level rise to hit Cape Cod hard
By Doug Fraser, Cape Cod Times
June 20, 2019

Adapting to the changing landscape and massive ecosystem shifts of a world that is heating up rapidly is the most dramatic economic and social struggle in history, the executive director of The Center for Climate Integrity said Wednesday.

Richard Wiles was speaking at a telephone press conference introducing a report that he said conservatively estimated $400 billion in costs to coastal communities nationwide to deal with sea level rise in the next 20 years. Barnstable County ranked the highest in the state, and the third highest nationally, with an estimated $7.04 billion in estimated costs to protect public infrastructure from sea level rise.
» Read article

Kuwait with 52.2 degree was the hottest in the world yesterday
(126F)
By Kwt Today
June 6, 2019

Kuwait was the hottest country in the world, with the temperature hitting 52.2 degrees Celsius in the shadow, in the region of Matraba in North Kuwait, yesterday.
» Read article

» More climate articles 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

VRF Program Closure
By Peter McPhee, Program Director, Renewable Thermal, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
June 28, 2019

On June 28, 2019, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced the closure of our Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pump program. Over the last two years we’ve supported 110 large commercial buildings in transitioning from fossil fuel heating to highly efficient heat pumps. In doing do, we’ve helped demonstrate that the technology, industry, and market exists today for VRF heat pumps.

We started down this pathway two years ago with one primary question in mind: how do we decarbonize heating in commercial buildings? Commercial building heating makes up nearly 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, and we wanted to test an approach for reducing commercial building emissions to near zero by 2050. Because Massachusetts is legally mandated to reduce state-wide emissions 80% by 2050, this is a problem we need to solve.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Climate Change Denialists Dubbed Auto Makers the ‘Opposition’ in Fight Over Trump’s Emissions Rollback
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 2, 2019

In the early months of the Trump administration, automakers pleaded for — and appeared set to receive — some relief from fuel economy standards that they said were too difficult to meet.

But newly released government emails show how a coalition of groups that reject established climate science quickly muscled into the picture, urging the administration to go much further and roll back the rules entirely and characterizing the automakers as their opponents in achieving that goal.
» Read article

Alice, 9-Seat Electric Airplane, Gets Its 1st Buyer — Cape Air
By Nicolas Zart, Clean Technica
June 27th, 2019

Alice electric airplane
Our friends at Eviation unveiled the first “fully operational” Alice, an electric airplane commuter, at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France. Furthermore, Eviation secured a high note thanks to Cape Air becoming its first official customer.
» Read article

Canada Signals a Willingness to Challenge Trump on His Clean-Car Rollback
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
June 26, 2019

Traditionally, Canada has aligned its auto emissions standards with federal rules in the United States. However, several analysts said they saw Wednesday’s announcement as a clear step toward a more concrete shift in which Canada could potentially switch to the environmentally stricter standards of California and other states. Such a move could undercut Mr. Trump’s efforts to weaken environmental policy by creating a much larger market for cleaner cars, thereby making it more economically viable for auto manufacturers to build cars to the higher standards.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

ATLANTIC BRIDGE PIPELINE / WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Compressor station opponents say they’ll go to court
By Chris Lisinski / STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE in Wicked Local Weymouth
July 2, 2019

Weymouth protest photo
Slamming a “broken process” unfolding at the Department of Environmental Protection, about 50 environmental activists protested Tuesday outside the State House and called for an independent investigation into the administration’s permitting of a controversial natural gas compressor station.

Residents of the Fore River region, near the Weymouth site of the proposed station, gathered with members of about half a dozen advocacy groups, where they attempted to tie Gov. Charlie Baker personally to the issue and, alleging conflicts of interest, implored Auditor Suzanne Bump or Attorney General Maura Healey to step in.

