Tag Archives: forest

Weekly News Check-In 1/24/20

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

Concerned citizens and environmental groups continue to speak out against the Weymouth compressor station and also Columbia’s proposed TGP261 upgrade in Agawam. Charlie Baker, in his State of the State address, described his administration as a top-tier climate leader. But the Weymouth compressor station was awkwardly absent from his remarks, and some observers of our regional energy policy were underwhelmed.

Climate is a hot topic at this year’s economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. But while the insurance industry frets over its bottom line after the most expensive year ever for natural disasters and Prince Charles calls for a whole new economic model, the landmark youth climate change lawsuit was thrown out of federal appeals court. We provide a link to that 2-1 decision including the blistering dissent.

We found some interesting news on clean energy, clean transportation, and energy storage. Those generally uplifting stories were chased, unfortunately, by news about risks associated with the booming LNG business.

If you only have time for one article, read this one on the fossil fuel industry. Rolling Stone made a deep dive into the hidden problem of radioactive waste from drilling operations – a remarkable and sobering topic that demands equal parts alarm and action.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

occupy MA-DEP
Weymouth compressor opponents occupy Mass DEP office
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
January 22, 2020

LAKEVILLE – Some members of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station and their allies occupied the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Regional Office Jan. 22 “to call attention to the Department’s failure to ensure clean air, land, and water.”

FRRACS spokeswoman Laura Ashley said a peaceful occupation was done in the main conference room because the agency has not responded to residents’ emails and phone calls about violations of a contamination clean-up plan at the compressor station site, “reporting inconsistencies, and discrepancies.”

Ashley said the residents presented the DEP a letter which requests agency officials to halt the preliminary construction for the compressor station until “serious ongoing lapses of environmental protection” are remedied in the work area.
» Read article

Enbridge poisoning Fore River
Protests Target a ‘Carbon Bomb’ Linking Two Major Pipelines Outside Boston
Climate and community activists are fighting construction of a natural gas compressor station near two ‘environmental justice’ communities.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
January 17, 2020

WEYMOUTH, Massachusetts — After endless public hearings, drawn-out government appeals and fruitless legal proceedings, a band of community and climate activists was left to this: Sitting in the path of a concrete truck at the site where a large natural gas compressor is being built outside Boston.

“The Fore River Basin is already toxically overburdened with close to 10 different polluting facilities within a one mile radius,” said Alice Arena, president and executive director of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station and a Weymouth resident. “It is highly populated, it is [an] environmental justice [community] and it is unconscionable to be adding another polluting facility.”

According to one estimate by an environmental science professor who was involved in the protest, the compressor and pipeline could enable carbon emissions equivalent to more than one million vehicles per year.

By the time police cleared the site Wednesday morning, nine members of Extinction Rebellion Boston and 350 Mass Action had been arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace.

The protest occurred just one week after a federal appeals court invalidated a permit for a similar compressor station slated for the historic African American community of Union Hill, Virginia. The court determined that officials in Virginia failed to adequately consider the health and environmental justice concerns of the surrounding residents.
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor

TGP 261 UPGRADE

Agawam TGP 261
Agawam residents speak out over gas pipeline project
By Ryan Trowbridge and Audrey Russo, Western Mass News
January 21, 2020

The Tennessee Gas pipeline company is seeking to put more than two miles of pipeline in the ground, next to already existing gas pipelines in the same area.

It’s a deal residents say could put them in danger.

We spoke with residents who told us their biggest concern with what the town has negotiated with Tennessee Gas is a damage release, which they fear could release the gas company from any liability in the future should the project cause damage.
» Read article

» More about the Tennessee Gas Pipeline upgrade

REGIONAL ENERGY

business as usual goals
Baker’s net-zero goal is business-as-usual
It’s not climate leadership, or even followership
By Craig S Altemose, Commonwealth Magazine
January 22, 2020

In his State of the State address, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker laid out a number of ways he seeks to increase the ambition of our state’s efforts to address climate change: embracing the target of net-zero emissions by 2050, increasing funding for the state’s under-funded public transportation system, calling for the execution of his plan to fund needed climate resilience efforts, and pushing his support for a now beleaguered regional transportation carbon pricing system.

