Tag Archives: electric vehicles

Weekly News Check-In 9/2/22

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Welcome back.

While many of us are still basking in the glow of recently passed federal climate legislation, it’s important to remember that closing the deal with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin left a lot of good folks tossed under the proverbial bus. We’re paying particular attention to the inappropriately buoyed fortunes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a boondoggle that activists had rightly beaten back through years of hard, science-based work. Facing defeat on the merits, industry played its money/influence/corruption card – so the fight continues. Beyond the MVP, plenty of other fossil misdeeds are drawing push-back both in court and on the street.

Back to the Inflation Reduction Act, which has a lot of good programs in spite of Manchin. We found a calculator that helps show what funds might be available to help individuals offset all sorts of expenses, from the purchase of electric vehicles or heat pumps, to upgrading windows and insulation in homes. Along those lines (news you can use!), you can now replace your fossil fueled water heater with an efficient electric heat pump model that plugs into the same 120V outlet – no electrical upgrade required.

Like other states taking steps to ban new gas connections, Massachusetts is beginning to grapple with the problem of phasing out gas without saddling the dwindling roster of customers with ballooning utility bills as fewer remaining users support an aging and obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure.

And the idea that fossil fuels can be completely phased out is gaining traction, as experts polish their crystal balls and gaze at the coming green economy. Only a few years ago, this idea was considered largely aspirational. Taken in context with disturbing new studies showing the extent of accelerating methane pollution in the atmosphere, this new confidence in a totally-renewable energy future is welcome indeed. Unfortunately, human conflict and persistent wars remind us that modern militaries are huge users of fossil fuels. When they’re the only customers left, where will their fuel come from? Just musing… this question keeps me up at night.

But energy transition is underway, so modernizing the grid moves to the front of the line. Recent delays in interconnecting the growing roster of renewable energy resources has exposed a glaring need. On top of that, where we place those renewables and how we mine materials for them remains fraught. In particular, deep-seabed mining raises a deafening ruckus of alarm bells. Fact is, we need to build millions of electric vehicles and stationary batteries quickly, and we’re in a race to figure out how to do it without screwing up an important pillar of the environment that sustains all life.

Meanwhile, fracking operations in the Permian Basin are creating oceans of toxic water that nobody quite knows what to do with,  and yet another report shows that the fossil-burning industry’s favorite fig leaf, carbon capture and storage, has yet to show much effectiveness. Hint: stop burning stuff.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

unfair
‘It’s a deal with the devil’: outrage in Appalachia over Manchin’s ‘vile’ pipeline plan
The fossil-fuel friendly senator has resurrected the Mountain Valley pipeline, leaving residents with a bitter pill to swallow
By Nina Lakhani and Oliver Milman, The Guardian
August 26, 2022

Taking on the fossil fuel industry in West Virginia was always going to be a David v Goliath type battle, but after years of protests, lobbying and lawsuits, 68-year-old Becky Crabtree thought the community-led resistance had beaten the Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP) in a fair fight.

So when news broke earlier in August that the state’s fossil-fuel friendly senator Joe Manchin had resurrected the beleaguered pipeline, Crabtree, a high school science teacher who teaches students about the climate crisis, felt “numb”.

Manchin, a conservative Democrat who receives more campaign financing from the fossil fuel industry – including pipeline companies – than any other lawmaker in Congress, had agreed to back his party’s historic climate legislation before the crucial midterm elections. But only after he negotiated a side-deal to fast-track the MVP.

“It’s the unfairness that makes me so angry. It’s a deal with the devil,” said Crabtree, 68, who owns a 30-acre sheep farm in Lindside, Monroe county.

The deal is a sweet one for the pipeline’s supporters. Democratic leaders agreed to advance separate legislation in September that would “require the relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation of the MVP and give the DC circuit jurisdiction over any further litigation”.

This could help the pipeline company circumvent judges who have suspended construction and overturned permits over environmental concerns, and have future legal cases heard in an appeals court in Washington, which is considered more favourable to developers.

It’s part of a broader set of concessions negotiated by Manchin to diminish environmental protections and expedite permits and construction of pipelines and other energy infrastructure, limiting legal challenges by concerned communities and environmental groups.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

calculator
Could you get home energy and EV incentives under the climate law?
Find out which tax credits and upfront discounts you can earn for heat pumps, solar, electric vehicles and more — and how much money they could save you.
By Alison F. Takemura, Canary Media
August 30, 2022

The new climate law is chock-full of incentives to electrify your home and car, but the specifics are a maze to navigate. To help you find your way through, pro-electrification nonprofit Rewiring America has released an online calculator that tells you which of the incentives you’ll likely qualify for. And over 200,000 people have already tried it.

“I’m so excited that we put this out because it does seem like it’s being legitimately useful to people trying to figure out what the [law] means for them,“ said Sam Calisch, head of special projects at Rewiring America.

Consumer choice is a big deal for the climate. According to Calisch, more than 40% of U.S. energy emissions stem directly or indirectly ​“from the decisions households make at their kitchen tables” — things like ​“where they get their electricity from, what they use to heat and cool their homes, and what they drive.”

The calculator can inform those decisions, pointing Americans to the home and vehicle electrification discounts, rebates and tax credits that are, or will soon be, available to them thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Still, when Canary staff tried the calculator, some furrowed their brows; the results that it delivers can be a little confusing. So think of this article as your unofficial guide to how it works and what you can do with your results.
» Read article     
» Try the online calculator

» More about legislation

GAS BANS

holding the bag
As wealthy towns go electric, who will pick up the tab for aging gas infrastructure?
Advocates in Massachusetts say the time is now to start thinking about how to protect lower-income residents as those with the financial means begin to abandon the natural gas system
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
September 2, 2022

As the first Massachusetts cities and towns prepare to ban new residential fossil fuel systems, some advocates say now is the time to create a long-term strategy to make sure lower-income residents aren’t left to pay for a sprawling and aging natural gas system they can’t afford to opt out of.

“Absent a policy intervention, our most vulnerable consumers could be left holding the bag,” said Michael Colvin, director of regulatory and legislative affairs with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker last month signed a sweeping new climate bill that includes authorization for up to 10 towns and cities to ban the use of fossil fuels in new construction or in substantial remodeling projects, as long as at least 10% of the housing units in the municipality qualify as affordable. New homes would not be allowed to install oil or propane tanks or use natural gas for heating or cooking.

[…] There are already signs, however, that the idea of fossil fuel bans may be picking up momentum. Activists are already starting to push for a statewide authorization in the next legislative session. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has said she’d like the city to join the list of ten. There are questions about whether that would be possible under this legislation, but her announcement suggests the strategy may be gaining supporters.

[…] Though these bans are likely to slow the growth of fossil fuel demand by a small amount, it’s also likely that more affluent residents will be the first to benefit. The 10 municipalities set to adopt the bans first all have median household incomes well above the state average. And higher-income residents are also more likely to be able to afford the new homes or major remodels that regulations apply to.

Early on, that disparity is less concerning, said Dale Bryk, director of state and regional policies at the Harvard law School Environmental and Energy Law Program.

“In some ways it’s not bad to have wealthier towns work out the kinks and figure out how to do this,” she said.

The authorization of fossil fuel bans, however, signals a pivotal shift in the way utilities and policymakers need to look at the natural gas system, Colvin said. Until now, the assumption was always that the infrastructure would continue to expand to meet the energy needs of a growing population: “It was never in the cards that we weren’t going to add capacity, that we weren’t going to build a new pipeline,” he said.

Now signs suggest the reach of natural gas could actually be headed in the other direction. And if the bans become more widespread, they could create significant inequities if there are no policy interventions, Bryk said.

As households step away from the natural gas system, there will be fewer customers left to pay for the infrastructure. And that infrastructure is aging and leak-prone, and expected to require repairs costing as much as $16.6 billion in Massachusetts alone in coming years, according to a report from nonprofit consulting group the Applied Economics Clinic.

Statewide policies are necessary to make sure that financial burden isn’t put disproportionately on lower-income residents and people of color, advocates said. And policymakers and legislators need to start crafting these strategies immediately, they added.
» Read article     
» Read the Applied Economics Clinic report

» More about gas bans

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

welcome to Lytton
After Deadly Fires and Disastrous Floods, a Canadian City Moves to Sue Big Oil
A potential lawsuit by Vancouver would be the first in Canada to target the fossil fuel industry’s role in climate change.
By Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times
August 29, 2022

LYTTON, British Columbia — Nothing has been rebuilt since flames devoured the tiny village of Lytton last year, turning it into a national symbol of climate change. It was in Lytton, about 90 miles northeast of Vancouver, that temperatures set a national record of 49.6 degrees Celsius — 121.3 Fahrenheit in Canada! — before the deadly fire erupted.

Blue fencing on either side of Main Street blocks off access to the ruins of the village. Charred trees, flattened roofs, collapsed walls and piles of debris stretch over the full length of the village center, the silence broken only by helicopters dumping water to try to extinguish more recent fires in the nearby mountains.

“It’s a flashback of what happened last year,” said Phyllis Speinks, 54, who was filling her truck up at a nearby gas station and had been evacuated for two weeks because of this summer’s fires. “I was afraid.”

The heat that started the inferno in Lytton killed 619 people in the province last year and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. It has sent government officials scrambling for policies, tools and approaches they can use to steer the province away from more disasters by stemming the effects of climate change, which scientists believe contributed to the extreme heat and other destructive weather events of the past year.

