Tag Archives: Appalachian Trail

Weekly News Check-In 6/19/20

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

We covered a lot of ground this week, but similar themes cropped up with a frequency that made the journey feel like running laps on an oval track.

With the Weymouth compressor station air quality permit recently vacated by court order, Massachusetts’ two U.S. Senators have sent a letter to Federal regulators demanding a halt to construction. Their prior letter sought a stop-work order due to public health concerns related to the construction itself.

In the Merrimack Valley, some attorneys handling settlement claims against Columbia Gas for the 2018 disaster are skimming fees. The practice is being called out as double-dipping at victims’ expense.

We found three great articles for our Protests and Actions section, exploring how fossil fuel supporters along with the conservative lobbying group ALEC are attempting to criminalize non-violent acts of civil disobedience – especially against pipelines and similar infrastructure projects. Louisiana’s Democratic governor recently vetoed such a bill, but in West Virginia some forms of nonviolent direct action are now felony offenses carrying steep fines and jail time.

Other pipeline news includes a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. Farther west, a farm in Nebraska transferred a small plot of land to the Ponca Tribe – a move that will force TransCanada to negotiate under terms of the tribe’s special legal status for Keystone XL pipeline right-of-way.

In divestment news, dozens of Massachusetts lawmakers have asked insurance giant Liberty Mutual to stop investing in or providing coverage for fossil fuel projects – including the Keystone XL and Mariner East pipelines.

Our Greening the Economy section has a critique of the International Energy Agency’s recent report on its vision for a sustainable recovery – plus an essay from CBS News on why America needs social justice. This is all about reversing climate change, which is made doubly difficult by the twin threats of over-abundant cows and anti-science department managers at all levels of government agencies.

Even clean energy and clean transportation face threats from shadowy groups spreading confusion and disinformation. But we found progress there too – like initiatives taking hold in New England to offer rebates on the purchase of electric bikes.

We close with three articles on the fossil fuel industry. The first two describe deceptions and regulatory agency influence aimed at extending fossil’s destructive run. The last shows BP finally dipping a toe into the cool, clear, pool of reality – writing billions of dollars off the value of its reserves in a first, tentative admission to shareholders that the company doesn’t expect to actually burn it all up.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Senators weigh in again
With Air Permit Vacated, Senators Call For Construction To Stop On Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
June 19, 2020

On Thursday, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey wrote to federal regulators asking to halt construction of a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth. The letter comes after a federal court vacated the compressor’s air permit earlier this month.

“Given the invalidation of the facility’s air quality permit, construction must stop immediately,” the senators wrote in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate gas transmission.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) granted the air quality permit after contentious hearings last May, during which MassDEP admitted that the project’s provisional air permit was based on incomplete data. On June 3, the First Circuit Court of Appeals found that MassDEP did not follow its own established procedures, and vacated the permit.
» Read article            
» Read the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision

» More about the Weymouth compressor station   

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER

Gas disaster settlement fees in question
By Jill Harmacinski, Eagle Tribune
June 13, 2020

A total of $26.1 million of the $143 million Merrimack Valley gas explosion class-action settlement was earmarked for payment of legal fees and administrative costs.

And yet, some victims are being asked to pay an 11% fee to get their checks, which are compensation for everything from spoiled food and property damage, to lodging costs, mental anguish and other fallout from the Sept. 13, 2018 gas disaster.

The first round of checks was recently issued with an average settlement payment of $8,000. Eleven percent of that payment is $880.

As of Friday, a spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey said the office had heard from eight recipients about the fee being assessed by attorney David Raimondo of the Raimondo Law Firm. Healey’s office is looking into this.
» Read article             

» More about Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley disaster      

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

assault on accountability
From the Streets to the Courts, Fossil Fuel Is Trying to Outlaw Climate Accountability
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
June 12, 2020

There are a couple ways so-called “average” Americans can try to hold the powerful to account: We can take to the streets or take to the courts. But for decades, powerful industries and their allies in state houses nationwide have been slowly, surgically narrowing those options.

Now, with an alarming number of states moving to criminalize protest, and a renewed effort to push “tort reform,” a euphemism for eroding the public’s ability to hold companies legally and financially liable for the harms they cause, these two key tools are very much in danger.

