Tag Archives: American Petroleum Institute

Weekly News Check-In 1/22/21

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Welcome back.

“… When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
— Amanda Gorman, excerpt from “The Hill We Climb”, in The Guardian

What a week! The Biden/Harris administration kicked off by returning science and sanity to the White House. The inauguration was a high-volume Kleenex event for many, and we already see seismic shifts in policy. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is considering allowing opponents of the Weymouth compressor station to argue that the facility doesn’t serve a public need and presents a danger to nearby environmental justice communities. We include a link with this story – please send your own comments to FERC encouraging them to follow through. This is a big break – let’s work it!

The Keystone XL pipeline is dead. Now, opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline argue it should meet the same fate, for the same reasons. Strangely, Enbridge is attempting to swim against this anti-pipeline tide by refusing to comply with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s recent order to shut down its aging Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac.

It’s beginning to look like Baltimore’s legal action against the fossil fuel industry will become a pivotal Supreme Court case. The high court agreed to hear a narrow issue related to jurisdiction, but then the oil and gas industry pushed it to go further. At stake is whether this and similar suits can be heard in any state court.

This week, Democrat Richard Glick became Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair. He has a strong and consistent record of opposing FERC’s “rubber stamp” approach to pipeline project approval, is serious about environmental justice (see Weymouth, above), and is committed to the clean energy transition. Although the Commission will remain majority-Republican till June, he may already have enough support to begin to tackle the big issue of transmission reform.

This week’s biggest, most hopeful, and least-surprising climate story is the pending U.S. return to the Paris Climate Agreement. President Biden stated his administration’s intent in a letter signed within hours of his inauguration. Our return becomes official after thirty days.

Clean energy has a new player. A “tidal kite” is generating renewable electricity from the tidal flows in Vestmannasund, a strait in the Faroe Islands. Tethered to the seabed, the kite’s primary innovation is its ability to “fly” a figure 8 pattern in the tidal current, thereby increasing relative velocity through the water and maximizing energy generation from the onboard turbine.

Necessary advances in building energy efficiency are being threatened by the powerful National Association of Home Builders. We found a great article that makes the case for better buildings, and explains how the building trade’s short-sighted obsession with initial construction cost is passing large downstream bills to home owners and renters – while also cooking the planet with excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric vehicles are currently burdened with long charge times – a problem that mostly concerns drivers taking long trips. New battery designs aim to change that, by making a charge-up take about the same time as a fill-up. The trick involves replacing electrode graphite with nanopaticles that allow a higher rate of electron flow. One example of this new lithium-ion battery was developed by the Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China on standard production lines. While it’s not quite ready for commercial scale deployment, it proves the concept and assures a quick-charge future. Other battery manufacturers are pursuing similar designs.

Recall that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of a landmark climate bill was predicated in large part on $6 billion that he insisted the legislature’s aggressive emissions reduction goals would cost the commonwealth. That allowed the governor to claim a point for fiscal responsibility… except that it sort of looks like he just made that number up! Hopefully the bill will be reintroduced quickly. The Governor and Legislature have expressed an eagerness to move forward. Let’s keep it real….

The fossil fuel industry is sorting out its future in light of the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation and the Biden/Harris climate agenda. We found an interesting article that explores how a number of pipeline projects in the U.S. and Canada could ultimately be affected, and how they’re related.

We’ve mentioned FERC several times, and we’ll close with a story on its decision to affirm that energy company Pembina can’t move forward with the highly-contested Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project without a key clean water permit from the state of Oregon. After years of battle, this federal regulator has given the opposition hope by merely acting… sensibly.

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

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

glimmer of hopeAfter years of protests, a glimmer of hope for opponents to the Weymouth gas compressor
By David Abel, Boston Globe
January 19, 2021

After years of protests, residents opposing a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth received a glimmer of hope Tuesday that federal regulators might reconsider last fall’s decision to allow the plant to operate.

In a vote by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a majority of members ruled the panel had improperly denied a request for a hearing on its approval from neighbors and environmental advocates who have long opposed the compressor. The commissioners, one of whom was appointed since the facility won approval in the fall, cited safety and environmental concerns for their action.

The vote comes after the compressor had two emergency shutdowns in September — just days after regulators authorized it to start operating. It has yet to resume operations, and it’s unclear when it will be allowed to do so.

At an online hearing, Commissioner Richard Glick said the FERC must look more closely at the impact of the station on low-income residents who live nearby and “do more than give lip service to environmental justice.”

“That needs to change,” he said.

In a post on Twitter, Glick added that the station “raises serious environmental justice questions, which we need to examine. The communities surrounding the project are regularly subjected to high levels of pollution & residents are concerned emissions from the station will make things worse.”

A new commissioner, Allison Clements, a Democratic appointee, said the commission should “carefully consider how to address health and safety concerns.” The commissioners serve five-year, staggered terms, and no more than three of the five commissioners may be from the same party as the president.

This ruling comes after residents spent six years fighting the $100 million compressor, which they have said presents health and safety risks to the polluted, densely populated Fore River Basin.

The 7,700-horsepower compressor was built by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline giant, as part of its $600 million Atlantic Bridge project. The compressor, the subject of a Globe investigation last year, seeks to pump 57.5 million cubic feet of gas a day from Weymouth to Maine and Canada.

“This is significant because this is the first time in six years that they have actually considered our concerns about environmental justice, health, and safety,” said Alice Arena, president of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.
» Read article        
» Submit comments to FERC

» More about the Weymouth compressor

PIPELINES

worse than crude
After a decade of struggle, Keystone XL may be sold for scrap
By Alexandria Herr, Grist
January 20, 2021

After 12 embattled years of approval, cancellation, and re-approval, Keystone XL may be done for good. President Biden rescinded the permit for the pipeline via executive order on his first day in office, delivering a long-fought victory to anti-pipeline activists.

The current Keystone pipeline carries oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to refineries in Louisiana and Texas. The Alberta tar sands are known for being particularly bad for the climate — emissions from oil extracted there are about 14 percent worse, on average, than a typical barrel of oil. The proposed expansion of the northern leg, which would run from Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska, would carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

It’s been a complicated decade since the Keystone XL project was first proposed in 2008 by the Canadian oil company TC Energy. President Obama approved the southern leg of the pipeline in 2012, and it was in use by 2013. But in 2015, after an outpouring of grassroots activism, Obama rejected the northern leg. That decision was reversed by President Trump during his early days in office in 2017. The following year, construction was halted when Montana’s U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled that the State Department needed to give further consideration to the pipeline’s potential for environmental damage. Then, last June, Trump dissolved Morris’ injunction by issuing a presidential permit, bypassing the State Department entirely. Today, the northern leg of the pipeline is mostly constructed, with some gaps remaining in Nebraska, but it’s not yet ready to pump oil.

Indigenous activists and environmentalists have been fighting the pipeline for much of its history, due to the risks of oil spills, its contribution to climate change, and infringements of treaty rights. Last Thursday, a group of Indigenous women leaders wrote a letter asking Biden to reject a set of pipeline projects, including Keystone XL, Line 3 in Minnesota, and the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Biden has not yet taken a stance on either of these other projects.) In addition to environmental risks, the letter cited the connection between pipeline construction and sexual violence. Company-owned temporary housing for laborers — “man camps” — along pipeline routes have been documented as centers of sexual assault and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls, and fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure is similarly linked to the tragic epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Daniel T’seleie, a K’asho Got’ine Dene activist, told CBC news that he thought Biden’s decision was “largely due to the actions of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people on the southern side of the border who have really been fighting against this pipeline … and have been making it very clear that this pipeline is not going to get built without their consent.”
» Read article         

DAPL too‘No more broken treaties’: indigenous leaders urge Biden to shut down Dakota Access pipeline
Tribes and environmentalists hail decision to cancel Keystone XL pipeline but call on president to go further
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
January 21, 2021

Indigenous leaders and environmentalists are urging Joe Biden to shutdown some of America’s most controversial fossil fuel pipelines, after welcoming his executive order cancelling the Keystone XL (KXL) project.

