Weekly News Check-In 9/25/20

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Welcome back.

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Of the many gifts Justice Ginsburg left us from her long, brilliantly-lived life, this pearl of wisdom is foremost in my thoughts as she lies in state at the U.S. Capitol, and as I edit this week’s newsletter about our collective struggle for a fair and sustainable future. We will keep up the fight, we will keep it classy, and we very much appreciate those who have chosen to join us.

This week we’re forced to acknowledge that Enbridge will have its Weymouth compressor station, despite the long and fierce opposition and lack of any sane rationale for its existence – anywhere but especially in Weymouth. FERC issued its final approval and gas will flow soon. But this natural gas infrastructure asset deserves to be stranded and decommissioned, and resistance will continue until that happens.

We have news of other projects, too, including a link to a petition opposing the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline proposed by French oil giant Total. This project would slice through 1,400km of critical wildlife habitat and vulnerable human communities from western Uganda to Tanzania’s coast. It would carry crude oil for export, but the stuff is so sludgy it will have to be heated over the entire pipeline length just to keep it flowing. That’s just one example of projects and policies demanding opposition, so it’s good to see that some protests are beginning to move cautiously back into the street.

The divestment movement took a couple steps forward this week. Oil Change International and Rainforest Action Network published a report identifying the banks most directly responsible for financing the disastrous fracking industry. Wells Fargo has been the biggest banker of U.S. frackers since the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted, and JPMorgan Chase is next in line. Pull the plug. Meanwhile, twelve major cities around the globe, including Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Pittsburgh, have committed to fossil fuel divestment, pledging to direct their funds to sustainable projects for a green recovery.

Our “Greening the Economy” section includes an interesting pairing: the first article points out the need for carbon pricing as a tool to drive decarbonization at the required pace. The second article explores why both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. appear to have abandoned carbon pricing as a viable option. The climate can’t wait while we figure this out. Between the expected influence on environmental regulations of a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court, to the foot-dragging of fossil fuel corporations in reforming their business models, barriers to policy-driven emissions reductions may be hardening.

As usual, there’s better news down at the level of technology advances and state-level initiatives. The rooftop solar industry is applauding a tentative net-metering agreement in South Carolina between advocates and Duke Energy. Their compromise could become a model for net-metering agreements elsewhere. New, long-duration zinc batteries are set to fill a niche in the energy storage market, and California governor Gavin Newsom has ordered that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in that state must be zero-emissions by 2035. In the same week, Tesla announced battery improvements and claims it will eventually offer a $25K EV.

We wrap up with a warning about methane leaking from abandoned gas wells as the fossil fuel industry continues a decline that’s now locked in by increasing investor awareness of risks associated with pipeline infrastructure projects. And since plastics are what we make from an increasing share of the gas and oil pumped out of the ground, our final piece is a Honduran beach postcard.

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

FERC gives final authorization
Weymouth Compressor Station gets OK to startup
By Chris Lisinski/State House News Service, The Patriot Ledger
September 24, 2020

FERC’s final authorization came amid ongoing opposition to the facility from community groups, environmental and public health activists, and many elected officials who represent the region, who argue that the compressor’s proximity to densely populated neighborhoods and the Fore River present significant threats.

Alice Arena, one of the leaders of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station organization, said her group was “very disappointed” but “not at all surprised” with FERC’s approval.

“FERC is and has been nothing but a rubber stamp organization for the fossil fuel industry for decades, so this isn’t at all a shock,” Arena said in an interview. “I wouldn’t say we’re feeling defeated. I would say we’re feeling angry. We will continue to try to stop them from operating, and we will do that through the courts, and we will do that by proving the continued damage they will do to our air quality.”

Despite pushback, the project was able to move through its permitting hurdles at the state and federal levels.

In January 2019, when state regulators awarded air quality permits for the project, Gov. Charlie Baker said he “basically had no choice” about granting approval because of federal rules governing the process and the results of a health impact assessment he sought.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which conducted the assessment that forecast no major health impacts from the facility’s operation, later announced its opposition to the compressor on environmental and safety grounds.

Department of Environmental Protection regulators disclosed during an appeal process in May 2019 that the health study was based on incomplete air-quality data, but that did not change the outcome of the challenge.
» Read article        

Dear Mr. MonacoSenators Warren And Markey Call For Shutdown Of Weymouth Compressor
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service, on WBUR
September 21, 2020

Both of the state’s U.S. senators called Monday for Enbridge to halt operations at its Weymouth compressor station, warning that the facility should not become operational mere weeks after an equipment failure prompted a release of natural gas. In an email, the energy giant said it was moving forward with plans to make sure the plant is “fit for service.”

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey urged Al Monaco, Enbridge’s president and CEO, to pause all activities at the site near the Fore River while investigating the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 emergency shutdown.

The company said that a gasket failure pushed workers to trigger an emergency shutdown system with a volume of 265,000 cubic feet of natural gas, though it has not confirmed exactly how much it released.

“Concerns have been raised that this amount of gas, vented at ground level, could have possibly been ignited by a spark from a passing vehicle and caused a fire or an explosion,” Warren and Markey wrote in a letter. “This incident clearly demonstrates that we must do more to understand the dangers that the Weymouth compressor station poses to public health and safety.”
» Read article       
» Read the letter

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PIPELINES

Total madness
Nearly One Million People Sign Petition to Stop Total’s East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline ‘Madness’
By Maina Waruru, DeSmog UK
September 21, 2020

Almost a million people have signed a petition to stop a planned crude oil pipeline in East Africa that campaigners say poses serious risks to communities and wildlife along its route.

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline, developed by a consortium led by French company Total, will run for 1,443 kilometres from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga in neighbouring Tanzania. The multimillion dollar pipeline is supported by the two governments and is being developed by China National Offshore Oil Corporation and the London Stock Exchange-listed Tullow Oil, alongside Total.

Avaaz, the campaign group hosting the ‘Stop This Total Madness’ petition, says the pipeline “will rip through some of the most important elephant, lion and chimpanzee reserves on Earth, displace tens of thousands of families, and tip the whole planet closer to full-blown climate catastrophe”.
» Read article       
» Sign the petition

TGP incidents in Agawam
MassDEP, activists differ on impact from Tennessee Gas pipeline incidents in Agawam

By Peter Goonan, MassLive
September 18, 2020

A state environmental agency says two recent incidents during construction of the Tennessee Gas pipeline extension project were “relatively minor” and cleaned up — a view that drew sharp criticism from opponents of the project.

“The two events were relatively minor and quickly addressed,” said Edmund Coletta, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

The Columbia Gas Resistance Coalition, which opposes the Agawam pipeline project, said one incident in August involved Tennessee Gas being cited for driving trucks through a wetland area, and the second incident this month involved clay mud seeping up from the drilling operation.
» Read article        

» More about pipelines

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Fridays are backFridays for Future Climate Strikers Are Back on the Streets
By Ruby Russell and Ajit Niranjan, Deutsche Welle, in EcoWatch
September 25, 2020

Hamstrung by coronavirus lockdowns, frustrated school strikers have spent months staging digital protests against world leaders failing to act urgently on climate change.

Today they are taking to the streets once more.

The Fridays for Futures movement, which started with activist Greta Thunberg skipping school to sit alone outside the Swedish Parliament in 2018, has become a global youth force calling for climate justice. But a surge in support last year was hobbled after coronavirus lockdowns closed schools and kept children at home.

The protest on Friday is the group’s first global action since the pandemic struck and follows meetings between prominent activists and world leaders. Last month, Thunberg and three other climate activists presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a letter signed by nearly 125,000 people demanding EU leaders “stop pretending that we can solve the climate and ecological crisis without treating it as a crisis.”

They have called for an immediate halt to investments and subsidies in fossil fuels and, in Germany, pressured the government to bring forward its deadline to phase out coal from 2038 to 2030, and to go carbon-neutral by 2035 instead of 2050.
» Read article        

take climate action now
Facebook suspends environmental groups despite vow to fight misinformation
Facebook blames mistake in system for restrictions on groups including Greenpeace USA
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
September 22, 2020

Facebook has suspended the accounts of several environmental organizations less than a week after launching an initiative it said would counter a tide of misinformation over climate science on the platform.

Groups such as Greenpeace USA, Climate Hawks Vote and Rainforest Action Network were among those blocked from posting or sending messages on Facebook over the weekend. Activists say hundreds of other individual accounts linked to indigenous, climate and social justice groups were also suspended for an alleged “intellectual property rights violation”.

The suspended people and groups were all involved in a Facebook event from May last year that targeted KKR & Co, a US investment firm that is backing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a 670km-long gas development being built in northern British Columbia, Canada.

The suspensions, the day before another online action aimed at KKR & Co, has enraged activists who oppose the pipeline for its climate impact and for cutting through the land of the Wetʼsuwetʼen, a First Nations people.
» Read article        

climate lawsuit SpainClimate Lawsuit Filed in Spain Demanding Government Increase Ambition in Confronting Climate Crisis
By Dana Drugmand, Climate in the Courts
September 22, 2019

Environmental organizations have brought a climate change lawsuit against the government of Spain in an effort to compel more ambitious action in addressing the climate emergency.

Greenpeace Spain, Ecologistas en Acción and Oxfam Intermón filed their case before Spain’s Supreme Court on September 15 contending that Spain has failed to take adequate action on climate in violation of the nation’s international obligations and legal duties. It is the first domestic climate lawsuit initiated against the Spanish government.

“To avoid devastating climate change there is only one way: to drastically and rapidly reduce CO2 emissions and accelerate the ecological transition, which requires courageous political and judicial decisions,” Mario Rodríguez, director of Greenpeace Spain, said in a press release.
» Read article       
» Read the press release (Spanish)

Betchatow plant will close
Polish Court Recognizes Climate Damage, Rules Coal Plant Operators Negotiate Closure with Environmental Lawyers

By Dana Drugmand, Climate in the Courts
September 22, 2020

A judge in Poland has ruled that operators of the Bełchatów coal plant – Europe’s single biggest emitter of carbon pollution – must negotiate a settlement with environmental lawyers that brought a lawsuit last year over the coal plant’s destructive environmental and climate impacts.

The ruling, which followed a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 22 in the District Court of ŁódĽ, could put the Polish coal facility on a path towards closure. Lawyers for the environmental law charity ClientEarth argued that closing the Bełchatów plant’s coal operations is necessary in the face of the climate crisis. The power plant burns 45 million tons of coal every year, equivalent to a ton every second, and has emitted over a billion tons of CO2 over its lifetime. The plant’s annual emissions are roughly equal to the total annual emissions of New Zealand.
» Read article        

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

fracking fiasco
Fracking Fiasco: New report names Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase as main players funding U.S. shale bust
By Oil Change International – press release
September 24, 2020

A new report by Oil Change International and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) shows how major banks have continued pouring money into fracking companies in recent years despite numerous warnings that the sector was financially unsustainable — on top of the well-documented environmental, health and climate impacts of the industry.

Our research reveals that financing for the fracking industry is highly concentrated, with Wells Fargo the biggest banker of U.S. frackers since the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted, and JPMorgan Chase a standout second place. The fracking industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, with dozens of bankruptcies so far this year, but its troubles long predate the coronavirus.

“Banks and asset managers have enabled the oil and gas industry’s destructive boom and bust cycles for generations. Our planet cannot afford another oil boom. We need regulators, shareholders, and the public to force banks to consider the climate impact and demand they stop financing destructive and unstable business activities,” said Rebecca Concepcion Apostol, U.S. Program Director at Oil Change International. “Our collective health continues to be at risk, and we cannot let banks fund another oil boom when this pandemic passes.”

“The fracking sector has become a poster child for the serious problems facing the U.S. oil and gas industry,” said Alison Kirsch, lead researcher for RAN’s climate and energy program. “The disastrous climate consequences of fracking, as well as its horrific community health impacts, are well known, but by continuing to pour billions of dollars into this dying sector, banks are also injecting a real level of systemic risk into the U.S. economy.”
» Read article       
» Read the report

cities pledge to divest
12 major cities pledge fossil fuel divestment
By Kristin Musulin, Utility Dive
September 23, 2020

The mayors of 12 major cities around the globe have pledged to divest from fossil fuel companies in an effort to further support a green and sustainable COVID-19 recovery.

The C40 Cities-backed declaration, unveiled at a virtual Climate Week NYC event on Tuesday, calls on signatories to commit to divesting all city assets and pension funds from fossil fuel companies; increasing financial investments in climate solutions; and advocating for fossil-free finance from other investors.

The signatories include the mayors of Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Pittsburgh, along with the leaders of eight international cities including London and Oslo. Details of individual divestment amounts and timelines were not shared. Following this commitment, cities must navigate their specific divestment processes and structures in proposing next steps to pension boards.

A public declaration from a group of leading cities “sends a huge signal to the marketplace,” [New York’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor Dan Zarrilli] said, which is key to leading this charge and effectively pursuing a green recovery.

“It’s absurd how much we as a globe continue to subsidize fossil fuels, and part of the call here is to make sure our green recovery … is pulling those subsidies out” and instead putting investments toward green jobs and clean infrastructure, Zarrilli said.
» Read article        

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Darwinian challengeWoodMac: Energy Sector Faces ‘Darwinian Challenge’ to Tame Climate Change
The world is on course for 2.8 to 3 degrees Celsius of warming as existing infrastructure weighs heavy and COVID-19 slows progress.
By John Parnell, GreenTech Media
September 24, 2020

The world is on course to sail past the recognized “safe” level of 2 degrees Celsius of warming to as much as 3 degrees Celsius, according to the latest Wood Mackenzie Energy Transition Outlook.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and ideally to limit it 1.5 degrees. Yet just as efforts toward that goal are finally scaling up — via the EU’s amplified climate targets, China’s new carbon-neutral target for 2060, and other examples — the coronavirus pandemic has introduced a massive dose of uncertainty.

“As the world begins to reconstruct its economy, all energy and natural-resources sectors will face a survival of the fittest,” said Prakash Sharma, head of markets and transitions for Asia-Pacific at Wood Mackenzie. “We call it the ‘Darwinian challenge’ because society and investors must evolve and adapt to the changes needed to overcome the twin crises and prepare for the future.”

“While the world is adding renewable power generation capacity and manufacturing electric vehicles, it is still not enough. No efforts have been made to decarbonize the existing infrastructure,” said Sharma, pointing out that huge swaths of existing steel, cement, refining and transportation infrastructure still have decades left in their life cycles.

David Brown, head of markets and transitions for the Americas at Wood Mackenzie, said that the appropriate figure for the task is $100 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent. An EU carbon credit in its Emissions Trading System is currently priced at just shy of €30 ($35).

“We need more policy support than is available today. The EU is the most favorable,” Brown said during a press conference to launch the report, adding that even that support limits access to carbon credits. “Governments need to actually sponsor these projects to get them off the ground.”

Brown alluded to the need for a regulatory overhaul to make the 2-degree pathway a reality. WoodMac reports that the investment levels required, though not guaranteed, appear to be attainable. The technology necessary already exists, even where it has yet to be scaled. All eyes now return to politicians and regulators.
Blog editor’s note: November 3, 2020… Vote early if you can!
» Read article

priced outPriced Out
Both parties used to love the carbon tax. So why are they giving up on it?
By Shannon Osaka, Grist
September 23, 2020

Although carbon dioxide itself doesn’t constitute a direct health threat, fossil fuel use also releases a slurry of toxic chemicals that can lead to asthma, strokes, heart disease, and cancer. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 7 million people around the world die each year from causes linked to air pollution.

Burning fossil fuels, therefore, creates a massive cost that no one is paying for — a “negative externality” in economist-speak. “Allowing people to emit CO2 into the atmosphere for free is similar to allowing people to smoke in a crowded room or dump trash into a national park,” wrote the Nobel prize-winning economist William Nordhaus in 2008. Nicholas Stern, also an economist and the author of an influential 2006 report on global warming, has argued that climate change “is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.”

To those who spend their days thinking about money and markets, there’s a simple fix: Put a price on carbon to reflect its actual costs to the planet and human health. If fossil fuels are more expensive, the thinking goes, individuals, corporations, and governments will not only use less energy, they’ll also boost wind and solar power, expand public transportation, and take other steps necessary to build a green economy.
» Read article        

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

RBG
How Justice Ginsburg’s Death Could Affect Future Climate Rulings
Legal experts say a sixth conservative Supreme Court judge could imperil current and future emissions regulations
By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News, in Scientific American
September 22, 2020

If President Trump is able to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the nation’s highest bench, he may stymie climate action for generations to come.

Legal experts say that the addition of a sixth conservative justice to the court could lock in opposition to expansive readings of the Clean Air Act that encompass greenhouse gas emissions or trigger a reexamination of the landmark 2007 climate case Massachusetts v. EPA.

In either case, court watchers say, the outcome doesn’t bode well for the future of climate regulation.

“Climate change is a crisis, and we really need all the tools we can get, and some of them are probably not going to be there,” said Dan Farber, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“If Trump is able to fill this vacancy, there’ll be at least five conservative votes for at least 20 years, and we don’t know what … new doctrines that are not now on the horizon that could really weaken the power of the government to deal with climate change,” he said.

The Trump administration has made environmental deregulation a cornerstone of its agenda for the last four years, rolling out major changes to rules including emissions standards for automobiles and power plants. Green groups have lambasted the changes as violations of federal environmental and administrative law, which require reasoned rulemaking.

But a conservative Supreme Court majority that favors curbing agency powers could limit oversight of emissions without even touching Massachusetts v. EPA, which said the government can regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act, said Hana Vizcarra, staff attorney at Harvard Law School’s Environmental & Energy Law Program.

“EPA has been reconsidering their own interpretations of the law in order to limit their own authority,” she said.
» Read article        

big oil reality check
Spoiler alert: Big oil companies are still failing on climate
By Kelly Trout, Oil Change International
September 23, 2020

Over the past year, big oil and gas companies have seen their social license and financial bottom lines face unprecedented threats. With climate disaster after climate disaster devastating communities across the globe and oil markets crashing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these companies have faced growing pressure – from frontline communities and Indigenous Peoples, shareholder activists and major investors, policy experts and city leaders – to take responsibility for the climate wreckage they are causing and change course.

