Tag Archives: carbon pricing

Weekly News Check-In 9/11/20

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Welcome back.

Vented methane is wafting through neighborhoods this week as the Weymouth compressor station purges air from incoming lines, filling them with natural gas. Commercial operations are due to begin early next year. This follows a court decision reinstating the compressor’s contested air quality permit – a decision apparently not driven by science or community health concerns, but rather by the inconvenience this whole air pollution fuss seemed to be causing Enbridge in their rush to complete the project.

We’re tracking other projects too. The Dakota Access Pipeline has plenty of legal hurdles ahead of it, including in Illinois. And the East African Crude Oil Pipeline is planned to cross 900 miles of sensitive farm and wildlife habitat from newly-discovered reserves near Lake Albert to the Indian Ocean.

While Covid-19 has largely moved protests online, there’s plenty of action in the legal space. Two stories cover important new climate-related lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry.

Our Greening the Economy section includes an article on the outsize energy burden borne by people of color in the U.S. Another highlights the need for carbon pricing. Solving those two problems simultaneously requires a strong focus on social justice and equity during policy development.

We’re taking a long view on climate this week, starting with a review of the new book “All We Can Save”, an anthology highlighting important contributions by women to climate science – often overlooked or forgotten. This week’s featured image is of Eunice Newton Foote, an American physicist who concluded in 1856 that “carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could produce global warming three years before similar work by the Irish physicist John Tyndall, whose research on warming is often cited as the beginning of climate science.”

Biofuels are a controversial player in the push toward clean energy conversion. We found an article that explores some of the important issues: land use, carbon accounting, and alternatives. Elsewhere on the clean energy beat, U.S. company Violet Power  is marketing an even greener solar panel, with reduced embodied carbon and a 50-year warranty.

Energy storage took a step forward because of a simple tweak to its business model. Invinity Energy Systems builds vanadium flow batteries, and will rent the expensive electrolyte to the investor developing a grid-scale project in the UK. This shaves about 30% off the up-front cost. The electrolyte doesn’t degrade over time and is 100% recyclable.

Two recent stories about clean transportation allow us to imagine the near future when new cars will be carried nearly fossil-free to the U.S. from Europe on modern Swedish sailing ships, where some of those cars’ pollution control devices will be illegaly bypassed by after-market “defeat” devices – increasing their greenhouse gas emissions….

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is under fire for an upcoming carbon pricing conference. Seems that conference planners overlooked empaneling some key stakeholders, like representatives from the renewable energy sector and consumer advocates. Not much gender diversity either.

With the fossil fuel industry pinning its hopes for future growth on plastics, and with Palmer Renewable Energy’s East Springfield biomass facility still lurching zombie-like toward approval, we can at least wrap up with news of one clear environmental victory: the state of New York has upheld its plastic bag ban in the face of the pandemic and industry-supported court challenges.

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

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

smells like rotten eggs
Weymouth compressor station starts testing
The city of Quincy sent a warning to residents letting them know they may smell natural gas in the area of the station this month
By Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
September 9, 2020

The controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth has begun testing this week and, in the process, releasing natural gas into the atmosphere.

The station, on the banks of the Fore River, is being built by Enbridge, a Canadian-based multinational energy transportation company. The compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada.

The testing began on Tuesday and will run through Oct. 1. In addition to testing for leaks and calibrating piping, the station will complete an emergency shutdown test on Saturday. Enbridge said they will be venting the natural gas through a charcoal trailer to help reduce its characteristic smell. In order to test operation of the facility’s pipes, it has to purge air from the pipes using pressurized natural gas.

The station has been the target of vociferous opposition by residents and local politicians and has been mired in legal battles since its inception.

“Our position hasn’t changed, this is an inappropriate location for this facility,” said Chris Walker, chief of staff to Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, on Wednesday. “They won a recent court ruling to do this, but the legal challenges continue.”

A legal decision last week by a federal appeals court reversed a prior decision to vacate an air permit for the station. The reversal was the latest green light for Enbridge on its way to making the site fully operational.
» Read article        

 

WTF WeymouthFederal appeals court reverses decision to vacate Weymouth compressor air permit
The judges said in their decision that operations could not begin until March 2021 at the earliest but project opponents say the gas could be turned on much sooner.
By Wheeler Cowperthwaite, The Patriot Ledger, in Wicked Local Weymouth
September 6, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated its previous decision to throw out an air permit for the natural gas compressor station Enbridge is building in North Weymouth.

On June 3, Judge William Kayatta issued the original decision, throwing out the air permit granted by the state Department of Environmental Protection state because it did not follow its own procedures when it approved a gas turbine, rather than an electric motor, to cut emissions at the station.

In the unanimous opinion issued Monday, the three-judge panel said they were amending their original decision by allowing the company to keep the air permit. The case is still remanded to the Department of Environmental Protection on the question of what kind of turbine would best cut emissions at the station.

The panel said in the decision that the Department of Environmental Protection will not be able to complete its review within the 75-day deadline the court set, which has been extended to Jan. 19, 2021.

The Department of Environmental Protection staff also concluded, following a preliminary review, that an electric motor is not the best available control technology, although that is not its final decision.

