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Weekly News Check-In 10/25/19

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

While the Baker administration continues to move toward approval of the Weymouth compressor station, all local politicians are campaigning on their opposition to it. Citizens and environmental groups continue the fight, with actions planned for October 30th and November 1st. You can follow these and other events here.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report, blaming last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions on weak engineering management at Columbia Gas. Meanwhile, the company has abandoned efforts to add capacity to the Northampton/Easthampton  area, and will extend the moratorium on new gas hookups indefinitely. Other pipelines in the news include Atlantic Coast, PennEast, and Bayou Bridge.

We found interesting reporting from Hopkinton this past July, where town officials were attempting to get Eversource Energy to explain a 2017 “thermal anomaly” at one of three large liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tanks – in which the temperature dropped abnormally. LNG is held at a constant -260F using refrigeration equipment.

Virtual pipelines were in the news because of two recent fatal accidents involving trucks carrying compressed natural gas (CNG). Moving volatile fuel entails risk no matter how it’s done.

Climate news highlights how deniers and carbon-intensive industries are fighting back against efforts to secure a livable future. Expect much more pro-carbon propaganda and fake news during the 2020 presidential campaign. It will come from the oil and gas industry, plastics and petrochemicals, agriculture (especially beef producers), and biomass – and it will be delivered by the likes of The Empowerment Alliance. All this is funded, of course, by dark money.

There’s some good news about clean energy alternatives – global benchmark prices for offshore wind, PV solar, and battery storage continue to fall. New York City is in the news for choosing to replace some gas peaker plants with battery storage.

We wrap up with news about the likelihood that taxpayers will foot the bill for cleaning up the mess after the fracking boom. Also a health warning that EPA limits for exposure to fine particulate air pollution are too high (this very much ties into the Baker administrations attempt to promote biomass as a source of “clean” energy). And a recent study indicates that Styrofoam in the ocean may not last forever.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth compressor foes vow to continue fight
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 22, 2019

Opponents of a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin say they will appeal a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection hearing officer’s ruling to uphold wetlands and waterways permits for the facility.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station leader Alice Arena said the group will challenge the ruling in superior court if DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg reissues wetlands and waterways permits to Algonquin Gas Transmission.

“We will ask Commissioner Suuberg to review this ruling,” she said. “It does not seem to be the policy of the DEP to follow their own regulations by giving us clean air, water, and soil.”

Arena said DEP hearing officer Jane Rothchild’s ruling to uphold the waterways and wetlands permits previously issued to Algonquin is ” extremely disappointing.”
» Read article

Weymouth council candidates vow to fight compressor station
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 21, 2019

Nearly all the councilors-at-large seeking reelection and their opponents vowed during a North Weymouth Civic Association candidates’ night on Oct. 16 to continue fighting against a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin.
» Read article

State official backs two key approvals for compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 16, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Opponents of a natural gas compressor station proposed for the Fore River Basin were dealt two major blows Wednesday when a state adjudicator recommended the approval of a waterways license and a wetlands permit for the project, triggering the start of the final state review in the approval process.

Hearing officer Jane Rothchild of the state Department of Environmental Protection said the department should uphold the license and permit issued to gas company Spectra Energy-Enbridge and reject an appeal filed by Weymouth and a citizens group, which together had argued that the proposed station would worsen air and noise pollution in the Fore River Basin and is not an appropriate use based on state waterways regulations.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg has the final say on the approval of the permit and license.

“In sum, the petitioners have failed to offer persuasive evidence demonstrating that the proposed project does not conform to the requirements of the applicable waterways regulations,” Rothchild wrote in her decision on the waterways license.

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the rulings Wednesday were “further salt in the wound” and a continuation of the town’s disappointment with state officials.

“We have a couple of state agencies that seem hell-bent on getting this permitted,” he said. “We thought we came up with some really strong positions to oppose this on the two permits in question today. Obviously, we don’t have a lot of sway with the feds, but in the areas the state had jurisdiction … we thought we had the greatest opportunity to fight this at the state level.”

