Monthly Archives: August 2019

Weekly News Check-In 8/30/19

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

Opposition to the planned Weymouth compressor station continues, while in a disturbing twist of events the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) breathed new life into the Constitution Pipeline, considered defeated in New York three years ago. And as these things go, the Dakota Access Pipeline recently applied to double its capacity, bringing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe back into the fight.

In climate news, the Trump Administration wants to roll back regulations on methane emissions, and InsideClimate News published a great explainer on what the United Nation’s 2030 deadline for cutting fossil fuel emissions means scientifically.

We’re reporting more innovations in clean energy alternatives, and news about clean transportation ranges from the sublime (Alice, the electric airplane!) to the way far out (huge zeppelins).

In fossil fuel industry news, we’re following growing awareness in South Portland, Maine that their petroleum product storage tanks and export terminals are the likely source of worrisome benzine levels recently picked up at air monitoring stations around town. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing a rule change that would remove a key right of states to contest pipeline projects on concerns about water pollution (article references Constitution Pipeline – see above).

We conclude with a terrific article from Vox.com that considers the effectiveness of plastic bag bans, and offers guidance on the best policies.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch talks Weymouth compressor station, healthcare and Trump in Braintree
By Audrey Cooney, Wicked Local Braintree
August 27, 2019

At a town hall event in Braintree last week, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch discussed efforts to stop construction of the Weymouth compressor station, his opposition for Medicare for All and his views on how to stop President Donald Trump from winning reelection.

In response to a question about the proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth on the banks of the Fore River, Lynch said his position has not changed in the two years since the project was announced.

“I just think it’s unnecessary,” he said.

In April, Lynch filed Pipeline and Compressor Safety Verification Act of 2019, a bill specifically meant to stop construction of the Weymouth compressor station that “prohibits the construction and operation of specified natural gas projects until certain Massachusetts state agencies certify that such projects do not pose a danger to surrounding residential communities and the general public,” according to the bill’s text.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates energy projects that cross state lines, is an egregious example of a government agency and private industry going against the best interest of residents, Lynch said. FERC is funded by the energy companies it oversees.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

OTHER PIPELINES

FERC puts Constitution Pipeline back on track, finding New York waived water authority
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
August 29, 2019

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has found that New York waived its water quality authority for Williams’ Constitution Pipeline, giving new life to a natural gas project stalled since April 2016 when state regulators denied a permit.

The 124-mile project is designed to ship up to 650 MMcf/d of northeastern Pennsylvania gas production to interconnections with the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline in upstate New York.

The commission, by a 4-0 vote late Wednesday, reversed its earlier finding — that the New York review could not be waived — in light of a recent DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Hoopa Valley v. FERC. The Hoopa case had involved a hydropower project for which states and PacifiCorp agreed to defer the Clean Water Act’s one-year statutory deadline by annually withdrawing and resubmitting the water permit.
» Read article

Feds clear way for Constitution Pipeline in New York over state’s objection
By Chad Arnold, Albany Bureau, Democrat & Chronicle
August 29, 2019

ALBANY – Federal regulators allowed the Constitution Pipeline to move forward Wednesday, ruling New York took too long to deny a key permit that had been blocking construction of the proposed natural-gas line.

The decision handed down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the state Department of Environmental Conservation waived its right to reject the necessary water-quality permit for the pipeline because the state agency failed to act in a timely manner.

The ruling comes three years after DEC denied the pipeline builder’s permit application for failing “to meet New York state’s water quality standards.”

It clears the way for Williams Partners LP, the gas company heading the project, to move ahead with the Pennsylvania-to-New York line, though the state is likely to challenge the decision.

The 124-mile, 30-inch-wide pipeline would carry from Pennsylvania across New York’s Southern Tier, cutting through eastern Broome County and Delaware County en route to Schoharie County, west of Albany.
» Read article

Why the Mountain Valley Pipeline is uniquely risky
By Jacob Hileman, Virginia Mercury – Opinion
August 22, 2019

Since 1997, FERC has approved no fewer than 46 new natural gas mega-pipelines, defined here as pipelines that are at least 24 inches in diameter, more than 100 miles long, and not installed along pre-existing utility corridors.

A review of the landslide hazard information contained in the environmental impact statements (EIS) for this set of pipelines reveals 22 of them – almost half – do not traverse any high landslide risk areas at all. The remaining 24 pipelines cross anywhere from 0.2 to more than 200 miles of high risk terrain.

Out of all these mega-pipeline projects, MVP finds itself infamously at the top of the list, having routed 225 miles of the pipeline – 74 percent of its total length – across high landslide risk terrain.
» Read article

Columbia Gas Denied Right to Take Public Land for Potomac Pipeline
By Anne Meador, DC Media Group
August 21, 2019

The TransCanada subsidiary had filed a lawsuit against the state of Maryland in June in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to force access to the Maryland Rail Trail, a necessary piece to construct a 3.7-mile pipeline from Fulton County, Pa., through a thin slice of Maryland. In January, the Maryland Board of Public Works, which included Governor Larry Hogan, denied Columbia Gas an easement.

Columbia Gas’s lawsuit was unusual in that a private company tried to use the power of eminent domain to take public land. It claimed that power by virtue of the permit granted to the project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The judge denied Columbia Gas injunctive relief because it found no substantive case, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls said in a statement delivered by live stream after the ruling. Private industry doesn’t have the right to file an eminent domain case against the state of Maryland, the judge found, because the state has sovereign immunity, he said.

Opponents of the pipeline project were jubilant outside the courthouse following the judge’s ruling.
» Read article

Standing Rock protesters
Standing Rock Asks Court to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline as Company Plans to Double Capacity
Several of the Democrats running for president are now pledging to revoke permits for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines if elected.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
August 20, 2019

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is asking a judge to throw out a federal permit for the Dakota Access oil pipeline, arguing that the government shut the tribe out of a court-ordered second environmental review and ignored its concerns.

The challenge comes as Energy Transfer, the company behind the pipeline, is now seeking to double how much oil the pipeline can carry. The Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) passes under the Missouri River, the tribe’s water supply, just upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation.

The Army Corps of Engineers “never engaged with the Tribe or its technical experts, shared critical information, or responded to the Tribe’s concerns,” the tribe writes in a legal motion filed Friday in federal court. “The result is an irretrievably flawed decision, developed through a process that fell far short of legal standards. With DAPL’s proposal to double the flow of the pipeline, the unexamined risks to the Tribe continue to grow.”
» Read article

» More pipeline articles

CLIMATE

methane emissions
E.P.A. to Roll Back Regulations on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
August 29, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency, in a proposed rule, will aim to eliminate federal government requirements that the oil and gas industry put in place technology to inspect for and repair methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities.

The proposed rollback is particularly notable because major oil and gas companies have, in fact, opposed it, just as some other industries have opposed the Trump administration’s other major moves to dismantle climate change and other environmental rules put in place by President Barack Obama.
» Read article

What Does ’12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ (Now 11 Years) Really Mean?
It doesn’t mean the world can wait until 2030 to cut greenhouse gas emissions, or that chaos will erupt in 2030. Here’s what the science shows.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
August 27, 2019

We’ve been hearing variations of the phrase “the world only has 12 years to deal with climate change” a lot lately. But where does the idea of having 11 or 12 years come from, and what does it actually mean?

Basics physics and climate science allow scientists to calculate how much CO2 it takes to raise the global temperature—and how much CO2 can still be emitted before global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F) compared to pre-industrial times.

Scientists worked backward from that basic knowledge to come up with timelines for what would have to happen to stay under 1.5°C warming, said Scott Denning, who studies the warming atmosphere at Colorado State University.

“They figured out how much extra heat we can stand. They calculated how much CO2 would produce that much heat, then how much total fuel would produce that much CO2. Then they considered ‘glide paths’ for getting emissions to zero before we burn too much carbon to avoid catastrophe,” he said.

“All this work gets summarized as ‘in order to avoid really bad outcomes, we have to be on a realistic glide path toward a carbon-free global economy by 2030.’ And that gets translated to something like ’emissions have to fall by half in a decade,’ and that gets oversimplified to ’12 years left.’
» Read article

On David Koch’s Passing and the Koch Network’s Ongoing War on Clean Energy
By Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog
August 26, 2019

We will leave the mourning to his family and friends, and the condemning to those who were immediately impacted by his efforts — a massive group, considering the far-reaching impacts of climate change, which are already being felt across all continents and latitudes.

Though many reports, obituaries, and commentaries on his death have portrayed David as an equal partner in the “Koch brothers” tandem, longtime Koch historians have noted that his brother Charles was the driving force in many of the Koch network’s activist and political efforts.

The constellation of think tanks and front groups and citizen advocacy organizations — and the foundations and dark money groups that support them — will continue to do Charles Koch’s bidding.
» Read article

Heat Deaths Jump in Southwest United States, Puzzling Officials
By Christopher Flavelle and Nadja Popovich, New York Times
August 26, 2019

The long-term health effects of rising temperatures and heat waves are expected to be one of the most dangerous consequences of climate change, causing “tens of thousands of additional premature deaths per year across the United States by the end of this century,” according to the federal government’s Global Change Research Program. The effect could be even more severe in other parts of the world, potentially making parts of North Africa and the Middle East “uninhabitable.”

The increase in deaths also illustrates how climate change can exacerbate other challenges. Experts say the death toll is likely to reflect the growing ranks of vulnerable groups, and the failure to protect those groups from global warming.
» Read article

fracking rig
Fracking may be a bigger climate problem than we thought
The mysterious recent spike in methane emissions? It just might be US fracking.
By David Roberts, Vox.com
August 16, 2019

When it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the chain between cause and effect is frustratingly long and diffuse. Reduced emissions today won’t show up as reduced climate impacts for decades.

But with methane, the chain of causation is much shorter and simpler. Reduced emissions have an almost immediate climate impact. It’s a short-term climate lever, and if the countries of the world are going to hold rising temperatures to the United Nations’ target of “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial baseline, they’re going to need all the short-term climate levers they can get.

