Tag Archives: Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Weekly News Check-In 1/8/21

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Welcome back.

The Trump administration derailed this week, arriving at what some observers might describe as its inevitable destination. But we still managed to keep at least some of our attention on the energy scene.

Opponents of Weymouth’s compressor station have vowed to keep up the fight, focusing on a petition drive and information campaign. That project was typical of the recent fossil fuel infrastructure build-out, where construction proceeded even prior to obtaining final permits. This sets up an awkward situation when, as in the case of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a project is cancelled. Property was taken and damaged. Trees were felled and miles of pipe are in the ground – now what?

ExxonMobil is playing the victim card in an attempt to evade litigation in Massachusetts court, where it is being sued for fraud related to climate change. Ironically, the giant oil company claims that Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit amounts to a SLAPP, or “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation”. Anti-SLAPP legislation exists to protect against lawsuits aimed at quelling free speech, and it’s typically invoked by environmental groups seeking shelter from frivolous litigation brought against them by the fossil fuel industry attempting to quell protest.

Greening the economy inevitably involves building a lot of new green infrastructure, and that requires a whole lot of concrete. To help minimize the embodied carbon in all this new construction, planners are increasingly turning to a new tool: EC3, or the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator.

Our climate section looks back at 2020, which by all accounts was brutal on both an individual and global level. It was the hottest year on record, with the cost of climate-driven disasters doubling in the U.S. from the previous year. And a new study concludes that we’ve now locked in at least two degrees celsius of warming over the preindustrial benchmark.

On a happier note, deep geothermal is a source of clean energy made accessible by drilling techniques and knowledge of geological formations developed by the fracking industry. It is now technologically possible to drill miles down to hot rock, water, and steam in Earth’s mantle, and apply that energy directly to district heating systems.

Energy efficiency is a good news / bad news story this week. On the one hand, Boston is implementing zoning that requires new large buildings to be net-zero energy consumers. The bad news involves a proposed policy change by the International Code Council (ICC), to eliminate voting by municipal officials when a new base energy efficiency code is developed. We feel this is direct blow-back by the powerful building and development lobbies, in response to tremendous voter participation in 2019, which resulted in a roughly 10% improvement in building energy efficiency. We urge you to take just three minutes right now to use this template and object to this anti-democratic policy change (deadline Monday, 1/11 at 8PM).

If you top up your car in Cambridge, you’ll soon notice a sticker on the fuel pump reminding you that burning gasoline is bad for the planet. It also asks users to consider alternative clean transportation.

The big legislative news involves a major climate bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature and currently awaiting Governor Baker’s signature. There is massive public support for this, along with considerable uncertainty about whether or not the Governor will sign it.

The Environmental Protection Agency implemented a rule change that disregards scientific studies unless they fully disclose all underlying data. That sounds reasonable until you consider that any legitimate study involving the effects of pollution on human health necessarily requires vast amounts of personal medical data protected by privacy laws. This is simply another pro-industry, anti-science move by Trump’s EPA, and takes a page directly from the tobacco industry’s original self-defense playbook.

Meanwhile, Mark C. Christie was sworn in this week to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The fossil fuel industry largely shrugged off the Trump administrations offer to lease drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Countering that bit of good news is a disturbing forecast for an expected 12% investment bump in Canada’s oil industry during 2021.

And we wrap up our news with biomass. While the just-passed Massachusetts climate legislation appears to put the brakes on applying renewable energy credits for biomass-to-energy plants, there’s still considerable uncertainty about the fine print. Recently proposed changes to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard further complicate the situation. Opponents of the proposed biomass generating plant in East Springfield are actively seeking clarification.

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

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

FRRACS petition drive
Compressor opponents continue their fight
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local
January 4, 2021

WEYMOUTH- The natural gas compressor station could be fully operative sometime in January, but opponents of the facility show no signs of quitting.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station leader Alice Arena said the group is launching a No Compressor Weymouth  petition drive for people to state their opposition to the facility to government leaders.

“More than anything, we are trying to get people to know about the situation,” she said. “It makes you a little crazy that there are some people who literally live blocks away from the place, and they don’t know what it is about.”

The compressor station is owned by Enbridge Inc. and is managed by the company’s subsidiary, Algonquin Gas Transmission.

Enbridge received a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January 2017 to construct the facility.

Opponents say the compressor station poses health and safety dangers to Weymouth, Quincy, East Braintree, Hull, and Hingham.

Gas leaks occurred at the facility during tests on Sept. 11 and Sept. 30.

According to state and local officials, both seepages collectively released 444,000 cubic feet of natural gas into the facility’s air and forced emergency shutdowns.

The leaks are under investigation by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
» Read article             

» More about the Weymouth compressor station          

 

PIPELINES

unwrap the ACP
Regulators get plan for undoing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
By Sarah Rankin, Associated Press, on PBS News Hour
January 5, 2021

The developers of the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline have laid out plans for how they want to go about unwinding the work that was done for the multistate natural gas project and restoring disturbed land.

In a filing with federal regulators made public Tuesday, the pipeline company proposed an approximately two-year timeline for efforts across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, where progress on the project ranged from uninitiated to essentially complete.

The plan outlines where the company wants to clean up felled trees and where it plans to leave them behind, and it proposes abandoning the approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) of pipe that was installed in place.

“We spent the last several months working really closely with landowners and agencies to develop the most responsible approach for closing out the project,” said Aaron Ruby, an employee of lead developer Dominion Energy who has served as a spokesman for the joint project with Duke Energy. “And ultimately our primary goal is to complete the project as efficiently as possible, and with minimal environmental disturbance.”

Ruby also confirmed for the first time that the company does not intend to voluntarily release the easement agreements it secured on landowners’ properties.

In most cases, the legal agreements were obtained through negotiations with landowners, who were paid and who the company has previously said will keep their compensation. But in other cases, in which sometimes vociferously opposed landowners fought the project, the easements were obtained through eminent domain proceedings.
» Read article             

Enbridge utility contractors
Ojibwe bands ask appeals court to stop Enbridge Line 3 construction
The Red Lake and White Earth bands filed suit, the second such filing in a week by pipeline opponents.
By Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune
December 30, 2020

Two Ojibwe bands have petitioned the Minnesota Court of Appeals to suspend state regulators’ approval of Enbridge’s new Line 3 and stop construction of the controversial pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The petition filed late Tuesday by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe is the second such filing in the past week by pipeline opponents to shut down construction on the $2.6 billion pipeline. Enbridge earlier this month started work on the replacement for the aging and corroding current Line 3 earlier this month.

In a separate filing Wednesday, Friends of the Headwaters also asked the state appellate court to halt the pipeline, citing “irreparable” environmental harm.

The two bands — plus the Sierra Club and the Indigenous environmental group Honor the Earth — last week sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., asking for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of Line 3.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the state’s primary pipeline regulator, approved Line 3 in February after nearly six years of review.