Now, the region is fighting back. Vancouver’s City Council took preliminary steps in July toward suing major oil companies, seeking damages for the local costs of climate change.

The move, in a city that has been a leader of the environmental movement in Canada and was the birthplace of Greenpeace, would be the first lawsuit of its kind in the country against the fossil fuel industry, whose carbon emissions contribute to global warming.
» Read article    

willow alaska drilling
Lawsuit challenges ANOTHER Arctic drilling program (that’s worse for the climate than Willow)
By Friends of the Earth, in RedGreenandBlue.com
August 28, 2022

Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of Peregrine, an exploratory drilling program entering its third year in the Western Arctic in Alaska. The complaint takes the agency to task for its failure to consider the greenhouse gas consequences of burning the oil the developer hopes to discover and produce. According to EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions calculator, extracting and burning the quantity of oil that could be found at the Peregrine site would be the carbon equivalent of emissions from 173 coal-fired power plants operating for a year.

The plans were submitted by Emerald House, a subsidiary of Australian petroleum firm 88 Energy. After drilling an initial oil well labeled “Merlin-1” in the winter of 2020/2021, the company told investors it believed the remote and undeveloped public-lands area where it intends to drill could contain 1.6 billion barrels of petroleum. If that proves true, extracting and burning that total volume would release 645 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to expert analysis. By comparison, ConocoPhillips’ Willow project – which has attracted significant opposition from climate advocates – would release an estimated 275 million metric tons of CO2.

The lawsuit alleges that the Biden administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to analyze the greenhouse gas emissions consequences of allowing this project to move forward when issuing a permit, particularly given the existing climate impacts arising from fossil fuel projects already underway on federal lands.

“We are beyond frustrated with Biden’s rubber stamping of Big Oil’s drilling in Alaska’s vulnerable and wild places,” said Hallie Templeton, Legal Director for Friends of the Earth. “Unfortunately, the administration failed to see how this unlawful decision throws yet another carbon bomb at our rapidly warming planet. We hope the court system helps ensure that the federal government fully upholds our bedrock environmental laws before approving such harmful activities.”
» Read article     

» More about protests and actions

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Lake Lugano
Ukraine sets plans for ambitious ‘green’ reconstruction
Ukraine’s reconstruction from Russia’s full-scale war gives Europe’s most energy-intensive economy the opportunity to become a hub for green electricity and hydrogen exports to Europe.
By Anna Gumbau, Energy Monitor
August 24, 2022

Even as Russian hostilities against Ukraine continue, Kyiv has kickstarted its plans for a green reconstruction after the war.

Ukrainian authorities and international partners – including the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank – met in Lugano, Switzerland, on 4–5 July to outline plans as well as the financial support needed for the country’s post-war recovery. There, the Ukrainian government and its National Council for the Recovery of Ukraine presented a draft reconstruction plan – written over one-and-a-half months with the support of industry and civil society groups in “a big, hugely inclusive process”, says Anna Ackermann, founding member of Ukraine-based NGO Ecoaction and a policy analyst at the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“We don’t want to do things as we used to,” said Ukrainian energy minister German Galushchenko during the Ukraine Reconstruction Conference. “We want to reconstruct [Ukraine] based on the modern possibilities which exist in the energy sector.”

That reconstruction “has to rebuild Ukraine in a sustainable manner aligned with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Paris Agreement, integrating social, economic and environmental dimensions including green transition”, said the declaration that emerged from the conference.

[…] “We expect the reconstruction will be sustainable and according to the highest European standards as we have a good opportunity to rebuild an even more progressive and technological country,” Myronko tells Energy Monitor. “Moreover, [we expect] that decarbonisation will be one of the key principles in Ukrainian economic development. Nevertheless, the priority is to stop the war.”

In fact, the Ukrainian reconstruction plan has upgraded its renewables commitment to make it to 45% of its energy mix by 2032, and the country now aims to build as much as 30 gigawatts (GW) of solar, hydro and wind capacity by 2030, with the prospect of exporting part of that renewable power to and producing “green hydrogen” for export.
» Read article     

future looks sweet
Wind turbine blades could be recycled into gummy bears, scientists say
By Chelsie Henshaw, The Guardian
August 23, 2022

The next generation of wind turbine blades could be recycled into gummy bears at the end of their service, scientists have said.

Researchers at Michigan State University have made a composite resin for the blades by combining glass fibres with a plant-derived polymer and a synthetic one. Once the blades have reached the end of their lifespan the materials can be broken down and recycled to make new products including turbine blades – and chewy sweets.

Wind power is one of the dominant forms of renewable energy. However, turbine blades, usually made of fibreglass, can be as long as half a football field and cause problems with disposal, with many discarded in landfills when they reach the end of their use cycle.

To combat the waste, researchers designed a new form of resin. Digesting the resin in an alkaline solution produced potassium lactate, which can be purified and made into sweets and sports drinks.

“We recovered food-grade potassium lactate and used it to make gummy bear candies, which I ate,” said John Dorgan, one of the authors of the paper.

The alkaline digestion also released poly(methyl methacrylate), or PMMA, a common acrylic material used in windows and car taillights.

On eating gummy bears that are derived from a wind turbine, Dorgan says “a carbon atom derived from a plant, like corn or grass, is no different from a carbon atom that came from a fossil fuel. It’s all part of the global carbon cycle, and we’ve shown that we can go from biomass in the field to durable plastic materials and back to foodstuffs.”

He added: “The beauty of our resin system is that at the end of its use cycle, we can dissolve it, and that releases it from whatever matrix it’s in so that it can be used over and over again in an infinite loop. That’s the goal of the circular economy.”
» Read article     

» More about greening the economy  

CLIMATE

methane bubbles
Methane Hunters: What Explains the Surge in the Potent Greenhouse Gas?
Levels of the gas are growing at a record rate and natural sources like wetlands are the cause, but scientists don’t know how to curb it.
By Leslie Hook and Chris Campbell, The Financial Times, in Inside Climate News
August 24, 2022

Every year, 6,000 flasks arrive at a laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. Inside each is a sample of air, taken from one of a chain of 50 monitoring stations that spans the globe. Together, these samples could help answer one of the most important questions facing the planet: why is there so much methane in the atmosphere?

[…] The laboratory measures the levels of different gases inside the samples, from carbon dioxide to nitrous oxide and sulfur hexafluoride, compiling a meticulous record that forms the basis for major climate models. About 15 years ago, its researchers observed an uptick in atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas with a warming impact 80 times greater than CO2.

Many researchers initially assumed the increase was linked to fossil fuel production. Methane is the primary ingredient in natural gas but is also produced by other human activities such as landfills, rice paddies and raising cattle.

In the past few years, however, that uptick has accelerated into a surge. The implications for global warming are immense: of the 1.1 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures since pre-industrial times, about a third can be attributed to methane. Atmospheric methane had its highest growth rate ever recorded by modern instruments in 2020, and then that record was broken again in 2021. Nobody knows exactly why.

“It is shocking,” said Lindsay Xin Lan, a researcher based in the Boulder laboratory who is analyzing the data. “A lot of research, a lot of scientists, are trying to explain it.”

[…] The sources of the methane may be natural, but a climate warmed by human activity is fueling these emissions. Climate change is expected to lead to more intense rainfall in east Africa; and these wetter, warmer wetlands will produce more methane. Other natural sources of methane—melting permafrost, and wildfires—are also linked to climate change.

[…] A concerted global effort to reduce methane emissions using existing technologies could slash anthropogenic emissions by 45 percent by 2030, according to a May 2021 report from the U.N. Environment Program, avoiding 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming by the 2040s.

The quickest methane fixes are in the fossil fuel sector, which accounts for about one-third of anthropogenic emissions. Special venting installed in coal mines; early detection of gas leaks; reducing methane venting during oil and gas production and other “readily available” measures could cut methane emissions by more than 40 million tons a year, according to the report. Capturing natural gas from landfills would even pay for itself because of its resale value.

Still, it’s not clear this will be enough. The world’s biggest methane emitters—China and Russia—have not signed the COP26 pledge. And even if they did, it’s not clear that reductions in human-caused methane will be enough to compensate for the increase from natural sources.

If the warming Earth is already starting to release more methane, then this vicious cycle—in which warming triggers more warming—could become self-perpetuating. Although that moment could still be decades in the future, once that tipping point is reached, it will be very hard to reverse.
» Read article     

slow current
It’s Happened Before: Paleoclimate Study Shows Warming Oceans Could Lead to a Spike in Seabed Methane Emissions
Shallow deposits of frozen methane beneath oceans may be more vulnerable to thawing than previously known.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
August 22, 2022

The slowdown of a key ocean current could release methane that is frozen in layers of organic seabed sediments along some of the world’s coastlines, a new study shows.

Cold temperatures and high pressure on sea floors currently sequester about one-sixth of the world’s methane, a potent but short-lived greenhouse gas, in an ice-like form called methane hydrate, or clathrates. Sudden thawing of those clathrates could result in a surge of methane emissions that would spike the planet’s fever. The new research, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that some of the shallower layers in the Atlantic Ocean could be more vulnerable than previously thought to warming that could release that methane, and that such events have happened in the distant past.

The trigger for such warming and thawing, according to the study, is a large inflow of fresh, frigid water from melting Arctic ice, which can disrupt the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current, a slow ocean heat pump, pushing cold water in the Arctic deep down and southward, and warm water to the surface and northward.