Hedlund said the town has fought the proposal at every possible step. Local officials will now have to decide whether to appeal the license and permit in court.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER – MERRIMACK VALLEY

Weak engineering management led to gas explosions, NTSB says
WCVB, Boston
October 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board released the final report Thursday on the investigation into the Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

The probable cause of the overpressurization of natural gas, which led to the explosions and fires, was Columbia Gas’ “weak engineering management” that did not properly plan and oversee a construction project, the 73-page report says.

According to the report, Columbia Gas “did not adequately plan, review, sequence and oversee the construction project that led to the abandonment of a cast iron main without first relocating regulator sensing lines to the new polyethylene main.”

On Sept. 13, 2018, a series of fires and explosions began to erupt in Merrimack Valley homes and businesses served by Columbia Gas. One person was killed and 22 individuals were injured.
» Read article    
» Read report

NiSource Appoints Nick Stavropoulos, Veteran Gas Industry Executive, to Lead Safety Efforts for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts
NiSource, via PR Newswire
October 16, 2019

NiSource Inc., (NYSE:NI) announced today the appointment of Nick Stavropoulos to a new, senior role focused on safety at Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, one of NiSource’s subsidiary companies. Stavropoulos will serve as Chief Safety Advisor for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, and will report directly to Joe Hamrock, Chief Executive Officer and President of NiSource.

Stavropoulos recently retired from his role as President and Chief Operating Officer of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) following a career leading several of the country’s largest natural gas companies.

Stavropoulos will be based in Massachusetts and will advise on all operational safety strategy and planning statewide. As a senior safety expert, he will also engage regularly with external audiences as the company executes on its safety priorities across the state.
» Read article

» More Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley articles

COLUMBIA GAS / TGP 261 UPGRADE

Columbia Gas extends moratorium for Northampton, Easthampton customers
By SCOTT MERZBACH, Daily Hampshire Gazette
October 16, 2019

NORTHAMPTON — A moratorium on adding new natural gas customers in Northampton and Easthampton will continue indefinitely following a decision by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to abandon a project aimed at increasing the pipeline capacity for both cities.

The company last week announced that the moratorium for Northampton and Easthampton, which began in 2015 and has since meant new connections to its supply line are not allowed, will be extended due to changes in the planned “Greater Springfield Service Territory Reliability Project” first unveiled in November 2017.

The company contends that removal of leak-prone pipe, and offering energy-efficiency measures and load management solutions will maintain the safety, reliability and efficiency of its natural gas distribution system for Northampton and Easthampton, along with the rest of its service territory.

Kempic cited limited new growth potential in Northampton and cost as reasons for the cancellation of this project.
» Read article

» More Columbia Gas / TGP 261 Upgrade articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Atlantic Coast Pipeline waiting on Supreme Court, but natural gas debate in SC continues
By Andrew Brown, The Post and Courier
October 13, 2019

No applications have been submitted yet, but the battle lines are being drawn anyway.

The debate over natural gas continues to build in South Carolina, with industry groups and utilities highlighting a potential need for new pipelines and the state’s environmental groups hoping to deter such projects.

Construction on the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been on hold since December because of legal challenges over its federal permits. It’s now up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether work may continue on the project, which is set to begin in West Virginia and end in Lumberton, N.C., some 21 miles away from the South Carolina border.

But those legal setbacks haven’t stopped speculation about the massive project in the Palmetto State.
» Read article

Two New Jersey lawmakers ask FERC for hold on PennEast gas line work after 3rd Circuit setback
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
October 10, 2019

The lawmakers asked for the block on land-clearing and construction-related activities until PennEast submits a new route for FERC a new National Environmental Policy Act review, and a new determination is made of whether the project is in the public interest.