In the real world, though, the news about methane is bad and getting worse. It turns out that a mysterious recent spike in global methane levels that’s putting climate targets at risk may be coming from US oil and gas fracking. If that’s true, it’s bad news, because there’s lots more shale gas development in the pipeline and the Trump administration is busy rolling back regulations on the industry.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Rocky Mountain Power prepares to operate largest US residential battery demand response project
Sonnen and the utility are partnering to build a virtual power plant at the new 600-unit apartment complex, with 12.6 MWh of energy capacity from a 5.2 MW solar array.
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
August 27, 2019

Each of the 600 apartment units will come with efficient appliances and a Sonnen battery — powered by solar panels on top of all 22 buildings in the complex. RMP will manage the batteries as a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) capable of operating as a grid resource. Once fully operational, the utility says Soleil Lofts will be the largest residential battery demand response project in the United States.
» Read article

Haddad: Federal delay of Vineyard Wind ‘discouraging’; Anbaric committed to Brayton Point
By Peter Jasinski, The Herald News, in South Coast Today
August 26, 2019

The proposed $2.8 billion, 800-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard hit a delay when the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that a cumulative impacts analysis was needed before the project will be issued a required permit. The decision has put the project’s end date in question, with some speculating that a decision on the permit might not be made until next December.

Brayton Point had been touted by the likes of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey as becoming a potential hub for New England’s wind energy industry earlier this year. Plans are ongoing to convert the former coal-fired power plant property at Brayton Point into a site where businesses affiliated with Vineyard Wind could open.

The Wakefield-based company Anbaric has already announced its plans to build a $645 million energy conversion and storage facility that would serve as the “plug-in” between offshore wind farms and the power grid on the mainland.

“The project is an important first step to building this industry in southern New England,” the company said in the statement. “As for Anbaric, we remain focused on Brayton Point and working with the state and stakeholders to issue request for proposals that create the necessary transmission infrastructure to create a first-class wind industry on the SouthCoast and beyond.”
» Read article

Bay State Wind submits second proposal for wind farm in Martha’s Vineyard
By Douglas Hook, MassLive
August 26, 2019

The proposed wind farm is an 84-turbine, 800-megawatt farm, 14 nautical miles from Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Mass.

This could power up to 500,000 homes, create up to 1,200 new jobs within the commonwealth during construction and up to 10,800 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the project.
» Read article

Solar panels could be cash crop for farmers
By Jay Greene, Craine’s Detroit Business
August 25, 2019

Despite some criticism from some fellow farmers and massive red tape before power generation starts, Forell and Kraynak used a change in [Michigan] Public Act 116 that allows them to keep their long-term agricultural tax incentives while renting their land for solar power development under the state Farmland and Open Space Preservation program.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Alice - Eviation
6 electric aviation companies to watch
By Shane Downing, GreenBiz
August 20, 2019

Although a day when travelers can crisscross the world in all-electric commercial jets may seem a lifetime away, roughly 45 percent of global flights are under 500 miles, putting almost half of all flights within the range of an electric motor. In a place such as the United States, where the aviation industry contributes 12 percent of all carbon emissions, that’s a big opportunity to reduce emissions.
» Read article

zeppelin
Zeppelins stopped flying after the Hindenburg disaster. Now scientists want to bring them back.
The proposed airships would move cargo more efficiently than oceangoing freighters — and produce far less pollution.
By Jeremy Deaton, NBC News
August 19, 2019

The age of huge, ocean-crossing zeppelins came to an end in 1937, when the Hindenburg — the largest craft of its type ever built — erupted in flames while landing in New Jersey. Dozens died.

Now, more than 80 years later, the giant airships may be poised for a comeback — not for passenger service, but as an environmentally friendly means of delivering goods around the globe.

As proposed in a recent scientific paper, the new airships would be 10 times bigger than the 800-foot Hindenburg — more than five times as long as the Empire State Building is tall — and soar high in the atmosphere. They’d do the work of traditional oceangoing cargo ships but would take less time and generate only a fraction of the pollution.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Air Monitoring Reveals Troubling Benzene Spikes Officials Don’t Fully Understand
Residents in South Portland, Maine, packed a meeting to find out about the noxious fumes fouling the air they breathe. The news, one official said, was bad.
By Sabrina Shankman, InsideClimate News
August 23, 2019

With 120 petroleum storage tanks scattered along the city’s shores and a regular stream of tankers coming and going, it’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry has a big presence here. But no one really started asking questions about the health implications of the fumes until March, when the city learned that Global Partners was being fined by the EPA for violating the Clean Air Act. Its tanks, which contain asphalt and bunker fuel, had the potential to emit twice the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than its permit allowed.

It wasn’t long before the city learned that a second company, Sprague, had been issued a notice of violation for the same thing.

City leaders, caught off-guard by the announcement of a settlement between the EPA and Global Partners, jumped into action. They met with the state and the companies, and they  launched the air monitoring program to start to understand the scope of the problem.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

epa pipeline rule
EPA proposes rolling back states’ authority over pipeline projects
By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill
August 9, 2019

Democrats, environmentalists and state officials have lambasted a new proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would limit states’ ability to stall the construction of pipelines.

The regulation targets a portion of the Clean Water Act known as Section 401, which states have used to block controversial pipeline projects, arguing they pose a risk of contaminating drinking water.

The Trump administration proposal would cement guidance issued in June that critics say seeks to limit states’ influence over controversial pipeline projects.

The Clean Water Act essentially gives states veto power over large projects that cut through their rivers and streams, giving them a year to weigh permits and determine how projects would impact their water quality.

Democratic-held states are already vowing to take legal action if the rule is finalized.

States have recently sidelined two large projects using the certification process through the Clean Water Act, actions that contradict the energy dominance strategy promoted by the Trump administration.

New York denied a certification for the Constitution Pipeline, a 124-mile natural gas pipeline that would have run from Pennsylvania to New York, crossing rivers more than 200 times. Washington state also denied certification for the Millennium Coal Terminal, a shipping port for large stocks of coal.
» Read article

» More EPA articles

PLASTICS BANS

Do plastic bag taxes or bans curb waste? 400 cities and states tried it out.
And will it work for plastic straws?
By Matthew Zeitlin, Vox
August 27, 2019

Plastic bags are forever. The thin sacks that hold our groceries, toothpaste, and takeout meals have little hope of being recycled, and instead just might be reused as liners for our trash cans or containers for our dogs’ waste, after which they find themselves either blown into storm drains and rivers or hopelessly clogging landfills. According to one 2009 estimate, some 100 billion of these bags were used a year in the United States and somewhere between 500 million and 1.5 trillion worldwide.

More than 400 laws and ordinances across the country ban or tax plastic bags, according to Jennie Romer, an attorney at the Surfrider Foundation and a leading advocate and expert on plastic bag policies. The bans actually started outside the United States, with Bangladesh banning them countrywide in 2002 and Pakistan announcing recently that it, too, will ban single-use plastic bags. “Our slight change in habits will do miracles for future generations,” one politician wrote.

While a straightforward ban may seem like the most effective way to stop people from using plastic, researchers and consultants suggest another strategy is working better: a tax on all non-reusable bags, which may or may not be combined with an outright ban on some plastic.
» Read article

» More plastics ban articles

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Weekly News Check-In 8/23/19

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

We’re leading this week with news of an important town meeting vote in Longmeadow, in which citizens overwhelmingly rejected industrial-scale natural gas infrastructure in residential areas. Also tales of an Oklahoma family’s ongoing difficulties related to multiple sink holes along a pipeline crossing their land.

In climate news, we note the passing of fossil fuel billionaire David Koch. Few individuals have done so much to defend the ruinous status quo for personal gain. Regarding clean energy alternatives, we see reaction to the federal government’s recent requirement that Vineyard Wind provide a cumulative environmental impact assessment.

California has awarded seed money to some innovative energy companies – including some developing the next generation of battery storage. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry generated familiar news as it boosted coal, downplayed spills, and racked up massive losses for investors.

— The NFGiM Team

 

TGP 261 / ACTIONS & PROTESTS

Longmeadow Town Hall
Longmeadow voters say no to gas pipeline project in residential neighborhood
By Chris Goudreau, Valley Advocate
August 21, 2019

Town Meeting voters in Longmeadow overwhelmingly approved a change to to the town’s zoning bylaws Tuesday, which would prohibit a proposed Tennessee Gas Company meter station project in a residentially zoned neighborhood at the Longmeadow Country Club.

More than 125 residents lifted their green voting cards into the air during the Special Town Meeting vote with only a solitary resident voting against the zoning change.

The article was petitioned by resident and Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group founder Michele Marantz, who told the Valley Advocate prior to the meeting that the group has been working to stop the gas expansion in the predominantly residential community for the past year and a half.
» Read article

» More Columbia Gas TGP 261 upgrade articles

 

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Luther family fed up as people, vehicles and animals fall victim to holes along pipeline on property
By Lauren Daniels, KFOR Oklahoma News
August 12, 2019

LUTHER, Okla. – A Luther family said a calf has survived a fall into a hole on their property but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of a problem they’ve been facing.

A longtime News 4 employee alerted us to the safety hazard that she and her family have been watching develop for several years now. It involves a natural gas pipeline stretching for miles across eastern Oklahoma County.

They said holes have been popping up on the property and, over the years, people, vehicles and now a calf have fallen in.
» Read article

» More articles about what can go wrong

 

CLIMATE

David KochDavid Koch, Billionaire Who Fueled Right-Wing Movement, Dies at 79
A man-about-town philanthropist, he and his brother Charles ran a business colossus while furthering a libertarian agenda that reshaped American politics.
By Robert D. McFadden, New York Times
August 23, 2019

Jane Mayer, the New Yorker writer and a critic of the Koch brothers, said in her book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” (2016), that the libertarian policies they embraced benefited Koch chemical and fossil fuel businesses, which were among the nation’s worst polluters, and paid millions in fines and court judgments for hazardous-waste violations.

“Lowering taxes and rolling back regulations, slashing the welfare state and obliterating the limits on campaign spending might or might not have helped others,” Ms. Mayer wrote, “but they most certainly strengthened the hand of extreme donors with extreme wealth.” The Koch brothers rejected the allegations.

Koch money also funded initiatives to undercut climate science and to counter efforts to address climate change. As Ms. Mayer put it in her book, “The Kochs vehemently opposed the government taking any action on climate change that would hurt their fossil fuel profits.”
» Read article

 

Amazon fires
Amazon Fires Spark Growing International Criticism of Brazil
France calls the large number of fires in the Amazon an international crisis and an urgent issue for the G7 summit. “Our home is on fire. Literally.”
By ARTHUR BEESLEY & VICTOR MALLET, FINANCIAL TIMES, in InsideClimate News
August 23, 2019

Ireland’s prime minister said there was “no way” his country could support a big trade pact involving Brazil if the South American nation did not honor its environmental commitments, deepening an angry international reaction to fires sweeping through the Amazon rainforest.

Leo Varadkar also accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of an “Orwellian” attempt to blame the fires on environmental non-governmental organizations, after Bolsonaro said he was suspicious that they could be involved.