Several groups, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, challenged that decision before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, arguing among other things that the PUC didn’t properly evaluate Enbridge’s long-term oil demand forecast.
» Read article             

» More about pipelines             

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Mobil in Saugus
Exxon Doubles Its Defense, Urges Mass. State Court to Toss Mass. Attorney General’s Climate Fraud Case with Two Motions to Dismiss

By Dana Drugmand, Climate in the Courts
January 3, 2021

ExxonMobil is pushing back, and trying to play the victim card, in response to a climate change accountability lawsuit filed in October 2019 by the Massachusetts attorney general alleging investor and consumer fraud over the oil major’s statements and advertising pertaining to its fossil fuel products and their impacts on the climate system.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued ExxonMobil on October 24, 2019 for allegedly misleading investors and consumers on climate risks of Exxon’s business and products – including systemic risks to the economy – in violation of Massachusetts’ consumer protection statute. The complaint includes allegations of failing to disclose climate-related risks to Exxon’s business to investors, deceptive marketing of certain Exxon products as environmentally friendly to consumers, and ongoing misleading or greenwashed advertising of the company to obscure Exxon’s harmful environmental and climate impact. It is just one of almost two dozen lawsuits targeting Exxon and similar petroleum giants for deceptive behavior on the climate consequences of their products to protect their business interests.

The oil major is not only pushing back with a standard motion to dismiss, but is complaining that its protected speech or “petitioning rights” are unlawfully targeted by the lawsuit. In other words, Exxon is playing the victim card and demanding the court dismiss the lawsuit under an anti-SLAPP action. SLAPP refers to “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation” and anti-SLAPP laws are intended to protect against lawsuits quelling free speech.

Exxon filed a special motion to dismiss under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute on July 30, 2020. In its motion, Exxon argues that the Mass. AG lawsuit amounts to “lawfare,” and is an attempt to squash political opponents who do not share the Commonwealth’s views on climate change.      

“Those, like ExxonMobil, who decline to parrot the Attorney General’s call for an immediate transition to renewable energy are not simply diverse viewpoints in a public debate with state, federal, and global policy implications, but targets who must be silenced through ‘lawfare,’” Exxon attorneys write.  

Exxon also alleges that the Attorney General “conspired” with private interests like environmental activists and attorneys to bring this litigation, and that the real objective is to impose the AG’s preferred “views” and policies on climate. In essence, Exxon argues that the AG’s allegations concern policy disagreements, not deceptive or fraudulent conduct. According to Exxon, the “Attorney General brought this suit to advance its preferred climate policies by silencing perceived political opponents.”
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions            

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

global cement productionCutting Concrete’s Carbon Footprint
New approaches could reduce the carbon-intensity of cement production and lessen concrete’s broader environmental impact.
By Ingrid Lobet, GreenTech Media
January 5, 2021

After years of slow headway, building design and industry professionals say sharp reductions in the climate impact of concrete are possible now. That is significant because cement, the critical glue that holds concrete together, is so carbon-intensive that if it were a country, it would rank fourth in the world as a climate polluter. 

The Global Cement and Concrete Association this year committed to zero emissions concrete by 2050. No single solution has surfaced to reach this goal. But an expanding set of data tools and departures from tradition are starting to add up. 

Take LinkedIn’s new headquarters in Mountain View, California, which eliminated 4.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide that would have been embedded in the new building, much of it by cutting back on cement. Jenny Mitchell, the company’s senior manager of design and build, works under the gun — parent company Microsoft has committed to removing all its historic carbon from the atmosphere. 

Mitchell believes concrete will actually get to net zero. “I think it is a tall task, but I think we can,” she told 200 people at the virtual Global Concrete Summit this month.

To help get there, Mitchell’s team uses a tool that’s swiftly gaining traction called EC3, for Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator. EC3 launched last year under the auspices of the Carbon Leadership Forum in Seattle.

The free calculator compares the embodied carbon of similar products. Rock aggregate that travels by barge could have a much smaller carbon footprint than aggregate that travels by truck, for example, even if it comes from farther away.

The EC3 software works by comparing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that are fed into it by suppliers. Picture a nutrition label, but instead of calories and carbohydrates, it lists carbon quantities. 

“The number of EPDs for concrete is exploding,” rising from 800 to 23,000 over the past year or so, said Don Davies, president of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, a structural and civil engineering firm in Seattle. “Embodied carbon is starting to be a differentiator as to [which firm] gets the work.”
» Read article             

» More about greening the economy            

 

CLIMATE

hot 2020
2020 Ties 2016 as Earth’s Hottest Year on Record, Even Without El Niño to Supercharge It
Annual reports from European and Japanese climate agencies show that last year was yet another marked by extraordinary global heat.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
January 8, 2021

European climate scientists have tallied up millions of temperature readings from last year to conclude that 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record for the planet.

It’s the first time the global temperature has peaked without El Niño, a cyclical Pacific Ocean warm phase that typically spikes the average annual global temperature to new highs, said Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, who was lead author on its annual report for 2020.

That report shows the Earth’s surface temperature at 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1850 to 1890 pre-industrial average, and 1.8 degrees warmer than the 1981 to 2010 average that serves as a baseline against which annual temperature variations are measured.

In the past, the climate-warming effect of El Niño phases really stood out in the long-term record, Vamberg said. The 1998 “super” El Niño caused the largest annual increase in global temperatures recorded up to that time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

“If you look at the 1998 El Niño, it was really a spike, but now, we’re kind of well above that, simply due to the trend,” Vamberg said.
» Read article             

Silverado Fire
U.S. Disaster Costs Doubled in 2020, Reflecting Costs of Climate Change
The $95 billion in damage came in a year marked by a record number of named Atlantic storms, as well as the largest wildfires recorded in California.
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
January 7, 2021

Hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters across the United States caused $95 billion in damage last year, according to new data, almost double the amount in 2019 and the third-highest losses since 2010.

The new figures, reported Thursday morning by Munich Re, a company that provides insurance to other insurance companies, are the latest signal of the growing cost of climate change. They reflect a year marked by a record number of named Atlantic storms, as well as the largest wildfires ever recorded in California.

Those losses occurred during a year that was one of the warmest on record, a trend that makes extreme rainfall, wildfires, droughts and other environmental catastrophes more frequent and intense.

“Climate change plays a role in this upward trend of losses,” Ernst Rauch, the chief climate scientist at Munich Re, said in an interview. He said continued building in high-risk areas had also contributed to the growing losses.

The new numbers come as the insurance industry struggles to adjust to the effects of climate change. In California, officials have tried a series of rule changes designed to stop insurers from pulling out of fire-prone areas, leaving homeowners with few options for insurance.

Homeowners and governments around the United States need to do a better job of making buildings and communities more resilient to natural disasters, said Donald L. Griffin, a vice president at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, which represents insurance companies.

“We can’t, as an industry, continue to just collect more and more money, and rebuild and rebuild and rebuild in the same way,” Mr. Griffin said in an interview. “We’ve got to place an emphasis on preventing and reducing loss.”
» Read article             

locked-in warming
More Than Two Degrees of Climate Warming Is Already Locked In, New Study Finds
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
January 6, 2021

Existing greenhouse gases will eventually push the climate into more than two degrees of warming, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change on Monday.

That number puts the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels out of reach, says Andrew Dessler, study coauthor and Texas A&M University climate scientist. Still, he warned against “climate doomers,” The Associated Press reported.

“While I would not categorize this as good news, it is not game over for the climate,” Dessler said in a video explaining the paper.

So what exactly does the study say?

Dessler worked with colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) and Nanjing University in China to analyze what is called “committed warming,” or the amount of warming that would occur if atmospheric greenhouse gases were paused at their current concentrations.

Previous estimates had put committed warming at around 1.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Dessler said in the video. But those estimates were based on faulty assumptions about Earth’s climate system, the paper authors argued.

“Typically, committed warming is estimated assuming that changes in the future will pretty much follow changes in the past,” Mark Zelinka, coauthor and LLNL atmospheric scientist, said in a press release. “But we now know that this is a bad assumption.”