The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s brought big wins for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and environmental and consumer protections. In a lot of ways, efforts to roll back those wins over the last several few decades have been one long counter-reaction to those initial reforms.
» Read article            

Governor Edwards
Louisiana’s Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Imposed Harsh Penalties for Trespassing on Industrial Land
Activists had argued that the law, if enacted, would intimidate opponents of pipelines and chemical plants by threatening prison sentences for minor infractions.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
June 13, 2020

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday vetoed a bill that would have stiffened penalties for trespassing on pipelines, levees and a long list of other facilities in the state. The veto handed a victory to civil liberties advocates and local organizers, who said the bill would have trampled on their right to protest industrial development.

The legislation would have imposed a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for stepping onto “critical infrastructure” during a state of emergency and expanded the list of what falls under that definition, to include flood control structures, which criss-cross the state.

Advocates said the bill would have extended the reach of an already vague law that imposes harsh penalties for trespassing on oil and gas industry land and other sites.
» Read article             

new WVA felonyA Powerful Petrochemical Lobbying Group Advanced Anti-Protest Legislation in the Midst of the Pandemic
By Alleen Brown, The Intercept
June 7 2020

One day after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect, the governor quietly signed into law the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the law created new felony penalties for protest actions targeting oil and gas facilities, as the state continues to confront opposition to two massive natural gas pipelines designed to cut through delicate forests, streams, and farmland.

If construction is completed, the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would transport gas extracted via fracking in West Virginia to markets in Virginia and North Carolina, passing through the crumbly limestone landscapes known as karst that underly much of the mountainous region. Such projects are key to keeping fracking companies operating at a time when gas prices are at historic lows and allowing a booming petrochemical industry to continue its expansion. Local landowners and residents concerned with environmental issues have attempted to stop construction by locking themselves to equipment and camping out in trees in the pipelines’ paths. Along with more conventional actions such as lawsuits, the protest efforts have cost the projects’ backers billions of dollars in delays.

Now, a person who trespasses on a West Virginia property containing “critical infrastructure” with the intention of defacing or inhibiting operations could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The law creates a new felony and fines of up to $20,000 for any person who conspires to deface or vandalize such properties if the resulting damage is more than $2,500. “Critical infrastructure” is defined as an array of oil and gas facilities including petroleum refineries, compressor stations, liquid natural gas terminals, and pipelines.
» Read article          

» More about protests and actions      

PIPELINES

the pipeline stops here
Supreme Court clears way for Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail

By Lyndsey Gilpin, Grist
June 15, 2020

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline can cross under the Appalachian Trail, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday. By a 7 to 2 margin, the court reversed a lower court’s decision and upheld a permit granted by the U.S. Forest Service that the project’s developers could tunnel under a section of the iconic wilderness in Virginia.

The case looked at whether the Forest Service had authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant rights-of-way within national forest lands traversed by the Appalachian Trail. “A right-of-way between two agencies grants only an easement across the land, not jurisdiction over the land itself,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s opinion. So the Forest Service had enough authority over the land to grant the permit. The dissent, by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, argued that the “outcome is inconsistent with the language of three statutes, longstanding agency practice, and common sense.”

Though this decision is significant, it doesn’t determine the ultimate fate of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. While the Supreme Court has granted the Forest Service the ability to allow the project to cross the Appalachian Trail, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ striking down of the Forest Service’s permit still stands. Dominion is required to look at other routes that avoid parcels of protected federal land, and the Forest Service is prohibited from approving a route across these lands, if reasonable alternatives exist, according to [Greg Buppert, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center].
» Read article            
» Read the Supreme Court decision        

Ponca land acquisition
‘Historic First’: Nebraska Farmers Return Land to Ponca Tribe in Effort to Block Keystone XL
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, in EcoWatch
June 15, 2018

In a move that could challenge the proposed path of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline—and acknowledges the U.S. government’s long history of abusing Native Americans and forcing them off their lands—a Nebraska farm couple has returned a portion of ancestral land to the Ponca Tribe.

At a deed-signing ceremony earlier this week, farmers Art and Helen Tanderup transferred to the tribe a 1.6-acre plot of land that falls on Ponca “Trail of Tears.”

Now, as the Omaha World-Herald explained, rather than battling the farmers, “TransCanada will have to negotiate with a new landowner, one that has special legal status as a tribe.”

The transfer was celebrated by members of the Ponca Tribe as well as environmental advocates who oppose the construction of the pipeline and continue to demand a total transition to renewable energy.
» Read article            

» More about pipelines        

DIVESTMENT

Liberty unveiled
Massachusetts lawmakers ask Liberty Mutual to stop financing fossil fuels
As other major insurers commit to backing off oil and gas projects, activists say Liberty Mutual isn’t keeping pace.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
Photo By User54871 / Wikimedia Commons
June 18, 2020

Dozens of Massachusetts state legislators have sent a letter asking Boston-based insurance giant Liberty Mutual to stop investing in or providing coverage for fossil fuel projects. The demands are the latest move in an ongoing campaign to fight climate change by undermining financial support for fossil fuel extraction and development.

