Tag Archives: fracked gas

Weekly News Check-In 9/27/19

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

In local news, Columbia Gas is the center of unwelcome attention in Lawrence, as emergency crews responded to a large gas leak from a new high-pressure line – installed as part of the reconstruction following last year’s gas leaks and explosions. The Weymouth compressor station was declared a threat to human health in a new report by the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the folks in Charlton are struggling in their ongoing fight against a proposed LNG plant. The Constitution Pipeline will likely head to court before being built.

Looking a little farther away, we found news of a recent fracked gas well explosion in Louisiana that will likely burn for weeks before being extinguished.

In climate news, countries around the world are focusing on regulating pollutants like methane and HFCs – short lived but powerful greenhouse gasses. Reducing emissions of these pollutants could slow the pace of climate change during our longer drive to eliminate carbon emissions. Sadly, United States energy and environmental policies are currently moving sharply counter to this initiative. Climate activist Greta Thunberg attended the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York and was not impressed.

We also found interesting news on clean energy alternatives, energy storage, and the divestment movement. The fossil fuel industry seems to be mounting a defense against charges that it refuses to embrace decarbonization by making token investments in clean energy while hoping to extend the fossil fuel era as long as possible.

A court case against FERC has questioned its approval of eminent domain to take private property prior to pipeline approval.

We wrap up with news of a fascinating study of the effects of plastic on human health. It’s everywhere, it’s nasty, and mounting evidence shows we’re passing its consequences along to our children.

— The NFGiM Team

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER

Lawrence gas leakAbout 400 people evacuated in Lawrence after ‘major’ gas leak discovered, two schools closed
By Emily Sweeney and Michael Levenson, Boston Globe
September 27, 2019

LAWRENCE — A major gas leak forced hundreds of Lawrence residents to evacuate Friday as Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and officials searched for the cause of the problem, which came a year after a series of natural gas-fueled fires and explosions rocked the city.

Residents, some of whom were evacuated in the predawn hours by Lawrence first responders, were rattled. They said they feared they were facing a repeat of the disaster last year in Lawrence and two neighboring communities that killed a Lawrence man and left many residents homeless for months.

Mark Kempic, president of Columbia Gas, told reporters at the 7 a.m. press conference that his company did not have a crew working in the area. “We were not doing work in that area,” Kempic said. He identified the primary location for the leak as the intersection of South Broadway and Salem Street.

He said the affected line is new, having been replaced following the Sept. 13, 2018, natural gas disaster that caused 130 fires and explosions and killed Leonel Rondon, an 18-year-old Lawrence man.
» Read article     

UPDATE: Columbia Gas ‘unprepared,’ with ‘catastrophic’ results, NTSB reports
By Jill Harmacinski  jharmacinski@eagletribune.com
September 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board said the company was not prepared to handle such a disaster Sept. 13, 2018, and had no maps of the gas system available for first responders, despite overseeing the system for 100 years. Additionally, the NTSB reported, company officials were difficult to reach as the disaster was occurring and for hours afterward.

The NTSB also said plans to upgrade the cast-iron gas line system did not include upgrades to “gas sensing lines.”

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said “results were not simply unacceptable. For a whole region, they were catastrophic.”
» Read article     

Columbia Gas Should Pay $33 Million for Non-Compliance: Lawrence Mayor
Rivera said the utility knew since at least July 30 that properties may still have abandoned service lines requiring additional inspection
By Young-Jin Kim and State House News Service
September 13, 2019

Lawrence, Massachusetts Mayor Dan Rivera is calling on authorities to levy a hefty fine on Columbia Gas for failing to fully comply with a restoration plan following last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

In sharply worded statement Thursday, Rivera said the utility knew since at least July 30 that properties may still have abandoned service lines requiring additional inspection. He said Columbia Gas should pay $1 million for every day it failed to act.

“This lack of transparency costs us time otherwise spent fixing the problem,” Rivera said in a statement.

“Not only does this slow down the process of road restoration work that Lawrence was about to begin, it once again puts our back against a wall to fix a gas problem with the impending cold weather.”
» Read article     

MA NEWS: Gas Safety Report Released – Rolling The Dice
By Debbie New, Mothers Out Front blog post
September 13, 2019

On the anniversary of the “catastrophic failure in the gas distribution system that caused explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley” on September 13, 2018, Mothers Out Front remembers the community’s sacrifices and strength in overcoming the complete disruption of their energy system and their lives. We are proud to be a part of Gas Leak Allies newly released report Rolling the Dice: Assessment of Gas Safety in Massachusetts as “this report is the response of citizens and scientists motivated by a desire for a safe, healthy, and just energy system.”
» Read blog post    
» Read “Rolling The Dice – Assessment of Gas System Safety in Massachusetts” report

» More Merrimack Valley gas disaster articles

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth: Soil Testing Meeting Rescheduled Concerning Proposed Compressor Station
By Amy Leonard, WATD FM News
September 25, 2019

After a “data dump,” a meeting between concerned parties and the company hired to do soil testing at the proposed compressor station site in Weymouth is rescheduled from tonight to October 10th.

Margaret Bellafiore is the representative for The PIP or Public Involvement Program- which is a group formed with the DEP and participants must be notified of all matters regarding contamination and clean up at the site.

Bellafiore was granted her request to reschedule the meeting which will be open to the public and take place October 10th at 7:00 at the Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth.
» Read article     

Greater Boston PSR demands an immediate halt to Weymouth Compressor construction, calling it a danger to health, a danger to safety, and a danger to our Massachusetts community
Physicians for Social Responsibility
September 23, 2019

The report—a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the human health impacts of soil, groundwater, air and noise pollution that will result from the compressor station—concludes that the project is dangerous to human health and that no regulatory framework can make this facility safe for the surrounding community or for residents of the Commonwealth.

The report specifically addresses:

  • Health risks related to existing soil and groundwater contamination at the proposed site;
  • Health risks of cumulative exposure to air toxics associated with the proposed compressor station;
  • Noise pollution generated by the proposed compressor station.

Greater Boston PSR calls on Governor Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to halt the construction of the compressor station in Weymouth.
» Read press release   
» Download report here

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

LNG NEWS

Charlton legal expenses go up 300% in fight against proposed pot farm, LNG plant
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
Sep 13, 2019

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, has applied for state Energy Facilities Siting Board approval to produce about 250,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas per day and store it in a 2-million-gallon tank at 304 Southbridge Road (Route 169).

Since the Siting Board decides whether the $100 million project will go forward, the Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered as interveners in the hearings.

To do so, the town must hire legal counsel and consultants to prepare its testimony. Those legal and consulting fees are expected to reach $300,000, Peter J. Boria said at the joint meeting Wednesday.
» Read article     

Charlton’s lawyer for LNG plant resigns
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
September 10, 2019

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks to site a natural gas liquefaction plant on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road (Route 169), near Millennium Power.

The company has applied for state Energy Facilities Siting Board approval to produce about 250,000 gallons of LNG per day, store it in a 2-million-gallon tank, and load it into trucks.

The applicant is also asking the state Department of Public Utilities to grant exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

The Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered as interveners in the state hearings. As such, they were required to hire legal representation and file their testimony by Aug. 5. Seemingly unaware of what was required, they collectively missed the deadline.

Selectmen appointed members of the three boards and other town officials to an LNG Advisory Committee and earmarked $130,000 for the costs of legal counsel and consultants to intervene in the Siting Board’s hearings.

Selectmen at a joint meeting with the LNG committee and finance committee on Aug. 12 hired special legal counsel Miyares and Harrington LLC to represent the town.

