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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