Weekly News Check-In 8/16/19

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news we uncovered this week – from local to global.

We’re still following developments at the proposed LNG plant in Charlton, and also looking at the recent pipeline explosion in Kentucky. Columbia Gas reports that it is nearing completion of repairs following its own disaster last September in the Merrimack Valley.

We have news about the Northern Access Pipeline fight in Pennsylvania, and there have now been arrests of protesters at Wendall State Forest.

Lots to cover on climate. Clean energy alternatives received a nasty setback from the federal government, as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management imposed a last-minute requirement that the developers of Vineyard Wind produce a cumulative environmental impact assessment covering anticipated future development of offshore wind along the US Atlantic coast.

News about plastics gets more alarming all the time, with industry developments moving exactly opposite the needs of a healthy environment. We found an interesting article about efforts in Australia to innovate on recycling – but the first need is to REDUCE production/consumption.

In fossil fuel industry news, a Cornel study ties the recent atmospheric methane spike to fracking industry growth since 2008, and it’s getting very difficult to insure coal plants.

Finally, electric utilities are exploring ways to balance demand and fluctuating power from renewable sources.

— The NFGiM Team

 

PROPOSED LNG PLANT – CHARLTON

 

Charlton seeks more time to weigh in on LNG plant proposal
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
August 12, 2019

The Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered with the state as interveners. As such, they were required to hire legal representation and file their testimony by Aug. 5.

Seemingly unaware of what was required, they collectively missed the deadline.
» Read article 

 

State DPU issues stay on proposed $100M LNG plant in Charlton
By Brian Lee, WorcesterTelegram & Gazette Staff
August 7, 2019

Tuesday’s deadline to file for intervenor status in the proposed $100 million liquid natural gas facility on Route 169, near a power plant, has been delayed indefinitely because of concerns raised by some Charlton officials.

In an interview, Planning Board Chairwoman Patricia Rydlak said that this week’s revelation that NEC officials do not have a deal in place with Millennium Power to buy backup fuel and use Millennium’s land was a surprise to many. Her board, along with the Board of Health and Zoning Board of Appeals requested the delay out of desperation, she said.
» Read article

» More LNG articles

 

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG

 

Pipeline explosion released 66 million cubic feet of natural gas. Feds order repairs.
By Karla Ward, Kentucky.com
August 09, 2019

The natural gas pipeline explosion that killed one person and sent six others to the hospital in Lincoln County earlier this month released about 66 million cubic feet of natural gas, according to the federal government.

A corrective action order issued by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Thursday provides some new details about the explosion and explains what Enbridge, the company that owns the pipeline, must do “to protect the public, property, and the environment from potential hazards” associated with the pipeline failure in the coming months.

A 30-foot long section of the pipeline was blown out of the ground, landing about 460 feet away when the pipeline failed about six miles south of Danville at 1:24 a.m. Aug. 1.
» Read article

» More pipeline hazards articles

 

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER

 

Columbia Gas president says second phase of repairs ‘substantially’ completed
By Breanna Edelstein, The Eagle Tribune
August 15, 2019

Kempic made clear while addressing the media that “while we’ve done a lot of work, we have a lot to do,” he said. “We’re here for the long-term.”

The Lawrence Customer Care Center for in-person support will remain open until September 2020. A customer care line, which is used to call in issues related to appliances installed or repaired through Columbia Gas, will be up and running until May 2020.

The company is providing free insulation to homes in the three communities impacted through the end of 2019, to help curb heating bills.
» Read article

» More Merrimack Valley disaster articles

 

OTHER PIPELINES

 

DEC rejects National Fuel’s Northern Access Pipeline — again
By Thomas J. Prohaska, Buffalo News
August 10, 2019

The 24-inch-wide pipeline would carry fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to a connection with a Canadian pipeline beneath the Niagara River. The new pipeline would be laid within a 75-foot-wide right of way. Some property owners have resisted granting easements for the work, however.

In 2017, the DEC refused to issue the water quality certificate, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the refusal was invalid because the DEC missed a deadline to issue it, and in February, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said the DEC should “more clearly articulate its basis for the denial.”

Thursday, the DEC did so in a 20-page letter to the company, asserting the project would damage too many streams, especially by churning up too much sediment to enable them to meet state water quality standards, and harm too much fish habitat.

“If allowed to proceed, the project would materially interfere with or jeopardize the biological integrity and best usages of affected water bodies and wetlands,” the DEC’s letter said.

However, federal regulators have denied that the DEC has the right to make any rulings about Northern Access.
» Read article

» More pipeline articles

 

ACTIONS AND PROTESTS

 

Protesters arrested while trying to stop loggers from cutting trees in Wendell
By Hector Molina, WWLP
August 14, 2019

Environmental activists filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to stop commercial logging on state land at the Wendell State Forest.

Three members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance were arrested early Wednesday for blocking the entrance to the forest, a peaceful act of civil disobedience.

Six protesters in another group spent nearly four hours deeper in the forest trying to stop the logging and delay the cutting of the trees by standing in the way of DCR crews.

The alliance filed a lawsuit against the Department of Conservation and Recreation for allegedly violating several state laws and regulations. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order to stop the logging until they have a chance to prove their claims at a court hearing in Greenfield next Wednesday, August 21.
» Read article

 

As protesters, loggers clash at Wendell State Forest, Department of Conservation and Recreation officials ‘refuse to meet or speak,’ to protesters
By Douglas Hook, MassLive
Aug 14, 2019

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has not responded to requests from Wendell State Forest protesters to air their concerns.

“[The DCR] need to inform the public more about what we’re doing here,” said John H. Conkey and Sons Logging, Inc. co-founder Ken Conkey.

The group “oppose the destruction of this more than 100-year-old, intact oak forest for the primary purpose of commercial logging.”

According to Neswald, the WFA will show in court that DCR “has engaged in a pattern and practice of violating, ignoring and/or misinterpreting laws and regulations meant to protect the environment.”

WFA member Priscilla Lynch, who was also arrested on Aug. 9 at the forest, said that the DCR has “refused to meet or even speak,” to the WFA.

Ken Conkey also eluded to the fact that there is a lack of information on what his company are actually trying to do.
» Read article

 

Forest protesters file suit against Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
By David McLellan, Greenfield Recorder
August 14, 2019

Over the last year, members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance have been protesting the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR’s) selective harvesting of an 80-acre old oak stand, a project that started last week, citing concerns about climate change and native species. The state is going ahead with the project, and department officials state the project is best for long-term forest health.

The local group has held signs along Route 2, picketed at a forest ranger station, garnered more than 1,500 signatures on an anti-logging petition and has physically tried to stop the project, with State Police making six arrests involving protesters in the last two weeks for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed in Franklin County Superior Court by 29 of the group members, alleging the project is illegal and violates the Forest Cutting Practices Act, Global Warming Solutions Act, Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedures Act.
» Read article

 

Four Wendell State Forest protesters arrested
By ZACK DeLUCA, Greenfield Recorder
August 12, 2019

Multiple protesters were arrested Monday as the state logging project in Wendell State Forest continues.

The Wendell State Forest Alliance, a group protesting the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s logging project, has been on site at the forest since Aug. 5. The group objects to the harvesting of an 80-acre, 110-year-old oak stand, citing studies indicating that forest preservation is crucial to combating climate change.

Massachusetts State Trooper James DeAngelis confirmed Monday afternoon that four protesters were arrested earlier in the day.

James Thornley, 72, and Morgan Mead, 56, both of Wendell, were arrested at 8:45 a.m. Two more protesters, Miriam Curland, 64, of Goshen, and Priscilla Lynch, 67, of Conway, were arrested at 1:18 p.m.
» Read article

» More actions & protests articles

 

CLIMATE

 

Don’t Burn Trees to Fight Climate Change—Let Them Grow
By Bill McKibben, The New Yorker
August 15, 2019

It may surprise you to learn that, at the moment, the main way in which the world employs trees to fight climate change is by cutting them down and burning them. Across much of Europe, countries and utilities are meeting their carbon-reduction targets by importing wood pellets from the southeastern United States and burning them in place of coal: giant ships keep up a steady flow of wood across the Atlantic. “Biomass makes up fifty per cent of the renewables mix in the E.U.,” Rita Frost, a campaigner for the Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Asheville, North Carolina, told me. And the practice could be on the rise in the United States, where new renewable-energy targets proposed by some Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as by the E.P.A., treat “biomass”—fuels derived from plants—as “carbon-neutral,” much to the pleasure of the forestry industry.

William R. Moomaw, a climate and policy scientist who has published some of the most recent papers on the carbon cycle of forests, told me about the impact of biomass, saying, “back in those days, I thought it could be considered carbon neutral. But I hadn’t done the math. I hadn’t done the physics.” Once scientists did that work, they fairly quickly figured out the problem. Burning wood to generate electricity expels a big puff of carbon into the atmosphere now. Eventually, if the forest regrows, that carbon will be sucked back up. But eventually will be too long—as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear last fall, we’re going to break the back of the climate system in the next few decades.
» Read article

 

States Sue Trump Administration Over Rollback of Obama-Era Climate Rule
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
August 13, 2019

A coalition of 29 states and cities on Tuesday sued to block the Trump administration from easing restrictions on coal-burning power plants, setting up a case that could determine how much leverage the federal government has to fight climate change in the future.

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a long-running battle over the future of coal and how to regulate the nation’s heavily polluting power plants, which are major producers of greenhouse gases that warm the planet. It also is the most significant test to date of the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate or weaken former President Obama’s regulations to reduce the United States’ contribution to global warming.
» Read article

 

The Oil Giants Might Finally Pay for Pulling the Biggest Hoax of All
New York State is alleging ExxonMobil knew the risks of climate change and defrauded its investors by misrepresenting them.
By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire
August 7, 2019

On October 23, in a federal court in New York, opening arguments will be heard in one of the most important corporate malfeasance cases of the modern era, rivaled only by the tobacco litigations of the 1990s. The state of New York is suing ExxonMobil on charges that the energy goliath consistently misled its investors about what it knew concerning the climate crisis—essentially lying to them about what it might eventually cost the company in eventual climate-related financial risks, because the company knew better than practically anyone else what those risks were.
» Read article

» More climate articles

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Vineyard Wind delayVineyard Wind to Move Forward with Project Despite Federal Delays
By State House News Service, on WBSM
August 13, 2019

On Monday, Vineyard Wind — a joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables — said its shareholders had “affirmed a commitment to deliver a proposed 800-megawatt (MW) wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, albeit with a delayed project schedule.”

Project officials have been working with contractors and financiers to rework the timeline — and Gov. Charlie Baker has spoken with Vice President Mike Pence about the project — but a new schedule has not yet been determined.

“We were less than four months away from launching a new industry in the United States, so we thank the more than 50 US companies already awarded a contract or currently bidding on contracts, the financial institutions engaged in raising more than $2 billion in capital, and the first-class, global contractors that have joined us in planning for the first large-scale offshore wind farm in America,” Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen said in a press release.

“We remain committed to delivering that ambitious target.”
» Read article

 

Shareholders Affirm Commitment to Deliver Offshore Wind Farm but with Revised Schedule
Vineyard Wind press release
August 12, 2019

Vineyard Wind today announced that company shareholders have affirmed a commitment to deliver a proposed 800-megawatt (MW) wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, albeit with a delayed project schedule. This decision follows the August 9th determination by the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) to significantly delay publication of the Vineyard Wind 1 project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and to instead undertake a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement process. In public statements, the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has indicated the supplemental process is needed to examine the effects from the many offshore wind projects that are expected to follow development of the Vineyard Wind project.
» Read article

 

Industry group knocks ‘regrettable’ move on Vineyard Wind
By Colin A. Young / State House News Service, in Taunton Gazette
August 12, 2019

As it kicked off what it hoped would be a week to celebrate “U.S. leadership in wind energy production,” a national wind energy industry group is instead making the case against the federal government’s new delay of the Vineyard Wind project.

The U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Friday put a freeze on a crucial permit for Vineyard Wind — the $2.8 billion, 84-turbine wind project planned south of Martha’s Vineyard — so they can study the wider impacts of the growing offshore wind industry.

The American Wind Energy Association said the federal government’s “regrettable” choice “undermines the Trump Administration’s American energy dominance agenda and a major U.S. economic growth opportunity.”
» Read article

 

Vineyard Wind shareholders commit to Mass. offshore wind project despite federal delays
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
August 12 2019

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has ordered additional study for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project, to the “surprise and disappointment” of the developer.

Vineyard Wind announced on Monday that shareholders affirmed their support for the first large-scale U.S. offshore wind project, despite the delay of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

Shareholders will revise the project based on a public statement issued on Friday by the Secretary of the Interior, as the original timeline will not be feasible.
» Read article     

 

Vineyard Wind Project Delayed
By The Maritime Executive
August 11, 2019

The Vineyard Wind project, Massachusetts’ first offshore wind project, has been delayed indefinitely after the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) delayed its environmental approval.

Local media report that the company’s plan to break ground by the end of 2019 would have made it eligible for a 12 percent tax credit from the state, timing that some believe is essential to Vineyard Wind’s competitive power pricing.

BOEM has not made public comment about the details of the delay or a new potential timeline.
» Read article  

 

Mayors of Salem, Holyoke call for carbon fee
70% of revenue would go back to homeowners, businesses
By Kimberley Driscoll and Alex Morse, Commonwealth Magazine
August 10, 2019

Salem and Holyoke are fully committed to reducing our cities’ greenhouse gas emissions, but we cannot solve climate change on our own.  We need bold, state leadership.

The Massachusetts Legislature needs to act, this session, to pass H2810, An Act to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promote Green Infrastructure.  Sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Benson of Lunenburg, the bill establishes a fee on the carbon in fossil fuels and returns most of the revenues from that fee to Massachusetts households and businesses.  It invests the remainder in local renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, and resilience.

A carbon fee is a charge on gas, oil, and coal. The fee is based on the amount of carbon dioxide these fuels emit when burned.  As this fee slowly rises over time, dirty energy becomes more expensive, and customers are encouraged to reduce their use of fossil fuels and move to cleaner energy options.

Many people, understandably, are concerned that this approach will cause the prices of gas and heating fuels to rise. However, unlike most governmental fees that disappear forever into government coffers, 70 percent of the revenues from the carbon fee will be given back to Massachusetts residents and businesses in the form of rebates. Every household will get two rebate checks a year.  People who use less energy – including the vast majority of low- and moderate-income households – will get back more in rebates than they pay in any increased fuel costs.
» Read article

 

Federal Review Will Further Delay Vineyard Wind
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service on WBUR
August 09, 2019

Vineyard Wind, the $2.8 billion, 800-megawatt offshore wind project planned for the waters off Martha’s Vineyard, has been delayed and will not move forward on the timeline it has been anticipating due to a federal agency’s decision to undertake a broad study of the potential impacts of offshore wind projects planned up and down the coast.

The decision of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to launch a “cumulative impacts analysis” and hold up the approval of a key permit for Vineyard Wind until that analysis is complete will likely upend the supply chain, financing and construction timeline for the project chosen by the Baker administration and state utility companies to fulfill part of a 2016 clean energy law.
» Read article    

 

Feds call for more study on Vineyard Wind
Delay could be fatal; developer said it needed approval by end of August
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
August 9, 2019

In a decision that could derail Vineyard Wind, federal regulators on Friday put their review of the project on hold temporarily while they seek to better understand the cumulative impact of the many wind farm projects being proposed along the eastern seaboard.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a statement saying the agency is expanding its draft environmental impact statement on the Vineyard Wind project to include a cumulative analysis of wind farm projects on the drawing board.

