Tag Archives: green recovery

Weekly News Check-In 6/12/20

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

This week mainstream news coverage of protests and social unrest sparked by the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis broadened its focus to acknowledge that the issues go well beyond police brutality against black and brown people. Longstanding, systemic racial and social injustices are being named and discussed – even by some conservatives. So this seems like an appropriate moment to review a pillar of the proposed Green New Deal legislation – that the crises of climate and social justice are so closely connected that they must be solved at the same time.

We begin this week’s Greening the Economy section with an article from The Guardian’s archives. A year ago, reporter Julian Brave NoiseCat explained the critical connection between climate and social justice – it’s a great reminder of how we arrived at this place in history, and where we hope to go.

Unfortunately, participating in climate-related protests and actions has become increasingly complicated. Two stories look beyond the obvious risk of COVID-19 exposure to describe both legal and extralegal tactics now deployed by state governments and private interests against activists.

Reports from Washington show the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doing all it can to greenlight pipeline projects, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is under court order to halt pipeline projects while landowner complaints are considered.

Our Climate and Clean Energy sections further illuminate the connection between systemic racism and the environment, advancing the discussion we opened with.

In more signs of trouble for the fossil fuel industry, Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the ‘midstream’ sector (pipelines and storage tanks). And fracking pioneer Chesapeake Energy appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, a new report names the major banks financing environmentally catastrophic oil extraction operations in the western Amazon.

We close with an unnerving report on microplastics in the environment. They are airborne, and they are everywhere….

— The NFGiM Team

GREENING THE ECONOMY

AOC for SJ
No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice
Elites who divorce climate policy from social justice are almost as out of touch as those who deny climate science altogether
By Julian Brave NoiseCat, The Guardian
June 11, 2019 (This article is more than 1 year old)

If you set aside Republicans’ obsession with cow farts, perhaps the most prevalent criticism of the Green New Deal is its emphasis on social justice. Critics contend that the far-reaching climate agenda is far too concerned with extraneous issues such as jobs, infrastructure, housing, healthcare and civil and indigenous rights. Stick to greenhouse gases, they say; reforming the energy system is utopian enough.

This criticism crosses the aisle among elites. In February, the New York Times editorial board wondered whether addressing the climate crisis was “merely a cover for a wish-list of progressive policies and a not-so-subtle effort to move the Democratic Party to the left?” A day later, the Washington Post editorial board opined that serious policymakers should not “muddle” decarbonization with social programs that “divert money and attention from the primary mission”.

But here’s the thing: social justice concerns are always intertwined with public policy – and absolutely central to climate policy.

Experts agree that we must quickly deploy vast resources to mitigate and adapt to global warming. If the United States aims to shift to 100% clean and renewable energy, we will need to build solar and wind farms across the country along with a national grid to connect them. Such a transformative investment could create a boom in jobs. But who would those jobs go to? Where would we build all of this new, green infrastructure, and who should own it? Which communities get energy first? How do we keep it affordable?

And that’s just the energy sector. To decarbonize our economy, we must make equally challenging choices across many other sectors – transportation, agriculture, buildings, manufacturing. In this vast and tangled web of society-wide choices, questions of social justice are everywhere.
Blog editor’s note: Because social justice leads so many news reports these days, this year-old article is worth another look. It does a great job explaining why there can be no climate solution without equitable resolution of social justice issues.
» Read article       

RJ podcast
Racial Justice Protests Put a Spotlight on Pollution and Clean Energy Solutions
On this episode of Political Climate, National Wildlife Federation’s Mustafa Santiago Ali connects the dots between the clean air, affordable energy and the racial justice movement.
By Julia Pyper, GreenTech Media
June 11, 2020

Deep-seated racial justice issues have been brought to the fore in recent weeks by a series of nationwide protests over police violence. These protests are taking place in the midst of a global pandemic, which has exposed, and in many cases exacerbated, longstanding issues of racial inequality.

The energy and climate space is not immune to racial discrimination. But some politicians have questioned whether this is the right moment to talk about issues such as pollution, calling it a misplaced political move.

Mustafa Santiago Ali has been on the front lines of the fight for environmental justice since he was a teenager and throughout his 24 years at the EPA. Now, as vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation, Ali says he’s hopeful this historic moment will accelerate equitably energy solutions.

On this episode of Political Climate, Ali connects the dots between the clean air, affordable energy and the racial justice movement. We also discuss the implications of recent environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration and take a hard look at how the clean energy industry can promote greater diversity.
» Listen to podcast      

large and small
Europe Goes Big on Green Recovery Package While America Pushes the Status Quo
This week on The Energy Gang: We’re back with another live show from quarantine.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – Podcast
June 11, 2020

Europe is crafting a €750 billion recovery package in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It will devote more than €200 billion directly to low-carbon infrastructure projects. That could enable hundreds of billions more for renewables, efficiency, clean public transport and hydrogen.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., our recent stimulus package sent billions of dollars to debt-laden oil producers. With potentially one shot left to pass another recovery package, everyone seems to be afraid to utter the word “climate.”