Temperature, density and salinity contrasts drive the pump. But in recent decades, the influx of water from rapidly melting Arctic ice, especially the Greenland Ice Sheet, appears to be weakening the current, which could warm the ocean at depths of 300 to 1,300 meters to destabilize methane hydrates buried 20 to 30 feet deep in the seabed.
» Read article     
» Read the PNAS study

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

look again
The Idea of 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Once Again Having a Moment
Wind, solar and other renewable sources could supply all of the world’s energy, according to a growing body of research.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
August 25, 2022

In 1975, Danish physicist Bent Sørensen published a paper examining the possibility that his country could run on 100 percent renewable energy. Appearing in the journal Science, it could have been an important moment for beginning to look seriously at transforming the way the world produces energy.

Instead, crickets.

“It was not a loved idea at all,” said Christian Breyer, a faculty member at LUT University in Finland, in a video interview from his office.

But things have changed. In the last five years or so, as the world faces the escalating toll of climate change, the concept of 100 percent renewable energy has gotten a much more serious look from scientists, policy analysts and governments.

Breyer is the lead author of a new paper published by IEEE Access tracing the development and growth of this idea, and the pushback. The concept of 100 percent renewable energy hasn’t quite reached the mainstream in most large economies, but it’s getting close, he said.

I should specify that Breyer is not a neutral party in this discussion. He and the roughly two dozen co-authors of the paper include some of the best-known researchers who focus on, and advocate for, 100 percent renewable energy. This includes Mark Jacobson of Stanford and Auke Hoekstra of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.

The paper is a valuable primer for understanding what 100 percent renewable energy means, where these ideas have found the most support in government and what others say are the major flaws.

One of the people cited is Amory Lovins, an American physicist who wrote about the possibility of an all-renewable system in 1976. He would go on to be co-founder and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, now called RMI.

Lovins told me this week that the Breyer paper is “impressive and important” and he is pleased to see that Sørensen’s work is getting proper credit for being ahead of its time.

“It’s become increasingly obvious over the past few decades that all-renewable electricity can work well pretty much anywhere,” Lovins said. “Denial is increasingly confined to the uninformed.”
» Read article     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

plug and play
Finally, a heat-pump water heater that plugs into a standard outlet
How a public-private collaboration brought a key climate-change-fighting tool to market: an efficient 120-volt water heater that can be easily installed in homes.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
August 29, 2022

Last month’s launch of Rheem’s ProTerra 120-volt heat pump water heater might not seem like a big step forward in the fight against climate change. In terms of home electrification accessories, it’s not as sexy as a rooftop solar array, Tesla Powerwall battery or Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck.

But to home electrification policy wonks, an efficient electric water heater that can plug into a standard wall socket is a major advance in getting U.S. households off fossil fuels. It’s also an example of what climate activists, policymakers and big businesses can accomplish when they work together.

That’s how Panama Bartholomy, executive director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, described the multiyear effort that has enabled major U.S. water heater manufacturers to fill a big gap in the U.S. electric appliance lineup.

Back in October 2018, Bartholomy’s group and fellow nonprofit New Buildings Institute gathered state policymakers, utilities and representatives of major U.S. water heater manufacturers at a conference in San Francisco to start tackling a problem that was impeding California’s building decarbonization goals: More than nine in 10 of the 14.5 million water heaters in California homes burn fossil gas. Few of those homes are wired for 240-volt heat pump water heaters, which were the only models available at the time. Asking homeowners and contractors to undertake expensive rewiring or electrical panel upgrades to support these more power-hungry replacement units could have triggered pushback from customers and contractors, and left many smaller homes or renters locked out of the market altogether.

So ​“we pulled together over 100 people and worked for six months on a specification for a ​‘retrofit-ready’ heat pump water heater,” Bartholomy said. The goal was to provide a clear signal to companies that their work on a novel product would bear fruit, or as he put it, to do some ​“trust-building — the basis of any good relationship.”

Now, more than three years later, that trust-building has paid off. Rheem’s ProTerra is expected to be followed by the launch of 120-volt heat pump water heaters from A.O. Smith, General Electric and Nyle over the coming year, said Amruta Khanolkar, senior project manager at the New Buildings Institute.

“There are about 118 million residential water heaters nationwide, and more than 50 percent of them are using fossil fuel for heating water,” she said. About 7 million water heaters are replaced every year in the country, and those customers ​“need a solution to easily plug in.”
» Read article     

» More about energy efficiency

MODERNIZING THE GRID

legacy transmission
Why the energy transition broke the U.S. interconnection system
The same processes that created the U.S. power system may now be preventing its transition to clean generation.
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
August 22, 2022

Boone Staples, director of transmission analysis for the engineering and construction group at energy developer Tenaska, has been doing essentially the same job for the last 15 years. And in spite of his tenure, he says he can’t remember a single solar project that hasn’t run into interconnection delays.

“We have projects in the [Midcontinent Independent System Operator] queue that have been there for four and a half years now. In [the Southwest Power Pool]…we’re looking at eight years start to finish on a project. In PJM we have projects that have been there since March 2019 – these projects were shovel ready. They have offtake contracts completed with full permits ready to start construction, just waiting on PJM,” Staples recounts. “Those have been put on pause. With queue reform it looks like they will get kicked out to late 2025, so that’s pretty severe for us.”

Tenaska, Staples says, is ready and willing to participate in interconnection studies and pay for transmission upgrades. And yet the ever-growing queue times, he says, continue to cost the company projects. Power purchase agreement negotiations have fallen apart, and options on land have even expired, as projects wind their way through the lengthy interconnection process – difficulties that can trigger the cancellation of an entire project.

Data from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory show that interconnection queue times have increased dramatically since 2005, when a typical solar project could be built, start to finish, in two years. Today, the average developer can expect to need four years or more to complete a project, according to Joseph Rand, a senior scientific engineering associate tracking interconnection queues at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

But it’s not just that navigating the queue takes longer today than in the past decade, Rand says. Projects are also significantly less likely to succeed. Less than a quarter of the projects that enter interconnection queues around the U.S. will make it through to completion. Between the delays and the need for developers to hedge their bets, the U.S. currently has roughly 700 GW of solar, 400 GW of energy storage, and more than 200 GW of wind energy sitting in overflowing interconnection backlogs – just gigawatts shy of what the Biden administration projects is needed to generate 95% carbon-free energy by 2035.

“Our backlogs are indicating that our wind and solar developers are eager to meet that demand,” Rand says, “but that our transmission and interconnection system and procedures are not keeping pace with meeting that demand.”

So how did we get here? After decades of dominating the energy and technology scenes, the U.S., it seems, got complacent. Instead of upgrading the grid and related bureaucratic systems, industry, regulatory and government leaders took a business as usual posture that assumed the nation’s traditional ad hoc, bottom-up approach to energy development would work for renewables, too.

And it did – partially. But the bottlenecks this process creates, experts say, now threatens the nation’s ability to transition to clean energy with the same speed seen in countries with more cohesive regulatory systems.
» Read article     

» More about modernizing the grid

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

on the line
Maine court finds part of referendum blocking transmission line to Massachusetts unconstitutional
Now, it’s up to a lower court judge to decide whether the project can go ahead.
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
August 30, 2022

Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Tuesday that part of a referendum effectively blocking a transmission line that would bring hydroelectric energy to Massachusetts was unconstitutional, sending the case back to a lower court to decide its future.

It’s not a full green light for the project, which is seen as critical to Massachusetts achieving its clean energy mandate, but advocates in the state cheered the ruling as a much-needed step in the right direction. Opponents to the project, meanwhile, say the fight is far from over.

The $1 billion transmission line, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect, was dealt a serious blow in November of last year, when nearly 60 percent of Maine voters approved a ballot question to kill the power line.

The five members of the court found it was unconstitutional to retroactively apply the referendum because the project had already completed substantial construction based on the permits it had already received, and sent it back to a lower court for further proceedings.

Some clean energy advocates in the region were happy to have the ruling.

“Like everyone, we were waiting with bated breath to see what the court would say, and wasn’t clear which direction they would go,” said Daniel Sosland, president of the clean energy advocacy group the Acadia Center.

The project’s future depends on whether a lower court finds that, at the time of the statewide referendum vote, the transmission line was far enough along that it had established what’s known as vested rights.

Opponents to the transmission line argue that Central Maine Power, a subsidiary of Avangrid, sped up its timeline to complete as much work as possible despite knowing that the referendum was coming. “We think it’s very well documented that CMP really rushed to build this, despite the fact that this referendum was ongoing, despite the fact that they knew they were going to lose this referendum,” said Adam Cote, an attorney with Drummond Woodsum who is representing opponents to the transmission line.

Massachusetts cannot reach its mandate of net-zero emissions by 2050 without greening the electricity grid, and while wind and solar are expected to make up a significant portion of that, Canadian hydro is “an essential element,” according to the state’s roadmap for reaching that goal.
» Read article     
» Read the court’s decision     

wild blueberries
Maine farmer pairs solar panels with wild blueberries. Will it bear fruit?

The University of Maine is studying how mounting solar panels in wild blueberry patches will affect income and production. The plants rebounded well from construction but so far show signs of producing fewer berries.
By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network
September 1, 2022

Maine’s wild blueberries are a unique crop that can’t be planted from seed, explains lifelong blueberry farmer Paul Sweetland. They must be gently cultivated where the low-lying bushes grow naturally, and the small, sweet berries are sold in the local area, too delicate to easily transport far.

