Monthly Archives: August 2021

Weekly News Check-In 8/27/21

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Welcome back.

We’re leading this week with a letter-writing action organized by the #StopLine3 movement, including a link with a sample you can customize and send to Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary Jaime Pinkham, requesting a federal environmental impact statement to assess threats to treaty rights, water protection, and climate related to this tar sands oil pipeline. The local tie-in is Canadian energy giant Enbridge, which also developed the Weymouth compressor station and operates an office in Westwood, MA.

Meanwhile, the environmental impact statement just released by Mountain Valley Pipeline left environmentalists unimpressed, but was accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Construction will continue for now.

So far, central banks (and large commercial banks) have been slow to recognize the urgent need for fossil fuel divestment, but the insurance industry appears to be catching on quickly. Damages related to climate-driven disasters are stacking up serious numbers, exposing insurers – and shareholders – to mounting financial risk.

The green economy should redress some longstanding economic, social, and racial inequities, and a recent labor agreement related to the offshore Vineyard Wind project reveals that Massachusetts construction labor unions are going to have to diversify their ranks to comply with new requirements.

Our climate news is once again about weird weather. For the first time on record, it rained at Summit research station atop two miles of ice at Greenland’s highest elevation. And it wasn’t just sprinkles….

A Canadian utility has created a marketplace for distributed clean energy resources like rooftop solar panels, using blockchain technology. Meanwhile, electric cooperatives are playing a role as laboratories of the modern grid – experimenting with everything from smart meters to large batteries as they innovate in the best interest of rate payers. Related to this, energy storage had a big year in 2020, but the pace of battery installation has to increase significantly to meet climate goals.

Staying with the battery theme, our Clean Transportation section considers what to do with the coming tsunami of retired electric vehicle batteries, and also provides an update on the Chevy Bolt recall.

We recently added a section on the siting impacts of renewables, and this week we offer two illustrative reports. One considers how far irritating noises can travel from land-based wind farms. That’s important because these sounds may impact the health of humans and wildlife. We also found an excellent article on a solar development proposed for a 25 acre wooded area in Mount Pleasant, NY. Reporter Michael Gold does an excellent job discussing the most important reasons why cutting trees for solar is undesirable.

The fossil fuel industry isn’t going to call it quits until every last hydrocarbon molecule they can get their hands on is extracted, sold, and burned. And as the inevitable clean energy transition bears down, extraction operations are getting riskier and moving at breakneck speed. All the hype around blue hydrogen and carbon sequestration serve to delay the transition while continuing the fossil infrastructure build-out. Floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) is ripe for similar greenwashing and promotion as a (false) climate solution.

button - BEAT News button - BZWI For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Berkshire Zero Waste Initiative (BZWI)!

— The NFGiM Team

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Stop Line 3 artwork
#StopLine3 And Its Westwood Connection
Enbridge Inc., the embattled company of the #StopLine3 movement, has an office here in Westwood.
By Heather T. Ford, Patch
August 22, 2021

#StopLine3 is a movement supporting the Ojibwe people, their community, and environmental groups in Minnesota. They have fought for six years to stop Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy from building the massive Line 3 pipeline in Northern Minnesota. The purpose of the Line 3 pipeline would be to take oil from Canada’s tar sands region to Superior, Wisconsin.

The pipeline violates several treaties with the Ojibwe people that establish their right to hunt, fish, and gather along the proposed route. The pipeline would cross 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River, twice.

But what does a pipeline in Minnesota have to do with Westwood, MA? First of all, the controversial Weymouth Compressor Station in North Weymouth, MA is less than twenty miles from our town. Like Line 3, it is operated by Enbridge, Inc.

To quote the No Compressor site:

“This compressor station will create air, noise, and odor problems that will affect residents in Weymouth, Quincy, Braintree, and the South Shore. Compressors pose a serious health risk, especially when in such close proximity to a dense residential area. There’s also a history of catastrophic accidents at similar Compressors that could paralyze traffic, devastate our waterfront, and put residents at serious risk.”

Enbridge’s M&N Operating Company, which is in charge of the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline (where the Weymouth compressor is located), has an office at 8 Wilson Way in Westwood, MA.

To take action to #StopLine3, go here.
» Read article           

Santos servedShareholder group sues Santos over “misleading” claims that gas is “clean energy”
By Michael Mazengarb, Renew Economy
August 26, 2021

A shareholder advocacy group has launched legal action against oil and gas company Santos in the [Australian] Federal Court, alleging the company has made multiple breaches of corporate and consumer protection laws by making false claims that gas was a form of “clean energy”.

In legal proceedings launched on Thursday, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) will allege that Santos has breached the Corporations Act and the Australian Consumer Law, with the advocacy group claiming that Santos undertook “misleading or deceptive conduct” when the gas company claimed to be a producer of “clean energy” and that it was a producer of “clean fuels” in its 2020 annual report.

ACCR will also allege that Santos made misleading representations that it has a clear and credible pathway to achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, that the company’s plans were reliant on unproven technologies, and that Santos had plans to expand its natural gas operations.

The group said that the legal action was a ‘world first’ test of a fossil fuel company’s commitment to a zero emissions target, as well as the viability of relying on unproven technologies, including carbon capture and storage and the production of “blue” hydrogen, to meet those targets.
» Read article           

» More about protests and actions           

 

PIPELINES

MVP in VA
FERC releases Mountain Valley Pipeline environmental statement
By Paul J. Gough , Pittsburgh Business Times
August 16, 2021

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has released a new environmental statement on Equitrans Midstream Corp.’s $6.2 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline, recommending that FERC say there won’t be any significant impact to human life with the revised construction methods.

MVP and Equitrans had been told to go back to the drawing board with environmental impacts and changes to the plans, particularly for water crossings. FERC, in a document with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that the amended plan would lead to fewer direct impacts. It said that there would be added noise and emissions, but it wouldn’t be significant in the long term.

“Therefore, we recommend that the Commission Order contain a finding of no significant impact and include the measures listed below as conditions in any authorization the Commission may issue to Mountain Valley,” FERC said in the statement. It also said that MVP should continue to comply with environmental conditions and continue with the trenchless crossing measures and other measures on waterbodies.

Environmental advocates, who have been fighting the pipeline from the beginning, weren’t impressed.

“Given that a comment period for this project just ended 10 days ago and that the public submitted hundreds of pages of comments and a large volume of data and analyses, it is difficult to believe that FERC has even read and understood all of that information, let alone responsibly incorporated it into this document,” said David Sligh, conservation director at Wild Virginia. “It seems that, once again, the FERC staff is pushing this process forward at a breakneck speed to serve MVPs timeline, not doing the job it was required to do.”
» Read article           

» More about pipelines         

 

DIVESTMENT

big shiny building
Insurers Move ‘at Light Speed’ to Limit Exposure to Fossil Industry Risk
By Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press, in The Energy Mix
August 24, 2021

With global climate change threatening to wreak havoc on their industry, insurance companies are increasingly looking to limit their exposure to the fossil fuel sector.

“This was not an issue that was central in the insurance sector, even seven years ago,” Robin Edger, national director of climate change for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, told The Canadian Press. “But now it is moving at light speed.”

In the past three years, 23 major global insurance companies have adopted policies that end or limit insurance for the coal industry, and nine have ended or limited insurance for the Canadian tar sands/oil sands.

Other insurers are making changes on the asset side of their books, divesting fossil fuel investments and adding green energy to their investment portfolios. In July, eight of the world’s largest insurance companies—including Swiss Re, Zurich Insurance Group, and Aviva—committed to transitioning their portfolios to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The “sustainable finance” movement—which seeks to use the power of investment capital to move toward a lower-carbon economy—also includes pension funds, banks, and mutual funds, CP says (although progress has been decidedly uneven). But of all the institutional investors, insurance companies have perhaps the most on the line when it comes to climate change.
» Read article           

unused tools
Central Banks Accused of ‘Dawdling’ on Climate as World Burns
“Instead of using their power to cut off finance for fossil fuels, they are making themselves busy tinkering around the edges of the climate crisis.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
August 24, 2021

Despite needing to “play a critical role in catalyzing the rapid shift of financial flows away from oil, fossil gas, and coal,” 12 major central banks “have instead tinkered at the edges,” according to a report released Tuesday.

The new analysis (pdf) from two dozen advocacy groups including Oil Change International (OCI) examines financing and policies of central banks from Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The report says that “with a few isolated exceptions—such as decisions by the French and Swiss central banks to partially exclude coal from their asset portfolios—central bank activity on carbon pollution and the climate crisis has been limited primarily to measures to increase financial market transparency.”

“While some central bank executives claim that tackling the climate crisis is beyond their mandates,” the report continues, “at the same time they have positively reinforced fossil fuel financing, and even directly financed fossil fuel production.”

“The science is clear,” the report emphasizes, noting that even the International Energy Agency now acknowledges that limiting global heating to 1.5°C this century—the more ambitious temperature target of the Paris climate agreement—requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
» Read article           
» Read the analysis          

» More about divestment          

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

ivory tower
Vineyard Wind’s labor deal exposes tensions overs unions, worker diversity
Most Massachusetts building trade union members are White, and most minority-owned contractors are non-union. Will Vineyard Wind’s commitment to union labor make it harder to meet workforce diversity targets?
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
August 23, 2021

Workforce diversity advocates worry a recent commitment by Vineyard Wind to exclusively use union labor to build the project will impair efforts to diversify Massachusetts’ offshore wind workforce because of unions’ historical lack of diversity.

While unions rarely share racial data, it’s generally agreed that a significant majority of building trades union membership in Massachusetts is White. At the same time, most minority-owned contractors in the Boston area are non-union.

So an agreement announced last month between Vineyard Wind and the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council raised concerns among some, despite the inclusion of diversity targets as part of the deal.

“What Vineyard Wind has done is not just shut but slammed the door tight on any meaningful participation by minority contractors,” said John Cruz, chief executive of Cruz Companies, a third-generation, Black-owned contracting company based in Boston.

Supporters of the labor agreement say they are working to develop a strong pipeline of women and people of color into the unions. However, there is little reason to believe these efforts will bear fruit, said Travis Watson, chair of the Boston Employment Commission, a panel tasked with overseeing employment policies on city-supported construction projects. Union leadership has historically employed strategies both subtle and blatant — from biased union admission testing to explicit racism — to keep people of color out of the ranks, he said. Watson is not convinced that these attitudes have changed, he said.
» Read article           

» More about greening the economy        

 

CLIMATE

The Summit
It Rained at the Summit of Greenland. That’s Never Happened Before.
The showers are another troubling sign of a changing Arctic, which is warming faster than any other region on Earth.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
Aug. 20, 2021

Something extraordinary happened last Saturday at the frigid high point of the Greenland ice sheet, two miles in the sky and more than 500 miles above the Arctic Circle: It rained for the first time.

The rain at a research station — not just a few drops or a drizzle but a stream for several hours, as temperatures rose slightly above freezing — is yet another troubling sign of a changing Arctic, which is warming faster than any other region on the planet.

“It’s incredible, because it does write a new chapter in the book of Greenland,” said Marco Tedesco, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “This is really new.”

At the station, which is called Summit and is occupied year-round under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, there is no record of rain since observations began in the 1980s. And computer simulations show no evidence going back even further, said Thomas Mote, a climate scientist at the University of Georgia.

Above-freezing conditions at Summit are nearly as rare. Before this century, ice cores showed they had occurred only six times in the past 2,000 years, Martin Stendel, a senior researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, wrote in an email message.

But above-freezing temperatures have now occurred at Summit in 2012, 2019 and this year — three times in fewer than 10 years.

The Greenland ice sheet, which is up to two miles thick and covers about 650,000 square miles, has been losing more ice and contributing more to sea-level rise in recent decades as the Earth has warmed from human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

The surface of the ice sheet gains mass every year, because accumulation of snowfall is greater than surface melting. But overall, the sheet loses more ice through melting where it meets the ocean, and through the breaking-off of icebergs. On average over the past two decades, Greenland has lost more than 300 billion tons of ice each year.
» Read article           

» More about climate                 

 

CLEAN ENERGY

blockchain DER
Canadian utility creates marketplace for DER households using blockchain technology
By John Engel, Renewable Energy World
August 23, 2021

Canada’s largest municipally-owned electric utility has launched a pilot program that allows customers with distributed energy resources (DERs) to participate in an energy marketplace using blockchain technology.

Alectra has launched a transactive software platform, GridExchange, to enable customers with solar panels, battery storage, and electric vehicles to participate in a marketplace. Twenty-one households in Ontario will participate in the three-month pilot program.

“The GridExchange pilot project plays a pivotal role in supporting consumers by offering them greater control over their energy usage,” said Brian Bentz, president and CEO, Alectra Inc. “In alignment with Alectra’s commitment to be net-zero by 2050, the launch of GridExchange will help us continue to lower emissions and create value for customers and the Ontario power grid.”
» Read article           

» More about clean energy       

 

MODERNIZING THE GRID

LREC
From smart meters to big batteries, co-ops emerge as clean grid laboratories
A wave of pilot programs by Minnesota electric cooperatives is saving customers money and providing useful data for larger utilities considering new technology and pricing models to encourage grid efficiency.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
August 26, 2021

Minnesota electric cooperatives have quietly emerged as laboratories for clean grid innovation, outpacing investor-owned utilities on smart meter installations, time-based pricing pilots, and experimental storage solutions.

“Co-ops have innovation in their DNA,” said David Ranallo, a spokesperson for Great River Energy, a generation and distribution cooperative that supplies power to 28 member utilities — making it one of the state’s largest co-op players.

Minnesota farmers helped pioneer the electric co-op model more than a century ago, pooling resources to build power lines, transformers and other equipment to deliver power to rural parts of the state. Today, 44 member-owned electric co-ops serve about 1.7 million rural and suburban customers and supply almost a quarter of the state’s electricity.

Co-op utilities have by many measures lagged on clean energy. Many still rely on electricity from coal-fired power plants. They’ve used political clout with rural lawmakers to oppose new pollution regulations and climate legislation, and some have tried to levy steep fees on customers who install solar panels.

Where they are emerging as innovators is with new models and technology for managing electric grid loads — from load-shifting water heaters to a giant experimental battery made of iron. The programs are saving customers money by delaying the need for expensive new infrastructure, and also showing ways to unlock more value from cheap but variable wind and solar power.
» Read article           

» More about modernizing the grid      

 

ENERGY STORAGE

Connexus worker
Battery power capacity in the US grew big time in 2020
But a lot more capacity is needed
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 19, 2021

2020 was a big year for big batteries in the US, which is crucial for getting grids to run on more renewable energy. Power capacity — a measure of how much power a battery can instantly discharge — for large-scale batteries grew at an unprecedented pace in the US last year, according to an annual report released this week by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

2020 smashed the previous record set in 2018 for the biggest growth in power capacity in the US with 489MW of large-scale battery storage added. That’s more than twice what was added in 2018. By the end of last year, there was 1,523MW of large-scale battery power capacity in the US. For comparison, the largest solar farm in the US has a capacity of 579MW and can generate enough electricity for about 255,000 homes.