The new delay is likely to throw off Vineyard Wind’s aggressive construction timetable, which called for construction to begin by the end of this year and be completed in 2021.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

 

PLASTICS, HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Plastic in rain
It’s raining plastic in the Rocky Mountains
A USGS study identified plastic in more than 90% of rainwater samples taken from across Colorado.
By Eleanor Imster in Earth | Human World
August 14, 2019

The growth in single-use consumer plastics has fueled a surge in plastic pollution across the globe. Other recent studies have turned up microplastics high in the remote Pyrenees Mountains, in the deepest part of the ocean, in Arctic sea ice, and in U.S. groundwater.

I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye. It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.
» Read article

 

Trump To Promote Turning Natural Gas Into Plastics During Monaca Visit
By Jill Colvin & Josh Boak, Associated Press
August 13, 2019

Trying to hold support in the manufacturing towns that helped him win the White House in 2016, President Donald Trump is showcasing growing efforts to capitalize on western Pennsylvania’s natural gas deposits by turning gas into plastics.

Trump will be in Monaca, about 40 minutes north of Pittsburgh, on Tuesday to tour Shell’s soon-to-be completed Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex. The facility, which critics claim will become the largest air polluter in western Pennsylvania, is being built in an area hungry for investment.

The focus is part of a continued push by the Trump administration to increase the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels in defiance of increasingly urgent warnings about climate change. And it’s an embrace of plastic at a time when the world is sounding alarms over its ubiquity and impact.
» Read article

 

A Giant Factory Rises to Make a Product Filling Up the World: Plastic
Royal Dutch Shell’s plant will produce more than a million tons of plastic, in the form of tiny pellets. Many in the Pittsburgh area see it as an economic engine, but others worry about long-term harm.
By Michael Corkery, New York Times
August 12, 2019

When completed, the facility will be fed by pipelines stretching hundreds of miles across Appalachia. It will have its own rail system with 3,300 freight cars. And it will produce more than a million tons each year of something that many people argue the world needs less of: plastic.

As concern grows about plastic debris in the oceans and recycling continues to falter in the United States, the production of new plastic is booming. The plant that Royal Dutch Shell is building about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh will create tiny pellets that can be turned into items like phone cases, auto parts and food packaging, all of which will be around long after they have served their purpose.
» Read article

 

An Ocean Plastics Field Trip for Corporate Executives
Recycling is broken. The oceans are trashed. As the plastics crisis spirals out of control, an unlikely collection of executives and environmentalists set sail for the North Atlantic Gyre in a desperate attempt to find common ground.
By Rowan Jacobsen, Outsideonline.com
August 8, 2019

The problem with plastic is that it never rots, never goes away. But contrary to popular misconception, Eriksen explains, it doesn’t form floating islands of trash. It disintegrates. “Sunlight makes it brittle, the waves crush it constantly, and the fish and turtles and seabirds just tear the stuff apart.” The pieces get smaller and smaller until they’re tinier than a grain of rice and qualify as microplastic. By Eriksen’s count, there are more than five trillion pieces of microplastic in the oceans—more than there are fish—and despite some well-publicized debacles like Ocean Cleanup’s dysfunctional 2,000-foot-long boom, which was supposed to sweep the seas free, no force on earth is going to get that plastic out. The best we can do is prevent more from going in.
» Read article

» More platics & environment articles

 

PLASTICS RECYCLING

 

Recycling Is in Crisis. Could These Innovations Be the Answer?
Now that China is turning away the world’s recyclable waste, Australia wants to ban export of the materials and increase domestic processing. Here are some techniques being pursued.
By Livia Albeck-Ripka, New York Times
August 12, 2019

Last week, leaders in Australia made bold moves toward eventually banning the export of any recyclable waste in a bid to increase onshore processing of the materials. The ultimate goal is to prevent the waste from ending up in the ocean, they said.

“It’s our waste, and it’s our responsibility,” Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

Policy experts say that reducing initial consumption of materials is essential. But Australia’s commitment also involves developing new approaches to recycling that, if scaled up, might one day change where your takeout containers and coffee cups end up.
» Read article

» More plastics recycling articles

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Fracking methane boom
Fracking causing rise in methane emissions, study finds

Researchers say boom in shale oil and gas major contributor to climate emergency
By Jillian Ambrose, the Guardian
August 14, 2019

The boom in the US shale gas and oil may have ignited a significant global spike in methane emissions blamed for accelerating the pace of the climate crisis, according to research.

Scientists at Cornell University have found the “chemical fingerprints” of the rising global methane levels point to shale oil and shale gas as the probable source.

Methane, levels of which have been increasing sharply since 2008, is a potent greenhouse gas that heats the atmosphere quicker than carbon dioxide.
» Read article

 

Coal becoming uninsurable
Adani Beware: Coal Is on the Road to Becoming Completely Uninsurable
By Guest John Quiggin, Professor at the School of Economics at The University of Queensland, DeSmog Blog
August 13, 2019

The announcement by Suncorp that it will no longer insure new thermal coal projects, along with a similar announcement by QBE Insurance a few months earlier, brings Australia into line with Europe where most major insurers have broken with coal.

U.S. firms have been a little slower to move, but Chubb announced a divestment policy in July, and Liberty has confirmed it will not insure Australia’s Adani project.

Other big firms such as America’s AIG are coming under increasing pressure.

Even more than divestment of coal shares by banks and managed funds, the withdrawal of insurance has the potential to make coal mining and coal-fired power generation businesses unsustainable.
» Read article

 

‘Coal is over’: the miners rooting for the Green New Deal
Appalachia’s main industry is dying and some workers are looking to a new economic promise after Trump’s proves empty
By Michael Sainato, The Guardian
August 12, 2019

The coal industry in Appalachia is dying – something that people there know better than anyone. Some in this region are pinning their hopes on alternative solutions, including rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.

“Coal is over. Forget coal,” said Jimmy Simpkins, who worked as a coalminer in the area for 29 years. “It can never be back to what it was in our heyday. It can’t happen. That coal is not there to mine.”
» Read article

 

EPA moves to streamline permitting for power plant expansions, gas pipelines
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
August 12, 2019

Power plant developers gained new assurances that the Trump administration will streamline the process for implementing upgrades and modifications.

The NSR proposed rule seeks to guarantee developers will avoid triggering New Source Review (NSR) if one portion of their project increases emissions, as long as those emissions are offset by a larger decrease in other parts of the project.

While the Trump administration has issued guidance in this area, the formal rulemaking process would make it more difficult for future administrations to reverse the interpretation, which applies to all fossil fuel-burning plants and other large industrial facilities, Sawula said.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

 

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

 

Renewables’ variability sends wary utilities from traditional DR to DER and load flexibility
New technologies can expand utilities’ once-limited options, allowing control of load with customer-sited resources to balance variable generation, but utilities say they need incentives.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
August 14, 2019

Traditional Demand Response (DR) serves supply-demand imbalances, but today’s variable renewables and distributed energy resources (DER) make imbalances more common and new load flexibility allows utilities to adjust loads down instead of increasing generation.

Adjustable smart thermostats for air conditioning (A/C) and heating, grid integrated water heating, and managed electric vehicle (EV) charging will be gateways to a DR market that adds residential DER to traditional DR using commercial -industrial customers’ load, according to a new Brattle report. This more flexible load can protect against variability from rising levels of solar and wind generation.

And it’s that residential segment that will come to dominate the DR market in the next 10 years.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

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Weekly News Check-In 8/9/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news we uncovered this week – from local to global.

Please read our featured article by Tristan Alston – a bright and articulate young person with a thorough grasp of the issues we face together in a changing climate.

This edition includes articles from the Weymouth compressor station fight, an update on Columbia Gas settlements for last September’s disaster in Merrimack Valley, a Liberty Utilities dog and pony show to sell folks on the Granite Bridge pipeline project, and an interesting twist in the proposed Charlton LNG plant. We also noticed recent developments in what we call the Regional Energy Chess Game, and added a new section to keep track of protests and actions.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for people living near gas pipelines and refineries. We include some of their stories in What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Big picture articles on climate, clean energy alternatives, fossil fuel industry news, and a growing awareness of the gas leaks problem. We also found interesting articles on plastics and biomass.

— The NFGiM Team

FEATURED ARTICLE (OPINION)

Time is of the essence: A call for intergenerational innovation and justice
By Tristan Alston, Berkshire Edge
August 7, 2019

I fear for my future—for the utter destruction of our physical world, and the violence, suffering and injustice that will inevitably follow. As a young person, a member of the youth so frequently charged with leading the many fights of today, I am fearful. I am fearful that the inaction of those who came before me and the seeming indifference of those around me will soon be too great a fissure to overcome. I am fearful that both my parents and I will have to face the full force of the Earth’s rebellion, and that my children of the future will never even have the chance.

The current trends of environmental degradation and disruption are intergenerational, both in origin and ensuing effect. Thus, the united force fighting to protect our planet, our health and our future must be intergenerational as well.
» Read article

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

State delays key review for Weymouth compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
August 6, 2019

A state agency has further delayed its review of a proposed 7,700-horsepower compressor station, making it even less likely that the gas company will start construction on the project this year.

The state Office of Coastal Zone Management was scheduled this month to wrap up its review of the compressor station proposed by Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge. But in a letter to the company, Robert Boeri, acting assistant director for the state agency, said vetting is still ongoing to determine whether the proposal is consistent with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
» Read article  

Key deadline for approval of Weymouth compressor station pushed back
By Chris Lisinksi, State House News (in Boston Globe)
August 2, 2019

State regulators pushed back a key deadline in the approval process for a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, adding several more weeks to the review process as they await a different department’s decision on appealed permits.

The Office of Coastal and Zone Management wrote to Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of energy giant Enbridge, last month requesting another stay to its federal consistency review period. The current stay ends Monday, and CZM asked to extend that to Aug. 15 with the review to be completed by Sept. 5.
» Read article

Residents want new firm for soil testing at Weymouth site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
July 31, 2019

Residents fighting a proposed natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River are calling for an independent firm with no ties to the gas company to do additional hazardous waste soil testing and analysis on the land where the station would be built.

Weymouth resident Margaret Bellafiore recently sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection asking that officials assign an independent environmental consulting firm with no ties to Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, to do additional testing ordered by the state. Bellafiore and other opponents of the project have argued that the company now doing the review, TRC Environmental Corporation, has ties both to state regulators and Algonquin.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS MERRIMACK VALLEY

Columbia Gas settles class-action lawsuits, but is it enough to rebuild the community?
WWLP-22News
July 29, 2019
» View boadcast video

Columbia Gas settles class action lawsuits related to gas disaster
By Breanna Edelstein, Eagle Tribune
July 29, 2019

Lawyers spearheading multiple class-action lawsuits following the Merrimack Valley gas disaster last September have reached an agreement in principle with Columbia Gas on behalf of residents and businesses in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

According to a statement Monday morning from a Columbia Gas spokesperson, Columbia Gas and its parent company NiSource have agreed to pay $143 million to thousands of residents and businesses impacted by the gas explosions from Sept. 13, 2018.
» Read article 

» More Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Liberty Utilities Seeks To Quell Natural Gas Fears At ‘Science Fair’ For N.H. Pipeline Proposal
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
August 1, 2019

The gas on Granite Bridge is expected to come from hubs in Ontario and Tennessee, supplied largely by fracking operations in places like Pennsylvania.

The fuel would travel through the buried pipeline in gas form – but it’s more efficient to store as liquid.

Liberty wants that LNG storage to happen in a large proposed tank that would sit in an old quarry in Epping.

Part of the goal of this event was for Liberty to show they plan to do all this safely – even as protestors outside and lawns nearby carried signs reading “All pipelines leak,” “No tank in my backyard” and “Granite Bridge? Granite bomb!”
» Read article

Presidential candidate Inslee weighs in on NH dispute, opposes Granite Bridge project
Proposed pipeline would transport fracked natural gas between Manchester, Exeter
By John DiStaso, WMUR Channel 9
July 27, 2019

“It is long past time for the U.S. to end its dependence on fossil fuels,” Inslee said in a statement provided first to WMUR. “In New Hampshire, we have an opportunity to begin that transition now, by preventing Liberty Utilities from cementing its reach across New Hampshire through the Granite Bridge pipeline. This pipeline would raise costs for consumers, threaten our public health, and weaken our planet. It’s time to stand with local New Hampshire leaders fighting the pipeline’s construction.”
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge pipeline articles

CHARLTON LNG PLANT

Millennium Power distances self from proposed natural gas plant in Charlton
By Brian Lee, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
August 6, 2019

The potential siting of a $100 million facility to handle 250,000 gallons per day of liquid natural gas near a power plant continues to receive significant attention by town and state officials.

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks approval from the state Energy Facilities Siting Board to develop a plant that would liquefy, store and load natural gas into trucks. The company also seeks exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

The plant would be on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road, near Millennium Power, which publicly distanced itself from the project in an intervenor filing to the state board.

Earlier this week, lawyers for Millennium Power told the state siting board that the company has nothing to do with Northeast Energy Center’s proposal, despite suggestions to the contrary.

In a letter by Millennium Power’s attorney to the state siting board, the proposal by NEC indicates it wants to use Millenium Power’s property.
» Read article

Southbridge hires lawyer to address LNG plant proposed in Charlton
By Brian Lee, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
July 21, 2019

The Town Council has hired a lawyer to represent the town’s interest in a proposed and controversial $100 million liquid natural gas plant along Charlton’s energy corridor on Route 169.

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks to construct an LNG plant on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road, Charlton, near Millennium Power, close to the Southbridge town line. The company wants to develop a plant that will liquify, store and load natural gas into trucks. The company is seeking exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

Approval has been sought from the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board, an independent board that reviews proposed large energy facilities.
» Read article

» More LNG articles

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

Coal, nuclear could see [winter] boost in New England as new tariff goes into effect
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
August 8, 2019

The Inventoried Energy Program will compensate resources for their on-site fuel supply during the winter months of 2023-2024 and 2024-2025, impacting the 14th and 15th ISO-NE Forward Capacity Auctions. While energy storage systems, hydropower and natural gas plants could participate in the new program, the plan will most benefit nuclear plants and fossil fuel plants with a large stock of fuel supply.
» Read article

» More regional energy chess game articles

ACTIONS & PROTESTS

Wendell Forest protesters ‘pushed closer to risking arrest’
By David McLellan, Greenfield Recorder
August 2, 2019

Pleas for the state to halt the logging project in Wendell State Forest have gone unheeded, and protesters, citing concerns about climate change, say they are now willing to risk arrest by physically stopping the project.

The Wendell State Forest Alliance — a group affiliated with nonprofit conservation group RESTORE: The North Woods — has held signs on the side of Route 2, held rallies at the Wendell State Forest Ranger Station and garnered over 1,500 signatures on an anti-logging petition over the last year.

Their issue is with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) project to selectively log a roughly 80-acre old oak stand off Brook Road in Wendell State Forest. The state agency says it is protecting long-term forest health, but protesters say the project is counterproductive in fighting climate change.

The harvesting of the oak stand is set to begin imminently, with gates erected and permits posted near the logging site, and the Wendell State Forest Alliance says it’s not giving up.
» Read article 

Climate Leaders Ask for Massive Public Turnout at Upcoming Global Strikes
By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams via EcoWatch
July 25, 2019

Organizers of upcoming global climate strikes hope their demands for a rapid end to business as usual and a swift start to climate justice will be too loud to ignore.

The strikes, which are set for Sept. 20 and 27 — with additional actions slated for the days in between — are planned in over 150 countries thus far, and over 6,000 people have already pledged to take part.

