Monthly Archives: July 2022

Weekly News Check-In 7/29/22

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Welcome back.

The big news this week is the US Senate compromise that revived, in the eleventh hour, significant federal climate legislation. What this means, from our Director:


July Surprise: the Inflation Reduction Act is an unexpected opportunity

Though we’re still sorting through the finer details of the Inflation Reduction Act here in the climate and clean energy advocacy sector, the overall picture is clear. There are some strong giveaways to the fossil fuel industry that threaten to negate the climate positive provisions of this bill, including expanded drilling for gas and oil.

But on the other hand, these very bold measures have a chance to get on the books:

— Reducing emissions by 40% by 2030 across all sectors
— $60B for Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants for pollution reduction, access to clean energy options, and transportation
— $60B to bring clean energy manufacturing to the US, including $30B for wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage
— 10-year (instead of two year) tax credits for home and car owners to switch to electric options like EVs, electric HVAC, and solar
— $20B for adoption of climate-positive agricultural practices
— almost $6B for a new Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment Program to reduce emissions from the largest industrial emitters like chemical, steel and cement plants

» Senate Summary of Energy Security and Climate Change Investments (download)

We join many other organizations (350.org, Sierra Club, EarthJustice, Bill McKibben, Al Gore and others) in support of the Inflation Reduction Act. If it passes, it will allow many much needed climate-positive provisions to become law.

As for the fossil fuel provisions, these are forces we have been fighting for a long time, and we will continue to push for a just transition and end to the industry. This is coming as that groundswell is growing from all corners. There will still be the ability for the president to use executive actions like declaring a climate emergency, and having a commitment to strong climate action will give us more leverage in the push for global agreements.

In addition, the bill has many positive provisions for making healthcare available and affordable to more Americans, lowering prescription drug prices, assuring that corporations pay their fair share in taxes and more.

Please take action today by calling your Senators and urging them to pass the Inflation Reduction Act.

— Rosemary Wessel, Program Director, No Fracked Gas in Mass


As Rose says, we’re continuing to take the fight to fossil fuels, even as we celebrate this potential progress on the sustainability front. Examples include developments at the Weymouth compressor, the Longmeadow-Springfield gas pipeline, and policies related to fixing gas leaks by building more infrastructure.

There’s also a lot of progress already underway from ongoing state and federal efforts. For instance, there’s an excellent climate bill awaiting Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s signature right now. The Biden administration is figuring out how to make “community solar” power available to lower-income households. Fans at the Newport Folk Festival not only had the pleasure of watching Joni Mitchell return to the stage after a long absence, but some of them added pedal power to help run the show. New data out of Maine is showing that air source heat pumps are capable of heating homes without fossil-fueled backup, even through that state’s notoriously frigid winters.

We’re seeing that offshore wind power has the potential side benefit of creating an anchor for reef habitat at the base of turbine towers – a boon to biodiversity during challenging times. And a new study finds that a rapid switch to electric vehicles has the global potential to avoid one-tenth of anticipated cropland expansion by reducing the need for crop-based biofuels like ethanol.

In energy storage, Sweden’s Northvolt has created an innovative battery that uses lignin, sustainably sourced from harvested trees, as anode material – avoiding the use of metals with greater environmental impact.

Even with all this good news, it’s best to remember we’re still in a race and still not moving fast enough. Already, heat waves are buckling and melting infrastructure that was built to withstand the previous century’s weather. Poor countries, tired of wealthy nations’ empty and inadequate promises to help mitigate damage caused by their disproportional emissions, are threatening to throw their doors open to fossil fuel development. And proponents of potentially catastrophic deep-seabed mining are gathered right now with delegates of the International Seabed Authority to decide the fate of our oceans.

There’s so much to celebrate, and so much to do.

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

— The NFGiM Team

LEGISLATION

good and bad
Senate Democrats Produce a Far-Reaching Climate Bill, But the Price of Compromise with Joe Manchin is Years More Drilling for Oil and Gas
The legislation includes unprecedented tax incentives for renewable energy and electric vehicles but requires additional oil and gas leasing on millions of acres of federal land for a decade.
By Marianne Lavelle and Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
July 28, 2022

To seal their surprise climate deal with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Senate Democrats conceded that their only hope for advancing a plan for a clean energy future in Congress was to bind it up in a lifeline for fossil fuels.

The legislation they propose to bring to the Senate next week still contains the heart of President Joe Biden’s climate plan—an historic $370 billion investment in transforming the U.S. power and transportation sectors and more than $60 billion in grants to help pollution-burdened disadvantaged communities achieve environmental justice.

But the package—now called the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022″—also would invest in ensuring a future for U.S. fossil energy in a carbon-constrained world. The legislation hikes tax incentives for expensive carbon capture technology 70 percent. It also requires that, for the next decade, the federal government offer tens of millions of acres offshore for oil and gas drilling as a prerequisite to the expansion of offshore wind energy development.

And Manchin said that he has obtained a commitment from Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they will advance separate legislation this fall that streamlines the permitting process for energy infrastructure, including pipelines and export facilities.

“It is truly all of the above, which means this bill does not arbitrarily shut off our abundant fossil fuels,” Manchin said in a statement.

Climate action advocates were poring over the 725-page draft text, coming to varying conclusions as they tried to weigh the bad against the good.

“This is the ultimate clean energy comeback—the strongest climate action yet at the moment we need it most,” said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “This is not the bill we would have written. It’s time to break, not deepen, our dependence on fossil fuels and all the damage and danger they bring. But this is a package we can’t afford to reject.”

He urged the Senate to pass it without delay, while the climate movement continues to work on other steps “to ensure a just and climate-safe future.”

Meanwhile, other environmental groups were drafting a letter urging the Senate to reject the compromises for fossil fuel development as incompatible with goals to eliminate greenhouse gases.

“This is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Here are the key elements that make the deal a boon to both clean energy and the fossil fuel industry:
» Read article       

author-david-wallace-wells-blogSmallThumb
Climate activists mixed hardball with a long game. Now they’re vindicated
By David Wallace-Wells, New York Times | Opinion
July 29, 2022

[…] In less than five years, a new generation of activists and aligned technocrats has taken climate action from the don’t-go-there zone of American politics and helped place it at the very center of the Democratic agenda, persuading an old-guard centrist septuagenarian, Biden, to make a New Deal-scale green investment the focus of his presidential campaign platform and his top policy priority once in office. This, despite a generation of conventional wisdom that the issue was electorally fraught and legislatively doomed. Now they find themselves pushing a recognizable iteration of that agenda — retooled and whittled down, yes, but still unthinkably large by the standards of previous administrations — plausibly forward into law.

It has been less than four years since the most outspoken of the new activist groups, the Sunrise Movement, even announced itself, protesting with Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the office of Nancy Pelosi, who later seemed to diminish the protesters’ ambitions as “the Green Dream or whatever.”

If you believe that climate change is a boutique issue prioritized only by out-of-touch liberal elites, as one poll found, then this bill, should it pass, represents a political achievement of astonishing magnitude: the triumph of a moral crusade against long odds. If you don’t — if you believe there is quite a lot of public support for climate action, as other polls suggest — then this bill marks the success of outsider activists in holding establishment forces to account, both to their own rhetoric and to the demands of their voters.

The choose-your-own-adventure aspect can be frustrating; if you’re trying to piece together a coherent model of exactly where the country is on green-energy policy, good luck. But whatever your read of public sentiment, what is most striking about the news this week is not just that there is now some climate action on the table but also how fast the landscape for climate policy has changed, shifting all of our standards for success and failure along with it. The bill may well prove inadequate, even if it passes. It also represents a generational achievement — achieved, from the point of view of activists, in a lot less time than a full generation.
» Read article    

sign it
Activists clamor for Baker to sign climate bill
By SAM DORAN, State House News Service, Gazettenet.com
July 26, 2022

With five days remaining for Gov. Charlie Baker to act on a major climate and energy bill that hit his desk late last week, advocates lobbied for the governor’s signature on the front steps of the State House on Tuesday morning, and some speakers tied their pitch to the heatwave that hit the Bay State in recent days.

“We know that our weather is getting hotter, we know we are facing devastating heatwaves with greater frequency and greater severity,” Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein said. “Now is the time for us to act on climate. And right now, the ball is in Gov. Baker’s court.”

Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Tommy Vitolo joined the group on the steps, and Rausch said state-level climate action was necessary “as we are seeing the Supreme Court roll back the federal government’s powers to regulate in this space.”

The advocates lauded aspects of the bill (H 5060), like provisions that would require reporting of energy usage by buildings larger than 20,000 square feet and require that all new vehicles sold in Massachusetts be zero-emissions models by 2035.

The governor can act on the bill up until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the final day of the Legislature’s formal sessions for this term.

If Baker sends it back with an amendment or veto toward the end of that window, it would leave lawmakers with a razor-thin timeline to respond to his action.

MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz pointed to Baker’s five or so months remaining in the corner office and suggested his limited time left as governor could factor into his decision.

“And he must be thinking — at the risk of sounding like I can see into his mind — he must be thinking about the legacy he’s going to leave behind,” Domenitz said. “And signing this bill would be hugely important and powerful for the future of Massachusetts.”
» Read article       

Boston breeze
What to know about the climate bill on Gov. Baker’s desk
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
July 22, 2022

It came down to the wire and required suspending some parliamentary rules, but the Massachusetts Legislature got a robust climate bill to Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday night.

The bill represents a compromise between the House’s offshore wind-focused legislation and the Senate’s wider reaching clean energy and climate bill.

Baker now has 10 days — or until July 31 — to sign or veto the bill. July 31 is also the final day of the legislative session, meaning if there’s a veto, lawmakers might only have a few hours to override it.

Putting that drama aside for a moment, there’s a lot in this bill. And if it’s passed, it will have a big impact on climate and clean energy policy in the state. So here, in plain English, is what you should know about it:
» Blog editor’s note: It’s worth scanning Mariam Wasser’s excellent list of clearly described features of this legislation.
» Read article      
» Read the climate bill

» More about legislation

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

drawing board
It’s back to the drawing board for Weymouth Compressor’s waterways permit
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
July 18, 2022

A new chapter has opened in the ongoing saga of the Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station. Late Friday afternoon, an adjudicator with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s appeals division recommended that the department re-evaluate a critical environmental permit that the compressor needs in order to operate.

Though the compressor station is still allowed to operate at this time, the decision represents “a major victory” for those who have been fighting the facility for over seven years, said Alice Arena, president of the group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor.

“It’s probably the first time that I feel as though there was some genuine, really genuine hope that they may have to close this facility,” she said. “In all of the years that we’ve been doing this, we have been through appeal and appeal and remand and appeal again, and every time it’s all for [the facility’s owner] Enbridge.”

A spokesperson for Enbridge said in a statement that the company is “reviewing the Presiding Officer’s recommended decision regarding the Weymouth Compressor Station’s Waterways License and will evaluate our next steps.”

Like all energy projects, the Weymouth Compressor needed several environmental permits and licenses in order for Enbridge to start construction. One of those permits was a “Chapter 91 Waterways License.”

Chapter 91 of the Massachusetts General Laws is all about protecting the public’s interest in waterways, and ensuring only things that are “water dependent” get built in tidelands or under bodies of water.

Enbridge never claimed the facility, which compresses gas to give it a boost and help it move through a pipeline into Canada, meets that definition. Instead, the company declared that the compressor was “ancillary” to an existing pipeline that runs underwater from Weymouth to Salem. That pipeline, known as the I-10 or HubLine, has a valid waterways license, and so, by declaring the then-proposed compressor was “ancillary” to it, the latter would not require its own review and license.

To be considered ancillary in this context, a project needs to meet two criteria: It must be operationally related to the original project. And second, it must require an adjacent location.
» Read article      

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PIPELINES

no expansion
Springfield City Council urges rejection of Eversource pipeline project
Utility seeks state approval for a new natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield
By Paul Tuthill, WAMC Northeast Public Radio
July 27, 2022

The Springfield City Council has recorded an official protest to a controversial natural gas pipeline project in western Massachusetts.

Citing the need to rapidly transition from fossil fuels, the danger of explosion and fire, and the cost to ratepayers, the City Council passed a resolution stating its opposition to a plan by Eversource to build a high-pressure natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield.

All nine Councilors present remotely when the vote was recorded Monday night supported the resolution. It was authored by City Council President Jesse Lederman and had 9 co-sponsors.

Councilor Zaida Govan said Springfield, and the state, need to stay on a course to greatly decrease dependency on fossil fuels.

“We need to start doing things to reach that goal and not putting in new pipelines,” Govan said.

Eversource has said the new pipeline is needed as a backup for infrastructure that is 70-years-old. If the existing pipeline is damaged, or needs to be shutoff for maintenance, 58,000 Springfield customers could be without natural gas service potentially for months, the utility has stated. The cost for the project is currently put at $65 million.

With the passage of the resolution, the Council joins a growing list of opponents to the pipeline project including the Longmeadow Selectboard and half-dozen members of the local state legislative delegation who recently sent a letter of opposition to state utility regulators.

Several rallies to protest the project have been put on by the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition.

“I think we are joining some good groups to make sure that we align our goal for the future and for our children and grandchildren,” Govan said.

Routes that have been proposed for the five-mile underground pipeline would take it through the densely populated Forest Park and South End neighborhoods.
» Read article      

» More about pipelines

GAS LEAKS

reconsidering GSEP
Could gas leak fixes thwart climate goals?
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
July 25, 2022

Boston University ecologist Nathan Phillips used to push for the rapid replacement of aging pipelines, convinced that the practice was a win-win: It snuffed out natural gas leaks and protected nearby trees from those leaks.

But today, Phillips — who has spent years researching leaks in the Boston area — is skeptical of such replacement, worried that it will thwart his state’s goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“I was telling people that the way to fix the problem is to replace the pipelines,” Phillips said. “Now, I completely feel opposite to that.”

Phillips is among a growing number of climate advocates, researchers and state officials who worry that accelerated pipe replacement programs aimed at preventing gas leaks and explosions could complicate efforts to switch to electric heating and renewable energy.

Massachusetts is among 42 states with policies that encourage gas utilities to proactively replace aging or leaking pipes, according to the American Gas Association, a trade association for gas utilities and companies. It also is among a growing number of states that aim to transition away from fossil fuels.

The tension surrounding pipeline replacements and clean energy is part of a broader debate on the future of the natural gas system that heats many homes and businesses across the United States. About a dozen states have set goals to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in less than 30 years — and analysts say meeting those targets will likely mean using less natural gas.

[…] For climate advocates, that raises questions about whether it’s prudent to encourage the replacement of large networks of pipe and make ratepayers foot the bill.

[…] Climate advocates have begun analyzing state-level pipeline replacement initiatives, raising concerns about their cost and usefulness in the context of climate goals. Massachusetts’ Gas System Enhancement Program (GSEP) is one of several initiatives currently under the microscope.

Established in 2014, GSEP permits gas utilities to file annual plans to replace pipes that are leaking or could cause leaks in the future. Under a law enacted that year, participating utilities can recover money from consumers to pay for GSEP investments so long as the costs don’t exceed 1.5 percent of their annual revenue.

GSEP and similar state programs arose in the wake of deadly explosions linked to gas leaks from old steel and cast iron pipes. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also released guidance in 2012 requesting state agencies to “consider enhancements to cast iron replacement plans and programs.”

[…] “The concern is that, normally, the life span of the gas infrastructure would extend, if we put it in this week, beyond 2050,” said Aladdine Joroff, a lecturer at Harvard Law School focused on environmental law and a member of Gas Leaks Allies. “We’re potentially replacing gas pipelines that are going to be some of the ones we’re going to want to stop using, at least significantly, by 2050 if we’re going to meet our climate mandate.”

Under the 2014 GSEP law, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is required to consider whether investments made through the program would help prevent leaks of natural gas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve public safety, among other factors, according to DPU spokesperson Troy Wall.

But Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has suggested that the program should be changed to incorporate climate considerations, in line with the Bay State’s goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Changes to the program would require action from the Massachusetts Legislature.

“The Commonwealth’s climate goals and market competition from new electric end-use heating technologies raise serious questions about the continued prudence of accelerated GSEP investment,” wrote Healy, who is also the presumptive Democratic nominee for this year’s gubernatorial election in Massachusetts.

Last week, the state Legislature passed a sweeping new clean energy bill that, among other things, calls on the DPU to develop a working group focused on GSEP. The group would study the program and recommend potential changes to fully align it with the state’s climate goals. But so far, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has not committed to signing the bill into law.
» Read article      

» More about gas leaks

GREENING THE ECONOMY

community solar
Joe Biden’s new plan: solar power for everyone, not just the rich
Solar energy is still out of reach for most Americans
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 27, 2022

The Biden administration has new plans to get lower-income households hooked up to solar energy. The White House announced two new programs today aimed at expanding access to “community solar” projects among subsidized housing residents and households that receive federal assistance to pay their utility bills. It also launched a new rewards program for existing community solar projects.

