Tag Archives: climate

Weekly News Check-In 5/22/20

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

This was a big week in news, and we ranged widely.

A longstanding pipeline battle concluded in New York, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation denied permission for the Williams pipeline to run from New Jersey and connect with another pipeline under Long Island Sound. DEC spokesperson Erica Ringewald said in a statement, “New York is not prepared to sacrifice the State’s water quality for a project that is not only environmentally harmful but also unnecessary to meet New York’s energy needs.” While we applaud New York for asserting its right to stop this unnecessary interstate gas infrastructure project, we wonder how Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker can continue to claim his hands are tied regarding the dangerous and unnecessary Weymouth compressor station.

Other stories related to pipelines (both real and virtual) include new evidence that dying urban trees suffered exposure to gas leaks from under the streets, and a head-spinner from Washington state where an attempt to regulate oil trains was overruled by the Trump administration. Apparently public safety is not a sufficient pretext for regulation that might inhibit market growth….

The effectiveness of persistent, youth-led activism is on display in New York, as long-stalled legislation to divest the state pension fund from fossil fuels has found traction this legislative session. The bill was introduced each session for the past four years.

Transitioning to a greener economy may be most effective if governments take control of the fossil fuel phase-out, worldwide. We posted an excellent summary argument for why this should happen, along with peeks into policy proposals taking shape in the U.S. and Europe. For folks who might be tempted to think the pandemic-induced economic recession has set us tentatively on a path to heal the climate, we note that atmospheric CO2 levels are still rising.

In a move that’s arguably the opposite of economic relief, the Trump administration struck a blow against clean energy by suddenly and retroactively requesting rent payments from wind and solar developers using federal lands. The pettiness of that double-cross is countered by inspiring innovations in energy efficiency, energy storage, and clean transportation.

The last day for public comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “secret science” rule didn’t pass quietly. A joint letter from 39 top scientific organizations and academic institutions stated that the rule would greatly diminish the role of science in EPA decisions concerning the environment and public health.

It’s interesting to compare fossil fuel corporate spending on green technologies, especially during a recession. At some point investments move beyond cynical greenwashing to something that might signal a course change toward sustainability. We found reporting that shows European oil majors are investing significantly more than their U.S. counterparts. This may be driven by the home country political and regulatory landscape, but even a pro-fossil American administration can’t protect the liquefied natural gas industry from market headwinds.

New rules proposed in April under the Clean Air Act would define biomass, when burned to produce energy, as being carbon neutral. Some 200 U.S. environmental scientists sent a letter to congressional committee chairs urging they reject these new rules. It’s important to note that the science on biomass has advanced considerably in recent years, and consensus is now firmly established that burning biomass for energy is neither clean nor carbon neutral.

We wrap up with a couple interesting reports on plastics. One describes a biodegradable plant-based alternative for beverage bottles, and another profiles efforts to use satellite data to detect plastic pollution in oceans.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

Williams canned
New York Rejects Williams Pipeline Over Water, Climate Concerns
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
May 18, 2020

New York state has rejected the controversial Williams pipeline that would have carried fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, running beneath New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean before connecting to an existing pipeline system off Long Island.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) announced the decision Friday, arguing that pipeline construction would have harmed water quality and threatened marine life.

“New York is not prepared to sacrifice the State’s water quality for a project that is not only environmentally harmful but also unnecessary to meet New York’s energy needs,” DEC spokesperson Erica Ringewald said in a statement reported by POLITICO.

The decision is a victory for grassroots activists who have long campaigned against the pipeline. After Oklahoma-based company Williams submitted its most recent application, New Yorkers sent in more than 25,000 comments opposing the pipeline in two weeks, according to the Stop the Williams Pipeline Coalition.

“We know [New York State Gov. Andrew] Cuomo only did this because we pressured him to do so,” anti-pipeline campaigner Lee Ziesche told HuffPost. “At the end of the day, he still needs to make a plan to get New York off of gas.”
» Read article      

» More about pipelines

GAS LEAKS

gas leaks kill trees
Tree Deaths in Urban Settings Are Linked to Leaks from Natural Gas Pipelines Below Streets
A new study finds dying trees are 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane-contaminated soil, confirming long-held suspicions that gas leaks kill plants.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
May 20, 2020

Natural gas leaks from underground pipelines are killing trees in densely populated urban environments, a new study suggests, adding to concerns over such leaks fueling climate change and explosion hazards.

The study, which took place in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a low-income immigrant community near Boston, also highlights the many interrelated environmental challenges in a city that faces high levels of air pollution, soaring summer temperatures and is now beset by one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the nation.

Dead or dying trees were 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane in the soil surrounding their roots than healthy trees, according to the study published last month in the journal Environmental Pollution.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More about gas leaks

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

safety schmafety
Safety Can’t Be a ‘Pretext’ for Regulating Unsafe Oil Trains, Says Trump Admin
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
May 20, 2020

The federal agency overseeing the safe transport of hazardous materials released a stunning explanation of its May 11 decision striking down a Washington state effort to regulate trains carrying volatile oil within its borders. A state cannot use “safety as a pretext for inhibiting market growth,” wrote Paul J. Roberti, the chief counsel for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

The statement appeared in the Trump administration’s justification for overruling Washington’s oil train regulation, which was challenged by crude-producing North Dakota and oil industry lobbying groups. The Washington rule seeks to limit oil vapor pressure unloaded from trains to less than 9 pounds per square inch (psi) in an attempt to reduce the likelihood that train derailments lead to the now-familiar fireballs and explosions accompanying trains transporting volatile oil.
» Read article

» More about virtual pipelines

DIVESTMENT

NY pension divest
Could New York’s Youth Finally Convince the State to Divest Its Pension of Fossil Fuels?
One analyst says oil, gas and coal were the biggest pension contributors for 30 years, but now are the worst performing sector—and there are no signs of improvement.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
May 15, 2020

In April, a day before Earth Day’s massive virtual gathering, Penna and about 150 other youth met with nearly 40 New York lawmakers or their staff online, asking them to support a bill that would force the New York Common Retirement Fund to divest from fossil fuel companies within five years. As of last year, the fund had nearly $211 billion in assets under management and currently has about $5 billion in fossil fuel holdings, according to the New York State Comptroller’s office.

The bill, known as the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, has been introduced in the New York Senate four years in a row but has never made it out of committee. But as youth climate strikers who are sheltering in place seek ways to spread their message without marching in the streets, the once stalled legislation has quickly gained support this year.
» Read article      
» Read the Act

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

five reasons for managed phaseout
Deep Dive: 5 reasons governments must act now to phase out oil and gas production
By Kelly Trout, Oil Change International – blog post
May 20, 2020

Since the Paris Agreement was signed, Oil Change International (OCI) has been making the case that meeting its goals will require governments to proactively manage the phase-out of fossil fuel production. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and sudden cratering of the oil economy, that is more true than ever.

Low oil prices and a near-term drop in demand are causing immediate financial and logistical stress for the industry. But current events provide no guarantee that the industry will stay in long-term decline, especially at the pace needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C).

Now is precisely the time for governments to pursue a carefully planned exit from oil and gas production: to systematically disentangle their economies from this volatile and toxic industry in a way that lines up with global climate goals, invests deeply in a just transition for workers and local communities, and builds the clean energy sectors we will need long into the future.
» Read article

Inslee plan promoted
Former Inslee Staffers Urge Biden and House Dems to Embrace $1.2 Trillion Green Stimulus as Part of COVID-19 Recovery
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams – reprinted in DeSmog Blog
May 15, 2020

Staffers who helped develop Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s widely-praised climate policy during his 2020 presidential run are now calling on congressional Democrats to adopt the bold initiatives included in the plan to make a shift to a renewable energy economy within coronavirus relief legislation.

The staffers formed an advocacy and political action group, Evergreen Action, on Thursday, a month after calling on former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to adopt large portions of Inslee’s multi-trillion-dollar plan. Progressive groups including Justice Democrats asked that Biden work closely with Inslee’s team on climate action after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suspended his presidential campaign.

Both Biden and Democrats in Congress must view the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to “jumpstart” the United States economy while transitioning away from fossil fuels and offering relief to the 36 million Americans who have lost their jobs so far as a result of the coronavirus, Evergreen Action says.
» Read article

EU green recovery previewLeaked Document Lifts Lid on EU’s Green Deal ‘Recovery’ Package
The EU has reshaped its Green Deal into a recovery package, with huge support for renewables, green hydrogen and EVs set to be announced next week.
By John Parnell, GreenTech Media
May 21, 2020

First revealed in December 2019, the EU’s Green Deal was initially structured as a roadmap for the bloc to achieve its goal of net-zero status by 2050. But early progress has been hampered since the Green Deal was revealed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The coronavirus outbreak and a failure to agree on the EU’s next seven-year spending framework have created division among some member states that are nervous about the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Next week, the reworked — and renamed — Green Deal Recovery package will be presented in full, with a string of near-term policies added to act as an economic stimulus. It will be an early indicator of policymakers’ willingness to act on promises of a “green recovery.”
» Read article

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

still filling the tub
Even with people staying in, carbon dioxide is breaking records
The coronavirus is doing little to slow down climate change
By Justine Calma, The Verge
May 7, 2020

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is still rising, even though people are driving and flying less during the COVID-19 pandemic. CO2 reached an all-time daily high on May 3rd, hitting levels that haven’t been seen in the more than 60 years since records began.

The annual average is also expected to rise, according to an analysis published today by scientists at the national meteorological service for the UK and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They found that the overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is still climbing steadily, and that the dramatic changes from the pandemic barely slowed it down.

An important thing to keep in mind is that carbon dioxide can persist in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years after it escapes our factories and tailpipes. “It’s like a bathtub and you’ve had the spigot on full blast for a while, and you turn it back 10%, but you’re still filling the bathtub,” says [Sean Sublette, a meteorologist at the nonprofit Climate Central]. “You haven’t really stopped filling the bathtub, you’ve just slowed it a tiny bit.”
» Read article      
» Read analysis

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

surprise rent
Trump administration slaps solar, wind operators with massive retroactive rent bills
By Nichola Groom, Reuters
May 18, 2020

The Trump administration has ended a two-year rent holiday for solar and wind projects operating on federal lands, handing them whopping retroactive bills at a time the industry is struggling with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, according to company officials.

The move represents a multi-million-dollar hit to an industry that has already seen installation projects cancelled or delayed by the global health crisis, which has cut investment and dimmed the demand outlook for power.

It also clashes with broader government efforts in the United States to shield companies from the worst of the economic turmoil through federal loans, waived fees, tax breaks and trimmed regulatory enforcement.
» Read article

electrify or fry
Electrifying Space Heating Will Require a Herculean Effort
The technology is here today, but the sector has a long way to go, according to Wood Mackenzie.
By Fei Wang, GreenTech Media
May 12, 2020

Natural gas and fuel oil satisfy 60 percent of heating needs of households in Europe. In the U.S., the share is about 75 percent. In China, coal and gas boilers make up more than 90 percent of heating sources.

To decarbonize space heating in residential and commercial buildings, several tools will need to work together: energy efficiency, electrification, and alternative fuels.

Building codes enacted and enforced by municipalities can also push forward all-electric new construction and retrofits. In California, 30 municipalities have started such initiatives encouraging or mandating building electrification, including San Francisco and San Jose.

In Europe, while the Green Deal recognizes buildings as a primary sector for decarbonization, several countries already enacted bans on fossil fuels for heating, such as Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands.
» Read article

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

NUS chilling outCooling with heat: Hybrid air conditioner that reduces electricity consumption
By National University of Singapore News
May 14, 2020

The innovative air conditioners comprise an unconventional electrical compression machine that uses the heat from the sun and ambient surroundings to ease the electrical load of energy-guzzling compressors by up to 55 per cent.

“As the global temperature rises, fuelled by urbanisation and exacerbated by climate change, so does the global demand for fuel to run energy-hungry air conditioning. Today’s conventional air conditioners require high electrical energy, yet at the same time, they also produce a high volume of heat which is released into the environment, causing the creation of undesirable heat zones,” explained Associate Professor Ernest Chua Kian Jon from NUS Mechanical Engineering who led the team.

The jointly-developed solution utilises a solar thermal collector (i.e. heat collector) comprising vacuum tubes filled with a novel medium specially designed and engineered by the NUS team to absorb more solar energy and ambient heat.

The harnessed energy is then recycled to assist in the superheating of the refrigerant in the system, converting it from a low pressure, low temperature gas into a high pressure, high temperature gas. This reduces the system’s reliance on the compressor that pumps the refrigerant through the system and, in turn, reduces the system’s overall electricity consumption and the harmful greenhouse emissions released to the environment.
» Read article       

» More about energy efficiency     

ENERGY STORAGE

EV charging with storage
Energy storage poised to tackle grid challenges from rising EVs as mobile chargers bring new flexibility
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
May 18, 2020

“One can expect that the number of EVs in fleets will grow very rapidly over the next ten years,” according to Rhombus’ report. But that means many fleet staging areas will have trouble securing sufficient charging capacity.

“Given the amount of time it takes to add new megawatt-level power feeds in most cities (think years), fleet EVs will run into a significant ‘power crisis’ by 2030,” according to Rhombus.

“Grid power availability will become a significant problem for fleets as they increase the number of electric vehicles they operate,” Rhombus CEO Rick Sander said in a statement. “Integrating energy storage with vehicle-to-grid capable chargers and smart [energy management system] solutions is a quick and effective mitigation strategy for this issue.”
» Read article

» More about energy storage      

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Wireless EV charging
HEVO to Launch US Manufacturing for Wireless Electric Vehicle Charger
The Brooklyn-based startup quietly finalized a product, working with limited funds and staff. Now the race is on for the wireless charging market.
By Julian Spector, GreenTech Media
May 21, 2020

Wireless electric vehicle charging carries a whiff of the future, akin to flying cars. But HEVO, a Brooklyn-based startup, aims to make it part of the present by emerging from obscurity with a commercially ready wireless charger this year.

The electric vehicle industry is scrambling to build out enough chargers to handle the expected wave of EV adoption. Wireless charging holds many potential advantages over the currently available wired systems.

Wired charging uses a smattering of different plugs, but automakers have already agreed to a universal wireless charging standard, eliminating interoperability challenges. Nobody can yank out the charging cable when a car is left to fill up at a wireless public station. Drivers don’t even need to get out of the car to charge, which is handy in a rainstorm.

