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Weekly News Check-In 4/9/21

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Welcome back.

Just as we were posting last week’s Check-In, news broke that the Massachusetts DEP revoked Palmer Renewable Energy’s air quality permit – effectively killing the proposed biomass generating plant in Springfield. It was huge news and a victory for environmental justice, and now we’ve included some of the best articles on that important story.

The Weymouth compressor station is similar. It is a large piece of polluting infrastructure inappropriately located adjacent to vulnerable communities already burdened by long exposure to industrial toxins. It is staunchly opposed by residents of Weymouth and surrounding towns, under attack from every politician from Massachusetts’ two Senators down to local Mayors and City Councillors, and currently under review by a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission newly concerned with environmental justice issues and climate change. So Tuesday’s large, unplanned gas release (3rd in eight months!) energized the opposition and raised hopes that this project, too, will be scuttled soon.

The concepts of equity, justice, and addressing the legacy of environmental racism are informing everything from suggestions on how best to build out electric vehicle infrastructure to how the Environmental Protection Agency sets enforcement priorities. These head-spinning changes have all occurred since January 20th, when a departing President Trump left behind a wasteland of hollowed out and demoralized government agencies and told us to “have a nice life”.

Something else to make corporate polluters nervous: environmental and climate advocates and a growing number of world leaders are calling for the designation of a new crime that can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Ecocide involves the kinds of far-reaching environmental damage that are driving mass extinction, ecological collapse and climate change.

There’s been a lot of press lately touting hydrogen as the key to our clean energy future, and we’ve been cautious about accepting it as anything more than hype. New analysis from Norwegian energy research house Rystad Energy concludes that batteries are much better positioned as the clean energy foundation – and hydrogen will only assume that role if batteries fail to live up to their potential.

A few weeks ago, we ran a story about how difficult it is to purchase a new refrigerator with climate-friendly refrigerant. We are pleased to offer this update, along with a link to Energy Star’s new list. It’s now possible in the U.S. to know you’re buying a non-HFC fridge!

We keep track of pipelines, and this week’s focus is on Enbridge’s Line 5. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered it shut down by May 12, and Enbridge says it will not comply. The Straits of Mackinac are set to be the scene of a complicated international showdown over fossil energy, where the stakes include the potential for catastrophic pollution of the Great Lakes.

Our own Rose Wessel addressed some of the issues and misinformation circulating about peaking power plants, and explains how these expensive, polluting relics can be replaced with clean energy alternatives. We also take a look at resistance from gas utilities to implementing new safety rules developed in the aftermath of the 2018 Merrimack Valley disaster, as necessary to protect the public.

Our Fossil Fuel Industry section includes three great articles about really bad behavior. The first is a white-knuckle thriller about October’s Hurricane Zeta and an ultra-deepwater drilling operation that nearly ended in a disaster that could have eclipsed BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill.

We close with a look at the online shopping that has sustained many of us through the pandemic, and consider Amazon’s excessive use of plastics in its packaging.

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

— The NFGiM Team

BIOMASS

Palmer Plant protest
Mass. Revokes Air Permit For Controversial Biomass Facility In Springfield
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
April 2, 2021

In a big win for public health and environmental justice advocates, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has revoked a key air permit for a controversial proposed biomass plant in Springfield.

The permit for the Palmer Renewable Energy facility — technically called the “Final Plan Approval” — was issued almost nine years ago, and according to the state, was revoked because of a lag in construction activities as well as major public health and environmental justice concerns.

Springfield City Councilor and long-time opponent of the Palmer facility, Jesse Lederman, praised the decision and called it “welcome news in the City of Springfield.”

“The days of polluters being rubber stamped in communities like ours are over,” he said in a statement. “For too long communities like ours have been targeted by out of town developers seeking to get rich at the expense of the public health and environment of our children, seniors, and all residents, leading to generations of concentrated pollution and health and environmental inequities.”

First proposed in 2008, the 35 megawatt Palmer facility drew immediate public ire, but managed to receive a series of permits and green lights from local and state regulators. It got its final air permit from MassDEP in 2012 and was supposed to begin construction soon after.

In a letter accompanying the permit revocation, Michael Gorski of MassDEP explained that while there are some signs of pre-construction activities at the site, the company has not meaningfully “commenced construction.” Under state law, MassDEP can rescind a project’s final permit if it doesn’t begin construction within two years, or if it puts construction on pause for more than a year.

“The revocation of the approval for the Palmer biomass plant is a victory for Springfield residents, the health of our communities, and our fight for a livable planet,” Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren said in a joint statement. “We are thrilled to celebrate this victory with the Springfield residents who fought so passionately against it. Today’s decision will save lives.”

If built, Palmer would have been the state’s only large-scale biomass plant and would have burned about 1,200 tons of waste wood per day in the heart of a state-designated environmental justice community. Nearly one in five children in Springfield have asthma; the air quality is so poor that the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has ranked it the “Asthma Capital” of the country.
» Read article            

welcome to Springfield
Massachusetts Revokes Permit for Springfield Biomass Plant
By Partnership For Policy Integrity
April 5, 2021

In a major victory for Springfield residents and for environmental justice, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has revoked the permit for the long-contested Palmer Renewable Energy 42-megawatt biomass power plant in Springfield, Massachusetts.

While MassDEP based its April 2nd decision on a technicality – the permit is nearly a decade old and the developers have still not begun construction on the plant – the real reason behind this move is far more significant:

“MassDEP has determined to exercise this authority due to the amount of time that has elapsed since issuance of the PRE Final Plan Approval, more recent health-related information, and the heightened focus on environmental and health impacts on environmental justice populations from sources of pollution during the intervening years.”

It took a long time for state officials to hear what the project’s opponents have been saying all along, but it’s clear they finally got the message: Stop treating Springfield as an environmental sacrifice zone.
» Read web post                

reason enough
After years of protests, state officials revoke permit for controversial biomass plant in Springfield
By David Abel, Boston Globe
April 2, 2021

After years of protests, the state Department of Environmental Protection on Friday revoked a critical air permit for a massive wood-burning power plant proposed to be built in Springfield, which opponents said would pollute the city and contribute to climate change.

In a five-page letter, state officials cited potential adverse health impacts in rejecting plans for the state’s largest commercial biomass plant, which was expected to burn nearly a ton of wood a minute and emit large amounts of fine particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants.

Noting the “strong opposition” from residents in Springfield, which has among the nation’s highest rates of asthma, environmental regulators said their decision was based on a “heightened focus on environmental and health impacts on environmental justice populations from sources of pollution.”

The link between environmental factors and heightened risk to the coronavirus also played a role in their decision.

“With COVID-19 rates particularly high in Springfield, there is increased concern, given multiple studies establishing a relationship between low-income and minority communities with elevated air pollution levels and increased severity of disease and/or mortality,” wrote Michael Gorski, director of the department’s offices in Western Massachusetts.

Officials at Palmer Renewable Energy, which proposed building the 42-megawatt incinerator, did not respond to requests for comment.

Local residents and environmental advocates, who have lobbied against the plant for years, cheered the decision.

“For too long communities like ours have been targeted by out-of-town developers seeking to get rich at the expense of the public health and environment of our children, seniors, and all residents, leading to generations of concentrated pollution and health and environmental inequities,” said Jesse Lederman, a city councilor and outspoken critic of the plant who chairs the city’s sustainability and environment committee. “The days of polluters being rubber-stamped in communities like ours are over.”

Laura Haight, policy director for the Partnership for Policy Integrity, a Pelham-based advocacy group that opposes biomass, called the state’s decision “a huge victory” for environmental justice.

“Hopefully this will be the final nail in the coffin for this ‘zombie’ plant,” she said, noting that it had been in the planning stages for more than a decade. She said provisions in the state’s new climate law, which Governor Charlie Baker signed last month, made it unlikely that the developer could find another way to build the plant.
» Read article           

» More about biomass            

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

strike three
Weymouth Compressor Reports Another ‘Unplanned’ Gas Release. Third Time In 8 Months
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
April 6, 2021

On Tuesday morning, the Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station released a large quantity of gas into the air above the facility. The cause of the unplanned release remains unclear, but the company that owns and operates the facility, Enbridge, said it’s “continuing to gather information.”

Under state law, Enbridge is required to notify state and local officials if it vents more than 10,000 standard cubic feet of gas — an amount roughly equivalent to what the average U.S. home uses in two months.

According to Enbridge spokesman Max Bergeron, the gas was released “in a controlled manner” through the compressor station’s tall vent stack and “the safety of the facility and surrounding area were not impacted by this occurrence.”

But opponents of the compressor like Alice Arena of the activist group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor (FRRACS) are skeptical. Big gas releases like this “don’t instill confidence in safety at all,” she said, adding that perhaps federal regulators should have some sort of “three-strikes rule” for problematic facilities

This is the third unplanned gas release in the last 8 months. The first — on Sept. 11, 2020 — occurred after an O-ring gasket failed and workers had to manually shut down the compressor. The second — on Sept. 30, 2020 — occurred after the emergency shutdown system loss power and automatically shut itself down. In both cases, the total amount of gas vented turned out to be much higher than initially reported
» Read article           

electrified barbed wire
Massachusetts politicians push to shutter Weymouth gas compressor station after third unplanned release of gas
By Emma Platoff, Boston Globe
April 7, 2021

Ahead of a deadline Monday evening, gas companies and industry groups rushed to tell federal regulators that a controversial Weymouth gas compressor station should be allowed to continue operating despite its rocky history, arguing the site was safe and critical to the country’s energy infrastructure.

Then, around 9:37 a.m. Tuesday morning, the site spewed at least 10,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas into the surrounding neighborhood, its third unplanned release in just eight months.

That incident comes at a crucial moment for the compressor station as federal regulators take a rare second look at its safety protocols and community impact. And it triggered a new wave of condemnations from top Massachusetts politicians, who say the only appropriate course of action is to shutter the site immediately.

“Every accident at the Weymouth Compressor Station endangers the lives and health of local residents and surrounding communities and these so-called blow outs have become a dangerous pattern of releasing harmful gas into the nearby residential neighborhood,” said US Representative Stephen Lynch, a Democrat who represents Weymouth. “It is completely unacceptable to allow Enbridge to continue their operations.”

Environmental activists and prominent politicians have been fighting the site for years, saying it brings unnecessary danger to a densely populated South Shore neighborhood.

After the latest release, and amid a federal review launched under a presidential administration that has called environmental justice a priority, activists hope this time the plant will be closed permanently.

Alice Arena, head of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station group that has long protested the Weymouth site, said she’s “waffling between my regular pessimism and optimism.”

The timing of the incident feels less like coincidence than “karma,” she said.

“It seems as though every time they’ve had an accident it’s been at a tipping point,” Arena said. She pointed to a previous unplanned release last fall, which came just days before the facility was set to begin full operations.

“Instead, they ended up with a shutdown order,” she said wryly. The three gas releases show that operators are too reckless to continue work in the area, she said.
» Read article            

» More about the Weymouth compressor           

 

PIPELINES

Line 5 - Getty
Can a pipeline company defy a governor’s orders? Gretchen Whitmer is about to find out.
The ongoing battle between North America’s largest mover of oil, Enbridge Energy, and the state of Michigan.
By Jena Brooker, Grist
April 7, 2021

As governor, Gretchen Whitmer vowed to provide clean and affordable drinking water for the Great Lakes state of Michigan. Last year, she implemented a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs to provide relief during the COVID-19 crisis, allocated $500 million dollars for improving water infrastructure, and in November stood by a campaign promise when she ordered Enbridge Energy to shut down its Line 5 pipeline, which carries crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Great Lakes from western Canada to Michigan and on to eastern Canada.

Whitmer’s order gave Enbridge until May 12 to shut down Line 5. But the company has so far refused to comply, leading to a showdown between the biggest mover of oil in the United States, Enbridge, and one of the country’s emerging political leaders on climate, over land in her own state.    

A review by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources last year found that Enbridge has repeatedly violated requirements laid out in the 1953 easement that allowed it to build the pipeline, with infractions varying from not having the required support on the lake bed to inadequate corrosion control. Whitmer said in a press release that Enbridge “failed for decades to meet these obligations under the easement, and these failures persist and cannot be cured.” 

Her order to shut down the pipeline follows years of concern from researchers, activists, and policymakers that Line 5 could seriously threaten Great Lakes fisheries and drinking water. The National Wildlife Federation found that the pipeline has spilled over 1 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids in an estimated 30 spills to date. “Every day that pipeline lays on the lakebed, we’re a day closer to a catastrophe,” said David Holtz, an activist and coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, a coalition of Michigan organizations fighting to shut down Line 5 and support a clean energy transition.

Since Whitmer’s closure order in November, Enbridge has sued the state of Michigan on the grounds that it doesn’t have authority over the company because Enbridge is regulated federally by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA. Enbridge has also stated outright that it will defy the governor’s orders. “We do not plan to shut down Line 5 unless ordered by a court or PHMSA, which we view as highly unlikely,” a spokesperson for the company told Grist. Among its stated reasons for refusing to shut down are concerns over energy security for Michigan and Canada and the increased environmental impact from alternative modes of transporting propane. The pipeline supplies between 55 to 65 percent of Michigan’s propane needs.

For the shutdown to go into effect, a state or federal court would need to rule in Whitmer’s favor. If the case is sent to state court, Shroeck said, Enbridge could appeal that decision, therefore sending it to a federal court of appeals, whereafter it could be years before a decision is reached. In the meantime, Enbridge would be able to continue operating without penalty. 

The U.S. portion of the pipeline that crosses under the Mackinac straits is the worst possible location in the Great Lakes for an oil spill. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that because of the turbulent waters and switching directions of the current, a Line 5 oil spill could potentially contaminate more than 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.
» Read article            

» More about pipelines       

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

equity and infrastructure
States, utilities must ensure equitable investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, new report warns
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
April 7, 2021

Only a few states and power companies are taking steps to ensure low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color benefit from the transition to electric vehicles, according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The study, published Tuesday morning, examined 36 states where utilities have filed transportation electrification plans, and concluded only six have some form of equity mandate or consideration.

“Without strong policies in place, you could see a big round of ratepayer-funded charging investments going disproportionately to communities that least need the support,” said Peter Huether, ACEEE’s senior research analyst for transportation and author of the study.
» Read article            
» Read the ACEEE study          

» More about greening the economy               

 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Donaldsonville LA
Exclusive: EPA reverses Trump stance in push to tackle environmental racism
Environmental Protection Agency launches crackdown on pollution that disproportionately affects people of color
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
April 12, 2021

Michael Regan, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has sought to revive the effort to confront environmental racism by ordering the agency to crack down on the pollution that disproportionately blights people of color.