In response, major oil and gas companies have released a slew of new commitments outlining their climate “ambitions” and pledges to become “net zero” carbon companies, all signs that the pressure is having an effect. But these oil company pledges and promises cannot be taken at face value.

That’s why today, Oil Change International, in collaboration with 30 other organisations, released a new assessment of the latest climate pledges from BP, Chevron, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell, and Total. In the briefing, called Big Oil Reality Check, we focus on how these companies’ plans stack up against the bare minimum of what’s needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C).

As one might expect from corporations notorious for decades of climate deception, on the whole, these plans use fancy terminology and convoluted metrics to cover up still grossly inadequate levels of action. Granted, some companies are doing more than others (e.g., Exxon and Chevron really are the worst). But being a “leader” among laggards doesn’t cut it when we’re in a climate emergency – a crisis that the oil and gas industry has done the most to cause.
» Read article       
» Download the paper

second-place finishArctic Sea ice melts to second-place finish at annual minimum
By Gloria Dickie, Mongabay
September 21, 2020

After a spring and summer that saw record-breaking heat waves above the Arctic Circle — with 100+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures — the sea ice floating atop the Arctic Ocean reached its annual minimum extent last Wednesday, with 3.74 million square kilometers (1.44 million square miles) of sea ice remaining, coming in a close second to 2012.

In the last decade, Arctic sea ice cover has declined drastically. The record low of 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles) reached in 2012 was largely due to an intense late-season cyclone which decimated the residual ice. What worries scientists is that 2020’s sea ice vanishing act followed a similar trajectory, even in the absence of such an extreme weather event. In no other years on record besides 2012 and 2020 has sea ice extent dropped below 4 million square kilometers (1.54 million square miles). To many experts, this indicates the Arctic has entered a new ecological state.

The drastic heating up of the Arctic is significant in itself, but also to the planet. Over the past 30 years, the region has warmed at twice the rate of the rest of the world, with the significant shifts up North not only felt there, but ultimately influencing weather patterns in the lower latitudes, possibly as far south as the equator.

Jennifer Francis studies these connections as a senior scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts. Her past research has focused extensively on how Arctic warming impacts the mid-latitudes of North America, primarily through a weakening of the northern jet stream — a high speed, high altitude river of wind that circles the pole.

The temperature difference between the Arctic (cold) and the temperate zone (warm) is one of the primary drivers of the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere. But as sea ice vanishes and Arctic temperatures increase, the temperature variant between these regions is getting smaller. That means there’s less force driving the winds in the jet stream from west to east. Losing energy, the weakened jet stream starts to swing wildly southward, deviating from its typical polar path into lower latitudes which can cause temperate weather patterns to stall in place — bringing extended bouts of extreme weather, either drought or deluge, heatwaves or even cold periods.
» Read article                  

risky storageThis Oregon forest was supposed to store carbon for 100 years. Now it’s on fire.
By Emily Pontecorvo and Shannon Osaka, Grist
September 18, 2020

As fires ripped through the West this month, displacing families and releasing a thick, choking cloud of smoke that reached all the way to Europe, some scientists began to worry about yet another loss. Thousands of acres of forest, maintained to offset greenhouse gas emissions, might be going up in smoke.

Claudia Herbert, a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, who is studying risks to forest carbon offsets, noticed that the Lionshead Fire — which tore through 190,000 acres of forest in Central Oregon and forced a terrifying evacuation of the nearby town of Detroit — appeared to have almost completely engulfed the largest forest dedicated to sequestering carbon dioxide in the state.

The project, owned by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, spans 24,000 acres. Before the fires, the state of California had issued more than 2.6 million offset credits based on the carbon stored in its trees. That translates to 2.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — or the equivalent of driving 560,000 cars around for one year.

California has a cap-and-trade law that limits greenhouse gas emissions from major emitters like power plants. Those companies, however, have a little bit of leeway — in order to meet the law’s requirements, instead of fully reducing their emissions, they can buy “carbon offsets.” Those often take the form of paying a forest manager to boost growth so the trees will suck up, and store, more carbon dioxide over the long term: in theory, at least 100 years. Those offsets are supposed to counterbalance any extra emissions, so the climate is no worse off than before.

Runaway wildfires, however, throw a wrench in that plan — and as climate change intensifies fires around the world, forest carbon offsets are only going to get riskier.
» Read article        

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

net metering agreement
In South Carolina, a Happy Compromise on Net Metering
The agreement between Duke Energy and Sunrun may allow other states to resolve the debate after years of conflict.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
September 24, 2020

A compromise in South Carolina between advocates of solar power and a utility may offer a blueprint for other states trying to resolve one of the major conflicts in the clean energy transition: the debate over net metering.

Duke Energy has reached an agreement with Sunrun, the rooftop solar company, and Vote Solar, the solar advocacy group, that sets up a process for compensating solar owners for the excess electricity they send back to the grid.

This potential breakthrough in the net metering debate follows years of bitter conflict in the Carolinas and across the country.

Under the plan, solar owners would pay rates that vary depending on the time of day, and would get credits at those same rates for sending excess electricity to the grid. The rates would be highest from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., when electricity demand is high. Rates would be lower during the day and lowest overnight.

The agreement, which is still subject to approval by state regulators, would allow Duke to pay lower rates for solar during the hours when the grid has plenty of electricity, such as in the morning. And by paying higher rates during times of peak demand, Duke would be encouraging solar owners to set up their panels in places that get more sun during the evening.

“This new arrangement not only recognizes the value of solar and the enabling energy grid, but it unlocks additional benefits for all customers by addressing when utilities experience peak demand across their systems in the Carolinas,” said Lon Huber, Duke Energy’s vice president for rate design and strategic solutions, in a statement.
» Read article       
» Read Duke Energy’s announcement

ORPC tide power
Maine company looks to tidal power as renewable energy’s next generation
After years of development, tidal and river energy supporters say the technology is on the cusp of wider commercial deployment, especially if it can win federal support.
By David Thill, Energy News Network
Photo By ORPC / Courtesy
September 23, 2020

With much of New England’s attention on offshore wind, a Maine company hopes to put itself on the map with tidal energy.

Portland, Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Company recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Eastport on a five-year plan to develop a $10 million microgrid primarily powered by tidal generation.

The project will be an opportunity for the small port city to expand its workforce and build its appeal for younger residents. It’s also an opportunity for ORPC to expand its reach as the company’s leaders try to find a viable market for ocean- and river-based generation in an industry largely dominated by solar and wind.

While tidal and river energy haven’t reached the same level of visibility as other renewable sources, supporters say these and related resources like wave and ocean current energy — collectively called marine and hydrokinetic resources — are at a similar point now to where solar and wind were a decade ago. They say the predictability of tides and currents in places like the Western Passage, the inlet on which Eastport is located, makes these resources promising as governments aim to create a resilient grid.

The federal Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory is also looking at hydrokinetic energy. “Each one of those [resources] has massive amounts of energy distributed at different locations around the country,” said Levi Kilcher, a researcher who focuses on ocean energy at the lab.

“If we’re totally honest, the amount of energy that’s in the tides and in the waves is not as large” as wind or solar, Kilcher said. “We really see the value in sort of diversifying our energy sources.”

Tides are very predictable, he said, and so are other water resources like rivers, waves and the Gulf Stream. “Then couple that with a diversified energy portfolio,” he said. “In my opinion, a more diverse set of energy resources gives you a more resilient energy system.”
» Read article        

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

zinc precipitate
Can a Novel Zinc Battery Deliver Clean Multiday Backup Power?
California is testing Canadian startup e-Zinc’s long-duration technology to keep businesses powered through wildfires and outages.
By Julian Spector, GreenTech Media
September 18, 2020

California is looking for ways to keep power flowing to customers amid wildfires without burning fossil fuels. A Canadian storage technology startup thinks it has the solution.

This summer, Toronto-based e-Zinc won a $1.3 million grant from the California Energy Commission to demonstrate its long-duration zinc battery for the commercial and industrial market. As the state’s worst wildfire season on record rages on, the urgency to find new tools for clean backup power has only grown.

The batteries precipitate little bits of zinc out of a solution while charging, using a windshield-wiper-like tool to clear the plate and make room for more charging. This allows for longer-duration storage, while the cheap component costs promise to keep prices low relative to other options on the market.

The CEC grant will help the startup stake a claim on an underserved market, CEO James Larsen said in an interview.

Lithium-ion batteries are good at daily cycling for bill management, but they can’t run long enough to guarantee multiday backup, he noted. Customers looking for economic multiday backup power usually have to turn to fossil fuels, like gas or diesel generators.

“We can do both: We can do the short-duration time-of-use arbitrage and demand-charge reduction and help monetize those opportunities for customers, but we can also provide them up to two days of backup power in the face of an outage,” Larsen said.
» Read article        

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Cal ICE ban by 2035
Newsom calls for California ban on new gas-fueled cars by 2035
By COLBY BERMEL, Politico
September 23, 2020


Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for California to ban new gasoline-fueled vehicles within 15 years in a bid to combat climate change and make the state the first in the nation to stop sales of cars with internal combustion engines.

The Democratic governor on Wednesday signed an executive order that directs the California Air Resources Board to establish regulations requiring that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California in 2035 be zero-emission vehicles.

The ban on gas-powered vehicles is likely to face opposition from automakers and Republican leaders in Washington, who have already battled the state over its stricter fuel economy rules. The Trump administration is fighting the state in court over whether it can set stricter emissions standards than the nation as a whole.

While environmentalists embraced his call to ban gas-powered vehicles, some questioned Tuesday why he wasn’t doing more to stop fracking.

Newsom announced he was asking state lawmakers to implement a fracking ban by 2024, but stopped well short of directing his own oil and gas regulators to stop approving fracking permits. Environmentalists have increased their criticism of Newsom on fracking in recent days, especially as the governor has emphasized California’s role in fighting climate change.
» Read article        

Tesla battery tech
How Tesla plans to make batteries cheap enough for a $25,000 car
Tesla’s big “battery day” event, explained.
By Timothy B. Lee, ARS Technica
September 23, 2020

Tesla’s business model depends on continuous improvements in the cost and energy density of batteries. When Tesla was founded in 2003, it was barely possible to build a battery-powered sports car with a six-figure price tag. Over the next 15 years, cheaper and more powerful batteries enabled Tesla to build roomier cars with longer ranges at lower prices.

Tesla expects that progress to continue—and maybe even accelerate—in the next few years. And it isn’t waiting for other companies to come up with better battery designs. In recent years, Tesla has had a large team of engineers re-thinking every aspect of Tesla’s batteries, from the chemistry inside the cells to the way the batteries are incorporated into vehicles.

At a much-touted Tuesday event, Tesla pulled back the curtain on a suite of improvements the company hopes to roll out in the next three years. In total, Tesla says that all of these innovations put together will enable a 56-percent reduction in the per-kWh cost of its batteries.

As a result, Elon Musk said, Tesla will be able to realize a longstanding dream: a truly affordable electric car.

“We’re confident that long-term we can design and manufacture a compelling $25,000 electric vehicle,” Musk said. He added that this would happen “probably about three years from now.” Tesla didn’t provide a name or other details about this planned low-cost Tesla.
» Read article        

Airbus innovatingAirbus reveals plans for zero-emission aircraft fueled by hydrogen
Aviation firm announces three different concepts with aim of taking to the skies by 2035
Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
September 21, 2020

Airbus has announced plans for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft models that run on hydrogen and could take to the skies by 2035.

The European aersospace company revealed three different aircraft concepts that would be put through their paces to find the most efficient way to travel long distances by plane without producing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global heating.

UK holidaymakers and business travellers could fly from London to the Canary Islands, Athens or eastern Europe without producing carbon emissions, should the plans become a commercial reality.

Guillaume Faury, the Airbus chief executive, said the “historic moment for the commercial aviation sector” marks the “most important transition this industry has ever seen”.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

abandoned gas well
A Dying Industry is Leaving A Deadly Legacy
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
September 18, 2020

An important investigation by Bloomberg Green, published yesterday, examined the issue of the shocking state of over three million abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States. Nor is this a problem only linked to America. There are believed to be nearly 30 million abandoned oil and gas wells worldwide.

Many of these wells are leaking methane, the potent greenhouse gas or polluting water courses. As the article states, “if carbon dioxide is a bullet, methane is a bomb.”

We have known for a long while that abandoned wells were a problem, but we still do not know the extent of the problem. Even now. The oil industry may be dying, but it will still pollute us for decades after its death.

One scientist tracking the issue, Mary Kang from Princeton, has been modeling how carbon dioxide and methane leak from old wells. In 2016, Kang published a study of 88 abandoned well sites in Pennsylvania, revealing that 90% of wells investigated leaked methane.

Another scientist working on the issue, Anthony Ingraffea, a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell who has studied leaks from oil and gas wells for decades, told Bloomberg, “we really don’t have a handle on it yet… We’ve poked millions of holes thousands of feet into Mother Earth to get her goods, and now we are expecting her to forgive us?”
» Read article       
» Read original Bloomberg Green article

risks revealed
As pipeline projects cancel, future falls into question
By James Osborne, Houston Chronicle
September 15, 2020

For years, a small clique of investors has questioned the logic of putting money into oil and gas pipelines that take decades to pay off when climate change policy was pushing the energy sector away from fossil fuels.

Banks and other institutions, however, largely continued to finance the multibillion-dollar projects, confident in projections by oil and gas companies that the so-called energy transition would take time and oil and natural gas would be needed for decades to come.

But a rash of cancellations and delays of new pipelines, largely brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, raises questions of whether those skeptics’ warnings are starting to catch on and the cancellations reflect a newfound wariness among banks to back the projects in view of an uncertain future for fossil fuels.

“No doubt some of these decisions are short-term concerns, but also an understanding there is a long-term risk profile for (pipeline) assets that cost billions of dollars and at best have 10-year shipper commitments,” said Andrew Logan, head of oil and gas at Ceres, a nonprofit advising investors on sustainability. “There’s a lot more exposure for investors than had been understood before.”

The potential impact of tougher climate policies is increasing borrowing costs for oil and gas companies, analysts said, even as low interest rates push down borrowing costs for most industries.

“The environmental pushback is starting to increase the cost of capital for some producers, leading to lower overall production, and that ultimately boomerangs into the (pipeline) space,” said John Coleman, an oil analyst at the research firm Wood Mackenzie. “The big question is how long does that transition take. Right now, the market is pricing in a rapid transition.”
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

trash tsunami
‘Trash Tsunami’ Washes up on Honduran Beaches

By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
September 23, 2020

A “trash tsunami” has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.

The trash is mostly plastic waste, Voice of America reported Tuesday, and it is polluting the typically pristine tropical beaches of Omoa in the country’s north. Honduran officials said Saturday that the refuse was coming from the mouth of the Motagua River in neighboring Guatemala. It poses a problem for the local economy because it depends on the tourism the beaches attract.

“This wave of trash which came from the Motagua River really surprised us, and even though it caused problems, it has not stopped our activities,” Honduran environment official Lilian Rivera said, as Yahoo News reported. “We are committed to cleaning our beaches and keeping them clean, but today we are demanding that authorities in Tegucigalpa take strong actions, actions to find a permanent solution to this problem.”

Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras.

The Hondoran government, meanwhile, has demanded action from Guatemala to stem the tide of plastic, according to Voice of America.

But the plastic flowing from Guatemala’s Motagua River is an ongoing problem for the region, as The Intercept reported in 2019. The plastic tide is fed by the fact that Guatemala has few managed landfills or wastewater treatment plants. The plastic then washes out in the Caribbean Sea, home to the biodiverse Mesoamerican reef.
» Read article        

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 9/18/20

banner 14

Welcome back.

The Weymouth compressor station generated a lot of news this week. We lead with an excellent report by DeSmog Blog’s Dana Drugmand, covering an accidental methane leak during testing. Ms. Drugmand also includes a summary of the many problems  and objections that make this facility so controversial. In spite of the methane leak, renewed calls for the project’s shut-down, and fresh criticism of the disputed 2019 Health Impact Assessment, developer Enbridge just sought federal approval to begin operations as early as October 1st.

Every week seems to bring several more climate-related lawsuits, as cities and states take legal action against the fossil fuel industry. Cleaning up after hurricanes, floods, and fires is crushingly expensive, and these suits seek compensation from the corporations and their lobbies for the fraud and deception that led to the current crisis. The state of Connecticut and city of Charleston, SC are the latest to take action.

New legislation aims to stop further harm by rolling back fossil fuel expansion. Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), introduced the Future Generations Protection Act, which would “ban greenhouse gas emissions from all new power plants, stop hydraulic fracking, and ban crude oil and natural gas exports”, among other measures. Congress is also probing ways to insert green economic development into Covid-19 relief funding.

As we conclude the northern hemisphere’s hottest summer on record, life is becoming untenable in previously desirable parts of the country. We start with an accounting of future emissions expected from the Trump administration’s rollback of dozens of environmental regulations, and follow with a look at the human migration that will result when those rollbacks play out in the climate.

Assuming we manage to quickly and decisively reverse our current disastrous policies, clean energy deployment will have to accelerate substantially. A new study finds that solar buildout needs to proceed at a pace six times greater than the 2019 level to achieve zero carbon by mid century. There’s also more work to be done in clean transportation, as some of the current generation of electric buses are falling short of performance requirements, especially in winter conditions.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) passed a long-awaited order to open up the country’s wholesale energy markets to distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, behind-the-meter batteries and electric vehicles. This is a big deal and FERC deserves credit for doing the right thing. Now, if they could only apply the same principles to pipeline projects….

The fossil fuel industry seems to have exhausted its run on the policy of denying, ignoring, and self-policing their methane emissions problem. Satellite-based methane detection technology and increased global awareness have left nowhere to hide. Accountability is long overdue but seems to be coming.