From an urban-planning standpoint, wireless charging would allow a more seamless installation of charging equipment into existing paved surfaces, rather than sticking charging cables around town. And the technology could theoretically go into roadways to top up drivers on the go rather than making them park and wait.
» Read article

» More about clean transportation     

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

bad idea opposed
EPA’s ‘Secret Science’ Rule Meets with an Outpouring of Protest on Last Day for Public Comment
Among those opposing the proposed rule were nearly 40 top scientific organizations and academic institutions which jointly submitted a letter to the agency.
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
May 19, 2020

As the deadline approached for public comment on a controversial “transparency” rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, 39 top scientific organizations and academic institutions joined together on Monday to warn that if finalized, the regulation would greatly diminish the role of science in decisions affecting the environment and the health of Americans.

In a letter submitted to the EPA, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society, and a wide array of other professional groups and universities, strongly opposed the rule, which they said is “not about strengthening science, but about undermining the ability of the EPA to use the best available science in setting policies and regulations.”
» Read article      
» Read the AAAS letter          

» More about the EPA

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

oil majors reveal fantasy gap
Coronavirus widens climate rift between European and U.S. oil majors
By Ron Bousso and Shadia Nasralla, Reuters
May 18, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – Europe’s top oil and gas companies have diverted a larger share of their cash to green energy projects since the coronavirus outbreak in a bet the global health crisis will leave a long-term dent in fossil fuel demand, according to a Reuters review of company statements and interviews with executives.

Europe’s top five producers – BP, Shell, Total, Eni, and Equinor – are all focusing their investment cuts mainly on oil and gas activities, and giving their renewables and low carbon businesses a relative boost, according to Reuters calculations.

The biggest U.S. oil and gas companies are taking a different path, encouraged by a government that is a vocal supporter of expanding fossil fuel production: investment in business ventures outside petroleum hardly register, and that is not going to change without a shift in government policy.

Chevron CEO Mike Wirth told investors in a conference call on May 1 he expects demand for oil and gas to rebound after the coronavirus pandemic lifts.

“The world is not ready to transition to another source of energy in large part anytime soon,” he said.
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

LNG unmasked
Failed Finances and ‘the Demonization of Gas’ Are Threatening the Future of US LNG
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
May 14, 2020

The U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) market, once the promising golden child of the fossil fuel industry, has a major long-term problem. While it’s facing financial disaster due to the current crash in oil and natural gas prices, that’s only the short-term threat.

The real issue for the LNG industry is an existential one: It’s a fossil fuel in a rapidly warming world, and these polluting fuels are losing public favor fast.

As DeSmog reported earlier this year, European LNG buyers are considering measuring the true climate impacts of U.S. LNG, which means considering methane emissions — another strike against the U.S. LNG industry.

Growing public awareness and concern about the climate impacts of natural gas apparently are frightening industry executives.
» Read article

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

biomass carbon accounting
Scientists warn U.S. Congress against declaring biomass burning carbon neutral
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay.com
May 13, 2020

Some 200 U.S. environmental scientists have sent a letter to congressional committee chairs urging they reject new rules proposed in April under the Clean Air Act that would define biomass, when burned to produce energy, as being carbon neutral.

The scientists say that biomass burning — using wood pellets to produce energy at converted coal-burning power plants — is not only destructive of native forests which store massive amounts of carbon, but also does not reduce carbon emissions.

A long-standing UN policy, recognizing biomass burning as carbon neutral, has caused the U.S. forestry industry to gear up to produce wood pellets for power plants in Britain, the EU, South Korea and beyond. Scientists warn that the failure to count the emissions produced by such plants could help destabilize the global climate.
» Read article      
» Read the letter

» More about biomass      

PLASTICS ALTERNATIVES

better bottles
The end of plastic? New plant-based bottles will degrade in a year
Carlsberg and Coca-Cola back pioneering project to make ‘all-plant’ drinks bottles
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
May 16, 2020

Beer and soft drinks could soon be sipped from “all-plant” bottles under new plans to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers.

A biochemicals company in the Netherlands hopes to kickstart investment in a pioneering project that hopes to make plastics from plant sugars rather than fossil fuels.

The plans, devised by renewable chemicals company Avantium, have already won the support of beer-maker Carlsberg, which hopes to sell its pilsner in a cardboard bottle lined with an inner layer of plant plastic.

Avantium’s chief executive, Tom van Aken, says he hopes to greenlight a major investment in the world-leading bioplastics plant in the Netherlands by the end of the year. The project, which remains on track despite the coronavirus lockdown, is set to reveal partnerships with other food and drink companies later in the summer.
» Read article

» More about plastics alternatives

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

 

floating plastic
Satellite imagery is helping to detect plastic pollution in the ocean
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
May 1, 2020

A new study illustrates how optical satellite imagery from the European Space Agency can be used to identify aggregates of floating plastic, such as bottles, bags and fishing nets, in coastal waters.

It is estimated that more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year, threatening global ocean health.

While plastic tends to get pushed around in the ocean, winds and ocean currents will propel it into clusters that stay in one place. [Lauren Biermann, an Earth observation scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the U.K.] says she hopes that optical satellite data can help identify these aggregates, and that people and organizations can use this information to work on solutions.

“There will be cleanup operations like the Ocean Voyages Institute, which we’d like to work with. They would then go to where we spotted things, and they would be able to remove tons of plastic at a time,” Biermann said. “This really is the first technical exercise, but we would then like to apply the method, far more broadly … to rivers and open waters.”
» Read article

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 1/3/20

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

Goodbye to another year of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and to the hottest decade in recorded human history. The fight against the Weymouth compressor station tells the whole story. We could draw a direct line from that and the Granite Bridge pipeline, and from the many other seemingly unstoppable fossil fuel infrastructure projects – straight through the unfolding climate disaster and Australia’s burning summer.

The good news continues to reside in stories about clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency, and even some of that is mixed. But the fossil fuel industry keeps the truly scary stuff coming. New year, last chance? Time to write, phone, march, and change the trajectory.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

compressor protesters 2019
Why The Weymouth Compressor Was Such An Environmental Flash Point in 2019
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
January 1, 2020

One of the biggest local environmental stories this year has been the on-going saga of the Weymouth natural gas compressor station. As 2019 comes to a close, construction is currently underway despite opposition from many city, state and federal officials.

WBUR’s Miriam Wasser joined Morning Edition to talk about why this project has become such a flash point — hint: health, safety and climate change — and what the Earthwhile team will be watching in 2020.
» Listen to report     

Charlie's sour bells
Charlie Baker was confronted by protesters during a Salvation Army bell ringing
The Weymouth compressor project is underway, but opponents aren’t letting up.
By  Nik DeCosta-Klipa Boston.com
December 20, 2019

Gov. Charlie Baker made his annual stop by the Salvation Army kettle in Downtown Crossing on Thursday, ringing one of the group’s bells to encourage donations this holiday season.

This year, however, the sounds of Baker’s clanging bell were joined by a chorus of angry protesters.

“We brought our own bells,” one protester said ahead of the demonstration.

Surrounding the Massachusetts governor during his unique appearance on the downtown Boston street corner, the small group chanted in opposition to a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, which received final approval last month from federal officials. Construction on the controversial project began Dec. 4.
» Read article      

» More on the Weymouth compressor station

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

I was attacked for having a personal stake in stopping fossil fuels. I do – and so do you
By Dan Weeks, Concord Monitor opinion
December 26, 2019

As for Granite Bridge, before taking my position I spent hours listening to the pipeline’s lobbyist at Liberty Utilities and reading the studies he sent (commissioned by the utility). Then I re-examined the independent research on fracked gas, pipeline explosions and fugitive methane emissions, which are 86 times more potent than CO2 at warming the planet and effectively negate the global warming “benefits” of gas versus oil and coal, according to peer-reviewed research in the journal Nature and many other publications. As the New York Times reported just this month, “natural gas…has become the biggest driver of emissions growth globally” thanks in part to a recent jump in gas flaring. New pipelines simply cannot solve the climate crisis, as my critic claims.

The truth is, I do have a personal stake in stopping new fossil fuel investments wherever they occur – and so do you. For the good of my three young kids and yours, I refuse to be silent about the mounting climate crisis or the emerging clean tech solutions to which I have chosen to dedicate my public career in a manner that is anything but “disingenuous” or “underhanded.”

As for my presumed opponent in this debate, I wish him and his union well, and look forward to the day when New Hampshire policies allow us to put thousands more union tradesmen to work building the clean energy future our kids and climate demand, as neighboring states have shown.
» Read article     

» More on Granite Bridge pipeline        

CLIMATE

compare wildfire size
The Shocking Size of the Australian Wildfires
By Katharina Buchholz,  Statista
January 2, 2020

The devastating California wildfires of 2018 and last year’s fires in the Amazon rainforest made international headlines and shocked the world, but in terms of size they are far smaller than the current bushfire crisis in Australia, where approximately 12 million acres have been burned to date. Fires in remote parts of northern Russia burned 6.7 million acres last year, but most of the regions were sparsely populated and no casualties were reported.

While the California fires of 2018 have long been put out and the Amazon fires have been reduced at least, Australia is only in the middle of its fire season. Ongoing heat and drought are expected to fan the flames further. This week, shocking pictures of bright orange skies in Queensland and flames ripping through towns captured the world’s attention.
» Read article      

angry summer
Australia’s Angry Summer: This Is What Climate Change Looks Like
The catastrophic fires raging across the southern half of the continent are largely the result of rising temperatures
By Nerilie Abram, Scientific American
December 31, 2019

The effects of rising temperature on drying out the environment can be countered by rainfall or by the growth of vegetation that increases humidity locally. But in the southern half of Australia, where rain falls mostly in the winter, there has been a substantial decline in precipitation. In the southwest of the country, rainfall has declined by around 20 percent since the 1970s, and in the southeast, around 11 percent of rainfall has been lost since the 1990s.

One of the factors driving this long-term loss of winter rainfall is the positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). This change is causing the westerly winds that circle the Southern Ocean to shift southward toward Antarctica, causing rain-bearing winter cold fronts to pass south of the Australian continent. The role of anthropogenic climate change in driving this trend in the SAM is also clear in the science.
» Read article      

fire weatherThe bushfires in Australia are so big they’re generating their own weather — ‘pyrocumulonimbus’ thunderstorms that can start more fires
Jim Edwards, Insider
December 30, 2019

Intense fires generate smoke, obviously. But their heat can also create a localized updraft powerful enough to create its own changes in the atmosphere above. As the heat and smoke rise, the cloud plume can cool off, generating a large, puffy cloud full of potential rain. The plume can also scatter embers and hot ash over a wider area.

Eventually, water droplets in the cloud condense, generating a downburst of rain — maybe. But the “front” between the calm air outside the fire zone and a pyrocumulonimbus storm cloud is so sharp that it also generates lightning — and that can start new fires.

If powerful enough, a pyrocumulonimbus storm can generate a fire tornado, which happened during the Canberra bushfires in 2003.
» Read article        

climate science decade
Climate Science Discoveries of the Decade: New Risks Scientists Warned About in the 2010s
A decade of ice, ocean and atmospheric studies found systems nearing dangerous tipping points. As the evidence mounted, countries worldwide began to see the risk.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
December 28, 2019

The 2010s may go down in environmental history as the decade when the fingerprints of climate change became evident in extreme weather events, from heat waves to destructive storms, and climate tipping points once thought to be far off were found to be much closer.

It was the decade when governments worldwide woke up to the risk and signed the Paris climate agreement, yet still failed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale needed. And when climate scientists, seeing the evidence before them, cast away their reluctance to publicly advocate for action.

The sum of the decade’s climate science research, compiled in a series of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggests global warming is pushing many planetary systems toward a breakdown.
» Read article      

youth resistance 2019
A Year Of Resistance: How Youth Protests Shaped The Discussion On Climate Change

By Joe Curnow, University of Manitoba and Anjali Helferty, University of Toronto, in DeSmog Blog
December 28, 2019

Greta Thunberg made history again this month when she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. The 16-year-old has become the face of youth climate action, going from a lone child sitting outside the Swedish parliament building in mid-2018 to a symbol for climate strikers — young and old — around the world.

Thunberg was far from the first young person to speak up in an effort to hold the powerful accountable for their inaction on climate change, yet the recognition of her efforts come at a time when world leaders will have to decide whether — or with how much effort — they will tackle climate change. Their actions or inactions will determine how much more vocal youth will become in 2020.
» Read article      

fracking methane
The Fracking Industry’s Methane Problem Is a Climate Problem
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
December 22, 2019

While carbon dioxide — deservedly — gets a bad rap when it comes to climate change, about 40 percent of global warming actually can be attributed to the powerful greenhouse gas methane, according to the 2013 IPCC report. This makes addressing methane emissions critical to stopping additional warming, especially in the near future. Methane is shorter-lived in the atmosphere but 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

Atmospheric levels of methane stopped increasing around the year 2000 and at the time were expected to decrease in the future. However, they began increasing again in the last 10 years, spurring researchers to explore why. Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, recently presented his latest research linking the increase in methane to fossil fuel production, with fracking for natural gas, which is mostly methane, likely a major source.
» Read article      

boiling down under
As heatwave bakes Australia on land, an unprecedented marine heatwave causes fish kills in the ocean
By Irena Ceranic, ABC Australia
December 17, 2019

Western Australia’s coastline is in the midst of the most widespread marine heatwave it has experienced since reliable satellite monitoring began in 1993.

The warm waters are believed to have contributed to a number of fish kills in the past month.
» Read article        

hottest decade
2019 Wraps Up The Hottest Decade In Recorded Human History
By Eric Mack, Forbes
December 3, 2019

“Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850,” the World Meteorological Organization wrote in its provisional “State of the Global Climate” report for 2019.

It also appears that 2019 will wind up as either the second or third warmest year on record. This would mean that all of the ten warmest years on record have come since 2005, with eight of the top ten occurring in the decade now ending.

Another disturbing development is that the trend line for global hunger has reversed, increasing to affect one in nine humans after a decade of declining. The WMO says drought and floods are largely to blame and both phenomenons are on the increase against the backdrop of warming air and oceans.
» Read article     

» Read WMO report     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

big desert solar
Trump administration set to approve NV Energy’s 690 MW solar farm, largest in US
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
January 2, 2020

The Trump administration intends to approve siting for the largest solar farm in the United States, a 690 MW facility that will also include 380 MW of 4 hour battery storage.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final environmental impact statement for the project on Monday, following the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Nevada’s approval of NV Energy’s proposal Dec. 4. The $1 billion project will be sited on federal land outside Las Vegas.

