Tag Archives: Ashland

Weekly News Check-In 7/31/20

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Welcome back.

Candidate positions on the controversial Granite Bridge Pipeline may be a significant factor determining New Hampshire’s next governor. The contested status of other pipelines is also roiling related industries and enlivening local politics wherever they exist.

Two new nominations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may finally rebalance its makeup, which has been operating for much of the year with four of its five commissioners – only one of whom is a Democrat.

The recently-launched nonprofit Rewiring America has released its first major report on greening the economy and the jobs that could be created by a full-on effort at electrification. It’s an exciting prospect that requires a post-Trump political ecosystem. We found a related investigative report from DeSmog Blog, exposing efforts by the natural gas industry to delay electrification of the building sector.

Now that we’re heading into the home stretch of this political season, articles we’re finding on climate all project a jittery edginess around the stakes of the November election. Given the urgent need for sharp emissions reductions and a kind of global leadership that’s only possible when America is at its best, Bill McKibben’s suggestion that this election is about the next 10,000 years lacks even a hint of hyperbole.

We caught some encouraging glimpses of steady advances in clean energy and transportation  – things coming our way despite the best efforts of the Trump administration and fossil fuel industry. News from that sector, as usual, amounts to flashing red lights warning of an impending financial implosion.

We wrap up with two stories about “green energy” that is anything but. While Europe continues to insist – contrary to science – that woody biomass is effectively carbon neutral in the short term, American forests are being felled for pellets to fuel their converted coal power plants. This is all based on a carbon accounting error that originated with the Kyoto Climate Agreement, and was grandfathered into the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It’s turned out to be a stubbornly difficult problem to correct.

— The NFGiM Team

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Breaking news: shortly after we published this post on 7/31, Liberty Utilities announced the cancellation of its Granite Bridge Pipeline project. Look for coverage in the upcoming Weekly News Check-In 8/7/20.

USD 400M misstep
Gas pipeline fuels debate among NH gubernatorial candidates
By Alex LaCasse, Seacoast Online
July 24, 2020

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andru Volinsky called the proposed Granite Bridge pipeline a ”$400 million step in the wrong direction” during a press conference in front of the Town Hall Friday.

Volinsky said Liberty Utilities’ proposed 16-inch liquefied natural gas pipeline for the Route 101 corridor between Exeter and Manchester will exacerbate climate change while other high-profile projects, like the Dakota Access pipeline, were being halted around the country.

“A key part of why I’m running for governor is to combat climate change, and part of that effort is to be opposed to fracked gas pipelines projects, like the Granite Bridge pipeline,” said Volinsky, a member of the state Executive Council. “Last municipal election, Exeter went on record as opposed to the pipeline. Fracking is especially dangerous for the environment, ratepayers would have to pay for that project for 20 or 30 years, and to what purpose? To line the pockets of Liberty Utilities and Granite Bridge shareholders.”

The Granite Bridge application is stalled at the state Public Utilities Commission after being filed in December 2017. The project includes a 150- to 170-foot high tank capable of storing 2 billion cubic feet of LNG in an abandoned quarry in West Epping.
» Read article             

» More about Granite Bridge Pipeline

OTHER PIPELINES

risky business
Dakota Access Pipeline Saga Stalls Oil Production Recovery In The Bakken

By Tsvetana Paraskova, oilprice.com
July 29, 2020

The uncertainty surrounding the future operations of Dakota Access, the key pipeline carrying crude out of the Bakken, is stalling oil companies’ plans to invest in bringing back online the output they had curtailed after the pandemic-driven crash in oil demand and prices, executives told Reuters.

A federal judge ruled on July 6 that the Dakota Access Pipeline, in operation since 2017, must be emptied and shut down by August 5, until a new comprehensive environmental review is completed.

A week later, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that Dakota Access can continue to operate while the court considers whether the pipeline should be shut down as ordered by a lower court’s ruling.

Until the new saga with the Dakota Access pipeline is resolved, oil drillers in the Bakken are not rushing to restore production as they see the move as too risky in case Dakota Access were to shut down.
» Read article

Ashland Select Board wins court case against Eversource over gas pipeline
By Cesareo Contreras, MetroWest Daily News
July 23, 2020

Eversource must remove a decommissioned gas pipeline if it gets the go-ahead to install a new, wider pipeline through Ashland, a state Land Court judge has ruled.

Associate Justice Michael D. Vhay issued the judgment earlier this week, supporting the Town of Ashland’s position.

In Ashland and Hopkinton, Eversource wants to decommission a 6-inch-wide, 3.7-mile underground gas line that passes through both towns and replace it with new 12-inch pipeline. In Ashland, the gas line runs for 2.5 miles, cutting through more 80 house lots, town-owned properties, wetlands, the Chestnut Street Apartments and the conservation-restricted Great Bend Farm Trust.

Town officials and many residents adamantly oppose the project, saying it will have no direct benefit for Ashland residents and runs counter to the town’s sustainability goals.

In a Facebook status posted on the town’s Facebook page,Town Manager Michael Herbert shared the news of the court’s decision.

“Rarely does a small suburban town of 17,000 people take on a corporate giant like Eversource Gas and come out on top,” he said.
» Read article             

JC permit reversal
Land use permit for Jordan Cove pipeline is reversed
By Amanda Slee, KCBY.com
July 21, 2020

NORTH BEND, Ore. — The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals has reversed a land-use permit approved by the city of North Bend.

The permit is for the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal.

The Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition was the petitioner in the appeal. The decision by the North Bend City Council was to approve a temporary dredging material transport pipeline and dredging offloading facility.
» Read article             

» More about other pipelines        

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

FERC nominations
Trump makes two FERC nominations, potentially rebalancing commission
By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill
July 27, 2020

President Trump made two nominations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Monday, bowing to pressure from Democratic lawmakers who have pushed to maintain the bipartisan split in the commission.