But blueberry land and other parcels of rural Maine are being increasingly eyed for housing development, and Sweetland feels the wild blueberry sector is under pressure, especially when blueberry market prices drop.

He hopes that a new “crop” growing in tandem with berries could help boost the local industry and preserve farmland. That would be solar panels that have been installed across 11 acres of the land where Sweetland farms blueberries in Rockport, Maine.

The University of Maine is studying this example of dual-use agrivoltaics. The solar installation was developed by the Boston-based solar developer BlueWave, and it is owned by the company Navisun, which makes lease payments to the landowner. Sweetland tends, harvests and sells the blueberries, and shares profits with the landowner.

Across the country, farmers regularly lease their land for utility-scale or community solar installations, but typically crops are not grown on that same land. With dual-use agrivoltaics, crops are grown under or between the rows of solar panels, with the aim of generating renewable energy without removing farmland from production.

Farmers or landowners can collect incentives for solar energy, and some states including Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have or are considering incentives specifically for agrivoltaics. Agrivoltaics work best with crops that don’t grow too high, that are picked by hand, and that benefit from the shade the panels provide.
» Read article     

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

designated driver
Massachusetts likely to ban new gas-powered cars, thanks to California
By Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe
August 26, 2022

California’s newly announced ban on sales of fossil-fuel-burning cars and small trucks starting in 2035 has cleared the way for a similar ban in Massachusetts. That’s because of a provision in Massachusetts’s new climate change law, as well as a unique feature in federal law that lets California set environmental standards for other US states.

In late 2020, Governor Charlie Baker endorsed a ban on fossil-fuel vehicles by 2035, and language to that effect was included in the climate bill he signed earlier this month. But Massachusetts couldn’t enforce the requirement unless California went first.

It all goes back to an unusual feature of the Clean Air Act, which empowers the federal government to set environmental standards for cars and trucks. While automakers chafed at government regulation, they hoped that the new law would at least give them a single set of nationwide standards.

“The carmakers of course did not want 50 states setting up all different rules,” said Larry Chretien, executive director of Green Energy Consumers Alliance in Boston.

However, some states still wanted the right to impose even tougher anti-pollution rules. In the end, Congress came up with a compromise. California, the most populous US state, and one with severe air pollution problems, could apply to the federal government for permission to impose stricter standards. No other state is permitted to do this.

However, if a tougher California regulation is approved by the federal government, any other state can adopt the rule as well. Massachusetts, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s environmental standards for automobiles.

Chretien said that carmakers could urge the US Environmental Protection Agency to reject the California and Massachusetts rules. But he predicted little opposition, noting that the industry is already spending billions on an aggressive transition to electric vehicles.
» Read article     

EV charging
So you’re in the market for an electric vehicle? Here’s how the new federal and Mass. laws will help
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
August 18, 2022

August has been a big month for the environment. At the national level, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which allocates over $360 billion to help fight climate change. And more locally, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a sweeping state climate and clean energy bill into law.

Both laws cover a lot of ground. But one notable commonality is the emphasis on getting more electric vehicles on the road. To help make this happen, the laws establish tax credits or rebates for consumers — you don’t have to choose one, you can take advantage of both — as well as mandates and incentives for building charging infrastructure.

So whether you’re already in the market for an EV, or just starting to think about making the switch, here’s what you should know about how these two new laws can help.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

under-performing
10 of 13 ‘Flagship’ CCS Projects Failed to Deliver, IEEFA Analysis Concludes
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
September 1, 2022

After a half-century of research and development, carbon capture and storage projects are far more likely to fail than to succeed, and nearly three-quarters of the carbon dioxide they manage to capture each year is sold off to fossil companies and used to extract more oil, according to a sweeping industry assessment released today by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

The report lands just as analysts in the United States warn of major verification problems with a CCS tax credit that received a major boost in the Biden administration’s new climate action plan, and as Canadian fossils lobby for more tax relief to match what’s becoming available in the U.S.

One of the case studies in the 79-page IEEFA report [pdf] concludes that the troubled Boundary Dam CCS project in Saskatchewan has missed its carbon capture by about 50%. The 13 “flagship, large-scale” projects in the analysis account for about 55% of the world’s current carbon capture capacity, the institute says in a release.

Those 13 projects captured a grand total of 39 million tonnes of CO2 per year, the report found, about one-ten thousandth of the 36.3 billion tonnes that emitters spewed into the atmosphere in 2021.

“CCS technology has been going for 50 years and many projects have failed and continued to fail, with only a handful working,” said report co-author Bruce Robertson, a veteran investment analyst and fund manager now serving as IEEFA’s energy finance analyst for gas and LNG. The report, co-authored by energy analyst Milad Mousavian, concludes that seven of the 13 projects underperformed, two failed outright, and one was mothballed.

“Many international bodies and national governments are relying on carbon capture in the fossil fuel sector to get to net-zero, and it simply won’t work,” Robertson said in the release. Though there is “some indication it might have a role to play in hard-to-abate sectors such as cement, fertilizers, and steel, overall results indicate a financial, technical, and emissions reduction framework that continues to overstate and underperform.”
» Read article     
» Read the IEEFA report

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Permian pump jack
Texas Study Finds ‘Massive Amount’ of Toxic Wastewater With Few Options for Reuse

Oil and gas companies produce 3.8 billion barrels of wastewater per year in the arid Permian Basin.
By Dylan Baddour, Inside Climate News
August 31, 2022

Oil and gas extraction in the Permian Basin of arid West Texas is expected to produce some 588 million gallons of wastewater per day for the next 38 years, according to findings of a state-commissioned study group—three times as much as the oil it produces.

The announcement from the Texas Produced Water Consortium came two days before it was due to release its findings on potential recycling of oilfield wastewater.

“It’s a massive amount of water,” said Rusty Smith, the consortium’s executive director, addressing the Texas Groundwater Summit in San Antonio on Tuesday.

But making use of that so-called “produced water” still remains well beyond the current reach of state authorities, he said.

Lawmakers in Texas, the nation’s top oil and gas producer, commissioned the Produced Water Consortium in February 2021, following similar efforts in other oil-producing states to study how produced water, laced with toxic chemicals, can be recycled into local water supplies.

The Texas study focused on the Permian Basin, the state’s top oil-producing zone, where years of booming population growth have severely stretched water supplies and planners forecast a 20 billion gallon per year deficit by year 2030.

[…] Their estimate—about 170 billions of gallons per year [of produced water from the Permian]—equals nearly half the yearly water consumption in New York City.

That quantity creates steep logistical and economic challenges to recycling—an expensive process that renders half the original volume as concentrated brine which would have to be permanently stored.

“It’s a massive amount of salt,” Smith said. “We’d essentially create new salt flats in West Texas and collapse the global salt markets.”

He estimated that treatment costs of $2.55 to $10 per barrel and disposal costs of $0.70 per barrel would hike up the water price far beyond the average $0.40 per barrel paid by municipal users or $0.03 per barrel paid by irrigators.

On top of that, distributing the recycled water would require big infrastructure investments—both for high-tech treatment plants and the distribution system to transport recycled water to users in cities and towns.

“We’re going to need pipelines to move it,” Smith said. “We have quite a gap we need to bridge and figure out how we’re going to make it more economical.”

That is only if produced water in West Texas can be proven safe for consumption when treated.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuel

DEEP-SEABED MINING

TMC
Secret Data, Tiny Islands and a Quest for Treasure on the Ocean Floor
Mining in parts of the Pacific Ocean was meant to benefit poor countries, but an international agency gave a Canadian company access to prized seabed sites with metals crucial to the green energy revolution.
By Eric Lipton, New York Times
August 29, 2022

As demand grows globally for metals needed to make batteries for electric vehicles, one of the richest untapped sources of the raw materials lies two and a half miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

This remote section of the seabed, about 1,500 miles southwest of San Diego, could soon become the world’s first industrial-scale mining site in international waters.

The Metals Company, based in Vancouver, has secured exclusive access to tons of seabed rocks packed with cobalt, copper and nickel — enough, it says, to power 280 million electric vehicles, equivalent to the entire fleet of cars in the United States.

“No mining has ever been done on a scale like this on the planet,” said James A.R. McFarlane, former head of environmental monitoring at the International Seabed Authority, an agency affiliated with the United Nations that will regulate mining by the Metals Company and the many other businesses and countries expected to follow.

An examination by The New York Times of how the Metals Company is prepared to exploit this new frontier in the green energy revolution — the firm calculates it will clear $31 billion in earnings over the 25-year life of the project — tells the story of a single-minded, 15-year-long courtship of the small Jamaica-based seabed agency that holds the keys to the world’s underwater treasures.

Interviews and hundreds of pages of emails, letters and other internal documents show that the firm’s executives received key information from the Seabed Authority beginning in 2007, giving a major edge to their mining ambitions. The agency provided data identifying some of the most valuable seabed tracts, and then set aside the prized sites for the company’s future use, according to the materials.

The sharing of that information has angered employees at the agency, who said some of the data was meant for developing countries trying to compete with richer countries, something the agency is mandated under international law to assist. “You are violating the legal concept behind the Seabed Authority,” Sandor Mulsow, who held top positions at the agency before leaving in 2019, said in an interview. “It’s scandalous.”

The Metals Company is one of nearly two dozen contractors that have exploration deals with the agency; most of them are held by nations. But the firm has been especially aggressive in pushing the Seabed Authority to allow it to start mining, and is now racing to begin in late 2024.