Brazil is the most important member of the Mercosur trade bloc, which in June struck a long-awaited trade deal with the EU. The pact would offer much better access to EU markets for Brazilian farmers. But Varadkar suggested Dublin could withhold support because of concern over the management of the Amazon.
» Read article

 

Trump’s Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules Shows Signs of Disarray
By Coral Davenport and Hiroko Tabuchi, New York TImes
August 20, 2019

The White House, blindsided by a pact between California and four automakers to oppose President Trump’s auto emissions rollbacks, has mounted an effort to prevent any more companies from joining California.

Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors were all summoned by a senior Trump adviser to a White House meeting last month where he pressed them to stand by the president’s own initiative, according to four people familiar with the talks.

But even as the White House was meeting with automakers, it was losing ground. Yet another company, Mercedes-Benz, is preparing to join the four automakers already in the California agreement — Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW — according to two people familiar with the German company’s plans.

The administration’s efforts to weaken the Obama-era pollution rules could be rendered irrelevant if too many automakers join California before the Trump plan can be put into effect. That could imperil one of Mr. Trump’s most far-reaching rollbacks of climate-change policies.
» Read article

 

Human-caused climate change
Yes, It’s Due to Human Activity: New Research ‘Should Finally Stop Climate Change Deniers’
By Tim Radford for Climate News Network, in Desmog Blog
August 19, 2019

European and US scientists have cleared up a point that has been nagging away at climate science for decades: not only is the planet warming faster than at any time in the last 2,000 years, but this unique climate change really does have neither a historic precedent nor a natural cause.

Other historic changes — the so-called Medieval Warm Period and then the “Little Ice Age” that marked the 17th to the 19th centuries — were not global. The only period in which the world’s climate has changed, everywhere and at the same time, is right now.

And other shifts in the past, marked by advancing Alpine glaciers and sustained droughts in Africa, could be pinned down to a flurry of violent volcanic activity.

The present sustained, ubiquitous warming is unique in that it can be coupled directly with the Industrial Revolution, the clearing of the forests, population growth and profligate use of fossil fuels.
» Read article

 

Huge wildfires in the Arctic and far North send a planetary warning
By Nancy Fresco, PBS News Hour
August 18, 2019

The planet’s far North is burning. This summer, over 600 wildfires have consumed more than 2.4 million acres of forest across Alaska. Fires are also raging in northern Canada. In Siberia, choking smoke from 13 million acres – an area nearly the size of West Virginia – is blanketing towns and cities.

Fires in these places are normal. But, as studies here at the University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Center show, they are also abnormal.

Recent fires are too frequent, intense and severe. They are reducing older-growth forest in favor of young vegetation, and pouring more carbon into the atmosphere at a time when carbon dioxide concentrations are setting new records.
» Read article

» More climate articles

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Vineyard Wind project gains bipartisan support from federal lawmakers
By Mary Ann Bragg, Cape Cod Times, in SouthCoastToday.com
August 21, 2019

A bipartisan call for federal officials to move quickly on permits for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project came Monday from the state’s congressional leaders along with colleagues from Louisiana.

“We believe it is possible for multiple industries to coexist in mixed use regions offshore,” the lawmakers said in their letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “We urge your departments to work together to find a solution that will address concerns raised by stakeholders, protects the environment, and allows the Vineyard Wind project to remain viable.”

The call from federal officials echoes the intent of a rally held Thursday at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, where conservationists joined with other Vineyard Wind supporters — such as union members, business people and faith groups — in a call for a break in the logjam.
» Read article

 

Government Delays First Big U.S. Offshore Wind Farm. Is a Double Standard at Play?
It ordered an expanded review for Vineyard Wind at the same time Trump is weakening environmental rules for fossil fuel projects that contribute to climate change.
By Phil McKenna & Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
August 19, 2019

As the Trump administration takes steps to expedite fossil fuel projects and reduce environmental regulations, it has veered in the opposite direction on offshore wind, delaying a highly anticipated project in Massachusetts.

Vineyard Wind was set to be the country’s largest offshore wind farm, with construction expected to start this year on a project that could power more than 400,000 homes. But this month, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said it was expanding its review of the environmental impacts of the project to include a “more robust” analysis of the potential cumulative impact if other offshore wind farms are built.

The expanded review is potentially broad, with ramifications for Vineyard Wind and several other projects. And yet, the office has provided almost no details on the scope. The project developers said that they had not received any documents showing parameters of the review.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

 

ENERGY STORAGE

Cal Energy Commission awards $3.75M to early-stage clean energy projects; 9 battery projects
By Clean Car Congress
August 16, 2019

The California Energy Commission awarded $3.75 million to 25 early-stage, innovative projects as part of a portfolio of research investments intended to help achieve the state’s climate and clean energy goals. Among the projects are nine battery-related efforts.

Each awardee receives up to $150,000 in initial funding with up to $450,000 available in follow-on funding. In addition to funding, CalSEED provides access to technical expertise, mentoring, and business development training.
» Read article

» More energy storage articles

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Coal Terminal
Western Coal Takes Another Hit as Appeals Court Rules Against Export Terminal

Western coal states want an export terminal on the Columbia River. Washington state has concerns about the company and its environmental and climate impact.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
August 23, 2019

A Washington state appeals court has ruled against a company that wants to build the largest coal export terminal in the country on the Columbia River. The decision could be a fatal blow for a controversial project that could have increased global greenhouse gas emissions.

Western states with coal mining operations have been pushing for an export terminal that would allow them to send their coal by rail to the coast and then ship it to China.

A coal terminal was proposed on the banks of the Columbia River in Longview, Washington, but the state opposed it on several grounds. State officials rejected a water quality permit under the Clean Water Act, pointing to a long list of environmental harms, including air pollution from the coal trains. They also rejected a plan to sublease state-owned land for the coal terminal, citing concerns about the company’s finances and reputation, including that it had misrepresented just how much coal it planned to ship.
» Read article

 

Did North Dakota Regulators Hide an Oil and Gas Industry Spill Larger Than Exxon Valdez?
By Justin Nobel, Desmog Blog
August 19, 2019

In July 2015 workers at the Garden Creek I Gas Processing Plant, in Watford City, North Dakota, noticed a leak in a pipeline and reported a spill to the North Dakota Department of Health that remains officially listed as 10 gallons, the size of two bottled water delivery jugs.

But a whistle-blower has revealed to DeSmog the incident is actually on par with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which released roughly 11 million gallons of thick crude.

The Garden Creek spill “is in fact over 11 million gallons of condensate that leaked through a crack in a pipeline for over 3 years,” says the whistle-blower, who has expertise in environmental science but refused to be named or give other background information for fear of losing their job. They provided to DeSmog a document that details remediation efforts and verifies the spill’s monstrous size.

“Up to 5,500,000 gallons” of hydrocarbons have been removed from the site, the 2018 document states, “based upon an estimate of approximately 11 million gallons released.”
» Read article

 

How One Billionaire Could Keep Three Countries Hooked on Coal for Decades
By Somini Sengupta, Jacqueline Williams and Aruna Chandrasekhar
August 15, 2019

The vast, untapped coal reserve in northeastern Australia had for years been the object of desire for the Indian industrial giant Adani.

In June, when the Australian authorities granted the company approval to extract coal from the reserve, they weren’t just rewarding its lobbying and politicking, they were also opening the door for Adani to realize its grand plan for a coal supply chain that stretches across three countries.

Coal from the Australian operation, known as the Carmichael project, would be transported to India, where the company is building a new power plant for nearly $2 billion to produce electricity. That power would be sold next door in Bangladesh.

Adani’s victory in Australia helped to ensure that coal will remain woven into the economy and lives of those three countries, which together have a quarter of the planet’s population, for years, if not decades. This, despite warnings by scientists that reducing coal burning is key to staving off the most disastrous effects of climate change.
» Read article

 

World’s Largest Fund Manager Loses $90 Billion Betting on Fossil Fuels & Climate Chaos
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International – Blog Post
August 2, 2019

A new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), has found that BlackRock “continues to ignore the serious financial risks of putting money into fossil fuel-dependent companies.”

The IEEFA calculated that, due to BlackRock’s continuing investments in fossil fuels, there has been a whopping US$90 billion in value destruction and opportunity cost of the fund managers investments. And according to the IEEFA, “this represents just the tip of the iceberg.”

One of the most staggering conclusions is BlackRock’s continued belligerent investment in Big Oil, despite the fledgling renewable revolution and growing climate crisis.
» Read article     

» More fossil fuel industry articles

 

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Weekly News Check-In 8/16/19

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

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

We’re still following developments at the proposed LNG plant in Charlton, and also looking at the recent pipeline explosion in Kentucky. Columbia Gas reports that it is nearing completion of repairs following its own disaster last September in the Merrimack Valley.

We have news about the Northern Access Pipeline fight in Pennsylvania, and there have now been arrests of protesters at Wendall State Forest.

Lots to cover on climate. Clean energy alternatives received a nasty setback from the federal government, as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management imposed a last-minute requirement that the developers of Vineyard Wind produce a cumulative environmental impact assessment covering anticipated future development of offshore wind along the US Atlantic coast.

News about plastics gets more alarming all the time, with industry developments moving exactly opposite the needs of a healthy environment. We found an interesting article about efforts in Australia to innovate on recycling – but the first need is to REDUCE production/consumption.

In fossil fuel industry news, a Cornel study ties the recent atmospheric methane spike to fracking industry growth since 2008, and it’s getting very difficult to insure coal plants.

Finally, electric utilities are exploring ways to balance demand and fluctuating power from renewable sources.

— The NFGiM Team

 

PROPOSED LNG PLANT – CHARLTON

 

Charlton seeks more time to weigh in on LNG plant proposal
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
August 12, 2019

The Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered with the state as interveners. As such, they were required to hire legal representation and file their testimony by Aug. 5.

Seemingly unaware of what was required, they collectively missed the deadline.
» Read article 

 

State DPU issues stay on proposed $100M LNG plant in Charlton
By Brian Lee, WorcesterTelegram & Gazette Staff
August 7, 2019

Tuesday’s deadline to file for intervenor status in the proposed $100 million liquid natural gas facility on Route 169, near a power plant, has been delayed indefinitely because of concerns raised by some Charlton officials.

In an interview, Planning Board Chairwoman Patricia Rydlak said that this week’s revelation that NEC officials do not have a deal in place with Millennium Power to buy backup fuel and use Millennium’s land was a surprise to many. Her board, along with the Board of Health and Zoning Board of Appeals requested the delay out of desperation, she said.
» Read article

» More LNG articles

 

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG

 

Pipeline explosion released 66 million cubic feet of natural gas. Feds order repairs.
By Karla Ward, Kentucky.com
August 09, 2019

The natural gas pipeline explosion that killed one person and sent six others to the hospital in Lincoln County earlier this month released about 66 million cubic feet of natural gas, according to the federal government.