“Community solar” essentially lets many different households share the benefits of one shared solar array. The most common way this takes shape is through a subscription program. A solar company or nonprofit organization will build out a solar farm, and then households that subscribe to the program get credit back on their electricity bills for the energy generated by the shared solar farm.

That’s supposed to reduce electricity bills while also promoting clean energy. And compared to traditional home solar setups, community programs are meant to reach way more people — particularly renters and anyone who can’t shell out some $25,000 to install PV panels on their home.

Homeowners face fewer barriers to install solar panels. But even among homeowners, just 6 percent have actually installed solar, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey. A much larger percentage — 46 percent — said they wanted solar panels at their home. Unsurprisingly, cost appears to be a big factor in whether or not people are taking the leap into solar power. Just 14 percent of households with residential solar in the US had annual incomes less than $50,000, according to recent research from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced new guidance that enables residents in subsidized housing to sign up for community solar. Crucially, the credits they receive from subscribing won’t count toward their household income, which might otherwise have affected their eligibility for rent assistance. The White House thinks the changes can help get 4.5 million families into community solar programs and shave an average of 10 percent off their electricity bills each year.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

DRC for sale
‘Climate Catastrophe’ Feared as Congo Moves to Sell Critical Ecosystem for Oil Drilling
“It’s madness,” said Greenpeace Africa. “These plans must be scrapped immediately.”
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
July 25, 2022

The Democratic Republic of Congo is set to begin selling huge tracts of land to oil and gas giants later this week—a move that is being decried by environmental justice campaigners and local communities because it would enable new fossil fuel extraction in the second-largest old-growth rainforest on Earth, further endangering the world’s chances of staving off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Twenty-seven oil and three gas blocks are scheduled to be auctioned off to the highest bidding corporations on July 28 and 29. The roughly 11 million hectares of land up for grabs in the Congo Basin—whose rainforest trails only the Amazon in size and is more intact—include parts of Virunga National Park, home to a key gorilla sanctuary, as well as tropical peatlands that prevent massive amounts of planet-heating carbon from reaching the atmosphere.

“If oil exploitation takes place in these areas, we must expect a global climate catastrophe, and we will all just have to watch helplessly,” Irene Wabiwa, international project leader for Greenpeace Africa’s Congo Basin forest campaign in Kinshasa, told the New York Times on Monday.

Greenpeace Africa on Monday submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatures urging DRC President Félix Tshisekedi to halt the sale of land—”home to thousands of local and indigenous communities and countless animal and plant species”—to Big Oil.

“Sacrificing peatlands and protected areas in the Congo Basin forest,” the group tweeted, would be “a death blow to the Paris agreement,” which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5ºC over preindustrial levels. “It’s madness. These plans must be scrapped immediately.”

The DRC’s approval of new oil and gas drilling in the region comes eight months after Tshisekedi endorsed a 10-year agreement to protect the country’s rainforest—a major repository of biodiversity and the world’s largest terrestrial carbon sink—at the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last December.
» Read article       

James Lovelock
James Lovelock, whose Gaia theory saw the Earth as alive, dies at 103
By Keith Schneider, New York Times, in Boston Globe
July 27, 2022

James Lovelock, the maverick British ecologist whose work was essential to today’s understanding of human-made pollutants and their effect on climate and who captured the scientific world’s imagination with his Gaia theory, portraying the Earth as a living creature, died on Tuesday, his 103rd birthday, at his home in Dorset, in southwest England.

[…His] global renown rested on three main contributions that he developed during a particularly abundant decade of scientific exploration and curiosity stretching from the late 1950s through the last half of the ’60s.

One was his invention of the Electron Capture Detector, an inexpensive, portable, exquisitely sensitive device used to help measure the spread of toxic man-made compounds in the environment. The device provided the scientific foundations of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” a catalyst of the environmental movement.

The detector also helped provide the basis for regulations in the United States and in other nations that banned harmful chemicals including DDT and PCBs and that sharply reduced the use of hundreds of other compounds as well as the public’s exposure to them.

Later, his finding that chlorofluorocarbons — the compounds that powered aerosol cans and were used to cool refrigerators and air conditioners — were present in measurable concentrations in the atmosphere led to the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer. (Chlorofluorocarbons are now banned in most countries under a 1987 international agreement.)

But Dr. Lovelock may be most widely known for his Gaia theory — that Earth functioned, as he put it, as a “living organism” that is able to “regulate its temperature and chemistry at a comfortable steady state.”

[…] As an expert on the chemical composition of the atmospheres of Earth and Mars, Dr. Lovelock wondered why Earth’s atmosphere was so stable. He theorized that something must be regulating heat, oxygen, nitrogen, and other components.

“Life at the surface must be doing the regulation,” he later wrote.

[…] A few scientists greeted the hypothesis as a thoughtful way to explain how living systems influenced the planet. Many others, however, called it New Age pablum.

The hypothesis might never have gained credibility and moved to the scientific mainstream without the contributions of Lynn Margulis, an eminent American microbiologist. In the early 1970s and in the decades afterward, she collaborated with Dr. Lovelock on specific research to support the notion.

Since then a number of scientific meetings about the Gaia theory have been held, including one at George Mason University in 2006, and hundreds of papers on aspects of it have been published. Dr. Lovelock’s theory of a self-regulating Earth has been viewed as central to understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

bike for tunes
Newport Folk Festival includes stage powered by bicycles
By Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, in WBUR
July 23, 2022

The Newport Folk Festival, known for creating electrifying musical moments — the most famous being Bob Dylan’s decision to plug in his guitar in 1965 — this weekend has a small outer stage that is being powered in part by festival-goers on stationary bicycles.

The Bike Stage is the brainchild of the band Illiterate Light, an environmentally conscious indie rock duo from Virginia, who has partnered with a company called Rock the Bike to create a pedal-powered sound system, which they have already been using at small club shows.

Frontman Jeff Gorman said the “Bike Stage” at the event in Rhode Island is the first time the system has been tried at a festival. About a dozen artists are scheduled to perform mostly acoustic sets on the stage.

About 1,300 of the festival’s 10,000 fans rode bicycles to Newport on Friday. Gorman said when he saw that sea of bikes during the band’s appearance in Newport in 2019, he and partner Jake Cochran approached festival director Jay Sweet about setting up the stage.

“It’s a way for them to just do something different and for us to start the conversation around energy use and just thinking differently and trying out new ways of creating electricity,” Gorman said.

The stage is equipped with solar panels that will provide most of the power to the equipment, with the bikes providing the rest.

When the show begins, fans jump onto five bicycles adjacent to the tent. The pedaling generates electricity, which is fed through wires to an electrical box on the stage. With temperatures in the upper 80s, fans take turns pedaling for about five minutes during the 20-minute sets. In exchange, they get a few spritzes of water from a spray bottle, a free can of iced tea and a front-row view of the performance.

Sarah Gaines, 44 of Wakefield, Rhode Island, pedaled for one song during a Friday set by singer Madi Diaz and came off the bicycle with a huge smile on her face.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

standalone
In Maine, heat pumps are proving themselves even against extreme cold
The state is well on its way to a goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025. New research by Efficiency Maine is showing that standalone systems can deliver comfort and cost savings even in subzero temperatures.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 27, 2022

Recent research by Efficiency Maine makes the case that replacing homes’ entire heating systems with heat pumps can be cost-effective and comfortable, even in Maine’s notoriously cold winters.

“Here, it got 21 below last winter,” said George Hardy, who participated in a pilot program as part of the research. “I was a little worried about the heat pumps, but they held out. They kept us warm.”

As Maine attempts to reach its ambitious goal of going carbon neutral by 2045, home heating is going to be a major problem to solve. More than 60% of the state’s home heating systems burn oil — one of the most carbon-intensive heating fuels — more than any other state.

Maine has made air-source heat pumps a centerpiece of its strategy. Heat pumps pull heat out of the surrounding air, even at cold temperatures, and transfer it into the home. The only fuel they use is the electricity needed to run the pump. Maine has set a goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025, a target it is well on its way to reaching: In 2021 alone, more than 27,000 new heat pumps came online in the state.

Often, however, homeowners install just one heat pump, but continue to use fossil fuel sources as a backup, an arrangement that can undercut the ability of heat pumps to save money and reduce emissions. Efficiency Maine, therefore, has been undertaking research to bolster the argument for jettisoning the oil and propane altogether and moving toward whole-home heat pump systems.

“We’re reaffirming our expectation that they work in cold climates and will keep you comfortable through the entire winter,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine. “We want to see the heat pumps being used to their full capacity.”
» Read article      

phased out
Vermont moves to become first state to phase out linear fluorescent lights
The new law prohibits the long, tube-shaped bulbs beginning in 2024 and was praised by energy efficiency advocates, who encourage LEDs as a safer, cheaper, longer-lasting, and widely available alternative.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
July 20, 2022

Aiming to reduce mercury hazards and boost energy efficiency, Vermont will prohibit the sale of the long, tube-shaped fluorescent lamps that light up supermarkets, office buildings and classrooms as of Jan. 1, 2024.

It is the first state to adopt a law phasing out linear fluorescents, but California and Rhode Island have similar legislation pending. Energy efficiency advocates say fluorescents can now easily be swapped out for LED lights, which, unlike fluorescents, do not contain mercury. LEDs also consume far less electricity and last at least twice as long.

“The LEDs have advanced so far and become so commonplace that the reaction now to this idea is, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to switch over?’” said Brian Fadie, a state policy associate for the Appliance Standards Awareness Project at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “If states choose to act, they can achieve great energy and mercury savings by transforming the market faster than it will transform on its own.”

Vermont’s law specifically applies to the 4-foot linear fluorescents, which are by far the most common type on the market, Fadie said.

“LED sales have been increasing, but in 2021, 70% of linear lamp sales were fluorescent, with LEDs at 30%,” he said.

The “precursor” to this law was a law passed in 2011 that requires lighting manufacturers to arrange for the collection of expired fluorescent lamps at sites such as hardware stores and dispose of them safely, said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, known as VPIRG.
» Read article       

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

lignin anode
Northvolt looks to develop wood-based batteries to keep supply chain local
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 25, 2022

Swedish battery developer Northvolt has entered into a partnership with Finnish company Stora Enso to develop sustainable batteries using wood based products from Nordic forests in an effort to keep the supply chain local.

The two companies will work together to develop what they say will be the world’s first industrialised battery to use an anode sourced entirely from European raw materials, an innovation which is expected to help lower both the carbon footprint of the battery as well as its cost.

“The joint battery development with Northvolt marks a step on our journey to serve the fast-growing battery market with renewable anode materials made from trees,” said Johanna Hagelberg, executive vice president for biomaterials at Stora Enso.

“Our lignin-based hard carbon, Lignode by Stora Enso, will secure the strategic European supply of anode raw material, serving the sustainable battery needs for applications from mobility to stationary energy storage.”

Lignin is a plant-derived polymer found in the cell walls of dry-land plants such as trees, which are composed of between 20% to 30% of lignin where it acts as a natural and strong binder.

According to Stora Enso, lignin is one of the biggest renewable sources of carbon in the world.

Stora Enso already boasts   a pilot plant for bio-based carbon materials, located at its Sunila production site in Filand and where lignin has been industrially produced since 2015 at an annual production capacity of 50,000 tonnes.

“With this partnership, we are exploring a new source of sustainable raw material and expanding the European battery value chain, while also developing a less expensive battery chemistry,” said Emma Nehrenheim, chief environmental officer at Northvolt.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage

BUILDING MATERIALS

lumpy Luton
From Burst Pipes in Texas to Melted Roads in France, the Climate Crisis Is Too Much for Existing Infrastructure
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
July 25, 2022

As deadly heat waves continue around the world, the climate crisis is making itself evident on the very roads we drive on.

When the weather gets hotter, building materials including asphalt and concrete expand and crack, CNN explained. And this has led to incidents from London to China as aging infrastructure meets record high temperatures.

“Most of our physical infrastructure was built using the temperature records of the mid-20th century,” Costa Samaras, principal assistant director for energy with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, told The Washington Post. “That is not the climate we have now.”

In China, high temperatures in mid-July melted tiles on the roof of a museum in Chongqing, as EcoWatch reported at the time. During the same heat wave, a road in a town in Jiangxi province buckled up six inches.

The high heat that brought the UK its first temperature reading higher than 40 degrees Celsius also melted a runway at Luton Airport, disrupting flights.

The high temperatures also inspired some interesting methods of protecting infrastructure in the usually mild island nation. Foil was wrapped around London’s Hammersmith Bridge in order to reflect sunlight and keep the structure itself cool, as CNN reported. Further, Network Rail began painting London railways white in order to prevent them from overheating.

“The rail temperature here is over 48 degrees Celsius so we’re painting the rails white to prevent them from getting hotter,” Network Rail tweeted.

Roads across the Channel in the EU have not been spared. Journalist Sasha Abramsky had a direct encounter with what high heat does to roads when his car overheated in the Pyrenees in France.

‘My personal experience of this week’s ‘heat apocalypse’ in Europe involved discovering large globs of hot, sticky tar stuck to my leg after I trod in melted asphalt on a mountain road in France on Sunday afternoon: The road that I was walking on had literally begun to melt,” he wrote for Truthout.

[…] Roads especially are so vulnerable to high heat because asphalt gets soft when it’s hot, while concrete can expand and buckle, according to The Washington Post. As the climate crisis makes heat waves more frequent and extreme, infrastructure will need to be updated to accommodate higher normal temperatures. However, simply redoing roads is not enough.

“The bottom line is: we are not going to only build our way out of this,” Samaras told The Washington Post. “We must decarbonize our energy uses and learn how to remove carbon we’ve already added to the atmosphere.”
» Read article       

» More about building materials

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

turbine anchor
Offshore Wind Farms Could Be Boon for Marine Biodiversity
By The Energy Mix
July 24, 2022

Offshore wind proponents are exploring “turbine reefs”—coral habitats planted on wind turbine bases—as a solution to the intersecting crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“As we build out offshore wind energy, there is great potential to enhance and create new habitats,” said Carl LoBue, The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) New York oceans program director. “Offshore wind farms could support entire communities of marine life.”

Human activity—overfishing and unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions—is driving ocean heating and acidification that have left marine habitats in dire straits. Over the last 50 years, populations of species such as sharks and rays have withered by more than 70%, reports Energy Monitor. At a recent UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Secretary-General António Guterres lamented that humans have “taken the ocean for granted” and declared that humanity faces an ocean emergency. “We must turn the tide,” he warned.

Biologists are looking for solutions in a burgeoning offshore wind energy sector—expected to increase capacity from 40 gigawatts in 2020 to 630 gigawatts by 2050. Armed with the knowledge that coral reefs provide habitats for around 32% of marine species, they hope the bases of turbines can foster habitats as a bulwark against ocean biodiversity loss.

The science is still in its early stages, but several groups are already working on strategies to recreate marine ecosystems. In one prominent trial, Danish energy giant Ørsted’s ReCoral program is collecting indigenous coral spawn that washes up onshore and incubating the spawn in laboratories. After it grows to a viable larval stage, the spawn is then transported to wind turbine foundations where it can, theoretically, form a new coral reef.

[…] If it works, establishing habitats on wind turbines could also help stabilize turbine foundations, which are threatened by erosion at their base. A recent TNC report studied nature-based designs for offshore wind structures and identified ways to stabilize turbines alongside a “massive opportunity to create, enhance, and expand marine habitat for native fish, shellfish, and other species.”
» Read article       

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

land sparing
Electric cars sales in the US ‘could prevent one-tenth of global cropland expansion’
A faster shift to electric vehicles (EVs) in the US would avoid around 10% of the global cropland expansion expected over the next 30 years, according to a new study.
By
Josh Gabbatiss, Carbon Brief
July 18, 2022

Instead of growing maize (corn) to make biofuel for US cars, modelling in the Ecological Economics paper suggests large swathes of land could be left to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2).

This land sparing would bring “substantial” emissions savings, in addition to the direct benefits of electrifying US road transport, the researchers say.

The findings come as campaigners and some governments have been pushing to end the use of crops for biofuels in the face of soaring food prices and fears of global hunger.

One scientist not involved with the study tells Carbon Brief it highlights an “understudied” benefit of vehicle electrification, which “could have important indirect effects on agricultural production and greenhouse gas emissions globally”.

Shifting to 100% electric vehicle sales is a long way from reality in the US. However, the study suggests that, by choosing cleaner transport, Americans could significantly slash global demand for maize, cutting both emissions from agriculture and food prices.
» Read article      
» Obtain the study

» More about clean transportation     

DEEP-SEABED MINING

deep fish
Concerns over transparency and access abound at deep-sea mining negotiations
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
July 26, 2022

Delegates of the International Seabed Authority are currently meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to negotiate a set of rules that would pave the way for a controversial activity: mining the seabed for coveted minerals like manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and zinc. But scientists and conservationists say there are considerable transparency issues at the meetings that are restricting access to key information and hampering interactions between member states and civil society.