Activists praised the president’s decision to stop construction of the transnational KXL oil pipeline on his first day in the White House, but they stressed that he must cancel similar polluting fossil fuel projects, including the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), to stand any chance of meeting his bold climate action goals.

The KXL order was issued on Wednesday as part of the first wave of Biden’s promised environmental justice and climate action policies, which include rejoining the Paris agreement and halting construction of the southern border wall.

Rescinding the Canadian-owned KXL pipeline permit, issued by Donald Trump, fulfills a campaign promise Biden made in May 2020 and comes after more than a decade of organizing and resistance by indigenous activists, landowners and environmental groups.

“The victory ending the KXL pipeline is an act of courage and restorative justice by the Biden administration. It gives tribes and Mother Earth a serious message of hope for future generations as we face the threat of climate change. It aligns Indigenous environmental knowledge with presidential priorities that benefit everyone,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, founder of Brave Heart Society and a member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota nation.

“This is a vindication of 10 years defending our waters and treaty rights from this tar sands carbon bomb. I applaud President Biden for recognizing how dangerous KXL is for our communities and climate and I look forward to similar executive action to stop DAPL and Line 3 based on those very same dangers,” said Dallas Goldtooth, a member of the Mdewakanton Dakota and Dine nations and the Keep It In The Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network.
» Read article         

sunken hazard
Michigan Pipeline Fight Intensifies as Permit Deadline Nears
Enbridge is defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s move to shut down the Line 5 underwater pipeline, which environmentalists and tribes fear could cause an environmental disaster.
By Andrew Blok, Drilled News
January 14, 2021

Under the strong and fickle currents of the Straits of Mackinac, which flow through a four-mile gap between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, twin pipelines have transported two million gallons of petroleum products daily for seven decades.

This year they may shut down for good.

In November, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revoked the 1953 easement allowing the twin pipelines, known as Line 5, to run under the straits, and gave its owner, Enbridge Inc., 180 days to shut them down.

“The continued use of the dual pipelines cannot be reconciled with the public’s rights in the Great Lakes and the State’s duty to protect them,” Whitmer said in a statement.

On Jan. 12, Enbridge announced in a 7-page letter to Whitmer that it would defy her shutdown order, claiming that the governor had overstepped her authority. The Calgary, Alberta-based company has also sued the state in federal district court, arguing that the U.S. government, not Michigan, has regulatory power over pipeline safety.

The moves are the latest twists in a controversial decade for Enbridge in Michigan.

Before 2010, most Michiganders didn’t know Line 5 existed, said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water, a Michigan-based environmental policy non-profit.

But that changed, she said, after the Kalamazoo River spill: a massive leak from Enbridge’s Line 6b that ranks among America’s largest ever inland oil spills. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that more than one million gallons of oil polluted nearly 40 miles of waterways, injuring wildlife and scarring farmlands. Cleanup and restoration of hundreds of acres of streams and wetlands took four years and cost over $1 billion.

Despite multiple alarms, Enbridge had restarted Line 6b several times in the 17 hours before identifying the leak. According to the terms of a 2017 settlement with the EPA, Enbridge has committed to spending more than $110 million on upgrades and programs to prevent future spills, paying $62 million in civil penalties for Clean Water Act violations, and reimbursing more than $5.4 million in cleanup costs on top of $57.8 million already paid.

In the wake of this disaster, the National Wildlife Federation in 2012 issued a report, titled “Sunken Hazard,” that described how a major leak from Line 5 could spread quickly in the strong currents of the Straits of Mackinac and harm popular outdoor destinations and regional fisheries, including fisheries guaranteed to Native Americans by treaty.
» Read article        

» Read the Enbridge statement

» More about pipelines

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Baltimore inner harbor
Could Baltimore’s Climate Change Suit Become a Supreme Court Test Case?
The high court agreed to hear a narrow issue related to jurisdiction. But then the oil and gas industry pushed it to go further.
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
January 19, 2021

What began as a narrow jurisdictional question to be argued Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court in a climate change lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore could take on far greater implications if the high court agrees with major oil companies to expand its purview and consider whether federal, rather than state courts, are the appropriate venue for the city’s case and possibly a host of similar lawsuits.

The high court initially agreed to hear a request by the oil and gas industry to review a ruling by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which the court affirmed a federal district judge’s decision to allow Baltimore’s lawsuit to be tried in state, rather than federal, court based on a single jurisdiction rule.

The city is seeking damages related to climate-induced extreme weather—stronger hurricanes, greater flooding and sea-level rise—linked to oil and gas consumption that warms the planet. Baltimore’s attorneys argue that state court is the appropriate venue for such monetary awards.

But after the Supreme Court agreed to take on that narrow question, Exxon, Chevron, Shell and other oil companies went further in court filings and are now pressing the court to consider the much larger and consequential question of whether state courts have jurisdiction over these lawsuits at all.

The stakes could be enormous if Baltimore becomes a test case for 23 other city, county and state governments that have filed similar climate change lawsuits seeking damages.
» Read article         

» More about protests and actions

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

Chairman Richard Glick
Glick named FERC chair, promises ‘significant progress’ on energy transition
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
January 21, 2021

Commissioner Richard Glick was named chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by President Joe Biden Thursday morning.

Glick was considered a front runner for the chairmanship as the longest serving Democrat on the commission. He will succeed Chairman James Danly, and the commission is expected to retain its Republican majority until Commissioner Neil Chatterjee’s term is up June 30.

Glick has said publicly that on the electric side he would prioritize transmission reform, reassessing capacity markets, and continuing efforts to lower barriers to clean energy resources in regulated markets. On gas, he believes the commission should rethink how it assesses greenhouse gas emissions and more seriously review environmental justice impacts when approving gas infrastructure.

Glick opposed many of the actions FERC took under Chairmen Chatterjee and Danly, and his long list of dissents and public comments foreshadow a commission more bullish on its role in the power sector’s energy transition.

“I’m honored President Joe Biden has selected me to be [FERC] Chairman,” Glick said in a tweet. “This is an important moment to make significant progress on the transition to a clean energy future. I look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle the many challenges ahead!”

Though Glick will still be running a majority Republican commission, he and Chatterjee have begun to find common ground on some issues in recent months, and many power sector observers think transmission reform will be one critical area Glick may tackle relatively early.
» Read article         

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

climate kick-offBiden returns US to Paris climate accord hours after becoming president
Biden administration rolls out a flurry of executive orders aimed at tackling climate crisis
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
January 20, 2021

Joe Biden has moved to reinstate the US to the Paris climate agreement just hours after being sworn in as president, as his administration rolls out a cavalcade of executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis.

Biden’s executive action, signed in the White House on Wednesday, will see the US rejoin the international effort curb the dangerous heating of the planet, following a 30-day notice period. The world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases was withdrawn from the Paris deal under Donald Trump.