That’s all good news for renewable energy, but way more batteries are needed to clean up the electricity grid. “It’s great that it’s growing. But by the scale of the grid, it’s still a pretty small drop in the bucket,” says Gerbrand Ceder, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. For perspective, Ceder says, the total battery power capacity in the US at the end of 2020 is still “no bigger than one or two big power plants.”
» Read article           

» More about energy storage             

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Nanjing factory
Millions of electric car batteries will retire in the next decade. What happens to them?
The quest to prevent batteries – rich in raw materials such as cobalt, lithium and nickel – ending up as a mountain of waste
By XiaoZhi Lim, The Guardian
August 20, 2020

A tsunami of electric vehicles is expected in rich countries, as car companies and governments pledge to ramp up their numbers – there are predicted be 145m on the roads by 2030. But while electric vehicles can play an important role in reducing emissions, they also contain a potential environmental timebomb: their batteries.

By one estimate, more than 12m tons of lithium-ion batteries are expected to retire between now and 2030.

Not only do these batteries require large amounts of raw materials, including lithium, nickel and cobalt – mining for which has climate, environmental and human rights impacts – they also threaten to leave a mountain of electronic waste as they reach the end of their lives.

As the automotive industry starts to transform, experts say now is the time to plan for what happens to batteries at the end of their lives, to reduce reliance on mining and keep materials in circulation.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into recycling startups and research centers to figure out how to disassemble dead batteries and extract valuable metals at scale.

But if we want to do more with the materials that we have, recycling shouldn’t be the first solution, said James Pennington, who leads the World Economic Forum’s circular economy program. “The best thing to do at first is to keep things in use for longer,” he said.

“There is a lot of [battery] capacity left at the end of first use in electric vehicles,” said Jessika Richter, who researches environmental policy at Lund University. These batteries may no longer be able run vehicles but they could have second lives storing excess power generated by solar or windfarms.
» Read article           

every Bolt made
GM expands battery-fire recall to Chevy Bolt EUV, every Bolt EV made
By Bengt Halvorson, Green Car Reports
August 20, 2021

General Motors has expanded the recall of Chevrolet Bolt EV models due to battery-related fire concerns—to include 2019-2021 Bolt EV models and new 2022 Bolt EV and EUV models.  GM just earlier this week confirmed that it planned to replace all battery modules on affected 2017-2019 Bolt EV models, subject to be adjusted after an additional investigation. It’s now expecting to do the same with the rest of the Bolt EV population, including models recently delivered and those in dealer inventories.

Both issues are related to the same two potential battery defects, stemming from reports of fires when Bolt EV vehicles had been plugged in and or recently charged to full. The Bolt EV and EUV models use cells made by LG Chem in South Korea through mid 2019, and then Holland, Michigan from mid-2019 on. GM had previously said that the so-called “design level N2.1” made in Michigan were unaffected; it hasn’t yet disclosed whether it’s aware of instances of fire with the newer cells.

Customers are to contact 1-833-EVCHEVY or their dealership with questions, or check the Bolt EV recall page for more information.
» Read article           

» More about clean transportation                

 

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

night noise
Wind turbine swoosh “more annoying” at night, new study finds
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 20, 2021

New federally funded research investigating the association of wind farm noise with adverse effects on humans has found that the “swoosh” sound made by spinning turbine blades was likely to be more noticeable – and more annoying – to nearby residents during the night than during the day.

The research, led by Flinders University PhD candidate Duc Phuc Nguyen and acoustic expert Dr Kristy Hansen, has combined long-term monitoring of wind farm noise with machine learning to quantify and characterise the noise produced by wind turbines.

The resulting two new publications mark the latest findings in the five-year Wind Farm Noise study that was funded by the federal government’s National Health and Medical Research Council, with funding also supplied through Australian Research Council grants.

The Wind Farm Noise Study, based at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep health at Flinders University, is investigating noise characteristics and sleep disturbances at residences located near wind farms, to inform what the researchers describe as the “ongoing debate” around turbine noise and adverse effects on human health.

Claims that wind turbine noise – both those sounds that are detectable to the human ear and the “infrasound” that is undetectable – can affect the health and well-being of humans (and animals) have indeed sparked much passionate and sometimes pretty sensational discussion within and without the renewable energy industry.
» Read article           

Gate of Heaven
Gate of Heaven Solar Farm Denial Fails in Deadlocked Vote
By Michael Gold, The Examiner
August 17, 2021

The Mount Pleasant [NY] Planning Board deadlocked 3-3 on Aug. 5 in a vote that would have denied a 5.75-megawatt ground-mounted solar array on a 25-acre portion of Gate of Heaven Cemetery to move forward.

With board member Jane Abbate absent, the project will be subject to a new vote at a future meeting.

“The clear-cutting of this forest is just immoral,” said Planning Board member Joan Lederman, who proposed the resolution to deny. “And I’m a member of the Church.”

“Destroying the flora and fauna is just plain wrong,” Lederman added.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York owns the cemetery and CES Hawthorne Solar, LLC is the listed applicant. Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, which owns, develops and operates renewable energy infrastructure, is facilitating the project.

Residents, environmental groups and board members who have been skeptical of the proposal cited various concerns during the Aug. 5 public hearing, including the significant destruction of trees.

Saw Mill River Audubon Society chapter member and Briarcliff Manor resident Thomas Ruth argued that the organization supports solar projects on building roofs and parking lots. But in this case, the forested area in the cemetery is “sequestering carbon and protecting biodiversity,” Ruth said.

Pace University Energy and Climate Center wrote in support of the project on May 17, then withdrew its support two weeks later, citing the need to safeguard natural resources, including forests.

Steven Kavee, chairman of the Mount Pleasant Conservation Advisory Council, said the habitat for plants, animals and trees is too valuable to undertake wholesale clearing of the acreage where the panels would be installed.

“The idea of clear-cutting woodlands for solar is the wrong path,” Kavee said in a telephone interview with The Examiner. “We want to see renewable energy, but not at the expense of irreplaceable woodlands. We need to look at places where solar can be done without jeopardizing natural resources. The planet is at risk. This is not zero-sum.”
» Read article           

» More about siting impacts of renewable energy resources        

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

doubling down
The World’s Newest Oil Countries Are Racing To Exploit Reserves
By Irina Slav, Oil Price
August 20, 2021

The new kids on the oil block—Guyana, Suriname, and Ghana—have no plans to let their newly discovered oil wealth go to waste by joining global decarbonization efforts.

They plan to exploit them as best as they can before they become worthless, Reuters has reported, citing statements by government officials made at this week’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Billions of barrels of crude oil have been discovered in the Guyana-Suriname Basin offshore the two South American neighbors as well as in Ghana in recent years.

“We have millions of people without electricity in Africa,” Ghana’s Energy Minister Matthew Opoku Prempeh said at the event. “Energy transition does not mean we’ll see our resources unexploited.”
» Blog editor’s note: Last week, we carried an article about developing countries leapfrogging straight to clean energy – skipping the fossil phase entirely. This story shows that fossil interests will try hard to prevent that.
» Read article           

Noble Bob Douglas
Exxon’s oil drilling gamble off Guyana coast ‘poses major environmental risk’
Experts warn of potential for disaster as Exxon pursues 9bn barrels in sensitive marine ecosystem
By Antonia Juhasz, Floodlight, in The Guardian
August 17, 2021

ExxonMobil’s huge new Guyana project faces charges of a disregard for safety from experts who claim the company has failed to adequately prepare for possible disaster, the Guardian and Floodlight have found.

Exxon has been extracting oil from Liza 1, an ultra-deepwater drilling operation, since 2019 – part of an expansive project spanning more than 6m acres off the coast of Guyana that includes 17 additional prospects in the exploration and preparatory phases.

By 2025, the company expects to produce 800,000 barrels of oil a day, surpassing estimates for its entire oil and natural gas production in the south-western US Permian basin by 100,000 barrels that year. Guyana would then represent Exxon’s largest single source of fossil fuel production anywhere in the world.

But experts claim that Exxon in Guyana appears to be taking advantage of an unprepared government in one of the lowest-income nations in South America, allowing the company to skirt necessary oversight. Worse, they also believe the company’s safety plans are inadequate and dangerous.

A top engineer who studies oil industry disasters, as well as a former government regulator, have leveled criticisms at Exxon. They say workers’ lives, public health and Guyana’s oceans and fisheries – which locals rely on heavily– are all at stake.
» Read article           

» More about fossil fuel             

 

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

second life
Floating LNG can turn ‘constraint into commercial opportunity’
LNG could help cut offshore flaring and venting while opening up new line of income
By Mark Passwaters, Upstream Online
August 18, 2021

Floating liquefied natural gas is still a fairly novel concept, but industry experts speaking at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston on Tuesday argued it could be a major asset for the oil and gas industry in the coming years.

Supporters of FLNG said the process could cut emissions by reducing offshore venting and flaring, opening up an additional revenue stream in the process.

Jean-Philippe Dimbour, Technip Energies’ director of business development and technology for offshore, said global gas flaring is near 150 billion cubic metres, or 25% of US gas consumption and 50% of Africa’s total power consumption.

“It is a massive energy loss,” he said. “Approximately 30% of associated gas is lost offshore due to existing infrastructures.”

Dimbour said associated gas from offshore projects drilling for oil could be a “showstopper” due to greenhouse gas emissions constraints.

With reinjection an unlikely prospect, he said, a centralised FLNG vessel could prove to be cheaper and more efficient for producers needing to dispose of associated gas than sending it to shore — especially for those operating in deep water.
» Blog editor’s note: we’ll keep an eye on FLNG. Ideally, it could capture and use methane that is currently being vented (terrible) or flared (bad), and reduce the need for an equal volume of fracked gas extracted elsewhere while we transition to clean energy. More likely, the industry will see this as a natural gas market growth opportunity, give us a greenwashed sales pitch, and double down on expanding its infrastructure (disastrous).
» Read article           

» More about liquefied natural gas             

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Weekly News Check-In 8/20/21

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Welcome back.

With Canadian energy giant Enbridge crowing about its imminent completion of the controversial Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline, protests and actions in Minnesota range from health professionals pointing out the hazards, to highly personal actions seizing the moral high ground as government fails to protect people and the environment.

Meanwhile, federal judge Sharon Gleason reversed US government approval of ConocoPhillips’ huge “Willow” pipeline project in Alaska, citing inadequate plans to protect polar bears along with failure to analyze the project’s greenhouse gas emissions or explore credible alternatives to the project. ConocoPhillips is expected to appeal. Sadly, Alaska’s governor, its congressional delegation, and even the Biden administration are defending the project – apparently prioritizing potential jobs in a dying industry over survival of a human-habitable planet. You’re not too far off the mark if you recognize that sort of logic as similar to that used by people in the grip of chemical dependencies.

For the few corners of the globe that are not yet as deeply hooked on the fossil economy as wealthy nations, current technology presents a development opportunity to leapfrog directly into a green economy. This is essential, but we’re already committed to a hotter future with increasingly extreme weather clearly tied to climate change.

While transitioning quickly to clean energy is part of the solution, we’re keeping an eye on false promises promoted by Big Oil & Gas and other entrenched interests. Blue hydrogen falls squarely into this category. While the concept has already captured huge government subsidies, a new study shows it’s actually worse for the climate than burning coal or gas. Hey, we have good news in this section too, about new developments in ocean wave energy and flexible solar panels!

Our Energy Efficiency section offers a peek into how homes will generate and manage energy in the near future, and also considers which state might be the first to ban natural gas hookups in new construction. Also related to home energy: residential battery storage is still expensive, but it’s finding a niche market providing emergency backup power.

General Motors once again headlines our Clean Transportation section, having announced that they will replace nearly 70,000 defective battery modules in Chevy Bolt 2017-19 model years. It’s late but welcome news for drivers who found GM’s interim solution, “don’t park the car in your garage, and don’t charge the vehicle unattended”, less than satisfying.

Aside from the blue hydrogen boondoggle mentioned above (more about that in our Fossil Fuel Industry section), Big Oil/Gas/Utility is heavily promoting a self-serving suite of carbon capture & sequestration schemes. Our position is simple: we support the development and deployment of direct air capture technology, recognizing the benefit of actively removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. We do not support projects attached to smokestacks that have the effect of delaying the retirement of facilities that could otherwise be replaced with non-emitting alternatives.

Another greenwashing trend to watch involves the liquefied natural gas industry’s campaign to claim their operations achieve net-zero emissions, in an attempt to win project approvals in the face of recent scientific evidence that the fuel is a climate disaster.

Closing on a high note, the Army Corps of Engineers has demanded a full environmental review of the giant Formosa Plastics plant – a proposed facility intended for Louisiana’s notorious ‘Cancer Alley’, that would produce 800 tons of toxic air pollutants every year, along with the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of three standard coal-fired power plants. This sets the project back considerably, and is a credit to the community group Rise St. James and other activists who fought for years to be heard.

button - BEAT News button - BZWI For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Berkshire Zero Waste Initiative (BZWI)!

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

John Miller
Diver who helped after I-35W bridge collapse returns medals in protest of Line 3 pipeline
He gave them back “as an act of desperation, and because I saw no other way to help bring the necessary urgency and attention to this matter.”
By Melissa Turtinen, Bring Me The News
August 17, 2021

A Navy Diver who helped recover victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis 14 years ago has returned the honors he received in protest of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.

John Miller, who lived in Minnesota for 29 years and now lives in Maui, Hawaii, returned the medals during an event Monday alongside the Red Lake Treaty Camp representing the Red Lake Nation. The event was held near the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.

Miller’s unit led the charge in retrieving the bodies of people missing after the bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007, in what became known as the “sacred mission.” He was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by the Secretary of Defense, and from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty he received the Minnesota Commendation Ribbon with Pendant and a Certificate of Commendation.

Miller in a news release said in “good conscience” he can “no longer keep” the awards from the State of Minnesota, noting he’s doing this in defense of Minnesota’s lands, the Mississippi River and the people of Minnesota to “raise critical public awareness about the disastrous effects of the Line 3 pipeline.”
» Read article             

Mears Park MN
Joining Fight Against Line 3, Health Professionals Urge Biden to Block Project
“It is essentially science denial to permit a pipeline of this magnitude during a climate crisis.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
August 17, 2021

U.S. doctors, nurses, and other health professionals came together Tuesday for a national day of solidarity against Line 3 that included various events and a letter calling on President Joe Biden to block Enbridge’s tar sands project.