On Wednesday, Regan issued a directive to EPA staff to “infuse equity and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies, and programs”. The memo demands the agency use the “full array of policy and legal tools at our disposal” to ensure vulnerable communities are front of mind when issuing permits for polluting facilities or cleaning up following disasters.

The directive states there should be better consultation with affected communities and indicates the EPA will be tougher on companies that violate air and water pollution mandates. Regan’s memo calls for the EPA to “strengthen enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes and civil rights laws in communities overburdened by pollution”.

Enforcement of pollution violations dropped steeply under Donald Trump’s administration, with the EPA even suspending routine inspections of facilities while the Covid-19 pandemic raged in the US last year.

A lack of federal intervention further exacerbated a longstanding inequity where poorer people and communities of color in the US are far more likely to be exposed to dangerous pollutants. The pandemic has further worsened this situation, with research showing that people with chronic exposure to air pollutants have suffered worse outcomes from Covid.

Years of discriminatory decisions over the placement of highways and industrial facilities have led to Black people being exposed to 38% more polluted air than white people, with exposure to toxins from cars and trucks in parts of the US two-thirds higher than for white people. Black children are five times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma than white children.
» Read article           

» More about EPA              

 

CLIMATE

ecocideAs the Climate Crisis Grows, a Movement Gathers to Make ‘Ecocide’ an International Crime Against the Environment
International lawyers, environmentalists and a growing number of world leaders say “ecocide”—widespread destruction of the environment—would serve as a “moral red line” for the planet.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Katie Surma and Yuliya Talmazan, Inside Climate News
April 7, 2021

In 1948, after Nazi Germany exterminated millions of Jews and other minorities during World War II, the United Nations adopted a convention establishing a new crime so heinous it demanded collective action. Genocide, the nations declared, was “condemned by the civilized world” and justified intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. 

Now, a small but growing number of world leaders including Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron have begun citing an offense they say poses a similar threat to humanity and remains beyond the reach of existing legal conventions: ecocide, or widespread destruction of the environment.

The Pope describes ecocide as “the massive contamination of air, land and water,” or “any action capable of producing an ecological disaster,” and has proposed making it a sin for Catholics. 

The Pontiff has also endorsed a campaign by environmental activists and legal scholars to make ecocide the fifth crime before the International Criminal Court in The Hague as a legal deterrent to the kinds of far-reaching environmental damage that are driving mass extinction, ecological collapse and climate change. The monumental step, which faces a long road of global debate, would mean political leaders and corporate executives could face charges and imprisonment for “ecocidal” acts.
» Read article           

northern lights
Projected Surge of Lightning Spells More Wildfire Trouble for the Arctic
A major climate shift in the High North is sparking fires that can release huge amounts of greenhouse gases from tundra ecosystems, where fires have been rare until recently
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
April 5, 2021

With the Arctic warming at up to three times the pace of the global average, more lightning storms will invade the High North, igniting wildfires that release carbon dioxide and speeding the transition of flat mossy tundra to brush and forest landscapes that absorb more solar heat energy.

Yang Chen, an Earth scientist with the University of California, Irvine and lead author of a study released today in the journal Nature Climate Change that projected the increases in lightning strikes, said the findings were somewhat unexpected, and intensify wildfire concerns in the High North because lightning is the main ignition source in the Arctic.

“The size of the lightning response surprised us because expected changes at mid-latitudes are much smaller,” he said. More lightning-caused fires would speed a vicious circle of climate-warming changes already under way in vast areas of tundra and permafrost across Siberia and Alaska, he added.

A surge in the frequency of large Arctic fires in the last five years spurred the research, which is based on 20 years of NASA satellite data showing the relationship between lightning and the climate, he said. 

Linking that data with climate projections through 2100, the scientists estimated the number of lightning strikes will grow by about 40 percent for every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of warming. By late in the century, the IPCC projects the Arctic could warm by 4.5 degrees to 8 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on emissions.

The study also shows that the region that experiences lightning will shift, with future flash rates in the far northern tundra areas equal to the current rate in boreal forests, 300 miles to the south. 

The increase may cause “a fire-vegetation feedback whereby more burning in Arctic tundra expedites the northward migration of boreal trees,” that will absorb more heat from the sun, accelerating the Arctic cycle of warming,” the authors wrote in the study.
» Read article           
» Obtain the study               

» More about climate                

 

CLEAN ENERGY

H2 uh-ohFor hydrogen to dominate the low-carbon world, batteries must fail
By James Fernyhough, Renew Economy
April 5, 2021

Hydrogen has the potential to help bring more than half of the world’s emissions down to zero, but to reach that potential it requires aggressive government support, a dramatically improved value chain – and it needs batteries to fail.

That last point is one of the most striking findings in a new series of reports by Norwegian energy research house Rystad Energy, the last of which, on the “battery society”, was released last week.

The reports examine three solutions to the problem of storage in an energy system dominated by wind and solar: carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and batteries.

They conclude that battery technology is the most powerful of the three, having the potential to help reduce to zero 78 per cent of the world’s emissions. CCS could potentially help reduce 62 per cent of the world’s emissions, though it is the least practical of the three.

Hydrogen could help reduce 51 per cent of the world’s emissions, but to reach that level it would need to be used in areas where batteries currently have a big edge, such as electric vehicles and electricity grid support.

The race between hydrogen and battery technology is the latter’s to lose, the report argues. Batteries are not especially reliant on either dramatic policy changes, such as aggressive carbon pricing; or on rapid development in the value chain.

“An important advantage of the Battery Society is the fact that battery manufacturers must only rely on themselves to ramp up battery supply and bring the Battery Society to fruition,” the report says. “The CCS and Hydrogen Societies, on the other hand, are dependent on policy changes and cost developments in other parts of the value chain.

“In order to succeed, they essentially need batteries to fail,” it concludes
» Read article           

» More about clean energy            

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Energy STAR refrigerant listWant to Buy a Climate-Friendly Refrigerator? Leading Manufacturers Are Finally Providing the Information You Need
The change came after I went out of my way to buy a green fridge, only to have a climate bomb delivered to my house.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
April 6, 2021

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and leading appliance manufacturers have finally released key chemical refrigerant information that makes it easier for consumers to purchase climate-friendly refrigerators. 

Until the past few years, it’s been virtually impossible to buy a full-sized refrigerator in the United States that uses climate-friendly refrigerants like isobutane. The vast majority of refrigerators came with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemical refrigerants that are thousands of times more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide. 

For environmentally conscious consumers who wanted to purchase climate-friendly refrigerators, like me, it’s been difficult, if not impossible, to know which was which. As I found out the hard way, it seemed as if the manufacturers themselves didn’t even know.

But now, after I told the story last month of ordering an environmentally friendly fridge, only to have a climate bomb delivered to my house, two leading manufacturers have for the first time released lists of dozens of HFC-free refrigerators that they produce.

Meanwhile, the EPA’s Energy Star program has published its first concise list of all refrigerators that use climate friendly refrigerants.
» Read article           
» See the Energy Star list of products with climate-safe refrigerants                

MinneapolisMinneapolis program puts energy audits into hands of potential homebuyers
In its first year, a city ordinance requiring energy audits prior to home sales resulted in more than 6,200 reports disclosing the conditions of windows, insulation, and heating systems for prospective buyers and new owners.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
April 5, 2021

Minneapolis saw near-perfect compliance and few complaints during the first year of a new ordinance requiring energy audits prior to all home sales.

The city’s residential energy benchmarking program generated more than 6,200 reports disclosing the conditions of windows, insulation and heating systems for prospective buyers and new owners. The information is also publicly available online.

That’s more than six times the number of home energy audits typically conducted each year through a voluntary program.

“That’s an incredible gamechanger,” said Kim Havey, the city’s sustainability director, “but we need to be able to do that each and every year if we are going to be able to meet some of our goals for climate change.”

Sellers complied with the requirement for 95% of listings, but the city doesn’t yet have data on how the audits are affecting the housing market. Real estate agents said it’s unlikely energy efficiency is a deciding factor given how quickly homes are selling, but the reports could provide a useful roadmap for future home improvements — and in at least a few cases they have already spurred projects.
» Read article            

» More about energy efficiency            

 

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

green-drinks-ppp
‘Peaker’ plants or dirty energy is a false choice
By Rosemary Wessel, Cummington, Letter to the Editor – Berkshire Eagle
April 2, 2021
The writer is a member of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team

To the editor: In response to a recent letter about Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s campaign to put “peaker” plants in the past, it’s not surprising to see a restating of the false choices frequently proposed by the fossil fuel industry (“Letter: Environmental group misguided to target Berkshire ‘peaker’ plants,” Eagle, March 26).

It’s true that the sun doesn’t always shine and wind doesn’t always blow, as renewable energy detractors like to point out. And while it’s true that emissions from burning natural gas are roughly two-thirds that of oil or half that of coal, the truth is also that burning gas still creates dangerous fine particulate emissions as well as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. For the five percent of the time that the Pittsfield generating plant actually runs, it generates 15 percent of Pittsfield’s total annual stationary emissions.

One of the other fallacies in the author’s statement is that renewable energy would require cutting trees. I’m not sure if his reference was to biomass, which is not renewable in any realistic time scale and produces emissions roughly equivalent to coal, or if his assumption is that the only place to put solar panels is in the middle of forested land. BEAT does not support either of those options.

Understanding why fossil fuel peaker plants are no longer a valid option in the face of climate change requires consideration of modern options. Deployment of our state’s aggressive energy efficiency programs and other peak shaving options like demand response programs have already sharply reduced peak demand events on our region’s power grid and saved program participants significant sums in reduced energy costs.

When the wind blows and sun is shining, energy can be stored in grid-scale battery installations. It can also be stored in individual buildings like schools, town offices and other key municipal locations, commercial and industrial locations, multi-unit rental properties and even individual homes. This not only allows renewables to be installed on rooftops and over already disturbed grounds like parking areas, as they should be, but allows for thousands of “virtual power plants” to supply energy during peak demand, outages or whenever customers prefer to not draw power from the grid.

Mass Save’s Connected Solutions program allows for battery storage installations to be used in all these ways, and allows customers to combine financial incentives, shortening a payback period to a matter of years rather than a decade or more. Please visit tinyurl.com/putpeakersinthepast to learn more.
» Read article           

» More about peaker plants         

 

GAS UTILITIES

extra safe
Gas industry says new rules not needed
By Christian M. Wade, Eagle Tribune
April 8, 2021
*Photo from September 14, 2018 New York Times article on the Merrimack Valley gas disaster caused by shoddy work and lax engineering oversight.

BOSTON — A gas industry official told regulators Thursday that proposed rules requiring a professional engineer’s approval of certain projects may be unnecessary because gas companies already follow heightened standards.

State regulators are hammering out rules that mandate an engineer’s stamp on plans for “complex” projects that could pose a risk to public safety. The new rules stem from a 2018 law passed in response to the Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

The state Department of Public Utilities, which is drafting the rules, held an online hearing Thursday where an industry representative said utilities have since adopted guidelines, known as Pipeline Safety Management Systems, that make the new regulations unneeded.

Jose Costa, vice president of operations service at the Northeast Gas Association, said those guidelines include an engineering requirement that “provides another layer of protection that was not in place prior to 2018.”

“Some of the proposed prescriptive requirements in this rule-making are already being addressed through other methods and programs,” he told the panel.

Utilities, including National Grid and Eversource, have complained that the proposed regulations will be too costly, and that they are unnecessary.

Utilities have lobbied to limit the kinds of projects that must get an engineer’s sign-off, and submitted a litany of proposed changes to the rules ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

Brendan Vaughn, an attorney representing the utilities, made no mention of those requests Thursday but told regulators his clients “look forward to working with them.”

Meanwhile, an engineering group cautioned against excluding certain types of gas projects from review.

“While there may be instances in which a licensed engineer is not needed, I urge caution in defining those instances too broadly,” Anthony Morreale, president of the Massachusetts Society of Professional Engineers, wrote to regulators.

Gas industry officials have also raised concerns about a shortage of engineers who specialize in utility work, warning that delays could result.

But Morreale noted more than 15,000 licensed professional engineers are working in Massachusetts.

“I respectfully suggest that decisions about public safety should not be made based on the purported availability or not of personnel, but rather that companies tasked with upholding public safety adjust recruitment and hiring practices to ensure they are appropriately staffed,” Morreale wrote in an April 1 letter.
» Read article           

» More about gas utilities           
» More about the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas disaster                    

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

AsgardExclusive: 2020’s Hurricane Zeta Nearly Caused ‘Another Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe’ in Gulf of Mexico
The near-miss raises questions of corporate management in a battered oil industry, how drillers will handle increasingly volatile hurricanes, and federal oversight of the offshore drilling industry nearly 11 years after the Gulf of Mexico was coated in oil.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
April 5, 2021

It was Thursday, October 22, 2020, when the crew aboard the Transocean Deepwater Asgard, an ultra-deepwater rig in the Gulf of Mexico, started monitoring a weather disturbance in the nearby Caribbean Sea that bore the tell-tale signs of a forming hurricane.

But the Asgard, which was drilling an oil well in the waters about 225 miles south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had other pressing matters to deal with. That same day, the oil well it was drilling more than a mile below the water’s surface experienced a kick — an eruption of oil, gas, or other fluids from deep underground up the drill pipe. If not properly controlled, this type of incident can sometimes lead to a blowout.

Kicks aren’t necessarily all that uncommon during offshore drilling. What happened over the following week, however, not only left the crew of the Asgard in deadly peril and caused over $5 million in damages to the ship and its equipment, but also, according to experts, risked an oil spill potentially several times the size of the largest oil spill in U.S. waters.

Events out to sea on the Asgard received little or no media attention at the time. An investigation by DeSmog reveals how close the Gulf Coast may have been to a major oil industry disaster this past fall.

“This could easily have become another Deepwater Horizon catastrophe,” said Rick Steiner, a marine conservationist and former professor at the University of Alaska whose background includes advising on the response to that spill, the Exxon Valdez, and many others worldwide. “Secretary [of the Interior Deb] Haaland should order a comprehensive independent inquiry into the Deepwater Asgard incident, the failures leading up to it, and what needs to be done to prevent another such near casualty in the future.”
» Blog editor’s note: this article is a gripping and unsettling account of what’s happening out there in the world of deep water drilling.
» Read article           

tax refund
Analysis: Fossil Fuel Tax Programs to Cut Emissions Lead to Lots of Industry Profit, Little Climate Action
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
April 4, 2021

The fossil fuel industry and its investors have financially benefited from tax policies and subsidies designed to reduce the emissions from oil, gas, and coal — sometimes without taking the action required to tackle climate change.