“Arguably, the main reason that these projects keep getting built is because there are still companies willing to provide the insurance for what is becoming more and more of a risky project,” said state Sen. James Eldridge, one of the lawmakers who organized the effort. “It really doesn’t make environmental or financial sense.”

Liberty Mutual is the fifth-largest property-casualty insurance company in the United States, with just under $39 billion in premium revenue in 2019. While other major insurance companies, especially in Europe, have announced plans to stop covering and investing in fossil fuel projects, Liberty Mutual’s commitment has not kept pace, activists argue.

Liberty Mutual’s clients include some major, and controversial, fossil fuel projects, including the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and the Mariner East II natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania. Further, the insurer has $8.9 billion invested in fossil fuel companies or utilities that make extensive use of fossil fuels.
» Read article             

» More about divesting from fossil fuels        

GREENING THE ECONOMY

IEA sustainable recovery
Oil Change International Response to IEA Sustainable Recovery Report
By Kelly Trout, Oil Change International, Press Release
June 18, 2020

“The IEA again misses the mark where it matters the most, completely ignoring the link between sustainable recovery and staying within 1.5°C of warming. Nowhere in the report is there mention of the critical 1.5-degree warming limit, let alone analysis of what’s needed for a recovery plan to be fully aligned with it.

“As trillions of dollars shift as part of the COVID-19 recovery, governments need clarity on the bold and decisive steps required to halve carbon emissions within this decade, the key guidepost laid out by climate scientists for staying within 1.5°C. This report does not deliver it.

“While eventually concluding the obvious, that energy efficiency and renewable energy are the best recovery investments, the IEA does not assess how governments can drive a transition to those solutions at the pace and scale needed to meet global climate goals. Moreover, the IEA sends confusing messages by considering measures that would prolong, rather than phase out, fossil fuels.
» Read full press release                
» Read the IEA report           

NY for clean power
Why America Needs Environmental Justice
By Jeff Berardelli, CBS News
June 16, 2020

In recent weeks, our nation has been forced to come to grips with the variety of ways in which inequality harms minority communities, from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. A recent Harvard study concluded that air pollution — which is typically worse in areas with larger minority populations — is linked to higher coronavirus death rates, along with a slew of other health problems.

This is just one form of environmental injustice, which Peggy Shepard has dedicated the better part of her life to combating. Shepard is the co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a New York City nonprofit organization that’s been working to improve the environment of local communities since 1988. The mission of WE ACT is to “build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.”

Environmental justice has become a mainstream topic recently as awareness grows of the worsening impacts of climate change and the proposal for a Green New Deal. So this week CBS News asked Peggy Shepard to discuss how environmental issues disproportionately impact minority communities and what needs to be done to fix that. Here is a portion of that conversation.
» Read article             

» More about greening the economy     

CLIMATE

cow burps
Don’t have a cow, but Big Dairy’s climate footprint is as big as the UK’s
By Joseph Winters, Grist
June 18, 2020

If dairy cows were a country, they would have the same climate impact as the entire United Kingdom. That’s according to a new analysis from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), which considered the combined annual emissions from the world’s 13 largest dairy operations in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available.

The institute’s report follows up on a similar analysis the organization undertook for 2015. That year, the IATP found that the five largest meat and dairy companies combined had emissions portfolios greater than those of some of the world’s largest oil companies, like ExxonMobil and Shell. Most of the emissions were from meat, but this latest report finds that dairy remains a significant and growing source of emissions: In the two years between reports, the 13 top dairy companies’ emissions grew 11 percent — a 32.3 million metric ton increase in greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions that would be released by adding an extra 6.9 million cars to the road for a year.

Dairy emissions come mostly from the cows themselves — specifically, from their notorious burps. Fermentation processes in cows’ stomachs produce the byproduct methane, which doesn’t stick around in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide but absorbs more heat. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says methane from ruminants like cows are an important contributor to the increase of atmospheric methane levels.
» Read article            
» Read the IATP analysis
» Read the 2015 IATP analysis on meat & dairy emissions

agency corrosion
A War Against Climate Science, Waged by Washington’s Rank and File
Efforts to block research on climate change don’t just come from the Trump political appointees on top. Lower managers in government are taking their cues, and running with them.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
June 15, 2020

WASHINGTON — Efforts to undermine climate change science in the federal government, once orchestrated largely by President Trump’s political appointees, are now increasingly driven by midlevel managers trying to protect their jobs and budgets and wary of the scrutiny of senior officials, according to interviews and newly revealed reports and surveys.