The health professionals are pressuring Biden to “take action that climate science demands, listen to the voices of Indigenous frontline leaders,” and reverse the federal government’s permitting of Line 3 under former President Donald Trump.

Their call echoes demands of Indigenous and climate activists who have long fought against the Canadian company’s effort to replace an aging pipeline with one that would have the capacity to transport 760,000 barrels daily.

Noting the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the latest climate science that was released last week, the health professionals… highlight that Line 3 is a problem for not only the climate but also environmental justice, warning that letting the project proceed conflicts with Biden’s “stated goal to stand up against fossil fuel companies and other polluters who put their own profits over people and disproportionately harm communities of color and low income communities.”
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

CP logo
Federal judge throws out U.S. approval of ConocoPhillips Alaska oil project
By Reuters
August 18, 2021

A federal judge on Wednesday reversed the U.S. government’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ planned $6 billion Willow oil development in Alaska, citing problems with its environmental analysis, according to court documents.

The ruling is a fresh blow to a massive drilling project that Alaskan officials hoped would help offset oil production declines in the state.

In her order, Alaska District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said she was vacating the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the development in part because the agency failed to include greenhouse gas emissions from foreign oil consumption in its environmental analysis. It also “failed to adequately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives” for the project, she wrote.

Gleason also said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not outline specific measures to mitigate the project’s impact on polar bears.

Willow, planned for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, was approved by the Trump administration last year as part of its push to ratchet up fossil fuel development on federal lands.

The decision was followed promptly by lawsuits from environmental groups, which argued in part that the government had failed to take into account the impact that drilling would have on wildlife.

Those same groups harshly criticized the administration of President Joe Biden for defending the project’s approval in court, saying it was at odds with his climate change agenda.
» Blog editor’s note (reality check from Alaska Daily News): Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy implied an appeal in a statement issued after the decision: “Make no mistake, today’s ruling from a federal judge trying to shelve a major oil project on American soil does one thing: outsources production to dictatorships and terrorist organizations,” the governor said. “This is a horrible decision. We are giving America over to our enemies piece by piece. The Willow project would power America with 160,000 barrels a day, provide thousands of family-supporting jobs, and greatly benefit the people of Alaska.”
» Read article            
» Read Judge Gleason’s opinion

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

leapfrog to green
‘Leapfrogging’ to Renewable Power Can Deliver Low-Carbon Energy Equity Worldwide
By The Energy Mix
August 17, 2021

Renewable technologies could help emerging economies achieve better and more equitable energy access—without adding to the world’s carbon emissions.

“Instead of developing energy infrastructures based on fossil fuels, low-income countries could leapfrog straight to cleaner, low-carbon technologies,” writes New Scientist. “For low-income countries, making big improvements in access to electricity is crucial. Better access to energy is linked to improvements in education, economic development, and health, for example.”

Currently, Sustainable Energy for All estimates that “759 million people lack access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are unable to cook cleanly.” Expanding energy access can help improve education, economic development, and health, but developing countries have been limited in efforts to achieve these benefits without sufficient energy from fossil fuels.

But with many regions lacking any existing energy infrastructure at all, that gap opens the opportunity to embrace renewables.

It is not unprecedented for countries to sidestep earlier technological progressions of industrialized countries, New Scientist notes. Adopting recent advances in renewable power without first pursuing fossil fuels recalls similar developments in the telecommunications sector, where emergent nations bypassed landlines and jumped directly to widespread mobile phone use.
» Read article             

heat watchCharting a Course to Shrink the Heat Gap Between New York City Neighborhoods
Community organizers and New York residents hope high-resolution maps of hot spots in the Bronx and Manhattan will result in more equitable development.
By Delger Erdenesanaa, Inside Climate News
August 18, 2021

NEW YORK, N.Y.—A few weeks after a deadly June heat wave baked much of the United States, Francisco Casarrubias and another volunteer drove a 10-mile loop around the South Bronx with what looked like a small plastic periscope attached to the car’s passenger window. The sensor, which recorded the air temperature and humidity every second, was one of hundreds deployed around the country in a campaign to map the hottest neighborhoods in more than 20 cities, including New York.

Most people who live in cities know intuitively that areas with more concrete and asphalt are hotter than those with more parks, trees and water. Neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s—excluded from real estate investment, often because the residents were people of color or immigrants—tend to be hotter even now than others. This includes much of the South Bronx, which today is a densely populated and mostly low-income Black and Latino area

Community organizers hope to use the data collected this summer by volunteers like Casarrubias to make the case for investing in green space for the South Bronx. They want to usher in a new kind of development that improves residents’ health and quality of life, according to Melissa Barber, a physician and co-founder of the organization South Bronx Unite.
» Read article             

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Moscow misters
July 2021 Hottest Month Ever Recorded, Says NOAA
By Deutsche Welle, in EcoWatch
August 15, 2021

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US said on Friday that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded globally.

“July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded. This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe,” said Rick Spinrad, administrator of NOAA.

NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said land temperatures over the Northern Hemisphere, with heatwaves in North America and parts of Europe, pushed the mercury past the record.

The last seven Julys from 2015 to 2021 have been the hottest ever, in 142 years of recordkeeping, Sanchez-Lugo added.

“The extreme events we are seeing worldwide — from record-shattering heat waves to extreme rainfall to raging wildfires — are all long-predicted and well understood impacts of a warmer world. They will continue to get more severe until the world cuts its emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases down to net-zero,” he added.

A report released by the UN last week issued a red alert for climate goals, are “nowhere close” to achieving the 1.5-degree target set during the Paris climate agreement.
» Read article             

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

blue not green
Study finds blue hydrogen worse for climate than burning coal or gas
By Petra Stock, Renew Economy
August 16, 2021

It is touted as a “clean” technology, but so-called “blue” hydrogen produced from gas – even with carbon capture – is significantly worse for the climate than burning coal or gas directly, a new study by Cornell and Stanford researchers has found.

Cornell’s Robert Howarth and Stanford’s Mark Jacobson asked the question, “how green is blue hydrogen?” in their peer-reviewed paper, the first to examine the total or ‘lifecycle’ greenhouse gas emissions from blue hydrogen.

The answer? “We see no way that blue hydrogen can be considered ‘green’,” the researchers concluded.

Emissions associated with producing blue hydrogen from gas were actually greater than emissions from burning gas or coal directly, the paper found. This was because of the significant extra energy required for processes to produce hydrogen and power carbon capture and storage.

The hydrogen industry is a significant source of climate pollution globally, responsible for around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to the annual emissions from the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined, according to the International Energy Agency.

That’s because nearly all hydrogen produced and used today comes from fossil fuels, and is classed as either ‘grey’ (from gas) or ‘brown’ (from coal).

‘Blue’ hydrogen involves producing hydrogen from coal or gas with the addition of carbon capture and storage. ‘Green’ hydrogen is produced using a process called electrolysis powered by renewable energy.

Howarth said that while blue hydrogen is often promoted as a climate solution, “unfortunately emissions remain very large”.

“Blue hydrogen sounds good, sounds modern and sounds like a path to our energy future. It is not”, he said.
» Read article            
» Read the paper: How green is blue hydrogen?

dual turbineAustralian “dual turbine” wave power breakthrough promises to double efficiency
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 18, 2021

An Australian-led research breakthrough has raised fresh hopes for wave power’s potential role in the global shift to renewables, with new technology that promises to double the amount of energy able to be harvested from ocean waves.

Researchers from RMIT University, in collaboration with the Beihang University in China, say they have developed a prototype of a “simple and economic” wave energy conversion device that could be twice as efficient at harvesting power than echnologies developed to date.

The technology is based on a buoy-type converter known as a “point absorber,” that harvests energy from the up and down movement of waves.

The key to the efficiency of the RMIT-created prototype, however, is in its ability to naturally float up and down with the swell of the wave – thus dispensing with the need for complicated synching tech – and its use of a “world-first” dual-turbine design.

According to a report published in the journal Applied Energy, the latter involves two turbine wheels stacked on top of each other, which rotate in opposite directions. These, in turn, are connected to a generator through shafts and a belt-pulley driven transmission system.

The generator is placed inside a buoy above the waterline to keep it out of corrosive seawater and extend the lifespan of the device.

“Our prototype technology overcomes some of the key technical challenges that have been holding back the wave energy industry from large-scale deployment,” said lead researcher Professor Xu Wang.

“With further development, we hope this technology could be the foundation for a thriving new renewable energy industry delivering massive environmental and economic benefits.
» Read article         

light and flexibleBendy, lightweight organic solar cells could be fast-tracked by new research
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 16, 2021

A breakthrough in the development of organic solar cells – whose light and bendy abilities have seen them wrapped around wind turbines in a recent trial by Acciona – could deliver a much-needed boost in efficiency and push them further along the path to commercialisation.

Organic solar cells get their name from their composition, with ingredients including materials and elements found in plants and animals, and hold the promise of being lightweight, flexible, and cheap to make.

Standing in the way of their commercialisation, however, is the fact that they have not yet reached the sunlight-to-electricity efficiencies of their silicon-based counterparts.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with experts from Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, and China, think they might be able to make up ground, however, with a way to move energy in organic materials up to 1000’s of times faster than before.
» Read article             

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

climate-adapted
Imagining the climate-proof home in the US: using the least energy possible from the cleanest sources
Solar energy use will become more common as power use becomes smarter and more automated.
By Oliver Milman, with graphics from Rashida Kamal, The Guardian
August 16, 2021

Dealing with the climate crisis involves the overhauling of many facets of life, but few of these changes will feel as tangible and personal as the transformation required within the home.

The 128m households that dot America gobble up energy for heating, cooling and lighting, generating around 20% of all the planet-heating emissions produced in the US. Americans typically live in larger, more energy hungry dwellings than people in other countries, using more than double the energy of the average Briton and 10 times that of the average Chinese person.

This sizable contribution is now coming under the scrutiny of Joe Biden’s administration, which recently put forward a raft of measures to build and upgrade 2m low-emissions homes. “Decarbonizing buildings is a big task but it’s an essential task,” said Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rapid change will be needed to avoid disastrous climate change. To get to zero emissions by the middle of the century, the sale of fossil fuel boilers will have to end within five years, all new buildings will have to run on clean electricity by 2030 and half of all existing buildings will have to be fully retrofitted by 2040, a recent landmark International Energy Agency report warned.

“The appliances we use at home have tended to be overlooked but they are contributing a significant amount to climate change and we need to address that,” said Mike Henchen, an expert in carbon-free buildings at RMI. “That will touch people’s lives – our homes are our refuges, the places we know best. But hopefully the change will also make people’s homes more comfortable, safer and healthier, as well as reduce the climate impact.”

So what will the climate-adapted homes of the future look like?
» Read article             

not quiteInside Clean Energy: Which State Will Be the First to Ban Natural Gas in New Buildings?
As California’s new building code stops short of gas ban, here’s what other states are doing.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
August 19, 2021

A new California building code is a leap forward for reducing the use of natural gas, with rules that set a strong preference for electric heating in new construction.

That’s the glass-half-full view of the rules the state’s energy commission approved last week, according to environmental advocates.

But many of those same people wanted much more. They had hoped that California would become the first state in the country to ban natural gas in most new construction, at a time of growing awareness of the health and climate benefits of all-electric buildings.

Now, advocates are looking to other states that may be the first to pass some kind of gas ban, with candidates that include Massachusetts, New York and Washington.

“California’s new building energy code takes a major step forward toward a future where we have healthy, fossil-fuel-free homes and buildings for all,” said Denise Grab, a manager in the carbon-free buildings group at RMI, the clean energy advocacy and research nonprofit. “That said, it doesn’t go all the way to zero emissions for new construction, which is something that a number of groups, including us, had called for and is needed.”
» Read article             

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

NeoVolta
EnergySage: Emergency backup power driving solar customers towards battery storage
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 18, 2021

Users of US solar price comparison site EnergySage are increasingly drawn towards battery storage through concerns around having enough power in emergency situations, with 70% of users now requesting storage with their solar quotes.

EnergySage is supported by the US Department of Energy (DoE) and enables over 500 pre-screened installation companies to provide quotes for rooftop solar, energy storage, community solar and project financing. It has just released an annual ‘Solar Marketplace Intel Report,’ aggregating and analysing data from the millions of users that obtain quotes.

Following February’s blackouts in Texas, there was a considerable rise in the number of solar shoppers requesting quotes for storage and that demand remained constant for the next five months. In fact, 78% of users in Texas cited resilience concerns and need for backup power as their main reason for wanting storage.

That said, financial interest also motivated a large number of people who were looking to make savings on their utility electricity rates, particularly in Arizona and California, where this applied to two-thirds of customers. About 15% wanted batteries with their solar to go completely off-grid, around a third wanted to be self-sufficient and about a third again said they wanted a future-proof solar PV system capable of adding a battery system later.
» Read article             

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

 Bolt at the beach
2017-2019 Chevy Bolt EV fire recall: GM will replace all battery modules
By Green Car Reports
August 17, 2021

GM has confirmed that it plans to replace all 68,667 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric cars that have potentially defective battery modules—including 50,925 in the U.S.—with new battery modules.

The announcement follows a second recall, announced in July, of the 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV due to a manufacturing defect that has caused some batteries to erupt in flames while charging.

GM hasn’t yet finalized this with a revised recall filing or confirmed a timeline for what will be a massive repair effort for the company. However it issued the following statement: “As part of GM’s commitment to safety, experts from GM and LG have identified the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell as the root cause of battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolt EVs. As a result, GM will replace recalled vehicles’ lithium ion battery modules with new lithium ion battery modules. We will notify customers when replacement parts are ready.”

The company emphasized Tuesday that the plan could still change. “If we determine a different remedy after additional investigation then we will adjust, but right now the plan is to replace all modules,” said spokesperson Kevin Kelly to Green Car Reports.
» Read article                

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

Petra Nova mothballedFossil Fuel Companies Are Quietly Scoring Big Money for Their Preferred Climate Solution: Carbon Capture and Storage
The industry has been pushing through policies devoting billions of dollars to the technology, and much more is likely to come with legislation pending before Congress.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
August 17, 2021

Over the last year, energy companies, electrical utilities and other industrial sectors have been quietly pushing through a suite of policies to support a technology that stands to yield tens of billions of dollars for corporate polluters, but may do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These policies have fast-tracked environmental reviews and allocated billions in federal funding for research and development of carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technologies that pull carbon dioxide out of smokestacks or directly from the air before storing it underground. Just a single bill—the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that passed the Senate last week and is now headed to the House of Representatives—includes more than $12 billion in direct support for carbon capture, and could unlock billions more through other programs, according to the recent drafts.