Trump nominated Allison Clements, Democrats’ preferred nominee, alongside Mark C. Christie, who currently serves as chairman of Virginia State Corporation Commission. If confirmed, the two would regulate electricity and natural gas markets alongside other major energy projects.

FERC’s five-member board is supposed to have no more than three members of any one party, but for much of the year it’s been operating with just four members — three Republicans and one Democrat.

Clements currently serves as the founder and president of Goodgrid, LLC, an energy policy and strategy consulting firm. She previously worked for a decade at the Natural Resources Defense Council. She also spent two years as director of the energy markets program at Energy Foundation, which advocates for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Christie is one of the nation’s longest-serving state utility regulators, having served for 16 years on Virginia’s board overseeing utilities and other industries.

The nominations come as Commissioner Bernard McNamee’s term expired at the end of June.
» Read article             

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

big green jobs machine
New Analysis Shows How Electrifying the U.S. Economy Could Create 25 Million Green Jobs by 2035
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
July 30, 2020

A report released Wednesday by a new nonprofit—in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic disaster, and calls for a green recovery from those intertwined crises that prioritizes aggressive climate policies—lays out how rapidly decarbonizing and electrifying the U.S. economy could create up to 25 million good-paying jobs throughout the country over the next 15 years.

Mobilizing for a Zero Carbon America envisions a dramatic transformation of the nation’s power, transportation, building, and industrial sectors by 2035 to meet the global heating goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The first project of the newly launched Rewiring America is “based on an extensive industrial and engineering analysis of what such a decarbonization would entail.”
» Read article             
» Read the report

» More about greening the economy

BETTER BUILDINGS

unplugged
Unplugged: How the Gas Industry Is Fighting Efforts to Electrify Buildings
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
July 28, 2020

Just over a year ago, the city of Berkeley, California, passed into law a first-in-the-nation ordinance prohibiting natural gas hookups in new buildings, a move that alarmed the gas industry. This alarm has since boiled over into a full-fledged opposition campaign to counter the rising tide of similar measures meant to restrict gas in favor of constructing all-electric buildings and cutting carbon pollution.

Natural gas constitutes a vast majority, about 80 percent, of the direct fossil fuel CO2 emissions from the residential and commercial sectors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Transitioning away from direct fossil fuel use in buildings is key for de-carbonizing and meeting climate targets, experts say.

Initiatives are starting to emerge at the local level on the West Coast and in the Northeast to support this transition, with 31 cities in California committed to phasing out gas use in buildings, as of July 8, and several Massachusetts communities in the Boston area doing the same. Policies for electrifying buildings are also in the works in New Jersey as well as Seattle and other cities.
» Read article             

Mass. gas ban backers press ahead after state strikes down 1st East Coast bylaw
ByTom DiChristopher, S&P Global
July 24, 2020

Boston-area lawmakers intend to continue pursuing building electrification ordinances, but they acknowledged their path forward is uncertain after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey struck down the commonwealth’s first building gas ban.

Healey’s decision undermines the effort to ban natural gas in new construction and renovations in Arlington, Cambridge and Newton — all of which modeled their legislation after the rejected bylaw in neighboring Brookline, Mass.

The Board of Building Regulations and Standards — the state agency that Healey argued has exclusive control over building permits — is one potential avenue, [Cambridge City Councilmember Quinton] Zondervan said. The board regularly updates the state building code and could include a stretch code that allows towns and cities to require certain buildings be fossil fuel free. Bay State climate activists are already pushing for a stretch code allowing net-zero building energy requirements.

Brookline and environmental groups have already called for state-level action in light of Healey’s decision, in which the attorney general expressed support for the policy of limiting gas use.

“The attorney general’s opinion makes clear that the state does have the authority to stop this fracked gas infrastructure if it wants,” Massachusetts Sierra Club Chapter Director Deb Pasternak said in a statement. “The fact is that we need an equitable statewide plan here in Massachusetts to close down the fracked gas energy system.”

The Sierra Club, along with ratepayer advocates and other climate activists, have recently presented regulators with plans for building electrification proceedings and gas distribution system phase-outs.

Healey herself has petitioned the DPU to open a proceeding to overhaul gas infrastructure planning in Massachusetts, with a goal of aligning the regulatory framework with state climate goals and transitioning away from fossil fuels.
» Read article             

» More about better buildings

CLIMATE

regime change starts at home
The Next Election Is About the Next 10,000 Years
By Bill McKibben, YES! Magazine, in EcoWatch – opinion
July 27, 2020

Every election that passes, we lose leverage—this time around our last chance at limiting the temperature rise to anything like 1.5 degrees would slip through our fingers. Which is why we need to register and vote as never before. It’s also, of course, why we need to do more than that: many of us are also hard at work this year taking on the big banks that fund the fossil fuel industry, trying to pull the financial lever as well as the political one. And even within the world of politics, we need to do much more than vote: no matter who wins, Nov. 4 and 5 and 6 are as important as Nov. 3; we have to push, and prod, and open up space for the people we work to install in office.
» Read article             

boot the joker
How the global climate fight could be lost if Trump is re-elected
The US will officially exit the Paris accord one day after the 2020 US election and architects of that deal say the stakes could not be higher
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
July 27, 2020

It was a balmy June day in 2017 when Donald Trump took to the lectern in the White House Rose Garden to announce the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the only comprehensive global pact to tackle the spiraling crisis.

Todd Stern, who was the US’s chief negotiator when the deal was sealed in Paris in 2015, forced himself to watch the speech.

“I found it sickening, it was mendacious from start to finish,” said Stern. “I was furious … because here we have this really important thing and here’s this joker who doesn’t understand anything he’s talking about. It was a fraud.”