Megan Gibson, staff attorney with the Niskanen Center, which has argued on behalf of landowners, said that while construction is not yet underway, it would not be bad for FERC to issue a stop-work order to draw a bright line blocking any work beyond surveying at this point.
» Read article

Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction Mess Poses Major Risk to Atchafalaya Basin
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 10, 2019

Construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline was completed at the end of March, despite high-water conditions, and has been operational for months.

“The destruction is even worse than I anticipated,” Wilson said, scanning piles of dirt left along the construction site that, in places, were blocking small natural waterways through the swamp.

“I knew it was going to be bad because construction should have stopped when the water got high, but I never imagined it would be this bad,” Wilson told me.

After a monitoring trip in October 2018 of the east side of the basin, when the water in the basin was about three and a half feet higher than normal, he found many navigable waterways blocked, and unbroken stretches of trenched dirt piles, known as spoil banks, restricting water flow in the basin. Wilson reported these issues to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has the authority to enforce regulations. Two weeks ago, on September 26, he was distressed to find the same waterways remain blocked off.

With documentation from several monitoring trips conducted in September, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, and Healthy Gulf, another environmental advocacy group, filed a federal administrative complaint that accuses Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC of a series of U.S. Clean Water Act violations in the basin.
» Read article

» More articles on other pipelines

LNG NEWS

Hopkinton wants answers on ‘thermal anomaly’ at LNG tank
By Jonathan Phelps, MetroWest Daily News
July 15, 2019

HOPKINTON — Fire Chief Steve Slaman is unhappy about town officials being left in the dark about Eversource Energy’s plans to identify and repair a “thermal anomaly” that took place in one of three massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks on Wilson Street.

While officials don’t know the exact cause, the middle tank — known as Tank B — experienced an abnormal drop in temperature in December 2017. The tanks are designed to keep the LNG at a constant temperature of minus 260 degrees.

“They can’t explain it, so they decided to drain the tank,” Slaman said.

The temperature drop came to Slaman’s attention in August 2018 — eight months after the energy company discovered it, according to town officials. The tanks are located at Wilson Street and Legacy Farms Road North.

Last week, Slaman, who also serves as the town’s emergency management director, sent a letter to state Department of Public Utilities officials asking for help to facilitate better communication and planning between the town and Hopkinton LNG Corp., an affiliate of Eversource.

“I have been excluded from real-time information sharing and planning on this important safety issue,” Slaman wrote. “Unless I directly ask for information, the company does not provide it to me.”
» Read article

» More LNG articles

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

virtual pipeline in ditch
After Second Deadly Crash, Regulators Say Trucks Leaking Fracked Gas Cargo Are Fine
By Justin Nobel, DeSmog Blog
October 17, 2019

Last Friday, October 11, a “Virtual Pipeline” truck carrying compressed natural gas crashed on a highway in Orange, Massachusetts, killing the driver, leaking the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, and leading local authorities to evacuate nearby residents.

“Let me put this in perspective, if one of these trucks blew up in the right conditions, it could destroy a neighborhood,” said Bill Huston, director of a research and advocacy program called Terra Vigilate, and one of a small group of advocates raising awareness about the extreme risks of fire and explosion of Virtual Pipeline trucks. “We have called every state and federal agency, we have called the news media, and nobody is responding. These trucks are a brand-new technology, and nearly entirely unregulated — it’s very frustrating.”

This was the second Virtual Pipeline truck crash within three weeks in which the driver was killed and the special cylinders containing the gas, which can be highly explosive, were compromised. It’s part of a string of accidents that a retired state regulator says indicates the vehicles may be violating a federal exemption allowing the trucks to operate, but which federal regulators have disputed.
» Read article

» More virtual pipeline articles

CLIMATE

he who cannot be named
Trump Administration to Begin Official Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
October 23, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing the formal withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to three people briefed on the matter, a long expected move that nevertheless remains a powerful signal to the world.

