Monthly Archives: October 2019

Weekly News Check-In 10/25/19

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

While the Baker administration continues to move toward approval of the Weymouth compressor station, all local politicians are campaigning on their opposition to it. Citizens and environmental groups continue the fight, with actions planned for October 30th and November 1st. You can follow these and other events here.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report, blaming last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions on weak engineering management at Columbia Gas. Meanwhile, the company has abandoned efforts to add capacity to the Northampton/Easthampton  area, and will extend the moratorium on new gas hookups indefinitely. Other pipelines in the news include Atlantic Coast, PennEast, and Bayou Bridge.

We found interesting reporting from Hopkinton this past July, where town officials were attempting to get Eversource Energy to explain a 2017 “thermal anomaly” at one of three large liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tanks – in which the temperature dropped abnormally. LNG is held at a constant -260F using refrigeration equipment.

Virtual pipelines were in the news because of two recent fatal accidents involving trucks carrying compressed natural gas (CNG). Moving volatile fuel entails risk no matter how it’s done.

Climate news highlights how deniers and carbon-intensive industries are fighting back against efforts to secure a livable future. Expect much more pro-carbon propaganda and fake news during the 2020 presidential campaign. It will come from the oil and gas industry, plastics and petrochemicals, agriculture (especially beef producers), and biomass – and it will be delivered by the likes of The Empowerment Alliance. All this is funded, of course, by dark money.

There’s some good news about clean energy alternatives – global benchmark prices for offshore wind, PV solar, and battery storage continue to fall. New York City is in the news for choosing to replace some gas peaker plants with battery storage.

We wrap up with news about the likelihood that taxpayers will foot the bill for cleaning up the mess after the fracking boom. Also a health warning that EPA limits for exposure to fine particulate air pollution are too high (this very much ties into the Baker administrations attempt to promote biomass as a source of “clean” energy). And a recent study indicates that Styrofoam in the ocean may not last forever.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth compressor foes vow to continue fight
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 22, 2019

Opponents of a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin say they will appeal a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection hearing officer’s ruling to uphold wetlands and waterways permits for the facility.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station leader Alice Arena said the group will challenge the ruling in superior court if DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg reissues wetlands and waterways permits to Algonquin Gas Transmission.

“We will ask Commissioner Suuberg to review this ruling,” she said. “It does not seem to be the policy of the DEP to follow their own regulations by giving us clean air, water, and soil.”

Arena said DEP hearing officer Jane Rothchild’s ruling to uphold the waterways and wetlands permits previously issued to Algonquin is ” extremely disappointing.”
» Read article

Weymouth council candidates vow to fight compressor station
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 21, 2019

Nearly all the councilors-at-large seeking reelection and their opponents vowed during a North Weymouth Civic Association candidates’ night on Oct. 16 to continue fighting against a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin.
» Read article

State official backs two key approvals for compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 16, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Opponents of a natural gas compressor station proposed for the Fore River Basin were dealt two major blows Wednesday when a state adjudicator recommended the approval of a waterways license and a wetlands permit for the project, triggering the start of the final state review in the approval process.

Hearing officer Jane Rothchild of the state Department of Environmental Protection said the department should uphold the license and permit issued to gas company Spectra Energy-Enbridge and reject an appeal filed by Weymouth and a citizens group, which together had argued that the proposed station would worsen air and noise pollution in the Fore River Basin and is not an appropriate use based on state waterways regulations.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg has the final say on the approval of the permit and license.

“In sum, the petitioners have failed to offer persuasive evidence demonstrating that the proposed project does not conform to the requirements of the applicable waterways regulations,” Rothchild wrote in her decision on the waterways license.

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the rulings Wednesday were “further salt in the wound” and a continuation of the town’s disappointment with state officials.

“We have a couple of state agencies that seem hell-bent on getting this permitted,” he said. “We thought we came up with some really strong positions to oppose this on the two permits in question today. Obviously, we don’t have a lot of sway with the feds, but in the areas the state had jurisdiction … we thought we had the greatest opportunity to fight this at the state level.”

Hedlund said the town has fought the proposal at every possible step. Local officials will now have to decide whether to appeal the license and permit in court.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER – MERRIMACK VALLEY

Weak engineering management led to gas explosions, NTSB says
WCVB, Boston
October 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board released the final report Thursday on the investigation into the Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

The probable cause of the overpressurization of natural gas, which led to the explosions and fires, was Columbia Gas’ “weak engineering management” that did not properly plan and oversee a construction project, the 73-page report says.

According to the report, Columbia Gas “did not adequately plan, review, sequence and oversee the construction project that led to the abandonment of a cast iron main without first relocating regulator sensing lines to the new polyethylene main.”

On Sept. 13, 2018, a series of fires and explosions began to erupt in Merrimack Valley homes and businesses served by Columbia Gas. One person was killed and 22 individuals were injured.
» Read article    
» Read report

NiSource Appoints Nick Stavropoulos, Veteran Gas Industry Executive, to Lead Safety Efforts for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts
NiSource, via PR Newswire
October 16, 2019

NiSource Inc., (NYSE:NI) announced today the appointment of Nick Stavropoulos to a new, senior role focused on safety at Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, one of NiSource’s subsidiary companies. Stavropoulos will serve as Chief Safety Advisor for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, and will report directly to Joe Hamrock, Chief Executive Officer and President of NiSource.

Stavropoulos recently retired from his role as President and Chief Operating Officer of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) following a career leading several of the country’s largest natural gas companies.

Stavropoulos will be based in Massachusetts and will advise on all operational safety strategy and planning statewide. As a senior safety expert, he will also engage regularly with external audiences as the company executes on its safety priorities across the state.
» Read article

» More Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley articles

COLUMBIA GAS / TGP 261 UPGRADE

Columbia Gas extends moratorium for Northampton, Easthampton customers
By SCOTT MERZBACH, Daily Hampshire Gazette
October 16, 2019

NORTHAMPTON — A moratorium on adding new natural gas customers in Northampton and Easthampton will continue indefinitely following a decision by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to abandon a project aimed at increasing the pipeline capacity for both cities.

The company last week announced that the moratorium for Northampton and Easthampton, which began in 2015 and has since meant new connections to its supply line are not allowed, will be extended due to changes in the planned “Greater Springfield Service Territory Reliability Project” first unveiled in November 2017.

The company contends that removal of leak-prone pipe, and offering energy-efficiency measures and load management solutions will maintain the safety, reliability and efficiency of its natural gas distribution system for Northampton and Easthampton, along with the rest of its service territory.

Kempic cited limited new growth potential in Northampton and cost as reasons for the cancellation of this project.
» Read article

» More Columbia Gas / TGP 261 Upgrade articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Atlantic Coast Pipeline waiting on Supreme Court, but natural gas debate in SC continues
By Andrew Brown, The Post and Courier
October 13, 2019

No applications have been submitted yet, but the battle lines are being drawn anyway.

The debate over natural gas continues to build in South Carolina, with industry groups and utilities highlighting a potential need for new pipelines and the state’s environmental groups hoping to deter such projects.

Construction on the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been on hold since December because of legal challenges over its federal permits. It’s now up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether work may continue on the project, which is set to begin in West Virginia and end in Lumberton, N.C., some 21 miles away from the South Carolina border.

But those legal setbacks haven’t stopped speculation about the massive project in the Palmetto State.
» Read article

Two New Jersey lawmakers ask FERC for hold on PennEast gas line work after 3rd Circuit setback
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
October 10, 2019

The lawmakers asked for the block on land-clearing and construction-related activities until PennEast submits a new route for FERC a new National Environmental Policy Act review, and a new determination is made of whether the project is in the public interest.

Megan Gibson, staff attorney with the Niskanen Center, which has argued on behalf of landowners, said that while construction is not yet underway, it would not be bad for FERC to issue a stop-work order to draw a bright line blocking any work beyond surveying at this point.
» Read article

Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction Mess Poses Major Risk to Atchafalaya Basin
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 10, 2019

Construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline was completed at the end of March, despite high-water conditions, and has been operational for months.