The ISA is the U.N.-mandated body responsible for overseeing the development of deep-sea mining in international waters, but also tasked with protecting the marine environment. Very little is actually known about the deep ocean, yet countries and corporations have set their sights on exploiting three deep-sea environments — abyssal plains, seamounts, and hydrothermal vents. They argue that doing so is necessary to produce batteries for electric cars and other green technologies, which would, in turn, help combat climate change. Yet scientists and conservationists say that mining the seabed would cause the planet far more harm than good, disrupting and destroying the very ecosystems that support life on Earth, and that green technologies do not require minerals from the ocean.

The ISA usually holds its meetings at the Jamaica Conference Centre, a complex with five large conference rooms, each of which can hold hundreds of people. But this year, due to renovations at the usual venue, the meetings were moved to a local hotel that’s unable to accommodate all delegates and observers in the same room, and has generally limited the number of attendees. For instance, the ISA only permits one observer per civil society group in the building at a time, which was the same restriction enforced at the ISA meetings that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were no restrictions on observers.

“We’re seeing huge restrictions on access,” Diva Amon, a marine biologist and deep-sea expert who is attending the ISA meetings as a representative of the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), told Mongabay. “We are literally in this basement room, where we have a screen in front of us — a TV screen — and we’re only able to see the person who’s speaking. Usually we’re all in a room together, and as observers, we can read the room, we can interact with delegates really easily, and it’s just a lot more interactive. This time, it feels very siloed, which is unfortunate.”

Arlo Hemphill, a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace who is also attending the current meetings, said that the new venue was unacceptable due to the limitations it created.

“They’re basically negotiating rules that are going to govern the surface area of almost half the planet and the people with the most at stake are being denied a seat at the table,” Hemphill told Mongabay.
» Read article      

» More about deep-seabed mining    

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

making rent
Revealed: oil sector’s ‘staggering’ $3bn-a-day profits for last 50 years
Vast sums provide power to ‘buy every politician’ and delay action on climate crisis, says expert
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
July 21, 2022

The oil and gas industry has delivered $2.8bn (£2.3bn) a day in pure profit for the last 50 years, a new analysis has revealed.

The vast total captured by petrostates and fossil fuel companies since 1970 is $52tn, providing the power to “buy every politician, every system” and delay action on the climate crisis, says Prof Aviel Verbruggen, the author of the analysis. The huge profits were inflated by cartels of countries artificially restricting supply.

The analysis, based on World Bank data, assesses the “rent” secured by global oil and gas sales, which is the economic term for the unearned profit produced after the total cost of production has been deducted.

The study has yet to be published in an academic journal but three experts at University College London, the London School of Economics and the thinktank Carbon Tracker confirmed the analysis as accurate, with one calling the total a “staggering number”. It appears to be the first long-term assessment of the sector’s total profits, with oil rents providing 86% of the total.

Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have driven the climate crisis and contributed to worsening extreme weather, including the current heatwaves hitting the UK and many other Northern hemisphere countries. Oil companies have known for decades that carbon emissions were dangerously heating the planet.
» Read article       

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 7/15/22

banner 15

Welcome back.

There’s plenty of news this week. We’re covering important direct actions involving    our own Berkshire Environmental Action Team, in conjunction with the Berkshire Branch of the NAACP, 350MA Berkshire Node, and statewide environmental coalition Mass Power Forward. These organizations are pushing for the state Legislature to adopt a series of strong climate bills, saying we are in the “11th hour” for such initiatives.

Here’s where things get tough. At the federal level, more than 200 congressional staffers urged the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to finalize a reconciliation package that includes robust measures to tackle the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency before the August recess. But West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin scuttled that legislation at the last moment – dramatically sinking President Biden’s climate agenda and arguably cementing his legacy (in the words of John Podesta, a former senior counselor to President Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress), as “… the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity.”

Manchin’s to blame, for sure, but let’s not forget that things would be different if even a single Republican senator had been willing to support this critical legislation. This all means that the feds are only bringing modest action to the game, like the US Department of Energy’s competition supporting innovations in extracting lithium for energy storage, or the Environmental Protection Agency  telling the Tennessee Valley Authority to reconsider an initial decision to replace its largest coal plant with a natural gas one. For the foreseeable future, meaningful climate progress in the US is locked down at the state level. The rest of the world, having suffered extraordinary losses from the effects of America’s historic emissions, is not impressed.

Even before this happened, John Kerry, President Biden’s top climate-focused diplomat, expressed concern in an interview with The Boston Globe that time to transition to clean energy is running out. Still, the war in Ukraine, supply chain problems, and inflation have all lined up to favor the fossil fuel industry – at least in the near term.

Plans are advancing for an extension of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline as a partial alternative to Russian gas for Europe, and the Biden administration may approve the huge ConocoPhillips ‘Willow’ carbon bomb in Alaska. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency is recognizing energy efficiency (not liquefied natural gas) as the real workhorse that can pull Europe through its energy crisis. Along those same lines, a recent report out of Oregon shows that a speedy transition to electric heat pumps in homes and businesses could translate into lower utility bills and faster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Those findings bolster calls from environmental groups asking state regulators to end consumer subsidies that allow utilities to expand gas infrastructure.

Maine is making up for one missing federal program by launching a climate corps service program aimed at mitigating and preparing for climate change. Its goal is to both make a difference on climate issues and create career pathways for young people interested in conservation, renewable energy, or other related work.

Clean transportation is coming to the farm, and the way to get farmers to adopt a new tool is to prove that it can do the work. Beginning last year, Robert Wallace, an expert on rural energy projects, fitted electric tractors with data-gathering sensors and offered them for free tests on farms and gardens in rural Oregon. It may be the first program of its kind in the U.S.

Some large carbon capture and storage projects will be funded with $2.1B from the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but they will start life in the shadow of the industry’s greatest failure so far: a billion dollar boondoggle called Petra Nova. Another sketchy operation, deep-seabed mining, is nearing approval, but scientists are raising new alarm about noise caused by those operations, and the likely harm it will cause to marine mammals and other animals from surface to sea floor.

We’ll close with an item that clarifies the connection between the fossil fuel and plastics industries. A new U.S.-Saudi joint venture on the Texas coast represents a shift by the fossil fuel industry toward supporting and promoting the production and use of plastics as demand for oil and gas declines.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

creatures too
Activists Demand Climate Legislation ‘In the 11th Hour’
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires
July 11, 2022

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local activists are pushing for the state Legislature to adopt a series of strong climate bills, saying we are in the “11th hour” for such initiatives.

These include an act to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by transportation pollution; an act relative to energy facilities siting reform to address environmental justice, climate, and public health; an act for building justice with jobs; and an act transiting the state to clean electricity, heating, and transportation.

Berkshire Environmental Action Team, in conjunction with the Berkshire Branch of the NAACP, 350MA Berkshire Node, and statewide environmental coalition Mass Power Forward had a standout on Monday at Park Square to advocate for climate justice legislation.

“We’re here today to push the Mass Legislature to pass a comprehensive, equitable energy bill,” said Rosemary Wessel, program director for BEAT’s No Fracked Gas in Mass.

“On Friday afternoon, we learned that there’s a possibility that State House politics could result in no climate bill at all in this session, so they need to have a deliverable bill worked out by [July]15 at the latest and the word is from several sources that talks have completely broken down. So we need to ramp up the pressure and make sure that the legislature hears loudly and clearly that no bill is not an option.”

This was a part of 11 simultaneous actions across the state held at 11 a.m. on July 11 to signify its proximity to the end of the legislative session on July 15. They’re using the hashtag #MA11thhour

“BEAT’s mission is to protect the environment for wildlife in support of the natural world that sustains us all,” Executive Director Jane Winn said.

“So we’re here keeping in mind that this work is not just all about us humans.  We are causing the sixth extinction, a massive loss of biodiversity. We need our legislators to take action now.
» Read article     

Chuck and Nancy
200+ Hill Staffers Urge Pelosi and Schumer to End ‘Dangerous Inaction’ on Climate
“We refuse to remain silent until bold investments are made,” said a Green New Deal organizer from Rep. Cori Bush’s office.
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
July 13, 2022

More than 200 congressional staffers have urged the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to finalize a reconciliation package that includes robust measures to tackle the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency before the August recess.

“We’ve crafted the legislation necessary to avert climate catastrophe,” the staffers wrote in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday night. “It’s time for you to pass it.” The letter, signed anonymously with initials, was first shared with CNN.

“Our country is nearing the end of a two-year window that represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass transformative climate policy,” the letter continues. “The silence on expansive climate justice policy on Capitol Hill this year has been deafening. We write to distance ourselves from your dangerous inaction.”

The rare staff-authored letter criticizing party leadership and calling for specific legislation comes as Schumer conducts last-ditch negotiations with right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) on a scaled-back economic package that can be passed without Republican votes through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.

Manchin rewarded his corporate donors last year by siding with the GOP to tank the more wide-ranging Build Back Better Act, but he has recently endorsed the idea of a narrow bill aimed at reducing the surging cost of living, specifically backing a proposal that would enable Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain prescription drugs.

When it comes to climate action, however, Manchin remains an obstacle. The long-time coal profiteer continues to insist—erroneously, according to experts—that easing pain at the pump requires further expanding domestic fossil fuel production.
» Read article     

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

rejected
How One Senator Doomed the Democrats’ Climate Plan
Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia led his party and his president through months of tortured talks, with nothing to show for it as the planet dangerously heats up.
By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 15, 2022

First, he killed a plan that would have forced power plants to clean up their climate-warming pollution. Then, he shattered an effort to help consumers pay for electric vehicles. And, finally, he said he could not support government incentives for solar and wind companies or any of the other provisions that the rest of his party and his president say are vital to ensure a livable planet.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who took more campaign cash from the oil and gas industry than any other senator, and who became a millionaire from his family coal business, independently blew up the Democratic Party’s legislative plans to fight climate change. The swing Democratic vote in an evenly divided Senate, Mr. Manchin led his party through months of tortured negotiations that collapsed on Thursday night, a yearlong wild goose chase that produced nothing as the Earth warms to dangerous levels.

“It seems odd that Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity,” said John Podesta, a former senior counselor to President Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

Privately, Senate Democratic staff members seethed and sobbed on Thursday night, after more than a year of working nights and weekends to scale back, water down, trim and tailor the climate legislation to Mr. Manchin’s exact specifications, only to have it rejected inches from the finish line.

“Rage keeps me from tears,” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a longtime advocate for climate legislation, wrote on Twitter late Thursday.

Mr. Manchin’s refusal to support the climate legislation, along with steadfast Republican opposition, effectively dooms the chances that Congress will pass any new law to tackle global warming for the foreseeable future — at a moment when scientists say the planet is nearly out of time to prevent average global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
» Read article     
» Read related NBC News coverage 

walk of shame

Manchin Pulls Plug on Climate and Tax Talks, Shrinking Domestic Plan
The West Virginia Democrat’s decision dealt a crushing blow to President Biden’s domestic agenda, effectively ruling out action on anything beyond prescription drug pricing and health care subsidies.
By Emily Cochrane and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 14, 2022

WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, pulled the plug on Thursday on negotiations to salvage key pieces of President Biden’s agenda, informing his party’s leaders that he would not support funding for climate or energy programs or raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.

The decision by Mr. Manchin, a conservative-leaning Democrat whose opposition has effectively stalled Mr. Biden’s economic package in the evenly divided Senate, dealt a devastating blow to his party’s efforts to enact a broad social safety net, climate and tax package.

In recent months, Democrats had slashed their ambitions for such a plan to win over Mr. Manchin, hoping that he would agree to support even a fraction of the sweeping initiative they once envisioned. His abrupt shift appeared to dash those aspirations.

In a meeting on Thursday with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, Mr. Manchin said he would support a package that would include a negotiated plan aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs and an extension of expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies set to lapse at the end of the year.

The shift capped off weeks of painstaking negotiations to cobble together a package that could win Mr. Manchin’s support. It came seven months after the West Virginian abruptly walked away from talks and rejected a far larger plan.

[…] In rejecting any climate and energy provisions, Mr. Manchin appeared to have single-handedly shattered Mr. Biden’s ambitious climate agenda and what would have been the largest single federal investment in American history toward addressing the toll of climate change.

His decision came just days after a report showed that prices surged to 9.1 percent in June, exacerbating existing fears about inflation and rising costs for every day Americans. But while Mr. Manchin has long sounded alarms about inflation and the national debt, he had also maintained openness to overhauling the tax code, a position he appeared to have reversed.

It stunned Democratic officials who had labored to win Mr. Manchin’s vote. As recently as Friday, Democrats said they had coalesced around a plan to use the funds from raising taxes on some high-earning Americans to extend the solvency of a key Medicare fund.

But it was particularly devastating for those who had championed the climate and energy provisions. In calls to various climate activists on Thursday night, Mr. Schumer and his staff sounded shellshocked and said they believed until just a few hours before that a deal was still possible, said one person who spoke with Mr. Schumer.

Without action by Congress, it will be impossible to meet Mr. Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. emissions roughly in half by the end of this decade. That target was aimed at keeping the planet to stabilize the climate at about 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming compared to preindustrial levels.

The Earth has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Lawmakers and activists who have led the charge for action to combat climate change expressed outrage on Thursday night.
» Read article

» More about legislation

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

TVA office
Gas instead of coal? EPA tells TVA to look again
By Kristi E. Swartz, E&E News
July 7, 2022

EPA said the Tennessee Valley Authority should reconsider an initial decision to replace its largest coal plant with a natural gas one, arguing that there are cheaper and cleaner options to combat climate change.

The nation’s largest public power utility is weighing new generation choices as it prepares to close the massive Cumberland Fossil Plant, which is near the Tennessee-Kentucky border. TVA must follow the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the federal government to analyze environmental impacts of major decisions, particularly with infrastructure.

EPA’s statements, filed last week, are the latest in a tug of war between the federal government and TVA over carbon-reduction efforts. They also follow comments by leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which pressed TVA in January to realign its trajectory to match the Biden administration’s goal of a decarbonized U.S. power sector by 2035.

[…] In sharply worded comments filed June 30, EPA said TVA overlooked options to help the United States meet carbon-reduction goals, as backed by science and to be implemented through the Paris Agreement.

Picking natural gas exposes TVA to price volatility and likely the cost of a stranded asset if it decided to close the plant in a couple of decades, EPA officials wrote.

Long-lived “fossil assets may become uneconomic faster than expected if alternatives and mitigation are not fully considered,” EPA wrote.

The agency wants TVA to modify its decision and consider federal greenhouse gas reduction policies, climate resilience, air quality, environmental justice and water resource issues.

“Such an alternative, or other alternatives, would better align with decarbonization pathways necessary to meet science-based targets for GHG reductions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” wrote Mark Fite, EPA’s strategic programs office director, in the letter to TVA.

CEO Jeff Lyash has said TVA can achieve more aggressive carbon dioxide reduction goals but also said more aid from the federal government is needed in the form of money and bringing emerging clean energy technologies to scale quickly.
» Read article     

» More about EPA

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Copper River Dela
As Biden’s climate corps languishes, states move ahead with civilian service model
Maine is the latest state to launch a civilian service program focused on climate change, though at a much smaller scale than what has been proposed by the president and his allies in stalled federal legislation.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 13, 2022

Maine is set to join a growing number of states in launching a service program aimed at mitigating and preparing for climate change.

The goal of the climate corps initiative is to both make a difference on climate issues and create career pathways for young people interested in conservation, renewable energy, or other related work. The effort will take on projects in areas including community resilience planning, energy education and outreach, home energy management and conservation, regenerative agriculture, and community solar.

“We designed it as ambitious because addressing the climate crisis is an ambitious task,” said state Rep. Morgan Rielly, who campaigned on the idea of a climate corps and supported the bill that created it. “You’ve got to address it in a systemic way.”

Despite the corps’ lofty goals, it will launch with modest backing. The legislature allocated $200,000 for the program, well short of the $1 million proposed in the original bill. Some $80,000 will fund staffing and administration and $120,000 will pay those who choose to serve.

“The requested amount was larger, but we will forge ahead with what we did receive,” said Kirsten Brewer, coordinator of the Maine Climate Corps.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill establishing the corps in May. The initiative is still in its early stages. Brewer was hired to coordinate the program under the umbrella of Volunteer Maine, the state’s service commission. She is now working on a request for proposals that will ask potential partner organizations to suggest projects that could be up and running by winter or spring.
» Read article     

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

freeway
Nearly $2tn of damage inflicted on other countries by US emissions
Research puts US ahead of China, Russia, India and Brazil in terms of global damage as climate expert says numbers ‘very stark’
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
July 12, 2022

The US has inflicted more than $1.9tn in damage to other countries from the effects of its greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new analysis that has provided the first measurement of nations’ liability in stoking the climate crisis.

The huge volume of planet-heating gases pumped out by the US, the largest historical emitter, has caused such harm to other, mostly poor, countries through heatwaves, crop failures and other consequences that the US is responsible for $1.91tn in lost global income since 1990, the study found.

This puts the US ahead of China, currently the world’s leading emitter, Russian, India and Brazil as the next largest contributors to global economic damage through their emissions. Combined, these five leading culprits have caused a total of $6tn in losses worldwide, or about 11% of annual global GDP, since 1990 by fueling climate breakdown.