We close with outstanding reporting from NPR and PBS/Frontline on the decades-long scam by the oil/gas and plastics industries that sold the myth of plastics recycling to a public that was growing alarmed about huge volumes of trash flowing to landfills and oceans. It’s vital to understand this story at a time when the industry plans to significantly ramp up plastics production – and still has no viable way to dispose or recycle the stuff.

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

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

unplanned not unexpected
‘Unplanned Gas Release’ at Controversial Gas Facility in Weymouth, South of Boston
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
September 15, 2020

The standard, pre-operational testing of a new natural gas compressor station in the Massachusetts community of Weymouth, south of Boston, had barely begun last week when a gasket failure prompted an emergency shutdown of the facility and resulted in an unintentional gas leak. Weymouth’s compressor station, once open, would keep gas pumping through a regional pipeline system, but even before this gas leak, its road to get there has been bumpy, with outcries over its air pollution permit and health concerns from the surrounding community.

Enbridge, the Canadian-based energy pipeline corporation behind the controversial Weymouth compressor station, sent a written notice to Massachusetts state regulators on Friday, September 11 informing them of the mechanical failure and “unplanned” gas release. The compressor station’s approval plan requires this notification when there is an unplanned gas release exceeding 10,000 standard cubic feet in volume. According to Enbridge, 265,000 standard cubic feet of gas and 35 pounds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were leaked during the incident.

Natural gas, also known as fossil gas, is composed almost entirely of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that has roughly 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over the short-term. Both planned and unplanned gas releases in pipeline infrastructure like compressor stations add methane to the atmosphere, contributing to the ongoing climate crisis. Emissions of VOCs and chemicals including some known carcinogens are also common with gas compressor stations. Explosions and fires have occurred in gas systems, including compressors, all over the country.

Activists opposed to the Weymouth compressor have repeatedly raised a number of climate, health, and safety risks. The contentious project has seen sustained local protests and direct action for the last several years. Earlier this year, Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips, an environmental researcher, went on a two-week hunger strike to raise awareness of the compressor’s public health and safety hazards.

But federal and state regulators have apparently ignored these concerns. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which initially approved the project in 2017, granted permission in late November last year for Enbridge subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission to begin construction on the compressor.

Massachusetts permitting authorities such as the Office of Coastal and Zone Management and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have also green-lighted the project. In June a federal appeals court overturned the project’s air quality permit, finding that the DEP erred in approving it, but on August 31, the court reversed its decision and reinstated the permit.

The compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge pipeline carrying fossil gas through the Northeast region and into Canada, where it could be exported. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Nova Scotia, however, has not yet been built and it is unclear exactly where the gas is going as several utility companies that originally signed onto the project have since said they do not need the Weymouth compressor to meet customer gas demand. 

“The question of where the gas is going is totally up in the air,” Alice Arena, Weymouth resident and president of the community group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, told DeSmog.
» Read article            

 

compressor pic 9-3-20
Enbridge seeks to turn on Weymouth compressor station
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
September 17, 2020

WEYMOUTH_ An unplanned gas release from a compressor station in the Fore River Basin, on Sept. 11 is not deterring Enbridge Inc. from trying to have the controversial facility be in full operation by Oct. 1.

Enbridge is requesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allow the compressor station to be fully operative by its subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station leader Alice Arena said the opposition group requested FERC to order the facility shut down after the gasket failure.

“They had an emergency shutdown system, but it was not fully operative,” she said. “Their (Enbridge) letter to the DEP said the emergency shutdown system was not fully operative.”

Arena said FERC had not done an investigation into how the gasket failure occurred.

“We are working with Sen. Markey’s office to get the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) involved because the facility is part of an interstate pipeline,” she said. “That is in the works. Nobody has gone down to the site to say, why did your emergency shutdown system not work?”

Arena said the natural gas leak from the gasket failure might have been worse if it occurred at 2 a.m. because there were no workers at the facility.

“The gas buildup could have been so immense that there could have been a fire,” she said.

Arena said FRRACS couldn’t fathom how the compressor station could be ready for full service on Oct. 1 because Enbridge has not finished its commissioning activities.
» Read article            

 

Lynch calls for shutdown
Congressman Lynch pushes for compressor shutdown
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
September 15, 2020

Congressman Stephen Lynch is calling for a halt to operations of the natural gas compressor station in the Fore River Basin after an unplanned gas release last week just days after the facility started testing.

In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, called the compressor station a “misguided and dangerous project” that poses an “imminent public safety threat” to the residents of Weymouth and nearby communities.

He said the station should be shut down pending extensive state and federal oversight following an unplanned release of 265,000 cubic feet of natural gas at the facility last week, just days after testing started to prepare for operations.

“The September 11th gas leak in Weymouth has greatly exacerbated our concerns – particularly in the wake of the series of devastating natural gas explosions that occurred in the Merrimack Valley in 2018 and considering the marked increase in pipeline safety incidents reported by (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) over the last two decades,” Lynch wrote in the letter.

The controversial compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. It has been a point of contention for years among neighbors and some local, state and federal officials who say it presents serious health and safety risks.
» Read article            

 

Fore River HIA
MAPC Releases Independent Evaluation of Fore River Health Impact Assessment
Statement by MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen, MAPC
September 14, 2020

Today, I am releasing an independent evaluation of the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) regarding the proposal to site a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, MA. The evaluation was conducted by Public Health by Design (PHD), a consulting group with broad expertise in international standards for the conduct of HIAs. PHD is based in London, England. [The following excerpts are from the summary of PHD’s findings]

  1. HIA scoping limitations. PHD found that the HIA was limited by Governor Baker’s Directive, which narrowed the HIA’s scope and split the air quality assessment from other health-relevant issues, including public safety in the case of malfunction and impacts on climate. Furthermore, the time allocated to complete the HIA, and the resources made available for that purpose, were highly constrained.
  2. Cumulative pollutant exposures assessment. PHD found that MAPC should have gone further in the assessment of cumulative exposures in the study area.
  3. Environmental Justice communities. PHD also found that MAPC did not conduct adequate outreach to nearby Environmental Justice communities or ensure their residents were represented on the Advisory Committee.
  4. Health impacts of emissions below regulatory thresholds. Finally, PHD found that the findings of the report tended to under-estimate the possible health effects of emissions that fall below regulatory thresholds.     

» Read statement 

» More about the Weymouth compressor station         

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

 

Connecticut trendingConnecticut Becomes the Fifth State to Sue Big Oil over Climate Change
By Dana Drugmand, Drilled News
September 14, 2020

On Monday, September 14, Connecticut announced it had filed a lawsuit in state court against oil major ExxonMobil for alleged “decades of deceit” on the risks of climate change that stem from burning fossil fuels.

“ExxonMobil sold oil and gas, but it also sold lies about climate science,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a press release. “ExxonMobil knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would have a significant impact on the environment, public health and our economy. Yet it chose to deceive the public. No more.”

At a time when much of the West Coast is engulfed in flames, fossil fuel companies are facing a torrent of climate accountability lawsuits from cities and states with four new cases filed this month alone.

Connecticut’s lawsuit comes on the heels of back-to-back lawsuits filed against Exxon and other oil and gas companies by the city of Charleston, South Carolina and by the state of Delaware on September 9 and 10, respectively. Hoboken, New Jersey sued some of these same fossil fuel firms on September 2. All of these cases are centered on allegations that the industry deliberately deceived the public on the climate risks of its fossil fuel products in order to stave off climate policies and protect profits.
» Read article      
» Read the press release        

 

Charleston up nextClimate Litigation Reaches American South with Charleston, SC Filing Latest Suit
By Dana Drugmand, Drilled News
September 10, 2020

 

The city of Charleston, South Carolina is going to court to hold two dozen oil and gas companies accountable for alleged deception about the role of fossil fuels in driving climate change.

Charleston filed its lawsuit against 24 petroleum firms in South Carolina state court on September 9, joining around 20 other communities across the country pursuing similar litigation against the fossil fuel industry. Hoboken, New Jersey filed a climate lawsuit just last week against six major oil and gas companies plus the industry’s largest trade association, the American Petroleum Institute. 24 hours after Charleston’s announcement, the state of Delaware announced the filing of its climate liability suit, against several fossil fuel companies and the American Petroleum Institute.

The Charleston lawsuit names major petroleum companies and their affiliates such as BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, and Shell Oil.

“As this lawsuit shows, these companies have known for more than 50 years that their products were going to cause the worst flooding the world has seen since Noah built the Ark,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a press release. “And instead of warning us, they covered up the truth and turned our flooding problems into their profits. That was wrong, and this lawsuit is all about holding them accountable for that multi-decade campaign of deception.”
» Read article          
» Read the Charleston press release               

» More about protests and actions        

 

LEGISLATION

 

US Capitol
Reps. Schakowsky, Barragán Introduce Legislation to End Fossil Fuel Expansion and Protect Communities
By Collin Rees, Oil Change International
September 17, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the Future Generations Protection Act. This bill would help ensure a rapid shift to clean renewable energy by stopping further expansion of fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Specifically, the Future Generations Protection Act would ban greenhouse gas emissions from all new power plants, stop hydraulic fracking, and ban crude oil and natural gas exports. It would also prohibit the Federal Energy Resources Commission from approving new liquified natural gas terminal siting or construction, unless doing so would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The wildfires currently devastating our country and heightened hurricane threat prove we can’t afford to wait any longer to act on climate change,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “These once-in-a-generation disasters are now normal occurrences and securing our environmental health and prosperity for future generations requires that we address the source of the problem — fossil fuels. Of course, Congress must be thorough when it comes to passing legislation that has the potential to cause mass labor displacement and pair this bill with a jobs package. The Future Generations Protection Act is a critical step toward creating opportunities for more economically viable solutions and a cleaner, healthier future for all.”
» Read press release                                                

» More about legislation            

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

 

trailing EuropeHouse to probe US lag on leveraging clean energy for COVID-19 recovery, consider bipartisan energy bill
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
September 11, 2020

While the U.S. has yet to include green infrastructure and clean energy in any of its COVID-19 recovery packages, countries across Europe and elsewhere were comparatively quick to tie climate policy into their economic recovery plans.

“What’s interesting about the EU situation is they already had a plan,” said Jennifer Huang, senior international fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
» Read article           

» More about greening the economy         

 

CLIMATE

 

damage assessment
What Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks Mean for Global Warming
President Trump has made dismantling federal climate policies a centerpiece of his administration. A new analysis from the Rhodium Group finds those rollbacks add up to a lot more planet-warming emissions.
By Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer, New York Times
September 17, 2020

The Trump administration has acted to repeal or weaken at least 100 environmental regulations over the past four years, including a number of Obama-era climate policies that Mr. Trump has said stifle businesses.

Assuming these Trump administration policies go forward as planned and survive legal challenges, the United States will emit the equivalent of an extra 1.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide between now and 2035, the Rhodium Group estimated. That’s more than Germany, Britain and Canada together emitted from energy use in 2018, the latest year for which data is available.

Greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of global warming, which is increasingly causing damage throughout the United States. More frequent flooding along the coasts, increased fire hazard in the West, worsening air quality, and fiercer heat waves have all been tied to rising global temperatures. If emissions are not reined in, scientists say, the damage will only deepen.
» Read article          
» Read the Rhodium Group analysis                 

 

moving day
Climate Change Will Force a New American Migration
Wildfires rage in the West. Hurricanes batter the East. Droughts and floods wreak damage throughout the nation. Life has become increasingly untenable in the hardest-hit areas, but if the people there move, where will everyone go?
By Abrahm Lustgarten, photography by Meridith Kohut, ProPublica
September 15, 2020

For years, Americans have avoided confronting [climate] changes in their own backyards. The decisions we make about where to live are distorted not just by politics that play down climate risks, but also by expensive subsidies and incentives aimed at defying nature. In much of the developing world, vulnerable people will attempt to flee the emerging perils of global warming, seeking cooler temperatures, more fresh water and safety. But here in the United States, people have largely gravitated toward environmental danger, building along coastlines from New Jersey to Florida and settling across the cloudless deserts of the Southwest.

Across the United States, some 162 million people — nearly one in two — will most likely experience a decline in the quality of their environment, namely more heat and less water. For 93 million of them, the changes could be particularly severe, and by 2070, our analysis suggests, if carbon emissions rise at extreme levels, at least four million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life. The cost of resisting the new climate reality is mounting. Florida officials have already acknowledged that defending some roadways against the sea will be unaffordable. And the nation’s federal flood-insurance program is for the first time requiring that some of its payouts be used to retreat from climate threats across the country. It will soon prove too expensive to maintain the status quo.
» Read article            

 

hottest summer
Northern hemisphere breaks record for hottest ever summer
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
September 14, 2020

This summer was the hottest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere, according to US government scientists.

June, July and August were 1.17C (2.11F) above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

The new record surpassed the summers of 2016 and 2019. Last month was also the second-hottest August ever recorded for the globe. The numbers put 2020 on track to be one of the five warmest years, according to Noaa.

United Nations officials have warned that many countries are not prepared to advance climate ambitions, while the US faces a presidential election that will decide whether it will contribute to such global efforts or hinder them.

With aggressive federal action, the US could cut its climate pollution almost in half by 2030 compared with 2005, according to the latest report from America’s Pledge, a group of private- and public-sector leaders.
» Read article           

 

methane explainedClimate Explained: Methane Is Short-Lived in the Atmosphere but Leaves Long-Term Damage
By Zebedee Nicholls and Tim Baxter, EcoWatch
September 13, 2020

For the benefit of policy makers, the climate science community set up several ways to compare gases to aid with implementing, monitoring and verifying emissions reduction policies.

In almost all cases, these rely on a calculated common currency – a carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO₂-e). The most common way to determine this is by assessing the global warming potential (GWP) of the gas over time.

The simple intent of GWP calculations is to compare the climate heating effect of each greenhouse gas to that created by an equivalent amount (by mass) of carbon dioxide.

In this way, emissions of one gas – like methane – can be compared with emissions of any other – like carbon dioxide, nitrous dioxide or any of the myriad other greenhouse gases.

Emitting methane will always be worse than emitting the same quantity of carbon dioxide, no matter the time scale.

How much worse depends on the time period used to average out its effects. The most commonly used averaging period is 100 years, but this is not the only choice, and it is not wrong to choose another.

As a starting point, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report from 2013 says methane heats the climate by 28 times more than carbon dioxide when averaged over 100 years and 84 times more when averaged over 20 years.
» Read article           

» More about climate      

 

CLEAN ENERGY

 

6x to net zero
Solar buildout must accelerate by up to six times 2019 levels to achieve net zero
By Jules Scully, PV Tech
September 16, 2020

The world will need to build five to six times as much solar and wind power per year as in 2019 if a carbon-zero economy is to be reached by the middle of the century, a study has said.

To reach that goal as well as the 90,000 – 115,000TWhs of annual global electricity supply needed, additional solar and wind capacity of around 13,000 – 18,000GW will be required by 2050, representing an investment of US$32 trillion, according to new analysis from think tank the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC).

It highlights that reductions in the cost of renewable energy make a net-zero economy “easily affordable” and argues that all growth in electricity supply should now come from zero-carbon sources with no need to build any new coal-fired power capacity to support economic growth and rising living standards.

Signatories of the report say the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the unpreparedness of the global economy to systemic risks and that the massive public spending now being dedicated to stimulating economic recovery constitutes a unique opportunity to invest in a more resilient economy. The ETC estimates that additional investments required to achieve the climate goals will be between US$1 trillion and US$2 trillion per year, equivalent to 1% – 1.5% of global GDP.
» Read article           

 

perovskite
Meet Perovskite, the Mystery Mineral That Could Transform Our Solar Energy Future
Someday, solar panels may be light and cheap enough that they could be hung on a clothesline, thanks to a synthetic mineral called perovskite. Physicist Sam Stranks explains the science and the challenges that stand in its way.
By Karen Frances Eng, TED Ideas
September 15, 2020

 

Solar power is key to our energy future. But the solar industry is butting up against one hard problem: Silicon cells are not very efficient at converting sunlight into electricity — at best, about 29 percent efficient. You may wonder, Why does efficiency even matter, when sunlight is free? The answer: because low efficiency means you need to install a whole lot of solar panels — which can be large, heavy and expensive to manufacture — to generate enough energy to make a dent in your needs.

But that could change thanks to a mineral called perovskite, according to Cambridge University physicist (and TED Fellow) Sam Stranks. He and his colleagues at Swift Solar are working to develop perovskite-based solar panels that could break the energy-efficiency upper limit.
» Read article           

 

Europe renewables dominating soon
Renewables Start to Outpace Fossil Fuels on Europe’s Grid
This week on The Energy Gang, we survey Europe’s electricity transition.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media
September 11, 2020

By 2030, Wood Mackenzie expects wind, solar and batteries to dominate Europe’s grid mix. But it may be happening even sooner.

In the first half of 2020, renewables (defined as solar, wind, hydro and biomass) beat out fossil fuels on the European grid for the first time. They didn’t just beat out coal — they beat out all fossil fuels put together.

This week on The Energy Gang, we’ll look at what the milestone means.
» Listen to podcast       

» More about clean energy        

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

 

underperformingT notes: Battery buses not ready for primetime yet
Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
September 14, 2020

MBTA OFFICIALS said on Monday that battery-powered buses are a promising technology that is still several years away from being ready for prime time, largely because a test of five vehicles indicated they take too long to charge and don’t live up to their mileage specifications, particularly during the winter.

The MBTA purchased five battery-power, 60-foot buses in 2019 and ran them on Silver Line routes over the past year. According to the T, the vehicle manufacturer promised the buses would run 100 to 120 miles on a single charge, but the actual mileage ranged from 60 to 110 miles, with the lesser amounts coming on colder weather days.

Erik Stoothoff, the MBTA’s chief engineer, said the buses would run out of juice in the afternoons, unable to complete some of their runs. He said it took eight hours to recharge the batteries.

“They don’t have enough battery power to deliver a full day’s service,” he said.

