Weekly News Check-In 12/6/19

WNCI-1

Welcome back.

Major events are unfolding at the Weymouth compressor station site. Enbridge’s 7,700 horsepower compressor received final approval despite near-universal opposition, well-established evidence of harm, and recent disclosures showing it isn’t even needed. Construction began, resistance escalated, and protesters were arrested.

Climate is generating lots of news. We found reports warning of approaching “tipping points”, beyond which return to our historical climate will not be possible. Better science makes these warnings more urgent. Meanwhile, global carbon emissions hit another record in 2019. If this section had a sound track, it would be like standing next to a fire alarm. We close it out with a story from our archives, showing how the impact of an important 2018 climate report was muted by its release during the distractions of Black Friday.

It’s good to keep in mind that not all clean energy alternatives are equal, and “clean” is a relative term. We found reporting on the negative impact that Canadian hydro power is having on First Nations communities – and why New England should seek better alternatives.

We close with articles from the carbon economy. One describes how the Transportation Climate Initiative is drawing opposition from the oil and gas industry. The divestment movement scored points at a recent Harvard-Yale football game when protesters occupied the field. A scholar discusses how promoters of the fossil fuel industry seem to be moving from denial to a new phase of “climate defiance”. And some good reporting on how the plastics/fracking connection is impacting communities from Pennsylvania to Louisiana.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Lisa Jennings arrested at compressor protest
4 Arrested As Activists ‘Escalate’ Fight Against Weymouth Compressor Station
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
December 5, 2019

Four South Shore residents affiliated with the activist group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) were arrested Thursday outside of the site of a future natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.

At least 35 people showed up to the early morning demonstration to protest construction at the site, which began earlier this week. The activists blocked a road leading to the property for more than an hour, preventing a construction vehicle from passing through. Police repeatedly warned the group that anyone who didn’t move would be arrested, and all but four people complied.

“We are escalating [the fight] because we’ve been left no choice,” Alice Arena, Executive Director of FRRACS, said after the protest.

Joe Herosy of Quincy, Lisa Jennings of Weymouth, Laura Burns of Hingham and Jerry Grenier of Weymouth were arrested and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, according to Norfolk County District Attorney’s office. The charges were converted to civil infractions, of which all four were found responsible. The infractions will be placed on file for the next 30 days, according to the DA’s office.
» Read article

Weymouth construction protest
Four protesters arrested at Weymouth compressor site
About 30 protesters gathered at 50 Bridge St., where crews had begun preliminary work on a station that will allow for the expansion of a natural gas pipeline from New Jersey into Canada.
By Jessica Trufant and Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
December 5, 2019

Four protesters were arrested Thursday after they refused to move out of the way of crews preparing for the construction of a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station that recently received final approval despite the fierce opposition of nearby residents and elected officials.

The protesters were among a group of about 30 people who gathered near the base of the Fore River Bridge on Thursday morning and blocked construction crews for several hours while waving signs and chanting “Go home, Enbridge.”

Police arrested four protesters when they refused to move just before 9 a.m., when police ushered protesters behind temporary barricades to allow workers to start their day.

Joe Herosy, Lisa Jennings, Laura Burns and Jerry Grenier were arrested after blocking a truck from leaving a construction staging area and refusing to get out of the way. The criminal charges were later dropped at Quincy District Court.
» Read article

keep fighting4 arrested as protesters block entrance as work begins at Weymouth compressor station
WCVB Channel 5 News
December 5, 2019

Protesters waving signs and chanting “Go home Enbridge” blocked construction crews Thursday morning in Weymouth at the site of a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station fiercely opposed by nearby residents and elected officials alike.

After nearly five years of protests and standoffs, opposition letters and lawsuits, construction started Wednesday on the Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Enbridge.

About 30 protestors had gathered at 50 Bridge St., where just days earlier crews had begun preliminary work on a station that will allow for the expansion of a natural gas pipeline from New Jersey into Canada.

Four protesters were arrested. Protestors sang and unfurled a banner reading “Fore River residents say no more toxins” in front of a large truck, the Patriot Ledger reported.
» Read article

construction begins
Work starts at Weymouth compressor station site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
December 4, 2019

After nearly five years of protests and standouts, opposition letters and lawsuits, construction has started on a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River.