“It’s a huge number,” said Chris Callahan, a researcher at Dartmouth College and lead author of the study, of the overall economic loss. “It’s not surprising that the US and China are at the top of that list but the numbers really are very stark. For the first time, we can show that a country’s emissions can be traced to specific harm.”

The Dartmouth researchers combined a number of different models, showing factors such as emissions, local climate conditions and economic changes, to ascertain the precise impact of an individual country’s contribution to the climate crisis. They looked for these links over a period spanning 1990 to 2014, with the research published in the journal Climatic Change.
» Read article     

emerald tutu
Northeastern researchers have a plan to protect Boston from rising sea levels: floating vegetation mats they call the ‘Emerald Tutu’
By Travis Andersen, Boston Globe
July 8, 2022

Researchers at Northeastern University have developed a system of interconnected circular mats of floating vegetation dubbed the “Emerald Tutu,” which they believe could help protect Boston Harbor from the perils of rising sea levels.

In a statement, Northeastern said the Emerald Tutu project, a play on Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace of parkways and waterways stretching from Boston to Brookline, currently has one mat in the water in Salem, with a second set slated for launch in Boston Harbor. A date for the harbor launch hasn’t been set.

[Julia Hopkins, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern and lead scientist for the Emerald Tutu project…] deployed an initial Emerald Tutu test mat off an East Boston pier during the spring of 2021, and she said in the statement that researchers were pleased when they pulled it out of the water last summer and discovered a significant amount of vegetation growing on it.

“We didn’t expect as much grass or seaweed to grow,” Hopkins said. “We didn’t realize it would colonize that easily and that much.”

The mats are composed of biodegradable material, such as coconut fiber, wood chip byproduct, burlap canvas, and marine-grade rope, and they won’t pollute the environment if they break loose and get lost at sea, according to the statement.

The university said the mats absorb wave energy and help mitigate the flooding that increasingly threatens to inundate Boston and other coastal cities. The more vegetation that grows on the mats when they’re in the water, the more wave energy they can absorb, thereby limiting flooding, the statement said.

“It functions as a marsh without being a marsh,” Hopkins said in the statement, adding that the “basic idea takes some of the theory we have about how nature is supposed to be protecting shore and applying that to something we can use in urban environments.”

Plans are in place for “a massive” Emerald Tutu pilot project next summer, with an exact location for the vegetation mats yet to be determined, the statement said
» Read article     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

taking measure
Climate envoy John Kerry sees peril and opportunity as fuel prices bog down green energy push
By Jess Bidgood, Boston Globe
July 9, 2022

A sweeping climate bill that collapsed in the Senate. An invasion that sent energy prices even higher, sparking calls for even more drilling. And, just weeks ago, a Supreme Court ruling curbing the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate pollution.

It has been a punishing six months for the effort to decarbonize the economy and stave off the most disastrous effects of climate change. And John Kerry, President Biden’s top climate-focused diplomat, expressed concern in an interview with The Boston Globe that time is running out.

“I have absolutely zero doubt whatsoever that we are going to get to a zero carbon, low carbon economy. … My question is, are we going to get there fast enough to avoid the worst consequences of the crisis? And that I’m not convinced of right now,” Kerry said. “This can work if we make the right decisions, if we move fast enough. But if we don’t, it’s clear what’s coming at us.”

[…] “Last year, coal emissions went up 9 percent. And emissions generally went up 6 percent. So … it’s delayed, the cutting in of the momentum that we brought out of Glasgow,” he said, but added the momentum had not been extinguished entirely.

The backsliding comes at a pivotal moment for the planet, since climate scientists say there is less than a decade left to cut emissions and hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the threshold beyond which lethal flooding, superstorms, and heat waves could become even more common. The globe has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1880, and Biden set a goal of cutting fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030 to slow that progression, while encouraging other countries to make their own big cuts.

“It’s urgent today, and it was urgent last week, and it was urgent last year,” Kerry said. “If we don’t do enough between 2020 and 2030, it’s physically not possible, barring some miracle discovery … to get to net zero [emissions] by 2050. You can’t do it.”

But higher oil and gas prices worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have made an immediate transition to green energy politically trickier, both in the United States and abroad, threatening the global goals Kerry and Biden helped set just last year. Biden has called for a gas tax holiday and proposed opening up some federal areas for drilling in response to rising prices at the pump; meanwhile, Kerry continues to publicly call for the US not to invest more in extracting fossil fuels at a moment that lays bare the many issues with being dependent on them.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

A-plus
High energy prices, climate, Ukraine conflict and rising demand response potential spur energy efficiency efforts
Innovative uses of efficiency as demand response to meet power system needs can end natural gas and coal dependence, according to a new International Energy Agency initiative.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
July 11, 2022

Energy efficiency, the cleanest, lowest cost, most overlooked resource in the climate fight, is now part of the world’s pushback against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the International Energy Agency.

Energy efficiency, or EE, is fundamental to the clean energy transition, analysts have long agreed. But the Ukraine war-driven urgency for the European Union to end reliance on Russian natural gas and arbitrary Russian threats like the July 11 shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline to Germany, and avoid stopgap coal burning now makes EE vital, a June 10 statement co-signed by the U.S. and 25 IEA parties in the Americas, Africa, Asia and the EU recognized.

EE is “critical” to keeping world energy “affordable, secure, and clean,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told the annual IEA Global Conference on Energy Efficiency June 8. And world leaders must make the conference “a meeting of hope” where “the world hits the accelerator on efficiency” or they may “pay the price for years to come.”

This “could be the peace project of our time,” U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman added at the conference. “Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine has challenged us to think differently about how we generate, distribute, and use energy, and the case for energy efficiency has never been more urgent.”

In the U.S., EE has enormous potential but must demonstrate its value across different regulatory and market circumstances, Speakes-Backman and other U.S. EE advocates said during and after the IEA conference. With more innovative and comprehensive policies, EE can have great value as demand response, or DR, and be used when and where the power system needs kWh reductions the most, they said.

[…] The most important policies are those that can make EE cost effective, like rebates and financing mechanisms that reduce upfront deployment costs, Nadel said. Some utilities, green banks and institutional lenders support on-bill financing and property-assessed clean energy, or PACE, programs that allow customers to pay for EE installations with their bill savings, he said.

Those policies, along with time-of-use, or TOU, rates that shift usage, and performance standards and codes for buildings and appliances have helped make California, followed by Massachusetts, the top two EE states, according to ACEEE’s December 2020 state analysis.
» Read article     

customer entrance
Rapid Electric Heat Transition Will Save Oregon $1.7 Billion, Report Finds
Advocates say that’s all the more reason to end customer-funded gas line expansion.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
July 11, 2022

A speedy transition to electric heat pumps in homes and businesses in Oregon could translate into lower utility bills and faster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.

Those findings bolster calls from environmental groups, who are asking state regulators to end consumer subsidies that allow utilities to expand gas infrastructure.

A June report from Synapse Energy Economics, commissioned by the Sierra Club, found that a rapid transition to electric heat pumps in Oregon would cut household energy bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide savings for the electricity system as a whole. Heat pumps, despite their name, offer both heating and air conditioning, and are widely seen as key to replacing oil and gas furnaces and helping decarbonize residential and commercial buildings.

Pollution from residential and commercial buildings in Oregon currently makes up roughly 35 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions – largely the result of burning gas for heating and cooking. The report compared two hypothetical scenarios in which 100 percent of appliances sold to Oregon homes and businesses were electric, perhaps due to a ban on new gas connections, for example, or a mandate for all-electric construction. The first scenario analyzed zero-emissions appliance sales beginning in 2030, and the other beginning in 2025. Both scenarios would be ambitious, but the study found that the faster route not only provided more climate benefits, but also saved more money. Switching to all-electric appliances by 2025 would result in $1.7 billion in system-wide savings by 2050, compared to $1.1 billion in the 2030 scenario.

For individual households, the story is similar. The average fully electric Portland household would save about $161 more per year on utility bills than a household that uses a mixture of electricity and gas. A household in Bend, Oregon would save an average of $192 in the all-electric scenario compared to a household that still uses some gas.

“We know that the transition away from fossil fuel appliances for heating has to happen to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change – but even if you look at this issue purely from an economic perspective, transitioning our homes off of polluting fuels like methane gas is still the right decision for Oregonians,” said Dylan Plummer, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club.
» Read article     
» Read the report

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

road trip
DOE announces finalists of Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize
By Green Car Congress
July 14, 2022

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the finalists in the $4-million American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize, a competition supporting innovations that help lower the costs and reduce the environmental impacts of extracting lithium from geothermal brines.

Demand for lithium—a critical material used in batteries for electric vehicles, grid-scale electricity storage, phones, and laptops—has grown rapidly in recent years, with global demand expected to increase 500% by 2050. The United States depends on other countries for nearly all its lithium supply and mining the mineral strains water resources and can harm the environment. Using brines already produced by geothermal energy presents a solution because it is an environmentally friendly process that yields lithium.

Through this prize, DOE is advancing the development of domestic, cost-competitive, sustainable sources of lithium, particularly around Southern California’s Salton Sea.

This area has the potential to produce more than 600,000 tons of lithium per year and support a robust supply chain that turns the United States into a leading lithium exporter.

The five finalists in the Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize have identified solutions that may safely and cost-effectively extract lithium from geothermal brines. Each team will receive $280,000 and will compete in the third and final phase of the competition.
» Read article    

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Robert Wallace
A New Project in Rural Oregon Is Letting Farmers Test Drive Electric Tractors in the Name of Science
With tractors being used in vineyards, berry fields and hobby farms, the EV industry hopes to prove out the promise of electrifying the $38 billion US agricultural vehicle industry.
By Grant Stringer, Inside Climate News
July 13, 2022

Robert Wallace was puzzled when the first electric tractor was delivered to his home in rural Dufur, Oregon, about 75 miles east of Portland.

Wallace, an expert on rural energy projects, knows his way around a tractor. But the electric machine, distributed by the California-based startup Solectrac, didn’t idle when he turned it on, unlike the loud diesel-powered tractors he was used to. It hummed.

“It was the first electric tractor I’d ever seen,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if it was running or not.”

Wallace has since become a guru of electric tractors, climate tech that’s just starting to show up on U.S. fields and farms. Beginning last year, he fitted several Solectracs with data-gathering sensors and offered them for free tests on farms and gardens in rural Oregon. It’s part of a citizen science program testing first-generation electric farm equipment on the ground, likely the first program of its kind in the U.S.

Thanks to quick production and marketing of electric automobiles, American drivers already have plenty of options to choose from when replacing a gas-powered car with an all-electric one. But agricultural equipment manufacturing, a $38 billion industry in the U.S., is only beginning to go green. Some small electric models are just becoming available to farmers, and Wallace and his program partners are putting them under the microscope.

Solectrac and Monarch, another California-based startup co-founded by a former Tesla supply chain chief, are rolling out models of small tractors intended for use in vineyards, berry and hobby farms. They aim to lure customers with promises of long battery lives, low carbon footprints and even autonomous technology, in Monarch’s case. But many farmers harbor deep loyalties to big-name brands—think the trademark John Deere green—and widespread unfamiliarity with electric-powered engines. Outright skepticism of green tech is also pervasive among the dryland wheat and orchard farmers in the rolling hills around Dufur, Wallace said.

If farmers are going to replace polluting diesel-run equipment like tractors, side-by-sides, backhoes and, eventually, huge machines like combine harvesters, they’ll first need to know whether they work, Wallace says.

“I want to figure out what parts of this technology will work for me, for rural Oregon, for rural America,” Wallace said.
» Read article     
» Read about the program

more and faster
For more drivers to go electric, EV chargers must level up
By Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe
July 12, 2022

It’s getting easier to find places to recharge an electric car. Unless you want to recharge it fast. Then you’ve got a problem.

According to the US Department of Energy, there are about 49,000 vehicle charging locations in the US, with a total of 122,000 charging ports — the cables that plug into individual cars. But the great majority of these are slow “Level 2″ chargers that take hours to deliver a significant battery boost.

Only about 6,400 locations feature “Level 3″ fast chargers, capable of adding dozens of miles of driving range to a car’s battery in 15 or 20 minutes. These locations have just 25,000 charging ports to serve the entire US. Massachusetts has just 129 fast charging stations with just under 500 plug-in ports.

In addition, more than half of all US fast chargers serve only one make of electric vehicle — Tesla — making them useless to drivers of other battery-powered cars. Tesla has begun to allow customers in Europe to recharge non-Tesla vehicles at their chargers, but this program has yet to launch in the US.

The scarcity of fast chargers isn’t a critical problem for now, since today’s EV owners are mostly affluent homeowners who can recharge every night in their driveways. But “as the market for EVs expands and goes beyond the early adopters, you’re going to see an increasing portion of the customer base who do not have access to off-street parking,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an electric vehicle analyst at Guidehouse Insights in Detroit. Such drivers can’t or won’t spend hours in a public parking lot waiting for a battery boost, he said.

So it’ll take a lot more fast charging stations to persuade many drivers to even consider going electric. But they aren’t being installed fast enough.

A new study from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association of electric utilities, estimates that there’ll be about 26 million electric vehicles in the US by 2030, about 10 percent of the nation’s vehicle fleet. The report said that utilities, corporations, and governments have committed to build about 45,000 high-speed charging ports nationwide by 2030, but the nation will actually need about 140,000 to meet expected demand.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

aerial view ccs
Carbon capture projects, regional CO2 pipeline design to get $2.6B in DOE funding proposal
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
July 14, 2022

So far, CCS hasn’t taken off in the power sector. NRG Energy, for example, mothballed its Petra Nova carbon capture project at a Texas power plant in 2020 after experiencing operating problems and financial losses. It was the only carbon capture facility at a U.S. power plant.

DOE aims to spur carbon capture and storage development using funding authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The department intends to begin taking applications for funding in August or September.

The department said it expects to accept 12 applications for the initial design of CCS projects, which would receive a total of $160 million in DOE funding.

It then plans to offer $2.1 billion for the detailed design and construction of six CCS projects, two at coal-fired power plants, two at gas-fired plants and two at industrial facilities. The funding requires applicants to pay for at least half of their project’s costs.

Proposed projects must capture at least 95% of the carbon emissions from the facilities.

DOE sees wide potential benefits from CCS technology.

“CCS deployment can and should reduce emissions of other kinds of pollution in addition to CO2 pollution, protect communities from increases in cumulative pollution, and maintain and create good, high-wage jobs across the country,” the department said.

DOE said it will require funding applicants to show how their proposals will benefit communities and meet diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and environmental justice requirements.
» Read article         

billion dollar scrap
Biggest CCS failure clouds Supreme Court ruling
By Corbin Hiar, Carlos Anchondo, E&E News
July 11, 2022

The future for carbon capture and storage has perhaps never been brighter.

Congress has appropriated billions of dollars of funding to the CCS technology through last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law. And the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the West Virginia v. EPA case left the door open for EPA to require carbon capture as a way to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

But there’s a cloud hanging over the potential CCS-building boom: Petra Nova.

The $1 billion project was once the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system. Backed by the Department of Energy, it began operating in December 2016 — and shut down less than four years later. Petra Nova’s operator, NRG Energy Inc., cited the challenging economic conditions at the time, prompted by the pandemic-induced economic slowdown.

The world economy has bounced back since then, but Petra Nova remains shuttered. Meanwhile, the conventional coal and natural gas units of NRG’s W.A. Parish Electric Generating Station — home to the shuttered Petra Nova installation — continue to dump planet-warming carbon emissions into the atmosphere. There are now just 27 operational CCS projects around the world, according to data from the Global CCS Institute, an environmental think tank.

But NRG has no immediate plans to return Petra Nova into service.

[…] “Petra Nova continues to be the project that people look to as an example,” said David Greeson, a former vice president at NRG who is now a carbon capture project consultant.

“This technology can be built on time and on budget, which kind of distinguishes it from other technologies around fossil fuels that are trying to reduce [the] carbon footprint of those fuels,” he said.

A DOE spokesperson told E&E News last week that Petra Nova “successfully met the technical milestones” established for its carbon capture grant from the agency.

“While the project later ceased operations due to challenging market conditions, Congress has subsequently made available additional policy support for future carbon management demonstration projects that has been critical to the successful development, deployment, and commercialization of other low and zero-carbon technologies, like wind and solar,” the DOE spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Yet the 2020 DOE report found that the Petra Nova project was plagued by long stretches of downtime, which limited its overall effectiveness. During the three-year period covered by the report, Petra Nova was offline for 367 days — or more than one-third of the time. As a result, the project initially failed to meet its cumulative carbon capture target goals.
» Read article    

» More about CCS

DEEP-SEABED MINING

slideshow
Mining the deep sea for battery materials will be dangerously noisy, study finds
There’s a looming deadline to address the risk
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 7, 2022

The race is on to figure out how to protect the ocean abyss as deep-sea mining operations look to extract minerals like nickel, cobalt, and copper from the sea floor. But there’s one potential risk to the deep-sea environment that tends to fall under the radar. Not only will mining dredge up the seafloor, but it’ll also create a lot of noise that poses its own problems for marine life, according to a newly published paper in the journal Science.