Specifically, the researchers pointed to the regions of the planet that have not yet warmed, such as the Southern Ocean. The temperatures of these regions cause clouds to form that reflect sunlight and further cool the planet. But eventually those regions will warm too, dispersing the clouds and further raising temperatures.

“After accounting for this effect, the estimated future warming based on the historical record would be much higher than previous estimates,” lead author Chen Zhou of Nanjing University said in the press release.

The researchers estimated that a likely total of 2.3 degrees Celsius of warming is now locked in, about a full degree above the previous estimate.

The good news is that this warming could take centuries to occur, provided the world acts now to reduce emissions.

“If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at the rate we currently are, then we will blow through the 1.5 and two degree Celsius limits possibly within a few decades,” Dessler said in the video. “This means that our work is consistent with the conclusion that we need to reduce emissions as quickly as possible.”

Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, who was not involved with the research, called the study fascinating on Twitter.

“I don’t think this paper fundamentally changes our understanding of committed warming, and pattern effects are still an area of active research. But it should make us a bit cautious about being too confident in predictions of zero warming after emissions reach net-zero,” he concluded.
» Read article            
» Watch video explaining the research       
» Read article predicting less locked-in warming after net-zero achieved        

» More about climate                  

 

CLEAN ENERGY

Svartsengi geothermalCan Geothermal Power Play a Key Role in the Energy Transition?
Aided by advances in deep-drilling technology for fracking, engineers are developing new methods of tapping into the earth’s limitless underground supplies of heat and steam. But the costs of accessing deep geothermal energy are high, and initial government support will be crucial.
By Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360
December 22, 2020

A river of hot water flows some 3,000 feet beneath Boise, Idaho. And since 1983 the city has been using that water to directly heat homes, businesses, and institutions, including the four floors of city hall — all told, about a third of the downtown. It’s the largest geothermal heating system in the country.

Boise didn’t need to drill to access the resource. The 177-degree Fahrenheit water rises to the surface in a geological fault in the foothills outside of town.

It’s a renewable energy dream. Heating the 6 million square feet in the geothermally warmed buildings costs about $1,000 a month for the electricity to pump it. (The total annual cost for depreciation, maintenance, personnel, and repair of the city’s district heating system is about $750,000.)

“We’re heating 92 of the biggest buildings in the city of Boise,” said Jon Gunnarson, the city’s geothermal coordinator. “The buildings strip heat, collect it, and run it to an injection well. We use it once and reinject it and use it again.”

The Boise district system is how geothermal energy is most often thought of — natural hot water is pumped into radiators or used to generate electricity. It is considered a local phenomenon — few places are sitting on an underground river of steaming hot water — and so geothermal has not been viewed as a major feature on the alternative energy landscape.

But a number of experts around the world say that notion is wrong. Thanks especially to the deep-drilling techniques and knowledge about underground formations developed by the oil and gas industry during the fracking boom, a type of geothermal energy called deep geothermal can access hot temperatures in the earth’s mantle as far down as two to three miles. At various depths up to this level, much of the planet contains extremely hot water or there is hot rock into which water can be injected and heated, a technology known as enhanced geothermal systems. In either case, the hot water is pumped out and used to directly heat buildings or to generate electricity with steam or hot water.

“Wherever we are on the surface of the planet, and certainly the continental U.S., if we drill deep enough we can get to high enough temperatures that would work like the Boise system,” said Jefferson Tester, a professor of sustainable energy systems at Cornell University and a leading expert on geothermal energy. “It’s not a question of whether it’s there — it is and it’s significant. It’s a question of getting it out of the ground economically.”
» Read article

MA State House
US solar sector welcomes tax clarity in Massachusetts climate bill
By Edith Hancock, PV Tech
January 5, 2021

A new bill that would require the state of Massachusetts to run on 40% renewable energy by 2030 has been lauded by the US solar industry for making key changes to net metering and tax incentive policies.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts have put forward a new bill that would require the state to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Called An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, it outlines a number of key policies that would accelerate the transition to renewable energy and offer tax breaks for utilities and entities that adopt small solar systems over the coming decade. If passed by Governor Charlie Baker, the conference committee bill could raise the standard requirement for utilities’ renewable energy portfolios in the state by 3% each year between 2025 and 2029.

The bill would also relax the state’s net metering thresholds for solar PV energy, allowing large businesses to sell wholesale rooftop solar power at retail rates. It also included a provision clarifying how taxes are assessed by towns and municipalities on wind, solar and energy storage systems, providing tax breaks for households and small businesses that install behind-the-meter solar systems.

In addition, it provides incentives for entities enrolled in the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) programme to serve lower income areas. Under the programme, which was introduced two years ago, solar power system owners in the state receive fixed rate payments for the energy they produce based on the kilowatt-hours of power produced. The agreements last 10 years and vary based on system size. The state’s lawmakers had issued emergency regulation for the programme last April to double its PV capacity deployment target to 3.2GW, as well as mandating the addition of energy storage on projects exceeding 500kW.
» Read article            
» Read the legislation – S2995         

» More about clean energy              

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Boston net-zeroBoston zoning change would require net-zero emissions from new buildings
The initiative is among the most aggressive of existing or proposed strategies to cut energy consumption in buildings, which are responsible for 70% of the city’s carbon output.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
Photo By Edward Faulkner / Flickr / Creative Commons
January 5, 2021

The city of Boston is laying plans to require newly constructed large buildings to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, a move supporters hope will help make carbon-neutral design more approachable and mainstream. 

“There are going to be folks that find this incredibly challenging — there are a lot of industry norms that are being questioned and challenged,” said John Dalzell, senior architect for sustainable development at the Boston Planning and Development Agency. “But I’m pleased to see some of these old norms starting to fall away.”

In 2019, the city released the Carbon Free Boston report, a framework for making the city carbon neutral by 2050. Reducing emissions from buildings, which are responsible for 70% of the city’s carbon output, is a critical part of the plan. 

Other strategies for cutting building emissions are already in play or in the works. Boston has an existing energy disclosure ordinance, which requires buildings over 35,000 square feet to report their energy use each year. The city is also developing a performance standard that will require these buildings to meet targets for emissions reduction. And last year, Boston partnered with utility Eversource to launch an energy efficiency hub, a set of resources that will help the owners and operators of large buildings find ways to reduce their energy consumption.

One of the most aggressive measures the city intends to take is the plan to require new large buildings to achieve net-zero emissions. 

The details are still under development. The new requirements will modify existing green building zoning guidelines that apply to projects larger than 50,000 square feet, a threshold that includes about two-thirds of all new construction in the city. Over time, the threshold is likely to fall, encompassing more and more buildings over time, Dalzell said.
» Read article           

IECC changes
Code Development Changes Could Silence Voter Voices
By Lauren Urbanek, National Resource Defense Council
December 21, 2020

This year was a busy one when it came to defending strong building energy codes—and it looks like the work won’t be slowing down any time soon. After approving a 2021 energy code that will be more efficient than ever before, the International Code Council (ICC) is considering changes to the code development process that will eliminate local input. The ICC just announced it wants to change how the nation’s model building energy code is developed—moving it from a large, open process to having it be developed by a committee without input from the local government building officials who administer it.

The ICC—which is the body that manages creation of the building code—recently announced a public comment period for a proposal to use a standards process to develop the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), rather than the code development process that has been in place for the past decade and a half. The implications are unclear about what that will mean to the efficiency of future codes, but it’s a substantial change to the process used to develop a code that is referenced in federal law and adopted by jurisdictions in every state of the country.