All of these proposals are normatively good things in their own right, but they are neither courageous nor creative. They are the types of things environmentalists have literally been calling for for decades. And in the meantime, decades of time have been squandered. That is not Baker’s fault, but it is his responsibility as the man we chose to lead us in this critical time.

As Thunberg laid out in her recent address to the United Nations, the science Baker is citing as moving him toward the net zero by 2050 goal (which absolutely necessitates a 50 percent reduction in climate pollution by 2030 for it to be relevant), only gives humanity a 50 percent chance of avoiding a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperature, something scientists say exceeding would be catastrophic for society and the natural world we rely upon.

As she says: “Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.”
» Read article    
» Read Greta Thumberg’s 2019 UN Climate Action Summit Address    

Kathleen TheoharidesNet-zero target called most aggressive in world: A handful of states, and some countries have similar goal
By Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
January 22, 2020

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S top energy aide said his proposal for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 puts Massachusetts among a very small group of states and countries attempting to limit the impact of climate change.

Kathleen Theoharides, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said Massachusetts is joining Hawaii, New York, and California  in pursuing net-zero emissions by 2050. A number of countries and foreign cities are also pursuing the same target, some on a faster timeline.

Net-zero is an imprecise term. It doesn’t mean the state will cease all greenhouse gas emissions. It means, according to Theoharides, that the state will attempt to reduce emissions as much as possible through the development of renewable, low-emission forms of energy; aggressive energy efficiency programs; and sequestration efforts, including the development of new forests and wetlands. Theoharides said policies could also be developed that would allow polluters to offset their emissions by buying some form of credit, with the proceeds being used to produce more renewable energy generating fewer emissions.
» Read article

» More regional energy issues

CLIMATE

Missouri floodwater
Planet Just Had Costliest Decade for Global Natural Disasters: Insurance Industry Report
The Mississippi Basin floods were among the disasters with a massive price tag.
By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
January 22, 2020

The planet just closed out the costliest decade ever for natural disasters, insurance broker Aon said Wednesday.

The economic losses from 2010–2019, according to Aon’s Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2019 Annual Report (pdf), hit nearly $3 trillion. That’s up from 1.8 trillion recorded between 2000 and 2009.

“Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the last decade of natural disasters,” said Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist at Aon’s Impact Forecasting team, “was the emergence of previously considered ‘secondary’ perils—such as wildfire, flood, and drought—becoming much more costly and impactful.”

“Scientific research indicates that climate change will continue to affect all types of weather phenomena and subsequently impact increasingly urbanized areas,” he added.
» Read article    
» Read Aon’s Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2019 Annual Report    

Prince Charles at Davos
Prince Charles: We need a new economic model or the planet will burn
By Mark Thompson and Max Foster, CNN Business
January 22, 2020


Davos, Switzerland (CNN Business)Only a revolution in the way the global economy and financial markets work can save the planet from the climate crisis and secure future prosperity, Prince Charles warned on Wednesday.

“We can’t go on like this, with every month another record in temperatures being broken,” he told CNN in an exclusive interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “If we leave it too long, and we have done, just growing things is going to become difficult.”

The heir to the British throne and lifelong environmentalist was speaking to CNN after he threw down a challenge to the global business and finance elites in Davos to lead a “paradigm shift, one that inspires action at revolutionary levels and pace” to avert the approaching catastrophe.
» Read article

house on fire
Greta Thunberg’s Message at Davos Forum: ‘Our House Is Still on Fire’
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
January 21, 2020

DAVOS, Switzerland — Greta Thunberg on Tuesday punched a hole in the promises emerging from a forum of the global political and business elite and offered instead an ultimatum: Stop investing in fossil fuels immediately, or explain to your children why you did not protect them from the “climate chaos” you created.

“I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing the climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them?” Ms. Thunberg, 17, said at the annual gathering of the world’s rich and powerful in Davos, a village on the icy reaches of the Swiss Alps.