It has the potential to be the biggest climate mobilization yet, said organizers.
» Read article   

» More actions & protests articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG

Blast zone aftermath - KY
Kentucky: 1 dead, 5 hospitalized in gas line rupture, fire
Associated Press via WHDH
August 1, 2019

A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of a nearby mobile home park, authorities said.

The 30 inch (76 centimeter) wide pipeline moves natural gas under high pressure, so the rupture at about 1 a.m. caused a tremendous amount of damage in the immediate area, authorities said. Firefighters were still working to douse the flames hours later, with trucks repeatedly refilling their tanks and returning to the scene.

County Emergency Management Director Don Gilliam said the flames reached about 300 feet in the air and could be seen throughout Lincoln County.

The explosion was so huge that it showed up on radar, according to a tweet from WKYT-TV meteorologist Chris Bailey.
» Read article

Woman burned in Ky. pipeline blast tried to report concerns about potential problem.
By Bill Estep, Kentucky.com
August 2, 2019

Coulter, whose mobile home was about 200 feet from the where the pipeline ruptured, said she felt the ground in the neighborhood shake twice, most recently about 10 days ago.

The episodes were brief, but the shaking was strong enough to knock pictures off the walls, she said.

There are railroad tracks at the back of the neighborhood, but Coulter said she has lived near the railroad most of her life and is sure a train wasn’t the cause of the shaking.

It also gave her cause for concern that her dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Jordan, kept sniffing around the area of the pipe. It was unusual for him to do that, Coulter said.

“I think that maybe there was something going on underground,” she said.
» Read article

One dead in Kentucky, at least five injured after gas line explosion shoots fireball into sky
Witnesses compared the blast to a bomb going off, and one said windows rattled from the force.
By Phil Helsel, NBC News
August 1, 2019

One person is dead and at least five were injured in central Kentucky after a gas line ruptured and produced a fireball that could be seen around the region early Thursday.

The 30-inch gas line in Lincoln County breached around 150 feet from a mobile home park around 1:40 a.m., said Don Gilliam, the director of Lincoln County Emergency Management.

The person who died was identified by the Lincoln County coroner as Lisa Denise Derringer, 58, of Stanford, Kentucky. Authorities said she is believed to have left her home after the explosion and was overwhelmed by extreme heat.
» Read article

Deadly Kentucky gas pipeline explosion, fire felt “like an atomic bomb went off”
CBS News
August 1, 2019

A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of dozens of people from a nearby mobile home park, authorities said.

Several structures caught fire in the area of the Indian Camp Trailer Park and were put out, CBS Lexington affiliate WKYT-TV reported.

“We opened the backdoor and it was like a tornado of fire going around and around and he said we were trapped,” said Jodie Coulter, who lived less than 200 yards from the blast. Coulter suffered third-degree burns on both her arms as she ran from her burning home.
» Read article

‘We Are Deeply Sorry’: Columbia Gas Takes Responsibility For Washington County [PA] Explosion
By John Shumway, KDKA, Pittsburg CBS Local
August 1, 2019

According to Columbia Gas, work was being done on an ongoing project in the area and the home where the explosion happened was on a different street from all the other homes associated with the project.

“While our processes are designed to catch such anomalies; unfortunately, the combination of our review process, including our initial project design process and our additional secondary field survey that we completed, we did not identify that fact that the home was connected to the section of gas main that was being upgraded,” Huwar said.

Because of that, a necessary pressure regulator was never added to the home, resulting in the blast.
» Read article  
» Blog editor’s note: echoes of Columbia’s Merrimack Valley disaster last September. Work done on a system the gas company doesn’t fully understand with resulting consequences born by the public.

» More on what could go wrong

CLIMATE

Climate Change Is Taking a Bigger Toll on Our Food, Water, and Land Than We Realized
A new United Nations report finds that some of the direst effects on the Earth’s land are already underway.
By Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones
August 8, 2019

The changing climate has already likely contributed to drier climates in South and East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, reducing the food and water supply. In 2015, about 500 million people lived in dry areas that experienced desertification in recent decades as a result of human activities. Those problems are only going to get worse as climate change continues to take its toll.

“Global warming has led to shifts of climate zones in many world regions, including expansion of arid climate zones and contraction of polar climate zones,” the IPCC says in the report, released Thursday. With high confidence, it adds, “Climate change has already affected food security due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”
» Read article

Global food supply threatened
Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
August 8, 2019

The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply.
» Read article

A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises
By Somini Sengupta and Weiyi Cai, New York Times
August 6, 2019

“We’re likely to see more of these Day Zeros in the future,” said Betsy Otto, who directs the global water program at the World Resources Institute. “The picture is alarming in many places around the world.”

Climate change heightens the risk. As rainfall becomes more erratic, the water supply becomes less reliable. At the same time, as the days grow hotter, more water evaporates from reservoirs just as demand for water increases.
» Read article

Greenland is melting in a heatwave. That’s everyone’s problem
By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
July 31, 2019

Extreme heat bowled over Europe last week, smashing records in its wake. Now, the heatwave that started in the Sahara has rolled into Greenland — where more records are expected to crumble in the coming days.

That means the heatwave is now Greenland’s problem, right? Not quite. When records fall in Greenland, it’s everyone’s problem.

Greenland is home to the world’s second-largest ice sheet. And when it melts significantly — as it is expected to do this year — there are knock-on effects for sea levels and weather across the globe.
» Read article

July will be the warmest month ever recorded in Boston
By Dave Epstein Globe Correspondent
July 31, 2019

If you went back 100 years, the average number of days Boston would reach 90 degrees was around eight. That number has increased by 50 percent and now stands around 12.

When you look at 30-year averages, the month we’ve just experienced is similar to what a typical summer would be like around Norfolk, Virginia, not Southern New England.
» Read article

The most important event on the planet right now? Arctic Climate Chaos.
Patreon.com
July 30, 2019

1. Arctic Sea Ice is currently at record lows in the Northern Hemisphere and at or near record lows within the Arctic Basin itself.

2. The Greenland Ice Sheet is forecast to lose 40 gigatonnes of ice in a matter of days, enough to raise global sea levels at least a tenth of a millimeter.

3. The fires in the Arctic are reaching apocalyptic levels.

4. Large emissions of methane gas appear to be venting from the Arctic Basin.

5. The conditions favorable for extensive melting of sea ice, Greenland ice and the production of further large fires (namely, very abnormal heat and drying of vegetation/peat) will continue over Greenland, much of Alaska and Central Siberia for at least the next two weeks.
» Read article

Amazon deforestation

Under Brazil’s Far Right Leader, Amazon Protections Slashed and Forests Fall
By Letícia Casado and Ernesto Londoño, New York Times
July 28, 2019

The destruction of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil has increased rapidly since the nation’s new far-right president took over and his government scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining.

Protecting the Amazon was at the heart of Brazil’s environmental policy for much of the past two decades. At one point, Brazil’s success in slowing the deforestation rate made it an international example of conservation and the effort to fight climate change.

But with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who has been fined personally for violating environmental regulations, Brazil has changed course substantially, retreating from the efforts it once made to slow global warming by preserving the world’s largest rain forest.

While campaigning for president last year, Mr. Bolsonaro declared that Brazil’s vast protected lands were an obstacle to economic growth and promised to open them up to commercial exploitation.

Seven months into his term, that is already happening.
» Read article

CNN to host climate crisis town hall with 2020 Democratic candidates
By Kyle Blaine, CNN
July 25, 2019

The 2020 Democratic field has been united in promising to combat climate change, with many candidates unveiling policy proposals to address the threat posed by a warming planet. President Donald Trump has pledged to leave the Paris climate accord and has said he does not believe government reports that cast grave warnings about the effects of climate change.

The most prominent proposal put forth by Democrats and backed by multiple presidential candidates has been the Green New Deal, the renewable-energy infrastructure investment plan proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The climate town hall will follow a similar format to ones CNN held earlier this year in Austin, Texas, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC, in which Democratic candidates appeared back-to-back across the course of the evening.
» Read article  

US Cities Boost Clean Energy Efforts but Few on Track to Meet Climate Goals
Scorecard of 75 large US cities reveals the top 10, including Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
July 24, 2019

US cities are ramping up their clean energy efforts, notably with stricter energy-saving rules for buildings, but only a few cities appear on track to meet their community-wide climate goals, according to the 2019 City Clean Energy Scorecard, released today by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  For the first time, the ACEEE Scorecard tracks policy efforts to advance renewable energy in addition to energy efficiency, because both are needed to build a clean energy future and address climate change. It is the most comprehensive national report that tracks city progress toward climate goals.
» Read article  
» Download report

Protecting Water Resources in a Climate-changed Connecticut River Valley
UMass Amherst
July 23, 2019

In a new project funded by the Commonwealth, environmental conservation professor Timothy Randhir is developing a planning tool to support and improve community and agency decisions in the Connecticut River watershed. It will provide a broad look at possible future effects of climate change on water resources and other ecosystem services like soil health, and the “heat island” effect.
» Read article

Moody’s Buys Climate Data Firm, Signaling New Scrutiny of Climate Risks
By Christopher Flavell, New York Times
July 24, 2019

Moody’s Corporation has purchased a controlling stake in a firm that measures the physical risks of climate change, the latest indication that global warming can threaten the creditworthiness of governments and companies around the world.

The rating agency bought a majority share in Four Twenty Seven, a California-based company that measures a range of hazards, including extreme rainfall, hurricanes, heat stress and sea level rise, and tracks their impact on 2,000 companies and 196 countries. In the United States, the data covers 761 cities and more than 3,000 counties.

“We are taking these risks very seriously,” said Myriam Durand, global head of assessments at Moody’s Investors Service, who said the purchase would allow its credit analysts to be more precise in their review of climate related risks. “You can’t mitigate what you don’t understand.”
» Read article

Extinction Rebellion protesters confront politicians at US Capitol
By David Smith, The Guardian
July 23, 2019

Protesters from the climate crisis group Extinction Rebellion have brought disruption to Capitol Hill in Washington, superglueing themselves to doorways to block politicians and staff.

Just after 6pm, six activists stood in doorways to a tunnel connecting the Cannon office building to the US Capitol in an attempt to prevent members of Congress attending an evening vote.

A total of 17 activists were arrested and charged with crowding and obstructing, according to US Capitol police. Several were also charged with defacing public property.

Demonstrators said their goal was to force a House and Senate concurrent resolution on the climate emergency – currently on hold – to receive immediate attention.
» Read article  

House Democrats Offer an Alternative to the Green New Deal
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 23, 2019

An influential group of Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday set an ambitious target for United States greenhouse gas emissions, calling for a reduction to net-zero by 2050.

The goal, intended to slow the pace of global warming, does not include either a legislative or regulatory plan. It would very likely require rigorous new curbs on fossil fuels over the coming decades and steep increases in wind, solar and other renewable sources of power.

The initiative does not go as far as the Green New Deal. That Democratic plan calls for achieving carbon neutrality within a decade and supplying 100 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources while also creating millions of high-wage jobs.

Analysts described the announcement Tuesday as an effort by centrist Democrats to reclaim the climate agenda while treating global warming with the urgency that scientists say it demands.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Massachusetts looks to follow California with solar mandate for new homes
A pair of bills would require solar panels on new buildings but include exemptions for shaded or nonviable properties.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News
August 7, 2019

“Our building sector is going to be one of the toughest sectors to fully decarbonize,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts director for environmental nonprofit the Acadia Center. “We don’t want to miss any opportunities on buildings we’re going to be living with for the next 50 or 80 years.”

Massachusetts is about one-fourth of the way to its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Most of this progress has come from reducing carbon in the electricity sector. Now, buildings are a major target for efforts to further lower the numbers.

One of the bills (SB 1957) working its way through the Legislature calls for rooftop solar panels on new residential and commercial construction. The second bill (SB 1995) would require panels be put on new or renovated state-owned buildings. Both measures include exceptions for buildings where shading or positioning issues prevent solar from being a viable option. Projects would also be able to meet the requirements of the rules by showing they would generate an equivalent amount of power using a different renewable energy system.
» Read article
» Read Senate Bill S1995    
» Read Senate Bill S1957     

Here’s The First American Airport Powered Entirely By Solar Energy
By Dan Q. Dao, Forbes Magazine
July 30, 2019

Tennessee’s fourth-largest city is once again turning heads by claiming a first in the sustainability sector. Earlier this month, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport announced that it had hit a much-anticipated milestone in becoming the first airfield in the United States powered by 100% solar energy.

The end result of an ambitious project that started seven years ago, the airport’s 2.64-megawatt solar farm was completed with about $5 million of funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. That investment is expected to be earned back in under 20 years, as a renewable energy stream brings down the facility’s overall costs of operation. According to a press release, the installation measures about the size of 16 football fields—eight long and two wide.
» Read article

In Push For Massachusetts Clean Energy Targets, Advocates Point To Pioneer Valley Initiatives
By Paul Tuthill, WAMC
July 24, 2019

Environmental advocates and community leaders are highlighting steps cities and towns in western Massachusetts have taken toward a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

A report released this week by Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center profiled innovative programs undertaken in Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and other communities.

The release of the report coincided with a Beacon Hill hearing on a bill to transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
» Read article   

» More energy alternatives articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Kinder Morgan ordered to pay Hill Country landowner nearly $250,000 in property damages
By Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle
August 8, 2019

In a Thursday morning decision, the three-member panel of the panel of Blanco County Special Commissioners ordered Kinder Morgan to pay landowner Matthew Walsh $233,500 in damages for the company’s proposed Permian Highway Pipeline project.

Kinder Morgan is seeking to build the $2 billion pipeline to move 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin of West Texas to the Katy Hub near Houston but faces stiff opposition along the proposed route through the picturesque Texas Hill Country.

A company appraisal valued the 50-foot easement on Walsh’s land at $16,707 but the Blanco landowner got legal help from the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition and filed a claim stating that the overall damage to the appraised value of his 53-acre property was $261,663. Walsh claimed the pipeline project would delay building a home on the property and selling the land in the future.

“I feel like I’ve been living in a nightmare since I heard about the pipeline coming through my land last October,” Walsh said in a statement released by the , a nonprofit group opposed to the project. “Kinder Morgan’s initial offer was insultingly low. I hope that other landowners will hear my story and join me in fighting for fair compensation.”
» Read article

Kentucky pipeline blast 8-2019
Explosions in Three States Highlight Dangers of Aging Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
August 6, 2019

On August 1, for the third time in as many years, Enbridge’s Texas Eastern Transmission gas pipeline exploded. This tragic incident in central Kentucky killed a 58-year-old woman, Lisa Denise Derringer, and injured at least five others. Flames towered 300 feet high when the 30-inch diameter pipe ruptured at 1 a.m. and forced at least 75 people to evacuate.

“We opened the backdoor and it was like a tornado of fire going around and around and he said we were trapped,” survivor Jodie Coulter, 53, told CBS News, describing her efforts to flee on foot. Coulter, whose house was within 600 feet of the pipeline, suffered third-degree burns on her arms. “It felt like we were standing next to a blow torch.”

This explosion joins a string of others in the past several weeks involving America’s aging fossil fuel infrastructure — including a network of 2.6 million miles of pipelines, roughly half of which are over 50 years old, and over 130 oil refineries, many of which are 50 to 120 years old.
» Read article

How this Southern Tier group is trying to work around New York’s fracking ban
Jeff Platsky, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
August 2, 2019

A Tioga County landowners group appears willing to press ahead in challenging New York’s hydrofracking ban by using an unconventional method of natural gas drilling designed to circumvent the prohibition.

Tioga County Partners wants to drill on a 53-acre site in Barton using gelled propane, an arcane process that skirts the existing drilling ban.

Due to explosion risks, propane fracks — also known as “gas fracks” — typically use robotics to keep workers out of the “hot zone” during operations. The technology is still developing and has not been widely used, especially in places where water is available.