The official action sets in motion a withdrawal that still would take a year to complete under the rules of the accord. Abandoning the landmark 2015 agreement in which nearly 200 nations vowed to reduce planet warming emissions would fulfill one of President Trump’s key campaign promises while placing the world’s largest economy at odds with the rest of the globe on a top international policy priority.

“I withdrew the United States from the terrible, one-sided climate accord, was a total disaster for our country,” he told a crowd of cheering men and women in hard hats on Wednesday at a natural gas conference in Pittsburgh.
» Read article

TEA logo - large
‘The Empowerment Alliance’ and Other New Dark Money Groups Sound a Lot Like the Natural Gas Industry
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
October 22, 2019

Amid the crescendo of calls for climate action and rising rage directed at the fossil fuel industry, petroleum producers and their allies are engaging in an aggressive promotional push focused on natural gas. The same month that the American Petroleum Institute (API) started running ads emphasizing gas’s role in reducing carbon emissions, a new dark money group has launched under the patriotic guise of promoting “America’s energy independence” by promoting, you guessed it, natural gas.

That group, called The Empowerment Alliance (TEA), is a registered 501(c)4 that does not disclose its donors (and is not required to under law). TEA launched on September 30 with a news release filled with natural gas industry talking points and attacks on the Green New Deal. The organization describes natural gas as “essential to our shared prosperity” in terms of jobs, national security, energy costs, and even air quality, while the Green New Deal is labeled as “radical and unachievable” and a “risky tax scheme.”

This anonymously funded organization, from its leaders to its messaging, is part of a broader chorus of misleading talking points that goes beyond the “natural gas and oil” industry (as the API ads say) to conservative media pundits and top strategists and officials within the Trump administration and the GOP.
» Read article

big beef strikes back
As Beef Comes Under Fire for Climate Impacts, the Industry Fights Back
In at least two states this year, beef and dairy industries have successfully beat back government food initiatives linking livestock to global warming.
By Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News
October 21, 2019

In California, a state legislator introduced a bill called the California Climate-Friendly Food Program, with the goal of promoting plant-based foods in schools and reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to livestock.

Within a few months, references to climate change were stripped out of the text and title. The bill instead became the California School Plant-Based Food and Beverage Program.

On the other coast, in Maryland, the state’s Green Purchasing Committee launched the Carbon-Intensive Foods Subcommittee to study which foods have the largest carbon footprints and to steer the state away from buying those foods. The administration of Gov. Larry Hogan disbanded the committee months later.

In both cases, the states’ farm and beef lobbies got their way.
» Read article

outdoor AC - Doha
Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air condition the outdoors
By Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, reprinted in The Denver Post
October 20, 2019

To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors — in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls so people can window shop with a cool breeze. “If you turn off air conditioners, it will be unbearable. You cannot function effectively,” says Yousef al-Horr, founder of the Gulf Organization for Research and Development.

Yet outdoor air conditioning is part of a vicious cycle. Carbon emissions create global warming, which creates the desire for air conditioning, which creates the need for burning fuels that emit more carbon dioxide. In Qatar, total cooling capacity is expected to nearly double from 2016 to 2030, according to the International District Cooling & Heating Conference.

And it’s going to get hotter.
» Read article

Utilities Are Promising Net Zero Carbon Emissions, But Don’t Expect Big Changes Soon
While the utilities tout ambitious mid-century climate goals, most plan to rely heavily on coal and natural gas for decades. That’s a problem for climate change.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
October 15, 2019

On the western shore of Lake Erie in Michigan, the Monroe Power Plant has been burning coal since the mid-1970s. Its owner, DTE Energy, has no intention of shutting down the massive power plant any time soon, despite its new pledge to cut its company-wide carbon emissions to net zero.

DTE’s plans for the Monroe plant are emblematic of a problem surfacing as a growing number of utilities promise to significantly cut their planet-warming emissions: a lack of urgency.

The timing matters. A recent report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius—the aim of the Paris climate agreement—human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide will have to fall to net zero by mid-century.

