Monthly Archives: September 2019

Weekly News Check-In 9/27/19

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

In local news, Columbia Gas is the center of unwelcome attention in Lawrence, as emergency crews responded to a large gas leak from a new high-pressure line – installed as part of the reconstruction following last year’s gas leaks and explosions. The Weymouth compressor station was declared a threat to human health in a new report by the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the folks in Charlton are struggling in their ongoing fight against a proposed LNG plant. The Constitution Pipeline will likely head to court before being built.

Looking a little farther away, we found news of a recent fracked gas well explosion in Louisiana that will likely burn for weeks before being extinguished.

In climate news, countries around the world are focusing on regulating pollutants like methane and HFCs – short lived but powerful greenhouse gasses. Reducing emissions of these pollutants could slow the pace of climate change during our longer drive to eliminate carbon emissions. Sadly, United States energy and environmental policies are currently moving sharply counter to this initiative. Climate activist Greta Thunberg attended the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York and was not impressed.

We also found interesting news on clean energy alternatives, energy storage, and the divestment movement. The fossil fuel industry seems to be mounting a defense against charges that it refuses to embrace decarbonization by making token investments in clean energy while hoping to extend the fossil fuel era as long as possible.

A court case against FERC has questioned its approval of eminent domain to take private property prior to pipeline approval.

We wrap up with news of a fascinating study of the effects of plastic on human health. It’s everywhere, it’s nasty, and mounting evidence shows we’re passing its consequences along to our children.

— The NFGiM Team

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER

Lawrence gas leakAbout 400 people evacuated in Lawrence after ‘major’ gas leak discovered, two schools closed
By Emily Sweeney and Michael Levenson, Boston Globe
September 27, 2019

LAWRENCE — A major gas leak forced hundreds of Lawrence residents to evacuate Friday as Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and officials searched for the cause of the problem, which came a year after a series of natural gas-fueled fires and explosions rocked the city.

Residents, some of whom were evacuated in the predawn hours by Lawrence first responders, were rattled. They said they feared they were facing a repeat of the disaster last year in Lawrence and two neighboring communities that killed a Lawrence man and left many residents homeless for months.

Mark Kempic, president of Columbia Gas, told reporters at the 7 a.m. press conference that his company did not have a crew working in the area. “We were not doing work in that area,” Kempic said. He identified the primary location for the leak as the intersection of South Broadway and Salem Street.

He said the affected line is new, having been replaced following the Sept. 13, 2018, natural gas disaster that caused 130 fires and explosions and killed Leonel Rondon, an 18-year-old Lawrence man.
» Read article     

UPDATE: Columbia Gas ‘unprepared,’ with ‘catastrophic’ results, NTSB reports
By Jill Harmacinski  jharmacinski@eagletribune.com
September 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board said the company was not prepared to handle such a disaster Sept. 13, 2018, and had no maps of the gas system available for first responders, despite overseeing the system for 100 years. Additionally, the NTSB reported, company officials were difficult to reach as the disaster was occurring and for hours afterward.

The NTSB also said plans to upgrade the cast-iron gas line system did not include upgrades to “gas sensing lines.”

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said “results were not simply unacceptable. For a whole region, they were catastrophic.”
» Read article     

Columbia Gas Should Pay $33 Million for Non-Compliance: Lawrence Mayor
Rivera said the utility knew since at least July 30 that properties may still have abandoned service lines requiring additional inspection
By Young-Jin Kim and State House News Service
September 13, 2019

Lawrence, Massachusetts Mayor Dan Rivera is calling on authorities to levy a hefty fine on Columbia Gas for failing to fully comply with a restoration plan following last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

In sharply worded statement Thursday, Rivera said the utility knew since at least July 30 that properties may still have abandoned service lines requiring additional inspection. He said Columbia Gas should pay $1 million for every day it failed to act.

“This lack of transparency costs us time otherwise spent fixing the problem,” Rivera said in a statement.

“Not only does this slow down the process of road restoration work that Lawrence was about to begin, it once again puts our back against a wall to fix a gas problem with the impending cold weather.”
» Read article     

MA NEWS: Gas Safety Report Released – Rolling The Dice
By Debbie New, Mothers Out Front blog post
September 13, 2019

On the anniversary of the “catastrophic failure in the gas distribution system that caused explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley” on September 13, 2018, Mothers Out Front remembers the community’s sacrifices and strength in overcoming the complete disruption of their energy system and their lives. We are proud to be a part of Gas Leak Allies newly released report Rolling the Dice: Assessment of Gas Safety in Massachusetts as “this report is the response of citizens and scientists motivated by a desire for a safe, healthy, and just energy system.”
» Read blog post    
» Read “Rolling The Dice – Assessment of Gas System Safety in Massachusetts” report

» More Merrimack Valley gas disaster articles

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth: Soil Testing Meeting Rescheduled Concerning Proposed Compressor Station
By Amy Leonard, WATD FM News
September 25, 2019

After a “data dump,” a meeting between concerned parties and the company hired to do soil testing at the proposed compressor station site in Weymouth is rescheduled from tonight to October 10th.

Margaret Bellafiore is the representative for The PIP or Public Involvement Program- which is a group formed with the DEP and participants must be notified of all matters regarding contamination and clean up at the site.

Bellafiore was granted her request to reschedule the meeting which will be open to the public and take place October 10th at 7:00 at the Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth.
» Read article     

Greater Boston PSR demands an immediate halt to Weymouth Compressor construction, calling it a danger to health, a danger to safety, and a danger to our Massachusetts community
Physicians for Social Responsibility
September 23, 2019

The report—a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the human health impacts of soil, groundwater, air and noise pollution that will result from the compressor station—concludes that the project is dangerous to human health and that no regulatory framework can make this facility safe for the surrounding community or for residents of the Commonwealth.