Biden is also set to block the Keystone XL pipeline, a bitterly contested project that would bring huge quantities of oil from Canada to the US to be refined, and halt oil and gas drilling at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, two vast national monuments in Utah, and the Arctic national wildlife refuge wilderness. The Trump administration’s decision to shrink the protected areas of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will also be reviewed.

The flurry of first-day action on the climate crisis came after Biden, in his inauguration speech, said America needed to respond to a “climate in crisis”. The change in direction from the Trump era was profound and immediate – on the White House website, where all mentions of climate were scrubbed out in 2017, a new list of priorities now puts the climate crisis second only behind the Covid pandemic. Biden has previously warned that climate change poses the “greatest threat” to the country, which was battered by record climate-fueled wildfires, hurricanes and heat last year.

The re-entry to the Paris agreement ends a period where the US became a near-pariah on the international stage with Trump’s refusal to address the unfolding disaster of rising global temperatures. Countries are struggling to meet commitments, made in Paris in 2015, to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C above the pre-industrial era, with 2020 setting another record for extreme heat.
» Read article         

ccs - if only
Carbon capture and storage won’t work, critics say
Carbon capture and storage, trapping carbon before it enters the atmosphere, sounds neat. But many doubt it can ever work.
By Paul Brown, Climate News Network
January 14, 2021

One of the key technologies that governments hope will help save the planet from dangerous heating, carbon capture and storage, will not work as planned and is a dangerous distraction, a new report says.

Instead of financing a technology they can neither develop in time nor make to work as claimed, governments should concentrate on scaling up proven technologies like renewable energies and energy efficiency, it says.

The report, from Friends of the Earth Scotland and Global Witness, was commissioned by the two groups from researchers at the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

CCS, as the technology is known, is designed to strip out carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases of industrial processes. These include gas- and coal-fired electricity generating plants, steel-making, and industries including the conversion of natural gas to hydrogen, so that the gas can then be re-classified as a clean fuel.

The CO2 that is removed is converted into a liquid and pumped underground into geological formations that can be sealed for generations to prevent the carbon escaping back into the atmosphere.

It is a complex and expensive process, and many of the schemes proposed in the 1990s have been abandoned as too expensive or too technically difficult.

An overview of the report says: “The technology still faces many barriers, would only start to deliver too late, would have to be deployed on a massive scale at a scarcely credible rate and has a history of over-promising and under-delivering.”

Currently there are only 26 CCS plants operating globally, capturing about 0.1% of the annual global emissions from fossil fuels.

Ironically, 81% of the carbon captured to date has been used to extract more oil from existing wells by pumping the captured carbon into the ground to force more oil out. This means that captured carbon is being used to extract oil that would otherwise have had to be left in the ground.
» Read article         

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

tidal kite
First tidal energy delivered to Faroese electricity grid
By FaroeIslands.fo
January 11, 2021

For the first time ever, homes in the Faroe Islands are being run by electricity harvested from an underwater tidal kite. Renewable electricity is generated from the tidal flows in Vestmannasund, a strait in the Faroe Islands, using Deep Green technology, a unique principle of enhancing the speed of the kite through the water. A rudder steers the kite in a figure of eight trajectory and as it “flies”, water flows through the turbine, producing electricity.

Minesto, a leading marine energy technology company from Sweden, has developed the system in collaboration with Faroese utility company, SEV.

Hákun Djurhuus, CEO of SEV, says: “We are very pleased that the project has reached the point where the Minesto DG100 delivers electricity to the Faroese grid. Although this is still on trial basis, we are confident that tidal energy will play a significant part in the Faroese sustainable electricity generation. Unlike other sustainable sources, tidal energy is predictable, which makes it more stable than, for example, wind power.”

Following successful trials of the DG100 system in Vestmannasund, SEV and Minesto have plans for a large-scale buildout of both microgrids (<250kW) and utility-scale (>1MW) Deep Green systems in the Faroe Islands. The long-term ambition is to make tidal energy a core energy source in the Faroe grid mix. This is part of the islands’ goal of having 100% green electricity production by 2030, including onshore transport and heating.
» Read article & watch video

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

building codes under pressure
What Will Happen to Your Next Home if Builders Get Their Way?
A lobby is trying to block building codes that would help fight climate change.
By Justin Gillis, New York Times | Opinion
January 21, 2021

Just about every new building that goes up in America is governed by construction codes. They protect people from numerous hazards, like moving into firetraps or having their roofs blown off in storms. Increasingly, those codes also protect people from high energy bills — and they protect the planet from the greenhouse gas emissions that go with them.

Yet the National Association of Home Builders, the main trade association and lobby for the home building industry, is now trying to monkey around with the rules meant to protect buyers and ensure that new homes meet the highest standards.

If the group succeeds, the nation could be saddled with millions of houses, stores and offices that waste too much energy and cost people too much money to heat and cool. Weakened construction standards could also leave houses and other buildings more vulnerable to the intensifying climate crisis, from floods to fires to storms. And they will make that crisis worse by pouring excessive greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

State and local governments tend to adopt model codes drawn up every three years at the national level instead of devising their own. The group that puts out the most influential models is the International Code Council. The council is supposed to consider the public interest, broadly defined, in carrying out its work, even as the home building industry participates in drawing up the codes. The builders’ short-term interest is to weaken the codes, which cuts their costs. The interest of home buyers and of society at large is exactly the opposite: Strong building standards, even when they drive up the initial cost of a house, almost always result in lower costs over the long run. That was on vivid display in Miami in 1992.

Building codes must play a critical role as the nation confronts the climate crisis, and the need to cut its emissions drastically. The codes can require better insulation, tighter air sealing, advanced windows and more efficient delivery of hot water, heating and air-conditioning. They can also increase the resilience of buildings in an age of intensifying weather disasters, turning every new building into a climate asset.

That brings us to the new effort to weaken these codes.

Proposals to the council called for sharp cuts in energy use by new buildings in the 2021 code update. Under the council’s procedures, those proposals were put to a vote by state and local governments. Their representatives turned out in record numbers to approve the tighter measures.

The big turnout seems to have caught the builders’ association off guard. Through tortuous committee procedures, it managed to kill some important provisions, including a requirement that new homes come already wired for electric vehicle chargers.

Luckily, most of the other energy provisions survived. As a result, buildings constructed under this year’s model code will be on the order of 10 percent more efficient than under the previous code. This was a big step forward, given that the builders had managed to stall progress for most of the last decade. Compared to the 1980s, buildings going up under the new code will be roughly 50 percent more efficient, showing what kind of progress is possible.

The builders are now trying to upend the voting process that led to the more stringent rules. They are trying to rush through a rewrite of the rules to block future voting by state and local governments. The builders’ lobby wants the energy provisions of the model code put under the control of a small committee, which the builders would likely be able to dominate.

The International Code Council denies that is unduly influenced by the home builders. However, in 2019, The New York Times revealed a secret agreement between the council and the National Association of Home Builders. That agreement — whose existence the council acknowledged only under pressure — gives the builders inordinate power on a key committee that approves residential building codes.

Even now, only a synopsis of the deal is available; the council refuses to release the full text. The council’s board is to consider the proposed rewrite of the rules in a meeting on Thursday.

Given the International Code Council’s influence over the construction of nearly every new building in America, as well as those of some foreign countries, it needs to become a major target of scrutiny and of climate activism.

Change may be on the way. In a letter on Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee demanded information from the council, including a copy of the secret agreement with the home builders.