In an Aug. 29 letter to selectmen, Attorney J. Raymond Miyares quit.
» Read article     

» More LNG articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Will the Constitution Pipeline get built?
The fight over the controversial pipeline is heading for federal court.
By ZACH WILLIAMS, City & State New York
September 8, 2019

Last week, federal regulators overruled a New York state agency’s decision to block the Constitution Pipeline, a controversial natural gas link from Pennsylvania. But that’s not the final word.

Until just a few weeks ago, there were good reasons to believe that a proposed natural gas pipeline linking Schoharie County in the Capitol Region to northern Pennsylvania would never get built. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation had rejected the proposed project, called the Constitution Pipeline, in 2016 because of its potential to harm water quality. In 2017, a federal court ruled that the state was within its rights to do so under the federal Clean Water Act. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene last year.

Despite these setbacks, the Oklahoma-based Williams Companies never gave up on its effort to build the 125-mile pipeline through the Catskills. It has been helped by the Trump administration, which made several moves this year to weaken the ability of states to block fossil fuel projects, including executive orders and proposed federal rules changes. “We can’t get energy because New York doesn’t allow the pipelines to go through,” Trump said during a mid-August visit to western Pennsylvania, which is experiencing a boom in natural gas production due to the rise of fracking technology. “The radical left wants to do to America what they’ve done to New York: raise prices, kill jobs and leave our nation less independent and far less secure.” Two weeks later, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose members are appointed by the president, issued an Aug. 28 ruling that gave Williams a waiver to override state approval because the state had purportedly taken too much time to make a decision on the company’s original application for a permit.
» Read article   

» More articles about other pipelines

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

blowout LA
Fracked Gas Well Blowout in Louisiana Likely to Burn for the Next Month
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
September 12, 2019

A fracked natural gas well in northwest Louisiana has been burning for two weeks after suffering a blowout. A state official said the fire will likely burn for the next month before the flames can be brought under control by drilling a relief well.

Experts have voiced concerns over the pollution being released, especially given the length of time this fossil fuel well has been leaking and burning.

“Blowouts are (unintended) large, uncontrolled pollutant sources with potentially significant health and environmental consequences,” Gunnar W. Schade, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University, told me via email after viewing the drone video obtained by DeSmog. “Blowouts need to be shut down as soon as possible.”

Sharon Wilson, Texas coordinator of environmental advocacy group Earthworks, outlined what happens during well blowouts like this.

“The gas is under pressure so if they lose control, the gas, frack fluid, produced water, and oil/condensate all blast out of the hole,” Wilson said during a call after viewing the video. “They have to get specialized teams to come shut the well in.”
» Read article

» More articles about what can go wrong 

CLIMATE

Dozens of Countries Take Aim at Climate Super Pollutants
Methane, HFCs and other short-lived climate pollutants are many times more potent than carbon dioxide but don’t last as long. Cuts could have a powerful impact.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
September 25, 2019

Environment ministers from dozens of countries agreed this week to speed up their efforts to reduce a class of greenhouse gases that, until now, has been largely overlooked in international climate agreements but could play a crucial role in limiting the worst effects of climate change.

“We can avoid about 0.6 degrees [Celsius (about 1°F)] of warming between now and mid-century by taking action on short-lived climate pollutants,” Dan McDougall, a senior fellow at the Climate and Clean Air Coalition said. The estimate is based on a 2011 United Nations Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization assessment that looked at 16 measures to cut black carbon and methane emissions across the agriculture, energy, transportation, industry, buildings and waste management sectors.

Reducing black carbon and methane also has tremendous health benefits by improving local air quality.

Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to accelerate, and global CO2 emissions are not expected to peak until after 2030, according to a World Meteorological Organization report released Sunday for this week’s UN Climate Action Summit.

The report found that countries’ commitments, which have so far focused largely on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, would have to be increased fivefold from current levels of emissions reductions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F), a goal of the Paris accord. What’s more, many countries are not meeting their current commitments.

Roughly half of the world’s G20 nations, which account for around 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had fallen short of achieving their commitments under the Paris Agreement, according to a 2018 UN report. An updated draft of the UN report released Saturday found that the G20 as a whole remains off track for meeting current Paris commitment pledges as too few of the countries had made transformative climate policy commitments.
» Read article     

The World’s Oceans Are in Danger, Major Climate Change Report Warns
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
September 25, 2019

Earth’s oceans are under severe strain from climate change, a major new United Nations report warns, threatening everything from the ability to harvest seafood to the well-being of hundreds of millions of people living along the coasts.

Rising temperatures are contributing to a drop in fish populations in many regions, and oxygen levels in the ocean are declining while acidity levels are on the rise, posing risks to important marine ecosystems, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking.
» Read article     

The US Is Exporting a Fracked Climate Catastrophe
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
September 23, 2019

According to climate scientists, limiting the worst impacts of climate change means weaning the world off of fossil fuels, not ramping it up. But two factors, the U.S. “fracking revolution” that helped boost domestic oil and gas production to record levels combined with lifting the 40-year-long ban on exporting crude oil in 2015, are complicating that vision.

In June, the United States displaced Saudi Arabia as the top exporter of crude oil, a stunning development for a country that only started exporting crude in 2016. That month, the U.S. exported over 3 million barrels of crude oil per day. To put that in perspective, the U.S. consumed 20.5 million barrels per day in 2018. That means that each day, the U.S. was pumping out of its borders a volume of oil equivalent to about 15 percent of its 2018 daily consumption.

This expansion can be directly linked to the production of oil via hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) that has driven the U.S. oil production boom over the past decade. In addition to driving U.S. crude oil expansion, this much-lauded “fracking revolution” also was responsible for essentially the entire increase in global oil production last year, when the U.S. contributed 98 percent of that increase.

Without the shale boom, the world would likely be facing much higher oil prices and the potential for stagnating or even declining production (aka peak oil), both of which would help to hasten the needed energy transition to mitigate climate change.
» Read article     

Greta T at UN
At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence
By Somini Sengupta and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
September 23, 2019

The United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday was meant to highlight concrete promises by presidents, prime ministers and corporate executives to wean the global economy from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

But despite the protests in the streets, China on Monday made no new promises to take stronger climate action. The United States, having vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the pact among nations to jointly fight climate change, said nothing at all. A host of countries made only incremental promises.

The contrast between the slow pace of action and the urgency of the problem was underscored by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, who excoriated world leaders for their “business as usual” approach. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” she said, her voice quavering with rage. “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
» Read article     

anaerobic digester - Chicago
Where’s the Waste? A ‘Circular’ Food Economy Could Combat Climate Change
An ice company’s wastewater can feed a produce garden. Spent grain from a brewery goes to compost. Local, shared, recycled. Welcome to the future of food.
By Eduardo Garcia, New York Times
September 21, 2019

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global linear production system that relies on chemicals and fuel to produce and transport food over great distances is to blame for between 21 percent and 37 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, proponents of the circular model argue that cooperation among various groups in the food-production system can significantly reduce energy consumption and waste.
» Read article

» More climate articles  

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

The Hamptons Love Green Energy. But That Wind Farm?
The transmission line would go through an area where homeowners include the billionaire Ronald Lauder and Marci Klein, daughter of Calvin Klein.
By Debra West, New York Times
September 14, 2019

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — This affluent enclave on the East End of Long Island is steeped in eco-conscious pride, with strict water quality and land preservation rules and an abundance of electric cars on the roads.

So at first, many happily embraced a plan for an offshore wind farm that would help lead the way as New York State sets some of the most ambitious green energy goals in the country.