The undertaking has raised concerns among environmentalists about the perpetually underfunded agency’s commitment to protecting life on the ocean floor, and has renewed broader questions about who gets to profit from the riches of the sea.
» Read article     

» More about deep-seabed mining

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Weekly News Check-In 3/18/22

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Welcome back.

When an energy company wants to build a new natural gas pipeline, planners typically start by ginning up demand for the fuel it will carry. A classic ploy is to get utilities to place orders for the right to buy the pipeline’s future capacity, a bit of fakery to imply that the infrastructure serves a “public necessity and convenience” that bears little relation to actual predicted energy demand. Once construction begins, the inevitable backlash is usually countered by claims that too much has already been invested and the project is so near completion that stopping it is both nonsensical and futile. The beleaguered Mountain Valley Pipeline is deep into this tactic now, with the help of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency has long played along with that game, facilitating a recent massive build-out of pipeline infrastructure. But the agency has lately lost significant court battles over its permits, and it is finally moving to require consideration of the environmental impact of burning all the fuel a pipeline will carry. BEAT is grateful to Food & Water Watch for their invaluable help in bringing a key lawsuit against Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, which is partly motivating FERC’s new focus on downstream emissions.

Progress is also coming from activist investors, who are pressuring major corporations to commit to responsible climate lobbying and threatening to take action during shareholder meetings if firms present a green image while working behind the scenes to support business-as-usual pollution. And healthcare workers are organizing to encourage large hospitals to divest from fossil fuels, even as oil-soaked Texas threatens its own (reverse) boycott of financial institutions that refuse to support fossils.

Meanwhile, science keeps finding new sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In the “win” column, the Environmental Protection Agency is phasing out globe-heating refrigerants and cracking down on illegal imports. On the other side, a recent study shows that methane emissions from coal mining are much greater than previously understood. That’s bad because methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and because we are currently looking at a global resurgence in coal production.

Our climate stories cover the increasingly alarming effects of the western megadrought, along with the encouraging news that a federal appeals court blocked a Trump-appointed judge’s order barring the Biden administration from considering the future costs of climate damage in its rulemaking and public projects. At the regional level, New England’s grid operator continues to take heat for policies that favor gas generator plants, while slow-walking modernization efforts.

There’s continuing progress in the effort to make the new green economy more diverse and inclusive, along with sustained pressure to transition faster. And check out some clever innovations in clean energy and energy efficiency. We also dug up some insight into why much of the rest of the world seems to get the most interesting new electric vehicles, while the US market is sometimes bypassed altogether.

We’ll close with a couple stories about mining – a huge issue in obtaining the necessary resources for our clean energy transition. We’re seeing calls to finally reform the General Mining Law of 1872, which President Ulyses S. Grant signed into law and still guides mining on public lands. We’re also keeping a wary eye on the push for deep-seabed mining, an endeavor raising increasing alarm among ocean scientists who deem it too dangerous to allow.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

MVP 55 prcnt
Manchin Lying about Mountain Valley Pipeline, Says Landowner

Residents in its path know the true story
By Paula Mann, The Appalachian Chronicle
March 12, 2022

GREENVILLE, W.Va. – Recently, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin met with the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) to discuss recent changes to regulations on pipeline construction, as the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported. During the hearing and in the article, he spouted false claims that the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is 95 percent complete, suggesting its completion is inevitable.

I live on the pipeline’s path and I can tell you with certainty that this is not true. Due to legal, financial, and political pressure, the project is only 55 percent complete, according to FERC.

Manchin says we must ramp up natural gas production for the sake of our country’s energy reliability and security. This is completely false. Only a rapid transition to clean energy will secure our energy independence. The climate crisis presents a massive threat to our country’s security – as the Department of Defense has asserted.

Manchin claims the completion of the MVP is for the good of our country. This is impossible because the MVP has negatively impacted rural communities like mine. People have lost vital water sources, both springs and wells, and their roads, fences and topsoil are being washed away from increased flooding along the pipeline route.

Some of the poorest and oldest residents in the state live along the route. That’s no coincidence. MVP targeted our rural communities because they thought we were easy targets. I can assure you, we are not. We have fought this pipeline tirelessly for seven years, and recent court decisions signal that we are winning.

Manchin stated that there were no pipelines to get the Marcellus Shale gas out of north central WV. This statement is also false. The WB Xpress and Mountaineer Xpress are two newly constructed pipelines to move gas out to the East and the West. The Mountain Valley Pipeline isn’t needed.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

activist investors are watching
Investors launch global standard for corporate climate lobbying
By Simon Jessop, Reuters
March 14, 2022

Investors stepped up pressure on corporate climate lobbying on Monday, launching a new 14-point action plan for companies to stick to or risk having their actions put to a shareholder vote.

The Global Standard on Responsible Climate Lobbying urges companies to commit to responsible climate lobbying, disclose the support given to trade groups lobbying on their behalf and take action if it runs counter to the world’s climate goal.

That goal, to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial norms by mid-century, is moving increasingly out of reach, scientists say, with urgent action needed in the short-term to have any hope of reaching it.

Developed by Swedish pension scheme AP7, BNP Paribas Asset Management and the Church of England Pensions Board, the standard is backed by investor groups leading on climate talks with companies whose members manage a collective $130 trillion.

“Time must be called on negative climate lobbying. Investors will no longer tolerate a glaring gap between a company’s words and their actions on climate,” said AP7, Sustainability Strategist Charlotta Dawidowski Sydstrand.

“As active owners we are committed to engaging collectively and individually with companies globally to highlight and improve their climate lobbying accountability and performance and to escalate this stewardship where required.”

In a statement, the investors said that lobbying that sought to delay, dilute or block climate action by governments ran counter to their interests and could result in resolutions being filed at the shareholder meetings of firms that failed to act.
» Read article     

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

MSK cancer center
Healthcare Workers Call on Hospitals and Medical Institutions to Divest From Fossil Fuels
The global fossil fuel divestment campaign continues to grow, but the healthcare sector has thus far refrained from large-scale divestment. A coalition of health professionals wants to change that.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
March 14, 2022

A coalition of healthcare professionals and climate finance organizations are calling on hospitals to divest their pension and retirement funds from fossil fuels, citing the severe public health hazards from climate change.

“The research on the severe, ubiquitous and accelerating consequences to public health from climate change is unequivocal,” Dr. Ashley McClure, a primary care physician and co-Executive Director of the California-based nonprofit Climate Health Now, said in a statement. “Just as many leading health organizations have divested from tobacco companies given the unacceptable health harms of their products, our institutions must now invest in alignment with public health and collective safety by urgently divesting our resources from the coal, oil, and gas corporations fueling the climate crisis.”

Around the world, more than 1,500 institutions have announced divestments from fossil fuels with commitments that total more than $40 trillion, according to a database maintained by climate advocacy groups 350.org and Stand.earth. The pledges come from governments, philanthropies, universities, faith-based organizations, and pension funds.

But activists are pressing on a new front, demanding that hospitals and healthcare institutions sever their financial ties with fossil fuels. Named “First, Do No Harm,” the coalition of healthcare professionals and climate finance organizers is calling on medical institutions to exclude oil, gas, and coal from their pensions and retirement funds. They are also asking healthcare workers across the country to join in the effort and pressure their employers to take that step.

“Our sector has to act on this. This is a healthcare issue. Climate policy is health policy. We can no longer ignore the voluminous research that can directly connect serious healthcare threats to fossil fuel air pollution, for example,” Don Lieber, a certified surgical technician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told DeSmog.
» Read article     

Texas state boycott
Companies that divest from fossil fuel could face a state boycott in Texas
By Mose Buchelle, NPR
March 15, 2022

As threats from climate change grow, big financial firms are betting on the energy transition. But that’s provoked a conservative backlash, with Texas leading states aiming to boycott such funds.
» Listen to report (4 minutes)     

» More about divestment

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

downstream effects
FERC failed to adequately review a gas pipeline project’s effect on carbon emissions: appeals court
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
March 14, 2022

FERC in mid-February adopted a new framework for reviewing natural gas infrastructure proposals that includes expanded criteria for deciding whether the facilities are needed and how they could affect people and the environment.

The framework also includes an interim policy for reviewing a project’s potential GHG emissions.

The framework, especially the GHG review criteria, has come under sharp criticism from FERC commissioners James Danly and Mark Christie, some U.S. senators, and the natural gas industry.

In part, the new review criteria are in response to a string of court rulings that found flaws in FERC’s natural gas infrastructure reviews, Glick said on Thursday during the CERAWeek conference. Those cases include Sabal Trail, Birckhead, Vecinos and Spire Pipeline. Courts have recently found other federal agencies failed to adequately review projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Dakota Access oil pipeline.

“The courts send these projects back to the agencies and what that does is it takes years of additional litigation, years of additional review, and it adds hundreds of millions, sometimes billions of dollars of cost,” Glick said.

FERC is trying to provide a more legally durable approach through the new review framework, according to Glick.

[…] The latest court case — Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team v. FERC — centered on FERC’s review of Tennessee Gas’ upgrade project in Agawam, Massachusetts. The project included a 2.1-mile stretch of pipeline and a compressor station.

Then-FERC Commissioner Glick partly dissented from the December 2019 decision approving the project, saying the agency didn’t adequately consider the project’s climate-related effects.