The report specifically addresses:

  • Health risks related to existing soil and groundwater contamination at the proposed site;
  • Health risks of cumulative exposure to air toxics associated with the proposed compressor station;
  • Noise pollution generated by the proposed compressor station.

Greater Boston PSR calls on Governor Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to halt the construction of the compressor station in Weymouth.
» Read press release   
» Download report here

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

LNG NEWS

Charlton legal expenses go up 300% in fight against proposed pot farm, LNG plant
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
Sep 13, 2019

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, has applied for state Energy Facilities Siting Board approval to produce about 250,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas per day and store it in a 2-million-gallon tank at 304 Southbridge Road (Route 169).

Since the Siting Board decides whether the $100 million project will go forward, the Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered as interveners in the hearings.

To do so, the town must hire legal counsel and consultants to prepare its testimony. Those legal and consulting fees are expected to reach $300,000, Peter J. Boria said at the joint meeting Wednesday.
» Read article     

Charlton’s lawyer for LNG plant resigns
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
September 10, 2019

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks to site a natural gas liquefaction plant on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road (Route 169), near Millennium Power.

The company has applied for state Energy Facilities Siting Board approval to produce about 250,000 gallons of LNG per day, store it in a 2-million-gallon tank, and load it into trucks.

The applicant is also asking the state Department of Public Utilities to grant exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

The Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered as interveners in the state hearings. 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.

Selectmen appointed members of the three boards and other town officials to an LNG Advisory Committee and earmarked $130,000 for the costs of legal counsel and consultants to intervene in the Siting Board’s hearings.

Selectmen at a joint meeting with the LNG committee and finance committee on Aug. 12 hired special legal counsel Miyares and Harrington LLC to represent the town.

In an Aug. 29 letter to selectmen, Attorney J. Raymond Miyares quit.
» Read article     

» More LNG articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Will the Constitution Pipeline get built?
The fight over the controversial pipeline is heading for federal court.
By ZACH WILLIAMS, City & State New York
September 8, 2019

Last week, federal regulators overruled a New York state agency’s decision to block the Constitution Pipeline, a controversial natural gas link from Pennsylvania. But that’s not the final word.

Until just a few weeks ago, there were good reasons to believe that a proposed natural gas pipeline linking Schoharie County in the Capitol Region to northern Pennsylvania would never get built. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation had rejected the proposed project, called the Constitution Pipeline, in 2016 because of its potential to harm water quality. In 2017, a federal court ruled that the state was within its rights to do so under the federal Clean Water Act. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene last year.

Despite these setbacks, the Oklahoma-based Williams Companies never gave up on its effort to build the 125-mile pipeline through the Catskills. It has been helped by the Trump administration, which made several moves this year to weaken the ability of states to block fossil fuel projects, including executive orders and proposed federal rules changes. “We can’t get energy because New York doesn’t allow the pipelines to go through,” Trump said during a mid-August visit to western Pennsylvania, which is experiencing a boom in natural gas production due to the rise of fracking technology. “The radical left wants to do to America what they’ve done to New York: raise prices, kill jobs and leave our nation less independent and far less secure.” Two weeks later, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose members are appointed by the president, issued an Aug. 28 ruling that gave Williams a waiver to override state approval because the state had purportedly taken too much time to make a decision on the company’s original application for a permit.
» Read article   

» More articles about other pipelines

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

blowout LA
Fracked Gas Well Blowout in Louisiana Likely to Burn for the Next Month
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
September 12, 2019

A fracked natural gas well in northwest Louisiana has been burning for two weeks after suffering a blowout. A state official said the fire will likely burn for the next month before the flames can be brought under control by drilling a relief well.

Experts have voiced concerns over the pollution being released, especially given the length of time this fossil fuel well has been leaking and burning.

“Blowouts are (unintended) large, uncontrolled pollutant sources with potentially significant health and environmental consequences,” Gunnar W. Schade, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University, told me via email after viewing the drone video obtained by DeSmog. “Blowouts need to be shut down as soon as possible.”

Sharon Wilson, Texas coordinator of environmental advocacy group Earthworks, outlined what happens during well blowouts like this.

“The gas is under pressure so if they lose control, the gas, frack fluid, produced water, and oil/condensate all blast out of the hole,” Wilson said during a call after viewing the video. “They have to get specialized teams to come shut the well in.”
» Read article

» More articles about what can go wrong 

CLIMATE

Dozens of Countries Take Aim at Climate Super Pollutants
Methane, HFCs and other short-lived climate pollutants are many times more potent than carbon dioxide but don’t last as long. Cuts could have a powerful impact.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
September 25, 2019

Environment ministers from dozens of countries agreed this week to speed up their efforts to reduce a class of greenhouse gases that, until now, has been largely overlooked in international climate agreements but could play a crucial role in limiting the worst effects of climate change.

“We can avoid about 0.6 degrees [Celsius (about 1°F)] of warming between now and mid-century by taking action on short-lived climate pollutants,” Dan McDougall, a senior fellow at the Climate and Clean Air Coalition said. The estimate is based on a 2011 United Nations Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization assessment that looked at 16 measures to cut black carbon and methane emissions across the agriculture, energy, transportation, industry, buildings and waste management sectors.

Reducing black carbon and methane also has tremendous health benefits by improving local air quality.

Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to accelerate, and global CO2 emissions are not expected to peak until after 2030, according to a World Meteorological Organization report released Sunday for this week’s UN Climate Action Summit.

The report found that countries’ commitments, which have so far focused largely on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, would have to be increased fivefold from current levels of emissions reductions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F), a goal of the Paris accord. What’s more, many countries are not meeting their current commitments.

Roughly half of the world’s G20 nations, which account for around 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had fallen short of achieving their commitments under the Paris Agreement, according to a 2018 UN report. An updated draft of the UN report released Saturday found that the G20 as a whole remains off track for meeting current Paris commitment pledges as too few of the countries had made transformative climate policy commitments.
» Read article     

The World’s Oceans Are in Danger, Major Climate Change Report Warns
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
September 25, 2019

Earth’s oceans are under severe strain from climate change, a major new United Nations report warns, threatening everything from the ability to harvest seafood to the well-being of hundreds of millions of people living along the coasts.

Rising temperatures are contributing to a drop in fish populations in many regions, and oxygen levels in the ocean are declining while acidity levels are on the rise, posing risks to important marine ecosystems, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking.
» Read article     

The US Is Exporting a Fracked Climate Catastrophe
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
September 23, 2019

According to climate scientists, limiting the worst impacts of climate change means weaning the world off of fossil fuels, not ramping it up. But two factors, the U.S. “fracking revolution” that helped boost domestic oil and gas production to record levels combined with lifting the 40-year-long ban on exporting crude oil in 2015, are complicating that vision.

In June, the United States displaced Saudi Arabia as the top exporter of crude oil, a stunning development for a country that only started exporting crude in 2016. That month, the U.S. exported over 3 million barrels of crude oil per day. To put that in perspective, the U.S. consumed 20.5 million barrels per day in 2018. That means that each day, the U.S. was pumping out of its borders a volume of oil equivalent to about 15 percent of its 2018 daily consumption.

This expansion can be directly linked to the production of oil via hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) that has driven the U.S. oil production boom over the past decade. In addition to driving U.S. crude oil expansion, this much-lauded “fracking revolution” also was responsible for essentially the entire increase in global oil production last year, when the U.S. contributed 98 percent of that increase.

Without the shale boom, the world would likely be facing much higher oil prices and the potential for stagnating or even declining production (aka peak oil), both of which would help to hasten the needed energy transition to mitigate climate change.
» Read article     

Greta T at UN
At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence
By Somini Sengupta and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
September 23, 2019

The United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday was meant to highlight concrete promises by presidents, prime ministers and corporate executives to wean the global economy from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

But despite the protests in the streets, China on Monday made no new promises to take stronger climate action. The United States, having vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the pact among nations to jointly fight climate change, said nothing at all. A host of countries made only incremental promises.

The contrast between the slow pace of action and the urgency of the problem was underscored by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, who excoriated world leaders for their “business as usual” approach. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” she said, her voice quavering with rage. “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
» Read article     

anaerobic digester - Chicago
Where’s the Waste? A ‘Circular’ Food Economy Could Combat Climate Change
An ice company’s wastewater can feed a produce garden. Spent grain from a brewery goes to compost. Local, shared, recycled. Welcome to the future of food.
By Eduardo Garcia, New York Times
September 21, 2019

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global linear production system that relies on chemicals and fuel to produce and transport food over great distances is to blame for between 21 percent and 37 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, proponents of the circular model argue that cooperation among various groups in the food-production system can significantly reduce energy consumption and waste.
» Read article

» More climate articles  

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

The Hamptons Love Green Energy. But That Wind Farm?
The transmission line would go through an area where homeowners include the billionaire Ronald Lauder and Marci Klein, daughter of Calvin Klein.
By Debra West, New York Times
September 14, 2019

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — This affluent enclave on the East End of Long Island is steeped in eco-conscious pride, with strict water quality and land preservation rules and an abundance of electric cars on the roads.

So at first, many happily embraced a plan for an offshore wind farm that would help lead the way as New York State sets some of the most ambitious green energy goals in the country.

But then came word that the project’s transmission cable was going to land in Wainscott, one of the most exclusive slices of the already exclusive Hamptons, where homeowners include the likes of the cosmetics billionaire Ronald Lauder and Marci Klein, a former longtime producer of “Saturday Night Live” and the daughter of Calvin Klein.

Soon a push to protect the planet was out and the imperative to protect a golden plot of sand was in. Homeowners organized and hired an army of lawyers, lobbyists, public relations experts and engineers to argue their case.
» Read article 

» More clean energy alternative articles   

ENERGY STORAGE

As battery fires spark ongoing concerns, NFPA releases standards to address risks
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
September 17, 2019

The exponential growth of energy storage around the world has also put a spotlight on the technology’s safety record. Multiple fires at residential storage installations in South Korea last year as well as the fire earlier this year in Arizona have shown the potential dangers associated with battery storage.

In response to increasing demand for the technology, the NFPA decided in 2016 to start developing NFPA 855.

“While energy storage systems provide countless benefits and applications, the technologies do not come without risk. NFPA 855 aims to mitigate risk and ensure that all installations are done in a way that takes fire and life safety into consideration,” Brian O’Connor, a professional engineer and NFPA staff liaison for NFPA 855, said in a statement.

NFPA 855 establishes requirements for ESS installation settings, size and separation of systems, and fire suppression and control systems.
» Read article  

battery storage site
Nothing standing in the way of energy storage’s ‘explosive growth’: Navigant
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
September 16, 2019

“Nothing really does seem to be standing in the way of its explosive growth,” Ricardo Rodriguez, research analyst for distributed energy storage at Navigant Research, told Utility Dive.