But then came word that the project’s transmission cable was going to land in Wainscott, one of the most exclusive slices of the already exclusive Hamptons, where homeowners include the likes of the cosmetics billionaire Ronald Lauder and Marci Klein, a former longtime producer of “Saturday Night Live” and the daughter of Calvin Klein.

Soon a push to protect the planet was out and the imperative to protect a golden plot of sand was in. Homeowners organized and hired an army of lawyers, lobbyists, public relations experts and engineers to argue their case.
» Read article 

» More clean energy alternative articles   

ENERGY STORAGE

As battery fires spark ongoing concerns, NFPA releases standards to address risks
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
September 17, 2019

The exponential growth of energy storage around the world has also put a spotlight on the technology’s safety record. Multiple fires at residential storage installations in South Korea last year as well as the fire earlier this year in Arizona have shown the potential dangers associated with battery storage.

In response to increasing demand for the technology, the NFPA decided in 2016 to start developing NFPA 855.

“While energy storage systems provide countless benefits and applications, the technologies do not come without risk. NFPA 855 aims to mitigate risk and ensure that all installations are done in a way that takes fire and life safety into consideration,” Brian O’Connor, a professional engineer and NFPA staff liaison for NFPA 855, said in a statement.

NFPA 855 establishes requirements for ESS installation settings, size and separation of systems, and fire suppression and control systems.
» Read article  

battery storage site
Nothing standing in the way of energy storage’s ‘explosive growth’: Navigant
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
September 16, 2019

“Nothing really does seem to be standing in the way of its explosive growth,” Ricardo Rodriguez, research analyst for distributed energy storage at Navigant Research, told Utility Dive.

The market research company in its latest report identified close to 2,100 energy storage projects globally. And international storage markets are anticipated to grow exponentially over the next decade, a second report from Rethink Technology Research found.

“There are really five primary drivers for storage today,” Rodriguez said. “They are changing rate structures, [electric vehicle] charging integration, solar PV integration, resiliency/backup power, and to some degree, business model innovation. But I think the biggest driver of growth going forward — outside of cost — is likely to be the development of new market opportunities and value streams that are opened up by favorable federal and state regulations.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued a recent order to allow utility companies to pay commercial property owners if they agree to rely upon their energy storage systems during peak events. The order was a landmark state regulation in the energy storage space, according to Rodriguez.

“I think it was one of the first orders in the nation to incentivize behind the meter battery storage,” he said.
» Read article   

» More energy storage articles

DIVESTMENT

First Major U.S. Insurer Begins Divestment from Fossil Fuels
By Elana Sulakshana, Truthout
September 12, 2019

It seems like every day there is a new story of a pipeline spilling crude oil or an oil refinery exploding. How do fossil fuel companies continue to operate such hazardous infrastructure in communities despite the immediate and long-term harm they cause? One piece of the answer is the coverage and financial support they get from insurance companies.

We may not immediately consider insurance as a key driver of climate change, but insurance companies provide a crucial service to dangerous fossil fuel projects: insurance coverage for everything from explosions to car accidents. But now, that may be changing.

Earlier this summer, Chubb, the largest commercial insurance company in the U.S., announced a new policy to address climate change. Saying that it “will not underwrite risks related to the construction and operation of new coal-fired plants,” the company has become the first major U.S. insurer to adopt a policy restricting coal insurance.
» Read article

» More divestment articles   

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

oil giants defense
Oil Giants, Under Fire From Climate Activists and Investors, Mount a Defense
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
September 23, 2019

On Monday, as world leaders gathered at the United Nations climate summit and discussed the urgency of slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, 13 of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies presented their defense at a forum across town. But most of their proposals appeared designed to perpetuate the use of oil and gas for decades to come, rather than transition quickly to cleaner options.
» Read article     

Cheap Renewables Could Make 90% of Proposed Gas Power Plants — and Many Pipelines — Obsolete by 2035
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
September 13, 2019

A lot has changed when it comes to power generation in the past 16 years. In 2003, if you flipped on a light switch most places in the U.S., odds were you were setting into motion the final link in a chain of events that started in a coal mine or a mountain-top removal project. The U.S. got more than half of its electricity from burning coal that year, followed distantly by nuclear and gas. Coal had a long-standing reputation for being a cheap, if dirty, way to get things done.

By now, natural gas — made cheap by the rush to drill shale wells and with its own dirty reputation from globe-warming methane leaks and fracking pollution — has overtaken coal as the primary source of power in America.

But that isn’t the biggest change underway when it comes to where our electrical power will come from just 16 years from now.

That shale revolution, like coal, could see its economic advantage swept away by 2035, as renewable energy choices offer electrical utilities options that not only produce no climate-changing exhaust but are also rapidly falling in price.
» Read article   

US EPA Proposes Rule Narrowing States’ Ability to Block Pipeline Projects
The National Law Review
Friday, August 30, 2019

On August 7, 2019, US EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the Agency’s newest proposal to amend the Clean Water Act (CWA) to streamline permitting of energy projects. Specifically, the proposed rule would amend the regulations concerning Section 401 of the CWA. It represents US EPA’s first comprehensive effort to promulgate federal rules governing the implementation of Section 401 of the CWA.

When announcing the proposed rule, Administrator Wheeler stated: “[T]he United States has become the number one oil and gas energy producer in the world, while at the same time continuing to improve our air quality.” He then noted, “Our proposal is intended to help ensure that states adhere to the statutory language and intent of Clean Water Act. When implemented, this proposal will streamline the process for constructing new energy infrastructure projects that are good for American families, American workers, and the American economy.”
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles

FERC NEWS

Court agrees with Oberlin, orders agency to explain pipeline decision
By MARK GILLISPIE, Associated Press
September 11, 2019

CLEVELAND — The nation’s top appeals court has ruled that a federal agency must explain why it approved a pipeline sending substantial quantities of natural gas to Canada and allowed the energy companies to force U.S. citizens to sell property so construction could begin.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed with Oberlin, Ohio, and other plaintiffs Friday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed to justify giving owners of the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline credit for gas shipped to Canada to prove the project’s need.

FERC officials declined to comment Tuesday about the ruling.

Opponents long argued it was unlawful for the pipeline owners, Canada’s Enbridge Inc. and Detroit’s DTE Energy, to force U.S. citizens to sell property under legal threat so the 255-mile-long pipeline stretching across northern Ohio and into Michigan could be built.
» Read article   

» More FERC articles

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

plastic breakdown illustration
Our plastics, our selves

What’s plastic doing to our bodies? This all-female team is investigating.
By Eve Andrews, grist.org
February 6, 2019

The samples that eXXpedition collected will help us understand how plastic might pick up other pollutants, like pesticides and industrial waste, and transfer them to humans through the food chain. In parallel with that work, the team also wrote about its experiences to raise awareness, and began developing ideas for both policy and technology to address this giant plastic dilemma.

One major mystery within that dilemma: what all these bits of plastic might be doing to us. For every tidbit of understanding we gain about the health consequences of chemicals released by plastics, there remains a Gyre-sized quantity of unknowns. But a growing body of evidence suggests some chemicals commonly found in many plastics are associated with everything from breast and prostate cancer, to underdeveloped genitalia and low sperm count in men, to obesity.

In particular, some of the substances that stick to plastics, seep out of them, or are released when they decay are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), meaning that they interfere with the normal function of hormones in the human body. Some may contribute to cancer. They may also cross from a pregnant woman’s body into her fetus, potentially changing the way a baby develops.