Just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, several men in hard hats could be seen walking the property as a nearby construction vehicle sat idle. Two police officers sat in cruisers outside the fenced-in property, and a few passing drivers craned their necks to get a look at the action. Workers posted notices from the state Department of Environmental Protection several hours later, along with no-trespassing signs.

Opponents of the project have taken to social media to share photos of machinery and workers arriving at the site. On Tuesday, protesters held signs that read “Poison your own kids” and “Go home.”
» Read article

Compressor construction could begin Tuesday
By Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
November 27, 2019

After years of legal fights, protests and political lobbying, construction on a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth could begin as early as Tuesday.

The proposed 7,700-horsepower station has been met by vociferous protest from residents and lawmakers, but multinational energy transportation company Enbridge and its subsidiary Algonquin appear ready to start building after a last go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A company hired by Enbridge has told residents that it could start clean up work on the Fore River site on Tuesday, but Enbridge itself would not confirm Wednesday when work would start.
» Read article         

Weymouth gas project gets final federal OK
By Danny McDonald, Boston Globe
November 27, 2019

Federal energy officials gave final approval Wednesday to a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, a decision that drew sharp rebukes from local advocates who say the station will pose health and safety risks to the community.

The Federal Energy Regulator Commission granted Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC’s request to start the construction of the station, which is planned for a four-acre parcel on the banks of the Fore River.

Algonquin is a subsidiary of Enbridge, a $126 billion energy giant, and construction for the Weymouth project is expected to begin in early December, according to a company spokesman. The station will be part of a larger Enbridge project that aims to distribute high pressure gas more than 1,000 miles, from New York to Maine and into the Canadian Maritimes.
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

CLIMATE

meltwater rivulets - GreenlandClimate Change Is Accelerating, Bringing World ‘Dangerously Close’ to Irreversible Change
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
December 4, 2019

In a recent commentary in the journal Nature, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany and other institutions warned that the acceleration of ice loss and other effects of climate change have brought the world “dangerously close” to abrupt and irreversible changes, or tipping points. Among these, the researchers said, were the collapse of at least part of the West Antarctic ice sheet — which itself could eventually raise sea levels by four feet or more — or the loss of the Amazon rainforest.

“In our view, the consideration of tipping points helps to define that we are in a climate emergency,” they wrote.
» Read article          
» Read Original Article in Nature

pump jack
Carbon Dioxide Emissions Hit a Record in 2019, Even as Coal Fades
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
December 3, 2019

Emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from fossil fuels hit a record high in 2019, researchers said Tuesday, putting countries farther off course from their goal of halting global warming.

The new data contained glimmers of good news: Worldwide, industrial emissions are on track to rise 0.6 percent this year, a considerably slower pace than the 1.5 percent increase seen in 2017 and the 2.1 percent rise in 2018. The United States and the European Union both managed to cut their carbon dioxide output this year, while India’s emissions grew far more slowly than expected.

And global emissions from coal, the worst-polluting of all fossil fuels, unexpectedly declined by about 0.9 percent in 2019, although that drop was more than offset by strong growth in the use of oil and natural gas around the world.
» Read article

Warming Waters, Moving Fish: How Climate Change Is Reshaping Iceland
By Kendra Pierre-Louis,
Photographs by Nanna Heitmann, New York Times

November 29, 2019

“Fish,” said Gisli Palsson, a professor of anthropology at the University of Iceland, “made us rich.” The money Iceland earned from commercial fishing helped the island, which is about the size of Kentucky, become independent from Denmark in 1944.

But warming waters associated with climate change are causing some fish to seek cooler waters elsewhere, beyond the reach of Icelandic fishermen. Ocean temperatures around Iceland have increased between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years. For the past two seasons, Icelanders have not been able to harvest capelin, a type of smelt, as their numbers plummeted. The warmer waters mean that as some fish leave, causing financial disruption, other fish species arrive, triggering geopolitical conflicts.

Worldwide, research shows the oceans are simmering. Since the middle of last century, the oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. To beat the heat, fish are moving toward cooler waters nearer the planet’s two poles.
» Blog editor’s note: Capelin also provide food for nesting Atlantic puffins and other seabirds. As capelin move farther from established nest sites on Iceland’s shores, birds must fly farther to hunt. Eventually it’s too far and breeding colonies collapse.
» Read article

UN report - catastrophe
‘Bleak’ U.N. Report Finds World Heading to Climate Catastrophes
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
November 26, 2019

Four years after countries struck a landmark deal in Paris to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to avert the worst effects of global warming, humanity is headed toward those very climate catastrophes, according to a United Nations report issued Tuesday, with China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, having expanded their carbon footprints last year.

