Weekly News Check-In 7/19/19

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 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


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


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 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


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


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


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


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


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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