Stoothoff said the performance may actually be worse than the T’s testing indicates because the past winter was so mild. He said mileage dropped to 60 miles when the temperature was 20 degrees, but may have dropped even more with colder temperatures. “We have not stressed these buses the way the Boston climate can stress these buses,” he said.

Lawmakers and transportation advocates are pressing the T to convert to all-electric buses as quickly as possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Stoothoff said the battery technology is rapidly improving, but he predicted it would be several years before the technology reaches a level that would justify a major procurement.
» Read article           

 

marks the spot
Climate Scientists Take Their Closest Look Yet at the Warming Impact of Aviation Emissions
A new study reaffirms that contrail clouds produce more global warming than carbon dioxide, a finding that could help in the reduction of emissions from air travel.
By Leto Sapunar, InsideClimate News
September 18, 2020

An international team of prominent scientists has published what they say is the most comprehensive study to date calculating the complex climate impact of aviation emissions, reaffirming that contrail clouds produce more warming than carbon dioxide.

The study, which had been in the works since 2015, looked at both carbon dioxide and several types of “non-CO2” emissions in aviation. Carbon dioxide emissions are fairly well understood at this point, Lee said, but the impacts of non-CO2 emissions, which the study found account for about two-thirds of the net warming effect, are considerably harder to calculate.

The primary non-CO2 impact results from the emission of nitrogen oxides, water vapor and soot that can create heat-trapping contrail clouds. They form as emissions of hot gases and soot from aircraft engines activate water particles that freeze, producing the contrails, those straight, wispy white markings of a plane’s path through the sky.   

Other non-CO2 emissions involve what the study calls “aviation aerosols”—small particles composed of black and organic carbon known as soot, sulfur and nitrogen compounds.

“The airlines did not dispute that there was an impact of CO2 on the atmosphere,” said Annie Petsonk, the international counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund, who was not involved in the study. But until now, she said, they have claimed the science isn’t in on non-CO2 airline emissions. 

This paper, in filling that knowledge gap, deprives airlines of excuses to avoid dealing with non-CO2 emissions, said Petsonk.
» Read article          
» Read the study           

» More about clean transportation         

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

 

DERs getting traction
‘Game-Changer’ FERC Order Opens Up Wholesale Grid Markets to Distributed Energy Resources
A huge opportunity for solar, batteries, EVs and other DERs — and a huge challenge to integrate utility grid operations with bulk energy markets.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
September 17, 2020

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has passed a long-awaited order to open up the country’s wholesale energy markets to distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar, behind-the-meter batteries and electric vehicles. 

Now comes the hard part: creating market rules that allow these DERs to play in bulk energy markets while retaining the role of state regulators and utilities to maintain the soundness of their distribution grid operations and retail DER programs.

“DERs can hide in plain sight in our homes, businesses and communities, but their power is mighty,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said at Thursday’s meeting. Projections indicate that from 65 gigawatts to more than 380 gigawatts of DERs could be added to the country’s power grids over the next four years, he noted.
» Read article           

 

big changesBig changes may be ahead for natural gas pipelines, if FERC does its job
By Jessica Bell, Clean Energy Attorney in the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law, Utility Dive – Opinion
September 16, 2020

The day of reckoning for new natural gas infrastructure is long overdue. As states and consumers turn towards cleaner sources of energy, we must ask what the place is for new pipelines.

While prior wisdom may have seen natural gas as a bridge to a lower-carbon future, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from natural gas operations are substantial and increasingly unmitigated, as the current administration abandons regulations, such as those meant to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Pipelines risk becoming costly stranded assets if they are built without a serious look at how they fit with decarbonization goals. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency tasked with evaluating the public need for new interstate natural gas pipelines and permitting their construction, refuses to grapple with these issues, though. And although FERC has said it wants to be more landowner-friendly, the burden of this infrastructure — that may not even be needed to meet demand — is still severe. But there are several avenues right now that could potentially lead to widespread change for natural gas pipeline projects.
» Read article           

» More about FERC          

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

 

dirty laundryThe US Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Problem Is Catching up With It
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
September 16, 2020

For years, the oil and gas industry has been able to downplay, or outright ignore, the problem of methane. Methane is an invisible gas, and lax state and federal regulations in the U.S. have allowed oil and gas producers to self-report how much of this potent planet-warming gas leaks from its supply chain, which researchers have repeatedly found is a lot more than the industry was admitting to.

But improved technologies, particularly from satellites, have allowed the world to increasingly fact-check industry numbers, shining a light on the true climate impact of natural gas, which is primarily methane. These days, methane emissions have become an industry black eye, to the point that major players are now clamoring for regulations after the Trump administration recently finalized the rollback of Obama-era rules meant to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas.

On August 24, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed arguing for the United States to regulate methane emissions for the oil and gas industry, and it was co-written by two influential voices in the industry, Antoine Halff and Andrew Gould. Halff was formerly the head of oil analysis at the International Energy Agency, an independent, intergovernmental organization focused on energy research and policy — and notorious for its overly optimistic (and inaccurate) outlooks for fossil fuels and overly pessimistic views on renewables. Gould is the former CEO of Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company. Gould also currently serves on the board of Occidental Petroleum Corporation — one of the largest fracking companies among the Permian oilfields of Texas. 

Halff and Gould were writing in response to the Trump administration’s repeal of existing methane regulations. However, as a sign of the changing times, they argued that regulating the greenhouse gas is simply good business for the oil and gas industry. 

“Producers will find it increasingly difficult to stay in business while visibly spewing methane into the air,” they wrote.
» Read article           

 

400 billion strandedOil Industry’s Shift to Plastics in Question as Report Warns $400 Billion in Stranded Assets Possible
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
September 14, 2020

This past year has brought massive disruptions for fossil fuel producers, who saw oil prices briefly dip far below $0 a barrel in some places amid pandemic lockdowns and witnessed ExxonMobil, once the king of blue chip stocks, unceremoniously booted from the widely-watched Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The last decade saw US oil and gas production skyrocket — but the sector also underperformed the market eight out of the last nine years, according to industry analysts.

And going forward, the oil industry faces increasing doubts about demand for oil in the future because of an expected shift to electric vehicles. The gas side of the oil and gas industry also faces growing competition from renewable energy, which has gone from being the most expensive way to generate power to, in many cases, the cheapest.

But executives with major oil giants have said that even if oil demand [growth] dries up, they expect they’ll still be able to sell an increasing amount of their products as petrochemicals. “Unlike refining, and ultimately unlike oil, which will see a moment when the growth will stop, we actually don’t anticipate that with petrochemicals,” Andrew Brown, a Royal Dutch Shell official, told the San Antonio Express News in 2018.

This strategy, according to a report published this month by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, carries significant financial risks, putting $400 billion of petrochemical industry investments at risk of becoming stranded assets. That’s nearly an entire year’s revenue for the worldwide plastics industry, based on 2018 figures from the Plastics Industry Association, potentially down the drain.

And the vast majority of those petrochemical investments are, in fact, investments in plastics. “Whilst most commentators have noted that petrochemicals are a major driver of expected oil demand growth, we can go one stage further,” the Carbon Tracker report notes, “and demonstrate that it is specifically plastics within petrochemicals that drive the expected growth in oil demand.”
» Read article             
» Read the Carbon Tracker report        

» More about fossil fuel            

 

PLASTICS RECYCLING

 

recycling hoaxHow Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled
By Laura Sullivan, NPR
September 11, 2020

NPR and PBS Frontline spent months digging into internal industry documents and interviewing top former officials. We found that the industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn’t work — that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled — all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic.

The industry’s awareness that recycling wouldn’t keep plastic out of landfills and the environment dates to the program’s earliest days, we found. “There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis,” one industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech.

Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true.

“If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment,” Larry Thomas, former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, known today as the Plastics Industry Association and one of the industry’s most powerful trade groups in Washington, D.C., told NPR.
» Read article                  

» More about plastics recycling       

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Weekly News Check-In 9/11/20

banner 13

Welcome back.

Vented methane is wafting through neighborhoods this week as the Weymouth compressor station purges air from incoming lines, filling them with natural gas. Commercial operations are due to begin early next year. This follows a court decision reinstating the compressor’s contested air quality permit – a decision apparently not driven by science or community health concerns, but rather by the inconvenience this whole air pollution fuss seemed to be causing Enbridge in their rush to complete the project.

We’re tracking other projects too. The Dakota Access Pipeline has plenty of legal hurdles ahead of it, including in Illinois. And the East African Crude Oil Pipeline is planned to cross 900 miles of sensitive farm and wildlife habitat from newly-discovered reserves near Lake Albert to the Indian Ocean.

While Covid-19 has largely moved protests online, there’s plenty of action in the legal space. Two stories cover important new climate-related lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry.

Our Greening the Economy section includes an article on the outsize energy burden borne by people of color in the U.S. Another highlights the need for carbon pricing. Solving those two problems simultaneously requires a strong focus on social justice and equity during policy development.

We’re taking a long view on climate this week, starting with a review of the new book “All We Can Save”, an anthology highlighting important contributions by women to climate science – often overlooked or forgotten. This week’s featured image is of Eunice Newton Foote, an American physicist who concluded in 1856 that “carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could produce global warming three years before similar work by the Irish physicist John Tyndall, whose research on warming is often cited as the beginning of climate science.”

Biofuels are a controversial player in the push toward clean energy conversion. We found an article that explores some of the important issues: land use, carbon accounting, and alternatives. Elsewhere on the clean energy beat, U.S. company Violet Power  is marketing an even greener solar panel, with reduced embodied carbon and a 50-year warranty.

Energy storage took a step forward because of a simple tweak to its business model. Invinity Energy Systems builds vanadium flow batteries, and will rent the expensive electrolyte to the investor developing a grid-scale project in the UK. This shaves about 30% off the up-front cost. The electrolyte doesn’t degrade over time and is 100% recyclable.

Two recent stories about clean transportation allow us to imagine the near future when new cars will be carried nearly fossil-free to the U.S. from Europe on modern Swedish sailing ships, where some of those cars’ pollution control devices will be illegaly bypassed by after-market “defeat” devices – increasing their greenhouse gas emissions….

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is under fire for an upcoming carbon pricing conference. Seems that conference planners overlooked empaneling some key stakeholders, like representatives from the renewable energy sector and consumer advocates. Not much gender diversity either.

With the fossil fuel industry pinning its hopes for future growth on plastics, and with Palmer Renewable Energy’s East Springfield biomass facility still lurching zombie-like toward approval, we can at least wrap up with news of one clear environmental victory: the state of New York has upheld its plastic bag ban in the face of the pandemic and industry-supported court challenges.

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

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

smells like rotten eggs
Weymouth compressor station starts testing
The city of Quincy sent a warning to residents letting them know they may smell natural gas in the area of the station this month
By Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
September 9, 2020

The controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth has begun testing this week and, in the process, releasing natural gas into the atmosphere.

The station, on the banks of the Fore River, is being built by Enbridge, a Canadian-based multinational energy transportation company. The compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada.

The testing began on Tuesday and will run through Oct. 1. In addition to testing for leaks and calibrating piping, the station will complete an emergency shutdown test on Saturday. Enbridge said they will be venting the natural gas through a charcoal trailer to help reduce its characteristic smell. In order to test operation of the facility’s pipes, it has to purge air from the pipes using pressurized natural gas.

The station has been the target of vociferous opposition by residents and local politicians and has been mired in legal battles since its inception.

“Our position hasn’t changed, this is an inappropriate location for this facility,” said Chris Walker, chief of staff to Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, on Wednesday. “They won a recent court ruling to do this, but the legal challenges continue.”

A legal decision last week by a federal appeals court reversed a prior decision to vacate an air permit for the station. The reversal was the latest green light for Enbridge on its way to making the site fully operational.
» Read article        

 

WTF WeymouthFederal appeals court reverses decision to vacate Weymouth compressor air permit
The judges said in their decision that operations could not begin until March 2021 at the earliest but project opponents say the gas could be turned on much sooner.
By Wheeler Cowperthwaite, The Patriot Ledger, in Wicked Local Weymouth
September 6, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated its previous decision to throw out an air permit for the natural gas compressor station Enbridge is building in North Weymouth.

On June 3, Judge William Kayatta issued the original decision, throwing out the air permit granted by the state Department of Environmental Protection state because it did not follow its own procedures when it approved a gas turbine, rather than an electric motor, to cut emissions at the station.

In the unanimous opinion issued Monday, the three-judge panel said they were amending their original decision by allowing the company to keep the air permit. The case is still remanded to the Department of Environmental Protection on the question of what kind of turbine would best cut emissions at the station.

The panel said in the decision that the Department of Environmental Protection will not be able to complete its review within the 75-day deadline the court set, which has been extended to Jan. 19, 2021.

The Department of Environmental Protection staff also concluded, following a preliminary review, that an electric motor is not the best available control technology, although that is not its final decision.

“If correct, the staff’s conclusion also means that the permit will be approved and any operations before January 19, 2021, will have resulted in no emissions in excess of Massachusetts regulations,” the panel said.
» Read article        
» Read the decision            

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

 

PIPELINES

DAPL trouble in Illinois
Dakota Access Pipeline Faces Legal Challenge In Illinois
Podcast, The 21st Show
September 8, 2020

It’s been four years since the protests began in Standing Rock Indian Reservation over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many of us tend to associate the pipeline with those protests at Standing Rock, but the pipeline travels through several states, including right here in Illinois. And Illinois is the only state challenging a proposal that would lead to a million barrels of oil flowing through the pipeline everyday. 

To talk more about the proposal, The 21st is joined by a climate and environment reporter from Illinois Newsroom and an attorney representing environement groups. 

Guests: Lecia Bushak, multimedia environmental journalist, Illinois Newsroom, and John D. Albers, Attorney representing environmental groups, Shay Law, Ltd.
» Listen to the podcast           

 

Kingfisher
A Major Oil Pipeline Project Strikes Deep at the Heart of Africa
Despite the global plunge in oil prices, a major pipeline that would carry oil 900 miles across East Africa is moving ahead. International experts warn that the $20 billion project will displace thousands of small farmers and put key wildlife habitat and coastal waters at risk.
By Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360
May 21, 2020

Imagine a tropical version of the Alaskan oil pipeline. Only longer. And passing through critical elephant, lion, and chimpanzee habitats and 12 forest reserves, skirting Africa’s largest lake, and crossing more than 200 rivers and thousands of farms before reaching the Indian Ocean — where its version of the Exxon Valdez disaster would pour crude oil into some of Africa’s most biodiverse mangroves and coral reefs.

Such a project is ready for construction, to bring to the world oil from new oil fields in the heart of Africa. It is the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.

The middle of a global pandemic, during which oil demand is in freefall and prices at rock bottom, might seem an odd moment to boost the world’s oil production. But the petrochemicals industry is always looking for new reserves to replace those being exhausted. And two oil fields discovered on the shores of Lake Albert, which straddles the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are currently among the biggest and cheapest new reserves available. They contain an estimated 6 billion barrels, roughly half the size of Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay field.
» Read article       

» More about pipelines            

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Delaware down under
Delaware Just Sued 30 Fossil Fuel Companies and the American Petroleum Institute Over Climate ‘Denial and Disinformation’
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
September 10, 2020

Delaware, the home state of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, announced on Thursday, September 10 that it is taking dozens of major oil and gas companies including BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil to court over the rising costs of climate impacts such as sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Like other U.S. states and municipalities suing the fossil fuel industry, Delaware says that the industry knew half a century ago about the likely climate impacts resulting from the use of its products, but instead of warning the public or changing their business model, the fossil fuel companies engaged in campaigns to attack climate science and downplay the risks of burning coal, oil, and gas in order to stave off policy responses.

“Delawareans are already paying for the malfeasance of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies,” Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a press release. “Exxon, Chevron, and other mega-corporations knew exactly what kind of sacrifices the world would make to support their profits, and they deceived the public for decades. Now we are staring down a crisis at our shores, and taxpayers are once again footing the bill for damage to our roads, our beaches, our environment, and our economy. We are seeking accountability from some of the world’s most powerful businesses to pay for the mess they’ve made.”

The lawsuit, filed September 10 in Delaware Superior Court, a state court, seeks monetary damages to help pay for costs the state is already incurring and that are expected to mount as climate impacts worsen.
» Read article        
» Read the press release         
» Read the complaint           

 

climate and human rights
Latest Youth Climate Lawsuit Filed Against 33 European Countries Over Human Rights
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog UK
September 4, 2020

Six young people from Portugal have filed an unprecedented climate change lawsuit against almost all of Europe, targeting 33 European nations for failing to take adequate action on the climate crisis that they say threatens their human rights.

It is the latest in a series of legal actions brought by young people around the world demanding urgent climate action to protect their fundamental rights and safeguard their futures.

The case was filed on September 3 in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. It is the first climate case brought directly to this international court. Lawyers for the youth plaintiffs will argue that European governments’ current plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to prevent catastrophic climate change and therefore constitute human rights violations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“If successful, the 33 countries would be legally bound, not only to ramp up emissions cuts, but also to tackle overseas contributions to climate change, including those of their multinational companies,” the charity Global Legal Action Network, which is providing legal support for the case, explained in a press release.
» Read article        
» Read the press release       

» More about protests and actions     

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

energy burden gap
Report: Black households spend almost 50 percent more on utilities than white households

By Angely Mercado, Grist
September 10, 2020

By the end of this month, tens of millions of households in the U.S. stand to lose protections against utility shut-offs, which were instituted early in the COVID-19 pandemic. But household utilities have long placed an outsized burden on low-income households and communities of color. New research released Thursday sheds light on just how large that burden has been — even before the pandemic and its economic fallout.

According to a new study by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Black, Hispanic, and Native American households spend a much larger portion of their income on energy bills than non-Hispanic white households on average — 43 percent more, 20 percent more, and 45 percent more, respectively. Low-income households (which the report defines as those with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level) spend three times as large a share of their income on energy costs as other households.