“The summary findings are bleak,” the report said, because countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions even after repeated warnings from scientists. The result, the authors added, is that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”
» Read article
» Read report

CA oil field
The New Climate Math: The Numbers Keep Getting More Frightening
Scientists keep raising ever-louder alarms about the urgency of tackling climate change, but the world’s governments aren’t listening. Yet the latest numbers don’t lie: Nations now plan to keep producing more coal, oil, and gas than the planet can endure.
By Bill McKibben, Yale Environment 360 – Opinion
November 25, 2019

Scientists have a fairly exact idea of how much carbon dioxide we can still emit and stay south of the red lines we’ve drawn (red lines, it should be pointed out, that we haven’t crossed yet even though we’ve already lost most of the sea ice in the Arctic, intensified the world’s patterns of drought and flood and fire, and turned the ocean 30 percent more acidic. We’re already in great trouble). That estimate of how much we can still sort of afford to burn represents our “carbon budget,” and it’s not very large (it’s not very large because when scientists issued their first dire warnings 30 years ago we paid no attention). Meeting that budget would require — well, it would require budgeting. That’s kind of what the world’s nations did in Paris, when they set out targets and made pledges. Sadly, the pledges didn’t meet the targets: no nation committed to cutting the use of fossil fuels fast enough to dramatically slow down the warming. If you want to use a dieting metaphor, we were unwilling to rein in our appetites in any significant way.

But of course there’s another way at this problem. Along with reducing demand, you could also work to reduce supply. If we didn’t have more coal and oil and gas than we could burn, we would, ipso facto, be more likely to stay on our diet. Sadly, the world’s governments have never made any serious attempt to restrict the production of coal and oil and gas — instead, they’ve offered endless subsidies to spur the endless overproduction of fossil fuels.

One good sign came last week, when California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a temporary ban on fracking in the state. That drew most of the headlines, but the real news was buried in the language of the announcement, which said Sacramento would henceforth be in the business of “managing the decline” of oil production. It took a mighty effort of the state’s environmental justice groups to produce that sentence, but it was worth the sweat: California may be the first really significant oil producer to concede it was going to have to leave a lot of carbon in the ground.
» Read article

black friday report
A Grave Climate Warning, Buried on Black Friday
In a massive new report, federal scientists contradict President Trump and assert that climate change is an intensifying danger to the United States. Too bad it came out on a holiday.
By Robinson Meyer, the Atlantic
November 23, 2018

On Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, the federal government published a massive and dire new report on climate change. The report warns, repeatedly and directly, that climate change could soon imperil the American way of life, transforming every region of the country, imposing frustrating costs on the economy, and harming the health of virtually every citizen.

Most significantly, the National Climate Assessment—which is endorsed by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense, and 10 other federal scientific agencies—contradicts nearly every position taken on the issue by President Donald Trump. Where the president has insisted that fighting global warming will harm the economy, the report responds: Climate change, if left unchecked, could eventually cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and kill thousands of Americans to boot. Where the president has said that the climate will “probably” “change back,” the report replies: Many consequences of climate change will last for millennia, and some (such as the extinction of plant and animal species) will be permanent.

The report is a huge achievement for American science. It represents cumulative decades of work from more than 300 authors. Since 2015, scientists from across the U.S. government, state universities, and businesses have read thousands of studies, summarizing and collating them into this document. By law, a National Climate Assessment like this must be published every four years.

It may seem like a funny report to dump on the public on Black Friday, when most Americans care more about recovering from Thanksgiving dinner than they do about adapting to the grave conclusions of climate science. Indeed, who ordered the report to come out today?

It’s a good question with no obvious answer.
» Blog editor’s note: year-old news, but still relevant.
» Read article

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

The hidden costs of New England’s demand for Canadian hydropower
By VTD Editor, Vermont Digger
December 1, 2019

New England’s appetite for hydroelectricity has stimulated a juggernaut industry across the Northern border — 62% of the energy Canada produces is from hydropower, amounting to a $37 billion contribution to Canada’s GDP and 135,000 jobs, according to a 2015 report from the Canadian Hydropower Association.