Obama’s BLM previously rejected the project under an agreement with conservation groups that protected sensitive desert land from wind and solar development. The Trump administration indicated it would scrap that agreement in February 2018.
» Read article      

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EV Uber for LA
Electric Vehicles for Uber and Lyft? Los Angeles Might Require It, Mayor Says.
L.A. has big plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but requiring EVs for rideshare services would also radically change the economics of the business.
By LESLIE HOOK, FINANCIAL TIMES – in InsideClimate News
December 27, 2019

Los Angeles is considering forcing rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft to use electric vehicles in what would be a first for any city as LA seeks to cut emissions and get more electric vehicles on the streets, the mayor said.

Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, told the Financial Times that the electric-vehicle requirement was one step being contemplated to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050.

“We have the power to regulate car share,” he said in a phone interview. “We can mandate, and are looking closely at mandating, that any of those vehicles in the future be electric.”
» Read article

Toronto Garbage Trucks Will Soon Be Powered by Biogas From the Very Food Scraps That They Collect
By McKinley Corbley, Good News Network
October 30, 2019

Toronto is set to be one of the first cities in North America to launch such an initiative, thanks to the their newly-constructed Dufferin Solid Waste Management Facility.

Starting in March 2020, the city’s fleet of garbage trucks will collect all of the organic waste and flood scraps from the Toronto Green Bins and bring them to the facility for processing. The facility will then use anaerobic digesters to capture all of the biogas produced by the waste and transform it into renewable natural gas (RNG).
» Read article      

» More on clean transportation

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Local Governments Vote Resoundingly for Improved National Energy Codes
By New Buildings Institute
December 20, 2019

Preliminary voting results on the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) are in! The outcome of over a year of effort to update the national model energy code was released yesterday and is estimated to bring at least 10% better efficiency for decades to come for both residential and commercial buildings that follow the IECC. This is the second biggest efficiency gain in the last decade for the IECC and puts buildings on a glide path to deliver better comfort, higher productivity, increased value and lower operating costs. The changes also mitigate carbon emissions from buildings, which account for 39% of carbon in the United States.
» Read article    

» More on energy efficiency

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

emissions-health correlation
When U.S. Emissions Dropped, Mortality Dropped Dramatically

By Jeff McMahon,  Forbes
December 30, 2019

U.S. air pollution emissions dropped dramatically from 2008 to 2014, driven in part by the closure of coal-fired power plants. Now researchers have documented that health damages from air pollution dropped just as dramatically during that time.

“Not only have the emissions decreased, but the damages—the health damages—from those emissions have decreased very rapidly, more than 20% over the course of six years,” said Inês M.L. Azevedo, an associate professor in Stanford University’s Department of Energy Resources Engineering.
» Read article     

Germany shuts down coal
How Germany closed its coal industry without sacking a single miner
By Nick O’Malley, Sydney Morning Herald
July 14, 2019

While Australia continues to open new coal mines, Germany is in the midst of closing down its entire coal sector. The last of the country’s black coal mines was decommissioned last year, the victim of the economic reality that nations like Australia could dig the stuff up cheaper than the Germans could.

Now Germany is beginning the process of ending its brown coal industry and shutting down the energy plants that it feeds so it can meet its agreements under the Paris climate accord. Some see Germany’s audacious decommissioning of the industry as a model from which Australian has much to learn. Others believe that Australia is simply politically and culturally ill-equipped to do so.

The sheer scale of the German undertaking is hard to even contemplate from the Australian perspective, where coal is still king and where significant political decisions are met with particularly stern punishment.
» Read article      

gas - boom to bust
Once a booming industry, natural gas is in midst of a bust
Rick Shrum, Observer-Reporter
December 29, 2019

Yes, the boom has been supplanted by bust, and a quick turnaround isn’t likely. Andy Brogan is among industry insiders who don’t anticipate that. Brogan, leader of the oil and gas global sector at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), told the Times:

“In the short term, the gas market is oversupplied and is likely to remain so for the next few years.

“It’s a cyclical business, and we’re at the bottom of the cycle.”
» Read article      

swimming in debt
As Fracking Companies Face Bankruptcy, US Regulators Enable Firms to Duck Cleanup Costs
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
December 20, 2019

In over their heads with debt, U.S. shale oil and gas firms are now moving from a boom in fracking to a boom in bankruptcies. This trend of failing finances has the potential for the U.S. public, both at the state and federal levels, to be left on the hook for paying to properly shut down and clean up even more drilling sites.

Expect these companies to try reducing their debt through the process of bankruptcy and, like the coal industry, attempting to get out of environmental and employee-related financial obligations.

In October, EP Energy — one of the largest oil producers in the Eagle Ford Shale region in Texas — filed for bankruptcy because the firm couldn’t pay back almost $5 billion in debt, making it the largest oil and gas bankruptcy since 2016.

The federal government is only getting around to assessing EP Energy’s potential liabilities once the firm is already in the bankruptcy process, revealing one of the flaws in the current system. Federal and state governments have not been holding fracking companies fully liable for the environmental damage and cleanup costs of their drilling activity.
» Read article      

» More on fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 11/22/19

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

Massachusetts’ two US Senators are sticking with opponents of the Weymouth compressor station. This week they sent a letter to FERC chairman Chatterjee requesting a new assessment the certificate of public convenience and necessity. Their argument is simple – nearly all of the potential customers that the compressor would serve have dropped out. Remaining ones have stated publicly that the compressor is unnecessary.

On climate, a new UN report details the dangers of completing all the fossil fuel production projects currently underway. We include links to the article and the actual report. The alternative to  producing  all that fossil fuel is to drive hard on clean energy, clean transportation, and energy storage.

There’s been interesting news in what we call the regional energy chess game. In particular, ISO-New England is the subject of a couple articles critical of how they manage capacity, and pointing out that they could do a better job incentivizing the transition to renewable energy.

We found reports of protests against a huge natural gas power plant under construction in New York’s Hudson Valley. The article illuminates what a difference just a few years has made in our thinking about natural gas as a “bridge” fuel versus identifying it as a dangerous and toxic obstruction to our clean energy future. More broadly in the fossil fuel industry, we see the Bureau of Land Management having second thoughts about the legality of recent oil and gas leases on federal lands. And a play by the coal industry to promote its product as a source of rare earth elements.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

U.S. senators call for 11th-hour review of compressor station proposal
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
November 20, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators are pushing federal energy regulators to hold off on issuing their final approval for a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station and reconsider whether the project is necessary.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey sent a letter to Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, on Wednesday asking that the commission reject a request from gas company Enbridge to start construction of the compressor station, and instead reopen its decision to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project.

In its [2017] decision, the commission said the project is justified because five local distribution companies, two manufacturing companies and a municipal utility have contracted for the gas that would come from the Atlantic Bridge project.

But two companies that had signed on to ship natural gas made available through the Atlantic Bridge project have withdrawn and assigned their rights to the gas to National Grid, which has stated it does not need the compressor station to deliver the gas. Several other project shippers have said the compressor station is not necessary for their use of the increased capacity.

“There is to be a high bar for public convenience and necessity when the proposed facility will also be posing a serious risk of inconvenience and harm to the surrounding public,” the letter from Warren and Markey reads. “Based on this new information illustrating the lack of need for the Weymouth compressor station, FERC should reject the request for a Notice to Proceed and reexamine its issuance of the certificate of public convenience and necessity.”
» Read article      

» More on Weymouth compressor station

CLIMATE

production gap
Here’s What Will Happen to Climate if Every Planned Fossil Fuel Project Goes Ahead
By Carly Cassella, ScienceAlert.com
November 21, 2019

As the world races to mitigate a climate crisis, too many nations are having their cake and eating it too. If nothing is done to curb the global extraction of fossil fuels, commitments to the Paris agreement and other national goals will mean very little.

In just ten years, the United Nations estimates the world will produce 50 percent more oil, gas and coal than is necessary to keep temperatures below 2°C, and there will be 120 percent more fossil fuel production than we can have if we want to limit warming to 1.5°C.

“Indeed, though many governments plan to decrease their emissions, they are signalling the opposite when it comes to fossil fuel production, with plans and projections for expansion,” reads a recent report from the UN Environmental Program (UNEP).
» Read article     
» Read UNEP Production Gap 2019 Report

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Rock Port wind
Road to 100: How one man’s mission to power his hometown by wind created a Northwest Missouri boon
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
November 21, 2019

Chamberlain has helped bring a number of projects to wind-heavy northwestern Missouri, generating $6 million annually in tax benefits for Atchison County, adding dozens of jobs and giving landowners predictable annual lease payments at a time when heightened floods and storms can devastate an agricultural community.

Conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh made fun of the town in a July 2008 episode, after the city had made headlines. But Chamberlain said Limbaugh’s key punchline was something the city never claimed.

“Rock Port has the capacity to produce more energy in a year than they use. Does it happen on a daily basis? Absolutely not. Does it happen on a weekly or monthly basis? No,” he said.

When the wind doesn’t blow, the local co-op that manages Rock Port and other Missouri cities’ electricity demand and production pulls power from traditional sources. In Missouri, that could easily be coal, which makes up the majority of the state’s power.

“But it doesn’t negate the fact that a very, very significant majority of our power comes from renewable resources and any of that renewable that we don’t use, we’re providing to somewhere else,” said Chamberlain. “So that was the point that Mr. Limbaugh did not understand. And he didn’t ever call and ask me. He just thought that we were so stupid that when the wind wasn’t blowing, we couldn’t watch TV.”
» Read article      

Can America’s First Floating Wind Farm Help Open Deeper Water to Clean Energy?
The floating turbines off Maine’s coast could be operational by 2022. The technology could be a model for other states with deep waters, and deep local opposition.
By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News
November 20, 2019

The state with perhaps the greatest untapped potential for harnessing its ocean breezes for electricity could soon have turbines spinning off its coast after years of political resistance.

It’s a small project—up to two offshore wind turbines serving as many as 9,000 homes—but it would blaze a new trail: If all goes as planned, in 2022, Aqua Ventus will become the first floating offshore wind farm in the nation.
» Read article       

green bonds
New money: Green banks and green bonds are bringing billions to utilities for the energy transition
The financial mechanisms are bringing investors to renewables and distributed energy as utilities, co-ops and munis move away from uneconomic legacy assets.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
November 19, 2019

Hundreds of billions of dollars in untapped new money can finance the U.S. power system’s transition away from legacy fossil assets to renewables and distributed generation.

Utilities like Duke Energy and Xcel Energy have issued billions in green bonds to fund renewables development. Green banks in New York, Connecticut and other states are backing investments in distributed resources and energy efficiency. It appears much more institutional money wants in on the green opportunity.
» Read article       

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

California to Stop Buying From Automakers That Backed Trump on Emissions
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
November 18, 2019

California’s government has hit back at automakers that sided with President Trump over the state on fuel efficiency standards, saying Sacramento will halt all purchases of new vehicles from General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and other automakers that backed stripping California of its authority to regulate tailpipe emissions.

The ban, which the California governor, Gavin Newsom, plans to implement in January 2020, is the latest shot in the intensifying battle over climate change between Mr. Trump and the state, which he appears to relish antagonizing.

“Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California’s buying power,” Governor Newsom said in a statement on Monday.
» Read article       

» More on clean transportation

ENERGY STORAGE

CSP image
Can concentrated solar power act as energy storage? DOE wants to know more
By Matthew Bandyk, Utility Dive
November 19, 2019

The DOE wants information from industry, academia, laboratories and other stakeholders on “accelerating the commercialization of [supercritical carbon dioxide] power cycles that are appropriate for near-term integration with [CSP]” with a focus on “near-term commercial deployment,” according to a notice published in the Nov. 19 Federal Register.

CSP, in which a field of mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays onto a central point like a “power tower” to generate tremendous amounts of heat, can be paired with insulated tanks that absorb the thermal energy. Like a battery, that energy can be deployed at a later time, including at night when there is no PV solar energy.
» Blog editor’s note: CSP kills birds – incinerating them if they fly into the concentrated energy near boiler towers. They are often in pursuit of insects that have been drawn toward the towers’ bright light. This is an example of complex environmental costs associated with any energy source.
» Read article       

In search for cheaper, longer energy storage, mountain gravity could eventually top lithium-ion
By Matthew Bandyk, Utility Dive
November 12, 2019

Mountain gravity energy storage could be a viable way to store electricity for longer durations and at larger scales than lithium-ion battery storage can, according to a study recently published in the academic journal Energy.

The researchers propose that a motorized system similar to a ski lift could pull containers full of sand to a crane at the top of a mountain. The sand can then be sent back down the mountain propelled only by the force of gravity, generating electricity in the process.

The basic concept is similar to a gravity storage technology proposed by the Swiss company Energy Vault, which recently received a greater than $100 million equity investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund. That technology generates electricity through gravity by lowering concrete blocks in a tower.

Lithium-ion battery storage is the fastest-growing storage type and utilities across the U.S. have procured battery storage as a way to back up intermittent renewable energy. But the length of time that they can deploy energy — typically four hours or shorter for — may not be long enough for the greater and greater amounts of solar and wind resources needed to come online to meet emissions reductions goals.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More on energy storage

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

excess grid capacity
PJM, NYISO and ISO-NE pay $1.4B annually for excess capacity: Report
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
November 22, 2019

PJM Interconnection, New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and ISO-New England (ISO-NE) retain more control over resource adequacy than the states in their service areas, leading to higher reserve margins and higher capacity market prices, which favor incumbent assets, according to a paper published by Grid Strategies on Thursday.

The report, commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project, estimated approximately $1.4 billion per year in total is wasted by the Northeast regional transmission operators and independent system operators by securing a combined 34.7 GW of excess capacity.
» Read article      
» Read Grid Strategies report

Sanders, Warren join fellow senators in urging New England to speed clean energy transition
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
November 20, 2019

The group of lawmakers pointed to recent market rule changes and specifically noted the ISO’s Competitive Auctions with Sponsored Policy Resources (CASPR), a program designed to prevent state subsidized resources from depressing capacity prices.

The officials, including Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., say the CASPR program forces state-sponsored renewable energy to “wait for incumbent fossil fuel generators to retire before these clean resources can enter the capacity market.”

They were also critical of the ISO’s Inventoried Energy Program, which they say will force consumers to pay millions of dollars to existing power plants with on-site fuel supplies, such as oil, coal or liquefied natural gas. Greentech Media reports the program could mean New England consumers spend $150 million more per year on energy.
» Read article    
» Read letter      

» More about regional energy

POWER PLANTS

Cricket Valley protesters
Citing Latest Climate Science, Nearly 30 Arrested Protesting New Natural Gas Plant in New York’s Hudson Valley
By Justin Nobel, DeSmog Blog
November 19, 2019

On Saturday, November 16, 29 people were arrested in a rally at a massive natural gas-fired power plant, the Cricket Valley Energy Center, that is being constructed in a picturesque rural valley of farms and forests near the New York-Connecticut border, about 80 miles north of New York City.