It’s that last potential consequence of plastic junk that made Penn decide to found eXXpedition as an all-women’s endeavor. Men get these chemicals inside them as well, of course. “For women,” she said, “it felt like it was a greater significance because we’re passing them on to the next generation.”
» Read article 

» More about plastics in the environment and health

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 7/12/19

Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles about opposition to the Weymouth compressor station and Columbia Gas’ TGP 261 upgrade project in Agawam. Even more on climate, clean energy alternatives, energy storage, the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities… and “what could possibly go wrong?”

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Mass. OKs Air Permit For Controversial Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
July 12, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday granted an air permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, removing another hurdle for the controversial project to proceed.

A statement from MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta noted that the “ruling relies on an evidence and science-based evaluation of air quality and health impacts associated with the proposed project [and] takes into account all applicable state and federal requirements.”

In a written statement, Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said he was disappointed with the decision, “but not surprised given how this process has been conducted thus far.” He called the process unfair to Weymouth and all South Shore residents.

“This entire process has demonstrated that our regulatory entities seem to be beholden to industry interests,” Hedlund said.

Blog editor’s note: The image above shows what it looks like when a properly sited compressor station blows up (and they do, occasionally). Precisely why these facilities should never be sited in dense, urban areas like Weymouth’s Fore River Basin. Also the pollution issues….
» Read article   

COMPRESSOR OPPONENTS GAIN BIG NEW ALLY: MASS. SENATE
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
July 11, 2019

Nearly three-quarters of the Senate penned a letter Thursday urging the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner to rescind approval for a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, a significant escalation from what had been mostly staunch local opposition.

The two-and-a-half page letter, signed with bipartisan support by 29 of the Senate’s 40 members, asks DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg to reject the proposal. It was released one day before his final decision on whether to uphold an air quality permit under appeal is due.

Warning that “public trust is lost” after the lengthy permitting process that saw outcry from environmental and health experts, the senators said the compressor plans sought by Algonquin Gas Transmission are a threat “to the Commonwealth as a whole” and could set a “dangerous precedent” for siting such facilities.
“The administrative proceedings surrounding the Weymouth compressor station application are fraught with errors, inaccuracies, and obstructions,” senators wrote. “Because of this, combined with the overall environmental and public health implications of the project, we believe that the DEP should rescind all permits pertaining to Algonquin’s application predicated upon the many permitting appeals filed by citizen groups and affected municipalities, and reevaluate the proposal in light of the facts and in a publicly transparent fashion.”
» Read article

At ‘wit’s end,’ Mariano pushes Weymouth air monitoring bill
By Chris Liskinski, State House News Service
July 9, 2019

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano urged colleagues Tuesday to advance legislation that would require additional air-quality monitoring near compressor stations, a bill he told constituents two weeks ago he would try to fast-track amid ongoing controversy over a Weymouth proposal.

Mariano, a Quincy Democrat, opened a Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy hearing Tuesday by saying he was at his “wit’s end” dealing with decades of pollution from industrial facilities in the area of the Fore River, which runs between Quincy and Weymouth.

Now, after what Mariano described as “egregious shortcomings” in the Baker administration’s approval of a Weymouth natural gas compressor station, he pushed for the legislation as necessary to ensure public health.
» Read article  

Shut up about the Weymouth compressor already, willya?
By Andrea Honore, Blue Mass Group
July 7, 2019

Here are some good reasons why you should care—even a little bit—about the Weymouth compressor project getting built. If it happens in Weymouth, it will happen to you.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

TGP 261 UPGRADE

Massachusetts mayor says access to cheap gas not worth the cost to climate
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News
July 8, 2019  

In December, the average price of 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas for residential customers nationally was $9.63, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration; in Massachusetts, it was $15.16, the fifth-highest in the country.

Still, Morse argues, bringing in more gas would just be business as usual at a time when the environment needs unconventional action. And if Holyoke can break old patterns, perhaps other communities will follow, he said.

“I hope we’re setting a precedent,” he said. “I hope we’re providing momentum to this conversation.”
» Read article

» More TGP 261 upgrade articles

CLIMATE

The Case for Declaring a National Climate Emergency
By Carolyn Kormann, New Yorker Magazine
July 11, 2019  

The resolution that Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and the Oregon representative Earl Blumenauer introduced to Congress on Tuesday (which was co-sponsored by more than two dozen other lawmakers), echoed the Green New Deal in calling for “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency.” It’s a symbolic resolution in Congress for now, given the Senate’s resistance to any climate-change policy, but it at least puts pressure on the 2020 Presidential candidates to keep discussing the issue as an emergency and debating climate solutions. It also reflects the reality of what’s needed, in the face of current facts.
» Read article  

Boston faces major challenge as sea levels rise
By Rick Sobey, Boston Herald
July 10, 2019

Boston is expected to have 12 to 19 high-tide flooding days this year, the NOAA projects.
By 2030, high-tide flooding is likely to happen about 15 to 25 days along the Northeast Atlantic, as a median regional value. By 2050, NOAA projects 40 to 130 high-tide flooding days for the region.

“Once communities realize they are susceptible to high tide flooding, they need to begin to address the impacts, which can become chronic rather quickly,” William Sweet, an oceanographer for NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, said in a statement. “Communities find themselves not knowing what to expect next year and the decades to come, which makes planning difficult. Our high tide projections can play a vital role in helping them plan mitigation and other remedies.”
» Read article  

It’s the End of the World as They Know It: The distinct burden of being a climate scientist
By David Corn, Mother Jones
July 8, 2019

It’s hardly surprising that researchers who spend their lives exploring the dire effects of climate change might experience emotional consequences from their work. Yet, increasingly, Cobb, Shukla, and others in the field have begun publicly discussing the psychological impact of contending with data pointing to a looming catastrophe, dealing with denialism and attacks on science, and observing government inaction in the face of climate change. “Scientists are talking about an intense mix of emotions right now,” says Christine Arena, executive producer of the docuseries Let Science Speak, which featured climate researchers speaking out against efforts to silence or ignore science. “There’s deep grief and anxiety for what’s being lost, followed by rage at continued political inaction, and finally hope that we can indeed solve this challenge. There are definitely tears and trembling voices. They know this deep truth: They are on the front lines of contending with the fear, anger, and perhaps even panic the rest of us will have to deal with.”
» Read article   

Big Oil’s ‘Natural Climate Solutions’ Feasibility Overblown, Critics Say
By Kendra Chamberlain, DeSmog Blog
July 6, 2019

There have been a slew of scientific papers over the years pointing to NCS as a useful tool in removing carbon dioxide from the environment. In their critique, Lang and Counsell have zeroed in on a TNC-led 2017 paper published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper’s authors estimate NCS “can provide 37 percent of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030” needed to stay below the 2° Celsius threshold of global warming.

The TNC paper’s claim that NCS can account for up to 37 percent of CO2 mitigation by 2030 has garnered quite a lot of attention by media, conservation organizations, and others as a “forgotten solution” to climate change.

A spokesperson from The Nature Conversancy agreed with Anderson’s assessment. “NCS by itself is no silver bullet. It’s not a matter of NCS or reducing fossil fuel emissions; the world needs both,” the spokesperson said. “But with [less than] 3 percent of all climate funding currently going to land use solutions, we think it deserves a much bigger place in the conversation.”

Counsell and Lang take the argument a step further. They claim that major oil companies have seized on the opportunity to promote NCS initiatives as a means to greenwash themselves while continuing to drill for fossil fuels.

“As long as the oil industry can say, look we’re doing something, we’re supporting tree planting, it just diverts the conversation from the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground,” Lang said, adding that major oil companies are incentivized to move the conversation away from fossil fuel reductions.