Recently, claims have been surfacing of companies taking the taxpayer money offered to incentivize these actions but not following through on reducing their emissions. In March, for example, Reuters reported that Congress has opened an investigation into problems with the government’s “clean coal” tax credit. This is after Reuters revealed that financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, were making huge profits off the program, despite it not effectively reducing emissions.

Now, companies such as ExxonMobil are lobbying against transparency efforts when it comes to reporting their emissions for an existing carbon capture tax credit.

And the industry is also increasingly calling for a national carbon tax to be introduced. In March, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said it supports efforts to put a price on carbon — this is a reversal from its position a decade ago when it was opposed to a bill that would have introduced a cap and trade program to limit carbon emissions.

Introducing a carbon tax would allow polluters to continue to produce carbon, they would just have to pay a price to do so.

These market-based approaches to limiting climate emissions, however, raise concerns about their overall effectiveness. They provide an opportunity for companies to reap the financial benefits of climate action without actually delivering the emission reductions. This makes them incredibly popular with the fossil fuel industry.

“It’s naive of us to think that all of a sudden the oil and gas industry is going to put forward policies that are going to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” Jim Walsh, senior energy policy analyst for environmental NGO Food and Water Watch, told DeSmog.
» Read article           

foolery exposedNAACP Report: Fossil Fuel Industry Uses Deception to Conceal Damage to BIPOC Communities
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
April 2, 2021

The fossil fuel industry continues to use a long list of deceptive tactics to conceal environmental destruction that harms Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income communities.

That’s the top finding of a newly released NAACP report titled “Fossil Fuel Foolery.” The report identifies 10 tactics that polluters, industry lobbyists, and politicians often deploy to deflect accountability for the impacts of fossil fuel production and pollution on the environment and human health.

This report updates material on fossil fuel industry influence tactics that the NAACP published in 2019.

Many of the industry’s tactics are familiar, such as obscuring or denying the true effects of pollution. In one glaring instance, a firm named Mobile Gas did not report a 2008 Alabama spill of tert-butyl mercaptan, a chemical that is mixed with natural gas to give it an odor that can help with detecting leaks. The spill probably contributed to respiratory ailments and other health problems affecting nearby residents of a mostly Black and working-class community. Years later, Mobile Gas maintained that the amount spilled was “safe.”

Another top-ten industry tactic identified by the NAACP is to “co-opt community leaders and organizations and misrepresent the interests and opinions of communities,” sometimes with financial support, to “neutralize or weaken public opposition.”

Utilities have lavished donations on churches, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations to obtain local community buy-in on pollution-generating projects, or to stifle the push towards renewable energy. In a situation that directly affected the NAACP itself, the utility Florida Power & Light donated roughly $225,000 to the group’s Florida state chapter between 2013 and 2017. The donations alarmed the national organization when the Florida chapter began repeating industry talking points against the growth of solar energy in the state, and helped spur the NAACP’s initial 2019 report.

Fossil fuel companies and their allies also try to shift blame onto the very communities affected by pollution to distract from the impact of industry operations, the NAACP found.
» Read article           
» Read the NAACP report                

» More about fossil fuels                 

 

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

air pillow
This Peeler Did Not Need to Be Wrapped in So Much Plastic
Amazon must become a leader in reducing single-use packaging.
By Pamela L. Geller and Christopher Parmeter, New York Times | Opinion
April 5, 2021

The year 2020 may have been heartbreaking for most humans, but it was a good one for Jeff Bezos and Amazon. His company’s worldwide sales grew 38 percent from 2019, and Amazon sold more than 1.5 billion products during the 2020 holiday season alone.

Did you need a book, disposable surgical mask, beauty product, or garden hose? Amazon was probably your online marketplace. If you wanted to purchase a Nicolas Cage pillowcase or a harness with leash for your chicken, Amazon had your back (They’re #17 and #39 on a 2019 Good Housekeeping list of the 40 ‘weirdest” products available on the website “that people actually love.”) From pandemic misery came consumer comfort and corporate profit.

And plastic. Lots and lots of plastic.

In 2019, Amazon used an estimated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging, according to the nonprofit environmental group Oceana. The group also estimated that up to 22 million pounds of Amazon’s plastic packaging waste ended up as trash in freshwater and marine ecosystems around the world. These numbers are likely to rise in 2021.

The magnitude of plastic packaging that is used and casually discarded — air pillows, Bubble Wrap, shrink wrap, envelopes, bags — portends gloomy consequences.

These single-use items are primarily made from polyethylene, though vinyl is also used. In marine environments, this plastic waste can cause disease and death for coral, fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Plastic debris is often mistaken for food, and microplastics release chemical toxins as they degrade. Data suggests that plastics have infiltrated human food webs and placentas. These plastics have the potential to disrupt the endocrine system, which releases hormones into the bloodstream that help control growth and development during childhood, among many other important processes.
» Read article           

» More about plastics in the environment              

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Weekly News Check-In 3/26/21

Welcome back.

We’re leading this week’s news with a toot of our own horn, thanks to Danny Jin’s excellent reporting on the growing momentum behind BEAT’s campaign to replace polluting peaking power plants with renewables and battery storage. Please join the effort by signing our petition!

The Weymouth compressor station fight appears to be developing into something of a test case at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is beginning to focus on fossil project climate impacts for the first time. We use that framework to explore a couple potential effects: the impact on the broader U.S. natural gas industry, and the tie-in with another controversial project in Canada – the Goldboro LNG export terminal.

We’re exploring the fascinating contest between Michigan’s Governor Whitmer and environmental allies, vs Enbridge, Canada, and a good chunk of the oil industry, over Michigan’s recent demand the shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline – the aging section crossing under the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac.

Amy Westervelt of Drilled News offers an excellent podcast dive into the fossil fuel industry’s continuing efforts to criminalize nonviolent civil protest. Related to all those protests, the divestment movement has taken off – but big banks are still financing polluters to a shocking degree.

We have late-breaking news that Governor Charlie Baker signed landmark climate legislation into law just before we posted. As Massachusetts moves forward, we’re also keeping an eye on broader efforts to green the economy. We found a report explaining why skepticism is in order when considering big-polluter claims to go net-zero, and also some encouraging news about the greening of some aquaculture operations – a good thing since a new climate report shows that ocean trawling for fish releases as much carbon as emitted by the global aviation industry.

As usual, we can take a breather and enjoy some good news in our clean energy section, including a report on the multiple benefits of covering open canals and aquaducts with solar panels – a huge opportunity in southern California. The news is a bit more sobering as we consider home energy efficiency and electrification, and look at the current shortage of contractors with up-to-date skills. And likewise in clean transportation, where we’re reminded that heavy future reliance on personal electric vehicles, without reducing miles driven, would still be a problem.

Springfield’s City Council has enlisted the support of the Conservation Law Foundation in its fight against Palmer Renewable Energy’s proposed biomass plant. Meanwhile, across the pond, the Dutch have signaled it’s time to end biomass subsidies, ahead of the critical review in June of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). The EU must decide whether to continue allowing biomass subsidies and not counting biomass emissions at the smokestack.

We wrap up with a look at plastics, health, and the environment, along with a youtube video of comedian John Oliver’s deep dive into how the plastics industry convinced us to think we could simply recycle our way out of trouble. It’s pretty rude, but to the point.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS


BEAT’s ‘peaker’ campaign draws local support, statewide allies
By Danny Jin, The Berkshire Eagle
March 20, 2021

In its campaign to convert three local power plants to less-polluting alternatives, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team has added local supporters as well as allies across the state.

The “peaker” power plants in Pittsfield and Lee burn [gas, oil, and kerosene]. They serve to meet peak electricity demand — during the hottest summer days, for instance — but rank among the oldest and most polluting plants, disproportionately impacting neighborhoods that already have experienced significant pollution.

More than 10 local groups have joined the coalition opposing the operation of the three plants, and a petition to close them has reached about 200 signatures, said Rosemary Wessel, director of BEAT’s No Fracked Gas in Mass initiative.

“When we put up flyers in the afternoon, you see signatures by the evening,” Wessel said.

As a plan to transition Massachusetts to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 appears set to become law, Wessel said the state’s long-term climate goals align with a move away from fossil fuel-burning plants.

“That’s another argument for us: to switch over before they’re forced to shut down and become extinct,” Wessel said. “It’s a win-win for the companies, and we would get cleaner air sooner.”

The two plants in Pittsfield are on Merrill Road and Doreen Street, and the plant in Lee is on Woodland Road.

Wessel said BEAT has contacted the owners and operators of the plants but has not received a response. The California-headquartered IHI Power Services Corp. runs the Merrill Road plant, and Charlotte, N.C.-based Cogentrix acquired the Doreen Street and Woodland Road plants in 2016.

BEAT is pushing for battery storage as a cleaner alternative for peak demand, especially if paired with solar or wind energy. Wessel said BEAT wants to have a conversation with companies to see which storage incentives they might qualify for. The Clean Peak Energy Standard and the ConnectedSolutions program, for example, aim to cut costs and reduce emissions.

The Merrill Road plant is near Allendale Elementary School and Pittsfield’s Morningside neighborhood, which the state has designated an “environmental justice” area. Doreen Street is by Williams and Egremont elementary schools, and Woodland Road is at the edge of October Mountain State Forest.
» Read article               
» Sign the petition to shut down Berkshire County’s peaking power plants!

» More about peaker plants

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION


Why A Federal Order In The Weymouth Compressor Case Has The Natural Gas World Worried
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
March 19, 2021

In the six years since Massachusetts residents began fighting a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, the controversial and now-operational project has mostly been an issue of local concern. Not anymore.

As a challenge to the compressor station’s permit to operate winds its way through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — the agency in charge of approving interstate energy projects — some on the five-person body have signaled that they’re no longer interested in doing business as usual.

In a 3-2 vote last month, the commission began what some FERC experts are calling “a seemingly unprecedented” review process that not only raises questions about the future of the Weymouth Compressor, but has many in the gas industry worried about the fate of their current and future projects.

At the simplest level, this case is about whether FERC should hold a hearing to relitigate the Weymouth Compressor’s license to operate, known as a “service authorization order.” This happens all the time when project opponents appeal a FERC decision.

But two things make this situation unique: the potential precedent it could set, and the fact that FERC has a new commissioner who has promised to give more weight to climate change and environmental justice concerns.

The Weymouth Compressor was designed to be the linchpin of a large interstate gas pipeline system called the Atlantic Bridge Project. The project connects two pipelines and allows fracked natural gas from western Pennsylvania to flow through New Jersey and New England, and into Maine and eastern Canada for local distribution.

Though no public opinion polling about the compressor exists, there is intense opposition to it here in Massachusetts. From activists groups like the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor (FRRACS) and Mothers Out Front, to elected officials, the anti-compressor movement here is vocal and visible.
» Read article                

Braintree Pays $20K For Air Quality Monitors At Fore River Plant
Mayor Charles Kokoros said the money will help detect harmful chemicals produced by the plant and monitor overall air quality in the area.
By Jimmy Bentley, Patch
March 19, 2021

Braintree will contribute $20,000 to help pay for an air quality monitoring system near the controversial natural gas plant along the Fore River.

Mayor Charles Kokoros said the money will help the activist group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS), detect harmful chemicals produced by the plant and monitor overall air quality in the river basin’s communities, including Braintree, Weymouth, Quincy and Hingham.

Residents and elected officials in Braintree, Hingham, Quincy and Weymouth have expressed concern and have opposed Enbridge’s compressor station. Elected officials, including U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, also came out against the plant after an emergency shut down where 265,000 cubic feet of natural gas was released at the facility. There have been numerous protests outside the plant’s [construction] site and several arrests.

But Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs spokesperson Katie Gronendyke said upon the final approval that the project met all state and federal safety regulations, and that the project had passed air-quality testing impact assessments. Enbridge has also maintained that safety is their priority.

With state regulators approving the plant, Braintree joined Quincy, Hingham, the Ten Persons Group and the Ten Citizens Group in appealing the plant’s approval from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in federal court. The motion was filed last month in the U.S. 1st District Court of Appeals.
» Read article                

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PIPELINES


Gov. Whitmer offers propane plan for Upper Peninsula after Line 5 shutdown
By Kelly House, Bridge Michigan
March 12, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration released its plan Friday to heat Michigan homes without depending on the Line 5 oil pipeline to deliver propane.

The plan calls for millions of dollars of investment in rail infrastructure and storage to help wean propane suppliers off the pipeline, plus other programs to reduce propane demand, help low-income customers pay their propane bills, and increase the state’s ability to monitor propane supplies.

The plan was praised by environmental groups, Native American tribes and others opposing Enbridge Line 5. But an Enbridge spokesperson called the plan “wholly inadequate” and at least one propane supplier raised doubts about whether it will adequately replace the propane currently supplied by the pipeline.

Whitmer has given Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy until May 13 to stop transporting oil through the pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, citing concerns that the aging underwater pipeline poses an “unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

Much of the plan to replace Line 5 relies on grant programs Whitmer has written into her 2022 budget proposal, meaning it may require legislative approval.  Both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.

But the plan also notes that some propane suppliers have begun to independently wean themselves off Line 5 since Whitmer made the shutdown order in November.

Whitmer spokesperson Chelsea Lewis Parisio told Bridge Michigan the governor “is looking forward to discussions with the legislature and is hopeful that we can reach bipartisan support for her budget recommendations.”

In an interview Friday, Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Dan Scripps said the plan will put Michigan “in a good place for next winter and for whatever market changes arise.”
» Read article               
» Read the MI Propane Security Plan               


Ohio, Louisiana argue against Line 5 shutdown in federal court
By Garret Ellison, mlive.com
March 22, 2021

Ohio Attorney General David Yost is asking a federal judge in Grand Rapids to block Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s effort to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, arguing on behalf of Ohio refineries and the state of Louisiana that closing the submerged oil line would have economic impact beyond Michigan.

Yost filed an amicus brief on Friday, March 19 in the case Enbridge brought against Whitmer last fall, which is pending before Judge Janet Neff in the Western District of Michigan. The case is scheduled to begin mediation in April.

In the brief, Yost argues that closing the pipeline segment under the Straits of Mackinac would cause economic hardship for businesses supplied by the pipeline.

In November, Whitmer announced termination of the 1953 easement that allows the pipeline to cross the lakebed where lakes Michigan and Huron connect. She gave Enbridge until May 12 to stop the oil flow, a deadline the company says it won’t comply with absent a court order.

“Ohio refineries, their employees, and key industrial stakeholders directly rely on Line 5′s crude oil supply, and its economic effects are strongly felt in the Buckeye State and beyond,” Yost wrote. “Ohio, joined by Louisiana, respectfully urges the court to carefully balance protections for both the environment and the economic health of individuals and businesses on both sides of the border by allowing Line 5 to continue to operate safely.”