The pending environmental review requires an extensive site analysis under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, a time-consuming, expensive process that provides opportunity for significant challenges from opponents.
» Read article
The Fracking Industry Is in Debt. Retirement Funds Are Helping Bail It Out.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmogBlog
July 31, 2019

Outside observers have specifically warned that pension plans that invest in shale companies might wind up with regrets.

While the shale drilling industry’s financial instability may not be so large as to pose an overall risk to the financial system, “I think there’s risk to pension plans that are pouring their money into private equity firms, which in turn are pouring billions into shale companies,” Bethany McLean, author of the book Saudi America: The Truth about Fracking and How It’s Changing the World, told E&E News in a September 2018 interview. McLean is also widely credited as the first financial reporter to take a critical look at energy company Enron before its collapse.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

GAS LEAKS

The Leaks That Threaten the Clean Image of Natural Gas
U.S. energy companies are scrambling to reduce methane emissions—both unintended and deliberate—that equate to exhaust from 69 million cars a year and contribute to global warming
By Rebecca Elliott, Wall Street Journal
August 8, 2019

In the U.S. alone, the methane that leaks or is released from oil and gas operations annually is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 69 million cars, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis using conversion formulas from the Environmental Protection Agency and emissions estimates for 2015 published last year in the journal Science.
» Read article

State regulators want better reporting of lost gas
By Christian M. Wade, Gloucester Times
August 7, 2019

Utility companies are required to report the so-called “lost and unaccounted for gas” to state regulators annually, but environmental groups say the industry estimates belie the full scope of the problem.

Proposed rules being considered by the state Department of Public Utilities, which go before a public hearing next Thursday, would require publicly regulated utilities to report lost gas in a more uniform and transparent manner. The rules, set to go into effect in January, would require both private and municipal gas companies to report to the state how much gas is lost, why it is lost, and how much it is costing consumers.

“Nobody really knows how much gas is lost from leaks, some of which are literally gushing,” said Audrey Schulman, executive director of the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Boston-based nonprofit that advises communities about gas leaks. “Right now, the utilities are doing it their own way, so we don’t know how big the problems are or where to put resources towards fixing them.”
» Read article     https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/state-regulators-want-better-reporting-of-lost-gas/article_8c20756a-d985-5937-b39c-47979e1de1e8.html

Gas leaks in Boston produce twice as much methane as previously known, study finds
By David Abel and Aidan Ryan, Boston Globe
August 1, 2019
Boston and other older cities in the Northeast are responsible for as much as twice the amount of methane — among the most potent of greenhouse gases — than previously estimated by federal authorities, a new study found.

The combined emissions of the six cities, which include Providence, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., exceed those from some of the nation’s largest producers of natural gas, including the Four Corners region in the West and the Bakken Shale in the Dakotas, according to the study, which included researchers from Harvard University.
» Read article

» More gas leaks articles

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

66 people sent for medical attention after ExxonMobil refinery explosion in Texas
The facility processes light hydrocarbons including propane and propylene, materials used to make plastic and industrial products.
By Associated Press and Doha Madani, NBC News
July 31, 2019
Authorities say 66 people were sent for medical evaluation after an explosion and fire at an ExxonMobil oil refinery in Texas on Wednesday.

The fire began after an explosion just after 11:00 a.m. at an ExxonMobil plant in Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston. The facility processes light hydrocarbons including propane and propylene, materials used to make plastic and industrial products.

Right after the explosion, the fire sent large plumes of black smoke into the sky. By Wednesday afternoon, the smoke had lessened. The fire was not fully extinguished by Wednesday evening, but authorities lifted a shelter-in-place order that impacted approximately 5,000 people in the area once the blaze was contained.
» Read article

We’re Up to a Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute
Return to Now
May 11, 2019

Globally, humans are purchasing a million plastic bottles every single minute, according to a report by Euromonitor International.

That’s 20,000 bottles every second and almost half a trillion bottles a year.

Only 7% of them are recycled into new bottles, according to The Guardian.

Although some trendy companies are turning them into t-shirts, shoes and other articles of polyester clothing, the vast majority end up in landfills or the ocean.
» Read article  
» Read reference study

» More plastics, health & environment articles

BIOMASS

Environmental groups accuse state of ‘deeply flawed’ review of biomass changes; call for more input
By Peter Goonan, Springfield Republican
August 6, 2019

The organizations said they “write seeking to help the (Governor) Baker administration correct course and to ensure that the RPS assists the state in complying with the Commonwealth’s climate mandates, rather than promoting technologies that will actually increase emissions.”
» Read article

Enviro Advocates Call Out MA Gov. Baker For Promoting Dirty Fuels As Renewable Energy
Partnership for Policy Integrity
August 2, 2019

Last Friday marked the close of a three-month public comment period on the Baker Administration’s proposal to overhaul rules that establish what electric power generation resources qualify for renewable energy subsidies. Massachusetts clean energy advocates sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides sharply criticizing these proposed regulatory changes that would, among other things, significantly increase rate-payer subsidies for wood-burning power plants and garbage incinerators.
» Read article
» Read letter to Secretary Theoharides
» Read related Joint Stakeholder letter

Scientists say Dartmouth College’s biomass plan is a bad idea
By TIM CAMERATO, Valley News
July 25, 2019

A group of prominent scientists and Dartmouth College alumni are urging the school to cancel its plans to build a biomass plant to heat the downtown Hanover campus as part of its $200 million “green energy” plan.

Burning wood chips could “substantially” increase the college’s carbon emissions and worsen the effects of climate change, the scientists said in a letter to the Dartmouth community dated July 5.

“We urge you to avoid making a heavy investment in a mistaken assumption that a wood-fired heating plant will be of benefit to the College or the world,” they wrote in the letter.

It was signed by George Woodwell, a 1950 Dartmouth graduate and founder of the nonprofit Woods Hole (Mass.) Research Center; William Schlesinger, a 1972 graduate and emeritus dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment; and John Sterman, a 1977 alumnus, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of its Sustainability Initiative.

The three argue that carbon dioxide released from wood-burning plants is greater than the fuel oil Dartmouth currently relies on. The carbon content of wood is about 30% greater than fuel oil and 80% higher than natural gas, they said.
» Read article

How to fight climate change? Save existing forests
Guest column by William R. Moomaw, Bob Leverett, Robert A. Jonas and Monica Jakuc Leverett, Daily Hampshire Gazette
July 24, 2019

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that we only have until 2030 to reduce the difference between the amount of carbon dioxide we emit from all sources (including fossil fuels, biomass burning and land use change) and the rate that natural systems like forests and oceans can remove it from the atmosphere.

While it is important to plant new trees for the longer term, waiting decades for them to grow will not help us to meet our short-term goals.

Allowing existing trees to continue growing and sequestering carbon is essential. This simple concept is explained in a peer-reviewed paper published by the journal “Frontiers in Forests,” authored by Drs. William R. Moomaw, Susan A. Masino and Edward K. Faison. The paper’s title says it all: “Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good.”

Proforestration means “growing existing forests intact to their ecological potential,” and is contrasted with afforestration (planting new forests) and reforestration (replacing forests on deforested or recently harvested lands) that take much longer to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in their early years than older forests do as they continue growing.
» Read article   

Europe’s renewable energy policy is built on burning American trees
Biomass energy is inadvertently making the climate crisis worse.
By Saul Elbein, Vox.com
March 4, 2019

As they steadily wean themselves off coal, European Union nations are banking on wood energy, or “biomass,” to meet their obligations under the Paris climate agreement.

That’s because in 2009, the EU committed itself to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, and put biomass on the renewables list. Several countries, like the United Kingdom, subsidized the biomass industry, creating a sudden market for wood not good enough for the timber industry. In the United States, Canada, and Eastern Europe, crooked trees, bark, treetops, and sawdust have been pulped, pressed into pellets, and heat-dried in kilns. By 2014, biomass accounted for 40 percent of the EU’s renewable energy, by far the largest source. By 2020, it’s projected to make up 60 percent, and the US plans to follow suit.
» Read article 
» Blog editor’s note: this article closely tracks the excellent documentary “Burned – Are Trees the New Coal?” by Alan Dater and Lisa Merton. More info and viewing access here.

» More biomass articles

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Weekly News Check-In 7/26/19

Welcome back.

Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news we uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles from the Weymouth Compressor Station and Granite Bridge pipeline fights; news about climate, clean energy alternatives, and clean transportation; and the latest from the fossil fuel industry and the battle against industrial scale biomass.

The blog editor is taking a week off – please watch for our next post on August 9th.

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Gas company misses deadline for testing soil at Weymouth site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
July 22, 2019

Residents and officials fighting a proposed natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River say it’s unlikely that construction of the controversial project could start this year after the gas company missed a deadline to submit additional hazardous waste soil testing.

The state Department of Environmental Protection last week entered into an administrative consent order with Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, to submit by Jan. 17, 2020, more environmental sampling and analysis related to hazardous waste cleanup of the site. Algonquin missed the first deadline of July 19.
» Read article   

FRRACS TV ad
Compressor TV ad urges governor to oppose facility
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
July 19, 2019

Opponents of a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin are urging people to ask Gov. Charlie Baker to speak out against the facility in a new 30-second TV infomercial.

“We are encouraging people to get involved,” said Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station. “We still have a big fight going on here.”

“Citing a compressor station in the middle of thousands of homes in Weymouth, Braintree and Quincy is by far the most irresponsible proposal a natural gas company has presented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Haugh said during the online advertisement. “Residents and local officials have fought for years against this proposal, but we need more help. We need Gov. Charlie Baker to speak out the Weymouth compressor station.”

The infomercial features a woman exclaiming, “Gov. Baker, where are you sir?” and the message ends with details about how to oppose the facility by reviewing FRRACS’s website.
» Read article   

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

 

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Liberty Utilities to make case for liquefied natural gas tank in Epping
Seacost Online
July 18, 2019

Liberty Utilities will host a safety demonstration of liquefied natural gas Wednesday, July 31 with expert Erik Neandross at the Epping Middle School gymnasium.

The demonstration comes as Liberty Utilities continues to work to gain approval to construct an LNG storage facility in West Epping as part of its proposed Granite Bridge project.
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge Pipeline articles

 

CLIMATE

Arctic Wildfires
Huge swathes of the Arctic on fire, ‘unprecedented’ satellite images show
Earth’s boreal forests now burning at rate unseen in ‘at least 10,000 years’, scientists warn
Harry Cockburn, the Independent
July 23, 2019

Vast swathes of the Arctic are suffering from “unprecedented” wildfires, new satellite images have revealed.

North of the Arctic circle, the high temperatures are facilitating enormous wildfires which are wreaking ecological destruction on a colossal scale.

It comes after the world’s hottest June on record which has been followed by a devastating heatwave in the US, with Europe forecast for the same treatment later this week.
» Read article   

Major U.S. cities are leaking methane at twice the rate previously believed
By Sid Perkins, Science Magazine
Jul. 19, 2019

The new findings come courtesy of data gathered by aircraft over six U.S. cities: Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City; Providence; and Boston. In 2018, researchers flew at altitudes between 300 and 800 meters and measured concentrations of methane, ethane, CO2, and carbon monoxide, among other gases.

It’s also much more than the amounts estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A 2016 report suggested methane emissions in the six major urban areas the researchers studied totaled only 370,000 tons. “It’s easy to say that the EPA inventory is low, but it’s not as easy to say why it’s low,” Kort says. One possible reason for this huge discrepancy: The EPA estimate includes leaks from the natural gas distribution system, but it doesn’t include leaks from homes and businesses. Those “beyond the meter” emissions could include, for example, tiny whooshes of incompletely burned methane from home appliances such as gas stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters. Taken together over a city of millions, such emissions could be substantial.

The team’s results are “a confirmation and expansion” of what was already known from smaller-scale studies in the Boston and the Washington, D.C.–Baltimore areas, says Steven Wofsy, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University, who wasn’t involved in the new analysis. The new study, conducted over six metropolitan areas, “shows this is not an isolated phenomenon,” he adds.
» Read article  

Days of 100-Degree Heat Will Become Weeks as Climate Warms, U.S. Study Warns
By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News
July 17, 2019

Nearly every part of the United States will face a significant increase in extremely hot days by mid-century, even if some action is taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, a new study says. If nothing is done to rein in climate change, it warns, the impact will be worse.

It found that the number of days when the average temperature will feel like 100 degrees in the Lower 48 states will more than double, from about two weeks at the end of the last century to 30 days by mid-century, even with some efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming.

And the number of days with a heat index of 105°F or more will more than triple to nearly three weeks, the study found.
» Read article   

Climate change will kill us with heat if nothing is done to fix it, study says
By Steve Marroni, Penn Live
July 16, 2019

The number of dangerously hot days per year will skyrocket this century if little or nothing is done about climate change, putting millions of Americans at risk.

Those are the findings released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists in their report, “Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days.”

The group says climate change is already manifesting itself in the form of deadlier storms, rising sea levels, droughts, wildfires and floods, but the heat extremes forecast in their analysis of the rest of the 21st Century shows an intensity of heat that will affect the daily lives of more Americans than ever before.
» Read article  

Could Climate Change Spark a Financial Crisis? Candidates Warn Fed It’s a Risk
By John Lippert, Inside Climate News
July 15, 2019

A few of the Democrats running for president have started warning about climate change in a way that voters rarely think about yet can profoundly affect their lives. To sum it up: If you think the housing crisis was bad, wait until you see how the climate crisis plays out for financial markets.

The candidates are urging the Federal Reserve—the United States’ central bank—to work with financial institutions around the world to confront climate risks that could trigger cascading collapses.

They also want regulators to ensure that America’s financial system is resilient to the impacts of climate change.

It’s not just that fossil fuel projects, like other infrastructure investments, are at risk from severe weather events, a risk that lenders and insurance companies must shoulder. It’s also that when the world finally weans itself away from the fossil fuels whose use is driving global warming, the business models of some of the most heavily capitalized world industries could crumble along with demand for their products.
» Read article   

» More climate articles

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Mass. delegation pushing to advance Vineyard Wind
By Michael P. Norton / State House News Service in Southcoast Today
July 24, 2019

Members of Congress have become involved in trying to move Vineyard Wind forward, a top Baker administration official said Tuesday, as lobbying intensifies to advance what state officials hope will be the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Undersecretary Patrick Woodcock told members of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Board earlier this week about the involvement of members of Congress since the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management indicated it would not decide on a key project approval this month, as anticipated.

Project officials last week indicated the entire effort is at risk without a favorable federal response by the end of August. Federal officials say they are operating within a review window that extends to March 2020.
» Read article   

State lawmakers advance Vineyard Wind project
The Barnstable Patriot
July 23, 2019

Vineyard Wind continues to undergo an extensive and comprehensive public and regulatory review process that involves evaluation by more than 25 federal, state, and local regulatory bodies, including the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Cape Cod Commission, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and local conservation commissions.

To date, Vineyard Wind has received permits or approvals from the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), an independent state board responsible for review of proposed large energy facilities, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office, the Cape Cod Commission, the Barnstable Conservation Commission, the Martha’s Vineyard Conservation Commission, and the Nantucket Conservation Commission.
» Read article   

Project Update: Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Bipartisan Legislation to Advance Vineyard Wind Project
Vinyard Wind Press Release
July 23, 2019

The Massachusetts Legislature has enacted bi-partisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Julian Cyr (D – Truro) and Rep. William L. Crocker (R – Barnstable) authorizing the Barnstable Town Council to grant an easement for a portion of Covell’s Beach that will allow for construction of the interconnection between Vineyard Wind, the United States’ first large-scale wind farm, and the New England power grid.The legislative vote follows a Host Community Agreement (HCA) between the Town of Barnstable and Vineyard Wind, which was unanimously supported by the Barnstable Town Council in October 2018.