The lifetime of the Paris agreement, signed in a wave of optimism in 2015, has seen the five hottest years ever recorded on Earth, unprecedented wildfires torching towns from California to Australia, record heatwaves baking Europe and India and temperatures briefly bursting beyond 100F (38C) in the Arctic.

These sorts of impacts could be a mere appetizer, scientists warn, given they have been fueled by levels of global heating that are on track to triple, or worse, by the end of the century without drastic remedial action. The faltering global effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and head off further calamity hinges, in significant part, on whether the US decides to re-enter the fray.

“The choice of Biden or Trump in the White House is huge, not just for the US but for the world generally to deal with climate change,” said Stern. “If Biden wins, November 4 is a blip, like a bad dream is over. If Trump wins, he seals the deal. The US becomes a non-player and the goals of Paris become very, very difficult. Without the US in the long term, they certainly aren’t realistic.”
» Read article             

better than last year
House climate change bill calls for roadmap
Measure differs from more prescriptive Senate approach
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
July 29, 2020

The House unveiled a climate change bill on Wednesday that directs the executive branch of government to create a roadmap for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and includes sections dealing with solar power subsidies, grid modernization, clean energy jobs, and municipal light plants.

The bill is expected to be taken up in the House on Thursday and then go to a conference committee that will be charged with sorting out differences with a Senate bill that is broader in scope and far more detailed in its instructions.

The House bill requires the administration to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and sets interim goals for 2030 and 2040. It charges the administration with coming up with a roadmap of policies, regulations, legislative recommendations, and carbon pricing mechanisms to reach the targets.

The Senate bill is far more detailed and prescriptive. It requires the administration to meet statewide emission targets every five years and also requires the setting of emission reduction targets for individual sectors, including transportation, buildings, solid waste, and natural gas distribution. The Senate bill calls for phased-in carbon pricing on automobile and building fuels and requires all MBTA buses to be electrified by 2040.
» Read article             

tell the truth
Mainstream News Prioritises Big Business and Opponents of Climate Action – Study
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
July 29, 2020

Statements from large business associations and opponents of climate action are twice as likely to be included in climate change coverage by national newspapers than pro-climate action messaging, according to a new study. The findings suggest mainstream media bias favors entrenched economic interests and that journalistic norms of objectivity and balance have skewed the public conversation around climate change.

“I wanted to specifically look at which interest groups get a say in this debate, what voices are dominating the national conversation about climate change, and how is that reflected in media coverage,” study author Rachel Wetts, Assistant Professor of Environment and Society and Sociology at Brown University, told DeSmog.

The study also found that climate-related messaging from scientific and technical experts was least likely to be picked up in national news. Messaging from business coalitions and large businesses on climate change, on the other hand, received heightened media visibility.

“In terms of this question of whose voices are being heard and who gets to dominate the national conversation around climate change, I find that opponents of climate action and large business interests are the groups that are getting the most visibility, while organizations with scientific expertise are getting very low visibility,” Wetts said in an interview with DeSmog. “This says something about whose voices are being heard that could potentially help explain why we’ve been so slow to adopt any [national] policy to address this issue.”
» Read article             
» Obtain the study            

scud
What’s Going on Inside the Fearsome Thunderstorms of Córdoba Province?
Scientists are studying the extreme weather in northern Argentina to see how it works — and what it can tell us about the monster storms in our future.
By Noah Gallagher Shannon, New York Times
July 22, 2020

Every storm is composed of the same fundamental DNA — in this case, moisture, unstable air and something to ignite the two skyward, often heat. When the earth warms in the spring and summer months, hot wet air rushes upward in columns, where it collides with cool dry air, forming volatile cumulus clouds that can begin to swell against the top of the troposphere, at times carrying as much as a million tons of water. If one of these budding cells manages to punch through the tropopause, as the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere is called, the storm mushrooms, feeding on the energy-rich air of the upper atmosphere. As it continues to grow, inhaling up more moisture and breathing it back down as rain and hail, this vast vertical lung can sprout into a self-sustaining system that takes on many different forms.
» Read article

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

welcome mat
Colorado’s Eastern Plains is big-time producer of renewable energy, ripe for even more, report says

New report highlights renewable energy’s economic benefits for eastern Colorado: thousands of jobs, millions of dollars a year
By Judith Kohler, The Denver Post
July 29, 2020

Along with wheat, corn and cattle, Colorado’s Eastern Plains grow another big crop: more than 95% of the state’s renewable energy capacity that produces thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in benefits each year.

A report released Tuesday by The Western Way, a conservative organization that promotes environmental stewardship, in partnership with PRO 15 and Action22, policy and economic development organizations, highlights the importance of renewable energy to eastern Colorado.

Greg Brophy, a former state legislator and Colorado director of The Western Way, said he hopes the report demonstrates how valuable renewable energy is to the area’s economy and that it encourages other eastern Colorado counties to “roll out the welcome mat” for wind, solar and battery storage projects.
» Read article       
» Read the report

Sununu Blocks Bill To Expand N.H.’s Required Renewable Energy Use, Now Lowest In New England
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
July 24, 2020

Gov. Chris Sununu handed down another expected veto of a clean energy plan Friday.

He rejected a bill that would expand New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and increase how much solar power utilities must use.

Right now, the state caps that solar requirement at 0.7% from this year on out. The bill Sununu vetoed would have increased that to nearly 19% by the year 2040.

Sununu says it represented a handout to the state’s fledgling solar industry. Democrats decried the veto as another effort by the governor to block clean energy expansion.

The bill also would have increased the Renewable Portfolio Standard, to make clean energy cover nearly 57% of New Hampshire’s fuel mix by 2040.