The protest came less than a week after a DEP hearing officer suggested upholding an air-quality permit for the facility despite a chaotic appeal process that saw the department reveal it had failed to disclose relevant testing data from the site.
» Read article

» More Atlantic Bridge / Weymouth Compressor Station articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

The dog ate my homework: How utilities avoid least-cost planning
By D. Maurice Kreis, Opinion, InDepthNH
June 27, 2019

Regardless of how urgent a problem you consider climate change, from a ratepayer standpoint it’s bad news if a natural gas utility is not considering the full extent to which so-called “non-pipeline alternatives” can substitute cost-effectively for more pipelines and more gas.  Examples include geographically targeted energy efficiency, heat pumps, and thermal storage.  Even if these resources cannot entirely eliminate Liberty’s need to expand its supply portfolio, experience in other jurisdictions has shown that the modular nature of these resources allows a utility to defer a project into the future, buying time to see if forecasted growth in demand actually materializes.
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FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

America’s liquefied natural gas boom may be on a collision course with climate change
By Matt Egan, CNN Business
July 1, 2019

The US energy industry is scrambling to build dozens of expensive export terminals that can be used to ship cheap natural gas to China and other fast-growing economies that want to move away from coal.

While those investments make sense today, they will likely be derailed in the longer run by a combination of plunging renewable energy costs and rising climate change concerns, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a network of researchers tracking fossil fuel projects.
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Limpert: Pipeline coating is dangerous
By William Limpert, Editorial, Roanoke Times
June 30, 2019

The MVP, and the ACP are coated with 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 (FBE) which is designed to protect the pipes from corrosion, which leads to leaks, and explosions. FBE degrades, chalks off the pipes, and becomes thinner and less protective when exposed to sunlight.

We should all be concerned when state and federal agencies fail to act to protect the public, without proof there is no risk, and while making vague and evasive statements to support their inaction. Likewise for the pipeline industry.
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U.S. Oil Companies Find Energy Independence Isn’t So Profitable
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
June 30, 2019

In the last four years, roughly 175 oil and gas companies in the United States and Canada with debts totaling about $100 billion have filed for bankruptcy protection. Many borrowed heavily when oil and gas prices were far higher, only to collectively overproduce and undercut their commodity prices. At least six companies have gone bankrupt this year, and Weatherford International, the fourth-leading oil services company, which owes investors $7.7 billion, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection on Monday.
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ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Diversifying the Northeast power mix: Is offshore wind + storage key to the region’s reliability?
As more New England states roll out offshore wind mandates, bringing the technology to scale is a portfolio priority.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
July 2, 2019
Offshore wind and battery storage are about to come into the Northeastern power mix in a big way.

With more states requiring offshore wind targets, almost 18 GW are mandated to come online by 2035 in states across New England. But how that intermittent capacity will fit into an increasingly clean energy mix, how it will impact system reliability and whether the region’s utilities are ready for more change, remains in question.
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PLASTICS/FRACKING CONNECTION

Boom Goes the Plastics Industry
With demand for oil expected to slow, oil companies seek a lifeline in plastics
By Antonia Juhasz, Sierra Magazine / Sierra Club
June 30, 2019

ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco, among the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, are betting big on plastics. In its latest investor report, ExxonMobil acknowledged a sharp decline in demand for gasoline. The company expects it will help fill the gap with chemicals and predicts a 30 percent increase in demand by 2025. A recent investor article released by Bank of America Merrill Lynch was titled “Oil’s Future Paved With Plastic.”

This pivot is already well underway. The excess of oil and gas has contributed to a frenzy of pipeline construction geared toward shipping ever greater quantities of fossil fuels to the coasts, where facilities distill the chemical building blocks needed for plastic production. The American Chemistry Council reports that since 2010, plans for 333 new chemical-manufacturing projects have been announced in the United States, representing more than $200 billion in capital investments; the industry association notes that “much of the investment is geared toward export markets for chemistry and plastics products.” A great deal of the build-out is along the Gulf Coast, led by Chevron, Phillips 66, and ExxonMobil. Shell Oil and other companies are building chemical-production capacity on the East Coast and along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
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