The coronavirus crisis highlights a number of political and economic divides. Is America squandering a historic opportunity?
» Listen to podcast      

Norway oil tax break
Post-COVID-19: Norwegian oil industry plans huge offshore expansion after tax break by Gov.
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
June 11, 2020

We are living in a climate crisis, yet we still carry on digging for more oil to make that crisis worse. There is growing international pressure for Governments to center any COVID-19 recovery programmes on a green transition, including through supporting a managed phase-out of oil and gas production.

However even countries that champion their so-called green credentials are failing. Norway is one of those countries.

On Monday this week, Reuters reported that Norway’s parliament had “agreed additional tax breaks for the oil industry on top of those proposed by the minority government to spur investment and protect jobs”, the ruling Conservative Party said on Monday.

Equinor and other oil companies had complained that the government’s plan to postpone tax payments of 100 billion crowns ($10.8 billion) was “not enough.”

The industry aggressively lobbied the Government, which “relented” according to Reuters. The new rules will cover the taxable profits of future projects.

And no sooner had the Government given more favourable tax incentives than the following day, Aker BP and Equinor confirmed they would go ahead with several new offshore oil and gas projects.
» Read article       

just transition already
A ‘Just Transition’ for Fossil Fuel Workers
This week on The Interchange podcast: If we phase out fossil fuels, what happens to the industry’s workforce?
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – podcast
June 5, 2020

We use the term “energy transition” to define markets, technology, business models. But what about people?

The transition away from fossil fuels isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. The hardest part isn’t building out the clean resources. It’s shutting down the dirty stuff at a pace the science demands. And that means disrupting entire classes of employment and communities that depend on fossil fuel extraction — in other words, helping people find work in another sector. The phrase often used to describe this approach is “just transition.”
» Listen to podcast       

» More about greening the economy

PROTEST AND ACTIONS

dark basin hack
Research Finds Hacking Operation Targeted Climate Action Groups
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams, in EcoWatch
June 12, 2020

The Canadian digital watchdog group Citizen Lab reported Tuesday that a hack-for-hire group targeted thousands of organizations around the world, including climate advocacy groups involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign.

Groups that have asserted ExxonMobil knew about and hid data linking fossil fuel extraction to the climate crisis for years were among those that faced phishing attempts by a group dubbed “Dark Basin” by Citizen Lab. According to the research, numerous progressive groups—including Public Citizen, Greenpeace, 350.org, and Oil Change International—were among those targeted.

After an extensive multi-year investigation, Citizen Lab reported that it has linked Dark Basin “with high confidence” to BellTroX InfoTech Services, a technology company based in India which has publicly stated its hacking capabilities.

In 2017 when Citizen Lab began its investigation, the group believed Dark Basin could be state-sponsored, but soon determined it was likely a hack-for-hire operation. Its targets—which also included journalists, elected officials, and digital rights groups that have lobbied for net neutrality—”were often on only one side of a contested legal proceeding, advocacy issue, or business deal.”
» Read article       
» Read the Citizen Lab report

states criminalizing protests
US states have spent the past 5 years trying to criminalize protest
By Naveena Sadasivam, Grist
June 4, 2020

The Minnesota legislature has spent the last five years preparing for the kind of protests that have rocked the city over the past week in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — by attempting to criminalize them.

From 2016 through 2019, state lawmakers introduced ten bills that either made obstructing traffic on highways a misdemeanor or increased penalties for protesting near oil and gas facilities. Most of these legislative proposals were introduced in response to ongoing protests against a controversial oil pipeline as well as those following the police killing of Philando Castile in a St. Paul suburb in 2016. The bills would have allowed protesters to be jailed for up to a year, fined offenders up to $3,000 each, and allowed cities to sue protesters for the cost of police response. Many of the bills were introduced in 2017 after racial justice activists in the state made headlines shutting down a major highway. A couple others were in response to protests in 2016 and 2019 against the energy company Enbridge’s planned replacement of a pipeline running from Alberta to Wisconsin.

Over the past half-decade, a wave of bills that criminalize civil disobedience has swept state legislatures across the country — particularly those controlled by Republican lawmakers. According to a new report by PEN America, a nonprofit advocating for First Amendment rights, 116 such bills were proposed in state legislatures between 2015 and 2020. Of those, 23 bills in 15 states became law. While there is no comprehensive count of the number of people arrested and prosecuted under these new laws, activists protesting oil and gas activity have been charged with felonies in Houston and Louisiana.
» Read article       
» Read the PEN America report

» More about protests and actions

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

climate schlimate
Trump’s New Clean Water Act Rules Could Affect Embattled Natural Gas Projects on Both Coasts
Trump’s EPA administrator said the changes would stop states from citing “climate change” in blocking pipelines and federally approved infrastructure.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
June 9, 2020

Just weeks after the state of New York cited climate change among its reasons for blocking a natural gas pipeline to be built beneath New York Harbor, the Trump administration finalized changes to federal regulations aimed at limiting states’ ability to stop federally approved pipelines and other infrastructure under the Clean Water Act.