The current standard levels out at around 25 percent in 2025 – the lowest percentage, at the earliest date, of any New England state.
» Read article             

green ammonia
How stored electricity can make cleaner fuels
EU industry is seeking ways to save surplus power. Now it’s also hunting for methods to use that stored electricity to make green fuels.
By Paul Brown, Climate News Network
July 21, 2020
   
With renewable energy now the cheapest way of mass-producing electricity, the race is on to find the best way to conserve the surplus for use at peak times, and also to use the stored electricity to develop new fuels for transport.

And European Union companies are competing to devise lucrative ways to use this cheap power just as more solar and wind energy is being produced than the market demands.

Large batteries are currently the favoured method, because they are already cost-effective when used with pumped storage. This uses cheap electricity to move water uphill into reservoirs, to be released later to drive turbines when extra electricity is needed to meet peak demand.

Both these technologies take advantage of buying power at rock-bottom prices, and make their profits by storing it – until they can sell it back at much higher prices when the peak arrives.

The newer technologies under development seek to use the cheap surplus electricity to create so-called green hydrogen, and now green ammonia – both for use as substitutes for fossil fuels.
» Read article             

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

plagued by controversy
E.P.A. Inspector General to Investigate Trump’s Biggest Climate Rollback
The agency’s watchdog office said Monday it would investigate whether the reversal of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards violated government rules.
By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 27, 2020

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog said Monday it had opened an investigation into the agency’s weakening of Obama-era regulations that would have limited automobile emissions by significantly raising fuel economy standards.

The yearlong effort to write the Trump administration rule was plagued with controversy. Just weeks before the final rule was published, the administration’s own internal analyses showed that it would create a higher cost for consumers than leaving the Obama-era standard in place and would contribute to more deaths associated with lung disease by releasing more pollution into the air.

“This is really serious,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s rare for E.P.A.’s inspector general to conduct an investigation of the agency’s rule-making.”
» Read article             

E-ferry
Danish electric ferry reports successful first year in service
By Nick Blenkey, MarineLog
July 13, 2020

In its first year of operation on a 22 nautical mile route, the pioneering Danish all-electric ferry Ellen has notched up some noteworthy milestones, according to Danfoss Editron .

Operating between the Danish islands of Ærø and Fynshav, the vessel was designed by Jens Kristensen Consulting Naval Architects and built by the Søby Værft shipyard. Just under 60 meters long and with a breadth of approximately 13 meters, the ferry travels at speeds of 12-12.5 knots, and is capable of carrying 198 passengers in summer months, with this capacity dropping to 147 during winter. It can also carry 31 cars or five trucks on its open deck.

With a 4.3 MWh capacity battery pack, the largest currently installed for maritime use, it is the first electric ferry to have no emergency back-up generator on board.

The E-ferry is the result of a project supported by the EU Horizon 2020 program that set out to achieve two main objectives. The first was to design and build an innovative fully-electric vessel which would incorporate an energy-efficient design, lightweight equipment and materials, and state-of-the-art electric-only systems with an automated high-power charging system. The second objective was to validate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the concept to the industry and ferry operators. The fully-electric ferry had to be able to cover distances of up to 22 nautical miles in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea that were, at the time, only operated on by conventional diesel-powered vessels.
» Read article

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL

hang it up
As Trump Leaves Permian Oilfield, Industry Insiders Question If 2020 Bust Marks Texas Oil’s Last Big Boom
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
July 30, 2020

Yesterday, President Trump left Midland, Texas, after arriving in the state’s Permian oilfield region for a $2,800 a plate luncheon and a “roundtable” that required each participant to pony up $100,000.

The west Texas Mr. Trump left behind bears little resemblance to the region as it was when he first took office in January 2017, as the shale rush resumed following 2016’s oil price plunge.

Today, the shale boom of the 2010’s is officially bust, battered not only by the US’s outsized failure to control COVID-19 outbreaks and an oil price war in which foreign producers proved their ability to steer oil prices, but also a wave of multi-billion dollar write-downs by oil giants — write-downs that predated both the price war and the pandemic and resulted from the industry’s perpetual struggles to generate profits from shale drilling and fracking regardless of the price of oil.

In April, Scott Sheffield, the chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, testified before the Texas Railroad Commission (which serves as the state’s oil regulator) that the shale rush had been “an economic disaster.”

“Nobody wants to give us capital because we have all destroyed capital and created economic waste,” Sheffield testified, warning that without state intervention, “we will disappear as an industry, like the coal industry.”

Indeed, before the pandemic struck, the shale industry’s financial foundations were stunningly shaky, with experts questioning the ways companies calculated their reserves, their ability to generate free cash flow from their drilling operations, and ratings agencies grading shale debts at junk levels. The entire fossil fuel industry’s long-term future is also deeply uncertain, as the impacts of climate change become increasingly visceral and the global need to cut emissions from oil and gas more urgent.
» Read article             

pipeline uncertainty for oilsands
Regardless of COVID, the outlook for the oilsands gets dimmer year after year
The pandemic has cost the industry billions, but in the long term, it has bigger challenges
By Kyle Bakx, CBC News
July 29, 2020

The latest forecast for oilsands production growth was released on Tuesday, and it continues a trend over most of the last decade of industry experts having a less optimistic outlook for the sector.

The new report by IHS Markit expects oilsands production to reach 3.8 million barrels per day of oil in 2030, compared to last year’s projection of production climbing to 3.9 million bpd.

It’s a relatively small change to the forecast the firm released in 2019, but notable because of yet another downward revision. That pattern has occurred just about every year since 2014, when the main oilpatch industry group forecast oilsands output climbing to 4.8 million barrels per day by 2030.

For context, oilsands production at the beginning of this year was about 2.9 million barrels per day.