“The destruction is even worse than I anticipated,” Wilson said, scanning piles of dirt left along the construction site that, in places, were blocking small natural waterways through the swamp.

“I knew it was going to be bad because construction should have stopped when the water got high, but I never imagined it would be this bad,” Wilson told me.

After a monitoring trip in October 2018 of the east side of the basin, when the water in the basin was about three and a half feet higher than normal, he found many navigable waterways blocked, and unbroken stretches of trenched dirt piles, known as spoil banks, restricting water flow in the basin. Wilson reported these issues to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has the authority to enforce regulations. Two weeks ago, on September 26, he was distressed to find the same waterways remain blocked off.

With documentation from several monitoring trips conducted in September, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, and Healthy Gulf, another environmental advocacy group, filed a federal administrative complaint that accuses Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC of a series of U.S. Clean Water Act violations in the basin.
» Read article

» More articles on other pipelines

LNG NEWS

Hopkinton wants answers on ‘thermal anomaly’ at LNG tank
By Jonathan Phelps, MetroWest Daily News
July 15, 2019

HOPKINTON — Fire Chief Steve Slaman is unhappy about town officials being left in the dark about Eversource Energy’s plans to identify and repair a “thermal anomaly” that took place in one of three massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks on Wilson Street.

While officials don’t know the exact cause, the middle tank — known as Tank B — experienced an abnormal drop in temperature in December 2017. The tanks are designed to keep the LNG at a constant temperature of minus 260 degrees.

“They can’t explain it, so they decided to drain the tank,” Slaman said.

The temperature drop came to Slaman’s attention in August 2018 — eight months after the energy company discovered it, according to town officials. The tanks are located at Wilson Street and Legacy Farms Road North.

Last week, Slaman, who also serves as the town’s emergency management director, sent a letter to state Department of Public Utilities officials asking for help to facilitate better communication and planning between the town and Hopkinton LNG Corp., an affiliate of Eversource.

“I have been excluded from real-time information sharing and planning on this important safety issue,” Slaman wrote. “Unless I directly ask for information, the company does not provide it to me.”
» Read article

» More LNG articles

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

virtual pipeline in ditch
After Second Deadly Crash, Regulators Say Trucks Leaking Fracked Gas Cargo Are Fine
By Justin Nobel, DeSmog Blog
October 17, 2019

Last Friday, October 11, a “Virtual Pipeline” truck carrying compressed natural gas crashed on a highway in Orange, Massachusetts, killing the driver, leaking the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, and leading local authorities to evacuate nearby residents.

“Let me put this in perspective, if one of these trucks blew up in the right conditions, it could destroy a neighborhood,” said Bill Huston, director of a research and advocacy program called Terra Vigilate, and one of a small group of advocates raising awareness about the extreme risks of fire and explosion of Virtual Pipeline trucks. “We have called every state and federal agency, we have called the news media, and nobody is responding. These trucks are a brand-new technology, and nearly entirely unregulated — it’s very frustrating.”

This was the second Virtual Pipeline truck crash within three weeks in which the driver was killed and the special cylinders containing the gas, which can be highly explosive, were compromised. It’s part of a string of accidents that a retired state regulator says indicates the vehicles may be violating a federal exemption allowing the trucks to operate, but which federal regulators have disputed.
» Read article

» More virtual pipeline articles

CLIMATE

he who cannot be named
Trump Administration to Begin Official Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
October 23, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing the formal withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to three people briefed on the matter, a long expected move that nevertheless remains a powerful signal to the world.

The official action sets in motion a withdrawal that still would take a year to complete under the rules of the accord. Abandoning the landmark 2015 agreement in which nearly 200 nations vowed to reduce planet warming emissions would fulfill one of President Trump’s key campaign promises while placing the world’s largest economy at odds with the rest of the globe on a top international policy priority.

“I withdrew the United States from the terrible, one-sided climate accord, was a total disaster for our country,” he told a crowd of cheering men and women in hard hats on Wednesday at a natural gas conference in Pittsburgh.
» Read article

TEA logo - large
‘The Empowerment Alliance’ and Other New Dark Money Groups Sound a Lot Like the Natural Gas Industry
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
October 22, 2019

Amid the crescendo of calls for climate action and rising rage directed at the fossil fuel industry, petroleum producers and their allies are engaging in an aggressive promotional push focused on natural gas. The same month that the American Petroleum Institute (API) started running ads emphasizing gas’s role in reducing carbon emissions, a new dark money group has launched under the patriotic guise of promoting “America’s energy independence” by promoting, you guessed it, natural gas.

That group, called The Empowerment Alliance (TEA), is a registered 501(c)4 that does not disclose its donors (and is not required to under law). TEA launched on September 30 with a news release filled with natural gas industry talking points and attacks on the Green New Deal. The organization describes natural gas as “essential to our shared prosperity” in terms of jobs, national security, energy costs, and even air quality, while the Green New Deal is labeled as “radical and unachievable” and a “risky tax scheme.”

This anonymously funded organization, from its leaders to its messaging, is part of a broader chorus of misleading talking points that goes beyond the “natural gas and oil” industry (as the API ads say) to conservative media pundits and top strategists and officials within the Trump administration and the GOP.
» Read article

big beef strikes back
As Beef Comes Under Fire for Climate Impacts, the Industry Fights Back
In at least two states this year, beef and dairy industries have successfully beat back government food initiatives linking livestock to global warming.
By Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News
October 21, 2019

In California, a state legislator introduced a bill called the California Climate-Friendly Food Program, with the goal of promoting plant-based foods in schools and reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to livestock.

Within a few months, references to climate change were stripped out of the text and title. The bill instead became the California School Plant-Based Food and Beverage Program.

On the other coast, in Maryland, the state’s Green Purchasing Committee launched the Carbon-Intensive Foods Subcommittee to study which foods have the largest carbon footprints and to steer the state away from buying those foods. The administration of Gov. Larry Hogan disbanded the committee months later.

In both cases, the states’ farm and beef lobbies got their way.
» Read article

outdoor AC - Doha
Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air condition the outdoors
By Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, reprinted in The Denver Post
October 20, 2019

To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors — in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls so people can window shop with a cool breeze. “If you turn off air conditioners, it will be unbearable. You cannot function effectively,” says Yousef al-Horr, founder of the Gulf Organization for Research and Development.

Yet outdoor air conditioning is part of a vicious cycle. Carbon emissions create global warming, which creates the desire for air conditioning, which creates the need for burning fuels that emit more carbon dioxide. In Qatar, total cooling capacity is expected to nearly double from 2016 to 2030, according to the International District Cooling & Heating Conference.

And it’s going to get hotter.
» Read article

Utilities Are Promising Net Zero Carbon Emissions, But Don’t Expect Big Changes Soon
While the utilities tout ambitious mid-century climate goals, most plan to rely heavily on coal and natural gas for decades. That’s a problem for climate change.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
October 15, 2019

On the western shore of Lake Erie in Michigan, the Monroe Power Plant has been burning coal since the mid-1970s. Its owner, DTE Energy, has no intention of shutting down the massive power plant any time soon, despite its new pledge to cut its company-wide carbon emissions to net zero.

DTE’s plans for the Monroe plant are emblematic of a problem surfacing as a growing number of utilities promise to significantly cut their planet-warming emissions: a lack of urgency.

The timing matters. A recent report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius—the aim of the Paris climate agreement—human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide will have to fall to net zero by mid-century.

Since CO2 emissions build up in the atmosphere and remain there for centuries, those cuts can’t wait until 2050. They have to start now and should be down by nearly half by 2030 for the least disruptive transition, the IPCC shows.
» Read article

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Honors 3 Who Enabled a ‘Fossil Fuel-Free World’ — with an Exxon Twist
The winners developed lithium-ion batteries that made electric vehicles and battery storage for solar and wind power possible as climate solutions.
By Neela Banerjee, InsideClimate News
October 10, 2019

When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to three scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries, it noted the importance of their research in making “a fossil fuel-free world possible,” with electric vehicles and renewable energy storage helping cut emissions that drive climate change.