For years the building energy code development process has been dominated by builders and industry interests, with input from environmental groups like NRDC. Governmental members showed up in a big way to develop the 2021 IECC, with voter turnout at its highest level ever. They voted in droves to approve proposals to make the code the most efficient one ever, with improvements in insulation, lighting, and other building components that will reduce energy consumption while lowering energy bills and keeping inhabitants more comfortable.

It’s impressive progress, achieved through a process that ultimately puts the final vote in the hands of the code officials and other local government employees who are the ones using the code—not anyone with a vested financial interest in the code’s outcome. So why is the ICC proposing such a dramatic change? That’s our question, too.
» Read article          
» Public comment information – deadline for written submissions 8 PM ET, January 11, 2021 (template here – takes about 3 minutes)           

» More about energy efficiency             

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Cambridge stickers fuel pumps
Massachusetts city to post climate change warning stickers at gas stations
Bright yellow stickers warn drivers burning of gasoline has ‘major consequences on human health and the environment’
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
December 25, 2020

Cambridge, Massachusetts, has become the first US city to mandate the placing of stickers on fuel pumps to warn drivers of the resulting dangers posed by the climate crisis.

The final design of the bright yellow stickers, shared with the Guardian, includes text that warns drivers the burning of gasoline, diesel and ethanol has “major consequences on human health and the environment including contributing to climate change”.

The stickers will be placed on all fuel pumps in Cambridge, which is situated near Boston and is home to Harvard University, “fairly soon” once they are received from printers, a city spokesman confirmed.

“The city of Cambridge is working hard with our community to fight climate change,” the spokesman added. “The gas pump stickers will remind drivers to think about climate change and hopefully consider non-polluting options.”
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation              

 

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

Hull turbine
8 Ways The New Climate Bill Affects You, Your Washing Machine And Our Climate Goals
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
January 5, 2021

Gov. Charlie Baker has 10 days to decide whether to sign — or kill — a massive climate bill.

The legislation, which the House and Senate approved Monday, represents the state’s first big update to the landmark 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act. It writes into law the ambitious goal of reducing emissions to net-zero by 2050, and could radically transform the energy sector, building codes, transportation and more.

From geothermal energy to lightbulbs, the bill covers a lot of ground, but here’s what you need to know — in plain English — about how it will affect you, if Baker signs it:
» Read article       

» More legislative news             

 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

new EPA rule
A Plan Made to Shield Big Tobacco From Facts Is Now E.P.A. Policy
The E.P.A. has finalized a so-called transparency plan that it says will improve the credibility of science. Scientists say it is designed to stop new public health protections by limiting what research the agency can consider.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
January 4, 2021

Nearly a quarter century ago, a team of tobacco industry consultants outlined a plan to create “explicit procedural hurdles” for the Environmental Protection Agency to clear before it could use science to address the health impacts of smoking.

President Trump’s E.P.A. has now embedded parts of that strategy into federal environmental policy. On Tuesday Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the E.P.A., formally released a new regulation that favors certain kinds of scientific research over others in the drafting of public health rules.

A copy of the final measure, known as the Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information Rule, says that “pivotal” scientific studies that make public their underlying data and models must be given more weight than studies that keep such data confidential. The agency concluded that the E.P.A. or anyone else should be able to independently validate research that impacts regulations.

“It’s sunshine, it’s transparency,” Mr. Wheeler said of the regulation on Tuesday during an online forum with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that opposes most environmental regulation. He described the policy as an effort “to reduce misunderstanding of our regulatory decisions.”

The new rule, public health experts and medical organizations said, essentially blocks the use of population studies in which subjects offer medical histories, lifestyle information and other personal data only on the condition of privacy. Such studies have served as the scientific underpinnings of some of the most important clean air and water regulations of the past half century.

Critics say the agency’s leaders disregarded the E.P.A.’s scientific review system to create an additional layer of scrutiny designed to impede or block access to the best available science, weakening the government’s ability to create new protections against pollution, pesticides, and possibly even the coronavirus.
» Read article            
» Read the new EPA rule        

» More about the EPA                

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

ISO-NE cap mkt FERCed
Christie Sworn in as Newest FERC Commissioner
FERC press release
January 4, 2021

Mark C. Christie was sworn in today as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during a ceremony in the chambers of the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Judge G. Steven Agee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit performed the swearing-in ceremony.

Commissioner Christie comes to FERC from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, having served three terms totaling almost 17 years, most recently as Chairman. He is a former president of the Organization of PJM States, Inc. (OPSI), which is comprised of regulators representing the 13 states and the District of Columbia that form the PJM region. He also is a former president of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners (MACRUC).

A West Virginia native, Commissioner Christie earned Phi Beta Kappa honors upon graduating from Wake Forest University, and received his law degree from Georgetown University. He has taught regulatory law as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Virginia School of Law and constitutional law and government in a doctoral program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Commissioner Christie also served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
» Read article             

» More about FERC             

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

unbidden ANWR
Trump auction of oil leases in Arctic refuge attracts barely any bidders
Coastal plain was up for sale as part of the Trump administration’s plan to pay for Republicans’ tax cuts with oil revenue
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
January 6, 2021

The Trump administration’s last-minute attempt on Wednesday to auction off part of a long-protected Arctic refuge to oil drillers brought almost zero interest from oil companies, forcing the state of Alaska into the awkward position of leasing the lands itself.

The coastal plain of the Arctic national wildlife refuge was up for sale to drillers as part of the Trump administration’s plan to pay for Republicans’ tax cuts with oil revenue. Conservatives argued the leases could bring in $900m, half for the federal government and half for the state.

But the lease sales fell dramatically short of that amount – with the high bids totaling about $14m on 11 tracts of land that cover about 600,000 acres of the 1.6m-acre coastal plain.

The results back up the arguments from environmental advocates and watchdog groups that leasing the public land is a bad deal for the country, particularly when oil is in such low demand and public scrutiny grows of the industry’s role in the climate crisis and damage to sensitive habitats. Drilling for new oil now, when the planet is already experiencing dangerous heating, would be irresponsible, they said.

“This lease sale was an epic failure for the Trump administration and the Alaska congressional delegation,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. “After years of promising a revenue and jobs bonanza they ended up throwing a party for themselves, with the state being one of the only bidders.”
» Read article             

Exxon reports Scope 3
Exxon, under investor pressure, discloses emissions from burning its fuels
By Reuters staff
January 6, 2021

Exxon Mobil Corp, under increasing pressure from investors and climate change activists, reported for the first time the emissions that result when customers use its products such as gasoline and jet fuel.

The largest U.S. oil producer said the emissions from its product sales in 2019 were equivalent to 730 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, higher than rival oil majors. The data comes as the company has drawn the ire of an activist investor focused on its climate performance.

The so-called Scope 3 data is included in its latest Energy & Carbon Summary released Tuesday, though Exxon downplayed its significance. “Scope 3 emissions do not provide meaningful insight into the Company’s emission-reduction performance,” the report said.

“Even to get to the point of having them disclose this has been like pulling teeth,” said Andrew Grant at think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative. “Quite a lot of the rest of the world has moved on from the disclosure to ‘What are we going to do about this?’”

Most major oil companies already report Scope 3 emissions and some have reduction targets, including Occidental Petroleum, which in November set a goal to offset the impact of the use of its oil and gas by 2050.
» Read article             

Alberta pumps it up
Investment In Canada’s Oil Industry Set To Grow 12% In 2021
By Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price
January 5, 2021

Canada’s oil industry expects that 2021 will be the year of recovery from the downturn caused by the pandemic in 2020, with total investments in Canada’s oil sector expected to increase by 12 percent this year compared to last year.