People have talked about mining the deep sea for minerals for decades, and that future is almost here. Driven by a need for more of the minerals used in everyday gadgets and batteries, the first efforts to raid polymetallic nodules at the bottom of the ocean for these resources could begin in earnest as soon as next year. The noise from those operations could affect marine life even hundreds of kilometers away, the authors of the new paper found.

Within about 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) of a mine, the noise could be equivalent to or even louder than a rock concert. That exceeds the threshold, 120 dB, that the US National Marine Fisheries Service says could negatively impact marine mammals’ behavior. The noise travels up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) away, where it would weaken but still be louder than ambient noise levels during fair weather.

“The biggest surprise for me was how far ambient noise levels are likely to be exceeded,” says Craig Smith, one of the authors of the paper and a professor of oceanography at the University of Hawai‘i. To make things worse, the noise from mining could be nonstop. “This noise is expected to be produced 24/7 for years or maybe even decades,” Smith tells The Verge.

And unlike the noise at busy ports that’s mostly at the surface of the water, mining creates a racket all the way down to the bottom of the seafloor. There’s noise from vessels above, dredges below, and pumps that bring nodules and sediments up to the surface.

As a result, whales passing through might have a harder time communicating. Or whales and other animals might decide to avoid these areas altogether, which could even affect their migration.

Still, researchers don’t know exactly how that will affect marine life — and a big part of the problem is that there’s still so much that we don’t yet know about life in the ocean’s abyss. The vast majority of animals researchers bring up from expeditions to these depths — 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) or deeper — are completely new to science, according to Smith.
» Read article     

» More about deep-seabed mining

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

TAP
Energy Security Trumps Climate As EU Agrees To Pipeline Expansion
By Irina Slav, Oil Price
July 14, 2022

The European Commission and the Azeri government have sealed a preliminary deal for expanding the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline that brings Azeri gas into Europe as part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

“The Sides aspire to support bilateral trade of natural gas, including through exports to the European Union, via the Southern Gas Corridor, of at least 20 billion cubic metres of gas annually by 2027, in accordance with commercial viability and market demand,” the draft memorandum of understanding said, as quoted by Reuters.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, is the final section of the 3,500-km Southern Gas Corridor from the Caspian Sea to Italy, which is projected to have an annual capacity of 20 billion cubic meters at some point in the future. Last year, Italy and other European countries received 8 billion cubic meters from Azerbaijan via the TAP.

The draft mentioned “long-term, predictable and stable contracts” that would provide gas suppliers with security for future demand. This is a marked departure from the European Union’s favor for gas spot markets that have prevailed in the past decade as the EU tries to prevent any fossil fuel commitments that would interfere with its climate goals.

The draft document made a note of the EU’s emissions-cutting ambitions, saying that gas deliveries along the Southern Gas Corridor would need to be aligned with Paris Agreement targets.

For context, the EU received 158 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia last year, per Germany’s deputy finance minister Joerg Kukies. Of this, 30 billion cubic meters could potentially be replaced with liquefied natural gas from the United States and Qatar.
» Read article     

CP test well
Biden Administration Signals Support for Controversial Alaska Oil Project
The administration issued an environmental review that represents a key step toward starting the Willow project. Opponents say drilling would violate Biden’s pledge to rein in fossil fuels.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 8, 2022

The Biden administration took a key step toward approving a huge oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska, angering environmental activists who said allowing it to go forward would make a mockery of President Biden’s climate-change promise to end new oil leases.

The ConocoPhillips project, known as Willow and located in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, was initially approved under the Trump administration and was later supported by the Biden administration but was then was blocked by a judge who said the environmental review had not sufficiently considered its effects on climate change and wildlife.

On Friday, the Biden administration issued a new environmental analysis.

In that analysis, the Department of the Interior said the multibillion-dollar plan would at its peak produce more than 180,000 barrels of crude oil a day and would emit at least 278 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime from the burning of the oil produced, as well as from construction and drilling activity at the site.

The oil company’s plan calls for five drill sites, a processing facility, hundreds of miles of pipelines, nearly 40 miles of new gravel roads, seven bridges, an airstrip and a gravel mine in a region that is home to polar bears, caribou and migratory birds. Project opponents have argued that the development would harm wildlife and produce dangerous new levels of greenhouse gases.

In a statement, the Interior Department said that the new analysis included several options, including a reduction in the number of drilling sites as well as an option for “no action” — or no drilling at all — and did not represent a final decision on the Willow project. The agency will take comments from the public for 45 days and is likely to make a final decision later this year.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

old news
The global LNG boom US exporters are chasing won’t materialise
Europe is doing everything it can to reduce gas use, while Asian governments are having to choose between sky-high prices and rolling blackouts. The smart money is on clean energy.
By Justin Guay, Energy Monitor | Opinion
July 6, 2022

The US liquified natural gas (LNG) export industry is in the middle of a charm offensive meant to greenwash its product to entice wary investors back into its loving embrace. Investors shouldn’t be fooled.

The uncomfortable truth is that LNG is not cleaner than coal, with life cycle emissions of LNG at best a marginal improvement. However, the real problem for investors is that the promise of overseas growth, and returns, is not likely to pan out. Instead, the smart money in these volatile times is on the real growth market – clean energy.

First, and most importantly, investors should be clear-eyed that while the US LNG industry’s expansion plans may be wrapped in a European energy security bow the industry is not seriously eyeing Europe for long-term growth. Instead, the European market is vanishing before our eyes.

Long before the invasion of Ukraine, Europe was the only major region on Earth where gas demand was projected to fall, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Now that fall is accelerating with the European Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ proposals and new REPowerEU plan. If fully implemented, the former would already reduce total gas consumption by 30% – 100 billion cubic metres (bcm) – by 2030. The latter foresees the removal of at least 155bcm of fossil gas use – equivalent to the volume imported from Russia in 2021 – with nearly two-thirds of that reduction to be achieved by the end of the year.

That is anything but a growth market and it certainly cannot backstop the 20-year offtake agreements the industry needs to finance new export terminals.

Instead, Europe is planning a surge of clean energy that according to some estimates requires up to $800bn (€780bn) to get off all Russian fossil fuels. For those eyeing long-term structural growth in Europe, there is only one place to put your money – clean energy.

The real reason the industry wants to fast-track a wave of new infrastructure is to feed the real global growth market it is chasing – Asia. According to the IEA, the single largest source of gas demand through 2050 comes from industrial and power consumers in Asia. That is the market US exporters want access to; the European energy crisis is just the cover.

However, as cynically clever as the marketing is, savvy investors should be even more wary of the notion that demand for gas in Asia will materialise. It is true that many Asian countries have planned a wave of LNG import infrastructure to serve as the region’s comfort blanket in the transition beyond coal, but just as the infamous Asian coal super-cycle of a decade ago was meant to fuel US coal exports, only to fizzle out, the gap between Asia’s LNG plans and political and financial reality looms large.
» Read article     

» More about LNG

PLASTICS, HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

joint venture
As alarm over plastic grows, Saudis ramp up production in the US
President Biden is in the kingdom this week to strengthen ties. Meanwhile, a U.S.-Saudi joint venture on the Texas coast is pumping out toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases.
By Mark Schapiro, Grist
July 14, 2022

The flares started last December, an event Errol Summerlin, a former legal-aid lawyer, and his neighbors had been bracing for since 2017. After the flames, nipping at the night sky like lashes from a heavenly monster, came the odor, a gnarled concoction of steamed laundry, and burned tires.

Thus did the Saudi royal family mark the expansion of its far-flung petrochemical empire to San Patricio County, Texas, a once-rural stretch of flatlands across Nueces Bay from Corpus Christi. It arrived in the form of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, or GCGV, a plant that sprawls over 16 acres between the towns of Portland and Gregory. The complex contains a circuit board of pipes and steel tanks that cough out steam, flames, and toxic substances as it creates the building blocks for plastic from natural gas liquids.

The plant is the first joint venture in the Americas between Saudi Basic Industries Corp., or SABIC, a chemical manufacturing giant tied to one of the world’s richest royal families, and Exxon Mobil, America’s biggest energy company. Exxon Mobil built its wealth on drilling for and refining oil, SABIC by making petrochemicals. As climate concerns lead to a slow but steady decline in the demand for oil, the companies’ collaboration represents a shift by the fossil fuel industry. Rather than transforming the fossilized remains of organisms into gasoline and other motor fuels, the Texas plant breaks apart the molecular structure of oil, through a process called cracking, which turns it into the primary ingredient for car seats, single-use plastic bags, plastic coffee cups, and much more.
» Read article    

» More about plastics and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 7/8/22

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Welcome back.

We’ll kick off this week’s news with groundbreaking court action in The Netherlands. Two Dutch environmental groups represented by ClientEarth are suing airline KLM over claims that its 2019 “Fly Responsibly” ad campaign amounts to greenwashing – a marketing ploy meant to project an image of environmental sustainability that isn’t supported by reality.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the energy transition is accelerating at a time of global supply chain bottlenecks, and this is forecast to create a vast and growing market for recycled solar photovoltaic (PV) panel components. This part of the global green economy is expected to be worth more than $2.7 billion in 2030. That’s a 1,500% increase over the current value of $170 million in 2022, and it’ll grow much more by 2050 when solar will provide around 40% of total energy worldwide. But as our second story in this section illustrates, that economic green wave first has to move aside some of the entrenched relationships that keep state and local budgets reliant on tax revenue from oil, gas and coal to fund schools, hospitals and more.

Joe Biden’s election triggered a global surge in optimism that the climate crisis would finally be decisively confronted. But the US supreme court’s recent decision to curtail America’s ability to cut planet-heating emissions dealt a devastating blow to a faltering effort that is now in danger of becoming largely moribund. We include a climate story that reminds us why it matters. A new study finds that methane is four times more sensitive to global warming than previously thought, due to a nasty feedback loop associated with the increase in carbon monoxide from wildfires. This helps explain underlying causes of the recent stronger-than-expected rise in atmospheric methane.

The court’s EPA decision could also hobble the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is seen as critical for advancing clean energy.

So with the federal government sidelined, progress on clean energy remains largely at the state level. The Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs just published a roadmap for the state to achieve its emissions reductions targets, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030, or CEC, takes two main approaches — electrification of end uses, and the decarbonization of Massachusetts’ electricity system.

Meanwhile, deploying renewable energy resources like large solar arrays can do more harm than good if sites are inappropriate. The Berkshire County town of Lenox is fighting a project now.

Connecticut is also stepping up. A new energy efficiency program is expected to help cut energy bills and improve living conditions for low-income residents throughout the state. Importantly, the program will pay for the cleanup of mold, asbestos and other health and safety barriers that can prevent homeowners from pursuing weatherization projects. And on the west coast, a project aims to address two of Richmond, California’s greatest problems: a lack of affordable housing and unreliable electricity. The project will create a “virtual power plant,” by using software to coordinate solar and storage batteries on housing units to export power to the grid, selling its electricity at times of high demand and high prices.

Our Clean Transportation section offers a reality check for folks buying into the auto industry spin that electric vehicles are green even if they’re huge and powerful. Big vehicles need big batteries to move them any distance. Lithium, the highly reactive silver-white metal that is a crucial ingredient in those batteries, is becoming much more expensive. Its price has risen six-fold since the start of the year, largely because demand is outpacing supply. Other battery chemistries are in development, but this fact of physics will always be true: smaller, lighter vehicles require less energy to move around, and that’s ultimately greener.

For those currently driving EVs in Massachusetts, the utility National Grid has launched a new initiative to give drivers rebates for charging their electric vehicles during off-peak hours. It’s a great idea, but some advocates worry the incentives aren’t high enough to significantly change behavior.

More Massachusetts news: our two major electric utilities currently wield considerable power by choosing the wind farm projects that can be built off the coast. When state-sanctioned clean energy contracts go out to bid, Eversource and National Grid (along with Unitil) get to pick the winners. It’s a power that has prompted conflict-of-interest questions, and state lawmakers may now take the decision-making authority away from the utilities and hand it to a third party, such as the state Department of Energy Resources.

Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) works by capturing carbon dioxide emissions at their source to prevent their release into the atmosphere, then injecting the CO2 into rocks deep underground. Critics are concerned that CCS is being treated as an easy fix for the climate crisis by polluters who view the technology as a way to avoid strict emissions reductions. We’re focused on three CO2 pipeline projects in early planning in Iowa. The companies behind them have been contacting landowners in hopes of getting them to grant easements, but hundreds of people say they won’t sign.

We’ll wrap up with a look at the fossil fuel industry, and how the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and inflation are forcing the Biden administration to balance forces that conflict with urgent climate mitigation priorities. As it tries to lower gasoline prices and increase energy exports to counter Russia’s dominance of western European energy, the Biden administration took two of its biggest steps yet to open public lands to fossil fuel development. It held its first onshore lease sales and released a proposed plan for offshore drilling that could open parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet to leasing through 2028.

On top of that, blue hydrogen is having a moment. That’s the flavor of hydrogen that’s derived from natural gas, and the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, and the European Union believe it’s a “bridge” to an energy-rich future. Meanwhile, environmentalists have cautioned for years that blue hydrogen is little more than the newest attempt by the oil and gas industry to lock in dependency on fossil fuels.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

KLM greenwashing
In Historic Case, Green Groups Sue KLM for Greenwashing
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
July 6, 2022

In an ad campaign launched in 2019, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines invited airplane travelers and the rest of the aviation industry to join it in “flying responsibly.” A video advertisement released in July of that year said that customers could achieve this goal by scheduling virtual meetings when possible, taking the train instead, packing lighter and offsetting the carbon dioxide emissions from the flight.

Now, two Dutch environmental groups represented by ClientEarth are taking the airline to court over claims that its “Fly Responsibly” ad campaign amounts to greenwashing.

“We’re going to court to demand KLM tells the truth about its fossil-fuel dependent product.” Hiske Arts, a campaigner at Fossielvrij Netherlands — one of the two groups behind the suit — said in a ClientEarth press release. “Unchecked flying is one of the fastest ways to heat up the planet. Customers need to be informed and protected from claims that suggest it is not.”

In a tweet announcing the suit, Fossielvrij Netherlands said it was the first greenwashing case brought against an airline.

Flying is an extremely carbon-intensive activity. A roundtrip flight across the Atlantic generates the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as a single European resident heating their home for a year. Therefore, experts argue that air traffic must fall if the industry is to meet its climate goals and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. A recent report from Transport & Environment, for example, found that the net-zero goal could be achieved by ending EU airport expansion and reducing corporate travel to 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The green groups behind the lawsuit — Reclame Fossielvrij in addition to Fossielvrij Netherlands — argue that KLM’s ad campaign offers frequent flyers a false way out. It tells them that they can offset their flight emissions by paying for reforestation efforts or to support KLM’s acquisition of biofuels. However, funding these projects doesn’t actually compensate for the emissions generated by a present-day flight. These claims therefore violate European laws against misleading consumers, the groups argue.
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

stepped on
Could Supreme Court ruling thwart FERC’s clean energy plans?
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
July 6, 2022

The landmark Supreme Court decision last week restricting EPA’s regulation of climate-warming emissions could spill over to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is seen as critical for advancing clean energy.

In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act did not authorize EPA to craft a broad rule targeting emissions from power plants like the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

The court majority justified the ruling using the “major questions” doctrine, a relatively new legal theory that holds that Congress must clearly express when agencies are allowed to decide matters of “vast economic and political significance”. Some observers say that could stunt potential new rules from agencies such as FERC, particularly on issues that pertain to climate change.

“The major questions doctrine, as they articulated it now, is so broad you could apply it to any major rulemaking,” said Harvey Reiter, a partner at Stinson LLP whose focus includes energy regulations. “[The decision] talks about cases of great ‘economic and political significance,’ but that could characterize any major rule of any agency.”

Charged with overseeing wholesale power markets and interstate energy projects, FERC is weighing rules that could transform the electric power sector and help facilitate the deployment of solar, wind and other clean energy resources. With support from its Democratic majority, the five-person commission this year also proposed changing how it reviews new natural gas projects to account for effects on the climate, nearby landowners and environmental justice communities.

Some legal experts say those actions fall clearly within FERC’s authority to ensure “just and reasonable” energy rates — as outlined in the Federal Power Act — and to approve gas pipelines that are shown to be in the public interest. But others said the Supreme Court decision may give ammunition to industry groups and others who’ve argued for a more narrow reading of what FERC can and cannot do, experts said.

“Even though agencies are different and have different statutory mandates, any agency that’s thinking about being ambitious in addressing climate change now has to worry that a federal court may use the language of the major questions doctrine to attack whatever the agency is doing,” said Joel Eisen, a professor of law at the University of Richmond.

In particular, a proposal issued in February to assess natural gas pipelines’ greenhouse gas emissions could be at risk of being abandoned or changed significantly due to concerns about the major questions doctrine, some analysts said.
» Read article       

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

avoidable
Solar panel recycling market to be worth billions by 2030, say researchers
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 7, 2022

Demand for recycled solar photovoltaic (PV) panel components is expected to grow dramatically through the remainder of the decade as installation numbers skyrocket and developers look to avoid supply bottlenecks.