These disparities make low-income households and communities of color disproportionately vulnerable to utility shut-offs now that moratoriums are beginning to expire.
ACEEE energy burden definition: Energy burden means the percentage of household income that goes toward energy costs, and we looked specifically at utility energy bills (transportation energy costs are also a significant household expense, but it was outside the scope of the analysis).
» Read article        
» Read the ACEEE report         

 

carbon price essentialBP, Major Wall Street Banks Want Carbon Pricing Policy In U.S.
By Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price
September 10, 2020

Supermajor BP, as well as many major Wall Street banks, recommends that the U.S. set a price on carbon in a report commissioned by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which recognizes that climate change could pose a risk to the financial markets.

The report from CFTC’s Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee – which includes, among others, executives from BP, ConocoPhillips, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Vanguard, Allianz Global Investors, and the Environmental Defense Fund – says that “Both physical and transition risks could give rise to systemic and sub-systemic financial shocks, potentially causing unprecedented disruption in the proper functioning of financial markets and institutions.”

“This report begins with a fundamental finding—financial markets will only be able to channel resources efficiently to activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions if an economy-wide price on carbon is in place at a level that reflects the true social cost of those emissions,” said the authors led by CFTC’s subcommittee chairman Bob Litterman.

The report was the first of its kind from a U.S. regulator, the CFTC, whose climate-related risk subcommittee recommends pricing carbon emissions.
» Read article        
» Read press release and access report         

 

just talkCoal and Gas Burning Countries Set to Gain from EU Just Transition Fund
By Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog UK
September 9, 2020

Coal-burning countries could benefit from billions in EU funding even as they fail in their climate commitments, a new report shows.

Every member state is required to phase out coal entirely by 2030 and transition directly to clean electricity to meet the EU’s Paris Agreement target of limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

But a briefing released today by climate thinktank Ember finds that seven of the 18 EU member states still using coal to generate electricity have no plans for a phase-out in the next decade.

Despite this, those seven countries would be set to benefit from two-thirds of the Just Transition Fund, worth up to €40 billion (£36 billion) and set up to support the EU regions most impacted by a transition to a low carbon economy. While two of these countries – Poland and Bulgaria – plan a significant expansion of gas use alongside continued coal burning.

Charles Moore, Ember’s European Programme Lead, said in a statement: “The majority of EU coal-countries are not ready for a just transition.” 

“They have no plans to give up coal by 2030 – or they plan to swap coal for fossil gas – another dead end if the EU is to meet its Paris Agreement commitments. Now is the time to support coal regions in countries genuinely undergoing a rapid energy transition. But the Just Transition Fund looks set to reward inaction rather than real climate ambition.”
Blog editor’s note: File this story under “how not to do it”.
» Read article        
» Read the Ember report       

» More about greening the economy      

 

CLIMATE

women climate leaders
Q&A: Why Women Leading the Climate Movement are Underappreciated and Sometimes Invisible
A new anthology co-edited by two women climate leaders helps make the point that “the climate crisis is not gender neutral.”
By Ilana Cohen, InsideClimate News
September 5, 2020

The American scientist Eunice Newton Foote theorized in 1856 that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could produce global warming three years before similar work by the Irish physicist John Tyndall, whose research on warming is often cited as the beginning of climate science. 

Foote was also an early women’s rights campaigner, signing the 1848 Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments,” a manifesto produced during the nation’s first women’s rights convention. 

She is, thus, a fitting historic figure for Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson to cite in opening their new book, “All We Can Save,” an anthology of essays, poetry and original illustrations on climate change by a diverse range of women, to be published Sept. 22. 

“Foote arrived at her breakthrough idea through experimentation,” the co-editors write. “With an air pump, two glass cylinders, and four thermometers, she tested the impact of ‘carbonic acid gas’ (the term for carbon dioxide in her day) against ‘common air’… From a simple experiment, she drew a profound conclusion: ‘An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature…'”
» Read article         

 

put it on my tab
Lethal price of climate inertia far exceeds action
Climate change will impose a lethal price if we do not all pay the far smaller cost of confronting it.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
September 10, 2020

In the hotter world of climate change, it won’t just be the glaciers that melt: national and regional economies, big business, government and even the multinationals will all pay a lethal price.

If the planet becomes 4°C warmer by 2100, then many regions could see a 10% fall in economic output. They’d be the lucky ones. In the tropics, the economic losses could be double that.

There are of course ways to limit losses and save lives. US researchers believe that if a quarter of all motorists in the US switched to electric vehicles, the nation could save $17bn a year in the costs of climate change and air pollution. If three fourths of drivers switched to cars [fueled] by renewable electricity, savings could tip $70bn.

Both studies are specimens of the kind of economic reasoning – always arguable and often intensely-argued – that necessarily must make “what-if” calculations about the notional costs to society of carbon dioxide emissions and the notional value of human lives blighted by heat-related illnesses and air pollution a lifetime from now.

But both are just the latest in a long line of calculations that demonstrate, repeatedly, that the costs to the next generation of doing nothing about climate change far outweigh the costs now of shifting from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy.
» Read article         

» More about climate         

 

CLEAN ENERGY

complications aboundBiofuels are a controversial climate solution. Could they still help save the planet?
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
September 11, 2020

Of all the tools we have to curb climate change, devoting land to growing bioenergy crops is among the most contentious. The reason it’s considered a solution is that plants suck up carbon from the air while they grow. When we turn them into fuels and burn them, no new carbon is added to the atmosphere —the whole cycle is considered “carbon neutral.” Proponents tout biofuels as an answer for industries that can’t easily replace fossil fuels with clean electricity or batteries, like flying, shipping, and long-haul trucking. They argue that as carbon-capture technology advances, biofuels could even become carbon-negative, taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than they put in.

But critics say biofuels’ carbon-neutrality is a mirage. They argue that if you account for the fact that you likely need to chop down forests or replace farmland that could be used to grow food to produce them, the case for biofuels crumbles.

Two recent studies try to calculate these complex trade-offs, one looking at the potential benefits of growing bioenergy crops at the scale of specific land-use choices, and the other zooming out to the consequences of relying on them to reduce emissions at a global, gigaton scale.
» Read article         

 

game changer
Game changer: Violet Power to offer 50-year solar panel warranty with US-made IBC technology
By Mark Osborne, PV Tech
September 8, 2020

Coming out of stealth-mode, US-based integrated PV panel manufacturing start-up, Violet Power intends to disrupt the PV industry with in-house production of high-efficiency IBC (Interdigitated Back Contact) solar cells. The company will use cell-to-module ‘flex circuit’ and thermal plastic encapsulant technology in a glass/glass configuration that will have a solar panel warranty of 50 years, more than three times the average in the industry, today.

Charlie Gay, PV industry technology veteran (more than 45 years), who has recently become the new CEO of Violet Power, said, “There are currently no vertically-integrated U.S. PV panel manufacturers to meet the growing global demand for solar power. This lack of manufacturing capability within the United States results in billions of dollars in lost opportunity including jobs, wages, and revenue for American workers and government at the local, state, and federal level. In addition, there are serious concerns over supply chain self-reliance and electric grid security, which can be best addressed with control of the entire value chain. Violet Power’s manufacturing model addresses all of these concerns, and more.”
» Read article         

» More about clean energy        

 

ENERGY STORAGE

electrolyte rented
Invinity-Bushveld partnership renting out flow batteries’ electrolyte to lower upfront cost
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
September 8, 2020

Invinity Energy Systems, supplier of a grid-scale vanadium flow battery being installed at a site in the UK will rent the battery’s electrolyte out to the investor developing the project, thereby helping lower the upfront cost of getting the system deployed.

Before Invinity Energy Systems was formed by a merger last year between US-headquartered flow battery provider Avalon Battery and UK counterpart redT, Avalon started up the business model of renting out battery electrolytes to customers.

Early last year, Avalon supplied a battery system to a microgrid project for solar installation company Sandbar Solar in California which allowed Sandbar’s HQ buildings to run on solar energy 24/7 and rented the electrolyte to Sandbar.

At the time, Avalon said that it expected the vanadium used to retain 100% of its value and be fully recyclable even after years of heavy duty use, while company president Matt Harper – now also Invinity’s president – said that electrolytes represent around 35% of a flow battery system’s upfront cost.
» Read article         

 

battery bailout
Its Electric Grid Under Strain, California Turns to Batteries
When demand exceeded supply in a recent heat wave, electricity stored at businesses and even homes was called into service. With proper management, batteries could have made up for an offline gas plant.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
September 3, 2020

Last month as a heat wave slammed California, state regulators sent an email to a group of energy executives pleading for help. “Please consider this an urgent inquiry on behalf of the state,” the message said.

The manager of the state’s grid was struggling to increase the supply of electricity because power plants had unexpectedly shut down and demand was surging. The imbalance was forcing officials to order rolling blackouts across the state for the first time in nearly two decades.

What was unusual about the emails was whom they were sent to: people who managed thousands of batteries installed at utilities, businesses, government facilities and even homes. California officials were seeking the energy stored in those machines to help bail out a poorly managed grid and reduce the need for blackouts.
» Read article         

» More about energy storage       

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

clipper refreshed
Changing tack: windpower breezes back into shipping with Swedish venture
By Reuters Staff, Reuters
September 10, 2020

A Swedish consortium aims to launch commercially by 2025 a wind-driven car carrier that will emit 90% less carbon dioxide than a conventional roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) cargo ship, it said on Thursday.

The 200-metre long carrier will have a capacity for 7,000 cars and have a maximum height of 105 meters when its five 80-metre upright “wing sails” are fully extended – bringing to mind a futuristic version of the wings of a 19th century clipper.

“This will of course challenge our habits and when this vessel will be in the ocean sailing, it will be an odd bird,” consortium partner Wallenius Marine Chief Operating Officer Per Tunell told an online news conference. “We are on track to make it possible for launching and putting this vessel in operation for late 2024.”

The consortium said in a statement a North Atlantic crossing would take the ship around twelve days, against eight days for conventional vessels.
» Read article         

 

delete devices
Illegal devices that bypass vehicle emissions controls spread across US
Thousands of tons of pollution spew into the air in the US from devices that proliferate online and in body shops
By Eli Wolfe and Alexandra Tempus of FairWarning, in The Guardian
September 9, 2020

When officials at the Environmental Protection Agency began investigating Freedom Performance, LLC, they didn’t have to look very hard for evidence that the company was violating the Clean Air Act. According to legal documents, the Florida car parts distributor literally advertised violations on its website.

“The road to hell is often paved with good intentions,” stated one ad for a kit to remove federally required emissions controls from diesel trucks. It identified a particular emissions control system that “is certainly noble in its intent” but “in reality it is putting your engine through hell … The best solution is deletion.”

According to the EPA, Freedom Performance was advertising defeat devices –hardware and software that bypasses or eliminates emission controls. The Clean Air Act forbids tampering with these controls, and violations carry heavy fines. But defeat devices – also known as “delete devices” – are popular with many vehicle owners.

Shops advertise that “delete kits” will improve mileage and extend the lifespan of expensive components, saving customers thousands of dollars. In recent years, a lucrative cottage industry of defeat devices has exploded across the US as repair shops, online retailers and manufacturers feed, and generate, consumer demand.
» Read article         

» More about clean transportation    

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

under represented
FERC details carbon pricing conference as groups blast renewables, consumer and women exclusions
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
September 9, 2020

Federal regulators on Friday announced details of a much-anticipated technical conference on carbon pricing, following a request from a broad group of renewable energy, gas and power groups for the commission to look at the issue more closely, but some stakeholders expressed disappointment with the lineup, decrying a lack of representation from renewable energy and consumer advocates, as well as lack of gender diversity.

Of the 30 panelists lined up for the technical conference to be hosted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seven represent grid operators or their market monitors and seven represent energy companies, but none represent renewable energy or consumer interests, and only one represents state interests. Other speakers include academics, consultants, trade groups and law firms. Three of the speakers are women.

Critics of the lineup say leaving consumer advocates and states out of the discussion is a misstep — for one thing, it won’t help mounting state and federal tensions over wholesale market policy, said Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel for Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), one of the stakeholders that requested FERC convene the discussion.
» Read article         

» More about FERC       

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

big oil has a big ideaBig Oil’s hopes are pinned on plastics. It won’t end well.
The industry’s only real source of growth probably won’t grow much.
By David Roberts, Vox
September 4, 2020

Overall, plastics represent a fairly small sliver of oil demand. Annually, the world consumes around 4,500 million tonnes (mt) of oil but only around 1,000mt of petrochemicals (oil and natural gas used to make chemical products), and of that 1,000mt, only about 350mt are plastics. (A tonne is a metric ton, about 1.1 US tons.)

Nonetheless, plastics are commonly projected to be the biggest source of new demand for oil over coming decades — in some projections, the only real source. It is these projections that the industry is using to justify billions in new projects, as oil companies across the world shift investment toward petrochemicals.

And Big Oil is working its hardest to make the projections come true: The New York Times just ran an investigative piece revealing the industry’s plans to push more plastic, and plastic waste, into Kenya. Plastics are the thin reed upon which the industry is placing all its hopes.

But a new report released this week by Carbon Tracker throws a big bucket of cold water on these hopes. It argues that, far from a reliable source of growth, plastics are uniquely vulnerable to disruption. They are coming under increasing scrutiny and regulation across the world. Huge consumer product companies like Unilever are phasing them out. And the public is turning against them.
» Read article        
» Read the Carbon Tracker report   

» More about fossil fuels      

 

BIOMASS

kill the zombie
Kill the ‘zombie’: Springfield demonstration calls for end to biomass proposal after decade-long battle
By Peter Goonan, MassLive
September 6, 2020

More than 75 people gathered on the steps of City Hall on Thursday calling for an end to a long-proposed biomass project in East Springfield, saying it is a threat to public health and an environmental hazard.

Some of those speaking used the phrase “we can’t breathe” in expressing their strong opposition to the wood-to-energy plant proposed by Palmer Renewable Energy LLC at 1000 Page Blvd.

Verne McArthur, of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, led the activists and residents in chants against the biomass project, including, “We will, we will, block you, block you.”

“This event is about the zombie project — this biomass plant that Palmer Renewable wants to build and keeps pulling political strings to get loopholes to go do it,” McArthur said. “We’ve been fighting it for 10 years and they’re now trying to come back.”

There is a climate bill before the state Legislature, in conference committee, that includes one proposed clause that would list biomass energy plants as “non-emitting sources” — a designation that would help the developers receive subsidies, opponents said. Ten city councilors have urged legislators to reject the clause, and there is also a signature petition.

The demonstration occurred after a recent council subcommittee meeting in which the city’s building commissioner, Steven Desilets, said the biomass building permit remains valid despite being initially approved in 2011 and later extended.
Blog editor’s note: We offered a report last week that includes information on the climate bill, a link to the petition, and suggestions for writing to your state senator and representative.
» Read article         

» More about biomass     

 

PLASTICS BANS

bag ban survived
New York’s plastic bag ban has survived the pandemic
By Angely Mercado, Grist
September 4, 2020

It’s a great time for New Yorkers to start investing in reusable grocery bags. Late last month, a state supreme court judge in Albany upheld a statewide ban on plastic carryout bags after considering a lawsuit led by a longtime plastic bag manufacturing company. The court also rejected a loophole in the new regulations that would have allowed the distribution of thicker plastic bags, which advocates say do not comply with the spirit of the ban.

The New York state legislature passed a law back in 2019 largely prohibiting vendors in the state from distributing single-use plastic carryout bags to customers. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) then drafted regulations to govern the law’s implementation in February of this year. The regulations stated that stores could hand out plastic bags only if the bags are washable, have an attached strap that does not stretch or wear with use, can be used at least 125 times, and can carry 22 pounds. They also said that reusable plastic bags should be at least one-hundredth of an inch thick. Environmental groups like Earthjustice worried that the language of the regulations could undermine the plastic bag ban by exempting thicker plastic bags.

Just after the regulations were issued, a lawsuit led by the plastic bag maker Poly-Pak Industries was filed against the state of New York and the DEC in hopes of stopping the ban. The suit was filed right before the ban was supposed to go into effect in early March.

In May, Earthjustice submitted an amicus brief on behalf of three leading environmental groups: WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Beyond Plastics, and Clean and Healthy New York. The three organizations argued on behalf of the ban and asked for the loophole to be closed. The state court ultimately endorsed the substance of the brief by upholding the ban and striking down the exemption for thicker plastic bags.

“We see the use of plastic bags as a climate change and community health problem,” said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, an associate attorney at Earthjustice. “[Thicker plastic bags were] not what the legislature intended…. It wanted to end the use of plastic bags, full stop.”
» Read article         

» More about plastics bans        

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Weekly News Check-In 9/4/20

banner 11

Welcome back.

The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to begin a lengthy environmental review for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since regulatory agencies failed to enforce this requirement prior to the pipeline’s construction and commission, it is belatedly underway because the courts have threatened to shut the pipeline down. Resistance continues without letup. On the international front, fossil fuel protest recently took the form of an Extinction Rebellion action calling attention to a group of climate-denying libertarian organizations operating from an office building in central London.

While greening the economy necessarily involves sweeping policy initiatives, the stories we offer this week are smaller in scale, and illustrate how local or company-specific programs can produce better jobs and greener products. But the climate isn’t waiting around for humans to get their act together – it’s heating and changing even faster than predicted while the Trump administration pretends it isn’t happening.

We highlight some of the headwinds facing clean energy, including lagging utility adoption of carbon free energy resources worldwide. Closer to home, we feature an interesting podcast describing how the administration quashed a study exploring grid optimization because Trump considered it a threat to the coal industry. This general “keep folks in the dark” strategy to forestall decarbonization even extends to residential energy efficiency. But Portland, Oregon successfully implemented a program to assign homes an energy efficiency score. It’s benefiting home buyers in that city and providing a model for the rest of the country.

We’re tracking innovation this week, including a hybrid energy storage system combining lithium-ion batteries with mechanical energy storage in the form of flywheels. Now operating in the Netherlands, it provides 9MW of frequency stabilizing primary control power to the transmission grid. And satellite technology is coming back to Earth in the form of metal-hydrogen batteries, reformulated by the firm EnerVenue to be affordable while offering decades of cycles without degradation.