Combined investments in oil sands operations and conventional oil and gas production are expected to rise to nearly US$21 billion (C$27 billion) in 2021, compared to US$19 billion (C$24 billion) in 2020, Calgary Herald reports, citing forecasts from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

“An extra $2 billion of investment into the Western Canadian economies, relative to 2020, I’d say is a pretty significant vote of confidence there will be some stability and recovery in energy markets,” CAPP vice president Ben Brunnen told Calgary Herald’s Chris Varcoe.

According to CAPP’s November 2020 capital investment and drilling forecast, exploration and production (E&P) capital spending was US$27 billion (C$35 billion) in 2019, down by 10 percent compared to 2018. Due to the pandemic, the forecast for the 2020 investment showed an unprecedented 32-percent slump from 2019 to US$19 billion (C$24 billion).

The association expected that around 3,000 oil and gas wells would have been drilled in 2020, while the number would increase to around 3,300 oil and gas wells drilled in 2021.

Oil companies have plans to ramp up their production after the Alberta government said it would remove oil production limits at the end of last year.
» Read article           

» More about fossil fuel          

 

BIOMASS

Baker is wrong
Baker is wrong to subsidize wood burning
4 scientists say using wood to generate electricity will worsen climate change
By William Moomaw, John Sterman, Juliette Rooney-Varga and Richard Birdsey, CommonWealth Magazine
January 4, 2021

GOVS. CHARLIE BAKER of Massachusetts and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan were featured US officials at the fifth anniversary celebration of the Paris Climate Agreement. Their presence demonstrated that state leaders, from both political parties, are actively battling the climate emergency.

It is therefore baffling that the Baker administration just released new regulations that directly undermine the governor’s and Legislature’s goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The regulations allow wood-burning electric power plants that currently fail to meet Massachusetts’ environmental standards to receive subsidies from ratepayers. But burning wood to generate heat or electricity is unnecessary, will increase carbon emissions, and worsen climate change.

By removing trees from our forests, the proposed regulations also reduce the ability of our forests to remove carbon from the atmosphere. This undermines the governor’s net zero emissions plan that relies on our forests to soak up carbon emitted by any fossil fuels we still use in 2050.  As Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides has noted, “The conservation of the Commonwealth’s forests is critical to meet our ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050.”

The Department of Energy Resources justifies weakening the existing standards by falsely arguing that burning wood instead of natural gas will reduce carbon emissions.  Wood burning releases more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than any fossil fuel – 75 percent more than natural gas. Therefore, generating heat or electricity with wood immediately increases greenhouse gas emissions more than fossil fuels, worsening climate change.

Eventually, regrowth might remove enough carbon to equal the additional carbon emitted when the wood is burned. But regrowth takes time. New England forests take upwards of a century or more for additional growth to capture enough carbon to breakeven with fossil fuels. Break-even times are far longer for wood bioenergy compared to wind and solar, even after counting  the emissions from making and installing the turbines and panels.

Under the Baker administration’s proposed regulations, utilities will be charging electricity users – all of us – to burn more of our forests, worsen climate change, harm our health, and erode social justice. We urge Baker to preserve his reputation as a champion for climate, health, and justice by withdrawing these flawed regulations. The legislature should also eliminate wood bioenergy from the energy sources eligible for subsidies in the climate legislation they are now considering, and support climate-friendly energy instead.
» Read article            
» Read the proposed regulations           

Palmer Paving Corp
Massachusetts lawmakers deal blow to Springfield biomass project
By Jim Kinney, MassLive
January 4, 2021

Power from wood-to-energy plants — like the long-proposed Palmer Renewable Energy in East Springfield — won’t qualify as “green power” for municipal power utilities for at least five years under new rules announced over the weekend by state lawmakers.

A conference committee of state senators and representatives also called on Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration to complete a new study examining the impact of these biomass plants on greenhouse emissions, global climate change and public health. The conference report – meant to hammer out differences between the Senate and House bills passed in 2020 – will go to lawmakers for a vote before the term ends Tuesday.

It’s part of a major climate change legislation.

The five-year moratorium removes one incentive utilities would have had to buy power from Palmer Renewable Energy.

State. Sen. Eric P. Lesser, D-Longmeadow, praised the conference report Sunday, calling it “a major win for environmental justice.”

But Laura Haight, a biomass opponent and U.S. Policy Director for the Partnership for Policy Integrity, said another subsidy that could benefit the Palmer Renewable Energy plant is still alive.

“However, this bill may not have any impact on the proposed biomass plant in Springfield,” she said.

Also winding its way through the statehouse in Boston is a different set of regulations – ones introduced in December by the Baker administration – that would make the Springfield biomass project eligible for green energy credits.

Those regulations, now sitting in front of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, would grant the Palmer Renewables project as much as $13 million a year in green energy subsidies paid for by the state’s electricity customers through the Commonwealth’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards program, also called RPS.

Haight’s group and others have been speaking out against Baker’s proposed rule changes since they came out in December.
» Read article             

» More about biomass              

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Weekly News Check-In 7/10/20

banner 03

Welcome back.

This week it’s possible to look toward the horizon, squint a little into just the right kind of light, and glimpse the faint contours of a sustainable future. The big news stories include the cancellation of the $8 billion, 600 mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline; a federal district court order to shut down and drain the Dakota Access Pipeline pending a proper environmental review; and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to allow continued construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline pending appeal of its water crossing permit – effectively halting a project that presidential candidate Joe Biden promised to end if elected. After years of activism and litigation, the environmental community is celebrating significant progress in the fight against fossil fuel infrastructure buildout. Almost every article in this week’s News Check-In relates to this potential turning point.

Although the Trump administration continues to use the COVID-19 pandemic as cover for its rollback of climate regulations, lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies are proliferating worldwide. The sophistication and success of this litigation has the fossil fuel industry on the ropes, with some analysts concluding it’s no longer possible to build a major pipeline project in the United States. A recent circuit court ruling that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) does not have the authority to postpone decisions on stakeholder requests for rehearing indefinitely, reduces industry advantage even more. As utilities survey this landscape and consider infrastructure investments, they increasingly conclude that renewables are a safer bet than new pipelines and power plants.

It’s worth remembering that significant portions of the natural gas pipeline construction frenzy has been to connect fracking wells to the once-promising liquefied natural gas (LNG) export market. The controversial and highly contested Weymouth compressor station project exists for the primary purpose of pushing fracked gas from the Marcellus shale play up to Nova Scotia’s planned Goldboro LNG terminal. But the global pandemic cratered LNG prices, and the future promises lower demand and much thinner margins than previously imagined. LNG projects are being cancelled or placed on hold worldwide – and the future of Goldboro is uncertain.

So this is a good time to focus on some of the goals and challenges facing a rapid transition to clean energy. One place to start is the Climate Plan just published by the Biden-Sanders “unity task force”. It describes a vision for economic recovery that addresses both climate change and longstanding social and environmental equity issues. Electric vehicles are part of all this, and the auto industry has lately been buzzing about new “million mile” batteries. We found an article explaining that in practical terms.

After all this encouraging news, we’ll close with a cautionary tale: while the pandemic and economic downturn hurt fossil fuels, it’s been something of a gift to the related plastics industry. Lobbyists successfully pushed aside recently-imposed plastic bag bans by promoting mostly unsupported theories of the relative health safety of single-use packaging. It may take years to recover lost ground in public acceptance of reusable bags.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

ACP is dead
Duke Energy, Dominion abandon the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline
By John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal
July 5, 2020

The $8 billion, 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is dead.