“If correct, the staff’s conclusion also means that the permit will be approved and any operations before January 19, 2021, will have resulted in no emissions in excess of Massachusetts regulations,” the panel said.
» Read article        
» Read the decision            

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

 

PIPELINES

DAPL trouble in Illinois
Dakota Access Pipeline Faces Legal Challenge In Illinois
Podcast, The 21st Show
September 8, 2020

It’s been four years since the protests began in Standing Rock Indian Reservation over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many of us tend to associate the pipeline with those protests at Standing Rock, but the pipeline travels through several states, including right here in Illinois. And Illinois is the only state challenging a proposal that would lead to a million barrels of oil flowing through the pipeline everyday. 

To talk more about the proposal, The 21st is joined by a climate and environment reporter from Illinois Newsroom and an attorney representing environement groups. 

Guests: Lecia Bushak, multimedia environmental journalist, Illinois Newsroom, and John D. Albers, Attorney representing environmental groups, Shay Law, Ltd.
» Listen to the podcast           

 

Kingfisher
A Major Oil Pipeline Project Strikes Deep at the Heart of Africa
Despite the global plunge in oil prices, a major pipeline that would carry oil 900 miles across East Africa is moving ahead. International experts warn that the $20 billion project will displace thousands of small farmers and put key wildlife habitat and coastal waters at risk.
By Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360
May 21, 2020

Imagine a tropical version of the Alaskan oil pipeline. Only longer. And passing through critical elephant, lion, and chimpanzee habitats and 12 forest reserves, skirting Africa’s largest lake, and crossing more than 200 rivers and thousands of farms before reaching the Indian Ocean — where its version of the Exxon Valdez disaster would pour crude oil into some of Africa’s most biodiverse mangroves and coral reefs.

Such a project is ready for construction, to bring to the world oil from new oil fields in the heart of Africa. It is the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.

The middle of a global pandemic, during which oil demand is in freefall and prices at rock bottom, might seem an odd moment to boost the world’s oil production. But the petrochemicals industry is always looking for new reserves to replace those being exhausted. And two oil fields discovered on the shores of Lake Albert, which straddles the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are currently among the biggest and cheapest new reserves available. They contain an estimated 6 billion barrels, roughly half the size of Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay field.
» Read article       

» More about pipelines            

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Delaware down under
Delaware Just Sued 30 Fossil Fuel Companies and the American Petroleum Institute Over Climate ‘Denial and Disinformation’
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
September 10, 2020

Delaware, the home state of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, announced on Thursday, September 10 that it is taking dozens of major oil and gas companies including BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil to court over the rising costs of climate impacts such as sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Like other U.S. states and municipalities suing the fossil fuel industry, Delaware says that the industry knew half a century ago about the likely climate impacts resulting from the use of its products, but instead of warning the public or changing their business model, the fossil fuel companies engaged in campaigns to attack climate science and downplay the risks of burning coal, oil, and gas in order to stave off policy responses.

“Delawareans are already paying for the malfeasance of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies,” Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a press release. “Exxon, Chevron, and other mega-corporations knew exactly what kind of sacrifices the world would make to support their profits, and they deceived the public for decades. Now we are staring down a crisis at our shores, and taxpayers are once again footing the bill for damage to our roads, our beaches, our environment, and our economy. We are seeking accountability from some of the world’s most powerful businesses to pay for the mess they’ve made.”

The lawsuit, filed September 10 in Delaware Superior Court, a state court, seeks monetary damages to help pay for costs the state is already incurring and that are expected to mount as climate impacts worsen.
» Read article        
» Read the press release         
» Read the complaint           

 

climate and human rights
Latest Youth Climate Lawsuit Filed Against 33 European Countries Over Human Rights
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog UK
September 4, 2020

Six young people from Portugal have filed an unprecedented climate change lawsuit against almost all of Europe, targeting 33 European nations for failing to take adequate action on the climate crisis that they say threatens their human rights.

It is the latest in a series of legal actions brought by young people around the world demanding urgent climate action to protect their fundamental rights and safeguard their futures.

The case was filed on September 3 in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. It is the first climate case brought directly to this international court. Lawyers for the youth plaintiffs will argue that European governments’ current plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to prevent catastrophic climate change and therefore constitute human rights violations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“If successful, the 33 countries would be legally bound, not only to ramp up emissions cuts, but also to tackle overseas contributions to climate change, including those of their multinational companies,” the charity Global Legal Action Network, which is providing legal support for the case, explained in a press release.
» Read article        
» Read the press release       

» More about protests and actions     

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

energy burden gap
Report: Black households spend almost 50 percent more on utilities than white households

By Angely Mercado, Grist
September 10, 2020

By the end of this month, tens of millions of households in the U.S. stand to lose protections against utility shut-offs, which were instituted early in the COVID-19 pandemic. But household utilities have long placed an outsized burden on low-income households and communities of color. New research released Thursday sheds light on just how large that burden has been — even before the pandemic and its economic fallout.

According to a new study by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Black, Hispanic, and Native American households spend a much larger portion of their income on energy bills than non-Hispanic white households on average — 43 percent more, 20 percent more, and 45 percent more, respectively. Low-income households (which the report defines as those with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level) spend three times as large a share of their income on energy costs as other households.

These disparities make low-income households and communities of color disproportionately vulnerable to utility shut-offs now that moratoriums are beginning to expire.
ACEEE energy burden definition: Energy burden means the percentage of household income that goes toward energy costs, and we looked specifically at utility energy bills (transportation energy costs are also a significant household expense, but it was outside the scope of the analysis).
» Read article        
» Read the ACEEE report         

 

carbon price essentialBP, Major Wall Street Banks Want Carbon Pricing Policy In U.S.
By Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price
September 10, 2020

Supermajor BP, as well as many major Wall Street banks, recommends that the U.S. set a price on carbon in a report commissioned by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which recognizes that climate change could pose a risk to the financial markets.