The HCA includes annual payments to the Town of at least $1.534 million each year in combined property taxes and host community payments, totaling a guaranteed $16 million in Host Community Payments. The Town Council has dedicated those resources to municipal water protection efforts.
» Read article   

State net-zero carbon goal under review
By Matt Murphy, State House News Service, Worcester Telegram
July 23, 2019

… a group of 25 lawmakers, led by Reps. Majorie Decker of Cambridge and Sean Garballey of Arlington, appeared in support of a Decker-Garballey bill to convert to 100% renewable energy by 2045.

The bill would also set a target of 100% renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2035.

“What has happened is we have states who now must lead on this issue because the federal government is not only doing nothing about it, but doing everything they can to deny science,” Garballey said.

Garballey called it “a shame” that states like California, New York and Hawaii have committed themselves to achieving a 100% renewable electric system and Massachusetts hasn’t. In addition to helping fight the effects of climate change, Garballey said the transition will be a huge engine for job growth.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Auto agreement with CA
Automakers, Rejecting Trump Pollution Rule, Strike a Deal With California
By Coral Davenport and Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 25, 2019

In coming weeks, the Trump administration is expected to all but eliminate an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. California and 13 other states have vowed to keep enforcing the stricter rules, potentially splitting the United States auto market in two.

With car companies facing the prospect of having to build two separate lineups of vehicles, they opened secretive talks with California regulators in which the automakers — Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW — won rules that are slightly less restrictive than the Obama standards and that they can apply to vehicles sold nationwide.

The agreement provides “much-needed regulatory certainty,” the companies said in a joint statement, while enabling them to “meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations.”
» Read article   

Long distance solar EV Lightyear One has 725 km range
By Electrive.com
June 25, 2019

“The main goal of this car is to go where electric cars reach their limits,” says Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear. “Research has shown that range and lack of charging capability are still the biggest concerns with electric mobility.”

That’s why the car’s roof and hood are made of five square meters of safety glass solar cells. This should be so stable that an “adult man can walk on them without causing bumps”. According to a calculator on the company’s website, the solar cells will be able to generate electricity for a range of up to 33 kilometres a day (seven kilometres in winter).
» Read article  

» More clean transportation articles

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

U.S. Shale Is Doomed No Matter What They Do
By Nick Cunningham, Oilpriice.com
July 21, 2019

With financial stress setting in for U.S. shale companies, some are trying to drill their way out of the problem, while others are hoping to boost profitability by cutting costs and implementing spending restraint. Both approaches are riddled with risk.

There are [a] few reasons why natural gas prices might not rebound. For instance, any increase in natural gas prices will only induce more renewable energy. Costs for solar, wind and even energy storage has plunged. For years, natural gas was the cheapest option, but that is no longer the case. Renewable energy increasingly beats out gas on price, which means that natural gas prices will run into resistance when they start to rise as demand would inevitably slow.

A second reason why prices might not rise is because public policy is beginning to really work against the gas industry. IEEFA pointed to the recent decision in New York to block the construction of Williams Co.’s pipeline that would have connected Appalachian gas to New York City. In fact, New York seems to be heading in a different direction, recently passing one of the most ambitious and comprehensive pieces of climate and energy bills in the nation. Or, look to Berkeley, California, which just became the first city in the country to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. As public policy increasingly targets the demand side of the equation, natural gas prices face downward pressure.
» Read article

Babies Born Near Oil and Gas Wells Are Up to 70% More Likely to Have Congenital Heart Defects, New Study Shows
By Julia Conley, Common Dream
July 19, 2019

Led by Dr. Lisa McKenzie at the University of Colorado, researchers found that the chemicals released from oil and gas wells can have serious and potentially fatal effects on babies born to mothers who live within a mile of an active well site—as about 17 million Americans do.

The researchers studied more than 3,000 newborns who were born in Colorado between 2005 and 2011. The state is home to about 60,000 fracking sites, according to the grassroots group Colorado Rising. In areas with the highest intensity of oil and gas extraction activity, mothers were 40 to 70 percent more likely to give birth to babies with congenital heart defects (CHDs).

“We observed more children were being born with a congenital heart defect in areas with the highest intensity of oil and gas well activity,” said McKenzie in a statement.
» Read article  

Study from CU Anschutz researchers suggests link between oil and gas density, child heart defects
Industry claims researchers’ science is “misleading”
By Jennifer Kovaleski , Blair Miller, Denver Channel 7
July 18, 2019

A study from three University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus researchers funded by the American Heart Association published Wednesday in a peer-reviewed science journal found suggestions that babies born to mothers who live in areas with high oil and gas development are more likely to have congenital heart defects than those born outside of high-density areas.
» Read article   

GE Gas Turbine
GE gas plant to close 20 years early, become battery storage site — sign of the times?
By Phil Dzikiy, Electrek
June 24, 2019

General Electric will demolish a California natural gas-fired plant with 20 years remaining in its useful life, deeming the plant “uneconomical” as inexpensive solar and wind grab a larger share of power in the state.

The Inland Empire Energy Center (IEEC), a 750 megawatt plant, is slated for closure by the end of the year. GE told Reuters, “We have made the decision to shut down operation of the Inland Empire Power Plant, which has been operating below capacity for several years, effective at the end of 2019.”

The complete Inland Empire Energy Center Decommissioning and Demolition Plan has been published on the commission’s website. It notes that IEEC is selling the project site to Nova Power “for the purpose of developing a battery energy storage system (BESS).”

The plant relies on GE’s H-Class turbines, which is now considered a legacy technology. Experts told Reuters the turbine has a number of technical issues. GE noted the plant is now “uneconomical to support further.”

GE’s plant was first approved in 2003 and only came online about a decade ago, according to the California Energy Commission. Now the plant is set to close, only having gone through one-third of its designed useful life.
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles   

 

BIOMASS

As I See It: Burning wood no way to fight climate change
By Nisha Swinton and Regina LaRocque , Opinion: Worcester Telegram
July 19, 2019

A 2018 law sets a course for slowly expanding Massachusetts’ renewable portfolio standard (RPS). These state-based programs are among the most effective tools we have to encourage more clean energy. But when they are poorly designed, they can actually throw money at dirty power sources — anything from burning wood to animal waste and landfill gas. The current proposal would benefit powerful special interests, spew carbon into the atmosphere, and leave nearby communities to suffer from the effects of increased air pollution.

Increasing the burning of biomass is not a transition to clean renewable energy, but rather a dangerous distraction that will cost ratepayers money while undermining efforts to enact real clean energy policies. Rep. Denise Provost has introduced a bill that would remove biomass from the state’s Alternative Portfolio Standards program. Passing that bill would be a good start; but Gov. Baker should withdraw this proposal and implement a plan to stop the expansion of dirty energy sources that pollute our air and warm our planet.
» Read article   

Columnist Lindsay Sabadosa: Racism is not just about words
Daily Hampshire Gazzette
July 16, 2019

… the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has recently proposed changes that would allow electricity retailers to meet increased renewable energy goals by purchasing energy from polluting biomass power plants.

This would fly in the face of the stringent science-based standards Massachusetts adopted in 2012 that recognized the environmental and public health impacts of biomass energy. Massachusetts is currently the only state in the nation that considers greenhouse gas emissions as criteria for biomass eligibility in its renewable portfolio standard, and only highly efficient plants can qualify.

The proposed regulations would roll this back without any science-based justification for the change, at a time when climate scientists are telling us we need to do more to protect our forests and reduce our carbon emissions.

How does that relate to anti-racist policies and environmental justice? Western Massachusetts, home to some of the poorest and most disenfranchised communities in the state, would be the most affected and likely the location of any new biomass plant.

DOER’s proposed changes would ensure that the Palmer biomass plant proposed in East Springfield would qualify for $5 million to $10 million per year in renewable energy credits, in perpetuity, while adding more air pollution to a low-income community that already suffers alarmingly high rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic health problems.
» Read article   

» More biomass articles   

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Weekly News Check-In 7/19/19

WNCI-2
Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles about the Weymouth compressor station and Columbia Gas TGP 261 upgrade project. We also found interesting news on climate, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, fossil fuel industry, the EPA, and electric utilities.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

ARENA, Weymouth: Correcting compressor station misstatements
Letter to the Editor by Alice Arena, FRRACS, Patriot Ledger
July 17, 2019

I would like to correct the record in your article from Friday July 12, 2019, “Top regulator upholds air permit…” Mr. Steven Dodge, lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, makes two misstatements.

First, FERC has no opinion of the siting of a facility. The commission only approves the project itself, no matter where placement is considered. FERC does not consider safety or risk. Second, Enbridge only considered Weymouth from the beginning due to financial considerations, not considerations of public safety or safe and reliable delivery.
» Read article   

Mass. OKs Air Permit For Controversial Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
July 12, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday granted an air permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, removing another hurdle for the controversial project to proceed.
A statement from MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta noted that the “ruling relies on an evidence and science-based evaluation of air quality and health impacts associated with the proposed project [and] takes into account all applicable state and federal requirements.”
In a written statement, Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said he was disappointed with the decision, “but not surprised given how this process has been conducted thus far.” He called the process unfair to Weymouth and all South Shore residents.
“This entire process has demonstrated that our regulatory entities seem to be beholden to industry interests,” Hedlund said.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS / TGP 261 UPGRADE

Equitable transition to renewable energy can create millions of jobs (Letter to the Editor)
By Letters to the Editor | The Republican and MassLive
July 16, 2019

In her recent letter to the editor, “Energy moratoriums a danger to Western Mass. business,” June 30, page C4, Springfield Regional Chamber President Nancy Creed criticized the moratoria on new gas hook-ups imposed by utilities like Columbia Gas.

She neglected to mention that we have 11 years to avert worldwide climate disaster, according to the IPCC. A move away from “natural” gas is decades overdue.
» Read article    

» More TGP 261 upgrade articles

CLIMATE

Climate Litigation Has Become a Global Trend, New Report Shows
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog (Originally published on Climate Liability News)
July 15, 2019

Climate change-related lawsuits, once mostly limited to the U.S., have now been filed in nearly 30 countries, targeting governments and corporate polluters, according to the latest analysis of the trend.

A new report was published this month by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. It tracks the progress of the suits — filed since 1990 — as they have expanded beyond the U.S., and predicts the trend will continue.

“Holding government and businesses to account for failing to combat climate change has become a global phenomenon,” said Joana Setzer, research fellow at the Grantham Research Institute and co-author of the report. “People and environmental groups are forcing governments and companies into court for failing to act on climate change, and not just in the United States. ”

Climate change is also becoming a wider cause for concern by investors, who have begun pushing harder to companies to disclose the risks to their businesses.  According to the report, “failing to report climate risks and/or comply with recommendations is likely to increase litigation risk.”
» Read article  

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Berkeley becomes first U.S. city to ban natural gas in new homes
By Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle
July 17, 2019

Berkeley has become the first city in the nation to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to ban gas from new low-rise residential buildings starting Jan. 1.

The natural gas ordinance, introduced by Councilwoman Kate Harrison, requires all new single-family homes, town homes and small apartment buildings to have electric infrastructure.
» Read article   

Vineyard Wind Project Receives Potential Setbacks
Offshore wind turbines
By Sarah Mizes-Tan, WCAI
July 11, 2019

Vineyard Wind’s proposed 800 megawatt offshore windfarm received news of setbacks this week – most notably, a delay in the release of a final environmental impact statement from the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The final statement was due at the end of this week, but has been delayed with no future relase date given. The company had planned to break ground on the wind farm at the end of 2019, but this delay could push that timeline back.
» Read article    

In Setback for Vineyard Wind, Conservation Commission Denies Cable
By Noah Asimow, Vineyard Gazette
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Developers who plan to build the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard saw their first major setback this week, when the Edgartown conservation commission voted to deny the construction of two undersea cables that would connect the 84-turbine, 800-megawatt wind farm to mainland Massachusetts.

The conservation commission voted 5-1 Wednesday night to deny the cables.
The surprising vote puts the giant renewable energy development on hold and marks the first denial of a project that has already received approval from a half-dozen regulatory agencies throughout the Cape and Islands, including the Cape Cod Commission, the Nantucket conservation commission, and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
» Read article    

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Arizona’s new EV growth plan could save customers billions, groups say
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 12, 2019

The commission is moving ahead with plans to expand Arizona’s use of electric vehicles, and has approved guidelines for EV pilot programs that include a focus on infrastructure, education and outreach.

The guidelines also include an analysis of where to locate charging stations, best practices and consumer protections, rate design, incentives and rebates, and cost recovery for the pilot programs. Regulators directed utilities to submit EV pilot programs for review.

Several groups applauded the decision, which they say will improve air quality and save Arizona customers billions of dollars.
» Read article   

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Disputed ground: The future of landfill gas-to-energy
Gas capture at landfills creates electricity and revenue, but also has economic and environmental disadvantages.
By Max Witynski, Utility Dive
July 15, 2019

Operators champion landfill gas as a source of renewable energy and revenue. But as communities seek to divert more organics and climate anxiety intensifies, the practice has been decried as greenwashing.

The full story of landfill gas (LFG) is complicated. Capturing LFG creates beneficial use opportunities and earns operators revenue, in addition to reducing the global warming potential of the gas that is successfully captured. However, the system may be imperfect from an economic and environmental standpoint. Other forms of electricity generation from waste have efficiency advantages, and the ability of LFG capture systems to effectively mitigate net greenhouse gas emissions is contested.
Still, major landfill operators often refer to the positive effects of their LFG projects as being on par with other renewable sources.
» Read article  

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

E.P.A. Broke Rules in Shake-Up of Science Panels, Federal Watchdog Says
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 15, 2019

The Trump administration failed to follow ethics rules last year when it dismissed academic members of Environmental Protection Agency advisory boards and replaced them with appointees connected to industry, a federal watchdog agency concluded Monday.

The agency, the Government Accountability Office, found that the administration “did not consistently ensure” that appointees to E.P.A. advisory panels met federal ethics requirements. It also concluded that Trump administration officials violated E.P.A. guidelines by not basing the appointments on recommendations made by career staff members.

Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s first E.P.A. administrator who resigned last year amid ethics scandals, remade the agency’s science advisory panels because he said they did not fairly represent the United States geographically, or the industries affected by regulations.
» Read article 

E.P.A. Plans to Curtail the Ability of Communities to Oppose Pollution Permits
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
July 12, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to weaken rules that for the past quarter-century have given communities a voice in deciding how much pollution may legally be released by nearby power plants and factories.

The changes would eliminate the ability of individuals or community advocates to appeal against E.P.A.-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges. However, the industrial permit-holders could still appeal to the panel, known as the Environmental Appeals Board, to allow them to increase their pollution.
» Read article    

» More EPA articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Rural co-op transition to renewables impeded by coal financing obligations, NGOs find
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
July 8, 2019

Rural electric cooperatives are struggling to access the cash flow necessary to participate in the clean energy transition as they are locked into long-term generation contracts, often driven by outstanding coal plant debt, according to a new study.

The federal government is on the hook for about $8.4 billion of loan guarantees on existing coal assets for co-ops, according to a June report published by the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), Clean Up the River, Environment Minnesota and We Own It. The groups identified a series of potential solutions on a federal level, including a potential bailout for co-ops with federal debt.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

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Weekly News Check-In 7/12/19

Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles about opposition to the Weymouth compressor station and Columbia Gas’ TGP 261 upgrade project in Agawam. Even more on climate, clean energy alternatives, energy storage, the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities… and “what could possibly go wrong?”