A corrective action order issued by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Thursday provides some new details about the explosion and explains what Enbridge, the company that owns the pipeline, must do “to protect the public, property, and the environment from potential hazards” associated with the pipeline failure in the coming months.

A 30-foot long section of the pipeline was blown out of the ground, landing about 460 feet away when the pipeline failed about six miles south of Danville at 1:24 a.m. Aug. 1.
» Read article

» More pipeline hazards articles

 

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER

 

Columbia Gas president says second phase of repairs ‘substantially’ completed
By Breanna Edelstein, The Eagle Tribune
August 15, 2019

Kempic made clear while addressing the media that “while we’ve done a lot of work, we have a lot to do,” he said. “We’re here for the long-term.”

The Lawrence Customer Care Center for in-person support will remain open until September 2020. A customer care line, which is used to call in issues related to appliances installed or repaired through Columbia Gas, will be up and running until May 2020.

The company is providing free insulation to homes in the three communities impacted through the end of 2019, to help curb heating bills.
» Read article

» More Merrimack Valley disaster articles

 

OTHER PIPELINES

 

DEC rejects National Fuel’s Northern Access Pipeline — again
By Thomas J. Prohaska, Buffalo News
August 10, 2019

The 24-inch-wide pipeline would carry fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to a connection with a Canadian pipeline beneath the Niagara River. The new pipeline would be laid within a 75-foot-wide right of way. Some property owners have resisted granting easements for the work, however.

In 2017, the DEC refused to issue the water quality certificate, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the refusal was invalid because the DEC missed a deadline to issue it, and in February, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said the DEC should “more clearly articulate its basis for the denial.”

Thursday, the DEC did so in a 20-page letter to the company, asserting the project would damage too many streams, especially by churning up too much sediment to enable them to meet state water quality standards, and harm too much fish habitat.

“If allowed to proceed, the project would materially interfere with or jeopardize the biological integrity and best usages of affected water bodies and wetlands,” the DEC’s letter said.

However, federal regulators have denied that the DEC has the right to make any rulings about Northern Access.
» Read article

» More pipeline articles

 

ACTIONS AND PROTESTS

 

Protesters arrested while trying to stop loggers from cutting trees in Wendell
By Hector Molina, WWLP
August 14, 2019

Environmental activists filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to stop commercial logging on state land at the Wendell State Forest.

Three members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance were arrested early Wednesday for blocking the entrance to the forest, a peaceful act of civil disobedience.

Six protesters in another group spent nearly four hours deeper in the forest trying to stop the logging and delay the cutting of the trees by standing in the way of DCR crews.

The alliance filed a lawsuit against the Department of Conservation and Recreation for allegedly violating several state laws and regulations. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order to stop the logging until they have a chance to prove their claims at a court hearing in Greenfield next Wednesday, August 21.
» Read article

 

As protesters, loggers clash at Wendell State Forest, Department of Conservation and Recreation officials ‘refuse to meet or speak,’ to protesters
By Douglas Hook, MassLive
Aug 14, 2019

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has not responded to requests from Wendell State Forest protesters to air their concerns.

“[The DCR] need to inform the public more about what we’re doing here,” said John H. Conkey and Sons Logging, Inc. co-founder Ken Conkey.

The group “oppose the destruction of this more than 100-year-old, intact oak forest for the primary purpose of commercial logging.”

According to Neswald, the WFA will show in court that DCR “has engaged in a pattern and practice of violating, ignoring and/or misinterpreting laws and regulations meant to protect the environment.”

WFA member Priscilla Lynch, who was also arrested on Aug. 9 at the forest, said that the DCR has “refused to meet or even speak,” to the WFA.

Ken Conkey also eluded to the fact that there is a lack of information on what his company are actually trying to do.
» Read article

 

Forest protesters file suit against Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
By David McLellan, Greenfield Recorder
August 14, 2019

Over the last year, members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance have been protesting the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR’s) selective harvesting of an 80-acre old oak stand, a project that started last week, citing concerns about climate change and native species. The state is going ahead with the project, and department officials state the project is best for long-term forest health.

The local group has held signs along Route 2, picketed at a forest ranger station, garnered more than 1,500 signatures on an anti-logging petition and has physically tried to stop the project, with State Police making six arrests involving protesters in the last two weeks for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed in Franklin County Superior Court by 29 of the group members, alleging the project is illegal and violates the Forest Cutting Practices Act, Global Warming Solutions Act, Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedures Act.
» Read article

 

Four Wendell State Forest protesters arrested
By ZACK DeLUCA, Greenfield Recorder
August 12, 2019

Multiple protesters were arrested Monday as the state logging project in Wendell State Forest continues.

The Wendell State Forest Alliance, a group protesting the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s logging project, has been on site at the forest since Aug. 5. The group objects to the harvesting of an 80-acre, 110-year-old oak stand, citing studies indicating that forest preservation is crucial to combating climate change.

Massachusetts State Trooper James DeAngelis confirmed Monday afternoon that four protesters were arrested earlier in the day.

James Thornley, 72, and Morgan Mead, 56, both of Wendell, were arrested at 8:45 a.m. Two more protesters, Miriam Curland, 64, of Goshen, and Priscilla Lynch, 67, of Conway, were arrested at 1:18 p.m.
» Read article

» More actions & protests articles

 

CLIMATE

 

Don’t Burn Trees to Fight Climate Change—Let Them Grow
By Bill McKibben, The New Yorker
August 15, 2019

It may surprise you to learn that, at the moment, the main way in which the world employs trees to fight climate change is by cutting them down and burning them. Across much of Europe, countries and utilities are meeting their carbon-reduction targets by importing wood pellets from the southeastern United States and burning them in place of coal: giant ships keep up a steady flow of wood across the Atlantic. “Biomass makes up fifty per cent of the renewables mix in the E.U.,” Rita Frost, a campaigner for the Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Asheville, North Carolina, told me. And the practice could be on the rise in the United States, where new renewable-energy targets proposed by some Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as by the E.P.A., treat “biomass”—fuels derived from plants—as “carbon-neutral,” much to the pleasure of the forestry industry.

William R. Moomaw, a climate and policy scientist who has published some of the most recent papers on the carbon cycle of forests, told me about the impact of biomass, saying, “back in those days, I thought it could be considered carbon neutral. But I hadn’t done the math. I hadn’t done the physics.” Once scientists did that work, they fairly quickly figured out the problem. Burning wood to generate electricity expels a big puff of carbon into the atmosphere now. Eventually, if the forest regrows, that carbon will be sucked back up. But eventually will be too long—as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear last fall, we’re going to break the back of the climate system in the next few decades.
» Read article

 

States Sue Trump Administration Over Rollback of Obama-Era Climate Rule
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
August 13, 2019

A coalition of 29 states and cities on Tuesday sued to block the Trump administration from easing restrictions on coal-burning power plants, setting up a case that could determine how much leverage the federal government has to fight climate change in the future.

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a long-running battle over the future of coal and how to regulate the nation’s heavily polluting power plants, which are major producers of greenhouse gases that warm the planet. It also is the most significant test to date of the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate or weaken former President Obama’s regulations to reduce the United States’ contribution to global warming.
» Read article

 

The Oil Giants Might Finally Pay for Pulling the Biggest Hoax of All
New York State is alleging ExxonMobil knew the risks of climate change and defrauded its investors by misrepresenting them.
By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire
August 7, 2019

On October 23, in a federal court in New York, opening arguments will be heard in one of the most important corporate malfeasance cases of the modern era, rivaled only by the tobacco litigations of the 1990s. The state of New York is suing ExxonMobil on charges that the energy goliath consistently misled its investors about what it knew concerning the climate crisis—essentially lying to them about what it might eventually cost the company in eventual climate-related financial risks, because the company knew better than practically anyone else what those risks were.
» Read article

» More climate articles

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Vineyard Wind delayVineyard Wind to Move Forward with Project Despite Federal Delays
By State House News Service, on WBSM
August 13, 2019

On Monday, Vineyard Wind — a joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables — said its shareholders had “affirmed a commitment to deliver a proposed 800-megawatt (MW) wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, albeit with a delayed project schedule.”

Project officials have been working with contractors and financiers to rework the timeline — and Gov. Charlie Baker has spoken with Vice President Mike Pence about the project — but a new schedule has not yet been determined.

“We were less than four months away from launching a new industry in the United States, so we thank the more than 50 US companies already awarded a contract or currently bidding on contracts, the financial institutions engaged in raising more than $2 billion in capital, and the first-class, global contractors that have joined us in planning for the first large-scale offshore wind farm in America,” Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen said in a press release.

“We remain committed to delivering that ambitious target.”
» Read article

 

Shareholders Affirm Commitment to Deliver Offshore Wind Farm but with Revised Schedule
Vineyard Wind press release
August 12, 2019

Vineyard Wind today announced that company shareholders have affirmed a commitment to deliver a proposed 800-megawatt (MW) wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, albeit with a delayed project schedule. This decision follows the August 9th determination by the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) to significantly delay publication of the Vineyard Wind 1 project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and to instead undertake a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement process. In public statements, the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has indicated the supplemental process is needed to examine the effects from the many offshore wind projects that are expected to follow development of the Vineyard Wind project.
» Read article

 

Industry group knocks ‘regrettable’ move on Vineyard Wind
By Colin A. Young / State House News Service, in Taunton Gazette
August 12, 2019

As it kicked off what it hoped would be a week to celebrate “U.S. leadership in wind energy production,” a national wind energy industry group is instead making the case against the federal government’s new delay of the Vineyard Wind project.

The U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Friday put a freeze on a crucial permit for Vineyard Wind — the $2.8 billion, 84-turbine wind project planned south of Martha’s Vineyard — so they can study the wider impacts of the growing offshore wind industry.

The American Wind Energy Association said the federal government’s “regrettable” choice “undermines the Trump Administration’s American energy dominance agenda and a major U.S. economic growth opportunity.”
» Read article

 

Vineyard Wind shareholders commit to Mass. offshore wind project despite federal delays
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
August 12 2019

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has ordered additional study for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project, to the “surprise and disappointment” of the developer.

Vineyard Wind announced on Monday that shareholders affirmed their support for the first large-scale U.S. offshore wind project, despite the delay of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

Shareholders will revise the project based on a public statement issued on Friday by the Secretary of the Interior, as the original timeline will not be feasible.
» Read article     

 

Vineyard Wind Project Delayed
By The Maritime Executive
August 11, 2019

The Vineyard Wind project, Massachusetts’ first offshore wind project, has been delayed indefinitely after the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) delayed its environmental approval.