The great twist in the story is that the Nobel recipient cited for making the “first functional lithium battery,” M. Stanley Whittingham, came to his discovery in the 1970s as a research scientist in the laboratories of Exxon, the corporation that later would lead the vastly successful effort to deny climate change. ExxonMobil faces a trial in New York later this month for allegedly misleading shareholders about the risks climate change poses to the company—and their investments.

Whittingham was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday along with John B. Goodenough, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and Akira Yoshino, a chemist at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan.
» Read article

Rich Counties Get More Help to Escape Climate Risk, New Data Show
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
October 9, 2019

Federal programs to help Americans move away from disaster-prone areas are skewed by the income levels of communities seeking help — rather than being based solely on the risk they face — new data shows, blunting an important tool for helping people cope with climate change.

Since 1989, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has bought and demolished more than 43,000 homes in flood-prone areas, a strategy meant to make communities less vulnerable to disasters. But which homes get selected for the buyouts depends as much on the wealth of the affected neighborhoods as on the actual level of danger that those areas are exposed to, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The findings raise concerns that limited federal funding for adapting to climate change isn’t helping the areas that need it the most, according to the paper’s authors.

“Who benefits?” asked Katharine J. Mach, a professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the paper’s lead author. “There is a real potential for our responses in a changing climate to make the fat cats fatter, so to speak.”
» Read article

life not death for grandchildren
As Climate Rebellion Spreads, UK Gov. Risks “Carbon Blowout” By Investing in Gas
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International – blog post
October 7, 2019

As I write, the latest mobilization of inspiring climate activism by Extinction Rebellion is underway in some 60 cities across the globe, in protests that started in New Zealand and Australia, which then spread across Europe and are now targeting the financial district in New York.

In London, there are two weeks of protests around Westminster, trying to force the UK Government to adopt for mare radical targets to decarbonise the economy by 2025, not the stated Government policy of 2050.

As the Washington Post notes about today’s protests: “It seems their tactics work. It was after those protests, that [UK] Parliament declared a climate emergency. In June, the government signed up to a 2050 decarbonization target, the first major economy to do so.”

But, this comes with a caveat. The Government of Boris Johnson is probably the least climate-friendly ever, with many links to fossil fuel funded think-tanks. The UK Parliament may have declared a climate emergency, but in its Brexit-dominated political deadlock, it has taken no meaningful action on climate.

In fact, the opposite is true, over the last three years since the Brexit vote, as the climate emergency has intensified, the British Parliament has wasted three years of time, and billions in finance that could have helped solve the climate problem. Britain could have shown true climate leadership. It may have signed up for a 2050 decarbonisation policy, but this is way too late to prevent climate chaos.

And it is still making the problem worse. Like many other groups, Oil Change International has pointed out that gas is no bridge fuel. It will not solve the climate crisis.
» Read article

Standing Rock
The Next Standing Rock Is Everywhere
The fight to stave off pipeline projects across the country is being led by tribal nations and marginalized communities. It’s time to listen to them before it’s too late.
By Nick Martin, The New Republic
October 7, 2019

In the past three years, numerous media outlets, The New Republic among them, have predicted a variety of similar pipeline controversies could be the “next Standing Rock.” But the exercise misses something fundamental about the new age of environmental justice.

Pipeline companies—and their lobbyists and ex-employees they’ve planted in the government—are learning. The pitch-to-pipeline process, so often practiced at the expense of marginalized communities, has been honed to perfection. Every day, energy companies participate in the political process that sets the rules of play. With each passing state legislative budget session and hurried community consultation town hall, their roots sink deeper—not just here, in America, but in Canada, in Europe, and in Asia. They are everywhere.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

low benchmark wind-solar-battGlobal offshore wind prices drop 32%: BloombergNEF
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
October 24, 2019

Global benchmark prices for offshore wind have plunged 32% in the past year and 12% in the last six months, according BloombergNEF’s latest analysis released Tuesday.

Benchmark prices hit $78/MWh for the second half of 2019, largely driven by cheaper equipment costs, according to analysts. Meanwhile, onshore wind and solar prices have dropped 6% and 11% respectively since the first half of 2019, hitting global benchmark prices of $47/MWh and $51/MWh. Battery storage prices also fell 35% in the past year, hitting a global average of $186/MWh.

“Ongoing cost declines mean that benchmark PV and wind plants are just 4-5 years away from starting to challenge existing coal and gas plants on a cost-of-energy basis,” BloombergNEF said in its executive summary. “[I]n the U.S., recently financed wind farms in the most windy states are at cost parity with the least efficient operating gas plants, even without the production tax credit.”
» Read article

Richmond Council Limits Commerical Solar Sprawl
By TIM FAULKNER, ecoRI News
October 21, 2019

RICHMOND, R.I. — Another rural community is setting limits on renewable energy.

A week after the the Hopkinton Town Council banned wind turbines, the Richmond Town Council moved to curtail utility-scale solar sprawl.

With no opposition from the public or developers, the council voted unanimously Oct. 15 to adopt a ban on commercial solar development in residential neighborhoods, areas that are classified as R-3 zoning districts. The town already prohibits wind turbines.

The latest restriction on renewable energy in Rhode Island is part of a trend that many communities are following, especially towns with farmland and open space, as developers look for cheap land for industrial-scale wind and solar projects. Efforts to pass statewide siting rules have been sidelined by policy disputes in the General Assembly.

To help these communities, a study through the Office of Energy Resources would help create incentives for building renewable projects on brownfields and built environments such as parking lots and former quarries.
» Read article

New York City trades gas plant for the world’s largest battery
Regulators have approved Ravenwood Development to build a 316 MW / 2,528 MWh energy storage facility across the East River from Manhattan to replace two gas peaker plants in Queens.
By John Weaver, PV Magazine
October 18, 2019
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved a 316 MW / 2528 MWh (that’s 8 hours!) energy storage facility (pdf) to “provide peak capacity, energy, and ancillary services in New York City while enhancing grid reliability”. Ravenwood Development (owners of the current gas plants at the site) plans to build out the project in three phases – 129 MW, 98 MW and then 89 MW – with the first phase complete by March 2021. There is no timetable given for deployment of second and third phases of the project.
» Read article

» More clean energy articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

fracking tabWill the Public End up Paying to Clean up the Fracking Boom?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 18, 2019

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

“It’s starting to become out of control, and we want to rein this in,” Bruce Hicks, Assistant Director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, said in August about companies abandoning oil and gas wells. If North Dakota’s regulators, some of the most industry-friendly in the country, are sounding the alarm, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the nation.

Legally, oil and gas companies are required to set aside money to pay for well cleanup costs, a process known as bonding. These requirements vary by state and for public lands, but in all cases, the amounts required are so small as to be practically irrelevant.
» Read article

Saudi Arabia’s $2 Trillion Climate Wreckage Sale
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
October 16, 2019

Later this week, the board of the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, known as Saudi Aramco, is expected to give its final approval to proceed with its long awaited part privatization, otherwise known as an “Initial Public Offering” or IPO. It is predicted to the biggest IPO in history.

Last week the Guardian newspaper published details of the 20 fossil fuel companies whose “relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.”

Those who invest in Saudi Aramco will be investing in oil production, just at a time when fossil fuel disinvestment increases apace. And rightly so, as CNN points out, one of the risks to the sale is “the potential for reduced oil consumption due to concerns about climate change.”
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

BIOMASS

particle pollution
Scientists fired by Trump warn particle pollution standards don’t protect people
Group was disbanded by the EPA, but continued its work anyway, as Trump agencies roll back environment and health protections
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
October 22, 2019

A group of scientist advisers dismissed by the Trump administration has concluded that national limits on fine particles of air pollution aren’t strong enough to protect people.

The expert panel of epidemiologists and toxicologists was disbanded by the Environmental Protection Agency but decided to continue its work anyway.

The members are issuing their warnings as US regulators are reconsidering a standard for particulate matter – the inhalable pollution that is 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The pollution can include any of hundreds of chemicals and come from power plants, cars, construction sites and fires. It is linked with breathing and heart illnesses and early deaths.