Since CO2 emissions build up in the atmosphere and remain there for centuries, those cuts can’t wait until 2050. They have to start now and should be down by nearly half by 2030 for the least disruptive transition, the IPCC shows.
» Read article

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Honors 3 Who Enabled a ‘Fossil Fuel-Free World’ — with an Exxon Twist
The winners developed lithium-ion batteries that made electric vehicles and battery storage for solar and wind power possible as climate solutions.
By Neela Banerjee, InsideClimate News
October 10, 2019

When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to three scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries, it noted the importance of their research in making “a fossil fuel-free world possible,” with electric vehicles and renewable energy storage helping cut emissions that drive climate change.

The great twist in the story is that the Nobel recipient cited for making the “first functional lithium battery,” M. Stanley Whittingham, came to his discovery in the 1970s as a research scientist in the laboratories of Exxon, the corporation that later would lead the vastly successful effort to deny climate change. ExxonMobil faces a trial in New York later this month for allegedly misleading shareholders about the risks climate change poses to the company—and their investments.

Whittingham was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday along with John B. Goodenough, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and Akira Yoshino, a chemist at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan.
» Read article

Rich Counties Get More Help to Escape Climate Risk, New Data Show
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
October 9, 2019

Federal programs to help Americans move away from disaster-prone areas are skewed by the income levels of communities seeking help — rather than being based solely on the risk they face — new data shows, blunting an important tool for helping people cope with climate change.

Since 1989, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has bought and demolished more than 43,000 homes in flood-prone areas, a strategy meant to make communities less vulnerable to disasters. But which homes get selected for the buyouts depends as much on the wealth of the affected neighborhoods as on the actual level of danger that those areas are exposed to, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The findings raise concerns that limited federal funding for adapting to climate change isn’t helping the areas that need it the most, according to the paper’s authors.

“Who benefits?” asked Katharine J. Mach, a professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the paper’s lead author. “There is a real potential for our responses in a changing climate to make the fat cats fatter, so to speak.”
» Read article

life not death for grandchildren
As Climate Rebellion Spreads, UK Gov. Risks “Carbon Blowout” By Investing in Gas
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International – blog post
October 7, 2019

As I write, the latest mobilization of inspiring climate activism by Extinction Rebellion is underway in some 60 cities across the globe, in protests that started in New Zealand and Australia, which then spread across Europe and are now targeting the financial district in New York.

In London, there are two weeks of protests around Westminster, trying to force the UK Government to adopt for mare radical targets to decarbonise the economy by 2025, not the stated Government policy of 2050.

As the Washington Post notes about today’s protests: “It seems their tactics work. It was after those protests, that [UK] Parliament declared a climate emergency. In June, the government signed up to a 2050 decarbonization target, the first major economy to do so.”

But, this comes with a caveat. The Government of Boris Johnson is probably the least climate-friendly ever, with many links to fossil fuel funded think-tanks. The UK Parliament may have declared a climate emergency, but in its Brexit-dominated political deadlock, it has taken no meaningful action on climate.

In fact, the opposite is true, over the last three years since the Brexit vote, as the climate emergency has intensified, the British Parliament has wasted three years of time, and billions in finance that could have helped solve the climate problem. Britain could have shown true climate leadership. It may have signed up for a 2050 decarbonisation policy, but this is way too late to prevent climate chaos.

And it is still making the problem worse. Like many other groups, Oil Change International has pointed out that gas is no bridge fuel. It will not solve the climate crisis.
» Read article

Standing Rock
The Next Standing Rock Is Everywhere
The fight to stave off pipeline projects across the country is being led by tribal nations and marginalized communities. It’s time to listen to them before it’s too late.
By Nick Martin, The New Republic
October 7, 2019

In the past three years, numerous media outlets, The New Republic among them, have predicted a variety of similar pipeline controversies could be the “next Standing Rock.” But the exercise misses something fundamental about the new age of environmental justice.