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Mass. OKs Air Permit For Controversial Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
July 12, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday granted an air permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, removing another hurdle for the controversial project to proceed.

A statement from MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta noted that the “ruling relies on an evidence and science-based evaluation of air quality and health impacts associated with the proposed project [and] takes into account all applicable state and federal requirements.”

In a written statement, Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said he was disappointed with the decision, “but not surprised given how this process has been conducted thus far.” He called the process unfair to Weymouth and all South Shore residents.

“This entire process has demonstrated that our regulatory entities seem to be beholden to industry interests,” Hedlund said.

Blog editor’s note: The image above shows what it looks like when a properly sited compressor station blows up (and they do, occasionally). Precisely why these facilities should never be sited in dense, urban areas like Weymouth’s Fore River Basin. Also the pollution issues….
» Read article   

COMPRESSOR OPPONENTS GAIN BIG NEW ALLY: MASS. SENATE
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
July 11, 2019

Nearly three-quarters of the Senate penned a letter Thursday urging the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner to rescind approval for a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, a significant escalation from what had been mostly staunch local opposition.

The two-and-a-half page letter, signed with bipartisan support by 29 of the Senate’s 40 members, asks DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg to reject the proposal. It was released one day before his final decision on whether to uphold an air quality permit under appeal is due.

Warning that “public trust is lost” after the lengthy permitting process that saw outcry from environmental and health experts, the senators said the compressor plans sought by Algonquin Gas Transmission are a threat “to the Commonwealth as a whole” and could set a “dangerous precedent” for siting such facilities.
“The administrative proceedings surrounding the Weymouth compressor station application are fraught with errors, inaccuracies, and obstructions,” senators wrote. “Because of this, combined with the overall environmental and public health implications of the project, we believe that the DEP should rescind all permits pertaining to Algonquin’s application predicated upon the many permitting appeals filed by citizen groups and affected municipalities, and reevaluate the proposal in light of the facts and in a publicly transparent fashion.”
» Read article

At ‘wit’s end,’ Mariano pushes Weymouth air monitoring bill
By Chris Liskinski, State House News Service
July 9, 2019

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano urged colleagues Tuesday to advance legislation that would require additional air-quality monitoring near compressor stations, a bill he told constituents two weeks ago he would try to fast-track amid ongoing controversy over a Weymouth proposal.

Mariano, a Quincy Democrat, opened a Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy hearing Tuesday by saying he was at his “wit’s end” dealing with decades of pollution from industrial facilities in the area of the Fore River, which runs between Quincy and Weymouth.

Now, after what Mariano described as “egregious shortcomings” in the Baker administration’s approval of a Weymouth natural gas compressor station, he pushed for the legislation as necessary to ensure public health.
» Read article  

Shut up about the Weymouth compressor already, willya?
By Andrea Honore, Blue Mass Group
July 7, 2019

Here are some good reasons why you should care—even a little bit—about the Weymouth compressor project getting built. If it happens in Weymouth, it will happen to you.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

TGP 261 UPGRADE

Massachusetts mayor says access to cheap gas not worth the cost to climate
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News
July 8, 2019  

In December, the average price of 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas for residential customers nationally was $9.63, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration; in Massachusetts, it was $15.16, the fifth-highest in the country.

Still, Morse argues, bringing in more gas would just be business as usual at a time when the environment needs unconventional action. And if Holyoke can break old patterns, perhaps other communities will follow, he said.

“I hope we’re setting a precedent,” he said. “I hope we’re providing momentum to this conversation.”
» Read article

» More TGP 261 upgrade articles

CLIMATE

The Case for Declaring a National Climate Emergency
By Carolyn Kormann, New Yorker Magazine
July 11, 2019  

The resolution that Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and the Oregon representative Earl Blumenauer introduced to Congress on Tuesday (which was co-sponsored by more than two dozen other lawmakers), echoed the Green New Deal in calling for “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency.” It’s a symbolic resolution in Congress for now, given the Senate’s resistance to any climate-change policy, but it at least puts pressure on the 2020 Presidential candidates to keep discussing the issue as an emergency and debating climate solutions. It also reflects the reality of what’s needed, in the face of current facts.
» Read article  

Boston faces major challenge as sea levels rise
By Rick Sobey, Boston Herald
July 10, 2019

Boston is expected to have 12 to 19 high-tide flooding days this year, the NOAA projects.
By 2030, high-tide flooding is likely to happen about 15 to 25 days along the Northeast Atlantic, as a median regional value. By 2050, NOAA projects 40 to 130 high-tide flooding days for the region.

“Once communities realize they are susceptible to high tide flooding, they need to begin to address the impacts, which can become chronic rather quickly,” William Sweet, an oceanographer for NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, said in a statement. “Communities find themselves not knowing what to expect next year and the decades to come, which makes planning difficult. Our high tide projections can play a vital role in helping them plan mitigation and other remedies.”
» Read article  

It’s the End of the World as They Know It: The distinct burden of being a climate scientist
By David Corn, Mother Jones
July 8, 2019

It’s hardly surprising that researchers who spend their lives exploring the dire effects of climate change might experience emotional consequences from their work. Yet, increasingly, Cobb, Shukla, and others in the field have begun publicly discussing the psychological impact of contending with data pointing to a looming catastrophe, dealing with denialism and attacks on science, and observing government inaction in the face of climate change. “Scientists are talking about an intense mix of emotions right now,” says Christine Arena, executive producer of the docuseries Let Science Speak, which featured climate researchers speaking out against efforts to silence or ignore science. “There’s deep grief and anxiety for what’s being lost, followed by rage at continued political inaction, and finally hope that we can indeed solve this challenge. There are definitely tears and trembling voices. They know this deep truth: They are on the front lines of contending with the fear, anger, and perhaps even panic the rest of us will have to deal with.”
» Read article   

Big Oil’s ‘Natural Climate Solutions’ Feasibility Overblown, Critics Say
By Kendra Chamberlain, DeSmog Blog
July 6, 2019

There have been a slew of scientific papers over the years pointing to NCS as a useful tool in removing carbon dioxide from the environment. In their critique, Lang and Counsell have zeroed in on a TNC-led 2017 paper published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper’s authors estimate NCS “can provide 37 percent of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030” needed to stay below the 2° Celsius threshold of global warming.

The TNC paper’s claim that NCS can account for up to 37 percent of CO2 mitigation by 2030 has garnered quite a lot of attention by media, conservation organizations, and others as a “forgotten solution” to climate change.

A spokesperson from The Nature Conversancy agreed with Anderson’s assessment. “NCS by itself is no silver bullet. It’s not a matter of NCS or reducing fossil fuel emissions; the world needs both,” the spokesperson said. “But with [less than] 3 percent of all climate funding currently going to land use solutions, we think it deserves a much bigger place in the conversation.”

Counsell and Lang take the argument a step further. They claim that major oil companies have seized on the opportunity to promote NCS initiatives as a means to greenwash themselves while continuing to drill for fossil fuels.

“As long as the oil industry can say, look we’re doing something, we’re supporting tree planting, it just diverts the conversation from the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground,” Lang said, adding that major oil companies are incentivized to move the conversation away from fossil fuel reductions.

“This whole discussion about natural climate solutions is exactly what the oil industry wants. It’s handing them the perfect PR exercise on a plate,” he said.
» Read article  

Baking Alaska: record heat spurs wildfires and “mass mortality events”
By Susie Cagle, The Bulletin – originally published in The Guardian
July 5, 2019

Alaska is trapped in a kind of hot feedback loop, as the arctic is heating up much faster than the rest of the planet. Ocean surface temperatures upwards of 10F hotter than average have helped to warm up the state’s coasts. When Bering and Chukchi sea ice collapsed and melted months earlier than normal this spring, the University of Alaska climate specialist Rick Thoman characterized the water as “baking”.

“I intentionally try to not be hyperbolic, but what do you say when there’s 10- to 20- degree ocean water temperature above normal?” Thoman told the Guardian. “How else do you describe that besides extraordinary?”

The hot water has affected sea birds and marine life, with mass mortality events becoming commonplace in the region. The National Park Service characterizes Alaska’s increasingly frequent sea bird die-offs, called “wrecks”, as “extreme”. “The folks in the communities are saying these animals look like they’ve starved to death,” said Thoman.
» Read article   

Stop Building a Spaceship to Mars and Just Plant Some Damn Trees: Researchers found that there’s room for an extra 900 million hectares of canopy cover
By Jackie Flynn Mogensen, Mother Jones
July 4, 2019

The study, however, has its limitations. For one, a global tree-planting effort is somewhat impractical. As the authors write, “it remains unclear what proportion of this land is public or privately owned, and so we cannot identify how much land is truly available for restoration.” Rob Jackson, who chairs the Earth System Science Department and Global Carbon Project at Stanford University and was not involved with the study, agrees that forest management plays an important role in the fight against climate change, but says the paper’s finding that humans could reduce atmospheric carbon by 25 percent by planting trees seemed “unrealistic,” and wondered what kinds of trees would be most effective or how forest restoration may disrupt agriculture.

“Forests and soils are the cheapest and fastest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere—lots of really good opportunities there,” he said. “I get uneasy when we start talking about managing billions of extra acres of land, with one goal in mind: to store carbon.”
» Read article

Forests for Carbon Storage
By George Wuerthner, The Wildlife News
July 4, 2019

Currently, there is a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that would ban logging on all of the state lands. The premise of the legislation is that logging contributes significantly to CO2 emissions. The legislation sponsors argue that the best use of Massachusetts state-owned property is to maintain intact forests for carbon storage.

If this legislation should pass into law it may signal a shift in how we view the value of our federal and state forests. Our forests greatest value is for carbon storehouse, not wood products.
» Read article

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis
Research shows a trillion trees could be planted to capture huge amount of carbon dioxide
Damian Carrington Environment editor, the Guardian
July 4, 2019

Crowther emphasised that it remains vital to reverse the current trends of rising greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, and bring them down to zero. He said this is needed to stop the climate crisis becoming even worse and because the forest restoration envisaged would take 50-100 years to have its full effect of removing 200bn tonnes of carbon.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Compost heating test going well!
Rose Wessel, Old Stone Mill Center (blog post)
July 12, 2019  

This is an entirely new, first of its kind, compost heating system being developed by AgriLab for heating our Office space at The Old Stone Mill here in Adams, MA. The heat extracted from this system will feed a radiant floor in the office, and possibly some additional space as well.
» Read article

US renewable energy transition to move faster than anticipated by 2022: FERC report
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
July 9, 2019

By June 2022, the pace of U.S. renewables growth is going to surpass fossil fuel growth by a significantly greater margin than what FERC had anticipated as recently as April, according to the commission’s May 2019 Energy Infrastructure Update, released Friday.
» Read article

Even FERC can’t deny the energy transition
By Christian Roselund, PV Magazine
July 8, 2019

The latest projections from the federal agency show no growth in fossil fuel capacity over the next three years, while new solar and wind more than make up for nuclear retirements. This is likely an overly conservative assessment.
» Read article

It’s New York vs. California in a New Climate Race. Who Will Win?
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
July 8, 2019

California and New York have recently set some of the world’s most ambitious climate targets, aiming to slash their net emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases down to nearly zero in just three short decades.

Now the race is on to see if either state can pull off this feat — something that no major economy in the world has yet achieved. For now, neither state has a clear advantage, and both must overcome unique obstacles to clean up their power plants, cars and buildings.
» Read article  

Puerto Rico Harnesses The Power Of The Sun For A Renewable Energy Future
By Marisa Peñaloza, Greg Allen
July 5, 2019

The first phase will cost $1.4 billion. Padilla says, optimistically, the entire rebuild will take about five years. As part of it, he says, PREPA will greatly boost the amount of power generated by renewable energy. “This is a key part of what an energy sector should look like,” Padilla says.
» Read article

Experiments show dramatic increase in solar cell output
Method for collecting two electrons from each photon could break through theoretical solar-cell efficiency limit.
By David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
July 3, 2019

In any conventional silicon-based solar cell, there is an absolute limit on overall efficiency, based partly on the fact that each photon of light can only knock loose a single electron, even if that photon carried twice the energy needed to do so. But now, researchers have demonstrated a method for getting high-energy photons striking silicon to kick out two electrons instead of one, opening the door for a new kind of solar cell with greater efficiency than was thought possible.

While conventional silicon cells have an absolute theoretical maximum efficiency of about 29.1 percent conversion of solar energy, the new approach, developed over the last several years by researchers at MIT and elsewhere, could bust through that limit, potentially adding several percentage points to that maximum output.
» Read article

Conservative Indiana Chooses Renewables Over Gas As It Retires Coal Early
By Jeff McMahon, Forbes
July 2, 2019

“Renewables are so cheap, said Mike Hooper, the senior vice president of the Northern Indiana Service Company (NIPSCO), that the utility can close its coal plants early and return $4 billion to its customers over the next 30 years.”

Empowered by the low price of renewables, NIPSCO decided to double the number of coal plants it will retire in 2023—four instead of two—and to retire its 12 Michigan City units ahead of schedule in 2028, getting the utility out of coal in ten years.
» Read article  

Los Angeles solicits record solar + storage deal at 1.997/1.3-cents kWh
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 2, 2019

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is preparing a potentially world record-setting power purchase agreement (PPA) for solar + storage at 1.997 cents and 1.3 cents per kWh, respectively.

California is seeking more generation in order to meet its peak system reliability needs from 2019 to 2024, and last week launched a procurement track that would add 2 GW of new resources. LADWP noted projects such as the Eland Center are important toward meeting high capacity needs.

“We need to have more capacity on our system and this is an inexpensive way, and a clean way, to do that,” said Barner.
» Read article

Why I replaced my new gas boiler with a heat pump
By Jan Rosenow, RAP
June 26, 2019

But what about the embodied carbon emissions of the new heat pump? Would it not be better to wait until a heating system has reached the end of its life before replacing it? In response to my Twitter post, someone suggested to me that “knee jerk installations of heat pumps over natural gas boilers ‘to save CO2’ are not done until the useful life of the gas boiler has been met. Premature boiler changes will cause more CO2 than they will save.”

Here again, the numbers support the early retirement of gas boilers. The total embodied carbon emissions for a typical air source heat pump installed in a UK home are 1,563 kg CO2e. My heat pump avoids 1,313 kg CO2e per year. It means that after less than 1.5 years, a heat pump starts saving carbon compared to a gas boiler, even if the gas boiler is replaced before the end of its life. Hence, from a carbon perspective, it makes sense to replace a gas boiler even if it was just installed. Assuming a 20-year lifetime for the heat pump, the embodied carbon emissions per year are just 78 kg CO2e per year, or 4% of the operational carbon emissions from fuel use.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

ENERGY STORAGE

New York regulators assess potential for storage to replace peaking units in the state
By HJ Mai, Utlity Dive
July 3, 2019  

Replacing New York’s fleet of less efficient peaking units with energy storage systems and renewables will be key to achieving the state’s clean energy goals. New York aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and shift to 100% clean electricity by 2040.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year announced proposed regulations to accelerate this plan. The governor’s proposal includes lower thresholds for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from simple cycle and regenerative combustion turbines, and would phase in control requirements from 2023 to 2025. Gas-fired peaker plants, which generate infrequently, can account for more than a third of the state’s daily power plant NOx emissions when they run.
» Read article

» More energy storage articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

OPEC head: Climate activists are the ‘greatest threat’ to oil industry
By Miyo McGinn, Grist
July 5, 2019  

Climate activists and their “unscientific” claims are “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward,” said Mohammed Barkindo, the secretary general of OPEC (the cartel representing 14 countries with 80 percent of the world’s oil reserves) earlier this week.