We lead our Clean Transportation section with a story from The Guardian about how seriously bad SUVs are for the planet – and consider the climate implications of their phenomenal market penetration worldwide. Electric school buses and delivery trucks are coming soon, but our love affair with SUVs has the capacity to gobble up all progress on transportation emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the fossil fuel industry were both in the news. The EPA for allowing coal plants to dump toxic waste into waterways, and the industry for continuing to demonstrate its decline in spite of the Trump administration’s relentless support.

Our Biomass section has news you can use! Specifically, the first story describes a bill before the Massachusetts house that would classify biomass and trash incineration as “non-carbon” emissions. This, of course, is not true. The article includes a call for action, including contacting representatives and signing a petition. Please consider taking these steps, as failure to amend this bill would result in the construction of a large biomass incinerator in Springfield – a city that already has the worst air quality in Massachusetts – and the most asthma within its population.

We wrap up with a few stories about plastics in the environment and the plastics / fracking connection. Note the hellish photo in the final article (New York Times, captioned “A dump in Nakuru, Kenya….”). I can tell you that a few decades ago those hills were lush and green, and the lake in the background hosted thousands of flamingos. The world should recognize the dignity of the people in that photo, affirm that they deserve a restored environment, and acknowledge that what has been done to them is a crime.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

encroachment
Corps weighs Dakota Access easement options, plans to begin environmental review process
By Amy R. Sisk, Bismarck Tribune
August 31, 2020

The federal agency embroiled in a lawsuit over the Dakota Access Pipeline is evaluating whether to continue allowing the line to pump oil following a court order revoking a key permit, and it plans to begin a lengthy environmental review this week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated its plans in a court filing Monday. Because U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg revoked the pipeline’s easement in a July ruling, the pipeline is now considered an “encroachment” on federal property managed by the Corps, the agency wrote in a status report.

While the Corps weighs its options, it’s allowing Energy Transfer to continue operating the pipeline under the terms of that easement. The easement allows the line to cross under the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The Corps’ general policy “is to require removal of encroachments,” but it can make exceptions, the agency said. The two “most plausible options” involve removing the pipeline or giving it permission to continue using the property through a method such as granting a new easement.

The Corps acknowledged that the latter option would be subject to the National Environmental Policy Act, which is at the heart of the lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes over the pipeline. The agency’s procedures state that complying with that law might require an Environmental Impact Statement, which is the lengthy environmental review it plans to begin this week after Boasberg ordered it earlier this year.
» Read article           

» More about pipelines          

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

think again
Former Green Party Spokesperson Arrested at ‘Home of Climate Denying Thinktanks’
By Richard Collett-White, DeSmog UK
September 3, 2020

Four Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested on Wednesday night at the end of a demonstration in Westminster against the influence of “right-wing climate sceptic thinktanks” on the UK’s political system.

The arrestees included former Green Party spokesperson and philosophy professor Rupert Read, who was removed by police after pouring fake blood over the entrance to 55 Tufton Street.

The word “lies” was also spray-painted on the front of the office building.

The central London address is home to several libertarian organisations with a history of opposing environmental regulations and downplaying the threat of climate change, including the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Read said the “few still pretending that the climate and ecological emergency is not an existential threat to civilisation as we know it” were “yesterday’s men”.

The event was organised by Writers Rebel, a subgroup of the environmental activist movement that brought parts of the capital to a standstill last year and is currently staging 10 days of protests. Jessica Townsend, co-founder of Writers Rebel, was another of those arrested, along with two activists who had been perched on top of tripods for the duration of the protest, blocking the road to traffic.

Townsend said in a statement: “the fossil fuel companies, their lobbyists and other climate deniers are putting the welfare of people in the UK in danger, not to mention the billions in the Global South, by using the cynical tactics first used by the tobacco industry.”
» Read article

» More about protests and actions    

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Van Jones
Watt It Takes: Van Jones Reflects on the Origin of Green Jobs
This week on Watt It Takes: Powerhouse CEO Emily Kirsch sits down with green jobs pioneer Van Jones.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – podcast
September 3, 2020

Today, Van Jones is best known as a CNN host and author of three best-selling books.

But long before the Green New Deal, Jones was on the front lines of clean energy, trying to bring green jobs to black and brown communities. He helped spearhead the Green Jobs Act of 2007, the first time the country deliberately trained workers for the future clean economy. Later, he went to the White House to become President Obama’s green jobs czar.

In this episode, Jones reveals a little-told backstory of his “nerd” childhood and early life, his transformation at Yale Law School, and the painful time he briefly joined, and then left, the Obama administration.

“I spent a year clinically depressed. I wouldn’t ask anybody to go through what I went through — such a steep rise and then such a steep fall. You go from Oakland to the White House and then the White House to, like, public enemy number one. And at no point do you really feel understood,” said Jones.
» Listen to podcast          

Appalachian solarAppalachian solar effort a reality after backers powered through setbacks
By Elizabeth McGowan, Energy News Network
Photo By Jimmy Davidson / Courtesy / Appalachian Voices
September 2, 2020

Persistence should be Adam Wells’ middle name.

The nonprofit organizer’s vision of embedding solar energy training, jobs and renewable power in his native Appalachia is on the verge of happening after five-plus years of brainstorming, cajoling and striving.

A new initiative announced Wednesday, called Securing Solar for Southwest Virginia, will deliver on Wells’ dogged pursuit of affordable solar power for businesses, nonprofits and local governments in the state’s seven-county historic coalfield region.

Private and public partners involved in the ambitious undertaking plan to install up to 12 megawatts of solar power in the next three years while also creating 15 full-time jobs in solar installation, sales and marketing, entrepreneurship, and small business development.
» Read article          

greening Unilever
Unilever to drop fossil fuels from cleaning products by 2030
By Siddharth Cavale, Reuters
September 1, 2020

Unilever Plc (ULVR.L) said on Wednesday it would invest 1 billion euros to eliminate fossil fuels from its cleaning products by 2030, cutting the carbon emissions created by the chemicals used in making the products.

The household goods conglomerate behind the Omo, Cif, Sunlight and Domestos brands said that, instead of petrochemicals, the products would use constituents created from plants and other biological sources, marine sources such as algae and waste materials.

Chemicals in its cleaning and laundry products make up 46% of its Home Care division’s carbon emissions across their life cycle.

The switch – which Unilever said it is the first company to commit to – will cut those emissions by a fifth.

Surfactants, or de-greasing agents, are the biggest petroleum-derived components, Peter ter Kulve, Unilever’s president of Home Care, told Reuters.

He said the company was working with small biotech companies and chemical makers such as Dow Chemical (DOW.N) to create environment friendly product formulations.

“The writing is on the wall.. the next phase is industry change in chemicals and cleaning agents ….many of these big suppliers still have a lot of capital still locked in the old carbon economy,” he said.
» Read article          

» More about greening the economy 

CLIMATE

energy to spare
How Fast Is the Climate Changing?: It’s a New World, Each and Every Day
By Bill McKibben, New Yorker
September 3, 2020

The struggle over climate change is necessarily political and economic and noisy—if we’re going to get anything done, we’ll have to do it in parliaments and stock exchanges, and quickly.

But, every once in a while, it’s worth stepping back and reminding ourselves what’s actually going on, silently, every hour of every day. And what’s going on is that we’re radically remaking our planet, in the course of a human lifetime. Hell, in the course of a human adolescence.

The sun, our star, pours out energy, which falls on this planet, where the atmosphere traps some of it. Because we’ve thickened that atmosphere by burning coal and gas and oil—in particular, because we’ve increased the amount of carbon dioxide and methane it contains—more of that sun’s energy is trapped around the Earth: about three-fourths of a watt of extra energy per square meter, or slightly less than, say, one of those tiny white Christmas-tree lights. But there are a lot of square meters on our planet—roughly five hundred and ten trillion of them, which is a lot of Christmas-tree lights. It’s the heat equivalent, to switch units rather dramatically, of exploding four Hiroshima-sized bombs each second.
» Read article        

Arctic heating overperforming
Arctic heating races ahead of worst case estimates
Arctic heating is happening far faster than anybody had anticipated. And the ice record suggests this has happened before.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
September 2, 2020

An international team of scientists brings bad news about Arctic heating: the polar ocean is warming not only faster than anybody predicted, it is getting hotter at a rate faster than even the worst case climate scenario predictions have so far foreseen.

Such dramatic rises in Arctic temperatures have been recorded before, but only during the last Ice Age. Evidence from the Greenland ice cores suggests that temperatures rose by 10°C or even 12°C, over a period of between 40 years and a century, between 120,000 years and 11,000 years ago.

“We have been clearly underestimating the rate of temperature increases in the atmosphere nearest to the sea level, which has ultimately caused sea ice to disappear faster than we had anticipated,” said Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen, a physicist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, one of 16 scientists who report in the journal Nature Climate Change on a new analysis of 40 years of data from the Arctic region.

They found that, on average, the Arctic has been warming at the rate of 1°C per decade for the last four decades. Around Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, temperatures rose even faster, at 1.5°C every 10 years.

During the last two centuries, as atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide climbed from an average of around 285 parts per million to more than 400ppm, so the global average temperature of the planet rose: by a fraction more than 1°C.

The latest study is a reminder that temperatures in the Arctic are rising far faster than that. And the news is hardly a shock: within the past few weeks, separate teams of researchers, reporting to other journals, have warned that Greenland – the biggest single reservoir of ice in the northern hemisphere – is melting faster than ever; more alarmingly, its icecap is losing mass at a rate that suggests the loss could become irreversible.
» Read article          
» Obtain the study

laundry list of shame
President Donald Trump’s Climate Change Record Has Been a Boon for Oil Companies, and a Threat to the Planet
Pursuing an unrelenting fossil fuel agenda, Trump has scaled back or eliminated over 150 environment measures, expanded Arctic drilling, and denied climate science.
By VERNON LOEB, MARIANNE LAVELLE, STACY FELDMAN, InsideClimate News
September 1, 2020

In the middle of his 44th month in office, two weeks before the start of the Republican convention in late August, President Trump rolled back Barack Obama’s last major environmental regulation, restricting methane leaks.

The move represented an environmental trifecta of sorts for the president, who had handed the oil and gas industry another gift in his quest for “American energy dominance,” thumbed his nose yet again at climate change and came close to fully dismantling his predecessor’s environment and climate legacy.

It had been a busy four years, and a breakneck 2020, as Trump and the former industry executives and lobbyists he’d placed in control of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior raced to rollback auto emissions standards, weaken the nation’s most important environmental law, open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and reject stronger air pollution standards, even as research showed a link between those pollutants and an increased risk of death from Covid-19.
» Read article           

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

coal-fired power capacity
Only one in 10 utility firms prioritise renewable electricity – global study
Vast majority of world’s electricity companies remain heavily invested in fossil fuels
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 31, 2020

Only one in 10 of the world’s electric utility companies are prioritising investment in clean renewable energy over growing their capacity of fossil fuel power plants, according to research from the University of Oxford.

The study of more than 3,000 utilities found most remain heavily invested in fossil fuels despite international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and some are actively expanding their portfolio of polluting power plants.

The majority of the utility companies, many of which are state owned, have made little change to their generation portfolio in recent years.

Only 10% of the companies in the study, published in the research journal Nature Energy, are expanding their renewable energy capacity at a faster rate than their gas- or coal-fired capacity.

Of the companies prioritising renewable energy growth, 60% have not stopped concurrently expanding their fossil fuel portfolio and only 15% of these companies are actively reducing their gas and coal capacity.

Galina Alova, the author of the report, said the research highlighted “a worrying gap between what is needed” to tackle the climate crisis and “what actions are being taken by the utility sector”.
» Read article          
» Obtain the study

quashed supergrid reportWhy Trump’s Energy Department Quashed a Supergrid Report
This week on The Interchange, we dig into an investigation of Trump’s suppression of clean energy.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – podcast
August 28, 2020

This week, we discuss how an innocuous grid-modeling project came to be seen as a threat to Trump’s efforts to save coal and then languished inside the Department of Energy.

It’s one of many pieces of research that have been suppressed by the current administration.

What is the study? What does it tell us about the systematic dismantling of government institutions and norms under Trump? What are the implications for a cleaner grid?

Journalist Peter Fairley joins us on this week’s Interchange podcast to talk about his investigation, which was a collaboration between InvestigateWest and The Atlantic.
» Listen to podcast

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Portland leading
Why Aren’t Home Efficiency Scores Standard in Online Real Estate Listings?
Realtors say such scores are useful for buyers and can open the door to broader conversations about home energy use.
By Justin Gerdes, GreenTech Media
September 2, 2020

Consumers rely on labels and scores to understand the attributes and performance of the products they buy. There are miles-per-gallon ratings for cars, nutrition labels for food and Energy Star ratings for appliances. But when it comes to the energy efficiency of their biggest investment — buying or renting a home — Americans are largely on their own.

Many U.S. consumers take on mortgages without knowing how much energy a home uses, consigning themselves to needlessly high future utility bills. But the right information delivered at the right time can nudge homebuyers to select the more energy-efficient option before closing papers are signed.

Portland, Oregon is the best real-world example in the U.S. to date.

Portland’s Home Energy Score program took effect on January 1, 2018, so it’s had some time to establish itself. Homes are scored on a 10-point scale based on DOE’s Home Energy Score system: homes with a “1” rating use the most energy; homes with a “10” rating use the least.

Scores posted thus far show considerable opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of Portland’s housing stock. By the end of 2019, the average Home Energy Score was 4.6, while 36 percent of homes received an initial score of 3 or below. However, half of the homes could cost-effectively improve to a score of 8 or higher.
» Read article           

» More about energy efficiency   

ENERGY STORAGE

taking a spin
Flywheel-lithium battery hybrid energy storage system joining Dutch grid services markets
Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
September 2, 2020

A hybrid energy storage system combining lithium-ion batteries with mechanical energy storage in the form of flywheels has gone into operation in the Netherlands, from technology providers Leclanché and S4 Energy.

The hybrid system combines 8.8MW / 7.12MWh of lithium-ion batteries with six flywheels adding up to 3MW of power. It will provide 9MW of frequency stabilising primary control power to the transmission grid operated by TenneT and is located in Almelo, a city in the Overijssel province in the east Netherlands.

S4 Energy launched into the frequency containment reserve market using a combination of its KINEXT flywheels and batteries in 2017. According to the company’s project director Dominique Becker Hoff, the flywheel supplies instantaneous power for very short periods of time without losing capacity. The 5,000kg KINEXT flywheel operates at 92% efficiency, storing energy as rotational mass.

The technology is seen as complementary to higher capacity electrochemical battery storage because the flywheels are not prone to degradation. The flywheel component can supply reserve power continuously while the battery only joins in for lengthier variations in frequency, protecting the batteries from degradation and ensuring a longer lifespan for cells.
» Read article          

down to earth
Metal-hydrogen batteries coming down to earth with launch of EnerVenue
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 28, 2020

Startup technology provider EnerVenue has launched a bid to commercialise a variation of metal-hydrogen batteries of the type used on the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope for use in stationary storage applications.

“As an example of metal hydrogen batteries, nickel-hydrogen batteries have proven to be an incredibly powerful energy storage technology – albeit an expensive one – for the aerospace industry over the past 40 years. The performance and longevity of nickel-hydrogen batteries is well-established and second to none. We’re now able to deliver the same performance and durability at a breakthrough competitive price using new low-cost materials,” EnerVenue founder, chief technology advisor and board member Dr Yi Cui – who is a Stanford University professor of materials science, said.

Claimed advantages include the ability to operate at temperatures from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees, 30-year / 30,000+ duty cycle lifespan without battery degradation and a broad charge and discharge range from C/5 to 5C. Claiming that it also does not run the risk of thermal runaway as lithium batteries do, EnerVenue also said that its devices could even beat lithium-ion on CAPEX cost reductions over time too.
» Read article           

» More about energy storage       

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

squashed
How SUVs conquered the world – at the expense of its climate
Exclusive new emissions analysis shows how much more dangerous for the climate SUVs are than smaller vehicles, and how embedded they have become in our lives
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
September 1, 2020

They are the hulking cars that have conquered the world. Spreading from the heartlands of the US to a new generation of eager buyers in China to dominate even the twisting, narrow streets of Europe, the sports utility vehicle, or SUV, has bludgeoned its way to automobile supremacy with a heady mix of convenience and marketing muscle.

The rise of the SUV as the world’s pre-eminent car has been so rapid that the consequences of this new status – the altered patterns of urban life, air quality, pedestrian safety, where to park the things – are still coming into focus.

But it’s increasingly clear that SUVs’ most profound impact is playing out within the climate crisis, where their surging popularity is producing a vast new source of planet-cooking emissions.

Last year, the International Energy Agency made a finding that stunned even its own researchers. SUVs were the second largest cause of the global rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade, eclipsing all shipping, aviation, heavy industry and even trucks, usually the only vehicles to loom larger than them on the road.
» Read article           

yellow bus planSchool buses should go electric – here’s how
Vehicles offer huge health and economic benefits
By Duncan McIntyre, CommonWealth Magazine – Opinion
August 29, 2020

Deep within Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan for creating a more resilient, sustainable economy is a proposal that deserves wider attention. Under the heading of “position[ing] the American auto industry to win in the 21st century,” Biden proposes a goal of all American-made buses being zero-emission by 2030, starting with “converting all 500,000 school buses in the country to zero emissions.” Practically, that means the next generation of yellow school buses would be electric. That is good news for parents, for communities, and for our economy.