Analysts with IHS Markit lowered their latest forecast predominantly because of pipelines. There is still doubt about when and if new export pipelines will be built, and that uncertainty will weigh on the confidence level of companies looking to invest the significant funds needed to build new oilsands facilities.
» Read article             

tick-tick report-zoom Fossil fuel “fraud” regarding climate risks is a “ticking time bomb” to financial system
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
July 27, 2020

If the fossil fuel industry had acted decades ago, we would not be in a climate emergency. And some believe that this climate emergency is going to cause a financial emergency too.

A new report, published last week by U.S. National Whistleblower Center (NWC), entitled “How fossil fuel industry fraud is setting us up for a financial implosion – and what whistleblowers can do about it,” does not mince its language.

It outlined what it called “widespread deception by fossil fuel executives regarding the financial risks of climate change [which] represents a ticking time bomb that, if not addressed, could contribute to worldwide economic devastation.”

It claims it is the “first-ever analysis of legal strategies for exposing climate risk fraud by the fossil fuel sector,” and says it is a “call to action” for executives of fossil fuel companies and others with knowledge of improper accounting and disclosure practices, such as external auditors, to blow the whistle on the decades of deception.
» Read article             
» Read the NWC report         

‘It’s Past Time’: Rep. Ilhan Omar, Sen. Bernie Sanders Unveil Bill To Strip Fossil Fuel Funding
The legislation aims to cut off oil, gas and coal companies reaping billions from federal COVID-19 relief and annual subsidies.
By Alexander C. Kaufman, Huffpost
July 24, 2020

In the richest and most powerful nation in history, doctors beg for basic protective gear amid a deadly pandemic, 21% of children live in poverty and 84-year-olds take jobs scrubbing motel toilets to survive.

Yet, as fossil fuel emissions cook the planet and wreak a mounting toll of destruction, the federal government gives oil, gas and coal companies nearly $15 billion per year in direct federal subsidies and already directed billions more in support through coronavirus relief programs this year.

New legislation from five of the country’s top progressive lawmakers, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), aims to cut the fossil fuel industry off, HuffPost has learned.
» Read article             

» More about fossil fuel

BIOMASS

burning down the houseBurning down the house? Enviva’s giant U.S. wood pellet plants gear up
By Saul Elbein, Mongabay
July 29, 2020

When biomass manufacturer Enviva completes its two newest U.S. Gulf Coast plants on opposite sides of the Alabama-Mississippi state line, likely by 2021, they will be the largest “biomass for energy” manufacturing plants on the planet.

Every year, the two factories will grind the equivalent of a hundred square miles of forest into 2.7 million metric tons of combustible wood pellets, to be burned at former coal plants in Europe and Asia — with all the resulting carbon released into the atmosphere.

These U.S. biomass plants, and the wood pellets they churn out, will thrive atop a shaky Jenga tower of political, economic and environmental paradoxes, according to environmentalists. Unable to compete with carbon fuels like coal or natural gas on price, Enviva’s wood pellet plants will stay afloat because of direct and implicit subsidies coming from the European Union, whose members agreed to derive 32% of their energy from renewables by 2030 — a category that they deemed to include biomass.

Those subsidies, say scientists, are based on now debunked research first conducted and used as guidance for making policy incorporated into the Kyoto Climate Agreement, a policy then grandfathered into the 2015 Paris Agreement. They say the mistake that makes biomass economically viable today is the contention that burning up the world’s forests to produce energy is carbon neutral, an inconvenient untruth that, critics contend, the United Nations has dodged facing at every annual international meeting since Paris.

And so the EU renewables quotas — with their claim of biomass carbon neutrality — have meant a boon for companies like Enviva that sell wood pellets to energy producers and countries now leery of more traditional power sources, ranging from nuclear to coal to hydropower, and who want to squeeze a few more decades out of existing coal burning power plants — now converted to burning wood pellets on an industrial scale.
» Read article             

what it looks like
House Climate Crisis Action Plan Gets a Lot Right on Biomass

By Sasha Stashwick, National Resources Defense Council – blog post
July 9, 2020

Biomass refers to the use of any plant or organic matter to produce energy. Too often, in places that have incentivized biomass use to generate electricity like the European Union, biomass is incentivized to generate electricity in dedicated power plants, or old coal plants converted to run partially or fully on biomass. The fuel demand of these plants is so large that the only source of biomass supply big enough to meet is, unfortunately, wood from forests.

Established science now shows that burning biomass from forests for electricity is not a climate solution within timeframes relevant to addressing climate change. Here in the US, it’s therefore critical that federal climate plans do not repeat the same mistakes as the E.U. in adopting flawed policies based on the debunked assumption of biomass “carbon neutrality.”

In 2018, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put out its report describing the climate action necessary to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, it explained that countries would have to cut their CO2 emissions, such as from power plants, to net zero by around 2050. To reach that goal, it said, CO2 emissions would have to start dropping “well before 2030” and be on track to fall by roughly 45% by around 2030. Scientists are clear that what we do over the next decade is incredibly consequential in this fight.

That is why the timeframe used to evaluate the climate impacts of biomass systems is so critical. Evaluate the carbon impacts of biomass-burning over a long enough timeframe, and it may look good. Eventually, if new trees are replanted, they can suck up the carbon that was emitted when older trees were harvested and burned as fuel for energy production. But trees take many decades to grow back. In the meantime, biomass electricity actually loads the atmosphere with more CO2 than fossil fuels (because wood is a less energy dense fuel, so more of it needs to be burned to generate the same amount of electricity).
» Read article             

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 5/15/20

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

Although the coronavirus put a temporary stop to protests and actions against pipeline projects, there’s still a lot of activity behind the scenes. Eversource’s planned Ashland pipeline was deemed unnecessary in a report by the town’s consultant. Meanwhile, with the Weymouth compressor station nearing completion, the mayor is negotiating funding for various projects as compensation for hosting the facility. Read Bill McKibben’s interview with compressor resistance leaders Alice Arena and the Reverend Betsy Sowers for useful insights.