Case documents indicate Michigan opposes the motion but the state has not yet filed a reply.

Enbridge allies have mounted a full-throated defense of the controversial pipeline this year. Canadian government and business officials are lobbying the Biden Administration to intercede in Whitmer’s decision and are threatening to invoke a 1977 treaty governing the operation of cross-border pipelines unless Michigan backpedals the closure order.

Seamus O’Regan, Canadian natural resources minister, told a parliament committee earlier this month that the pipeline’s operation is “non-negotiable.”

The 68-year-old, 645-mile pipeline runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario by way of Michigan. It is a key part of Enbridge’s Lakehead network that carries light crude and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac. Its existence has caused escalating concern since another Enbridge pipeline caused a massive oil spill in 2010 on the Kalamazoo River.

Because the pipeline crosses both Michigan peninsulas and many waterways, opponents see little benefit but substantial risk for the state from its existence and dismiss economic concerns around its closure as overblown.
» Read article                

» More about pipelines

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Another Line 3 Battleground: free speech
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
March 20, 2021

We’ve covered the ongoing, fossil fuel-backed push to criminalize protest before. In 2017, Oklahoma passed the first of these bills, specifically citing the Standing Rock protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Then American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers (AFPM), the trade group for refineries and petrochemical facilities, crafted sample legislation based on the Oklahoma bill, and pushed the American Legal Exchange Council (ALEC) to adopt it. In 2020 , the Covid-19 pandemic slowed things down a bit, but in 2021 things are speeding up. In January, Ohio passed a bill that’s been debated for years, bringing the total number of states with so-called “critical infrastructure laws” in place to 14.

What’s defined as critical infrastructure varies a bit from state to state, but pipelines are always included; penalties range, too, but across the board these laws increase both the criminal and financial penalties of protest, potentially landing protestors in jail for years with fines up to $150,000. It’s worth noting that all of these states have trespassing and property damage laws already, it’s not as though those things have been going unpunished; the new laws merely make the consequences much tougher. They also add penalties for organizers and organizing entities. In Montana, for example, a proposed bill would fine organizations up to a million dollars for being involved in protest.

All of which comes into play in Minnesota, where the fight against Line 3 is underway. There are currently six bills under consideration in the state, packaged into four legislative packages. If any of them pass, not only could protestors be facing stiffer penalties but also the organizations involved, most of them led by Native women, could find themselves slapped with large fines too.

In this interview, researcher Connor Gibson walks us through the origin of these laws, why they’re picking up steam, and what to expect this year.
» Listen to podcast, “How the Fossil Fuel Industry Is Undermining Free Speech”

» More about protests and actions               

DIVESTMENT

Big banks’ trillion-dollar finance for fossil fuels ‘shocking’, says report
Coal, oil and gas firms have received $3.8tn in finance since the Paris climate deal in 2015
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
March 24, 2021

The world’s biggest 60 banks have provided $3.8tn of financing for fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2015, according to a report by a coalition of NGOs.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic cutting energy use, overall funding remains on an upward trend and the finance provided in 2020 was higher than in 2016 or 2017, a fact the report’s authors and others described as “shocking”.

Oil, gas and coal will need to be burned for some years to come. But it has been known since at least 2015 that a significant proportion of existing reserves must remain in the ground if global heating is to remain below 2C, the main Paris target. Financing for new reserves is therefore the “exact opposite” of what is required to tackle the climate crisis, the report’s authors said.

US and Canadian banks make up 13 of the 60 banks analysed, but account for almost half of global fossil fuel financing over the last five years, the report found. JPMorgan Chase provided more finance than any other bank. UK bank Barclays provided the most fossil fuel financing among all European banks and French bank BNP Paribas was the biggest in the EU.

Overall financing dipped by 9% in pandemic-hit 2020, but funding for the 100 fossil fuel companies with the biggest expansion plans actually rose by 10%. Citi was the biggest financier of these 100 companies in 2020.

A commitment to be net zero by 2050 has been made by 17 of the 60 banks, but the report describes the pledges as “dangerously weak, half-baked, or vague”, arguing that action is needed today. Some banks have policies that block finance for coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, but almost two-thirds of funding is for oil and gas companies.

The report’s authors said targeting of banks by campaigners and activist shareholders could help change bank policies but that action by governments was also needed.
» Read article            

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

Baker intends to sign climate and emissions bill
By Chris Lisinski, WWLP
March 25, 2021

BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that he plans to sign into law a sweeping climate policy bill the Legislature approved last week after vetoing an earlier version in January.

Asked as he departed a press conference if he would approve the climate bill, Baker replied with one-word: “Yes.” A spokesperson for his office then confirmed his intent to sign the legislation.

The landmark proposal aims to craft a path toward achieving net-zero carbon emissions statewide by 2050 by setting interim targets for emissions reductions, establishing energy efficiency standards for appliances and addressing the needs of environmental justice communities. Baker vetoed the original version of the bill, approved at the end of the 2019-2020 lawmaking session, in January over concerns that it could limit housing production and did not do enough to help cities and towns adapt to the effects of climate change effects.

Lawmakers passed the legislation a second time and then adopted many of Baker’s sought changes, though they did not agree to some of his more substantial amendments, such as a lower emissions-reduction milestone for 2030.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides signaled after the bill’s passage that the administration was happy with the amendments. Business groups NAIOP and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce have recently announced support for the bill after previously expressing hesitation. Baker has until Sunday to act on the climate bill.
» Read article            

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Why Companies’ ‘Net-Zero’ Emissions Pledges Should Trigger a Healthy Dose of Skepticism
By Oliver Miltenberger, The University of Melbourne and Matthew D. Potts, University of California, Berkeley, The Conversation, republished in DeSmog Blog
March 25, 2021

Hundreds of companies, including major emitters like United Airlines, BP and Shell, have pledged to reduce their impact on climate change and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. These plans sound ambitious, but what does it actually take to reach net-zero and, more importantly, will it be enough to slow climate change?

As environmental policy and economics researchers, we study how companies make these net-zero pledges. Though the pledges make great press releases, net-zero is more complicated and potentially problematic than it may seem.

The gold standard for reaching net-zero emissions looks like this: A company identifies and reports all emissions it is responsible for creating, it reduces them as much as possible, and then – if it still has emissions it cannot reduce – it invests in projects that either prevent emissions elsewhere or pull carbon out of the air to reach a “net-zero” balance on paper.

The process is complex and still largely unregulated and ill-defined. As a result, companies have a lot of discretion over how they report their emissions. For example, a multinational mining company might count emissions from extracting and processing ore but not the emissions produced by transporting it.

Companies also have discretion over how much they rely on what are known as offsets – the projects they can fund to reduce emissions. The oil giant Shell, for example, projects that it will both achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and continue to produce high levels of fossil fuel through that year and beyond. How? It proposes to offset the bulk of its fossil-fuel-related emissions through massive nature-based projects that capture and store carbon, such as forest and ocean restoration. In fact, Shell alone plans to deploy more of these offsets by 2030 than were available globally in 2019.

Environmentalists may welcome Shell’s newfound conservationist agenda, but what if other oil companies, the airline industries, the shipping sectors and the U.S. government all propose a similar solution? Is there enough land and ocean realistically available for offsets, and is simply restoring environments without fundamentally changing the business-as-usual paradigm really a solution to climate change?
» Read article            


That Salmon on Your Plate Might Have Been a Vegetarian
Pescatarians take note: Farmed fish are eating more veggies and less wild fish, according to new research. That’s good news for nature.
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
March 24, 2021

Twenty years ago, as farmed salmon and shrimp started spreading in supermarket freezers, came an influential scientific paper that warned of an environmental mess: Fish farms were gobbling up wild fish stocks, spreading disease and causing marine pollution.

This week, some of the same scientists who published that report issued a new paper concluding that fish farming, in many parts of the world, at least, is a whole lot better. The most significant improvement, they said, was that farmed fish were not being fed as much wild fish. They were being fed more plants, like soy.

In short, the paper found, farmed fish like salmon and trout had become mostly vegetarians.

Synthesizing hundreds of research papers carried out over the last 20 years across the global aquaculture industry, the latest study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The findings have real-world implications for nutrition, jobs and biodiversity. Aquaculture is a source of income for millions of small-scale fishers and revenue for fish-exporting countries. It is also vital if the world’s 7.75 billion people want to keep eating fish and shellfish without draining the ocean of wild fish stocks and marine biodiversity.

At the same time, there have long been concerns among some environmentalists about aquaculture’s effects on natural habitats.

The new paper found promising developments, but also lingering problems. And it didn’t quite inform the average fish-eater what they should eat more of — or avoid.
» Read article              
» Read the original study
» Read the new aquaculture study

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE


Trawling for Fish May Unleash as Much Carbon as Air Travel, Study Says
The report also found that strategically conserving some marine areas would not only safeguard imperiled species but sequester vast amounts planet-warming carbon dioxide, too.
By Catrin Einhorn, New York Times
March 17, 2021

For the first time, scientists have calculated how much planet-warming carbon dioxide is released into the ocean by bottom trawling, the practice of dragging enormous nets along the ocean floor to catch shrimp, whiting, cod and other fish. The answer: As much as global aviation releases into the air.

While preliminary, that was one of the most surprising findings of a groundbreaking new study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The study offers what is essentially a peer-reviewed, interactive road map for how nations can confront the interconnected crises of climate change and wildlife collapse at sea.

It follows similar recent research focused on protecting land, all with a goal of informing a global agreement on biodiversity to be negotiated this autumn in Kunming, China.

Protecting strategic zones of the world’s oceans from fishing, drilling and mining would not only safeguard imperiled species and sequester vast amounts of carbon, the researchers found, it would also increase overall fish catch, providing more healthy protein to people.

“It’s a triple win,” said Enric Sala, a marine biologist who directs National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project. Dr. Sala led the study’s team of 26 biologists, climate scientists and economists.

How much and what parts of the ocean to protect depends on how much value is assigned to each of the three possible benefits: biodiversity, fishing and carbon storage.

Trisha Atwood, an aquatic ecologist at Utah State University who was one of the study’s authors, compared trawling to cutting down forests for agriculture.

“It’s wiping out biodiversity, it’s wiping out things like deep sea corals that take hundreds of years to grow,” Dr. Atwood said. “And now what this study shows is that it also has this other kind of unknown impact, which is that it creates a lot of CO2.”
» Read article               
» Read the study


We have turned the Amazon into a net greenhouse gas emitter: Study
By Liz Kimbrough, Mongabay
March 19, 2021

Something is wrong in the lungs of the world. Decades of burning, logging, mining and development have tipped the scales, and now the Amazon Basin may be emitting more greenhouse gases than it absorbs.

Most of the conversation about climate change is dominated by carbon dioxide. While CO2 plays a critical role in the complex climate equation, other forces such as methane, nitrous oxide, aerosols and black carbon are also factors.

In a first-of-its-kind effort, a group of 31 scientists calculated the balance of all natural and human-caused greenhouse gases coming in and out of the massive Amazon Basin. The team concluded that warming of the atmosphere from agents other than CO2 likely exceeds the climate benefits the Amazon provides via CO2 uptake. Or more simply: due to humans, the Amazon Basin is now a net greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter.

“I would highlight that natural greenhouse emissions from ecosystems aren’t causing climate change,” the study’s lead author, Kristofer Covey, an assistant professor at Skidmore College told Mongabay. “It’s the many human disturbances underway in the basin that are contributing to climate change.”

Earth receives constant energy from the sun. Climate-forcing factors in the atmosphere, such as greenhouse gases, act like a blanket, trapping that heat energy on Earth. When there’s more energy coming in from the sun than is being reflected back out into space, the planet warms and our climate is thrown out of balance.

A healthy forest ecosystem sucks in CO2 and keeps other climate-forcing factors in relative balance. But in the Amazon, where forests have faced increased logging, mining, dam construction, and clearing for agricultural (typically using fire), the system is drying and degrading. One study found that the amount of aboveground plant tissue in the Amazon was reduced by roughly one-third over the past decade.

In short, the ability of the Amazon to absorb CO2 is declining.
» Read article               

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

Why Covering Canals With Solar Panels Is a Power Move
Covering waterways would, in a sense, make solar panels water-cooled, boosting their efficiency.
By Matt Simon, Science
March 19, 2021

Peanut butter and jelly. Hall & Oates. Now there’s a duo that could literally and figuratively be even more powerful: solar panels and canals. What if instead of leaving canals open, letting the sun evaporate the water away, we covered them with panels that would both shade the precious liquid and hoover up solar energy? Maybe humanity can go for that.

Scientists in California just ran the numbers on what would happen if their state slapped solar panels on 4,000 miles of its canals, including the major California Aqueduct, and the results point to a potentially beautiful partnership. Their feasibility study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, finds that if applied statewide, the panels would save 63 billion gallons of water from evaporating each year. At the same time, solar panels across California’s exposed canals would provide 13 gigawatts of renewable power annually, about half of the new capacity the state needs to meet its decarbonization goals by the year 2030.

California’s water conveyance system is the world’s largest, serving 35 million people and 5.7 million acres of farmland. Seventy-five percent of available water is in the northern third of the state, while the bottom two-thirds of the state accounts for 80 percent of urban and agricultural demand. Shuttling all that water around requires pumps to make it flow uphill; accordingly, the water system is the state’s largest single consumer of electricity.

Solar-paneling canals would not only produce renewable energy for use across the state, it would run the water system itself. “By covering canals with solar panels, we can reduce evaporation and avoid disturbing natural and working lands, while providing renewable energy and other co-benefits,” says environmental engineer Brandi McKuin of the University of California, Merced, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, lead author on the paper.
» Read article              


As early renewables near end-of-life, attention turns to recycling and disposal
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
March 24, 2021

Although only a handful of states have implemented rules related to the disposal of batteries, PV panels and other renewable assets, the time has come to consider their fate as early installations reach the end of their useful life, industry leaders concluded during a Tuesday webinar hosted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Batteries, solar panels and even wind turbines contain components that could be repurposed and recycled, panelists said, but high costs and the limited availability of these materials present barriers to scaling up recycling operations.