That is good news. If the council persists in undermining the public interest, Congress or a coalition of states could potentially turn the job of drawing up building codes over to a new, more objective group. And lawmakers ought to adopt a national policy to govern this situation, mandating steady improvement in the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of new buildings.

With the climate crisis worsening by the year, America can no longer indulge the stalling tactics of the home builders.
» Read article         

BlocPower CEO Baird
Watt It Takes: BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird Wants to Electrify Buildings for Everyone
This week on Watt It Takes: Donnel Baird talks harnessing his anger over racial inequities and using it to build a clean-energy business model.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media
January 14, 2021

BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird is on a mission to clean up old, inefficient buildings in America’s cities — and help people who are exposed to the worst pollution.

BlocPower was founded in 2012. It’s raised venture capital from Kapor Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. But that process was not easy for a company with a mostly non-white leadership team. As a Black founder, Donnel was turned down 200 times before any venture firms were willing to back his vision.

“It was really difficult for us raising capital. One of our investors, when I talked to him two or three years ago and said I was struggling to raise capital, he was like, ‘Yeah, man, just hire some white people and send them into the fundraising meetings, and it’ll clear things up,’” explains Donnel.

BlocPower is a Brooklyn, New York startup electrifying and weatherizing buildings in underserved communities — slashing pollution and saving money in the process. This includes housing units, churches and community centers.

And the mission for Donnel isn’t just about hitting milestones for investors. It’s about changing the fabric of underserved communities that are plagued by pollution and energy poverty. That’s because Donnel has lived it himself.

In this episode, Powerhouse CEO Emily Kirsch talks with Donnel about how he channeled his frustration and anger around racial unfairness into a business model for the energy transition.
» Listen to podcast              

» More about energy efficiency

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

fast charge future
Electric car batteries with five-minute charging times produced
Exclusive: first factory production means recharging could soon be as fast as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
January 19, 2021

Batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes have been produced in a factory for the first time, marking a significant step towards electric cars becoming as fast to charge as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles.

Electric vehicles are a vital part of action to tackle the climate crisis but running out of charge during a journey is a worry for drivers. The new lithium-ion batteries were developed by the Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China on standard production lines.

StoreDot has already demonstrated its “extreme fast-charging” battery in phones, drones and scooters and the 1,000 batteries it has now produced are to showcase its technology to carmakers and other companies. Daimler, BP, Samsung and TDK have all invested in StoreDot, which has raised $130m to date and was named a Bloomberg New Energy Finance Pioneer in 2020.

The batteries can be fully charged in five minutes but this would require much higher-powered chargers than used today. Using available charging infrastructure, StoreDot is aiming to deliver 100 miles of charge to a car battery in five minutes in 2025.

“The number one barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles is no longer cost, it is range anxiety,” said Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot. “You’re either afraid that you’re going to get stuck on the highway or you’re going to need to sit in a charging station for two hours. But if the experience of the driver is exactly like fuelling [a petrol car], this whole anxiety goes away.”

“A five-minute charging lithium-ion battery was considered to be impossible,” he said. “But we are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line. This demonstrates it is feasible and it’s commercially ready.”

Existing Li-ion batteries use graphite as one electrode, into which the lithium ions are pushed to store charge. But when these are rapidly charged, the ions get congested and can turn into metal and short circuit the battery.

The StoreDot battery replaces graphite with semiconductor nanoparticles into which ions can pass more quickly and easily. These nanoparticles are currently based on germanium, which is water soluble and easier to handle in manufacturing. But StoreDot’s plan is to use silicon, which is much cheaper, and it expects these prototypes later this year. Myersdorf said the cost would be the same as existing Li-ion batteries.
» Read article         

Toyota greenish
Toyota to Pay a Record Fine for a Decade of Clean Air Act Violations
Toyota’s $180 million settlement with the federal government follows a series of emissions-related scandals in the auto industry.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
January 14, 2021

Toyota Motor is set to pay a $180 million fine for longstanding violations of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. attorney’s Office in Manhattan announced on Thursday, the largest civil penalty ever levied for a breach of federal emissions-reporting requirements.

From about 2005 to 2015, the global automaker systematically failed to report defects that interfered with how its cars controlled tailpipe emissions, violating standards designed to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollutants, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan.

Toyota managers and staff in Japan knew about the practice but failed to stop it, and the automaker quite likely sold millions of vehicles with the defects, the attorney’s office said.

“Toyota shut its eyes to the noncompliance,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney, said in a statement. Toyota has agreed not to contest the fine.

Eric Booth, a spokesman for the automaker, said that the company had alerted the authorities as soon as the lapses came to light, and that the delay in reporting “resulted in a negligible emissions impact, if any.”

“Nonetheless, we recognize that some of our reporting protocols fell short of our own high standards, and we are pleased to have resolved this matter,” Mr. Booth added.

Toyota is the world’s second-largest automaker behind Volkswagen, and once built a reputation for clean technology on the back of its best-selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrid passengers cars. But the auto giant’s decision in 2019 to support the Trump administration’s rollback of tailpipe emissions standards — coupled with its relatively slow introduction of fully-electric vehicles — has made it a target of criticism from environmental groups.

Toyota’s more recent lineup of models has been heavy on gas-guzzling sports-utility vehicles, which come with far bigger price tags and have brought far higher profit margins. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, Toyota vehicles delivered some of the worst fuel efficiency in the industry, leading to an overall worsening of mileage and pollution from passenger cars and trucks in the United States for the first time in five years.
» Read article         

» More about clean transportation

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

fuzzy math
Questions on Baker’s $6b climate change cost estimate
Barrett, CLF’s Campbell say governor’s veto letter not convincing
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
January 19, 2021

THE SENATE’S POINT person on climate change legislation said he doesn’t know where Gov. Charlie Baker came up with his estimate that the Legislature’s target for emissions reductions in 2030 would cost state residents an extra $6 billion.

“Boy, would I like to know,” said Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington. “I have never – and I am familiar with all of the written documents the administration has released on this topic – I had never seen that $6 billion figure until [Thursday]. I wonder if the governor had ever seen the $6 billion figure until [Thursday].”

In his letter vetoing the Legislature’s climate change bill, Baker said the difference between a 45 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels versus a 50 percent reduction was $6 billion in extra costs incurred by Massachusetts residents. “Unfortunately, this higher cost does not materially increase the Commonwealth’s ability to achieve its long-term climate goals,” the letter said.

A spokesman for the Baker administration wasn’t able to produce the analysis yielding the $6 billion figure on Friday but promised more information this week.

Barrett, appearing on The Codcast with Bradley Campbell, the president of the Conservation Law Foundation, said he has asked repeatedly for information on the $6 billion figure and never received it.

“I can’t wait to see the economic study that buttresses that claim because it will be unlike any economic study I’ve ever read,” he said. “These figures to some extent are arbitrary. Neither figure [45 percent or 50 percent] is supported by modeling. Both are judgment calls.”
» Read article        
» Listen to Barrett and Campbell on the CodCast 

» More legislative news

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

NoKXL
Keystone XL Pipeline Canceled. Here’s What It Means for the Future Fight Against Fossil Fuels
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
January 20, 2021

[While] the defeat of Keystone XL is historically momentous, it raises questions about other routes for Canadian tar sands. After sitting on the drawing board for years, Canada’s oil industry has already turned to alternative pipelines, such as Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement through Minnesota and, even more importantly, the Trans Mountain Expansion from Alberta to British Columbia.