Pipeline companies—and their lobbyists and ex-employees they’ve planted in the government—are learning. The pitch-to-pipeline process, so often practiced at the expense of marginalized communities, has been honed to perfection. Every day, energy companies participate in the political process that sets the rules of play. With each passing state legislative budget session and hurried community consultation town hall, their roots sink deeper—not just here, in America, but in Canada, in Europe, and in Asia. They are everywhere.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

low benchmark wind-solar-battGlobal offshore wind prices drop 32%: BloombergNEF
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
October 24, 2019

Global benchmark prices for offshore wind have plunged 32% in the past year and 12% in the last six months, according BloombergNEF’s latest analysis released Tuesday.

Benchmark prices hit $78/MWh for the second half of 2019, largely driven by cheaper equipment costs, according to analysts. Meanwhile, onshore wind and solar prices have dropped 6% and 11% respectively since the first half of 2019, hitting global benchmark prices of $47/MWh and $51/MWh. Battery storage prices also fell 35% in the past year, hitting a global average of $186/MWh.

“Ongoing cost declines mean that benchmark PV and wind plants are just 4-5 years away from starting to challenge existing coal and gas plants on a cost-of-energy basis,” BloombergNEF said in its executive summary. “[I]n the U.S., recently financed wind farms in the most windy states are at cost parity with the least efficient operating gas plants, even without the production tax credit.”
» Read article

Richmond Council Limits Commerical Solar Sprawl
By TIM FAULKNER, ecoRI News
October 21, 2019

RICHMOND, R.I. — Another rural community is setting limits on renewable energy.

A week after the the Hopkinton Town Council banned wind turbines, the Richmond Town Council moved to curtail utility-scale solar sprawl.

With no opposition from the public or developers, the council voted unanimously Oct. 15 to adopt a ban on commercial solar development in residential neighborhoods, areas that are classified as R-3 zoning districts. The town already prohibits wind turbines.

The latest restriction on renewable energy in Rhode Island is part of a trend that many communities are following, especially towns with farmland and open space, as developers look for cheap land for industrial-scale wind and solar projects. Efforts to pass statewide siting rules have been sidelined by policy disputes in the General Assembly.

To help these communities, a study through the Office of Energy Resources would help create incentives for building renewable projects on brownfields and built environments such as parking lots and former quarries.
» Read article

New York City trades gas plant for the world’s largest battery
Regulators have approved Ravenwood Development to build a 316 MW / 2,528 MWh energy storage facility across the East River from Manhattan to replace two gas peaker plants in Queens.
By John Weaver, PV Magazine
October 18, 2019
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved a 316 MW / 2528 MWh (that’s 8 hours!) energy storage facility (pdf) to “provide peak capacity, energy, and ancillary services in New York City while enhancing grid reliability”. Ravenwood Development (owners of the current gas plants at the site) plans to build out the project in three phases – 129 MW, 98 MW and then 89 MW – with the first phase complete by March 2021. There is no timetable given for deployment of second and third phases of the project.
» Read article

» More clean energy articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

fracking tabWill the Public End up Paying to Clean up the Fracking Boom?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 18, 2019

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

“It’s starting to become out of control, and we want to rein this in,” Bruce Hicks, Assistant Director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, said in August about companies abandoning oil and gas wells. If North Dakota’s regulators, some of the most industry-friendly in the country, are sounding the alarm, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the nation.

Legally, oil and gas companies are required to set aside money to pay for well cleanup costs, a process known as bonding. These requirements vary by state and for public lands, but in all cases, the amounts required are so small as to be practically irrelevant.
» Read article

Saudi Arabia’s $2 Trillion Climate Wreckage Sale
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
October 16, 2019

Later this week, the board of the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, known as Saudi Aramco, is expected to give its final approval to proceed with its long awaited part privatization, otherwise known as an “Initial Public Offering” or IPO. It is predicted to the biggest IPO in history.