Her remarks opened a panel discussion hosted by The New York Times and the World Economic Forum.
» Read article    
» Read full speech transcript       

youth climate suite 0-1
Court Quashes Youth Climate Change Case Against Government
By John Schwartz, New York Times
January 17, 2020

A federal appeals court has thrown out the landmark climate change lawsuit brought on behalf of young people against the federal government.

While the young plaintiffs “have made a compelling case that action is needed,” wrote Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz in a 32-page opinion, climate change is not an issue for the courts. “Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government.”

In an interview, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Julia Olson, said she would appeal the ruling. The next step sends the case to the full Ninth Circuit for reconsideration and what is known as an en banc hearing. The case, she said, is “far from over.”
» Blog editor’s note: Judge Staton’s dissent begins, “In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response—yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses.”
» Read article   
» Read opinion and dissent       

proforestation
Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight
Preserving mature forests can play a vital role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, says policy scientist William Moomaw. In an e360 interview, he talks about the importance of existing forests and why the push to cut them for fuel to generate electricity is misguided.
By Fen Montaigne, Yale Environment 360
October 15, 2019

While Moomaw lauds intensifying efforts to plant billions of young trees, he says that preserving existing mature forests will have an even more profound effect on slowing global warming in the coming decades, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Moomaw explains the benefits of proforestation, discusses the policy changes that would lead to the preservation of existing forests, and sharply criticizes the recent trend of converting forests in the Southeastern U.S. to wood pellets that can be burned to produce electricity in Europe and elsewhere.
» Read article

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

A Trump administration ruling could quash Maryland’s renewable energy efforts, regulators say in appeal
By Scott Dance, Baltimore Sun
January 22, 2020

Maryland is challenging a Trump administration ruling that officials say could hinder the state’s efforts to expand renewable energy generation.

The Maryland Public Service Commission has asked federal regulators to reconsider a December decision that effectively raises the cost of solar, wind and other renewable energy that receives state subsidies, making it easier for fossil fuels to compete. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling applies to PJM Interconnection, the power grid that covers Maryland, 12 other states and the District of Columbia.

The ruling infringes on the state’s right to ensure it can keep the lights on under energy and environmental policies as it sees fit, said Jason Stanek, chairman of the Public Service Commission. Maryland and many other states in PJM and across the country subsidize renewable energy to help it compete with coal, gas and other fossil fuels, aiming to speed adoption of the technology and drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

Stanek said the federal commission’s decision could effectively bar solar and wind farms from participating in PJM’s regular auctions. In the auctions, power plants are paid upfront for promises to help the grid meet power needs three years in the future, and the cheapest bids win.

The federal ruling could take away much of the economic advantage renewable energy providers enjoy in those auctions because of state subsidies.
» Read article

SF city bldg gas ban
SF bans natural gas in new city buildings, plans all construction ban
By Mallory Moench, San Francisco Chronicle
January 17, 2020

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to ban gas appliances in new and significantly renovated city buildings. It’s just the beginning, officials say: The board also passed a law to give incentives for all-electric construction, paving the way for a possible gas ban in all new buildings this year.

“I look forward to collaborating with environmental advocates, labor unions, developers and all stakeholders to end the use of natural gas in new buildings in San Francisco,” Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who plans to introduce the follow-on legislation, said in a statement.

Tuesday’s action is the latest in a controversial wave of laws across the Bay Area to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by phasing out gas. San Francisco’s Environment Department said buildings produced 44% of the city’s emissions in 2017, the most recent year data were available.
» Read article

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

old yeller
Making Yellow School Buses a Little More Green
Some school districts are replacing diesel buses with electric models to benefit students and the environment. But the change is expensive so utilities like Dominion Energy are helping offset the cost.
By Ellen Rosen, New York Times
January 22, 2020

A small but growing number of school districts are beginning to replace older fossil fuel models with new electric buses. Motivated by evidence of the harmful effects of particulate emissions on both students’ health and performance and in an effort to reduce fuel costs and save on maintenance, a few innovative districts are making the transition.