To create a “circular economy” in which no raw materials are wasted would reduce the lifetime environmental impact of renewable energy, but accomplishing this requires intent and funding that “starts at the design phase,” said Peter Perrault, senior manager of circular economy and sustainable solutions at Enel North America.
» Read article                

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND ELECTRIFICATION


He wanted to get his home off fossil fuels. There was just one problem.
Want to electrify your home? Good luck finding a contractor.
Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
March 18, 2021

Adam James had been casually browsing the housing market for about a year when he came across a home that seemed like the perfect fit. The 31-year-old and his wife recently had their third child, and the 1960s split-level ranch house in Ossining, New York, a village on the Hudson River with ample green space and a commuter train station, was just what they were looking for. The house had only one downside: Its oil-based heating system was 35 years old and on the brink of sputtering out.

Except that wasn’t a downside for James, who works as chief of staff at Energy Impact Partners, a sustainable energy investment firm. “I was actually excited because I was like, I’m gonna get this thing off of fuel oil and decarbonize it,” he told Grist last October.

By that he meant he wanted to switch out the heating and hot water systems in the house for appliances that run on electricity. This kind of conversion is called electrification, and it is currently the only proven way to eliminate the carbon emissions directly generated by our buildings. But even in New York state, which has a legal mandate to cut emissions 85 percent by 2050, a goal of getting 130,000 electric heat and hot water systems installed by 2025, and several public and private programs that promote and incentivize electric heating, James had an unexpected amount of trouble getting it done.

The first thing James did was call a few local contractors to ask about geothermal heat pumps, highly efficient systems that absorb heat from the near-constant temperature beneath the earth’s surface and transfer it into your home. But he quickly learned that it was going to cost a lot more than he thought — around $40,000, by one estimate. So James gave up on geothermal and began looking into air-source heat pumps, similar systems that instead absorb heat from the outdoor air, even on cold winter days. He found a list of contractors on the website for New York’s Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, a state agency tasked with promoting energy efficiency and renewables. The contractors on the list were ostensibly certified to install heat pumps, and James said he called about 10 of them just to figure out what his options were.

Several didn’t respond to his inquiry. A few told him they didn’t do heat pumps. The rest said they could install heat pumps but tried to talk him out of it, explaining that a heat pump would be more expensive than a fuel oil system or a propane furnace, and that he would still need one of those as a backup source of heat.

[Nate Adams, a home performance specialist based in Ohio who goes by the nickname the “House Whisperer,”] said some contractors are afraid of heat pumps because earlier generations of the technology were noisy and didn’t work well in colder temperatures. The technology has come a long way, and new, cold-climate heat pumps work just fine in places like New York, but contractors still perceive them as riskier than traditional systems. “We have 105,000 HVAC contractors across the U.S. that have to be convinced this is a good idea,” said Adams, using the acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

There’s disagreement about heat pump effectiveness even among contractors who recommend the technology. In February, about five months after James’ ordeal, I called several contractors from the same list James consulted and reached Scott Carey, a contractor in Briarcliff, New York, who installs heat pumps for clients and even recently put them in his own house. However, he recommends that his customers keep a back-up source of heat, such as a propane furnace, for when the heat pump periodically goes into defrost mode, running the system in reverse and pumping cold air into the house.

Daphney Warrington, who runs an HVAC company called Breffni Mechanical with her husband in Yonkers, New York, and also installs heat pumps, disagreed — she said there was no need for a backup system unless the homeowner wanted to have one. When asked about James’ trouble finding a contractor, Warrington and Carey offered a similar assessment — a lot of contractors are old school and haven’t stayed up to date with the latest technology. “They still are thinking that heat pumps aren’t for this part of the country,” said Carey.
» Read article                

» More about energy efficiency and electrification

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Critics warn Massachusetts’ climate progress is headed for traffic jam
Climate advocates and analysts say the state will need to reduce driving if it wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and that current plans focus too much on vehicle electrification.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
March 22, 2021

Massachusetts won’t meet its climate goals without getting people to drive less.

That’s the unpopular message from climate advocates and analysts who say the state’s recent Clean Energy and Climate Plan draft places too much emphasis on vehicle electrification and all but ignores the critical need to also reduce driving miles.

The number of vehicle miles traveled in the state is on pace to increase by 21% from 2010 to 2030, according to a new report from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning agency for greater Boston. This growth would cause emissions to rise unless all the vehicles in the state achieved an average — and unlikely — efficiency of 29 miles per gallon, the report concludes.

To alter this course, advocates say, state leaders will need to consider implementing congestion pricing, per-mile fees for road usage, or land use policies that make it easier and more attractive to use public transit — ideas that are not currently major parts of the climate plan.

“It leans on electrification of the vehicle fleet, which is obviously a critical pathway to pursue at the policy level,” said Conor Gately, senior land use and transportation analyst for the planning council. “There’s not as much enthusiasm for the land use side of things to reduce underlying demand.”
» Read article               
» Read the MAPC report

» More about clean transportation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

Glick, Danly spar over gas pipeline reviews as FERC considers project’s climate impacts for first time
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
March 19, 2021

FERC’s decision to consider climate impacts when approving a pipeline certificate marks a significant compromise between Glick and Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, who had indicated in the weeks leading up to the meeting that he might be willing to consider such factors.

“I give [Chatterjee] a lot of credit,” said Glick. “He approached me a while back and said ‘Hey, I think we can work out some sort of compromise here on this issue.'”

Danly, in his dissent, accused the commission of a “dramatic change” inconsistent with long-standing precedent that the commission does not have the right tools to properly assess the impact of projects’ greenhouse gas emissions. Further, he expressed concern that oil and gas companies were not sufficiently involved in the process.

“It appears to me that the financial gas industry and its customers are on the verge of experiencing some dramatic changes in the coming months and years, and we’ve learned that those changes can come from unexpected proceedings,” he said.

FERC’s Thursday meeting followed the commission’s first listening session of the Office of Public Participation, wherein commissioners listened to hours long testimony from landowners and others who had been negatively impacted by gas infrastructure development and, they felt, left out of FERC’s proceedings. Glick pointed out that Danly’s arguments disregard those stakeholders.

“You had suggested that everyone should intervene in all these natural gas pipeline proceedings,” he said. “Well, I would say the same for not just the pipeline companies, but for all the other people that have been screwed by the Commission,” Glick said, calling Danly’s stance “the height of hypocrisy.”

“You were the general counsel, Mr. Danly, when the Commission … without any notice, without telling landowners, without telling people that are concerned about climate change” repeatedly chose not to examine the climate impacts of infrastructure, despite a 2017 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that found that FERC’s environmental impact assessment for pipelines was “inadequate.”

“Absolutely, if you’re a pipeline company, and you want to intervene in a proceeding, go for it … but I would say that everyone else, please you intervene too, because we need to hear your voices as well,” Glick said. “Not just the voices that can afford high-priced Washington D.C. law firms to participate in these proceedings.”
» Read article                

» More about FERC

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS


SLAPPed silly: the company promoting the Goldboro LNG plant that Premier Rankin supports is trying to bully its critics into silence
By Tim Bousquet, Halifax Examiner
March 22, 2021

This weekend, delegates at the Conservative Party of Canada’s national convention rejected a motion that called for the party to acknowledge that “climate change is real.”

Some of the no votes were more nuanced than others, but the gist is that party members don’t want to adopt policies — support for the Paris Accord and carbon taxes, better regulation of emissions from the oil and gas industry — that are necessary to confront the problem. If it means losing votes in the oil fields, they’re against it, the future of the planet be damned.

It’s a reprehensible attitude, but hopefully will have little real-world impact: the CPC is out of power, not even a bit player in the governing minority government, and by voting against the motion, delegates made it that much harder for the party to get back in power.

But it’s an entirely different matter when Iain Rankin, the Liberal premier of Nova Scotia, who is presiding atop a majority government that is setting energy policy for the next several decades, embraces the natural gas industry. Unlike the now powerless CPC, Rankin’s actions can contribute materially to humanity’s failure to confront climate change.

The Pieridae proposal envisions natural gas sourced in Alberta being delivered via new and enlarged pipelines to Nova Scotia, where it will be liquified at the Goldboro plant. That LNG would then be pumped into giant LNG carriers that will carry the LNG across the Atlantic to a new terminal to be built by the energy company Uniper in Wilhelmshaven, Germany; there, the gas will be regasified and distributed to German homes and businesses.

And last night, activists in the US alerted me to yet another possible gas source for the Goldboro plant — natural gas produced by fracking in Western Pennsylvania.

At issue is a now-operating natural gas compressing plant in Weymouth, Massachusetts. As WBUR, the NPR station in Boston, explained it in October:

The 7,700-horsepower Weymouth compressor [emphasis added] is part of a larger gas pipeline plan called the Atlantic Bridge Project. The purpose of the project is to make it easier for “fracked” natural gas from the Marcellus Shale of Western Pennsylvania to get to northern New England and Canada, and it does this by connecting two existing pipeline systems: the Algonquin Gas Transmission, which flows from New Jersey into Massachusetts, and the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, which flows from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia, Canada.
» Read article                
» Read background story: The Goldboro Gamble, Part 1           
» Read background story: The Goldboro Gamble, Part 2             

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

Springfield City Council enlists Conservation Law Foundation in fight against Palmer Renewable Energy biomass plant
By Jim Kinney, MassLive
March 23, 2021


The Springfield City Council will challenge Palmer Renewable Energy’s decade-old building permit with the help of the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation of Boston.

At issue is councilors’ contention that the 2011 permit expired because construction has not begun at the proposed $150 million, 35-megawatt power plant. They say any construction now would require a new special use permit under a 2013 city ordinance.

The appeal will be filed this week — possibly Wednesday — with the Springfield Zoning Board. Whatever side loses at the Zoning Board can appeal to one of several courts after that.

“The people of Springfield seem largely opposed (to the plant),” said Johannes Epke, staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. “We had a unanimous vote of the city council (Monday) night. If the city council and the people of Springfield cannot make these developers come in for a special permit and explain to the city why this is a beneficial use, there is a real problem in the operation of zoning and building enforcement.”

Building permits require construction to commence within six months, Epke said.

The appeal isn’t costing the council, or the city, anything to pursue, Epke said. The Conservation Law Foundation is “happy” to advocate on the council’s behalf, he said.
» Read article                

Dutch to limit forest biomass subsidies, possibly signaling EU sea change
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
March 9, 2021

The Dutch Parliament in February voted to disallow the issuing of new subsidies for 50 planned forest biomass-for-heat plants, a small, but potentially key victory for researchers and activists who say that the burning of forests to make energy is not only not carbon neutral, but is dirtier than burning coal and bad climate policy.

With public opinion opposing forest biomass as a climate solution now growing in the EU, the decision by the Netherlands could be a bellwether. In June, the EU will review its Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), whether to continue allowing biomass subsidies and not counting biomass emissions at the smokestack.

Currently, forest biomass burning to make energy is ruled as carbon neutral in the EU, even though a growing body of scientific evidence has shown that it takes many decades until forests regrow for carbon neutrality to be achieved.

The forestry industry, which continues to see increasing demand for wood pellets, argues that biomass burning is environmentally sustainable and a viable carbon cutting solution compared to coal.
» Read article                

» More about biomass                 

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

My Team Found 2,000 Plastic Bags Inside A Dead Camel
By Marcus Eriksen, Bloomberg | Opinion, in NDTV
March 24, 2021

Digging between the ribs of a dead camel buried in the sands of Dubai, I couldn’t believe what my colleagues and I found: a mass of plastic bags as big as a large suitcase. At least 2,000 plastic bags were lumped together where the animal’s stomach would have been.

We had been led to the site by Ulrich Wernery of the Dubai-based Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, who knew we were researching floating plastics in the Persian Gulf region. After two decades at sea, I thought I had seen it all. We had traveled from the Arctic to the Antarctic, publishing research on plastic pollution across all the oceans’ garbage patches. We found plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes. We have seen albatrosses full of plastic on Midway Atoll, fish with microplastics in their stomachs and California sea lions with nooses of fishing line around their necks.

But the camels were a whole new level of appalling. Our team of scientists documented that more than 300 camels in the Dubai region had died because they ate humans’ trash, accounting for 1% of dead camels evaluated there since 2008. Unlike other research that might examine animals in a laboratory, this was a field study with concentrations of plastic trash that exist in the environment. It is a real-world tragedy with ecologically relevant concentrations of trash.

Imagine having 50 plastic bags in your stomach that you could not digest, causing ulcers and tremendous discomfort and the feeling that you’re full all the time. You can’t and don’t eat any food. This is what happens to camels, and it results in intestinal bleeding, blockages, dehydration, malnutrition and death.

Much of the world still perceives plastic pollution as a problem limited to the ocean. Last month, U.N. Secretary General Antnio Guterres opened the gathering of the United Nations Environmental Assembly, the world’s top environmental decision-making body, by warning that the “oceans are filling with plastic,” and left it at that.

This is wrong. The camels are only the latest casualties occurring in all environments on this planet due to plastic. Researchers have also observed death and suffering in animals from elephants to reindeer. They have found plastic fragments in farmland, food and drinking water. Another recent report drawing on the results of more than 30 studies calls attention to the damage that a chemical found in plastic may do to babies’ brains. Plastic has even been seen in Earth’s orbit.
» Read article                

» More about plastics in the environment

PLASTICS RECYCLING


John Oliver Takes on the Plastics Industry
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
March 23, 2021

In his latest deep dive for Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver took on plastic pollution and, specifically, the myth that if we all just recycled enough, the problem would go away.

Instead, Oliver argued, this is a narrative that has been intentionally pushed by the plastics industry for decades. He cited the [iconic] 1970 Keep America Beautiful ad, which showed a Native American man (really an Italian American actor) crying as a hand tossed litter from a car window. Keep America Beautiful, Oliver pointed out, was partly funded by plastics-industry trade group SPI.

“Which might seem odd until you realize that the underlying message there is, ‘It’s up to you, the consumer, to stop pollution,'” Oliver said. “And that has been a major through line in the recycling movement, a movement often bankrolled by companies that wanted to drill home the message that it is your responsibility to deal with the environmental impact of their products.”
» Read article              
» Watch ‘Last Week Tonight’ video (viewer discretion advised)

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 2/21/20

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

Over 200 people turned out on Wednesday to protest the Weymouth compressor station, currently under construction. Thirteen people were arrested and construction ceased for the day. The point was to draw attention to the environmental damage and local injustice of siting this facility in a densely populated community already burdened with high levels of pollution and related disease.

Another protest drawing considerable attention is happening in Canada in support of the Wet’suwet’en against the Coastal GasLink project. Protesters have blocked ports and rail lines, ramping up pressure on the Trudeau administration.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos captured a lot of attention for his $10B pledge to fight climate change. An article in Vox.com suggests that Bezos might consider putting his money and energy into cleaning up mega-polluter Amazon itself. Meanwhile, a new study in the journal Nature reveals that methane emissions from oil and gas production may be considerably greater than previously understood – and calls out the devastating consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks.