The political right is spinning pandemic-related economic pain as a preview of conditions it claims would follow enactment of the Green New Deal. This may be a draft copy of the Republican playbook for resisting transition to a greener economy.

New climate models predict unbearable future heat waves, while a fresh look at existing data reveal that episodes of dangerously high temperatures have already begun in some locations. Never mind – fossil fuel supporters are out banging the drum about the agricultural benefits of even more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

For a peek at a brighter, science-based future, you’ll find reports about innovation and progress in our energy efficiency, clean energy, energy storage, and clean transportation sections. Plus an interesting article about Maine’s proposal to solve its electricity reliability problems through a public purchase of the delivery system. The move has potential to green the grid more quickly.

When Trump’s EPA replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, we expected the “clean energy” part to be pretty meaningless. Confirmed – they just needed words that started with “C” and “E” so the rule could have a snappy acronym.

Our fossil fuel industry and LNG sections are all about exports of natural gas – especially to Europe. This ties into Bill McKibben’s interview about the Weymouth compressor station. Geopolitics (and the Trump administration’s desire to boost U.S. energy production) promote LNG exports to counter Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. At the same time, market headwinds are blowing strongly against LNG – and investors may ultimately decide it’s too risky. The Weymouth compressor is all about LNG exports, but five years of fierce and effective resistance has raised the stakes. If the global economic recession is deep and prolonged, Enbridge may have to choose between profit and pride.

— The NFGiM Team

ASHLAND PIPELINE

Ashland consultant says Eversource pipeline project is unnecessary
By Cesareo Contreras, MetroWest Daily News
May 11, 2020

Here a few of the key takeaways from the report:

Major growth in the area not expected any time soon

The clinic has concluded that Eversource’s new project is not needed to meet current demand, nor would it be needed in the long term.

In its application, Eversource notes that customer demand for natural gas has increased in the past five years in the towns of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Natick and Sherbon. The company argues demand will continue to grow as more people turn to its services in the area – requiring the need for the new pipes.

The clinic argues, however, that Eversource doesn’t provide any data to explain why demand has risen in recent years. The clinic argues the growth isn’t the result of new customers moving into those areas, but rather homes and businesses switching to natural gas from other forms of heating. The clinic further claims that the Greater Framingham region’s population will not grow quickly enough for the current pipeline to be overwhelmed anytime soon, noting that between the years of 2010 and 2017, growth in total households in the area only increased .8 percent per year.

“The expected future growth to 2030 in total households across these towns range from a low negative .02 percent year in Sherborn to a high of 1.5 percent per year in Ashland,” the report reads, citing information from the U.S Census Bureau, UMass Donahue Institute and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Eversource’s projections in demand are higher than the federal or state government and do not comply with the state’s Global Warming Solution Act.
» Read article

» More about the Ashland Pipeline          

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

mitigation talks
Weymouth compressor station moves toward completion

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the town will need to work with the gas company to make sure the facility is as safe as possible.
By  Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
May 12, 2020

With the project allowed to proceed and construction well underway, Hedlund said there have been discussions about a mitigation payment from Enbridge to fund things such as improvements in North Weymouth and potential public safety resources. Hedlund said some residents are opposed to taking any money from the gas company, even as the compressor station becomes operational.

“Philosophically, do I work with them to address these things – things that will cost money? Do I put it on them, or do I put it on us?” he said.

Town officials have not had any discussions with Enbridge recently regarding mitigation, Hedlund said, but those talks are inevitable as the compressor nears completion. Hedlund said $10 million was a “marker thrown down” for a potential payment to the town, though there is no firm number.
» Read article      

One Crisis Doesn’t Stop Because Another Starts (scroll down to “Passing the Mic”)
By Bill McKibben, New Yorker
May 14, 2020


Enbridge hopes to move fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to [eastern] Canada, for export as L.N.G. [liquid natural gas]. It’s a battle with Russia for the European market, even as Europe turns toward renewables and some of Enbridge’s contracts in Europe are disappearing. (A small amount of the gas is destined for local distribution in Canada.) Its only point is to set one precedent and prevent another. It would set a precedent as the only transmission compressor station sited in a designated port area, in a FEMA flood zone, in a densely populated urban area adjacent to two environmental-justice communities, on only 4.3 acres of land. It would avoid setting the precedent of losing to a ragtag citizens group and a few municipalities who have cost them millions in overruns and lost shipping capacity in a five-year legal battle. They would be pariahs at fossil-fuel cocktail parties.
» Blog editor’s note: the whole newsletter is worth reading, but we’re focused on the “Passing the Mic” section which features an email conversation between McKibben and two leading organizers of opposition to the Weymouth Compressor Station.
» Read article      

» More about the Weymouth compressor station       

GREENING THE ECONOMY

GOP gaslight gambit
G.O.P. Coronavirus Message: Economic Crisis Is a Green New Deal Preview
As the economy melts down, embattled conservatives are testing a political response: saying Democratic climate policies would bring similar pain.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
May 7, 2020

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus and the struggle to contain it has tanked the economy, shuttered thousands of businesses and thrown more than 30 million people out of work. As President Trump struggles for a political response, Republicans and their allies have seized on an answer: attacking climate change policies.

“If You Like the Pandemic Lockdown, You’re Going to Love the Green New Deal,” the conservative Washington Examiner said in the headline of a recent editorial. Elizabeth Harrington, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, wrote in an opinion article in The Hill that Democrats “think a pandemic is the perfect opportunity to kill millions more jobs” with carbon-cutting plans.
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy 

CLIMATE

carbon candyClimate Deniers Argue Carbon Pollution Is Beneficial, Again Take Aim at EPA’s Endangerment Finding
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
May 12, 2020

Climate science deniers at think tanks with fossil fuel ties are doubling down on attempts to undermine the bases for regulating climate pollution, from attacking estimated carbon pollution costs used in regulatory analyses to urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its own scientific finding that underpins federal climate rules.