“With Line 3 and TMX [Trans Mountain Expansion], Alberta has sufficient capacity to get its oil to market,” Werner Antweiler, a business professor at the University of British Columbia, told DeSmog.

In fact, scrapping Keystone XL arguably makes these other projects more urgent. “For the federal government of Canada, which has a vested interest in the commercial success of TMX, the cancelation of the KXL project may ultimately be good news because it ensures that there is sufficient demand for TMX capacity,” Antweiler said. “This means it is more likely now that TMX will become commercially viable and can be sold back to private investors profitably after construction is complete.”

This at a time when Keystone XL proved to be an expensive gamble. In 2019, Alberta invested $1.1 billion in Keystone XL in order to add momentum to the controversial project, funding its first year of construction. Now the province may end up selling the vast quantities of pipe for scrap, while also hoping to obtain damages from the United States.

Others are less convinced that the cancelation of one project is a boon to another. Even the Trans Mountain Expansion faces uncertainties in a world of energy transition. “Looking back a century ago, as one-by-one carriage manufacturers shut down as car manufacturers expanded production, prospects for the remaining carriage manufacturers didn’t improve,” Tom Green, a Climate Solutions Policy Analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation, told DeSmog.

“Canada can take its cue from Biden: recognize the costly Trans Mountain pipeline isn’t needed or viable, it doesn’t fit with our climate commitments, and instead of throwing ever more money into a pit, government should invest those funds in the energy system of the future,” he said.
» Read article         

Total quits API
Total Quits Fossil Fuel Lobby Group the American Petroleum Institute Over Climate Change
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
January 15, 2021

French oil giant Total announced on Friday that it would not renew its membership to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a stunning blow to the oil industry’s most powerful business lobby. Total pointed to its differences with API over climate policy as its main motivation.

“We are committed to ensuring, in a transparent manner, that the industry associations of which we are a member adopt positions and messages that are aligned with those of the Group in the fight against climate change,” Patrick Pouyanné, Total’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Total cited API’s support for the rolling back of U.S. methane emissions on oil and gas operations, as well as the lobby group’s opposition to subsidies for electric vehicles and its opposition to carbon pricing.

Last year, the French oil company, along with BP and Royal Dutch Shell, cut ties with another oil industry lobby group, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents oil refiners. BP also withdrew from the Western States Petroleum Association and the Western Energy Alliance, two other powerful lobby groups in the western United States.

However, Total is the first oil major to quit API. The decision highlights the growing divergence between European oil majors, who have announced decisions to begin transitioning towards cleaner energy, and their American counterparts, who appear determined to continue to increase oil and gas production. The withdrawal also reflects the growing pressure for the oil industry to slash greenhouse gas emissions from investors, policymakers, activists and the public amid a worsening climate crisis.
» Read article         

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Jordan Cove rallyFeds: Jordan Cove LNG terminal can’t move forward without state water permit
By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press
January 19, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Plans for a major West Coast liquified natural gas pipeline and export terminal hit a snag Tuesday with federal regulators after a years-long legal battle that has united tribes, environmentalists and a coalition of residents on Oregon’s rural southern coast against the proposal.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that energy company Pembina could not move forward with the proposal without a key clean water permit from the state of Oregon. The U.S. regulatory agency gave its tentative approval to the pipeline last March as long as it secured the necessary state permits, but the Canadian pipeline company has been unable to do so.

It had appealed to the commission over the state’s clean water permit, arguing that Oregon had waived its authority to issue a clean water certification for the project and therefore its denial of the permit was irrelevant.

But the commission found instead that Pembina had never requested the certification and that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality “could not have waived its authority to issue certification for a request it never received.”

The ruling was hailed as a major victory by opponents of Jordan Cove, which would be the first such LNG overseas export terminal in the lower 48 states. The proposed 230-mile (370-kilometer) feeder pipeline would begin in Malin, in southwest Oregon, and end at the city of Coos Bay on the rural Oregon coast.

Jordan Cove did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment and it was unclear what next steps the project would take.

Opposition to the pipeline has brought together southern Oregon tribes, environmentalists, anglers and coastal residents since 2006.

“Thousands of southern Oregonians have raised their voices to stop this project for years and will continue to until the threat of Jordan Cove LNG is gone for good,” said Hannah Sohl, executive director of Rogue Climate.
» Read article         

» More about liquefied natural gas

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Weekly News Check-In 6/26/20

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Welcome back.

With construction continuing at the Weymouth compressor station even though Enbridge’s air quality permit was recently vacated, we found a good review of the situation that includes a look  at what to expect in the future.

Three months after pleading guilty, Columbia Gas was sentenced to pay a $53 million criminal fine for its role in causing the 2018 Merrimack Valley disaster that killed one person and injured many more.

In what may be the most absurd application yet of a recent wave of state laws criminalizing civil protests, two activists in Louisiana were charged with “terrorizing” a lobbyist promoting a new plastics plant. Their menacing weapon was a box containing a collection of plastic pellets found polluting a nearby beach. After turning themselves in for this harmless “crime”, the two women were led away in handcuffs and leg manacles.

A useful tool for greening the economy is to quantify the cash value of services provided by the environment and ecosystem – clean air and water, pollinated food crops, insect and rodent control, etc. We found an interesting article exploring that concept. Of course another critical piece of the “greening” puzzle is equitably caring for people and communities that are currently supported by unsustainable industries that must be eliminated in favor of green alternatives. We have an immediate and urgent test case, because the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the timeline for coal’s demise.

The climate signaled a clear warning last week, with record-smashing temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit north of the Arctic circle. We’re suddenly seeing meteorological behavior that climate models didn’t anticipate until at least the end of the century. Meanwhile, a new study concludes that even “climate progressive” countries are falling far behind implementing steps to meet their targets under the Paris agreement. We’re much better at understanding the problem than at making known, necessary changes.

We take a sobering look at the cost of clean energy, focusing on U.S. demand for large-scale Canadian hydro power, and the resulting environmental devastation suffered by northern indigenous communities. To reduce demand for hydro, we’ll need alternative technologies – some of which are considered in this section.

Energy storage is facing a shortage of high-quality lithium for batteries as demand for them soars. Clean transportation requires a rapid upgrade of the existing maritime fleet to cleaner fuels and engines – rather that relying on attrition to replace older ships with new, green ones.

Legal troubles keep mounting for the fossil fuel industry. Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and a grand jury concluded that the state’s regulators allowed the fracking industry to harm its citizens. Minnesota filed suit against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute for lying to consumers about product safety. This is different from most other suits making their way through state courts, which seek compensation for damages related to climate change.

Finally, the woody biomass industry threatens the last of the temperate rainforest in British Columbia, and the newly-elected progressive Provincial government is weighing options to save it.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Senators weigh in again
Breathing Room for Weymouth: Compressor Station Air Permit Vacated by Federal Court
By Take Back The Grid, Blog Post
June 23, 2020

TakeBacktheGrid was thrilled to learn that on June 3, 2020, the First Circuit of the US Court of Appeals vacated the air quality permit for the fracked gas compressor station under construction in Weymouth, MA. The permit, originally granted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), allowed the parent company Enbridge to begin construction. The vacatur of this air quality permit is a welcome victory following a long string of defeats and setbacks for the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) who have opposed the construction of this compressor station for over five years. The MA DEP has 75 days (beginning June 3rd) to re-evaluate the cost efficacy of various technologies considered in the air permit.