From the cutting edge of clean energy, we found a report on recent laboratory success in using protein nanowires to produce electric currents from moisture in the air. Near term, this could eliminate the need for batteries in small electronic devices. A little farther out, the technology could potentially scale up to power much larger applications.

Good news on clean transportation: the Trump administration’s effort to weaken vehicle emissions standards appears to be running off the road. While incompetence is partly to blame, the real issue is economics. Clean transportation is rapidly becoming more affordable than the dirty old model.

Wrapping up, we offer an article on serious problems with plastics recycling – and how vast quantities of nominally “recyclable” waste are piling up in landfills.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

compressor construction site
13 people arrested in protest at Weymouth compressor station site, police say
Over 200 people attended the demonstration calling on state officials to stop the controversial project, activists said.
By Christopher Gavin, Boston
February 20, 2020

Construction began on the compressor station — part of the company’s “Atlantic Bridge Project” to expand capacity on a natural gas pipeline to Canada — in December after Enbridge secured final permits.

According to a statement from FRRACS, Wednesday’s protest was to call on Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Department of Environmental Protection to halt construction of the facility.

“Multiple people were arrested for blocking the gate to the construction site, while two other people were arrested for locking to pieces of construction equipment on site,” the statement says. “As a result of today’s action, construction was stopped and workers left the site.”
» Read article        

FRRACS logo
Press Release: Climate Protectors stop construction at compressor station
By Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS)
February 19, 2020

North Weymouth, MA – Early this morning, over 200 members of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) and allies gathered for a mass demonstration at Enbridge’s compressor station site to call on Baker and the DEP to immediately halt construction on the project. Multiple people were arrested for blocking the gate to the construction site., while two other people were arrested for locking to pieces of construction equipment on site. As a result of today’s action, construction was stopped and workers left the site.  Thirteen arrests were made in total. Court dates will be held on Thursday, February 20 and Wednesday, February 26 at 8:30AM at the Quincy District Court.
» Read article        

Weymouth arrests 2-19-20
Dozens of protesters arrested at Weymouth compression center worksite
By Brynne Connolly, WHDH – Boston
February 19, 2020


WEYMOUTH, MASS. (WHDH) – Dozens of people protesting the construction of a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth were taken into custody Wednesday, according to the group protesting the project.
» View report             

Weymouth lockup
Weymouth Compressor Opponents Lock Themselves To Equipment

Protest group said two protesters locked themselves to construction equipment at the site of the Weymouth compressor station on Wednesday.
By Scott Souza, Patch.com
February 19, 2020

WEYMOUTH, MA — The group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station said efforts for a large-scale protest at the construction site of the proposed Weymouth gas compressor station drew hundreds of protestors and included two locking themselves to equipment to halt construction on Wednesday. The protest was the latest from FRRACS and similar groups in Weymouth that have resulted in arrests in recent months.
» Read article        

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Coastal GasLink protest
Canada: protests go mainstream as support for Wet’suwet’en pipeline fight widens
Protesters have blocked railways and barricaded ports in wave of dissent – and the pressure on Justin Trudeau has increased
By Amber Bracken at Unist’ot’en Camp and Leyland Cecco in Toronto, The Guardian
February 14, 2020

Set amid dense evergreen forests near the bank of the Wedzin Kwah, or Morice River, the remote cabins at Unist’ot’en camp have become a place of healing for Indigenous youth, who take lessons on trapping and traditional medicines.

But the camp in north-western British Columbia is also the last line of defence in the Wet’suwet’en nation’s fight against a controversial natural gas pipeline.

And in recent days, their fight has been taken up by other groups across the country.

For more than a week, members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk have blocked freight and commuter rail traffic in Ontario, in support of the Wet’suwet’en. Elsewhere, protestors have blocked roads, barricaded access to shipping ports and occupied the offices of elected officials in a wave of dissent.
» Read article        

» More about protests and direct actions

CLIMATE

Bezos dressed himself today
Donating $10 billion isn’t the best way for Jeff Bezos to fight climate change
Amazon is a mega-polluter. Cleaning house at the company should be the CEO’s top priority.
By Sigal Samuel, Vox
February 19, 2020

“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share,” Bezos wrote in his Instagram announcement on Monday. “This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.”

That sounds good, and donating $10 billion to address the climate emergency is certainly a commendable action, although it’s worth noting that figure represents less than 8 percent of Bezos’s total net worth of $130 billion.

But the devil is, as they say, in the details. And Bezos’s announcement is very short on those. Some climate groups are far more effective than others, so depending on where exactly Bezos puts his money, he could have a vastly beneficial effect on the planet — or very little effect at all.

There is, however, something Bezos could do right now that would be guaranteed to have a vastly beneficial effect on our climate: He could clean house at his company. Amazon is a mega-polluter, and although Bezos has lately pledged to decrease its carbon footprint in response to pressure from inside and outside the company, there’s a whole lot more he could do.
» Read article        

methane study
Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
February 19, 2020

Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

Adding to climate concerns, the Trump administration is moving forward with a plan that effectively eliminates requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency’s own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than a million homes for a year.
» Read article       
» Obtain the study     

warmer winters
How Warming Winters Are Affecting Everything
By Lauren Sommer, Mose Buchele, Molly Samuel, Patty Wight, Michael Elizabeth Sakas, Amy Mayer, Nat Herz, NPR
February 18, 2020

Winters are warming faster than other seasons across much of the United States. While that may sound like a welcome change for those bundled in scarves and hats, it’s causing a cascade of unpredictable impacts in communities across the country.

Temperatures continue to steadily rise around the globe, but that trend isn’t spread evenly across the map or even the yearly calendar.

“The cold seasons are warming faster than the warm seasons,” says Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “The colder times of day are warming faster than warmer times of day. And the colder places are warming faster than the warmer places.”
» Read article       

416ppm
‘The Saddest Thing Is That This Won’t Be Breaking News’: Concentration of CO2 Hits Record High of 416 ppm
“Emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation need to be reduced to ZERO to stop this trend!”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
February 12, 2020

The United Kingdom’s national weather service, the Met Office, warned in January that “a forecast of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide shows that 2020 will witness one of the largest annual rises in concentration since measurements began at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, 1958.”

The Met Office said that “the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is expected to peak above 417 parts per million in May,” noting that the anticipated increase is due in part to emissions from the bushfires that have devastated large swaths of Australia since late last year.

“Although the series of annual levels of CO2 have always seen a year-on-year increase since 1958, driven by fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the rate of rise isn’t perfectly even because there are fluctuations in the response of ecosystem carbon sinks, especially tropical forests,” explained professor Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Center and University of Exeter.
» Read article     

paid for by the upper crust
Meet the Millionaires Helping to Pay for Climate Protests

By John Schwartz, New York Times
September 27, 2019

Three wealthy donors formed the Climate Emergency Fund this year to support “disruptive activists,” as Trevor Neilson, one of the founders, put it. For years, he said, they have individually given money to more traditional environmental organizations like Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, but concluded that these groups were taking a too-gradual approach to the fight against climate change and that the crisis demanded greater urgency.

“The smartest place for philanthropists to invest is in this new generation of activists who refuse to accept the excuses of the adults whose lazy approach to climate is leading us off a cliff,” Mr. Neilson said. “The era of gradualism in environmental activism is over.”
» Read article     

» More about climate  

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

air gen
New green technology generates electricity ‘out of thin air’
By University of Massachusetts Amherst
February 17, 2020

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air, a new technology they say could have significant implications for the future of renewable energy, climate change and in the future of medicine.

As reported today in Nature, the laboratories of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst have created a device they call an “Air-gen.” or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere.
» Read article        

» More about clean energy    

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

efficiency winning
Trump’s Path to Weaker Fuel Efficiency Rules May Lead to a Dead End
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
February 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — Last April, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, proclaimed at an auto show here that he would soon roll back President Barack Obama’s stringent fuel efficiency standards.

That, the administration contends, would unleash the muscle of the American auto industry. It would also virtually wipe away the government’s biggest effort to combat climate change.

Nearly a year later, the rollback is nowhere near complete and may not be ready until this summer — if ever. In January, administration staff members appointed by President Trump sent a draft of the scaled-back fuel economy standards to the White House, but six people familiar with the documents described them as “Swiss cheese,” sprinkled with glaring numerical and spelling errors (such as “Massachusettes”), with 111 sections marked “text forthcoming.”

The cost-benefit analysis showed that consumers would lose more money than they would gain. And, because the new auto pollution rule lacks the detailed technical analyses required by law, the regulations would be unlikely to withstand court challenges.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation

PLASTICS RECYCLING

recycling NOT
America’s ‘recycled’ plastic waste is clogging landfills, survey finds
Many facilities lack the ability to process ‘mixed plastics’, a category of waste that has virtually no market as new products
By Erin McCormick, The Guardian
February 18 2020

Many plastic items that Americans put in their recycling bins aren’t being recycled at all, according to a major new survey of hundreds of recycling facilities across the US.

The research, conducted by Greenpeace and released on Tuesday, found that out of 367 recycling recovery facilities surveyed none could process coffee pods, fewer than 15% accepted plastic clamshells – such as those used to package fruit, salad or baked goods – and only a tiny percentage took plates, cups, bags and trays.

The findings confirm the results of a Guardian investigation last year, which revealed that numerous types of plastics are being sent straight to landfill in the wake of China’s crackdown on US recycling exports. Greenpeace’s findings also suggest that numerous products labeled as recyclable in fact have virtually no market as new products.
» Read article        

» More about plastics recycling  

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Weekly News Check-In 1/10/20

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

We have some good news breaking for the many people opposing Enbridge’s Weymouth compressor station. An appeals court in Virginia vacated permits for a similar compressor planned for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, on grounds that the health and environmental effects on those living nearby were not considered. This closely parallels arguments against the Weymouth compressor.

Protesters continue to delay coal trains heading for New Hampshire’s Merrimack Station, and we have a report on Amazon’s threats against employee climate activists.

The Trump administration’s assault on climate continues with several reports on new regulations intended to speed permitting of fossil fuel infrastructure like gas pipelines by eliminating many requirements for environmental impact studies. This is straight from the school of “don’t look for something you don’t want to see”.

We found reporting on how support for clean energy in environmental justice communities has been co-opted by the fossil fuel industry through donations to local NAACP chapters. Subversion is also happening through a Trump administration initiative to improve heavy truck emissions standards, which appears to be a back-door move to slow real progress.

As depressing as all that is, we take some encouragement in knowing that the fossil fuel industry is going to spend much of the coming year defending itself in court. Still, they’ll be headlong into extracting, emitting, and denying until a combination of law and economics forces them to stop. Climate writer and activist Bill McKibben suggested recently in New Yorker that pulling business out of JP Morgan Chase and other top banks financing the fossil fuel industry might be a good way to hasten that reckoning.

Wrapping up, we now know that there were nearly 33,000 gas leaks reported in Massachusetts in 2018, including over 7,500 classified as most serious. The primary cause is aging, deteriorating distribution pipes.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

no fracking wey
Compressor station opponents buoyed by Virginia ruling
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service, in Patriot Ledger
January 7, 2020

Opponents of a natural gas project under construction in Weymouth were optimistic Tuesday that a court ruling vacating a permit for a similar facility in Virginia could serve as a helpful precedent.

In a ruling issued on Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board did not sufficiently consider the consequences a proposed natural gas compressor station would have on the predominantly African-American community near its site. The court tossed out a state permit issued in 2018 to developer Dominion Energy for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline and remanded the matter back to the board.

South Shore residents who have been fighting plans for a compressor station in the Fore River basin were encouraged by the news, citing parallels they see between the Virginia case and a federal appeal unfolding in Massachusetts.
» Read article

BREAKING: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Vacates Permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Compressor Station in Union Hill
By lowkell, Blue Virginia
January 7, 2020

“Environmental justice is not merely a box to be checked, and the Board’s failure to consider the disproportionate impact on those closest to the Compressor Station resulted in a flawed analysis”

“We conclude that the Board thrice erred in performing its statutory duty under sections 10.1–1307(E)(1) and (E)(3): (1) it failed to make any findings regarding the character of the local population at Union Hill, in the face of conflicting evidence; (2) it failed to individually consider the potential degree of injury to the local population independent of NAAQS and state emission standards; and (3) DEQ’s final permit analysis, ostensibly adopted by the Board, relied on evidence in the record that was incomplete or discounted by subsequent evidence.”
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

coal train barricade
Coal Train Protesters Target One of New England’s Last Big Coal Power Plants
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
January 4, 2020

Climate activists halted a coal train bound for one of New England’s last large coal-fired power plants by building a barricade on the tracks and sitting on it for about eight hours this week. The delay was temporary, but it was the fifth time activists had stopped a coal train in the region in less than a month.

The protest is part of an ongoing effort to eliminate coal-fired power production in New England. It also draws attention to what activists say is a costly and unnecessary subsidy for coal-burning power plants that consumers ultimately pay.
» Read article

protest coal plantActivists block coal-carrying train for hours
Goal is to shut down New Hampshire coal-fired plant
By Sarah Betancourt, Commonwealth Magazine
January 3, 2020

CLIMATE ACTIVISTS USED AN UNUSUAL METHOD Thursday night to stop a delivery to the largest coal-fired plant in New England — erecting scaffolding directly on the tracks.

A group of about 30 protesters refused to leave train tracks in the woods of Harvard, Massachusetts, in an effort that delayed delivery of coal to Merrimack Station in Bow, NH for over eight hours. Their goal, they say, is to get parent company Granite Shore Power to set a date for the plant’s shutdown, with regional grid operator ISO-New England facilitating that move.
» Read article            

Amazon climate clampdown
Amazon Threatens to Fire Climate Activists, Group Says
By Matt Day, Bloomberg News
January 2, 2020


A group of Amazon.com Inc. employees who pushed the company to combat climate change say Amazon has threatened to fire some of them if they continue to speak out about their employer’s internal affairs.

Two were threatened with termination, a spokesperson for Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said, and a total of four were told in meetings that they were in violation of the company’s policies on workers speaking to the press and on social media.
» Read article   

» More about protests      

CLIMATE

pipelines unbound
Trump Moves to Exempt Big Projects From  Environmental Review

By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
January 9, 2020

WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday will introduce the first major changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental protection law in more than three decades, moving to ease approval of pipelines and other major energy and infrastructure projects without detailed environmental review.

Many of the changes to the law — the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, a landmark measure that touches nearly every significant construction project in the country — have been long sought by the oil and gas industry, whose members applauded the move and called it long overdue.