New research published this week by Rystad Energy predicts that recyclable materials from solar PV panels reaching the end of their lifespan will be worth more than $US2.7 billion in 2030 – a mind boggling 1,500% increase over the current value of $US170 million in 2022.

Unsurprisingly, this trend will only accelerate, and is expected to hit $US80 billion by 2050.

In terms of the need for solar PV recycling, current expectations are that solar PV waste will grow to 27 million tonnes each year by 2040.

Conversely, Rystad Energy believes that recovered materials from retired panels could make up 6% of solar PV investments by 2040, as compared to only 0.08% today.

But it is the role in swerving away from an otherwise unavoidable supply bottleneck that is potentially the most important aspect of a solar PV recycling sector. Solar development continues to accelerate, with both residential and large-scale solar farms demanding ever more materials that are in increasing levels of short supply.

Specifically, demand for materials and minerals used in solar PV development will accelerate dramatically, likely causing higher prices, as solar grows to meet around 40% of the world’s power generation in 2050 – equivalent to 19 TW, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) net-zero emissions scenario.
» Read article       

oildorado
California Plans to Quit Oil. Resistance Is Fiercer Than You Think.
Dozens of state and local budgets depend heavily on tax revenue from oil, gas and coal to fund schools, hospitals and more. Replacing that money is turning out to be a major challenge in the fight against climate change.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
Photographs by Alisha Jucevic
July 7, 2022

TAFT, Calif. — Every five years, this city of 7,000 hosts a rollicking, Old West-themed festival known as Oildorado. High schoolers decorate parade floats with derricks and pump jacks. Young women vie for the crown in a “Maids of Petroleum” beauty pageant. It’s a celebration of an industry that has sustained the local economy for the past century.

This is oil country, in a state that leads the country in environmental regulation. With wildfires and drought ravaging California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, wants to end oil drilling in the state by 2045. That has provoked angst and fierce resistance here in Kern County, where oil and gas tax revenues help to pay for everything from elementary schools to firefighters to mosquito control.

“Nowhere else in California is tied to oil and gas the way we are, and we can’t replace what that brings overnight,” said Ryan Alsop, chief administrative officer in Kern County, a region north of Los Angeles. “It’s not just tens of thousands of jobs. It’s also hundreds of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue that we rely on to fund our schools, parks, libraries, public safety, public health.”

Across the United States, dozens of states and communities rely on fossil fuels to fund aspects of daily life. In Wyoming, more than half of state and local tax revenues comes from fossil fuels. In New Mexico, an oil boom has bankrolled free college for residents and expanded medical care for new mothers. Oil and gas money is so embedded in many local budgets, it’s difficult to imagine a future without it.

Disentangling communities from fossil-fuel income poses a major obstacle in the fight against climate change. One study found that if nations followed the urging of scientists and cut emissions from oil, gas and coal deeply enough to avert catastrophic warming, United States tax revenues from oil and gas production, currently about $34 billion per year, could fall by two-thirds by 2050.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

tatters
Global dismay as supreme court ruling leaves Biden’s climate policy in tatters
Biden’s election was billed as heralding a ‘climate presidency’ but congressional and judicial roadblocks mean he has little to show
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
July 6, 2022

Joe Biden’s election triggered a global surge in optimism that the climate crisis would, finally, be decisively confronted. But the US supreme court’s decision last week to curtail America’s ability to cut planet-heating emissions has proved the latest blow to a faltering effort by Biden on climate that is now in danger of becoming largely moribund.

The supreme court’s ruling that the US government could not use its existing powers to phase out coal-fired power generation without “clear congressional authorization” quickly ricocheted around the world among those now accustomed to looking on in dismay at America’s seemingly endless stumbles in addressing global heating.

The decision “flies in the face of established science and will set back the US’s commitment to keep global temperature below 1.5C”, said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, in reference to the internationally agreed goal to limit global heating before it becomes truly catastrophic, manifesting in more severe heatwaves, floods, droughts and societal unrest.

“The people who will pay the price for this will be the most vulnerable communities in the most vulnerable developing countries in the world,” Huq added.

The “incredibly undemocratic Scotus ruling” indicates that “backsliding is now the dominant trend in the climate space,” said Yamide Dagnet, director of climate justice at Open Society Foundations and former climate negotiator for the UK and European Union. António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations who has called new fossil fuel infrastructure “moral and economic madness”, said via a spokesman that the ruling was a “setback” at a time when countries were badly off track in averting looming climate breakdown.

In the 6-3 ruling, backed by the rightwing majority of justices, the supreme court did not completely negate the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate emissions from coal plants. But it did side with Republican-led states in stating that the government could not set broad plans to shift electricity generation away from coal because of the nebulous “major questions doctrine” that demands Congress explicitly decide on significant changes to the US economy.
» Read article       

LA wildfires
Methane much more sensitive to global heating than previously thought – study
Greenhouse gas has undergone rapid acceleration and scientists say it may be due to atmospheric changes
By Kate Ravilious, The Guardian
July 5, 2022

Methane is four times more sensitive to global warming than previously thought, a new study shows. The result helps to explain the rapid growth in methane in recent years and suggests that, if left unchecked, methane related warming will escalate in the decades to come.

The growth of this greenhouse gas – which over a 20 year timespan is more than 80 times as potent than carbon dioxide – had been slowing since the turn of the millennium but since 2007 has undergone a rapid rise, with measurements from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recording it passing 1,900 parts a billion last year, nearly triple pre-industrial levels.

“What has been particularly puzzling has been the fact that methane emissions have been increasing at even greater rates in the last two years, despite the global pandemic, when anthropogenic sources were assumed to be less significant,” said Simon Redfern, an earth scientist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

About 40% of methane emissions come from natural sources such as wetlands, while 60% come from anthropogenic sources such as cattle farming, fossil fuel extraction and landfill sites. Possible explanations for the rise in methane emissions range from expanding exploration of oil and natural gas, rising emissions from agriculture and landfill, and rising natural emissions as tropical wetlands warm and Arctic tundra melts.

But another explanation could be a slowdown of the chemical reaction that removes methane from the atmosphere. The predominant way in which methane is “mopped up” is via reaction with hydroxyl radicals (OH) in the atmosphere.

“The hydroxyl radical has been termed the ‘detergent’ of the atmosphere because it works to cleanse the atmosphere of harmful trace gases,” said Redfern. But hydroxyl radicals also react with carbon monoxide, and an increase in wildfires may have pumped more carbon monoxide into the atmosphere and altered the chemical balance. “On average, a carbon monoxide molecule remains in the atmosphere for about three months before it’s attacked by a hydroxyl radical, while methane persists for about a decade. So wildfires have a swift impact on using up the hydroxyl ‘detergent’ and reduce the methane removal,” said Redfern.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

green energy plan
Massachusetts releases clean energy plan, roadmap to cut GHG emissions 50% by 2030
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 1, 2022

The Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs on Thursday published a roadmap for the state to achieve its emissions reductions targets, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030, or CEC, also sets the state on a path towards carbon neutrality by 2050.

The plan takes two main approaches — electrification of end uses, and the decarbonization of Massachusetts’ electricity system — to reduce emissions from buildings, the transportation sector, power generation, industrial processes and other sources.

Strategies include transitioning to electric vehicles, reducing growth in total vehicle miles traveled, adding offshore wind, solar and storage, and converting building heating systems to utilize heat pumps.

[…] An economic analysis of the CEC plans’s potential impacts sees significant job growth, said officials. According to the plan, modeling shows the 2025 and 2030 targets result in a net gain of over 22,000 jobs by 2030, “most of which will be in installing electric vehicle chargers, solar photovoltaic projects, energy efficiency retrofits in buildings, offshore wind projects, and transmission lines to connect the clean energy that powers the economy.”
» Read article      
» Read the Clean Energy Plan

happy Putin
‘Putin rubbing hands with glee’ after EU votes to class gas and nuclear as green
Parliament backs plan to classify some projects as clean power investments
By Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian
July 6, 2022

The European parliament has backed plans to label gas and nuclear energy as “green”, rejecting appeals from prominent Ukrainians and climate activists that the proposals are a gift to Vladimir Putin.

One senior MEP said the vote was a “dark day for the climate”, while experts said the EU had set a dangerous precedent for countries to follow.

The row began late last year with the leak of long-awaited details on the EU’s green investment guidebook, intended to help investors channel billions to the clean power transition.

The European Commission decided some gas and nuclear projects could be included in the EU taxonomy of environmentally sustainable economic activities, subject to certain conditions.

Under the plans, gas can be classed as a sustainable investment if “the same energy capacity cannot be generated with renewable sources” and plans are in place to switch to renewables or “low-carbon gases”. Nuclear power can be called green if a project promises to deal with radioactive waste.

The plan could only be stopped by a majority of EU member states or members of the European parliament.

With most EU governments in favour, attention turned to the European parliament, but on Wednesday MEPs failed to muster a blocking majority. Only 282 MEPs voted in favour of an amendment against the inclusion of gas and nuclear, falling short of the 353 votes needed to overturn the decision.

Bas Eickhout, the vice-president of the European parliament’s environment committee, said it was “dark day for the climate and energy transition”.
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

plug and spackle
Connecticut weatherization program will tackle mold, asbestos, other barriers
Mold, asbestos and other hazards can prevent energy efficiency contractors from moving ahead with weatherization projects. A new state program will create funding to help homeowners address those barriers.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
July 7, 2022

A new Connecticut program is expected to help cut energy bills and improve living conditions for low-income residents throughout the state.

The Statewide Weatherization Barrier Remediation Program, overseen by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, will pay for the cleanup of mold, asbestos and other health and safety barriers that can prevent homeowners from pursuing weatherization projects.

Leticia Colon De Mejias, owner of an energy efficiency contracting company and executive director of the nonprofit Efficiency for All, said the program is long overdue. She has been advocating for a more equitable approach in the state’s efficiency programs since 2015.

That was the year she figured out that 30% to 40% of the homes her staff was visiting had barriers that prevented efficiency work from being done. Most were low-income and under-resourced households. Other contractors she talked to were experiencing the same thing, and, she learned, the weatherization programs simply paid them a fee for their time. The homeowners received no additional support.

“I said, that’s crazy — what are we doing to help these people?” she said. “That’s wrong. That’s exclusionary.”

The new program is expected to cover the cost of remediating hazardous conditions for up to 1,000 income-eligible households over the next three years. The program will draw from a utility-maintained list of some 20,000 homes that have been deferred from participation in the state’s energy efficiency programs due to barriers.

After remediation, the households will receive energy efficiency improvements through either the state-managed or utility-managed weatherization programs. Those programs provide home energy audits to customers at little to no cost, while also making improvements like sealing air leaks and installing low-flow showerheads.
» Read article      
» Check out the program

» More about energy efficiency       

MODERNIZING THE GRID

going virtual
This Virtual Power Plant Is Trying to Tackle a Housing Crisis and an Energy Crisis All at Once
A Bay Area project combines subsidized housing with solar and battery systems that work together to support the larger grid.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
July 7, 2022

Vicken Kasarjian is giddy as he describes a project that aims to address two of Richmond, California’s greatest problems: a lack of affordable housing and unreliable electricity.

Kasarjian is the chief operating officer of MCE, a nonprofit electricity provider that serves parts of four Bay Area counties. MCE’s plan is to retrofit about 100 houses and 20 businesses with rooftop solar, batteries and smart appliances, and then sell excess electricity from the solar and batteries into the grid.

“It is so interesting, enlightening and fun to do this,” he said.

He’s talking about a “virtual power plant,” which is when a company uses software to coordinate a series of energy systems—usually batteries—to export power to the grid at the same time. The result is a power plant that can participate in the state power market, selling its electricity at times of high demand and high prices.

There are dozens of virtual power plants in development across the country, with thousands of households and businesses involved. What’s different about the MCE project is it has a housing component, with plans to renovate abandoned properties and then sell them at subsidized prices to first-time homebuyers with qualifying incomes.

Richmond, with a population of about 110,000, has suffered for decades from air pollution from a giant Chevron oil refinery. The city has low incomes for the region, but high housing prices due to a lack of supply and proximity to some of the most affluent parts of the country, like Berkeley, which is 10 miles away.

“A virtual power plant is decentralized, decarbonized and democratized,” said Alexandra McGee, MCE’s manager of strategic initiatives.
» Read article       

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Tesla parking
‘Insane’ lithium price bump threatens EV fix for climate change
The price of the metal used in batteries for electric cars has risen six-fold since the start of the year.
By Ian Neubauer, Al Jazeera
July 7, 2022

Lithium, the highly reactive silver-white metal that is a crucial ingredient in batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), is becoming much more expensive – and fast.

In April, as prices hit a record $78,000 a tonne, Tesla CEO Elon Musk floated the idea of the electric carmaker mining and refining the lightweight metal itself due to the “insane” increase in costs.

For governments ranging from China to the European Union that have pledged to phase out combustion engines in the near future, the soaring cost and growing scarcity of the metal raise questions about how they will meet their deadlines, many of which come due as soon as 2035.

With combustion engines accounting for one-quarter of carbon emissions, according to the United Nations, a delay in transitioning away from petrol and diesel cars would deal a serious blow to efforts to reduce carbon emissions and avert the worst effects of climate change.

“As Elon Musk has said, ‘lithium will be the limiting factor,’” Joe Lowry, an expert on the global lithium market and the founder of Global Lithium LLC, told Al Jazeera. “It is very simple math.”

Despite retreating from its April highs, the price of Lithium has jumped more than 600 percent since the start of the year, from about $10,000 per metric tonne in January to $62,000 in June, according to Benchmark Market Intelligence. Citigroup has predicted more “extreme” price hikes on the way.

[…] “The main takeaway here is that the EV market faces many decades of strong, compound growth,” Fastmarkets said in its most recent lithium report.

“For any supply chain that relies on getting raw materials out of the ground, it is going to be a supreme challenge to keep up with year after year of high compound growth.”

Lithium production will need to quadruple by 2030 to keep up with expected demand, according to Fastmarkets.
» Read article       

off-peak charge
National Grid offers incentives for off-peak electric vehicle charging. Are they enough?

The pilot program could cut the cost of summer charging by more than 17%; advocates say that the discount should be greater.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 6, 2022

Massachusetts utility National Grid has launched a new initiative to give drivers rebates for charging their electric vehicles during off-peak hours, but some advocates worry the incentives aren’t high enough to propel meaningful change.

The new program rewards customers who charge their vehicles between 9 p.m. and 1 p.m., when demand on the grid is lower and the power flowing into the system is generally cleaner and less expensive. The goal of the program is to ease the burden on the grid, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and motivate more drivers to consider switching from gasoline-fueled cars.

“It helps improve the business case for charging at home and hopefully encourages some customers to buy electric vehicles,” said Rishi Sondhi, clean transportation manager for National Grid.

Today, electric vehicles make up just 56,000 of the 5 million vehicles registered in the state. But Massachusetts has set the ambitious target of putting 300,000 zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025 as part of its plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

As electric vehicle adoption increases, so will the load on the power grid. Currently about 44% of electric vehicles’ charging in Massachusetts is done during times of peak demand, according to National Grid’s testimony to the state public utilities department. If that pattern holds as more people buy electric vehicles, the transmission and distribution infrastructure will require expensive upgrades, and older, dirtier power plants will be called into action more often.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

Mountainview
Is a solar energy project a farm? That’s the question, as Lenox faces a legal challenge from a major developer
By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle
July 5, 2022

LENOX — A major developer is threatening to escalate a legal confrontation with Lenox, as it lays groundwork for a bid to install solar panels on land mostly in a residential area.

So far, it’s been hot words at municipal meetings and filings in local court.

Several Lenox officials want an end to “bombastic” statements by the developer and suggest they are not getting the whole truth about whether land adjacent to Lenox Dale will be used for farming or a large photovoltaic solar array.

The developer says the town is blocking a property owner’s use of its land for agricultural purposes — and the company will do what it takes to prevail.

[…] Alarm bells might have sounded, since the buyer was listed as PLH Vineyard Sky LLC. That’s the real estate partner of Ecos Energy, based in Minneapolis, which operates 37 solar projects across the nation for its parent company, Allco Renewable Energy LTD, headquartered in New Haven, Conn.

In 2018, the Housatonic Street property had been targeted for a $10 million commercial solar project by Sustainable Strategies 2020 and its partner, Syncarpha Capital of New York City. But local opposition doomed the project. In North Adams, Syncarpha’s $9 million, 3.5-megawatt solar array built in 2015 produces enough energy to meet the city’s municipal electricity needs.

But in Lenox, neighbors argued that the array of solar panels would obstruct scenic views and depress property values.