We decided to dig into the text of this vacatur to learn more about the judge’s decision and what the implications are for Weymouth and surrounding communities in the months ahead.
» Read article        

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER

fifty-three big ones
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts ordered to pay $53M fine for explosions that killed The company has said it takes full responsibility for the disaster.
By Associated Press, in Boston.com
June 23, 2020

A utility company was ordered Tuesday to pay a $53 million criminal fine for causing a series of natural gas explosions in Massachusetts that killed one person and damaged dozens of homes.

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts was sentenced more than three months after the company pleaded guilty in federal court to causing the blasts that rocked three communities north of Boston in September 2018.

As part of the plea agreement, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will pay a $53 million fine for violating the Pipeline Safety Act. It’s the largest criminal fine ever imposed under the pipeline safety law.

The judge also sentenced the company to a three-year probation period during which its operations will be monitored to ensure its complying with safety regulations, authorities said.

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts has said it takes full responsibility for the disaster.
» Read article        

» More about the Columbia Gas disaster

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

nurdleterror
US climate activists charged with ‘terrorizing’ lobbyist over plastic pollution stunt
Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh face up to 15 years in prison after delivering box of plastic pellets found as pollution
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
June 25, 2020

Environmental activists opposing a plastics manufacturing facility in Louisiana have been booked with a felony for “terrorizing” an oil and gas lobbyist by delivering a box of plastic pellets found as pollution in bays on the Texas coast.

Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh, with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, turned themselves into the Baton Rouge police department on Thursday, as first reported by the Times-Picayune.

The charges stem from a plastic pollution awareness event in December called “Nurdlefest”, which focused on the impacts of an expansive petrochemical and plastics complex approved to be built by Formosa Plastics in St James Parish.

Nurdles are the plastic pellets used to make plastic products. The Guardian has extensively covered the activism in its Cancer Town series from Reserve, Louisiana.

The offenses are punishable with up to 15 years in prison. The advocates’ lawyer, Pam Spees, with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the charges have no merit and seem to be meant to discourage protesters.
» Read article        

honor treaty rights
Across the U.S., Anti-Protest Laws Target Movements for Climate and Racial Justice
By Karen Sokol, Drilled News
June 19, 2020

As people nationwide are courageously fighting for Black lives by exercising their First Amendment rights to protest, even in the face of widespread police violence, 28 anti-protest bills are pending in 18 state legislatures and in Congress. Thirteen states have already enacted such legislation, with a total of 23 anti-protest laws currently in force. Indeed, these laws’ clear targeting of the exercise of free speech is so alarming that the rapid pace of their enactments all over the country led the International Center for Nonprofit Law to create a “U.S. Protest Law Tracker.”

The legislation has come in two waves, the first starting in 2016 in response to protests inspired by a police officer’s shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri and the creation of the Black Lives Matter Global Network.

The second wave of legislation began in 2017 and criminalizes protests near oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel industry infrastructure.The oil and gas industry began lobbying for such restrictions in response to the protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline….

These laws target protests of oil and gas pipelines and the polluting facilities they feed by declaring them “critical infrastructure” and making the unauthorized entry in or around them felony offenses subject to draconian penalties of imprisonment and fines. The oil and gas industry has been successful in its effort to silence protesters by criminalizing dissent essential to any just society: Since 2017, 11 states, including Louisiana and North Dakota, have enacted such legislation. Notably, three of those states enacted anti-protest “critical infrastructure” legislation under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic. Louisiana’s governor just vetoed a bill that would have made the penalties stiffer still. Meanwhile, a bill is currently pending at the federal level.
» Read article        

» More about protests and actions

GREENING THE ECONOMY

gross ecosystem product
Nature’s accounts show what the world does for us
People go on getting richer, and the planet pays a mounting price. There’s a better way to balance nature’s accounts.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
June 24, 2020

LONDON, 24 June, 2020 – It may take a while to catch on, but one day the financial pages of the daily newspaper could be quoting a new register of national wealth: called gross ecosystem product, this way of balancing nature’s accounts makes clear how much we really depend on the Earth.

And it would be a real-world indicator of prosperity you could have confidence in: a measure in cash terms of the health of the forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife of both nations and regions and – more precisely – of the benefits heedless humans take for granted.

These include the insect pollination of crops; the control of insect pests by birds and bats; the supply of fresh, safe water from mountain streams, rivers, springs and lakes; the management of waste by scavengers and microbes; the recycling of nutrients; and all the myriad services provided by plants, animals and topography. This is sometimes called “natural capital.”

The measure has already formally been tested in one province in China and matched with the more familiar indicator: Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.
» Read article        

hard skills to transfer
Thousands of coal workers lost jobs. Where will they go?
As the long-shrinking coal industry hemorrhages jobs, states and local groups are seeking new ways to transition to a lower-carbon economy without leaving coal workers behind.
By Arianna Skibell, E&E News, in Energy News Network
Photo By Claudine Hellmuth / E&E News (illustration) / Cyndy Sims Parr / Wikipedia; ©b3d_ / Flickr
June 25, 2020

Dozens of coal workers stormed the Senate office building during the Maryland legislative session earlier this year to protest a plan that would phase out the state’s remaining six coal-fired power plants.

The bill in question included grant money for displaced workers and affected communities, but the local labor union dismissed the provision as inadequate.

“It was a non-starter,” said Jim Griffin, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1900. “Those bills were essentially written by the Sierra Club.”

David Smedick, a campaign representative with the Sierra Club who was active in supporting the measure, said Maryland’s transition away from coal should include support for affected workers, but he stressed the urgency of shutting the plants down.
» Read article        

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

simmering Siberia
‘This Scares Me,’ Says Bill McKibben as Arctic Hits 100.4°F—Hottest Temperature on Record
“100°F about 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle today in Siberia. That’s a first in all of recorded history. We are in a climate emergency.”
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
June 22, 2020

A small Siberian town north of the Arctic Circle reached 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, a figure that—if verified—would be the highest temperature reading in the region since record-keeping began in 1885.

“This scares me, I have to say,” environmentalist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben tweeted in response to news of the record-breaking reading in Verkhoyansk, where the average high temperature in June is 68°F.

Washington Post climate reporter Andrew Freedman noted Sunday that if the reading is confirmed, it “would be the northernmost 100-degree reading ever observed, and the highest temperature on record in the Arctic, a region that is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe.”
» Read article            

factor of two‘Climate progressives’ fail on Paris carbon target
Even states seen as “climate progressives” are far from meeting their global commitments to avert dangerous climate change.
By Alex Kirby, Climate News Network
June 19, 2020

LONDON − Nations which pride themselves on their zeal in tackling climate change by cutting carbon dioxide emissions as they have promised, the so-called “climate progressives”, are a long way from living up to their promises, scientists say.

They say the annual rate that emissions are expected to be cut is less than half of that needed, and suggest the UK should reduce them by 10% each year, starting this year. It also needs to achieve a fully zero-carbon energy system by around 2035, they say, not 2050 as UK law requires.

The study was led by Kevin Anderson from the University of Manchester,  and is published in the journal Climate Policy.

Professor Anderson said the study showed how experts had underestimated the difficulty of tackling the climate crisis: “Academics have done an excellent job in understanding and communicating climate science, but the same cannot be said in relation to reducing emissions.

“Here we have collectively denied the necessary scale of mitigation, running scared of calling for fundamental changes to both our energy system and the lifestyles of high-energy users. Our paper brings this failure into sharp focus.”
» Read article
» Read the study

formerly cool and dark
Forests are a solution to global warming. They’re also vulnerable to it.
By Liz Kimbrough, Mongabay
June 25, 2020

Investing in forests to fight climate change seems like a sure bet. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, pump out oxygen, and live for decades. What could go wrong?