The rule change, which Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler signed on June 1, will restrict states and authorized tribes from citing anything other than a narrow pollution discharge when denying a permit to a federally approved infrastructure project, such as a pipeline or dam. The new rule will also limit the permitting process to a year for states and tribes, which would waive their rights to block a project if they exceeded that time limit.

For years, Republicans supporting fossil fuel development have cried foul over states’ use of the Clean Water Act’s Section 401, which gave state and tribal governments broad authority to block federally approved infrastructure projects that threaten their waters. States like New York and Washington have in recent years used the authority under that section to block high-profile natural gas pipelines, coal terminals or other fossil fuel infrastructure—often in the name of larger environmental goals like tackling climate change.
» Read article       

» More about the EPA

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

pipeline purgatoryFERC prohibits pipeline construction, allows land seizures as court weighs ‘legal purgatory’ of rehearing delays
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 11, 2020

Language in the Federal Power Act (FPA) and the Natural Gas Act (NGA) prevents litigation on an order until the commission makes a ruling on requests for rehearing, but FERC is able to delay those requests through tolling orders.

Critics say the practice has led to a legal “purgatory” of opposition to critical orders on wholesale power markets, and favors pipeline developers by allowing projects to move forward despite legal challenges.

“Tolling is a Kafkaesque process that should have no place in how FERC operates. It makes no sense to allow land to be seized and construction to proceed before a FERC decision can be challenged in court,” John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Utility Dive in an email.
» Read article       
» Read the order

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

reading list
Read Up on the Links Between Racism and the Environment
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
June 5, 2020

This week, amid a surge of protests over police violence against black Americans, there’s been renewed scrutiny on the links between racism and environmental degradation in the United States.

To help readers understand those links, I put together a quick reading list about climate change and social inequities. These suggestions are meant to be starters, laying out a few entry points.
» Read article       

what justice is
I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet.

Stopping climate change is hard enough, but racism only makes it harder
By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Washington Post
June 3, 2020

Here is an incomplete list of things I left unfinished last week because America’s boiling racism and militarization are deadly for black people: a policy memo to members of Congress on accelerating offshore wind energy development in U.S. waters; the introduction to my book on climate solutions; a presentation for a powerful corporation on how technology can advance ocean-climate solutions; a grant proposal to fund a network of women climate leaders; a fact check of a big-budget film script about ocean-climate themes, planting vegetables with my mother in our climate victory garden.

Toni Morrison said it best, in a 1975 speech: “The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” As a marine biologist and policy nerd, building community around climate solutions is my life’s work. But I’m also a black person in the United States of America. I work on one existential crisis, but these days I can’t concentrate because of another.

The sheer magnitude of transforming our energy, transportation, buildings and food systems within a decade, while striving to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions shortly thereafter, is already overwhelming. And black Americans are disproportionately more likely than whites to be concerned about — and affected by — the climate crisis. But the many manifestations of structural racism, mass incarceration and state violence mean environmental issues are only a few lines on a long tally of threats. How can we expect black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streets, in our communities, and even within our own homes? How can people of color effectively lead their communities on climate solutions when faced with pervasive and life-shortening racism?
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

employment and deployment
Inside Clean Energy: The Racial Inequity in Clean Energy and How to Fight It
The industry is growing, but jobs and financial benefits are not distributed equally.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
June 11, 2020

In this moment of reckoning and reflection about racial inequity in our country, it’s time to be forthright about the inequalities in the rapidly expanding business of clean energy.

This industry is providing economic opportunities, but the benefits are not distributed fairly across races and income levels. Predominantly white and affluent communities are getting most of the jobs in the solar industry, and also most of the clean air and financial benefits of having solar on their homes.