The market research company in its latest report identified close to 2,100 energy storage projects globally. And international storage markets are anticipated to grow exponentially over the next decade, a second report from Rethink Technology Research found.

“There are really five primary drivers for storage today,” Rodriguez said. “They are changing rate structures, [electric vehicle] charging integration, solar PV integration, resiliency/backup power, and to some degree, business model innovation. But I think the biggest driver of growth going forward — outside of cost — is likely to be the development of new market opportunities and value streams that are opened up by favorable federal and state regulations.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued a recent order to allow utility companies to pay commercial property owners if they agree to rely upon their energy storage systems during peak events. The order was a landmark state regulation in the energy storage space, according to Rodriguez.

“I think it was one of the first orders in the nation to incentivize behind the meter battery storage,” he said.
» Read article   

» More energy storage articles

DIVESTMENT

First Major U.S. Insurer Begins Divestment from Fossil Fuels
By Elana Sulakshana, Truthout
September 12, 2019

It seems like every day there is a new story of a pipeline spilling crude oil or an oil refinery exploding. How do fossil fuel companies continue to operate such hazardous infrastructure in communities despite the immediate and long-term harm they cause? One piece of the answer is the coverage and financial support they get from insurance companies.

We may not immediately consider insurance as a key driver of climate change, but insurance companies provide a crucial service to dangerous fossil fuel projects: insurance coverage for everything from explosions to car accidents. But now, that may be changing.

Earlier this summer, Chubb, the largest commercial insurance company in the U.S., announced a new policy to address climate change. Saying that it “will not underwrite risks related to the construction and operation of new coal-fired plants,” the company has become the first major U.S. insurer to adopt a policy restricting coal insurance.
» Read article

» More divestment articles   

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

oil giants defense
Oil Giants, Under Fire From Climate Activists and Investors, Mount a Defense
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
September 23, 2019

On Monday, as world leaders gathered at the United Nations climate summit and discussed the urgency of slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, 13 of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies presented their defense at a forum across town. But most of their proposals appeared designed to perpetuate the use of oil and gas for decades to come, rather than transition quickly to cleaner options.
» Read article     

Cheap Renewables Could Make 90% of Proposed Gas Power Plants — and Many Pipelines — Obsolete by 2035
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
September 13, 2019

A lot has changed when it comes to power generation in the past 16 years. In 2003, if you flipped on a light switch most places in the U.S., odds were you were setting into motion the final link in a chain of events that started in a coal mine or a mountain-top removal project. The U.S. got more than half of its electricity from burning coal that year, followed distantly by nuclear and gas. Coal had a long-standing reputation for being a cheap, if dirty, way to get things done.

By now, natural gas — made cheap by the rush to drill shale wells and with its own dirty reputation from globe-warming methane leaks and fracking pollution — has overtaken coal as the primary source of power in America.

But that isn’t the biggest change underway when it comes to where our electrical power will come from just 16 years from now.

That shale revolution, like coal, could see its economic advantage swept away by 2035, as renewable energy choices offer electrical utilities options that not only produce no climate-changing exhaust but are also rapidly falling in price.
» Read article   

US EPA Proposes Rule Narrowing States’ Ability to Block Pipeline Projects
The National Law Review
Friday, August 30, 2019

On August 7, 2019, US EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the Agency’s newest proposal to amend the Clean Water Act (CWA) to streamline permitting of energy projects. Specifically, the proposed rule would amend the regulations concerning Section 401 of the CWA. It represents US EPA’s first comprehensive effort to promulgate federal rules governing the implementation of Section 401 of the CWA.

When announcing the proposed rule, Administrator Wheeler stated: “[T]he United States has become the number one oil and gas energy producer in the world, while at the same time continuing to improve our air quality.” He then noted, “Our proposal is intended to help ensure that states adhere to the statutory language and intent of Clean Water Act. When implemented, this proposal will streamline the process for constructing new energy infrastructure projects that are good for American families, American workers, and the American economy.”
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles

FERC NEWS

Court agrees with Oberlin, orders agency to explain pipeline decision
By MARK GILLISPIE, Associated Press
September 11, 2019

CLEVELAND — The nation’s top appeals court has ruled that a federal agency must explain why it approved a pipeline sending substantial quantities of natural gas to Canada and allowed the energy companies to force U.S. citizens to sell property so construction could begin.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed with Oberlin, Ohio, and other plaintiffs Friday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed to justify giving owners of the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline credit for gas shipped to Canada to prove the project’s need.

FERC officials declined to comment Tuesday about the ruling.

Opponents long argued it was unlawful for the pipeline owners, Canada’s Enbridge Inc. and Detroit’s DTE Energy, to force U.S. citizens to sell property under legal threat so the 255-mile-long pipeline stretching across northern Ohio and into Michigan could be built.
» Read article   

» More FERC articles

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

plastic breakdown illustration
Our plastics, our selves

What’s plastic doing to our bodies? This all-female team is investigating.
By Eve Andrews, grist.org
February 6, 2019

The samples that eXXpedition collected will help us understand how plastic might pick up other pollutants, like pesticides and industrial waste, and transfer them to humans through the food chain. In parallel with that work, the team also wrote about its experiences to raise awareness, and began developing ideas for both policy and technology to address this giant plastic dilemma.