“This is my first arrestable action, I am definitely excited,” said 18-year-old Lucinda Carroll, who wore thick mittens and numerous layers to brace against the sub-freezing cold and was one of 10 people chained to a neon green and yellow tractor.

“With each new report that comes out, and each new article that comes out I get angrier and angrier,” said Carroll, a student at nearby Vassar College. “I’ve spent plenty of time going to marches and rallies, I think at some point you have to take a leap of faith.”
» Read article     

» More about power plants

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

BLM suspends leases
U.S. Suspends More Oil and Gas Leases Over What Could Be a Widespread Problem
Fossil Fuel leases totaling hundreds of thousands of acres have been suspended as courts rule against the BLM for ignoring climate impact.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
November 17, 2019

The Trump administration’s relentless push to expand fossil fuel production on federal lands is hitting a new snag: its own refusal to consider the climate impacts of development.

The federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office in September voluntarily suspended 130 oil and gas leases after advocacy groups sued, arguing that BLM hadn’t adequately assessed the greenhouse gas emissions associated with drilling and extraction on those leases as required by law.

The move was unusual because BLM suspended the leases on its own, without waiting for a court to rule.

Some environmental advocates say it could indicate a larger problem for the bureau.
» Read article        

coal ash goes critical
Creating a New Market for Coal in the Push to Mine ‘Critical Minerals’ for National Security
By Laura Peterson, DeSmog Blog
November 15, 2019

With the backing of the mining industry and anti-regulatory groups, the Trump administration has been seeking to expand mining on public lands and further loosen environmental rules under the banner of weaning the United States off importing minerals deemed “critical” to national security.

This move may have particular implications for the struggling U.S. coal industry and its promoters, which have begun rallying behind efforts to extract some of these so-called “critical minerals” from coal and its by-products.

In 2017, President Trump issued an executive order demanding “recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes” for “critical minerals.” The current government list of critical minerals includes a group of rare earth elements often abundant in the waste materials from mining coal and hardrock minerals like phosphate, as well as in the coal ash produced from burning coal. But while the technology to pull these elements from such mining waste is not yet economically viable and can generate its own toxic pollutants, some see the push for it as a guise for justifying further mining.

“You’ll never make money at it,” said Kevin Ashley, a retired mining engineer and former energy policy advisor. “It’s an academic exercise that allows some people to say, ‘This is why we need to continue mining coal; so we can produce more coal ash.’”
» Read article       

» More on fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 11/8/19

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

We’re leading again this week with the Weymouth compressor station. Both National Grid and Eversource this week stated they can meet their capacity needs without the compressor. Enbridge and the Baker administration are nonetheless pushing to move forward. Frustrated? If you agree this compressor station represents a danger to the Weymouth community and an obstacle to meeting Massachusetts’ own emissions goals, please call Governor Baker’s office at (617) 725-4005, and ask when the Office of Coastal Zone Management plans to release the Climate Resiliency Review that Mr. Baker promised in 2017. More details about that here. Public pressure counts.

A new report on the climate crisis, endorsed by 11,000 scientists worldwide, lays out priorities and guideposts for huge necessary changes – and underscores the fact that action can no longer be delayed.

Good news on both the clean energy and clean transportation fronts. The US is expected to rapidly increase clean energy infrastructure in the near future, and researchers are beginning to explore viable solutions for the tricky problem of recycling lithium ion batteries from electric vehicles.

We thought it appropriate to offer analysis of the Saudi Aramco IPO alongside a New York Times book review of Blowout, Rachel Maddow’s new book on the fossil fuel industry.

Finally, a report details how a planned Rhode Island natural gas power plant was rejected because demand could be met by renewable energy. And Vermont is rethinking its reliance on biomass based on updated science.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Shifting Demand Fuels Weymouth Compressor Debate
By Barbara Moran and Miriam Wasser, WBUR
November 05, 2019

The energy company Enbridge has a plan, and it’s called the Atlantic Bridge Project. Approved by federal regulators in 2017, the $452 million project would pipe more natural gas north from New Jersey into New England and Canada. To make the project work, Enbridge says it needs to build a 7,700-horsepower compressor station in Weymouth to push gas up the pipeline to customers farther north.

But two of the customers that signed on to the Atlantic Bridge Project — New Brunswick-based New England NG Supply Limited (NENG) and Exelon Corporation — have backed away from their contracts with Enbridge and agreed to sell at least part of their capacity to National Grid.

And National Grid — along with Eversource and Norwich Public Utilities in Connecticut — says it does not need the proposed Weymouth compressor to meet customer demand for gas.

This shift in demand for contracts has left Enbridge with fewer northern customers for its Atlantic Bridge Project. And opponents of the project are questioning again why Enbridge is pushing forward with plans for the Weymouth compressor station.
» Read article

Weymouth Compressor Station’s Permit Is Delayed Again
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
November 5, 2019

The long saga of the Weymouth natural gas compressor station — proposed by the Canadian energy giant Enbridge to get natural gas to Canada — continues.

A state permit, which would have been a major step toward starting construction has been delayed — again.

WBUR discovered last week that at least three utility companies planning to use Enbridge’s pipelines say they don’t even need the compressor to get gas to their customers.
» Read article

National Grid, Eversource Say They Can Meet Natural Gas Demand Without Weymouth Compressor
By Bruce Gellerman, Barbara Moran, Miriam Wasser, WBUR
November 1, 2019


Two utility companies involved with the proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth say they don’t need the facility to meet customer demand. Now, opponents of the compressor station are calling into question whether the project — which has been the subject of public protests and lawsuits — meets the “public convenience and necessity” requirement for federal approval.

In September, one of those contract holders, New Brunswick-based New England NG Supply Limited, announced that it is withdrawing from the project. Shortly after, National Grid applied to take over the contract, and in testimony before the state on Oct. 25, said it could deliver this gas to customers “without the installation of the Weymouth compressor station.”

“The implication is that they would be shipping the gas within their service territory in the greater Boston area as opposed to sending it up and out of the country,” said Kathryn Eiseman, president and CEO of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, Inc., an advocacy group based in Cummington, Massachusetts.

If the state decides in favor of the project, then the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must make its own determination before construction can begin.

“FERC really looks at whether there is market demand for a project [and] if there are signed contracts for a project,” Eiseman said. “But if you dig down a little and you see that the signed contracts will now be using the gas within Massachusetts, then there just is no justification, as far as I can tell, for building this compressor station.”
» Read article

Natural gas protesters urge Governor Baker to take action
By Jodi Reed, WWLP Boston Channel 22 News
November 1, 2019

Climate activists took to the Statehouse Friday to send a message to Governor Baker.

A group of activists from the south shore are worried that gas pipelines leading to a compressor station in their area will explode.

The group called, Fore River Residents Against Compressor Station said they have been voicing their concerns to the Governor Baker for years now but still, nothing has been done.

They outlined their concerns at a rally outside Baker’s office Friday, where they delivered hundreds of petitions to administration officials.

They want Governor Baker to deny the state permits needed for the project to advance.
» Read article

» More about Weymouth compressor station

CLIMATE

climate crisis 11k scientists
Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’
Statement sets out ‘vital signs’ as indicators of magnitude of the climate emergency
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
November 5, 2019

The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”

There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.
» Read article

Most countries’ climate plans ‘totally inadequate’ – experts
US and Brazil unlikely to meet Paris agreement pledges – while Russia has not even made one
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
November 5, 2019

The world is on a path to climate disaster, with three-quarters of the commitments made by countries under the Paris agreement “totally inadequate”, according to a comprehensive expert analysis.

Four nations produce half of all carbon emissions but the US has gone into reverse in tackling the climate emergency under Donald Trump while Russia has failed to make any commitment at all.

Other major oil-producing nations, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have set no targets to reduce emissions. China and India are cleaning up their energy systems but their surging economies mean emissions will continue to grow for a decade.
» Read article

flood of oil
Flood of Oil Is Coming, Complicating Efforts to Fight Global Warming
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
November 3, 2019

HOUSTON — A surge of oil production is coming, whether the world needs it or not.

The flood of crude will arrive even as concerns about climate change are growing and worldwide oil demand is slowing. And it is not coming from the usual producers, but from Brazil, Canada, Norway and Guyana — countries that are either not known for oil or whose production has been lackluster in recent years.

This looming new supply may be a key reason Saudi Arabia’s giant oil producer, Aramco, pushed ahead on Sunday with plans for what could be the world’s largest initial stock offering ever.

Together, the four countries stand to add nearly a million barrels a day to the market in 2020 and nearly a million more in 2021, on top of the current world crude output of 80 million barrels a day. That boost in production, along with global efforts to lower emissions, will almost certainly push oil prices down.

Lower prices could prove damaging for Aramco and many other oil companies, reducing profits and limiting new exploration and drilling, while also reshaping the politics of the nations that rely on oil income.
» Read article

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

growth in renewables
New Estimates Predict a Lot More Renewable Power Growth in the U.S. Very Soon
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
November 5, 2019

After revising its three-year U.S. power forecast, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has predicted major declines for fossil fuels and nuclear power alongside strong growth in renewables by 2022, according to a review of the data by the SUN DAY Campaign, a pro-renewables research and education nonprofit.

“FERC’s latest three-year projections continue to underscore the dramatic changes taking place in the nation’s electrical generating mix,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Renewable energy sources are rapidly displacing uneconomic and environmentally dangerous fossil fuels and nuclear power — even faster than FERC had anticipated just a half-year ago.”

While the independent federal agency forecasts robust wind and solar development, it also predicts a large increase in natural gas capacity, which is consistent with the current public emphasis of the newly rebranded “natural gas and oil industry.” The projected gains in natural gas power, however, aren’t enough to offset the sizeable drops in coal and oil, resulting in an overall decrease in burning fossil fuels for power in the U.S.

At this point, the cost of wind and solar combined with battery storage is cheaper than coal power, much cheaper than new nuclear power, and in many places also competitive with natural gas. In some areas, electric utilities are already moving from coal to renewables and skipping over the so-called “bridge fuel” of natural gas. The argument for a natural gas “bridge” to affordable renewable energy has been crumbling, and the economics of future power generation don’t look good for this fossil fuel.
» Read article

First cyberattack on solar, wind assets revealed widespread grid weaknesses, analysts say
New details of a denial-of-service attack earlier this year show an energy sector with uneven security.
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
November 4, 2019

A March 5 cyberattack of U.S. wind and solar assets is back in the news, with fresh documents helping shed light not just on the extent, but also the simplicity of the first-of-its-kind intrusion. Cybersecurity experts say it reveals a utility sector not sufficiently vigilant, and failing to employ the most simple fixes.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) in September revealed details about the denial-of-service (DoS) attack, urging utilities to keep firewalls patched and up to date, but held back the name of the impacted entity. E&E News last week revealed, based on documents obtained through a public records request, the victim was sPower.
» Read article

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EV battery design
The electric vehicle industry needs to figure out its battery problem
Without recycling, electric vehicle batteries could lead to mountains of waste
By Justine Calma, The Verge
November 6, 2019

Electrifying transportation is one of the biggest keys to solving the looming climate crisis. With more electric vehicles on the road and fewer gas-guzzlers, drivers burn less fossil fuels and put out fewer planet-heating gases into the atmosphere. But as electric vehicles become more popular, they’re posing another environmental challenge: what to do with their batteries once they’re off the road.

Those batteries are starting to pile up into a problem, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature today. We’ll inevitably need to recycle many of the batteries, but harvesting useful materials from used lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles remains tedious and risky. Luckily, there’s still hope. The authors of the paper say that institutional changes — like designing batteries with recycling in mind and using robots to automate disassembly — could reshape battery recycling. In turn, those improvements could make electric vehicles even greener by using old batteries to supply materials needed to build new ones.
» Read article

» More on clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Saudi Aramco IPO: the ultimate marriage between carbon and capitalism
A firm with the biggest carbon footprint seeks cash to grow just as the fight against climate change needs it to shrink
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian
November 3, 2019

Roll up! Roll up! The world’s biggest climate polluter, Saudi Aramco is poised to announce the world’s biggest stock flotation in an ultimate marriage of carbon and capital. Any institution with tens of millions of dollars and few qualms about the environment is invited.

Entry is not as exclusive as it sounds. Individuals with a lot less cash and a lot more concern may also inadvertently find themselves as guests through pension funds that automatically track the stock markets.

Scientists warn that fossil fuels and money will soon need to divorce because carbon emissions must be slashed by half over the next decade if the world is to have any chance of keeping global heating to a relatively safe level of 1.5C. Despite this, Aramco expects to receive the greatest infusion of cash in history.
» Read article

Rachel Maddow Takes on the Oil Industry
Book review by Fareed Zakaria, New York TImes
October 30, 2019

BLOWOUT Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth By Rachel Maddow
“Blowout” is a rollickingly well-written book, filled with fascinating, exciting and alarming stories about the impact of the oil and gas industry on the world today. While she is clearly animated by a concern about climate change, Maddow mostly describes the political consequences of an industry that has empowered some of the strangest people in the United States and the most unsavory ones abroad. It is “essentially a big casino,” she writes, “that can produce both power and triumphant great gobs of cash, often with little regard for merit.”
» Read review

» More on the fossil fuel industry

POWER PLANTS

RI gas plant rejected
Renewables growth, market changes tanked Invenergy’s Rhode Island gas plant, regulators say
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
November 7, 2019

Invenergy’s efforts to persuade regulators that the ISO’s decision to end the capacity supply obligation was not indicative of declining need for the new plant were unsuccessful.

Experts “presented strong and credible evidence demonstrating that the need for this type of facility would likely decrease in the coming decade” the board said. And reports that were referenced during testimony on the plant “revealed plans forecasting a significant increase in renewables and a continued decrease in peak load.”

“The Board found those reports to be reliable and credible and strong indicators of the lack of need for the Clear River Energy Center.”

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), an opponent of the project, praised the written decision.

“As we said in June, this is a huge victory for Rhode Island and for the health of our communities,” CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer said in a statement. “After years of lies and misinformation, Invenergy’s efforts to pave over a forest to build this dirty plant have been dealt a substantial loss.”
» Read article

» More on power plants

BIOMASS

VT biomass on pause
In a Warming World, New Thinking Imperils Vermont’s Wood-Fueled Energy Market

By Kevin McCallum, Seven Days
October 9, 2019

Biomass is organic material used to create energy. In the Northeast that means one thing: wood.