Environmental groups said the revisions would threaten species and lead to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The proposed regulations also will relieve federal agencies of having to take climate change into account in environmental reviews.
» Read article

Trump Officials To Overhaul National Environmental Policy Act
By Jeff Brady, NPR
January 9, 2020

Under expected new rules, federal agencies won’t have to consider climate impacts of major infrastructure projects. The move aims to speed the OK for things such as oil and gas pipelines and highways.
» Listen to report  

cumulative effects
Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
January 3, 2020

The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act could sharply reduce obstacles to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other fossil fuel projects that have been stymied when courts ruled that the Trump administration did not properly consider climate change when analyzing the environmental effects of the projects.

According to one government official who has seen the proposed regulation but was not authorized to speak about it publicly, the administration will also narrow the range of projects that require environmental review. That could make it likely that more projects will sail through the approval process without having to disclose plans to do things like discharge waste, cut trees or increase air pollution.

The new rule would no longer require agencies to consider the “cumulative” consequences of new infrastructure. In recent years courts have interpreted that requirement as a mandate to study the effects of allowing more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It also has meant understanding the impacts of rising sea levels and other results of climate change on a given project.
» Read article

end of the line
‘High likelihood of human civilization coming to end’ by 2050, report finds
By Harry Cockburn, The Independent
June 4, 2019

[A recent study] argues that the detrimental impacts of climate breakdown, such as increasing scarcity of food and water, will act as a catalyst on extant socio-political instabilities to accelerate disorder and conflict over the next three decades.

To usefully prepare for such an impact, the report calls for an overhaul in countries’ risk management “which is fundamentally different from conventional practice”.“It would focus on the high-end, unprecedented possibilities, instead of assessing middle-of-the-road probabilities on the basis of historic experience.”
» Read article
» Read the study

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

NAACP and energy
N.A.A.C.P. Tells Local Chapters: Don’t Let Energy Industry Manipulate You
The civil rights group is trying to stop state and local branches from accepting money from utilities that promote fossil fuels and then lobbying on their behalf.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
January 5, 2020

When utilities around the country have wanted to build fossil-fuel plants, defeat energy-efficiency proposals or slow the growth of rooftop solar power, they have often turned for support to a surprisingly reliable ally: a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Most Americans know the N.A.A.C.P. as a storied civil rights organization that has fought for equal access to public facilities, fairness in housing and equality in education. But on energy policy, many of its chapters have for years advanced the interests of energy companies that are big donors to their programs. Often this advocacy has come at the expense of the black neighborhoods, which are more likely to have polluting power plants and are less able to adapt to climate change.
» Read article

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

truck pollution regs
E.P.A. Aims to Reduce Truck Pollution, and Avert Tougher State Controls
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
January 6, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Monday took its first step toward tighter pollution controls on trucks, an anomalous move for a government known for weakening environmental policies but one that would pre-empt tougher state rules.

Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, began the legal and regulatory process for curbing highway truck emissions of nitrogen dioxide, which has been linked to asthma and lung disease.

While the move could give President Trump a nominal environmental achievement for the 2020 campaign, public health experts say the truck regulations are not as out of line with administration policy as they would appear. The emerging rule will quite likely limit nitrogen dioxide pollution more than current standards, they say, but still fall far short of what is necessary to significantly prevent respiratory illness and even premature deaths.

Instead, the administration appears to be complying with the wishes of the trucking industry, which has called for a new national nitrogen dioxide regulation to override states that could otherwise implement their own, tighter rules. On that front, the E.P.A. rule is likely to open a new battle in Mr. Trump’s long-running war with California over environmental regulations and states’ rights. California is already moving ahead with stringent state-level standards on nitrogen dioxide pollution from trucks that could be replicated by other states.
» Read article

Baker-Polito Administration Extends and Increases Funding for Successful Electric Vehicle Rebate Program
Press release
December 31, 2019


Starting on January 1, 2020, MOR-EV will be extended to support qualifying battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) up to a $50,000 final purchase price with a $2,500 rebate. Additionally, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVS) with an all-electric range of 25 miles or greater and with a final purchase price up to $50,000 are eligible for a $1,500 rebate. Rebates will not be made available to purchases made prior to January 1, 2020. The program was phased out from September 30, 2019 to December 31, 2019 due to the rapid growth in applications causing a lack of funding. However, the Baker-Polito Administration proposed a funding proposal in the budget presented last January, which was largely adopted in a recent supplemental budget.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

petro industry emissions
Report: Oil & Gas Industry Set To Release An Extra 220 Million Tons Of Greenhouse Gases By 2025
That’s about as much as 50 large coal plants, according to the Environmental Integrity Project.
By Katie Watkins, Houston Public Media
January 8, 2020

The oil and gas industry could release an additional 227 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. by the year 2025, as companies expand drilling and build new plants, according to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project.

“If you count greenhouse gases from drilling operations and from compressor stations and the big tank farms and then you add in the petrochemical plants, we’re looking at an increase of more than a third compared to what we’ve seen in recent years,” said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project. “To put that in scale, that’s equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions that you’d get from more than 50 large coal plants.”

“The petrochemical industry is actually the fastest-growing source of [greenhouse gas] pollution in the U.S. right now,” said Schaeffer. “And we’re projecting that greenhouse gas load is going to continue to grow as these plants build out and keep expanding.”
» Read article

pipelines in court
2020: A Year of Pipeline Court Fights, with One Lawsuit Headed to the Supreme Court
Several cases challenge natural gas pipeline routes, including across the Appalachian Trail, and question companies’ right to take land they don’t own.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
January 3, 2020

After years of mounting opposition to the increasing build-out of oil and gas infrastructure, 2020 is shaping up to be the year that pipeline opponents get their day in court.

One case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court takes a closer look at whether parts of the Appalachian Trail are off-limits to fossil fuel infrastructure and may determine the fate of two multi-billion-dollar pipelines. A defeat there, the industry argues, would severely limit its ability to get natural gas from the Marcellus shale to East Coast cities and export terminals. Another case weighs state sovereignty against pipeline interests and could have implications nationwide.

Meanwhile, a question of potentially greater significance looms: Can pipeline companies continue to justify taking private land as the public benefits of fossil fuel pipelines are increasingly questioned and the risks they pose to the environment and climate increase?
» Read article

Katrina-Rita spills
How Oil Companies Avoided Environmental Accountability After 10.8 Million Gallons Spilled
By Joan Meiners, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate
December 27, 2019


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, while stranded New Orleanians flagged down helicopters from rooftops and hospitals desperately triaged patients, crude oil silently gushed from damaged drilling rigs and storage tanks.

Given the human misery set into motion by Katrina, the harm these spills caused to the environment drew little attention. But it was substantial.

Nine days after the storm, oil could still be seen leaking from toppled storage tanks, broken pipelines and sunken boats between New Orleans and the Mississippi River’s mouth. And then Hurricane Rita hit. Oil let loose by Katrina was pushed farther inland by Rita three weeks later, and debris from the first storm caused damage to oil tankers rocked by the second.

Fourteen years later, not one assessment of the damage to natural resources after the two 2005 hurricanes has been completed. None of the 140 parties thought to be responsible for the spills has been fined or cited for environmental violations. And no restoration plans have been developed for the impacted ecosystems, fish, birds or water quality, a review by The Times-Picayune and The Advocate and ProPublica has found.

The extent of the damage to the environment may never be known.
» Read article

fire and fence
Call for climate disaster levy to be funded by Australia’s fossil fuel industry

A new plan to make companies producing fossil fuels foot the bill for the escalating costs of natural disasters in Australia has been welcomed by some New South Wales mayors who say people in their communities are paying the price of devastating bushfires.
By Peggy Giakoumelos, SBS News
December 18, 2019

A new plan to make companies producing fossil fuels foot the bill for the escalating costs of natural disasters in Australia has been welcomed by some New South Wales mayors who say people in their communities are paying the price of devastating bushfires.
» Listen to report

fossils on trial
Fossil Fuels on Trial: Where the Major Climate Change Lawsuits Stand Today

Some of the biggest oil and gas companies are embroiled in legal disputes with cities, states and children over the industry’s role in global warming.
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
November 29, 2019

The wave of legal challenges that is washing over the oil and gas industry, demanding accountability for climate change, started as a ripple after revelations that ExxonMobil had long recognized the threat fossil fuels pose to the world.

Over the past few years: Two states launched fraud investigations into Exxon over climate change, and one has followed with a lawsuit that went to trial in October 2019. Nine cities and counties, from New York to San Francisco, have sued major fossil fuel companies, seeking compensation for climate change damages. And determined children have filed lawsuits against the federal government and various state governments, claiming the governments have an obligation to safeguard the environment.

The litigation, reinforced by science, has the potential to reshape the way the world thinks about energy production and the consequences of global warming. It advocates a shift from fossil fuels to sustainable energy and draws attention to the vulnerability of coastal communities and infrastructure to extreme weather and sea level rise.
» Read article            

Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns
What if the banking, asset-management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?
By Bill McKibben, New Yorker
September 17, 2019

Some activists have begun to envision a campaign to pressure the banks. Chase’s retail business is a huge part of its enterprise, as is the case with Citi, Wells Fargo, and the others. “One of the major risk factors going forward for these guys is generational,” Disterhoft said. “You have a rising generation of consumers and potential employees that cares a lot about climate, and they’re going to be choosing who they do business with factoring that into account.” In 2017, when Twitter-based activists accused Uber of exploiting Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban, rather than protesting it, it took just hours for downloads of the Lyft app to surge, for the first time, past those of the Uber app. Switching banks is harder, but, given the volume of credit-card solicitations that show up in the average mailbox every year, probably not much.
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels

GAS LEAKS

leaky old pipes
Thousands of gas leaks plagued Massachusetts in 2018, new DPU report says
By Lisa Kashinsky, Boston Herald
January 1, 2020


Gas companies reported 32,877 gas leaks across Massachusetts in 2018, according to a new report from the Department of Public Utilities, a consequence of an aging system that a leading advocate says remains inherently unsafe.

“It’s pretty much the same year after year,” said Audrey Schulman, co-executive director of HEET, a Cambridge-based energy efficiency nonprofit that maps gas leaks across the state. “That’s a demonstration that we’ve got an aging infrastructure that is unsafe.”

There were 7,578 Grade 1 leaks — the most serious kind, which represent “an existing or probable hazard to persons or property” and must be repaired “as immediately as possible” — identified across the state in 2018, according to the DPU report submitted to the state Legislature as 2019 came to a close. Of those, 41 leaks remained unrepaired by the end of 2018.

Gas companies also reported 6,588 Grade 2 leaks and 18,711 Grade 3 leaks of lesser severity. Of those, 2,346 Grade 2 leaks remained unrepaired by the end of 2018, along with 15,146 Grade 3 leaks. Overall, the number of gas leaks reported in 2018 is similar to those in the past few years.

Massachusetts has one of the oldest and most leak-prone natural gas infrastructures in large part because the explosive fossil fuel continues to flow through areas of non-cathodically protected steel, cast- and wrought-iron pipes that are prone to corrosion and in some places are more than a century old.
» Read article             

» More about gas leaks

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Weekly News Check-In 10/11/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

The brave folks in Weymouth are still fighting the good fight against the Enbridge compressor station. US Senators Markey and Warren stepped into the ring with them and sent a strongly-worded letter to CEO Monaco requesting that he seek an alternative site.

Virgo is back! The 14 year old Pekingese mix was reunited with her Very Happy Person after going missing for a whole year following the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Meanwhile, Columbia Gas recently made more news with another large gas leak in that area, and is dealing with the consequences.

We also found pipeline news covering Granite Bridge, Ashland (Eversource), and a good possibility that Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be contested in the Supreme Court.

Not all gas leaks are accidental. Newton & Wellesley were just subjected to a day-long, large “controlled release” to empty a major pipeline for maintenance. And we have further news from a story we carried last week about a fracked gas well blow-out in Louisiana that is now expected to flare or vent for another two months before coming under control.

Climate news includes an article explaining why so many fires are currently consuming the Amazon rain forest. Plus a heads up on a sneaky new non-profit funded by dark money. Its mission is to promote natural gas and discredit the Green New Deal ahead of the 2020 election. After that, you may want to take a rejuvenating skim through the news on clean energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency, and microgrids.

Wrapping up, reporting on the fossil fuel industry offers a steady diet of concern about fracking as a bad financial bet, an environmental disaster, and a source of fuel that appears to be peaking much sooner than its boosters led investors to believe.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Lawmakers ask gas company CEO to pull compressor station plans
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 9, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Members of Weymouth’s Congressional delegation are asking the CEO of a giant energy company to reconsider his company’s decision to build a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River.

In a letter to Enbridge President and CEO AI Monaco, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch asked Monaco to abandon plans to put a compressor station in Weymouth to facilitate Canadian gas exports.

Opponents of the compressor station proposed by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, say it will increase pollution and affect the health and safety of residents who live near the proposed compressor, which would be built at the basin of the Fore River.

“Given the broad opposition to building the compressor station at the proposed location, we strongly urge you to heed the concerns of these state and local officials and experts, and immediately seek an alternative for this project that does not involve siting a compressor station in the middle of a community that rejects it as unnecessary and dangerous,” the letter reads.

» Read article
» Read Markey/Warren letter

Compressor critics say website issues impeding research
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 7, 2019

Residents say they need more time to review more than 1,000 pages of data on a proposed natural-gas compressor station and related documents because of technical errors with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s website that have delayed and even prevented their research.

Weymouth resident Margaret Bellafiore said she sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection over the weekend asking for more time for the respondents to research TRC Environmental Corp.’s draft report called a “release abatement measure” plan, which covers the cleanup of contamination on the proposed compressor site. The state Department of Environmental Protection defines the plan as “a voluntary remedial measure taken to totally clean up small problems, or reduce the magnitude of larger problems.”

Bellafiore said scientists, doctors and residents have been “stymied” trying to evaluate the plan due to technical problems with the state agency’s website, including links to necessary reports that don’t work.
» Read article     

Sit with Andrea: Here I Am Again, 18 months later
Andrea Honore, Sit with Andrea Blog
October 5, 2019

So many times I have sat on the waiting room couch, facing the inner office door, and he’ll cruise by on his way out of the office. Most of the time I say hello, or good afternoon and he is polite enough back to me. No fireworks. I don’t get off the couch and follow him… at least not until Sept 19th.

Why did I follow him? Maybe because I was inspired after helping host the wonderful Dr Sandra Steingraber, and, also, being super-tired apparently tamps down my fantastic anxiety. It must have contributed to the lowering of my normal reserve?
» Read article    

State agency again extends review of compressor station project
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
October 4, 2019

For the ninth time since it began examining the plans, the office of Coastal and Zone Management agreed with Algonquin Gas Transmission to a stay of its federal consistency review. The office paused its work on the project for a month starting Sept. 16, the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs confirmed.