One major mystery within that dilemma: what all these bits of plastic might be doing to us. For every tidbit of understanding we gain about the health consequences of chemicals released by plastics, there remains a Gyre-sized quantity of unknowns. But a growing body of evidence suggests some chemicals commonly found in many plastics are associated with everything from breast and prostate cancer, to underdeveloped genitalia and low sperm count in men, to obesity.

In particular, some of the substances that stick to plastics, seep out of them, or are released when they decay are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), meaning that they interfere with the normal function of hormones in the human body. Some may contribute to cancer. They may also cross from a pregnant woman’s body into her fetus, potentially changing the way a baby develops.

It’s that last potential consequence of plastic junk that made Penn decide to found eXXpedition as an all-women’s endeavor. Men get these chemicals inside them as well, of course. “For women,” she said, “it felt like it was a greater significance because we’re passing them on to the next generation.”
» Read article 

» More about plastics in the environment and health

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 9/13/19

WNCI-8

Welcome back.

This week we’re tracking reports of concern that Columbia Gas may have failed to properly cap and test abandoned gas lines following the 2018 disaster in Merrimack Valley. Meanwhile, WGBH posted Episode 2 of its riveting “Fire in the Valley” podcast about those events.

On the regional energy scene, Connecticut is working a decarbonization plan that may free it from constraints imposed by grid operator ISO New England. And pipeline opposition won a significant circuit court victory against federal eminent domain taking of state land. This directly affects the PennEast natural gas pipeline in New Jersey, but other states have taken notice.

Climate change related events displaced a record number of people this year. Meanwhile, the astronomical cost of business as usual is becoming apparent. Of course, the other side of cost is revenue, so we can expect to learn of endless ways to monetize some of the carbon dioxide that must be removed from the atmosphere – some helpful, some not.

Getting from proposal to clean energy reality is proving challenging for Massachusetts, even as more developers bid on offshore wind development. And utilities are confronting grid challenges anticipated by rapid adoption of electric vehicles. On the innovation front, we found an interesting article showing how coastal areas and islands recovering from disasters like Hurricane Dorian could soon be helped by microgrids created from fleets of electric boats.

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry and liquefied natural gas sector continue to to receive bad news in the form of reports showing that substantial infrastructure assets will be stranded before recapturing their capital costs if the world meets its Paris Climate Accord commitments.

— The NFGiM Team

COLUMBIA GAS / MERRIMACK VALLEY DISASTER

Columbia Gas facing up to $1 million fines for abandoned gas service lines following Merrimack Valley explosions
By Michelle Williams, MassLive
September 12, 2019

The disconnected lines require inspections and potentially additional work to properly cap the lines, Nelson said.

State safety officials set a deadline for the initial phase of quality control work on the lines to be done by Nov. 16.

“The Department expects, however, that the company will prioritize this work and have it completed sooner,” Nelson said.

The state also set several mandates on the repairs, including daily updates on the work completed and leak surveillance of the 4,900 gas lines.
» Read article

Board demands safety report from Columbia Gas
By Jessica Valeriani, Eagle Tribune
September 12, 2019

ANDOVER — The Select Board called upon Columbia Gas representatives at the Monday night meeting to provide a safety presentation before members will vote on additional gas main replacement work the utility is seeking to do.

Columbia Gas wants to replace 2,300 feet of cast iron and bare steel gas main on Hidden Road, Gardner Avenue and Forbes Street. The replacement would keep the main at the same pressure it is now — intermediate — instead of increasing it to a high-pressure main.

Representatives said in seven to 10 years, the utility would come back to upgrade the main to high pressure through the same infrastructure installed now, making it less impactful to the community.
» Read article

Fire in the Valley
Episode 2: ‘I Had Never Gone Toward Explosions Before’
By Sean Corcoran, WGBH podcast
September 9, 2019

When WGBH reporters start making their way to the Merrimack Valley, all they know is that buildings and homes are blowing up and catching fire. When they arrive, they discover smoke-filled streets, frightened residents and entire communities wondering if this is over, and what comes next. Soon, one thing is clear: It’s not safe to go back home tonight, and no one knows when it will be.
» Play podcast

»  More on Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley

REGIONAL ENERGY

Connecticut 100% carbon-free plan is chance to move beyond ISO-NE gas focus: DEEP chief
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
September 9, 2019

Connecticut’s 100% carbon-free goal is an opportunity for the state to move beyond grid operator-imposed reliability constraints that favor fossil fuels, Commissioner of the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Katie Dykes told Utility Dive.

Gov. Ned Lamont, D, on Tuesday signed an executive order directing DEEP to produce an analysis on how to get the state to a 100% carbon-free electric grid by 2040. That gives Connecticut the chance to move away from gas-fired plants and toward ancillary services in order to meet regional capacity needs, said Dykes.

“In the absence of states having carbon policies that solve for both emission reduction and reliability, the ISO New England is driving investment in natural gas-fired power plants,” she said. “And so this analysis, it’s intended to help us solve for reliability with zero carbon resources so that we won’t need plants like this going into the future.”
» Read article

» More regional energy news

OTHER PIPELINES

New Jersey wins legal challenge to PennEast natgas pipeline
By Scott DiSavino, Reuters
September 10, 2019

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday barred PennEast Pipeline Co from using a federal law to seize properties controlled by the state of New Jersey in order to build a proposed $1 billion natural gas pipeline.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said in its decision that the U.S. Natural Gas Act does not allow companies to condemn state controlled land in federal court because states enjoy sovereign immunity from such actions under the Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
» Blog editor’s note: This is a huge victory against federal use of eminent domain and hopefully will set precedent for cases around the country.
» Read article

» More on other pipelines

CLIMATE

climate displaced
Extreme Weather Displaced a Record 7 Million in First Half of 2019
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
September 12, 2019

Extreme weather events displaced a record seven million people from their homes during the first six months of this year, a figure that put 2019 on pace to be one of the most disastrous years in almost two decades even before Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, which compiles data from governments, United Nations humanitarian agencies and media reports, concluded in a report published Thursday that floods, landslides, cyclones and other extreme weather events temporarily displaced more people in the first half of this year than during the same period in any other year.