That includes the cord wood that Vermonters have traditionally cut, seasoned and burned in woodstoves to heat their homes. It also encompasses wood pellets burned in efficient modern pellet stoves and boilers, both of which the state promotes with generous financial incentives.

Then there are the industrial-scale energy facilities such as the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station in Burlington, the largest producer of electricity in the state, and the Ryegate Power Station in Caledonia County. Both plants burn woodchips by the ton to generate electricity for the grid.

Proponents say biomass technology is crucial to helping Vermont reach its renewable energy goals. The state has committed to getting 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Its energy plan calls for doubling the use of wood for heat by 2025.

Now those goals are bumping up against a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests planting new forests, better managing existing ones and designating more lands off-limits to logging can play major roles in moderating climate change.
» Read article

» More on biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 11/1/19

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

On the local scene, we’re following the Weymouth compressor station, a proposed pipeline replacement/enlargement in Ashland, and continuing consequences to Columbia Gas for last year’s disaster in the Merrimack Valley.

With the Trump administration attempting to relax safety rules for oil transport by rail, we’re keeping a close eye on virtual pipeline news. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts legislature is considering the 2050 Roadmap Bill (H.3983), to address climate change and pivot away from fossil fuels.

Reporting on climate includes a new study illuminating what types of forests sequester the most carbon. And Canadian youth have now joined others in suing their government for climate inaction that threatens their future. Progress toward that future is highlighted in stories on energy efficiency, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, and battery storage.

We come into the home stretch with a routine basket of news about fossil fuel bankruptcies, denials, and deceptions, and a warning that the promoters of biomass appear to have a tailwind because of favorable changes to legislation and regulations – in spite of warnings from the science and environmental communities. Heads up, Massachusetts – the Baker administration is trying very hard to classify biomass as clean, renewable, and carbon neutral.

We close this week with a notable advancement in plastics recycling from startup Carbios. They have developed a way to biologically break down many types of plastic and then make new plastic without degradation.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth compressor protesters
Planning agency seeks review of Weymouth compressor study
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service, reprinted in The Patriot Ledger
October 28, 2019

BOSTON — Five months after it became clear that a study clearing the way for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth was based on incomplete data, the regional planning agency that produced it is seeking an outside review to determine if its conclusions were in error.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council announced last week that it had hired London-based Public Health by Design to re-examine its health impact assessment, which found that there would be “no substantial changes in health” for Weymouth and the surrounding communities as a result of the gas plant’s operations. The assessment’s findings have been cited by the Baker administration in approvals of project permits.

In May, amid a contentious appeal process over an air-quality permit the state issued, the Department of Environmental Protection revealed that the data used in the MAPC’s work was less than two-thirds of what regulators had originally sought. The MAPC soon said that its original conclusions could not be assumed to remain valid.
» Read article     

compressor site WBUR
With Permits Upheld, Weymouth Compressor Opponents Plan Legal Challenge
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service, on WBUR
October 25, 2019

Massachusetts’ lead environmental regulator upheld wetlands and waterways permits for a natural gas compressor station, drawing renewed promises of a legal challenge from opponents.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg on Thursday announced that the two permits would go forward after facing an appeal from opponents in the community, an expected step after the DEP’s hearing officer earlier this week recommended allowing the approval to stand.

On Friday morning, the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station said it would appeal the decision to Superior Court, arguing the permits in fact violate environmental regulations. The group had said earlier it would challenge Suuberg’s decision.
» Read article     

» More on Weymouth compressor station

ASHLAND PIPELINE

Ashland residents rally against Eversource natural gas pipeline project
By Cesareo Contreras, MetroWest Daily News
October 3, 2019

ASHLAND- Deeply troubled over Eversource’s plan to replace a 3.7-mile natural gas line that runs through town, Joel Arbeitman can’t help but feel that the state’s review system has taken away residents’ power to decide what should happen in their town.

“Right now, we have this case in front of the Energy Facilitates Siting Board. We don’t get to decide what happens in our community. They do. We could go to court. We can fight, but ultimately, they decide and that’s a problem,” Arbeitman said Wednesday in Ashland’s Senior Community Center.

Arbeitman was one of at least 30 people who attended Wednesday’s session during which a student documentary “Under Pressure” about last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions was screened. Eversource’s local pipeline project was the central focus during the question-and-answer portion of the night’s discussion.

The company is looking to decommission a six-inch 3.7-mile gas line that runs through Ashland and Hopkinton and place new 12-inch pipes alongside them. The company said the project is needed to improve line pressure and better serve customers in Greater Framingham. The easement intersects through the property of more than 80 Ashland homes, two parcels owned by the town, the Chestnut Street Apartments and a number of environmentally sensitive areas, including portions of the wetlands and the conservation-restricted Great Bend Farm Trust.
» Read article     

FSU professor: Eversource pipe proposal is not necessary
Metro West Daily
April 13, 2019

Lawrence McKenna, an earth and environmental science associate professor at Framingham State University, recently completed a report on the pipeline project. He says he sees some flaws, which he relayed to Ashland selectmen earlier this month.

McKenna’s takeaway: There is no immediate need for pipes to be replaced and doubled in size. In fact, current piping “is reliable at the 99.999% level,” he said.

“Ashland has time, because there is no emergency,” McKenna told the Daily News. “Ashland has time to have a vigorous honest debate about where this pipeline should go and why.”

Eversource officials declined to address the professor’s findings, noting that their proposal is still being reviewed by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB).
» Read article  

» More on Ashland pipeline

COLUMBIA GAS – MERRIMACK VALLEY

North Andover Selectmen Ask For Town Voice In Columbia Gas Audit
By Christopher Huffaker, The Patch
October 29, 2019

North Andover’s selectmen are asking the state to give them more of a role in oversight of the Merrimack Valley gas explosions restoration work. On Oct. 2, the state ordered that Columbia Gas pay for an audit of all gas pipeline work they’ve done since the deadly explosions. North Andover asked in a letter sent that the engineering firm Environmental Partners, which they partnered with alongside Andover and Lawrence following the accident, participate in the audit.

“It is important that the towns have a voice and independent oversight in this process. We hope that this work will begin soon so that we have a final determination on whether the work completed was done correctly,” Town Manager Melissa Rodrigues wrote on behalf of the selectmen.
» Read article  

» More on Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley 

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

oil train explosion
Four States, Led by New York, Challenge Trump Admin Over Oil Train Safety Rule
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 29, 2019

On October 23, New York Attorney General Letitia James, joined by attorneys general from Maryland, New Jersey, and California, sent a letter of support to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) over a Washington state law that would limit the volatility of oil transported by train through the state.

That oil originates in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana, where trains help take the place of scarce pipelines in order to move fracked crude oil to Washington’s refineries and ports along the coast. North Dakota and Montana have fought back against Washington’s law, which was passed in May, and filed a petition to PHMSA in protest just two months later.

Spurred by safety concerns about oil trains derailing and exploding, the Washington law would cap the vapor pressure of crude oil moved by rail at 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi) and would be triggered by a rise in oil train traffic in the state.
» Read article     

tanker train
California Attorney General pushes back on regulation of trains carrying flammable oil being retained at the federal level
By David C. Lester, RT&S
October 28, 2019

Several states are pushing back on the notion that regulation of crude oil trains in the United States belongs in the hands of the federal government, as opposed to being regulated by the states.  The Sierra Times reports that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation, and expressed support of the State of Washington efforts to retain state control with laws that limit the vapor pressure level in cars that are carrying very flammable crude oil by rail.

Interestingly, North Dakota and Montana are opposed to these Washington state laws, and the Attorney General’s letter expressed opposition to the position of these two states.  The transportation of crude oil by rail is relatively safe, but an accident can have disastrous consequences. The railroads have made efforts to minimize the impact of oil train derailments by building stronger tank cars that are better equipped to retain leaks and prevent fires.

However, if things go wrong, as they have in past years before stronger tank cars were in place, all bets are off as to the level of havoc that can be wrought by derailments.  In fact, many refer to these trains as “bomb trains,” as violent explosions and intense heat can result from derailments. Trains moving in California often pass areas that are among California’s very sensitive ecological areas, as well as highly populated communities.  Several states have noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has not been active in keeping communities safe, and have failed to enact more robust standards, putting areas through which the trains pass at risk.
» Read article     

LNG on trains for export
Trump Admin Proposes New Rule to Allow Shipping Flammable LNG by Rail
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 25, 2019

While the DOT press release announcing the rulemaking emphasizes safety (the word or a variant is repeated no fewer than eight times), the actual document proposing this new rule details a worrisome scenario for what could happen if a train of LNG tank cars derails, breaching and releasing the liquefied fossil fuel — what PHMSA calls “Scenario 3”:

“Although Scenario 3 has a low probability, a breached inner tank during a transportation accident could have a high consequence because of the higher probability of a fire due to the formation of a flammable gas vapor/air mixture in the immediate vicinity of the spilled LNG. This probability is based on the likelihood of ignition sources (sparks, hot surfaces, etc.) being generated by other equipment, rail cars, or vehicles involved in a transportation accident that could ignite a flammable vapor cloud.”

According to PHMSA, the derailment of a train full of LNG could have “high consequences” — as in, a major fire or explosion — but because the agency says there are lower odds that it would happen, the public should feel assured this proposed transportation mode, using DOT-113 rail tank cars, is safe.
» Read article     

» More on virtual pipelines

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

A roadmap for combatting climate change
Let’s build on Global Warming Solutions Act
By Joan Meschino and Alyssa Rayman-Read, CommonWealth Magazine
October 26, 2019

Massachusetts has been a leader in the fight against climate change. Yet, several alarming reports by top climate scientists have made it clear that this fight is just beginning. If we are serious about safeguarding the character and nature of our communities, we must take action now. We need a bold commitment to addressing the climate crisis that includes concrete steps for reaching net-zero carbon emissions while promoting a just transition to a clean energy economy.

That is why 59 legislators in the Massachusetts House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, have signed onto the 2050 Roadmap Bill (H.3983). Developed with input from a diverse group of stakeholders, including labor and business leaders, local officials, environmentalists, and our utilities, the 2050 Roadmap Bill is a bold response to the crisis currently at our doorstep. The bill gives us a plan for steadily reducing our carbon pollution, while ensuring that the opportunities and benefits of a cleaner, healthier, more just economy are enjoyed by everyone in Massachusetts.
» Read article    
» Read 2050 Roadmap Bill (H.3983)

» More legislative news

CLIMATE

forest damage - Peru
In the Fight Against Climate Change, Not All Forests Are Equal
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
October 30, 2019

Forests are a great bulwark against climate change, so programs to reduce deforestation are important. Those efforts usually focus on stopping the destruction in areas where it is already occurring.

But a new study suggests these programs would do well to also preserve forests where deforestation and degradation haven’t begun. Gradual loss of these largely pristine, intact forests has a much greater climate impact than previously accounted for, the researchers said.

Immediate clearing of intact forests, what might be considered “classic” deforestation, over that period accounted for about 3 percent of global emissions from deforestation in all tropical forests, the researchers said. But when they looked at other, more gradual types of loss and disturbance — forests that had been opened to selective logging for firewood, for example, or road-building that exposed more trees to drying or windy conditions — they found that the carbon impact increased sixfold over the period.
» Read article    
» Read study

A Couple A’s, One F: Again, A Mixed Environmental Report Card For Baker
By Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
October 29, 2019

Six of the state’s leading environmental organizations gave Gov. Charlie Baker mixed grades on environmental issues.

Each year, the groups release a report card assessing the administration’s performance in nine categories. While Baker enjoyed two A’s and two B’s in this year’s report, he also earned two C’s, two D’s and an F.

“The takeaway is a mixed record on environmental issues,” said Nancy Goodman, vice president for policy at the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
» Read article    
» Read report

Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050, New Research Shows
By Denise Lu and Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
October 29, 2019

Rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought, according to new research, threatening to all but erase some of the world’s great coastal cities.

The authors of a paper published Tuesday developed a more accurate way of calculating land elevation based on satellite readings, a standard way of estimating the effects of sea level rise over large areas, and found that the previous numbers were far too optimistic. The new research shows that some 150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by midcentury.
» Read article     

Secret Deal Helped Housing Industry Stop Tougher Rules on Climate Change
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
October 26, 2019

A secret agreement has allowed the nation’s homebuilders to make it much easier to block changes to building codes that would require new houses to better address climate change, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The agreement shows that homebuilders accrued “excessive power over the development of regulations that governed them,” said Bill Fay, head of the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition, which has pushed for more aggressive standards. Homes accounted for nearly one-fifth of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions nationwide last year.

The consequences of the [2002] deal between the code council and homebuilders are easiest to measure when it comes to energy efficiency, which came under the influence of the homebuilders’ agreement in 2011.

Until that point, the model building codes had drastically improved the energy efficiency of new homes with each new three-year edition. The 2009 and 2012 development cycles together reduced homeowners’ annual energy costs by 32 percent, according to an analysis by the Department of Energy.

Then, after energy-efficiency codes fell under the agreement between the code council and the homebuilders, that momentum ground to a halt. The 2015 codes, the first to be negotiated after the change, reduced residential energy use and costs by less than 1 percent, the Energy Department found. Savings from the 2018 codes were less than 2 percent.
» Read article     

children's climate lawsuit Canada
15 Canadian Kids Sue Their Government for Failing to Address Climate Change
The young plaintiffs are already dealing with effects of wildfires, flooding and thawing permafrost. They say the government is contributing to the climate crisis.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
October 25, 2019

Fifteen children and teenagers from across Canada sued their government on Friday for supporting fossil fuels that drive climate change, which they say is jeopardizing their rights as Canadian citizens.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Vancouver, is the latest from young climate advocates around the globe who are increasingly leading public protests and filing legal challenges to make their concerns about their future in a warming world heard.

“The federal government is knowingly contributing to the climate crisis by continuing to support and promote fossil fuels and through that they are violating our charter rights,” said Sierra Robinson, 17, a youth climate activist and plaintiff in the case from Vancouver Island, Canada.
» Read article    
» Read complaint

» More on climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

City of Cambridge and Eversource Launch Building Energy Retrofit Program
Eversource News Post
October 28, 2019

The City of Cambridge and Eversource announced a new energy efficiency initiative, called the Cambridge Building Energy Retrofit Program, which targets buildings that are over 25,000 square feet or 50 units for energy-saving improvements. The program, which will proactively connect building owners and facility managers to energy efficiency services, incentives, and technical support, aligns with Cambridge’s Net Zero Action Plan to reduce building greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“In Cambridge, buildings account for 80% of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The Cambridge Building Energy Retrofit program helps large buildings access the resources they need to make energy efficiency upgrades that will reduce their energy use and cut their carbon footprint – an important step in furthering our Net Zero Action Plan,” said Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development.
» Read article     

» More on energy efficiency

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Mayflower Wind location
Mayflower Wind Picked For 800-Megawatt Project Off Of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, on WBUR
October 30, 2019

An offshore wind development that boasts it will deliver “the lowest cost offshore wind energy ever in the U.S.” has been selected by state utilities, in coordination with the Baker administration, to deliver about 800 megawatts of clean power to Massachusetts.