Dominion Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. are canceling the project because of continuing court delays likely to drive the price tag higher. That would threaten the economic viability of the project, they say.

Bound up in the cancellation is Dominion’s decision, announced separately, to sell it gas transmission business to Berkshire Hathaway Energy for $4 billion in cash and the assumption of $5.7 billion in debt.

Duke and Dominion specifically cite the April decision by a federal judge in Montana that vacated a key water permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Known as a Nationwide Permit 12, the permission to cross water bodies and wetlands was issued under an expedited process also used to permit the ACP. A decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals at the end of May allowing the order to stand until it is heard on the merits threatened to delay the Duke and Dominion project for at least a year.
» Read article           

project is dead
Atlantic Coast Pipeline win was a hard-earned victory. Beware industry and government’s revisionist history.
By Lorne Stockman, Oil Change International
July 8, 2020

Sunday’s announcement of the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was remarkable for so many reasons. Not least that the two companies, Dominion and Duke, are the most powerful corporate entities in their respective states (Virginia and North Carolina). For these two corporate giants to back down is a rare and beautiful thing to behold.

This victory comes as an enormous relief to people all along the more than 600 miles of pipeline route through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Farmers, homeowners, small business entrepreneurs — the pipeline fighters who won this rich victory were everyday people whose lives were upended for the past six years just because Dominion and Duke came up with a nifty scheme to enrich their shareholders with guaranteed ratepayer money. Or so they’d hoped.

There is little doubt that movements for environmental and climate justice in the U.S. and Canada are turning the tide on a reckless and arrogant industry that has run roughshod over all else for too long. But public statements from the companies involved, as well as from U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouilette, mislead the public about the demise of ACP, as well as the implications for U.S. energy supply.
» Read article           

Dakota Access Pipeline

leaving Cannonball
Judge suspends Dakota Access pipeline over environmental concerns
By Associated Press, in The Guardian
July 6, 2020

A federal judge has sided with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and ordered the Dakota Access pipeline shut down until a more extensive environmental review is done.

US district judge James Boasberg said previously the pipeline, which has been in operation three years, remains “highly controversial” under federal environmental law, and a more extensive review was necessary than the environmental assessment that was done by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

In a 24-page order Monday, Boasberg wrote that he was “mindful of the disruption such a shutdown will cause”, but said he had concluded that the pipeline must be shut down.

“Clear precedent favoring vacatur during such a remand coupled with the seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow for the 13 months that the Corps believes the creation of an EIS will take,” Boasberg wrote.
» Read article           

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard“A Dream That Comes True”: Standing Rock Elder Hails Order to Shut Down DAPL After Years of Protest
By Democracy Now
July 07, 2020

Following years of resistance, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous organizers across the country scored a massive legal victory Monday when a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to be shut down and emptied of all oil, pending an environmental review. “You ever have a dream, a dream that comes true? That is what it is,” responds LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, an elder of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and founder of Sacred Stone Camp, where resistance in 2016 brought tens of thousands of people to oppose the pipeline’s construction on sacred lands. We also speak with Ojibwe lawyer Tara Houska, founder of the Giniw Collective.
» Watch video        

arrogance on display
Energy Transfer Launches Appeals Following Court Order to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
July 9, 2020

On Monday, July 6, a federal judge ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) by August 5. The move follows a March judgment that ordered the pipeline to undergo a more thorough environmental review.

However, Energy Transfer, the pipeline’s parent company, later revealed that the company was continuing to offer deals to oil companies to ship their product on DAPL during times when the pipeline is slated to be shut down. Today, the legal battle moved towards the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, after the judge denied a request to freeze the shutdown order.

Energy Transfer said that it was continuing to offer shippers oil transportation on DAPL after the court-ordered shutdown date, Bloomberg reported on July 8, adding that the company had made “no moves to take it offline.”

“We are not shutting in the line,” Energy Transfer spokeswoman Vicki Granado told Bloomberg, adding “we believe [Judge James Boasberg] exceeded his authority and does not have the jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline or stop the flow of crude oil.”

Energy Transfer’s statement that DAPL was not being shut down caused a stir, with some observers asking whether the company intended to openly defy the federal court.

“To be clear, we have never suggested that we would defy a court order,” the company wrote. “Rather, DAPL is seeking appropriate relief from that order through the established legal process.”

The suggestion that the company might keep oil flowing unlawfully garnered immediate condemnation from Indigenous and environmental organizations.

“Perhaps they’re taking their inspiration from the father of the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson. In response to the 1832 Supreme Court decision that established tribal sovereignty in the U.S. — Worcester vs. Georgia — President Jackson declared: ‘[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it,’” the Lakota People’s Law Project, a Bismark-based legal advocacy group, wrote in a statement.
» Read article           

Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone dead end - Supremes
Supreme Court Won’t Block Ruling to Halt Work on Keystone XL Pipeline
But the justices stayed the rest of a federal trial judge’s ruling striking down a permit program, allowing construction of other pipelines around the nation.
By Adam Liptak, New York Times
July 6, 2020

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request from the Trump administration to allow construction of parts of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that had been blocked by a federal judge in Montana. But the court temporarily revived a permit program that would let other oil and gas pipelines cross waterways after only modest scrutiny from regulators.

The court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices rule on emergency applications, and it said it would last while appeals moved forward. There were no noted dissents.

Environmental groups had challenged the permit program, called for by the Clean Water Act, saying it posed a threat to endangered species. In April, Judge Brian M. Morris of the Federal District Court in Montana suspended the program, which is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, saying that it had been improperly reauthorized in 2017.
» Read article           

In Yet Another Blow to Keystone XL, Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Revive Key Water Crossing Permit
Court Rejects Push from Trump Admin to Allow Construction of KXL Through Waterways Amid Appeal
By Sierra Club
July 6, 2020

Today, the United States Supreme Court declined a request from TC Energy and the Trump administration to allow Keystone XL to proceed under Nationwide Permit 12, a key water crossing permit for pipelines that a district court found unlawful. The court also issued a partial stay of the district court’s decision as it applies to other pipelines while a full appeal of the decision moves forward.
» Read article           

» More about pipelines               

CLIMATE

Trans-Alaska
From the Pandemic to the Protests, Trump Is Using National Crises as Cover for Climate Rollbacks
By Amy Westervelt and Emily Gertz, Drilled News
July 7, 2020

If there’s one thing we’ve learned since we began, three months ago, to track the Trump administration’s climate rollbacks and favors to fossil fuel under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that the fossil fuel industry and its allies never waste a good opportunity to advance their interests with as little public scrutiny as possible.

So in the days and weeks since the first protesters hit the Minneapolis streets on May 26 over the killing of George Floyd, we have not been surprised to see Trump’s team use the national uprising for Black lives and against police brutality for cover to advance a new flurry of incentives for fossil fuel development.

But what is remarkable is how sweeping these moves have been. Over just the first two weeks of June, the Trump administration knocked the foundations out from under U.S. environmental protections by targeting three key laws that the fossil fuel sector has long fought to weaken: the Clean Air, Clean Water, and National Environmental Policy acts.