“In today’s changing climate, mass displacement triggered by extreme weather events is becoming the norm,” the center said in its report, adding that the numbers represent “the highest midyear figure ever reported for displacements associated with disasters.” The center has been publishing annual data since 2003.
» Read article

youth climate strike - March 2019
The Massive Cost of Not Adapting to Climate Change
The world must invest $1.8 trillion by 2030 to prepare for the effects of global warming. A new report said the payoff could be four times that.
By Eric Roston, Bloomberg
September 9, 2019

The Global Commission on Adaptation was formed to help ensure that social and economic systems are hardened to withstand the consequences of climate change. But it was also given the job of publicizing the financial and economic incentives in doing so, namely that there are trillions of dollars to be saved.

In a new report, the 34-member group, led by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva, concluded that $1.8 trillion in investment by 2030 concentrated in five categories—weather warning systems, infrastructure, dry-land farming, mangrove protection and water management—would yield $7.1 trillion in benefits.

Chief among them are avoiding the costs of waiting too long.
» Read article

Pulling CO2 out of the air and using it could be a trillion-dollar business
Meet “carbon capture and utilization,” which puts CO2 to work making valuable products.
By David Roberts, Vox.com
September 4, 2019

Scientists generally estimate that to hold the rise in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the preindustrial baseline — a “safe” level of warming — humanity must stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide at around 350 parts per million.

This year, we reached about 410 ppm. There is already too much CO2 in the atmosphere. At this point, to truly vouchsafe a secure climate for future generations, we don’t just have to reduce emissions; we have to pull some CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Given that global carbon emissions are still rising and there are hundreds of gigatons on the way from existing fossil fuel infrastructure, almost every model used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shows us reaching a safe climate involves burying gigatons of CO2, so-called “negative emissions.”
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Offshore wind delays highlight increasing challenge to Massachusetts’ climate goals
By Benjamin Storrow, Climatewire in E&E News
September 10, 2019

Massachusetts has long been one of America’s most successful carbon cutters. The state regularly tops national energy efficiency rankings, helped launch the offshore wind industry in America and is a driving force behind a Northeastern cap-and-trade program for cars.

Greenhouse gases in Massachusetts fell 21% between 1990 and 2016, according to the state’s most recent emissions inventory.

But the Bay State’s carbon-cutting efforts now face a series of hurdles that threaten to undermine its ability to slash emissions further. It plans to rely to a great degree on buying large amounts of clean electricity. Actually building projects to deliver that power is proving a challenge.
» Read article

Latest round of offshore wind bid details released
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service in South Coast Today
September 5, 2019

The state and three utilities on Wednesday released the details of the three pitches they received from developers who want to build wind farms off the coast and deliver clean energy to Massachusetts homes and businesses, and will now use the next two months to select the project that most benefits Massachusetts.

Three companies submitted bids to the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and electric distribution companies by the Aug. 23 deadline to be considered for the state’s second procurement of up to 800 megawatts of offshore wind energy. The state and the utilities stripped the bids of confidential or sensitive material and made them public Wednesday.

The state and Eversource, National Grid and Unitil are seeking to procure at least 400 megawatts of power but will consider proposals from 200 megawatts up to 800 megawatts. The procurement is expected to fulfill the second half of the Legislature’s 2016 authorization of 1,600 megawatts of wind power.
» Read article

turbines in desert
The unknown costs of a 100% carbon-free future
State approaches to a 100% carbon-free future vary and while several costs remain unknown, some solutions are emerging.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
September 3, 2019

Six states enacted ambitious laws requiring them to be at or near 100% renewables and zero emissions by mid-century.

Opponents claimed mandates in Hawaii, California, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico and New York would drive up electricity rates, but ample evidence in today’s falling renewables prices led to lawmaker approval. Now, utilities and policymakers are trying to determine what the full costs of a high renewables power system will ultimately be.

“There was plenty of opposition from people reluctant to believe the marketplace prices reported by Lazard and Xcel Energy,” Colorado Rep. Chris Hansen, D, co-sponsor of a bill requiring “100% clean energy by 2050, told Utility Dive. “Real world data shows renewables’ costs today make clean energy the lowest cost option. When we get to the 2030s, they will still be cheaper and better for the planet.”​
» Read article

» More clean energy articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EV charging
City grids risk being overwhelmed by EV growth: Report
By Chris Teale, Utility Dive
September 10, 2019

Cities’ increased reliance on electric vehicles (EVs) and electric buses could overwhelm their electric grids and result in outages, warned a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Seattle City Light.

While the report’s analysis is primarily focused on Seattle, it offers lessons for other cities, including that grids must be upgraded if they are to rely more heavily on EVs. The report said utilities should partner with city agencies to support “aggressive electrification commitments” and to ensure they keep up with technological changes.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

MICROGRIDS

electric boat
Researchers Propose Floating Microgrids Made up of Electric Boats
By Lisa Cohn, Microgrid Knowledge
September 6, 2019

Electric boats may enable floating microgrids that could serve islands that have historically been powered by fossil fuels, according to a report from researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

“Powering small islands with reliable, affordable and green electricity is a big challenge due to their dispersed geographical location with a limited number of consumers and the heavy dependence on fossil fuels,” said the study, “Real-Time Load and Ancillary Support for a Remote Island Power System Using Electric Boats.”