“Today the solar industry has to reckon with the fact that we do have an industry that is trying to play within a system that is built on structural racism and we have to think more holistically about how to change that system,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, managing director of the access and equity program for Vote Solar, who described the industry’s problem of “employment and deployment.”
» Read article       

EA released
Feds release Vineyard Wind environmental assessment
Project 2,000 turbines along E. Coast over next 10 years
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
June 9, 2020

FEDERAL REGULATORS on Tuesday released a detailed, 420-page environmental assessment of the proposed Vineyard Wind project that includes predictions about the future of wind energy along the East Coast and suggests the impact on commercial fishing of six possible wind farm configurations would be roughly the same.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management put Vineyard Wind on hold last year to take a look at the project through the broader lens of what’s going on in offshore wind overall along the East Coast.  The resulting assessment, called a supplemental to the company’s draft environmental impact statement, forecasts 22 gigawatts of offshore wind development along the East Coast over the next 10 years, the equivalent of about 2 percent of current electricity production. The analysis estimates as many as 2,000 wind turbines will be installed over the 10-year period.
» Read article       
» Read the environmental assessment

Sterling College
Falling renewable, storage costs make 90% carbon-free US grid feasible by 2035, UC Berkeley finds
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
June 9, 2020

The U.S. can deliver 90% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2035, according to a new report from the University of California, Berkeley, and experts say accelerating clean energy deployments could also play an important role in the country’s economic recovery.

Building out renewables to achieve this target will add more than 500,000 jobs per year as well as $1.7 trillion in investments into the economy, without raising customer bills, the report found.

The country is experiencing a cost-crossover, as clean energy resources become cheaper than continuing to run existing fossil fuel resources, Sonia Aggarwal, vice president at Energy Innovation and co-author of an accompanying report outlining policy measures to achieve the 2035 target, told Utility Dive. “I see it as an amazing opportunity for America to create a bunch of jobs to decarbonize our electricity sector, and do all of that without raising electric bills for customers at a time when budgets are awfully tight,” she said.
» Read article       
» Read the UC Berkeley report
» Read the Energy Innovation report

» More about clean energy

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

midstream malaise
Report: Oil bust is catching up to pipeline companies
By Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle
June 11, 2020 

An oil and gas industry bust caused by the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to spill into the pipeline and storage tank business, a new report from New York credit rating firm Moody’s shows.

Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the midstream sector, which includes pipeline and storage terminal operators, to negative from stable. The rating marks the first time that the firm has given a negative outlook for the midstream sector.

Record low oil prices caused by the pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia prompted producers to slash their budgets while oil field service companies laid off tens of thousands of people.

The midstream sector put plans for several new pipeline projects on hold, but earnings largely had been insulated from the downturn as oil companies sought to move and store crude until higher prices return.
» Read article       

Chesapeake reeling
Chesapeake Energy, a Fracking Pioneer, Is Reeling
The company, which has said it could file for bankruptcy protection, helped turn the U.S. into a gas exporter but became known for an illegal scheme to suppress the price of oil and gas leases.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
June 9, 2020

HOUSTON — Shares of Chesapeake Energy, a pioneer in extracting natural gas from shale rock that came to be known for its excesses, including a scheme to suppress the price of oil and gas leases, went on a wild ride on Tuesday amid reports that it was preparing a bankruptcy filing.

Trading was halted for more than three hours in the morning. After buying and selling resumed, the trading was quickly interrupted again by circuit breakers. The company’s shares closed just below $24 for a loss of about 66 percent for the day.

Chesapeake’s successes at using hydraulic fracturing to produce gas helped convert the United States from a natural gas importer into a major global exporter. But the company overextended itself by amassing a large debt and has been struggling to survive over the last decade. It is the latest of more than a dozen heavily indebted oil and gas businesses to seek bankruptcy protection since the coronavirus pandemic took hold and Saudi Arabia and Russia flooded the global market with oil this spring.
» Read article       

amazon watch report
Report names the banks financing destructive oil projects in the Amazon
By Maurício Angelo, Mongabay
June 9, 2020

Five of the biggest financial institutions in the world invested a combined $6 billion in oil extraction projects in the western Amazon between 2017 and 2019, according to a study recently published by the NGO Amazon Watch.

Leading the race to underwrite this resource rush are some of the most powerful banks and investment funds in the world: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and BlackRock financed oil companies including GeoPark, Amerisur, Frontera and Andes Petroleum.

The area is known as the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon: it is here where the Amazon River, the largest on Earth by discharge volume, is born. But oil projects abound here, in a region considered the most biodiverse section of the Amazon and the world, and that’s home to around 500,000 indigenous people.
» Read article      
» Read the Amazon Watch report

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTICS / ENVIRONMENT

microplastic everywhere
Where’s Airborne Plastic? Everywhere, Scientists Find.
There’s “no nook or cranny” on the planet where it doesn’t end up, the lead researcher on a new study said.
By John Schwartz, New York Times
June 11, 2020

Plastic pollution isn’t just fouling the world’s oceans. It is also in the air we breathe, traveling on the wind and drifting down from the skies, according to a new study. More than 1,000 tons of tiny fragments rain down each year on national parks and wilderness areas in the American West alone, equivalent to between 123 million and 300 million plastic bottles worth.

“There’s no nook or cranny on the surface of the earth that won’t have microplastics,” said Janice Brahney, a Utah State University scientist who is lead author on the new study. “It’s really unnerving to think about it.”
» Read article       

» More about plastics, health, and the environment

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