“This whole discussion about natural climate solutions is exactly what the oil industry wants. It’s handing them the perfect PR exercise on a plate,” he said.
» Read article  

Baking Alaska: record heat spurs wildfires and “mass mortality events”
By Susie Cagle, The Bulletin – originally published in The Guardian
July 5, 2019

Alaska is trapped in a kind of hot feedback loop, as the arctic is heating up much faster than the rest of the planet. Ocean surface temperatures upwards of 10F hotter than average have helped to warm up the state’s coasts. When Bering and Chukchi sea ice collapsed and melted months earlier than normal this spring, the University of Alaska climate specialist Rick Thoman characterized the water as “baking”.

“I intentionally try to not be hyperbolic, but what do you say when there’s 10- to 20- degree ocean water temperature above normal?” Thoman told the Guardian. “How else do you describe that besides extraordinary?”

The hot water has affected sea birds and marine life, with mass mortality events becoming commonplace in the region. The National Park Service characterizes Alaska’s increasingly frequent sea bird die-offs, called “wrecks”, as “extreme”. “The folks in the communities are saying these animals look like they’ve starved to death,” said Thoman.
» Read article   

Stop Building a Spaceship to Mars and Just Plant Some Damn Trees: Researchers found that there’s room for an extra 900 million hectares of canopy cover
By Jackie Flynn Mogensen, Mother Jones
July 4, 2019

The study, however, has its limitations. For one, a global tree-planting effort is somewhat impractical. As the authors write, “it remains unclear what proportion of this land is public or privately owned, and so we cannot identify how much land is truly available for restoration.” Rob Jackson, who chairs the Earth System Science Department and Global Carbon Project at Stanford University and was not involved with the study, agrees that forest management plays an important role in the fight against climate change, but says the paper’s finding that humans could reduce atmospheric carbon by 25 percent by planting trees seemed “unrealistic,” and wondered what kinds of trees would be most effective or how forest restoration may disrupt agriculture.

“Forests and soils are the cheapest and fastest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere—lots of really good opportunities there,” he said. “I get uneasy when we start talking about managing billions of extra acres of land, with one goal in mind: to store carbon.”
» Read article

Forests for Carbon Storage
By George Wuerthner, The Wildlife News
July 4, 2019

Currently, there is a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that would ban logging on all of the state lands. The premise of the legislation is that logging contributes significantly to CO2 emissions. The legislation sponsors argue that the best use of Massachusetts state-owned property is to maintain intact forests for carbon storage.

If this legislation should pass into law it may signal a shift in how we view the value of our federal and state forests. Our forests greatest value is for carbon storehouse, not wood products.
» Read article

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis
Research shows a trillion trees could be planted to capture huge amount of carbon dioxide
Damian Carrington Environment editor, the Guardian
July 4, 2019

Crowther emphasised that it remains vital to reverse the current trends of rising greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, and bring them down to zero. He said this is needed to stop the climate crisis becoming even worse and because the forest restoration envisaged would take 50-100 years to have its full effect of removing 200bn tonnes of carbon.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Compost heating test going well!
Rose Wessel, Old Stone Mill Center (blog post)
July 12, 2019  

This is an entirely new, first of its kind, compost heating system being developed by AgriLab for heating our Office space at The Old Stone Mill here in Adams, MA. The heat extracted from this system will feed a radiant floor in the office, and possibly some additional space as well.
» Read article

US renewable energy transition to move faster than anticipated by 2022: FERC report
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
July 9, 2019

By June 2022, the pace of U.S. renewables growth is going to surpass fossil fuel growth by a significantly greater margin than what FERC had anticipated as recently as April, according to the commission’s May 2019 Energy Infrastructure Update, released Friday.
» Read article

Even FERC can’t deny the energy transition
By Christian Roselund, PV Magazine
July 8, 2019

The latest projections from the federal agency show no growth in fossil fuel capacity over the next three years, while new solar and wind more than make up for nuclear retirements. This is likely an overly conservative assessment.
» Read article

It’s New York vs. California in a New Climate Race. Who Will Win?
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
July 8, 2019

California and New York have recently set some of the world’s most ambitious climate targets, aiming to slash their net emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases down to nearly zero in just three short decades.

Now the race is on to see if either state can pull off this feat — something that no major economy in the world has yet achieved. For now, neither state has a clear advantage, and both must overcome unique obstacles to clean up their power plants, cars and buildings.
» Read article  

Puerto Rico Harnesses The Power Of The Sun For A Renewable Energy Future
By Marisa Peñaloza, Greg Allen
July 5, 2019

The first phase will cost $1.4 billion. Padilla says, optimistically, the entire rebuild will take about five years. As part of it, he says, PREPA will greatly boost the amount of power generated by renewable energy. “This is a key part of what an energy sector should look like,” Padilla says.
» Read article

Experiments show dramatic increase in solar cell output
Method for collecting two electrons from each photon could break through theoretical solar-cell efficiency limit.
By David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
July 3, 2019

In any conventional silicon-based solar cell, there is an absolute limit on overall efficiency, based partly on the fact that each photon of light can only knock loose a single electron, even if that photon carried twice the energy needed to do so. But now, researchers have demonstrated a method for getting high-energy photons striking silicon to kick out two electrons instead of one, opening the door for a new kind of solar cell with greater efficiency than was thought possible.

While conventional silicon cells have an absolute theoretical maximum efficiency of about 29.1 percent conversion of solar energy, the new approach, developed over the last several years by researchers at MIT and elsewhere, could bust through that limit, potentially adding several percentage points to that maximum output.
» Read article

Conservative Indiana Chooses Renewables Over Gas As It Retires Coal Early
By Jeff McMahon, Forbes
July 2, 2019

“Renewables are so cheap, said Mike Hooper, the senior vice president of the Northern Indiana Service Company (NIPSCO), that the utility can close its coal plants early and return $4 billion to its customers over the next 30 years.”

Empowered by the low price of renewables, NIPSCO decided to double the number of coal plants it will retire in 2023—four instead of two—and to retire its 12 Michigan City units ahead of schedule in 2028, getting the utility out of coal in ten years.
» Read article  

Los Angeles solicits record solar + storage deal at 1.997/1.3-cents kWh
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 2, 2019

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is preparing a potentially world record-setting power purchase agreement (PPA) for solar + storage at 1.997 cents and 1.3 cents per kWh, respectively.

California is seeking more generation in order to meet its peak system reliability needs from 2019 to 2024, and last week launched a procurement track that would add 2 GW of new resources. LADWP noted projects such as the Eland Center are important toward meeting high capacity needs.

“We need to have more capacity on our system and this is an inexpensive way, and a clean way, to do that,” said Barner.
» Read article

Why I replaced my new gas boiler with a heat pump
By Jan Rosenow, RAP
June 26, 2019

But what about the embodied carbon emissions of the new heat pump? Would it not be better to wait until a heating system has reached the end of its life before replacing it? In response to my Twitter post, someone suggested to me that “knee jerk installations of heat pumps over natural gas boilers ‘to save CO2’ are not done until the useful life of the gas boiler has been met. Premature boiler changes will cause more CO2 than they will save.”