The answer, according to a newly published paper in Science, is: a lot. Fires, rising temperatures, disease, pests and humans all pose threats to forests, and as climate change escalates, so too do these threats. While forest-based solutions need to play an important role in addressing climate change, the risks to forests from climate change must also be considered.

“Current risks are not carefully considered and accounted for, much less these increased risks that forests are going to face in a warming climate,” William Anderegg, a biologist at the University of Utah and first author of the new paper, told Mongabay.
» Read article            
» Read the paper        

clear skies dataPandemic’s Cleaner Air Could Reshape What We Know About the Atmosphere
Coronavirus shutdowns have cut pollution, and that’s opened the door to a “giant, global environmental experiment” with potentially far-reaching consequences.
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
June 25, 2020

WASHINGTON — In the crystalline air of the pandemic economy, climate change researchers have been flying a small plane over Route I-95, from Boston to Washington, measuring carbon dioxide levels. Scientists have mounted air quality monitors on Salt Lake City’s light rail system to create intersection-by-intersection atmospheric profiles.

And government scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have started a Covid air quality study to gather and analyze samples of an atmosphere in which industrial soot, tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gases have plummeted to levels not seen in decades.

The data, from Manhattan to Milan to Mumbai, will inform scientists’ understanding of atmospheric chemistry, air pollution and public health for decades to come, while giving policymakers information to fine-tune air quality and climate change laws and regulations in hopes of maintaining at least some of the gains seen in the global shutdown as cars return to the roads and factories reopen.

Policy experts say the new data could even bolster legal fights against the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back major air pollution regulations. Early studies appear to show that even as the coronavirus took more than 100,000 American lives, deaths related to more typical respiratory illnesses like asthma and lung disease fell in the clean air, boosting the case that Mr. Trump’s environmental rollbacks will contribute to thousands of deaths.
» Read article            

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

RigoletUS demand for clean energy destroying Canada’s environment, indigenous peoples say
Push is inadvertently causing long-term environmental damage to the traditional hunting grounds on Inuit public lands
By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, The Guardian
June 22, 2020

Canada’s indigenous leaders say an unprecedented push for clean energy in the United States is inadvertently causing long-term environmental damage to the traditional hunting grounds on their public lands.

Rigolet lies downstream of Muskrat Falls, a $12.7bn dam on the Churchill River, a key drainage point for Labrador’s biggest watershed. Nalcor, the state-owned company that completed Muskrat Falls last year, is already planning Gull Island, another Churchill dam that would produce three times as much electricity, mostly for export to the US.

The Nunatsiavut government, which governs 2,700 Inuit in the area, says those dams will disrupt the hydrologic cycle underpinning the ecosystem, and increase exposure to a toxin associated with dam reservoirs.

When land is flooded, naturally occurring mercury is unlocked from the soil and vegetation and released into the water column, where it is taken up by bacteria and transformed into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that makes its way up the food chain and bioaccumulates in fish, waterbirds and seals.

Those species are critical to the sustainable lifestyle practiced by the Inuit.
» Read article        

prime impact
$50 Million Prime Impact Fund Launches to Invest in Early-Stage Cleantech
The fund screens startups for gigaton-level carbon-reduction potential.
By Julian Spector, GreenTech Media
June 22, 2020

A new fund is channeling philanthropic dollars into early-stage clean technology investments in the hopes of catalyzing major climate-change impacts.

The Prime Impact Fund closed a $50 million raise in recent weeks and has already made eight investments. The fund uses an unusual structure: It screens prospective investments for their carbon-reduction potential in order to direct investment to high-impact technology companies that might struggle to find funding through conventional means.

The investment team is professionally trained in hard sciences; it is looking to cut checks up to around $5 million for the sort of hard-technology startup that would scare the Patagonia vest off a typical Silicon Valley investor.
» Read article        

wasserstoffstrategieGerman hydrogen economy to spark traded market for imports: consultants
By Vera Eckert, Reuters
June 22, 2020

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany’s push to increase the use of hydrogen as a clean fuel to meet climate targets will require imports and a traded market to supplement home-produced supplies, a consultancy close to protagonists in the emerging industry said.

“There will have to be a mix of domestic and foreign hydrogen volumes, depending on where the cheaper source is,” said Andreas Schwenzer, principal consultant at Horvath & Partners, which advises the gas network Open Grid Europe.

“The energy market is already discussing how a euro-denominated wholesale market can emerge,” he said in an interview.

Germany this month agreed a national hydrogen strategy, which in July will be embedded in a wider European Union plan for a fossil-free future for the bloc’s industries.

Germany, one of Europe’s biggest gas markets, consumes 55 terawatt hours annually of CO2-intensive hydrogen from natural gas.

But it lacks land and offshore resources to produce sufficient carbon-free hydrogen from renewable energy to meet the EU goal to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050.
» Read article        

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

looming lithium shortage
Battery makers face looming shortages of high-quality lithium

By Guy Burdick, Utility Dive
June 25, 2020

Battery makers are facing a shortage of lithium, and ongoing financial problems in markets suppressed by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to industry insiders at an Atlantic Council panel on Wednesday.

Despite material shortages, lithium-ion markets are taking off and supply problems will not result from a shortage of lithium raw materials, panelists said.

“What matters is the production of a high-purity, high-quality chemical that can be used in battery manufacturing,” Kumar said. “The number of companies that can produce a large volume of these high-purity chemicals is very small and they are constantly capital-constrained.”
» Read article        

» More about energy storage         

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Puffy McPuff Face
Clean ships needed now to cut polluting emissions

The vessels plying the world’s oceans release huge volumes of polluting emissions. Existing fleets badly need a clean-up.
By Kieran Cooke, Climate News Network
June 25th, 2020

LONDON, 25 June, 2020 − The shipping industry is in urgent need of a makeover: while limited attempts are being made to lessen polluting emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the road transport and aviation sectors, shipping lags even further behind in the clean-up stakes.

Maritime traffic is a major source of emissions, each year belching out thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other pollutants. “If the sector were a country, it would be the 6th highest emitter [of GHGs] in the world, ranked between Germany and Japan”, says a study in the journal BMC Energy.

Involving researchers at the Tyndall Centre and the University of Manchester in the UK, the study says reducing emissions in the shipping industry has tended to focus on the introduction of new, low-carbon vessels.

The researchers point out that ships have a comparatively long life span: in 2018 the average age of a ship being scrapped was 28 years.

The study says ageing ships are a major source of pollution: in order to cut global emissions of CO2 and other gases and meet the targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the world’s existing shipping fleet must undergo a substantial revamp.

Dr John Broderick, a climate change specialist at the University of Manchester, says time is of the essence.

“Unlike in aviation, there are many different ways to decarbonise the shipping sector, but there must be much greater attention paid to retrofitting the existing fleet, before it’s too late to deliver on the net-zero target.”
» Read article        
» Read the study on maritime traffic emissions         

10-4 little buddy
New Rule in California Will Require Zero-Emissions Trucks
More than half of trucks sold in the state must be zero-emissions by 2035, and all of them by 2045.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
June 25, 2020

Rebuffing strong opposition from industry, California on Thursday adopted a landmark rule requiring more than half of all trucks sold in the state to be zero-emissions by 2035, a move that is expected to improve local air quality, rein in greenhouse gas emissions and sharply curtail the state’s dependence on oil.