Local media report that the company’s plan to break ground by the end of 2019 would have made it eligible for a 12 percent tax credit from the state, timing that some believe is essential to Vineyard Wind’s competitive power pricing.

BOEM has not made public comment about the details of the delay or a new potential timeline.
» Read article  

 

Mayors of Salem, Holyoke call for carbon fee
70% of revenue would go back to homeowners, businesses
By Kimberley Driscoll and Alex Morse, Commonwealth Magazine
August 10, 2019

Salem and Holyoke are fully committed to reducing our cities’ greenhouse gas emissions, but we cannot solve climate change on our own.  We need bold, state leadership.

The Massachusetts Legislature needs to act, this session, to pass H2810, An Act to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promote Green Infrastructure.  Sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Benson of Lunenburg, the bill establishes a fee on the carbon in fossil fuels and returns most of the revenues from that fee to Massachusetts households and businesses.  It invests the remainder in local renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, and resilience.

A carbon fee is a charge on gas, oil, and coal. The fee is based on the amount of carbon dioxide these fuels emit when burned.  As this fee slowly rises over time, dirty energy becomes more expensive, and customers are encouraged to reduce their use of fossil fuels and move to cleaner energy options.

Many people, understandably, are concerned that this approach will cause the prices of gas and heating fuels to rise. However, unlike most governmental fees that disappear forever into government coffers, 70 percent of the revenues from the carbon fee will be given back to Massachusetts residents and businesses in the form of rebates. Every household will get two rebate checks a year.  People who use less energy – including the vast majority of low- and moderate-income households – will get back more in rebates than they pay in any increased fuel costs.
» Read article

 

Federal Review Will Further Delay Vineyard Wind
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service on WBUR
August 09, 2019

Vineyard Wind, the $2.8 billion, 800-megawatt offshore wind project planned for the waters off Martha’s Vineyard, has been delayed and will not move forward on the timeline it has been anticipating due to a federal agency’s decision to undertake a broad study of the potential impacts of offshore wind projects planned up and down the coast.

The decision of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to launch a “cumulative impacts analysis” and hold up the approval of a key permit for Vineyard Wind until that analysis is complete will likely upend the supply chain, financing and construction timeline for the project chosen by the Baker administration and state utility companies to fulfill part of a 2016 clean energy law.
» Read article    

 

Feds call for more study on Vineyard Wind
Delay could be fatal; developer said it needed approval by end of August
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
August 9, 2019

In a decision that could derail Vineyard Wind, federal regulators on Friday put their review of the project on hold temporarily while they seek to better understand the cumulative impact of the many wind farm projects being proposed along the eastern seaboard.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a statement saying the agency is expanding its draft environmental impact statement on the Vineyard Wind project to include a cumulative analysis of wind farm projects on the drawing board.

The new delay is likely to throw off Vineyard Wind’s aggressive construction timetable, which called for construction to begin by the end of this year and be completed in 2021.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

 

PLASTICS, HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Plastic in rain
It’s raining plastic in the Rocky Mountains
A USGS study identified plastic in more than 90% of rainwater samples taken from across Colorado.
By Eleanor Imster in Earth | Human World
August 14, 2019

The growth in single-use consumer plastics has fueled a surge in plastic pollution across the globe. Other recent studies have turned up microplastics high in the remote Pyrenees Mountains, in the deepest part of the ocean, in Arctic sea ice, and in U.S. groundwater.

I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye. It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.
» Read article

 

Trump To Promote Turning Natural Gas Into Plastics During Monaca Visit
By Jill Colvin & Josh Boak, Associated Press
August 13, 2019

Trying to hold support in the manufacturing towns that helped him win the White House in 2016, President Donald Trump is showcasing growing efforts to capitalize on western Pennsylvania’s natural gas deposits by turning gas into plastics.

Trump will be in Monaca, about 40 minutes north of Pittsburgh, on Tuesday to tour Shell’s soon-to-be completed Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex. The facility, which critics claim will become the largest air polluter in western Pennsylvania, is being built in an area hungry for investment.

The focus is part of a continued push by the Trump administration to increase the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels in defiance of increasingly urgent warnings about climate change. And it’s an embrace of plastic at a time when the world is sounding alarms over its ubiquity and impact.
» Read article

 

A Giant Factory Rises to Make a Product Filling Up the World: Plastic
Royal Dutch Shell’s plant will produce more than a million tons of plastic, in the form of tiny pellets. Many in the Pittsburgh area see it as an economic engine, but others worry about long-term harm.
By Michael Corkery, New York Times
August 12, 2019

When completed, the facility will be fed by pipelines stretching hundreds of miles across Appalachia. It will have its own rail system with 3,300 freight cars. And it will produce more than a million tons each year of something that many people argue the world needs less of: plastic.

As concern grows about plastic debris in the oceans and recycling continues to falter in the United States, the production of new plastic is booming. The plant that Royal Dutch Shell is building about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh will create tiny pellets that can be turned into items like phone cases, auto parts and food packaging, all of which will be around long after they have served their purpose.
» Read article

 

An Ocean Plastics Field Trip for Corporate Executives
Recycling is broken. The oceans are trashed. As the plastics crisis spirals out of control, an unlikely collection of executives and environmentalists set sail for the North Atlantic Gyre in a desperate attempt to find common ground.
By Rowan Jacobsen, Outsideonline.com
August 8, 2019

The problem with plastic is that it never rots, never goes away. But contrary to popular misconception, Eriksen explains, it doesn’t form floating islands of trash. It disintegrates. “Sunlight makes it brittle, the waves crush it constantly, and the fish and turtles and seabirds just tear the stuff apart.” The pieces get smaller and smaller until they’re tinier than a grain of rice and qualify as microplastic. By Eriksen’s count, there are more than five trillion pieces of microplastic in the oceans—more than there are fish—and despite some well-publicized debacles like Ocean Cleanup’s dysfunctional 2,000-foot-long boom, which was supposed to sweep the seas free, no force on earth is going to get that plastic out. The best we can do is prevent more from going in.
» Read article

» More platics & environment articles

 

PLASTICS RECYCLING

 

Recycling Is in Crisis. Could These Innovations Be the Answer?
Now that China is turning away the world’s recyclable waste, Australia wants to ban export of the materials and increase domestic processing. Here are some techniques being pursued.
By Livia Albeck-Ripka, New York Times
August 12, 2019

Last week, leaders in Australia made bold moves toward eventually banning the export of any recyclable waste in a bid to increase onshore processing of the materials. The ultimate goal is to prevent the waste from ending up in the ocean, they said.

“It’s our waste, and it’s our responsibility,” Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

Policy experts say that reducing initial consumption of materials is essential. But Australia’s commitment also involves developing new approaches to recycling that, if scaled up, might one day change where your takeout containers and coffee cups end up.
» Read article

» More plastics recycling articles

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Fracking methane boom
Fracking causing rise in methane emissions, study finds

Researchers say boom in shale oil and gas major contributor to climate emergency
By Jillian Ambrose, the Guardian
August 14, 2019

The boom in the US shale gas and oil may have ignited a significant global spike in methane emissions blamed for accelerating the pace of the climate crisis, according to research.

Scientists at Cornell University have found the “chemical fingerprints” of the rising global methane levels point to shale oil and shale gas as the probable source.

Methane, levels of which have been increasing sharply since 2008, is a potent greenhouse gas that heats the atmosphere quicker than carbon dioxide.
» Read article

 

Coal becoming uninsurable
Adani Beware: Coal Is on the Road to Becoming Completely Uninsurable
By Guest John Quiggin, Professor at the School of Economics at The University of Queensland, DeSmog Blog
August 13, 2019

The announcement by Suncorp that it will no longer insure new thermal coal projects, along with a similar announcement by QBE Insurance a few months earlier, brings Australia into line with Europe where most major insurers have broken with coal.

U.S. firms have been a little slower to move, but Chubb announced a divestment policy in July, and Liberty has confirmed it will not insure Australia’s Adani project.

Other big firms such as America’s AIG are coming under increasing pressure.

Even more than divestment of coal shares by banks and managed funds, the withdrawal of insurance has the potential to make coal mining and coal-fired power generation businesses unsustainable.
» Read article

 

‘Coal is over’: the miners rooting for the Green New Deal
Appalachia’s main industry is dying and some workers are looking to a new economic promise after Trump’s proves empty
By Michael Sainato, The Guardian
August 12, 2019

The coal industry in Appalachia is dying – something that people there know better than anyone. Some in this region are pinning their hopes on alternative solutions, including rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.

“Coal is over. Forget coal,” said Jimmy Simpkins, who worked as a coalminer in the area for 29 years. “It can never be back to what it was in our heyday. It can’t happen. That coal is not there to mine.”
» Read article

 

EPA moves to streamline permitting for power plant expansions, gas pipelines
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
August 12, 2019

Power plant developers gained new assurances that the Trump administration will streamline the process for implementing upgrades and modifications.

The NSR proposed rule seeks to guarantee developers will avoid triggering New Source Review (NSR) if one portion of their project increases emissions, as long as those emissions are offset by a larger decrease in other parts of the project.

While the Trump administration has issued guidance in this area, the formal rulemaking process would make it more difficult for future administrations to reverse the interpretation, which applies to all fossil fuel-burning plants and other large industrial facilities, Sawula said.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

 

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

 

Renewables’ variability sends wary utilities from traditional DR to DER and load flexibility
New technologies can expand utilities’ once-limited options, allowing control of load with customer-sited resources to balance variable generation, but utilities say they need incentives.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
August 14, 2019

Traditional Demand Response (DR) serves supply-demand imbalances, but today’s variable renewables and distributed energy resources (DER) make imbalances more common and new load flexibility allows utilities to adjust loads down instead of increasing generation.

Adjustable smart thermostats for air conditioning (A/C) and heating, grid integrated water heating, and managed electric vehicle (EV) charging will be gateways to a DR market that adds residential DER to traditional DR using commercial -industrial customers’ load, according to a new Brattle report. This more flexible load can protect against variability from rising levels of solar and wind generation.

And it’s that residential segment that will come to dominate the DR market in the next 10 years.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

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Weekly News Check-In 8/9/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

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

Please read our featured article by Tristan Alston – a bright and articulate young person with a thorough grasp of the issues we face together in a changing climate.

This edition includes articles from the Weymouth compressor station fight, an update on Columbia Gas settlements for last September’s disaster in Merrimack Valley, a Liberty Utilities dog and pony show to sell folks on the Granite Bridge pipeline project, and an interesting twist in the proposed Charlton LNG plant. We also noticed recent developments in what we call the Regional Energy Chess Game, and added a new section to keep track of protests and actions.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for people living near gas pipelines and refineries. We include some of their stories in What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Big picture articles on climate, clean energy alternatives, fossil fuel industry news, and a growing awareness of the gas leaks problem. We also found interesting articles on plastics and biomass.