The current Lenox zoning bylaw for ground-mounted solar installations allows them “by right” only in industrial zones. While a small slice of the Housatonic property adjoining Willow Creek Road is zoned industrial, most of the land is in the residential zone.
» Read article       

» More about the siting impacts of renewables

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

no easement
The bitter fight to stop a 2,000-mile carbon pipeline
Three pipeline projects are in early stages of planning in Iowa. An alliance of farmers, Indigenous groups and environmentalists wants to stop them
By Jenny Splitter, The Guardian
Photographs by Danny Wilcox Frazier
July 7, 2022

[…] There are three CO2 pipeline projects in early stages of planning in Iowa. The companies behind them – Summit, Navigator and a partnership of Wolf Carbon Solutions and Archer Daniel Midlands – have been contacting landowners in hopes of getting them to grant easements.

But hundreds of people say they won’t sign. Not only that, they don’t want to see these projects go forward at all. Webb and other landowners from different Iowa counties, some who farm and some who rent to other farmers, have joined forces in an unusual alliance with Indigenous groups and environmental organizations, to fight against the pipelines.

[…] Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) works by capturing carbon dioxide emissions at their source to prevent their release into the atmosphere, then injecting the CO2 into rocks deep underground.

It has become a much-hyped answer to the need to rapidly reduce global carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest working group report identifies seven pathways for limiting global warming – all but one include CCS. The Biden administration has pledged $2.3bn in funding to enhance capacity for existing US-based projects, each of which would be able to store at least 50m metric tons of captured CO2.

But critics are concerned that CCS is being treated as an easy fix for the climate crisis, especially by polluters who may rely on the technology to avoid strict emissions reductions. In some instances, captured carbon is used for enhanced oil recovery – a technique that uses liquefied CO2 to flush out residual oil – which serves to entrench fossil fuel production rather than replace it.

In Iowa, the pipelines – proposed for ethanol and fertilizer plants and any other agricultural facility that emits carbon dioxide – would transport the CO2 to nearby states, such as North Dakota, which have the right kind of rock formations to store the gas.

According to the companies, these projects would be able to store a total of 25m metric tons of CO2 a year and – of particular interest to Iowa’s corn ethanol industry – boost ethanol’s climate credentials. All three projects say their permits are for CO2 storage only and there are no plans to use the gas to extract oil.
» Read article       

» More about CCS

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

sniff test failed
Eversource faces conflict of interest questions in wind-energy contracts
State lawmakers aim to rein in utility company influence when it comes to selecting wind farm projects off the Massachusetts coast
By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
July 3, 2022

The state’s two major electric utilities wield considerable power by choosing the wind farm projects that can be built off the coast of Massachusetts. Maybe not for much longer.

When state-sanctioned clean energy contracts go out to bid, Eversource and National Grid (along with Unitil) get to pick the winners. It’s a power that has prompted conflict-of-interest questions since before the Legislature passed the original law allowing it six years ago. Both of the big utilities have arms that invest in offshore wind projects, meaning they might end up with affiliates across the table bidding on these contracts. Even with internal firewalls, critics worry the utilities could still steer the process for their benefit.

This issue came to a head in the third and latest round of wind farm contracts. Eversource’s Bay State Wind venture with Danish energy company Ørsted didn’t even compete this time. But a new report from an independent evaluator, consulting firm Peregrine Energy Group, claims Eversource may have interfered to benefit its own offshore investment by unsuccessfully trying to knock another venture, Mayflower Wind, out of the bidding.

In the end, Mayflower Wind chief executive Michael Brown says he’s happy with the results: In December, his project won contracts for 400 megawatts — enough energy for 200,000-plus homes — while Avangrid’s Commonwealth Wind landed 1,200 megawatts. But the whole brouhaha could help push state lawmakers to take the decision-making authority away from the utilities and hand it to a third party, such as the state Department of Energy Resources.

That’s how these prizes are awarded in New York and Connecticut. Why not here in Massachusetts? Peregrine essentially poses this very question in its latest report.
» Read article      
» Read the independent evaluator report by Peregrine Energy Group

» More about electric utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Huntington Beach
Biden Administration Opens New Public Lands and Waters to Fossil Fuel Drilling, Disappointing Environmentalists
The president’s campaign promise to end fossil fuel development on public lands was thwarted by US courts, high gas prices and Russia’s domination of western European energy.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
July 1, 2022

This week, the Biden administration took two of its biggest steps yet to open public lands to fossil fuel development, holding its first onshore lease sales and releasing a proposed plan for offshore drilling that could open parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet to leasing through 2028.

The moves run counter to Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to halt new oil and gas development on federal lands and waters, and come as the president is under mounting political pressure to address high energy prices.

Biden faces a range of conflicting interests on climate change, energy and the economy as he tries to lower gasoline prices and increase energy exports to counter Russia’s dominance of western European energy, all without abandoning the ambitious climate agenda he brought to the White House. On Thursday, the Supreme Court dealt another blow to that agenda with a 6-3 decision that restricted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to curb climate pollution from the power sector.

The Bureau of Land Management was also expected to release a new environmental impact statement for a major oil development proposed in the Alaskan Arctic this week, but the report was not public at the time of publication. That statement could amount to an endorsement for decades of future production from a sensitive and rapidly warming habitat.

“It is definitely a week that I would say calls into question Biden’s commitment to climate change,” said Nicole Ghio, fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth, an advocacy group.

For many climate advocates, the new oil and gas leasing comes as a bitter disappointment, particularly because any new oil production will take years and is therefore highly unlikely to alleviate current high energy prices. Instead, advocates say, all the leasing will do is lock in additional oil and gas production years from now, when the nation’s climate targets dictate that oil and gas use should be on the decline.

“It is impossible to fight climate change if we continue to lease public lands and waters to fossil fuels,” Ghio said. “We cannot meet our international commitments, we cannot keep stable to 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” a level of warming beyond which climate impacts are likely to grow far worse, scientists say.
» Read article       

truck talk
Hype, Hope, and Hot Air: Inside Canada’s Hydrogen Strategy
Industry and governments are eager to embrace hydrogen power. But the plan to do so is “overly optimistic” and based on “unfounded assumptions.”
By Danielle Paradis, DeSmog Blog
July 5, 2022

Hydrogen is the future of net-zero — at least that is what the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, and the European Union believe.

Mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, however, has slammed key elements of these governments’ plans at a recent hydrogen summit in London, calling the movement towards blue hydrogen, a process that turns natural gas into hydrogen and carbon monoxide and dioxide and then sequesters the CO2 emissions using carbon capture and storage, an ineffective greenwash.

Nevertheless, examples of the energy industry’s overly optimistic hype on hydrogen abound. In late April, Nikola Corporation parked a prototype of its next hydrogen-powered semi-truck on a ballroom floor at the Edmonton Convention Centre in Alberta, Canada. The gleaming white Nikola Tre FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) was the star of the inaugural Canadian Hydrogen Convention, a three day gathering that aimed “to demonstrate Canada’s leadership in hydrogen.”

[…] However, environmental campaigners have cautioned for years that blue hydrogen is little more than the newest attempt by the oil and gas industry to lock in dependency on fossil fuels. With carbon capture and storage technology still largely unreliable, the key to making this type of hydrogen environmentally friendly is little more than wishful thinking. Even if CCS becomes more dependable, it would only capture emissions in the process of turning natural gas into hydrogen; all the methane — a powerful climate-warming gas — emitted in the production and transport of natural gas, would be unabated.

The problems don’t stop there. A scathing report from Jerry DeMarco, Canada’s federal environment commissioner, concluded that the optimism at the convention does not reflect the reality of hydrogen in Canada. The report, which was released during “hydrogen week,” found that the hydrogen-derived emissions reduction targets set by the federal government were unrealistic and that Canada may be unable to meet its Paris Agreement goals. The report sheds light on inconsistencies between various government agencies’ models of hydrogen’s potential to reduce emissions.
» Read article      
» Read the report

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 7/1/22

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Welcome back.

A new study revealed potential health risks of natural gas from multiple toxins that ride along with the methane into your home. This is a particular issue for unburned gas, and it comes on the heels of recent research that shows how leaky typical gas cooking stoves and other appliances are, even when not in operation. So the fact that the carcinogen benzene and other nasty constituents are commonly present at the appliance means they also escape into the air you breath indoors.  The study found considerable variation in the level of toxins present in gas at different times of year. Concentrations tended to increase in winter months – an unwelcome finding since that’s when living spaces are closed tight, allowing less fresh air ventilation.

The findings struck another blow against the brand identity of natural gas as a “clean fuel”, but utilities like Eversource are still working overtime to add additional miles to their pipeline networks. Last week’s utility-sponsored visit to the proposed Longmeadow pipeline expansion project was attended by a state senator and multiple activists who expressed skepticism about the merits of the project. Some responses by utility representatives to attendee questions were jaw-dropping….

We recently called attention to the obscure Energy Charter Treaty, and how it’s being used – mostly in the European Union – by fossil fuel companies to sue countries over climate mitigation plans that threaten the fossil business model. An update of the treaty was just negotiated, but experts still consider it a threat to climate progress. The U.S. is not a signatory to that treaty, but we’ve nevertheless been quite effective in torpedoing our own climate efforts. A small example is how a single Democratic assemblyman in California’s legislature killed a bill that would have caused two huge state pension funds to divest from fossil fuels. Were industry campaign contributions a factor? Meanwhile, suits against the fossil fuel industry are piling on.

The real bell-ringer was yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, which gutted the EPA’s role in regulating fleet-wide power plant emissions. The U.S. is now playing catch-up in the climate race with both feet in a potato sack. We’re back to hoping progressive states and cities can save the day. One example is New Hampshire, where regulators are finalizing rules for community power programs which would allow communities to begin buying electric power on their own. This provides relief from major utility price hikes driven by dependence on natural gas generating plants, and should allow more flexibility in greening the grid.

Also, Rhode Island lawmakers have approved a long-fought bill to ban plastic bags at retail checkout lines. The legislation requires retail establishments to offer recyclable bag options such as paper bags, or reusable bags that were brought in by the customer. Those who do not comply will be fined.

If you still detect a faint pulse at the federal level, it might be from bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives would authorize a national approach for residential water heaters to be utilized as demand response resources, in a bid to strengthen electric grid resilience and flexibility. Ah yes… the Senate.

Our politics are a mess, but energy jobs in the U.S. are growing faster than employment in the overall domestic economy, driven in particular by renewables and the development of clean transportation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

There’s a glimmer of good news from Down Under, now that pro-fossil conservatives were sent packing in the recent election. Australia’s new government is putting climate change at the top of its legislative agenda when Parliament returns next month. Bills will require a significant cut in greenhouse gas emissions and make electric cars cheaper.

We’ll close with an example of how carbon capture and storage projects are ripe for all sorts of sketchy dealings. One in New Mexico is being used to keep an aging coal generating plant and mine operating, even though the state government has long sought its closure and has a plan to protect workers. Also despite financial analysis concluding that the numbers just don’t add up. If you figure this one out, let us know!

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

— The NFGiM Team

HEALTH RISKS OF NATURAL GAS

gas-lit flameUnburned natural gas contains 21 toxic air pollutants, study finds
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
June 28, 2022

There’s been a lot of focus recently on the negative health impacts of burning natural gas indoors, but a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology sheds light on what’s in the unburned gas piped into millions of homes across the U.S.

[…] In the U.S., “43 million homes cook with gas, another 17 million or so heat with gas. That’s a lot of end users,” says Drew Michanowicz, lead author and visiting scientist at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “There’s a lot of really good reasons for us to start thinking about natural gas leaks because of climate change. We are really looking for other ways by which natural gas leaks are also directly impacting health.”

When most people think about natural gas, they likely think about methane. And for good reason — natural gas is mostly methane. Methane isn’t known to have any direct human health impacts — though given its contribution to climate change, it certainly has big indirect impacts. And with increasing evidence that gas leaks are a lot more common than anyone realized, Michanowicz says he and others wanted to know exactly what else is in the fossil fuel so many people use in their homes.

Over the course of 16 months, they tested natural gas in 69 homes across the Greater Boston region. They took samples from customers of all three major utilities, and did so several times throughout the course of the study. Those samples were then sent to a lab and analyzed for 300 trace chemicals.

Of the 21 air toxics found, the most concerning was benzene, which can cause cancer, blood disorders and other health problems. While the concentration of benzene measured was quite low, Michanowicz says the finding is important given the ubiquity of natural gas in homes.

“Because natural gas is so widely used in society and it is so widely used in our indoor spaces,” he says, “any small leaks of these hazardous air pollutants in our homes can potentially impact our health.”

The study also found considerable variation in the level of [toxins] present in gas at different times of year. The authors aren’t sure why, but gas delivered to peoples’ homes in the wintertime had more harmful pollutants than summertime gas. Wintertime gas also had lower levels of odorants — the sulfur compounds added to natural gas to give it a smell — though all samples met federal guidelines.

Taken together, these findings suggest that exposure to toxics may be most pronounced in the wintertime when people are already more likely to be indoors, have their windows shut and use more natural gas for heating.

A study published earlier this year from Stanford University scientists found that gas stoves are quite leaky, and that a lot of the gas bleeds out when the stove isn’t even on. Along those lines, about 1 in 20 homes tested during this study had gas leaks that merited further inspection.
» Read article    
» Read the study

Weymouth brownies
Scientists measured the pollutants coming from gas stoves in Boston. They found dangerous chemicals.
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
June 28, 2022

The natural gas used in homes in the Greater Boston area contains varying levels of toxic chemicals, according to a new study, upending the long-held idea that natural gas is a “clean” fossil fuel.

In a first-ever look at the chemical makeup of gas coming into homes, scientists found benzene — a carcinogen for which there is no known safe level of exposure — in 95 percent of the samples, which were collected between December 2019 and May 2021, according to the study, published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“We found that unburned natural gas delivered to homes contains numerous air toxics … that can cause cancer and other serious health effects,” said lead author Drew Michanowicz, a visiting scientist at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a senior scientist at PSE Healthy Energy.

The findings come at a time when a seemingly innocuous appliance — the kitchen stove — has come to represent a pressure point in the clean energy transition, as local initiatives from the Boston suburbs to Southern California aim to restrict the use of fossil fuels in new buildings. The gas industry has heavily promoted the idea that good cooking equates to cooking with gas, while fighting municipal bans on gas hookups.

Recent studies have shown that natural gas — which consists of up to 90 percent methane — is leaking at far higher rates than expected, even when stoves are turned off, and that it contains other health-damaging pollutants such as nitrogen oxides.

The new study identifies the full spectrum of chemicals that can leak into homes, finding 21 different chemicals designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous air pollutants.

“Historically, natural gas has been described as a clean, or cleaner, fossil fuel,” said Zeyneb Magavi, co-executive director of HEET, a nonprofit that promotes geothermal heat, and a co-author on the study. “Now that we know there are small quantities of VOCs present in the gas supply in the Greater Boston area, it is reasonable to conclude that our gas supply is not as clean as we thought it once was.”
» Read article    
» Read the study

» More about health risks of natural gas

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

walk away from ECT
Energy treaty update fails to address climate crisis, activists say
1994 agreement allows investors to sue governments for changes in energy policy that harm their profits
By Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian
June 24, 2022

Climate activists have said a deal to update a “dangerous” energy treaty has failed to make the agreement compatible with the urgency of the climate crisis.

After more than four years of talks, 52 countries and the EU on Friday struck a deal to “modernise” the energy charter treaty, a 1994 agreement that allows investors to sue governments for changes in energy policy that harm their profits.

The treaty has been described by a former whistleblower as “a real threat” to the landmark Paris climate agreement, which aims to cap global heating at 1.5C, because it is feared that governments would blow their green transition budgets on compensating the owners of coalmines, oil wells and other fossil fuel projects.

This week 76 climate scientists told EU leaders that even a modernised ECT would “jeopardise the EU climate neutrality target and the EU green deal”, referring to a swathe of policy proposals launched last year to tackle the climate crisis.

The compromise agreement, which was largely designed by the EU, reduces the protection afforded to companies that have invested in oil and gas projects. But a fossil fuel exemption would not kick in until 2033 at the earliest.

Under the deal, new fossil fuel investments will cease to be protected in the EU and UK from mid August 2023. Existing fossil fuel investments in the EU and UK would lose protection after 10 years. But the 10-year phase-out for oil and gas only comes into force once the treaty has been ratified by three-quarters of the ECT’s 53 signatories.

[…] “With a 10-year phase-out period for fossil fuel investments, EU countries could still be sued for putting in place progressive climate policies for at least another decade – the key window for action if humanity is to avoid climate catastrophe,” said Amandine Van Den Berghe, a lawyer at the NGO ClientEarth.

“The new treaty will also open the door to a wave of financial compensation claims protecting investments in energy sources and technologies raising significant sustainability concerns, such as biomass, hydrogen and carbon capture storage,” she said, referring to the decision to extend treaty protection to these areas.

“The bottom line is we are still left with a dangerous agreement that will obstruct urgent action to tackle the climate crisis for years to come. The EU must finally do what is necessary for climate and legally right: walk away.”
» Read article    

site inspection
Canada Steps Up Surveillance of Indigenous Peoples To Push Fossil Fuel Pipelines Forward
An international human rights body condemned Canada’s treatment of Indigenous communities opposing two major oil and gas pipelines.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 17, 2022

Canadian police and security forces have intensified their surveillance and harassment of Indigenous people in recent months in an effort to clear the way for the construction of two long-distance oil and gas pipelines in British Columbia, earning the condemnation of international human rights observers.