The report from CFTC’s Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee – which includes, among others, executives from BP, ConocoPhillips, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Vanguard, Allianz Global Investors, and the Environmental Defense Fund – says that “Both physical and transition risks could give rise to systemic and sub-systemic financial shocks, potentially causing unprecedented disruption in the proper functioning of financial markets and institutions.”

“This report begins with a fundamental finding—financial markets will only be able to channel resources efficiently to activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions if an economy-wide price on carbon is in place at a level that reflects the true social cost of those emissions,” said the authors led by CFTC’s subcommittee chairman Bob Litterman.

The report was the first of its kind from a U.S. regulator, the CFTC, whose climate-related risk subcommittee recommends pricing carbon emissions.
» Read article        
» Read press release and access report         

 

just talkCoal and Gas Burning Countries Set to Gain from EU Just Transition Fund
By Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog UK
September 9, 2020

Coal-burning countries could benefit from billions in EU funding even as they fail in their climate commitments, a new report shows.

Every member state is required to phase out coal entirely by 2030 and transition directly to clean electricity to meet the EU’s Paris Agreement target of limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

But a briefing released today by climate thinktank Ember finds that seven of the 18 EU member states still using coal to generate electricity have no plans for a phase-out in the next decade.

Despite this, those seven countries would be set to benefit from two-thirds of the Just Transition Fund, worth up to €40 billion (£36 billion) and set up to support the EU regions most impacted by a transition to a low carbon economy. While two of these countries – Poland and Bulgaria – plan a significant expansion of gas use alongside continued coal burning.

Charles Moore, Ember’s European Programme Lead, said in a statement: “The majority of EU coal-countries are not ready for a just transition.” 

“They have no plans to give up coal by 2030 – or they plan to swap coal for fossil gas – another dead end if the EU is to meet its Paris Agreement commitments. Now is the time to support coal regions in countries genuinely undergoing a rapid energy transition. But the Just Transition Fund looks set to reward inaction rather than real climate ambition.”
Blog editor’s note: File this story under “how not to do it”.
» Read article        
» Read the Ember report       

» More about greening the economy      

 

CLIMATE

women climate leaders
Q&A: Why Women Leading the Climate Movement are Underappreciated and Sometimes Invisible
A new anthology co-edited by two women climate leaders helps make the point that “the climate crisis is not gender neutral.”
By Ilana Cohen, InsideClimate News
September 5, 2020

The American scientist Eunice Newton Foote theorized in 1856 that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could produce global warming three years before similar work by the Irish physicist John Tyndall, whose research on warming is often cited as the beginning of climate science. 

Foote was also an early women’s rights campaigner, signing the 1848 Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments,” a manifesto produced during the nation’s first women’s rights convention. 

She is, thus, a fitting historic figure for Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson to cite in opening their new book, “All We Can Save,” an anthology of essays, poetry and original illustrations on climate change by a diverse range of women, to be published Sept. 22. 

“Foote arrived at her breakthrough idea through experimentation,” the co-editors write. “With an air pump, two glass cylinders, and four thermometers, she tested the impact of ‘carbonic acid gas’ (the term for carbon dioxide in her day) against ‘common air’… From a simple experiment, she drew a profound conclusion: ‘An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature…'”
» Read article         

 

put it on my tab
Lethal price of climate inertia far exceeds action
Climate change will impose a lethal price if we do not all pay the far smaller cost of confronting it.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
September 10, 2020

In the hotter world of climate change, it won’t just be the glaciers that melt: national and regional economies, big business, government and even the multinationals will all pay a lethal price.

If the planet becomes 4°C warmer by 2100, then many regions could see a 10% fall in economic output. They’d be the lucky ones. In the tropics, the economic losses could be double that.

There are of course ways to limit losses and save lives. US researchers believe that if a quarter of all motorists in the US switched to electric vehicles, the nation could save $17bn a year in the costs of climate change and air pollution. If three fourths of drivers switched to cars [fueled] by renewable electricity, savings could tip $70bn.

Both studies are specimens of the kind of economic reasoning – always arguable and often intensely-argued – that necessarily must make “what-if” calculations about the notional costs to society of carbon dioxide emissions and the notional value of human lives blighted by heat-related illnesses and air pollution a lifetime from now.

But both are just the latest in a long line of calculations that demonstrate, repeatedly, that the costs to the next generation of doing nothing about climate change far outweigh the costs now of shifting from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy.
» Read article         

» More about climate         

 

CLEAN ENERGY

complications aboundBiofuels are a controversial climate solution. Could they still help save the planet?
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
September 11, 2020

Of all the tools we have to curb climate change, devoting land to growing bioenergy crops is among the most contentious. The reason it’s considered a solution is that plants suck up carbon from the air while they grow. When we turn them into fuels and burn them, no new carbon is added to the atmosphere —the whole cycle is considered “carbon neutral.” Proponents tout biofuels as an answer for industries that can’t easily replace fossil fuels with clean electricity or batteries, like flying, shipping, and long-haul trucking. They argue that as carbon-capture technology advances, biofuels could even become carbon-negative, taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than they put in.

But critics say biofuels’ carbon-neutrality is a mirage. They argue that if you account for the fact that you likely need to chop down forests or replace farmland that could be used to grow food to produce them, the case for biofuels crumbles.