The biggest obstacle is the significantly higher cost of electric buses, which can be at least two to three times as expensive as replacement buses powered by diesel or another alternative fuel (there are also costs associated with installing charging equipment). Districts are getting help to offset the extra costs from sources including grants and legal settlements. And several utilities, motivated by environmental concerns as well as the potential to help lighten the electrical grid load, have stepped up to help hasten the process.
» Read article

» More about clean transportation

ENERGY STORAGE

oak ridge thermal storage
Grid – Below-ground balancing
By Oak Ridge National Laboratory
January 6, 2020

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers created a geothermal energy storage system that could reduce peak electricity demand up to 37% in homes while helping balance grid operations.

The system is installed underground and stores excess electricity from renewable resources like solar power as thermal energy through a heat pump. The system comprises underground tanks containing water and phase change materials that absorb and release energy when transitioning between liquid and solid states.
» Read article

» More about energy storage

LNG

LNG risks
Climate and Health Risks of Liquified Natural Gas

By Physicians for Social Responsibility – white paper
November, 2019

The U.S., having entered the LNG export market in the past few years, is now rap-idly building out its export capacity.

As of May 2019, there were 10 LNG export terminals in North America pro-posed to FERC, as well as several more projects in pre-filing stages. This is in addition to 14 import/export terminals, most of them in the Gulf of Mexico, that have already been approved by either FERC or the Maritime Administration/ U.S. Coast Guard.

This expansion would increase polluting and potentially dangerous extraction and transport processes, while sinking billions of dollars into infrastructure that would lock the U.S. into greenhouse emissions for decades to come and squeeze out clean, safe, health-protective renewable energy sources.
» Read PSR white paper

» More about liquified natural gas

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

hot stuff everywhere
America’s Radioactive Secret
Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America
By Justin Nobel, Rolling Stone Magazine
January 21, 2020

“Essentially what you are doing is taking an underground radioactive reservoir and bringing it to the surface where it can interact with people and the environment,” says Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear-forensics scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “Us bringing this stuff to the surface is like letting out the devil,” says Fairlie. “It is just madness.”
» Read article     https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/oil-gas-fracking-radioactive-investigation-937389/

check it out
1982 American Petroleum Institute Report Warned Oil Workers Faced ‘Significant’ Risks from Radioactivity
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
January 22, 2020

Back in April last year, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency decided it was “not necessary” to update the rules for toxic waste from oil and gas wells. Torrents of wastewater flow daily from the nation’s 1.5 million active oil and gas wells and the agency’s own research has warned it may pose risks to the country’s drinking water supplies.

On Tuesday, a major new investigative report published by Rolling Stone and authored by reporter Justin Nobel delves deep into the risks that the oil and gas industry’s waste — much of it radioactive — poses to the industry’s own workers and to the public.

“There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream,” Nobel, who also reports for DeSmog, wrote, “the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity.”
» Read article

plastic production risingA surge of new plastic production is on the way
By Beth Gardiner, Yale Environment 360 via GreenBiz
Friday, January 17, 2020

As public concern about plastic pollution rises, consumers are reaching for canvas bags, metal straws and reusable water bottles. But while individuals fret over images of oceanic garbage gyres, the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries are pouring billions of dollars into new plants intended to make millions more tons of plastic than they now pump out.

Companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell and Saudi Aramco are ramping up output of plastic — which is made from oil and gas and their byproducts — to hedge against the possibility that a serious global response to climate change might reduce demand for their fuels, analysts say. Petrochemicals, the category that includes plastic, account for 14 percent of oil use and are expected to drive half of oil demand growth between now and 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says (PDF). The World Economic Forum predicts plastic production will double in the next 20 years.
» Read article    
» Read IEA Report The Future of Petrochemicals, 2018 

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 11/1/19

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on Weymouth compressor station

ASHLAND PIPELINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on Ashland pipeline

COLUMBIA GAS – MERRIMACK VALLEY

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

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

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

» More on Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley 

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on virtual pipelines

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

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

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

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

» More legislative news

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

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

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

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

» More on energy efficiency

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

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

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

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

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on clean transportation

BATTERY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

» More on battery storage

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More fossil fuel industry news

BIOMASS

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

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

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

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

» More on biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

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

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

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

» More on plastics recycling

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