Mayflower Wind, a joint venture of Shell and EDPR Offshore North America, was the unanimous choice of the administration and three utilities to build an array of wind turbines approximately 26 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 20 nautical miles south of Nantucket, state energy officials announced Wednesday.
» Read article     

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

‘General Motors better wake up’ before China takes EV market, former California Gov. Brown tells Congress
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
October 30, 2019

The Trump administration’s efforts to prevent California from enforcing implementing its own fuel standards is a national threat to the electric vehicle market, say EV advocates. Some 15 states, representing almost 40% of the automobile industry, have adopted California’s standard, which also provides a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency that states rely on in part to provide zero emissions vehicle rebates.

“The California waiver is important. It means California can set higher standards. It means California can be a laboratory of energy innovation, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” said Brown.

Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen in July struck a deal with California that loosened the emissions standard for those four companies, while awarding them additional EV credits to meet those standards. As a result, automakers agreed to cooperate with those emissions benchmarks.

But the president, reportedly incensed by that deal, announced in September he would be revoking California’s ability to implement its own standards, and his Department of Transportation shortly after filed a proposal to act on his directive.
» Read article     

General Motors Sides With Trump in Emissions Fight, Splitting the Industry
Along with Toyota and Fiat Chrysler, the auto giant backed the administration in its clash with California over pollution standards.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
October 28, 2019

Breaking with some of their biggest rivals, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota said Monday they were intervening on the side of the Trump administration in an escalating battle with California over fuel economy standards for automobiles.

The Trump administration has proposed a major weakening of federal auto emissions standards set during the Obama administration, prompting California to declare that it will go its own course and keep enforcing the earlier, stricter standards.

In July, Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW sided with California in the battle, striking a deal with the state to follow more stringent standards close to the original Obama-era rules. That surprise agreement would allow those automakers to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations.

The pact came as an embarrassment for the Trump administration, which assailed the move as a “P.R. stunt.” In what was widely seen as a retaliatory move, the Justice Department subsequently opened an antitrust inquiry into the four automakers on the grounds that their agreement with California could potentially limit consumer choice, according to people familiar with the matter at the time the inquiry was opened.
» Read article     

» More on clean transportation

BATTERY STORAGE

ESS gets juiced
Iron Flow Battery Startup ESS Raises $30M From SoftBank and Breakthrough
The flow battery survivor marks the latest in a series of recent investments in unconventional long-duration storage technologies.
By Julian Spector, Green Tech Media
October 29, 2019

Iron flow battery startup ESS raised an additional $30 million to take its technology from pilots to commercial scale.

Since 2011, the company has been developing a low-cost, nonflammable long-duration storage technology to compete across domains where the dominant lithium-ion battery chemistries are weaker. Flow batteries have been one of the more prominent lithium-ion alternatives, but companies working in the space have struggled to stay afloat financially and move beyond the pilot stage.

With the new Series C investment, ESS has won a vote of confidence from prestigious and well-heeled backers. SoftBank’s SB Energy and Bill Gates-funded Breakthrough Energy Ventures led the round, which also brought in Evergy Ventures and PTT Global Chemical, in addition to previous investors.
» Read article     

» More on battery storage

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

coal bankruptcies
Murray Energy Is 8th Coal Company in a Year to Seek Bankruptcy
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
October 29, 2019

Murray Energy, once a symbol of American mining prowess, has become the eighth coal company in a year to file for bankruptcy protection. The move on Tuesday is the latest sign that market forces are throttling the Trump administration’s bid to save the industry.

The collapse of the Ohio-based company had long been expected as coal-fired power plants close across the country.
» Read article     

Exxon Knew
Massachusetts Sues ExxonMobil For Climate Disinformation, Greenwashing
By Brendan DeMelle, DeSmog Blog
October 24, 2019

Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil today over the company’s misinformation campaign to delay action to address climate change.

Attorney General Maura Healey told reporters in a press conference today that “Exxon has fought us every step of the way,” and was “completely uncooperative,” noting that the company failed to comply with requests for documents and depositions.

“Exxon has yet to produce to our office a single document. They have yet to provide to our office a single witness. So they have been completely uncooperative with our investigation,” Healey told reporters.

ExxonMobil misstated facts and failed to disclose important information to both consumers and investors, according to the complaint, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court by the attorney general’s office.
» Read article   
» Read complaint

» More fossil fuel industry news

BIOMASS

Potential Grows for Biomass Energy
By ERICA GIES, New York Times
October 20, 2009

Woody biomass provides just 0.94 percent of all U.S. energy now, supplying the equivalent of 3.5 million American homes. But Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association, a group in Portland, Maine, that represents about 80 plant-burning incinerators in 16 states, says available raw material would allow the industry to double its output. New incinerators are already being planned in many states.

The idea of homegrown, renewable energy, is appealing. It would qualify for tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and could benefit from support for renewables in the climate bill now going through the Senate.

But many environmentalists are worried. Some, like Chris Matera, founder of Massachusetts Forest Watch, warn that biomass incineration could cause major environmental damage, including the clear cutting of forests and the use of vast quantities of water for cooling. They also say that its combustion emissions are worse than coal’s — a serious charge because in both House and Senate versions of the climate bill, the technology falls into a “biomass loophole.” Categorized as a renewable energy source, biomass would be exonerated from emission caps.
» Read article    

» More on biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Carbios biorecycling
In this “biorecycling” factory, enzymes perfectly break down plastic so it can be used again
The process lets any plastic—say a polyester shirt—be recycled into any other plastic (like a clear water bottle). It could fundamentally change the market for recycling.
By Adele Peters, Fast Company
October 17, 2019

Inside a bioreactor in the laboratory of the France-based startup Carbios, pulverized PET plastic waste—the kind of plastic found in drink bottles and polyester clothing—is mixed with water and enzymes, heated up, and churned. In a matter of hours, the enzymes decompose the plastic into the material’s basic building blocks, called monomers, which can then be separated, purified, and used to make new plastic that’s identical to virgin material. Later this year, the company will begin construction on its first demonstration recycling plant.

“Our process can use any kind of PET waste to manufacture any kind of PET object,” says Martin Stephan, the company’s deputy CEO. It’s a process that could happen in an infinite loop: Unlike traditional recycling, which degrades materials each time you do it, this type of “biorecycling” can happen repeatedly without a loss in quality.
» Read article   

» More on plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 10/11/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

The brave folks in Weymouth are still fighting the good fight against the Enbridge compressor station. US Senators Markey and Warren stepped into the ring with them and sent a strongly-worded letter to CEO Monaco requesting that he seek an alternative site.

Virgo is back! The 14 year old Pekingese mix was reunited with her Very Happy Person after going missing for a whole year following the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Meanwhile, Columbia Gas recently made more news with another large gas leak in that area, and is dealing with the consequences.

We also found pipeline news covering Granite Bridge, Ashland (Eversource), and a good possibility that Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be contested in the Supreme Court.

Not all gas leaks are accidental. Newton & Wellesley were just subjected to a day-long, large “controlled release” to empty a major pipeline for maintenance. And we have further news from a story we carried last week about a fracked gas well blow-out in Louisiana that is now expected to flare or vent for another two months before coming under control.

Climate news includes an article explaining why so many fires are currently consuming the Amazon rain forest. Plus a heads up on a sneaky new non-profit funded by dark money. Its mission is to promote natural gas and discredit the Green New Deal ahead of the 2020 election. After that, you may want to take a rejuvenating skim through the news on clean energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency, and microgrids.

Wrapping up, reporting on the fossil fuel industry offers a steady diet of concern about fracking as a bad financial bet, an environmental disaster, and a source of fuel that appears to be peaking much sooner than its boosters led investors to believe.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Lawmakers ask gas company CEO to pull compressor station plans
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 9, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Members of Weymouth’s Congressional delegation are asking the CEO of a giant energy company to reconsider his company’s decision to build a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River.

In a letter to Enbridge President and CEO AI Monaco, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch asked Monaco to abandon plans to put a compressor station in Weymouth to facilitate Canadian gas exports.

Opponents of the compressor station proposed by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, say it will increase pollution and affect the health and safety of residents who live near the proposed compressor, which would be built at the basin of the Fore River.

“Given the broad opposition to building the compressor station at the proposed location, we strongly urge you to heed the concerns of these state and local officials and experts, and immediately seek an alternative for this project that does not involve siting a compressor station in the middle of a community that rejects it as unnecessary and dangerous,” the letter reads.

» Read article
» Read Markey/Warren letter

Compressor critics say website issues impeding research
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 7, 2019

Residents say they need more time to review more than 1,000 pages of data on a proposed natural-gas compressor station and related documents because of technical errors with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s website that have delayed and even prevented their research.

Weymouth resident Margaret Bellafiore said she sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection over the weekend asking for more time for the respondents to research TRC Environmental Corp.’s draft report called a “release abatement measure” plan, which covers the cleanup of contamination on the proposed compressor site. The state Department of Environmental Protection defines the plan as “a voluntary remedial measure taken to totally clean up small problems, or reduce the magnitude of larger problems.”

Bellafiore said scientists, doctors and residents have been “stymied” trying to evaluate the plan due to technical problems with the state agency’s website, including links to necessary reports that don’t work.
» Read article     

Sit with Andrea: Here I Am Again, 18 months later
Andrea Honore, Sit with Andrea Blog
October 5, 2019

So many times I have sat on the waiting room couch, facing the inner office door, and he’ll cruise by on his way out of the office. Most of the time I say hello, or good afternoon and he is polite enough back to me. No fireworks. I don’t get off the couch and follow him… at least not until Sept 19th.

Why did I follow him? Maybe because I was inspired after helping host the wonderful Dr Sandra Steingraber, and, also, being super-tired apparently tamps down my fantastic anxiety. It must have contributed to the lowering of my normal reserve?
» Read article    

State agency again extends review of compressor station project
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
October 4, 2019

For the ninth time since it began examining the plans, the office of Coastal and Zone Management agreed with Algonquin Gas Transmission to a stay of its federal consistency review. The office paused its work on the project for a month starting Sept. 16, the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs confirmed.

Under the current agreement, it will restart the review on Oct. 16 and complete it by Nov. 4, although that could end up being pushed back by another extension. CZM traditionally does not issue its rulings until other state regulators have completed their reviews, and the Department of Environmental Protection still has not ruled on appeals filed challenging wetlands and waterways permits it issued.
» Read article     

Compressor station foe takes fight to Baker for 200th time
By Anastasia E. Lennon, Boston University State House Program Via Patriot Ledger
September 26 2019

BOSTON – Andrea Honore on Wednesday walked into Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive office for the 200th time in less than three years.

Unlike most days, Honore wasn’t alone. Flanked by other activists, the Weymouth woman sat beneath a portrait of former Gov. Paul Cellucci and calmly laid out her demands for Baker regarding a natural gas compressor station proposed for a site on Weymouth’s Fore River.

Baker did not come out to greet her.

Honore’s first 82 visits to the governor’s suite took place from February through July 2017, while the rest came starting this past January, when an air-quality permit for the contested site was announced. The State House is just a 15-minute walk from her job, which allows her to visit frequently.

“What would you do to save your home, Governor Baker? How hard would you fight?” Honore said in her opening statement. “Those of us who live in the Fore River Basin area and beyond are doing everything we can to save our home and health.”

She went on to demand that Baker immediately direct the state’s agencies to deny the remaining permits, citing state law, halt the current alteration of the site at 50 Bridge St., and find more independent sources to conduct the safety and impact studies. Honore also asked that Baker order the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health to retract their previous healthimpact assessment for the project and perform a new, peer-reviewed one.
» Read article    

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS

Virgo
Woman Reunites With Dog Lost After Merrimack Valley Explosions

By Jim Smith, CBS News
October 3, 2019

Altagracia Baldera was in disbelief as she held her 14-year-old Pekingese mix in her arms. Virgo had been missing for more than a year, and now she was reunited with her owner.

The incredible story began during last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Baldera was evacuated from her North Andover home and went to stay with her sister in Lawrence. The next day, Virgo escaped in a community she had never been to before.
» Read article     

» More Columbia gas incident articles

COLUMBIA GAS NEWS

Columbia Gas claims line
Lawmakers weigh ‘nuclear option’ for Columbia Gas
By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter
October 4, 2019

BOSTON — Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera doesn’t mince words when asked if he thinks Columbia Gas of Massachusetts should be allowed to continue serving his city.

“Frankly, I think they should lose their license to operate in the state,” the Democrat says. “They’ve proven that they aren’t capable of serving our community.”

Rivera said last week’s gas leak in Lawrence that resulted in service shutoffs and forced evacuations has solidified his view that the company’s franchise should be taken away.

Such a move, however, would require approval by the state Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker and, so far, no legislation to do so has been filed.

But lawmakers who represent the Merrimack Valley say they are increasingly leaning toward the nuclear option.
» Read article    

» More Columbia Gas news

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

PUC consultants oppose approval of Granite Bridge pipeline
By Alex LaCasse, Seacoast Online
October 3, 2019

CONCORD — Hired consultants from the state’s Public Utilities Commission are not recommending approval of the Granite Bridge gas pipeline, saying Liberty Utilities had not done enough analysis to demonstrate it was the best option for meeting future energy needs.

The testimony from PUC consultants John Antonuk, John Adger and Dr. James Letzelter, of the Liberty Consulting Group, was filed earlier this month.

It was joined by other written testimony from the New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate, Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast and the Conservation Law Foundation, all testifying against the project. The deadline for interveners to submit testimony to the PUC was Sept. 13.

The only groups speaking in support were Liberty Utilities and the union representing its gas workers, who stated the project was the most economical way to meet New Hampshire’s future energy needs.
» Read article     

» More Granite Bridge pipeline news

ASHLAND (EVERSOURCE) PIPELINE

Judge sets schedule for Ashland-Eversource pipeline legal clash
By Cesareo Contreras, Metrowest Daily News
October 3, 2019

ASHLAND – Town officials and Eversource Energy have until the new year to build up their respective arguments concerning the company’s right to move forward with its plan to replace a gas pipeline that runs through Hopkinton and Ashland.