Most of the half million school buses in use across the country today, on which each student spends an average of 180 hours annually, are diesel-powered. Diesel exhaust exposes children to toxic pollutants. Poor air quality is responsible for high rates of asthma, cancer, and heart disease. Children are even more vulnerable to air pollutants than adults, and the hardest hit children are those in disadvantaged communities, which have the highest concentrations of air pollution.
» Read article           

electric UPS
Soon, the Kitty Litter Will Come by Electric Truck
With deliveries surging during the pandemic, carriers like UPS and FedEx and companies like Amazon are renewing their push toward electric vehicles.
By Jim Motavalli, New York Times
August 27, 2020

Going back years, you might have been able to spot a truck from the likes of FedEx and UPS, and more recently Amazon, that ran on electricity. But most of these were small, short test runs that left the internal-combustion status quo in place.

Now that battery technology is catching up to ambitions, many companies are making big commitments to electrify the last delivery mile, typically from transportation hub to destination. The momentum means that plugging in the fleet may happen well before another vaunted goal — self-driving — is reached. Success is not guaranteed, though. The companies are eager to buy, but they will need the latest in battery-powered trucks, and a lot of them.

The rush to electrify, prompted by concern about climate change, a chance to offset growing delivery costs, government regulation and big advances in battery technology, is occurring as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a huge spike in package delivery. UPS, for instance, was delivering up to 21.1 million packages a day in the second quarter, a nearly 23 percent jump in average daily U.S. volume from a year earlier. Avery Vise, vice president for trucking at FTR Transportation Intelligence, said big increases in delivery truck orders hadn’t shown up yet, but they’re very likely coming.
» Read article           

» More about clean transportation 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

contaminant pass-thru
Trump weakens Obama-era rules on toxic wastewater from coal plants
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
August 31, 2020

The Trump administration is loosening rules for toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Coal plants generate wastewater when they rinse the filters they use to catch pollutants from smokestacks. That wastewater is discharged into rivers and lakes and often ends up in drinking water.

Obama administration regulations required coal plants to upgrade their wastewater systems to treat arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals. Electricity companies will now have more time and flexibility to meet those standards. Plants shutting down or switching to natural gas by 2028 will be exempt, according to Bloomberg News.

Steam-based power plants, including coal plants, are the third biggest source of toxic wastewater in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The pollutants they release into the water – either directly or from leaching from ponds where coal ash water is stored – are linked with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and developmental problems for children.
» Read article           

» More on the EPA 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Hoboken at the forefront
‘At the Forefront of Climate Change,’ Hoboken, New Jersey, Seeks Damages From ExxonMobil
The city joined a long line of state and local litigants alleging Big Oil knew burning fossil fuels caused climate-related problems like sea level rise.
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
September 3, 2020

The city of Hoboken, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking damages from ExxonMobil and other major oil and gas companies for misleading the public about the harmful climate-related impacts such as sea level rise they knew would be caused by burning fossil fuels.

The city cast itself as a prime example of an oceanside community “at the forefront of climate change,” as Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in announcing the lawsuit.

Less than five miles from midtown Manhattan in New York City, Hoboken is uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise, according to the lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court. It set forth nuisance, trespass and negligence claims, as well as violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
» Read article          
» Read the complaint

corporate humiliation
“Humiliation”: Exxon dumped out Dow Jones Industrial Index after nearly 100 years
Do not underestimate the significance of this moment. Exxon is the oldest member of the influential Index, having joined in 1928.
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
September 1, 2020

The once mighty Exxon suffered the corporate humiliation of being booted out the highly influential Dow Jones Industrial Index.

“The last day of August also marked the first day of trading for the newly reconfigured Dow”, reported the Washington Post. “The index, which tracks 30 large publicly traded companies, swapped out three companies.” And one of those was oil giant, ExxonMobil.

The Seeking Alpha investor website calls the move the “ultimate insult” for Exxon. As an article in NPR notes: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average is the classic blue-chip stock index. Exxon Mobil is an iconic blue-chip stock … It reflects just how once-dominant Exxon has diminished.”

But the company’s demise has been a long time coming. The Motley Fool investor website has calculated that Exxon’s stock has lost value over the past 20 years. This compares to an increase of over 130% for the S&P 500.

Such was the size of the company that even seven years ago, Exxon was still the world’s most valuable corporation. But since then, the company’s market value has disintegrated a staggering $267 billion.
» Read article           

patchy performance
Big Oil’s patchy deals record casts shadow over green makeover
As major oil companies prepare to spend billions on renewable energy assets to stay relevant in a low-carbon future, the industry’s patchy track record on takeovers is a red flag for some investors.
By Ron Bousso, Reuters
September 1, 2020

[With] European policymakers cracking down on greenhouse gas emissions, the region’s major oil companies have promised to reinvent themselves as low-carbon power suppliers that would thrive in a world of clean energy.

To hit their goals in time, though, they will almost inevitably have to chase a relatively small pool of renewable energy assets in competition with big utility companies at a time valuations are going through the roof.

And some investors worry that history will repeat itself.

“The majors have been poor capital allocators for the better part of the past 20 years,” said Chris Duncan, an analyst at Brandes Investment Partners which has shares in several European oil firms. “I’m nervous … usually when companies transition to a different market the transition is not a profitable process.”
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels 

BIOMASS

take action on biomass
MA House Climate Bill Would Promote Biomass Incinerators as “Non-Carbon Emitting Sources”
By Partnership for Policy Integrity
September 3, 2020

In the closing days of July, the Massachusetts House of Representatives rushed through language in its 2050 Climate Roadmap Bill – a broad package of climate proposals – that defines biomass power plants as “non-carbon emitting energy” sources. A conference committee with three members each from the House and Senate will decide the ultimate fate of this legislation this fall. PFPI and environmental justice advocates in Springfield, MA and across the state are urging the conference committee to reject this language.

Specifically, Section 15 of H.4933 creates a new greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standard for municipally owned electric utilities in MA, known as municipal light plants (MLPs). MLPs are exempt from many of the standards that apply to investor-owned utilities, like National Grid and Eversource, so this provision on its surface appears to be a step forward in reducing GHG emissions from the power sector.

The problem, however, lies in the definition of “non-carbon emitting energy.” The House bill defines this term to include both non-emitting energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear, and biogenic fuels, which emit carbon when combusted, such as landfill gas, anaerobic digestion, and biomass. It also includes any other generation qualifying for MA’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which brings in garbage incineration, and for good measure gives the MA Department of Energy Resources (DOER) unlimited authority to add additional resources. In all, there are four different ways that a woody biomass power plant could qualify as “non-carbon emitting energy” for the purpose of this new MLP procurement standard – even though biomass plants are more polluting than coal.

Take Action for Clean Air and Environmental Justice!

A conference committee has been set up to negotiate the final language of the climate bill, comprised of six members: Senators Michael Barrett, Cynthia Creem, and Patrick O’Connor, and Representatives Tom Golden, Patricia Haddad, and Brad Jones. Whatever comes out of the climate conference committee this fall will be voted on without further opportunity for amendment. It would then go to Governor Baker for his signature.

MA residents can take action by contacting their state legislators and urging them to reach out to their peers on the climate conference committee to oppose language in the House bill that defines biomass energy as “non-carbon emitting,” and by signing this petition to the conference committee chairs, Senator Barrett and Rep. Golden.
» Read article           

biomass burning surges
Are forests the new coal? Global alarm sounds as biomass burning surges
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
August 31, 2020

Though current science has shown that burning the world’s forests to make electricity is disastrous for biodiversity, generates more emissions than coal, and isn’t carbon neutral, a UN policy established in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol erroneously counts energy produced from forest biomass as carbon neutral.

As a result, nations pay power companies huge subsidies to burn wood pellets, propelling industry growth. While the industry does utilize tree residue, forests are being cut in the US, Canada, Russia, Eastern Europe and Vietnam to supply pellets to the UK, EU and other nations who can claim the energy creates zero emissions.

So far, the UN has turned a blind eye to closing the climate destabilizing carbon accounting loophole. The Netherlands, which now gets 61% of its renewable energy from biomass, is being urged to wean itself off biomass for energy and heat. If the Dutch do so, advocates hope it could portend closure of Europe’s carbon loophole.

The forest biomass industry is sprawling and spreading globally — rapidly growing in size, scale, revenue, and political influence — even as forest ecologists and climatologists warn that the industry is putting the planet’s temperate and tropical forests at risk, and aggressively lobbying governments against using wood pellets as a “renewable energy” alternative to burning coal.

“We have repeatedly pointed out that… the large-scale substitution of coal by forest biomass [to produce electricity] will accelerate climate warming, and will increase the risks of overshooting Paris [Climate Agreement] targets,” Michael Norton, environmental director of the Science Advisory Council of the European Academies, said in a December 2019 statement issued to European Union countries.

“The reason is simple: when the forest is harvested and used for bioenergy, all the carbon in the biomass enters the atmosphere very quickly, but it will not be reabsorbed by new trees for decades. This is not compatible with the need to tackle the climate crisis urgently,” said Norton.
» Read article          

» More about biomass    

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

nurdle apocalypse
Pollution Scientist Calls Plastic Pellet Spill in the Mississippi River ‘a Nurdle Apocalypse’
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
August 28, 2020

Three weeks after a shipping container full of tiny plastic pellets fell into the Mississippi River near New Orleans, cleanup hired by the vessel that lost its cargo stopped shortly after it started as a pair of major storms approached the Gulf Coast. But huge numbers of the pellets, which were made by Dow Chemical and are melted down to manufacture plastic products, still line the river banks in New Orleans and further afield.

After visiting a couple locations along the river banks affected by the spill, Mark Benfield, an oceanographer and plastic pollution expert at Louisiana State University, estimated that nearly 750 million of these lentil-sized plastic pellets, also known as nurdles, could have been lost in the river.

He described the mess as “a nurdle apocalypse.”

The nurdle spill occurred after an incident at the Ports America facility in New Orleans in which four shipping containers were knocked off the container ship CMA CGM Bianca on August 2. Three containers were retrieved, but the fourth, containing 55-pound bags of Dow Chemical polyethylene, fell into the river. It is unclear how many, if any, of the bags of nurdles were recovered.
» Read article           

» More about plastics in the environment    

THE PLASTICS / FRACKING CONNECTION

plastic Mt KenyaOil industry lobbies US to help weaken Kenya’s strong stance on plastic waste
Environmentalists fear changing Kenya’s resolve would lead to all of Africa becoming a plastics dumping ground
By Associated Press, in The Guardian
September 1, 2020

Major oil companies are lobbying the United States to pressure Kenya to change its world-leading stance against plastic waste, according to environmentalists who fear the continent will be used as a dumping ground.

The request from the American Chemistry Council to the Office of the United States Trade Representative came as the US and Kenya negotiate what would be the first US bilateral trade deal with a country in sub-Saharan Africa.

That deal is expected to be a model for others in Africa, and its importance helped lead to the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s White House visit with Donald Trump this year – a rarity for an African leader during this administration.

In 2017 Kenya imposed the world’s strictest ban on the use, manufacturing and import of plastic bags, part of growing efforts around the world to limit a major source of plastic waste. Environmentalists fear Kenya is now under pressure not only to weaken its resolve but to become a key transit point for plastic waste to other African countries.

The 28 April letter from the American Chemistry Council’s director for international trade, Ed Brzytwa, seen by the Associated Press, urges the US and Kenya to prohibit the imposition of domestic limits on “production or consumption of chemicals and plastic” and on their cross-border trade.
» Read article           

plastic Nakuru
Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.
Faced with plunging profits and a climate crisis that threatens fossil fuels, the industry is demanding a trade deal that weakens Kenya’s rules on plastics and on imports of American trash.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, Michael Corkery and Carlos Mureithi, New York Times
August 30, 2020

Confronting a climate crisis that threatens the fossil fuel industry, oil companies are racing to make more plastic. But they face two problems: Many markets are already awash with plastic, and few countries are willing to be dumping grounds for the world’s plastic waste.

The industry thinks it has found a solution to both problems in Africa.

According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, an industry group representing the world’s largest chemical makers and fossil fuel companies is lobbying to influence United States trade negotiations with Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, to reverse its strict limits on plastics — including a tough plastic-bag ban. It is also pressing for Kenya to continue importing foreign plastic garbage, a practice it has pledged to limit.

The chemistry council’s plastics proposals would “inevitably mean more plastic and chemicals in the environment,” said Griffins Ochieng, executive director for the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development, a nonprofit group based in Nairobi that works on the problem of plastic waste in Kenya. “It’s shocking.”

The plastics proposal reflects an oil industry contemplating its inevitable decline as the world fights climate change. Profits are plunging amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the industry is fearful that climate change will force the world to retreat from burning fossil fuels. Producers are scrambling to find new uses for an oversupply of oil and gas. Wind and solar power are becoming increasingly affordable, and governments are weighing new policies to fight climate change by reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

Pivoting to plastics, the industry has spent more than $200 billion on chemical and manufacturing plants in the United States over the past decade. But the United States already consumes as much as 16 times more plastic than many poor nations, and a backlash against single-use plastics has made it tougher to sell more at home.
» Read article          

» More about the plastics / fracking connection  

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Weekly News Check-In 8/28/20

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Welcome back.

The Department of Public Utilities held public hearings on the pending purchase of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource. This follows the disastrous series of fires and explosions in the Merrimack Valley two years ago. Many commenters shared a skepticism that transfer of corporate ownership would result in any public safety improvement. And as a growing list of communities push back against Big Gas, the first half of 2020 resulted in more pipelines being scrapped than were put into service.

In fossil fuel divestment news, a large Nordic hedge fund dumped its stock in some of the world’s foremost oil and mining companies – calling out those firms’ lobbying efforts against climate action.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Democrats published a plan for achieving a net-zero energy economy – offering a more general outline than the much more detailed work recently published by the House. Of course, any transformation of this magnitude displaces workers from mothballed industries. We’re keeping an eye on coal country where the upheaval is already underway, and where public support for a green future depends on jobs.

This week’s climate news features three separate studies, including a surprising revelation of global ice lost in recent decades, expanding tropical and arid climate zones, and techniques for optimizing carbon sequestration in natural forest systems.

The shear volume of reporting on clean energy makes it difficult to understand and prioritize the trends. We found an article that highlights the five most important technologies driving the energy transition. New York City has an immediate opportunity to apply some of these technologies as it grapples with plans to replace aging oil-burning “peaker” power plants. Meanwhile, New Hampshire is looking at ways for utilities to compensate operators of battery storage facilities for the services they provide the grid.

Not exactly green, but better than status quo is this week’s theme for clean transportation. We looked at aviation and heavy shipping and found news about cleaner, lower-carbon fuels being developed for both sectors.

The Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump has become a polluter’s best friend. The non-profit EcoWatch reports ten ways life has become more hazardous as a result.

The Guardian published an important report this week, detailing how the natural gas industry is working against climate action in a desperate and coordinated bid to uphold the fiction that it is a clean, low-emission “bridge fuel”. Meanwhile, in a not-so-subtle indicator of Big Oil’s declining power, the Dow Jones Industrial Average kicked ExxonMobil off the index – replacing it with Salesforce.com.

We wrap up with two stories from the liquefied natural gas beat. DeSmog Blog makes a case that the industry’s economics just don’t add up, so LNG can’t be profitably exported – especially to China. But it can be used to move natural gas domestically where pipelines aren’t available. If the Trump administration has its way, this highly concentrated and volatile fuel will soon be rumbling along in cryogenic train cars on a rail line near you.

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

— The NFGiM Team

COLUMBIA GAS INCIDENT / EVERSOURCE PURCHASE

EverColumbia
Not everyone happy about Columbia Gas deal
By Bill Kirk, Eagle-Tribune
August 25, 2020

Different company, same end result?

That pretty much sums up the fears of some Merrimack Valley residents who testified in front of the Department of Public Utilities during a Zoom public hearing Tuesday night to get input on the proposed buyout of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource Energy.

“It feels like more of the same thing with a different name,” said Lawrence resident Justin Termini, who lived through the Sept. 13, 2018 gas explosions, fires and evacuations that left one dead and dozens injured. “I don’t feel safe. I’m disappointed in the whole idea. We want to feel safe and not get hurt again.”

The deal, prompted by the 2018 calamity, was crafted by the Massachusetts Attorney General with the cooperation of NiSource — the parent company of Columbia Gas — and Eversource, which currently has gas customers throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

This deal will double the number of its customers, as Eversource will take over all Columbia Gas customers in three regions of the state — Brockton, Springfield and Lawrence — if the deal is approved by the DPU.
» Read article          

» More about the Columbia Gas disaster     

PIPELINES

H1 2020 scap
More Gas Pipelines Scrapped Than Put In Service In H1 2020
By Charles Kennedy, oilprice.com
August 24, 2020

Some 5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new pipeline capacity was placed into service in the United States in the first half this year, but an estimated 8.7 Bcf/d of pipeline projects have been canceled so far in 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday.
» Read article          

» More about pipelines            

DIVESTMENT

holding us backMajor investment firm dumps Exxon, Chevron and Rio Tinto stock
Storebrand says corporate lobbying to undermine climate solutions is ‘unacceptable’
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 24, 2020

A Nordic hedge fund worth more than $90bn (£68.6bn) has dumped its stocks in some of the world’s biggest oil companies and miners responsible for lobbying against climate action.

Storebrand, a Norwegian asset manager, divested from miner Rio Tinto as well as US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron as part of a new climate policy targeting companies that use their political clout to block green policies.

The investor is one of many major financial institutions divesting from polluting industries, but is understood to be the first to dump shares in companies which use their influence to slow the pace of climate action.

Jan Erik Saugestad, the chief executive of Storebrand, said corporate lobbying activity designed to undermine solutions to “the greatest risks facing humanity” is “simply unacceptable”.
» Read article          

» More about divestment        

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Sen Dem plan
US law makers must ‘use every proven tool’ to create net zero economy
By Liam Stoker, PVTech
August 26, 2020

The US federal government must use every tool available, and do so at an unprecedented scale, if it is to sufficiently tackle the climate crisis and stimulate a clean economy.

The benefits of doing so, a new report published by the Senate Democrats claimed, would pose multiple benefits for US citizens, ranging from public health benefits to enormous job creation.

Yesterday (25 August 2020) the Senate Democrats published the report, dubbed ‘The Case for Climate Action’, which provides detailed recommendations on how the country could establish a clean economy for the good of its people.