He might have been talking about protesters more broadly, but the rest of his statement suggests that young people are being particularly irksome. Barkindo said some of his colleague’s children are asking them about the future because “they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry.” (I guess the birds and the bees isn’t the most uncomfortable conversation parents are having with their kids in OPEC households.)
» Read article

More Signs That Natural Gas Can’t Compete With Renewables on Cost
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
July 5, 2019

Right now, natural gas prices are artificially low because fracking companies have been producing record amounts of natural gas at a loss. As Schlotterbeck points out, this is an unsustainable business model. But it has supplied natural gas consumers with artificially cheap energy, giving natural gas a competitive edge over the dying coal and nuclear power industries.

The news that gas prices can only go up while renewables and battery costs continue to drop (and already are easily beating natural gas for power generation in places like California) means that in a free market economy, no new natural gas power plants would be constructed. That scenario is welcome in light of a new study released this week, which concludes that the climate pollution from existing fossil fuel infrastructure is enough on its own to push the planet past 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming by 2100.
» Read article  

The New Gas Boom
LNG Tanker
TRACKING GLOBAL LNG INFRASTRUCTURE
By Ted Nace, Lydia Plante, and James Browning, Global Energy Monitor
June, 2019

Through a massive increase in portside infrastructure, floating offshore terminals, and oceangoing LNG ves-sels, the natural gas industry is seeking to restructure itself from a collection of regional markets into a wider and more integrated global system. If successful, this transformation would lock in much higher levels of natural gas production through mid-century—a seem-ing win for the industry—except that the falling cost of renewable alternatives will make many of these proj-ects unprofitable in the long term and put much of the $1.3 trillion being invested in this global gas expansion at risk. Such an expansion is also incompatible with the IPCC’s warning that, in order to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, gas use must decline 15% by 2030 and 43% by 2050, relative to 2020.
» Read article  

Norway Wealth Fund To Dump Fossil Fuel Stocks Worth Billions In Environmental Move
By David Nikel, Forbes
June 12, 2019

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund will sell off more than $10 billion of stocks in companies related to fossil fuels following the rubber-stamping of Finance Committee recommendations in Norway’s Parliament today. As part of a broad shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the move from Norway’s center-right coalition government confirms several recent announcements including the phasing out of oil exploration and coal-related stocks.

The new guidelines mean Norway’s Wealth Fund can no longer invest in companies that mine more than 20 million tonnes of coal annually, or generate more than 10,000 MW of power using coal.
» Read article

“Shockwaves” as Norway’s $1Trill wealth fund plans to disinvest from upstream oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
March 8, 2019

The beginning of the end of the age of oil moved a step closer today, with Norway’s Government recommending that its $1 trillion wealth fund should divest from upstream oil and gas producers.

The news that the world’s largest wealth fund, known as the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG,) which is highly influential just by its huge financial size, will divest from companies that explore and produce oil, “has sent shockwaves through the energy sector”, according to the Financial Times.

Whilst the move is significant in driving the fossil fuel disinvestment momentum, the FT notes there are caveats: “the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has given a reprieve to the global oil majors” such as Shell and BP and “the fund appears to be allowed to still invest in oil and gas companies if they have activities in renewable energy.”

The move is primarily concerned about protecting the Norwegian economy from any future plunge in the oil price rather than climate concerns, although these are mentioned by the Government.
»
Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Senate passes cybersecurity bill to decrease grid digitization, move toward manual control
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 1, 2019  

The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act (SEIA) establishes a two-year pilot program to identify new classes of security vulnerabilities and to research and test solutions, including “analog and nondigital control systems.” The U.S. Department of Energy would be required to report back to Congress on its findings.

Recent news that the United States government has been working to insert malicious code into Russia’s electric grid has raised the specter of a cyberwar between the two nations. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterje told lawmakers last month that critical infrastructure in the U.S., including the electric grid, is “increasingly under attack by foreign adversaries.”
» Read article

» More electric utility articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Karnes County natural gas facility burns just before dawn 
Karnes County gas fire
By Jon Wilcox, Victoria Advocate
July 11, 2019  

A Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline facility in Karnes County caught fire Thursday morning.

About 5:40 a.m., emergency dispatchers received warning of the blaze and dispatched firefighters and sheriff’s deputies to the facility, said Emergency Management Coordinator and County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik.

Located at 8724 County Road 326, about two miles west of Runge, the facility pressurizes natural gas for pipeline transport, Dupnik said.

In spite of numerous safety features, a gas compressor at the location is suspected of failing and starting the blaze, he said.

No one was reported injured, and authorities have no reason to suspect foul play.
» Read article

Large gas explosion reported by LA Fitness in Florida, reports say
By WCVB, ABC News
July 6, 2019

A vacant pizza restaurant exploded Saturday in a thundering roar at a South Florida shopping plaza, injuring more than 20 people as large chunks of concrete flew through the air.

The blast sent debris flying along a busy road in Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale in Broward County. The restaurant was destroyed, and nearby businesses were damaged.
Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said there were at least 15 to 20 patients, two of whom were in serious condition, and there were no apparent deaths.
Responders found an active gas leak when they arrived, but they were not immediately sure if that was the cause of the blast.
» Read article

» More about what could go wrong…

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Weekly News Check-In 7/5/19


Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles on climate, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, the Weymouth compressor station, Granite Bridge Pipeline, the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities, and the plastics/fracking connection.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE

Anchorage, Alaska Hit 90 Degrees for First Time on July 4th
By Olivia Rosane, Eco Watch
July 5, 2019

“At 5pm this afternoon, #Anchorage International Airport officially hit 90 degrees for the first time on record,” NWS Anchorage tweeted Thursday afternoon.

As the nation’s fastest-warming state, Alaska is dramatically impacted by the climate crisis. Its temperatures are rising at twice the global average and its springs average two to five degrees warmer than they did 50 years ago, according to The New York Times.

The warming is melting sea ice on the Bering and Chukchi Seas, which disappeared weeks ahead of normal this year in some places. This, in turn, leads to warmer surface ocean temperatures as the dark water absorbs more sunlight. Surface temperatures are currently ranging from four to 10 degrees above normal.
» Read article

Restoring forests could capture two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere
By Mark Tutton, CNN
July 5, 2019

The researchers identified ecosystems around the world that would naturally support some level of tree cover, but have become “degraded” — deforested for timber, for example, or turned into farmland that has since been abandoned. They excluded areas that are currently used as urban or agricultural land, or that would naturally be grasslands or wetlands, because these ecosystems can themselves be valuable carbon stores, as well as supporting biodiversity.

They concluded that there’s enough suitable land to increase the world’s forests by about a third. That would give the planet more than a trillion extra trees and 900 million hectares of additional tree canopy, an area about the size of the United States.
» Read article

Heat Wave Nudged the Planet to Its Hottest June, European Forecasters Say
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
July 3, 2019

The heat wave that smothered much of Europe at the end of June helped raise average global temperatures to a record for the month, a European weather forecasting agency has said.

The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts said Tuesday that global temperatures for June were about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.1 degree Celsius, higher than the previous record for the month, set in 2016. Europe itself was even warmer, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 2016 record.
» Read article

June was hottest ever recorded on Earth, European satellite agency announces

Experts say climate change contributed to record-breaking temperatures across Europe
By Conrad Duncan, The Independent
July 2, 2019

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, the EU‘s satellite agency has announced.

Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the EU, showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record for the month.
» Read article

Alaska’s heat wave fuels dangerous smoke, melts glaciers
By Yereth Rosen, Reuters
July 1, 2019

Record warmth and near-record warmth in most of the state has created flammable conditions from the Canadian border in the east to the Bering Sea coast in the west. In all, there were 354 wildfires covering 443,211 acres in Alaska as of Sunday morning, according to state and federal fire managers. Melting glaciers and mountain snowfields are bloating rivers and streams across a large swath of south central Alaska.
» Read article

Freak summer hailstorm buries Mexico’s Guadalajara city in 1.5 metres of ice
Governor blames climate change for extreme weather after heavy storm
By Conrad Duncan The Independent
July 1, 2019
Guadalajara hail storm

Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, Jalisco’s governor, suggested that the extreme weather had been caused by climate change after evaluating the damage yesterday. “I witnessed scenes that I had never seen before: the hail more than a metre high, and then we ask ourselves if climate change is real,” he wrote on Twitter.
» Read article

Senators target 50% national renewable energy standard by 2035, zero-carbon by 2050
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 27, 2019

Under the bill, each new kilowatt-hour of renewable energy would be eligible for a renewable energy credit from the federal government and the Secretary of Energy would be required to submit a plan to Congress aiming to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. Solar, wind, ocean, tidal, geothermal energy, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower and hydrokinetic energy all qualify as renewable resources under the bill.
Blog editor’s note: the bill includes biomass, which is environmentally destructive, carbon-emitting, and far from clean. Removing that energy source is a necessary amendment to this proposed legislation.
» Read article

New York City declares a climate emergency, the first US city with more than a million residents to do so
By Scottie Andrew and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
June 27, 2019

New York City officials declared a climate emergency in an effort to mobilize local and national responses to stall global warming.

It’s the largest city in the US, with over 8.62 million inhabitants.

The New York City Council passed the legislation Wednesday, calling for an immediate response to the global climate crises. The bill referenced several reports on the state of global warming and its impact, imparting that extreme weather events brought about by rising temperatures demonstrates that the planet is “too hot to be a safe environment.”
» Read article

New England Coastal Waters Warming More Than Anywhere Else In U.S.
By Lexi Peery, WBUR
June 27, 2019

Waters off the coast of New England have warmed up more than any other coastal areas in the United States — up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901. That’s according to a new analysis of recently collected federal ocean data by the independent research nonprofit Climate Central.

Their report also notes that fresh and salt waters across the United States are warming 40% faster than expected.
» Read article

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change
By Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico
06/23/2019

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.
» Read article

Report: Sea level rise to hit Cape Cod hard
By Doug Fraser, Cape Cod Times
June 20, 2019

Adapting to the changing landscape and massive ecosystem shifts of a world that is heating up rapidly is the most dramatic economic and social struggle in history, the executive director of The Center for Climate Integrity said Wednesday.

Richard Wiles was speaking at a telephone press conference introducing a report that he said conservatively estimated $400 billion in costs to coastal communities nationwide to deal with sea level rise in the next 20 years. Barnstable County ranked the highest in the state, and the third highest nationally, with an estimated $7.04 billion in estimated costs to protect public infrastructure from sea level rise.
» Read article

Kuwait with 52.2 degree was the hottest in the world yesterday
(126F)
By Kwt Today
June 6, 2019

Kuwait was the hottest country in the world, with the temperature hitting 52.2 degrees Celsius in the shadow, in the region of Matraba in North Kuwait, yesterday.
» Read article

» More climate articles 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

VRF Program Closure
By Peter McPhee, Program Director, Renewable Thermal, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
June 28, 2019

On June 28, 2019, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced the closure of our Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pump program. Over the last two years we’ve supported 110 large commercial buildings in transitioning from fossil fuel heating to highly efficient heat pumps. In doing do, we’ve helped demonstrate that the technology, industry, and market exists today for VRF heat pumps.

We started down this pathway two years ago with one primary question in mind: how do we decarbonize heating in commercial buildings? Commercial building heating makes up nearly 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, and we wanted to test an approach for reducing commercial building emissions to near zero by 2050. Because Massachusetts is legally mandated to reduce state-wide emissions 80% by 2050, this is a problem we need to solve.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Climate Change Denialists Dubbed Auto Makers the ‘Opposition’ in Fight Over Trump’s Emissions Rollback
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 2, 2019

In the early months of the Trump administration, automakers pleaded for — and appeared set to receive — some relief from fuel economy standards that they said were too difficult to meet.

But newly released government emails show how a coalition of groups that reject established climate science quickly muscled into the picture, urging the administration to go much further and roll back the rules entirely and characterizing the automakers as their opponents in achieving that goal.
» Read article

Alice, 9-Seat Electric Airplane, Gets Its 1st Buyer — Cape Air
By Nicolas Zart, Clean Technica
June 27th, 2019

Alice electric airplane
Our friends at Eviation unveiled the first “fully operational” Alice, an electric airplane commuter, at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France. Furthermore, Eviation secured a high note thanks to Cape Air becoming its first official customer.
» Read article

Canada Signals a Willingness to Challenge Trump on His Clean-Car Rollback
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
June 26, 2019

Traditionally, Canada has aligned its auto emissions standards with federal rules in the United States. However, several analysts said they saw Wednesday’s announcement as a clear step toward a more concrete shift in which Canada could potentially switch to the environmentally stricter standards of California and other states. Such a move could undercut Mr. Trump’s efforts to weaken environmental policy by creating a much larger market for cleaner cars, thereby making it more economically viable for auto manufacturers to build cars to the higher standards.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

ATLANTIC BRIDGE PIPELINE / WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Compressor station opponents say they’ll go to court
By Chris Lisinski / STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE in Wicked Local Weymouth
July 2, 2019

Weymouth protest photo
Slamming a “broken process” unfolding at the Department of Environmental Protection, about 50 environmental activists protested Tuesday outside the State House and called for an independent investigation into the administration’s permitting of a controversial natural gas compressor station.

Residents of the Fore River region, near the Weymouth site of the proposed station, gathered with members of about half a dozen advocacy groups, where they attempted to tie Gov. Charlie Baker personally to the issue and, alleging conflicts of interest, implored Auditor Suzanne Bump or Attorney General Maura Healey to step in.

The protest came less than a week after a DEP hearing officer suggested upholding an air-quality permit for the facility despite a chaotic appeal process that saw the department reveal it had failed to disclose relevant testing data from the site.
» Read article

» More Atlantic Bridge / Weymouth Compressor Station articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

The dog ate my homework: How utilities avoid least-cost planning
By D. Maurice Kreis, Opinion, InDepthNH
June 27, 2019

Regardless of how urgent a problem you consider climate change, from a ratepayer standpoint it’s bad news if a natural gas utility is not considering the full extent to which so-called “non-pipeline alternatives” can substitute cost-effectively for more pipelines and more gas.  Examples include geographically targeted energy efficiency, heat pumps, and thermal storage.  Even if these resources cannot entirely eliminate Liberty’s need to expand its supply portfolio, experience in other jurisdictions has shown that the modular nature of these resources allows a utility to defer a project into the future, buying time to see if forecasted growth in demand actually materializes.
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge Pipeline articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

America’s liquefied natural gas boom may be on a collision course with climate change
By Matt Egan, CNN Business
July 1, 2019

The US energy industry is scrambling to build dozens of expensive export terminals that can be used to ship cheap natural gas to China and other fast-growing economies that want to move away from coal.

While those investments make sense today, they will likely be derailed in the longer run by a combination of plunging renewable energy costs and rising climate change concerns, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a network of researchers tracking fossil fuel projects.
» Read article

Limpert: Pipeline coating is dangerous
By William Limpert, Editorial, Roanoke Times
June 30, 2019

The MVP, and the ACP are coated with 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 (FBE) which is designed to protect the pipes from corrosion, which leads to leaks, and explosions. FBE degrades, chalks off the pipes, and becomes thinner and less protective when exposed to sunlight.

We should all be concerned when state and federal agencies fail to act to protect the public, without proof there is no risk, and while making vague and evasive statements to support their inaction. Likewise for the pipeline industry.
» Read article

U.S. Oil Companies Find Energy Independence Isn’t So Profitable
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
June 30, 2019

In the last four years, roughly 175 oil and gas companies in the United States and Canada with debts totaling about $100 billion have filed for bankruptcy protection. Many borrowed heavily when oil and gas prices were far higher, only to collectively overproduce and undercut their commodity prices. At least six companies have gone bankrupt this year, and Weatherford International, the fourth-leading oil services company, which owes investors $7.7 billion, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection on Monday.
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Diversifying the Northeast power mix: Is offshore wind + storage key to the region’s reliability?
As more New England states roll out offshore wind mandates, bringing the technology to scale is a portfolio priority.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
July 2, 2019
Offshore wind and battery storage are about to come into the Northeastern power mix in a big way.