Floating microgrids made up of electric boat motors, renewable energy and controls offer a substitute that will help power an island and provide electricity after disasters.
» Read article

» More microgrid articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

compare electricity cost
Renewables, storage poised to undercut natural gas prices, increase stranded assets: RMI
If all proposed gas plants are built, 70% of those investments will be rendered uneconomic by 2035, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
September 11, 2019

Carbon-free resources are now cost competitive with new natural gas plants, according to a pair of reports released Monday by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Wind, solar and storage projects, combined with demand-side management, have reached a “tipping point,” one report finds, meaning they’re now able to compete alongside natural gas on price while providing the same reliability services. But unlike the fluctuating price of fuels, these technologies’ prices are expected to continue dropping, the reports’ authors told Utility Dive.

This reality could leave many natural gas investors and utilities with stranded infrastructure assets, the second RMI report finds, and new gas investments should be made with caution.

This presents a new argument for how federal regulators should approach pipeline approvals, Gillian Giannetti, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project, told Utility Dive.

FERC approves pipelines based largely on public convenience and necessity under the Natural Gas Act, she said. But the report “really brings into focus the question of need, if need is to build a pipeline to serve a power plant that will be an uneconomic solution basically as soon as it’s finished,” she said.
» Read article 

The next target in the climate-change debate: your gas stove
By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom, Reuters
September 9, 2019

Dozens of cities in liberal-leaning states such as California, Washington, and Massachusetts are studying proposals to ban or limit the use of natural gas in commercial and residential buildings. The movement opens a new front in the fight against climate change that could affect everything from heating systems in skyscrapers to stoves in suburban homes.

Natural gas companies alarmed by the trend are pushing back with ad campaigns and research promoting gas as a superior cooking fuel and an affordable option in a country that has become the world’s top gas producer.

“We are trying to get ahead of it,” said Stuart Saulters, the Director of Government Affairs of the American Public Gas Association. “We think there is a chance this can domino.”
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry news

LNG NEWS

LNG v Paris Accords
Canada LNG among big oil projects deemed economically unviable under Paris climate pact by study
$50 billion worth of projects could be left ‘deep out of the money’ in lower carbon world
By Ron Bousso, Reuters
September 5, 2019

Major oil companies have approved US$50 billion of projects since last year that will not be economically viable if governments implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, think-tank Carbon Tracker said in a report published on Friday.

The analysis found that investment plans by Royal Dutch Shell, BP and ExxonMobil among other companies will not be compatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5 degree Celsius world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals,” said report co-author Andrew Grant, a former natural resources analyst at Barclays.
» Read article

Trump’s hard sell of American LNG
By James Osborne, Houston Chronicle
September 5, 2019

More than 30 liquefied natural gas import terminals are spread across Europe, so many that tankers coming in from Qatar, the United States and other LNG-producing nations are not nearly enough to meet the facilities’ capacity.

Yet announcements of new import terminals in countries such as Germany and Poland keep coming. In part, that reflects the expectation that demand for liquefied natural gas will increase as the continent shifts away from coal and tries to reduce its dependence on gas delivered through Russian pipelines.

But governments in Europe and across the globe also are coming under increasing pressure to buy American LNG from a Trump administration that has shown a willingness to upend longstanding trade norms in the interests of increasing U.S. exports.
» Read article

» More LNG articles

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 9/6/19

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

We’re pleased to bring you a nice profile article on our friend and ally Pat Martin, who has staunchly resisted the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure while tirelessly advocating for clean, renewable energy.

In local news, Weymouth has another delay in the compressor station approval process, and we have a link to an interesting podcast on last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

On the climate, we’re approaching a potential tipping point beyond which the Amazon rain forest cannot recover – a prolonged and terminal state of die-back. We also found a provocative and informative video to get everyone calibrated on how much renewable energy we really need as we fully decarbonize – and some uncomfortable choices we’ll face.

We’re making progress on renewables, but a new study finds we’re not moving fast enough. And as promised, the Trump administration appears closer to eliminating California’s independence in setting vehicle emissions standards.

Looking at the fossil fuel industry, we find continuing investments in new infrastructure that will not pay off in the event that the Paris Climate Accords are met. A red flag for investors and also for the planet.

— The NFGiM Team

FEATURE

Pat Martin, A Tireless Advocate for Clean Energy
Paul Cuno-Booth, SentinalSource.com
August 30, 2019

Patricia Martin still remembers the oil crisis of the 1970s. The gasoline rationing, the long lines at gas pumps.

Martin, then a young woman, also absorbed something else: “All the people talking about, ‘It doesn’t have to be this way.’ ”

It stayed with her. In the decades since, Martin has continued to think about energy issues and work on them in her spare time. Now, with humanity facing a much more severe crisis — that of climate change — she’s drawing on a lifetime of passion and expertise to tackle the issue on the local, state and regional levels.

Martin, 69, a Rindge resident, chairs her town’s energy commission. She gives to national climate-advocacy groups. She has been arrested twice in acts of climate-motivated civil disobedience.

Several years ago, she helped fight off the proposed Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline, which would have run through Rindge and other Cheshire County communities. She tracks N.H. Public Utilities Commission dockets and comments on proposed fossil-fuel projects. She’s involved in efforts to bring more solar power to the Monadnock Region.