On Aug. 23, the town served the company with a Land Court Summons and complaint, calling on the court to restrict the company to just one pipeline along a 3.7-mile easement that runs through both towns.

Eversource wants to place a new 12-inch pipe in the easement along side the current 6-inch pipe, which would be decommissioned. Utility officials say the larger pipe is necessary to solve a problem that causes pressure in the line to drop.

On Monday, Massachusetts Land Court Judge Michael Vhay set a Jan. 10 deadline for both parties to assemble their discovery evidence.
» Read article     

» More Ashland pipeline articles

OTHER PIPELINES

SCOTUS ACP
Supreme Court to take on Atlantic Coast Pipeline appeal
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
October 7, 2019

The Supreme Court’s decision to take on the appeal surprised several of the environmental groups that have litigated against the permits because of the limited applications of the case. Some opponents of the project credited this to the influence of the developers of the 600-mile pipeline, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company.

“These companies are very well connected,” Gerken told Utility Dive.

A wide range of supporters sent in briefs to appeal the Fourth Circuit decision, including the U.S. Solicitor General, 16 state attorneys general and several industry and labor organizations supporting the Forest Service’s authority to approve the pipeline’s crossing of the Appalachian Trail.

“Attorneys general and pipeline companies from around the country that have no stake in this issue have weighed in,” Gerken said.
» Read article     

» More articles about other pipelines

GAS LEAKS NEWS

Gas Release Planned For Newton, Wellesley
Crews are emptying a natural gas pipeline so they can do some maintenance work on it. It will be smelly.
By Jenna Fisher, Patch
October 7, 2019

NEWTON, MA — If you smell gas on Tuesday near the Route-128 interchange, officials say, they’re aware. Algonquin Gas Transmission will be releasing natural gas as part of preventative maintenance work at its Valve Site near Walnut Street in Wellesley and Quinobequin Road in Newton near the Washington Street, Route 128 interchange.

The release is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday and will last for about 12 hours, according to the city. There will be a second release before the middle of the month. This isn’t the first set of gas releases for maintenance. In August there were a couple releases, but neither lasted as long.

It will be smelly. And it will be loud, according to officials.
» Read article     

» More gas leaks articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

LA blowout Oct 4
Already Burning for a Month, Fracked Gas Blowout in Louisiana Could Last Two More Months
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 4, 2019

For the fifth week since the blowout began, a large flare is still burning**update below** at the site of GEP Haynesville, LLC’s blown out fracked gas wells in northwestern Louisiana. The blowout occurred on August 30, shortly after the company began a frack job, igniting two adjacent wells. A state official estimated that efforts to contain the blowout could take another two months, or more.

The flare has gone out at times, resulting in fluid from the well, including what the oil and gas industry calls “produced water,” spreading a mist into the sky over a mile away, alarming nearby residents.

**UPDATE OCTOBER 8: Patrick Courreges, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), told DeSmog via email on October 8th: “Both blowout wells killed – no longer flowing,” however, work is still underway to kill them permanently.**

“Once out, saltwater and whatever else was shooting out into the sky,” a resident, who asked to not be named, told DeSmog. “It would come back down, making a heavy fog, killing lots of trees, and getting on everything.” The resident said the fog persisted for four days and caused irritation and burning in the eyes and any open wounds when outside for more than a few minutes.
» Read article     

» More about what goes wrong

CLIMATE

Amazon fires and cattle
Why Amazon Fires Keep Raging 10 Years After a Deal to End Them
Many of the thousands of fires burning in Brazil’s Amazon are set by ranchers. A deal inked 10 years ago was meant to stop the problem, but the ecological arson goes on as the Earth warms.
By Clifford Krauss, David Yaffe-Bellany and Mariana Simões, New York Times
October 10, 2019

The immense scale of the fires in Brazil this summer raised a global alarm about the risks they posed to the world’s largest rainforest, which soaks up carbon dioxide and helps keep global temperatures from rising.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Ten years ago, an agreement was reached that was intended to help end these devastating acts of ecological arson.

In 2009, the three biggest Brazilian meatpacking companies signed an agreement with the environmental group Greenpeace not to buy cattle from ranchers who raised their beef in newly deforested areas.
» Read article     

TEA
U.S. group forms to defend natural gas against anti-fossil fuel measures
By Nichola Groom, Reuters
September 30, 2019

A group backed by anonymous donors launched a campaign on Monday to promote the benefits of cheap, abundant natural gas against what it called “radical” proposals like the Green New Deal that would phase out use of the fossil fuel.

The Empowerment Alliance, or TEA, will fund advertising and research to advocate the use of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, in the runup to the U.S. presidential election in November of 2020, Terry Holt, a spokesman for the group, said on Monday.

Most of Republican President Donald Trump’s challengers for the White House are pursuing aggressive policies to fight climate change.

The nonprofit group would not disclose its donors, saying they prefer to remain anonymous because of fears they will be harassed by environmental activists. The group also declined to comment on its budget.
» Read article     

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Baker’s latest solar goal called too small
Pacheco, advocates push administration to think bigger
Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
October 4, 2019

At a Senate oversight hearing on Friday, Baker administration officials said they wanted to expand the original 1,600 megawatt proposal by 800 megawatts and run a tweaked SMART program through 2022. The officials focused on some of the challenges they face – a power grid not set up to absorb power from small solar generators, the high cost of connecting those generators to the grid, and the need to move cautiously with technology changing so rapidly.

“Our grid needs to catch up,” said Judith Judson, the commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources.

With industry groups pushing for a 3,200 megawatt expansion, Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton prodded the Baker administration to get on board. He said the state’s utilities and the Department of Public Utilities are fixated on the reliability of the grid and the price of power. But he said they need to also take into account the looming threat of climate change.

“We need to move much more quickly,” Pacheco said.
» Read article    

Edgartown settles
Edgartown, Vineyard Wind Settle Cable Dispute
Noah Asimow, Vineyard Gazette
October 1, 2019

Vineyard Wind and the Edgartown conservation commission have comes to terms in a dispute over the construction of two heavy-duty underwater cables, as the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm moves through an extensive permitting and construction process.

A settlement signed off on by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this week will allow the conservation commission to play an active role in closely monitoring the project to run an undersea cable from the offshore wind farm past the eastern shore of Chappaquiddick on its way to mainland Cape Cod.

Although the settlement clears one of the last of a long line of local and state permitting hurdles for the massive, 84-turbine ocean infrastructure project, a construction start date remains stalled until at least early 2020 because of delays at the federal level.
» Read article      

» More clean energy articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

electric roads
Electric Roads Could Be a Path to a Driverless Future
Israel and Sweden experiment with a new way to increase the uses of electric cars.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
October 7, 2019

BEIT YANNAI, Israel — Electric vehicles can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at least in theory. But challenges to wide acceptance remain significant: Batteries are expensive, charging stations are few and far between, and recharging takes far more time than a fill-up at the pump.

A technological breakthrough is needed, and many companies are working on ways to make charging faster and travel range longer. Advances have been frustratingly slow.

A small Israeli start-up called Electreon has another idea: electrify the roads to recharge vehicles as they are driven.
» Read article     

» More clean transportation articles

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Boston net zero
Boston To Require All New City-Owned Buildings To Be ‘Net-Zero’ For Carbon Emissions
By Craig LeMoult, WGBH
October 8, 2019

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh plans to require all newly constructed city-owned buildings to be “net zero” for carbon emissions. The plan is detailed in an update to the city’s Climate Action Plan, made public Tuesday.

The directive will require new city buildings to either cause no emissions of carbon — through a combination of efficiency improvements and use of renewable energy — or to offset any emissions, which are caused by oil and gas used for heating and electricity generation, with carbon-reducing investments.

City officials said Walsh will sign an executive order mandating the change in the coming weeks, after he attends the international C40 Mayors Climate Summit in Copenhagen later this week. At the summit, he plans to speak about Boston’s efforts to prepare for climate change and sea level rise.
» Read article     

» More energy efficiency articles

MICROGRIDS

Can We Really Reach These Big Green Goals?
By Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
October 8, 2019

So the pursuit of renewable energy is on. What stands in the way?

Availability of renewable energy — and access to it — is the greatest problem cited. But it’s among a long list that also includes intermittency, difficulty attracting skilled staff, and complexity of power markets and renewable energy contracts.

What can help organizations overcome these problems? Those surveyed cited coordination with their utilities as the biggest enabler.

“In fact, utilities can directly influence the pace and scale at which these organizations can reach their energy goals,” says the report.
» Read article     

» More microgrid articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

fracking peak
Will the Fracking Revolution Peak Before Ever Making Money?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 3, 2019

This week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted that the U.S. oil and gas shale industry, already struggling financially, is now facing “core operational issues.” That should be a truly frightening prospect for investors in American fracking operations, but one which DeSmog has long been warning of.

This one line from the Journal sums up the problems: “Unlike several years ago, when shale production fell due to a global price collapse, the slowdown this year is driven partly by core operational issues, including wells producing less than expected after being drilled too close to one another, and sweet spots running out sooner than anticipated.”

As we have reported at DeSmog over the last year and a half, the shale oil and gas industry, which has driven the recent boom in American oil and gas production, has been on a more than decade-long money-losing streak, with estimated losses of approximately a quarter trillion dollars. Those losses have continued in 2019.
» Read article     
Mossmorran flaring
Mossmorran flaring: Shell forced to burn off gas it cannot sell
By Angie Brown BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter
October 3, 2019

Residents living near the Mossmorran site thought flaring would be reduced after Exxonmobil closed in August.

However, flares have continued to burn because Shell’s only ethane customer is Exxonmobil, which shares the site.

Shell said it was “actively exploring alternative ethane outlets”.

Exxonmobil chose to temporarily close its plant to undertake maintenance on its boilers.

Shell’s Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant separates natural gas liquids into ethane, propane, butane and natural gasoline for storage and onward distribution.

It sells its ethane to Exxonmobil’s neighbouring Fife Ethylene plant, which turns it into ethylene.

Since the Fife Ethylene Plant was temporarily closed down Shell said it “did not have the storage capacity for the significant quantities of ethane produced from North Sea gas”.
» Read article     

US Shale Production Is Set For A Steep Decline
By Nick Cunningham, oilprice.com
October 1, 2019

U.S. oil production fell in July, another worrying sign for the shale industry.

The latest EIA data shows that oil output fell sharply in July, dipping by 276,000 barrels per day. The decrease can be chalked up to outages related to a hurricane that forced oil companies to temporarily idle operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore Gulf of Mexico production plunged by 332,000 bpd in July.

As a result, the dip in output might easily be dismissed as a one-off aberration. However, U.S. output has stagnated in 2019, ending several years of explosive shale growth. Compared to December 2018, total U.S. production was only up 44,000 in June 2019, which essentially means that despite heady forecasts and lots of hype, U.S. shale has plateaued this year.
» Read article     

» More fossil fuel articles

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Weekly News Check-In 10/4/19

WNCI-2

Welcome back.

Local resistance to gas infrastructure build-out has been active this week. We found news about the Weymouth compressor station, last week’s near miss in the Merrimack Valley, Granite Bridge and other pipelines. Meanwhile, climate activists were keeping the 9-foot tall Charlie Baker puppet busy on his Climate Catastrophe Tour. We also found lots of news about gas leaks.

On the climate front, DeSmog Blog published a troubling article about chummy relations between captains of the fossil fuel industry and leaders of large environmental non-profits at the recent climate summit. On a happier note, clean transportation could be getting a boost from the planned Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) being developed for the east coast.

Fossil fuel industry news includes articles about shoddy construction and oversight in the North Dakota oil patch, along with another warning about stranded assets. All this while the Trump Administration appears to be stacking the deck with an imbalance of Republicans on FERC.

We wrap up with biomass news from Massachusetts and a ban on single use plastic in Vermont.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Escalate - DEP Action
Compressor protester arrested at state offices as Markey tours site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 2, 2019

An environmental activist was arrested Wednesday during a protest by opponents of a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth who blocked the entrance to the state Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Boston to demand that the agency reject the project.

Nathan Phillips, a Boston University professor, was arrested on a charge of trespassing by Boston police during the protest of the proposed 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station proposed by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge. The charge against Phillips was later dropped, said Laura Borth, a member of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.

Borth was one of a handful of Weymouth residents who showed up at the agency Wednesday and blocked the entrance.

“I think the message of DEP needing to deny the remaining permits got across clear today,” she said.
» Read article


Weymouth compressor foes want new health study done
By Ed Baker, Wickedlocal.com
October 1, 2019

A state health impact assessment of a proposed compressor station site states there would be no substantial health impacts from direct exposure to the facility, but opponents want a new evaluation done.

“We gave a list of demands to Gov. Baker,” said Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS). “We want to let Gov. Baker know we are not going away until the compressor goes away.”

Baker ordered a health impact assessment of the Fore River Basin in July 2017.

The study stated health impacts from the proposed compressor station may be possible through “perceived pollution levels and less comfort with using the nearby outdoor space.”

Weymouth resident Andrea Honore said the state health impact assessment was flawed because it did not get underway until late 2018.

“He (Baker) promised it would be done in 2017, but nothing happened until late 2018,” she said. “It was a condensed study with hundreds of pages. It was not done properly.”
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS

Human error cause of latest Lawrence gas leak, officials say
By WCVB, Channel 5
September 28, 2019

A gas leak that forced hundreds of Lawrence residents from their homes early Friday was caused by human error, according to officials.

In a joint statement, the Department of Public Utilities, Columbia Gas and the City of Lawrence said contractors working for the city inadvertently closed a gas valve, puncturing a gas main in the process.

Officials believe this gas valve was not compliant with DPU standards should have been disabled as part of pipeline reconstruction in 2018.
» Read article

» More Merrimack Valley gas incident articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Granite Bridge pipeline protesters
300 join Climate Strike in Manchester calling for protection of NH environment
By Laura Aronson, Manchester Ink Link
September 22, 2019

The Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, drew millions worldwide, including more than 300 people in Manchester. Nearly a dozen events were planned in New Hampshire. Locals met at Victory Park at 12 p.m. for a march on Elm Street to a rally at Manchester City Hall.