With more states requiring offshore wind targets, almost 18 GW are mandated to come online by 2035 in states across New England. But how that intermittent capacity will fit into an increasingly clean energy mix, how it will impact system reliability and whether the region’s utilities are ready for more change, remains in question.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

PLASTICS/FRACKING CONNECTION

Boom Goes the Plastics Industry
With demand for oil expected to slow, oil companies seek a lifeline in plastics
By Antonia Juhasz, Sierra Magazine / Sierra Club
June 30, 2019

ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco, among the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, are betting big on plastics. In its latest investor report, ExxonMobil acknowledged a sharp decline in demand for gasoline. The company expects it will help fill the gap with chemicals and predicts a 30 percent increase in demand by 2025. A recent investor article released by Bank of America Merrill Lynch was titled “Oil’s Future Paved With Plastic.”

This pivot is already well underway. The excess of oil and gas has contributed to a frenzy of pipeline construction geared toward shipping ever greater quantities of fossil fuels to the coasts, where facilities distill the chemical building blocks needed for plastic production. The American Chemistry Council reports that since 2010, plans for 333 new chemical-manufacturing projects have been announced in the United States, representing more than $200 billion in capital investments; the industry association notes that “much of the investment is geared toward export markets for chemistry and plastics products.” A great deal of the build-out is along the Gulf Coast, led by Chevron, Phillips 66, and ExxonMobil. Shell Oil and other companies are building chemical-production capacity on the East Coast and along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
» Read article

» More plastics/fracking connection articles

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Weekly News Check-In 6/28/19


Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE

It’s so hot in Europe, the temperature map is screaming
By Miyo McGinn, Grist
June 26, 2019

Screaming hot
This week’s weather is being compared to the 2003 heatwave that was responsible for over 30,000 deaths across Western Europe — mostly of the sickly, elderly, and homeless — and estimated financial losses of over 13 billions euros ($14.8 billion).

The only reported casualties of the heat so far are three elderly French people who died after suffering cardiac arrests while swimming today, prompting officials to issue statements warning the public of the dangers of jumping into cold water when it’s so hot.

Unfortunately, this is just the start — the heatwave is expected to continue through next week, and governments are preparing for water shortages, increased risk of fires, and an influx of hospitalizations from dehydration and overheating as temperatures creep higher in the coming days.
» Read article  

As Coal Fades in the U.S., Natural Gas Becomes the Climate Battleground
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
June 26, 2019

Nationwide, energy companies plan to add at least 150 new gas plants and thousands of miles of pipelines in the years ahead.

A rush to build gas-fired plants, even though they emit only half as much carbon pollution as coal, has the potential to lock in decades of new fossil-fuel use right as scientists say emissions need to fall drastically by midcentury to avert the worst impacts of global warming.
» Read article

77 Health Organizations Call for Climate Action to Fight Public Health Emergency
By Olivia Rosane, Eco Watch
June 25, 2019

“We are here today to declare that climate change is a health emergency. Climate change is already harming the health, safety and wellbeing of every American living today and if it is not addressed, will bring untold harm to all our children and grandchildren,” former Acting Surgeon General and Retired U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak said in a transcript of a press call emailed to EcoWatch.
» Read article 

‘Climate apartheid’: UN expert says human rights may not survive
Right to life is likely to be undermined alongside the rule of law, special rapporteur says
By Damian Carrington, Environment editor, The Guardian
June 25, 2019

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said.

Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.

Alston is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”
» Read article 

Trump administration issues guidance for federal agencies to weigh climate impacts
By Valerie Volcovici, Reuters
June 21, 2019

“Time and time again, courts are ordering agencies to consider the impacts of climate change in their environmental reviews,” said Christy Goldfuss, former CEQ chair during the Obama administration. “With record-breaking storms and the recent devastating floods in the Midwest, climate impacts are looming large – the Federal government ignores them at their own peril.”
» Read article 

White House tells agencies they no longer have to weigh a project’s long-term climate impacts
By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
June 21, 2019

The move, which comes two days after the Environmental Protection Agency scaled back greenhouse gas requirements for power plants, is the Trump administration’s latest effort to sideline climate considerations in federal decision-making. But legal experts warned it could cause further problems for the administration in court, where judges have suggested officials need to do a better job of assessing the climate impact of their decisions.
» Read article

Clean Power Plan replacement triggers rush to court
Climate activists say they expect to have the Affordable Clean Energy rule invalidated in court.
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 20, 2019

Environmental advocates and state attorneys general on Wednesday signaled they would file lawsuits to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which they say will be significantly less effective than the Obama-era Clean Power Plan it replaces.

The EPA finalized the rule on Wednesday, and as a result expects carbon emissions from the electric sector to fall by as much as 35% below 2005 levels by 2030. But opponents of the new rule say updates to power sector regulations should result in far greater decarbonization, and by failing to consider more effective emission control options the agency violated the Clean Air Act.
» Read article 

India weather: Temperature passes 50C Celsius in northern India
(*123.8°F)
By News Corp Australia
June 3, 2019

Temperatures passed 50 degrees Celsius in northern India as an unrelenting heatwave triggered warnings of water shortages and heatstroke. The thermometer hit 50.6 degrees Celsius in the Rajasthan desert city of Churu over the weekend, the weather department said.

The Indian Meteorological Department said severe heat could stay for up to a week across Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states. Several deaths from heatstroke have already been recorded. About 200 million people live in northern India.
» Read article 

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

For the first time, the U.S. got more electricity from renewables than coal
By Irina Ivanova, CBS News
June 27, 2019

For the first time, the U.S. has generated more energy from renewables than from coal, marking a landmark for non-polluting energy.

A full 22% of the electricity generated in the U.S. in April came from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which released the official figures this week after early projections emerged in May. Just 20% of power production in April came from coal. The shift away from King Coal is due to seasonal factors as well as a long-running decline in the number of U.S. coal plants.
» Read article  

Nuclear Power & Natural Gas Hit A Wall In US: Now What?
By Tina Casey, Clean Technica
June 22, 2019

Two developments in the US energy landscape this week call into question the “clean energy” status of nuclear power and natural gas, too. In Rhode Island, state officials torpedoed a proposed natural gas power plant after a massive wave of public opposition. Meanwhile, federal officials greenlighted the sale of New Jersey’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey to the company Holtec Decommissioning International, which will take it down atom by atom. So, now what?
» Read article  

Engineers lead study for replacing natural gas
By Real Estate Weekly
June 21, 2019

BuroHappold Engineering has been selected by local nonprofit Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) to lead the development of an GeoMicroDistrict Feasibility Study, which will explore the potential of replacing natural gas infrastructure with a network of neighborhood-scale district heating systems, or “GeoMicroDistricts.”

The goal of the Study is to assess the feasibility of designing, developing, implementing, and scaling up these systems in the Greater Boston area to reduce reliance on natural gas and move towards renewable energy sources.

It will focus on the use of ground-source heat pump technology, which uses electricity to transfer heat from the ground to a network of hot water pipes, to provide heating, and potentially cooling, for the buildings within each District.

Ground-source heat pump technology is highly efficient and, when paired with clean electricity, is considered a renewable heat source. HEET is scheduled to release the final plan in the early fall of 2019.
» Read article  

Congress pushes for storage, renewables to have same private investment incentives as fossil fuels
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 17, 2019

“Clean energy technologies have made tremendous progress in the last several decades, and they deserve the same shot at success in the market as traditional energy projects have experienced through the federal tax code,” Coons said in a statement.

Updating the tax code “levels the playing field” for a wide array of energy sources, said Coons. “Clean and traditional alike.”
» Read article   

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

State Funding For Electric Vehicle Rebates Dries Up
By Craig LeMoult, WGBH News
June 24, 2019

After September, Massachusetts won’t give rebates to people who buy electric vehicles. The state program behind the rebates is running out of money.

For the last five years, the state has been giving $1,500 rebates to people who buy electric vehicles. The MOR-EV program has given over $30 million to more than 14,000 electric vehicle buyers. But as electric vehicles get more popular, money for the program has been running dry, and state lawmakers have failed to extend the program.
» Read article 

To compete in the global battery arms race, the US must spur its domestic market, analysts say
Industry experts say the United States has to create incentives for lithium-ion battery products to encourage manufacturers and decrease its dependence on Chinese imports.
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
June 24, 2019

Spurred by increased global demand for electric vehicles (EVs), energy storage systems and consumer electronics, lithium-ion batteries have become invaluable in today’s global society. And while China recognized early on the importance of establishing a manufacturing base, the U.S. failed to take a similar approach.

The result of those decisions is market dominance on one side and a heavy dependency on imports on the other. To close America’s gap in the battery production sector, industry experts told Utility Dive that having a reliable domestic market driven by government incentives is key to challenge China’s superiority.
» Read article  

Green is the New Black with Asphalt Made from Algae
The next generation of roads might be made from discarded plant product rather than oil-based bitumen.
By Jessica Lombardo, forconstructionpros.com
May 29, 2015

This innovation offers a new possible option for the road building industry, which is entirely dependent on petroleum today. The types of bioasphalt developed so far relied on oils of agricultural origin (which could be needed for human nutrition) or from the paper industry, mixed with resins to improve their viscoelastic properties. Microalgae cultivation does not require the use of arable land so it offers an attractive solution.
» Read article 

» More clean transportation articles

NATURAL GAS HEALTH RISKS

Health officials want studies of natural gas projects
By Christian M. Wade, Statehouse News
June 25, 2019

While many of the battles over pipeline expansions have largely focused on environmental costs and safety concerns, officials say health risks shouldn’t be overlooked.

Steve Jones, a retired physician and volunteer for the Sierra Club, said many people just aren’t aware of the serious health risks.

“Those familiar blue flames on a gas stove produce nitrogen dioxide, which is a potent respiratory irritant,” he said at Tuesday’s briefing. “Unfortunately many parents, public health staff and boards of health do not know that gas stove cooking increases the risk of asthma.”
» Read article 

» More natural gas health risk articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Shale Pioneer: Fracking is an “Unmitigated Disaster”
By Nick Cunningham, Oil Price
June 24, 2019

Fracking has been an “unmitigated disaster” for shale companies themselves, according to a prominent former shale executive.

“The shale gas revolution has frankly been an unmitigated disaster for any buy-and-hold investor in the shale gas industry with very few limited exceptions,” Steve Schlotterbeck, former chief executive of EQT, a shale gas giant, said at a petrochemicals conference in Pittsburgh. “In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change.”

He did not pull any punches. “While hundreds of billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to hundreds of millions of people, the amount of shareholder value destruction registers in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said. “The industry is self-destructive.”
» Read article 

U.S. Natural Gas Prices Have Collapsed
By Jude Clemente, Forbes
June 23, 2019

U.S. natural gas prices have collapsed since Memorial Day. The prompt month NYMEX gas contract is down over 16% so far in June.

Natural gas is at its lowest price level since May 2016. Now around $2.20 per MMBtu, gas this time last year was ~$3.00. Nobody saw this coming, especially when prices in mid-November spiked to nearly $5.00.
» Read article  

Former Shale Gas CEO Says Fracking Revolution Has Been ‘A Disaster’ For Drillers, Investors
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
June 23, 2019
“Excluding capital, the big eight basin producers have destroyed on average 80 percent of the value of their companies since the beginning of the shale revolution,” Schlotterbeck said. “This is not the fall from the peak price during the shale decade, this is the drop in their share price from before the shale revolution began.”

Mr. Schlotterbeck credited the shale rush with lowering power and natural gas bills nationwide and offering significant economic benefits since 2008, when he said the shale revolution began.

“Nearly every American has benefited from shale gas, with one big exception,” he said, “the shale gas investors.”

Residents of communities where shale gas drilling and fracking have caused disruptions and health issues might take exception to Mr. Schlotterbeck’s categorical description of the beneficiaries of shale gas, as might climate scientists who have warned that the shale industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are so severe that burning gas for power may be worse for the global climate than burning coal.
» Read article 

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ATLANTIC BRIDGE PIPELINE & WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

State adjudicator OKs Weymouth compressor station air permit
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
June 27, 2019

Opponents of a natural gas compressor station proposed for a site in Weymouth were dealt another blow Thursday as a state adjudicator recommended the approval of an air-quality permit for the project.

Hearing officer Jane Rothchild of the state Department of Environmental Protection said the department should uphold a permit issued to gas company Spectra Energy-Enbridge and reject an appeal filed by Weymouth, Quincy, Braintree, Hingham and a citizens group, which together had argued that the proposed station would worsen air pollution in the Fore River Basin and endanger the lives of nearby residents.

South Shore legislators and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch called on Rothchild to reject the plan so the project can be vetted based on all the evidence.

Instead, Rothchild allowed the permit with slight modifications. For example, she recommended that Weymouth, Braintree, Hingham and Quincy be notified prior to a substantial blow down, or release of natural gas. She also suggested limiting blow downs to two per year.
Blog editor’s note – I feel a need to point out the absurdity of those last two sentences. First, are residents and people who work or go to school in this neighborhood supposed to evacuate during blowdown days? Second, a compressor station performs blowdowns based on system requirements, not based on some predetermined, limited, annual schedule. It’s about physics, not event planning….
» Read article

Activists use art to draw attention to Weymouth compressor controversy
By Joe DiFazio,The Patriot Ledger
June 23, 2019

It couldn’t have been a more picture perfect day Sunday for organizers of Painting in the Park, an event at King’s Park in Weymouth held by activists opposed to a proposed natural gas compressor station along the Fore River. Organizers said they wanted to promote the beauty of the park they fear would be destroyed by putting a compressor station next to it.

Margaret Bellafiore, an art teacher from Weymouth who is also on the board of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS), said the event was art activism.

“We’re using art to show the cause,” Bellafiore said. “This is a beautiful spot, we want to keep it this way. We don’t want the compressor built.”
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles  

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Here Comes the World’s Biggest Virtual Power Plant — And it’s Behind the Meter
By Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
June 20, 2019

The project will aggregate 10,000 distributed energy assets which, as one resource, will sell power into the nation’s wholesale energy market, still short on capacity from the loss of the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011.

The Japanese virtual power plant will initially use only batteries, but at a future date can incorporate other various distributed energy assets, such as solar, electric vehicle chargers and smart home thermostats, said Sternberg in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge. The project also has the capability to be configured into a microgrid, although that is not part of the current plan.

“This type of technology is coming to the US sooner rather than later,”
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

FERC

FERC commissioner LaFleur to leave late August, restoring Republican majority
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
June 20, 2019

With a majority at the commission, Republicans will have more power, unless further checked by the courts, to confine GHG considerations in gas project reviews to emissions directly tied to the projects. LaFleur and fellow Democrat Richard Glick have argued for further consideration of upstream and downstream indirect emissions, such as those associated with gas production or end-use combustion.
» Read article  

 » More FERC articles

BIOMASS

Editorial: The right to live without environmental pollution
By Greenfield Recorder
June 21, 2019

Earlier this year, a number of biomass-burning facilities were recipients of $3 million in state funding awarded by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration through the Renewable Thermal Infrastructure Grant Program, an initiative focused on expanding the availability of renewable thermal technologies. Following that, the state Department of Energy Resources proposed changes to its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which dictates what type of energy companies can receive government subsidies. The changes would rewrite the restrictions, allowing large wood-burning power plants to receive government funding.
» Read article 

» More biomass articles


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