Many environmental advocates argue that the massive government support would be better spent on proven climate solutions like wind and solar energy, which receive far less in direct funding under the infrastructure bill.

Simon Nicholson, co-director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University, said that if government support for carbon capture and storage is used to help test direct air capture, “then it’s a near-term investment that might have long-term positive implications. That nuance is hard to convey.” But, he added, “it is going to be a bit of a political and commercial scramble for funds here, because the oil and gas companies, the electricity companies, are going to want the money to go towards traditional CCS,” which is attached to smokestacks.
» Read article             

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

H2ZEV
Oil firms made ‘false claims’ on blue hydrogen costs, says ex-lobby boss
Chris Jackson believes companies promoted ‘unsustainable’ fossil gas projects to access billions in taxpayer subsidies
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 20, 2021

Oil companies have used false claims over the cost of producing fossil fuel hydrogen to win over the Treasury and access billions in taxpayer subsidies, according to the outgoing hydrogen lobby boss.

Chris Jackson quit as the chair of a leading hydrogen industry association this week ahead of a government strategy paper featuring support for “blue hydrogen”, which is derived from fossil gas and produces carbon emissions.

He said he could no longer lead an industry association that included oil companies backing blue hydrogen projects, because the schemes were “not sustainable” and “make no sense at all”.

The government’s strategy for the sector, announced this week, was criticised by environmental groups for taking a twin-track approach, giving equal weight to blue hydrogen and “green hydrogen”, which has no negative climate impact because it uses renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

By contrast, blue hydrogen is made from natural gas, which has to be extracted from gas fields and then purified by the removal of carbon dioxide and methane, which have to be stored back underground. The process typically fails to capture 10-15% of its greenhouse gas emissions, which would accumulate as production ramps up.

Both kinds of hydrogen are much more expensive to produce than conventional fuels, so the government is proposing subsidies. It has launched a consultation to fund the difference between what producers can sell hydrogen for and what it costs them to manufacture it – similar to a scheme already used to drive down costs of offshore wind power.

“The Treasury has been told that blue hydrogen is cheap and will take millions of tonnes of carbon emissions out of the economy, which is all they need to hear. It checks the boxes they’re worrying about,” Jackson said.

“If the false claims made by oil companies about the cost of blue hydrogen were true, their projects would make a profit by 2030, after starting up in 2027 or 2028, because carbon prices are forecast to rise to £80 a tonne.

“Instead, they’re asking taxpayers for billions in subsidies for the next 25 years. They should tell the government they don’t need it. The fact that they don’t tells you everything you need to know.”
» Read article             

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Hogan heroes
LNG Projects Make Claims of ‘Net-Zero’ to Ease Way for Expansion
Several proposed LNG projects in Canada promise carbon neutrality for their gas exports. But the claims lack detail and appear mostly designed to defang opposition to the gas rush.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 13, 2021

Under growing pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, developers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are turning to questionable claims about “carbon neutrality,” “net-zero,” or “green LNG,” in order to pass muster with governments, investors, and society, who are becoming increasingly anxious about the climate crisis.

However, while on the surface it may appear to be a positive shift towards lowering the greenhouse gas impact of their projects, the rhetoric about carbon-neutral LNG is mostly hollow, in another attempt to greenwash new fossil fuel projects into existence.

While the U.S. Gulf Coast typically receives much of the attention for the LNG rush, the Pacific Coast of Canada is home to multiple proposed LNG export projects, as energy companies scramble to export fracked gas from northeast British Columbia.

At least three proposed Canadian LNG projects are claiming they will be the cleanest LNG in the world, relying on renewable hydropower to power their liquefaction operations and otherwise using carbon offsets and carbon capture to partially mitigate their emissions. Left unsaid is that the offsets and captured carbon only account for a small portion of the total.

The assertions also lack detail, face technical problems, ignore leaking methane emissions, and depend on government subsidies for funding. The danger is that the net-zero claims obscure the true climate costs of LNG from the public, which experts warn can be on par or worse than coal, paving the way for the industry’s expansion. Claims that LNG can achieve “net-zero emissions” have been cited by both the B.C. and federal governments to justify greenlighting new gas export terminals.
» Read article             

» More about LNG

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Rise St James
Army Corps Orders Environmental Review of Proposed Formosa Plastics Plant in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’
If built, the plastics plant would pump air pollutants into surrounding communities and contribute more to climate change than three coal power plants. Corps announcement deals significant blow to project’s backers.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
August 18, 2021

The Formosa Sunshine Project in St. James Parish, Louisiana, will undergo a full formal environmental review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in a memorandum issued today and posted on Twitter.

The decision deals a significant blow to the proposed multi-billion dollar plastics manufacturing site that would be located in the Gulf Coast region, potentially setting the project’s timetable back significantly.

The Corps highlighted concerns over environmental justice issues as it announced that it would require an environmental impact statement (EIS).

“As a result of information received to date and my commitment for the Army to be a leader in the federal government’s efforts to ensure thorough environmental analysis and meaningful community outreach, I conclude an EIS process is warranted to thoroughly review areas of concern, particularly those with environmental justice implications,” wrote Jaime Pinkham, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

If built, the Formosa plant would pump out up to 800 tons of toxic air pollutants each year into communities that have long-experienced the impacts of living near plastic manufacturing, oil refining, and other petrochemical projects. It would also generate 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases — more than triple the amount of climate-altering pollution the Environmental Protection Agency estimates a standard coal-fired power plant produces.
» Read article            

» More about plastics and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 8/13/21

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Welcome back.

The municipal power commission seeking to build an already-outdated fossil peaking power plant in Peabody, MA received approval from the Department of Public Utilities to obtain bond funding for the project. By granting approval the MA-DPU ignores the International Energy Agency’s warning against building new gas infrastructure, the emissions reductions requirements of Massachusetts’ own climate roadmap law, and Monday’s hair-on-fire climate report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This bombshell report makes crystal clear that we’ve already waited too long to bring down emissions – and that our very narrow window to salvage a recognizable future is closing fast. The peaker plant’s opponents – environmental, climate, and public health stewards, along with community leaders – are digging in for a fight.

We felt it too – this week’s relentless news of our climate on the brink, floods and fires, suffering and destruction – left us feeling pretty thoroughly pummeled.  Fortunately our friend Danny Jin wrote a piece for The Berkshire Eagle, helping to put each of our individual protests and actions into perspective. While none of us can solve this mess on our own, we can act collectively in ways that truly matter. Thank you Danny, and thanks to all you folks who help us amplify your voices and efforts.

On a hopeful note, Federal legislation in the form of a $3.5Tn “soft” infrastructure bill is moving ahead. If it survives reasonably intact and becomes law, it will put the US on a footing to begin to finally address climate and environmental issues – and signal to the world that time for delay is over. One practical effect at home would be the creation of a vibrant, green economy with a new Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) providing employment for millions of Americans to plant urban trees, manage forests, and make homes more energy efficient and resilient.

Clean energy reporting indicates a need for solar and wind power to quadruple their rate of deployment this decade. California is doing its part by backing a mandate requiring solar panels and battery storage on many new commercial and high-rise multifamily buildings.

Another milestone was met for clean transportation when Factorial Energy’s solid state EV battery cell showed good results in energy density, charging speed, charge-discharge cycles, safety, and cost. Also, a pilot program in Kansas City is installing EV charging stations curbside on city street lights, hoping to make EVs practical for street-parking apartment dwellers.

Meanwhile, on the fossil side of news, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finds itself having to take another look at the Spire STL pipeline in St. Louis to justify whether its construction was actually necessary. This DC Circuit Court case may influence FERC’s approach to future pipeline approvals. And new reporting shows how subsidies to the fossil fuel industry create a can’t-lose situation for polluters.

Now that Massachusetts law bars biomass generating plants from operating near environmental justice communities, the few remaining places that could legally host one of these facilities find the prospect distinctly unappealing. It’s time for complete removal of this dirty energy from the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

We’ll close with a fish story – about one particular individual who was caught in Lake Ontario six years ago and found to have 915 individual man-made particles, including microplastics, synthetic materials containing flame retardants or plasticizers, dyed cellulose fibers, and more—in its body.

button - BEAT News button - BZWI For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Berkshire Zero Waste Initiative (BZWI)!

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

decommish 20MWPeabody power plant gets green light
Department of Public Utilities OKs bonds up to $170M
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
August 12, 2021

PEABODY — Plans to build a 55-megawatt “peaker” power plant in the city are forging ahead.

According to a decision filed by the Department of Public Utilities Aug. 12, the department approved a request from the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) for up to $170 million in bonds to fund the construction of the plant.

But according to a press release from the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, these changes aren’t enough to justify a new fossil fuel-burning plant in a community already burdened by air pollution from two existing peaker plants.

“We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of this proceeding,” said Sarah Dooling, Executive Director of MCAN in the release. “DPU’s approval brings MMWEC one step closer to building a power plant that will contribute to local pollution and harm local community members, while highlighting — yet again — how broken DPU processes are. The DPU is meant to serve the people of the Commonwealth by considering safety, security, reliability of service, affordability, equity, and greenhouse gas emission reductions in their decision making. In approving these bonds without requiring further evaluation of the project, DPU has abandoned their mission to promote equity and emissions reductions. MCAN will continue to push for the Baker Administration to do their job and protect vulnerable communities by demanding that the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs re-open the MEPA process for this project and require MMWEC to conduct an environmental impact review.”

Mireille Bejjani, a Massachusetts Community Organizer for the nonprofit Community Action Works, called the DPU’s decision “insulting to Peabody residents who are concerned for their health and our climate.”

In the press release, Bejjani also noted that the decision comes only days after the United Nations released a report which warns that the world will continue to see climate change-induced disasters for years to come.
» Read article             

» More about peaker plants          

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Old Parana RiverDown about climate change? Here are four ways local organizers say you can do something about it
By Danny Jin, The Berkshire Eagle
August 9, 2021

A Monday report from U.N. scientists forecasts a bleak future for the planet if people continue burning coal, oil and gas.

“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Scrolling through such gloomy projections can lead to a sense of “climate despair,” a condition of feeling helpless against impending doom.

But, people are not powerless. An individual in Berkshire County cannot singlehandedly stop climate change, an effort that will require action from governments across the world. But, local organizers say, there are actions that everyday people can take to shake off defeatism and hold those in power accountable.
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions         

LEGISLATION

time up
UN climate report raises pressure on Biden to seize a rare moment
The US president may have only one chance to pass legislation to confront the crisis: ‘We can’t wait’
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
August 10, 2021

A stark UN report on how humanity has caused unprecedented, and in some cases “irreversible”, changes to the world’s climate has heaped further pressure on Joe Biden to deliver upon what may be his sole chance to pass significant legislation to confront the climate crisis and break a decade of American political inertia.

The US president said the release on Monday of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed that “we can’t wait to tackle the climate crisis. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. And the cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

The IPCC report, developed over the past eight years by scientists who combed over more than 14,000 studies, shows that the US, like the rest of the world, is running out of time to avoid disastrous climate impacts, with a critical global heating threshold of 1.5C to be breached far earlier than previously expected, potentially within a decade.

“This is not a future problem, it’s a problem now. I’m literally seeing climate change out of my window, climate change is in my lungs,” said Linda Mearns, an IPCC report co-author located in Boulder, Colorado, which has been baked in extreme heat and wildfire smoke in recent weeks.

Mearns, who has been involved in IPCC reports since 1990, said the latest iteration was “very thorough and disturbing” and demanded a strong response. “I’m not sure what will be required for people to get it, but my hope is that it will galvanize everyone in Glasgow to meet their agreements,” she added in reference to UN climate talks between world leaders in October.

Much of that global action will hinge upon the response mustered by the US, the world’s second-largest carbon emitter. Biden’s narrow window of opportunity to drastically cut emissions is dependent upon the contents of a $3.5tn bill that Democrats hope to pass before midterm elections next year, when the party may well lose control of Congress.

“Congress didn’t pass a climate bill in 2009 and it’s taken over a decade to get us back to serious climate legislation,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This summer is the best chance we have ever had to pass a big climate bill. This is it. President Biden is poised to become the climate president we need. But there are no more decades left to waste.”
» Read article             
» Read about Obama’s 2009 attempt to pass climate legislation                

» More about legislation                 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

CCC support
Reconciliation could create a new kind of climate job
Energy and resiliency projects need more boots on the ground
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 4, 2021

If Democrats and progressives have their way, tens of thousands — or even millions — of Americans could soon find work planting urban trees, managing forests, and making homes more energy efficient and resilient to the ravages of climate change. They’d form a new “Civilian Climate Corps” that lawmakers and activists are hoping to fund through the budget reconciliation process.

For more than a decade, different proposals have floated around for a new civilian mobilization focused on climate adaption. Recently, the idea has picked up significant momentum. The most ambitious proposal yet was introduced by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in April. Joe Biden proposed a more pared down Civilian Climate Corps as part of his American Jobs Plan in March, drawing on a range of previous proposals. Most recently, lawmakers have pushed for some form of the corps to be included in upcoming budget reconciliation negotiations, sending a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in July.

The proposals differ in size and scope, but each would put people to work on federally funded projects that can minimize the toll climate change takes on the US. That might mean installing solar panels in Philadelphia, tending to sustainable urban farms in New York City, or building new career pathways for former coal communities in Appalachia. The Climate Corps would be overseen by a new body within the White House, and would also bolster the work of federal agencies like FEMA that already partner with other corps programs. And as the government establishes a new funding stream, the hope is that communities will find new projects and ways to adapt.
» Read article             
» Read the letter to House and Senate leadership             

KS and client
‘A literal return to the earth’: is human composting the greenest burial?
California may legalize human composting, a process in which the body breaks down into soil over the course of about 30 days
By Dani Anguiano, The Guardian
August 12, 2021

Is there a greener way to honor those who have died?

Humans have caused unprecedented and irreversible changes to the climate in our time on Earth – pollution that continues even in death. But, across the US, some are posing an alternative: human composting.

Traditional after-death options such as burial and cremation can be tough on the environment, either by taking up land and emitting chemicals into the ground or by using fossil fuels and gas.

That’s why California lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow for human composting, or the natural organic reduction of human remains to soil.

It’s not the first state to do so. Washington state legalized natural organic reduction in 2020, allowing the human soil to be used in a forest as well as given to families.

Colorado has enacted similar legislation – restricting the soil from being used to grow crops that people will eat – as has Oregon. Delaware, Hawaii and Vermont are considering natural organic reduction bills.

Recompose, a Seattle-based company, was the first company in the US to get into the human composting business.

“The natural organic reduction allows a literal return to the earth,” said Anna Swenson, an outreach manager with Recompose. “Some people like the idea of being in a forest when they die. That’s what I’ve chosen for myself.”