Even as experts’ understandings of climate science and the costs of carbon pollution have strengthened significantly, opponents of climate action are publishing flawed studies in scientific journals to support false claims that align with the fossil fuel industry’s deregulatory agenda.
» Read article      

wicked hot trending
Potentially fatal bouts of heat and humidity on the rise, study finds
Scientists identify thousands of extreme events, suggesting stark warnings about global heating are already coming to pass
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
May 8, 2020

Intolerable bouts of extreme humidity and heat which could threaten human survival are on the rise across the world, suggesting that worst-case scenario warnings about the consequences of global heating are already occurring, a new study has revealed.

Scientists have identified thousands of previously undetected outbreaks of the deadly weather combination in parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America, including several hotspots along the US Gulf coast.

Humidity is more dangerous than dry heat alone because it impairs sweating – the body’s life-saving natural cooling system.

The number of potentially fatal humidity and heat events doubled between 1979 and 2017, and are increasing in both frequency and intensity, according to the study published in Science Advances.
» Read article     
» Read the study

» More about climate         

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

smart streetlights
Cities ‘finally waking up’ to the benefits of smart streetlights: survey
By Chris Teale, Utility Dive
May 7, 2020

Investments in smart street lighting could total $8.2 billion over the next decade, according to a survey from smart infrastructure market intelligence firm Northeast Group LLC. Utilities are considering more efficient and connected street lighting as a way to help manage system demand and lower carbon emissions.

Northeast Group surveyed 314 large U.S. cities and found 185 cities (59%) are in the process of converting streetlights to LEDs, while 59 cities (19%) are considering smart street lighting. While LED conversion is the “largest piece of the pie” in terms of smart streetlight investment, there is increasing interest in two other areas: remote streetlight monitoring, and using streetlights to support broader internet of things (IoT) applications like air quality or traffic sensors.
» Read article      

» More about energy efficiency     

CLEAN ENERGY

rural coal cleanup
Closing of North Dakota Coal Plant, Energy Transition Comes Home to Rural America
The move may signal a turning point for rural cooperatives, which have been slow to embrace renewable energy
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
May 14, 2020

Great River Energy has announced it will close the largest coal-fired power plant in North Dakota and replace it with renewable sources, an almost complete overhaul of the way the utility provides electricity to the smaller rural electric cooperatives it serves.

The plan made me sit up and take notice because rural electric cooperatives have been slow to move away from coal and embrace renewables. These cooperatives serve only about 12 percent of the nation’s customers, but they operate a disproportionately large share of coal-fired power plants across the country.

Great River says it is taking these actions because the coal plant has become too expensive and customers increasingly want renewable energy.
» Read article      

renewables matching coal
In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.
The coronavirus has pushed the coal industry to once-unthinkable lows, and the consequences for climate change are big.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
May 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change.

It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. And it comes despite the Trump administration’s three-year push to try to revive the ailing industry by weakening pollution rules on coal-burning power plants.

Now the coronavirus outbreak is pushing coal producers into their deepest crisis yet.

As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the coronavirus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And, because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response.
» Read article      

regional descrepancies - not
Duke CEO decries ‘assault’ on natural gas as shareholders, others blast company’s resource plans
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
May 13, 2020

Duke Energy faced tough questions from shareholders about its long-term resource plan last week, ahead of its Q1 earnings call on Tuesday.

Duke has been criticized by some for its plans to build out natural gas infrastructure, as well as its perceived slow progress on other clean energy investments. That concern was echoed by shareholders during the company’s 2020 shareholder meeting on Thursday, who asked the utility a number of questions related to its progress, especially relative to other utilities.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy         

ENERGY STORAGE

shiver and buzz
Cold storage: Organic proton batteries show disposal, solar pairing advantages in advance to market
A Sweden-based research team’s new battery can withstand low temperatures and more efficiently store renewable energy.
By Lynn Freehill-Maye, Utility Dive
May 11, 2020

Scientists in Sweden are stepping up in the global race to efficiently store renewable energy with an all-organic proton battery whose capabilities surprised even the researchers. Among them, the battery can be recharged directly from a solar cell within seconds, and can withstand temperatures of up to -24 degrees Celsius [-11.2 degrees F] without losing capacity.

The path to market remains long, but easier disposal compared to the hazardous-waste disposal challenges surrounding lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries could also provide a competitive advantage in the rapidly expanding energy-storage market, analysts say.
» Read article      

power to gas
Power-to-gas could be key to California’s long-duration storage needs, stakeholders say
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
May 6, 2020

Power-to-gas technologies, which soak up excess renewables that would otherwise have been curtailed to produce methane or hydrogen, are an option that can be seriously considered for California’s path to carbon neutrality, Karl Meeusen, senior advisor of infrastructure and regulatory policy at the California Independent System Operator, said during a webinar Tuesday.

Wärtsilä’s roadmap — initially presented during a webinar in March and then updated with a scenario based on hydrogen production — could help California reach its clean electricity goal five years ahead of the 2045 deadline, according to the company. It requires a quicker build out of renewables and battery storage than is currently laid out by the state’s integrated resource planning process, and then deploying power-to-gas technology to siphon off the excess renewables closer to 2045.