Here again, the numbers support the early retirement of gas boilers. The total embodied carbon emissions for a typical air source heat pump installed in a UK home are 1,563 kg CO2e. My heat pump avoids 1,313 kg CO2e per year. It means that after less than 1.5 years, a heat pump starts saving carbon compared to a gas boiler, even if the gas boiler is replaced before the end of its life. Hence, from a carbon perspective, it makes sense to replace a gas boiler even if it was just installed. Assuming a 20-year lifetime for the heat pump, the embodied carbon emissions per year are just 78 kg CO2e per year, or 4% of the operational carbon emissions from fuel use.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

ENERGY STORAGE

New York regulators assess potential for storage to replace peaking units in the state
By HJ Mai, Utlity Dive
July 3, 2019  

Replacing New York’s fleet of less efficient peaking units with energy storage systems and renewables will be key to achieving the state’s clean energy goals. New York aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and shift to 100% clean electricity by 2040.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year announced proposed regulations to accelerate this plan. The governor’s proposal includes lower thresholds for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from simple cycle and regenerative combustion turbines, and would phase in control requirements from 2023 to 2025. Gas-fired peaker plants, which generate infrequently, can account for more than a third of the state’s daily power plant NOx emissions when they run.
» Read article

» More energy storage articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

OPEC head: Climate activists are the ‘greatest threat’ to oil industry
By Miyo McGinn, Grist
July 5, 2019  

Climate activists and their “unscientific” claims are “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward,” said Mohammed Barkindo, the secretary general of OPEC (the cartel representing 14 countries with 80 percent of the world’s oil reserves) earlier this week.

He might have been talking about protesters more broadly, but the rest of his statement suggests that young people are being particularly irksome. Barkindo said some of his colleague’s children are asking them about the future because “they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry.” (I guess the birds and the bees isn’t the most uncomfortable conversation parents are having with their kids in OPEC households.)
» Read article

More Signs That Natural Gas Can’t Compete With Renewables on Cost
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
July 5, 2019

Right now, natural gas prices are artificially low because fracking companies have been producing record amounts of natural gas at a loss. As Schlotterbeck points out, this is an unsustainable business model. But it has supplied natural gas consumers with artificially cheap energy, giving natural gas a competitive edge over the dying coal and nuclear power industries.

The news that gas prices can only go up while renewables and battery costs continue to drop (and already are easily beating natural gas for power generation in places like California) means that in a free market economy, no new natural gas power plants would be constructed. That scenario is welcome in light of a new study released this week, which concludes that the climate pollution from existing fossil fuel infrastructure is enough on its own to push the planet past 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming by 2100.
» Read article  

The New Gas Boom
LNG Tanker
TRACKING GLOBAL LNG INFRASTRUCTURE
By Ted Nace, Lydia Plante, and James Browning, Global Energy Monitor
June, 2019

Through a massive increase in portside infrastructure, floating offshore terminals, and oceangoing LNG ves-sels, the natural gas industry is seeking to restructure itself from a collection of regional markets into a wider and more integrated global system. If successful, this transformation would lock in much higher levels of natural gas production through mid-century—a seem-ing win for the industry—except that the falling cost of renewable alternatives will make many of these proj-ects unprofitable in the long term and put much of the $1.3 trillion being invested in this global gas expansion at risk. Such an expansion is also incompatible with the IPCC’s warning that, in order to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, gas use must decline 15% by 2030 and 43% by 2050, relative to 2020.
» Read article  

Norway Wealth Fund To Dump Fossil Fuel Stocks Worth Billions In Environmental Move
By David Nikel, Forbes
June 12, 2019

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund will sell off more than $10 billion of stocks in companies related to fossil fuels following the rubber-stamping of Finance Committee recommendations in Norway’s Parliament today. As part of a broad shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the move from Norway’s center-right coalition government confirms several recent announcements including the phasing out of oil exploration and coal-related stocks.

The new guidelines mean Norway’s Wealth Fund can no longer invest in companies that mine more than 20 million tonnes of coal annually, or generate more than 10,000 MW of power using coal.
» Read article

“Shockwaves” as Norway’s $1Trill wealth fund plans to disinvest from upstream oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
March 8, 2019

The beginning of the end of the age of oil moved a step closer today, with Norway’s Government recommending that its $1 trillion wealth fund should divest from upstream oil and gas producers.

The news that the world’s largest wealth fund, known as the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG,) which is highly influential just by its huge financial size, will divest from companies that explore and produce oil, “has sent shockwaves through the energy sector”, according to the Financial Times.

Whilst the move is significant in driving the fossil fuel disinvestment momentum, the FT notes there are caveats: “the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has given a reprieve to the global oil majors” such as Shell and BP and “the fund appears to be allowed to still invest in oil and gas companies if they have activities in renewable energy.”

The move is primarily concerned about protecting the Norwegian economy from any future plunge in the oil price rather than climate concerns, although these are mentioned by the Government.
»
Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Senate passes cybersecurity bill to decrease grid digitization, move toward manual control
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 1, 2019  

The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act (SEIA) establishes a two-year pilot program to identify new classes of security vulnerabilities and to research and test solutions, including “analog and nondigital control systems.” The U.S. Department of Energy would be required to report back to Congress on its findings.

Recent news that the United States government has been working to insert malicious code into Russia’s electric grid has raised the specter of a cyberwar between the two nations. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterje told lawmakers last month that critical infrastructure in the U.S., including the electric grid, is “increasingly under attack by foreign adversaries.”
» Read article

» More electric utility articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Karnes County natural gas facility burns just before dawn 
Karnes County gas fire
By Jon Wilcox, Victoria Advocate
July 11, 2019  

A Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline facility in Karnes County caught fire Thursday morning.

About 5:40 a.m., emergency dispatchers received warning of the blaze and dispatched firefighters and sheriff’s deputies to the facility, said Emergency Management Coordinator and County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik.

Located at 8724 County Road 326, about two miles west of Runge, the facility pressurizes natural gas for pipeline transport, Dupnik said.

In spite of numerous safety features, a gas compressor at the location is suspected of failing and starting the blaze, he said.

No one was reported injured, and authorities have no reason to suspect foul play.
» Read article

Large gas explosion reported by LA Fitness in Florida, reports say
By WCVB, ABC News
July 6, 2019

A vacant pizza restaurant exploded Saturday in a thundering roar at a South Florida shopping plaza, injuring more than 20 people as large chunks of concrete flew through the air.

The blast sent debris flying along a busy road in Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale in Broward County. The restaurant was destroyed, and nearby businesses were damaged.
Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said there were at least 15 to 20 patients, two of whom were in serious condition, and there were no apparent deaths.
Responders found an active gas leak when they arrived, but they were not immediately sure if that was the cause of the blast.
» Read article

» More about what could go wrong…

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Weekly News Check-In 6/21/19


Welcome back.

We scour many news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. What follows is a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – ranging in scope from global to local.

Click any Read Article link to go directly to the published source. To explore related articles on the No Fracked Gas in Mass website, click the HEADINGS above the articles.

Look for a fresh reading list every week.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE NEWS

E.P.A. Finalizes Its Plan to Replace Obama-Era Climate Rules
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
June 19, 2019

The Trump administration on Wednesday replaced former President Barack Obama’s effort to reduce planet-warming pollution from coal plants with a new rule that would keep plants open longer and undercut progress on reducing carbon emissions.