Government experts said they have been surprised at the speed with which federal workers have internalized President Trump’s antagonism for climate science, and called the new landscape dangerous.

“If top-level administrators issued a really clear public directive, there would be an uproar and a pushback, and it would be easier to combat,” said Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, which supports scientists. “This is a lot harder to fight.”

An inspector general’s report at the Environmental Protection Agency made public in May found that almost 400 employees surveyed in 2018 believed a manager had interfered with or suppressed the release of scientific information, but they never reported the violations. A separate Union of Concerned Scientists survey in 2018 of more than 63,000 federal employees across 16 agencies identified the E.P.A. and Department of Interior as having the least trustworthy leadership in matters of scientific integrity.
» Read article            
» Read the inspector general’s report

» More about climate             

CLEAN ENERGY

Boulder panels
Inside Clean Energy: Rooftop Solar Could Lose Big in Federal Regulatory Case
Regulators are considering a proposal one opponent called “pretty close to saying solar is illegal.”
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
June 18, 2020

Rooftop solar as we know it is under threat from a case before federal regulators, and a broad array of clean energy advocates and state officials are getting nervous.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering a request from an obscure consumer group that wants to end net metering, which is the compensation mechanism that allows solar owners to sell their excess electricity to the grid. By selling the electricity they don’t need, solar owners get credits on their utility bills, producing savings that help to cover the costs of solar systems.

Monday was the deadline to file comments in the case, and those who responded were overwhelmingly opposed to the petition, but clean energy advocates say there is still a real chance that FERC will decide to throw out state laws that allow net metering.
» Read article            

growth spurt
GE will make taller wind turbines using 3D-printing
Turbines with a 3D-printed base could be taller than the Seattle Space Needle
By Justine Calma, The Verge
June 17, 2020

GE announced today that it’s developing skyscraper-sized wind turbines with massive 3D-printed bases. The conglomerate plans to work with partners in the construction industry to produce both a printer and materials that could eventually be deployed around the world.

Taller turbines can capitalize on stronger winds at higher altitudes, and the structures support larger blades that generate more power. But building bigger turbines makes transporting the pieces needed to put it together a logistical nightmare. GE hopes to 3D print the base of a turbine wherever they want to place it, so that they won’t need to haul around such a gigantic hunk of concrete or steel. The company says its onshore turbines could reach up to 200 meters tall, which is taller than the Seattle Space Needle and more than double the average height for wind turbines in the US today.
» Read article            

CCUS subsidies
Carbon Capture Will Require Large Public Subsidies to Support Coal and Gas Power
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
June 15, 2020

In April, the Center for Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia University released a report concluding that, without major new subsidies from the American public, technologies for capturing heat-trapping carbon dioxide from coal and natural gas-fired power plants will remain uneconomical.

However, CGEP, which has a history of strongly supporting the interests of the fossil fuel industry, concludes in this report that the government should implement new publicly financed policies in order to ensure investors are willing to take the risk of investing in carbon capture — and use the public to backstop that risk so those investors make money.

While prices for renewable energy continue to fall, this report is suggesting that prices for gas and coal-fired power will have to increase if CCUS is implemented.

The report also leaves no doubt that this will require significant policy changes and subsidies, concluding that “additional incentives are needed to stimulate private investment in CCUS projects and to scale deployment.”

Carbon capture is currently a favored approach for the fossil fuel industry because it is premised on long-term use of fossil fuels. One reason investors are hesitant to put their money into risky carbon capture projects is the fact that renewable power generation offers a better investment opportunity — while also being carbon free.
» Read article           
» Read the CGEP report

» More about clean energy                 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

RapidRide
Transportation Fairness Alliance Revealed: Behind the Oil Industry’s Latest Attack on Electric Cars
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
June 18, 2020

Earlier this spring, while much of the nation’s attention focused on the coronavirus crisis, the U.S. oil and gas industry quietly launched a new coalition using messaging that invokes “transportation fairness.” Like other petroleum interest front groups that have campaigned against clean transportation measures, this new coalition appears poised to counter policies designed to accelerate the transition away from petroleum-powered transportation.