Citing the Sabal Trail and Birckhead decisions, the D.C. Circuit on Friday said FERC is required to consider a project’s indirect effects. The court remanded FERC’s decision to the agency and told it to perform a supplemental environmental assessment that must quantify and consider the project’s downstream carbon emissions or explain in detail why it cannot do so.
» Read article     

Route 75 Agawam
Federal regulators to reconsider controversial Springfield compressor station
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
March 11, 2022

Federal regulators will have to reconsider their approval of a controversial plan to expand natural gas infrastructure in the Springfield area, a federal court ruled on Friday.

The proposal, put forth by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC — a subsidiary of the energy giant Kinder Morgan — aims to build 2.1 miles of new gas pipeline and replace two small compressors with a larger unit at its Agawam site.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — an independent agency that grants permits to build interstate fuel pipelines and compressor stations — approved the plan in 2019 after conducting a necessary environmental review. But Friday’s decision, from the DC Circuit Court, calls that 2019 review into question.

The ruling came in response to a 2020 lawsuit filed by environmental groups Food and Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team, which alleged that the commission had ignored precedent requiring regulators to consider all potential greenhouse gas emissions of proposed pipelines.

In their lawsuit, the environmental groups argued that, though regulators assessed the emissions that will come directly from building and operating the new pipeline, they ignored the indirect “downstream” emissions that will come from burning the gas it would bring.

“FERC failed to review the emissions that would result due to more gas being pushed into a local distribution network for combustion by residential and commercial customers,” Adam Carlesco, staff attorney at Food and Water Watch.

Jane Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, said the ruling was a “big victory.” But she wished the court would have gone further.

The court’s ruling did not uphold another argument raised in the suit, that FERC should have also considered the greenhouse gas pollution that would come from producing and transporting gas to fill the new pipeline, saying the issue wasn’t adequately fleshed out.

The suit also argued that FERC’s 2019 assessment didn’t adequately consider how the project could worsen air quality in an area already plagued by pollution. But the court found that because none of its members live in close proximity to the proposal, Berkshire Environmental Action Team did not have legal standing to make those claims.

That’s particularly “disappointing,” said Winn, because just last month, FERC announced a new policy to consider projects’ effects on both the climate and environmental justice communities.

“The ruling falls in line with the first half of that policy … but not the second,” she said.
» Read article     

» More about FERC

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Ski Dubai
US Blocks Illegal Imports of Climate Damaging Refrigerants With New Rules

The EPA implemented new rules on the gases early this year, but the climate is already seeing its benefits.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
March 17, 2022

Just weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency began enforcing strict new limits on the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, the agency said it has blocked illegal imports of the harmful chemicals equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from burning 1.2 million barrels of oil.

Starting Jan. 1, U.S. chemical and equipment manufacturers were required to begin phasing down production and consumption of climate-damaging HFCs as mandated by the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, which was enacted in December 2020.

The rule will reduce domestic production and consumption of HFCs by 85 percent over the next 14 years and brings the U.S. into compliance with an international agreement known as the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The agreement is expected to prevent up to 0.5 Celsius of climate warming by 2100 through requiring manufacturers to use chemical refrigerants that are less damaging to the climate.

The HFC regulation places strict limits on the volume of HFCs that individual companies can produce or import. A key part of the rule is robust enforcement by an interagency task force that includes the EPA, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other agencies to ensure that U.S. companies do not violate the rule by exceeding their limits with additional, illegal imports.

Over the past 10 weeks, the agencies have prevented illegal HFC shipments equivalent to approximately 530,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, the EPA said in a press release on Tuesday.

“Our task force is already sending the clear message to potential violators that we are fortifying our borders against illegal imports,” said Joe Goffman, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in a written statement. “Strict enforcement of our HFC allowance program ensures that U.S. efforts to phase down these climate-damaging chemicals are successful.”
» Read article     

» More about EPA

GREENING THE ECONOMY

BEM interns
Massachusetts program seeks to diversify clean energy job opportunities
An internship program that initially attracted mostly “White males from private universities” has been retooled to open doors for people of color.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
March 16, 2022

A Massachusetts agency is expanding a pilot program to recruit students of color for internships with clean energy companies with the goal of laying the groundwork for more diversity and equity within the sector.

[…] Massachusetts has long been considered a leader in solar energy policies and adoption, and was ranked the top state for energy efficiency by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy for nine straight years. Now the state is poised to be the first to deploy large-scale offshore wind with the development of the Cape Wind project.

As these sectors continue to grow, state officials and environmental justice advocates have emphasized the importance of making sure people of color and low-income populations share in the economic gains the industries promise to deliver.

“Getting folks in on the ground level so they are able to rise as the industry grows is of the utmost importance,” said Susannah Hatch, clean energy coalition director for the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “There’s enormous opportunity.”

One of the ways the clean energy center is trying to tackle this problem is by adjusting its flagship clean energy internship program, which launched in 2011, to more actively recruit and engage students of color.

The central program works by matching potential interns with employers through an online database. Interested students submit their information and resumes to the system, then Massachusetts clean energy and water innovation companies can search for and hire interns from this pool. Businesses that hire interns through the program are reimbursed $16 per hour for the students’ work. Many employers pay interns more than the subsidy rate, and they are not allowed to pay less than $15 per hour. Each company can hire two interns through the program; if they want a third, they must choose an applicant who attends a community college.

In its first 10 years, the initiative matched 4,400 students with internships; 880 of these students ended up with part-time or full-time jobs at their host companies. From the beginning, however, the program seemed to attract a narrow demographic, Jacques said.

“When the program first started, it was heavily White males from private universities,” she said.

[…] Then, in 2021, the clean energy center added a new section, known as the Targeted Internship Program, dedicated to recruiting and mentoring interns of color and students from other underrepresented backgrounds. This initiative placed 38 students with employers around the state. The agency hopes last year’s performance was just a start.

“We’re trying again to really grow those numbers,” Jaques said. “We’re trying to make it more innovative and making sure we really are tapping underrepresented communities all across Massachusetts.”
» Read article     

broader break
US Bans Russian Oil But Activists Want Broader Break With Fossil Fuels

Phasing out the consumption of fossil fuels is seen as critical in both the fight against the climate crisis and the violence of petrostates.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
March 9, 2022

President Biden signed an executive order banning the import of Russian oil and gas on March 8, but activists around the world are calling for a more comprehensive break with fossil fuels, warning against replacing Russian fuels with a new drilling frenzy elsewhere.

[…] “Up until now, Russia has been taking in $500 million a day in oil and gas sales. That’s hundreds of billions every year that Putin can put toward suppressing his people, undermining western democracies, and building his war machine,” Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, former commanding general of the U.S. First Army, told reporters during a media briefing. “Putin is weaponizing gas, and calls to increase exports play right into his hands.”

Led by Ukrainian activists, a coalition of more than 465 organizations across 50 countries signed a letter calling on the world to not only reject Russian oil and gas, but to rapidly phase out all fossil fuels.

“Continuing any relationship with Russia means supporting war in Ukraine, killing children, women, and men on the streets of peaceful cities,” Yevheniia Zasiadko, head of climate department at the Center for Environmental Initiatives Ecoaction, said in a statement accompanying the letter. “This is the breaking point, where Europe must completely abandon fossil fuel from Russia, stop all business and support of fossil projects.”

On the same day Biden announced the Russian fossil fuel ban, the European Commission proposed a strategy to slash Europe’s use of Russian gas by two-thirds within a year. The plan calls for more liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports and more gas storage, but also a rapid expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Europe is seeking to speed up its break with fossil fuels, while using more in the short run, but such a path in the U.S. is much more contested.

Coming off a rough few years with the pandemic, the oil industry now appears poised to capitalize off of the war and the chaos in energy markets. As industry executives gathered in Houston this week for the annual CERAWeek oil industry conference, many were “feeling very good about themselves,” as the New York Times put it. With oil prices soaring, quarterly profits are destined to balloon.
» Read article    
» Read the “Stand with Ukraine” letter

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Lake Powell 2021
Second-Largest U.S. Reservoir Falls to Historic Lows
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
March 17, 2022

The second-largest reservoir in the U.S. dropped to a historic low on Tuesday as a climate-fueled megadrought continues in the nation’s West.

Lake Powell, which sits on the border of Utah and Arizona, fell below 3,525 feet for the first time since the reservoir was filled more than 50 years ago to create the Glen Canyon Dam, AP News reported. There are now concerns about the dam’s ability to continue generating energy in the near future as the water levels drop faster than anticipated.

“We clearly weren’t sufficiently prepared for the need to move this quickly,” John Fleck, who directs the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, told AP News.

The Western U.S. is in the midst of its worst megadrought in 1,200 years, and the climate crisis has made the drought 42 percent more extreme than it would have been otherwise. So far, most of the concerns surrounding the drought have revolved around the supply of water to California, Nevada and Arizona, AP News explained. However, the situation at Lake Powell reveals that hydroelectric power is now also at risk.

The Glen Canyon Dam provides power to around 5 million customers in Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Currently, water levels at Lake Powell are 35 feet above the point at which turbines would stop moving, otherwise known as “minimum power pool.”

The 3,525-foot level is considered a “target elevation” for drought contingency plans, according to CNN. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicted in early March that the water would fall to that level sometime between March 10 and 16. That the target has ultimately been breached is cause for alarm, experts said.
» Read article     

ExxonMobil refinery
‘Common-Sense Decision’: Court Allows Biden to Weigh Social Cost of Carbon
The decision to block a Trump-appointed judge’s order “puts the government back on track to address and assess climate change,” said one climate advocate.
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
March 17, 2022

Environmentalists applauded late Wednesday after a federal appeals court blocked a Trump-appointed judge’s order barring the Biden administration from considering the future costs of climate damage in its rulemaking and public projects.