The rule, the first in the United States, represents a victory for communities that have long suffered from truck emissions — particularly pollution from the diesel trucks that feed the sprawling hubs that serve the state’s booming e-commerce industry. On one freeway in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, near the nation’s largest concentration of Amazon warehouses, a community group recently counted almost 1,200 delivery trucks passing in one hour.

Oil companies, together with farming and other industries, opposed the measure, calling it unrealistic, expensive and an example of regulatory overreach. Truck and engine manufacturers also opposed the rule, and began a last-ditch effort in March to delay it, saying companies were already suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
» Read article        
» Read California Air Resources Board (CARB) fact sheet

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

PA grand jury slams shale gas oversightState AG Shapiro: Grand jury report reveals Pa.’s systemic failure to regulate shale gas industry
By Don Hopey and Laura Legere, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
June 25, 2020

A statewide grand jury investigating the operations and regulation of the shale gas drilling industry has issued a scathing report detailing the systemic failure of the state environment and health departments in regulating the industry and protecting public health.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who released the 235-page report on the grand jury’s two-year investigation Thursday morning, said it uncovers the “initial failure” more than a dozen years ago of the state Department of Environmental Protection to respond to and regulate the shale gas industry and the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

And, while the Wolf administration has made improvements at the agency, the grand jury said, there remains room for improvement.

“This report is about preventing the failures of our past from continuing into our future,” Mr. Shapiro said. “It’s about the big fights we must take on to protect Pennsylvanians — to ensure that their voices are not drowned out by those with bigger wallets and better connections. There remains a profound gap between our constitutional mandate for clean air and pure water, and the realities facing Pennsylvanians who live in the shadow of fracking giants and their investors.”
» Read article        
» Read the grand jury report

consumer fraud in MN
Alleging Consumer Fraud, Minnesota Sues Exxon, Koch, and API for Climate Change Deception
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
June 24, 2020

Minnesota on Wednesday joined the growing number of states and municipalities seeking damages from the fossil fuel industry for knowingly deceiving consumers about climate change and its impacts. But Attorney General Keith Ellison is charting a different and potentially groundbreaking legal course from those lawsuits, by suing ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute under state laws that prohibit lying to consumers.

To date the majority of this generation of climate suits are nuisance cases. They allege that fossil fuel companies’ efforts to misinform the public on climate change successfully delayed for decades any regulations and other actions to slow or stop it, creating the need for billions of dollars in mitigation costs that municipal and state governments could otherwise have avoided. In those cases, which include among others suits filed by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, Calif., and Boulder, Colo.,, the plaintiffs are seeking damages: They want fossil fuel companies to pay their fair share of the cost of climate adaptation.

The Minnesota case is different in a few key ways:
» Read article        
» Read the complaint        
» Read Attorney General Ellison’s press release            

SCOTUS photo
Fossil Fuel Companies and Their Supporters Ask Supreme Court to Intervene in Climate Lawsuits
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
June 23, 2020

California communities last month got an important procedural win in their efforts to get fossil fuel companies to pay for climate-related impacts. On May 26, a federal appeals court ruled that their lawsuits could go ahead in state court, which is their preferred venue, rather than federal court.

Similar lawsuits filed by Colorado communities, Baltimore, and Rhode Island are also marching on in state courts following unsuccessful attempts by fossil fuel companies to have the cases heard in federal courts, where they are more likely to be dismissed. Overall, the communities lodging these legal battles seem to be gaining momentum.

However, some of the companies facing those lawsuits appear to be gearing up for a larger battle, looking to the Supreme Court to weigh in and using their network of promoters to continue attacking these lawsuits outside the courtroom.

One such supporter of fossil fuel companies is the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP). An initiative of the trade group the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), it’s designed to push back against climate litigation targeting NAM members such as ExxonMobil and Chevron. Since the project launched in November 2017, MAP has been fiercely criticizing climate liability lawsuits like those in California.

In the wake of the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, MAP Special Counsel Phil Goldberg issued a statement calling on the Supreme Court to take a definitive stance on these climate cases.
» Read article               
» Read the MAP statement

closing time
Support grows for taxpayer-funded oil well cleanup as an economic stimulus
Democrats leading the push say their plan has no real downside, while critics say it gives the industry a pass.
By Mark Olalde, Energy News Network
June 23, 2020

When the U.S. was fighting to emerge from the Great Depression in the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched ambitious public works projects to put people back on the job. Now, with the country in the midst of another crushing economic slowdown, can cleaning up oil and gas wells fill in as a similar stimulus?

Environmental groups have generally supported the plan if it focuses on orphan wells and comes with the possibility of bonding reform. “We strongly urge you to take steps to ensure this orphaned well problem does not reoccur due to insufficient bonding standards,” Sara Kendall, program director with the Western Organization of Resource Councils, which advocates for landowners and the environment, said during the June 1 forum.

And a report published Thursday by CarbonTracker found the industry is facing hundreds of billions of dollars of cleanup costs, most of which it will be unable to fund.

A federal program would come with precedent. Canada recently unveiled a very similar push, which included CA$1.7 billion for orphan well cleanup, nearly all that money as a grant that wouldn’t need to be paid back.

Regan Boychuk is a Canadian environmentalist and expert on well decommissioning costs with the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project, a coalition of landowners, former regulators and other stakeholders. He said that it’s “wonderful to put people back to work, wonderful to get this stuff cleaned up. But if the wrong people are paying for it, we’re moving in the wrong direction.”

In America, some green groups agree with Boychuk and oppose the centrist approach of paying for — some say subsidizing — the oil and gas industry’s cleanup with potentially minimal strings attached.
» Read article               
» Read the Carbon Tracker report       

» More about fossil fuel

BIOMASS

white rhino
British Columbia poised to lose ‘white rhino of old growth forests’
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
June 22, 2020

The lush, green interior of British Columbia, Canada, is renowned as the home of one of the last-remaining inland temperate rainforests on earth. BC’s towering, centuries-old red cedar, western hemlock, spruce and subalpine fir make up a wet, complex ecosystem brimming with wildlife, ranging from endangered woodland caribou, grizzlies, diverse birdlife and tiny lichens.

But the province’s rare old-growth forests are shrinking dramatically due to encroaching timber harvesting, especially for wood-pellets used to fuel the industrial biomass-burning industry, now fast replacing coal-fired electrical power plants around the globe.

British Columbia’s old-growth is in desperate need of protection, according to the stark findings of two recent studies prepared for the Victoria-based provincial government, which for the first time in a generation is considering a new old-growth forest management plan that could permanently save what’s left from chainsaws, sawmills and wood pelletizing plants.

“Almost every productive ecosystem across BC has very low levels of old forest remaining, and in many areas of BC, this remaining productive old growth is at risk of being logged in the next five years,” said Rachel Holt, a forest ecologist and co-author of one of the studies. “Current provincial policies are inadequate to protect old-growth ecosystems. And without immediate change to both the policy and how it is implemented, BC is on a path to losing these irreplaceable forests forever.”

“We want to stop the harvesting of primary forests here, and we think the forest industry should start focusing on second-growth forests,” said Michelle Connolly, a forest ecologist with the environmental advocacy group Conservation North, which provided research for a second study. “With the advent of bioenergy [wood pellets for export], we have to extend our area of immediate concern to all primary forests. None of it is safe now.”
» Read article        

» More about biomass

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