The Transportation Fairness Alliance (TFA), as the new coalition is called, describes itself as “a diverse partnership of businesses, associations, and organizations that support a competitive and equitable transportation sector. Collectively, we represent our nation’s manufacturers, small business owners, farmers, and folks who pay utility bills.”

Despite claims of “diversity” and “equity,” the coalition is comprised mainly of oil and gas trade associations with a vested interest in maintaining the petroleum-dependent transportation system status quo. Logos for these trade associations appear near the bottom of the website’s “About Us” section, making it no secret who is funding and driving this new alliance.

The coalition outlines its policy positions and statements of principle on its website. Many rely on easily debunked talking points and cherry-picked data that have been perpetuated by the oil industry for years.
» Read article            

e-bike rebate
In New England, declining car sales prompt call for electric bike rebate
s
Supporters in Connecticut argue that e-bike incentives, like those in Vermont, would be a timely investment.
By Lisa Prevost and David Thill, Energy News Network
Photo By Richard Masoner / Flickr / Creative Commons
June 17, 2020

As interest in cycling rises and electric vehicle sales drop off amid the pandemic, advocates are calling on Connecticut officials to extend the state’s rebate program to include electric bicycles.

About 80 organizations, businesses and individuals have signed a letter to state officials seeking rebates for e-bikes, which use an electric motor to amplify the rider’s pedal force and are seen as a way to replace car trips. The state’s existing electric vehicle rebate program is “inequitable,” they argue, because it only applies to electric cars, which are unaffordable for many middle- to lower-income households.

The Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate Program, or CHEAPR, has $3 million in annual funding. Spending that money may be a challenge this year with car sales depressed, and that makes the addition of e-bike rebates particularly timely, said Anthony Cherolis, an avid cyclist and coordinator of Transport Hartford, which is leading the effort.

“I could see an e-bike rebate from $200 to $500 as a game-changer for the equity and mobility of low-income households, particularly in Connecticut’s large cities,” said Cherolis, who noted that about a third of households in Hartford do not own a car.
» Read article          
» Read the sign-on letter         

» More about clean transportation          

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

cookin with gas
The gas industry is paying Instagram influencers to gush over gas stoves
By Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones, in Grist
June 19, 2020

Amber Kelley has a “super-cool way” to make fish tacos. “You’re going to start with the natural gas flame,” the teenage one-time Food Network Star Kids winner explained in a professionally produced video to her 6,700 Instagram followers, adding, “because the flames actually come up, you can heat and cook your tortilla.”

Kelley’s not the only Instagram influencer praising the flames of her stove. “Chef Jenna,” a 20-something with cool-girl rainbow hair and 15,800 followers, posted, “Who’s up for some breakfast-for-dinner? Chef Jenna is bringing you some stovetop Huevos Rancheros this evening! Did you know natural gas provides better cooking results? Pretty nifty, huh?!” The Instagram account @kokoshanne, an “adventurous mama” with 131,000 followers, wrote in a post about easy weeknight dinners that natural gas “helps cook food faster.”

The gas cooking Instatrend is no accident. It’s the result of a carefully orchestrated campaign dreamed up by marketers for representatives with the American Gas Association and American Public Gas Association, two trade groups that draw their funding from a mix of investor- and publicly owned utilities. Since at least 2018, social media and wellness personalities have been hired to post more than 100 posts extolling the virtues of their stoves in sponsored posts. Documents from the fossil fuel watchdog Climate Investigations Center show that another trade group, the American Public Gas Association, intends to spend another $300,000 on its millennial-centric “Natural Gas Genius” campaign in 2020.
» Read article            

Bill Cooper DoE
From Hurricane Maria to COVID, Gas Lobbyist-turned-Trump Energy Lawyer Uses Crises as ‘Opportunity’
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog
June 14, 2020

Among a string of recent environmental rollbacks, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) aims to vastly narrow the scope of environmental reviews for those applying for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits. The proposal has been guided by Bill Cooper, a former oil and gas industry lobbyist who’s now a top lawyer for the DOE.

On May 1, the DOE issued a proposal to limit environmental reviews for LNG export permit proposals so that the review applies to only the export process itself — literally “occurring at or after the point of export.” The rule would take off the table for consideration lifecycle greenhouse gas analyses, broader looks at both build-outs of pipelines and power plants attached to the export proposals, and other potential environmental impacts.