The rule represents the Trump administration’s most direct effort to protect the coal industry. It is also another significant step in dismantling measures aimed at combating global warming, including the rollback of tailpipe emissions standards and the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
» Read Article 

Scientists amazed as Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years early
Matthew Green, Reuters
June 18, 2019

Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.
» Read Article 

Climate change: Arctic permafrost now melting at levels not expected until 2090
Series of ‘anomalously warm summers’ caused ground to thaw, researchers say
By Alessio Perrone, The Independent
June 15, 2019
A “series of anomalously warm summers” has dramatically accelerated melting rates at three sites despite average annual ground temperatures remaining low. Ponds and hillocks have formed as a result.
» Read Article  

Half of Greenland’s Surface Started Melting This Week, Which Is Not Normal
By Brian Kahn, Gizmodo
June 13, 2019

A major warm spell has caused nearly half the surface of the Greenland ice sheet to start melting, something that’s highly unusual for this time of year. And while this spike may pass, the gears could already be in motion for record-setting melt on the ice sheet’s western flank.
» Read Article 

U.S. Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year Two—A New Sabin Center Working Paper
By Dena Adler, Climate Law Blog, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
June 7, 2019

The Trump Administration is losing on climate in the courts. More than two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change-related regulatory rollback brought before the courts has yet survived legal challenge.   Nevertheless, climate change is one arena where the Trump Administration’s rollbacks have been both visible and real. In total, the Sabin Center’s U.S. Climate Deregulation Tracker identifies a total of 94 actions taken by the executive branch in 2017 and 2018 to undermine and reverse climate protections.
» Read Article 

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS  

‘This Pipeline Will Not Be Built,’ Indigenous and Climate Leaders Tell Trudeau After Canada Approves Trans Mountain Expansion
The federal government’s decision on the dirty energy project came just a day after the House of Commons voted to declare a climate emergency
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
June 19, 2019
Climate activists and Indigenous groups held an emergency rally in downtown Vancouver Tuesday night in response to the government’s announcement and are planning a march in solidarity with the Tiny House Warriors—who, for years, have challenged Kinder Morgan and now the Canadian government by constructing small structures in the pipeline’s proposed path—for Saturday.

“It is our basic responsibility as settlers to support Indigenous struggles. Indigenous people worldwide are on the frontline against resource developments that are pushing our biosphere to the brink of climate and ecological collapse,” said march organizer Bobby Arbess. “We must help stop the massive expansion of tar sands driving the Trans Mountain project. It represents a lethal tipping point that is not morally acceptable in a climate emergency.”
» Read Article 
On Monday, Canada declared a ‘climate emergency.’ On Tuesday, it approved a pipeline expansion.
By Emily Rauhala, Washington Post
June 18, 2019
The move will be welcomed by the country’s struggling oil sector and the many Canadians whose fortunes are tied to it. Landlocked Alberta produces four-fifths of Canadian crude but struggles to get it abroad, and so must settle for selling at steep discounts against global benchmarks — hitting the province hard.

But many Canadians have protested the expansion proposal out of concern for oil spills and the continuing promotion of climate-changing fossil fuels. They question whether this is the moment to increase Canadian shipments of oil.
» Read Article 

Australia, in a Victory for Coal, Clears the Way for a Disputed Mine
By Somini Sengupta
June 13, 2019
Plans for a fiercely contested coal mine in northeastern Australia received a long-awaited government green light on Thursday, less than a month after conservative politicians who champion coal triumphed in national elections.
» Read Article 

 

BIOMASS NEWS

New Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership reaches starting line
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 19, 2019

Blog editor’s note: Environmental groups will be keeping an eye on developments here, especially in light of Baker Administration support for commercial biomass interests.
» Read Article 

 

UTILITIES NEWS – ELECTRIC

Utilities are ‘the new cyber battlefield,’ as US ramps up pressure on Russia’s electric grid
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 18, 2019

The United States has increased efforts to insert malicious code into Russia’s electric grid, a development the The New York Times warned “enshrines power grids as a legitimate target” in the nations’ cold war of cyber one-upmanship.

While President Trump denied the story on Twitter, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said it meant a cyberwar between the two countries is a “hypothetical possibility.”

With utilities in the cross-hairs of malicious actors, experts say there are health, safety and economic risks for those who rely on the grid, particularly if escalation continues.
» Read Article 

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid
By David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, New York Times
June 15, 2019

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
» Read Article 

The rise of EVs could overwhelm the grid, but PG&E has a better plan
A new framework gives utilities a way to identify and seize electrification value with managed charging
Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
June 13, 2019

The power demand from the 20 million electric vehicles (EVs) expected to be on U.S. roads by 2030, up from today’s 1.1 million, could overwhelm the nation’s grids.

But the coming EV load could deliver great value to utilities and their customers if it is shifted away from high-priced peak demand periods. That would increase utilities’ electricity sales without adding stress to their grids, while also lowering drivers’ charging costs. Investing in the communications systems and planning needed to properly manage charging can deliver transportation electrification’s full value, stakeholders told Utility Dive.

EVs are the biggest “electric load opportunity for utilities” since the 1950s air conditioning explosion, a May 2019 Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) study reports. But without proper planning to integrate that load, “EVs could lead to grid constraints and increased transmission and distribution peaks” that require new “peaker plants, unplanned grid upgrades, and other costly solutions.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Another Deceptive Letter Bashing the Electric Car Tax Credit Circulating Congress, Courtesy of FreedomWorks
By Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog
June 16, 2019

As the Drive America Forward Act, which would lift the cap on electric cars eligible for the credit, has gained co-sponsors across party lines, those industries most threatened by the widespread adoption of EVs are clearly fighting back, through the media and in these letters to Congress, as well as extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill. Without fail, these efforts to skew public and political opinion on the tax incentives include these deceptive talking points and oil-funded reports deployed in Rep. Mooney’s letter.

As Elliot Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists recently wrote for Common Dreams, the “oil and gas industry’s anti-EV tax credit campaign is a prime example of how fossil fuel interests construct a disinformation echo chamber to drown out government efforts to address the climate crisis.”

Negin continues:

“This is basically how it works: The industry underwrites a network of faux free-market groups to surreptitiously advocate on its behalf; it pays seemingly independent think tanks to publish deceptive studies; and it bankrolls the campaigns of federal legislators, who then cite industry-funded studies and invite industry-funded spokespeople to testify before Congress.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES NEWS

North Adams, Williamstown teaming up to educate residents on benefits solar energy
By Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle
June 18, 2019
» Read Article 

 

NATURAL GAS HEALTH RISKS

Physicians call for halt to natural gas fracking projects
By Jeffrey Mize, The Columbian
June 19, 2019

Two physicians groups have issued a 145-page report calling for an immediate halt to projects involving hydraulically fracked natural gas in the Northwest.

“Fracked Gas: A Threat to Healthy Communities” identifies six major projects, including a proposed $2 billion plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas into methanol for export to Asia.
» Read Article 

 

ATLANTIC BRIDGE NEWS

Confused About The Weymouth Compressor? Here’s What You Need To Know
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
June 19, 2019

For the last few years, a coalition of South Shore towns and local activists have worked to block the construction of a natural gas compressor station in North Weymouth. The project involves multiple permits and court cases at the state and federal level, making it hard for even the most avid news consumer to follow. Blog editor’s note: This excellent reporting untangles a complex story and illuminates a critical local battle against gas infrastructure expansion.
» Read Article 

Compressor foes state their case at hearing
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
June 17, 2019
The compressor station proposal has drawn strong local opposition from officials and residents who said the plant would vent pollution and toxic gases and that it could explode in the densely populated and industrialized neighborhood. There are more than 1,000 homes near the proposed site.
» Read Article 

Weymouth residents fight proposed compressor station near Fore River bridge
By Julie Leonardi, Boston 25 News
June 17, 2019

Residents in Weymouth continue to fight against a proposed natural gas compressor station near the Fore River bridge.
» Read Article

 

COLUMBIA GAS / MERRIMACK VALLEY DISASTER

Kempic “confident” disasters won’t happen again
By Jessica Valeriani, Andover Townsman
June 13, 2019
He credits his confidence to two features the utility has been including in their restoration work. The first is a regulator at each house which shuts off gas, preventing over-pressurization. The second feature is an excess flow valve, located right on the service lines. Kempic said the valve shuts off gas automatically if a line is unintentionally struck by digging equipment.