Last week the Guardian newspaper published details of the 20 fossil fuel companies whose “relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.”

Those who invest in Saudi Aramco will be investing in oil production, just at a time when fossil fuel disinvestment increases apace. And rightly so, as CNN points out, one of the risks to the sale is “the potential for reduced oil consumption due to concerns about climate change.”
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

BIOMASS

particle pollution
Scientists fired by Trump warn particle pollution standards don’t protect people
Group was disbanded by the EPA, but continued its work anyway, as Trump agencies roll back environment and health protections
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
October 22, 2019

A group of scientist advisers dismissed by the Trump administration has concluded that national limits on fine particles of air pollution aren’t strong enough to protect people.

The expert panel of epidemiologists and toxicologists was disbanded by the Environmental Protection Agency but decided to continue its work anyway.

The members are issuing their warnings as US regulators are reconsidering a standard for particulate matter – the inhalable pollution that is 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The pollution can include any of hundreds of chemicals and come from power plants, cars, construction sites and fires. It is linked with breathing and heart illnesses and early deaths.

“Based on full consideration of the overall body of scientific evidence, we unequivocally find that the current standards for fine particulate matter do not protect public health and must be revised,” said Chris Frey, a scientist from North Carolina State University who chaired the group. “There is no way for EPA to spin this otherwise.”
 » Read article    
» Blog editor’s note: this article does not specifically mention biomass, but regional development of biomass power plants would increase fine particulate pollution in the northeast. See Baker administration attempts to reclassify biomass as a clean renewable energy source.

NH biomass layoffs
Layoffs Begin At Embattled N.H. Biomass Plants After Subsidy Plans Fail 
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
October 18, 2019

Two of the state’s wood-fired power plants are going offline and laying off staff, after subsidy plans failed in the legislature.

Now, the state is offering job training resources to affected workers – and a new proposal would put more funds toward helping affected workers in the timber industry.

The biomass plants in Springfield and Whitefield laid off most of their 40 total workers this week, says Jasen Stock, the head of the state Timberland Owners’ Association.
» Read article

Is Massachusetts Opening the Door to Dirty Energy?
At the behest of the biomass industry, the Commonwealth might redefine clean energy for the state and start subsidizing pollution.
By Rohemir Ramirez, Conservation Law Foundation blog
October 11, 2019

Earlier this year, I joined Springfield, Massachusetts, residents protesting proposed changes to a state policy that would help build a dirty power plant in their neighborhood. As written, these changes would significantly roll back hard-fought protections against environmentally harmful biomass plants. Community members were unanimous: they do not want these changes, and they do not want this plant.

CLF agrees. These policy changes would incentivize biomass plants to emit more dangerous air pollution, underreport their climate impacts, and take families’ and businesses’ money while harming the health of our communities. They prioritize profits for industry executives over the people who live and work near the plants. And, while biomass developers are pushing for changes that would imminently affect Springfield, weakening this regulation encourages companies to build dirtier power plants in other vulnerable communities, too.
» Read article

» More biomass articles

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

styrofoam on beach
In the Sea, Not All Plastic Lasts Forever
Polystyrene, a common ocean pollutant, decomposes in sunlight much faster than thought, a new study finds.
By William J. Broad, New York Times
October 11, 2019

A major component of ocean pollution is less devastating and more manageable than usually portrayed, according to a scientific team at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Previous studies, including one last year by the United Nations Environment Program, have estimated that polystyrene, a ubiquitous plastic found in trash, could take thousands of years to degrade, making it nearly eternal. But in a new paper, five scientists

Many nations, companies, citizen groups and ocean institutes, as well as United Nations programs, have worked hard to ban single-use items and better regulate their disposal.

“We’re not calling the concerns or the actions wrong,” Christopher M. Reddy, a marine chemist at Woods Hole and another author on the study, said in an interview. “We just have a new thread to add and we think it’s significant.”
» Read article

» More plastics articles

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