Any power system moving closer to 100% renewables will have huge amounts of over-generation, which will then need to be dumped somewhere, Ferrari said. But with power-to-gas technology, excess renewables can be sucked up either to electrolyze water, creating hydrogen, or power a methanizer, which produces methane.
» Blog editor’s note: methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and hydrogen reacts with atmospheric hydroxyl (OH) radicals, neutralizing them so they can’t do their work destroying greenhouse gases such as… methane. Since deployment of this technology would create methane and/or hydrogen leaks, any environmental analysis must consider a realistic accounting for the effect of these gases on climate. A word search through Wärtsilä Energy’s white paper turned up zero hits on “leak”.
» Read article     
» Read the Wärtsilä Energy
white paper

» More about energy storage   

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Rocky Mountain low carbon
Colorado Plans to Eliminate Emissions from Road Transportation
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
May 6, 2020

Colorado is moving ahead with a plan to get nearly 1 million electric vehicles (EV) on its roads by 2030 and, for the first time, has adopted a long-term goal of transitioning to 100 percent electric and zero-emission vehicles.

The state’s Energy Office recently released the Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan 2020, an update to the 2018 EV plan that established a target of 940,000 EVs by 2030. The new plan retains that target and lays out a vision for a “large-scale transition of Colorado’s transportation system to zero emission vehicles.” That vision includes electrifying all light-duty vehicles and making all medium and heavy-duty vehicles zero-emission (including electric, hydrogen, and other zero emissions technologies).

As noted in the 2020 EV Plan, transportation is projected to be the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Colorado by this year. Transitioning to to nearly a million EVs by 2030 could result in an annual reduction of 3 million tons of climate pollution in the state. De-carbonizing the transportation sector is a key strategy for meeting Colorado’s targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, targets that are outlined in a state climate action law passed last year.
» Read article
» Read the plan

» More about clean transportation   

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Maine proposes public utility
Maine utility critics plot public takeover of the state’s electric grid
Creating a publicly owned distribution utility could boost reliability and renewables, supporters of the proposal argue.
By Tom Perkins, Energy News Network
Photo by
Jim Bowen, Flickr / Creative Commons
May 13, 2020

Years of simmering frustration over power outages and transmission issues in Maine is fueling a pitch for a public takeover of the state’s electric grid.

Maine records longer and more frequent power outages than any other state, according to federal data. The state’s investor-owned utilities blame the state’s rugged topography, but critics say the companies have underinvested in the grid infrastructure that could improve reliability and better accommodate renewables.

Now, a bipartisan bill is proposing to buy the transmission and distribution infrastructure of Central Maine Power and Emera and create a new publicly owned utility to operate it.
» Read article      

» More about electric utilities     

EPA

intended consequences
EPA’s New ACE Rule for Power Plants Barely Decreases Emissions
By Yale Climate Connections, in EcoWatch
May 12, 2020

Last year, the EPA repealed the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era policy aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants.

The agency replaced it with the Affordable Clean Energy – or ACE – rule.

The new rule does not place limits on power plant pollution. Instead, it directs states to prioritize energy efficiency improvements at power plants. The idea is that more-efficient plants will burn less fuel.

“An unfortunate kind of unintended consequence of that approach is that those power plants then become more cost-effective to operate and tend to run more,” says Kathy Fallon Lambert of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.

Her team analyzed EPA data about the expected impact of the ACE rule. Because some plants will likely run more and old power plants may be kept online longer, she says that over a fifth of power plants were estimated to have an increase in CO2 emissions.
» Read article
» Read the analysis          

» More about the EPA      

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

gas exports slow
Natural Gas Exports Slow as Pandemic Reduces Global Demand
Businesses in the United States, Israel and other countries were planning to invest billions in export terminals. Now, those projects are being canceled or delayed.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
May 11, 2020

HOUSTON — A few months ago, Israel and some Arab countries were laying the groundwork for an energy partnership that held the potential for economic cooperation between once-hostile neighbors.

Israel started selling natural gas to Egypt, which in turn was reviving two gas export terminals, attracting badly needed foreign investment and opening a path for Israeli gas to Europe. Lebanon was preparing to drill its first offshore gas well after years of delays. And Palestinian representatives joined a regional forum with officials from Israel and other countries to lift energy exports to Europe.

The damage to the gas trade goes well beyond the Middle East, hurting businesses from Australia to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The pandemic is putting the brakes on a two-decade-long global expansion for natural gas, which has been replacing coal for electricity and heating and even competing with oil as a transportation fuel in some developing countries.
» Read article      

» More about fossil fuels     

LNG

EU LNG from Russia
LNG Imports and New Supply Challenge Russia’s Hold on European Gas Market
By Yigal Chazan, Geopolitical Monitor
May 12, 2020

Russia’s dominance of Europe’s natural gas market, widely seen as threatening European energy security, is likely to be increasingly challenged as new suppliers establish a foothold in the region.

While Russia remains the European Union’s largest gas provider, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the US and other sources, such as Qatar, coupled with the emergence of Azerbaijan as a major gas supplier, is creating real competition, reducing member states’ dependence on Russia.
» Read article      

US LNG tankers to Europe to see a bleak outlook starting June: traders
By Antoine Simon, S&P Global
April 29, 2020

London — With continued support in US Henry Hub natural gas prices reaching near parity with European gas benchmarks, Europe is set for far less US LNG imports starting in June, traders argue.

LNG prices have collapsed globally, as the fallout from the coronavirus continues to destroy demand in the fuels’s most significant geographic markets. Traders expect a diminishing fleet of US LNG tankers to Europe as a result.

Global LNG prices are not expected to recover significantly before next winter, further pressuring North American project developers that are trying to advance new liquefaction capacity at the same time the coronavirus pandemic is weakening demand, the International Gas Union said Monday.

An IGU report highlighted 907 million mt/year of liquefaction capacity that has been proposed and has yet to be sanctioned by a final investment decision.
» Read article      

» More about liquefied natural gas  

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