“Based on full consideration of the overall body of scientific evidence, we unequivocally find that the current standards for fine particulate matter do not protect public health and must be revised,” said Chris Frey, a scientist from North Carolina State University who chaired the group. “There is no way for EPA to spin this otherwise.”
 » Read article    
» Blog editor’s note: this article does not specifically mention biomass, but regional development of biomass power plants would increase fine particulate pollution in the northeast. See Baker administration attempts to reclassify biomass as a clean renewable energy source.

NH biomass layoffs
Layoffs Begin At Embattled N.H. Biomass Plants After Subsidy Plans Fail 
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
October 18, 2019

Two of the state’s wood-fired power plants are going offline and laying off staff, after subsidy plans failed in the legislature.

Now, the state is offering job training resources to affected workers – and a new proposal would put more funds toward helping affected workers in the timber industry.

The biomass plants in Springfield and Whitefield laid off most of their 40 total workers this week, says Jasen Stock, the head of the state Timberland Owners’ Association.
» Read article

Is Massachusetts Opening the Door to Dirty Energy?
At the behest of the biomass industry, the Commonwealth might redefine clean energy for the state and start subsidizing pollution.
By Rohemir Ramirez, Conservation Law Foundation blog
October 11, 2019

Earlier this year, I joined Springfield, Massachusetts, residents protesting proposed changes to a state policy that would help build a dirty power plant in their neighborhood. As written, these changes would significantly roll back hard-fought protections against environmentally harmful biomass plants. Community members were unanimous: they do not want these changes, and they do not want this plant.

CLF agrees. These policy changes would incentivize biomass plants to emit more dangerous air pollution, underreport their climate impacts, and take families’ and businesses’ money while harming the health of our communities. They prioritize profits for industry executives over the people who live and work near the plants. And, while biomass developers are pushing for changes that would imminently affect Springfield, weakening this regulation encourages companies to build dirtier power plants in other vulnerable communities, too.
» Read article

» More biomass articles

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

styrofoam on beach
In the Sea, Not All Plastic Lasts Forever
Polystyrene, a common ocean pollutant, decomposes in sunlight much faster than thought, a new study finds.
By William J. Broad, New York Times
October 11, 2019

A major component of ocean pollution is less devastating and more manageable than usually portrayed, according to a scientific team at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Previous studies, including one last year by the United Nations Environment Program, have estimated that polystyrene, a ubiquitous plastic found in trash, could take thousands of years to degrade, making it nearly eternal. But in a new paper, five scientists

Many nations, companies, citizen groups and ocean institutes, as well as United Nations programs, have worked hard to ban single-use items and better regulate their disposal.

“We’re not calling the concerns or the actions wrong,” Christopher M. Reddy, a marine chemist at Woods Hole and another author on the study, said in an interview. “We just have a new thread to add and we think it’s significant.”
» Read article

» More plastics 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 10/11/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

The brave folks in Weymouth are still fighting the good fight against the Enbridge compressor station. US Senators Markey and Warren stepped into the ring with them and sent a strongly-worded letter to CEO Monaco requesting that he seek an alternative site.

Virgo is back! The 14 year old Pekingese mix was reunited with her Very Happy Person after going missing for a whole year following the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Meanwhile, Columbia Gas recently made more news with another large gas leak in that area, and is dealing with the consequences.

We also found pipeline news covering Granite Bridge, Ashland (Eversource), and a good possibility that Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be contested in the Supreme Court.

Not all gas leaks are accidental. Newton & Wellesley were just subjected to a day-long, large “controlled release” to empty a major pipeline for maintenance. And we have further news from a story we carried last week about a fracked gas well blow-out in Louisiana that is now expected to flare or vent for another two months before coming under control.

Climate news includes an article explaining why so many fires are currently consuming the Amazon rain forest. Plus a heads up on a sneaky new non-profit funded by dark money. Its mission is to promote natural gas and discredit the Green New Deal ahead of the 2020 election. After that, you may want to take a rejuvenating skim through the news on clean energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency, and microgrids.

Wrapping up, reporting on the fossil fuel industry offers a steady diet of concern about fracking as a bad financial bet, an environmental disaster, and a source of fuel that appears to be peaking much sooner than its boosters led investors to believe.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Lawmakers ask gas company CEO to pull compressor station plans
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 9, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Members of Weymouth’s Congressional delegation are asking the CEO of a giant energy company to reconsider his company’s decision to build a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River.

In a letter to Enbridge President and CEO AI Monaco, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch asked Monaco to abandon plans to put a compressor station in Weymouth to facilitate Canadian gas exports.

Opponents of the compressor station proposed by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, say it will increase pollution and affect the health and safety of residents who live near the proposed compressor, which would be built at the basin of the Fore River.

“Given the broad opposition to building the compressor station at the proposed location, we strongly urge you to heed the concerns of these state and local officials and experts, and immediately seek an alternative for this project that does not involve siting a compressor station in the middle of a community that rejects it as unnecessary and dangerous,” the letter reads.

» Read article
» Read Markey/Warren letter

Compressor critics say website issues impeding research
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 7, 2019

Residents say they need more time to review more than 1,000 pages of data on a proposed natural-gas compressor station and related documents because of technical errors with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s website that have delayed and even prevented their research.

Weymouth resident Margaret Bellafiore said she sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection over the weekend asking for more time for the respondents to research TRC Environmental Corp.’s draft report called a “release abatement measure” plan, which covers the cleanup of contamination on the proposed compressor site. The state Department of Environmental Protection defines the plan as “a voluntary remedial measure taken to totally clean up small problems, or reduce the magnitude of larger problems.”

Bellafiore said scientists, doctors and residents have been “stymied” trying to evaluate the plan due to technical problems with the state agency’s website, including links to necessary reports that don’t work.
» Read article     

Sit with Andrea: Here I Am Again, 18 months later
Andrea Honore, Sit with Andrea Blog
October 5, 2019

So many times I have sat on the waiting room couch, facing the inner office door, and he’ll cruise by on his way out of the office. Most of the time I say hello, or good afternoon and he is polite enough back to me. No fireworks. I don’t get off the couch and follow him… at least not until Sept 19th.

Why did I follow him? Maybe because I was inspired after helping host the wonderful Dr Sandra Steingraber, and, also, being super-tired apparently tamps down my fantastic anxiety. It must have contributed to the lowering of my normal reserve?
» Read article    

State agency again extends review of compressor station project
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
October 4, 2019

For the ninth time since it began examining the plans, the office of Coastal and Zone Management agreed with Algonquin Gas Transmission to a stay of its federal consistency review. The office paused its work on the project for a month starting Sept. 16, the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs confirmed.

Under the current agreement, it will restart the review on Oct. 16 and complete it by Nov. 4, although that could end up being pushed back by another extension. CZM traditionally does not issue its rulings until other state regulators have completed their reviews, and the Department of Environmental Protection still has not ruled on appeals filed challenging wetlands and waterways permits it issued.
» Read article     

Compressor station foe takes fight to Baker for 200th time
By Anastasia E. Lennon, Boston University State House Program Via Patriot Ledger
September 26 2019

BOSTON – Andrea Honore on Wednesday walked into Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive office for the 200th time in less than three years.

Unlike most days, Honore wasn’t alone. Flanked by other activists, the Weymouth woman sat beneath a portrait of former Gov. Paul Cellucci and calmly laid out her demands for Baker regarding a natural gas compressor station proposed for a site on Weymouth’s Fore River.

Baker did not come out to greet her.

Honore’s first 82 visits to the governor’s suite took place from February through July 2017, while the rest came starting this past January, when an air-quality permit for the contested site was announced. The State House is just a 15-minute walk from her job, which allows her to visit frequently.

“What would you do to save your home, Governor Baker? How hard would you fight?” Honore said in her opening statement. “Those of us who live in the Fore River Basin area and beyond are doing everything we can to save our home and health.”