These days, much of her energy goes toward working with a group called Mothers Out Front, a national organization advocating for a transition to clean energy.
» Read article

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

State Delays Review Of Proposed Natural Gas Compressor Station In Weymouth
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service via WBUR
September 3, 2019

A key state agency’s decision on a natural gas compressor station proposal in Weymouth will not come this week as anticipated following an agreement to delay the review process once again.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs told the News Service on Tuesday that the parties involved agreed to another one-month stay on Aug. 16. Regulators will now restart their review on Sept. 16 and complete it by Oct. 5 unless they seek further delays.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS / MERRIMACK VALLEY DISASTER

Fire in the Valley
Episode 1: The First Minutes Of A Disaster
By Sean Corcoran, WGBH Podcast
September 6, 2019

Within moments of the first alarms, homes and businesses in the Merrimack Valley are aflame. Hundreds of people call 9-1-1, as thousands of residents in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover run from their homes, seeking safety in the streets. By the time the gas is shut off, 131 buildings are damaged or destroyed, one person is dead, and nearly two dozen are transported to hospitals.
» Play podcast

» More on the 2018 disaster

CLIMATE

burned amazon
‘It’s Really Close’: How the Amazon Rainforest Could Self-Destruct
Climate change and man-made fires could set off a cycle of self-perpetuating deforestation, scientists warn.
By Max Fisher, New York Times
August 30, 2019

As fires rage across the Amazon, a growing number of scientists are raising the alarm about a nightmare scenario that could see much of the world’s largest rainforest erased from the earth.

Climate change, along with the fires and other man-made forces, appear on the verge of triggering a significant change in the Amazon’s weather system.

No one knows for sure whether and when this might happen, though some scientists who study the Amazon ecosystem call it imminent. If it does happen, a body of research suggests, the Amazon as a whole would cross a tipping point and begin to self-destruct — a process of self-perpetuating deforestation known as dieback.

If that is left unchecked, half or more of the rainforest could erode into savanna, according to some estimates, and then the rainforest, which has long absorbed the world’s greenhouse gases, could instead begin to emit them.
» Read article

First Gigawatt Down (Part II)
Video by Footprint to Wings
Published on July 30, 2019

Climate solutions like you’ve never seen them before. Are you ready to race to zero carbon? What’s your favorite play? Do you have what it takes to move your team to get a first gigawatt down in that play?
» Blog editor’s note: video contains excellent examples of what massive deployment of renewable energy sources like wind and solar entail. The conclusion to temporarily maintain nuclear energy in the mix is controversial but deserves sober consideration. Note that the video does not promote development of new nuke sites.
» Watch video

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Renewable Energy’s Booming, But Still Falling Far Short of Climate Goals
Power sector emissions would have been 15 percent higher in 2018 without the past decade’s renewable energy growth, a UNEP report shows.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
September 6, 2019

Renewable energy capacity quadrupled worldwide over the past 10 years, with an estimated $2.6 trillion invested in its growth, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme shows. But the speed of that growth still falls far short of what researchers say is needed to keep global warming in check.

To meet the Paris climate agreement aim of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last year that the world would need to invest an average of about $3 trillion to $3.5 trillion every year between 2016 and 2050.

“There is certainly a global shift,” said Kathy Hipple, an analyst with the Institute for Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). “The question is, ‘Is it moving fast enough from a climate perspective?’ And arguably it’s not.”
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

CARB independence
White House Prepares to Revoke California’s Right to Set Tougher Pollution Rules
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
September 5, 2019

President Trump is strongly considering a plan to revoke California’s legal authority to set state tailpipe pollution standards that are stricter than federal regulations, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The potential challenge to California’s authority, which would be a stinging broadside to the state’s governor and environmentalists, has been widely anticipated. But what’s notable is that the administration would be decoupling its challenge to California from its broader plan to weaken federal fuel economy standards, the latest sign that its plans for that rollback have fallen into disarray.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL NEWS

stranded fossil investments at 2C
New Oil Projects Won’t Pay Off If World Meets Paris Climate Goals, Report Shows

Not a single tar sands project is likely to pay back investors under a 2°C global warming scenario, Carbon Tracker found.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
September 6, 2019

The world’s leading oil companies increasingly have argued that they must be part of the world’s transition to a low-carbon future. But a new report shows that despite their rhetoric, they continue to spend their money as if that transition may never come.

In just the past year, the biggest global companies committed billions of dollars to projects that will likely lose money if the world slashes fossil fuel use fast enough to meet the Paris climate accord goals, the report, released Thursday night, shows. That poses serious risks to investors.
» Read article

2020 Looks Like the Breakout Year for Building Decarbonization in California
Policymakers are coalescing around electrification as the solution for squeezing carbon out of buildings. Is the market ready?
By Justin Gerdes, Greentech Media
August 23, 2019

California has just 25 years to achieve its economywide carbon-neutrality target. Buildings account for about a quarter of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, so concerted efforts will be needed to squeeze carbon out of the sector, especially existing buildings.

State policymakers are increasingly coalescing around a solution: electrification. As a recent California Energy Commission (CEC) report put it: “There is a growing consensus that building electrification is the most viable and predictable path to zero-emission buildings.”

Recent events underscore this sentiment. California regulators just overhauled a legacy policy that acted as a brake on building electrification. New incentives for electric appliances could be available by the end of this year. Meanwhile, local governments across California are moving to adopt bans on new natural-gas hookups, grabbing the attention of the state’s powerful oil and gas industry.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel articles

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!