Let’s take a look at what happened in the first two weeks of June. As always, you can find more details on these moves, and more than 100 other climate-and-energy-related rollbacks and fossil fuel incentives pushed forward since the coronavirus pandemic hit in mid-March on our Climate & COVID-19 Policy Tracker.
» Read article
» Go to the Climate & COVID-19 Policy Tracker

climate litigation report
Report: Global Climate Lawsuits Against Governments and Polluters on the Rise
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
July 7, 2020

Climate litigation is not going away any time soon.

Lawsuits demanding accountability and action on the existential threat of climate change continue to take hold across the world with some significant new developments and new cases emerging over the past year, according to a new report on trends in global climate change litigation.

That report, published July 3 by the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, provides an overview of climate change lawsuits around the world including key developments between May 2019 and May 2020. Grantham Research Institute maintains a database of global climate change lawsuits and in recent years has issued annual reports on trends in climate litigation.

While a majority of climate-related lawsuits are routine cases such as regulatory proceedings or challenges to fossil fuel permitting, cases are also being brought more strategically as a way to hold governments and companies accountable for damaging climate impacts. This kind of litigation against national governments and against fossil fuel companies has taken off in recent years.
» Read article          
» Read the report

delayed gratification
There’s no quick fix for climate change
Scientists looked for a ‘shortcut’ and didn’t find one
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 7, 2020

It could take decades before cuts to greenhouse gases actually affect global temperatures, according to a new study. 2035 is probably the earliest that scientists could see a statistically significant change in temperature — and that’s only if humans take dramatic action to combat climate change.

Specifically, 2035 is the year we might expect to see results if we switch from business-as-usual pollution to an ambitious path that limits global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius — the target laid out in the Paris climate agreement. The world isn’t on track to meet that goal, so we might not see the fruits of our labor until even later. That means policymakers need to be ready for the long haul, and we’re all going to need to be patient while we wait for the changes we make now to take effect.

“I foresee this kind of train wreck coming where we make all this effort, and we have nothing to show for it,” says lead author of the study, Bjørn Samset. “This will take time.”
» Read article          

» More about climate            

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

reverse the TrumpocolypseBeginning of the End for New Oil and Gas Pipelines?
On this week’s Political Climate, we discuss recent pipeline-project setbacks against the backdrop of President Trump’s multiyear effort to expand oil and gas development.
By Julia Pyper, GreenTech Media – podcast
July 9, 2020

In a series of major wins for environmental advocates, three multibillion-dollar pipeline projects — the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — were recently delivered devastating setbacks.

The business and legal decisions undermine President Trump’s multiyear effort to ease environmental regulations and expand oil and gas development in the U.S. Meanwhile, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force has released its roadmap on combating the climate crisis that calls for immediate action “to reverse the Trump administration’s dangerous and destructive rollbacks of critical climate and environmental protections.”

On this week’s episode of Political Climate, we dig deeper into the pipeline project defeats and their implications for the energy sector in an interview with Steven Mufson, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering the business of climate change for The Washington Post.

We discuss the environmental movement’s strategy and recent successes in the courtroom against the backdrop of President Trump’s deregulation agenda. Plus, we address how these developments are playing politically ahead of the 2020 election.
» Listen to podcast       

fast track dead endThis federal permit used to fast-track pipelines. Now it’s threatening them.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
July 8, 2020

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is officially dead as of Sunday, and the Supreme Court delivered another blow to the troubled Keystone XL Pipeline on Monday. While the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s demise was a decision made by its developers, and Keystone’s impairment a judicial matter, both outcomes are directly tied to the same ongoing battle over a federal permit that helps developers to fast-track pipeline construction called Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12). Its fate could have far-reaching consequences for pipeline development all over the country.

NWP 12 is a streamlined permitting process that’s been around since the 1970s and is designed to get infrastructure built faster. It is considered a “general” permit, in that it gives blanket permission for certain standard construction activities that have been deemed to have minimal impact to rivers, streams, and wetlands. Under the Clean Water Act, pipelines must obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to cross U.S. waters. Pipeline developers can either apply for a Clean Water Act permit for their specific project, which requires extensive environmental assessment and a public comment period, or, they can seek permission to use NWP 12. NWP 12 allows them to skip that public, comprehensive review process if they can demonstrate to the Corps that the project will result in only “minimal adverse environmental effects.”

Environmental groups have been arguing for years that NWP 12 was never meant to be used to streamline such large and environmentally risky infrastructure projects and that pipelines like Keystone should have to undergo full and transparent environmental assessments.

“We need to go back to this individual permit process where there’s a real analysis, there’s public input, there’s everything that the law requires of these types of projects to make sure that they’re not harming the environment or endangered species or anything else,” said [Jared Margolis, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity].
» Read article          

DAPL for example
Is This the End of New Pipelines?
Defeats at three projects reflect increasingly sophisticated legal challenges, shifting economics and growing demands by states to fight climate change.
By Hiroko Tabuchi and Brad Plumer, New York Times
July 8, 2020

They are among the nation’s most significant infrastructure projects: More than 9,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines in the United States are currently being built or expanded, and another 12,500 miles have been approved or announced — together, almost enough to circle the Earth.

Now, however, pipeline projects like these are being challenged as never before as protests spread, economics shift, environmentalists mount increasingly sophisticated legal attacks and more states seek to reduce their use of fossil fuels to address climate change.

“You cannot build anything big in energy infrastructure in the United States outside of specific areas like Texas and Louisiana, and you’re not even safe in those jurisdictions,” said Brandon Barnes, a senior litigation analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

The growing opposition represents a break from the past decade, when energy companies laid down tens of thousands of miles of new pipelines to transport oil and gas from newly accessible shale formations in North Dakota, Texas and the Appalachian region.

Strong grass roots coalitions, including many Indigenous groups, that understand both the legal landscape and the intricacies of the pipeline projects have led the pushback. And the Trump administration has moved some of the projects forward on shaky legal ground, making challenging them slightly easier, said Jared M. Margolis, a staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

In the meantime, the entire energy industry is wrestling with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused demand for oil and gas to drop worldwide. Falling energy prices further complicate the financial case for new pipelines.
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels             

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

stakeholders have rights too
DC Circuit pipeline ruling could prompt dramatic shift in FERC power sector actions, attorneys say
The ruling could have major consequences for stakeholders requesting a rehearing from the commission in the gas and electricity sectors.
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 8, 2020

A recent ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that prevents federal regulators from delaying decisions on whether to build out gas infrastructure indefinitely leaves many unanswered questions for the power sector, attorneys say.

Last week, the court ruled 10-1 that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does not have the authority to postpone decisions on requests for rehearing indefinitely. The Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC en banc hearing concerned the commission’s practice of delaying landowners’ requests for rehearing on pipeline development, while developers could move forward with construction under the Natural Gas Act.

But the D.C. Circuit’s response was much broader than anticipated, according to industry lawyers, and as a result could lead to a dramatic shift in legal processes before FERC.
» Read article         
» Read the D.C.Circuit Court of Appeals ruling

» More about FERC          

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

pipeline to nowhere
As Fossil Fuel Pipelines Fall to Opposition, Utilities See Renewable Energy as Safe Bet
Atlantic Coast and Dakota Access pipeline woes underscore trends pushing utilities toward clean power as a less risky business.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
July 6, 2020

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s cancellation marks the natural-gas market’s “third high-profile victim in the last six months,” [director of the North American gas team at Wood Mackenzie, Dulles Wang] wrote in a Monday note. The others include Williams Co.’s Northeast Supply Enhancement and Constitution Pipeline projects, which were withdrawn after facing permitting denials and public opposition from New York state.