Organizer Jennifer Dube of 350NH said, “I am striking because Manchester does not need the Granite Bridge Pipeline transporting fracked methane gas along Lake Massabesic, threatening their water supply. I am striking because my town of Raymond does not need Liberty Utilities running a gas pipeline under the Lamprey River two times. I am striking because the town of Epping right next door to me does not need Liberty Utilities putting a target on its back: a gigantic, 170 foot high, 200 foot wide tank sized to store 2 billion cubic feet of natural liquid gas.  With projects like that in the works, it is clear that New Hampshire is not on the path to [100] percent clean, safe, renewable energy. We are fighting to stop this harmful pipeline project and to shut down the last, major, coal-fired power plant in New Hampshire. We call on our elected officials to publicly opposed the Granite  Bridge Pipeline project and to endorse the Green New Deal.”
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge pipeline articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Supreme Court - pipelinesSUPREME COURT: 4 pipeline fights to watch this term
By Niina H. Farah, E&E News
September 30, 2019

The Supreme Court could decide to wade into the natural gas pipeline wars this term.

As the court begins its 2019 session, energy experts are watching whether the justices will weigh in on federal permitting, eminent domain and state sovereignty issues around pipeline construction.

So far, the justices have opportunities to consider the Forest Service’s authority to permit the Atlantic Coast pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail and to decide whether developers of the Mountain Valley project can lawfully seize private property before paying. Solicitor General Noel Francisco has urged the justices to hear the Atlantic Coast dispute, which significantly boosts the case’s odds of review.

“Natural gas and oil pipeline infrastructure is not getting less controversial and the Supreme Court may find it appropriate to issue a ruling that definitively settles the matter,” ClearView Energy Partners LLC wrote in a recent analysis.

A third possible case involving state lands takings for the PennEast pipeline may also be brought before the Supreme Court. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is still mulling a request to reconsider its decision to block developers’ access to New Jersey-owned acreage.
» Read article

The $109 Million Lobbying Effort To Run A Pipeline Through National Treasures
The proposed 600-mile-long Atlantic Coast Pipeline would bisect the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests.
By Frank Bass, Huffington Post
September 25, 2019

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile-long project that has been compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests.
Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure “to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress. The companies ― Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, and Southern Co. ― have described the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as “a critical infrastructure project that will strengthen the economic vitality, environmental health, and energy security of the Mid-Atlantic region.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which separately has spent almost $361 million lobbying since the project was announced, estimates economic losses of $91.9 billion and 730,000 lost jobs if the pipeline isn’t built.

The battle over the pipeline highlights the shifting landscape for power companies, which have been presenting natural gas as an energy source that can serve as a bridge fuel during the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, even while the effects of climate change become more apparent. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transfer as much as 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas daily from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania shale fields to facilities in Virginia and North Carolina.
» Read article

» More pipeline articles

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

Climate and transportation activists are carrying a 9-foot-tall Charlie Baker puppet around Massachusetts. Here’s why.
By Christopher Gavin, Boston.com   
September 23, 2019

With the impacts of climate change looming larger year after year, local activists are literally looking to make a big statement around Massachusetts this week.

A nine-foot-tall Gov. Charlie Baker puppet will tower over the volunteers for 350 Mass for a Better Future, a Cambridge-based climate advocacy group carrying the two-dimensional mock-up of the state’s Republican chief executive to several towns and cities on what the group dubbed the “Charlie’s Climate Catastrophe Tour.”

The Baker administration has failed to combat the causes of climate change, particularly fossil fuel dependency, and to lead on the transportation issues plaguing the Commonwealth, Craig Altemose, executive director of Better Future Project, told Boston.com Monday.

That’s why climate and transportation activists are hitting up the sites where they say Baker’s leadership is lacking, from the Weymouth compressor station to a proposed electrical substation in East Boston.
» Read article

» More regional energy news

GAS LEAKS NEWS

Gas leaks in Springfield
Could it happen here?: Gas explosion in Merrimack Valley hangs over new pipeline efforts
By Chris Goudreau, Valley Advocate
October 2, 2019

In response to the [Merrimack Valley] disaster, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to commission a comprehensive independent assessment of the gas distribution system in the Commonwealth. In March, Gov. Baker signed legislation allocating $1.5 million toward the creation of that study by Texas-based Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems chosen by the DPU.

But Gov. Baker and the state of Massachusetts aren’t the only ones investigating the gas infrastructure in the Commonwealth. A coalition of more than 10 nonprofits called Gas Leaks Allies recently published its own 60-page study on Sept. 13 titled Rolling the Dice: Assessment of Gas System Safety in Massachusetts, which covers the condition of the gas systems, analyses gas incidents in the state, examines utility practices and DPU oversight, and looks at the future of natural gas in Massachusetts.

“Longer-term safety, health, and climate protection require an orderly, cost-effective, managed transition from dependence on gas to a safer, cleaner, and more resilient system based on renewable energy, thermal technologies, and energy efficiency,” it concludes.
» Read article    
» Read “Rolling the Dice” study

Activists mark gas leaks in Easthampton, citing environmental and safety concerns
By BERA DUNAU, Daily Hampshire Gazette
October 2, 2019


EASTHAMPTON — A group of activists spent Sunday labeling the sites of reported gas leaks in the city to draw attention to what they consider to be environmental and public safety concerns.

In Massachusetts, gas companies are required to report the sites of gas leaks annually. In 2018, 17 unrepaired leaks were reported in Easthampton.

“They do it at the end of the year,” said Connie Dawson, of Easthampton, who helped organize the event.

Dawson said Columbia Gas repaired 11 Grade 1 leaks in 2018, leaks that have to be repaired immediately because they represent a safety hazard, according to information the group gleaned from the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that focuses on energy efficiency.

On Sunday, each of the 17 reported leaks were labeled with signs, in an event sponsored by Easthampton Climate Action and the Easthampton Democratic Committee.

Dawson expressed concern with the leaks both from a safety perspective and with the methane they leak into the environment. Dawson also said that there may be other leaks.

“It doesn’t include any leaks that may have occurred since then,” she said.
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State utility regulator slams Columbia Gas
DPU wants “detailed work plan” describing how gas company intends to prevent leaks
By Bill Kirk, Eagle-Tribune
October 1, 2019

LAWRENCE — The state Department of Public Utilities came out swinging Tuesday, hammering Columbia Gas for breaking federal law in one letter and then threatening to fine them $1 million for every violation listed in another letter – both of which were issued as a result of last Friday’s Level 1 gas leak.

Last week’s leak forced the evacuation of dozens of homes and businesses in the same South Lawrence neighborhood devastated by last year’s gas disaster. Hundreds of people were displaced and forced to seek reimbursement for lost food, wages and more.

In the first letter, issued Tuesday morning, DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson told Columbia Gas President Mark Kempic that the utility company must submit a “detailed work plan” describing how it intends to prevent future gas leaks like the one that occurred around 3 a.m. Friday.
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CLIMATE

OGCI members at UN
Oil Industry Set Agenda During Climate Summit Meeting with Big Greens
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
September 30, 2019

Last week, as climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Action Summit, invited leaders from major environmental groups spent their day listening to the leaders of fossil fuel companies discuss how they want to respond to the climate crisis.

Depending on which room you were in, you would have heard two very different messages.

Thunberg’s widely watched speech evoked the urgency of acting on climate change.

“People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing,” Thunberg told the UN summit. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”

Just blocks away, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), whose members include oil giants like ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Saudi Aramco, and BP, was meeting with representatives from large environmental organizations, talking about ways to moderately reduce greenhouse gas pollution while continuing business as usual.
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plunger
Climate Change May Take Away Your Ability to Flush the Toilet
By K Thor Jensen, Newsweek
September 30, 2019

A new United Nations report states that rising sea levels could render as many as 60 million toilets inoperable in the United States alone, as traditional septic systems are threatened by increased groundwater.

About 1 in 5 American households rely on septic systems to handle their toilet waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These systems work by draining flushed toilets into an underground tank, where bacteria breaks it down into water and solid sludge. That water moves through an outflow tube into a drainage field.

However, as sea levels rise, those drainage fields are becoming saturated, preventing them from absorbing liquid from septic tanks. In addition, erosion removes the necessary soft earth to filter out pollutants, resulting in public health hazards and groundwater contamination.
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At the Edge of a Warming World
By Nestor Ramos, Boston Globe
September 26, 2019

The Cape we love is at risk now. Cape Cod is perched on a stretch of ocean warming faster than nearly any in the world. And as much as we might wish it away, as hard as we try to ignore it, the effects of climate change here are already visible, tangible, measurable, disturbing.

Perfect summers have grown hotter and muggier. Storms arrive violently, and more often. Occasionally, nature sends up an even more ostentatious flare: A historic home vanishes. The earth opens up and swallows a Honda Civic. A seasoned fisherman on the waters off Provincetown peers over starboard and spies an unmistakable shock of electric green: mahi-mahi, visiting from the tropics.
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CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

TCI moving forward
East Coast states outline carbon pricing plan

Plan would use tax-like structure on fuel
By Andy Metzger, CommonWealth Magazine
October 1, 2019

OFFICIALS FROM MASSACHUSETTS and Maryland on Tuesday laid out in broad strokes their plans for a forthcoming program across the East Coast to reduce harmful tailpipe emissions and fund greener transportation alternatives by pricing the carbon contained in gas and diesel fuels.

The proposal would mimic a gasoline tax from the perspective of consumers, but it is distinct from a traditional tax in a few ways, as a Baker administration official noted on Tuesday.

Known as the Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, it is an ambitious effort involving a dozen states from Maine to Virginia that are collectively trying to cut down on planet-warming emissions from cars and trucks, which have increased in recent decades despite global efforts to halt climate change.
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FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Whistle-blower Reveals Flawed Construction at North Dakota Gas Plants Where Massive Spill Was Downplayed
By Justin Nobel, DeSmog Blog
October 1, 2019

Two North Dakota gas processing plants in the heart of the Bakken oil fields have shown signs of an eroded safety culture and startling construction problems, according to Paul Lehto, a 54-year-old former gas plant operator who has come out as a whistle-blower. He described worrisome conditions at the Lonesome Creek plant, in Alexander, and the Garden Creek plant, in Watford City, where DeSmog recently revealed one of the largest oil and gas industry spills in U.S. history had occurred. Both plants process natural gas brought via pipeline from Bakken wells and are run by the Oklahoma-based oil and gas service company, ONEOK Partners.

“The safety culture is embarrassing,” said Lehto, who has described to DeSmog the discovery of dozens of loose bolts along critical sections of piping, and other improperly set equipment, deficiencies he attributes to the frenzied rush of the oil boom that has dominated the state’s landscape and economy. “North Dakota is basically a Petrostate,” said Lehto, who worked at the two plants between 2015 and 2016. “There is regulatory capture, and sure that happens in other areas, but nowhere is it more extreme than in North Dakota.”

“The reason I am coming forward is that while I didn’t think ONEOK was doing their job, I still trusted the state to regulate and do its job,” said Lehto. “But in reading what the state’s response was to the condensate spill, I have lost all confidence that the state is acting as a legitimate regulator.”
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The Stranded Asset Threat to Natural Gas
This week on The Interchange podcast: Is natural gas the new coal?
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media
September 27, 2019

There are $70 billion worth of natural-gas-fired power plants planned in the U.S. through the mid-2020s. But a combination of wind, solar, batteries and demand-side management could threaten up to 90 percent of those investments.

New modeling from the Rocky Mountain Institute shows that more than 60 gigawatts of new gas plants are already economically challenged by those technologies. And by the mid-2030s, existing gas plants will be under threat.

How severe is the threat? Could we eventually see tens of gigawatts of stranded gas plants?

RMI set out to answer that question in two reports on the economics of gas generation and gas pipelines. The tipping point is now, it concludes.
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FERC

Trump bucks bipartisan tradition with plan to nominate Republican FERC commissioner
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
October 2, 2019

President Donald Trump intends to nominate a Republican for one of two vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a White House announcement Monday.

Although the administration had previously advanced pairs of Republican and Democratic nominees together, when possible, Trump will nominate FERC general counsel James Danly. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Joe Manchin, W.Va., noted his disappointment with the administration’s “failing to honor the tradition of a bipartisan pairing” for the independent agency.

The White House could still announce the nomination of a Democrat in order to maintain the bipartisan pairing tradition, and they have options. A rumored Democratic candidate, Allison Clements, received pre-clearance this summer from a designated ethics agent for her ethics guidance and financial disclosure, according to sources familiar with the matter.
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BIOMASS

At hearing on Mass. forest protection bill, it’s climate vs. industry
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
September 25, 2019

BOSTON — Competing views of the impact of logging in state-owned forests at a time of climate crisis clashed Tuesday at a hearing chaired by a Berkshires lawmaker.

The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture took over two hours of testimony on a bill, “An Act Relative to Forest Protection,” that would classify all state land as parks or reserves, with virtually no allowance for commercial logging.

Berkshire County is home to thousands of acres of state forest that would be affected by the change proposed in the bill filed this year by state Rep. Susannah M. Whipps of Athol.

Opponents, including the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, say the measure would hurt municipalities that receive revenues from logging and weaken the state’s forest products industry. They contend state-owned forests are already sequestering carbon at impressive levels and in that way playing a role in combating climate change.

But as global leaders meet this week in New York City to discuss climate change, some who back the bill pressed the committee to do its part to ensure Massachusetts is living up to its climate goals.

Michael Kellett, executive director of the nonprofit Restore: The North Woods, said the bill would enable publicly owned trees on land that represents a fifth of all Massachusetts forests to continue to draw in and hold carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The measure would affect roughly 610,000 acres of forest.

“We face a climate emergency and this is a simple and effective way to help increase the capacity of our forests to protect biodiversity and sequester carbon now and in the future,” Kellett said.
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PLASTIC BANS

Vermont plastic banVermont Takes Next Steps in Stopping Toxic Plastic Pollution
We break down the toxic toll of plastic pollution as state working group convenes to document health and environmental impacts
By Jen Duggan, Conservation Law Foundation
October 2, 2019

Earlier this year, CLF helped Vermont pass the strongest state law in the nation to reduce dangerous plastic pollution. Act 69 tackles four of the most common single-use plastics by banning plastic bags, stirrers, and toxic polystyrene food packaging and making plastic straws available only on request.

The new law also directs legislators and other stakeholders to work together this fall to develop even stronger measures to curb the use of toxic plastic products. The group, called the Single-Use Products Working Group, must submit a report by December 1, 2019, to the Vermont General Assembly that documents the public health and environmental impacts of plastic pollution and identifies additional action to address the plastic crisis.

Plastic is much more than a litter problem. It exposes us to harmful chemicals and contributes to the climate crisis. We must eliminate all single-use plastics – or risk more harm to our health, our environment, and our climate. As the Working Group meets over the coming months, CLF will be there at every step to push for the bold action and creative solutions we need to tackle our plastic crisis.
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