The process saves about a metric ton of CO2 per person, according to Recompose, either by preventing it from entering the atmosphere or removing it, sequestering some carbon in the soil. That’s the equivalent of about 40 propane tanks, Swenson said. “You can picture a backyard of 40 propane tanks and for every person that adds up,” she said.

Cremation relies on fossil fuels, and ​​emits millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year, while the burial of embalmed bodies can cause chemicals to seep into the earth. “As a body degrades the soil becomes contaminated, and material can leach into the groundwater,” said Francis Murray, an associate professor of environmental science at Murdoch University, to Vice.

Recompose has worked with 60 families in Washington and has been at capacity since it opened in December.
» Read article              

» More about greening the economy               

CLIMATE

Elvia Island on fire
Major climate changes inevitable and irreversible – IPCC’s starkest warning yet
Report warns temperatures likely to rise by more than 1.5C bringing widespread extreme weather
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
August 9, 2021

Human activity is changing the Earth’s climate in ways “unprecedented” in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, with some of the changes now inevitable and “irreversible”, climate scientists have warned.

Within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and bringing widespread devastation and extreme weather.

Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate breakdown, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to compound the accelerating effects, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science.

The comprehensive assessment of climate science published on Monday, the sixth such report from the IPCC since 1988, has been eight years in the making, marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-review studies. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change, and found that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

World leaders said the stark findings must force new policy measures as a matter of urgency, to shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing. Governments from 197 countries will meet this November in Glasgow for vital UN climate talks, called Cop26.
» Read article             
» Read the IPCC report       

no B plan
Global Climate Panel’s Report: No Part of the Planet Will be Spared
A new IPCC science assessment, coming before COP26 in November, called for immediate action and showed that this summer’s extremes are only a mild preview of the decades ahead.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
August 9, 2021

Amidst a summer of fires, floods and heat waves, scientists on Monday delivered yet another reminder that burning more fossil fuels in the decades ahead will rapidly intensify the impacts of global warming. Only pulling the emergency brake right now on greenhouse gas emissions can stop the planet from heating to a dangerous level by the end of the century, the scientists’ report concluded.  

The report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, is the first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022. It was approved Aug. 6 by 195 member governments of the IPCC.

The report, by the panel’s Working Group I, assesses the physical science of climate change. It found that global warming is worsening deadly extremes like droughts and tropical storms and that every part of the planet is affected.
» Read article                        

please panicScientists Warn That the Earth Is Literally Dying
“Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet.”
By Dan Robitzski, Futurism
July 28, 2021

A team of scientists just took the planet’s vitals and delivered a grim prognosis: the damage that humanity is causing may be terminal.

In other words, the planet is in really, really bad shape — out of the 31 metrics of ecological health that a team of prominent scientists from a long list of universities around the world looked at, 18 are facing all-time poor results, they told Agence France-Presse. The researchers behind the update are among the 14,000 experts who have now signed a statement saying the planet is in a state of emergency. Thanks to a “business as usual” approach to managing our pale blue dot, they conclude in a report slated for publication in the journal BioScience, we as a global society are approaching many environmental tipping points — and have already blown past several others.

Atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide levels are at a record high. Arctic ice and glaciers are at an all-time low. Sea levels and oceanic temperatures are at their highest, as is the rate of deforestation in the Amazon.

The list of standout ecological horrors continues — and University of Exeter Global Systems Institute director Tim Lenton warned AFP that the damage is already making the climate “behave in shocking, unexpected ways.”

The problem, the experts say, is that focusing too much on any single issue might become a wild goose chase. They say that the overall problem, more than any single factor or hazard, is humanity’s winner-take-all approach to planetary stewardship.

“We need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue — global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system,” Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple told AFP. “Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet.”
» Read article                       
» Read the climate emergency statement          

» More about climate                       

CLEAN ENERGY

quadruple time
Solar and wind should quadruple this decade in response to ‘code red’ IPCC climate warning
By Jules Scully, PV Tech
August 9, 2021

A landmark new climate report from the United Nations “must sound a death knell” for coal and fossil fuels, according to secretary-general António Guterres, who is calling for a rapid increase in solar capacity and renewable energy investment.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, published today, finds that unless immediate and large-scale action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limiting global warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

The research says greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and warns that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.

Describing the report as a “code red for humanity”, Guterres called for immediate action on energy and urged governments to end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy. 

“By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple, and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net zero trajectory by mid-century,” he said.
» Read article                       

» More about clean energy                         

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Van Nuys Airport
California Panel Backs Solar Mandate for New Buildings
The state’s Energy Commission voted to require commercial and high-rise multifamily projects to have solar power and battery storage.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
August 11, 2021

LOS ANGELES — California regulators voted Wednesday to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in many new commercial structures as well as high-rise residential projects, the latest initiative in the state’s vigorous efforts to hasten a transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

The five-member California Energy Commission approved the proposal unanimously. It will now be taken up by the state’s Building Standards Commission, which is expected to include it in an overall revision of the building code in December.

The energy plan, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, also includes incentives to eliminate natural gas from new buildings and to make it easier to add batteries to existing solar systems in single-family homes.

“The future we’re trying to build together is a future beyond fossil fuels,” David Hochschild, the chair of the Energy Commission, said ahead of the agency’s vote. “Big changes require everyone to play a role. We all have a role in building this future.”

The commercial buildings affected by the plan include hotels, offices, medical offices and clinics, retail and grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces like theaters, auditoriums and convention centers.

The provisions would supplement requirements that took effect last year mandating that new single-family homes and multifamily dwellings up to three stories high include solar power.
» Read article                       

» More about energy efficiency              

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

FactorialCapacity Retention Milestone Achieved for 40-Ah Solid-State EV Battery
In a major breakthrough, Factorial Energy reached a capacity retention rate of 97.3% after 675 cycles for a 40-Ah cell at 25°C.
By Murray Slovick, Electronic Design
August 10, 2021

For electric vehicles (EVs) to capture more than just 4% of global car sales, buyers need to see dramatic price and performance improvements in the underlying battery systems. Liquid electrolytes perform effectively over a wide temperature range (from below 0°C to about 100°C). But they pose disadvantages: high flammability, capacity loss, electrolytic decomposition at high voltages limiting the use of high-voltage cathode materials, thermal runaway, and risk of leakage. 

Solid-state batteries don’t exhibit these drawbacks, allowing for higher operating temperatures due to better thermal stability. Thus, they’ve become an emerging option for next-generation EV traction batteries. Compared to EVs using conventional lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, those installed with solid-state batteries are expected to have a significantly higher range due to the high battery density.

Factorial Energy, headquartered in Woburn, Mass., announced capacity retention testing results of the company’s 40 amp-hour (Ah) solid-state cell technology. The company’s initial round of cell cycle behavior testing at 25°C demonstrated a 97.3% capacity retention rate after 675 cycles. These numbers are important because solid-state electrolytes are generally slow at transporting lithium ions—ionic diffusion in a solid tends to be orders of magnitude slower than ionic diffusion in a liquid. Therefore, batteries that cycle with adequate rate capability are hard to build.

A battery is judged on five metrics: how much energy it packs, how fast it charges, how many charge-discharge cycles it lasts, how safe it is, and how much it costs. Factorial says its solid-state battery technology can improve energy density, safety, charging rates, and costs over existing batteries.
» Read article                    

streetlight charging
Could streetlight-based charging help apartment dwellers go electric?
By Stephen Edelstein, Green Car Reports
August 6, 2021

The Kansas City Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) will install streetlight-based EV charging stations under a pilot program evaluating curbside charging.

First spotted by photovoltaics industry trade journal PV Magazine, the program calls for installation of 240-volt Level 2 charging stations integrated with streetlight poles at locations throughout the Missouri city.

The program began its design phase in 2018, then ran through a feasibility analysis, which ended in 2020. The MEC is now conducting community outreach and beginning charging-station installations, which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Charging at these stations will cost the same $0.22 per kilowatt-hour as at existing Kansas City public charging stations, according to an information page on the MEC’s website. Usage data will be recorded and analyzed to help inform future charging-infrastructure planning, according to the MEC.

Streetlight-based charging stations could help address the lack of charging options in urban areas. Most EV owners charge their cars at home, but that isn’t an option for apartment dwellers, who may not even have a driveway for garage space to park their cars.
» Read article                      

» More about clean transportation                

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

manufactured shortageFERC requests more evidence of reliability impacts as Spire STL pipeline seeks temporary approval
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
August 10, 2021

The Spire case has the potential to mark a significant shift in how FERC views the need for new gas infrastructure, according to some environmentalists. In its ruling vacating FERC’s 2018 approval of the pipeline, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that FERC ignored “plausible evidence of self-dealing” in its assessment of the project.

For the pipeline to continue operating, it will need to secure a temporary certificate of public convenience and necessity from FERC, something the company says is necessary to maintain reliable service to the project’s 650,000 customers. 

FERC, in its response to the request, asked the company to provide more detail on whether the company could meet service requirements without the pipeline, and to back up more thoroughly its claims that the pipeline provided essential reliability services during the February cold snap that led to widespread outages across the Midwest and Texas. Spire, in its comments, had claimed that not allowing the pipeline to remain in service could place “lives at risk.”

In comments supporting the company’s bid, Missouri officials, businesses and labor groups agreed that shutting down the pipeline could harm reliability of the local grid.

But EDF, in comments filed Thursday, argued the company’s application “is fraught with inaccuracies, lacking in key information, and should be scrutinized carefully by the Commission and rejected in part.”

Any emergency that may exist if the pipeline is shut down is a problem of Spire’s “own making,” given the pipeline was put into operation in the midst of legal challenges, according to EDF, and therefore the company should not be able to reap any financial benefits if the pipeline does secure temporary authorization.

Before the pipeline was placed into service, the region had adequate gas capacity, EDF argued, but the company took other assets out of service once the pipeline was approved by FERC, leaving the region more reliant on the pipeline. EDF urged Spire to disclose why those facilities were taken offline and whether they can be brought back into service.
» Read article             

» More about FERC          

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Lufkin
Follow the money: US subsidizes oil and gas so investors never lose
Finally, we have the numbers and they’re not pretty, detailing how it doesn’t matter what price fuel is.
By María Paula Rubiano A., Grist
August 9, 2021

It’s not a secret that subsidies for fossil fuels get in the way of decarbonization. Nations from the G20 group —including the U.S. — have pledged to phase out inefficient tax breaks for the fossil fuels industry. 

And yet, every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. But there are few concrete numbers that quantify the impact of these subsidies in the nation’s efforts to meet its climate goals. So Ploy Achakulwisut, a climate policy researcher at the Stockholm Environmental Institute, embarked on a project to put a tag on it.

Her team found that, as Achakulwisut puts it, “these [subsidies] are either bad or bad.” 

Her research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a number on the effects that 16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on 1,000 new U.S. oil and gas production fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper shows that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 percent in oil, 87 in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60 percent and 74 percent of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable. The authors estimate that by helping the industry stay profitable in either scenario, these subsidies could add 150 million tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere in 2030. 

“We have to reduce emissions, but we also have to stop doing things that increase emissions; these things go hand in hand,” said Daniel Bresette, director of the non-profit Environmental and Energy Study Institute, and who wasn’t involved in the study. “This report helps demonstrate how what we’re doing now is exacerbating the [high-emissions] situation that we’re in right now.”
» Read article                    

PA crackdown support
New Poll Shows Pennsylvania Voters Want a ‘Crackdown’ on Fracking
As the promised benefits of fracking fail to materialize and the environmental costs mount, Pennsylvania voters of all demographics favor more regulation.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 5, 2021

Pennsylvania voters have become increasingly disillusioned with the fracking industry, with weak and declining support across all demographics, according to a new poll. By wide margins, voters in the Keystone State want “a serious crackdown on fracking operations.”

The poll, conducted by Data for Progress for the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI), an Appalachian-focused think tank, shows that large majorities of voters in Pennsylvania — including from large swathes of Republicans — are concerned about pollution from fracking, oppose subsidies to the industry, and support a range of new regulations.

The declining support for fracking is “an extension of trends that have been underway for some time,” Eric de Place, a research fellow at ORVI, told DeSmog. “Men, women, age groups, Republicans, Democrats, Independents … there is not a demographic that doesn’t support a crackdown on fracking,” he said.

On a long list of additional questions, large majorities favored more restrictions, more oversight, and less state support for the natural gas industry, which for years has enjoyed political backing at multiple levels despite signs of waning approval from Pennsylvania residents.

For example, by a 74 to 14 percent margin, respondents favored greater setback distances for fracking operations from homes, schools, hospitals, and other buildings. By a 79 to 9 percent margin, respondents favored mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in drilling, and the same margin supported a comprehensive health response from the state to address the effects of living near drilling sites.

Currently, Pennsylvania exempts fracking fluids from being classified as hazardous waste, a designation that would change how and where fracking waste is handled. Yet 69 percent of those polled support classifying fracking fluids in this way, compared to 21 percent that do not.
» Read article                       

» More about fossil fuels                      

BIOMASS

leaky shield
State wants to expose 5 South Shore towns to wood-burning power plants
The large-scale plants that would be eligible for state incentives under the newest proposed regulations burn 1,200 tons of wood per day.
By Wheeler Cowperthwaite, The Patriot Ledger
August 5, 2021

State-subsidized wood-burning power plants would be allowed in five South Shore towns if proposed state regulations are adopted. 

Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury and Kingston are among 35 Massachusetts communities that could be affected by the plan.

 A new map proposed by the state Department of Energy Resources would protect the other 90 percent of the state’s 351 communities from state-subsidized “biomass” power plants, which critics say can cause pollution.

State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, and six other legislators sent a letter to state officials asking the Department of Energy Resources to stop considering wood-burning power plants as clean energy sources eligible for state subsidies.

“I honestly think the administration is trying to get out of incentivizing these power plants, but the way they did it left 35 communities vulnerable,” O’Connor said in a telephone interview.

The map would create a 5-mile buffer around environmental justice communities, preventing biomass projects in those areas from qualifying for the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard incentive program.

The map would leave stretches of land along the coastline in Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield and Duxbury, as well as a sliver of Kingston, eligible for a state-subsidized wood-burning power plant. Communities in Western Massachusetts and half of Truro also would be eligible.

O’Connor said the broad definition of what makes an environmental justice community is a good thing, but leaving a few slivers in the state open to such projects defeats the purpose.
» Read article                       
» Read the letter to DOER              

» More about biomass                 

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

anglers
Record Levels of Harmful Particles Found in Great Lakes Fish
By Andrew Blok, Environmental Health News, in EcoWatch
August 12, 2021

A record-setting fish was pulled from Hamilton Harbor at the western tip of Lake Ontario in 2015 and the world is learning about it just now.