The document claims that the federal government must “use every proven tool at its disposal”, and at a scale not seen before, in order to accelerate the decarbonisation of the US’ power supply. Included within these tools are;

  • Direct spending and financing of new build renewable generation
  • Investments in transmission to increase the effectiveness of the grid across the entire US
  • Ramp up the use of market mechanisms such as a federal clean energy standard or carbon price to scale-up clean technologies over fossil fuels
  • Predictable, technology-neutral tax incentives focused on reducing emissions
  • Increased R&D spending aimed at reducing the cost of associated technologies

The benefits of doing so, the senate democrats have argued, would be plentiful and extensive, ranging from reducing emissions, allowing consumers to save money on energy bills, improving health and wellbeing and creating sustainable jobs for US citizens in the wake of COVID-19.

Amongst specific recommendations included within the report is policy to make the adoption of solar, energy efficiency retrofits and electric vehicles more accessible to US citizens. Senate Democrats point to institutions created by the US government in the 1930s, which increased home ownership by making available more affordable mortgages. Similar institutions could and should be created today for this purpose.
» Read article 
» Read ‘The Case for Climate Action’

reclamation opportunities
Survival is anything but certain for coal country

Coal country is not without options. But coal’s long legacy of hope, promises and failure has instilled a political inertia that won’t soon be overcome.
By Dustin Bleizeffer and Mason Adams, Energy News Network
Photo By Dustin Bleizeffer / WyoFile
August 25, 2020

Perhaps the biggest factor when it comes to efforts to transition, for both Wyoming and Appalachia, is whether voters will continue to endorse efforts to save coal or help coal-dependent communities move beyond it.

States actively seeking coal transition strategies, such as Colorado, are looking toward securitization. It’s a refinancing tool that can help reduce the ratepayer impact of retiring coal units early. Portions of savings from securitization go toward renewable energy and community development projects, which can in turn attract additional funds from the federal government.

Grassroots nonprofit groups such as the Powder River Basin Resource Council (which hosted a series of four webinars this summer focusing on communities in transition), Appalachian Voices and others have generated a font of ideas for assisting communities in transition from coal.

In late June, a range of local, tribal and labor leaders from coal communities across America endorsed the National Economic Transition (NET) Platform, developed through a process led by the Just Transition Fund. (The Just Transition Fund also provided a grant to fund this series.) The platform outlines principles and processes, but largely leaves specific details to be developed by local communities.

Coalfield communities “literally fueled the growth of the nation,” said Peter Hille, president of the community economic development nonprofit Mountain Association in eastern Kentucky. “There is a debt to be paid. Justice demands we bring new investment to these places: to build a new economy, to revitalize communities and to educate people of all ages to be ready.”
» Read article          

» More about greening the economy      

CLIMATE

mushing for miraclesEarth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years
‘Stunned’ scientists say there is little doubt global heating is to blame for the loss
By Robin McKie, The Guardian
August 23, 2020

A total of 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994. That is the stunning conclusion of UK scientists who have analysed satellite surveys of the planet’s poles, mountains and glaciers to measure how much ice coverage lost because of global heating triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The scientists – based at Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London – describe the level of ice loss as “staggering” and warn that their analysis indicates that sea level rises, triggered by melting glaciers and ice sheets, could reach a metre by the end of the century.

“To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands,” said Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.

The scientists also warn that the melting of ice in these quantities is now seriously reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space. White ice is disappearing and the dark sea or soil exposed beneath it is absorbing more and more heat, further increasing the warming of the planet.

In addition, cold fresh water pouring from melting glaciers and ice sheets is causing major disruptions to the biological health of Arctic and Antarctic waters, while loss of glaciers in mountain ranges threatens to wipe out sources of fresh water on which local communities depend.
» Read article          
» Read the study

parched zones expanding
Hotter oceans make the tropics expand polewards
The tropical climate zones are not just warmer, they now cover more of the planet. Blame it on steadily hotter oceans.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
August 27, 2020

The tropics are on the march and US and German scientists think they know why: hotter oceans have taken control.

The parched, arid fringes of the hot, moist conditions that nourish the equatorial forest band around the middle of the globe are moving, unevenly, further north and south in response to climate change.

And the role of the ocean is made even more dramatic in the southern hemisphere: because the ocean south of the equator is so much bigger than in the north, the southward shift of the parched zone is even more pronounced.

Across the globe, things don’t look good for places like California, which has already suffered some of its worst droughts and fires on record, and  Australia, where drought and fire if possible have been even worse.

In the past century or so, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen from what was once a stable average of 285 parts per million to more than 400 ppm, and global average temperatures are now at least 1°C higher than they have been for most of human history.

Now a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres offers an answer. The expansion of the tropics has been driven by ocean warming.
» Read article         
» Read the study

faster recovery
Restoring forests can reduce greenhouse gases
In a way, money does grow on trees. So it could pay to help nature restore forests and reduce greenhouse gases.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
August 21, 2020

European and US scientists think they may have settled a complex argument about how to restore a natural forest so that it absorbs more carbon. Don’t just leave nature to regenerate in the way she knows best. Get into the woodland and manage, and plant.

It will cost more money, but it will sequester more carbon: potentially enough to make economic good sense.

Researchers from 13 universities and research institutions report in the journal Science that they carefully mapped and then studied a stretch of tropical forest in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo: a forest that had been heavily logged more than 30 years ago, and converted to plantation, and then finally protected from further damage. The mapping techniques recorded where, and how much, above-ground carbon was concentrated, across thousands of hectares.

The researchers report that those reaches of forest left to regenerate without human help recovered by as much as 2.9 tonnes of above-ground carbon per hectare each year. But those areas of forest that were helped a little, by what the scientists call “active restoration”, did even better.

Humans entered the regenerating forests and cut back the lianas – the climbing plants that flourish in degraded forests and compete with saplings – to help seedlings flourish. They also weeded where appropriate and enriched the mix of new plants with native seedlings.

Where this happened, the forest recovered 50% faster and carbon storage above-ground per hectare was measured at between 2.9 tonnes per hectare and 4.4 tonnes.

The lesson to be drawn is that where a natural forest may be thought fully restored after 60 years, active restoration could make it happen in 40 years.
» Read article    
» Read the report

» More about climate   

CLEAN ENERGY

five key technologies5 technologies propelling the energy transition
By Utility Dive Editors – series
August. 24, 2020

As states continue efforts to pursue clean energy targets, new technologies are emerging to help usher sweeping changes.

Utility Dive spoke with a wide array of experts to identify five key technologies that will propel the power sector’s transformation: green hydrogen, distributed energy aggregation, transmission development, fine-tuning wind and solar power, and power sector digitization.

This series is focused on technologies that could strengthen the grid, increasing reliability and making clean energy more affordable and available. Such developments are crucial to deploying higher levels of renewable energy onto the grid.
» Read article        

low hanging fruit
New York City’s hottest new energy fight
By Alexander C. Kaufman, Huffpost, in Grist
August 23, 2020

NRG Energy has quietly revived plans to replace its 50-year-old oil-burning generators with new gas-fired units, part of a $1.5 billion makeover the utility giant says will allow it to comply with state pollution rules while meeting electricity demand.

But the new cadre of climate-change hard-liners who unseated incumbents in this summer’s primary wants to upend that. The group of more than half a dozen campaigned for the New York State Legislature on platforms that included shutting down fossil fuel generation and bringing private utilities under government control.

“This is what it means to live out your belief in the Green New Deal,” said Zohran Mamdani as he squinted through the fence on a sunny recent Saturday morning. The 28-year-old democratic socialist unseated 10-year incumbent Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas in the Democratic primary for the 36th Assembly District last month.

New York City’s roughly 15 “peaker” plants — which produce extra generating capacity when the city’s demand eclipses the regular supply, like during a heatwave — are aging, and they run primarily on oil and gas. As the city looks to shrink its output of planet-heating gases, the plants seem like low-hanging fruit.
» Read article           

» More about clean energy      

ENERGY STORAGE

Concord capitol
New Hampshire looks for ways to pay battery owners for benefits they provide
A new state law asks regulators to investigate options for compensating energy storage projects for avoided distribution and transmission costs.
By David Thill, Energy News Network
Photo By Alexis Horatius  / Wikimedia Commons
August 24, 2020

A well-placed battery has the potential to ease electric grid congestion, bolster resilience, and even postpone costly utility equipment upgrades.

Owners of energy storage systems are rarely compensated for all of that value, though, because most states simply haven’t calculated what it’s worth.

New Hampshire regulators will take a step toward fixing that problem as a new state law calls for them to study how energy storage projects might be made whole for the benefits they provide to the state’s electric grid.
» Read article           

» More about energy storage          

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

small steps
Sustainable aviation fuels could soon take flight
The Midwest is ready for takeoff as a leader in cleaner aviation, thanks to researchers in Ohio and elsewhere and a cleantech startup in Illinois.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network
Photo by sigmama / Flickr / Creative Commons
August 28, 2020

Presentations at the American Chemical Society’s Fall 2020 conference last week outlined various approaches to developing sustainable aviation fuels and ways to reduce costs and time for approvals. So, even if rules for aircraft engines include a business-as-usual approach, the fuel they burn could have lower lifecycle emissions, compared to the current use of all fossil fuels.

“In most cases, the reductions come from the fact that our carbon molecules [are] pulled from the atmosphere by plants, or from other circular economy sources, instead of continuing to pull carbon molecules from the ground,” said research engineer Derek Vardon at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Vardon’s report at the American Chemical Society conference noted that while direct exhaust emissions would be generally comparable to those from regular jet fuel, the lifecycle emissions of greenhouse gases would be lower. Much of that could come from preventing emissions that would otherwise result from biogas feedstocks. Sustainable fuels would also avoid a chunk of emissions from fossil fuel extraction and production. And emissions of sulfur dioxide and other pollutants would be lower.
» Read article          

dirty fuelHydrogen Is Cleaning Up One Of The World’s Dirtiest Industries
By Haley Zaremba, Oilprice
August 27, 2020

“If all the ships on Earth were a single country, that country would be the sixth-largest polluter in the world.” This jaw-dropping fact comes from an NPR report from late last year. The shipping industry, by way of its massive scale and its dirty fuel, ranks just behind Japan in its pollution levels. But the shipping sector’s open approach to change makes it pretty unique.

Last year, Oilprice reported on what was then the most promising approach to provide the worldwide shipping industry with a meaner, greener fleet. This would be the implementation of hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that has already been around for decades. Experiments with hydrogen-powered yachts were already underway, and one poll showed that the industry as a whole largely favored the implementation and adoption of hydrogen fuel cells within the next five years.

But the industry has not put all its eggs in one basket. Just this week the Maritime Executive reported on a brand new green shipping fuel option that South Korea is bringing to the table. “A new cooperation of South Korean companies is being formed to develop bio heavy fuel as an alternative for the shipping industry to meet its goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote the Executive in its Monday report.

This marine biofuel would be created from biomass including “animal and plant oils, along with the production [residues] from the more common biodiesel fuel.” This reuse, reduce, recycle approach to shipping fuel would make for a much more eco-friendly shipping industry. As HMM has already found the materials as well as tested them out, all that’s left is bringing a product to market. “The partners will work together on R&D efforts to further establish standards for bio heavy oil and to commercialize the fuel through the development of a supply system,” reported the Executive. “If proven successful, the partners believe bio heavy fuel could become an alternative to the current fuels used in the shipping industry.”
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation         

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

toxic wake
Trump’s Toxic Wake: 10 Ways the EPA Has Made Life More Hazardous
By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney with Environmental Working Group, in EcoWatch
August 23, 2020

From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration’s record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.

One year into President Trump’s term, EWG detailed how the Trump administration has stacked the Environmental Protection Agency with industry lawyers and lobbyists, undermined worker safety and cooked the books on chemical safety assessments. Midway through his second year, we reported how the EPA reversed a ban on a brain-damaging pesticide, delayed chemical bans and killed a rule to protect kids from toxic PCBs in schools. Last year, we reported that the EPA had rescinded safety rules at chemical plants, rubber-stamped untested new chemicals and silenced researchers.

As Trump’s first term nears its end, things are even worse. Here are 10 more ways the Trump administration has continued to make life more toxic for Americans.
» Read article           

» More about the EPA   

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Mentone flare
Revealed: how the gas industry is waging war against climate action
In a nationwide blitz, gas companies and their allies fight climate efforts that they consider an existential threat to their business
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
August 20, 2020

When progressive Seattle decided last year to wipe out its climate pollution within the decade, the city council vote in favor was unsurprisingly unanimous, and the easiest first step on that path was clear.

About one-third of the city’s climate footprint comes from buildings, in large part from burning “natural” gas for heating and cooking. Gas is a fossil fuel that releases carbon dioxide and far more potent methane into the atmosphere and heats the planet. It is plentiful and cheap, and it’s also a huge and increasing part of America’s climate challenge.

So, a city councilman drafted legislation to stop the problem from growing by banning gas hookups in new buildings. Suddenly, the first step didn’t look so easy.

“From there, we just ran into a wall of opposition,” said Alec Connon, a campaigner with the climate group 350 Seattle.

Local plumbers and pipe fitters warned of job losses. Realtors complained their clients would still want gas fireplaces. Building owners feared utility bills could soar.

The effort died. The ban wasn’t politically tenable, it seemed.

But internal records obtained by the Guardian show the measure’s defeat and the “wall of opposition” that advocates experienced were part of a sophisticated pushback plan from Seattle’s gas supplier, Puget Sound Energy.

Seattle’s story isn’t unique. In fact, it’s representative of a nationwide blitz by gas companies and their allies to beat back climate action they consider an existential threat to their business, according to emails, meeting agendas and public records reviewed by the Guardian.

The documents show the multibillion-dollar gas industry has built crucial local coalitions and hired high-powered operatives to torpedo cities’ anti-gas policies – sometimes assisted by money those same cities have paid into gas trade associations.
» Read article           

veggie oil refinery
Crude oil or cooking oil? For some U.S. refiners, it’s now a choice
By Stephanie Kelly and Laura Sanicola, Reuters
August 27, 2020

A slump in demand for gasoline since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has several refining companies accelerating their plans to retrofit facilities to produce so-called renewable diesel made from, among other things, used cooking oil from fast-food restaurants.

The shift helps, they say, because it allows them to tap into lucrative federal and state incentives for production of low carbon fuels at a time when slumping fuel demand has squeezed profit margins for conventional fuels like gasoline.

Renewable diesel fuel burns cleaner than conventional diesel and can run without blending. Refiners can produce it by converting gasoline-making units to hydrotreaters that can process soybean oil or used cooking grease.
» Read article          

replaced by Salesforce on djia
An Oil Giant’s Wall Street Fall: The World is Sending the Industry Signals, but is Exxon Listening?
The company, which dropped off the Dow this week, has remained defiant as the oil market has plummeted and its competitors have begun to shift gears.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
August 26, 2020

In case anyone doubted the existential threats bearing down on the oil industry, Wall Street delivered another sign that oil and gas companies are in deep trouble this week, with the announcement that ExxonMobil was falling off the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index. While the decisive blow might have come from the novel coronavirus, which has sent oil demand plummeting, it’s becoming harder to dispute that the industry may be in irreversible decline, as governments accelerate efforts to tackle climate change and move away from fossil fuels.

The companies included in the Dow Jones index are meant to represent the might of American commerce, and Exxon and its predecessor Standard Oil of New Jersey had held a secure place on the list since 1928, the longest run of any company.

On Monday, however, the keeper of the list announced Exxon would be replaced by Salesforce.com, the software company, as part of a shakeup prompted by a stock split by Apple. It’s hard to imagine a more symbolic end to Exxon’s tenure.
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

biz model blowupU.S. LNG Industry’s Business Model Doesn’t Work
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
August 25, 2020

In mid-July, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette signed an order authorizing the export of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from a proposed $10 billion terminal and gas pipline project in Oregon. The news release accompanying Brouillette’s order hailed the approval as having “profound economic, energy security, and environmental implications, both at home and abroad.”

Although the project, known as the Jordan Cove LNG terminal, has struggled to obtain state permits and faces vocal opposition from tribes and others, this consistent Trump administration refrain has not changed. The Obama administration made similar claims about natural gas production and energy security, jobs, and the environment, when it oversaw a rapid expansion of the LNG export industry.

President Obama and President Trump were on the same page about LNG exports. They also share something else in common: They were both dead wrong.

The LNG export industry is an economic disaster and is also a climate disaster, factors that are both contributing to its downward spiral. And while the Department of Energy has talked about exporting “freedom gas” to American allies to improve energy security, when the largest potential customer is China and current headlines highlight a potential new U.S.-China cold war, that isn’t a very credible argument, either.

Just two weeks after Brouillette signed his order, and toured the Jordan Cove site in Coos Bay, the project appears to be dead in the water because the economics don’t work.
» Read article           

LNG by rail challenged
Environmental groups, states sue feds over LNG by rail
Federal regulation on transporting liquefied natural gas by rail goes into effect Monday
By Joanna Marsh, FreightWaves
August 24, 2020

Environmental groups, 14 states and the District of Columbia are suing federal agencies over regulation allowing the transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG) via rail.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in June authorized the bulk transportation of LNG by rail, and the rule was expected to take effect Monday, a month after it was published in the Federal Register.

The rule, which was made in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), allows for the bulk transportation of LNG using DOT-113 tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls.

But the states and the environmental groups argue that the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

U.S. House Democrats have also criticized federal agencies for moving along with LNG-by-rail regulations, saying more reviews on the safety and operational practices to haul LNG via rail need to be conducted.

The environmental groups that filed the lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last Tuesday include the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and Mountain Watershed Association.

The states bringing the lawsuit before the federal court are Maryland, New York, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The Trump administration has been eager to export LNG. PHMSA and FRA have said previously that the regulation is the result of President Trump’s executive order recognizing the growing role of the U.S. as a producer of LNG in both domestic and international markets.
» Read article          

» More about LNG       

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