She went on to demand that Baker immediately direct the state’s agencies to deny the remaining permits, citing state law, halt the current alteration of the site at 50 Bridge St., and find more independent sources to conduct the safety and impact studies. Honore also asked that Baker order the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health to retract their previous healthimpact assessment for the project and perform a new, peer-reviewed one.
» Read article    

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS

Virgo
Woman Reunites With Dog Lost After Merrimack Valley Explosions

By Jim Smith, CBS News
October 3, 2019

Altagracia Baldera was in disbelief as she held her 14-year-old Pekingese mix in her arms. Virgo had been missing for more than a year, and now she was reunited with her owner.

The incredible story began during last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Baldera was evacuated from her North Andover home and went to stay with her sister in Lawrence. The next day, Virgo escaped in a community she had never been to before.
» Read article     

» More Columbia gas incident articles

COLUMBIA GAS NEWS

Columbia Gas claims line
Lawmakers weigh ‘nuclear option’ for Columbia Gas
By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter
October 4, 2019

BOSTON — Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera doesn’t mince words when asked if he thinks Columbia Gas of Massachusetts should be allowed to continue serving his city.

“Frankly, I think they should lose their license to operate in the state,” the Democrat says. “They’ve proven that they aren’t capable of serving our community.”

Rivera said last week’s gas leak in Lawrence that resulted in service shutoffs and forced evacuations has solidified his view that the company’s franchise should be taken away.

Such a move, however, would require approval by the state Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker and, so far, no legislation to do so has been filed.

But lawmakers who represent the Merrimack Valley say they are increasingly leaning toward the nuclear option.
» Read article    

» More Columbia Gas news

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

PUC consultants oppose approval of Granite Bridge pipeline
By Alex LaCasse, Seacoast Online
October 3, 2019

CONCORD — Hired consultants from the state’s Public Utilities Commission are not recommending approval of the Granite Bridge gas pipeline, saying Liberty Utilities had not done enough analysis to demonstrate it was the best option for meeting future energy needs.

The testimony from PUC consultants John Antonuk, John Adger and Dr. James Letzelter, of the Liberty Consulting Group, was filed earlier this month.

It was joined by other written testimony from the New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate, Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast and the Conservation Law Foundation, all testifying against the project. The deadline for interveners to submit testimony to the PUC was Sept. 13.

The only groups speaking in support were Liberty Utilities and the union representing its gas workers, who stated the project was the most economical way to meet New Hampshire’s future energy needs.
» Read article     

» More Granite Bridge pipeline news

ASHLAND (EVERSOURCE) PIPELINE

Judge sets schedule for Ashland-Eversource pipeline legal clash
By Cesareo Contreras, Metrowest Daily News
October 3, 2019

ASHLAND – Town officials and Eversource Energy have until the new year to build up their respective arguments concerning the company’s right to move forward with its plan to replace a gas pipeline that runs through Hopkinton and Ashland.

On Aug. 23, the town served the company with a Land Court Summons and complaint, calling on the court to restrict the company to just one pipeline along a 3.7-mile easement that runs through both towns.

Eversource wants to place a new 12-inch pipe in the easement along side the current 6-inch pipe, which would be decommissioned. Utility officials say the larger pipe is necessary to solve a problem that causes pressure in the line to drop.

On Monday, Massachusetts Land Court Judge Michael Vhay set a Jan. 10 deadline for both parties to assemble their discovery evidence.
» Read article     

» More Ashland pipeline articles

OTHER PIPELINES

SCOTUS ACP
Supreme Court to take on Atlantic Coast Pipeline appeal
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
October 7, 2019

The Supreme Court’s decision to take on the appeal surprised several of the environmental groups that have litigated against the permits because of the limited applications of the case. Some opponents of the project credited this to the influence of the developers of the 600-mile pipeline, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company.

“These companies are very well connected,” Gerken told Utility Dive.

A wide range of supporters sent in briefs to appeal the Fourth Circuit decision, including the U.S. Solicitor General, 16 state attorneys general and several industry and labor organizations supporting the Forest Service’s authority to approve the pipeline’s crossing of the Appalachian Trail.

“Attorneys general and pipeline companies from around the country that have no stake in this issue have weighed in,” Gerken said.
» Read article     

» More articles about other pipelines

GAS LEAKS NEWS

Gas Release Planned For Newton, Wellesley
Crews are emptying a natural gas pipeline so they can do some maintenance work on it. It will be smelly.
By Jenna Fisher, Patch
October 7, 2019

NEWTON, MA — If you smell gas on Tuesday near the Route-128 interchange, officials say, they’re aware. Algonquin Gas Transmission will be releasing natural gas as part of preventative maintenance work at its Valve Site near Walnut Street in Wellesley and Quinobequin Road in Newton near the Washington Street, Route 128 interchange.

The release is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday and will last for about 12 hours, according to the city. There will be a second release before the middle of the month. This isn’t the first set of gas releases for maintenance. In August there were a couple releases, but neither lasted as long.

It will be smelly. And it will be loud, according to officials.
» Read article     

» More gas leaks articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

LA blowout Oct 4
Already Burning for a Month, Fracked Gas Blowout in Louisiana Could Last Two More Months
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 4, 2019

For the fifth week since the blowout began, a large flare is still burning**update below** at the site of GEP Haynesville, LLC’s blown out fracked gas wells in northwestern Louisiana. The blowout occurred on August 30, shortly after the company began a frack job, igniting two adjacent wells. A state official estimated that efforts to contain the blowout could take another two months, or more.

The flare has gone out at times, resulting in fluid from the well, including what the oil and gas industry calls “produced water,” spreading a mist into the sky over a mile away, alarming nearby residents.

**UPDATE OCTOBER 8: Patrick Courreges, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), told DeSmog via email on October 8th: “Both blowout wells killed – no longer flowing,” however, work is still underway to kill them permanently.**

“Once out, saltwater and whatever else was shooting out into the sky,” a resident, who asked to not be named, told DeSmog. “It would come back down, making a heavy fog, killing lots of trees, and getting on everything.” The resident said the fog persisted for four days and caused irritation and burning in the eyes and any open wounds when outside for more than a few minutes.
» Read article     

» More about what goes wrong

CLIMATE

Amazon fires and cattle
Why Amazon Fires Keep Raging 10 Years After a Deal to End Them
Many of the thousands of fires burning in Brazil’s Amazon are set by ranchers. A deal inked 10 years ago was meant to stop the problem, but the ecological arson goes on as the Earth warms.
By Clifford Krauss, David Yaffe-Bellany and Mariana Simões, New York Times
October 10, 2019

The immense scale of the fires in Brazil this summer raised a global alarm about the risks they posed to the world’s largest rainforest, which soaks up carbon dioxide and helps keep global temperatures from rising.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Ten years ago, an agreement was reached that was intended to help end these devastating acts of ecological arson.

In 2009, the three biggest Brazilian meatpacking companies signed an agreement with the environmental group Greenpeace not to buy cattle from ranchers who raised their beef in newly deforested areas.
» Read article     

TEA
U.S. group forms to defend natural gas against anti-fossil fuel measures
By Nichola Groom, Reuters
September 30, 2019

A group backed by anonymous donors launched a campaign on Monday to promote the benefits of cheap, abundant natural gas against what it called “radical” proposals like the Green New Deal that would phase out use of the fossil fuel.

The Empowerment Alliance, or TEA, will fund advertising and research to advocate the use of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, in the runup to the U.S. presidential election in November of 2020, Terry Holt, a spokesman for the group, said on Monday.

Most of Republican President Donald Trump’s challengers for the White House are pursuing aggressive policies to fight climate change.

The nonprofit group would not disclose its donors, saying they prefer to remain anonymous because of fears they will be harassed by environmental activists. The group also declined to comment on its budget.
» Read article     

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Baker’s latest solar goal called too small
Pacheco, advocates push administration to think bigger
Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
October 4, 2019

At a Senate oversight hearing on Friday, Baker administration officials said they wanted to expand the original 1,600 megawatt proposal by 800 megawatts and run a tweaked SMART program through 2022. The officials focused on some of the challenges they face – a power grid not set up to absorb power from small solar generators, the high cost of connecting those generators to the grid, and the need to move cautiously with technology changing so rapidly.