The fish, a brown bullhead, contained 915 particles—a mix of microplastics, synthetic materials containing flame retardants or plasticizers, dyed cellulose fibers, and more—in its body. It was the most particles ever recorded in a fish.

“In 2015 we knew a lot less about microplastics and contamination in fish. I was expecting to see no particles in most fish,” Keenan Munno, then a graduate student at the University of Toronto, told EHN. Every sampled fish had ingested some particles. Munno’s 2015 master’s work has spun out into six years’ worth of research, including the new Conservation Biology paper that reports these findings.

The findings point to the ubiquity of microplastics and other harmful human-made particles in the Great Lakes and the extreme exposure some fish experience—especially those living in urban-adjacent waters. While direct links between microplastics and fish and human health are still an issue of emerging science, finding plastics within fish at such high amounts is concerning.
» Read article                      
» Read the Conservation Biology paper          

» More about plastics in the environment         

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Weekly News Check-In 8/6/21

banner 19

Welcome back.

The ongoing protests and actions targeting Enbridge’s Line 3 are led primarily by indigenous groups executing all the components of a successful nonviolent campaign. Meanwhile, the aging and degraded Line 5 pipeline poses an imminent threat to the Great Lakes, and its most vocal opponent is Michigan’s Governor Whitmer. A latecomer to these battles against fossil fuel infrastructure is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which until recently seemed happy to rubber-stamp approval for nearly every new project. While still internally conflicted between the commissioners, Chair Richard Glick is getting backup from the DC Circuit Court, which has ordered FERC to conduct robust climate and environmental justice impact analyses prior to final approval of two Texas liquefied natural gas terminals. This could affect consideration of future projects.

Massachusetts’ green economy will anchor to the offshore wind industry, and the state is offering $1.6 million in grants for job training to reduce some of the barriers that would keep people of color and low-income people from participating in the coming boom. We’re also keeping an eye on the geothermal industry – not a newcomer, but not yet mainstream either.

We’ve heard “net-zero by 2050” so often that it seems both a good thing and also inevitable. We offer a climate report that warns both assumptions are dangerously off the mark. Related to this – an urgent issue within the larger climate puzzle is how to retire massive numbers of coal plants – many of them relatively new – sooner rather than later. The Asian Development Bank proposes a novel solution, and is enlisting private sector financing to help.

We’ve recently started tracking a couple of climate “solutions” that have some merit but are being co-opted by the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries, boosting them as excuses to continue with business as usual. Carbon offsets & reforestation, along with carbon capture & sequestration, are two areas drawing a lot of unhelpful industry attention lately. We’re starting to hear about plans for a vast network of pipelines to send carbon dioxide from where it’s captured at emitters to locations where it will be sequestered. It’s worth noting that CO2 is a toxic gas in anything but very small concentrations. It is odorless and heavier than air, and if leaked from a pipeline would pool in low terrain – displacing all the air and asphyxiating every living being in the area.

California is facing a looming energy crisis, with its power supply threatened by drought, heat, and fire. Their solution is to speed up the clean energy transition. And while the whole country struggles against entrenched interests (building trades, real estate industry, etc.) to improve energy efficiency in building codes, Colorado has stepped out front with a host of new laws. Of course, when you build a new, efficient building, the last thing you want is to incorporate carbon-intensive materials. Financiers are beginning pressure steel manufacturers to greatly reduce emissions associated with making their product.

This week’s energy storage news considers the promise of Form Energy’s recently revealed iron-air battery chemistry, while a report on a fire at an Australian lithium-ion battery reminds us that even green power carries some risk.

Since we’re on the cusp of a clean transportation revolution, it’s great that the Guardian just published an article looking back at the last time we did this. At the dawn of the 20th century, horses were rapidly replaced by machines and electric vehicles ruled the road.

Fossil fuel industry news includes some troubling new subsidies tucked into the bipartisan infrastructure legislation making its way though the Senate. Also, how Facebook looked the other way as the industry spread misinformation on its platform. Meanwhile, liquefied natural gas continues to face headwinds in North America, with the cancellation of an LNG export terminal in Québec’s Saguenay region. This comes just weeks after the collapse of Pieridae Energy’s scheme to build a similar facility in Nova Scotia.

Finally, it was a big week for biomass news in Massachusetts, as a hearing on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard ran straight into the state’s new climate laws and limits associated with siting polluters near environmental justice communities.

button - BEAT News button - BZWI For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Berkshire Zero Waste Initiative (BZWI)!

— The NFGiM Team

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Old Crossing Treaty
Everyone has a role to play in stopping the Line 3 pipeline
Indigenous water protectors and allies are effectively engaging all four roles of social change — just what’s needed to beat a company as powerful as Enbridge.   
By Eileen Flanagan, Waging Nonviolence
August 2, 2021

On Monday, July 19, in a red shirt and long black skirt, Sasha Beaulieu strode toward the Middle River in northwestern Minnesota to fulfill her official role as the Red Lake Nation Tribal Monitor. The water was incredibly low from the drought, and in parts the river bed was completely dry — all of which she would report to the Army Corps of Engineers with the hope of stopping the Canadian corporation Enbridge from drilling under Middle River to install the controversial Line 3 pipeline. Enbridge had already polluted the Willow River while trying to install the pipeline, an accident discovered by water protectors and reported to regulators. Beaulieu explained on Facebook Live that the company is supposed to stop pumping water when the river level is below a foot and a half, but Enbridge was not complying.

As Beaulieu recorded her findings, 40 people from the Red Lake Treaty Camp took up positions on the bridge, chanting and holding signs, the largest of which said, “Honor the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863,” which gives people of the Red Lake Nation the right to sustain themselves through fishing on the region’s rivers, as well as hunting and performing ceremony there. Meanwhile, at the Shell River, two hours to the southeast, a different tactic was being deployed, as famed Indigenous rights activist Winona LaDuke and six other elder women sat in lawn chairs, blocking Enbridge construction in defiant civil disobedience.
» Read article            

» More about protests and actions                

 

PIPELINES

worst possible placeLine 5 pipeline between U.S. and Canada could cause ‘devastating damage’ to Great Lakes, say environmentalists
Canadian officials siding with Enbridge to keep pipeline running despite Michigan’s claims it is unsafe
By Samantha Beattie, CBC News
August 3, 2021

An aging pipeline that carries oil along the bottom of the ecologically sensitive and turbulent Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, is in such a state of disrepair it could burst at any moment and cause catastrophic damage to the Great Lakes, environmentalists warn. 

Line 5, a 1,000-kilometre-long pipeline owned by Calgary-based Enbridge, carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day from Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ont., where it is shipped to other refineries in Ontario and Quebec.

It’s at the centre of a politically charged dispute between Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who’s ordered what she calls the “ticking time bomb” to be shut down, and Canadian officials, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who’ve sided with Enbridge in insisting it’s safe to keep running.

“Over the past year, I have both written and spoken to the Governor to express my disappointment and stress the importance of Line 5 in ensuring economic, environmental and energy security to the entire Great Lakes Region,” Ford said in a statement to CBC News.

“Our government believes pipelines are a safe way to transport essential fuels across the Great Lakes, operating in accordance with the highest pipeline safety standards.”

Enbridge says Line 5 is safe and saves the hassle of transporting huge amounts of fuel by truck or train.

But Michelle Woodhouse, water program manager at Toronto-based Environmental Defence, said it’s time to put politics aside and cut through Enbridge’s “manufactured narrative.” She says the danger the pipeline poses to the Great Lakes is too risky to take “a gamble.”

Line 5 was designed in 1953 to have a lifespan of 50 years, or until 2003. Eighteen years later, it’s still running, and has had its fair share of problems, said Woodhouse. 

“This is a very old, deteriorating, dangerous pipeline that has already leaked significant amounts of oil into the surrounding lands and water that it crosses through,” she said.

Since 1953, Line 5 has leaked 29 times, spilling 4.5 million litres of oil into the environment, according to media reports.

A spill would cause “devastating damage” to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan’s shorelines, compromising drinking water, fisheries, businesses and homes, said Woodhouse.
» Read article            

» More about pipelines           

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

first circuit DC
DC Circuit orders FERC to analyze climate, environmental justice more thoroughly
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
August 4, 2021

Critics have long accused FERC of “rubber stamping” projects, a criticism Glick has often agreed with. In his dissent on the commission’s 2019 approval of the Rio Grande and Texas LNG projects, he argued that FERC was not allowed under federal law to “assume away” the impacts of these projects, and that their assessment at the time was inadequate.

The Tuesday decision “clearly demonstrates that the Commission has the authority and obligation to meaningfully analyze and consider the impacts from GHG emissions and impacts to Environmental Justice communities,” Glick said in a statement. “Moreover, failure to do so puts the Commission’s decisions – and the investments made in reliance on those decisions – in legal peril.”

In the commission’s environmental analysis of the projects, it found that it could not determine what the facilities’ impacts on the climate crisis would be, because there is no universal methodology for calculating those impacts. But petitioners argued FERC could use the social cost of carbon or some other generally accepted metric to make that evaluation. Ultimately, the court agreed that the commission could have tried harder in 2019 to make this assessment.

“This court is saying you really do actually need to try to evaluate impacts based on whatever information is either out there in the real world, or that is based on academic or other research,” said John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Before you say you can’t do it, you need to try a lot harder.”
» Read article            

» More about FERC           

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

equity in the wind
Massachusetts grants focus on equity in offshore wind workforce development

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has awarded $1.6 million in grants to eight offshore wind workforce training programs aimed at reducing specific obstacles for people of color and low-income people.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
August 3, 2021

A Massachusetts clean energy agency has awarded $1.6 million in grants to eight offshore wind workforce training programs, each of which targets a specific obstacle that might prevent people of color and low-income people from pursuing jobs in the burgeoning industry. 

“We wanted to up the game a little bit,” said Bruce Carlisle, managing director for offshore wind at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the organization that awarded the grants. “We made a conscious effort in 2021 that we were going to focus exclusively on this issue.”

The 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project, which is slated to become the country’s first utility-scale offshore wind installation, received its last major federal approval in May, effectively jumpstarting an industry that is expected to be a major employer and economic driver in years to come. 

The offshore wind industry could produce as many as 83,000 jobs in the United States and pump an annual $25 billion into the economy by 2030, according to an analysis by the American Wind Energy Association. With some of the country’s most wind-rich waters located off the New England coast, the region stands to reap significant financial benefits. 

In the face of this opportunity, many community and environmental groups have been pushing to ensure that people of color, low-income communities, and other marginalized groups have an equal chance to participate in the benefits of a promising new sector. The existing energy system has overburdened communities of color, who often face more pollution and higher rates of respiratory illness, said Susannah Hatch, clean energy coalition director for the Environmental League of Massachusetts. A diverse, inclusive workforce could help redress some of this damage, she said. 

“As we are looking to a decarbonized world, we have to figure out how this new system can be equitable and not repeat the sins of the past,” Hatch said.
» Read article            

geothermal boom
A Geothermal Energy Boom May Be Coming, and Ex-Oil Workers Are Leading the Way
Start-ups see a vast opportunity to utilize heat from beneath the Earth’s surface.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
July 29, 2021

A conference last week got into a subject that is deep and superhot.

Some of the leaders in geothermal energy and energy policy gathered virtually to talk about a form of clean energy that they said is getting close to a technological leap forward.

Geothermal energy comes from harnessing heat from beneath the Earth’s surface, which can be used to run power plants, heat buildings and provide heat for industry. Some form of geothermal has been used for decades, with power plants in the West and Mountain West, and even older geothermal heating systems in cities like Boise, Idaho.

The opportunity ahead is for researchers and entrepreneurs to develop ways to affordably use geothermal energy at a larger scale and in many more places.

“One of the things that really excites me about geothermal is that every building is already sitting on this vast reservoir of renewable energy right there for the taking,” said Kathy Hannun, president and co-founder of Dandelion Energy, a company developing affordable geothermal heating and cooling systems for houses.

Her comments were part of Pivot 2021, a conference organized by the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization at the University of Texas at Austin, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

One of the recurring themes across days of panels was the opportunity for the United States to build on the drilling technology and methods developed by the oil and gas industry and to shift people from the industry’s current workforce to work in geothermal energy.
» Read article            

» More about greening the economy               

 

CLIMATE

net zero faster
Net zero target for 2050 is too slow, and a strategy for climate failure
By Michael Mazengarb & Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy
August 4, 2021

A major new research paper argues that setting “net zero by 2050” targets will fail to prompt urgent action on climate change, and won’t achieve the speed of emission reductions needed to avoid the worsening impacts of global warming.

The paper, released by the Australian-based Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, says shorter-term emission reduction targets are needed to compel action to cut fossil fuel use, including setting a more ambitious target to reach zero emissions as early as 2030.

“[Net zero by 2050] scenarios are based on models and carbon budgets generally associated with a 50 or 66 per cent chance of staying below the target, that is, a one-in-two, or one-in-three, chance of failure,” the paper says.

“We would never accept those risks of failures in our own lives. Why accept them for impacts which may destroy civilisation as we know it?”

The paper is significant because Australia’s mainstream political debate is currently dominated by Labor’s demand for a net zero target by 2050, and the federal Coalition’s commitment that net zero is nice, but it will only get there as soon as it can, or some time this century.

The Breakthrough paper is by no means the first that highlights that the Paris climate goals require much more urgent action, and that decisive action in the next 10 years is required to avoid depleting the “carbon budget.”

Last week, the Australian Energy Market Operator released a set of scenarios that observed that the only one that met the Paris stretch goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C was to reach net zero emissions, at least in the electricity supply, by 2035.
» Read article            
» Read the report: “Net zero 2050”: A dangerous illusion            

seeking early retirement
Earlier Coal Shutdowns on the Agenda as Finance Giants Develop Buyout Plan
By The Energy Mix
August 3, 2021

Some of the world’s biggest financial and investment firms are hatching a plan to speed up coal power plant closures in Asia, according to an exclusive report published yesterday by the Reuters news agency.

“The novel proposal, which is being driven by the Asian Development Bank, offers a potentially workable model, and early talks with Asian governments and multilateral banks are promising,” Reuters writes, citing five sources with knowledge of the discussions. Participating companies include BlackRock Real Assets, the Prudential insurance company, and Citi and HSBC banks.

“The group plans to create public-private partnerships to buy out the plants and wind them down within 15 years, far sooner than their usual life, giving workers time to retire or find new jobs and allowing countries to shift to renewable energy sources,” the news agency adds. “The initiative comes as commercial and development banks, under pressure from large investors, pull back from financing new power plants in order to meet climate targets.”

The group hopes to have its plan ready by the time this year’s United Nations climate conference convenes in Glasgow in early November.