“The setbacks speak to the difficulties of building new pipeline projects in the northeast U.S., even when there is actual consumer demand that supports these projects,” Wang said.

The legal victories for environmental groups on technical permitting issues are part of a broader fight against the global warming impacts of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has so far denied challenges based on the greenhouse gas impacts of pipeline projects, but groups including The Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund continue attacking those decisions in court.

For utilities and energy companies, the mounting challenges to pipeline projects may serve as an incentive to shift from plans to rely on natural gas as a bridge fuel, and toward a less risky role building ratepayer-financed electric infrastructure to serve an increasingly renewable-powered grid, analysts say.
» Read article          

» More about electric utilities              

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Freeport LNG
US LNG Exports at 20-month Low
By Scott DiSavino, MarineLink
July 8, 2020

Natural gas flows to U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants plunged this month after falling to a 20-month low in June as coronavirus lockdowns cut global demand for the fuel.

Before the pandemic slashed energy demand, U.S. producers counted on LNG exports to keep growing fast as an outlet for their record gas output. But after soaring 68% in 2019 and 53% in 2018, U.S. LNG exports were only expected to rise about 7% in 2020.

With U.S. LNG capacity rising as new units enter service, utilization of those plants has collapsed from 85%-90% in 2019 to just 32% so far this month as buyers cancel dozens of cargoes.

Analysts at Simmons Energy, energy specialists at U.S. investment bank Piper Sandler, projected U.S. LNG utilization will hover between 60%-70% over the next several years.
» Read article           

LNG clean claims doubtedCanada’s LNG industry on shaky ground as high-profile investors back off: report
By Lee Berthiaume, Global News
July 6, 2020

Legendary investor Warren Buffett’s decision to walk away from a proposed export terminal for liquefied natural gas in Quebec is being held up in a new report as a sign that the LNG sector in Canada and elsewhere is on shaky ground.

The Global Energy Monitor report released Monday says Buffett’s move in March underscores the growing political and economic uncertainty that LNG projects are facing even as governments around the world tout liquefied natural gas as a clean alternative to coal power.

Monday’s report goes on to suggest that political opposition is only one of many new challenges to the LNG sector, with another being a dramatic drop in the price of gas due to an oversupply at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has sent demand plummeting.

The result: plans to build pipelines, terminals and other infrastructure in Canada and around the world have been put on hold _ or dropped entirely.

The report lists 13 LNG projects in Canada alone that have been cancelled or suspended in recent years. That includes a $10-billion [Goldboro] LNG export facility in Nova Scotia, which is now in limbo as the company behind the project tries to decide whether to move ahead or not.
» Read article           

gas bubble
Gas Bubble 2020

TRACKING GLOBAL LNG INFRASTRUCTURE
By Lydia Plante, James Browning, Greig Aitken, Mason Inman, and Ted Nace, Global Energy Monitor
July, 2020

In the past year, the fossil gas industry worldwide has more than doubled the amount of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal capacity under construction, a strategy driven by the U.S. and Canada as they seek to create new markets for LNG supplied from North America by tanker ship. This boom in construction threatens to lock in massive amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and negate any chance of limiting global warming to the 1.5°C tipping point identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Yet even measured against the balance sheets of their own financial and political backers, the future of many of these projects is tenuous due to low gas prices caused by global oversupply, now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, growing concern about the role of methane emissions in climate change is threatening the industry’s social license to promote and build fossil fuel projects.
» Read report            

KBR to focus on government contracts, quit natural gas, energy business
By Jennifer Hiller, Reuters
June 22, 2020

Engineering and construction firm KBR Inc (KBR.N) will exit most of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) construction and other energy projects, it told investors and employees, as customers pull back on energy investments.

The company will refocus on government contracts and technology businesses, Chief Executive Stuart Bradie wrote to employees on Monday. It will “no longer engage in lump sum, blue collar construction services,” saying the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the decision to leave fixed-contract energy projects.

KBR held contracts for engineering and construction services for several LNG projects, including at Freeport LNG in Texas, Pieridae Energy Ltd’s proposed Goldboro LNG facility in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Glenfarne Group’s Magnolia LNG project in Louisiana.
» Read article           

» More about LNG            

CLEAN ENERGY

good starting point
Can the Clean Energy Industry Deliver On the Biden-Sanders Climate Plan?
The campaign’s unity task force wants 100 percent carbon-free power by 2035.
By Julian Spector, GreenTech Media
July 9, 2020

After effectively clinching the Democratic presidential primary, Joe Biden’s campaign began work with Senator Bernie Sanders in May to create a “unity task force.” The group hoped to propose policies that appeal to moderates and progressives alike, uniting Democrats ahead of the 2020 election.

The task force’s climate change recommendations, out this week, push further than any policy proposed in previous general election platforms. They call for carbon-free power production by 2035, net-zero emissions for new buildings by 2030, and accelerated adoption of zero-emission vehicles. The authors frame the national climate response as a matter of equity for communities that have suffered disproportionately from pollution and climate impacts, and as a form of economic rebuilding after the coronavirus pandemic.
» Read article          
» Read the climate change recommendations

» More on clean energy           

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

follow the yellow brick road
‘Million-mile’ batteries are coming. Are they a revolution?
By Maddie Stone, Grist
July 6, 2020

Electric vehicles (EVs) have a clear environmental advantage over their gas-guzzling counterparts, but when it comes to longevity, the two are in a dead heat. Two hundred thousand miles is considered a good, long run for a car built today, regardless of whether it’s powered by a lithium battery or an internal combustion engine. But if a flurry of recent reports are to be believed, EVs may soon surge ahead in this long-distance competition — not by mere thousands of miles, but by 800,000.

But what does the million-mile battery revolution actually mean? According to experts in battery storage technology and the EV market, claims of new batteries that will last a million miles don’t tell us much on their own. How these batteries can be used is going to depend, first and foremost, on how they perform and degrade over their so-called “million-mile” lifespan. Several experts pointed out that true million-mile batteries are likely to outlast whatever cars they’re built for, meaning their arrival could dramatically impact both second-use markets and battery recycling.
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation        

PLASTICS BANS

COVID plastic
‘It’s all on hold’: how Covid-19 derailed the fight against plastic waste
Pandemic prompted states to temporarily ban reusable grocery bags and stalled legislation aimed at reducing plastic packaging
By Erin McCormick, The Guardian
July 9, 2020

2020 was supposed to be the year America revolted against plastic.

Consumers were refusing straws and toting their own coffee mugs. Legislators had proposed an unprecedented wave of laws to ban single-use plastics. Even companies like Coke and Pepsi were opening up to the idea plastic might not be the future.

Then came the Covid-19 pandemic. Now activists worry the anti-plastic movement is once again back in the trenches.

The fight has stalled on a number of fronts across the US. Fears about the virus spreading on surfaces prompted several states to temporarily ban reusable grocery bags, sending single-use bags flooding back into the marketplace. Major legislation aimed at reducing plastics packaging has stalled as lawmakers’ priorities shifted elsewhere. Disposable masks and gloves have become the harbingers of pandemic life, along with plastic take-out food containers and the debris of Amazon packages.

Meanwhile the plastics industry ramped up its lobbying, urging federal agencies to declare the sanitary benefits of disposable plastics, and arguing that plastic bag bans went against public health.
» Read article          

» More about plastics bans          

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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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» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
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» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 1/10/20

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

» More about protests      

CLIMATE

pipelines unbound
Trump Moves to Exempt Big Projects From  Environmental Review

By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
January 9, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

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

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

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

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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