Two recent studies try to calculate these complex trade-offs, one looking at the potential benefits of growing bioenergy crops at the scale of specific land-use choices, and the other zooming out to the consequences of relying on them to reduce emissions at a global, gigaton scale.
» Read article         

 

game changer
Game changer: Violet Power to offer 50-year solar panel warranty with US-made IBC technology
By Mark Osborne, PV Tech
September 8, 2020

Coming out of stealth-mode, US-based integrated PV panel manufacturing start-up, Violet Power intends to disrupt the PV industry with in-house production of high-efficiency IBC (Interdigitated Back Contact) solar cells. The company will use cell-to-module ‘flex circuit’ and thermal plastic encapsulant technology in a glass/glass configuration that will have a solar panel warranty of 50 years, more than three times the average in the industry, today.

Charlie Gay, PV industry technology veteran (more than 45 years), who has recently become the new CEO of Violet Power, said, “There are currently no vertically-integrated U.S. PV panel manufacturers to meet the growing global demand for solar power. This lack of manufacturing capability within the United States results in billions of dollars in lost opportunity including jobs, wages, and revenue for American workers and government at the local, state, and federal level. In addition, there are serious concerns over supply chain self-reliance and electric grid security, which can be best addressed with control of the entire value chain. Violet Power’s manufacturing model addresses all of these concerns, and more.”
» Read article         

» More about clean energy        

 

ENERGY STORAGE

electrolyte rented
Invinity-Bushveld partnership renting out flow batteries’ electrolyte to lower upfront cost
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
September 8, 2020

Invinity Energy Systems, supplier of a grid-scale vanadium flow battery being installed at a site in the UK will rent the battery’s electrolyte out to the investor developing the project, thereby helping lower the upfront cost of getting the system deployed.

Before Invinity Energy Systems was formed by a merger last year between US-headquartered flow battery provider Avalon Battery and UK counterpart redT, Avalon started up the business model of renting out battery electrolytes to customers.

Early last year, Avalon supplied a battery system to a microgrid project for solar installation company Sandbar Solar in California which allowed Sandbar’s HQ buildings to run on solar energy 24/7 and rented the electrolyte to Sandbar.

At the time, Avalon said that it expected the vanadium used to retain 100% of its value and be fully recyclable even after years of heavy duty use, while company president Matt Harper – now also Invinity’s president – said that electrolytes represent around 35% of a flow battery system’s upfront cost.
» Read article         

 

battery bailout
Its Electric Grid Under Strain, California Turns to Batteries
When demand exceeded supply in a recent heat wave, electricity stored at businesses and even homes was called into service. With proper management, batteries could have made up for an offline gas plant.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
September 3, 2020

Last month as a heat wave slammed California, state regulators sent an email to a group of energy executives pleading for help. “Please consider this an urgent inquiry on behalf of the state,” the message said.

The manager of the state’s grid was struggling to increase the supply of electricity because power plants had unexpectedly shut down and demand was surging. The imbalance was forcing officials to order rolling blackouts across the state for the first time in nearly two decades.

What was unusual about the emails was whom they were sent to: people who managed thousands of batteries installed at utilities, businesses, government facilities and even homes. California officials were seeking the energy stored in those machines to help bail out a poorly managed grid and reduce the need for blackouts.
» Read article         

» More about energy storage       

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

clipper refreshed
Changing tack: windpower breezes back into shipping with Swedish venture
By Reuters Staff, Reuters
September 10, 2020

A Swedish consortium aims to launch commercially by 2025 a wind-driven car carrier that will emit 90% less carbon dioxide than a conventional roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) cargo ship, it said on Thursday.

The 200-metre long carrier will have a capacity for 7,000 cars and have a maximum height of 105 meters when its five 80-metre upright “wing sails” are fully extended – bringing to mind a futuristic version of the wings of a 19th century clipper.

“This will of course challenge our habits and when this vessel will be in the ocean sailing, it will be an odd bird,” consortium partner Wallenius Marine Chief Operating Officer Per Tunell told an online news conference. “We are on track to make it possible for launching and putting this vessel in operation for late 2024.”

The consortium said in a statement a North Atlantic crossing would take the ship around twelve days, against eight days for conventional vessels.
» Read article         

 

delete devices
Illegal devices that bypass vehicle emissions controls spread across US
Thousands of tons of pollution spew into the air in the US from devices that proliferate online and in body shops
By Eli Wolfe and Alexandra Tempus of FairWarning, in The Guardian
September 9, 2020

When officials at the Environmental Protection Agency began investigating Freedom Performance, LLC, they didn’t have to look very hard for evidence that the company was violating the Clean Air Act. According to legal documents, the Florida car parts distributor literally advertised violations on its website.

“The road to hell is often paved with good intentions,” stated one ad for a kit to remove federally required emissions controls from diesel trucks. It identified a particular emissions control system that “is certainly noble in its intent” but “in reality it is putting your engine through hell … The best solution is deletion.”

According to the EPA, Freedom Performance was advertising defeat devices –hardware and software that bypasses or eliminates emission controls. The Clean Air Act forbids tampering with these controls, and violations carry heavy fines. But defeat devices – also known as “delete devices” – are popular with many vehicle owners.