“If you can come up with an orderly way to replace those plants sooner and retire them sooner, but not overnight, that opens up a more predictable, massively bigger space for renewables,” said Donald Kanak, chair of insurance growth markets at Prudential, who Reuters credits with coming up with the idea.

But the stakes couldn’t be higher, he told the BBC. “The world cannot possibly hit the Paris climate targets unless we accelerate the retirement and replacement of existing coal fired electricity, opening up much larger room in the near term for renewables and storage,” he said. “This is especially true in Asia, where existing coal fleets are big and young and will otherwise operate for decades.”

“The private sector has great ideas on how to address climate change and we are bridging the gap between them and the official-sector actors,” added ADB Vice President Ahmed M. Saeed.
» Read article            

» More about climate                 

 

CLEAN ENERGY

Morro Bay storage
California speeds up energy transition to face immediate energy crisis and long-term climate goals
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 4, 2021

California’s government has issued a roadmap for the US state to achieve its long-term goal of 100% clean energy, while an immediate State of Emergency has been declared over concerns the electric system will struggle under heat waves this summer.

Energy storage, renewables and demand response are at the heart of measures to address both. The long-term roadmap also recognises the important role long-duration energy storage will play in California’s clean energy future, putting it as one of five pillars the state’s energy system will rely on in decarbonising while delivering reliable and secure service.

Governor Gavin Newsom issued the proclamation of a State of Emergency last week, stating that it is “necessary to take immediate action to reduce the strain on the energy infrastructure, increase energy capacity, and make energy supply more resilient this year to protect the health and safety of Californians”.

The state’s residents are being put into the frontline of the climate crisis, with droughts in 50 counties, wildfires, heat waves, floods, mudslides and more affecting them directly. Hydroelectric power plants have lost nearly 1,000MW of generation capacity through droughts. Record-breaking heat waves are causing strain on the electric grid, the massive Bootleg wildfire in Oregon has reduced the amount of electricity that can be delivered by an interconnector into California by nearly 4,000MW and transmission lines in high fire threat areas within the state are vulnerable.

The state could face an energy shortfall of up to 3,500MW this summer and 5,000MW by the summer of 2022. While Newsom’s proclamation acknowledged that there is insufficient time to install enough capacity of renewables and energy storage this summer, it set out some actions that will be taken immediately such as incentivising lower energy demand from industrial customers of utility companies, as well as measures to expedite clean energy projects to give California a better opportunity to meet its 2022 challenges head-on.
» Read article            

» More about clean energy            

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

SF smoke
The Fight to Change US Building Codes
In cities and states around the country, conflicts over climate-friendly standards for buildings are heating up.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, Inside Climate News
August 2, 2021

To date, more than 40 California jurisdictions have established policies that either entirely ban natural gas in new construction or encourage electrification. And in the months since San Francisco’s sky glowed orange, the California Energy Commission has proposed state building standards that require “electric ready” equipment and encourage electric heating rather than the use of natural gas.

Last year, California became the first state to enact standards that encourage the installation of rooftop solar on most new homes. If regulators approve the “electric ready” code, it will be another first-in-the-nation state standard, and California will have accomplished both policies through an often-overlooked mechanism: codes that govern the design and construction of new buildings.

Though California is often seen as a trailblazer in climate policy, similar efforts are increasingly cropping up around the country. Advocates and progressive code officials are trying to push forward building codes that help drive decarbonization.

Energy consumed in buildings produced more than 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, making them a key part of the climate challenge. And the window to decarbonize them is narrowing: Analysts at organizations such as the International Energy Agency have said that new construction worldwide will need to start switching to all-electric around 2025, if nations are to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in this century.

“The place that we are working right now is to get a better code on paper,” said Kim Cheslak, director of codes at the New Buildings Institute, a nonprofit that works with utilities and governments on energy efficient codes. “The place we need to work after that is to make sure that cities, states and building departments have the resources to enforce full compliance.”
» Read article            

Colorado leading
Social cost of methane changes the equation for Colorado utility policy

Colorado is believed to be the first state in the nation to apply the social cost of methane to a broad range of regulatory decisions. A batch of new laws are expected to dramatically improve the case for building energy conservation.
By Allen Best, Energy News Network
August 2, 2021

As a growing list of states pass laws aimed at curbing carbon emissions, Colorado has widened its scope, taking the groundbreaking step of requiring state officials to consider the social cost of methane in regulatory decisions.

Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, has powerful heat-trapping properties before it breaks down into water vapor and carbon dioxide after 12 years. It is 84 to 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

“By focusing on methane reduction now, it has the greatest potential to bend the curve on fighting climate change,” said state Rep. Tracey Bernett, a Democrat from Boulder County and a prime sponsor or co-sponsor of several bills passed this year that instruct state utility regulators to use the social of cost of methane when evaluating proposals. 

Other successful bills seek to reduce natural gas in buildings and other applications, and to stanch leaks in the supply chain of natural gas. Most natural gas is extracted from geological deposits by drilling.

Legislative and environmental advocates say the new laws have made Colorado the national leader in tackling emissions from buildings.
» Read article            

» More about energy efficiency           

 

BUILDING MATERIALS

climate needs you
Investors call for urgent action by steelmakers on carbon emissions
By Simon Jessop, Reuters
August 4, 2021

LONDON – Steelmakers need to take urgent action on producing less carbon in order to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change, investors managing $55 trillion in assets said on Wednesday.

Emissions from steel production account for 9% of the global total and must fall 29% by 2030 and 91% by 2050 to meet the net zero scenario laid out by the International Energy Agency in May, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change said.

The IIGCC, as part of the Climate Action 100+ initiative, said in a statement that while it was technically feasible to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, the steel industry was being too slow to act.

Steel firms needed to set short, mid and long-term targets in line with the IEA report, and align their capital expenditure plans with net zero, including not investing in new, unabated production capacity, the IIGCC added.

They also needed to demonstrate that emerging technology can work and produce reports by the end of 2022 on how carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen-based processes can be used.

In addition, they needed to be transparent about the public policy positions they will take to accelerate their transition, for example on carbon pricing and research and development.
» Read article            

» More about building materials              

 

ENERGY STORAGE

Form Energy iron-air
Is this a green-energy breakthrough, or just hype?
BY DAVID VON DREHLE, Berkshire Eagle | Opinion
August 2, 2021

The most important news story of 1903 received modest coverage, and it wasn’t very accurate.

Two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, conducted four machine- powered, heavier-than-air flights under human control on a single day in December. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, not far from the Kitty Hawk, N.C., testing ground, ran an exaggerated account of the Wright Brothers’ triumph — but in Dayton, a hometown paper, refused to mention it. “Man will never fly,” a local editor harrumphed (perhaps apocryphally). “And if he does, he won’t be from Dayton.”

Another possible milestone of technology passed quietly not long ago. It might be the beginning of the end for fossil fuels and the key to reaching the goal of a green power grid. If so, it will certainly be among the most important stories of the year — bigger than space tourism, bigger than the Arizona election audit, bigger than the discovery that amazing Simone Biles is human, not a god.

One caveat: Very few engineering breakthroughs change the world. Most end up being less than meets the eye. That said, let’s have a look.

A Boston-area company, Form Energy, announced recently that it has created a battery prototype that stores large amounts of power and releases it not over hours, but over more than four days. And that isn’t the best part. The battery’s main ingredients are iron and oxygen, both incredibly plentiful here on God’s green Earth — and therefore reliably cheap.

Put the two facts together, and you arrive at a sort of tipping point for green energy: reliable power from renewable sources at less than $20 per kilowatt-hour.
» Read article            

Greelong blaze
Crews battle Tesla battery fire at Moorabool, near Geelong

By Leanne Wong, ABC News, AU
July 30, 2021

A toxic blaze at the site of Australia’s largest Tesla battery project is set to burn throughout the night.

The fire broke out during testing of a Tesla megapack at the Victorian Big Battery site near Geelong.

A 13-tonne lithium battery was engulfed in flames, which then spread to an adjacent battery bank.

More than 150 people from Fire Rescue Victoria and the Country Fire Authority responded to the blaze, which has been contained and will be closely monitored until it burns itself out.

“If we try and cool them down it just prolongs the process,” the CFA’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer Ian Beswicke said.

“But we could be here anywhere from 8 to 24 hours while we wait for it to burn down.”

The Tesla battery is expected to become the largest battery in the southern hemisphere as part of a Victorian Government push to transition to renewable energy.
» Read article            

» More about energy storage                

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Detroit Electric
The lost history of the electric car – and what it tells us about the future of transport
To every age dogged with pollution, accidents and congestion, the transport solution for the next generation seems obvious – but the same problems keep coming back
By Tom Standage, The Guardian
August 3, 2021

Much of the early enthusiasm for the automobile stemmed from its promise to solve the problems associated with horse-drawn vehicles, including noise, traffic congestion and accidents. That cars failed on each of these counts was tolerated because they offered so many other benefits, including eliminating the pollution – most notably, horse manure – that had dogged urban thoroughfares for centuries.

But in doing away with one set of environmental problems, cars introduced a whole set of new ones. The pollutants they emit are harder to see than horse manure, but are no less problematic. These include particulate matter, such as the soot in vehicle exhaust, which can penetrate deep into the lungs; volatile organic compounds that irritate the respiratory system and have been linked to several kinds of cancer; nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide; and greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, that contribute to climate change. Cars, trucks and buses collectively produce around 17% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Reliance on fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel has also had far-reaching geopolitical ramifications, as much of the world became dependent on oil from the Middle East during the 20th century.

None of this could have been foreseen at the dawn of the automobile age. Or could it? Some people did raise concerns about the sustainability of powering cars using non-renewable fossil fuels, and the reliability of access to such fuels. Today, electric cars, charged using renewable energy, are seen as the logical way to address these concerns. But the debate about the merits of electric cars turns out to be as old as the automobile itself.

In 1897, the bestselling car in the US was an electric vehicle: the Pope Manufacturing Company’s Columbia Motor Carriage. Electric models were outselling steam- and petrol-powered ones. By 1900, sales of steam vehicles had taken a narrow lead: that year, 1,681 steam vehicles, 1,575 electric vehicles and 936 petrol-powered vehicles were sold. Only with the launch of the Olds Motor Works’ Curved Dash Oldsmobile in 1903 did petrol-powered vehicles take the lead for the first time.

Perhaps the most remarkable example, to modern eyes, of how things might have worked out differently for electric vehicles is the story of the Electrobat, an electric taxicab that briefly flourished in the late 1890s. The Electrobat had been created in Philadelphia in 1894 by Pedro Salom and Henry Morris, two scientist-inventors who were enthusiastic proponents of electric vehicles. In a speech in 1895, Salom derided “the marvelously complicated driving gear of a gasoline vehicle, with its innumerable chains, belts, pulleys, pipes, valves and stopcocks … Is it not reasonable to suppose, with so many things to get out of order, that one or another of them will always be out of order?”

The two men steadily refined their initial design, eventually producing a carriage-like vehicle that could be controlled by a driver on a high seat at the back, with a wider seat for passengers in the front. In 1897 Morris and Salom launched a taxi service in Manhattan with a dozen vehicles, serving 1,000 passengers in their first month of operation. But the cabs had limited range and their batteries took hours to recharge. So Morris and Salom merged with another firm, the Electric Battery Company. Its engineers had devised a clever battery-swapping system, based at a depot at 1684 Broadway, that could replace an empty battery with a fully charged one in seconds, allowing the Electrobats to operate all day.
» Read article            

» More about clean transportation            

 

CARBON OFFSETS AND REFORESTATION

fire in the poolUS Forest Fires Threaten Carbon Offsets as Company-Linked Trees Burn
At least two forestry projects used by businesses including BP and Microsoft to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions are burning in Oregon and Washington.
By Camilla Hodgson, Financial Times, in Inside Climate News
August 4, 2021

Forests in the United States that generate the carbon offsets bought by companies including BP and Microsoft are on fire as summer blazes rage in North America.

Corporate net-zero emission pledges rely on such projects to compensate for the carbon dioxide generated by companies that are unable to make sufficient cuts to their actual emissions.

In principle each offset represents a ton of carbon that has been permanently removed from the atmosphere or avoided. Offsets generated by projects that plant or protect trees, which absorb carbon, are among the most popular.

But forestry projects are vulnerable to wildfires, drought and disease—permanent threats that are being exacerbated by global warming.

“We’ve bought forest offsets that are now burning,” Elizabeth Willmott, Microsoft’s carbon program manager, told attendees at an event hosted by Carbon180, a non-profit organization that focuses on carbon removal.

In Washington and Oregon, at least two forestry projects used by companies including BP and Microsoft are ablaze.

Given the risks from fire and drought, forestry offsetting schemes contributed about 10 to 20 percent of the credits they generate to the “buffer pool.”

Critics of the unregulated offsetting system have warned that buffer pools may be too small to compensate for the damage done by major fires.

“The concern is that the pool is not large enough to cover the increased risk of [the carbon benefits being reversed] with climate change over the full set of participating projects,” said Barbara Haya, research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.
» Read article            

Sand Martin Wood
Reforestation hopes threaten global food security, Oxfam warns
Over-reliance on tree-planting to offset carbon emissions could push food prices up 80% by 2050
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
August 3, 2021

Governments and businesses hoping to plant trees and restore forests in order to reach net-zero emissions must sharply limit such efforts to avoid driving up food prices in the developing world, the charity Oxfam has warned.

Planting trees has been [presented] as one of the key ways of tackling the climate crisis, but the amount of land needed for such forests would be vast, and planting even a fraction of the area needed to offset global greenhouse gas emissions would encroach on the land needed for crops to feed a growing population, according to a report entitled Tightening the net: Net zero climate targets implications for land and food equity.

At least 1.6bn hectares – an area five times the size of India, equivalent to all the land now farmed on the planet – would be required to reach net zero for the planet by 2050 via tree-planting alone. While no one is suggesting planting trees to that extent, the report’s authors said it gave an idea of the scale of planting required, and how limited offsetting should be if food price rises are to be avoided.

Nafkote Dabi, climate policy lead at Oxfam and co-author of the report, explained: “It is difficult to tell how much land would be required, as governments have not been transparent about how they plan to meet their net-zero commitments. But many countries and companies are talking about afforestation and reforestation, and the first question is: where is this land going to come from?”

Food prices could rise by 80% by 2050, according to some estimates, if offsetting emissions through forestry is over-used. About 350m hectares of land – an area roughly the size of India – could be used for offsetting without disrupting agriculture around the world, but taken together the plans for offsetting from countries and companies around the world could soon exceed this.
» Read article            
» Read the Oxfam report            

» More about carbon offsets and reforestation               

 

CARBON CAPTURE & SEQUESTRATION

new pipelinesThe infrastructure deal could create pipelines for captured CO2
The bipartisan infrastructure package gives billions to carbon capture and removal
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 3, 2021

A new generation of pipelines could be born out of the bipartisan infrastructure deal making its way through Congress. But instead of hauling oil and gas, the pipelines would carry planet-heating carbon dioxide. The massive bill would allocate funding for new infrastructure devoted to capturing carbon dioxide, and transporting it to places where it can be buried underground or used in products like carbonated soda.