“Our grid needs to catch up,” said Judith Judson, the commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources.

With industry groups pushing for a 3,200 megawatt expansion, Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton prodded the Baker administration to get on board. He said the state’s utilities and the Department of Public Utilities are fixated on the reliability of the grid and the price of power. But he said they need to also take into account the looming threat of climate change.

“We need to move much more quickly,” Pacheco said.
» Read article    

Edgartown settles
Edgartown, Vineyard Wind Settle Cable Dispute
Noah Asimow, Vineyard Gazette
October 1, 2019

Vineyard Wind and the Edgartown conservation commission have comes to terms in a dispute over the construction of two heavy-duty underwater cables, as the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm moves through an extensive permitting and construction process.

A settlement signed off on by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this week will allow the conservation commission to play an active role in closely monitoring the project to run an undersea cable from the offshore wind farm past the eastern shore of Chappaquiddick on its way to mainland Cape Cod.

Although the settlement clears one of the last of a long line of local and state permitting hurdles for the massive, 84-turbine ocean infrastructure project, a construction start date remains stalled until at least early 2020 because of delays at the federal level.
» Read article      

» More clean energy articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

electric roads
Electric Roads Could Be a Path to a Driverless Future
Israel and Sweden experiment with a new way to increase the uses of electric cars.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
October 7, 2019

BEIT YANNAI, Israel — Electric vehicles can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at least in theory. But challenges to wide acceptance remain significant: Batteries are expensive, charging stations are few and far between, and recharging takes far more time than a fill-up at the pump.

A technological breakthrough is needed, and many companies are working on ways to make charging faster and travel range longer. Advances have been frustratingly slow.

A small Israeli start-up called Electreon has another idea: electrify the roads to recharge vehicles as they are driven.
» Read article     

» More clean transportation articles

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Boston net zero
Boston To Require All New City-Owned Buildings To Be ‘Net-Zero’ For Carbon Emissions
By Craig LeMoult, WGBH
October 8, 2019

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh plans to require all newly constructed city-owned buildings to be “net zero” for carbon emissions. The plan is detailed in an update to the city’s Climate Action Plan, made public Tuesday.

The directive will require new city buildings to either cause no emissions of carbon — through a combination of efficiency improvements and use of renewable energy — or to offset any emissions, which are caused by oil and gas used for heating and electricity generation, with carbon-reducing investments.

City officials said Walsh will sign an executive order mandating the change in the coming weeks, after he attends the international C40 Mayors Climate Summit in Copenhagen later this week. At the summit, he plans to speak about Boston’s efforts to prepare for climate change and sea level rise.
» Read article     

» More energy efficiency articles

MICROGRIDS

Can We Really Reach These Big Green Goals?
By Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
October 8, 2019

So the pursuit of renewable energy is on. What stands in the way?

Availability of renewable energy — and access to it — is the greatest problem cited. But it’s among a long list that also includes intermittency, difficulty attracting skilled staff, and complexity of power markets and renewable energy contracts.

What can help organizations overcome these problems? Those surveyed cited coordination with their utilities as the biggest enabler.

“In fact, utilities can directly influence the pace and scale at which these organizations can reach their energy goals,” says the report.
» Read article     

» More microgrid articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

fracking peak
Will the Fracking Revolution Peak Before Ever Making Money?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 3, 2019

This week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted that the U.S. oil and gas shale industry, already struggling financially, is now facing “core operational issues.” That should be a truly frightening prospect for investors in American fracking operations, but one which DeSmog has long been warning of.

This one line from the Journal sums up the problems: “Unlike several years ago, when shale production fell due to a global price collapse, the slowdown this year is driven partly by core operational issues, including wells producing less than expected after being drilled too close to one another, and sweet spots running out sooner than anticipated.”

As we have reported at DeSmog over the last year and a half, the shale oil and gas industry, which has driven the recent boom in American oil and gas production, has been on a more than decade-long money-losing streak, with estimated losses of approximately a quarter trillion dollars. Those losses have continued in 2019.
» Read article     
Mossmorran flaring
Mossmorran flaring: Shell forced to burn off gas it cannot sell
By Angie Brown BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter
October 3, 2019

Residents living near the Mossmorran site thought flaring would be reduced after Exxonmobil closed in August.

However, flares have continued to burn because Shell’s only ethane customer is Exxonmobil, which shares the site.

Shell said it was “actively exploring alternative ethane outlets”.

Exxonmobil chose to temporarily close its plant to undertake maintenance on its boilers.

Shell’s Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant separates natural gas liquids into ethane, propane, butane and natural gasoline for storage and onward distribution.

It sells its ethane to Exxonmobil’s neighbouring Fife Ethylene plant, which turns it into ethylene.

Since the Fife Ethylene Plant was temporarily closed down Shell said it “did not have the storage capacity for the significant quantities of ethane produced from North Sea gas”.
» Read article     

US Shale Production Is Set For A Steep Decline
By Nick Cunningham, oilprice.com
October 1, 2019

U.S. oil production fell in July, another worrying sign for the shale industry.

The latest EIA data shows that oil output fell sharply in July, dipping by 276,000 barrels per day. The decrease can be chalked up to outages related to a hurricane that forced oil companies to temporarily idle operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore Gulf of Mexico production plunged by 332,000 bpd in July.

As a result, the dip in output might easily be dismissed as a one-off aberration. However, U.S. output has stagnated in 2019, ending several years of explosive shale growth. Compared to December 2018, total U.S. production was only up 44,000 in June 2019, which essentially means that despite heady forecasts and lots of hype, U.S. shale has plateaued this year.
» 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!

Weekly News Check-In 10/4/19

WNCI-2

Welcome back.

Local resistance to gas infrastructure build-out has been active this week. We found news about the Weymouth compressor station, last week’s near miss in the Merrimack Valley, Granite Bridge and other pipelines. Meanwhile, climate activists were keeping the 9-foot tall Charlie Baker puppet busy on his Climate Catastrophe Tour. We also found lots of news about gas leaks.

On the climate front, DeSmog Blog published a troubling article about chummy relations between captains of the fossil fuel industry and leaders of large environmental non-profits at the recent climate summit. On a happier note, clean transportation could be getting a boost from the planned Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) being developed for the east coast.

Fossil fuel industry news includes articles about shoddy construction and oversight in the North Dakota oil patch, along with another warning about stranded assets. All this while the Trump Administration appears to be stacking the deck with an imbalance of Republicans on FERC.

We wrap up with biomass news from Massachusetts and a ban on single use plastic in Vermont.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Escalate - DEP Action
Compressor protester arrested at state offices as Markey tours site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 2, 2019

An environmental activist was arrested Wednesday during a protest by opponents of a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth who blocked the entrance to the state Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Boston to demand that the agency reject the project.

Nathan Phillips, a Boston University professor, was arrested on a charge of trespassing by Boston police during the protest of the proposed 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station proposed by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge. The charge against Phillips was later dropped, said Laura Borth, a member of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.

Borth was one of a handful of Weymouth residents who showed up at the agency Wednesday and blocked the entrance.

“I think the message of DEP needing to deny the remaining permits got across clear today,” she said.
» Read article


Weymouth compressor foes want new health study done
By Ed Baker, Wickedlocal.com
October 1, 2019

A state health impact assessment of a proposed compressor station site states there would be no substantial health impacts from direct exposure to the facility, but opponents want a new evaluation done.

“We gave a list of demands to Gov. Baker,” said Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS). “We want to let Gov. Baker know we are not going away until the compressor goes away.”

Baker ordered a health impact assessment of the Fore River Basin in July 2017.

The study stated health impacts from the proposed compressor station may be possible through “perceived pollution levels and less comfort with using the nearby outdoor space.”

Weymouth resident Andrea Honore said the state health impact assessment was flawed because it did not get underway until late 2018.

“He (Baker) promised it would be done in 2017, but nothing happened until late 2018,” she said. “It was a condensed study with hundreds of pages. It was not done properly.”
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS

Human error cause of latest Lawrence gas leak, officials say
By WCVB, Channel 5
September 28, 2019

A gas leak that forced hundreds of Lawrence residents from their homes early Friday was caused by human error, according to officials.