It comes as many larger forces up the pressure on LNG projects: The oil and gas industry is facing financial crisis, exports of fracked gas to the global market are steeply waning, and the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic nosedive are marching on in the United States.
» Read article           

BP or not to BP
“Historic moment” as BP writes-off billions of reserves as stranded assets
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
June 16, 2020

For years, climate activists have been warning Big Oil and their loyal investors that there would come a time when their most prized assets, their oil, would become their greatest liability, due to climate change. They came up with a term for the concept: stranded assets.

At first, activists were dismissed out of hand. Oil majors and pundits said the world would always need more oil. And so companies carried on drilling. But slowly, the concept gained traction amongst influential climate scientists, investors, and bankers such as Mark Carney, the ex-Governor of the Bank of England.

In 2015, Carney warned about the risks of climate change — or as he called it — the “tragedy of the horizon.” Carney cautioned that “the vast majority of reserves” of oil, gas, and coal could become “stranded” and literally become “un-burnable.”

Climate reality has finally caught up with BP’s corporate dreamland that it could carry on drilling forever. Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, said, “we have reset our price outlook to reflect that impact and the likelihood of greater efforts to ‘build back better’ towards a Paris-consistent world.”
» Read article            

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 3/6/20

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

Pipeline litigation is before the US Supreme Court. The case concerns whether the US Forest Service has authority to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail – but the implications are much broader.

We offer two more articles on plans for the troubled Columbia Gas to sell its Massachusetts business to Eversource.

In climate news, we found a report on the expanding practice of cloud seeding to increase snowfall in mountains where snow pack serves both the ski industry and also provides a critical water source for downslope communities. Also, a recently discovered peat bog in central Africa could release massive amounts of carbon to the atmosphere if oil development is allowed to proceed.

The US Energy Information Agency released information on the growth of renewable energy. Wind and solar are coming on strong, but there’s a long way to go. A niche market for high temperature industrial processes and some transportation applications could provide an opportunity for renewable hydrogen – where the energy to split hydrogen atoms from water molecules comes from wind or solar sources. Today’s conventional hydrogen is far from “green”, and is derived from natural gas.

The regional Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is being undermined by David Schnare and the Koch-tied think tank Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Thomas Jefferson Institute. We found an excellent bit of investigative reporting on this extensive disinformation campaign.

The fossil fuel industry is having a hard time explaining why investors keep losing their shirts in fracking plays. With new investors increasingly hard to come by, calls for financial fraud investigations grow louder. Meanwhile, the new coronavirus is hammering away at global energy demand – unsettling oil markets.

New York’s statewide plastic bag ban is now in effect, knocking a 23 billion bag per year hole in that market.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

Gorsuch opines
Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch warns of unintended consequences in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
February 25, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from two consolidated cases on Monday, regarding a lower court’s decision to reject the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to issue a key permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

One extreme-case scenario, Justice Neil Gorsuch warned, is that if the lower court’s decision is upheld, more pipelines could inadvertently be “invited” along the Pacific Crest Trail, along the West Coast. The environmental advocates responding in the Supreme Court case and several environmental groups dispute the legal and actionable feasibility of this argument.
» Read article        

» More about gas pipelines  

COLUMBIA GAS

eversource expanding
Eversource to buy Columbia Gas following plea agreement
By Danielle Eaton, the Reminder
March 4, 2020

GREATER SPRINGFIELD –  Nearly two years after the tragic gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (CMA) admitted fault for the tragedy, will pay millions of dollars in fines and sell their Massachusetts business.

The explosions, which took place on Sept. 13, 2018, killed one person, injured 22 and damaged 131 homes and commercial buildings, according to a press release from U.S. attorney Andrew Lelling’s office. The plea agreement and its terms were announced on Feb. 26.

The agreement, according to Lelling’s office, requires the company to pay a $53 million fine, which is “the largest criminal fine ever imposed under the Pipeline Safety Act.” The fee “represents twice the amount of profits CMA earned between 2015 and 2018 from a pipeline infrastructure program called the Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP).”
» Read article       

Columbia gas to Eversource - questions
Eversource purchase of Columbia Gas: Councilor Jesse Lederman calls for hearing in Springfield
By Jim Kinney, MassLive
March 03, 2020

SPRINGFIELD — City Councilor Jesse Lederman has asked state regulators to host here in Springfield at least one of the hearings on the pending purchase of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource Energy.

Eversource, a company made up of the former Western Massachusetts Electric Co., announced last week its plan to buy Columbia Gas’ Massachusetts operations now owned by NiSource for $1.1 billion.