Carbon capture technology aims to scrub CO2 directly at the source of emissions — but it’s remained controversial among climate activists, with many seeing it as a false solution that distracts from emission reduction goals. But Congress’ new bipartisan infrastructure plan would invest billions of dollars into the idea, committing the US to ambitious carbon capture and removal schemes that have never been attempted at this large scale.

“The infrastructure bill has opened the floodgates for carbon capture piping. Watch out,” tweeted Alan Ramo, professor emeritus at Golden Gate University School of Law.

The new provisions focus mostly on using carbon capture and removal to tackle industrial emissions, rather than emissions from the power sector. The Biden Administration has particularly encouraged carbon capture for industries like cement and steel, which are difficult to electrify and decarbonize. (Cement alone is responsible for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions.) Focusing on those industries might keep carbon capture from being used as a way to extend the life of coal plants or other heavy-emitting power sources, a problem that’s come up with carbon capture technologies used in the power sector.
» Blog editor’s note: Adapted from BOC (Industrial Gases)…CO2 is a toxic gas. It is heavier than air and, if there is a leak from a CO2 [pipeline], it tends to accumulate [in low terrain] and pushes the oxygen-rich air upwards…. Air normally contains about 0.03% carbon dioxide, but breathing air with increased concentrations of the gas can lead to effects ranging from heavy breathing and a feeling of suffocation through loss of consciousness to asphyxiation.
» Read article             

» More about CC&S                

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

documents wheeled
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Includes $25 Billion in Potential New Subsidies for Fossil Fuels
Instead of reducing the role of fossil fuels in the economy, critics say, the bill subsidizes industry “greenwashing.”
By Alleen Brown, The Intercept
August 3, 2021

The Senate’s new bipartisan infrastructure bill is being sold as a down payment on addressing the climate crisis. But environmental advocates and academics are warning the proposed spending bill is full of new fossil fuel industry subsidies masked as climate solutions. The latest draft bill would make fossil fuel companies eligible for at least $25 billion in new subsidies, according to an analysis by the Center for International Environmental Law.

“This is billions upon billions of dollars in additional fossil fuel industry subsidies in addition to the $15 billion that we already hand out to this industry to support and fund this industry,” said Jim Walsh, Food and Water Watch’s senior policy analyst. Scientists say that to meet the goals of the international Paris climate accord, the U.S would need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — and be well on the way there by 2030. With subsidies that keep fossil fuel industries going, Walsh said, “We will never be able to meet the Paris agreement if we fund these kind of programs.”

Just as concerning is the new economy the subsidies could entrench, said Walsh, through the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure. “This would support the development of four petrochemical hubs that would create profit incentives for greenhouse gas emission production and would be focused on finding new ways of integrating fossil fuels into our economy for transportation, energy, petrochemical development, and plastics.”

In short, he added, “This deal envisions a world where we will use fossil fuels into perpetuity.”

The subsidies would go toward technologies sold as dream fixes for ending the nightmare of the climate crisis without the colossal political hurdle of dislodging the fossil fuel industry from the U.S. economy. Such technologies include carbon capture and decarbonized hydrogen fuel. Both purported solutions in practice help fossil fuel companies mask the continued release of climate-warming gases. Neither of the technologies are currently commercially viable at a large scale, so the energy industry requires government help to carry out what critics see as a public relations scheme.
» Read article            

Facebook fossil influence
Facebook let fossil-fuel industry push climate misinformation, report finds
Thinktank InfluenceMap accuses petroleum giants of gaming Facebook to promote oil and gas as part of climate-crisis solution
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian
August 5, 2021

Facebook failed to enforce its own rules to curb an oil and gas industry misinformation campaign over the climate crisis during last year’s presidential election, according to a new analysis released on Thursday.

The report, by the London-based thinktank InfluenceMap, identified an increase in advertising on the social media site by ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel companies aimed at shaping the political debate about policies to address global heating.

InfluenceMap said its research shows the fossil-fuel industry has moved away from outright denying the climate crisis, and is now using social media to promote oil and gas as part of the solution. The report also exposed what it said was Facebook’s role in facilitating the dissemination of false claims about global heating by failing to consistently apply its own policies to stop erroneous advertising.

“Despite Facebook’s public support for climate action, it continues to allow its platform to be used to spread fossil-fuel propaganda,” the report said. “Not only is Facebook inadequately enforcing its existing advertising policies, it’s clear that these policies are not keeping pace with the critical need for urgent climate action.”

The report found that 25 oil and gas industry organisations spent at least $9.5m to place more than 25,000 ads on Facebook’s US platforms last year, which were viewed more than 431m times. Exxon alone spent $5m.

“The industry is using a range of messaging tactics that are far more nuanced than outright statements of climate denial. Some of the most significant tactics found included tying the use of oil and gas to maintaining a high quality of life, promoting fossil gas as green, and publicizing the voluntary actions taken by the industry on climate change,” the report said.
» Read article            
» Read the InfluenceMap report          

» More about fossil fuels                  

 

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Quebec declines LNG terminal
Quebec Rejects $14-Billion LNG Terminal
By The Energy Mix staff
August 1, 2021

Quebec has rejected GNL Québec’s application to build a C$14-billion liquefied natural gas terminal in the Saguenay region, capping years of opposition by Indigenous communities, climate campaigners, scientists, and health professionals.

The announcement comes just a week after three Innu First Nations in Quebec declared a pipeline to the Énergie Saguenay project from Western Canada would not be allowed to cross their ancestral lands. “We listened, we did our own research on the project, and following the conclusions of the BAPE report, it is clear that our position will remain the same,” said Charles-Edouard Verreault, vice-chief of Mashteuiatsh First Nation and spokesperson for the three nations. “This project won’t be happening on our territories.”

“Relief!” headlined Coalition Fjord, a campaign group that waged a three-year fight against the project.

“The end of the GNL project and pipeline is an encouraging sign for citizen mobilization,” the group said in a release. “It’s a relief for the climate, after the science was finally heard”, so that the province will dodge an increase in its greenhouse gas emissions.

“Locally, it’s a massive relief for biodiversity,” including beluga whale populations that were threatened by the project. And “above all, it’s a relief to see the end of division and the beginning of a constructive dialogue,” the coalition said. “To many people, this project looked like a chance to create jobs and boost the local economy, but that was just a mirage” that masked the project’s “irreversible negative impacts”. 

Previously, Quebec’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) had issued a 500-page report concluding that the risks from the 750-kilometre-long gas pipeline would “far outweigh” the benefits. The project drew the widest response ever to a BAPE review with more than 2,500 briefs presented, 91% of them opposing the development.
» Read article            

no smoking LNG
DC Circuit faults FERC’s environmental analysis in two LNG project orders
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
August 3, 2021


The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has found fault with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s climate and environmental justice reviews for the Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG projects, planned in the Brownsville, Texas, area, and has remanded to FERC the orders authorizing the projects.

The Aug. 3 decision, marking the second blow the court delivered to FERC’s gas project orders, could have broader implications going forward for the commission’s approach to considering climate impacts. It arrives as FERC has remained split on the extent of its legal requirements to assess climate impacts of projects.

The orders remanded by the court Aug. 3 include applications for the 7 million mt/year Rio Grande project and the 4 million mt/year Texas LNG project. FERC first approved the projects in 2019, with rehearing orders issued in early 2020.

In one benefit for the projects, the court agreed not to vacate the FERC authorizations, acknowledging the LNG developers’ concerns that such a remedy could “imperil the intervenors’ ability to obtained funding necessary to complete the projects in a timely fashion.”

The three-judge panel of the DC Circuit agreed with petitioners that FERC failed to adequately assess the impact of the projects’ greenhouse gas emissions because it neglected to respond to the argument that it was required to use the social cost of carbon or some other generally accepted method to assess the GHG emissions’ effects.

FERC did not discuss or even cite the relevant Council on Environmental Quality regulation in its rehearing order that would have seemed to require it to evaluate the impacts based on theoretical approaches or research methods generally accepted by the scientific community, said the ruling Judge Robert Wilkins filed.

While the court did not rule on what method FERC should have applied on GHGs, it held that FERC was required to address the petitioners’ argument concerning the significance of a CEQ regulation and that its failure to do so rendered its analysis of the projects’ GHG emissions deficient.

The panel also found FERC’s environmental justice analysis for the two projects to be flawed. It agreed with petitioners that the decision to analyze the impact on environmental justice communities only in census blocks within two miles of the projects was arbitrary, given FERC’s determination that environmental effects would extend well beyond two miles. FERC determined air quality impacts could occur within 31 miles, the court said.

“The commission has offered no explanation as to why, in light of that finding, it chose to delineate the area potentially affected by the projects to include only those census blocks within two miles of the project sites for the purposes of its environmental justice analyses,” it said.

In deciding to remand, rather than vacate, the FERC orders, the decision called it “reasonably likely” that, on remand, FERC could address its failures to explain its approach on climate change and environmental justice while reaching the same result. [emphasis added]
» Blog editor’s note: once FERC performs the required climate impact and environmental justice studies, their rigor and validity can be scrutinized by environmental and legal experts. Should FERC reach the “same result” based on shoddy or flawed analysis, we expect further litigation to follow.
» Read article                    

» More about liquefied natural gas      

 

BIOMASS

smoke and pollutants
Environmental justice designation coming under scrutiny
Is Lexington really environmentally overburdened?
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
August 3, 2021

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE communities, marginalized areas of the state overburdened with pollution from power plants, industrial facilities, and highways, are turning out to be more commonplace in Massachusetts than you might think.

Earlier this year, when the Legislature passed a sweeping climate change bill containing language defining an environmental justice, or EJ community, advocates said the measure was needed to protect areas of the state with high populations of people of color, low-income residents, and other marginalized groups that face disproportionate environmental burdens.

But as the definition is being applied, the number of EJ communities is turning out to be larger than expected. According to a state analysis of Census data, close to 200 of the state’s 351 cities and towns contain some EJ neighborhoods. 

There were municipalities containing EJ neighborhoods you would expect, including Chelsea, Everett, Lawrence, and Randolph, where the entire city was an EJ community. Others high on the list included Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lowell, Malden, New Bedford, North Adams, Quincy, Springfield, and Worcester.

But there were also cities and towns containing fairly high concentrations of EJ neighborhoods that one would hardly describe as environmentally overburdened, including Acton, Amherst, Arlington, Avon, Brookline, Lexington, Waltham, Watertown, and Westborough.

Last week, state environmental officials showed just how powerful the EJ designation could be. In setting regulations for the construction of wood-burning power plants, the officials said the facilities would not qualify for essential ratepayer subsidies if they were located in an EJ community or within five miles of one. That ruling meant that 89 percent of the state was essentially off-limits to biomass plants and someone looking to build such a facility in Massachusetts could only locate it in 35 of the state’s 351 cities and towns.
» Read article            

EJ-5
Biomass power rules leave 35 towns in industry ‘crosshairs’
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, in Berkshire Eagle
July 31, 2021

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have let the Baker administration know that they are not happy with proposed regulations that would effectively protect environmental justice communities and surrounding areas from new wood-burning power generation facilities while singling out just 35 towns as possible plant hosts.

In April, the Baker administration announced that its proposed updates to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard regulations would prohibit biomass projects from qualifying for the RPS program if they are located within an environmental justice community or within five miles of an environmental justice community.

The latest version of that plan got a hearing before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on Friday, with Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock detailing the proposed changes for lawmakers.

The RPS governs the increasing amount of clean energy that utilities and municipal light plants must purchase each year. State law requires that DOER make biomass facilities eligible for the RPS program and rules that have been in place since 2012 make only efficient combined-heat-and-power biomass plants eligible to sell renewable energy credits into the RPS market.

But once each environmental justice community and its corresponding five-mile buffer was mapped out, about 90 percent of the state’s land area was excluded.

That leaves just 10 percent of the state — a stretch of communities west of the Connecticut River and along the Connecticut border, a strip of coastline that runs through Cohasset, Scituate and Marshfield, and small shreds of various other towns — where future biomass facilities could be located and be eligible for incentives under the Baker administration’s policy.

“It doesn’t matter where a facility is sited in Massachusetts or elsewhere, the science still says no,” Sen. Jo Comerford said, referring to the fact that biomass generation pollutes more than other sources like solar. “The logic here in these regulations is tortured. A biomass plant cited more than five miles away from the nearest environmental justice community is not any greener than a biomass plant in Springfield. The location of the facility has never been a factor in RPS class one eligibility. Class one should be reserved for the cleanest energy sources.”
» Read article            

biomass pretzel logic
Proposed biomass limits restrict new plants in 90 percent of state
Remaining 35 communities worried about pollution
By Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine
July 30, 2021

MONTHS AFTER THE Baker administration pulled the plug on plans for a controversial new biomass plant in Springfield, state environmental officials proposed new regulations that would drastically limit where biomass plants can be located.

The rules promulgated by the Department of Energy Resources in April say new biomass plants located in or within five miles of an environmental justice community will not qualify as a renewable energy source under a state program, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, or RPS, that requires energy producers to obtain a certain amount of energy from renewable sources. Financially, that would likely make it impossible for a company to locate a plant there. Environmental justice communities are generally poor communities of color that are disproportionately affected by pollution.

Practically, Massachusetts has adopted an expansive definition of environmental justice communities, which means that about 90 percent of the state is within five miles of one of these communities. Most of the remaining places where biomass would be eligible for the incentive are in rural Western Massachusetts.

The restrictions, which will be the subject of a legislative hearing on Friday, are angering representatives of the few communities that could still be targeted to host biomass plants.

 “If we’re going to regulate biomass out of 90 percent of the Commonwealth, we might as well make it ineligible for [incentive programs] across the entire Commonwealth,” said Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat who represents 17 towns where biomass would remain eligible. Hinds worries that the towns in his district will be aggressively pursued by biomass companies, and he worries about pollution.

Sen. Jo Comerford, a Northampton Democrat who represents three eligible communities, said she has long believed biomass should not be eligible as a renewable energy source because of the pollution it creates – which makes it less “green” than wind or solar power. Comerford said she agrees with DOER’s decision to keep biomass out of environmental justice communities. But she said retaining eligibility in 10 percent of the state puts DOER “in a pretzel-like argument.”

“It’s saying biomass in environmental justice communities is bad, but biomass in Leyden is good,” Comerford said.
» Read article          
» Watch TUE hearing video           

» More about biomass                

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