Shops advertise that “delete kits” will improve mileage and extend the lifespan of expensive components, saving customers thousands of dollars. In recent years, a lucrative cottage industry of defeat devices has exploded across the US as repair shops, online retailers and manufacturers feed, and generate, consumer demand.
» Read article         

» More about clean transportation    

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

under represented
FERC details carbon pricing conference as groups blast renewables, consumer and women exclusions
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
September 9, 2020

Federal regulators on Friday announced details of a much-anticipated technical conference on carbon pricing, following a request from a broad group of renewable energy, gas and power groups for the commission to look at the issue more closely, but some stakeholders expressed disappointment with the lineup, decrying a lack of representation from renewable energy and consumer advocates, as well as lack of gender diversity.

Of the 30 panelists lined up for the technical conference to be hosted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seven represent grid operators or their market monitors and seven represent energy companies, but none represent renewable energy or consumer interests, and only one represents state interests. Other speakers include academics, consultants, trade groups and law firms. Three of the speakers are women.

Critics of the lineup say leaving consumer advocates and states out of the discussion is a misstep — for one thing, it won’t help mounting state and federal tensions over wholesale market policy, said Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel for Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), one of the stakeholders that requested FERC convene the discussion.
» Read article         

» More about FERC       

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

big oil has a big ideaBig Oil’s hopes are pinned on plastics. It won’t end well.
The industry’s only real source of growth probably won’t grow much.
By David Roberts, Vox
September 4, 2020

Overall, plastics represent a fairly small sliver of oil demand. Annually, the world consumes around 4,500 million tonnes (mt) of oil but only around 1,000mt of petrochemicals (oil and natural gas used to make chemical products), and of that 1,000mt, only about 350mt are plastics. (A tonne is a metric ton, about 1.1 US tons.)

Nonetheless, plastics are commonly projected to be the biggest source of new demand for oil over coming decades — in some projections, the only real source. It is these projections that the industry is using to justify billions in new projects, as oil companies across the world shift investment toward petrochemicals.

And Big Oil is working its hardest to make the projections come true: The New York Times just ran an investigative piece revealing the industry’s plans to push more plastic, and plastic waste, into Kenya. Plastics are the thin reed upon which the industry is placing all its hopes.

But a new report released this week by Carbon Tracker throws a big bucket of cold water on these hopes. It argues that, far from a reliable source of growth, plastics are uniquely vulnerable to disruption. They are coming under increasing scrutiny and regulation across the world. Huge consumer product companies like Unilever are phasing them out. And the public is turning against them.
» Read article        
» Read the Carbon Tracker report   

» More about fossil fuels      

 

BIOMASS

kill the zombie
Kill the ‘zombie’: Springfield demonstration calls for end to biomass proposal after decade-long battle
By Peter Goonan, MassLive
September 6, 2020

More than 75 people gathered on the steps of City Hall on Thursday calling for an end to a long-proposed biomass project in East Springfield, saying it is a threat to public health and an environmental hazard.

Some of those speaking used the phrase “we can’t breathe” in expressing their strong opposition to the wood-to-energy plant proposed by Palmer Renewable Energy LLC at 1000 Page Blvd.

Verne McArthur, of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, led the activists and residents in chants against the biomass project, including, “We will, we will, block you, block you.”

“This event is about the zombie project — this biomass plant that Palmer Renewable wants to build and keeps pulling political strings to get loopholes to go do it,” McArthur said. “We’ve been fighting it for 10 years and they’re now trying to come back.”

There is a climate bill before the state Legislature, in conference committee, that includes one proposed clause that would list biomass energy plants as “non-emitting sources” — a designation that would help the developers receive subsidies, opponents said. Ten city councilors have urged legislators to reject the clause, and there is also a signature petition.

The demonstration occurred after a recent council subcommittee meeting in which the city’s building commissioner, Steven Desilets, said the biomass building permit remains valid despite being initially approved in 2011 and later extended.
Blog editor’s note: We offered a report last week that includes information on the climate bill, a link to the petition, and suggestions for writing to your state senator and representative.
» Read article         

» More about biomass     

 

PLASTICS BANS

bag ban survived
New York’s plastic bag ban has survived the pandemic
By Angely Mercado, Grist
September 4, 2020

It’s a great time for New Yorkers to start investing in reusable grocery bags. Late last month, a state supreme court judge in Albany upheld a statewide ban on plastic carryout bags after considering a lawsuit led by a longtime plastic bag manufacturing company. The court also rejected a loophole in the new regulations that would have allowed the distribution of thicker plastic bags, which advocates say do not comply with the spirit of the ban.

The New York state legislature passed a law back in 2019 largely prohibiting vendors in the state from distributing single-use plastic carryout bags to customers. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) then drafted regulations to govern the law’s implementation in February of this year. The regulations stated that stores could hand out plastic bags only if the bags are washable, have an attached strap that does not stretch or wear with use, can be used at least 125 times, and can carry 22 pounds. They also said that reusable plastic bags should be at least one-hundredth of an inch thick. Environmental groups like Earthjustice worried that the language of the regulations could undermine the plastic bag ban by exempting thicker plastic bags.

Just after the regulations were issued, a lawsuit led by the plastic bag maker Poly-Pak Industries was filed against the state of New York and the DEC in hopes of stopping the ban. The suit was filed right before the ban was supposed to go into effect in early March.

In May, Earthjustice submitted an amicus brief on behalf of three leading environmental groups: WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Beyond Plastics, and Clean and Healthy New York. The three organizations argued on behalf of the ban and asked for the loophole to be closed. The state court ultimately endorsed the substance of the brief by upholding the ban and striking down the exemption for thicker plastic bags.