In a joint statement, the Department of Public Utilities, Columbia Gas and the City of Lawrence said contractors working for the city inadvertently closed a gas valve, puncturing a gas main in the process.

Officials believe this gas valve was not compliant with DPU standards should have been disabled as part of pipeline reconstruction in 2018.
» Read article

» More Merrimack Valley gas incident articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Granite Bridge pipeline protesters
300 join Climate Strike in Manchester calling for protection of NH environment
By Laura Aronson, Manchester Ink Link
September 22, 2019

The Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, drew millions worldwide, including more than 300 people in Manchester. Nearly a dozen events were planned in New Hampshire. Locals met at Victory Park at 12 p.m. for a march on Elm Street to a rally at Manchester City Hall.

Organizer Jennifer Dube of 350NH said, “I am striking because Manchester does not need the Granite Bridge Pipeline transporting fracked methane gas along Lake Massabesic, threatening their water supply. I am striking because my town of Raymond does not need Liberty Utilities running a gas pipeline under the Lamprey River two times. I am striking because the town of Epping right next door to me does not need Liberty Utilities putting a target on its back: a gigantic, 170 foot high, 200 foot wide tank sized to store 2 billion cubic feet of natural liquid gas.  With projects like that in the works, it is clear that New Hampshire is not on the path to [100] percent clean, safe, renewable energy. We are fighting to stop this harmful pipeline project and to shut down the last, major, coal-fired power plant in New Hampshire. We call on our elected officials to publicly opposed the Granite  Bridge Pipeline project and to endorse the Green New Deal.”
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge pipeline articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Supreme Court - pipelinesSUPREME COURT: 4 pipeline fights to watch this term
By Niina H. Farah, E&E News
September 30, 2019

The Supreme Court could decide to wade into the natural gas pipeline wars this term.

As the court begins its 2019 session, energy experts are watching whether the justices will weigh in on federal permitting, eminent domain and state sovereignty issues around pipeline construction.

So far, the justices have opportunities to consider the Forest Service’s authority to permit the Atlantic Coast pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail and to decide whether developers of the Mountain Valley project can lawfully seize private property before paying. Solicitor General Noel Francisco has urged the justices to hear the Atlantic Coast dispute, which significantly boosts the case’s odds of review.

“Natural gas and oil pipeline infrastructure is not getting less controversial and the Supreme Court may find it appropriate to issue a ruling that definitively settles the matter,” ClearView Energy Partners LLC wrote in a recent analysis.

A third possible case involving state lands takings for the PennEast pipeline may also be brought before the Supreme Court. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is still mulling a request to reconsider its decision to block developers’ access to New Jersey-owned acreage.
» Read article

The $109 Million Lobbying Effort To Run A Pipeline Through National Treasures
The proposed 600-mile-long Atlantic Coast Pipeline would bisect the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests.
By Frank Bass, Huffington Post
September 25, 2019

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile-long project that has been compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests.
Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure “to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress. The companies ― Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, and Southern Co. ― have described the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as “a critical infrastructure project that will strengthen the economic vitality, environmental health, and energy security of the Mid-Atlantic region.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which separately has spent almost $361 million lobbying since the project was announced, estimates economic losses of $91.9 billion and 730,000 lost jobs if the pipeline isn’t built.

The battle over the pipeline highlights the shifting landscape for power companies, which have been presenting natural gas as an energy source that can serve as a bridge fuel during the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, even while the effects of climate change become more apparent. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transfer as much as 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas daily from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania shale fields to facilities in Virginia and North Carolina.
» Read article

» More pipeline articles

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

Climate and transportation activists are carrying a 9-foot-tall Charlie Baker puppet around Massachusetts. Here’s why.
By Christopher Gavin, Boston.com   
September 23, 2019

With the impacts of climate change looming larger year after year, local activists are literally looking to make a big statement around Massachusetts this week.

A nine-foot-tall Gov. Charlie Baker puppet will tower over the volunteers for 350 Mass for a Better Future, a Cambridge-based climate advocacy group carrying the two-dimensional mock-up of the state’s Republican chief executive to several towns and cities on what the group dubbed the “Charlie’s Climate Catastrophe Tour.”

The Baker administration has failed to combat the causes of climate change, particularly fossil fuel dependency, and to lead on the transportation issues plaguing the Commonwealth, Craig Altemose, executive director of Better Future Project, told Boston.com Monday.

That’s why climate and transportation activists are hitting up the sites where they say Baker’s leadership is lacking, from the Weymouth compressor station to a proposed electrical substation in East Boston.
» Read article

» More regional energy news

GAS LEAKS NEWS

Gas leaks in Springfield
Could it happen here?: Gas explosion in Merrimack Valley hangs over new pipeline efforts
By Chris Goudreau, Valley Advocate
October 2, 2019

In response to the [Merrimack Valley] disaster, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to commission a comprehensive independent assessment of the gas distribution system in the Commonwealth. In March, Gov. Baker signed legislation allocating $1.5 million toward the creation of that study by Texas-based Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems chosen by the DPU.

But Gov. Baker and the state of Massachusetts aren’t the only ones investigating the gas infrastructure in the Commonwealth. A coalition of more than 10 nonprofits called Gas Leaks Allies recently published its own 60-page study on Sept. 13 titled Rolling the Dice: Assessment of Gas System Safety in Massachusetts, which covers the condition of the gas systems, analyses gas incidents in the state, examines utility practices and DPU oversight, and looks at the future of natural gas in Massachusetts.

“Longer-term safety, health, and climate protection require an orderly, cost-effective, managed transition from dependence on gas to a safer, cleaner, and more resilient system based on renewable energy, thermal technologies, and energy efficiency,” it concludes.
» Read article    
» Read “Rolling the Dice” study

Activists mark gas leaks in Easthampton, citing environmental and safety concerns
By BERA DUNAU, Daily Hampshire Gazette
October 2, 2019


EASTHAMPTON — A group of activists spent Sunday labeling the sites of reported gas leaks in the city to draw attention to what they consider to be environmental and public safety concerns.

In Massachusetts, gas companies are required to report the sites of gas leaks annually. In 2018, 17 unrepaired leaks were reported in Easthampton.

“They do it at the end of the year,” said Connie Dawson, of Easthampton, who helped organize the event.

Dawson said Columbia Gas repaired 11 Grade 1 leaks in 2018, leaks that have to be repaired immediately because they represent a safety hazard, according to information the group gleaned from the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that focuses on energy efficiency.

On Sunday, each of the 17 reported leaks were labeled with signs, in an event sponsored by Easthampton Climate Action and the Easthampton Democratic Committee.

Dawson expressed concern with the leaks both from a safety perspective and with the methane they leak into the environment. Dawson also said that there may be other leaks.

“It doesn’t include any leaks that may have occurred since then,” she said.
» Read article

State utility regulator slams Columbia Gas
DPU wants “detailed work plan” describing how gas company intends to prevent leaks
By Bill Kirk, Eagle-Tribune
October 1, 2019

LAWRENCE — The state Department of Public Utilities came out swinging Tuesday, hammering Columbia Gas for breaking federal law in one letter and then threatening to fine them $1 million for every violation listed in another letter – both of which were issued as a result of last Friday’s Level 1 gas leak.

Last week’s leak forced the evacuation of dozens of homes and businesses in the same South Lawrence neighborhood devastated by last year’s gas disaster. Hundreds of people were displaced and forced to seek reimbursement for lost food, wages and more.

In the first letter, issued Tuesday morning, DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson told Columbia Gas President Mark Kempic that the utility company must submit a “detailed work plan” describing how it intends to prevent future gas leaks like the one that occurred around 3 a.m. Friday.
» Read article  

» More gas leaks articles

CLIMATE

OGCI members at UN
Oil Industry Set Agenda During Climate Summit Meeting with Big Greens
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
September 30, 2019

Last week, as climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Action Summit, invited leaders from major environmental groups spent their day listening to the leaders of fossil fuel companies discuss how they want to respond to the climate crisis.