Lederman said more clarity is needed on the future of the proposed “Greater Springfield Reliability Project,” a proposal Columbia Gas has been pursuing to construct new infrastructure off the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Longmeadow and route it into Springfield.

“Will Eversource continue this proposed expansion once they acquire Columbia Gas?” Lederman wrote. “If so, will they follow the same timeline?”
» Read article        

» More about Columbia Gas

CLIMATE

cloud seeding
Helping the Snow Gods: Cloud Seeding Grows as Weapon Against Global Warming
New research supports seeding efforts to bolster water supplies in drying regions, but some scientists question its effectiveness in addressing climate change.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
March 4, 2020

Winter bonfires paying homage to snow gods have long been a tradition in cold weather regions around the world.

But in the last 70 years or so, communities in the western United States have gone beyond rituals and added a technological twist. Across hundreds of mountaintops, from the Sierra Nevada to the Sawtooths, Wasatch and Colorado Front Range, cloud seeding experts are now often burning small amounts of silver iodide with the aim of bolstering dwindling water supplies.

The vaporized metal particles are ideal kernels for new ice crystals. When moist, super-cooled air rises over mountain ranges under predictable winds, it sets up perfect conditions for the crystalline alchemy that creates snow, the white gold craved by ski resorts, ranchers and farmers and even distant cities that need mountain water to survive.

The scramble for water has intensified as global warming has battered much of the West during the last 20 years with heat waves, droughts and wildfires. With projections for declining snowpack and river flows, cloud seeding is becoming a regional climate adaptation measure costing several million dollars each year. In other regions, including parts of the central United States, seeding has also been used to try and enhance summer rains and to reduce the risk of severe hail storms.
» Read article        

Interior denialist
How a Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
March 2, 2020

An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The misleading language appears in at least nine reports, including environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West that could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries.

The effort was led by Indur M. Goklany, a longtime Interior Department employee who, in 2017 near the start of the Trump administration, was promoted to the office of the deputy secretary with responsibility for reviewing the agency’s climate policies. The Interior Department’s scientific work is the basis for critical decisions about water and mineral rights affecting millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of acres of land.
» Read article        

Congo bog play
Plan to drain Congo peat bog for oil could release vast amount of carbon
Drilling in one of the greatest carbon sinks on the planet could release greenhouse gases equivalent to Japan’s annual emissions, experts warn
By Phoebe Weston, The Guardian
February 28, 2020

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/28/ridiculous-plan-to-drain-congo-peat-bog-could-release-vast-amount-of-carbon-aoe
The world’s largest tropical peatlands could be destroyed if plans go ahead to drill for oil under the Congo basin, according to an investigation that suggests draining the area would release the same amount of carbon dioxide as Japan emits annually.

Preserving the Congo’s Cuvette Centrale peatlands, which are the size of England and store 30bn tonnes of carbon, is “absolutely essential” if there is any hope of meeting Paris climate agreement goals, scientists warn.

However, this jungle is now the latest frontier for oil exploration, according to an investigation by Global Witness and the European Investigative Collaborations network that questions claims by developers that the oil deposit could contain 359m barrels of oil.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

clean energy snapshot
Inside Clean Energy: An Energy Snapshot in 5 Charts
New data from the Energy Information Administration show coal tanking, solar surging, wind growing fast and electricity usage remaining stable.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
March 5, 2020

The electricity sector is responsible for more than one-fourth of all of U.S. carbon emissions, ranking just behind transportation as the leading emissions source.

For the country to stave off the most harmful effects of climate change, the sector would need to get its emissions to zero, or close to it, as soon as possible, and the transportation sector would have to make a shift to using electricity, rather than gasoline, as a default fuel.
» Read article        

green hydrogen
Green hydrogen gets real as utility business models and delivery solutions emerge

The fuel may be the only way to meet power system needs in zero emissions scenarios and the market signals to produce and use it are finally clear.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
March 2, 2020

Here are three things power sector policymakers are reaching agreement on: The mid-century goal is a zero emissions economy; wind and solar alone cannot do that; and green hydrogen may be a solution.

Green hydrogen is produced by a renewables-powered electrolyzer that splits water (H2O) to make hydrogen (H2) gas. The process makes renewable hydrogen (RH2) gas more expensive than the wind or solar used to create it, but it can generate zero emissions electricity in turbines or fuel cells, be stored in higher densities and lighter weights than batteries to meet long duration storage needs, and be used in high-heat industrial processes.