“We see the use of plastic bags as a climate change and community health problem,” said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, an associate attorney at Earthjustice. “[Thicker plastic bags were] not what the legislature intended…. It wanted to end the use of plastic bags, full stop.”
» Read article         

» More about plastics bans        

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Weekly News Check-In 2/7/20

WNCI-1

Welcome back.

Boston University professor Nathan Phillips’ hunger strike is focusing attention on the urgency of risks posed to nearby communities by construction activities underway at the proposed Weymouth compressor station site. We offer reporting on Professor Phillips’ demands.

Gas leaks from aging infrastructure – most notably in the Boston area – are in the news. A recent report shows National Grid struggling to keep up with repairs. In news about other pipelines, a proposed seven mile stretch outside Albany known as E37 is facing strong opposition. While National Grid claims it’s necessary to meet future demand, critics maintain the project’s real purpose is to boost the utility’s profits – and that demand for gas is actually declining.

We see tentative steps toward a greener future in legislative news.  Massachusetts could finally set a price on carbon, but Bernie Sanders’ proposed ban on fracking is unlikely to get traction in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Attorney General Maura Healey is advocating for changes to market rules governing New England’s grid operator – giving renewable energy sources a fair shot to compete against fossil fuels.

Author and climate activist Bill McKibben calls out Canada’s hypocritical energy and climate policies, as it pushes to develop ever-larger tar sands oil projects for the export market. Meanwhile, the shipping industry’s hopes of meeting clean transportation emissions targets by switching fuel from oil to liquified natural gas (LNG), have been dashed by recent reporting of substantial methane leaks from converted marine engines.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) doubled down on pipeline developers’ rights to take private land through eminent domain. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry suffers record-low LNG prices in Asia as China locks down against the new coronavirus. All this while Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project tracks methane leaks rampant throughout the Permian Basin, and building coal-fired power plants is a booming business in Japan.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

DEP demands
DEP to meet with Weymouth compressor station opponents
By Chris Van Buskirk, State House News Service, in Wicked Local Weymouth
February 6, 2020

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 4, 2020…..State environmental regulators set up a meeting for later this week with opponents of a natural gas compressor station being built in Weymouth to discuss the status of the cleanup of the contaminated site and address questions regarding oversight of activities at the site.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station requested a meeting with MassDEP officials last week during a visit to the department’s Lakeville office. MassDEP on Friday announced the creation of a temporary air-monitoring station in the project area. Boston University professor Nathan Phillips last Wednesday began a hunger strike in response to “serious public health and safety violations” at the Weymouth compressor station.

Phillips and South Shore activist Andrea Honore visited MassDEP and the governor’s office Tuesday to allege that the department, which approved project permits, had failed to do its job and to raise awareness of the department’s mission to protect the environment. Phillips, who was seven days into his hunger strike on Tuesday, said he would end his strike if three demands were met:

  1. “All dump trucks leaving the site abide by the decontamination procedures described on page 27 of the Release Abatement Measures Plan of November 25, 2019, which require a decontamination pad/station, and other measures to clean tires and exterior vehicle surfaces of site residue.”
  2. “The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection commences comprehensive testing for asbestos in furnace bricks and in the coal ash matrix, across and throughout the vertical profile of the North Parcel.”
  3. “The Baker Administration commits to a date certain, no later than two weeks from the day I began my strike, for the installation and operation of an air quality monitor, as Governor Baker pledged action on “within a couple of days” on Radio Boston on Thursday, January 23, 2020.”

Neither DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg or a representative from Baker’s office met with Phillips or Honore Tuesday. A staff member from Suuberg’s office said he would relay Phillips’s remarks to the commissioner.

Phillips said he is expecting his demands will be met before or at Friday’s meeting.
» Read article     

Audible Cafe FRRACS
Audible Café Speaks with FRRACS Leader Alice Arena
By Judy Eddy, Audible Cafe
February 6, 2020

The Weymouth Compressor Station is part of the proposal for Atlantic Bridge, a SPECTRA Energy pipeline project that pumps fracked gas from fracking fields in the midwest through New England to…where? to whom? Well, that’s a good question. The story has continued to change as the company strives to build this monster. Initially, it was supposed to be for residents in New England. Now, the gas will go to Canada, and then for export. No local benefit at all.

Construction of the 7,700 hp compressor station is now underway, and it is being protested and opposed, both at the site and in the courts. It’s been a long, long fight, and the opposition is NOT going away!
» Read transcript or listen to podcast     

toxic asset
‘Do your job, DEP’: A B.U. professor is on a hunger strike to get officials to take action at the Weymouth compressor station site
By Christopher Gavin, Boston.com
February 3, 2020

On Monday morning, the Boston University earth and environment professor was approximately 118 hours into the hunger strike he says is needed for state officials to act on vehicle decontamination, asbestos testing, air quality monitoring at the Weymouth compressor station site.

Activists and project opponents like Phillips have long expressed their outrage and concerns over Enbridge’s natural gas facility adjacent to the Fore River Bridge, now under construction after securing final approvals last year.

Phillips has been actively engaged in opposition to the project — including with the local community group, Fore River Residents Against Compressor Station, or FRRACS — and was arrested, among others, for civil disobedience at the site in October, he said.

In fact, the strike is something Phillips has considered ever since final permits were signed off last fall.
» Read article     

hunger for justice
Hunger for Justice
By Mothers Out Front – Website Post
February 1, 2020

The company that plans to build the Weymouth compressor station, Enbridge, continues their disastrous construction work in arsenic and asbestos laden soil. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does not Protect the community.