Depending on which room you were in, you would have heard two very different messages.

Thunberg’s widely watched speech evoked the urgency of acting on climate change.

“People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing,” Thunberg told the UN summit. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”

Just blocks away, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), whose members include oil giants like ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Saudi Aramco, and BP, was meeting with representatives from large environmental organizations, talking about ways to moderately reduce greenhouse gas pollution while continuing business as usual.
» Read article

plunger
Climate Change May Take Away Your Ability to Flush the Toilet
By K Thor Jensen, Newsweek
September 30, 2019

A new United Nations report states that rising sea levels could render as many as 60 million toilets inoperable in the United States alone, as traditional septic systems are threatened by increased groundwater.

About 1 in 5 American households rely on septic systems to handle their toilet waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These systems work by draining flushed toilets into an underground tank, where bacteria breaks it down into water and solid sludge. That water moves through an outflow tube into a drainage field.

However, as sea levels rise, those drainage fields are becoming saturated, preventing them from absorbing liquid from septic tanks. In addition, erosion removes the necessary soft earth to filter out pollutants, resulting in public health hazards and groundwater contamination.
» Read article

At the Edge of a Warming World
By Nestor Ramos, Boston Globe
September 26, 2019

The Cape we love is at risk now. Cape Cod is perched on a stretch of ocean warming faster than nearly any in the world. And as much as we might wish it away, as hard as we try to ignore it, the effects of climate change here are already visible, tangible, measurable, disturbing.

Perfect summers have grown hotter and muggier. Storms arrive violently, and more often. Occasionally, nature sends up an even more ostentatious flare: A historic home vanishes. The earth opens up and swallows a Honda Civic. A seasoned fisherman on the waters off Provincetown peers over starboard and spies an unmistakable shock of electric green: mahi-mahi, visiting from the tropics.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

TCI moving forward
East Coast states outline carbon pricing plan

Plan would use tax-like structure on fuel
By Andy Metzger, CommonWealth Magazine
October 1, 2019

OFFICIALS FROM MASSACHUSETTS and Maryland on Tuesday laid out in broad strokes their plans for a forthcoming program across the East Coast to reduce harmful tailpipe emissions and fund greener transportation alternatives by pricing the carbon contained in gas and diesel fuels.

The proposal would mimic a gasoline tax from the perspective of consumers, but it is distinct from a traditional tax in a few ways, as a Baker administration official noted on Tuesday.

Known as the Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, it is an ambitious effort involving a dozen states from Maine to Virginia that are collectively trying to cut down on planet-warming emissions from cars and trucks, which have increased in recent decades despite global efforts to halt climate change.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Whistle-blower Reveals Flawed Construction at North Dakota Gas Plants Where Massive Spill Was Downplayed
By Justin Nobel, DeSmog Blog
October 1, 2019

Two North Dakota gas processing plants in the heart of the Bakken oil fields have shown signs of an eroded safety culture and startling construction problems, according to Paul Lehto, a 54-year-old former gas plant operator who has come out as a whistle-blower. He described worrisome conditions at the Lonesome Creek plant, in Alexander, and the Garden Creek plant, in Watford City, where DeSmog recently revealed one of the largest oil and gas industry spills in U.S. history had occurred. Both plants process natural gas brought via pipeline from Bakken wells and are run by the Oklahoma-based oil and gas service company, ONEOK Partners.

“The safety culture is embarrassing,” said Lehto, who has described to DeSmog the discovery of dozens of loose bolts along critical sections of piping, and other improperly set equipment, deficiencies he attributes to the frenzied rush of the oil boom that has dominated the state’s landscape and economy. “North Dakota is basically a Petrostate,” said Lehto, who worked at the two plants between 2015 and 2016. “There is regulatory capture, and sure that happens in other areas, but nowhere is it more extreme than in North Dakota.”

“The reason I am coming forward is that while I didn’t think ONEOK was doing their job, I still trusted the state to regulate and do its job,” said Lehto. “But in reading what the state’s response was to the condensate spill, I have lost all confidence that the state is acting as a legitimate regulator.”
» Read article

The Stranded Asset Threat to Natural Gas
This week on The Interchange podcast: Is natural gas the new coal?
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media
September 27, 2019

There are $70 billion worth of natural-gas-fired power plants planned in the U.S. through the mid-2020s. But a combination of wind, solar, batteries and demand-side management could threaten up to 90 percent of those investments.

New modeling from the Rocky Mountain Institute shows that more than 60 gigawatts of new gas plants are already economically challenged by those technologies. And by the mid-2030s, existing gas plants will be under threat.

How severe is the threat? Could we eventually see tens of gigawatts of stranded gas plants?

RMI set out to answer that question in two reports on the economics of gas generation and gas pipelines. The tipping point is now, it concludes.
» Play podcast

» More fossil fuel articles

FERC

Trump bucks bipartisan tradition with plan to nominate Republican FERC commissioner
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
October 2, 2019

President Donald Trump intends to nominate a Republican for one of two vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a White House announcement Monday.

Although the administration had previously advanced pairs of Republican and Democratic nominees together, when possible, Trump will nominate FERC general counsel James Danly. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Joe Manchin, W.Va., noted his disappointment with the administration’s “failing to honor the tradition of a bipartisan pairing” for the independent agency.

The White House could still announce the nomination of a Democrat in order to maintain the bipartisan pairing tradition, and they have options. A rumored Democratic candidate, Allison Clements, received pre-clearance this summer from a designated ethics agent for her ethics guidance and financial disclosure, according to sources familiar with the matter.
» Read article

» More FERC articles

BIOMASS

At hearing on Mass. forest protection bill, it’s climate vs. industry
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
September 25, 2019

BOSTON — Competing views of the impact of logging in state-owned forests at a time of climate crisis clashed Tuesday at a hearing chaired by a Berkshires lawmaker.

The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture took over two hours of testimony on a bill, “An Act Relative to Forest Protection,” that would classify all state land as parks or reserves, with virtually no allowance for commercial logging.

Berkshire County is home to thousands of acres of state forest that would be affected by the change proposed in the bill filed this year by state Rep. Susannah M. Whipps of Athol.

Opponents, including the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, say the measure would hurt municipalities that receive revenues from logging and weaken the state’s forest products industry. They contend state-owned forests are already sequestering carbon at impressive levels and in that way playing a role in combating climate change.

But as global leaders meet this week in New York City to discuss climate change, some who back the bill pressed the committee to do its part to ensure Massachusetts is living up to its climate goals.

Michael Kellett, executive director of the nonprofit Restore: The North Woods, said the bill would enable publicly owned trees on land that represents a fifth of all Massachusetts forests to continue to draw in and hold carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The measure would affect roughly 610,000 acres of forest.

“We face a climate emergency and this is a simple and effective way to help increase the capacity of our forests to protect biodiversity and sequester carbon now and in the future,” Kellett said.
» Read article

» More biomass articles

PLASTIC BANS

Vermont plastic banVermont Takes Next Steps in Stopping Toxic Plastic Pollution
We break down the toxic toll of plastic pollution as state working group convenes to document health and environmental impacts
By Jen Duggan, Conservation Law Foundation
October 2, 2019

Earlier this year, CLF helped Vermont pass the strongest state law in the nation to reduce dangerous plastic pollution. Act 69 tackles four of the most common single-use plastics by banning plastic bags, stirrers, and toxic polystyrene food packaging and making plastic straws available only on request.

The new law also directs legislators and other stakeholders to work together this fall to develop even stronger measures to curb the use of toxic plastic products. The group, called the Single-Use Products Working Group, must submit a report by December 1, 2019, to the Vermont General Assembly that documents the public health and environmental impacts of plastic pollution and identifies additional action to address the plastic crisis.

Plastic is much more than a litter problem. It exposes us to harmful chemicals and contributes to the climate crisis. We must eliminate all single-use plastics – or risk more harm to our health, our environment, and our climate. As the Working Group meets over the coming months, CLF will be there at every step to push for the bold action and creative solutions we need to tackle our plastic crisis.
» Read web post    

» More plastic ban 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!