— The NFGiM Team

FEATURED ARTICLE (OPINION)

Time is of the essence: A call for intergenerational innovation and justice
By Tristan Alston, Berkshire Edge
August 7, 2019

I fear for my future—for the utter destruction of our physical world, and the violence, suffering and injustice that will inevitably follow. As a young person, a member of the youth so frequently charged with leading the many fights of today, I am fearful. I am fearful that the inaction of those who came before me and the seeming indifference of those around me will soon be too great a fissure to overcome. I am fearful that both my parents and I will have to face the full force of the Earth’s rebellion, and that my children of the future will never even have the chance.

The current trends of environmental degradation and disruption are intergenerational, both in origin and ensuing effect. Thus, the united force fighting to protect our planet, our health and our future must be intergenerational as well.
» Read article

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

State delays key review for Weymouth compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
August 6, 2019

A state agency has further delayed its review of a proposed 7,700-horsepower compressor station, making it even less likely that the gas company will start construction on the project this year.

The state Office of Coastal Zone Management was scheduled this month to wrap up its review of the compressor station proposed by Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge. But in a letter to the company, Robert Boeri, acting assistant director for the state agency, said vetting is still ongoing to determine whether the proposal is consistent with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
» Read article  

Key deadline for approval of Weymouth compressor station pushed back
By Chris Lisinksi, State House News (in Boston Globe)
August 2, 2019

State regulators pushed back a key deadline in the approval process for a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, adding several more weeks to the review process as they await a different department’s decision on appealed permits.

The Office of Coastal and Zone Management wrote to Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of energy giant Enbridge, last month requesting another stay to its federal consistency review period. The current stay ends Monday, and CZM asked to extend that to Aug. 15 with the review to be completed by Sept. 5.
» Read article

Residents want new firm for soil testing at Weymouth site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
July 31, 2019

Residents fighting a proposed natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River are calling for an independent firm with no ties to the gas company to do additional hazardous waste soil testing and analysis on the land where the station would be built.

Weymouth resident Margaret Bellafiore recently sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection asking that officials assign an independent environmental consulting firm with no ties to Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, to do additional testing ordered by the state. Bellafiore and other opponents of the project have argued that the company now doing the review, TRC Environmental Corporation, has ties both to state regulators and Algonquin.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS MERRIMACK VALLEY

Columbia Gas settles class-action lawsuits, but is it enough to rebuild the community?
WWLP-22News
July 29, 2019
» View boadcast video

Columbia Gas settles class action lawsuits related to gas disaster
By Breanna Edelstein, Eagle Tribune
July 29, 2019

Lawyers spearheading multiple class-action lawsuits following the Merrimack Valley gas disaster last September have reached an agreement in principle with Columbia Gas on behalf of residents and businesses in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

According to a statement Monday morning from a Columbia Gas spokesperson, Columbia Gas and its parent company NiSource have agreed to pay $143 million to thousands of residents and businesses impacted by the gas explosions from Sept. 13, 2018.
» Read article 

» More Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Liberty Utilities Seeks To Quell Natural Gas Fears At ‘Science Fair’ For N.H. Pipeline Proposal
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
August 1, 2019

The gas on Granite Bridge is expected to come from hubs in Ontario and Tennessee, supplied largely by fracking operations in places like Pennsylvania.

The fuel would travel through the buried pipeline in gas form – but it’s more efficient to store as liquid.

Liberty wants that LNG storage to happen in a large proposed tank that would sit in an old quarry in Epping.

Part of the goal of this event was for Liberty to show they plan to do all this safely – even as protestors outside and lawns nearby carried signs reading “All pipelines leak,” “No tank in my backyard” and “Granite Bridge? Granite bomb!”
» Read article

Presidential candidate Inslee weighs in on NH dispute, opposes Granite Bridge project
Proposed pipeline would transport fracked natural gas between Manchester, Exeter
By John DiStaso, WMUR Channel 9
July 27, 2019

“It is long past time for the U.S. to end its dependence on fossil fuels,” Inslee said in a statement provided first to WMUR. “In New Hampshire, we have an opportunity to begin that transition now, by preventing Liberty Utilities from cementing its reach across New Hampshire through the Granite Bridge pipeline. This pipeline would raise costs for consumers, threaten our public health, and weaken our planet. It’s time to stand with local New Hampshire leaders fighting the pipeline’s construction.”
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge pipeline articles

CHARLTON LNG PLANT

Millennium Power distances self from proposed natural gas plant in Charlton
By Brian Lee, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
August 6, 2019

The potential siting of a $100 million facility to handle 250,000 gallons per day of liquid natural gas near a power plant continues to receive significant attention by town and state officials.

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks approval from the state Energy Facilities Siting Board to develop a plant that would liquefy, store and load natural gas into trucks. The company also seeks exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

The plant would be on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road, near Millennium Power, which publicly distanced itself from the project in an intervenor filing to the state board.

Earlier this week, lawyers for Millennium Power told the state siting board that the company has nothing to do with Northeast Energy Center’s proposal, despite suggestions to the contrary.

In a letter by Millennium Power’s attorney to the state siting board, the proposal by NEC indicates it wants to use Millenium Power’s property.
» Read article

Southbridge hires lawyer to address LNG plant proposed in Charlton
By Brian Lee, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
July 21, 2019

The Town Council has hired a lawyer to represent the town’s interest in a proposed and controversial $100 million liquid natural gas plant along Charlton’s energy corridor on Route 169.

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks to construct an LNG plant on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road, Charlton, near Millennium Power, close to the Southbridge town line. The company wants to develop a plant that will liquify, store and load natural gas into trucks. The company is seeking exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

Approval has been sought from the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board, an independent board that reviews proposed large energy facilities.
» Read article

» More LNG articles

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

Coal, nuclear could see [winter] boost in New England as new tariff goes into effect
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
August 8, 2019

The Inventoried Energy Program will compensate resources for their on-site fuel supply during the winter months of 2023-2024 and 2024-2025, impacting the 14th and 15th ISO-NE Forward Capacity Auctions. While energy storage systems, hydropower and natural gas plants could participate in the new program, the plan will most benefit nuclear plants and fossil fuel plants with a large stock of fuel supply.
» Read article

» More regional energy chess game articles

ACTIONS & PROTESTS

Wendell Forest protesters ‘pushed closer to risking arrest’
By David McLellan, Greenfield Recorder
August 2, 2019

Pleas for the state to halt the logging project in Wendell State Forest have gone unheeded, and protesters, citing concerns about climate change, say they are now willing to risk arrest by physically stopping the project.

The Wendell State Forest Alliance — a group affiliated with nonprofit conservation group RESTORE: The North Woods — has held signs on the side of Route 2, held rallies at the Wendell State Forest Ranger Station and garnered over 1,500 signatures on an anti-logging petition over the last year.

Their issue is with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) project to selectively log a roughly 80-acre old oak stand off Brook Road in Wendell State Forest. The state agency says it is protecting long-term forest health, but protesters say the project is counterproductive in fighting climate change.

The harvesting of the oak stand is set to begin imminently, with gates erected and permits posted near the logging site, and the Wendell State Forest Alliance says it’s not giving up.
» Read article 

Climate Leaders Ask for Massive Public Turnout at Upcoming Global Strikes
By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams via EcoWatch
July 25, 2019

Organizers of upcoming global climate strikes hope their demands for a rapid end to business as usual and a swift start to climate justice will be too loud to ignore.

The strikes, which are set for Sept. 20 and 27 — with additional actions slated for the days in between — are planned in over 150 countries thus far, and over 6,000 people have already pledged to take part.

It has the potential to be the biggest climate mobilization yet, said organizers.
» Read article   

» More actions & protests articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG

Blast zone aftermath - KY
Kentucky: 1 dead, 5 hospitalized in gas line rupture, fire
Associated Press via WHDH
August 1, 2019

A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of a nearby mobile home park, authorities said.

The 30 inch (76 centimeter) wide pipeline moves natural gas under high pressure, so the rupture at about 1 a.m. caused a tremendous amount of damage in the immediate area, authorities said. Firefighters were still working to douse the flames hours later, with trucks repeatedly refilling their tanks and returning to the scene.

County Emergency Management Director Don Gilliam said the flames reached about 300 feet in the air and could be seen throughout Lincoln County.

The explosion was so huge that it showed up on radar, according to a tweet from WKYT-TV meteorologist Chris Bailey.
» Read article

Woman burned in Ky. pipeline blast tried to report concerns about potential problem.
By Bill Estep, Kentucky.com
August 2, 2019

Coulter, whose mobile home was about 200 feet from the where the pipeline ruptured, said she felt the ground in the neighborhood shake twice, most recently about 10 days ago.

The episodes were brief, but the shaking was strong enough to knock pictures off the walls, she said.

There are railroad tracks at the back of the neighborhood, but Coulter said she has lived near the railroad most of her life and is sure a train wasn’t the cause of the shaking.

It also gave her cause for concern that her dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Jordan, kept sniffing around the area of the pipe. It was unusual for him to do that, Coulter said.

“I think that maybe there was something going on underground,” she said.
» Read article

One dead in Kentucky, at least five injured after gas line explosion shoots fireball into sky
Witnesses compared the blast to a bomb going off, and one said windows rattled from the force.
By Phil Helsel, NBC News
August 1, 2019

One person is dead and at least five were injured in central Kentucky after a gas line ruptured and produced a fireball that could be seen around the region early Thursday.

The 30-inch gas line in Lincoln County breached around 150 feet from a mobile home park around 1:40 a.m., said Don Gilliam, the director of Lincoln County Emergency Management.

The person who died was identified by the Lincoln County coroner as Lisa Denise Derringer, 58, of Stanford, Kentucky. Authorities said she is believed to have left her home after the explosion and was overwhelmed by extreme heat.
» Read article

Deadly Kentucky gas pipeline explosion, fire felt “like an atomic bomb went off”
CBS News
August 1, 2019

A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of dozens of people from a nearby mobile home park, authorities said.

Several structures caught fire in the area of the Indian Camp Trailer Park and were put out, CBS Lexington affiliate WKYT-TV reported.