In March 2021, a coalition of 10 Republican attorneys general sued the Biden administration over a White House directive instructing federal agencies to factor the “social cost of greenhouse gases” into their policymaking decisions, from new pollution regulations to drilling on public lands.

Last month, a federal judge in Louisiana sided with the Republicans, issuing a sweeping injunction prohibiting the Biden administration from factoring the cost of carbon—which it pegged at $51 per ton—into its policy moves. The Trump administration, by contrast, contended that each ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in 2020 would only cause roughly $1 to $7 in economic damages.

The Wednesday ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit stayed the Louisiana judge’s injunction, allowing the Biden administration to continue using the $51-per-ton metric—a figure based on Obama-era assessments that some researchers and climate advocates say don’t account for the full scope of emissions damage.

One recent analysis estimated that the actual social cost of carbon dioxide—from negative health impacts to destroyed homes—is at least 15 times the number adopted by the Biden administration.
» Read article     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

thing in photo
Australian electrolyser breakthrough promises world’s cheapest green hydrogen
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
March 16, 2022

An Australian start-up spun out of the University of Wollongong has claimed a major new breakthrough that promises to enable renewable hydrogen production of around $A2.00 per kilogram by the mid-2020s – out-competing fossil fuel-derived hydrogen.

Hysata, launched just last year out of UOW’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM), said on Wednesday that the breakthrough had put the company on a clear path to commercialise the world’s most efficient electrolyser, and to reach giga-scale green hydrogen production by 2025.

As RenewEconomy has previously reported, Hysata was formed to commercialise the promising electrolyser technology developed by a heavy-hitting team at the UOW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, led by Professor Gerry Swiegers.

[…] In a report published this week in Nature Communications, the team behind Hysata’s “capillary-fed electrolysis” (CFE) cell technology, said they had used it successfully to produce green hydrogen from water at 98% cell energy efficiency – a level well above the International Renewable Energy Agency’s 2050 target.

As the researchers explain, the evolution of electrolysers has been about reducing resistance to increase efficiency. To this end, the team’s CFE cell completely eliminates bubbles – one of the biggest remaining drags on efficiency – making it the highest performing cell globally.

[…] “Our electrolyser will deliver the world’s lowest hydrogen cost, save hydrogen producers billions of dollars in electricity costs, and enable green hydrogen to outcompete fossil fuel-derived hydrogen.

“Our technology will enable hydrogen production of below US$1.50/kg per kilogram by the mid-2020s, meeting Australian and global cost targets much earlier than generally expected. This is critical to making green hydrogen commercially viable and decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors,” [Hysata CEO Paul Barrett] said.
» Read article     

partial rainbow
Could clean energy replace Russian oil?
Fossil fuel interests are calling for more domestic drilling to supplant Russia’s fossil fuels. But climate advocates say there’s a better alternative: Speeding the renewable energy transition.
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
March 14, 2022

Minutes after President Biden announced last week that the US will ban imports of Russian oil, the American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s largest oil and gas lobbying organization, issued a statement calling for more domestic drilling and increased gas exports to Europe.

It’s a rallying cry the fossil fuel trade group has been sounding since the day Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. So have an array of politicians and pundits.

But climate advocates say there’s a better alternative: Speeding the renewable energy transition.

“This is the time to get ourselves unhooked from our volatile fossil-fueled economy,” said Collin Rees, a program manager at climate research and advocacy group Oil Change International.

It’s clear the world needs to rapidly phase out polluting energy. A landmark UN climate report concluded that any delay in global cooperation to cut greenhouse gas emissions “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”

Increasing drilling, said author and activist Bill McKibben, would move us in the wrong direction: “It only gets us deeper into dependence on fossil fuel.”

Russian fuel comprises just a small portion of the US’s energy mix — only roughly 3 percent of crude imports came from the country last year. Bringing new dirty energy sources online to supplant that, said Rees, makes little sense.

“Instead, we can massively ramp up energy efficiency efforts and massively ramp up renewable energy sources like wind, solar,” he said.

For Europe, which obtains a much larger portion of its fuel from Russia, weaning off Russian energy imports will be harder. But it’s a challenge the EU may soon have to face: Russia is threatening to cut off European gas supplies, and the EU is also weighing cutting imports from Russia by two-thirds this year.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Fortum
Microsoft data centres to heat Finnish homes, cutting emissions
By Reuters
March 17, 2022

Finnish utility Fortum (FORTUM.HE) said on Thursday it will use waste heat from two new Microsoft (MSFT.O) data centres to warm homes and businesses in and around the capital Helsinki, while also cutting carbon emissions.

Microsoft simultaneously announced plans for the construction of the data centres, which will be powered by renewable energy, with their location chosen to allow for recycling of heat created from the cooling of computer servers.

District heating is widely used in Finland, pumping hot water through pre-insulated underground pipes, and has traditionally relied on fossil fuel sources.

Fortum operates a system of underground pipes stretching 900 kilometres and serving 250,000 users in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Once completed, the data centres will account for 40% of the system’s heat supplies, the two firms said.

Fortum said its investment for the heat capture side from the data centres was estimated at 200 million euros ($221 million), with expectations this would cut some 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
» Read article     

» More about energy efficiency

MODERNIZING THE GRID

capacity market tilts toward gas
ISO-NE’s market rules biased toward gas plants, renewable energy groups say in FERC complaint
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
March 16, 2022

ISO-NE has long warned New England has limited natural gas pipeline capacity, which the grid operator in December said could lead to blackouts under extreme winter conditions.

However, when qualifying resources for its capacity auctions, ISO-NE assumes gas-fired resources will always have fuel supplies and be able to operate, according to the complaint from ACPA and RENEW.

In contrast, the grid operator assesses how much capacity other resource types can reliably deliver, leading renewable resources to have accredited capacity well below their nameplate capacity, Francis Pullaro, RENEW executive director, said Wednesday.

If FERC approves the complaint, pipeline-dependent generators would get a “haircut” on how much capacity they could qualify for in ISO-NE’s capacity auctions, Pullaro said.

[…] The need for reliable operating reserves is especially acute as New England adds more intermittent resources to its power system, according to the complaint.

ISO-NE is starting a stakeholder process to consider changes to its capacity accreditation process by using an “effective load carrying capability” methodology, which could address some of the concerns raised in the complaint, the trade groups said.
» Read article     

smart meter NC
How a smarter grid can prevent blackouts
By Peter Behr, E&E News
March 16, 2022

As the grid strains under the weight of climate change and new sources of demand, one important way to prevent blackouts comes from an unlikely location: your house.

Customers who allow utilities to control heat pumps, water heaters and electric vehicle charging stations would give operators a potent new tool for managing grid systems in extreme weather emergencies, like the Western wildfires, Gulf Coast hurricanes and Texas’ 2021 power crisis, researchers say.

The issue was highlighted in a January report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that said customers’ major energy resources, if synchronized with utilities’ control centers, can be “shock absorbers” helping balance power supply and demand in grid emergencies such as California’s 2020 rolling blackouts.

In the past, California customers have responded voluntarily to officials’ pleas for electricity conservation. That won’t be good enough in the future, the new analysis said. And the need for strategic power use will only grow as the amount of customer-owned solar panels, storage batteries and EV charging rises, it added.

“We’ll quickly get to a point where the number of devices and the variability of generation and load will drive a need for better coordination,” said Hayden Reeve, an author of the report and senior technical adviser at PNNL.

Such interactive customer-grid connections require fundamental changes in utility electricity rate policies, according to the lab’s analysis.

Instead of static customer rates that remain the same regardless of changing demand and wholesale power prices, U.S. utilities need “dynamic” rates that vary with demand, rewarding customers with lower costs when they shift energy use to overnight hours, for example, when power is typically cheapest and often cleanest, the researchers said.

But dynamic rates have faced persistent resistance from utilities, regulators and customers in most of the U.S. over more than a decade, government and private think tank studies have found.

[…] The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in its annual review of advanced meter deployment blamed regulators for the slow growth of dynamic rates.
» Read article    
» Read the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory report
» Read the FERC review on advanced metering deployment

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

not for US
Here’s a Cool New EV, but You Can’t Have It
The new Volkswagen microbus is the latest electric vehicle set to debut in Europe, but U.S. consumers must wait. Why is that?
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
March 17, 2022

Volkswagen has given the world a first look at the new ID. Buzz, an all-electric van that takes design cues from the classic Volkswagen microbus.

Buyers in Europe can get the new model later this year. But customers in the United States will need to wait until 2024 for a larger version tailored to the U.S. market.

EV buyers in the United States are now used to this, as automakers have introduced some of their most anticipated new models in international markets. Some models take years to arrive in the United States or don’t arrive at all.

I reached out to Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader, to try to understand why American buyers need to wait for certain EVs, and what that says about the U.S. car market.

“It could be as simple as wanting to debut [a new model] on your home turf first,” Moody said, about Volkswagen’s plans. The van will initially be assembled in Hannover, Germany.

Among the other possible reasons, U.S. vehicle safety laws are some of the most stringent in the world, Moody said.

Also, EVs are a smaller share of the passenger car market in North America, with 4 percent of new vehicle sales in 2021, than they are in Europe, at 17 percent, and China, at 13 percent, according to EV-Volumes.com (figures include all-electric and hybrid vehicles). The recent surge in gasoline prices should help to boost interest in EVs in all of those places.