“The Governments of Canada and of the Province of British Columbia have escalated their use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders and peaceful protesters to intimidate, remove and forcibly evict Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en Nations from their traditional lands,” the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) wrote in an April 29 letter.

It was the third time the international body reproached the Canadian federal and provincial governments for their treatment of Indigenous communities in relation to the construction of the two fossil fuel projects. The Tiny House Warriors, a group of Secwepemc people, are opposing the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline, a long-distance oil pipeline that is under construction and would run from Alberta’s tar sands to the Pacific Coast, ending near Vancouver. And Wet’suwet’en land defenders are opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a fossil gas pipeline that would feed an LNG export terminal in northern British Columbia.

A 1997 Supreme Court decision affirmed Aboriginal rights to land, and both Indigenous movements fighting the two fossil fuel projects state that their physical presence on their pre-colonial lands is a way of exercising their rights. The Tiny House Warriors have constructed small mobile homes on their ancestral lands, in the path of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en has also occupied their traditional territory, building permanent homes and spiritual buildings in a heavily forested area south of the small town of Houston.
» Read article    
» Read the UN letter

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

Eversource v IPCC
Why Sen. Lesser and advocacy groups don’t want the Eversource backup pipeline
By Juliet Schulman-Hall, MassLive
June 24, 2022

Among approximately 100 attendees of an Eversource pipeline site visit in Longmeadow on Tuesday was Massachusetts state Sen. Eric Lesser and several activist organizations who have opposed the construction for years now.

“I really just wanted to show my support to the opponents [of the pipeline] and to the residents in the area and to the activists who have been working so hard on on trying to shed light on the project,” said Lesser. “I also wanted to substantively hear the [Eversource] presentation and learn more about the plans.”

The in-person meeting on Tuesday was hosted by the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act Office (MEPA) to view existing site conditions at the Longmeadow Country Club maintenance facility at 14 Hazardville Road, which is the site proposed for a meter station facility associated with the pipeline project. Attendees also included Springfield School Committee member Maria Perez and advocates from Climate Action Now and Berkshire Environmental Action Team, said Michele Marantz, leader of the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group.

The MEPA office has not yet responded to a request for comment about the meeting.

Priscilla Ress, the western Massachusetts spokeswoman for Eversource, was optimistic about the outcome of the site visit.

“[The] MEPA meeting was well attended and provided a good opportunity for community and interested persons to participate in the siting process as we continue working to update and strengthen the backbone of the gas system,” Ress said.

However, Lesser, who is running for Lieutenant Governor, and others weren’t as happy with the site visit.

“There certainly was a disconnect [between Eversource and attendees],” said Lesser. “They could always do a better job at answering people’s questions.”

Naia Tenerowicz, member of Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, said she was similarly frustrated by how Eversource was unable to answer attendees’ questions.

“People asked questions about things that Eversource did not have adequate answers or in some cases, any answers at all,” said Tenerowicz.

Tenerowicz said she and others were “shocked” to learn that an Eversource representative said he was unfamiliar with an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was when an attendee referenced it — reports that in recent years have raised alarms about humanity’s short window to act to reduce climate change.

“So not only their lack of adequate answers, but seemingly their lack of awareness about the climate aspects of this was very concerning to all of us,” Tenerowicz said.
» Read article    
» Read the IPCC report referenced above

» More about pipelines

DIVESTMENT

CALSTRS
California Assemblyman Kills Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill
The bill would have required the state’s two enormous public pension funds to divest from fossil fuels, but it was squashed by a Democrat who has taken money from oil and gas companies.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 28, 2022

The California legislature was close to passing a bill that would require the state’s two massive pension funds to divest from fossil fuels, but on June 21 the legislation was killed by one Democratic assemblyman who has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the energy industry.

Senate Bill 1173 would have required the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the two largest public pension funds in the country, to divest from fossil fuels. CalPERS and CalSTRS, which manage pensions for state employees and teachers, together hold more than $9 billion in fossil fuel investments.

The global divestment movement now claims that more than 1,500 institutions have divested from fossil fuels, representing more than $40 trillion in value. New York and Maine have also committed to phasing out fossil fuel investments from their public pensions.

But because of the size of the two California pension funds, their divestment from fossil fuels would be a significant achievement for the global movement. The call comes as the state continues to suffer from long-term drought and catastrophic wildfires that are worsening with climate change. Activists say that the state cannot claim to be a leader on climate action while maintaining billions of dollars’ worth of investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Senate Bill 1173 would have required the pension funds to divest by 2027, and the legislation had the support of the California Faculty Association, the California Federation of Teachers, associations representing higher education faculty, and roughly 150 environmental and activist organizations.

However, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed front group with ties to the oil industry, opposed the bill, warning that divesting from fossil fuels would put public sector pensions in financial jeopardy.
» Read article    

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

BlueScope Steel
Australia prioritizes reducing emissions and cheaper EVs
By ROD McGUIRK, The Associated Press, in The Boston Globe
June 29, 2022

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s new government is putting climate change at the top of its legislative agenda when Parliament sits next month for the first time since the May 21 election, with bills to enshrine a cut in greenhouse gas emissions and make electric cars cheaper, a minister said on Wednesday.

A bill will be introduced to commit Australia to reducing its emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 when Parliament sits on July 26, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen told the National Press Club.

Another bill would abolish import tariffs and taxes for electric vehicles that are cheaper than the luxury car threshold of 77,565 Australian dollars ($53,580).

Only 1.5% of cars sold in Australia are electric or plug-in hybrid, and passenger cars account for almost 10% of the nation’s emissions, the government said.

The new center-left Labor Party government expects EVs will account for 89% of Australian new car sales by 2030.

The government’s fleet will be converted to 75% no-emission vehicles, bolstering a second-hand EV market as government vehicles are sold after three years.

The new government has already officially informed the United Nations of Australia’s more ambitious 2030 target than the previous conservative Liberal Party-led administration had pursued, a reduction of 26% to 28%.

But Bowen said legislating the 43% target would create greater confidence.

“It’s about certainty and stability, mainly for the business investment community,” Bowen said.
» Read article    

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

now hiring
Energy sector job growth outpaces overall US economy, with strength in transportation, renewables: DOE
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 28, 2022

Energy jobs in the U.S. are growing faster than employment in the overall domestic economy, driven in particular by renewables and the development of clean transportation, according to a new analysis released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Energy sector jobs grew 4% in 2021, while employment across all industries rose just 2.8% in the same time period, according to the 2022 U.S. Energy & Employment Report.

Not all energy sectors saw growth, however. Employment in the fuels technology sector, which includes gas, coal and petroleum, declined by more than 29,271 jobs, or about 3.1%. The coal industry saw the greatest percentage decline, shedding 7,125 jobs and reducing employment by 11.8%, while gas saw a small increase.

The annual energy jobs report captures a unique period in the U.S. economy, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and with the Covid-19 recovery ongoing. It sketches out a new “starting gate” in the country’s efforts to build a skilled clean energy workforce, federal officials said.

“Notably, jobs in renewables, like solar and wind, outpaced economy-wide growth. And electric and hybrid vehicles posted a whopping 25% increase in employment,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a Monday call with reporters.

The United States is working to transform to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, and Granholm said 41% of all energy jobs last year were oriented towards that goal. “The jobs are growing in industries we need to support a 100% clean power sector, like energy efficiency, transportation and storage,” she said.
» Read article    
» Read the report

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

self-inflicted
Supreme Court rejects EPA ability to set fleet-wide GHG emissions standards for power plants
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
June 30, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency cannot set fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions limits for existing power plants under the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d), the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, dismissing arguments raised by a group of electric utilities, the Biden administration and others.

Congress did not give the EPA in Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act the explicit authority to set emissions caps based on the “generation shifting” approach the agency took in the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the decision, said.

“Today’s ruling limits the tools available to the [EPA] to sensibly reduce power plant emissions using cost-effective strategies that reflect the realities of an electric power system that is increasingly dynamic and diverse,” Jeff Dennis, Advanced Energy Economy general counsel and managing director, said in a statement. “In light of this Supreme Court decision, it will fall to Congress, state policymakers, and the markets to drive the transition to a clean energy economy.”

[…] Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion that was joined by associate justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The court’s decision “strips” the EPA’s ability to respond to climate change, according to Kagan.

“The majority’s decision rests on one claim alone: that generation shifting is just too new and too big a deal for Congress to have authorized it in Section 111’s general terms,” Kagan said. “But that is wrong. A key reason Congress makes broad delegations like Section 111 is so an agency can respond, appropriately and commensurately, to new and big problems. Congress knows what it doesn’t and can’t know when it drafts a statute; and Congress therefore gives an expert agency the power to address issues — even significant ones — as and when they arise.”
» Read article    

Xcel wind farm
As Federal Climate-Fighting Tools Are Taken Away, Cities and States Step Up
Across the country, local governments are accelerating their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in some cases bridging partisan divides. Their role will become increasingly important.
By Maggie Astor, New York Times
July 1, 2022

Legislators in Colorado, historically a major coal state, have passed more than 50 climate-related laws since 2019. The liquor store in the farming town of Morris, Minn., cools its beer with solar power. Voters in Athens, Ohio, imposed a carbon fee on themselves. Citizens in Fairfax County, Va., teamed up for a year and a half to produce a 214-page climate action plan.

Across the country, communities and states are accelerating their efforts to fight climate change as action stalls on the national level. This week, the Supreme Court curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, one of the biggest sources of planet-warming pollution — the latest example of how the Biden administration’s climate tools are getting chipped away.

During the Trump administration, which aggressively weakened environmental and climate protections, local efforts gained importance. Now, experts say, local action is even more critical for the United States — which is second only to China in emissions — to have a chance at helping the world avert the worst effects of global warming.

This patchwork approach is no substitute for a coordinated national strategy. Local governments have limited reach, authority and funding.

But as the legislative and regulatory options available in Washington, D.C., become increasingly constrained, “States are really critical to helping the country as a whole achieve our climate goals,” said Kyle Clark-Sutton, manager of the analysis team for the United States program at RMI, a clean energy think tank. “They have a real opportunity to lead. They have been leading.”
» Read article     

» More about climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

attic insulation
House bills would require demand response-enabled water heaters, strengthen weatherization program
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 23, 2022

Bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives would authorize a national approach for residential water heaters to be utilized as demand response resources, in a bid to strengthen electric grid resilience and flexibility. H.R. 7962 was introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.

The bill would direct the U.S. Department of Energy to consider requiring residential water heaters be manufactured with hardware and software capabilities to moderate their energy use in response to incentive payments or changes in the price of electricity.

Water heater manufacturers support the bill, but at a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Wednesday some lawmakers and groups wary of government overreach voiced privacy concerns in mandating the new capabilities.

Multiple states, including California and New York, have already passed measures to ensure some water heaters are manufactured to be demand-response capable. Manufacturers say they prefer a national standard to the “quagmire” of varied compliance requirements.

“This provision represents an opportunity to establish a national standard for a narrow product class of innovative water heating technology,” Joshua Greene, corporate vice president of government and industry affairs at water heater manufacturer A.O. Smith, told lawmakers.
» Read article    
» Read the bill, H.R. 7962

» More about energy efficiency

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

Shiprock obscured
Will carbon capture help clean New Mexico’s power, or delay its transition?

A virtually unknown company has a $1.4 billion plan to extend the life of New Mexico’s largest coal-fired power plant by installing carbon capture. Critics say it’s likely to be a costly distraction from the state’s just transition.
By Jonathan P. Thompson, Energy News Network
June 29, 2022

As New Mexico lawmakers were putting the finishing touches on landmark legislation to help workers and communities transition from the closure of the state’s largest coal plant, the city of Farmington had other plans.

“We have reached a milestone that few people thought remotely possible,” City Manager Rob Mayes told the local newspaper in February 2019. An agreement was announced between the city and a New York holding firm called Acme Equities to keep the aging San Juan Generating Station operating past its scheduled 2022 retirement date.

The state’s largest utility, Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, had planned to retire the massive coal-fired power plant, eliminating hundreds of jobs and millions in local tax revenue that the 2019 Energy Transition Act intended to address.

After working behind the scenes for months, though, local officials instead threw their support behind an obscure real estate hedge fund promising to keep the plant and its associated mine open by installing the largest carbon capture system on a power plant to date — by far.

The $1.4 billion plan baffled energy-economics experts. After all, PNM was abandoning the plant into which it had just invested millions of dollars in pollution-control technology because it was no longer economically tenable. It simply did not pencil out, as Karl Cates and Dennis Wamsted, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis IEEFA detailed in a July 2019 report.

“IEEFA does not see much likelihood of the project going forward,” Cates and Wamsted wrote, “and the resulting liabilities to the city, either way, are potentially significant.”

Acme’s bid has been more durable than critics expected, though. Three years later, with the plant’s closure impending, the effort is still alive under a new name, Enchant Energy. And despite setbacks, missed benchmarks and questions about the scheme’s viability, Enchant Energy continues to say it will take over the plant later this summer.
» Read article   
» Read the 2019 IEEFA report

» More about CCS

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Dover city hall
Community power advocates excited to see progress on New Hampshire rules
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission is finalizing community power rules that would allow municipalities to replace distribution utilities as the default procurer of electricity for residents and businesses.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
June 23, 2022

New Hampshire regulators are expected to propose final rules for community power programs on July 5, a crucial milestone for the 18 communities and one county hoping to begin buying electric power on their own.

The announcement comes as at least one of the state’s major utilities, Liberty, is seeking to double the per-kilowatt-hour price it charges ratepayers, citing rising generation costs at natural gas-fired plants. Eversource is expected to follow suit.

“The rate spikes we are seeing are the perfect example of why community power is a good option for towns to lower energy costs for their customers,” said Henry Herndon, a consultant working with the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire. “The spikes are a direct result of the distribution companies’ regulated procurement process, which requires them to go to market now, which just so happens to be the exact peak of the market.”

New Hampshire’s community power law, signed into law in 2019, authorizes municipalities to procure power on their own, using the collective buying power of all of their residents and businesses to secure competitive prices.

They will be able to actively manage their power portfolios, making it easier for them to deliver lower rates to customers, Herndon said. And they can choose where their power comes from, which can help those municipalities that have set decarbonization goals.
» Read article    
» Read the NH Community Power Law

» More about electric utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

climate criminals
Fossil fuel industry faces surge in climate lawsuits
Number of climate-related lawsuits globally has doubled since 2015, with quarter filed in past two years
By Isabella Kaminski, The Guardian
June 30, 2022

The world’s most polluting companies are increasingly being targeted by lawsuits challenging their inaction on climate change and attempts to spread misinformation, according to a new report.

Research by the London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment found a surge in legal cases against the fossil fuel industry over the past year – especially outside the US – and growing action in other corporate sectors.

People have been filing legal challenges on climate change grounds since the mid-1980s, but it is a strategy that has recently come into its own. The number of climate change-related litigation lawsuits around the world has more than doubled since 2015 and roughly one quarter of the 2,002 recorded cases to date were filed in the past two years alone.

Most of those lawsuits are challenging state inaction, many inspired by the landmark 2019 ruling that ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions.

But the fossil fuel industry is increasingly within the sights of campaigners. At least 13 cases have been filed against the largest Europe-based polluters and at least two in Australia against gas company Santos. Exxon, Eni and Sasol are all also involved in challenges to government decisions about oil and gas exploration and licensing in Guyana and South Africa.

The food and agriculture, transport, plastics and finance sectors are increasingly targets as well, the report finds.
» Read article   

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTICS BANS

RI bag ban
R.I. bans plastic bags at retailers statewide
“We have seen first-hand the damage that plastic bags do to our oceans and environment for many years now,” said Representative Carol Hagan McEntee, who sponsored the bill in the House
By Alexa Gagosz, Boston Globe
June 22, 2022

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island lawmakers have approved a long-fought bill to ban plastic bags at retail checkout lines.

The legislation, which passed on Tuesday night, was introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, and Representative Carol Hagan McEntee, a Democrat from South Kingstown.

The legislation, which will now head to Governor Daniel J. McKee’s desk for his signature, requires retail establishments to offer recyclable bag options such as paper bags, or reusable bags that were brought in by the customer. Those who do not comply will be fined.

“We all know how dangerous plastic pollution is to the health of our oceans and marine life, and how it contributes to climate change,” said Ruggerio.

Approximately 17 municipalities have already enacted similar policies to reduce plastic use, including Newport, Providence, and Cranston. Barrington was the first town to adopt the ban a decade ago.

“I think it’s appropriate to be consistent throughout the state,” Ruggerio said.

Businesses that do not comply with the proposed ban will be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third and any subsequent offenses. The legislation said those penalties will reset each year.

The ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2024, or within one year of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management establishing the regulation — whichever comes first.
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