“We opened the backdoor and it was like a tornado of fire going around and around and he said we were trapped,” said Jodie Coulter, who lived less than 200 yards from the blast. Coulter suffered third-degree burns on both her arms as she ran from her burning home.
» Read article

‘We Are Deeply Sorry’: Columbia Gas Takes Responsibility For Washington County [PA] Explosion
By John Shumway, KDKA, Pittsburg CBS Local
August 1, 2019

According to Columbia Gas, work was being done on an ongoing project in the area and the home where the explosion happened was on a different street from all the other homes associated with the project.

“While our processes are designed to catch such anomalies; unfortunately, the combination of our review process, including our initial project design process and our additional secondary field survey that we completed, we did not identify that fact that the home was connected to the section of gas main that was being upgraded,” Huwar said.

Because of that, a necessary pressure regulator was never added to the home, resulting in the blast.
» Read article  
» Blog editor’s note: echoes of Columbia’s Merrimack Valley disaster last September. Work done on a system the gas company doesn’t fully understand with resulting consequences born by the public.

» More on what could go wrong

CLIMATE

Climate Change Is Taking a Bigger Toll on Our Food, Water, and Land Than We Realized
A new United Nations report finds that some of the direst effects on the Earth’s land are already underway.
By Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones
August 8, 2019

The changing climate has already likely contributed to drier climates in South and East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, reducing the food and water supply. In 2015, about 500 million people lived in dry areas that experienced desertification in recent decades as a result of human activities. Those problems are only going to get worse as climate change continues to take its toll.

“Global warming has led to shifts of climate zones in many world regions, including expansion of arid climate zones and contraction of polar climate zones,” the IPCC says in the report, released Thursday. With high confidence, it adds, “Climate change has already affected food security due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”
» Read article

Global food supply threatened
Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
August 8, 2019

The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply.
» Read article

A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises
By Somini Sengupta and Weiyi Cai, New York Times
August 6, 2019

“We’re likely to see more of these Day Zeros in the future,” said Betsy Otto, who directs the global water program at the World Resources Institute. “The picture is alarming in many places around the world.”

Climate change heightens the risk. As rainfall becomes more erratic, the water supply becomes less reliable. At the same time, as the days grow hotter, more water evaporates from reservoirs just as demand for water increases.
» Read article

Greenland is melting in a heatwave. That’s everyone’s problem
By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
July 31, 2019

Extreme heat bowled over Europe last week, smashing records in its wake. Now, the heatwave that started in the Sahara has rolled into Greenland — where more records are expected to crumble in the coming days.

That means the heatwave is now Greenland’s problem, right? Not quite. When records fall in Greenland, it’s everyone’s problem.

Greenland is home to the world’s second-largest ice sheet. And when it melts significantly — as it is expected to do this year — there are knock-on effects for sea levels and weather across the globe.
» Read article

July will be the warmest month ever recorded in Boston
By Dave Epstein Globe Correspondent
July 31, 2019

If you went back 100 years, the average number of days Boston would reach 90 degrees was around eight. That number has increased by 50 percent and now stands around 12.

When you look at 30-year averages, the month we’ve just experienced is similar to what a typical summer would be like around Norfolk, Virginia, not Southern New England.
» Read article

The most important event on the planet right now? Arctic Climate Chaos.
Patreon.com
July 30, 2019

1. Arctic Sea Ice is currently at record lows in the Northern Hemisphere and at or near record lows within the Arctic Basin itself.

2. The Greenland Ice Sheet is forecast to lose 40 gigatonnes of ice in a matter of days, enough to raise global sea levels at least a tenth of a millimeter.

3. The fires in the Arctic are reaching apocalyptic levels.

4. Large emissions of methane gas appear to be venting from the Arctic Basin.

5. The conditions favorable for extensive melting of sea ice, Greenland ice and the production of further large fires (namely, very abnormal heat and drying of vegetation/peat) will continue over Greenland, much of Alaska and Central Siberia for at least the next two weeks.
» Read article

Amazon deforestation

Under Brazil’s Far Right Leader, Amazon Protections Slashed and Forests Fall
By Letícia Casado and Ernesto Londoño, New York Times
July 28, 2019

The destruction of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil has increased rapidly since the nation’s new far-right president took over and his government scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining.

Protecting the Amazon was at the heart of Brazil’s environmental policy for much of the past two decades. At one point, Brazil’s success in slowing the deforestation rate made it an international example of conservation and the effort to fight climate change.

But with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who has been fined personally for violating environmental regulations, Brazil has changed course substantially, retreating from the efforts it once made to slow global warming by preserving the world’s largest rain forest.

While campaigning for president last year, Mr. Bolsonaro declared that Brazil’s vast protected lands were an obstacle to economic growth and promised to open them up to commercial exploitation.

Seven months into his term, that is already happening.
» Read article

CNN to host climate crisis town hall with 2020 Democratic candidates
By Kyle Blaine, CNN
July 25, 2019

The 2020 Democratic field has been united in promising to combat climate change, with many candidates unveiling policy proposals to address the threat posed by a warming planet. President Donald Trump has pledged to leave the Paris climate accord and has said he does not believe government reports that cast grave warnings about the effects of climate change.

The most prominent proposal put forth by Democrats and backed by multiple presidential candidates has been the Green New Deal, the renewable-energy infrastructure investment plan proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The climate town hall will follow a similar format to ones CNN held earlier this year in Austin, Texas, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC, in which Democratic candidates appeared back-to-back across the course of the evening.
» Read article  

US Cities Boost Clean Energy Efforts but Few on Track to Meet Climate Goals
Scorecard of 75 large US cities reveals the top 10, including Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
July 24, 2019

US cities are ramping up their clean energy efforts, notably with stricter energy-saving rules for buildings, but only a few cities appear on track to meet their community-wide climate goals, according to the 2019 City Clean Energy Scorecard, released today by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  For the first time, the ACEEE Scorecard tracks policy efforts to advance renewable energy in addition to energy efficiency, because both are needed to build a clean energy future and address climate change. It is the most comprehensive national report that tracks city progress toward climate goals.
» Read article  
» Download report

Protecting Water Resources in a Climate-changed Connecticut River Valley
UMass Amherst
July 23, 2019

In a new project funded by the Commonwealth, environmental conservation professor Timothy Randhir is developing a planning tool to support and improve community and agency decisions in the Connecticut River watershed. It will provide a broad look at possible future effects of climate change on water resources and other ecosystem services like soil health, and the “heat island” effect.
» Read article

Moody’s Buys Climate Data Firm, Signaling New Scrutiny of Climate Risks
By Christopher Flavell, New York Times
July 24, 2019

Moody’s Corporation has purchased a controlling stake in a firm that measures the physical risks of climate change, the latest indication that global warming can threaten the creditworthiness of governments and companies around the world.

The rating agency bought a majority share in Four Twenty Seven, a California-based company that measures a range of hazards, including extreme rainfall, hurricanes, heat stress and sea level rise, and tracks their impact on 2,000 companies and 196 countries. In the United States, the data covers 761 cities and more than 3,000 counties.

“We are taking these risks very seriously,” said Myriam Durand, global head of assessments at Moody’s Investors Service, who said the purchase would allow its credit analysts to be more precise in their review of climate related risks. “You can’t mitigate what you don’t understand.”
» Read article

Extinction Rebellion protesters confront politicians at US Capitol
By David Smith, The Guardian
July 23, 2019

Protesters from the climate crisis group Extinction Rebellion have brought disruption to Capitol Hill in Washington, superglueing themselves to doorways to block politicians and staff.

Just after 6pm, six activists stood in doorways to a tunnel connecting the Cannon office building to the US Capitol in an attempt to prevent members of Congress attending an evening vote.

A total of 17 activists were arrested and charged with crowding and obstructing, according to US Capitol police. Several were also charged with defacing public property.

Demonstrators said their goal was to force a House and Senate concurrent resolution on the climate emergency – currently on hold – to receive immediate attention.
» Read article  

House Democrats Offer an Alternative to the Green New Deal
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 23, 2019

An influential group of Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday set an ambitious target for United States greenhouse gas emissions, calling for a reduction to net-zero by 2050.

The goal, intended to slow the pace of global warming, does not include either a legislative or regulatory plan. It would very likely require rigorous new curbs on fossil fuels over the coming decades and steep increases in wind, solar and other renewable sources of power.

The initiative does not go as far as the Green New Deal. That Democratic plan calls for achieving carbon neutrality within a decade and supplying 100 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources while also creating millions of high-wage jobs.

Analysts described the announcement Tuesday as an effort by centrist Democrats to reclaim the climate agenda while treating global warming with the urgency that scientists say it demands.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Massachusetts looks to follow California with solar mandate for new homes
A pair of bills would require solar panels on new buildings but include exemptions for shaded or nonviable properties.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News
August 7, 2019

“Our building sector is going to be one of the toughest sectors to fully decarbonize,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts director for environmental nonprofit the Acadia Center. “We don’t want to miss any opportunities on buildings we’re going to be living with for the next 50 or 80 years.”

Massachusetts is about one-fourth of the way to its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Most of this progress has come from reducing carbon in the electricity sector. Now, buildings are a major target for efforts to further lower the numbers.

One of the bills (SB 1957) working its way through the Legislature calls for rooftop solar panels on new residential and commercial construction. The second bill (SB 1995) would require panels be put on new or renovated state-owned buildings. Both measures include exceptions for buildings where shading or positioning issues prevent solar from being a viable option. Projects would also be able to meet the requirements of the rules by showing they would generate an equivalent amount of power using a different renewable energy system.
» Read article
» Read Senate Bill S1995    
» Read Senate Bill S1957     

Here’s The First American Airport Powered Entirely By Solar Energy
By Dan Q. Dao, Forbes Magazine
July 30, 2019

Tennessee’s fourth-largest city is once again turning heads by claiming a first in the sustainability sector. Earlier this month, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport announced that it had hit a much-anticipated milestone in becoming the first airfield in the United States powered by 100% solar energy.

The end result of an ambitious project that started seven years ago, the airport’s 2.64-megawatt solar farm was completed with about $5 million of funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. That investment is expected to be earned back in under 20 years, as a renewable energy stream brings down the facility’s overall costs of operation. According to a press release, the installation measures about the size of 16 football fields—eight long and two wide.
» Read article

In Push For Massachusetts Clean Energy Targets, Advocates Point To Pioneer Valley Initiatives
By Paul Tuthill, WAMC
July 24, 2019

Environmental advocates and community leaders are highlighting steps cities and towns in western Massachusetts have taken toward a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

A report released this week by Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center profiled innovative programs undertaken in Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and other communities.

The release of the report coincided with a Beacon Hill hearing on a bill to transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
» Read article   

» More energy alternatives articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Kinder Morgan ordered to pay Hill Country landowner nearly $250,000 in property damages
By Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle
August 8, 2019

In a Thursday morning decision, the three-member panel of the panel of Blanco County Special Commissioners ordered Kinder Morgan to pay landowner Matthew Walsh $233,500 in damages for the company’s proposed Permian Highway Pipeline project.