Blog editor’s note: Begs the question… why weren’t/aren’t these safeguards already required standard equipment? If Columbia Gas built cars, would they be expressing renewed confidence in the safety of their product because from now on, vehicles will be provided with brakes and steering?
» Read Article 

 

TALES OF VICTORY

Invenergy Defeated, Power Plant Denied Permit
CLF and Burrillville residents prevail against energy giant
By Jake O’Neill, Conservation Law Foundation
June 20, 2019
Rhode Island’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) decided today that it would not grant a permit necessary for the construction of Invenergy’s fossil fuel plant in Burrillville. After years of legal challenges from CLF and residents, the plant will not be built.

“This is a huge victory for Rhode Island and for the health of our communities,” said CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer. “In the face of climate emergency, opening a fossil fuel plant that will spew carbon pollution for decades is simply reckless. After years of lies and misinformation, Invenergy’s efforts to pave over a forest to build this dirty plant have been dealt a substantial loss. Today’s decision is proof that communities can stand up to big gas and win.”
» Read Article 

 

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret
A Guardian report from 11 countries tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations
By Erin McCormick, Bennett Murray , Carmela Fonbuena , Leonie Kijewski, Gökçe Saraçoğlu , Jamie Fullerton, Alastair Gee and Charlotte Simmonds, The Guardian / United States of Plastic
June 17, 2019
“People don’t know what’s happening to their trash,” said Andrew Spicer, who teaches corporate social responsibility at the University of South Carolina and sits on his state’s recycling advisory board. “They think they’re saving the world. But the international recycling business sees it as a way of making money. There have been no global regulations – just a long, dirty market that allows some companies to take advantage of a world without rules.”
» Read Article 

As the world grapples with plastic, the U.S. makes more of it — a lot more
By Center for Public Integrity
June 13, 2019
Plastic waste is piling up, increasing amounts of it going to landfills as U.S. recycling programs — dependent on Asian countries that no longer want our scrap — struggle to adjust. In March the United Nations, “alarmed” by the environmental and public health consequences of plastic items intended to be used once and thrown away, urged countries to “take comprehensive action.”

Against this backdrop, the United States is about to make a whole lot more of the stuff.
» Read Article 


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


 

Weekly News Check-In 6/14/19


What is this?

We scour many news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. What follows is a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – ranging in scope from global to local.

Click any Read Article link to go directly to the published source. To find links to related articles on the No Fracked Gas in Mass website, click the headings above the articles. We try our best to use only reliable news sources, but responsibility for fact checking lies with the publisher. Opinions expressed are not necessarily our own.

Look for a fresh reading list every week.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE NEWS

Arctic death spiral speeds up sixfold, driving coastal permafrost collapse
The Arctic just saw its hottest May on record
Joe Romm, ThinkProgress
June 10, 2019
The permafrost, or tundra, is soil that stays below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least two years. Thawing permafrost is a dangerous amplifying feedback loop for global warming because the global permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the atmosphere does today .

As the permafrost melts, it releases heat-trapping carbon dioxide and methane, and as the coastline disintegrates and erodes, more and more permafrost will be exposed to the warming air and water.

This means, as the planet continues to warm, more permafrost will erode and melt, releasing even more greenhouse gases in a continuous feedback loop.
» Read Article   

BirthStrike: The people refusing to have kids, because of climate change
By Stephanie Bailey, CNN
June 10, 2019

BirthStrike is one of a number of groups around the world that are questioning the ethics of having children in a warming world.
» Read Article

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES NEWS

US initiative to reduce storage, EV reliance on Chinese minerals amid trade uncertainty
HJ Mai, Utility Dive
June 13, 2019

Critical energy minerals, such as lithium, copper and cobalt, could increase almost 1,000% by 2050, which is expected to strain the capacity of many countries to increase supply…. Renewable energy, electric vehicles and energy storage are all dependent on those minerals, but the market is currently dominated by China.
» Read Article

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Debunking the fracked gas fairy tale
Fuel is as dirty as coal and extremely dangerous
By Emily Norton, CommonWealth Magazine Opinion
June 5, 2019

Emily North is the Newton Ward 2 city councilor.
For years, even environmentalists recommended moving to gas as a transition toward renewable energy – a so-called “bridge fuel” – but current research has found that when we look beyond burning gas, and take into account the impacts from gas that leaks from fracking wells and distribution pipes, we find that gas contributes as much to climate change as coal and that unburned gas is 99 percent methane, which is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere.
» Read Article

It’s now cheaper to build a new wind farm than to keep a coal plant running
By Irina Ivanova, CBS News
November 16, 2018

Inflation dictates that the cost of living will continue to rise — except, it seems, when it comes to renewable energy. The cost of building a new utility-scale solar or wind farm has now dropped below the cost of operating an existing coal plant, according to an analysis by the investment bank Lazard. Accounting for government tax credits and other energy incentives would bring the cost even lower.
» Read Article

LNG NEWS

DRBC Confirms Plan to Build LNG Export Terminal at New South Jersey Port
Jon Hurdle, NJSpotlight
June 12, 2019

Environmental activists have accused the DRBC and other regulators of concealing plans by the developer, Delaware River Partners, to add an LNG terminal to a new port that it plans to build on a former DuPont site in Gibbstown, Gloucester County…. The DRBC previously said the company did not seek a permit for the LNG terminal in its application but on Tuesday said it “recently” learned of the plan.
» Read Article

COLUMBIA GAS / TGP 261 UPGRADE NEWS

City of Northampton opposes natural gas pipeline project in Agawam
By Mary C. Serreze, MassLive / Springfield Republican
Nov 26, 2018

“The City recognizes the dangerous outcomes of climate change and supports a rapid attainment of a goal of 100 percent clean, renewable energy,”
» Read Article

ATLANTIC BRIDGE PIPELINE NEWS

Charlie Baker pressed to halt Weymouth compressor station
By Mary Markos, Boston Herald
June 11, 2019

Advocates, legislators and local officials are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to put an end to a controversial Weymouth gas facility as his Department of Environmental Protection comes under scrutiny for withholding important air quality data.

“It’s disappointing to see agencies that are in place to protect us like the DEP aren’t doing their job,” Alan Palm of 350 Massachusetts said. “Ultimately, the buck stops with the governor … He has been willing to publicly say it’s out of his hands, it’s a federal issue, but it’s not. It’s his agencies approving this and his willingness to ignore the opportunity … he has to step in and stop it.”
» Read Article

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE NEWS

A law that’s not a law
Fluke leaves state without an actual energy infrastructure corridor statute
By Michael Kitch, NH Business Review
June 6, 2019

The reality is that, since the bill has not become law, there are no designated “energy infrastructure corridors.” Nevertheless, Liberty Utilities may still proceed with the Granite Bridge Project, but must meet higher standards set by the Utility Accommodation Manual than if Route 101 were an “energy infrastructure corridor.”
» Read Article

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

Powerful business group adds climate change to its priorities
By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
June 13, 2019

The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership helped sink the state’s first offshore wind energy project, the ill-fated Cape Wind.

So what’s this low-profile but powerful business group doing now, taking on climate change as a priority? It may sound surprising — or ironic. But these chief executives now view the issue as a major potential threat to the state’s economic competitiveness, one that needs to be tackled head on.
» Read Article