At a renewables penetration of “about 60%,” RH2, or comparable long duration storage, “will be necessary” for grid reliability, University of California, Irvine, Chief Scientist of Renewable Fuels and Energy Storage Jeffrey G. Reed told Utility Dive. Alternatives like overbuilding wind and solar or batteries would be much more expensive, he said.
» Read article        

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

David Schnare
Longtime Climate Science Foe David Schnare Uses “Scare Tactics” to Bash Transportation Climate Initiative for Koch-Tied Think Tank
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
March 3, 2020

Opponents of a regional proposal to curb transportation sector emissions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are using a number of deceptive tactics to attack and criticize the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Groups tied to the oil industry have pointed to misleading studies, deployed questionable public opinion polling and circulated an open letter in opposition.

In Virginia, a conservative think tank is now touting a biased analysis, dismissed by critics as misleading “scare tactics,” authored by anti-environmental attorney David Schnare, that questions Virginia’s legal authority to participate in the regional program.

Schnare is currently the Director of the Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Thomas Jefferson Institute, and both he and TJI are part of a larger network linked with fossil fuel interests that work against climate and environmental protection policies.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy is a member of the State Policy Network, a Koch-backed web of right-wing think tanks promoting climate science denial and other policy positions that benefit corporate donors.

Schnare is a former EPA scientist and attorney and initially was a member of President Trump’s EPA transition team. He is affiliated with climate denial groups like the Heartland Institute, and was a speaker at the 2017 Heartland Institute “America First Energy Conference,” where he discussed how to challenge the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding that serves as the basis for regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation  

FOSSIL FUELS

fraudsters in frackland
Is the U.S. Fracking Boom Based on Fraud?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
March 5, 2020

As more and more players in the fracking industry run out of options and file for bankruptcy, investors are beginning to ask questions about why all the money is gone.

“This is an industry that has always been filled with promoters and stock scams and swindlers and people have made billions when investors have lost their shirts.”
» Read article        

Coronavirus oil cuts
OPEC Proposes a Large Cut in Oil Output
The cartel wants to take 1.5 million barrels a day off the market as the coronavirus outbreak curbs demand. But the assent of Russia and others is needed.
By Stanley Reed, New York Times
March 5, 2020

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries proposed Thursday that oil output be curbed by 1.5 million barrels a day, or 1.5 percent of world oil supplies, to deal with the effects of the spreading coronavirus outbreak on demand.

The proposed cuts are more than most analysts expected but seem unlikely to change the gloomy sentiment in the oil market. After the announcement, prices for Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell about 0.8 percent to $50.71 a barrel.
» Read article        

BP change-up
BP’s Net-Zero Pledge: A Sign of a Growing Divide Between European and U.S. Oil Companies? Or Another Marketing Ploy?
Analysts say European companies are under greater social and governmental pressure to address climate change and reduce emissions. Environmentalists are skeptical.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
February 29, 2020

In the last month, BP said it had “set a new ambition” to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, and the company withdrew from three oil industry trade groups that have a history of opposing action to fight climate change.

The announcements are the latest signs that a gap may be opening between European and U.S. oil giants over climate change, with the European companies—like the governments of their home countries—committing to much steeper emissions reductions than their American counterparts.

But it is far from clear whether the European companies will take action that matches their commitments.

Environmental advocates say they are skeptical, while energy analysts say the extent of the transformation by BP and others will depend on how well this strategy works in terms of profits and investor response.

“We don’t have time, given the urgency of the climate crisis, to give companies that have a history of spreading disinformation and seeking to block action, the benefit of the doubt,” said Kathy Mulvey, director of the corporate accountability campaign for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
» Read article        

» More about fossil fuels    

PLASTICS BANS

NY bag ban begins
New York: plastic bag ban takes effect to address ‘environmental blights’
Businesses will no longer be allowed to provide or sell plastic bags in third state after California and Oregon to enforce ban
By Miranda Bryant, The Guardian
March 1, 2020

Every year, New York state gets through a staggering 23bn plastic bags – the vast majority of which end up in landfill or polluting streets, green spaces and waterways.

But it is hoped the single-use carriers will become a relic, now a long-awaited state-wide ban on single use plastic bags has come into force.

The new law means most businesses will no longer be allowed to provide or sell plastic bags. However, it will not completely outlaw plastic bags. Notable exceptions include takeaway and delivery food, prescription drugs, rubbish bags, uncooked meat and fish and some non-film plastic “reusable” bags.
» Read article        

» More about plastics bans

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