Now our friend Nathan Phillips is on a hunger strike to get the attention of the DEP and Governor Baker to protect the people of the Fore River Basin. We can back him up with our phone calls, tweets, posts and messages. We are amplifying the call of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS). Our message is aimed at the two men in our state who have the power to act, who could meet the reasonable demands Nathan has made, but so far have refused to do so.
» Visit website for more information, including call numbers       

State To Install Permanent Air Monitoring Station In Weymouth
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
January 30, 2020


State regulators will install a permanent air monitoring station in Weymouth to detect changes in air quality related to a natural gas compressor station under construction nearby.

The monitoring station will collect data on nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter, ozone, and volatile organic compounds “consistent with EPA monitoring regulations and guidance,” the State Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) said in a statement. The station will also record wind speed, temperature and direction.

Protesters have picketed the construction site a number of times since ground was broken in December, saying that gas released from the station will pollute the surrounding area.

State Senator Patrick O’Connor, who represents Weymouth, said it has taken four years to get the monitoring station approved.

“This is a small victory in what’s been a tremendous war between communities and natural gas energy companies,” he said.
» Read article     

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

GAS LEAKS

Ngrid gas leaks
Report raises gas utility safety issues: Says National Grid is struggling to address leaks
By Colin A. Young and Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
January 31, 2020

A PANEL REVIEWING the physical integrity and safety of the state’s natural gas distribution system found a gap exists between the way gas utilities say their crews perform work on the gas system and the way that work actually happens in the field. It also found that National Grid, the utility serving eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, is struggling to contain leaks on its gas distribution system.

Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc., a company contracted by the Baker administration to examine the safety of natural gas infrastructure in the wake of the September 2018 natural gas disaster in the Merrimack Valley, turned in its final report this week. The report includes specific observations about each of the state’s gas utilities after spending time observing gas work job sites and reviewing gas company manuals, policies, and procedures.

The utility-by-utility analysis indicates National Grid, the state’s largest gas utility serving 116 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts, is lagging in repairing gas leaks. Overall, the report said, 28 percent of the utility’s mains are made of leak-prone materials, a percentage that rises to 41 percent in Boston itself. More than 40 percent of the mains across the National Grid system were installed before 1970, and the miles of mains with discovered leaks on the National Grid distribution system actually increased between 2013 and 2018.
» Read article    
» Read report

» More about gas leaks    

OTHER PIPELINES

E37 Protesters
A Seven-Mile Gas Pipeline Outside Albany Has Activists up in Arms
National Grid says the project is needed to meet rising demand, but opponents see it as a means of connecting two interstate pipelines and boosting their capacities.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
February 3, 2020

Beyond the dispute over whether demand for gas is rising, pipeline opponents argue that smaller segments such as E37 have become an important means for utilities to increase profits.

Robert Wood, an organizer with 350 Brooklyn, a climate change activist group, said E37 is more about National Grid securing another capital investment project and increasing its customer base than it is about meeting rising gas demand.

While regulated utilities do make money on the energy they sell, they don’t control the cost of the fuel and cannot easily raise their rates as market prices fluctuate. “Fuel costs are a straight pass through,” said Michael O’Boyle, director of electricity policy for Energy Innovation, a clean energy advocacy group, “meaning, they don’t earn a margin or a profit on those fuel costs in general.”

Instead, many utilities, including National Grid, rely on capital investment projects to generate the kind of income needed to pay back shareholders and reinvest in company growth, O’Boyle said. When a utility invests in an infrastructure project, like a pipeline, it earns a regulated rate of return on that project.
» Read article     

» More about other pipelines     

LEGISLATION

Senate off the dimeMassachusetts Senate passes economy-wide carbon pricing, net zero emissions target
By Tim Cronin, Climate XChange
January 31, 2020


In a marathon late-night session, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation creating economy-wide carbon pricing, and requiring the state to reach net zero emissions by 2050. In doing so, the Senate doubled down on its commitment to the market-based policy to reduce emissions, which passed the chamber in 2018 but failed to make progress in the House.

The political landscape of climate policy has shifted rapidly in the two years since the Senate last voted for carbon pricing. Increased pressure for climate action, new emissions reduction commitments from policymakers, and growing grassroots support, have all increased the odds that the Senate’s bill, and carbon pricing, will become law.
» Read article     

Bernie's fracking ban
Sanders introduces bill to ban fracking
By Rachel Frazin, The Hill
January 30, 2020


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week introduced a bill that aims to ban hydraulic fracking.

The bill was introduced on Tuesday and is titled “a bill to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes,” according to the Library of Congress, though the text of the legislation was not available on the site.

Sanders has called for a ban on fracking while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, as has Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
» Read article     

Energy Subcommittee Announces Oversight Hearing on the Natural Gas Act
By House Committee on Energy & Commerce
January 29, 2020


Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) announced today that the Energy Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, February 5, at 10 am in room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building on the Natural Gas Act. The hearing is entitled, “Modernizing the Natural Gas Act to Ensure it Works for Everyone.”

“The Natural Gas Act is nearly a century old, and it is past time that we take a comprehensive look at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s implementation of it,” said Pallone and Rush. “We must reevaluate the pipeline siting process, which has long favored industry over the rights of landowners.  We must also examine rates, charges, imports, exports and what must be done to dramatically reduce impacts to our climate. It’s time to assess whether the Natural Gas Act is truly serving the needs and interests of all Americans, not just those of the gas industry.”
» Read article    
» Witness list and live webcast available here

FREC yes
Massachusetts AG Healey stokes grassroots effort for clean energy market rules in ISO-NE
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
December 13, 2019

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey launched an online effort on Tuesday to educate ratepayers about the region’s grid operator, ISO-New England, including a petition for market rules that promote clean energy.