Under the current agreement, it will restart the review on Oct. 16 and complete it by Nov. 4, although that could end up being pushed back by another extension. CZM traditionally does not issue its rulings until other state regulators have completed their reviews, and the Department of Environmental Protection still has not ruled on appeals filed challenging wetlands and waterways permits it issued.
» Read article     

Compressor station foe takes fight to Baker for 200th time
By Anastasia E. Lennon, Boston University State House Program Via Patriot Ledger
September 26 2019

BOSTON – Andrea Honore on Wednesday walked into Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive office for the 200th time in less than three years.

Unlike most days, Honore wasn’t alone. Flanked by other activists, the Weymouth woman sat beneath a portrait of former Gov. Paul Cellucci and calmly laid out her demands for Baker regarding a natural gas compressor station proposed for a site on Weymouth’s Fore River.

Baker did not come out to greet her.

Honore’s first 82 visits to the governor’s suite took place from February through July 2017, while the rest came starting this past January, when an air-quality permit for the contested site was announced. The State House is just a 15-minute walk from her job, which allows her to visit frequently.

“What would you do to save your home, Governor Baker? How hard would you fight?” Honore said in her opening statement. “Those of us who live in the Fore River Basin area and beyond are doing everything we can to save our home and health.”

She went on to demand that Baker immediately direct the state’s agencies to deny the remaining permits, citing state law, halt the current alteration of the site at 50 Bridge St., and find more independent sources to conduct the safety and impact studies. Honore also asked that Baker order the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health to retract their previous healthimpact assessment for the project and perform a new, peer-reviewed one.
» Read article    

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS

Virgo
Woman Reunites With Dog Lost After Merrimack Valley Explosions

By Jim Smith, CBS News
October 3, 2019

Altagracia Baldera was in disbelief as she held her 14-year-old Pekingese mix in her arms. Virgo had been missing for more than a year, and now she was reunited with her owner.

The incredible story began during last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Baldera was evacuated from her North Andover home and went to stay with her sister in Lawrence. The next day, Virgo escaped in a community she had never been to before.
» Read article     

» More Columbia gas incident articles

COLUMBIA GAS NEWS

Columbia Gas claims line
Lawmakers weigh ‘nuclear option’ for Columbia Gas
By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter
October 4, 2019

BOSTON — Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera doesn’t mince words when asked if he thinks Columbia Gas of Massachusetts should be allowed to continue serving his city.

“Frankly, I think they should lose their license to operate in the state,” the Democrat says. “They’ve proven that they aren’t capable of serving our community.”

Rivera said last week’s gas leak in Lawrence that resulted in service shutoffs and forced evacuations has solidified his view that the company’s franchise should be taken away.

Such a move, however, would require approval by the state Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker and, so far, no legislation to do so has been filed.

But lawmakers who represent the Merrimack Valley say they are increasingly leaning toward the nuclear option.
» Read article    

» More Columbia Gas news

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

PUC consultants oppose approval of Granite Bridge pipeline
By Alex LaCasse, Seacoast Online
October 3, 2019

CONCORD — Hired consultants from the state’s Public Utilities Commission are not recommending approval of the Granite Bridge gas pipeline, saying Liberty Utilities had not done enough analysis to demonstrate it was the best option for meeting future energy needs.

The testimony from PUC consultants John Antonuk, John Adger and Dr. James Letzelter, of the Liberty Consulting Group, was filed earlier this month.

It was joined by other written testimony from the New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate, Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast and the Conservation Law Foundation, all testifying against the project. The deadline for interveners to submit testimony to the PUC was Sept. 13.

The only groups speaking in support were Liberty Utilities and the union representing its gas workers, who stated the project was the most economical way to meet New Hampshire’s future energy needs.
» Read article     

» More Granite Bridge pipeline news

ASHLAND (EVERSOURCE) PIPELINE

Judge sets schedule for Ashland-Eversource pipeline legal clash
By Cesareo Contreras, Metrowest Daily News
October 3, 2019

ASHLAND – Town officials and Eversource Energy have until the new year to build up their respective arguments concerning the company’s right to move forward with its plan to replace a gas pipeline that runs through Hopkinton and Ashland.

On Aug. 23, the town served the company with a Land Court Summons and complaint, calling on the court to restrict the company to just one pipeline along a 3.7-mile easement that runs through both towns.

Eversource wants to place a new 12-inch pipe in the easement along side the current 6-inch pipe, which would be decommissioned. Utility officials say the larger pipe is necessary to solve a problem that causes pressure in the line to drop.

On Monday, Massachusetts Land Court Judge Michael Vhay set a Jan. 10 deadline for both parties to assemble their discovery evidence.
» Read article     

» More Ashland pipeline articles

OTHER PIPELINES

SCOTUS ACP
Supreme Court to take on Atlantic Coast Pipeline appeal
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
October 7, 2019

The Supreme Court’s decision to take on the appeal surprised several of the environmental groups that have litigated against the permits because of the limited applications of the case. Some opponents of the project credited this to the influence of the developers of the 600-mile pipeline, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company.

“These companies are very well connected,” Gerken told Utility Dive.

A wide range of supporters sent in briefs to appeal the Fourth Circuit decision, including the U.S. Solicitor General, 16 state attorneys general and several industry and labor organizations supporting the Forest Service’s authority to approve the pipeline’s crossing of the Appalachian Trail.

“Attorneys general and pipeline companies from around the country that have no stake in this issue have weighed in,” Gerken said.
» Read article     

» More articles about other pipelines

GAS LEAKS NEWS

Gas Release Planned For Newton, Wellesley
Crews are emptying a natural gas pipeline so they can do some maintenance work on it. It will be smelly.
By Jenna Fisher, Patch
October 7, 2019

NEWTON, MA — If you smell gas on Tuesday near the Route-128 interchange, officials say, they’re aware. Algonquin Gas Transmission will be releasing natural gas as part of preventative maintenance work at its Valve Site near Walnut Street in Wellesley and Quinobequin Road in Newton near the Washington Street, Route 128 interchange.

The release is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday and will last for about 12 hours, according to the city. There will be a second release before the middle of the month. This isn’t the first set of gas releases for maintenance. In August there were a couple releases, but neither lasted as long.

It will be smelly. And it will be loud, according to officials.
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WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

LA blowout Oct 4
Already Burning for a Month, Fracked Gas Blowout in Louisiana Could Last Two More Months
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 4, 2019

For the fifth week since the blowout began, a large flare is still burning**update below** at the site of GEP Haynesville, LLC’s blown out fracked gas wells in northwestern Louisiana. The blowout occurred on August 30, shortly after the company began a frack job, igniting two adjacent wells. A state official estimated that efforts to contain the blowout could take another two months, or more.

The flare has gone out at times, resulting in fluid from the well, including what the oil and gas industry calls “produced water,” spreading a mist into the sky over a mile away, alarming nearby residents.

**UPDATE OCTOBER 8: Patrick Courreges, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), told DeSmog via email on October 8th: “Both blowout wells killed – no longer flowing,” however, work is still underway to kill them permanently.**

“Once out, saltwater and whatever else was shooting out into the sky,” a resident, who asked to not be named, told DeSmog. “It would come back down, making a heavy fog, killing lots of trees, and getting on everything.” The resident said the fog persisted for four days and caused irritation and burning in the eyes and any open wounds when outside for more than a few minutes.
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CLIMATE

Amazon fires and cattle
Why Amazon Fires Keep Raging 10 Years After a Deal to End Them
Many of the thousands of fires burning in Brazil’s Amazon are set by ranchers. A deal inked 10 years ago was meant to stop the problem, but the ecological arson goes on as the Earth warms.
By Clifford Krauss, David Yaffe-Bellany and Mariana Simões, New York Times
October 10, 2019

The immense scale of the fires in Brazil this summer raised a global alarm about the risks they posed to the world’s largest rainforest, which soaks up carbon dioxide and helps keep global temperatures from rising.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Ten years ago, an agreement was reached that was intended to help end these devastating acts of ecological arson.

In 2009, the three biggest Brazilian meatpacking companies signed an agreement with the environmental group Greenpeace not to buy cattle from ranchers who raised their beef in newly deforested areas.
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TEA
U.S. group forms to defend natural gas against anti-fossil fuel measures
By Nichola Groom, Reuters
September 30, 2019

A group backed by anonymous donors launched a campaign on Monday to promote the benefits of cheap, abundant natural gas against what it called “radical” proposals like the Green New Deal that would phase out use of the fossil fuel.

The Empowerment Alliance, or TEA, will fund advertising and research to advocate the use of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, in the runup to the U.S. presidential election in November of 2020, Terry Holt, a spokesman for the group, said on Monday.

Most of Republican President Donald Trump’s challengers for the White House are pursuing aggressive policies to fight climate change.

The nonprofit group would not disclose its donors, saying they prefer to remain anonymous because of fears they will be harassed by environmental activists. The group also declined to comment on its budget.
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CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Baker’s latest solar goal called too small
Pacheco, advocates push administration to think bigger
Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
October 4, 2019

At a Senate oversight hearing on Friday, Baker administration officials said they wanted to expand the original 1,600 megawatt proposal by 800 megawatts and run a tweaked SMART program through 2022. The officials focused on some of the challenges they face – a power grid not set up to absorb power from small solar generators, the high cost of connecting those generators to the grid, and the need to move cautiously with technology changing so rapidly.

“Our grid needs to catch up,” said Judith Judson, the commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources.

With industry groups pushing for a 3,200 megawatt expansion, Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton prodded the Baker administration to get on board. He said the state’s utilities and the Department of Public Utilities are fixated on the reliability of the grid and the price of power. But he said they need to also take into account the looming threat of climate change.

“We need to move much more quickly,” Pacheco said.
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Edgartown settles
Edgartown, Vineyard Wind Settle Cable Dispute
Noah Asimow, Vineyard Gazette
October 1, 2019

Vineyard Wind and the Edgartown conservation commission have comes to terms in a dispute over the construction of two heavy-duty underwater cables, as the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm moves through an extensive permitting and construction process.

A settlement signed off on by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this week will allow the conservation commission to play an active role in closely monitoring the project to run an undersea cable from the offshore wind farm past the eastern shore of Chappaquiddick on its way to mainland Cape Cod.

Although the settlement clears one of the last of a long line of local and state permitting hurdles for the massive, 84-turbine ocean infrastructure project, a construction start date remains stalled until at least early 2020 because of delays at the federal level.
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CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

electric roads
Electric Roads Could Be a Path to a Driverless Future
Israel and Sweden experiment with a new way to increase the uses of electric cars.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
October 7, 2019

BEIT YANNAI, Israel — Electric vehicles can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at least in theory. But challenges to wide acceptance remain significant: Batteries are expensive, charging stations are few and far between, and recharging takes far more time than a fill-up at the pump.

A technological breakthrough is needed, and many companies are working on ways to make charging faster and travel range longer. Advances have been frustratingly slow.

A small Israeli start-up called Electreon has another idea: electrify the roads to recharge vehicles as they are driven.
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ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Boston net zero
Boston To Require All New City-Owned Buildings To Be ‘Net-Zero’ For Carbon Emissions
By Craig LeMoult, WGBH
October 8, 2019

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh plans to require all newly constructed city-owned buildings to be “net zero” for carbon emissions. The plan is detailed in an update to the city’s Climate Action Plan, made public Tuesday.

The directive will require new city buildings to either cause no emissions of carbon — through a combination of efficiency improvements and use of renewable energy — or to offset any emissions, which are caused by oil and gas used for heating and electricity generation, with carbon-reducing investments.

City officials said Walsh will sign an executive order mandating the change in the coming weeks, after he attends the international C40 Mayors Climate Summit in Copenhagen later this week. At the summit, he plans to speak about Boston’s efforts to prepare for climate change and sea level rise.
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MICROGRIDS

Can We Really Reach These Big Green Goals?
By Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
October 8, 2019

So the pursuit of renewable energy is on. What stands in the way?

Availability of renewable energy — and access to it — is the greatest problem cited. But it’s among a long list that also includes intermittency, difficulty attracting skilled staff, and complexity of power markets and renewable energy contracts.

What can help organizations overcome these problems? Those surveyed cited coordination with their utilities as the biggest enabler.

“In fact, utilities can directly influence the pace and scale at which these organizations can reach their energy goals,” says the report.
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FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

fracking peak
Will the Fracking Revolution Peak Before Ever Making Money?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 3, 2019

This week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted that the U.S. oil and gas shale industry, already struggling financially, is now facing “core operational issues.” That should be a truly frightening prospect for investors in American fracking operations, but one which DeSmog has long been warning of.

This one line from the Journal sums up the problems: “Unlike several years ago, when shale production fell due to a global price collapse, the slowdown this year is driven partly by core operational issues, including wells producing less than expected after being drilled too close to one another, and sweet spots running out sooner than anticipated.”

As we have reported at DeSmog over the last year and a half, the shale oil and gas industry, which has driven the recent boom in American oil and gas production, has been on a more than decade-long money-losing streak, with estimated losses of approximately a quarter trillion dollars. Those losses have continued in 2019.
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Mossmorran flaring
Mossmorran flaring: Shell forced to burn off gas it cannot sell
By Angie Brown BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter
October 3, 2019

Residents living near the Mossmorran site thought flaring would be reduced after Exxonmobil closed in August.

However, flares have continued to burn because Shell’s only ethane customer is Exxonmobil, which shares the site.

Shell said it was “actively exploring alternative ethane outlets”.

Exxonmobil chose to temporarily close its plant to undertake maintenance on its boilers.

Shell’s Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant separates natural gas liquids into ethane, propane, butane and natural gasoline for storage and onward distribution.

It sells its ethane to Exxonmobil’s neighbouring Fife Ethylene plant, which turns it into ethylene.

Since the Fife Ethylene Plant was temporarily closed down Shell said it “did not have the storage capacity for the significant quantities of ethane produced from North Sea gas”.
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US Shale Production Is Set For A Steep Decline
By Nick Cunningham, oilprice.com
October 1, 2019

U.S. oil production fell in July, another worrying sign for the shale industry.

The latest EIA data shows that oil output fell sharply in July, dipping by 276,000 barrels per day. The decrease can be chalked up to outages related to a hurricane that forced oil companies to temporarily idle operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore Gulf of Mexico production plunged by 332,000 bpd in July.

As a result, the dip in output might easily be dismissed as a one-off aberration. However, U.S. output has stagnated in 2019, ending several years of explosive shale growth. Compared to December 2018, total U.S. production was only up 44,000 in June 2019, which essentially means that despite heady forecasts and lots of hype, U.S. shale has plateaued this year.
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