The environmental impacts of that energy are tied up in more than 900 large dams on Canada’s waterways, with 14 of its largest 16 rivers dammed, according to International Rivers, a nonprofit advocacy group.
» Read article

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

TCI graphicTransportation Climate Initiative Draws Opposition from Oil and Gasoline Business Groups
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
November 23, 2019

As California continues to battle the Trump administration over the state’s authority to set stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles, a coalition of East Coast states is facing a potential battle of its own, with opposition emerging to the states’ plan to tackle transportation emissions.

That plan, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), seeks to curb transportation-sector greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-invest program. The 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states plus the District of Columbia are modeling it after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a similar cap-and-trade scheme for the power sector.

A public comment period has been open since October, when a framework for a draft regional policy proposal was released. Various individuals, interests, and entities in the petroleum industry — from small gas station owners to large trade associations — weighed in with concerns and ardent opposition to the proposal.

In Pennsylvania, almost all of the comments expressed opposition to the program, many from small oil and fuel companies using almost identical language.

Other negative comments on the proposal came from citizens describing it as hike in the gas tax. A large number of these comments were from people in Maine and Massachusetts, where there appear to be active campaigns pushed by dark money groups and supported by the states’ Republican parties.
» Read article

» More on clean transportation

DIVESTMENT

Harvard-Yale divestment protest
Climate Change Protesters Disrupt Yale-Harvard Football Game
Demonstrators stormed the field during halftime and caused the game to be delayed for about an hour.
By Britton O’Daly, New York Times
November 23, 2019

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Climate change activists stormed the field at the Yale-Harvard football game on Saturday afternoon, disrupting the game at halftime in a protest to call attention to the universities to divest their investments in fossil fuels.

A group of about 70 protesters took to the field just before 2 p.m. after the game’s halftime show. They were then joined by others from the stands.
» Read article

» More on divestment

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

climate defianceFight or Switch? How the Low-carbon Transition Is Disrupting Fossil Fuel Politics
By Cara Daggett, Virginia Tech, in DeSmog Blog
November 29, 2019

As the Trump administration works to weaken regulations on fossil fuel production and use, a larger struggle is playing out across multiple industries. Until recently, oil companies and their defenders generally reacted to calls for regulating carbon emissions by spreading doubt and promoting climate denialism. However, I believe this approach is becoming less effective as climate change effects worsen and public demands for action intensify worldwide.

As a scholar who focuses on the politics of energy and the environment, I see growing anxiety among corporate elites. Some fossil fuel defenders are embracing a new strategy that I call climate defiance. With a transition to a low-carbon economy looming, they are accelerating investments in fossil fuel extraction while pressuring governments to delay climate action.

Climate defiance is leading to some surprising clashes between the Trump Administration, bent on extreme deregulation and extraction, and many other companies who recognize that the fossil fuel economy is unsustainable, even if they have not embarked upon a green transition. Climate change is sparking this self-reflection, which is writing a new chapter in global warming politics.
» Read article

» More on the fossil fuel industry

THE PLASTICS/FRACKING CONNECTION

Cracker view
Pennsylvania Communities Grow Wary of Worsening Air Pollution as Petrochemical Industry Arrives
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
November 27, 2019

Like Washington County residents in Pennsylvania, residents in St. John the Baptist Parish asked the state to do a health study. And like in Pennsylvania, the State of Louisiana has downplayed the community’s concerns until this past August announcing plans to research cancer rates in the area.

In both states, pushback against the intertwined natural gas and petrochemical industries is being framed by some as a conflict between jobs and the environment. But environmental advocates call this a false narrative, pointing to the job potential of the renewable and energy efficiency sectors, which are growing in the United States and around the world, according to the sustainability nonprofit Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
» Read article

Beaver County ethane cracker
With Coal’s Decline, Pennsylvania Communities Watch the Rise of Natural Gas-fueled Plastics
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
November 22, 2019

For Beaver County, just northwest of Pittsburgh, the construction of Royal Dutch Shell’s towering new plastics factory overshadows the closure of the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, the state’s largest coal power station, located along the same stretch of Ohio River in western Pennsylvania.

The juxtaposition of these two projects, in which one powerful fossil fuel supply rises as the other falls, reflects the broader pattern of changing energy sources in America. A growing chorus agrees the expansion of the natural gas industry, which feeds plastics and petrochemical plants like Shell’s, is moving the U.S. in the wrong direction to prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change.
» Read article

» More on the plastics/fracking connection

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