Policies play a role. The European Union and China have more policy support for electric vehicles than the United States does, which affects companies’ strategies in each place. The Biden administration’s Build Back Better legislation includes an extension and expansion of incentives for buying EVs, but the proposal has been unable to get the votes it needs to pass the Senate.
» Read article     

Barrett and Roy on TUE
Senate seeks fixed date for bus electrification

Poftak said more money needed to transition more quickly
By Chris Lisinski, Statehouse News Service, in CommonWealth Magazine
March 14, 2022

WARNING THAT the pace of electrification underway for the MBTA’s bus fleet is “too slow for the Legislature,” a top senator is newly forecasting that his chamber plans to make the transportation sector a focus in upcoming climate legislation.

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, told leaders of the Baker administration’s transportation secretariat on Friday that he expects a forthcoming Senate bill will make another pass at requiring the T to transition its bus network to full electrification by a specific date.

MBTA officials are preparing for an all-electric-bus future and rolling more zero-emission vehicles into the fleet, but General Manager Steve Poftak told lawmakers the need for new charging stations and updated maintenance facilities poses a challenge, more so than the actual purchase of non-fossil fuel vehicles.

The T should have a full suite of garages up and ready to handle an electric fleet in roughly the next 15 to 18 years, Poftak said.

“We’d like to do them faster. In order to do them faster, we’re going to need additional money,” he said at a Joint Ways and Means Committee hearing about Gov. Charlie Baker’s $48.5 billion fiscal 2023 state budget. “It’s approximately a $4.5 billion investment in electrified facilities.”

“I don’t think the Legislature is going to wait 15 to 18 years to green the T fleet because we can’t get to our emissions goals, we can’t get 50 percent below 1990 levels in total statewide emissions, if we operate on those kinds of timeframes. It just doesn’t compute,” Barrett replied. “I can appreciate the complexity here, but that is not going to work.”
» Read article     

carbon up
High gas prices have a lot more people searching for electric vehicles
But not everyone can afford to buy a new (or used) EV.
By Chad Small, Grist
March 15, 2022

There’s a war going on in Europe. Gas prices are sky-high. What’s an American to do? Well, search for electric vehicles, apparently.

According to Cars.com, online searches for new and used electric vehicles more than doubled in the roughly two-week period following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That’s around the same time President Biden announced the U.S. would ban oil and gas imports from Russia, which produces a significant chunk of the world’s fossil fuels. As a result, gas prices across the U.S. have risen sharply, reaching an average of more than $4.30 a gallon, as of last week.

“When gas prices spike, searches immediately go toward more efficient vehicles,” Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor at Cars.com, told E&E news. ​​

Because they do not run on gasoline like a traditional combustion engine, electric vehicles, or EVs, spare their owners much of the stress associated with skyrocketing oil prices. The cost of charging an EV depends on a few factors, such as the model in question and the location you use to charge your vehicle. According to the Energy Department, a “tank” of electricity for a mid-size EV charged at home comes out to about $16. And, naturally, the benefits of EVs go beyond individual savings: Because electricity can be produced from renewable sources, EVs are appealing to drivers looking to mitigate their carbon footprints.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

Lavendar Pit
As the US Rushes After the Minerals for the Energy Transition, a 150-Year-Old Law Allows Mining Companies Free Reign on Public Lands
The Mining Law of 1872 lets miners pay no royalties for the precious minerals they dig from federal land and requires no restraints on their activities.
By Jim Robbins, Inside Climate News
March 13, 2022

[…] In May of 1872, a couple of months after he signed the bill that created Yellowstone National Park, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the General Mining Law of 1872: An Act to Promote the Development of the Mining Resources of the United States. It gave carte blanche to anyone seeking minerals on federal lands, as a way to finish populating the West.

On hundreds of millions of acres owned by U.S. taxpayers, the law transfers gold, silver, copper, uranium, lithium and other metals, in vast amounts, from public ownership to anyone who locates them, pounds four stakes in the ground around their location and files a claim. Foreign firms can stake claims by forming a U.S. subsidiary. Unlike publicly owned oil and gas resources, miners pay no royalties on the metals and minerals they dig from public lands.

Since the law’s passage, the population of the American West has increased almost exponentially and today the lands it applies to are seen as part of the solution to a different challenge—weaning the nation’s economy off of the fossil fuels that drive climate change.

Production of lithium and other minerals critical to electrifying the world’s economy will need to increase by 500 percent to reach clean energy goals by 2050, according to the World Bank. The price of lithium has recently soared to more than $35,000 a ton.

With the Biden administration prioritizing a domestic supply chain of minerals for the energy transition, and federal law giving them away royalty free to mining companies, the U.S. is poised for an unprecedented expansion of digging, which could leave environmental damage at such a large scale it cannot effectively be remediated.

That’s led to a growing clamor for reform of the 1872 law as this new gold rush continues to boom.
» Read article     

» More about siting impacts    

DEEP-SEABED MINING

death license
Deep-sea mining could begin next year. Here’s why ocean experts are calling for a moratorium.
The risks vastly outweigh the potential benefits, they argue.
By Joseph Winters, Grist
March 7, 2022

[…] Deep-sea mining in international waters is currently illegal, and environmental organizations, scientists, and many governments want to keep it that way. They argue that the practice could irreversibly harm one of the planet’s remotest ecosystems, one of the few places on Earth that has largely escaped human disruption.

Now, their calls have become increasingly urgent, as international regulators are expected to begin issuing deep-sea mining permits by the summer of 2023. Activists are trying to enlist everyone from tech companies to United Nations delegates in an all-hands-on-deck push to stop mining companies from exploiting the seabed.

[…] The case for deep-sea mining is simple: As the world transitions away from fossil fuels, increased demand for technologies like electric vehicle batteries and solar panels will require massive quantities of cobalt, manganese, nickel, and other clean-energy metals. Land-based metal reserves are few and far between, and they’re often located near communities that are harmed by mining activities. But there are billions of dollars’ worth of these metals at the bottom of the ocean — far from civilization — and no one is yet taking advantage of them.

Some also argue that, by powering clean-energy technologies and thereby accelerating a shift away from fossil fuels, deep-sea mining will protect the oceans from unabated climate change. Rising CO2 emissions have already caused devastating ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and the decline of marine species populations around the world. Gerard Barron, CEO of the Metals Company, a Canadian firm that is already preparing vessels to begin mining the ocean deep, has argued that deep-sea mineral deposits are “the easiest way to solve climate change.”

However, ocean experts vehemently disagree. The deep sea is one of the planet’s most obscure places, home to tens or even hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species that are still unknown to humans. Scientists argue it would be reckless to disrupt this environment. According to research from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, more than half of marine species in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone — a mineral-rich fracture zone that extends 4,500 miles along the floor of the Pacific Ocean — are dependent on the deep-sea mineral deposits that mining companies have set their sights on. Removing these potato-shaped deposits, which are known as polymetallic nodules, “would trigger a cascade of negative effects on the ecosystem,” the researchers concluded. And recovery would be nearly impossible, given the fact that these nodules take millions of years to develop.

There are other worries, too. Deep-sea mining would kick up debris from the ocean floor, and scientists worry that clouds of sediment could clog marine species’ filtration systems and make it harder for them to see through the water. Sonic disruptions caused by mining could also reverberate far and wide, negatively impacting whales and other species that rely on sound waves to hunt for prey. Meanwhile, fishing industry representatives have highlighted the practice’s risks to commercial fish stocks.

“The threat to biodiversity is really quite concerning,” said Jeffrey Drazen, a professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Drazen also warned that seabed mining could potentially exacerbate climate change by disrupting carbon sequestration dynamics in the deep ocean.
» Read article     

» More about deep-seabed mining   

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Merthyr Tydfil mine
Coal Mining Emits More Super-Polluting Methane Than Venting and Flaring From Gas and Oil Wells, a New Study Finds
So much methane is released from coal mining, the Global Energy Monitor says, that it exceeds the carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal at over 1,100 coal-fired power plants in China.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
March 15, 2022

Methane emissions from coal mines worldwide exceed those from the global oil or gas sectors and are significantly higher than prior estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency and the International Energy Agency, a new Global Energy Monitor report concludes.

“The numbers just aren’t adding up,” Ryan Driskell Tate, the report’s author, said of coal mine methane emission estimates when compared to those in prior reports. “It’s an area that has dodged a lot of scrutiny.”

Coal mining emits 52 million metric tons of methane per year, more than is emitted from either the oil sector, which emits 39 million tons, or the gas industry, which emits 45 million tons, according to the report, published Tuesday.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas and the second leading driver of climate change after carbon dioxide. On a unit-per-unit basis, methane is more than 80 times as powerful at warming the planet as carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere. The gas slowly accumulates in coal seams as organic matter is converted to coal, a process that can take millions of years.

Methane emissions from coal mining worldwide are comparable to the vast carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal at over 1,100 coal-fired power plants in China over the near term, the report concludes. China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, derived more than 60 percent percent of its power in 2020 from burning coal, compared to about 19 percent in the United States.

“We all know that the oil and gas industry emits a lot of methane and that coal plants in China are a major source of CO2 emissions,” said Driskell Tate, the energy monitor’s project manager for its Global Coal Mine Tracker. “The most surprising thing about this report is just realizing that coal mining has a comparable climate impact.”
» Read article    
» Read the Global Energy Monitor report

» More about fossil fuels

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