Kinder Morgan is seeking to build the $2 billion pipeline to move 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin of West Texas to the Katy Hub near Houston but faces stiff opposition along the proposed route through the picturesque Texas Hill Country.

A company appraisal valued the 50-foot easement on Walsh’s land at $16,707 but the Blanco landowner got legal help from the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition and filed a claim stating that the overall damage to the appraised value of his 53-acre property was $261,663. Walsh claimed the pipeline project would delay building a home on the property and selling the land in the future.

“I feel like I’ve been living in a nightmare since I heard about the pipeline coming through my land last October,” Walsh said in a statement released by the , a nonprofit group opposed to the project. “Kinder Morgan’s initial offer was insultingly low. I hope that other landowners will hear my story and join me in fighting for fair compensation.”
» Read article

Kentucky pipeline blast 8-2019
Explosions in Three States Highlight Dangers of Aging Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
August 6, 2019

On August 1, for the third time in as many years, Enbridge’s Texas Eastern Transmission gas pipeline exploded. This tragic incident in central Kentucky killed a 58-year-old woman, Lisa Denise Derringer, and injured at least five others. Flames towered 300 feet high when the 30-inch diameter pipe ruptured at 1 a.m. and forced at least 75 people to evacuate.

“We opened the backdoor and it was like a tornado of fire going around and around and he said we were trapped,” survivor Jodie Coulter, 53, told CBS News, describing her efforts to flee on foot. Coulter, whose house was within 600 feet of the pipeline, suffered third-degree burns on her arms. “It felt like we were standing next to a blow torch.”

This explosion joins a string of others in the past several weeks involving America’s aging fossil fuel infrastructure — including a network of 2.6 million miles of pipelines, roughly half of which are over 50 years old, and over 130 oil refineries, many of which are 50 to 120 years old.
» Read article

How this Southern Tier group is trying to work around New York’s fracking ban
Jeff Platsky, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
August 2, 2019

A Tioga County landowners group appears willing to press ahead in challenging New York’s hydrofracking ban by using an unconventional method of natural gas drilling designed to circumvent the prohibition.

Tioga County Partners wants to drill on a 53-acre site in Barton using gelled propane, an arcane process that skirts the existing drilling ban.

Due to explosion risks, propane fracks — also known as “gas fracks” — typically use robotics to keep workers out of the “hot zone” during operations. The technology is still developing and has not been widely used, especially in places where water is available.

The pending environmental review requires an extensive site analysis under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, a time-consuming, expensive process that provides opportunity for significant challenges from opponents.
» Read article
The Fracking Industry Is in Debt. Retirement Funds Are Helping Bail It Out.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmogBlog
July 31, 2019

Outside observers have specifically warned that pension plans that invest in shale companies might wind up with regrets.

While the shale drilling industry’s financial instability may not be so large as to pose an overall risk to the financial system, “I think there’s risk to pension plans that are pouring their money into private equity firms, which in turn are pouring billions into shale companies,” Bethany McLean, author of the book Saudi America: The Truth about Fracking and How It’s Changing the World, told E&E News in a September 2018 interview. McLean is also widely credited as the first financial reporter to take a critical look at energy company Enron before its collapse.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

GAS LEAKS

The Leaks That Threaten the Clean Image of Natural Gas
U.S. energy companies are scrambling to reduce methane emissions—both unintended and deliberate—that equate to exhaust from 69 million cars a year and contribute to global warming
By Rebecca Elliott, Wall Street Journal
August 8, 2019

In the U.S. alone, the methane that leaks or is released from oil and gas operations annually is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 69 million cars, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis using conversion formulas from the Environmental Protection Agency and emissions estimates for 2015 published last year in the journal Science.
» Read article

State regulators want better reporting of lost gas
By Christian M. Wade, Gloucester Times
August 7, 2019

Utility companies are required to report the so-called “lost and unaccounted for gas” to state regulators annually, but environmental groups say the industry estimates belie the full scope of the problem.

Proposed rules being considered by the state Department of Public Utilities, which go before a public hearing next Thursday, would require publicly regulated utilities to report lost gas in a more uniform and transparent manner. The rules, set to go into effect in January, would require both private and municipal gas companies to report to the state how much gas is lost, why it is lost, and how much it is costing consumers.

“Nobody really knows how much gas is lost from leaks, some of which are literally gushing,” said Audrey Schulman, executive director of the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Boston-based nonprofit that advises communities about gas leaks. “Right now, the utilities are doing it their own way, so we don’t know how big the problems are or where to put resources towards fixing them.”
» Read article     https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/state-regulators-want-better-reporting-of-lost-gas/article_8c20756a-d985-5937-b39c-47979e1de1e8.html

Gas leaks in Boston produce twice as much methane as previously known, study finds
By David Abel and Aidan Ryan, Boston Globe
August 1, 2019
Boston and other older cities in the Northeast are responsible for as much as twice the amount of methane — among the most potent of greenhouse gases — than previously estimated by federal authorities, a new study found.

The combined emissions of the six cities, which include Providence, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., exceed those from some of the nation’s largest producers of natural gas, including the Four Corners region in the West and the Bakken Shale in the Dakotas, according to the study, which included researchers from Harvard University.
» Read article

» More gas leaks articles

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

66 people sent for medical attention after ExxonMobil refinery explosion in Texas
The facility processes light hydrocarbons including propane and propylene, materials used to make plastic and industrial products.
By Associated Press and Doha Madani, NBC News
July 31, 2019
Authorities say 66 people were sent for medical evaluation after an explosion and fire at an ExxonMobil oil refinery in Texas on Wednesday.

The fire began after an explosion just after 11:00 a.m. at an ExxonMobil plant in Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston. The facility processes light hydrocarbons including propane and propylene, materials used to make plastic and industrial products.

Right after the explosion, the fire sent large plumes of black smoke into the sky. By Wednesday afternoon, the smoke had lessened. The fire was not fully extinguished by Wednesday evening, but authorities lifted a shelter-in-place order that impacted approximately 5,000 people in the area once the blaze was contained.
» Read article

We’re Up to a Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute
Return to Now
May 11, 2019

Globally, humans are purchasing a million plastic bottles every single minute, according to a report by Euromonitor International.

That’s 20,000 bottles every second and almost half a trillion bottles a year.

Only 7% of them are recycled into new bottles, according to The Guardian.

Although some trendy companies are turning them into t-shirts, shoes and other articles of polyester clothing, the vast majority end up in landfills or the ocean.
» Read article  
» Read reference study

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BIOMASS

Environmental groups accuse state of ‘deeply flawed’ review of biomass changes; call for more input
By Peter Goonan, Springfield Republican
August 6, 2019

The organizations said they “write seeking to help the (Governor) Baker administration correct course and to ensure that the RPS assists the state in complying with the Commonwealth’s climate mandates, rather than promoting technologies that will actually increase emissions.”
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Enviro Advocates Call Out MA Gov. Baker For Promoting Dirty Fuels As Renewable Energy
Partnership for Policy Integrity
August 2, 2019

Last Friday marked the close of a three-month public comment period on the Baker Administration’s proposal to overhaul rules that establish what electric power generation resources qualify for renewable energy subsidies. Massachusetts clean energy advocates sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides sharply criticizing these proposed regulatory changes that would, among other things, significantly increase rate-payer subsidies for wood-burning power plants and garbage incinerators.
» Read article
» Read letter to Secretary Theoharides
» Read related Joint Stakeholder letter

Scientists say Dartmouth College’s biomass plan is a bad idea
By TIM CAMERATO, Valley News
July 25, 2019

A group of prominent scientists and Dartmouth College alumni are urging the school to cancel its plans to build a biomass plant to heat the downtown Hanover campus as part of its $200 million “green energy” plan.

Burning wood chips could “substantially” increase the college’s carbon emissions and worsen the effects of climate change, the scientists said in a letter to the Dartmouth community dated July 5.

“We urge you to avoid making a heavy investment in a mistaken assumption that a wood-fired heating plant will be of benefit to the College or the world,” they wrote in the letter.

It was signed by George Woodwell, a 1950 Dartmouth graduate and founder of the nonprofit Woods Hole (Mass.) Research Center; William Schlesinger, a 1972 graduate and emeritus dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment; and John Sterman, a 1977 alumnus, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of its Sustainability Initiative.

The three argue that carbon dioxide released from wood-burning plants is greater than the fuel oil Dartmouth currently relies on. The carbon content of wood is about 30% greater than fuel oil and 80% higher than natural gas, they said.
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How to fight climate change? Save existing forests
Guest column by William R. Moomaw, Bob Leverett, Robert A. Jonas and Monica Jakuc Leverett, Daily Hampshire Gazette
July 24, 2019

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that we only have until 2030 to reduce the difference between the amount of carbon dioxide we emit from all sources (including fossil fuels, biomass burning and land use change) and the rate that natural systems like forests and oceans can remove it from the atmosphere.

While it is important to plant new trees for the longer term, waiting decades for them to grow will not help us to meet our short-term goals.

Allowing existing trees to continue growing and sequestering carbon is essential. This simple concept is explained in a peer-reviewed paper published by the journal “Frontiers in Forests,” authored by Drs. William R. Moomaw, Susan A. Masino and Edward K. Faison. The paper’s title says it all: “Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good.”

Proforestration means “growing existing forests intact to their ecological potential,” and is contrasted with afforestration (planting new forests) and reforestration (replacing forests on deforested or recently harvested lands) that take much longer to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in their early years than older forests do as they continue growing.
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Europe’s renewable energy policy is built on burning American trees
Biomass energy is inadvertently making the climate crisis worse.
By Saul Elbein, Vox.com
March 4, 2019

As they steadily wean themselves off coal, European Union nations are banking on wood energy, or “biomass,” to meet their obligations under the Paris climate agreement.

That’s because in 2009, the EU committed itself to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, and put biomass on the renewables list. Several countries, like the United Kingdom, subsidized the biomass industry, creating a sudden market for wood not good enough for the timber industry. In the United States, Canada, and Eastern Europe, crooked trees, bark, treetops, and sawdust have been pulped, pressed into pellets, and heat-dried in kilns. By 2014, biomass accounted for 40 percent of the EU’s renewable energy, by far the largest source. By 2020, it’s projected to make up 60 percent, and the US plans to follow suit.
» Read article 
» Blog editor’s note: this article closely tracks the excellent documentary “Burned – Are Trees the New Coal?” by Alan Dater and Lisa Merton. More info and viewing access here.

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