The office, which also acts as the state’s ratepayer advocate, is trying to increase awareness of market rules and the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL). It’s been in touch with other attorneys general offices and ratepayer advocates in NEPOOL about this initiative.
» Read article    

» Link to the Petition – sign today!    

» More about legislation    

CLIMATE

Lil Justin and The Real Deal
When it comes to climate hypocrisy, Canada’s leaders have reached a new low
A territory that has 0.5% of the Earth’s population plans to use up nearly a third of the planet’s remaining carbon budget
By Bill McKibben, The Guardian
February 5, 2020

Americans elected Donald Trump, who insisted climate change was a hoax – so it’s no surprise that since taking office he’s been all-in for the fossil fuel industry. There’s no sense despairing; the energy is better spent fighting to remove him from office.

Canada, on the other hand, elected a government that believes the climate crisis is real and dangerous – and with good reason, since the nation’s Arctic territories give it a front-row seat to the fastest warming on Earth. Yet the country’s leaders seem likely in the next few weeks to approve a vast new tar sands mine which will pour carbon into the atmosphere through the 2060s. They know – yet they can’t bring themselves to act on the knowledge. Now that is cause for despair.
» Read article       

ocean heat rising
Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates
Oceans are clearest measure of climate crisis as they absorb 90% of heat trapped by greenhouse gases
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
January 13, 2020


The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet.

The world’s oceans are the clearest measure of the climate emergency because they absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning, forest destruction and other human activities.

The new analysis shows the past five years are the top five warmest years recorded in the ocean and the past 10 years are also the top 10 years on record. The amount of heat being added to the oceans is equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night.

Hotter oceans lead to more severe storms and disrupt the water cycle, meaning more floods, droughts and wildfires, as well as an inexorable rise in sea level. Higher temperatures are also harming life in the seas, with the number of marine heatwaves increasing sharply.
» Read article  

» More about climate      

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

shipping LNG fuel
Shipping Lines Turn to LNG-Powered Vessels, But They’re Worse for the Climate
Natural gas is cheap and cleaner burning than fuel oil, but methane leaks from ship engines fuels global warming.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
February 1, 2020

Oceangoing ships powered by liquified natural gas are worse for the climate than those powered by conventional fuel oil, a new report suggests. The findings call into further question the climate benefits of natural gas, a fuel the gas industry has promoted as a “bridge” to cleaner, renewable sources of energy but is undermined by emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The most commonly used liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine used by cruise ships and cargo vessels today emits as much as 82 percent more greenhouse gas over the short-term compared to conventional marine fuel oil, according to the report, published earlier this week by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an environmental think tank.
» Read article    
» Read report

» More about clean transportation        

FERC

FERC for PennEast
FERC sides with PennEast in opposing court decision that pipeline builder can’t use eminent domain to take public land
Tom Johnson, NPR State Impact, NJ Spotlight
January 31, 2020

In a step viewed as bolstering the PennEast natural gas pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday sided with the builder in seeking to overturn an adverse federal appeals court ruling halting the proposal from moving forward.

In a 2-1 vote, FERC, in a rare special meeting devoted to only one issue, issued a declaratory order saying a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit threatens to disrupt the natural gas industry’s ability to construct interstate gas pipelines.

The action was denounced as a transparent attempt by the agency to back PennEast’s efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court review the Third Circuit’s ruling by the lone commissioner to vote against the order, James Glick and other pipeline opponents.
» Read article    

» More about FERC         

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Shale Gas Swamps Asia, Pushing LNG Prices to Record Lows
The idling of factories in China due to coronavirus quarantines is weighing on prices already pressured by other bearish factors
By The Wall Street Journal
February 7, 2020

Liquefied natural gas is fetching the lowest price on record in Asia, a troubling sign for U.S. energy producers who have relied on overseas shipments of shale gas to buoy the sagging domestic market.

The main price gauge for liquified natural gas, or LNG, in Asia fell to $3 per million British thermal units Thursday, down sharply from more than $20 six years ago as U.S. deliveries have swamped markets around the world.
» Read article     

pouring it on
Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
February 3, 2020

Just beyond the windows of Satsuki Kanno’s apartment overlooking Tokyo Bay, a behemoth from a bygone era will soon rise: a coal-burning power plant, part of a buildup of coal power that is unheard-of for an advanced economy.

It is one unintended consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago, which forced Japan to all but close its nuclear power program. Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites in the next five years, just at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.
» Read article     

hunting emissions
The Hunt for Fugitive Emissions in the Permian’s Oilfields
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
January 30, 2020

Meaningful regulation of the fracking industry is a non sequitur to Sharon Wilson, organizer for Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. She supports her employer’s efforts to encourage tougher industry regulations, but believes that humankind needs to keep oil and gas in the ground if there is any chance of meeting the benchmarks set by the Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming.

After spending a couple days with Wilson as she monitored for methane leaks at oil and gas industry sites in the Permian oilfields of West Texas, it is easy to understand why she believes that talk of meaningful regulation of the industry lacks meaning itself.

Wilson uses an optical gas imaging (OGI) camera, which makes otherwise invisible emissions visible. With the specialized camera, also used by environmental regulators and industry, she recorded fugitive emissions spewing from nearly every site we visited.
» Read article    

» More about fossil fuels

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